A tip for husbands

It’s been my experience that women enjoy finding little romantic notes from their husbands in unexpected places. I discovered a variation on that theme when MCF linked to Fodey.com in a post one day. The site has all sorts of little image generators that display a message you provide. If you enter a romantic message, then save the generated image, you can create an HTML file to display it and then set the file as your browser’s home page. Then when your wife opens the browser, she’ll see the message and, hopefully, get a small thrill from it.

If you want to do this but don’t know how to create an HTML file, e-mail me and I can send you a template with instructions.

My music

Wendy came up with an idea for a blog post based on music in her iPod, then MCF did his own take on the same idea. I just happened to have made an iTunes playlist yesterday so that I’d have something to listen to on the road to and from Fredericksburg, Texas. Here are sample lyrics from each of the songs in the list. See if you can guess the songs and the artists before clicking the links for the answer. (I knew two of Wendy’s ten songs, and one of MCF’s 20.)

  1. I bet there’s rich folk eatin’ in a fancy dining car.
    They’re prob’ly drinkin’ coffee and smokin’ big cigars
  2. Oh his knees are-a gettin’ chilly
    But he feels no fear or pain
    ‘Cause he sees an angel peepin’
    Through a broken window-pane
  3. I’d buy you some art
    (a Picasso or a Garfunkel)
  4. Si tuvieras fe como grano de mostaza
    Eso lo dice el Senor
    Tu le dirias a la montana
    Muevete, muevete
    Esa montana se movera, se movera, se movera

    (Those are actually all the lyrics in the entire song, but it absolutely rocks. It’s one of the few songs in the world that makes me want to dance.)
  5. At times life is wicked and I just can’t see the light
    A silver lining sometimes isn’t enough
    To make some wrongs seem right
  6. Where’s the mini-skirt made of snake skin,
    and who’s the other guy singing in Van Halen?
  7. All the heroes and legends I knew as a child have fallen to idols of clay
    And I feel this empty place inside so afraid that Ive lost my faith
  8. When they said you was high classed,
    Well, that was just a lie.
    You ain’t never caught a rabbit
    And you aint no friend of mine.
  9. I thrill when I drill a bicuspid
    It’s swell though they tell me I’m maladjusted
  10. When that love comes down
    Without devotion
    Well it takes a strong man baby
    But I’m showing you the door
  11. God tells Gabriel behind the altar
    “Pick up your trumpet and begin to blow it”
    (I can’t find lyrics to this song anywhere, but here’s the album and here’s a sound clip.)
  12. Did you ever feel unwanted
    Kicked around so much you’re taunted
    Heart cries out with so much pain
    Well that’s the way l feel
  13. Blue! Blue! They sky is blue!
    The grass is green and your heart is true
    (Again, I find no lyrics for this online, but you can hear it on the band’s web site.)
  14. Si el espiritu de Dios esta en mi corazon
    Yo danzo como David
    Oh Yo danzo, Yo danzo, Yo danzo
    como David
  15. Wanna be ready, gotta be ready
    To fly away to my home
    My house is in order, my faith holdin’ steady
    I’ll fly away to my home
    (I’m starting to think I listen to some horribly obscure music, because I can’t find online lyrics for this, either. You can see the album, and listen to a Real Media clip.)
  16. D’ja hear ’bout Louie Miller? He done disappeared, dear
    After drawin’ out all his hard-earned cash
    And now MacHeath spends just like a sailor
    Could it be our boy’s done somethin’ rash?

    (And yes, I’m listening to that artist’s version rather than the original.)
  17. In tales of ancient glory,
    Every knight and maiden fair
    shall be joined when the quest is over,
    And a kiss is the oath that they swear.

Coming home

I lived the first fifteen years of my life in Texas. I didn’t realize until I moved to another state how much people and customs vary from region to region. I have lived in four U.S. states in my life, and they all have a distinct culture. I’ve had to adjust to each one in turn, but the funny thing is that I have to readjust every time I return to Texas. Old, familiar things can surprise me by feeling old and familiar and resurrecting memories from days that seem lifetimes removed from the present.

I have loved everywhere I have lived, but I think I love Texas best. And though I did not live in Central Texas until adulthood, it feels more like home than anywhere else. Even so, I had to readjust my attitudes and expectations when I moved back from New York.

When I lived in New York, I had a pretty strong sense of identity: I was the guy from Texas. I was the one with the University of Texas Longhorns baseball cap. I was the one who sneered at the stuff that passed for Tex-Mex cuisine on Long Island. I was the one who said y’all so naturally that hardly anyone noticed. I was, at any given time, the most patient person in the room by far. I was the one who knew what a sky full of stars looks like. I was the one who had driven a tractor, ridden a horse, milked a goat, and eaten truly fresh beef.

I guess I’m still all or most of those things, but it doesn’t mean as much here. Everyone in Austin is from Texas, or at least lives in Texas. My UT cap is one of a million that grace the heads in this city, and it gets lost in the sea of burnt orange paraphernalia that has grown even larger since we beat USC 41–38 in the final minute of the national championship. People here actually have a lifetime of experience with authentic Tex-Mex food. Everyone says y’all except for the transplanted northerners, and even some of them say it. I am no longer even in the running for the most patient or slowest-talking person in the room.

New Yorkers, and probably the rest of the country as well, make fun of Texans for all those things. I think they don’t realize that Texans make fun of them for their irrationally hectic pace of life, the weird things they say (like you guys even when they’re not talking to guys), and their tendency to prefer concrete over grass and their $1,500-a-month efficiency apartments over affordable acreage.

Mrs. Happy and I attended the university-wide graduation ceremony at UT this past weekend. The orchestra played a medley called Songs of Texas. One of the songs in the medley was Deep in the Heart of Texas. In the old movie Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Pee-wee Herman phones his girlfriend while in San Antonio and proves to her that he’s in Texas by leaning out of the phone booth and singing “The stars at niiight Are big and briiight…”. Everyone within earshot of the phone booth claps four times in rhythm and sings “Deep in the Heaaart of Texas.” I would not be surprised if that worked in real life. Nearly everyone in the graduation audience (including me) clapped at the appropriate times, though we didn’t sing back at the orchestra. That would never happen in New York. I would be the only one clapping, and people would look at me like I had ten heads, but at least I would have a more distinct identity.


Yes, that’s my son and yes, that’s a New Testament he’s holding.

MCF has told me many times how to create a one-pixel border around a picture using Photoshop, but I can never remember.

Another open letter

Nearly two years ago, I published an open letter to newlyweds. Since Miss O’Hara, an outspoken proponent of marriage even when she was single, recently tied the knot, I thought I would reprint that letter as a reminder for everyone who may be taking the plunge this Spring season. I find, though, that I’ve learned quite a bit since then, so I’m reprinting the letter and adding a few nuggets that some may find useful.

Dear newly married person,

I’d give you some sage words of advice, but I know from experience that unsolicited advice has no effect. I’ll just try to offer some encouragement instead. Marriage is a gift of God, and as is the case with all Godly gifts, this world we live in is overtly hostile to the idea, institution, and practice. Sometimes your new life will bring you nothing short of absolute bliss. Sometimes your heart will swell with such joy that you fear it may burst. Sometimes your heart will ache with the pain you cause and with the pain caused to you. Sometimes you will find sweet fellowship with others who cherish marriage, though sometimes you may feel that you’re the only one(s) trying to honor your commitments. Just know that you’re not alone, that others love marriage as much as you do and that marriage can be better than you ever imagined when you were single. You’ll cry tears of disappointment, anger, fear, happiness, affection, and gratefulness, just as we all do. Remember that in spite of numerous declarations you’ll hear to the contrary, marriage can be enriching, empowering, and full of love.

Here’s a bit of unsolicited advice after all. Never take your marriage or your spouse for granted. Revel in the bliss, grow through the heartache, laugh through everything, and always keep your focus on God.



Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • Before I got married, people told me that the first year is the hardest. That was not the case in our marriage—our first year was a fairy tale. Our second year was an idealized version of real life. Our third year brought a few difficulties that made our life pretty complex. What I’ve learned since is that problems don’t hurt your relationship as much as they reveal it.
  • I used to interpret the Biblical admonition “let not the sun go down upon your wrath” to mean “never go to bed until all arguments have been resolved.” I don’t think that anymore. Some things can’t be worked out in a few hours. When you’ve argued/discussed to the point of exhaustion, it’s better just to release any anger and go to sleep. Morning will provide a fresh perspective and a better environment for working out differences.
  • A husband needs both love and respect from his wife in order to be a good husband, but mainly he needs respect.
  • A wife needs both love and respect from her husband in order to be a good wife, but mainly she needs love.
  • Trust may be the most important part of a marriage. Without it, everything falls apart.
  • A sense of humor may be the most important part of a marriage. Without it, everything falls apart.
  • A shared faith may be the most important part of a marriage. Without it, everything falls apart.
  • Chance may bring two people together, but their own choices determine whether they stay together. Society does not determine whether a couple can honor a lifelong commitment. Statistics paint a bleak picture for the institution of marriage, but in matters of human will, statistics are irrelevant.

Mrs. Happy and I will celebrate our eighth anniversary next Tuesday. We’re still learning, and loving the process.

I’m a Dadblogger

Back in December, Doug Henderson contacted me to let me know about a group blog he was starting called Dadbloggers. I responded enthusiastically, saying, “I’d love to participate.” Life and laziness conspired to keep me from contributing. I consoled myself with the fact that I recruited a couple of online friends to participate in the ongoing project, but I’ve lived with a twinge of a guilty conscience for about five months now.

I figured Doug had given up on me, but he sent me an e-mail recently saying I was still welcome to join. I finally did, and my first post was published there today, so check it out. Also, don’t miss Matt’s most recent Dadblog post, in which he explains a nice family project that I will definitely do once Tater starts talking.

Impossible questions

I’m usually pretty good at figuring out the right answer or deflection for horribly loaded questions posed to me by my wife. Whenever she asks something like, “Does this shirt look good on me,” I mentally run through a few possible scenarios and judge which response has the best chance of preventing an Exorcist-level implosion. For instance:

  • if I say “Yes” without hesitation, she may suspect that I did not really consider the question to offer an actual opinion and that I am just saying what I think she wants to hear because I fear her and think she’s fat.
  • if I say “Yes” after pausing for exactly two seconds, she may suspect that I supressed my highly negative gut reaction and caught myself just in time to save my own skin.
  • if I say, “Not really. But it’s the shirt, not you,” she may take a quick inventory of every item of clothing she owns in a similar color and style and decide that I must hate half her wardrobe.
  • if I say, “Didn’t you wear that shirt last time?” I may avoid having to answer the question entirely as I get her trying to remember what she has worn on past occasions. A bonus is that it makes her think I notice and remember what she wears.
  • if I say, “That shirt has always looked good on you,” she will understand that I have dutifully noticed her looking good in the past, and that I have already considered the question and have reached a reasonable and acceptable conclusion. This is a good answer, but also a huge risk because it works only if the shirt is not brand new.

After I run through these possible answers in a matter of miliseconds, I choose the one that best fits the situation. Like I said, I’m usually very good at this.

About six weeks after Tater was born, I was sitting in a recliner in our living room reading a book while Mrs. Happy was getting ready for a Christmas party with some old coworkers. After a few minutes, she entered the living room with a flourish and asked, “So, do I look like I just had a baby?”

I could think of only three possible answers to this question: yes, no, and “You look beautiful.” I immediately discarded the “beautiful” answer as a transparent deflection. A transparent deflection is worse than a wrong answer in most cases. But before I could answer yes or no, I needed to figure out what she was really getting at. I thought of the possible outcomes:

  • me: Absolutely!
    she: Good. Then my stomach no longer looks like it’s housing a beach ball.
  • me: Absolutely!
    she: So I have the flabby, stretched-into-shapelessness physique of one who has recently given birth. Is that what you’re saying?
  • me: Absolutely not!
    she: Yes! I have regained my pre-pregnancy shape.
  • me: Absolutely not!
    she: So I still look like I have a whole person growing in my abdomen?

As I was trying to determine exactly what she needed to hear, three seconds elapsed. Truthfully, I thought she looked beautiful, but from her perspective I seemed to be crafting a diplomatic proclamation rather than declaring an obvious truth, which meant I thought she looked hideous.

For the record, the answer she was looking for was, “No, you don’t look like you just had a baby. You look fabulous.” But even knowing the right answer, I still get confused when I think about the question.

A bit of stuff

Not everything I think fits neatly into a blog post. Sometimes I want to express myself but just can’t find an appropriate outlet. Since the practice of blogging allows for periodic self-indulgence, here are some things I’ve been thinking about lately.

Klingons are supposed to be the ultimate warriors, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one win a fight except with another Klingon. Worf once beat up a string of opponents in an episode of DS9, but even Quark, a simpering Ferengi, was able to outwit a Klingon warrior on the Klingon home world, in front of the Klingon High Council. And Worf once got his heiney handed to him by a group of three or four Ferengi. This has been bothering me for a long time.

Mrs. Happy and I tried going on the South Beach diet so that she could take off some of her stubborn pregnancy weight. I don’t really need to lose weight. For much of my life, I’ve been dangerously thin, and only in recent years have I reached what experts consider the ideal weight for a man of my height and frame. I need to eat healthier foods, though, and South Beach is supposed to condition you to eat well. From Wednesday to Sunday, Mrs. Happy lost three pounds. In that same time period, I lost almost six. I don’t have six pounds to lose, so I’m not on the diet anymore.

I love reading Charles Dickens. Great Expectations has long been one of my favorite books. Right now I’m reading David Copperfield, and I like it even more. I wish I had his talent for expression and first-person point-of-view. Tater shows a little aptitude in that direction, I hope, but even he has a long way to go. Here’s a bit from DC that I particularly enjoyed, about the narrator’s wedding day:

The church is calm enough, I am sure, but it might be a steam-power loom in full action, for any sedative effect it has on me. I am too far gone for that.

And after the honeymoon:

Sometimes, of an evening, when I looked up from my writing, and saw her seated opposite, I would lean back in my chair, and think how queer it was that there we were, alone together as a matter of course–nobody’s business any more–all the romance of our engagement put away on a shelf, to rust–no one to please but one another–one another to please for life.

Speaking of Tater, he can sit up now. He can also eat mushy rice, play chords on his four-key piano, and open doors that are slightly ajar. He still gets cuter every day.

I feel like the Michael Jordan of Minesweeper. I got pretty good at it back in the early ’90s when Windows was new, but since I’ve been unemployed, I’m an absolute ace. No mine is safe from me. I will root it out and mark it for all to see. Unless, of course, it’s under one of two adjacent squares, either of which could logically be hiding it. My best time is 143 seconds on the expert level. I’m sure there are people out there who can do better, but I don’t want to know about them.

I’ve always considered myself a “geek by association” simply because it seems the only people who will be friends with me are the intelligent and unacceptably eccentric social outcasts. It occurs to me now that I can’t be an actual geek because no true geek would enjoy playing Minesweeper, much less admit it in public.

I don’t know why anyone would ever go to the effort of making a full-length motion picture with stop-motion animation, but I’m glad they do. I recently saw Corpse Bride and Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Both sound pretty morbid, but both are sweet, funny, original films, lovingly crafted and a joy to watch.

I really haven’t been in a blogging mood lately. I feel vaguely guilty when I neglect my blog, but that doesn’t help me write. I’ve considered scrapping it completely, but I know that as soon as I do, I’ll wish I hadn’t. Instead, I’ll just make it official that this site will not be updated regularly for a while. I’ll only write when I have something to say.


Earlier this evening, I was changing a dirty diaper on Tater. Mrs. Happy walked into the room, looked at him, and said, “Is he a sigh noo?” I thought for a moment she was inquiring whether he had joined a Psi Nu fraternity. When I asked her what in the world she was talking about, she explained that she only wondered if tonight’s episode of CSI was new or a rerun (“Is CSI new?”). I didn’t know, but I laughed anyway.

Another difference between men and women?

I’ve mentioned Tony Woodlief’s site, Sand in the Gears, on occasion. Tony doesn’t write very often, but when he writes it’s almost always great. I read his most recent post earlier today and laughed out loud. I don’t often laugh out loud, but this was really funny. I told Mrs. Happy about the post, and she gasped and said, “That’s AWFUL!!” And again ten minutes later: “That’s so horrible.”

I’m still laughing.

She’s still cringing.

I think we both agree with Tony’s sentiment, though, that “even when we think we are something special, the odds are against it.”