Modest dreams

I don’t want much for Christmas. I just want a house. I just want a house
that has a dishwasher so
that I don’t have to do it by hand anymore. I know that people in the past—and
in some places
even today—have had to do without running water, so maybe I shouldn’t complain.
I just hate when a chore takes me away from the precious few hours (when I’m
fortunate enough to have a temp job)
I could be spending with my wife and child. I’d also like for my house to have
a washing
machine and dryer
. Going to the laundromat takes me so far away from
Mrs. Happy and Tater that I can’t even call to my wife in the living room or
hear my baby cry.

I’d also like my house to have a TiVo so
that I can watch specific TV shows during my son’s naps. I hate when I’m watching Law
& Order
and
look down into his deep blue eyes as I’m feeding him. Crime shows feature such
depravity that I fear I’m corrupting his sweet innocence just by letting them
play. I wouldn’t feel so guilty if he were asleep. Yes, I do have
a VCR and yes, I do use it so that I, as an adult, can watch entertainment
intended for adults while my child sleeps. It’s just that TiVo is so much cooler.

Furthermore, I want a house where I can set up my
computer
in a more accessible
area than the attic. If I had that, I wouldn’t have to effectively sequester
myself just to blog. I also want to have a house where
I can
set
up an area for table
tennis
. Mrs. Happy
and
I
both
love
to
play,
and
if we
don’t
have
a table
of
our own, I’m afraid Tater may never learn the game.

I am thankful for my small rented apartment with hot running water and a VCR,
but I wouldn’t say no to a 50-inch
plasma TV
.

Midnight madness

Thank you for all the kind comments about my wife’s current condition. Having
experimented with a number of treatments, Mrs. Happy has found that a shower
and an application of Aveeno
Moisturizing
Lotion with Cooling Menthol and Natural Colloidal Oatmeal is the best treatment
for PUPPP, which means that it soothes the fiery itching for as long as four
hours.

A couple of days ago she noticed that heat and sweat exacerbate the
itching. She doused herself with baby powder before going to bed Saturday night,
and that seemed to help. She also noticed that when she is in bed, she tends
to sweat on the part of her body in contact with the bed. The ideal solution
to this problem would be to sleep on her back, since that’s the only part of
her unaffected by PUPPP. But pregnant women can’t spend much time on their
backs without crushing some internal organs, so she decided to try sleeping
in the recliner in our living room. I may have mentioned this before, but I
can’t fall asleep unless she’s in bed with me. Therefore, last night I slept
on the couch in our living room,
as near to her as I could get.

Some time around 3:00 a.m., Mrs. Happy woke me up. I couldn’t see her very
well since all the lights were out and I was not wearing my glasses. I could
make out her silhouette, though. Standing there in loose-fitting pajamas and
nine months pregnant, she reminded me of a very short nose tackle (for my international
readers, that’s an American football term for the biggest and meanest guy on
the team). She said, "Curt, I’m going to the bed. Sleeping in the recliner
isn’t working, and all
the people
who’ve
done it before are frauds."

When I’m rested out of a sound sleep, I can’t really understand reality for
several seconds. I couldn’t make sense of what she had said, so I said, "What?"

When my wife is rested out of a sound sleep, she doesn’t really understand
reality for several minutes. She didn’t change her stance, expression, or tone
of voice when she answered, "Oh. That must’ve been a dream…but I’m going to
the bed."

Ten minutes later, we were both in the bed and laughing harder than we’ve
laughed in a long time. I love being married.

Encouraging words in trying times

In my church, people sometimes stand before the congregation and "give a testimony."
That’s a church phrase that means "tell an uplifting story about something good
that happened in your life when things were looking very bad." These
testimonies are invariably uplifting to me when I’m in a good place in life,
but just as invariably draw my cynical ire when things are not so good. The hidden
message behind them is that if you trust God, everything works out just fine.
I know that’s not true, at least not in the way I usually define "just fine."
Where are the testimonies like Job’s? Marauders murdered some of his servants
and
slaughtered
his cattle, fire consumed some of his other servants along with all his sheep,
another raiding party stole all of his camels and the servants that cared for
them, and all of his children died while dining together when their house collapsed.

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground
and worshiped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and
naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed
be the name of the LORD." (Job
1:13–21
)

My pastor once told me the story of how his second child, a son, contracted
a near-fatal illness in infancy. When his wife was explaining things to their
5-year-old daughter, she said,
"Your brother was very sick and nearly died, but God was good and let him live."
The daughter responded, "But even if bubba had died, God would still be good."
Sometimes the clarity of a child’s vision leads to wisdom more profound than
what adults can muster.

I certainly don’t mean to compare myself to Job, but sometimes I find his
words infinitely more encouraging than all the positive testimony in a church
service. In the middle of his distress, while his friends are telling him he
deserved his misfortune, he said

"Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
Oh that with an iron pen and lead
they were engraved in the rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another."
(Job
19:23–27
)

If Job, probably before the birth of Jesus had even been prophesied, had enough
faith to know that his Redeemer lives, how could I not?

I lost my job in March. One week later, my wife and I found out she was pregnant
with our first child. She is now eight-and-a-half months pregnant and I still
have no income to support a family. I trust God that everything will work out
for
the
best, even if the result doesn’t match my definition of "best." Even when I’m
discouraged and don’t feel his love, I know that my Redeemer lives. Blessed
be the name of the Lord.

Why do I love thee? Let me count…

It’s funny how sometimes a person can make an offhanded comment that just settles
in my mind and won’t go away. In introducing part of her list of 100 Reasons
Why I Love My Husband
, Lori said

I realised I ought to change the name of these lists. These aren’t reasons
WHY I love my husband. I can’t say WHY I do, I just do. I do because I can’t
help
myself. I do because of everything, I just love him. But I can easily say what
kind of things I love ABOUT him.

She’s absolutely right. I made my list of 100 Reasons, but they
really were just 100 Things. Would I still love her if her neck were
suddenly
not long, graceful, beautiful, and fun to kiss? Yes. Would I still
love her if she stopped loving games? Yes. Would I continue loving her if she
lost her impeccable fashion sense? Absolutely. Would I persist in loving her
if she lapsed into a ten-year coma? I like to think so. I would still love
her if all the items on my list went away. A harder question is whether I would
ever have fallen in love with her if those hundred things
had never existed.

If she had been in a coma when I met her, I probably would never have loved
her the way I do now. I would have had neither reason nor opportunity
to build a relationship with her, to pour my own life into hers. I would not
have been able to discover all the many wonderful idiosyncrasies and imperfections
that make our severe intimacy possible. I would never have seen
the profound depth of her compassion for others. In short, I would never have
really known her.

As I mentioned in my last post, the moment I fell in love with my wife may
have been the moment I realized she valued me. I guess the beginning stages
of love are selfish that way. But the more I knew her, the more I valued her,
and now I love her more than my own life. I love her so much that on May 23,
1998, I proclaimed a lifelong vow in front of 100 people who will (or should,
anyway)
hold me to it. My love has only grown since then.

For all of Adam’s faults, he at least recognized the value of his wife the
moment he first laid eyes on her
. It took me a while to see the breathtaking
wonder of my Happy Friend, but I finally came around. Now she grows more
beautiful and wonderful every day, and in ways far more numerous than the hundred
I listed.

Looking back, and ahead

When I moved to Austin, Texas, in the summer 1994, I made some friends at
church. We were all in college and had a lot in common. The only problem was
that almost
all of them went
to school elsewhere in the country. When summer was over, they all left except
for one. The one that remained attended
The
University
of
Texas,
as
did
I.
We didn’t really know each other that well, and UT had an enrollment of about
50,000 students, so there was little chance we would ever see each other except
at church.

One day, however, I saw her in the parking lot and asked if she would like
to meet for lunch. She was too polite to say no. So we met. It felt so good
to not be lonely for 45 minutes that I asked if she would like to meet again
the next day. Again, she was too polite to say no, so we started meeting for
lunch whenever breaks our respective class schedules coincided, which was three
times a week.

One day, she didn’t show up. I waited at our usual spot for several minutes,
then checked to see if she had skipped our meeting spot and gone straight to
our eating place. When I failed to find her there, I looked at our back-up
eating place. When she wasn’t there, I returned to our meeting place on the
off chance that she had arrived there while I was looking for her. She hadn’t.
A good thing about being as insecure as I was at the time is that you’re never
really surprised when friends let you down. Why wouldn’t they, after
all?
In
order
to go to all
the trouble of not letting you down, they’d actually have to care
about you. Anyway, I walked away to find a place to eat alone.

As I was walking, I thought I heard my name in the wind. I turned around and
saw my wonderful, Happy friend running—running—toward me and
calling out desperately. She had been talking to a professor, clearing up something
about a grade. She was so worried that I would think she had abandoned me that
she ran the whole way from her class to our meeting place.

Looking back, I can see that moment as a singular turning point in our relationship.
If it wasn’t the exact instant I fell in love with her, it was at least the
beginning of the falling-in-love process. I certainly realized right then that
she was my best friend in every sense. No friend of mine had ever had both
the insight and the solicitude to put so much
effort
into
making
sure
I felt
valued. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was, of course, the woman I would
marry.

I bring this up now because Mrs. Happy recently spent about ten minutes writing
a poem she considers "amateurish," but I think of as sweet and memorable:

He sat upon the bench alone
Waiting for his friend in the cold
Little did he know back then
What love story would unfold.

Minutes passed with no sign of her
"She cares not," he said, "for me."
His heart sank down beneath his chest
His body stood to flee.

Forlorn and weak, he walked alone
The path he’d trodden before
Until he heard that precious voice
And his heart began to soar.

And so he knew by her running steps
The intentions of her heart
He loved her then and knew at once
That they could never part.

Their love grew strong for many years
And vows they both have kept
And with the promise of new life revealed
They embraced and then they wept.

The child unborn and name unknown
They prepare their hearts and minds
For the little one who will change their lives
With blessings of many kinds.

I guess it won’t be winning any awards or be published in The
New Yorker
any time soon, but I love it because she wrote it, and because
she’s the one who cared enough to run.

P.S.—If you’d like to see another imperfect but powerful piece
of art my wife made, check out the
watercolor she painted
back when we were
Happy friends.

Toys and Games Trump Blogging

I’ve been unemployed for about six months now. That sounds worse than it is.
Before I lost my job, Mrs. Happy and I were taking the Joseph-in-Egypt
approach
to
money
management,
saving everything we possibly could, knowing that a time of famine could be
right around the corner.
Things are going to get a lot harder when she leaves work to have the baby,
but hopefully I will have a job by then.

In the mean time, I thought I should be doing something constructive. After
a drawn-out thought process and a few weeks of research, I decided to join
a company called Discovery Toys. This company makes educational and developmental
toys for children ages 0–18, although many of their games are enjoyed by adults
of all ages as well. It took a while for me to make the decision to join, because
it is a multilevel marketing company, and I hate the whole MLM idea with a
passion. But as I spoke to people within the company, I found that they weren’t
obnoxious @mw@y clones. (Their practices are more in line with Avon, with whom
they’ve been affiliated in the past.) I also found out that the company adheres
to a fairly strict code
of ethics
that
was developed by an independent organization. Furthermore, I have loved their
products for
many years. I have bought their toys in the past, usually at fairs and fundraisers,
without even realizing that they were MLM.

I’m saying all this because I got a shipment of games today, and Mrs. Happy
and I have been playing them all night so I don’t have time to write anything
substantial. But if you’re interested, follow the link in the sidebar to see
what sorts of toys my baby’s going to be playing with as soon as he’s able.
:)

Prematernal syndrome

One of the books Mrs. Happy has to guide her through pregnancy is called The
Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy
.
It was a gift from a friend, and it contains the kind of advice a woman would
receive
from another woman who’s been pregnant rather than a doctor who deals with
pregnancy as a matter of routine. It has some good, practical information,
at times is
quite funny (because pregnancy can pretty funny, especially in retrospect),
and is often more vulgar than any by-the-numbers book. That last quality is
sometimes a little offensive, but adds to the realism of what the author is
saying.

Anyway, yesterday my wife read the following passage to me out loud:

Normally, when an otherwise happily married couple is going through a bumpy
time, sitting down and talking out the problem can be quite helpful. This
is not true, however, when the better half of the couple is pregnant. If
you believe the premise that women are from Venus and men are from Mars,
then during pregnancy, women are scissors and men are either paper or stone.
Simple biology will preclude the man and woman from having any clue as to
what the other is feeling or thinking, and by the end of the nine (ten) months,
neither of you will be honestly able to say that you care that much. But
don’t worry too much about this communication gap, because it will disappear
after the baby is born and you are both physically and emotionally recovered.
Parenting, unlike pregnancy, is usually a much more collaborative effort,
and the two of you will be more in sync with your worries and your joys.
You will be equal partners in the "How in the World Do We Raise a Child?"
quandary.

Certainly, my dear wife has had some days that left me longing for the return
of PMS, but I never expected her to acknowledge it. Thankfully, every one of
those days has been followed by a day when she apologizes and explains that,
"I was just really pregnant." To be fair, I have my own mood swings. I can
think, "I’m so excited about having this baby I feel like I’m going to burst
out of my skin!" and "What the…! What am I gonna to do with a baby?!"
both within the space of ten minutes.

But even though we sometimes are not on the "same page" during this pregnancy,
I imagine that the author’s second assertion—that parenting brings couples
together—will be true for us. I don’t think it’s generally
true. Couples sometimes split because of differences of opinion
when it comes to parenting, perhaps the most tragic of all ironies, but Mrs.
Happy and I lack the ability to be at odds for very long. In any case, I’ll
be very glad when this baby stops messing with his mama’s hormones.

The good-humored marriage

I had the following conversation with my wife last night.

Me: (singing) I
like to go swimmin’ with bowlegged women
and swim between their legs
swim between their legs
swim between their legs
Yes, I like to go swimmin’ with
bowlegged women
and swim between their legs
swim between their legs

Her: What was that?

Me: I heard it on a TV show once. I don’t know if there’s
any more to it.

Her: I hope not.

Me: (laughter)

Her: Well, don’t you?

Me: (harder laughter)

Her: What’s so funny?

Me: (hysterical laughter)

Her: You have the strangest sense of humor.

I’ve known people who feel a great deal of pride in having a “strange sense
of humor.” I don’t know why. I sometimes wish I could see the humor in things
that other people find funny. More often, I wish other people could see the
humor in things I find funny. My jokes tend be met with blank stares or simple
non-acknowledgment. I tend to meet the jokes of others with a straight face
or simple non-acknowledgment. I rarely laugh out loud unless I’m making a conscious
effort to be friendly and agreeable. But when I do laugh for real, I can’t
stop to save my life. On several occasions, I have laughed literally for hours,
and sometimes for days.

Since a shared sense of humor is a necessity for people who live together,
it’s fortunate that mine overlaps with my wife’s by about 80 percent. We usually
understand and appreciate each other’s jokes, but sometimes we receive outside
humor in vastly different ways. For instance: I laughed my butt off when we
saw the movie Rushmore,
whereas she didn’t even crack a smile. For another instance: She loves Ren
and Stimpy
, and I can’t understand why that show was ever on the air to begin
with. But we both love witty comedies such as The
Simpsons
, Malcolm
in the Middle
, and Raising
Arizona
, and we often laugh at things no one else finds funny.

I found this
humor evaluation test
via MCF and achieved the following result:

the Wit
(71% dark, 23% spontaneous, 36% vulgar)

your humor style:
CLEAN | COMPLEX | DARK

You like things edgy, subtle, and smart. I guess that means you’re
probably an intellectual, but don’t take that to mean pretentious. You realize
‘dumb’ can be witty–after all isn’t that the Simpsons’ philosophy?–but rudeness
for its own sake, ‘gross-out’ humor and most other things found in a fraternity
leave you totally flat.

I guess you just have a more cerebral approach than
most. You have the perfect mindset for a joke writer or staff writer.

Your sense of humor takes the most
thought to appreciate, but it’s also the best, in my opinion.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Jon Stewart – Woody Allen – Ricky Gervais

Mrs. Happy came out as:

the Ham
(47% dark, 42% spontaneous, 31% vulgar)

your humor style:
CLEAN | SPONTANEOUS | LIGHT

Your style’s goofy, innocent and feel-good. Perfect
for parties and for the dads who chaperone them. You can actually get
away with corny jokes, and I
bet your sense of humor is a guilty pleasure for your friends. People of
your type are often the most approachable and popular people in their circle.
Your
simple & silly good-naturedness is immediately recognizable, and it
sets you apart in this sarcastic world.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Will Ferrell – Will Smith

So our senses of humor overlap a bit, but we’re just different enough to keep
things interesting.

Five great places

As my entry into MCF’s
fifth blog party
, I’m listing five places that have
been significant to my marriage, which makes them my five favorite places in
the world.

The University of Texas at Austin

Mrs. Happy and I didn’t exactly meet at school, but we spent a lot of time
together on campus. One day during my first week at UT, I saw her in the parking
lot—amazing,
given the 50,000-student enrollment—and asked her to lunch. Against her
better judgment, she accepted. Lunch became a regular meeting time for us whenever
our schedules
permitted, and we almost always ate at the same bench outside Benedict
Hall
.
We also spent a great deal of time in the Union
Underground
, especially in
the bowling alley. Before that time, I had refused to bowl at all for fear
of exposing my working-class roots, but desire to spend time with my Happy
Friend heavily outweighed my social-class sensitivity. (I have grown much more
mature since that time, and I now embrace my heritage and bowl whenever I get
a chance.) One evening in November 1997, we bowled two games at the Union,
then I led her
to our bench
and asked
her to be my wife. I love that place.

Twin Oaks Ranch

Located in the pastoral beauty of Buda, Texas (pronounced BYOO-duh, TECK-sez),
this Christian retreat center many times played host to a college
ministry that Mrs. Happy and I were a part of during our college days. The
disconnect from the outside world freed the mind and unburdened the heart,
giving way to real spiritual and emotional revelation. I have several powerful
memories associated with Twin Oaks, but by far the most meaningful occurred
in 1998: the aforementioned ministry booked the center for the weekend and
allowed us to conduct our wedding there.

Paradox, New York

When we married, we did not go to any of the usual tourist destinations for
our honeymoon. Instead, we picked a remote cabin at a lake no one’s ever heard
of in a state on the opposite side of the country from anyone we knew. We didn’t
really want to be in an activity-rich resort. Even before the honeymoon started,
we planned to be far too busy to mess with shuffleboard and Scrabble tournaments.

Colorado Bend State Park

One Thanksgiving in the early years of our marriage, we decided to spend the
holiday in a tent in the woods by ourselves rather than making the traditional
rounds of our extended families. The temperature dropped below freezing the
night we were there. We were too cold to sleep, and it took us two hours to
light our campfire. We set out on a hike the next day and were nearly trampled
by a surprised deer. The trail we thought would be a mile (1.6 km) long turned
out to be nearly eight (12.8 km), so we thought ourselves lost without hope
of rescue. And during our hike, the temperature rose from 40º (4º C) to 85º
(29º C), forcing us to shed and carry some of our layered clothing. But we
also basked in God’s creation, sketched what beauty we could capture in the
Texas Hill Country, and threw a few rocks at some armadillos,
who didn’t even notice. It was quite a memorable experience.

New York

My wife and I experienced no hardship in Texas compared to moving to and residing
in the most impatient state in the country. Even so, living in New York
has been amazing in many ways, giving us a wealth of new friends, experiences,
and revelations that have tested us and brought us closer together. Neither
of us would trade our New York years for anything in the world.

A slightly morbid thought

There’s an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where everyone talks
about who their spouse should marry if they die. (Sorry for the poorly constructed
sentence there, what with the abundance of pronouns and the confusing mesh
of antecedents, but I’m too tired to fix it. Hopefully the meaning is clear
anyway.) So I asked my wife who she thought I should marry if she dies. We
discussed several options, but I don’t think any of them would really work
out. I couldn’t come up with even a passable option for her upon the event
of my death. I mean, I’m not really good enough for her myself, and there’s
no one better for her than me.

I can’t imagine marrying someone else if my wife dies before I do, but I don’t
want to be alone. I can’t stand the thought of my wife marrying someone else,
but I don’t want her to be alone if I die before she does. Meh. Death fulfills
the obligation
of the marriage vows. I
figure
the
one
who’s
dead
won’t care one way or the other.