More tomorrow

I have guests at my house today, and guests trump blogging. They’ll be on a plane back to Texas tomorrow, though, so please check back tomorrow evening.

Unemployment

I was laid off from my job with Dell Computer Corp. nearly two years ago. It really hurt. Every day that I didn’t have a job I felt more like a failure as a husband and as a man, and I didn’t feel any better until I finally started working again three-and-a-half months later. If not for Mrs. Happy’s constant encouragement and expressions of love and utter faith in me throughout that time, I don’t know how I would have coped at all. Now it’s my turn to encourage.

She called me today to let me know she was one of the first casualties in a round of layoffs where she works. Her not having a job complicates things for us. It delays our saving for a house, planning for a child, and preparing for the future. It doesn’t kill us, though, or even put us in financial danger. We have made it a point to live a lifestyle that we can maintain on my salary alone.

As I’m writing this, she hasn’t come home yet. She’s still cleaning out her stuff, preparing her space for whatever person with seniority takes over her function. We haven’t had a real chance to talk about how she feels, so at this point I can only guess. I think it’s safe to say she’s upset. However, her reaction to unemployment will be a little different from mine. She will undoubtedly feel bad that we have to delay a few major life decisions, but the monetary concerns will not devastate her. As I said, we can survive on my salary alone. One big difference between her layoff and mine, though, is that I didn’t particularly like my job, while she absolutely loves hers.

When I worked at Dell, I wrote technical manuals explaining how to install and operate server management software. Believe it or not, that gets boring after a while. A while more, and it comes to be tedious. Eventually, one grows to despise it, which I certainly did. In a way, my being laid off actually improved my work situation because it forced me to find a better, more palatable job. For Mrs. Happy, on the other hand, the job she just lost was almost her dream job. She has two passions, and her job fused both of them.

Her first passion is art. She has always loved to express herself through acts of creativity, and encouraged others to do the same. She has inspired me to do so on more that one occasion (you may not appreciate the quality of my work, but I think the sincerity transcends the artistic value). Her second passion is people, particularly people no one wants to deal with, people who need more attention than anyone else. She feels a strong desire to help them, to make them feel like someone cares, to make them emotionally and spiritually strong enough to heal themselves. In her job, she uses art to enable people express the (sometimes hurricane-force) turbulence of their inner selves. She helps people make sense of their own thoughts and better understand their own needs.

She helps the people I believe Jesus would be drawn to, and they flock to her in much the same way they would to Him. She offers them grace and non-judgment, and they respond with love and admiration. As we spoke on the phone earlier, she read me a letter written from one of the people under her care addressed to the top administrator at the institution where she works. The letter expressed overtly hostile feelings and questioned the condition and destination of any soul that would prevent such an obviously remarkable young woman from helping people the way she does. It was a testament to the effect she has on people, though that particular client probably has some work left to do on his anger management issues.

My point is that while my layoff shook my confidence and made me feel like a failure, her layoff actually steals from her an enormous source of personal fulfillment. Not that she will never have another job like it—there is probably an even better job somewhere waiting for her—and not that her job is her only source of fulfillment. But the loss is significant, and I only hope that in the coming months I can be as much an encouragement to her as she was to me.

Soup and movies

I got to do two things this past weekend that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

First,
I ordered soup from the real-life Soup Nazi of Seinfeld fame
(click on the image to see full-size photos). I have never really understood
the nickname. Even on the show, he did not advocate the rise of one race
or the destruction of another. He did not rebuild a country out of the ashes
only to create a war machine bent on world domination. He was just stern, gruff,
and strict to the point of intolerance. I would have called him the Soup Stickler
or Tyrant or Despot or something, but maybe that doesn’t have the same ring.
Anyway, the character is based on a real guy named Al Yeganeh, and he refers
to himself as The
Soup Man
and scoffs at his Seinfeldian nickname. His place is called
Al’s Soup Kitchen International and it’s on 55th St. and 8th Ave. in Manhattan.
Al himself is pretty gruff and unsmiling,
but I didn’t see him refuse soup to anyone. The restaurant itself differs from
the place as portrayed on Seinfeld in that no customers are allowed
inside, since the entire inside is pretty much occupied by the kitchen. You
order from the sidewalk (fresh, hot soup or refrigerated, reheatable soup)
and find your own place to eat. The rules for ordering as portrayed on TV were
no exaggeration. This sign appeared in no fewer than five languages at the
counter:

FOR THE MOST EFFICIENT AND FASTEST SERVICE
THE LINE MUST BE KEPT MOVING.

  • Pick the Soup You Want!
  • Have Your Money Ready!
  • Move to the Extreme Left After Ordering!

The quality of the soup was also no exaggeration. I ordered the chicken and vegetable soup, and it was without a doubt the best soup I have ever eaten, even if I couldn’t identify every ingredient (there were some big, bulbous, yellow things floating around that I have never seen in my life). All in all, a good experience. And, having also eaten at the diner that provides the exterior shot of Seinfeld‘s coffee shop last year, I have now had my fill of Seinfeld experiences.

Second, I finally took my wife to see The Return of the King,
a satisfying end to perhaps the best movie trilogy ever. Mrs. Happy generally
eschews any form of entertainment that suggests science fiction, fantasy, or
superhero comics. I’ve had to find others to accompany me to T3, X-Men,
the last two Matrix movies, and Underworld, and I had to see Freddy
vs. Jason
all by myself. But she saw the first two Lord of the Rings films
with me, and though she has protested every day since ROTK opened, she finally
agreed to see it. I loved it, she enjoyed it, and as long as she doesn’t hold
it over my head for more than a few days, we’ll consider it a successful outing.
Now I’ll probably have to take her to see Mona Lisa Smile to make up
for it, but marriage often involves give-and-take, and I’m happy to do it.
I’ve discovered a few gems by seeing movies I had no interest in (Gothika and
He Loves Me…He Loves Me
Not
, to name a couple), and she’s had her horizons
expanded by a couple of movies I dragged her to (she enjoyed both Spider-Man and
The Dangerous Lives of Altar
Boys
).
Marriage and movies don’t always mesh, but it’s a beautiful thing when they
do.


Check out the Where We’re From page for a new poem from Tina. Also take a look at her blog. Keep those poems coming!

Update

My weekend is full. I will resume regular blogging on Monday.

It’s nice having a break, but it feels somehow wrong to go this long without writing. Oh, well. God trumps family trumps country trumps blogging, I guess. More on Monday.

Takin’ a break

Christmas is going to be wonderful. I’ve gotten some great gifts for my wife. My mother and her husband are coming for a short visit. We’ll all celebrate Jesus’ birth together. It will be great. Right now, though, it just sucks. I have never encountered so many incompetent, selfish, and flagrantly rude people in one day than I have today (and remember, I live in New York). I have lots to do to prepare for Christmas day, and no time to do it. I’m stressed out and doing my best not to spill my composure all over the next inconsiderate person unfortunate enough to cross my path.

Anyway, I’m home at the moment and don’t plan on going back out, so the world is safe for now. My preparations are preventing me from spending much time blogging today, and I hereby give notice that I will probably not blog at all tomorrow or Christmas day, and maybe not for the rest of the week. We’ll just have to see how things go. But for now, I offer up the following for your entertainment:

That’s all for now. I’ll resume posting some time after Christmas.

Contemplating fatherhood

It happens in every marriage. Sooner or later, a couple discusses having children.
Mrs. Happy and I do so fairly regularly, sometimes in passing and sometimes
in earnest. Right now, a variety of loose-ended issues prevents us from making
a firm decision one way or the other. I get frustrated about that because,
of course, on this issue there is no middle ground, no fence to straddle. To
put off deciding means to decide not to have children for the time being, and
time doesn’t stand still while we work out the details. I’ve received this
advice more times than I can count: “Don’t wait to have children until you’re
ready. You’ll never be ready. You just have to do it.” That may very well be
true.

This past year, I think, marked the first time that I’ve been emotionally ready to expand our Happy Family. Before now, the thought of that much responsibility has terrified me. Now I’m not afraid of the responsibility; in some ways I even crave it. What concerns me now is the effect a child will have on my ability to function as a human being.

Sometimes (it happened today, in fact) I look at my wife and she overwhelms
me with her humanity, her
person-ness
. Sometimes she makes me realize that she exists as an individual
as much as I do, a revelation that always brings me to my knees in awe of the
wonder of her being. I think times like those are the closest I ever come to
seeing another person the way God sees them. God, however, is omnipotent and
capable of functioning while fully comprehending the power of His creation’s
existence. In that state I, on the other hand, tend to just smile until it hurts,
cry
uncontrollably,
and babble on about beauty and love.

So if my wife affects me that strongly as often as two or three times a week, I can’t imagine how I will function in the presence of a little girl who looks like the woman I love more than life, frantically playing, eagerly seeking out new experiences, and protecting any helpless creature she encounters…or a little boy who asks probing questions and follows his imagination wherever it takes him without being burdened by preconceived notions of reality (a boy, by the way, who has also exchanged all the morose, odd-bird tendencies he inherited from his father with the corresponding good qualities he learned from his mother). Living with a child whose every word reveals an absolute proof of humanity, whose every thought broadcasts a world of meaning on an utterly sincere face, who calls me “Daddy” at every opportunity? I’m afraid that would put me in a perpetual state of disarray and complete uselessness.

I recently voiced these concerns to a friend of mine who has a three-year-old
son. He waved his hand dismissively and said, “Meh. You get over that.”

On a slightly different note, I received an e-mail today from Adam, a friend of mine who has been a father for exactly one month. He shared some thoughts on fatherhood:

Around 5 o’clock Sunday morning, as I held my son so Sarah could get some
sleep before getting up for church, I began to realize Austin is smarter
than I think. Here are twelve thoughts I am convinced have gone through
the mind of my little four-week old son:

  1. “If I wait a few more minutes,
    Dad will almost be asleep. Then
    I’ll start crying…”
  2. “Dad, if you were a real man, you wouldn’t need sleep.”
  3. “Don’t call me beautiful! Beautiful is for girls! the
    word is handsome, people!”
  4. “They almost have the new diaper on…almost…hold it…hold it…there’s
    the first strap…Now! Go! Pee again!”
  5. “Dad’s right…one of life’s most underrated pleasures really
    is a good poop!”
  6. “Mommy’s more patient than Daddy is when I scream
    in the middle of the night.”
  7. “Nothing satisfies like a cold wet one…pacifier, that is.”
  8. “Daddy likes to play catch with my pacifier.”
  9. “My bed just isn’t as comfortable as Mom or Dad’s chest.”
  10. “I’m not sure what that little thing down there is for, but I
    know I can squirt Dad in the face with it. Hey, look! I
    can make cool pictures on the wall, too!
  11. “I can’t wait until I can see far enough to watch T.V. This
    game called football that Daddy likes to watch sounds fascinating!”
  12. “HOOK ‘EM HORNS! Hey, Aggies and Sooners, I left some
    presents for you…they’re in the diaper can!”

Some day I’ll be the one holding a baby in the wee hours so my wife can sleep. Some day I’ll be the one attributing comic thoughts to an infant I helped conceive. Some day, I pray, I’ll have to rename this blog The Happy Husband and Father.

But not today.

Marriage links for the week

The WorldMag blog offers up an explanation of how marriage fosters freedom, contrary to popular sentiment, and how the very word free is linguistically bound to love and devotion. “Marriage is an act of freedom that allows people to gain the roots to be free, devoted to people and principle and not blown around by ideological winds. (A leaf is not free.)”

A happy marriage is an ongoing process. If you stop trying, you stop growing. And when you stop growing, you start decaying.

Sometimes it’s good for a couple to share a common profession, but there are drawbacks as well.


I’m adding a new link to my list of Personal Blogs this week: ireneQ. She is a young Malaysian blogger who chronicles her struggles with being a single Christian in a hostile secular world. Her thoughts resonate with me because I remember being where she was (young, single, and Christian, I mean—not female or Malysian), battling self-destructive desires and wondering what, if anything, is in store for me in the way of marriage. Her writing is excellent and she has superb taste in reading material (you’ll notice The Happy Husband in her link list). Check out her blog.

Reminiscence

This blog’s first entry is dated Wednesday, August 20, 2003. I didn’t even tell anyone about it for a month, just to make sure I could keep up the pace of daily posts. It’s gone well, though. This week I passed the century mark for number of posts, and today I’m just tired. Since I don’t have the energy to write something clever and insightful right now, I thought I’d offer some links to posts from the first six weeks for those of you who have only recently discovered The Happy Husband. Please forgive me if this is self-indulgent, but these are some of my favorites:

I wrote all of these posts before I added the comments feature, so feel free to leave your thoughts on any/all of them.

A return to true manhood

In the past, I have had conversations/debates with a couple of my more liberal friends about the importance and/or existence of masculinity and femininity. “All people are human beings,” they said, “regardless of the genitalia they might develop through a chance meeting of chromosomes. There is no reason to treat people of either sex differently or to shut them out of any relationship role they may desire.” My enlightened friends held the opinion that only the ability to bear children differentiates women from men and that everyone should therefore be treated equally (a word that to them means identically).

Since neither of my friends (both of them male, by the way) grew up in a cave, I can’t imagine how they formed that opinion. I tried countering with logical arguments and observations about obvious differences. I tried to convince them that a recognition of differences between the sexes does not equal chauvinism. I tried to explain how much better life is when women embrace womanhood and men embrace manhood. Despite my best efforts, they remained steadfastly dedicated to a sort of idealized androgyny. I guess when a friend wholeheartedly believes in a chartreuse sky, there’s not much you can say beyond pointing out the blue.

I’m afraid that one reason so many marriages fail today is that men have not
been taught what it means to be a man, that in fact they have been taught that
manhood is irrelevant. I had a class in college in which the professor asked
me, as the only vocal conservative Christian in the class of 80 students, to
list some words describing a husband’s role in a marriage. I immediately said “provider,
protector, and leader.” (After more than five years of marriage, I now know
that my response was simplistic, but I still stand by its accuracy.) The professor
and most of the young men in the class bristled at my comment, and countered
with arguments about how I was setting men above women, how women can take
care of themselves and don’t need a man to rescue them from the world, and
blah blah blah blah blah, completely (maybe even willfully) misunderstanding
my point.

I believe God made man and woman to complement each other, to complete each other, to enable each other for greater things than either could achieve alone:

The man said [of the woman],
  "This is now bone of my bones,
  And flesh of my flesh;
  She shall be called Woman,
  Because she was taken out of Man."

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
—Genesis 2:23, 24

Furthermore, the words of King David to his son Solomon indicate that manhood carries a certain responsibility:

As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, “I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn.”
—I Kings 2:1–3

I’m bringing this up because I recently read an excellent article from The Claremont Review of Books about how parents, schools, and society in general is failing in its duty—and, in many ways, working actively against its duty—to grow boys into men. Some key quotes:

In my experience, many young women are upset, but not about an elusive Prince Charming or even the shortage of “cute guys” around. Rather, they have very specific complaints against how they have been treated in shopping malls or on college campuses by immature and uncouth males, and even more pointed complaints against their boyfriends or other male acquaintances who fail to protect them…. It appears to them that, except for a few lucky members of their sex, most women today must choose between males who are whiny, incapable of making decisions, and in general of “acting like men,” or those who treat women roughly and are unreliable, unmannerly, and usually stupid.

The demanding regime of physical and moral instruction that used to turn boys into men and the larger cultural forces that supported that instruction have been systematically dismantled by a culture that ostensibly enables all individuals but in reality disables men.

Half of American boys growing up do not live with their natural fathers. …Divorce, whether in reality or in the acrimonious rhetoric of the mother, impresses upon the boy an image of the father, and therefore of all men, as being irresponsible, deceitful, immature, and often hateful or abusive towards women.

I personally have gone through periods of wimpiness and barbarism both, but my family (even after my parents’ divorce), my female friends, and the Texas school system (especially the male coaches) all taught me to be a man through instruction, expectations, and discipline. I think it’s time that we, as a society, go back to that.

First kiss?her view

In Curt’s post yesterday, he said that our first kiss “may have been the most unromantic first kiss for a couple in the history of relationships.” In the comments section of that same post, Rey pondered the idea that “although you placed that kiss as completely unromantic, i wonder if your wife would place it in quite a different category…now and then….” So Curt and I agreed it would be proper to share my perspective on the matter.

Did I think his prelude was ridiculously lame? No doubt. Was the kiss itself the most romantic, heartfelt show of affection I’d ever experienced? Absolutely!

You see, I started to fall for my happy best friend long before he had an iota of a clue, but we’d been insisting on our “just friends” status so adamantly for so long that I didn’t want to appear a fool—little did I know that he had that department covered. I had found myself watching his lips move for the past six months or so, wondering, longing, waiting, then stopping myself, convinced that a kiss was never going to happen, nor should it.

Then came that December night that would change the dynamic of our relationship forever. When he mentioned mistletoe (and the evident lack thereof), I was struck by a feeling of exhilaration and whatever emotion goes with the phrase, “Oh, brother.” Despite the latter feeling, I was thankful for the invitation to capitalize on an opportunity I’d been coveting for months. Oh, and just to even the playing field of utter lameness, I paused to spit out my gum. I’ll be the first to admit that this was not the way I had envisioned the beginning of the first kiss with the man I would some day marry, but when he says it was the sweetest, purest, most powerful and clueless kiss ever, I must agree. Furthermore, this simple act became the catalyst for his and my separate (and eventually joint) realizations that we were undeniably destined to spend the rest of our lives together as husband and wife.

And indeed it still does make me tingle every time I think about it!