Valentine’s (yester)Day

I wanted to do three things for my wife for Valentine’s Day:

  1. Make her a special dinner of homemade cheese and meat ravioli.
  2. Give her a small but meaningful gift.
  3. Dance with her in our living room to romantic music and candlelight.

Mrs. Happy loves ravioli, but it’s really too labor-intensive to make from
scratch. That’s why my dinner was going to be so special. However, I just happened
to find an incredibly simple recipe for ravioli the other day (in the fantastic How
to Cook Without a Book
). Instead of explaining how
to make the pasta containers, it called for using wonton
wrappers.
If you
buy wonton wrappers you can skip the messy parts of mixing of the dough, rolling
it out into an uneven sheet, and cutting it into pieces that never quite match
each other. Wonton wrappers stay moist in their packaging, are perfectly textured
and uniformly cut, and cook beautifully "sturdy yet sheer, revealing the filling
within.…earthy yet ethereal, substantial yet tender," according to my cookbook.

So yesterday during my lunch break I went to the grocery store to buy all
the necessary supplies. The store had no wonton wrappers. So I went to another
store. Again, no wonton wrappers. I struck out at a third store and had to
return to work no better off than I was before. After work, I visited three
more grocery stores to no avail. I asked employees at every store where they
kept the wonton wrappers. Half of them had no idea what I was talking about.
"Soup is on aisle 12," is the most intelligent response I got out of that bunch.
The other half went out of their way to help me look, and for that I am grateful,
but the end result is that my dinner plans came to nothing.

For the gift, I intended to get a little something that would help my wife
in her newest hobby: playing the drums. She has been getting informal lessons
from a couple of drummers she knows, and she practices at home by banging pens
on books and tables while stomping on the floor to simulate beating a bass
drum. So I wanted to get her a little machine of some kind that she could bang
on that would reproduce the sounds of real drums. I found such a product at
Toys R Us that claimed to have a "large 3-inch speaker," six drum pads, 10
fill-in music sounds, 10 awesome sound effects, separate volume controls for
the drums
and the background, tempo control, and a "big 3-inch speaker that generates
HUGE sound!" (There was only one speaker, but it was double-billed.)

I brought it home yesterday to find that the drum pads didn’t produce the
sounds of drums—they produced drum sequences. So instead of just making a symbol
noise when hit, it made the noise of a symbol being played for four beats.
That meant it wouldn’t work at all for the purpose I intended. My wife can’t
create drum rhythms if the rhythms are prefabricated. So my gift was a bust.

I ended up getting takeout at the local fine Italian dining restaurant (there
were, of course, no tables available to walk-in customers) and explaining to
my wife why I bought her such a useless little noise-making toy. She was touched
to the point of tears, though, by the thought and effort I put into everything.
She may be the first person I’ve known in my life that has sincerely and believably
said, "It’s the thought that counts."

I printed up the list of questions
from Christianity Today
that I linked to
last week, and we had a wonderful time conversing and getting to know each
other even better. It was a great night after all.

I just wish I hadn’t been so flustered that I forgot about
the dancing.

A Valentine’s memory

One February back in the mid ’90s, I bought a Valentine’s Day gift for a girl
I was hoping to date. I don’t remember what it was. I also bought a gift for
my best friend at the time, a friend who happened to be female. I had been
walking a fine line with her for a couple of years, always letting her know
how much
I valued her friendship while simultaneously making it clear that I had no
romantic feelings for her. Around that time, I had discerned a subtle shift
in her
attitude toward me, and I feared that she might be developing an unhealthy
feeling of attachment.
I confided this in my sister and sought her advice. She advised me to give
up on the girl I wanted to date and instead embrace my female friend. Bah,
I said.
That would never work.

My sister accompanied me when I went shopping for Valentine’s gifts.
We found a bookstore in an Austin mall, and I came across a charming children’s
book I thought would be perfect for my friend. It was called Guess
How Much I Love You
. It told the story of Big Nutbrown Hare and Little
Nutbrown Hare:

Little Nutbrown Hare, who was going to bed, held on tight to Big Nutbrown
Hare’s very long ears. He wanted to be sure that Big Nutbrown Hare was listening.
"Guess how much I love you," he said.

"Oh, I don’t think I could guess that," said Big Nutbrown Hare.

"This much," said Little Nutbrown Hare, stretching out his arms as wide
as they could go.

Big Nutbrown Hare had even longer arms. "But I love you this much," he said.

By the end of the story, both hares have proclaimed love of astronomical proportions
in a game of affectionate one-upmanship. I showed the book to my sister and
said I thought it might be a good gift for my friend. She laughed and put it
back on the shelf. "What?" I said. "You don’t like it?"

"You’re joking, right?" she said.

"No. What’s the joke?"

"You’re trying to lay off the romantic stuff, and you’re going to give her
a book called Guess How Much I Love You?"

"The love in this book isn’t romantic. It’s affectionate and pure. I could
just as easily give this book to you."

"She’ll think you’re in love with her."

"No, she won’t. She’ll understand."

"Whatever."

So I gave my friend the book. She liked it. It sits on our bookshelf even
today.

Marriage links for the week

Mrs. Jennifer P, A Lady in Training,
exposes the marriage stigma in modern America. I think this culture has a deeply
paradoxical attitude toward marriage, always aspiring to it while simultaneously
despising it.

Another paradoxical attitude is the one people hold toward children, loving
them and despising/fearing/misunderstanding them at the same time. Humble Amy
vents about this
attitude
as well.

Ryan lists another
ten reasons
he loves his wife. I love seeing a man praise his wife in public.

Ben Wilson writes about the difficulty
of Valentine’s Day
when a marriage
is in trouble.

Miss O’Hara, in one of her regular collections of links, offers links to several
blog posts that deal with sexuality and Christian relationships. Read
them all
.

ChristianityToday.com has some excellent articles encouraging healthy marriage:

  • Beat the
    Clock
    : A newly married couple figures out how to spend more time
    together despite their wildly different schedules,
  • Shadows
    of the Mind
    : A counselor gives advice on handling negative emotions toward
    your spouse.
  • Vanishing
    Act
    : Managing money is one of the most important and difficult things a
    couple must do.
  • Lift Lines: Basically, a long list of His
    and Hers
    questions ranging from
    "What’s your favorite hobby?" to "Have I ever broken your heart?"

Newer readers may not be aware of the Where
We’re From
poetry page on this site
(link in the right-hand sidebar).
It is basically a poem template that serves as an exercise of examining your
own life, and the results are invariably meaningful and beautiful. The page
itself collects poems sent in by readers about their own lives, and every one
of them
is worth reading. I just received one today from the blogger behind New
York
Minute
,
so
go
read her poem and see where
Rebecca’s from
.

His and Hers: No spoilers

His and Hers is a weekly discussion of a question or topic relating
to marriage. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the week’s
topic. I invite others to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in
celebrating marriage. This week’s question is:

What is the fifth sentence on the 23d page of the book
you’re currently reading?
(Note: I feel like we’ve done this question before, but I’m too lazy to check.
Even if we have, the answers are different now.)

Mrs. Happy’s response

"I could tell from the look of her—her flushed cheeks, her slow smile, and
the way she tied the apron with her strong hands—that she liked us, liked our
house, and that she would be happy here." —The Silent Boy, by Lois Lowry

Curt’s response

"Backman’s plea agreement, and the agreement that exculpated the firm’s other
partners, required a fine of $10 million, thus leading directly to the first
bankruptcy—Backman I." —The Broker, by John Grisham

RLTB

Today, I was going to write
another ten reasons I love my wife.
That will have to wait for another day, because before I could begin writing,
my dear wife said
something
to
me
that
made me seriously rethink how I was about to spend my time.
I
hate
going
two
days
in
a
row
without
a
blog
post,
but
the
thing
she
said
trumps
the living daylights out of blogging.

On life in the blogosphere

On other blogs, bloggers like to blog about blogging. I’m a blogger who enjoys
reading about blogging on other blogs sometimes, but I find that I can’t blog
about blogging without feeling self conscious about constantly using various
forms of the word blog, a word that I still find a little ridiculous.
This is a rare post here, because it is a blog post about blogging. So that
I don’t have to type blog and repeatedly inflict the word on innocent
readers, I’m
going to use the word porkpie instead.

The winners of the 2005
EU Evangelical Porkpie Awards
have been announced. The Happy Husband didn’t
win anything, but then it didn’t really fit into any of the categories.
Rey nominated this porkpie in the category for Best New Evangelical Porkpie.
The nomination did not effect an award, but it did yield some interesting results
nevertheless:

  1. It gave me
    the distinction of becoming the first entrant to be disqualified, since I’ve
    been
    porkpieing for 17 months and cannot be considered "new" by any definition—particularly
    not by porkpieosphere standards.
  2. Due to the disqualification, The
    Happy
    Husband was the only porkpie on the list of nominees to appear in a strikethrough
    font for a week
    or so. The line through this site’s name brought more attention to it than
    it would have received under normal conditions. My traffic increased quite
    a
    bit during
    that week.
  3. The top-quality
    and
    highly competitive
    porkpier
    behind Amy’s
    Humble
    Musings
    , another Best New Porkpie nominee, declared me to be her
    stiffest competition (or, as she put it, "biggest
    threat
    " because THH is "a great site, plain
    and simple."). I consider
    that quite a compliment, especially since she eventually
    won the award and impressed Eric the Preacher enough to interview
    her at length
    on the Evangelical
    Underground
    site. As soon as I
    do the redesign I’ve been thinking about for the past six months, her
    porkpie
    is going
    into
    my
    sidebar as
    well.
  4. My artist/geek friend Rey, whose The
    Bible Archive
    was a nominee for Best
    Evangelical Porkpie–Apologetics, borrowed a page from the
    Impressionists’ playbook
    and held his own Salon
    du Refusé
    , an awards showcase so arbitrary it borders on Dadaism.
    Eric the Preacher liked the idea so much he even put the Salon graphic (see
    above) in the EU sidebar even though he wasn’t included in the Salon. Coolness
    on all sorts of levels.
  5. This porkpie was included in the Salon
    du Refusé
    and given the award for
    Not A Runner Up. It is my first award, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Though some folks thought the Evangelical Porkpie Awards were silly, divisive,
and irrelevant, I think they accomplished their purpose of bringing valuable
attention to some quality work that people are doing. Even nominees who didn’t
win benefited from some extra traffic, and even those who weren’t nominated
benefited from their discovery of porkpies they might otherwise never have
noticed. I commend Eric for a good idea and thank him for all the work he put
in to promoting God-oriented sites.

I should note that the Salon du Refusé did not escape controversy. Apparently
there have been accusations of blatantly erroneous French grammar, mistakes
born of ignorance that tries to sound sophisticated and impressive. For the
record, I have no problem with that and find it entirely appropriate and in keeping
with the spirit of the Salon awards.

Marriage links for the week

Daria confesses how much her husband has to put
up with
. (Thanks to Irenefor the link.)

Marriage is not always easy, especially for soldiers who go to war, and especially
for soldiers
who return wounded
. (Thanks to Jerry for the link.)

Marla, the Proverbial Wife, gave
birth to a baby girl
on the day that Iraq
held its first democratic elections. By coincidence (at least I don’t think
it was by parental design), she named the baby Liberty.

One thing I was not prepared for in marriage was the bizarre attitude women
have about sharing food. "I don’t want anything. I’ll just have some of yours."
I have never and will never be able to make any sense of that self-contradictory
statement. So I feel Joe
Missionary’s pain
.

Molly at my three pennies
worth
laments the way the anyone inhabiting the
role of husband and father today is fair game for denigration
and sarcastic comments
. (Thanks again to Irene.)

His and Hers: Throne room peripherals

His and Hers is a weekly discussion of a question or topic relating
to marriage. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the week’s
topic. I invite others to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in
celebrating marriage. This week’s question comes from Joe
Missionary
:

What do you keep on the back of your toilet?

Mrs. Happy’s response

We have in the past kept magazines, puzzle books, and a notebook in which
we took turns writing bits of a story. Right now, we have an electronic
hand-held Simon game, an electronic
hand-held Boggle, an electronic
hand-held Connect Four, and a bottle of vanilla potpourri air freshener.

Curt’s response

Ditto. I like the Boggle best. That vanilla potpourri spray comes in really
handy sometimes, though.

Romance in the Bible

Someone recently asked me what the Bible says about romantic love. I’m embarrassed
to say I didn’t know what to tell him. I know that Song of Solomon is supposed
to be one of the greatest love poems since the invention of the written word,
but I’ve never really studied it. To tell you the truth, it confuses the heck
out of me. I have no idea what it means. (A study could make a good series
of posts, though. I think I will do that some day.)

I thought even if the Bible doesn’t say much about romance, maybe it would
have a good example. Some time ago, my friend Rey gave me a list of
all the marriages mentioned in the Bible. There didn’t seem to be much romance
in any of them, at least from what I could tell. Two exceptions stood out to
me, however.

If true romance means focusing on each other as if no other man or woman exists,
as if you were made for each other, as if you have found the one person in
the world who is absolutely right for you, then the marriage enjoyed by Adam
and Eve defines romance. By necessity and lack of any other option, they related
to each other exactly the way God meant for them to. I can feel the passion
in Adam’s words, "This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh."
The Bible says that the sexual consummation of a marriage is a reflection of
the relationship shared by the first couple. Even though God didn’t fashion
her from one of my ribs, my wife is as much a part of my body as my own arm
or leg is. She is mine, and I am hers. She exists for me and I for her, and
together we are one body.

The other marriage that I think demonstrates romance is that of Jacob and
Rachel. He met her, he fell in love with her, and he worked for her father
for seven years in exchange for her hand in marriage "and they seemed to him
but a few days because of the love he had for her." (Gen.
29:20
) Even after his father-in-law cheated him out of another seven years
and tricked him into marrying his other daughter as well, his passion was for
Rachel. He treasured her for his entire life, and even after she died he continued
loving the two sons she gave him (Joseph and Benjamin) more than his other
ten. He was certainly not a perfect husband, nor she a perfect wife, but his
tender, lifelong love for her is a wonderful picture of biblical romance.

Any Bible scholars aware of other romance in the Bible?

A certain age

A concerned reader e-mailed me an intriguing question: What is the best age at
which
to
marry?
Some time ago, a British professor set
down to develop
a formula for determining optimum marrying age. He came up with M=Y+(1/e[X-Y]),
though some reports spell out the equation as M=(Y+1)/e+X-Y.

M is
the optimum marrying age.
Y is the age at which you begin looking for a spouse.
X is the age at which you would supposedly give up looking.
e is a logarithm that boils down to 2.718 or
0.36, depending on which report you read.

I have no idea what any of it means. I was nearly 26 when I married,
and Mrs. Happy was 23. Go figure.

In my mind, optimum marrying age is different for everyone. Some people
are ready at 19. Some aren’t ready at 40. It depends on a person’s level
of maturity in relationships. It depends on whether they’ve grown to the
point of understanding the depth of sacrifice necessary when pledging one’s
life to another, and whether they are capable and desirous of making that
sacrifice.

Generally, the ages at which one 1)wants to marry, 2)actively pursues
marriage, 3)is ready for marriage, and 4)actually marries are four different
numbers. For me, the answers were

  1. 16
  2. 22
  3. 25.0
  4. 25.916

I am fortunate that my marrying age did not precede my ready-for-marriage
age. I started dating girls at age 15. At 16, I decided I wanted to get married
some day. Six years of insecurity and self-doubt followed. At 22, my loneliness
overwhelmed me and I began concocting marriage fantasies around any female
who was nice to me. I got over that around my 25th birthday, at which point
I realized that my best friend could not continue being my best friend unless
I married her. So I did, and she’s still my best friend by a long shot.

I didn’t mean to go off on a tangent there. To answer the reader’s question,
the optimum marrying age is 27 for women and 32 for men. At least I think
that’s what the formula comes out to. I never was that great at math, though.