This year, keep the Lent in VaLENTine’s Day

Ash Wednesday is just a week a way! Valentine’s Day is just a week a way! WHAT TO DO?

Our long-suffering American bishops felt compelled to clarify that Ash Wednesday does, in fact, Trump Valentine’s Day, even if overpriced teddy bears are a very important part of your spirituality. So you push up V-day to Tuesday, or to the weekend before. Easy peasy, shift your squeezy.

Or, you combine them. YASS. Both/and; so Catholic. Here are a few ideas for how to combine romance and suffering, sweetness and pain.

GIFTS OF FINEST CAROB  Remember carob?  It looks like chocolate that’s been sitting in a dusty corner for a while, and it tastes like a chocolately dusty corner.  Fasting just got that much easier! Give your significant other a satiny, heart-shaped box packed with an assortment of carob truffles, and you will be transmitting a powerful Lenten message:  we must not be seduced by the passing allure of temporal things, for the sweetness of this world is but a ackkkk, blech, ptui, what is this?

QUEEN VICTORIA’S SECRET  We’re required to abstain from meat, but other kinds of abstinence? Not obligatory. On the other hand, you don’t want to start your Lent too carnal-like.  So try this easy trick:  pick out something satiny or lacy, but at least four sizes too large.  As the lucky lady opens the box, you can wiggle your eyebrows suggestively while explaining, “You really put the “gras” in Mardi Gras this year, Marty!”  (This works better if your wife’s name is Marty.) I guarantee you, no sins of fleshly excess will threaten your evening.  Unless you count “stabbing” as a sin of fleshly excess.

SEASONALLY APPROPRIATE FLOWERS  Take a leaf from liturgical decorators around the country:  go out back where the dumpsters are, pull up some dead grass, and add a few twiggy things and maybe a really scuzzy looking cattail.  Stick it in a pot, preferably one that looks like grandma got into the clay again.  Voila — Lent flowers!  In a similar vein, if you know your wife or girlfriend was hoping for perfume, you can substitute sand, because sand is symbolic and whatnot.

HEIRLOOM JEWELRY  Any unimaginative bozo can stumble into Zales and pick out a diamond this or a ruby that.  What you want is something that is not only decorative, but also saturated in spiritual significance.  So go ahead and rummage through the lost and found box on the radiator at the back of the church.  Maybe you’ll find a nice, broken-in scapular, already “seasoned” with the holy emanations of countless fervent necks.  Or maybe you’ll really luck out and find a miraculous medal that’s so well-prayed-on, it’s gone full manatee.  Jackpot!

A LOVE LETTER TELLING YOUR BELOVED HOW YOU REALLY FEEL. . . about the state of his or her soul.  True love doesn’t sit by and let other people wallow in sin.  Consider a hand-penned, calligraphic examination of his or her conscience.  Or you might assemble a “dream team” of hand-selected patron saints which you will be assigning to the cause of your beloved’s salvation (St. Drogo, St. Fiacre and, of course, St. Jude spring to mind).  Or simply borrow some lyric lines from scripture.  I suggest Jeremiah.  There are also some really exquisite passages in Hosea.

Good luck, hot stuff. You’re gonna need it.

***

A version of this post originally ran at the National Catholic Register in 2013.

Handmade Gift Guide for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day! Work it out, people! And really, you need to get it done by the 13th, not the 14th, because ashes and chocolates just don’t mix.

If you’re in the market for a gift for the one you love (or the friend you like), here are some lovely choices — all handmade.

Affiliate disclosure: Most of the links below are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission of sales made through these links. 

And now for the gifts!

Handcrafted luxury yarn from Threads and Tales

Does your true love knit? How about a few skeins of luxuriously soft, ethically sourced yarns, some hand-spun (“on a spinning wheel like a legit pilgrim”), all hand dyed with safe, edible dyes? Em Ro and her family (including kids ages five and two, who help choose color pairings) have deliberately priced their goods much lower than similar yard of this quality. Here are a few that caught my eye:

100% Merino wool in “Little Red Riding Hood:”

Deep scarlet reds with cayenne pepper and paprika with very slight tones throughout, offering the beauty of tonal without a rainbow of colors.

Here’s a hand-spun and hand dyed selection in subtle, evocative tones, called “Moby Dick:”

Gorgeous. Threads and Tales also offers sturdy little handmade stitch markers in cute designs, including the Wonder Woman logo.

Door Number 9 puts the Saint back in St. Valentine’s Day

My love for Elisa Low’s work is legendary, and she’s always coming up with something new and quirky. This year, she has a valentine for everyone, with these moving and heartfelt Song of Solomon Valentines:

How can you possibly go wrong expressing your love with direct quotations from the Bible? How??

Set of eight valentines (with envelopes) with quotes from the Song of Songs.

More of Elisa’s antic humor: This St. Valentine Icon Magnet helps us remember the real reason for the season: Gory martyrdom.

Wie romantisch!

Elisa also offers a wide array of unusual, geeky handmade goods, from medieval bestiary tea wallets, to her very popular “Heretical nonsense: For research purposes only” stamp for the reader who knows better, to the replica of the Hamiltons’ interlocking wedding ring.

 Molded leather cigar cases from Lavish Expressions

Ooh, aren’t these swanky? Almost enough to make me want to smoke a cigar.  These handmade molded cigar cases can be monogrammed for free.

Molded full grain leather three finger cigar case, 3.75″ X 7.5.” Made of premium full grained vegetable tanned leather and stitched with bonded nylon thread.

Handmade in Arkansas by Tanya and Gerrod Desselle of Lavish Expressions. Order soon; they take a few weeks to make. Also many other sumptuous leather handmade goods, including iPad covers, messenger bags, journal cases, and more.

Dark chocolate whiskey truffles  from Sweet Addict

Well, chocolate, of course. Here are a dozen handmade truffles for a very reasonable price, guaranteed fresh upon arrival, filled with a dark chocolate ganache infused with Jameson Whiskey.

Many other truffles and fancy pants handmade treats available, including Red Velvet Truffles, S’Mores Valentine Gift Sets, and an assortment of fabulous caramel sauces.

Chain mail jewelry from Iron Lace Design

Spend $30 at IronLaceDesign and get 30% off your order!

So popular, and for good reason: feast your eyes on this opulent steel and green jasper chain mail choker.

I have a version of this magnificent necklace, and when I put it on, it makes me feel like the empress of the universe. It’s heavy, sleek, strong.

Or take a look at this sweet, bright little bracelet, silver plated chain mail with a fiery crystal nestled inside:

Many more styles at Iron Lace Designs, including heirloom-quality rosaries, plunge necklaces, pendants, earrings, and steampunk jewelry made of intricate watch findings.

Brilliant sacred art from Brightly Hude Studio

Here’s an arresting and luminous card, “Keep Us Near to Thee,” from Brightly Hude Studio by Adalee Hude: two hearts joined by the Sacred Heart:

Blank inside, and I think it’s framable.

Also check out the many other brilliant prints and original artwork, some with 23K gilding. I like this cheerful  giclée image of John Paul II.

Hammered tin Sacred Heart wall ornament from Mexico

Okay, yes, this is a Day of the Dead wall ornament. But it has a heart. The Sacred Heart. And flying skeletons! Are you going to argue with that?

Hand-hammered tin, hand painted in Mexico. I bought one of these with my birthday money last year, and it’s now in my kitchen. It makes me think of that line from Flannery O’Connor’s story “Revelation:” Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.

It was bigger than I expected, almost nineteen inches from tip to tip. I love it. Also see this unpainted tin Sacred Heart Milagro.

Bright flower jewelry in February from Smile With Flower

Ah, I love this resin jewelry made with real flowers, so your love can bring a bit of summer with her wherever she goes.

 
Many more designs, including very cute coffee bean earrings , and also bracelets, globe and terrarium pendants, stud and petal earrings, and

“You Are My Sunshine” card by Timothy Hodge

 

I admire the intensity in this solar flare card!

The message laconically notes, “You are my sunshine.”  Available through Zazzle; computer image by Timothy Hodge, Customizable size
Leather wrap beaded boho bracelets from Long Lane Jewelry

Isn’t this wrap bracelet lovely? Fresh, subtle shades of agate with silver and leather.

It’s playful but not juvenile. Frosted Agate Beads, Natural Antique Brown Genuine Leather, Handmade Sterling Silver Infinity Charm, Charm of your Choice. A heart, say!
Many more funky, fetching bracelets, many unisex, at Long Lane Jewelry.
 Stunning skyscapes by The Crain Wife Art
Anna Crain sent me images of her flower paintings as possible Valentine’s gifts. They’re beautiful, but her skyscapes knocked my socks off. Here’s “Morning By Morning:”

part of the “Faithfulness Collection.”

Here’s another splendid one: “Bright Hope.”

The Crain Wife Art is fairly new as a professional artist. One to watch!

Custom fashion portraits by Samia Lynn

Here’s a thoughtful and romantic gesture: transform your photo into a hand-drawn portrait. Here’s a sample of one fashion illustration Samantha made for a bride and groom:

 

Samantha also does portraits for graduations, engagements, family portraits, anniversaries, and more.

Morse code secret message necklaces from Apple and Azalea
I love this: spell out a word or message in Morse code, and go ahead and wear it.  Here’s an attractive, unisex “Totus Tuus” necklace:

Theresa takes custom orders, but they need to be placed by Tuesday 2/6 for delivery by Valentine’s Day. 

 

Copper jewelry from Cherokee Copper

Simple, classic designs by a Cherokee artist (and Catholic deacon!).

Original art prints by Kabuki Girl

. . . also known as (stifles screams of pride with some difficulty) my daughter, Lena Fisher. Here are my two recent favorites:

Warrior

From her RedBubble store, you can order this image as a print, as a journal, as a phone case, and more.

and here’s Mary:

***
And there it is! Happy Valentime.

What’s for supper? Vol. 71: Your feta has given me wings!

Another week has come and gone and kicked my butt. Here’s what we had to eat:

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza 

All of Saturday was consumed with the installation of our new couch from Craigslist. Sometimes, living in a 5/8ths-scale house is just stupid, especially if you just got a swell deal on a truly enormous overstuffed sectional.

If you think Valentine’s Day is romantic, you should see my husband obligingly sweating his way through an absurd, five-hour, perpetually escalating “if you give a mouse a cookie” situation, and not even swearing.

Here, we see the old, faithful couch cast out after years of service, and the new one being broken in with My Little Pony and cheese sticks.

That’s how it goes. It’s a hard knock life for couch.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma

Shawarma is one of the greatest contributions the east has ever made to the west. Almost makes up for algebra. It’s even better if you marinate it starting the night before, but marinating all day is good, too.

Like a maniac, I bought sixteen pounds of chicken thighs, and by the time I skinned and trimmed them all, I was pretty much over the raw chicken experience, so I left the bones in and marinated and cooked them that way, rather than de-boning.

It wasn’t a mistake, exactly, but it definitely detracted from the delectability of this dish (NYT recipe here). This is a meal that you want to be able to gather up with eager fingers and pop into your mouth with glee, while mumbling insincere resolves to stop eating soon. Bones just slow you down.

We served it with pita bread, cucumbers, feta cheese, red pepper hummus, olives, parsley, and yogurt mixed with fresh garlic and lemon juice.

I also fried up some eggplant, but that did not turn out great. I couldn’t get enough of that cool, sharp yogurt sauce, though. Man.

I give this meal a A for content, B+ for execution. Wish I had gotten some tomatoes.

***

MONDAY
Penne with sausage sauce, salad

Snow day! Again! A good day for hearty pasta. Damien took the kids sledding, while I bravely stayed home and fried up diced onions and loose sausage, basil, and oregano, added a few jars of spaghetti sauce, and some red wine, and let it cook for a while, then served the sauce over penne with parmesan.

I also made hot chocolate again, which is why, this morning, I had to stop at the minimart and buy a gallon of milk for $4.79 to get us through the day. Humph.

***

TUESDAY
Corn dogs, chips

I have no memory of Tuesday. Oh, wait: I remember seeing a plate holding a pile of tattered and discarded corn dog batter. Animals.

Oh, wait, I remember more. It was Valentine’s Day, which I like, so there. I made a cheesecake using this basic Philly cheesecake recipe, and it turned out just fine. (It did crack, but I don’t care.) I made a chocolate ganache which turned out garbage, so we just had strawberries on top. I also made some fudge using Skaarup’s Lunatic Fudge recipe, which is fast and easy, no candy thermometer required. I made it in a heart-shaped pan, because I like that.

***

WEDNESDAY
Panic omelettes, biscuits, leftover chicken, salad

Because supper was going to be easy, I thought I’d go lie down for ten minutes and surf through Facebook until it was time to get things going. Next thing you know, I’ve accidentally made the acquaintance of some extraordinarily imaginative folks who, when they open their eyeballs in the morning, see nothing but a menacing horde of their fellow Catholics who are using NFP for the wrong reasons.

You know and I know that there is no worse use of one’s time than trying to make sense of a conversation like this, but I did it anyway. And so, suddenly, it’s half an hour after we should be sitting down to eat, and I’m just now staggering into the kitchen, wondering what would in the world would motivate someone to try and make marriage harder, and also where all the friggin eggs went.

(They went into the cheesecake, and also everyone has to make eggs on a snow day. It’s the rule.)

I usually make omelettes to order; but since I could only find eleven eggs, that seemed futile. So I made a six-egg omelette with pepper jack cheese, turned it too soon, got mad, and burned the rest. Then I ripped up some ham and did the same thing with the rest of the eggs. I divvied them up, and then discovered that my 12-year-old son was waiting for the next batch, which there warn’t none. SADNESS. Good thing I had made sixteen pounds of chicken not long ago.

We also had biscuits, which I made with Benny. Come to think of it, we made them before supper, so I can’t have been arguing about the scourge of wild, unrestrained Humanae Vitae parties at the same time. I guess that was a different day. Well, we used this recipe, anyway.

***

THURSDAY
Japanese-style beef stew, rice, rice rolls

This seemed like a really swell dish — chunks of beef and sweet potatoes and fresh ginger slices in chicken stock with soy sauce, pepper, honey, and lemon juice —  but it turned out no better than adequate. I don’t know what I did wrong, but it must have been more than one thing.

There weren’t any clean bowls, so I served it angrily over rice.

You know what’s going to make my cooking a lot better? Spring. So I can have some natural light to take food pictures with.

I also managed to cook it in a skillet, transfer it to a dutch oven, put it in the fridge, take it out of the fridge, transfer it into the crock of a crock pot, and heat it up in the microwave. Thank goodness for all these labor-saving devices. Next, I plan to pour the leftovers into one of those plastic bags that you seal up with a vacuum cleaner, then store it under my bed, sell the house at a stunning loss, and move into a wood-panelled van in Martha Stewart’s back yard.

Also on Thursday, I made 53 stained glass heart cookies, and Damien dipped sixty strawberries in chocolate, because I signed up to bring treats in for three separate classrooms for a belated Valentine’s Day party.

The cookies are not hard to make, but they take forehhhhhhhhver. You use this basic, no chill sugar cookie recipe, and cut out large cookies with a cookie cutter. Lay them on the baking sheet on parchment paper or silicone baking mats, cut out a smaller shape inside each cookie, and fill up the cut-out with crushed hard candies; then bake as usual, or a tiny bit longer. The candy melts and makes a little colored window, very pretty.

They turned out fine, if a little bleary. But they took forehhhhhhhhver.

***

FRIDAY
Shakshuka 

Here’s a pic from last time I made it:

There are many things to love about shakshuka, and not least is that you can sing it to the tune of “Volare” and really bother the children. If I have time, I want to try this pita recipe. I have until 3:45 to come up with an irritating pita song.

Oh, Dean. Just shut up.

How to date your wife

Cream of tartar!  Semiconductors!  Onomatopoeia!  Gerbil bedding!  Notary public!  Joint compound!  Abstract expressionism!  Borscht!

That was me, trying to think of something, anything, to write about other than Valentine’s Day.  What do I know about Valentine’s Day, anyway?  It’s taken me most of my married life to admit that there’s not really anything wrong with women who like flowers, and it’s taken me another full year to admit that I’m actually one of them.

And yet here we are.

Well, from my meager mental resources, by which I mean that I just made 84 cupcakes, each with its own Froot By the Foot rosebud and I’m kind of tired and possibly a little bit drunk on icing, I can offer you this:

FIVE TIPS ON HOW TO DATE YOUR WIFE

1.  Practice your pick-up lines.

But I’m already married!  Why in the name of Cryil and Methodius do I have to worry about pick-up lines? you may ask yourself.  And then you may make some stupid joke about how you won’t be picking up your wife any time soon because your insurance doesn’t cover hernia surgery, and so on.  This is the wrong route to take.

What your wife wants to hear is something that shows that you don’t take her for granted—something that invites her to look at you with new eyes, rather than assuming she might as well have a paper bag over her head, as long as all the rest of the parts are in the right place.

Try something with equal parts romance and danger, such as, “Hey, baby, I’m feeling very . . . open to life tonight.”  It’s possible that she will pick up the first heavy object available and try to bash your head in with it, but at least you aroused some kind of reaction, which means you’re halfway there.

2.  Compliment her looks.

If a woman is home with a bunch of kids all day long, she knows that if she steps out of the house, all the men on the street are going to see one thing:  a mess.  A saggy-bellied, baggy-eyed, slump-shouldered, spit up-caked, used-up, milk-smelling, mom-haired mess.

What you need to do to win her heart and put a spring back into her step is to let her know that you don’t see her that way.  You know her heart, and you see the grace and loveliness that will always be there.  So you can try something like, “Have I told you how nice your abdominal muscles look, all separated like that?”  or “I think women with one shoulder that’s lower than the other one are the sexiest ones in the world, don’t you?”

3.  Spend lavishly.

Show her you think she’s worth it.  Take my word for it, she’ll know she’s dealing with a prince among men when she sees you lay that money down.  “Darlin’,” you can say with youthful impetuousness, “let’s go ahead and pay the electric bill on time this month—how’d that be?  Sky’s the limit, or up until 40 kilowatt hours, whichever comes first”  Swoon!

4.  Ply her with cocktails.

Okay, you may actually have to slow her down on this one.  It could be cute to offer little jests such as, “Slow down, little girl—that’s no shirley temple!”  Then you can have a good laugh, as long as it doesn’t interfere with you getting Mama some more ice.

5.  Heat things up with an intimate shower.

And by intimate, I mean just her.  She hasn’t washed her hair in, like, five weeks, and she doesn’t even get to check on how her mustache is coming along without answering a lot of stupid questions.  Stand in front of the door with a rifle, if necessary, but DO NOT LET ANYONE ELSE IN THE BATHROOM.  Remember:  40 kilowatt hours.  You promised.

Gentlemen, you can thank me later.  Right after you go get Mama some more ice.

***

A version of this post originally ran in the National Catholic Register in 2012.

8 Toddler Tips for a Very Special Valentine’s Day

The tired old trope says that kids ruin a couple’s romantic life. Well, I’m a tired old trope myself, and I’m here to tell you that nothing could be wronger. Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, I’d like to share with you a few special ideas that come straight from the little cherubs themselves. Every single one unmistakably spells out L-O-V-E.

 

1. COME HITHER

How about a playful little game of suspense to build up the anticipation? Rose petals are so passé. Try leaving an enticing trail of rice krispies leading from the front door to the bedroom, as if to say, “Follow my lead, and we’ll see what happens under the covers!” And then when you get to the bed, you pull back the covers to find the rest of the bowl of cereal, with milk. Talk about snap, crackle, pop!

2. OR LEAVE A KISS WITHIN THE CUP

Everyone thinks of wine for romance, but did you know that just about anything will ferment if you leave it in a sippy cup under some stuffed animals for long enough? Vintage is important for special moments. You want to decant it at just the right moment, after it’s already started collecting fruit flies, but before it solidifies into a chunk. That way, it can still leak a little bit. Rrrrowr!

 

3. GO SKIN DEEP

Ready for something to get your heart moving? Nothing beats temporary tattoos, to transform that same old, familiar old skin into something exotic and unexpected. Try this technique: Find your sister’s grape-scented marker and scribble all over your knees and belly. Then up the ante with a permanent marker, and decide you want to make di’saur teef on you face. Then eat the marker and poop grape for the next three days. Bow chicka wow wowww.

 

4. SWEET NOTHINGS

Assorted chocolates? Pardon me while I die yawning. Nothing says “spontaneity” like presenting your loved one with a gallon of milk that, despite the “homogenous” label, actually contains a surprising array of assorted buttons, pens, and semi-dissolvable snacks that someone has shoved in there. Imagine the look on her face when she just wants to have a cup of coffee with milk, but instead, a sludgy fig newton slides into her mug and splashes coffee into her face. Ha cha cha!  

 

5. LET YOURSELF GO

Valentine’s Day is, above all, a day of passion. Instead of regular old predictable passion, try throwing yourself down with abandon, writhing around, and doing that howling gargle thing for no reason at all. It’s a special day, so why not ratchet up the excitement by whacking the side of your head against the table leg and then vomiting in rage? Everyone will think it’s a concussion, so you can finish off the rest of the evening in the romantic low lights of an emergency room getaway, where you can laze away the hours far from your responsibilities, hour after hour after hour after hour after hour after hour, waiting for the certain special someone to call your name, pronounce it wrong, and charge you $475 to shine a penlight in your eyeballs and say you’re fine. ¡Ay, mamita!

 

6. IT IS ALWAYS OURSELVES THAT WE FIND AT THE SEA

Speaking of getaways, how overdone is the “romance on the beach” thing? Basically all it is is something gritty underfoot, and the sound of water sloshing around. You got this.

 

7. SOUTHERN EXPOSURE

Don’t forget photography, you know, CANDID photography, snap snap, grin grin, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more. Load up your beloved’s phone memory with 532 pictures of your nostrils, your thumb, and part of the couch leg, and also some brief videos of you shrieking, “NO, YOU’RE A POOP HEAD.” Stand back and watch the sparks fly. Homina homina homina. 

And finally

8. TURN UP THE HEAT

by turning up the heat. Seriously, they still haven’t figured out a way to lock down the thermostat. Twiddle away! How you doin’?

***

 

 

Image of box of chocolates by Stewart Butterfield (Flickr: Valentines Chocolates) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

On Valentine’s day, communication, and not getting kicked in the nuts

Here lies Doug, the perfect husband

Here lies Doug, the perfect husband.

 

This year, I revealed to my husband that I actually kind of like Valentine’s Day.  This is despite all the times I told him that I hated it, it’s lame and stupid, and a made-up, over-commercialized saccharine-fest invented by Hallmark and Big Floral.   For fourteen years, the poor man has been wondering why, every February 14, I would say I wasn’t mad at him, while I was clearly mad at him.

I was mad, you see, because everyone else was getting flowers and riding in heart-shaped hot air balloons and– I don’t know, eating hot fudge sundaes that turned out to have a tiny violin player at the bottom.  And here I was getting nothing,which is what I repeatedly told him I wanted.  Pray for me:  I’m married to a monster.

Anyway, I finally realized that it doesn’t make me defective to enjoy flowers — and that if it’s artificial to suddenly act romantic on a nationally-specified day — well, we need all the help we can get.  Alarm clocks are artificial, too, but if they didn’t automatically remind us of what we ought to do, we’d be in big trouble.   So, yeah, I asked him to get me flowers, and take the plastic wrap off, and he will, and I’m going to like them.  Whew, that wasn’t so hard!

Having taken this huge leap forward in our communication skills, I decided to hunt around to see what normal human beings do on Valentine’s Day.

If you want to feel like you’ve got your act together, just ask the internet a question.  Okay, maybe not in all circumstances.  If you’re rewiring your living room, for instance, or trying to remove the Spaghetti-o decoupage from an angry cat, you may very well have lots to learn.

But if you need help with your relationships?  A quick trip down Google lane will have you feeling like an expert, a champion, a genius, a hero of common sense and decency.  For instance, if you Google “What do guys want for Valentine’s Day?” you will come across this depressing paen to modern love, written by a man:

One of my favorite presents was a trip to the grocery store.

I remember the clear, cloudless day, sun shining down on me proudly pushing my cart into Central Market. Rachel was with me, and some friends who came along.

I picked up a steak and set it in the cart. Rachel said, “That’s great, Doug!”

I grabbed some chips. Rachel said, “That’s really great, Doug!”

I picked up some really expensive jam. Rachel said, “Yum, that will be really great, Doug!”

In fact everything I picked up got the same response from her (or very close to it), and that was my present: I could choose anything I wanted, and she could only say how great everything was. What an awesome gift that was, a trip to the grocery store.

So what did I get, besides some red AND yellow peppers?

I got what most men want. I was accepted.

I weep for America.  I weep for mankind.  I weep for myself, because this is the saddest, stupidest thing I’ve ever read, and I read it three times to make sure I wasn’t missing something.  What is Doug going to get for Christmas from the gracious lady Rachel?  A coupon for Not Getting Kicked In the Nuts?

You know, I probably treat my husband this way sometimes.  But the difference is, neither one of us is okay with it.  We don’t assume that relentless criticism and belittling is part of a normal relationship — we try to get past it.  And please note,Doug and Rachel’s travesty of a relationship is just as much Doug’s fault as it is Rachel’s:   women can’t demean their husbands and boyfriends without the man allowing, even wanting it to happen.  It takes two to be this dysfunctional.

This reminds me of the story of the man who had invented a brilliant method for saving money on the farm.  “On the first week,” he says, “I fed my  horse a bale of hay.  On the second week, I fed him half a bale of hay.  On the third week, I fed him a quarter of a bale.  I was damn near to teaching the horse to live on nothing at all, but on the fourth week, the ungrateful sonofabitch died on me!”

Happy stupid Valentine’s Day, folks.  I hope you get something nice.  Or if you get nothing, I hope at least it doesn’t feel like a gift!

****

(This post first ran in 2011.)

Autographed books about marriage for Valentine’s Day

I’m not going to tell you to get your wife a book or two for Valentine’s Day, but IF you are VERY SURE that she would want a book or two for Valentine’s Day, here’s a deal for you: I’m offering …

 

book set valentines day

The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning (OSV list price $9.95)

and

Catholic and Married: Leaning Into Love (OSV list price $14.95) with my chapter, called “Mirrors Around a Flame: The Gift of Children”. This is a new book from OSV. You can read a nice review of it at Aleteia here.
(If the Aleteia link isn’t working, cut and paste this into your browser:
aleteia.org/en/society/article/9-wise-funny-and-totally-catholic-takes-on-marriage-5872273021992960)

both autographed by me. $12 each, $20 for both, including shipping.

*****

If you’d like to order either or both of these books,

1. Email me at simchafisher[at]gmail[dot]com and put “SIGNED BOOK REQUEST” in the subject heading.

2. Include the following information:
(a) which books you would like: just SGNFP, just CMLIL, or both
(b) exactly what you would like me to write on each book’s title page (if nothing is specified, I’ll just sign my name). If you would prefer to have them without anything written in them, please specify that.
(c) the address to which you’d like the books delivered.

If any of this information is missing, I may run out of books before we can straighten it out.

3. The cost is $12 per book or $20 for both, which includes the cost of postage and shipping materials. Please pay with PayPal. You can use the link on the right sidebar (where it says “Tip tip tip tip tip!”) or use simchafisher[at]gmail[dot]com as the recipient address. Please specify “signed book” in the “note” section. (Yes, please pay via PayPal AND send me an email. Trust me, I need the email.)

4. No Valentine’s Day orders will be accepted after February 7.  You may still order signed copies after February 7 if there are any left, but I cannot guarantee it will get to the recipient before Valentine’s Day.

5. I have a limited number of copies on hand. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. If you ask very nicely, I may be willing to give up the one I inscribed for my bishop but then chickened out and didn’t give to him.

My goober valentines

As requested, here are pictures of the finished valentines my kids prepared to give out today(although it turned out to be yet another snow day):

 

And here is the valentine mailbox my son made:

I’m so proud.  Yes, we carefully screen and censor the few episodes of Futuramathey’re allowed to watch!  I’m not altogether thrilled that Bender is such a captivating role model for them; but at least they laugh when my husband says, “OK, kids. It’s 9:00.  You know what that means: Daddy’s sick of looking at you, so go to bed..”

As for the adult plans, we are (as I mentioned) watching House of Cards and eating the rest of the chocolate I bought. He likes the gross gooey ones, and I like the gross fruity ones. And that’s why you need two people in a marriage.

In which my kids make Valentine’s Day weird and creepy

We’ve been doing 3-D lollipop valentines for the last few years. Here is how it turns out when a normal family does this project:

PIC 3D lollipop valentine

 

Cute, eh? It is easy:

1. Take a picture of your kid extending a fist toward the camera.  Leave some blank space in the background for the lollipop and message.

2. If you like, photoshop a greeting onto the image.  If you are alert, you will remember how to paste things in with a transparent background; and if you care, you will be able to talk your kids out of choosing tacky images.  (This year, I was neither alert nor did I care.)

3. Print out enough photos for the class.  We use Walmart’s photo service – turns out fine.

4. Using an Exacto knife, make a slit above and below (or on both sides of) the fist.  Insert a Dum-Dum or other lollipop through the slits, so it looks like the kid is holding a giant lollipop, and tape the stick in place on the back of the photo.

Here is what we have so far this year (before getting prints and inserting lollipops):
one standard (?) lollipop holder:

 

one kid who wants to have the dog holding the lollipop in his mouth:

one kid who is just a crumb:

and one kid who wants to have the lollipop going in one ear and out the other:

I’m sure the school misses the old days, when we were new and paranoid and sure that everyone would be judging us, so we tried extra hard to seem like decent people.

Valentine’s Day Massacre

(photo source)

This year, I revealed to my husband that I actually kind of like Valentine’s Day.  This is despite all the times I told him that I hated it, it’s lame and stupid, and a made-up, over-commercialized saccharine-fest invented by Hallmark and Big Floral.   For fourteen years, the poor man has been wondering why, every February 14, I would say I wasn’t mad at him, while I was clearly mad at him.

I was mad, you see, because everyone else was getting flowers and riding in heart-shaped hot air balloons and– I don’t know, eating hot fudge sundaes that turned out to have a tiny violin player at the bottom.  And here I was getting nothing, which is what I repeatedly told him I wanted.  Pray for me:  I’m married to a monster.

Anyway, I finally realized that it doesn’t make me defective to enjoy flowers — and that if it’s artificial to suddenly act romantic on a nationally-specified day — well, we need all the help we can get.  Alarm clocks are artificial, too, but if they didn’t automatically remind us of what we ought to do, we’d be in big trouble.   So, yeah, I asked him to get me flowers, and take the plastic wrap off, and he will, and I’m going to like them.  Whew, that wasn’t so hard!

Having taken this huge leap forward in our communication skills, I decided to hunt around to see what normal human beings do on Valentine’s Day.

If you want to feel like you’ve got your act together, just ask the internet a question.  Okay, maybe not in all circumstances.  If you’re rewiring your living room, for instance, or trying to remove the Spaghetti-o decoupage from an angry cat, you may very well have lots to learn.

But if you need help with your relationships?  A quick trip down Google lane will have you feeling like an expert, a champion, a genius, a hero of common sense and decency.  For instance, if you Google “What do guys want for Valentine’s Day?” you will come across this depressing paen to modern love, written by a man:

One of my favorite presents was a trip to the grocery store.

I remember the clear, cloudless day, sun shining down on me proudly pushing my cart into Central Market. Rachel was with me, and some friends who came along.

I picked up a steak and set it in the cart. Rachel said, “That’s great, Doug!”

I grabbed some chips. Rachel said, “That’s really great, Doug!”

I picked up some really expensive jam. Rachel said, “Yum, that will be really great, Doug!”

In fact everything I picked up got the same response from her (or very close to it), and that was my present: I could choose anything I wanted, and she could only say how great everything was. What an awesome gift that was, a trip to the grocery store.

So what did I get, besides some red AND yellow peppers?

I got what most men want. I was accepted.

I weep for America.  I weep for mankind.  I weep for myself, because this is the saddest, stupidest thing I’ve ever read, and I read it three times to make sure I wasn’t missing something.  What is Doug going to get for Christmas from the gracious lady Rachel?  A coupon for Not Getting Kicked In the Nuts?

You know, I probably treat my husband this way sometimes.  But the difference is, neither one of us is okay with it.  We don’t assume that relentless criticism and belittling is part of a normal relationship — we try to get past it.  And please note,Doug and Rachel’s travesty of a relationship is just as much Doug’s fault as it is Rachel’s:   women can’t demean their husbands and boyfriends without the man allowing, even wanting it to happen.  It takes two to be this dysfunctional.

This reminds me of the story of the man who had invented a brilliant method for saving money on the farm.  “On the first week,” he says, “I fed my  horse a bale of hay.  On the second week, I fed him half a bale of hay.  On the third week, I fed him a quarter of a bale.  I was damn near to teaching the horse to live on nothing at all, but on the fourth week, the ungrateful s.o.b. died on me!”

Happy stupid Valentine’s Day, folks.  I hope you get something nice.  Or if you get nothing, I hope at least it doesn’t feel like a gift!