To My Valentine

Mom Mom loved my husband Ed. She was rather cranky in general, but if she liked you, you were set. She took to Ed immediately, as did my whole family, and he was quickly granted Saint Status. This both pleases me and alarms me. Not that it’s a contest, but their loyalty and devotion are firmly in Ed’s corner. I bet that if I turn up dead under suspicious circumstances, they will all whisper, “I’m sure he had good reasons.”

One thing Mom Mom warned me about was not to “brag” about my marriage unless I want some village hussy setting her sights on my man, and even though that strikes me as old country crazy superstitious voodoo, I do try to tone it down most days. Plus, have Frank and Kathie Lee taught me nothing? You just don’t go around dispensing unsolicited marriage advice; that never ends well.

But in honor of Valentine’s Day, I will say this: My almost twenty year marriage is hands-down the best thing in my life. It is a daily source of joy, comfort and strength. I wake up every day feeling happy, lucky and grateful. Sure, that feeling usually disappears most days by 10 am, but I greet each day thinking I am the luckiest person in the world to wake up next to this wonderful man. Life hasn’t always been easy, it hasn’t always been fun, but it has always been good. What’s our secret?

Our secret is we have no secret. Sometimes we call it divine intervention, sometimes we call it dumb luck, but the truth is there is nothing that we do or don’t do other than being ourselves. I could never sell a marriage book or be a paid speaker. I have no tips or helpful hints. I just happened to have married someone who, against all odds and evidence to the contrary, still thinks I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread. Still thinks I’m beautiful even though there is much, much more of me to love than in 1991. Still thinks I’m smart and funny and good, even though I am rarely any of those things very often at once.

And I married the smartest man in the world. He will argue that he isn’t, since he’s humble, too, but he is to me. But more importantly than being smart, hardworking, and successful, he is good. He is a really good person in a world where there just aren’t that many really good people. He has a pure and generous heart and always does the right thing, even when no one is looking. He can fix almost everything and create almost anything and handle chemistry and calculus like it’s nothing. (If I was more entrepreneurial, I could rent him out). He is my number one sous chef when I cook, but he knows his way around the kitchen well enough to earn Executive Chef status sometimes, too. He is still as handsome and strong as ever, and he still fits into the same sized pants as when we met. There is so much more I could say, but one needs to keep the village hussies at bay.

So maybe the secret is to marry someone you truly admire and who admires you in equal measure? Or maybe it’s all a big roulette game, and we blindly lucked into the exact right combination at the exact right time? I’ve learned not to question it too much and simply enjoy the ride.

Sometimes a girl just gets lucky.


To Love

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. — Lao Tzu

I know it’s popular these days to hate Valentine’s Day and rail against its commercial nature, but I have always been a fan. Relax, no one is making you spend money, just thoughtfulness. I do understand the urge to rebel against someone telling you how to express your love, especially if you feel you’re already quite good in that department. But are most of us, really? Can’t we benefit from a gentle nudge in the love direction once a year? At the end of our life, we will never regret expressing our love and appreciation to others. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that most of us will wish we had done more.

We have always celebrated Valentine’s Day with special food. Aside from our first year of dating, we neverevereverevereverEVER go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day. The service is poor, the prices are jacked up, and the restaurants are crowded with people who otherwise never step foot in a restaurant. No thanks!

Instead we either get take-out and eat it in the dining room by candlelight or make something special from one of my cooking magazines. 90% of the time, I am in yoga pants instead of something fancy. If I’m cooking, I like to prepare something nicer like lobster or filet mignon. Ed, old fashioned guy and fabulous role model, always buys me a sweet card, roses and chocolate, and even though I always yell at him not to waste his money (and I’m on a diet!), I secretly love it. I know people who go all out with big ticket items, but I am truly happy with our setup.

This year Valentine’s Day in our house is rescheduled to the 13th due to two basketball practices on the 14th, and I decided to make something the whole family enjoys: Beef Bourguignon! Shhh, don’t tell Julia, but I will be trying out a new recipe. I will report back on Monday or Tuesday and let you know how it turned out. Usually on Valentine’s Day we just feed the kids whatever is quick and easy, but I’m glad this year they are sharing our special meal with us on Faux-Valentine’s Day. Sometimes you just have to have glorified beef stew on a Monday night in yoga pants to remember you are Real and surrounded by so much love.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Ask Mom Mom: The Older Bridesmaid

Dear Mom Mom, 

I’ve been asked to be in my cousin’s wedding.  She’s getting married for the first time at 45 and is very excited to have the big shebang wedding she always wanted.  I’m happy for her, I hope it’s everything she dreams…but I’m 44 and I do not want to wear a matchy taffeta gown.  I do not want to pony up lord-knows-what for an unattractive, silly dress I’ll never wear again.  Part of me thinks “it’s her dream, help her live it, stop whining” and part of me thinks “pay your bills, decline gracefully, wear a dress you already own.”  What do you think?  Can I get out of it?  If so, how?
Too Old For This

Dear Too Old,

I absolutely understand the pain and shame of those sherbert colored monstrosities called bridesmaid’s gowns, as I have quite a collection of them myself. Most people over the age of 30 look ridiculous in them, even though the bride will tell you otherwise. Don’t believe her. Ugly bridesmaids = Beautiful bride.

But here’s the thing. Assuming this cousin is a special person in your life, you will have to suck it up (and suck it in) and deal. This day is not about you, my dear. Life only gives us a handful of very special days and very special memories that will last until our nursing home stint, and weddings are one of those days. To be a part of someone’s very special day is a great honor and not one we should brush off for the virtue of fiscal responsibility or the sin of vanity.

If money is really, truly an issue, do not hesitate to share this concern with the bride. Tell her you would be honored to be part of her day but can only spend $X on a dress. I know I would not have wanted any of my bridesmaids to suffer a financial hardship in the name of attending my wedding, and the bride will likely tweak her wedding budget a bit to help you purchase the dress. Of course, this is very different than you just not wanting to waste your money, and I would only have such a conversation if a true hardship existed.

On the bright side, think of the amusing pictures and great stories you can share with your friends. And perhaps Mom Mom is old fashioned, but taking part in a day which celebrates love and commitment really is one of life’s great pleasures. You are a special enough person to be included in such an important ceremony, and I hope you can take time to enjoy it.