No Valentine, please

My husband is off the hook. I don’t need, expect, or want a Valentine’s Day gift. This is just my personal thing. If everyone else in the world wants to celebrate Valentine’s Day, please, enjoy. I know couples who put thought, effort, and love into the occasion, and I think that’s wonderful. For them. But not for me.

I have never been a fan. I’m not speaking about the traditions of the day for kids. The little Valentines that kids give out in school…well, I guess that still happens. Maybe not. I haven’t had an elementary school age child in my house…oh, for the past dozen years. But the small gestures of Valentine cookies, or Valentines for children to exchange…those things are fun, and are another marker of childhood.

I’m not a fan of the manufactured and obligatory gift giving that is milked to death in the name of love. Last week I had the thrill of having access to cable TV, an experience now limited to hotel stays or visits with family who still subscribe. Since we pulled the cable plug last summer, my TV exposure has been minimal, to say the least. But I digress.

All week I saw commercials for Valentine’s gifts suggesting that the perfect thing this year is a HUGE stuffed teddy bear; or footed pajamas; or edible fruit; or the ever popular trio of jewelry, flowers, and candy.

I love gifts, and I’m happy to be on the receiving end on my birthday, my anniversary, or any other day that has meaning to me, or to me and my husband. (Christmas doesn’t count in this scenario as everyone in the family gets gifts at Christmas.) In our culture, there is a tradition of giving gifts for birthdays and anniversaries, which are personal events. But I don’t like to feel that my husband and I are buying gifts for each other because of a commercial expectation that isn’t even personal. I don’t like the messages some commercials give when they show gifts being delivered in an office setting, and the lucky woman is envied for the gift she’s received. I don’t want my gift giving, or receiving, to be a competitive sport, thank you very much.

And most of all…this is specifically addressed to my husband, but anyone I know…please, please, listen carefully: do not, under any circumstance, ever give me a life size teddy bear to cuddle with. I can’t imagine what I would do with it, other than find a place that accepts new and unwanted bears for donation. If this is your idea of a great gift, you may have my bear. But this is definitely not for me. Take me to dinner, give me my favorite tea (that’s Republic of Tea Ginger Peach, in individual tea bags, if you’re interested); give me a gift card if you’re stumped. But please, don’t send giant bears my way. And the same goes for footed pajamas. Who comes up with these things?

One last word about gift giving. In my opinion, the best gifts are those given “just because.” Because someone saw something that reminded them of me. Or because I saw a need and filled it for someone else. That giving is straight from the heart, and without obligation or expectation on the part of giver, or receiver. Or one step further, in this day when most people have what they need, and even what they want, maybe the best gift, regardless of occasion, is the gift of time and presence: the gift of self.

Well, even though I don’t want a gift, I’m a sucker for Valentine’s cookies. I think I’ve previously admitted my guilty love of Lofthouse sugar cookies…you know, the ones in the grocery bakery that have garish colored icing, but are so soft and delicious? Well, that’s how I celebrate the day. Nothing like a little red and pink food coloring to make a cookie look inviting.

Boy, do I feel better. Now that I’m pretty sure no bears or pajamas are heading my way, off to find some cookies.

Use what you’re given

I saw this recently and liked the thought…

Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater.

If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby.
If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home.
If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal.
If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart.

Always 11

It’s almost the witching hour…11:11 on 11-11-11. Of course we already had a minute of this time today…this morning, but I was at work, so for me that didn’t count. I’m marking my significant moment as the evening one.

You have to admit it’s a great number. Like wonderful alliteration with words, 11-11-11 is memorable, for oh so many reasons. Easy to remember, primary, and perfect numeric poetry, symbolism and magic, all wrapped up in one. Any way you express it, all wrapped up in 1.

Years ago when our kids were early elementary school ages, Rob played a math quiz game with them at dinner. He’d give different combinations of numbers using addition and subtraction, and they would do the math to give the answer. And the answer was always 11. That became a family slogan (I think the phrase is from a movie too, but I’m sure we had it first!) and we’ve been surprised at how often 11 has been a significant number in our lives. Not that we’re superstitious or anything. I mean, we’re not picking lottery numbers with 11; 11 is not my password. But it turns up often enough that I notice – and wonder.

Today is also Veterans Day, and as the mother of a veteran, a veteran looking for a job, it holds greater significance to me than in the past. I appreciate all veterans, but viewing my son in that role brings the day and the reason for the day into sharp focus. I wonder, do I only value things that touch me somehow? And the answer comes, reassuringly, no, but like anything in life, a personal connection increases awareness and insight. So I see veterans with new gratitude, new appreciation for sacrifices. I see differently because I see through my son.

So, an important day on the calendar: a date that will be easily remembered for the births and marriages that occurred this day…easily remembered for whatever happened. Hope you made a great memory, celebrated, jumped for joy over something in your life.

As for me? I was given a great gift today. Something I thought was arranged for future work fell through. I was disappointed, deflated, dejected. And then I realized: this loss will push me more toward the kind of work I really want to do. The opportunity that evaporated was a safety net, a little bit of a sure thing (so I thought) for my finances as I step away from a “regular” job. But the reality is that I need the push to be out there, to make my own way. So, though it wasn’t what I expected when I got up this morning, 11-11-11 delivered. And it will be memorable for me. The best part? A husband who has my back, who took me to dinner, and toasted with me to our connection, and to 11-11-11.