Friday, February 15, 2008

People, People Who Need People

Editor's Note: The following was posted 2/15/08, but later removed because of some ruffled feathers—feathers that apparently didn't understand that I LOVE PEOPLE MAGAZINE and I THOUGHT IT MADE A FINE VALENTINE'S GIFT, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT WAS GIVEN WITH A BOOKS-A-MILLION GIFT CARD, which I just happened to have used today, 2/20/08. I am GRATEFUL for the People Magazine, and I think Craig should be grateful that he has a wife who finds such pleasure in the simple things. So, the post is back up, and we shall continue on with more important matters tomorrow.

If a diamond says "forever," and roses say "I love you," what does a People Magazine say? Because that's what I got for Valentine's Day. Not a subscription, not even the thick, pictorial Year in Review issue, but the latest edition with a picture of Britney Spears around the time she was committed, looking like she just came off a three-day drunk.

Not that I didn't read it cover to cover and that I won't cherish it always. But what does it MEAN?

Let's dissect this.

It could mean that Craig was at Walgreen's when he realized it was Valentine's Day. It could mean that he knows I like a little trash, and this fit the bill. It could mean that he had five bucks burning a hole in his wallet and chose to spend it on me. It could mean we've been together so long and I have everything I need, so let's indulge a little, shall we?

Let me guess what some of your questions might be:
* Was it wrapped?
No, it was not. Not even in a gift bag. Not even a ribbon.
* How was it displayed? On your pillow?
Um, he handed it to me when he walked in the door from work.
* What did you give him?
A Starbuck's gift card and a new mug.
* Did you wrap your gift to him?
Sort of--with red tissue paper. It was sitting on his dinner plate, just as the kids' gifts were displayed.
* Did he give you a card?
No. No card. Well, there was a CARD -- a gift card to Books-a-Million.
* Do you feel you put more thought into Valentine's Day than he did?
I plead the Fifth.
* Is there anything else you'd like to say about Valentine's Day?
I cooked for more than three hours. Italian. It was very good.
* Do you love him anyway?
How could I not?

Editor's Footnote: See? The last two lines? That's what this post is all about. What do you know—I buried the lead.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Do the Crime, Do the Time, Be Mine

In preparing today's blog, I consulted with My Friend Caprice about possible topics for Valentine's Day. We discussed various angles, but kept coming back to Criminals Who Are Hot. She pointed out that this might be inappropriate and may even be offensive to some (like our husbands), so I abandoned the whole thing. UNTIL I GOOGLED "VALENTINE'S DAY HISTORY" AND CAME ACROSS THIS:

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France. (courtesy of The History Channel)

Who knew?! Valentine may have been the original Hot Criminal, so it only makes sense that we thought of his type on Valentine's Eve.

I have nothing more to say on this topic, so on to the next: Bad Gift Ideas.

This one goes down in the Annals of Great Ideas, Bad Timing. Five days postpartum after Baby No. 1 and not sure how I was going to shed the 38 pounds that remained after delivering an 8-pounder, I received a Valentine's gift from my dear, dear husband who had paid a little visit to Victoria's Secret. I've tried to block most of this event from my memory, but I do recall that the item was ivory in color. Let me be clear: It was tasteful, but way too hopeful. If I had to put it in a category, I would place it somewhere between "nightgown" and "hey, you're not a mom." A man can dream, I suppose, but the nightmare was all mine.

This practical piece of loungewear was much prettier than my long, faded t-shirt and lone pair of stretched-out pajama bottoms that hadn't experienced elasticity in nine months. I think Craig was probably looking forward to me dressing like a person again, bopping through our one-bedroom rental in shiny new sleepwear while caring for a cute baby and making homecooked meals.

But let's be honest: Even in my pre-pregnant state, I'm not sure my thighs would have made the cut. This was a tiny little piece of nightwear, and with a belly that still seemed about five months along, I was looking at a good month or two of wearing maternity jeans. This ensemble only confirmed that I was a cow—a cow that would eventually shed some girth, but for the moment, a nice-sized, healthy cow.

I waved Victoria's Secret in the air and said, "What am I supposed to do with this? Hang it in the closet for inspiration?"

"I just thought..."

"Well, that's where you went wrong!" I think I spit a little when I said it. And I'm pretty sure I busted a blood vessel in my eye.

What would have been a better gift option? Nothing, really. Faced with near puddles of raging hormones, a crying baby and a wife the size of a barn, the best move he could have made was to take the long way home and maybe not try so hard.

That was 16 years ago, and I love Valentine's Day so much more now than I did then. The gift-giving pressure is off, nobody yells, the kids eat until they're sick. Heck, I even cook like I mean it.

The greatest part is I can wear whatever I darn well please...or whatever Craig brings home. And maybe watch a Cops marathon.

Have a delightful Valentine's Day ...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Here's Something Weird to Eat

Normally I would be a little uncomfortable chewing on colorful meat. But this isn't meat. This is a vegetable patty disguised as meat and chock full of red peppers, yellow corn, mushrooms, orange carrots and pieces of onions. Binding it together is a delicious compound of soy and who-knows-what-else to make it look like a genuine hamburger.

The same person who recommended fake burgers to me also recommended natural peanut butter—the kind where the oil separates and sits on top, so you have to stir it for virtually HOURS and eventually let out a deep breath and say, "My gosh, this doesn't have any taste! Can you pass the salt or something?" So I was understandably skeptical. But dear readers, you have got to try this! If food scientists are eligible for the Nobel Prize, I need a nomination form. Franklin Farms, you have yourself a winner in this vegetable burger.

I eat lunch alone most days (but not in a sad way), and a girl can do a lot of damage when left unattended in the noon hour. But no more!I downed my vegetable burger like I was Paris Hilton on a Hardee's commercial and realized, hey, not half bad, so I raced to the kitchen and fired up the George Foreman to make myself another patty of vegetarian goodness. And why not? At only 100 calories each, I could eat these all day long, and no one—not even my pants—would know the difference. Two burgers and 200 calories later, I'm full as a tick and feeling rather pleased with myself. And that's a far better feeling than the one I would have if I had eaten, say, two Whoppers.

And just as with a Whopper, you can have your Veggiburger your way—with or without bread, with or without cheese, with or without ketchup, with or without a friend. I ate mine naked (the burger, not me) and ate it alone. Didn't want to share.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Good Read: Cabin Pressure

I never learned to dive, I never had my own set of Legos, and I never went to summer camp.

These are the disadvantages of my youth that my children will never endure. They dive (in their own way), they have more Legos than Legoland (although they seldom play with them), and they all (by the time they are 10) have gone—or will go—to summer camp.

What I have missed, I have recovered (vicariously, at least) through the words of Josh Wolk, who, at age 34, returned to Camp Eastwind to recapture the summer camp experience he enjoyed throughout his adolescence.

Wolk returned to camp not to impart any great wisdom or life lessons to young campers. His motives were purely selfish: to return to his favorite place on earth and bid a fond farewell to his life as a single person, as he was engaged that summer.

His experiences as a 30something camp counselor are documented in Cabin Pressure: One Man's Desperate Attempt to Recapture His Youth as a Camp Counselor, which I checked out from the library almost six weeks ago and had to renew because I'm enjoying reading some chapters again and again. (Maybe I should just buy the book.)

Wolk's memories and experiences are like fiction to me. All I know about camp, I learned from my kids. I once visited my son on Parents Night midway through a week of Boy Scout Camp. We explored the dining hall, the campgrounds, the lake shore. As we were walking from tent to tent, I asked, "So, where do you take showers?"

"Oh, I don't take showers. I just swim in the lake."

When he came home a few days later, I emptied his suitcase and found an unopened tube of toothpaste. "What's this? You didn't use toothpaste?"

"No, I didn't brush my teeth."

"The entire week?"

"No. The bathrooms were kind of dirty. You wouldn't want to use them either." I began to ponder other hygiene habits, but ultimately decided what I don't know won't kill me—although the stink might.

In the years that my kids have attended camp, we have amassed a respectable stockpile of unused disposable cameras and enough unused stamps to wallpaper a small bathroom. While kids are at summer camp, they become immersed in their own little culture. Best I can tell, preserving and sharing memories is not part of their camp experience.

But it was for Wolk, even if he did wait until he was in his 30s to do it.

An excerpt:
"In an all-boy environment with no parents to noodge them or girls to impress, many of the campers would go a whole summer without touching soap if their hands weren't forced. I always thought the real reason we had a barbecue dinner outside every Saturday night was because by that point of the week, the collective stink of the camp was too strong to risk being brought indoors. This was why on Sunday mornings every camper had to take a mandatory shower."

And another:
"When I was a camper and a counselor, I heard the same life lessons week after week, year after year. But they always moved me, because I felt the same things. It was like being in a political convention for your party, where every speech confirmed your worldview: I totally know what you mean about a canoe being like life, sometimes you need someone behind you steering, and sometimes you need to steer! And in pottery, we can make something out of a lump of clay, just like in life we have to make our own opportunities! And I will vote yes on mountain climbing being a metaphor for man's need to respect nature!"

See? This is good stuff! Especially if, like me, you never went to camp. When my kids return home each summer, I badger them with questions and pleas of "tell me more!" and "then what happened?" The uncomfortable part about Cabin Pressure is that I now know they probably aren't telling me EVERYthing. And that's probably also the greatest part.