Valentine Experiment

This year, Valentines was very different for me.

I’ve always been so wrapped up in the Romeo+Juliet side of Valentine’s Day that I completely missed the true mark of the holiday: LOVE.
Whether you’re in a relationship or out of a relationship, whether your relationship with a significant other is rocky or rockin’… come Valentine’s Day, it really doesn’t matter. There’s no reason to hate Valentine’s Day -no reason to hate commercialization.
Because no matter who you are, what you are, or when you are: you are LOVED. you do LOVE. and LOVE is a gift.
You don’t need money to show it or share it or bask in it or enjoy it to the fullest.

This year, I embarked on a Valentine’s experiment. In the last 12 months, I’ve learned more about love than I ever thought possible. That sounds posh, I know. It wasn’t. As it turns out, learning lessons in love isn’t easy or fun or comfortable. But it IS worth it… because what I discovered about love is this: there isn’t types of love. There is only LOVE. Once you feel it, taste it… there’s no going back.
Someone once described it as “the difference between Dove and Dollar Store chocolate.”
I speak chocolate, so that analogy makes perfect sense.

Love is pure.
It doesn’t expect anything.
This year, I decided to show love to people I love. THAT was my experiment. Like my Mama always said, “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”
Best kiss she ever gave me.
I started the week before. The kids and I busted out all manner of paper, fabric, glue and notions and we made Valentines to send to our out-of-town family and friends. A few didn’t make it out, but MOST of them did.
The kids loved it. My kitchen area didn’t, but hey: if life were tidy, it wouldn’t be livin’.
(That was all me. No Mama involved. I think I’ll needlepoint that into a pillow, or something.)

The kids loved it, and I loved it.
A few days before Valentine’s Day, I hit the store and picked up a few things: $1 containers of Cotton Candy (one for each of my immediate Valentines -not counting Alice Michelle) and some candy hearts for Lacy’s school Valentines.
I ordered a movie from Amazon for my husband, and I “planned” a Valentine Party for my Trenton.

Valentine’s Day morning, we had our traditional pink pancakes, and Lacy left early for school… Valentines in hand (I just bought some from the store and attached a few candy hearts to each one. Simplicity is my mantra, Mama).

Okay, I don’t actually DO parties… you know the parties you see online, all over the Internet? Mothers ’round the globe are throwing awesome, coordinated, TIDY parties! And I’m like… “Have a pancake. Douse it in sprinkles… then go play.”

They couldn’t have cared less about the pancakes.
All morning, my son was on Cloud 9. He was hopping all over the place, so I put his energy to use: he vacuumed while I did dishes. As his guests arrived, he greeted them with a high, excited voice.
The pancake “eating” lasted 10 minutes, and then it was play time.

After the guests went home, I peeked into my son’s room. Want to have a laugh? Check this out:

Remember: if it’s tidy… (say it with me) you ain’t livin’ (Good!)
I brought the kids into their room and we had it cleaned up within an hour. After their room was cleaned, I did a quick sweep of the house: the dishes were done, the living room was cleaned and re-vacuumed…
Lacy took a bike ride to the neighbor’s house with a bar of Cadburry chocolate in her bike basket. The kids had decorated hearts and taped them to the chocolate bar.
The chocolate Valentine was delivered to “Grandma” Elsie -our neighbors across the street who have grandchildren of their own that don’t live in town. A few minutes later, she rode back (I watched her the entire time, just in case you were freaking out for a second there…) and I could see two small teddy bears in her basket where the chocolate bar had been.
Grandma Elsie had shown love BACK to my children.
My husband came home from work with the most beautiful mixed bouquet! and a movie and a package of microwave popcorn and Raisinets… it’s like he KNOWS me, or something. Nothing says “love” to Alicia like a good movie and chocolate and bright array of all kinds of flowers. I honestly wasn’t expecting anything, and it came as a total surprise!
I’ll write more about the movie later because it’s worth discussing…

After teaching piano lessons, I left my husband to put together a new baby swing (since the motor in ours finally died a great death, leaving me stranded with a cranky infant who seems to be as attached to her swing as I am). I took my daughters with me to the grocery store where we got everything to make a Valentine Feast.
Each year on Valentine’s Day, my husband and I forgo a Valentine Date and have, instead, a Valentine FEAST, children included. It’s usually marinated steak with all the fixings, but given that February 13th nearly killed me with awfulness, I forgot to pull out the steaks.
So I went to the store and got everything to make Roasted Chicken -a recipe in our fancy cookbook that my husband has shown interest in.
I bought a whole chicken. I’ve never done that before -more on that in a minute…
I bought Martinelli and bagged salad (simple!) and stuff for dessert.
I came home and dove right into my chicken’s arse:

I have NEVER put my hand inside a chicken before. I’ve helped my Dad with Thanksgiving turkeys but that was after all the insides had already been removed. It turns out putting my hand inside a chicken wasn’t as bad as I thought -not NEARLY as bad -and it made me feel a little Julia Childish. I might have even done my best Julia impression as I threw the stuff into the trash.
“Chicken livers… you take the chicken livers and throw them away!”
As the chicken roasted in the oven, the kids played video games with their Dad and I set the table. I made a paper table runner and decorated it, threw some paper hearts and conversation hearts on it and then added a million or so candles.
And I used our finest china. you know: the kind that cleans itself. the kind GREEN people don’t use. the kind my mama loves:

The kids were so excited.
“This is so FANCY, Mom” my son said, over and over as he stared bright-eyed right at the Martinelli.
“You did GOOD, Mom” my daughter said, as I pulled the chicken from the oven.
And then she said.
(I kid you not)
“Hey. Why is there lemon up that chicken’s butt?”

My partner chef always adds the MOST intriguing commentary to my imaginary cooking show.
Don’t you have one of those going on in your kitchen when you cook fancy stuff?

As I cooked the meal -which was actually VERY simple in the making (don’t be fooled by my fancy china) -I made an executive decision.
Our Valentine Feast is going to be annual… traditional.
LOVE is so important. Celebrating the gift of love is a great idea. Celebrating it with people you LOVE more than anything is worth it.
How lucky am I to have a chance to love, to be surrounded by those I love, and to have the chance to TELL them I love them while they’re still present?
And yesterday was full. I hopped from before sun-up to after sun-down, but I loved every second of it (except for the second when the grocery store was out of strawb’rries).
At the end of the day, my husband excused himself from the dinner table to use the restroom. He came back, put his arms around me and instructed me to GO take a bubble bath he’d just drawn for me.
“You’ve been going all day. Go slow down.”
He’s a thoughtful guy. I mean, he buys raisinets. RAISINETS!
We ended our dinner with a dessert: brownie on bottom, cream cheese frosting in the middle, berries on top -compliments of the commentator chef:

My Valentine Experiment was a raging success. Flowers, chocolates, movie, and milk bath aside, I enjoyed this holiday more than I EVER have before.
And I can now admit: Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday.
Love is so important, dedicating an entire day to it is genius. I hope you can surround yourself without someone you love: a friend, a neighbor, a sibling, a stranger in need of something YOU have to offer…
This holiday has addictive powers.
I’m already planning my Valentine’s for next year…

And I can’t wait for another Valentine Feast.  This year’s feast earned me TWO stamps of approval.  See?

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