Sunday, February 10, 2019

But Every Day Isn't Valentines Day

I used to be the low-maintenance cool girl who thought Valentine's Day was for suckers of corporate greed and Hallmark marketing. At the very best, it was unnecessary.

Several years settled into a comfortable marriage and routine life, I realize I need Valentine's Day like I need Ash Wednesday or Easter or Veterans Day (meaning a lot).

Is it weird that I have to schedule reminders to be remorseful, joyful, or grateful? Yeah, probably. But in my case, it's also 100% necessary. The reality is: if it's not on the calendar, it ain't happening. 


But every day should be Valentine's Day! 

But we shouldn't need a holiday to tell us to love! 

But sentimentality is a waste of time and money!

But it's too religious! (Daniel Tiger celebrates "Love Day.") 

But it's too secular! (If anything, we should be celebrating Saints Cyril & Methodius!)


Seriously, Christians? If we boycotted every holiday with secular undertones, we'd lose -- just off the top of my head -- Christmas, Easter, St. Patrick's Day, and All Saints Day. (Not in our house though. We dress up for free candy.)

Wally and I tried the "every day should be Valentine's Day" thing. But rather than transfer the magic of one day into 364 others, it plateaued our love into a celebration on par with dishwashing and floor mopping. Hear me out though -- that daily stuff is the bread and butter sustenance of love, love, love. (How many women are as wooed by a man who will take care of dinner for his family as a man who will take a bullet for them?)

But back to Valentines Day: if we can't pull the emergency brake on life every so often, look each other in the eyes, and take time to remember where we've come from and where we're going, together, then we lose ourselves -- we lose each other -- in the everyday.

So, yes, I schedule days to celebrate love, because that's what I need to do with the things in life that are important enough to make happen. I put them on the calendar. 

There are plenty of legitimate obstacles to observing Valentines Day, for which I have some suggestions in solidarity: 

If work schedules mean February 14th isn't available, there's always February 13th or 15th or 12th or 16th or 11th...

If going out to dinner is too expensive, just stay home and eat pancakes or black beans or whatever's in the pantry by candlelight (or emergency flashlight, if candles are also not in the budget).

If no one will babysit your kids because they are high-maintenance and high energy and there are just so many of them, put them all to bed early and enjoy hot cocoa together before passing out yourselves.

If flowers are a racket at four times the cost and you refuse to contribute to that consumerism, then buy them a day early or pick some pretty weeds or pull some mistletoe out of a tree from your local park.

If cards are boring and obligatory, write a meaningful note on printer paper and then fold it up into an origami flower or a crane or a rectangle. (Then again, if a store-bought card says just what you're thinking and haven't found the words to say, then it's OK to give credit to Hallmark. Don't forget to add at least a half-sentence, heartfelt phrase and sign your name.)

If money is no object, but you can't think of a meaningful gift, think harder and pay better attention. 

If spending money is out of the question, try homemade cookies (with whatever ingredients are in the pantry), thoughtful notes, a massage, an hour of kid-free video gaming or reading, a drawing, the gift of sleeping in, a project completed, a cool hike, a clean car, a photo, a scavenger hunt, or a good cup of coffee...

Most importantly, make time for the best gift of all. 
Chocolate.

Love, I mean, love.




Monday, February 4, 2019

Counting Blessings & Privilege: How Our Small-Budget, Large Family Makes It In America

Sometimes we receive accolades for our large-family-low-budget lifestyle: “You guys really have your priorities in order!” And yes, we sacrifice, work hard (often several jobs at once), and save whenever we can. 

But the truth is, we've received many advantages over the years that make our thrifty lifestyle possible; advantages that aren’t options for many other American families.

Rather than declare our large family’s frugality as self-made virtue, I’d like to share the privileges we have experienced over the years that make our lifestyle possible. Whether we call it privilege, blessings, or random unearned gifts from family or friends, these opportunities (along with a shipload of hard work) have been necessary to make the real cost of raising our kids possible.

You can read the details in Part 1 over at FemCatholic -- how blessings & privilege in education, housing, childcare, food costs, transportation, and healthcare make our small-budget, large family living possible.

And then, in Part 2, I review examples of successful family policies already in place by Catholic employers, contemporary encyclicals (within the past 130 years) on the relationship between work and family life, and how these ideas apply to American family life in 2019.


(For those upset that disclosing my cost analysis might turn vulnerable future parents away from the potential joy of children: 1) You’re shooting the messenger. 2) People are smart; they've already run the numbers.)