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Archive for February, 2011

Friends with Sponsorships

Monday, February 28th, 2011

We’re friends, right?  You come here on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and we talk.  I tell you what’s on my mind.  Some of you respond.  I respond back.  We trade ideas and perspectives.  We support each other sometimes, and challenge each other sometimes.  It’s a nice little rhythm we’ve established, isn’t it?

What if I were getting paid to be friends with you?

Would that change our friendship?  Would you still want to be friends with me?  Would you still believe that I wrote my posts without influence or bias?  Would you believe that I wrote because I wanted to share something with you and hear your thoughts?  Or does the whole operation become suspect because I might only be writing to you for the paycheck?

I’ve never thought about selling ad space on this site.  For starters, I don’t have the readership to make it worthwhile.  (I like to believe that what I lack in numbers we make up for in substance.)  But more than that, this site is all mine.  It is a reflection of me and an extension of me.  I am beholden to no one here, and that is a rare and precious thing.  Not something I would sacrifice easily.  Many (most?) bloggers start out this way, but reconsider that decision if and when their readership grows to levels that cause them to quantify their lost opportunity.

I got to thinking about all this yesterday afternoon as I read the NYT Sunday Magazine’s article on Heather Armstrong – mommy blogger and writer of Dooce.com.  The article traces her path from her roots as a blogging pioneer back in 2001 to her current status as one of the most successful personal bloggers on the Web.  That journey included the difficult decision to sell ad space on Dooce.

As is the case with many successful bloggers, Armstrong’s decision to air ads drew the ire of many readers.  As the NYT Magazine article points out:

“It is a question that hovers over all personal blogs — if they are based on trust, do you violate that trust by introducing commerce? Readers of personal blogs return again and again for the connection, the feeling they really know the writer — and ads can break the ‘we’re all friends here’ mood.”

The connection.  Like any lunch or coffee date, we come for the connection.  But what happens to that connection in the presence of corporate sponsorship?  Does it atrophy and die off?  As I look at that question I see a correlation, but not a causality.

The blogs I love the most are the ones where I’ve found a connection.  They are the blogs whose authors I can relate to, those whose thoughts provoke me, and whose stories touch me.  They are the blogs whose authors have taken the time to e-mail me outside of comments, or to respond to an e-mail I sent to them.  Simply put, I feel a connection when there actually is a connection.

Almost by definition, this happens only with smaller blogs.  When visitor counts start numbering into the millions (as is the case with Dooce), the blogger simply can’t actually connect with individual readers anymore.  No one has a million friends, and there is a reason for that: it’s impossible.

So about that connection.  I don’t think it dies off because of ads.  I think it dies off because of increased online traffic.  But frequently increased traffic and ad sales come onto the scene around the same time.  Much like anyone in the public eye, the more people who follow you (be it in People magazine or on your blog) the more protective you become of your existing relationships – and the fewer people you’re willing (or able) to connect with in a meaningful way.

I suppose that’s why, of all the blogs in my blogroll, only a couple are “big” blogs.  Like most of you, I’m here for the connection.  For the conversation.  In blogging, as in real life, I’m not friends with celebrities.  And I’m okay with that.  If this blog ever grows to the size that would cause me to consider, even for a moment, selling ad space (unlikely), I will do well to remember why I started this blog in the first place.  In the often-divergent world of quality and quantity I hope I’ll always be smart enough to choose the former.

Photo of the Week #4

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

A Pleasant Surprise

Friday, February 25th, 2011

I have many more substantial thoughts on my mind – post topics I’ve been mulling for days, and was looking forward to exploring on yesterday’s flight home.  But my 36-hour bout of flu, powering through a day’s worth of conference lectures in the midst of it, and rallying to get myself home have left me spent.  Mentally.  Emotionally.  Physically.  So instead of raising meaty and challenging questions, I will tell you a story.

I woke up yesterday feeling better.  Not great.  But better.  I napped long and hard Wednesday afternoon.  I went to bed at 8:30 Wednesday evening.  My fever finally broke overnight.  And by Thursday morning I felt like a recognizable version of myself.

The rest of yesterday morning was reasonably smooth.  The drive from Burbank to LAX was slow, but uneventful.  I listened to a Beethoven piano sonata, a suite from Carmen, and an early Mozart symphony as I drove and they kept me calm.  I returned the rental car without incident.  I checked in for my flight without incident.

Then things took a bit of a turn.  The line at security was short, but circuitous and poorly organized. The TSA agents were not re-stocking the bins as quickly as needed.  So I put my bags down, pilfered some bins from another stack, and went to recollect my things.  As I grabbed the handle of my bag and lifted it slipped out of my hand.  My thumbnail tore down to the skin, my breath caught in my throat, and I gave the final performance of my decreasingly brave face in order to get myself through TSA’s lock and key.

Safely into my concourse I dug into my bag for a nail file.  And as I filed the jagged edge away, the tears came.  I wasn’t crying over a broken nail.  I was crying over three days of illness, frustration, loneliness, and stress.  The broken nail was merely a trigger.  I let myself cry.  After a few moments I collected myself enough to get to a restroom.  A tissue and a splash of water helped a bit.

Back in the concourse I looked for lunch options.  There was nothing appealing to a girl coming off the stomach flu.  I grimaced at my options and chose the least of the evils.  I called my mother as I waited for a mediocre bowl of soup and lamented myself a bit more.  She listened affectionately.

I left the restaurant to find my gate.  The concourse was familiar to me.  Last summer on our way home from San Diego GAP, IEP, and I were stuck in that concourse for six or seven hours as we dealt with delayed and canceled flights.  I looked at the empty gate where we’d played tag with IEP to keep him occupied.  I peered into the gift shop where we’d played with toy cars.  I sat one table away from the spot where we’d let him sleep through lunch, only to later regret not having woken him to eat.  It was like some kind of cruel joke.  All I wanted in the world was to be home with my family and I was taunted with vivid reminders of them at every turn.

I found my gate.  I stared at the people around me, wondering if they were headed to or away from home.  I wondered why some were frowning.  I wondered if small pairs and trios were professional colleagues or friends.  But mostly I just sat still.  And then I heard it.

Strumming.  Flamenco.  It was soft and rippling.  It was delicate but rich.  Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” played over the speakers, but I tuned her out.  I sat up in my chair, looked around, and there, in another cluster of chairs, I saw him.  A young white man in his twenties with tousled curly hair wearing a bright orange fleece moved his fingers deftly.  I stood up and, as inconspicuously as possible, moved closer.  From my new location I watched him play, half-focused, as he chatted up the guy sitting next to him.

My shoulders relaxed.  My blood pressure dropped.  For the first time in two days, I smiled.  His music bounced around the gate.  The people near me watched him and also smiled.  The two men sitting next to me talked about a daughter’s semester abroad in Spain.  I thought of my own semester abroad in Spain.  I felt thankful.  I felt even a little bit happy.  It was a real gift.

Years and years ago in the midst of a sort-of-stressful international vacation my mother reached the end of her rope.  Over a plate of smoked fish in Edinburgh she teared up and said, “I just want a pleasant surprise.”  The saying stuck, and has become a standby in my family’s lexicon.  I called my mother again from the gate.  “Mom, I got my pleasant surprise.”

As our flight began to board the guitar player returned his instrument to its case.  I stood up – plausibly to prepare to board – and walked past him.  I wanted to tell him that listening to him play was the first good thing that had happened to me since Tuesday.  I wanted to tell him he was a sorely needed bright spot in an otherwise dimly lit week.  I wanted to tell him that I would remember this moment for a very long time.

But that would have been really weird.

“It was a real pleasure listening to you play,” I said as I walked by.  And that was it.

The thing abut the pleasant surprise is that it is almost always small.  Perhaps this is because it almost always comes in a moment when the bar is set rather low.  Nevertheless, it is small, unexpected, and simple.  But its effect is profound.

PS – Thank you for all of your kind “get well” wishes on Wednesday.  I’m not quite 100% now, but I’m doing much, much better.  Being home certainly helps.

Not Fun

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

You know what’s fun?  Watching the sun set over the Manhattan Beach pier, eating a lovely dinner at a groovy Mexican joint, and then window shopping your way back to the car.

You know what’s not fun?  Getting in the car to begin your hour-plus drive up to Burbank only to realize that you feel chilled and achey, chalking it up to muscle tension from shivering in the cold night air, feeling it get worse as you snake your way through LA traffic, adding nausea to the mix, wondering if you’ll make it to the hotel in one piece at all (please pause with me to appreciate the wonder that is GPS), collapsing over the hood of your rental car the moment you pull into the parking lot, and, ahem, “losing it” in the bushes about 15 seconds later (no exaggeration there).

No, those things are not fun.

So… I’m in LA on business travel and so far it’s not quite going as planned.  So, I’m taking the less-traveled path, being laid back, and chalking today’s post up to a loss.  Provided my immune system gets back on track between now and the end of the week I will be back in action on Friday.  Thanks for understanding.

Can I Call You Joe?

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Say what you will about her politics (actually, don’t – this isn’t that kind of blog), but Sarah Palin is a woman of the times.  At the start of her much ballyhooed debate with Joe Biden in 2008 she broke the ice by asking the lifelong senator if she could address him by his first name.  Pundits made hay out of this for days afterward.  Was it strategic?  Was she trying to throw him off his game?  Was it disrespectful? And so on.  But while the answers to those questions may be interesting, there’s another element of this cultural moment that intrigues me.

Is this just what we do now?

I ask this question not with accusation, but with genuine curiosity.  I also ask this question because I need advice.

When I was a kid all adults were Mr. or Mrs.  There were a couple of notable exceptions – adults whose families were very close to mine and for whom exceptions were granted.  But these numbered two or three at most.  Everyone else – friends’ parents and parents’ friends – was addressed by their last name.  GAP’s upbringing was the same on this count.

Today, however, it feels like Mr. and Mrs. are slipping away.  I see it in myself as well as in my friends.  Most of us have very young children - all but a couple are under the age of three – so language skills are still in the works.  But I see a trend emerging.  When speaking to our kids we refer to our friends by their first names.  “IEP, if you want a cookie you have to ask Beth nicely.”  “Can you say hi to Laura?”  “Tell Gale thank you.”

I think part of the reason we do this is because we (the adults) feel awkward addressing our friends as Mr. and Mrs.  We help our children stumble their way through conversations, and sometimes end up doing a fair amount of the talking for them.  (Not ideal, but sometimes practicality wins the day.)  Our kids are still little.  And while the examples we set today do matter, at this age it takes a lot of repetition to get something to stick.  We feel like we have time to course correct when the kids are a little bit older.

The other reason?  Peer pressure.  Or perhaps better stated, inertia.  I want my children to address adults by last name.  But I am self-conscious about being the first to take the plunge.  When hanging out with other families, if I am the only parent insisting on Mr. and Mrs. nomenclature do I look like a high-maintenance snoot?  Do I cause the other parents to feel self-conscious about their more casual approach?  Do I throw a wrench in a perfectly acceptable social equilibrium just because I have traditional notions about adult/child interaction?

GAP and I have talked about this.  We have agreed on the Mr. and Mrs. convention.  But in social settings we both slip into first-name mode with IEP.  Though we haven’t talked about this inconsistency (we certainly will now!) I think part of it is practical.  IEP is only now beginning to put words together.  First names are often shorter and easier than last names.  Adding Mr. and Mrs. to the mix just complicates things further for him.  For the moment, if we want him to have a chance at success in speaking to adults first names are the way to go.  But when do we make the switch?

So I come to you today with these questions:  How do you handle this?  If your kids use first names with adults, why?  If your kids use Mr. and Mrs. with adults, why?  And at what age did you begin enforcing that?  Does anyone else feel like they’re walking against the flow of traffic on this issue?

Most of the time I feel like I have a decent grip on parenthood.  Then something small comes along and trips me up.

Photo of the Week #3

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Success and Failure – Version 2 (From the Facts)

Friday, February 18th, 2011

A note about this post:  Fair warning… it’s long.  Once I started researching I realized that this topic really has legs.  I’ve done my best to keep it organized and concise, but in order to do this post justice I felt compelled to go beyond my typical 600 words and really delve into the many important aspects of this topic.  In case you haven’t been following along, you can click here to read my first post on children and achievement, and to learn why I’ve published two posts on the same topic in the first place.

Once again, it starts with Lindsey’s post on achievement last week.  In her discussion of the film “The Race to Nowhere” Lindsey addressed the multi-faceted nature of achievement and identity.  While she clarified that we can damage our kids by fostering the belief that their value is tied exclusively to their achievement, Lindsey pointed out that high standards are not always a bad thing.  I agreed, and wondered why we are reluctant to set a high bar for our kids.

My suspicion was that by ever praising children, even when their performance doesn’t warrant it, we actually undermine their desire to achieve in the first place.  If “everybody is a winner” then why bother to actually win?  Of course I don’t believe everything is a win/lose situation, but the stark language highlights my point.  Whether we are talking about sports, grades, standardized test scores, musical instruments, or even something highly subjective like art, various levels of achievement do exist.  And if we offer our praise unconditionally then children can quickly determine that there’s no need to go to all that effort if the pats on the back come free.

Neuro-researcher David Rock makes the point that, “When kids are praised for everything and told they are ‘special’ it does two things: It reduces their desire to put in effort, and it reduces their ability to self-regulate because they don’t get to challenge themselves. Yet self-regulation appears to be the dramatically central player in whether people succeed or not.”  Rock hints at something here.  In these scenarios filled with unearned praise kids miss out on something very important: actual mastery.  Kids will accept our praise regardless of circumstances.  But if we dole it out indiscriminately they will never have to work for it, and, in turn, they will never know the incredible experience of conquering something.

As stated by the Sydney Morning Herald (this is not a uniquely American problem), “The belief that regular praise will improve the self-esteem of students has backfired, with educators urging over-anxious parents to let their children fail so they can learn from their mistakes.”  But in order for any child to learn from his mistakes, he must first be allowed to make them.  How does anyone learn the fine art of picking up, dusting off, and carrying on if not from experience?  Rod Kefford, the headmaster of a Sydney day and boarding school put a finer point on it. “If we are serious about building resilience, we have to let them fail.”

Resilience is a refrain common to this discussion.  We want our kids to develop coping mechanisms, but we protect them from the very situations that build them.  Tufts University psychology professor David Elkind agrees, “Kids need to feel badly sometimes. We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope.”

Interestingly, the ironic truth of the matter is that with helicopter parenting we squelch the very thing we hope to develop.  “Harvard psychologist Jerome Kagan has shown unequivocally that what creates anxious children is parents hovering and protecting them from stressful experiences,” Psychology Today’s article on “wimpy” kids tells us.  This shielding fosters fear in kids.  When we protect them from stress early in life, they don’t learn how to deal with it, and often ultimately become withdrawn, shy, and introverted.

Going back to the issue of empty praise for a moment, though, I think there is another issue at hand: kids aren’t stupid.  They know when they’re being patronized.  When Larry Summers became president of Harvard University in the summer of 2001 he learned that 94% of graduating seniors had “earned” honors distinctions.  It doesn’t take a Harvard education to know that the honor doesn’t mean much at that point.  So what message does it send to kids and teens when we tell them ad nauseum that they are special?

I will take an example from my own life.  I used to know a girl (we’ll call her Katie).  Katie was bright, interesting, and very sweet.  And yet her self-esteem was virtually nonexistent.  One day I asked her boyfriend (also a friend of mine – we’ll call him Ben) how someone so smart, personable, and pretty could think so little of herself.  He explained that she grew up with a mother who inundated her with the message that she was brilliant and wonderful and could be whatever she wanted to be.  It sounds great on the surface but Ben (in a psychology PhD program at the time) gave an example of its detriment.  He said, “I could say to Katie’s mom, ‘I’m never going to be an astronaut and that really bums me out.’  And Katie’s mom would say, ‘But of course you can, Ben.  You can be whatever you want to be!’  The fact is, I can’t be an astronaut.  I don’t have the interest or education, and I’m probably too old to shift gears at this point anyway.  But Katie’s mom is so set on being supportive that she can’t be honest.  After 20 years of that, Katie got the message that all praise is completely hollow, and now she doesn’t believe anything positive or affirming that is said to her.”

Katie wasn’t stupid.  Neither are the bottom decile of Harvard grads who walk with honors.  And neither are the countless other kids who are fed well-intentioned-but-ultimately-damaging hot air by their parents every day.

The last component of this issue is the most difficult for me to address, partly because it’s uncomfortable and partly because I have little experience with it.  The problems I’ve highlighted to this point are problems of privilege.  Any kid whose risk factors include too much praise and support is probably leading a pretty easy life.  But there are 15 millions American kids who live in poverty.  That’s about 21% of our nation’s kids.  Most of them don’t have access to well-funded educational or extra-curricular programming.  And there are many of them who hear no praise; who get no support.

The National Center for Children in Poverty’s website tells me that:

  • At age 4 years, children who live below the poverty line are 18 months below what is normal for their age group.
  • By the third grade middle-income kids’ vocabularies are three times larger than the vocabularies of kids from low-income families.
  • Early learning classrooms comprised of about 60 percent of children from low-income homes were rated significantly lower in quality indicators of teaching, teacher-child interaction, and provisions for learning than classrooms with fewer low-income children.

These are real problems without easy solutions, but studies have shown that they are not insurmountable.  As you might expect, the needs of these kids differ vastly from those of their more privileged peers.  Research tells us that, “Children make academic gains when they have teachers that encourage communication and reasoning, are sensitive to their interactions with children, and construct an atmosphere of respect, encouragement, and enthusiasm for learning.”

Psychology Today endorses this view.  Its “wimpy kids” article concludes with this thought:  “Parental anxiety has its place. But the way things now stand, it’s not being applied wisely. We’re paying too much attention to too few kids—and in the end, the wrong kids. There are kids who are worth worrying about—kids in poverty.  We focus so much on our own children. … It’s time to begin caring about all children.”

Interestingly enough, though, even in the face of incredible challenges, the NCCP still calls for high standards to be set for low-income kids.  In its list of Take Home Messages it advises that, “Teachers and administrators need to set high expectations for what all young children can and should learn.”  Apparently lowering the bar is never the right answer.

As I’ve thought about this issue throughout the week I’ve tried to envision what tack I will take with my own kids.  Here is where I have landed:  I will tell them I love them as often as I want to, which will almost assuredly be more than they want to hear it.  I will praise their accomplishments (real accomplishments) but I will not intervene to prevent their failures.  I will push them when I see unrealized potential paired with moments of mastery and moments of joy.  I will not push them if they are miserable because their interests and aptitudes are not aligned with their activities.  I will acknowledge effort and hard work.  I will turn their attention to character as well as performance.  I will understand that kids are not one-size-fits-all and I will adjust my approach for each kid at each phase of his/her life.  And, most importantly, I will fail at each of these things more than once, and that’s okay too.

None of it this is easy.  But I believe we can only come closer to the right answer when we ask the hard questions.

Success and Failure – Version 1 (From the Gut)*

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Without the risk of failure, why bother to succeed?

I’ve been thinking about it for several days and I think that’s the single question that best encompasses my thoughts.

Last week Lindsey wrote a very thoughtful post about the nature of achievement, its role in our culture, and the risks it poses to our happiness when it becomes our only source of identity. However, even in spite of those risks Lindsey proclaimed the value of achievement. An alumnus of Phillips Exeter Academy, she wrote, “It feels rare, these days, that an institution that deals with children says as baldly as Exeter does: we have high standards. And we know you can meet them. I’m not entirely sure why that’s a threatened stance in education today, but as far as I can see it is.”

This portion of her post really struck a chord with me. It’s true, but why? Why are we so unwilling to ask more of our kids? Why have we let ourselves be lulled into mediocrity by the idea that everyone is above average.  Do we think that Lake Wobegon really exists?  Lately the national conversation about education and child rearing has centered around Sputnik moments and tiger mothers.  We recognize that our test scores and graduation rates are flagging.  We clearly need to do better by our children, but not in the ways that we think.

Achievement is important for many reasons.  It fosters a sense of mastery and accomplishment.  It gives us pride, confidence, and self-esteem.  But it is (or should be) more than just a warm, fuzzy feeling.  Most importantly achievement means that we have improved upon ourselves.  We can do something we couldn’t do before.  We have developed smarts or skills or both.

Yet in today’s culture we shower kids with the trappings of achievement just for showing up.  Everyone on the losing soccer team gets a trophy. Five-year-olds don tiny mortarboards for completing kindergarten.  We tell our kids they are fundamentally and unwaveringly special every single day.  Perhaps individually these things are not such travesties.  But collectively they add up to a culture that provides kids with little incentive to actually achieve anything, because they can garner all the benefits of achievement without having done much.

Of course kids need our unconditional love and support.  But they also need our expectations.

Achievement is not an end in itself.  We recognize achievement because it is supposed to be hard.  It is supposed to mean that someone accomplished something; something that took work.  We reward achievement not for the psychological upshots, but to acknowledge something noteworthy.  The emotional high that accompanies it is just a happy byproduct.  But by offering all of the praise without the performance, are we at some level lying to our kids?  In sugar-coating their childhoods with “everybody is  a winner!” refrains are we failing to prepare them for adulthood where losing is a very real possibility?  This takes me back to my original question.  Without the risk of failure, why bother to succeed?

I realize that there is a flip side to this coin:  The kid on the losing soccer team knows that he lost, regardless of any trophy.  Our attempts to shield our kids from life’s blows will fail at least some of the time.  They will learn to deal with disappointment and embarrassment and heartbreak in spite of our best efforts to spare them.  So if they are going to get bumped and bruised regardless, why shouldn’t we, as their parents, work to cushion those blows as much as we can?  Further, we must be careful not to tie our kids’ sense of self-worth exclusively to their achievements.  We must not let them believe that our love for them is performance-based.

However, while there are some pushy sports dads, stage mothers, and other hard-nosed parents out there, the American parenting culture is, by and large, not long on tough love.

I am not advocating a solely performance-based culture.  I am not advocating an environment that pressures children such that they can’t enjoy being children.  I am in favor of unstructured play and unconditional love.  But I think that we can give our kids these things and still ask more of them.  Or better yet, perhaps if we quit rewarding trivialities they will ask more of themselves.

—————————————-

*This post is the first of two on this topic.  When I first drafted this post I was challenged on it because I was writing based on anecdote and hunch, rather than on fact.  So I paused to reconsider whether or not I should post it at all.  One commenter offered the bright idea to post two versions – one based on my unsubstantiated opinions, and one based on research.  Today’s post reflects the first of these perspectives.  Friday’s post will address the same topic, but will be based on fact and research.  We shall see if my opinions change with more complete information.

Be Romantic. Now!

Monday, February 14th, 2011

When I was younger I had a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day.  Awash in ambivalence, I had mixed emotions about both the theory and the practice of this holiday.  I wanted to love it.  I wanted to be swept off my feet in a flurry of romantic showmanship.  But at the same time I questioned a holiday that – more times than not – excluded me.  Then in the years when I was one half of a couple I loved being eligible for the festivities, but resented the pressure to summon passion and romance on demand.  Don’t get me wrong – I love romance.  But there were always other aspects of dating relationships that I loved more.

I sometimes wonder if I’m an anomaly.  I wonder if I’m missing the romance chromosome.  Because while I can appreciate a candlelit dinner, I care much more about the conversation that takes place over those candles than about the candles themselves.  I feel just as much affection for my husband after a few laughs at a baseball game as I do at a quiet table for two.

Given this, you won’t be surprised to learn of my relief when I happened upon this article on The Huffington Post about the post-romantic age of marriage.  Author Pamela Haag explains that marriage (like any other cultural structure) has changed over time.  In the 19th century it was a “social institution and duty.”  It was a woman’s ticket to stability, and a man’s ticket to sex.  Then, per Haag, the 20th century brought about a romantic revolution of sorts.  Love became the end in itself.

But now, for the 21st century, Haag writes of a new brand of marriage.  It is rooted in friendship.  It may include professional collaboration.  It extends far beyond the confines of a romance to find stability in all corners of our lives.  It is marriage that comes later in life – perhaps as an amendment to a fully-formed person, rather than a required rite of adulthood that exclusively defines us from the moment we say “I do.”  Haag goes on to explain, “The post-romantic not only accommodates but idealizes the stable over the sublime.”

This description of marriage suits me, probably because it’s the version of marriage I’ve always known.  Nevertheless, I felt validated as I read Haag’s article.  My reluctance toward Valentine’s Day isn’t a shortcoming unique to me.  It is symptomatic of an entire generation’s beliefs about the qualities of a good relationship.  If grand romantic gestures leave me cold it is because I came of age in an era that sings the praises of friendship, compatibility, camaraderie, and partnership.  Romance is still a part of the equation, to be sure.  But in my experience romance is helped by spontaneity, and hindered by extensive planning; thus my hesitant feelings about Valentine’s Day.

I’ve gone through many phases when it comes to Valentine’s Day:  Embrace it.  Ignore it.  Hate it.  Love it.  Accept it grudgingly.  Don’t be bothered by it. Etc.  I’m happy to report that as a married woman in her thirties I’ve finally made my peace with this holiday.  A level of observation that is probably best described as “happy medium” seems to suit both of us individually.  And after many years together that is what we’ve both embraced.

Today is GAP’s and my twelfth Valentine’s Day.  We will eat cheese fondue, a delicious (if generic) choice.  We will drink red wine.  We will nibble on dessert.  We will probably curl up for an episode of Friday Night Lights.  We will tell each other that we love each other.  And if we are not overcome with romantic gusto, that’s just fine with me.  Romance happens when it happens.  In the meantime I know there will be love, laughter, and friendship.

Photo of the Week #2

Saturday, February 12th, 2011