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Valentine’s Day Rules

February 23, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

By Marianne Donley

I was the only stay–at–home mom within an eight-mile radius. My house sported cases of Skippy peanut butter, a whole fridge of milk, a cookie jar filled with crumbs no matter how often I baked, homemade play–dough in six different colors and flavors, and a ripe infestation of little boys.

They all dressed alike, these boys. Sweaty baseball caps covering a head of hair rarely touched by comb or shampoo. Striped shirts stained with purple jelly and tuna fish. Jeans worn for so many days that they could stand alone. Mismatched soccer socks and tennis shoes held together with spit and a prayer. Two of them, David and Kevin, belonged to me. But the rest somehow tunneled in after dark looking for food, help with homework, a mean game of Uno, or someone to be grossed out by their Garbage Pail Kids Cards.

Since I was the only stay–at–home mom, I was, by default, also room mother. This year I volunteered for Kevin’s fourth grade class. His teacher, Mr. Sullivan, earned high boy-approval points after he got annoyed with all the little girls bringing Cabbage Patch dolls to class. He tried warning the girls, calling their parents, and assigning detention. Nothing worked. Every girl in class lugged their dolls along. Finally, he arrested the dolls, convicted them, and then hanged them from the ceiling with a noose around their soft little dolly necks. The dead dolls and their nooses, clearly visible though the classroom windows, caused a minor school controversy. Parents protested. The principal ignored it. The boys cheered. The girls learned to leave their dolls a home where they belonged.

My infestation of boys assured me that Mr. Sullivan would never approve a Valentine’s Day party, even though Valentine’s Day fell on a Friday that year. Mr. Sullivan was way cool. Valentine’s were girly and pink and had cooties and no way Mr. Sullivan would want a part of all that.


But there were rules:
1. Everyone in class had to bring Valentines.
2. Homemade ones were nicer that store bought ones.
3. Everyone got a Valentine. No exceptions. No complaining.

I typed up a list of all the students in the class and made sure everyone got the list. A few days before the party, Mr. Sullivan taught an art class that featured paper folding and cutting to make hearts (and the mathematics of symmetry happened for free). I helped with the glue and the glitter and the math. Students also decorated shoe boxes with slits cut into the top to receive their cards. At the end of the lesson, the kids were invited to take home extra supplies if they wanted to make their own Valentines. A very neat way, I thought, to let students who couldn’t afford the material accept help without embarrassment.

My infestation of boys complained about Valentine’s Day to me every chance they got.

“Do we have to give Brandy and Tiffany a Valentine?”


“But they’re really gross.”

“Too bad.”

“Do you have to make all the cookies heart shaped?”


“Will the punch be pink?”

“It will be now.”

“Ah, man. Can’t we have Dirt with Worms like we did for Halloween?”


“Can we play Heads– up Seven–up?


The Valentine’s party went off without a hitch. The boys gobbled up the heart cookies even with the pink icing and pinker sprinkles. They laughed over the sayings on the Sweetheart candies. They didn’t complain too much when a girl won Heads-up Seven– up.

Finally, they opened the boxes with all the Valentines. Everyone had a huge pile, even Mr. Sullivan. Girls giggled and carefully tore the ends of the envelopes noting who signed each one. Boys ripped them apart looking for more candy. In the midst of this chaos, Freddie Farkis stood up and shouted, “No fair. No one gave, Mrs. Donley a Valentine.”

The noise level dropped to near silence. I heard the clock ticking, a piece of paper rustling and the sharp inhale from Mr. Sullivan.

Every child in that room stared at the teacher. His eyes were wide with panic. His mouth opened and closed in rapid succession as if he were a fish gasping for water. A sudden flush spread up the side of his neck and colored the tips of his ears hot pink.

Either Brandy or Tiffany sobbed, “We broke the rule. We broke the rules.”

“Moms don’t need Valentines,” I said.

“Yes, they do. Everyone needs a Valentine.” Freddie turned to Mr. Sullivan. “You said everyone needs a Valentine.”

“Don’t worry, Freddie. Mr. Donley will get me a Valentine.” I glance around the room. The girls seemed happy with that solution and smiled at me. Mr. Sullivan cleared his throat a few times and nodded his head as if he, himself, had arranged for Mr. Donley to give me a Valentine. The infestation of boys was not happy. They all folded their arms across their chests. They ignored their candy and cookies.

Freddie’s eyes narrowed, and I knew he would try to argue some more when the bell rang signaling the end of school. Mr. Sullivan snapped out of his panic and clapped his hand. “Let’s get this room cleaned up. It’s time to go home.”

Students packed their backpack with their holiday loot and dribbled out of the room in groups of two or three.

I stayed after to help.

“That was embarrassing,” Mr. Sullivan said when the last child left the room. He picked up chairs and placed them on the desks so the janitors could clean the room. “I am so sorry.”

“I typed up the list. It never occurred to me to put my name on it.” I dumped cookie crumbs into the trash can and emptied cups of punch into the sink.

“I’m going to have to figure out something for Monday.” He turned off the lights and picked up his briefcase and keys.

“Don’t worry about it. They’ll have forgotten all about it by the time they get to the crosswalk.” I stashed my supplies in my box, picked up my purse and headed to the kindergarten room to collect my daughter.

My daughter, Stephanie, her buddies Christian and Jan, Christian’s mom who worked swing shift at the phone company, were waiting for me by the kindergarten door. “Those hoodlum boys didn’t wait for us,” Jan said as we started walking home. “They ran out of here like rats off a sinking ship. What’s up?”

“Sugar high,” I suggested as I looked around for my own sons. “Your brothers didn’t wait?” I asked Stephanie.

“They went to Freddie’s,” she said. “I told them they better wait. Are they going to get in trouble?”

Before I could answer both David and Kevin ran up. “Can we go to Freddie’s?” They asked in unison.

“Will his mom or dad be home?” I asked.

They looked at each other, shrugged, kicked the ground and with great care did not look at me.

“No parents. No way.”

“Ahhh, Mom.”

“Please. Pretty, please. With sugar on top.”

“Sorry, guys. When we get home, you can call Freddie and find out when his folks will be home. You can go over then.”

“His sister’s there. She goes to junior high.”

“Not happening,” I said.

They grumbled as we walked down C Street. They argued as we turned on Sycamore Ave. They tried bribery all the way down Alfredo Street and into our driveway.

Where we were greeted by the entire infestation of boys. They were hanging in the tree. Lounging on the front poach. Rolling in the grass.

Freddie stood in the middle of the herd, a grubby brown paper bag in one hand and the handle bars of his bike in the other.

“Here,” he said thrusting the paper bag into my hands.

“What is it?” I asked.

“We traded. We traded our Valentines with my sister.” Freddie didn’t look at me as I opened the bag. Inside I found one of those small bottles half–filled with turquoise blowing bubble solution. The bottle was strung on a long black string making a necklace.

“It’s your Valentine,” he said as he got on his bike. “Everyone gets a Valentine.”

He rode off before I could get the necklace around my neck. But the other boys watched as I unscrewed the slightly tarnished cap and blew bubbles all over my front yard.

“Thank you, Freddie,” I yelled to the quickly disappearing little boy. “This is the best Valentine I’ve ever received.”

I’ve been wearing that necklace every Valentine’s Day for twenty years.

Marianne Donley
OCC/RWA Web Editor

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February 22, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

By Brandy Stewart

I remember the exact moment I asked God for a hero. It was 1998 and I was lying in bed watching a handsome, charming and extremely well-endowed marine put his pants on. It’s not that he wasn’t fun- he was. He was a great guy, and I loved him in a way, but it wasn’t THE way. I knew it wasn’t THE way, because I had him believing I loved hockey, g-strings and sex in hallways. He thought I slept in full makeup, and needed only three hours of sleep a night. This was not the stuff of deep, romantic connection.

I didn’t trust him with my true self: the girl who prefers books to hockey, sex in beds and grannie underpants that don’t ride up. The girl with blackheads and flat hair. Both girls kissed the marine goodbye and stared at the ceiling.

“God, I need a hero. Someone who gets me. Someone who not only gets me, but loves the real me, dark roots and all.” I finished with a promise: “I swear, no more men until he shows up.” With that heavy pronouncement, I got up out of bed and put my clothes on. It was two o’clock on a Thursday, after all.

Fortunately God knows me well, and didn’t test my resolve by making me wait too long. Two weeks later, after an awful day at work, I forced myself to attend a happy hour event sponsored by my alma mater. The bar was in the back of a Mexican restaurant, and my classmates were mingling at a bunch of tables crowded beneath a gaudy yellow chandelier.

The president of the local alumni chapter stood up to welcome me. Out of habit, I checked him out: younger than me, dark hair, well-dressed. I said something witty and charming…

Of course I didn’t. In a world-weary voice I said, “I need a drink.” Good host that he was, he smiled, and got me a drink. He had long fingers, like a musician. Dark hair, dark eyes, and the world’s longest eyelashes. Rolled-up sleeves bared strong forearms dusted with straight black hair. I remember wondering if he had it all over, or just on his forearms. But I tried not to pay too much attention because I’d sworn off men, remember?

So I had another margarita- on the rocks with salt, lots of salt, thank you very much- and left an hour later like a good girl. As I was leaving, Mr. President promised to call me early the following week to play volleyball, a mutual interest. I couldn’t make it, and we settled on my joining him at his next wine club event. “Guy friend,” I told myself. I couldn’t bear to hope that he could be special. If he didn’t pull down his pants in my living room or try to perform mouth to mouth in the first fifteen minutes of our date, he would be cautiously promoted to guy friend.

Well, he didn’t commit either faux pas, but he did pull out a secret weapon at the end of our date. Poleaxed, flummoxed, a bowlful of jelly, that was me. He sideswiped me with something I was absolutely, positively, powerless to resist. I was Wonder Woman and he had my… No, wait. Wonder Woman had no weaknesses.

I was Superman and he had my kryptonite. Actually, I was Tense Career Woman, and he had magic hands. Just before he walked out my door after our date, he moved in close behind me, put his hands on my shoulders and started to rub. And rub, and ease, and persuade every inch of tension to leave my body.

I swayed dangerously on my feet, and he caught me. He could have done just about anything at that moment and been forgiven for the gift of relaxation I didn’t even know I needed. But do you know what he did? He left. I was draped in my doorway, nerve endings a-tingling, and vulnerable to seduction. But he left, and I was intrigued. And you know what?

Six years and two beautiful sons later, he still soothes me. I’m no longer Tense Career Woman, but sleep-deprived mommy of two, and the man still has the magic that keeps me his happy slave. His presence calms me, the scent of his skin clears my mind and his body is sanctuary from the rest of life’s busy pace.

I know its love, the real thing, because I can trust him to accept me in all of my various forms. The two hundred pound pregnant woman didn’t faze him. He has dodged ‘Banshee-Me’ in the throes of PMS; he listens patiently when I tell him how I reamed a sales clerk at the store when I’m sure he’d rather be watching ice hockey on television. I’m not a bad wife, either. Heck, I offer sexual favors for household chores completed. I do my part.

Mr. President is now Mr. Husband, and he doesn’t mind the granny underwear, as long as I pull out the good stuff on occasion too. He sees ME, the real me: the good, the bad, and the oh-so-ugly. And sometimes I don’t believe him, but he says he loves all of those girls. What a miracle.

I thank God for him every day.

Brandy Stewart

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February 21, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

By Charlene Sands

My father was an Italian born, American who became a decorated WWII Army sergeant. Hard as nails when it came to politics and his love for our country, he met my mother in New York right before the war and told her on their first date that he was going to marry her.

And while on a three-day Army leave, he did marry her and they shared a binding heartfelt love that endured many hardships. My father would often say that while he was in the trenches in the Philippines, he never feared for his life. He always knew that he would be coming home and that he’d successfully dodged many bullets, but the one injury he had trouble withstanding was the loneliness that constantly surrounded him. The separation from my mother seemed almost unbearable.

And shortly after their 50th wedding anniversary and a lifetime of devoted love, my father passed on leaving us with many stories and beautiful memories. No one could make a person laugh harder than my father. He had a flair for storytelling that kept everyone in his presence, enthralled.

And after my mother passed on, I retrieved his little black book, this binder that I’d always wanted for myself. In it, there were more than two-dozen poems my father had penned to my mother while serving time in the Army. Written in his own hand and dated, these poems are his legacy to our family.

This was one of two poems that we read at mom’s eulogy that speak of their separation at that time.

Dated: April 29, 1941
Two days we’ve been apart, my love
Two days that seemed like ages
Two days of loneliness I’ve known
In slow and painful stages.

Two days of rain, of dismal fog
Of clouds up in the blue
Two days. Two nights. I’ve been like this
Without the love from you.

Two days, two weeks, or centuries
It really does not matter
For soon will come the moment when
All of my woes will scatter

I’ve served my time in loneliness
And now at liberty
I’ll fly right over to your side
And give my love to thee.

My father was an intelligent man with a quick-wit and a sweetly sentimental side that he would always show his family. Sadly, he never saw me publish my first book. He never knew of my writing success. But I remedied that from book one. His name appears in all my stories in some shape or form, concealed in unique ways as a tribute to my love for him.
He’s always with me.

Charlene Sands
RENEGADE WIFE is on sale now!
Heiress Beware 6/06
Bunking Down with the Boss 8/06
Abducted at the Altar 9/06
Join her blog at: http://charlenesands.com/blog/

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I’m in Love with the Month of February

February 20, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

by Gina Black

It’s true. I love the month of February. This is no recent crush, or fling; my feelings for this month run deep and true and began when I was about four. That was when I realized I would be four-and-a-half in February. This, of course, was ever so much older and more sophisticated than just plain four. And the fact that I’d get there sooner than my best friend, Sally, was even better.

A few years later–maybe I was six or seven–I discovered February had only twenty-eight days, and sometimes even twenty-nine. My admiration for the month went up. I always liked what was different, cheering for the underdog, or just enjoying what didn’t fit the mold because I never fit the mold either. February and I had a lot in common.

When I was twelve or thirteen, now living in Los Angeles, I noticed a pattern. In February there’s a sudden unexpected week when the rain goes away, the clouds clear, and its glorious shorts-and-sandals weather. Okay, so sometimes this happens in late January instead, but most often it’s in February. With this realization the flush of infatuation was upon me.

Love blossomed when several years later, I got married in February. At the time, I thought chance led me and the DH to tie the knot then, but now I’m not so sure. I think February was working its romantic magic on me, and the proof lies in the fact that we’ve had twenty-four anniversaries since then–and they all fall in February!!

Of course Valentine’s Day makes February an easy-to-love month. Who doesn’t adore chocolate and Valentines made with red construction paper hearts and white paper doilies? Some of my fondest memories of my mother involve these sorts of holiday arts and crafts. And, of course, I have a wonderful stash of homemade love notes from my children. On the early Valentines the words were scrawled so carefully, later printed in Klingon, and then in Japanese.

Still with all this, it’s only recently I’ve come to realize how much I count on February. After the stress and bluster of the winter holidays, February is the month when I notice the days visibly getting longer, bringing with them the promise of spring and summer. Along with that sudden burst of joyous weather, Valentine’s day chocolate, anniversary lobster, and becoming coff-and-a-half, February has always been there for me.

It’s definitely true love. February and I were meant for each other.

Gina’s book, The Raven’s Revenge, is competing for a publishing contract in the American Title II contest put on by Romantic Times and Dorchester Publishing. Voting is on now! For more information, log onto the Romantic Times website. Or, visit Gina’s contest blog.

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Love Is Timeless

February 19, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

By Rebecca Forster

I am not old, nor am I young. I am not calculating, nor am I a sentimental fool. I like to think that I am a woman of my time. Yet, as my father lay dying, surrounded by machines, tended by nurses, visited by doctors, I learned a lesson in love that is timeless.

My father had been ill for a very long while. He bore his illness with great dignity, thanking those who cared for him and often caused him pain. He never gave up hope that he would get well, he never abandoned his faith that God would watch out for him. Through the months and years of his sickness, my mother nursed him. She wore herself to a frazzle yet never complained. I saw her exhaust herself as she moved him from bed to wheelchair and back again. She slept on a couch near the hospital bed in their living room for more days than I can count. I thought she was crazy. I thought she would die before him and for what?

When I found the answer to that question, I was humbled beyond words.

In his last days, my father was barely lucid. He was in pain. He was medicated. He was dying. Yet, everyday my mother was there by his side. She held his hand. She brought his favorite aftershave. She combed his hair and spoke to him kindly and gently as she had for over fifty years of their marriage.

I came to visit when I could and one evening I walked in to the intensive care unit to find my father had taken a turn for the worse. The nurses were sticking tubes in him. My mother stood quietly in the corner of the room watching, her face expressionless. Suddenly a nurse called to my father, trying to determine if he could hear her.

“Can you hear me?” She hollered. My father’s eyes fluttered.

“Do you know who that is?” The nurse hollered again and this time she indicated my mother.

My father’s eyes flickered. They rested on my mother’s face. Without hesitation, with the greatest affection, with the voice of a young man, he gently answered.

“That’s my girlfriend.”

I had to look away or I would have cried. Now I knew why my mother cared for my father so diligently. I knew why he cared for her all the years before that. Because she was his girlfriend. Because he loved her and she loved him and in all the world there is nothing more precious than that. When he died he left that love behind so I know that, while my mother may be lonely, she is never alone.

Rebecca Forster

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