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Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

Make Someone Happy*

making hearts

Ah Valentine’s Day, the mercifully timed holiday to break up the dark dreary winter months. It is a holiday filled with red & pink hearts, candy and flowers. It is also a holiday rife with the opportunity to make people feel sad or hurt. Its ability to singe is utterly democratic. Children don’t receive enough classroom cards, teenagers don’t receive carnations or cupcakes at school, and grown people find themselves questioning (or despairing over) their relationship status. Of course there are many who receive the flowers, candy, jewelry, attention and are greatly relieved. Overall, a lot of people spend February 14th unconsciously holding their breath.

It would be easy (and sane) to cite the fact that Valentine’s Day is an enormous economic creation for the greeting card, flower, restaurant, and candy business. We could bah humbug our way through, mumbling mood bolstering ‘commercialism’ and ‘suckers’ affirmations. But what if we tackled it from the other end? What if instead of risking disappointment we went back to our construction paper roots? Remember the days of safety scissors and oak tag? There was a delicious pride in creating a reasonably shaped heart. Colored tissue and white paper doilies were used in excess; the results often resembling a powder room gone wrong. The creation(s) were steeped with love (and spilled glue) as they were most likely made for a parent or grandparent. There was an unbridled anticipation that caused many child to thrust the (slightly sweaty) valentine into the recipient’s hand before the 14th. The adult would coo and swoon and the child would feel five feet tall. It wasn’t until later in the week or childhood, that Valentine expectation and disappointment were introduced.

So let’s all take a collective leap back in time. Let’s spend this next week creating something for others. Gifts of homemade baked goods are always divine, but they’re not everyone’s bailiwick. Perhaps there’s an old photo you could frame? Maybe you have a favorite poem you could write on a beautiful piece of stationery (with proper citation of course.) Is there a friend (or acquaintance) who could use a respite? Bringing them coffee, taking them out, or watching their child/loved one is a wonderful gift. If you are one of those lucky creative types, break out the glitter (it’s not just for Saturday night you know) and make some gorgeous bespoke cards.

Yes, it is positively dreamy to receive lovely gifts that make us feel understood and appreciated. Who doesn’t want to be swept up in a sea of romance and a soaring soundtrack? Love is one of the greatest gifts of life. Whether we are the recipient or the giver (or ideally both) love simply makes sense of life. Acts of love make life fun. So make someone happy this Valentine’s Day, and you will be happy too.

*”Make someone happy, make just one someone happy, and you will be happy, too.” Jule Styne (1960)

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Posted by on February 6, 2013 in Holiday, Well-Being

 

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Be Mine ♥

valentine

I came across an advert for bespoke classroom Valentine’s Day cards. Remember those lovely flimsy boxes of 35-40 (yes, classes were that large once) cartoon festooned cards? The envelopes were whisper thin and there were always a couple of extra tossed into the cellophane wrapped box for the inevitable grade school penmanship mishaps. A grade school consumer could choose from a collection of cherubic animals holding hearts and coyly asking the recipient to “Be Mine” or from themed collections (e.g., Winnie The Pooh, Charlie Brown, Strawberry Shortcake, etc.) The themed collections always posed a minor quandary as to the intent of the card exchange. Should a card reflect solely the interests of the giver (and thereby be best supported by the sender’s favorite characters?) Or should a card be chosen to please the recipient (no matter how little is known about the recipient?)

When giving a gift (and what else is a greeting card but a written gift) it’s best to think of the recipient. You might feel most comfortable/joyful in a novelty shop, but a whoopee cushion for your humorless uncle is going to fall flat. The point of giving something to someone else is to think of what pleases him or her and act on that thought. (This is why re-gifting is merely passive-aggression in a pretty package.) No one wants to receive something (card, gift, etc.) that merely communications; “Phew, checked You off the list!” Ouch.

So what to make of the advert mentioned above. This offer, from a photo-processing company, was to convert a head shot of one’s tyke into fetching classroom Valentine’s Day cards. Now unless my child is Elizabeth Taylor (and her signed photo is serious money in the bank for a second-grader) or (G-d Forbid!) missing; why would I want her/his photo plastered on distributed flyers cards? Does the parent (who would have to do this kind of high level card selection) honestly think’ “You know what would make my kid’s classmates really feel special?…” as they crop and save? Doubtful. My guess is that unlike the small child (with his/her developing sense of empathy and otherness) the parent thinks; “OMG how cute!” It’s not a crime to think one’s child is just precious, in fact the human race is dependent upon it. It’s just that it misses the point. We do things for other people to make other people feel good. That’s it. It really is that simple. Don’t believe me? Ask a child.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2013 in Holiday

 

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A New Year’s Resolution

confetti

January is not the cheeriest of months. Unless you celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in an exceptionally festive manner, there’s not much to break up the long cold dark month. February has Valentine’s Day, March has St. Patrick’s Day and (depending on the year) some festive religious holidays. April has hope that the winter is over, and so on. But January is tough. It lands right at the shortest day, longest night time of the year and after months of anticipation of frivolity. Depending on the degree of anticipation or frivolity, January 2nd can be quite the bummer.

The noisemakers have hushed, the streamers swept and the glitter has flaked from our party hats. The decorations have been put back or tossed and it’s just the same old home again. Gone are the pretty distractions and “I’ll think about it tomorrow”-ness. We look around and the world (our own and the larger one) is crying out for our attention. Our work misses us, as do the mundane chores of our lives. The world is desperate for our attention both internationally and right here. We wake refreshed from our New Year hangover having to give serious thought to realistic gun control, mental health policy and fiscal matters. We toss out stale holiday carbohydrates as we consider local lives still upended by disaster. It is all quite sobering particularly after weeks of festivity.

There are those (during any time of year) who choose not to face the sobering reality; their tolerance level cannot bear it. They tuck deeply into their work, focus on family members and/or employ their substance of choice and manage the best they can. But somewhere between being swallowed up by the world’s ills and responsibility for repairing them, and turning away (literally or figuratively) is a sweet balance. Humans are responsible for the world they inhabit. People are also responsible for their own happiness. There are people whose very definition of happiness is caring for others and/or repairing the world, and we are grateful to them. For the rest of us we are most happy when are lives are a mix of internal/external and work/play. There is no greater feeling than doing something (anonymously) for others. But going out to lunch with a dear friend can be a kick in the pants too.

As we go forth in this new year let’s commit ourselves to being near and far-sighted in our view of the world. Let us be kind to ourselves, but never at other’s expense. Let us find ways to repair the world; at home, in our neighborhood and worldwide. Let us also find reasons to celebrate regularly. Let the calendar guide you (a full-blown MLK birthday party) or just your mood (take-out pizza is only to be eaten in formal dress.) Every month (if not every week and every day) there’s a reason to celebrate the fact that we’re still here! And everyday there are countless reasons to help to create the world we want to inhabit.

Happy New Year!

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Holiday, Well-Being

 

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My Funny Valentine

For as long as I remember there has been something or other to boycott. A large portion of my childhood was spent devoid of grapes and iceberg lettuce (the former more of a loss than the latter.) Later there were brands and corporations to eschew. Targets of boycotts, like leggings, go in an out of fashion. The longest boycott I ever participated in was my militant boycott of Valentine’s Day. That’s right; that little pudgy cupid-y holiday filled with cardboard hearts, flowers and candy. “Why?”, you ask. What kind of horrid trauma was bestowed upon me to render me so devoid of romance and “Be Mine” tenderness?

There is no childhood Valentine humiliation to divulge. My brown paper bag Valentine mailbox was as full as anyone’s. I received the same sized heart shape chocolate box from my parents as did my siblings. But I also went to an American high school. Some time between graduation and freshman year of college it dawned on me that Valentine’s Day might not be all hearts and flowers for some people. Specifically, for single people.  And my solidarity was born. I protested the holiday (silently, I did not take to the streets) as a popularity contest with harsh fall-out. Those that benefited (excluding the flower and candy industry) already knew they were beloved. The people who sat at their desks watching the delivery person pass them by, could have lived without the reminder.

Then something strange occurred. I realized that not one person was benefiting from my stance. I stopped kidding myself that denying myself would in some way make anyone feel better. Suddenly the holiday, placed strategically in the middle of the darkest most dismal season, made all the sense in the world. What could be more joyous and hopeful than a celebration of love in the middle of February? I lifted the moratorium, and marched myself to the card store. I now not only accept the annual romantic gift and dining, I gleefully encourage it.  Life is short and any opportunity to express love and affection should be embraced. Romance should not be confused with a grape or a head of lettuce.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Holiday

 

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