Category Archives: Romance for Dummies

V is for Valentine

V is for the valiant deeds you do as a matter of course—like traipsing through our home in the dead of night in your underwear to find the source of a sound I’ve tried (and failed miserably) to adequately describe, except to say that it is “most definitely not a normal ‘house sound.’” Moreover, you’ve rushed to my aid on countless occasions to thwart the spillage of veritable pools of repulsiveness, unstopping the loo with remarkable aplomb, never once pausing to judge the ridiculous nature of my fear and loathing.

A is for your appreciative nature and for your inclination to express said appreciation in the form of chocolate. And almonds. Perhaps dark chocolate-covered almonds, if I were asked to more accurately define the essence of your appreciative ilk, my dear Romeo.

L is for loveable, given the endearing creature that you are. That said, you’re kind and compassionate, thoughtful and engaging, generous to a fault and more romantic than you’ll ever know. I never have to question your love for me or your ability to make me laugh even when the bottom falls out and the wheels fly off (think: projectile vomiting and flooded basements). You know just what to say and when to say it, reading me as well as any book you’ve ever held in your hands. Even your foibles (which, by many standards, should’ve made me certifiably insane by now) are marginally unobjectionable—something I never thought humanly possible.

E is for the enthusiasm with which you approach life—even in the face of my less-than-enthusiastic view toward tedious chores like cleaning the garage, weatherproofing the deck and planning the totality of every summer vacation we’ve ever been so fortunate to take. Furthermore, the restraint you demonstrated for the duration of my Orlando-inspired tirade (i.e. the one involving shameful histrionics in which I accused Disney characters of being creepy and a certain airline of being patently tyrannical) was most admirable. For that alone, I love you dearly.

N is for your nonjudgmental nature. You don’t care that I sometimes forget to cook. Or dust. Or shop. Or water plants. You accept me for who I am, unconditionally, and know that a lot of plants will likely die in my care.

T is for the tolerance you exhibit each and every day. Admittedly, I’m difficult to live with. I’m needy, erratic and I have a crippling aversion to spiders. I swill milk straight from the jug, my showers are of an interminable length and I’ve been known to mock your shortcomings with merciless precision (i.e. “Can’t you at least pretend to be organized?”) What’s more, I am physically incapable of getting anywhere in a timely fashion, which I’m certain rankles you to the core. You’ll never know how grateful I am for your tolerance in the abovementioned arenas.

I is for the ingenuity you routinely display when you’re called upon to delve into our brood’s unwieldy school projects—the ones that ought to warn parents of the perils of working with way too much glue and far too little direction. So clever and resourceful are you, utilizing an unlikely arsenal of duct tape, crusty pizza boxes and errant screws. You’re perfectly selfless, too, embracing the celebrated and often untimely excursion to Jo-Ann Fabrics without the slightest objection or hint of frustration. After all, you reason, it gives you a chance to bond with other parents who have made the very same trek—to gather paint, to compare the circumference of various styrofoam balls and to suffer the ill effects of pipe cleaner envy.

N is for the novelty you employ practically every time you pack someone’s lunch, adding a touch of love and creativity to an otherwise banal event. Never mind that you’ve replaced me as the Sandwich Captain and Scrawler of Lunchbox Notes. Of course, I was envious at first, harboring a visceral brand of resentment for a time. But I’ve come to realize that you’ve taken on the task to lighten my load. What’s more, I genuinely appreciate your flair for catering to creatures who are, at best, a challenge to nourish.

E is for your emboldening ways. In a word, you’re my biggest advocate in this life—silencing my doubts, offering definitive proof that my cup runneth over much of the time and always, always providing a soft spot to land when I fall. Valentine, I love you more than words could ever say.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (spelling it out for my special valentine). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel (Also seen on The Huffington Post!)

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The Omen

Well, Spring has long since sprung and love is officially in the air. I know this to be true because roughly every 43 seconds or so I receive yet another blurb about a love struck fool who just got engaged, who is about to get engaged or who has fallen so madly and deeply in love that he or she can’t see straight—let alone tolerate another minute without driving to Sears to pick out a shiny, new toaster with Mister or Miss Right. There is but one thing left do: To get engaged, of course—to admit that, “I have fallen and I can’t get up, nor can I possibly function another day on this planet without him (or her) by my side. He (or she) completes me.”

Gak. Spare me the syrupy details. It’s nauseating. Like an overdose of Aunt Jemima. Or Hungry Jack. I honestly wish the sappy nitwits in question would just ditch their silly blinders, at least momentarily, so that they might snap out of that besotted delirium to examine the truth. To step back from the drunken whirlwind of passion and crazed adoration to view reality if only for an instant. To wake up and smell the irrationality.

Lord knows I could have benefited from a smattering of logic the first time around—or from a little red flagish thing to alert me of the idiocy looming just around the bend. Unfortunately, however, the voice of reason had been stifled—battered and beaten into submission by some Aphrodite character. Looking back, I now realize my first husband and I were about as compatible as elbows and asphalt. Throw a rickety skateboard into the mix along with a couple of uncompromising personalities struggling to find balance in their lives and that was us. But without question, one of the most wonderful creatures on earth came about as a direct result of our union—my firstborn. No regrets there. I can’t imagine life without her—despite her oh-so-exasperating wild and woolly streak.

But to this day, I still marvel over the fact that I somehow missed an important signal while mired in the depths of that hopelessly smitten state. A big, yellow CAUTION sign planted squarely on the road of life. An omen meant to warn me of impending doom—not to portend everlasting marital bliss.

To make a long, boring story brief and exceedingly exciting, I was on the cusp of womanhood, preparing to make one of life’s most important decisions—to marry or not to marry the aforementioned fellow. His proposal was romantic enough, I suppose. Chilled champagne and a crackling fire were involved as I recall. But for whatever reason, I stalled—hesitating to respond for weeks, I think. This was perhaps omen #1, a subtle yet telling event that, of course, I dismissed. Omen #2, however, was one of those blatant, hit-me-over-the-head-with-a-fucking-shovel dealies that should have caused me to stop dead in my tracks had I had as much sense as a piece of driftwood. Suffice it to say, I didn’t, so I forged ahead with my plan anyway.

Admittedly, it was a magnificently orchestrated plan—and one that would answer his proposal in grand style. No simple, “Yes, I’ll marry you,” utterance would do. Nope. There had to be bells and whistles. Theatrics galore. I would hire a man to pilot a plane over Beaver Stadium during the legendary ’85 Penn State/Nebraska football game, all the while trailing enormous signage for the record crowd below to witness. “YES, I’LL MARRY YOU, JOHN!!” in bright red lettering would wave and flutter across the skies, proclaiming to thousands that I no longer was in doubt over the issue of marriage. The $150.00 it cost me to say so seemed reasonable given the significance of the event. But it was not to be.

By some strange twist of fate, the silly little plane never appeared. Not so much as a hint of its whirling propeller or the drone of its engine emerged from the cottony clouds that day—despite having glued my eyes and ears there for the duration. I later learned that the stupid thing had broken down sometime in the middle of the game and that the pilot was terribly sorry and fully intended to refund my money.

If ever there was a sign—that was surely it. It turns out that true love, in fact, WAS NOT in the air that day. Too bad I missed that memo.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Romance for Dummies

My husband is a hopeless romantic. Albeit an accidental one. Of course, he’s always done the stuff that hopeless romantics do. He sends me roses—just because. He writes me poetry and remembers our anniversary each November. He surprises me on my birthday, without fail and bestows upon me sinful quantities of chocolate on Valentine’s Day—knowing full well that I’d do almost anything for a slab of milk chocolate almond bark. And though I love him dearly for doing so, those are not the things I find especially romantic—never mind what the world at large may opine.

No doubt, he’d be stunned by this news, and perhaps disappointed to think he’d been missing the mark all these years. But he hasn’t been missing the mark. He’s simply oblivious as to why I find him wholly irresistible. Indeed, he’s clueless when it comes to recognizing what he does so completely right. Hence, the ACCIDENTAL component of the hopeless romantic equation.

That said, he unwittingly seizes the ordinary moments of life and somehow makes them special, which, to me, is deemed slightly wonderful and oh-so-romantic. More specifically, he leaves endearing, little notes everywhere with nary a holiday in sight. I stumble upon them throughout my day—under my pillow, in the kitchen, thoughtfully affixed to my computer screen, where I cannot help but notice—and smile. “I LOVE YOU—ALWAYS,” it will read, or “I’M PROUD OF YOU.” Then again, some of his messages are entirely pragmatic: “I FED THE DOG ALREADY. DON’T FEED HIM AGAIN,” or mildly sarcastic: “REMEMBER TO PUT THE FISH IN THE FRIDGE OR WE’LL ALL DIE OF FOOD POISIONING.”

Either way, I’m instantly charmed.

Likewise, my Romeo is liable to warm my heart by bringing me a beef and cheddar panini from Jazzman’s—an exceedingly delicious mid-day indulgence inspired entirely by that-which-moves-good-deed-doers-to-action. What’s more, the man has texted me while perched atop the lawn mower—proclaiming his abiding love for me under the blazing sun. Or maybe it was to remind me to pick up an errant flip-flop in the lawn. I can’t remember now, but I’d like to hope it was the former.

While I was pregnant he satisfied all sorts of culinary cravings, too, whipping up a shameful quantity of raspberry milkshakes and fetching dried apricots in the dead of night. He also tied my shoes, as the swell of my freakishly large belly thwarted my every effort to reach my knees, let alone my feet.

Further, the man has no qualms whatsoever in dealing with our brood when they are beyond the point of persnickety at mealtime, obscenely tired and cranky at the close of a trying day, impossibly giddified over this or that perfectly inane thing or even while hurling profusely into a big bucket—all of which I find inordinately romantic. Strange, but true. Plus, he fixes stuff that’s broken. He ferries children hither and yon. He masterminds our every holiday feast. He cooks and shops and bears in mind what he’ll need for meals—which isn’t normal, I’m told. Not for a man. Nor is suggesting that on some lazy afternoon we should rent Doctor Zhivago—an epic love story in the truest sense. “What’s so weird about wanting to watch a movie together?” he’ll ask, puzzled by my stunned silence.

Oblivion abounds, my dear Romeo.

Lately, said oblivion has risen to a new level, giving me reason to shake my head in disbelief. Just before Valentine’s Day, following an appreciable snowfall, he got up at dark-thirty to take the dog out, which necessitated shoveling a path in the back yard so that our vertically challenged pooch might not disappear altogether in a snow drift. “How thoughtful,” I mused. Some time later, I went to the window to admire what he had done. Lo and behold, he had carved a most enormous heart there in the sparkling snow—roughly 20 feet across with an arrow piercing its center. “Whoa,” was all I could mouth, astounded by this wonderful thing he had surely done to woo me once more—as if Aphrodite herself had guided the shovel there in the grayness of dawn.

Naturally, I showered him with gratitude, wrapping my arms around him and pulling him closer to the window so we could gaze at this thing of beauty together, hand in hand. “How sweet and kind and UTTERLY ROMANTIC of you!” I gushed.

“Romantic?” he repeated, fumbling over the word and glancing in the direction of the window.

“Yes! ROMANTIC!” I affirmed, sure that he was merely playing dumb. “How on earth did you do such an amazing thing?!”

What amazing thing? I shoveled a path in the snow. For the dog.”

“No no no. That’s not a path. That’s a HEART! A GINORMOUS HEART NESTLED BETWEEN THE PINES JUST FOR ME—FOR VALENTINE’S DAY! That was so completely ROMANTIC of you!”

Stupidly, he looked out the window and back at me with an expression that clearly conveyed the wheel is spinning, but the hamster is dead. It was the point at which he could have and should have rescued himself. A simple nod of agreement and a half-hearted smile would have sufficed. But no. Not for my oblivion-minded Romeo. My (accidental) hopeless romantic.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (with my dear, sweet Romeo).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

 

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It’s the Little Things That Make Life Sweeter

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and I can’t help but be reminded of how sweet life truly is on February 14th as well as every other day on the calendar—with or without the chocolate-covered delectables, mawkish cards and heart shaped hoo-ha. Case in point, my husband used to pack little baggies of food for me each day before he left for work, filling them tenderly with freshly peeled carrots, bunches of grapes or a handful of pretzel bites or cashews. Most days there was a half a turkey-on-rye waiting in the wings for me, too, abundantly dressed with lettuce, tomato and provolone. Its mate could likely be found on the same refrigerator shelf, neatly sliced and ready for instant retrieval.

However, it wasn’t a job for the thin-skinned. There were standards to be met. My slightly specific and less-than-succinct criteria: each conveniently bagged delight had to be flavorful (yet devoid of gassiness), it couldn’t be the least bit drippy or crumbly or, Heaven forbid, unwieldy if food can be described as such. Most importantly, I had to be able to consume it using just one hand—often on the fly or holed up in a chair for God-knows-how-long nursing a grexy baby. Or two.

Needless to say, great care and consideration went into preparing such sustenance for me and I was eternally grateful—both for the man’s diligence and for his abiding tolerance of my changeable mood. After all, it was the finger food that served as my salvation during that interminable stage of parenthood (i.e. the maddening era home-alone-with-newborn-twins, when I would have given almost anything for a hot shower or a real sit-down meal with something as fancy as a fork or idle conversation). But the bundles of nourishment he so thoughtfully provided, though short on style, surely delivered that which I needed most: the feeling of being cared for and remembered each day. It was a little thing that made my life that much sweeter.

I’d daresay the majority of what enriches my world could be categorized by most as something seemingly insignificant or ordinary at best. Something perhaps unremarkable to the masses, but dear to me. Like the little notes and drawings my kids stuff inside my pockets and tape to my computer, knowing that later I’ll stumble upon them and smile. Or that my oldest—beyond all logic and understanding—still confides in me and seeks my counsel. Or at the close of an especially trying day in the trenches of Parentville, when I feel like the most horrible mother on earth because I dumped someone’s special potion down the drain or because I forgot to tell the yard crew not to haul away “…our eagle’s nest, Mom!” or because I screamed at them over nothing or because I failed to listen yet again—I get this amazing and completely undeserved gift in the form of a breathy secret whispered in my ear at bedtime, “Mommy, I wouldn’t trade you foranything. Not even for a worm.”

Stuff like that makes me melt. And I’m that much surer it’s the little things in life that matter most. Like the twitter of songbirds after a long, hard winter. A handwritten letter amidst a sea of emails. A yellow moon on the rise. The brackish breeze, the cries of seagulls and the soothing sound of the ocean after driving forever to get there. The way my kids’ eyelashes curl and the thicket of sun-bleached hairs on the napes of their necks. The way my grandmother traced my ears to coax me to sleep. My grandfather’s firm belief that I was “big enough” to help him feed the cows, steer the tractor and hay the fields. Clunking around a farm in real barn boots. The warm muzzle of a horse. The company of a cat. The affection of a dog. The lullaby of crickets. The tang of autumn. The whisper of pines. The crisp scent of a novel, yet to be consumed. Fresh newsprint. Thistledown. Snowflakes. The smell of rain. Holding hands.

I often stumble upon small wonders, too, in unlikely places—like the special stones on someone’s dresser, harvested from Grandma’s house “…to help me remember her, Mom.” And crumbs in someone’s pocket—the remains of a bit of bread “…I saved for Taylor from my lunch today at school. It got all crumbly when we shared it, Mom.” And heartfelt notes of apology—painstakingly folded and carefully wedged between the pages of a favorite book. “Sorry Sadie. I really love you a lot. You’re the best sister ever!”

Of course, there was the strange but wonderful vine, curiously twisted into the shape of a heart, one of my dandies found while foraging in the garage last week. “Here, Mom; it’s for you.” But it couldn’t hold a candle to the cookie she shared with my husband and me recently—the one she cleverly gnawed upon until it, too, resembled a heart.

Indeed, it’s the little things that make life sweeter on Valentine’s Day and every day.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (and continue to devour again and again It’s the Little Things, by Craig Wilson, USA Today columnist and friend).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Countdown to Ho-Hum: Ringing in the New Year

Here’s hoping my New Year’s Eve won’t be frighteningly similar to that of 2008 (i.e. described below in horrific detail). Oh well…such is parenthood.

Romantically speaking, I lead an extraordinarily dull life. At no time does this particular truth become more self-evident than on New Year’s Eve. Painfully so, I might add. Tonight throngs of revelers—lovers, chief among them—will gather in venues all over the globe; near the Opera House in Sydney, along the River Thames in London and in Times Square, New York among other locales gloriously abuzz with the excitement and anticipation of ringing in the New Year.

At the stroke of midnight, surging masses of disgustingly happy people will join together in song (likely, a crude rendition of Auld Lang Syne). They’ll cheer uproariously, embrace lovingly and perhaps throw caution (and confetti) to the wind. It’s rumored that proposals of marriage, affirmations of everlasting love and wildly passionate kisses will abound as well.

All of this my husband and I will witness from our living room couch, our kids sandwiched impossibly between us, eyes fixated on the television screen, all parties concerned eagerly awaiting the grand event by which the night has come to be defined—the countdown to 2009. Of course, the ball will ceremoniously descend from that infamous flagpole atop One Times Square and we’ll discuss its unbounded remarkableness. Thing One and Thing Two will indeed be stunned and amazed as each infinitely interesting tidbit of information tumbles forth from my lips: said 12-foot kaleidoscopic wonder (which happens to be double the size of previous geodesic spheres) is covered with 2,668 Waterford Crystals, is powered by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs, is capable of displaying 16 million vibrant colors and weighs in at an astonishing 11,875 pounds!

“I Googled it; therefore, it must be so,” I’ll state with assurance and pride. Pride for having sacrificed (read: frittered away) a sizeable chunk of time on the computer for a worthy cause: to impress the troops. In all likelihood, oohs and aahs will then rain down on me and my heart will be glad. With any luck, such praise and adulation will purge from my mind completely the sad reality of our pathetic-looking woulda-coulda-shoulda-hired-a-sitter date night. But since neither of us (at this time of year especially!) possesses enough energy or enthusiasm even to entertain the notion of going out on the town for the evening, it simply doesn’t happen. No parties. No fancy-schmancy restaurants. No fine French cuisine. No kids tucked snugly in bed by eight. Nada. So we sit on the couch and lament. Or at least I lament about our sorry state of affairs as Dan Fogelberg’s bittersweet New Year’s Eve tune wafts unremittingly inside my head.

Yet, truth be told, our situation isn’t entirely devoid of good cheer. Indeed, there are bright spots in the deep, dark trenches of parenthood—woefully housebound with our giddified crew of pixies. Like when we raise our glasses to each other, to the memory of loved ones we’ve lost and to life itself. Warts and all. When we reflect upon all that we have to be grateful for—to include 2008’s string of ordinary days that weren’t so ordinary after all. When we filter out the noise and madness of our world long enough to enjoy our kids’ collective font of hilarity: “Mom, this champagne makes my nose all fizzly!” (Inglenook’s non-alcoholic bubbly, mind you). When we open the front door to hear the distant echoes of merriment and fireworks in town. When we hold hands, warmly gaze at each other and comfortably fall into one another’s arms, it gives me pause—at least until demands for a group hug are made.

And something tells me I’m right where I’m supposed to be, nestled together in our PJ’s, awash in the glow of that special moment, ushering in what we hope will be a year filled with great promise and joy. Naturally, I whisper a small prayer as well—for the strength to face the challenges that will surely find us and for the wisdom to recognize what merit lies within all that is seemingly ordinary. As it should be.

Happy New Year.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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