The Inconvenient Date…Or “What was I thinking?”

As close as we have ever been to Eiffel

Who sets a date for Tuesday night, Shrove Tuesday, when your church family gathers to eat pancakes and mounds of butter and ogle at the Mardi Gras Float that your children and their EYC peers and your husband has spent weeks building?  Who schedules a date to miss that?  On the Tuesday after the  busiest weekend of the year?  Apparently I do!

I called Fluer de Lys, our local French cooking school several weeks ago to make reservations for our second date. Chef Francoise was delighted to take our reservation, not for Tuesday, February 14, but the following week, Tuesday February 21.  I grabbed up the two spots for a cooking class preparing Provencal Lobster.  Most people who know me know that I am infatuated with Provence and all things French.  Granted, I have never been to France but I love reading about the people, food and wine.  I was so excited to learn French cooking from an actual French chef!

Lobster, Basmati, Butter, Caramelized Onion, Pastis

But, as the day drew closer and then arrived I was overwhelmed with work, track practice, play practice, laundry, grocery…we didn’t have bread for four days.  On top of that Kev and I had a particularly stressful weekend with our oldest daughter.  Decisions about her future and independence and growing up seemed to explode all over our weekend…the one preceding our “date.” Having her away at a residential high school compacts all the major life activities and decisions into short periods of time and we are often left with a general feeling of stress instead of enjoying the brief moments we have with her.  Driving her back to school on Sunday left me empty and frustrated.  This feeling pervaded the following few days and by Tuesday night all I wanted to do was put on my stretchy pants and hunker down with a blanket and remote control.  I didn’t care about French cooking.  I didn’t feel like meeting 20 strangers who cared about French cooking.  And, to be honest, I didn’t feel in the “date” mood. And I am pretty sure Kev was feeling the same way. (He texted me earlier that morning and said, “this day feels gross.”)  Whoo-Hoo date night!

We were the second couple to arrive and I would have to say that the first few moments were a bit uncomfortable.  Do we ask for wine?  Were we supposed to bring our own wine?  Can we eat the bread on the table, or is that for the meal?  As others arrived they appeared to know exactly what to do, which made us feel more uncomfortable.  As dates go this was a lot of work; but after meeting some very friendly veterans who gave us some pointers, I relaxed a bit and began to enjoy the newness of the experience.  It was clear that the other participants were food and wine lovers like me and Kev.  We were among culinary friends.

Francoise, that is really his name, mixed his cooking lesson with history and anecdotal information that added to my understanding of the dish. I pictured the restaurant where this recipe originated.   As he passed around the spices used in the paste for the lobster, I breathed in  each aroma and was swept away to a rustic, breezy hillside in the south of France.  I was miles away from my grocery list!

On goes the herb butter

I truly believe in “aromatherapy” and for me, cooking spices are the best.  I cannot describe how coriander, rosemary, lemon grass and sage combine to elevate simple sustenance to an almost (dare I say) religious experience.  Truly, only our God can create smells and tastes like that – no artificial flavoring here!

So….”What was I thinking?” In the end, this date was  “just what the doctor ordered,” pulling both of us out of our funk while energizing our creative and culinary juices.  My advice to other tired couples trying to date is this: don’t  succumb to the temptation to take the easy way out.  Do the Date!   It would have been easy to say “the timing isn’t right for this date”, or “we have too much going on,” but we committed to it and followed through.

Pre-paying for the class didn’t hurt either.

Bring me your tired, huddled married couples…

I slept soooo good last night!

I'm sleeping on the inside.

Back in the Pleistocene Era of our marriage when  there was plenty of time and energy to devote to the planning and execution of Valentine’s Day, we devoted time and energy to Valentine’s Day.

Alyson called me this afternoon at four thirty.  Was I picking up Ellie Kate from track practice, and if I wasn’t, could I?   Aly had just touched down at home to cook dinner.  “I don’t want to get back out. Please?”

“And I need you to go to the grocery.”  I obliged, begrudgingly and sweetly.  I have my paycheck on direct deposit with Publix, which is a huge time saver.

“And, Ellie Kate absolutely positively must be picked up no later than ten minutes after five because the track coach will not, let me repeat, will not wait around for parents who fail to manage their lives with less precision than NOAH Weather Radio.”

I think I said something like “shut your yabber gabber” before I pledged my love and hung up the phone.  And, I was there on time, along with a full parking lot of middle age parental lovers anxious for tomorrow’s Valentine’s throw down.  I rolled past one Volvo blaring premature Barry White.  Of course, Coach Stopwatch ended pratice late, which made my mad dash to the grocery all for naught.  If I had known I had an extra ten minutes I would have cherished my stroll down aisles ten and two looking for taco seasoning and tortilla chips.  I take my alone time when I gets it.

After dinner Alyson and I played seventeen rounds of Rock, Paper, Napalm to see who won the prize of driving one of our offspring (who shall remain nameless) back to our vacation home to purchase a card and box of candy for their special valentine.  Alyson won.  I was the gracious loser.  Maybe fate will shine upon me tomorrow and I will go to the grocery THREE times!

Ahh tomorrow…that special day of romance and devotion.  Ellie Kate has a doctor’s appointment at two o’clock, and Jake is getting a cavity filled at two-forty.  Then its track and play practice for both, a frozen pizza dinner and homework somehow, and decorating for Ellie Kate’s birthday, which is Wednesday.  Thank God Grace Ann moved out last year to art school…its the nicest thing she has ever done for Alyson and me.

But at least Aly and I will be able to go out and have dinner with each other tomorrow night, stealing a few moments amidst the craziness.  Good idea anyway.  We waited too late to make reservations.  Fleur De Lys is booked tomorrow night.  Go figure.

Our Valentine’s date will happen on February 21.  It might be a little anticlimactic, but at least we get to go to the grocery nine more times between now and then.

Happy Valentine’s Day ya’ll.  Good marriages and relationships are forged in the everyday events anyway.  Aly and I love each other, and we love our kids, just like God loves us.  Always, and forever.  No matter what the calendar says.

The “N” word

Tired Date #1

An Open Letter to my wife on the first day of February:

Dear Wife,

It sounds silly, even sophomoric, but when I walk into Walgreens this time of year and see aisle after aisle of cellophane wrapped hearts and cheap stuffed animals and cupid embossed cards I immediately think of you. Naked.

Believe me, it’s a burden! I mean, to carry THAT around all day, or at least every eight seconds? It’s amazing we men have accomplished anything worthy of high ideals; the wheel, a polio vaccine, TOMS shoes, the ShamWow.  I know you are shaking your head right now, rolling your eyes, hoping to GOD your mother doesn’t read this, but I am just keeping it real, and your mom has to appreciate that.  Her son-in-law is honest.  By the end of this open letter, she might even wipe away a tear because of my literary sweetness. So anyway, Walgreens in February, Valentine’s Day, and you naked…(that’s the last time I am going to write that, I promise.) (Sorry Gran.)

See Honey, this letter is to tell you that I am exactly the heel you think I am, but there is another side of me, and it is the stronger of the two. Yes, the reason Madison Avenue and Hollywood draw a bull’s eye around my middle-age male reptilian brain is because I, or better yet, we, collectively, middle-aged married males, are sitting ducks oh so prone to wander after the prurient carrot dangled before our eyes or loins.  It’s true.  It’s in our DNA.  Every where we turn, there it is, something to make us think of nudity or a derivative thereof; yours, or anyone else’s that we can be tempted to fixate upon.

But I am not telling you anything you don’t already know, am I? And it is at this point I probably need to cease speaking for my middle-aged married brethren.  I’ll let them woo their own wives, or die trying.  The rest of this letter is just for you, and your mother if she is still reading.  As much as I am the totality of my component physical parts, I am more.  I am a redeemed soul.  The part of me that exists before and after my physicality, my soul, loves you.  Read that again.  My soul loves you.

And the “N” word, the part of our relationship that seems to trump when Valentine’s Day rolls around, is a force all its own. It is amazing what that drive is capable of.  And it is good. And I remain faithfully yours.  Thank you for giving me that joy in our marriage. And know this, after twenty-three years of marriage, as strong as that Walgreens dude is he plays second chair to my soul.  I love you more than I lust you.

When I was asleep in the hospital those twelve October days, I didn’t see a light, or walk toward a tunnel, or even float, although I would have preferred ethereal flight to scenarios of imprisonment and bondage, but I wasn’t that lucky.  In my unconsciousness, I was locked away.  The common denominator to all my comatose musings was a complete and total frustrated lunge to make my way to you.

Which I suppose is what we are still trying to do this year on our dates…make our way to each other.

Even though Jesus never battled lust when he was picking up a prescription for his high cholesterol, he named demons, called them out, and put them in their place.  Maybe it is no coincidence he cast some into swine.  All men are pigs it has been said, but there is always redemption.  Which brings me back to my soul that loves you.

My soul is available for a date on February 24th.  There is a cooking class we can attend at the Fleur De Lys Home Culinary Institute.  And the cool thing, my body will be with me the whole time.  Interested?