I despise holidays based on either extortion or expectations of the heart.

Everyone knows my feelings about Halloween. (See “Why I Spend Halloween in the Basement.”) Valentine’s Day ranks right up there with it; I was tempted to name this post “Why I Spend Valentine’s Day Under the Bed.”

I didn’t always think Valentine’s was a total waste of pink, doilies, and red construction paper. I’m not a complete ogre. I still have those homemade love notes from my kids, and they still make me cry. And then I remember those same kids, years later, sobbing in my arms because some elementary school doofus gave everyone a Valentine but her or because she didn’t receive a rose that day from a single high school moron.

This holiday is rife with expectation, hope, and sentimentality. It makes me gag. It makes my heart hurt for all those sitting at home waiting and for those coerced into going out on a miserable date not because you want to but because that’s what you’re supposed to do on February 14.

Romantic love is not dashing into Cub Foods at 5 p.m. and snagging the last bouquet or giving, heaven forbid, a love coupon worth one heck of a time at a future date. It is not having a jet waiting to fly you to Paris (although that could earn massive points).

Romantic love is giving and receiving a smile EVERY day. It is keeping your mouth shut when you are jumping-around-inside-of-you dying to say something.

You want true love? I’ll give it to you.

One day my husband (whom I shall call Rubbertoes) and I were arguing in the backyard. I forget what it was about, but it started to get heated. Finally, my normally peaceful Rubbertoes flung his gardening trowel into a bed of impatiens and shouted: “And that’s your heart!” For a moment, the world stopped; the birds ceased singing; the children gasped.

And then I burst out laughing. I laughed so hard I nearly fell out of my lawn chair.

No one sends a spade spinning into the aorta of a garden unless they truly care. When we drive each other to the edge and still hang on, that is love. It doesn’t have anything to do with chocolates or jewelry or tattoos.

My curmudgeonly advice: Don’t do anything special this holiday. Instead, make all the other days of the year special. That’s my plan—do nothing. At least until the grandkids get bigger and the drama starts all over again.


Since I am a romantic at heart, I can’t help adding some romance to my fiction, even my cozy mysteries. Yes, a yoga teacher and grouchy reporter can find love in my Maya Skye series. In my novel, Up There, two longtime buddies discover there is something more to their relationship.