How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day on a Budget

Until very recently, my husband and I didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. Occasionally, I’d say, “Happy Valentine’s Day” in much the same way I’d wish him a happy birthday. We rarely, however, went out to eat. He stopped buying me flowers years ago.

Until this year, we didn’t do these things for two reasons. One: we’re both practical people, and practical people don’t spend twice as much on flowers on Valentine’s Day just because everyone else does the same thing.

Two: until somewhat recently, I didn’t enjoy my husband’s company very much. Valentine’s Day was just a cruel reminder that I’d married the wrong person.

Now I no longer feel as if I’ve married the wrong person. My husband is right for me in every way. I love him more than ever. For the first time in years, I find myself wanting to celebrate this great day of love of ours. Here’s my new complication: money. We’re on the tightest budget imaginable.

So, as we’ve done in year’s past, we won’t go out to eat. He won’t buy me flowers. We will, however, celebrate Valentine’s Day with what I’m going to call Free Acts of Loving. Who needs flowers when there are back rubs to be had? Who needs dinner at a restaurant when there is wine to sip in bed? Who needs chocolate when there’s sex?

Who needs a store bought card when there’s Haiku? In my Win a Wii contest, I challenged all of you to write Haiku, which is three lines of poetry that do not rhyme. The first line contains 5 syllables, the second 7, and the third three. For my husband, I’ve written the following 5 stanza Valentine’s Haiku. (Note: we will be judging the contest next week. Stay tuned.)

Ode to Mr. Strong and Silent

I wake up sleepy.
I bitch and complain a lot.
You bring me latte.

I have a hard day.
I stare at the wall and cry.
You bring me wine.

My pants are too tight.
I ask you if I look fat.
You say I am beautiful.

I think bugs are gross.
You kill bugs and rodents.
I thank God for that.

I make you bacon.
I tolerate your mother.
You know I love you.

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How to win a Wii

want this?


I want all of you to feel as happy as I do. That’s why, for the next two weeks, I’m running a Win a Wii Promotion at Project Happily Ever After. To win a Wii, a $100 gift certificate to Om Aroma, or a pair of really cool earrings from Esculon, read on.

All you need to do is amass the most points by the end of the day (midnight) Friday Feb. 13th. The person with the most points wins.

Here’s how you can earn points:

20 points: Write a paragraph about why all of your friends should check out Send your email to 10 friends, including a link to the site in your email. You MUST copy Alisa Bowman at on this email in order to receive your points.

Please note: SPAM or other unsolicited emails will not be tolerated during this promotion.  Please make sure that the persons to whom you are sending this email have given you permission to email them.  If it is discovered that you have sent unsolicited emails in furtherance of this promotion, you will forfeit all of your points and shall be disqualified from the promotion.

20 points: Subscribe by email to the blog. Use the Subscribe by Email box in the right column. Make sure to activate your subscription when you get the confirmation email from Feedblitz. Note: If you are already subscribed by email, there is no need to subscribe twice. These points will be counted.

50 points: Write a blog post on your own blog about Alisa Bowman or about the blog, linking back to the blog at least twice. You MUST email the link to your blog post to Alisa Bowman at in order to receive your points.

25-100 points: Win the Project Happily Ever After Haiku contest. Write Haiku (three lines of poetry that do not rhyme) about marriage, relationships or sex. Submit your Haiku in the comments area here (found at the bottom of the page). Haiku will be judged by a panel of three judges. First place will be awarded 100 points, second place 50 points, and third place 25 points.

Note: Please use the same email address for all of the points gathering strategies to ensure all of your points get counted.

Prize Descriptions

First Prize:

Nintendo Wii video game system

Quite simply, this is the coolest gaming system on the market. You can create your own characters, play life like games such as bowling and tennis, and according to my friend Julie at Cool Mom Guide, lose some serious weight with this system. From the Nintendo site:

“Why do I need Wii?

Wii is not just a gaming console, it’s a reason to get together with your friends and family and play today’s hottest games. Wii offers legendary Nintendo franchises like Mario, Zelda and Metroid, as well as all new classics like Wii Sports and Wii Play. Create your own Mii character to star in Wii games. Play friends online over Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection or use the Internet Channel to surf the net from your sofa. You can even download classic Nintendo games using the Wii Shop Channel.”

Retail price: $279.49

Runner Up Prizes:

Esculon Golden Dotty Earrings: Designed by my good friend Alexandra Mihaescu, everything at Esculon makes you feel as if you are wearing the expensive one-of-a-kind bling you see on celebs, but it all comes with an affordable price tag. From her site: “Wild gold-filled wire and a touch of pink make up these perfectly fun stud earrings. The pink is a cultured, dyed pearl. The studs measure .5″ in diameter.”
Retail price: $35.00




Om Aroma



Om Aroma Gift Certificate: Founded by Angela Jia Kim, everything from Om Aroma is made with pure, organic ingredients. This chemical and preservative free line of creams, lotions and more has won gold medals at the 2008 Beauty Olympics. Everything in this line is made in the US.

Retail value: $100

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How to teach your man to romance you

Husbands who truly love us and have at least the IQ of golden retrievers should know what we like and what we don’t, right? They shouldn’t need a manual. We shouldn’t have to spell it out for them, right?


It’d be nice if our men intuitively knew what we wanted, but they don’t. They really don’t. Most men have no clue what women want. None. My husband certainly didn’t. Early on in our relationship, he used to communicate his desire to get busy by turning on the Playboy channel. Now, I have nothing against the Playboy channel. My husband and I used to watch it together. It was quite an education, but turning it on doesn’t equal foreplay or romance in my book. In fact, it’s the opposite and I eventually cancelled our subscription for that reason.

You can’t fault your man for brining you chocolate when you are on a low carb diet. You can’t fault him for taking you out for Mexican when, by gum, he should know already that you despise spicy food. You can’t fault him for buying you flowers when you really just want to hear the words, “I love you.”

Men are clueless. Almost all of them are. (I was going to write, “They all are,” but one or two somewhat more clairvoyant men read this blog and will send me a comment about such a statement. So let’s just say, all men are clueless except for the one or two who read this blog, and they are only clued in because they are avid blog readers). If you want romance in your life, you need to give your man the clues.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds because, if you are like me, you don’t know what you want. There! How can he know what you want if you don’t know yourself? To help figure out what you want, think about these questions:

1) Romance is the way your man shows his love for you. What words or actions make you feel adored?

2) When you watch other happy couples together, what do they have that you pine for?

3) When you watch romantic movies or read romantic books, what do the male characters do or say that makes you swoon?

4) Think back to when you were happier in your relationship. How did he romance you then?

Then, talk about it. Tell him what you want. Explain that you want to feel loved. Say that you need him to show you that he adores you. You need it because of the hard times because, sometimes, you truly don’t know whether or not he gives a damn. Write a Romance Instruction Manual, such as the one below that I wrote for my husband. Give it to him. Let him carry it around in his pocket. It just might make all the difference.

Touch me, not because you want to have sex, but because you love me. Touch the back of my arm. Touch my neck. Hold my hand. Place your palm against my upper back.

Kiss me. Kiss my cheek. Kiss my forehead. Kiss the back of my neck. Walk up to me in front of other people and kiss me on the lips, and say, “That’s just what I needed.”

Court me. Show me amazing things. Remind me to see the sunset. Marvel at the stars with me. Sit and listen to the crickets with me.

Be with me. Walk with me. Ride the tandem with me. Watch James Bond with me.

Tell me that I’m beautiful. Tell me in the morning, when my hair is a mess. Tell me when I’m dressed up. Tell me when I come into the coffee shop. Tell me just because.

Say I love you. Say it when you leave for work in the morning. Say it when you come home. Say it as we are falling asleep at night.

Surprise me. Send me small gifts, even if it’s not my birthday or Mother’s Day. Pick flowers for me. Take me somewhere unusual. Send me a card for no reason. Hide a note in my purse. Send me a text message.

Help me. When I seem tired, harried or overwhelmed, do more. Ask to help and, when I don’t suggest a way to help, help anyway. Entertain Kaarina. Empty the dishwasher. Straighten up the house. Sort the mail. Scoop the poop. Wash the dog. Make dinner.

Excite me. Encourage me to face my fears. Rekindle my sense of adventure. Help me to loosen up. Push me beyond my limits. Make me ride a roller coaster with you. Blindfold me and feed me.
Bring me on adventures. Take me to new places. Enjoy new cuisines with me. Explore the world with me.
Listen to me.

Look in my eyes.

Rub my back, neck, or shoulders without me asking.

Practice random acts of helpfulness. Let Rhodes out in the morning or put food in his bowl. Take dishes out of the sink, even if they are not yours, and put them in the washer. Put the clothes away.

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Getting Mr. Strong and Silent to talk… about feelings

It’s difficult for me to remember the early days of my relationship with Mr. Strong and Silent. After all, I’ve known him for 12 years. More important, the vast majority of my memories were wiped out during the two sleepless years after our daughter was born.

Still, I believe, in those early days, I incessantly asked him two questions that he was never able to answer:

Question #1: What are you thinking?

Question #2: How do you feel?

His answer to the first was always either, “Nothing” or “I don’t know.” The second? Exactly the same as the first, assuming he didn’t walk away or change the topic.

He didn’t like to talk about his past. He didn’t like to talk about his emotions. He didn’t want to talk about his day at work. He didn’t like to talk about anything other than the breaking news: something he’d read in the newspaper, what was going to be on television that night, where and how long he’d ridden his bike, and, perhaps, what he wanted to do that weekend.


This unnerved me. I was convinced that his inability to talk meant that he was hiding something. What deep dark secrets did he not want me to know about? Was he afraid to be himself in front of me? Didn’t he know that it was okay to cry or show fear? Was he completely out of touch with his feelings?

We dated for a year, lived together for two years, and then got married. Eventually I stopped asking him about his thoughts or emotions. When we talked, we talked. When we didn’t, we didn’t.

Until things got really bad and we stopped talking altogether. We’d go out to dinner on date night. From the moment we sat down at a table to the moment we walked out the door, our entire conversation was limited to:

“It’s nice to go out to eat.”


“What are you going to get?”

“I don’t know.”

“What are you going to get?”

“I think I’ll have the fish.”

“How was your day?”

“Fine, what about yours?”


“Want some of this?”

“Okay. Want some of this?”


“How was your meal?”

“Good. Yours?”


“I’m really tired.”

“Me, too.”



“That was nice.”

“Yeah, let’s do this again.”


I would stare at him as he ate. I would try to think of a question I could ask that would elicit anything other than a one-word response.

Eventually I stopped trying, and we became two people who lived in the same house, parented the same child, and slept in the same bed, but who did not share a common conversation.

That is, until we started working on our marriage.

It wasn’t until a few months into our marriage project that we found ourselves back where we had started. I asked him about his thoughts and feelings. He told me they were non-existent. I didn’t believe him and felt frustrated. He sensed my frustration and grew tense. I sensed his tension and got hurt. He sensed my pain and turned on the TV.

Eventually, I gave up—yet again. But this time I gave up for a different reason. I gave up because I realized it really didn’t matter how he felt. If he didn’t want to talk about his feelings, then okay. The man didn’t have feelings. Was this such a bad thing?


More recently I read an article that suggested I was doing exactly the right thing. In it Dr. Patricia Love was quoted as saying, “The number one myth about relationships is that talking helps. The truth is, more often than not, it makes things worse.”

Are you thinking, “Um, what? Blasphemy”? That’s exactly what I was thinking! So I read more of the article. She explained that women feel calmer when they talk about their feelings. A woman has a bad day at work? She can’t wait to find someone to talk to about it.

A man, on the other hand, has a bad day and can’t wait to forget about it. Asking him about his bad day (or about his mother’s illness, or about any number of touchy topics) does the opposite of what you intend. Rather than making him feel loved and comforted, it just reminds him of his failings. His muscles tense up. If he allowed himself to actually put a word to this sensation, he might describe this discomfort as feeling, “Stressed out.”

And then, to reduce the growing tension he’ll shut down. If he’s like my husband, he will, for instance:

• Change the subject.

• Decide that he absolutely needs to do a load of laundry that very second.

• Turn on the TV. If it’s already on, change the channel or turn up the volume.

According to experts, this is all normal behavior. According to the experts, the vast majority of men don’t do feelings, and we should all just accept this and get over it. (And, yes, of course there are men out there who do not shut down, who like to talk about anything and everything, and who do feelings as effortlessly as they operate a nail gun. These are not Strong and Silent men or the topic of this blog).

Now, here’s the problem with all of this: normal isn’t always good or desirable. Sometimes we really do need our men to talk. For example, my husband used to work weekends. Earlier this year, I gave him an ultimatum. I told him I not only needed, but also required him to take a day off each weekend. I said I could not continue to be the only parent two days in a row. He agreed. Now he takes one day off every weekend.

More recently, I’ve been feeling that I’d like him to take both days off. I debated how to bring up the subject, however, because the issue of his work hours has been an ongoing stress on our relationship. He doesn’t like to talk about work. He never has. He always gives me the same excuse, “When I’m not at work, I don’t want to think about work.” I always come back with the same argument, “I can’t talk to you about work while you are at work, otherwise we’ll be arguing in front of all of your customers. If I can’t talk to you about it while you are at work and I can’t talk to you about it when you are not at work, when can I talk to you about it?”

The answer, of course, is never, but that’s not an option. Sometimes his work affects our marriage and, when that happens, we need to talk about it.

So this is what I did. I brought up the topic when I was feeling my happiest, to prevent him from absorbing a single atom of stress from the tone of my voice. I did nearly all of the talking, too. I did it while we were sitting on a couch, me drinking tea, him reading the paper, our daughter playing nearby. I made not a single glance of eye contact.

I said, “I really love when we spend time together as a family. The day you are home on the weekend is my favorite day of the week. Kaarina seems so much happier when we are both here at the same time. I love eating breakfast together as a family. Do you think it would be possible in the near future to hire a weekend person at the store so you could possibly take both weekend days off?”

He said, “Yes.” I smiled. He smiled. We hugged.

He was happy (not that he would have ever described himself as happy.) I was happy.

We did not talk about feelings. He didn’t say more than one word. Yet, we solved a problem and grew closer in the process.

So, back to that original question, “Do men have feelings?” I don’t know about most men. I’ll only speak for my husband. I think he has feelings. I don’t think he will ever want to talk about them. You know what? That’s okay with me. It really is.


• Discuss relationship issues when you are both calm. You’ll get nowhere if you try to solve a problem when you are already fighting. Do it while you are otherwise having a good time.

• It’s easier to get a Strong and Silent man to talk if he’s not also making eye contact. Talk about things while you are walking, furniture shopping, or sitting in the car or in front of the TV.

• Just solve the problem. Say what’s wrong and offer one or two possible solutions. You can say how YOU feel about the situation, but use non-blaming language such as, “I’m so exhausted” or “I’m really sad about this.” Don’t blame him for the problem. Yeah, it might be his fault, but telling him this will not move the conversation forward. Rather, as soon as you move into the blame game, he’s going to shut down. Stay focused on the solution.

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