I know you know it’s coming, but Ash Wednesday is Valentine’s Day this year, so we’ve decided to call it Ash Valentine’s Wednesday. People—especially married people—all over the Catholic world have been trying to figure out how to celebrate the two. Well…maybe just the wives…I’ve heard a few husbands get excited about this fact.
Valentine’s Day—a holiday usually celebrated with wine, chocolate, and fancy dinners—falls on a day of fasting, abstinence from meat, and prayer. Plus Mass, if you can make it. It’s likely that you want to honor your spouse. It’s more-than-likely, too, that you want to start Lent on the right foot. So what’s a girl to do?
Read on for our tips on how to celebrate love with solemnity this Ash Valentine’s Wednesday.
Know What’s Required of You: Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting (one regular meal plus two smaller meals that when added together do not equal the size of the regular meal, and NO snacks) and abstinence (no meat from mammal or fowl, but fish is okay). This applies, in the United States, to Catholics over the age of 14 for abstinence and ages 18-59 for fasting. It’s actually not a holy day of obligation, so Mass isn’t a requirement (but we definitely think you should get to Mass if you can).
Know What Valentine’s Day is About
The love you have for your spouse, the love you have for your children—you can extend this love to all things, including God. After all, the Gospel of John tells us that “We love because he first loved us.” Going to Mass and observing the holy day that Ash Wednesday is is one way to show your love to God.
Okay, but you are married and you would like to celebrate with your spouse. We get it.
A Suggested Ash Valentine’s Wednesday Menu
You’ll all be hungry by dinner; perhaps even ravenous, but it’s still a humble, meatless meal. I tend to find that on fasting days, soups are SUPER easy to prepare and still fit within the requirements.
This year, we’re making Garlicky Roasted Cauliflower Soup and Paleo bread from our local Paleo bakery. It’s hearty and creamy since it’s cauliflower and is pretty versatile, so you can take this recipe and make it your own.
Take two heads of cauliflower and cut them into florets. Take one head of garlic and smash the bulbs, tossing them in with the cauliflower on a cookie sheet. You could also add sliced/diced/julienned carrots at this juncture. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the cauliflower-garlic (and carrots, if applicable) mixture with salt, pepper, and olive oil until they’re evenly coated. Bake it until golden brown, which will be somewhere in the ballpark of 30-45 minutes.
While that bakes, peel and dice a white onion. Placing the onion into a frying pan with olive oil, cook on medium until the onions are sautéed. You could also sauté sliced mushrooms at the same time.
Add all cooked ingredients to a stock pot, along with 1 ½-2 cups of vegetable broth (depending on preference) and bring to a boil. You could also add herbs here, such as thyme, sage, rosemary, or herbs de Provence. Once boiling, simmer for 7 minutes.
Transfer all the ingredients to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Take care to stop intermittently to avoid a hot soup nightmare. If the mixture is too thick, add more broth in splashes until you reach your desired consistency.
Serve in bowls with a slice of bread and butter on the side. Top with a shredded cheese of your choice (we like parmesan, mozzarella, and cheddar). Avoiding all animal products? Serve your slice of bread plain and top your soup with sliced avocadoes or a sprinkling of lemon juice—or both!
The Ash Valentine’s Wednesday Table
Dinnertime is also a perfect time for conversation. It’s one reason why I love family dinners. Resolve to have a family dinner for Ash Valentine’s Wednesday.
You know those kids that are reticent to share? We have a solution for that, too. Ahead of time, cut out some small hearts from brightly-colored construction paper and write conversation starters on them. Here are some examples of questions we like on a daily basis:
“What was your favorite part of the day?”
“What would you like to pray for?”
“Who has the best joke?”
“Would you rather go camping or mountain climbing?” (or something similar)
On this day, when Mass is in play, you can ask specific liturgical questions.
“What did they say as they placed the ashes on our foreheads? What do you think that means?”
“What reading stuck out the most for you?”
“How can we pray more during Lent?”
“What are some ways you’d like to give alms this Lent?”
“We’re supposed to fast from something in our lives. What would you like to fast from?”
We’re either going to place these in a small Mason jar and treat it like a game OR we’re going to sprinkle them on the table as confetti for all to see.
Also on our table? Two red tapered candles in candlesticks (lit or unlit has yet to be determined) to add a romantic feel to the overall presentation. We can use these again on Palm Sunday and during the Triduum, so it doesn’t even add extravagance to our overall candle stash.
When Little Miss Goes to Bed
Superman and I can still celebrate the romantic love we share once Little Miss is in bed.
We’re also participating in a No-Spend Lent this year, though, so we aren’t exchanging gifts. We do have access to YouTube, Pandora, and Spotify, though, so we’re going to stream some 1980s romantic ballads and dance barefoot in our kitchen, like we used to when we were dating. Free romance.
We can also unwind with some free entertainment: we do have Netflix and Hulu, as well as an extensive DVD/Blu-Ray collection, but a movie night while cuddling in bed isn’t always the answer (although, it might be!). Sometimes, reading a book aloud together can be a wonderful way to bond.
Superman is the only man I’ve ever dated and also prayed with (perhaps that’s part of why we’re married!). Praying with your spouse is a different kind of weird intimacy. I know many of you reading this agree, because it was a HUGE comment on our marriage survey thus far. It’s also the highest topic that you’d like to read about.
End your Ash Valentine’s Wednesday by praying with your spouse. You might hate it because it is a little uncomfortable at first. Or, you might love it and continue it the entire Lenten season. Stumped on how to do it? Just take turns expressing what you love about your spouse and thanking God for bringing you together. It really can be that simple.
A birthday party. This was the place where it all hit me.
The morning began with an awakening from Superman before he left for a work training, followed immediately by Little Miss joining me in my bed, excitedly talking about all the things the day held, including her bestie’s birthday party. Her bestie’s mom and I are approaching 20 years of friendship, having met in high school chemistry sophomore year (this is important later).
Mere hours later, I sat in the lobby while they served cake and ice cream, while tears that I fought to keep in multiple times that morning declared their victory, spilling over the boundaries of my eyelids. I tried to rein it in and stop it. I typed out my feelings in a text I intended to send to no one as the song Superman and I danced to at our wedding played, coincidentally.
My oldest friend, who is also one of the truest friends you could ever hope to have, left the party while her husband served the cake, came into the lobby, pulled up a chair beside me and said, “What’s up? Just tired? Everything okay?” Cue the floodgates.
What led me here?
It’d been a rough few weeks.
At seven months pregnant, I entered into a weird phase where I was tired, made to feel ridiculously uncomfortable, and then overwhelmed by insomnia.
Little Miss had a marathon of sickness and that week was the first in two months she’d been well enough to feel like herself again rather either fighting an illness, recovering from one, or catching another.
Superman had additional responsibilities added to his plate and struggled with the balancing act of those plus our commitments, his fatherhood, working out, and our marriage (not necessarily in that order, though).
I’d been trying to put on a happy face. I wanted to support my husband as he tried to work through the stress to make sense of it. I wanted to say yes to Little Miss’s requests to go outside and play. I wanted to put their needs before mine this week; so, I did.
The happy face began to show signs of age, from it being on so long. Cracks formed. I ignored this and forged on.
Then on Friday, I was hit with a double-whammy: I made a fairly large error at work that ended up resolving itself, but it isn’t the caliber of my work and I was sorely disappointed in myself. The second hit? We had a family event at church that we were all looking forward to and Superman ended up missing it due to working until 9:45 that night.
So there I was, being hit with all of the stressors and emotions that I’d previously forced under the happy face mask. And it broke.
So there I sat with my back-in-the-day bestie.
“I’m just being stupid.” I began.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“I’m just…” I trailed. See, even in this moment when there was no point in trying to hide it, I was still looking for the sugarcoated version. But she looked at me with real concern and genuine friendship. “I’m just so tired. I’m also hormonal and pregnant, and I feel like I haven’t actually seen my husband other than to sleep in days…” I spilled everything to her.
She nodded and consoled. She didn’t offer advice, but she did offer something else: solidarity.
Superman and I are still new at this marriage thing, having only been married a little over a year. My dear friend and her husband are 10.5 years into their marriage. He’s been working a night shift and she’s a teacher. Like us, they have an eight year-old daughter.
She was honest with me. “It’s hard. Sometimes, I don’t want to watch TV, I just want to BE with my husband. It’s hard to do that right now, but we’re finding balance—and almost eleven years in we’re still totally in love with each other, so…”
She was smiling. We laughed.
A Need to Be Vulnerable
Y’all, we need to have friends.
This vocation isn’t about isolation. It is so important to have someone that you can go to when you need to vent. There need to be people in your life that you allow yourself to be vulnerable with, never putting on the happy face mask to begin with.
This friend was that person today. Superman is often that person. Rachel has been that person for me before, as have Bridgette, my brother, and my parents at different intervals.
If you don’t have that support, email us, please. Or better yet, find us in the Hail Marry Hangout on Facebook so that you can have a community to chat with. We may not have all the answers, but we sure can listen and we can offer your solidarity.
Obviously, having read this post, you’re aware that the balancing act of daily life isn’t one we’re currently winning. But I think that finding balance starts with admitting that something in your life is off. I think you need to allow yourself to say that you’re stressed or unhappy or less-than-enthused about something.
Balance, therefore, begins in communication. Tell your husband how you’re feeling rather than keeping it all inside. I’m begging you.
Allow yourself to respond to things with the emotion you’re feeling. You don’t need to hide behind the mask of another emotion. It’s okay to not have it all together 100% of the time. You’re not perfect. That’s totally okay.
Today I’m not writing this post as an expert on anything.
I’m writing it as a fellow wife, in the same trenches, trying to find my way.
I hope this encourages you on a dark day: you aren’t alone.
All the love,
Date night on the fly? We were gifted a childless night this past weekend when Little Miss was asked to sleep over at her bestie’s house. But there were lessons to plan and blog posts to write and last-minute touches as we gear up to release Hail Marry Blog’s Guide to a No-Spend Lent on Thursday (yay!). Still, knowing how rare these nights tend to be and how much rarer they’ll become once Belle is here, we decided to do something…except, we didn’t know what.
Rachel, too, has experienced this. Three p.m. All the chores are finished and the puppy is over at Grandma’s (thanks!). These unexpected couple of hours of free time with my husband are what I like to call the “golden hours.” But, since my planner was consumed by chores, now there’s nothing planned…
A few weeks ago, we asked on Instagram and in the Hail Marry Hangout for suggestions on how you’d spend an unexpected child-free night with a gifted $50 and most people responded with “dinner” or “Star Wars!” or “dinner and a movie.” This weekend, we struggled for what to do, so…we turned it into a blog post to share our ideas with you in case you stumble into your own child-free date night!
Luckily, there are a ton of things available to do with little-to-no planning. Cities have parks and, often, free events (especially on the weekend). There are new restaurants to try, new movies to see, and areas of town to explore. You can also do a date night in with dinner and a movie (which is ultimately how Superman and I spend our evening). Still…those can feel old pretty quickly, if they’re your go-to dates anyway.
Prepare for spontaneity (even though that’s a tad oxymoronic) by creating a date night bucket or jar. Write down date night ideas that are newer to you and place them in the bucket or jar. Then, when the opportunity does present itself, you’ve got choices that don’t feel stale. Rachel likes to keep 24 date activity ideas and 24 date place ideas, usually for free, inexpensive, or places where they already have gift cards in-hand.
We’re always fans of this, in both our homes. We pick an outdoor shopping area or a mall and pretend. We imagine we’re decorating a new house or going on a shopping spree. This is also an excellent communication-builder, since it’s just the two of you, holding hands and making believe together.
When we were throwing around ideas this weekend, we talked about having food delivered and not leaving the house. The problem is that I have food allergies and that doesn’t really work for me. We also talked about having a picnic. We ended up combining the two. We went on a quick jaunt to Kroger, bought frozen pizza for him and picnic-y foods for me, brought them home, and ate in bed while watching Evolution on Hulu.
This is totally okay. So what if you decide to stay in and watch a movie? Time together with your spouse is never wasted.
Date nights don’t have to be about the experience of going or doing; we’d much rather enrich our friendship and deepen our understanding of one another. Fall deeper in love with your best friend. Regardless of how you do it, isn’t that what it’s all about? What would you do for a date night on the fly?
We are so unbelievably excited for today’s podcast! We can officially announce our 2018 No-Spend Lent Challenge COMPLETE with the Hail Marry Blog’s Guide to a No-Spend Lent e-book & course launch! The e-book will be available here on the website FOR FREE throughout all of Lent! The course will take the form of a Facebook challenge course. Both will be open/available/starting next Thursday, February 1!
Last year, we completed a No-Spend Lent and it was pretty incredible. In November, we attempted a No-Spend November group with mixed results. This year, we decided to refine our experiences and compile our “wisdom” (quotes for a reason!) to bring it to the masses!
So grab your notebook to jot down some ideas, listen to the hows, whats, and whys in the podcast, and come back next Thursday to be sure you download the FREE e-book and get our link for the Facebook challenge course group!
Hello friends! We’d like to ask you to participate in a quick survey regarding our site and your vocation to marriage. We were founded to support newlyweds, young marrieds, and young families in the absence (in many cases) of such support within parishes. We want to ensure that the content we’re offering does just that for you, so please take a few minutes to fill out our marriage survey.
For your participation, we’ll enter all survey users into a drawing to win a fabulous Hail Marry Marriage Basket complete with an at-home date-night kit and fun things to support your vocation. Click here to go to the survey. While the survey will remain open from now to Easter, the giveaway will close on Ash Wednesday/St. Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2018.
Thank you in advance!
The Hail Marry Team