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Ron is getting off the hook easy again this year when it comes to Valentine’s Day. Just like last year, he’s had an invitation for months to attend a Valentine’s Day Ball that promises fancy hors d’oeuvres and dancing until midnight.

There will be live music, delicious food and a generally more relaxed atmosphere than the one we face when attending the Marine Corps Birthday Ball every November.

This ball is hosted by the local chapter of military communicators, or something like that. All I know is, they are the same people Ron hangs out with when he travels to fun places like San Diego, leaving me stuck here with the kids.

The Valentine’s Ball was a blast last year for a couple of reasons.

First, it happens at a generally less stressful time of the year for me than does the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. When I go on that frantic search for shoes to match my gown every November, I’m already beginning to stress out over Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The stores are packed by that time with early Christmas shoppers and sometimes, all that grabbing and pushing at the mall leads me to make impulsive buying decisions.

A perfect example is the pair of gorgeous but very impractical gold shoes that made every step I took at last fall’s Birthday Ball a painful endeavor.

By the time February rolls around, life is moving at its regular pace again, giving me plenty of time to fret over what to wear … not that I do.

Just like last year, I’m going to wear the same dress I wore to the Birthday Ball. Nobody there will know the difference because it’s a totally different crowd.

Plus, it will give those shoes one more chance to be seen outside my closet, making me feel a little less guilty for how much I paid for them.

If we’re lucky, this year’s entertainer will be as friendly as Lee Greenwood was last year. Before performing "Proud to be an American" and whatever other songs he sings, he took the time to pose for pictures with couples.

That’s much better treatment than we got from the guest speaker at last fall’s Marine Corps Birthday Ball. Chuck Norris snuck out the back door before I could even hit him up for an autograph. (And why did he need four bodyguards? He is Chuck Norris, after all!)

When I referred to the more relaxed atmosphere at the Valentine’s Ball, I was thinking of my husband, who appears to enjoy himself more when he isn’t surrounded by all of his bosses and the Commandant.

The most uptight I have ever seen Ron at a Birthday Ball was the year he forgot to wear his belt buckle and stayed seated at the table all night so no one would notice.

But when he’s hanging out with a bunch of civilian communicators, Ron seems more like the easygoing man I share a home with and less like the stiff-necked Marine who escorts me to the Birthday Ball in November.

Obviously, I’m looking forward to getting all dressed up and going out on a Valentine’s Day date with my husband. There were so many years when we stayed home simply because it was easier than finding a babysitter for the three boys.

It’s nice to be able to go out as a couple again without worrying what the boys are doing to the babysitter. We won’t be staying out too late, though, because we’re still not sure what they plan to do to each other.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has been married to a Marine for 18 years and currently lives in Springfield, Va. You may e-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or visit her Web site at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.


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