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A Valentine's Day Third Alternative

Luis said, "Barb, do you think you can find us a babysitter for Valentine's Day, so I can take you to dinner at La Paz?"

A small shudder of annoyance went down Barb's spine. Luis never seemed to pay any attention to their budget. And he never, ever called any of the sitters himself, even though Barb had entered all of their numbers into his cell phone.

Barb said, "I would much rather we put the price of a La Laz dinner into the twin's college fund. It's only ten more years until we have two kids in college at the same time."

Step 1: Jump the Net!

Luis replied, " I hear you, Barb. I appreciate the need to save money. Third Alternative, then? Is the cost your only objection? Anything else we need to consider to come up with a Third Alternative that works for you?

This took Barb by surprise. They had just recently read about Third Alternatives. Luis was not going to launch into his usual routine. He was actually asking what she wanted, apparently intending to give her whatever she requested, just not in the manner she asked for it.

What did she want? She thought about asking him to call the sitter if they needed one, but then she realized she wanted to speak directly with the teen who would spend the evening with their two sons.

Step 2: Write New Specs

Barb said, "Something inexpensive or even free is what I want this Valentine's Day, Luis. And romantic, at least a little bit."

Luis replied, "What I want is to take you somewhere special and memorable, Barb, but there is a reason. In the past year, Rob and Bart both died so suddenly and Jen developed MS. And I cannot even remember what I did for you last Valentine's Day, less than a year later. This year, I need to do something you will remember if anything were to happen to me. So, it needs to be special and not use up money the boys will need for college, right?"

Barb said, "Oh, I had no idea you were so affected by what happened to Judy, Rob, and Bart, Luis. OK, those sound like good specs for a Third Alternative. Now we brainstorm, right? How about I make a really nice candlelight dinner at home?"

Step 3: Brainstorm!

Bart replied, "I really like the idea of candlelight, but how about if I take care of the money-saving? If I brown-bag lunch for the next two weeks, instead of going out with everyone else, that will save...wow!...at least $100. How much is the babysitter?"

"Maybe $30," Barb said.

Luis said, "I am going to put my old cameras on Craigslist. If they sell in time, we go to La Paz. If not, we go somewhere a bit less memorable, but nice."

Barb replied, "Luis, I love the idea of La Paz, but I don't have any dresses nice enough for there. A new outfit would cost way too much."

Luis said, "OK. One more specification for our Third Alternative. But let's not write off La Paz too quickly. Is there any inexpensive way to come up with a suitable outfit, assuming you would actually like to go to La Paz, that is."

"I would really love a romantic, candlelight dinner with you at La Paz on Valentine's Day, Luis. But where would I get an outfit?"

Luis said, "That's pretty much out of my league, but I would be happy to ask my sisters if they have any suggestions."

Barb said, "No, please don't impose on them, Luis."

"Asking for help with brainstorming is not very imposing, Barb. They both have pretty creative minds and lots of friends," Luis said.

"You're right! I could ask a couple of the gals at work for ideas, too. Whether it's La Paz or some place a little less expensive, I think this will be a memorable Valentine's Day just because of this discussion. Thank you, Luis. I'm really glad we learned how to find Third Alternatives when we disagree. If we get to La Paz for Valentine's Day as a result, I am a fan for life!"

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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