To my best Valentines, my kids: Each one of you has taught me, in your own way, how to love. The four of you have given me almost daily lessons for the past 16 years on how to give love unconditionally and more importantly, how to accept it right back. I look at you guys (most of the time) and the love I feel fills me so completely that sometimes it's hard to breathe. I hurt when you hurt, I radiate joy when you do the same. Becoming a mother filled an empty spot in my heart. I am still learning how to be a good mom, some days the lessons come easier than others. Thank you for being so patient, so funny and so forgiving while I figure all of this out.
I cherish each of you and will do so til the end of time. I love you.
To my parents: Mom, you have been through a lot. There are days when I forget about the tender times between you and I, but when I close my eyes I am a little girl again and mommy is sitting on the bed with me, brushing my hair and telling stories. You never failed to tell me that I was beautiful and you always said "I love you". You have bailed me out more times than I can count, from letting me raid your freezer when we had no food to buying new tires for my truck to letting me use your credit card so I could take William to a hockey tournament. I love you, Mom.
Dad, you and I still aren't on good terms. My heart breaks when I think of the chasm of silence that lies between us. I remember your face when you held Charlie for the first time and thinking about that now causes a fresh batch of tears to run down my cheeks. You are a good- no, a great father and I hope that we are able to get past our stubborn differences and enjoy a healthy father/daughter relationship again. All girls need their daddy, I'm no different. I love you, Dad.
To my friends: Every single day for the past few years, I have been reminded what the word "friend" means. I don't know how I have ended up with such an amazing circle of people in my life, but I am grateful, so very grateful, to have each and every one of you around me. Parents start us out on the road of life, lovers ride along with us (sometimes the whole way, sometimes just for a while), kids sit in the backseat and ask "Are we there yet?" but your girlfriends always ride shotgun. In all honesty, I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for all of you. I love you, friends.
To my dog, Walter: I have no idea what your life was like before we met at the Humane Society, before you leaned against my legs and looked up at me with tired, sad eyes. We took you home and you curled right up into our family. You have been my faithful companion through lonely weekends. When I get home after a hard day, you are always, ALWAYS happy to see me. When I am feeling fat and lazy, you approach me, your red leash in your mouth and if you could talk you'd sound like Jillian Michaels and say "GET OFF YOUR ASS AND WALK ME!". When I ask you, "Where are the babies?" your ears perk up and you run to the window to see if the kids are home. For years before we met I'd talk about someday having a big yellow dog. I'm so glad it's you, Walter. I love you, sweet boy.
To everyone else: The teachers who have made differences in the lives of my kids, the neighbors who always have jumper cables and extra eggs and clip on ties for band concerts, my co-workers who make the best day at work even better, my landlord who gave me a chance and has provided us with a warm and cozy home for the past year, the anonymous souls who cared enough about a stranger to help make Christmas possible for four kids...anyone and everyone who has touched my life or the lives of my kids in a good way, thank you. Thank you for being there when I needed you.
And last but not least, to me: The past few years have been tough, and although things are looking up there will undoubtedly be a few more battles to survive. I'm still here, still breathing and still laughing. I don't think Valentine's Day is a "real" holiday, but it never hurts to tell the people in your life that you love them. Even yourself. So to myself, Happy Valentine's Day. May you always feel the love of those around you and may you always have the smarts and the ability to love them back.
A lot of single people hate this holiday, look at it as a bright red heart-shaped reminder of their singleness, of the lack of companionship. But I have learned that a Valentine isn't just a guy who takes you out to dinner and buys you flowers or gives you a card. A Valentine is someone in your life who loves you, and you love them in return. By those standards, I find myself with a plethora of Valentines. Thank YOU for being one of them.
Happy V-Day, my friends.