Dear Parents, Are You Tired Of Being Tired? Amen.

A slightly edited version of this blog was published today on Huffington Post Parents.

My face felt tight from a mixture of sticky old sunscreen and dried sweat.  Admittedly there was an unpleasant scent that surrounded me of which I was embarrassed.  Or at least I would have been embarrassed if I weren’t so damn tired.  I had spent most of my day outside at a school track meet which took many more hours than I had planned in my schedule.  And because of this poor planning on my part, I was also completely inappropriately dressed in a long skirt and a jeans jacket.  Sure, I could have removed the jeans jacket, but because of the Spanx tank top I was wearing under it, it would have been frowned upon by the other parents for sure.  Pasty white, untoned arms with a crazy tight tank (showing all kinds of curves and edges I don’t want anyone in public to see)? No thank you.

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It was worth it to see her run her 5:50 mile (personal best) at 11 years old.

So I did as we parents do every year at this time and I suffered through it (and, uh, sweat through my clothes in the process).  We spend hours out at the ball fields, in hot gyms, at field days, or at end of the year parties.  Those of us who work outside of the home leave the comforts of our air conditioned offices to stand out in the sun for hours before returning to work for a few more hours.  All the time feeling guilty because, after forgetting to bring a folding chair for the hundreth time, we realize just how much we would rather be anywhere but there.

It’s the time of year where parents are just exhausted.  And this week has been, well, even more exhausting-er than normal.

My normal annoyingly positive attitude is not sure how to handle the never-before-thought negative thoughts brewing inside my head this week.  My mind went into defense mechanism mode yesterday afternoon.  Seriously.  It just SHUT DOWN and I actually said to myself, “Thank God tomorrow is Friday.”  And it was only TUESDAY.  Nice coping mechanism, self, but just saying it doesn’t make it a reality.

My reality this week was spending most of the day on Monday with my kids and my ex-husband’s family at the visitation/funeral/burial of my children’s great uncle.  Divorce may be a divisive factor in our lives, but death brings us all back together.  It was a wonderful service for a man who had such a servant’s heart.  He was always there for anyone in need.  He was one of those people who just made you feel good by being around him.  As Maya Angelou said:

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#TRUTH

The funeral on Monday was emotionally exhausting and then Tuesday was physically exhausting.  I went to work for a few hours, then went to my daughter’s track meet for a few hours, then went by my attorney’s office to sign some paperwork, then went BACK to work for a few hours, then raced home to get my daughter’s basketball clothes/shoes and pick up my son, so we could race over to pick up my daughter from piano.  She changed in the car as we raced to basketball practice.  When the kids got out of the car to go into basketball practice, I realized it was the first silence I had experienced all day.  And it was after 6pm.

So what did I do with my free time?  I opened my brief case and pulled out some work.  <sigh>

Joe called to talk about dinner plans.  I guess I was a tad short with him because he said, “What’s wrong, honey?” I felt like I let all of the air out of my lungs as I said,

“I’M JUST….. SO……….. TIRED.  And I’m just so tired of being tired.”  

Catching some quick Z's after practice...

Catching some quick Z’s after practice…

It’s that time of year again.  The time of year where we all just do whatever we can to get by.  Jen Hatmaker’s blog that went viral last year, Worst End Of School Year Mom Ever, was absolutely the best verbalization of this feeling that we all feel every single year at this time.  We are just sick and tired of being sick and tired, so we just EXIST.  It’s that “existence” that is so hard for someone who takes pride in being on top of everything.  Instead of being my normal prepared self, I find myself wishing away time – praying for a little bit of something… something that I haven’t felt since last summer.  FREEDOM.

And I don’t mean freedom away from the kids, necessarily… I mean freedom to just NOT DO. 

We go, go, go, go all the days.  Our schedules are marked on and highlighted and color-coded as we race from one activity to the next or divide and conquer while kids have different activities in totally different cities.  We make it happen because like Maya Angelou said, we want our kids to remember how our dedication made them feel.

Children don’t feel love through the thousands of dollars worth of shoes you buy them or the expensive camps you send them to.  They feel love when they are out on the court and they look to the sidelines and see you give them a thumbs up.  They feel love when they fall on the field and they hear your familiar gasp from the sidelines as you say a quick prayer to God to make sure your child gets back up.  They feel love when they see you with flowers in the audience after a piano recital.  They feel love just spending time with you.  But most importantly, they will remember how your love and dedication in their lives made them feel.

It’s YOUR TIME they need the most. It’s that simple.

The best thing we can do for our kids and for ourselves is to get a quick re-charge.  Like when your AC stops blowing cold air and you need to re-charge the freon… we go so hard for so long that we just start blowing hot air all around.  And when we are blowing hot air around, we are of no use to anyone.  Especially our kids.

And right now I feel like I am blowing hot air EVERYWHERE…

This weekend we have no basketball tournaments and no plans.  I am already scheduling in my calendar (WITH A SHARPIE) the 12 hours of sleep I want to get on Friday night.  I may not even get out of my nightgown on Saturday THANK-YOU-VERY-MUCH!  Visions of kids laughing by the fire pit while watching outdoor movies are floating around incessantly in my head.  And I know that after having a restful weekend I will be back to the Val who everyone knows and loves, not the Val that everyone hides from because she may burn a hole through you with her exhausted/angry glare.  Not the mom with the ultra-short fuse.

I know that once I get my refresher weekend that I will again be the kind of person who encourages people… the kind of person who makes people smile and whose energy makes others feel good. That is the real Val.

THAT is how I want to be remembered.  

 

 

Updated Blog…

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Since my numbers are increasing daily, I am trying to make my blog more user-friendly… let me know what you think!  I would love any opinions on how to improve.  Plus I am making an editorial calendar, so I would love to hear more topic ideas from you all… You can email me ournewpartyofsix@gmail.com.

We’ve had a nice night tonight with all four kids here.  I’m feeling successful since I didn’t yell… much.  Yay me!  Boy, they are exhausting sometimes… wonderful, but exhausting.  At least everyone got their work done, played outside for a while and then sat together for a nice taco dinner prepared by my handsome (and always handy) husband.

Now it’s quiet.  Thank goodness it’s bedtime for all………….. but of course there is laundry to be done.  Sigh….

Blending A Family: Even When It’s Easy, It’s Still Hard

980510_554786311250296_1012210023_oThis was originally posted today on CarolinaParent.com.  Please go to their site and read the blog written by Carolina Parent editor, Odile Fredericks, titled “Seeking Help for Traumatic Teen years.”

It’s hard to believe that our new party of six is almost a year old., Overwhelmingly, it has gone a lot smoother than I expected. Our fears before May 11, 2013, were that the kids would not get along or that they would have adjustment problems. I was particularly concerned that my two kids would have trouble sharing me after having me to themselves for over eight years, and I was concerned that Joe’s kids would view me as a threat to their loyalty to their mother.

After almost a year I can proudly say that neither of those fears came to fruition. Comparatively speaking to other nightmare unions you hear about, it’s been relatively easy. There has been very little fighting between the kids. Joe and I have only had one true argument that was completely blended family related, but that argument helped us remember that we are a team … our marriage is a priority. The past year has mostly been filled with good memories and fun times.

At the same time, it has been the hardest year of my life.

There has been more of so much in my life. More time planning and scheduling of our lives. More laundry to be done on a daily basis. More money spent on food and vacations and activities. More activities to attend. More arguments to diffuse, and more people to tuck in bed. More people to love, and more people to discipline. Did I mention more laundry? Overall, there is just more to fit in an already short week while taking into account an ever revolving door as I coordinate different custody schedules and different school schedules with different activity schedules.

I have to begin preparing for the following week before the current week is even complete, and planning my schedule is much more complex that it sounds. I have to sit down and make sure my schedule is in line with the Google calendar that my ex-husband and I share with the kids. I usually have to email their dad and their stepmom to see what else needs to go on the calendar for that week and to make sure there is not a change in the calendar that needs to be made. I then have to email my babysitter to let her know her responsibilities for the week and then take that same email, change the font to red, and superimpose my husband’s responsibilities into the email before sending that on to him. Even writing the process for planning is exhausting, which makes it no wonder why the two ladies in the Target line early Sunday morning looked at me with such pity when I said, “I have four kids.”

While there has been more, it also feels like there has been less of some things. Less time to focus on our relationship as a couple, and less time to focus on our individual relationships with each child. Less privacy and less alone time (something I crave at times). Less free time to just relax, and less time to focus on hobbies (it’s hard to go to the gym when you have three kids at practices in different locations on the same afternoon).

It also seems like there is less respect for others as each of us has tried to find our own place in our new family. This has been especially trying with two of the kids being teenage boys. It’s hard to know if some behavior is due to the change in our family structure or the change in hormones. Either way, it’s a constant work in progress to stay on top of and eliminate selfishness.

There are no easy roles in a blended family. We the parents are typically the bad guys, but what I have learned over the past year is that the strength in our relationship is what will bring us through this. Even parents who are still together can vouch that the teenage years are tough on everyone. Just like in those families, we will get through it together as husband and wife. It has become clear that not everyone is going to be happy all the time, but we must treat each other with respect and kindness so we can pull through these years relatively unscathed.

Growing together as a blended family has not been without its drama and difficulties, but the power struggles we face are helping us to become even closer as a family. Each day we are all finding our place, and I just know that the best is yet to come.

Lesson From The Wave

 

Durham Bulls

The Durham Bulls had their opening night last night and it was so much fun! We only had two of our kids, so we had a smaller crew than normal, but it was a great time.  The sounds, the sights, the smells… and a W for the Bulls!!!! We have mini-season tickets, but since this game wasn’t included in our package we sat in the outfield.  I can say one thing with certainty, there was a lot of interesting people-watching going on!  I like our regular seats better because there aren’t many people in front of us, which allows me to focus my attention on the actual game rather than the people around me.

Hattie really wanted to get the wave going, so she was thrilled when a boy sitting near us decided to take matters into his own hands.  We always participate in the wave, but it was fun to see it close up from the start.

When the wave starts, you only have a small group of people who stand up, wave their arms and yell.  Each time they start the wave, it goes a little farther.  Then a little farther… until you have this:

This made me think about the snowball effect of negativity in divorce.  It may start out small with you nitpicking small transgressions you feel your ex is guilty of doing, but it can quickly get out of control with you becoming obsessed with bringing everything that you think he/she is doing wrong to light.  Usually this is actually done with good intentions.

This constant barrage of insignificant transgressions will only cause you to be miserable as you perceive the transgressions as personal attacks on you.  And one thing I have learned for sure in my life is that if I let things bother me based on the actions of other people, I am letting them win.  Not only that, but I am miserable while they continue to be happy.

I explained this concept to one of my girls the other day when she was talking about something that someone did that “made her angry.”  I told her that she couldn’t let someone else’s actions make her feel bad.  She has to choose to let it go (yes, that was my motto well before Frozen came out).  My example to her was, “You are going to make yourself miserable thinking about it while she could be having the happiest, best day of her life!”  Her response was, “Not if I tell her how it makes me feel.” And I said, “But she may not care, so it will make you feel even worse.”  LET IT GO…

In divorce, we have to learn to let things go that we may not want to let go and we need to choose our battles.  You and your ex are not going to agree on things.  Take that to the bank.  But you have to choose to let things go so that you can be happy and move on with your life.  You have to stop the wave before it takes off and focus on your own happiness.

I often admit my own inadequacies when I write, which is what a lot of people say they enjoy about my blog… and I do admit that I remember the days when I used to email my ex about things that my kids would tell me as soon as they came back from his home.  I remember being infuriated with him and I remember him saying (a phrase I heard often that would only infuriate me more), “Per usual you don’t know what you are talking about.”  Ouch… I had verbalized in bullet points my argument based on something the kids told me and I got… gulp, THAT.

It took a while, but after being blown off enough in my quest to be heard by him I realized it wasn’t worth the energy or the anger.  I was furious and he couldn’t care less about how I felt.  What was the point??? I felt bad and he probably didn’t think another thought about it.

If you know someone who is in the throes of divorce, don’t be a negative advocate who only fans the flames of anger by telling them things you hear or encouraging them to “teach him/her a thing or two.”  The best friend you can be would be to encourage them to move along… transcend…. choose their battles... let it go.  If you can help them refocus and remember the good that has come, then maybe they can stop focusing on the negative.  You can help them stop the wave of negativity that has taken over their lives.  Change is very difficult, so they will need your support.

I need to change my eating habits, so I would appreciate some support on that if you’re in the helping mood…

Yep... lunch today. Eeek.

Yep… lunch today. Eeek.

 

 

How Do You Want To Be Remembered?

ournewpartyofsix:

I’m re-posting this blog today because it has been the most searched topic recently…

So tell me, how do YOU want to be remembered?????

Originally posted on Life in a Blender...:

581982_10152083989349879_68966653_n A couple of years ago, while visiting the beautiful city of Charleston, I toured some of the old graveyards that are sporadically located throughout downtown.  As I slowly wandered around and read all of the epitaphs, I wondered how I will be remembered someday.  What are the things that I do that my friends and family will miss most?  How do I want to be remembered?

My friends can vouch for me when I say that I am a firecracker.  Yes, I have heard that more than a few times in my life.  I often speak without a filter, I have been known to have one too many drinks on occasion, I am passionate (and vocal) about everything important to me, and my laugh can be heard from rooms away.  And I laugh a LOT.  My famous last words are usually, “Can we have just one more?”  I don’t like…

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Dear Summer, BRING IT.

I’ve always heard that things have to get worse before they can get better.   If that’s the case, then I have never been more ready for the “BETTER” to arrive.  As you most likely read in my post, I’m Wearing Mascara Again, I have been dealing with some life changing situations that have been very difficult for me emotionally.  Add to that sick kids who brought home some sort of plague-like respiratory virus that has put me to bed since last Monday and you can understand why I have been a little MIA as of late.

I’m beginning to think that winter is just not my best time of the year.  It seems that every winter something has happened that has caused me to wish and crave for the spring/summer.  Two years ago I fainted in my driveway in January and felt like I had hit rock bottom, then Joe and I reconnected in March and, well, here we are.

As I said in the Divorce Care Package feature on The Huffington Post Divorce site, the beach is my “happy place” that helped me for years as I was struggling with my divorce.  Since then it has become the place where Joe and I were able to build our relationship.  Every weekend we didn’t have kids, we headed to the beach.  Since I feel the most peace and happiness at the beach, it only makes sense that I relate those same happy feelings with summertime.

This winter has had its share of troubling issues.  Things have come to light in different aspects of my life that have been difficult for me to process and understand.  We have also just changed up our custody schedule so that my kids are now spending 50/50 with both their dad and me.  While I think this change will be positive for them (or I would have never agreed to it), they have been primarily with me for almost ten years now.  Change can be a good thing, but it’s not always easy to swallow when it means less time with your kids.  Thankfully I will still see them every day since they will come home from school to my house like normal and we stay in close contact even when they are with their dad.

That change affects us all because now my schedule is all crazy mixed up… and you guys KNOW how I feel about the importance of an organized schedule!!!!!  Now all of a sudden we have Monday nights with no kids, Tuesday nights with my kids, Wednesday night with my step-kids, and Thursday night with all four kids together.  This makes dinner planning a little different, but it’s nothing I can’t handle once I get used to the new way.

Emotionally I have been okay with this, although I have been struggling a little with the fact that my son and my step-son will be finished with middle school and will be going to high school in a few short months.  I may or may not have cried the entire way home from high school orientation (and proceeded to sign the boys up to attend a study skills boot camp one Saturday because I was scared straight about how intense high school can be).  And before I could even wrap my brain around the fact that they will both be in driver’s ed before I can possibly accept it, my son blindsided me.

My son has decided that he wants to go to high school out where his dad lives.  That may not seem like a big change, but I live in the heart of the city and their dad lives on a farm 25 minutes out in the country.  It has been a great experience for the kids to have the best of both worlds, but it blew me away that he wants to leave his friends to go out to school where he knows no one.  While my first instinct was to put my foot down and disallow it, I immediately felt a tremendous amount of pride at the job that his father and I have done.

How impressive that my 14 year old was brave enough to talk to me about something that you know could not have been easy for him.  He was very non-emotional and just discussed it with me.  While I admittedly didn’t handle it with as much grace as he, I was impressed with his candor and his strength in sharing his desires.  I may not agree with him, but I am going to stand behind him.  I would much rather he try it out and see how he does, then prohibit it and leave him resentful that I wouldn’t allow it.

Maybe it was my weakened immune system due to the stress of visiting schools and making major decisions, but last week I was hit by a truck.  At least it felt like a truck, but it was a potent kid virus.  I have literally been in bed since last Monday.  Needless to say, being sick makes me emotional and since I was ALREADY emotional, the past week has been a beast.

The one redeeming factor of the week was dragging myself out of bed on Saturday night to take the kids and grandmothers to our favorite Japanese restaurant to celebrate birthdays.  Although I couldn’t eat much since the smells were so potent, it was wonderful to be in the land of the living again… and even more wonderful to surprise all four kids with our planned trip to Disneyworld in June!  Seeing their excitement and knowing that summer will be here before we know it has lifted me out of the emotional fog I have been in.

Now I can go back to focusing on the important things in life.  No, NOT FACEBOOK (I gave up FB for Lent).

FAMILY.

I want to spend every second I can breathing in every moment of my kids.  It makes my heart ache to think about only having four more years with our boys under our protective wings, so instead I am going to focus every ounce of my energy on enjoying every second with them until then.   I want to stop worrying about the small stuff.  I want to laugh at their silly jokes and enjoy them harassing each other in the car.  I want to try to remember every second, because I have learned to accept that there aren’t that many before they are out of our nest.

 

 

 

 

Divorce Care Package – Huffington Post Divorce

Posted today on Huffington Post Divorce.

If there’s ever a time you need a little distraction in your life, it’s during the divorce process. That’s why we launched our Divorce Care Package series. With each post, we’ll show you what things — books, movies, recipes — helped others relieve stress in the midst of divorce, in the hopes that a few of their picks will serve you well, too. Want to share what got you through your divorce? Email us at divorce@huffingtonpost.com or tweet @HuffPost Divorce

These days, writer Valerie DeLoach is happily remarried and busy blogging about blended family on her site, Life In A Blender. But for a long time before that, she was a divorced mom of two figuring out how to get her bearings after years of being married.

“What really got me through my divorce is hope,” she told us. “Not necessarily hope to find a man, but hope that the everything is going to be okay. Although I stayed a single mom for almost nine years, I knew that God had a plan for me that would be extraordinary. I was right!”

Below, DeLoach shares a few things that inspired her to move forward after her divorce, from a much-needed trip to New Orleans, to a sticky note that told her everything she needed to know about co-parenting with her ex.

Why ‘Choose Your Battles’ Became My Rallying Cry After Divorce

I’m Wearing Mascara Again

I’m sorry I haven’t posted a blog since February 28th.  Although everyone who knows me knows that I am annoyingly optimistic and cheerful, I have been struggling over the past couple of weeks with self doubt, a touch of heartache and a boatload of fear.  I’m not ready to share the details, but would appreciate whatever prayers and good vibes and happy thoughts that you can throw my way.

So many people keep telling me, “You need to give it over to God and let Him handle it.”  I don’t know about you, but that certainly sounds like the best way to handle any problem… but the true issue is HOW to give it over to Him.  How do I just say, “Here God… I’m not thinking about this anymore”?

Granted, throughout my life it seems that good things always come from the doors that have closed in my life.  After my divorce, I moved to Greenville where I quickly got a good job with Bank of America Mortgage (just by starting a conversation with a random stranger at the cell phone store).  That led me to a transition job with SunTrust Mortgage that bought me time while I applied to law schools.  Once I got into law school, the kids and I were able to move back to Raleigh where they could be closer to their dad.  Since law school tried to kill me, I left after three semesters and had a new job working with a political consultant less than a week later.  After a year, I was offered a position where I work now (which is where I briefly interned while in law school).   All of this brought me back to Raleigh and kept me here long enough to reconnect with Joe (who dated one of my friends in high school)… and now we have been blissfully married for ten months today.  As I have blogged about before, HAPPY BEGETS HAPPY BEGETS HAPPY.

Sure we have had our share of insignificant struggles, but none of those compare to the darkness I feel as though I am facing now.  Decisions must be made that affect much more than me and they have far-reaching consequences for which I don’t want to be responsible.  I have been praying incessantly and I have cried more than I would care to admit, but the fact of the matter is every single day I feel more at peace in my heart.  Every day I feel like things are going to be just fine.  Every day I feel more and more comfort in knowing that whichever way this goes, we are all going to be fine.

I guess that is God at work in me – giving me peace when I have none and giving me comfort when I doubt.  I am so thankful for all of my many blessings and I need to focus on that.  I have transcended before and can do it again.

On Saturday, I wore mascara for the first time in two weeks.  I explained that significance to a friend of mine by saying, “Wearing mascara proves that I have not cried today and, more importantly, it proves I started the day with no INTENT of crying.”

Baby steps.

Sharing Toothbrushes & Whatnot…

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Our kids – LOVE THEM

We have survived almost ten months now as a newly blended family with little to no internal friction.  A couple of small bumps in the road, but no devastating crashes.  Pretty good for having a house with two teenage boys and two pre-teen girls who live in pretty close quarters.

Who wouldn't want to hang out in this room all the time????

Who wouldn’t want to hang out in this room all the time????

I won’t say “tight quarters” because although the boys share a room and the girls share a room, they are unquestionably large rooms.  The girls have two double beds in their room and still have plenty of extra room to lounge around and watch tv or play games.  The boys have bunk beds with a sofa and coffee table set up in their room – the perfect Xbox set-up for teen boys.  So they are definitely not suffering in any sense.

They do, however, all have to share the jack & jill bathroom that is between their rooms.

Four kids. Two sinks.  That wouldn’t seem like a big deal, but it also means four kids and four toothbrushes.  Recipe for disaster… Last week one of the kids was brushing their teeth (I will be vague so no one feels like they are being made fun of).  Another child also went to brush teeth and was confused when their toothbrush wasn’t where it was supposed to be.  It was quickly realized it was because the other child was using it to brush their teeth!! Ewwwwwww.  Everyone was REALLY grossed out and I ended up having to give new toothbrushes to pretty much everyone in the house JUST IN CASE.

Four kids. One toilet.  Thankfully this hasn’t been a big deal because two of our kids leave for school just as the other two are waking up, so different wake times usually mean different potty times.  There are the occasions where I wake to hear quiet footsteps on the hardwood floors in our bedroom and see one of the kids standing near the bed with a deer in headlights expression.  I then hear the whisper, “There’s someone in our bathroom.  Can I use yours?”  We are still trying to figure out why they don’t just go downstairs to another bathroom, but whatever.

Four kids. One shower.  Fifty thousand towels.  I kid you not, THEY GO THROUGH SOME TOWELS.  We recently picked up 18 towels at one time.  18 towels between four kids.  And Joe, the obsessive laundry guy (THANK GOD), does laundry pretty much every single day, so they were towels accumulated over just a few days.  One of the kids said, “I don’t like to reuse towels because I always think someone else used the towel after me. That’s gross.”  Ironically, that was the same child who had someone else’s toothbrush in their mouth.  Nice try.

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I’m a smart girl…

Being the problem solver I am, I resolved the “towel drama” by pulling out my old Bernina embroidery machine and each child now has two personalized towels to use each week.  They are responsible for hanging them up and no one is allowed to use anyone else’s towel.   It’s been working beautifully for a few weeks now!

Overall, the blended family experience for us all has been wildly successful.  Sure we have had to institute more rules in the house – with double the family, there becomes double the responsibility.  Everyone must carry their own weight, which has been a struggle for one child specifically.   We’ve instituted allowance, but rather than be happy that they now get paid in addition to the new rules, they are mad at how we “handle their money.”  Huh.  We also have more activities with four kids, so we all go to more stuff now… which again can be a major source of angst for a teenage boy who is all about his own wants and needs.  So we are working on it.  Considering it hasn’t even been a year yet, we are doing just fine. It’s constant give and take… and I know that someday the kids will realize just how good we have it.

I’m thankful for every second we have with each of them because it won’t be long before they are driving and out the door…  I may be a hot mess heap of hysteria at that time, so I will enjoy every single second of toothbrush/bathroom/towel drama until that day.  Then Joe and I will sit in our rocking chairs on the porch in New Bern looking out over the river and we will laugh remembering how much fun each and every day was with our party of six.

There Is No “Step” In My Love For Her…

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I stayed up long after my family went to bed last night just so I could decorate the kitchen for Valentine’s Day.  We have been snowed in here in North Carolina since Tuesday, so I had to think of a homemade way to tell my family just how much they mean to me on this special day.

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They ARE my life… nothing else matters.

I made a heart for each person in my family and I wrote all the things that I love about them.  On Joe’s, I wrote a letter telling him all of the many reasons I love him.  This is the heart I made for my daughter Crawford:

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So many people have a cynical view of Valentine’s Day, but even though I have spent most of my life not celebrating it with a “Valentine,” I see it as such a joyous celebration of love and life.  It’s a day that makes me want to be even kinder to everyone I encounter – whether it be at work or Starbucks.  No matter who you are, you know that it feels good to be loved.

When my husband walked out of the bedroom this morning, I literally popped up in bed with a smile.  I can’t explain the joy I felt just knowing that he would feel loved when he walked into the kitchen and saw his heart.  I reached over and read an email telling me about the death of my friend’s husband who has been fighting cancer.

My heart fell… and it fell far.

What a juxtaposition of feelings I was feeling.  The joy of love and life.  The sadness of loss and death.  All within a few moments.  My sweet husband brought me breakfast in bed soon after and all I could do was think about my friend losing her husband… on Valentine’s Day.  It certainly set the stage for a pretty sad day.

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He loves me…

It was slow moving this morning as I got ready for work.  I started letting everything bother me.  I got sad thinking about not having my daughter and son with me on Valentine’s Day.  Silly, I know.  It’s not like it’s a “major holiday,” but I was disappointed just the same. My heart was feeling very weighted down.

Then my sweet step-daughter came skipping into my bathroom and said, “Do you want to dress up with me today?”  She wanted to wear a heart bathrobe and a pink hairbow to go to work with me.  In a quick dismissal I said, “It’s a place of business, so we need to look nice.”  As she walked out of the room looking disappointed, I decided in that moment that I couldn’t let the bad news ruin my entire day.  I needed to live my day to the fullest and do whatever I could to make the day a little better for someone, ANYONE, else.

So Hattie and I headed in to work and she said, “Since I am not at school today and can’t tell all my classmates Happy Valentine’s Day, I am going to tell everyone I see Happy Valentine’s Day from this point on…”

And she did.

For the rest of the day, that sweet girl said “Happy Valentine’s Day” to EVERYONE she encountered.  One of my co-workers took her down to get cupcakes for the office and she said it to every person in the cafe (including my boss – who she didn’t know was my boss).

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Yummy cupcakes from Cafe Carolina

When we left work, she spoke to every person we passed on the way to the car.  Once in the car, she yelled out the window to people on the side of the road and people pumping gas.  She said it to the homeless man sitting alone in the corner at Starbucks.  She said it to the old couple getting in their car next to us.  Here is a quick video I took: http://youtu.be/jQJrw8OAFso.

She had said she would stop once she got to 30, but once she got to 30 she said, “You know how sometimes you have extra valentines, so you give those out too?  I’m going for the extra.”

SHE MADE MY DAY.  And not to mention she made the day of numerous people all over Raleigh.  And all by showing just a little bit of kindness and a smile.  And that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about.  It’s not about romantic love.  It’s about showing those around us love and by showing those we love just how much we love them.  THAT is what it’s all about.  It’s about making others feel good.  It’s about spending time when people. It’s about telling our family and friends WHY we love them.

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My valentine for my dashingly handsome husband….

Tonight at dinner, when my step-daughter said to my husband, “We had the best day ever,” I realized just how much joy she brought to my day.  And then she looked at me and said, “I have a poem for you for Valentine’s Day: Roses are red, violets are blue, Yes I have a big smile, but you do too.”

Yes, sweet girl.  I do tonight and it is because of you…