What love means to me has changed over the years. It was first that look my mom always gave me when I did something minorly spectacular. I see now it was pride — a way that only mothers see and know something is unique and matters. It was always the way Grandma Wanda hugged me close and directed me to my very favorite thing in the refrigerator. It was my sisters and their ability to be there no matter what for every important moment in my life and support me in my best moments and rip me a new one when they knew I could do better. It's my best friend who has this extraordinary ability to never remind me of my own mistakes. When I was a teenager I thought I found love a few times. It was puppy love and lust in combination — maybe that is its own sort of love. Love with training wheels. Love that is safe because when it all falls apart you will survive it in a way you may not survive grown up love.

Love now is spectacularly frightening. It's deep and sometimes it's hard. And sometimes it hurts and sometimes you're the one doing the hurting. The stakes are high. Love now looks like a man named Mike Bedgood who just took care of me for two epic and brutal days of what I will forever call the Evil Demon Virus. (Bonus: I'm now only one stomach flu away from my goal weight.) It's a man who knows how to cut my Gatorade to Smart Water ratio and rock our child and dress him and finish the Valentine's Day crafts I never really started. It's sprinkling cookies with heart-shaped candies.

And it's Wilder. O, Lord. It's Wilder. Love is this thing that my sister says feels so big you just kind of explode sometimes. And I do. Pretty often. Love is much less glamorous and yet much more spectacular than I could have imagined as a young girl.

The beauty of it, I see now, is the ability for love to be this real and beautiful thing right in the middle of the mundane. The endurance of love continues to blow me away. There are these grand love stories we grow up craving and seeking. My story with Mr. Bedgood was only dramatic when I infused it with such (I may be nuts, but he's the one who wanted to marry me — so what does that make him?) and yet I think it's a big love.

I have learned that love is something that can endure in even the harshest conditions, but for it to thrive it must be fed. My love has a big appetite. I've learned a few things about how to feed it especially once I became a mother.

I've learned that I need segregated time. I need time for me. I need time with Mike and I need time with Wilder. I don't do well without all three. I need time with my friends. I've realized as I grow that when I don't love myself I'm loathe to love anyone else. I've learned what it is to take care of me. It doesn't require a lot of money or fuss. I need to drive with the windows down all alone in my car with my favorite new song all the way up (Pompeii anyone?) and conference (gossip) on the phone with my sisters every single day. I need to have some time alone with God even if it's with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on in the background. I have to feed my soul. It may sound trite, but you should really give it a try.

We are born entirely centered on self with this ability to have our needs met without a word. Anyone who has dealt with an insistently crying baby knows these suckers are communicating however they can. At some point we unlearn how to take care of ourselves. At some point we decide that putting ourselves last is the noble thing. I see a lot of mommy martyrs. And maybe being a martyr would work if we weren't human. But, we are. At some point it all catches up. At some point you run out of fuel and you have nothing left to give.

Love begins with you. It's knowing what you can and can't take and fueling for the ride. Because it's going to be a long one. I once read a book from someone much wiser who said women should be the thermostat, not the thermometer. So, on this Valentine's Day I'm going to drive with the windows down and Bastille jamming on my way to get Mr. Bedgood's gift. And I'm going to love him in an epic way. Because life is short. And because I catch him constantly doing minorly spectacular things and never really thank him. This Valentines Day do something minorly spectacular for the people you love. Do a little something for you. And say a big thank you to all those people that have loved you along the way.

Thank you, Mr. Bedgood, for loving me in an epic way even when Im not so spectacular.

Just a few of the spectacular loves of my life: my mom and me (in hoodie towel),

my best friend Amanda, my sisters with Wilder and, of course, Mr. Bedgood. 

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