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Today was Valentine’s Day.

Today was a good day.

That second statement is important because, historically speaking, it has not always been true. In fact, last year, I accidentally forgot what day it was deliberately. You can read that story here. I usually feel a sense of dread about this day.

This year—not so much. In fact, not only did I not forget it, I embraced it, went out of the way to make it a special day in our home. We did not have school. We went to the Pfunky Griddle for breakfast, then trekked to the park where we hosted a lemonade stand and gave free cups to any who showed interest. We had a “photo shoot” day; a day where they dress up and bring their current favorite toys outside and pretend their models and I, their photographer. We also sat on the couch and giggled over nothing, watched youtube videos of Beech Bend, rejoicing as we were over our recently purchased Season Passes there.

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They each got a small gift–stuffed animals and chocolate. Really, that was it. In a lot of ways, it wasn’t anything very out of the ordinary for us. What was different was this feeling of contentment and peace riding inside me all day. Perhaps for the first year ever, really, I have genuinely seen this day as an opportunity to show love to anyone I care about and not primarily a significant other.

Instead of feeling alienated for being single, I felt full of joy. My life is what it should be. I have two little girls that are beautiful in every way and who are growing up entirely too fast. If I could make a wish on a star every night for a thousand years, I’d wish the same thing: for time to freeze. My attention is focused on more than romance; mine is one hundred percent focused on making sure I don’t yell at them, and that my touch is always gentle; mine is focused on unearthing their hearts’ desires so that I can motivate and encourage them to succeed.

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People warn me of “losing myself” in them. I know it is possible. The truth, though, is that I just don’t care. No, I’m not just a mother. I’m a daughter, a writer and a sister too. I’m a teacher and I’m woman. But the one that means the most is that I am a mother. As long as they go to sleep each night feeling loved and accepted and hopeful–then I can rest easy.

I have a hard time with convention. I often feel torn. I don’t like the conventional way of doing … Most anything. I’d rather teach a different way than is expected. I’d rather write stories that matter, even if it means I never reach the NY Times bestseller’s list, than write from a formula. I’d rather play with my children at the playground than socialize with adults. Still… Part of me has spent years trying to please. I want to be normal and to do things the “right” way. I want to meet expectations, not re-write them. All my life, I’ve been at war between the desire to think Tiffini-ishly and conventionally.

Valentina’s Day has been no exception. The reason I’ve faced this day with trepidation and dread is because, conventionally, something must be wrong in your life if you’re over 30 and single. That’s the lie I’ve been subscribing too. If I wasn’t in a romantic relationship, then something was wrong with me. The thing is, the older I get, the less I care because unconventionally, the Tiffini-ish way, I’m not missing something. I’ve writing my story my way. I’m not “out of love”— I’m surrounded by it every where I look.

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Both my girls wrote me a story and drew pictures for me for Valentine’s Day. They thanked me for the “best Valentines’s Day ever” and for being “the world’s best mommy.” They wrap precious, tiny arms around me every day. We play a game often, where we try to “love you the mostest.” What is love if it’s not defined by that?

While we were out today, a homeless man stood at the corner of the intersection. I gave him a $5. Ashe took it, he said: “Thank you, ma’am. God bless you and happy Valentine’s Day.” His voice was scratchy and hoarse–but clean and somber. I reached out to touch his life because, years ago, I made a promise to another homeless man to help those without shelter. Today, this homeless man touched my life by reminding me that it is when we give that we find value in life. A promise made, a promise kept, lives impacted. What is that, if not love? Most people search half their lives for “true love.” But the Tiffini-ish way of living searches for purpose and love’s glitter buried in the everyday rubble.

Valentines’s Day isn’t a day for couples. It is instead a day to acknowledge and appreciate the ways love in general has transformed my life. I have no idea who I would be if I were not a mother. I have no idea what would have happened to me if I didn’t get to play games like Elephant in the Jungle and go down slides. And, I don’t care. Because the love I have seen as a mother has healed and made my life blossom into something worthwhile and lovely instead. Of course it’s possible to have both: some people with children are also happily married. And instead of focusing on the depressing questions of “why not me,” I see this year how rich I already am.

It is easy to believe something is wrong with me. But the truth is… Something is wrong with all of us. No one is worthier or more beautiful. It’s when I stop to take stock of what I do have instead of what I don’t, of the friendships and relationships with family and friends and strangers that have shaped me into the person I am, that I see with clear eyes that the truest love is that which is given freely. And that, coincidentally, is the type I am fortunate to experience from those I love–and who love me.

Tomorrow, my oldest will get her first pair of glasses. In about a week, she will turn 9 years old. My youngest started reading this year– she just turned six. When the sun wakes up, they will both snuggle with me and talk of what they want to happen during the day and they will tell me what they dreamed. We will learn, we will play, and we will pass the day in a cocoon built of true love. At the end, when the sun goes to sleep, we aren’t made weak from the lack of romance; we are made beautiful as a newly hatched butterfly.

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And that makes the happiest Valentine’s Day of all.

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