Happy Valentine’s Day, Darlings.

Hey lady-

Yeah, you. You with those beautiful blue eyes and that crazy hair that somehow manages to fall into place naturally, even with it’s wavy flair. You with that giggle that responds to anyone’s attempt at make you smile – from the kid you volunteer with to a man who tries to steal your attention. You with that blog where you right open-endedly and truthfully. You who allows yourself to be vulnerable with strangers, displaying what you feel and what you think for anyone who clicks to read. You who landed that oh-my-god-so-amazing-you’re-still-pinching-yourself dream job in August. You who was brave enough to walk away from someone you really loved because you loved yourself more. You who has the most incredible, dependable and outrageously hilarious friends who stand by you, no matter what. You who set your mind to living in New York City – and damn it – you did it, girl. You who I’m so, so, so proud of. You, who made it happen, by never missing a beat or fearing the future because you set that pretty little mind to it, and you, pretty little thing, knew you’d get there.  You with those curves and those hips, that runner’s booty and that’ womanly-ness that men love. You who shouldn’t give yourself a hard time for being a little round around the edges – you were made to turn head with that femininity because damn girl, you own it! You who deserves – and will one day find – the greatest love of all. You, who even if you kinda hate the word, is ever so nice. To those you know, to those you don’t, to those who deserve it and those who take it for granted. You who was born to survive, born to thrive, born to take this place and this space by storm. You who glitters with gold but shimmers like silver, believing in the best and knowing with all that you are, that you can make it through the worst. You who is generous with your words and your time, with your mind and most importantly with the thing that makes you so gorgeous — your heart. Lady – that’s the most radiating thing about you. It always beats. It always believes. It takes a moment to write a handwritten note to a friend who’s had a rough time and it pauses to let the elderly pass before you. It hopes and it hears, it keeps you strong and reminds you of your tears. It comes up with the loveliest rhymes and it remembers the things that are the most important. And the most fragile. It’s so strong, even when it can’t tell right from wrong. It breaks sometimes and it’s felt destroyed for an hour or so, here-and-there, but it keeps going. It keeps you going. It keeps those eyes shining through it all, and it’s what makes people love you. You, lady, are so impressive. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Don’t let anyone take away that fire or stomp on that sparkly heart. It’s truly, magically, profoundly – one of a kind. And so are you. Go get ’em Tigar – you’re just getting started. Happy Valentine’s Day. I love ya – Linds, New York, NY

Dear lovely me, Hello, gorgeous. You are looking adorable today. You radiate such strength & love in your small frame, & the whole world recognizes it. This year has been a doozy for your little heart, but no matter what….you are able to piece it all together again & grow wiser. I love the person you are–every curve, freckle, curl, & smile. & I know love is in your near future, because that’s the energy you’re putting out there….& good things really do come to good people. Let’s just hope YOUR good thing loves tacos & “Parks & Recreation” as much as you do. Keep on shinin’, precious girl. xoxo – Michelle, Asheville, NC

This Valentines day you will be with your boyfriend. Do not set any expectations which are either too high or even too low. Expect nothing so that you can be surprised and love him because he loves you too. Enjoy yourself and keep in mind to value yourself because you are strong, independent and have come a long way. After all is said and done, you have many things to be proud of. Especially be proud by being able to leave the past behind and working on a better, happier future. – McKenzie, Canada

You are quirky, independent, and a bright, bright star that shines her sense of humor into other’s hearts. not many may understand you, and hell, sometimes you don’t understand yourself. but have you ever thought about the positives of that scenario? there is always something new to discover about yourself. the adventures that you partake in open your eyes to the realization that you can accomplish so much more than you ever dreamed of. i am so proud of you! you are beautiful. you truly are. some days you may feel unpretty but your soul never is. your soul is a pure light with golden undertones that sparkles silently inside of you but its vibrations make their way into you heart and out into the world. now that we are on the topic of your heart… yes, its been broken, bruised, absolutely torn apart but its also mended itself into a heart that has become even more beautiful with the damage. please, do me a favor, open it a little bit more. when you feel safe and secure, open it again. and again. and again. love endlessly. give your trust to people when they give you a reason to trust them. and slowly start rebuilding the walls around your soul and heart. when i say rebuilding, i mean completely destroy the walls made of steel, stone, and radioactive materials. rebuild them with something less intimidating. rebuild those walls with materials that allow pure spirits to flood into your heart. rebuild those walls with force fields that deflect all negative thoughts and people. you are a goddess. a curvy, curly-headed goddess, that can twist into all those insane yoga positions. you are intelligent. you are going to excel in your career and give “zealous representation” a whole new meaning. be strong and demand respect from everyone, especially yourself. make sure your family knows much you love them. the same goes for your friends. i promise that one day you will be swept off your feet and you will know why it didn’t work out with anyone else. i know its hard but keep your head up and your standards high. its ok to be lonely. use this time to love yourself in every way that you can. you are prepared for amazing things to happen and you can handle it. so don’t you worry your pretty little mind. people throw rocks at things that shine. xoxo – Chelsea, Charlotte, NC

You are beautiful with ocean blue eyes and long red hair and cinnamon freckles sprinkled here and there. An unusually loud laugh is what they say, but you don’t care you laugh anyway. Smart, witty, funny and caring but not always very good at sharing. A daughter, sister, girlfriend and mother, blessed by those who really love her. Strong and determined with a plan, your going to make it with or without a man. So take comfort girl, in knowing thy self, a simple life of happiness and health. –Stacy, Missouri

Happy Valentines day to the person I have truly learned to love, to the person who has unwavering strength, compassion, and generosity. You have so much to be proud of, especially in forgiving yourself for any flaws and in forgiving your ex for all of the heartbreak. Today, I celebrate finding a new type of happiness in myself, a fabulous group of friends, and a lasting love in myself. Because at the end of the day, I really am enough. – Alex, Arlington, VA

you amaze me | always have | always will beautiful | confident | full of life never compromising | always striving those words you left | scrawled on the floor were never for him | nor the rose | nor the love every moment | when you said “i love you” what you really meant was “i love me” – Bianca, Mount Pleasant, PA

I love you for who you were, who you are and the YOU that is yet to come! You are beautiful, smart, witty and kind. You are blessed with the best daughter and husband on earth, both your special Valentines! You give to others from the heart and it comes back to you 1,000 times over in friendships, family, kind words and helpful hands. Happy Valentines Day to you! I am proud of you! – Kim, Asheville, NC

Please know that you’re better than the crappy financial situation you’re in now…it will get better. it has to because too many people think i rock and appreciate me. so forget the ones who don’t appreciate me. they don’t matter. start seeing yourself as those who love you see you. look at yourself through their loving eyes rather than your own self-loathing. realize that richard loves me. he loves me as best he can with his own human fallacies. he does listen. he does care. relish in the good he brings to my life and release the crap he does that makes me feel unspecial because i AM special. in his own way he knows it so any hesitation on his part in any way is a sign of his own lacking, not mine, for i offer him my heart, my soul, my laughter, my joy, my shared adventures. he does the same, remember that. again, he does but in his way. he is smart, opinionated, strong, sexy but i am all those things too! that’s why we merge so well. relish those moments with him that allow me to breathe, laugh, transcend limitations on many levels. relish the true me he encourages. release the toxic crap from my nasty family. stop allowing them to enter my headspace because they aren’t in my life so stop that bleeding. instead, heal now. this instant. HEAL and GROW and get a grip on my life again. no more slipping into abyss of worse and worse debt. instead, focus on regaining my wonderfulness and my footing in my career. pay back those who have shown me generosity. may god bless them for their compassion towards me when my own family doesn’t care. thank god for my mom who does care and love me. relish the good. release the bad. accept what is. change what is changeable then release the rest. AMEN. now go eat some organic raw vegan dark chocolate. it’s valentine’s day, you deserve it! – Lisa, New York, NY

This valentine is to you and ONLY you…yes it has been a few years since you have had a “real” valentine but who cares! You have so many people who love you and care for you. they may not always show it when you want them 2 but when you need them the most they are usually there. What i LOVE about you is that you are finally starting to become the women you have been working so hard to achieve. I can see the changes you have made over the past year and i am HAPPY with your choices and the women you are starting to become. You dont need a man to be happy and you have found that! even though it took you a little bit to take the focus off of trying to find HIM and putting all that time and effort into your own new projects! Over the past year and a half you have learned to survive and love yourself. In the world the only person you can depend on 100% is yourself (and of course God) and you are learning to do that and become less dependent on those around you for emotional or verbal support. You will ALWAYS be fearless and fabulous. You are stating to make a statment and make your own rules in life. You have started so many new great things that are helping you make a name for yourself and so many great things will finally fall into place. Your hard work is paying off and it will continue to pay off. So here i am saying happy heart day to you and lets have a toast…and a few shots…to US. and hopefully you will be having these drinks with some of your fav gurls and dont forget to just enjoy life! Dont forget this years motto…”Laugh, Love, and Live without regrets”. One day…yes one day (hopefully sooner than later) HE will come along and be all that you want plus more. So put those thoughts of HIM on the back burner and focus on school and your other new projects. It will all work out. i promise :-) –Stephanie, Kirksville, Missouri

Dear Me, Thank you for finally comitting to loving every dimple, every curve, and everything you deam as a flaw. I know this is corny but, you are beautiful the way you are and I think over the past year we’ve created an unbreakable bond. You finally not only believe but also love what you see in the mirror instead of condeming us behind closed doors. You hold your head a little higher and your confidence is no longer faked. Thank you for trusting in me, thank you for now trusting that the rest of the pieces, the rest of your life, will fall in place just as it should. I know it’s not easy but rest assured there is no thought, no fear, no regret that I don’t understand and won’t let you go through alone. Think about how far you’ve come girl and use this day to keep pushing yourself forward. –Sarah, Portland, Oregon 

I love how you can smile all the time. I love how you work hard and focus. I love how you can love yourself. I love how you strive for positivity (though this may be a bit recent). I love your desire for more. I love how you can feel less awkward around others than you did years before. You, my dear, are amazing no matter what. –Anonymous 

You may not be the smartest, or the prettiest, you may not have the greatest job, or a loving boyfriend.  You may not live on your own, in a cute little apartment.  You are not the best cook and yes you have flaws – but don’t we all ?  You may not have all of the things in life that you`d like, but for once in your life you are genuinely happy.  You are beautiful, and determined, you are kind and patient.  You care about others more than most and love to see people happy.  You go on roadtrips, spend time with your family and spend money on things just because you want it. While many of your friends are getting married and having babies you are seeing the world, volunteering for things that are important to you, and planning for a big move.  You focus on loving everyone who is around you and most importantly you have learned to love yourself.  This past year has taught you many things and you have seen lots of heartache, but you are alive and healthy and living.  You have found true friends, kept them close, learned who was using you and moved on from old relationships.  Most importantly you have learned that happiness is not a destination but it is in fact a mood.  You will have days where you are sad but you`ll watch a sad movie, cry your eyes out and wake up ready to conquer a new day with a new attitude.  So go out tonight with your friends, enjoy staring at Channing Tatum for an entire movie, treat yourself to some popcorn and enjoy a normal Tuesday night out.  You are wonderful just the way you are and one day you`ll find a man who will bend over backwards to make you his. Happy Valentines day to all you other love addicts out there :) – Christina, Cleveland, Ohio

I know you have been alone on Valentine’s Day every single year of your life because the one time you had a boyfriend you broke up before Valentine’s Day. But that is okay, because there is a guy out there waiting for you and he will be even more than you could have hoped for, and then when you finally get to spend Valentine’s Day with that special man you will know that the wait was worth it. So stay strong, because God has someone waiting :) – Leslie, Asheville, NC

Your snappy hilarity, your long legs and lashes, those green eyes that see into the most private of souls – these are the things I love most about you, and I am yet to meet anyone quite like you. Blessed am I to be in your skin. xx –Maria, Melbourne, Australia 

It’s amazing how you try to never lose your faith in God’s plan. Not only have you taken everything in the past three years in stride and kept your focus, now you’re taking even bigger steps to make some dreams come true. Never be afraid of greatness and never settle for ordinary. Always remember that the absence of change is death, so embrace the tides that are shifting in 2012. Keep your head high and know you’re stronger than you might feel. Your heart is going to stay true and you’re going to be safe, supported and protected where ever life takes you. Even though you do have a great boyfriend, part of the joy of writing this is knowing that you’re strong enough on your own that you’re not dependent–he is a wonderful addition to an already fabulous life. Never let yourself have to feel otherwise, simply always be grateful for what he adds. So share a lot of appreciation for him today—but also love on yourself. As a typical Libran, I know you’re often giving and ignoring what you feel or need, or looking for ways to make others happy first–and you have to remember all of the awesomeness you are and the fortitude you’ve shown yourself over the last year. My dear, you’re really coming into your own. –Ashley, Winston-Salem, NC

Go get ’em girl. – Anonymous 

When the new year started, you deemed it as “The Year of Me”. You vowed to yourself that you would not let people bring you down, get in your way or make you feel inferior. From that moment, you dedicated this year to self improvement and creating a happy life for yourself. You are a beautiful, funny, compassionate individual with so much self worth- though it’s entirety has yet to be discovered. Keep seeing the potential each day offers, focusing on the good and finding reasons to smile. You’re not too old to make a difference, though the thought crosses your mind far too often. Your heart and what it has to offer has plenty of time to seep into others. Your experiences and passion to help and guide people will only grow. So, on this Valentines Day- love yourself exponentially, and remind yourself to continue doing so every day that follows. Give yourself a break…you’re on the right track. – Anonymous 

My girl L. had a topic for V. day: “Write a blog and say what is it you love about yourself.” It took me awhile to love myself. I always accepted myself but loving myself happened through trials and tribulations. I love most and foremost, my heart. I believe in humaneness, in that in each one I see myself. I would not do anything or say anything that would harm anyone else on purpose. I did it once and carry it with me, because I realize how I crushed this person. I totally changed who they were, how they saw themselves. Emotional assault leaves an unseen imprint on others. I learned a lot from that. I did it to protect myself and it worked. It got the abuser away from me but I had to delve into his core, and peel him raw. Have you ever seen how your actions harmed another? I hope most of us would, maybe then the world would be a better place. I loved this guy who stole my money. He shitted on my dream, my first savings towards buying a home and not once did I ever call him a thief or anything though true may cause him harm. I am not saying that I am a saint. But I understand how sometimes people do things and we do not know why they do them, so I let it go. I learned from my mistake about investing in others and walked away. So, yes, my heart is my favorite thing about me. I love my heart the most because I am caring, giving. I learn from my mistakes. I apologize when need be, I do not use people to achieve my ends. I am always there for those who need me. I love to please my friends, make them smile, so it is quite sensitive because of it, easily touched, broken perhaps as well. I love my honesty. It does and can create arguments, but with me you will always know where you stand and when I speak, it is to express how I feel not to hurt anyone on purpose. I think it says that I am someone people can rely on and I like that. There will be no second guessing, you will know when you ask me, I will tell you the truth, at least my truth. I love my perseverance in the midst of trials. I sure can moan and groan to my friends when the going gets tough but despite that, I know what has to be done and I will do it. I used to be a dreamer but I am more so a realist, so much so that some call me a pessimist. Yet, I persevere, hoping for the best. This makes me fearless cause I know I can, I have and will. Some say they dislike when women say “I don’t need a man.” No, I don’t need one to live but one who loves me as I would love him sure would make life better, easier. This year as in the past few, I am going solo because I won’t settle for just anyone and I am fine with that. I am worthy of love for who I am and all that I have to offer, no near-misses next time around. I am an awesome mom. Well, my girls tell me so. I love to learn. Some say I am quite smart. I think I am great at deductive reasoning and am studious but smarts, like street smart, physics, tidbits to throw in convos just to impress, I lack. I am willing to learn, to grow, to listen, to accept and I think that says a lot. I am flexible and open which, in my book is cool, that lessens my stubborn streak. I am friendly. I used to be friendlier but I have been hurt too much, too many times by allowing people in my life that now I am more aloof, more careful. My heart is too weak to handle these upheavals as much. So, here is V. day coming and I am with the one whose always been there for me and I love her unconditionally. I will protect her from harm, cherish her, encourage her, fight for her and accept her, faults and all. – Lynnaima, Boca Raton, Florida

You are a star. You work hard, are totally independent, you pursue matters of the heart, you send out love to all those around you, and you’re great. Thoughtful, funny, caring, intelligent and beautiful. You don’t need a man and you know it. Your life is complete as is and always has been. This Valentine’s Day, give yourself something special, more patience and trust that the universe will deliver. Love your life, love your family and friends, love your creativity, your writing, your health and especially your own heart. You’re a damn fine lady. Enjoy yourself, you deserve it. –Katie, Quebec, Canada

You are beautiful! You are beautiful, strong, courageous and fabulous. Those curves would make any man drool, and if they don’t then it’s their loss… Never back down, never grow up and never ever settle for less than you deserve! Happy Valentines Day, enjoy being fabulously single! – Anonymous 

i love you . really. i love you. you are amazing. –Miss Red, London

If I could tell you one thing that you might believe, I would tell you that you are special. You are unique, beautiful and complicated. You take too long to make up your mind and are cautious of making the right decision. You have so much curiosity and never want to quit learning-even if that means getting into the hell that is organic chemistry. Adventurous at heart you don’t shy away from a challenge and being told you can’t makes you that more determined to say you can. I know you have doubts. Doubts about your worth and your capabilities. Forget them. All of them. You are going to great things with your talents and perseverance. You’re going to find that someone to make you smile. You’re going to reach those goals in due time. Stop worrying so much! Live for the now and worry about all that boring grown up stuff when you actually feel old enough to call yourself a ‘grown up’; whenever that is… You’re beautiful just the way you are. Every freckle and scar, like the one from the time you fell riding your bike; It makes you, you. Love yourself and never let anyone make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want. You are worth every happiness in this world, try to remember that. You still have a lot of growing to do. A lot more to discover about who you are and where we want to go-but as long as you hold your head up high along the way, you’ll be just fine. You also don’t need to define your worth on the basis of a relationship. Relish in the ability to discover and grow all on your own so when the time comes that you get to forever share your heart with another, you are fully in love with yourself. Be sure of what you want and what you need before God lets the perfect man cut in a steal you for a dance. You need someone who compliments you, not completes you. I love you, and not surprisingly, a lot of other people do too. So this Valentines day love yourself more than you’ve ever loved anything else. We’re going places chick, and amazingly, that is more exciting than any box of chocolates or flowers on a Tuesday. –Laura, Mebane, NC

Dear you, I love you. No, I like really fucking love you. I think you are awesome. I love that you aren’t perfect-looking, and that sometimes you say the wrong things, and that you’re a little different, but pretty average at the same time. I love that you are real and that you don’t know how to hide your emotions, if your life depended on it. I think sometimes you forget how awesome you are. If I had one wish it would be for you to never forget how utterly amazing you are when you are completely yourself. You seem to carry your awesomeness pretty well, but sometimes a super hot savvy person walks in and intimidates you and you shut your awesomeness down a bit. I hate it when you do that, but it is okay. You are working on it. I love that you are an opportunist. I love that you graduated with a Masters degree before the age of 23. I love that you even did that in one year. I love that you have found something you love doing. I love that children and positive people rock your world. I love that you are obsessed with movies and stories and characters. I love that you sleep with books on the other side of your bed. And that you don’t go anywhere without a book or your kindle in your hand. Also love that you see every movie that’s in theaters. I love that you love the arts and that you really appreciate talented people and people who work their butt off to perfect what they do. I love that you get inspired easily. I love that you have hobbies. I love that you write, knit, and run, and play the keyboard all to yourself because you know you really suck at it. But I love that you still try. I love that you have goals and that you make list of all the things you want to do on a weekly basis. I love that those lists involve a lot of fun stuff, things you want to try, and places you want to go rather than just an exhaustive list of errands you have to run. I love that you stay busy, but I love more that you know how to stand still and know how to occupy the NOW without flustering your brain with the future. Who knows anything about that anyway? I love that you believe in math, and science, and God. I love that you take notice, write footnotes, and make sure you experiment those ideas before denying anyone’s truth. I love that you see that spiritualism and science are one. I love that you can explain photosynthesis, and the simple laws of physics, and that you believe that even with detailed explanations there is a higher power involved. I love that you’ve plastered Garth Stein’s statement in your heart after you read that, bodies evolve and souls evolve and the universe is a fluid place that marries them both in a wonderful package called a human being. I hate that you are such a bad listener and that people have called you out on it. But I love that you have recognized that you are a bad listener and now working on shutting the EFF up, and just simply listen. I love that you believe in love and in marriage and that you want those things for your self. I love that you want a relationship that would lead to love and marriage and a house and some babies, but that you don’t see it as the ultimate prize. I love that even though you want to come home from work on a Tuesday night, make dinner, and curl up in bed with someone who loves you, you are just as happy coming home on a Tuesday night, making dinner, and reading a book all by yourself. I love that you are living your life as happily as you are all on your own. I love that you make bold decisions and that you live your life on your terms without hiding under other people’s opinions. I love that you quit something you hated and didn’t even bother to get a second opinion from other people. You just did it. And now you are happier getting ready to embark on yet another grand adventure. I love that you aren’t afraid to be daring, that you make necessary changes whenever needed. I love that you have made the decision to move to Miami, completely on your own, again. I love that you love. Sometimes carefully but deeply. I love that you are generally satisfied with what you do have, but still ambitious enough to want more. I love that you are taking this time to do things that really make you happy, instead of feeling the need to whore yourself out. I love that you are taking the time to just be single. To just be with yourself and to love yourself more everyday. P.S I know you aren’t making enough money, but you are making more than ever before. You haven’t found your ONE and only Valentine-love, but you are finding more love than you’ve ever found before. Little scraps of it, in every person you’ve met. Everyone has something to give. and I know you have something to give them, too. Make sure you always embrace your authenticity, From yourself –Laskmy, New York, NY

You’re fabulous. You’re undeniably amazing and not to mention, gorgeous. You have the ability to make the best out of every situation. You have the courage to keep fighting for the love that one day will come. Every morning you are reminded to be your own kind of beautiful…. No where does it say valentines day has to be spent with a man so go out with friends you love and embrace your friendships!! Keep on being you, because no one can be youer than you. Kill ’em girl! – Katie, Cleveland, Ohio

Remember in grade school when you gave Valentine’s to every kid in your class, no matter what? When it was all about the candy, and the stickers and heart shaped erasers from your teachers, and flowers from mum and dad? Remember when it was about friendship, and kindness, and respect, and all those little things that make love, L♥VE?! I love that you keep that spirit alive, even now, and I love your heart. –Jasmin

Dear Me, Although I know you know, I just wanted to say that on this romantic day, you are quite romance-less. Tonight, you won’t be cooking a dinner for two or showing off sexy lingerie or making love in the candle light. But the most important part about this romance-that-doesn’t-exist is the fact that you still have so much love in your life in spite of it. Your friends would do anything for you, your family loves you more than words can say and you love all of them too. You don’t have romance this Valentine’s Day but even so, you have more love now than you know what to do with. You’ve been in love before. You’ll fall in love again. And read this when you do – it will remind you that love was never something you gave up on. HappyValentine’s Day! – Renee, Asheville, NC

To my dearest self: While you may be rather crazy and head strong at times, you’re pretty awesome. Even though this year has been pretty rough with lots of changes and unforeseen trials, you’re still holding your head up high, being you and taking it all in stride. You may be surprised at the strength you’ve grown to possess– but you shouldn’t be. It’s been there all along. Your fiance may be a bazillion miles away this Valentines Day, but you’re going to have a pretty awesome day anyway because you don’t rely on anyone else for your happiness. Rock on, sister (err..or self?)! –Nikki, Florida

Dear Kristin (aka gorgeous), You are perfect in every way. I love your inability to stop talking about things you are passionate about for long periods of time, and I certainly don’t mind pretending I haven’t already heard your stories just so that I can hear them again. I also love shopping with you, watching “The Notebook” (thirty-three times, but who’s counting?), testing out the latest recipes with you, quoting bad movie lines and letting you dress me (seriously, I used to look like an episode of “What Not to Wear”). Most of all, I love sleeping without covers, so keep stealing ’em (just like you stole my heart). I will love you forever, Cuddlebear –Kristin, New York, NY

Mr. Smith & the Little Notebook

In the heart of the Flat Iron District, right across from the building itself is a lovely place called Eataly.

It’s carved right out of the streets of Venice, with bright colors and even richer smells peppered about the establishment that entices passerbys, tourists and New Yorkers to take a stroll. There are cappuccinos and gelato, fresh cheeses and a wide selection of wine, along with truffle oil priced at $20 for an ounce or so. It’s fancy and expensive, filled with items I’d never buy for my kitchen, but treats I easily indulge in while I’m in the area.

But this night, my interest was piqued somewhere else. I didn’t give into the temptation of the double-chocolate cannolis and I kindly nodded against the samples of freshly baked bread with pesto dipping sauce. I looked away from the aisles filled with cooking knick-knacks that I could imagine myself using while wearing a silky black dress and expensive heels to match my expensive taste. But in that fantasy, I’m also dark-haired, exotic and tanned — not an Irish descendant with brown hair, blue eyes and cheeks that freckle in the sun.

In reality, I was waiting here to meet someone with similar hair and eyes but a foot taller. I nervously waited his arrival, still rather unsettled on my impression, and eager to see why he picked this location for our third date. I wondered if I haphazardly mentioned my obsession with all-things Italian or if it showed in my hips that devilishly trick me into picking pasta over salad nine times out of ten. When his name lit up in my phone, I figured out that, yet again, we were in different places at the same time. On our first date – a Sunday brunch that didn’t end until 10:30 in the evening – we went to separate locations of the same restaurant (I to the original, he to the one most convenient to me — woops). And here we were again, standing at different entrances, probably curious as to why the other is late. Perhaps we were both right on time, but with opposing opinions of where to stand. Isn’t that the case with most encounters that end up mattering?

I found him on the other side and we walked until he picked the beer garden on top of Eataly – something I meant to do this summer, but failed to accomplish. In the winter, it sparkles with white lights, and proved to be surprisingly toasty via heat lamps. As we bantered our way through the menu, ordered a bottle of red wine based merely because it was on special, I listened intently. His stories are feathered at the edges — full of variations in his tone, subtle grins here-and-there and blushing with character. But as much as he moved his hands at dinner or carelessly made light of himself, I could tell he had his ear on me.

Maybe I was biased after he promised his memory was better than mine while walking by the Plaza our first date. Or the fact he actually remembered my preference for orange juice on our second date when we stopped by McDonald’s after my first improv show in the city. Nevertheless, watching his lips as I tried to pay attention to his thoughts as much as I battled my desire to kiss him – I knew that he was taking me in. And more so, he was paying attention.

And this knowledge made me nervous.

I am always the one making observations, it is after all, part of the job of a writer to note other people. The only way I’m able to pen what I do is because I’m continuously anxious to discover the story behind strangers or the loves I know best. But to have my stomach know better than my heart that this new guy was absorbing everything I said (and did) – was rather fascinating. Maybe I’m a little jaded from the revolving door of dudes who don’t live up to expectations, yet thrive on being disappointments – but I was surprised to find a man who actually listened.

And more astonishing, asked more questions than I did. Now, that’s a definite first.

As the check came and went, along with my level-head due to the velvet red wine I happily consumed, I looked across our cozy rod-iron table and thought: what in the world can come out of that mouth next?

I have a present for you, he said, sipping the last bit left in his glass. From Staples. I quizzed him in silence, wrapping my finger around the side of my water, trying to break eye contact, but finding it impossible. Out of his jacket pocket he pulled a notebook no bigger than my hand. You said you like to people watch, right? But you never have a notebook on you. Let’s people watch. Write down anything that comes to mind.

Speechless, I looked down at the notebook – black, with a pink side. Here’s a pen, he continued. Unable to stop smiling – with teeth, not a calculated grin – I met his eyes, only to find him pulling out another notebook. And this is for me to do the same. Or when I notice things about you.

And there, in one of my favorite places in this big city, we started writing: what we saw at the tables near us, the views we witnessed outside the cascading wall of windows, the questions that sat  in the eyes of the soul sitting across from us. We wrote for five minutes (per his instructions), and then we bar hopped. Every once in a while, he’d bring out that notebook and he’d write something, and though he let me read a bit of it at the end of the night, I’m sorry to report my tipsy self was too buzzed to remember much.

Friday is our 7th date (though he says our 8th because the first was blissfully long), and I’ve been trying to think of a name for him since the day he gave me the notebook. He suggested up more than a few ideas, none of which were suitable to him, though he’d probably beg to differ. I thought about Mr. Something – because something is different about him, Mr. Sincerity – since that’s the best word I can use to describe him thus far, Mr. Grin – because that’s what he does the most, but none of them worked in the way my super-critical writing mind thinks, until last night.

When, out of the blue, for no merited reason at all, he sent me a quote that happens to be one of my all-time favorite quotes from my favorite author. He knew of my preferred author, but not of those words. But really that’s one of the things I like the most about him – his words. They are crafted with care, said at the right moment and sometimes strikingly similar to things that have mattered to me that he doesn’t know the reason why, yet. Perhaps he tries or maybe it comes naturally – but like me, he’s a wordsmith. One that doesn’t depend on trickery but on strings tied directly to the heart.

Especially since he knew after two dates that more than I need bandaids and lipstick, receipts from weeks ago and pennies I found on the street, I need a notebook with me, wherever I go. You know, when I notice things about strangers. Or about Mr. Smith.

PS: I was amazed with how many Valentine’s were sent last year from all over the world. Your touching words, your kind sentiments and the way you expressed all the things you hope for, as well as all the things that make you so beautiful – were incredible. I hope you will take a moment to write a Valentine about all the things you love about yourself, all the things in the future you can’t wait to experience and what  self-love means to you. I’ll publish your words – along with a link to your blog, if you blog – on Valentine’s Day. Or if you’d rather be anonymous, that’s fine too.

Go here to submit your Valentine. You deserve it. Tell me how sweet it is to be loved by you.

I’m Not Ms. Fix It

There’s this common belief that love cures all things.

That once you meet this dream person, that he or she in their infinite wonderfulness will take away every ache and pain, scar and bruise – and you’ll feel absolutely, totally brand new. Anything that was wrong or imperfect before, anything you worried about, or anything that made you self-conscious instantly disappears and because you have this person’s attention and they are giving you unyielding love – you’re fixed.

Now, I haven’t met someone who I could seriously consider spending until-death-do-we-part with, so I can’t say if this belief is true and I can’t completely discredit the late Dr. Karl Menniger when he said: “Love cures people – both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.” I do believe that love (and not just romantic) is good medicine. However, it’s not a cure-all.

But what I can confirm with total confidence is that I’m no Ms. Fix It. At least not, anymore.

Tuesday night I was walking home after dumplings with Mr. Unavailable (I swear he’s addicted to those things) and I was in a particularly great mood. I usually do not listen to my iPod when I walk because the North Carolina in me is still a little on-guard in her neighborhood, but I was in the mood for jammin’, so jammin’ is what I did. I put my playlist on shuffle and the first song that came on was “Fix You” by Coldplay.

As I walked down my block, listening to the somber words and feeling my boots click against the streets and the wind blow my hair in unattractive circles, I thought of the men I’ve dated, the men I’ve touched, and the men I’ve loved (or all three). And I realized that in every relationship I’ve been in – I’ve tried to “fix” the guys.

Now, this doesn’t mean I tried to change who they were, shape their beliefs, or dress them up how I would like (though, maybe a few times with Mr. Faithful, but that was high school) – but more so, make them feel better. In a way, turn all of their frowns upside down all the time, and anytime they felt poorly about some function or faucet of their lives – I attempted to be the one to change it for them.

I tried to be Ms. Fix It, and though with some I excelled at helping them grow into a stronger, better, and more confident person – with others, I failed miserably. Mr. Idea had a fit for six weeks where he was rather unaffectionate (among other things) and I lovingly called this episode a “funk” and disregarded each and every feeling I had to focus on him and his needs. With Mr. Fire, I  pretended to lose my desire for commitment so I could fit into this box I thought he wanted me in.

I always, always put what they wanted, how they wanted it, and when they wanted it (“it” being a constant rotating wish-list) before what was important to me. In an effort to be the “girl who changed everything” or “the woman who made him a better man” or “the lady who swept away every badness and blessed him with goodness” – I stopped focusing on me and started concealing my dreams.

Now, I’ve already said that frankly, I do give a damn – and that’s still true, but even more so, I realize that I can’t make a man’s world. I can’t make a man who he is. And I don’t want to.

I don’t want to be the woman who swoops down and takes all of his pain and troubles away. I will listen to someone (man or woman) talk about the troubles they experience, the sadness they can’t get rid of, and the heartache that constantly tugs at them – but at some point, they have to get it together and deal with it. Sometimes, you just put your big gal panties on and you force yourself to push through it because it’s all you can do. I don’t want to be the one who jiggles his ego until it feels good or makes him realize his worth.

I would much rather be with someone who knows what they have going for them without me having to constantly remind them or solve their issues so they can reach happiness. It isn’t my responsibility to ensure someone’s joy or the success of their life or dreams by being the one to place them on a pedestal and shower them with compliments. My role, as a girlfriend, a lover, or a friend is to be there when they need me, and of course, to encourage them – but never, ever, define who they are. Or put them back together.

Part of the journey to learning to love myself is be just fine on my single two feet (pun intended). And to of course, fix my own problems. To be secure and wise and independent and value the power I have within to move forward through any situation. At times, I stumble and I fall, and I admit and face my weakeness straight on.  But it is me, in my single-ness, who picks up the pieces and glues them back together. No man-part required for construction.

So, for the next one I get involved with or for the guy I will ultimately marry (or not) – please realize right this very second that I do not come with hammers and nails and screwdrivers. Whatever issues you’ve dealt with before you met me, deal with them, and I’ll deal with mine. When we are both complete and self-assured individuals – then we’ll meet. Then we’ll put our gorgeously chipped but stable whole pieces together and make something bigger than both of us.

Until then, I’ll be just fine here, collecting all of my many shortcomings and chaotic disasters and celebrating the beautiful mess that I am. Because I know, that with or without a love to “cure every inch” – I’ll be perfectly happy just in my own company.

And most liberating, I don’t have to be Ms. Fix It for anyone but myself.

A Lifetime of Magic

And so it has finally arrived.

That moment I’ve been waiting for my entire life. That instant where the world stops, the earth becomes still, and you feel like you’ve finally felt that one thing you’ve always wanted to feel…in the place you wanted to feel it. Pieces of your soul float together and your heart mends in a single moment, with one little look, and one glimmer of shining, brilliant hope.

Yes, my dears, Christmas has arrived in New York.

The streets are paved with thoughts of sugarplum fairies, the windows are frosted, and people of all shapes and sizes look all-sorts-of-adorable in their mittens and their coats. But most profoundly, there is this vivid feeling surrounding the city streets and corner-lights: magic.

As soon as Macy’s finished their decorations, I wasted no time in scoping out the extravagant displays and walking through each floor to see what holiday-madness I could find. Since it is my very first Christmas in the city, I will forgive myself for acting like quite the tourist for a few weeks. And while I’m relishing in this freedom -I plan to do it in style.

To top the hat off of Macy’s cheerfulness, a friend of mine, M, asked me to be her date to Radio City Music Hall’s A Christmas Spectacular.

It was her last night in the city before moving back to North Carolina to support her family and continue down a path she was born to walk on (or strut, rather) – and we wanted to take this little island by storm before she left. Her seats were first mezzanine and center – basically the very best seats you could have gotten in the house. We decked ourselves out in Christmas-ey dresses and stockings (with heels of course) and got there early to get the full-Rockette experience.

When we walked into Radio City, my mouth about hit the floor: it was about as classically Christmas as anyone could imagine. I was surprised to not hear a jazz band playing “The Christmas Song” in the corner with a woman in a red dress leaning up against a baby-grand singing in a sultry voice. And once we sat down and the show began – I was taken back to another time in my life.

To those Christmas visions at the holiday season when you’re a child. When there is nothing more important than being good so Santa will bless you with his many toys. Where shaking boxes wrapped under the tree could take up an entire hour of your time easily. Where the first snowfall that brought the chance for a snow day was almost as great as your birthday or Christmas Day itself.

Where there was no reason to doubt magic because you just believed.

There was no questioning or wondering if you’ll get that one gift you so desperately desire -you knew it would be under the tree when you wake up at the crack of dawn. When you thought about growing up – you knew exactly what you wanted to do, no matter how absurd or unrealistically achievable it may be. You never wondered if you would get to kiss your Prince Charming underneath the mistletoe one day, and frankly, it was not really a priority – because you just knew it would happen. Everyone got happily ever after and everyone became a princess. Everyone got that mini-truck or the Barbie Dream House because why wouldn’t they?

Magic is simply guaranteed and we never really think we’ll grow up into big boys and girls, until we find ourselves as a 20-something, in the middle of Radio City Music Hall, realizing we’re completely on our own. And not only that, but for the longest time we’ve been skeptical about the splendor that we once thought would always be ours.

When do we lose that beautiful, pure, and unrelenting hope we all had as children? When do we lose that sparkle and that bubbly faith that comes with being inexperienced and out-of-tune with the functions of the so-called harsh reality of life?

As I watched the dancers, the singers, the actors, the ice skaters, and the musicians who put on literally one of the best performances I’ve ever seen – I thought about how at one time, all of them were children. Just like I was. They had big dreams and perhaps, at some point, they said unquestionably to their parents: “I’m going to be a Rockette one day!” And now, there they are– tapping out a beat on the stage they knew they’d always grace. But even so, after they bow and take off their dancing shoes backstage – they probably criticize and belittle their achievements or their talents and always think “I could have been better. I could be more entertaining. I’ll never get to my full potential.” Or maybe the man they were seeing promised to show up and even though they are a smokin’ Rockette or an incredibly talented figure skater – he decided to cancel at the last minute.

Do we stop believing in the promise of magic because somewhere along the way, we allow our spark to be put out? Because we start analyzing and comparing ourselves to others or dwell on the idea of absolute perfection? Or when we get a glitch in our hearts, we decide feeling that immense all-consuming feeling of falling in love is impossible in the future?

As I watched the show, listened to the words, and thought back on my wild and wonderful hopefulness as a little girl, I thought: what’s the harm in believing?

Everyone tells me not to have expectations because then if something even half-way good happens, I will be pleasantly surprised. But what if instead of being satisfied with the ordinary, I actually gave myself permission to believe that the extraordinary was a true and real possibility?

I left Radio City with a swollen heart completely in awe of the city I live in and the stage of my life I’m blessed to be exploring and experiencing. M and I walked to Rockefeller Center and it was almost as the heavens rained down magic for this special night. As we walked around, I witnessed every stage in my life: there was a little girl with her best friend and their moms, smiling for the camera with curls and bows in their hair and saying “Ice skating!!” And then we walked a little further and saw a group of high school girls and boys infamously flirting with one another on and off the ice. There were groups of twos and threes, solos and families – all skating on the same rink, in the same direction – but at completely different points in their lives.

Leaving the center, we looked at each other, with this sense of knowing we were talking towards our futures in some majestic way, to whatever stage may come next. And sure enough, there was a limo, signifying sure success, and a couple stealing a kiss on the corner of the block, showing us that believing in magic maybe isn’t such an outlandish idea, after all.

Does believing hinder my growth? Or my self-proclaimed recovery? Does relishing in the soft cloud of hope make me vulnerable for falling to a slow, painful, heart-breaking demise? Nah, I think it just gives me a power above the rest. It keeps that youthful, inexorable glow that we all have as children but let go of a little more with each Christmas we experience.

I will never be able to see through the same pair of eyes I looked through as a child, or as a teenager, or even the me I was before I moved to Manhattan. But if I keep this reminder of hope inside of me, at this very special time of the year (and always) – maybe those visions I dreamt of, those kisses under the mistletoe I’ve longed for, those holiday parties I’ve wanted to attend at the magazine of my dreams – will become more than a image in my mind. But rather, they will grow out of the magic already burning inside into something even more outstanding: my reality.

Thou Shall Live Thy Life

I’ve always enforced a lot of rules on myself. I must do XYZ to achieve my goal. I must be the first, the best, the boldest, and the kindest. I must do the good for someone else and put myself second. I must wash my hands after touching anything even a little dirty and of course, I shouldn’t talk on my cell phone while attempting to cross the a NYC street.

While some of these mandates I should still enforce (I don’t want to get hit by a bus anytime son), lately, I’ve been allowing myself to break a few of these restrictions.

Maybe it’s because I’m traveling along this journey with an open heart and an open mind, or possibly, I’m just changing – but I’ve been thinking more out-of-the-box thanI have in a very long time.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m going to be this age once in my life. There is no going back three months ago, three years ago, or three seconds ago. Today, in this instant, in this feeling, in this moment is my existence. And if I choose to go off of my straight-and-narrow path to try a different adventure I never thought I’d be capable of doing, so be it. If I happen to get hurt along the way or wonder why I made the choice I made – then I’ll deal with that situation as it comes.

I know that I’m a confident, smart, and self-sufficent lady who knows what is best for her, and if I have the gumption to blaze a new trail and take a leap of faith – I know there will always be something to help me through anything that crosses me.

So, in celebration of being a newly-born rebel, here are some of the things that I’m telling myself it is just alright to do, if I so please (keep in mind, I haven’t done all of these, but I just might):

Thou shall not kiss on the very first date

-Sure, he’s just a friend. Yep, he’ll never be more. Oh my, he’s cute. I think I’ll kiss him. Maybe more than once.

Thou shall not gain five pounds and go to the gym five-times-a-week

-Chinese food for the second night in a row? Super greasy? Yum. I’ll take two eggrolls, please.

Thou shall not tell little white lies

-How much is that puppy in the window? The one with the curly hair and cute little bark? Can I afford him? No. Will I pretend like I can and lead the salesperson on, just so I can snuggle up with him? Yep.

Thou shall save more money and not treat myself

-Hmmm. Sample sale on fifth? Kate Spade bags? They do accept credit cards? I think I’ll be taking my lunch break early today.

Thou shall not flirt to get my way

-Man, oh man, I spent way too much money last night. He’s kinda cute. Looks like he needs some company. Maybe if he sees these new jeans, he’ll buy me a drink. Then, me and the girlfriends can ditch ‘em. (Sorry dudes!)

Thou shall not wear super high heels

-Are my feet going to hurt all night long? Will I have to lean up against something at nearly every place I go to? But will my legs look super sexy all night long? Yup.

Thou shall not have relations out of relationship-lock

-I may get attached to him, but if I can try having a friends-with-benefits with someone whom I trust and care about deeply, I should. Right? I think so.

Thou shall not leave makeup on and go to bed

-I will probably wake up with more zits than I went to bed with, but sometimes, washing my face just seems like so much trouble.

Thou shall be super critical of everything I do

-Instead of thinking another gal is better, I think paying some compliments to myself and to my friends (just to make them happy) is a little healthier

Thou shall not think in terms of end-all-be-all or never-ever

-Embracing ideas and thoughts that encourage fear or self-defeating actions are not healthy. So instead, I’ll think in terms of the here-and-the-now

Thou shall not drink that extra glass of wine

-Though my head will definitely be feeling the pain tomorrow, so what if I happen to down another sip of grapey-red-goodness?

Thou shall not forgive myself

-We all make mistakes. And I’m sure I’ll make more than a few here and there, but at the end of the day, I have to love myself. With and without those flaws.

Thou shall not stay up late writing…again


Thou shall not live my life just as I think I should, but with rules to keep me safe and protected.

-Nope, instead it is on my terms. Without limits. Just living.