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Life is beautiful

An insanely busy week culminated yesterday in the parking lot of Quinn’s large, downtown school.  Traffic rushed past on the four-lane, one-way streets to either side of us.  Behind me, “The Castle”, the huge Presbyterian church and school building loomed, cutting across I-90 where it sweeps over the city on giant concrete trestles on its way to Seattle.

A few hours ago, we finally wrote the last of eighty-three total Valentine cards.  EIGHTY-THREE VALENTINES. If there is a phrase that sums up the hellish side of having four children in five years it is EIGHTY-THREE VALENTINES  written in slow, shaky elementary school hand.  I never want to name another being ever again.  ALL of the names are ruined for me.


T? T mommy?  T?  

Yes, T.

And then?  AND THEN? 


No, after T. 


Matt and Nate headed to Costco for the morning to alleviate our desperate grocery situation while I endured, mostly happily, the Kindergarten talent show.  Quinn made a snowflake. His favorite part is using a hole punch as the finishing touch on his masterpieces.  I carried our three hole punch to the school just for his moment in the spotlight and, of course, the damn thing spilled 10,000 paper holes into the bottom of my purse.  They lay there now, a hole punch blizzard, waiting to be dumped or scattered like confetti as I approached Matt in the parking lot with Quinn and his friend Ty in tow.  Matt planned to take all of the boys skating and he was midway through transferring the groceries to the back of my car so I could go home and unpack.

We filled each other in as I buckled the boys next to Nate.  Costco was busy.  The show was cute.  Quinn did great.  The snowflakes were perfect. Ty played the violin, be careful with it, make sure he takes it home.

Matt placed the last item, a Costco pizza for dinner, in my arms when I joined him at the rear of the truck to say goodbye.  “Have fun,” I told him.  “All of the boys have lunch in their bags.”  He nodded, placed a kiss on my forehead and laid a bouquet of roses he’d pulled from the truck bed on top of the Costco pizza.  A dozen Costco roses still in their price-checked wrapper.

I admit, a little part of me wanted to snarl at him.  Really?  Just like that, huh?  One more item on the grocery list – pizza for dinner, check, milk for the week, check, annoying romantic holiday acknowledged, check.  Would it have killed him to leave them in the truck?  Maybe buy some tissue paper and a card on his way home?  Give them later, after bedtime. Maybe actually hand them to me.  Into my hands while making eye contact even.

But, I didn’t.  If I have learned one thing in the last fourteen years, it’s that love doesn’t live there.  I know some of you are reading and you don’t believe me.  You’re young and relatively unscathed. You still believe in the idea of perfection. You pin scrumptious images to tumblr blogs of a strong hand cupping a girl’s perfect cheek. A steaming cup of coffee. Windblown hair. Soft sunlight on a rumpled bed.  A man’s arm thrown lovingly over a woman’s slight chest.  And you think it’s sad that I would give up romance and settle for Costco roses and a pizza in a dirty parking lot with homeless people watching from under the highway bridge.

There’s nothing I can tell you that will make you believe me, but anyone can love when the sunlight is soft, the sheets are clean, and the coffee is hot. When there’s no where to be.  When the Pacific stretches out before your two-man kayak in endless sheets of impossible blue and a warm rain starts to fall.  That’s the beginning, hopefully, if you’re lucky, and it’s damn fun, but if love is going to live, not just begin, but really live, it has to be hardier than that.  It has to grow when the sheets have to be washed the next morning and you’re out of coffee and it’s raining cold, wet, unhappy rain.   It has to hold on when babies die and dreams don’t work out and exciting careers become drudgery.  It has to be generous enough to find the best in each other when life is disappointing and hard.

No one will live up to the fantasy in your head all the time.  Nor will you always live up to your lover’s ideals.  Waiting for someone to read your mind is a losing game. If you hold onto a fantasy from a picture carefully staged to perfection, you will miss the real story. You have to look for love, seek it out where it lives.

It’s in the way Matt gives up his day off every week to take the boys skating and in how carefully he saves for our future.  It’s in our plans that we whisper about late at night to someday, somehow spend winters in Equador. It’s in his smiles, his willingness to hold a newborn, his eagerness to see the kids when he gets home at night.  It’s in the calls I get every day at lunch.  It’s in his quiet presence by my side as we brought each of our children into the world – even the ones we didn’t get to bring home.  It’s in his constant upkeep of this ancient house, in his diligence about the safety of our tires, and even in the construction of that miserable pit toilet.  It’s in the way he laughs at me when I’m furious and in the way he holds me when I’m heartbroken.  Not one of those things makes a pretty picture.  But together they make a beautiful story.

I drove home to our quiet house, put the groceries away, changed the laundry, and carefully cut the roses and arranged them in a vase for the center of the table.  Nate stomped into the house later, asking for pizza, leaving a breadcrumb trail of discarded clothes, boots, and bags behind him.

“Oh,” he said, “I see our flowers. We got those at Costco because we love you.”

“I know.”



61 Responses to Life is beautiful
  1. Robin from Israel
    February 15, 2013 | 9:01 am

    Beautiful post, and so very true.

  2. Alison
    February 15, 2013 | 9:31 am

    I need to arm myself with tissues next time.
    Loved this, Stacey.

  3. Georgie
    February 15, 2013 | 10:24 am

    Your words are heaven sent. I love you a ridiculous amount (and am determined to make it to you this year) XXX

  4. Sheila
    February 15, 2013 | 10:30 am

    I say this almost every time I leave a comment: your talent with the 26 letters in our alphabet is amazing. Thank you for a lovely post.

  5. Lene Kristin Solsvik
    February 15, 2013 | 1:10 pm

    Wow. Just… wow.
    I especially love the beautiful whole made out of small imperfect pieces of reality.

  6. Brittany
    February 15, 2013 | 1:29 pm

    Oh. Oh. I am in tears because you brought me back to losing babies and my husband just wrapped his arms around me because he knows, when I cry like this at the kitchen counter, it is because of those babies. It is an ugly cry and it means things might not all get done this morning, like the dishes, because I might need too many moments. He understands. I don;t want to crush any young dreams of love either, but you are so right. Love might get really dirty, but it gets better and deeper and you really really know your partner. It is worth it. Thank you for reminding me that the toughest times are really worth it.

  7. Natalie
    February 15, 2013 | 1:29 pm

    Beautifully written. Your blog is such a joy to read.

  8. Candice@NotesFromABroad
    February 15, 2013 | 1:31 pm

    Made me cry :)

    ps – I got nothing. No flowers, no card, no nuttin .

    I will work on my resentment.

  9. Cheryl
    February 15, 2013 | 1:33 pm

    A truly lovely post. Thanks for sharing it.

  10. suburbancorrespondent
    February 15, 2013 | 1:56 pm

    So lovely, and a good reminder! Says the woman who picked up her husband’s present at CVS…

  11. Mel
    February 15, 2013 | 2:53 pm

    I think of this often, about how the layering of days upon days brings a richness to love, and an understanding, that a younger version of myself could never have imagined.

  12. amy2boys
    February 15, 2013 | 3:16 pm

    This is the most perfect Valentine I’ve read. Perfect…

  13. Jen
    February 15, 2013 | 3:19 pm

    Totally crying here at work.

    True love IS Costco flowers. It means there is tenderness and caring amidst the busy hustle of life. That you have survived a shitload of crap and are still surviving it, together.


  14. Elise
    February 15, 2013 | 4:07 pm

    you almost redeemed my valentines day – lovely my love:)

  15. anna see
    February 15, 2013 | 4:32 pm

    This is so beautiful, true, and real. I have goosebumps. Pegged it, girl. Thank you.

  16. Shannon
    February 15, 2013 | 4:44 pm

    You, my dear, have a gift. No, I’m not talking about the Costco flowers. I’m talking about your ability to put words to page. I love, love, love this and am going to bookmark it so that I can return to it when I need to be reminded of it.

    Another gift, the fact that he went to Costco on the weekend. I hate Costco on the weekend.

  17. Deb
    February 15, 2013 | 5:02 pm

    Gosh darn it. Now I’m crying.

  18. tracey
    February 15, 2013 | 5:42 pm

    DAMNIT STACEY. Damn you. You always make me cry… This is beautiful.

  19. Denise
    February 15, 2013 | 5:52 pm

    Thanks for your amazing timing with this post. I needed the reminder that it’s not always “perfect” the way we imagine it to be. Your words summed it up beautifully. xoxo

  20. Ann Wyse
    February 15, 2013 | 6:19 pm

    Yes. Yes. and Yes. A beautiful post.
    I’ve been thinking along the same lines. It’s somehow amazing to look back and realize that your love grew the most in all those non-perfect times.

  21. MommyTime
    February 15, 2013 | 6:41 pm

    I love this. Thank you for the beautiful reminder.

    I never get flowers — even Costco flowers — on Valentine’s day. But I get them occasionally when the husband knows I’ve been having a hard week or a particularly celebration-worthy one. And that, for me, is a real sign of love. Also, it’s hard to compete with the handmade, first-grade paper bouquet, whose little flowers have messages like “you are beautiful” and “I love you” and “you love me” printed in shaky crayon. So there is that too. :)

  22. But Why Mommy
    February 15, 2013 | 6:55 pm

    So beautiful. My brightly colored flowers were left in a vase and went unnoticed in my haste to get stuff done and to get where I needed to be. I initially had the same reaction -he could have handed them to me. But those little symbols and glimpses of love in the crazy, the hectic, the mundane mean the world.

  23. tracy@sellabitmum
    February 15, 2013 | 7:06 pm

    Oh damn you. Tears. Beautiful. Exactly.

  24. Yolanda
    February 15, 2013 | 7:18 pm

    oh wow. this is gorgeous. perfect. gorgeous.

  25. heather
    February 15, 2013 | 7:33 pm

    i am forever amazed at how your writing touches me. we are not at the same stage in life but ir doesn’t seem to matter.

  26. Elaine
    February 15, 2013 | 7:50 pm

    My hubby brought my roses from the grocery store the night before. I tell myself it was because he wanted me to enjoy them for the entire day of Valentine’s but it was really because he was already at the store getting more Valentine’s supplies for the kids so it was convenient at the time. ;-)

    You describe that hardier love perfectly. It’s what you have to have to make it through this life together, with all the ups and downs included.

    Beautiful post, as always, Stacey!

  27. Kristin
    February 15, 2013 | 8:31 pm

    That is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

    Truth – SO much truth. Thank you!

  28. Jeannine
    February 15, 2013 | 8:48 pm

    Love love LOVE this! Beautiful.

  29. Marguerite
    February 15, 2013 | 9:53 pm

    Again, you captured everything I needed to hear at this moment. The last two years have been tough for me, menopause is not my friend (I thought I was too young for this at 45 years old). You are ABSOLUTELY right though, after 27 years of marriage this man loves me in all the right ways and I am blessed. Thank you for reminding me!

  30. The Beaver Bunch
    February 15, 2013 | 9:59 pm

    This might be one of my favorite posts of yours because above all, it speaks TRUTH. I love it.

  31. thewonderfulhappens
    February 15, 2013 | 10:05 pm

    this made me cry because it is just so very true.

  32. Lisa K
    February 15, 2013 | 10:14 pm

    I agree with everyone else. This = amazing and I totally agree.

    But, what I really want to comment on is the “castle” because I laughed out loud at that. I kid you not, we drove by that place this morning and my three year old looks out the window and goes, “LOOK, MOMMY! A CASTLE!” Maybe they should change their name? First Presbyterian Castle?

  33. Jocelyn
    February 15, 2013 | 10:42 pm

    I had flowers sitting in their wrapper in our love seat. My husband has been terribly sick, so that I had any at all made my heart happy. It’s so true that its the little things that are so much more important then the grand romantic gestures.

  34. Roshni
    February 16, 2013 | 1:18 am

    So true. Love is your husband being your biggest cheerleader and taking care of the house and kids single-handedly for a month while you prepare for an exam, and folding you in his arms without one word of reproach when you tell him that you didn’t clear it!

  35. LIsa/MommyMo
    February 16, 2013 | 2:12 am

    Damn You.

    And for the record, my husband was in another city for VD and got me nothing although we are supposedly celebrating tomorrow night. That being said, my favorite gift from is whenever he walks through the door and takes over the craziness without batting an eye. Or when he loads the dishwasher. He’s the BEST dishwasher loader.


  36. Chelsey
    February 16, 2013 | 3:05 am

    I am guilty of being the scrumptious image pinner who still believes in perfection, but your story makes me the exact opposite of sad. It makes me hopeful, because your kind of love is the kind that lasts. What else could I want in life, besides someone to love me for the rest of my life?

    I have never commented before, but I think you are an absolutely beautiful writer.

  37. Kate
    February 16, 2013 | 4:36 am

    I love everything about this.

  38. Mentor Mom
    February 16, 2013 | 8:43 am

    Great post!

    #1 reason I homeschool: with 12 children I would be making 300 Valentines every year (I’d have to start on New Years). :)

    Oh . . . that “Huge Presbyterian Church” . . . that’s where I got married 30. year. ago. Yep. I did.

    30 years . . . of hoping that one day my husband would “get romantic”, or even just remember that birthday gifts and Valentines are important to his wife. Well? Not so much. So glad that my love for him is based on much more than birthday gifts (or lack thereof). Sadly, my birthday is just 3 weeks before Valentines Day, so it’s a “Double Wammy” every year. (Hmmm … reminds me of the greasy burger place not too far from the huge presbyterian church.)

    Totally random and rambling comment.


    :) :) :)

  39. Jenina
    February 16, 2013 | 3:45 pm

    This is one if the most beautiful posts I’ve ever read.

  40. Colleen
    February 16, 2013 | 5:59 pm

    This one got me. Can’t pinpoint the phrase that queued up my tears, but by the time Nate announced “we” got you those flowers, the tears spilled over. You write about love so beautifully. You truly, TRULY make me stop and think and remember that love is messing and hard work. And many times it doesn’t even really resemble love. But it’s those time when love is working its very hardest. Thank you

  41. Kaycee
    February 17, 2013 | 2:14 am

    Oh how I love how you write. Such beauty and such truth. And not the fake made up pretend everything is beautiful kind of beauty. Real beauty, even when it’s not pretty.

    I got flowers for the first time in years this year. But my guy can pick an amazing card and write some words from the heart that always remind me I’m loved. That and the other day he took out the trash immediately after I asked him to help me by doing it. I was so shocked he got a big kiss and I felt loved. Over trash. Lol

  42. Amelia
    February 17, 2013 | 6:17 am

    Beautiful and so very true.

    I came home from grocery shopping to 2 dozen roses and 2 boxes of candy from my loving husband.

    On the 15th.

    Because he knows I would kick his ass for spending that kind of money on things that aren’t a Necessity. However. 75% off is just good sense when you have a sweetheart at home.

    We may have to celebrate it on the actual day next year if my poor kid figures things out by then. She’s only 3, probably I have at least another year right?

  43. Anne
    February 17, 2013 | 4:19 pm

    On a practical note: My younger son accidentally stumbled on the “Why do I have to write their name on my Valentine? I’m giving one to each kid so I’m just going to put my name on it!” Go boy.

  44. Lady Jennie
    February 17, 2013 | 4:48 pm

    I love your writing. I always know I’m going to laugh and I’m going to cry and I’m going to feel everything else in between.

  45. Ellen
    February 17, 2013 | 5:34 pm


  46. Joanna
    February 18, 2013 | 1:46 am

    Your writing always moves me almost as much as your good heart. And how curious that I was just bitching in my head about how my husband doesn’t invest enough in our relationship but your perspective brings me back to earth. Fairy tales are great for movies; real life is dirty, mean, and not always pretty. But it’s real & we need to appreciate it whole!

  47. Ann
    February 18, 2013 | 1:59 am

    I’m so glad I finally let go of “plan ahead plus effort = love” at some point.

    I loved my grocery store flowers and balloons. Because who doesn’t love flowers and balloons? And old crazy perfectionist person I do not miss, that’s who.

    More wise and beautiful words, my friend.

  48. Kaycee
    February 18, 2013 | 11:23 am

    Oh how I love how you write. Such beauty and such truth. And not the fake made up pretend everything is beautiful kind of beauty. Real beauty, even when it’s not pretty.

    I got flowers for the first time in years this year. But my guy can pick an amazing card and write some words from the heart that always remind me I’m loved. That and the other day he took out the trash immediately after I asked him to help me by doing it. I was so shocked he got a big kiss and I felt loved. Over trash. Ha!

  49. Stacey
    February 18, 2013 | 6:12 pm

    Bravo Stacey, that was beautiful and the most perfect explanation of love I’ve ever read.

  50. Issa
    February 18, 2013 | 9:10 pm

    I love this so much. If I could nominate for some award, I would.

  51. Melissa
    February 19, 2013 | 4:47 pm

    It’s a special love that allows us to think like that. The things that really matter and it took a long time for me to find that love but i have it now and wouldn’t change it for the world. Thank you for putting it into words!

  52. Allyson
    February 19, 2013 | 5:34 pm

    After 10 years with my husband, I have become more and more appreciative of the love we have now. The whispered dreams and stolen kisses and constancy.

  53. luna
    February 19, 2013 | 7:13 pm

    I love this.

    in one of my last anniversary cards, my husband wrote something to the effect of ‘there is no love like that which has been forged in fire’ and it’s so true. we are only as strong now because of what we’ve been through in over 20 years together.

    love this post on love!

  54. Jessica
    February 20, 2013 | 8:30 pm

    I love this Stacey and it is so, so true. People have asked how my husband and I have made it through all that we have and it is because of exactly what you said in this post. We’ve been able to love when it’s most difficult.

  55. Sara
    February 22, 2013 | 1:11 am

    This is perfectly written! Thank you, I have a wonderful husband too and after 17 1/2 years with him we have been through ups and downs and this post really spoke to me!

  56. Gayle
    February 24, 2013 | 7:44 pm

    My favorite writing so far….. I need to open my eyes.

  57. Lyndsay
    February 25, 2013 | 9:51 pm

    Oh my goodness.
    I’m just catching up on my blog reading. I love this SO HARD!

  58. Deidre
    February 27, 2013 | 11:19 pm

    I’m way far behind in reading your blog, Stacey, but I couldn’t let this one go by without commenting. You nailed it! Your words are perfection, as usual.

  59. dig this chick
    March 19, 2013 | 2:25 am

    love this. especially:
    “anyone can love when the sunlight is soft, the sheets are clean, and the coffee is hot. ”

    Look forward to actually meeting one day.


  60. Beth
    March 31, 2013 | 5:50 am

    Wow! Your writing is beautiful and your wisdom is target in the heart-stoppingly wonderful. I love what you wrote about a marriage that needs to be hardier than our romantic notions or our honeymoon reality. Thank you for your voice and your words. ~Beth

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