It’s been almost a year of living in isolation.  If you are like me, it’s been a blur of home-cooked meals, tackling projects, binging Netflix, to-do lists (that often fall by the wayside), writing, invigorating walks outside with my pups, zoom calls, painting, working with flowers, DIYing…well…everything, photographing and an endless parade of boring yoga clothes.  There is a significant amount of pining for my “old life” and yet I am firmly rooted in gratitude for my health and the health and safety of my loved ones. There are few events to mark days, as we while away the hours between sunrise and sunset.  That is, until we stumble upon a holiday.

I love holidays of any kind.  Some would say I’m an enthusiast!  It’s an opportunity to set a beautiful table, make a lush bouquet, conjure up irresistible smells in the kitchen, decorate a room and elegantly wrap a thoughtful gift.  As far as Valentine’s Days go, I’ve celebrated a spectrum of love-inspired efforts – ranging from rooms filled with roses, chocolate and champagne, to extravagant trips to a quiet meal by the fire for two.  I remember each quite fondly.

I was recently reminded of one of my favorite romantic stories during a zoom meeting about my new book – my first official date with my beloved beau.  After a morning of skiing in a winter wonderland, he surprised me with an outdoor lunch at the sweetest table and chairs carved out of snow, beautifully set, adorned with an adorable bouquet of roses, plus an additional dozen red roses (needless to say, he had me at the flowers).  It was one of those grand gestures, where I felt slightly swept off my skis and overwhelmed with the potential of love.  This would be a wonderful surprise celebration for any winter occasion – an anniversary, a birthday or any holiday, really! I tell people that story often to highlight how deeply thoughtful and imaginative he is.  What a beautiful beginning we had.

We often say that those initial grand gestures of any great love story wane over time – this is just a reality of any long-term relationship!  And aspects of quarantine are not always romantic. I often wonder how we will leave this quarantine as significant others and I can assure you that the answer is: bonded.  This year has been such a scary, difficult one for all of us.  I sadly also endured the loss of my mom and one of our beloved pups.  For every person who makes if to that glorious second vaccination is a person behind them who has wiped away more than a few tears, held a hand, offered a shoulder to lean on or talked us off a ledge.  They have kept us safe and told us to keep going when we’ve hit a quarantine wall.  They’ve encouraged us and quieted our fears when days were dark.  They’ve distracted us, made us laugh, and given us a reason to get out of bed each day.  And for me, my person (whether he has been near or far) has made sure I’ve been kept as safe as humanly possible (because of my compromised immune system).  This has been no small feat (especially with distance) and he has done this with love, grace, humor and mild threats every single day.  Perhaps this is a different version of romance, but one that has been the most meaningful to me and maybe the grandest gesture of all.

We all owe a lot to our quarantine support system. For some, this support has come from a significant other.  For others, it may have come from a friend, a family member, a neighbor or even a pet. Wherever you have received your will to put one foot in front of the other, it’s worth some celebration!  This Valentine’s Day is a good time to celebrate all we have meant to each other and the kindnesses and words of encouragement that have truly made a difference in someone’s life this past year.  Because the only thing that has sustained anyone in these trenches is love and support, which has been blooming and profoundly thriving under our roofs or via zoom in one way or another.

And on any day that celebrates love, I would be remiss if I didn’t honor my pups in some special way! My Lockets of Love (an additional, feature piece from The Birds & The Bees collection I produced with Ciner), are heirlooms that capture our favorite snapshots in time, and keep our most valued memories close to our hearts. In two sizes (both on a 17 inch chain), these were created with an accessible price-point in mind, so they are the perfect gift for any occasion! A purchase of this locket supports my Going to the Dogs initiative, as 100% of the proceeds benefit shelter animals in need).

A very Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!  May love continue to lift you up and keep you strong!