I choose joy.
The words felt important. I knew going into February, the month of love, that I would probably struggle a bit more than usual. Making a conscious decision to implement happiness into my days seemed like the right thing to do. While I can’t exactly say I have done a fantastic job choosing joy for myself this month, I can say I have had so many wonderful people bring it to me.
As some of you may know, I started a new job as part time art teacher at the beginning of the school year. The job fell in my lap after a friend asked if I was interested in the position. After accepting the job offer I was told I would begin the following Tuesday… it was currently a Thursday. I knew immediately there was going to be a lot going against me for the upcoming school year. What I didn’t realize is how much I would grow to love it. Even after only 6 months I find it difficult to describe teaching as a job. I probably only had one foot in the water in the realm of handling my classes when I received the news about my husband, Brady. I ended up leaving school for nearly 3 months, however, some of that time was over Christmas break. While I was gone I was introduced to a new and overwhelming love that I had never experienced before in my life; the love that comes from a close and incredible community that is built within a school’s walls. While I was gone there were handmade cards from students delivered to my house on almost a weekly basis, the teachers had to put up with constant substitute teacher changes, the substitutes were forced to teach without plans because I had no time to even think about them, coworkers were offering to bring me meals, and I had staff members attend Brady’s funeral arrangements even though most of them never had the chance to meet him and had only known me for a matter of months. When I finally returned to school everyone tried to make it as comfortable as possible for me. It truly warmed my heart.
So this past Friday, the day before Valentine’s Day, I subbed for one of the 8th grade teachers. My art position only has me as school on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I try to fill in where I can. After I got done with sending the kids home for their 3-day weekend I went back to straighten up the classroom only to find a couple of my colleagues in the room. We only had small talk for a moment before they told me, “We have something for you.” They stepped aside to reveal a beautiful Valentine’s Day present they had gotten for me. As I began to look at the gifts they told me it was from the entire staff. I turned around to find the rest of the teachers begin to pile into the room. Overwhelmed with joy, I started to cry right in front of them. It was such an unexpected moment. Even after everything I’ve been through I rarely cry in front of others, my body just doesn’t allow me to do so. The fact that I shed a single tear in front of them that day shows how special the moment was to me. Now my tears did not come from knowing everyone had gotten me a gift, they came from how thoughtful every little detail of the gift was. There was a big, beautiful bouquet of flowers with a mason jar vase (who doesn’t love a good mason jar?), a giant card, a gift bag, and a cupcake. The card was completely handmade. I was told it was important that it was made by hand since I’m the art teacher, which of course made me smile. All of my colleagues had signed the inside for me too. The gift bag contained some amazing gift cards that everyone pitched in to get me. Then there was the cupcake. The preschool teacher asked me if I recognized where it was from. To be honest I could have spotted that box from a mile away. They went out of their way to go get a cupcake from the same place where Brady and I had bought our wedding cake. It’s a local cakery & bakery with the sweetest owners and employees. They played such a big role in making my day with Brady special that they will always have a place in my heart. Knowing that my coworkers put such considerate thought into all aspects of this present gave me more happiness than I could fathom. As I went to give them all hugs, they informed me I was a part of their family now and these are the things they do for family. They knew how hard Valentine’s Day would be for me without my love, so they made sure to give me lots of love from them. To say I work with an amazing group of people would be a complete understatement.
After all that trouble I’m sure none of them knew why Valentine’s day is more than just a day to celebrate love for me. It also happens to be the anniversary of Brady’s and my first date. This would have been our 11th Valentine’s Day together. Eleven! It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around. I got to spend 10 precious Valentine’s Days with the boy but couldn’t get the chance at one with him as my husband. It’s not fair. I spent most of the day doing absolutely nothing. As much as I wanted to show others love, I really didn’t feel up for much socializing. It did not stop others from bringing me some extra joy though. I found a bouquet of peach roses and candy at my door from a cousin, my mom brought over cards, gifts, homemade cookies, and a bouquet of red roses, and then later my sister-in-law brought me some candy along with a bouquet of baby’s breath. Aside from all those, I also received plenty of kind-hearted texts from loved ones.
I have always said that I could care less if card companies invented Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t matter. People should take more time to remind the ones around them that they are loved. It certainly can’t hurt to show a little extra love one day out of the year. I would do about anything to remind Brady how much I still love him. Luckily, I can find some joy in knowing that I never wasted a second reminding him of my love when I had the chance because I told him every chance I had. I know he did the same for me. I'll leave you with an old text a came across from Brady. I think it sums up our relationship well.