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MamaVoices: The Best Gift Ever

With the fast approaching Valentine’s Day, the idea of gift giving is on everyone’s mind. Take this day to show someone how special they are to you. Need an idea? For our latest MamaVoices article, we’ve asked some of our favorite bloggers to write about the best gift they’ve ever received from someone they love.

With the fast approaching Valentine’s Day, the idea of gift giving is on everyone’s mind. It’s not just a day for lovers and couples, but it goes beyond that to include relatives and friends… anyone you truly love and care for. Take this day to show someone how special they are to you. Need an idea? For our latest MamaVoices article, we’ve asked some of our favorite bloggers to write about the best gift they’ve ever received from someone they love. Happy Reading!

With three active children at home, plus two parents with busy work schedules, my wish list for a holiday like Valentine’s Day boils down to two simple things: Time and food. My husband and I are barely able to find time -- when we are both awake and alert -- to be alone together and to carry on complete, uninterrupted conversations. And after I developed a dairy allergy during my pregnancy with my youngest child seven years ago, finding delectable food, particularly desserts, that we can both enjoy became challenging.

That’s why the best gift I ever got for Valentine’s Day was a box of hard-to-find, super-rich, dairy-free chocolates, along with a night where the kids went to bed early. My husband and I cuddled up in front of the TV -- the fireplace blazing -- while we watched a movie of my choice and drank red wine that complemented the chocolate. At the time, dairy-free chocolate was difficult to find (it’s easier now) and I was touched when my husband had them shipped in from England and attached this note, “I would search all over the world for you.”

 -- Meredith O’Brien, author, columnist, blogger

Suburban Mom: Notes from the Asylum

In my nearly 43 years on this big, blue ball, I’ve received my fair share of memorable gifts. There was that puppy my Dad brought home when I was in the 5th grade, who I named Pal and absolutely adored for the next 19 years. I remember one Christmas when I was 12, finding a cropped, brick red leather jacket from Wilson’s Suede and Leather under the tree and knowing in my gut it was going to make me so much more popular at school. Heck, I even remember getting a car when I was 19. (Okay, I paid for most of it, but my Dad kicked in a hefty sum so his daughter would be driving around in something just a little more safe and practical.)

While these few things stand out, it seems that whenever I try to focus on actual, physical gifts that I’ve received, my list of favorites is on the short side. I realized pretty early on in my life that the best and most meaningful gifts weren’t the kind, as the Grinch would say, that came wrapped with boxes and bows. Rather, they were the sort of gifts you can’t buy: friendship, encouragement, belief, and above all, love.

I like to joke that I ended up marrying the most frugal Midwesterner alive. My husband Dan has never showered me with lavish gifts. He brings a measured sensibility to everything he does, and that includes gift giving. Every year, when my birthday rolls around, or Christmas, or any other gift giving occasion, I appreciate the thoughtfulness of his gift choices, but it’s nothing compared to the human stuff he gives to me every single day.

He accepts me for who I am, without condition. This includes the ups, the downs, and the hormonally fueled not-so in-betweens. I can cry and kick and scream. I can laugh and share and give. I can be icky, and I can be fabulous. I can be a Size 10 or 40 pounds overweight. In other words, I can be utterly and completely human. And he continues to give that ultimate gift of love.

I think that’s the reason why my list of actual, physical gifts over the years has never been super long or easy to recall, because all of that stuff, while nice and thoughtful and always appreciated, simply pales in comparison.

-Cathryn Zielske, blogger - Bits & Pieces

This year for Christmas, my husband, Jeff pre-registered me for weekly yoga classes and volunteered to watch our 21 month old son so I can go.

On the surface, yoga classes may not seem like such a great present. But here's what you need to know: Jeff knows that I would have felt guilty taking an hour for myself every week. He also knows that I would never have gotten the nerve to do yoga in a studio setting without a little push.

It's been a rough year for both of us, but I'm the one who has gained weight and stopped taking the time to be active. I'm the one who has complained, not very graciously, about those things on many occasions.

The gift was not in the lessons themselves, it was in the message behind them. The best part is the knowledge that I have a husband who not only knows me better than anyone, but ultimately took the time and consideration to give me just what I need, even when I didn't ask for it.

-Tammie Booth, blogger - Soul Gardening

I have received a lot of gifts over my lifetime that I cherish completely, like a heart necklace that encases two pearls – one for each of my daughters – which makes me feel like they are always with me. Another one is a cookie bouquet that I received seven years ago from my husband because he was overseas on business on Valentine’s Day and we couldn’t be together. However, the best gift I have ever received is not something physical, but something that has been said to me - frequently at times and infrequently at other times. When my husband and daughters tell me they love me purely out of the blue (which means without me saying it first!), I cherish it deep in my heart. I often think that the power of words is often underestimated. Sometimes what you say can be the greatest gift to someone without you even realizing it – I’m thinking about you, I care about you, if there is anything I can do to help, I love you – these phrases often feel like the biggest gift of all when they are said to me.

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-Jenna Kuhl, blogger - Learning As I Go

I could easily get way sentimental about the many gifts with which I’ve been blessed in my life: a loving family, a wonderfully supportive and freethinking husband and three startlingly perfect children (ahem.) for starters. Not to mention the beast that is our family dog. I also have my health, some talent and a WAH husband that embraces tag teaming, offering me the gift of time… and as any mother knows… there is nothing like the gift of time.

That said… as I consider my best gift ever, amongst the multitude of gifts that I am blessed with each and every day, and outside the most important of them mentioned above, it’s a no-brainer.

I turned the big 4-0 just before Christmas. I had only one request, outside of steak and lobster and NO FIGHTING ANTAGONIZING TORTURING FARTING ON YOUR SISTER- hey, 40’s a biggie… a request I actually never really thought would be granted…

A grown up, real-life, cozy chair upon which to contemplate the wonder that is my life.

Yup. A chair. With an ottoman! I can’t tell you how much it pleases me. You betcha. Here. Right now. Pleased.

-Tracy Connery, blogger - Pluttification

My 'best gift ever' story just happened to take place on Valentine's Day.

So - let me lay some background first. I am 25, in medical school, dating my hubby-to-be. A week or so before Valentine's Day I ask, "So, are you planning anything for Valentine's Day or would you like me to plan something?" Scotty, "Why don't you let me be the guy and I'll handle it?" So - I actually do back off and chill - very difficult for me but I try. Morning of Valentine's Day we wake up (don't make a face, I was in medical school - not just being a bad girl, really!) and I sweetly say, "Good morning, happy Valentine's Day. So what have you got planned for us?" Scotty: "Well, I was thinking I would make reservations and we'd go out for a really nice dinner." "You were THINKING you'd make reservations?" The next 10 minutes are frantic - he's flipping through the phone book - calling around desperately, begging for a table. Finally, Scott says "I found a restaurant. Sounds great. They don't even need reservations. It's called Boston Market." I completely freak out, storm out, slam the door. I do, however, stop at a store and buy him a card, a small gift. I was not really THAT mad but really? I had to set a precedent. This kind of behavior was unacceptable!

I drive home and find about 14 voice mails - all full of apologies. I call him back and he sheepishly asks, "Do you think I could cook you dinner instead?" I arrive to his residence and find smoke billowing out of his tiny apartment (we were very poor, med students and he was living next to "crack alley" in a 500 square foot studio). He has his silk shirt stuck to his body with sweat. He has cooked me the best steak and lobster dinner I have ever tasted (even still and it has been 12 years) with killer twice baked potatos and chocolate fondue - yummy! He has chilled the champagne and bought 2 dozen roses. All of this with no car, just a crappy little bicycle. Wow.

So - no big diamonds or little boxes (these gifts all came later, after med school - and I should say he has great taste!) but this was truly the best gift ever. The effort, the worry, the sweating and running around - all for me. I was in love with him way before this - but this night pretty much sealed the deal.

We now often have to work on Valentine's Day (we both became ER docs and it goes with the territory). But this is a night I will never forget.

Happy Valentine's Day to all of you! Wishing you all your own wonderful 'Boston Market' night out (or in).

- Cindy, blogger - OohLaLaMama

My very first journal was a gift from my mom that has always been meaningful to me. In addition to being one of the best gifts I have ever received, it was also one of my most memorable gifts as it inspired my love for writing throughout my life. I remember taking it to class when I was in elementary school, it even had a lock and key (to protect it from my brother). As years passed, my journals became a perfect place to express my daily and deepest thoughts about life. I now have a stack of journals from childhood through marriage that my family and I cherish. We read through them from time to time and laugh (especially at my funny artwork), learn from my experiences, and re-live memories.

-Emily Norton, blogger & editor, Little Window Shoppe

Arthur Wilson Bingham was my grandfather. I remember him as a grouchy old man who would mumble a lot, and go out on the porch to smoke because my grandmother yelled at him to not smoke in the house. He laced his coffee with whiskey, and spent most of his time being grizzled and gruff. I knew that he loved me, but I never remember him actually saying so. I used to ask if he loved my grandmother because I certainly never saw any signs of affection from either of them. The only time I ever saw them hug or kiss was at their 50th wedding anniversary. He just wasn’t an affectionate or loving kind of a man.

In my scrapbook, there is an old and very treasured valentine. It has a little girl on the front in a purple dress with a bonnet. Blonde hair curls around her shoulders. She’s surrounded by lilacs. I don’t know what the card says because it’s sealed in plastic to protect it; it’s so old and fragile. The inscription on the page says that it’s a valentine from the 1920’s, saved and given to me forty years later by my grandfather, Arthur Wilson Bingham, on my first Valentine’s Day.

He loved me enough to be my very first valentine.

-Julie Barnson, blogger - Every Life Has a Story



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