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Love can be messy, especially where a dog is involved.

Love can be messy, especially where a dog is involved. (iStock)

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I tend to panic. Rather than my heart filling with the wonderment of love, I’m struck with sudden dread. “Oh crap, it’s almost Valentine’s Day! We haven’t made dinner reservations! I need a card for Francis! I’ve gotta buy a gift!” I rush around in my salt-crusted car, hastily spending money and mustering contrived affection to fulfill modern societal expectations for this yearly celebration of love, often finding myself too tired to enjoy romance anyway.

Oh, the irony.

It wasn’t always this way. As a child, Valentine’s Day represented a whole week of excitement. First, Mom took me to the store to buy Ziggy Valentines for my classmates at East Pike Elementary School. At home while munching conversation hearts, I’d select my favorite magenta crayon and sign each one “Lisa S.” before scotch-taping it to a heart-shaped lollipop. At school, we spent the day exchanging Valentines and treats, cutting hearts out of red and pink construction paper and pasting them against lacy doilies for our moms and dads.

Having no concept of romance, I happily expressed my universal love of friends, teachers, and parents with the same affection I felt for my pets, my Barbie doll and chocolate chip mint ice cream. To me, love was whatever brought me joy. And Valentine’s Day was simply a day to celebrate that wonderful feeling without complications or contradictions.

However, the unavoidable responsibilities and routines of adulthood tend to expose the ironies of love. Such as, I love my husband, but I may be in no mood for romance, especially on a busy Monday night when my kid has a science project due, my favorite show is on and I just sprouted a cold sore. Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, but we mustn’t deny reality. Why not acknowledge and appreciate love’s contradictions and complications?

For example, I love friendships that involve no judgment, where my friend and I are free to confess our deepest insecurities, most embarrassing habits and worst flaws without fear of criticism. Instead, we offer unconditional acceptance, admiration and support.

Ironically, I also love when my BFF and I dish the dirt. In the safe and comfortable atmosphere of our supportive relationship, we engage in lively gossip about other people — movie stars, workmates, old boyfriends, public figures — judging their behavior, clothing, parenting, hairstyles, nail polish color and criminal records as if we are perfect human beings.

I love our flubbery, adorable, thick-headed, yellow English Labrador Retriever named Moby. I love that he follows me around our house, plopping down on his kitchen dog bed or sneaking up onto our couch and beds for naps. I love that, despite his stocky girth, he curls himself up to sleep, collecting all four paws near his nose.

Ironically, I also love a clean house, free of stiff yellow dog hairs that permeate every nook and cranny of our house, that weave themselves into our sweaters, that blow like tumbleweeds across our floors, that become airborne before sprinkling down onto furniture, fixtures and food.

I love our three children, each with their own distinct personalities. I love that they share my sense of humor and appreciation for clowning around. I have loved watching them grow into interesting young adults, and writing about them in my columns.

I also love the irony that they have no interest in my writing, and probably won’t read my columns until after I’ve died and they find my book while cleaning out our house for an estate sale.

I love my husband, Francis, a sweet guy with great comedic timing, a strong work ethic and an unbreakable sense of loyalty. I love that he spent 28 years serving his country in the Navy, and now works hard in his civilian job to support our family. I love that under his hairy Italian-Irish exterior is a sensitive softie without typical manly ways.

Ironically, I also love when spiders are smooshed, dead mice are removed, batteries are jump-started and toilet flappers are replaced by someone other than me, which mostly never happens.

How do I love thee? It’s complicated. It’s contradictory. It’s ironic. It’s beautiful. Let me count the ways.

Read more at, and in Lisa’s book, The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com. Email:

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