When I was a teenager my mom walked in on my boyfriend and I kissing in my bedroom. It was about 4 p.m. on a weekday and she wasn’t expected home until 5:30 so you can only imagine my shock when all of a sudden I hear her voice (which as a teenager was like nails on a chalkboard) exclaiming to me in her most irritated tone, “What in the H… do you think you are doing young lady?”

I responded with the first thing that came to mind, “My homework.”  I said trying to compose myself. Then, in a typical teenage manner I added fuel to the fire by adding, “what are you doing home anyway? You’re not supposed to be here yet.”

Yea, I was a real treat as a teenager. I gave my mom years of sneaking out, talking back and bad grades. Fortunately, my behavior didn’t carry on too long; otherwise I might not be alive to write about it. Although she probably wanted to kill me as a teenager, thankfully, today, my mom and I are the best of friends.

While my mom knows how much I love and admire her, I don’t think she will ever get the credit she deserves for the work she has done as a mother and as a human being. Without a doubt my mom is the strongest and most forgiving person I know. She is the reason why I strive to handle most disappointments in life with grace. It is because of my mom’s example that I know what it means to let go of what isn’t and live your life as is.

When I look back at my mother’s life, I realize how courageous and how selfless she has lived. She made countless sacrifices to ensure my sister’s and I happiness.

February 12th is my mom’s birthday and two days later on Valentine’s Day it is my sister’s birthday. Born two days and four decades apart these two women have each been a source of inspiration, strength and unconditional love for me. They are my every-day-of-the-year-Valentines.

While couples across the country will be professing their love over a romantic meal, red roses and champagne, I will be signing happy birthday and eating cake and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing, unless of course I get a last minute “homework assignment.”