Dearest Mike,

I have officially spent the past 365 days as Mrs. Darter.

Maybe my moniker hasn’t fully changed professionally–I am weaning off Meltzer gradually–or at the kids’ school, where my name will always match my son’s in some way, but I shed the weight of my mistaken identity as soon as I said “I Do.”

Mrs. Darter feels right, after many wrongs.

This past year wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, either. We were tested. We have yet to go on a honeymoon. We didn’t have time to whisk ourselves away to tranquil, turquoise water beaches, or nestle our tired, achy feet in pink, powdery sand, or embrace lustful love sans the every day complexity of raising two boys.

I put a deposit on a trip to Bermuda that was voluntarily returned after it was twice rescheduled due to childcare issues. I singlehandedly drove the travel agent to drink a fruity cocktail in her cubicle, headphones be damned. And, believe me, I can relate to that feeling.

When our kids stay up too late or get up too early–or, in our case, both, with one of each–I fantasize about a week with just you to wake when we want to, do what we want to, be what we want to be without hockey, wrestling, lacrosse, football, play dates, homework, drama, in-fighting, school lunches, work, Nerf guns, backtalk, Roblox, and endless responsibilities clouding our vision of each other.

I long to just see you–your handsome, masculine face; your soulful, sea-blue eyes; your too-cute dimples and bright, reassuring everything-is-going-to-be-alright smile. I long to hear your husky voice with your trademark New York accent, unfiltered and uninterrupted. I long to aimlessly stroll the beach at sunset, like we did on our first date. I long to hold your strong, capable hand that softens only for me. I long for adventure, to discover new nooks of the world together, leaving our collective Mr. & Mrs. handprint in our wake.

Still, skipping a honeymoon was the easiest part, considering what we were dealt. Ailing parents. Health scares. Two strong-willed children who don’t always want to “blend”. Stress. Getting our house ready to plan for a long-overdue move. Life threw a lot of shit our way to see what would stick. And, with you, my hubba hubba hubby, it didn’t stand a chance.

While this year has been anything but carefree, I am grateful for it and its hellish splendor. For the first time in my 45 years of life, I know I have a partner. When I am on shaky ground, you level it out for me. When I am pondering how to best tackle a challenge, you roll up your sleeves with me. When I am flustered, you calm me. When I am about to fall, you catch me. When I win, you cheer for me. When I am ugly, you see the beauty in me. When I go to sleep, you are right beside me.

And I know you’re not going anywhere.

Here are the top 17 reasons–in honor of our first anniversary on June 17th– that I am not going anywhere, either.

1. You always believe in me, and hold me to that standard.

2. You operate with integrity, even when no one is watching. I see you.

3. You would defend me anytime, anywhere, at any cost.

4. You are a gourmet cook and foodie who makes the most delectable midnight meals to savor together.

5. You think you’re right about all random topics that arise. This quality both delights and infuriates me, and keeps me entertained and engaged.

6. You always bring me something home from the grocery store, leave me love notes in the most unexpected places, and dedicate meaningful songs. Each day, you show me you love me in so many ways, even when I am being a raging pain in the ass.

7. You spare me from reading directions, doing math over and above using a calculator, and relying completely on Siri to leave our driveway. You are my fixer, my mathematician, my compass, my anchor.

8. You understand me without me having to explain myself.

9. You rise to my level of sarcastic humor, and often beat me at my own schtick. You’re hilarious.

10. You open the car door for me, even if we’re rushing to get the kids to school. Now, my little man opens my door if you’re away, as he is learning to be a gentleman by your example.

11. You are brilliant in mind, body, and spirit.

12. You still give me butterflies. And the best back rubs.

13. You set the standard of how to be a man. No matter how tall our kids get, they will always look up to you.

14. You have far more patience in your pinky finger than I do in my whole body. You give me balance.

15. You are my best friend in the world. There is no one I would rather hang out with, regardless of where I am or what I am doing.

16. You love loyally, selflessly, fully, eternally.

17. You trust me. Remember when I saw a photo of a painfully thin dog rescued from living in a dumpster with her puppies in Tennessee? I immediately fell in love with her beautiful, sad eyes, and instinctively knew she was meant to be our dog.

Although you didn’t originally see what I saw in her, you opened your eyes a little wider, and you got there–for me. You’re so willing to take another look at anything if I ask you to, and that keeps my eyes solely on you, forever.

Happy 1st Anniversary, my love.

Lava you, pinf.

Your wifey

xoxo