1. A touching installment of Modern Love appeared in The NY Times, Caroline Leavitt’s “My Touchstone and a Heart of Gold.” It’s a story of judgment and love and pet turtles, not to mention the difference between loving a person for who you’d like them to be/who you think they should be vs. who they actually are, foibles and eccentricities included:

lindsay1The more time I spent discovering the tortoise [Minnie], the more my boyfriend uncovered things about me he didn’t like. My friends were now too loud, and why couldn’t I trade my jeans for something more feminine, with a flounce? One weekend, when he had gone out to spend the bright summer day with his parents at their country club, I was sitting alone watching an old movie on TV, the tortoise on my lap, a book on the table for later. As I stroked Minnie’s leathery head, I began to realize how calm and happy I was. I had a more fulfilling relationship with the tortoise than I did with the boyfriend. Minnie and I let each other be who we were…

[Months later, after breaking up with that boyfriend, a new man is invited over for dinner]. Jeff cautiously sat down. He looked from me to the tortoise tank and didn’t say a word. When Minnie lunged for a worm, Jeff flinched. But he didn’t get up and leave, and at the end of the evening, he asked for another date. He didn’t object weeks later when I told him I wanted us to take Minnie to Central Park, and he came with a picnic basket and a little wrapped gift. I opened it and inside was a little red rubber squid toy. “I thought he’d like it,” Jeff said, wiggling it at Minnie, who lunged toward it.

Where my old boyfriend told me how obsessive I was about Minnie, Jeff celebrated our connection, making a fake newspaper cover featuring Minnie and me. (“Startling Tales of Tortoise Life! She holds me under the faucet!” the headline blared.)…

[After Minnie finally died] people told me about their dogs and cats who had died, and I thought, it’s easy to love the beautiful, the normal. But what about the gifts of loving the strange, the uncommon, the odd?

I felt I would never get over him. Then one day I came home to find Jeff grinning. “Come to your office,” he said. We walked upstairs, and there on the wall was a painting of Minnie, walking on our wood floors, moving toward an open doorway, his head happily aloft. I looked at Jeff, astonished. An old high school friend, a painter, had captured Minnie on canvas, and Jeff had hung the portrait inches from where Minnie’s tank used to be…

I looked across the hall to see my husband waving and beaming at me, and I gazed at the wall and there was Minnie. A strange little figure. Uncommon. Odd. And completely and always beloved.

2. Also in The Times, Gordon Marino expounds on the underrated virtue of tenderness:

maxIf a primary aim in life is to develop into a caring and connected human being (admittedly, a big “if”), rather than, say, thinking of oneself as a tourist collecting as many pleasant and fulfilling experiences as possible, then surely a capacity for tenderness must play a role. Of course, that softening of the heart does not guarantee our humanity. After all, Hitler teared up over his pooch and perhaps Genghis Khan did the same over his horses. Still, an otherwise upright person who could walk by a little girl greeting her soldier dad coming home from war without a feeling of heat coming to the cheeks is lacking something. The person who is stopped in their tracks by the sight of a hunched, old woman, bags in hands, waiting in a thick snowfall to be picked up from a shopping trip, might be in a better spiritual place than those of us marching with our heads down, consumed with the pressing problem of how we can get to the gym for some cardio before meeting the wife for dinner at Chez whatever…

In general, tenderness involves increased sensitivity. When we say that an injury is tender, we mean that it is hyper-sensitive to the touch. And in moments of tenderness it is as though the ego and all its machinations momentarily melt away so that our feelings are heightened and we are perhaps moved by the impulse to reach out with a comforting hand.

3. How sweet and beautiful and romantic and, yes, relevant is Disney’s Oscar-nominated short, “Paperman”, ht MS?!

4. Be sure to check out Flavorwire’s Illustrated Wes Anderson and Arrested Development Valentine’s Day E-cards.

5. Next, there’s The Gameological Society’s “Thank You Mario! But Our Princess Is Codependent!: 15 Dysfunctional Relationships in Games.”

6. Humor-wise The Onion’s “Girlfriend Just Wants To Have Low-Key, Laid-Back Valentine’s Day Fight This Year” is pretty funny and McSweeney’s list of Taylor Swift B-Sides might give you a chuckle.

7. Last but by no means least (the opposite), for an incredibly palpable testament to the power and reality of divine love (and its implications in a relationship), the story of Presbyterian pastor Skip Ryan and his public bout with narcotics is awe-inspiring, ht JB:

Skip & Barbara Ryan Story of Rescue from PCPC Video on Vimeo.