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Dear Caroline,

You asked me the other day why I loved you. I think you meant it as a joke. But it made me think. So this morning, after I got home from work, I started jotting down some notes. It took me about 20 minutes to come up with 101 reasons why I love you. This is, in no way, a complete list. But I think it will get my point across.

1. I love your smile and your dimples. I write about your dimples and I dream about that smile. I want to wake up to both every morning for the rest of my life.

2. I love your laugh. Not just your cute giggle when I’ve whispered something to you, but the one that makes you throw your head back and makes others turn to look at you. The one you can’t control that starts in your toes.

3. I love your eyes. They are so expressive. I know what you’re feeling when I gaze into them. I could get lost for forever. With those eyes, what hope did I ever have?

4. I love your crazy hair. The fact that it’s rarely constrained. I loved when it was long and curly and I love it now that it’s short. I love putting my hands into all of that gorgeous, dark brown, espresso glory.

5. I love your ankles and your feet. I love how small your ankles are and how perfect each of your toes are. I love that you go barefoot whenever possible.

6. I love your hands. I’ve felt your grip and know how strong they are and I’ve felt them on my skin and know how gentle they can be. I love them when you’re working and they’re rough and calloused. I love when you’ve had time off and they’re smooth and soft.

7. I love your ears. I love the shape of them and how you get goosebumps when I whisper into them, barely brushing then with my lips or breath.

8. I love listening to you sing. I love when some obscure late 80s, early 90s song comes on and you can’t contain yourself and you start singing out loud.

9. I love it when you’re involved in something and you start whistling. I’ve never been able to stand the sound before, but when you do it… it’s such an endearing sound.

10. I love your face. I know I say those words a lot, but I really mean it. I love the bones and muscles and cartilage that make up your face. I love that those specific things come together to make every expression that I love, help to form every word you say, that it makes you beautiful. That the tiny imperfections in it give me more to love, like your dimples.

11. I love your skin. I love how pale it is. That it burns so easily in the sun. I love how smooth it is. I love the contrast of it against your dark hair. I love the way it looks against our cream colored sheets. I love it so much that I’ve painted abstracts using only those colors.

12. I love that first five seconds when you take off your glasses and blink like a baby owl. As soon as your vision adjusts, you always turn to me and smile.

13. I love your concentration face. That face you wear when you’re chopping, slicing, or dicing. When you’re thinking or writing down a recipe. When you’re considering what you have on hand and what to do for a special. When I’ve described something in the past and you take a minute to transport yourself back there and re-live it for a minute.

14. I love watching you work. It doesn’t matter whether you’re working with a knife, standing over a grill, or washing dishes. I love the look of contentment on your face when you’re in a kitchen.

15. I love it when you wear jewelry. You do it so infrequently because you work with your hands. I love it when you wear a watch or a ring. I can’t take my eyes off of it. I love your hands and when you adorn them, I can’t look away.

16. I love the way you smell. You always smell like fresh rain in the spring. I could lay next to you with my nose buried in your hair or neck, breathing you in, forever.

17. I love how short you are. I love watching you stand on your tip toes to reach something. I love watching the muscles in your buttocks and thighs flex. It makes me think of all the other times I’ve seen them flex.

18. I love your butt. I love the firmness of the muscles. I love the way each cheek is perfectly designed to fit into my hand. I love that it’s so round and perky and perfect.

19. I love the swell of your breasts. I mean that in both a sexual and a non-sexual way. I love tracing my fingertips over the soft curves of each when you’re lying on your back, where they meet at your breastbone. I love the curve they make near your ribs when you’re lying on your side. I love unbuttoning your chef coat to expose just the top curve, still in your bra.

20. I love your nose. I love the shape and angle of it. I love the way it wrinkles a little when I kiss the tip of it. I love it when you press it to mine and give me Eskimo kisses.

21. I love watching you when you’re frustrated and trying not to be. When you can’t keep your hands out of your own hair and it ends up with all kinds of twists and spikes. I can tell how stressful your day has been by counting the spikes in your hair.

22. I love the graceful curve of your neck. When your hair was longer, I loved when you’d pull it up, exposing the back of your pale neck and all the tiny, fine, dark hairs. Now that your hair is shorter, it’s always exposed. Some of my favorite places to kiss include the back of your neck, just under your hairline, that spot under your ear, where your jaw line meets your neck, and that tiny spot under your chin. Yes, that one.

23. I love your eyebrows. You refer to them as your fuzzy caterpillars, which is all the more reason I love them and you. I love the way they arch. I love that they’re so dark against your skin. And I love the way they frame your beautiful eyes.

24. I love the curve of your shoulder when you’re laying on your side in our bed. I love when it’s exposed and not hidden by the sheets when you sleep. I love to climb into bed behind you and kiss you there first.

25. I love your thighs. I love that they are ample and firm. I love the feeling of sitting in your lap, resting on them. I love the way they feel around me when we make love. I love running my hands up from your knees on them. I love the shivers you get when I drag my nails across them, whether they are bare or clothed.

26. I love your perseverance. I love how you never let tiny setbacks keep you down for long. How you never give up and consistently believe that it will all be worth it.

27. I love how loyal you are. I love how you will defend your loved ones to the very end. You will always stand up for the little guy and root for the underdog.

28. I love how open and honest you are with me. I know that it’s taken you a long time to reach that point at all. I love that you trust me. I love the work you put into continually being honest with me, even when it’s hard.

29. I love how hard-working you are. I love that you’re not afraid to get dirty or to do the jobs no one else wants to do because you understand it needs to be done. I love that you’re nut afraid of hard work.

30. I love how kind you are. How you go out of your way to make everyone else feel special. I love that you constantly try to find ways to make others smile and laugh.

31. I love how caring you are. I love that you can’t stand to see someone else upset, no matter the cause. I love that you’re so empathetic. I love that in an emotional situation, you’re just as likely to cry as the person you’re consoling.

32. I love how generous you are. I love how willing you are to pick up dinner, bring me an M&M McFlurry, take the kids and I bowling, or how often you offer to help me.

33. I love that you cry. I’ve been with emotional robots before. I don’t like any of the reasons you cry, but I love that you’re willing to let your emotions and memories roll down your cheeks.

34. I love your sense of personal responsibility. I love that you take every task at work seriously, from prep to scheduling, from washing dishes to food orders. I love that you take pride in a job well done. I love that you take on additional responsibilities to lighten the load of others, if you can.

35. I love how gentle you are. Whether you’re massaging my shoulders, kissing my cheek, holding my hand, or passing with the kids. You are so careful in every interaction with another living thing. You are never heavy handed.

36. I love how much you love all critters. I love that you love dogs, cats, fish, hermit crabs, everything you come across. I love that you can’t come home without speaking to the dog, checking on the fish tanks, and saying hi to Charlie, Greg, Green Bean, and Captain Sparkles.

37. I love watching your sense of wonder and awe. I love how you can stare at the night sky and get completely lost. I love how you can listen to me talk about chemistry or pharmacology or insurance law and wear the same face as when you’re watching a shark documentary with me, learning a new tip or trick of your trade, or being mesmerized by a sunrise.

38. I love that you’re always willing to compromise. I love that you never take from someone else more than you feel they can give. I love that you’re willing to work with me to find workable solutions for everything we’ve come across so far.

39. I love how you have a deep desire to take care of others. You want to be the provider and support those you love. You want to help me with the kids. You want to take care of me. You love being in that role, with us, with your mother, with your best friends.

40. I love your love of learning. I love that you have widely varied interests and want to find out as much as you can about everything. I love that you’ll read or watch practically anything.

41. I love that you love to travel. I love that you want to go and do and see. I want to as well. I love that you’re not afraid to do it now even though I can’t be with you.

42. I love that you approach every single thing in your life to the best of your abilities. I’ve never known anyone who wanted to give everything to every single thing she does. I know that this sometimes causes a war within you, if you feel like you can’t give your best to things that you consider mutually exclusive. But even then, you strive for it all. You want to give it your best.

43. I love that you’re willing to apologize. I find it endearing that you apologize if you feel you’re wrong, even if you’re not. I love that you feel the need for forgiveness even if you are the only one who perceives the wrong. I love that it is so important to you.

44. I love that you understand the importance of family and quality time. I love that you feel family isn’t always a matter of blood or genetics. I love that you understand the nature of making time and sacrifices for family.

45. I love your love of cooking. I love that it’s not just a job or a paycheck for you. I love that you send a piece of you on every plate you send out.

46. I love how you love to impart wisdom to others. To teach them and help them understand. I’ve watched you in a kitchen. You are always willing to stop and explain or teach a new method.

47. I love how patient you are. I know that you sometimes feel like you struggle with it. You wish you were more patient. But I watch you. You may get frustrated later, but at that time, in that moment, you listen and explain as many times and as many ways as it takes.

48. I love that you choose to lead by example. I love that you do everything in a kitchen that you expect an employee to do, and would never ask them to do something you wouldn’t. You fix sinks and wash dishes and scrub floors. You stay late and help mop even though it’s very obvious that it’s below your pay grade and you’re already stretched so thin. You stay and help so that everyone leaves together.

49. I love that everyone loves you. I’ve known you a very long time but I’ve rarely heard anyone say anything negative about you. Everywhere we go, someone stops us to talk to you. Everyone knows you. Everyone thinks so highly of you.

50. I love your sense of humor. I love your ability to find something funny in every situation. I love the things that make you laugh or tickle your funny bone. I love the things that make you laugh.

51. I love the way you make me feel safe and secure in your arms. I love the way the outside world and all my troubles fade as soon as you wrap your arms around me. I love how any problem feels inconsequential when I’m with you. I have no doubt that we can tackle anything as long as we’re together.

52. I love the way I don’t fight the nightmares when we’re together. I love the way you hold me and relax me and I drift off completely at peace, every single time. I love that I’m not haunted by my past and the monsters in it when I’m safe with you. You are my security blanket, my Woobie, and my talisman for keeping the monsters at bay.

53. I love the way you make me feel about myself. I feel so sexy when I’m around you. I never feel taken for granted or unappreciated. I feel good about my decisons and everything I do. I feel like a better person. I feel like I strive harder because you love me.

54. I love the way you kiss me. I love the way your lips feel against mine. How warm and wet and willing your mouth always is. I love that when you kiss me it’s like you can never get enough. I love that breaks in conversations or “I love you”s are always punctuated with kisses. I love how you always seem to know exactly how I want it.

55. I love the way you touch my face. I love the way your fingers caress my cheeks and brush my lips. I love when you stroke my forehead or cup my chin to turn my face up to you.

56. I love the way you trace my tattoos when you’re getting drowsy. When you trace the outline of the kids’ stars or your sun. When you trace the lilies on my back or the butterfly on my check. I can’t wait for you to trace your words, in your handwriting, in your language, on my shoulder.

57. I love the way you can never stop touching me. The way you have to be in physical contact with me if we’re in the same place. They way you walk behind me on the barstool and stretch to be able to kiss my neck or shoulder, the way you slip your hand into mine, the way you wrap your arm around my waist when we’re walking or sitting in a booth. The way you can never get enough of me.

58. I love the way you hold my hand. The way your hand fits in mine and the way your thumb always caresses the top or side of my hand. It’s almost like you’re not even aware that you’re doing it. I love the way you’ll grasp my hand for a second and then trace the lines on my palm with your fingertips. I love that you reach for my hands when we’re sleeping and when we’re making love. I love that you never want to let go.

59. I love the way you snore. I love the slow deep breaths you take when you’re completely relaxed and sleeping. I love when you’re curled up behind me, as much physical contact as possible and you rest your cheek on my neck. I love the soft snores that escape and tickle my ear.

60. I love the things you say when you talk in your sleep. How, if I move and jostle you at all, you reach for me and murmer “I love you”. I love your sleepy marriage proposals. I love that when you’re completely unconscous and unaware of your surroundings, you still feel the need to remind me that I am loved.

61. I love watching you play with the kids. I love watching you tickle each other and giggle and rough house. I love watching you knock over furniture and jump on the bed. I love that you always have time to stop and play with them.

62. I love you when you’re hangry. I love that you get so hungry that it seems like your world is coming unglued. I love the grateful face you make when I realize it and bring you exactly what you wanted. You’re so adorable, even then.

63. I love the way you love chocolate frostys from Wendy’s. I love that no matter what is going on, a frosty is the answer. With a Jr double bacon cheeseburger and fries and a cherry Coke, of course. I love that there’s nothing a frosty can’t fix.

64. I love that you trust me. I know it’s difficult for you to believe that I want nothing and expect nothing from you but your love. I know it’s been difficult for you to trust others in the past. I love that you strive every day to remember to trust me. That you believe me when I tell you that I love you. I know it’s been hard for you, even with me.

65. I love the way you love me. So completely and unconditionally. I love that you love being in love with me and the way it makes us both feel like we can take on the world. I love that you love me enough to put what you think is best for me above what you want for yourself, even when it hurts like hell. I’m glad we’ve reached a point where you can understand that I can love you just the way you are. And it’s easy, because you love every part of me.

66. I love the way you surprise me. I love when you give me tiny tokens of your affection. I don’t need or want them every day, but you always seem to know when I do need a little extra. You pay attention when I talk and you know me well enough to surprise me with small gifts that obviously took time to think about and get just right. You understand that I don’t need much, so you also understand how much I treasure every single gift. The banana runts are still in their bag in the nightstand drawer. I love the way you surprise me with anniversary dinner plans that are perfect (whether or not we get to go) and how you know I love the waterfront at sunset.

67. I love the way you get to me and always seem to know what to say, even if you’re unsure how to say it. I love you seem to have a direct line to my heartstrings and know when and how hard to pull.

68. I love your appreciation for the finer things in life as well as your appreciate for the old and antique. I love that you understand the value of things as well as their place and purpose. I’ve never met anyone as eclectic as myself who understood that these two things are not mutually exclusive.

69. I love your love of food. I love watching your face when you try a new dish or you are savoring one of your favorites. I’ve watched it so often I know whether you’re being sincerely complimentary about my cooking or whether you’re trying not to hurt my feelings. I know when we go out whether you like something before you’ve finished your first bite. And I love that you love to take your time and enjoy it.

70. I love your love of adventure. I love your willingness to try new things and experiences, even if they make you uncomfortable at first. I love that sometimes just going to the store with the kids and I can be one.

71. I love the way you sleep. I love that as soon as I crawl into bed, you turn towards me and entertwine every part of your body with mine. I love the peaceful look on your face when we sleep together. I love to just watch you sleep. You’re so beautiful when all of your defenses are down and you’re so vulnerable.

72. I love the way there’s always a glass of water by the bedside. I love that you absolutely cannot come to bed without bringing your glass with you. More than that, I love it when you leave it there after you’re gone.

73. I love the way you’re never satisfied with a card as is. I love that there is always a personal message, something just for me, in every one. So I’ve kept them all. When I miss you, I re-read them.

74. I love the way you stashed small love letters and poetry throughout the house when you left for this great adventure. I love opening a drawer or moving things around to find something there for me. Something that proves that you were here and you were thinking of me. Something that you left for me to find when I would need you most. I have all of the ones I’ve found so far where I can look at them and read them every day.

75. I love that you make me a better person. You keep me honest and always encourage me to do my best, no matter what that is. When I am stressed or falling apart, it’s you I turn to to keep me on track. I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for you and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.

76. I love the way you let me dream big. I love the way I can say the most outlandish things and you always agree. Everything from asking if we can have a pet lion or caymen or if we can open a ridiculously impractical storefront, if we can move to here, there, or yonder, if we can paint the ceiling magenta. I love the way I can send you a random, nonsensical text message and you always let me have it my way.

77. I love that you let me plan hypothetical vacations with you. I love that you let me go on and on about that Mediterranean cruise I want to take or a trip to Bali or Fiji or Italy or Greece… I love that it doesn’t matter where I want to go, that you want to go with me.

78. I love that you want the wife and kids package. It is a deluxe package in this case, but more often than not, it’s been a deal breaker in my past. I love that you love them as much as you love me. I love that understand that we are a three piece set and that it hasn’t deterred you in any way.

79. I love the way we lay in bed and talk. I love that there’s mutual respect and that we can each talk without interrupting the other. I love that you listen to me and really hear what I am saying. I love that you are comfortable opening up to me about things that might never have been mentioned to anyone else. I love that that time and space is ours.

80. I love that our hopes and dreams are compatible. I love that we want the same things out of life and that you’re willing to work with me to get them. I love that we are equal partners in everything and that we can do all of this and more together because we love and support each other’s aspirations… because they are the same.

81. I love the way we make love. I love how it is never just sex or even about sex, really. It’s always about being as close as physically possible to each other.

82. I love the way I never feel alone or lonely with you. Even when you’re not physically here, when you’re hundreds of miles away, I don’t feel alone. I don’t feel abandoned. I know that you are always right here with me, wherever your physical body may be. You are always by my side.

83. I love the way you support me unconditionally. I love the way I never feel like I’m left hanging with you. I always know where i stand with you. I know that no matter what decisions I might make, that you will back me, no matter what anyone else says or feels about it. I know that you are on my side and that you will always be my biggest fan and cheerleader.

84. I love the way you show me that you appreciate everything I do for you. Sometimes it’s a thank you, sometimes it’s a back rub. Sometimes it’s an offer to amuse and distract the kids so that I can catch a breather. Sometimes it’s taking us all out to dinner so that I don’t have to cook. Even in the small things, like taking my plate to the kitchen, rinsing out a glass, having the yard mowed when I’m at work, or a random phone call or text message, I know you love and appreciate me.

85. I love the way you look at me. I don’t always get to catch you doing it and see it for myself, though I hear about it all the time. I love that you gaze at me adoringly and can’t take your eye off of me when you think I’m not looking. I love that you will crane your neck to watch me in the kitchen, even doing something as mundane as dishes.

86. I love the way you look at the kids. You have no manner of poker face at all when it comes to them. It won’t be too long before I start referring to them as “ours”. You’re so hopelessly in love with them and it shows every time you look at them. Every time he crawls into your lap after a doctor’s visit on a sick day or when she squeezes you so tight that you can’t breath and your back cracks. The way you go completely out of your way to do anything for them. That’s why I have giant pumpkins sitting in the floor of the den.

87. I love the way you brush your teeth. I love when you’re in the middle of it and you forget something and walk around the apartment with the toothbrush in your mouth.

88. I love the way you climb out of the shower and never, ever comb your wet hair. When it was longer, I loved the way it dripped cold water droplets onto my skin and I used to wonder why they didn’t sizzle.

89. I love the way there’s always some candy on a dresser or in a drawer. I love that you’ve taken to stashing candy for emergency purposes. I love that any time, absolutely any time, there are sour cubes within reach.

90. I love the way we get crumbs all over the goddam carpet and in the sheets. I love that we can eat rainbow M&M chocolate chip cookies in bed, off my stomach. I think back to how horrified you were the first time that I brought a hamburger into the living room to watch “Game of Thrones”. Now I feed you ice cream on the couch and chocolate frostys in bed. You’ve come a long way, baby.

91. I love the way the world closes in when you kiss me. What you describe as getting foggy or having to shake the cobwebs out. I love the way the entire world narrows to just you and me and this moment. I love that I can feel my heartbeat and I relish the way it always feels like it’s either going to explode or beat completely out of my chest. I love the way you take my breath away.

92. I love the sparks that fly when we’re together. I love how obvious it is to everyone around us that we are together. I love that sometimes, in the dark, when you kiss me, I swear that I can see fireworks above us.

93. I love your lengthy text messages. I love that you thought so much about me and have so much to share with me that you spend the time writing me a novel. I love that you have so much to tell me. And I love that it always ends with “I love you”.

94. I love good morning and good night texts. I love that I am the first thing you think about in the morning, even before you get up to pee. I love that you have to tell me you love me first thing. It makes me feel less crazy for feeling the same way. By the same token, I love that I am the last thing you think about before you go to sleep. Even if I’ve dozed off, it’s rare that I don’t wake up at some point just to tell you good night. But there’s already one there from you. I love that we usher in each new day at midnight with “New day. I love you.” even when we’re together.

95. I love that we never say goodbye. I love that we both prefer “I’ll see you later.” Even when that later may be months from now. It’s never goodbye.

96. I love our walks on the beach, the waterfront, near any body of water. I love sitting on the swings with you on the waterfront, staring at stars and making plans. I love that we feel closest to each other there. And now that you’re not right here, that same thing is true. I haven’t been able to get back to our spot on the beach, but you’ve been on your beaches there. Those times are gentle reminders that while distance may separate us for now, it’s only water. These same molecules of water that have once washed up on the beach where you are have been here as well.

97. I love that you love baseball. That’s one sport I only know a little about and I am excited to learn more from you. I love how carried away you get watching or talking about it. If I didn’t love it before, I would love it now because you enjoy it so much.

98. I love watching you get lost in the produce section of the grocery store. I love watching you mental calculate unit prices and get swept away by all the colors. I think I would love watching you at a Farmer’s Market for all of the same reasons. I love watching you mentally thumb through recipes to find a use for those absolutely beautiful organic tomatoes or peaches.

99. I love your handwriting. It is a very visual representation of your personality. It’s little and quirky and never the same because you can’t sit still under you’ve completely exhausted yourself. That’s why I needed it tattooed on my body. I have a permanent, constant reminder of you every time I look in the mirror.

100. I love when I forget how strong you are. I love when we wrestle or play and you grab me and pin me. I love the way you know how to use your weight and body to your advantage. These are things I still haven’t figured out about myself. I love how you look so tiny and yet, can pack such a punch. There’s nothing in the world like being tossed off a bed by a tiny woman.

101. I love the way you let me love you. The way it doesn’t overwhelm you the way other parts of me can. I love the way that you understand everything I mean when I condense it to “I love you”. I love the way that i sometimes make no sense to anyone else in the whole world, but you understand that all I want is to love you.