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Valentine's Day is for everyone

I feel sad whenever I hear someone grumble, "I hate Valentine's Day."

There are many reasons for feeling this way, whether it's the absence of a significant other, the feeling that a significant other won't do a thing to celebrate or simply deploring the commercialism of the holiday.

But the outpouring of hearts and flowers, cookies and paper love notes represents my favorite day of the year. So to all those inclined to say "I hate Valentine's Day," I say, everything you need to know about the holiday, you learned in kindergarten.

Go back to the basics of glue, paper, scissors, candy and frosted sugar cookies. When you're concentrating on creating a card for a friend or busily frosting cookies to anonymously drop on doorsteps, you don't have time to despair.

Let's discuss the Valentine's Day basics: decor, love notes and sugar.

No one needs more than a few dollars to create gorgeous Valentine's decorations. Remember the three pillars of cheap decor: paper, ribbon and candy. Cheer up your home or apartment with cut-out hearts; red, white and pink paper chains; pinwheels created from festive paper; and Scandinavian woven hearts. Buy a spool or two of ribbon to tie around vases, candles, chairs and doorknobs. Fill a glass jar with conversation hearts. Create a tiny bouquet with pink lollipops.

Use the same paper (and lollipops and hearts) to create love notes for the people you live with. Even if your roommate drives you crazy or your sister just ruined your best shirt, we can all spare a few kind words for the people with whom we share walls and a kitchen and bathroom space.

At my house, we devote an evening to constructing valentines for each other. Most of the year, I'm considered the creative one. But on Valentine's Day, my husband and sons put me to shame. While I make pretty, cutesy cards, they fabricate masterpieces with paper, scissors and glue.

Dear Mom, You fill the holes in my heart. Love, Ben

Gabe — life without you would be worse than a popped balloon. Love, Dad

Dear Hans — You're a great brother. I think you are awesome. Here have some candy: (an empty wrapper). Oh, sorry. Love, Stefan

Dear Mommy, my love for you is endless like this loop. You are great; don’t ever change. Love, Hans

Dear Mary, I love the way your laugh makes me laugh. Love, Ben

My favorite may be a pull-tab valentine my 15-year-old made for his 12-year-old brother:

All the things I love about Gabe … his face, his kindness, his brains, his hair, his street cred, that he’s my brother. Love, Xander

Once you've created valentines for those in your home, it's time to spread love to neighbors.

Even if you've sworn off sugar, never underestimate the power of sweets to brighten up Valentine's Day. We bake cupcakes and heart-shaped sugar cookies and place them on plates for everyone we can think of: the sweet old lady across the street, the noisy kids next door, teachers, crossing guards, the really cute girl my son never dares to speak to.

With our paper plates and simple notes, we travel through the neighborhood — sometimes on foot, sometimes by car. One person places the treats on a doorstep and rings the bell while the rest of us dive into the bushes and hide behind trees. Singing ridiculous songs and making even more ridiculous jokes, we race from house to house spreading as much cheer as possible. Inevitably, someone pulls a muscle or scrapes a knee, but the injuries only add to the merriment.

Somehow, with all the chaos and laughter, no one worries if they've received a card, chocolates or flowers.

There's plenty of love to go around.

Valentines for Everyone

A valentine video for my son's 21st birthday is on the left. We celebrated at home while he was serving a mission in Milan, Italy.

Writer and photographer Michelle Lehnardt is raising five future fathers and one little mother. She writes at scenesfromthewild.net on building chicken coops, hosting tea parties and missing her missionary son in Russia.