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This year I was inspired to make real, honest-to-goodness valentines. You know, those traditional heart-shaped treasures festooned with lace and smothered in floral and velvet. There is something about handmade valentines that strikes a forgotten chord in us, like the relighting of a candle. Once upon a time Valentine’s Day was all about the sweet, the chivalrous, and the simple. People handmade small trinkets and cherished wonders just for the sake of expressing the unspoken. You sent out Valentines to friends, loved ones, and faraway crushes. It was an excuse to be profuse with one’s feelings. It was the one day you were not only allowed, but encouraged, to put your longing, lust, and love into writing, and to send it out into the world.

Unfortunately, nowadays Valentine’s Day is a point of contention. I know very few people who celebrate this sweet holiday with the kind of romantic abandon depicted in old Victorian verse. Between the begrudging of the day’s commercialism, the bitter dispiritedness felt by those who have been hurt within or without love, and the general scorn we tend to nurse in our culture towards any unfiltered displays of emotion, Valentine’s Day has been indefinitely put out to sea.

But I think that’s unfair. Like any calendar holiday, Valentine’s day can be whatever you make of it. You can see Valentine’s day as a lackluster obligation or you can choose to embrace the one day we have set aside in our culture to celebrate love and show those you care about that they are precious to you. Long story short: I have many cherished friends and family members who live far away from me and I thought, wouldn’t it be lovely if they woke up Valentine’s Day morning to a sweet surprise in their mailbox?

It began with a trip to “the bins.” For all of you who have never experienced the Goodwill Discount Bins, picture in your mind a large warehouse full of all the piles of clothes and junk unworthy of the Goodwill shelves. Now see a battalion of bedraggled treasure hunters, sourfaced and shuffling from bin to bin in a kind of driven stupor. It’s overwhelming. As long as I stay far away from a newly brought-out bin, an event that causes those bin-fanatics who have been lurking in the shadows to descend like vultures, I can handle the experience. Honestly, sometimes you find incredible stuff. It’s like a magic eight ball. In theory, anything could pop up. But, if you pour your mind into what you wish to see, somehow, just the right message always appears before you.

This time I went to the bins with the intention to find lace, floral prints, and plethora of red fabric. Lo and Behold, I found them all…plus some.

Among other things, a body pillow cover, a doll’s apron, and an infant’s picnic dress all became the lovely material of my Valentines. That evening I put on my trusted podcasts, settled in with some tea, and got to work.

I enjoyed every minute of crafting these valentines. It felt right to put my energy into something that would mark this day as something sweet and good… no matter what craziness and sadness life might have in store.

Now, at the end of it all, with each Valentine presumably nestled into their respective mailboxes, I feel nothing but joy.

Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!