FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - So you're spending another holiday alone, courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Valentine's Day is a holiday for lovers; a painful reminder that you're on your own. Having spent 20 years as a military spouse, I speak from experience. Experience has also taught me that I can't change the situation, but I am in control of how I spend my holiday.

As far as I am concerned the best way to deal with Valentine's Day is just to ignore it, but society makes it difficult, bombarding us with advertising for jewelry, chocolate in heart-shaped boxes and flowers.

Most of us have seen the TV commercial. Violins play. Prince Charming presents his lady love a dream gift over a candlelight dinner along with the greeting card that says "just the right thing."

It's enough to make a girl want to stay home, eat mint chocolate chip ice cream and watch sappy movies.

That's one option.

But there are other choices. Ignore commercial and fairy tale messages and instead write your own scenario for Feb. 14. Script the saint's day as a solo event, celebrate with friends or create a special message for your love.

If Valentine's Day is all about love, this would be a good time to show your love for yourself. Make an appointment for a massage. Take a bubble bath surrounded by candles with soft music in the background. Order a fancy dinner for takeout and pick it up on your way home, then using your finest crystal and china, eat it by candlelight. Or make a dinner date with your best friend at your favorite restaurant. Buy that book or CD you have been wanting, and enjoy.

Although Valentine's Day is traditionally known for romantic love, it is also a good time to express your love and appreciation for others in your life as well. Call that elderly aunt you have been thinking about.
Reach out to the shut-in in your neighborhood with a small gift and one of those silly little cards you used to hand out in school. Take the rest of them to work and leave them lying on people's desks before they arrive. It is sure to brighten their day.

It is not unusual for people to volunteer at a food bank or homeless shelter during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, but someone who managed one once told me that she would appreciate having volunteers come in for Valentine's Day so those who use the services don't feel so alone and unloved.

If you really want to go all out, throw a party. Invite friends in the same situation over and tell them to bring munchies to share. Avoid the pity party, make it a celebration.

Play cards and board games. Get down on the floor and play some kids games like jacks and Twister. No one can get on the floor and play without laughing. Don't forget to have lots of chocolate on hand, which doctors prescribed in the 1800s as a somewhat unusual cure for a broken heart.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can't get past missing your Soldier to do anything else. That is the perfect time to write that love letter for your Soldier carry while you two are separated.

You can't hug an email.

Old-fashioned letter-writing seems to be a thing of the past in the days when we do most of our communicating by email, text message or online. Over the years I have learned how much old-fashioned letters are appreciated and what made them special. Here are a few of the things I have learned, either from my experience or that of someone who shared it with me.

Take the time to find the right paper and pen. Using a piece of notebook paper will work, but it won't look like a lot of thought went into this letter. You don't have to use fancy parchment. Try several different pens to see which looks best with the paper you have chosen. Don't use a felt tip.

Write on only one side of the paper so creases from it being folded and refolded won't make it difficult to read the words on the other side.

Be sure to hand-write this letter; don't print if off your computer. Your handwriting will be one of the things that make it special, no matter how bad your writing is. Plus hand-writing it will make the paper smell like you when it is opened. You carry a scent even when you don't wear a perfume.

Get in the right mood. Put his picture where you can see it, light a few candles, and play "your" song.

Organize your thoughts. You might want to make a list.

How did you meet' When did you realize you were in love' Have you ever told him about that moment' A love letter is a great way to relive those shared memories.

Tell him what makes him so special. Tell him about the future you want to have with him.

Who is Snookums' Personalize the greetings, but don't use terms of endearment you wouldn't usually use with your Soldier.

Be sure to put a date on your letter so when your sweetheart - or offspring - will have that point-of-reference and appreciate it more years later.

Now, take that list of everything you wanted to say and put it on paper. No need for fancy words, just tell him how you feel. But don't make it too long, your love may lose interest. Instead, leave 'em wanting more.

How to end your correspondence' Some spray their stationery with perfume and seal it with a kiss. If this is something you think your loved one would appreciate, by all means, go for it, but don't feel like you have to. This love letter will be treasured with or without those extra steps.

Page last updated Thu February 10th, 2011 at 12:35