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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR READERS: A Happy Valentine's Day to one and all! There may be snowdrifts on the ground or rain clouds in the forecast, but regardless of what the weatherman says, there is sunshine and springtime in our hearts.

Years ago, in celebration of Valentine's Day, I decided to write my own Ten Commandments, the Ten Commandments of Love. Actually, at the time I was so enthusiastic that I wrote 20 -- one set for men and another for women. But then I received a letter from Mandy Stillman, a lawyer from Milwaukee, insisting that there be only one set of commandments.

She was right, of course. And here they are for your review:

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF LOVE

-- Put your spouse before your mother, your father, your son and your daughter. Your mate is your lifelong companion.

-- Do not abuse your body with excessive food, tobacco, drink, or any foreign substance that goes into your arm or up your nose.

-- Remember that cleanliness is a virtue.

-- Willingly share all of your worldly goods with your mate.

-- Do not forget to say, "I love you." Even though your love may be constant, your spouse needs to hear those cherished words often.

-- Remember that the approval of your spouse is worth far more than the adoring glances of a hundred strangers, so be true and forsake all others.

-- Permit neither your business nor your hobby to make you a stranger to your children. The most precious gift a parent can give is time.

-- Keep your home in good repair, because out of it come the joys of old age (not to mention its resale value).

-- Forgive with grace, because who among us does not need to be forgiven?

-- Honor the Lord your God every day of your life, and your children will grow up and bless you.

Today, be a sweetheart. Call someone you love and say, "I love you." (Make two or three calls; who says you can't love more than one person -- in different ways, of course.)

Go through your closets and give all those clothes you've been saving until you lose 10 pounds to your favorite charity. Call someone who's lonely and say, "I'm thinking of you." Or, better yet, say, "I'll be over tomorrow to take you to lunch -- or to run some errands for you -- or to give you a ride."

Visit a sick friend. Say a prayer. Donate some blood. Adopt a pet. Will your eyes, your kidneys and all your usable organs to someone who can use them after you're gone. Forgive an enemy. Hug your teen-ager. Write a fan letter. Listen to a bore. Pay your doctor. Tell your parents you think they're wonderful. Spay your dog. Neuter your cat. Quit smoking. Drive carefully. If you're walking, watch where you're going.

And don't wait until next year to be a sweetheart again. -- LOVE, ABBY

DEAR ABBY: The letter about church bulletin bloopers in a recent column reminded me of a funny thing that happened in our church some time ago. It made me glad that I had learned to speak our language by rote as a child. Just imagine the agony foreign-born adults must undergo in learning how to speak English, with all the inconsistencies in pronouncing words with similar spellings -- with "ough" in them, for example.

In this instance, a priest visiting from India was saying Mass, and typically the priest reads the Gospel aloud. This Gospel reading was about a woman who was preparing to bake bread when Jesus came to visit. Naturally, she suspended her preparations then, and the priest continued to read "... she put her 'duff' on the table."

I don't think the priest ever understood why that was greeted with such laughter. -- R.F. GOTTSACKER, EDINA, MINN.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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