Wishing Everyone a Happy Spouse’s Day . . . Along With a Few Other Celebrations

Jan 26th
Each day I look at the list of celebrations and some I have to heave a sigh and wonder how on earth I’m going to show any enthusiasm about them.  Someone, somewhere thought it was important enough to set aside a special day, so I feel I owe them the respect to at least mention it!   Today is an interesting combination of celebrations I wouldn’t have given a second thought to before, to some in the middle, and culminating in one that I find to be very special and the most important.  Sometimes I lead with the biggy and end with the dull, but today I’m saving the best for last.
Alright everyone – it’s time climb in the mental time machine and go back to 1983.  I am not going to go into computer geek detail (no insult intended to any computer geeks who may be reading) but HAPPY LOTUS 1-2-3 DAY!  Lotus 1-2-3 was released to market on January 26th, 1983 and revolutionized spreadsheets for everyone, in a way that made it easy for those of us who needed straight forward and simple programs.  I remember taking a class at the community college to learn lotus and was immediately spoiled rotten as to how easy it was suddenly to do my job!  Lotus eventually gave way to other programs and the Excel program most of us use today was very similar and I truly believe I am able to understand Excel as well as I do BECAUSE of my experience with Lotus.  So yeah Lotus 1-2-3!
Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement – this is little known holiday – so little known I’d NEVER heard of it before at all – that was originally established as a day to connect with other people through the heart.  It emphasizes the importance of sharing a kind word with other people.  Even though the name brings up thoughts of childhood storybooks and amusement park rides, Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement actually finds its roots in an 1800s-era school house located in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
It all started when Ralph C. Morrison, storyteller and the subsequent founder of the Toad Hollow collective, taught an elderly student named Eunice who was profiled in the local newspaper.  The article mentioned that she’d gone to Toad Hollow Country School, and once he read the article, Morrison says he was taken with the name!  He went on to explain during an interview that he began spinning tales of the legendary place for his performances, which prompted audience members to ask about its true location.  He would always respond that it was not found on any map, but only “in your heart”.
The interview went on to say that the legend of Toad Hollow grew into a reality for local residents when Kalamazoo County officials offered Morrison land from a seldom-used park for his storytelling activities. He accepted the offer and organized a nonprofit society to operate the park in 1992. With the help of volunteers, an 1800s pioneer homestead and town was construction, and they refurbished a run-down grist mill already located on the property. Over the next three years, Toad Hollow hosted Civil War reenactments, Renaissance Fairs and even Teddy Bear Picnics. After that, the county reclaimed the property, and the people of Toad Hollow donated all of their improvements, except the mill, to other historic organizations and museums.
The Toad Hollow park was taken care of entirely by volunteers. While discussing the park, Morrison described how the volunteers shared their expertise with visitors.  They taught classes on blacksmithing, quilting, and soap and candle making. At the height of Toad Hollow’s popularity, it had a staff of over 100, who referred to themselves as “Voluntoads.” After Toad Hollow reverted back to Kalamazoo County, the Voluntoads continued their classes off campus.  They started seven schools, including storytelling, writing, barbecuing and early American arts and trades, which continued until 2003. The idea for the Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement grew out of the passion for helping others that the Voluntoad had, motivating people to share what is in their hearts every day. From this beginning, the Voluntoads also founded the Toad Hollow Day of Thank You on June 20, and later, the Toad Hollow Week of Encouragement, which falls in mid-March.

I had never heard of this day before, but what an absolutely inspiring story!  If all people showed even a small percentage of the dedication to sharing and teaching, what a wonderful world it would be!  The open and loving example that these people showed to others through the giving of their time, their knowledge and their generous spirits is absolutely uplifting in every way.  Today give of yourself to someone else – give a kind word or thought, teach someone something new, take some time to inspire another.  The Voluntoads set a great example of how to put thoughts and kind hearts to action.

National Seed Swap Day – Each year, towards the end of January, groups all over America have seed exchanges. People bring seeds in small, well marked envelopes – stating the common name and color of the plant, or with the Latin name of the species written on the envelope.  The gardeners who gather learn from each other, and it turns into a networking opportunity for everyone involved.  This is a great opportunity to pick up some organic, Non-GMO seeds from others who garden with the same dedication towards healthy, natural food as you.  At some of the exchanges famous gardening experts are on hand to answer questions, sign books that they’ve written, etc.  From my research I’m finding that often these turn into a sort of farmer’s market that only has seeds, complete with booths, food vendors and a festival atmosphere.  If you do attend a local seed swap in your area today, be aware if it is your first, that you may not bring with you any invasive plants of plant seeds.  Invasive plants are non-native plants such as kudzu, bittersweet and loostrife.  They grow very fast and kill off native species in different ways.  Unfortunately birds carry the seeds of invasives everywhere, so keeping all invasives out of all areas isn’t possible, however keeping these seeds away from the exchanges at least doesn’t make it worse.

National Peanut Brittle Day –  There are just some things that are so good that they are worth celebrating, and peanut brittle is one of those things!  Do you remember peanut brittle being on the classic Candy Land board game?  It’s been a long time since I’ve played, but I remember.  Love that game – may have to pick one up one of these days – never know when a wee one will come visiting and want a game to play.  I remember my Grandpa always had peanut brittle around when I was a kid, he’d share chunks of it with me, and we’d sit on his garden swing and munch on it while we watched his garden grow.  I never had the heart to tell him I couldn’t actually see the garden growing – he insisted that if you were really quiet you could actually hear it growing too.  As a grown up I think that was his way of temporarily silencing a chatterbox 8 year old.

So what is peanut brittle?  It’s a crunchy, sugary candy with peanuts embedded in it.  It is cooled in flat sheets, and chunks broken off to eat.  Sugar and water are mixed together, and boiled til it reaches the hard crack stage, which happens around 300 degrees F.  Hard crack stage is the point where the sugar caramelizes in a particular way so that it’s nice and hard when it cools down.  Peanut are added and it is poured out onto a flat surface to cools.  As it cools it becomes a solid sheet of peanut brittle yumminess that is broken up into bite sized pieces.  I did find a recipe for microwave peanut brittle that doesn’t need the hard crack step – if anyone wishes to try it.

This celebration is best carried out by making, or at least eating, some peanut brittle!  I’ve personally never made any, but it certainly sounds like fun.
Spouse’s Day is a time to enjoy and appreciate your better half. This day can be used as a warm up to Valentine’s day, but it’s not as much about gift giving as it is a day to show your spouse that you care and appreciate all of the little things they they do for you every day.  Over the long years of a relationship, its easy to take for granted the many things your spouse does. He/she is always there. They do so many big and little things as a routine event.
Many of you know me, but many others don’t.  A little history here to tell you why this celebration means so much to me.  I was in a marriage based on lies, manipulations and abuse for 22 years.  The scars I carry run deep, but the pain from them gets lighter every single year.  You see, out of the devastation of the end of that marriage 8 years ago, God blessed me by bringing a wonderful, amazing and truly incredible man into my life, and in February of 2007 we were married with just a handful of family and friends to witness and celebrate the occasion.  When he met me, I was still learning who I was as a person – since I’d been married and became a mama right after high school.  I didn’t know anything else!  He encourages me every day to reach out for things that I have never thought I could have, and do things I never thought I could ever do.  He supports every dream I come up with – helps me achieve them no matter what it involves to get there.  He has taught me that marriage is beautiful, that I don’t have to wake up every day expecting to be screamed at, or called names.  Today I want to celebrate him, and all the wonderful ways he shows me that I am loved.  He is always there for every single one of the many crisis situations that come up with my family, he – who is from a relatively drama free environment – tolerates the drama my family lives with every day.  His generosity has no boundaries.   Some women get flowers or candy for special days, but my wonderful husband thinks outside that generic box and brings me thing I can really use and that will keep me safe and secure.  He surprised me once with a new set of wonderful snow tires, the best ones that I could have, because he knew I’d be driving in bad weather.  He brought me a pink taser the other day to keep in my purse! Now THAT is romance right there! (no, I’m not being sarcastic, I LOVE my pink taser!).  We do things together, we experience LIFE together!  We hike, fish, watch movies, laugh and pray together.  My husband is a gift from God, a gift I will always be grateful for every day of my life, and I will spend every day – not just this one – showing him how much in every way I can think of – from making sure he has a healthy breakfast and lunch ready each day, to rubbing his shoulders after a difficult time at work.  Today, show your spouse how special they are to you – let them know that all the little things they do for you mean something to you, and that they are loved and appreciated for every one of them. It’s the little things that mean the most, and carry forward in our hearts the longest.

No matter how you celebrate this day – whether munching on Peanut Brittle, showing encouragement to someone in honor of Toad Hollow Voluntoad’s, remembering when you learned Lotus 1-2-3, exchanging seeds with other gardeners, or making your husband or wife a special treat – do it with an open heart, a happy mind, and an unburdened soul.  May God bless you today and every day.  See you tomorrow. Right now I have a hubby to appreciate. Wonder if he wants peanut brittle?

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