Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday's Focus: Valentine's Day is Not Just About Roses, Kisses, and Candy

Today is Valentine's Day, a day of romance, sweet-versed cards, hugs and kisses, red roses, and chocolates in lavish heart-shaped boxes.

Yes, it's all that, and more. How many of you know how "Valentine's Day" came about? Here's a bit of history about that day:

In or about the years of 270 A.D. Rome was ruled by an emperor named Claudius the Cruel. Under his rule, Rome was always involved in bloody campaigns, quite unpopular with the Roman people. He was having trouble maintaining a strong military because the younger men refused to join up. Claudius decided that was because the young men were either married or wanted to get married, so he issued a ban on all marriages and engagements.

A young priest by the name of Valentine realized the injustice of such a decree, and continued to marry young lovers in secret. When Claudius finally discovered what was going on, and what this holy priest was doing, he ordered Valentine's capture. This caused such an uprising in the populace that he decided to have him executed to get rid of the problem permanently. On the 14th of February, 278 A.D., Valentine was beaten to death with clubs and then beheaded. Legend has it that the daughter of one of his jailers become his lover in prison, and he left her a note of farewell, signing it "from your Valentine."

Because of his great service and sacrifice for the young people of Rome, he was awarded sainthood after his death. However, there are many legends about the exact origin and identity of St.Valentine, since in the Catholic encyclopedia, there are at least three different St. Valentines, all of them martyrs. The legend of this St.Valentine may have been connected to the Feast of Lupercalia, which was a pagan festival of love. In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius put an end to the Feast of Lupercalia, and declared February 14 be celebrated as St.Valentine's Day.

Then, of course, we have the famously infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre. On the 14th of February, 1929, four men dressed as police officers walked into the headquarters of gangster George (Bugs, Bugsy) Moran and brutally shot to death seven of his henchment. This was the culmination of a long, on-going war between the criminal gangs of Al Capone and Bugs Moran during the 1920's. Moran and Capone fought over the control of bootlegging, smuggling, and trafficing operations in Chicago for many years. Both had survived several murder attempts.

On February 14th, Moran arrived late at his headquarters to supervise a liquor delivery. He happened to see four men whom he believed to be the police walk into his headquarters, so he hid outside, thinking this was nothing but a police raid. However, inside these assassins were murdering seven of his best men.

Everyone in the city knew that Capone had ordered the kill, but no one could prove it. He was never arrested nor convicted for these seven murders, but this was the last confrontation between Capone and Moran. Moran had lost his seven best officers, and lost control of his gang. Capone was sent to prison for other crimes in 1931, and Moran died in Leavenworth Federal Prison in 1967, also for other crimes not connected to the Valentine's Day Massacre.

A little heavy for this day of fun and romance? Okay, how about this:
On February 14th, 1886, the very first trainload of oranges grown in Southern California left Los Angeles via the Transcontinental Railroad. In 1848, when the US took control over California from the Mexicans, Anglo-Americans saw this area of California as a great place to begin growing produce, and the orange orchards began taking over. Southern California began growing at an amazing rate, as more and more people came there to live, ranch, and farm. The sweetness and viability of California oranges became known all over the US, and in 1886, the first trainload left to begin a nation-wide delivery system of California-grown oranges.

Or This:
In the Middle Ages, young men and women would reach into a huge bowl full of names, set down in the town square. When they drew a name out, this person became their "valentine" for a week. During that week, each person had to wear the name of his or her valentine on their sleeve. This is how the expression "wearing your heart on your sleeve" indicate your feelings about someone...came about.

Or This:
 Richard Cadbury, of the famous Cadbury Chocolates, invented the very first heart-shaped candy box to hold his chocolates, and released these boxes on February 14, 1887.

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY, EVERYONE! I wish you all much love, many kisses, beautiful roses, and an over-abundance of chocolates!

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday's Musings: A Touch of Romance

Today is February 10, just four days away from Valentine's Day. And I know some of you are going to say, why write about Romance before Valentine's Day?

Simple: Romance is an act, a state of mind, a thought, a memory, a touch, a kiss, a gift, virtually most anything you want to make it. Valentine's Day isn't the only day or time of year where Romance can take place.

What is Romantic? I guess to a lot of women, it is the thought behind a special gift from a husband or boyfriend; it's being taken out to dinner to a very special, and usually, expensive restaurant...not just on Valentine's Day, but on a birthday or anniversary. My husband does that, we have a wonderful restaurant we love to go to, but it is very expensive and so he takes me there on "special occasions," like my birthday, our anniversary, and always on Valentine's Day.

To me, Romance comes in all sizes, shapes, and flavors! When I'm away from the house, shopping, taking my daughter-in-law to lunch, meeting with teachers to plan school visits, whatever, my husband calls me on my cell phone just to say hi, how are things going, and "I miss you." Now,  that's Romantic.

We've been married for 35 years, a second marriage for both of us, so we were not young kids when we got married. But from day one, every time my husband has introduced me to someone, he says, "This is my lovely wife, Mikki." That's  Romantic!

We built our lives together on a ranch out in the middle of nowhere, breeding, raising, and training Appaloosa horses for the show ring. The first few years were difficult, as I was still teaching at the university, and he was a manager in AeroSpace. He left for work at five o'clock in the morning, I fed and watered the horses, and had to get ready to leave for school by six am. It was rough, especially since we didn't normally get in from working with the horses until 9:30 or 10:00 at night. So on Saturday and Sunday mornings, he got up and fixed breakfast for us, and he never missed a weekend! That's Romantic.

I know some women who think it's Romantic for their husbands to clean their own bathrooms, and put the toliet seat down...I can go along with that! Yep, that's one expression of Romance!

When we retired, and moved to the Central Coast of California, I returned to my passion for writing. My husband made it a point to continue to fix breakfast for me, but he went further by also cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, and doing ALL the vacuuming and mopping of floors every single week. He always answered the phone so that I didn't have to stop what I was doing on the computer, and he made sure it was an important call before he disturbed me in the office.  He claimed he was just doing his "share," but the truth is, he was making sure I had all the time I needed or wanted to write. Romantic? Oh, yes!

I recently had my first book published in November of 2013. I had a small launch party, and my husband said he wanted to introduce me. Of course, I thought the introduction would be brief and to the point, but it wasn't. He gave practically my whole life story, and emphasized the fact that I wasn't "just" an author ( in no way was being an author a "just" to me!), but also an artist, a musician, and a great wife, mother, and grandmother. It was a complete surprise to me, and my ears were burning off by the time he finished, but...was it Romantic? I thought it was one of the most Romantic things he had ever done for me.

The point I'm making is that "Romance" doesn't have to come in a pretty gift, or an expensive night out on the town, or even a touching verse on a Valentine's Day card. Romance can be, and I think, should be, an everyday occurance. It's in the little things we do for the husband or wife we love, the glances we give to each other from time to time during the day, the hand-holding as we take a walk, and the sweet, even if brief, kiss we give as one of us goes out the door. My husband and I are more in love today than the day we exchanged our vows, and I would hope that all of you are, also.

What are the things that you considered Romantic about your spouse?

Until next time,
That's a wrap.