Happy Holidays: National Make your Own Holiday Day is Here.

When we talk here about things that unify people, we often talk about life and love and art and music, and yes even politics and religion. It is no secret that even that which divides many, still unify some. Sometimes however, we like to take a departure from the serious, from delving deep into the things that bring us together, and just have a little fun.

This Saturday (March 26th) is National Make your Own Holiday Day. No really, I swear. And so I naturally asked a handful of our readers what kind of holiday they would make if they had the chance. The answers were, as you might expect, diverse and pretty amusing. I’m sure you’ve all heard your fair share of these made up “holidays”. Last week for example, we had Pi Day on when else but March 14th (3.14). Pi Day, while not an officially recognized holiday, has taken on a life of its own. No you won’t be getting any time off from work to celebrate Pi Day, but you’re likely to get a passing Pi Day greeting or two- especially if you’re social media inclined. If you have never seen some of the fantastically ridiculous made up holidays that warrant celebrating, allow me to fill you in. If I did not provide th answers, I bet you’d be hard-pressed to figure out which of the are “real” holidays and which are those made up on the spot by our readers.

When you think about it, it’s not all that unusual of a topic for us here at One Unified, since laughter, humor and silliness, are all fantastic unifiers.

You can ride out the rest of March celebrating holidays like, National Puppy Day
Near Miss Day, National Chip and Dip Day, World Meteorological Day and I swear I didn’t make this one up, National Melba Toast Day. And these are all tomorrow! If these don’t grab you, perhaps March 25th’s International Waffle Day or March 26th’s Spinach Day will. Sunday March 27th may be Easter Sunday but it’s also Quirky Country Music Song Title Day. And we run out the month with Respect Your Cat Day, National Lemon Chiffon Cake Day, and Take a Walk in the Park Day on the 28th, 29th and 30th respectively.

And what did our readers give us to work with? Well reader suggestions included National All Bob’s are Great Day (clearly suggested by a guy named Jim), Bake your Mom a Cake Day, Long Haired Freaks Unite Day, Leftover Easter Candy Day, and National Led Zeppelin Day (shockingly not submitted by friend of One Unified Bryon Jesse- though I’m sure he would support the idea).
There were a few legitimately good ideas in the bunch too- no offense to Bob. We liked Adopt a Pet Day (which may already be a thing), Check on a Neighbor Day, Make a Donation Day, Share your Lunch Day and my personal favorite as mom of 3, National Be Nice to your Siblings Day.

So, do you have an idea to share? Leave it in the comments. We’ll be sharing them on Facebook and Twitter and we’ll give you a reminder on Saturday!

Leap Year Challenge: 50 Things to do With an Extra 24 Hours.

How many times have you said to yourself, there are just not enough hours in the day? It seems as though we’re all always looking for a little extra time to get things done. Whether you’re a busy mom, swamped at the office, behind on the laundry, or just wish you had a little more time for fun, we could all make good use of a little ‘extra’ time. Luckily for you (and us), your wish is about to be granted.

This year is a leap year, which means you are about to get those extra hours you have been asking for! Twenty-four of them to be exact. This year, like every four years, we get a bonus day- February 29th. Now, the question is what are you going to do with them? . While catching up on laundry, or doing your grocery shopping seems like the responsible thing to do, it doesn’t really seem like much fun. Perhaps using these extra hours to do something you’ve been wanting to do, but could never seem to find the time sounds like a better option.

So how about we start a new leap year tradition? Let’s take those extra 24 hours and make them really count. Use your extra 24 hours to read a book you’ve been dying to read. Use them to spread a little kindness by volunteering to do some community service. Use it to take your kids out to do something fun (after school of course). Use it to finally get up the nerve to ask that guy or girl you’ve been thinking about for their number. It’s up to you how you will use the gift of time. Maybe scrubbing the kitchen floor is just what you need to feel good, but we’re not recommending it. Our only advice, make sure you do something that makes you feel good- and if it is something memorable, all the better.

Join in on our leap year challenge by telling us what you are doing (or what you did) with your extra hours. Use #leapyearextra24 on our Facebook or Twitter pages. We want to hear from you! Meanwhile, here are some more ideas for ways you can spend some of those extra hours! We plan to try a few ourselves.

Write a letter
Call someone you’ve been meaning to catch up with
Take a long nap
Go to lunch with a friend
Catch up on all those shows you have DVR’d
Go to the park
Meditate
Take a long walk
See a movie
Get a massage
Get a new hair style
Take a drive with the windows down
Tend to your garden
Head out to perform a few random acts of kindness
Work on your golf game
Organize your photos
Catch up on current events
Go to a museum
Volunteer at a soup kitchen
Look through old photo albums
Make a scrapbook
Throw a last minute party
Do a jigsaw puzzle
Write a love letter
Create a bucket list
Unplug
Take a sick day
Go to a fortune teller
Get a mani/pedi
Go to happy hour
Spend the whole day in bed
Clean out your inbox
Look into adopting a pet
Gather items to donate to charity
Join a club
Try the new restaurant you’ve had your eye on
Have a family portrait taken
Try out a new recipe
Visit an elderly family member or neighbor
Plan a vacation
Get a new hairstyle
Prepare a month’s worth of freezer meals
Join a gym
Call your mom
Get a really big jump on your holiday shopping
Listen to the entire Dark Side of the Moon album
Gather up the kids and let them pick where to go
Campaign for your favorite candidate
Catch up on all those viral You Tube videos you keep hearing about
(like NFL Bad Lip Reading, Celebrity Mean Tweets, and Conan Student Driver)
Engage in some Leap Day activities. Play Leap Frog. Watch the movie Leap Year. Write yourself a letter and seal it up to be opened on the next leap year.

We won’t have another extra 24 hours until 2020, so make them count.

It’s the Season…For Traditions…

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No matter what you celebrate: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, and of course, New Years… there’s usually tradition(s) that come along with it. Rituals are a way for us to celebrate but also, I believe, to feel connected to one another or to the occasion. And it’s not solely slated for this time of year. Sports carry some ritualistic behavior, especially in Philly. We wear that specific jersey or t-shirt that will definitely lead our team to victory (not proven…again…especially in Philly). We have pub crawls around St. Patrick’s day. There’s fireworks for the Fourth of July. And of course, the weekends or vacations “down the shore” for many families are a big part of our culture. We love our traditions.

Since I was a kid, my family has been rich in traditions, especially around the holidays, Christmas in particular for this writer. Some of those traditions have carried on into my adulthood and have been passed down in one form or another. Some have fallen to the wayside. We’ve also created some new ones of our own. As a kid, there was leaving cookies out for Santa, decorating the tree on Christmas Eve, seeing the light show at, then Wanamaker’s department store, and making homemade cookies. Two of those four have gone into the history books for us: no more cookies for Santa since our son is grown… decorating the tree on Christmas Eve has been bumped up a couple of weeks since we have a party every year that and we like the tree to be decorated in advance…the light show is on occasion but not every year, but the cookie making every year has remained in tact. We spend every Christmas Eve with the family and used to spend Christmas Day running to visit every family member we could. The latter was stopped once my son was a toddler and we wanted to stay home to enjoy the peace of the day and so he could enjoy the presents Santa had left for him. We created our own tradition of having a Christmas party every year and this year marked 26 Christmases and it is one of our favorite days of the year. When we first began that annual event, my husband and I were young and had nothing in the way of ornaments. So it became a tree trimming party. All of our friends and family each brought an ornament to help that young couple out and the tree (to this day) is everyone’s tree, no matter what faith they are. After a few years though, the ornaments outweighed the tree and that tradition ended. However, there are still people that love that tradition and still bring an ornament each year, some even sending them from afar to stay apart of the festivity. There will always be room on the tree for those. Each year that we take those keepsakes out, we remember who gave it to us and it brings a smile to our faces. This year, a couple friends decided to plant ornaments throughout our home, anonymously (that mystery has since been solved), with notes on the back. One saying “bringing back traditions”. And that just confirmed to me how important or comforting a tradition can be. It’s something you can rely on. Something you can be a part of. Something to make you feel one with someone or something. Sometimes they fizzle out and I think that’s ok too. It doesn’t mean we’ve lost sentimentality or appreciation. It’s just run its course to maybe make room for a new one.

This year will end in other traditions for me: time with family, a concert and New Year’s Eve with friends, and likely, New Year’s Day at the parade. I’ll probably complain about how wiped out I am, how busy I am, but don’t be fooled…I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We asked for your traditions past or present. Below are some of those that shared. We’d also love to hear from you. Why are traditions so important and what rituals do you have? Last but not least, Michelle and I wish you a very happy holiday season and a healthy new year. Thank you for reading!

*Me and hubby stay home and have nice dinner and chill.

*I don’t have any. I always make it up as I go along.

*Getting the Christmas tree on December 15th, my son Nick’s birthday. He picks out which one to get.

*We decorate our tree every year on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure about this year because I’m working second shift.

*I started one this year. Leaving ornaments in inappropriate places.

*My daughter Angela always made Christmas decorations thru the years in school, we still have them all. My son Dave made one. I call it the Christmas Moose. It’s a toilet paper roll with antlers. He tops the tree with it, every year. image

*My tradition is the same as it was last year — my mom makes my grandmoms meat pie for Christmas dinner. Only time all year we get that.

*When I was younger, all the my uncles and aunts, myself, dad, mom, sister and cousins gathered in a different house each year to spend Christmas time and eat dinner too. My dad is the oldest of four brothers… and there are nine cousins which include my sister and I. Also, on New Year’s Day, when we were younger, we went to my grandparents house (my dad’s parents). My grandpop set up a toy bowling set and each of the kids bowled. As we grew oldert, we played pinochle, which our grandparents taught us how to play as well.

*We watched Christmas vacation on Christmas Eve because…duh! Growing up we also always had a sister sleepover. Now we just try to be in the same house for Christmas eve night into Christmas morning.

*I started a fun thing with my daughter, Morgan, when she was little. She always got a new pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve (for the photo op the next morning, lol). I had this little mid-century Santa figure I loved, so I put it on the Xmas tree and pointed it out to her, then while she was taking her nightly bath, I would take the “pajama elf” off the tree and put it away, put the new pajamas under the tree and sprinkle some “pajama elf dust” (a little glitter) around them. She loved it! So did I….sigh!

*Every year we get together on the first night of Chanukah (provided it falls before Christmas), light the menorah, eat and then decorate our Christmas tree. (lol) Interfaith family holiday traditions.

*My mom’s not the best cook…except on Christmas morning. She makes us a feast of a five meat breakfast along with a huge cheese omelet, home fries & pancakes fried in butter so the edges are crispy. We joke that her way of saying I love you is, “here, eat this. Calories don’t count when it’s made with love”.

A One Unified Guide: Things to do This Holiday Season.

Looking to keep the kids occupied on that oh so long winter break? Or maybe you need some fresh ideas for entertaining out of town holiday guests? Or perhaps you’re just looking for a fun date night or night out during the busy holiday season? Well, any way you look at it, we’ve got you covered.

There are some spectacular holiday themed events in and around the Philadelphia are every year. From new favorites, to traditional holiday classic events, there is sure to be something for everyone this time of year. So get out and enjoy the beauty and magic of the holiday season, as only Philly can offer it.

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular– A free 15 minute show featuring an incredible holiday light show cast as a backdrop to the dancers of The Pennsylvania Ballet performing to The Nutcracker. It runs at the top of very hour from 10 a.m- 8 p.m beginning Thanksgiving Day and running until January 3, 2016. 1701 JFK Blvd. Philadelphia.

The Franklin Square Holiday Festival & Light Show- This year Franklin Square is featuring Electrical Spectacle: A Holiday Light Show. Showcasing a spectacular light show set to holiday music and a giant lighted kite. The festival also features holiday train rides, visits from Santa and carousel rides. The light show runs every half hour from 4:30-8:30 pm. It runs now through December 31st. Franklin Square 6th st and Race st. Philadelphia.

The Christmas Village-  Set up like an old German style holiday village the Christmas Village at Love Park is a Philadelphia holiday staple. You can shop for Christmas crafts and ornaments, enjoy seasonal themed food and beverages, and pose for a classic holiday photo in front of Philly’s famous LOVE sign. The Village is set up now and remains up until December 27th at Love Park 1500 Arch St. Philadelphia.

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The Macy’s Christmas Light Show
– Macy’s in Center City has been turning out the holiday spirit with it’s renowned light show since 1956. The show, a holiday tradition for many local families features a huge 3 story light show featuring 100,000+ LED lights all set to the sound of the famous Wanamaker organ. Julie Andrews  narrates the story as the lights deliver the show. The show has been delighting Philly families for 60 years. The show runs from now until December 31 with shows at 10am, 12, 2, 4 6 and 8 pm every day but Christmas Day. 1300 Market St. Philadelphia.

Dickens Village– If you’re already at Macy’s enjoying the light show, why not take a trip up to the third floor to check out Dicken’s Village. The show  consists of 100+ animated characters in individual displays acting out scenes from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The lines are usually long, so arrive early if you can. A personal warning: firsthand experience has shown me (after waiting an hour in line) that some smaller children find the animated figures a little creepy. Just a thought from one mom to another who might be considering it.

Winterfest at the Blue Cross River Rink– Situated at Penn’s Landing along the Delaware River, Winterfest features an olympic sized ice skating rink for the whole family to enjoy. Outdoor seating, fire pits, festive holiday decor, and a huge heated tent for warming up and maybe a snack are set up all around. A variety of holiday treats and eats are available  including food from Garces Group restaurants (from legendary chef Jose Garces). Perfect for a family day out or a cozy date night. Winterfest is open now and will remain up until March 6, 2016 at the Blue Cross River Rink, Columbus Blvd at Market St. Philadelphia.

The Holiday Railroad at Reading Terminal Market- The Reading Terminal Market is always a fun favorite for a huge variety of yummy foods from around the area and around the world. If you happen to be a train buff, or just love the look of those beautiful elaborate train and village sets at Christmastime, this is a perfect stop for you. Miniature scenery and buildings line up next to a 500 square foot holiday railroad display set up on a track a third of a mile long. A treat for the young and old train lover. The display is up now through December 31. Reading Terminal Market is located at 12th & Arch Streets, Philadelphia.

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Longwood Gardens Christmas Display
– If you’re familiar with the beautiful grounds of Longwood Gardens, you’ll be delighted to see it in its full holiday splendor. The grounds are set up with over half a million lights- yes half a million. Trees, shrubs, and fountains are fully around in twinkling beauty. Even if you have never seen Longwood before, now is the perfect time to see it for the first time. The display remains up until January 10, 2016. 1001 Longwood Rd. Kennett Square, PA.

ShadyBrook Farm’s Holiday Light Show– ShadyBrook Farm becomes a festive holiday mecca when it is draped in over 3 million holiday lights each year! They start setting up the lights in August for this truly magical display. Drive through and enjoy the view or hop out of your car and hitch a ride through on a tractor drawn wagon. When the ride is over, keep the spirit going by having your picture taken with Santa! The lights will be up until January 10, 2016. ShadyBrook Farms is located at 931 Stony Hill Rd. Yardley, PA.

Christmas at the Adventure Aquarium– Located on the Camden water front, the aquarium is always a big family draw. At Christmastime the huge aquatic attraction transforms into a holiday wonderland. Kids will delight in appearances by Rudolph, Bumble the Abominable Snowman and the now famous Scuba Santa (yes, it is what you think it is). The aquarium is adorned with twinkling lights, and traditional holiday decor making it a festive outing for everyone. You can catch Scuba Santa and more now through December 31st. On the waterfront at 1 Riverside Drive in Camden NJ.

Washington Crossing Reenactment– Join thousands of reenactors and spectators as they line the banks of the Delaware River at Washington Crossing Historic Park to present the annual reenactment of George Washington leading the troops across the Delaware in a pivotal moment of the American Revolution and of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania history.
Christmas Day. The crossing event is from 1-3 p.m with the actual river crossing at 1 pm. It is free. 112 River Rd. Washington Crossing.

Being [ ] at Christmas
The National Museum of American Jewish History invites people from all backgrounds to the museum Christmas Day for a day of family fun. You are invited to fill in the blank any way you choose. You can enjoy the museum and special events all day. Admission $12 adults $5 kids. 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. 101 S. Indepenence Mall East (Corner of 5th & Maket) Philadelphia.

If you’re looking for something to do once the gifts are open but the holiday dust hasn’t quit settled yet, we’ve got an answer for that too.

Sugar House Casino’s New Year’s Eve on the Waterfront– Spend New Year’s Eve at Penn’s Landing with a pair of spectacular showings of their holiday fireworks. Join thousands of onlookers as they ring in the New Year with the breathtaking beauty of a waterfront fireworks display. 6 pm & Midnight. Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia.

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The Mummer’s Parade
. Now known as the Sugar House Casino Mummer’s Parade, this festive albeit slightly unusual New Year’s Day celebration has been a Philadelphia tradition for over a hundred years. The parade is an event that families in the area have joined together to enjoy for generations. With string bands, and paraders adorned in costumes ranging from elaborate and fantastical to truly must be seen to be believed, parade goers line the streets to catch a glimpse and enjoy the show. Teams (or brigades) parade and compete in various categories such as Fancy and Comics. If you have never seen a Mummer’s Parade, are not from this area, or are asking yourself right now, “what the hell is a Mummer?”, then this is the place for you this New Year’s Day. The parade starts at City Hall and marches south down Broad Street to Washington Ave. in Philadelphia. Parade starts at 10 a.m.

Whatever you do this year, One Unified wishes you a fantastic holiday season!

 

 

 

A Season of Peace, Love and Giving

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The holiday season is filled with many things; family, parties, food, friends, gifts and cheer. Sometimes it’s also filled with things that aren’t as fun as those listed. Holidays can also bring on anxiety and depression due to missing loved ones, financial struggles or family turmoil. Whether your holiday season is joy filled or a time that you eagerly await to be over, there’s a great way to spend your holidays….giving.

We all go through tough times, and one of my mottos when I’m going through a tough time, something that keeps things in perspective, is that someone almost always has it worse. Doing something for someone else is a great way to fill your soul, to make someone else happier, if even for a day. But where to give, what to give?

To start, giving of yourself can be as simple as smiling at a stranger…saying hello. It’s amazing what a difference it makes in someone’s day. It certainly does for me. Remembering that everybody has a struggle that we know nothing about keeps me in check. That’s not always easy, I know. Throughout my career in Mary Kay, there’s a saying that I’ve heard time and time again, something that Mary Kay Ash herself taught, and that is to pretend everyone has a sign around them that says “make me feel important”. Isn’t that something we all want? To feel significant. To know we matter in this world…to someone?

So what are some ways we can make a difference? Personally it started with some fun. Every year, for the last 26 Christmases, my husband and I have a Christmas party. All of our friends and some of our families join us to celebrate the year that is coming to an end and the joy of the season. We are very fortunate to be surrounded by some really fantastic people. Every year, we have some type of “drive”. Most years, it’s toys for kids less fortunate. Some years, when the food banks were depleted to dangerous levels, we’ve done food drives. We’ve done coat drives. And this year, we’re having a gift card drive for a friend that is honoring the spirit of her recently departed 16 year old son, who even in sickness, had a most giving spirit. Those gift cards will go to ill children and their families, who spend much of their time traveling back and forth to hospitals and sometimes have to leave jobs to care for their sick children. It’s our way of celebrating what we believe to be the true meaning of the holiday. I don’t share this to seek applause or praise. It’s merely an example of ways to give back.

Of course, that’s not the only way to give. There are countless organizations to donate to, whether it be toys, food, clothes or money. And let’s not forget that time is a commodity that many organizations don’t have enough of. Donating your time to a food shelter, a hospital, a veterans home is invaluable. If you don’t have the funds to donate for the aforementioned ideas, your time is just as valuable.

All of these ideas are a great way to spend the holiday season, but not just the holiday season. This is something you could do year round. I’ve found, and this isn’t an original epiphany, that I get as much (if not more) out of the experience as the recipients do.

Some ideas to get the ball rolling (these are just a few…certainly there are others and some perhaps more local to your particular neighborhood, with a little research):

Give your time or food donations to organizations like Philabundance (www.philabundance.org), Manna (www.mannapa.org), and Aid for Friends (www.aidforfriends.org and read our interview with them at http://goo.gl/9e4LJ0).

Donate new, unwrapped toys to Toys for Tots (www.toysfortots.org), St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children (www.stchristophershospital.com), Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (www.chop.edu).

Donate time, money or items to Salvation Army (www.Salvationarmy.org).

Donate needed items and time to our veterans at the Delaware Valley Veterans Home (http://www.dvvh.state.pa.us/ and read our interview at http://goo.gl/y7g8Q6 to read our interview with some of the vets that live there…fourth story), Philadelphia VA hospital (http://www.philadelphia.va.gov/giving/).

There are many more that are not included here, but Google is a great tool for you to do a little homework. It could even be a neighbor that you decide to help by bringing them dinner, a gift or even sharing a beer with because they don’t have any family left. Whatever and whoever you decide to donate to, I hope it makes your holiday (and the holiday of someone else) that much happier. We’re all in this together!

On behalf of the One Unified Project, we wish you the happiest of holidays.
Peace and love,
Noelle and Michelle

Your Guide to Holiday Gift Guides.

GiftGuide
Looking for the perfect gift for that special someone is never an easy task. Enter the internet. The internet has made gift buying easier in more ways than one. Sure, holiday shopping online saves you the headache and hassle of crowed malls and pushy salespeople, but it also provides us with an endless supply of holiday gift giving advice.

The holiday gift guide has been increasing every year in popularity. Once reserved for the rich and famous (think Oprah’s Favorite Things), there is now a gift guide put out for just about every possible demographic from writers, bloggers and websites across the world. Here are four of our favorite holiday gift guides, each with something unique to offer this holiday season. Be sure to check out all of our featured guides.
Happy shopping!


 

Giftguide1
Lauren Steven’s of lo-wren offers up a list of holiday gift ideas that she describes as a guide comprised of truly unique itms that are compiled through the year and aren’t necessarily your run of the mill gifts or holiday “hot” items.

Our favorite from Lauren’s list: The Star Wars nesting dolls. Adorable and unique, perfect for any fan from collector to kid.  starwarsYou can check out Lauren’s complete guide here.


 

grandeStephanie Glover of A Grande Life gives us our next gift guide selection. Stephanie says that her gift guide has something for everyone, including those difficult people to shop for. From toys to stocking stuffers, she says, A Grande Life’s Annual Holiday Gift Guide takes the guess work out of holiday shopping. We have to agree.

Our favorite item on Stephanie’s list: A Love with Food subscription. Monthly plans that deliver boxes of healthy, junk-free snacks right to your door. Doubly cool is that it’s the gift that truly keeps on giving because with ever box purchased a meal is donated to help fight childhood hunger!

lovewithfood

You can check out A Grande Life’s complete guide here.


 

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Gina Badalaty of Embracing Imperfect brings us another unique spin on holiday gift guides. Gina’s guide features an excellent selection of gifts for kids with special needs.

Our favorite item on Gina’s list: The teepee tent. It’s a perfect place for kid’s who want their own special space, or might just need a quick time out (the good kind).

tepee

You can check out Gina’s complete guide here.


 

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Rounding out our gift guide recommendations is Jen Anderson. Jen publishes a unique gift guide on Macaroni Kid. What sets Jen’s guide apart is that it isn’t a quide for what to buy, but rather where to buy. It provides information on local businesses and their holiday products to help you find great deals and great gifts for everyone on your list, all while supporting local businesses.

Our favorite place to shop on Gina’s list: We couldn’t decide. There was such a variety of vendors and products that we couldn’t pick just one.

You can check out the complete guide here:


We hope our guide to the guides have narrowed down the field a little and given you a place to start. Let us know if you purchase something you found on one of our featured guides, and as always keep up with us throughout the holiday season on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Happy Shopping!

 

Don’t Work too Hard this Labor Day!

We’ve unraveled the mystery of Jimmy Hoffa. We’ve talked about the importance of the labor movement. So, what’s left to do this week besides prepare for a holiday weekend party! What are you doing (if anything) to celebrate the Labor Day holiday this weekend? We’re talking on our Facebook page. Come by. And have a happy, healthy, safe, Labor Day weekend. Don’t work too hard!