Friday, February 14, 2014

A Valentine's Day tradition

Okay, maybe it's just MY tradition. But when I was an unattached freshman in college, all my new friends around me joining sororities, meeting guys, pairing off, I wasn't really looking at Valentine's Day as something particularly exciting to celebrate. But I didn't want to be bitter.

So I went to the local toy store, bought beanie lizards for all my single friends, and gave them out with ribbons tied around their necks. Ever since then, I've given little beanie lizards to my friends -- single or attached, Valentine's Day or not -- as expressions of love. Like flowers or chocolate, but cuter.

Happy Valentine's Day! Here's a lizard.
I never thought of Valentine's Day as a couples-only holiday anyway. My parents would always give me Valentine's gifts - heart-shaped earrings, chocolates, cassette tapes. And I would always make cards for them. A religious group in India has declared 14 Februrary to be Parents Worship Day so that the youth aren't tempted to celebrate Valentine's Day with their 'premik' or 'premika' ... but why not both? Love isn't just for boyfriends and girlfriends. We love our parents, children, siblings, friends, and pets too. Why limit Valentine's Day to just expectations of romance and extremely expensive roses? Don't we need more love in the world; less hatred and division? Why not have a day to commemmorate love, of all kinds?

Life is short and we don't know if we're going to be here tomorrow. Tell those you love that you love them. And, if you're so inclined, give them a lizard. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Exploring the local culture - Pacific Northwest edition

Memorial Day Trip to Mt. St. Helens, 2013
Photo courtesy Jayanta Mondal
I have been in the Pacific Northwest now for three years and I absolutely love living here. At times I wish I was closer to Seattle, or Portland (Portland. Yes. Please?) but as my dad always said, "home is where you hang your hat." And I certainly need a lot of hats here!

Being a "Ph.D. wife," I'm aware that we may not be in this area much longer. It could be another year, maybe two; likely not more than that. And one of the things I regret the most about my short time in Louisiana was all the things I didn't do. I was always an outsider and never really integrated into the culture there -- I never even did the stereotypically touristy things like swamp tours or visiting the Tabasco factory in Grand Isle! Of course, I didn't expect to ever not be an outsider, but I admit I didn't really try very hard to meet people or build relationships there until right before I left.

I don't want to make those mistakes here. It's very easy to get caught up in the web of Life, of chores and cooking and work and internet and not really experience a lot of what the area you live in has to offer. It's easy to not put yourself out there, be vulnerable, make friends or at least acquaintances. I don't expect everyone to roll out the red carpet for me, but I want to put myself where the people are and live here, not just exist here.

So here are some of the things that I have done, or want to do, in the short time I have left here:
The only tomatoes we were able to grow!
They weren't supposed to be grape
tomatoes, but that's what happened...

  • Get involved in outdoor recreation. We've done this, in part. We biked a lot in 2011 and 2012, but A's bike was stolen when we went to India this year and he's not interested in getting another, so we may need to change up our activity. Hiking, perhaps? We went camping with some friends over Memorial Day weekend last year and it was one of the best trips I've ever been on. I have also just started cross-country skiing and want to keep it up as long as there's snow on the ground. I can go weekly with a small group from the college. I don't think I'll ever be one of those people who goes rock climbing one weekend, kayaking the next, and runs a marathon the following month, but I would like to make outdoor fun in the fresh air a more regular part of my lifestyle, be it cross-country skiing, the occasional camping trip, or just taking a walk at the arboretum. 
  • Buy our food from the local farmers market. We do this when the market's in session and we love it! We joined the university CSA in 2011 and although we probably won't join again due to uncertainty of when we will leave, it was great to be able to pick up local, organic, fresh produce on a weekly basis and then have fun trying to figure out what to do with it. Once we get settled somewhere, I'll look around for similar programs in that place. The farmers market is also good though. It's really an all-morning event. This year, I'd like to go weekly if possible.
  • Volunteer on a farm. Our local co-op has a program where members (of which I am one) can go volunteer on local farms and really see where our food comes from, up close and personal. I just found out about it this winter, and am hoping to be able to do this in the spring. I have gone apple, cherry, and raspberry picking which is always super fun and economical if you like eating a lot of fruit. 
    picking apples at the Organic Farm

  • Sing in the local chorus. Done, and done. Concert is May 3 and 4. Please come!
  • Join a spiritual community. I am involved with our local Sanatan Dharma center, but not regularly. At this time in my life this is something that is difficult to work in for many reasons, most of which are not bloggable. I do think after I have a family it will be something I will want to be more of a priority in my life. 
  • Attend collegiate arts and sporting events. I have not done this yet but 2014 will be the year. The local universities have so much to offer. I already sing in India night events but I think I should be more of an attendee and not a performer as well.  As far as sports go, I'm not really a big football fan, plus that's already got a lot of support, so perhaps I will come out and support the tennis team? Or baseball? Or women's basketball! I also just found out that the university is putting on Die Fledermaus on the one weekend I'm not singing in April so I will likely be attending that too! 
  • Sing more. The problem with college towns is that everyone moves away, and most of the people I sang and played music with when I first came here have done exactly that. But just yesterday I talked to a girl at the other university who knows a guy who plays guitar and wants to have a jam session... so let's see if we can get Round Two up and running!
  • Go to local wineries. We've already done a lot of regional trips when A's parents came to visit us - Portland, Seattle, National Parks, local attractions. There are a few other places I'd like to go, but the Columbia Valley wineries are at the top of the list. This is a big to-do for this spring.
So that's really my Pacific Northwest Bucket List. Anything else you think I should add?