Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Thoughts Landmarks and Why We Reward Ourselves For Them (Also How I Plan to Reward Myself)

Do you ever stop to wonder why in our society we view ten years as a significant and special amount of time?  Why ten?  What makes ten special?  Is it the cyclical nature of ten, that every 10 years numbers reset at zero?  Do we just like seeing that zero come back around?  Is it because we have 10 fingers and ten toes?  If we had more, or fewer, fingers, would we observe the passage of time differently?  Why is it every ten years we consider it a "landmark" birthday*?  Why is every ten years a landmark anniversary?

*Okay.  Let me clarify that.  It's a landmark birthday before age ten and after age twenty-one.  Otherwise, at least in our culture, we tend to view landmarks as sixteen, (driving age), eighteen (voting age), and twenty-one (drinking age).

I am no exception to this rule of course.  I saw birthdays thirty and forty as significant, just as I saw my tenth wedding anniversary significant.  When I hit the ten year mark at my old job, they gave me a certificate and a catalog of free corporate gifts.  "Congratulations. You survived ten years, which is somehow more significant than nine years, and eleven years is going to be ignored."

We even see five years as important.  I remember at the time of my fifth wedding anniversary there were some time conflicts around the celebration.  I suggested to Kevin we not observe the day on the day.  He objected strenuously.  There was no way he would be apart from me on our fifth anniversary. So he was not.  We had a very special celebration at Disney World (thanks Sian).  When we went to guest services to make dinner reservations, upon hearing it was our fifth anniversary, they gave us anniversary pins and bride and groom mouse ears.  While it might be impressive to be married twenty years, it seems that twenty-five years is a golden (well silver actually) number.  What is so important about twenty-five?  It's an entire quarter of a century?

But that hasn't stopped me from rewarding myself, and my loved ones for surviving every ten years.  For Kevin's fiftieth birthday I threw him a big surprise party for friends and family.  Kevin did the same thing for my fortieth birthday party.  I also wanted to give myself a big gift for my 40th birthday, so I put away small amounts of money each week for a year and put it toward a trip to Paris, a place I had been longing to see. After spending years wanting to take a horseback riding trip in Italy I badgered Kevin until he promised that we would go for our tenth anniversary.  I was sure to hold him too that.  Would I have had a party, or would we have made those trips, if those dates were not seen as important landmarks in our culture?  Possibly not.

In two years I will be forty-five.  In three years Kevin and I will have been married fifteen years.  Since we're on a five-year mark, are we going to consider these years to be just as important and in need of special celebrations?  One thing I will say is that it is as good an excuse as any to have such a celebration, wouldn't you say?

So enough about deep issues on the nature of time.  How should we celebrate?  This is something I have been giving a ridiculous amount of thought to.

I have been itching to travel to the BeNeLux region for a while, Amsterdam in particular.  I tried to get Kevin on board with making that a fifteenth anniversary trip.  He didn't want to commit to it.  I like to think if I could persuade him to go, he would enjoy it.  He wasn't that into going to Paris, but once he was there, he loved it so much that he still talks about how we need to go back.  I'm sure he would feel that way about Amsterdam, but let's give him a little more control over how he spends a mutual anniversary.

I asked him several weeks ago where he thinks we should go for our fifteenth anniversary.  He surprised me and said, "Hawaii."  It was just such a perfect answer that it sort of surprised me.  I have wanted to go there my whole life.  He knows it's a photographer's paradise.  I guess I just always thought he had other priorities when it came to nature-related travel in the US.  I dream of Hawaii.  He dreams of Alaska.  I often wish he wouldn't be so dedicated to seeing the cold national parks.  (Snow in late May in Wyoming anyone?)

Recently Kevin received the latest copy of the Natural Habitat Adventures catalog.  I was idly flipping through it one evening when a shining beacon of light seemed to beam down from Heaven.  The last page of US-based eco-tours was a tour of Hawaii.  I could not imagine a more perfect Hawaii tour.  It covered The Big Island, Maui, and Kauai (that last one being my biggest priority).  The cost is crazy, but NatHab tours are well worth the money.  We went on our tour of Bryce, Zion, and the Grand Canyon with them and it was amazing.  We had knowledgeable, fun, guides.  We went into some beautiful backcountry areas.  We stayed in the most commodious accommodations available to us.  What really made it special were the extras: the campfire in Bryce, the wine tasting in Utah, the champagne breakfast on the rim of the Grand Canyon after watching the sunrise.  I know Hawaii will be an equally extraordinary experience.  Still, the cost is a bit prohibitive in this case though.  We need to find a way to get around that.

So what about my forth-fifth birthday?  Where should I go for that?  Currently I'm torn.

My first thought is to do that BeNeLux trip.  If I'm taking myself there for my own birthday, it's something Kevin will have to go along with.

I would also really love to do another riding trip.  My two top riding trips are both in France though.  The first one I'm considering is the Loire Valley.  This trip looks like the ultimate experience in riding, food, and wine.  It is a progressive ride, but I only have to change accommodations once.  I will be able to explore castles.  I will stay in castles!  The downside is that it's seriously expensive.  If I start saving now, I don't think I will be able to cover much more than the airfare.

The second one I'm considering is a progressive ride in Provence that goes south through Carmauge and along the coast.  This seems like a less formal and stuffy ride than the other.  The ride goes through countryside whose beauty is legendary.  It ends in a beach ride.  I love the beach!  It's less expensive than the Loire valley, which is a bonus, but it changes accommodations more than twice.  Kevin does not like always changing hotels.  We stayed in three different locations when we did our ride in Ireland and he wasn't too crazy about that.  The other thing I don't like about the trip is that they don't use English saddles.  They don't use Western saddles, which would automatically take the trip off the list (I learned a hard lesson Arizona about how well my body reacts to long hours sitting in a Western saddle), they  use those weird French trail saddles.  Those saddles might be quite comfortable, but they might not be.  Do I take the risk?

Wine is included on both French trips, so maybe how comfortable the saddle is will be irrelevant.  I think our Italian trip was relatively painless because wine was free flowing at both lunch and dinner. 

I am leaning more towards a riding trip right now because I realize I'm not getting any younger.  I have decided whatever trip I don't do for my 45th birthday, I will do for my 50th.  Will I have the health and fitness at 50 to take on long hours in the saddle?  I might, but I might not?  I think the sooner I do a riding trip, the better. 

What about Copenhagen?  The castles of the Rhine and Bavaria?  How about Vienna?  I have a few other European destinations I want to hit.  In the U.S. I would like to visit some of the cities in the American south like Charleston and Savannah and also Louisiana.  I want to spend some time in the winter in the Florida Keys.  Kevin wants to visit as many national parks as possible.  Which ones do we tackle first?  Do we stay on the east coast and do Acadia and the Great Smoky Mountains, or do we continue to go out west?  I'm interested in Olympic and Glacier.  He is looking at Denali.

I hope we continue to have as many landmark birthdays and anniversaries to do all of this!

Are You Standing Up for the Right Ideals?

I know I shouldn't be wasting my precious brain cells on the Duck Dynasty debacle, but I have been thinking a lot about the public reactions.  It seems this whole mess was just a publicity stunt on behalf of A&E.  Sure they preemptively punished Phil Robertson for making some rather heinous statements in order to avoid offending certain groups of people, but then they turned around and made money off the controversy. Once they saw the profit in that, they changed their minds pretty quickly.   That's television I suppose.  I don't blame them.  You do what makes money.

What bothers me is how many people out there supported Phil Robertson and why.

"It's his Constitutional right to say whatever he wants," you cry.  Yes, I agree with that 100%.  He is entitled to say whatever he wants without fear of repercussions from the government.  He had no repercussions from the government either.  He wasn't fined.  He wasn't thrown in jail.  The government left him alone.  It was his employer, a private enterprise, that punished him.  It was the public who censured him and called him out on his bigotry.  Just because we have free speech in this country doesn't mean your're excluded from any sort of criticism, nor does it keep you from losing your job in the private sector if you offend your employer or cause him to lose money.

It's not the free speech advocates who bother me.  The people who really get under my skin, who make me weep for the sorry state of humanity, are the ones who say they support Phil Robertson for standing up for his Christian values and moral convictions.

Can someone please tell me what is so moral about these Christian values?

It's funny how some people consider homophobia to be a moral value.  Robertson made a very false equivalency of homosexuality to all kinds of tyro harmful acts like adultery and murder.  If gay people are fighting for their right to legally marry, the whole argument that homosexuality leads to promiscuity kind of falls apart, wouldn't you say?  Gays are no more likely to commit murder than straight people.   Gay people are just people like everyone else.  They just happen to want to have a different sort of sexual relationship than most of the population.  These relationships can be as loving and committed as any other relationship.

How have gay people ever harmed Phil Robertson?  What personal injury have they committed against him?  Despite doing nothing to Robertson, he has no problem saying hurtful things about them?

Would someone tell me what is so moral about this?  It hardly exemplifies the Golden Rule. 

We need to redefine morality.  The problem with people like Phil Robertson is that they define morality only by what's in the Bible  Should we base our morals on the contents of a thousands of years old book written for and by ancient desert dwellers whose life and culture is nothing like what we have today?  If so, why do you pick and choose the morals you choose to follow?  Many of the "morals" in the Bible would be reprehensible today, such as stoning adulterers, owning slaves, or marrying your rape victim.  The Bible prohibits pork and tattoos.  I'm sure the cast of Duck Dynasty eats bacon and they do have tattoos.  They probably wear blended fabric in their clothes regularly (but at least they stick to the rule about not trimming their beards). 

Rather than ask yourself, "Does the Bible say it's wrong?" why not ask yourself, "Is what I am doing or saying hurting another person?" Ask yourself, "What are the real world (as opposed to the next world) repercussions if I do this?  Will anyone be harmed?"  That's what Phil Robertson and his supporters don't get.  He is so obsessed with dogma that he doesn't truly see the repercussions of his words and actions.  He can't look behind his own narrow view of the world.

If you believe that Phil Roberston and the Duck Dynasty clan truly deserve to be lauded for "sticking to their convictions", I'd like you to take a long look at what you're saying.  Is dogma more important than kindness?  I truly hope that the answer to that is no.