Posted in food, gratitude, mindset, socializing

Trying new foods

When I moved to Arizona 16 years ago, I was a pretty conservative food consumer. I didn’t eat many foreign foods (Americanized or not). Some Polish (see: weird last name heritage), some Italian (see: married to the Pole), Chinese as long as it came in one of those highly-recognizable paper boxes. Tacos.

In grad school, I had friends whose palates were more adventurous than mine. They took me to many types of ethnic* restaurants: Ethiopian, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican, Lebanese, Indian, Greek.

My world expanded incredibly in those two years. I distinctly remember the first time I had a piece of avocado, now a delicious and luxurious staple in my diet. (I also remember going back East once, going to a grocery store, and asking an employee if they carried guacamole. “That’s that green stuff?”)

In the years since then, despite my options becoming limited through vegetarianism, I’ve continued to be introduced to new foods (and am more adventurous with what I’ll cook at home as well).

And I’ve paid forward “come with me to this amazing restaurant and I’ll teach you what I know about their menu and food.”

Walking alone into a restaurant serving an entirely unknown cuisine is much more intimidating than going with someone who knows what they’re doing. (Except that I can’t help with the meat dishes.)

I’ve introduced many friends to Ethiopian (Cafe Lalibela), Thai (Thai Basil), and Indian at an assortment of places. We’re lucky to be in a region with so many amazing foods. I’m grateful to have friends who will come with me to places they’ve never been to eat food they’ve never tried.

These foods are so good. Very different if you’re a meat-and-potatoes kind of person. But tasty.

Beyond seemingly endless restaurant options, there are also a few phenomenal Asian markets, a giant Indian market (with a restaurant inside), a huge Middle Eastern market (with counter service inside) and several smaller Middle Eastern/Mediterranean places that are half and half.

And these are only the places I happen to know about within a 10-ish-mile radius of my house.

So glad to have had my world opened by friends. So fun to open others’.

 

*I don’t like describing restaurants serving foreign food—Americanized or not—as “ethnic.” Everything is ethnic. Those places are simply foreign. I used the word ethnic there just to be able to make this footnote.

Posted in connections, mental health, mindset, socializing, thoughtfulness

What is our responsibility?

People need people to thrive. Numerous studies in the last decade point to social networks as a critical variable for longevity, and for general functionality and thriving.

As both a teacher and a parent, I see articles and videos about special needs kids, and to teach your kids to be kind and to be friends with them.

Kindness is reasonable. Getting to know someone who seems different than you is reasonable. But if you get to know someone a little and really just don’t care for them, are you going to be friends with them because they’re different?

As we get older, we don’t generally spend social time with people we don’t like (unless maybe we’re related to them). It seems we don’t even spend time with people we do like! I don’t know anyone (that I know of) who is friends with someone they don’t like just to provide a friend.

It’s not limited to special needs people. We have an epidemic of loneliness and isolation right now, causing or feeding record numbers of people with depression.

Where is the balance? Whose responsibility is it to be the social network for people who don’t have one?

We, collectively, can’t even agree on helping people who need money, which is (or seems like it should be) less complicated than helping with social-emotional support.

What do you think? Whose responsibility is it to provide the village, now that villages are gone?

 

Posted in connections, parenting, socializing

“Can you play?”

The Kid had lots of energy the other night and wanted to play with other kids. It was too late in the evening to try to call around to see if any of his friends were available.

(This is a huge disadvantage to him not going to the neighborhood school—his school friends don’t live around here. Another story for another day.)

“You can go across the street and knock on the door and see if the kid there wants to play.” (They’ve played before when they and the kids next door happened to all be outside, but there’s been no doorbell-ringing.)

He looked at me like I was nuts.

“That’s what we did when we were kids. We just went to friends’ houses and knocked to see if they could play.”

He seemed unsure (and was completely uncomfortable doing it), but he wanted to play badly enough that he decided to go for it.

I went to the window to watch.

Before he made it across the street, the boy came out. A few minutes later, The Kid came back and said they’re riding their bikes to the park and can we go?

And so it went. (The park is far enough away that parents chaperoned.)

They planned to play again the next day. “When I’m ready in the morning, I’m just going to go ring their doorbell.”

He did go ring the doorbell the next morning, and they did play for a while. Later in the day, the neighbor came and rang our bell to see if The Kid could come over.

Feels like a little piece of the so-called “good old days” is back.

Posted in differences, marriage, meandering, mindset, socializing, thoughtfulness

Why invite people to a wedding?

For my first marriage, we were married in a church by a priest—one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever met. In our meeting with him, he asked us, “What do you want guests to get out of your wedding ceremony?”

What?

This was a question I had never thought of, had never heard anyone else talk about explicitly or implicitly.

The wedding is all about us, right?

To be honest with you, I don’t remember what we figured out as an answer to that question, but it was fun to wrestle with. I enjoy questions like that, that force new perspectives.

Also, I have no idea if what we decided was conveyed to the people in attendance. Did the guests take from it what we had intended? I never asked. (Which strikes me as odd—asking seems like something I would have done.) I’m guessing that the answer was heady and vague and was something that either wouldn’t really convey or would convey regardless of our conversation about it.

Has this been discussed in the planning of any wedding I’ve attended? Probably not. (Like I said, I’d never heard of this notion prior.) I didn’t even remember to think about it when planning my second (though that event looked much different than the first).

Taking it one step simpler—we in general do think about who to invite, especially if there is not unlimited space.

Why do we invite those people? Often, some are “obligatory.” Do we figure out who we want to invite and plan from there? Or figure out a “how many” and then decide who to fill the seats with?

I (occasionally) like to throw big parties. Years ago, in a bigger house with a pool, we’d throw a Memorial Day thing every year (though it got thwarted once or twice). Christmas Eve Eve was big the year it fell on a Saturday.

Getting married is a solid excuse to have a big party.

I didn’t realize how much I would love this plan until reflecting afterwards, but The Climbing Daddy and I had a very small wedding and later threw a big party at home. (In other words, that’s what we decided, but I didn’t realize how great the idea was until after we had done it. The original “why” was different.)

We maintained intimacy, exchanged vows fairly privately, then celebrated later with lots of people.

One of the perks of having so few people was that everyone could hear. Especially in an outdoor space, sound is a problem. I’ve never been to an outdoor wedding where I could hear the ceremony. Which leads back to the question: why invite people?

It was relatively easy to make sure that people’s needs were met. I have been to weddings (regardless of venue) where there weren’t enough chairs, or the food didn’t accommodate diets (which is not inherently a problem, but I like to know ahead of time that there isn’t going to be anything for me to eat so I don’t show up hungry), or there wasn’t any food at all. (On our end, we did fail on securing shade and we all baked a bit when we were eating lunch after our ceremony.)

So. When you planned your wedding (or are planning it), who did/will you invite? Why? People first or numbers first or some back-and-forth combination? Did you have a thought about what you wanted them to get out of it? (Seriously—has anyone else been asked to think about this?)

(Also: I’ve been to many weddings that were perfectly lovely, any many that had issues were otherwise lovely as well.)

 

Posted in just a quote, socializing, thoughtfulness

Quote: use your powers for good

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” — Fred Rogers

I love this. It reminds me that not only do I impact people who are on my radar (Climbing Daddy, The Kid, friends, colleagues, students), but also people who might not be on my radar (cashiers, students not in my classes, people around me in public spaces). And also people who aren’t so much on my radar, but I’m on theirs (some acquaintances, perhaps).

I wrote about the “strangers” side of this before, but I always enjoy a reminder. And also a reminder that I don’t want to be the drain on someone else’s day, if it’s avoidable (while still maintaining boundaries). Be the light. Still working on it.