Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fallen Resolutions

Every now and then, and not just on New Year's day, I make up a list of resolutions that never get carried through and inevitably bite the dust almost always. Then why on earth do I make them in the first place is something I always ask myself. Sometimes I start off quite enthusiastically, but then after a couple of weeks, the eagerness fades, the spirit weakens, the energy level sags, and the resolution falls by the wayside or dies a miserable death. I then kick myself for being such a wimp in not having the strength of character to see it through. Does that teach me anything? No! I go back again to making another resolution, allow it to fizzle into nothingness, and the cycle goes on! SIGH!

Exercising on a regular basis is the foremost of my resolutions that I can never carry through. Though I keep telling myself that age is only a number, that I will embrace the aging process quite happily, there is that secret urge within me to stay fit and trim and flaunt an appearance that belies my age. I mean, who doesn't?!? I must admit though that the NordicTrack in my bedroom sees action only in fits and starts, and I sometimes think it is calling out to me pathetically for some action that validates its existence. There is always some excuse or the other not to heed that plaintive call - there is no time, I have a zillion things to do, I have a cold, it's too hot today, etc., etc.

Eating healthy is another one that bites the dust. I resolve to stay away from junk food, but then again, who can resist pizza loaded with cheese and umpteen toppings?!? I resolve to turn vegetarian sometimes, but the smell of fried fish always wins me over (seafood being my all-time favourite!), and I simply do not have the will power to resist it. The same can be said for detoxing, drinking plenty of water, avoiding white rice and eating the brown one instead, cooking fresh everyday, reading a book every week, and the list goes on and on. The only thing I seem to have adhered faithfully to is writing five blog posts every month. And if that resolution fails as well, then I am beyond redemption, I suppose!!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Teenage Angst

Teenage can be a very awkward stage of life rife with angst, insecurities, rebellion, and what not. Am yet to see (with an exception or two, maybe) a teenager who is poised, mellow, knows what he (and that applies to the other gender as well) wants, and is comfortable in his own skin. The distractions are one too many, the hormones are raging in their maturing bodies, their thoughts are so self-centered, and there's the pressure to do well at school or keep up with their peers that teenagers morph into monsters and turn into absolute strangers to their parents. There is something alien about them at this stage that it makes parents wonder, "Is this the helpless infant I held in my arms not so long ago?!?" And then one might ask their child, "Who ARE you, and what did you do to my sweet kid?" With the right kind of supervision and parental guidance, many teenagers emerge sane and successful, and it's always a big relief for the parents to have their sweet, well-mannered child back after a turbulent, tumultuous teen period!

I have many friends with teenage children who have problems of different kinds. Mood swings seem to be a common one, where a teen can be talkative and communicative one moment, then turn surly or taciturn at another. At moments like these, I think the best thing to do would be to just let them be, give them some space and time to internalize, and then approach them when they have mellowed a bit. Getting teenagers to follow the rules is another, because breaking the rules is an essential teen rite of passage. I have heard parents tell of grounding their teenagers when they break the rules, like a curfew, for example, but then again to no effect whatsoever. Taking away their electronic gadgets or locking away the computer, TV, or game console cables is no punishment either, because an ingenious teen will still find a way to keep himself entertained, like using the landline to call friends and chat with them for hours together. I can sense the frustration in parents when they seem to have hit a dead end when it comes to disciplining their teens.

In North America, drugs, guns, gang violence, and early sex are rampant problems as well that compound the teenage angst. If a boy or girl sails through the teen years without succumbing to any of these, then it should be considered a real blessing. I must mention teenagers who are role models to others, like Afraj Gill, the Surrey teen who scored a perfect in all the seven subjects in Grade 12, and won 100,000 dollars in scholarship to university this year. Quite heartening and uplifting to learn that there are kids who emerge successful inspite of all the angst that is typical of the age! Let me add that my teenager is quite focused, dedicated, motivated, and is working very hard towards his goal, and I sincerely wish the same for other parents with teenagers at home as well!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pacific Coast Road Trip

That wander lust in me never seems to abate. When life gets tedious and I begin to feel stifled and claustrophobic, there's nothing to beat a wonderful, relaxing road trip. Road trips afford perfect mini adventures that are new, energizing, and cost effective to boot. Visiting cities not far from home, taking off to parts unknown, or stepping on the gas pedal down the scenic byways and going off the beaten track has something innately romantic and adventurous about it. Just viewing the landscape whiz past through the windshield of the car lifts up my spirits, and when the scenic vignettes include ancient forests, pristine waterfalls, and the rugged coastline, there's that extra element of magic added to the whole experience. The kid had just returned from India and shot down the idea of a trip to Las Vegas because he didn't want to get onto another plane just yet, making it the perfect time for me to hatch plans for yet another road trip during my 3-week summer break. Thus was born the idea of a three day trip southwards along the Pacific Coast.

Travelling from California up north, or going down south to California from Vancouver, we'd always taken Interstate 5 and driven through the hustle and bustle of the cities. For a change we decided to take the scenic Pacific byway, Highway 101, that starts from Port Angeles in British Columbia and hugs the Pacific Ocean and winds down south all the way to San Diego, California. The plan was to take each day as it went, stopping wherever we fancied and taking in all the sights along the way. The only planning of any sort we did was deciding on where to stop for the night, and the consensus was that we would avoid the fancy hotels in the cities, but opt instead for the quaint oceanside inns on the coast itself, right next to the mighty Pacific. The foodie that I am, I also decided to take some home-cooked food along, an idea that was vetoed very strongly by the kid!

So off we went, on a balmy summer's morning, with the sun roof down and the wind in our hair. Crossing the border was uneventful and the drive got more and more interesting as we went up the hills and down the valleys, till we actually touched the coastline. Long Beach, Washington was our first major stop for the day. We were completely taken unawares by the sudden drop in temperature, the low clouds moving just above our heads, the very poor visibility, the wind whipping the hair into our faces, the chilly salt spray, the cackle of the seagulls perched on the sandbars like sentinels guarding the ocean, and the eerie sound of the ocean that could not be seen at all but only heard through the mist. There was an other-worldliness to the whole scene. I felt I had stepped into a primordial setting, rugged, elemental, and fearful in its might and magnificence. When the husband and kid started walking towards the water, I was overcome by fear that they would be swallowed up by this unable-to-be-seen, raging monster of an ocean, and kept yelling at them to come back. The birds on the sandbars in the distance appeared like gargantuan apparitions through the mist, and in the darkness of the evening, it seemed like an eerie Galapagos of sorts!

We returned to the town of Long Beach at a distance of maybe four blocks, and could still hear the raging sound of the ocean. I was wondering what would happen if a tsunami were to occur ... no high rises, no way to escape! We did the usual souvenir shopping and strolling downtown (which was just one long street), and after some hot clam chowder to beat the cold, hurried to our room in the oceanside inn. The next day was a revelation in itself. With the sun beating down upon us, and the ocean gleaming in the sunlight, it was very difficult for me to reconcile with my previous day's impression of it. Kite enthusiasts, barbecue lovers, joggers, parents with kids and other sundry people dotted the beach, as we said goodbye to the world's longest beach, as the Americans claim it to be!

The Oregon coast has to be seen to be believed! The drive through old-growth forests and mountain passes as we never lost sight of the ocean was absolutely phenomenal. We stopped along the way at sights that caught our attention - Columbia Fort, Oswald West State Park, Cannon Beach, Rockaway Beach, Oceanside, Tillamook, Sandlake, etc., to name a few. Lincoln Beach was where we stayed the second night before we took the road back home again the next day. It was a wonderful experience for the three of us, as we laughed and joked and chatted on our three day drive. Do you think I might have had enough? Not at all! I'm already planning the next road trip, perhaps this time to the Canadian Rockies, just waiting for us in all its splendour and glory, a glimpse of the eternal!!!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Facebook Peeves

This whole Facebooking phenomenon still baffles me. While I may not have taken Facebook 101 or any other course on Facebook etiquette, I'm pretty sure I have enough common sense to gauge what is acceptable and not so acceptable behaviour on Facebook. With every Tom, Dick, and Harry having jumped onto the Facebook bandwagon, and it being no surprise that even a granny has a Facebook account these days, it has to be said that the rate of bizarre behaviour has increased in direct proportion as well. People continue to bewilder me day in and day out with their shenanigans on this social networking site, and I feel compelled to write about a few of my Facebook peeves here.

I am really confounded when complete strangers send me Friend Requests. I really don't know who these people are, and most often, these requests are never accompanied by any introductory message of any kind telling me who they are and how they know me or where they met me. Most often, they have found me from a friend's list or from a friend's friend's list, and when there is no accompanying message, I usually check the person's profile to see if we have any mutual friends. On many an occasion, when there is no mutual friend, and there is no profile picture of the person either, I have no way of checking who they are. There is not adequate information to identify them - no place, no school or university, or any other detail - that might jostle my grey cells a bit and bring back a memory. Many of them just have their sex listed as Male. The vanity! Let me confess, I have ignored countless requests like this from strange men because it makes me suspect it could be some sort of phishing or stalking or whatever.

There is yet another category of people who simply assume that I know them very well from decades ago. Truth be told, I really don't! They send me a message saying, "You know me very well," and not, "I know you very well." There's a huge difference, people! What's the harm in a plain, direct introduction and asking me if I now remember them? Or why not send a query if it's the same boy or girl one went to school or university with, along with the request? Is that too much to ask for?!?

Then there is a third category of those who send me friend requests, and after I check them out or remember them and confirm them as friends, there is absolute silence from their end. These people are reading my status updates on a regular basis, but they never reach out to me or respond in any way whatsoever. In fact, I have never heard from them even once after I confirmed them as a friend! Then why on earth did they invite me to be their friend, I wonder?!!? Did they add me as a friend just to increase their number of friends on Facebook or are they shy or afraid to contact me any further, I'm not sure? All the activity I see is their success as farmers on Farmville or the results of some quiz they've taken. On a slight variation to this category of so-called friends, I also have folks who have accepted me as a friend, but then maintain a stoic silence! When I write on their wall or send them a message in private, is it too much to expect a response? If someone considers me a friend and has accepted me as one, shouldn't they be responding or reaching out to me just to be polite?

Another thing that completely floors me is the number of friends a person can have in order to maintain a meaningful friendship with each one of them. Is it possible to have more than a thousand friends (I remember seeing one who had close to 3000 friends - no exaggeration, let me tell you!!!) and still be in touch with every single one of them in the real sense of the word? Should one exercise caution in accepting friend requests, or should one be obliged to accept every single request that comes his or her way? I don't think networking meaningfully and sincerely with more than a thousand people is humanly possible by any means. Networking should be considered on genuine terms and not indiscriminately taking on too many friends just to emerge the winner in a competition of popularity.

I am not even going to go anywhere about using Facebook solely as a platform to promote religion and not for any social networking of any kind, or using sundry Facebook applications and flooding friends' home pages with the said updates and pictures of their farms or whatever. Ditto about posting updates that have a veiled criticism of someone he/she wants to attack ... I mean, why not approach the person directly , instead of making all the 300 friends on the list read it and wonder as to who's the one being attacked and for what reason? Very juvenile behaviour, in my opinion! Shouldn't Facebook be all about fun and friendship and camaraderie and memories and good-natured sharing and networking?!!?

Having said that, I wonder what the etiquette is about quietly "unfriending" someone! I am seriously tempted to do so, particularly those I haven't heard from for ages. Why be their friend or keep them on as friends when they haven't bothered to stay connected? Perhaps a lesson from Facebook 101 might serve us all well, I suppose!!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Super, Natural British Columbia!

British Columbia is a daytripper's paradise and one has to experience it to believe it! Its clean air, pristine forests, pure spring-fed water, rugged mountains and towering peaks, sheer slopes and majestic canyons, deep gorges, cascading waterfalls, fast flowing streams, the mighty Fraser River with sockeye salmon popping up like popcorn during a historic run, alpine meadows, gorgeous beaches, unique flora and fauna, abundance of wildlife, and outdoor adventures galore make you feel as if you're in a veritable Eden of sorts! Needless to say, there are many getaways not far away, and this is about one just an hour and a half's drive away - Harrison Hot Springs!

The husband and I had our first weekend getaway in 14 years, all by ourselves, since the kid was away in India, and for want of nothing better to do, we decided to hit the road. So off we went to Harrison Hot Springs, nestled against southwestern British Columbia's magnificent mountains and the sandy beaches of Harrison Lake. It was a truly sensory experience for us, the region being abundant in rich history and natural wonders. Its fresh air and breathtaking lake and mountain views made it an ideal place to escape the hectic pace of everyday life and rejuvenate the body, mind and soul. Am not exaggerating folks, but that's how I truly felt! Not to mention the hot springs themselves ... a soak in the hot mineral spring pools is just the right way to finish off the day for anyone who has spent the day walking on the lakefront with the sun in their face and the breeze in their hair! More in the pictures below!

On the trail up to Bridal Veil Falls

Fun going off the beaten track!

A glimpse of the falls through the trees

At the foot of the falls with a warning sign not to go up any further

Shot courtesy of a friendly stranger

The Bridal Veil, so ethereal in beauty!

He walked all the way up despite the warning!

So tranquil and serene!

A sunny break through the thick canopy

Lush vegetation so verdant and unique!

Entering Harrison Hot Springs!

Tourist accommodation overlooking Harrison Lake

A balmy summer's day on the lakefront

Outdoor enthusiasts soaking it all in

Tourist info. can be found everywhere around the place

Bewitching lake and mountain views

Another view of Harrison Lake

The Harrison Hot Springs Hotel and Resort which has its own private spring pools

Such wakeful serenity!

An idyllic lake view

Boat, kayak, and canoe rentals for the adventurous

The weekend road trip was the perfect start to a gorgeous summer, to be followed by a longer one along the Pacific Coast in the days to come. More about that in my next blog post! :)