What’s the deal with Thanksgiving?

When you’re in elementary, middle or high school Thanksgiving is often just another holiday family gathering where you HAVE TO kiss or hug all the relatives you don’t even really know and answer all their intrusive questions. In college those same encounters happen but we’re adults (although we may not actually be nor are we treated like them),  yet nothing has changed. We get asked what we want to do with our life, are we being successful in every way, are we in a relationship, what are we doing after college, isn’t our parents so lucky to have us home, etc. The list goes on. It can be awkward and uncomfortable to deal with. If you have a huge family gathering with relatives you haven’t seen before or only every Thanksgiving why do they ask these questions about us? Don’t they remember when they were asked these same questions and have to stifle an eye roll “here we go again the same questions I don’t want to answer”. Do they really want to hear what’s up with us? Often a generic answer is good enough to deflect attention away so why do these interactions always come up?

In part, as college students we often don’t know what we want, how we’re doing, what we’re doing next nor want to explain it a bajillion times to each relative who’s just trying to make conversation. It’s not to say these questions aren’t important ones or meant to show an interest in family members but if you truly cared about these people (besides the elderly who can’t remember) you would already know the answers to these questions or spare us the wry fake smile and answers. Society has taught us we have to be nice and thankful during thanksgiving, lucky to be able to spend time with family when maybe large gatherings make us anxious, maybe we have a 10 page paper due by the end of the weekend, maybe all we really want to do is let loose and not think about school, the future and enjoy the weekend. This is not to say family gatherings are awful but I think everyone can relate to sometimes Thanksgiving is an especially tiring and enjoyable time. The end of semester is basically in sight behind all the papers, take-homes, presentations, lab reports, and exams and the past three months of the semester is catching up to us all we really want is a break.

Especially this thanksgiving I think its important to reaffirm our love and care for one another and in doing so, discuss meaningful things and relaxing times to get to re-know each other beyond the generic questions. Get back to the meaning of Thanksgiving (perhaps beyond its awful historical origins) but to give thanks.

What is something you’re thankful for?

What is something you’re proud about?

How can your family continue to support you?

Moving forward, what actions are you taking to live your values?

How can you express your care and love to your family and others?

What in the world concerns you?

What excites you in the upcoming future?

What did you really think of the food? (this may be a tough one lol)

Its difficult and scary to talk about these things but in doing so we can better understand each other and support each other. They are meant to start a dialogue to get to know our family and what that means to one another moving forward. Thanksgiving is a time for family to come together and support one another.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving with Strangers

Today is Thanksgiving and I’m still on campus. While most of the school is with family, I’m just sitting in my room, typing away. But you know what? I don’t regret not going home.

I had Thanksgiving for the first time without my family in my entire life. My perspectives leader, Gwen, from orientation posted an open invitation in the “Free & For Sale” group on Facebook, inviting anyone on campus over to hangout and eat.

Of course I jumped on it, I didn’t want to spend the night in my room, watching my friend’s fish (I renamed her Ms. Fish McFish). By the time I got to Gwen’s house, there was Gwen, some of her friends from Lewis & Clark and a few other people. They had been cooking all day, so I contributed what I could by helping set the table. After that, I helped where I could and did my best not to seem like a freeloader.


Mashed potatoes, gravy, dinner roll, turkey, green bean casserole, brussels sprouts and stuffing

To cut a long story short, I had an incredible dinner with a bunch of strangers that I got to know a little. I just had a ton of fun and really enjoyed myself. Also we played Settlers of Catan for all of 10 minutes before we got distracted by pie and pretty much abandoned the game.


This just goes to show how awesome the people we go to school with are. Even though we’re all a bunch of strangers, we’re still able to come together over a nice meal.

I think that next year, I might just stick around during Thanksgiving and do this. I’m sure anyone staying would appreciate it. I know I did.

“Home is where the heart is.”

That’s the saying, right? Home is not a physical location, it is wherever you like. Once you choose your home, it’s hard to leave. It’s hard to go someplace else, someplace that isn’t home.

Thanksgiving Break is coming up, so most of the school is toughing out these last few days so they can finally head home to family, friends and free food. I know some people just decided to skip out and headed home early. Me, however, I’m sticking around this Thanksgiving.

My excuse to my family was that I couldn’t afford a plane ticket. That’s not entirely the truth. Between those huge purchases at the beginning of the year and what I get from work-study, I don’t have much. But I do have enough to get a plane ticket without going totally broke. So why aren’t I going home this Thanksgiving?

I’m already home. My heart is here.

It’s true that I spent my entire life in the same house. I have friends that I’ve known literally my whole life. My cat and dogs… well, I miss them like Homer can eat doughnuts, which is more than any human can possibly imagine. Then there’s In-n-Out. As a Californian through and through, I’m not sure if I can make it much longer without my regular dose of a double-double, animal fries and a milkshake.

Seriously, if anyone in California is reading this, please mail me In-n-Out. At least send me a picture with a detailed report of smell, taste and texture. I’ll give you my first, second and third-born children for it. …Yeah I have a problem. Anyway, back on topic.

I have all of these reasons to call that place home, but I can’t, not anymore.

I chose UPS for a number of reasons. Its size, people, culture and individualized attention to name a few. It’s just such an amazing place despite what some people may think. But one of the biggest is probably not one many people have. It’s how much this place has changed me.

People always say to stay true to yourself, to not change. But for there to be progress, there must be change. I love who I’ve changed into. I’ve grown more social. I’ve started rock climbing. As of last Tuesday, I’ve started playing Rugby. I work for ASUPS, not really knowing what I’m doing half the time but having tons of fun. I write for the school blog. I’m still really aggressive, but I’m getting better- I hope. If you asked me 6 months ago that I would’ve changed this much, I would’ve probably just said “You’re funny” sarcastically and returned to my computer.

I don’t want to go back because I don’t want to return to being the person I was before. I don’t want to slip back into old habits and become the old me again. That’s why this is my home now. This is where the new and improved me lives. This is where my heart is.

So while everyone else is rushing to home and back for Thanksgiving, I’ll be relaxing, because I’m already home.

(But seriously though, I need In-n-Out like immediately)

Keep the Four Cents

In which Daniel professes some delayed gratitude.

To my dear reader,

In truth, I have never found Thanksgiving to be a time to profess gratitude. Do not misunderstand me; I am very grateful that I have the chance to eat an enormous and delicious meal with family and friends. That being said, I don’t see the holiday as a celebration of gratitude, so much a celebration of family and food – both of which are perfectly wonderful. I instead find myself being thankful at the most unexpected and often inappropriate times, such as realizing how lucky I am to have a loving pet dog and bursting into tears while watching “The Hunger Games”.

Studies demonstrate that people who begin to consistently express gratitude begin to become consistently happier people, regardless of circumstance.  It seemed logical to me, then, that my next post should be one in which I express gratitude for the unexpected and seemingly trivial things in my life. Here are just a few:

1) The delicious combination of a buttered, toasted cinnamon sugar bagel and a chai latte at Bertolino’s Coffee on Union Street in Tacoma, WA.

2) The woolen socks currently on my feet – for, in the words of Albus Dumbledore, “One can never have enough socks”.

3) The calming nature of the scent of peach tea.

4) The fact that my room is currently quite clean.

5) The way that the texture of flannel feels like a warm blanket and thus makes me feel as if I am still in bed.

6) The day when, after asking my fraternity brothers for camping gear for an upcoming hike for which I was unprepared, I came back to my room to find a small mountain of their camping gear waiting for me.

7) The short play “Perfect”, from the collection of short plays “365 Plays/365 Days” by Suzi Lori-Parks.

8) The dog that just let me cuddle it as I took a break from writing this blog post in Bertolino’s Coffee.

9) Indoor plumbing.

10) An afternoon I had with a good friend at the Tacoma teashop Ubiquitous Journey, in which we played word association games.

11) The fact that, while we were at Ubiquitous Journey, one of the employees gave me a free gift card because of a previous blog post I had written about the teashop.

12) Waffle Day in the School of Music – a glorious event in the music building of the University of Puget Sound in which the School of Music’s two secretaries/gatekeepers/guardians Carol and Leah make waffles for the students on the last day of classes.

13) The squishy brown couch in Diversions Café, where I have publicly napped and shamelessly wept on more than one occasion.

When I think of gratitude these days, however, what comes to mind foremost is a recent experience I had while in the Cellar, the university’s pizza shop.  I and a few friends had been spending time in an on-campus house, and decided to take a break from our movie by stopping by the Cellar.  Not wanting to spend too much money, I left my wallet in the house and took only the four dollars inside.

Arriving at the Cellar, I realized that what I really wanted as my not-so-guilty snack was a chocolate milk and a pack of Hostess Donuts.  With only four dollars and the price of food, I suspected that I’d only have enough money to cover one.  “Ah well,” I thought, “I’ll check with at the register which one is under four dollars”.  But I secretly bemoaned the preemptive loss of one of my snacks.

Upon arriving at the register, I placed down my two items and the cashier rung them up.  “I suspect that I won’t be buying one of these,” I told him, “Since I only have four dollars”.  But much to my surprise, when the cashier scanned the barcodes of the two items, the number that appeared on the little screen was three dollars and ninety-six cents.  “Yes!” I cried, whipping out my four dollars and slapping down at the table.  Ah, the beauty of little things!  The joy of the small triumphs of life!

“Don’t you want your change?” the cashier asked as I seized my items and began to walk away.  “Not necessary!” I called back with relish.  “Keep the four cents”.


With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Fun fact: winter nighttime temperatures in the TCI rarely fall below 65 degrees.

No, the School for Field Studies did not get a Thanksgiving break.  But we go home on Thursday, December 5, so I guess that’s understandable.  And we did get a Thanksgiving dinner, despite the fact that (1) as a study abroad program, we’re kind of by definition not in the United States, and (2) half of the staff members are British and are therefore horrified by the thought of sweet potato casseroles with marshmallows.  It involved a bit of logistics, because if you want to make something, you have to order the ingredients far enough ahead of time for them to arrive via the infamous food ship, and then juggle the baking of various things with the restraints of having a single functional oven to cook for 50+ people.

I suppose the "big blue" beyond the wall of the reef is rather aptly named.

I suppose the “big blue” beyond the wall of the reef is rather aptly named.

In the spirit of recognizing that the semester is almost over, our last two dives were yesterday (diving in December without wetsuits!), so our gear will be ready to be packed up once it’s dry.  Those dives, incidentally, are worthy of a blog post in and of themselves – the divemaster said we were going to drop in “over the big blue,” and none of us realized what that was until we backrolled off the boat into the water, let the air out of our BCDs, started descending, and realized that, despite the perfect tropical visibility, there was nothing around us.  We descended without a single point of reference, freefalling into a sort of vast emptiness, before levelling off when we hit a hundred feet and swimming up to the wall of the reef, watching it slowly appear through the blue haze.  I don’t know why we haven’t been doing that all semester, but at least none of us will ever forget those final dives here.

Final exams are over, data collection has finished, directed research papers are turned in, and research presentations, cleaning, packing, and an afternoon visit to the tiny and uninhabited Long Cay are all that’s left.  When we first got to South Caicos, it took a while for me to really accept that this was going to be my home for three months.  And now that it’s just about time to leave, it’s hard to accept that I am, most likely, never going to see this place again.  I won’t miss the mosquitoes.  But I will miss Cerano’s Jamaican jerk chicken.

It’s also just about impossible to picture the transition from 90-degree weather here to 30-degree weather at home in Northern Virginia.  I don’t think I’ve felt a temperature below 75 degrees since May in Washington.  You know the scene from Cool Runnings where the Jamaican bobsled team flies to Canada – how they feel the icy grip of below-zero temperatures through an open door in the airport and gape in horror?  I’m unspeakably glad to not be flying from the Caribbean to Minnesota, like one of my roommates.  Call me Sanka, but I somehow suspect that my cold tolerance will be a bit lacking for a while.