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Public lands a starting point of intimate romance

PUBLIC LANDS —  National parks and other public lands have been the inspiring setting for "made in America" romances, as this Department of Interior video suggests.

Hands-on Valentine’s Day marketing

"Years ago, when I was teaching in a small town, a dozen red roses were delivered to me in the faculty room during our lunch break," wrote Karen Valandra. "There was a sweet note from my husband. Many of the other female staff members were quite teary eyed with the thoughtfulness of the whole thing. We had been married 20+ years and they were the first roses from my husband. I was a bit puzzled but oh so grateful.

"A year or so later he confessed to me that he was just walking to the post office when the flower shop owner came out of her business door, grabbed him by the arm and said, 'Get in here. You are sending your wife some flowers.'

"He didn't argue, did what she said and went to the post office. I haven't had flowers since."

When your birthday is Valentine’s Day

That is Gayle Ray's situation.

The Chattaroy resident said she still remembers being crestfallen upon discovering in first grade that all the cards and decorations were not for her.

“Love calls of the wild” ring tones offered by endangered species group

The Center for Biological Diversity is offering new, free ring tones called "Love Calls of the Wild," just in time for Valentine's Day. 

"The campaign features 25 specially selected cell phone ringtones that include mating and social calls along with hoots, chirps, grows and trills from animals across the planet," says the nonprofit's news release. 

I couldn't preview the ring tones because the S-R's web-security program wouldn't connect. Probably something having to do with the words "love" and "wild" in the same sentence. 

Here's the link, though, in case you aren't similarly hobbled by a cyber-nanny: http://www.rareearthtones.org/ringtones/index.html

Keep in mind, the CBD is a conservation-minded nonprofit, and it looks like you'll be automatically enrolled in its "biodiversity activist network" if you want to download a ringtone — but it also says it's easy to unsubscribe from that. 

(PS - there's no image with this blog post because searching "mating calls" in the AP image database yielded only a picture of some new reality show called "Massive Mating Game." Maybe we should be glad most of this is blocked by our cyber-nanny.) 

“I Love Clean Air Day” this Thursday at Mobius

The Spokane EnviroKids are inviting families to celebrate Valentine’s Day and learn about the importance of clean air through fun, hands-on activities at the “I Love Clean Air Day” event this Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Mobius Science Center, 811 West Main Ave.

Activities include:

-Exploring what makes our air dirty.
-Investigating how air quality affects your health with pigs lungs that have been “exposed” to a lifetime of pollution.
-Learning how weather patterns can make our air dirty or clean with a tornado in a bottle activity and temperature inversion experiment.
-Discovering how trees can help keep the air clean.
-Identifying clean air actions families can take.
-Celebrating Valentine’s Day by recycling paper to make a valentine.

“I Love Clean Air Day” is an opportunity to tie-in environmental stewardship and science with the Valentine’s Day holiday, according to event coordinator Margee Chambers of the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency. “We enjoy teaching children, and ultimately their parents, about the world around them through fun, hands-on activities. When they understand the importance of clean air they might feel inspired to make choices that help our air,” states Chambers.

How to spot a loser on morning after Valentine’s Day

Fellow anglers:  It's OK to go fishing on Valentine's Day.

But I don't care how good the bite is, be sure to make it home in time for your dinner reservation with your sweetie.

Questions?  Call Ralph. He has lot's of insight and time on his hands this week.

Video: National parks a hit for Valentines

PUBLIC LANDS — If your recent Valentine's Day didn't go as well as you'd hoped, maybe you need a change of scenery.

When the National Park Service posted an online request for videos and photos of proposals in parks across the country, it had no shortages of replies, as you'll see in the video above.

Travel Brings Couples Closer Together

   If you're looking for a way to strengthen your relationship, try hitting the road. Together.

   According to a survey by the U.S. Travel Association, couples who travel together find more satisfaction. They experience better communication and have longer-lasting relationships. They are more romantic.

   Today is Valentine’s Day and millions of cards, boxes of candy and restaurant dinners will be purchased. And then tomorrow morning life will go back to the old routine. But that’s the thing important thing about travel. After a trip, nothing is ever quite the same again. Even if it is only the addition of a few more photos on your cell phone, or a kitschy souvenir on a shelf in the living room, the everyday world we live in has been subtly changed.
   Shared experiences deepen our connection with one another. We can be one of thousands of passengers on a cruise ship but the memories we will bring home are intimate and singular: sunsets watched from the deck, wine at dinner, a kiss in the dark.

   Whether it is crossing Europe by train, watching geysers in Yellowstone, thrilling to the sight of whales breaching off the coast of Alaska, exploring ancient ruins in Mexico or even a spur-of-the-moment weekend in the city, what comes back with us after any shared travel experience is the sense of having been a part of something that now belongs to us alone. We linger over memories of having had an adventure, of overcoming the ordinary obstacles that complicate any kind of travel. We celebrate the planning and saving and scheduling that made the trip happen or the exhilaration of giving into an impulse to escape.

   Travel with the one we love sparks the imagination and teases curiosity. It soothes us and relaxes us. It helps us remember what drew us to one another in the first place.

   Humans are hardwired with a need to share and couples who travel together fall into another kind of love. They get hooked and want more. They look forward to another destination, another pin on the map, more photos in the album. And, always, one more kiss.

Read the U.S. Travel Association study here

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com


His mom is looking out for him already

A pregnant colleague weighing the possibility of giving birth on Valentine's Day said she hoped it didn't happen.


Well, she said, she didn't really think it would be fair for her son to have to worry about meeting emotionally erratic girlfriends' V-Day expectations on his own birthday  

Valentine’s Day plans already booked

I'll be having dental work that day.

Go ahead and try to top that.

I'm no fan of Valentine's Day performance romance. But my 2013 plan might set some sort of record.

Of course, I won't be in the dentist's chair all day. At least I hope not. 

Valentines repositories, continued

"Oh, I am dating myself here," wrote Fran Menzel. "When I was a kid we used cigar boxes for Valentines. Covered with old wallpaper, they worked quite nicely and had a great smell as well."

Who was Saint Valentine?

Good question. Lots of answers.  

Sometimes it is best to imagine the answer: Saint Valentine was the perfect, thoughtful lover or even a magical cupid who causes one’s object of affection to return that passion.

However, Valentine was most likely someone we are less likely to identity with: Roman martyr or temple priest?

Whomever he was and whatever the origin of our celebration, Valentine’s Day remains an opportunity to pause and show our affection for those whom we call friend, family, or lover.

(S-R archives photo)

Valentine’s Day on “The Twilight Zone”

On this day in 1963, an episode titled "Jess-Belle" first aired.

A mountain girl who is losing her lover to another woman resorts to witchcraft to win him back. It works, but there are repercussions.


APhoto Of The Day — 2.14.12

Laksana Tiranara, left, takes an energy drink while kissing her husband Akechai Tiranarat during the World's Longest Continuous Kiss Competition in Pattaya, southeastern Thailand, Tuesday. The event was held in an attempt to break the Guinness world record and to celebrate St. Valentine's Day. You write the cutline. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Santorum Visits Lake City Today

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is spending Valentine's Day in the Gem State. Riding on fresh steam gathered from his recent primary and caucus wins, Santorum will bring his campaign to Coeur d'Alene today. Santorum, in pursuit of Idaho's 32 delegates to the Republican National Convention, is scheduled to land at Coeur d'Alene Airport at 9:54 a.m. before heading to a private gathering. Then from noon to 2 p.m. he'll host a public rally at the Hagadone Event Center, 900 Floating Green Drive. The event is free and open to the public; with room for about 500 people, HEC officials have said first come, first served/Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.

Question: Do you plan to attend the political rally for Rick Santorum?

Slice answer

Today's column asked readers if they recalled making special mailboxes for valentines out of shoe boxes.

Here's a note from one woman who does.

"We would take construction paper, ribbon, doilies, and wrap the boxes. We got those packages of valentines cards and gave the more romantic ones to the boys.The most important thing was to be sure and give one to everyone in the class. It wouldn't be nice to leave anyone out.

"And then you would run home and spread them out on your bed, hoping you got a really cool one from the cute kid."


‘North Idaho Valentine’ — The Bard

A schooner of Pabst,
a tumbler of wine,
a Slim Jim to share –
please say you’ll be mine.

The Bard of Sherman Avenue

This keyboard style never caught on

Turned out that being able to type nothing but hearts was not especially practical.


Some years, love bites.

    It looked like a child’s Valentine, a square of red construction paper glued onto a round, lacy, white paper doily. I noticed it on the floor, one edge trapped under the leg of a chair in the coffee shop.
I picked it up and opened it expecting to see something like “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue…signed with X’s and O’s and written in a looping childish scrawl.

    But that’s not what I saw.

    Instead, I read the words, “You can bite me” printed in ink – by an adult hand - and finished with lots of exclamation points.

    At first I assumed it was a kind of naughty little note. A homemade come-on left on the breakfast table, propped against a glass of orange juice or coffee cup. Or, perhaps it had been meant for a co-worker, a secret message left on a desk or handed off under the table in a meeting. A tease to after-hours fun, or a little corporate groping in the elevator.

    But the more I looked at it, the less sweetness I saw. The words, “You can bite me” had been practically carved into the paper. I got the feeling they were written by someone who was angry. Someone whose teeth had been clenched when she wrote it. Someone who might have preferred to carve the same message on the forehead of the recipient. And I was sure it had been written by a woman.

    Whoever she was, she was mad. And she had a point she wanted to make. So, as befitted the day, a lover’s day, she dressed it up in lace and red paper.

    I sat there, holding the little bomb, and tried to imagine who sent it and for whom it had been intended. What on earth had he done to deserve it? And how did he feel when he opened the card?

    Did he sit there, nursing a Venti double-shot and read the words over and over again, mulling over how much trouble she was and how tired he was of her theatrics? Or, did he mentally kick himself, making a promise right then and there to shape up and show the love.

    And what about her? I would give anything to have been a fly on the wall when that card was made. I could imagine her furiously rummaging through drawers looking for a pen that wasn’t out of ink and a glue stick that wasn’t dried and useless. Opening and closing kitchen cabinet doors, searching for those ridiculous doilies she bought last year when she had that baby shower for a friend. Then, after scratching the words across the paper, folding the card and slipping it into an envelope. An angry Cupid, locked, loaded, target in sight.

    Everywhere I look I see Valentines. Most are syrupy and trite. I can’t help but wonder  how many are given  under false pretenses. Pretty poetry and sentimental schmaltz when what the sender would like to say can be summed up in two little words: “Bite me.”

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com


Love in Plain Brown Paper

Real love is the kind we are surrounded by every day

Cheryl-anne Millsap
The Spokesman-Review

Chances are you’ve got love, or something like it, on your mind. After all, it’s Valentine’s Day.

Did you buy roses? You need to buy roses. And a card covered with sentimental poetry written by a stranger.

Don’t forget the chocolate, the expensive perfume, something from Victoria’s Secret, a gourmet meal at a five-star restaurant and jewelry. Isn’t that what it takes to show love? Well, one day a year, maybe. But it’s the other 364 days that tell the tale.

The truth is, love doesn’t always come with balloons and words that rhyme. True love usually comes to us just like the groceries – mixed with the necessities and wrapped in plain brown paper.

Love is spread between the peanut butter and jelly in a school lunch sandwich and folded into baskets of clean laundry.

It is carried in a soft look at the end of a hard day and the gentle sound of your name on another’s lips.

Love is scrambled into eggs for a quick supper on a hectic night and sweetens a cup of coffee brought to you before you get out of bed on a cold morning.

Real love isn’t just tender whispers in the dark. It’s pillow talk about unreliable cars, failing hot water heaters, thinning hair, expanding waistlines, ominous medical tests and parent-teacher conferences.

Love is the glue that holds us together and the fuel that drives us to work, piano practice, dentist appointments and soccer games.

Love is the smell of a newborn baby. Love is the sound of a sullen “goodnight” muttered by a teenager who, only moments before, expressed a keen desire to become an orphan.

Love is when you tell the one you chose, “I’m scared,” and they hold your hand. For as long as you need it.

Real love is letting someone hold your hand.

Sometimes love is only visible, like the growth rings in a tree, when we’ve been cut and left with an open wound. And love is the bandage that binds our wounds and helps us heal.

Real love has very little to do with the candy and cards we buy and give once a year. It isn’t in romantic music and movies.

For most of us, love is hidden in the shadows of an ordinary life, when you open your eyes in the cold, gray light of morning and make the choice to stick it out one more day.

Most of us learn to take love where we find it. And when we look, really look, past all the frills and fuss of a made-for-retail holiday, it’s all around us.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Critters provide Valentine’s Day inspiration

WILD LIFE – Blush if you must, but mating season is an exciting time to get out the binoculars.

Many eagles, owls, hawks and other large birds such as ravens and magpies are making whoopee in the skies and treetops of the Inland Northwest.

Golden eagles have been seen performing their swooping mating flights over the hills and cliffs above the cliffy shores of Lake Roosevelt.

Coyotes also have reason to howl as they pair up.

But while there are some similarities between human and critter behavior around Valentine’s Day, here’s a point at which men may want to stray:

When looking for mates, male meadow voles – grassland rodents that look like mice with short tails – listen for the pitter-patter of little feet.

Female voles are most receptive when males catch them hours after giving birth. New mammas will mate after about 5 minutes of courtship, compared with up to 90 minutes for other females.

Hearts in Hillyard

This neighborhood has a lot of heart, there's no question about that, and for Valentine's Day the merchants are putting together a 'Heart of Hillyard' promotion. Look for special events, promotions and discounts.
And speaking of Valentine's Day, the Outlaw Cafe is once again hosting a dinner theater event on Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. Stages of the Old West is putting on the show and the Outlaw Cafe is making a dinner featuring prime rib, game hen or salmon filet. Beer and wine will be for sale that evening. RSVP at the cafe - cost $18 per plate.