Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fallow time....

I seem to be going through a fallow time. I don't have much to say that is of interest to anyone else.

If there's anything I've learned, it is that sometimes Spirit has to clear things out, remove the distractions, so that it can get in. We have to allow the fallowness, sit quietly and listen. My natural impulse is to try even harder, even though I know there is no "trying". I would frantically scour all the newspapers, the television shows, the magazines, the books and talk radio, trying to come up with a topic that would be of interest to all of you. But the truth is that either it flows or it doesn't. Right now, it's not flowing.

So I am going to honor this time, this fallow time, to open my mind and my heart.. and to listen. Something is trying to get my attention.

I'm waiting and ready! I'm listening.

I'll be back when I get back. Meanwhile, click here to see and hear a few thoughts I'd like to share with you. :)


Saturday, September 29, 2007

More questions....

I thought I'd give a crack at the remainder of the questions sent to me by Slouching Mom. I'll try to keep my answers short enough to complete them all today.

2. You've made no secret of your feelings about the systemic inequalities and injustices you see taking place in the United States. Was there ever a time when you felt that the US was on the right track? If so, when was it?

This one is a bit difficult to answer because it depends on some historical knowledge that I may not have at my fingertips. I'd like to be able to quote chapter and verse but won't be able to do that. Additionally, theory and practice are not always the same thing.

So, while the theory of representative government, free speech and many other Constitutional rights are very good on the surface, the practice has not turned out to be what those who designed it may have intended.

It's also important to keep in mind that the representative government was intended originally for propertied men. Some human beings were not considered to be wholly human (African-Americans, as an example) and some human beings were not considered worthy of a vote. Women would be an example of that.

It's easy to present lofty ideas ~ but when they are not put into practice, it leaves a lot of room for hypocrisy and exploitation.

I have some fundamental issues with the idea of free commerce which I believe leads to
economic exploitation. Those who have will always have power over those who have not. It leads to deception as well with truth being secondary to profit. It develops into a classist, hierarchal social structure.

I believe competition in any venue leads to problems unless it's friendly competition such as sports. It doesn't belong in everyday life.

So.. to answer your question, I would have to say that had those lofty ideals been tempered with a deep morality, things may have turned out differently than they have.

As an aside, I should probably also note that there are no perfect governments in the world. I'm afraid that perfection will have to wait for the afterlife, if there is one.

3. You strike me as someone who feels nothing but contentment in being alone. So many people are overwhelmingly sad and uncomfortable when alone. Suppose that you have a close friend whose chief complaint is that she or he is lonely. What words might you offer that friend?

For the most part, yes, I am quite content being alone, at least in terms of romantic partnerships. I don't think I'd be entirely happy if I was without friends. At the same time, I tend to make friends who are very flexible. We're all loner types who don't necessarily assign any negative subtext to any of us disappearing for a period of time while we are off exploring something new or just plain hiding.

I'm not sure I would be a good resource for advice to someone who is lonely. I would definitely try to guide that person toward a discovery of his or her own values and standards. Once we know those things, likeminded others tend to appear. Trying to "fit in", just for the sake of "fitting in" is usually a more empty feeling than loneliness could ever be.

4. How did (or didn't) growing up in the sixties inform the person you are now?

It was a mixed bag really. I don't think I would have the liberal or progressive views I do now without having been exposed to that time period. Growing up where I did was a rarified atmosphere where diversity of thought or racial diversity was all but non-existent.

On the other hand, it was a bit too free-wheeling and individualistic for someone who basically likes a degree of social structure. (Explains partially my attraction to Thai culture which has a high degree of social structure.) I like rules and I like knowing what is expected of me. A lot of the things I believed intrinsically were torn apart during the sixties and that has been devastating to the culture as a whole and lasts to this day.

Example: I think the "sexual revolution" of that time has proven to be absolutely devastating for women. It gave permission for men to use women freely with no sense of commitment.

It was an interesting historical time because there was so much that was positive but the dark underside is still moldering under the surface.

5. What role does music play in your life? I have a Buddhist friend who does not listen to music unless he can be really intentional about it (e.g., he will not do work while listening to music, because he feels multitasking in that way denigrates both the activity of work and of listening to music). Do you agree with his philosophy?

I would say music does not play a major role in my life. While I like it, some of it, I don't consider myself to be a fan. There are a few musical artists I like but am not driven by it at all.

Even as a kid, I used to listen to talk radio. I liked the variety of ideas people would present during a discussion. I still listen to talk radio far more often than I listen to music.

As for the intentionality, yes, I do prefer to be very present with whatever I am doing. If I am posting here, that is what I am doing. If I am reading, I am reading. Completely present. If I am in the garden, I am one with the plants and flowers I am nurturing. When I am walking, I do occasionally listen to Joseph Campbell tapes, a book on tape or music ~ but I still like to be wholly present. I do not "multi-task" and do not particularly deal well with too many distractions.


Hope these answers have been interesting. I am not going to offer to interview others right now because I still owe some people questions.. and I'm going through a particularly fallow period right now. If you would like me to send you questions and don't mind a long delay then, please, feel free to leave me a comment and I'll come up with them. I just can't promise that I will get to it quickly. :)


Friday, September 28, 2007

Weekend: Maybe you all can help me figure this one out....

Note: Removed the news story I'd quoted since it has resolved during the day.

I have wanted things in my life. In fact, one can say that on occasion, I might have even craved something.

Thailand, as an example. I really want to go to Thailand. I believe I belong there. It is my home and I miss it ~ every single day.

On the other hand, I would never steal, cheat, deceive, harm or exploit another human being to get there. There is nothing in this world worth having that would lead me to forfeit my integrity or go against my basic moral principles.

I don't understand the mentality of those who would. Maybe I just don't know what it feels like to want something that much. Maybe I've never been hungry enough. There is no self-righteousness implied. I simply don't get it!

Perhaps I don't know where that line becomes blurry, the line between being a moral human being and stepping into the darkest of dark places ~ the place where conscience ceases to exist.

What do you think about craving? When does it become most difficult to control?


Well, it's the weekend. If we're lucky, this will be a pleasant, cloudy and cool weekend. After months of relentless sun with little break (my poor eyes can't take much more), I look forward to long leisurely walks, aimless walks. Movies. A book. Hot tea. I'll be on the computer, off and on.

Since last weekend worked out rather well, please feel free to comment about anything you like whether I've mentioned it here or not. Seriously. Any topic. I'll type back to you. Others might do the same. Last weekend, there was some interesting discussion going on. :)


Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Does Place Matter?

left an interesting comment last night, one I wanted to follow up on. It would have generated a reply that is two miles long so I'm doing it here. It would also be interesting to hear what others have to say about it.

He says: The gist of where you and I intersect is in the experience of thinking that a place makes a difference. I did. I don't any more.

My position is that place most definitely matters.

There was a time when I went along with the "grow where you're planted" view of this, that we should be able to make a life, no matter where we are. And I suppose in the strictest definition, we can be alive anywhere. We can exist anywhere, as long as we have food and water. But can we make a life? Really?

The fact remains: There's a difference between Pacific Heights and the Tenderloin. There's a difference between Beverly Hills and Norwalk. There's a difference between Roland Park and Hampden.

There's a difference between my house and the house next door.

There's a difference between France and Germany.

And there's a difference between the US and Thailand. :)

It's all about environment and community. Some of it is only a geographic difference but the important part is culture.

Trying to live in a community that is substantially different, that holds different values and customs than our own is a lonely prospect at best. At worst, it can be alienating and isolating. Anyone who claims it isn't alienating hasn't experienced it.

There is an argument to made for growing where one is planted and if there is no other option, I suppose that is the only route to go. But I believe it is not the healthiest one.

I believe the people, the values, the customs, the art, the education, the geography and the culture that surrounds us does affect us. It shapes us. It is how we mesh ourselves into the world. It is how we create community and from community, we grow into who we will be in the world.

What say you? Do you think place matters? Do you believe someone can thrive in one environment and not in another?

Thanks for the comment, Cecilieaux. I think this could be very interesting! :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Note: I've noticed that most of you don't really like it much when I discuss this topic. I can understand that... but I hope you'll forgive me if it does come up occasionally. It's a real part of my life. :)


Wow.. .I got some awesome questions from Slouching Mom! They are so good, that it is going to take me a few posts to answer them.

Here's the first one:

1. Close your eyes and imagine for a moment that you have made it to Thailand. How does it feel? What do you see around you?

It feels like relief. It feels like a homecoming. It feels like a long sigh of relief. After a flight that long, I probably won't be seeing much of anything. :)

Seriously though, how will it feel to me? In a way, it will be both a beginning and a completion.

Sometimes I think I've done a poor job of describing what all of this is about for me. It's as though I've described it in the easiest way possible, the way most people would understand it easily.

I've made it something outside of me when it is actually something within. Thailand was my missing piece.

(cue the Twilight Zone music)

I've always been an outsider here, in my culture of birth. It's never taken root, nor has it ever resonated with me. There is not a single time I can recall feeling "a part of"... instead, always "separate from".

Even as a small kid.

Here's a little example. Read this post. Having this kind of thing surround me, this mentality, even as a child, made me heartsick. Western values have just never spoken to my soul. The dynamics I saw around me left me feeling hollow. I didn't want to compete with anyone. I didn't want power over anyone. I just wanted to be friends. In this culture, that's a sign of weakness. The way of life that was imposed on me here made me feel defeated. And on the deepest level, I resisted. I recoiled. I hid.

It felt all wrong. But I couldn't have told you why. Not as a child. I had no way of articulating it... beyond saying "this feels icky." Even as an adult, sometimes the only thing I can say is "this feels icky".

While I can understand that the way of life here works for many people and try my best to respect that, my soul was dying... shattering. Sometimes it's difficult for me to understand that it's not that way for everyone.

I had no idea how to resolve that. There was no way to reconcile it. There was no way to make it okay.

The only thing I could do is accept that there was really no place for me in this world and make the best of it. After a while, even the pain stopped. I just went numb.

Then I went to Thailand.

It's hard to describe.. this is the hardest part... that the air felt right going into my lungs and the ground felt right under my feet. I felt grounded. Even though I was in South East Asia, had never been to South East Asia, it all felt familiar.

And it had nothing to do with heat, humidity, bugs or reclining Buddhas. It had nothing to do with night markets or spicy food.

The longer I was there, the more I noticed long explanations were unnecessary. I wasn't surrounded by things and ideas that offended me. I didn't have to be someone I am not. There was an easy understanding between others and me that can only be described as familiarity. When I exchanged ideas with others, the ideas were not in conflict. I was them. They were me.

I laughed freely. Perhaps even for the first time in my life.

Assimilation, particularly in Northeast Thailand, was seamless. I didn't have to "try". It was natural. Before long, I had quite a collection of friends, all of whom referred to me as "the blue-eyed Thai girl" or "our undercover Thai girl". Even though I am a blue-eyed blond, I couldn't have felt more Thai.

I didn't feel like a farang! What a relief that was after feeling like a foreigner in my own country of birth! I slipped into the way of life easily and it all made sense. The customs made sense. The holidays made sense. The group dynamics made sense. The beliefs made sense.

The darn place just made sense!

When I came back here, due mainly to running out of money and visa time, I felt like a child being dragged away from her home and family for the first time. By that time, in those short months, I'd become completely Thai-ified. If I'd had the sense of a common house cat, I would have started some months earlier to find a job teaching English.

I wouldn't have come back. Ever.

So, long answer to a short question, going back will feel natural. It's going home.

Part II, more questions, coming soon! :)


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wild and wacky internet people....

I got an email today that completely freaked me out!

This... mind you... from a 53-year-old female Internet acquaintance.

"Can't you send a photo? I'll bet you're really cute..."

I'm 56-freaking-years old! I'm not cute!

I am also not open to that kind of interaction. At all. Period.

Admittedly, I am not into the whole social networking, MySpace, Facebook stuff. The very idea of it makes me want to crawl under the bed.

That is not to say that I haven't become friends with people I initially met on the Internet. I have. I'm very open about phone calls. My long distance is free and minutes unlimited. I'm more than willing to take advantage of it. Mail is okay. I have a post office box. I would only meet someone once I'm reasonably sure they are who they indicate they are. "Extremely cautious" is one way to describe my Internet experience.

I have talked with a few people who regularly comment on this site. However, I know they are decent, respectable people ... as I'm sure all of my commenters are. I'd feel safe talking with any of you.

At the same time, I am not willing to put my entire identity out on the Internet for anyone to grab. I don't reveal information that would allow anyone to track me down.

I don't understand all of this "web chat" stuff. And sending notes to virtual strangers, saying "I'll bet you're really cute."

Does anyone really fall for that stuff?

Perhaps it's just my background in IT.. but don't most people realize that using those programs leaves an open port right into your computer system, one that can allow anyone with reasonable skills to copy everything on your hard drive? It's an open portal, for crying out loud!

Am I hopelessly behind the times? Is this sort of thing common now?

I don't get it! It makes me shudder! Seriously. It scares the hell out of me!


Monday, September 24, 2007

Who knew?

According to my archives, it was a year ago today that I logged on to Blogger and started this.

There are more than 365 posts, which just goes to show that in the beginning, there was more posting than might have been necessary.

It's been an odd year. This isn't a medium I believed would appeal to me at all. I'm not a very "chatty" person and it never occurred to me that I would be able to fill this space for this length of time. Perhaps it's better that we don't always know the outcomes of things.

But.. a year it has been. In my ignorance, I believed there was some standard I was supposed to meet, that this somehow had to have a larger objective than it has ~ which is simply to communicate with other people on a variety of topics.

Through this, I've gotten to know some interesting people, some challenging people and some just plain wonderful people.

I thank those of you who have hung in, even through some of my more difficult spots. You've allowed me to make some big mistakes and some small ones.. and still come around anyway. You've allowed me to explore a lot of different topics, challenged my thinking when it needed it and have encouraged me so very much to continue sticking my foot into social waters that I couldn't have imagined two years ago... or even a year and a few weeks ago.

Who knows how much longer this will feel "right"? Who knows how much longer it will seem appropriate to keep going with it? I'm remaining open and trusting my gut to tell me when it's time to move on to something else.

Meanwhile, I hope you will all continue to come around. You've grown on me. :)



Sunday, September 23, 2007

Are ideas dangerous?

At what point do ideas become dangerous?

I've been listening to plenty of news reports this morning about the protests against Columbia University for allowing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, to speak to students today.

My immediate reaction is to be rather suspicious of people who would find his viewpoints so frightening that they believe he should be silenced. Are they afraid he'll win converts?

I might not agree with everything he says. In fact, I know very little of what he says. Anyone who says the Holocaust never happened is a few fries short of a Happy Meal and I stop listening.

Still, the purpose of education is to know how to process ideas. It is about critical thinking. It's about listening to many points of view and evaluating them on their merit or lack thereof.

Silencing someone because he has controversial beliefs strikes me as the wrong way to handle it. I believe he should be allowed to speak, to be questioned and students can then decide for themselves what they believe.

How about you? Do you think he should be allowed to speak?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Blogging on a shoestring....

So I sit here on Friday afternoon with absolutely nothing to say!

OJ is a jerk. Yep. Nosy pharmacists suck. Yep. Comments good. Yep. Doctors who solve problems. Good.

And I am utterly bored with my own thoughts, my own perspectives... and the me-ness that permeates this space.

So here's an experiment. It might work. It might flop. Only a day or two will tell.

Say something.

About anything.

I'll be on and off all weekend. I will type back to you.

This could be fun. Or this could be the most hare-brained idea I've ever had... but...

We'll see...

Good weekend all :)


Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Nosey Pharmacist....

Well, what an interesting morning I've had.

I had to go to Target to fill a prescription or two. My new doctor wants me to try a different medication. In general, I hate taking any kind of drugs and especially avoid new ones. My body is very, very sensitive to drugs so the first few days are always kind of scary.

As an aside, he also gave me a new scrip for Ambien, a sleep aid which I'm sure most of you already know about.

The other drug, to remain unnamed, is to treat a chemical imbalance in my brain that causes very deep depression. The jury's out. I'll mention it here if it works really well so that others can discuss it with their doctors if needed.

Anyway, the pharmacist handed me the prescriptions and began telling me the potential side effects. I listened. Finally he said, "are you depressed?"

Needless to say, I was taken aback by the boldness of the question.

"Um. That is really between my doctor and me," I said, trying to be as polite as possible.

"You wouldn't be depressed if you had a purpose in life. And you wouldn't need sleeping pills if you would get more exercise."

He then talked for five straight minutes about life purposes and exercise and how I should pay more attention to my health, you know, given my advancing age and all. He went on to tell me that he's seen me there in Target many times so I must not have a job. Is that so? Perhaps I should join some clubs or something. ( I should mention here that I don't just "hang out" at Target! I'm there twice a week for an hour or so.)

My mouth was agape!

Seriously, I was so offended that I didn't know what to do with the anger.

I lapsed into sarcasm.

I told him that he knows nothing about my circumstances and has no right to comment, that whether or not I have a "job" has no bearing on my "purpose in life", that if I want therapy I'll hire someone with the appropriate credentials and, furthermore, if he wants to preach his twisted, judgmental, moralistic cultural values, he should do it at church or before the Senate. If that is not a possibility, then the least he can do is take his sh*t-brained judgments and stick them in his left ear ~ hard! And finally I said, "when it comes out the other ear, maybe we'll both be happier for it. You'll get a lobotomy and I'll get some relief from your utter hatefulness."

Oh, I was fuming! I was so, so angry! I was so angry, I was nearly in tears! My heart was pounding. Something this old stoic hates to admit.

I was so angry that I forgot to sign my credit card slip.

I hate it when I lose my temper because sarcasm is intended to wound.. and it's the first place I go. Even as wounded as I was, there is no justification for trying to inflict it back. Even though I'm making a joke of it here, believe me, I am ashamed of my behavior.

And I will now turn my Buddhist card over to someone who deserves it. :)


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It All Matters - Because It Just Does!

A few more thoughts on the "How We Matter" discussion going on at Using My Words.

Yesterday, I put out a rather vague post about a condition in my life that was causing me anxiety.

And a few dozen people ('a few dozen' is a lot of people!) came by here and left very kind comments. One of them made me cry ~ and I don't typically cry.

This may not seem like a big thing. Commenting on blogs. We all do it. We go from one site to another, sprinkle the sites with our thoughts, our encouragement or our opinions.

And it matters - because it just does. Because there is someone sitting on the other end of the screen who is reading them. If they make someone smile, make someone think, make someone look at something a little differently or if they encourage someone by validating their own view of something, that is value.

Western culture weighs and measures too much. For a long time, I got trapped in that, too. Concerned about whether or not my blog, my writing, my opinions, my very personhood measured up to what I saw around me. Interesting hierarchy, that. Up. Down. Lower. Higher. All with an intrinsic value attached.. a measurement.

What I finally concluded is that we can never know how much an action might matter to someone else. The only solution is to walk along our path, sprinkling a few rose petals where we can and let it go.

And I thank all of you for the rose petals you sprinkled here yesterday ~ and sprinkle here daily. It matters. To me.

Palms together (ไหว้) to all of you.

กอดกับรัก (May you be well and happy.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My archimedean point....

Today has been significant. Those who know me have some understanding of the importance attached to the appointment I had this morning. It was critical. It was pivotal. For me, it was an indicator of how my life would be in the future, whether it would be in a manner I can live with... or my life, for all intents and purposes, being over.

I was tense and the cab ride felt interminable. I didn't know the doctor I was seeing. It was the first time we'd meet. He could be my savior or my complete downfall. The financial resources are not available to me for "doctor shopping." I had no idea how it would work out.

It was a crapshoot.. and one I felt intensely.

As it turned out, he's one of the "good guys". We talked for an hour. He gave me a new medicine that will (theoretically) make it easier for me to deal with light and noise which I can not tolerate now.

[redacted. It just felt a bit too personal. Suffice it to say that he relieved me of a grave concern.]

If I could have, I would have prostrated myself and banged my head on the floor three times! Instead, I just sat there like a deer in the headlights, wide eyed. I did manage a soft "I might be able to sleep." My palms automatically went together. This is a custom that is ingrained in me now. I said simply, "thank you."

Sometimes... especially for those of us who have not had a lot of support in our lives, a simple thing like that can take the world from our shoulders and allow us to breathe free.

This isn't something particularly bloggable and I question the wisdom of doing it now. It's very private but I'm breathing a bit more freely and it seems natural to share that with others.

I feel safe. After living in terror for six months which has robbed me of sleep and any sense of security, I feel safe.


My life will go on as I'd hoped it would.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dancing in a Sparsely Populated Forest....

This is probably going to be the earliest post on Julie's Wednesday discussions. :) Sometimes it works out that way because I've found that if I don't write something while it's fresh, I won't come back to it.

In my spiritual tradition, Theravada Buddhism, it is said that anyone who claims to be enlightened probably isn't. If someone claims to be an ajahn, he probably isn't. It is practice to look to others (mostly those further along the path) for validation of progress. I can say I am humble.. because others have told me so. It is not something I can simply proclaim because it feels good ~ or because I want to believe it.

One of the strongest tenets of this practice is that it requires us to do things simply because they're good and compassionate, not because we will be rewarded or praised. Of course there are some who are trying to rack up merit points for their next lives ~ but that's certainly not the right reason. That would be attachment to outcomes and ego.

Consequently, when Julie writes "So next week, I'm asking each participant to think about what he or she does that contributes value in some way...and write it down", my immediate response in her comments section was "Honestly, I don't think that's for me to determine... That's for others to decide. "

And this I believe. It is not for me to decide that anything I do matters. It is up to me to simply do. Most behavior is shaped by positive feedback. If someone says, "it really matters to me that you ________", or "I really like it when you _____", then most people will likely continue to do more of that because most of us want to do good. We want to please. We learn these values from our chosen communities.

I named this post "dancing in a sparsely populated forest" because I am aware of being a minority in this view. This may be the strongest evidence of "culture clash" as far as I'm concerned. In many ways, this is an occasional cause of my own suffering. I honestly believe boastfulness and pride are functions of ego. Ego leads to suffering. And I hate seeing people suffer.

According to the teaching of the Buddha, the idea of the self is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding reality, and it produces harmful thoughts of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, selfish desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill-will, conceit, pride, egoism, and other defilements, impurities and problems. It is source of all the troubles in the world from personal conflicts to wars between nations. In short, to this false view can be traced all the evil in the world.

I believe that.

Given this, the only authentic response I can offer to Julie's challenge is to ask others to take this one step further: Tell someone else in your life what he or she does that matters to you.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Weekend: OJ Revisited....

For the past few days, I've been hearing quite a bit of talk about OJ's book, "If I Did It" which supposedly gives a plausible scenario for how the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman might have occurred, you know, if he'd done it.

Bias upfront: I believe he did it. At the time of the trial, I was able to watch every single day of it, moment to moment, and was convinced absolutely that he was guilty. I still believe that.

But that isn't what this post is about. This post is about the exploitation of two murdered people so that someone can make money.

I find it no more comforting that the Goldman family is getting paid than I would if OJ was being paid.

It's still blood money, no matter who gets the checks.

This led me to start thinking. When all is said and done, I believe there are certain things that should not be in the marketplace. Kiddie p*rn, blatant exploitation of women, unverified biographies that can bring harm to people, classified national security information and ... OJ's book. Those are just a few examples.

There is no redeeming social value to having this book out there. I understand that OJ takes great pains to completely trash Nicole's reputation, basically justifying the murder by implying it is Nicole's fault. If she'd just been a different kind of person.. if she'd been a bit more settled....

Noteworthy, of course, is that Nicole is not here to defend herself.

I believe there comes a time when any society has to decide what it values, what it stands for ~ what it will tolerate.

The fact that this is tolerated is beyond my comprehension. The fact that the Money God still comes ahead of every other value is beyond my comprehension.

At what point does any society at large determine that this kind of prurient sensationalism, this kind of blatant exploitation of someone else's life for entertainment, is unacceptable?


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mary Winkler (Warning: Strong Opinions)

This afternoon, I sat down to watch the Oprah Show. Ordinarily, I must admit, Oprah makes me gag but I was curious to see what Mary Winkler would have to say.

For those who were on another planet at the time, Mary Winkler is the pastor's wife who shot her husband in the back and left him on the floor to die.

I don't doubt he was an abuser. I simply don't think women lie about those things.

At the same time, I believe she is guilty of first-degree murder. The final conviction for manslaughter surprises me. It was also surprising to see the velvet gloves on the iron fist of the legal system where she was concerned. A poor Black woman from Watts would not have been treated similarly.

But looking at it strictly from a legal point of view, Mary had the foresight to wait for her husband to fall asleep, unplug the phone so that he could not call for help, get the shotgun, go back to the bedroom, shoot him in the back and escape.

That's first degree murder, in my opinion. She had the time to think about what she was doing.

Today she appeared on Oprah and tried to look sympathetic. It didn't work.

She wants her children back.

No matter what, it's all about her and what she wants.

Her children are not possessions. They're not laptops or stereo systems. They are actually little human beings and I don't think she gets that.

They have been living a stable life with their grandparents for over a year now. She is not thinking about what is best for them. She is concerned about what she wants.

I find it distasteful and disgusting.

If there was ever a time when she should put the interests of those children ahead of her own desires, it is now.

By taking custody of those children, she is not only asking them to live with the person who killed their father. She is also creating great difficulty for them to have a relationship with the paternal side of their family. The grandparents said that so far, Mary has never even uttered a simple "I'm sorry". How strained would that relationship be?

The very woman who appeared initially to be a timid, mousy victim looks more like a heartless sociopath. If she had any sense at all, she would know that she has to build a trust relationship with her children all over again. And she needs to be selfless enough to give them the space to have a secure and comfortable life with their grandparents.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rent A Friend....

In another shining example of cultural decline, I heard a report this morning on CNN about Owen Wilson.

After a couple of unsuccessful stays in rehab, he has decided to hire a sober buddy for $750.00 a day. This person will go places with him, stay with him, encourage him.... you know, what we used to call "being a friend".

For alcoholics, that buddy system was called "AA".

It doesn't entirely surprise me that in a culture that prides itself on marketcentricity and pragmatism, hiring a friend would be the next step. That way, there would be no social embarrassment.

I can see the ads now. I can see the phone book with a kindly face plastered larger than life, extolling the many offerings of the rent-a-friend. Tea and sympathy for a reasonable price. A companion for the movies? That would cost a bit more, especially if dinner comes with the deal. Ads would be featured late at night on television, before the infomercials.

An escort service without the sex.

Those who can't afford to hire from a reputable service can always peruse Craigslist.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draws it.

Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves. --

--The Dhammapada

Be Yourself. Life is precious as it is. All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle. Just Be. - Thich Naht Hahn

You can use your life in a very useful and intelligent way. You can very well transform that negative energy into a positive energy that empowers you and makes life meaningful. - Thich Nhat Hanh

If you are motivated by loving kindness and compassion, there are many ways to bring happiness to others right now, starting with kind speech. - Thich Nhat Hanh

Just a few peaceful thoughts for the day ~ given that this will be a day filled with angry thoughts, sadness and thoughts that are intended to instill fear. Carry these thoughts with you.

Wishing that all beings will be free from the causes of suffering.


Sunday, September 09, 2007


Yesterday, I spent brief amount of time helping D. in her rental house. We polished the cabinets with some wonderful smelling stuff. I can't recall the name of it.

As we were polishing, she was talking about some of her experiences with the people she's known while renting out her houses.

It was marginally interesting to hear although I'll admit to not being overly enthralled, particularly since she ran everyone down, one way or another.

"They're jealous.....", she said. Yes, she meant "envious" but I wasn't going to correct her. I knew what she was saying.

"Maybe...", I replied, half-heartedly.

"Well, aren't you jealous?"

I stood there for a split second, wondering how this had become about me.

"No," I said. "Why would I be?"

"Well, don't you feel jealous when someone has a lot more than you do?"

"Um. No. It's not something that interests me." And the truth is that I do not. What other people own is so far outside my range of interest that it doesn't even cause a momentary blip on my radar screen.

She looked at me like I had three heads. She couldn't imagine it. She went on to tell me that she feels that way when she sees people who have so much and she doesn't.

"It's just not a part of me, I guess," I told her, continuing to wipe the cabinets and wishing with all I had that she'd get off the subject. It made me uncomfortable because I didn't want to tell her that I thought envy is not only the opposite of charity... it's petty. I didn't want to have to see her pettiness.

"I just don't think you're telling me the truth," she said... looking at me incredulously.

It was startling. I'm not accustomed to being accused of dishonesty. I have my character flaws but that's not one of them. I just looked at her and it must have been so sharp that she backed off immediately, saying that she "didn't want to get into it."

Wise choice. :)

Later last night, she brought me a chocolate cake, one of the small ones.. the ones she bakes for me occasionally. I accepted it as an olive branch, although she didn't need to offer one. I wasn't angry.

What is this envy stuff though? What would make someone want what someone else has to a point of feeling such an ugly emotion?

Really. I don't get it. And I'm being entirely honest. I don't know what that's like.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Weekend: Friendships.....

I'm writing this post off the top of my head. It is an offshoot of a discussion that is presented from a different perspective on BlogRhet this morning. Take a look if you get the chance.

When I was a kid, friendships had an entirely different significance in our lives. Our friends were the people we shared our lives with, told our stories and experiences to, supported each other, giving each other the sense that there was always someone who would have our backs. We enjoyed together, rejoiced together and shared in each other's life passages. It was a different world. Really. It was.

That practice of friendship seems to have been replaced with a more utilitarian, functional approach to friendship. Friendships are determined by the benefit one might offer to another, whether it meets networking or business goals.

Or maybe I just spent too much time in Los Angeles.

The discussion on BlogRhet poses the question as to whether the Internet has taken the place of deeper friendships.

My opinion is that in the final analysis, the internet might allow us to get momentary satisfaction of our deepest needs.. but it's kind of like a one-night stand. It feels really good at the time ~ but doesn't have sustainability.

Or does it?

Let's speculate for a minute that this is the wave of the future.

Consider it a science fiction exercise. Our friends will be those people with whom we frequently share pixels on these flat screens in front of us. That dimension is it.

Kind of like "Solyent Green", only scarier.

What are the politics of Internet friendships? How do we determine the hierarchy of friendship? If I mail something to you, does that mean you are a better friend? If I call you on the phone, does that imply a higher degree of intimacy? What is the natural progression of friendship? Email to phone to ??? Mailing? Meeting? How is the closeness measured? Or is it?

What are the rules? What are the boundaries?

What does the future look like with this kind of development?


"Getting to know you" Meme Redux....

I was blogsurfing around early this morning and came across Melanie's blog, Not Just Nouns and Verbs. She offered to send interview questions to anyone who left her a message. This meme hasn't been around for a while and we all had a lot of fun with it previously so I signed up. I also thought it would be interesting since Melanie and I do not know each other. This morning was my first visit to her site.

She sent me the following:

1. How did you find my blog? What caused you to start blogging in the first place?

I found your blog while randomly searching through other people's blogrolls.

What caused me to start blogging was the chiding by a few friends who thought my unusual lifestyle and perspectives might make an interesting blog. I leave it to others to determine if that has been fulfilled. :)

2. Thailand, huh? Were you born there and raised there? When did you come to America?

I was not born in Thailand. I am from Los Angeles. How I found Thailand, how I decided to move there and why I am moving there is the primary topic of this blog.

3. No children eh? What is your reason for not wanting them?

Good question. I don't think I was born with the mommy gene. I am a compassionate person but I don't believe I am a nurturing person. They are quite different qualities. Also, given the vagaries of my life at the time when I might have chosen to have them, my life was not stable enough to take on that responsibility. Someone has to be fairly settled within themselves and have a strong community before it is appropriate to raise children, in my opinion.

The other factor is that at the time I saw no other options beyond here. I was not be willing to raise a child in an individualistic, capitalist culture. Some people are a bit more flexible than me in the respect that they can counteract it. I tend to be a bit of a purist and would have had trouble with that. That wouldn't have been fair to any child.

4. Do you have an opinion about the current war? What is your take on war in general?

Oh, I most definitely have an opinion. :) My general attitude toward war is that it is occasionally ~ and unfortunately ~ necessary. I am not a pacifist. On the other hand, wars that are intended to destabilize other regions of the world for the gain only of corporations and the wealthy do not fall under the umbrella of "just war". Most wars initiated by the forced implementation of US foreign policy do not fall into the latter category.

5. Do you work? If not, how do you occupy your time? Hobbies?

Do I work? That is typically a roundabout way of saying "How much are you worth?" I'm not saying that was your intention but it is typically a cloaked way of gleaning that information. It is a question I would prefer to not answer.

How do I occupy my time? Hm. Interesting. I don't think of my time as an empty bucket that must be filled. North American culture seems to be equally uncomfortable with unfilled time and silence. Life is a flow. Sometimes it is silent and unfilled. In Buddhist terms, it is the stream and I have entered the stream. That means my days flow and I flow with them. Often, I can't tell what will happen one day to the next. Sometimes I don't know from one minute to the next. I'm not much about "doing". I'm a lot about "being". My garden is quite large and beautiful with an emphasis on rose bushes. I care for that. I learn new things every day from random encounters with books, people, and occasionally even television shows. My life is very quiet, home-centered and peaceful, just as I would like it. I am a hearth tender.

Thanks so much for the questions, Melanie. These questions are a good catalyst for thought ~ and they increase our knowledge of each other. At the end of the day, that's what we're all here for, eh? :)

For those who would like to play along, this is how you do it:

Interview rules:

1. Leave me a comment saying "Interview me."

2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.

3. Update your blog with a post containing your the answers to the questions.

4. Include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you ask them five questions.

If you request questions from me, please give me a few days so that I can personalize them. :)


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Toot Toot hey Beep Beep

Wow... look what I found on Technorati! Just when we start thinking nothing really nice can come out of nowhere, this appears! :)


I'm just curious today and have been thinking about something, so I thought I'd ask a question.

Do you believe prostitution should be legal? Why? Why not?

Right now, I am leaning toward legalizing it. My reason is fairly simple. If it is in a controlled setting, it would be handled like nearly any other service. It would remove it from exploiters such as p*mps and criminals. There would be a standard set for the customers and the prostitutes alike. No drugs. No drunkenness.

There would be help available for the women. Medical care. Security.

In the final analysis, I believe that most people are competent to make decisions about what they want to do with their lives and I hold this to be true for women as well. If a woman chooses to do it, I can't find a logical argument against it.

(My personal bias: I should mention that I've only known one prostitute in my life. She was a young woman who put herself through college and bought a house in West Los Angeles with the money she made. She was not hooking in a Sunset Blvd bar. She hooked in the lounge at the Bel Air Hotel. Thought I should mention that. I truly know nothing personally about the other aspects of it, beyond what I've seen on TV or read in books. Okay. So that's my bias and I may not know about or have never seen the more destructive aspects. So... given that.. share your opinion. All opinions are welcome here. :)

How about you?


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Wat's up....

Crazymumma asked an interesting question in yesterday's comments and it was a good one.

I would love to know what living on/in? a wat would mean for you. You know, the everyday.....

so curious as to how it would change your life.

I'm going to try to answer it. But first, it needs a foundation. There have been other occasions when I've tried to write about this and I'm not certain at this point that I have the writing skills to capture it fully.

This change I made... It's not just clothes and cute customs. My world shifted on its axis and I'm not the same person now as before it happened. No one was more surprised by it than me.

It was a heart change. It was a change in the way I view the world and my place in it. When I lived over there, in that hot, humid place I would gladly move to a more northern location, I fit in seamlessly. There is no logical explanation for it. There was something that "clicked" on such a fundamental level that I was never the same after that. It was as though my soul recognized it as "familiar". And after that recognition, my soul wouldn't be satisfied with anything less.

When I came back here and decided to bring it into my everyday life, to capture it and hang on to it, it allowed me to continue feeling tethered to the world. The disconnected feeling I'd lived with for more than forty years was something I was not willing to live with again. I immediately began to seek out others who shared common values.

The problem I had with the small Thai community in Sacramento is that most of them who lived here had no interest in the way of life there. They left there because they wanted here. And sometimes, typical of any convert to a new way of life, they became more here than people who have lived here all their lives.

Oh, sure, there were a few.. occasionally I meet someone who holds the same core values. They come here for other reasons... such as my language buddy who is very clear on why he's here. He's here to make money and take it home. He's treating this like any other job. He works his tail off for the benefit at the end.

In Thailand, the wat is the center of community ~ not unlike the way church is for many communities here. It is where the gathering takes place. It is where people meet. There are usually all sorts of cultural and educational opportunities there that can't be found anywhere else. I won't be living at the wat. I will just be living in close proximity so that I can participate.

This is why I am choosing to move near one ~ so that I can participate at that level.

The difference in my everyday life will be profound. It means I will be a part of the everyday flow of life which I am not here. It means that I will be able to participate in things that reinforce my way of life instead of alienating me. It means that I will be included in things that I am not included in here. It means I will have a real life instead of sitting on the sidelines, watching others.

One of the things that's important to mention here is that no one is excluding me intentionally. No one is being mean. I'm a big girl and I'm a big girl with a degree in Sociology so I understand how group dynamics work. It is natural for people to group together who share common values and customs. This isn't rocket science.

I knew this would be a problem when I decided to become who I am today. But that doesn't make it any less difficult emotionally, simply because I have that intellectual knowledge. The logical step is for me to surround myself with people who share my chosen values and customs.

And that doesn't mean that I will be excluding everyone who is not like me. It will actually enhance my experience with friends who are different than me. It will make me a happier, more fulfilled person, so I will be able to share that with friends. I will have more to offer those who surround me, no matter who they are.

The truth is that I should have done this as soon as I came back from Thailand and realized fully the implications of my time there. I should have picked up and moved then, knowing that I probably would have saved myself from a lot of heartache over the past four years or so.

But one of my characteristics, unrelated to Thai culture, is that I don't like change. I resist it. I don't like moving and I don't like newness. I get set in my ways.

Just the same, sometimes we have to do what we don't want to do to get something we want and need. Even me.. and even when I don't necessarily like it.

I hope that answers the question a bit, puts it in some context.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Stranger in a strange land....

You say I am mysterious
Let me explain myself
In a land of oranges
I am faithful to apples.

~ Elsa Gidlow

Things are becoming more stable around here.

V. has been sober for four months now, holds a full time job. He's not causing the kinds of crises that were a staple of this environment just four or five short months ago. D. seems to be reasonably healthy and content with her situation.

When I leave here, it needs to be during one of these "calm" periods. Trying to leave in the middle of a mess would be very difficult for me ~ and probably very difficult for D.

So I've been thinking...

What I need is people around me who think and live the way I do. I need to wake up each day and not feel "other".

During my remaining time here, before leaving for Thailand, I really need that. Badly. While I have some very good contacts on the Internet, other people who have chosen the same way of life I've chosen, it would be better to be surrounded by like-minded others in a community. People I can see and talk with over a table. People I can share a meal with. People who will share some of the same milestones. People I can share things with on an everyday basis, not only through typed words.

That's not to say I don't value Internet contacts. I do. The Thaiphile community is very small and there are several of us who have contact only with each other ~ and only this way.

One person though did take it a bit further. She moved from suburban Dallas to a location closer to a Thai wat. Since she made that choice, she is surrounded by others who share her values, who believe as she believes and people who "get" her without explanation. She is finding her place in a community that makes sense to her. She is in the flow of life instead of separate from it. They share customs and habits, holidays, values and standards. Without realizing it fully, I've been very hungry for that. Really hungry.

I am going to be following her path. Through the Thai Embassy, I have gotten a list of every wat in this country. All I have to do is choose one.

I'd love to go to Berkeley but it's out of my price range. I might choose Texas. There are actually several possibilities so the only thing I need to do is investigate the cost of living in each area and choose one.

Loneliness isn't the problem. Not entirely. I'm such a loner that it rarely enters into my life at all. Just the same, I would like to have the option of choosing aloneness when I want it. It feels imposed on me now. What's missing, what feels so isolating, is the fact that I do live a different type of life, think differently, dress differently, value different things and often have to explain to others. Defending my way of life is tiring. I explain to those who care enough to ask. By that, I mean there are some who respect other cultures enough to bother asking. Those people, luckily, I count among my friends.

Most of the time though, I wander through each day feeling foreign and odd, not able to really connect with others around me because we simply don't think alike. At all. The greatest downside is that most people I meet just automatically assume that I believe as they do, that I value the same things. That increases my sense of isolation as I either go along with it or remain alone.

I am not certain what the time frame is on my getting to Thailand. An unqualified projection would put me there by next summer. Still, that's a year away and until that time, moving to a small community of those like me would probably be rather refreshing and comforting. It will be reinforcement of my way of life instead of isolation.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Mommy wars..... It really does take a village...

Okay. Logical question: Why is a woman who has never had children sticking her nose into a question like this?

Well, I'm sticking my nose in because I live on the same planet, I am interested in the lives of women and I'm interested in culture. And I care about children.

That established.... :)

I read an exchange this morning, directed by a few different blogs I've read so far, and was startled by the anger, the judgment and the snarkiness. It was a cat fight. It's not the first cat fight I've read on this particular topic. A few things came to mind as I read it. While the exchange addressed one of the symptoms of a greater disease, I wanted to take a look at what I see as the larger, more global, issue.

My understanding of feminism is that it is supposed to allow women choices we didn't have in the past. Somewhere along the line, there are those who took that to mean that we have the right to make choices, but only choices that are approved by other women.

So it was a switch from one set of no choices to another set of no choices.

I have my own opinions about child raising, even though I chose to not raise children myself. From a strictly social point of view, I prefer the idea of women staying home with their children. I'm a rather typical social conservative in that regard.

At the same time, I've lived long enough to know that life is often complex and messy. Not all women have the choice to stay home, even though they might prefer it.

And there are some who don't prefer to stay home and make decisions accordingly.

In a culture where the group dynamic is primarily individualistic, women who make the latter choice are at a disadvantage. Rather than being able to depend on their community, they are often alone, having to balance choices that satisfy both their own desires and the best interests of their children.

Others don't have a choice at all. They can't stay home. Economics being the usual reason. Welfare doesn't pay enough to make that a viable option for those women and it often won't award based simply because a woman wants to raise her children herself.

Yesterday during a quick trip to Target, I saw this for myself. A young woman, probably no older than 20, sat in the food court next to her child, police present. She was wearing the Target uniform. She didn't have anyone to take care of her child and she had to work. She left the little girl in the food court with a cheeseburger and a coloring book.

I overheard enough of the conversation with the police to know that her unpardonable crime of being poor will cause her problems in the future, perhaps even the loss of her child. There were comments made about Child Protective Services and Target's obligation to call the police, having seen the child alone.

These are the realities, the day-to-day life of many mothers. It's not about "choice". It's about necessity.

The mountain of this entire argument is much larger than the molehills so many have discussed over the past 30 years. The truth is that there is often no village. There are individuals. There are individuals with children. And a culture that doesn't support them or value them. Personal desires are the pinnacle of the meaning of life. Personal fulfillment comes before family obligations. Extended families, the possibility of leaving children with Grandma, are nearly a thing of the past. Once living in small communities, extended families and friends are now spread across miles. Neighborhoods are no longer small communities. They are made up of strangers who happen to live near each other.

When it comes to having the interests of children as a priority, it seems to me that this needs to change. Sometimes choices are hard. Sometimes we don't always get to have everything we want. Sometimes we might have to stay put when we don't want to stay put. Sometimes we have to consider the well-being of the community before our personal dreams.

"It takes a village" has become a nice catchphrase, something to be said to express a warm fuzzy feeling, but I wonder how many actually examine the implications of that and the changes that would be necessary to create it. More importantly, how many would be willing to actualize those changes?