Sunday, April 29, 2007

Go boldly...

Last night, I read a few articles about the new planet that has been discovered. The scientists say it may be inhabitable.

That leads me in two directions:

The conspiracy theory part of me immediately believes those wealthy enough could simply blow this pop stand and go to the new planet, unfettered by the riff-raff that will be left here.

But the more hopeful, less cynical part believes the new planet, if in fact it could support our particular lifeform, would be already inhabited by a society of beings who have no interest in inviting us there on a full-time basis.

It's an interesting thought and I've been intrigued for many years by the idea of other forms of life in the universe, how they live, their values, their way of life. There's no doubt that there are other lifeforms, other civilizations elsewhere. The universe is far too vast to have only one planet with sentient life.

They probably look very different than we do. I wonder if they have language or use other symbols to communicate. It would be interesting to know how they live with each other, whether they have divided themselves into separate communities or live as one community. While I'm sure the size of the planet would have a major impact on those choices, it may not have any at all. It would be fascinating to discover the similarities and the differences. Maybe we could learn from them. I'll bet they live very differently, at any rate.

Have you ever imagined?



Saturday, April 28, 2007

It's too darned hot!

And it's too darned early in the year to have to say that!

Record heat today in my area. It's 91 degrees.

The fact that I do not like summer is certainly no secret. I don't like the higher utility bills. I don't like breathing hot air and I don't like the clothes much, either ~ now that I think about it. It's difficult to be modest when everything I put on feels like it's trapping the heat.

I've been hanging out in an air-conditioned room most of the day watching movies. Couldn't tell you the name of even one of them. That's how good they were!

My griping is unseemly. When I think of the homeless people and others in far worse financial shape than me, those who didn't have the option of laying in an air conditioned room watching movies, I know I should keep my mouth shut!

But please permit me this brief moment of totally self-centered whining. The heat just takes everything out of me.

And the irony of the fact that I will be spending the rest of my life in Southeast Asia is not lost on me. :)

Hope everyone is having a cooler day, both figuratively and literally.



Friday, April 27, 2007

You are not alone!

I read a blog post this morning that disturbed me... a lot! I'm not linking the person's post here because I don't have permission.

What disturbed me is that so many people still have the notion that they are alone ~ when it really doesn't need to be that way. That's something we have the power to change. Not as individuals but as a community, we can change having anyone feel so completely alone and overwhelmed.

We find plenty of excuses. We're too busy ourselves. We have our own business to tend, our own concerns...

... but is that really why we're here?

Are we human beings all on this planet together for nothing more than personal empire-building? There are literally billions of us on this planet. For anyone to be "alone" is beyond comprehension.

And in the spirit of full disclosure, yes, I am very aware that I felt alone for many years. That is because I didn't hold my current beliefs at that time ~ and I didn't realize or understand my own complicity in that aloneness.

I believe we can all do more than offer emotional support to someone whose life is unraveling, who is feeling overly stressed and overwhelmed.

Sometimes even small things can mean a lot. The simple question "what can I do" can make all the difference in the world. Can I watch someone's child for evening? Can I do some footwork? Can I make some phone calls? Can I cook a meal?

I wish there is something I could offer to someone known only through blog-reading.

That post really hurt my heart this morning. It will be sticking with me all day.



Thursday, April 26, 2007

Get a room!

I had to chuckle when I watched the news this morning and saw that Richard Gere is going to spend some time in jail for kissing a woman in public. India has low tolerance for such things.

This led me to start thinking during my walk this morning about the various places I've been and how public displays of affection are viewed.

In Thailand, the only women who touch men in public are the prostitutes. It is considered to be inappropriate to kiss in public, hug, hang all over each other or even hold hands. (I am aware that some of this is changing. I won't say it's a change for the better. :)

Many other countries view public displays of affection similarly. Richard Gere found out that India is one of them.

I must admit that I agree with India. And I'm disappointed that Richard Gere, someone I'd come to respect, would be so culturally insensitive.

Sometimes it would be pleasant to be spared the embarrassment of seeing people sucking face and practically having sex in public parks, in their vehicles, in the theater or on television. Seriously. How far is too far?

I like modesty in all things. Maybe that's part of the reason Thai culture works so well for me. (Although if I ruled Thailand, the spitting and nose-picking would end ~ today!) For the most part, Thai people are very conscious of other people's personal space and they do not touch each other unless it is in an appropriate setting.

Kissing is also different there. It is called "homm" and it literally means "pleasant smell". It means to put your nose to someone's skin and inhale quickly, taking in the person's scent. Even in more intimate situations like... the bedroom.. there is more of this nuzzling with the nose than the lips. I don't recall seeing anyone put their lips on another person while I was there.

I understand from some of the people I talk with who are there now that there is some occasional lip-mashing now but it's considered very risque. Naturally, the more traditional people don't care for it.

There is a time and place for everything. In public is not the appropriate place to advertise to everyone around that you're getting some!

Honestly... I wouldn't want anyone I don't know putting their lips on me ~ and even if I know you, I don't like it very much. It's just unappealing. As Kelly Rippa said about the guy who put his hand in front of her face, "I don't know where that hand has been". Well, I don't know where that mouth has been.

So please... spare me the public displays!




More nastygrams...

Wow, yesterday's post really generated some interesting nastygrams. They were not particularly creative, nor well-written. There's another thing I've noticed that strikes me as odd.

They all came during the night.

I was home all day yesterday and not a single nastygram came in while I was awake.

As soon as the screensaver came on, they started pouring in. There seems to have been a cluster of them between 1.00 am and 3.00 am.

This led me to wonder about something. Why is it that people write nastygrams in the night? Is there something about the safety of the dark that allows us to reveal the uglier side of ourselves? Maybe it's just the idea that there can be no immediate response, no dialogue?

Maybe there's something about the darkness and the small hours of the morning that allows us to think those negative thoughts more freely, knowing that no one will see our expression and no one will see our fingers flying across the keyboard, typing things we'd never say in person. In other words, there will be no consequences.

I'm not a fan of writing nastygrams to anyone. There are things I've read on blogs all over the internet that have irritated me, made me angry, things with which I disagree. If I disagree based on some fact, I might write a polite note to challenge the thinking, usually in the comments section. If something I read is just so foreign to my way of thinking that I find it repulsive, I just click away.

What would make you write a nastygram to someone ~ or would you?


~Chani, who has been told in no uncertain terms to take my "ugly, fat ass" to Thailand, a country which, after all, truly deserves me. :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

You'll have to pry my multivitamins out of my cold, dead fingers...

Last night I stayed up late to listen to a radio show which featured a panel discussing the new FDA guidelines on alternative health care.

A summary would be simply that the government wants to control all alternative health care methods, including our multi-vitamins.

I can't help but think yet again that this is all about profits for the health care industry. In India, as an example, homeopathy has become the #1 standard of healthcare because it is inexpensive and effective.

As I have spent more and more time looking into alternative treatments for many things, including high blood pressure and stomach trouble (both of which I have), I'm finding these herbal remedies do work and they are very inexpensive as long as you don't buy them from sheister websites on the Internet. Ultimately, a lot of it comes down to nutrition and providing our bodies with the things they need that we may not get through our daily eating. In other words, supplements.

This proposal concerns me because the more government control there is on these remedies, the more expensive they will become. Low income and poor people will be unable to take advantage of simple health maintenance protocols such as multi-vitamins. Under this proposed plan, a low income person would have to have the ability to pay for a doctor visit and a prescription. It would restrict everyone's access to alternative treatments of all kinds. We will have little choice at all.

Here are a few websites to check out if this topic is of interest to you.

Peter Barry Chowka

and a book:

Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide (2nd Edition) (Paperback) by Burton Goldberg

Honestly, the US is beginning to scare the hell out of me. The marginalization of anyone who isn't wealthy is becoming more blatant by the day. The profit motive has gotten to a point of absolute insanity, not to mention immorality. Nothing is sacred anymore, not even human health.



Tuesday, April 24, 2007


When I was a kid in Los Angeles, someone got the novel idea of starting up what was then called "a switchboard". To use it, someone would call in, leave their phone number and someone would call back. It was random. You never knew who you would get and that's what made it kind of fun.

I used to sit in my bedroom, call the switchboard and wait to see who would call back. If I remember correctly, I spent a lot of time talking with some guy from South Africa. It was interesting to get to know him. We'd talk every few days and then like most of those things, it suddenly stopped.

It always seemed like a good idea on the surface. It was a natural outgrowth of the hippie times when it was all about instant connection and spreading love around. I think they might have had one in San Francisco, too.

I'm not so sure it's a good idea for someone to put his or her phone number out on the Internet where people have access to it all over the world. I'm not brave enough to do it. That's for sure!

Yet I do know there's a need for that kind of thing. Twenty years ago (or so), I volunteered on a Suicide and Crisis Hotline. It never ceased to amaze me how many people depended on hearing a voice on the other end of the phone, even if it was someone unknown. It was a safety net. It was a sure thing. Someone could call in the weesmas and someone would pick up the phone, willing to listen.

There was a news report yesterday about a 20-year-old kid in Mass who decided to put his phone number out on YouTube for anyone who wanted to talk. He says he just wants to "be there" for anyone who might need someone to talk to...

Needless to say, he's had thousands of phone calls from all over the world.

His heart seems to be in the right place. As he said, "Some people's own mothers won't take the time to sit down and talk with them and have a conversation. But some stranger on YouTube will. After six seconds, you're not a stranger anymore, you're a new kid I just met."

So... what do you think?



Monday, April 23, 2007

Round Two.....

Well, last week it was eyes. This week it is teeth.

Can you tell I'm going through a major transformation here? New eye.. new teeth.. new weight?

I'm getting so many of these things done quickly because of my insurance situation. For the rest of the month, I have an ideal insurance situation but it will end on 5/1. While I'll still have the insurance, my copayment hits the roof. (Can you imagine? "They" say my income is too high. What?)

Today, it's the dentist and I'll get word on how many teeth will go in the (wherever old teeth go) and whether I'll have my new partial by the end of the week.

Sometimes I look back and can't believe how much I neglected these basic things. There were plenty of reasons of course but mostly it was just a result of not caring. Seriously. It just didn't matter.

This caring is a new thing for me.

After the teeth, then I start looking for a lower cost of living area, move there and wait until the appropriate time comes for me to head off to Thailand.

This plan is actually coming together.

Pinch me.

Is it real?




Sunday, April 22, 2007

Gun control.....

Lately, I've been hearing a lot of talk about gun control. I can't say I have a strong position on the subject. In fact, to a degree I am indifferent. I own one for protection but have never had the "pry it out of my cold-dead fingers" attitude. It's just a tool.

My ex-husband taught me how to use one and insisted that I take the NRA class to make sure I knew how to clean one, the proper etiquette and operation. He insisted that we go to the range regularly and practice. If nothing else, he insisted on responsible gun ownership. It's a good thing really. He was far more involved with the political movements that believe taking guns away from citizens in this country would subject them to tyranny by the government.

I never bought that argument. If the government ever decides to take the velvet glove off the iron fist, they have far more effective means at their disposal that they will not be threatened by a few .22 caliber handguns. The government is the bear in the livingroom.

Gun control will not stop crime. Removing the tool will not stop people from committing crimes. They will use another instrument of intimidation.

I've been hearing arguments that events such as the Virginia Tech shootings and Columbine would never have occurred if guns had been unavailable.

Baloney! Both Columbine and Virginia Tech were not random acts of violence. They were plotted and planned. And all of the perpetrators had enough control over themselves to come up with a plan and implement it.

Perhaps they would have built a bomb instead. The instructions on how to build an IED is available on the Internet.

Perhaps they would have chosen a chemical attack. Chemicals are also available on the Internet.

Gun control will not stop suicides. Even though the recent suicide in my family was committed with a gun, I know he would have done it another way if he was determined to do it.

I simply don't believe gun control will work. Here's why:

This is one of the most violent cultures in the industrialized world. I doubt anyone would argue with me about that which is why I am not bothering to get statistics.

Violence, power and might are staples of the culture. Violence is glorified in all media. The tools used to exercise it will never be as important as the mindset that creates it.

If someone has a dark enough heart, he or she will find a way to commit an act of violence. Whether it is a knife, an improvised explosive device or some other lethal means. The ones coming to mind are ones I would prefer to not even mention.

So maybe we need to figure out what causes and why there are so many dark hearts.

The problem will never be solved until it is addressed as the systemic problem it is. Those who drive culture need to change hearts and change minds. It needs to focus on more positive things than power and might. It needs to emphasize higher social values. Social engineering? Yes. It happens all the time.

Stop all the movies and TV shows that emphasize so much violence ~ or that violence is a solution to problems.

Stop glorifying military action. Show it as being only a last resort action. War is a horrible thing ~ and glorifying it makes absolutely no sense and offers no redeeming social value.

Teach children the value of honor, respect, kindness, social responsibility and compassion.

Authoritarian solutions rarely work. They only scratch the surface of a much larger problem.



Saturday, April 21, 2007

Forced Therapy and Cho Seung-Hui

The following comment was in my inbox this morning from "Anonymous":

Couldn't mandatory therapy and the blessed intervention of medication have helped him?

I've been giving some thought to that over the past few days as well. At what point does any society have the right to pull someone out of the community and force treatment?

While watching TV yesterday, switching between Fox News and CNN, I caught a snippet of a psychologist being interviewed. What she said scared the living hell out of me.

I wish I'd documented the quote exactly but didn't. Essentially what she said is that there needs to be a specific standard of behavior that is viewed as "normal" in the culture and that those who "don't fit" should be forced to get treatment.

Truly, it scared me.

Who ultimately determines what is "normal" and what is not? Who is the final arbiter?

That is what leads me to take a stand against compulsory therapy and forced medication.

There must be a better way.

I believe the way Cho would have been helped most is with compassion. Compassion before he went so far over the edge that it was unlikely that anyone could bring him back.

As anyone who has had therapy knows, there has to be a baseline of trust. A relationship has to be established between the therapist and the client that will allow the client to speak from the heart, to speak his truth.

Once the government insinuates itself into that relationship, forget it. It's doomed.

I've been reading reports this morning about Cho's background. He was ridiculed and made fun of in classes as a young kid. Where was the teacher? Why was it permitted to go on? Where were those who should have been supervising the behavior of those children? Why weren't the bullies stopped? Where were his parents?

It's impossible to say enough about the effect of bullying and ostracizing and what it does to young minds. There are too few words ~ and far too little understanding.

Cho was angry and felt powerless.

Yesterday, I left the following comment on KC's site:

I had many thoughts after the tapes were released to the press of Cho's rants. It generated a few thoughts and I'll put them to you for consideration.

Strip away all the whining and ranting. Beneath it is.. in my opinion...

cultural alienation.

I'm not trying to excuse his behavior and I'm certainly not trying to use cultural alienation as a convenient catch-all.

But I heard it. The majority of his complaints revolved around US and VT culture.

While I don't have a violent bone in my body and would quickly kill myself before I ever hurt another human being, I've felt those feelings. I was lucky enough to realize that choosing a way of life is just as valid as any other choice we make.

Obviously Cho didn't know that.

It made me wonder how different his life might have been if he'd stayed in Korea.

Speaking from personal experience, I can absolutely say it is possible for cultural alienation to drive a person insane. In 2004, I went there.


In addition to cultural alienation, I should have mentioned pain. The pain expressed in those tapes was so intense that it made my gut hurt. If he'd gone on long enough, I believe he would have dissolved into intense crying.

The solution to the problems these kids develope will never be solved by forcing them into therapy or making them take medication. That is an authoritarian solution to a much deeper problem.

What those kids need is to know that adults will protect them. What those kids need is to know that might doesn't make right and that bullies don't get away with it. What they need to know is that they come with a birthright and part of that birthright is that they get to go to school without being abused by other children under the eyes of those tasked with supervising them. Instead of using the cop-out that every point of view is equally valid, teach kids some values. There are plenty of universal values that are culturally neutral. Give them a foundation to grow with and to stand on. Telling a young child that he has to decide for himself what is right and what is wrong is just plain... excuse me.... stupid. What those kids need is to be held, to be loved, to be protected and educated. And, yes, that includes moral and ethical education.

This culture failed Cho Seung-Hui. That statement might make some of you angry, but it is what I believe. I've seen too many budding Cho Seung-Huis in my life. I see them standing around on street corners in South Sacramento nearly every day.

Maybe with that understanding, we can make some progress in preventing more Chos from being created instead of coming up with authoritarian pseudo-solutions as a means of damage control.



Friday, April 20, 2007

If it's miffy, let it go....

I want to first of all thank everyone for the comments left last night. Before deleting the post, I archived them to my hard drive. One of the things I've found useful in the past is to keep reminders around, to look at them when I start feeling those things again.

I deleted the whiny post and the post that triggered it because there's a part of me that still values personal dignity enough to not splay my private weaknesses out for everyone who has a dial-up connection.

Somewhere within all of us, there is a bug in our personal operating system. Feeling left out, dismissed, unheard and excluded is the bug in mine. That is the one thing that can bring me to my knees, my greatest Achille's Heel. In every other circumstance, I am rational and reasonably balanced.

So, at what point do we get beyond that need for acceptance from others ~ or do we?

At what point does the lesson become learned?

I have a tendency to take a lot from people, a lot of things that might offend others won't offend me. I'm very fluid and flexible with my friendships. But just like the garden, if I want it to remain healthy, I have to do some weeding.

I've needed to do that for a long time. I have friends in my private life who have apparently moved on. My phone calls go unanswered and we rarely see each other anymore. As usual, I'm the last to catch on and continue holding them as friends. If nothing else, I am very loyal.

There comes a point where I need to let go of those people because to do otherwise is to remain open to the triggers that set me off. I have to let them go.

At some point, loyalty becomes irrational.

I also need to do that with the sidebar on this blog. There are people on there who stopped coming by here a long time ago. I need to remove them ~ and believe it or not ~ it hurts me to do so.

This is not a question of quid pro quo, not in my personal life and not here. It is a question of reciprocity. When something becomes completely one-sided, unless there's a good reason for it, it needs to go.

Long ago in a land far away, before Thailand (yes, I did have a life before I went to Thailand), my obsession was gardening. I don't recall the author right now but someone who wrote a book about it said something that stuck with me.

"If it's miffy, let it go."

Sometimes we can give too much for too long. Part of good sense and maturity is knowing when it's time to give it up.

That's really hard ~ but I have to do it anyway. If it's miffy, let it go.

Peace, all ~ and thank you so much for your kindness last night....


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Now for the news....

Now that the more philosophical discussions are over, I wanted to tell everyone how the surgery went.

I arrived at 6.00 AM by cab. By 7.00 AM, I was in the operating room. Not bad, all told.

While I lay there awake, I was able to see the surgeon scrape away the cataract with his magical instrument. If you can imagine what it looks like from the inside of a car with iced and snowy windows, watching someone scrape the window from the outside, that is how it appeared to me as the cataract dissolved.

I couldn't believe the depth of my sight after he was done. I saw color for the first time in a few years through that eye. I still can not read through it but distant vision is fairly sharp. Glasses are still in my future. (That's totally okay.)

At my post-op check-up yesterday morning, both the surgeon and I were amazed at how quickly the eye was healing.

My vision is completely restored though. I am no longer legally blind.

This morning, for the first time, I went out to look at the garden at the side of the house. It was beautiful! I will take some pictures of it in the next few days.

I'm very happy with the results. Very.

After the events of the past few days ~ my family news, Virginia Tech and the surgery, I am feeling rather spent.. exhausted. Today's Justice v. Forgiveness roundtable is going to have to be the last venture into deep thought for the next few days. My body reacts very strongly to drugs of any kind and the anesthesia is still in my system. I'm still in recovery mode.


On an unrelated note, today I was very aware of how differently I think from the majority who read these pages. Because of my vulnerability in other areas, it was a bit hard on me. I went to my favorite Dark Place a few times, wondering why I even try and that perhaps I should stop this writing. It only increases my occasional sense of alienation, sometimes when I least need it.

My thinking is part of the transformation I've gone through over the past few years. I knew it was going to be difficult when I took it on. One doesn't adopt an entirely new way of life in middle age and not have some bumpy times. I hope to have more opportunities to share these views, to discuss them, to continue learning from others, both those who think like me.. and those who don't.

I'm aware that some of the things I have to say are foreign, different and perhaps even weird. I hope they are never offensive but have to likewise accept that there are times it might be taken that way. My intent in expressing these things is never to alienate, even when it may appear that way on the surface. It is to compare notes. It is to read what others have to say ~ even when they disagree. I am not afraid of disagreement. I am not afraid of discourse. When I need to think about something a bit more, I'll state that openly.

There is more to say about this but it can wait for another time. I'm tired. All I really want to get across is that my mind is open to reading and discussing all points of view, even if I don't agree. If I challenge a view, it is not to be argumentative. It is not to say my way is better than anyone else's. Today, I've left a few challenging comments ~ not for the purpose of competition or disrespect but in the spirit of discussion.

I hope all know that.. and accept it.



Cho Seung-Hui and Compassion....

I'd planned on writing this post later today. Julie has requested discussion on justice and forgiveness. It sounds like an interesting project. Her site has some of the most interesting debates in the comment forum I've ever seen!

I'd scratched a few notes together last night and this morning. While making the blog rounds earlier, I found a post that speaks to all the basics needed in any discussion of justice, forgiveness and compassion. It is located here. I can add nothing. I will let that post speak for me, although I don't have the writer's permission to do so yet. I can only expand on it, become a branch, using anecdote to show how we might get past the need for justice and forgiveness to finally find compassion.

In my own transformation, the greatest hurdle has been to achieve detachment from the need to equalize the scales, to make wrong things right and to have that ego-created sense of balance. Instant karma. That has been my ultimate spiritual challenge.

Letting go of that was ~ and still is ~ a struggle at times.

Yet in thinking it over in light of both my family news and the Virginia Tech shootings, I realize fully that it is not my place to exact justice or offer forgiveness. It's simply not my right to do so. I get that.

Who am I to judge another?

During the day yesterday, there were many reports about the Virginia Tech shooter, his background and his struggles. He was obviously a tormented human being. The red flags flew at full mast for a very long time before he walked into Norris Hall and opened fire.

Even given the havoc he wreaked on the community, I believe it is necessary to find compassion for him. His struggle was the struggle of many, although perhaps not to the same extreme degree. Human beings need community. We were created that way. In finding ourselves ostracized and rejected, especially without explanation, our minds take us to strange places. I posted about this last week. Some might become more inward, self-soothing with booze, drugs, promiscuity or fantasy. Others lash out, only finding relief in bringing harm to others, those they perceive as their oppressors. He didn't "snap". This decompensation has been escalating for a long, long time.

Cho Seung-Hui is the ultimate example of someone who tried to balance the scales on his own, to exact judgement and, yes, justice on his community.

It is easy to demonize and dismiss him. He did a terrible, devastating thing. If we dare to look at his humanity, we see our own reflection in his eyes. We see ourselves as a failed community. We see ourselves as a failed culture. We see ourselves as flawed individuals. Do we see in that reflection our own complicity?

So how do we find that compassion? I wish I had a packaged answer. I'm not the Dalai Lama but just one more struggling woman in the mass of humanity that surrounds me. I take comfort and wisdom from the Southeast Asian culture I have embraced. I have no ultimate wisdom, no superior understanding.

I know that when I go to that very quiet and still place within myself and allow it, I can feel it. The compassion. When I shed tears for the 32 murdered students, I can shed a tear for Cho Seung-Hui at the same time. The tears blend together and water the seed of compassion that lives in my silence.



Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Feel it...

Yesterday while I was in surgery, the event at Virginia Tech took place. It was the first item I saw on the news after coming home.

Plenty of others have already written posts on this that are far more eloquent and heartfelt than mine can be at this point.

Still, the one thing in common all of them express is a wondering what to do with this information, how to process it, how to somehow make it understandable. How to move forward....

Move forward, they say. We must move forward!

The truth is that it will never be understandable. The shooting at the Amish school was incomprehensible. The shootings at Columbine, while horrible, had a central reason. It may have been a crazy reason, but those two kids who did it had a reason. 9/11 had a central reason. There is something we could point to and say, "this is why it happened." We don't have that yet in this case. We don't even know who did it. And some things just defy reason.

We are still stuck with the feelings surrounding it ~ and the lesson we may be able to derive from it. The only way we will learn from it is to feel it.

Yesterday after surgery, I noticed that the nurses and the surgeon were both very concerned that I might have pain. They wanted me to qualify it. One to ten. They advised me to take Tylenol or offered me something stronger if the pain qualified higher than one or two.

God forbid I should experience any pain!

I didn't bother to explain that I expect to feel pain when some guy has been poking instruments into the middle of my eyeball and scraping the lens. I expect to feel pain when my eyeball is splayed open like a grape!

I expect to feel pain when I find out my father shot himself in the head.

I expect to feel pain when 32 of my fellow planet-dwellers are shot down in a lecture hall like soi dogs.

This culture hates pain. Any pain. At all costs. Drugs, booze, denial, suppression. More sex. More "stuff". More shopping. More food. But No Pain!

Come on, folks!

Self-soothing can be a good thing, of course. None of us could cope with the world's pain on a constant basis without relief. I'm not suggesting that by any means. I am suggesting though that we collectively sit still and feel the pain.

My concern is that we try to find relief too quickly. There is a need to move forward too quickly.

Sweep it under the rug. Hide from it. Run from it. That is the worse thing we can do because then there is no lesson in it, no change of heart, no growth, no learning. There will only be more of the same.

There will be a few days of sentimental newscasts, memorials and promises to come up with a strategic plan to make sure it never happens again. And then everyone will move on. Life as usual.

There is no way to guarantee it won't happen again unless everyone in this country and all the other countries of the world are police states. There is no way to guarantee we'll always be safe from the triumph of random chance, from chaos. It won't happen.

What we can do though is honor those who died by allowing ourselves to feel the pain, to sit with it, to allow it to change our hearts. We can allow ourselves to learn from this.

We may not be able to change the world or tame chaos but we can change ourselves.



Monday, April 16, 2007

Hole in the Soul... Pt 1

Because this post and the future posts on this topic are sensitive, emotionally raw and may be difficult for some to deal with, I have created a new blog for this journey in particular. Future posts will be here.

I gave serious thought over the past 24 hours whether I would deal with this situation publicly, whether I would bare my soul, give glimpse into a family that fractured many years ago, whether I would share the beginning of the end.

But the truth of the matter is that I am, if nothing else, a writer. This is how I process my life. I write about it. I share my own process because someone out there, someone doing a Google search in the midst of their own confusion and torment, might find this useful. It is a way of offering a branch out to the community, a way to say "you are not alone".

It deals with a serious issue. Suicide. I am not even sure how it will turn out myself because I am going to document this from my own beginning, my own middle and my outcome. This is the beginning.


Sunday afternoon around 5.oo PM, I got word that my father walked into the den at his home, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. It occurred on 12 April 2007. There were notes left for his wife and his adopted son. I don't want to be a burden to anyone. He had wiped the hard drive on his computer so as to leave no trail behind, no computer forensics to give insight into his decision for those left behind. We are just left with the remnants of his life, pieces of a puzzle that we must work out for ourselves.

What I remember about my father is that he was a very closed person, not one to communicate with anyone. He was quiet but the quiet didn't overlay serenity. He had a mean streak. He would tease me when I was a kid. He would tease me until I was hysterical with tears and then laugh. I always hated that teasing. For some reason, he either chose to ignore or couldn't believe how much it hurt.

He was a self-made millionaire by the time he was 32 years old. That was back when "millionaire" meant something. He invested in real estate. Ultimately, he designed houses himself, had them built and sold them. They were custom homes, the kind very wealthy people buy. He owned property in Malibu, Beverly Hills and Bel Air. He owned an apartment building in West Los Angeles.

He did not have a college education. The man was very, very bright. It was inherent intelligence rather than cultivated. He could read a book on any topic and learn it. He taught himself how to play piano. He taught himself how to design houses. He taught himself how to do anything he wanted to do and never struggled a bit.

It was during a visit to his house 17 years ago, one of his houses in Malibu, that I was introduced to the music of Enya. When I was growing up, he always played the classics. As he got older, he widened his musical taste to include New Age artists such as Ray Lynch and Nicholas Gunn. I still own the CDs I bought during that visit.

His houses were decorated with Art Deco. Maxfield Parrish. He had indoor aviaries and fountains inside. It was always beautifully landscaped. He didn't hire people to create that. He did it himself.

He was a womanizer. He'd had several extra-marital affairs. Finally he met the woman he would leave us for. And leave us, he did. We ceased to exist. Like yesterday's newspaper, we were left on the park bench. The pages blew hither and yon, finally landing in separate parts of the park. When he left, his side of the family also left. We had no further contact with grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins from the C****** side of the family. We were invisible.

Anyone looking from the outside in would have thought he had the perfect life. The women.. the money... the houses.. the independence.

And I sit here, all these years later with the lyrics of "Richard Corey" running through my head.

But there was much more to my father than just being some rich white guy whose emptiness drove him to one day take his life. Just the same as there is more to my mother than my "Mommie Dearest" portrayal on these pages. I am not some overly spoiled rich kid with trivial complaints. My family situation was nothing if not complex. The money just provided a way to hide most of it from those who surrounded us.

There was a viciousness to my father's suicide. He did it in a room where he knew his 12-year-old adopted son would find him. He disinherited my brother, my mother and me. He even tried to cut out his current wife. He left one of his granddaughters as executor of his estate. The bulk of the estate is to go to her two daughters, his great-grandchildren.

The way I found out Sunday night was by way of an urgent email from my mother saying "call me". Knowing my mother, she would not do that frivolously and it wouldn't be an appeal for reconciliation. It is no secret that my mother and I do not get along.

I called her. She told me that she had some bad news, that my father had passed away. When I asked how it happened, she told me that he had shot himself.

TG: "The final fuck you."

I said that without even realizing what I'd said until it was out of my mouth.

Mom: "Yeah."

We talked for a few minutes and she shared with me rather openly how he'd tormented her over the years, even after they were divorced. We sat in silence for a few minutes, said a quick prayer for the peace of his soul and hung up.

What is there to say?

Right now, with the news so fresh, I am finding it very difficult to find compassion for a man who would be so indifferent to others, so selfish, that he would not only wound a young boy for life ~ but would stick a dagger into the backs of those he brought into his life voluntarily and the children he created as a result. This isn't about money. It's about betrayal.

But I must find compassion for the hole in his soul. I must. Because it is the only acceptable thing to do. The anger has to stop somewhere.

Finding it is what this series of posts will be about. I don't know how long it will take. I don't know how many posts I will write on the topic or how far apart they will be. What I do know is that my journey will be on this site. Wherever it takes me...



All Is Well.....

Addendum: When I wrote this morning, I had not yet heard about the 32 people being shot and killed at Virginia Tech University. Even more are wounded. May there be some peace for all those who died, are wounded, their friends and families. It seems somehow inappropriate for me to chat up and act celebratory about my eye surgery in light of this.

I'll be back tomorrow.

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I made it through the surgery without a hitch. My eye is still rather sore but I'll get a good sense of how much better my vision will be after it clears up a bit.

Thanks again for all the good wishes. I'll give a better description of the process later today or tomorrow morning.




Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Kreng Jai Challenge....

In getting ready for my surgical appointment on Monday, I had to get a few prescriptions. Nothing serious, just little things that will make it easier for the surgeon to poke my eyeball and do his magic.

I went into Target and found out that my Medicare card doesn't match my Blue Cross RX Gold card.


The plan I chose for my "Part D" coverage is the Blue Cross RX Gold plan which is supposed to guarantee me a co-pay of $3.10 on any and all prescriptions.

Here's the Cliff Notes of how that came to be. After this, I'll get to the point of this rambling.

Medicare notified Blue Cross that they (BC) will be responsible for my Part D coverage as I am a low-income recipient of benefits. The "Gold" part of the plan was of my choosing. I pay a small premium for the upgrade. It includes more drugs in the formulary than the basic plan and the co-pay is considerably lower. I didn't get to choose the insurance company (basically a third party administrator for Medicare ~ confused yet?) that would provide my coverage.

Somewhere between Medicare and Blue Cross, someone didn't update a database so I was not "in the system". (If I ever hear that phrase again, I'm going to vomit!) When the pharmacist went to submit my claim, it came back as my not having any Part D coverage. The pharmacist told me that I would have to pay cash for the antibiotic eyedrops because of this error. He told me to call Medicare.

I should have known! Get on the bus to Call Center Hell.

Medicare told me to call Blue Cross. Blue Cross told me to call Medicare. Medicare volleyed me back to Blue Cross ~ and on we go. I spent 5.5 hours Friday afternoon on the phone.

Finally I got a supervisor at Medicare who made a few phone calls to Blue Cross on her own. "After all, we have a bigger bat," she said.

Well... ermm... yeah. Okay. After 5.5 hours on the phone, she could have told me she had a hotline to Jesus Christ and I would have believed her.

As a result of her conversation with BC, the problem was to be fixed by 1.00 PM on Saturday. I was given a tracking number and supposedly "inside" phone number.

The "inside phone number" was just the Customer Service line and none of the representatives knew what to do with the Help Desk tracking number.

How hard can it be to update a freaking database? It's not that bloody complicated! It's one command on a command line after a search through the beneficiary archives!

Looking at yet another marathon of phone calls, I lost it.

Just plain lost it. My housemates heard me and came to find out what was wrong. I don't think they've ever heard me yell before.

While managing to make it clear to the representative that I was not angry at her but at the situation, I let loose with some invective that would have put Howard Stern to shame. I managed to avoid the f-bomb but make no claims beyond that.

I'm hardly proud of it. It wasn't funny or cute. It was hurtful and damaging to the woman on the other end of the phone who had to hear it. For that part, I am truly sorry. I am ashamed by my lack of self-control and make no excuses because there are none, particularly for one who gives plenty of lip-service to traditional Thai values.

What I am not sorry for is that if my conversations with more than twenty people will cause Blue Cross to take a look at what falls through the cracks and the larger implications, my frustration was worth it. If I had been someone who needed ~ say, heart medication or something else life-sustaining rather than just some stupid antibiotic eye drops, I could be dead this morning. If I'd been someone who required medication for a child, that child could be dead or seriously ill.

There is absolutely no excuse for these kinds of errors.

I ended up paying cash for the eye drops. What if I hadn't had the money?



Saturday, April 14, 2007

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This....

This morning, we woke up to rain. I couldn't wait to get up, make a cup of tea and crawl right back into bed to listen for a while. Right outside my bedroom is wisteria. The aroma crept quietly in the open window.

For twenty minutes or half an hour, life was perfect.

I love rain. Absolutely love it! The sound of it, the smell of it, the color of the sky ~ and I love walking in it. It's a cool rain here this morning. At times it's rather heavy but mostly it's gentle.

One morning a long time ago, I took off for a walk. Dawn was perhaps an hour away. I was staying with my friend, R., and I could see that he was still asleep in his room. The rain was falling gently on the roof. After making a cup of tea as quietly as possible so as to not wake him, I poured it into a commuter cup and stepped outside to the balcony. The rain was warm. The scent of the rain on the plants and flowers surrounding his house was indescribable. To this day, I don't have the words.

The world was quiet. A few people meandered around but it might as well have been just the few of us, alone on the planet. There was a little path near R's house that I liked so much. It was lush and rich with frangipani. It was narrow. I imagined what it must have been like for the original humans, millions of years ago.

The rain got heavier. It pounded on the leaves. Within ten minutes, the wind came. It caused the flowers to sway back and forth. Some leaves fell. In the distance, I could hear frogs croaking. krawwwk krawk. In the far distance, a rooster. Morning was coming.

I continued along. Soon, my hair was drenched. My clothes were drenched. The water poured off my hands as I lifted the cup of tea to my mouth. My shoes were drenched as I walked in the puddles.

With the downpour, my past washed away into the Southeast Asian soil that so willingly accepted and embraced me. My feet took root and I breathed the air of home. The world seemed to shift on its axis. All that was wrong was made right. I continued walking and smiled at nothing ~ and everything.

And, oh yes, I remember the past. I can still draw lessons from it. Sometimes I even feel it. Sometimes it creeps into my consciousness like a malevolent poltergeist. But it rarely stays long enough to rattle its chains in the closet. No ghost can haunt us when we know where we belong.



Friday, April 13, 2007

Pack mentality and cliques....

Yesterday, I was making the rounds of blog-reading and ran across this post. In it, KC discusses her experience with cliques in school. There are some great comments there, too.

I wanted to explore this a bit ~ and perhaps touch on a bit of my personal experience and why I believe this cliquing up behavior is so destructive. It's not only destructive for kids but adults, too.

When I was growing up, to be perfectly blunt about it, I got a ration of diminishing, devaluing and demeaning comments from my mother on a regular basis. I don't recall any positive statements. If I got a B+, it should have been an A. If I wrote a story, it was okay but should have been better. If I asked for positive reinforcement, her method was to ridicule me so that I wouldn't do it any more. No one in my family ever said, "I love you". It was never said in any context, oblique or overt. In my mother's mind, she probably believed she was just toughening me up or disciplining me. By her own statement, she once said, "Well, maybe I was too critical but I just wanted you to be the best you can be." (That was the understatement of the century!) In her mind, the constant put-downs would make me want to prove her wrong.

It had the opposite effect. I came to believe I wasn't even capable of going to the bathroom without someone else's approval. I came to believe the safest way to live was to be as invisible as possible and simply not do anything at all. It was damaging beyond description and had long term consequences in my life. It affected the choices I made and the direction my life took over the years.

To this day, and I am 55 years old, I still have chronic PTSD from my home experience which then extended to my school experience. One of the things most people don't know about PTSD is that it actually changes brain activity. It's not something one can just "get over". Chemical brain activity changes and becomes embedded. I will always have an exaggerated startle response and will always be unable to be in certain types of environments. That's not to say I can just lay down and not try to help myself though. It means that I must (and have) learned effective ways of dealing with the damage.

In school, I was never included in any clique. I was a loner, not by choice. That was created largely by my inability to interact with others in a healthy way. I didn't have and was never taught the skills.

I came to believe it was my fate ~ and, after all, we can't escape destiny.

So I spent more years doing absolutely nothing, trying to be as invisible as possible. I was afraid to be in public. I got that invisible thing down really well. I learned to keep my mouth shut, my back to the wall, my ass down and my powder dry. I was in enemy territory.

That was my life... for many, many years.

To bring this back to cliques, I believe that kids who can't "fit in" are also the ones who are getting the most garbage at home. Feeling left out on a consistent basis is something that damages a kid's ability to function in the world and her ability to make choices that will enhance life rather than merely survive it. It creates the perception that other people are to be avoided because they are not safe. Ultimately, that kid will become an adult who has no spirit for life, no enjoyment of life.

I know this because I lived it.

And, granted, I was a very sensitive, artistic, philosophical and gentle kid who should have been protected and encouraged to find my voice within the context of that personality structure. That perhaps on some levels would have made me a bit more difficult to parent. There should be helpers especially for parents, too.

I have only found a voice for that sensitive, artistic, philosophical and gentle individual in the past ten years or so. That came after years and years of floundering like a fish taken from the river, many years of therapy and a root anger that finally arose in me... the root anger that said, "I'm not living this way any more! I'd rather be dead!"

We get to that point, you know? It's that pivotal moment when we decide whether we are going to live or die. I chose to live. Life force trumped the desire to die.

It's been a long hard road. I'm not going to sit here and write platitudes like "it was all for the best." It wasn't. There was nothing good about it. I didn't turn lemons into lemonade. I just learned to live with the lemons. There are remnants that will be with me for the rest of my life. Just the same, I've learned ways to cope with that. I have chosen to have a life worth living in spite of them. It was grueling and difficult ~ but I found those ways with the help of others wiser and more educated in those areas. One of the outcomes of that is that no one, anywhere, at any time, will ever take my voice away again.

To those who find cliques and exclusion to be something relatively harmless and a normal passage of youth, I would say that you are dead wrong. It not only creates problems for those who are allowed to engage that behavior and grow up to have a permanent sense of entitlement ~ but it is something far more than a right of passage for those who are the objects of the bullying, the exclusion, the being left out, the fun-making, the name calling and the ridiculing. It's worse than murder because the target survives ~ with a dead spirit.

I believe it is the responsibility of the culture, of the teachers, of the parents and all others who supervise children to make a clear and strong statement that the behavior is unacceptable. Children need to be told that it is wrong, not that it is a right of passage and that they just have to learn to live with it. By taking that attitude, the adults in charge become as much perpetrators as the kids themselves. I'd like to think we human beings have evolved past "Lord of the Flies" social behavior. If we haven't ~ well ~ I'm probably all wrong about a lot of things.

Societies form mores and values that all theoretically share. That is the purpose of socialization and acculturation. Those mores and values are taught in childhood and updated and refined as adults. We can always change. We all have that power. In fact, that is the only true power... the power to change.

It's time we do.



Thursday, April 12, 2007

Warm blankets and safe places....

A few days ago, Flutter left a message in my comment box that has stuck with me for the past three days or so.

Since I take language so literally and create pictures from the words I read, the "warm blanket" reference was significant.

What is better than a warm blanket after being out in the cold?

Just imagine for a minute... Coming in from outside. It's cold. It's windy. You sit in your favorite chair or lay on the bed and cover yourself with a warm blanket.

Kind of says it all, doesn't it?

We all have something that represents a warm blanket for us. I got to thinking about mine ~ and that of course led to other thoughts. I am nothing if not entirely tangential.

My warm blanket is, of course, Thailand. The fact that it exists, that I share the earth with it, that I have been so blessed to find it, feels like a warm blanket in my life. Knowing I will be there one day, surrounded by the geography I love so much, the people I value so much, sustains me through a lot of things.

My greatest fear is dying far away from home and home is there.

I am surrounded by so much that is Thai ~ my clothes, my jewelry, my surroundings here at home, my amulets ~ all of those things keep me connected. There is a constant sense of gratitude within me for the generations of people who created the culture that I enjoy so much and live as fully as possible today. It's the greatest gift I have been given in this life.

It's the warm blanket that finally stopped my shivering.

It's always felt cold here. It's not that anyone is unpleasant to me. It's so rare for me to personally encounter unpleasantness in my day to day life that it's shocking when it occurs. You know, it stands out. People are honestly nice to me. They're kind. That seems to be the type of people I draw. In a way, I'm spoiled by that. I take it for granted. And I really shouldn't.

It's the warmth that had been lacking. I've never felt much warmth while living here or growing up here. I was so hungry for it yet couldn't define it until I experienced it elsewhere. I didn't know how to create it. As a kid, when I asked for it at home, I was ridiculed and mocked. I don't think I'll ever forget that day. I was around 12 years old and asked for affection. I never felt safe to ask again. Truly. I didn't know how to get what I needed ~ so I gave up.

I felt that warmth in Thailand. And I didn't have to ask for it.

The words aren't clear for me, how to describe the difference between kindness and warmth. It's rather subtle and it's still running circles through my mind. The warmth I felt in Thailand was a level of acceptance, an inclusion, a legitimate emotional affection. It felt like we breathed the same air. We were all human beings, sharing the experience of being alive together.

The kindness and pleasantness I get in my life right now is wonderful and I'm not trying to diminish it. It's just different. And it's that difference that I'm trying to capture with words.

Here, I get the sense that there's a wall around everyone ~ and, yes, they'll be nice but don't think for a minute that you'll ever really get in. And heaven forbid that anything should interfere with their oh-so-busy lives. There's a fortress mentality and a huge, alligator-filled moats surround the lives of most people we meet. It's like a land of islands ... millions and millions of little.. lonely.. islands.

I'm certainly not the only one who has ever noticed. It's hardly unique. Writers have written about it for generations much better than I can. Everyone wants a warm blanket, a safe place ~ not because of unhappiness or tragedy ~ but just because sometimes a warm blanket is the only thing we need.


On an unrelated note, I want to sincerely thank everyone who left me kind thoughts for the surgery. I have never ever had 21 people wish me well for anything. Not in my entire life! This morning, I'm sitting here smiling. I really do have so much to be grateful for these days.




Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I can see clearly now...

I just got back from my final round of lab work, form-signing and other hideous activities that had to be completed before eye surgery.

Monday morning at 6.00 AM, the doctor will be cutting my eyeball open and doing what he needs to do to restore my sight. There's some gnarly stuff he needs to repair on the cornea as well as replacing the lens.

You have no idea what a blessing it will be to have clear vision. It won't be perfect. I'll still need glasses but having a new lens will make all the difference. It will cut out the glare, the double-vision, the stumbling, the falling and all other associated symptoms of a dense cataract.

Because mine is so severe, the surgery will be a bit more complicated and the doctor figures I will be in surgery for two hours. It's the full hospital operating room, heart monitor, anaesthesia and everything else involved. The only disappointment is that I won't be able to go to a surgery center where the in and out process is much faster.

My critical recovery time will be a day or two. I will not have to remain in the hospital but I will only have to be closely monitored for two days. The rest of the time will be a breeze. No lifting. No bending over. Beyond that, I can do anything I like.

All in all, pretty good news at this end.



Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hate speech....

Before writing anything about hate speech, I wanted to mention that it has been such a pleasant morning here, reading March's Just Posts. Each month, it is like a gift in my browser window. The richness of thought, the passion and the neverending faith that everyday people can make a difference never fails to lift me up. Please do check them out.


Now, onto Don Imus. By now, everyone is probably aware of the statements he made about the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team.

At one time, I used to listen to Don Imus in the mornings. It was probably 15 years ago now and at the time he seemed outrageously funny. I would laugh until my belly hurt when he played parody songs like They Don't Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore. He would pillory every prominent public figure with his acidic tongue. It didn't matter which end of the political
spectrum one landed, Imus would still shred them.

After a while, I began to grow up and didn't find that kind of humor amusing any longer. It sounded like every other punk bully kid on the playground at any elementary school ~ probably anywhere in the world.

Cheap shots have become a form of entertainment on radio and TV over the past 10 years. I've noticed this proliferation of disgusting, demeaning speech which the speaker justifies with the statement, "I was only being funny. Lighten up." Cloaking this kind of talk under the guise of humor would ostensibly lessen its impact or water it down. It became a subtle way of making it socially acceptable to get a few laughs at someone else's expense.

I don't believe in hate speech legislation. I'll be very clear about that. However, I do believe there should be social consequences for talking that way. It starts with the individual. How many times have any of us cringed internally when someone talks about going to a car lot and "jewing" the salesman "down" or when someone makes a derogatory remark about "damn Mexicans". We want to say something. We don't like it ~ but in order to avoid confrontation, we don't say anything.

A long time ago, I set up certain rules for my own socializing. Everyone who knows me, knows I won't sit silently by when someone begins hate speaking. There are some iron-clad rules that everyone knows. Don't smoke in my livingroom. Don't drink alcohol or use drugs in my house. And definitely don't say the "n-word". If you do, you will be politely asked to leave.

As Audre Lorde once said, "your silence won't protect you."

Confronting this kind of speech can be difficult. It's hard to correct another adult. I've found a simple, "that kind of talk makes me really uncomfortable" will stop most. If they try to shame me into tolerating it ("aww. c'mon. Lighten up. I was only joking"), I will excuse myself.

Yes. They get mad at me. They may not associate with me any further.

What have I lost?

Not much.

As for Don Imus, Ann Coulter, Louis Farrakhan and other public hate speakers, it's fairly simple. Turn off the radio. Don't give them hours and hours of air time on Fox News or CNN, repeating the slurs over and over again. Ignore them. Pretend they don't exist. Don't buy their books. (It's utterly astounding to me that Ann Coulter's books have been best sellers. They contain some of the most vile invective I've ever read, outside of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or The Turner Diaries!)

We need to take a stand on this. Quietly. By our actions.

At least that's my opinion.



Monday, April 09, 2007

Comcast and the Call Center Universe....

There's something else I'd rather talk about than having heard the interview on radio this morning.

When I first got up, I wandered out to the computer room with my eyes half closed and my usual stumbling around like I'm drunk routine. Glancing over at the computer, I noticed that there were only 20 emails waiting which is about one fifth (okay.. no more drinking references) of what I usually have.

The Internet was down.

I have Comcast High Speed and there has only been one time when it had anything to do with our network here. It's usually an area-wide outage.

I got on the phone. Not always the best idea when I first wake up. If I'm going to be cranky, it's always first thing. Getting up, being half blind and trying to orient myself to time and place is a challenge. I admit it.

After getting through the multi-layered call distribution system (yes, I want to speak English, yes, my Internet is down, yes, I booted my modem, yes, I rebooted my system.. you bloody bastard!), punching ones and twos and using the f-word a time or two, I finally got a human being, a real person and he was in this country.

Glory be! Blessings abound!

I told him the situation and he suggested a few things to me. I tried them. Still no Internet. He told me that he could send out a technician tomorrow.

"Not an option," I said. One of my housemates is a tax preparer and she needs the Internet to e-file for her clients.

We went 'round and 'round about that for a few minutes and he finally flicked a switch or something. For some reason, he was able to find me an appointment for this morning.

Glory be!

But the interesting thing about this interaction is that we began chatting off-topic. Since I know something about call centers, I told him to turn off the recording device since I know supervisors listen in unless the customer says he or she does not want to be recorded.

He caught on. He's a sharp .. dare I say it? ... dude.

He told me how he had been an executive level credit department manager until a few years ago when his company outsourced. He lost his job. His wife is ill. His son was murdered a few years ago.

This guy has tolerated more in 3 years than most of us can tolerate in a lifetime!

He's 60 years old. Due to corporate outsourcing, he has lost his pension, lost his house in Southern California and now finds himself in West Texas working at some lousy call center for 9.00 an hour.

"That's just plain wrong," I said. "It's worse than wrong. It's amoral!"

He knew what I was saying and we continued talking in an unspoken code. He knew I understood his situation and he knew how incensed I was about it. He appreciated the understanding. I could tell. It was something in his voice.

"How's your wife doing with all this," I asked.

He told me that his wife has had a very hard time accepting the death of their son. She's attempted suicide more than once.

She's bipolar.

She's trying to get SSDI.

SSDI would make their world such a better place to live. Even a measly $1500.00 a month on her end would make his salary and her income into a liveable financial situation. As he said, "At least I could take her out to dinner occasionally."

I should mention here that I am a fairly decent judge of character and I believed every word this guy said.

I asked about his wife's SSDI process and how far along she's gotten, etc. He told me.

When I went through that process, I had an advocate. I recommend it to anyone who has to go through it. He had no idea how to get one for his wife.

"I'll do it," I said. I still don't know where that came from! It was instinct. I will call her on the phone and I will walk her through the process.

At any rate, I told him to stop talking, pick up a pen and get ready to write. I gave him my personal email address. He wrote it down. I told him to write me soon and I would talk with his wife, give her some pointers on how to deal with the Social Security folks.

After all they've been through, they deserve a break. Truly. I believe that! If I was rich, it wouldn't be an issue. I'd more than gladly write them a check every month.

Meanwhile, my stomach is still burning with disgust and fury over the way corporations are permitted to treat employees. Like Kali enticing us to the rocky coast, they paint a beautiful picture and then lead us straight to disaster. It is immoral. And it's amoral. And it's unacceptable.

There's got to be a special place in hell....



Being here....

While getting started this morning, I heard an interesting interview on the radio. Since it was early and I wasn't paying optimum attention, I didn't catch the name of the person being interviewed.

They were chattering on about being here, about living on this planet, global warming, consumerism ~ all of those various topics.

One of the interviewees said that we should ask ourselves this question:

Have I been a good houseguest?

Good question.



Sunday, April 08, 2007

Spring festivals....

Yesterday while walking, I listened to Joseph Campbell tapes. One of my favorites is his talk on spring holidays throughout the world and the mythology that surrounds them.

One thing that seems consistent is that regardless of the religion, everyone celebrates spring.

It is such a spectacular time with all the blooming flowers, the color, the warmth of the air. It is a rebirth of nature, coming out of its fallow time. As humans, we are part of nature. Something within us renews as well and we have a desire to celebrate that.

I am a person who has had a hard time learning to celebrate. It just didn't seem to be a part of my life up until a few years ago when I felt the desire to bring that into my life in some meaningful way.

I chose Thai celebrations as a guideline. Thai celebrations acknowledge the cycles of nature. Like every culture, the celebrations are designed to fit Thai history and Thai life in general. There are celebrations of rice and water, celebrations of historical events, celebrations of time. (Songkran is actually the solar new year.) Since I seem to have a strong pagan inclination, the idea of celebrating the cycles of nature comes easily to me. It's not something I have to force myself to do.

I have a habit of taking established celebrations and reconfiguring them into my own style. It's not likely that will change when I am a permanent resident of Thailand.

Songkran, as an example, is basically a 3-day street party with much drinking, water-throwing, reveling and dancing in the street. The water-throwing makes some sense since this is the hottest season in Thailand and the water is refreshing. In some ways, it becomes a celebration of the rainy season to come.

I'm far too reserved to spray people with water on the street. I have a natural aversion to rowdy behavior. Always have. The noise and the crowds would send me under the bed for a month afterward. Additionally, since I am not yet living in Thailand, I'd probably be arrested for doing that here. :)

So, I decided to "reconfigure" Songkran, to make it into a quiet, private celebration of the elements and renewal. There are many customs in the tradition that make it possible to do that without polluting it or watering it down (pun unintended).

Songkran, like Easter, is a celebration of renewal. People traditionally clean their homes, throwing away old or useless items. It's believed that to keep old and useless things will bring bad luck to the owner.

Religious items are cleaned. Young(er) people pour scented water into the hands of elders and parents as a sign of respect and seek the blessings of their elders. In ancient days, people would actually bathe the elders and provide them with new clothing as a token of respect for the new year.

Obviously, I have never bathed anyone older than me and dressed them in new clothing. That's something that has long since stopped, even in Thailand.

Last year, I did pour scented water over the hands of one of my elders here, expressed my respect and asked for her wisdom.

It made her cry. These things truly do touch people.

One particular act of kindness I like is the releasing of live birds to the sky or fish to the river. I have also experienced this and it was emotionally very powerful.

So that is how I have reconfigured Songkran to work for me. These rituals and customs bring such richness to life, such texture.

In that light, my wishes for a blessed Easter to those who celebrate, Songkran to those who celebrate. In whatever fashion you acknowledge the turn of the season, may it be a blessing. May the breezes that blow on you be gentle and refreshing, may the peace in your spirit continue to warm and sustain you and may you continue to discover the beauty of life.



Saturday, April 07, 2007

Too old to say "dude".... ?

Slang never came easily to me, not even in the 60s when there was a slang term for everything. Maybe the comfortable familiarity of it never felt right inside my skin. Perhaps I was just a pretentious idiot. It's probably somewhere in the middle. I was always a bit more on the formal side. Idiomatic speech would have sounded really strange from someone so quiet-natured and on the shy side.

Slang was insider jargon. Those who knew. Those who didn't. Altered words flew around our heads like spit-out olive pits, each one as ill-defined as the one before and very transient. It seemed to change day by day. Words took on new meanings that only the in-group understood.

Some of it was deceitful. .. like "five finger discount" or "Aunt Mary".

Some of it was funny. He's goin' ape, man, so don't have a cow!

I'm from Southern California where there was always plenty of surfer slang. Ankle-biters, amped up, off the wall! This is rippin', dude!

The current slang is disturbing to some of us older folks, just as our slang was disturbing to our parents and elders in the 60s. Parents would get irritated by the slanguage and constantly chide the kids to stop. It never worked and it won't work now. Even though I am getting closer to the end than the beginning of my lifespan, even though I don't know what most of it means (example: MILF - um), it seems important for people to create that sense of insiderness, the community of likeminded others. I never want to be one of those older people who clicks her tongue at youthful speech.

Some of it, I don't like because of the meaning. I do not like hiphop slang. Truly. I just don't care for it. Being a bit of a literalist where language is concerned, the meanings behind the words feel ugly. Prison slang doesn't seem like the highest verbal aspiration and words matter. What we say matters.

Just the same, the right of passage is important and the slang will fade into obscurity eventually, so hey, man, no sense shittin' a brick over it!"

So.. go for it.




Friday, April 06, 2007


Up until a year ago, my housemate and I lived here pretty comfortably. We're both pleasant and we also help each other out a lot with a variety of things. We're kind to each other. That's the unspoken contract. She owns the house and I rent the mother-in-law unit.

A year ago, her (*50-year-old ~ added for clarification) son moved here from Southern California. He hit a rough spot and came back here to get himself together, get sober and begin a new life. On the surface that sounds like a great idea. My housemate asked my opinion and I gave it. I think it's worth doing. I'm all about second chances.. and even third chances. Some of us are slower than others ~ and I'm no paragon of perfect life management. I've had my third and even fourth chances.

I go overboard on these things... family support.. the idea of families always "being there". After all, I come from a family where one half-sister was thrown out on the street because she had an addiction problem, was hooking for a living, developed AIDS and died. The reaction in the family? "It was her own choice." They didn't even give her a memorial service. No grief. Just judgement. My family of origin is a pretty sick bunch of people. No model there. Nothing to look back on and say "this is a good way to handle it."

It's been a year now since V showed up. During that year, he has done absolutely nothing to help himself. He's manipulative. He's stolen money from his mother. He lives off her credit cards. If he doesn't get his way, he gets drunk and causes problems. He honestly believes he is entitled to the best of everything. So far, he's never been violent but he's tearing his mother to shreds emotionally. I see it. He's charismatic and charming. It's easy for him to emotionally manipulate the people around him.

Except me. I see through him like a pane of glass.

He's drained D. financially. She's gone into debt to the tune of $20,000 in one year. It's V's impulsive spending that's doing it. She should be retiring and can't. He has no conscience about it. It doesn't bother him in the least. My opinion, as awful as this sounds, is that he is hanging around waiting for her to die.

It's unlikely that V has the internal resources to be kicked out on the street without any resources. I believe he might commit suicide. He's not a stable guy. I think doing that would likely push him to violence.

I've tried to provide as much emotional support as possible for D, although that's not something I am good at by nature. I'm more about fixing, less about head-patting or sympathizing. Also, after this much time without any substantial change, there's really nothing more I have to offer her.

V. was asked by his therapist (if you can call him that) to select three people to come in for a session. He chose D, his girlfriend and me. (If this sounds like same song, different verse... yes.. it is. We did something like this last summer as well.) Our job was to give the therapist our view of what's happening. He asked each one of us to state our opinions.

I summed it up in one phrase. "I think he's either the maddest person I've ever met or he has no concept of acceptable human behavior ~ the latter making him a sociopath."

Verbatim. That's what I said. And that's what I believe. If it walks like a duck.. etc. If most of us look at the people we've known in the past, there's probably a sociopath or two there. They're not all that difficult to recognize. They simply don't give a damn how their actions affect others. They have no impulse control. They are like hurricanes that whip through people's lives and leave Katrina-level damage.

My question for the parents out there (or anyone who has an opinion, for that matter) is this: At what point is enough, enough? D's a mom. I get that ... but does there come a point where it's time to throw in the towel, to accept that someone is a lost cause?