Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Something else, no more TV!

Many, many years ago in a place far, far away, I used to be a television addict.

I accepted that I was was powerless over cable television and that my life had become unmanageable.

I loved my TV! It was on from morning until night. Every spare moment I had was spent staring mindlessly at the Boob Tube (as we called it back then). I had my nightly schedule planned ahead of time. After dinner was complete, the cats and I plopped down for the evening.

That faded and my interest began to wane. The quality became worse and worst. Once I had a home internet account, I barely paid attention to the television at all.

Recently, I did a little experiment. With two housemates, there is always a TV on in this house and I used to keep CNN on in the background, just in case.. you know.. just in case something big happens.

I documented the references to immoral behavior, the bad language and the blatant political propaganda for a month. Obviously my method wouldn't have passed academic scrutiny but it was a way to reality-check my own perceptions.

It was surprising to see how subtle it was, pounding into the ears and minds of couch potatoes throughout the country. I won't even go into the influence on kids. That would be a full-tilt rant!

As my life becomes more Thaicentric, I get less and less of this influence. I watch an hour of news (Democracy Now) in the early evening. I do keep up with "The Closer" and "CSI". On the weekends, I like to watch the old black and white movies on Turner Classic Movies. And, of course, Book TV.

The old movies are relaxing.. and the content is usually fairly benign.

As I sit here at the computer, I am listening to an easy-rock station out of Bangkok. I listen on the computer. Since my Thai language skills are at the level of an average five-year-old, I don't know if the station is cranking out Thai propaganda or not. I just listen to the music.

Since I've reduced my exposure to media, my own attitude has improved exponentially. I'm not so filled with fear. The shows and newscasts are all designed to increase fear. I don't find myself being quite so ready to pounce or look for hidden meanings in everything. Most of the broadcast media in this country anyway is all about conflict and deception.

It can warp a person's mind.

So... what say all of you? What about TV? How does TV fit into your life? Do you watch much? Overall, do you think it improves your life? Do you allow your children to watch?


Monday, July 30, 2007

A parallel....

I hope this post doesn't seem too "70s" but it's been on my mind this weekend. I honestly never thought I would have to seriously think about identity politics again. Been there. Done that. I thought we'd all moved beyond it.

On Thursday, I mentioned that I am openly accepting of all identities. Whether someone considers him- or herself to be gay, male, female, transgendered or a glass of orange juice has never mattered to me.

I just accept it at face value.

It is that person's perception of self. Enough said. It is not my job to judge the authenticity of someone else's perception of self, although I can certainly look at the behavior versus the words.

On Saturday, I spent quite a long time on the phone with a person who identifies as transsexual. Male to female. As the conversation progressed and she became more comfortable with me, the attitude of male privilege came through so clearly that I was almost leveled by it. Seriously! The use of language, the innuendo, the flirting, the reduction of me to a set of body parts for her use.

It took everything I had to continue being polite. I really wanted to challenge it. The truth is that I was seething inside. I was angry. Instead, I chose to steer the conversation elsewhere, to keep in mind that the purpose of our contact is to practice the language. That is the agreement.

Of course that is only one individual. I've known and talked with other transsexuals who never once uttered a word that objectified women or displayed typical male attitudes toward women.

This case though was a bit glaring.

When it comes to transgenderism, I've tried to remember that there is a parallel in my own life. Over the past several years, my identity has changed radically, too.

I've chosen to live my life as a Thai person. That is reflected in my customs, my habits, my attitudes, my culture and my worldview.

Okay. Before you click away, I have a point. Stick with me a minute. :)

I chose to live my life that way but there is no way I will ever truly understand what it is like to be ethnically Thai and there is no way I will ever understand what it is like to grow up Thai.

It will never be a part of my life history. No matter what. I can have plastic surgery, change my skin tone, speak the language, live among Thai people in that country. I will still never have that understanding. (Nor do I have any interest in altering my body in any way. I'm just saying.... )

The privilege I have experienced as a white person who grew up in affluence can't be erased by a choice or decision. It is ingrained at some level. While I can be careful to recognize it and correct my thinking, it will always be there lurking in the background like a hidden script.

I think this is the essence of the debate over transgenderism. Can we simply choose to change all the perceptions we grew up with, the background scripts?

I'm not sure. At this point.

Still mulling it over.


Just as a note: I hope I've been clear that all opinions are welcome here whether you disagree with me or agree. Feel free to be "anonymous". I'm sometimes concerned that people will hold back on their real thoughts.

Not here. Please. Not in this space.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

A little bit of gratitude....

This morning as I was blog-surfing, I went by De's site and found this post. Please read it to understand the origin of this button.

Every now and then, it is a good idea to take a breath and remind ourselves of the things we do for each other here in this cyber-community; the support we offer each other, the ideas we present to each other and the wisdom we pass along.

It is a wonderful thing ... something I remember living without since I am older than most who read here ... to know that such wisdom is at my fingertips. There was a time we couldn't simply sit in front of a computer monitor and gain wisdom with the click of a mouse. Those of us who were lucky enough got wisdom from our ancestors and the people who surrounded us. Some of us did not.

But we have it here. And we give it to each other freely.

It's something for which I am so grateful! Each day!

De has graciously allowed us to pass it along, so I also want to pass it along to everyone who reads here, everyone who comes by almost daily to share with me your thoughts, your ideas, your support, your wisdom and in some cases, your friendship. I am also grateful for the way you share with each other in the comments forum.

Here is the code. Remove the square brackets and replace them with carats. It links back to De's post which is the catalyst for this and, I suspect, many other similar posts that will come along.

[a href="http://soberbriquette.blogspot.com/2007/07/i-made-you-button.html"]
[img src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_rotIotw6cCE/RqnNxG13ldI/AAAAAAAAATM/

Be sure to remove the hard breaks. :)

My gratitude to all of you. (palms together, head bowed, in sign of respect)



Friday, July 27, 2007

Weekend: Take A Hope Break


Back when I had a little
I thought that I needed a lot
A little was over rated,
but a lot was a little too complicated
You see-Zero didn't satisfy me
A million didn't make me happy
That's when I learned a lesson
That it's all about your perception
Hey-are you a papa or a superstar
So you act, so you feel, so you are
It ain't about the size of your car
It's about the size of the faith in your heart

There's hope

It doesn't cost a thing to smile
You don't have to pay to laugh
You better thank God for that

There's hope

Off in the back country of Brazil
A met a young brotha that made me feel
That I could accomplish anything.
You see just like me he wanted to sing
He had no windows and no doors
He lived a simple life and was extremely poor
On top of all of that he had no eye sight,
but that didn't keep him from seein' the light
He said, what's it like in the USA,
and all I did was complain
He said-living here is Paradise
He taught me paradise in in your mind
You know that

There's hope

Every time I turn on the T.V.
Somebody's acting crazy
If you let it, it will drive you crazy
but I'm takin' back my power today
Gas prices they just keep on rising
The government they keep on lying
but we gotta keep on surviving
Keep living our truth and do the best we can do

Stand up for your rights
Keep shining your light
And show the world your smile

India Arie


Socially contagious???

Thanks for the comments yesterday. It sounds like we're all thinking the same thing. While I had that post up, I saw the following story on Fox News and CNN. I sat with my mouth agape:

This is one of those stories that really makes me want to say.... what the hell are they thinking..?

In case, you don't want to click on the link, here's the story in a nutshell.

Your friends are making you fat. If you hang around with fat people, you might become fat.

They are suggesting shunning?

In this day and age? At least we can honestly say the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Take you back to another era?

"Away you scullion! you rampallion! you fustilarian! I'll tickle your catastrophe."

Couldn't resist the Shakespearean insult. Sometime in the recent past, we were sharing Shakespearean insults in someone's comment section.

This is my last post on body image for a while. I just couldn't resist bringing this one to the table though. I'll put up a weekend post this afternoon on a different topic. Check back then. :)


Thursday, July 26, 2007


Just a note to let everyone know what is up with Technorati and to let you know that it is not a reliable way to see my new posts.

For the past three days, I am unable to ping.

For the past four weeks, my authority has steadily declined, even though I have 70-80 new links.

For the past three days, I am unable to login in.

As of today, I have sent three requests for help to Technical Support and have not had any response.

Since some people use it to see my new content and use the "fave" option, I will not delete the account.... but please, please, please.... do not count on it as it is entirely unreliable.


My real post is below. :)


Acceptable prejudice.....

(Note: Just wanted to wish safe travels to all leaving for the BlogHer conference this weekend. I hope it is wonderful for all of you! )


Yesterday, during our discussion of political correctness and prejudice, Snoskred made a comment that stuck with me most of the evening. It's not that I wasn't aware of it. It's just that I hadn't thought of it in any consistent manner. It flew through my head, I agreed with it and went on to some other burning thought ~ you know, usually something like "where's the remote control?"

Anyway, she raised the point that overweight people are experiencing the latest socially acceptable prejudice.

In so many ways, this is true. It's subtle... but it does seem to be okay to mention openly when someone is heavy, but we'd never think to say "geez, that guy has such a big nose" or "she has really ugly teeth." It just wouldn't happen. Well, at least it wouldn't happen among intelligent people who manage to focus on more important things.

I've even caught myself a few times saying things that bordered on unkind. One day, a few weeks ago, I drove Miss D. to the base to pick up some things she needed. There was a woman hanging out in front, waiting for someone. She was a heavyset woman. She was wearing tight polyester pants and a horizontally striped shirt.

I commented to D. that I didn't understand why heavyset people wouldn't know better than to wear tight pull-on pants and certainly shouldn't be wearing anything with horizontal stripes.

"It only makes us look bigger!" Being overweight, I felt justified in using "us" instead of "they".

"Most fat people don't care," she said back.

As I was driving back home, I realized what a rotten thing that was to say. By then, we'd switched to another topic so I didn't have an opportunity to redeem myself.

But I can do it here. That was a catty and petty thing to say and, honestly, I feel some shame in admitting that I was so small-minded.

Snoskred stated a truth. This is one of the final bastions of acceptable prejudice. Commenting on the body types of others and making judgments about it is still considered harmless in most circles. Where are the PC Police when it comes to sensitivity to heavy people?

Perhaps the woman at the base didn't realize it. Maybe she doesn't know that horizontal stripes make her look bigger. Not everyone is like me. Not everyone is concerned with fashion. Not everyone has the luxury of spending an hour each morning pouring over and choosing Thai outfits. Maybe she had much bigger things on her mind than her striped shirt.

We never know these things and truthfully, it was none of my bloody business at any rate! It certainly qualifies as a violation of my own cultural values.

It would be interesting to hear from others. Do you find this prejudice to be true in your circles as well?


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Deconstructing the impossible...

The day before yesterday, I received a private email from a member of a Yahoogroup. The topic of the group is basically Buddhist community building.

The group is comprised of primarily western-style Buddhists, those who have worked the philosophy around to allow them to ignore the uncomfortable parts. I read the posts and don't say anything. I don't challenge them, even though there are some things expressed there that need to be challenged.

I got an email from another member who noticed my login name (thailandchani) and wrote me about Thailand. This individual also happens to be a transsexual. She has remained silent on the list about that fact as well as her draw and affinity for Thailand. In her, I may have met my match. We talked about the place on the phone for 8 hours! We said things we knew that no one who doesn't have this experience of feeling like an exile in our country of birth would understand. It's a kindredness. We talked, remembered, said the things we really think and feel with abandon, used every last little bit of Thai language known between the two of us, and generally felt the comfort of freedom to speak openly.

This would not have been okay on the email list itself. The risk of being ostracized would be high, not only because of our affinity for Thailand but for my open acceptance of transsexualism.


I've noticed it on blogs as well! Someone says something controversial and people disappear. That is why most people are afraid to say too much. Social consequences. We see it in our site meters.

I can mention Thailand here. I can say nice things about it. I can wax poetic about it and write beautiful word pictures of my experiences and my life there. I can even talk about the real reasons why I took such a radical step. Let me talk about how life in this culture sucked the soul out of me until there was nothing left? Even that's okay.. but... let me express my anger? My hits would be down to zero within the next two days. BTDT.


I remember one time, a really long time ago.. probably 30 years now... I went to a meeting of a religious-based women's group .. just to see what was going on and knowing I should have something to be involved in. It went great at first.

Then I disagreed about how the Palestinians were being treated by the Israelis. (This was during a particularly rough time over there... terrorism, wars, etc.)

Well, I was ostracized so fast, you would have been able to feel the wind!

The phone stopped ringing, people stopped associating with me.

I was shunned for expressing an opinion that went against the dominant opinion.


Just a few days ago, I deleted a comment on Julie's blog on the topic of political correctness because I was afraid it might be misunderstood or had been misunderstood. The content of the comment escapes me at this point because my memory matches my attention span. I deleted the comment because of the uncertainty. I didn't know whether it might be cause a problem and, yes, decided to not take the chance.


Consequently, everyone sits on their hands and no ideas of substance are exchanged. Nothing changes. We sit... stasis.

And I am not certain how to solve the problem, either. Even with my training in sociology, I don't have a bloody clue! This is a dynamic we never examined in college!

It's sad. Really sad. And such a waste of our planet time.

It's sad that we can't trust each other more, be just a bit more civil and really understand that, as the Desiderata expresses, that everyone, even the most ignorant among us, have something important to say. It's too bad we can't move beyond the notion that different opinions than our own should be annihilated.

It infects everyone and every thing. It has poisoned our ability to trust in each other's inherent willingness to accept contrary views. The group dynamic has silenced far too many voices, voices with something important to say. It has caused us to be overly cautious and overly fearful of the pack mentality reaction that often takes place when someone expresses an opinion that is not the dominant view or expressed with the dominant use of language.

At some point, I believe it's important to examine this, not only in terms of the costs to us as individuals, but the cost to us socially.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The hollowness of being?

While the coffee burbled in the pot, I heard the news that Lindsay Lohan was arrested again for DUI and possession of cocaine.

I think it's easy to immediately dismiss it as the antics of yet another party girl with no sense.

But that would be the easy way.

There's something seriously wrong with someone so young whose life is so completely out of control. There's something seriously wrong with someone so young being so hollow inside that she needs to constantly anesthetize herself against the world.

I was also young when I had a substance abuse problem and know that it was one way to cope with the vastness, the hugeness, of the future. It was a way to feel in control ~ even if it was only for the few hours while the alcohol was in my system.

In her case, having gone through rehab twice, there is something in the message, the typical psychological pablum, that is clearly not working for her. She needs something more.

What might it be?

I'd be interested in hearing other thoughts about this. I'm pounding this post out rather quickly, just running the thoughts through my own head at this point.

One thing I know is that it just makes me incredibly sad. Not for her as an individual ~ but for all those young people who feel overwhelmed by the world as it is these days. What can we do, as people who are a bit more mature, to help them?


Monday, July 23, 2007

What are your blogging boundaries?

What are the limits on the things you will blog about?

This question was asked on Matty's site and I decided to pick up on it.

Over the past ten months, I've experimented with this quite a bit. I've shared parts of my life that were difficult, enough to provide background to give my transition from one way of life to another some context. My lifestyle is unconventional.. and not very many people have ever tried to adopt and assimilate into another culture while living in their culture of origin. But it's more than a social experiment for me. It's my life now. And I like being able to explore it with others, whether or not they have an interest in ever doing something so radical themselves.

I've occasionally blogged about things that were probably best left unsaid, such as personal bumps that have left me feeling insecure or uncertain. I've blogged about some things that are so personal that I really questioned the wisdom of it in retrospect ~ on more than one occasion. In some of these things I've gone too far and recognized it as I sat here behind my computer monitor, feeling as though I was stark naked and vulnerable in front of the entire world.

I am first and foremost interested in ideas. What drives us, what makes us tick, what gives our lives meaning and purpose? What lights our individual fires? I am interested in the personal experiences of others that have been life-changing and growth producing. I am interested in the thoughts of others as they sit in their private garden, uninterrupted by external events and distractions. I am interested in how others express their lives.

My own position is that this is where the beginning of wisdom is shared. It is where we discover commonalities. Finding commonalities among external things such as social markers is not sustaining. Not ultimately.

In thinking about blogging boundaries, I think I've decided (not certain yet) that my boundaries are drawn where I am left feeling too vulnerable, too exposed. My points can be made without that distraction.

What about you? Where do you draw the line on what you'll blog about?


Sunday, July 22, 2007

336 posts ago....


Note: My other blog has been updated as of today. Click on sidebar if you'd like to read it.


When I opened up this template, it told me that this is my 337th post.

I can't believe it!

Printed out, it would be the equivalent of a book!

Yesterday, I took the day off from posting.. and didn't really miss it much. I puttered around, cleaning things that needed cleaning and pulling weeds from the garden. All afternoon, I lay around on the bed, reading, with an old movie playing in the background.


Last night at an odd time, I got a surprise phone call.

The phone rang at 1.30 a.m, brought me out of a dead sleep and nearly scared me half to death. I'm not the sort of person to get middle-of-the-night calls. I'm not on anyone's emergency list and even when my father passed, I got an email asking me to call (subtext: at a decent hour).

I reached for the phone, figuring it was some drunk dialing a wrong number. It couldn't be Deborah's bill collectors, the previous owner of my phone number who seems to have a lot of outstanding debt. I get her calls a lot. Um. A lot. "Is this Deborah B*****?", "No." "Does she live there?", "Not unless she's hiding in the closet."


Friday night I had a planned phone call from a fellow blogger that was long and delightful and rambling. We covered a hundred topics in a nearly four-hour phone call. We tossed subjects out like pebbles on a lake, seeing where the ripples would lead next. They led from the lake, to the river, to the ocean. It was wonderful. I am not ordinarily at ease with people but found myself quite at ease with her.

Anyway, during that conversation, I must have conjured up the person who called last night in the weesmas.

Finally, I caught the phone before the voicemail kicked on.


"S'wadee, dear."

I sat up straight in bed, wide awake.

It was my beloved Ajahn S.

"Aaaah. Oh. Ah. Hellll-LO! How are YOU?" I felt like crying!

"How you do? I thinking about you."

His accent is something I tend to forget. When he speaks English, he sounds like Ting Tong Macadangdang from the British TV comedy. He even uses outdated British slang.

"Fine. Um. Fine. Uh."

Funny how we get tongue-tied around people we not only admire, but people we have given a degree of authority in our lives. I couldn't imagine why he would be calling me. I hoped like you can't imagine that he has not found this blog... or started to read it regularly. He'd probably think I'm some sort of idiot!

"Do you know when you come back?"

Gave my projection. Probably next summer some time. Sooner, if possible. This latest wrinkle with my father might delay me a bit, especially if the will goes into probate.

"Being there not you so good for, eh?"

I talked for a few minutes with him, the kind of honesty that takes place with someone we trust completely. No, it's not easy.. but, yes, I'm coping. I want to come home. I miss you. I miss your family. I miss the friends I made there. I even miss R., my host, crash pad provider when I was there before.

I was struck by the power of those words. "I want to come home." Feeling in exile, stranded, unrooted. At this point, I explained, I've kind of accepted my fate for what it is and am not going to give in to complete rootlessness. I'll remain rooted to the periphery of life here.

And I've put to rest and found peace with the fact that no one here in my private life has any understanding of what that's about. I don't need them to understand. Not any more.

So, we talked on for twenty minutes or so and I went back to sleep feeling wanted, feeling loved, feeling a part of.

It's a peaceful kind of feeling. I don't think I had that word for it.. before.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Weekend: Shadows of a Tesseract

Well, I've been blog-surfing again.

Quick! Someone take my mouse!

Seriously though, there seems to be a thread running through a lot of the things I've been reading over the past few days. It is "how do I get to be me in a culture that discourages just that, by forcing me to feign happiness all the time?"

That's my paraphrase, of course, but it is a really valid question. Most people carry more secrets than the CIA/KGB/FSB/MI5 (pick your intelligence service of choice).

Whether it is moms who feel they can't get beyond mom conversation with each other or people in workplaces who can't say how they really feel or believe for fear of repercussions, whether it's on our blogs or in our families, even among friends, it's a common thread.

The overriding feeling is that we don't have much opportunity to express our deeper thoughts, our concerns or our beliefs, to share them with others and get authentic feedback. We can't talk about current events because we might offend someone. We can't compliment each other because it might be misunderstood. In schools, kids are not allowed to excel because the one who doesn't excel might feel bad. We censor ourselves all the time.

When I was in the workplace especially, I found a tyranny of political correctness which I understand has gotten even worse over the past few years. We were basically told what we are allowed to discuss and what we are not allowed to discuss.

Something that started as a potentially good thing (none of us want to hear the "n" word or sexually explicit talk outside of a strip club), has become an albatross that has effectively silenced all of us.

Some of you who came by last night might have found that I had some negative comments from a person who believes that my appreciation for and love of Thailand equates to my supporting child rape. I deleted the comments after having been accused of being a .. well... someone not very nice, a person who would do things with children. No further extrapolation needed.

This is the kind of absurdity that's brought about by political correctness. The only way to express disagreement or dissent is to become so outrageous that it goes into the realm of the absurd. For the record, I don't just blame western culture for this. Thailand, as an example, would have to be included in the indictment.

There is no middle ground for disagreement. It is either full-frontal attack or silence.

This is pathetically unfortunate. And it's unhealthy.

I believe we should be able to express our ideas, share thoughts, balance our opinions and reasoning with the reasoning of others. It is how we learn. It is how we grow. Instead, we become insular. We don't speak our truth.

Expressing our truth doesn't have to mean conflict with others. It doesn't have to be a competition and I don't have to be wrong for you to be right. We can both be right. Outside of the obvious absolutes, the sun will rise and it will set, there is a wide continuum of belief. The more we get away from judgment, the more we realize that we are ultimately all in this together, with our varying ideas and thoughts and beliefs.

Instead, we don't feel safe with each other.

And that is such a loss. Through the ages, wisdom has been passed by word of mouth, one generation to the next, one person to the next. Even when we disagree, there is a kernel of learning going on. We are exposed to other ideas, other ways of life, other belief systems. It can only serve to enrich all of us.

What say you?


Thursday, July 19, 2007

A relaxation break....


Just another relaxation break. I don't have anything burning inside to write about so thought I'd offer some pretty pictures and an old poem. Hope everyone enjoys. :)


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Liturgy of the Hours

This week's question is about letting go. And I had to give it some thought.

My basic belief is that letting go is an organic process. Given that one statement, you probably won't even need to bother reading the rest of the post.


Western culture, the culture I grew up in, attaches a lot of "shoulds" and time frames on letting go of things in our lives. Time becomes an enemy that chews us up and spits us out. It is about productivity over process.

The eastern perspective is a bit different. It views time as a gift and seeks to put it to good use rather than our being used up by it. There is time for everything. Time for the things that matter to us. Time for growth, prayer, reflection. I read in a book one time, and this stuck with me, that "You never finish anything in life and while that's humbling and frustrating, it's alright."

When the world is viewed as impermanent, all circumstances as impermanent, it becomes both easier and harder to let go of things. When we know something truly isn't coming back, there is no revisiting, it's a temptation to hold on.

And that's okay, too.

When we are ready, when we've gleaned all we can from an experience, we let it go. When it no longer serves us, truly no longer serves us, it drops off like a leaf from a tree.

Think about it. I'll bet you'll see exactly what I mean.

The concept of impermanence came easily to me. I don't always like it. Sometimes I fight against it. But I do understand it.

I come from a background filled with abandonment. I was unable to depend on anything today that would still be here tomorrow. I learned to never trust anything I didn't control.

And I created abandonment over and over again because we do that. We humans do that. Until we resolve a situation, one way or another, we will unconsciously re-create it.

So.. how did abandonment serve me?

It served me by allowing me to live a carefree life with no responsibilities to anyone or anything. Things came in and things went out. I was like the stoic observer, watching the river flow. It allowed me to be unhealthily detached from everyone and everything.

No expectations, no disappointments.

After a while, that became my motto in life. No expectations, no disappointments.

And it worked. It really worked.

Then the hollowness crept in. The sense of disconnectedness crept in when I looked around and realized my life was completely empty. I had to start doing things differently.

It meant a willingness to not let go. Whew! That was a hard one.

There was no timetable on it. There was no ritualized process. It was nothing someone else could do for me. It required little external guidance. It required internal willingness.

I'd come to a point where that way of life no longer served me.

It seemed to take care of itself as I took the risks necessary to allow a little bit of attachment into my life. Balanced. Balanced with the understanding that everything is impermanent.

So we become a kind of portal for life experience. In all of nature, everything recycles, including people. Loss, grief, the cycle of life itself.

As we begin to flow with that, we let go. We let go of the belief that we can control how the river flows. Because, after all, we can't.

We can be thankful for our life experiences or we can be resentful. That's a choice, both of them equally valid for different reasons. We can cling and make ourselves miserable. Sometimes that is what we need to do.

And when it no longer serves us, we let it go.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Thai fashionista is at it again!


I spent a lot of time this morning ordering more clothes, getting ready for fall. This routine takes place twice a year or so when I place a large order for pants, skirts and tops.

My closet is filling up now and it's getting easier and easier each day to grab something and wear it without much thought. The pants above are a staple. I have them in every imaginable color. They're so comfortable that I can't resist them.

Tops are always harder. I have big.. um... well.. big b**bs. :) These clothes are made for smaller women so when I find something that works, I buy several at a time.

The blue one to the left specifically has become another staple. They're easy and comfortable so I buy several at a time in different colors.

Lately, I've been buying a lot more Hmong-influenced clothing. The bright colors and the embroidery appeal to me. I can feel the history and can imagine the individual artisans who make them. In fact, I saw plenty of it when I was actually there, buying these things from street vendors and small shops.

This look makes me happy and it never ceases to amaze me how many compliments I get. When I first decided to do this, I wasn't sure what kind of reaction I'd get. Would people just think I'd gone off the deep end, this very blond (out of the bottle, yes), heavyset, aging woman who dresses like the women we see in pictures of the Karen Hilltribe?

Strangely, the reaction has been very positive, including among the Thai population I know here. They seem to be flattered by my appreciation.

The truth is that when I wear these clothes, it isn't just because I like the fashion. When I see it, feel it and wear it, I feel history. Connection.

It seems as though I can smell the air and feel the humidity on my skin. I can imagine the women over the generations who made and wore these clothes.

When I was in Thailand, I saw very few people wearing these clothes, even in the Northeast which is where I feel most at home. They wore these kinds of things on special occasions. There were some older women who continued to wear it. For the most part, I saw lots of jeans and t-shirts, just like here. I thought it was unfortunate. It somehow detracts from the history and the culture. I was always enchanted when I saw someone wearing traditional clothes.

It made me want to sit and have tea with that person.

My spiritual teacher in Thailand, Ajahn S., always wears traditional clothes. He says it keeps him mindful and helps him remember his ancestors and the history that preceded him. He doesn't even own a pair of jeans. It is also a public statement of sorts. It is his way of maintaining his culture. When I went to visit him, I always wore traditional clothes, too, out of respect for him. I did it out of solidarity because I also value traditional Thai culture.

I rarely get an opportunity to wear my really traditional clothes and I miss it. It's beautiful and graceful. For now though, I'll be content with this everyday stuff.. my connection.. my statement.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Just some natural beauty.....


I don't have anything burning to talk about today. In fact, the entire day has been devoted to reconnecting with my true home which I miss with a thirst that is indescribable.

Here's some pretty pictures to look at. I'll be back tomorrow. :)


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Teach the children well.....

I was blog-surfing again this morning and came across a post that got me thinking. Sometimes I wonder if I'd have a blog at all if it wasn't for the posts of others causing me to think about things.

What do you think are the most important lessons you can teach a child?

This is how I framed the post, even though it was a bit broader in its focus.

This might come as a surprise to some, but I believe I would have actually been a very strict parent, probably stricter than necessary in some ways.

I'll just start typing and see what happens.

Core lessons:

1) Actions have consequences. There are very few actions one can take that will not produce a similar or larger reaction. Simple dialectics ~ and it applies to all arenas of life.

2) There are things far more important than our own desires and wants ~ and even our feelings. Don't share your misery with the world. Do not seek sympathy. Be dignified.

3) Community matters. Harmony within community matters. Be harmonious. As Kukrit Promaj said, "let your name be as perfume".

4) Respect ~ respect others, respect the spirit world, respect the environment and respect for the self.

5) Nothing is permanent. Learn to be flexible to the process of life itself. Don't cling.

6) Life, other people, nature, thoughts and ideas are here to be enjoyed. Enjoy it as fully as possible.

7) Travel matters. Travel, see different things, different places and get to know different types of people. Learn from others, all sorts of others. They all have something valuable to teach, even if it's simply an example of how not to be.

8) Footprints: The footprints we leave in the world matter. Go gently. Go with kindness. Do no harm.

9) Do your part.

10) Do not make room in your lives for toxic, grasping, greedy, abusive people. Their journey need not be your journey. As Maya Angelou wisely said, believe what people tell you about themselves. If they say "I am not kind", take their word for it.

11) Live simply. Do not buy things you don't truly need. Recycle. Buy used. It doesn't take very long for the servant to become the master and too much "stuff" is a burden.

.. and finally ...

12) Have a home... wherever you find it. Make this choice consciously.

Okay, parents. Rip it apart. :)

Did I forget anything?


Saturday, July 14, 2007

This isn't about immigration, and it certainly isn't about Thailand!

I wasn't planning to write anything today but this story caught my attention on the news last night and brought a few things to mind.

All of us are horrified when a child goes missing because the outcome is usually predictable. Children don't disappear off the face of the earth for nothing. In this case, on July 4, 12 year-old Zina Linnick went out to the alley behind her house to call her brothers and sisters in and was abducted by "an Asian-looking man" in a grey van.

You can read the rest of the story at the link above.

There are a few things that come to mind about the coverage of this story. A few things that are disturbing.

It didn't take long for the likes of Michelle Malkin and Bill O'Reilly to begin carrying on about illegal immigrants. The fact that the suspect, Terapon Adhahn, is from Thailand didn't take long to stir up the hornet's nest, mostly comments alluding to the fact that if he had been deported after having been convicted of a crime in 1990, Zina would not have been killed.

Doh! Ya think?

If all the systems had been working, Terapon Adhahn would have been deported and Zina would still be alive. The subtext is he would have been killing children in Thailand instead.

And that would have been better? Children in a third world country are somehow more disposable than children from a first world country?

I hope that isn't what they meant ~ and at the same time am very afraid it's exactly what they meant.

Here's my gripe:

This guy was charged with raping his half-sister in 1990. The charge was plea-bargained down to first degree incest.

That was the first problem. He raped that girl!

He spent no time in prison. He was sentenced to sex offender counseling and then released from supervision by a judge.

That was the second problem. Treatment without accountability is useless.

He failed to register as a sex offender. The system didn't catch that or follow up on him to find out where he was living and working.

That was the third problem. And the most impacting at the neighborhood level.

The system had another opportunity to do something about that guy in 1992 when Adhahn was arrested on a weapons violation.

It is the system that failed and all the dissembling by those who want to point the finger at illegal immigrants, people from Thailand or anyone's race can't cloud that fact. This case is about one horribly sick man who did a horrible thing and a system that failed to protect us.

I hope people keep this in mind as the case progresses. Terapon Adhahn, if he is found guilty, needs to be thrown in prison and the key should be melted. No plea bargains. This case is about him. Period.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Steal this Meme: Meeting New People

I blatantly stole this idea from QT and turned it into a meme. For some reason, the idea fascinated me, speculating what it would be like to meet new people, particularly people I "know" from this blog.

Here's me, in a nutshell.

1) I am a very quiet person. There are points where you might feel as though I am not interested in you because I am rather reserved. You'd be wrong. I am more of a listener than a talker. Just keep talking away because I am not bored. Not a bit. (Well, unless you are gossiping or trying to impress me with your status. Talk about yourself, though. I like it.)

2) I am not good at quipping and joking with people I don't know, so I generally don't participate. It's fine with me if others do it in my presence. I just don't join in much.

3) I don't drink.. but don't mind if you do. I don't smoke in public but don't mind if you do.

4) If there is too much ambient noise, I won't be able to hear you. I'm not hearing impaired. If anything, my hearing is too keen and can't distinguish external sounds from each other. It all blends together.

5) I prefer small, intimate conversations or round table topical discussions. One or the other. I am not good at chatting, just to chat.

6) I am not a hugger or a toucher. I do not shake hands.. but I have been known to hold a person's hand in both of mine for just a moment.

7) Groups of three don't work for me. Four, five or even six.. or just one other person is good.

8) I've been known to say I am going to the rest room, leave my card with the waiter and pay for the meal. It's not uncommon and I like it best when it is not mentioned. I paid. Period. It doesn't imply that you should pay next time. Score keeping irritates me. Don't tell me I shouldn't. It's my choice and my enjoyment. Just accept it, enjoy it and forget it.

9) I am soft-spoken and even-tempered. I am never loud or boisterous. I rarely swear unless I am very comfortable with you. If you hear a swear word come from my lips, you know you've won me over. And I will only do it if you have done it first.

10) People either seem to like me or find me unbearably boring. It all depends on what someone is looking for, I suppose.

It would be interesting to hear from you, too. What would it be like to meet you?

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. See you Sunday evening. :)


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hyper Gardening...

Anyone who's known me for any period of time knows an empty plot of dirt is subject to my shovel. I hyper-garden, meaning that my garden is anywhere and everywhere, with no particular rhyme or reason.

There was a little piece of land by the carport that's had my evil eye since 2001 when I moved here. It seemed the right thing never appeared, never seemed like the right thing to plant. A rose bush wouldn't really work there because of the street traffic. There would never be a rose on it. Someone walking by would pick all of them.

So I decided to plant a tree. It's still in shock now. I planted it yesterday. It is a crape myrtle with beautiful red blooms. It will provide shade, as well as a good property divider.

Right next to this house, which is a corner lot, is an apartment building. My back yard faces the building. The iron gate in the top picture is an entrance to the apartment building. I'm sorry to say the type of people living there are ... difficult. They're young people (not college students) who yell and play loud music on the weekends. I've had to call the police more than once. Enough said. I'm sure you get the picture. This is an older neighborhood.

The tree might also absorb some of the noise. I'm hopin'.

I've always believed that no matter how old the house might be, no matter how old the neighborhood might be, nothing will beautify it more than a garden.

When I first moved here, the owner had some rose bushes and trees. It was pretty... but since she gave her permission for me to go wild, I've done just that.

I'm trying to show some of how "gardened up" this place is without being stupid about it. At a certain point, I might as well put my address on the web and I don't want to do that! Love ya all but I really do hate unexpected visitors. :) In my worst paranoid fantasies, of course, I imagine the car driving by slowly, seeing me out in the yard. "Thai clothes, fat ass. That must be her." *boom* (I don't really think that way but, heck, it happens on TV all the time. :)

Anyway, blooms and flowers are pretty but I also try to use some of the yard for practical purposes. We have a lemon tree, a peach tree, an avocado tree, a plum tree and this year, I've given tomatoes a shot, too. So far, we've been able to get a dozen or so. This one is just ripening. It should be ready to pull off tomorrow.

I have ordered some bulbs from Thailand. It will be interesting to see if some of those will work in my yard.

Wish I could grow rambutan. That would be interesting and I love the fruit!

There is nothing that feels quite so good as seeing all of this stuff grow every day. As long as I am to remain here, it makes it feel a bit more like home.

We belong to no cult.
We are not
Nature Lovers.

We don't love nature any more than
we love breathing.

Nature is simply something
indispensable, like air
light and water, that we
accept as necessary to living,

and the nearer we can get to it
the happier we are.

- Louise Dickenson Rich


A Generous Heart....

So, this morning I was reading a book.

It was going along well. The author was discussing generosity and how, although it is voluntary, it's certainly a good practice, bringing spiritual merit.

He was quite emphatic on the topic actually. But something caught my eye that seemed inconsistent with his statement of giving without expecting in return. He made it a point to mention that he keeps receipts in case his giving is tax deductible.

I don't know much, but that sounds like commerce to me. Bartering. With whom? And with what? And why?

The author lost a bit of credibility with me at that point and his words seemed kind of hollow.

In all honesty, I believe we should give voluntarily without keeping records. My practice of giving is to do it anonymously with a money order or cash. If I give tangible items, I leave them at a donation station. Again, anonymously.

One time, many years ago, I got into a conversation about this with a co-worker. It was late at night and as we sat at the help desk, we would often chat about various things. My co-worker belonged to a church that requires 10% tithing. It is recorded by the church authorities and a statement is sent to each member so they can send it to the IRS.

I have no idea where my belief came from and I don't think it's something I was taught. It is not a requirement of my spiritual practice. My spiritual practice is rather anarchistic in the sense that there are very few behavioral rules. Generosity is expected and alms are expected but it is not stated specifically how it must be done.

Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity. (Buddha)

The spiritual practice is usually sufficient to modify the behavior. In order to be a kind person, giving is presupposed.

According to Christian theology, giving is to be done anonymously.

"When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (-Matthew 6:2-4)

I'd like to know what you think. Do you believe giving to charities and then taking a tax deduction is true giving?