Wednesday, October 31, 2007


For those who haven't heard, there was a 5.6 earthquake in Northern California last night.

Apparently, it was centered in Alum Rock, near San Jose, and didn't do any devastating damage. It caused things to tumble off shelves and pictures to fall off walls.

What captured my attention this morning is the news coverage.

At this moment, I have a local news station on. My intent in watching this station (one I rarely watch because I find their saccharine silliness and pervasive perkiness nearly unbearable) was to find out how widespread the impact would have been. I often don't feel earthquakes unless they are huge. It's just a result of my balance issues. Things are frequently a bit rocky for me.


The chipmunks at KCRA informed us that there was no significant damage in terms of property and that no one was injured.

Having set the stage and fulfilling all obligations to surface decency, then it was time for entertainment.

Nope. I'm not joking.

They are running a poll on their website. "Did you feel it?" The lead talking head asked it with a gleam in her eye and a smile that would have lit up a room. The little bounce in her step in Miss Nancy Romper Room style, let us all know that it was time for fun.

This was followed by Halloween stories.

It's times like this when I really miss Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. Tom Brokaw. Peter Jennings. Walter Cronkite.

I miss hearing news with at least some modicum of dignity.

Meanwhile, I hope all in the affected areas are doing well. No joke.

Monday, October 29, 2007



I am currently re-evaluating whether to participate in NoBloPoMo. I spent a few hours yesterday and this morning randomly rambling through the Randomiser. It seems to recycle the same twenty blogs or so.

At the risk of sounding alienating, which is not my intent, the content of those blogs simply didn't speak to me at all. It's the same old thing. I don't live a mainstream life dominated by household concerns. And unfortunately most people like me do not blog.

(Clarification: I am not meaning to imply that everyone should think like me or be like me. What I'm saying is that I'm finding very little diversity in terms of lifestyle or ideology. )

I couldn't bring myself to comment. It wasn't lack of desire. I'm big on commenting. When people write, they want to be heard. I get that. Totally. I feel the same way. I suspect most of us write because we want to connect with others. Otherwise, it becomes little more than m@sturbating in public.

At the same time, my fingers froze over the keyboard. What could I say? Moreover, what could I say that would be honest, authentic and legitimate? How can I say something that won't sound canned?

I can imagine they will have the same response to me. They'll want to say something. That's the spirit of this, after all. NaBloPoMo is all about making new connections.

Yet their fingers will freeze over their keyboards, too.

How do we relate to someone who lives such a radically different life that there is barely a string to connect us beyond the fact that we are both bipedal and presumably eat and eliminate? I'm really feeling defeated by this right now.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Restorative Justice....

Warning: This post is stuffed full of my personal political views. :)

I've been giving some thought to the death penalty lately and something in particular triggered it off this morning.

The United Methodist Church has created a form that gives a person the option of informing prosecutors posthumously that in the event we become a victim of homicide that we do not want them to seek the death penalty against the perpetrator.

I have signed one of those forms.

This is a bit closer to home for me than for some. In the early 90s, someone tried to kill me.

Yes, I was an intended homicide victim.

I don't want to go into all the details because they're not important. What matters is that I've felt the feelings. I know what it is like to want revenge. My life was torn in shreds by the experience. I had to leave in the middle of the night and drive all the way across the country. I lost everything I owned with the exception of the things I could carry in a green garbage bag. It took months before I stopped looking behind me.

That is because I knew the person would be back. The failed attempt was just that.. a failed attempt that would be put right at the earliest opportunity.

I've looked into the face of evil. It has a lasting effect.

I wanted to kill that person. If I am to be brutally honest, at one point it seemed like a viable option. I seriously considered homicide because I didn't see any other way out. The police couldn't protect me. I'm in the wrong social class for that. I couldn't afford to hire security staff. I was a sitting duck.

Does that experience give me the right to lobby legislators who craft public policy, based on my feelings alone?

I certainly hope not. A society where personal feelings of anger and vengeance determine the laws of the land would not be a place I'd want to live.

The US is one of the final holdouts of the industrialized nations in doing away with the death penalty.

The nation that so proudly declares itself a Christian nation still kills people to prove that killing people is wrong. I have studied the Bible and I can not imagine any way to spin Jesus as being pro-death penalty. Of course the precepts of my faith do not allow killing. There is simply no justification for it, beyond (perhaps) self-defense.

One of the arguments I frequently hear is that society needs to be protected.

Life Without Parole will do that.

What say you?

I may not post again until November 1 when NaBloPoMo begins. If everyone hasn't had their fill of me yet, they will get it then. :)


Clarification.... Accentuate the Positive


Can you tell I'm not very good at this sort of thing? :)

There have been a few questions about this and I will try to answer them in this quick post.

~ Any post from the previous month will work. You can send your own or send someone else's that you may have seen.

~ This site will be the hub but anyone with a personal blog is free to link on the first of each month as well.

~ In the future, feel free to send me a link to one of your posts or another you happen to see any time during the month. I will archive them. They will always be linked on the first of each month. This time it was a bit too crunched and that is because I am inexperienced and don't know what the hell I'm doing. :)

I hope that answers the basic questions. If anything isn't clear, leave a comment and I will answer them by 9PM PDT tonight.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Reminder: Accentuate the Positive...


Just a quick reminder: If you intend to participate in the "Accentuate the Positive" stream, please send your links to me by October 31 (Wednesday) and I will publish them November 1 (Thursday). Send them to thailandchaninospam at earthlink net. (Remove 'no spam') There's also a link on my sidebar.

The objective of this exercise is to write about something positive someone else did. It can be from the news, from something in your community, something you witnessed or heard about in your neighborhood.. Something you read about ...

Basically, anything you choose, as long as it is uplifting and reasonably wholesome. This is a family-friendly site.

I've listed this on Blog Carnival, too, so there may be some new people. Maybe not. So far, I have not received any links.

I'm looking forward to it. I know I certainly kvetch often enough in this space and it will be good to see something positive. :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The ties that bind...

After a few of the posts I wrote last week, I decided to spend some time researching social isolation and how many people experience it.

I came across this article in the Washington Post that did a lot of the research for me. It all sounded reasonable and logical. It's interesting to know that so many do experience it and it has nothing to do with social suitability. (I had assumed it had a lot to do with it.)

In my case, I am socially lazy. I have house mates so I am never really alone (even when I want to be). I have on-line contacts and all of them are substantial. (My interest in ones that don't have substance is too low to sustain them.) We do discuss things that matter in our lives. Sometimes I miss the person-to-person contact, either in each other's presence or on the phone. That is probably a matter of preference though rather than a result of actual isolation.

I also have my surrogate family in Thailand. I know they are there and we're all just waiting for me to get home.

In that regard, for someone who doesn't exert much effort to make friends, I have quite a few.

There are times when it's easy to forget that. And, as always, I think about those who really don't have much choice and can't simply "choose" to "go out" and "make friends" like it was some goal-driven activity like finding a car or a house.

I'm curious to know how accurate the article might be. It seems so to me.

What do you think? How many trusted others do you actually have in your life? According to the article, most people in the US only have two ~ which is down from twenty years ago. Are you satisfied?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Monitor That Ate Chani's Den....

Tired of always being a Luddite and never having the latest stuff, I finally bought a 22" flat panel monitor.

On a credit card. Shame on me!

I thought I'd love it. Really. I did! And I probably will with time.

This monitor is so big that I keep having fantasies about something out of a Stephen King novel where the main character begins to see snippets of people's lives through the screen. Like a holograph.

Soon, the monitors will have the ability to suck us in. We will be pulled from our chairs and transported to some alternate universe.

Maybe it will be a Gardenofedenesque place with beautiful foliage, sweet and gentle animals and perennial sunshine. Food is plentiful and all the men are handsome and the women are beautiful.

But... it might be one of those horrible places where people are turned into zombies ~ you know, like a cheesy B movie from the 60s!

Funny thing is that when I think of absolutely terror, ugly men with chainsaws are not the first thing to come to mind. Instead, it is zombies... those mindless creatures who exist on instinct and programming. All of their thoughts and actions coming from some central database.

Sound like anything familiar?

So... what is on the other side of your screen?
Think about it! :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Strange food....

I was always a very finicky eater. That is probably why at one point in my life, I was 5'3" and weighed 96 pounds.

Needless to say, that is not the case anymore. And I can't blame it all on metabolism, having gone through "The Change" (Jaws music cue) or getting older. Most of it is because I've eaten crappy food. I like all that greasy, gooey, fatty, breaded, sweet food. There was a time when I couldn't pass a KFC without my car automatically navigating the drive-through. Original recipe. Don't forget the mashed potatoes and cole slaw.

And a big Coke.

So, as much as it may seem at times that I am not what anyone would call a flag-waving pro-American, the truth is that I love American food!

Cheeseburgers, French fries, milk shakes, steak, baked potatoes (with chives and sour cream), fried chicken, ambrosia, BBQ ribs ~ all of it. Every bit of it. I love it!

Well, the truth is that I have had to give up my beloved American food. The weight simply isn't coming off so I made the decision to go back to a Thai diet ~ meaning the stuff I ate when I was in Northern Thailand. The only fat people I ever saw there were farangs (foreigners) and Thai people who spent too much time and money at McDonald's and KFC. When I was there, I lost quite a bit of weight which I've regained here. And the fat cells brought all their friends and relatives.

Real Thai food is not the stuff you find at the local Ting Tong Thai Restaurant!

It's hard getting the "unusual" food here but if I go to South Sacramento, there are quite a few Asian markets. It's not impossible. More time consuming than anything and not too pleasant for my housemates. No matter how you slice it, fish sauce is repulsive. It absolutely stinks!

When I was there, I ate grasshoppers, locusts, and beetles. I ate catfish and very small mud crabs that were caught locally and grilled over an open fire. These crabs were not shelled or gutted. We also ate small lizards, ants and other things I never identified. I once found a tadpole in my papaya salad but one of the strangest things I ever tried was larb [pork mince with garlic,coriander and heaps of chilis]. It was actually quite good but many people ate it raw. Needless to say if I'd tried that, I would have been in the restroom for two days!

Mostly, I stick to rice and fruit, rice and a little bit of meat, rice and [insert whatever happens to be in the fridge].

I'm losing weight.

This got me to thinking though. In your various travels, what is some of the weirdest food you've ever eaten?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

No contest.....

There is one place where I believe competition is useful. Voluntary sports.

There is simply no other venue where it seems to add anything. In fact, it seems destructive.

I become hyper-aware of its presence in so many things. And there are very few others aside from a few obscure authors like Alfie Kohn and, to a degree, Jonathan Kozol who has touched on the topic without actual indictment. He sort of mugwumped on the issue.

Alfie Kohn says this though: Competition can be defined as "mutu­ally exclusive goal attainment": my success requires your failure; our fates are negatively linked. Put differently, two or more individuals are trying to achieve a goal that cannot be attained by both or all of them. The all too ­familiar pressure to be number one grows out of this arrangement. We have become accustomed to living with it and quick to defend it. We have been trained, in effect, not only to compete, but to believe there is value in doing so.

He goes on to say that success and competition are not necessarily interlinked. There are plenty of things I can succeed at that have nothing to do with taking anything away from you. I can write a book, knit a scarf, grow a garden, run, swim and any assortment of things that never require even a passing glance at what you are doing.

I believe we can engage in cooperate activities that benefit all of us. Blogging is a good example of that. We share information with one another, support one another, teach each other and entertain each other. It can be done without competition.

I believe that or I wouldn't be here.

There are times when it seems that competition winds its ugly web through this, too. All of us know the ways it does that so I won't bother reiterating them. It's just an example anyway. I'm not ready to level that indictment yet... although I've seriously considered it.

My primary point is that I believe competition leads to stress, disrupts families, ruins friendships and turns nearly every human experience into an exercise in trophy-gathering instead of something joyful or unifying.

This is a topic that has fascinated me since I was a kid. In fact, it is the topic that led me to choose Sociology as a major in college. I wanted to eventually show through academic study that we can live cooperatively rather than seeing each other as opponents for resources that are certainly plentiful. There is no scarcity in this world and we don't need to fight for a bigger piece of the pie than anyone else. We don't need have power over others to validate ourselves. In fact, I believe it is community that validates us most.

Your thoughts?


Friday, October 19, 2007

Weekend: Alone

I want to thank all of you for your very kind comments about AG. There are so many things I could say about that, how it came to be, how it continues to be a risk.

In short (yes, short), my eccentricity is both my salvation and my damnation. It would be impossible for me to become the mainstream person that would be required to have the kind of social network that would leave me invulnerable to the AGs of the world. I live a very odd life. I am unmarried, eccentric, disconnected from family and people like me fall through the cracks all the time. Often, we are the ones who are found dead in an apartment or house, having been dead for days because building a network of people is so difficult.. when we are so different.
To a large degree, I have accepted that my life will be this way until I finally get to Thailand where I do have an existing social network.

There are times.. not all the time, not every day... that I just get lonely for human contact. I want to hear the phone ring. I want to be invited somewhere, even if I can't go. I want to be included in the lives of other people. I want to feel alive and connected.

That's the cold, hard truth of the matter.

AG came into my life through a yahoogroup. We began corresponding offlist and soon we were talking on the phone. It became a weekly event and I think we both looked forward to it. I let my guard down and that is when the trouble began. AG began withholding attention to get her own way... or perhaps even just to feel like she had some power over me. I was vulnerable enough that it began feeling icky and abusive. She did many things that are not worth discussing in detail here but I came to realize that I had connected up with an abuser. The red flags were all there.

I chose to ignore them. To a degree, I created my own pain.

At the same time, something else occurs to me.

I have some choices. I have options. Granted, I am a hermit and rarely like to go out. I don't do very well in public and I am so socially phobic that it is disabling. To a degree.

I am not in a wheelchair. I am not paralyzed. I am not physically or mentally unable to get out. Any degree of agoraphobia I live with is certainly manageable. In other words, I do have some choices, even with my limitations.

What about those who don't have choices? What about those who have to put up with the AGs of the world because there is no one else to call on?

That is just plain wrong! Social needs are just as real as physical needs. We need to feel as though there are people who care. We all need to have the phone ring occasionally, just a human voice on the other end to say "how are you doing?"

Lack of that causes all kinds of problems that I don't need to document here.

I am a firm believer that all life lessons give us an opportunity to create something good out of the bad.

In light of that, I have started a group that is entirely designed to create a phone tree for disabled people, for shut-ins, for people who are far too vulnerable to predators who will take advantage of them. Really, all it will do is create a social network via phone for people who can't get out.

Until this happened, I actually thought I was the only one. And I thought I must just be such a detestable person that no one wanted to be around me, to include me, to be a part of my life or allow me to be a part of theirs. Part of me finally shut down and I gave up. (Until I went to Thailand where it was all so seamless that I truly began to enjoy my friends and social network.)

I put this out here because I'm sure some of you know someone. A neighbor. A co-worker. I am stepping out of the shame long enough (because there is shame attached to being alone) to encourage anyone reading here to take that into account, especially with people who don't have the options I do.

A civilized, kind society should never leave anyone so desperately alone that an AG can come into their lives and the person has no choice but to accept it. I am very thankful for my ability to choose to put this out of my life.

Last year, I presented a challenge to everyone reading here to invite someone into their lives, to include someone who may not be included elsewhere, for the holidays. This is an extension of that... or perhaps a reiteration.

One of the things I know is that I am valued here. Your comments and encouragement prove that to me every day. Yet I am in the situation in my physical life. I am a nice person. So are many, many others.

We may not be able to stop all the ills of the world. We might not be able to stop the Iraq war. We may not be able to end homelessness in the near future. This, we can do. Each of us. Every one of us has the power to change this... for someone.

Think about it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sparring with Loss...

For the past three weeks, I have been involved in a rather sick dance with a very toxic person.

This person is so toxic that she was able to pick up on all of my vulnerabilities quickly - like a hound smells blood - and began sniffing around all the weaknesses in me, creating her own sick hunt.

It was a hunt and seek that is all too familiar to me.

I don't cope with loss well. That is probably a product of my background which never permitted me the security of consistency. What exists today ~ there is no guarantee that it will be there tomorrow. I am trained in a sick way to expect it now.

And over and over again, I draw people who feed into this very thing. It's as though they know I am an easy mark.

I admit that my getting to know her (I'll call her AG) was initiated by her and I liked the attention. It felt good to have the phone ring. It felt good to feel like a part of the whirl of the living. It felt good to know that I am not invisible after all, that someone notices and someone actually responds. That means that I ignored a lot of the red flags and permitted myself to get completely lost in the tilt-a-wheel ride. The ups and downs, the sick and twisted need to prove to myself and others that someone would.... stay.... that I didn't have to fight for it. That it was voluntary.. not because of the claws I can dig in when I feel something slipping away. All I had to do is acquiesce... to put aside what I know is right and good and tolerate what I know is wrong and harmful.

AG knew exactly how to keep me on my toes with the push/pull, the manipulation, the rejection and then the pursuit, the keywords she'd sprinkle throughout our conversations with more deliberation than Al Qaeda on a recruitment mission.

I have had to put this person out of my life. For the sake of my own well-being, I have had to cut the strings. In fact, I visualized it that way... and there was a web around us, like silly string, linking us in our sick routine.

And yet I still feel the loss. I feel the loss because that sick dance is something I've done all my life, even when I know how dangerous it is. (The last person I did this with.. to this extent.. ultimately tried to take my life.) I've done it because sometimes something is better than the void.. it's better than nothing. I feel battered and bruised ~ abused ~ which I in fact was. For the past three weeks, I have been rather relentlessly emotionally abused.. and I allowed it. When it comes to the social world, I am a complete and utter failure. I live in a world of ideas and concepts, abstracts and visions. If there is some sick, exploitative person around, they find me and gravitate to me like white finds rice.

It's these things, you know... these secrets we carry.. and somehow always end up letting those down, those who think we have all the answers.. even some of them. I have none. I have no answers.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Five Precepts....

I was asked a while back to discuss the Five Precepts here. This is a very brief rundown of what they are. The fact is that interpretation of these precepts is so complex that I'm not sure I can blog it without having this post become so long that it would exceed the space allotted in this template. It keeps teachers and monks busy for a lifetime.

Discussion is welcome, of course, and I'll do my best to answer any questions. :)


1) I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.

2) I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.

3) I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.

4) I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.

5) I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.

The First Precept:

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

The Second Precept:

Aware of suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing and oppression, I am committed to cultivating loving kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants and minerals. I will practice generosity by sharing my time, energy and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

The Third Precept:

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.

The Fourth Precept:

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope. I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticise or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

The Fifth Precept:

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking and consuming. I will ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being and joy in my body, in my consciousness and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger and confusion in myself and in society by practising a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Use of language as tacit approval.....

This past weekend, I had an interesting conversation with a phone acquaintance. We got to talking about how we all have many beliefs, most of them good and caring, most of them show the innate goodness in all of us.

We all care. I don't doubt this. In all my years of life, I can't say I've ever met anyone who just doesn't care.

We care about the environment. We care about poverty. We care about homelessness. We care about the exploitation of third world countries. We care about health care. All of these things matter.

Some of us are in the trenches, doing what we can. Some of us are what used to be called limousine liberals.

My position on this is that the language we use and the beliefs we support with the things we say is just as much an issue of Right Speech as anything else. What we say matters as much as what we do because certain ways of speaking perpetuate and contribute to the mindset that allows all of these conditions to continue.

One of the examples I cited during our conversation was a simple phrase. "Rule of thumb". How many times do people say this in a week?

The origin of that phrase is from an old law that specifies that a man can beat his wife as long as he uses nothing thicker than his thumb.

Is that the kind of thing anyone wants to be supporting?

A lot of slang feeds into the mindset of scarcity, competition, power-over and consumerism. By using that kind of language, we are creating a oneness with those who support those things. It is group speak and it supports a certain set of values.

I would suggest (for all of us) paying attention for just one day to the values and concepts we support with our tongues.

Think about it. Really.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Toi1let humor....

Somehow, I never thought I would denigrate to toilet hum0r in this space but since the past few days have been spent reading these funny stories on one of my mailing lists, I couldn't resist continuing it here.

The discussion has revolved around individual funny stories about being stuck somewhere and not having a convenient place to relieve oneself.

These women have been telling rip-roaring stories an in an uncharacteristic move on my part, I joined in.

A friend of mine from many years ago had never been out in the "wilds" of anywhere, since she was born and raised in Memphis. One time we went driving and ended up at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. It was not during tourist season and we hadn't passed a car on the paved road, much less those last miles on the dirt road. At that point, I wasn't going to make it to the information center at the canyon, so I pulled over the car, pulled down my pants and prepared to squat by the side of the road.

Horrified and with wide eyes, she said, "you're going to shine your hiney?"

I laughed so hard I almost fell over. Since that time she's learned to shine her hiney as well.

I have many more of these stories, particularly from my long walks in Thailand.

So tell me your funny story. :)

Now let's see if Google Reader updates this before I am eligible for senior citizen discounts.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Glenn Beck.....

Do any of you listen to Glenn Beck on CNN?

I don't agree with his politics and often disagree with him on other significant issues but he is the one commentator who can literally make me laugh out loud ~ multiple times during a single show. There's something about his authenticity that also appeals, even though I'm quite aware that he's basically a propagandist, just like most of them.

Last night, he interviewed Pastor John Hagee who wants to warn all of us that we are living in the End Times.

With all respect, I believe End Times theology is a real crock but admit to a morbid fascination with it at the same time. I've been reading End Times books since Hal Lindsey wrote "The Late Great Planet Earth" in the 70s.

I also read the "Left Behind" series of books.

It's science fiction.

Anyway, Pastor Hagee cited the following as evidence that we are living in the (Jaws music cued here) Final Days.

1) The knowledge explosion (loosely defined as instantaneous access to information, 24 hour news channels and such)

2) Rebirth of Israel

3) Matt 24:3 - When the fig tree blooms out of season (referring, I believe, to global warming although Hagee dismissed the legitimacy of it)

4) Birth of nuclear weaponry

5) Universal deception (loosely again... political correctness, moral relativism and such)

6) Famines

7) Pestilence (he cited bird flu)

8) Earthquakes

9) International television (this is the means by which the Antichrist will appear within an hour)

10) Skepticism

Personally, I believe the majority of these indicators could be differently framed in any generation. If I recall correctly, nearly every generation has claimed to be in the final days.

What do you think?

Are we in the (Jaws music again) Final Days?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Weekend: Mercury in retrograde...

According to astrologers, communication becomes very difficult when Mercury is retrograde. Miscommunications, lack of understanding, misunderstandings all run rampant during this time.

I don't recall the dates involved offhand but I heard a report somewhere that we are dealing with that now.

And I can attest to it. Just yesterday it seems to have started in earnest. Even with something as simple as this blog. Google Reader didn't update my feed for six hours. And that's just a minor inconvenience. The few conversations I did have (not related to here) felt like an exercise in pounding rock.

Last night I had a conversation with someone and realized "she really doesn't get it" and gave up. By the time I was done trying to get someone to get something that they simply don't get, I had a headache and felt completely wiped out. Unfortunately, I lose my temper. That's my weakness. My temper.

I didn't even get up until 8.30 this morning!

I am finding it very hard to communicate with others right now. Not that I have any trouble talking (God knows!) but being understood. It's times like this when it seems like a rather useless exercise to make my thoughts known, understood, received and heard. I think not being heard is the worst thing.

Maybe Mercury in retrograde is a good time for all of us to take a break, to stop trying to be understood.. but just a time to go into ourselves a bit more, listen to the silence and perhaps come out a bit refreshed. All of these things happen for a reason and there is an ebb and flow in nature that provides all of the things we need, even when we don't recognize it.

Needless to say, I have no intention right now to attempt any meaningful communication. I think I'll finish the book I'm reading, drink lots of tea, eat plenty of grapes and generally hide out until it gets better.

No sense in trying to swim upstream. It's too tiring and I'm not a salmon.

So tell me about you. What do you do when communication seems most difficult? I promise I'll try to get it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

And the rest of the answers......

"A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place,
but a seed to be planted and to bear more seeds toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea."

~ Henry David Thoreau

2) We know that you spent time in Thailand before. Why did you have to come back at all, rather than just remaining where you felt you most belonged?

Poor planning mainly. If I'd thought ahead (which isn't one of my innate traits :), I would have started looking for a job teaching English before my visa ran out.

There was so much to do and so much healing that took place there. Each day was like a bright spot, even the hard ones, as I was so readily accepted and embraced by the community. It was difficult to see beyond that and deal with the practicalities. I ran out of money and my visa expired.

I now have an entry visa that is good for one year. It doesn't go into effect until my arrival date. As soon as I'm there, I will begin my application for a retirement visa which is a fairly lengthy process.

3) Sometimes you get some really oddly angry comments, which are completely baffling to me. Why on earth do you think people would respond to you this way?

Actually, those comments are really rare and are usually anonymous.

A large part of it is because I am an outspoken cultural dissident. I speak out about the things I see as troubling and some people get defensive. It's a difficult balance to reach sometimes... knowing when to speak out and when to simply accept the differences without criticizing them.

It's natural for people to want to defend the things that are important to them. One thing they don't understand though is that I am all about dialogue. No topic is off-limits and I listen with an open mind to anyone's thoughts. The angry, mean-natured comments are unnecessary when dialogue would be so much better.

4) What do you think of the concept of "soul mate"?

I don't believe there is any such thing. It's kind of a romantic notion that doesn't make any sense to me. On the other hand, I do believe we cycle through lifetimes with the same people until we resolve our karma with them. I suppose that could loosely be called a "soulmate" without the romantic implications. It depends on definition but I definitely do not believe there is "one person for everyone". No one could ever convince me of that.

5) What is one modern invention (that usually is considered a positive thing) that you think the world would be better without?

iPods. I do not own one but I get really weary of seeing people isolate themselves in little bubbles that shut out the rest of the world. This may be a generational thing but I find it rude. The days of casual conversations with strangers on the park bench seem to be a thing of the past. There is a wall of technology dividing us even further when this is such an important time to be coming together.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Crackling thunder....

(If you want to see what's going on with the "Accentuating the Positive" carnival, please read the previous post. )


This morning, I received some interview questions from Emily at Wheels on the Bus. I know a lot of you might be getting weary of the interview questions, but please do read. Emily asked me some challenging questions. Given her consistent honesty about her background, I've decided to follow her lead.

This is the first of five questions.

1) I know you are far from family. Please tell us about one family member you do not often write about. Share a story or your feelings about your relationship with this person.

Wow. Well, it is a bit more than "far" from family. For all intents and purposes, I do not have a family.

Before I talk about the relationship I've chosen, I need to put this into context. Otherwise, it will leave people thinking "big deal" without realizing what a big deal it was for me.

My family of origin was possibly the chilliest, coldest collection of people you can imagine. As I've mentioned before, I was raised in a particularly affluent neighborhood and the entire focus was always on materialism and competition. There were no cozy nights around the fire. There were no "warm fuzzies" to be remembered. There were no pet names or hugs and snuggles. There were no bedtime stories. There were no birthday parties or sleepovers. No stuffed animals or hot chocolate on a cold night. There was no time for emotions or warmth. I jokingly talk about having grown up in an emotional refrigerator.

It wasn't really a joke.

My brother and I were accessories, kind of like the electronic gadgets in the entertainment center or the silk plants in the cabana in the back yard. We were part of a picture that was created for the outside world.

There was very little physical contact, positive or negative. We were not hugged or snuggled. My brother and I were to be seen and not heard which was an axiom rather commonly repeated to children when I was one. I don't think I am exaggerating to say that my brother and I were entirely emotionally abandoned and neglected.

This kind of thing leaves scars, no matter how much we might like to deny or diminish the impact. I still live with many of those scars. As adults, we try to minimize it so that we won't be perceived as just one more dysfunctional Beverly Hills dilettante who believes her life was horrible, horrible.. even in the face of all the opulence. No one would hear anyway, let alone believe any of us. Christina Crawford might be believed because that was physical abuse. People like me, no. We would just be perceived as spoiled brats, whining about not getting what we want. So I hid my background like a dirty little secret, even if I had to make up stories to conceal it. The stories kept me warm and made me believe that maybe I could even be "normal" one day.

It is as one writer put it, "My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? When the lightning strikes shadows on the bedroom wall and the rain taps at the window with its long fingernails? No. When fear and cold make a statue of you in your bed, don't expect hard-boned and fleshless truth to come running to your aid. What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie." (The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield)

And make up stories I did! I never told anyone where I grew up. The question was answered with a terse "Los Angeles" and I never discussed childhood memories. There were none worth relaying. I pretended to understand things I didn't understand. I played at sentiment like a child plays with a little animal. I pretended to understand. The "Oh I understand and isn't that nice" smile worked.. as long as you didn't look into my empty eyes.

It was exhausting, to say the least. Living a lie is exhausting.

It is only within the past several years that I have begun to tell the truth. That came with what I refer to as my "shattering" in Tucson. My personality literally shattered into a million tiny pieces and I had to rebuild. I spent hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars on soul retrievals, shamanic journeys, New Age classes and meditation, trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I even tried a mainstream therapist. I ultimately had to accept that telling the truth was the only way out. The authenticity doesn't bring comfort but it brings me something more important. It puts the scarred, damaged person I am into proper context. At the end of the day, it is more satisfying to be known for who I truly am; flaws, damage and all. I don't have to pretend anymore.

"I love you" is not something that was ever said in my family. Ever. I never heard it as a child or as an adult from any member of my family, aside from the person I am going to talk about.

My aunt M. lived in Tucson but I didn't really give it much thought. I'd definitely stop by to see her but my expectations, to say the least, were low. I figured she'd feed me and send me on my way.

Aunt M. was probably the other family misfit if one had to classify her. She was small, tomboyish, loved yard sales and horses, had three big dogs in a house that was less than 600 square feet. She loved books and dogs and cooking. Oh, that woman could cook! She smoked like a haystack and was an alcoholic. Looking back now, I suspect she was a closeted lesbian. In her day, "coming out" wasn't an option.

My visit with her turned into a year-long relationship during which I took her for eye surgery, made sure she got where she needed to go as her eyesight began to decline even further. (I had no idea at that time that I would ultimately deal with the same eye disease.) I rented a small house near her so that I could walk over to see her often. We visited at least once a day. Sometimes just a check-in. We exchanged books. We baked bread together. We went to thrift stores. We played with the dogs.

But that first night.. the night I arrived.. is what stands out in my mind. She did feed me. She fed me pork chops, a baked potato, green beans, fresh garlic bread and milk.

It was delicious! We talked. And talked. About many topics.

She insisted that I stay with her rather than going to a motel. Although her place was small, she wouldn't accept any answer but "yes".

At the end of the day and a long, full visit, she said, "I hope you're comfortable. Don't let the dogs bother you. Please don't smoke in bed." She pinched my cheek and said, "I love you" before going off to bed.

I slept that night on her couch, cuddling with one of the dogs.

It was very significant for me. Aunt M. died in 1996 of cancer. She was diagnosed and died a few months after.

I think of 1996 as the year my mother died.

I was 44 years old and it was the first real "mothering" I'd ever experienced. Needless to say, I am very grateful for having an Aunt M. in my life, however brief it might have been. I think of those who didn't have even that.


Accentuating the Positive....

Okay. Just a few words about what occurred yesterday and then I have something to tell you about that will hopefully be encouraging and positive.

From now on, I make a commitment here. I will not use any comment for post fodder without permission from the commenter.

Claudia and I discussed a lot of this privately and everything is fine. I was mindless about the possible consequences and issued a private apology to her which she accepted.

In the process of all of this, Snoskred left a comment about more emphasis on positive news. I liked the idea and wrote her a note offlist, asking her if she might consider sponsoring a monthly blog carnival which would be dedicated to writing one post a month talking about some good news ~ internationally, nationally, in your community or even just something you heard about that someone did that brought some good feelings to you. As it happens, she can not do it right now but gave me permission to do it. The primary objective is to offset a lot of the negative stuff we have to deal with and hear in our everyday lives, especially when it comes to the news. There are no political or spiritual limitations on this. I don't care about anyone's politics or religion. I will link all posts; conservative, liberal or any religious persuasion, culture or lifestyle.

This is not for some merit you did though .. but something someone else did. All that would happen is that you send me a link to your post or someone else's and I will gather them here. I'm thinking the first of each month would be good but that's negotiable.

This is all negotiable and I'd like to hear from you about how you would like to see it happen ~ or if you would not like to see it happen.

So let me know your thoughts. Is this something you would find pleasant? Is it something you would like to participate in? I will respond to questions or concerns in the comments forum.

Let it rip! :)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Where concern ends and begins....

(Just for the record: My purpose in discussing this idea and bouncing it off a comment received was not for the purpose of focusing a negative light on any individual. It is a common sentiment, expressed in many places, and I decided to run with it.

It is this kind of personality stuff that makes me think about hanging up the shingle for good. I deal in *ideas* ~ not *personalities*. Perhaps that is why, if you've noticed, I don't discuss political candidates, public figures or individuals who blog. I don't do it. Period.

At any rate, my apologies go out to Claudia and anyone else who may have been inadvertently hurt by it. )

This morning, I got a comment to yesterday's post that got me thinking. (I love when that happens! :)

The comment was My question is: why is something that has absolutely nothing to do with you so interesting?

I think I can only answer this as someone who used to write opinion columns for a newspaper.

The majority of the things I wrote about had nothing to do with me personally.

My answer to that question would be this:

We live in a community.

When an event such as Columbine (mentioned in the comment), Virginia Tech, the bombing in Bangkok, 9/11 or any other such event occurs, it ripples through the entire community. We are all involved whether we like it or not. We are all involved when anyone in our community suffers. It's symbiotic.

Maybe I didn't know anyone personally who died in the Twin Towers but does that make the event any less relevant?

Maybe I don't know anyone personally who is involved with the Iraq war. Does that make my pain any less relevant?

One of my arguments with major media is its tendency to personalize everything ~ to use the Aristotilean "appeal to misery" as a way to get people to care about social issues.

It could be you!

You are probably only two paychecks away from homelessness, too!

What if it was your child?

Instilling fear.... as though it should only matter if it affects our individual self-interest.

I say it doesn't matter if it is me. It affects someone. I say it doesn't matter that I am not personally two paychecks away from homelessness. Someone is. I don't care if it's my child. I don't have children. But someone does.

It's someone's child.

And I am you.. and you are me. When you are suffering, I suffer.

That's my answer... to why I care and why I am interested.

Monday, October 08, 2007

What's causing the rage?

This morning I sat with a cup of tea and watched CNN for a while.

A man in Wisconsin, a 20-year-old Sheriff's deputy, apparently went over to his former girlfriend's house and blew away 6 people.

This kind of thing seems inexplicable.

And it's also increasing in frequency. According to various reports, violent crime has increased all over the world.

Most of us have probably felt rage. I can't imagine anyone living in this world and not feeling it on occasion. I have a temper and it is something I continually work on, knowing the reasons so that I can avoid being triggered and learning more effective ways to deal with anger. These days when I get that angry, I take a walk. A long walk. A fast walk. The physical activity clears my head.

The only real "rage" I can recall was probably 20 years ago or more. It was red hot and firey. I couldn't see color. I thought my head would explode.

But then it was over. It came and went in a matter of seconds. I can only recall one event where homicide seemed like a viable option and that wasn't based on rage. It was based on fear. It's a long and ugly story and not one intended for blogs. Suffice it to say I was being stalked and the person staling me was psychotic. There didn't seem to be another way out. Yet obviously there was an alternative .. and I took it. I left the situation and moved 2000 miles away.

It's curious to me where the line gets crossed, when someone no longer sees any other solution to a problem than to kill.

I have my theories as to why there is more rage now than in times past. One day I will write about that.

I'd be curious to hear yours though. Why do you think there is so much rage now?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Feverish dreams....

I woke up early this morning and ended up back in bed. Sometimes this is the best time for working through "old stuff", old ghosts that rattle around in my closet, trying to get my attention for resolution.

Just a short hour ago, I was engaged in a rather feverish, violent dream in which a major "hook" (shenpa) for me was working itself out.

Oh, to have liberation from that hook! My life would exceed any possible wishes I could have for quality!

And, oh, what a hook it's been... one that has had its claws deeply embedded in me, digging deeper and deeper, for over forty years. It's ruled me more than I've realized in my day to day life, yet clearly and painfully in my more lucid times.

In these dreams, which seem almost like a contact with the group consciousness, that place where we see our life lessons and our karma so clearly, I am often the observer. This time, I was a participant. I acted it out from truly within me ~ not watching from a distance.

It was hard.. and my heart pounded like the proverbial drum, scaring me near to death in the ferocity. And it was verbally violent.

For some reason, I've always had the need to please those who have no interest in being pleased by me. I've had a need to fit in where I am not welcome. Yet I've lived for the table scraps of these people who may toss some my way on occasion. I've allowed them to create my self-image... always the image as "not good enough". If I was good enough, they would want me, they would have an interest in me, they wouldn't leave me, they would want to nurture and be a part of my life.

And, indeed, there are plenty who do! They are just not the ones to whom I've given my best energy. They are not the ones who have gotten the best parts of me while I cast my pearls before those who might turn around for a momentary glance before they turn their backs and move on.

What a waste!

It's as though I've continually tried to play that scenario out, over and over again, in the venues where I always lost the most.

I have never been one of those who is "socially desirable". I will never be one of those people who is included in all the latest scoop, or the "in group" of any arena. I'm not one of those who is invited to the gatherings or sent cards or any of that stuff. It's just not how my life has gone. Not this one, not those in my private life, not now, not ever. I am not on the phone trees of life.

For some unknown reason, I've been unwilling to accept that, that it is simply not my path. I am needed elsewhere.

The voice from deep within me where the wisdom lives screamed out to me in my dream, "Stop trying to water the orchids in the desert." Don't look for orchids in the desert is a common expression of mine, a bit of wisdom passed along by someone much wiser. It's a snippet I never forgot. It's not terribly profound but it impressed me in my youth as describing something otherwise indescribable... because this trying of mine, this need to find things where they do not exist, is an overriding pattern.

But "watering"? Wow. That was a new one. And it makes so much sense! We can continually water something ~ but if the soil is wrong and the plant is in the wrong place, it won't grow anyway, no matter how much we water it. We need to give our energy and time in the right place and to the right people!

Yes, I knew this before in a broad way.. in an intellectual way ... but the dream gave me enough access to my wiser self that I'm listening this time at a gut level.

So I'm letting my iron grip go. I'm pulling my claws out from those whom I may have done this with ~ here or elsewhere ~ trying to hang on to you, putting you in the uncomfortable position of not quite knowing what to do with me ~ I release you. I release me. I release me to give my energy to those who need it and want it. If we go in different directions, that is how it is meant to be. I'm through trying to control it. I'm done craving attention from those who don't offer it or give it willingly.

I'm ready to see how it shakes out. I'm ready to bring those into my life who want to be in it. The door is open. The coffee's on. The jasmine smells sweet. Come on in!

Things always happen.. as they should.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Flutter me by....

A week ago, I asked Flutter for some questions.. and she delivered. I now deliver my answers. :)

1) In 10 words, tell me, why Thailand?

Acceptance, beauty, community, warmth, compatibility, shared values, feeling of home.

2) It's dinner time, you have unlimited funds, unlimited time and a huge house. What do you make and who do you invite to eat with you? Why?

I think in this case I would invite all of my regular commenters. The reason being is that all of you are such an interesting collection of viewpoints, lifestyles, cultures and ages. There would be endless things to discuss and I would make sure we had a large round table where we would toss ideas around like a beach ball, one to another. Those who couldn't be physically present would be invited by teleconference.

The meal would be decided by all of you. The only thing I would ask is that it is a sober event. I would take a poll on my blog to determine the menu and provide everyone with transportation from their various locations.

And believe it or not, this is not a political answer. I seriously would like to do this.

3) You have 5 plants and 5 plants only to build the perfect garden, what are they and why?

Roses, wisteria, azaleas, crepe myrtle and lavender.

4) If there was one pivotal event that you could change in your life, what would it be and would you change it?

Well, gosh. That's a hard one. What would I change? Perhaps I would change my genetics. So I guess that means I would change the circumstances of my birth. I come from a long line of people with various types of mood disorders from dysthymia to bipolar. I would love to be free of that.

On the other hand, while my moodiness can be a problem, I can also create passionate writing. It is during those times when I am able to write something that will reach inside someone's chest, grab their heart and squeeze. I don't mean this in a sentimental way either because I'm not particularly sentimental. My objective is never to make people feel good for a moment before they move on. My objective is to wake people up. I want to communicate to others that there is a different way to live, a different way for us to exist in the world. I want to shed light on things that most people never truly understand if they haven't lived it. If I was of a consistent mood all the time, I wouldn't be able to do that.

5) Describe the perfect day.

Oddly, I don't believe there's any such thing as a perfect day. Fantasizing though, I guess I'd have to say that waking up to discover there has been a worldwide revolution, one that eliminates exploitation of human beings by other human beings and a worldwide commitment to relieving the causes of suffering would be a perfect day for all of us.

Thanks for the questions, Flutter. :)

Some of you might have noticed that this is being written at 3.00 a.m. There is a reason for that. It seems that my first cold of the season has come early. That means that I sleep intermittently throughout the day and night for three or four hours at a time... and am awake at weird times like this. Yesterday, I slept nearly all afternoon and evening, got up, left a few comments, drank some water and went back to bed until now. It will likely be this way through the weekend.

Please feel free to leave questions for me or for each other in the comments section. To the best of my knowledge, this sort of thing hasn't been tried before and it would be curious to see how it works. Just come back periodically to see if anyone has left a question for you.. and answer it (if you are so inclined, of course. Um. err.)

It's just an experiment. Just as before, it might work well.. or it might flop.

I hope everyone has a good weekend. :)

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Would you rather go to heaven or be reincarnated....

Thanks so much for all your responses yesterday. Truly... this, for me, is what blogging is all about. Culling wisdom. But then, you all know I feel that way about it.

On a somewhat easier note, how about a more general question? Do with it as you will. Talk as much or as little as you like. Theology is fine if it is part of your reasoning. Or don't give a reason. Just answer the question. :)

Would you rather be reincarnated or go to heaven? Why?

For me, I would rather go to heaven. I don't seem to be a good match for the material plane. It is all like some kind of baffling mystery that often leaves me feeling kind of hollow. I like the idea of being "done" and being able to move on to something else, perhaps another plane of existence with different lessons.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Okay. I've got a question.... :)

I wasn't planning to post and then it occurred to me that I have a question that would make an interesting table discussion.

Over the past week or so, I've been experiencing a low level irritability. It's not the virulent type that would turn Mother Teresa into a raving b**ch .... but it's definitely burbling under the surface and I'm aware of it.

Typically when I feel that way, I isolate until I get over it.

My isolation was interrupted yesterday by a phone call ~ and I ended up in an argument that probably wouldn't have occurred under other circumstances. Ordinarily, I would have blown it off and perhaps made a few colorful statements under my breath after I was removed from the situation. I might have even used that infamous word that starts with an eff.

My friend and I talked along for twenty minutes or so and it was alright, kind of benign, saying a lot about nothing.

Then she hit my irritability bone. Ouch!

I should preface this here by she has known me for two years.

She said, "Well, are you looking forward to Christmas with your family?"

At first, I just sat there with my mouth hanging open. Then my temper flared.

"Do you ask your gay male friends to bring their girlfriends to a Moral Majority meeting?"


"Well, that's parallel to what you've just asked me."

"How so?"

"Well, number one.. you know I am Thai-identified. That means I don't do Christmas. Number two, you know I don't have family here. And number three, I'm tired of explaining this sh*t to people who obviously don't even bother to listen!"

"Uh. Sh*t. Well, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you."

"I know you weren't trying to offend me. That would have required some recognition that you knew who you were talking to..."

I paused for a minute and finally apologized, explained that I am too irritable to talk and hung up.

I was really pissed. Honestly. Pissed. And hurt.

I am so totally over having to explain this stuff to people.

Is it that hard to understand that some people are different, that we don't all value the same things, that we don't all walk lockstep with popular culture and do everything that pop culture demands?

Rhetorical, obviously.

At the same time, I need to figure out how to cope with this while I'm still here without alienating people and telling them off. That serves no one, least of all me, and it only spreads more wounding words out to the energy pool.

So... suggestions? How would you want to be told? What would be a way that you would have found least offensive?

How would you have answered my friend's question?