Thursday, July 31, 2008


Websters defines sacrifice as an offering, or to give something valued for a thing considered more valuable.

That word came to me the other day as I was sorting through my CDs & DVDs. I'd already sold a majority of my collection was trying to fit my favorites into a carrying case. I was trying to decide if I really needed to keep the Bonus Features to the Harry Potter films. It just struck me then that I was going to have to make some sacrifices in order to move to Thailand. Now the matter of the DVDs was trivial in the extreme. I'm confident I could live a long & fulfilling life without seeing an interview with the 11 year old Daniel Radcliff ever again. But the word stuck with me.

I'm sacrificing a lot for this adventure, my very steady & well paying job, my apartment full of familiar, comfortable furniture, a lot of my craft projects, my first car, my life in the city I've grown to love, the ability to understand nearly everyone and everything around me, regular contact with my friends and family, and I knew at that time that I would also have to sacrifice little Sally for this plan.

I'd been agonizing over it for a while now, and although I tried to find her a new home, I knew she would be difficult if not impossible to place. As much as I love her, she's got a lot of health & care issues that I wouldn't wish on another person... especially not when the Humane Society is busting at the seams with healthy little kittens. Sally had a good run of things, as good a life as any cat could expect. She got to play outside and nap in the sun, she caught birds & mice, slept on a big comfy bed and had all her needs attended to, and she got to be the only cat on her turf - which suited her just fine. I knew that having her put to sleep was going to be difficult, but the whole process ended up being more difficult than I had anticipated. It took some work to find a vet who would do a home euthanasia. So she was able to die in her bed, without having to deal with getting carsick or being barked at by dogs in the lobby of the vet's office. She got to hang out in her yard for a while, and was as calm and comfortable as possible until the end.

I know it was the right decision, and I know I gave Sally a good life for the nearly 10 years she lived with me. It's still hard to have to make that kind of decision, and now I miss my Sally - girl. It's strange to be sitting on the couch and not have her curled up next to me. It's odd to be laying in bed and not eventually feel the weight of her jumping up to snuggle down with me. Every time I walk into a different room I half expect to see her there. So this was the biggest sacrifice I've had to make.

I think all these tangible and intangible sacrifices have been part of why I haven't been able to express too much enthusiasm for the move. I'm giving up a lot of very valuable, meaningful, familiar things to have an experience that I can only hope will be worth it. It's a huge risk and right now I'm up to my ears in the sacrifice part and the pay off part is literally half a world away. I know... or at least hope... that once I'm there all of these sacrifices are going to feel small in comparison to what I'm going to gain in life experience, but right now it is not easy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Why, exactly, am I doing this?

This post is probably more for my benefit than anything else. I have been having some SERIOUS insomnia lately (going on two completely sleepless nights in a row here - of four in the past month), I'll be drifting asleep and totally jerk myself awake thinking "Oh God what am I doing?" I mean... I've never been to Thailand, I don't know how to teach... what am I thinking????

But there are real reasons why I've decided to make such a radical change in my life, and I need to keep those reasons in mind.

1. I was in the biggest, baddest, mother of all ruts in my life. I've spent the past decade stuck in two mind-numbingly, soul-sucking, unsatisfying jobs. Neither my opinions nor my intelligence was appreciated, and neither job left any room for creativity - AT ALL. I had a high level of responsibility but a very low level of authority or control over how to do my job. If I didn't get out of that last job I was going to go insane.

2. As much as I love Portland, as much of a patriot as I am; traveling to Europe was the most incredible experience for me. I loved seeing that the same basic functions could be handled in completely different ways than I was used to - telephones & toilets for example, exactly the same but completely different. I enjoyed getting to use a foreign language (the very few phrases I knew) and having native speakers understand me... and I was thrilled when I figured out new words on my own from context. It was like using a secret code. I loved seeing & touching pieces of history, like the Roman baths in Arles... ruins that were THOUSANDS of years old. From the very little experience I had on vacation, I knew that I needed travel to be a part of my life from that point on... that there was just so much out there to be seen & experienced. I will always be an American in my heart of hearts, and Portland feels more like home than any place I've ever lived...but I really want to see what else is out there in the world.

3. When my friends have gone to study or live abroad - in Paris, India, England, Australia - I've always been insanely jealous. Why should they get all the fun - why couldn't I go to?

4. Throughout my life I've had the good fortune to be friends with foreigners. I've always enjoyed exchanging tidbits of culture. I loved getting to see an Australian man eat his first brownie, teaching Chinese & Indian scientists to play kick ball at a company picnic, and explaining the meaning of the phrase "hanging out" to Japanese students. It was equally fun to share some authentic German Schnapps with a man who partied in Berlin as the wall was torn down. And I think it would be fun if I got to be that person... the foreigner with strange habits and stories of a land far away.

5. This one's kind of lame... but I really want to have something good to submit to The Scene - Willamette's alumni magazine. I'm so tired of seeing my classmates in the Class Notes section - getting married, having babies, running marathons... and having nothing cool to submit about myself. I'm REALLY excited to put something in about moving to Thailand, but am still trying to figure out the most glamorous & awe inspiring way to put it.

6. When I was little, I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up (I also wanted to be an artist, an astronaut, a gymnast, and a philosopher) but decided not to when I grew up and discovered I didn't really like children... and have been trying to figure out a way to get myself back towards that career path. Teaching English in Thailand requires far less training than any kind of official teaching position here in the US and will give me a chance to figure out if teaching really is something I want to pursue... something I'm willing to go back to school (and go into debt) for.

7. Although I know practically nothing about Thailand, it seems like a really interesting country. As far as 'exotic' countries - it seems pretty safe. They've always been an independent country, they've always been an ally to the US. Although they've had some chaos in their government, they are a democratic society and the people have a full range of rights and freedoms. For good or ill, there have been a TON of US tourists there, so although it will be brand new to me... they're well used to visitors from the west. In fact because of their tourist industry English teachers are in great need, and are paid reasonably well. It shouldn't be that hard for me to find a job with decent pay once I'm certified. Plus, I had a friend from Thailand in High School and he was a really cool guy. He called me "Homey G." (home-girl)* and we went out for sushi together once.... which in retrospect was probably a date... man was I clueless.

8. I need to live someplace warm for a while. As much as I love Portland... and recognize that it's hardly the coldest place in the world - I've been freezing my ya-yas off the past couple of years. This winter/spring in particular were COLD! I'm so tired of being cold all the time, and spending 9 months of the year looking like a ghost. I want to go live someplace where I can get a little sun and warm my bones. Yes, I am fully aware that I'm going to sweat like a pig once I'm there, and will probably be cursing the humidity daily... but still, it'll make for a nice change.

9. I want to get healthier and hopefully lose some weight. There's something about the American culture that's making people fat... myself included. I can take responsibility for eating crap & drinking entirely too much soda, but there's got to be more than just individual lack of will power going on if fully a third of us are overweight & obese. I kinda want to immerse myself in a culture without a weight problem for a while and see if I can learn anything.

10. Spiritually, I think I'm ready for something completely different. I've done the Christian thing...I don't mean to sound dismissive, but honestly I'm done with it. I grew up going to a small Baptist church, sang in the church choir, was president of my youth group - even gave the sermon on "Youth Sunday", and went through a charming "holier than thou" phase through much of High School and College. I've read the bible (well, skipped a few chapters of the Old Testament) and prayed the prayers. I've sat through sermons and gone to retreats. And through it all, I never felt especially close to God... never felt whatever it is you're supposed to feel ... and I'm not convinced it didn't do more harm than good to me. Between my own experience and all that's been going on in this country over the past 8 years, I'm pretty well sick of Christians and good Christian virtues. I want to know what it's like to live somewhere with a different dominant religion. I'm not about to convert to Buddhism, but I would like to learn more about it, more about the way the Thais integrate religion into their daily lives. I want to see the temples and see how Buddhists interpret divinity, how they describe the human condition. What are their answers to the big questions? It's not an immediate goal of mine.... which is why I want to actually LIVE abroad for a year or more... I want to have time to let this soak in for a while.

11. I want to know what it's like to be a minority. I don't anticipate particularly enjoying this part... but I think that it would be a valuable experience. I know it won't equate with the experience of a minority person in the US... in fact there isn't just one "minority experience" in the US, not even among people of the same race. But race is an issue that I find interesting... that I have the privilege of finding 'interesting'... so I hope to learn something about that - what it means to be different from the majority.

12. I want to be interesting. One of my big insecurities in life is that I'm not interesting, or more that other people aren't all that interested in what I think or what I do. I mean, I think I'm kind of interesting... or at least as interesting as your average person off the street. But I want to do at least one thing in my life that qualifies as undeniably "interesting". You know, that thing about 'if someone wrote your biography - would anyone want to read it' - I want there to be something to write down in my biography.... or you know this blog... something other than "Creepy guy stared down my shirt at the Max stop."

I'm sure there are more reasons...or more things I want to learn about and/or experience living abroad... but that's a pretty healthy list. Enough at least to answer that midnight ( or 3am) question "Oh god - why am I doing this??" And with that - I'm going back to bed. Wish me sleep. =)

*He also called me "34C" on a regular basis, especially in class and it irritated the crap out of me... which is, in retrospect, probably exactly why he did it. Boys.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My beauty

I cannot emphasize enough that taking public transportation gives you a view into humanity that you just don't get driving around with your windows up.

The other day I was waiting for the Max... just sitting there minding my own business, ready to go home after a long day of running errands. There was a scruffy looking older man in a wheelchair waiting nearby.

He rolled up to me and said "Sorry to annoy you, but would you put my books in my bag?"
"Um... sure" I replied.
Reaching behind him he pulled two books from between his back and the back of his chair and handed them to me. As I put them in the backpack hanging behind his chair I noticed that one of them was the Alcoholics Anonymous big book - I couldn't tell what the other one was. I zipped up the back pack and went to sit down again.
"Thanks" he said.
"No problem."

So I continue sitting there, trying to decide if it was worth it to pull my own book out of my backpack or if the Max would be there soon enough for me not to bother trying to read. But it turns out Mr. Wheelie Drinksnomore wanted to chat now.

"I want to compliment you on your beauty*." He said.
Oh I try to be good about accepting compliments but on this particular day I was no where near beautiful. My hair was in a pony tail and I was all sweaty & tired from being out and about but... not wanting to be rude I just said a modest "Thank you." and tried to think of something witty to say about inner beauty.
"Thank you for your beauty*. It's nice to give a man something good to look at."

And wow - there's suddenly something very interesting on the other end of the platform!

*I should mention that I happened to be wearing a low cut top... well not so much low as loosely cut top because it was hot - but you know if I leaned over or slouched at all.... anyway I'm pretty sure you can substitute "low cut blouse" for "beauty" in his comments and get his true sentiment.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Everything's alright yes, everything's fine.

(Listening to Jesus Christ Superstar… quite an appropriate song for me right now actually “close your eyes, close your eyes and relax think of nothing tonight…”)

For the first time in a while now I’m completely dependent on Tri-met for my transportation needs. Now, I count myself extremely fortunate to live in a city where relying completely on public transportation is even a viable option… but it does make life interesting. I also count myself as extremely fortunate not to have to work right now, because if I had to run all my errands after working an 8 hour day, I can assure you that these stories would be far less ‘interesting’ and rather more ‘infuriating’.

Last week I was riding back to downtown on the 12. It was not a peak commuting time so the bus was somewhat empty.

Ok – a (not so) quick aside, I am a total bus dork, and I have a favorite seat. Well, I have a favorite seat on the new buses. On the old buses, pretty much all the seats are the same… but in the new buses the section behind the back door is elevated (to make room for the wheel well & all that stuff I guess). Anyway… ALL (save one) of the window seats on the new buses have compromised leg room. There’s some weird indention that makes it so that you can’t just sit with your feet straight in front of you – your foot closest to the window needs to slide over a bit – which I guess normal people don’t really care about. But it bugs me, and there are only TWO window seats on the new buses that have full leg room – they are in the back section, the second row behind the back door. And actually, the one on the right side has a weird box thing on the floor. Which I think makes an excellent footrest – so that is my #1 favorite seat on the bus. My #2 favorite seat on the bus is the identical seat on the left (which has full leg room and no box). In my aspergers-esque mind – it is a GOOD DAY if I get to sit in either of those seats and a VERY GOOD DAY if I can sit in my favorite spot. I’ll sit in anywhere if there aren’t a lot of options, but seriously – favorite spot. I get a little cranky if someone beats me to it.

In addition to having full leg room (and a foot rest in the case of #1 favorite seat), I get a pretty good view of everything that’s going on in the bus. So when you read my stories about the bus – imagine me sitting up there in the back, leaning against the window, right foot on foot rest, probably attempting to read.

So anyway… I was riding the 12 back into town and there was a Middle Eastern looking Muslim woman sitting at the front of the bus in the sideways facing “honored citizens” seats – her infant son was in a stroller in the aisle. There were only a handful of other people on bus (so the stroller wasn’t a nuisance). The baby was fussy, despite his mom’s attempts to calm him – rubbing his belly, shushing him or stroking his cheek - he was just fussy. It was the end of the day, and he was clearly done with sitting in his stroller. He’d arch his back and squeal loudly, then his mom would try to distract him for a minute. Nothing seemed to be working. She rummaged around in her purse and found a pen. She waved it in front of him and he was temporarily distracted. Of course he grabbed it, and seeing that this quieted him down, she let him have it. Now if you have ever seen a human child – you know exactly what happened next. He threw it down. Then he started to squeal again. A white teenage boy sitting a few rows back, got up, picked up the pen and handed it back to the woman with a smile as he went to exit the bus.

The woman tried distracting her squealing son with the pen again, and again he grabbed it – played with it for a few quiet seconds, then threw it down again. This time it was a young black man who got up, picked up the pen and handed it back to the woman, then sat down again within arms reach of any more pen-throwing the little boy might do. And I just thought to myself… you know, it’s times like this when I think everything’s going to be okay. When safe & well fed I think the basic instinct of humanity is to just be nice to each other – regardless of differences in race or creed. And I felt a lot better about the world… or at least that tiny little slice of the world at that moment.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Favorite movies

I didn't think these quotes were that obscure... but you know, taken out of context I guess tough to identify:

1. "I am nobody’s little weasel." (to be fair, this is said in French - I just can't catch all the words) - Amelie, this is one of the funniest lines, her expression is priceless.

2. "I am Colin, god of sex. I’m just on the wrong continent, that’s all." - Love Actually, I love Colin - going to the magical place called "Wisconsin" to hook up with hot American babes.

3. "I do not wish to call you my friend, because I hope to call you something infinitely more dear." - Emma, as Mr. Knightly proposes. Swoon.

4. "Oh God that I were a man, I would eat his heart in the marketplace!" - Much Ado About Nothing, after Hero is belied, slandered, undone! In an awesome Emma Thompson / Kenneth Branaugh scene, Beatrice defends her cousin with a kick ass speech.

5. "My ass is twitching. You people make my ass twitch." French Kiss, Kate imitating Luc's grumpy attitude.

6. "Believe me Marianne, had I not been bound to silence, I could have produced proof enough of a broken heart, even for you." Sense & Sensibility, another Emma Thompson scene.

7. "I ain’t looking for help from on high, that’s a long wait for a train don’t come." Serenity, Mal talking to Shepard Book.

8. "I myself am often surprised at life’s little quirks." - The Princess Bride , Wesley explaining to Buttercup how he could be the Dread Pirate Roberts.

9. "I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything that I thought it could be." - Office Space, Peter's dream come true.

10. "My friends, you bow to no one." Yup - Lord of the Rings, Return of the King... this is such an awesome scene. I cry!

And in other movie related news - I've gotten rid of half my DVDs and 3/4 of my CDs but there are still some that I want to keep, and ideally take with me to Thailand. I was freaking out because I just didn't know how I'd be able to take them all, and it would be super expensive to mail them...when a friend gave me the brilliantly simple idea of buying one of those CD cases. yay!

I successfully got all of this:

Into this:


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Movie quotes

I'm stealing yet another blog topic from Babbling Brook. Here are some quotes from my favorite movies - can you guess the movie?

1. I am nobody’s little weasel. (to be fair, this is said in French - I just can't catch all the words)

2. I am Colin, god of sex. I’m just on the wrong continent, that’s all.

3. I do not wish to call you my friend, because I hope to call you something infinitely more dear.

4. Oh God that I were a man, I would eat his heart in the marketplace!

5. My ass is twitching. You people make my ass twitch.

6. Believe me Marianne, had I not been bound to silence, I could have produced proof enough of a broken heart, even for you.

7. I ain’t looking for help from on high, that’s a long wait for a train don’t come.

8. I myself am often surprised at life’s little quirks.

9. I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything that I thought it could be.

10. My friends, you bow to no one.

Also... I just read this article on Boing Boing the other day and it struck a chord. Turns out I'm not lazy - I have brain fatigue! Having made several life-altering decisions and countless tiny decisions (give away/throw away/store/pack) , my poor little brain really is just burnt out. I feel better... I like having an excuse for playing two hours of Spider Solitaire yesterday. =P

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Portland, how I love thee

I originally started this post back on a very sunny day in February... not sure why I never got around to finishing it.* But the other day I was wandering around Portland just thinking about how much I love it, so here is my ode to Stumptown.

What I love love love about Portland:

1. Metro free Wi-Fi which allows me to go online from anywhere downtown.

2. Pioneer courthouse square, where there's always something to see. Today is a Jazz concert..."admission $5" but the music falls on the ears of the just & unjust.

(edited to add pictures of "Sand in the City" another even that charged admission... but really anyone walking by can see the fun)

3. MAX for $2.05 you'll take me from the square to the convention center, to the airport, to Orenco station and beyond.

(here's a shot from the Punctuation Max stop, one of my favorite stops)

4. Saturday Market... from March through December displaying crafts and foods, music and magic. The creative heart of the city.

5. PSU farmer's market, crisp veggies, ripe fruit, smoked salmon, fresh baked bread. Families and friends, children and puppies, a plethora of knit hats & scarves in the fall.

6. Central library, Ramona would be thrilled. Free books for book group, events for all. Intellectual transients lounging at long tables.

7. Protesters loud and proud... dissent is patriotic.

8. Portland Art Museum, Tlingit masks, Haida carvings... such a quiet wing, many hidden treasures.

9. PDX - you welcome me home and give visitors their first taste of our city, Made in Oregon, Powells, Good Dog /Bad Dog... and the most rockin' awesome parking lot EVAR.

10. Powells - a city of books for our city of readers.

11. Moonstruck chocolate, why yes I will pay $5 for a piece of chocolate that good!

12. Hoyt Arboretum with trails of trees from near & far. The most beautiful, of course, our magestic Firs waving green arms against a sometimes blue sky.

13. Benson Bubblers - water water everywhere, and plenty to drink.

14. Free news! Portland Tribune tries hard to be a real paper. Willamette Week is the entertainment bible of the city.

15. Mt. Hood... how can anyone live in a city without a view of a snow capped mountain?

16. Mt. St. Helens... how can anyone live in a city without of a snow capped volcano?

17. Bagdad, Laurelhurst, Mission - beer, pizza and a $3 movie, life is good.

18. McMenamins - who else takes a church (or a school, or a poor farm) and turns it into a pub?

19. Speaking of which - BEER! With four brew fests a year there's a reason why they call us the microbrew capital of the U.S.

20. It's home... it just is.

* I remembered why I put off finishing this post - uploading all the pictures is a pain! Even with my new lightening fast cable internet connection.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Thousand Pyramids - give or take

So, in between not packing up my apartment and trying to rule Tetris Worlds, I have actually done one productive thing. Inspired by a painting at the Portland Art Museum (no picture unfortunately) and all the trees that I drive through, I finally put together a Thousand Pyramids quilt.

Here's ever helpful Sally, carefully applying a layer of cat hair for extra warmth.

I've had this quilt in mind for a long time (I posted about seeing a similar one at the 2007 Sisters Quilt Show) and started buying fabrics for it a year or two ago. I only got down to actually making it when I found out a knitting friend was going to have a baby. She had really good timing! After last year's summer-o-baby-quilts, I'd put a moratorium on giving away any quilts until I'd made a few for myself. But since I'd made a few quilts for myself by the time she announced she was expecting, I was ready to get back into baby-quilt making.

I didn't take too many in progress pictures. But here it is all finished up.
Here's a closer shot to show off the fabrics, and also a tiny bit of embroidery I did in one of the triangles.
The outline of Oregon with a green heart in the middle is an uber-popular bumper sticker here (I just stuck one on my laptop) and I know that the mom-to-be really likes it, so I thought that would be a nice touch to this very Oregon-inspired quilt.

Overall it ended up being a bit more blue than I had intended... but I only used about a third of the fabrics I'd bought for this project. Which is just fine... because that means I've still got more than enough to make myself a bed-sized quilt out of it.

What I love about this pattern is the way the triangles all line really can see thousands (or at least hundreds) of different pyramids layered and overlapping. It's a very cool pattern. I also love all these batiks and think they work pretty well together.

This was the first time I ever pieced triangles. In my flying geese & broken dishes quilt, the triangle shapes are made from sewing together either two squares or two squares and a rectangle. It took me a bit to wrap my brain around it... I think I just offset each piece by 1/4 inch when I sewed them together. Not all of the points match up exactly, in fact several are just kinda squished together... but mostly I think they look okay. I took the good advice from M5K to quilt straight lines 1/4 inch outside the ditch... and I think that helped disguise some of my less well formed triangles. Or at least it didn't emphasize problem areas the way stitching in the ditch would have. In fact I think the diagonal lines, while basic, are a good choice for this pattern. I made one major 'mistake' in this quilt. I'd intended to alternate the batik triangles with black triangles so the top and bottom rows would be more jagged instead of flat. But I'm not that great at following directions... not even my own... and didn't notice that I'd forgotten that part until the top was finished. Oh well, I got the sides right!

The baby-shower was Saturday (which is why I finally get to post about it!), and the mom really liked it. She's very sweet and was touched that people made stuff for her (she also got a hand knit sweater, and a hand knit cabled blanket)... she *almost* cried, but managed to keep herself together. It was precious. So I know this quilt will be well loved and used - which makes *me* really happy! So I'll call this one a success.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lonely old man

I've been eating out a lot lately. Even though I have loads of work to do at home, or maybe because I have loads of work to do at home, I've really needed to get out for part of the day. Usually I just go to Subway or maybe Taco Bell & do some of my assigned reading while drinking an obscene quantity of Dr. Pepper.

Anyway there I was in Subway reading "How To Teach English" and minding my own business when this little old man came up to me and started chatting me up. I had noticed him when I first came in, sitting at a table with a tattered leather satchel & an unopened paperback in front of him. After an exchange of "Hello"s he started quizzing me about my life. I can't even remember his opening line. I do remember thinking that although I was not at all interested in making small talk with this stranger (and strange he certainly was), I would soon be a stranger in a strange land and I was going to have to learn to be more outgoing if I ever wanted to make friends there. So when he asked what I was studying, I told him. And at his prompting I told him about my plans to go to Thailand.

Would you believe that a part of me had hoped I wasn't on the verge of something so interesting - I could have killed the conversation pretty quickly if I'd said "I sit in an office & do paperwork all day long." Instead he got to sound all excited for me, and he told me that he used to live here & there, and had even authored a novel in his younger days. He pulled out the book that had been sitting on his table, flipping it over to show a picture of him in, as they say, the full bloom of his manliness. the more we chatted the sadder this man seemed to be. He was so clearly clinging onto his 'glory days' and desperate for any small connection with another human being. I became uncomfortable and gradually shifted my focus back towards my book, answering his continued conversational attempts with minimal acknowledgements. Eventually he got the hint and, wishing me well on my trip, he left.

It struck me as so sad, so sad and so very frightening - how palpable this man's loneliness was. With no husband and no intention to have children - will I end up like this? As my friends focus increasingly on their own nuclear families, and as my own family grows older & I lose touch with relatives - will all my connections fade away? Will all my big adventures turn into snippets of small talk I subject strangers too? This is one of my greatest fears, to grow old, lonely & boring.

A few days later I ran into that same lonely old man at Subway again. I hadn't noticed him at first but he was there - leather satchel & unopened novel on the table. He got as I was pouring my drink and tried to start a conversation with the girl behind the counter. Then as an aside, he commented to me about her unwillingness to chat. I made a non-committal noise as I filled up my 32oz of Dr. Pepper & left the store.

Friday, July 18, 2008


That's the one where you torture yourself right? I went to Powells again today.

The view from the mezzanine... not something you can say in most bookstores.

I'm not sure why I keep doing that! All I want to do is hunker down with a stack of bubble-gum books and hide out for a while. But I've got a text book to read and an apartment to clean out. So I really shouldn't be wandering through the city of books flipping through the pages of The Chronicles of Narnia and gazing at the pictures in a book about the Ocean. God, I just love that store!!! But it's a bit counter productive to go buy books when I'm trying to get rid of all my possessions!

It's really just overwhelming. I know if I focus and apply a few hours of work towards my apartment everyday, it'll get done and I'll feel better. I might even have time to read something fun. But every time I walk up to a shelf or open my closet, I start sorting through a few things, then I catch a glimpse of the rest of my un-sorted apartment and begin a panic attack. First comes an odd little half whine / half scream that escapes me as I wander away from the area I was sorting. This is followed by me taking laps around the room saying "Fuck fuck fuck - oh my god! Fuck fuck fuck what the fuck am I doing?" and resolves itself with me on the couch playing Tetris Worlds (I've beaten level 15 on 4 of 6 worlds!) and watching TV.

This is just not productive.

(Oooh...speaking of not productive - go watch Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog - so much awesome!)

Ok... it might be time for me to recruit some help. I'm signing up for Flylady's annoying emails, and breaking out my trusty timer. Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Justice Center

Well, my car's service engine light is still on, and actually the battery died yesterday for no I'll be spending my last few weeks in Portland on or, more importantly, waiting for Tri-Met.

Tonight I met a friend for dinner and although the restaurant was on the other side of town, it was just one bus ride away. Dinner was pretty quick and I was feeling lucky because I was actually going to get home on the same transfer (they are good for 2 hours) and not have to buy another ticket. But because the #8 bus line sucks it turned out to be the kind that only went as far as downtown then headed back towards the restaurant (instead of continuing up the hill to where I live). So I had to get off the bus and wait for the one that was going the full route, oh, and by this time my transfer had expired and I'd need to pay for the rest of my ride. Unfortunately I was a nickel short of my fare, so I had to go somewhere and spend money to get some change. Oh life would be so dull without you!

Anyway by the time I got back to the stop, I'd missed the full-route #8 and needed to wait for another half hour. Since I had quite a wait I decided to at least go for a little walk down the street wait at another stop. The new stop was right across from the (I kid you not- this is the real name of the building) Justice Center. Which sounds like something out of a comic book. Anyway, I'm standing there waiting for the bus and I notice there are a bunch of people sitting on the steps of the Justice Center, just kinda hanging out. And I think to myself "Why are people hanging out at the Justice Center at 8:30 on a Tuesday night." I mean, it's not like they've got jury duty. Anyway... as I'm pondering this a bus stopped and a man got off and bounded over to a couple of teenaged guys standing nearby and they did the whole "Didn't expect to see you here." kind of greeting... so of course I listened in. ;)

Teen "What are you doing here?"
Man "Oh, my son's in jail, I thought I'd bring him some money."
Teen "He'll appreciate that.... I've been there."
Man "Yeah..."
Teen "Nothing worse than being in jail with no money."

(quick aside here - what exactly does one need money for in jail? Do they get outings to the mall? In any case, at least I know why people were hanging out on the steps of the Justice Center - aka JAIL)

Anyway they go on talking and I notice that they're both holding bibles, and apparently go to the same church. As the teenager's bus comes, the man asks him "You coming on Friday?"
Teen "What's going on."
Man - excitedly "Oh, it's gonna be great - we're getting these two youth groups together and we're gonna have a Power Prayer!"
Teen shouts "All right - I'll be there!" as he gets on the bus.

I don't really have any social commentary on this... other than to say, this is the kind of thing you miss out on when you drive everywhere.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I've seen the book meme on Indigo Mouse & Babbling Brook's blogs and I loved it, so I'm going to share mine, and I hope you do it too. The tough part is sticking to one answer per question... I've got 3 answers for each question, and a few books fit all the categories.

1. One book that made you laugh: David Sedaris Me Talk Pretty One Day, in particular the scene where the students in his French class try to describe Easter cracks me up. "A bell that brings chocolate? That's fucked up."
2. One book that made you cry: I'm with Stacey - Little Women, and hearken back to that same episode of Friends where Rachel has to put the copy of The Shining in the freezer, then Joey starts getting really upset "Beth's really sick!" and Rachel puts Little Women in the freezer for him.
3. One book that you loved as a child: Oh What a Busy Day
4. One book you’ve read more than once: Gone with the Wind - I can't say enough about how incredible this book is. I've read it over and over, I laugh, I cry, I dog ear certain passages to read over and over - it's just an amazing novel.
5. One book you loved, but were embarrassed to admit it: Well, the real answer to this question is a self-help book (or two) that I'm actually too embarrassed to admit! But I guess a fair answer is trashy romance novels. I actually haven't read one in several years, and seriously the plots all start to sound the same after a few. But Saving Grace by Julie Garwood was one I remembered as particularly sweet & at times really funny. There's a scene where the heroine is trying to get those rough highland lads to behave so she starts throwing pottery. I promise it's hilarious
6. One book you hated: The Old Man and the Sea. Good lord I thought I was going to die of boredom reading that book, the longest 100 pages I ever read!
7. One book that scared you: The Stand - I couldn't even finish it. I got part way through and just couldn't deal with it. I've read other Stephen King novels, but this one just really bothered me.
8. One book that bored you: The Old Man and the Sea qualifies for this one, but it was so boring that I absolutely hated it... and I can't think of another book that I felt that strongly about. As far as a book that I found boring, but other people really liked, I did not see the appeal of Wicked. I really didn't like the story at all, I didn't care for the characters and I thought the animal rights thing was a bit heavy handed.
9. One book that made you happy: The Secret Life of Bees - this was another laugh/cry/love books.
10. One book that made you miserable: Kite Runner - OMG! It was so depressing!!!
11. One book that you weren’t brave enough to read: Hmm... I think I'm 'brave' enough to read anything, it's just whether or not it appeals to me at a given time. I'd say maybe I'm not brave enough to read War & Peace ... just because I have this idea that it would be long & boring.
12. One book character you’ve fallen in love with: Oh see, this one fits better in the "book that makes me happy" category, but I can't think of another character I loved this much. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. I absolutely loved the main character, and it was probably the most genuinely uplifting books I've ever read, although I'm not sure many would share that opinion.
13. The last book you read: Learning Teaching
14. The next book you hope to read: My reading for enjoyment is on temporary hiatus... so it's hard to say what I'll be in the mood for when I finally get a chance. Hmmm - I just found out that David Sedaris has a new book out - When You Are Engulfed in Flames... so I guess that's one that I really hope to read soon.

It's funny, since I'll be going abroad indefinitely, I'm kind of in a real life "desert island books" scenario. Aside from the grammar/teaching texts and Thailand guides, I'll be bringing seven books (with more to come later).

You can probably tell by the state of the covers which ones I've read the most.

The Bible
- not so much for you know, reading... but I do enjoy quoting scripture at people. ;)
Gone with the Wind - best book ever.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - another one I don't get tired of reading... plus I kinda feel like I'll want a couple "Great American Novels" while I'm abroad.
Me Talk Pretty One Day - I'm gonna need something to make me laugh.
The Secret Life of Bees - This one gives me the warm fuzzies (after making me cry buckets of course).
Then there are two new books, because you know, it could get boring to keep reading the same old books over and over. The Tipping Point & Peace is Every Step.... I've been wanting to read both for a while, and hope that they'll be uplifting / inspiring.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sisters Quilt Show 2008

As I mentioned, this Saturday my mom & I went to the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show.

America's next top models - quilt show edition. ;)

It wasn't the most crowded show I'd been to, and it seemed like there were fewer quilts than in years past. Although, I'm probably comparing it to the first show I went to - which was the 30th anniversary, and they might have made more of a to-do for that one. In any case, there were more quilts than you could shake an omni-grid ruler at.

One thing I always find interesting is seeing different quilters' takes on the same pattern. It seems certain quilting groups will do a challenge or a class and end up showing their quilts at the show, and then there are the quilt patterns that are just popular, and of course - quilts using Valorie Wells fabric tend to appear with a greater than average frequency. This year's popular pattern was "Fractured Flowers" which I think is a pattern from the Stitching Post (the store that hosts the quilt show).

It's a unique pattern, and cool way to highlight this fabric... but not necessarily a pattern I would have tried.

Something that I might like to try is a monochromatic quilt. These were all really cool...I liked the simple style and the way just subtle changes in shade creates contrast. I think the green block-in-block pattern works really well.

Here was one that made me smile... it was up way too high for me to read the label. But it was very clearly a Star-Trek quilt - two of my favorite things!
It really inspires me to make a sci-fi quilt someday.

Sisters is in the desert, so it was quite sunny & hot - it was great to see this chilly snowflake quilt. I like the background triangle pattern, and of course the snowflakes were especially fancy. I have no clue how they're done (applique? paper piece?) but they looked great. I really want to make a blue & white winter quilt someday.

I don't usually like sampler type quilts, but I really liked this one. The colors are fresh and fun, the fabrics and pattern are funky, the quilting adds to the overall quilt and it all just works. It'll probably look dated in like... two weeks... but for now it's really cool.
One thing that happens at the outdoor quilt show is that you'll see a quilt up close, then later you'll see it from across the street and you'll get a completely different impression of it. Sometimes the secondary patterns really stand out in cool ways. This is one that I walked past and though "oh that's neat" but then ended up sitting a bit away from it for a while, and was really really impressed with it.

And this was probably my favorite... the stitching was amazing, and how could I resist such a bright sunflower and fun pink bicycle.

Absolutely amazing.

Mom's foot was bothering her a bit, so we didn't walk up and down and around each and every nook and crany... but we still saw (and took pictures of) many more quilts than I could do justice to in this post. If you're a quilter anywhere in the Northwest, I think it would be worth it to come out at least once.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


It's been a while since we've had a good Caturday around here. Today Mom & I will be out in central Oregon for the Sister's Outdoor Quilt Show. So Sally's going to stay home & hold down the couch.
Sally says "I love couch."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Turns out I'm just lazy

So for the past several years I've been thinking that I would get so much accomplished if I didn't have to work. This past month has completely shattered that myth.

I've been averaging about two productive activities per day... for a total of about 2-3 hours tops. The rest of my day is spent either

1. Watching DVDs of Battlestar Galactica,

2. Rewatching all my favorite dances from So You Think You Can Dance from my DVR

(I heart Gev)

3. Surfing You-Tube looking for clips of David Tennant (aka Doctor Who).

(Yes, it's juvenile, but this cracks me up so much! It's the indignant Scottish brogue that gets me.)

4. Looking around my apartment and thinking - "Oh God! How am I gonna get rid of all this crap??"

and 5. Visiting my favorite local spots (yesterday was Sauvie Island).

My mom's coming to visit for the weekend I pick her up on Thursday, which is a nice bit of motivation to at least clean up. We're going to the Sister's Quilt Show on Saturday, and a picnic on Sunday, but on Friday maybe we'll pack up a suitcase full of stuff for her to bring back & store for me.

Man, I really need to get into gear here!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Learning Thai, backwards & in high heels

You know what they used to say about Ginger Rogers - she did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in heels. I'm starting to feel that way about learning Thai.

(this is the female "hello")

I've been listening to a set of Pimsleur CDs and while overall, I think they're pretty good, they're extremely sexist. The Thai language is gendered... not so much like French or Spanish where nouns are arbitrarily assigned a gender... but in that you say things differently if you are a man or a woman. They don't really have an equivalent for "Please" (that I've figured out anyway), but there is a 'polite term' that is added to the end of every sentence. If you are a man speaking Thai, you would end every sentence in "krap" (it actually sounds like half way between "crab" and "clap") and if you are a woman you would end each sentence in "ka". In addition, the words for "I" are different for men ("pom") and women "de-chan". So an expression as basic as "I understand" would be, with the exception of the verb completely different coming from a man or a woman.

A man would say: "Pom cow-jai krap"
A woman would say: "De-chan cow-jai ka"
(oh, and since I've only been listening to CDs, I'm sure this transliteration is completely wrong - but you get the idea)

Coming from an essentially gender-neutral language such as English - this is confusing enough for me. But the CDs are geared 99% to men learning the language. So far all but one dialogue is set up as "You are an American man speaking to a Thai woman." Now I'm not even going to go into the socio-political reasons why this bothers me...except to say that most of the people buying "Learn Thai" CDs probably are American men who will be talking to Thai women. But just from a language learning perspective... it's really pissing me off.

For the actual conversation that starts each lesson - it's not so bad, I practice both parts. But in the rest of the lesson, when the CD asks me to "tell her you understand" I've got to do the mental gymnastics to turn my sentence into the appropriate female response... and know it's not going to match the answer given after the pause. It's driving me crazy. It's taking me at least twice as long as it should to get through one of the lessons and I just have to guess that I'm pronouncing things right. The CD went through an extensive explanation of the intonation of "pom"... ("it starts in a high tone, but abruptly drops to a low tone rising again to a mid level tone - see if your tone matches the speaker... let's try that again") but in 5 lessons it still hasn't given the same treatment to "de-chan" (is it more de-chan or de-shan for example?). I know I'm not going to be fluent when I get to Thailand, but I would at least be able to communicate what little I know without sounding like I don't know if I'm a man or a woman.

The really tough part is that I know I'm going to experience a bit more of the same once I actually get to Thailand. From everything I've read Thai society is hierarchical and status is very important. Unsurprisingly, men have higher status than women, and I'm just going to have to make peace with that notion. After all, the whole reason I'm going abroad is to experience a different culture. I can't very well complain when you know, the culture is actually different from what I am used to. That said, I do wonder how much this will come through in day-to-day life. After all, the US has a reputation for having a very violent culture... and despite our high rate of violent crime - no one's ever tried to beat me up or shoot me. So, I guess it'll just be one more learning experience I'm setting myself up for.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Task Based Reading

Lest you be worried, Rebel has been reading... just nothing especially fun. Everything I've read in the past couple of months has been related to my upcoming adventure in Thailand.

I started out reading both Culture Shock! Thailand (currently out of print) and Culture Smart Thailand. The Culture Shock book was highly recommended on a couple of expat websites I've read. But it's presently out of print - and not set to reissue until later this year or next. So it was a bit of a challenge to track down a copy. When I finally did, it was a copy from the 80s and probably not as helpful as one would hope. Much of the same information was shared in Culture Smart Thailand. Basically both books covered a bit of the history, and some cultural phenomenon like the ubiquitous Thai Smile. Apparently Thai's smile at everything, if they're happy, of course, but also if they are sorry, embarrassed, if they want to defuse a tense situation etc. It's all about keeping harmony and saving face. I feel like both gave me just a taste of what Thailand is like, without going into excessive detail. Thailand is a proud, independent country, the Thai people value an even temper and avoid conflict. This obviously has some pros and cons that I'll need to be aware of while I'm there. Since I knew practically nothing about Thailand before hand, I think they were just the introduction I needed. Of course we'll see how useful the information is once I get there!

Thailand Confidential by Jerry Hopkins .

This was an interesting one, interesting as in “odd” not so much “note worthy”. From the back cover it sounds like this will be a salacious tell all about the seedy underbelly of Thailand. But it’s really really not. I mean, he relays a story about watching a sex-change operation, getting stopped at a drug raid in a bar, riding along with a highway accident corpse pick up crew and more. But he tells it all from the perspective of an old man who’s been there, done that and has the Thai wife to boot. It’s graphic, but not particularly exciting. I picked it up because I wanted to get as balanced a view of Thailand as I could… knowing that the official guide books would paint everything with a rosy hue. And I feel like I got that from this book. The guide books like Culture Smart and Culture Shock talk about religion in Thailand, and the influence of both Buddhism and Animism on the spiritual life of an average Thai. But Hopkins explains that this is why service in a bar came to a halt when the movie “Ghost” was playing on the TV. Apparently, they LOVE ghost stories, and believe in a very real way that the spirits of their loved ones watch over them day to day. So overall, an informative read, especially in conjunction with the other books. But as a collection of short stories… kinda dull.

Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener

This is a text book, and as such there's not much of a plot... or motto. Scrivener presents a lot of information and methodology about teaching English as a foreign language. He talks about different types of teachers and different types of students, and discusses options in the classroom. When covering each specific area of language, vocabulary, phonology, listening, speaking, or grammar he merely lists various ways to approach the material, giving the pros and cons of each. Basically the teacher is to decide which methods are most appropriate for their given situation. All of that was pretty good.

What I did not like about this book was the format. While the chapters did tend to be organized around particular language skills, there was very little introductory information to get my little brain prepped for what the chapter would cover. And there was no summary at the end to distill the information into memorable chunks. I don't know about you, but the summary sections of a text book are what saved me in High School and College. Sure I did the reading, but it was the summary sections that I studied before an exam. Anything that didn't ring a bell became something I'd go back and review. I was at a bit of a loss trying to remember everything without a summary. Of course, I could have, you know, taken notes and all.... written my own summary of each chapter. But dude! I'm trying to ease into this learning stuff thing. I've been out of college for a good decade now... the neurons need to get warmed up a bit first.

Overall I guess it's a good introduction to learning teaching. I'm far from knowing what I need to in order to step into a classroom... but at least I have been exposed to the topics I'll be studying (and practicing) in more detail in my CELTA course. Learning Teaching will be a good reference for when I'm actually teaching and need ideas for lesson plans... but I'm hoping the next teaching book I'm going to read (How to Teach English by Jeremy Harmer) will do a better job of helping me get the information into my brain.

So that's what I've been reading. I really hope that they've helped my brain get ready for moving. I miss reading books for fun though.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

something patriotic

Happy Independence Day everyone! As I've mentioned before, the 4th of July is my favorite holiday... but this year it's a little bittersweet as you know, it'll be my last in the US for a while. I'm really excited to go to Thailand, and I feel like now is the best time for me to go... but I also feel like the election in November will be an important moment in US History, and I would really like to be here for that.

I'm trying to think of something profound and patriotic to say here... and it's just not happening. I love this country, I just do. It's home...a big crazy dysfunctional home. ;) So tomorrow I'll drink some beer, eat a hot-dog or two, watch some fireworks and basically enjoy being an American. I hope you do the same!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Self induced chaos

Ok... I'm trying to stay positive, I'm trying to be productive, but frankly I'm freaking out right now.

I've got the to-do list with about 60 different tasks on it... and I'm slowly but surely moving things into the "completed" column (went downtown and got my visa yesterday)... but I'm already 8 tasks behind. My apartment is a disaster area and rather than channeling my moments of panic into actually accomplishing anything...I just get really freaked out and go watch the silly dancing guy on You Tube.... for like... an hour!

I live in a small apartment, so you might not think I have that much stuff... but I do.
Be afraid... very afraid!

There's a part of me that just wants to get rid of absolutely everything that doesn't have extreme sentimental value... because, really it's all just stuff. But on the other hand, if I come back to Portland within the next 5 years, I'm going to need stuff again. Am I going to wish I'd stored more of my stuff?

Why do I own so much clothing??? Why is none of it suitable for teaching in Thailand?

One 'productive' thing I did the other day was to go shopping for a teacher-appropriate wardrobe. From what I've read online, women need to wear skirts & dresses to work... and despite the heat, we need to keep our shoulders covered. Considering my current work wardrobe consists of two nice (read very warm) suit type outfits , a dozen pairs of corduroys and about a million sweater sets...and considering the unlikeliness of finding plus sized farang clothes in Thailand, I really did need to go buy an appropriate wardrobe.

Do you sense a theme? (I bought the green outfit for when I feel home-sick.)

I'm pretty happy with what I got, and I actually managed to buy two dresses, five skirts, eight tops, and a pair of shoes, all for under $350. Yay outlet mall! That should keep me well dressed for the next couple of years. But while the outfits look really cute now... I anticipate sweating like a pig in all of them.

And somehow I have to fit all of that plus whatever else I anticipate needing in this set of luggage.
The carry on & smaller suitcase are already full.

Oh...and have I mentioned that the 'service engine' light in my car came on the other day? I'm totally ignoring it. That poor car has been wanting to die for the past year and I keep thinking "it just has to hang on until I leave"... and really, it just needs to keep working for like a couple more weeks. Just a few more weeks!

Oh, and remember how I kept working for another two weeks so that I would have health insurance for the month of June - well, I just got the EOB for some services I availed myself of knowing that I would be covered. They've all been denied! WTF? I'm hoping it's just a mistake, but I really don't want to be dealing with the insurance company right now.

Ok... no more freaking out. Today's goal is to clean out my clothes closet... and then to head over to the temp agency to see if I can get a short term assignment. I still have savings, but recently found out that what I have in the bank at this moment is the minimum they recommend I have when I arrive... and I've got a few more expenses to cover before I leave (like, you know living!). But like I said... no more freaking out. It's all going to work out.... somehow.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Don't forget to HELP SALLY by spreading the word to cat-less people.

I recently found two things on the internet that are just pure joy.

Boom de Yada

Dancing 2008

If you're not smiling after watching one or both of these videos... well, you have no soul =P

In addition to adding a little more joy to my life, I'm trying to adopt an attitude of gratitude. I got my visa for Thailand today - it was really easy, so I'm thankful for that. I got my economic stimulus check yesterday, and I'm really grateful for that. I'm even more grateful that I'm able to take this time off of work to enjoy life and take my time getting ready for my next adventure. Oh and the weather has been spectacular lately - another source of both joy and gratitude. If anyone doubts the reality of Seasonal Affective Disorder, just compare my blog entries of a month or two ago when it was cold & rainy to now when it's sunny and warm. LOL. Thailand is going to be awesome for me.

Enough about me - what has brought you joy recently? For what are you thankful?