Kids and Why I Don’t Have Them – Our Programs In Action

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They look nice enough. Even cute. But don’t be fooled. This is only a clever disguise, subterfuge. Like the wind they can change directions at a moment’s notice.

When I last saw them, it was about a year ago, and their ability to raise hell was considerably more limited. First of all, Harley wasn’t even mobile. His big accomplishment was burping, and I seemed to be the “baby-whisperer” with my burping technique. I felt useful. Summer, still very small, was beginning to want things and juuuuuust starting to nose around on her own to figure out how something worked. She was still very much in the napping mode at that time and when awake I was mostly pushing her around in her stroller, she directing though.

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Study this photo a bit. Let me tell you what I see. Summer, the cute little blond girl, has just ramped up her little brother to a frenzy. Satisfied, she enjoys a refreshing beverage, while planning her next antagonism. See those wheels turning? Trust me, they are going 24/7, and she’s SMART.

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Not being around this sort of commotion, I’m unprepared to interpret it. This is not so for Katie. How she can distinguish one WAAAHHHHHHHHHHH from say another similar sounding AAAAHHHHHHHH, and know its intent and purpose, I’ll never know. For you moms out there, my hats off to you. You are truly remarkable.

While reading this, I don’t want you all to think my stay here has been bad. It hasn’t, thanks to our program of recovery. If I’ve learned anything in AA it’s that I can handle anything for 24 hours. I also want to give a shout-out to Al-Anon and to a better understanding of the slogans. “How Important Is It” has come to mind more than one time and served me well. (Oh, so has “I didn’t cause it. I can’t cure it. And I can’t fix it.”)

Knowing something and then getting to put it into action is extremely satisfying. I say it often that I don’t live in a hermetically sealed environment of our two recovery programs, that what I learn in those rooms are meant to help me deal with and be a better person out there. I’ve gotten to put this into practice and it’s turned out well. Thank you Bill W, Dr. Bob and Lois W.

What’s Wat?

Let me start by saying: I’m not a Buddhist.

To say I know anything about Buddhism would be a flat-out lie. The only thing I have to go on is what I’ve gleaned from those trying to become Buddhist, which seemed to be most popular in the 90′s, and what I might have read in any number of self-help books over the decades. Oh, and what I might have seen in a movie or two. But that’s about it.

Thailand is roughly 95% practicing, devout Buddhist, and about 5% “other”. Western religion didn’t get a foothold until the late 1880′s. I read this in a guide book.

It’s hard to explain, really. The Thai people erect small raised spirit houses, usually just large enough for several statues and some candles in their front yards, to the side of their fields, in front of their stores, at the entrance to their plant, gas station, municipal building. They’re really everywhere. And they’re being used. I didn’t see one that didn’t have fresh flowers, some fruit, water, or a candle near it. I was told by a guide in Chiang Mai that there is about 1 Temple for every 100 people in the city. All this being said, no one tried to proselytize, convert me, ask me to accept Buddha as my personal Lord and Savior. Instead I was met with a smile, a nod of the head or a kind look in their eyes. They weren’t trying to teach me Buddhism or show me what to do, but they were giving me something, I could feel it.

Oh, I also want to note that I haven’t heard one car horn, one cross word, one malicious act on the streets, roads of freeways. Remarkable!

Here are some of the photos I took during my trip to Chaing Mai. I hope you enjoy them and find some peace in them.

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A Friend Among Friends

One of the greatest joys traveling brings me is meeting new peoples. I’m so facinated with each person’s story, life experiences, or simple mannerisms and cultures. I think I’ve always been that way. I was taught to greet everyone with a smile and a firm handshake, and it’s served me well.

Usually the first thing I like to do when traveling is to find a local meeting. This is easy enough with the internet nowadays, and this is exactly what I did when I arrived at Chiang Mai.

It was a slightly rainy evening and I really didn’t have my bearings, but I knew I wanted and needed to go. The meeting that was at 6:30pm was being held at Building 11 at one of the local hospitals. I gave up being proud long ago so asking for help getting there from the hotel concierge wasn’t a problem.

This young lady drove me herself in a handsome Lexus to the hospital and then made sure I found the right building. It was hard to spot the large circle and triangle on the front of this building, or cottage as it were. Just seeing it made my eyes well up with tears of gratitude. I know, that might sound corny, but it’s true. Those of you in the program will know what I’m talking about.

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It was a classic clubhouse out of the 70′s or 80′s, except the walls weren’t covered in tar from chain smokers. I arrived just as they were starting the Serenity Prayer and found my seat at a large teak table and joined in.

I wrote before about Recovery being spoken in the rooms in Pattaya, and Chiang Mai was exactly the same. I knew where I was.

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I went to the World Convention in San Antonio and was amazed at how big AA is. I mean I know we’re everywhere, that meetings are all over the place, but to see the thousands of thousands of thousands of peoples there from hundreds of countries really made an impact on me.

“Whenever anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am Responsible.” These words kept circling my mind during the meeting. It was a small group of people, a “stag-meeting” as it turned out, just 7 of us, all men. So, we all got a chance to share. I thanked them for being there for me and hoped I could return the favor for them should they ever come to Houston. After the meeting, I was shown around the room. It had ALL the things of a fine meeting space. A clock made out of chips. Old stained banners of the Steps and Traditions. Tried and true slogans on the walls. And one framed photocopy honoring a man now deceased and his contribution to AA and Recovery in Chiang Mai.

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The “meeting-after-the-meeting” was wonderful and a real joy to meet the guys there. I feel so damn lucky to be around folks like I do through the fellowship, no matter where I go.

A Faraway Road Trip – Chiang Mai

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I’m a pretty good guest, if I say so myself. I really don’t ask for much or expect much. I can entertain myself pretty well and generally tend to see the glass as half full. Enjoying the journey, not the destination has its +’s.

My friend Katie, her two little kids, and their maid/houskeeper/nanny all took off early Tuesday morning to drive up the Chiang Mai. This is in one of the Northernmost regions of Thailand and very close to Myanmar, (Burma back when I was back in school…). This part of Thailand is COMPLETELY different than the Southwestern regions along the Gulf of Thailand. The Northern provinces are much influenced by the ancient Myanmar, Laos, and parts of Cambodia, whose cultures surround it.

Unlike the coastal regions with the easy and vast influx of tourists, the Northern regions are….hmmmm, more authentic to what I had expected in my mind’s eye of Thailand.

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What was understood to have been a 10 hour road-trip, instead was something out of the Twilight Zone. It was as if we were stuck in a time-warp and couldn’t get out. Not that it was bad, it wasn’t. It was just surreal at times, causing Katie and me to break into hysterical laughter. I’m estimating the drive was right around 800 KM. Again, don’t get me wrong, Katie and I had a great time and as far as a 14 month-old boy and a 3 year-old girl can behave, it was a wonderful trip.

Along the way, we stopped at several small towns. I’m not sure they were anything more than a cluster of buildings, huts, and what-nots, but they looked friendly and they were. We ate mostly street vendor food, tried to speak Thai as best we could, and seemed to get lots of smiles back.

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Our overnighter was in Sukhothai. This was to have been about the 1/2 way mark…joke’s on us. Sukhothai was one of the early kingdom capitals and has a UNESCO World Heritage Site preserving parts of the ancient structures. The town is small, but very friendly. Katie and I ate outside with Harley and had a kinda cook-your-own boiling pot type meal. It was fun and several of the locals seemed happy to see us there and were VERY helpful in showing us how to do it all.

The next morning we were off for Chiang Mai, with two kids who had had little sleep and a mom that had had even less. I want to take a moment here and thank my parents and all parents. I really don’t know how you do it. Really. You’re on 24/7. I saw how Katie did it, even with the help of Khun Porn, and I take my hat off to you. I can’t imagine how on earth Mom and Dad did it with 4 little hellions.

Oh, I did find one little trick when dealing with small children for extended periods of time…It’s all in the questions. When they get going and ancy, or start asking for this or that or thousands of questions, just ask them “why”, or “what do you think”, or “is that so, really”. And on and on and on. It’s surprising what they come up with and you can almost hear them thinking.

So we finally made it to Chiang Mai and arrive at the beautiful Holliday Inn Resort. Very nice!

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This is a photo of the lovely young lady at the Concierge Desk who was soooo helpful for me. Here are several photos from my 14th floor room overlooking the river and the old city. It’s monsoon season so light showers in the afternoons were the norm, but didn’t distract from the experience at all. In fact, it kept everything cool and comfortable so high up in the mountains.

Along the way we went from low, flatlands to the foothills of the Himalayas, passing beautiful tapioca, pineapple, coconut and rice farms all along the way.

Seaside Dinner

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Last night was dinner at a little seaside family restaurant. Si Racha was about an hour away, so we were more in the county than not. The small but sturdy fishing boats were anchored in the shallow bay. As the sun began to set one by one they were readied to head out.

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Dinner was a multi course bonanza full of dish after dish of delicious Thai food. Anchin, Dion’s co-worker and friend is our cultural ambassador of all things Thai. I can tell you without reservation she’s been a god send.

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Here’s a bit of what we ate.

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Bright and Colorful

These were painted on the wall of a temple in Si Racha. I really liked the colors and the fanciful themes. Enjoy!

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Here again Joseph Campbell would be the one to ask what they are all about, I just liked the colors and the wild themes.

A Little Out and About

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Food is an adventure here! Every meal is plate upon plate upon plate of spicy, sweet, sour and vinegar. All of it is beyond delicious. Just watch HOT for the peppers. Hot doesn’t begin to describe it.

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Pattaya is a coastal town so sea food is always served.

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Going off the beaten path, where the locals go is always the funnests. Several times we’ve eaten in someones garage turned into a restaurant. It’s decidedly a family affaire, but who cares if there’s a car parked next to your table, the foods great! This is the little girl who’s parents or grand parents own it and who seems to be curious every time we come. The two women with me are from the massage parlor. Ones the owner and the other Nu is my masseuse. I never realized how ticklish I was until Nu got after me. I was howling with laughter for almost 2 hours the first time Nu gave me a Thai massage.

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Flowers. They’re everywhere. What we could consider tropical exotics grow everywhere. It just adds the the countries beauty.

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Every street. Every place is a new and exciting adventure.