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Five Years Gone

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Five years. Five years? Five years!

I have nothing to say today, so will simply link to the first post I wrote after the death of my amazing son, Jaren.

There are many others here about him and me and death and grief you can find and read, should you be so disposed, by typing his name in the search box. I’m reading them all today.

Five years.

I miss him.

SaminCam copy

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.
~ Nelson Henderson

Now that I’m no longer ignoring my blog, I’ve been prompted by another (Thank you, Lori, for your post that stirred me into action!) to do a bit of gap filling on gap filling.

As do all internationally adopted children, my kids have gaps in their personal stories that can’t be filled. Not only do they have little information on their genetic links and the specific circumstances that preceded their adoptions, their country of birth is also somewhat of a mystery.

They know a lot about Cambodia, of course, from books and photos and films and the tales of our family history, but those can’t convey the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Southeast Asia any more than breathing into a freezer compartment can relate the experience of being cold enough to see their breath.

It has long been in the works for the kids to spend time in their birth country, and this happened for Sam back in February.

Some years back I wrote about Gay’s plan to have him accompany her on an annual housebuilding trip for Tabitha. She’s been doing this every year since Sam came home in 2003, and now that he’s eleven-years-old, it seemed the right time.

I had my concerns, of course, as any mother would seeing her young son travel far without her, but knew most of the building team (Brits, Americans, friends … ) and trusted in their dedication to my son’s safety and had the team leader, Dave Richter on my radio show just a month before, assuring me that Sam would be well looked after.

I won’t say that I was thrilled by him going, as I knew I wouldn’t relax until he was back under my wing, but his excitement was contagious and I knew he was leaving on the trip of a lifetime.

After almost two full days of travel, the first item on his agenda was a 10K walkathon benefitting the building of a women’s hospital in Phnom Penh which he completed with no problems whatsoever … and had raised almost £600.00 for on his Justgiving page. (He’d also raised over 3,000 Seychelles Rupees at a carwash conducted here!)

More difficult were the orientation visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the killing field at Choeung Ek. Although he has been familiar with the tragic history of Cambodia since he was old enough to turn the pages of a book, there’s a lot to process in those places for anyone, even more so a Cambodian-born 11-year-old.

The housebuilding days were a joy for him. Meeting and playing with the children in the village reaffirmed his hope for his compatriots. Working hard felt good, too, empowered as he was at his age to contribute something so substantial to some he knows are his people.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~ Anne Frank

Gay had wisely decided to end the adventure at Angkor Wat with its evidence of the rich and grand history that is also Cambodia … an amazing wrap to an amazing time had by my amazing son.

My love and my gratitude for my children are the greatest gifts I’ll ever know. They are all spreaders of light … candles all.

There are two ways of spreading light – to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. ~Edith Wharton

Here’s a video Gay put together showing some of the highlights of the trip. Huge thanks to Gay, to Tabitha Cambodia, Dave Richter and everyone involved in making this such a wonderful experience.

Not dead today ... just at the beach ...

Not dead today … just at the beach …

Today is my 15th Not Dead Day.

Yes, I have had a few thousand days of being not dead, but on this day in 1999 I very well could have been.

During the course of what I thought was a routine checkup with a cardiologist while on holiday in Singapore I was yanked from a treadmill after about 10 seconds, told to lie down, had a Heparin patch slapped to my chest and was informed that I was within one to thirty days from a massive and certainly fatal heart attack.

Good thing I took that vacation, huh?

I’ve written before about the process, recovery, etc., so no need to do that again. What I would like to do today is talk about living. Fifteen years … nothing to sneeze at. I would have missed a lot had I not been around. Not that everything has been peaches and roses (sometimes not even coming close with pizza and rotgut), but an unpleasant slog through what we know as real life. There have been times I’d have rather avoided, some that almost broke me …

You fall out of your mother’s womb, you crawl across open country under fire, and drop into your grave. ~ Quentin Crisp

But so much has been worth much more than the price of admission. Fifteen years of sunsets and puppies and laughs and love and friends and fresh fruit and hugs and cuddles and kisses and great books and conversations and new experiences coming seemingly from out of the blue.

Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies. ~ Erich Fromm

I’ve had

They're growing, and I get to watch the process...

They’re growing, and I get to watch the process…

another fifteen years to learn new things, to confront my personal ghosts, and wrestle them for lessons, to put effort into making the world a better place.

Life has meaning only if one barters it day by day for something other than itself. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I’m still around to see Sam at 11 and Cj at 9, to fill their heads with as much wisdom as I can and as little baggage as possible, to do my best to leave them with as few gaps as I can … and I have no doubt I will leave them before the gaps are full, just as all parents do … and to live up to Walt Whitman’s edict in “Leaves of Grass”

“…the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.”

This evening, as the kids and I watched the “Wizard of Oz’, I had a sudden recollection that ties the generations together for me.

The movie came out in 1939, the year my mother turned seven-years-old, and made quite an impression on her.

It began what was to be an annual run on American television in 1956. I was five that year, but we watched it as a family every year of the ‘50s from then on.

I don’t remember ever not having a TV in the living room; sitting in front of that tiny (by today’s standards) screen in the huge wooden cabinet on the oval braided rug as my mother … either perched on the brown, skirted couch, cup of coffee in hand no matter what the time of day, or standing behind the ironing board with a bowl of starch water at hand … did the ’50s version of multitasking. It was a position I must have mastered very early. Color TV had yet to arrive, so black-and-white was all we knew. Ricky and Lucy’s apartment, Sky King’s sky, everything the Mouseketeers got up to … all were sans any shade but variations on gray.

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The 1939 Poster

And that was fine … most of the time.

The exception to the whole being-okay-with-B&W thing came with the opening bars of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. My mother’s WoO had imprinted itself on her brain before the age of television, when films were only seen in ‘movie houses’ where a show cost a dime … unless you wanted to sit in the loges … and grownups could add a bit of atmosphere with clouds of cigarette smoke.

By 1939, cinemas also offered films shot in Technicolor, something this movie was made for:

Notable for its use of Technicolor, fantasy storytelling, musical score and unusual characters, over the years it has become one of the best known of all films and part of American popular culture. It also featured what may be the most elaborate use of character make-ups and special effects in a film up to that time.

The fact that this beloved experience was reduced for us kids to NO color annoyed my mother no end, apparently, so she did a running commentary to enhance our viewing pleasure … or hers.

This is where, all of a sudden, everything goes into brilliant color!

That is the YELLOW brick road!

The witch has GREEN skin! (No mention that she looked just like our Aunt Mary when seen in B&W until we were much older.)

Those flowers are poppies … bright red poppies … and are so beautiful.

The whole city is GREEN!

That’s the ‘Horse of a Different Color’ and as it walks around the color changes from green to purple and more!

And so on …

All these years later, I found myself tonight explaining my mother explaining the colors to me to my kids as they watched a hyper-hued DVD of the road and the witch and the poppies and the horse, realizing as I did that time sometimes moves in circles.

Now … if I can just find those damned ruby slippers. I know they’re around here somewhere …

ImageA couple of things happened over the weekend that have gained some ground in restoring my faith in humanity. Unfortunately and predictably, others had completely the opposite reaction and are now writhing around on the grubby floors of social media and the halls of urine-colored ‘journalism’ as if possessed by really stupid demons of the going-to-hell-in-a-handbag-because-the shoes-don’t-match-it sort as if they don’t know the difference between rapture and rupture.

Let’s start with football. The American version, of which I am … or was, when I had any access to viewing … a fan.

In a sport that makes constant reference to ‘penetration in the end zone’, ‘tight ends’, ‘wide receivers’, ‘defensive ends’, ‘long snaps’, ‘ball carriers’, ‘pump fakes’, ‘ball control’, ‘man-on-man’, ‘man-in-motion’ and where the point is ‘going (for the) down’, you’d be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that ‘man-on-man’ was okey-dokey with the National Football League in just about any context. You’d be wrong.

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Michael Sam gets the call …

Michael Sam just became the first OPENLY gay draft pick in the NFL. Just now. Yesterday. In May of 2014.

Michael Sam, the first openly gay player ever to enter the National Football League draft, was taken by the St. Louis Rams with the 249th pick of the draft Saturday, proving precisely nothing about the state of homophobia in professional football.

This is not to say there haven’t been loads of gay players, may of whom were at least party out of the locker. (More than 30 years ago, a dear friend moved to California with his boyfriend who had, coincidentally, been drafted by the Rams.)

Although there have been many positive public reactions to the news … and to the video of Sam being congratulated and cuddled by his partner as the call came … there are still far too many humans that have yet to recognize the simple fact that we’re not all the same.

Here’s what some fuckwad of an NFL ‘player personnel assistant’ had to say:

“I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet,” said an NFL player personnel assistant. “In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”

Sound familiar?

Back in 1946, the Rams signed Kenny Washington, the first African-American football player in the modern era of the NFL. Fisher was aware of the historical resonance Saturday.

Perhaps someday football fans will value gay players as much as they do Black players, as the league wouldn’t amount to shit without them.

Now … keeping with this Monday theme …

The winner of the Eurovision Song Contest

To be honest, I’d never heard of this extravaganza until I moved to England way back in the early ‘90s. To this day I don’t know if I was simply clueless or if the US just didn’t pay much attention and I went along with that. I was stunned by the enthusiasm, the parties planned for the occasion, the dressing up to watch it on the telly, and more than a bit confused about the process. Having the same experience a few years later a small, very crowded apartment in Zurich, I am now convinced that this is a VERY big deal.

Eurovision is about music; the song and the performers.

Historically, a country’s votes were decided by an internal jury, but in 1997 five countries (Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom) experimented with televoting, giving members of the public in those countries the opportunity to vote en masse for their favourite songs. The experiment was a success,and from 1998 onwards all countries were encouraged to use televoting wherever possible. Back-up juries are still used by each country, in the event of a televoting failure. Nowadays members of the public may also vote by SMS, in addition to televoting. Since 2009, national votes in semifinals are a 50/50 combination of both telephone votes and the votes of juries made up of music professionals.

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Conchita and her trophy …

Hundreds of thousands of people watch and vote, and this year the country-by-country talent contest that brought ABBA to the world made even more history than they have since their win 40 years ago …and the winner was humankind.

That not everyone is happy with this outcome is as obvious as peaches having fuzz. The Russians in all their icky homophobic skid … complete with marks … toward the Dark Ages are particularly peeved:

Conchita Wurst’s Eurovision win has been branded “the end of Europe” by Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky. After last night’s 2014 song contest in Copenhagen, Russian state television broadcast a debate on her victory, as politicians and celebrities launched a hate-filled attack. Outspoken ultranationalist MP Zhirinovsky called this year’s result “the end of Europe,” saying: “There is no limit to our outrage. “It has turned wild. There are no more men or women in Europe, just it .”

Hm. It … It seems that take ended up biting Russia on the furry butt:

Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay laws, restricting the spread of information on what was called ‘non traditional sexual relations’ did not go down well with last night’s audience. Russia’s entry, The Tolmachevy Sisters, were greeted by loud boos from those in the venue, with many of the onlookers waving rainbow flags. The tension then reached boiling point during the results announcements, which saw Russia receive further boos with every point received.

I must admit to having had a few less-than-pleasant encounters with drag queens in the past, having taken no little guff from some who find amusement in being unmercifully snarky to straight women who’d just like a top-up on their wine thankyouverymuchMarge, and have been slightly intimidated when standing in line between 6’7” blonds … big shoes … with hair the hight of the Tetons while waiting for a free cubical.

I have also, however, has some uproarious times laughing my head off, straightening stocking seams and dissing … yes, I can do snark, too … the polyester-clad clueless that seem to form herds wherever drag queens congregate.

It takes huge balls to be transgender true to yourself … even bigger than necessary to tell the NFL you’re gay. The world is full of ‘transphobic’ fuckwads

Researchers describe transphobia as emotional disgust, fear, anger or discomfort felt or expressed towards people who don’t conform to society’s gender expectations,[and say that although it is similar to homophobia, racism and sexism, those attitudes are becoming generally considered unacceptable in modern society, whereas some individuals still maintain transphobic views without fear of censure.

As adults, transgender people are frequently subjected to ridicule, stares, taunting and threats of violence, even when just walking down the street or walking into a store. A U.S. survey of 402 older, employed, high-income transgender people found that 60% reported violence or harassment because of their gender identity. 56% had been harassed or verbally abused, 30% had been assaulted, 17% had had objects thrown at them, 14% had been robbed and 8% had experienced what they characterized as an unjustified arrest.

All because of their look, their dress, they’re undeniable style? How stupid is THAT?

Conchita deserves admiration. She is brave beyond measure, beautiful and talented … and her attitude is fabulous!

“Hey, I’m just a singer in a fabulous dress, with great hair and a beard.”

She is also the WINNER! Watch her performance here.

Could it be that the world became a better place this weekend?

I think so.

Those deeply invested in enjoying their fundamentalist frantic frenzy of fucked-uppery … carry on. Sigh …

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Have fun storming the castle …

 

It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.

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… and that can be good!

~W. Edwards Deming

Seychelles is a beautiful country. No one who has gazed at our magnificent granite mountains, strolled our pristine beaches or enjoyed our warm, clear sea would argue the point. 

Beauty has value, of course, but it’s not always enough to sustain an economy and provide for a population, no matter how small.

As the World Bank explains:

 

This island is predominantly service-based and highly vulnerable to global shocks and climate change due to its isolation and small size.

 

… The limited land space, capital, and human resources restrict Seychelles’ ability to benefit from economies of scale in production and economic diversification. 

 

Although tourism and the fishing industry have done us well over the years our dependence on the global economy for guests combined with the bleak outlook for a continuing availability of fish in massive numbers, it seems time to do a re-think and make some changes.

 

Change is never easy; belt-tightening that makes daily living a challenge and new rules forced through scarcity often result in painful restrictions and has historically led to societal unrest and rebellion.

But what if all that needs changing is attitude?

 

We would rather be ruined than changed;

We would rather die in our dread

Than climb the cross of the moment

And let our illusions die.

~W.H. Auden

 

Three little changes in perspective, just three, all eventually inevitable anyway, could set Seychelles on a quick path to solving issues that now loom large. Why not lead, rather than struggle to catch up with those who possessed the vision … and the cojones … to forge the way forward?

 

First thing: The legalization of marijuana. 

 

The instant benefits of such a move have been made clear in places where the laws have been changed in favor of a reasonable approach. Take, for example, the US state of Colorado where over US$ 1 million was raised in tax revenue alone in the first 30 days of legalized pot …

 

The proposal outlines plans to spend some $99 million next fiscal year on substance abuse prevention, youth marijuana use prevention and other priorities. The money would come from a statewide 12.9 percent sales tax on recreational pot. Colorado’s total pot sales next fiscal year were estimated to be about $610 million.

People are already growing weed here illegally, a condition proven to do more harm than good by putting ill-gotten gains into the hands of bad people:

For the first time ever, many of the farmers who supply Mexican drug cartels have stopped planting marijuana, reports the Washington Post. “It’s not worth it anymore,” said Rodrigo Silla, a lifelong cannabis farmer from central Mexico. “I wish the Americans would stop with this legalization.

 

Keeping pot illegal is not only of no benefit to the country, but creating a drag on the economy through policing costs in time and energy and tying up the courts. 

 

Since both the police and the courts should be busying themselves pursuing far more dangerous and detrimental crimes and since the income generated by legal pot farms would add much to the country’s coffers, it’s a win/win situation waiting to happen.

It’s not only farmers and retailers that would see profits, but also ancillary business like bakeries and other purveyors of items to munch. (Watch this if you doubt the potential for the sale of snacks.)

 

As more places make recreational pot an option, Seychelles could grow a global export market for what must be excellent … and somewhat exotic … pot at exactly the same time this country draws mellow tourists who would enjoy tokes on the beaches at sunrise AND have a load of extra cash from the taxes on the weed for enforcement of laws against … and treatment for … truly dangerous and addictive drugs that take a heavy toll here like alcohol and heroin.

 

And speaking of mellow tourists … that brings us to the second change: The legalization of same-sex marriage.

Not only is the writing on the wall for marriage equality to become the standard in the modern world, it is also simply right … and why should anyone care enough about someone else’s love life to get in their way anyway?

 

There are now eighteen countries that recognize gay marriages, NONE of which is a tropical holiday destination.

Aside from earning Seychelles the designation as a caring, progressive country that refuses to cater to bigotry, it’s also a huge money maker:

 

In a paper posted this week by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, researchers predict that same-sex marriages will bring nearly $700 million to the California wedding industry and pump almost $65 million in new revenue into the state budget over the next three years.

 

Weddings are income generators for many local business and they lead to anniversaries so guarantee repeat visits, and with the simple step of legalizing gay marriage in this wedding-destination, tourist-dependent country we open up a new and untapped market … AND up the image of the country globally.

 

Another win/win.

 

The third change requires a bit more than an attitude shift: Swift conversion to solar power.

If every new construction project in Seychelles over the past few years had been required to roof with solar collectors, we’d not need to import expensive, dirty fossil fuels to run much of the country … and we wouldn’t have as many power cuts. (My power just cut … sigh … so who knows when I’ll be able to publish this post.)

We are 4 degrees south of the Equator, which results in having 12 hours of daylight every day of the year, unlike Germany that expects to be 100% onboard with renewable energy by 2050 and has already made a very good start on that goal.

 

Germany is, without a doubt, the leading country for using solar energy. Not only has Germany installed thousands of solar panels already, but it plans to be using nothing but renewable energy by 2050. The country has remained the top buyer of solar energy panels for several years now, and is expected to continue going forward in the same direction during the upcoming months.

 

During 2009, Germany installed eight times more megawatts of photovoltaics solar energy capacity than America did that year.

 

Unlike the diesel the generators that now provide electricity to Seychellois need constantly and a great cost, sunshine is free. Just imagine how much juice would be produced now if places like Four Seasons Resort, Ephilia Resort and Eden Island had been mandated to install solar voltaic systems as part of their projects!

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Car parks covered in panels are a great idea!

 

Remember, if nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.

 

 

(If you don’t like weed, don’t use it. To those who find homosexuality somehow offensive I say: If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry anyone the same sex as you are … and GET OVER IT. If you are opposed to renewable energy from the sun that shines every day … well … you’re either weird or you have a strong financial stake in dirty, expensive fossil fuels.)

 

Some days are better than others, and some are so spectacularly better they deserve an entire post dedicated to their spectacularness.

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Maia Spa

This has been one of those days.

Let me begin by stating unequivocally that I SO deserve this day … ‘nuff said.
Going into detail about just why I’m deserving of hours of luxurious pampering would only serve to dent this almost transcendental state I’m enjoying for as long as I can keep it going, and you already know how life can suck so there’s no reason to go there.

Here are the magic words that made a Wednesday in May wonderful:

Maia Luxury Resort and Spa

Seychelles has a few 5 Star+ resorts and Maia is the jewel in the crown. Award-winning and consistently listed as one of the best hotels in the world by every globally recognized travel publication and tourism organization, it is beautiful with attention paid to every detail and an atmosphere of peaceful exclusivity.

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Maia Attention to Detail

The hotel serves only its guests, so opportunities to luxuriate in Maia environs are rare for most people in Seychelles. I, however, am not most people. (Okay … most days I am very much ‘most people’, but today I was special.)

Here’s how my Wednesday unfolded:

After dropping the kids for their trip to school at 6:15, I returned home for coffee, yogurt and a bit of work. I then drove the 15 or so minutes to Maia where I pulled up at the gate, flashed a smile, and was admitted … after the security guy made a phone call.

I was greeted in the Welcome Pavilion by the gracious Mr. Georges, a manager of long standing with Maia, who escorted me to the Maia Spa where I was served cool juice as my feet soaked in scented water and I was asked to choose from a selection of heavenly oils, then led to an amazingly comfy message bed.

For the next hour I was pampered and pummeled in equal measure, a most pleasurable experience I could easily live with as a daily occurrence.

That done, I was slightly rearranged as it was my face’s turn to be gently indulged for another hour in ways I’m sure took a year or three off this old visage.

Soon after deciding I was NEVER leaving, I was served the most delicious chilled glass of juices I’ve ever tasted and a bowl of fresh fruits … kiwi, melon, pineapple, etc. … in a lovely alcove surrounded by garden and water and bird calls.

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After-pamper refreshment … Maia Style

I may not have left if champaign and sashimi with great company had not been on offer, but it was, so I did.

Many thanks to Maia’s General Manager, Ernst Ludik, and to Georges Gravé for the day and the terrific conversation.

I’d be very happy to do this day again …

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Champers and Mimosa …

“Like” Maia on facebook to see more …

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