hope for the future

over the past year or so i’ve found my social circle expanding to include an awesome group of twenty somethings.

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until i moved to thailand i had no idea that people actually did that kind of thing – the move to a foreign country thing.  okay, i knew people moved countries – what i probably mean is i had no idea i could do that kind of thing and i was totally ignorant of the fact that it was possible for 20 somethings to do such a thing all on their lonesomes.  but these guys have all done it.  they are all here on a temporary basis – different lengths of temporary – and most of them are still trying to figure out just exactly what they want from life.

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they are beginning their journey back to america – one at a time – to figure out the when, where, and how of the next phase of their lives.  i am almost certain that they have no idea how much their friendships have meant to me.  this whole year has been overshadowed by my first born leaving, moving to another country (not a strange and foreign country, but still not the country i’m in).  i am constantly questioning and doubting the job we’ve done preparing him to take on this next challenge.  life without his parents.  there are so many things he’ll have to make happen.  and every time i’ve found myself a little (or a lot) overwhelmed i’ve been able to look to these guys and want what they have for him.  and for him to get there he has to take this first step.

i would be proud for my kids to be like these guys.  i want to encourage them to head out and do the unknown.  to take risks.  to live life and live it big.  that’s what these guys are doing and they are doing it amazingly well.

buy me some popcorn and cracker jacks

whatever this is i’ve got hasn’t had me feeling like doing much of anything, but we finally got out of the house to do something that wasn’t running an errand. we went to a baseball game – the colorado rockies vs. the san francisco giants. i enjoy a baseball game, but i do find they can go on a bit long. i’m not the only one who feels this way because our group decision was that we would arrive sometime after the game had started. we were shooting for second or third inning, but ended up arriving at the bottom of the fifth.  still plenty of game to watch.  and look how awesome our seats were.  (i even zoomed in a little.)

rockies were up 1-0 when we got there, but pretty quickly the giants tied it up.  it was still tied as we went into the bottom of the 9th inning and i was a little worried we were in for extra innings.  i really couldn’t complain too much, it was a beautiful day – 82 degrees.  however, a run was batted in and our team won.

i’m really a texas rangers fan.  the rockies our only my team when we’re in colorado.  or when the rangers aren’t playing in colorado.  after the game there was a mercy me concert.  and both of these things happened at the same time.

those speakers were loud, but he still managed to snooze.

after the game and concert we needed to eat.  we were undecided on where we wanted to go until we saw the sign for five guys burgers.

five guys was on the list of must eat places because not too long ago the kids came across this on you tube (i can’t figure out how to actually embed the video – i’ve tried several tutorials, but no luck.)  the guy in the video is right.  these are good burgers.

http://youtu.be/DcJFdCmN98s

summer’s treacherous a**

“but then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass” -  stephen king salem’s lot.

i am so ready for september.

ok, that’s not totally true.  i’m currently eye ball deep trying to plan our family vacation to tokyo.  what feels like our last family of five vacation (that may or may not prove true).  and i’m liking being the one in control, cuz i’ve been able to throw a few things into the itinerary that i’m pretty sure no one else would have considered.  like a meat theme park.  that’s made the final cut.  a parasitological museum?  we’re doing that.   and 7 days of just the 5 of us?  mastercard got that right – priceless.  i’m totally sure it’s going to be worth the crazy way we’re getting there.  two of us on one airlines.  three on another.  different airports and different layovers.  memories galore.

but then we head to america.  i’ve got a whole lot of mixed feelings about that.  i know that the “omg – chan’s going to live in america even after the rest of us return to thailand” situation has me all kinds of out of sorts.  (chan is C19′s real name – or at least his real nickname – he’s an adult now.  no need to protect him any longer.) but there’s also the perceived expectations i’m already feeling (i bolded perceived on purpose, because i know there’s a slight possibility that it’s all in my head).  our time in the states – as a whole – is not a relaxing time for me.  it’s a go here, do this, get this done kind of time and by the time it’s over i’m totally ready to get back to my life.  my home.  my agenda.

it’s not easy to depend on others for almost everything.  where are we gonna stay?  we can’t afford hotels so we count on friends and family to put us up.  we do have plenty of offers and i’m pretty sure none of those offers are given grudgingly.  some people like us.

there’s also the getting to and fro?  we need to be picked up and delivered to airports.  we’ve got doctor’s appointments to make.  i’ve got a few courses to attend and michael’s going to need to get to and from work.  and sometimes it’s just nice to be able to get away.  for one hour (or two or three).  alone.  or with a kid (or two or three) who need a break because we’re overwhelmed.  because america is awesome and at times just way too much to take in.

it feels so ungrateful to whine and complain.  we have some of the most generous, amazing friends and family who we know are spending time and money to be there for us.  and i am so appreciative of that.  i am looking forward to being able to spend time with people who love us and who have loved us for a long time.  i crave the heart to heart talks i know we’ll have, the sharing of life that we will do (short as that time might be), and the ability let our guards down – to just be.  but the scary part of that is that i’m not sure i know how to do that anymore.

dissertations are really long

When making a proposal, consider that committees evaluating PhD dissertation still look for the originality factor. They would want to see to it that you are working on something genuine and also promise great contributions to your field. Your audience has now become professionals with high standards. You are expected to present something that matches or at least comes close to their level of knowledge. This part of taking up the doctoral degree trains you to become a professional researcher yourself  ~ dissertation today

we so totally got this. just start calling us dr. monza and dr. nic.  (aussies do such crazy things with names.)

dr. monza & dr. nic - research can be so grueling

a few months ago, i was having a chat with an australian friend, nicola, about the pros & cons of cadbury creme eggs.  and that got us wondering as to what might be the differences between the ones made in “the land of the free and the home of the brave” and those made in “the land down under”.  and from that little conversation we hatched a ph.d. idea that oozes originality and also promises to be a massive contribution to our field – a mostly undefined field, but i’m pretty sure whichever lucky school we decide to bless with this dissertation will appreciate our need to not be tied down to anything too specific.  and, as if acquiring eggs from two countries wasn’t difficult enough, we upped the ante by making a batch ourselves.  for real.  and, yes, it’s as difficult as it sounds.  or maybe not.

as with any good research project we had our fair share of research assistants from both countries and i don’t think any kind of dissertation writer worth their salt would feel good about neglecting to give credit where credit is due.   the following researcher assistants hail from the land of oz (not to be confused with the yellow brick road oz, this one has ‘roos and outbacks – but not the steakhouse, but maybe those, too)  sue t. answered a desperate plea for corn syrup and posted it, enabling us to take on the challenge of homemade creme eggs.  cath p. and beth l. contributed the australian cadbury creme eggs and cheryl chez a. transported them to chiang mai.  in her suitcase.  research assistants from the land of opportunity include michael (my husband), he transported the initial american contribution.  but, being unaware of the huge scale of this project (and possibly the lack of self control of one or two of the doctoral candidates), more were needed.  bonnie c. answered a frantic facebook status update and mailed plenty more eggs – enough that the good ol’ u.s. of a. didn’t end up with egg on her face.  (egg… ha ha).  and our last research assistant was an american living in chiang mai, laura h.  her role was taste tester – she was very good at tasting eggs.  so with the gathering of necessary supplies we were ready to begin.

our initial observations led us to conclude that the eggs were wrapped differently and that the aussie egg was bigger than the american egg.  (for the purposes of this project bigger is a very exact unit of measurement.)  we were both a bit surprised by these findings, but we double checked and confirmed that they were indeed accurate.  after our initial comparisons we got to work on the batch of homemade eggs.

ingredients

first up was creating the egg innards. i’m not sure if we used the exact technique that cadbury does, but i feel pretty safe guessing that we didn’t.

i’m not up on the exact mechanics of how real chickens go about getting their yellow into the middle of their egg white, but we found it very helpful to have cold hands when it came time to embed (official lingo) the yolk into the white.  luckily, when we’d checked a14 out of the hospital a few months ago we thought to grab her ice pack thing.

time to prep the chocolate.  then coat the eggs.  one thing that we were certain would set the homemade eggs apart from the store bought is the coconut oil we used to help set the chocolate.

we assumed there would be other minor differences, but were optimistic that they might not be too noticeable.  we were working with a handicap – not having molds – but were confident that this was only a slight obstacle, one that we could easily overcome.

 

after we’d created the best replication of a cadbury creme egg we had to let them firm up.  and, not the kind of gals who just sit on our laurels, we went ahead and did some cleaning up.

well, it looks like only one of us was actually doing the cleaning up. maybe i was just sitting on my laurels.

and now for the heavy duty ph.d. dissertation worthy stuff – complete with supporting evidence.  first, a visual examination of the eggs.

wait, wait, wait…  there’s one missing.

that’s better.  upon close inspection it is obvious that one of these eggs is noticeably different from the others.  that’s right, the one on the far left is obviously bigger.  and if you guessed that’s because it’s the australian egg, then you’re pretty smart.

surprise, surprise - the one we made is on the far right

now, we weren’t sure why the australian egg was bigger.  the packaging told us that it weighed 39 grams.  the american egg weighs 34.  but we wanted to know why?  (intelligent types and 2 year olds always want to know why – proof again of our ph.d. worthiness).

again, look at the one on the left!?!  it’s got gobs more chocolate.  we were shocked.  so shocked that we didn’t get out any measuring devices to find out just how much more chocolate it had.  but, for our purposes, gobs is as exact a scientific measurement as bigger.  at this point we noticed that our homemade egg wasn’t an exact replica of either of the others – being the observant lasses that we are.  but we were still feeling like it could hold it’s own.

and now for the results of the taste test.  after some serious deliberation about our personal capabilities we came to the conclusion that for each of us to try to eat an entire one of each of the three different types of egg might prove difficult.  and dangerous.  so we went with eating 1/2 of each of them.  which meant we would be eating 2 whole eggs each.  what?  oh, how did we get that 3 halves make 2 wholes?  well, we added a fourth secret ingredient homemade egg.

that one there on the far right?  it has orange extract in it.  it wasn’t part of the official dissertation.  but rather an opportunity for us to show initiative (i think that’s another ph.d. worthy trait).

so how’d the eggs stack up?

 

we both agreed that the australian egg was better.  the extra milk chocolate seemed to help cut the overpowering sweetness of the fondant egg innards.  we also agreed that we weren’t exactly sure it was a good thing that milk chocolate was cutting the sweet.  the american egg has 10 fewer calories going for it.  you should never undervalue 10 fewer calories.  our homemade egg had an added coconut flavor, from the coconut oil we added to the milk chocolate.  i found this to be a lovely addition.  my favorite might have been the orange egg.  i’m a sucker for orange/chocolate pairings so it was right up my alley.

but i think the most valuable thing we learned was that what goes up must come down – sugar highs don’t last forever.  and coming in a close second was that we could make some pretty good creme eggs ourselves.

signs of change

sure signs the seasons they are a changing here in chiang mai

  1. frigid morning and evening temperatures.  and when i say frigid i mean it. it was 66 this morning and i didn’t want to get out from under the warmth of the comforter.  if you had told me 3 years ago that i’d be digging out hoodie sweatshirts and warm socks when the thermometer hit 69 i’d have called you crazy – or at least thought you were crazy.
  2. khom loy.  you actually see them off and on through out the year, but they are in full force as the loy kratong celebration approaches.  releasing these lanterns always feels sort of exotic.  this past weekend i went to a party to celebrate a couple of friends’ 50th birthdays.  as part of the festivities we released many lanterns.  the brisk air and the lanterns made for a perfect cool season evening.

 

 

one is silver and the other gold

as a general rule, i don’t do friendship well. like any rule, there are exceptions, but they are few and far between. i am great at acquaintances. keeping things surface is my forté. see, i sort of keep people at arm’s length and i can be a bit prickly – which really gets in the way of getting below the surface.

part of my struggle is that i’m pretty sure i lack the friendship forming gene. i honestly don’t get how people become fast friends – and by fast i mean, like, taking less than 4 years – and where i find myself now is a difficult place. and i do mean that literally. because it’s a very transient community. people are constantly coming and going. and it’s a diverse community. people from all over the world, with different customs, expectations and not to mention languages and accents. it makes it all a bit more difficult. but, i also mean that i’m in a difficult place figuratively. because i’ve reached the point that i have become fully aware that the root of the problem is me. i’ve been resistant to putting myself out there – to being vulnerable. and i want to be different. i want to have people (heck, i’d be happy with just a person) that i can be completely me with. that i can laugh with and cry with. that i can share the ups and downs with. i’m tired of being lonely. and i’m tired of wishing and wanting.

and what’s really frustrating is that those people. those people who can be friends – really good friends – are right in front of me. and i’ve made excuses, pushed them away and sabotaged relationships. but it’s time for a change. it’s time to take control. it’s time to mend fences and take risks. i’m not so confident of what the results will be, but i’m willing to give it a go.