“Cream Rises To The Top”

Terry, Me and Dad

Today is Father’s Day in the US. Unfortunately, I’m not able to spend the day with my dad because he’s living in Bangkok, at the moment.

This year’s Father’s Day is especially important because it happens to be the first Father’s Day that my brother also gets to celebrate being a dad. As anybody who keeps up with this blog knows, he just recently had a little baby boy.

Because the labor and process of birthing was so intense, they have been staying at the hospital this past week while Mama C recovers. Thankfully, they get to bring the whole family home today. I can’t think of a better gift for a new father than bringing his baby home on this special day!

Although my relationship with Dad has been tumultuous, there are quite a few lessons I have learned from him. I hope these same lessons and traits find their way through my brother’s own style of parenting.

I get my sense of goofy and inane from my dad. He can be one of the silliest people I know, as I’ve shared in my story of Nee-nah and Magnet Butt. Another game we used to play was “Yahoo, sausage!” On Sunday mornings, when we would all sit down to breakfast, anybody who served themselves a piece of sausage had to yell, “Yahoo, sausage!” Such a funny, random thing to do, but to this day, we all proclaim, “Yahoo, sausage!” whenever we have sausage for breakfast.

My dad is a whiz with puns and analogies. I definitely get my sense of humor and appreciation for puns from him. He had the ability to keep a pun running for 15- 20 iterations, easily. He especially shined if you got him going on baseball or cow puns. Although, I’m pretty good at them now, I still can’t keep up with his creativity and word associations.

He’s also taught me less tangible things like how to question the system and never be too reverent to those in power. For example, when I was applying to attend a semi-private high school, there was a section my parents had to fill out that asked, “Do you feel your child would be a good addition to our school?” and Dad replied, “Does a bear poop in the woods?”

He just thought it was a stupid question considering we were in the process of applying, and figured he’d answer a stupid question with a stupid answer. At the time, I was mortified and frightened that it would affect my chances of getting in, but it didn’t. Instead, it gave them all a good laugh.

Although he was very strict, and had some not so great ways of enforcing rules, one of the things I give him credit for is that he was present. He took an active role in our education and teaching us what he thought was important and didn’t just assume the school would provide us with what we needed to know.

I’ve mentioned our nightly news ritual, but I also have memories of him sitting down in the living room with a globe and explaining weather patterns to us; what high and low pressure meant and where wind came from.

I remember gathering around the table and him talking to us about how to break down a word and ascertain the meaning by their prefix, base and suffix. He introduced us to common Latin base words. That’s when I really started to get an understanding of how language works and could begin to see the similarities between English, French, Spanish and Italian.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not literate in any of them, but I have noticed that it comes in handy while traveling. Even if I don’t know the language, I can get the gist of signs and make my way around in foreign countries, be it Peru or Switzerland.

Dad’s the person who showed me how a toilet works, how to check my oil and tire pressure, and how to change the tire, if necessary. He’s also the guy who showed me how to use jumper cables and a jack. He thought it was important that I know these things regardless of the fact that I was a girl.

Every time we came home, he would ask us, “What’d you learn today?” It set the expectation that we were required to engage in our learning, not just regurgitate facts and wait to be spoon fed. This also led to summer projects being assigned like writing a 10 page report on a subject of his choosing, researching our travel destinations and learning how to type by copying whole articles from the National Geographic.

I’m not saying that I LIKED learning all these lessons, but as I get older, I find myself appreciating them more and more.

The two main phrases that I remember my dad saying are, “Competence breeds confidence,” and “Cream rises to the top.” I think his biggest goal has always been to try and make sure we would be independent, self-sustainable and competent for whatever life threw at us.

I’m not sure I can say the ends justified the means for some of the choices he made. There are definitely methods my dad incorporated that I think did more harm than good, and it took me a long time to forgive him for some things.

However, I know he did the best he could at the time, and I believe he had the best intentions towards the three of us kids. I hope that my brother remembers the positive lessons and finds a way to pass some of them on to his own family.

The Newest Branch Of Our Family Tree

Look at that hair!

Yesterday, my brother and sister-in-law gave birth to a happy, healthy baby boy! It was a long, hard ordeal for Mama C (I think the tally was 36 hours of labor in the hospital) which ended in a C-section. Thankfully, everybody ended up being ok and we now have a brand new baby in the family!

I’m so excited for them! I have two siblings, and although my brother is the youngest of the three of us, he’s the first to give my mom and dad a much anticipated grandchild. This little guy is going to be completely awash in love and attention, I’m sure.

And, he’s absolutely adorable! In fact, he looks a lot like my brother did when he was born…including a full head of dark hair. Even though we’re only half Thai, my brother is definitely the one that takes after my Dad’s side, more than my sister and I. My sister-in-law is full blooded Indian. It’s turned out to be a very good mix of genes for Baby K.

I only wished I lived closer to them so I could visit. Unfortunately, they live clear across the country. Looks like I’m going to be planning a trip out to see them sometime in September after I give them a chance to settle down and into a routine first.

I’m hoping after three months they’ll be ready to go out on a date night and leave Auntie Janyaa to start the habit of spoiling (er, I mean taking care of) the baby!

Awww, isn’t he precious? Only a few hours old and already winking for the camera! 😀

Nee-naah and Magnet Butt

So I was thinking I wanted to lighten the mood around here after my last post was so ranty. I’d also like to assure anybody reading this little blog that I don’t typically vent like that…but hey! Everybody has “those days” once in awhile.

When I was pondering what story I’d like to tell today, I kept coming back to this funny, odd game that my family used to play when we were growing up. Well, mainly it was between my dad and the three of us kids. Mom sort of looked on with a bemused smile and thought we were all crazy.

You see, my dad used to kick our asses when we were growing up. No, no, I don’t mean we were abused. He used to gently kick us in the butt with a “soccer tap.” When he did so, he would crow, “Nee-naah!” (Pronounced “knee” and “naaa” with a soft a.) Which, in Thai, loosely translates to something akin to “Right, there!”

Nee-naahs were high entertainment in our family as a child. The challenge was to get the intended target whilst unaware and kick them in the tush in such a manner that there would be a nice “Pop!” sound, most often quickly followed by squeals and giggles.

There were demerits if you accidentally kicked using your toes, because that hurt. No, the nee-naah’er had to use the top of their foot in order to minimize pain and maximize the proper sound.

My dad was the Master Nee-naah’er. Sometimes, he would lie in wait around the corner of the hallway, or just inside an open doorway, and then you’d hear his triumphant proclamation, “Nee-naah!” echo through the house.

This was usually followed by one of us laughing and exclaiming, “Daa-aad!” You could always tell when he’d found his target, even if you were two floors up.

Of course, my sister, brother and I all had to practice on each other, too. We were constantly trying to trick someone into turning their backsides towards our eagerly awaiting foot.

“Look over there! What’s that behind you?” or “Oh, wow!” Just as my sister’s head swiveled to try and see what I was looking at, “Nee-naah!”

It got so prolific that mom finally had to step in and make the rule that nee-naahs were absolutely forbidden from the kitchen. I think one time my brother tried to sneak up on her while she was bent over an open oven and nearly knocked her in with the chicken.

Not the best move, but then again, at that age, we weren’t thinking about unintended consequences.

The three of us kids used to constantly be wary of being caught unaware. If we sensed that someone was coming up behind us, one of the natural responses was to “protect our assets.”

At the first sign of an impending nee-naah, we would quickly pivot around and put our butt up against the wall. That way, they wouldn’t be able to nee-naah us.

Obviously, that wouldn’t do. So in response, the nee-naah’er was honor bound to teasingly taunt, “Magnet butt! Magnet butt!” in a sing-song voice. This was often accompanied with the requisite finger pointing and victorious wiggling of the hips.

Whoever was getting mocked would try to play it off like they were unfazed and cool. “Who me? I don’t have anything to worry about…” and would slowly, nonchalantly, try to slink down the hallway then…wham!

“Nee-nah!”

Darn it, got me again!

I’m not really sure when we all stopped playing the game together. It must have had something to do with getting older and letting awkwardness and self-consciousness set in. I’m guessing I was probably around twelve or so. Since I was the oldest, what I did usually set the precedence for my siblings.

We no longer had time to play the game. Suddenly, we were too cool to play nee-nah and magnet butt anymore. We had friends over, and, besides, it was all so very mortifying. (“Geez, Dad!” as I rolled my eyes…)

Which, I suppose, is the natural progression of things at that age. Kids grow up.

However, it’s one of those family memories that I treasure now as an adult. It makes me smile at just how goofy and silly we were growing up and how many fun times we all had together.

I remember the first time I told Terry about our little game, he thought it sounded insane. But, every once in awhile, when he least expects it, I’ll kick him in the butt and loudly proclaim, “Nee-nah!”

It’s amazing how fast he’s grown a magnet butt.

FB: Facebook and Family Bigots

Disclaimer: This post takes the long way around to making a point, and may be considered meandering!

One thing that people should know about me is that I’m interested in politics and very liberal. Not that I actually want to BE in politics, my past was way too liberal for that and I’m pretty sure there’s too much photographic evidence that can be held against me. However, I am interested in following politics, keeping myself reasonably informed about legislation that is being passed and what kind of impacts it would make on our future.

This interest is a product of my upbringing. From the ages of 6 to 18, my dad would require me, my sister and brother to watch an hour and a half of news every night- two national and one local broadcast. At the end of that, we had to stand up and give an oral report on one of the news stories, making sure to answer the five key questions: who, what, where, when, why and how. I was expected to have three different articles in mind that I could report on because I was the oldest and my brother and sister got first crack at it. We weren’t allowed to repeat the stories another had chosen.

I have very distinct memories of watching the Berlin Wall come down on my television, and seeing Oliver North testify on the Iran-Contra scandal, as well as the images of students marching in Tienanmen Square. Most people my age remember those events primarily from their history books, but every night, I watched them unfold and reported on them in my living room.

I admit, there were a couple of years after leaving the house that I rebelled against the urge to watch the news every night. I would go weeks without catching any more than snippets of current events. However, with the invention and convenience of the internet, I found my way back to the fold. My news gathering has taken on a different form with the internet (as I expect most peoples’ have) but I’m once again paying attention to the events around me.

Last week, North Carolina passed Amendment 1. Amendment 1 does not ban gay marriage, they already had that on the books. This goes a step further and limits the types of domestic unions recognized by the state and considered valid.

Meaning, if you were homosexual and got married where it is legal- say, Massachusetts or New York- and then move to North Carolina, that union would not be considered legitimate. This could have serious impact on whether an employer could deny health insurance coverage to your spouse, or whether you’d be allowed to visit them in the hospital, not to mention legalities regarding child custody rights.

To be perfectly clear, I’m against this amendment and was saddened to hear another state in the Union choosing to legalize and reinforce bigotry. I know that there has been a lot of great headway recently in LGBT rights, but Amendment 1 served as a reminder that we have a LONG way to go. Which, is sad and unfortunate…and not altogether unexpected.

Most people who know me would probably say that I’m too idealistic and optimistic to think that our justice and legal system still has a chance at working. They probably think all my letters to Congress and political postings on Facebook are a waste of time and effort and that for the most part, I shouldn’t get my hopes up too high.

I can appreciate their perspective, I have a pretty healthy dose of cynicism towards our country’s politics and the dialogue surrounding them, too. However, there’s just something in me that can’t shut up about it. I keep thinking, if just one more person could get engaged and say something to their representatives, they could make a difference. At the very least, it would let our Congress people know that we are watching them and paying attention and hoping they vote in good conscious.

So, I pass along links and post pictures and thoughts about stuff that’s going on to my Facebook wall. Usually, I keep it limited to a few topics that specifically pertain to my group of friends; such as stopping SOPA, supporting Planned Parenthood or asserting my support for equal rights for LGBT.

Since most of my friends tend to be socially aware, it’s created a lot of great conversations and I’ve learned a lot from what they’ve posted as well. It’s nice being able to enter into healthy dialogue, especially if they don’t completely agree, or if they have something to add that I haven’t thought of before.

The problem is that I have a whole contingent of family that is SUPER conservative, and one aunt, in particular, that feels the need to come to my page and make absolutely hateful, prejudice remarks. I’ve tried to engage her in constructive conversation. I’ve tried to keep an open mind and figure out where she’s coming from and respect her perspective, but it never seems to go anywhere with her.

It doesn’t help that she has the barest grasp on how to write in the English language. She absolutely murders grammar and spelling, and sentence structure is a foreign concept to her. So, I’m not altogether sure I understand what she’s trying to say half the time and try to give her the benefit of the doubt or ask her to clarify what she means.

I think the first comment she left on my page was back in February of 2011. I had made a post saying I “stood” with Planned Parenthood. It was during the time Republicans were making a big push to shut off all funding for PP by cutting Title X. I had felt compelled to write a letter to my congressmen pleading with them not to vote for the bill and posted what I had written as a note on Facebook.

My aunt comes back with the comment, “and kill more black children than anything.” Ok, what? I think what she was trying to say was that Planned Parenthood killed more black children than anything, which is completely unfounded. It also had nothing to do with the point I was making, which was that Planned Parenthood helped me through the years when I didn’t have insurance. It is also vaguely racist to boot.

I made a post thanking vets for their service on Veterans’ Day and she responded, “vets can’t eat thank yous” and some birther shit about Obama. Most recently, she’s made a comment about a picture that I posted saying I support gay marriage. She said, “A bird c an call his self a fish is dosn’t make it so.”

Many of my friends suggested just ignoring her. Actually, I do ignore the posts she puts up and refrain from making comments on some of the anti-Obama, Muslim/ birther baiting, and overly religious, anti-gay stuff. However, I don’t feel comfortable not responding to the posts she leaves on my wall because I’m afraid my silence could be misinterpreted as agreeance.

You may be asking why I don’t just delete or block her. I’ve struggled with that question for over a year now and I think it boils down to two things.

Firstly, no matter how far apart we are on the political spectrum, she’s still my family. I have warm memories of visiting her and my cousins during the summer. I still have a good relationship with my cousins and wouldn’t want to cause a rift or discomfort between us.

The other reason is a little less tangible. I think it’s possible (or should be, anyway) for two opposing views to have a reasonable, tactful conversation without resorting to personal attacks. We should be able to communicate, and if I “unfriend” her, it’s as if I’m giving up first.

Unfortunately, I’m closing the door and admitting defeat. Perhaps my disappointment is a matter of ego. I’d like to think I could change someone’s mind or make a difference in someone’s perspective. I try to be open to that kind of change, myself. (Although, I admit it can be a struggle.) Knowing how entrenched my aunt is, she’s probably a lost cause. Come to think of it, she probably feels the same way about me…since I am a sinning, cussing heathen and all.

“This, too, shall pass…”

My sister, Mom, and me.

Today is Mothers’ Day here in the States, and I find myself thinking about the lessons I’ve learned from my own mom. Unfortunately, she’s too far away to properly celebrate the day with her, as she’s currently living in Beijing.

However, the fact that she’s currently living in Beijing is, in itself, one of the valuable examples she’s given to me. I think it’s safe to say that throughout the years, my mom has taught me a number of lessons. She’s also provided countless ways to lead a successful life and is my prototype for being a strong woman.

When she was in her mid-thirties, after her three kids started attending school full time, she went back to college and earned her bachelor’s degree. Then, she started a whole new career as a teacher, which has enabled her to travel the world. Even at that point, she continued her education, and earned her master’s degree when she was in her fifties. She has shown that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams, and that learning is a lifelong venture that never has to end.

My mom finds joy in the little things. This appreciation and recognition of the world around her enables her to be happy day-to-day. Her humor may not be the most cutting, witty or sarcastic in the world, but she carries an inner glow that causes people around her to light up and be happier.

I also learned compassion and empathy from her. She has one of the kindest hearts that I know, and her ability to forgive, to pick up, and keep going is one of the things I admire most.

One of the mottos that she’s often fond of saying is, “This, too, shall pass…” In my teenaged years, full of sturm und drang, I found comfort in the saying. Through the bullying, the awkwardness, and the shyness it was a litany to keep me sane and remember the bigger picture. It has enabled me to keep my head up and to keep working through the trials of growing up, even as I’m in my thirties.

It is also an appropriate reminder during the good times. “This, too, shall pass…” It has caused me to stop on more than one occasion and appreciate life’s perfect moments. To try and fully immerse myself in the experience and recognize it for what it is. It prompts me to soak up all the little details so that they can be pulled from memory’s pocket and light the way during dimmer times.

The only thing constant in life is change. In the end, most of us just hope that the actions we take change the world around us positively and we’ve somehow managed to make a difference in life. I feel it’s safe to say my mom has done that, and I’m forever thankful for her guidance and inspiration.