Scenes From My Weekend

a weekend spent baking Christmas cookies and
making Christmas crafts with the kids at my work

(the photo of me writing wasn’t taken by me
- obviously -
that is the talent of Mr. Tawee Donchai)


Also linking up with Communal Global

A Plea For Help

The organization I work for, The SOLD Project, has been presented with an opportunity that could really help us grow as an organization and in our ability to help the communities we serve, where poverty is one of the main reasons why children end up in the sex trade – because they need to bring home money for them & their families to survive.

The Girl Effect (Have you seen their videos? You can check it out here, if you like: has selected The SOLD Project, among other organizations, to compete for a chance to become a part of their organization and its efforts. This is SUCH big news for us because, if we win, it would not only mean added exposure and credibility for us, but also the potential for a lot more donations coming our way. Donations we can use for things like: upgrading and adding to our facilities, having more resources to hire long-term, talented staff, gaining more resources to expand into other communities, and providing more scholarships and extra educational opportunities to children we’ve identified as at-risk of being trafficked. All of which could help not only individuals, but entire communities.

The challenge for us is to get AS MANY DONORS as we can. I know money is tight for everyone, especially in a struggling economy, but thankfully, people don’t have to give a whole lot – $10 donations are all we need – it’s the sheer number of donors that matters most.
The challenge ends November 30, but PLEASE don’t wait to give, if you can. We’re already super close to being one of the finalists…but last year, finalists had over 800 donors, so we clearly still have a LONG way to go!

PLEASE VISIT THIS LINK: If you can spare $10 to donate, I will be SO VERY grateful.

AND SPREAD THE WORD! If you could share this post on Facebook, on Twitter, or via email with anyone else you think might be willing to give, it would mean the world to me!! If everyone who donates spreads the word to TEN more people, imagine what we could accomplish!

Me, teaching our girls in a drawing class

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to use any of our images in your posts, please let me know and I’ll be happy to help out!

“Change. It begins with me.”

A Coffee Chat

I’ve noticed a trend lately. Every Tuesday, I come to this space and invite you to sit with me and chat about the bigs and littles. The big things happening around us as well as the little things collecting on our hearts. I talk for a little bit, click on publish, and go about my day. Then on Wednesday, I think about all the things I would really say if I were really having a coffee chat with you. But then it’s Wednesday already so I go about my business and tuck all those unsaid thoughts back up in a corner somewhere and never look at them again.

I think it’s because I only bring the bigs to Tuesday and the littles get shoved off until they demand attention on Wednesday, but sometimes it’s the littles that mean more than the bigs, you know?

So I’m going to try to rectify this habit and bring my Wednesday thoughts to our Tuesday chats. Bear with me if I wax long-winded.

You all have heard me talk about how many visitors we’ve had come to visit this year. I love opening our home up to friends and family and giving them a comfortable base from which to explore our new city and country, and I love sharing with them our favorite restaurants or cafes, shops, and sights. Playing host, tour guide, and chauffeur to loved ones, however, is anathema to routine. And the truth is, as much as I love spontaneity and childlike wonder, I need routine. I find it’s crucial to maintaining the discipline I need to keep writing and improving my writing. Discipline is what keeps me going when words run out, when people treat me like writing isn’t a “real” job, when I get constructive feedback as well as criticism, and when I get no feedback at all. I tell myself discipline is the difference between getting published and not.

After coming back from Bangkok, I feel like, with a few wrinkles in the fabric here and there, I’m finally coming back to routine. I’ve been working on the final edits to my manuscript as per my editor’s suggestions, scrapping the dead weight and kneading half-baked ideas into bigger and better ones, interrogating each comma, “and,” “but,” and “therefore” along the way. In two weeks, I’ve done more solid, productive work than I have in the last two months, and am a little more than halfway done.

My editor gave me a list of literary agents to send my manuscript to when I’m done, and that’s another fire under my butt, a vote of confidence, and a teeny tiny pinky toe in the door.

Meanwhile, my work with The SOLD Project continues. We just had a volunteer come through for a month, bringing some fresh ideas to the table, and I’m looking forward to using them as inspiration to invigorate what I’m doing with the kids. See, teaching the kids there has been a challenge for me personally because 1) my teaching experience is with American university students and motivating them is far different from (and, dare I say, easier than) motivating at-risk Thai children, and 2) I’m a quiet person, which makes me much better suited to building relationships with children one-on-one, and less ideal for playing around with a large group of kids all at once. I feel the relationships I’m building with the kids is meaningful, but it does take time, and at-risk kids come and go, too.

In January, I felt I finally hit on the sweet spot with them, giving them projects that were engaging for their level and helped build their confidence, which is what I felt they most desperately needed. I kept on that track with them (and then I was gone for a month in Europe), and then our volunteer stepped every thing up a couple of levels and was doing fantastic work with the kids, where they were really opening up, producing great work, and having a ton of fun along the way.

I’m taking this as a sign that the kids are ready for work that taps even deeper into their creativity, and that they may not be so afraid or shy as they once were. If I’m being really honest, I’m hoping that I’ve provided a foundation for the kids to build on and that they are growing in confidence and opening up again where impoverished, abusive backgrounds have inhibited or even beaten back growth – and hoping that this isn’t a sign that I’ve just been a crappy teacher with whom the kids have been unable to relate or become engaged. I’m hoping I’d be sensitive enough to notice and flexible enough to adapt if the latter were truth.

In the meantime, I’m cherishing small successes: where the kids met an idea with reluctance and, after a few attempts together, soon took off and did something all on their own; where a shy, quiet child showed brilliance and later sought me out for a much needed hug; and where I had a sit-down with a child to find out what was going on in their hearts, and despite a language barrier, we met with understanding. These moments may be small, but I think they matter, even if years down the road they aren’t remembered. I like to think they aren’t wholly forgotten either.

Anyway, that’s some of my bigs and littles for the week. I’m still getting over the tail end of the cold I had last week, but I have some good energy in spurts. The good thing about being sick was I had some forced quiet time which gave me space to listen to more music again and draw in my journal (which I haven’t done in years), so I’m looking forward to more music and drawing and writing this week. We’ll see if Miss Muse decides to grace me with her presence.

What are your bigs and littles for this week? Will share them with me? Tell me one big thing going on and one little thing too!

Also linking up with:

A Special Series on Modern Slavery

Most of you who read my blog know that I work with an organization in northern Thailand that attempts to prevent the trafficking of children into sexual servitude. That’s a lot of big 25-cent words to basically say: people kidnap kids and force them to have sex with {insert your adjectives of choice here} adults for money. A filthy, stinking lot of money. (Globally, human trafficking constitutes a $32 billion industry, annually, second only to guns and drugs.) Sorry to be so blunt, but it’s truth.

I don’t talk too much about my work here on my blog for a variety of reasons: the kids’ privacy, and the sensitive nature of the topic, first and foremost. But also I shy away from turning my blog into a soapbox for the issue because I know it’s not polite. It’s not a nice thing to talk about. It’s violent, and it’s hard for people to hear. And if I blather on about it too much, I fear it’ll make people care less, not more.

But in the year that I have been working here on the ground, I’ve learned a lot: about the issue, about the people involved, about myself. And I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t share some of the harder lessons I’ve learned and some of the more transformative experiences. So each day this week, I’ll share a post, and I hope you’ll join me. I won’t be cramming your head with facts and figures or tearing at your heart with tear-jerking anecdotes about the horrible things inflicted upon the innocent. My aim isn’t to motivate you to send dollars or anything like that. I think the real reason I feel compelled to speak up is two-fold. 1) I want you to be able to protect yourself or your children, because trafficking isn’t something that just happens over there to those people. Sure, it happens predominantly in under-developed or developing countries, but it also happens at home, in the U.S., in Europe. The tactics might be different, savvier…but the end result is the same. And, 2) Should you wish to become involved, I hope to encourage you to do so in an informed way, because the solutions that are easiest and most glorious are often the ones with unintended consequences: at best, benign, at worst, detrimental to the very people you wish to help.

So over the course of this week, I’ll be talking a bit about things like:
* how it happens
* on intervention: why rescues are sexy, but we don’t do them
* on the legal side: some surprising news about what laws can really work
* and prevention work: overcoming my own hubris and learning to get out of my own way when reaching out to the kids

A quick note: it’s not just little girls this happens to. Boys are prey to this too. I focus on sex trafficking, but people are trafficked (deceived, abducted, bought and sold) for all kinds of forced labor – it’s even done for the acquisition and sale of their organs. There really are no limits to the depravity.

At any point, please feel free to ask any questions you’d like about the issue or my experiences. If there are any questions, I’ll end the series with a Q & A post with my responses.

In the meantime, if you’re new to the topic or want to know more about what trafficking is, or how and why it happens, please take some time to watch this MTV Exit video hosted by Angelina Jolie. It’s about 20 minutes long, but if you don’t have 20 minutes now, please keep it open in a tab in your browser to remind you to watch it when you do have 20 minutes.

{{Click this link to go to the video.}}

When I was little, my parents and teachers at school used to warn me about not going off with strangers. So when I thought about kidnapping, I used to have this image in my head of big, burly guys in masks stealing kids off the street or from their schools. It rarely happens like that. Here, it often happens that kids are lured away from their families by people they know and trust, by aunts or uncles or friends with promises of a good job and money for their impoverished families. In the West or in Latin America, the lures often involve a really sweet boyfriend, who fills an unsuspecting girl with tales of love and romance, investing even as much as 6 months or a year in building a relationship with her, until he can get her away from her family.

I don’t wish to make you afraid of your fellow man or terrified and untrusting in this world. But I do wish to put you on your guard and encourage you to put your children on their guard when they hear offers of a job far away from family, or a chance to go abroad. Be sure to investigate it before you go. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Be wary of anyone who tries to isolate you, emotionally or physically, from the ones who love you. Be on your guard with anyone who tries to take you away from or cut your ties with your friends and family. That goes, not just for trafficking, but for avoiding abusive relationships in general. Terrorism happens most effectively when you think you are all alone.

I know this isn’t the happiest of topics to talk about, but I do hope at the end of this series, I’ll not only have drawn back the veil on what we’re dealing with here, but also dispel some myths as well as share some things that give me joy and hope and a sense of meaning.

Every child we work with has a face and a story, their own burgeoning personality, hopes and fears. It may be hard to picture them from so far away, but they are real, and just like any other child, they revel in simple joys.

*Disclaimer: The stories and information presented in this series of posts are all things I’ve learned or heard about through research or my experiences working here. The views expressed here are my own and do not represent any organization I work with or the sources I cite. Getting accurate information on this topic is not always easy, but anything discussed here is to the best of my current knowledge, and I will gladly consider any evidence to the contrary. Any errors or inaccuracies are mine.

Click here to go to Part Two. Click here for Part Three. Part Four is here. And finally, the conclusion.

Life Skills {A Bigger Picture Moment}

Last week, I went to spend some time at a place called Urban Light (such a fantastic name for what they do). It’s an aftercare center geared towards helping teenage boys who’ve been trafficked into working in boy bars by offering them a safe place to go and find help and support for trying to leave the bars. It’s really beautiful work they do there, and the ladies who run it have become like a mother and sister figure to these boys.

It was so inspiring to be there and see some of the projects they do. Like, they had the boys develop first aid kits – they designed the logos and collaborated on putting together the kits – and then went to deliver them in poor neighborhoods around the city and outlying villages. (How awesome is that? Empowering AND giving back.) They have regular English classes and guitar lessons. The ladies take the boys on camping trips and they have weekly baking days.

So simple…and yet it blew my mind.

I got so many ideas from talking to these ladies about projects I could do with the kids at SOLD. And I realized (as a former university educator), my mind was SO stuck on teaching the kids things they’d need for school and things that school teaches are important for life. Things like: how to write a 5-paragraph essay, how to think critically, how to question and how to form an argument. Those are all important in their own way. But life skills are so much broader than that. There are so many things we do from day-to-day that we each have to figure out…and probably never really took a class for.

Things like baking. (Unless you had home ec. My high school did not have home ec, and I’m pretty sure these kids don’t have it either.) And simple community projects. And how to show up and reach out to someone in need.

As I’m writing this, in my mind I’m thinking a big, fat “DUH.” We all know there’s a difference between book smarts and street smarts. But somehow I just had such a huge blinder focusing myself on my role as “Teacher,” thinking I could only teach school related things.

But the world is so much bigger than that, isn’t it? Tell me, what are some of the things you had to learn on your own? What lessons did you not have a class for?

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us! 

Reflect on the moments that shimmered in your heart.Capture.
Harvest them!

Link up your gleaned moment this week at Sarah’sPlease be sure to link to your post, not your blog, and include our button or a link back to the host page. 

Visit some of the other participants and encourage each other in this journey we call life.

Imagine You Are Thirteen Again

Imagine you are thirteen years old again. Do you remember what that was like? Do you remember how you dressed, who your friends were, what boys you liked? Do you remember what your biggest hope was? Your biggest fear?

Now imagine you’re a thirteen-year-old girl and you live someplace where girls don’t dream about John Cusack or Zack from Saved by the Bell. You don’t dream about becoming Prom Queen or Valedictorian. You might hope that boy you like will notice you – that is, if you hope at all – but mostly, you’re worried about your father who has no stable income, your mother who is sick and can’t afford a doctor, your belly that is undernourished, or the fact that you are thirteen and simply cannot afford to go to school anymore. If you can’t go to school, you have to work to support the family.

So you try to find a job, but you are too young to work anywhere highly visible or even remotely respectable. You have no experience, and only a minimum of education.

So a neighbor, your uncle, a friend of your aunt, an old teacher tells you about a job in the big city. Or overseas. You could be a waitress in a hotel, a bar, a nice restaurant. It’s far from home, but they assure you that you will make more money than you can plausibly imagine. You can feed your family. You can get your mother to a doctor. You can get your entire family out of poverty. You can afford to finish school – hell, even go to college if you want. They tell you this.

It sounds too good to be true. You don’t believe them.

“It’s true,” they insist. “My niece did it. My cousin is there right now. Look, they sent me all these fine things: the beautiful necklace, the nice stereo system, the pretty shoes I always wear. My cousin, she wears nothing but Prada. The real thing. I tell you, you can get out of here and make so much money.”

“Is it safe?” you wonder.

“Of course, it is safe! Do you think I would tell you to go if it weren’t? My cousin, she’ll watch after you. She’ll make sure you’re okay and let us know if you have any trouble. You can always come back if you don’t like it. What’s to lose?”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course! Don’t you trust me?”

And because it is your uncle, your aunt, your neighbor, your friend, ultimately you do trust. Because you are thirteen and you’ve known them all your life.

They introduce you to someone else. You get in a van, still telling yourself you can leave at any time. Other girls are there. They seem friendly and happy too. You drive away from your family, full of hope and only a little afraid. When you arrive in the big city, you are amazed by what you see, they treat you to a makeover, and you feel so very grown up.

They take you to where you will work. You think you’ll have some time to rest, but you find out you start right away. But it’s only when they ask if you’ve ever had sex before that you begin to have an inkling that something is wrong.

Then it is too late to scream, though you try. You’ve already been sold.

Trafficked. Modern-day slavery: this is how it happens.

This free write happened because sometimes I just can’t keep silent about what I work with, and the things that are done to children.

Join in the free writes at Heather’s!


He sat splay-legged on the wooden floor, amongst the pell-mell of scattered markers and paper scraps, lost in his own daydream world. He sat by himself, his back turned towards me, but seeing him there, my breath caught in my throat, and my mind snapped a picture to remember.

He was playing.

He danced his little dragon in the air, his shoulders rigid with the wonder and fascination at this creation he had made with his own two hands.

I had just shown the kids how to make little Chinese dragon puppets. At the beginning, I had to show this little 8-year-old how to color. He watched me filling in the spaces with a marker, himself too daunted to put his own pen to paper. I worried he would never finish his, he was so busy looking at mine, terrified of doing something wrong. There are no wrong answers, I wanted to say, but too often I’ve seen disbelief in their eyes. So instead, I gave him time and whispers of encouragement. When the other kids left, he began to color in earnest.

And then he finished. This child, for whom imagination was a forgotten story, for whom fear is a constant houseguest, and for whom pride and creation are foreign concepts, this child was playing with a beautiful dragon he had made.

With his own two hands.

My breath got caught in my throat.

He stole my voice for a moment, and I thought I might give mine if it meant he’d find his.

Did he see? It was there all the time, just waiting to be understood.

As Spotted on the Thai Side

Journaling Life in Thailand

Happy Tuesday! What’s in your cup today? Me, I’m drinking some nice, floral Jasmine tea. Life is slowly settling back into routine, and I find I like that just fine.

We went up to Chiang Rai this weekend to work at SOLD, and this time I taught the kids how to make Chinese dragon puppets. I’m all excited about it because I think I’ve finally hit on something that seems just right for their speed.

 (It only took me a year of Saturdays to figure it out…)

They may not be ready for fine art lessons, or deeper reflections on life. But these kinds of arts and crafts, they can do.

They’re super shy at the beginning, skeptical of the point of doing anything, and absolutely terrified of making mistakes. But when they finish, and hold something beautiful that they created with their own hands

That wonder and amazement in their eyes makes everything worth it. I feel like dancing. So I will continue with crafts like these to help build up their confidence, and then, when I feel they’re ready, I’ll start slipping in some higher lessons.

It’s a process, and I’m learning too. Sometimes, it’s hard to see how this is really helping, but I have to believe that every bit of pride in self I can instill in them is just one more barrier preventing them from thinking that selling themselves is a way out of poverty.

In other news, I’m currently awaiting feedback on my novel from a small group of writers and readers. Once I hear back from them, I can make a final set of edits and then start shopping my book out. Call me Excitement and Impatience. I think this is the part where I feel most unproductive. I’m still writing and practicing my craft…but mostly I’m just waiting.

Otherwise, this is a pretty low key day. Laundry demands some attention, and we have to go renew the registration on our motorbikes, but I’ll spend most of the day writing. I have plans to make some home made hamburgers for dinner tonight. I even splurged and bought some cheese – really expensive stuff here, probably twice the price that it is in the States. After entertaining for over three months, we’re ready for some serious downtime, with simple home cooked food.

Salads. We miss salads.

Last night, I made some rice and chicken (rubbed with cumin, salt, garlic, spices, and a touch of Worcestershire sauce) and steamed asparagus. Simple, right? Heavenly because we didn’t have to go out anywhere and it wasn’t restaurant food. It’s funny how eating out used to be an indulgence, and now the rare meal at home has become the treat.

If we were really meeting for coffee today, I’d probably tell you how I’ve been getting back into listening to music lately, especially with some old favorites. Tori Amos is one in particular I’ve had on repeat. I remember listening to Cornflake Girl on the bus on my way to high school in the mornings and liking the song well enough, but I never knew what it was about. Only just a couple of days ago, I actually read up on the song’s meaning and inspiration…and realized Tori Amos is far more complex than I originally appreciated. And these lines, from Silent All These Years, keep running through my head: “Cause what if I’m a mermaid/In these jeans of his/With her name still on it/Hey but I don’t care/Cause sometimes/I said sometimes/I hear my voice/And it’s been here/Silent all these years”

Anyway, it’s getting late. I’d better get going on that laundry if it’s going to get dry before that sun goes down. What’s on the docket for you this week? (And let’s just not talk about how it’s already February tomorrow, m’kay?)



Let’s Share a Smoothie, Ok?

So today is actually Wednesday and it’s the afternoon, so instead of coffee, I indulged in a fresh mango, strawberry, and raspberry smoothie, but I’m just going to go ahead and pretend this actually qualifies for Virtual Coffee and Communal Global, m’kay?

But I can share the cup of coffee I had last night if we need imagery to complete the illusion!

It was a latte from one of our favorite cafes, Ristr8o, which I enjoyed with a small bite of fresh roti (covered in chocolate and condensed milk). Yummy dessert!

We are now entering the fifth week of my parents’ visit here with us, and I think we’ve almost taken them to all the restaurants we like here in town. We’ve also spent a lot of time shopping and trying as many fun and interesting things as we can. A few massages have been thrown in too.

Last weekend, we took them to Chiang Rai, to see where I work at SOLD. It was good to see the kids again and I told them all about Halloween. I had them draw scary pictures and the ones with the scariest drawings would win a prize. It was so cute to see what they came up with! These two boys drew crazy people with snakes coming out of eyeballs, blood dripping, and crazy fangs. But wouldn’t you know, it was a shy, quiet little girl who won first prize with a picture of an amazing zombie creature! Color me proud.

Here’s what she drew:

I just love the expression on the zombie’s face and the fact that he’s wearing a tie, but has lost a shoe. And I love the little grave with that arm sticking out! Makes me smile! Not bad for a kid who’d only just heard about Halloween, eh?

Anyway, the big excitement this week is the Loi Kratong Festival, which starts tonight and ends Friday night. Some of you, especially if you’re on Pinterest or Flickr, might be familiar with this photo, by Yang Tee Mon:

Floating Lantern 2

Yeah, that. We’re gonna’ go see that! I’ve been wanting to see it for years, and finally I’m in Chiang Mai at the right time of year. It’s a festival to celebrate and give gratitude to the mother river: the Mae Ping River. The people gather together in the city and release thousands of these floating lanterns into the sky. They also make these beautiful little floats made of banana leaves and fresh flowers and candles, like a little boat lantern, and float them down the river at night. It’s so gorgeous. I can’t wait to see it! I’m not such a great photographer though, so we’ll see if I can figure out how to take a photo in such little light and still manage a halfway sharp image of moving objects.

Anyway, if you’re following the Pinnacle Moments series, today I’m sharing my own Pinnacle Moment: a little piece of my history when I had to make a decision that changed the course of my life. {Hint, hint: it’s about me and my hubby!} If you’d like to find out more, join me back here today!

Hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the shift into autumn! And have something yummy and delicious, full of cinnamon and pumpkin spice for me because I’m missing that this year!

- Jade

P.S. I know a lot of you, like me are total fans of Brene Brown and her work on perfectionism. I just wanted to spread the word that there’s going to be a global conversation to discuss her work and ideas and how they’ve affected us. She’ll be joining in too! It’s going to be on Sunday, Nov. 20, from 2-4 p.m. EST. Be sure to register if you want to join in! More info here: I really want to join in, but that’s 2-4 A.M. in Thailand…Not sure I can make that….But if I know some of you are joining, I may go ahead and join in (and just prepare extra coffee for myself that night).


Writing Themselves

A couple of weeks ago, I got a few of the kids at The SOLD Project to try their hand at Writing Me. I was blown away at the result and want to share it with you all. If you like their words too, please leave a comment and I’d love to pass on the encouragement to the kids! {Love!}


Writing Me: Where I’m From
A Compilation

I am from the lotus flower, from Buddhist Lent, and warm family.

I am from high school, from cozy bedroom, from sister and brother and brother-in-law.

From “Did you eat yet?” and “Do your homework.”

I am from temple and monks and novices, from Chiang Rai, from Pasang.

I am from Thai griddle cakes and vibrant family.

I am from jasmine blossoms, from Songkran, from harmony.

From a home small, wooden, and warm.

I am from rice fields, from banana trees and 7-11.

From kind-hearted and warm farmers who like to eat fish.

I’m from “Son, time to eat” and “Son, time to sleep.”

I am from the longan fruit, from milk, and from mango.

I am from rice and I am from God.

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