This and that.

Kai is doing well at school so far. Also school is really different now, right? We're in the future. He’s a brave kid, cycling around the city with a backpack, starting something completely new. It’s inspiring.

I’m hanging out in the city to be here for the first week, but staying in a guesthouse so I can also take a work retreat. I’m editing World Whisperer 4 and working on various projects. Missing my other kids, trying to make the most of my solitude. It’s the story of the mother-artist-person. At home, there is never enough time to get work done. Away, you miss the people who inspire you most. But both states are full of love and many many things to be thankful for. I am thankful for the space and time right now to edit. I am grateful for solitude, which fuels me.

Leafy Skyped me yesterday to ask me what how I would react if he came home one day and had turned into a superhero. I told him I would be stoked, obviously.

I think my superhero skill is tricking myself. Work for me is still a near constant state of trickery. If I set my goals harshly, I rebel against myself, so it has to be all little bits here and there. If I set a schedule I am liable to rebel against it. If I tell others what I am doing so I can be accountable, I am liable to sabotage it. So it’s all trickery folks. Sitting down for a few minutes which turn into hours. Ticking edited chapters off. Another cup of coffee. It’s how I get stuff done. And then I take breaks to read, crochet, or people watch.

People watching is fun. Students in Thailand often head out to study in public, and it makes every public space have a chummy, learn-y type of feeling. I write notes of what people around me are doing. For example, next to me a woman might be looking at lab reports on her iPad. Another girl has an enviable amount of colored pens and is making lists of some kind. She has cool colored tape that she uses to mark certain sheets (but not others!). I’d like to ask her what she is doing, but she is wearing cordless headphones and I don’t wish to disturb. 

And then there are the matching clothes. Matching is a trend on our side of the world, especially when people are traveling together. They buy matching elephant pants and walk around looking amazing. Everyone has the same bottom half, like magic! And then there is when people accidentally match. One day I saw a pregnant lady with a striped navy dress walk by a man who was wearing the exact same stripe pattern on his shirt. It was as though they were part of the same thing for one, brief moment, except that they had probably never met. One day I would like to make a short movie of people wearing matching clothes passing each other in crowds. Maybe their eyes will meet. Maybe not.

Chinua refuses to wear matching clothes with me, though, no matter how many times I point out other couples doing it. Even when they are wearing matching pants, shirts, and caps, it doesn't inspire him to follow suit. He's a good husband otherwise. Not-matching is just a sorrow I have to bear. 

A New Part of the Journey

All beginnings are also endings. And sometimes, to celebrate a beginning, you also need to grieve a bit for an ending, especially if you are a fairly melodramatic, questioning kind of a mother-person. The kind of mother person who still likes to lie on the floor when she is overwhelmed by life and documents.

But the beginnings still need to be celebrated. Change is beautiful, rich, full of life, a thing to be cherished, one of the aims of raising children. 

Kai is starting high school. This is a minor miracle. He came home from camp in April and told us (with a lot of excitement) that he would really, really like to go to high school. And so we began to pray about it and then miracles began rolling in. He has received a scholarship from a loving couple to attend an international school in Chiang Mai. Another beautiful family asked if he can live with them. He will come back on most weekends. And school starts on Monday.

The last months have been a flurry of filling out forms and figuring out details and I wasn’t really sure of anything, so I didn’t write about it. But everything is finalized and our oldest child is half-leaving the house, back on weekends and holidays, living in a city three hours away. 

This will be amazing for him. His brain and brilliance need more challenge, he needs peers and teachers and a good transition point between living in a tiny town in Northern Thailand and moving to Canada or the US when he starts university, three years from now. He will thrive, I’m sure of it. I’m incredibly proud of him and excited that more people get to see the coolness that is Kai.

And also it’s sooner than I thought it would be.

There is this very instinctual, instrinsic part of my mother self that feels like Wait! Watch the kid. Keep the kid close. That’s our job. That’s what we do. 

It doesn’t help that every time I look away from him I reimagine him looking like this:

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How can you send that out into the world? How can you give that away?

But I blink and look back and he looks like this:

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For scale:

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This is a healthy, normal change, but it is the ending of an era. We all lived in a house together for sixteen years. All the family. We had a lot of time together; Kai was always home. We traveled on trains and buses, planes, boats, one tractor, rickshaws, canoes, cars or vans, and even on foot. We did it together. We’ll do more things together, I know it. Kai will still be home a lot over the next three years. But a certain time of life, a quality of how we were as a family is coming to an end, and it brings with it great possibility and the sadness of things that can’t be forever. 

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said I am terrible at transition. Change often has me charging around dropping things, and stubbing my toes. I grow clumsy and vacant. I am overwhelmed. But I want to do this well. So I am writing, listening. We are in the city now, getting ready for school. Doing a bit of thrift shopping. Getting his bicycle fixed. Figuring out class schedule stuff. It’s all normal. I’m channeling my very best Molly Weasley. I’m pretending to be the mom who knows about school and grown up things, who totally has this. I totally have this. 

I mean really.

I do. 

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Wet Season

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The air is wet and old and full of life. It feels ancient even though it must be brand new, though maybe it has wound its way through ancient places, into the caverns, deep crevices of the earth that hold memories that go way, way back. 

It helps me to think of the air like this.

This morning Isaac woke up in a mood. Anything I asked him to do, he couldn’t do, because he was too tired. Getting dressed? Too tired. Using the front bathroom instead of the back bathroom (because it was occupied by a teenage sister who wasn’t delighted by his loud demands that she get out)? Too tired, and plus he doesn’t like that bathroom, not even a little. I was in a bit of a hurry, needing to drive for three hours for a morning appointment, so I had to turn over his small grumpy self to his aforementioned, long-suffering sister.

Our friend Claudia is visiting. She has appeared in these pages before, our dear friend Claudia who lived with us for a month in Nepal, dealing with children all little and amazing. She held Solomon a lot when he was a baby, played with him when he was three, ran down to the lake when he got lost, to look for him and now she gets to see him as a lanky almost-ten-year-old. “I love Solomon,” she told me. “He told me stories for an hour on Sunday, in the kitchen. About bears and America.” 

I know the stories. They are the same stories Solo often tells when he meets someone he hasn’t seen in a while, or someone new. He opens up by telling stories. And he loves hearing stories. I love this about him. It’s like he’s saying, “This is me and these are some things that have happened to me.” I remember when he was a little guy and he didn’t really know how to join in with family stories around the table, so he would say, “When I was on the mountain…” and launch into a long-winded imaginary happening. Yesterday, we were sitting around the table with Olga and Vrinda, and we somehow got into talking about toilets. Solo told us a bit about how he hates the loud toilet sound, so he gets up from the automatic ones and just runs out the door! But then sometimes it is hard to get the door open. It’s difficult, getting out the door ahead of the loud toilet sound.

Everything grows in this season. Things feel perpetually wet. The air is full of life: spores and molds, living things that land and grow and spread new life in new places. On walls, under cars, in the sponge of my motorbike seat. You have to admire it. It doesn’t stop.

When the rain pours hard, it feels cozy in the house, but not the kind of cozy where you are warm and insulated. It’s in the house (not well sealed) with us, fresh rainy air that isn’t enough to get us wet, but has us breathing in the mountains, the season. We are not insulated. We are in it, all the struggle of living things, the streams rushing down steep hills.  We are in the wet. And once you are wet in living things, it is hard not to be.

Like the heart. Like living where you allow difficult things to touch you and change you. Where you live among the stories that people tell you and the hurt or excitement of those stories come wafting to you on spore-filled air. You sit in the midst of joy and pain and feel what God always feels. And sometimes this is the air and the season of your work. It’s wet season.

And then sometimes, even in wet season, there is the clearest light that comes at the end of a soggy day. It turns all the water into diamonds, every tree is edged in light. You take a breath and feel the love of ancient things, the cloud of witnesses, the Eternal Love that remains throughout all the stories. Ancient and brand new, all at once. You can remain here in all this teeming life, because he is here as well. Transforming and making all things new. There is mold, yes, but also  there are flowers.

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Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. A special thanks to new patron, Karen Engel. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work. A new patron-only post went up today: Things I Collect (A Reminder). 

Relating.

Some true things:

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(Chinua gets credit for all of these photos.)

These people are now 6’3” (190.5 cm) and 5’10” (177 cm), respectively. They have always been the best of friends, something I have had to remind them of in the last couple of years. Their relationship is one of opposites, and though it hit some turbulent waters, it seems to be smoothing out a bit. It has to be so beneficial to have a sibling like this; only a breath away, but so different that it is sometimes difficult to find ways to agree.

I didn’t know that parenting would be so much about teaching good conflict skills. (Learning good conflict skills.) Relating is hard. But it is lovely to find them laughing together more often than arguing again.

They are some of the best people I know.  They are deep, kind, wise, and thoughtful. But they are different in the ways they process information, think about the world, think (or feel) about God, approach conversations, make sense of things around them, and approach people. Relating is very, very hard for everyone. It's interesting to have a study of relating in my own home.

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There are many different ways of relating. Here are some: 

Walking side by side. 

Talking about your day.

Not talking about your day.

Cooking without talking, in happy silence.

Discussing Science.

Noticing things together, like moss, mushrooms, or flowers, tall trees or crooked-legged dogs.

Listening to invention ideas.

Writing letters.

Drawing pictures.

Listening to music, noticing lyrics and melodies you haven’t before.

Washing dishes.

Looking at birds through binoculars.

Riding motorbikes near each other.

Singing or learning a new song.

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When I am having a hard time with social skills or relating to people, I sometimes wonder how God can relate to me, and whether I am too hard for him to relate to. Silly in a way, but it is a real fear. Lately I think about all the different ways God relates to us: Through the living breath of Jesus in the world (that mystery), through the words and poetry of Scripture, through Science and the billions of carefully crafted molecules drifting through the world in gorgeous arrangements, forming clouds and butterflies and mold and mountains. Through our breath, expanding and deflating our lungs. Through our love for each other, clumsy though it may be. Through music and symmetry, air, ground, design, life itself.  

When I notice these things and my heart is remembering, I am relating to God. He will always be infinitely better at relating to me than I am to him, and some people are better at relationships than I am. They read people more easily and don’t melt down as much. But God is so much better than any of us that the distance doesn’t matter. It only matters that we hear his particular voice for us. He shaped us to relate to us as we are. For me, I hear his voice in nature, color, and the rhythm of words and that is a good way of relating, after all.

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Life often feels confusing, unlike a handful of stones. Or like a handful of stones if a handful of stones had thoughts or ideas branching out to other stones and then those stones didn’t necessarily get along, or they had beliefs that built themselves tiny houses and walled off from each other. So it is nice, at times, simply to hold a handful of stones and look at them for a while. To quiet my heart and listen for the simple ways God reaches out to me. He is always singing to us and over us, if we can only hear him.

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Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get an extra post each monthA special thanks to new patron, Karen Engel! I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work. The Prologue draft for World Whisperer 4 is now up for patrons in the Blue Whale Tier and above! Thank you so much for your support.

This and that.

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My Superstar Husband just got home from playing music in Sweden; a trip that took a little under 3 weeks.

If this was eight years ago, I may have taken you through a day by day series on how I was coping with him being gone while I worked and taught and took care of all the kids. Now I mainly just get on with life, and try to find a few minutes every day to sit by myself in the quiet. This is my season. I am fully in it: teaching, working at many things, finding rare moments of solitude. I won’t be in it forever. The kids won’t be home forever. I want to enjoy it. 

Of course, eight years ago I had four kids under the age of eight, so it was a little rougher on me when Chinua left on extended trips. Now I have these great teenagers who both give more and take more in many ways. (They take so much mental energy, and they give so so much help to the household.) 

The main thing I found when Chinua was gone this time was that I was fine for a week, okay for a week and a half, and then during the last week, I lost my spark. I felt dull and listless and I found myself going through the motions. I really like the man I married. He plays the piano, guitar, trumpet, mandolin, he is ridiculous and silly, he brings a lot of life to our house. I don’t know what I would do without him.

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Sometimes the most valuable thing that someone brings to a relationship is their essential self. I’m seeing that more and more lately- how we each bring something that is entirely us, that no one else can bring, and there is no way to replace it.

You are so valuable, Reader. I hope you know it.

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Leafy’s current obsession is medieval armor. We have all these little chain mail links around the house because he has been making chain mail out of wire. 

Whenever I tell Leafy something good about himself, he gives a little hop. Leafy’s hop is one of my favorite things. It’s how I can tell that he is happy and well. We all love our Leafy Boy so much. I am pretty fierce with love for him. 

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Life is so busy in every single area that I’m trying to focus on getting little bits done here and there, rather than having large chunks of work done. Ro and I replanted three crepe myrtles on Thursday (little bits), I have a nice fiction writing streak going (little bits), I’m working my way through emails (little bits), I’m decluttering as I go. Reading to the kids. Making a loaf of bread or knitting a couple rows. Making a phone call or making a copy of a passport. (Little bits.)

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I’m so close to finishing the first draft of Demon’s Arrow (World Whisperer 4) that I can taste it. I’m doing little bits every day… I’ve been in the creative mud so much with this book that I have to take it more gently. But it’s so, so close. I’ll probably share some first draft stuff over at Patreon when it’s done. 

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Kenya and I have our first collaborative painting up at Etsy. I love working with this girl. I’m also working on getting some blank cards up in the shop. I’ll have individual cards and a choose-your-own 6 card set. 

Every day I pray for the kids in the cave. The wait feels unbearable. 

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The world is full of grief and anger, wrongs that go on and on, sorrow and power hungry giants. Today I pray that I can make my home a place of peace, that people would feel welcome here. I pray that our community space can feel like walking into love. I pray that my corner of the Internet would feel welcoming to all, to every single person, especially those who are longing for a home. 

I love you, Readers. God loves you. You are swimming in love. I pray that you can feel it.