Suddenly choreography.

It's almost as impossible as photographing a group of kids. Someone is always making a face.

It's almost as impossible as photographing a group of kids. Someone is always making a face.

I woke up today and walked into my friend's kitchen to make a cup of coffee. Dreams of meeting with almost everyone I ever knew were still clustered behind my eyes. We were having some kind of gathering, and everyone was taller than I remembered. Taller and still alive, some of them. There was dancing. More than one person asked me to dance with them because they were too shy on their own. 

Waking up was a like climbing a mountain. The alarm annoyed me but the birdsong invited me to join the wakened world. All these birds! My friends live in the city, but their neighborhood must be some kind of bird sanctuary. I did once see a lovely older birding couple here, binoculars around their necks. I am thankful to have beings awake before me, to coax me along. It's right that they are birds, I have followed them around the world.

I'm on a last minute trip to Chiang Mai, as part of our on-going raising-kids-in-remote-places gig, we have begun sending or driving the teens (my two and two friends) to youth group every other week when we can. Sometimes we put them on a bus and a friend meets them there. Sometimes I bring them. Yesterday I had extra inspiration, as we wanted to see Thor Ragnarok.

It did not disappoint, and at one point, at the introduction of a new character, I nearly stood up and cheered, stopping only when I remembered that I had four teenagers sitting next to me. I was glad we were able to see the movie. It was iffy for a while. There was a power out five minutes into the opening scene, after we had already sat through the half hour of trailers and commercials, and stood for the King's song. We sat in darkness for a long time, and finally the power came back on and we watched our movie.

There is a special delight in driving a long distance with a car full of happy teenagers. I don't feel very old, but I have children who are taller than me or as tall as me, and are really very nearly full fledged grown ones. At least, they seem full grown until certain moments when I stare at them, wondering if they can really think the thing they just said. A teenager is like a grown person talking to you, telling you a story, then looping it into the logic of an eight-year-old. Flash, I'm an adult. Flash, I'm a kid. My brother loves to joke with Kai, patting him on the head and saying, "It's okay, you don't have a frontal lobe." It is still developing, one has to hope.

We talked about many things. We listened to Arcade Fire and Imagine Dragons. I started a silly dance to a song and Kai imitated my actions so it was suddenly choreography. I saw Kenya join in in the rearview mirror and I felt buoyed up by goodness, by the gift of these kids. A teenaged son dancing with his mother is very nearly a miracle of God. I am thankful for the miracles I receive. 

We talked about their generation and mine (the tiny 7 year group called X-ennials) and Generation X, and what it was like to grow up without the Internet, and how they can't imagine not having touch screens anymore. We talked about the Nintendo 64 I played at my friend's house when I was small. We talked about learning to speak a new language, and settled on the fact that it is easier to learn a new language if you have already learned a second one. Vrinda and Taran speak three languages each. 

All four are proficient little world travelers, used to buses and planes, to backpacks, to finding your way around places when you can't read the signs. Kai told us a story about a Youtuber who got stranded in Thailand after he lost his debit card and couldn't get a replacement. We talked about ways you could prevent that from happening. (By making sure that your bank mailing address has people who can forward you your card, for those who are interested. Travel tips.)

Increasingly I know that I cannot predict the future as a parent. And there are too many stories from those who have gone before me, of the ways our children can take unexpected forays into the deep, unrelenting strangeness of the world. But I pray and I pray, and I have every gift of each day. Moments of dancing and laughing. 

We ate at the Burmese restaurant. Taran was happy to find that it tasted better than he remembered, but Kai was sure it didn't. Vrinda was in heaven. So was I. And Kenya was too polite to complain either way. Taran told us a story about a joke he and his father have, that makes them laugh so hard when they are watching a series together that they can't focus on the show. They started to get a bit irritated with each other, as jokes became sharper, and I waded with all my Auntieness and Mommishness, asking them to be patient with one another. And then I dropped them off at youth group, sighing with relief at the silence after the precious, precious noise. 

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as a dollar a month, and get extra question and answer video posts and other content. Thanks so much to this month’s new patrons: Brittani Truby, Alicia Wiggin, Kathleen Anderson, and Timothy Silva. Your support keeps this writer going! 

Swimming through my gold.

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Leaf was at our house the other day, and asked Leafy what projects he has planned. (Is that too confusing? Leaf is my friend and Leafy is my eleven-year-old son.) 

"I'm back to my computer project," he said. "And if I can get a paraglider, I'm going to build a foot-powered airplane."

Both of our jaws dropped. 

Everyone needs a Leafy in his or her life, I think. Someone who is so completely unexpected, who doesn't see any limits to what he or she can do. Some of us are crocheting blankets, others are planning foot-powered airplanes.

I was having a hard night and my friend Winnie told Leafy he should do a crab dance every day (you open and close your hands like crab claws and shuffle from side to side) and chant "Mama is the best, Mama is the best!" So sometimes he does it. It always makes me laugh. He is pure gold.

When the things I love get broken, when I have only five minutes of time to myself in the morning, when the mess doesn't stop or it is a quarrel-filled day, I like to run through the things I love about my kids. It's my version of swimming through my money. 

I love Solo's wild interpretive dancing. On Facebook I saw this video of a bearded man doing a ridiculous dance in a woman's one piece bathing suit, and I commented that I won't be surprised if someone sends me a video of Solo doing that one day. When I told him this, he acted shocked and offended, but later in the evening, his dancing became so wild that he was rolling on the ground and leaping into the air. He loves to shake things up, and I love that about him.

Kai gives the best hugs. He has come back to himself in a beautiful way, after having a difficult couple of early-teen years. He is gracious and wise, and still has the biggest eyes and the widest smile.

Isaac is fuzzy and sweet. Now, when we lie together before he goes to sleep, he reaches out and rubs my back with his little hand. There's not much I love more than holding his hand, walking somewhere together. He is straightforward and funny. He dances with Solo. He waits for laughs. When he gets angry, it's hard not to find it cute. He has ridiculous dimples.

Leafy never says what you expect a person to say. He is always surprising, and I love it. When I work, he gets so excited by the act of creation that he has to jump up and walk around the room. He tells me he loves me when the love wells up so big, and that often happens when I'm working on something creative. He just loves to see people making things. 

And Kenya dances now with headphones on. She is shooting up, nearly as tall as me, but wants to be shorter, so she bends down to hug me with her head against my chest. She carries the posture of the responsible girl with a wildness all her own. She loves every creature. She is a living poem.

***

There are so many things I cannot do. Numbers and tasks elude me. I can be easily duped. My lists evade me. But I can see beauty, so much beauty. I can see fun and quirkiness. I find the ridiculous. I may be grumpy in the morning, but I can stop to listen to a bird. And I have made countless mistakes as a parent, but I see the beauty in my kids.

I think we all have these things. Maybe one of you can't put words together, but finds worlds in numbers. Maybe some of you know all the constellations. Maybe some of you are able to be even-keeled. (This is absolutely miraculous.) It's easy to be hard on ourselves. Make yourself a list, today, of all the little things you are good at. Muffins, kung fu, making beds? And make a list of the things you love in your people. Your spouses and kids, your uncles and aunts. None of us are quite whole, and we are far too ready to focus on what we can't do. Change it up today. Focus on what you can. And then tell me about it. I'd love to hear.

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as a dollar a month, and get extra question and answer video posts and other content. Thanks so much to this month’s new patrons: Brittani Truby, Alicia Wiggin, Kathleen Anderson, and Timothy Silva. Your support keeps this writer going!  

Patrons! The first Q and A video is up! I have a little monologue for you on friendship. I hope you like my rambling. It's my first vlog ever. Find it here.

Launch Day!

Here it is, beautiful people! A new book in the world. Shaper's Daughter, Book 3 in the World Whisperer series, is out today. And it's also the day of the relaunch, with all three books heading out with brand new covers. 

Here are the links to where you can buy the books:

World Whisperer
Guardian of Dawn, World Whisperer Book 2  (Formerly Path of Springs.)
Shaper's Daughter, World Whisperer Book 3

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In the third book of the World Whisperer series, Isika must face her deepest fears and emerge with her true identity intact.

Isika is growing into her life in the Royal city of Azariyah. Her pottery apprenticeship is going well and her friendship with Jabari is blossoming. She loves her life with her family and longs to be a normal Maweel girl, something that isn't possible with the Desert King in pursuit of her life.

Evil forces want Isika captured or dead, and the threat of the Great Waste grows stronger daily. Why is the Desert King approaching Azariyah and why is he trying to burn Maween to the ground?

As fires erupt all around Azariyah, the loyalty of the Maweel toward their World Whisperer is tested. Rumors follow Isika as she fights fire and suspicion to protect the city she loves and earn the trust of her people, ultimately standing before an evil so great, it will take everything within her to withstand and defeat it.

***

I will be hosting an online Facebook relaunch party to celebrate, and you're all invited! It's a very easy kind of party to attend, with chatter and thoughts about the book, music and a few prizes. You can ask me anything! Just click the button that says you're going, and you'll be able to see all the posts and qualify for prizes.

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And I'm focusing a lot of my promotion efforts on the first book. I need your help! If you have a minute, you can tweet or post on Facebook about my book. Or share one of the images below. Thank you so much! 

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This and that.

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This last week has been full in all the best ways. Food and singing, writing and school. Trick or treating. A birthday party. And now a book group retreat.

The week started off with community lunch, and I made sprouted moong dal coconut curry, a Mangalorean dish that Jaya used to make. Then on Monday we started school and I read chapter after chapter of books to the kids, drew out their schedules, and introduced the oldest two to my way of scheduling in time chunks. Which they love. They’ve been doing it every day to get their work done, and I think it’s giving them a feeling of control of their day. That’s what it does for me, though I may be deceiving myself there. I seem to have very little control over my day in reality. That’s a half joke.

We sang Jesus bhajans in the afternoon at Shekina Garden, in the golden light that comes in November, and I watered my new seedlings in my garden bed. Tuesday was more watering and trick or treating in the evening. Most people hadn’t remembered Halloween, as it isn’t really a Thai thing, but some people had and gave the kids treats. They caused a lot of joy, walking around the Walking Street (our night market) in their costumes.

Wednesday was my day to guide meditation, and then I had Thai class, and then we drove around looking for a person’s house, and we never did find it. I drove the chariot with the kids, since Chinua had the car in Chiang Mai, and we wove in and out of villages, through rice fields and jungles. Though we didn’t find the house, it was very, very beautiful, with cool November air in our hair as we drove. Eventually we gave up on looking for the house, and went home.

And Thursday was the best day of the week, as it was my friend Leaf’s birthday and I had the privilege of helping to throw her a birthday party. Solomon and I baked a cake, getting every dish dirty, and I bought a new dress at the second hand shop in town. It was a dress up party, so in the evening, Chinua and I had fun getting dressed and putting feathers in our hair. We had the party at a nearby, beautiful restaurant, and there were candles and lights, cushions on the grass, the river rushing nearby, music and dancing. We had the tiniest soul train in the world and Chinua danced with me, which happens very, very rarely. It was beautiful. People from around the world had sent Leaf snippets of thoughts and blessings, and as we read them out, the love piled up. It’s rare that so much appreciation of a person’s care accumulates in one evening. It’s beautiful when it happens. It was a true celebration of her, with many friends. And she has given to so many people over the years. Her wisdom, creativity and generosity is renowned. How beautiful to have it spoken out. 

The next morning, I worked on my launch info and final formatting of my new book, and then I drove three hours down the mountain to get to my book group retreat. I’ve been part of a book reading group for the last three years, though I haven’t made it to meetings as often as I should, because of my distance and busy life. This was their 24 year anniversary retreat, and I was determined to make it, so I drove around curves and up and down mountains. The drive was beautiful. The Mexican sunflowers are blooming on the sides of the roads, and the yellow flowering trees are in bloom. Marigolds were planted everywhere for the king’s cremation, so the entire stretch of road was glowing in different shades of yellow.

The retreat has been lovely. Today is the last day, and I’m finally taking a moment to write. We hiked, and talked, and ate. People shared memories of their time in the group, and talked about life back when they first came to Thailand. (It’s an expat group of women.) There is a lot of wisdom in the group. I’m more than twenty years younger than any of the other women, and I love to hear their experiences in Laos, India, and Thailand in the seventies and eighties. Life here was so different then. I wish I could catch a glimpse of it.

We went for a hike yesterday, among pines and along a mountain ridge. I have been weary, doing so many different things since before I left for America. But being outside in the golden air, surprised by flowers that appear suddenly in the jungle, weariness slips away. We stepped on pine needles and through baby mango tree orchards. We walked through a Hmong village and saw rose farms. It was beautiful.

I’m hoping the coming week will be a little less full, to be honest, but I treasure these ones that are so busy, because they are filled to the brim with good things: with life and God and people and work. And there are flowers everywhere.

 

I’m thankful for the flowers.

 

*** 

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as a dollar a month, and get extra question and answer video posts and other content. Thanks so much to this month’s new patrons: Brittani Truby, Alicia Wiggin, and Kathleen Anderson. Your support keeps this writer going!  

Patrons, your video will be up this week. Books have been sent to third-tier supporters. The link is in your Patreon messages. Thank you so much! 

The veil.

My friend Leaf tagged me in a photography challenge and I couldn't get up, so I took a photo of my wall while lying on the floor. 

My friend Leaf tagged me in a photography challenge and I couldn't get up, so I took a photo of my wall while lying on the floor. 

I'm always surprised by how a bad neck day can change the way I think and feel, even the way I speak. Today was a bad neck day. I have chronic pain from a car accident that happened when Kai was three months old. That's fifteen years ago in December. It was a teardrop fracture and it hurt for a long time, especially because I was supposed to rest but I had a baby to care for, so rest was not possible, at least in terms of not using my arms. And then I went and had another baby right away.

All that is long in the past, but the pain is very much in the present. It's rare to have a day without pain, but some days are worse than others. Bad neck days. If I'm squinting a lot, or moving my head around, or you find me lying on the kitchen floor; chances are it's a bad neck day.

I've been thinking about chronic pain over the last year, more ready to call it as it is. (I think I spent the first fourteen years assuming I would be better in a month or so.) I'm doing more these days (some days) about exercise, massage, and supplements. (Magnesium citrate, and it has to be citrate.)

But mostly I want to enjoy my days and want to learn how to think past pain. Today was rough. I had a Thai lesson and could barely gather my thoughts. I forgot English words too. And I felt like moaning along, rolling instead of walking, not like cooking or being a standing and walking human being. Because on bad neck days, my neck doesn't feel capable of holding my head up, and really that's the least a neck should do. (You had only one job!)

It's less like a little piece of the day, and more like a puked on filter that drops over the world. Kids are more annoying with their fingers tapping on the table (little annoying tappy fingers) or their voices and faces. Food is an issue, rather than a joy. Work is hard because it requires sitting or standing or looking at things.

But I am aware that many people live with pain, or with sickness, and do it well. I want to live well, whether or not I get rid of this completely.

Today I tried being aware of pain and how it was effecting me, noticing it and then moving outside of it and into the rest of the world. So, guiding meditation this morning, I realized how much of my mental space was taken up by my bad neck, then moved out into the bird song I could hear, especially those gorgeous spotted doves cooing on the grass roof. I watered seedlings and thought about how pulling the hose hurt a bit, but how the earth smelled so good. And then on the scooter I thought about how the day felt endless when all I wanted was to crawl back into bed, but how the air was my exact favorite kind of air; full of golden light, cooling at the end of the day, reminding me of poems I have read in other places in the world. 

This evening I made patterns with shape blocks with Isaac, and I asked Chinua to give me a quick massage, and I send Kai for takeout on the street, because the kitchen seemed like too much to handle. And I guess pain can make life less easy, but it can't really take away beauty or love, and it can only take away my sense of humor if I let it, so pain can't win. Even chronic pain. 

What about you? Have you found anything that helps with pain?

***

Support me on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as a dollar a month, and get extra question and answer video posts and other content. Thanks so much to this month’s new patrons: Brittani Truby and Alicia Wiggin. Your support keeps this writer going! 
Patrons, I am working on November's video post, and third tier patrons, your copy of Shaper's Daughter will be emailed to you tomorrow instead of today. Yay!