Things I've observed, Part 2


So, from my notes we had:

Cha chas
Getting on buses with my kids
Pink hijab
Dentist glass tables bikes
Middle aged dancing man
Spanish people durian
And I’m adding: Dog food purse

Here we go!

Cha chas

On our recent dentist/visa trip we went to a flashy new mall in Chiang Mai, which had an amazing playground. I paid for the kids to use it for three hours. It was a bit of a splurge, but free playgrounds aren’t an abundant thing in Thailand and this one had three levels with a huge ball pit and giant slides. It was awesome. While I was paying, the woman said, “Give me your phone number so I can call you if I need you. We won’t let your kids leave until you come and pick them up.”

My jaw dropped. “I can leave them here?”

I skipped out of there as fast as I could with Isaac still in the carrier on my back. I knew exactly what I was going to do, what I didn’t really want to do with my kids with me. I was going bra-shopping.

I needed to buy a new bra because my cha chas have left me, they are once again diminishing past the point of deserving the name cha chas. They are in the wane cycle. This is because Isaac is nursing less lately, and there have only been five times in my life that I have filled out a t-shirt in a way worth mentioning. Actually, I should say twice, because the first four times were attached, really. Pregnant nursing, pregnant nursing, and repeat. After Solo was weaned, I was shocked to see what my real size was. I lived on a beach where I could often see people filling out their bikinis while my own bikini top flapped empty in the breeze, and I became rather jealous.

I’m accepting of my cha cha-less self these days. I’m going for the Japanese loose shirts look. The “We’re flat chested and we love it!” look. Or something like that. And yes, I’m blogging about boobs. I’ve gotten older, I’m uninhibited. What will I be writing about when I’m sixty? We’ll have to wait to find out.


Riding on buses with my kids

When I was a teenager and rode the city bus to school, I used to have these frequent daydreams about having kids and riding the bus with them. We’d be a diverse group, I thought, since a lot of my kids would surely be adopted and probably of various ethnicities. I imagined us all trailing on, causing a bit of a stir, sitting and joking together. It was a pleasant daydream for fifteen-year-old me, awkward, in my man phase (when everyone mistook me for a man and called me Sir), in grungy Japanese All-Stars, fat corduroys, and a polyester shirt. This was before I knew I liked art, or writing, before I ever had a boyfriend. (I had my first boyfriend and kiss at twenty. He was Chinua.) I knew I liked reading, and I knew I liked kids.

Looking back at this little daydream, what strikes me is how completely it was fulfilled. There is nothing truer in my life than the fact that I ride on buses with my kids, that we are diverse, that we cause a stir, and that we sit and joke with each other. I couldn’t have imagined almost anything else about how my life has turned out, but I imagined that. Wow.

They’re such excellent bus-riders, too. (And train-riders, sky train-riders, plane-riders, tuk tuk-riders.) On our recent trip to Chiang Mai, I asked Kai to hold Isaac so I could get back on the bus and check under the seats to see if we had left anything behind. When I looked up, though, Kenya was already doing it, and she continued to do it in each place we left, the entire time we were away from home. Then I had to take an unplanned trip to Bangkok because I couldn’t get my Indian visa in Chiang Mai. Chinua was back in Pai, building the fence for our meditation center. I put the kids on a bus to Pai and they rode back on their own. It went flawlessly. (The buses are not really buses, more like big vans, and the drop off is very close to our house. Chinua met them there.) Riding on buses with my kids. That’s my life.


Pink hijab

This one is about Isaac, who talks non-stop. Non. Stop. He talks to anyone who will listen to him, forming full sentences with laughs for punctuation, listening for responses, but he doesn’t use any words. He loves to talk to people walking by, people on the bus, people on the street. Everyone.

One day I heard him rattling away with enthusiasm and I turned to see who was getting such a thorough talking to. It was the toddler from across the street, just a couple months older than Isaac, who had been carried over to our fence by her dad. She was wearing a pink hijab with sparkles and staring at Isaac, who was talking a mile a minute, as if she had never seen a specimen quite like him before.


Dentist glass tables bikes

We went to the dentist for a yearly check up recently. Clean bills for Kenya and Solo, Kai has one cavity in a baby tooth that is due to fall out soon, and Leafy had a tooth that we already knew had to be taken care of, so we took care of it that day. The dentist’s office was lovely and bright, with toys and even bikes to play with, which seemed fantastic, until I realized that the combination of glass and bikes was going to make me fall down dead. My kids rode the bikes in circles in a room where every wall (floor to ceiling), door, and table was made of glass, and I couldn’t help thinking that something in this set of circumstances was horribly, horribly flawed.

“Careful!” I said/shrieked inanely, while my kids did their best to drive slowly and carefully, but you know how these things go, how everything only escalates with boys, how there is no settle down mechanism in their brains. Left to their own devices, boys will escalate every single game until someone is in the hospital getting stitches or a cast, and that is why they need sisters and grownups. In this case, Kenya was also drunk on indoor bicycles, and I couldn’t count on her to put a halt to things. All I could do was call out directions, “Watch the wall! Not near the tables! No, not near that wall!” The toys at the dentist’s office put me in bed for a week.


Middle aged dancing man

The kids were playing on the aforementioned mall playground and I was finished with my bra shopping, so I sat and was highly entertained by people playing that arcade dancing game where you have to step on the squares, you know the one? I’ve only ever seen it in movies before, but this arcade has a few machines and I couldn’t have been happier than I was when I sat watching people use it. First there were the high school students, still in their uniforms from school. They were awesome. But later, out of nowhere, a middle-aged man with glasses, a polo shirt, dress pants and dress shoes approached, lurked casually for a minute, and then began his game. He was rocking it, not in a  “Wow, what a great dancer” way, but in a “He hits every step with his own style” way. He was fully into it, arms waving, feet skipping back and forth across the squares. He competed with another high school student and won. He went on and on, until finally, he pulled out a handkerchief, wiped the sweat off his head, and left.


Spanish people durian

Solo gets confused easily about nationalities and languages. He still doesn’t really have it all placed in the proper categories in his head— where people are from, where we are from, what language we speak. Lately he has taken to calling every foreign language “Spanish.” I’m not sure why. We tell him the kids are going to Thai class, he needs to practice his Thai, he needs to say thank you in Thai. Nope, he calls the language Spanish.

In our guesthouse the other day he pointed to a sign that had a picture of durian on it, with a big red circle around it, a red line slashing through it.

“It’s the yucky fruit!” he said. (They do not like durian.)

“Yeah,” I said. “You’re not allowed to have durian in this guesthouse.” (It smells really, really bad, so it's banned in most guesthouses.)

“See?” he said. “Even Spanish people don’t like durian.”

This is such a perfect example of a Solo sentence. I can't express the delight this boy brings to my life.


Dog food purse

We’re on our way to India, stopped over in Bangkok for a couple of nights, using the sky train because Thai protests have taken over the ground level streets.

Kenya carries a purse with her everywhere she goes. In her purse she has her wallet, pieces of blank paper to draw on, pencils and pens, modeling clay, and dog food. She started carrying dog food when we got Wookie (as if that explains anything) and the dog food has come in handy while we’ve been walking around Bangkok. Kenya uses it to feed fish in coi ponds, or stray cats.

Lately she told me she doesn’t like it if she feels that people think she’s not girly. Girly as in, likes to do makeovers and play with barbies. So she goes along with the makeover parties and barbie playing if they come along, but in all honesty, she’d rather be feeding stray cats in Bangkok alleys. (She would be so happy to be a farm girl, or to live somewhere that she could ride horses. She lives here, so she feeds elephants and street animals.) I told her she’s plenty girly and girly has nothing to do with plastic dolls, and I wouldn’t want her to ever be anything other than amazing, animal loving Kenya.


Also, when given a choice of candy or fruit, choose fruit.

 I rode a rental motorbike from Pai to Chiang Mai over the weekend. It’s quite a ride— taking anywhere from three to four hours by bike (the way I drive anyway, which is safely, thank you very much—besides I don’t have a big motorcycle, only a little automatic) and I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to drive back or not. I thought maybe I’d turn the bike in and take the bus back- much more comfortable, less cold, less tiring.

But I felt indecisive. I stood in the bus parking lot for a while, going back and forth in my mind, putting myself in each situation, going over the details. Finally I needed to reach for another source, I was too indecisive. So I reached for a life rule of mine. I’ve formed a few of these for times when I’m too paralyzed by my tendency to think that no matter what I choose, it will be the wrong thing— a result of anxiety.

The one I reached for was “When given a choice of comfort or adventure, choose adventure.”

The thing is, if I knew what I wanted I could do it. If I was desperately tired, I would choose that bus in an instant. (Not that the bus is so refreshing, but it is a little less tiring than the motorbike.) But sometimes I don’t know exactly what I need, and I know that I never regret certain things. I never regret adventure.
 (Another good rule that I use is “When given a choice of isolation or connection, choose connection. Sometimes I’m desperate for solitude, but if I’m on the fence, I try to choose to stay with friends instead of a guesthouse, or invite people over, or bring a kid along with me.)


Things I saw on the road on the way to Pai:

-Three monks hitchhiking in yellow robes
-Pines that smelled like heaven
-Around twenty-five Mini Coopers (mini coop coop cooper)
-Nearly three hundred Vespas (I lost count at around two hundred)
-Two Lamborghinis, three Porsches, three Audi sports cars, and various other luxury cars
-A few Harley Davidsons and numerous other motorcycles that I don’t really know about, including big ol’ Hondas and dirt bikes. Apparently there was a ginormous car festival going on in Pai over the weekend.
-I was shivering on my bike in a sweater and a down jacket, but I saw a man drive by with only a short sleeved shirt on, then I saw a Canadian flag on his backpack. I’m not a real Canadian anymore. Khon Thai leow, as they say here, when I mention my love for chillies or Som Tum. I’m Thai now.
-A couple of Hmong men in gorgeous embroidered pants, pouring water into their radiator to cool off their little old truck that was filled to overflowing with neatly stacked cabbages, and overheating on a hill.
-A guesthouse called “Road View.” Who needs Hillview, Seaview or Greenview when you can have RoadView?” I’m asking you.


It was the right choice. It was warmer on the ride home and the trees whispered to me.

I want to see everything, to live on every hill everywhere, to come alive with the strain of travel, to be sweaty in train stations, to ride across India with Chinua when we’re old. We have never been flashpackers- we stay in the simplest guesthouses, we ride buses and trains, we don’t plan ahead (we’re not so good at it) we walk long distances, we squeeze all of us into rickshaws and tuk tuks, we eat street food. Sometimes I’ve needed a lot of recuperation time after particularly difficult travels but do I regret them? No, not one bit. I’m glad for every moment, for every difficult thing. We’ve been building a life of adventure, and it’s hard, I’m not going to lie. It is very, very hard with children, 37 hours on an Indian train is no picnic, but it is so worth it. (They love it too- they’ve been begging to go somewhere. A plane! They say. A train! What are we doing? We need to travel!)
I can’t wait to see where we go in the future, and in the meantime, I’ll choose adventure wherever I can get it.


Below you can see about a minute of the drive. (I apologize for the terrible vertical video- I attached my iPod to my backpack, and this is what it captured.) The drive is about two hours of curves like these, and one hour of straight road.

Trying not to look down.


I have a friend who is very beautiful. Whenever I tell her about how drop-dead gorgeous she is, she always says, “It’s only because you have beautiful eyes.” And she tells me about how a girl on a bus once drew a picture of her and emphasized her least beautiful features. (Personally, I think the girl on the bus must have been a poor artist, because my friend doesn't even have any least beautiful features.)

The bridge in the photo above is one we have to walk over, very carefully, to get to the meditation space. We were there on Sunday for a little family devotion time and when we started walking back home, Leafy turned to me.

“This bridge looks just like Golden Gate Bridge, except it’s smaller,” he said.

Leafy has beautiful eyes.

I’m heading into a month that feels a bit like walking across a very old, very rickety bridge. Chinua is going to the U.S. to share about what we’re doing here, to spread the word a bit and hopefully gather some interested hearts. We’d love to grow a little collective around Christian practice here. Actually, let me edit that: in order to move forward, we need to have other people working with us. We can’t do it by ourselves, and we don’t want to. We are used to living, working, singing, praying, and eating with others and we love it. So it’s necessary for Chinua to go back— sometimes you need to meet face to face with people, something we both know. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. When Chinua went to help take care of his friend Ian, Miriam was here with me. This time I’m on my own.

Add to that the fact that due to weird circumstances, we’re having the most difficult financial month we’ve had in years, and I find that I’m a little nervous. I look across that bridge and shade my eyes, trying to see the other side. As I’m sure many of you know, when you have no leeway in your purse, there are no shortcuts. You make everything by hand, you cut out the extras. “Mandatory fasting, for you and me?” I asked Chinua when we looked at our numbers, only partially joking.

I want to look at this with beautiful eyes. I’ve thought for a long time about living a monastic lifestyle as a mother, I know I’ve written about it. Monks and nuns volunteer for poverty and simplicity, they volunteer for work. Walking into a month where I know I will be stretched, I want to be monastic about it. To sing and pray, to be inordinately simple, to take frugality on like a robe. To walk under the same blue sky that we all walk under, whether we are rich or poor, leisurely or working hard. To be thankful, with every breath, for all that I have, for all the good work I do—the work of raising and teaching a family, of writing, of being surrounded by love.

At the same time, I’m not flippant about this. Although my children are wonderful, I can’t count on them to be anything other than what they are: children. That means they aren’t consistent or self sufficient, they don’t need to offer me friendship. They are receivers. I’m working on a list of things I can do to take care of myself during this time, as well as help the family to live harmoniously together.

It’s going to be a challenge, but it will be a good one. I'll be in the center of the bridge soon, stepping carefully, trying not to let it sway, listening to the rushing water underneath, and before you know it, I'll be on the other side, skipping off into the forest.

Healing words

Lately I’ve been dwelling in a broken down cardboard box with a few scraps of newspaper and items of canned goods around me. I’ve got nothing but one can of peas left, and an opossum just stole my can opener. It’s time to come out. I carefully put my head up over my box, peek out to see if it’s safe, but no, it’s not. The sun is out there.

The whirling and seething of the broken lands are all inside me. I find myself watching people, wondering, “How do you do life? How is it possible for you to keep going, to do things so effortlessly?” Every night when I go to sleep, I think tomorrow I’ll do better. But every day I mess it up: I snap, I despair, I leave things undone that should be done, I make the mean face at my kids, I hold pity parties for myself, I retreat, I retreat, I retreat.

It’s not that I’m a perfectionist. I don’t like to live with myself in the darkness. I don’t want to be with me, who could want to? I want to approach something like consistency—to wake up and be the same everyday, not on this emotional roller coaster.

It doesn’t help that we’ve been sick, including Isaac, (whom Leafy suggests we should call Isick) which means that nights are not times to sleep anymore, but times to fall into a deep pit of slumber, only to be pulled back out every hour or so. Isaac and I do a non-sleeping dance together, he finally falling asleep only to be woken by his own coughing. He hasn’t had croup, which I am extremely thankful for. It’s just some bronchial virus. Healing is onits way, but it’s taking its sweet time.

Yesterday I watched some bits of The Two Towers with the three older kids. Abby, the superhero reader champion managed to read The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Two Towers to the kids in three months, which is a marathon of reading. I’ve allowed them to watch the movies, now that they’ve heard the books.  I love the movie The Two Towers (except for its rendering of Faramir— so unjust to Faramir, who is supposed to be the shining antithesis of the more fallen men in the book) and especially the part in the beginning when Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are running for three days to save Merry and Pippin, who have been carried off by the urukhai.

The orcs pick up the scent of the following three and begin running faster. Oh no! We worry. Our heroes won’t know that they are going faster. But no worries, because Aragorn has his ear to the ground. He’s listening to the deep sounds. “They’ve quickened their pace,” he says. “They know we’re following.” He goes on to tell the story of everything they’ve done and are doing. He pieces together the truth based on his sharp eyes and finds hope in the midst of despair.

Ah, the magic of fantasy. The heroes face the biggest obstacles, but they have exactly what they need to combat them. At every turn we worry for them, only to be reassured by the fact that Aragorn is not only a man, he is a man who has skills beyond anything that any dark and deadly orc can throw at him.


I’ve been thinking about healing words for a while. It came up when I was having a really rough day after losing my temper with my kids. I told a friend of mine, “I so often feel like I’m not a good mom.”

“I would love to have you as a mom,” she said.

I stared at her in shock.  “Seriously?”

She was someone who knew me and observed me as a mother from a close place. I knew she couldn’t be faking it. With her words she put a healing balm over a sad, lonely place in me, where I never know if I’m doing a good job or if I’m messing it all up.

I received an email from someone this week that did the same thing. A little scared sad place in me was comforted by the words this person took the time to write to me. Her words spoke directly to the wounded place in me.

We all have an enemy of our souls, and he would like nothing more than to destroy us and drive us out of the arms of our Maker. Our Maker’s love should appear to us to be brighter than any dim and frustrating day that we have, any old wounded place within us, because it is blinding in its brilliance. But we are forgetful and we hide in broken down boxes. We peek out and are afraid of the sun. God has made us to need the healing words of our friends.

We can look at each other and speak the truth, like Aragorn stooping to the ground to hear the deeper sounds that echo in the earth. We tell the real story, with our deep understanding and the eyes that God has given us to see the beauty in one another.

You are doing okay.
You are loved.
You are lovable.
You are blessed.
You are beautiful, blinding really, in all the brilliance of who you are, who your Maker has made you to be.

Never underestimate the power of healing words. They are as strong as a hero reaching into their strength at the moment when you think all is lost, pulling the truth of a greater story out of the rocks and the earth, finding signs of hope when all you can see are the edges of your fraying cardboard box.

We need to speak healing words to one another. We also need to hear them, really hear them when a friend stops, opens her beautiful mouth, and speaks words that will comfort our souls.

Making sense: Part 2.


 I’ve been thinking and scribbling away about rhythm and schedules and getting things done. I’ve read your comments (thank you!) and thought about those. And I’ve thought about the current materials we have and what we need to do with them. If there’s anything I’ve learned about organizing life, it’s that I need to be flexible: every season requires a different juggling style. Also, I need to become better at juggling in pairs as Chinua and I continue to learn to work together.

One thing I do with homeschooling is periodically take a look at each kid and ask, “What is the most important thing for this kid right now?” In the last season, it was that I wanted to get Kenya and Leafy reading really well. I also wanted the kids to finish their grades in Math. That has gone amazingly well, and Kenya and Leafy are both fully launched into the reading world—this is a huge part of my homeschooling strategy, get them reading and everything will fall into place— and Kai is finished with his math year, Leafy and Kenya following closely behind. Right now my priorities are helping Kai with his writing (he’s working on a story, hitting some obstacles), finishing our history read alouds, and giving time to projects.

(An aside: My family is opposite to the standard wisdom about the timing of boys and girls and reading - just to prove that there are always anomalies and exceptions. So far my boys are intuitive readers, reading as easily as breathing, while my daughter was the one who took a long time to read. Now, at age nine, she’s finally really enjoying reading. She’s always been more interested in drawing and writing her own stories.)

I said my words were Together, Peaceful, Sacred, Creative.

Focusing on the word Together, I realized that it’s time to adjust the jobs list as the kids are getting bigger. Before, Kai and Kenya were taking turns on breakfast and lunch dishes and Leafy was cleaning the table. Now I’m teaching Kai and Kenya to do laundry and alternating them, while Leafy starts washing dishes for one meal a day and Solo takes over getting the table clean. So each week one kid will do laundry, (wash and put on the line) one will do breakfast dishes, one lunch dishes, and Solo will keep the table clean. (They also pick up their toys, clean their rooms, and we tidy the living room/dining room/homeschool space in the mornings.)
I’m also taking either Kai or Kenya as a kitchen helper two nights a week, with the goal of having each of them cook a night a week.

This ties into Together because I’m continually at fault for trying to do everything myself and not including others in the work of the family. Having the kids do jobs means we are working at the same time, we are focusing together and learning together.

I also want to try to have dinner at 6:30 instead of 7:30 or 8:00, which often happens because I’m trying to get some project of mine done in the afternoon and run out of time to get dinner done early. This will help with an earlier evening and more reading time together—our school reading or finishing with Lord of the Rings. It also makes more space between dinner and Isaac’s bedtime, so I can help more with getting the kids set for bed. (Mostly Solo, everyone else is fine.)

Then there are the words Peaceful and Sacred. I think a major part of this is the way the morning begins. First I want to aim for getting up at 5:30 or 6:00, something that has been a habit of mine for a long time but that gets a little muddled in the whole pregnancy/new baby thing. But my baby is seven months old and sleeping pretty well at night (the all night buffet is still open, but I can mostly sleep through that).

It’s a world of difference for me, waking up before the kids do, drinking a cup of coffee and spending time writing, reading, and getting my thoughts in order. So my mornings will start with reading the bible, prayer, a couple of quick morning pages, and writing. I’ll write either 1000 words in my novel, or a blog post, or 1000 words for another project. No internet, no emails. Focusing on one thing will make it peaceful (I often start the day thinking that I need to get my 1000 words done and then a blog post as well, I think this is sabotaging what I can do before I even start).

Blogging in the morning will also help me to keep my writing day set aside for my novel, the next Journey Mama book, and artist dates. I love the concept of an artist date from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a time to refill the creative well. My best artist dates are scooter rides into the hills or going to an outdoor market to look at fabrics and piles of multi-colored fruit.

I really love the idea of keeping one very important thing in mind as I head into the day. A list of one thing to get done- this of course is on top of all the regular things: cleaning, school, cooking, all the habits I’m trying to form. The one thing might be a letter I’ve been meaning to write, a blog post that is burning in my brain, some friends who are arriving (like today, yippee!).

Another thing for a girl like me, a queen of sabotage where things are really meaningful and I am terrified of messing things up: the twenty minute rule. This is something I started working on for myself when I was getting sunk in the frustrating repetitiveness of life, feeling like I’m not building the creative life I long for. I reminded myself that a life is made of years, and years are made of days, days are made of minutes. A collection of small interludes of creative minutes builds a creative life, and the strange thing is that I’m often so stymied by the fact that I feel I don’t have enough time to finish things, so I don’t start them.

My way of tricking myself now is the twenty minute rule. This helps a lot if I am going through a particularly anxious time for whatever reason. Let’s say I need to work on my book and I am resisting because of fear. “Just twenty minutes,” I tell myself. “Do a twenty minute meditation.” “Just work on the painting for twenty minutes.” I can handle twenty minutes. It is a trick, a very tricky trick, and I do end up spinning the twenty minutes into an hour or more sometimes. But even if I am short on time and I really only have twenty minutes, all those minutes pile up on each other and they’ll form something that looks like a life of art and meditation in the end.

I realize this is a rambling post. Let me summarize.

* Working on the most important things in homeschooling.
* Gathering the kids in help with jobs around the house for togetherness, as well as having dinner earlier to make bedtime more peaceful and spend time together reading.
* Starting the day with peace, focusing on one thing, keeping Fridays for writing my novel and artist dates.
* Just twenty minutes. And there you are, a little peek into the world of my disordered mind and all that I do to try and make it orderly.

Making sense.

Flower petals.jpg

It feels like forever that I've been tweaking my days and my schedule, trying to find the best, most peaceful rhythm. I will keep trying, though it often feels like running against the wind, and often the wind is of my own making, as I get sidetracked by emergencies, my own anxiety, and the internet.

Sometimes I only consume, when I would rather be creating. 

I have a set of words that I want to form the essence of my days:  Creative, Sacred, Peaceful, Together. Now that my kids are older, we do so much together. We talk together, work together, make things together. But sometimes I forget how to really be together when I want to work on things on my own. When my novel is waiting and I really want to get back to it, am I fully aware of all the minutes we can spend on making things together?

Abby is our friend who came to stay here for three months to help with our kids. I can't even express what she has given me during this time. We were building at our new meditation center, and she gave me the freedom to mull over things with Chinua, to drop everything and hop over to the space for opinions and dreaming. She's lifted the weight. I haven't felt like "everything is too much" for a long time.

In a couple days she is leaving, this sweet girl who joined our family for a few months. (I cannot say enough about Abby- what a wonder she is. She couldn't be more fun, more interesting, more easy-going, more considerate. It's always an adventure to invite someone into your home for an extended period of time, and in this case, it couldn't have gone smoother. Abby is a treasure, and her leaving is going to sting.)  

I am casting my thoughts forward, thinking of how I can arrange and rearrange things in my life to make them more doable. More peaceful, more like the life I want to create.  

These are the things I'm working on right now: 

* Homeschooling my kids. We go year round, taking time off when we travel.  

* I just finished the third draft of my current novel and am writing the fourth draft. (I got a tattoo from a friend recently, a rather large tattoo which took 12 hours of work. I wrote the last two chapters, previously unwritten, longhand in my notebook while my friend was working. They were emotional chapters, and my thought was that pain would help me to write them. The other thing was that I was stuck in a chair! I wrote and wrote. See? All I need is to be restrained.)

* Painting

* Learning Thai

* Working on the meditation center- we have to build the earth walls and do the landscaping. 

* My own spiritual life- the life of prayer, contemplation and study that I want to cultivate. 

* This blog, which suffers neglect, (not from painting, as some of you feared in the last post, but from general lack of focus and time). 

* The Shekina Community blog, which has a string of drafts that I have started and need to finish. 

* The meditation e-course that I have been meaning to produce. 

* My bookcase. The wood is still sitting in the studio. 

* And of course, life. All the emails, phone calls, cooking, shopping, laundry, housecleaning, fighting back armies of ants, gardening, documenting, and time spent with my husband, kids, and people I know in this town.

Put all together, it sems like a lot. It adds to my sense of defeat, sometimes, that I give myself more than any person can accomplish in a day.
I have some ideas on working this through. I'll share them in the next couple of days. For now, I'm thinking and drawing some things out.

What do you think? How do you put rhythm and sense into your life so that it doesn't feel like a series of things that only happen to you? 



This is a morning.

Bee and Flower.jpg

Some days I wake up with dread already smoldering in my heart. It feels like I have too many things to do, and perhaps the baby was up a lot and I slept through the alarm, so it's later than I want it to be and the gun has gone off but I'm fifty meters behind all the other runners. The dread fills me until even when my children look at me I know that I haven't been doing enough for them/with them and I'm now one hundred meters behind and still haven't started moving. I snap at them because I've already failed them. My legs are weighted, like they are when you are running in a dream and you can't get anywhere, no matter how hard you try.

Everything I see reminds me of something I should have done already. Dishes in the sink from the night before. Weeds in my garden, (how did I let it get like that?) Lego on the floor, laundry not yet put away. Words not written in my novel and when will I find the time now that everyone is awake?

This morning was like this, until I sat down with my journal and threw myself an alternate scenario. It turned my morning, my day, my life around, and I thought I'd share it with you.  

This is the truth: I get up, step out of bed into another morning-- the sun has risen into another day in the world. Jesus has made this day, God is in the world, now and forever. I am a friend and servant of the Creator, I step into the day murmuring prayers and breathing the life that is evident from the moment I open my eyes.  

I look around and see the small kingdom that God has given me in the newness of this morning. Birdsong in the eaves of my house, in the trees around me, white flowers on the ground. This, my home, is a place of peace and blessing. There will always be more to do, more to accomplish, but I am the guide for my family- into peace, creativity, blessing.  

This is far beyond lists and my own bad timing. This is far beyond sleeping through the alarm. I am alive to the wonder of God. He is with me--my heart open and ready. God leads me in peace when my heart would become a frantic little mouse. God speaks spacious words when my mind would entangle me.  

This is what lifts me out of the choking hold of mere tasks and into the calm of serving. Stooping to clean the floor, washing circles in peace. None of it is meaningless, none of it is too late. God sings to me, sings over me, and I do my work in the light of his tenderness. Kindness is paramount, praise falls from my lips.  

This, this is a morning. 

I know what this is.


It is far too familiar-- the taste in my mouth hot, rancid, bitter on the edges. I back away from it, shaking my head--no--but I know what this is. The looming self-loathing, widening darkness, the new world I am thrust into, far from anything like cheerfulness, lightheartedness. It's all familiar, the way I am deadened, irritable, unable to focus. The whispers when I am shopping:

"I'm not very good at this." I shrug them off, or I try.

"Nonsense," I whisper back. "What's to be good at? I know how to look for wormholes in the tomatoes, I know how to tell a bitter cucumber."

"All of it, I'm not good at any of it. At life. I hate myself," the whispers say.

"I am loved," I say back. "And this is only shopping."

"Soon the fruit will crash all around me, I'll be slipping on the market floor. They'll be angry. They already are." That's the whisperer again, the whisperer who is me with a bag over my head, led from place to place like a hostage.

"Nonsense," I say. And I flee. 

I know what this is, and it comes at what seems like the most unfair time, it spirals into my life, an out-of-control car through the glass of a flower shop, just when I'm heady with delight over my new baby. It dulls the beauty of this first year, it has done the same four times before. This thing, postpartum depression, has marked up six years of my life so far, and here it is, back again. I can't bear to look into the coming days.  

I drive off on my scooter in the dark after midnight, unable to sit with my own self hatred any longer. I know, I think . I just won't talk anymore. I'll go far away inside, where no one can find me.  

But even as I think it, I know it can't be. I'm in the market, I'm under the sky, I'm surrounded by people. By children. I can't turn away, they won't let me. God wouldn't let me.

And it wouldn't be good.  

I know what this is, and here's the one good thing-- that I know. I have its number. It's not quite under my thumb perhaps, but I can talk back to it. Swirls of heat and pain steam from me, but I can smile and be calm and be kind. Most of the time. I can pretend, but it's really so hard for me to feel any different. I act in ways I don't feel, because action determines the quality of my days, rather than feeling. Action determines the health of my family, the strength of my marriage. I write my lists, I pay attention, I somehow propel myself through what seem like unending days. I act lighthearted, sometimes funny. I act happy. And underneath, all the while, the streams of sadness.

It won't be forever, I know this too. Around the time I wean my baby, when he is fifteen months or so, this will lift from me and I will be reintroduced to myself, a girl who is never free from shades of melancholy, but often happy, recognizable, smiling even on the inside. It's not forever.

I know what this is and I find that I am angry about it, that I see again how many years I've lost to this. 

But the years are not quite lost, and this is why writing is all the more powerful to me. Even if I can't feel enjoyment, I can write about beautiful, funny, and poignant things, and in the telling, they come alive, they are as real as if I felt them. I write down my stories and in them, my husband is a Superstar, my kids are funny and quirky, my life is beautiful. God is all around, giving gifts in every day, his voice muted by my own panic, but still there. This is the way these beloveds always are, even when my vision is foggy and I only want to hide away. In forcing myself to pay attention, I don't get totally lost in the swirling darkness, it will not take me away and get the better of me. In acknowledging the simplest, most restrained things, I become free.

Not Supermom.

Rae in the kitchen.jpg

Mother's Day came and went on the weekend. It didn't make many ripples over here, and it usually doesn't, always coming on the heels of my birthday. The kids are already spent. Didn't we just celebrate you? their eyes seem to ask. They did, and they do.

I've been mulling over motherhood a bit more than normal, mostly because I'm parenting on my own at the moment (halfway done!) and I find myself thrust up against my own existence as a mother, without even a break to catch my breath. And now, with a ten year difference between my oldest and youngest, I find myself doing these very different types of mothering- helping the moody preteen and the infant. Using my mind for all it's worth in one instance, and my body in its infinite mothering capacities in the other.

Motherhood can make me feel so absolutely alone, because whenever it comes right down to it, I am the only mother to my kids. My friends and family love my kids but only I am the mother. I look around for someone to join in the mothering, but I'm here, in the spotlight circle by myself. It's me. This me who still sometimes locks the doors at night and feels a gasp of surprise. Where's the grown up? I'm alone in this house with these kids? People are letting me do this?

The most alone I feel is when people look in from the outside and call me things like "Supermom." I know when people do this, they are giving me a compliment, sometimes right from the heart. They are expressing awe at what I do with many kids. I receive it from them as kindness. But it makes me feel more alone, because I am not Supermom at all.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about one kind of Super. I know about superheroes and how you sometimes need to put your Wonder Woman cuffs on to go shopping for Christmas or birthday presents because shopping is very scary. You need your superhero persona to override regular you and throw a great birthday party, because throwing great birthday parties has nothing to do with your natural personality, nothing to do with what you would do if you had a moment alone.

But Supermom sounds like Superman, and mothering, in its truest definition, has nothing to do with Superman.

Since I have been a mother, I have grown smaller and softer, as well as larger. I am more open than I feel comfortable with.

I craft moments or meals and they aren't always received with the same tenderness I offer them in. I am stung, shrug it off. This doesn't feel super.

My lap is an intersection during rush hour traffic: people climbing in and out, laying their heads on my knees. My ear is the opening for all kinds of complaints, from "I'm bored" to "He punched me" to "No one understands me at all." This doesn't feel super.

I feel bereaved of the child that was just two weeks or an hour ago, even as I open my heart up to the child that is now. I feel old and too vulnerable. I want to creep back to safety, but to leave, to take my heart and presence would be the worst move of all. So I live in this discomfort. This doesn't feel super.

To be a mother, you need to exert all of your strength and willpower. Being a mother is certainly mighty, but Superman does everything he does with ease. Bullets don't hurt him. I don't resemble Superman at the end of a long day, when I am as limp as a tired plant in an unwatered garden, when I lie down on my bed with sweat on my upper lip, curl up under the fan and fall asleep without meaning to. I don't do this with ease.

The bullets pierce me. I hurt when my children hurt, even when my consequences given for their wrong actions are the things doing the hurting. I make choices that don't always feel right. I answer eight thousand requests a day, often with the wrong answer. Help Kai with his math? Or sit with Solo making something? I can't do everything, something always has to give. It is often me. This does not feel super.

Superman gets his super self from one place to the next with super speed. I am as slow and stunned as a turtle.

Oh, I think mothers are strong and brave and incredible. If I can step back from all the small mistakes I make, I can even say that I think I am strong and brave. (And incredible, ahhh awkward!) I think you, the mothers who are reading this, are strong and brave and incredible.

But I also think you are soft, and in need of protection and love from the community around you. You need people in your village to look out for you, and though they can never be you, never be the mother to your children, they can support you and tell you that you are important.

(I think I've said this before, but it's the greatest gift of living in Asia- this importance of the family. It's very simply accepted, that mothers are important and that they need help.)

You are not Supermom- your giving goes deeper than the giving of someone with unlimited strength and energy, because you are so limited, so small, so human, yet you continue to give. You are less like Superman and a little more like Jesus, giving and giving. Laid out and vulnerable, choosing to give parts of yourself to people that can very easily hurt you.

And still, I know and see that when people call me Supermom it is a part of the support that I need. They are acknowledging what I do, and though I want to protest that no! I am not an alien without needs! I smile and shrug and thank them. And accept the loneliness that comes from being, for my kids, the only and very non-super mother to be found.

Night is a gentle friend.

It's 10:30 at night and I'm just getting around to making the yogurt. It'll take a while for it to cool, so despite my best efforts, it's going to be a late night. Again. But I couldn't help myself, I thought about yogurt and about boys who always want snacks and how I told them I'd make a new batch today and I had to get that milk cooking.

The good news is, I'm writing a blog post. The other good news is, I don't seem to be afraid of nighttime anymore.

For years now, as soon as the sun has gone down, the world has shifted into an unfriendly place for me. My thoughts scatter and retreat into corners, I only want to go to sleep. I've explained it away as the fact that I'm a morning person (which is true) but that doesn't quite justify the fear. There have been deeper anxieties beneath it all, thoughts of days that end when you haven't made the grade yet, when you feel deeply unsatisfied with yourself.

A while ago, I started to ask myself, "What would it take for me to feel like I've done a good job, at the end of the day? Or even to get the phrase, 'done a good job' right out of my head? What would it take for me to simply enjoy night, the deepening indigo of the sky, the night frogs and geckos, the quiet of the house?"

I can't say that I know when it happened. Was it when I stood on the street at midnight at the beginning of the New Year, watching thousands of lanterns forming rivers of light in the sky? Was it when Isaac came to me after nights of walking? Did I sweat it out? Did God set me free?

Maybe it started with that question... What would it take? It seems that with all bad thinking we need to get to the root, and I've been thinking about the story that I always seem to tell myself: that life is a list of things to get done and done well. In truth, there is so much more to life than that. There is so much more to God than that.

There's nothing that messes with to do lists and self-expectation like a baby in your arms who doesn't want to be put down. You have to slowly reel your mind back in, focus on his face rather than dinner waiting in the distance, unweeded garden beds, the laundry that needs to be strung on the line, the chapter you were smack in the middle of reading to the kids, clutter everywhere. You pull yourself back to the baby and slowly he comes into focus and you realize how relative time is, again. Days fly like leaves do when the wind is strong and they rain into your kitchen. Moments are slow and sluggish, then speed up again when dinner should be ready by now and the kids are arguing because they're hungry.

My lists will stretch on ahead of me all of my life. But life is not about finishing, life is about continuing. Continuing in love and patience for helping the pettiest of heartbreaking arguments between small kids. Continuing with the daily things that grow mind-numbing in their repetition. Continuing to notice each other and breathe the same air in peace. And continuing to be thankful at the end of the day, to meditate on all the good things, even all the mediocre ones because continuing often is mediocre.

A long string of mediocre moments extends like a dream into the past, and this is what life was and is. Every video I have of the kids is precious, only because it was picked out. In the moment I'm sure I was just as antsy and bored and ready to get things done. But we pick out these moments and we remember them and write them down and photograph them and record them. We make songs out of them and draw all over them and somehow the mediocre is the real life, far beyond getting the laundry on the line. It's almost laughable, when you think about it that way. Oh my overflowing shelves need to be organized, but YaYa is learning to play the ukelele, and Isaac is gurgling and talking more and more, and the morning breeze is like heaven.

The yogurt is probably cool enough for me to stir the starter in now, so I'm going to go and do that. And then I'll shower, and go to bed, and breathe in all the rest the night has to offer before I fall asleep.

Turning again.

Leafy and Isaac.

I'm writing this post on a hot Saturday afternoon, with the knowledge sitting behind every word that at any minute my baby could wake up and need me to stop writing and come to him. These are a few snuck moments at the end of his nap, on a day when I said "I will write a post this morning" as soon as I got out of bed. But here it is 2:30 and I'm just getting around to it.


Time is funny, and all of life is some kind of cycle. The biggest, most langorous of course is the life cycle, the one that Isaac is just now embarking on. A slow, slow turning. We barely feel the spin, it's as ponderous as the earth on its axis.

My mom like a light.

Then there are other, smaller but still large cycles. The year and the seasons. Here in Thailand, we don't have seasons like I grew up with. In Canada the seasons are the type that justify snowflakes on Christmas decorations, and it was only when I came to Asia that I realized that so much of the world looks at a snowflake as a pretty decoration, but perhaps has never had their nostrils freeze over because of the cold, or that intense ache of thawing fingers, crying and running them under the tap. (Was it only me who cried over that? I was a rather dramatic kid.)

Still, we have seasons in Northern Thailand. We have the cold season, which never reaches freezing, and the hot season, which is also called fire season because the fields are filled with the flames of farmers using their traditional field preparation, and the forests are burned to allow the hunters to find animals to hunt. And then we have the rainy season. A cycle of three, turning on itself again and again. It repeats so consistently that people are nervous when rain comes in the cool season. "The world is changing," one taxi driver told me, in the middle of an unseasonal storm.

Better now.

In Newborn Land, I have to again get used to the shortest kind of cycles. Isaac and I do the same things again and again all day and night long, in short, rapid sessions without a lot of space between. He wakes up, I nurse him, he uses his pot (we do EC, or diaper free), we talk to each other, I give my mom some Isaac time, and it's time for him to sleep again. Sometimes he spits up, or we introduce a new concept, like bathtime. But this is the way it turns for us, again and again and again.

The biggest yawn.

With my first child, I was very impatient with these short cycles. I was used to full afternoons of painting, to sitting and mulling over my coffee like an old man on a red padded seat in a diner. I squirmed against the coils of my new life even while I tried to understand it. Of course, by the time I had YaYa, I knew that this cycle of eating and sleeping gradually loosens into a long, curly tendril and I would get hours that had more space in them again. I began to enjoy the short cycles, the way my baby and I met up, as if for a date, again and again. "Well, hello there," I say. "There you are, beautiful. I've missed you, while you were asleep."

We meet and it's passionate and needy and I feed my child, I have fed my children and I have kissed every inch of their faces, if only for a short while. 

First bath.

These cycles are not like a life cycle, or the slow turning of the earth. It's more like the wheel of a bicycle spinning through a tree-lined neighborhood, the sun glinting off its spokes. We ride quickly and the wind on our faces is like the gentlest touch, it's full of the scent of flowers.

It's tricky, but you can find your footing.

Outside the window there are no doubt wonderful things. But we are content in  here.

Hello from Newborn Land. I'm waving and blowing kisses, so thankful for all the loving comments that you have sent my way. I feel surrounded by love from so many places. Thank you.

I'm waving because Newborn Land is like an untethered island, and it drifts in a sometimes pleasant, sometimes stormy sea. Everyone else (everyone who is not in Newborn Land) is on the mainland, walking around as normal, but I am up and down and sometimes falling, sometimes gaining my feet, sometimes just rolling with the waves.

We are home, in Pai. There were a couple of crazy days as we got everything ready for our return home. And our return was clumsy, though we were full of good intentions. We arrived at 10:00 at night and there were tears from tired kids and then I had a full meltdown. I had overdone it, getting ready to leave Chiang Mai, and I could feel the strain.

But things looked better in the morning. I woke up to find breakfast from my beautiful Chinua beside me.

Welcome home breakfast from my Superstar Husband.

I've been in bed now for a few days, taking care of nothing but the sweetness that is my newborn son.

Another morning look.

For mothers in Newborn Land I heartily recommend a full week in bed if possible. There is so much going on in our healing bodies, with hormones making emotions rise and fall. It's wonderful to find your rhythm with your new baby, to have time to sort out sleep from waking and nursing.  If you can fill your floating island with things you love, like good books and chocolate, or movies and herbal tea, you'll balance the new and unfamiliar.

I find that I need these things, because the hormones hit me hard. The world seems like a strange and scary place at times, and I fold over into tears, hiding behind my hands. It's hard for me because I have the memory of years of anxiety and depression, and it feels scary to have these giant emotions cascade over me. But I know this is different, this is temporary. It's all part of the adventure path of a new child in my arms, and the fogginess will lift.

In these moments, love is strong, almost too strong. Love becomes worry, worry about my other kids, worry about my mom (who will be with us for the next few weeks) worry about our home, our life. Then I blink and see that everyone's fine, actually. Everyone is happy and running around and only I am sitting in such a strange and new place, seeing beautiful things through a lens of sadness.

Then, between bouts of crying, heaven is visiting me. This small baby is such an incredible gift.

We hang out like this a lot.

He's a tiny radiant bit of sweetness. He's so alert and laid back. He zones in so quickly when he hears a new sound, or one of our voices. I bought Karen Peris's solo album, and I've been playing it all morning. He listens with such intensity and I can tell that he loves it. Basically, he's amazing.

I love how much the other kids love him. They worry over him if he cries. Solo especially offers me bits of advice on how I can help him stop. "He wants milk!" he shouts. When Isaac is quiet, Solo tells him things. "Your mama is holding you," he says. Or, "Baby, when I was a baby, I was a golden baby," (referring to the color of his skin- we've been talking a lot about each kid and all their different shades and what color we think Isaac will be- probably like Kid A or Leafy) or, "You came after me." He has a special raspy quiet voice he uses for being near the baby.

Leafy is madly in love. He adores Isaac and hates being away from him. And the love just seems to spill over and touch everything. Kid A has given me multiple voluntary hugs (!) and Solo has not once told me he doesn't like kisses, (!) even when I kiss him again and again and again.

I think we're getting along pretty well in Newborn Land. Even if beautiful things always seem somehow washed in sadness.

In the very beginning of a year.

I'm full term.

It's fun to be expecting a new baby in these first weeks of a new year because everything is brand new and you know a little of what to wait for. You know that there will be kisses and little sleep and milk and emotions. You know enough not to plan too much. You know everything is shiftable and pliant in those first weeks and months: everything. The times of day, the regularity of walks, of shopping, of eating easy pickup dinners compared to cooking. The amount that you can stand other people, the skies and clouds and the sound of the new baby's voice. The walls themselves seem to shift, the trees are slightly to the left of where they used to be.

I know enough to know my emotions are fuller than I ever expect them to be, after I've had a baby. Also, that milk is everywhere and thus, I can't start the New Year with a resolution to not be covered in milk and baby spit up.

Okay. So what can I resolute? Resolve? Resolutify?

*Once a week (if at all possible) I will find a body of water and sit beside it. Whether it is a stream or a river or waterfall, I will sit near moving water and pray.

*I will be optimistic.

*I will spend 20 minutes doing things that need to be done. 20 minutes writing, 20 minutes cleaning the kitchen, 20 minutes reading to a kid. It's enough to start with, it usually turns out to be either enough, or it turns into more. But whispering, "Just 20 minutes," is a good way to begin.

*I will spend time on my porch. I will love the corners of my house.

*And I will be try to be ready for what God brings my way. A person who stays for dinner, a conversation that goes on for an hour, a new friend, a phone conversation.

Do you have anything that you want to do? That you want to put down in writing?

Many birds.

Morning at the sea. Solo swimming under the water, arms and legs going like a fish's would, if a fish had little Solo shaped arms and legs. Solo jumping in the waves, never minding if he goes under, bobbing up again and wiping the water off his face. Remembering him in his bed the other night, his eyelashes just before he slept. "I had a pet penguin," he told me. One last tale for the day. "But it died. Also a pet chicken and bird. But they died too."

Sitting next to Kid A while he digs a watery sink hole in the sand, telling me about how he was afraid for those minutes when he and Leafy were getting pulled out on their board, and they couldn't get back in.

Me telling him, "You were so calm, you didn't panic. You just listened to me and floated back to me." Feeling so proud of him.

YaYa playing with all the babies. Pointing out the sandpipers. "Mama! Sandpipers!" Sandpipers and a flock of some other kind of bird, flying above the water like a dream.

Two Ukrainian kids talking and talking with us. In Russian. Wishing I could understand them, enjoying them  as they bubbled over and laughed and played with us in the sea.

Early afternoon at Miriam's house. Talking about the garden, eating cookies and drinking coffee. Kids playing a card game. Solo getting into everything, Solo hiding under the purple cushions.

Late afternoon in the garden. More butterflies than ever. The new plants doing well, including a volunteer orange tree that we replanted. (Kid A spits his mandarin seeds in the garden. A plant sprung up between two bricks. Last week we extricated it and YaYa and Leafy replanted it. I realized after they dug the hole and filled it back up that I hadn't done a thing.)

Walking to the store with YaYa and Solo for tomato sauce. YaYa pointing out all the chickens along the way: the ones roosting on someone's house, the baby chicks among the old coconut shells. Looking for kingfishers in the big field.

Leafy, while I was gone, not sure where I was, saying, "Maybe Mama went to Manhattan." Getting into a conversation with him and Kid A later: If I had boarded a boat to Manhattan, how long would it have taken to get there?

YaYa setting the table without being asked. Kid A having to be told three times the proper way to put books on a shelf. Still not getting them on there straight (now that I look again.) Telling stories of funny things they said when they were younger. Me thinking I didn't write enough of them down.

Thinking about baby names. YaYa calling, "Group hug!" Painful, elbows on the belly. More talk of the baby, (3 lbs now!) more dreaming about what he will be like. Talking about birth with everyone, Solo declaring confidently that he knows where the baby will come from! Lifting up my shirt, "Her bellybutton!" like a movie of a four year old kid. Telling him the real story. YaYa saying, "So that's what that hole is for!" Me with raised eyebrows, we've had the talk so many times, but they always forget. They know more about how dolphins and seahorses mate than people.

Chinua coming home from meditation on the beach. Telling of an impromptu gospel song session, a great big circle of people. A pang of regret. I wish I had been there. I can't be everywhere. It's never been possible.

A night "cool off" drive on the scooter. More emotions than I can name churning through me. Lights on houses, a sign that says, "Birthday cakes however you wish." A man sitting and playing with his tiny naked baby. The smell of warm trees cooling off in the night air. Love and despair present around every corner.

I won't make it, I think. This is too much life, too much of it rolling around me, unstoppable, like the uncontrolled intersections here, the old men under the tree, the girl checking her dress out in the glass of a giant Mary shrine, the birds in the sky, in the sea, in the fields. But we do make it, day by day by day. We do it clumsily and beautifully, pressed in on every side by the thick, heavy presence of God, of love, by the knowledge of how small we are, and yet, how big.


Limes for morning tea.

All the things for Ginger Lemon Honey

Making Ginger Lemon Honey tea, (without any tea- it's actually an infusion) my very favorite comfort drink. And these are limes, but Asian limes and lemons are interchangeable.

I've been doing some deep thinking. Good thinking:

I've drawn back

sketched a little

thought about how things are going

why I've been breaking down inside

what's going on

what to do now.

One thing I needed was rest. I've somehow skipped all of my rest days in the last month. There have been birthday parties, meetings with friends, reasons galore to be racing around the house instead of sitting in the swing chair with a book or some knitting. On the weekend I had a meltdown, got sick, and spent two days in bed, watching Project Runway. I arose feeling like I'd come back from the dead. I walked outside and thought that things were beautiful again. I looked forward to going to the market, finding something to cook, and coming back to the kitchen to throw it all together. I didn't feel dark inside.

It's my schedule for myself that has gotten out of control. My schedule comes from another season in my life, when it worked. I thrived on getting up at 5:00 or 5:30, writing on the porch in Goa with the sun rising over the hill in front of me. I thrived on spending every waking moment that I wasn't working with the kids on some writing project or creative thing. But that season is no longer with us. That season is what I'll call the un-pregnant season.

I've entered a different season, or should I say re-entered. Pregnant season. Dear ones, I'm having a baby. And I find that I simply can't keep up. Not keeping up is making me loathe myself. I clearly need to reprioritize.

Part of it I know is money. This has been a hard season in the financial sense. You know it's hard when you're seriously considering whether toilet paper should be considered a luxury, or when your son is holding a one baht coin that he found on the ground and you're all, "THANK you," and then you kiss it before you put it in your wallet. When I encounter money trouble my response often is, I need to move faster, work harder, get that thing done yesterday!

And work begins to feel like something I should have finished already, I'm failing before I've begun. I was praying and journaling the other day about this relationship between work, trust, and money. Just that day I came across Psalm 127. In verse 2, it says:

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,

eating the bread of anxious toil;

for he gives to his beloved sleep.

As a result of reading that, I wrote this in my journal.

...We work as monks--we do--I do-- my work because it is the work God has set before me- in my heart, mind and will. But my provision comes from God, not from my own hand, so when in need, I pray, rather than frantically trying to figure out what more I can do. We work on in peace day by day, fulfilling what we feel God has asked us to fulfill, not fretting about money or success-all these things are in the hands of God--we approach him with our needs.

Does this happen to you? You find yourself trying to race along in a difficult time at the same speed as always and it comes to pass that your joy is sapped, your strength is gone? If it does, ponder it for a while. Do things a different way. All the little pieces can come together, I'm sure, but maybe everything will happen a little more slowly. Things can always be reworked.

My own reworking is going like this:

-No more setting the alarm clock. I'll wake up with the kids, usually around 7:00, make breakfast, journal for a while, and start school.

-Novel writing will happen on my writing day. It's terrible, it hurts me to do it, but I simply can't stretch my mind in a thousand different directions right now. I'm homeschooling four children, cooking all the meals, cleaning the house. Something's got to be set aside. Not for good, and I know from experience that I can get a lot done on a single inspired day a week, but I realize that I've been trying to bend my mind a little too far. It's feeling brittle.

-All these hormones make me strong in other things. I adore the kids, love to hang out with them. My love for them reaches ridiculous levels when I'm pregnant. I feel domestic, I want to cook, make things I've never made before. I need to excel in the things I'm feeling right now.

-We're starting with some different kinds of schooling that I think will be exciting and bring a lot of joy into our days.

-And more rest, more time for thinking, more things that have nothing to do with work.

-With the meditation center, small achievable goals will bring great results.

I've been on the right track for a while now, remembering to read and journal in the morning. But I needed a little more insight, and that came from boiling over and fizzing out. It's important. We all know that Pregnant Season is the doorway to the journey through Newborn Land, which requires its own gentle, gentle touch.

New everything.

What it looks like under the tree, after the rain.

I wrote this post days ago. Actually, I wrote it at the same time that I wrote the post about our new friends in Chiang Mai, and then I looked at the two things and thought-- those are totally not related. Except that they are. Because they all reside in my brain at the same time- thankfulness, joy, self-hatred, admiration. I tend to talk myself out of the parts that are worse. This type of post is that kind of self-talk. I post it because I hope it helps you, if you ever find yourself in the same place.

I've been hanging out in Struggle Ville lately, as Chinua likes to call it. Just checking the scenery out, doing some knitting. I'm bored of Struggle Ville- it's a bit bleak. Too many railroad crossings, not enough lakes. I'm-- lost. I was telling Chinua about it last night, after I warned him not to be flippant with me when I told him too many emotional things.

"You have to give yourself time to deal with all this change," he said. I may have been talking about how I feel like a failure. I hate to even write that, because I don't want any other person in the world to think of themself that way, so I hate admitting that I do, but I do! What can I say?

So-lost- looking around, scratching my head, learning a new language, in a new place, with new people. I feel remarkably sane, which is excellent. But... down.


Some things are always the same. Even if you feel afraid of the phone, you can pick it up and call your friend Maria. You can ask her over for dinner. She'll come over with her wonderful family and sit with you at your table. She'll pick up a knife and cut the tomatoes. She'll like what you cooked.

You don't have to be afraid. Every house is better with a few more people inside, eating at your table. Even when it's a new house, in a new neighborhood, in a new town, in a new country.


The tree outside my window rains flowers on the ground with every single storm. The stones in the driveway are covered in white flowers. Yesterday my friend kept thinking of photographs that could be taken under the tree. YaYa with her violin, the girls playing music... It made me laugh, in a really happy way, because my friend loves beauty and I love that. What a gift she is to the world, to my life right now.


Sometimes I wish my whole life was a table covered in white flowers, but at the very same moment, I know that it wouldn't matter if it was. I look at beautiful photos that make me feel a certain way- peaceful, inspired, and I know that if was in that photo, I would still be me, with my inability to sit still, to believe that I can do anything right, my inability to relax.

I have little capacity for self-deception. I know that no change of place or circumstance will change me. Only time and God can do that. And the endless work of cultivating joy. The beauty of service that is completely outside of yourself. Even service doesn't make you feel different. But it does make you different.


This is the problem with anxiety. It lies to you and you cannot believe it, cannot trust your mind. It tells you that the white flowers are not really there, that you can't sit and enjoy them. That's for other people, it says. That lotion you like, it's for other people. Joy is for other people.

Lies! you shout, and right you are. Lies!


The problem that I have with the internet is that there are too many words and I don't always know what to believe. It's the same problem that I have with my mind. The things I love about the internet are those moments of pure inspiration, of connection with another person, of understanding or beauty. A video, a story, a song.

The opinions get me down. They're like ants, swarming in the kitchen when I only came in for a cup of tea. They shout opposite things in my ears at the same time. Right! Left! Up! Down! Today! Never! It's hard for me to filter out the noise.

I don't sit down here very often these days, but when I do, I write and write because I can't stop it. The words keep coming. I have so much to tell you, but not much to say.


Sometimes I wish I was a kid on a swingset, pumping higher and higher. When you're that kid, there's nothing else in the world that you need to be doing. I still feel that way on the motorbike, maybe. The air rushing past, plants breathing all over me.

When I was twenty-two, I had crazy thoughts and I couldn't quell them. Now that I'm thirty-two, I can always talk myself out of a tree. I'm hoping that when I'm forty-two, I don't even hear the crazy thoughts. I hope when I'm seventy-two I can be crotchety and plainspoken and tell crazy thoughts to go to hell.


I saw, I repinned, I created. Now I am perfectly happy.

Dear ones, I have responded to your comments on my last post right there inside them. This may be the way, from now on. I have always felt clumsy, responding to comments, but whatever. I'm clumsy.

The day before yesterday was such a beautiful day. It was as though all my expectations for a giant depression crashed around me in giant shards of glass and from the glass emerged bubbles! And unicorns! And narwhals (but gentle ones).


I was feeling really down when I wrote that last post. It was all I could do to hold up my head. I thought to myself, how can I keep coming here to say the same thing for seven years? Does anyone want to hear this stuff anymore? But I know when I feel like that I have to crack open and be even more transparent. And it's true, honesty is always rewarded in my life.

This kind of clarity and light is essential to the Christian faith. Honesty is not some muttering of sins in dark corners, harshly demanded penitance or guilt-extracted confessions. It's being clear as still water, so all the stones are visible and loved despite their stoniness, or maybe for it. Being gentle with one another, accepting one another, these things clamber like vines over a foundation of honesty.

If we make it about appearances, about trying to be a certain way for each other, never showing what's going on inside, we are in terrible danger. This is how deep deception comes about, how leaders crash into the rocks, how whole ships sink. And it's no fun at all.

I remember a dear friend of mine asking me about The Eve Tree. "It's obvious in your book that you write about anxiety from a place of really knowing it personally," he said. "Are you ever afraid of people knowing that about you?"

I stared at him. What I wanted to say (I can't remember what I did say) is that if I don't tell the story, it will kill me. Anxiety loses its power in the light, because there is love in light and softness, and things can grow other than the mold and fungus that will eat away at your insides. Often, when I get negative responses to The Eve Tree, they are from people who really didn't like Molly. And I get that. Anxiety is not pretty. Being married to someone with anxiety is not always easy. But love is bigger, love is stronger. Love covers a multitude of sins, covers it like a blanket of flowers.

Don't ever let anybody tell you anything different.


Back to my beautiful day. I felt, the whole day before, that I was sinking and I felt that it was going to be a long plummet. So when I woke up the next morning and stuck my toe out of the bed to test the waters, I was shocked by the warmth around me, in my heart, even. It's often like that-- waking up. I pat around, look for my glasses, try to get a reading from my heart. Are you going to be trustworthy today? Any strange voices? How about my mind? Are you going to try to get me into a headlock again, tackle me at the knees?

I got up to a morning full of birdsong. I drew circles in my journal. I read your comments, which made me love you more. I made smoothies for the kids.

My landlord showed up and what a miracle! He had all this bamboo fencing and some extra workers, and he spent the whole day reinforcing my fences so the street dogs can no longer get in to poo and dig up my gardens. It was a very special present. He is a very special present, I couldn't ask for a better landlord.

It was cleaning day, and the kids and I cleaned and cleaned. I scrubbed the kitchen shelves. They badly needed it. YaYa and I made refrigerator pickles from a recipe that I pinned. I ate four large cucumbers, not including the pickles that I ate before they were even pickled. (There is certainly something wrong with me.)

In the afternoon I went to the market and bought bags and bags of vegetables and some new pears that I have never tasted before. I cooked brown masoor dahl and aloo ghobi and new, beloved friends came for Indian dinner and made just the kind of fuss I love over my food. Usually we eat Thai food, so it was a special night. They spent eight years in Goa and miss Indian food just as much as I do. Not that I'm complaining, with all this fruit everywhere.

After dinner we sat with a pile of fruit in front of us and sliced it up, piece by piece. Mangosteens, the new pears, which are sour and crunchy and might turn out to be a new obsession, watermelon, dragonfruit. We sliced fruit and talked and talked.

Truly, it was a beautiful day. The surprising kind that takes you softly by the hand and leads you gently. That is God and his way. Be soft, he says. Be soft.

Writing myself into okay.

I have the most beautiful desk, made from reclaimed teak from old Thai houses. My sewing machine sits on the left side of it, although I have learned that I don't really like sewing in this room. It is about four feet by six feet, and it starts feeling tiny when fabric is shooting out at me. I take the sewing machine and bring it to the larger dining room table. Often, a small child sits next to me and watches the magic stitches fly across the fabric.

Next to the sewing machine is The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard, New and Selected Poems, by Mary Oliver, and Essential Writings of Sadhu Sundar Singh. Next to that are my journals from the last year, as well as my sketch book for drawing out patterns of things I want to sew. Next to that is my Thesaurus. I have a large bag of beads, and then a basket full of measuring tape, scissors, thread and bobbins, tailor's chalk, and memory card readers. Nearby there are knitting needles, my pencil crayons, packages of envelopes, my Bible, and my current journal. It's a desk for all types of things. The very first thing I bought for my tiny studio was a fan. It keeps the mosquitoes away.


I'm compiling a book of the best of the first three years of my writing here. I chose the first three years because there is just SO MUCH writing, it wouldn't all fit into one book, and also because those were my blogging years in California. It seems to be a sensible place to stop, to save the overseas stuff for another book, because life is so different now.

I'm struck by how I've written my way through so much fear. I wrote the stories out, again and again. I still do it. And though deep down I don't change, this life is full of beauty I may never have seen if not for writing it all down.


Here are some recurring themes that I have noticed from those years:

1. Distress and panic in stores and when shopping in general.

2. Difficulty becoming used to being a mother.

3. Fear about people and friends, not understanding people and friends.

4. Meltdowns.

5. Lots of focus on writing, love, art, and light.


In March I took a test that I heard about on This American Life. The are you an Aspie quiz? In other words, do you have Asperger's Syndrome? It was a whim, I often listen to radio shows and then look up the things that were talked about in the show.

This was my result:

Your Aspie score: 146 of 200 Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 74 of 200 You are very likely an Aspie

This led me on a journey of a ton of books and writings on Aspergers and especially females with Aspergers and adult females with Aspergers.

I have not been officially diagnosed. I can't afford to be, these things take thousands of dollars. However, the things I've read about in books and on websites make more sense about why I am the way I am than anything else ever has. Why I can't bear soft touch, or large stores, or too many decisions, or thinking about anything other than what is directly in front of me. Why I'm usually convinced that people are angry at me, why I can't read them, can't understand what people are thinking, what my husband is thinking when we're talking. Why I record conversations in my head and replay them, again and again, without wanting to.

My first reaction to taking the test and reading about women with Aspergers was relief. My second was to offer the test to my close family and friends, because I was convinced that they probably would also come out as Aspie. But then none of them did. Weird, I thought. I would have sworn that we were all the same.

It's odd, because as well as being mystified and afraid in social relationships with people, I'm fascinated by people. I love to try to figure out what people are doing, why they're doing it. I make a catalog of emotions in my head, I don't ever forget when people tell me how they feel about something, I write it down, or just record it inside. I use these things to write about people.

Even this can be too much. I get too involved in the emotions of my kids. I find myself needing to step back. "Everyone has bad days," I tell myself. "He'll be okay. She'll be okay. Chinua? Do you think she'll be okay?"

"Are you mad at me?

Are you mad at me?

Are you mad at me?

Are you mad at me?"


Somewhere in the middle of 2007 I began taking medication for social anxiety. It changed a lot for me, it likely changed everything for me. I still struggle with fear, but I'm not paralyzed. Right now I'm bringing my dosage down, because of my pregnancy. This is hard.

It has me remembering a lot of things about the way I used to feel, about darkness and a tight fist in my stomach.

Reading through all those old entries, putting the story together, it seems to stare me in the face.

I'm wired differently.

As a mother, I have to spend a lot of time working on things that are not the easiest things for me. But getting those quiz results back, learning these things about myself, shows me that I also need to spend a lot of time on the things that are strong for me--the creative things.

Now, when I can't have a conversation without a lot of fear, I understand why. I tell Chinua, "I can't understand what you're saying. I can't tell what you're thinking, and I'm worried that you're mad at me."

At the end of a long day, I turn off the lights in my room, put my headphones in, and listen to music. If voices are on repeat in my head when I'm doing the dishes, I put headphones on and listen to podcasts.

It changes everything.


It has been hard for me to get the courage to write this. Mostly because I don't have an official diagnosis, and this syndrome looks so different in adult women, in everyone, really. I didn't want to open myself up to people saying, "That's not true."

A friend of mine recently opened up about how Asperger's is affecting her family, and it rung a little bell inside of me. Talk about this, it said.


When I'm reading through old writing, I'm struck by how helpful it has been in the past for me, to simply be honest here. To write myself into okay. Even into great, sometimes. I'm rocked right now, I can recognize it. All those old hormones. The level of fear in my life is large, right now. All you can do, really, is laugh at it. So I'm here, and if I feel it, I'll try to crack it open and write through it.

I'll try, try, try.


My little desk is so important to me, right now. All the soothing things, all together. My manuscript, my colors, the fabrics, slow, lovely words, pens and paper. I sit here and try to tell you about things that are bouncing back and forth inside of me. Honesty doesn't get any easier. But honesty is always rewarded, and I have the years to prove it.


What I mean to say is,

I love you. Thank you.

My thanks, a long walk, and our Canada Day.

Morning. Birdsong all around. Roosters in the distance.

I want to give you thanks from my heart , for hearing me, for receiving my words in whatever way they reach you. I'm putting the hurt I felt from unkind words behind me now. I'll just dump it in a large field and let the cows graze nearby, climb on my scooter and drive away. It's hard, you know, when words are dire for you and your family, letting you know you're messing everything up. You wonder. Am I? You dwell there for a while. And then you snap out of it. I don't live there. I refuse to.


Last night I looked up from my saddened shuffle around the kitchen, where I was washing dishes and clearing up after dinner. Some spark had entered my dull brain. Isn't exercise supposed to be good for depression? I thought. I've heard rumors. So I left. I put my running shoes on for the first time in years. Socks felt weird on my normally bare toes. I remembered my iPod at the last minute and walked down our soi, wondering which way to turn.

The music helped. Sometimes a terrible part of social anxiety for me is that disapproving voices loop in my head, an old, broken record. A corrupted file.

I started with Arcade Fire's Funeral, which is what I listened to for weeks in Goa, barreling through the jungle on my scooter. Of course the songs bring me back there, which is both good and bad. Because here's a confession: I'm homesick. And it's to be expected, especially from me. I've never made a move without being homesick, without a strange transition time where my arms and legs don't seem to work properly.

We're so absolutely blown away by how wonderful and right this place feels for us. That's without question. So what's the problem, when I'm driving here or walking along in the dark? Only that it's not Indian enough here. There is some smoky, scarlet colored, ancient quality that is missing. Here will never be there.

I need to get acquainted with here. I walked and walked. Walking at night is so nice in Thailand, with night blooming fragrant flowers and clouds racing across the moon. I realized at one point that I was pretty close to Vieng Nuer, a nearby village, and that I could make a huge loop back to Pai if I just kept walking. On I went, through fields planted with unknown vegetables, waving their leaves at me in the darkness. And on, and on. I remembered the cobra we had seen the day before, out with new friends, and turned the tiny light on my phone on, to better see my feet.

At one point a woman pulled up beside me on her motorbike. "Pai nai?" she asked. Where are you going? I didn't have the Thai words to reply. "Just walking," I said, pumping my arms in a parody of speedwalking, so she would understand I was out for exercise. She patted the back of her bike seat. I thanked her, tried again, pointing at my white running shoes. Would I be wearing these ridiculous shoes if I wasn't trying to walk the funk out of my bent shoulders? I thanked her again. She drove off.

The moon was beautiful with the clouds covering and uncovering it swiftly. It was truly a long way, one of those things that is an impulse but that turns out to be the best thing, as I walked, and walked, and listened to the rhythm of my breath, and walked. Something shifted as I walked. Something I've been thinking about the wrong way. There was a click. I held my head a little higher.

I walked about three miles, got home, kissed my kids, showered, slept like a stone. This morning, when I woke up, I actually felt like getting out of bed. I wanted to see what would happen with the day. It felt good. I think I'm going to be covering more miles, in the days and weeks to come.


On Canada Day, we had a beautiful family show up on our doorstep, friends of my dear friend Rebeca. They were in Pai for just a day, and had learned that we live here. They wondered if we wanted a meetup. We did. They're a traveling family, homeschooling as they travel the world.

And then I discovered that Jenn, the mother (and writer) of the family, is Canadian. God literally dropped a Canadian out of the sky for us on Canada Day. It was going to be a good day, we could tell. Their children came striding up, as tall as mountains, as their youngest is ten and oldest is nearly sixteen. Tall people!

Have I mentioned how I adore teenagers? They seem as sweet and radiant as three-year-olds to me. Three-year-olds are entering the world of kids, teenagers are half in and half out of the world of adults, and they shine with it, with their personalities. Hannah and Gabriel were no different, they were some of the loveliest teenagers I've ever met. A little shy, but talkative, generous and well-spoken. Leafy adored Gabriel, the fourteen-year-old. "Whatever car you're going in, that's what I'm going in," he declared. And the other kids were wonderful, too.

After we ate lunch and discovered each other a little, we came up with a plan. First, to pick up Hannah's mandolin so she and Chinua could play music, then the waterfall, then the hotspring pool. We got in their car and our bike and sidecar to head to the waterfall. Chinua's bike overheated on the way. We had to take a few more of the long-legged children to make up for the weight overload in the sidecar.

(Yes! That IS Superman climbing the rocks in his cape.)

The waterfall was beautiful as always, and the kids (except the littlest two) swam in the high rock pool. I didn't climb up- heights are not great for me at any time, and my balance is off now, with my rounding belly. Then we were off to the pool for some swimming, and Chinua gave Hannah a mandolin lesson, which they both loved.

It was simply a beautiful day, filled with conversation and meaning, sharing experience and getting each other right away. I loved hearing from Jenn about her experiences with travel and homeschooling. She and Tony are a gracious, fun-loving couple. It was a treat to spend the day with them.

In the night we set off some firecrackers that Tony bought for Jenn for Canada Day. They turned out to be much more explosive and loud than we were expecting, and the evening culminated in flashing lights as the police arrived. Someone thought a shooting was happening, I guess. The police were lovely and friendly, the one who spoke English cracking jokes. We told him we were studying Thai. "Thai is very easy," he pronounced, deadpan. "Yes, very easy.... for me!" His smile lit his face, and he jumped back in his truck. They all drove away and we headed home as well, done with trouble making for the evening.


Things to do when hit with depression: (an on-going list.)

Walk for a long, long time.

Make plans with people and keep them. (This one is hard.)

Listen to music.


A List.

My kitchen when the sun is shining.

(This is my kitchen when the sun is shining.)

1. I want to paint something for you, something so beautiful it would have you reaching for the computer screen. You would get up and move your arms like a tree, you would stretch toward the ceiling, you would actually grow taller, and taller, and taller, until your head broke through the roof and you could run off as fast as you've always wanted to.

2. It's very early on Saturday morning. I wish I could fly. Instead, I walk down the street and listen to the birds and the contented morning quiet. People buying strong coffee from the coffee cart, rice soup from the rice soup cart.

3. We have a new Thai friend, named Sam. He comes for visits and laughs about me being pregnant again. He's interested in renting a piece of land to us with the possibility of buying later. I followed him on my scooter yesterday, drove up into the mountains, into hilltribe villages. It's breathtaking. We will have to wait and see what happens. Still following the thread.

4. Sometimes I think that staying put and loving your spouse, your family, or just the people around you, day after day, talking siblings through fights, making meals and cleaning up, is the bravest and strongest thing you can do.

5. The baby in my belly continues to grow. I look much farther along than I am, which seems to be the way, with the last three babies. Leafy is planning his playtimes with his baby sister or brother. We are all planning the ways we will hold and kiss this baby, who is of yet so blissfully unaware. And yet one day she will talk to us.

6. My studio is a mess. It's tiny, and I need more shelves. I have sewing things, my manuscript, and all my art supplies in here. Also, the wooden Ibex head, which I rescued when Chinua took it down from upstairs. I love him. He can watch over me in here.

7. Our shipment arrived from India. It consists of books, more books, even more books, and a bunch of instruments. My very favorite part? My Indian spices and my garden seeds.

8. I made brown masoor dahl the other night. Then I couldn't stop talking about how much I loved it after every bite. "This is so GOOD," I said. "THIS IS SO GOOD."

  a) This is how the breakdown of our family's taste in food goes: YaYa likes Indian food better than Thai, Kid A likes Thai food better and Laos food best of all, Leafy likes wide noodles and pasta, as does Solo. After cooking and eating Indian food for four years, it is comfort food to me, though I love Thai food as well. I prefer South Indian food over North Indian after the last couple of years of eating more from the South. Chinua still prefers his palak paneer and aloo tomato curries over idli sambhar and coconut dahls.

9. I can't keep myself fed. I eat and I'm hungry twenty minutes later. It has become a full time job, just keeping food in my stomach.

10. Solo wore Superman jammies all day yesterday and I let him. They came in the shipment and he was ecstatic.

11. Kid A woke up early with me and he keeps coming into the room, showing me things he can balance on each other.

12. I have so much planned for the day. Almost too much, but certainly, certainly, it's time to get going. I'll grow a lot taller, so my legs are really, really long and they can cover more ground. I'll shake the earth. Let's get up from our chairs and shake the earth, okay?