This and that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada Day Sale of A Traveler's Guide to Belonging

Right now, A Traveler's Guide to Belonging is on sale for $1.99 on all major ebook retailers. Hooray! Get it here. 

Also, have I ever been in such mud with a book as I am right now? Yes, yes I have. I am SO CLOSE to writing The End on the fourth World Whisperer book, but this book might kill me. And then I'll need to be resurrected to write Book 5. I think it's worth it though. 

And Chinua is in Sweden playing music. He's been gone for about two weeks and will be back on Friday. Send help. And chocolate. And noodle salad. We miss each other badly. Thankfully I have these great kids to hang out with.

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Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. A special thanks to new patron, Teresa Q. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work.

Tiny ways.

 Photo credit: Kenya Ford

Photo credit: Kenya Ford

Last night I went for a drive and all the edges of the clouds were edged with light. 

“Pull me up there,” I whispered.

Are you tired of escape poetry from me?

Listen, I’ve been running forever. Even when I run in place, right there in my kitchen thinking I should really get away but these children surely need to eat so here is the chopping block, here is the kale. Make it healthy, make it full of love.

Even when it’s just a corner of my soul retreating with my imagination, hand in hand. 

Trees, my soul whispers, leaves. The rustling light of leaves.

And my imagination concocts a new kind of Anne of Green Gables, one who actually gets power from trees, because trees and water buffalo and tiny tailor birds tell me that it is okay to be alive.

I am grateful for the books of my childhood. 

Wise people in the world create beauty out of violence, come out scathed but intact, and I have never experienced true violence, I have nothing to run from, really, except for the parts that feel like they will flake off if I can’t protect them sometimes.

I am better at staying when I run.

Here’s what it is: all the world of people is a code I don’t understand. Getting it wrong feels like stepping off a cliff, my heart in my throat. Twist of the ankle. Even after all this time, nearly forty years, I still don’t understand. I can tell myself and tell myself and tell myself. I write notes and notebooks and learn and memorize and I plunge myself in again and again. I ask questions. I study faces. I learn what is right and wrong and then I say something and it is the wrong thing again and maybe if I was different I would shrug the misteps off, but that is not me and I cry and cry until it feels like my eyes will explode. And then I get up and go into the world again. 

I am so tired. 

Yesterday, feeling my worst, I went to the pharmacy to get some allergy medicine for Kai. It was the kind of day when I felt exposed and afraid of people's eyes, like I didn’t want to be seen at all, I wanted to be invisible. But kids need medicine sometimes, so there I was in the shop. And in front of me were two older Karen men, in town from their village which was probably nearly two hours away. They were short, wearing tribal clothes, tasseled bags at their sides. They looked like they might be brothers, with the same lines in their faces. They stood and discussed all their options, with a leisurely sense of time, and as they did, they reached out to one another again and again, with an arm slung around the back, or gently touching the shoulder, or a hand on the back of the other’s neck. It was purely unconscious, little gestures of affection in the sterile pharmacy, figuring out medication and vitamins, one man translating the pharmacist's Thai words into Karen for the other.

I was so sad, but even then I couldn’t help seeing it. Tiny ways of being there for one another.

My little community has been having some rough days as we try to figure deep things out, and that means more situations where we all feel like we are out of our depth. And in the midst of it, my friends have been kind to me and to each other in generous ways. Leaf, made of light, bringing hope with her words, reaching out, speaking kindness, touching my arm or my elbow or my knee. Ro holding my hand, resting her head on my shoulder. Winnie with her endless kindness, checking in, buying iced coffee, pouring out love. Miri sending me verses and a picture she drew. Brendan with a bowl of food, offering to drop Solo off at his Science club. Josh with jokes and little nudges of humor that say, “You are my friend.” Neil and his rumbles and hums and murmurs of support. Olga with care for my daughter, showing up for hugs and a brief talk on the bench outside my house. All of our Pai community, with smiles on the motorbike, nods, music and help. And Chinua, my own, beloved Chinua, the Superstar Husband whom I have memorized, with arms and voice and lips that all say home. Chinua playing piano, Chinua giving me a hug, Chinua bridging gaps again and again.

I see all these things, these unconscious ways that we reach out to each other, speak love of God with one another. I name them, write them down, and the world feels livable again. Maybe I don't have to disappear.

There are light edged clouds, and there is rice in the bowl. Stones in the jar, in my hand. Imagination and the books of my childhood. My kids and other peoples’ kids swirling around like a stream of silliness and love. Poetry. All is not hopeless. The world is confusing and hard sometimes, and it circles around in new and surprising depths of hurt or pain, but it is edged in light.

Dear Ian,

 Radiant.

Radiant.

It has been two years since you died because of stupid leukemia. And I know you are alive somewhere in some amazing existence, possibly storming through the universe, involved in shenanigans on a cosmic level. But we miss you. 

Christy and the girls came to live in Pai, did you know that? It has been the most beautiful thing, to have them near us. I wish you could see Asha reciting the first 26 numbers of Pi, rattling them off effortlessly. She is a sunny, radiant being, irresistible in smile and nature. And Fiona keeps your face fresh in all of our minds—she looks so much like you. She is deep and creative, passionate and lovely. She has a great sense of humor and loves playing tricks on people. Do you remember how it was hard for a while, when she and Isaac played together as toddlers? He was a year younger but strong and not careful with his strength, and she was a tender flower. I remember we had to keep them apart. Now Fiona says Isaac is her best friend, and they play for hours. She runs around with her long braids flying, chasing and running and leaping around him.

I think you would love the fact that Chinua plays trumpet now. You know how he likes to challenge himself, so he picked one of the hardest instruments and pushes himself every day. He could just choose to stick with instruments he has mastered, but he won’t do that. He played trumpet during a concert last month, and it was beautiful. He misses you. I know he wishes he could have those long talks. I know if you were here you would join the guys on their birding expeditions. You would probably order them all special gear. And find some far off place to plan for, a birding trip like no other. I know you would bring the enthusiasm to another level, a special Ian level. One I have only ever seen mirrored in Asha. 

When Asha visits, she sometimes sits on our steps and says hello to people passing by my house. The people she greets seem delighted to see a red-headed freckled angel talking to them. I often look at her like she is an alien creature. Why would you want to bring more attention to yourself? Now people are talking to you! But she loves it. You would be so proud of her and Fiona. They’re resilient and fierce, kind and joyful. You would be proud of Christy, too— the way she greets her life with openness every day, even on the hard days. She is always pushing for more adventure— going camping at a music festival, heading off to Nepal for visas. Sometimes it amazes me that she is not bitter, but I know she works hard to release feelings of anger and bitterness. She stays hard at that work— she is working to be enveloped in love, to stay close to the heart of Jesus. She blesses everyone she comes close to because of who she is and the generosity of her spirit.

I like to sift through memories of you. Christy and the girls look at your photos and videos, nearly every day. I remember when you came to India, how you and Chinua went on motorbike rides and took photos in banjara camps, playing with flashes and slow shutters. I remember how hard you worked for us to be able to stay in Santa Cruz for three months in 2010. I remember you and Chin going on adventures together, diving or just driving. I remember walking through the Chiang Mai Night Safari together. A staff member let you hold a kinkajou and you fell in love with it. You held Fiona when she was too tired to walk. I remember your open questions to me. “How are you doing? Let’s talk about it.” I can hear your voice asking. Sometimes I imagine what you would say in whatever situation I am in. I imagine you putting your arm around Christy or playing with your beloved girls. I imagine laughter. Lots of laughter.

You are probably having a great time, with no more pain, no more misunderstandings or any of the peculiar foibles of the world we are in here. But we still miss you. We love you, and we’re still mad that you’re gone. 

Five Things

The world has been a bit disappointing all around lately. But the birds are still praising God, and so are many people, and many people give their lives to help people who are oppressed in the world, people who are different from them. And the people who are oppressed forgive and forgive, and much love can overcome anything. I believe this. I believe it and I try not to despair. But I feel quiet. I don’t know how to speak into the maelstrom. So here are five things. 

1. I sent World Whisperer Two off to my editor the other day, and I'm working on plotting the third. I'm doing it! I'm writing a series, and the characters have me completely captivated. I really love Isika, Ben, Jabari and Gavi. And the others. And now there are even more. Gosh it's fun to write about pretend people.

2. I’m making the change from being a morning person to being a night person. You might be tempted to tell me about studies that show that this is not possible. But I’m determined, because for all of our marriage, my Superstar Husband and I have been living on nearly opposite schedules and enough is enough. Normally I wake up at 5:00 or 5:30 so I can write before the kids get up. Now I’m trying to write after they’re in bed, and even though I’m often working, Chinny and I are in the same room, and sometimes we distract each other with funny videos or kisses. But it’s still hard to get my mind around “work” happening after “kids in bed” time. I’m tricking myself with all sorts of tricky tricks. Like calling it “creative alone time.” Also, I’ve started lighting a candle and some incense as a sort of signal that it’s time to start. And I’m trying out reading to the boys downstairs to I don’t go upstairs to where the bedrooms and the beds are, all beautiful and smooth and inviting and sleepy-making. We’ll see. I’m giving it another week or two while I try to adjust.

3. I went to Chiang Mai a couple weeks ago, and on the way home I rode in the front seat next to a bus driver who was a little intense. He was nearly riding on the top of other people’s bumpers. Also, he had a police siren installed as his horn, and whenever someone was taking too long to let him pass, out came the siren. Like a pull over siren. The police don’t use sirens very often over here, and I guess it’s not illegal to imitate American-sounding sirens. It made me smile every time, even as I clutched at the door handle.

4. Isaac is taking a turn for the delightful and sometimes sings a song that has lyrics something like: “I love my mama, because she is so beautiful…” and then I attack him with kisses. We had a lice day the other day (it’s been a while, a record for us) and his head is shaved and gorgeous. I kiss it and lead him around by the handle on the back, the way I used to do with Solomon.

 

5. I took Leafy to the local tailor the other day. He gave her a sketch he had made of a superhero costume he designed. It’s going to be made with navy blue spandex. He’s the navy knight. I’m so thankful we live here right at this moment, because as his project got more and more complicated, and then we bought spandex and I realized I have no idea how to sew spandex, and much of it was going to be me making the costume, I got a little panicky. I wasn’t sure I had the ability to withstand the thread tension issues I was sure I would come up against. And then it hit me! The tailor! She can do anything. She gave Leafy an apple to eat, which he was inordinately happy about. He’s making a superhero team. They’re going to do nice things for people in the neighborhood, like pick up litter and clean things. And this is why I love being a mother.