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.

This and that.

This morning is heavy and humid already, with a hint of cooling rain on the horizon. In a few minutes we will get into the car to drive to Mae Hong Son, about 2 and a half hours away, to renew our visas at immigration. The drive is very beautiful, though immigration days are long. 

I have a few business-y things. Kenya and I are opening our new website soon... with little starts and stops. We're selling our own art, as well as some collaborative pieces. It's a fun, interesting process as we get used to working with each other. Anyhow, I've been painting up a storm and I have a couple of new paintings in my shop.

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This brown bear.

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And these quail. You can find them here.

Also I'm putting a call out for reviews on my World Whisperer Boxset. If you have read the books, will you consider reviewing here? Thank you, reviews help so much with getting the books out to the world.

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This week will be full of writing and painting and teaching. I'm still hard at work on World Whisperer 4 and it's going to be worth the wait. It's a hard book to write, though! Oh my goodness. Every day is so full of the best things. Kissing and hugging and helping kids sort through conflict, deep discussions of faith and love with the kids and friends who drop over, or friends at the garden. All these things are worth it on this Monday morning. I know it is still Sunday for some of you. (Happy Father's Day!) But how is your week shaping up? What things are there to look forward to? To be curious about?

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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.  I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work.

A beautiful gift.

Getting back to school at the beginning of our school season has taken my breath away, to say it in a somewhat dreamy way. I feel like I run from morning till night and sometimes we are doing spelling words or discussion questions at 9:30, right before bed. It is worth it, and I know that I just have a few years ahead of me that are very full, and I won’t wish them away.

They are full of the beauty of bad puns,

Cups of coffee under the white flowering tree,

Teens who sing me happy birthday (my own and others that I love)

Good discussion,

Endless discussion,

Discussion first thing in the morning when I’m still making smoothies,

Trips to the market,

Pencils and pens,

Being read to by a nine-year-old,

Love,

And fairy dust.

And sometimes I am very tired from it all. Even good gifts can make you tired. And sometimes good gifts take your breath away in even dreamier ways.

I just had a birthday and my beautiful, tall, kindhearted daughter gave me this as a present:

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I wish someone could have taken a picture of my face, because I couldn’t speak for several moments. I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at for a minute, because it was a print of Isika, a character that I made up in my own head, and how did that happen? But as it turns out, Kenya drew it, had it printed, and gave it to me, rendering me speechless. 

It bodes well for a magical year. I’m praying it is so. 

Writing.

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I’ve been finding a good rhythm, back in my space. I start by writing morning pages at the table under the white flowering tree, a cup of coffee, warm against my palm. Whispery Bible pages and the most beautiful words. 

(“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” 1 Corinthians 1: 27-29)

 Then into my little studio working on World Whisperer 4 at a new gifted desk that is big enough for notebooks and papers, for sprawling out. Sometimes I grab my jar of stones and rattle it. The jar of stones reminds me that this is not all there is, that I have been in many forests and on many seashores, that I have friends around the world who know my name and have seen me under many skies. Writing can be so scary that you have to reassure yourself of strange things like that. 

And just like you can hold stones in your hands, you can also hold the different people you have been: the daughter, the young friend, the crazy dancer in the city, the potter, the piper, the painter, the young wife and mother of one tiny baby, the dolphin lover, the cyclist, the student, the fool, the fool, the fool. I pour the stones into my hands and remember how small I am, that the words are just little words, and then I put them back in the jar and begin to write again.

I have dabbled with dictation for a while, and am back to the keyboard. I need the quiet to be able to write. My own voice distracts me. It makes me happy, returning to the keyboard. I feel that it is a familiar space, one that I have fought for over many long years. I do listen to music while I write, so that I can move. I need to move while I write, dancing or rocking back and forth. I’m sure it would look quite comical from the outside. And you might laugh at my collection of songs, which includes weird remixes of indie songs and a Chopin playlist that makes me cry.

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And for a week I’ve shut myself away in a cheap Airbnb room in Bangkok, living a very Bangkok life of work and street food. It’s a little three room apartment, a bed, a couch, and a kitchenette (which I thought had a burner but turns out to only have a microwave, so I’ve been making microwaved eggs in the morning. I told this to my sister and said “It reminds me of Grandma, at the very same moment that she said, “Does it remind you of Grandma?”

Maybe when I said a very Bangkok life you imagined Khao San road or the Grand Palace, or worse, the party life on Sukhumvit, but the majority of Bangkok is not like that. When I think of Bangkok, I think of small apartments crammed with belongings, of people jogging or doing aerobics in public parks in the hot evenings, people coming out of their offices to pick up street food in the middle of the day, heading back with every finger holding a bag of iced coffee for their office friends, people lined up patiently in the alleyways in the evenings, waiting for a motorbike taxi. I think of the smell of coconut curries, of fried bugs in bags, of tiny intricate desserts. I think of the dividing economic line of AC and non AC, of the skytrain, of friendly distance. Street markets where you can buy colored contacts, jasmine offerings, or fish for your evening meal.

I find that in Northern Thailand, people speak Thai to me, expecting me to understand and respond, so I do. But when I speak Thai here, people nearly choke on their own saliva. It has taken me three times of going to the fruit man for him to believe that I speak Thai, rather than pointing from fruit to fruit, telling me the names of the fruits. Yesterday, though, he told the motorbike taxi guys around him that I spoke great Thai. With a lot of awe. (PS, if you are a foreigner, people will say this no matter how much Thai you speak, so it’s not really something you can judge your progress by. Though it is a little gold star.)

I also overheard boy in 7-11 asked his father what kind of person I was as he pointed to me. That was funny. I’m not sure either, I was interested in what his father’s answer would be, but he only answered “foreigner.” It’s nice when people call me something other than foreigner. At the second hand shoe stall in Chatuchak market, the owners remember me and call me the respectful word for “teacher,” which is cool. And at home in Pai people call me by a version of my name. 

I like to envision myself in other people’s lives, so it’s fun to live this life for a while. I write until my fingers can’t move anymore, and then I go out and get my papaya salad from the street for lunch. Write a few more hours and get some rice and stir fried vegetables for dinner. (That was surprisingly hard to translate- the Thai word for the different dishes you can buy to go with rice is “with rice,” which makes so much sense to me, easy and you don’t have to describe exactly what you ate, but it doesn’t make sense in English.) 

The papaya salad lady has been the most friendly. Turns out she’s from Chiang Rai, in the North also. Maybe people from Bangkok are a little more reserved? I wouldn’t blame them, big cities are massively overstimulating, with advertisements blaring from every possible surface. 

Also, my rooms are decorated to look like hipster Japanese decor, so I can also make believe that I live in Japan. Except I imagine Japanese apartments have more buttons, at least on the toilets. This one is pretty simple. 

I went out only (past getting lunch) a couple times so far. I went to Chatuchak market to buy used Birkenstocks from the amazing used Birkenstock place there (pretty much the only place I buy shoes) and then to the mall to go to Kinokinuya, the giant bookstore, which is a treat like no other. Surrounded by books: art books, design books, poetry books, comic books. They have a piano music section and a Chinese book section. You don’t know how much you’ll miss being surrounded by books until you have no libraries or large bookstores in your life. It’s been ten years for me, so trip to a big bookstore is as exciting as a helicopter ride. 

The same mall has one of the largest art stores I’ve ever seen in Thailand. Since I’ve moved here, we’ve gotten quite an impressive art store in Chiang Mai. It’s not big but it has everything. Everything I need (nearly, I still have to order ink) and lots more. But there is no beating this Bangkok art store for the pretty way they arrange their pens. I’m a girl of simple pleasures. Let me look at a pen store and some art books and I’m happy. I left without buying anything other than two new black fineliners (an addiction). I don’t need any more art supplies. I need to use the ones I have.

So that was my artist date for the week. Maybe I’ll make it to a gallery or something while I’m here, but I’m really focused on this book. And my face is a tiny bit disfigured right now, because it turns out that I can injure myself even alone in a couple of rooms without anything else here. I woke up one morning and ran straight into the glass door that separates the kitchen from the living room, crunching my nose and gashing it open. I lay there bleeding and couldn’t get up for quite a while, feeling like I was going to faint. If it broke, it broke straight, which is good, but I’m going to have a scar. Like a cage fighter. Although, unlike a cage fighter, it was only one punch to take me down. I told my friend Ro that I’ve ruled out MMA as a possible career choice. I’m a bit too much of a wimp. Anyhow! Back to Aria and Demon’s Arrow, book 4 of World Whisperer. 

I will finish this book. I will. 

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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. I'm so thankful for my patrons! I've got some fun patron-only extras going up today. :)