Hard won.

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After a few starts and stops, I am sitting at my keyboard with a cup of coffee, typing my first blog post of the year. It’s going to be a good one, I can tell. Year, that is, not blog post. But actually, I have no idea whether the year will be good or not. But I have right now, and I have today, and those both seem to be all right.

I set intentions, and then I don’t reach most of them, but halfway is better than zero, so I continue with goals and ideas and thoughts about what I want in my life. When I reach for something, I get somewhere. The tricky part is not flailing around because the goal is too high or I’ve mussed it up again. 

For example. This hard won cup of coffee and sitting at my desk.

I don’t make resolutions, but I do use the New Year as a time to shift into a new season of work. Part of this season for me is getting up even earlier, at 5:00 AM now, in order to get more writing and work done before the kids get up. I’ve learned it’s the only way. If I am at home (and not on a writing retreat or something like that) any writing left to be done later in the day does not get done. 

So Rae’s number one tip for creative motherhood? Get up in the dark. Unless you are a night owl. Then stay up and be focused. It really helps to work when you are best, but I recommend getting it done first thing, because you will feel so accomplished later on. Yesterday morning was amazing. I woke very early, wrote out some chapter notes, and then went on a walk and dictated the first two chapters of World Whisperer 4.

But anyway, this morning I turned my alarm off. Great. My body is adjusting to the new wake up time, and I don’t even remember turning it off, but when my eyes opened, I heard the birds (a good signal that it’s past sunrise), so I groaned and reached for my phone, which read 6:28. I blinked into the dark room for a few minutes, reminding myself that there is always tomorrow, that waking up late is not a crisis, and other encouraging things that I have taught myself over the years, after a lot of dramatic behavior about the ruined early start. I’m so mature now. 

In the kitchen I discovered an empty coffee grounds jar, a new casualty of life, due to the fact that three other people in my family drink coffee now. Chinua has started, after sufficient scientific evidence that coffee is healthy, and my teens drink coffee (Kai a cup in the morning and Kenya occasionally). I have raised a parcel of kids who love hot drinks, an accomplishment I am very proud of, especially when my fifteen-year-old is introducing our friends to our tea collection. (Did you know iherb.com will ship tea to you?) But I have been known to mutter that I can’t afford to live now that we all drink coffee. 

I stared at the empty jar. I was too busy bottling kombucha last night to check out the coffee situation and time was already short. I looked at the tea, but nope. So I got on the motorbike and drove to the day market, where my favorite market lady laughed and said, “She’s here so early! Did you wake up early?” “I always wake up early,” I told her. “I just don’t come shopping early.” She showed me the dragon coffee that she was is the best in the shop. It’s the only place open so early and they don’t carry the coffee I normally buy. It’s pretty good, if a bit dark.

But anyway, I sped off in the growing light and ground some beans when I got home. I made a mess with the filter, and added too much cold milk. I reheated it in a pot and finally here I am, sitting with my coffee, my plans for the morning in shambles. 

But this is what life and intentions are like, and this is where the life is. Surprises, plans that don’t work out quite as you thought, crying kids wandering into your workspace, ignored alarms, accidental late nights. My advice is to just keep ticking on. You will not get it perfect, and either will I. If you are a creative parent you will need to take advantage of the moments between moments. Use your frustration. Laugh at yourself. Trick yourself into working by assuring your inner artist that you will only do five minutes, then write (or paint, or sew, or sing) longer. Make goals in order to get halfway there. Reward yourself. 

And make a practice. I am a monk, I remind myself in the early hours, when I don’t want to work. This is my practice. I am the kind of person who wakes in the dark and writes. I don’t finish things for deadlines, I am not polished or punctual. But I practice, and surprisingly enough, as I do, work happens. I’m excited for another year of writing in the mornings, for the beauty of words and for seeing the sunrise from my spot at my desk. 

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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. Thanks to new patron, Heather Cavallin! Your patronage shows your support for my writing, and it means so much to me.

Goodbye, 2017.

I don’t know why I love the lines between years so much. Maybe it is the clean break, the possibilities, or taking a moment to think about the past year and all it has done and given and been. 

I am thankful for the gift this year has been. We have had joy and pain, a lot of conflict resolution, tough conversations, an incredible amount of fun, and a lot of travel. We logged hours in the car, broke down and got back on the road. We slept in tents and on floors. We guided many circles of meditation, planted seeds, swam in many bodies of water. 

I know the years of having all my kids in the house are growing short. For the year ahead, I pray to appreciate each moment. I pray to be aware of the presence of God around me and with me. I pray to be one of the many voices of love in the world, that my heart and words would do honor to God. I can’t hope for much more than that.

I went through my iPhone videos and made a little unprofessional video of what I found. Here are some snippets of 2017. Welcome 2018! I think you will be beautiful.

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Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as a dollar a month, and get extra question and answer videos and day in the life posts. Thanks to new patron, Heather Cavallin! Your patronage shows your support for my writing, and it means so much to me.

The days after and before.

 Christmas morning breakfast.

Christmas morning breakfast.

I love the days after Christmas and before the New Year. 

We have such a beautiful big Christmas Eve gathering each year at Shekina Garden, which takes days of planning and preparing, and of course there is our own planning and expectation of Christmas Day. Baking, cooking, and lists. It is so beautiful, and every year it is amazing to host a gathering of over one hundred people. Travelers from around the world come and celebrate with us. 

This year we put together a service of poetry, stories, performance art, and singing. It was so beautiful to watch people’s faces as they realized what was happening. A choir! A woman with a tampura, singing in Hindi! A performance piece with a tiny wooden bird! 

This year I felt buzzy and happy, relieved that everything came together. I was on a high because the art came together, and I love stories and art. Then we had our own lazy Christmas Day, with stockings and gifts, crepes for breakfast and snacks for lunch. Our landlords came over with gifts for blankets for the kids (they worry that we are too cold), and Christy and the girls came over in the afternoon for a while. 

Leafy and Kenya made everyone beautiful presents. There was big Star Wars theme this year. Chinua bought me some lovely new clothes. We got a couple of new boardgames. The boys have enough Lego to build for days.

And the community got together in the evening at Christy’s house then, with pizza and hot buttered rum, Leaf’s cinnamon rolls, endless stories from Cate and Chinua, and a lot of laughter from all of us, tired from the night before but so happy to be together.

And then the day after Christmas, when I realize that my time is my own for a few days before school starts again, I can look over the past year and dream about the next. I can write in the early hours of the morning. I love these days. Getting up for coffee. Thinking about all the possibilities. The possible art of a new year. Candles in the evenings. Eating together. I don’t really want them to end. 

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My monthly Q and A video is up! Normally these vlogs are for patrons only, but for this month only, my vlog on self care is available for everyone to watch. Enjoy! You can watch it here.

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as a dollar a month, and get extra question and answer videos and day in the life posts. Your patronage shows your support for my writing, and it means so much to me. Thank you.

A great light.

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A people,
a people
—frail and lost in darkness of
mood, longing, and ego
desire and addiction—

have seen
a light,
a great light
So full of love
a light of dancing, moving stars
a moment, a glimpse of hope

He is coming near.
He won’t leave us here
Alone.
He will lift us
breathe on us again
and we will live

for

A child has come
a baby takes his first breath,
opens his eyes
born for us, given to us—
He will take the weight of the world.
He is the Wonderful One
the Strong-armed God
the Father who never leaves.
the Prince of Peace.
His beauty goes on and on.
David’s throne, the line back to Abraham
stretching forward into the endless future
on and on with every good thing:
right ways
right actions

Never ending love
and peace.

(A paraphrase of Isaiah 9: 2-7)

 

Have a wonderful, wonderful Christmas, friends. I'm so glad to know you. 

December Musings: The Wild Mind

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I am ready for a new year. Ready for new things to come. In the last months I have broken many of my own rules about getting enough sleep and exercise, enough rest, and taking each day as it comes, and am feeling the effects come back to me in self-loathing and poor mental health, so a clean start will be good.

I am tired of the battle of my mind. I feel like giving up. But Chin up buttercup, you don’t get to choose which mind will be yours

I am not neurotypical, and processing the world and the social interactions of life is exhausting. When I am not careful, I can take it all on in waves and only see the failures, rather than anything good about me. I see the places where I get it wrong, messing up in my family and life, getting distracted, feeling lost and not understanding. I see how my illness effects my family. I begin to live from my weakness, rather than living in joy. And it all leads to more self-loathing, to more self-contempt.

Thankfully, I have been around the block a few times. I have lists and lists of things that help, and in the week leading up to Christmas I’m pulling them all out.

Self care for me means:

*Creative work in the morning

*Lots of sleep

*Cooking

*Knitting or crocheting

*Lying on the floor

*Looking at designs and patterns

*Sketching or painting for fun

*Exercise

*Reading books on creativity and devotion

*A well-written novel

*Scooter rides

*Reading poems every day

*Taking rhodiola rosea every day

*Decluttering with love (not self-contempt)

*Candles, oils, incense. Good smells and good light.

*Listening to music

*Practicing my mandolin

*Markets and shops with interesting curious things

*Journaling

And most of all,

*Gratitude and lists of things I love to pull me out of bleakness

So here are some things I love. I love the way the light hits my kitchen in the afternoons. I love the expectation and breath of the holidays, the way Kenya sits and makes things every day to be ready. I love Isaac’s warm little body in the mornings. I love bricks and pinecones. The way my teenagers love to chat with me. Quirky people around my town. The garden in the late afternoon. Hands in the dirt. Crocheting my rainbow ripple blanket. Chopin. Blasting Handel’s Messiah from my outdoor kitchen so that I’m the weird neighbor. My other quirky neighbor who dances on the street every night. My elderly next-door neighbor's high, crackly voice, especially when she's talking to Wookie or her cats. Wookie. When Thai women smack me when they’re laughing at me. Chinua. Chinua. Chinua. The gray scruff on Chinua’s face. Chinua’s voice. The smell of his forehead. Leafy hugs in the mornings. Dear friends. Good things in the future. Good things for today.

I have not been left alone. The Spirit of God is with me. Even me, with my wild mind. Even with me, not able to relate in easy or intuitive ways. The Spirit of God comes and pulls me into the day and says, “Yes, together. Yes.” 

What about you? Do you struggle with something that feels exhausting? What is your version of self care?

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Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as a dollar a month, and get extra question and answer videos and day in the life posts. Your patronage shows your support for my writing, and it means so much to me. Thank you.

Patrons, This month's Q and A video will be up today! xoxo