A travel day.

This morning I am sitting on the porch at a friend’s house, listening to the calls of the koel birds and spotted doves and feeling completely content. A dog is licking my toe, my boys are swinging in the yard, and the air is still fresh, though it will be hot later.

We are on our way to India. We’ll be in Chennai tonight and Goa tomorrow night. I look forward to those extra senses that get awakened every time I go to India. I look forward to the coconut grove and the sea, to the fishermen and people in the village that I have known for years. I look forward to their expressions of awe when they see how tall Kai and Kenya have become, not so much to the inevitable comments about the weight I have gained. 

IMG_0243.JPG

We’ve had a lovely and eventful week. We left last Thursday for the Shamballa in your Heart festival, which is a Japanese music festival in the mountains, with Thai, Japanese, and international musicians. We camped in several tents and brought another friend along. To get everything there, we made a big tarp package on the roof of our car and then tied it up with bungee cords like a present. This is the second year that we’ve gone to this festival and we love it. The kids love being outside the whole time. It’s easy camping with bathrooms and foodstalls that are affordable. The vendors remembered us from the year before and one even had pictures of us on a little board that she had made. Our dear friend Aya is one of the organizers and she found ways for all of us to be involved. Chinua led a couple Open Voice Project workshops (teaching choral singing) and I got to do some live painting, collaborating with Kenya for the first time. 

 The finished painting.

The finished painting.

I’ve dreamed of collaborating with her for a while, because our styles are so different (she is very much an illustrator, more talented that I can believe) and I think they would complement each other well. So it was a dream to do a live painting at one of the stages, listening to music and painting alongside my daughter. It felt like a dream I wouldn’t even have dared to have. So lovely.

I also remember going to the hotsprings with Ro, Lilli, and Becca under the stars, walking in the night to the little pools, getting back to the tent, sleepy and warm despite the chill in the air. Drinking coffee with Leaf in the morning. Listening to amazing jams with Chinua on mandolin, lovely guitarists, and a talented fiddle player. Guiding and attending Christ-centered meditation in the sleepy heat of the day. Music and dancing. The way Solomon loves festivals and music, joining in with Chinua’s workshop, singing and dancing his heart out. The kids running around all day, through rivers and to the top of giant rock piles. Bible circles as a bunch of people read through the book of Romans outside, beside a stream. 

I loved looking out at the stars above the tent flap. Sitting and watching and talking with people from all over the world. Ah, it was beautiful. 

Now we head off to the land that always holds part of my heart, off to dear Miri and the rooftop meditation space, to the sea and delicious food. It's a travel day, just one of many in our lives.

I don't want to forget...

 Mom and Dad at the National Children's Day festivities. Dad is holding Isaac's balloon. (Not his own.)

Mom and Dad at the National Children's Day festivities. Dad is holding Isaac's balloon. (Not his own.)

Bad jokes from my dad that Kai always laughs at. 

Sitting with my mom at the bamboo bridges over rice fields, laughing at water buffalo who escaped their pen after a woman gathered them up and locked them in.

Devotion circles with my parents attending, singing and sharing in the circle. Hearing their voices in such a familiar way, in such a familiar place, but after a long time of being apart.

Having a second cup of coffee together in the late mornings.

My dad helping Solo get his bike fixed, Leafy build a project, or Neil and Chinua build a work bench at the garden.

My sister, Becca, turning up yesterday, all beautiful and laughing, getting hugs in the street as the younger boys caught sight of her. 

Dinners at our house, around our too-small table, cozy and happy. Papaya salad and fried chicken, sticky rice and corn on the cob. 

Eating cake for Dad's birthday and talking about what we love about him.

Sitting on the porch outside my house every afternoon together. 

Making quesadillas together in the kitchen. Brendan and Dad bonding over jokes. 

Going for a motorbike ride with my mom on the back, through rice fields and on narrow streets, looking at cows and flowers. 

A special dinner with the four of us last night.

Seeing Dad and Chinua walking up to the garden together, ready to work on building the work bench. Talking and walking together. 

My landlords trying to convince my parents to move here, doing their very best. Welcoming and kind. 

All the tiny, lovely moments that are beautiful and rare. I am so thankful for this visit.

 

Swan dives on shark slides.

IMG_9812.JPG

Yesterday we all sat around the table and ate stir-fried vegetables and rice, with fried eggs and kimchi on top. Taran and Vrinda, our teenaged friends, were over, and my dad (Mom has been sick, poor thing, so she was resting) and of course my own kids and Chinua (the very best Superstar husband in the universe, according to myself). 

Our table is small (it seemed huge when we bought it five and a half years ago) so it makes for an intimate dinner. Discussions varied from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Sublime:

Kenya mentioned that she had taken a closer look at the word chocolate, and noticed that it sorta-kinda contains the word “latte.” Maybe that’s where it came from? Cocoa and milk, since it was always a drink at first? I thought it was a pretty good theory. But then Leafy spoke up.

“No,” he said, gesturing with his hand the way he does when he’s explaining something. “It comes from an Aztec word, I’m not sure how to pronounce it—it has a lot of ‘x’s’ in it—xoxocatl? But they mispronounced it “choclat,” so that’s where chocolate came from.” 

(?!?)

Leafy is turning into this sort of genius encyclopedia that I can ask anything. He was explaining tesla coils to us the other evening. I am constantly asking him, “How do you know that?” This is a cool thing about homeschooling. You begin by plugging in the right skills (reading, research, an understanding of numbers) and eventually they outrun you. We are not perfect homeschoolers by any means. I’m sure I let any number of opportunities race straight by me. I have two other jobs, it doesn’t capture all my focus. But then Leafy knows the Aztec root to a word and I figure that despite all my failures, despite the fact that I can’t claim any credit, the kids are all right. 

(“Isaac’s reading is excellent!” his teacher told me when he started school. “I didn’t teach him a thing,” I said. “That was all Kenya.” Homeschool tends to trickle down after a while.)

Ridiculous:

First of all, the above egg was hanging out in the egg flat this morning. No one knew who created him. Of course I assumed Kenya, but it turned out to be a combined effort from Kai and Chinua. Kai drew the face, and Chinua came along and taped on the onion skin hair.

Then, in the afternoon, my mom and I took the kids to the local “water park,” which is their newest, beloved discovery. We had three extra kids with us, but all of the bigger kids rode their bikes to get there, so it was just Isaac, Solo, Mom and I in the car. The water park is a pool with those inflatable climbing things on them, and one giant inflatable slide. After I was there for a while, I figured that I was mainly there to call an ambulance if needed, with the way the kids jump from the top of the slide to the bottom. It’s very soft, but Solo did a head first leap that made me shriek for five minutes. I have these brave and athletic kids, and their friends are the same, and I’m always flapping my arms on the edges: “Careful! Oh! Careful!” Anyway, no injuries yesterday.

Mom and I sat in chairs and watched the light change on the mountains around the valley, and the cows and egrets in a nearby field. (Sublime.)

Then we got home and had the aforementioned dinner, and found out that when my dad, Chinua, and our friend Neil had been building a work table at Shekina Garden, Dad had hammered his thumb. Only Chinua made it sound like his thumb had been cut off, and Vrinda’s eyes got wider and wider. “We taped it back on,” Chinua said. “They reattach well if you get to them in time.”

“Cut off?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, “and it will grow two heads when it heals.” 

Realization dawned, and she smacked Kai, who was in a fit of laughter beside her.  

I also thought the picture of Neil, my dad, and Chinua riding around in Hot Daniel was a nice one. Hot Daniel is our community truck, a tiny little thing with stars painted all over it. Chinua rode in the back, and at the hardware store they had to push it to get it started again. “Also,” my dad said, “we had to pass the handle back and forth to roll the windows down.” 

Oh Hot Daniel. Such a cute mess. 

Such beautiful days. Sublime and ridiculous.

***

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 you! Your patronage shows your support for my writing, and it means so much to me. 

Patrons, send me your questions for January's Q and A video! 

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.

***

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. 

***

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.