Play time in the sun.

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Everything seems beautiful to me lately. The hazy edges of the mountains, the way the color is bleached out of the landscape. The gentle browns and lilac at the edges of the day. The orange sun, bright as a marigold in the late afternoon, just before it drops behind the mountains. My neighbors, our old blue motorbikes that are so good to us, Chinua’s whole person, jasmine and nightqueen flowers, oh, the flowers everywhere. 

***

Maybe things seem more beautiful because of a lot of play, which restores the soul and body and mind and spirit. It’s Song Kran, one of my favorite play times of the year, because everyone I see is playing together, and there is no other time I can be riding my motorbike and have a complete stranger stop me, smile at me, and proceed to dump a bucket of ice water over my shoulders. Ro, Josh, Winnie, Kenya and I went out on the first day, which was a good one because it was crazy hot. We decided to leave the younger kids home so we could have one round by ourselves. We brought our water guns and roamed the town, getting a lot wetter than we ever made people wet. 

Families from neighboring villages went by in trucks, dousing us from buckets and coolers on their truck beds. Our artist friends had a crew by their art shop, and a refined artist I’ve known for many years turned a hose on me again and again. Ro was alternately for us and against us, but then so was I, using boring moments as chances to shoot water at my friends. 

I hope to never forget the sight of her when she got her hands on a hose, the pure glee in her face as she soaked us. The water droplets in the sunlight. Josh and Winnie marching along, united in a quest for fun. The man who grabbed me in a gentle hold and held a gigantic piece of ice to the side of my face, having done away with water entirely. (What? What is happening?) We went back and got the kids and had a great time roaming with them as well, although it was short-lived for Isaac, who screamed his rage when three people doused him with ice water, one after the other. I took him home and got him a towel, then ran out to find my friends and play some more.

Play restores. Let's not forget to play.

Long drives, lots of curves.

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We’re back and we just had our six year anniversary of living in Thailand. No wonder it feels so good to be home. Remember when I was searching for a home around the earth? My friend Winnie reminded me the other day, “You found it!”

I can be forgetful sometimes. It seems as though as soon as I leave my home I forget it. I start searching for it. "Where is it?" I panic. "Is it here? Is it there?" I am working lately on finding a home in my heart.

But here we are, back at our physical home. When we first got back to Thailand, we spent time with our friends who have a kids’ home here in the city. They are like family, hospitable and easy with their hospitality, and it’s a good place to land. Two large families live on the same property and when we arrive we bring the kid count up to 19! They all play together well, and I find it so soothing to be around big families and feel normal and not compare myself to single people’s time management skills. (I shouldn’t compare myself to anyone at all. I’m working on it.) 

The families flow effortlessly between English and Thai all day long and I love the music of it. I’ve borrowed a Thai story book and a Thai Bible from my friend to practice my reading. 

After we spent some time with the families—Chinua teaching some of the kids how to make a trumpet make a sound (you’re welcome, parents) and Leafy and Solo effortlessly absorbed into a group of eleven-year-old boys—we drove home. We dropped Kenya and Leafy off at camp first. (More on that later.)

We arrived home in Pai to rediscover the furniture that our dear friend gave us after she downsized from a family home to a condo. (All of her own kids grew up.) It was delivered on the day we left for India, so we had just put everything in the house and locked the door behind it. Arriving home to find it was like a very grown up Christmas. I’m most excited about the bigger dining room table and the dresser in my room. (No more pile of clothes to tear through when I’m looking for something to wear.)

In going through new stuff, Chinua and I thougt we should use our fresh eyes to do a whole spring cleaning and rearranging. So we moved the school stuff from the front room to the back, and made a table space outside under the tree. (Finally! I have been wanting a table under the tree forever. When we first moved in, there were a couple of falling-apart tables that I used to sit at till they truly fell apart. Now I have one again and we’ve been eating every meal out there. So happy.) 

After two days, I had to leave home again (what?) to pick up some Kenya and Leafy from camp and drop off Kai and our friend Vrinda for Senior High Camp. I left Solo and Isaac with their Superstar Dad and keep looking around to see if my kid is yelling, only to remember I left the yelling ones at home. The camp didn’t quite live up to Maple Springs fame, (nothing does) but it was fun and they had a great time. Leafy missed me, and today he seems a little like he needs to go home. To be fair, it was weird to land in the airport and then be dropped off at camp without even getting back to Pai. Yesterday we roamed the mall like a bunch of teenagers (well, they are teenagers and I'm sort of like one sometimes) and wandered through the art store and book store. We’re in a SPENDNOTHING month, so I restrained myself to buying two pens and an eraser, and a pour-over coffee filter. Which isn’t nothing, granted, but I’m out of pens and our coffee filter broke in the travels. 

My friend Prang and I went for a long walk around the neighborhood last night, and talked and talked and watched starlings darting around in the dusk. Leafy played Settlers of Catan with three of the girls, and Kai, Kenya, Leafy and I played Taboo with my friend Cindy and the other kids. We did away with points and competition and just yelled out guesses.

This morning I woke up to the sound of spotted doves, bulbuls, and koels, and soon kids were playing in the yard and I heard those sounds too. We may or may not be able to drive home after Kenya’s dentist appointment this evening (I’m not so great at making myself drive at night, not because I can’t but because I don’t want to, but this time I may do it, just because I want to be home so badly) and I can’t wait until Thursday, because it's art day and Kai and Kenya and I have plans. Right now four little girls in this house are preparing for a birthday party with scissors and tape and lots of paper folding, while listening to Zombie by the Cranberries. They're not so little anymore, these girls, but they are the same ones who told me they loved eating fish eyes, back when they were adorable five-year-olds in princess dresses. And I realized, I am in another country. And I realize I am now again, and all the little details of life—the shopping and chopping vegetables and cleaning out the old stuff— they all feel new and beautiful. Traveling does that, I guess, helps you to see your home through new eyes. Helps you to fall in love again.

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.

 

Very special people.

We have a house full of Devenishes, Chinua says. My parents have come for a visit! I drove down to Chiang Mai the day before yesterday to pick them up, and we ate papaya salad, sticky rice, and grilled chicken in celebration before driving back over the mountains to get home. My sister was also here for a few days and will be back after she visits the beaches in the south.  

I see everything through new eyes; how beautiful Thailand is, as well as how sparse our furniture and how differently we live. How strange some of it would appear— no couches, little softness, our mattress on the floor. 

Yesterday we were all up in the dark making coffee in our outdoor kitchen. My parents woke up in the wee-est of hours, jetlagged and body-confused. I was up for work, so we drank coffee and sat on chairs in the kitchen. I went to write for a while, then came back to sit on the porch with them. My dad climbed into the chariot with me to drive to the market. I showed him off, telling all the market ladies that he was my dad, and they exclaimed that he was still so young and strong! Parents are a big deal in Thailand, so it is suitably gratifying to show them off. 

We bought a lot of vegetables and my dad pointed at various things and asked what they all were. He started planning a stir fry. Shopping for vegetables in the market is one of the very best things about living here, so it felt amazing to wander around the market with him. I’ll take him and my mom to the afternoon street market next. 

Yesterday we ate, and cooked, and rested, and talked. Leafy told Becca that her Star Wars name would be Chewbecca. My mom made friends with Wookie, our little white dog. Kai sat and chatted with us, breaking out with his amazing smile often, showing us pictures of what Wookie’s babies would look like and begging for puppies. Solo and Kenya went for a macramé class and when they came back, Becca and Kenya and I had some of our insane cuddles. At one point Kenya “sat” in my lap for a while, and Becca came and joined her, until I was on the bottom of a puddle of my favorite girls. Isaac ran around telling stories and refusing to give hugs. There was a lot of love, a lot of happiness. 

 Brendan and Ruby came over for Pad Kee Mao (a noodle stirfry) at dinner time and we pulled out google maps of Vancouver Island to explain how big it is and how it is oriented. Brendan told them about his retreat on a lake in Ontario, and they told him about living in Australia in the early 80’s, comparing place names and wondering if they knew the same people. 

I love it when people I love meet each other. I think it’s going to be a good few weeks of a lot of chatter and goodness. I want to remember all of it.

***

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. 

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

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.