A list of sorts: (Or stopping to tie your shoe.)

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* This is what the kids want to listen to in the car (when we take turns choosing).

Kai- Daftpunk

Kenya-Arcade Fire

Leafy- Fleetwood Mac

Solo- Coldplay

Isaac- Imagine Dragons

* We have hot humid days, and then storms that break the heat. It is lovely and unpredictable. The landscape is becoming green again, and sometimes the sky is spectacular and blue, clouds flung everywhere.

* Our house is filled with tiny biting ants. They get in our clothes and in our beds. We’ve never had so many of this variety before. Under the earth, there are migrations of ants moving back and forth without checking with us at all. There are much fewer of us. Many more of them. 

* Leafy has begun weaving. He made a loom and wove a very nice piece of cloth. It took him a whole day and he didn’t seem to get tired of it. He did have a headache by the end of the day though. He has recently built a boat out of old milk jugs, and he is waiting for me to edit his first book. He is also one of the kindest people I have ever met. There are no words to describe the tenderness I feel toward this kid of mine. 

* Speaking of tenderness, I feel it toward people for the strangest reasons. The other day I was riding my motorbike to the afternoon market and at a red light, the woman on the back of the bike in front of me caught my attention. She was small and looked very young from behind, but after I saw what she was wearing and noticed the loose skin on her arms, I realized she was older. She was wearing a gauzy shirt, and through it I could see that only one of the clasps of her bra was done up, and she clung tightly to the bike, not quite comfortable on it, and I was overwhelmed with softness in my heart toward her. This is why the world is overwhelming to me at times. All of these people, they all have their own stories, and hands and feet and sometimes they can’t quite get their bras done up and they go around all day without knowing it, and it kills me. 

* People trip, or make mistakes, or choke on their water, or slip on the stairs. They say stupid things, and they are unsure of themselves, and they lose their keys or use the wrong words. Or maybe they don’t know what avocados are, and no matter how many times I try to explain, they look at me blankly. (This happened in the market today.)

* Sometimes Solo can’t sleep because he starts thinking about what he was before he was here and what he will be eventually and the concept is so huge that he cries and can’t stop his mind from spiraling outward, farther and farther, into things he can’t understand. I do it too, I think, but more often when I see someone stop to tie their shoelace, or walk into a post. 

* The anxiety beast has been dogging my steps for a while, and I’m pulling out every trick in the book to try to make it back off. The morning pages I’ve been writing! Julia Cameron would be so proud. But today started out a bit rough, and by the middle I was in tears. So I came home and cried for a while longer, then I had a nap, then got up and drank a couple of tiny cups of green tea and made myself carrot juice and began listening to the Best of Ludovico Einaudi on Spotify while I sorted out the Homeschool charts. And that is not the behavior of someone who hates herself, so I feel proud of myself today, despite the fact that my emotions are not within my control. (If I had to list off the number of times someone has stared at me because I am crying in public, the list would go on forever.)

* I am in love with boiled peanuts. I eat them as often as seems decent.

* I love light, wind, colors. I love clean things. I love fruit. I love people. I love my community.

* I started to go for a drive today but it was so hot that the heat came rushing at me from the pavement and I knew it was time to go home and get out of the sun.

* In our house when we start off talking about the coming school year, we inevitably end up in discussions about whether optimism and enthusiasm is dangerous and self-deceptive, or whether optimism helps with getting things done. I have kids on the pro and against sides of this debate. I have to laugh because it is our fault (mine and Chinua’s) that every conversation goes so, so deep, because they are our kids and came out like us, but with their frontal lobes still undeveloped until they reach the age of 22. (As my brother reminds me.) Parenting teens is lovely and I am exhausted by it. Both things can be true. In January I will have three teenagers, which boggles the mind a little.

* Isaac does math problems for fun and they grow increasingly complex. Yesterday he told me he loves plain numbers the best. 30, 10,000, 100, 1 million. Numbers like that. Plain numbers. Before he knew the words for even and odd, he called them numbers without middles and numbers with middles. You know, if you separate four fingers there is no finger in the middle, but if you separate five fingers, there is a number in the middle. I don’t think any of our kids has loved numbers as much as he does.

* He also beatboxes nearly constantly, especially when he is happy, and when he is mad he says, “I hate this day!” The other day I heard him say, “I love this day!” and I was so, so happy to hear it. I told him that he didn’t need to be shy about beatboxing in front of friends, and he told me, “Shy is part of life.”

* I noticed a friend talking to a man in our town who is mentally ill. He is outside all the time, and he collects food and trash and carries it around with him, all day long. My friend gave him something for his collection and then told him, “Drink water, drink lots and lots of water.” It was a tender moment and it made me love her more. 

* I was weeding out the old zinnias the other day. They are the easiest flowers to grow because they self seed, so you just pull out the old ones when they are brown and dying, and babies are already there to grow up afterward. Anyway, when I am working with the zinnias I always think of this poem that is in one of our school poetry books. (All the small poems and fourteen more, by Valerie Worth.) Such a simple poem, but it resonates with me:

Zinnias

Zinnias, stout and stiff,
Stand no nonsense: their colors
Stare, their leaves
Grow straight out, their petals
Jut like clipped cardboard,
Round, in neat flat rings.

Even cut and bunched,
Arranged to please us
In the house, in water, they
Will hardly wilt—I know
Someone like zinnias; I wish
I were like zinnias.

         ***

I think that is the problem with anxiety. I know what I should be. I know what I should be able to handle, and sometimes I can, but then there are times when the fear response comes and the drums of doom start up and I can’t stop crying, even in the airport, even in the noodle shop, even on the train. I messed it up, I think. They’re coming for me. 

It’s what I live with, even though God always loves me, and I won’t hate myself anymore. But how, oh how I wish I was like zinnias. 

My Becca

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The coconut man is in one of the trees next door, throwing ripe coconuts down to the ground, and I am on the porch with three of the kids, watching. The shadows of trees are playing in the sunlight on the ground. The whole world is quiet and holding its breath. I am ready to start the day.

First, putting laundry in the bucket to soak. Then chopping vegetables for today’s community lunch. I walked on the beach and dictated two chapters this morning. I need to get the kids organized with cleaning the house. After I make lunch, we’ll eat it on the rooftop with whoever comes to eat with us. I’m not sure what to do about a train ticket yet. 

My Becca leaves tomorrow. It has been amazing to have my sister with us for so long, and I’m sad that she is leaving. I’m so glad she decided to stay and travel with us to India. She and I went to the Mapusa market the other day. We ate samosas and drank sweet lime juice at the corner snack shop. We bought incense from the tiny handmade incense shop, and walked through the flower market. A seller from Rajasthan attached herself to us and made conversation. Becca didn’t realize that her friendliness was all part of her sales pitch to get us to come to the stall, but I have been down that road many times before. This woman was sweet. She complimented us on our eyes and hair, and told us we look like “Indian Barbie.” (What?) Then, while we walked through the flower market, she bought two purple flowers and stuck them over our ears. Then she asked if we wanted to see her shop. We declined. 

We took photos of one another and then went to eat dosa and drink sweet lassi. Then a long drive home in the dark, through the cold jungle air, back home.

Becca is an amazing friend and traveling companion. She is kind and fun, always dancing and being silly. She’s interested in everything and kind to everyone. She plays cards with the kids in airports and goes running on the beach in the morning. I will miss her more than I can say.

I’ve been blocked, creatively lately, but I think I’m coming out of it. Just get the words out, that’s all I have to do. Just show up at the same time every day. I think part of it is probably switching up my routine by starting dictation. I’m messing with my habits and my inner artist is confused. But I know it’s necessary. I need to walk more and sit less, for health and going easy on my neck and eyes. So I work through the block and deal with the fact that people stare at me as I’m dictating. It’s okay, there are many weird things on the beach here.

And I danced, the other day. I had been having a hard time (due to a new herb I was taking, trying to deal with hormone imbalance… it had a negative effect on me and I stopped taking it) and I stopped and listened to music and then slowly, slowly, started to dance until I was whirling in circles, ignoring everyone around me, enjoying the way the wind played with my skirt and the way my heart grew lighter. I called to God and he listened and loved me. And then I came home to my family. 

Always here.

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Kenya is watching the birds and I am watching Kenya. She sits on the porch railing with a cup of tea, watching the sun rise, and she is lovelier and more colorful to me than any bird, though I love watching them too. Her eyes follow a tumble of feathers as two birds quarrel and peck, flying through leaves and under branches. I know she is trying to identify them, as I did a moment ago.

“Do you like seeing birds you have already found?” I asked Chinua yesterday. He carries his bird book from country to country, checking apps and pulling out his binoculars at every chance. 

“It depends if I like the bird,” he said. There is a collector’s obsession to birding, and then there is the joy of calls and feathers.

I know I have seen a million bee eaters here in Arambol. They fly over and around me as I walk through the coconut grove, and I will never grow tired of them. Each one is perfect. There are weaver birds, magpie robins, parrots, tailor birds and crows. And more. The grove is alive with flying things. 

We arrived in Goa a few days ago, after a couple days in Chennai, walking through traffic, eating South Indian food and marveling at how the smells and sounds make us feel at home. Kenya cried tears of joy when we left the Chennai airport and came upon a row of taxi men, a stretch of auto rickshaws, and smoky, cluttered air, filled with a thousand different fragrances. To understand her joyful tears, you have to understand India, how it gets in your blood, how Kenya was raised in this land that seethes with life and every smell carries a memory. 

I am more complicated than my daughter. I am joyful in this place, and then also conflicted, feeling how my loyalty and longing for my home in Thailand ripples inside of me. I notice the constant change in my village and mourn the way the giant hotel crashes into our view of the hill I have always rested my eyes on. I love the sea and throw myself into it, and I stop to talk to an old friend who tells me her husband died recently. I enjoy my old house here, and feel penned in by the three story houses that have continued to grow around it. Life in India is change, constant and out of my control. 

The coconut trees are still here- the same ones Leafy hugged when we returned after our time in the mountains of North India. They were small here, and memories of their tiny bodies and chirpy voices are around each corner. And now my leggy daughter sits on the railing (the same marble porch where Leafy cut his head and turned into Optimus Prime) and her eyes seek the birds. Isaac throws himself into the waves. The coconut grove seems small now that no children cry as we walk through it. Rather, their long legs eat it up and we are home in moments. The morning is everything here, the orange sun lighting the trees with golden light. The birds are here with us. They are always here. 

In Between.

 Visa photo of a tired girl.

Visa photo of a tired girl.

It’s been rough. I feel burned out. And we are getting ready to go to India, which is restful and not, all at the same time.

This morning I have been taking some time just to feed the artist girl. Watching videos and listening to songs that inspire. I’ve had a lot of tasks lately. Marketing and bookkeeping. Making lists and travel plans. Family and homeschool. This is my home, but I sometimes I crumble under it all. 

The artist girl needs to be free. Rides on the bike. Running, listening to birds call in the morning. The darkness that calls me awake. Coffee. Sleeping in tents. Sleeping under trees. Watching the sky in all its different colors. Pictures keep me awake. I make mistakes in my words and with my own voice. I would rather sing than do anything.

I am a mother, artist, and wife. I am a writer, monk, and mystic. I am a follower and a leader. I wait in the morning for inspiration. I claw words out of my brain. I censor myself. I try to be true. I am always relating. Always a friend. Always longing for paint or pencil. Always a mess.

The blue sky calls me, asking me to fly in this dance between surrender and freedom.

Sometimes it is all too much. 

Sometimes I cannot hold myself to the schedule. Get the tasks done.

Sometimes all I can do is pray and wait.

Sometimes there is no action point, no way to fix it all. Just a way to live here and there. In the space between what God is calling me to, and what I am now. 

***

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- the vlog and day in the life videos for January are up!

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