How Isaac sees me.

Isaac kept me up half the night last night, sleepless and a little scared. I lay beside him and cuddled him, though my thoughts often strayed to today, and what it would be like to do it tired. I don’t do sleep deprivation anymore. It’s not good for the octopus in my brain. 

But I love him. And he loves me. And it’s the simplest, lovely thing. So I helped him get back to sleep.

It was Mother’s Day recently here in Thailand. Mother’s Day falls on the queen’s birthday here, and everyone wears the queen’s color (light blue) and some kids wash their mother’s feet to give honor, which is a new fact to me and so beautiful. 

We haven’t been great at Mother’s Day in my family, partly because Chinua isn’t such a holiday guy (more of a spontaneous amazing thing guy) and partly because it falls on or near my birthday, so I already feel quite celebrated and don’t really want to ask for more. But Isaac is in a little gentle learning school now, and they had a party for us on Saturday. It was really quite sweet, and the best possible part was the art of myself that I received. 

This is how Isaac sees me:

IMG_2550.JPG

 

I’m magical.

 

IMG_2551.JPG

I’m curvy and wonderful. (I'm the yellow one. Isaac is the pink one.)

I see love in every line. I almost wish I looked like that for real. Life would be so interesting. 

 

This and that.

Kai is doing well at school so far. Also school is really different now, right? We're in the future. He’s a brave kid, cycling around the city with a backpack, starting something completely new. It’s inspiring.

I’m hanging out in the city to be here for the first week, but staying in a guesthouse so I can also take a work retreat. I’m editing World Whisperer 4 and working on various projects. Missing my other kids, trying to make the most of my solitude. It’s the story of the mother-artist-person. At home, there is never enough time to get work done. Away, you miss the people who inspire you most. But both states are full of love and many many things to be thankful for. I am thankful for the space and time right now to edit. I am grateful for solitude, which fuels me.

Leafy Skyped me yesterday to ask me what how I would react if he came home one day and had turned into a superhero. I told him I would be stoked, obviously.

I think my superhero skill is tricking myself. Work for me is still a near constant state of trickery. If I set my goals harshly, I rebel against myself, so it has to be all little bits here and there. If I set a schedule I am liable to rebel against it. If I tell others what I am doing so I can be accountable, I am liable to sabotage it. So it’s all trickery folks. Sitting down for a few minutes which turn into hours. Ticking edited chapters off. Another cup of coffee. It’s how I get stuff done. And then I take breaks to read, crochet, or people watch.

People watching is fun. Students in Thailand often head out to study in public, and it makes every public space have a chummy, learn-y type of feeling. I write notes of what people around me are doing. For example, next to me a woman might be looking at lab reports on her iPad. Another girl has an enviable amount of colored pens and is making lists of some kind. She has cool colored tape that she uses to mark certain sheets (but not others!). I’d like to ask her what she is doing, but she is wearing cordless headphones and I don’t wish to disturb. 

And then there are the matching clothes. Matching is a trend on our side of the world, especially when people are traveling together. They buy matching elephant pants and walk around looking amazing. Everyone has the same bottom half, like magic! And then there is when people accidentally match. One day I saw a pregnant lady with a striped navy dress walk by a man who was wearing the exact same stripe pattern on his shirt. It was as though they were part of the same thing for one, brief moment, except that they had probably never met. One day I would like to make a short movie of people wearing matching clothes passing each other in crowds. Maybe their eyes will meet. Maybe not.

Chinua refuses to wear matching clothes with me, though, no matter how many times I point out other couples doing it. Even when they are wearing matching pants, shirts, and caps, it doesn't inspire him to follow suit. He's a good husband otherwise. Not-matching is just a sorrow I have to bear. 

A New Part of the Journey

All beginnings are also endings. And sometimes, to celebrate a beginning, you also need to grieve a bit for an ending, especially if you are a fairly melodramatic, questioning kind of a mother-person. The kind of mother person who still likes to lie on the floor when she is overwhelmed by life and documents.

But the beginnings still need to be celebrated. Change is beautiful, rich, full of life, a thing to be cherished, one of the aims of raising children. 

Kai is starting high school. This is a minor miracle. He came home from camp in April and told us (with a lot of excitement) that he would really, really like to go to high school. And so we began to pray about it and then miracles began rolling in. He has received a scholarship from a loving couple to attend an international school in Chiang Mai. Another beautiful family asked if he can live with them. He will come back on most weekends. And school starts on Monday.

The last months have been a flurry of filling out forms and figuring out details and I wasn’t really sure of anything, so I didn’t write about it. But everything is finalized and our oldest child is half-leaving the house, back on weekends and holidays, living in a city three hours away. 

This will be amazing for him. His brain and brilliance need more challenge, he needs peers and teachers and a good transition point between living in a tiny town in Northern Thailand and moving to Canada or the US when he starts university, three years from now. He will thrive, I’m sure of it. I’m incredibly proud of him and excited that more people get to see the coolness that is Kai.

And also it’s sooner than I thought it would be.

There is this very instinctual, instrinsic part of my mother self that feels like Wait! Watch the kid. Keep the kid close. That’s our job. That’s what we do. 

It doesn’t help that every time I look away from him I reimagine him looking like this:

IMG_6074.JPG

How can you send that out into the world? How can you give that away?

But I blink and look back and he looks like this:

IMG_2500.JPG

For scale:

IMG_2499.JPG

This is a healthy, normal change, but it is the ending of an era. We all lived in a house together for sixteen years. All the family. We had a lot of time together; Kai was always home. We traveled on trains and buses, planes, boats, one tractor, rickshaws, canoes, cars or vans, and even on foot. We did it together. We’ll do more things together, I know it. Kai will still be home a lot over the next three years. But a certain time of life, a quality of how we were as a family is coming to an end, and it brings with it great possibility and the sadness of things that can’t be forever. 

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said I am terrible at transition. Change often has me charging around dropping things, and stubbing my toes. I grow clumsy and vacant. I am overwhelmed. But I want to do this well. So I am writing, listening. We are in the city now, getting ready for school. Doing a bit of thrift shopping. Getting his bicycle fixed. Figuring out class schedule stuff. It’s all normal. I’m channeling my very best Molly Weasley. I’m pretending to be the mom who knows about school and grown up things, who totally has this. I totally have this. 

I mean really.

I do. 

IMG_2501.JPG

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.

***

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.

Play time in the sun.

IMG_1507.JPG

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.