Fermented turtle feet.

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I am finally home after my unexpected trip. 

I walked home from the bus station with my lugguge and could hear Chinua playing trumpet as I got close. Wookie whined at the gate when she realized it was me. Then there were all the hugs, sweaty ones from kids at the end of a long hot day. I sat beside Chinua at the piano and we talked about music. I lay beside Isaac as he went to sleep. “Just one time this week, okay?” I said. He threw his arm over me and drifted off.

This morning I stepped over Solo, Leafy and Kenya, all asleep on the front porch. This is a new thing, the sleeping on the porch. I like it. I wouldn’t do it, when my bed is only a few feet away, but I like it. I like them creating adventure wherever and whenever.

Yesterday I finished my most recent edit of Demon’s Arrow. Today I sent it off to my new editor, a friend who lives here in Thailand. The book is nearly finished, although we have to hurry if we’re going to have it out on release date: October 25th! 

I have been floating, not always in the safest of spaces. Old wounds have reopened, my anxiety cat has woken me at night, sitting on my chest. And when I am away from home and family, it seems as though I am untethered. I’m not, of course. But that is easier to remember at home. 

I have wondered, at times, how it is that someone like me came to be surrounded by so many people. Such an introvert, such a strange mind. But I see it more and more clearly; I couldn’t do without them.

Here is Isaac with another sweaty hug. Here is Solomon, rushing into the room dancing while Chinua is showing me songs on the speakers, telling me his theories on the connections between jazz and rap. Solo pulling out everything he has drawn while I have been away. Leafy reminding me that he is going to be thirteen in January, as though perhaps I have forgotten. (I know, it’s impossible.) Kenya and the menu she created for dinner (I was too late for it.) Megalodon stew (sold out.) Fermented turtle feet soup. (Sold out.) Pasta with white sauce. Available for about $300. 

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Here is morning. The neighbors pull their carts out onto the street to sell rice porridge or coffee. Children on the porch. My plants need watering. A pup who needs a haircut. We’re out of eggs. I need to buy bananas for smoothies. The ladies at the market will ask me where I’ve been. They’ll pat me on the arms and tease me and the gentleness of these greetings will nearly make me cry. 

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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. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work. Last month’s patron-only post: At Home.

One thing.

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Isn’t it easy to get all tangled up? I want to enter into the suffering of the world, I want to understand. I don’t want to turn away. But then there is just so MUCH. And it is easy to drift along, getting pulled into one mess after another, looking up vaguely when the children want food. 

And I have always wanted to be a monk and mystic, so I need to slow down the intake. 

I think it’s actually pretty simple. I know that I need to do things in their proper order. Or in other words, actually do what I am sitting down to do. When I sit down to edit, I need to stay away from Facebook, although it is excellent in it’s designated time. When I do school with my kids, I need to be there with them, not planning the next day via text.

A time for waking. A time for free writing. A time for exercise. A time for checking in with family, friends and issues on Facebook. A time for writing and editing. A time for school, a time for my community. A time to nap. (Napping makes me feel rich. I have discovered the joys of a twenty minute nap. It can restore a day after a five am wakeup.)


Do one thing. Monk and mystic. Simple work, surrounded by the mystery of God. His close presence, right there, wanting to be with me joyfully for some reason I can’t quite comprehend. His love a glow inside. A quiet presence around, enveloping. 

*

Now the skies are blue again, with swiftly moving clouds that converge in the afternoons, bringing storms and rainbows. It is my favorite time of year, but then they all are. (I even love the smoky season because it reminds me of the veil we live in, how we cry out for it to be taken away.) 

My lanky kids have been busy.  Sometimes I wake from a nap to hear them singing and playing ukelele. Sometimes they get along like puppies. Or they always get along like puppies, but the play turns to snarling. 

Yesterday, Solo and Kenya made cookies with a little M&M surprise in the middle. 

“They’re not perfect, but they’re pretty good,” Kenya told me.

“You can use recipes, you know,” I told her. 

She made a face. They don’t use recipes for anything. They are scientists with food, preferring to experiment. Recipes are boring. When they feel snacky they make themselves hardtack, (after Leafy’s obsession with boats) or strange little biscuits. 

“Mom! I’m hungry and there’s no flour!” 

Quirky kids. Joy of my life. (Of course, for snacks I keep boiled peanuts and corn on the cob in the fridge, so I’m not the most conventional of snackers myself.)

Isaac is finishing up with his second term of school today. He’s most interested in breaking codes. He loves to play with numbers in his head for hours and is a little more impatient with using a number line or blocks to solve equations. (Recipes are boring.) He’s also loving learning to read Thai and has begun speaking bit by bit. He has tons of friends and is cheerfully resilient and impervious to school yard issues. One of his teachers told me that he is “relaxed about friendships,” which means he plays with anyone anytime, without much awareness of the kinds of insecurities the rest of the world deals with, or why friends might be upset if you don’t play with them one day. In other words, he is Chinua’s son. I’m the interpreter for the rest of the world and our complex feelings. He reminds me of Kai, who at that age used to ask, “Why are you crying? When are you going to stop?”

Solo’s dancing continues to amaze and delight us. He is the most uninhibited creature I have ever encountered, and I have to stop myself sometimes from trying to “hibit” him. (Mostly just when he’s shouting out random words in the middle of conversations because things have gotten too normal for him.)

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Also, here’s an exciting thing: The first episode of the Shekina Meditation Podcast is out and the second should be out later today. YOU. GUYS. This has been a dream/idea for so long. One of those ones that just sort of floats out of sight because you don’t exactly know how to do it. (Like writing a book, or playing an instrument.) And we finally grabbed hold of the necessary pieces and stuck them together.

You can find it here. It should be on iTunes soon as well. I’ll let you know.

Relating.

Some true things:

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(Chinua gets credit for all of these photos.)

These people are now 6’3” (190.5 cm) and 5’10” (177 cm), respectively. They have always been the best of friends, something I have had to remind them of in the last couple of years. Their relationship is one of opposites, and though it hit some turbulent waters, it seems to be smoothing out a bit. It has to be so beneficial to have a sibling like this; only a breath away, but so different that it is sometimes difficult to find ways to agree.

I didn’t know that parenting would be so much about teaching good conflict skills. (Learning good conflict skills.) Relating is hard. But it is lovely to find them laughing together more often than arguing again.

They are some of the best people I know.  They are deep, kind, wise, and thoughtful. But they are different in the ways they process information, think about the world, think (or feel) about God, approach conversations, make sense of things around them, and approach people. Relating is very, very hard for everyone. It's interesting to have a study of relating in my own home.

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There are many different ways of relating. Here are some: 

Walking side by side. 

Talking about your day.

Not talking about your day.

Cooking without talking, in happy silence.

Discussing Science.

Noticing things together, like moss, mushrooms, or flowers, tall trees or crooked-legged dogs.

Listening to invention ideas.

Writing letters.

Drawing pictures.

Listening to music, noticing lyrics and melodies you haven’t before.

Washing dishes.

Looking at birds through binoculars.

Riding motorbikes near each other.

Singing or learning a new song.

*

When I am having a hard time with social skills or relating to people, I sometimes wonder how God can relate to me, and whether I am too hard for him to relate to. Silly in a way, but it is a real fear. Lately I think about all the different ways God relates to us: Through the living breath of Jesus in the world (that mystery), through the words and poetry of Scripture, through Science and the billions of carefully crafted molecules drifting through the world in gorgeous arrangements, forming clouds and butterflies and mold and mountains. Through our breath, expanding and deflating our lungs. Through our love for each other, clumsy though it may be. Through music and symmetry, air, ground, design, life itself.  

When I notice these things and my heart is remembering, I am relating to God. He will always be infinitely better at relating to me than I am to him, and some people are better at relationships than I am. They read people more easily and don’t melt down as much. But God is so much better than any of us that the distance doesn’t matter. It only matters that we hear his particular voice for us. He shaped us to relate to us as we are. For me, I hear his voice in nature, color, and the rhythm of words and that is a good way of relating, after all.

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Life often feels confusing, unlike a handful of stones. Or like a handful of stones if a handful of stones had thoughts or ideas branching out to other stones and then those stones didn’t necessarily get along, or they had beliefs that built themselves tiny houses and walled off from each other. So it is nice, at times, simply to hold a handful of stones and look at them for a while. To quiet my heart and listen for the simple ways God reaches out to me. He is always singing to us and over us, if we can only hear him.

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Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get an extra post each monthA special thanks to new patron, Karen Engel! I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work. The Prologue draft for World Whisperer 4 is now up for patrons in the Blue Whale Tier and above! Thank you so much for your support.

This and that.

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My Superstar Husband just got home from playing music in Sweden; a trip that took a little under 3 weeks.

If this was eight years ago, I may have taken you through a day by day series on how I was coping with him being gone while I worked and taught and took care of all the kids. Now I mainly just get on with life, and try to find a few minutes every day to sit by myself in the quiet. This is my season. I am fully in it: teaching, working at many things, finding rare moments of solitude. I won’t be in it forever. The kids won’t be home forever. I want to enjoy it. 

Of course, eight years ago I had four kids under the age of eight, so it was a little rougher on me when Chinua left on extended trips. Now I have these great teenagers who both give more and take more in many ways. (They take so much mental energy, and they give so so much help to the household.) 

The main thing I found when Chinua was gone this time was that I was fine for a week, okay for a week and a half, and then during the last week, I lost my spark. I felt dull and listless and I found myself going through the motions. I really like the man I married. He plays the piano, guitar, trumpet, mandolin, he is ridiculous and silly, he brings a lot of life to our house. I don’t know what I would do without him.

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Sometimes the most valuable thing that someone brings to a relationship is their essential self. I’m seeing that more and more lately- how we each bring something that is entirely us, that no one else can bring, and there is no way to replace it.

You are so valuable, Reader. I hope you know it.

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Leafy’s current obsession is medieval armor. We have all these little chain mail links around the house because he has been making chain mail out of wire. 

Whenever I tell Leafy something good about himself, he gives a little hop. Leafy’s hop is one of my favorite things. It’s how I can tell that he is happy and well. We all love our Leafy Boy so much. I am pretty fierce with love for him. 

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Life is so busy in every single area that I’m trying to focus on getting little bits done here and there, rather than having large chunks of work done. Ro and I replanted three crepe myrtles on Thursday (little bits), I have a nice fiction writing streak going (little bits), I’m working my way through emails (little bits), I’m decluttering as I go. Reading to the kids. Making a loaf of bread or knitting a couple rows. Making a phone call or making a copy of a passport. (Little bits.)

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I’m so close to finishing the first draft of Demon’s Arrow (World Whisperer 4) that I can taste it. I’m doing little bits every day… I’ve been in the creative mud so much with this book that I have to take it more gently. But it’s so, so close. I’ll probably share some first draft stuff over at Patreon when it’s done. 

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Kenya and I have our first collaborative painting up at Etsy. I love working with this girl. I’m also working on getting some blank cards up in the shop. I’ll have individual cards and a choose-your-own 6 card set. 

Every day I pray for the kids in the cave. The wait feels unbearable. 

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The world is full of grief and anger, wrongs that go on and on, sorrow and power hungry giants. Today I pray that I can make my home a place of peace, that people would feel welcome here. I pray that our community space can feel like walking into love. I pray that my corner of the Internet would feel welcoming to all, to every single person, especially those who are longing for a home. 

I love you, Readers. God loves you. You are swimming in love. I pray that you can feel it.

Just how much.

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Today I spent a few minutes going through my archives, wriggling all over from the cuteness. 

Cuteness like in this post:

Or this one.

We are all so old and sensible now. The kids are sensible at least. Except maybe Solomon, who is still as crazy as ever. 

Do you know that feeling when you just want to break out? Break out of the wrapping and the cellophane, the fetters and the sticky raincoats, the customs and the politeness? Maybe I want to break away from gravity and just fly. Clouds heap up in the sky and in the evenings the sun touches their edges. I would like to touch just… there. That bright line between cloud and the dark sky behind it. 

I want Solomon to bloom with all the genius within him.

I want to do what I say I’m going to do.

I want to run faster than anything.

I want Kai to move into the realm of adults with ease and grace. 

I want them to know how much I really really love them.

We are fettered by the laws of gravity and language, of our own neurological abilities, of life with all its bathroom breaks and digestive needs. Food of course, and water. At intervals throughout the day. 

So I settle back down and write fantasy. And read books full of adventure to my kids. And suggest hikes to waterfalls. 

We did go on a hike the other day. We went with our friends Alisa and Emiko, and all our kids as well as a couple more. Sort of a homeschool co-op event. It’s a beautiful two-hour hike into the jungle, and at the end you find Elephant’s Head Waterfall. It is true jungle and the beginning of rainy season, so bugs are everywhere. There were bees (I got stung) and ants, and little flies that clung to your legs, and biting flies, and mosquitoes, and it was still worth it because of the beauty.

The kids climbed to an upper level of the waterfall and I nervously watched them (I’m always a nervous wreck around heights combined with slippery surfaces.) Two boys climbed to an even higher part of the waterfall, and Kenya and her friend Vrinda tried to as well, but they gave it up and splashed around in the pool. When the boys were climbing back down, there were sudden screams from the others.

“Snake! There’s a snake right beside your hand!” 

The boy, Joe, identified it as a green viper, and there was more screaming. The snake was coiled in a crevice in a rock that the kids had been using as a handhold.

They all got far away quickly, but Taran was still stuck up on the higher level, and the only way down was right beside the crevice. I called the kids to come back down, and when Taran looked around to find another way to us, he spotted a long tree that had fallen, high above the waterfall. It stretched from where he was to above where I was, and he gestured at it, asking if he should take that way out. Because he is a ninja, I said yes. It seemed like the lesser of two evils. So then he crawled along the fallen tree, Mowgli style, and I nearly collapsed with relief when we were all back down on a lower level again. 

Goodness. 

Perhaps it is enough flight, enough near-death experience for anyone. But still I find myself wanting a boat or a pilot’s license, or simply to be able to run like a cheetah.

And then sometimes a pile of yarn and a cup of tea are enough for me. Especially after a day in the jungle. 

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. Thanks so much to new Patrons, Rose Anderson, Jessie Benkert, Elisha Pettit and Erin Yeatman! I really really appreciate your support.