Thankful in the quiet.


I have a soul that tends toward comparison and self pity. Leaning and slanting into a puddle of ugly measuring. I know how to battle it now, because there is no better remedy for self pity than the open eyes of thankfulness.

Here are some heart brightening things. Things I love. Things that steer me back to gratitude.

  • a quiet morning
  • poetry
  • the beauty parlor I love, with all the older Thai ladies
  • the Thai language
  • language of any kind
  • rice
  • Solomon’s heart
  • Isaac’s laugh
  • Kenya’s hugs
  • Kai’s care
  • Leafy’s mind
  • Chinua’s voice, arms, songs
  • flowering trees
  • Isaac’s square little feet
  • friends
  • boiled peanuts
  • spicy food with Leaf
  • nail polish
  • God with me, even when I’m a wretch
  • real change
  • good talks with the teenagers
  • long days
  • yarn
  • the fact that the world is in color
  • birdsong in the morning
  • a cup of green tea in the afternoon
  • Christy living here
  • the fact that shopkeepers in my town know my name (so they don’t just call me the foreigner anymore)
  • our big station wagon
  • hot-springs
  • the gift of aging
  • a faithful husband
  • bracelets
  • Winnie’s crab dance
  • light at every different time of day and year
  • my little dog
  • kimchi fried rice for breakfast
  • yellow noodle yunanese salad
  • Lou, my house helper
  • books: reading them, writing them, and reading them to my kids
  • Isaac in the morning
  • fried eggs
  • hummus
  • my blender
  • coconut trees
  • the river (I have found myself there several times this week, watching the streetlights on its black night surface)
  • my kitchen
  • my new friend who greets me all around the town, whenever he catches sight of me, even at my sink when I am washing dishes
  • my mandolin
  • possibility
  • pens, books, paper, paints, pencils
  • backwards dancing in the kitchen at night
  • talking on the phone with my parents
  • sunsets
  • my banana seed necklace
  • hand embroidered textiles
  • my pillow
  • frankincense
  • hanging out with kids 
  • mountains
  • picking moringa for my salad from the weedy lot next door
  • podcasts
  • our piano
  • God everywhere, loving me.


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I'm about to show you a scary picture, but everything turned out all right.

On Tuesday, I wrote this:

I know I go on and on about how awesome it is to have a fifth child, or perhaps I really mean, a later child, but it really is. We are always shaking our heads over Isaac. The other day Kai said, "I really don't know how we were even happy without him." And I said, "That's how I feel about all of you."

But I know what he means. 

I think my favorite thing about this late baby is how everything toddler related falls into perspective in a bigger family. When Isaac is protesting at the top of his lungs because he wanted to brush his teeth a little longer, it can't help being funny. Even as I'm guiding him toward calmer, saner behavior, I'm laughing inside, because he's trying so hard to run the show, but he's, like, two inches tall. 

When I had my first kids, I was young, and I think they did seem big to me, even at 21 months old. But with a twelve-year-old in the house, a nearly two-year-old seems like the tiniest of guys, so him asserting himself with all his might is adorable. 

"A bath! A bath!" he yells as I wrap him up in a towel and carry him away from the bucket we call a bathtub. It's time for bed. And as he continues to yell "A bath! A bath! Brush teeth! Brush teeth!" (he has a love of grooming) I look up and my eyes meet Kai's and we straighten our twisting lips and I say, "You really liked that bath, didn't you? Don't worry, you can have another one tomorrow." 

And don't worry kid, even though heartbreak over bath time ending feels like the worst kind of tragedy, the other six of us will be here to reassure you that it's not. 


That is what I had written, and then what happened is that Isaac found Chinua's blood pressure pills and was playing with them. Usually, of course, Chinua keeps them far out of his reach, but he had taken them earlier and left them on the bed in our room. I was in there with Isaac, reading to him and playing with him. I turned away to write an email and when I turned back, he had the daily medicine container in his hands. 

There was half a pill in his mouth, and then when we counted the pills, we found that one was missing. I still don't know if he ate that other pill, or if it disappeared, but when I googled it, I found it on a list of the most lethal drugs to kids, medications that can kill in one pill.

The. horror.

Chinua immediately took him to the emergency room here in Pai, and I stayed on the phone with him to figure out how they were treating him, googling madly as we went. It was terrifying. "Have they given him activated charcoal?" I asked. I heard Chinua ask the doctor the question. "He says he's too young for charcoal," he told me. "No he's not!" I cried, looking at a page where it listed the dosage of charcoal for kids over one year. "Tell them to give him charcoal." 

"We have to take him to Chiang Mai," we decided, realizing that the care here was not sufficient. They began to get the ambulance ready. He was growing very sleepy from the side effects of what he had taken, and at one point, Chinua told me, "We can't wake him up." "I'm on my way," I said. "Tell them to give him the charcoal. Right now! Right NOW!" 

When I got to the hospital, they had just inserted a nasal tube and were pumping his stomach out through it. They then gave him the charcoal. He was very sleepy but protesting the tube. The fear was like long waves of water that doused us. I thought we were going to lose him and I so desperately wanted to rewind, rewind! How could we have been so stupid? The doctor told me that he would be very sleepy from the medication but that they would monitor his pulse and blood pressure in the ambulance. I decided to go along, and flew home on the scooter to get passports and diapers-- the necessary things. 

We took a three hour ride in the back of an ambulance, and when things like this happen, I find out how superstitious I am, despite the fact that I think I'm logical and trusting. I watched the pulse monitor excessively and it was very reassuring because I could see that his pulse and oxygen were normal and steady. But when I thought of closing my eyes (it was near midnight by this time) I felt that if I even took my eyes off him for a second, he wouldn't be okay. So my brain was somehow telling me that I was keeping my son alive with my attention. And I don't think that's how that works. I thought and prayed deeply about it, and had a moment of release there, in the back of the ambulance. Whether or not I closed my eyes or stopped praying, he would be in God's hands. I closed my eyes. I managed to keep them closed for about five minutes. I may still have some growing to do.

At the hospital things immediately got better. It was still very very scary, but point by point and hour by hour we checked everything out and as time passed, we realized he was going to be okay. He had an EKG and some blood work. He woke up a little more and said, "Up peese Mama." He got mad at the tube in his nose. They admitted us into the ICU and kept him on the heart monitor all night, with a blood pressure cuff on his leg to take his blood pressure periodically. Every once in a while it would start up and he would wake up long enough to lift his leg straight in the air and stare at it, like what on earth? I slept in the bed beside him, and with the beeping and the nurses coming in, I didn't get much sleep.

In the morning, he was his spunky, active self. Pissed off at the tubes coming out of his arms. He was so annoyed with his nose tube that he just pulled it out, and we didn't bother putting one back in. 

He. was. fine. And the nurses and I scrambled to find ways to occupy my twenty-two-month old in an ICU bed for the hours before we could be discharged. They came up with latex glove balloons, which were a big hit. And before we left, nurses took turns taking photos with him and playing with him. They were so kind.

Here's the thing. Every doctor I talked to said, "Oh, well, he only ate one pill. He should be fine." But then when they researched that medication, they got very serious very quickly. Because I think we feel that kids taking a whole bunch of medication is dangerous, but one or two pills is no big deal. Did you know that there were medications, prescription medications, that could kill a child with one pill? I didn't. I had no idea. 

This terrifying incident has made me realize, no, hit me over the head with the realization that I need to know every medication in my house and what it can do. We all need to know that. And then of course, we need to keep medication out of reach, all the time, even in our bedroom, where the kids don't normally hang out. 

I am so, so thankful that Isaac is all right. I am so thankful that some stupidity on our part didn't hurt him. I'm so thankful for this beautiful boy in our lives. I hit a point when I thought there was no going back, that everything was going to change terribly, but then, very quickly, it did go back to normal, and we were allowed to start again.

Isaac recovered very quickly but I think it will be a while before I do. 


thankful :: week 8

Some things hardly need any words to go with them.

This kid. Always posing, always ready to break into dance at the sound of distant music. He still has a little round belly and little (big) square feet. Everyone else is stretching out, lengthening into long string bean people. And Solo is still little.

I am so thankful for Solo.

Tell me what it is that you're thankful for. Share in the comments or with a link to your own post. And come back to read, because people have been sharing profound things and simple things, and it's all  lovely stuff.

thankful :: week 7

(Week 6 was lost in the rocky pass between my true thankfulness, the computer, and my anxiety.)

Today I am so thankful. Thank you God, for:

:: My Superstar Husband, who held me up this week with kind words and kisses on the forehead.

:: My sister, Khalifah, who came all the way to India to be with us, and then laughed and talked and hung out with us every day. Knowing she is safe back in her own home.

:: Solo, who draws circles in the sand now. That's his main occupation at the beach and he takes it very seriously. A three-year-old discovers something, how to join a circle's ends, and he does it over and over again, delighting in each one. I can barely stand how joyful it is.

:: A good day. The first day in a long while that there was no self-hatred in my brain. I could be quiet without hearing nasty voices.

:: Good friends. Here on the blog, here and there on the internet. Thank you for caring.

:: Good healing. For my friends who shared that they also struggle with depression and anxiety, I can honestly recommend nothing higher than an herb called Rhodiola Rosea. You can find it in your health food store, on in bulk online. Get the powdered version, it lasts longer.

:: Sprouts in the garden, and even small plants. Despite the best efforts of the fire ants and my oldest son, who is overzealous with his helpfulness and had a strong waterflow coming out of the hose, I do believe some of the vegetables will live!

:: The weather cooling down again. There were storms and it got incredibly hot and humid. This was the first day (do you sense a pattern here?) in which we felt anything like coolness.

:: Love. It heals and protects. It covers everything, and it is much stronger than hatred or despair.

I would love it if you played along! I adore reading the wonderful things that are going on in your lives. Give thanks through a link to your site or simply in the comments.

thankful :: week 5

Tonight, at dinner we had a house full of laughter. Seven people crowded into a hot kitchen, just to keep talking. Swatting at mosquitoes, eating pasta, friends from Germany, France, Spain.
I am so thankful for life here, for this life we lead.
For frogs in the grass.
For Khalifah, spending time with her nephews and nieces, with us.
For Leafy tearing around the house with his bow and a motorcycle helmet.
For tofu stirfry for lunch.

For grace.
For your thankfulness comments last week. They made me love life a little more, seeing it through your eyes.

Play along! Overload the comment box with your thankfulness! Links are welcome.