Still here?

If you’re still here, you’re missing the party! I’ve moved to a new, permanent, website.

Please jump on over to www.lisamckaywriting.com/blog and add the new blog to your RSS feed or subscribe by email.

Catch you there,

Lisa

I’ve moved!!

I moved last weekend – website and house. It was insane.

You can find the new everything (including the new book cover!!) at www.lisamckaywriting.com. Come take a look. I’d love to know what you think.

So if you’re subscribed by RSS or via your wordpress.com blog and would like to keep up with me (and I hope you will) please jump on over to the new blog and add the new address to your reader again or just follow this link to add the new blog to your reader using feedburner. Sorry for the hassle. I hate to make you move, but I promise I’ll be staying put at this new address … the new website address, anyway.

If you’re subscribed by email you should continue to receive new posts that way. Please let me know if you don’t.

Thanks for moving with me!

Lisa

Awkward: A guest post by Leah Tioxon

We move tomorrow, in a town with no such things as a moving company. And we have a penchant for heavy wooden furniture. Also, I have more books than the town’s public library.

Actually, that last is probably not true, but it’s close to being true.

Life is, uh, busy. I’ll be back with you soon from a new house (and a new website). But in the meantime, today I bring you the voice of a friend.

I met Leah Tioxon (in the virtual sense) while we were both working in staff care for humanitarian organizations. Leah has a master’s degree in Social Work and worked for a number of inspiring nonprofit organizations before becoming a full-time photographer. She has also recently become a mother.

I always look forward to Leah’s posts on Wednesdays. In light of some of what I’ve written recently about feeling judged by others, I thought this one was a great addition to that discussion. Enjoy!

Awkward, by Leah Tioxon

There was a wonderfully beautiful post on Offbeat Mama the other day – one that resonated with me on several levels – as an adoptee, as a parent, and as a person who loves to ponder the intricacies of identity, of transitions, and of family.

One quote in particular has been bouncing around in my brain: “Sometimes holding yourself back, playing your cards close to the chest, is the only defense we have. Our silence makes us secure.”

I’m a very open person, for the most part. But there are things I’d rather keep quiet. I don’t necessarily want everyone to know all of my weaknesses. I don’t want people witnessing all of my mistakes, my awkward moments.

Before I became a mom, I viewed the transition to parenthood as similar to other transitions in life: the transition to “adulthood” (which, for me, was defined by finishing college, moving across the country, and getting my first full-time job – and a bunch of bills!), the transition to domestic partnership, the transition to married life, and the transition to self-employment. These are all big steps and with them comes a shift in identity, a new role, a change in how others perceive and/or define me. And with any new role, there is a learning curve, a period of adjustment, while I figure out what this transition means to me, how I define this new role and the expectations that come with it, both from me and from others. Do I accept these expectations? Or do I need to adjust the definition of what being a “wife” or being “an adult” means to something more in line with who I am?

With any new role there is the opportunity for awkward moments. New experiences are rife with awkwardness. But in the past I could hide much of that awkwardness. Feigning confidence, self-assuredness… fumbling my way through my first apartment search, my first time filing taxes, my first year of paying bills… I could make mistakes quietly. No one had to know – or at  the very least, only a few people had to know.

Becoming a parent is similar to any other major life transition… but unlike so many of those other transitions, I’m finding this one much more public. As I figure out this new role of “Mom,” as I integrate it into the other aspects of my identity – my life story – there are many awkward moments. Trying to nurse in public – quickly before Jonah starts screaming for the milk. Trying to get Jonah in and out of the Moby wrap the first few times. Trying to get the car seat adjusted properly. Trying to change a diaper without getting peed on. And because I refuse to stay shut up in my house, these things are all happening in public. With onlookers. Everyone out there is witnessing my transition to motherhood – my awkwardness and my fumbling. I can’t hide this part of me. I’m a new mom. And my baby is so darn cute, people can’t help but stare (haha, that’s what I tell myself!).

Luckily for me, I’m not too easily embarrassed. Like any other transition, the newness will wear off. I will find my groove – in many ways, I already have. I’m so much more comfortable taking Jonah out and about. There will always be awkward moments – children aren’t the most predictable creatures on the planet, after all. But I’m not going to let a fear of looking/feeling uncomfortable stop me from exploring the world with my son. I’m embracing this awkwardness. It feels uncomfortable now, but it already feels less so. My 22-year-old baby adult self would have been horrified to be seen making a mistake or not knowing exactly what to do…my 30-year-old mom self is just going to shrug it off and kiss Jonah’s big squishy cheeks. I have WAY more important things to concern myself with these days. So bring on the awkwardness!

Find more of Leah’s posts and check out Leah and Mark’s photography over at their website.

I’m moving!

All is slightly chaotic on the Laos front as we prepare to move this weekend to a house that doesn’t have a spiral staircase, an unfenced pool adjoining the property, or neighbors running a woodworking business. It also doesn’t have a full kitchen inside, which is going to be a royal pain in the rear at times, but in all other respects it is a lovely house with a beautiful guest room – so let us know if you’re going to be in town.

On top of the move we’re trying to book tickets and organize our schedules for a month away as we visit the Washington DC area between mid-April and mid-May. I’m trying to decide whether it’s feasible for me to leave Dominic in Mike’s capable hands for three days to attend a writing festival in Michigan, and we’re trying to organize to visit family in Pennsylvania, figure out some time away just as a family, and split time between Mike’s parents and my sister’s house. Oh, and we have to stop over in Bangkok on the way home to get Dominic checked out at Bumrungrad hospital. Logistics galore. And trying to organize travel always makes me feel a bit like this:

In other news, I’m on my third round of antibiotics in the last six weeks – this time for a stubborn double ear infection (what am I, like, seven? I haven’t had an ear infection since childhood).

And I’m not only moving house this week in the physical sense, I’m moving house in the e-sense! My new and much improved website and blog are coming soon. Oh, and I’ve decided upon a cover for Love At The Speed Of Email. I love it, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

So things might be a bit quiet around here in the next two weeks as I work behind the scenes to finalize all the details of transitioning to my new home(s). I’ll let you know the new subscription details as soon as I have them so that those of you who subscribe via RSS can update your settings. I hate to make you move, but I’ll be staying put at this new address indefinitely and I’m looking forward to the e-stability.

Hope everyone’s week has started off well,

Lisa

Interview with author Nicole Baart

This week for Writing Wednesday I’m so excited to bring you an interview with one of my favourite people, and a super-talented writer to boot, the fabulous Nicole Baart.

Nicole and I met via email in 2007 – the year both our first books came out. Since then she’s published four more books and had another beautiful baby.

(And I am not going to point out that she has done all of this during the time it took me to write my second book because I am more secure than that. Note to self: I am more secure than that.)

I first emailed Nicole because I noticed that she was donating a portion of her book royalties to a charity in Liberia. We connected straight away, and hanging out and talking with her until all hours of the night at several writing conferences during the last five years has been a real joy. She is one of those people I wish lived just down the street.

Nicole’s latest book, Far from Here, just released last month. I bought it on kindle and loved it. Publishers Weekly agreed with me, giving it a starred review and saying, “This gorgeously composed novel is a candid and uncompromising meditation on the marriage of a young pilot and his flight-fearing wife, their personal failings, and finding the grace to move beyond unthinkable tragedy.”

Without further ado, here is Nicole to answer a few of my questions.  Enjoy.

1.   Tell us about Far from Here. When did you first start thinking about writing this story?

Far from Here is a book I’ve wanted to write ever since I was a little girl. Over thirty years ago my dad’s best friend went missing in a bush plane off the coast of Alaska. He–and his plane–were never found. This unsolvable mystery is a part of our family story, and though I’ve spent years wondering exactly what happened to him, the real drama for me is in the lives of the people left behind. How do you go on when someone you love vanishes? What do you hope for? In some ways this book was agonizing to write, and in other ways it was very freeing.

2.   What did you find most challenging about writing this story? Why?

Finding time to write! My days are so sundry and varied… I have an eight year old son who is in second grade, a five year old son who’s in kindergarten, and an eighteen month old son at home. My big boys play hockey, so between school, practice, games, and everything else that comes with having little boys in the house, I practically have a full time job. Of course, the baby is into everything, and I like to keep my house neat and my family well fed, so I spend a lot of time cleaning, shopping, cooking, and doing mountains of laundry. But I do manage to find time to write, mostly because I have to. I carve out two mornings a week, plus some nights after the kids are in bed. My favorite thing to do at the end of a busy, noisy, often dirty day is to sit down in the peace and quiet of my living room with a glass of wine and a pad of paper.

3.   I love your book trailer – particularly what you said about hope at the end of it. What are some things you feel hopeful about right now? How have some of your own hopes changed during the past decade?

My hopes are really very simple things. I hope for healthy, well-adjusted children who love God and love life. I hope my husband and still love each other passionately after raising children, focusing on our careers, and growing up. I hope I get to keep writing for an audience. I know that all sounds pretty trite, but it’s true.

I think a lot of my hopes stem from the foundation of my youth. I had a really fabulous childhood. It was carefree and full of love… When I think about my early years it seems to be perpetually summer, my fingers sticky with blue popsicle juice (my favorite) and the warm evening air flickering with lightning bugs. I probably romanticize it, but the truth is my childhood feels like it would perfectly fit in a series of Norman Rockwell paintings. I think lots of people believe that the best artists are tortured artists, and that might be true. (I certainly had to learn to damn my characters–it didn’t come naturally to me.) But I also think that there’s a certain optimism that becomes apparent when an author has lived a beautiful life. I believe readers are hungry for that–for overtones of hope and expectation.

4.   You spent some time in January in Liberia. What were you doing there? And how is your passion for writing related to your passion for the work that you are involved with in Africa?

I was in Liberia on a vision-casting trip with our non-profit organization One Body One Hope. OBOH was founded in 2007 after my husband and I travelled to Africa to bring home our adopted son. While we were there, we became close friends with a Liberian man who shared with us some of the atrocities that happened in his country during the devastating civil war. We left Africa promising to help him in any way we could… And that friendship spiralled into a steadily growing non-profit organization.

Right now we support 54 kids at an orphanage in Monrovia, but after we recently returned from Liberia, we feel that our ministry needs to be multiplied five-fold. We are passionate about working alongside our Liberian friends, and focus on relationship building and redevelopment opportunities instead of relief aid. To that end we are exploring business and agricultural opportunities, outlets for higher education, and micro-loans for people who are interested in growing their small business. We are also partnering with a bio-fuel company on a community distribution project for enviro-safe stoves and exploring the possibilities of church partnerships.

My passion for writing is intimately tied to the work I’m involved with in Africa because my job allows me to put a lot of time and effort into making OBOH run smoothly. There are some weeks I dedicate myself full-time to OBOH, and the only way I could do that is if I had the sort of flexibility that comes along with writing for a living. I also get to donate a portion of my earnings to something that I am very passionate about. And, in fact, with FAR FROM HERE I get to do something I’ve never done before: give away 100% of the royalties. I feel kind of weird admitting that, but I think you’ve admitted to the same thing, Lis, and I figure, when in Rome… Or, Laos, as it were.😉

Thanks for having me, Lisa!

Thank you, Nicole. That was such a fun and inspiring interview to read. And, uh, actually, I’m not sure I have ever before publicly admitted the same thing, but we’re five years down the track now and in the spirit of when in Rome … yes. I do give away 100% of the royalties from My Hands Came Away Red to charities in Indonesia.

If you have a question or comment for Nicole you can leave it below, or hop on over to Nicole’s blog to learn more about her writing and to One Body One Hope to learn more about her passion for Liberia. And, of course, pick up a copy of Far from Here.

In which I say I’m a good mother

“I’m a bad mother.”

Even as I heard myself say those words to Mike last week on the phone, I cringed.

Mike was away for most of the week, so I was parenting solo, and Dominic had a wracking, chesty cough that started up whenever I put him down to sleep. At first we thought the cough was due to the shocking air quality in Luang Prabang at present – it’s grey and smoky and ash is falling from the sky because everyone’s burning their rice fields in preparation for planting. But after the cough had hung around for ten days, I enlisted the help of a Lao-speaking friend and went in search of a local pediatrician.

“How’d it go?” Mike wanted to know when we talked that evening.

“The doctor listened to his chest and said he sounded fine. He knew the English words for asthma and bronchitis – my two big concerns. But he said it was just a cough and it’ll probably go away by itself.”

“Good,” Mike said, sounding relieved. “So it all went fine then.”

“Yes,” I said. “Except for the part where the doctor asked me to undress him and I laid him in my lap to do that because there was no examining table, and then he rolled and I almost dropped him on his head on the tile floor. I’m a bad mother.”

I’m a bad mother.

It wasn’t the first time I’d caught myself saying this recently, and more than one of my mothering friends use this phrase frequently. They toss it off casually to chastise themselves for not being quick enough to catch a slipping child and prevent a tumble, or to justify why they’re allowing the child to eat sweets or watch television, or even just to explain a grubby hands and face.

“Why say it at all?” Mike asked, when I explained the subject of this blog post over breakfast this morning.

“I think we say it as a defense when we feel that someone might be judging us,” I said.

“So,” Mike said. “Let me get this straight. Since you’re mostly hanging out with friends when you do this, you call yourself a bad mother to fend off potential judgment not from the global faceless audience but from people who already know you and like you?”

I took a bite of toast and thought about this for a second.

“Exactly,” I said. 

“That makes no sense,” Mike said.

And it doesn’t, really, which is why I don’t want this phrase to become a standard part of my vocabulary. Words are important. The words that we tell ourselves repeatedly, no matter how flippantly, can carve channels of belief into our minds. Our emotions – following the path of least resistance – find those channels and are guided by them. And while “I’m a bad mother” is far from the worst thing I can imagine myself saying, it’s not exactly what you might call “life-giving” either.

In addition.

I want to be secure enough in my decisions that I don’t feel the need to justify those decisions to my friends – at least not with an off-the-cuff blanket statement about my worth as a mother. And I want to trust that when things like tumbles happen, my friends won’t be watching with a spirit of criticism but with a spirit of fellowship – fellowship that comes from understanding that no parent, no matter how careful, can prevent every mishap.

Most importantly, however, I don’t want to say this too often because it’s not true.

I am a good mother.

Sure, I have moments when I almost drop my precious bundle of joy on the floor. And we’ve fed him too much papaya, mango, and pumpkin lately so his nose and toes have turned a bit yellow because of vitamin A overload. And sometimes I sit down beside him on the floor while he plays and watch an episode of Glee, or check my email while he’s in the bouncer instead of giving his royal babyness my full and undivided attention.

But I am a good mother.

I read to him, hug him, and make him baby food that’s far healthier than what I eat. I spend inordinate amounts of energy teasing smiles out of him. I delight in kissing him up under his pudgy little arms in that spot that makes him squirm and squeal with laughter. I let the dog lick his feet because he loves it so, and I don’t let the dog lick his face because I love him so. I take him outside to look at clouds and coconut trees. I explain butterflies and the wind. I give him fascinating toys to experiment with, like the toe spreader from a pedicure set I’ve never used, my hairbrush, and an egg whisk. I drag myself out of bed and comfort him when he starts to cry after I’ve just fallen asleep (though sometimes not until after I’ve begged him to “please, please, just stop it”). I watch with wonder as he sets about every day the demanding business of learning to live in this world. I would do almost anything, anything, to protect him.

And the thing is … I think that’s pretty much how most mothers operate. Not as perfect mothers, sure, but as mothers who love their children up, down, sideways and sleep-deprived. Mothers who sometimes makes mistakes, but who are learning more every day. Mothers who are doing the best they can to love their children unselfishly and wisely and energetically and patiently (yes, particularly patiently).

So let’s not call ourselves bad mothers – at least, not too often.

Let’s say it like it really is.

“We are good mothers.”

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What do writers read to their kids?: Five authors share their favorite children’s books

I’ve been reading a lot of children’s books lately. Never mind that Dominic seems far more interested in eating them than looking at them. No, never mind that.

I used to think that it couldn’t be that hard to write a good children’s book, but now now I have a bit more respect for children’s authors. Creating a good children’s book is not as easy as it looks like it might be.

At least, that is the conclusion I draw from the fact that there are so many seriously lame children’s books that managed to make it into print.

Luckily there are a bunch of seriously awesome ones out there, too. My selection is fairly limited at the moment (English-language children’s books not exactly being in great supply here in Laos). But of the ones I have, I love Where’s My Mom? (Julia Donaldson) – the rhymes are great, there’s a surprise twist near the end, and the pictures are vibrant. I also love the beautifully illustrated and clever Rainy Day Games: Fun with the Animals of Noah’s Ark (Andy McGuire)

Reading a couple of those good books lately (and knowing some of their authors) got me thinking. Who better to know and love good children’s books than writers?

So I’ve been polling some of my author friends about what they love reading to their own children. Here’s what they have to say …

Sundee Frazier (award-winning children’s author of Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It, Brendan Buckley’s Sixth-Grade Experiment, and The Other Half of My Heart)

“These are mostly for the very young:

  • Books by Leslie Patricelli, especially Quiet LoudYummy Yucky, and Higher! Higher! (these books are hilarious, vibrant, participatory, and the first two inspire kids to observe contrasts and opposites all around them).
  • Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox (fun poem with great colorful drawings; a wonderful read-aloud and wonderful for kids learning to read)
  • The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman (brilliant rhyming story; moms will love this one, too)
  • I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More!  by Karen Beaumont (hiLARious reworking of an old folk song)
  • My Baby and Me by Lynn Reiser and Penny Gentieu (a book of wonderful photographs of older and younger siblings interacting around everyday objects; nice simply rhyming text)
  • Kiss Kiss!by Margaret Wild and Bridget Strevens-Marzo (I just loved reading this board book with my daughter when she was really little and all the affection it encouraged)
  • Freight Train  by Donald Crews (a classic board book)
  • Bird, Fly High by Petr Horacek (board book that cries out for audience participation)
  • In the Garden with Van Goghand A Magical Day with Matisseby Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober (I got these books before traveling to Paris and Amsterdam with my small children; a great way to introduce the masters!)
  • Jacob Lawrence in the City by Susan Goldman Rubin (and for a prominent African-American painter . . .)
  • Turtle’s Penguin Day by Valeri Gorbachev (just love how this story encourages pretend play and imagination–my kids love it, too)
  • All The Frog and Toad storiesby Arnold Lobel (these amphibians are one-of-a-kind!)
  • Finally, a fractured fairy tale for the younger set: Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf by Judy Sierra. Illustrations by a very unique artist, J. Otto Siebold. It’s entertaining for all the fairy tale allusions.”

Tracy Groot (author of Flame of Resistance and Madman)

“Here are a few favorites I read to my kids: Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, and Mother Goose Rhymes. We read to them a lot, from the Little Critter Books by Mercer Mayer, to Dr. Seuss books, but these two were always the go-to books. They were special to me simply because they were special to them.”

Sharon Hinck (author of The Restorer-Expanded Edition  and The Secret Life of Becky Miller (Becky Miller, Book 1))

“I love The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown… a classic that shows a love that pursues and never gives us.

Less familiar to many are the wonderful Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg. Beautiful poetic prose woven with fun nonsense. Reading them aloud is a joy.

And I confess to many hours of giggling while reading or reciting Green Eggs and Ham, Go Dog Go, and other Dr. Seuss books.”

Andy McQuire (author of Rainy Day Games, A Special Fish for Jonah, and Remy the Rhino Learns Patience)

“One of my favorite picture book to read to my own kids is Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson. It has the best rhythm of any rhyming book I’ve read.

My favorite chapter book when I was young (and I can’t wait to read it to my kids some day soon) was The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha by Lloyd Alexander.”

Lisa Borden (author of Approaching God)

“Moonbear forever! There’s one thing I know from reading to young kids through the many years: there’s nothing worse than having to repeatedly read aloud a book that is driving me crazy.  Fortunately, I loved the Moonbear books.

From Moongame, Moonbear’s Friend, and other Moonbear books we learned that friendship is sweet, books are wonderful, life can be funny and moonlight is naturally magical.  Asch’s Moonbear books present wonder in everyday things.”

What about you? What books do you love reading to your children? What books do you remember loving as a child?

Fifteen years of longsuffering

It has been the month of patience.

Or, maybe more appropriately, it has been the month of patience being tested.

The last six weeks has held one broken leg (Dominic), two courses of antibiotics for intestinal infections (Mike and me), three trips to Thailand (all of us), and five colds.

It’s been more than a month since Dominic broke his leg and I still don’t want to write about it. Truth be told, I don’t even want to think about it. Because every time I remember hearing the crash after Mike’s mother slipped and landed on the stairs, then the long pause, then that awful, piercing shriek, it breaks my heart all over again.

And it hauls up – like a fishing net from dark depths – a whole slew of emotions.

The agony and helplessness I felt watching Dominic writhe and cry on and off during the thirty hours before we reached the hospital. Anger, because it feels like an accident that didn’t need to happen. Guilt about that anger, because accidents – unexpected and unintentional – happen, they are just part and parcel of this life. Guilt, also, that I didn’t realize immediately that something was seriously wrong. A great compassion for Mike’s mother, because I know she adores Dominic and would have changed places with him in an instant, and because I know how terrible I’d feel if it had been me that slipped on the stairs, and it could have been me. Gratitude that it was Dominic’s leg, not his head, that hit the wood so hard. Terror and an overwhelming desire to vomit whenever I visualize what would have happened if it had been his head.

And with this great mess of emotions – all slippery and flopping around and tangled up together – comes a question that is always lurking around somewhere: Is it worth it, living here?

Now, more than ever, I’m just not sure.

Dominic’s cast came off two weeks ago now. We got up early that day and caught the 7AM flight down to Bangkok. We found our way to a hospital that’s become more familiar to me than any hotel in the city.

I held Dominic in the taxi – me seatbelted in and him strapped to my chest in the baby carrier, my hand cradling the back of his head, my brain trying not to think about the likely outcome if we hit another car on the freeway. Mike held him as he screamed, terrified, while they sawed off the plaster, and then took the pictures that would tell us what was going on inside the reassuringly chubby leg.

Which meant that I was the one looking at the computer screens when the X-rays came up, and I didn’t like what I saw.

The front view showed a straight bone, but the side view showed the femur curved backwards – the spiky back part of the break still dense white and jutting out at an angle underneath the thin grey film of new bone.

The doctors told us that new bone was visible over the entire break site and that it was safe to take off his cast. They told us that bones (like so many other things in life, it seems) need to be subjected to normal daily stressors in order to prompt them to grow.  They told us that we should encourage Dominic to use the leg normally as he learns to sit, crawl, and walk.

They also told us, however, that there was no way of telling whether the femur will straighten out over time and grow normally. Because the break occurred so close to the knee, there is a significant possibility that growth will stall or, even more likely, that the bone will start to grow too fast in all sorts of funny directions.

We need to follow up via X-rays every six months for the next three years and then every year after that until the growth spurts of adolescence are over.

That’s at least fifteen years.

Fifteen years of explaining what happened to every new doctor and new school. Fifteen years of watching, of X-rays, of prayers, of keeping fingers crossed. Fifteen years of regular reminders.

It means that I can’t just leave that slew of painful emotions down in the depths and hope that if I don’t touch the thread of this particular story all those complicated feelings – starved of attention – will just wither away.

It’s early days yet, there’s no way of knowing which particular emotion is most frequently going to leap out of the morass and bite me when circumstances haul that day up from the depths of memory. Guilt? Anger? Frustration at the expense and the giant pain-in-the-ass-factor of all these follow up appointments? Grief over how this might limit Dominic’s mobility? Any of them are possibilities, but only one thing seems certain – this episode is going to push me to exercise patience in ways I’ve never before had to.

The Greek word used in Galatians 5:22 to refer to patience, makrothumia, comes from makros, “long,” and thumos, “temper.” It denotes lenience, fortitude, endurance, and longsuffering.

Before this month of patience started I thought that I had this one in the bag. Even Mike, who has a backstage pass to my life, would say that I am a patient person. I’m very skilled at controlling my reactions in the moment, at taking a deep breath and a step back, at not lashing out when I’m frustrated. It takes a great deal to make me really angry or upset.

But … the thing is … once I do get upset or angry I tend to stay churned up for a long time. Once the tipping point is reached, I hang onto all that dark energy and coddle it like a favorite pet. I feel justified in camping out under a cloud of self-pity. I have imaginary conversations during which I deliver perfect put-downs. I rehearse all the ways I’ve been wronged by others or the universe. I allow the misfortunes of the present to fuel fearful visions of the future.

Although I’ve always known that this is not my most admirable collection of qualities, I’ve never before wondered whether it had anything to do with patience. But perhaps there is more to patience than not getting upset, frustrated or angry in the first place. Perhaps true patience is also manifest in how we set about calming the storms once they’re raging?

I don’t exactly know what being “patient” with fifteen years of uncertainty about the future of that tiny, precious leg should look like. I sense, however, that it will need to move beyond not losing my temper when ugly, unwanted thoughts and feelings well up.

I suspect that weathering fifteen years of longsuffering with a patient grace will mean opening that net-full whenever circumstances haul it up and dump it at my feet. It will mean shaking loose its contents and naming these feelings, then naming the bedrock fears and expectations that have nourished them.

It will mean sifting out the thankfulness and then tossing the dross overboard.

Then turning my eyes from the depths and looking to the horizon.

Again and again.

And again.

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Monkeys drinking wine, nude maternity photos, and other such topics

I know I said I was going to put up a post on author’s favorite children’s books today, but I’m not. It’s taking longer than I thought it would to draft and I want to do it right. So that’s on next week’s schedule for Writing Wednesday.

In the meantime, in keeping with the childhood theme this week, I’m going to put up a post containing material completely unsuitable for children.

How is that in keeping with the theme of childhood, you might ask? Well, it’s in keeping with mine. To wit, an excerpt from the soon to be published Love At The Speed Of Email:

“Like many kids, I suspect, I was drawn to stories of outsiders or children persevering against all odds in the face of hardship. I devoured all of C.S. Lewis’ stories of Narnia and adored the novels of Frances Hodgson Burnett, especially the ones featuring little girls who were raised in India before being exiled to face great hardship in Britain. But I also strayed into more adult territory. I trolled our bookshelves and the bookshelves of family friends, and those bookshelves were gold mines for stories about everything from religious persecution to murder, rape, civil war, child brides, and honor killing.

“It would be nice,” my father commented dryly upon reading the first draft of this chapter, “if you could manage not to make it sound like our personal library was stocked exclusively with troubling filth.”

“Dad,” I explained, “that’s why I used the gold-mine analogy. You don’t just stumble across gold; you have to dig for it. I worked really hard to find that stuff in amongst all the boring family-friendly fare you were prone to buying.”

Additionally, this post is in keeping with the theme of childhood because, as everyone knows, children can ask a lot of questions. And just as a responsible parent answers their children’s questions (at least the first five times they’re asked), a responsible blogger answers her reader’s questions.

Today I woke up feeling responsible, so here are my answers to some recent search terms and questions asked of google that have led people to my blog.

In no particular order:

When do stitches come out after delivery? They don’t. They sew you up using special thread that dissolves over time.

Monkey drinking wine picture: Here (it should be noted that I was not feeding the monkey wine):

Where can I steal a baby monkey? You should be ashamed of yourself.

What is a cluster bomb? A form of air-dropped or ground-launched explosive weapon that releases or ejects smaller sub-munitions. Laos is, unfortunately, littered with them – see this post on the UXO museum here.

Bonsai dog: People, I get this one all the time and as far as I know, there is no such thing as a bonsai dog. There are bonsai trees. There are dogs. End of story.

White dog looks like husky: This one post has made me somewhat of a go-to person on white dogs that look like huskies. There are four options – Samoyed, Siberian husky, Alaskan Malamut & Shiba Inu.

Butchering Samoyeds: You should be ashamed of yourself.

Bad puppy chewing rug: Here:

Treating lympedema in puppies: If anyone has any good information on this (or, more usefully, on treating lymphedema in people), leave it below.

Do koalas bite people? No, but drop bears do. Follow the link to familiarize yourself with Australia’s most fearsome predator, the drop bear.

Funny dead cats in oven: Haven’t seen any of these lately, sorry.

Should I move to Laos? Why not, go for it.

Where can I get a Lao second wife? You’ll figure this one out quickly enough on your own after you move here. (And, PS, you should be ashamed of yourself).

Phallic rocks: Here (you may also want to google Cappadocia, Turkey):

How loud is a sperm whale? The sonar clicks produced by sperm whales are the loudest sound produced by a living creature, as loud as thunder. Apparently, when a sperm whale clicks at a diver it’s like getting kicked in the chest by a horse.

Lisa McKay sex trade worker: Not me, people. Lisa Ann McKay. She was convicted of killing a realtor in 2006 and she was recently released.

Does pornography change young minds? Yes. And older minds. For an excellent discussion of this seek out the book The Brain That Changes Itself and read chapter four on Acquiring Tastes and Loves.

How can I break my arm on rollerblades? By falling over.

Elf-milk: Um… drawing a blank on this one. Sorry.

Can I eat sorbet when pregnant? Absolutely, during the last three weeks of pregnancy I helped myself to a bowl (or two) some time between midnight and 4am every day.

Nude maternity photos: Here: … Kidding. I’m so not going there. And before you start looking through all my other posts, I cannot figure out why two people landed on my blog using this search term. Honestly.

That’s it for this session of 20 questions folks. If you have a question for me, you know where to find me. And if you forget, apparently you can just google nude maternity photos.

Have a good weekend.

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Naming your cows: Mike’s childhood experiences

It’s going to be a childhood-themed week – later this week I’ll be posting on author’s favorite children’s books. So in keeping with the theme, here’s Mike’s list of childhood experiences that will probably sound foreign to our own kids (heck, some of them sound foreign to me).

  1. Growing up in the same postal code as both sets of grandparents.
  2. Having a much larger extended family, with many cousins on both sides of my family.
  3. Growing up on the farm and doing lots of hard physical work, especially in the summers.
  4. Taking care of animals every day – seeing all sorts of animals give birth and die.
  5. Chopping the head off a chicken, scalding it in boiling water, and plucking its feathers.
  6. Growing almost all the vegetables we ate and canning or freezing them for the winter.
  7. Naming your “pet” cows … and then discussing who you were eating over the dinner table.
  8. Being able play outside the house (entirely out of sight from my parents) for long periods of time.
  9. Taking my first flight when I was 20 years old and in college.
  10. Getting my first email address when I was 18 (upon entering college).
  11. Getting my first mobile phone when I was 23.
  12. Having only 4 channels of TV.
  13. Going out to eat at a restaurant was a special occasion – we ate out at a restaurant once every couple of months and it was a big treat.
  14. My school (and the community) was very monocultural. There were about 1300 students enrolled at my school, and only 5 were non-Caucasian.
  15. There were teachers at my school who had taught my parents when they were students.
  16. My parents rarely consumed alcohol – only once or twice per year, on special occasions.
  17. My mom did the dishes (and the cooking, the laundry, and almost all the house-hold cleaning) …🙂

OK, OK, so I might not be doing many dishes here (thanks to the services of our wonderful maebaan) but I am making our own baby food. My first attempt ended in Dominic’s first temper tantrum, but my latest effort was received with much happy table thumping and head-bobblings of approval.

“What did you make?” my mother asked when I told her this.

“Baby ratatouille,” I said proudly. “Eggplant, tomato, onion, a little bit of broccoli, and garlic.”

Garlic?” both my parents said at the same time. “We’ve never heard of anyone feeding a baby garlic.”

“Well, now you have,” I said. “And he liked it.”

What did your kids love to eat when they were little?

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