cultivate (kuhl - tuh - veyt)
v. 1) develop 2) nurture

graft (grahft)
n. 1) transplant 2) bud 3) union

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The One With All The Camps

Since The Professor turned my piglets into an oxen (happy anniversary to me), I felt it only right to slap you all with some marital wisdom. 

But, before I wow you with ALL THE SMARTS, let me tell you a story.

Within the first year of our marriage it became apparent to us that most people sideline any hint of relationship insight offered by newlyweds. To be fair, the scope of our experience was limited to courtship, short engagements, newlywed matters, and wedding night jitters. Impressive. We were were given non-refundable tickets to "Starry-Eyed-Newlywed Camp" which just so happens to be right across the road from "Pre-Kid-Parenting-Ideals Camp." I also attended "Twenty-Somethings-Who-Are-Excited-To-Turn-30-So-They-Will-Finally-Be-Taken-Seriously Camp." 

We just wanted some street cred, dangit. 

He was happy, I swear.
And also, forgive me, Tweezers, for I did not
yet know your worth. Bless those eyebrows.

See? A smirky-smile.

This is a shout out to all ladies everywhere
who find themselves with dry lips by the
time you've cut the cake. 

Then we were bused straight to "We're-PREGNANT?!? Camp" which hosted social nights with "Holy-Crap-We're-Actually-Adults Camp."

After that, it's all a blur. All I know is that I woke up to a camp bugle that sounded suspiciously like the flush of a low-flow toilet and self-sufficient children making their own breakfast after starting a load of laundry. Turns out, we're camp counselors. I didn't realize this until I caught myself thinking, "Why do these people keep asking for my advice? Isn't it obvious I'm winging it on about 97.9999% of what I do?" I guess that means we've got street cred. The funny thing about finally having a satchel filled to the gills with advice is that you realize how incredibly lacking your own bag truly is and always will be. You dump out the contents and begin shoveling in gems from weathered backpacks. You sit back and listen to stories from people who have seen decades upon decades of ALL THE CAMPS and you marvel at their wisdom.

So, my gems are mostly inherited from wise counselors, with a few originals in the mix. Here are the top marriage tips I've learned in fourteen years of marriage:

1. Everyone goes into marriage with some degree of rose-colored tinting on the lenses. That's OK. That's kinda how God made us. I'm more concerned about the engaged couple whose excitement level suggests jury duty is on the horizon rather than marriage.

2. Your way isn't always the best route. It just isn't. That person who proposed to you (or said "yes" to your proposal) is obviously smart. I mean, they chose you, right?!? Embrace their ideas. I guarantee you'll learn scads of nifty-ness along the journey. Think of your spouse as your personal life hack buddy.*

3. Know each others' love languages. It's the closest thing we get to a manual. 

4. Short engagements aren't inherently bad. Sure, people will gossip about it.** If you know that you know that you know that this is right, why wait three years? Git-r-done, I say.

5. Skip the drama. This is not a reality TV show. You do not have a contract beyond the one attached to those vows. Ratings do not improve with each tantrum or shallow retort thrown down. Gentlemen, cherishLadies, respect

6. Something must be at the center of your marriage. I strongly suggest Jesus. 

7. Laugh often. Play.*** Learn. 

Love Well,

*"Life hack buddy" needs to be added to wedding vows. Secretary, make a note of that. Thanks.
**It's so precious when people close to you ask if this is a shotgun situation. 
***A year later, we were still finding stale marshmallows from The Marshmallow War of 2001. True story.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Powering On

Well, it's like this: I was clipping along on this blogging gig, right? We were having loads of fun together, and I delivered deep truths which convicted you to the core. (I know. You can thank me later.) We were going places! There was only one problem. The computer I had wasn't reeeeeally suited for someone who loves to write. It was made for people who want a portal to Facebook, which also just happens to have some sort of word program thingy. (...if you like your word program thingy to be a major wisenheimer about playing the crash and burn game. Precious.) Using that squirrely computer for writing was akin to hitching a couple of teacup piglets to a yoke and expecting to plow an acre of land. Cute, but futile. I can crack the whip and “Hyah” until I pass out, but we're not furrowing one inch of soil. I tried. I really did. I girded my loins, prayed in tongues, waited expectantly for God to supernaturally change my piglets into beefy oxen. Turns out, sometimes God goes the husband-has-an-impressive-anniversary-present route instead of the Vegas-style-miracle route. God works in mysterious ways, dear people.* 
Anyway, I'm writing to you on this joyous day that is Big Blue's maiden voyage in word processing. I'll pass you a hankie. Why name my computer Big Blue, you ask? The symbolism is deep with this one, but I'll try to keep it simple. She's** Besides, it (coincidentally) works well with my whole piglet/oxen analogy. At any rate, she's a beast, and I've got a lot of ground to cover. I've set hand to plow, and we're digging deep. Aren't you lucky?!

Just look at those keys! Bye-bye piglets.

Oh, I see what you did there.

Hang on, because reentry can get a bit dicey.

Hi-ho, Big Blue, away!!

*This has absolutely nothing to do with me gritting my teeth every time I opened that laptop.
**I never bothered to name my last computer, because we didn't imprint on each other, but before the nameless one, there was Little Blue Lollipop (You may respectfully refer to her as Ms. Lolli). Ms. Lolli was also blue and was loyal to a fault. We were travelling companions through All The Words, working side by side until I dropped a drum on her face. Sometimes I still hear her little "Squeeeetch, beep-boop". Actually, it's rather painful to talk about, and I'd appreciate if you didn't bring it up again. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

It's Friday...And No One Wants To Talk About Saturday.

"It's Friday, but Sunday is coming!"

This one phrase is filled with such anticipation and hope. If we can just hold out a little longer, the celebration will be here in all its glory. So, attend community egg hunts on Saturday. Get your picture with the Easter bunny before it's too late.* Iron coordinating outfits and whip up egg salad. 

While none of those activities are wrong (alright the bunny thing freaks me out), the sentiment leaves me feeling a tad uneasy. It's much easier to look toward sunrise on Easter than to weep and mourn on Saturday. No disciples smiled broadly when the curtain was torn, proclaiming "Whelp! It's Friday, but Sunday's a-comin'!" No. They beat their breast, keening, and clinging to one another in fear. They were bereft, and seemed to be in a fog of uncertainty and anguish. 

May I suggest something?** May I suggest that it's OK to sit uncomfortably and painfully with today? Let's sit in the separation of Saturday, with its loss and sorrow. With its sackcloth and ashes. With its burial linens steeped in oils and spices. With its brokenness and borrowed tomb. With the stillness of One who was loved and lost. There was not yet a holy breath inhaled into a resurrected frame. There was nothing more than guarded decay and salty tears dried upon cheeks. There were memories of His first steps as a child and those upon the waves-all marred by watching his last steps to Golgotha. There were scores of anxious questions whispered behind closed doors-unanswered. 

Yes. Sunday is coming. The darkness of today won't last, but today is indeed still a day of lament. And that's OK.



*When did that become a thing?!?
**Since it's my blog, you don't really get a say anyway. Nanny-nanny-boo-boo.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Surviving the Big Days

We survived another Big Day.

Big Days are the reason I am cautious about filling in subsequent days on the calendar. They are also the reason I have a secret chocolate stash and two coffee carafes. Big Days are a big deal. And we survived. Or rather, perhaps I should say we’re in the midst of surviving and the odds are lookin’ favorable. It’s difficult to explain the complexities of Big Days to people who have the freedom to celebrate with abandon. First of all, if your Big Days are carefree and joyful and backlash-less, then amen and hallelujah! Don’t you dare feel guilty. Revel in it, but also take notes. I’ll pass you the chocolates.

Let’s to describe Big Days...Aha! Imagine lovingly choosing a piñata for your child’s birthday party. It’s bright. It’s colorful. It has just the right touch of sparkle and none of the tissue paper is faded from being displayed in a window. Here’s the kicker: You let your child decide with what to fill this treasure of a piñata. You suggest candies, or toys, or gluten-free cardboard cookies and fruit leathers. You provide him with a crisp ten dollar bill to spend on piñata goodies.* He’s excited to fill it to the brim, but there’s a vague uneasiness, which you chalk up to loosening the reins. After all, it’s only a piñata. Now imagine it’s party day. You’ve been casually chatting about the piñata with your kiddo, and all seems under control. Games are played, presents are opened, and now the moment of truth is upon us. The kids take turns beating the tar out of this beautiful piñata. Hooray! It splits when a big kid lands a solid blow to the side, and to your horror, out tumble the contents of this morning’s trash. Since you spent the last few days cleaning the nooks and crannies, your trash is a real doozy of nastiness. There are dust bunnies drowning in kitchen sink strainer goo. Meat scraps and dirty diapers are bouncing to the ground. Something putrid that officials in a Level A hazmat suit wouldn’t touch has splashed on the guests, who (by the way) are glaring in disgusted silence at you. Covered in slimy coffee grounds, you spot the crumpled, stinky remnant of a shredded ten dollar bill.

Because he just. wasn’t. good. enough.

Oh, he wanted desperately to fill the piñata with Ring Pops and water guns. But if he accepts that money and fills the pinata with good gifts, he’s admitting he deserves those things and is loved. Rather than be let down, he’d prefer to sabotage it from the start, because rejection is safer. Those are Big Feelings that routinely accompany Big Days. Whether Big Days are big due to trauma or special needs (or something altogether different), there are typically Big Feelings (like scared, sad, angry, overwhelmed, etc.) and Big Attitudes (of indifference, hostility, unthankfulness, etc.).

Our Big Day is two days behind us. Presents were minimal and low-key, as was the celebration with friends. Yesterday was a wee There were strong bouts of remorse for accepting (and cherishing) the gifts from us, which manifests itself in a great deal of hurtful push-back. She’s out to prove we didn’t give those gifts out of love. But she’s not winning; We’re throwing her curveballs by discrediting her claims. Things will even out. The new string of lights for her bed will get turned on, because, with time, their illumination will no longer signal a threat, but instead be a beacon of love. Big Feelings will subside.

And maybe, for the next Big Day, we will tackle that pinata together.

Mopping Up The Mess,


*Double the budget for gf treats, because HIGHWAY ROBBERY.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why We Honor Black History Month

It’s controversial. If you’re asking why this is controversial, there’s a good chance you’re probably not: a) Black (me neither), or b) A transracial family (ding-ding! We have a winner!). I suppose there’s hidden option number three; You haven’t given it much thought either way, which still indicates your driver’s license most likely says “Caucasian”. Wait. I just checked my driver’s license. Apparently we don’t claim a race to drive. Well, this is awkward. I know I check that little box on forms all the time. Or maybe I’m just filling out endless forms for our gaggle of children. Anyone else feel like paperwork for routine check-ups for four kids should not require an extra 45 minutes to fill out and suggestions to ice your tendons afterward? I’m developing bone spurs over here.


Black History Month. Controversy.

Growing up, I don’t remember BHM being a thing. I remember Maypoles and Valentines and pilgrims and envying kids with Lunchables. But Black History Month? Nope. I’ve got nuthin’. If you’re completely lost, here’s a quick rundown: In 1915, a historian and a minister (Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland) along with some of their colleagues got together and started an organization for the educating, promoting and researching of achievements made by black Americans. While the organization has changed names since its inception (they have to stay PC), it is still in effect today. In 1926 author and historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson had an idea:

We should sponsor a National Negro History Week.
Totes. When?
Second week in February.
But that puts us smack dab in the middle of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincolns’ birthdays.
Brilliant, Dr. Woodson.

It took a while to catch on, but momentum was gained as school districts and mayors threw their support behind the vision. From there, its grassroot efforts were richly rewarded. By 1976, then-president Gerald Ford had an idea:

Hey, I was thinkin’...if a little is good, a whole month will be even better. I’m calling it-Black History Month is a thing now.
Totes. When?
We better go with the shortest month of the year. Good thing National Negro History Week is already in February.
Brilliant, Mr. President.*

And that’s how it all began. I’m not sure how long after President Ford’s declaration it took for people to analyze and develop mixed feelings on the whole shebang, but I’m guessing roughly two minutes. Now, I don’t claim to understand all the arguments, but I’ve done my fair share (and then some) of analyzing, reanalyzing, agonizing and then analyzing some more. Did I mention my keen ability to overanalyze things?

The support for BHM looks something like this:

This is a sector of society and of history that is largely undersold and undertold by mainstream (read that, white) America.  

The accomplishments amongst the black community are vast and should be celebrated on a national level.

White History Month is every month. Dedicating 28 days to the educating and honoring of brave/intelligent/strong/articulate black Americans is the least we can do.

The only way to fight racism is to keep pointing to the positive black role models throughout history. What better way than promoting a national movement in the schools and communities?

The support against BHM looks something like this:

It allows for the sidelining of black history for the rest of the year. After all, American history is a veritable melting pot of race and cultural histories.

It smacks of white privilege. And also the almighty white savior complex.

There are opportunities galore to exercise implicit racial bias and race appropriation and microaggressions and a bunch of other fancy-schmancy words that basically suggest it’s time to sit down and shut up.

What I see as pros:

A dedicated time to honor some of history’s best and brightest and bravest...who also happen to be black; Such magnificent people such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, and Ruby Bridges should get a robust shoutout.

What I see as cons:
White families getting a small measure of feel goods for talking positively about black people for a month so they don’t feel so guilty for being afraid of black boys in hoodies the rest of the year.

Pigeonholing the history by sticking to the “biggies”. Yes, go ahead and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Ruby Bridges. But, um, may I suggest branching out a wee bit? What about Hazel Scott and John Stewart? Phillis Wheatley? Daniel Payne? Henry “Box” Brown? They’re kind of a big deal too.

So, why with all the cons I’ve listed, do we (a transracial family) tread on this thin ice? Because Dr. Woodson worked hard to begin this project, dagnabbit, and I don’t think we’ve arrived at a place (yet) where it has outworn its usefulness. Unless of course, you can tell me (without Google Fu) who Martin Delany is.

Because I can’t.


*If you don’t already know, I operate purely from a place of levity and love and ragged, raw contemplation. If that’s not your bag, I get it. That’s why computers come with those little “X” buttons up at the top right. Close this tab and get on with your bad self.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Weathered Paint and Solidarity

Remember that last blog post? Silly me! Of course you don’t. I only wrote it a month and a half ago. Well, let me refresh your memory. I told you how horrible I am with this whole "do it and pass it along" gig. I waxed on eloquently. And is was as though I explained it and the entire universe answered back "Challenge accepted!". It's hanging over me. Every time I open up my laptop, I hear the keys screaming for justice. QWERTY weeps, for I have ignored the thankful challenges and bible verse challenges and ice bucket challenges. And if I had fallen for the sleeping bag/butter/slug/kitchen floor ploy that is rampant on Facebook right now, I would have ignored that challenge too.

Time out.

You guys. No one is slathering themselves in butter and pretending to be a slug. Well, I mean, maybe someone has attempted it...but I digress.

Anyway, I’ve been busy. Pinterest won’t browse itself, ya’ know. But, no really, this moving and unpacking and organizing and “being a responsible adult” business has gone far enough. When typing up the meeting minutes is exciting because “it’s kinda like writing” it’s time to let the kids have cereal for dinner and spend a little quality time with QWERTY.*

Being that Thanksgiving is just around the corner (Did I just say that?!?), I am going to knock this all out of the ballpark. Any further “pass it along” challenges will be responded to with a link to this here post. Not even kidding. Because THE GUILT.

Now, let’s be honest. It’s easy to come up with a generic list of things for which we’re grateful. Acceptable candidates include family, health, food, a home, et cetera, et cetera...But sometimes all of that feels...blah. It’s routine, and routine thankfulness oftentimes seems flat. Oh sure, we’re sincerely thankful for all of that, but it’s like listening to one person sing a cappella; The harmonizing is crucial to its beauty. It's what lends depth and meaning to the vocal score. So, here’s my (slightly off-key) harmony for you today.

The world feels thick with grief. I’ve sensed a discernible haze of despair that seems to have settled over our minds. It feels as though our security is chipping away like weathered paint. Moral standards we thought were unshakeable are teetering. Our vibrant world of comfort is meeting with the greytones of frightening diseases. Terrorism, medical kidnapping, riots. Celebrating the taking of one's own life as brave and beautiful. It’s enough to make me want to grab that comforter all the tighter, and yank it over my head. It’s a struggle to see the beauty through the damage. Can I get an “Amen”?

And yet.

Every time fear threatens to strangle my joy, and rattle my peace, God whispers His truths to me. Again. If you feel shaken and run-down, this is for you. If you’re on top of the world, you’re not off the hook. Rejoice loudly, and with vim; For those of us trudging below need to soak up that robust warmth.

Deep breath. Feel that? It’s air in your lungs.
Look around. I don’t know where you are, or what your view is. It may be temporary, or borrowed, or picturesque, or crowded, or ritzy, or smelly, or secure. Regardless, you are there. Right now. This is your little corner of the universe for however long God sees fit. Make it a space that is steeped in that which is sacred. Share joyfully, love genuinely, and abide richly with those in your space.
Silence the distractions, stretch your mouth into praise, spread your hand over your heart. Feel that? It’s your heartbeat. Each precious pulse is needed in this world. There was a purpose for your heart long before its newborn rhythm was formed, and each moment is marked by God’s handiwork, to the very last beat.  

For this tiny breadth of time, you have life. You have a place to be and a part to harmonize. And no amount of horrific headlines can strip you of such an anointing. There will always be another news report that drops you to your knees, another hurt that scrapes you raw, another fear that pierces your faith. But there will never be another you in this world and another day like today. Seize it fiercely. Live it boldly. Breathe it deeply.

Be Filled,


*Alright, fine. It was only, like, three people. But STILL.
**Don’t even pretend your kids have never eaten cereal for dinner. Solidarity, mamas.  

Friday, August 15, 2014

Foamy Dough, Writing, and a Weird Confession

I'm lacking in the "pictures of dough" department, 
but it'll all make sense (ish) if you're not too afraid to keep reading.
And, yes, that is pizza dough with a marinara "T C" in a heart with an arrow 
through it. 

Us as newlyweds was adorably geeky.

There's something you should know about me. It's something I rarely stop to ponder, but this week it has confronted me with boldness. It is only because I believe in authenticity, and also believe you, dear readers, to be grace-filled, that I risk to share.

I've never passed along Amish friendship bread starter.

And while I'm at it, any "chain" in which I am required to be an active participant is doomed. Recipe chains? No clue. Postcard swaps? Forget it. Forwarding that chain e-mail we all got in 1993?* Deleted. The only "chain" I managed to pass along was the little country phone prayer chain from my childhood. And that was out of absolute fear that if I didn't man up and call the next person on the list, that some poor soul would be prematurely struck with death, and it would be all my fault for not notifying Jane and Peggy that so-and-so had twisted their ankle.

My hesitancy is two-pronged: A) I don't want to be the receiver, because of ALL THE RESPONSIBILITY. These things are typically time-sensitive, which means that awkwardly passing something along, say, five months later (all the while acting punctual and breezy about it) is lame. Causing the entire shebang to pile up is lame. And handing moldy starter dough to someone is...lame...and also kinda creepy. B) I don't want to pick out my victims recipients. I feel like they see me coming and just know. I survived a short stint as a direct sales consultant. I recognize the look that says, "Oh goody. Here comes Cynthia to schmooze her way into my pocketbook." It looks identical to the "Oh goody. Here comes Cynthia with bags of foamy dough goo."

I don't need that kind of pressure, man.

So, you can imagine my trepidation when a dear friend** approached me about participating in a blog hop. I didn't even know what it was, but I was humbled to be included, and also, I needed a jump start. Answering four simple questions seemed easy enough. And now I actually have to do it. Preferably before the starter dough turns rancid.

1) What am I working on/writing?

This blog post. Duh. (This is why I can't be trusted with this kind of thing)
Beyond this here post, I have been refining a children's book manuscript while my mom does the hard part: Illustrating. I've also begun working on a full-length historical fiction.***

2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

I'm pretty sure it doesn't.
Is "sarcastic, Jesus-lovin', homeschooling, orphan crisis-addressing, slightly crunchy mama to a large family" even a genre? 'Cause if it is? NAILED IT!

3) Why do I write what I do?

Because it's cheaper than counseling and socially acceptable to partake in before 5 o'clock. 
I write the things that God emblazons upon my mind and ignites in my soul. I fail more often than I succeed, and my words are often inadequate and clumsy. BUT they are His words, for His glory and good purpose. If he can use con artists and hookers, then he can use the awkward words of a simple stay-at-home mom who's just trying to save a few bucks on therapy.

4) How does my writing process work?

And here's where ya'll skip straight over a counselor and sign me up for my very own comfy cell.
I talk through my writing concepts. Out loud. Not to someone. Just out loud. Oh, there are, of course, people around. They are mostly under four feet tall and some of them have banana smoosh in their hair. And sometimes when I'm especially deep in conversation (ahem), I seek solitude, which lasts until someone sticks their fingers under the bathroom door. I don't even know why these short people ask to whom I am speaking. Shouldn't they know how this works by now? Maybe a few counseling sessions wouldn't hurt...

Well whew! That wasn't so tough. There's only one problem: Big, Scary Phase Two. 

Imagine if we all gathered in a happy little room, and you spied me peeking around the door frame to verify that the coast is clear. Except you, ya' wily stinker, are watching me while pretending to read a text. You see me sneaking to a side table where I unload a box. I've even pre-taped a note to the front of the box. As soon as I beat a hasty retreat and try to act casual with a group of ladies, you saunter over to the box. Inside are bags of bubbly dough and the note reads:
Amish Friendship Bread Starter. Please take one to assuage my guilt. Or not. Whatever.
Ball Dropper
So here's the tricky part: I haven't chosen bloggers to whom to pass the baton. I. Just. Can't. And apparently there's no tag backs. So, here's my box of dough. Who's going to take some home? 

Eyeing My Blogging Friends,

*You know. The one where the guy had a vivid and terrifying dream that his friend was going to hell only to find out after waking up that his friend had tragically died in a car accident THAT VERY NIGHT. Don't wait to tell your friends about Jesus, ya'll.
**Seriously. Skip the rest of this blog post and go read her stuff. You won't regret it. She writes like me only she's actually good at it, she affirms the sacredness of coffee and chocolate, and is practically related to me. It's only a matter of time before our hunting and pecking around proves we're long lost sisters.
***Hint: My research for this book has led me to communication with the director of the Museum of Menstruation. Yes. That's a thing.