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

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

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. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Where Wholeness Should Have Been

As I write this, there are forty-one minutes left of Mother's Day, 2014. 

This morning I awoke to the familiar sounds of a wire whisk scraping the sides of a scarred mixing bowl. 

And I thought of her.

With uncharacteristic solemnity, two girls offered dutiful "Happy Mother's Day" while dumping a fresh-from-the-griddle pancake in my hand. And we laughed.

I wondered if she had laughed today.

A certain baby of the family insisted the pancake was hers. I fed her only a nibble, despite her protests. A corner of my heart squeezed at the thought of sustaining life with such a meager nibble.

She had tried. She had desperately clung to fading hope. 

Lastly, one more entered the room, flinging herself on the bed for a restless snuggle. A little prompting..."Happy Mother's Day". She craned her neck to see my face. Like most people, I am drawn to her deep, liquid eyes.

And I see her look of defeat as pools threaten to betray her glossy resolve. 

Seventeen minutes, and ticking...

Just a day earlier, I sucked a breath into constricted lungs as I heard the words "You'll always be my mama. I'm so glad you adopted me." 

We share the lump in my throat, she and I.
"Children born to another woman call me Mom. The depth of that tragedy and magnitude of that privilege are not lost on me." ~ Joy Landers
The clock blinks 12:01, and just like that The Day is done. She and I have checked another day off the calendar. Though I may never again see her this side of Heaven, I carry her with me every day. Oh, I don't keep her picture in my wallet. I keep her heart tucked into mine. How? I hold her despite having the wrong arms. I double-check her toothbrushing job. I slice her sandwich from corner to corner. I dive into books and icy cold swimming pools with her. I wince as she wobbles on raised training wheels, and dance when she keeps her balance. I scold when she hits, and I kiss when she hurts. 

And I look into haunting eyes, wishing that hope had bloomed into possibilities, and possibilities into reality, and reality into wholeness. 

Instead there is irreparable brokenness, of which our daughter is the shared fallout. Yes, I love her fiercely, but I wish my love was not necessary in the first place. I wish the woman who loved her first could continue to see her firsts; Her first school day, her first date, her first...everything. Instead, I will be the mama to celebrate those firsts. Those moments are not stolen, nor are they merely borrowed. They are shared in the most intimate, most anguished, and most cherished way possible. And I am grateful. 

Her arms were, at the same time, perfect and inadequate and beautiful. Her image is too sacred to parade across the screen of some blog. Her face, too precious to squander on blog hits. This is the most you'll ever see of this strong woman:

Final Embrace

And it is enough.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Did That Really Just Happen? (Home Edition)

Because I believe in transparency...

Because truth edifies...

Because there is power in stories...

But mostly because you'll feel better about yourself...

Did That Really Just Happen? (Home Edition)*

For my domestically-minded readers, may I suggest you take this post with a stiff drink, because you're about to lose all faith in my housery abilities.

1. When the Holy Spirit suggests you invite dear friends over, may I suggest you ask Him to remind you that your friend is a vegetarian, and also that chicken enchiladas are not a vegetarian meal? This close to having to serve up PB&J.

2. If you find yourself in a position where you will be instructing 20 girls in the mysterious ways of Origami cups, practice much. Measure twice, fold once. Unless you enjoy having 40 eyeballs glued to you while you attempt to decipher 6-step instructions that are clearly meant for people who have a working knowledge of pictures and folding things. BECAUSE WE ALL KNOW HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO FOLD PAPER. This is not rocket science, I assure you. Just. Cups.

3. If you are dressing for a casual family event where a certain one year old is going to be climbing all over you for 5 hours, wear a turtleneck. This will eliminate any concerns you may have that your adorable baby will pull your stretchy top until the neckline meets your waistline. It only takes a second, precious readers, to scar your father-in-law.**

4. During remodeling and moving, if you happen to have a screwdriver handy, it will make a poor excuse for a pintail comb. You will use it anyway, because SMOOTH PARTS BE HANGED.

Looking for more blunders? Remodeling has afforded us many a ridiculous moment, which will henceforth be referred to as "blogging fodder". Additional (ahem) transparency is forthcoming. You're welcome. 


*If you're looking for the Original and Parenting Edition, look no further.
**Who may (or may not) avoid sitting facing you for the remainder of the day. It could be coincidence. Yeah, it's probably just coincidence.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mommy (rose-tinted) Goggles

If you've been anywhere online this past week, you've probably seen the link for a video by The Skit Guys. Mom Goggles has gone viral on social media, as do most videos extolling the virtues of mothers everywhere. If you haven't seen the video clip (SPOILER ALERT), the helpless dads rush order Mom Goggles so as to survive a weekend with the kids while the moms take a much needed weekend getaway. These Mom Goggles supposedly reveal the secrets of motherhood, which include cheering on mediocre art projects, being overprotective, fearlessly changing the most putrid of diapers and expertly folding fitted sheets.

I score one out of four.

I don't pour on the compliments for scribbly drawings, I gag when I change especially pungent diapers, and linens go directly back on the beds after laundry day week specifically so that I don't have to fold those possessed fitted sheets.* So basically, I'm guilty of being a tad overprotective. Yay me!

This is where, just like Grandma's giblet gravy, the plot thickens. A lump-in-your-throat phone conversation brings it all the surface. It goes something like this "Thank you, thank you, thank you. How would we ever survive without you? We're all so undeserving of you. Crap the kids are destroying things again."

Well, you get the gist of it.

To their credit, The Skit Guys have produced some top-notch videos for fathers too. They have directly addressed the importance of a dad's role in family life, and even touched on sentimental and emotional moments for fathers (not exactly the social norm). And yet, in my admittedly limited perusal of their father videos, I didn't find a single instance where the woman expressed true dependence upon her husband, and apologized for not telling him enough how much she respects him and appreciates all that he does. I'd love to be proved wrong on this one, because The Skit Guys are doing important work and casting a broad net within mainstream evangelical churches. I'm just not sure that men need more reminders to lead their families, work hard, pray more, take the lead, sacrifice, oh and be a leader!

To summarize, inspirational videos to dads issue a call to rise to a new standard, whereas inspirational videos to moms issue a call to dads to rise to a new standard. I've already hashed out my feelings on The Battle of the Sexes (part one and part two), so I won't bore you with a rehashing. Suffice to say that with an over-inflated view of my role, I would do well to see a few videos reminding me that I'm not "all that" in the home. That I am fortunate to stay at home and should be thankful for a hard-working husband who makes that possible. That I need to be vocalizing my respect and appreciation. It's not wrong to call women out on our uppity attitudes; It's wrong not to.

For several years, the Social Opinion of Stay-At-Home Mothers pendulum swung toward belittlement and disregard (I've whined about my own experience with this). We've sailed right past the place of balance, and are camped out at the other extreme. Now motherhood is being heralded as the World's Toughest Job, complete with no breaks, no life, no food...basically prison life in Sing Sing in the 1800's would be preferable to the back-breaking work of staying at home with children.

In reality, there are hundreds of jobs that would be tougher for me to manage. Aside from occupations which are outside the realm of my physical capabilities, there are scores of jobs that I wouldn't last one day on the payroll.


Lest you think I take my parental role lightly...There is absolutely no other job that can slice me to my very soul. There is no other job where I feel my failure as acutely. There is no other job where the stakes are so high it leaves me on my knees, in His word, seeking counsel, and scouring resources. In that sense, yes, my job is incredibly challenging. However, this burden weighs just as heavily on working moms, and (GASP) dads too. True, dads may not ugly cry over daddy guilt or scroll through parenting blogs for creative discipline methods, but their burden is just as real, just as fierce, and just as deep.

So why, oh why, do we continue to tell mothers, "You are the pinnacle of all society. We salute you." and we tell dads, "Stop sucking. Oh, and lead your families, because it’s biblical." Perhaps it's time to stop swinging wildly from the motherhood pendulums and shift some of our focus onto the Social Opinion of Fathers pendulum.

Can we band together to begin the momentum?

Ordering Daddy Goggles,


*...which DO NOT fold flat "like a charm" so just WHATEVER Pinterest.