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

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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

An Old Backpack Of Words, And A Shiny New Folder

Anyone remember the end of the school year, when your teacher would hand you the precious folder? There was your name, emblazoned across the top, right-hand corner. The penmanship, with precisely formed curves and points, looked perfect to your young eyes. This long-awaited folder held the culmination of a year's worth of projects and papers. You had slaved over crayon drawings, agonized over book reports, and meticulously glued popcorn kernels to construction paper.* This was, indeed, your magnum opus. 

For the third grade. 

So, here I stand, dented Muppets lunchbox in one hand and treasured folder in the other. My folder is bulging with words. Words I am honored to have shared with you. Your time is precious, and to know you choose this lil' ol' blog to fill moments in your day is humbling. Below is my folder. These are the Cultivated Graftings blog posts YOU made most popular for the year of 2013. 

Thank you.

10. Cornball Quotes

  9. Sanity is for the weak.

  8. My Mama's guest post, because you showed her so much love!

  7. An open letter to families who disrupt an adoption

  6. The one where I subjected you to bathroom mirror selfies and duck lips

  5. Redecorating the closet

  4. Heretical Christianese

  3. Hogwash

  2. The Easter conundrum

  1. Let them give




Sharpening New Pencils For A New Year,

Cynthia




*OR you were that kid who completely filled the paper with black crayon, and emptied an entire bottle of glue onto the paper, effectively drowning all three kernels.

Friday, December 27, 2013

If It Quacks Like A Duck

Basically, it's like this: I'm sick of hearing about it. It is all over Facebook, Twitter and probably even MySpace. The blogosphere has been ranting and raving about it. And I. Am. Done. D-O-N-E-stick-a-fork-in-me-I'll-be-in-my-happy-place-until-the-interwebs-chill-out done.

So, I promise you this is NOT another post about it. I know, I know. All the *sniff* world-changing bloggers are throwing their verbal weight around on this issue. But not this great mediocre blogger. No siree.

sipping coffee, strumming fingers on the table, staring into space while the children run amok with crumpled wrapping paper (squealing something about wrapping the baby up, and would she need airholes)...



OK, but here's the thing...

There's so much more to all of it. There's the stuff that truly concerns me. It's the stuff no one seems to be noticing. It's the same thing that happens every single time a strong opinion passes through the lips of a celebrity; Everyone begins jumping. And I'm not talking a friendly neighborhood game of hopscotch. We tend to fall into one or more categories: 1) Jumping ship, 2) Jumping the gun, and/or 3) Jumping on the bandwagon.

Early bird responders are notorious for jumping the gun. They are first on the scene and the first to roll the story off the press. The problem? Not nearly enough time has elapsed for all the facts to be on the table. So we'll just fill in the missing pieces. We call that...artistic license. Problem solved.* I call this fancy gossip. The truth is muddied by impressive embellishment.

Then come the ship-jumpers. In an effort to avoid associating with "A", they bail at the first sign of confrontation. The problem? They jump to "B" with very little forethought to potential consequences. From the frying pan to the fire they go, looking pleased as punch to have avoided that lil' landmine. The problem with perpetual ship-jumpers is this: Eventually your circle of safe ships will wane, becoming a "sink or swim" dilemma.

Lastly, we have our disturbingly ignorant bandwagon jumpers. Their information rests solely on the latest memes to grace social network sites. But this doesn't stop them from spewing strong opinions, parroting what so-and-so put as their latest Facebook status. It reminds me of 7 year-olds who shoot off at the mouth about the economy. Gee, I wonder where they got their sound-bytes. The problem? This comprises too great of a percentage of the population. Less thinking for themselves and more relying on someone, anyone to spoon-feed them their informational porridge. 

We all have found ourselves in each of these categories. It happens. Don't believe me? Show me a timeline of your reactions to the Trayvon Martin tragedy. Quite a spectrum, I suspect. I rest my case. Sadly, hot-headed remarks and regrettably immature behavior are benchmarks of jumpers in every category.** If we want to be known as level-headed, discerning people, we've got to walk the walk. We cannot disingenuously dress the part. After all, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...it's a duck. 

So, here's what I have to say to jumpers everywhere: Let's jump in with both feet. You read that correctly. Let's propel ourselves forward like nobody's business and land with firm footing on solid ground. Ground that is paved in cobblestones of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If we shod our soles with Gospel-truth and our souls with Holy Spirit fruit, the jump is bound to have better results-perhaps indiscernible this side of Heaven, but better nonetheless.



Aaaaaand now I need to unwrap a baby,

Cynthia




*Dare I mention that artistic license has no place in news reports? Nah. I probably shouldn't go there.
**Jumping down your throat...too many "jumping" clichés? Mmmm?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Not Another Christmas Blog Post



I don't know about you, but I'm kinda tapped out from all the Christmas blog posts smacking us in the face. According to blogs I've read this week, I'm supposed to be participating in ornament exchanges. Or not. It depends on whether it contributes to building community or reinforces sin in my materialistic, greedy heart. 

I did not know this.

We also find Santa and his impish sidekick in the verbal cross hairs of bloggers everywhere. "Their gig is up!" cry the diehards. At the very least they should be posed in the nativity, worshiping baby Jesus and bringing him toys and doughnuts.* Also, is it sacrilegious to have nondescript tree toppers? Am I spiritually mature enough to have a Jesse tree? In addition to deep, theological discussions on greed and Santa, there were roughly a bazillion "How To" posts flooding my blog feed. This week I've learned how to cultivate gratitude in the hearts of my children, fashion Christmas tree shaped cornrows, and perfect my sugar cookies. I've been told how to make godly elf on the shelf equivalents, simplify the season and even what not to do in preparation for Christmas. 

And when December multiplies to 86 days I'll tackle the long list of crafty Christmas "How To" amazingness. Until then you'll find me three days behind on our advent activities. 

Why? 

Because I refuse to rush holiness. I will not impatiently tap my toes at the Prince of Peace, whose entirety was compressed into the delicate skin of a downy newborn. I refuse to shimmy my grocery cart alongside crowded aisles, huff my way through heavy traffic and distractedly count change without so much as a moment's glance into the souls milling about within arm's reach. 

What we do not need this season is another ugly sweater party, cookie exchange or children's play. What we desperately need is space for The Sacred. Oddly enough, what we crave is both. After all, we voluntarily fill those thirty-one squares on the calendar with...stuff.** Everything and nothing. Busyness is a temporary high to dull our senses toward The Manger. I am guilty as charged. 

Stillness.

Let this be the season we purpose to inhale the precious aroma of swaddling cloths and sacrifice. May our hearts be seared by The One born lowly and exalted on high. With souls of clay in the hands of Babe and King, may we recognize a light in each others' eyes. You've been there too. Let's raise a banner o're the unmarred and sacred space. We'll each grab a stack of invitations and take to the streets! There's always room for one more. One more frazzled mama battered with questions regarding mysterious packages from the mailman, one more delivery man working well past his son's bedtime, one more retail employee who despises their own dread of the holidays, one more pastor who fields more grief, sermons and party invitations this month than most, one more missionary fighting heartsick loneliness, one more school teacher who faces a classroom of hyper, spring-loaded children. One more...

Our presence does not detract from the hallowed. Rather, we are as glowing embers, that when huddled together become an unquenchable flame. A beacon. Peace that passes understanding is our party frock, love is our language and a surrendered heart is our currency. This is a Market that cannot fail. The welcome mat is out, and our Host insists the door remain ajar. This season, warm your spirit in the space for The Sacred. 


And if December 25th's advent craft is completed by January 1st, consider it a success.



Inviting YOU,
Cynthia





*Why don't we invite The Easter bunny, the tooth fairy and La Llorona just for cultural kicks. And while it's neither here nor there, for the record our family eschews the mythological trifecta.
**It's OK to decline some invitations and move a few parties to January. Really.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Day In The Life Of An Ordinary Family

I know we seem different. After nearly three years of this way of life, I have reached a point of forgetfulness. Until we go out in public, that is. Behind closed doors, we are us. We all wake up in the morning, hungry for breakfast and the day's adventures. We grumble about beds to make, laundry to fold and toilets to scrub. We brush teeth and hair. We do school, puzzles, and art projects. We play games, blow bubbles, and skip rope. We teeter on two wheels for the first time, waving aside training wheels and a steadying hand. We struggle, get angry, repent, forgive. We pray, rejoice, weep.

Oh, and one of us is black.

Our adopted daughter doesn't black grumble. She doesn't black skip, or black weep. We don't buy only bright colored clothes that "will look good with her skin tone". If the girl wants to wear a dark brown dress, I say go for it!*

We are us.

That's not to say there aren't differences. We go through more lotion, oil and hair conditioner in one month than you do in six. There is no such thing as quickly running a brush through her hair (I'm doing good to get it done in under half an hour). We live in a world of sleep caps and braids and beads, and also dark earwax.

It's a fine line for transracial families; Celebrating without fixating. We want to celebrate the beauty of coils and cultural style, folklore and music. We want to shout from the rooftops that Sophia is one incredible girl, and part of that is wrapped up in something as simple as melanin. We also want to avoid fixating on her differences. Fixation quickly leads to isolation. She is not an alien to examine under a microscope. She is not on the witness stand and doesn't need to answer your litany of (bizarre) questions, that, let's be honest, go over her head anyway. She's still mostly "colorblind". No really, I promise you. She recently looked though some family pictures and asked if the baby in the picture was her. Heh. Only if bleach baths and hair relaxers were routine when you were in diapers.
"No, sweetie. That's not you. What's one big difference between you and that baby?"
"Ummmmm. I'm...bigger...?"
That you are, dear. 

Transracial families (by adoption or marriage) fall into an awkward category. Girlfriends want to know what it's like to be married to a black man. Kids want to smoosh the afro, and strangers remark about how you can't see the pupils of her eyes (or make other kooky statements). Honest curiosity, girded with respect is widely accepted among transracial families. We're not a scary tribe. We are simply us

Oh, there will always be criticisms cloaked in carefully crafted sentences: "Why go to all that trouble when there are orphans right here?" Translation: This is about you wanting _________ (an exotic child, an adventure, to be like Angelina). And to the naysayers suggesting we chose international adoption, because we wanted something exotic. Let me tell you, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, exotic about carrying a frightened child you barely know through an airport, all the while feeling parasitic diarrhea splashing onto your shoes. If that is exotic, then sign me up for a trip to Boringville.

It's almost as though there is something to the old adage, "If you can't say something nice..." There's also something to the adage, "It takes all kinds." It truly does. It takes all kinds of people to create families. It takes all kinds of passions, interests, weaknesses, and yes, even skin color to build some families. 

We. Are. Us. And we are uncommonly ordinary. Normal in a different kind of way. We're a zorse in a land of zebras.** Same and different. 

There are so many social designations for my daughter's skin tone. There will come a day in the not so distant future that my sweet Ethiopian daughter will come to me and say, "Mama, I'm confused. Am I black, African, Ethiopian, African-American, Abyssinian, chocolate, or negro?"

And I will smile and say, "Sweet girl. You're mine."


A Grateful Zorse,

Cynthia




*Aside from the fact that the child could wear a mourning shroud and still light up a room.
**An Honorable Mention goes to The Professor for suggesting the analogy, "Like someone twerking in a ballroom." I don't know whether to laugh, cry or edit the blog. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

You're Invited To My Clink Party

Thank you so much for coming! Here, let me take your coat. Feel free to warm up by the fire. Help yourself to some coffee and hot cocoa in the kitchen. Do grab a plate of yummy cake and cookies on your way by. 

Now that your body is warm and your belly is happy, let's get this party started!

Let's raise our mugs of deliciousness, and toast to the interwebs!

Clink*

Hey! Speaking of interwebs and clinks, I'm starting a trend. Instead of wasting valuable time and energy saying "Click the link", I'm coining the phrase "Clink". So, welcome to my very first Clink Party! I'm so glad you came. Refill anyone?

This Clink Party is held in honor of National Orphan Awareness Month, which just so happens to be going on right now. Last November, I wrote several posts on this topic, and instead of reinventing the wheel, I'm linking my posts below (along with a few other posts dedicated to adoption).

So...

Clink.

Our Journey to Sophia (Part One and Part Two)
Two Year Ruminations
Good Arms Are Still Wrong Arms

Grab a warmer from the coffee pot.

Perspective Shift
The Day My Heart Broke

Those ones are tough. Stop for now. The links aren't going anywhere. Digest. Pray. Weep. Seek.

Loving Whales and Orphans
A World Without Orphans: A Picture of Hope

We are the hope. May it spur us to action beyond ourselves.

Obstacles
What Can You Do?

And for a little silliness: Oh The Things People Say and Oh The Things I Want To Say**

I'm so glad you stayed! Before I walk you to the door, will you please accept a small party favor?


video


Blessings,

Cynthia




*Although...I have a feeling that filled mugs make more of a clank sound when used for a toast. 
**Alright, fine! I've said some of them. Most of them. 


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Write Over The Wrong

I may or may not have just hugged my oldest a smidge too tightly and a moment longer than usual as I fought back tears. What the heck?!?

It's November.

And I'm a wee bit wrecked.

I can see you're a teensy bit lost.

Last November, I chalked it up to her and my Adoption Awareness Month blogging series. I'm nothing if not consistent. Apparently. November, 2013 rolled around and I am, yet again, blindsided by nostalgia. I've not written in a while and my brain is bursting at the seams with words needing a place to call "home". I'm at risk of emotionally vomiting all over you. I'll choke it down, but you might want to grab a bucket, just in case.

A year has flown by. An. Entire. Year.

Our oldest is a determined soul. This month the CEO set her sights upon turning ten. And she did it. The nerve. To the mother of a 20-something, 40, 50, 70-something, "ten" is merely a cute lil' drop in the bucket. But to this mama...oh for the love. Must she? We celebrated her entry into double digits by giving her a weapon. Aren't we such saps? 

Our youngest is much like the CEO. Eerily similar. As in, a thick slab of déjà vu wrapped in "been there, done that" paper. Ergo, it stands to reason that she would also possess a lot of nerve. Enough nerve to turn one year old in another week. Goodbye baby, hello toddler! Allow me a tiny pity party, m'kay? Could you please pass the cheese to go with my whine.*

The other night all of this collided in my tired brain (Stick with me. I promise this is going somewhere). Jubilee was a basket-case, and couldn't fall asleep (hello shades of Mikayla). As I sat there rocking her, I watched her cycle through the I-want-to-sleep, relax, no-I-don't, stiffen, sit-up-and-scream routine. Charming. However, every time she relaxed, she melted into my arms and we connected. Because she's mine. I considered each of my children, and despite the one in my lap screaming (and the memories of a certain sister doing the same), my heart was held fast by a different daughter; One whose story is the broken story of millions of others. 

Months old, and unable to fall asleep. There are no mother's arms; Just the chilled bars of a crib. Cries may eventually be met with arms, but they are all wrong. Overnight, so much became wrong, and it only got more wrong from there. Wrong arms, wrong sounds, wrong words, wrong faces. Then, more wrongs until nothing was right anymore. Wrong scents, wrong tastes, more wrong faces, wrong world. And even though these faces smile with tears coursing down pale cheeks, and hug me tenderly, they're...wrong

Turning ten, turning one. Both of those daughters have never known the wrong arms.** Some days they resist them, but they have always been right. For Sophia, my arms are good. They are reliable, trustworthy, safe, satisfactory. But they may never be right. Much like the scream-relax-scream-relax bedtime routine, there are stretches of time where stiffening the heart feels so much safer. And then there are the precious moments of connectedness, where a little chocolate girl rests in my arms. Trusting me with her heart, secure in the knowledge that she is, indeed, mine. I will store up those moments to replay on the days of depletion, where wrongness fights for center stage. 

Dear friends, I love my family. I love how adoption is woven in the tapestry of our lives. However, it is crucial that we acknowledge a very real part of adoption; That every, every, every adoption story is wrought with sorrow and wrongness. The prologue is often painful and fearful. Chapter One begins with grief and deep wounds. For many families, the chapters of mourning drag on and the plot weighs heavily on their shoulders. For others, sunny prose is just around the corner. 

For 147 million children, the story has yet to be written; There is only a dreadful prologue, and no one pressing pen to paper. No one embracing them to witness a mighty story unfurl. Don't skip to the ending of someone else's book. Pick up a blank volume and write over the wrong

What will your story be?

Cynthia



*Did somebody mention wine? I'll take a glass of Riesling, thanks.
**Just for the record, neither has the seven year old.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ta-Tas and The Pink Ribbon

I don't support the pink ribbon.

There. I said it. 

Here's what I support: I support the women who get the dreaded disease. I support their families. I'll bring meals. I'll make blankets for when the chemotherapy treatment makes a woman cold to the bone. I'll run kids to school. I'll do your laundry or clean your toilets. I'll hold the bucket while you hurl. I'll wear holes in the knees of my best jeans praying for you. I'll weep when you weep and rejoice when you rejoice. 

But I will not buy a pink box of cereal just because ten cents of the proceeds go to an ambiguous "research and awareness" campaign. 

I also support cancer research and awareness. I truly do. As ridiculous as it sounds, I can actually send a check straight to research centers. No pink tea towel necessary. Crazy, right? The awareness has now been raised. Everyone knows October is Pink Month. But are more women checking the ta-tas every month because of it? I'm not so sure. True awareness looks messier. It's clinics having hard talks with women. It's doctors donating their time to educate low-income women. It's girls' P.E. and Health teachers talking with their classes about it. It's moms giving laughably awkward demonstrations for their daughters before they even have anything to examine. It's dads yelling at their girls to not carry cell phones in their unmentionables unless they want their phone taken away. 

That is awareness. 

Buy the Pink if it floats your boat. Let's just remember that bracelets don't result in early detection unless the wearer actually takes the steps. 

Off To Chat With My Daughters,
Cynthia

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Great Pumpkin And Other Tribulations

Is it just me, or are things getting more complicated? I'm not talking about the "Life is hard now that I'm a responsible adult" kind of complications. I'm talking about trapping the simple in a web of expectations. Every major holiday reeks of it. 

And the "biggies" are upon us. Dun-dun-DUUUUUUUUUUUN!

Remember when carving pumpkins meant grabbing a sharpie marker, the biggest butcher knife in the drawer and praying to 7 lb. baby Jesus you wouldn't hit an artery? Now even the laid back carvers have a carving kit. Meanwhile, the die-hards are whipping up pumpkins with crackle finishes, bedazzling that baby, and dipping it in a homemade concoction to preserve it for a millennium. Never mind that it's sitting outside for days, slowly stewing to an unattractive, moldy, shrivel from the heat of whatever candle I can find in the junk closet drawer.  

As a kid, my parents didn't do the Elf on the Shelf, but I would bet my last dollar that if we had, that sucker would have stayed put. On. The. Shelf. But now that imp is expected to be all over the place, wasting toothpaste, leaving chocolate chip bowel movements on the kitchen counter, eating miniature doughnuts made out of Cheerioscoveredinicingwithsprinklesontop, what?!? Thank you Pinterest. There is a reason I can't be trusted to manage an Elf on the Shelf. By approximately December 3rd, I would resent his very presence and daily demand to be posed somewhere new and witty that no other kids' parents have thought of yet. I. Just. Can't. By Christmas it would escalate to the "death therapy" scene straight out of What About Bob. Maniacal laughter and all.*

We tout the virtues of simplicity, all the while piling more fancy-ness onto our paint-it-yourself pottery plate. And when I'm finished gorging on that course, I'm going to embellish my toilet paper with biodegradable embroidery floss.** Now (cleansing breath, folks), repeat after me: Pinterest is not the Devil. I promise my beef is not with a website. Scout's honor. Lots of magical ideas abound on the interwebs. However, along with genius crafts, there are unrealistic expectations lurking behind elaborate centerpieces and warm, fuzzy Advent activities (which, let's be honest, most kids would equate with torture worse than dentists or extra math homework, or dentists who prescribe extra math homework).

We are at risk of white-washing the beauty of true simplicity. 

If you want to throw your pumpkin in fishnet stockings or decoupage leaves on the thing, go for it. If you want to go at it with a hatchet, by all means, don't let me stop you.*** If we carve intricate details, let us simply enjoy the process of trying something new together. If it brings great delight to you and yours to create Elf on the Shelf mishaps, knock yourself out. If that rascally imp is misplaced by December 9th, just whatever. He needs a time-out anyway. 

Whatever your druthers, let the simple joy of the season be enough. This month, let the simple beauty of changing seasons be enough. Next month, let simple thankfulness be enough. In December, let a simple manger be Enough. Everything else is just the cherry on top; Enjoyable, but forgettable. After all, we don't order a hot fudge sundae just to score a maraschino cherry.****  


Blessings,
Cynthia



*http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPpJ37LsYtI For anyone who cares.
**First person to actually accomplish this and send me a picture gets a dollar. And bathroom cred. And bragging...rights...?
***You are, after all, the one holding a hatchet.
****If you do, yer doin' it wrong. And also, I'll be sitting next to you at all future all ice-cream socials.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sacred Intersections

Our lives are always intersecting with others. Sometimes these intersections are insignificant. I take my receipt and we both offer a shallow "Have a nice day." Other intersections leave us hot under the collar or walking with a lighter step. Still others leave an indelible mark, for which we are grateful. 

This is one such intersection. 

The difference of one week and we never would have met. Our eyes would never have connected along the bumpy roads of Addis Ababa as we took in the tragic beauty surrounding our crowded van. We would never have shared stories over bottled Cokes, or stifled tears outside the depressing walls of an orphanage. 

We brought our children home and began the journey of attaching and bonding, comparing notes along the way. We struggled apart in a together kind of way. There is something tenacious in the adoption community that cannot be diminished by the miles separating us. We are drawn to one another and to living a weird life. 

You stepped out in trembling faith to adopt a special needs boy. As if that were not enough, a street boy had approached us, begging us to be his mom and dad. You did what I (and countless others) had deemed "impossible" in order to assuage our guilt. You now call him "Son", and he truly is.  The handwriting was on the wall; You were destined for the extraordinary, despite yourselves. You, again, find your family on the precipice of something altogether faith-filled and utterly gut-wrenching. And I stand with you, linking arms, humbled to call you "friend", and burdened as you fight the anxiousness of the unknown. 

My dear readers, the words I write here are quickly forgotten, but the work of Tiffany and her family is of eternal significance. Please, please, PLEASE go see what they're about. Then decide how you can encourage them. 


Blessings,
Cynthia



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dear Homeschooling Dropout

There are homeschoolers and then there are homeshoolers

Homeschoolers may only do this gig for a season. They dive into this adventure knowing there are scenarios in which their children may, at some point, resurface and tread the halls of public schools. They are cut from the same cloth as the Virtual Academy type, who, for one reason or another, access public school from their living room computer. 
They keep a loose grip on homeschooling.

Homeschoolers are in this for the long haul and would never, I repeat NEVER, place their children in public school. Private or charter schools, maybe. If it became absolutely necessary. 
They are the die-hards.

I'm here to condemn neither one. 

In recent history I've known several homeschooling families who have made the decision to place one or more of their children in public school. The conversations I've had with these friends have been guarded. Cautious. As though they are accustomed to donning a veil of defensiveness. There is weariness in their voice and wariness in their eyes as they explain themselves to yet another well-meaning (albeit nosy) friend. 


Dear Homeschooling Drop-Out,

There is no condemnation here. This is a safe harbor in which to drop anchor. It’s not the first difficult decision you've made for those munchkins, and it is most assuredly not the last. Perhaps you feel the palpable weight of guilt. Perhaps you were blindsided with the newsflash that you were homeschoolers when all along you've considered yourselves homeschoolers. It stinks to eat crow, but we all find ourselves in front of that dinner plate from time to time.* Hear me, you have not failed. You've wisely dropped out somewhere in order to drop in some place better.** The decision to cease homeschooling is of no less importance than the decision to begin thus in the first place. You've arrived at this conclusion after much deliberation. So, release the “I told you so.” and the “What a shame.” crowds and embrace the “Come to the PTA meeting. We have cookies.” crowd. 



Dear Homeschoolers and Homeschoolers,

Let us deal graciously with one another as well as our friends who have chosen for their families, a different educational path than we have. We are not superior. Although we have a strong tendency to appear as such in the presence of dear friends who (coincidentally) love their children no less than we do ours.*** When a friend makes The Announcement we needn't dig out the sackcloth and ashes. No weeping and wailing necessary. Really. In lieu of facing off with our local Public School Convert (or worse yet, shaming them), may we be known to infuse grace into every syllable we utter. For, are we not all in this together?



Sincerely,
This Homeschooling Mom (who needs to practice what she preaches...)



*I have found the best method is to just start chewing and then wash it all down with wine mercy.
**Better for your student. Better for your family. Better for your sanity...
***What a concept.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How To Have A Ridiculous Vacation Part III (Seriously?!?)

And now for the completion of your ridiculous vacation, I present to you these final nuggets of wisdom. If you're just tuning in, start at the painful beginning and slog through it in its entirety like the rest of us had to do.

We last left our family massacring beloved deer, ditching children and strolling along I-25. Let's see what kind of tomfoolery they're up to now.

Step Thirteen: Now that you have a gas can (you know, for emergencies...), fill 'er up and store it in the dancing cargo carrier next to your air mattress. Because if it's going to leak on something, you definitely want it to be on something that will be near your nostrils for eight hours.

Step Fourteen: Do something novel, like go garage sale-ing. Because we all know you can't buy used crap at home. 
P.S. The bowling ball was just too much for you to resist.

Step Fifteen: Decide that (since it's your anniversary), instead of camp fare, you'll eat at a nice sit-down restaurant. A nice romantic dinner for just the two of you. And two kids next to you. Oh and two more at the table behind you, because (apparently) you're a large family and they don't know quite how to seat you all together. No matter. You're confident that your children will not choose this moment to act like ruffians. Good grief. Are they running their spoons across the vertical blinds like old jailbirds? "No you may not put sugar on your spaghetti. Stop licking the chair. Your napkin is not a parachute. You have to go to the bathroom again?"

For Act II of your impromptu dinner show, how about you pinch the baby just as your meal arrives? Because nothing is more entertaining to foreign tourists than watching you eat drippy ravioli, while trying to maintain some dignity as you feed the youngest, whose actions suggest eating under a blanket is pure torture.
And also her foot belongs on your plate.

End with a rousing encore of "Let's go out to the van while Daddy pays the check" in which you will inadvertently activate the car alarm. With horn honking, lights flashing and baby crying you signal in vain through the window to your oblivious, keeper-of-the-keys husband who (though facing you) is tuned into the French table behind him and attempting to figure out if they are still discussing the half-witted, breastfeeding woman who is now waving...at...them...? Uhhh. Bonjour...? Cette Américaine folle...

Aaaand curtain. Oh, did I mention you did this all the while looking like absolute camp ragamuffins in an establishment that uses linen napkins? Just whatever. 

Step Sixteen: Arrive at your campground and flop onto your highly flammable mattress knowing that, through it all, you have been crazy-blessed with a beautiful, messy, ridiculous life and the precious moments over the past three weeks have been balm to your soul and sweet respite for your harried mind. 

And you would do it all again.

***We were so incredibly thrilled to be able to embark on such a memorable and leisurely trip! Every start was a rally and every stop was an adventure. From the sweet fellowship with adoption friends, to shucking corn in the great state of Nebraska. From the gentle rolling hills of Kentucky to the serene wooded lakes of Michigan. From the belly laughs with family to the sorrowful "goodbyes". Each day was filled to the brim with an abiding quiet. A hearty "Thank you" to the many friends and family we were able to see along the way. You made the hours in the van all worthwhile. Much love.***


With A Heart Full of Love and Gratitude,
Cynthia, her Professor and their wacky motley crew

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How To Have A Ridiculous Vacation Part II

So where were we? Oh riiiiiiiight. Yodeling tie-downs, possessed children and Munchkin Land.

Step Seven: Since you've now learned to always stake the tent and affix the rainfly (you quick learner, you), it's time for a new camping lesson: Always put your shoes inside the tent at night. Not that wearing soggy sneakers for days on end isn't a TOTAL HOOT.

Step Eight: In your enthusiasm to create memories in Memphis, forget the obligatory "headcount". It's ten o'clock in the morning. Ergo, you should still have a few caffeine-infused brain cells ricocheting around in your skull. 

Your tour guide will be duly impressed with your stupidity. 

Step Nine: Plan to experience Chicago's famous deep dish pizza (Remember: You're a ridiculous tourist AND this is practically on your foodie bucket list AND you're practically a pizza connoisseur). Do this on the weekend, and be overconfident in your ability to navigate the city. Bonus points for making the rest of your party wait AN HOUR (bless him) while all of Chicago honks at you for driving like the idiot out-of-towner that you are.

Step Ten: In lieu of a touching bedtime story, try a traumatizing one like "Once upon a time an hour ago, Daddy had to shoot a suffering deer. And everyone lived happily ever after. Except the deer. To summarize: Daddy killed an innocent woodland creature. Sooo...goodnight..." 

That'll go over like a lead balloon.*

Step Eleven: Eat questionable food, because you like to live dangerously.** Someone's apologies to the fellow patrons of every available ladies powder room along I-80 from Iowa to Colorado. 

Moving right along.

Step Twelve: With forty miles worth of gas registering in the tank, decide you'll "just wait for the next gas station". Oh yes. Sixty miles later, coast to a nice easy stop. It's a good day for a walk. Fortunately, your dumb shoes are dry.***


To be continued once more...because some people are just that ridiculous.

Anonymous Vacationer strikes again!



*Cue weeping and wailing of caterwaulic proportions. In order to know your story has been effective, children should be one minuscule step away from rending their garments and tossing ashes on their precious, tow-headed noggins.
**Hey! For some of us, playing "Potty Roulette" is living dangerously. I can't do this with you right now.
***When in New Mexico, always top the tank off when you see a gas station. By doing this, you avoid getting picked up by a Good Samaritan who may or may not have been lucid enough to remember the event (however, we were grateful for the lift).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How To Have A Ridiculous Vacation Part I

Since I'm all about imparting such special wisdom to you, I have some doozies from someone's vacation. Of course ours went off without a hitch, but whoever those poor suckers are sure made for great blogging fodder.

Poor, poor suckers.

Step One: Begin by going south instead of north. This will add approximately 2-3 extra hours of travel time to your day. Oh joy.

Step Two: Observe that your hard-shell cargo carrier appears to be break dancing on the roof. Pull over. Everything is tight. Continue driving at a snail's pace (still going south) to avoid losing all your camping gear along I-17. Stop at Auto Zone. Buy tie-downs. Breathe a sigh of relief. Roll back onto the freeway only to discover that the tie-down straps have an amazing musical ability when traveling at freeway speeds.* Decide sanity is optional. Pull over again. Wrap towels around the frickin' frackin' straps, and drive like the ghetto minivan family that you are. Bath towels wrapped around tie-downs, wrapped around a cargo carrier. It's gettin' real, folks.

Step Three: Disbelieve the toddler who vehemently swears she "really has to go". I don't even know why I have to explain this.**

Step Four: Well past the time you should have arrived at your first campsite, instead find yourself handing the nice State Trooper your license and registration and thanking him for the fix-it ticket.*** 

Step Five: Upon finally arriving at the campsite, throw the tent up in the dead of night, not bothering to stake it because you are operating on sheer mental fumes at this point. Logic and reason went to sleep hours ago. Obviously. But don't worry. After a few hours you'll be rested enough to realize your tent is blowing away and your children think they're halfway to the Land of Oz. 

Step Six: Learn from your first night. Always stake the tent, but decide that the weather is beautiful. With nary a cloud in sight who needs a rainfly? Only people who don't appreciate drying off with bug-encrusted towels that have traveled 900 miles wrapped around screeching tie-downs.

To be continued...


Signed,
Anonymous Vacationer




*And by "musical" I mean something akin to a chorus of dying walruses with a screech owl thrown in the soprano section. Special.

**Toddler: 3 Pants: 0

***One look into our half-crazed, bloodshot eyes should have been cause enough to haul out the breathalyzer. If that didn't do it, the disgruntled tween who glared unblinkingly (think Children of the Corn, people) at him for shining a light in the backseat, or the other stupefied children in various stages of discombobulation oughtta been cause for at least a call for back-up. Jesus obviously cloaked our true appearance from him. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

You Know It's Time To Blog When...


...Your blogging notebook is dog-eared, but hardly anything is crossed off.
...It's practically been forever two months since you last had a date with Blogger.*
...Your mom resorts to calling you to see if you're OK.
...You're suffering from Blogger's Guilt Syndrome.**
...Friends send "Did you and Blogger break up?" messages to your inbox.
...You've missed reading the spammed comments on Friday nights.***
...Family members suggest Feedly is "defective", because nothing from you is showing up in their blog list.

So if that describes you, get off your duff and blog already.


Kettle Calling The Pot Black,
Cynthia



*My last date with Blogger did NOT end well. He swallowed my entire post and left me with the bill. Not very gentlemanly. Here's to second chances, buddy.
**If you or a loved one is suffering from BGS, seek help. Reach out to someone with Wi-Fi and overcome your BGS today!
***Seriously a highlight for us around here, folks. It doesn't take much.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Making Independence Day Meaningful

John Adams' famous letter penned July 3, 1776, in which he wrote to his wife Abigail:
The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.
And celebrate, we shall!*

Here are the challenges I'm throwing down:

1. Begin by referring to Thursday not as "July fourth", but as "Independence Day".
2. Before festivities, spend time in prayer for our amazing nation.
3. Read or listen to the Declaration of Independence.
4. Take a moment to soak in the looks of unbridled joy reflected on children's faces as they behold "Parade[s], with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations". It's the best show you'll catch tomorrow, guaranteed. 


Grateful and Proud,
Cynthia



*Two days later than Mr. Adam's predicted, but whatever.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Redecorating The Closet Door

With Boy Scouts of America's recent landmark decision now is as good a time as any to tackle a completely benign topic.*

Our church recently engaged in a highly transparent discussion on the issue of same-sex couples and the Church; A conversation more congregations would do well to have, and one I believe will help our church maneuver an unprecedented social issue. While we are not the first generation of churchgoers to address homosexuality, we most certainly are the first generation to navigate the choppy waters of integrating sound doctrine and inclusion of gays on a wide scale.

The maiden voyage is not going well. The flame of The Lighthouse is barely discernible.

Most of us have probably not shared a pew with an openly gay individual. However, there is a high probability we have sat next to someone who is grappling with their own sexual identity, but they sure as Hades aren't going to divulge such information during "sharing time". Why? As the nuclear family disintegrated we fabricated a new unpardonable sin. And oh the attention was fierce-some. We have bared our teeth, displayed impressive hackles and emitted guttural growls so as to leave no one unsure of our stance.

Well done, Church. Bravo.

Now that we've marked our territory, can we please move beyond snapping at each other? May I suggest we consider a new old approach? It's got a pretty good track record. I think it's worth a shot.

Love. It's a word so foreign to our tongues as we hoist our heterosexual banners higher into the air, but isn't it possible to simply love? No agenda, no judgment, no fear? Not only is it possible, but we have an excellent example in the unexpected friendship of Shane L. Windmeyer and Dan Cathy. If you haven't read this article, go. Read. Be challenged.

For it seems all chance of civility (let alone love) fly out the window as soon as "gay" enters the equation. It's as if all common ground hinges upon sexual orientation. You're gay. I'm a Christian. I guess we can't be friends after all. We have adopted such a polarizing "Us versus Them" mentality and it's horrifyingly toxic within and outside the Church. It's time to shrug off our condescension and disgraceful judgement and instead "Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity."**

When we put on love, we cease to identify sin as the common denominator. There is a fundamental flaw in our dialogue when we conspiratorially admit "You know what? I sin too". "Huh. You don't say..." (accompanied by stony expressions and thin-pressed lips). We're attempting to have a point of connection, but this is not it. This is a faulty premise that undermines a central part of a homosexual's identity. A handy common denominator is that, as humans, we all happen to need love. A simple "I may not agree, but I'm sorry for how poorly the Church (and Christians therein) have handled this issue. I'm hoping you will give me a chance."

When we put on love, we cease to make conversion to heterosexuality our #1 goal. Most likely the majority of gay people I talk to are not going to sway from their opinions, and I know that I am not either. That's OK. Attempts to convert individuals to a heterosexual lifestyle will rarely end well. In the end, Christ's name is what ultimately gets dragged through the mud and we forfeit the greater battle. To turn the tables, I imagine very few of us have been (seriously) proselytized by someone gay.*** Therefore, it baffles me as to why Christians act suspicious as though gays are lurking in the shadows, waiting to pick off the weak heteros in the herd.

When we put on love, it does not mean our position is altered. Welcoming friendships with the gay community does not indicate a soft stance on homosexuality; It indicates a gracious and humble stance. All of the studies we've read and statistics we've heard from the pulpit are no less valuable and insightful. However, they are just as potent on the back burner. Let's let them simmer until they are savory and instead allow love to burn brightly in the foreground.

We can yet be the generation to turn the tide.



Eyes On The Lighthouse,
Cynthia






*That whole "Don't talk religion or politics" advice was before the dawn of the blogosphere. Game changer.
**Colossians 3:14
***And sober. One too many drinks doesn't count.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Why All The Silence?

I haven't meant to neglect you. In fact, my fingers are practically bursting with words to type to you all! There has hardly been a moment to gather scattered thoughts into strings of words that (at least) loosely resemble sentences. 

Our crew has been working overtime on a little undertaking that is an answer to prayer. And by "little" I mean kinda big. I'm not smooth with the big reveals, so I won't attempt a glamorous build-up. For now, suffice to say we find ourselves in need of additional funds to cover some costs of the "family building" nature. 

"Debt free" has been a common phrase in our prayers over the last year. As we move forward, we desire to keep that monkey off our backs. Can I get an "AMEN!"? Remember Gideon and that whole dew/fleece bit? Folks, our fleece has been bone dry and soggy alike.* First sign from God: A substantial surprise check in the mail. Dew on the fleece. Second sign: Our dear friends/landlords called to say they were sacrificially lowering our rent. Dew on the ground. Third sign: A home-based business purchase practically lands in my lap. 
"The Angel of the Lord extended the tip of the staff that was in His hand and touched the [the offering]. Fire came up from the rock and consumed [it]. Then the Angel of the Lord vanished from Gideon's sight."
We offered Him our flawed, crazy family and he touched it with His holy, consuming fire. 

And that is the reason for my silence. 

(insert awe-inspiring segue)

So without further ado (and absolutely no shame for self-promoting), I present to you Lil' Outlaws! We own this little gem of a business and are jazzed by the response we've already received. If you have babies with butts, we've got you covered (along with a host of other uses**). I'll spare you the five minute spiel if you promise to go check it out, m'kay? Four words to pique your interest: Fruit Loop Laundry Detergent. 

Lil' Outlaws

Blessed In Abundance,

Cynthia



*If you think I've finally gone off my rocker, just go check out Judges 6 to get the lowdown. 
**Who knew ointment for butts could be so beneficial for cracked heels and gardener's hands? 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Seven Signs Your Friend Has Left The Building

My good buddy Normal C. has hung around long enough. See what I did there? I know my corny wit can be intoxicating. 

Without further ado...

Seven signs Normal C. has left the building:

1. You reluctantly do the Hokey Pokey at story time, hoping you don't accidentally bust out with "Heeeeeeey Macarena!"

2. You decide it's not worth it to wash poopy undergarments, and make an executive decision to toss 'em. Don't judge me.

3. You use a nursing pad for a bookmark.*

4. You use whatever leftover makeup is already in your makeup brush.

5. You swell with pride when your child brings you a plastic prototype of her "Wedgie of Fire" concept.

6. You go all ninja mode when the doorbell rings.**

7. You check to make sure everyone is breathing before you retire to bed. Baby, children, husband, dogs...the whole enchilada.***



Happy Monday,
Cynthia




*Oh relax. It was clean.
**You know what I'm talking about.
***This follows the door lock check, because what's the point of making sure everyone's alive if a a serial killer is going to waltz through the front door like he owns the joint? You're welcome.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Memorial

sa·lute  [suh-loot] - to express respect or praise for; honor; commend.



To the young man fresh out of high school, we salute you.

To the single mom soaking up little hugs before she faces months of separation, we salute you.

To the man who has no one but his dog to hug goodbye, we salute you.

To the career soldier with his sights set on Colonel, we salute you.

To the husband wondering if his marriage will survive his new orders, we salute you.

To the women who have bucked tradition and signed on the dotted line, we salute you.

To the scores of men and women enlisting because you love this country, we salute you.

To those who arrived at boot camp wondering if you'd made a mistake, you pressed on and we salute you.

To those who desire to serve, but find themselves ineligible, we salute you.

To those who served your time and got the heck out, we salute you.

To those who reenlisted, we salute you.

To the units who have pressed on when grieving the loss of one of their own, we salute you.

To those facing second, third, fourth deployments, we salute you.

To those who disappointingly faced a medical discharge, we salute you.

To those who are forever changed from the heavy toll of combat, we salute you.

To our veterans who fought wars so unlike today's, you paved the way, epitomized patriotism, and we salute you.

To our wounded who feel cheated out of duty, we salute you.

To our Prisoners of War, you endured much and paid a steep price. We salute you.

To our Missing in Action, all hope is not lost. You are not forgotten. We salute you.

To our Killed in Action, you have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. We solemnly salute you. And it is not enough.


We salute the mama who hugged her daughter for the last time, the father who recognized the honor shining back in his son's eyes, the spouses who dread to answer the door, the children whose childhoods are colored with a little more fear than their peers, and the widows who validate those fears.


To our United States Military, every branch, every uniform. Past and present. 
We strongly salute you.




Cynthia