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

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

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. 


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?

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 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...

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.