Why I am not here writing something thoughtful.

So, today we we meet with a lawyer to go over everything pertaining to applying for non-profit status with the IRS. Tat's not stressful. He just said bring every single record or piece of documentation we have for the whole time we've been doing this. In one way it's exciting, it means that this little thing we started to help some kids has grown enough that it makes sense to branch out on our own and to leave the shelter of our church, who has been handling donations for us, behind. In another it's it's a LOT of work. I'm tired just thinking about it.

Side note-Have you ever read corporate bylaws before? Talk about dull, and long, and I am now convinced that lawyers go to school specifically to learn how to write page long sentences. Definitely not something I imagined myself doing in high school. Also, it's, like, our deal, so we suggest a re-write and it goes in there and then it's permanent and oh man I hope that won't come back to bite us in the butt later.

I have discovered that work on this kind of thing makes me a boring conversationalist at the playground. "Man I have a headache, I've been reviewing corporate bylaws for 3 hours." That's a conversation killer right there. I promise.

Anyway, soon it will be done.

Also it is spring, so I have embarked on what seems to be a yearly tradition of starting massive sewing projects, and mending everything. Well, planning to mend everything, but there's this really big project that I'm working on....

I am also doing that depressing closet sort that comes about this time of pregnancy. You know, the part where you bid a fond farewell to all the pants and skirts and other items that no longer fit, and probably won't for at least another year, and put them all in a box up on the top shelf.

I wish I could say my absence here is caused by things less tedious or mundane, but, such is the stuff my life is actually made of. I may be back with the conclusion of an actual thought sometime soon.


One Thousand Gifts-Week 45-46

holy experience

The Boy coming in to sit beside me during Bible study last night, his eyes seeking mine, his lips smiling affection, his body leaning into my arm, and his head nudging against my hand whenever it grew idle reminding me to stroke his hair some more.

Marveling at how tall, how slender they are, how much they have changed over the years, still riding their scooters ahead of me down the same stretch of sidewalk, yet so much different now than at first.

My strong, strong beautiful big girl dealing with grown up things and holding herself together so well. I am so proud of her.

Laying forehead to forehead with the Girl while deep inside I feel Jellybean rolling and flipping around.

Watching the Girl figure out how to move to Latin rhythms. Surreptitiously so she doesn't get self conscious and stop.

The only good thing about a sick Little is that she loses her fierce independence for a while in favor of snuggling and mommy help.

The Boy reading Winnie the Pooh out loud to the girl. He makes it very exciting, and laughs loud at all the comic bits.

The Girl spontaneously started folding all the laundry in the basket just before reading time so it's all done and put away by the time they are in bed.

The music of Bruce Cockburn, a hot cup of tea and quiet in the house.

Finding chocolate chips at the back of the cupboard and the subsequent cookies.

Big Band swing music in the morning.

As the Boy lifted Little high in a hug she reached down, held his face in her hands and said, "I wike onwy you."

A cloud studded sky.

Wind blown skirts.

Tea time with my kids.

Little sitting quietly "working" during school.

Waking up with energy.

The Boy is making breakfast, the sun is shining, and we have a full day.

Tea biscuits with rhubarb.

Learning as I teach my kids.

Impromptu dance parties in the living room.

The boy came up to me out of the blue and said, "I like you mommy."

Listening to frogs croaking after a rainfall.

A milk and cookies party to celebrate a fully weaned toddler, who can drink milk out of a big girl cup.

Finches singing in the treetop outside my front door.

The gigantic blanket fort in my living room.

Walking into the bedroom to find Little snuggled up next to daddy, both of them fast asleep.

Find the gratitude community here.


The brain is gone...

...and I can't blame the head cold anymore, since that's almost better.


My brain is mush.

I have started 3 blog posts this week and been unable to finish them.

I have work to do on so many fronts.
Closets to organize.
Gifts to sew.
I'm rewriting all of the content for the charis project website, which is goiing to look so pretty with the new design to go with it.
I've got two writing submissions that are outlined and just need to be written sitting here staring at me.

Except that mostly I open up the files and stare at them blankly, unable to force myself to come up with words.

One of the more messy realities of adopting a person into your family is that their life becomes yours to a certain extent, their tragedies your tragedies, their crisis your crisis, and their triumphs, well, something that you rejoice in too. But those aren't things I will write about here, because they are not really my stories to tell, even though I live and participate in them.

Our adopted girl is in the middle of an epic crisis/tragedy, which began last Friday morning with the death of one of her biological parents.

I am really glad of the privilege of walking through this with her, where possible. My heart aches to do more than I am doing, as impossible as that is. I want to carry it all for her, to let her just be 19 and free to act her age and to take care everything for her. But I can't. I'm really proud of her for the way she is dealing with the mountain of things to attend to. She's more adult than many adults I've met. Cue more heart aching.

And maybe, just maybe, that's why I continue to stare at my work and find it difficult to focus. Not because I'm overwhelmed, but because she is occupying so much of my waking thought that everything else seems too insignificant to try and write about at present.

I have a feeling that's how it should be.


7 Quick Takes Friday

It's been a while since I did one of these. I have all these photos I took, thinking they would turn into posts, but I never used them. 7 quick takes seemed like a good way to catch up on on the little things that are happening around here. Don't expect anything much though. This is literally a laundry list of trivium.


This is what I would have had to interrupt one day in order to start "school". Heaven forbid they should all sit around reading together and enjoy it in order learn serious stuff like reading and writing. I didn't interrupt. But I did take a picture.


Little was very sick a few weeks ago. But she's a very cute sick girl.

And a very tired sick girl. Now she is sharing a head cold with me and she is miserable again. She's has a fear of coughing ever since the great throwing up every time she coughed brush with whooping this past summer. She cries and swallows a lot trying to stop the cough. She is poor right now.

So am I actually. I'm just starting to feel better after days and days of a congestion headache. Only I am not as cute when sick, so no photos of me.


Except this one. I have bangs. It's somewhat momentous as it's the first time in over 20 years. Yes I took the picture myself and it is blurry.

4. The above photo also makes me wonder if I need to see an optometrist again. My right eye is not as open as my left. Is this because my prescription is letting it get lazy? Don't know.


Every day they build these elaborate castles and houses for their toys to live in. They makes furniture out of blocks and lego, they create beds. This keeps them busy for hours. I call it creative application and interpretation time for the home school books. Then every day I make them put it all away, and every morning and afternoon they create it all anew once more.

6. I just went over to my neighbor's to borrow a cake pan, since mine has been missing for a long time and she handed me my cake pan. She borrowed it so long ago that she thought it was hers, and I forgot I lent it to her. It's been more than a year. I like that I've been in the same place long enough that that kind of thing can happen.

7.Chile swore in a new president yesterday. Poor guy. How would you like to start a new presidency with a country in shambles thanks to earth quakes. In a weird twist of 6 degrees, he is the cousin of my neighbor from number #6. Her family is safe, though homes are ruined and a 16 year old niece may need to have her foot amputated. Please don't forget the people of Chile. They have a tough time ahead of them to rebuild. I told her that since her cousin is a billionaire she can ask him to buy her a new cake pan.

7 quick takes is hosted by Conversion Diary.


Thoughts that keep me awake at night

I don't know why exactly, but peer pressure never affected me much. At some very young age I decided that I didn't care what other people thought about me, so long as I was happy with myself. I remember that my defiant mantra in junior high was, "The opinions of worthless people are worthless."

In case you were wondering, yes, I was a total nerd. But unlike the nerd stereotype, I wasn't one to longingly gaze at the popular people wishing I could crack the code and become one of them. I do remember thinking they were quite silly and doing stupid things and knowing I wanted no part of it. I also knew that I didn't want for friends anyone who could be so two faced and nasty in public, not that all of them were.

I remember a popular boy asking me out in front of the whole class in grade 8, probably for a joke, and his shock and obvious discomfiture when, without even looking up from my book, I snorted, "In your dreams."

I'm sure he thought it would be impossible for anyone to turn him down.

I remember walking past people I knew in high school, smoking out behind the shop buildings and them calling, jokingly because they knew me pretty well, "Hey Carrien, come on over and have a smoke. Everyone is doing it."

So I laughed and replied, "Yeah, you look really cool right now huddled all together trying not to freeze to death. I'm going inside where it's warm, suckers."

A girl once threatened that I would "get it" after school for refusing to abandon a friend that everyone else thought slept with another girl's boyfriend when I was sure it was slander. (In junior high! No wonder I home school!) I laughed in her face and later that day passed home unmolested. There was no one to carry out the threat. I don't know how I knew so early that the rules of the playground were artificial and didn't matter anywhere else, and so could laugh at them.

I don't know how, and suddenly I wish I did. I want my children to have the same ability to sift through the debris of public opinion and ignore the things that don't matter, to not be swayed by crowds or peers or anything that doesn't ultimately matter. But I'm not sure how to give it to them.

Was it simply genetic? Did the inherent stubbornness of my Irish and Mennonite blood mix together to make me this way? Was it because I was an eldest child? Was there some sort of genius parenting that went on that I don't remember?

My little sister was a self-described chameleon, adapting herself to every situation she was in, gauging her behavior on what would best please those present. She was ever eager to make others happy. At home she played the perfect daughter, at school the fun loving center of things, at parties...well there's a very long story there. She is almost 30 now and is just happily coming into a really solid sense of self and finding the strength that was always there yet not often grasped.

So, what do I do with a girl such as mine, so generous, so concerned with pleasing others and making them happy, so sweet, and so apparently malleable? Though don't let that fool you, there is steel in there when you least expect it. I want her to lose none of these qualities. Yet I worry constantly as she gets older about whether or not she will be strong enough to resist those things I want her to be able to resist. To withstand those who would take advantage of her.

I don't know how to give it to her. I suspect she needs to grow it on her own. But how do I create a childhood for her in which she has the chances she needs to grow that strength. How does one do that?


When tragedy hits close to home

Just over a week ago Chelsea King, a pretty straight A student from an upper middle class family, parked her car and went for a jog in a nearby park. She never came home. One week later her body was discovered in a shallow grave near the water's edge. It appears she was raped and murdered.

About one year ago 14 year old Amber Dubois went missing on her way to high school one morning. Her remains were also discovered this week. Her picture still looks out from every shop window. The trees downtown are still tied with tattered ribbons that beg, "Bring Amber Home."

Public outcry over these two girls has been what you would expect, vocal and warm. Helicopter searches, prayer vigils, networks of people banding together out of care and concern for these girls and their families. People wept when Chelsea's body was found. I know kids who went to school with her, her death has shocked them, as it has shocked many.

I can't imagine the anguish her parents have experienced. It's a pain I never want to know first hand. No one does. The sympathy, the support, the public way this has affected people is exactly what it ought to be over the life of a young girl so abruptly and violently ended. People are angry and sad and shocked that it could happen to someone so close to home.

I don't want to in any way diminish the pain and the response to such an occasion, but I can't help wondering. Would they care so much if she weren't a pretty white girl from an upper middle class family?

The average age of a prostitute in San Diego is 13. Often she is trafficked here from Mexico with the promise of love, or a good job. Or she's just kidnapped. I wonder where the search helicopters and prayer vigils are for them.

Where are the compassionate well intentioned people springing into action on behalf of little girls in Asia, 10 years old or younger, sold as sex slaves and raped repeatedly night after night until they die?

What is it about people that makes it possible to ignore such things until it happens in their own backyard?

Unless something is personal, it's easy to ignore. Unless you can imagine it happening to your own child, friend, sister, neighbor, it doesn't seem real.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think the response to this tragedy is anything other than what it ought to be. This should be how people react. I just think that every girl who is raped and sold and killed should get the same response, the same reaction. They could all be our own daughters, sisters, friends.

There are girls out there who aren't dead yet, who need the rallying force of people who care. Will they get it? Will they be saved? Will enough people care enough to take action? Or will they go back behind their comfortable middle class walls and community gates when the shock wears off and forget, or try to forget, and ignore the fact that this kind of thing happens every day, to girls all over the world and just a few miles away. They may be less photogenic or newsworthy, not straight A students or from the right demographic, but aren't they worth remembering all the same?

Want to do something for a girl, right now?

Here are a few places that work constantly to keep girls safe and out of the sex trade.

The Charis Project-We have homes for at risk orphaned children in Thailand where they can grow up in safety, and never be sold. Children are sold all the time in Thailand.

Compasio-Safe homes for street children in Mae Sot and homes for prison babies.

Hope for the Nations Thailand-Safe houses for unmarried girls who are pregnant. They teach them a trade and give them the skills to raise their babies and be single parents in a culture where it is especially hard.

Love146-Rescue and rehabilitation homes for girls who used to be prostitutes.

International Justice Mission-They work with local law enforcement to run sting operations on brothels and pimps in countries where law enforcement is overwhelmed by the problem of child prostitution.

Not for Sale- More than 80,000 people are trafficked through the US every year.

You can educate people. Most aren't aware that it happens. No it isn't polite conversation, not something people are comfortable talking about over dinner. It should make people uncomfortable. We should never be able to hear such news without squirming and being moved by it. I refuse to believe that most people are cold enough to do nothing once they really know, and know there is something they can do. But how will they understand if no one tells them? Until it becomes your daughter that you imagine in that position, your sister, your niece, your neighbors kid, it's something far away, distant, and unreal. You and I can help to make it personal and relevant, and motivate people to do something and change things. I believe that. I have to.


My Open Door Policy (or how I changed)

Today I had two neighbor kids drop by with their mom so I could cut their hair. (They tried to do it on their own at first you see. It needed some evening out.) So while my kids raced around outside I trimmed hair on the front patio, while keeping an eye on them and the extra children running in and out the front door.

An hour later a toddler pushed her way into the not quite shut tight front door and looked around big eyed, wondering where Little was. Since I had just banished Little to quiet time I shooed her, and the 3 year old with her, back to their moms on the playground nearby.

An hour after that, while I chatted with Aaron on facebook for a few minutes, fielded a phone call, baked cookies, and started dinner, neighbor children and their parents came in and out countless times, the parents to chat, the kids to find more toys to pull out and play with, or to look for a friend, ask for water, and once use the potty. Little chased the Girl screeching all around the playground because she wanted to ride on the back fender of her bike, which was not going to happen, and I got hugs from all sorts of kids not my own.

On any given day that it isn't raining or freezing cold, this is typical. Half the neighborhood is in my house.

May I tell you a secret?

I'm an introvert. I could not have done this 4 years ago.

I'm not shy. I like people, but I really need quiet spaces to be refreshed. People are draining, especially when I am low on reserves.

When we first moved to California, the occasion of Aaron's family dropping in unexpected was cause for near hyperventilation, and perhaps a quick cry while hiding in the bathroom. Granted, there are many of them, and our apartment is less than 1000 square feet. So the presence of 6 extra people of any size all talking was a significantly crowded experience.

But I love them. I didn't want to be inhospitable, especially considering how often they put up with us, so I breathed deep and tried not to freak out. They started to call first and give warning, sensing my freak outs, and it got easier to have them drop by. It got to be enjoyable actually.

Then there is Aaron. Ever the extrovert, his was a doors and windows wide type of approach to life. I wanted it firmly shut, to close everything out. (I'd never lived somewhere warm enough for it to be possible either.) He wanted to let it all in. So I breathed deep, and didn't close us in sometimes, and it got easier. And then we moved to our current location, right next to the playground, where everyone passes to get their mail, go to the pool, play, and barbeque. From our chairs out front we said hi, and met them all. The kids started coming, and parents, and more kids, and kids whose parents I never met and my heart broke for them, and their hunger to go where there was someone home that cared and I opened wide my doors and let them in. I taught them to play piano. I answered their nosy questions. I fed them when their parents still weren't home at dinner time and I walked them home in the dark because they were scared. I grieved to wonder what their homes were like when they stood in the doorway of mine, furnished with cast off furniture often covered in folded laundry with toys strewn across the floor and said, "Wow, your house is really nice."

Then there were the newly single moms figuring out how to make it in a tiny new apartment and needed an ear and a friend. There were the military wives juggling children around the crazy schedules their husbands had and sometimes deployment. Some are still best friends, some I never heard from after they moved away. Some I could lean on, as much as they leaned on me, others only had need, and I gave.

I have stories I haven't told here, of abuse and addiction and people who needed help in the middle of the night and knew that here was safe when they needed some place that was. Others of loneliness and frayed ropes, and people hanging on by clawing fingernails that needed someone to listen.

There was the old man carrying oxygen that smiled and said hello to all the congregated kids every day as he headed to the mailbox who ended up joining us with his wife for dinner one New Years Day. Or the other neighbors we've befriended over the years.

I have tried, countless times, to schedule things with these neighbors of mine. "Come over at 3pm and we'll sit and have tea together while the kids play." It doesn't work like that. Much as I would prefer it that way. I like these things to be planned in advance.

But my door is always open, out of necessity if nothing else, I have to hear my kids as they play. If they come it will be because of the open door and the child leading them, and I'm usually happy to have them drop in like that.

Somewhere along the way I noticed that the aching loneliness I started out with in this place has evaporated. There are too many people to love to have time to feel lonely.

That's what it is that compelled me so far out of my comfort zone by the way, love. As long as I kept my door shut I didn't know these stories, I couldn't see the hurt and the need and the posibilities. But once I knew, how could I not respond? Even thought it made me uncomfortable, and ruined my afternoon schedule.

Once I stopped thinking about myself and my comfort, and looked at the people around me, it got easier to let them in.

In a way this blog is the online version of that. Through the years as I've recorded bits of my real life journey here, I've gradually gained the courage to let you guys further in, to share more of my real self in this space, and to be more vulnerable. I couldn't have done that to begin with either.

There are a lot of people out there that need someone to love them. I suspect that there are probably enough people around to fill that need. I think that even more often, that person is you, and me. If we could just see past our own fear and discomfort long enough to notice, what would change? Maybe a lot of things, but most surprisingly, ourselves.
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