Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Blessing of a Girl

We just learned that our next grandchild, our second grandchild, is going to be a girl.   Now, that shouldn’t be an earth shattering surprise because there was literally a 50/50 chance that we could have a girl.  BUT!  We Monroes are known for our boys.  We have four sons and one grandson.  A girl seemed a bit of a stretch.  The discovery and the celebration were enormous and wonderful.  Daniel and Erin, our son and daughter-in-law, came over with a box of adorable cupcakes decorated with Pink and Blue question marks.  We all made our guesses by picking the color we thought would be correct.  Mark and I both picked blue.  That was only natural.  Isaac, our youngest son, picked pink.  I honestly didn’t think we could have a girl.

Then we all bit into the cupcakes.  A creamy pink center was revealed and pandemonium broke out.  We laughed, I cried, we hugged, I exclaimed disbelief.  We looked at the revealing sonogram pictures.  It was glorious.  A BABY GIRL.  Could there anything more wonderful to anticipate, dream about and plan for?
Pink frothy dresses, those head band things that make your baby look like her brain is being abnormally squeezed, ruffled socks, Hello Kitty Pajamas, the list is endless.

We could NOT be more excited or feel more blessed.  A girl.  We’re getting a girl.  Her name is Brooklyn Grace.  She will be welcomed by people who will love and adore her, her whole life long.

Then, less than an hour after the momentous announcement, I went to a meeting at my church where a Jordanian woman, Randa Khlaif, was to speak about her ministry to abused and broken women.

It was a devastating hour and a half reality check.  Randa told story after story, shared fact after fact about the life for women who live in the Muslim world of North Africa and the Middle East: How the Koran teaches that women have just ½ the brain of men.  How women have literally no value or worth.  How they have no hope.  Women are routinely beaten daily for every possible reason: The power goes out – it’s her fault and she is beaten, if the rice is dry or the coffee cold, she is beaten. The women are raped by their fathers, their siblings, their husbands and even their own sons.  If a woman or young girl becomes pregnant by these rapes she is either thrown into jail or killed by her family.  If she is thrown into jail, the minute the child is delivered, it is taken to an orphanage and the girl is returned to her family for the nightmare to begin again.  The babies are placed in orphanages where they are kept until they die.  Adoption is against the law. Randa said there are 10’s of 1,000’s of unwanted babies wasting away with no hope of every being with a loving family.

One story that I cannot get out of my head is about a young wife and mother of 2 two darling little girls.  This woman’s husband converted from Islam to Christianity.  Less than 1% of Jordanians are evangelical Christians because it is against the law.  This woman’s family was so angry that they demanded that she divorce her husband and come back to them.  She refused.  Her father kidnapped her and her daughters and threatened to kill her husband.

Then this father...  This father took his daughter, sliced her throat with a knife, chopped her up into small pieces and left her body lying in his doorway so that people had to step over her to come into his house.  The husband fled to another country but he is still trying to get his children back.  Randa had to pause many times as her tears got the better of her.

She said that now, because of the war in Syria, 1,000’s and 1,000s of Syrian women and children have crossed into Jordan and Randa’s group are trying to help them too.  Randa said that many of them have only the clothes on their backs – they left homes and husbands.  Even with all the loss, even with having NOTHING, they say that life is better for them because they are not being beaten and raped.

This is the life of millions and millions of women and girls. 

My heart broke over the truth of such evilness. 

I think about Brooklyn Grace and I am overwhelmed with the thankfulness that I was born here, in America, where girls are loved and valued.

And I am overwhelmed with the pathetic helplessness of not knowing what to do for those women.  Randa Khlaif asked us to pray. “Who will pray for Fatima”? She asked.  A woman raised her hand and said, “I will”.  “Good”, Randa replied.  “There are well over a million women named Fatima in the region.  Pray for Fatima and you are praying for a million women and one day when you meet a woman named Fatima, you can tell her you have been praying for HER.  Who will pray for Hanan or Shaida or….?”

If you have a daughter or granddaughter, love her especially well.  Do not forget that purely by God’s grace, she was born HERE.  And pray for the women who were not so fortunate.  Who need hope and help and love and compassion.  Those are gifts God bestows freely but they need to hear about this love.  So share and help and support people like Randa Khlaif and her husband, Kamal. This link will enable you to give to them directly through their sponsor, Campus Crusade for Christ:

I cannot wait until December when Brooklyn Grace will make her appearance. I will snuggle her sweet pinkness, kiss her toes and head, sing soft lullabies to her and never forget that she is a gift beyond all measure.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It's Tough Being the Dad

My 87 year old dad called me this morning.  He wanted to chat.  Just catch up.  We hadn't chatted in about 24 hours and he had stuff to talk about.    He had read my 2 most recent blogs and he wanted to talk about them and other things. We talked for about 20 minutes.  He asked good questions, pondered what I said, offered his opinion and a bit of advice. And although my day isn't over and its been pretty good so far, I can guarantee those were the best 20 minutes of my day.

It was after that conversation that I started thinking about my dad in days gone by. There was a common refrain around my house when I was a teenager that came from my dad. He would sigh.  We would wait for it. Then here came the refrain: "It's tough being the dad."

Maybe I needed the car or some cash. Maybe my brother backed the car into a lamppost and knocked it over. Maybe he would be the punchline of a joke we all thought was hilarious.  Honestly, it could be a whole host of things.  Usually it was anything that caused Dad to be backed into a proverbial corner. A lot of times  it was when my dad was the very last person to find out about something. Then, once the facts of whatever the issue or problem were uncovered and sorted out to the best of his ability, my dad would look at my brother, mother and I and say it again (with appropriate sigh), "Its tough being the dad."

 He wasn't mad. My dad rarely got mad at Andy and me (well, he was kind of mad over the knocked over lamp post incident).  I think he just wanted us to know he was a real person who had real feelings - not an ATM machine (although there weren't any ATM machines yet) or a valet who simply doled out the car keys to us at will.

 Yep, Old Bob Jones is a great dad. I think every other man in their 80's is named "Bob". My father-in-law is Bob and my sister-in-law's dad was Bob, my daughter-in-law's dad is Bob (although he is not in his 80's). When my son, Andrew, was a little boy, he thought that once you became a Grandpa your name was automatically changed to "Bob".  Really. But I digress.

There are so many things about my dad that I think are worthy of comment.  When I was a kid we ALWAYS  had breakfast together as a whole family.  The four of us sitting around the table just like we would 11 hours later for dinner.  OJ, Coco Puffs or Cheerios and toast one day; grape juice, a "penny" egg* and toast the next (*A hardboiled egg put through an egg slicer, then laid out like golden coins on my plate).  After we were finished eating we would sit while my dad read from the Bible and the little 5 minute devotional, Our Daily Bread.  We never left the table without it.

On Saturday mornings my dad made raisin pancakes for all of us before he left to go golfing with his buddies.

On Saturday afternoons (after golf) he would make sourdough bread by hand using the yeast starter we had growing in our refrigerator.   My mom would use that bread to make our lunches every day at school.  I LONGED for white Wonder bread like all my girlfriends.  I was an idiot.  And how many of you had dads who made bread, by hand, every week?

My dad would challenge my brother to running races and there they would go across the yard. I don't remember the first time Andy actually beat my dad but I bet it was high school or later.  My dad was fast.

My dad has a crazy sense of humor and likes to wear silly hats whenever it's called for.  He is such a good sport.

When I was a senior in high school I wasn't asked to the Prom.  That night, when all my friends were dressing up, receiving nervous boys at the door with corsages and heading out to what I knew absolutely would be the best night of their lives, my dad came to me and invited me to go on a "date"with him.  He took me to Bob's Big Boy for dinner and then we went to see the Vaudeville Show at the Birdcage Theater at Knott's Berry Farm.  In those days, Knott's wasn't enclosed and you could wander around to your heart's content.  The tickets to the theater were probably all of 50 cents.  It was an unforgettable night for me:  much better than any prom (and less expensive too).

Dad has walked through my many trials and triumphs with me. He adores all his grandchildren (6!) and his great-grandchildren (4!).  He is passionately interested in the lives of my boys and asks about each one in great detail.  When I have an seemingly insurmountable problem or challenge, he lets me blather on about it forever then he will respond. Sometimes with sage advice or practical solutions, sometimes with just a listening ear but always with prayer.  I know my dad and my mom have prayed for me and my family every single day of my life.

My dad and mom moved to Corona in the spring of 2010 after living outside of California for over 30 years.  They are just five miles down the road, which I love. My dad's health has been a terrible challenge for him and my mom these past 2 years.  Too many trips to the hospital.  Too many sleepless nights due to a chronic and mysterious cough.  He's a trooper and a feisty old bird but every once in a while he looks at me and says, "Getting old stinks"  Yes, it does. 

Like many, many millions before me, I wish, back when I was teenager,I had had the perspective I have now about the incredible value my dad brings to my life . 

Thanks, Dad, for sticking with us.  Even when it was tough being the dad.  I love you.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

May I Grant You My Friendship?

 I have been a part of casting dozens of shows at  CAT, my theater company. And most everyone who has auditioned for me knows what I say when you don't get cast in the show or don't get the part you were hoping for (Say it with me): "There's always another show".  Hope springs eternal at CAT because there really is always another show to set your sights on should things not go as you had hoped in the current one.

That leads to me an almost entirely different subject but I  promise the segue will almost work if I can explain myself. I must be honest, I've started off badly but here goes.

Ever since I was a young girl I have wanted to visit England.  I love the geography - such a beautiful place from the beaches to the forests.  I love the  history - all bashing and bloody and awful while trying to be proper: There's just something comically genius about that. I love the architecture: Those castles and estates...oh my! I love the literature: Dickens, Austen, Lewis, Bronte X 3, Hardy, Tolkien... oh for goodness sakes, Shakespeare.  The mystery and whimsy, the hominess and quaintness.  I am enamored. Always been.

And, in thinking about actually ever going, I find myself wistfully dismissing the idea of going as a mere tourist.  Standing next to the guard at Buckingham Palace, walking through the tourist stalls of Piccadilly Square, taking pictures of Big Ben, constantly consulting the AAA Tourist's Guide to London. No, in my dreams (and since it's my dream, I can imagine it anyway I want), I am experiencing England with the English - outside of the hustle and bustle of London.  I'm in York or Bath or Sussex in a village pub or tea room.  Such a great imaginary trip.

Now picture with me my incredible surprise when I discover that the international service organization of which I am a member, Soroptimist International, has a group of clubs in Southern England and they are sponsoring a "Friendship Grant" to come visit their 13 clubs over a 2 week period this June.  I saw it as a personal invitation to ME.  Oh sure, it was open to anyone around the globe to apply but I knew (and I thought GOD knew) that this was a grant meant for me alone.  This was my dream trip.  More than that.  This was my destiny.

I worked on my grant like it meant life or death.  With unbelievable care and attention, I answered each question.  I was detailed.  I was amusing.  I was thoroughly engaging.  I added illustrations.  I had delightful anecdotes.  I was eloquent. It was, in short, The Masterpiece of Grants.

Since I've been out of the country .. like never.... I rushed out and got my passport.  Boy, that made it seem real.  I am going to England in June.

After re-reading my grant what seemed like 6,000 times, I was absolutely convinced I could not improve on it one iota.  Every word was perfect.  I emailed it to the proper recipient.  Rita.  I sent it to Rita in proper PDF format.  That was September 17, 2012.

Other than my immediate family and 4 very close friends, I didn't tell anyone about it.  It was my delicious secret.  I wanted my award to be a surprise. Close of applications for the grant was December 18.  I practically marked off on my office wall, like some soon to be paroled convict, the days until December 18th.

In the meantime, what a glorious time I had planning my trip.  Searching for stylish but comfortable walking shoes. Arranging to make an incredible video about our Soroptimist International of Corona Club (I'm the president this year) to share with the ladies in England.  Thinking about losing 30 pounds (let's not get crazy - I was just thinking about it). 

December 18th arrived and I didn't hear anything.  "Ooohhh", I said, " December 18th was the close of applications - not the Announcement of Winner Day".  There was no posted "Announcement of Winner" day but I calculated that, with it being Christmas and all, there would probably not be anything said until after the holidays.

Ughhhh.  More waiting,  Waiting is hard.  Its hard on kids waiting for Christmas to come.  Its hard waiting for a baby to decide to be born.  Waiting is just plain hard.  Waiting to hear those 8 magic words: "You are the winner of the Friendship Grant" was agony. I thought my head was going to explode with the waiting. So I broke my own cardinal rule of waiting and wrote to Rita on January 6th and asked if the decision for the grant recipient was still pending.  I wanted to say, "Come on, Rita, you know I'm your girl. Please put me out of my misery and tell me I'm the winner". I was much more cagey, more illusive.  I'm sure she saw right through me

When I saw the very next day that she had written me back, I couldn't bear to open the email.  I was both ecstatic and scared to death.  I didn't want to read that they had already picked someone named Sally "Most Fantastic Applicant in the History of Friendship Grants" Anderson of Nashville, TN or Greta " I can embroider 'God save the Queen' on the head of a pin" Svenson of Stockholm, Sweden. I wanted her to say, "Why Yes, Cyndi Monroe of Corona, CA, we have Chosen YOU!" Eventually my curiosity won out and I opened the email.  It read, "No, we have not chosen the winner.  We, the governors,  are meeting January 19th and on January 20th I will email  the applicants to let them know".

I exhaled enough to fill a large hot air balloon.  2 more weeks, though.  More agonizing waiting but at least I had a defined end date.  January 19th arrived.  I was feverish with excitement.  This was it.  I practically checked my email 100 times during the day.  Even though Rita said she would email the applicants on the 20th, I knew that there's a significant time difference.  On the 20th I got up and checked my email at 2:00 AM, 4:00 AM, 7:00 AM and then throughout the rest of the day.  Nothing.

It's a week later. I have checked my emails 10,000 times.  I never heard a word.  I did not receive the grant. I am not going to England in June (I am writing this down for my benefit not yours, dear Reader).  How could they not want me?  I'm so nice when you get to know me.  I was the exact right person for this adventure.  I know I was.  Except I wasn't.  I don't know why.

I am not mad.  I was never promised anything except the opportunity to apply.  Rita is probably the nicest woman on the planet and those English ladies knew better than me who would be right for their needs.  Dang! (I wanted very badly to use a different word here).

Which brings me back full circle to my opening paragraph.

See, this is how kids feel when they don't get cast in a show (although I want to magnify that emotion about 1,000%).  They feel like we didn't want them.  They feel like we don't want to be their friend.  Its not true.  They just weren't right for this show. I wasn't right for this Friendship Grant.  All the whining and wishing in the world won't change that.

So what have I learned from this whole lesson:
1. Life isn't fair
2. You already knew that
3. Get over it
4. Plan a new adventure and work just as hard to achieve it as you did writing this grant
5.  God absolutely has something better planned for you.

You know what else I always tell the kids and their parents if they don't make it in a show?  I tell them to go out for ice cream.  They will forget all about their disappointment.  What great advice.  I'm grabbin' my keys and heading for Farrell's. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Alternate Universe

It feels like I have been away a long, long time. It feels like that because it is true.  I haven't stopped writing.  I have done an amazing amount of writing actually.

I stopped writing my blog because it was too hard to be consistently honest.  Or maybe a better way of saying it is that I worried all the time about offending someone, everyone.  I have these very strongly held opinions.  Sometimes I have a tendency to express them without wrapping them in grace first.  I am a mess without grace.  I can look into a mirror and hate what I see.  And yes, I have a persona that I think I have to maintain all the time...except when I am standing in front of said mirror.  But my resolution this year was to try and glorify God every single day.  In my life, in my words, in my actions. Be intentional.  Its January 24th and I am finding my way.

So here I go.  Wading in to the controversy of the day.  The controversy of the last 40 years.  Watching America become this unrecognizable place and yet we shrug our shoulders (for the most part) and say "Live and Let Live" and yet, isn't that the whole point? We don't "Let Live" in America.  It amazes me what we can't  do in America.  How we've allowed ourselves to be backed into a corner in so many areas.  For example, I can't by a soda over 16 oz. in New York City.  That's not a decision I can make any longer. I am apparently incapable of controlling myself when it comes to soda purchases. But guess what?  I can kill my baby if I want.

 I can't buy decent light bulbs that actually light my rooms anymore. You know, the incandescent ones that actually turn right on and flood a room with a natural warmth.  But I can kill my baby.  In San Fransicsco I can't get plastic bags to carry my groceries but I can kill my baby.  In Concord, Mass I will be fined $50 for buying/using a personal water bottle like my Crystal Geyser or Arrowhead water.  Personal water bottles are BANNED, Baby!  But, speaking of Baby.  I can still kill mine if I want.  I cannot say a prayer in school or place a memorial cross on a hill top but I can kill my baby.

I have to get a license to hunt and kill a deer in most states.  But just one and no does - just the bucks.  But I can kill as many of my babies as I want. Really.  There is NO LIMIT on how many babies of mine I can kill.  I read about a girl in New York who had killed 13 of her own babies.  I bet that's not even close to the record.

It feels like I am writing a Twilight Zone script  except its true.  40 years of Roe V Wade has produced the death of over 55 million American children.  We as a nation wept for those 20 darling children in Newtown, Connecticut. The horror of that day: Seeing innocent children murdered through absolutely no fault of their own.  20 precious lives. Lives cut short before they blossomed into the fully grown people they were meant to be. Where, then, is the anger, horror, anguish and sorrow over the 55 million children who were and still are being killed through no fault of their own?

55 million.  If you killed every single person alive today in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Ohio combined you'd have about 55 million deaths. Unfathomable.  Imagine who we've lost.  The next great minds of science and medicine.  The next extrordinary painters and writers. The athletes and muscians.  The  parents and grandparents of our future generations. Extraordinary, really.

And there is no main stream outcry.  In an editorial published today in Salon Magazine, "So What if Abortion Ends Life?" by a woman named Mary Elizabeth Williams, she is honest enough to state that she knows (believes) life begins at conception but doesn't care. She wants women to still "be the boss" (and states the unbelievable statistic that ONE in THREE American women will, in their life time, have an abortion. One in Three???).  She writes that an aborted fetus is "a life worth sacrificing" if the mother finds that child inconvenient or what ever other reasons a woman has for aborting her child.

I hate to think how we will be judged by the Giver of all life.  Now this is the part about the goodness of grace.  The part that reminds me and everyone else that God has lavished us with love and grace.  We can literally swim in that unending grace.  We are loved and forgiven through the blood of our Savior Jesus Christ.  I do not know any of my friends who had an abortion at some point in their life who are not welcome to lathered on grace. I don't, I can't judge anyone who made that decision.  I am in need of grace as any human. I am truly a mess.  I have done awful things.  I have thought about doing even worse. I am redeemed through that grace.  So this is not about pointing fingers to the past.  This is about standing up and helping those who are at risk for the future.  This is about seeking an alternative universe where men and women take responsibility for their choices and first do no harm.  A better way of using Ms Williams own words, "Saving the life of a child is worth the sacrifice".