Thursday, February 13, 2020

It Can't Be About Us



I’m sure other people have written about this eloquently.


That is not what will happen here.


Today, I bring you another way to write about it. 

sans eloquence 

Over the last decade and a few spare years I watched and learned a lot in Haiti. I saw red-flags frequently.  I cannot speak to every red flag in every area in a single post. I can speak to just one today.  

There is a problem.  
It is not a small one.

In missions, non-profit, and humanitarian work there is a large issue with people that need to be needed.  

When they arrive to begin helping they maybe don’t consciously realize it but over time the payoff they get from being the provider/giver/helper or the 'patwon',  as we are often called in Haiti, begins to corrupt their pure motives.

At times I noticed myself sliding toward what I did not want to become. It was never overt, maybe just be a flashing thought. Maybe an icky little feeling or subconscious belief like, "I'm needed for this - or it won't / cannot happen." Usually I would catch it and talk to my head about the nonsense and danger of that narrative. 

Many working in this development/missions/aid arena feel and come to act as if they are the only ones that can solve the problems that exist in whichever land/city/village they’ve determined needs/wants their help — and their identity is wrapped up in being needed.  

Time passes, they don’t see clearly how they are beginning to self-identify only as the “helper”, “fixer”, “provider”, or, dare I say, “savior”.

When these workers that come to help others get a high from being needed they end up actually not really ever thinking of a way to work themselves out of a job because their own needs are being met by being NEEDED.  Eventually the “aide-workers” need the “poor” to need them  - or they won’t be okay. They enter into things that they shouldn't and hand out help wrecklessly and without enough examination and introspection.

They often fail at trying to go do something else in another line of work because they have become addicted to the glory or the payoff they felt being the one to provide a service or a thing for the downtrodden. They have trouble stepping down or handing over the reigns for the same reason.

This is why there are not succession plans in place and why founders of organizations get old and senile and then often die and let their organizations die with them — they couldn’t plan a future because it is really not about the people it is about them and their need to provide and control it -- they often lose all vision for a future that does not include themselves.  

Every organization should be thinking about what happens next and working to assure that the work is not about any one person or leader. 

Here is the thing. I knew I was capable of getting this way. My personality flaws include wanting to be a helper and feeling lost if nobody needs me. I hate that about me - it is an actual flaw in me that needs continual work. When I am in my right mind and thinking from a place of objectivity and health, I want NOTHING MORE than to get out before my identity is so singularly defined as to believe Haiti or Heartline needs me.  That is false. They do not.  

Haiti needs things, but it is not me.  I can both care about the place and also remove myself and act supportively to advocate and encourage the work to contiue without me. 

It can't be about us. 



PLEASE SEE: www.TheStartingPlace.com for information about the class and manual that share the model  - we ask and encouarge others to please copy what works - save yourself some heartache and a whole ton of mistakes and begin working in Maternal HealthCare with a bunch of the common pitfalls crossed off your list. That is what the point of the class and the manual is. All proceeds from the class go back into the Heartline Maternity Center, paying for supplies, salaries, and programs we offer. 

Monday, February 03, 2020

State of the Union Address

When we made the decision to have the kids and I leave Haiti earlier than our June 2020 plan, I was a little bit pissy.  I didn't want to go - like at all.

I did the single Mom thing for six years back in the 90's and didn't much enjoy it.

The seven months we need to live in different countries (in order to do a good job and see the transition plans out)  is at the half way point TODAY.

Last week during a poorly attended yet still so amazing 2am pity party, that I threw for me, myself, and I --  I figured out the exact halfway point between the date I left Haiti and the date Troy will move to Temple, TX. -- that date is TODAY.  

This is the half way report.

Marriage is easier and better when you live in the same house.  If living apart is better, maybe that means your marriage is something different than what we are going for at this point.

We have struggled a bit and fought and had some tension over things.  This has not been an easy or fun time for either of us. I would say the challenges of living apart have been all totally normal and I guess it just means we are regular, just like all married people.

Sometimes I make up stories about why Troy didn't try to call me.  Sometimes I go so far as to believe my stories have merit.  Sometimes I'm less kind to Troy because of a false story I told me.

Once in a while Troy forgets that I feel (and then after feeling, actually AM) overwhelmed with the load I'm carrying and he asks me to do something dumb.  One day he wanted me to call the credit card company about some bogus $5 charge.  I assured him my time was far more valuable than the five bucks and to just let it go - c'est la vie - You lose some you lose some.

So.  He called the credit card company.  Now we understand who makes calls like that and the division of labor is back in order.

Here is to hoping the next three point five months will fly by and we will live in the same house and deal with this mob of children and making stupid phone calls and facing dumb government offices (I'm looking at YOU DMV of TX) as a unified front.



* * * * * *


Isaac -  Got a job at Subway as a sandwich artist. Is working way too late at night for my liking.  Is practicing driving and getting sort of safe at it. He is finishing his high school requirements with Stef (teacher of the last three years and the amazing person that came to TX to help them finish out their Senior year) and will graduate in late May.

Hope - Got the holiday job at Target then was offered a permanent position at Target. Is also working on finishing out 12th grade and the classes she still needs.  May 24 we shall place them in caps and gowns and make them give us a speech. She is driving and getting some behind the wheel time. We have not gotten on the freeway yet, but soon.

Noah - Is finishing his 10th Grade curriculum with James Madison University and their on-line High School curriculum.  As of this moment, he plans to go to Temple High School next fall for 11th grade.  He will be 16 years old in March and I would like him to drive by April or May if the good Lord allows me the patience and wherewithal to take time to get enough hours with three drivers at once.  He spends his life finding ways to score Chipotle burritos, it's encouraging to see he has some drive/passion - at least -if not only- in the area of procuring burritos.

Phoebe - Is very much just eye-rolling the average middle-school kid.  She thinks they are a bit disrespectful and ridiculous but she seems energized by public school and is totally rolling with it. The other day her Social Studies teacher called me to tell me how delightful she is.

Lydia -  After day one she was sure she had met some amazing people.  On day two she called me from the counselors office telling me (with tears) that she was for sure a terrible judge of character and all the friends she chose on day one were really mean kids.  We talked her into allowing herslef some time to figure out who might be her friends and now that she is two weeks into this Middle School thing she seems to think maybe she found her people.  She is in a play at the Temple Civic Theatre right now and her love of the stage is apparent.

Four of the five are talking to a counselor about all the ways we jacked them up by taking them to Haiti AND all the ways we saved them by taking them to Haiti.

Three cheers for keeping therapists in business.
We are doing our part.


This ends the 2020 State of the Union address. 

Sunday, February 02, 2020

A Look Back: 2019, Heartline Maternity Center - What Do You See?

Thank you for stopping here!

We first began keeping statistics at The Heartline Maternity Center about three years after we added labor and delivery services. The first baby born at Heartline was born in September of 2009. By 2012 some statistics were being tracked.  

In 2016 the stat-keeping and tracking got a lot better when we switched most of the record-keeping over to a digital system.  

Any organization asking you for financial help should be able to tell you how they use the money. Beyond that, they should be able to somewhat objectively identify where there is room for improvement and where they have experienced success.  

When we stepped into the leadership roles at Heartline Ministries, Troy and I both felt (and still feel) strongly that honesty and transparency are incredibly importantAlso important to us is valuing the staff and those we work with above ourselves and using integrity in our decision making. We don't want to hide the hard parts of working in a country like Haiti. We also try not to be cynical or lose hope when things are hard and we experience several setbacks.  

It's a rough balance to strike, I don't know how well we do - but I can assure you we are trying.  

2019 was a year of restructuring after 2018 brought staffing changes. We worked on changing the culture of the ministry with clearer communication and several weeks of leadership training for key staff members. The goal for the next phase of transition (with us not living full time in Haiti any longer) is for us to get out of their way and allow them to grow and lead. 

Today we are reporting specifically on the Maternity Center in 2019. This entry does not include information about everything Heartline attempted and/or accomplished in 2019. Much is missing regarding the Education Center, the Outreach and Community Service efforts, the Bakery, and plans for future growth.



The Gates of Hope -
“Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope
Not the prudent gates of Optimisim,
Which are somewhat narrower.
Not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;
Nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness,
Which creak on shrill and angry hinges
(People cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through)
Nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of 
“Everything is gonna be all right.”

But a different sometimes lonely place,
The place of truth-telling,
About your own soul first of all and its condition.
The place of resistance and defiance,
The piece of ground from which you see the world
Both as it is an as it could be
As it will be;
The place from which you glimpse not only struggle,
But the joy of the struggle.
And we stand there, beckoning and calling,
Telling people what we are seeing,
Asking people what they see.”


-Victoria Safford 


Back at the year-end stats report we wrote in 2012, we said this:

We do not place an abundance of importance on statistics. 

If statistics are the forest, we are always aware of each individual tree. As a team, we are too involved in relationships to worry a lot about the numbers. 

Working with the women we quickly learn that one healthy pregnancy carried to term, one victorious labor and delivery, one healthy single baby born to one mother that overcame immeasurable obstacles is what truly matters. The young woman courageously delivering her healthy baby far outweighs the preponderance of any statistic.

At the Maternity Center each woman is known by name. Statistics never know a name. Without a doubt a community has developed.  It is safe to say that staff, midwives, and pregnant women alike all look forward to program days.

Having said that - we recognize that those that give to keep this program operating and pray continually for these women and for the staff might like to see how the numbers look.

Even as our numbers climbed from 80 babies a year up to 120, we made sure to hold onto the goal of relationships between practitioners and clients - BUT - I have changed my tune a bit too. We want to prove that this model works and therefore the outcomes (the stats) matter as well. 

Now to the point of this entry, here is the truth about 2019:  We had a hard year. 

The political climate meant a lot of danger for women and even more stress on their bodies and minds than usual. We had a higher premature birth rate, more IUFDs, and more transports to a hospital. Everyone in Haiti had a difficult year as the cost to feed your family is rising and that is one of the smaller challenges.


In 2019 there were 121 babies born: 
(this number does not include the miscarriages)

61 boys
60 girls

We had 37 transports (higher than usual - see below)
78 babies born in house
6 babies born at home (prevented by unrest from getting to us)


45% of moms were first-time moms 

We had 3 IUFDs- one at term and two preterm 

We had four preterm births: two PPROM- one at 24 weeks and another at 26 weeks (both babies died in hospital shortly after birth. 

One born at 35 weeks-required CPAP for 48hrs (with us)

One born at 29.5 weeks- baby died in hospital shortly after birth. 

We had several first trimester miscarriages.

We had two late term miscarriages at 20 weeks. Both moms delivered with us and held their babies. 

We had a 10% preeclampsia rate

We had a 30% transport rate (19% cesarean - also higher than past years) 
When women are transfered to a hospital, they return to us to be cared for at Heartline until they feel healed and ready to go home. The postpartum stay is determined by the woman's need and is a flexible number of nights.

We had a 3% hemorrhage rate 

1,460+ private prenatal visits took place.

Each new mother was offered three postpartum consultations between one and six weeks postpartum.

Each woman was informed and educated about three free birth control options available to her through Heartline Maternity Center.

We take thousands of photos each year, choosing which ones to post is impossible, but here are a few of the women that delivered in 2019 ...






















Submitted to you today with love and gratitude from,
"The place of resistance and defiance,
The piece of ground from which we see the world
Both as it is an as it could be
As it will be;
The place from which we glimpse not only struggle,
But the joy of the struggle.
And we stand there, beckoning and calling,
Telling people what we are seeing,
Asking people what they see.”


Thursday, December 19, 2019

12 Days of Christmas : Years Ten Eleven Twelve (THE END)

The goal of this family tradition was two-fold.  

ONE - for memories of our kids as they grew up in Haiti. All parents know this all speeds by so quickly. 

TWO - to spread joy and maybe make you smile. We hope it brought you at least one laugh.

We are INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL to each and every one of you that have supported or prayed for the work of Heartline Ministries in Haiti and the staff and participants and clients.  It is always humbling to meet people that say, "Hey, I've been praying for a Mom you shared about. Can you tell me how she is doing now?"  

THANK YOU for caring about the beautiful people of Haiti, especially Moms in the most vulnerable time of their lives, awaiting a new baby. 

The embed option on Blogger doesn't always work. For the last three videos I included the YouTube link in case the embedded video does not appear for you.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL & PRAYERS FOR YOU AS YOU CLOSE OUT THE YEAR THAT WAS A BIT OF A BUTT KICKER.  GOODBYE 2019.  


Year TEN: LINK - https://youtu.be/XPEetDNqcpE

Filmed at Heartline Maternity Center -- HOPE as MARY - Baby Jesus played by newly delivered baby Jamesly ... We just saw him a month or two ago and he's walking and smiling and doing great.

br />




Year ELEVEN:  LINK - https://youtu.be/8i0IhGHt7EE

br />






Year TWELVE - GRAND FINALE - LINK - https://youtu.be/LGn11w6My2U


Sunday, December 15, 2019

12 Days of Christmas - Year Seven





In 2013, Paige moved to Waco Texas and I finished Midwifery studies.  Because we wanted to help Paige transition AND I had to do a bunch of stuff for my studies that I could not accomplish in Haiti, we lived in the USA from mid August until December to get my required clinical experience in USA.

We went for a week to our friend Melissa's (well, her Dad's) cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains for one week.  We had just bought the puppy (now an asshole - old dog).  So, Chestnut was like fourish weeks old. He wasn't supposed to be away from his Mom but she had a Meth problem and couldn't feed him so we bottle fed him and got him at four weeks of age.

ALL THAT TO SAY --- this was the year we were in TN to film.  We used Melissa's place to film the entire thing.  I had the idea that Jesus and Santa would battle.  OBVIOUSLY, Isaac was the only one that could play Jesus.  He's the nicest person in our family.

Hope you enjoy it!


Tara 

Saturday, December 14, 2019

12 Days of Christmas - Year Six




This is all at the soccer field in the neighborhood we lived in from August 2008 until now. Troy wrote the extra verse for the song. This is from Christmas 2012 - the last Christmas we had Paige in Haiti with us before she moved out in mid 2013. 

Friday, December 13, 2019

12 Days of Christmas - Year Five




Troy wrote the new Christmas message lyrics to this well known song - this year was many laughs and not much rhythm.  Filmed in streets of Port au Prince, at Heartline Education Center and at our house in Haiti.

(5 of 12)

Thursday, December 12, 2019

12 Days of Christmas - Year Four






The Earthquake of January 2010 was a painful time. So many lost so much. We were incredibly lucky to leave Haiti with our entire family alive. We had to live in Texas for 9 months that year because Phoebe was not legally our child yet and her adoption paperwork was all under rubble in an office building that had collapsed. This meant we started her adoption over in the USA. We even had a homestudy done in a house that Columbus Avenue Baptist Church (Waco) was letting us use. The nine months turned out to be important to us. Troy and I got lots of help for some trouble we where having from a horrible thing that happened in 2008 and also got help from the earthquake trauma. Phoebe's adoption was completed in November of 2010. We spent the month of December 2010 preparing to go home to Haiti and left for Haiti on January 1, 2011. 
ALL THIS TO SAY -- the Christmas play was filmed in WACO, TX in 2010. Britt and Chris were newlyweds living nearby and going to school in Waco. Paige had a bad attitude about the play again this year but participated none the less.  I will post year five tomorrow! 

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Dedicated to the Sexy People & The Baptist Lady

Several years back, too many to count, we spoke about Haiti and other stuff at a tiny little Baptist church in the middle of vast fields of wide open space in the middle-east portion of the sprawling state of Texas. 

On that day, I did what I often do, I said more than people are comfortable with - maybe especially because we were in a tiny little Baptist church. I don't actually remember what I said. I only remember what happened afterward.

At the end of the service when we were doing the stand around and be polite / do chit-chat thing, an older lady came to see me.  She was older in the sense of actual age. Not just older than me. I would estimate her age on that day to be 84.  She put her right hand on my wrist, squeezed and said, "Oh my Dear, thank you for visiting. We don't talk about those things in church."

I initially thought that was meant as an admonishment. Sort of a, "I can't believe you said that in the house of the Lord." Now I don't know for sure. All these years later I have decided that maybe she meant it as a kindness. You know more of a, "you Go, girl" kind of statement.

I think it is weird that so many topics are off limits with certain crowds.  My rebellion against that has been to freely talk about things most people find awkward.  It probably helps a great deal that I am a midwife and because I deal in poop, puke, fluids of all colors and aromas, nothing seems off limits for discussion to me.

Here's the thing about real stuff ... Real life is messy and unplanned. It is often disappointing or dull. It is not curated and lovely and linear. It it not always a perfect event like Internet "influencers" and advertisers wish us to believe. 

Why do we still pretend otherwise? I honestly do.not.get.it.

Real life is an overflowing toilet, an unresolved medical bill dispute, and kids with hormones and emotions ruining your hopes for order or family unity.

I recently learned about the newest hyped up event in our American culture. Because of movies and television and curated social media, kids are now making up prom proposals as if life is some sort of fairy tale. It seems that just saying, "Hey would you be my prom date" is a thing of the late 90s or early 2000s. 

If my son wants to invite a girl to prom and get the date, he is going to need to compete. I'm going to have to help him get his pilot's license, rent a skywriter airplane, and compose a sonnet in the sky. Sadly, the other guy that is asking the same girl already hired Pavarotti to sing an operatic prom invitation posthumously.  

Sorry, Noah. Your skywriter is lame-sauce. 


This is the over the top stupid way of our world now. 

Everything fancier, bigger, more expensive. 

It makes my old-lady bones rage.

Who can live up to these expectations of grandiose gestures?  

I will tell you what, youngsters ... Real life won't allow this nonsense for long!!

Thanks in part to ridiculous prom invitations and all of the unrealistic romance and sex on television and in movies, kids these days all think ahead about the wonder of being madly in love and how amazing the physical attraction and unhindered romantic gestures must be. 

For certain, two people that love each other a lot must be living the best life ever with only really great movie-like love scenes and trips to Venice or Paris happening on the regular. 

Because I am curmudgeonly, I would like to dispel some myths this afternoon.

We had not seen each other in a few weeks.  The 20+-years married attraction is still quite strong for us, but life, it gets in the way.  We were tired and our bodies ached from the busy day we had both had. We fell into bed and I said, "Rain-check for middle of the night or tomorrow morning sound okay?" 
(This is actual sexy-talk.)  

He looked deep into my eyes and said, "Heck yes, babe. Goodnight!"

A very short time later I sort of woke up. Disoriented, I wondered why there was tapping on my shoulder?? Does he think *this* is already the middle of the night or morning?!?!? GOD HELP HIM.  

Once I realized the tapping was a smaller person, the words I heard helped me snap to. It was not my dear husband with a rain-check in hand. It was a little girl saying, "I puked all over my bed."

I hopped up. I saw the massive destruction. I went to kitchen for a spatula. I stripped sheets and took them to the bathroom. I used said spatula to remove scoops of food off of bedsheets and place into toilet. I started the first load of stench laundry. I put new sheets on the child's bed. I washed my hands, face, arms with soap. Pieces of fried rice came off of me. I came back to bed with the man I love and had not seen in two weeks.

We laid there, staring at the ceiling.  

I finally said it.  

"We're awake now. Wanna go for it?"  

And so, the incredible unimaginably hot scene unfolded.  

Several moments into the rendezvous, I said, "Hold up. Argh! I cannot get the smell of vomit out of my nostrils.  I still smell it. That is really jacking with me,  would you please go put a ton of cologne on for me?"

A sexy-love-scene like this is what real life is. 

My man, he jumped right up and ran to his cologne bottle for me. He covered up the smell of our child's puke like the sexy-beast that he is.  

These kids and their silly prom-posals don't even know what there is to look forward to.  

The 84 year old lady at the Baptist church will never read this post.  Nevertheless, I dedicate it to her.



~  ~  ~  ~


Facts for your enjoyment:
How much does it cost to get something written in the sky?
If winds are strong, visibility of the skywriting can vary from a seconds to 5-10 minutes.  Skywriting starts at $3,500.00 for a single writing, plus any ferry fees to move aircraft into your desired location. Multiple writings per day can be discounted depending on location.  (Maybe ask two girls to prom to be sure you end up with a date?)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

FROM A DISTANCE

Today Noah and Isaac went over to the Navarro household for a movie.  These are our "neighbors" in the 25 minute away sense - and also new friends. Melissa was the realtor that found our house and showed it to us and put an offer in for us without us ever setting foot in the house. 

The boys have convinced the Navarro clan that the entire Marvel movie series must be watched in order. Today they started with Iron Man, circa 2008.

I left the guys there and went to run errands and adult like the quickly developing adult that I am.  

Later, I saw a photo of them with high-end snacks in hand and wondered why I ever let them leave the house. 

Now they know about movies with a variety of snacks. 

Gone are the days of Corn Flakes or Pasta with bugs with movie tonight. 
(I'm exaggerating. The pasta only had bugs sometimes.)

Anyway, that's not the story. 

The story is that when I picked them up from MarvelFest2019 they got in the truck and Isaac said, "Holy cow, the Navarros use A LOT OF ICE with their drinks."  

I snort laughed.  (JUDGERRRR!)

Noah said, "Oh my gosh, I thought that same thing!"

Troy and I have raised children to believe that there is a scarcity situation when it comes to frozen water products.  Isaac and Noah could hardly believe Melissa Navarro and her 3/4 full glasses of ice. Scandalous.

America, man.  It's crazy. Excess. Excess. Excess.

On the ride home I was explaining to the guys that Troy has mentioned I am spending too much on the house and getting set up. I shared this to discourage their dreams and crush their childhood hopes. 

I went on to tell them that if we leave a balance on the credit card we then pay something like 19% interest on that. 

Isaac said, "Oh so is 19% a really fast interest rate?" 

I hope you can now see clearly how awesome our parenting and preparation for adulthood has been the past decade. If you want us to work with your kids, please make contact. Our rates are competitive.

Hope is busy being seasonally employed at Target. She is the only employed person if we want to be technical about it.  She is equal parts proud that her first job is an awesome one that pays a really great hourly wage and SAD at how it cuts into the reading and larding and reading and larding time.  

The other day she forbid me to check out at her aisle if I came in the store. I have no idea why she thought that was the thing to say to me. 

REAL curious, that kid. It's like she never lived a day with me.

Before I went to her check out line I attempted to send Troy a message written in Christmas stockings.  

I want you to know that Target DOES NOT OFFER A STOCKING WITH A "Y" on it.  I thought this was America, but no. There are 25 letters to chose from and I only really wanted the Y to finish my message.

I'm learning a lot about me too, here in 'Murica.  

The more laid back Tara that emerged in that decade plus in Haiti seems to have left the vicinity.  

For example, in Haiti I don't care about a pile of dirty dishes for a time or stacks of random kid crap left by the front door area.  In America I need the measuring cups stacked up with the handles facing left inside the drawer at a 45 degree angle adjacent to the silverware tray.  I need every dish loaded at bedtime.  

I would consider spending a little time feeling like a dick about this, but I happen to know from years of counseling that when I get like this it means things feel out of control. It is my attempt to be in control.  

The measuring cups are all I have, okay?

Troy is doing the same thing. He currently controls the thermostat from Haiti. That's right. I said that. He did that.

If we are cold and turn it up past 68F, he's going to know about it.  

On the warmer days when the kids have feeling in their fingers they are actively writing a parody song based off of this Bette Midler song from the olden days ...

THE VIDEO WILL NOT EMBED DUE TO MY ELDERLY AGE -- 

SO GO HERE:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kmetg3Izw6I



(Sidenote: DO NOT see how many words are misspelled in this video. It will give you a deadly and painful DESEASE.) (start at 1:34 if you must)

From a distance, Troy is watching us.  

He sees it all. 

Between 'Find my Friends', the doorbell camera, and notifications when I charge something on the credit card with the fast interest rates, we basically live in communist China. 

I cannot remember anything in this season of transition. I cannot remember anything in seasons of calm either, but I'm pleased to have a reason for this memory failure.  

Anyway, I set alarms for everything from eating to restroom breaks to laundry switching. I only ever mess up on taking pizza out of the oven.  Home is where the burnt pizza is. 

So, the other night I told my phone "Set an alarm to go get Hope at 9:15." 



 Off to find help now.  

In my next installment we will discuss driving at high speeds with teens that don't know anything about America and embarrassing teens by wearing a side pony in public. 

Also, side note ... I went to London and Haiti since I last posted here and my brain is more scrambled than Boggle dice.  

(Troy knows when we play Boggle too!!)