Tuesday, July 29, 2014

find me in the isolator


Troy and I have a "first love language" a little off the regular and well known gifts, such as, "words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts" ... etc., etc.

Our strongest (preferred) love language is making each other laugh with excellently executed mockery. 

It is a fine line to find; what will be funny? What will be less ha-ha funny and more "you hurt my feelings" not-so-funny.

 He found this photo and said I need this.



That is dead-on, wonderful, accurate mockery.

That's love!

I need this so bad. 

If there is an airconditioned isolator, better yet.  Please send one.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

adventures in odd and wonderful

Freedom from PortAuPrince - Aaaaaahhhh 


On Saturday we did well on our goal of making the most of the last few days with Paige and Michael both in Haiti.  We went on a mountain excursion.

To me the best part of the excursion was the beautiful drive winding up and down the mountain. That is easy for the passenger to say.  I also loved meeting the guy who owned the land near where we were hiking and hearing his story. We exhaled all the Port au Prince out and inhaled the fresh mountain air for a few hours.




When we got back down the mountain into the cement jungle again, we helped with the spaying of Mastiff, CeCe ,in the guestroom of the McHouls home:


Noah thinks he wants to be a Vet - he got to help with his first procedures.

ovary discection - because weirdwife
We then helped with the neuter of Mastiff, Robbie, in the same surgery suite - you maybe never met him, but trust me, you thank us for ending his options for spreading his DNA.

Kelly Crowdis is the missionary vet of all vets and we all find everything about her wonderful and fascinating. She let the boys numb up the nuts with lidocane (one nut per son) before Robbie kissed his manhood goodbye.

Noah delivering lidocane, because Haiti

We finished the vet-helper-jobs by having delicious homemade noodles made by the Heartline Board President and many time Haiti visitor, Sherri Healy.

Then, because the day had been so boring and nothing exciting had happened, Rosemine (a friend of Heartline, plays in the Presidential Palace Orchestra- well there is no palace, but there used to be a palace and now there is no palace but there is still an orchestra) played saxophone all during dessert while strolling around the dining room.

Back to regular old Monday-variety odd tomorrow.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

a mid-summer inventory

As much as we all try to say that we enter into things without expectations, we are all liars.

We always enter in with expectations.  Claiming that you are not, doesn't MEAN you are not.

All that to say, this summer has not been what I said I wasn't expecting.

Troy and I have always mainly assumed one day in the distant future all our kids could be grown ups - maybe married with their own families. 

It seems feasible, yes?  

Believing it is feasible, we spent some time and we thought ahead to what that might look like. We both felt that we would be super exhausted and tired and achy from all the years of trying to get them grown up and gone.   We envisioned a day when we will be all old and shrinky-dink sized and tired  - when we might get a little tiny love-shack apartment in a quiet downtown of some dusty abandoned city to take long naps and blend up our food to make it easier to eat without our teeth. We talked about this time as if it were decades away. 

Ironically, the same season and year that Paige and Michael will make us grandparents, we were visited by a virus that made us old, weak, and fall-asleep-sitting-up-tired.  We can still chew food, but please don't hear me getting pompy and braggadocios about that.  I truly wanted to grow old with Troy, just not so freakin soon.

Sigh.   Becuase there has been so much illness, our summer hasn't been an epic family adventure like I had hoped.

The time with Michael and Paige here in Haiti has flown by and is already on the winding down side.  June was obliterated by Chikungunya. As a result we moved Paige's travel back a week and cut seven precious days from our time with her.  July was then obliterated by the respiratory virus that came to crush us while we were down. We took turns with high fevers, coughing, and putting on sleep clinics. One night I ran a 14 hour clinic.  Who sleeps for 14 hours in loud, bright, Haiti?!?! An old granny, that's who.

SOMEHOW both Paige and Michael are STILL healthy.  Neither of them has fallen to mosquito-borne OR other-borne viruses and they may actually escape the island in the same or better condition than they arrived.

I think we ALL felt nervous about getting to know one another in Haiti this summer.  
Troy and I wanted to see Paige and Michael together and have peace.  We wanted to see if they handled stress well and if they were kind to one another. Michael wanted to be loved and accepted by Paige's people.  Paige wanted our approval. The kids wanted to know that their much adored big sister was going to be okay and still be theirs.  We entered into this summer with a fair amount of trepidation for sure.

I have loved watching the kids get to know Michael and decide what they think of him.  The biggest challenge Michael faced was always going to be Noah and Phoebe. Noah, because he thinks Paige belongs to him.  Phoebe, because she just doesn't give a damn about getting to know anyone.

I think he has won everyone over. Even the two difficult ones.

A week or two ago we were talking about the future and probable wedding plans.

Noah got all wistful and said, "I wish I could walk Paige down the alley."  

The nut. He is more than welcome to walk her down any alley he would like.  

As he was listening in on the discussion he said, "I'll tell you right now where NOT to get married.   Honduras.  They are fighting private wars there."

(????)  No idea.  He says things that make sense to him.

So, fine.  The wedding will not take place in Honduras. 

We are watching Paige's cute tummy grow and we are watching she and Michael make big decisions and plans.  We are seeing their hearts and desires and hopes and dreams and we want to support them in all the ways we can. 

We have ONE week left with both of them here in Haiti and we are taking our jointritis pills, gathering up the memories of our spry/younger Chikun-free days, and taking them to do some fun Haiti things with our last full week together on the island.  If the summer failed to meet expectation, maybe the last week will not.


~          ~           ~    

Jimmy and Becky also had a way different summer than they originally planned. Chikungunya kept Becky and the girls in the USA a bit longer. We were all hoping to help Becky not get it in her first trimester.  Also, in case you missed that: The Burtons are EXPECTING number 3 in December!!! They are back in Haiti now and planning to begin their fourth year teaching  -  we are just ridiculously blessed to have them teaching our kids.


An entirely random collection of photos and explanations from past 30 days:



Hope got braces on her top teeth, Noah is up next, this fall.

all the June and July babies have arrived, we expect a little week or two break from births now

Chestnut has no nuts anymore, the boys watched him get fixed and were offered his nuts in a jar.
Because, Haiti.

an out to eat night with the whole crew (sweatshirts for the airconditioned room)

My friend, Dieula, from Dallas (via Haiti) visited and taught at the Maternity Center
 - she brought such an important message.
Rebecca came to show us her report card. This young woman is overcoming.
(I hope to write more about what happened the day she visited.)

Heading to "camp" at school (they have had special four day camps for several weeks this summer)

At the end of each Haiti day, Paige and Michael have a little break-down-the-day session.



Remember the teen Moms home?  Joanne and Ricardo are doing great, they came to visit.
Ricardo hates us but we accept it. 
It has been so hot, Troy finds a way to sleep in a 93 degree room.
Lydia and I made a bedroom outside on the porch. I will never sleep inside again.
One beach day down, hoping for one more before they go.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

in need ...



Discouragement comes in the form of illness, fatigue, and "failure" to accomplish what we hope. It comes from women that don't immediately have a heart of fierce love or protection for their little ones, or stories of rape, abuse, hunger and homelessness.

Sometimes it comes in all the forms in quick succession.

When the discouraging stuff piles up enough that you find out you've lost your joy or your hope or simply just your remembrance of the good things - we all need a giant pause button, reminders of triumph,  renewed prayers, and a review of God's faithfulness to us in the past.

If you are feeling like this too, if you are missing your usual hopeful outlook or joyful attitude ...
Pray that love catches you unaware and lights the dark (and hidden) corners of your heart and ask Jesus that we all quickly be brought face to face with a beauty and a joy that takes our breath away and calms our doubts. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our eyes are open, but do we see?






I learned a while back that kids that grow up abroad can grow up with an entirely different experience than their parents.  They can and do observe and participate in the culture in their own separate and unique ways. 

An expat friend of ours tells a story of teaching a class at a school where many wealthy kids attend. He asks the class, "What is it you would like to be able to see or do in your life?"  The high-school kids talk and name a few things. One boy says, "I would really like to visit a poor country some day."

The school he attends where this question was posed, is located in Port au Prince, Haiti.

That student wants to visit a poor country.

*        *         * 

Our son Isaac is many things.  He is an optimist on steroids and cotton candy on a sunny day at Disney World. When the clouds do roll in, his clouds drop gumdrops instead of raindrops and it only serves to make him even cheerier.  

His favorite word? 
WONDERFUL
He sees life as wonderful. He rarely says things are "okay". His world has little room for "fine" - he likes it all to be "epic". He views things through his lens and doesn't necessarily willingly allow any other views to enter in.  

*         *          * 

We all went together one day recently to drop a woman off at her home.  She had delivered her baby at the Maternity Center and spent a couple of days recovering and bonding with her third child.

We piled in and headed northwest up the coast line and out of Port au Prince. We wound back into the hills in an area where many pathetic little structures are called "home".  As we parked the truck to walk down a hill to the house, I said, "Come on everybody, lets all walk Yveta home".  

When we neared the house, Isaac hung back --- The home was made of tarps and sticks and wood. No metal walls, no cement walls. It sits on a hill, with an uneven dirt floor. The bed is not a bed at all. It is a mat on the ground with bedding on it.

I prompted, "Kids, come with me. Let's visit their home. Let's pray for them."  I ask Isaac to pray in English first, promising to pray in Kreyol after him.  

He begins his prayer in his typical sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns fashion, "Dear God thank you for this WONDERFUL family. These wonderful people.  The wonderful" ....  his voice trails off. 

I open my eyes and say, "It is okay, buddy, not everything here is wonderful - keep going."  

He thanks God for the "wonderful new baby" and the blessing of said baby. 

He says Amen.

I pray. 

We say our goodbyes. 

We hike back up the hill toward our truck. 

"Thank-you, Isaac, for coming in the house to pray. That was kind of you", I say.  

Isaac replies, "It was hard to know what to say."

He is right, of course.  It is hard to know what to say.  It is hard to know what to do.  It is hard to keep from looking away.


*        *         * 

The materially poor, the marginalized and exploited are the ones we want to be especially sure to listen to, SEE, know, learn from, visit, and love. 

Cornel West is onto something when he says, "Never forget, justice is what love looks like in public." 

Later that day I pulled the three bigger kids in for a quick huddle. I explain that we can live right in the middle of things that are difficult and challenging without ever really seeing the very people that are daily living the things that are difficult and challenging.  

I explain that getting in our truck and driving to and from school is not real life in Haiti. 

I tell them that it is very important to me that they see people and by seeing them they come to care and by caring they one day want to act and by acting maybe their love will bring about justice.  

I remind them, and myself, of all of this. 

They listen closely and they nod. 

Later I watch them playing together and I think, even when our eyes are open, we still need help to see.




Monday, July 14, 2014

(it is never about) the effing chicken sandwich

This post is about marriage and parenting. I am no expert at either thing, but since 1990 I've been learning the hard way almost everyday. Two decades in the school of learning by force and failure (formerly known as the school of hard-knocks) have taught me a few lessons. Do with them as you will. 




** ** **

"Eeeewwww, SICK, they are kissing again you guys, DON'T LOOK."

A few hours later, as Lydia enters the kitchen but has not yet rounded the corner where we will come into her line of view, she makes our one syllable names into two, "Mooooom-mm and Da-aaad, you better not be kisssss-ing in there."

This is a game the youngest one plays frequently at our house.

It is a game of pretending she abhors her parents showing any love or affection toward one another. She fools no one, especially not us. She begs for more by declaring frequently how much she cannot stand to see it and how sick we are.

There are not many things that make kids feel more secure than parents that love one another. Children are reassured when they see their parents communicating well, getting along, loving one another, and maybe even grabbing a kiss or a squeeze when possible. (Case and point, that photo was taken in 2010 when Paige said, will you guys please let me take some lovey photos of you?) 

The temperatures in our home seem to keep us from long embraces or any all out kitchen mack-fests. It is totally fine though, because our kids are sufficiently grossed out by the short (hot weather variety) of marital flirting. 

The number one question asked by friends that visit Haiti for the first time... "It is SO hot and tiring here. We are hot. We are tired. We don't even want to be touching pinkies. Soooooo, like, how do you guys ever, you know ... (trail off while raising eyebrow)?" That is an excellent question. One that only the very brave ask, but I digress. This is not about getting it on in hot climates. This is about marriage and parenting - or more precisely - our kids watching our marriages.

We have learned over the years that any tension between us is quickly noticed by our kids. They get nervous and weird when they sense we are shorter tempered with one another or not working together well.  

Whatever security they feel when they see us hugging in the kitchen, quickly diminishes when they hear us speak sharply to each other. 

If kids feel secure when their parents are best friends that show one another respect and affection, what about when kids see their parents fight? 

It is unrealistic to think they won't see us fight on occasion. Stress happens. Life is tense. People that live in my house are annoying together get annoyed.  

What are we teaching our kids by the way we have conflicts with one another? How can we have conflict that teaches something? There must be ways we can make our children feel secure even in the midst of conflict. Surely we can teach them that it doesn't have to end badly.

Any person in a long term relationship knows that one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to allow resentment over unmet expectations or small things to pile up.  

Instead of showing our kids how we fight about something that has nothing to do with the real issue, we hope to be honest and talk about things as they come up.  

When we do things that disappoint one another, we can chose to deal on the spot, trying not to get to the point where we are fighting about something dumb and unrelated because we've been simmering in resentment sauce for weeks or months.

My kids can hear me say, "You never do what you say you will do, you always put work stuff first", followed by a list of things that aren't the real thing and don't express the deeper feelings underneath - OR - my kids can hear me say, "I feel sad and disappointed that we had planned a beach day and now we can't go - I was so looking forward to time with you".  

It is less disrespectful to their Dad and it expresses my exact feelings without attacking him as a person. (I'm not saying how often I get this right. I'm just saying, I know which one is right.)

My job calls for a very flexible family. I feel bad about it, but it is a fact of midwifery that will not change. Sometimes I have just promised to watch a movie or go somewhere fun with the family when my phone rings and it is time to grab scrubs and run out the door. 

I want to teach my kids that they don't have to stay quiet and let their annoyance (and hurt feelings) go unspoken. I want them to have seen that it is safe to say, "I am so hurt that you promised us a fun day and now you have to go to work."  Even if I cannot do anything to change the situation and stay home or keep my promise, I want them to know that expression of disappointment or hurt in the moment it happens is a good and healthy thing. Resentment and letting it grow are the opposite.

** ** **

It surprises me how much I remember from when I was a kid. I remember my parents being super lovey dovey at times. (Oh my goodness! Vivid memory of one family vacation in a hotel in TN where they utterly and completely misunderstood what our sleeping breathing patterns sound like! Trauma!!) I also remember when things got tense for a couple years. 

During the years that there was a lot of change, transition, and financial stress, I remember them fighting. The most memorable fight for me was the fight we all call "the effing chicken sandwich fight".  

All kids remember the first time they hear a parent drop a loud and angry F bomb. 

That particular epic fight happened when I was probably 11 or 12 years old. I can tell you where I was when I was listening to it and everyone in my family knows right now exactly which story I'm going to tell.



My little sister and I were downstairs in our bedroom when voices were raised to a level we could clearly hear from the bedroom above us.  There was stress about money and how to spend it and how to be careful with it and Mom was mad that Dad had taken us to Burger King for dinner instead of saving the money and just eating at home.  Something was said about allowing us to order off the expensive adult menu and back and forth it went. Finally my Dad snapped and yelled, "If they want a ___ing chicken sandwich, they can have a ___ing chicken sandwich!!!"  (Our four blue eyes popped out of our heads in unison! Did he just say that!?!?) Then he threw his keys at the wall and the keys hit the baby picture of me (my sister has always been their favorite) and the glass shattered in the frame. Then I think he left for a while.

It is hilarious now; we love ourselves an effing chicken sandwich whenever we can get one.

Of course the fight was not really about Burger King or what we ordered. Most angry words come from a place of fear and wanting to have control in order to feel less afraid. Because money was tight Mom was trying to control things and having control over things helped her feel less afraid about money and the future.

We all have those fights; the ones that later kind of make you laugh because in hindsight it is easy to see where you veered waaaaay off the path.

So much of parenting is about letting kids see adults work out problems and frustrations in a way that models love and open/honest communication.  I cannot expect Lydia and Phoebe to stick to their "I" statements and talk to one another about their feelings during a conflict if I have spent the week doing the opposite when communicating with their Dad. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

we've fallen and we can't get up: a chikungunya update

Life is a crazy and unpredictable adventure.

Anyone that has lived more than seven minutes knows this.

One minute you're clicking along doing your thing, planning your work and working your plan. 

The next minute you're down on the ground, flipped on your head, wondering what in the hellio just happened.

Suffice it to say, every single one of us really likes the part of life where we feel like we are making plans and advancing said plans.  

Nobody wants to feel stuck in a cruddy place without answers and advancement.  

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, after all.

   *                *               *

I truly cannot fathom the evil being that came up with the bizzaro virus called Chikungunya.  Having experienced Dengue and Malaria,  it seems we've finally found something more difficult than both of those, but only because those two go away. 

Who has ever heard of a virus that comes back to ruin your fingers and wrists and other choice joints many weeks after it first came to take you out for a few days? 

The CDC and all the other fancy epidemiologists and smarties out there have some work to do.  The websites and published information all claim things like this:

Remission and long-term effects

The clinical symptoms of chikungunya usually disappear relatively quickly – patients tend to recover from the fever and rashes associated with the disease within a few days, but joint problems can persist for several weeks. Infection by the chikungunya virus does not seem to have been the direct cause of the small number of fatalities recorded during epidemics.

Joint pain can persist in subacute or chronic form for several months or even years, particularly in older patients. In a retrospective South African study, 10% of patients were still affected 3 to 5 years after acute infection by the chikungunya virus.

What is "older" in this case?  I think we need some further definition.  Who are these "old" people in South Africa? 

If my hands are not going to work for three to five years, I'm gonna need a psychologist with an arsenal of anti-depressants down here stat. 

Right now, it seems "older" is anyone over fifteen. I have a 24 year old friend with chronic pain.  I have a 39 year old husband who cannot play his guitar.  Our 61 year old boss is an utter wreck. I have hands that cannot easily do many midwifery functions. 

Our fingers are swollen like Kielbasa sausages and bending them is our daily challenge.  The wedding ring had to come off and putting back on seems like a lofty goal. 

At the painful typing of this rant, every person that I know (Haitian, American, Canadian, and Australian) that had the acute stage of the virus 3 to 8 weeks ago, have had chronic pain in at least a few joints. I don't know if you call it debilitating if you keep going while in pain, but it is important that we come up with the word that means it is very bad but we are marching onward. 

Paige observed, "Wow. In my whole life I have never been awake more than you and Dad. I don't believe this."  Chik V makes busy adults sleep more than teenagers. 

Lest you think there is no point to my gripe, let me get to my point.

My point:

This virus is a beast. If you can avoid it, we vote you do that.  A one week trip to Haiti (in our opinion, and this is only our opinion) is not worth weeks and weeks (and dear GOD PLEASE FORBID, months and years) of pain and fatigue. If and when you come here, be insane about your bug spray. Don't bring any crunchy, earthy, deet-free lavender concoction.  Bring the highest DEET content you can find and make it your job to use every drop you bring. 

Our daughter and her boyfriend are currently kicking butt at that job. Half way through their time in Haiti and both are ChikV free.  It's a good thing too, because we need to sleep in while they take care of these kids. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

3 Homecomings, Madi nan Ayiti (Tuesday in Haiti)

Jacqueline & Family with newborn baby girl, Esther

Andrena and the Francois Family with newborn baby, Michelet 
Lovelie (right) with her Mom, Grandma, and newborn son, Beaconlove, being held by Gran


The "Postpartum wing" (fancy terminology for a couple of beds and a table in room unattached to the Maternity Center) cleared almost all the way out today. Three of four new Moms went home this afternoon. 

Only Guerda and tiny Sophonie remain (for now). They are doing great, by the way.

We all loaded into the wonderfully reliable ambulance (best purchase ever - thank you donors!) and headed toward Jacquline's house first.  Jacqueline delivered on Saturday. Her husband was excited to see her and was sure to say "gracias" to us many times  - even though we all speak Kreyol, not Spanish. 

Next we went to Andrena's house. She delivered Sunday evening. The soccer game was about to start so we quickly took photos so that Andrena's husband could get back to the television.  Andrena's elderly mother was there to greet us too. She told us she had 10 children in her life. 3 that have died and 7 living. She was wonderfully cute.

After we left Andrena's house, we went several miles to drop Lovelie off at home. She lives in a wood pre-fab house that was put up after the earthquake as "temporary" shelter. She lives with her young mother and grandmother. She has done a great job nursing her son for his first 9 days of life and seemed ready to go home.  

We will see all of these ladies and babies again next Tuesday when they come for class. 

Your gifts, your generosity, your prayers (please please continue) help these women have a safe birth in a place where they are treated with love and respect. They are given the time to bond, begin breastfeeding, and recover, before they head back to the daily grind of life in Haiti. 

We are thrilled that they have this unique opportunity to be cared for, pampered, and loved.  Every women deserves this. 

Andrena, her mother, newborn son named Michelet 

Monday, July 7, 2014

a long ride, a birth, a sunday in ayiti





Most women begin the Prenatal program in their first trimester. The majority of the ladies start around week 9 of their pregnancy. We like them to join as early as possible, to get in on the teaching, community, vitamins, and iron. 

On occasion we meet a lady that is further along in her pregnancy that we have a gut sense we should accept.  Beth McHoul recalls interviewing Andrena at the 20 to 22 week mark in her pregnancy and upon hearing about a previous stillbirth at home, she felt strongly that Andrena should be accepted even though she was later than our ideal gestational age for acceptance.

Andrena arrived at the Maternity Center around 8pm tonight.  She said she left her house before the contractions got "hot" because the ride is long to get us. She came with her niece who left shortly after making sure her aunt was going to be staying over night.  Andrena walked outside the Maternity Center for about 45 minutes before getting tired and coming in to rest a bit. 

By 9:40, without so much as a single loud noise, she welcomed her fourth child, a little boy.  For all the midwives and L& D nurses out there, Haitian women have insanely-short second stage(s). It seems odd to us when we have the occasional 90 minute second stage.  Andrena wins the second stage award for this summer. It lasted 22 seconds, and baby came with one small push.

Congrats to Andrena, and welcome to the world outside, little baby-guy.



We have purchased land and our long term goal is a larger (second location) Maternity Center.  The money that has been raised specifically for the new MC, has been put toward that specific project. The foundation is in place and the walls have been started. We are a long way from completion of that new larger center. 

For now we operate from one location, an adorable little house (that we all love) that allows us to have about 40 to 45 pregnant woman enrolled in the program at a time. As one delivers and switches to the Early Childhood program, we can accept a newly pregnant woman in her spot. We would love nothing more than to make better use of this house and do some remodeling here that would allow space to increase our numbers to closer to 60 pregnant women at one time.  

We are in need of help networking and finding connections to those that have a heart for Haitian women/children and want to reduce the number of children in orphanages.  

If your church or group or foundation or organization wants to help in the area of maternal health and orphan prevention (which IS in fact, "orphan care") please let us know if we can share more about our programs and whom we can contact. 

Like most non-profits, we are always looking for funding. We are a small, grass-roots organization with room and a desire to grow slowly. Social Media is great for sharing the message of what we do, we feel so supported in that way, but it doesn't typically equal long-term funding. We'd love to speak to your foundation or committee and share what is happening here. 

Interested in helping us? Click this link to go to a donation page. 

Interested in helping fund a midwife to live/serve here? Click here, Beth Johnson is currently raising funds to extend her time in Haiti. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

a walk, a birth, a saturday in ayiti




Some of the things (in no particular order) the women hear in Prenatal class are: 1) Drink water drink water, drink more water  2) take your vitamins and iron daily 3) when you are in labor, walking will help you progress 4) nurse your baby right away and after that nurse often.

Jacqueline, a mom expecting her fourth child, said that last night her pain seemed false. She went to bed and slept through the night. This morning she woke up and quickly realized that the pain she was feeling was no longer false. She didn't have any money to take a tap-tap so she started walking toward the Maternity Center. She walked for what she guesses was 45 to 60 minutes and arrived to the Maternity Center almost ready to push. Her 7 pound daughter was born 15 minutes after she arrived. 

When Beth Johnson commented on how fast it all went she said, "Yes, I walked!"

Tonight Jacqueline and her daughter are resting, recovering, and getting to know one another at the Heartline Maternity Center.