Sunday, July 24, 2022

I am 50 and I can kick

The last time I signed into this blog was 586 days ago. Writing was such a key part of my ability to cope with stress and internal turmoil for so long. It feels good to brush off the cobwebs and sign into this dormant place again.It feels a little bit like walking into a coffee date with an old friend you haven't seen in years.

Adam Grant said: "Writing isn't what you do after you have an idea. It's how you develop an inkling into an insight. Turning thoughts into words sharpens reasoning. What's fuzzy in your head is clear on the page. "I'm not a writer" shouldn't stop you from writing. Writing is a tool for thinking.

Perhaps the cobwebs will return to this blog site quickly, but for today the sentimental reflections of my 50th Birthday could produce some insight. 

We shall see. 

  1. of or prompted by feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia.

1972 was a Year of the Rat in Chinese zodiac. I confirmed that this means (almost) absolutely nothing. Careers for rats are: Administrator, director, manager, entrepreneur, broadcaster, writer, musician, stand-up comedian, politician, lawyer, researcher, and racing car driver. (I am for sure headed to NASCAR seniors division after Midwifery.)  

1972 saw the first Black female presidential candidate, Shirley Chisholm. 


The US Senate votes in favor of the Equal right Amendment and passes it along to the states for ratification. (Spoiler alert. Not law today.)

Evil Knievel successfully jumps 32 cars but breaks 93 bones on landing. (Was it truly successful, then?)

In the early morning of June 17 five men are apprehended by police while attempting to burglarize DNC headquarters, this came to be known as the Watergate Scandal

At Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, Robert Metcalfe combines packet switching technology with single-wire broadcasting to lay the foundation for the development of the Internet

American swimmer Mark Spitz collects a record seven gold medals at the Summer Olympic Games

Republican Richard Nixon is  re-elected president in a landslide victory over Democratic challenger George McGovern

The last issue of Life Magazine is published December

Congressman Ford is sworn in as Vice President 

The Dow Jones closes above 1000 for the first time in history

Nike launched their first shoe in 1972, the Nike Cortez. The sneaker served as the first advanced running shoe made available to the public.

Also born in 1972: Shaquille O'Neal, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Sasse, Eminem & Brad Paisley

Average Cost of new house  $27,550.00 

Average Income per year  $11,800.00 

Average Monthly Rent  $165.00 

Cost of a gallon of Gas 55 cents

Hellmanns Mayonnaise  $1.39  (Weird flex, I'll just have ground beef and strawberries, thankyouverymuch)

Fresh Strawberries Lb  31 cents 

Ground Beef Lb  98 cents

The number 50 has all sorts of significance,* if * you buy into that numerology stuff, which I technically do not. Even so, I am sharing what I do not subscribe to because it is interesting. (I also don't buy into zodiac/astrology but I'll listen to you tell me about why you do.)

The number 50 also symbolizes deliverance or freedom from a burden.

Angel number 50 is a sign from the divine realm about independence, self-determination, and taking charge of our own lives.

The number 50 expresses its sense of personal freedom.
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The numerology number 50 expresses its sense of personal freedom.

Expression of personal freedom, for 50, is the pursuit of whatever may be of interest, at the moment it becomes of interest, without resistance from its inner self or from others.

50 likes to talk and play and imagine and have fun, especially when it involves experiencing something it hasn't experienced before. And especially when it involves interactions with people.

The number 50 is witty. People generally smile a lot when they're around 50.

The number 50 enjoys finding and exploring entirely new things, ideas, locations, and methods. The general idea of experiencing everything at least once sits well with 50, even while it's aware not everything can be experienced in one lifetime. 

The essence of the number 50 almost always focuses on the positive side of things rather than the negative.

I feel like this is all good news. Even if it's fake news. I especially feel the deliverance from burdens happening. 

So much about me changed in the last decade. Trauma, betrayal, disappointment, and fractured relationships ushered in some of the change. Raising my 7 very different personalities changed me too. Joy, miracles, love, tolerance, kindness, counseling, introspection and forgiveness can have credit for the rest. 

I like the changes and am still actively working on me. The changes have been good for my kids and my marriage. Not everyone loves or likes this changed me, and that's okay. I am learning that the approval I sought in my 30s and early 40s didn't serve me well. I finally like most things about myself and understand more about myself than 10 years ago. (The Enneagram has served me well in the area of self-acceptance.)

I can now identify that I moved to Haiti partly because I truly thought God wanted me to (which sounds weird to me now because I don't know how that works anymore and would not pretend to know any longer) and partly because I thought it made me good to do something really difficult. I moved thinking it would make my parents proud and it would mean my faith was some sort of super-special kind of faith. I for sure moved thinking if I went willingly and joyfully and prayed a lot, God would protect Troy and I and my kids from bad things.  

Obviously, I realize now that it was all flawed (dumb) and incorrect to assume any of that. God would have loved me and accepted me if I was in Minnesota and not trying to solve the problems of the materially poor and perpetually marginalized in Haiti. The church idolizes missionaries and that's not cool because they are just people and they do things for the weird and selfish reasons too.  

I faced the truth that I became a Midwife for 50% reasonable and 50% unhealthy motivations. I rely on the reasonable part keep me going until I am ready to be done.

For now, it seems I can't quit Haiti. I have attempted to figure out how I can emotionally separate myself and the truth is, I care deeply about it now and there's no escaping the pain of that island. Choosing to not be involved would hurt just the same as doing it does. Doing it means connection with phenomenal people. Haiti is the long defeat, as Sara Groves once broke down perfectly. 

I have joined the long defeat - That falling set in motion
All my strength and energy - Are raindrops in the ocean
So conditioned for the win - To share in victor's stories
But in the place of ambition's din - I've heard of other glories
I pray for an idea
And a way I cannot see
It's too heavy to carry
And impossible to leave
I can't just fight when I think I'll win - That's the end of all belief
And nothing has provoked it more- Than a possible defeat
I pray for an idea
And a way I cannot see
It's too heavy to carry
And impossible to leave
We walk a while we sit and rest - We lay it on the altar
I won't pretend to know what's next - But what I have I've offered


The biggest changes of my life happened in the years we were in Haiti and the nearly three since then. I learned about Jesus in a way that was not prescribed or handed to me. I got to know him on my own. I came to see that sometimes the people claiming Jeuss are the people doing the most harM. I learned to trust my discernment; listen to my gut. I stopped putting pastors and leaders on a pedestal. I don't believe a lot of what I believed 25 years ago, but in my tearing down and rebuilding, Jesus remained. I am changed. I am changing. I consider myself a person of faith and a Jesus SuperFan.

I learned from my kids that my mistakes are important to own. I learned the value of a genuine humble apology. I learned that there is no one way to raise all your kids. Different kids need different things. I learned that you will be a different parent when you raise you first and fourth and seventh child. I learned that love means allowing everyone to learn and develop at their own pace. I learned that my kids don't need to reflect me back to me, like little mirrors or minions. They each have varying thoughts, opinions, approaches, and goals. They are worthy of my unconditional love and respect. Even if I don't understand every choice, the choices are theirs to make. My choice is love. 

I learned in my angry PTSD phases that I tend make generalizations and sweeping judgments that are not fair. I learned that most everything is gray and nuanced and is to be handled with careful wisdom and unmeasured grace. 

I learned that I am strong enough to face my pain head on. 

I learned that relationships that can be ruined by conversations about feelings or boundaries were not really stable to begin with.

I learned I can face pain without alcohol.

I learned grief is not linear and maybe never ends.

As I was trying to put some of this into words I read a post a friend wrote that nailed it, so to close my 50th Birthday post, I share (steal) Kevin Allen's words

“Your experience is not my template.”
Backstory. On a kazillion stories, I’ve heard people use their experiences as a maxim for the general population. Don’t get me wrong — listening to each other’s experiences is hugely valuable. What they have learned can become part of my toolkit. But it’s not the whole kit.
This goes for rags to riches stories and comebacks of all varieties. One person’s rough childhood is another person’s walk in the park. One person’s view of the self-made man is another person’s privileged life. There’s just too much variation of background and genetics and circumstance and intangibles to subscribe to templates.
The difference between an experience and a template comes down to one word. Empathy. If I listen to someone intently and if I happen to have an experience in my toolkit to share with them, great. But if I hear a lament — particularly a lament from a community of people unlike myself — and I say “I’ve had crap to deal with too, suck it up!” I’ve failed to intelligently listen and consider that my playbook doesn’t work in their war.
“Your experience is not my template” is a way of finding the value in learning about others while recognizing each life has an entirely different set of variables.

I am grateful for my experiences, even the very painful and traumatic ones. I am grateful for what I have learned. I am grateful that I live in community and am not done learning. 

Cheers to 50.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Mica's Story

Today it is my joy and honor to share a story of healing and courageous recovery with you.

Meet my co-midwife and friend, Mica.

Today she is hopeful that in sharing her story she may encourage others that have suffered in shame or felt their lives were over.  

Please feel free to share this with anyone you think may feel less alone or be encouraged by watching.  

Friday, June 05, 2020

Camera Man Ike - Minneapolis/St Paul Appointments & Information

Appointment dates available in MPLS/ST PAUL  

July 17-19-20 and July 24-25-26-27  
(July 18th is unavailable due to an already booked wedding)

Isaac will be choosing a park in Minneapolis and a park in St Paul for each of the weekends. The first Sunday (19th) will be St Paul, the second Saturday (25th) will be Minneapolis. 

On other dates Isaac is able to come to your location, the additional fee for that would be the cost of a Lyft or Uber to and from your chosen location from where he is staying in Minneapolis.

To make an appointment and secure a place on Isaac's calendar please contact Isaac via email.

Contact: - if you prefer to speak by phone, please email your phone number and a preferred time to receive a call back. 

  • Senior/Graduation for one person 30-40 mins $150 for 20 images 
  • Family Pictures   45-75 mins (or longer at times)
  1. $250 for 30-40 images (Family size 6 people or less)
  2. $300 for 35-45 images (Families of 6-12 people)
  3. $400 for 35-55 images (Group size larger than 12)

  •  Solo Portraits/Business Headshots  15-30 mins $50 for 10-15 images

  • Engagement/Couples Photography   45-75 mins $120 for 20- 30 images

  • Social/Corporate Events - Candids  $150 per hour

  • Pets 45-60 mins $60-$90

Product/Advertising Shoot available as well - please contact CameraManIke with specifics for a price quote on anything not listed above.

Photo editing can be tailored to your preferences or left to the photographer. The options will be discussed at your sitting.

Payment methods available: cash, Venmo, or Paypal.
$20 non-refundable deposit due July 1, 2020.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Ideas and Plans

The day the calendar rolled over to May, did you marvel at how many years you spent getting through the first four months of 2020?

We did. 

I haven’t written here since before all the virus things began to happen. My last three entries were in February. Things are weird for everyone and the days are long and the months take years.  

The kids started their 2019-2020 school year (THE ONE WE ARE STILL IN) back in Haiti in the month of August, fully anticipating that it would end in Haiti in the month of May. The two seniors were eager to get going, knowing that they had much to accomplish before officially becoming eligible to enter college. 

They went to school in Haiti in late August, all of September, and until October 18, 2019. 

This (thumbs pointed at collarbone) frugal lady printed invites to the graduation taking place in Port au Prince, HAITI before we ever entered October because there is no greater joy than a $1 dollar per invite price - marked down to twenty-five cents per invite.  

Sadly, my frugality so long ago meant creating a sticker to go over the top part of the invite to cover up MOST of  the Port au Prince location information.  A sharpie was used to color the edges of the P in Port au Prince that the sticker did not cover.  All very classy. 

By October 2019 the kids had been on seven weeks of lockdown due to total upheaval in the streets of our area.  Troy and I called it.  Enough is enough, we said. All plans for a smooth Senior year were failing.  

Our commitment to one another this day, is to NEVER use the word “plan”.  


Anyway, all that to say our ’19-’20 school year was a whole thing, not even sure it can be explained. It was less like a school year and more like a seizure, starting and stopping at unpredictable intervals.  Now we have school, now we can’t leave home because rocks and bullets, now we have school, now we are on a plane to Texas, now we have school, now it’s Christmas, now we have school, now it’s spring break, now it’s time to start back, now there is a virus, now we are all tornadoes of turmoil and angst. 

It certainly helped that their pre-2011 schooling was herky-jerky, so they've got experience in this way of life. 

The babies (old nicknames die hard) made it as 6th and 7th graders in a public school setting an ENTIRE seven weeks to Spring Break.  We went on spring break and before it was over the virus hit and all schools were closed and thus their career as public school students was placed on hold. They are not so impressed with the new country we chose. I assured them it really did not matter where we went after Haiti, they were destined to be stuck at home. It matters not in what country they reside. 

Graciously, we were in a better position with Isaac, Hope, and Noah than anyone in the entire state of Texas because they had already been doing homeschool and on-line school and had planned to do that until the completion of their Senior (Isaac.Hope) and Sophomore (Noah) year anyway. 

Stefanie Raleigh moved from Haiti to Texas with us to see these three into the far-off month of May. 

Stefanie set out to graduate Isaac and Hope and she has been unstoppable. They will graduate this coming Sunday, May 24th. We have caps and gowns and the whole nine yards. 

Just a few days ago Stefanie helped Isaac and Hope choose all their classes at Temple College and got them completely registered for fall semester.  To be clear, THE IDEA IS, they will attend Temple College in the fall. 

Noah is done with 10th grade. He took his finals and crossed the finish line victorious.  Noah has visited the local High School and wants to go there to finish 11th and 12th grade. It’s another idea we have.

Troy got to the USA about 7 weeks ago. Haiti is not allowing any commercial flights in or out on a normal schedule and therefore we made a decision that we wanted Troy “stuck” with us in Texas over not knowing when he could get out and come join us. 

Since Troy arrived we are going for family therapy two times a month. This is allowing our kids to process 14 years in Haiti and to share their hurts.  I don’t think parents generally want to open themselves up to the pain of their kids’ resentment.  

Truthfully, I don’t really “want” to either, but I prefer to hear the hurts now and hopefully make reparations and find some healing. A decade from now the stuff that was hard about the time we lived in Haiti will be the same, we are just going to talk about it now in order that we may have a healthier future.  It’s an idea I have. Maybe even a hope. 

When it came to raising our family, we were inured to the risks and the stress and the constant battles each week presented. We couldn’t see how intense it was because intense was status quo. It became so normal that now when a kid says, “ HEY! Remember that time I had to duck down on the way to the orthodontist because of all the gun shots around the car?” - We think to our more sane selves, “Huh. Yeah. That wasn’t ideal.”  (And we recognize our privilege to have choices to remove them, while most parents living in volatile areas of the world do not.)   

Our kids will keep therapists in business for life. I’ve said it before, we have done our part for that profession. We provided BOTH quantity and quality.

I mainly and especially wanted to offer an update to those that donate to Heartline Ministries. Perhaps you’re wondering what the heck our plan is. There is no plan. I can, however, share the IDEA.

When Haiti opens back up to incoming flights, some combination of Troy/Tara/KJ will return to help get the newest Midwife settled in and to check in on everybody. 

We are in contact with the leaders in Haiti frequently. They are grateful for the prayers and concern as they are working hard to keep the essential services Heartline Ministries offers open and available.  We are proud of the work they are doing and are happy to see all the healthy babies being born in a safe and supportive environment.  

Orthodontists and Therapists - We salute you. 

By Lydia Livesay - 

Hi, I am Lydia. I am twelve years old, and I have a long and strange story of how I'm trying to get my teeth straightened. (STILL trying)
When I first got my braces on it was February 2019. I was eleven years old, and we were still living in Haiti at the time. I was super excited to get my braces on, but once it was getting close to the day I was going to get them on, I wasn't ecstatic to fix my teeth. On my first few appointments, they only cleaned my teeth, made molds of my mouth, and took x-rays. On the third or fourth appointment, I got my braces on. It hurt worse than I thought it would since my siblings kept telling me it doesn't hurt, your mouth just feels sore after it. It took a while for my mouth not to be sore.

Orthodontist appointments in Haiti were often very scary. After getting used to my braces and going to several appointments, many of which I had to get new brackets because the glue at my old brackets seemed to break off the instant food touched it, we would usually go to the store or run an errand. Sometimes we wouldn't be able to go because of the parking issue in the parking lot or insane traffic.
The craziest part was when we had to drive through ongoing riots, which often consisted of burning tires, group marches with signs, fire, people driving motorcycles in a way that would be illegal in America, and more. The scariest experience I've had on my way to the orthodontist was when we drove through burning sticks, tires, and people gathering around watching and laughing at a guy sitting inside a half-destroyed car sticking a gun out the window. It freaked me out because it was pointed straight at us, my friend KJ just kept driving, and I didn't know what to do, so I just ducked. The guy with the gun decided to shoot, but he pulled it into the air and not at our car, but still, hearing gunshots so close to me was very nerve-racking. We continued to head home and had to turn around and reroute several times. Whenever KJ and my Dad's security guard, saw something they didn't trust, they told me to duck down, and that made me extremely nervous because I didn't know what was happening. Getting my teeth straightened in Haiti was never without a bit of drama.

Four months ago we started going to a new orthodontist in Texas. I enjoyed my new orthodontist place a lot more because it just seemed reliable. I bet it had more to do with the calm of Temple, TX, but they never cancelled appointments. A lot of what happened for the first 9 months I had braces really didn't get too much done. The new place in Texas re-did a few brackets and told my mom that they were going to restart the process. I enjoyed being pulled out of school to go to ortho appointments. My favorite was when I got out of pre-athletics on Fridays because we typically run a mile on Fridays.
I was just starting to feel like everything was getting normal, and my teeth were doing great and finally we had some momentum and they were moving into place. That is when COVID-19 made everything shut down. It's been a long time since I last got my wires tightened, and my teeth are probably getting less straight by the day.
It feels like maybe these braces will be on forever. At least I'll always have a story to tell. My tip for you, if you want to have your teeth straightened in a small amount of time, do not choose Haiti or a time of pandemic to begin.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Old Friends

Noah & Geronne today 
While we did not approach many things the same way and the cultural divide was challenging and quite obvious at times, my long-time relationship with Geronne taught me a lot about myself and Haiti and human nature.

I always felt weird having help in my house. I was embarrassed about it. I would get mad at how awkward it felt. I couldn't ever come to a peaceful way to feel about being the one that gets to afford to have a helper/housekeeper.  

Geronne could never get why I would refuse help sometimes, it was too complicated to ever explain and our paradigms didn't allow us to ever get each other totally. We are the same age, but we have vastly different life-experiences. 

In 2006 Geronne worked in the kitchen at the first organization we worked with in Haiti. That is when we met her. In 2008 she took our job offer and moved to Port au Prince with us and helped with the kids and did the best housekeeping work ever in the history of mankind.

Back in 2006 Noah was newly two and he was all about white rice and bean sauce - he went to the kitchen where it was being prepared for several hundred kids and he made sure he had his bowl and spoon ready whenever it was possible. Geronne always thought that his love of Haitian food was the best thing about our family. She thought Noah was the smartest of the whole clan.

She was so genuinely happy that he came with me on this trip. She cooked for him and spoiled him and made sure he got to eat all the foods he loves. It was touching to see how deeply she cares for this boy she met 14 years ago. 

Today she asked Noah if he would make it back to see her in the next year.  She hugged him tight and sent him off with rice and beans to go. 

2 year old Noah

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: 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.