Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Labor of Sisyphus

When my friend, Dokte Jen was here a couple weeks ago, we were talking about the State run Maternity Hospital in Port au Prince. We were lamenting the difficulties there and discussing why it is so hard going there and seeing what happens (or doesn't happen) there.

Jen wondered if maybe it was a little bit like the character from Greek Mythology, named Sisyphus. The story of Sisyphus varies a bit. As a punishment the gods required that Sisyphus roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down again, he repeated this action over and over again. 

The phrase "labor of Sisyphus" refers to any hopeless task that must be repeated endlessly.

For whatever the reasons, (mostly just lack of facts and training) going into this hospital and suggesting (to mothers, aunties, nurses, and doctors) that new mothers should in fact hold their babies (skin to skin!) and can also nurse them and do not (not not not) need to wait two or three days until the milk comes in to offer the baby the breast, it does feel a bit like rolling a boulder up a hill every Wednesday. 

This morning a smaller than usual group from the Heartline Maternity Center headed to engage in some Sisyphus-like work for a couple of hours. 

The hospital is sometimes filled with patients. On other occasions we find it mainly empty. Sometimes strikes or protests keep the Doctors from coming.

Of course while there, there-are several other challenges too. 

Observing the way the educated (Doctors, Nurses, Med Students) often-times treat the (mainly less educated) patients and the lack of respect and kind-attention the patients receive is its own separate (boulder) difficulty.  Most people are given almost zero information about their own health.

Any attitude with them (the providers at the hospital) or perceived disrespect of their methods or "their turf" could mean the patients we hoped to advocate for are treated even worse (in retaliation). We are the guests, after all. 

When I feel my anger and throat punchyness rising up at the shoddy care-(not)-providers, I have to mentally (inner dialogue tape - on repeat) remind myself that when we are not leading by loving, or serving while offering genuine kindness (to all), we become as guilty as those we wish to throat-punch. 

A long-dead atheist named Nietzsche said it like this, "Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster..."

That is fair warning, and I want to beware. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Put a Heart on It

Our youngest child loves to stand over our shoulders and tell us what she approves of on various social media sites.   As we scroll through things on our phones or computer she will shout out, "Put a heart on it!" when she likes what she sees.

Lydia gives out hearts fairly freely, pushing us all to "like" and love with a similar seven-year-old abandon.

Here are some things I want to 'put a heart on' and remember...

  • In March of 2015 we welcomed a bunch of people into the mosquito-filled guest room. Britt, Paige, Graham, Vince, and Dr, Jen all arrived in the month of March.
  • The last couple weeks are a blur of activity.  I close my eyes and see babies crowning. After so many nights of interrupted sleep, the entire staff stops speaking their second language, remembering names of their children, or how to find their way to the grocery store a half mile away. As you can imagine, things get very hilarious. Freak laughter turning into tears is one of many warning flags that a looooong sleep is needed.
  • The kids have been enjoying the temporary addition of Caroline at their school.  Their teacher, Jimmy, has been juggling five grades and a lot of curriculum and Caroline has proven to be especially helpful in the Mathematics department.  She leaves for her new grown-up life in TN in less than a month and Troy and I are bracing ourselves for sad kids.
  • Easter Sunday was good, even sans Troy-boy we enjoyed the day. At our little house church we had communion. Because I was seated right next to the table it was being offered, I saw an opportunity to serve each of my kids their communion without disrupting anyone else. I served Lydia and Phoebe, then Hope. To each of them I whispered, "This is Christ's body, broken for you. This is Christ's blood, shed for you." They nodded in agreement and solemnly and took the bread and juice from me. I motioned for the boys to come to the table. Noah arrived and I handed him his bread and said, "This is Christ's body broken for you." He looked at me with an expression of disgust and insult and said, "Yeah. I know that." OkkeeeDokee. Noted.  If you want to see how that makes the folks that serve you communion feel, I suggest you try that response for yourself some time.
  • Troy went to Peru for 9 days and had an amazing time with two friends. Collectively they left 13 kids and 3 wives (one per) behind to have their little faux mid-life crisis adventure.  It sounds like they were fairly responsible and had epic fun motorbiking through the Sacred Valley beneath the Andes Mountains. Troy said it was breathtakingly beautiful.
  • Kids know when they have parents at their wits end.  When my kids are being blind, and don't seem to recognize my dwindling patience, I usually just announce that they are all at risk of having their entire head removed in one swift bite.  The last night Troy was away I instructed kids to go shower. We usually have a little negotiation over who will use which shower.  It's dumb, I don't know why we do it.  Anyway, they all took off and I sat in the kitchen chatting with Jen and KJ for a bit.  When I went upstairs to tuck the two little ones in we chatted and tickled (a favorite thing to do right before sleep because stupid parenting) for a few minutes. As I said goodnight - Lydia said, "Oh dang, we hurried up to shower and get ready for nothing. I thought you were in a bad mood but you're not." 
  • Hope got to go to the Dominican Republic with friends this weekend. Three teenagers and three brave 20-somethings took the border by storm and went off on a girls weekend. With Hope away and the boys gone at a sleepover, Troy and I had one night with only the last two children.  We asked them what they wanted to do with the special night of just the two of them?  They requested to drink Sprite and go buy ice-cream at the grocery store. We jumped in the car quickly and made sure to enjoy a chance-evening with the "baby" girls. We let them choose their ice cream and served gargantuan bowls of it.  Phoebe noted that, "Some day when the big kids are in college, we will party like this and eat ice cream with Mom and Dad every time we want!"  Possibly feeling bad for enjoying the absence of her siblings she added, "The big kids will just be able to buy Sprite for themselves whenever they want and drink it all day long."
  • Our friends (John Dols and Josh Dwyer) from Minnesota brought a group from the High School they work at for a week in Haiti. They were hosted by another ministry. We met up with them once for dinner and once for a beach day. On the dinner night the kids were asked questions. "What is your favorite fast food to eat when you go to the USA?" was one question that left five kids staring like deer in headlights.  Hope finally came through with, "PeiWei".  Then we determined that fast food is not our favorite at all and the question itself was flawed. Our kids had been invited the previous year to the beach day and had expectations based on the group from last year.  Sometime mid-day Noah informed me that this year's teenagers were much less interested in hanging out and rowdy housing on the beach. He said, "I guess they only brought introverts this year."

Hiking above Cazale in late March 

double date with Caroline and Vince
Jen was here 12 days to help with kids and driving 
Easter Sunday 

four of the six babies from April babystorm week 2015

Hope making chocolate in the D.R. this weekend

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Birth & Whispered Prayers

The staff at the Maternity center unanimously agrees, we love our jobs. We love the vision and mission of the Maternity Center. We adore the women we work with. We are in the trenches together and our bond is one that can only be formed by the deep knowing of what is at stake each time we enter that birth room.  

Practicing midwifery in a country where giving birth results in more maternal (and infant) death than any other country in our hemisphere - means practicing acutely aware of the possibilities and even more aware of our need for provision.

When thing get tense in the birth room, whether it be a stuck shoulder, a floppy baby, a hemorrhage, or the threat of a seizure, the language in the room changes.  Prayers are quietly uttered, usually simultaneously. 

"Jesus, bring this baby out."

"God, help us."

"Breathe baby, BREATHE."

"Make this placenta come"

"Please stop the bleeding"

Of course all sorts of actions are happening along with the prayers, but the prayers are a love language and the moments are holy. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Us

In some seasons there is time and space for deeper reflection than others. The Lent Season of 2015 was not one of reflecting, soul searching, or figuring out what the core of me believes and celebrates. It is a choice to slow down enough to reflect. Not unlike a lot of folks, I choose to stay busy enough to avoid reflection more often than not. 

I don't know how life on this difficult little island changes my experience, but I know it changes my experience.  Life and death are very real in the day-to-day here. In a matter of hours I may witness both.

The other night on one short drive I saw two young men in two separate locations injured and dying on the side of the road. (Nobody in those two vicinities expected a 911 call to equal a rapid response. They stood by while the injured men suffered.) 

Last night I again witnessed the birth of new life as a beautiful and brave young mother asked us several times to pray for her; then confidently pushed her little baby girl into my hands.  

I loved what my friend and midwife said about that birth:
"What a beautiful, middle of the night birth. We entered just as mom was ready to begin the pushing process. This young woman had already birthed trust, love for her baby, and a true knowing of what she had to do. It was holy. The rain had finished, the night was still with us, the moon red (or so I heard tell) and this first time mom reached into that confident place, grabbed her believing, grabbed us and grabbed God and delivered a baby girl. It was art. It was how it can be done."

As a follower of a crucified and risen King, I often times struggle to "grab my believing" - to focus on the hope of resurrection and the promise of new life while surrounded by the weight of death and injustice. 

I need to learn how to better grab my believing and celebrate Easter.  

Walter Brueggemann wrote a poem for Ash Wednesday called "Marked by Ashes" and in that poem he says: 

Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.Come here and Easter our Wednesday withmercy and justice and peace and generosity.

In my desire to learn to be better at hope and better at resurrection, I am praying. Today, may the Resurrected One Easter us to joy, hope, mercy, justice, peace and generosity. Easter us, Lord. May The light defeat the darkness. May Your hope overcome my grief. May unusual peace reign in my heart prone to chaos. 
He is risen means death does not have the final word. Easter us, Lord. Amen.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Metaphors for March

topography təˈpɒɡrəfi/ noun 1. the arrangement of the natural and artificial physical features of an area. "the topography of the island"

If life is like topography, than Haiti is the perfect ground for experiencing *all* that life has to offer.

This land we love and sometimes always struggle to understand has beautiful mountainous regions, a (central) plateau, and a large (Artibonite) valley.  

Those word pictures and the emotions they evoke can easily be used to describe a week of life in Haiti.  

One month and sometimes even as little as a few days can deliver a mountain top high, a valley of despair and a bit of a frustration plateau. 

In just a couple of weeks time, some topography at the Maternity Center: 

  • Three seven pound babies are born safely in a clean, loving, calm environment
  • A soon-to-be first time mother loses her confidence in her care-providers and opts to go in search of an unwarranted Cesarean section - we do not hear from her again after many months of working together weekly
  • Another first time mother suffering from preeclampsia has her labor induced and works hard and believes in herself and her ability and the care-givers and delivers a healthy baby - a high risk birth ends successfully in a vaginal delivery - good news for a first time mother
  • A woman cries in despair over the news of her pregnancy
  • A woman cries with joy and wonder as she watches her baby move on the ultrasound screen - she has lost two other babies, this baby has made it further than any other
  • A woman explains the thick scars all over her arm and chest as something that happened in a ceremony when she was a child, the explanation is given as if she were saying, "I fell and skinned my knee"
  • A woman joyfully explains her first born child is 17 and for 17 years she has used birth control, now that she happily finds herself pregnant she believes she is having twin girls - we tell her it is too early to know for certain and she says emphatically, "Pray for me. I will have twin girls" One of us prays and she laughingly demands that the other pray too - she makes us all hope for answered prayer
  • A first time mother and her newborn are dropped off to their corrugated tin shack that sits along a river filled with trash - no one welcomes them home or greets them upon their return
  • Another mother is dropped off to a clean block home - greeted by her proud husband - she shows us the beautiful crib her mother bought the baby
  • A woman with a eight week old calls to say she went "andeyo" (to the countryside) and her baby is not well, the doctors say they cannot do anything for her - to try another hospital
  • We get news that Mica, a graduate of our program turned staff member, and the voice behind the songs that are sung on program days, was accepted into an Midwifery/Birth Attendant program in Haiti - a victory of giant proportions
  • A woman whose baby has died during delivery at the local hospital is engorged and in excruciating pain, staff members, KJ and Mica, hand express milk into a towel to relieve a frustratingly insufficient portion of her suffering
  • A nurse runs up to hug and greet us at the hospital, happy to see the breastfeeding-singers arriving yet again
  • Mothers with living babies lie close enough to reach out and touch mothers with dead babies in a post-operative room at the same hospital
  • A woman joyfully bounces out of the consultation room, happy to have a spot to receive prenatal and postnatal care even though she will travel 30 miles on public transportation that will take several hours to transport her to our doorstep each Thursday
  • Several woman learn that we do not have space to allow them into the program
  • A mom brings her son back on his first birthday to see us and take photos together to celebrate

While we always traverse unpredictable terrain in Haiti, we rest in the knowledge that we never walk alone. 

Your friendship, your prayers, and your stubborn care for this little island are profoundly evident to us in the day-to-day.  
Thank-you for walking with us.  
Let's keep going. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

the babies are in town

Saturday Britt arrived.  She lived in Haiti from right before her 16th birthday until she was about 17 and a half years old.  She is turning 25 this month and is in school and on her way to becoming a (PA) Physician Assistant.  

One of the gifts Haiti gave Britt was the recognition of her love for patient care and all things medical at a young age.  Thanks to some really solid Nurses and Docs, she was able to do a lot of wound care while she lived here. We are appropriately proud  (which is to say we are very proud) of her and the way she is chasing her dream.  

Related: Middle age has hit us like a ton of cement blocks, we need her to usher us into our arthritic years with free flowing cortisone and daughterly PA love.

Paige and Graham arrived on Monday the 9th and have been drawing crowds of excited friends at each place they visit.  Paige wasn't very impressed with me at the airport because I greeted Graham before her.  "Mother! Hug me first." 

I hadn't previously realized there were rules in place about that. 

I fully understand now.

I am annoying everyone with my constant photo requests.  My obsession with having them all in one place may also drive my obsession to photograph the togetherness frequently. Thankfully, Troy has a tripod and a timer and no other unsuspecting person is forced into being involved in the photo shoot.

Paige led a breastfeeding support/discussion group at the Maternity Center last Tuesday and Thursday. It went really well.  Graham was a perfect (because Graham IS perfect) visual aid with his thick thighs. Paige confirmed for the ladies that yes, even though she has the financial ability to buy other foods, Graham is five months old and has only ever been breastfed. 

Tomorrow Britt is going to teach on sexually transmitted infections/diseases - not nearly as fun to chat about as breastfeeding, but equally important information.  

It is wonderful to have the "big" girls "home" for a few days.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

a lesson from Mikerlange

May 2013

Much can be said about the birth rate in developing world countries. There are multiple systemic and cultural issues at play. It doesn't take more than a couple comments on any given Haiti news story to see someone commenting something along the lines of, "Why don't they just stop having so many babies".  

The answer to that is completely and totally complicated and nuanced, of course.  There are far too many things at play to quickly answer those questions.  It is much more difficult to truly learn and understand the nuances of a culture of poverty, than it is to criticize and judge. Bummer fact, the world is overflowing with people sitting in high places casting down the oh-so-simple-answers and the quick judgment. 

Today I'm sharing a couple photos for the sake of changing paradigms - my own paradigm included.

The first photo in this post is of a brand new first time Mom, Mikerlange, that delivered her little one with us after many months attending Prenatal classes.  She lives in what would most likely be described as "abject" poverty and is fairly cognitively delayed/challenged. 

To be utterly honest with you, I really thought "that baby probably won't live" as we drove them home after weeks of postpartum care and snapped this picture one day in May 2013. 

The second photo is from Tuesday of this week.  Pictured here is that same Mom. She is (with help of her community) raising her daughter. Her daughter appears to be well cared for and healthy. She will turn two in May. 

March 2015

Most of us that are economically more secure tend to think that we automatically (because bank account) have a better skill set for raising children.  

At times we have seen this play out in really sad ways.  It is a quick hop, skip, and jump from "Wow, she is poor and raising children" to, "I could raise them better than her". We watch people make those leaps frequently. Sometimes it leads to abuse of power and heartbreaking treatment and marginalization of people. Orphanages are filled with kids with living mothers who believe they are too poor to raise their child well. I recognize now that technically speaking, when we showed up here to adopt, we unknowingly reinforced that idea.

Multiple years working directly with new ("poor") mothers has proven to me that material poverty doesn't disqualify anyone from being a good, and even excellent parent.  There might be reasons some women don't do as well as mothers or struggle to bond, but it is not necessarily tied to one's material wealth. 

Today I say congratulations to Mikerlange for proving me wrong.  She nursed this baby girl for many, many months. She cared for her daughter well and she deserves our prayers and all the props available to her - for a job well started.  

Go, Mikerlange, go. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

The bar is low, The grace is high, Let us pray without seizing

#lentwithclowns on Instagram 
Last December along with half of the Jesus-followers of North America, we went through Ann Voskamp's Advent devotional book. It was adapted into a family/kid-friendly version and given to us as a gift.  The readings (and then discussion) were about 15 to 30 minutes long each night.  That turned out to be about 10 or more minutes too long for half of the 7 participants at our house.

We ended up skipping nights when life was too hectic and then needing to do three or four nights of the readings all at once on several occasions.  Of course, on the night we would make them sit there for an hour or more, they would get all antsy and sick of it and then we'd say something snappy and brusque and cause hurt and then Advent would be ruined, at least in that moment.  "Sit down now, sit still, quit whining, and focus with great anticipation and JOY on the coming Christ Child! Or else."

That, I can confidently say, is not the advised way to do devotions.  Slack, slack, skip and slack, then JAAAMM it in for the sake of "catching up".  We felt like we belonged on the bench with our heads in our hands based on our lackluster Advent-devotion-performance.

No. That is not true. Not really. We are actually super sure God's grace is more than sufficient to cover our craptastic family commitment to nightly devotions - we are under no illusions that we are in some competition to be the holiest holy devotion-reading-family nor do we care to perpetuate an idea that earning our spot is a thing.  Because the bar is low and the grace is high. 

Last Tuesday when Troy told me he was hoping to do devotions with the kids during Lent I gave him the side eye. 'M-Kay, Troy, good-luck-with-that', I sarcastically thought.  Later that same day I saw a packet of paper printed and ready to go.

Impressed with the speed at which he saw his plan through to the next step, I asked, "So how did you choose the devotions you printed for Lent?"

Troy said, "Well, it was very well researched and thought out in advance. I looked for the very shortest one I could find and picked that one."

There you have the exact formula for how to raise a houseful of spiritual giants 5foot 4inchers - and a crew that knows their need for grace better than most.

Set the bar low and then rock the knee-socks off of your Father in Heaven.

Last night we completed the fifth night of lent.

So far, because the lesson is about 5 to 8 minutes long with the discussion, we are batting 100 and five out of five  (longevity!) nights - we made it happen. Bam.

(insert apology for lack of Christ-like humility)

There are a couple of our kids at super weird-o stages right now and each night has been highly entertaining. Somehow we have a larger than normal dork-factor happening right now. For Phoebe especially, there is a need to be right, to offer an answer, and to use all the vernacular she knows while simultaneously gaining the attention of everyone in the circle.  All five nights she has randomly interjected "GOD!" "Lent" "Fruit of the Spirit!"  - and on occasion things like, "Machete" "People in the street", and other random thoughts at totally inappropriate times.

To clarify what she is doing, it would be like going to work tomorrow and when your boss asks you a question about anything at all, you just shout "Fruit of the Spirit!" and then smile with confidence over having offered any response at all to said question.  Last night Troy said, "we're not talking about the fruits of the spirit just yet, but I am practicing Patience right now".  The other four kids all understood the jab and laughed like little hyenas at their terribly hILarious Dad.  Phoebe waited a second, joined in the laughing and then said, "Why are we laughing again?"

I think I am really going to like the clowns in my Lent group, if nothing else, they will bring us all laughter and keep us praying without seizing. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

when this feels like a battle that may not be won

Five day old twins, latched and nursing for the first time.
-My milk isn't here yet.
-My baby isn't hungry yet.
-My baby is sleeping all the time.
-My baby doesn't want it.
-My milk is "bad".
-I am poor, I can't.
-I don't have milk.
-The baby doesn't suck.

These are the things we are told when we ask new mothers at the large maternity hospital if they have offered their one, two, three, or more day old baby the breast yet.  

Many, maybe most of those we visit each Wednesday, will tell us one of those things.

Skin on skin and breastfeeding in the first hours of life are not only proven to be the best option for babies, we also know it helps with early bonding.  

In materially poor places, bonding is a luxury. Obviously, bonding comes more naturally to those that have their basic needs met.  Poverty often steals from women their ability to deeply invest in their babies or to have hope that their baby will live.  Breastfeeding not only increases a baby's chance of living, it increases the mother's ability to hope, love, and bond.

For this reason, we don our scrubs, grab our gloves, climb into the ambulance every Wednesday and wind our way through the traffic and potholes to go visit the hospital.  We understand that our chances of truly encouraging breastfeeding in the short interactions we have with the patients is not super likely. 

Yes, we can show a mother how to latch her baby and we can talk about the importance of skin to skin and colostrum, but without a lot of ongoing encouragement, a few words and a short interaction may not be enough. 

We go again and again because we hope that the nurses and doctors are watching, listening, and buying into the song we sing and the lessons we're trying to share. 

At times it feels a little bit like dropping grains of sand in the Grand Canyon, and hoping to fill it up. We don't leave the hospital feeling the abyss any less gaping. 

Even so, as long as we are welcome to enter the government hospital and come to sing and visit ladies bed to bed, we plan to keep throwing tiny grains of sand. 

Agathe helping a second time Mama get her two day old baby latched for the first time.

BondingThe levels of oxytocin hormone in a pregnant woman's body play a role in how closely she will bond with her newborn. In animals, oxytocin, dubbed "the hormone of love and bonding," is involved in good parenting and maintaining close relationships. Dr. Ruth Feldman and colleagues at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel, studied the role of this hormone in humans and found oxytocin is important in the bonding that occurs between mothers and their infants. Psychological Science, November 2007.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Geronne celebrates her birthday today.  We were lucky to get to meet and interview her father before he passed away.  Tonight we will skip the Mardi Gras revelry and have a birthday party for our dear friend of 9 years. 

~          ~          ~          ~ 

Posted originally April 2011:

Miradye Alexandre 

This weekend Geronne's Dad came to stay with us. He is 90 years old and very frail. He ended up here by accident due to the cruddy reality of Haitian healthcare. While we were sad she had trouble getting him care, we were very touched and blessed by his presence in our home. We have known Mr. Alexandre for more than five years. He spent his whole life in the area we first lived when we moved here in 2006. (For those that have Troy's book he is pictured there.) This was our first opportunity to spend an extended time just listening to him and sitting with him. Multiple times throughout the day Saturday and Sunday we had tears in our eyes watching Geronne care for him or listening to his laugh when Lydia came through the room or listening to him speak of his broken relationship with his father or his memories of raising 12 children in rural Haiti.

Miradye knows which generation and the names of his family that came here by force on a boat from Africa. He tells that story with confidence, as if he has it etched on his heart and has been passed down word-for-word.

We listened intently as he jumped from decade to decade sharing stories from childhood and recent years and everything in between. Geronne filled in a lot of details throughout the weekend. She shared in a matter of fact tone at times and with much emotion at others. We were humbled to be trusted with much of what she shared.

After the lengthy discussion about his life Miradye talked specifically about his faith. He said he used to be able to read a Bible and asked if we had one. His eyesight won't allow him to read anymore. Troy randomly flipped open the Kreyol New Testament. He "randomly" started to read from John chapter 14 ... try reading this to a 90 year old who is aware his time on earth is short.

John 14 Jesus Comforts His Disciples 
1"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.
2"In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
3"If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
4"And you know the way where I am going."
5Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" 6Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

Monday, February 16, 2015

a potpourri post

The documentary above is excellent for all adoptive parents to see - it does a beautiful job of exposing and examining some of the complicated feelings and nuances in the relationships of the adoption triad.  We encourage you to see this. 

~    ~    ~

I have been having trouble writing about Haiti and life here, partly because I've been here so long now that everything is much more "normal" to me than it was in early years. I also think there are some other things in the way of writing often. I hope to find some stories that feel right to share. 

Because of the writers block or whatever it is, I had asked if anyone reading had questions about anything at all. (adoption/Haiti/Missions/MaternalHealth/personal) 

These are the only questions asked and the answers...

Hi, everyone. I am a technical writer and have written about biotech subjects, although never medical procedures. I've often wondered what you use in your classes. Do you use anything printed or any online resources? Would you ever want to? --Nancy on on writing and a podcast

on 11/30/14
Tara, So my question: Do you ever find that your blog, your audience, and the desire to post consistently changes your experience of your own life? In a negative way Or perhaps in a positive way? Carlo on on writing and a podcast

Me again. I'd also like to know how you are doing physically from the chikungunya, if the after effects have lightened up and if anything has worked. Praying for you and everyone affected by it. on on writing and a podcast

In the classes we teach at the Maternity Center we don't use many printed resources. We estimate that about 30 to 40% of the women we serve do not read or write. Most of the class-room-teaching is done verbally and by showing videos and discussing topics. We also do skits a lot to teach.  Anything we share needs to be made culturally palatable, which means that a lot of times resources that are printed for the developed world won't necessarily work here. For example, if a pregnancy book or brochure suggests a woman eat a certain diet and get a certain amount of calories, we know that realistically most of those suggestions for "a healthy baby" are not possible for the clients we work with in Port au Prince.  There are many other examples, but we try to customize the classroom time as much as we can for the needs of the group. Group dynamics change throughout the year based on the personalities in the room and at times we need to teach breastfeeding more and at other times we find that teaching on STDs or other topics seem more important.  As often as possible we have Haitian leaders/nurses teaching, but we also do have American midwives teach too.
~  ~  ~  ~

I don't desire to post as consistently as I used to in the first years in Haiti.  I think in the early years I felt so confused by all that I was seeing and experiencing - writing about it was a way that I processed it. 

As I reflect on that early period, I wish I had done better at processing things internally and with Troy and close friends. It has taken so many years to feel a little bit like I have an understanding of Haitian culture and I recognize in hindsight that I probably would have been wiser to share less during those early years.  Also, early on I was pretty shocked to find anyone reading what I wrote and it mattered a lot to me to have readers back then.  Right now I don't have a clue who reads or why they read and I think it allows for a healthier me that writes when I want to and not because I think I must.

When I read archives from the year of the earthquake I feel like that time was an unfiltered and raw time, and some of it feels a bit too vulnerable.  

In recent years (mainly since I started working in Maternal Health and became a Midwife) I honestly don't find many opportunities to write about what is happening.  My fear is that I will disrespect the women we are here working with or that I will write out of turn in some way and while they all have very interesting, difficult, and inspirational lives, it doesn't always seem like great blog fodder to me. 

It is hard to write about the discouraging things AND the victories.  For us, we don't want to ever be super negative or cynical (and we are flawed humans working in a really difficult country so we get in those ruts) and we also don't want to be all self-congratulatory (acting like any sort of hero) when the really good stuff happens. 

It is a weird line to ride and I know from reading other newsletters, blogs, and things that the marketing engines put out that it is very difficult to share one's work in Haiti in a balanced, realistic, non-savior-complex, and open way. The fundraising side of things seems to keep many from being transparent about the failures.   

Truthfully, I love when Troy writes.  He averages two times per year, but in my opinion, he has the most enjoyable stories. :)  

~  ~  ~  ~ 

The short answer is this: most of us that had it last May and June are still regularly having arthritis pain. It comes and goes. There are days where I feel like a healthy 42 year old and there are days that I feel very stiff, sore, and 80ish. I have a place where I broke a bone that hurts me the most. Troy's ankles hurt him often.  I have asked around and most of those that are here in Haiti will say that they think it still messes with them, but given the challenges many face here, a little arthritis isn't going to stop anybody from doing what is important to them.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A V-Day Compare & Contrast Exercise

  1. 1.
    a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.

February 14, 1997 - Had been dating Troy for four months
February 14, 2015 - Married 16+ years - together 18+

1997- Was given flowers, chocolate, a card and a Teddy Bear (because tradition)
2015- Was given a new teddy-bear shaped jar of honey, and with it he said "I don't like you using that fake sugar, it is bad for you." (because true love)

1997 - Some fancy, candle lit, high-end restaurant for two (because tradition)
2015- Stir Fry Veggies cooked by Troy for seven of us (because true love)

It is super crazy to think about the things that used to be important to me.  At 24 Valentine's Day came with expectations of flowers and the things the world considers romantic.  If you know that February 14th brings the annual tradition of a certain gift, a card, and a fancy dinner out - what is exciting or mysterious about that? 

The world has its own definition of romance. (The world is über stupid.) The world knows very little of what romance and abiding love and sacrifice look like.  I find it exciting when Troy puts his kids above his work. I found my gift of honey to be quite a surprise! I think it is mysterious to watch the unique ways he comes up with to make me, each of our daughters, sons, and sons-in-law feel his love. 

Talk about a turn-on. Rawr. 

Very slowly, over the last 18 years, I have learned that authentic love (and even romance) look less like flowers and candle-light and more like this:

with the boys (09)

(son in law love)

(Britt 2009 - Paige 2015)

singing with Hope 2015 
Grandpa Troy - nothing zexier

I love you my Valentine. 
Thanks for understanding what romance is.