Thursday, August 25, 2016

Culture and CankerSores and Termites

I was sitting down to write about cultural things and I realized I don't have it in me tonight.  I need to feel sensitive and generous to broach that topic in a balanced and fair way. I feel tired more than sensitive and itchy more than generous, so I will wait to write a post on the challenges of providing care in an unfamiliar/different culture some other day. 

I will simply say that today I was the go between for a younger pregnant gal and her aunt while they fought about whether or not the pregnant woman took the antibiotics I gave her last Thursday. It was animated and loud with many sweeping arm motions -  as the drama unfolded it was fairly amazing and I was supposed to take a side - without knowing if she did or did not take the meds. 

I hope I picked the right one.

Later, I was the buffer between a new mom that did not want the dad of the baby to hold the baby because his family is not nice to her so I was instructed to say that our rules and regulations don't allow dad to hold the baby.  

Good times, I tell you, good times.  

The other never-ending situation at the Maternity Center that is aiming to take us all down, is the fight with plumbing. The bathrooms got cosmetic facelifts.  They look nice. The new tile is lovely. They just don't really do the things you might generally want a bathroom to do.  

If you only want to look at it, you're going to be very pleased. If you need to USE it, well, that's another story.

As it turns out the people we hired to redo our bathrooms apparently don't have more pluming experience than, oh, I don't know, let's say Lydia.  If you have never hired an untrained 8 year old to do your plumbing, you're smarter (or luckier) than us.  It seems like every day as the guys come and work on it, "fixing the problems", things get worse - not better.  Troy likes to remind me, do not assume conspiracy when incompetence explains everything. 

Since it appears that I cannot be super nice tonight, let us change topics.

Looking at the tabs open on my laptop I see that since Sunday I have researched and read extensively about:  Harriet Tubman, Canker sores, Generation X and Millennials, and Termites. 

These are not related topics, should that not be obvious to you.

Here is what I learned:

1. Harriet Tubman is the person I would most want to meet and have dinner with if I could choose any dead person to meet. Hands down, first choice. 
2. Canker sores are not herpes.  Paige calls any sore like that "Herps of the mouth" but technically Canker Sores are NOT herpes.  Just cold sores are.  Make a correction please, Paige.
3. I am Generation X - so is Troy - I of course figured this was the case but now my research has proven it truth. 
4. Paige and Britt are both Millennials  - then a 7 year gap that came after Paige and before Isaac means ... 
5. The rest of our kids are called "Generation Z"  - we don't know yet what thing will make their generation lame and useless like Gen X and Millennials, but wait for it, we will know soon. 
6. Termites are disgusting and when it rains they come out  - I learned this and it is NOT GOOD news because, yes, I see this all the time: "Two-winged termites, called “alates,” are often mistaken for flying ants and will show up after a great deal of precipitation. The presence of alates is a good indicator that termites have taken up residence in a home."  So there we have it.  "A GOOD INDICATOR" - that's perfect.

Earlier today Troy lectured me about my lack of breakfast and said that I really needed to eat better "at my age".  He lives somewhere else now, which is a bummer  -  because I have a significant termite problem and I need him.

This photo is the only one I took today. I love it so much.

 Nadege is loving on E. in the back of Prenatal Class -- she is DONE with this part but she's hanging out to offer her expertise to the masses. 😏 To quote my friend, Sharifa, "I cannot hold up under the glory of that sister's grin."

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

On Challenging Subjects

In June 2016, as was true from January to May and also July until present day, and then also the last several years, I was a discombobulated mess, lacking sharp-memory and organization. 

At one point in June I was communicating with two different women about podcast invitations  - but I *thought* it was all the same person because I wasn't slowing down to read signature lines and pay attention to names.  I figured it out when I sent back some preliminary answers correcting a fact or two in the biography and the lady I sent it to said, "I am not the one that sent this to you. I'm not sure why you sent it to me." 

So anyway, I unknowingly signed up to do two podcasts on the same day in June.  

Speaking to more than my friends or my little tribe of clowns makes me sweat profusely. On that day in June I lost three liters of bodily fluid sweating while talking over the internet to the women hosting the podcasts.

If you ever stop by the Maternity Center and ask me to speak out loud to several people together, you can witness the miraculous evacuation of fluid from my pores for yourself.  

Some people have the gift of public speaking and others have the gift of public sweating.  I excel at the latter. At least my gift is super visible. I mean really, who wants hidden talents? <gah>

I have waited a couple months to share any links to the podcast(s) because I feel awkward about it. (Sweaty) Or maybe I feel awkward about me. I don't know. Probably both.

The introduction to the one I am linking you to is 25 minutes -- I struggled to listen to the entire intro because the generous hosts only say nice thing -- and they say them for far too long without any balance.  It is way over the top kind. They did not mention that I am a snappy witch to my husband sometimes and super short tempered with my kids some days and irrational and hormonal and depressed at times.  It is just all rainbows and ponies about me and that's not the full me.  

That said, if you are a "podcast person" (and I say it that way because I have not yet become a podcast person but I am going to try when I start running again - I just have to start running again first - ahem!) and you want to listen, I'd be much happier if you skipped the intro and started further into the podcast.

In the second 1/2 we talked a lot about the more challenging topics.  We discussed Orphanage Tourism and the Short Term Missions and other topics that make us all break out in hives. 

Their website lists these topics of discussion:

... discussed on the podcast:
  • A discussion of self worth: What stories do we tell ourselves about what we are and are not capable of? How do guilt and shame inform what's possible in the future?
  • The road to healing — counseling, speaking your truth, being in control of your own narrative
  • The complexity of adoption and its root in loss
  • What does it take to move a family to a developing nation? A discussion of language, community, and living through the unexpected (not to mention an earthquake!)
  • The act of writing as therapy, the responsibility of sharing the story of others, and the privilege of first-person reporting
  • The work of Heartline Ministries and the emphasis on orphan prevention and keeping first-families in tact through empowerment and education
  • The role of deep and trusting relationships during labor and delivery to promote safe birth. 
  • Orphanage tourism and the complex nature of compassion. Who benefits? Who is harmed?

If you want to listen, you can click here  - but I warn you it's long so maybe just listen to some part of it.  Or don't. That's cool too.

~          ~           ~

Today a group stopped by the Maternity Center for a tour (we will happily give tours of the MC - just let us know and we will schedule one for you). 

Toward the end of the time together they asked very kindly if they could come volunteer.  I grabbed some deodorant, applied it quickly from head to toe and said, "No, not as a general rule, you cannot. But let me explain why." 

Disappointing folks that want to come help/volunteer is really hard.  It seems rude or unwelcoming. The thing is, it is neither of those things.  

The truth is, the Maternity Center must run 24/7 365 (because babies don't do anything at the time you want them to do the things) and in order to do that we have an amazing staff that are passionate about their work and they studied, trained, and worked hard to arrive at this place in life where they are doing this work.  

For some of the staff, sacrifices have been made in order to work full time at the Maternity Center. For some staff members, they chose a job that pays a little less than a bigger name non-profit could pay them because they believed in the core mission and values of the work.  For others on staff, they moved far from family to come learn a new language and culture in order to be the most effective care provider they could be.  

As you can imagine, it would be a little bit odd or disrespectful for us to tell one of the nurses or midwives, "Please hang back today because we want to real quick-like teach someone that is here for a few days how to do your job and let them do it." Can you imagine at your workplace if your boss started telling you to sit aside because he had someone else (not necessarily specially trained) to do your job?  Can you imagine at your home as a homemaker if a new volunteer came to help every couple days and you had to keep explaining where things are and all the systems and ways that you run your home to someone that couldn't stay long enough to be proficient?  The other important angle is the language piece. The volunteer that comes to your house cannot help you with your kids at your home unless you translate for them.  

The answer to "Can we help?" is "No thank-you", not because anyone is a rude jerk or is selfish, it just is not very practical.

The idea of "helping" and the reality of being helpful are not very synchronized in these cases. 

It really is complicated and nuanced.  

At Heartline we want to honor the full time employees that bust their butts and give their all and we think it honors them most to let them do their jobs and do them well. 

Nothing elevates a person like satisfaction in a job well done.  

Do we want to show you the work happening with Moms and Babies at Heartline in Port au Prince? Heck yes. Please schedule and then stop by and tour. We'll welcome you! 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

45 days and nights: A long time and a short time depending upon who you ask

America is hard, you guys. 

I don't really know how you do it to be honest. 

So much !order! in society (and so much electricity) means you have to do so.much.more. every day. The expectations to perform many many tasks in one day are real!

One errand per day is not impressive to anyone at all in America, whereas one errand per week is freakin reason to celebrate your bad-assery and moxie in Port au Prince. 

If I were to announce, "THIS WEEK in Port au Prince I made it to an office seven miles away, met with the person that works in that office, took care of my problem and made it back home." Confetti would fall from the sky and Troy would hand me a trophy so large I could barely maintain my balance to walk over and set it down in my errand trophy case  - which by thew way is now filled with three total trophies after ten years of trying at it.

In Minnesota I might have said to you all,  "I went to the post office and mailed mail today." I would then look for some affirmation and positive feedback, at least some sort of small deposit in my self-esteem account.  But you would just stare blankly at me. You would expect that I could do much more than that in one 24 hour period. And you would be correct.  

That was the hard part, too much efficiency equals too much demand to do the errands. Do the errands. Do the errands.

There was one particular day when three of our kids all had an appointment spread out in three different cities in the span of eight hours.  In my mind I was all, "Yeah right, as if three appointments can happen in one day. not gonna happen."

I tell you what.  It was like nothing I have ever seen before. 

One after the other after the other we showed up on time, people were working at the receptionist desk, the Doctor we wanted to see also showed up, the electricity stayed on for lab work, the car did not break down or get hit, the traffic and/or being parked into a spot did not prevent us from moving across many miles with ease. Miracles abounded and abounded some more. Order and structure and more. 

I fully recognize I was given more than my share of angst and crazy.  I own that.  

One morning I was in the Minneapolis St Paul long term parking garage and as I entered the ramp there was a digital sign listing how many empty parking spaces were available on each level of the different ramps and floors.  Is that not crazy!?!?!  If you don't think that is insanely orderly, you need to know you are incorrect.   

On that morning I had one of my too much angst moments and allowed myself some tears.  A ramp that tells you where to find empty spots so you don't waste time looking on full levels.  That is order, people. Take that fact and try to find congruity with another fact ...  Incredibly sick babies and women in labor cannot find a hospital with a single open bed or a doctor who can see them. Sometimes people die (like actual real death) traveling from one unavailable hospital to the next. 

Now you can cry too if you need or want. 

~   ~   ~   ~ 
(Stories to go with photos are below if you want to read first.)

Whit and Cutler's Wedding Day

Tina and Matt and kids & Grandma and Papa Porter with the happy newlyweds
Whit and her Two AMAZING Moms

Gazing into her brother-in-laws eyes  (soul?) with all the passion and fierceness she has

Jen and Josh's Wedding Day

Folks that worked at Field Hospital at Heartline after EQ

The amazing clean up crew after the wedding

Britt got to fly in for the wedding  - our first of the summer reunions with all 7 kids together

G & G Livesay with the Livesay flower girls 

Non-Wedding Events ... 
it appears to be a hot date night - it was fun but not really as sizzly hot as it appears

Paige and Michael and Graham are expecting a baby boy in late December.

The Porter Family week "up north" on Pelican Lake
G & G Porter (Tara's parents) with the clowns
(two daughters gave them 11 grandkids, 1 great grand so far)

(I would keep sharing photos but perhaps at some point it becomes obnoxious.  My Instagram Feed has the entire six weeks and over-posting of both weddings.)

The 45 Days/Nights Trip:

We flew into Ft. Lauderdale, drove to our friends in Naples for two days and nights. We got accused of illegal behavior with the Melton Family when we did sparkler-type fireworks in the street. Welcome to America!  GET OFF MY LAWN, said the neighbors. 

We left Naples and went to Knoxville, TN with friends for a night. Norris and Melissa Hill are the ones that need to go to jail for fireworks that cross legal lines. I managed to get hit by a bottle rocket at their raucous 4th of July event.  

After making it out of there alive we then went on to Simpsonville, KY where we stayed in the home of friends that were gone on vacation for a couple nights. Our kids loved being in that house and pretending they lived in KY near horses.  After KY we had a meeting in Chicago, and made time to show the kids the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel ( whoa, spendy!)  After Chicago we headed to the final destination in the Twin Cities. 

The road trip was so fun. We listened to podcasts with the kids and ate Crispy Cream donuts until we wanted to puke and stopped at grocery stores to buy deli meat and fancy breads for lunches on the road. Our kids are really awesome road-trippers. I would always pick that type of vacation with them. The cheesy saying is true - the joy is in the journey - and these five kids teach us that daily.  The way they marvel over the smooth roads and the lack of traffic is enough to paste on a perma-grin for seven hours and a few hundred miles.  Right as we landed in Fort Lauderdale, Lydia looked down from the airplane and yelled, "LOOK! A forest!"  Floridians know there is no forest, but not Lydia.  Six tress is a forest to Lydia. (I am going to save the rest of the TCK comments for a separate post.) 

Once to Minnesota we stayed in the Vik home in White Bear Lake, MN.   I never understood the total obsession many have with White Bear Lake ... Until now.   It is the kind of town that novelists write about, just quaint and perfect and people seem really happy there. I bet nobody ever gets sick or passes gas in White Bear Lake.  Perfection, I tell you.  Troy grew up spending time at the house we stayed in, so it was very weird for him to be living there for four weeks as an adult with his own clown show.  The kids loved seeing all the places Troy remembers and where he had his first job and taking walks by the lake. We walked to 'Cup and Cone' for ice-cream cones several of the nights.

We went to Whitney and Cutler's wedding.  Those that read here know that Whitney is my niece and came back into our lives five years ago.  Sitting there watching her trade vows with her love was one of the most surreal and holy moments for my sister and my family as a whole.  I kept thinking, "Oh my gosh. WE ARE HERE at THIS wedding with THIS girl we prayed for for so long."  (To read more about Whit and my sister, Tina - go here.)  Grace upon grace.  

My experiences with Isaac and Hope and Phoebe's birth/first families are all more important to me because I have witnessed the adoption and reunion of my sister with her first born. No matter how hard and complex these open international adoptions might be at times, we stay committed to doing uncomfortable things and honoring our children's first families. 

I think we have become proficient at awkward situations. 

I digress ... back to the trip ... 

We got to see a couple of our nephews' baseball games, and enjoyed that and several other Minnesota summer things that never happen in Haiti. Everywhere we went the kids ate their weight in strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, and grapes. The Meltons and Troy's parents both went in search of extra watermelon once they saw how our kids and watermelon interact.

Jen and Josh's wedding was so beautiful.  I have known Jen and counted her among my very best friends for 8+ years.  If you are a long time reader you know that Dr. Jen saved Lydia one Friday night in Port au Prince. (Like FOR REAL saved her life.) You know she helped our Maternity Center become the kick-ass place that it is.  You know she is a gift to Haiti and our community here.  Seeing her find love still makes tears drop from my eyes. (grabs tissue)  Jen found Josh and Josh found Jen and nothing is more lovely than seeing this with my own eyes. We love Josh. He is perfect and he has our stamp of approval. 

Besides the weddings, there were adulting type activities too. 

The vast majority of our time was spent dealing with Phoebe's poor little lungs and a couple of mental health situations our family needed to address. The machines they used to test her lungs were amazing and I have repeated my awe at those machines enough times that my friend KJ is now mocking me. 

As far as our mental health situations, I'm finally to the point where I have children at ages that deserve the privacy and autonomy we all expect and need.  It is hilarious to share ALL the stories about 2 and 4 year old kids -but not quite so hilarious when they are 12 and 14. We are doing okay. They are doing okay. I have a story to write about the people God sent us in the midst of that stuff, I will do that this week. 

I only say that much because I want it to be known that of course there is way more to life than what we all see on social media.  Nobody has an easy life without pain and/or trauma.  Myself included.  My kids included.  

We appreciate that many of you have come along for this ride with us for the ten years we have been writing. Those of you that have been around that long were here reading when Lydia was born and Phoebe joined the family. Because you have been here and have cared, I will simply say - puberty is a real beast, being human is hard, raising kids is difficult. We are with all of you parents out there - we also throw our hands up in despair on occasion - we are in the trenches too. We can do hard things. Right?   

Side note:  Lydia left the note below for the folks at the Macon, GA Marriott - I love it. - It is now our life mantra - our manifesto - the truth of being human.  

We invite you to use it freely. 

While we were in Iowa at the conference I grew up attending almost every summer of my life, we got word that my cousin had lost his son, daughter-in-law, and three very small grandchildren in one horrible car accident in Nebraska. 

The loss of five family members all at once is unimaginable. Of course while being unimaginable, it is also real. We were grateful to be able to witness the testimony of their lives and grieve with our family at the funeral two weeks ago in Minneapolis.  (If you want to read about them you can read their blog - they were preparing to move their family of five to Japan in October. You can also search for the media stories - Jamison and Kathryn Pals).  

Grief is such a beastly and long process. If you want to pray for my cousin Rick Pals and his wife Kathy, I know they would appreciate any and all prayers as they face life minus five people they really really love.

When it came time to pack up and return home, it felt like seven years AND/OR seven minutes had passed.  I don't know what that phenomenon is, but it makes a person feel a little more crazy than they normally feel.

I am recognizing that I miss regular writing and hope I can find the time to write (for the therapy alone) more frequently again. 

Until next time, thanks for reading and praying and loving and giving and caring.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Is there anyone here anymore?

Our August 2016 Tribe (and growing)

There is a deafening echo as I type, I am thinking maybe this is a completely empty Internet space. Perhaps everyone has moved on to SnapChat.  (I have no idea how it works and I rebuke it.)

Assuming four or five people might read this, (Hi MOM!) we are back in Port au Prince after an intense and busy six weeks in the USA.  The two weddings (our niece Whitney and our close friends Jen and Josh) were by far the most joyous two nights of the trip.  Our time in Northern MN with our whole Porter family was really great too.  The rest of what we spent our time on was somewhat difficult and some unexpected stuff came up with our kids - but God showed up in several ways and we already feel more encouraged than we did a few weeks ago.

The kids made us laugh a billion times at the wonky things they don't necessarily know about America.  I took a lot of notes and Dokte Jen requested a Third-Culture-Kid post, so I will attempt to do that soon.

We are getting ready for big changes in Haiti and trying to transition back to our real lives (as opposed to our Minnesota life which was really just a lot of people spoiling us with nice meals and our parents loving on and spoiling our kids).   Hope and Noah remain in the USA another two weeks with their big sisters in Texas.

We landed Monday night and both went back to work Tuesday. We had our first crazy Haiti-will-not-be-predictable day on Wednesday.   As we hopped in the ambulance and had ridiculous experiences getting a young Momma out to the hospital for her pre-term delivery we decided that we may as well jump right back into the chaos, there is no point in gradual re-entry it turns out.

My last post promised Isaac would answer questions.  He did.  He wrote a lot of answers.  I will work on getting them published, but I think we can all agree I failed to deliver what I promised - and I repent.  (A good portion of his energy in the first week went to LOVING having a red mini-van to travel from Florida to Minnesota in class.  Nothing impresses Isaac like a mini-van.)

More soon from the land of unlimited impossibilities ...


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

ASK ISAAC - 2016

Isaac came to me and said he's in the mood to write this summer.  He handed me this and asked me to pass it along ...

Hello E'rybody!

I am happy to be back at my blog, "Ask Isaac" for a bit this summer.  Sorry for my very long absence, however I will be taking questions this summer so get those thoughts coming.  There is one other thing I want to say.  If you visit my blog archives/history you will see a lot of the questions have involved Haiti and living in Haiti.  Those types of questions are great but think outside the box, get abstract, and ask creative questions.  This summer I will be in the States for 8 whole weeks so I would love to answer any questions you have about that.  I still love vocabulary words and will do my best to use new ones when I write.


Questions can be left as a blog comment or emailed to 

Link to his posts from summers past ...

Monday, June 27, 2016

on love and transition and patience

On the far right of both photos is an extraordinary woman and sister of ours named Winifred.

Those that have traveled to visit Heartline Haiti or maybe worked with the fields hospital the year after the earthquake know Wini.

If you worked with Wini you saw:  love, compassion, concern, tenderness, gentleness, skill, experience, wisdom, kindness and PATIENCE.

We decided at her going away party yesterday that the number one lesson she has taught us all is patience.  When the rest of us are frustrated or getting to the end of our rope with a situation or problem, Wini is ever steady and calm.  To say that our lives have been touched by her presence and example over the last six and a half years is a large understatement.

Please keep Wini and her family and the Maternity Center Staff in your thoughts and prayers as we all face this change. Winifred is headed to start a new life in Florida.

MC Staff Party: Yesterday the staff gathered to pray and celebrate Winifred (far left).

Monday, June 20, 2016

Countdown to Grahamson Time

Swimming around in the mushy grey area in my disordered brain is a list of about sixty things I hope to accomplish in the time we are in the USA this summer.  I am nothing if not stupidly unrealistic about how much can happen in five weeks time.  

I mean, it is America, things happen only easily, right?  

Besides my seven mile list of appointments, (GOALS) - I also have an appointment to be with Graham. 

He will be in MN the entire month we are there and we are so excited to see him often.  His fan club is currently mobilizing and preparing for much hullabaloo in July.  He is 20 months old now, so he knows everything there is to know and he has a mind of his own.  

Today, I was driving with Lydia and Phoebe in the ambulance out to pick up a lady from the hospital and eight year old Lydia said, "Well, I am not really looking forward to having kids but when I do I hope they are easier than Graham seems to be. He is a real piece of work, huh Mom?"  

He really is. We cannot wait to watch him in action.

Originally posted September 2014 ...

To our first grandson, some thoughts on life

36 week Grandbump
Dear little man,

It hardly seems possible that in four weeks you will be with us on the outside. Enjoy these last weeks in your mommy because being carried around in there is by far the easiest of all the options in life. Your old Mojo (that is me) sometimes wishes she could get back in the dark womb and hide in the warmth and peace for a bit.  (Don't be concerned about me, I won't actually attempt to do it.) I am not trying to scare you, I am just saying - enjoy it. That right there, inside your Momma, is the high life.

There are so many things I want to share with you.  Things about your Mom, things about this family, things about my mistakes and things I hope you can learn without pain. Learning is hard, it takes so many tries. To me it seems that most of us need to learn the hard way. We learn slowly, we fall, we stand up, repeat, repeat. 

I wish I could tell you ALL things that would help it be easier on you. More than that, I wish you could listen and truly hear me. The thing is, I know that you cannot.  I know you cannot  because I did not, and your Mommy did not. Because that is not a thing. We seem to be a gene pool that wants to get knocked around a bit as we learn.

Having said that I know I cannot save you from all pain or from making mistakes, there are just a few things I decided you might like to know before you come out into this boisterous and chaotic world. 

Love wins. Every time.

Now you might be saying to your baby self, what does that even mean, Mojo?  That is so abstract! You sound like a hippie or something. Let me tell you: As you grow up, you will find that sometimes things hurt you or make you angry.  Someone might misunderstand you, say something hurtful, or even intentionally lash out at you. When things hurt, when we hurt, we always want to curl up, withdraw, or strike back. That is just how we are, this gene pool.  

Your old Mojo wants to tell you that love never returns void.  I know you don't know the word void yet.  Let me try again.  When you are hurt, if you can try super hard to love yourself and love others around you, even the person that was mean to you, that will never be something you live to regret. A regret is something you later wish you could change.  The things I wish I could change in my life are all things that I did when I was very hurt or angry. We read that a soft answer turns away wrath, but a grievous word stirs up anger. That just means, when someone hurts you, you return their insult with a loving response. This sounds simple, but it is so crazy hard. It might take you fifty or sixty years to get it right.  I  know people that died very old that never quite got how important kind words and love are. Your Mommy and Daddy are going to teach you about love, watch them closely. I think they both know a lot about love.

Forgiveness is so hard, but it is a part of love.  

This one is gonna be rough, there is just no way around it. I am sorry to hit you with so much before you even get here.  I just want it to be easy for you later, that's all. There is a man named MLK Jr. that I hope you will learn about that said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” That is a way of saying, forgiveness has to be worked at non-stop. People will hurt you, if you are able you will respond with love, but you will still have the work of forgiving ahead of you. If you try to continue to love someone you have not forgiven, you will get a big old smack of reality right between your blue eyes, it is basically impossible. Forgiveness just means that you don't allow that hurt to continue to cause you pain. You turn it over and cross it off, and it no longer acts as a weight you must carry.

One of my very favorite Dutch guys, his name is Henri, said it his way, “Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”  

To simplify for you, Henri was trying to say this: Forgiveness is really just love, and you already know how important love is.

Nothing is ever as bad as it seems.

This is just something you figure out when you reach 40 or so.  I am telling you early, to save you the trouble.  Sometimes it feels like the pain won't go away, or the embarrassment or shame is just insanely HUGE and earth-shattering.  It does feel that way in the moment, your Mojo knows it so well. This might sound silly to you, but just give it a few weeks.  After a few weeks things seem smaller. You are just gonna have to trust me on this one until you get a chance to see for yourself.

~           ~            ~

Now that I have shared those things, I feel like I should say one more thing to you.  Someday, when you are quite a bit older, you will learn about my reaction to the news of you.  You might hear that I cried and felt overwhelmed for your Mommy and Daddy.  You might learn that for a few weeks we had a bit of hard time. Then, like number three says, we woke up a few weeks later and realized that things were going to be okay. We figured out that it was not so big or impossible. Not only did we realize that things were going to be okay, we got quite excited about the prospect (do you know that word? it means the coming possibility) of meeting you, holding you, smelling you, and getting to know you. 

More than 30 weeks have passed since I learned about your little beating heart inside your mommy. In those weeks I have prayed for you, loved you more each day, and watched your Mommy's tummy grow and begin moving like crazy. (She sends me videos. What is it you are doing in there, exactly? Nobody expects you to produce work until you are a bit older, take a load off and get some rest while you can, because it is not nearly so calm and dark out here.) When I meet you in just a few short weeks I know I will be in awe of you. I hope you will show me some of those fancy moves once there is more space to perform. 

I need you to know, the time it took for me to get totally excited, was really just fear.  I was afraid for your Mom and Dad and for you, too. It was unnecessary fear, I know that now.  I guess you get your first chance at forgiving (which we already know is love), right away. Forgive me for being fearful about you, please.  

I am so excited to meet you. I think we are going to like each other a lot. 

all my heart,


Friday, June 17, 2016

Why We Need to End the Era of Orphanages | Tara Winkler

I started feeling uncomfortable and in turn writing about the troubling trend of orphanages as a growing industry back in 2010. (Vulnerable children do not have to be institutionalized. There are other ways to address this.) 

In the last six years, dozens and dozens (hundreds) of new orphanages have opened in Haiti. Currently young women and churches are raising money to start their new program and build their new buildings.  These well-intentioned folks come in and build their buildings and take in children that have living families in a country where extended family often raises children.  

What usually happens from there is pretty much the most devastating thing I have observed in our decade in Haiti.

Talking about this can cause defensiveness and a shut-down in conversation.  Shutting down conversation is not the goal of sharing what we've seen and learned. 

We need - we MUST - ask ourselves really hard questions and examine the things we do.  It requires a lot of humility, it requires being willing to change course.

I found this to be a very excellent talk and I hope everyone that cares about children will watch this.

More Thoughts and Observations Here:

A Boat that Needs Rocking


First, do no harm

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Repeating History - Time for an eat down

I *try* not to write about the same boring thing too often. Trying is the best I can do. Writers usually write what they are thinking about.  I think about the same things over and over. This can cause some problems when I want to write about new and fascinating topics. 

In 2010 I explained a problem in my  household.  Perhaps in the period of six years, you all SOLVE the problems in your household.  

Congratulations to you!  That is not how we roll. 

To review the problem we have, I will give you the shortest possible version:  Troy stockpiles food and likes there to be a lot on hand. When he goes to the grocery store his average bill is $350. I prefer not to "over do it" and just get some sort of sick and smug and Mother Superior satisfaction over having less on hand. When I go to the store I typically spend about $150.  

We just have different ways of being. 

He looks at me like I am crazy and says, "Tara, that is not that much chicken I bought. You don't understand how fast we will eat that." I look at him and think, "Why are you ready for Armageddon? You're not going to have enough propane to cook all that chicken when the bombs start dropping, so why buy it in the first place?"

This disagreement has to do with the culture(s) of the homes we were raised in and we both feel our way is better.  One of us is right.  The one that is right has a four letter name starting with T. 

We are taking our clowns on the road in July. The plan is to fly to Florida and then saddle up the rental mini-van and begin the long trek North, to God's country.  

We love traveling to the USA with these Third-Culture-Kids because they make everything joyful. The main conversation of our household as the trip is drawing closer has to do with how amazing mini-vans are and how clean the public restrooms are. 

They are not trying to be hilarious. They are dead serious. It doesn't take that much to impress them and that makes traveling with them a total blast. We plan to rate every bathroom we use and marvel at the flushing toilets and well stocked paper towel and toilet paper at each rest-stop. Isaac describes the mini-van as "luxurious"  - I can't even make this stuff up. It is pure gold. 

As we prepare to leave Port au Prince, we are imposing a 2016 "Eat Down".  This means no going to the store to buy more groceries.  It means you look at the food you have in your house and you make a meal with it.  

Eat Downs bring me into the fullness of superiority and glory - there are simply not enough SELF congratulations to offer when a can of french-cut green beans is my breakfast.  

June 2016 Eat Down kicks off today. Wish us the best.

Below is the archived information of the Waco, TX 2010 Eat Down before we headed back home to Haiti that year...    

This weekend we put off going to the grocery store no less than five times. This forced us to the point of serving a different meal for every person on Sunday.  I knew it was bad when Isaac came into our room Saturday morning and said, "Can you put syrup on those sandwich buns?" Then on Sunday he returned asking, "If I have that leftover taco meat for breakfast would that okay?"  Taco meat for breakfast?  Sure. Why not?  I get really weird when there is no food in the house; like I get some twisted enjoyment out of proving that it is possible to make a meal out of a can of refried beans, some mayo, one sleeve of saltines and three nearly rotten apples. 

It is called an "eat-down" and it is a thing, a real thing.  It means that you take inventory of your gluttonous ways and truly look at the food you still have in your pantry.  Who says a can of corn is not a meal? Throw a pickle and a black olive on top and it is a colorful culinary vegan masterpiece.

The real trouble occurs when Troy starts to feel he is not properly providing for his family because the cupboards and refrigerator are bare.  He feels safest when there is a two month supply of the staple items.  Oddly enough it caused issues when we first got married because I prefer to scrounge for food and feel superior over not needing to have a big stash and he prefers to have a freezer full and feels smart, safe, and ready for anything. (Earthquakes!)  He used to grocery shop occasionally in those early years and I would be annoyed at his massive stock-piling.  I did not even know why I was mad. Meanwhile, he thought I was an idiot for going to the store and only getting enough for five or six days. We finally figured it out about five years in, so now we enjoy mocking each other like all loving married people do. 

Lessons of the "eat down"

After the post I wrote Sunday, Troy declared that he was officially on board and not only was he on board but we would be legalistic and even barbaric in our eat-down rules moving forward.

Apparently if I want to mock his preferred methods, I had better be prepared to prove I am loyal to mine.

The photo above represents the last of the food in the pantry as of this morning.  There are also 12 stale instant oatmeal packets remaining.  The freezer has one half bag of frozen veggies and two hamburger patties.  The refrigerator has condiments, two eggs, four sticks of butter, and 1/4 gallon of milk.

Last Wednesday the people living in this home began to whine and complain. They even declared there was "NO food in the house" - yes, a full week ago.  Yet, we've eaten at home every night since then and no one has been forced to go hungry. Have we had some weird meals?  Sure. But we ate.

The Livesay family is blessed beyond measure. We are in the portion of the worlds population that live with the privilege of declaring there is "no food"  -  when in fact we have six to seven more days of food in our house. We learned a valuable lesson.  We don't know what NO food is like.  We only know that we get whiny when we're out of fruit and our favorite snacks.  

The point is not to feel guilty about what we have access to and resources for, not at all. I'm not teaching my children anything of the sort. The point is to consider that what is "no food" to us and what is "no food" to most of the world cannot even be compared. The problem of hunger and poverty in just one tiny country alone is mind boggling; we know that many face a daily struggle to feed their families.  This is the grievous reality that I pray I live to see changed.

The food that remains in our pantry, the amount we refer to as having "no food",  may exceed the amount of food most families around the world will consume this week.