Sunday, January 24, 2016

Marie-Ciane, Tanzania, and Zika ... Some Things That Need Prayer

Since Thursday of this week Marie-Ciane has been at the Maternity Center. She is a 40 year old Momma awaiting the birth of her second child. We (the entire staff here) have soft spots and utter respect for her.  She's downright inspiring. 

Marie-Ciane doesn't want or need pity, her blindness has not held her back and she certainly doesn't want anyone to baby or "other" her. She is totally independent and prefers to do things for herself. I offered to help with bathing but she declined. Before she wants help bathing, she chooses to be shown to the bathroom and left alone to do it herself. (Photo: She took our breastfeeding song and wrote it in braille a couple of months ago.) 

We are starting to think that maybe Marie-Ciane is going to need to be transported but no decision has been officially made as I write this.  From our statistics of 2015, we have learned that 1 in 4 women we serve end up with Pre-E, this is exactly what Marie-Ciane is dealing with and so far our efforts at inducing labor have failed. Prayers for this amazing bad-ass lady and her second child (a little girl, already named Sarah) are so very appreciated today and this week.   



THIS coming Friday, Beth McHoul, (KJ) Beth Johnson, and I will all be getting on an airplane bound for Tanzania.  This trip has been about 13 months in the planning/making and I think we are all surprised the date to do this has arrived so quickly. We will be working at a high volume (maternity) hospital in Dodoma, Tanzania with a friend and Midwife extraordinaire from Omaha, NE.  Our hope is that we will be helpful there and also gain experiences that will help us as we continue to work with the women of Haiti. 

We are going with expectations that look like this:  


We expect it will be something. It could be good, it could be bad, it could be fun and it could be really hard. It could be busy or it could be relaxed.We will know when we know and not before then. 


I am the only one of us that has never been outside of the Western Hemisphere or to Africa.  I think that means I am the only one that feels really nervous.  I don't love the feeling of being so far from my family and I get all spun up worrying about how I would get home if somebody got really sick or hurt. I am afraid for the feeling of being so disconnected from my people.  (Do it afraid.) 

Two Midwives named Shelly and Ann (from Boston and Germany) will be coming to cover for us here in Haiti. Please keep them in your prayers and nurses Wini and Nirva as they work/serve extra hours too.  Most of the women due in late January and early February have delivered their babies, the visiting midwives might have a chance to rest and relax a little bit.

In the news here, the political situation is tenuous. I am sure you've read a bit about it. Today was to have been another round of the election, but it was called off on Friday.

In our line of work we have been dealt a serious kick to the face.  The Zika virus is here and we are very concerned for the women of Haiti. For the next year this will be playing itself out in ways we probably cannot prepare for or imagine.   Rather than fill you in with my worried words, I am sharing some information from the CDC below.  

If you are a frequent visitor to Haiti, and you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, I beg you to read this.



(Click for FULL article/FAQ)

I am pregnant. How will Zika virus affect me or my unborn baby?

CDC has issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions 
and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, 
French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, 
Puerto Rico, Suriname, and Venezuela.
This alert follows reports in Brazil of microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of 
mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. However, additional studies are needed 
to further characterize this relationship. More studies are planned to learn more about the risks of Zika 
virus infection during pregnancy.
Until more is known, and out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends special precautions for 
pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant:
  • Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission 
  • is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare 
  • provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
  • Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling to these areas and 
  • strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.
Because specific areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are difficult to determine and likely to change over time, 
CDC will update this travel notice as information becomes available. Check the CDC travel website frequently for the 
most up-to-date recommendations.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Get Up - You're Alright (and fine and ok and not that hurt)





The blood trickled steadily out of my nose as I struggled to get up while spitting out small pebbles and holding my hand under my nose to protect my shirt from the aforementioned blood.

One miscalculated, or perhaps over-confident, **Mary Lou Retton inspired, "penny drop"  -  and that was it for my face.

"Get up. You're alright!",  my Dad cried from a few feet away.

I followed protocol. I got up and walked over to him to show him the damage. He picked rocks out of my nose. "It's not too bad. You are fine."

Rocks embedded in my nose, skinned knees,  a TOTALLY bruised and battered (potential future) gymnast ego, and you are telling me I am fine ?!?!  What kind of bs is this?!? 



*      *      *


This is very much the way injury is treated in my family of origin. Physical, emotional, or otherwise, the advice remains the same: "Shake it off. Get.Up. You are alright."

Now that I have my own tribe of rabble-rousers, I hear my Dad's voice in mine all.the.time.  My husband mocks me gleefully, "Okay Randy", Troy says when I tell my kids they are not hurt.

I am known for my lack of sympathy for physical injury.  I am known to minimize and jump to the "Aah, no big thing, you'll be fine" response.  Phoebe occasionally has Asthma events wherein I attempt to say that 86% oxygen saturation is sufficient. "You're fine. How important is *breathing anyway?"  

Perhaps that sounds uncaring. Maybe you're judging Randy Porter harshly for handing down this tough-guy response to his first-born daughter.

Hold on, before you send sympathy cards to my children, hear me out.

Perhaps there is a place for coddling and ... you know, caring, when an injury happens... 

However, I believe that the "Get UP - You are alright" mantra has served me well for several decades.

When mosquito-borne tropical illness and/or crushing cultural misunderstandings and/or 7.0 earthquakes and/or loss of loved ones happen, the "Get Up" recording playing in my head has saved me from the threat of near total shut-down.

Today I submit to you, dear one reading, that we all need a person in our life that tells us that we are alright and to get the heck up.  


... And, hopefully we also have someone that excels at empathy and sympathy and commiseration and lament. I think there is absolutely a place for that amazing person too. 

Thank-you, Randy Porter, (DAD) for being my 'Get-Up' person. 



** The only thing I finally achieved that gave me some connection and commonality with MLR is incontinence. Sneezing and trampoline jumping is dangerous business for both of us now. 

*This is hyperbole - I don't really do that to Phoebe. I give her a breathing treatment stat.






Sunday, January 17, 2016

Longevity

Origin
early 17th century: from late Latin longaevitas, from Latin longus ‘long’ + aevum ‘age.’


In 1983, the middle of my Fourth Grade year, when I was 10 years old, I moved to a new elementary school in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.   

It was January when I first walked into Park Brook Elementary and Miss Cummings classroom.

The feeling of being the new kid mid-year is less than the most amazing feeling one can have.  It is only amazing in that it is amazingly scary

On the first day at my new school, I walked into the lunch room and tried to figure out what to do and where to go to get a ticket and buy lunch.  

While I stood in line feeling like I might poop my pants at any moment as the new-kid nervousness churned in my belly, a girl walked up to me and said, "Would you like to sit at our table with us?

Relief washed over me.  I wasn't going to sit alone.

33 years ago this month I met Lisa, my longest-time friend.  I have no other friends that I am in regular and close  contact with that go back further than 14 years. Lisa holds the title by a looooong shot.

Our friendship has endured 5th and 7th and 10th grade fights.  It has endured Junior High and HighSchool,  my teen pregnancy and marriage, my divorce, and much other drama.  (I crashed on Lisa's dining room floor during one particularly stupid part of my early 20s). 

It endured a boyfriend of mine she rightfully LOATHED, it endured her move to California, several moves around the Twin Cities, my move to Haiti, the birth and adoptions of my seven and her one ... it has endured a lot.   

She is the godmother of my oldest child, and I am her son's godmother too.  

We know each others personality disorders, and quirks.  She dealt with my over-the-top neurosis of cleanliness for several months when we lived together for the second time in Buffalo, MN. (I'm mostly recovered now.) 

We were in each others weddings. (She was in two of mine. I have only been in one of hers.) 

One amazing fact not to be downplayed or overlooked - we went to 'travel school' to learn three letter airport codes together. Because, why not go into debt to learn something that would soon become obsolete?  

Later we went to Crown College to get an actual college degree that wasn't  a TOTAL waste of money and time like the McConnell Travel School proved to be.  

BNA - Nashville, TN
IAD - Washington Dulles
BDL - Hartford, CT
Impressed yet? 
Shall I continue?

It's not just anywhere you can get those airport codes and the many, many others. Not to worry, they are in our heads.   Pre-Google and WorldWideWeb we were in high demand, thanks to awesome little nuggets of knowledge like those.  "The McConnell Travel School" doesn't exist in downtown Minneapolis anymore.  Shocking, right?  It's sad for you guys that will not all have the same opportunities we had to learn those codes. <cough>

Our friendship has outlasted McConnell and a marriage and a billion other little and big things.  I am so grateful for this woman, my friend since the first day I met her.  I am excited to have her here again (3rd time!) on Haiti soil with us tomorrow.

defining long age 




Friday, January 15, 2016

When Life is Cruel, Love Empowers

A momma currently in the program - 10th pregnancy - 3 living children


To say that life is complicated for the women of Haiti is a cruel understatement.

Weekly we hear stories of abuse, infidelity, homelessness; struggles beyond comprehension.

It has become cliche to hear of the tenacity and strength of Haitian women. 

We wish that they had lives that allowed for some weakness and rest.  

When working in a place like Haiti, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the need. This is especially true when so many of the women we meet share a difficult story and a similar large need.

It has been our goal to truly get to know each woman in our program and to glean a little bit of her story - to take the time to understand specific details about her life and her situation. We want to know more about them than, "they are pregnant and materially poor". 

Whether we can help in each situation or not - we truly desire to know about the ladies and their lives and to enter into relationship with them. We believe that love transforms, redeems, and empowers.

It is easy to fall into thinking, "Why did she get pregnant again? Doesn't she learn?" Some might even think, "Well she got pregnant - it is her fault she is so poor." 

While a very small portion of her situation *might* be a direct result of her own choices, the fact is MOST of her life circumstances have much more to do with the culture and country she was born into. Her culture allows her very few choices and opportunities.  

Our programs do not exist to fix Haiti or change Haiti's culture. That is a battle we won't likely win no matter how hard we try. We can change a few misconceptions. We can make a dent here and a dent there in long-held inaccurate beliefs. We can empower the women we serve, but we won't always succeed in convincing women we work with to use birth control or to plan ahead or even to breastfeed their newborn. Sadly, we won't be able to protect our women from gender based sexual violence and abusive marriages. While it is easy to get stuck being frustrated with what cannot be changed, our challenge is to focus on what can be done.

Our program exists to show mercy and grace and love to the forgotten and to be to them a little bit of Heaven on Earth. We hope that by feeling unconditional love, they might desire to know the unconditional love of the Father. We pray to that end. 

Jesus came not only for me and for you, but for the Momma with three kids and six abortions that is pregnant again. He loved the prostitute, the unclean, and the serial mistake-makers. He did not give up on them or turn away. It is for this reason that we won't ever turn away. We hope and pray she does not have another unplanned pregnancy  - we're doing everything we can to educate and after that we are choosing love - because love empowers.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Perspective

This “experiment” is a perfect illustration of how we all deal with preconceived notions about the people we encounter, and how that affects the way we view them and even the way we treat them. 





Yesterday I had experienced a pretty rough day by the time I landed in Miami, FL at 8:30 in the morning. 

 I stood in line to get on my flight home and the pilot was joking around with folks as we boarded the plane. I asked him about his Kreyol and French speaking skills and we chatted briefly. 

 He told me in that interaction that he really found the Haitian people to be wonderful. I stood there thinking about what he had shared and turned back to him to thank him for that kind word. I told him that my experience is that the folks on flights often seem very annoyed (even mean) and that I really appreciated that the cultural differences weren't causing him to be ungenerous in his assumptions about Haitian people. 

 He said, "We're all just people, right?" 

 I like this video I embedded above and I loved my interaction with the pilot named Jason on AA yesterday. 

 Perspective is everything.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year from our Tribe

Five in Texas and Seven in Haiti wishing you & yours renewed hope and joy in 
2016 with this unflattering family photo



2015 was above average difficult, I thought.  It wasn't impossible by any means.  

It honestly just seemed tiring and more than the normal amount of emotionally challenging. Is that how this year landed on you too? 

I think I might need those glasses that help you read a paper in your hand without pulling the paper closer and then putting it real far from your face while trying to find the sweet spot where the words aren't all blurred. 

I guess this is what old feels like.



*   *   *

2015 was also beautiful, I thought.

Paige got married,  Michael landed a great job, Graham started walking and turned one. 

We got to vacation for a week with G & G Porter on a giant boat right after Paige's wedding.

Britt and Chris continued to chase hard after their big career dreams and wait on the right timing for beginning their family.

Isaac and Phoebe got super stretched out and tall.  

Noah learned how to deal better with the pain of life and became more skilled at being a very sensitive person.

Lydia and Hope stayed short, feisty, and awesome. 

Troy is transitioning into a leadership role, that's weird uncharted territory that utilizes all the feelings.

The Maternity Center aided in the delivery of dozens and dozens of miracles and new mothers felt loved and respected and honored. Plans to expand became a reality, that construction has begun. 

Friends were forced to leave Haiti unexpectedly to deal with the dreaded Cancer diagnosis.  

Women we met told us stories of their lives, of poverty, abuse and sorrow unimaginable and unfair. Even so, we watched many of them overcome.

We miss the kids in Texas and our aging* parents and our siblings - AND - We love our Haiti life. We wish we were not missing all the things with family and friends and their lives in the USA. Even so, we believe we are supposed to be here. Both. And. 

Always both and.

It's hard. It's wonderful. It's joyful. It's painful. It's confusing. It's clear.

I guess this is what life feels like.

Happy New Year to you - May 2016 bring us far more joy than sorrow, far more beauty than bifocals.




*we figure they must be aging too - logic led us to this conclusion






Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 Statistics - Heartline Maternity Center

a storm of first time moms and little ones born this summer

To each of you - Thank-you for following along, praying, giving, and encouraging this year. 

Your love is not measured in the statistics below, but we believe we have the top 10% of the world's kindest people standing with us. 

We are anxious to share with you what we learned when we pulled out all of the files and compiled some of the data.

~      ~       ~

Total of 104 women began the Prenatal Program in this calendar-year.
(60% of whom are still pregnant now and due to deliver in 2016)

Total of 96 finished the Prenatal program, and advanced to Early Childhood Development Program (and many later graduated when their baby reached six months of age) (this total includes both women that gave birth, miscarried, or left the program for various reasons shared below) 

Total Babies Born to women receiving care here -  81

Total Births at the Maternity Center  62

Total Miscarriage - 5
Total number that lost their spot due to poor attendance - 4
Total Risked Out to higher level care - 3
Total moved away - 3

Total IUFD  - 1 (intrauterine fetal death - this loss was late third trimester)
Total Preemies born - 6
(26-29 weeks is what we consider age of viability in Haiti these babies were all 26 to 35 weeks)   (4 lived - 2 died) 
.025% Neonatal Mortality Rate (this stat = died in first 28 days of life)
0% Maternal Mortality Rate 
.025% Infant Mortality Rate
(this stat = died in the first year of life and includes the neonatal stage, to our knowledge zero babies died after the six month mark, which is when we no longer see them regularly)

~   ~   ~

1,156 Prenatal Visits (average of 12 visits per woman) (we did not add up the prenatal visits of the 50 women that are currently pregnant - this number is those that have delivered this year)
  509 Postpartum Visits 
(average of 6 visits per woman - PostPartum Care is hugely important) 
1,700 women receive birth control here - this means about 70-80 women come every Friday (mainly for Depo Provera)

70% of women that delivered at Heartline in 2015 are in the Family Planning Program (meaning they chose one of the two forms of free birth control offered)

~   ~    ~

C/S rate 13% (The World Health Organization states that a 15% rate is to be expected)
Pre-E rate 26% (Pre-E is the number one complication for Haitian women)
We managed 57% of the Pre-E Deliveries  (did not transport)

Total Transports 19
Transport rate 23% 
Transport REASONS were:
6 of 19 transports were for "failure to progress" 
(which usually also means maternal fatigue)
1 of 19 for polyhydramnios
1 of 19 for post dates concerns 
3 for non-reassuring fetal heart tones in labor
2 for PPROM 
(Premature rupture of membranes (PROM) is a rupture (breaking open) of the membranes (amniotic sac) before labor begins. If PROM occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is called preterm premature rupture of membranes)
3 for Pre-Ecclampsia
3 for other reasons
(6 of the above transports assigned a reason OTHER than Pre-E but ALSO had Pre-E but that was not the transport reason)

Other Interesting Facts:
  • We FREQUENTLY asked for you to pray on social media sites, you showed up! Thank you!
  • 1 baby born in the ambulance this year
  • 43 Girls  -  38 Boys
  • 44% of the women served were G1s
  • The youngest was 15 - The oldest was 40 
  • Babies come in bursts it seems - four in 48 hours in April and November and while we "plan" (it is silly, really) 6-8 babies a month, one month we had twelve!
  • 2015 none of the women we cared for were carrying twins, but now we have two women carrying twins that are due in 2016
  • Ultrasound training and much greater capacity to use U/S was a success of this year
  • Our BirthControl Program went digital (the rest of the medical records will too in 2016)


Madame John sending a young mom off with her vote of confidence 

KJ checking out the due date list with three curious Mommas

Great Grandpa of 93 meets his new family member

A Grandma praying and giving thanks in the PostPartum room while her daughter showers

late 2015 MC Staff- in September we had to let a long time friend & staff member, Agathe, go onto new things 

a little one that was born far too early, special keepsake photos were taken for Mom 





~     ~      ~




We meet women early in their pregnancies. We meet women that are living in a country with the highest maternal mortality rate in the western hemisphere, where 2 out of 3 of their friends deliver at home without a skilled birth attendant. Because of that, we meet women in a country where the risk of dying during child-bearing years is unusually high and the chances of losing the baby are just as daunting. 

We are able to spend 7 to 9 months of a woman's pregnancy getting to know her story, her needs, her unique situation. Prenatal care is rare for Haitian women, we are thankful to offer the same quality prenatal care in Haiti that our friends and relatives in North America are receiving. By the time a woman delivers her baby with us we know the details of her biggest challenges in life, and we know how to support her in a personal way as she delivers a new life into what oftentimes amounts to hardship and difficulty. 


During labor and delivery a woman is able to do the miraculous work of bringing her baby into the world in a calm environment where people offer nurture, gentleness, kindness, and love. If you have visited a Haitian hospital or walked through a crowded neighborhood in Port au Prince, you understand the vast difference our birth-center environment offers a woman.


After delivery we are able to walk with her as she does the work of bonding.  In cultures of poverty this doesn't come as naturally as it does for those of us living with material blessings galore. We love, encourage, and stand with the new mother while she begins to nurse her baby and bond to him or her in the process. We encourage mothers that God has given them the skills and heart they need to love, serve, and raise their children. 


We offer education and ongoing support for the first six months of her baby's life.  We teach about child-spacing and safe and effective methods of birth-control, in order to empower each woman to take the lead in their own health and future.


We are human and we make mistakes, we are not perfect, but we try hard to get it right when we're walking along side our Haitian friends. We work diligently to withhold any judgment and simply offer a place of safety and love and grace to a woman that is coming to us from a life of difficulties we will never fully understand. 


It's awesome and we are so grateful to have never lost a mother in our delivery room - but we are even more proud to share that the women that enter our doors feel valued and honored and loved --- and that is the reason we respectfully ask you to consider supporting Heartline Ministries and Maternity Center when you give this season.


Thank-you! 


To donate on line:

https://heartlineministries.org/getinvolved/donationspage.php

To donate by mail:

Heartline Ministries, a 501(c)(3) organization,
PO Box 898, Sunnyside WA  98944.   

(Tax Identification Number 91-2072330)

If you have questions about Heartline that you would like to ask before giving, please contact us at livesayfamily@gmail.com - we will do our best to answer with a few days.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)










What began in '07 as a December 23rd last minute request, "Babe, please make this go on the Internet for me" - has turned into a tradition we all really (mostly) enjoy. 

The things is, even when a bit odd or time consuming or even a little stressful, family traditions have a way of creating something that feels safe and reliable and stable in a world that doesn't often feel that way. 

We love traditions because they are something we can count on, am I right?  

If the tradition stops bringing joy, it is time to change it up. Until then, we bask in the simple pleasure and routine of "Yep, this is what we do for fun in December". 

We so hope you all get a chance to enjoy your own traditions this season. 

Like Noah said, it is pretty evident that we are a world hurting and in need of a little rest. 

We are aching for redemption, aching to be made new.  

May the gift of God's son and the hope He brings be something so real and near to us this year. 

May unusual peace settle in on us.

To those that pray for our kids/family, the work of Heartline Ministries, the McHouls, Beth Johnson, the Maternity Center, our teachers, our friends and co-workers -  we cannot possibly make you understand or believe what that means to us.  

If you were standing here, we'd grab your shoulders (or maybe even your cheeks) and squeeze you in a spazzy (somewhat violent) Lydia kind of way and say, "THIS SO MATTERS. THANK YOU!!"  

To those that shell out hard earned cash to help us pay our rent and buy diesel and feed and educate and raise these goofy kids, your generosity allows us to be here doing work we love - what an amazing gift. 

To Britt and Paige and Chris and Michael and Graham, our "TX kids" - We love you so much and we think of you every.single.day. This was meant to make you smile; we hope we achieved our goal.  

XOXO-
Merry Christmas,


Troy and Tara and Tribe






The sadness that comes with celebrating holidays abroad really isn’t that different from the sadness that comes with any kind of celebrating. The reason love terrifies us is because it is so intimately intertwined with pain. The reason gratitude makes us cry is because it hurts. It hurts to be thankful for people who aren’t present. It hurts to be thankful that when I’m lonely, my local friends love me well. Celebrations of holidays sting because the celebration ends, the families go home, we can’t hold onto it forever. We can’t keep our children in our arms and under our roofs forever. 
-Rachel Pieh Jones

Monday, December 14, 2015

O Holy Night

beautiful-christmas-holiday
Every direction you turn, images of Christmas..You need not look far to find beautiful and thoughtful displays, tastefully decorated homes with glowing trees, and rows and rows of symmetrical twinkling lights. Step into one of these homes and the warm fire will greet you as you breathe in fresh scents of pine and cinnamon. It is beautiful and clean and so.very.pristine. 
Looking upon these exquisite arrangements one senses order and peace.
O Holy Night

I’m reflecting on the untidy disorder and chaos in the lives of so many celebrating Christmas around the world this year. They experience vastly different surroundings and a much more simplified version of the annual celebration of the Christ child. 

It looks nothing like the photos in the magazines and has not even the tiniest hint of Martha Stewart. There are no smells of fresh-baked cookies or hot apple cider to entice them. They don’t string lights around a tree, pile colorfully wrapped gifts high, or build gingerbread houses; yet meek and mild – they celebrate.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,’Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth

How did our celebration of this day become so clean and crisp and utterly tidy? Where are the smells and  sweat and tears that were most certainly a part of Mary and Joseph’s journey?
It begs the question:  Do ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ scenes with sparkling lights and gorgeous perfectly placed decorations reflect the Christmas story best? Are the experiences of a frightened and ashamed teenage mother-to-be anything like that?

Do the marginalized and suffering in our world experience Christmas more like Mary and Joseph did – or do we?
A thrill of hope – the weary world rejoices

I’m reflecting on these two extremes.  I LOVE the exquisitely ordered and the beautifully arranged. 
While yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
I long for a day when disparity and injustice ends. I dream of a Christmas were no child is enslaved, abused, and sold. Where no refugee is left to sleep another night without clothing and food or a place to lie down. I pray for the glorious morn, where the oppressed are free. I long to wake up to learn that no child is suffering or slowly starving to death. I dream of a day when people from every continent and every nation can freely celebrate Jesus and His birth surrounded by love, joy, dancing, singing and immeasurable peace and beauty and justice.

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace

Truthfully I also find great inspiration in the simple, dingy, gritty, humble celebrations of those who struggle and toil without access to our unstained images of Christmas. I long for their stripped down total dependence on God. I pray for spiritual wealth like that of the materially poor. I want their depth. I want their undying hope. I want a Christmas less like Oprah’s or the magazines and more like theirs.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease

Our youngest daughter Lydia has been struggling with choices. When offered a choice of two things she’ll often reply, “I want two ones.”  When she says that, she means I want them both.

As I soak in Christmas this year I find myself wanting two ones.  I want the perfect looking, delicious smelling, pain-free and unpolluted Christmas and I want the dirty, stinky, humble, difficult, but miraculous Christmas that Mary and Joseph and the rich in faith experience.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name

While I attempt to reconcile two very different Christmases, the celebrations only make sense to me in the context of good overcoming evil. God coming to earth in the form of a baby, to live a sinless life, to clear our debts for us, to teach us how to love one another … In His resurrection the promise that one day there will be beauty and justice for all.

The end of death. 

The end of suffering.
O Holy Night

(originally written December 2010 - republished at A Life Overseas)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

have yourself a very ticky Christmas





As I sit down to write this, Hope and Troy are in their make-shift recording studio with headphones
 example on the interweb of what our finished product might look like
and microphones (and superior attitudes toward all of us that don't sing) working diligently to finish recording the 9th annual Christmas production audio. Every so often they yell out to us "we hear you" - so those of us with average voices are not allowed to even speak while the singing happens behind closed doors.

The first batch of Christmas sugar cookies have been baked and frosted. Lydia, Phoebe and I started that project early this morning and have just finished the frosting.  (I spent a month making cookies that one Sunday.)  All the mad props to the mothers and fathers that bake with their children on a regular basis. You are beastly freaks of nature that we defer to on all matters of ninja patience and unusual kindness.

I enjoy slightly less than zero parts of baking with children. Do you realize how infrequently they actually get the stuff into the mixing bowl? Do you know how many times you can repeat the same instruction about rolling out the dough without the instruction ever being put into practice?





 actual cookies created by actual small humans that actually look 
quite dissimilar to advertised outcome

Besides all that amazing mid December holiday fanfare ... The tree is up, the lights are on, the cool crisp 78 degree air nips at our noses and forces us to shiver in the cool morning air.

The deadly carcinogenic chemicals have been sprayed (AGAIN today) all over the boys room in true Christmas fashion. Pesticides are the missing component of most beautiful holiday celebrations. Yes?

 ~               ~                ~    

About three weeks ago the boys began to mention to me that Chestnut, our tiny Shih Tzu dog guy, had several tiny ticks on him. After a few days of hearing that I decided to take a look for myself. Once I actually listened to my children and investigated, the severity of the problem was immediately apparent.  They were creating a full time home in the boys' room.  Egg laying momma ticks and community developers and city planners were all working hard to build a sustainable community at the first bedroom at the top of the stairs at House of Troy. I both wished for death and considered burning down our entire house.

The very last thing you want to do is google "brown dog tick" and the last LAST thing you want to do is have them and their 5,000 eggs per mother in the bedroom where two of your children reside.

We have what the interweb refers to as an "infestation" and we are now on our third attempt to end this once and for all.  We tried permethrin first.  That worked for six days. Those days brought hope and joy and the skin we had scratched off in disgust began to grow back during that time of falsely believing we were done with our problem.

Today we removed everything from the room (clothing and toys and trinkets and do-dads). We sprayed all wood, tile, and cement surfaces in the entire room. This most recent product we bought is not legal in 50 states and 145 countries, but Haiti is a functional anarchy and we like our deadly chemicals available to use without regulation.  The instructions beg you to cover your mouth, your nose, your eyes, your skin, and to basically spray down a room blindly while holding your breath for as long as that takes.  We are not sure when we can re-enter that room, but when it happens we may live to tell you if it worked and if it killed our 'Rhipicephalus sanguineus Latreille' - brown dog tick friends.

Well, the door to the singer room just opened and the singer exited triumphantly.  I think we will have a Christmas Extravaganza EDITION NINE ready to go by mid-week.

A few production photos: