Thursday, December 14, 2017

The 11th Annual is here ...







In 2007 when this family tradition began, Britt was 17 years old and Lydia was 2 months old.  

Britt and Paige have basically aged out of this obligation. Soon we will need to start incorporating their offspring. 

The last five kids were given a chance to call this a dead tradition. Troy and I said, "Hey guys, we can call it if you want. Would you want to call last year's production the last one?"  

They would hear nothing of it. They are not too cool for this tradition yet.  

We had about 8 hours total to give to the project so it was a simple year. One-half day of filming a few hours of recording Hope singing and putting clips together, voila. At one point in the filming Troy was negotiating with some guys who thought we needed to pay them, while the kids and KJ and I quickly filmed what we needed. It is always good times and negotiation on this island. 

From our Winter Wonderland, we wish you and yours a most beautiful and joy-filled Christmas holiday season. Thank you so much for loving Haiti, Heartline Ministries, and us. 

Your encouragement and engagement has meant a lot to us this year! 

XOXO,
Troy, Tara, Isaac, Hope, Noah, Phoebe & Lydia 

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

pataje istwa ou ~ share your history


Time is hard to measure in Haiti. Surviving day-to-day does not allow for a lot of calendar awareness.  It can be difficult to remember dates of events.

Around the time of the solar eclipse, she was fighting with her brother a lot and her mother grew weary of the fighting.  

It was decided she would go stay at her aunt's house for a while, putting some space between herself and her brother.

At her aunts house she remembers that one night her aunt brought her something to drink that was a syrup and also a pill to take.  Her aunt told her it would help her sleep. She doesn't recall anything else until waking up.

She woke up "arranged in the bed" and her male cousin, the son of her aunt, was there with her.

She stopped getting her monthly cycle.

She is four months pregnant.

She is sixteen years old.






Christmas History ~ Year Three



(2009) This year will always and forever be my favorite year.  There was something tender about this year. It felt like we had a tiny piece of Bethlehem in our back yard. The kids totally enjoyed every bit of the making of the video.  The animals brought so many laughs.  Troy was convinced we'd all gone crazy, but in the end as he fought to get the borrowed donkey back into a truck, I wasn't necessarily disagreeing with him.  Britt and Chris gathered all the costumes and sent them to Haiti.  Troy wrote a simple song and Hope sang "glowy to God" over and over.

There is something about this that will always be deeply important to us all, in that less than a month after we put this together our lives were literally rocked as we watched and experienced our precious Haiti suffer the devastating effects of a giant earthquake.  This sort of represents the end of that stage  of our lives and our time in Haiti.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

#BigFamilyProbs

Wouldn't it be so incredibly amazing if the world was able to provide our kids with fair and equitable treatment in the specific and crucially important area of "supply of sugar and junk food" as part of the minimum standard of operation?

Certainly our five children are entitled to a sustainable and more measured minimum provision of Poptarts, AppleCinnamonCheerios, Skittles, Cheetos, and Twix Bars.  

I know they are entitled to this because they tell me so. 



~ ~ ~

Observing them in their natural habitat instills fear. 

The deprivation they face on the regular leads to risk. They are in danger of extinction and have resorted to hiding, rationing, all varieties of dishonesty, and malfeasance. 

It opens up the age-old-question.  (You know the one.)

What is the minimum standard obligation for the universe and the parental unit to provide their dependents with a bilateral  investment in their felt and real need for junk-food? 

What approach is best? The Modern approach? The Non-Contingent approach? The Delayed Gratification Model? The Less is More wisdom of the ages? 

HOW DO WE NAVIGATE THIS???





They are basically participants in a dystopian survival game and it appears that they will ultimately battle to the bitter end over candy and breakfast cereal. 



These kids need help.  An intervention.  Something.



Say for example, a friend visits and brings in a box of Apple Jacks.  The next morning, a kitchen that routinely does not have a single visitor until 7am, is suddenly transformed into a high-traffic zone with three of five children up at 6am to get their hands on the best choice for breakfast.  

When the fourth kid arrives the accusing begins. "WHAT? You had three bowls of Apple Jacks? That was for all of us!!!!" 

Then the defense presents a case: "I got up at six. You slept. You know the rules. The early bird gets the cereal."  After that there is general disgust displayed through jerky-angry movements to get the spoon and bowl out along with the use of heavy sighing over the bowl of dull and sugar free Haiti corn flakes. 

Dokte Jen showed up with cereal and several bags of candy the other day.  Every kid grabbed a bag and ran away to bury it in the yard or shove it inside of a hollowed out book for safe keeping. It caused a stir because Lydia arrived and grabbed first. The others quickly made a claim on their bag. They were behaving like animals afraid of starvation.  

At this stage of my life, I'm right on the edge of snapping at all times - sometimes I just do a little theatrical fake snap to practice for the day the BIG one finally comes. 

"THAT IS IT YOU GUYS", I yelled.

"THIS IS COMMUNITY CANDY."  

We made a plan to combine and share all of Jen's candy. This way everyone could sample a variety of options. I suggested four (they are small) pieces per day per child - until it was gone or until a new edict was issued. 

We placed the bowl on top of the refrigerator.

A few children grumbled that it wouldn't work out fairly.  I heard those complaints - - and promptly ignored them.

Foolish.  That is what I am. 

The next day Troy provided me with jarring video.  

Prior to 7:30am the world's premier most Twix enthusiast, KitKat connoisseur, and chocolate aficionado had taken three quick hits from the chocolate bowl. In total far more than the four piece allotment was consumed. No breakfast on that particular morning, just sugar hits. 



That night I said, "Lydia, would you ever have candy for breakfast?"   

She seemed bewildered. 

"WHO, ME?"   

Isaac created a new verb a while back.  He says when I get sick of seeing him wear and re-wear the same t-shirt too often that I "disappear it".  He recently told Jen, "That shirt you gave me, she disappeared it."

It turns out that Lydia disappeared the candy. Video footage don't lie. 

Going forward we have no solution except maybe to place her in restraints during the hours we cannot watch the candy.

We are trying to sober her up and working on some sort of accountability partner for her.  We are wondering how we can be a big family that is not freaky weird about treats and the distribution of said treats.

Once that critically important task is taken care of we hope we will be ready to present our 11th Annual Livesay Christmas Extravaganza.  


~ ~ ~

This year we ran into a bit of trouble when it suddenly became obvious that we don't have enough hours in a day to finish the video as early in the month as in all past years. 

Until the 11th offering, we would like to point you back to the past 10 years, available at our YouTube Channel.

We recently got to see the Baby Jesus from 2016, he is one year old now and doing well.  

Last year ...


Sunday, November 26, 2017

I married this guy ...





Forty five to ninety minutes before we actually have to leave, I get Troy started on his goodbye so that I can actually leave when we need to leave.

This is basically a true representation of Troy's goodbye process.


Send Help. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

My Struggle Bus Broke Down

My almost 23-year-old kid, Paige, likes to tell me that I am on the struggle bus.

I think it is ha-ha funny for anyone to tell me that, mainly because **I know** that the bus I am on has three flat tires and no jacks or spares.  I'm on that broken down struggle-bus sitting on the side of the road cursing at it all.

The year two thousand seventeen has been somewhat of a butt kicking.  I think maybe I have said that every year we have been in Haiti except perhaps in twenty twelve. That year (2012) I think our butts were less kicked and less bruised.  

2017 has been a ton of tears and struggle and big life and work transitions.  I am referring to things we have shared openly and much that is too personal to put on the Internet.  (I know it may seem that I am willing to share everything, but that's not true. I only share super personal things about Troy.) 

My point here is not to gripe about 2017.  (another day)

Let me pivot now to my point. 

No, actually, before I pivot let me tell you what Troy said to me about thirty minutes ago. 

Troy Livesay - on the changes in his life and marriage as a result of his 45 yearold wife and perimenopause:

"It's not bothering me at all. I have a different wife, like a different one you know? It is kind of fun and entertaining - this flaky and forgetful wife for a while - I know it is not forever so I like it, you know?"

** ** ** 


Daphnee came for an ultrasound early in her pregnancy.  A doctor in Port au Prince had given her an ultrasound. He told her that her pregnancy was outside of her uterus and that she needed to terminate for the sake of her own life.  He told her the price of termination.  It was much more than she could pay.

Daphnee had family members that had delivered with Heartline Maternity Center.  Her family members, Fedline and Phanise, told her to come get an ultrasound at the Heartline Maternal Health Program. 

Daphnee came for an ultrasound one Friday.  

We saw a normal intrauterine pregnancy and encouraged Daphnee not to go back to the doctor that had suggested termination.  Daphnee had a hard time taking that information in and asked over and over again, "It is a normal pregnancy?"  We just kept reassuring her that we saw what looked totally normal.

She delivered a healthy baby, her firstborn, on the 17th of October.  Below, Daphnee is pictured on the right - and then bringing her little one home in the second photo.





I would like to tell you stories like this are rare.  I want to say that it is likely just practitioner error and that certainly no doctor would take advantage of someone by false diagnosis and scare tactics.

I would like to tell you that.   
To be clear, I am not at all telling you that.

It breaks my heart.

** ** **


On Wednesday Nurse Nirva came in to ask if we would come talk to the client she was working with in another exam room. 

We (two midwives) went to speak with the client. We entered the room to find her boyfriend sitting there as well. We asked how we could help and he explained that he really wants her to terminate the pregnancy and that he already has another woman he supports and that he did not want the client we are seeing  (a girlfriend of his) to carry the baby. 
I listened and then turned to her and said, I know it is not the same thing - "I had more support, but I want to tell you my story."
I know what it is like to have the father of the baby saying you should have an abortion. I shared a bit of my history and I said, "This is your choice. He doesn't get to decide this for you, you will need to decide." 
The Heartline Maternity Center offers 9 months of prenatal care, six months of postpartum care, support, love, and education - These 14 months of weekly classes and community are offered for the cost of 500gourdes ( $8.06 USD ) paid one time. 
The client (S) was crying and wouldn't look at any of us. I told her we cared about her and left the exam room saying, "I am so glad that I cancelled my abortion appointment in April 1994 because that daughter is one of my best friends and her life is a gift to us all."
I obviously don't get to decide what "S" does and I will only be able to wait and see if she returns next week for prenatal class. 
But, your donations allow us to (at least) offer love and support to women like her that feel afraid or unsupported in their pregnancy. 
WE NEED YOUR PRAYERS AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT. 
You are in this with us -- every day.  We are asking you to be here.


One Day's Wages is matching $14,600 of giving this #givingtuesday --- Yes, I know today and this weekend are the days to go to BestBuy and Kohl's and Target  ----- BUT --- please, when you get home from there, please check-out this matching Grant offer out and consider helping us reach the goal and receive their matching dollars.


I might be forgetful and even flaky, but I just started and finished writing this in one hour's time, take that, TROY LIVESAY.  

Saturday, November 18, 2017

New Tricks, Old Dog

All the popular wisdom says when you write anywhere except perhaps in your own diary, you write because you know what your point is.  

Have a theme, an outline, and goal to communicate a specific message.

(Popular wisdom is so popular with the wise.)



* * * * 


It probably comes as a shock to no one at all that in this world of polarized everything and dishonesty and hurt piled up on top of heaps of injustice, the post about my husband's vas-deferens etc. etc. became the most read post of the last five years.  

Suffice it to say, I'm quite proud of the boys.

This Op-Ed ran earlier this week, I stressed about the fact that they put our blog address at the bottom of it.  "Argh, if anyone goes there the recent posts are about an adult man trying to pick-up our fifteen year old and my plans to threaten him and Troy's vasectomy reversal."  I contemplated tossing up a quick Bible study or maternal health post to make myself look more well rounded.  

I have learned something.
Contemplation does not equal action.


* * * *


This summer (maybe you recall this) a young mom that had a baby at the Heartline Maternity Center (as a result of a rape) was considering giving her baby up to the rapist's family.  She was under pressure to do so. People around her were saying she couldn't take care of a baby. They said that his family was more financially able. Those of us that know her well tried hard to stay calm and use wisdom. (But not popular wisdom.) We were watching her take care of her baby and she was doing a beautiful job. 

When the thing you want to do most is scream hysterically at the top of your lungs "NONONO, THAT CANNOT HAPPEN" - it is best to not do that screaming.  

Gratefully, the baby is 10 months old now and still with her mother. We have all emotionally prepared ourselves for the fact that we do not control outcomes of these wonky and broken situations.  However, while preparing ourselves for several Haiti-like-possibilities, we are also thrilled to share that the young Mom is in school. 

Her daughter cries every morning when she is dropped off for day-care and has to say goodbye for six hours.  The bond between them is real. In my mind, this has been the story of the year. Success is hard to measure and it most often feels difficult to say, "Oh, yes! Now THAT is so the goal happening right there before our eyes!" In this case, right now, it is indeed good. Thank you to every single person that prayed and supported Sarah and Sophia. 
Sincere, sincere, thanks. Please keep praying for them.


* * * * 

In September I went to Paige's best friend's wedding.  I danced with Graham and wore floral print "booties".  

The trend in the USA, if you don't know this, is to start making a perfectly cute boot, but then get lazy and call it good right at the ankle. The stores are full of unfinished boots made by lethargic and unmotivated people. To be super creative instead of calling it a boot, it is called a bootie.

There is no reason to share that really, except to complain that the fashion trends seduced me and I wore a pair for six hours and that bootie killed my second toenail on my left foot. It is dark purple and about to fall off.  Just a word of warning before you invest in your pair.


* * * *
Yesterday at the Maternity Center someone came to me asking for a pregnancy test to be able to take to her Pastor.  I thought I heard her wrong.  I said, "Wait, your Pastor wants to see your pregnancy test?"  I of course thought that he must be the kind of pastor that also sleeps with his congregation, or why else does he ask?  The woman explained it this way to me: "My Pastor needs to see a negative pregnancy test before our wedding later this month because if it is a positive test he won't allows us to get married in the church. He would still marry us but we would be unable to invite guests and wear a dress and use the church."  

I stared at her waiting for her to burst into laughter and say, "GOT YOU! HA HA HA."  It got awkward and I stopped staring.

Turns out, that's a thing this pastor does.  



* * * *

Why do they call some wrinkles "fine lines"? 
Who determines what is a wrinkle and what is a fine line? My face is getting older every day.  I want to know how deep the line is when it switches over to a wrinkle.

The other week I needed to bring a Momma and her baby home. They lived crazy far away and up a steep mountain. While I drove I saw on my phone that I was headed south.  At the same time I was headed south I was climbing up a hill. Prior to that day I have never been able to believe that both can simultaneously be true. On that day, I gave Troy a call and told him of my changed perspective.  "Babe, you can climb up a mountain while heading south."  

He expressed relief that I have been able to switch my paradigm at such an advanced age.

In thirty nine days all of my children, son in laws, and grandsons will be standing before me in my home.  It's the first annual because, well because, we have never done this since Britt and Paige have been married adult people. I'm super cool about it. Not that excited, really.

If it doesn't happen, I'll adjust. By jumping off the nearby bridge into the trash below.   I>AM>SO>EXCITED.

Troy and I got to go to Atlanta for our Anniversary last weekend.  We had a long layover and I forced Troy to get a pedicure for the first time in his life. He was such a weirdo about it. He was all squirrely and complaining he didn't know what to do.  I explained that a pedicure is where SOMEONE ELSE has to know what to do.  

You just sit there and watch them know - while you know nothing.  
I'm happy to report it went well.




This week Beth Johnson (you know her as KJ and I prefer you call her that in your mind) found a pretty significant heart defect while doing a twenty week ultrasound on one of the women in the program.  

In Haiti the poorer than poor will often times work for the regular poor in exchange for a place to live or maybe a promise of education or something else similar.  (And the poor work for rich too, of course.) There is also a system of slavery that is not seen as such and is generally accepted - a person that works for another person is called a restavek - you can read about it . The gal that KJ was seeing for that ultrasound is a restavek of sorts. She's not young like many in her position, but she does have a lower capacity to understand things and is looked down upon by others and works in the home of another family. 

It sort of feels like the most beat down folks, just get more beatdowns in life. I have no statistics, but if you would like me to make some up, I would say that of the people that have a really hard life, 70% of those folks have a bunch of OTHER EXTRA crap happen that makes it even harder.  That is an asstistic, take it or leave it.  I am just saying, this lady that already has very little, now has a baby with a heart problem too.

Once every couple months a young gal will come in for a pregnancy test and share the story of the person she works for being the father of the baby - but because he was married, once she is pregnant she no longer has a job or a home.  He fires her. 

You can go from being an abused/used restavek to being homeless and pregnant. I don't know how to figure out which one is worse. Do you? 


* * * *

Communication in this country is THE HARDEST.  I actually cannot be moved on this issue.  I'm willing to believe you can go up a mountain and go South at the same time, but I will not waver on the issue of the difficulty level of communication in Haiti.  THE.HARDEST.  

At the end of a long day it feels like perhaps the entire day was spent talking and communicating and perhaps nothing was understood. Or perhaps nothing I say makes sense. Or perhaps nobody answers the question asked.  I could write 3,000 words worth of examples but here is one that just happened thirty seconds ago. (Underlined words indicate one person.)

"Are you having pain or is it the same as before?"

"It's the same."

"Okay, not more than Thursday? Exactly the same?"

(Nods - confirms not having more contractions/pain.)

(literally) Five seconds later  - another Midwife asks...

"Is the pain worse?"

"Yes"

"When is it worse?"

"It (the pain) is all the time."

"You know contractions come and go, yes? They come and go frequently. It is not an all the time pain. Are you having a pain that comes and goes - it is that or no?"

"Yes."

This continued on for a while.  The pain is worse and it is not worse and it is constant and it comes and goes. 

Someone - Please let me know if this makes sense.

Troy and I try SO SO HARD to communicate often and well, but when we sit down to talk we have usually had a day that includes so much talking and not understanding that by the time we reach home we just have eye contact and call that communication because SO MUCH TALKING.

Two weeks ago on Saturday night we went to one of the most well funded international medical providers around. Their Obstetrics hospital is for high risk only.  We know that and we have a list of the criteria they published.  We rarely go there even though it is close to us because it seems to always be super discouraging. On that night KJ and Nirva had a woman bleeding a lot but having no contractions. They determined quickly it was either a partial placenta abruption or a placenta previa.  Both of those two very dangerous things are on the OB their criteria list - because that is HIGH RISK and time-sensitive.  When the Midwives arrived at the hospital (remember, very well funded, very well known) the nurses and midwives there had an empty triage room.  It was a quiet night there by all observations. No physician made themselves known. The medical employees that were present said that the hospital does not take bleeding women unless there is pain/labor/contractions with the bleeding. Nirva reminded them of the criteria list. They disagreed and refused to take the 39 week pregnant bleeding woman.

KJ and Nirva had to leave that hospital to go to another one before the woman bled too much.  They got her to PIH (the hospital we usually refer the ladies with huge complications - but it takes much longer to get there) and PIH said "Yes, this is previa." They did a C/S and Mom and baby are okay now.  

This is the second time that aforementioned hospital turned away that exact very dangerous complication listed on their criteria list. We are attempting to make noise with that organization.  The issue is, the administration changes every so often (sometimes every three to six months) and making contact with someone that is leaving soon and complaining is almost the same as never talking to anyone. Short-timers have zero cares to give. 

Sometimes I feel murderous rage.  This is an example of one of those times. I talked to KJ that night and I can tell you she felt murderous too. Actually, she is sitting across from me and I think she is still feeling high level rage.

Isaac has been doing the Vet-Class stuff every month.  One week a month he goes north of Port au Prince and learns about veterinarian medicine.  He sends home THE VERY BEST TEXT MESSAGES and photos.  They make us roll around laughing.  Since I used the word murderous, I think you should know that Isaac says that when you give pigs a vaccine everything about that pig changes, they become murderous.  

He told us one time, "I'm great except for these murderous pigs." 




We are hoping that the Americans reading will have an excellent Thanksgiving week with family and friends. I know that I speak for Troy too I when I say, THANK YOU for being a source of support and love and kindness. Thank you for caring about Haiti. Thank you for caring about Heartline Ministries. Thank you for caring about the women we work with day to day. Thank you for caring about us.  We are grateful for you this week, as always.

Next up, I plan to regale you with tales of short term memory gone rogue. 
That to say, my next post will be totally dedicated to complaining about how bad perimenopause is (for me) and discussing why it is that the only thing ever discussed much is menopause  ---- menopause is not the problem - or not yet anyway. I am the forgetful foggy proof. 

All the popular wisdom says when you write anywhere but in your own diary, you write because know what your point is.  

Have a theme, an outline, a goal to communicate a specific message.

(Popular wisdom is so popular with the wise.)


Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Life and the Saving of It

Yesterday Troy saved a man's life. To be clear, I mean exactly that.  A man is walking on his two legs around Port au Prince thanks to Troy.

Last week when Troy was in Seattle the kids came home telling us that a man had been hitting on Hope.  They shared some details, including the fact that he had been bugging Hope to give him her phone number. They said that he spoke English and hangs out when possible around the kids’ school. Isaac, who misses about 80% of social cues and body language things and such said, “I totally see him staring at her butt a lot.”  



Isaac noticed.  
This is serious.   

That was it for KJ and I.   We made our plans.

At the MC we have a fake male part that is used to teach how to put a condom on correctly.  We told the kids we would show up with our fake male part and explain to the guy creeping on Hope that the last guy that wouldn’t take no from Hope is now our condom model.  

The kids howled with laughter and asked us no less than 25 times if we were really going to do that.  “Of course we are!” KJ said.   

(I can neither deny nor confirm how serious we were about this idea.) 

We missed two chances to get over to the other property and see our plan through. Life here is busy and sometimes it takes a long time to make a plan into a finished task. 

Troy got home from Seattle and didn’t like our plan.  He said that would cause a mission-wide stir and it might not be too good for overall morale and such.  

He said he would "calmly" handle it.

Yesterday Troy sent a text message to say he had spoken to the guy and to confess he wasn’t as calm as he had originally planned to be, but it was in-fact handled. The adult man understands he is not to bother Hope any more. 

These are the sorts of things that happen frequently that I don’t write about.  
I am supposed to be some sort of an ambassador for Jesus and that probably does not include threatening a man that he is about to lose his member if he talks to my 15 year old again.

Culturally, there is all sorts of grey area about what is permissible and what is not. I have met mothers that do not at all mind if a 30 year old is pursuing their 15 year old and I have met Moms that find that abhorrent.  

I can tell you that the Director of Heartline made it clear that whatever age gaps (for romantic pursuit) might be appropriate sometimes in Haiti -- those are not applicable to the Livesay Family. Like ever. 

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Answered Prayers for our Daughter

Isaac, Lydia, Phoebe on Halloween 2017 - Vet, Midwife, Nurse

The following post was written a year ago.  Today Phoebe is 11.  

This school-year we welcomed a very experienced educator that is helping us better understand some things Phoebe struggles with and it is allowing us to learn how to more effectively love and communicate with our Phoebers.  

We are so thankful that God has provided us with Stefanie and her skills and experience and that in this provision for the kids' education, we are also understanding more and learning how to be the parents Phoebe needs.  

I want to share our progress and an answer to prayer for us and thank God and Stefanie for the ways they showed up for our Phoebe girl.




**************

A Girl That Will Learn to Trust She is Loved - Amen

Birthday Morning 

Parenting seven children, one more complicated and unique than the next, that are spaced 17 long years apart, is something.  

I will tell you that.   SOME.THING. 

In the first decade and a half that I was in this line of work my parenting motto was both profound and honest. 

"Holy cats, what the hell is happening?" 

As I have matured, and put the years in, my motto has matured with me.  Currently, the motto stolen from Vincent Van Gogh is, "I am always doing what I cannot do yet in order to learn how to do it."

Always.   (But keeping both ears while learning.) 

~        ~         ~

Today we celebrate the TENTH birthday of the sixth child.  Our surprise unplanned pregnancy adoption.

Phoebe has conquered the single digits and said to them, "Goodbye. I am finished with you, you are useless to me now."  

Thanks to Hope, the big sister that has gone before, we know that puberty happens quite early for this gene pool and Phoebe is well into the confusion and hormonal upheaval of this cursed time of life.  (Stop a moment.  Remember how monstrous it was?  Oh my word. I would never wish it upon my worst enemy.) 

Okay, Puberty, we see your destructive confusion and self hatred and we raise you our combined years of experience arm in arm with the silly song and dance routine that makes hurting girls crack a smile. 

All parents have individualized concerns, things they specifically worry about for each of their kids. 

(Interesting and DIFFICULT Math fact: More kids = More concerns) 

Streaming thoughts be like: This one is a perfectionist too hard on him/herself, This one tends to be a bit lazy - won't find job, loves couch, This one feels deeply enough for three people, This one won't cry, what does that mean, This one seems to be addict material, ETC ETC ETC.

We do like that. That is how we parents think. We attempt to figure out what each kid's biggest stumbling block might be and we get to the work of obsessing about how to address it early, how to fix it before it means big consequences. 

We are always doing what we cannot do in order to learn how to do it.  

Sigh.  (Future Parenting Motto) 

Phoebe struggles to believe she is loved. There are two people that do a really beautiful job of meeting Phoebe where she is, they seem to have better luck than the rest of us ... Noah and Troy - something about their tenderness (and maybe their maleness matters too? I don't know. I am always doing what I cannot do in order to learn how to do it) speaks with greater authority to Phoebe than the rest of us can. 

~          ~          ~ 


My beautiful long-limbed and wonderfully complicated ten year old, Phoebe Joy-

I regret that the life has meant loss for you.  I regret that your First Momma had an intensely stressful pregnancy -- you must have sensed it as you grew in her. 

I regret that systems of poverty and abuse and brokenness meant that you were born in a small mud shack called "home" while bullets flew around CiteSoleil. 

Those same systems, hideous and overwhelming they are, meant adoption and "placement" for you.  That is loss. Immediate loss. I know that. I abhor that the beginning of your life was stress and loss.

Today I sat with you and told you this:  

This year. This 10th year ... I pray that you would come to believe you are loved.  I pray that in the deepest part of your soul you would believe it.  I know that you hear the words and you nod your head, but I know that you don't truly live in the freedom of the truth of it yet.  

I want for you the deep deep knowing, the kind of knowing that no other person on earth can take from you with words or actions, that you are worthy and wanted and unconditionally LOVED. 

I know others like you, that struggle to make this the truth of their waking and their sleeping. You are not alone in your unbelief.  I want for you the TRUTH of a NEVER-DYING, EVERLASTING, LOVE.  

May you grow to know it this very year.  Amen, amen, amen.

XOXO
Mom

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Three Years - You are not stagnant - but the advice remains the same

Graham,

On the occasion of your THIRD Birthday, I am sending you this letter I wrote to you before I knew your face, once again.

To our first grandson, some thoughts on life

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. 

1.
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.

2.
Forgivness 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.

3.
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 embarassment 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,

Mojo 

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

What a Vas deferens you made in our life (a birth story)

Sometimes life is incredibly strange.  

Let it be said on this the tenth anniversary of the birth of Lydia Beth Livesay:  There is nothing stranger than stopping in Muskogee, Oklahoma.  
At least not for our family.


October 4, 2007 - Lucky No. 7 joined us


Let me take you back to the beginning.

In 2003 we were living in Zimmerman, MN. At the time Troy worked for the local phone company and I was mainly home with newly adopted Isaac and Hope.  I worked a part time job managing a banquet facility a few evenings and weekends a month.  We were waiting on the birth of Noah Livesay, our surprise after-adoption pregnancy.

In March of 2004 Noah made a huge deal of arriving while also simultaneously trying to die. His one minute APGAR score was a 1.  If you have ever read this weblog before, you obviously know he made it and came home to Zimmerman to make us a five kid family.   

Troy was 28 years old. I was 31 years old.

Troy **might** have had a total and complete hysterical meltdown over being the father of and/or responsible party for five children. I am not coming right out and SAYING he did. I am just saying it is POSSIBLE that he did. By "possible" I mean "probable" and by "probable" I mean, yes, 100% for sure. He was disoriented and freaking out about the financial responsibly and the cost of diapers alone for three children all in diapers at once. He had a panic filled month of March to May 2004.

In June of 2004 Troy turned 29 years old. That month, when Noah was only three months old Troy announced that he was going to get a vasectomy.  At first it seemed logical to me. Yes, of course, five kids is a lot.  Do it.  Never mind your age or our relative youthfulness. We cannot sustain this current circus so why risk more clowns on the tour. Chop that shit up and get us out of here alive, that’s all I ask.

Around the time that he went for his consult, I started to feel like it was not the right choice. I attempted to put the brakes on but Troy had long since advanced into the ‘no turning back’ zone and he wasn't willing to hear me out. We had three or four tense conversations about it and he was all, "Woman. You're not stopping me." 

I ended up refusing to help him get to or from his appointment on the day of the procedure because I wasn’t at all on board and had failed at talking him into at least waiting a few months to think it over more seriously. 

I have no idea who brought him or picked him up, but it wasn’t me.  I was wicked ticked off and I’m not sure I even brought him frozen peas in the days after.  I’m not big on sympathy for any variety of man physical pain anyway, but this was down right cold-heartedness on my part.

A few days after his procedure we had to drive to a Porter Family Reunion in Branson, MO and I was not nice about his discomfort on that ride either. 

Life was happening at a furious pace in those days. I was home with two two-year olds and a newborn and training for my first half marathon and getting a high-school-aged kid to and from school and swim practice as well as delivering the 4th grader to another school each day. Even though I only worked part time at night or on weekends, it felt like chaos to both Troy and I. Keeping all the balls (DOH!) in the air in those days was pretty mind-numbing.  With all that crazy-making the tiff about the severed vas deferens sort of faded into the background by the end of 2004.

Around June 2005, a year after Troy’s procedure, I started to be annoyed again and thought all sorts of super holy and self-righteous things.  I actually said, “You did this and we never even prayed about it.  What if we were not done with our family yet?!?”  Troy listened at that point but he was like,  “Yeah, well. What is done is done. So I guess we need to let that go.” 

I agreed with him but in the way that you agree when you don’t agree. Within moments I marched to the computer to use internet explorer and see what a vasectomy reversal might cost or entail.

I found all sorts of wonky info, as one can often do when searching the world wide web. Mostly I found that we would need many thousand dollars to do it.

I put my name into some group about the blessed arrows - they firmly believed that birth control was always wrong and that limiting your fertility was like flipping God the bird. I did not think that was the case and I have no issues with birth control or limiting the size of your family by preventing pregnancy.  I only had an issue with Troy and his decision and wanted to know what could be done if we desired to un-do the 2004 decision.

That research all happened in the same months of 2005 that we had started to strongly consider a move to Haiti.  Isaac and Hope were both close to turning four and Noah was 16 months old.  We had the big idea that we might want to move to Haiti, we just didn’t know when. We began to actively research what jobs were available in Haiti and we met John and Beth McHoul online that summer. We ended up visiting them in September of 2005 on a visit to see the place we planned to move.

Things back in those early years of our marriage were always a little bit out of control. Whatever took normal people a few years to do, took us seventeen minutes.  We bought a house fast, we bought new vehicles fast, we bought a boat (story of that purchase is excellent Troy mockery, saving for another day), we went from two manageable-aged children to five not-at-all-manageable kids in a matter of 18 months. We added a huge addition to the house. 

In October 2005 we started planning to move to Haiti and within 58 days the funds we needed in order to move had been raised and our house had been rented for 18 months.  Nothing was slow to happen. If people had not seen us in a year they were guaranteed to look at us like, “What is wrong with you people?”  It was much.  I see that now in hindsight.  

In December of 2005 we were having Christmas in South Texas with my family.  It was a big emotional deal and everybody was all stuck in feelings and drama because our tickets to move to Haiti were purchased for mid January.  I was sitting outside in the backyard of my parents house when an email came in telling me that we had been selected by the Blessed Arrow group to receive a free vasectomy reversal. You get those emails too I'm sure.

The details were such that we could only do it if it worked to go to the Doctor offering it at his location in Oklahoma. It would only work in early January 2006. 

I had never told Troy about the weird groups I had found. I never told him I put my name (his name) on any list for a reversal. I had only told him that we couldn’t financially swing the reversal.

I got Troy away from the family Christmas chaos and asked him if he wanted to have his sitch glued back together if it was free.  Always the good sport he was like, “Wait wait wait now. WHAT are you asking me?”

We had to drive back to Minnesota to finish up details with our house renter and pack our belongings.  We had already planned the road trip in early January to get home from the Christmas in South TX by vehicle.  The mapped route did not include a stop in Muskogee, OK but we decided it could in fact be changed.  Muskogee is supposed to be BEAUTIFUL in early January.  Everyone knows that.  PERFECT, RIGHT??

On a crisp day in January of 2006, Troy laid on a table in a outdated little strip mall in Muskogee, OK and Dr. W. showed me my husband's vas deferens and then proceeded to glue it back together.  Appalachian bluegrass music played in the background. Because of course it did. After the procedure Troy was in much pain and he wailed about how bad his boys hurt.  I put Brittany and 22 month old Noah on an airplane to Minnesota to make room in the Suburban for Troy’s giant swollen nuts to be as comfortable as possible.  I drove the remaining many hours back to the Twin Cities while attempting to be nicer than ever about man’s physical pain.

Troy moved to Haiti ahead of the kids and I.  He arrived in Haiti with drainage tubes coming out of his balls.  It’s pretty memorable really.

It was not until we had lived in Haiti a year (February ’07) that we learned that we were expecting a baby. 

Troy had gone to buy lumber and I was at home with the six kids. We had just taken Phoebe into our home only six weeks prior and we were already freaked out and getting used to having a baby again. 

Phoebe had a rough first ten weeks of her life prior to coming to us. She was neglected in those weeks. There was a lot of work to be done helping her bond with us all. While Troy was out buying lumber I thought, “Why do I feel weird?”  The possible answers were limitless really.  I decided to rule out pregnancy as one of the reasons for my odd floaty sensations.  It took three pregnancy tests in a row that were positive for me to sit with my hands shaking on the bathroom floor and say to myself, “Self. You are the one that went to Muskogee and just couldn’t pass up free. You did this.  Also, pull yourself together!”

When Troy got home I said, “We need to talk.”  We marched up some stairs on the back of the property where we lived and to this big goofy rock that they called the “prayer rock”.  At the prayer rock I told Troy he better pray for a good sense of humor.  

I handed Troy an envelope with my positive tests.  He looked at it and started laughing hysterically.  He laughed until he was basically sobbing. Tears ran down his face and he rolled around like a mad-man while he laughed and cried.

He was back to freaking out again  -  only this time he was 31 instead of 28 and it was about suddenly going from 5 to 7 kids in a few short weeks. Everyone in our close circle just shook their heads and said, “What the heck did they think would happen?” and “Idiots. Both of them.” 

On October 4, 2017 our little Vasectomy reversal baby is turning TEN YEARS OLD.

I thought it was time you all knew that it is all because of a stop in Muskogee, Oklahoma - It made a vast (Vas) difference (deferens) in our lives.  

The deferens is named Lydia Beth.




Happy Birthday Lou-Lou. Daddy says you are more than worth ALL that oddness and physical pain he endured and we have never been offered a free surgery prior to OR since this one so we think maybe you are supposed to be here with us.  We are forever grateful for your life and the gift of you, #7.