Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Going Home

*Written by Tara Livesay, CPM, Heartline Maternity Center Director 
One of the most beautiful moments in the process of getting to know these strong ladies is the joy of being allowed an opportunity to take them home. It is my favorite assignment.
After spending months getting to know the women at the Maternity Center, it is a blessing to enter into their space and sit with them in their homes.  Sometimes we are rushed and we simply say a quick prayer and get back on the road. Other times we sit for a long while and get to meet the whole family.   
When we take the new momma home, we have overcome the inherent risk of pregnancy in Haiti, the large risks of giving birth, and we are past the initial days of learning breastfeeding. It is a joyous occasion, one worth celebration.
It used to be intimidating to me to wind deep into neighborhoods uncertain if I’d ever find my way out.  I remember averting the job of discharging and transporting in the beginning, leaving it to others whenever possible. Avoiding visiting their homes saved my heart from pain, their suffering and living situations are difficult to see. Truth be told, it’s much easier not to see it up close. 
Something changed once I recognized that sorrow and joy and pain and triumph all constantly dance together. They are a paradox far too intertwined to experience one without the other.  
While it might bring a measure of heaviness, I now know what an honor it is to be on their turf, to see and experience life sitting in their chairs, in their homes.
It can be culturally and socially awkward, but as we sit there all fidgety and unsure and we are willing to be a bit uncomfortable together and allow that awkwardness, it almost always builds relationship and trust.
I won’t ever fully comprehend the lives of these precious families – but they allow me to peek in, they allow me to see the paradox dancing, and that in and of itself is a gift.
Part of what we hope to do during our time with the women that pass through the Heartline Maternity Center programs is to offer them an unusual comfort and kindness. Bringing them home, instead of having them take crowded public transportation is one way we can love and comfort them.
The word comfort is from two Latin words that mean “with” and “strong.”  God is with these women and He makes them strong.  He is with us and He makes us strong.

Amy Carmichael said, “Comfort is not a soft, weakening commiseration; it is true, strengthening love.”  I hope that sort of comfort is what Haitian women are experiencing as they are brought home after giving birth.

Thank you for reaching out with love to comfort and strengthen families in Haiti. We are forever grateful for your support and partnership.
To learn more or consider a donation: http://heartlineministries.org

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mid June Info Dump - Struggle Bus Edition

I wait too long.
Just long enough to feel more than Coo-coo and for there to be too much to process.
I tell Troy, "I'm crazy. I need to write this stuff out."
He says, "Please.Then. GO."

<MY GOODNESS, WOMAN. Have you learned nothing?!?>

I go to my laptop. I open it. This time I turn on a Selah / Christy Nockles song and toss it back to 2006, before life got so real.

I find no hope within to call my ownFor I am frail of heart, my strength is goneBut deep within my soul is rising up a songHere in the comfort of the faithful one

Certain lyrics are so raw, they force me to sob for two hours. After the sobbing I have fat eyes, am tired, and terribly ugly. I no longer feel the need to write.

This cycle repeats itself in varying forms with varying lyrics until I arrive at the day that some of the crazy hard stuff seems kinda funny and some of the stuff that made me angry becomes hilariously absurd.  That is when I write.

Painting Kids -
Summer is designed to kill all the Mothers (and some Fathers) with anxiety. What is the anxiety, you ask?  Well, the anxiety is about bored, unstimulated, and under-attended kids roaming around thinking about how to be on the Internet and play video games more than they are allowed.

Every summer, the months of June, July and August attempt to wreck my life. The lament over the situation is dramatic, although it mainly remains internal lament.  The messages being spoken from inside the crazy house (my head) are never positive. The tape replays. Certainly summer will win and we will all die of the sweaty-hotness and the lack of healthy distractions from said heat.  

Assignment number one of summer? Get the kids to paint cement walls that surround our home. Keep them occupied and away from Internet and evil.  Is this paint necessary?  No. Not at all.  Is this paint going to be an improvement to the feng-shui of the 10 foot cement walls with barbed wire on top?  No.Cement walls are ugly no matter what color, grey or white or candy-striped.  Painting walls will occupy several hours of time.

Someone suggested we change the color of the walls every two or three days.  We are taking that under dead-serious advisement.  If paint were cheaper this would be a done deal. It is basically what a lot of short term mission groups do anyway, paint the thing that was just painted.

Summer Travel for Kids-

The good news?  Travel begins on July 9 for the 15 and a half year old kids, Isaac and Hope.  Hope will go to Cape Girardeau, MO to be with the Ferguson family.  This is the family that gave us Walnut, our GoldenDoodle.  We met them in 2010 and have laughed a lot and been so well loved as we have grown closer. Hope will be going to art camp and classes and doing some singing and acting and dancing too. She will see what a family besides ours is like. Hopefully she still wants to come back to our family in mid August.  By hopefully, I mean, there is no chance at all that she will.

Truthfully,  I want to be Hope. I think her summer plans are the most exciting of anyone.

Isaac is also leaving July 9.

He and Hope have one flight together, the one out of Port au Prince. His seat was a wonky pricing situation and it was cheaper to put him in business class.  This means Hope will slum it like the commoners and Isaac will be sipping a Mimosa up front.

They part ways in Miami and Isaac is going to take Driver's Training in El Paso, TX.  I wish I could spy on the process of their transfer from flight number one to flight number two. That is going to be some great comedy.  You might believe that Driver's Ed in El Paso would be learning to ride a horse or a wild bull or something super Western like that.  Not true. We found out that there are cars in El Paso and he will learn to drive one from Michael (his responsible brother-in-law). Please don't bring up why we think Michael should teach and not Paige. I cannot tell why.  But it is because Paige is a wild distracted driver.

The classroom part of the education will be a few hours each day for a month.  If I know Isaac he will have every dang rule of Texas roads totally memorized and be able to repeat them in alphabetical order if you so desire that.  He will get to be with Paige and Michael and his two nephews for six weeks +.  He is awesome with those little boys and is looking forward to being with the Gonzales family. At the end of Isaac's time in TX, Britt and Gideon will go west to visit too.

On July 22 Noah goes to our friends Scott and April Salvant. This was a life goal of his because he desperately loves his friends, Jeff and Dave Salvant and he just about broke when they had to leave Haiti to help their Momma fight Cancer. He will spend two weeks in Virgina and then he and the teenage Salvant boys will get on a Southwest flight and fly to Dallas together.  Three teenage knot-heads free in the sky. I shudder. Noah told me his goal is to get dragged off the plane (like that guy we saw recently, he said) and have a video of it go viral.  I wish I thought that was a joke. Watch for that on August 4.  Once to Dallas he says goodbye to his buddies and spends a day with Britt and Chris and Gideon before going way further west to see the El Paso contingent.

Noah and Isaac will fly home together in late August. That will be another day to watch for viral videos.  It will be Noah stirring some pot, and Isaac will be begging him to behave and biting his nails off in the background.

On July 22 Lydie and Phoebe get two weeks in Florida with Grandma and Grandpa Livesay.  They are saying that Grandma and Grandpa Livesay give them ALL THE POP and ALL THE WATERMELON AND STRAWBERRIES and outside of those facts nothing else matters.  Pop and fruit equals LIFE MADE. Those two little fools are besties and I am guessing Troy's parents are going to laugh a lot for two weeks.

All of the above means that Troy and Tara have two weeks with zero children in Haiti.  The last time that happened was due to a dramatic-evacuation of our children after an earthquake in 2010.  This should be far more pleasant and hopefully a lot sexier.  What do people do when they come home to a house without thirty-thousand requests for any number of things?  I know this: Troy hopes they have "advanced romance" with that free time.  I hope they sleep and sleep and sleep.  Maybe we can find a way to compromise. Time will tell. Two weeks without kids.  We have been married 19 years and this has never happened without some terrible circumstance. Troy married himself into fatherhood. It will be wild to see what no kids is like.  My friends predict we will sit around talking to our kids on FaceTime.  I vow to do exactly that.

Sleeping Outside-
Eight years ago on a particularly hot as balls night, I asked Troy to please sleep outside with me. He said, "No not gonna."  I asked another 56 times in the following seven summers.  He always pulled his nose up and said, "No go."

One day in late May of 2017 he said, "Okay, I will".  We have been sleeping outside every single night since then.  It is easily 10 to 15 degrees cooler.  The normal fipping of sweaty pillowcase is no longer required.  The stars and the moon are overhead and the palm trees blow in the breeze near our bed. The only downside is the blood loss from mosquitoes, but we will ward off the anemia with vitamins and iron. In the morning it sometimes looks like someone murdered us by tiny stabs with little pin prick blood spots making our solid sheets appear to have a pattern.  After 8 years of asking, we now sleep outside.  If I hate it, I cannot admit it.  So I am not.

one of these two people won a decade long battle  - the other is the loser - or maybe both are losers

Sarah and Sophie-
Carline - Sophie's nanny next fall 
The summer is going to mean less Sophia and Sarah, but they should be back in our neighborhood by late August.  (You may recall some dishonesty with Sarah's mom and some confusion.  We are always confused, so that has not changed but the situation is a little less tenuous right now.)

 Sarah is going to be living with an aunt in Carrefour, about 90+ minutes away with traffic.   (So like 7 miles.) Her Mom will be way down south in an area where they have a garden.  The current intel we have is that everyone is back in Port au Prince by the time school starts up again.  Sophia will be cared for while Sarah goes to school starting again in the fall.  The nanny we hired is adorable (see her with her precious baby girl on her graduation day from the program).  Carline will come Monday to Friday to be with Sophie during school hours.  A job for Carline and a trustworthy daycare person for Sarah.  Hoping and praying this can be win/win.  Expecting any number of things to jack with us on the way to that goal.

Traffic -
I have been trying to make my kids leave the house to make them have a life. We went to buy paint one day. My kids claim that I outwardly show more aggression and anger about traffic things than their Dad. They say he holds it in better. As if.
That statement?  It's whatever.

Sustainable -
The way humanitarian type people in developing countries use this word is so much liar liar pants on fire.  I roll my eyes every time I hear it.  Not that many things are sustainable in practice.  According to websites and tag lines, all of it is sustainable. I always want to scream-quote Inigo Montoya:  "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."   (Also as an aside, Mandy Patinkin is my older man crush. Don't tell Troy.)

Midwifery is hard - Haiti is harder
We  (The MC staff) have had a rough go lately too.   I posted six photos on IG about Rebecca, a really amazing client of the Maternity Center. Check that out and feel the feelings with us.

My hormones are so jacked beyond belief. I'm wishing I knew how to tell you ALL about it in a way that would cause you to know I am dead serious and also about to go crazy and also totally fine - depending which minute you check in on me.

I forget what I am doing while I am doing it. I have a piece of bread with peanut butter in my hand with a bite out of it.  How did that get in my hand?  No recollection.  I already struggled in the kitchen, you can imagine how this helps not at all with those struggles.

Want to know? Throw an egg in a frying pan on medium flame and walk away to grab butter and forget because you see that the laundry fell off the line.  Then, remember the egg but forget you turned on the hose.  No worries, when your flipping kitchen is both on fire AND flooding, you'll scream, "WHO TURNED ON THE HOSE!?!?!"

My hormones are SO tanked, there is a strong possibility I can grow a beard better than Troy now. I'm not kidding.  That says very little for either of us.

Email and Technology Woes-
I talked to a nice young man on the phone.  (I know he was young because once my memory returned I stalk-found him, I saw he was born in 1990, which makes him 27.). We talked because he called me to ask adoption and Haiti questions.  I was honest and told him I suck at sending long detailed emails because I get too many requests and my response is to totally shut down and reply to nothing.  I tried to keep up and failed and the lesson was, never try.

So I said, "Call me."  He did, which I admit I never expect will happen.  I am sure he googled me and saw that I am an older person. However, he probably did not know about the perimenopause because that is not coming up in searches quite yet.

At the end of our call I said I would email him several links to more information and helpful websites and books.  I hung up the phone and went to my computer to do the promised things before I forgot, which allows me exactly 16 seconds to get it done. I realized I had no idea what his name was at that moment.  I asked Troy, "How do you search for the email address of a person whose name you do not  know?"

This sort of thing is happening all the time right now.  Refer to previous paragraph.

Five Clowns Dinner, just hours ago -
Our kids know things are hard.  They know we are stressed and transitioning and challenged and now they understand the word menopause too.  They are sweet to us at every turn. Last night they were helped by Midwife, Beth Johnson to create a romantic meal for us.  I was first call so the meal came to the Maternity Center.

new five clowns star restaurant in Tabarre, Haiti 

You know what? I love that Troy is "more and more into me".

Now, if only I could remember, WHO WAS IT that was more and more into me again?

That's that for this June struggle bus edition.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Second Week at Vet Training - By Isaac Livesay

Last week I was in Deschapelles, Haiti again and it was great the second time around.  I learned a lot again, and also got to meet some new students that joined the class.

Kelly teaching us all 

Last week we talked about diseases and epidemics in Haiti. It was really interesting. We talked a lot about how those diseases can spread and how to help the animals that get sick. Here are some of the diseases we covered: anthrax, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and rabies.

In class we even discussed about two strange but enthralling diseases in Haiti that affect horses specifically.  Lagoum, which is a virus that spreads from horse to horse and kills. The other disease is Lampa. It is an inflammation of the soft pallet (the roof of the mouth) - this disease in particular is usually caused by a cut or a burn in the mouth. It is most common during the dry season.

With diseases, you have got to have the symptoms, so we also talked about the multitude of symptoms to go along with the diseases we discussed. For example a dog with rabies is most commonly known for having a foaming mouth.

I got to Dechapelles on Sunday evening and started class Monday morning. On Tuesday we had two guest teachers. Kelly Crowdis was the main professor for the week, she is a great teacher.  With our guest teachers we talked about rabies and infectious epidemics. They talked about how imperative it is that we vaccinate as many dogs as we can to prevent rabies.  It is in your best interest to not ever be bitten by a dog. You probably knew that.  Here is a fun fact, if you do get bit - you should immediately wash the wound with running fresh water and soap for ten minutes straight. That will decrease your chances of getting rabies by 50%. Isn't that crazy?
I asked my Mom if it was okay to put a cow butt on the internet.
She said it was.

With epidemics we first talked about their characteristics, the quickness of the spread, the space or geographical area the epidemic occurs, and the duration of the epidemic. All this is crucial information because we would need to send all of this information to the government. They hopefully provide the country with useful prevention information and give warnings when possible.

Wednesday and Thursday we did a lot of hands-on work. We got to practice physical exams, giving shots, hydrating animals by passing tubes down their noses and throats, and we did a few fecal exams (that's looking for microorganisms in poop). I think that it is interesting looking at poop, but only if you find stuff in the poop.  We put the poop in a beaker thing and add solutions to it.  Then you put it on a slide before it goes on the microscope.

The most enticing hands on thing we did was to dissect a goat. It was SUPER cool. We got to see how everything would work in the body if that animal were alive. With gloves I got to touch and hold a lot of the goat's organs. I even got to hold shut an artery that was cut open. There were a lot of slimy and mushy parts. Many things looked the way I expected them to look. The thing that I was shocked by was the stomach. A goat is a ruminant, which means it has FOUR stomachs.  Can you image having FOUR stomach aches at once? The rumen, the reticulum, the omasum, and the abomasum are the four parts. It amazed me how large these four parts were.  After the dissection we each got a section of the goat to practice doing suturing.

I got the back of the goat.  We practiced suturing torn muscles. It smelled very bad. Before we started suturing we used scalpels to cut the fur off around the wound we practice stitching. It was a lot of fun.
suturing goat muscle

One day we went on a field trip to Ti Rivere. Oh my gosh! It was so amazing. The fields of emerald green grass and the land teeming with banana trees was beautiful. It got even more beautiful as we approached our final destination. At the top of the mountain there was an old fort that the Haitians used to fight off the French. From the fort we got a panoramic view of the fields and green trees and the river. In the background we could see the abundance of mighty rolling mountains and hills. Honestly, it was one most beautiful things I have ever seen in my country.  It looked like a place that National Geographic would put in their magazine. I was in awe. I hope to return to Ti Rivere on one of my future trips north.

Overall I think I enjoyed my second week in Dechapelles even more that the first. I was more comfortable with the environment and the people I was working with. There was more action and less sitting. Seeing that beautiful part of Haiti was a gift to me.

Sadly, I won't be able to be at Vet camp in July or August because I will be in El Paso, Texas seeing my big sister and nephews and taking Driver's Education for a month - which is also a good thing. I wish I could be two places at once.  I look forward to the September class and I will write again after that week.  I am excited for the summer I have planned and anxious to meet our new teacher later this month.  I get to meet my new teacher June 29th and I get to go to America July 9th.


Sunday, June 04, 2017

Absurity Abounds (AA)

If there is any place on earth more absurd than Port au Prince, I beg of you, please do not invite me there, thank you.

Below you will read a stream of random thoughts and paragraphs about totally unrelated absurdities.  

But first, you will find a few photos of my gorgeous collection of non functional appliances.  This is not the entire collection, I don't want to overwhelm you or make you feel less-than, therefore I left out two of my most beautiful pieces of non-working metal. (Washing Machine and Dryer) 

new warm storage area with lighting
stove top still mainly works - oven came here from America and worked six days
top/freezer works if 82 degrees or cooler outside temps
Oven will still light if you slam violently on the bottom rack after lighting.
Stove-top  died years ago.

A super strong and smart and sweet young lady that we have known since her 2012 sexual assault and subsequent pregnancy (and delivery at Heartline M.C.) came by our house to visit yesterday.  She is wicked smart and doing great in school (thanks to donors and a sponsor that support her).  Due to her academic success she was chosen to go to Spain last month with a group of six students. She wanted to show me her passport and photos from the trip. This is the narration of her photos translated to English: That's the bus, that's me in the bus, that is me in the bathroom on the bus, that is me at the back of the bus, that is me at the hotel in the D.R., that is me in the bathroom of the place we had breakfast, that is us at the airport, that is me getting on the airplane, that is me in my seat on the airplane, that is the bathroom on the airplane, that is my friend and I in the mirror of the airplane bathroom, that is us in sweatshirts in the airplane because it is cold, that is the van we used in Spain, that is the bathroom on the way to our hotel in Madrid, that is a soccer player jersey, that is me with a soccer player jersey, that is me with the famous soccer player cardboard cutout, do you know him? That is the soccer stadium, that is the woman that was responsible for us in the soccer stadium, that is 77 selfies in the soccer stadium, that is a piece of pizza, that is a bowl of rice, that is me with a bowl of rice, that is me with pizza, that is a kid that liked us so we did a selfie with him, that is a drunk man we met and asked for a selfie with him, that is a bathroom mirror photo, that is another one, that is another one, another, another, another.   I determined that bathrooms and selfies are what is most important when a girl from Port au Prince gets to go to Spain.  I don't know at all what Spain looks like, because there were not any photos of outdoor Spain.  Next Sunday Troy and I will go see her graduate at the top of her class. Nobody knows she has a son that will turn five this July.  We will cheer and cry and get several hundred selfies in the bathroom if there is one.
Sarah is a 14 year old that is doing a great job with her little baby.  If you read this blog or follow on Instagram you have seen her gorgeous plump baby, Sophia several dozen times.  Sarah asked us to come talk to her Mom.  Sarah is having several disagreements and wanted us to try and help by explaining what we teach in our classes.  Sarah's Mom told us last Saturday night that she thinks Sarah and Sophia are "too attached". Those are the words used.  TOO ATTACHED. THIS FIVE MONTH OLD IS WELL ATTACHED AND IT IS NOT GOOD.  She went on to say that Sarah picking Sophie up when she cries is spoiling Sophie and that Sarah is messing everything up by having an attachment to her child.  Then she told us that she hits the baby on occasion. When we told her hitting babies is a reason to head to jail in the USA, she simply said, "I couldn't live there then." I had to talk to my own head non-stop while we sat there talking to Sarah's Mom.  I had to say, "Don't punch her. Don't kick her. Don't call her stupid. Don't insult her."  It was the most frustrating 30 minutes of the last week. I went home and lit the oven over and over so I could slam something.  Here we have a kid that is truly embracing and winning at motherhood at a very young age. She has a healthy, fat, secure. well-loved little baby girl and she has a Mother that is very critical of her and is constantly verbally demeaning her. I don't think the talk accomplished anything at all, except maybe to crush our spirits a bit more.  Sarah wants to live with any of us on staff at the M.C. but I cannot even begin to tell you how complicated and difficult all of that could be.  Right now, I only know to say, "Please pray" -  because I cannot find the hope to do it in this situation.  It is the bright spot of 2017 and someone wants to wreck it.
A mom sat down in our office the other day with her 13 year old.  The daughter got pregnant right before she turned 13. Her boyfriend is 20.  That's not a problem for anyone, that age difference is not culturally frowned upon.  Being pregnant at 13 **is** a problem though.  The Mom said, "I was making a remedy for her to drink to "take out the baby", but someone told me I should not do that without coming here to this clinic first."  We sat and talked for a long time. We had Sarah come in with Sophie and share a bit of her story. We agreed with the Mom that teen pregnancy is really hard and "not good" (mom needed to say over and over "This is not good for me").  We saw on ultrasound that the baby is a girl and is due in October.  We asked Mom if the remedy is still going to be used, she said, "No, it is too late for that now."  We told them goodbye and that we would see them next Thursday and then we sat and stared at a wall for bit.  

In far less consequential absurd news ...

The man we paid to fix our broken washing machine tells us on the phone every single day "I am coming now".  He thinks we don't notice that he never ever comes. Not now. Not later. The next day, we call him again, he says, "I'm coming now."  Troy says, "You are not though.  See, see how you are not here ever ever and still?"  

So the washing machine is on day 9 broken and Beth McHoul let us use her machine and Geronne did a bazillion loads wash by hand and everyone wants to hurt that guy that never comes so hard. 

The refrigerator and freezer stopped working AGAIN on Monday. Troy says it is because I bought them in the USA and you cannot buy appliances that know of the good life.  They sat in an air-conditioned room and they know about that way of life and what did I think would happen if I put that appliance on a container and shipped it to Haiti?  Did I think that refrigerator/freezer would just accept these temperatures and keep behaving and operating? You get what you get when you do stupid things like that.  

It is far too pretty to get rid of so we're going to store dry foods and dishes in it.  

In our house is a stove with six burners.  Three of the burners work.  Below the burners is an oven that worked for several whole days after we bought it.  Some component fried out and the oven portion gave out two years ago. This is not a problem because the stove/oven we had before that has no working burners with a working oven. Lighting it is noisy because there is a routine and it is noisy, but still, it lights.  So, if you wanna make a pizza in the oven, you go outside to the oven.  If you wanna fry and egg, you go to the stove in the kitchen. If you want to refrigerate your butter, too bad. Not happening, see previous paragraph.

The dryer is broken too. Nobody in Haiti has a dryer except the Livesays. The Livesays don't have one now either, so no need to hate.

The toaster makes such good toast.  
That toaster never stops doing its thing.  

The owner of our house is making security improvements due to the May break-in.  He is really a great guy. We like him so much. He has more money than God because he is a super smart business man and he has several homes with renters in them. He made the wall higher in one place and is adding double bars to the window they came in and is adding more barbed wire to the front wall.  I wish he would just give us the money he is spending because once the robbers come it is gonna be a really long time before it happens again. I'd rather use the money to buy a few more broken appliances for my collection. 


Twelve years ago this very month, we sat down with many of the important people in our lives and said, "We think maybe we should move to Haiti."  I think about those young people that sat down and said that, and I wonder if I would even recognize them if they were here with me today.  

Absurdity changes people. 


Thursday, June 01, 2017

By Isaac - Vet School in Haiti

Practicing suturing 
Hello everyone!

A couple of weeks ago (May 16-20) (5 sleeps) I had the exhilarating experience of a lifetime. I got to go to a veterinarian class in Deschapelles, Haiti.

The purpose of attending AG Horizons (The School Name)was to get educated about animals in order to be helpful in situations when animals are sick and to help educate the community around me.  Many people here in Haiti don't understand illness and infections due to a lack of education and opportunity for education.  Often people that live in the countryside own an animal. If a man has an anemic cow, he cannot necessarily identify why his cow is sick and he can lose his cow due to that lack of knowledge.  Losing an animal causes a family financial strain and hardship. So as we are being educated we are reminded on how we can help teach people how to better care for their animals and or help them with the animal.

The whole reason as to why I got to AG Horizons Vet school is really amazing. When my Mom and Lydia and I were cutting my dog's fur (Walnut) there was a scissor accident involving his ear. It was sad and Lydia cried and worried a lot about it. Later that day Kelly, our Veterinarian friend, came and examined his cut. While she was at our house I told Kelly that I want to help animals when I am older. My Mom was also telling Kelly about my plans for after high-school.  This led to Kelly telling us about AG Horizons and inviting me to come join the class. She gave me a week to decide if I wanted to try it out.  My friends and family encouraged me to go and try it, so I did.

I will never regret going! My classmates and I were educated by two vets named Janice and LeeAnne. They were REALLY COOL people.

It was a fenced in property with a few buildings. I got to stay in the main guesthouse. It was green, two stories, and quite large. There were a few rooms where students could stay. I stayed down stairs in a dorm room that had about seven other guys staying there too. The dorm was pretty big and had several bunk beds. Most people had their own bunk and did not have to use the top one.  There were 18 students total. There were two girls and sixteen boys.  The students backgrounds varied. There were students that were illierate and students that had gone to college and could read and write in French and Kreyol. There were Pastors and Farmers and younger people too. I was the youngest one in the class.

At the school I learned a lot of intriguing things. We learned about inflamation and shock. We talked about different types of shock and how it can affect the body. We discussed a lot about internal and external parasites. We learned how to identify microscopic organisms under a microscope. They even taught us how to dose medicines for an animal depending upon their weight and the concentration of the medicine.  (So, this is when I learned that math can acutally REALLY BE USED in REAL LIFE.).  We learned how to tie surgical knots (praticed on towels - see photo.  Because blood is very important we talked a lot about what makes up our blood too. We learned SO MUCH and went into a lot of detail on these topics.

Class was from 9:30 to 4 each day and I most enjoyed the down time afterschool when I could study everything I had learned that day and have a chance to read, color, and listen to my music.  I had a few friends I talked to, we all used a mixture of English and Kreyol. I was the only student with English as my first/strongest language.  It was good practice for me and I had to use my Kreyol a lot and that was great for me.

At the end of the week we had an exam.  In fact, the night before the exam, a few of the students and I stayed up very late studying together with Janice the Vet Professor.  For a long time we worked out equations on the chalkboard.  When the test came the next day, I got 115 out of 120 points. I was SO ECSTATIC.  All the students congraulated me on my good grade.

I will never forget this far-out experience I had. It was good for me to step out of my comfort zone and do something by myself (without any of my family with me).  There are 10 more weeks total.  I go again in mid June and will go once per month for many more months.  I have a lot to learn.  I plan on using the skills and knowledge I am obtaining to help animals in Haiti.  Eventually, when I get older and get to a certain point in my education, I will begin working on animals under the supervison of a Veterinarian.  That has me VERY psyched.  Whenever it comes time for me to leave Haiti, I want to attend Vet school where I can further my education.  In America, I think I would rather work with dogs and cats. Here in Haiti I will be working with pigs, sheep, horses, cows, goats, donkey, and some dogs.

That is all for now, friends.  I will update you after the June class.   Thanks for reading.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Geeking Out with the Statistics Geeks

I am fairly sure 54% of all statistics are made up 75% of the time.  
Even so, I bring you a few recent Heartline Maternity Center stats. These stats are not made up, but I don't expect you to blindly take my word for it.  Photos hopefully help provide proof.  Here are some free of charge statistics.

As of the beginning of this week we had 72 pregnant women in our Prenatal program.  Since Monday five have delivered.   

Sophia started the week off with a baby girl on Monday.
On Tuesday we had our Post-Partum Moms and Babies class.
On Wednesday something changed in the atmosphere and the uteruses started warming up.
On Thursday morning we had one early morning transport. Then we had PreNatal Class and Prenatal Consults.

In the last 24 hours - 4 baby boys were born in this program.  

Of the last four births, C/S rate was 25%. 
(One C/S after a transport due to position of baby and three deliveries at Hearline M.C.)

Of the four baby boys, three of them were the first baby born to their Mommas.  One was the 8th child to a 40 year old Mom. 

One of the four Mothers came at 37 weeks with severe pre-eclampsia with all the necessary management required.  She'll be monitored non-stop for 24 hours or more.  She arrived yesterday with a slightly elevated BP, before long she was very very sick and an induction began. She was the second delivery of the four babies.

Timeline Thursday early Morning to Friday early Morning:
Marie Elda -Transport at 4am - C/S at 12:30pm
Junette - Induction at 4pm - Baby at 11:30pm
Nerlande - Baby at 5am Friday
Sarah S - Baby at 5:25am Friday

This is the first time we have ever had four babies in the same 24 hour period.  Three was the previous record. 

Names of babies in order of birth: Angelina, still unnamed, David, still unnamed, Kervenson

Total number of babies that have died this month or year - 0
Total number of moms that have died this month or year - 0 

Grateful for the prayers and support you all give --- and thanking God for these stats and His protection over this place and these women.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

PreCheck & Rollout of Special Snowflake Program

I would guess this phenomenon is true, no matter where you live or who you you are. That to say, don't hear me accusing others without also accusing myself.

Wherever you live, whatever your environment and culture, we all become accustomed to our norm and therefore become inured to the aspects of our lives that are not so palatable. 

For example, when someone that has never been to Port au Prince visits us, they point things out that I really do not see any longer.  I have been sitting in this traffic and driving these roads for so long, some of what goes on around me is simply white noise. It takes fresh eyes to be reminded of what I used to notice. 

Oh, a live giant pig strapped willy-nilly across the back of a moto is odd?  Okay, if you say so.

On the flip side, this happens to me every time we go to the USA.  I see things that I think are ridiculous and I find myself wanting to note it and ask around - "Hey, friends, is this totally ridiculous or am *I* the weird one?"  

I'm not talking about the "Is it normal now to pay $14 for a plate of air at a restaurant" variety of question. Feel free as birds (you're eating like them anyway) to go to those important restaurants without food if that's your jam. I have come to understand that being hungry and paying a lot for it is cool in your land. In Haiti, it's not cool to be hungry and folks can be hungry without spending the fourteen bucks. I promise, I am not talking about that again. Today I am on to other things.  

Right now the thing that seems super odd to me about America is the desperate need, scratch that, the consistent demand to never have to wait for anything.  Waiting is not okay for a lot of people. I observed it with my own two eyes. 

Because honesty matters, as a disclaimer it must be noted we are basically white-lab-rats being used in a world-wide study to prove that patience can be learned.  

If you subject a rat named Tara to enough waiting and sitting and waiting and delays and lines and "not this week" and "maybe next month" responses, the rat eventually accepts that everything is always going to be BS and nothing will ever get done quickly. 

It is to the point in the lab experiment that I am participating in that if on some amazing day I wait less than 90 minutes in a line or business office, I think I just kicked all the ass and dominated at existing. 

Perhaps, I am too conditioned to wait patiently to be the one speaking to America about America and the apparent refusal to ever have to wait for anything. However, that won't stop me from forcing you to endure my obloquy today.

While at the Baltimore airport we learned that there are many ways to get to your gate. 

Not only can you stand in regular TSA line, as a regular line person, you can also be luckier than those fools and be a person with TSA Pre-Check status for a shorter, faster line. That's good I suppose, for the frequent-travelers that spend their lives in those lines. Maybe we can even agree it is nice that they have an option to be pre-screened and deemed safe. Over time that TSA PreCheck line has grown longer of course, as people seek to be approved to skip the regular TSA line.

Far be it from me to understand what an acceptable wait time is, I claim ignorance! 

Now, if the TSA PreCheck line is too slow you can also pay a $179 per year to go into a line that is faster than TSA Pre-Check. It is true. The lady at the BWI airport attempted to lure us into a 30 day trial. Troy and I stood there frozen for a moment. It was like a little red devil-guy was standing on our shoulder whispering, "You can be better, you can have the knowledge now if you just skip this line." 

The new line is called "Clear". Get it? You are clear of being a person that will wait. Basically, if you have money to toss around, you never ever have to wait because you are too dang important to wait. 

You are a special, special being. Because of your specialness, and your wallet, you will not stand still in a line.   

My question is, WHERE DOES THIS END?

I guess once everyone pays the fee and has Clear status, there will be a new program called SUPER DUPER CLEAR for $329 a year for those that don't have time to deal with the growing popularity of Clear.  

Once SUPER DUPER CLEAR is popular, there will be an option called Special Snowflake. In the SS program you will be able to enter the back side of the airport and come into the gate area for $729 per  year. Once that fails, I have no idea how we will all feel important and not have to wait. We know the goal is to forever and ever and ever keep from waiting in a line like a mere commoner.  

- OR - maybe at that point the normal TSA line will be super short again and we can all head back to that line. 

Don't get me wrong.  I am being a jerk. Of course I prefer not to wait. I rather love walking up to a counter with no waiting line. I'm just generally curious if other people see this change happening in America.  

It was not like this 10 Or even 5 years ago, it is a new demand.

I wrote this post while waiting on a baby with expectant Momma, MarieElda.  

I guarantee you the baby is not coming anytime soon.  

I'll wait.  

Monday, May 22, 2017

On Change, Shrimp, Asparagus and Amazing Skin

It was nearly a fortnight and a score ago, but I still recall it well.

Troy said to our two young daughters, "Well, girls, Mom will be traveling a lot for work and that is going to be new for us.  Change is really difficult. I don't like it."  

Paige, about 5 years old at the time, responded with, "Yeah, I hate change...I like dollars."

The more things change the more they stay the same change.

We just traveled and traveling always reminds us that we do not understand our world or the changes.

We're with 5 year old Paige. We hate change.

Our very quick trip to the US of A was a tiny bit disconcerting. While we were connecting flights at JFK we went into a place where there were hundreds of ipads everywhere.  Zero humans greeted us so we wandered in to stand awkwardly looking for a person to interact with - eventually we chose our table and tried to see each other over the iPads.

WHAT tha, we wondered?

After our bewilderment at seating ourselves and ordering our food from an iPad, we were shocked when a robot approached the table to place the food in front of us.  

Just kidding. It was a guy. He just had the personality of a robot.

The interview with Stefanie, the way overqualified teacher, went very well.  We both kept Eye-fiving during the lunch because we both knew if she wants the job, she is the one we need.

After lunch she gave us a little walking tour of her town.  As we were walking around I suddenly had the worst headache.  I grabbed Troy and said, "We gotta go."  We said goodbye to Stefanie and hailed a ride back to the apartment.

Once there, the fullness of illness set in. I curled up on the bed and hated myself.  I then broke out in alternating hot and cold spells followed by tingly hands and lips, followed by much toilet usage of all varieties.  

I last had a similar illness in September when I went on a date night with Troy and came home violently ill.  That time, I assumed I had food poisoning from bad shrimp.  At the lunch with Stefanie, I ordered shrimp again for the first time since September.

Can a person be so unlucky as to get food poisoning twice in a row from shrimp in two countries eight months apart?

I was thinking yes, I can easily be that unlucky.

My friend KJ who is a very smart young person said: "That sounds like a shellfish allergy."  A quick search of the Google confirms that adults get new allergies to shellfish after having no allergy in the past.  Seems true to me. I will never ever test this theory because it would require so much vomiting to prove it.  I am done with this experiment ka menm (no matter what).

Stefanie is thinking over the job offer and the massive pay cut she has to take in order to say yes, and we await her final answer.  We are so totally chill about it. Not worried. No stress.At.All.

That's a lie and I desperately hope she takes it because she is exactly what we all need going into the high school years with the big kids.

At the conclusion of ShrimpaloozaVomiFest it was Sunday and we had 24 hours to walk around and be married people that communicate well and do the talking and the listening and then also try for some va-va-voom moments too.

Haiti stress, sadness, sweat, and bugs really do cut back on the va-va-voom of life.

We took those 24 hours seriously.  The only non marriage enrichment thing we did was write thank-you notes but we were doing them together at the same table so it probably counts too.

For dinner we walked to a place that was recommended to us and immediately wanted to put the brakes on and rewind our way out of the booth we were conspicuously seated in with three servers staring at us.  I so wish I just would've said to the tiny-little-hipster-bearded waiter with the 28"waist - "You know what?  I apologize for sitting in your booth with my normalish size butt. The thing is, I need to leave. I cannot pay these prices for these things that don't sound like food."

Instead we glanced at the prices and said, "We are just here for an appetizer."

Sadly, the artisanal appetizers were created for baby bunnies, gerbils, mice, or pygmy marmosets.

Because asparagus is not a veggie we can easily have in Haiti and we both love it, we went with that.

When it arrived it was hard to see any asparagus and it led us to move things around and count the actual asparagus stalks on the $14 plate.  We are not millennials so maybe we don't see well or comprehend well or something but we know for sure it was not a lot of asparagus, because the normal weird urine smell after eating asparagus did not even happen. That has to be part of the test to determine if you've had a sufficient amount of asparagus.  Yes?

On top of the 8 pieces of asparagus, we were served an farm-fresh-egg filled with liquid gold, or at least priced as if it were.  It tasted just like the old non-farm eggs we normally eat.

After sufficient mockery and scoffing, we paid our waiter and left the faux restaurant to head to a place that serves food for 150 pound + people.  It was delicious and $29 total.  I may have wept with joy and gratitude for the sufficient calories at a fair price.

Once we were properly nourished, we walked back to our place.

At some point during the date yesterday, Troy made a profoundly troubling statement, probably meant as a sexy compliment ...

That would be so wonderfully special to hear, if I was not currently sitting and waiting to get onto an airplane to return to Haiti, where I apparently no longer have skin that will feel amazing. 

So, as we fly off to the land of no asparagus or amazing skin, we pray for Stefanie and the big decisions she has to make and we look forward to hearing from Isaac about his week at Veterinary Medicine Boot Camp. He got home after we left for the interview.

Our friend KJ told us she made a chicken while she was with the kids and when Lydie saw it she said,
"What?! That's really what a chicken looks like? Its legs sticking out and everything. I thought that was only real in Amelia Bedlia books!" (Obviously our whole family is far from realizing or even recognizing farm to table utopia)

Stefanie has a lot to teach these kids. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Secret Babies

When I think of a secret, I tend to think of something a friend might have told me to keep to myself for a short time, or maybe a fun little plan Troy and I have made to surprise one of our kids.  

Secrets are not easy for me, even when they are super light and easy. Whenever I am carrying a big secret, I am half insane and I walk around feeling dishonest for knowing something other people don't know.  I actually need a counselor to talk to if I am going to be holding big insane off-the-wall secrets.  

I was not made for that stuff. 

Truthfully, I would rather you never tell me something that I am supposed to hold by myself and not speak to anyone else about.  

I'm bad at it. 

You don't want to have to spend all your time making your plans to end my breathing in and out for the breaking your confidence, so just don't tell me anything unless I am allowed to at least tell Troy-Boy. 

Secrets are a thing in Haitian culture.  
It causes me to hyper-ventilate thinking about the secrets people carry here.

Right now, the precious 14 year old Sarah I have written about, the Momma of chunky Sophia has a cray-cray secret. Sarah's Dad has no idea she had a baby in January.   

Last June she was living with her Dad for a time and going to school near his house. She saw him daily during the week.  Her Mom would see her on the weekends.  When she was raped and became pregnant as a result of the rape, she stopped visiting her Dad. Once she started to show and her belly grew round her Mom just changed up the plan and she stopped living with her Dad.

When I asked, Sarah said, "No, he's not suspicious." They talk on the phone almost daily.   

Since June of 2016 Sarah has not seen her Dad and her Dad has no idea that she grew another entire life in her womb and gave birth to it on January 14 of this year.  He has no idea she was assaulted.  I keep asking, "So does he know yet about Sophia?"   I get the same response every time.  The literal translation of what she says is,  "No. He does not yet know." 

Last month Jenny had a baby.  While she was in postpartum care her Dad flew into Haiti from wherever he was in the USA.  She got all nervy and strange and distant. The Midwives couldn't understand what her deal was.  Apparently she needed to be picking him up from the airport and visiting him while ALSO hiding her four day old baby and she was stressing out about it all.

I asked Sarah, "So why can't your Dad know?" 

She said, "He will be angry."

I said, "But you were raped and you are not to blame. You are the brave one."

Sarah said, "He won't think that." 

I always find this a fascinating thing.  What is the end game? Can a human being remain a secret their entire life?  What good does hiding a baby do now if you hope to always have that baby/person in your life?

These are the questions I ask, sometimes until it is entirely unclear who is the most frustrated, me or the person I am asking.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Three Baby Day

Because my brain is random fried, I typed that title and thought, "HUH - It's kind of like Three Dog Night" --  but also not like that.

Annnnd, I am not even old enough to know about Three Dog Night.

Please disregard.

New Post at Heartline Blog - Read it here. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

no one ever told me that grief felt so like fear

The need for light and fun and laughter is apparent to me. Today I would like Jim Gaffigan to come to my house and make me laugh. I would. Oh, that's right, his wife had emergency brain surgery last week. Even comedians are getting their butts handed to them right now. 

If you're sick of life and down in the dumps, go read the post meant for laughing that was posted here Sunday. And then don't continue with today's post. I am serious about this.  If you are sad, stop here. 

Sad Dog.

Okay. You didn't stop. I don't know why.  Are you not sad?  Know this, I am only implementing the noise abatement procedure for your own good.  Last warning.  There are happy things on the Internet if you need a lift.  

The rest of this post is not one of the happy things. 

*           *

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. 
I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.” 
― C.S. LewisA Grief Observed

I don't suppose it is necessarily any worse than any other time, maybe it is just the I'm-older-age-now-fatigue making it seem worse. 

It is true that your mid 40s are nothing like your mid 30s, I'm here as a witness to that fact. Stay 35 if you can.

Right now I am sick and tired of sadness and broken spirits and broken bodies. I question if my SSRI is working because I just feel sad and tired --  or sometimes tired and sad. 

*           *

One Mom we know has HIV and fights against taking her medicines daily because she feels so sick after taking them.  We push her and beg her and sometimes force her to take them. The HIV program she is in is supposedly the best in the country, but they seem unwilling or unable to do a good job. (Never assume conspiracy when incompetence explains everything.)  They see her once a month and hand her several packets of pills haphazardly wrapped up in paper, poorly labeled without proper instruction, education or explanation, and they send her away.  We work to communicate with them and serve the client with excellence and coordination. They are clearly not into that sort of thing. 

Because they wouldn't give it to us in advance, on the day her baby is born, a Midwife drives to get the very important medicine the baby needs. They act like giving the newborn baby medicine on a Saturday is some sort of impossible feat. They make it difficult and unpleasant. They exist to help the country with HIV. They are "the best" but showing up there and watching them work breaks you of any fancy ideas about what being "the best" means here.

This Mom has not been loved and valued. Her life is full of loss, neglect, and abuse. She is struggling to take care of things and make good decisions for her son, and we ask ourselves - 'WELL, why wouldn't she struggle?' The whole situation is painful and beyond easy answers. Next week we'll visit an orphanage with her to see if placement for adoption is something she wants to consider.  We work hard to keep Moms and babies together.  Until sometimes in horrible situations, we don't. 

*          * 

Another Mom is back in our prenatal program a second time.  Her 2014 birth was with us. We don't typically take the same woman twice; because the more women that have a chance at the education piece of the program, the better. 

However, a woman who lost newborn twins in 2007 and then in 2016 lost her 10 year old son and a 12 year old niece to kidnapping  -  WELL - she gets to be in the prenatal program twice or two million times. 

Her church raised ransom money to get the kidnapped kids back. They had over 5K raised. They showed up at the arranged meeting point to pay the fee, but the kidnappers did not come. It is believed her son and her niece were stolen and trafficked, to this day they have never been found - dead or alive.  They have been gone since February 2016.

Now seventeen weeks pregnant, she comes each Thursday for Prenatal program. Her eyes are hollow, like a person might look while walking around dead.

*            * 

We went for a staff retreat day.  We planned team building exercises.  The first activity was to share some important dates in life on a time line. We hoped to get to know each other even better. We anticipated birthdays, graduations and anniversaries.  Perhaps, some of the joyful things.  However, every single staff member instead shared trauma and loss on the time line. The day as a teenager that their parent died. Their unfaithful husband. Their divorce. Their abuse. Their abandonment.  Their rape. The team building exercise turned into a chance to lay bare the wounds and losses each nurse and midwife on staff has experienced. 

*           *

Thieves came over the cement walls and into our house in the night Sunday.  Smart guys, they took down the motion lights first, used the rain noise as cover and once in the window they found and used our keys to open the back door for a quick exit later. They came within inches of our precious sleeping teenage daughter. They went under our bed to get the safe where we keep passports and important documents as we slept. They looked in drawers and bags and found what they wanted to take. This happens to most middle class people that live here very long. We're not necessarily being singled out, we just got lucky it took so many years before it happened to us.  We slept. We slept. We slept.  And that saved us from God knows what.  Thank you, Lord.

*            *

Sarah, the 13 year old that was raped and had her baby girl (Sophia) with us in January is a great Mom - like, A REALLY great Mom. It's stunningly beautiful how well she is doing.  However, her own mother is always making things harder. A month ago she came to lie to to us about being kicked out of their house. The story was long and meant to put us in the position of offering them money or maybe a place to live with us. Once we realized it  wasn't true - and that their home was not being taken away, she (the mom of the teenager) just stopped interacting with us. 

This month she is picking at Sarah and being critical and feeding the baby things that the baby should not eat. She is arguing with her daughter that the baby needs more than breast milk.  (Have you seen how fat that baby is?!?!? She needs nothing else.) Sarah sneaks things she doesn't want her Mom to give to Sophie out of the house and into my hands for safekeeping. 

*             *

When I am tired like this, I think, "What exactly is the point?  Nothing gets better. This is shit. It will probably always be shit."  

C.S. Lewis says things about grief that sound so right to me.  He says, "grief gives life a permanently provisional feeling."  

He says,  “Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.” 

I guess grief takes the path it takes and the time it wants and maybe it will be a really long time before a deeper lasting hope is born again.  Maybe not though.  Maybe very soon I will wake up done with feeling dread -- and ready to believe things can be good - or at least they can be better.  

We will see, I suppose.