Monday, May 30, 2011

here are the haps in 2 countries ...

Joanna T. arrived to take care of the tribe in Port au Prince. Dr. Jen and Geronne are also there for reinforcement. Troy, Paige and I headed to Texas.

Paige will be in Tejas for a couple of weeks then head to the Land of 10,000 lakes for a while. We’re heading home to the tribe in PAP very soon. Our trip has been so productive and fun.

We had perfect travel out of Haiti to Florida and Texas. We mocked the unhappy complainers that were instantly annoyed with an imperfect situation or a short wait. Troy did his rendition of the video above while Paige and I snickered.  We're "that guy" now - you know, the big jerks that you should never complain about dumb things to ... especially not ten minute lines in beautiful temperature controlled climates. First world problems produce zero empathy from us.

Some acquaintances that recently left Haiti for good said they didn’t want to be “that guy” either but that they wondered if getting back to the USA might just be a little bit boring because at some point people that live in Haiti grow accustomed to having to fight to accomplish anything in life. It is not uncommon to have two or three confrontations a day while trying to go about your life and work.

For example, if I run to the nearby Deli Mart store (a smurf size grocery store) to grab a few staple items, I’m prepared for nonsense. It is not uncommon to grab the stuff I need and get to the counter only to learn that one of the items has no price, therefore I cannot buy it. I might attempt to argue that they look up the price, but that would likely be too logical. “No, sorry, you cannot buy it.” I might then say something like, “You do recognize your store exists to sell this and other items and if you don’t price it you’ll never make a profit from this item, right?” The cashier would then drill a hole through my head with her angry stare. When I hand over the cash for my purchase the cashier would examine each bill and hand back any bill with a small tear of any kind. I’d complain but she wouldn’t budge. She would then hand me change comprised of mostly ripped bills. On the way to the car three or four kids would come beg. When I refused to give them any cash they might kick my car as I pulled out. I would arrive home feeling like I had not only purchased a few groceries, but I had conquered the world in that I had not allowed myself to get annoyed or lose my cool as nothing was easy or simple at the expensive Deli Mart register. We really do grow used to this way of doing business. Negotiation and added conversation and communication is a part of doing life.

So we arrived to our hotel after our flights from Port au Prince and when the lady checked us in she was incredibly pleasant. I would go so far as to say she was delightful. She had the exact room we asked for at the exact price promised and when we asked what Internet would cost she said she’d just give it to us complimentary because the storms had caused some trouble and it seemed a bit slow. She asked how else she could help and she wished us a pleasant evening. She never gave us a reason to argue.  We conquered nothing. No sense of accomplishment. Where is the sport in that? We left her counter thinking, “ She was way too nice.What does she want from us?”

We’re enjoying hot showers and smooth roads and delicious Tex-Mex along with a few days of the oh-so-coveted married people away from kids time. Rawr. All parents of small children know that rawr means NAPS and 8+ hours of uninterrupted sleep ...  And then of course there is the other 'rawr' that takes place without planning or plotting - just whenever you feel like it. It's totally fabulous I tell you. All of it!

I always have some reaction when I leave Haiti and land in the U.S. It is unexpected waves of emotion. It is not guilt. Back in the first year or two it might have been close to anger, it is not that either anymore.

I always just feel the heavy questions surrounding injustice and a deep sense of gratitude that we are so very privileged to know these two vastly different realities and worlds and to appreciate the depth of beauty and suffering in them both.

In Texas:
3 for the price of 1 - Troy's original package-deal (1998-2002)

In Waco with Britt and Chris

The real reason for our trip was not to engage in romance (that's the bonus) or to sleep (that's the bonus bonus). The real reason was to interview and HIRE these two talented people.  We're thrilled that Jimmy and Becky have agreed to bring their years of experience and education to Haiti to teach seven Hendrick and Livesay kids this fall.

I sat across the table from them in Heather and Aaron's temporary home thinking "How did we score these people?!?" They are a gift to both of our families and we're excited for the next school year. I know the kids are going to love them.

Jimmy has worked with high school students for several years and Becky has a ton of experience with elementary students. Please be praying for them as they plan and prepare to move  - hopefully in late August.

In Haiti:
Joanna and Jen report that the kids are happy and doing well. Sunday night they went to John and Beth's house to have pizza and visit the puppies.

Jen leaves Haiti in a couple of days, her time in Haiti always goes way too quickly for us. We love her and will miss her presence so much again. She hopes to be back before summer ends though, so we'll tell everyone to wait till then to get sick and look forward to her return.

Jen shared this with us ...

Happy Memorial Day Monday ... hope y'all get to enjoy some variety of rawr today too.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

HH Challenge Grant

Dokte Jen & Nathalie and her son Nathan

Dear readers: Thank you from all of us for the generous gifts already given for the Harbor House Challenge Grant.  Please let us know if you have questions about that (or any other) Heartline program.  You can leave messages for us in the comments or email us at  - We appreciate that our on-line community of friends is actively participating in the work happening in Haiti. We're half way there!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Challenge Grant & Harbor House News

If you're new here or uncertain of what the Harbor House is please see these two important posts:


Magarette with Ricardo and Michlanda

We're anxious to introduce you to our new House Mom, Magarette. She also goes by "Maggie".  We felt strongly early on that the house needed an older, wiser, Haitian woman that could love and lead with authority. We knew it would help to have a native Kreyol speaker that could understand some of the cultural undercurrent that we miss or just plain don't understand.

Maggie is 37 years old and comes to us with strong recommendation from friends at MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship).  She has a "power under" approach to leadership. In a culture interested in  hierarchy, it is encouraging to observe her calm countenance. We've not seen her lord her power over anyone. She seems to lead with love and grace.  She doesn't appear to need to prove anything.

The  bridge that Magarette creates cannot be underestimated. We're still transitioning her into her role but all signs point to this being a  good fit for all.

One sure sign is that the girls came to us asking to go to church with Magarette, rather than with us.

The most important thing happening at Harbor House is the daily modeling of respect, conflict resolution, child-rearing, and problem solving. The day in and day out real-life examples being shared by those of us that are living here in community with them far exceeds any teaching that takes place with pens, pencils, tutors and books.

All the babies in the house are healthy, thriving and active. The girls are calm, attentive and loving mothers.

Their parenting skills are impressive in a place where survival is first and parenting is usually a back-burner priority.  We probably appreciate their growing skills even more knowing what they've overcome in order to give these babies life and stand strong.

They will likely always parent without reliable help from the fathers of their children.

We support and guide them, but it is thrilling to see that they now also support each other.

We have three possible candidates moving in over the next several weeks, those situations are under prayer and consideration at this time. 

Currently the teen mamas/residents at the house:

Sergline and her son Jobens
Ernege and her son Makenly
Leoni - due to deliver soon
Enisse and her daughter Sophia
Fedline and her daughter Michlanda
Joanne and her son Ricardo

Living with the girls: Magarette, Marjorie and Brittany

rooftop garden


Sergline & Jobens on rooftop

Ernege and Sergline making jewelry with Maz & Cassandra (teachers)

Maggie and Marjorie

Senise and the 'Sistas' - our egg layers

The Heartline Treasurer recently received this great news:

April 2011
Dear Tom:

Thank you for submitting a grant proposal to benefit the expansion of program services at Heartline in Haiti. The people who met with John and Beth McHoul a couple of years ago were very impressed with their devotion to the poor of Port-au-Prince.

The trustees of the _______ Foundation did vote to offer Heartline a challenge grant of $15,000 to benefit the Harbor House home for teenage mothers and their children. When you have raised the $15,000 designated to Harbor House, we will match the amount dollar for dollar.

Sincerely yours,


I traded emails with Tom last week and he informed me that $3,000 of the 15K has already been raised.  That leaves only 12K to raise and we'll be able to collect on the challenge grant that was generously offered by this foundation. (They wish to remain anonymous.)

Will you consider supporting these young women and the work they're doing to improve their lives?

In Haiti many children are raising themselves with little stimulation or supervision.  It is not uncommon for children to be moved around from aunt, to grandma, to sisters and friends to be raised. The young women at Harbor House are raising their own children and are poised to make a significant impact on their country as one generation teaches another generation.

It is our hope and our belief that investing in these young mothers is investing in the future. Ten young moms raise ten secure, well-loved, well-attached children who go on to raise their own well-loved, well-attached and secure children ... and so it begins. 

Please share this program and the work these young moms are doing with others. We need your help to reach this challenge grant and receive the foundation's award.

With deep gratitude to all who give, care, pray, support, and love.

Troy & Tara Livesay 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

thought provoking quotes

"While charity has its place, it is important to reflect on our motivations for undertaking such work. We must look behind the veil of humanitarianism to understand how our own motivations might clash with the needs and desires of those whom we hope to serve."

"Charity focuses our attention on the comfortable, familiar domain of the giver, while justice demands that we focus our attention on the unseemly and disturbing world of those on the receiving end. In charity, we can send some surplus supplies abroad, or we can give our time and skills to those in need. But, to arrive at justice, we are required to take a far more arduous journey. We need to understand the needs and desires of the poor as well as the forces that constrain their hopes or very existence."

"I had learned a valuable lesson about working with the poor. I had come to see them as people first and not as objects of my own benevolence or charity. By caring for them, I had come to respect them. My relationship could no longer be one seen through the lens of charitable work. I had begun to see their problems as our problems."

Quotes from the book "Awakening Hippocrates", by Edward O'Neil, Jr., MD

pale Angle & pale Kreyol

Counter clockwise: Faby, Isaac, Ernege, Geronne, Sergine, Fedline, Joanne w/ Ricardo

 See the little dude seated at the table of girls?
 See his focus and determination?
 See his view of strong, smart, growing women?

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday the Harbor House moms are blessed with the gift of beautiful 'Faby'.  She is the young woman on the right side of the top photo in the brown. She has become a respected friend of the young women at Harbor House and works with them doing a Bible Study/Devotional time and helping them with their school work. After lunch they have a short (90 minute) English class in the afternoons.

The English class is optional.  Their other classes are not optional.  We don't believe the girls need to learn English.  We believe WE need to learn more Kreyol.  However, the girls all love this class and truly want to learn some English.  Leoni is the only one who doesn't come too often, but she is also in another difficult literacy class every weekday morning and comes home tired out and ready for a nap.

Geronne (she lives/works with our family) attends the English class too. It is very inspiring to see her reading and writing two languages when you consider she just learned to read and write Kreyol at age 36 in Heartline's literacy program in early 2009. Prior to that she believed she had been cursed since the fourth grade. She thought she was unable to learn. It has been positive to have Geronne interacting with the teen moms. We want as many solid older women around them as possible. She is a good friend to them; they all seem to look up to her.
Joanne and Fedline with Michlanda

It is so fun to sit in on this class. Listening to everyone working on pronunciation is adorable.  Yesterday they worked on introducing themselves and others.

Sergline is probably picking it up the fastest.  Last week when she was braiding Hope's hair she leaned down to Hope and said slowly and clearly, "You . can . trust. me."  Cutest thing ev-ah!

It is very easy for us to learn Kreyol vocab while the gals are learning English.  I wasn't sure Isaac would go for it but I convinced him to try it with me.

Within ten minutes he was begging to come every M-W-F and so excited to be learning and practicing.  The girls all encourage him when he gets it right, it is very cute to watch.

This fantabulous Haitian boy might just learn his native tongue yet!

Next post:  What's new at Harbor House?

Monday, May 23, 2011

bulletpoint barf

  • The puppies are still a hot topic. Beth McHoul is insane to take on that project on top of all she has going, but it is precisely that insanity that has kept her in Haiti for 21 years. For that reason we'll love her rather than mock her for it. We have not chosen our newest family member yet.  Lydie is in love with them all.   

  • Leoni is pictured to the right.  She is a very shy, and often times sad young woman that lives at the Harbor House. She is due to deliver the second week of June. Her pregnancy has been mostly uneventful but a bad case of Malaria gave us a scare earlier this year.  She lost 8 pounds during that illness and had a lot of catch up to do. Please be praying for her in these last days of pregnancy.  We love this sweet, quiet young woman. We're anxious to meet her little one.

    • Dokte Jen is here a bit longer. We love having her here. She seems to field most of Isaac's random and bizarre questions. Yesterday she spent her Sunday doing lots of unscheduled veterinarian work. She gave seizure meds to a dog. We get a kick out of teasing her about all of it, as her job in Haiti expands from her specialty of pediatrics, into adults, and onto other more hairy mammals.  Versatile much?

      • Last week Lydia tried to chase Paige's cat, Cosmo. The chase led her to a questionable decision. She decided that climbing over the rail on the upstairs patio and out onto a steep and slanted portion of the roof was an okay idea. When I saw it I screeched so loud that I scared the pants off of her (except she is usually only in her underwear anyway). She cried for fifteen minutes angrily repeating "You scared me Mama!".   Uh.  Yeah ... Okay kid that could have fallen two stories to the cement driveway.  Jen might be an awesome veterinarian but I don't think she really wants to deal with massive head trauma on this trip.

        • We finally hired a Haitian House Mama at the Harbor House. She has two weeks in and things are going well. More about Magarette (our new house mom) and updates at the house in a coming post. 

          • On Friday Paige was in a class play.  After we went to see it we celebrated with our first 2011 trip to Epi D'or.  Epi D'or is the Port au Prince version of "fast" food.  It's a bit of trap/trick because it is fast in that it is faster than other places you might buy food  - but it is not fast in that it is not fast. At least not in the traditional sense of the word. Nobody in our family really likes their hamburgers, too much mystery there, instead we got pizza and ice cream.  Paige and I had to fight for the ice cream. The lady we paid seemed mad. Once you pay, then you take your ticket to another counter. At the counter we had to negotiate for what kind because of course they did not have vanilla, chocolate, or cookies and cream and of course nothing is ever straight forward. Our friend Aaron said he was once refused the kind he wanted because it was "too hard to scoop". For real. "Customer service", an inadvertent oxymoron.  TIH  After the two hour "fast food" dinner the boys ran to the restroom before we left to drive home.  Isaac came out to report that there was an issue that needed adult intervention.  Troy was the lucky parent to go because the crisis was taking place in the men's room.  Long story short, some underwear needed to be disposed of and Noah needed to lie down and groan most of the way home.  :(

            • School is officially done for all of our kids on Tuesday at noon.  I am excited and also slightly nervous.  I love having them home but they need things to do. This summer needs structure and schedules or we'll all go insane.  Working on how that will look and work and realizing that I need to be home a lot with these urchins or they will become one with their video games. 

              • We're anxious for our friend Joanna T. to arrive tomorrow.  She is an "earthquake buddy" which is  a really cheesy way of saying she is one of the people we're tightly and deeply bonded to fo-evaah because we walked through those intense days together.  Jo is coming to help with our kids while Troy and I are busy and out of town for a few days.  Jo (a nurse) and Jen (a doctor) watching our kids - That is definitely the A team right there.  Our kids would probably be better off it this was a permanent arrangement. 

              Saturday, May 21, 2011

              respecting the poor

              "You say you care about the poor.
              Then tell me, what are their names?"
              asked Gustavo Gutierrez

              There are so many topics that are touchy and difficult to write about. I usually avoid speaking/writing with force about them in order to dodge any conflict that may arise as a result.  I hate internet word wars .... But more than that I hate when people misunderstand and jump to conclusions.  Discussion is great, but it seems that things tend to deteriorate quickly.

              The fights people have on line would never happen if they were standing face to face because we're all way more polite, gracious, and non-confrontational in real life. In face to face interaction it rarely happens that if you disagree with someone you jump them with the boldness that happens on line.

              All that to say - Bringing up the book, "When Helping Hurts" and writing about Short Term Missions caused a little ruffling of feathers. It wasn't meant to put anyone on the defensive;  but it did anyway.  C'est la vie. In this case, I think it needs to be said and it was worth the conflict. That post was meant to make us think. It is not actually all about us and what makes us feel good.

              Lately I find myself frustrated with some of the problems we create when we come to "help the poor" and that post was born of that frustration.  I dislike a lot of what happens between the poor and the people that come to help. I get squirmy and uncomfortable with the 'great white hope' attitude and the Santa Claus stuff that goes on. I don't think there is anything wrong with examining our own motives and asking hard questions about the things we do. I don't have a problem confessing that we've made some jacked up decisions in our time here and that at all costs we'd like to avoid doing dumb and disrespectful things.

              I'm struggling a bit with what I perceive as exploitation of people, specifically poor people.  I recognize in some of the things we've done over the last six years (especially very early on) a bit of an air of superiority over the poor. I'd go so far as to say that in the past Troy and I have done things that I would now say robbed people of their dignity in that moment. I wish I could go back and undo a few of the things I've done, said, and thought.

              I also feel a resentment growing toward others who don't seem to consider the feelings and position of those they come to "help" - nor do they ever allow their approach to be questioned without great offense. Truthfully, I desire to be far more gracious toward the people doing these things and I don't want to resent anyone.

              No matter what you've done in the past when on a short or longer term trip abroad - try to be open to this question. I ask that you honestly (without defensiveness) consider this and how you would react to it ...

              You are with a friend of yours and a couple of your kids (or if you don't have kids you are watching someone's kids) and you've gone to run a few errands one morning.  At Target you notice a woman taking photos of the kids from about 15 yards away.  Later, you've stopped at the grocery store and you turn around to see five or six people taking photos of your friend and the kids.  That afternoon as you return home you look down your driveway to see someone else standing there taking a photo of your house.  You go to bed, the next morning you walk out of your house looking ragged in sweats and an old shirt. As you are walking your dog a truck full of people you've never seen before ride by and they all start snapping your photo.

              Yesterday on facebook, out of totally curiosity, I asked this question:
              Would you be okay with strangers taking your pictures (or of your kids or family) while you were out and about doing life?
              Here are a few of the replies I got in response:

              - I really don't know. I think they'd need to ask for permission first, but then they'd need a good reason. If they wanted a picture of clothing I'm wearing, a purse I'm carrying, shoes, etc so they can go home and find the same, then ok. If they have a valid reason maybe. I'm not a mom yet, but I'm pretty sure I won't ever be ok with someone just randomly taking pictures of my children, for any reason.

              - That's tough. Normally I would say no, but I'm fine with people who are obviously traveling or when the new refugee families come to our city they want tons of pictures of everyday life stuff (often involving our family) and that doesn't bother me cuz I know it's new and exciting. I definitely wouldn't want to if I wasn't asked though or if it was someone I didn't know at all.

              - Do you mean obviously focusing on my family or me? I frequently get people in my photographs that I don't necessarily mean to, but they are there when I snap the pic. But deliberately focusing? I would not really like that. However, what are they planning on doing with it? I would not like to be used in a media sense.

              - No! We've had that happen before & I was shocked. I will not let it happen anymore.

              - Absolutely NOT, my children are not exhibits and I would not hesitate one bit to let whoever know that taking their pictures without consent is not son s daycare have a very strict policy on that, parents are not allowed to videotape,take pictures on school grounds.    

              - NO! If you have the responsability of having a camera and want to take shots. You NEED to approach and ask, can I take a picture of your child on the swing for an article. OR for a art show. Otherwise NO!!

              - That's a tough one. We are constantly approached here for a "photo" Sometimes I agree sometimes not. I can't even tell you why I make the choice that I do...When we first came I "obliged" now after having our photos taken a gillion times, ...I mostly say no. However, what I do not like is when we are walking and ppl take out their phones and "steal" our photo. Then again, I "steal" photos of random ppl, what to do?  

              - Well, it is the paparazzi that drives me nuts. I just wish they would stop following me. lol. No, I wouldn't like it. But I did it in Haiti the first time I went and never thought once about my actions. Rude! I was an ignorant tourist the first time for sure!

              - definitely not okay...we have the cell phone picture taking issue here too. way too much of a security risk in the country we live. Maybe more of us should think about it before we take pictures of others???

              I'm not debating the ability for photos to tell a story and to draw people in. I know that the world saw Haiti after the earthquake and that the images moved people to respond. There are most certainly times where photos tell a story.  We ourselves have shared many stories with photos.  Troy's book of photos is mainly comprised of people he knows and had permission to photograph.  I am not claiming I know where the line is.  Obviously within relationships and with permission it is a entirely different ballgame.  

              I only know that I am terribly uncomfortable with a lot of what happens here and embarrassed that visitors often disrespect the Haitian people. There seems to be a real attitude of entitlement. Almost as if it is the right of  the visitor to do whatever they want to/with the poor without regard for how it might make them feel.  

              We are VISITORS and everything we do says something about our respect for (or lack thereof) the country and people we are visiting.  Seriously.  

              Remember, when you come here for a week you are one of many snapping photos. (The number of groups in and out of Haiti is mind-boggling. Being 700 miles from FL means more teams.)  I'm thinking if we all stopped for a moment and thought of how ridiculous this is and put ourselves in their shoes we might find a way to be more respectful.  

              Thursday, May 19, 2011

              moving day is coming ...

              A few weeks ago we shared a little bit about the beautiful and complicated relationship with our kids' first families. They, and thousands more have been living under blue tarps and woven banana leaves for 16 months now.

              The same people I wrote about here are also pictured here in this post from last year in their tent.

              It strikes me again how ridiculously small my problems are.  We get grouchy when we go without city power for a few days. At any time we can start a generator and charge batteries and pump water with that power we can create if we choose. We never have muddy water running through our house from a hard rain.

              We have first world problems, even in the third world.  We're inconvenienced. Wah. Big deal.  We think like whiny babies and we literally have no.idea. what a real problem is.

              There are countless families that have survived well over a year without EVER having electricity in their houses. They've spent multiple nights in the pitch dark soaked in rain, waiting for daylight to sort through their muddy belongings.

              This is such a small thing in the ocean of need, but in a short time five families will tear down the sticks and tarps and move to dry land, to new shelter.  The shelter is simple, but for them it will be a giant step up.

              We're waiting on the well for the five houses to be completed. Once there is water and that is finished the five families will all move out of their tents.

              Moving day is coming soon!

              Please be praying for the displaced people of Port au Prince.

              More Words

              Today all six kids were off school for Flag day. We (the kids and I) stayed home and read and cleaned and swam a little bit. We had late afternoon plans with Aaron and Heather and their cute boys. They came to say goodbye before their summer trip back to Tejas. I don't want to make anyone (Heather) feel bad, so I'll tone it down and simply say:  (everysingleday)

              Tonight as I tucked Isaac in he worried that something will change and he won't see them again. I assured him he will. Please be praying for the Hendricks that the funds they need to live here will be provided and that all the details and logistics work out in such a way that they are able to return in August.

              I have been meaning to update some things going on at Harbor House.  Briefly, I'll just say that I'm grateful for Troy and his ability to work within the culture, remain hopeful and loving, and still lay down the law when needed. I love the man. His role at Harbor House has grown and mine has shrunk. More details on all of that and more coming soon. 

              I came across this post (below) of Troy's tonight while I was searching through archives. The words "We cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed and unable to respond" stuck out to me tonight. Sometimes that is where I live. Overwhelmed. With our kids. With logistics. With poverty. With situations. With life. I feel immeasurably blessed to call Troy my best friend and partner, he helps me by exhibiting a stubborn hope and genuine love for others day in and day out. 

              I try to save my mushy words for anniversaries and birthdays, but tonight I'm feeling it without the big occasion. Grateful.

               Words  (repost of April 2010 entry) -By Troy

              I have pictures to edit and load, and hoped to get them on here tonight - but I'm tired and Tara said she'd prefer it if I posted some words. Words are hard sometimes in light of all that we've seen and all that has transpired in Haiti over the last three months. Words fail to describe how terrible some of it is, and they also fail to accurately portray how amazing and beautiful other things have been.

              140 characters on Twitter seems much easier - you can only focus on one thing and do your best to squeeze the idea in under the limit. A blank page presents a much larger challenge. So much room for so many words. That can be looked at in two ways - an overwhelming unending task, or an opportunity to write something beautiful. (I usually err on the side of the former.)

              As I sit here I realize that this is analogous to the issues facing us in Haiti today. The future of Haiti is vast and uncertain and seemingly changing every day. There are a million different ideas being bandied about and each have their corresponding pros and cons and pundits. This challenge can either overwhelm us with its complexity or help us rise to the occasion and each do our small part in advancing this nation and helping these amazing people.

              After visiting one of the largest tent cities in Port au Prince today, we were again struck hard by the sheer enormity of the need and tasks facing the Haitian people. This usually makes us want to get back to our own small corner of the city and get back to helping the few that we can affect and touch - because that seems real and tangible....and possible.

              In that sprawling field with thousands of refugees living under twigs and tarps, where we saw trenches being dug to divert the rains in order to have a dry place to sleep tonight - we entered the home of one family. Nine people will live in this ten-by-ten foot room made of scraps of wood and blue plastic tarps. One mattress on the ground. Laying on gravel with mud on the sheets. Their access to clean water, food, health care, sanitation, and basically everything else most of us take for granted would be described as difficult if not impossible.

              Their situation is replicated thousands and thousands of times over across this city for untold numbers of other families. Even though we can't do anything about this problem on the whole - we can for this one family. They have received medical care, new beds to sleep on above the muddy ground, tarps to keep out the rain, and our commitment to continue loving them and caring about their well being. We cannot do that for everyone - but we can for some.

              We cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed and unable to respond. It is not acceptable to throw our hands in the air and hope someone else will take care of it. We are not responsible or able to change the whole world-country-culture-city-community-neighborhood or disaster...but I know that we can all touch someone and make a difference for one person and one family at a time.

              Mother Teresa was apparently much better with words than I am, because she managed to say all of what I just came up with in far fewer:

              The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.

              She went a little over the character limit, but I would follow her on Twitter in a heartbeat if I could.

              Thank you for joining us in doing the small things that turn into something wonderful.


              Wednesday, May 18, 2011

              O Glorious Day

              (Our sweet and fun cousins, Aaron and Nikki Petersen)
              These fools can SAAANG! 

              Tuesday, May 17, 2011


              Today's post, a blast from the not so recent past ... A lot has changed since this crazy Jack Baueresque adrenaline filled day. Any 24 fans out there? Holla! Loved that show and Jack Bauer. Proud owners of six seasons. Back to the changes - Mainly, Paige is no longer 11 and now confidently flies the friendly skies alone without any drama from her Mama. Also, this part of the airport that I wrote about is condemned and now sits unused due to the earthquake. Lastly, Preval is no longer the President of this country.  

              To read about the significance and history of Haiti's Flag Day go here .

              "Security Breach at PAP Airport" Written 5/18/2006

              Happy Flag Day!

              Thursday, May 18, 2006 is Flag Day in Haiti. Flag Day is tantamount to the 4th of July in the States. It is not technically the celebration of Haiti's independence, but it is very important.

              The photo to the left was taken yesterday, the 17th of May at the Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport in Port au Prince, Haiti. They had some pre-flag day events going on there on Wednesday.

              The day started out fairly normal ... or as normal as a day can be when you plan to put an 11 year old on a plane by herself for an entire day of travel. 

              Ugh. Horrible. 

              Paige was headed to Minnesota to visit her other family. Troy dropped Paige and I off at the door at 11am, and left with Pastor Rony to go get his blood work done again. We made our plan that Troy would return in two and a half hours to get me. I did not want to leave the building until I knew the plane was in the air.

              Paige and I had forced help with our bags, try as you might to authoritatively say - "no mesi, no mesi"  - sometimes "no mesi" must mean "sure, yes, help me please".  Once we had our helper we didn't need we stood in line, stood in line, stood in line. All very normal. When we got to the front of the correct line we filled out all the papers for a minor to fly unaccompanied. I tried hard not to vomit. It was 11:30.

              The ever so pleasant AA employee told us to come back at 12:30 to the ticket counter to meet Pagie's AA escort.

              We went to a little airport restaurant that was upstairs, it is only for people who have not gone through security and into the holding area for flights. I never knew it existed prior to today. We had a terribly gross piece of pizza and worked on some math together and chatted.

              At 12:30 we went back to the ticketing line to find our lady again. She assigned "Marcel" to walk us to the gate. When we got to the first checkpoint Marcel told me I could not come with them. This was surprising to us since we had been told by American Airlines that I would be able to sit at the gate with her until she took off. Paige started crying, which made me cry. We pulled off to the side to pray together and then I sent her on her way with Marcel and told her I would not leave the airport until her plane was in the air.

              As I walked away I felt that sinking cruddy feeling a mom feels when she knows her kid is disappointed and sad. I decided that I should try and figure out if there was a way to see Paige one more time.

              I went back up the stairs to the restaurant. I noticed a hallway leading towards daylight. I followed it, it took me to a flight of stairs where a door had been left cracked open. I peeked around and did not see anyone so I quietly tip-toed in past the door. The stairs led me up to another hallway. In that hallway there was one office with windows at hip level that had blinds on them. I ducked down low to pass the office windows so no one would tell me to leave. 

              Five steps past the office was a corridor that led to open air. I stepped out to find myself on a cat-walk type thing that overlooked the tarmac. It was on the back side of that black fence you see in the photo that we took from the front of the airport.

              I won't lie. My heart was pounding out of my chest because I knew I was not supposed to be up there. I also knew that no one had seen me and that it was my chance to see Paige one more time.

              I stood in the shadow of a cement beam so the guys in the air-traffic control booth right next to me would not see me. I stood back and very still so the guys on the ground working on loading planes would not see me or notice motion.

              There was a lot of commotion on the tarmac. They were rolling out red carpet (for real - actual red carpet!) and there was a huge marching band standing lined up and ready to play. Five black Suburban's pulled up, all in a row. Out stepped a ton of secret service type guys, and then President Preval! The band played for him, he shook six hands and they all jumped back in their Suburbans and left. There were UN with machine guns and police all over the place. I could have thrown a rock and hit Preval or the air traffic control tower. I was that close.

              Once that excitement ended and I had still not been caught I settled in with my eyes focused on the plane I guessed would be Paige's plane. Sure enough, about ten minutes later they brought out the grannies in the wheelchair's and right after that came Paige. 

              The engines were running on the plane so I wondered if she would hear me. I yelled "Paige Paige" she looked all around and had a hard time finding me. When she did, she smiled and waved. She climbed the steps to the plane, turning around and smiling and waving every few steps. 

              My cover was blown so I waited until she was out of sight and gave the "up-nod" to the guy on the ground who was staring at me in shock and awe and utter horror. I bolted off the roof and retraced my steps back out and down. 

              When I got back to the office with the glass windows I met a lady who told me I could be in very big, big trouble. I smiled and wished her a good day and ran past her before she decided to do something about me.

              The lesson and a free tip I'll offer to the UnitedNations and the Haitian Police force and the President's secret service team is this:  Do not focus so much on one area of the airport. The tarmac is just a small piece of your airport. Beware of more than just regular run-of-the-mill predictable foes.  Listen up now, key point: Watch out for moms who want to make their kids happy. They are dangerous.


              Monday, May 16, 2011

              this school-house rocks

              Above is a photo of the building currently under construction on the new Heartline property. The inside will be divided into three sections. There will be windows and a bathroom. Paige is begging and pleading for A/C. That request is being taken under advisement. 

              This building was donated to us by a sweet couple that worked in Haiti in 2010. They gave it to Heartline earlier this year as their generous parting gift.  It just recently came out of customs and the work to put it up began.  We will be using this building as our schoolhouse for seven remarkable students. In the future three younger siblings will join the party. The teachers can be thankful it is not time for that yet. Once Lydia Livesay and Hudson Hendrick combine their powers and capitalize on the strength of so much alliteration and evil spunk we'll all be served notice and begin sleeping with one eye open.

              Over Memorial Day weekend we hope to finalize our search process and make plans with their teacher(s) for the 2011-2012 school year.  God help those poor souls those BRAVE souls. 

              We are super pumped to paint and decorate and make it off the hook schoolish looking ... Because everybody knows you cannot learn unless you are surrounded by bulletin boards and maps and giant alphabets and lots of primary colors. 

              We haven't officially named the school. 'Heartline's School for lard MKs'(HS4LMK)has been pitched.  

              Better ideas?

              more new life

              After losing her first baby in the 7th month of pregnancy, on Friday Yolette welcomed her healthy baby boy into the world.  

              Jonna wrote about it here.

              Sunday, May 15, 2011

              Swiftly Flow the Days, Swiftly Fly the Years

              baby Paige

              Paige went to prom last night.  Surreal is an overused word, but ask me if I care... It felt surreal on three or four levels.

              First of all, prom in Haiti. Who knew?

              Second of all, Paige was a little girl a few days ago. 

              Third, she.was.just.born.  

              Fourth, how can we prevent future sunrises and sunsets and trap her for eternity at sixteen?  Troy has got his fiddle and he's headed to the roof to lament. I will join him the minute I hit publish on this post.

              Practicing before prom at the Hendrick's house

              At 1am driving through the pot-hole filled streets of Port au Prince on our way home from picking Paige up after prom, Troy and I sang our own special rendition of this to Paige while she rolled her eyes:

              Fiddler on the Roof
              Is this the little girl I carried,
              Is this the little boy at play?

              I don't remember growing older,
              When did they?

              When did she get to be a beauty,
              When did he grow to be so tall?

              Wasn't it yesterday when they were small?

              Sunrise, sunset (x2),
              Swiftly flow the days.

              Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers,
              Blossoming even as we gaze.

              Sunrise, sunset (x2),
              Swiftly fly the years,
              One season following another,
              Laden with happiness and tears.

              Friday, May 13, 2011

              recreation haiti style

              In the incredibly slow-moving year of 2010 ... The year we beat our heads against walls trying to secure straight and legitimate answers from the State Dept ... The year best described as the "Year of DACWIEE"  (Don't Assume Conspiracies When Incompetence Explains Everything)  ... All that aside we were able to enjoy all that the USA has to offer. We were discontent, home-sick, whiny, jerks about it at times but even so we managed to take advantage of the multiple opportunities for fantastical recreation.

              We had a bajillion choices. We tried half of them, including playgrounds, parks, water parks, big swimming pools, little swimming pools, vortex pools, wave pools, lakes, lazy rivers, sprinkler parks, and more. There were church groups, play dates, school events, shopping, and summer camps. We never ever lacked entertainment options.

              Quite frankly there were multiple times when we wished our kids had no idea about all the things there were to do do do do do outside of the house. We were less than fond of how quickly they caught on to the go-spend-do lifestyle.

              In stark contrast - here in Haiti we are almost always home every late afternoon and every evening. We are frequently home on weekends. The choices for recreation are near nil. We are not being tricked into handing over cash in exchange for entertainment at every turn. It is a good thing because here all our cash is reserved for car repairs. neverendingcarrepairs.

              We make our own recreation, and we have fun doing it.  We love our nights in and we enjoy time together. We make fun when fun cannot be found.

              Here are a just few of the ways we entertain ourselves at home:   Sunbathing pool baptismal-side after swimming
                Acrobatics by Noah
                front yard sun time - Lydie, Isaac, Noah, Peanut
                Making up games such as, "Toss the Stuffed Animals into high dusty window"
                  Stuffed Animal purgatory

                  Shooting rats on the bird-neighbors roof at dusk - a family favorite!

                    pellet gun + good eye = dead rat
                    • BeachBodyInsanity workout where we laugh our butts off doing our own lard version of Shaun T's workout ... even with all that laughing, some of us still have a big butt.
                      Morning workouts with the three youngest

                      • WWF style wrestling matches that almost never end well
                      WWF - weird white freaks
                      • Internet Cafe on the Smack Talk Porch (this is the place where everyone brings an internet device and we chat talk smack while sipping on a beverage and surfing the web)
                      The Smack Talk Porch
                      •  Impromptu dance parties

                      • Hoola Hoop contests, soccer, biking around perimeter of walled in property, treadmill time, and more general tom-foolery

                      You can see we have no shortage of things to do, and we never even have to leave home.
                      When we moved to Port au Prince almost three years ago we had a little serious marital spat. 
                      Troy said we could not rent the house two blocks from Heartline because it was "too nice" and "too new". He made us look at horribly dank and depressing places miles and miles from Heartline, and all for less than a difference of $200 a month in rent. Truth be told, Troy's apprehension was less about the rent money and more about appearances. 

                      Troy was concerned that the nice, 4 bedroom, clean house with a little swimming pool would seem extravagant to our supporters. He worried our donors wouldn't approve. I attempted to reason with Troy that our kids would be so much more entertained and happy with the swimming pool option and I would be so much more happy without mold growing on the walls and for $200 a month he might be buying my sanity and longevity in Haiti. When all reasoning failed, I cried. 

                      In the end Beth had to step in and tell John to tell Troy to pull his head out - and stat! 

                      John renamed the pool a baptismal and all Troy's problems were solved. Now Troy is just doing the Lord's work. He stands ready to baptize believers at the drop of a hat.  Such a holy giver that guy. Suuuuch.a.giver.

                    We will live here at least one more year before we move to the new property. I really love our house, I even love the guy that rents it to us. I love his goofy little swimming pool baptismal he put in front. I love that it feels like a respite from the real world of Port au Prince. More than that, I love that Troy came to his ever livin senses  - because that swimming pool is the gift that keeps on giving and it saves our butts over and over again.

                    Mostly, I love that this is where life happens. This is where family time takes place. I love this spot because this is where my kids are growing up, this is where they play, this is where they fight, and this is where memories are being made.