Wednesday, March 27, 2013

airport run

This past Sunday's birth was stressful. I am still new enough at this that I tend to be a little nervous after-the-fact when I see something new happen. The "what if" game is dumb, but I play it with such excellence. The more you take part in birth the more you learn and the more the complications become a part of your normal. When I am being rational I know that it is true.  Normal, easy birth was once stressful too.

Thanks to Jesus and the people He uses, it all ended well and both Mom and Babe are fine.  I don't want to be melodramatic, I mainly want to communicate that those intense births zap you of your natural adrenaline and for about a day afterward (two?) you guess that if someone gave you a breathalyzer they'd determine you were over the legal limit and send you back to bed. You just feel punch-drunk and odd. 

I had a hard time turning the birth adrenaline off and did not sleep very long or well Sunday night.

Monday morning the alarm went off.  I rolled over to do what I do first every day.  Sadly it is not to pray or grab my Bible or kiss my husband.

I grabbed my phone, turned off the alarm and checked email on the phone with my good right eye.  Some days I am checking for important reasons, other days out of habit.  On this day I was checking to see if the American Airlines flight I was waiting on would be arriving on time. 

On occasion someone will write to us and say, "I am coming through the Port au Prince airport, what can I bring?"  This person, my friend Shelly, was coming to finish her adoption and I asked if my mom could please mail a birthday gift for Noah to her.  Beth asked her to bring candy for the annual "Grandma Beth" Easter baskets for the kids tradition.  Shelly graciously agreed to carry those items in and took a few other last minute requests in stride.

After my feet were on the ground I called Melissa, the nurse midwife and friend I work with at the Maternity Center.  We had been sharing Beth's truck while she was in the USA watching her grandson be born.  Melissa said, "Sorry Tara, I just tried and Beth's truck will not start."  I sighed. The vehicle problems never end here.  (We have vehicles. Problems come with them.  The alternative is walking, that is what most of our neighbors do. Of course I recognize my problems are also a problem of privilege)  "Okay. I will figure out a new plan, thanks."  

I asked Troy if we could start school late. He called Jimmy and Becky and explained I needed the one working car we had for a bit to go the other direction from school.  I walked outside to get in the truck and found the tire beyond flat.  It was the disintegrated type of flat, not simply low on air.
By this time the plane was on the ground and I knew traffic could make traveling the short distance problematic.

I instructed the nearest child to go tell Troy the tire was replete of air and started walking toward Heartline's guesthouse.  On the walk I asked the guesthouse manager if she could allow me less than one hour use of the van.  It was her day off, but she told me I could take it. To cover my communication bases I called one more person to tell them the same thing.

I was buzzing along thinking, "Gee. This is such a cruddy start to the day. Kids are gonna be late, the whole day is off track. What next?"  I wish I had a timer tracking my negative thoughts. It is no exaggeration to guess that within 10 seconds of that thought I heard the crunching sound of my van (not my van technically) scraping another truck.

A vehicle used for public transportation was parked on the right loading passengers.  The driver let his foot of the brake and pulled up ever so slowly at the same time that I was passing. <crunch>  I think it was my fault, not his. The van is long and I think I was moving toward my right turn that was coming up and I moved too soon for the length of that stinkin van. A lot of vehicles in Haiti have custom made giant iron bumpers added onto them.  It is called "defans" -  you get the idea - to defend your car from injury the black metal bars stick out further than your car/truck/van. After the back panel was scraped the defans on my van got caught on his defans. I stopped, backed up two inches, and they ended their brief entanglement.  The driver of the other vehicle motioned for me to pull up and park in front of him on the side of the road.  People watching yelled their opinions about my driving skills. I started shaking like a leaf.  The driver and I talked.  He was nice enough.  I explained to him that my Kreyol is only good for household and women's health issues.

Since I could not find a way to incorporate the words clean, wash, dry, vagina, or contractions into our discussion about the vehicles I begged him to allow my husband to call him to discuss my stupidity later.  I don't negotiate and I don't like numbers - I could easily think I was being asked for 500 dollars when really it was only 500 gourdes. I explained that a person was waiting at the airport for me.  We traded numbers, he told me where he thought I should go get the defans fixed and I drove off without closely examining anything.  I wanted out of there, I wanted to stop shaking, and I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry my eyes out.

A mile down the road I hit one of Haiti's 6 billion potholes and the entire defans fell off on the ground.  Swear word spoken, I pulled over and ran back to pick it up.  I try to do some push ups now and again to sculpt my guns, but even my most Herculean effort could not possibly pick that thing up.  Three guys took pity on me and carried it to the van.  We put it inside the van on top of the rows of seats.

I proceeded to the airport to meet my friend.  I got the bag from her quickly because she had been waiting on me and needed to leave.  I walked back to the van and allowed myself a complete and total cataclysmic melt down. I fell apart in a heap of uncontrolled sobs.

A male friend we once worked with saw me and walked up to tell me "Oh Madame Troy - This is material stuff. Don't cry. Stop!"  I told him to please leave.  I had no intention of pulling it together.

I started looking for John to confess.  I texted Troy to let him know.  I texted Paige. I called Jimmy to ask him if we could call school off altogether. I continued purging tears.

About an hour later Troy arrived to the airport parking lot where I sat with my scraped van with no defans to find my face unrecognizable.  Who knew eyelids can quadruple in size over the course of just one hour? We left the van parked. Troy took me home where I laid down to convulse in tears for a good long time.  I knew it was about more than the van.  I knew it was about a friend leaving Haiti, a hard birth, fears, injustice, and other really hard and unjust things going on with people I love.

  • The van still runs perfectly well and the shop will have it fixed by Friday. 
  • My eyelids are normal size again. 
  • The kids had a really fun  snowday "mom wrecked the van" day off and were thrilled to play with Noah's new gift.  

Factoring the cost of the trip to pick it up, this is the year each child's Easter basket from Beth will be valued at approximately $250  - Noah's legos for his birthday now cost about $300.

Very soon I will find a way to laugh at all that and focus on the only fact that matters: While we have been living in Friday -- Sunday is coming. 

a song for Moses and his family

we were pressed on every side
full of fear and troubled thoughts
for good reason we carried heavy hearts

it is good to come together
in our friendship to remember
all the reasons hope is in our hearts

hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength
hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength

now with patience in our suffering
perseverance in our prayers
with good reason this hope is in our hearts

hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength
hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength

oh we saw the face of Angels
many good things well secured
for good reason this joy is in our hearts

hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength
hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength

hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength
hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength

for good reason joy is in our hearts

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


“The world breaks every one and afterward 
many are strong at the broken places.” 
 ― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

The last few days have been intense.  Once I am able to laugh at it maybe I'll break it down in detail.  For now we ask for prayers for the ladies that are due in the next thirty days.  These are strong women that have endured more than I can imagine.  

On Sunday while rubbing Marie Nirva's back during a contraction, we noticed a huge dent.  We asked her about it and she said, "That is from when I got shot during a burglary of my home when I was ten years old."  Marie had an intense birth. She and her son are doing well now. 

The photo above is of Honchye (L) and Nadia (R), both are due in the next thirty days.  The story that Honchyse told me about the violent way her mother died will never be forgotten. It defies comprehension. She carries that pain and loss.  She won't have her mother with her when she delivers her first born, due mid-April.

At times all this depravity and brokeness that we see and hear about can squash and even swallow our hope whole. We all count on prayers for strength and courage.  Thank you for carrying these burdens with us. Thank you for standing with and fighting for Haitian women.  

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March Birthdays

My first born turns 23 today. It was a bit of scandal in 1989/90 when she was forming in my unwed teenage-mom womb ... A scandal turned into a gift of redemption and forgivness and healing and love. *That is the upside down, gracious, and subversive way of my Jesus.* 

Happy Happy Birthday Britt! This is the year you earn your Master of Public Health degree and take on the next mountain. We are so proud of you!

In just four days our son-in-law, also a first born in his family, turns 27. He and Britt will both don their cap and gown to be awarded their masters degrees in May. We cannot go see them cross the stage but we'll cheer from here. We are pretty amazed at the drive and determination of these two wide-smiling and precious fools. :)

To celebrate the birth of these two  ^  - we have Marie Nirva in labor at the Heartline Maternity Center and Nadia on her way in with a lot of discomfort.  Maybe we will have two more March birthdays by the end of this day????   

(Want to pray for the courageous mothers of Haiti? See the list of ladies to pray for here.) 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

a tale of two labors & two baby girls

Adonea's sister and mom laboring with her

baby Victoria

Surrounded by family support, Adonea delivered a healthy baby girl Tuesday night at 8pm.

Meet Victoria, she is all kinds of delicious and perfect.

Adonea's friend Edline told her about the program and advocated hard-core-pushy style for her to be accepted.  She joined the program later in her pregnancy than most ladies do. Adonea came each Thursday without fail and seemed to enjoy the classes, the camaraderie, and the prenatal consultations.

~           ~           ~

Today, shortly before noon Fabienne arrived in obvious pain. Her contractions were coming quickly.

Fabienne is very young and learned that she was carrying a baby girl when Lori, of Real Hope for Haiti told her last year. Lori referred her to Heartline's prenatal program.

Fabienne lives in an area called Martissant, it is not close to Heartline. She couldn't technically afford to come each Thursday so we worked that out and she's been faithful to attend every Thursday ever since she started mid way through the pregnancy. Fabienne walks perfectly even though she doesn't have toes. She carries herself with confidence even though she is missing most of her fingers. Once comfortable with the program and the ladies in the program, Fabienne ended up being a bit of a jokester. She is a funny teenager with quick and ornery wit.

By 3:15 this afternoon Fabienne bravely pushed her daughter Lougmine into the world.  The room took a collective breath wondering how the young mother would receive her new little one.

triumphant after delivering her daughter today
meet Lougmine, 5lbs 10 ounces of more perfection 

Admittedly, Fabienne's situation feels heavy and difficult.  Adonea's feels joyful and light. These two women are separated by more than their ten year age difference.  Fabienne owns only a few pieces of clothing and struggles with the basics, like food, water, and shelter. Adonea has a blackberry and asked me to email her the photos from her birth.  She will be driven home in her family's vehicle.

While their economic situations are very different, they are also the same in some important ways.  They both long for love, friendship, and happiness. They both want the very best for their baby girls. We pray the world is kind to them all. We pray these baby girls will grow up knowing love.

It is an honor to serve both of these women and to come along side them during one of the most important days of their lives.  Thank you for the part you play in loving, encouraging, and giving.

(Last week I gave a tour to an American woman, her teenage daughter and son. After the tour the teenage boy asked if Fabienne was doing well, and wondered if she had delivered. I was touched and taken aback that he knew her name and knew she was due soon. Your care and concern for the ladies lifts our spirits and theirs. Thank-you again!) 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

need a vacation?

Team Adonea

Adonea is expecting her first baby sometime soon.

 She arrived at 4:45am today with a whole slew of support. Still half asleep and fumbling for keys in the dark, we said, "tout moun leve bonè jodi a, wi" (everyone is up early today) ... And, almost 12 hours later - the support team continues to pray and encourage.  On the left, Adonea's Mom and Dad, then her sister and uncle.  It is beautiful to have such a loving and supportive cheering section ... We want this for everyone!   We're excited to welcome another March baby later today. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

outside the margins ...

"People are starving – spiritually and physically – and this world needs some Good News, but they can’t decode what is actually good about us. Good is finding a safe place to struggle, to doubt, to ask hard questions. Good is food when you’re hungry. Good is warm, kind, genuine love extended, no strings attached. Good is clean water, medicine for your sick baby, education, family. Good is community, even before ‘belief’ binds us tight. Good is sustainable work, dignity. Good is Jesus and His backwards, upside-down ways."

Link to a post by Jen Hatmaker that is well worth the read for those raised-in-the-church thirty and forty somethings in the crowd.

This is where we live, right on the edge, and over it at times. We are wrestling and asking questions that aren't always allowed or welcome in our churches and communities of faith. At times it means we don't pass the theology test or get the church invite to share about Haiti. In order to be true to who we are in Christ we'll take the rejection in stride and keep seeking Him and His Kingdom.  I encourage you to click on the link to the full post.

"As for me, I’m throwing my lot in with the other 80 percent, the ones with their arms crossed, their hearts broken, their worth unrealized. The ones who shake their fists and shake their heads, but still crave hope and redemption, because we all do. Bring me your doubts, your fear. My Jesus can handle it all and then some. He is all of our dreams come true. If you don’t believe me, start in Matthew and read until the end of John. Jesus is a hero, a brother, a Savior in every since of the word. He is everything good and gracious. His love for us is embarrassing, boundless, without standards at all. 

Along the way, if I make some of my brothers and sisters uncomfortable and we must part, I hope we can throw our arms around each other and promise to write. I trust you will do your part over there, and I’ll do mine out here where life is sticky and faith is less a blueprint and more a compass, gently leading all us ragamuffins north. I’m willing to wrap us all in grace, because one day we’ll both discover we got some parts right and other parts wrong. Jesus’ mercy is going to be enough for us all.

So if anyone wants to venture out to the margins, past familiar boundaries, through sanctioned Christian staples, beyond guilt-by-association fears, outside traditional approval – I’ll be here with my people, with Jesus ...  "

is justice worth it?

Never stop fighting ... Don't give up! 

Found this at A Life Overseas.  

(Recently added as a writer here ...very touched to have been asked to contribute.)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

spring break week

only had time for one spring-break family outing, but they seemed pleased...

Fun at the Sugar Cane Musuem
Extra time during Spring Break to unbraid, wash, comb, rebraid hair ...
photo of a photo of an amazing afro

two hours of reading each day - spring break requirement
sleepover with friends
Meanwhile in TX ....
the two big sisters together in Texas this weekend

We didn't take the week off of work for Spring Break but we both got sick and each ended up home in bed a couple of the days, which is not at all to say that our being home meant we spent quality time loving on the little fools of the house. The kids were champs and made their own fun at home and got along well. They enjoy going places but for a week they are quite content to be home-bodies and didn't mind our lack of exciting plans. On Wednesday, in between the rumbles in the Bronx, (bathroom runs) (pun!) we took them to a place near us just to get them out of the house for a bit. The place has implements from sugar cane plantations and artifacts from former rum distilleries.  
Isaac noticed a bus-load of guests arriving at the exact time we did and said "Well, that's unfortuituous." Noah did dramatic reenactments of the possible pitfalls of each step of the process of harvesting sugar and turning it into rum.  

This crew always entertains and makes us laugh. Spring break 2013 may be over Monday morning at 9am, but the fun continues. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday's Child

Monday's child is fair of face,

Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath day,Is lucky and happy and good and gay. 

This morning I was refusing to put my feet on the floor when Beth texted at 8am to say someone was in labor and maybe we should all head down to the Maternity Center fairly soon. Fast forward 15 or 20 spazzy - mixed up information-fast moving- pajama wearing minutes later - and a 5 pound 7 ounce baby boy joined the party.  

Beth was in running clothes, I was in pajamas and Melissa was wiping sleep out of her eyes. The baby and his Mama didn't seem to care about our lack of readiness for a speedy birth.All is well and Mama and baby are getting to know one another this afternoon. 

After the birth, during family planning/DepoProvera day, we converted the Maternity Center into a temporary hair salon  ... six hours later, we're getting close to a finished product and a happy Hope. 


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

recent (random) photos & joyful news

I said, "Kids, look sad and I'll send the photo to Dad and tell him we need him to come home."

Try one ... Lydie was too freaky looking...

try two...

Third try ... best effort.

Djenie and Kenny - formerly at Harbor House
They visited yesterday, he turned two last month.

Before the date with Noah for his birthday ... 
Favorite quotes of that night, "Well Mom, you're my first date ever. I guess someday I'll have to tell a girl, Sorry to say it girl, you are not my first date."  Later when Troy called, he said to Troy, "I am with your lady, we're out, you should be jealous."  He wore Troy's cologne for the date. :)

Babies Gloria and Gary - both born this year...

Marie Fusenie and baby Tamar at their post-partum check-up
Paige and her traffic-time reading ...

John turned 60.  Seems like a lot of years of bad hair to me. 

Abigail turned 1 (Jimmy and Becky's baby girl)

Said to the boys: "Hey, we think we found a teacher for this summer"  Isaac said, "Oh really, who?!"  I said, "Her name is Chelsea and she is cute and smart."  
Noah said, "Well, if she is cute I'm gonna have to kiss her."  
Meet cute, smart Chelsea who is coming for six weeks this summer to help make us all sane.

Monday, March 11, 2013

modern love in Pòtoprens

As you know, electricity in Port au Prince (Pòtoprens) can be like a new riddle to solve every day. Its tenebrous unpredictability always keeps us all under the control of the great electricity Czar and all of his minions.  

{Related?: Lab rats are being used less frequently in experiments.}

It is not good to charge batteries on computers, phones, or any electronics unless you have city or generator power. (In other words try not to charge batteries off of batteries, it shortens their life.) I admit that I don't pay attention or care enough about charging at the right time. I admit that my lack of care is annoying to my helpmate. "Charge em if you got em" is frequently called out across the house. 

 I pick up my phone and say, "Wow! How did it get charged to 100%?"

 "Charging your devices is my love language" he replied. 

(so many jokes there, no?) 

sunrise sunset

Here we are. The last semester of Paige's full-time-life in Haiti. It is sad and happy and wonderful and terrible.

She packed her first 40 pound bag of personal possessions and sent it to Texas for storage with our friends last week.  <sniff> More strategic removal of 50 pound bags is in the works.

Today is day one of our 2013 Spring Break week. Oddly, Paige long ago decided this is not a spring break hot spot and worked to save her translating and babysitting money for a ticket to Texas to see her best friend, sister, brother-in-law, and more friends.

We are all inappropriately dramatic when she leaves here and upsets the balance of our lives. We will begrudgingly put her on the  airplane early morning, but only because we know we need to get used to this goodbye stuff.

In May she'll graduate, friends and family will join us in Port au Prince to celebrate her accomplishments. (Join us!) In late June she'll get on an airplane and head out of here to start her new life.

One of the things she'll do is attend a 10-day re-entry seminar for kids - ahem - young adults that have grown up cross-culturally.  The description and information can be found here and here. I scoffed and mocked this idea of re-entry struggles back before I knew anything about anything. As per usual, I learned I was wrong.

If you are interested in giving a small gift toward this re-entry seminar, please find the PayPal link (right) to do that.  If not interested, no problem at all, but please pray for our girl as she prepares to say goodbye to her home and transition from many years outside of the U.S.  - to life as a freshman American college student. Experience and friends with experience all tell us this adjustment can be challenging.

We spent January getting in touch with the core group of people that help us do our life here by supporting us with dollars and prayers.  If we could find them by email, we polled them in order to find out how they would feel about us taking an extended time away from Haiti (five months) in order to support Paige and her transition. (And also in order to take midwifery certifications and dental classes that cannot be taken here in Haiti.)

We were nervous about it as we prepared to ask.  We decided that 90% "yes, that is okay with us" was our goal and that if we could get 90% approval we weren't off base to want to do this for and with Paige.  Shockingly we had an 100% "yes, go!" response.

That to say, in August we will join Paige in Texas and be with her for her first semester of life in America. She is excited, we are excited. We'll all wrestle with our awkward, lost, uncomfortable, homeless feelings together as an act of solidarity.

We are so grateful our donors have given us the ability to do it. The five youngest kids are beyond excited and "When we are in America" is the most often uttered phrase in this house right now even though it is still several months away. They have not left this island since that time it shook in 2010; that time they left by C-130 military transport aircraft. Isaac thinks he can taste the juicy steak already.

We are hoping to find adoptive parents or someone else with an interest in a middle-term (five month) assignment in Haiti that might like to sub-lease our house. If by chance you know of someone that needs Port au Prince housing for five months we can guarantee that covering our rent will be cheaper than any guesthouse or hotel option around and they'll get to have total privacy and two amazing (but not amazing smelling) Mastiffs - please send them our way.

Most of us are purposefully living in the moment and this time in America is a long way off still. There is much much much to be done in the next five months  - we just know that the speed at which time passes is increasingly more insane at every turn. It is possible that the Haiti way of focusing only on the next five to ten minutes is what causes it all to pass by in a giant blur. Sometimes I notice that what I thought was coming back to an email quickly was actually coming back to it a month later.  Because of our tendency to lose a month in a blink of the eye, we wanted to share the 'house for rent' news while it could still be considered long range planning for those that might be looking for a temporary place to rent.

And now it is time for Spring Break 2013 to commence.

"I can't wait for tomorrow - even though I'm supposed to live in the moment." 
-Noah Livesay

Sunday, March 10, 2013

reading and reviewing

Reading Jonathan Katz's thoughts on the complicated political history of Haiti and his personal experiences here before, during, and after the earthquake was very interesting to me. Katz was the Associated Press journalist living in Haiti when the earthquake struck.

Two short excerpts:
"They were words you can truly understand only when you realize that to love Haiti is to come away bruised; that loving Haiti is to love something that may not even love itself, but that it's still love, after all."

"Haiti had given, and it had taken, and I suppose I gave and took too. A little over a year before, the Earth had almost taken it all. I was leaving behind friends and the memories of friends, far too many of whom had gone from the world. The island, in good times and bad, is not a place to which you adapt. It rewires you. To cope and not be torched by its energy, you have to change the way you think and feel and see the things around you. Even the illogic has a rhythm to get used to. But there's a limit to understanding. I had thought I'd known Haiti before the quake struck; I had thought I'd learned post quake Haiti when the epidemic hit; I had thought I could predict the direction of things when the election went sour. I had no idea. Haiti, like life, does not care what you want from it."

I had involuntary tears in a few places in the book when I so deeply understood his struggles in the time following the quake. More than once I read out loud to Troy and Paige and their "Uh-huh, yes" responses confirmed that Katz was communicating things we all think and feel.

If you love this country and have an interest in its history or in understanding how millions of aid dollars can be given while nothing visibly changes, I believe Katz gives a fair assessment in his book, The Big Truck That Went By.

Beth thought I would like Madame Dread, I decided to read it on her recommendation.  This book also covers some of the volatile political history of Haiti, making it a both interesting and educational.  I enjoyed reading a memoir written by an American that came here for one reason, then fell in love with Haiti and eventually married a Haitian man. Kathie Klarreich honestly addressed some of the challenges of an interracial and intercultural marriage. Because there is a solid chance a bunch of little Livesays will end up in interracial and intercultural marriages I am interested in better understanding those unique dynamics. Klarreich's respect for Haiti is evident. She beautifully expresses the conundrum of loving a place that perpetually  leaves you uncertain and off balance.

~         ~          ~

Troy is back from his time in Limbe. He had a great week working out there and came home lamenting how "di" (hard) the city is compared to the outlying areas. There is Port au Prince, and there is the other Haiti. - Or maybe it is: There is Haiti and there is Port au Prince.
Whichever way, we love (and other things too) this place that leaves us perpetually uncertain and off balance.

Friday, March 08, 2013

for maternal health on int'l womens day

~         ~         ~

"I am 42 years old. My gray hair and lined face trick you into thinking I'm older than that.

I had five children.

In the earthquake my oldest, who was 14 at the time, was crushed to death in her school building that fell.

After the earthquake I had just four children.

God told me in a dream that He would give me another child, and then in 2011 He did.

Now I am pregnant again and I did not plan for this and I am afraid to have another child to care for so soon. I am getting old.

This is my seventh pregnancy."
~          ~         ~

Tears fall as she speaks.

~         ~          ~
We take her blood pressure as we listen to her story.


Managing hypertensive disorders in pregnancy is tricky.
Being pregnant in Haiti is tricky.
The need for better access to healthcare in the rural areas and in the cities is substantial.

~          ~          ~

On International Women's Day we salute the women of this island we love. 
We daily learn from them and their strength. We stand in awe of the way they carry this country.

We want more for them ... We want the best for them.  

Maternal Health matters ... reduces poverty ... saves lives.  

Consider giving here today in honor of the women of Haiti. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

ouvri bouch ou

(Written by Tara)

You may recall a month or two back I wrote that Troy was doing something new and exciting in Haiti and that he'd be sharing about that.


Troy has had an interest in dentistry for a long time. He used to work in a dental office with his Mom on occasion.

When he was 18 he had that thing that many of us have when we are young; you know the thing. Six or eight years sounds like forever and you cannot possibly imagine taking on something that will take longer than nine or ten minutes. He made the choice to drink beer and have fun instead of pursing dentistry. The drinking establishments of the Twin Cities salute him.

Fast forward 19 years. Last June (2012) a dental team from Boston came to Heartline. When they left Troy said he knew it sounded crazy but he couldn't stop thinking about how much he enjoyed being a small part of their work and wondered if it was too late to try to explore some type of dentistry training.  Troy started researching and reaching out and asking questions.

Last November Troy was trained in atraumatic restorative treatment (ART) by a dentist that came to Haiti specifically by Troy's request to train him. The guy was a huge encouragement to Troy and because he'd worked so many years in Senegal and had trained hundreds of people in the techniques of ART and had also begun dentistry training at age 37, the two of them very much hit it off.

When that training was complete I asked Troy if he'd explain the why and when and how and all the ins and outs of the whole thing in a blog post.  Troy gave me an unconvincing "Yeah, sure, I'll do that for you my wonderful wife that never nags me" response.

Soooo. I saw on the calendar this morning that it is now March. I am finally giving up on waiting and I will make a feeble and mainly uneducated attempt at explaining the situation.

"The atraumatic restorative treatment (ART) approach was born 25 years ago in Tanzania. It has evolved into an essential caries management concept for improving quality and access to oral care globally." (This technique requires zero electricity or fancy technology and works just as well in a shiny dental office in Dallas, TX as it does in the interior mountains of Haiti or Tanzania.) 

For those with a desire for details and reading words that don't mean things to everyone:
New article - supporting evidence about ART
World Health Organization PDF about ART
Comprehensive 25 year anniversary overview of ART

Troy learned this treatment with the goal of doing this one safe and straight forward thing to help save teeth. He learned it as the tangible and useful thing he can safely do in the dentistry arena while he slowly begins to determine how to pursue more advanced training.

Now you're probably wondering if there are dentists in Haiti.  Yes, in Haiti there are dentists. There are some great dentists. There are some very sketchy dentists.

The average Haitian (which is possibly a rude generalization -please forgive it) does not have a disposable income to speak of, therefore going to a dentist is quite honestly a privilege of the upper-middle and upper class. Most people here are working, bartering, trading, and borrowing money for much more basic needs. A trip to the dentist would fall quite far down the list.

Oftentimes women in the prenatal program will have toothaches for weeks and months without getting help because the cost of seeing a dentist is prohibitive. They live with pain in ways we still cannot easily comprehend. Because money is tight for most folks, teeth are neglected for a long time and rather than saving the tooth by filling a cavity, it is common for teeth to become so decayed they need to be pulled instead.

As the man's wife, I can tell you that it has been a joy to see him so excited and happy. Having added this into his weekly routine and having something far more tangible than what he is usually toiling at has been so good for Troy.  In the last several years I was generally enjoying my day to day life and work more than Troy. He was feeling frustrated at a lack of measurable productivity. That is not to say there was not productivity, that is just to say Troy couldn't figure out how to measure it.

We're not alike in every way but we are similar in this way: we both prefer to be able to measure our work at the end of a day.  We struggle with frustration when things are ambiguous and intangible.  In many ways the unpredictability (read: zero cooperation) of Haiti has forced us to grow in this area, but even so we're both likely to take things in in a literal and concrete fashion and we generally approach things with a clear idea of "how things should be" -- that is super nice and all ... right up until our perceived "should be" is not at all how things are. Then we're frustrated.

Troy is starting with women in the Heartline programs, (sewing, jewlry, prenatal, early childhood development, cooking, literacy) there are enough cavities to keep him busy into the distant future before opening it up to others. For Troy this is one area where he can set a goal, work toward the goal, achieve a goal.  (See a bad tooth, work at fixing said tooth, end up with a finished product of a much improved tooth.)

It is the very beginning of what he hopes will become a long career of fixing mouths.

Antoinette & Troy
In January Troy's mom, her boss, and her entire dental office were in Haiti and they invited Troy to join them. This week another dentist from Minnesota invited Troy to go to the north part of the island to work with him. Knowing Troy is getting a chance to learn and observe and do something he loves is making his cheering section at home in Port au Prince very happy.

About the title: ouvri bouch ou means open your mouth
Photos: teeth repaired by troy with ART 


This young man, the freckle-faced comedian of our family, is nine years old today.

Not yet two years old, Isaac and Hope had been in Minnesota for nine months when I went to the doctor convinced I was sick, possibly with something terrible and terminal.  The doctor mocked me, "You're not sick. You're pregnant."  Much maniacal laughter ensued.  That possibility was not on my radar.

Here we are - nine and a half+ years later.
Fast facts about our fifth child:

  • Noah was born via crazy emergency c-section and required resuscitation and NICU. He has continued on in the same vein, with attention seeking behavior most every day since.
  • Noah has spent 68% of his life in Haiti.  (21% MN & 11% TX) 
  • Noah has celebrated all but his 1st and 6th birthdays in Haiti.
  • Noah hates milk. 
  • Noah loves cucumbers, apples, and strawberries.
  • Noah loves stuffed animals and dogs. He really wants another dog. 
  • Noah worships his big brother and believes him to be one of the world's greatest humans.
  • Noah loves to make people laugh, has a wicked hot temper and a very sensitive and affectionate side that not many people know about. (until now) 
  • Noah is going on a birthday date with his mom tonight.  (she cannot wait!)
Happy NINTH Birthday to our complicated comedian. We're incredibly grateful you were a baby instead of a terminal illness and we are madly MADLY in love with your freckle-faced goodness.  

M & D

Monday, March 04, 2013

seeing change

In November we reached a point of great stress, I wrote HERE about Lydia. In part I said,  "We try to keep it light(er) when we discuss the ferocious personality that is Lydia Beth Livesay - we're madly in love with this complicated little person, and we feel protective of her.  Her capacity to love (and hate) is really quite a spectacle. In truth some of her behavior the last two months has been pretty upsetting and difficult for the whole family." 

After we wrote that people carefully approached us to say, "I have an idea" and "Can we tell you what worked for us?" We read the various stories and suggestions and talked to an internet friend, Tamara of ZoeRoots. We were very concerned about Lydie and everyone was affected by her angry outbursts. We needed that input.

We identified that the worst behavior began with the big change of starting school. We listed the (possible) past trauma in Lydia's life and we admitted that we were not doing a good job of paying attention to the signals she was sending prior to the total implosions.  

Lydia is the only one of the five youngest kids that ever brings up the earthquake. Every so often she'll say something out of the blue. In those weeks in October and November surrounding her most angry behavior she said, "When we left at the earthquake, that was scary" and "Why did you forget about me?"  We realized that most of Lydia's worst behavior came after feeling left out or alone. We also connected the very most over-the-top volatile times - to a lot of artificial food-dye and sugar consumption. 

If we let her eat a bowl of Fruit Loops and then her siblings left her out of a game - watch out!! Hell hath no fury like a Lydia filled with food dyes and feeling rejected or abandoned.

We started using some of the ideas that Tamara gave us and we tried hard not to miss the early signals she sent of impending doom. Things improved right away. The other thing we did was to attempt to address her diet. We're not delusional and we're not swimming in money, so we knew that many of the healthiest diets would not be easily implemented into our busy (read: chaotic) lives. We knew if we changed her diet we all needed to change our diets too.  Lydia's favorite foods:  white rice, white bread, white noodles and any sugary dessert. That has not changed.  What has changed is that we started finding ways to sneak in more protein (still failing at green things with her - she won't do it) and we began looking at the snack foods Lydia prefers. The yogurt she was eating every single day was filled with food dye. (Watch out for these: Blue 1, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 - they are in almost everything.)

By attempting to remove all food dye and just watching the sugar a little more carefully we have seen a drastic change in Lydia since late December.  It is drastic enough that she is on board and totally believes that too much sugar or things that have dye in it are a bad idea for her.  The other night she said to Troy, "Oh, you're drinking pop? You're going to be wild and angry."  

This particular five year old is doing so much better. Thanks for writing your ideas and thank-you for praying for Lydie ... We're grateful to report things are vastly improved.

related: banned foods still allowed in usa 
MORE related:  Mac and Cheese 

Friday, March 01, 2013

art show!

a TRUE artist can win "best overall display" without paying attention to details