Friday, May 31, 2013

tales from a palooza & so much LOVE

The most ridiculous fights of our marriage seem to surround large celebrations in the month of May.

Not yet recognizing the May + party = fight pattern, we decided to float a trial balloon to our friends and family about a year ago. We sent 21 of our people an email saying, "Paige graduates in a year and we think you might like to think about coming here for it."  

Many months passed and we heard some were considering it.  More months passed and people began booking tickets. By early May of this year it appeared as if 19 people would be flying to Haiti to be present on the day of Paige's graduation. We were floored.  It is one thing to love and support a friend. It is an entirely different thing to pack your bags full of food and get on a $600+ flight at the ungodly hour of 4am to love and support a friend.  We're still shaking our heads at that amazing love. 

~          ~           ~ 

The very.worst.fight that ever took place in our (almost) 15 year union, happened on the day of my little sister's baby shower. The year was 2003, the month was May. We were hosting the couples baby shower at our home soon before my sister Tina, and her husband Matt, were to deliver their first son.

For whatever reason Troy and I had failed at communication and planning for the party and were already to the point of disliking each other when the morning of the baby shower arrived.  I woke up with the beginning of Strep Throat expecting Troy to save me from my prep and hosting duties and let me lie in bed. Troy woke up with plans to golf nine holes and go sell our silly little boat that we no longer used due to the lake being taken over by weeds. Why he needed to sell it on that day, the world will never know. The details and memories we each have of that day vary a bit, but we both recall that it ended in me leaving Minnesota after the shower with my sister to go to Wisconsin for a few days in order to prove to him exactly how ticked off I was.

Obviously we got past that little episode. As a matter of fact, we got past it so well that Noah is a direct result of some of the making-up that went on after that extended fight. 

~          ~           ~

The first guests for Paige's Palooza were set to arrive May 21st.  On the Sunday preceding the first day of guests arriving we went to the land (property owned by Heartline) to decorate for Paige's graduation.  Tension was building between us a bit as I tossed out ideas and things I hoped we could do for the ceremony and lunch.

For Troy, my ideas mean work and logistics and much coordination.  If you have spent any length of time in Haiti, you know that these things are quite challenging. Attempting to make plans in a place that won't be confined to our silly ideas is like pushing water uphill with a rake.

I began to notice Troy was annoyed with me and my ideas. In the mature way that highly refined people respond, I got mean.

Because I got mean, and in keeping with our May tradition, we kicked off Paigeapalooza with a fight. After returning from decorating, Troy began to make Mac and Cheese for the kids for dinner. I was writing lists and trying to get organized for what needed to happen before the guests arrived when I walked into the kitchen and criticized Troy's method of preparing Mac and Cheese. (Cheese packet dumped in before butter melted. What tha?)  Troy said "Are you really going to tell me that I making Mac and Cheese wrong?"

Rhetorical question?   Maybe it was.  I said something ridiculous and over the top and stormed out of the kitchen while Noah said, "Please, don't fight. I am stressed by this!"

Hours later we got to the bottom of our communication issues and determined that my way of making Mac and Cheese is better, but Troy's way will suffice.

Isn't that how it always is in relationships?  The underlying important issues (feeling unloved, feeling disrespected, lacking grace for one another, lacking mercy for one another) remain buried while we focus on the surface level and inconsequential things. (Such as, whether butter should be melted before or after you add the packet of cheese ... And I think we all know the answer to that.)

I had planned to write a lot about the ten days of Paigeapalooza but realize that a quick wrap up is a better way to go.  Our first guest arrived May 21 and our last guests exited the premesis on May 31.

The graduation day itself was so special. Thanks to so many Haiti friends that came. 

My Dad opened the ceremony with a few words, Jimmy Burton spoke, then Jimmy and Becky presented the diploma, Troy and Aaron Ivey led worship, the younger siblings tried to recite a poem (see video for the do-over), Beth McHoul spoke and prayed, Troy sang a song he wrote for Paige, and Paige gave a speech. It was a whole lot of love and sweat gathered under one little tin roof in Haiti.

The party that never ends - has indeed ended. 
There are now some tired, possibily over-stimulated, and very blessed people up in this hiz-ouse.

By the numbers and for posterity's sake ....
  • 1- The number of fights Troy and Tara got into about the right way to make Mac and Cheese  (2 the minimum number of ways there are to make it)
  • A lot - the unique decorating and fun ideas Chandler and Josh Busby added to the event
  • 102 – The total number of people that came to Paige’s graduation ceremony
  • 19 – The number of people that flew in from the USA to attend
  • 2 - The number of  Heartline babies born during the 10 days of Paigeapalooza 
  • 3 - The number of States the 19 people came from (CA MN TX)
  • 4 - The number of Paige’s siblings that were sobbing after her speech
  • 3 - The number of siblings that could not recite their poem for Paige as a result of said tears
  • 2 - The number of people that attended graduation via Skype (Matt and Tina!)
  • Infinity – The number of times we wished  the earth would swallows us whole because we could not help Noah, Hope, and Lydia get through their poem to Paige while they cried and struggled to get the words out
  • 2 – The number of days that needed to pass in order to present the poem to Paige without tears
  • 4 X larger - The size of my top lip after being bitten by something during the graduation party - zero photos after that incident - if you've never had a allergic reation like that on your face I think the day your kid graduates is the perfect day to try it out - not - Gah! 
  • 4 – The number of 50 lb bags Texas friends took of Paige’s belongings to wait for her in Tejas
  • 5 - The number of people that Bethany and Daniel Meadows hosted for us at their house - Texans stick together!
  • 1 –  The number of airplanes that got cancelled due to another airplane having a fire and staying too close to the runway for planes to land - because: Haiti
  • 3   The number of extra nights the grandparents stayed in Haiti due to said airplane debacle
  • 27 – The number of people that went to the beach on Sunday after graduation
  • 15 – The number of times we shouted Paigeapalooza in unison
  • ALL - The number of meals that were prepared by guests that were amazingly delicious
  • 13 - The number of people we shoved into our Hyundai Terrecan for an outing
  • 1 - The number of large (and I mean LARGE) holes I dropped into with 13 people in the car
  • 20 - The number of dollars it cost to be lifted out of the hole 
  • 2 – The number minutes it feels like we slept each night 
  • Very - The amount we are thankful that Isaac doesn't graduate for 7 years
  • 5 – The actual average hours of sleep per night since May 21
  • Too much to describe - The amount of love Paige felt, feels, and will take with her as she enters the next stage of life 
Harold and Lisa, John and Joanna, Marcia & Greg, Terri, Jen, Aaron &Jamie, Cayden, Sarah O, Kim, Sarah D, Julia, Britt & Chris, Mom and Dad  -  We will never forget the memories made this last week. Thank you for coming here. We love you, and we feel your love.

Gift from younger siblings to Paige:

Becky Burton took their words about Paige and organized them into this poem. (This is the do-over version, the graduation-day version was a lot of grieving and crying and not so much cheerful or cute kid poetry.)

there is some Good in this world, and it is worth fighting for

Tolkien's Lord of the Rings ... 

Do you remember the scene at the end of The Two Towers, where Frodo was almost slain by a Nazgul, but narrowly escaped due to Sam's rescue? Frodo was exhausted, and Sam reminded him of their small but important place in the over-arching story being played out around them.

"It's me! It's your Sam! Don't you know your Sam?"

"I can't do this..."

"I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But, we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. Sometimes you didn't want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was, when so much bad had happened?

But in the end it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it'll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand 'why?' ...

But I think, Mr Frodo, I do understand. I know now that folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't.  They kept going because they were holding on to something."

"What were they holding on to, Sam?"

"That there is some Good in this world, and it is worth fighting for."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

ISAACUMEN (vol. 4) - America edition

A few weeks ago I set foot on U.S. soil with my Haitian-American son, Isaac. You might recall we had a little bat drama and we were there for rabies vaccines on an entirely unplanned and last minute trip. 

Our trip was less than 72 hours long; it was entertaining to listen to Isaac process things he was seeing.  He has spent 8 of his 11.5 years of life in Haiti.  

He was last in the USA in December of 2010. Isaac straddles the USA and Haiti in such fascinating ways and the insight he offers into culture is quite astute.

He told the ER nurse when she asked what it was like living in Haiti "Well, it can be challenging at times.  Like yesterday for instance, when a bat bit my ear. That was pretty challenging".  She didn't quite know how to take him. 

The roads and the speed are of course mind blowing; we rarely exceed 30 miles per hour in Haiti. He last drove at 60mph in December 2010 so he has forgotten what that felt like. In the car he was silent, just taking it all in. "Florida really is a very nice place, huh Mom?" and "It seems like here compared to Haiti that maybe they are a little bit more safe and organized."  

(maybe. a little bit.) 

At Target he said many times, "Mom, Who is Nate Berkus?"  I kept shrugging. I don't know who Nate Berkus is. On the fourth ask, I said, "Buddy, I have no idea. Where did you hear his name?"  He grabs my hand and brings me to the sign with Nate Berkus smiling down on us.  "Oh, him. I guess he is a designer and his name is on household stuff like towels and things, if he designed it."  Isaac gave me a blank stare and said, "But isn't a towel just a towel?"  


Later he said, "So, Nate Berkus is like a model guy. That is kind of like Calvin Kane right?" I nodded and said, "Klein, and kind of". He said, "Huh. There sure are a lot of man models here in America." 

Inside of another store he said, "So. This store is just a store for clothes. Weird."  Later, as we browsed, I found a pink shirt I liked for him.  The sales lady was chatting him up and said, "You'll look so handsome in pink."  He smiled, "That's probably true", he said. After we purchased it she said, "Thanks for shopping." Isaac said, in all seriousness, "Thanks for having the store here for us to shop." 

He got lost at Target and asked a woman, "Have you seen my Mom?"  She said, "What does your mom look like?"  He said, "She is tall with red hair."  No mention of the most obvious needed descriptor. When I said, "I think you should mention that I'm white next time you describe me to a stranger", he said "Ooooohhhh, yeah, that is so true!" 

The friends that were hosting us had a tennis match on the television.  Isaac said, "So. There are places like that where they only just have the space to play that sport?"  Using huge wide  open space for two people to play tennis is just kind of mind-numbing for the guy. He can hardly believe that.   

Isaac saw an advertisement for some sort of strip club on top of a taxi cab. The woman was scantily clad and posing seductively. He looked at it. Stood quiet for a moment, then looked down at the ground and said, "Mom, look how that girl is posing. Isn't that so sad? I don't want to look at it."  (without television we have very little exposure to anything like that here) 

At the Miami airport as we waited early in the morning to head home, I came back from finding coffee, his face was filled with worry. "What is wrong buddy? Was I gone too long?" He said, "Mom, this TV is only about murder and scary and sad stuff. Can we ask them to change the channel?" 

In our 72 hour trip Isaac got just a little taste of American culture. I am so anxious to eavesdrop on all five of the younger kids' observations when we take the entire family to the states later this year. 

Isaacumen Volume 3, 2, 1 found here.

three Paigeapalooza photos

Today, all our kids ~ happy!!!
Top photo one week before EQ Jan 2010 ~ Bottom photo today
just the girls 
Post with the highlights coming after the last airplane carries our friends out of here.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


We have welcomed guests one through eight. Thursday five more will arrive; Friday, the last six. My parents and Britt and Chris are the family representatives, we are giddy they could all come. We haven't had the 8 kids all menm kote (in the same place) for 17 months. I heart having everyone in one spot! In reviewing the arrival list it is clear that we are looking at the names of some of our most trusted friends. I know you have friends like this too. 

These are the people we can be real with; these are the people that we can tell when we hate Haiti, when we fear Haiti, when we love Haiti and when we don't ever plan to leave it. We can tell them all three things in one day and they will look at us with understanding and compassion. These are our people*. 

Our faces already hurt from smiling so much, and we've only just begun this long Paigeapalooza weekend.

We are balancing the excitement of all this celebration and togetherness with the awareness that Paige's time here is ticking down too quickly. She has been packing up her room, choosing what will make the cut and be carried to Texas, and what will remain behind.

Monday she came upstairs to announce, "Mom. I am packing up my room."  I looked at her and understood immediately. That is code for, "Let's stop for a moment and sob" ... Also, "Hold me."  That's what we did.

Sajoy Sajoy Sajoy. Always with the sajoy.   

(Paige's stuff leaves with the Texans on Tuesday, she won't be leaving for a few more weeks.)

We're having big group meals together each night. We will join a bunch of expat and Haitian friends and all be at Heartline's new property to watch Paige graduate on Saturday morning. Her younger siblings have prepared something special for her. 

From now through Monday it is #PAIGEAPALOOZA morning, noon, and night. 

Paige with her Grandma and Grandpa 

Paige put together a bright, beautiful ABC's kids book in Kreyol as part of her senior project. We finally got our hands on a real copy last night. It turned out perfect. We're anxious to share a preview with you after Paigeapalooza wraps up and let you know how you can get one! 

*We are missing you and wishing you were here Clearys, Slaters, Sextons - carrying you in our hearts, of course.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

the ongoing adoption ethics discussion

I recognize this conversation is a big yawn for some. Not everyone is involved in adoption and not everyone has a horse in the race. Not an adoptive parent? Not ever going to be one? Not close with someone that is? You are politely excused from this conversation. Sorry we're going on and on an oooonnnnn about this lately. Apparently, this has hit a nerve with Troy and I.  

Last week I posted a link to an adoption ethics post written by Jen Hatmaker. Part I is here, if you missed it.

"Adoption is an answer to a tragedy that has already happened, but may it never be the impetus for one that hasn’t." -Jen Hatmaker

Today I am sharing part II  - you can find it HERE. 

I like this second post as well, because it gives brand new adoptive parents some good questions to ask. I think we all recognize that these issues get a whole lot more difficult after you've turned over money and adoption dossiers and your heart. Not to say it is too late to care about ethics, but it might be too late to vote your ethics with your dollars and choice of agency.  

Blind trust of any agency that claims to be faith-based is a risky approach. The most egregious abuses of the system that I have seen in our eleven years of exposure to the adoption world have been perpetrated by people that speak 'christianese' and 'religion' with skill and ease. Great websites and moving taglines and multiple Bible verses with glossy photos do not an ethical agency make.  The American adoption agency is one portion of the equation, said agency needs to be hooked up with solid people and programs on the ground in the other country as well. That means double research in order to perform due diligence. I encourage you to read both parts of Jen's posts.

Adoption is a great answer for kids that need adopting. We believe that. Adoption can be redemptive and wonderful, but it won't solve the issues of "orphans" or vulnerable and institutionalized children. That is a fact. One reason to support first families remaining together (and make sure relinquishments are ethical every.time.) comes along with recognizing that adoption doesn't scratch the surface of the overall problem. It leaves too many behind. 

I am concerned about something. I am finding that some first world parents feel like they are generally going to be a better answer for a child born to a poor mother.  And there, we part ways. Au revoir. It is almost like they believe materially poor people cannot love their children adequately.  (To clarify, we are not talking about abusive parents or mentally ill parents here.) 

For whatever reason, there is an undercurrent that involves privilege. American privilege, consumer privilege, born into money and things privilege, white privilege, Christian wanting to convert others privilege, whatever it is... probably some combination of all, that says, "I am better for this kid than you, poor person."   

I'll submit sometimes that is true; sometimes a materially poor or mentally ill or terribly abusive parent cannot care for a child - but not always and not even usually. It doesn't take all that much to love a first family and give them a hand up, it doesn't take much to encourage and cheer on a first mother. We just have to be willing to do it.

In my estimation, if we ascribe to the thinking that we are better suited to be parents because of our American passports and wads of cash, we are on our way to more trafficking, not less.

As a tangible example, a long time friend of ours was faced with a huge dilemma. She had begun the process of adopting a boy and a girl. After turning her dossier in and paying the first set of fees the biological father of the boy came forward to say that he did not want his son raised outside of Haiti. The mother had relinquished rights but he had not. He asked to put a stop to the adoption.  He also had zero desire or intention of taking his child out of the orphanage to raise him. He essentially said, "I don't want my child being placed for adoption and I don't want to raise my own child."  How terribly difficult, right? My friend was in great pain, as you can imagine.  I know a lot of people would fight the birth father, bribe him, threaten him, but my friend believed that his right to decide where is son would live and grow up was to be honored even though she did not want or respect his choice. She determined that a birth parent's voice matters  - no matter how poor - no matter how little sense his decision made to her. She decided her position of privilege and ability to push through to get her way in the situation was an incorrect response. At great personal cost, she walked away from pursuing the adoption of that little boy. 

I have been reading with interest some of the commentary happening after these posts as they are shared in various locations. 

I recognize most people don't comment at all. They read, consider, agree, disagree, or fall in the middle but don't leave a comment. Of those that are engaging in the discussion, there seem to be two strong general reactions to this conversation:

1. This is important stuff and we should talk and think about it and try to improve and educate others and ourselves and care more about ethical adoption and do our best to prevent complicity with corruption. We should look at keeping families together whenever possible. We should work at it. This is good conversation.


2. This is all a load of crap and you are going to ruin adoption by saying that people are coerced or saying that any of these unethical practices take place. You are going to hurt children by talking about this bad stuff. Less people will adopt because you talked about this. When that happens, you are to blame. 

I had hoped for a lot less of number two. For whatever reason asking for everyone to try hard to research more and work toward a more ethical and transparent process causes defensiveness. I don't understand how people can be against doing better research and knowing more about the issues when they enter into an adoption.  I don't understand the defensive reactions. How can a more informed and ethical approach to adoption be a problem? How many of us - ten years down the line - will raise our hand when the question is asked, "Who went in ignorant and naive and wishes they would have known more?"  (raising hand)

I have noticed that a lot of people are throwing around the word sovereignty. There were many comments along the lines of - "God is sovereign and He chose this child to be mine even if sketchy and unethical stuff happened." Additionally, many of the same folks said, "All this negativity and talking about unethical adoptions is going to scare people away from adopting and then kids will grow up in orphanages and that will be the fault of those stirring this stuff up."  

Simmer in that sauce for a minute.

That is not intellectually honest. You cannot cling to His sovereignty one moment and ignore it the next. How is God's sovereignty made void by a healthy, honest, and critical look at the harm we can cause? 

If one claims God's sovereignty placed a child in a second adoptive family then one must also claim that sovereignty is directing the current conversations striving for more ethical adoption practices. 

This comment was one of a handful that seemed to have read an entirely different post than what was written:

I hope that good people that want to adopt are not swayed by negativity that I hear about. I called a friend of mine that is a director of a clinic and I told him of only one mother out of 300 giving up her child.* He sounded a bit irritated and unimpressed. He pointed out that there are thousands of mothers who can not take care of their children. Mothers that are abused by men, that sell themselves as a means of survival. Do not be influenced by these people. If these people are concerned about child trafficking let them go rescue the children that are being carried across the DR border as we speak. Simply because someone is right does not make everyone else wrong. Too many good Christian people on here to want to hear what I would really have to say to people that are putting guilt trips on someone for giving a child a family.  

*A statistic I provided to Jen in her first post, a reflection of what has happened since 2009 within the Prenatal program with deliveries and mothers that Heartline worked with during their pregnancies and for six months after.  

That sort of defensive behavior and response is what most discourages me in this conversation. Rather than listen to a testimonial that says, "A small amount of love and encouragement and investment can often go a long way in keeping a family united, even when materially poor or young",  some still choose to ignore the experiences of others, and spend their energy defending misinformed positions. There is no guilt trip. 

If "thousands" of young moms in Haiti or any other country truly "cannot take care of their children", we have infinitely more work to do because, for a plethora of reasons, adoption is never going to cover even a fraction of that. That basically proves the point about needing to do many things differently, including but not limited to, working more diligently to uphold first families. 

Nobody said that adoption should be removed as one viable option to allow children to be raised in a family. Why are some changing the argument into something that has not been suggested?  Why discredit the person asking that we be more informed, more caring, more aware, more ethical, more well-rounded in our approach to caring for the widow and orphan? As followers of a Just King, we need to be about love; we need to be about justice.

Justice delayed, is justice denied. 
-William Gladstone

Recent Posts on this topic:
First, Do No Harm
Love is What You Do 
Of reunions, clarification, and closure

Saturday, May 18, 2013

An amazing and joyful May 18 ...

 We painted, cleaned, worked around the house.  
We watched Chris graduate.

We went to the Maternity Center and joined Beth M and Beth C 
and welcomed this little guy into the world...

We rushed home to see this girl graduate just a few moments ago ... 

Perma-Grins all around! From Waco to Port au Prince.
Sic em Bears! 

fet de drapo ~ Fête du drapeau ~ flag day

Our first Flag Day Memories ('06) HERE. 
Satire and humor below, a more serious look at the issues HERE.
Our Jacmel friends, the Mangines, celebrating Flag Day HERE.

Friday, May 17, 2013

we find grace, and faith, and hope ...

Thursday Prenatal Day

"In the East End, I found grace, and faith, and hope, hidden in the darkest corners. I found tenderness and squalor and laughter amid filth. I found purpose and a path and I worked with a passion for the best reason of all. I did it for love."   
-Jenny Lee, Call the Midwife 

In Port au Prince, we find grace, and faith, and hope, hidden in the darkest corners. We find tenderness and squalor and laughter amid filth. We find purpose and a path and we work with a passion for the best reason of all.  We do it for love. 
-Beth, Wini, Andrama, Agathe, Tara - Heartline Staff

We are so grateful to do this with you all. Thank you so much for always praying and sharing your resources and showing up in such tangible ways to support this work.

 Lydia and Phoebe meeting Alexander, the little preemie at Heartline

~         ~         ~ 

We are sitting in Port au Prince while wishing we were at Baylor University to see these two go-getters walk across the stage. Thankfully we have some representatives that have gone in our place to see the big event. Congratulations, and love, and mad-props to our oldest daughter and her marvelous husband as they both receive their Masters degrees from BU this weekend. We are with you in spirit, Brittany and Christopher! 

(Brittany, a Masters degree in Public Health
Christopher, a Masters degree in SocialWork/Non-Profit Management)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

joy & pain, sunshine & rain

Isaac and I landed with our fancy cooler of vaccine early Wednesday morning. I don't know what pleased me most, his giddy excitement returning home to his brother, his fabulous and astute insight into American culture, or the way in which he thanked every American Airline employee individually for the ride. The pilot said, "Keep doing what you're doing Mom!"  I said, "Trust me.  This child's joy and love has so very little to do with me, but thanks!" 

Isaac and his friend, Glori - experiencing joy on the Ft Lauderdale beach

His day three dose of Rabies vaccine was administered at noon yesterday. I kind of snickered as I pulled out the paperwork and saw, "This drug is given in a hospital or clinic and will not be stored at home."  Ahem.  

Isaac said, "Mom, I need to call in all the kids and show them how to do shots without pain."  Okay??   He called all his siblings while I mixed up the vaccine.  He gave a convincing tutorial on relaxing your muscle and spoke with great authority about the ease of getting shots as long as you can relax your mind and body.  I gave him the vaccine and wondered how in the world any of this could be more strange?  I don't even doubt for a second that we will find out.

I don't ever want to forget the fun of spending 72 hours with Isaac in the USA. We just don't do a lot of "one on one" time due to logistics in Port au Prince, I was given a little gift with that bat bite. My notes are scrawled everywhere because that child is so dang quotable.  Isaacumen vol. 1 from America coming as soon as I have time to compile all the nuggets of insight. 

~          ~           ~ 

The important stuff, quickly ...

little preemie guy born Tuesday afternoon

  • Please pray for this little man.  His name has not yet been chosen. He was born at 31 to 32 week mark and is 3lbs & 11 ounces of precious.  His weight puts him just a tiny bit too big for the hospitals to keep him.  His weight  and age puts him just a few weeks too little to be expected to go home.  He and his Momma, Guernise, will be living in Heartline's postpartum room for a couple of weeks.  Pray he gains weight, eats well, stays germ/bacteria free, etc.   

  • A few months back we began doing foster care for an amazing little guy in the process of being adopted named A.J. Cox.  You might remember Paige has a side mission and passion of loving on sweet small people that need an interim care-giver.  Paige has taken on his primary caregiver role. His adoptive parents had their dossier taken from them because the agency did not agree with their decision to move him. The agency/orphanage would like them not to speak about what they know, so they've asked for a gag order before they will return it.  Troy and I made two visits to attempt to check on him, there was zero transparency and many things that concerned us. We don't have a dossier  or a child that can be used as leverage and we don't have a single reason not to speak. Because his family's dossier is being held as a bargaining chip, or punishment tool, the Cox family needs to reproduce documents they have already paid for and turned over.  There is a fundraiser at Project Hopeful to help them with this. You can read more about it HERE.  To quote them,  "We hope that, after reading our story, you will support us for this simple reason: we will not sign a gag order to protect our former adoption "agency" and their facilitator in return for the easy release of our documents."

Paige & AJ

“Truth never damages a cause that is just.” 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

the little known dangers of Spelunking

Isaac and his siblings headed south last Friday with their gifted and always adventurous teachers. They drove about 6 hours (which does not mean 300 miles by any stretch of the imagination) to their destination. They had some ideas in mind for what they would see and experience.  On Saturday after breakfast they headed to check out some caves in the area.

As Isaac tells the story, (typing it in word for word) it went like this:

"We were going on Paige's graduation trip. We were coming out of the first of three caves. This person started screaming suddenly. This kid was pushing him toward whatever was scaring him. Everyone got scared and everyone started pushing back and forward and not knowing what to do because some bats started flying around.  The screaming made it so we didn't know what was going on. Paige grabbed me vehemently (that means strong, violently, and intensely but I am using that in a good way, not like she did that to hurt me).  So I was the first one in line which meant that I was the last to be able to get away from the irate (this means angry) bats. I felt a pain in my ear. For about two seconds it was locked onto my ear. It was stinging a lot. A little more worse than a Bee sting.  Paige said, "Isaac, your ear is bleeding." I touched my ear. Sure enough. It was. That is the end of my appalling story.  I hope you can use appalling that way in that sentence."

Meanwhile back in Port au Prince, Troy and I were home listening to Lydia's gas and wiggling Phoebe's front teeth and watching Call the Midwife together. Our Saturday was turning into the exact lard-fest we were hoping for.  Around 1pm, Paige texted about the bat bite.  I was initially totally chill.

But then...
The Google.

I called Kelley Crowdis, a spunky and brilliant Veterinarian in Haiti.  She said that for sure he needed to be vaccinated.  She said the bite being on his head made it a bit riskier and time mattered more. We started looking for the vaccine and wrote to Dokte Jen to see what her input might be.

By 4pm we had enough Google, Veterinarian, and ER Pediatrician advice to know we wanted him to get the best (unexpired) vaccine and the Immunoglobulin too.  We found a price list from the drug rep we use for the Mat Center - and the Immunoglobulin was on his list for $2,500 USD.  Getting him to take our call and deliver it on a Saturday or Sunday was in question. The refrigeration of his vaccines was in question. The fact that it was on his price list didn't mean he actually had it.  If you've eaten at a restaurant in Haiti you understand this.  Lists of items available are meant to share what might happen - if perhaps you were somewhere else.

Beth tried to contact the U.S. Embassy (didn't find the right person, weekends are not the best time for needing the Embassy) but the rumor was that they had vaccine but not Immunoglobulin. There were just too many questions and we did not want to choose to sit in Haiti and gamble with the unknowns and the unconfirmed while allowing our flight possiblities to close. It seemed like a pretty simple decision.  We booked flights to Florida and left Sunday morning at 9am.

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale before noon and our oldest daughter's mother-in-law, Jill, picked us up.  She drove us straight to Joe DiMaggio Children's hospital where they knew we were coming thanks to Dr. Jen and her simply amazing and kind friend, Dr. Hopkins.
slightly nervous upon check-in
chatty with nurse

Within 90 minutes of landing in the USA the vaccine he needed was in his body.  I didn't even know how stressed I was until he had the vaccine swimming in his veins. Four elephants climbed up and off my chest and we called our ride to pick us up.

The ER nurses were fascinated by this bat story. When one of them asked Isaac, "What is it like living in Haiti?"  He said,  "Well, it can be challenging at times. Like yesterday for instance, when a bat bit my ear. That was pretty challenging". She didn't quite know how to take him. He is such a unique and wonderful combo of dorky and awesome, oblivious and brilliant. 

This is the back yard of the home of the wonderful friends that are hosting our little Rabies adventure.

Moral of the story? 
Bat bites sometimes equal fabulous.

Part II of our crazy adventure later (along with SO MANY wonderful America Isaacumen observations) ... For now we are off to the hospital to pick up the next three doses of the vaccine to take home with us in the morning.


and again with the adoption ethics

Please read this post and watch for the follow up post.

Jen Hatmaker - BLOG

I know that just shutting up about this already is what would be more comfortable for most of us, myself included.

One precious woman told me that I need to "Let God be God".  I asked what that means. I found out it means, when you see something troubling, corrupt, unjust, or ugly, you simply pray and then look away. Don't DO anything after that. And for the love of God, don't talk about it!

Because I have come to deeply love Haitian families, and because I believe there is a tendency to trample on first mothers (all over the world) at times, I don't plan to shut up. 

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected 

are as outraged as those who are.”  
-Benjamin Franklin

Friday, May 10, 2013

glass cage vol. 2

last day of 2012-2013 school year
leaving 12th grade and Heartline Academy behind 

Sajoy abounds!  

Thursday afternoon the kids completed their regular school year.  Paige is officially finished with High School. She had to work her tiny little tail off for two and a half years to catch up from the earth trembling nonsense of 9th grade, but she did it!

Her graduation partying starts with her Grandparents arrival in just 10 days. Eighteen others fly in over a period of four days and the celebration continues on until the 25th of May when we have an official ceremony for the single graduating senior at Heartline Academy.

At this hour Paige, Isaac, Hope, and Noah are with Jimmy, Becky, and their daughter Abigail heading toward a weekend of adventure. Becky wrote us a couple weeks ago suggesting a "Senior Trip" for Paige. I was and am touched by the love the Burtons have for Paige, (and all the kids) and that they would take time to organize a trip for Paige is deeply touching to Troy and I. It might also be marginally troubling. Jimmy and Becky voluntarily signed up for a road trip in Haiti with a questionable vehicle, four of our kids, and their baby.  I have no explanation, these Texans are cut from a different cloth. Yee-Haw and God Bless 'em!

Last night the fools were all packed to go and refused to use their pillows because the pillows were sitting by the bags, ready to go. When I suggested that using the pillow - and then packing it in the morning might be an alternative idea, I quickly learned I am a moron.  Duh. It is packed. Of course it cannot be used. Becky pointed out that if they didn't really need the pillow to sleep it seemed silly to have packed it.  Funny little fools, all of them.

The only other packing oddness that took place was surrounding Noah and his underwear. He was lamenting that the underwear he loves the most were not clean. Ever the sensitive mother of many, I said, "You're fine. Take a pair of Isaac's. Other underwear are good enough."  Not true. He made a national case of the underwear situation and an hour later when I came to the kitchen Geronne was hand washing underwear in the kitchen sink while telling me, "Madame Troy, I understand the things of children. Noah needs this pair. He loves this pair."

Oh, well then ...Nobody told me that I don't "understand the things of children".  :) When Noah woke up at 5:30 this morning to leave for his trip, his underwear had been lovingly placed next to his head where a pillow might have been, if he was normal.

Thanks to the 'Senior Trip', Troy and I are spending this coming weekend with a smaller contingent of odd little people.

Phoebe has two front teeth hanging askew on top. One goal for the weekend is to remove them. Lydia is especially gaseous of late. She finds much merriment in this. Almost daily we get to hear things like: "Who farted? Just kidding. I did." and  "I tooted two times. Just kidding. Three."

As you can see, our weekend plans are ambitious. We'll be here pulling teeth and counting farts. After that, we will see what Port au Prince throws at us and spend some time in the glass cage.

last day of school duds and poses 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. 
We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. 
We own nothing, and yet we have everything. 
2 Corinthians 6:10 

~          ~          ~
Here we all are...
Witnessing despair and delight 
Tragedy and triumph
Here we all are...
Living an incongruent and uncomfortable 
Beautiful and horrible contradictory life
Sorrowful yet rejoicing 

photo: mikerlange & her newborn daughter, 'rose-love' ~ May 7, 2013

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

of reunions, clarification, and closure

Maybe you noticed, I am all in a tither about adoption stuff lately.

No?  Oh. Okay, forget I said anything.

I shared the story of my little sister, Tina, reuniting with her daughter last summer. The beauty and restoration found in their story defies my ability to describe beauty and restoration. Their story is only 20 years young, I believe there will be so much more to tell.

Later this summer, my sister and my niece will travel to Haiti together and I will be allowed the honor and privilege of meeting my 20 year old niece for the very first time. (Glass cage of emotion!) My wound-up-tight anticipation surrounding this quickly approaching day is akin to  child-like excitement multiplied by one hundred bags of Pop-Rocks.

My niece was raised by a wonderful and caring family. She had all the benefits and gifts that love and family offer. We honor her adoption and respect her adoptive parents. We also thank God that they did not stand in the way of a reunion between my sister and her first born child. This is Tina's closure; the very beginning of it.

I received an email this week. It called on me to clarify that sometimes adoption is messy and hairy and difficult circumstances lead to the need for adoption. Additionally, first/birth moms cannot easily be "honored" and the stories cannot be told. I was asked to be careful about my call for truth in those circumstances. I was confused because I did not recall writing anything of the sort. I don't assume that every birth family connection can be kept and held close.  I recognize that evil, sin, mental illness, and unimaginable horrors caused by all three can make sharing the entire story a very difficult, if not impossible, thing to do.

I do think know many, many more first families could be honored and trusted with photos and contact. I do know adoptive parents sometimes dishonor first families by withholding information. I do know that adoptive families occasionally decide things are evil that are really just cultural and that their lack of understanding of culture manifests itself in fearful responses. I do know that we fear what we do not understand. But is it an ALL or NOTHING situation?  No. Of course not. I did not write or even imply that all stories can be shared openly with young children or even adolescent children. I don't presuppose that I know what is best for your child.  I know that for my child, open, active, and lively discussion about adoption - about the pain, sorrow, loss, joy, and complexities of it all - is healthy and necessary.

I do think truth is important. Mature young adults deserve to be told their entire story if they wish to know it. Secrets cause darkness and whether inadvertently or by design, secrets result in much pain, resentment, and harm.

I had another kind lady write to say that I am going to discourage people from adopting by talking about the unethical practices going on in International Adoption. She said people will be afraid because of what I am sharing. My offical response to that is this: To oppose evil we must have an ongoing dedication to reality and to truth at all costs. Darkness cannot claim what Light does not surrender.  Not talking about the issues has never been the answer. Nobody will convince me otherwise. I did not say, "Never adopt - never consider it".  I did say, Be cautious, do a ton of research, care deeply about the rights of first families, avoid unethical practices, don't believe websites and fancy Jesus-speak.

I have so much more to say, but I sense that my emotions are running far too high to be writing very much on the topic right now.  I sense that I need to be in a better place before I process these concerns and struggles on the interweb. I've had a front row seat to some pretty terrible stuff lately and I confess it is messing with my ability to be objective. Until I find my peace and my words, please consider the needs of most adoptees to know their heritage, to know their biology, to attempt to find peace with where they came from and who they are.

I believe that we are all children of the Most High God; that we are all "adopted" in our own right... But I know first hand that religious platitudes don't answer the deepest questions of our souls. God loves us, He calls us to Himself as His beloved children, but our imperfect and broken humanness (for which He sent His Son to die) sometimes needs to search for our place in The Story in ways that are far more complicated than a children's Bible song or any religious mantra.

I am expressing things that make some folks feel defensive, I recognize that.  I am sorry that is the case but I believe that in order to be truthful with myself I need to be wrestling with a lot of these things and trying to live honestly in the difficult tension of this truth: Adoption can be redemptive and beautiful AND adoption can be painful and destructive. To claim it is all glory and all beauty is incredibly insensitive to those that have lost much.

Juxtaposition City. That's where I live.
Join me.

~      ~      ~    
Want to support a project highlighting a reunion?  Check this out.

Support it here. 

Links to previous posts on the topic:
1- First, Do No Harm
2- Isaac's Family, at Love is What You Do