Monday, September 30, 2013

PBS - Girl, Adopted

When 13 year old Weynshet leaves her orphanage in Ethiopia with her new American parents, she believes all her prayers have been answered. But in gaining a family, she must leave behind everything she has ever known. Spanning four years in the life of one irrepressible girl, the film offers an intimate look at the struggle to create an identity in the aftermath of adoption across race and culture.

~         ~          ~

Over the seven years we have been writing here, we have frequently written about adoption. (Adoption tab has links to many archived posts on the topic.) As adoptive parents on the learning continuum, we find ourselves in a different place today than when we entered into adoption twelve years ago. Our growth has led us to open-adoptions with two first families. Those changes and that process has been a beautiful and complicated and wonderful and sorrowful journey. 

We all benefit from reminders of how important culture and heritage and family history are to our identity. It is not uncommon to hear "how lucky" adopted children are or how "much better off" they are. The truth is, those statements are almost always painful to both adoptive parents and the adopted child.  Adoption can often be lovely and redemptive, but that doesn't make it easy or simple or in any way pain-free.  This PBS film did a wonderful job of sharing the more realistic and complex side of international adoption. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Community Care

(By Beth McHoul - Also Posted HERE, at the McHoul's Blog)
Driving moms and their babies home is usually Tara’s job.  She loves it.  Since she is away for a couple of months, I’ve taken over a few of her jobs.  Paperwork, yes, it is a mess.  Try as I might, I’m not good at documents, files, due dates, lists, and proper paperwork.  From across the electronic miles Tara and Beth C. are working to set it right, but I’m afraid I am hopeless.
I have though, become good at, and am enjoying, driving new families home.  I’ve not had an accident with the ambulance, not gotten too lost and I have avoided police stops.

Part of the deal when moms deliver with us is they stay in our post postpartum until they feel ready to go and then we take them home.  Home can be a USAID tent, with or without a roof, or a cement house that looks pretty okay.  We have women at different economic levels in our program.   I’ve noticed that regardless of their economic status our ladies are rich in community.  As we wind down a dirt road barely big enough for the vehicle and come to a stop people come out of nowhere.  Squeals of delight meet us.  The mom and baby are welcomed, hugged, prayed with, hugged again and mom is swept off her feet as she is ushered into the house, be it a tiny cinder block house or a bigger house.  Grandma grabs and inspects the baby and declares the child perfect.  Siblings grab at the baby while they ooh and aah.  There is delight all around.  Recently (and I wasn’t on this run, I was back at the maternity center delivering another baby) the whole crowd erupted in worship.
I am seeing this over and over again.   Post postpartum depression doesn’t have a chance in these neighborhoods.  Women like each other, they support each other, and they watch each other’s kids.  Family is extended and they raise each other’s children.  Relationships are close.   They fight, sure, but all families do.
We tend to get women from the same neighborhoods because they tell each other about the program and then advocate for their friend to get in.  It’s all about relationship.  Over and over I hear, “Madame John you must take her in, she is my friend.”  It trumps everything else.  I tell them we are full, her due dates aren’t dates we can do right now, she is too far along etc.  It doesn’t matter because friendship is involved and that cancels out all the “no’s” I can muster.  You can’t fight friendship.
Yesterday we drove a bunch of ladies home who live in the same neighborhood.  The ambulance, the all-important somber ER on wheels, was transformed by a howling, laughing, joking group of silly women.   We drove from house to house, had to get out, take photos, meet the family and the onlookers and then move on.  Each lady was gracious and proud to have us.  Poverty lost its power to joy and community.   Love pulsated in the air.   Our differences melted away.
Each house was in a group of other houses.  Small, open windows, open doors, open life.  Not much privacy but tons of community.    I’m thinking these ladies are rich indeed.
Beth McHoul
Heartline Maternity Center
Port au Prince, Haiti
Your prayers and financial support are making a difference in the lives of our ladies and their children.  Your help is needed. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

orphan prevention is orphan care

If you are passionate about caring for orphans, we invite you to join in the important and rewarding work of preventing orphans in Haiti.

  • Support Heartline Ministries as we offer friendship, education, and respectful and loving prenatal care all throughout pregnancy. Prenatal care improves outcomes.
  • Support Heartline Ministries as we offer a safe, loving, calm, and clean environment for labor & delivery. Skilled birth-attendants (midwives/nurses) improve outcomes.
  • Support Heartline Ministries as we offer postpartum care and emotional support after delivery. Trained health-care workers can identify risks after birth and help drastically reduce maternal mortality in the most dangerous postpartum time period.
  • Support Heartline Ministries as we encourage and support mothers as they bond during the crucial first six months of their babies lives. Encouragement and postpartum care during this difficult transition time reduces the infant mortality rate.
  • Support Heartline Ministries as we offer family planning and education. Women that are offered education and given a chance to space their children live longer healthier lives.
  • Support Heartline Ministries as we offer women the love and respect and care they deserve.
2012 Statistics and year end report can be found here. To date we report a 0% maternal mortality rate. Orphan prevention is working!

We remain amazed and aware of how privileged we are to be allowed to participate in this work. It is not easy, in fact, it is painful, exhausting, and messy at times; in the sorrow and in the struggle we so often see His glory, provision, and miraculous love. We thank you for helping us stand close to these women as they sort out the tremendous mysteries of life and the incredible miracles of motherhood. 

Heartline Ministries Maternity Center Staff
Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Heartline Ministries is a 501(c)(3) organization           
Mailing address for donations:
PO Box 898
Sunnyside WA  98944 

Support Heartline Ministries, invest in orphan prevention 
at this link or below.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

spinning plates

It is a busy life, this America life. Like every person reading this, we're trying to keep all the plates spinning. People in America just run their ever livin heads off. That's how they roll. You have a social life and you have all sorts of promises out there and you just gotta keep moving. I don't write much, because when I sit down to write a plate falls. I'm thankful to be here getting things accomplished, spinning these plates. I am also desperately missing the joys and challenges of the Haiti plate spinning. (which is different better)

I am hoping to recap the last two-ish weeks for the sake of remembering and documenting. I mainly want to formally update those of you that financially support us, as I believe you are owed an update on how the time away from Haiti is being spent. 

Paige is getting established here and doing well with her class load and working quite a few hours. She moves to her own place next month. We are doing the longest goodbye of all time, we know this. We thank each of you that allowed us to be near her during this season of great transition in her life. Thank-you for loving Paige with us when you said "yes" to supporting us while we are here in 'Merica with her. 

We are homeschooling the five youngest kids.  We go to a Co-op each Monday where the kids are given a chance to hang with other kids and they get their work for the week. This has given us an even greater appreciation for the work that the Burtons have done teaching our kids the last two years. Teaching five grade levels and five unique personalities is something they make look easy -- but -- no. Lies. Not easy. 

Troy and I share this responsibility, attempting to give each other breaks away at the library to do our own studying. I am teaching Math. I only teach the two youngest. There is something cruel and unusual about this ... But also - something so very just. I deserve it. I am impatient and bad at Math. I had this coming. A brilliant young woman named Caroline has been teaching the older three kids Math. Her skill and patience with the older three points out my ineptitude with the younger two. Humbling doesn't begin to describe it. Both Phoebe and Lydia like to pretend not to know things they know - in order to see how long I can keep my cool. I get it. I know this is a test and those turkeys 

Troy is taking Anatomy and Physiology and Chemistry. He pretends that he will fail before he takes the tests and then comes home with 98 test scores and annoys the heck out of me. He has classes two days a week. Taking these classes is laying ground work for some longer range goals he has. For a reminder on his situation and hopes/dreams regarding dentistry and Haiti, see this post. 

I am inching toward sitting for the North American Registry of Midwives exam. The test is offered a couple times a year. I hope to take it early in 2014. I turned in a huge stack of paperwork to them and await their reply at this point. I am studying whenever time allows. I have had friends ask for an explanation about all of this, I am happy to explain for those interested. There are different ways to become a midwife. There are nurse midwives and then there are certified professional midwives. (Different levels/paths of training.) Obviously, I've mainly worked in Haiti where the needs are great and the health-care options not so great. Because of that, I get to learn extra and for that I am grateful. I have had wicked smart teachers slowly teaching me the nursing parts even though I am not a nurse and won't hold that title. As far as the certification I am pursuing, it is this:

"A Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) is a knowledgeable, skilled and professional independent midwifery practitioner who has met the standards for certification set by the North American Registry of Midwives and is qualified to provide the Midwives Model of Care. The CPM is the only midwifery credential that requires knowledge about and experience in out-of-hospital settings. Most CPMs work in private home or birth center based practices throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Providing continuous care for women throughout their childbearing cycle..."
To each person that sacrificially gives to allow us to work and love and live in Haiti --- thank you for seeing how important this time would be for us in the USA and for standing by and approving this semester away. As always, we hope you'll feel free to contact us with questions and that you hear and feel our gratitude. 

We're all students all at once - it is a little bit chaotic.

A quick photo and words recap of the last two weeks ...
first day of homeschool group
birthday date with mom and dad
big sister, Britt, brought cinnamon rolls for birthday breakfast

We took Isaac out to Texas Roadhouse for steak for his birthday dinner. He asked the waiter, "So, is your applesauce pretty good?"  The waiter said, "Yes, it is, very good." Isaac knew he wanted steak no matter what, that's why he chose the restaurant he chose. The waiter came up to take the order and Isaac said, "I'm gonna go with that applesauce you told me is good" I said, "Buddy, you gotta tell him about your steak too, he doesn't know you or that you are here for steak." "OOOOH! OKAY - Got it!" he said.

He was all questions and hilarity at dinner and by the end of dinner he had a list of things he wanted to google research they were:
1.  Which states is it legal to have a pet alligator?
2.  What are the lyrics to the Texas Roadhouse Birthday song?  (because it is so good!)
3.  The store named 7-11  - why is it named 7-11?  

These two clowns are playing a sport for the first time in their lives. (Another super sweet gift of being here for a bit, kids are getting to do some special things.) In case you cannot see the obvious when you look at this photo,legitimate athletes right here:

Troy and I had three nights away together in TN.  We stayed at a gorgeous place in the Great Smoky Mountains owned by friends that work in Haiti. We visited The (legendary) Farm Midwifery Center. (This means nothing to some people and everything to others. Feel free to be confused or impressed accordingly.) 

We had time and space and the peace and quiet enough to have conversations we had long needed to have.  It was a short but very sweet. Troy headed back to the kids and his classes after the weekend and I stayed to work with a Doctor that we met after the earthquake.  I got to observe prenatal visits and a bunch of other things and attend hospital births with him. I enjoyed every minute of my time there. It was a great learning experience. 

The Farm
 (Top photo in stained glass dome is at the farm too.)

Troy did not believe in me, so this happened. 

This past weekend we were at 'The Idea Camp' in Austin. While we were at the conference Isaac, Hope, and Noah spent time with friends of ours and came home exhausted from so much fun and activity. They keep thanking us for sharing our new friends with them. 

At the conference we enjoyed seeing friends and meeting people we've long communicated with on-line but never had the joy of meeting. Troy did the speaking part because I had determined that I felt too weepy. He was merciful and said I could say one quick thing and then just sit there and look adoringly at him. So much for no tears; Troy ended up crying through his whole speaking thing. 

People really seem to love when men cry. I feel like he should take that show on the road. 

When Troy was speaking (crying) about Haiti and the tension of living in a fractured place of joy and sorrow and brokenness, the heart of what he hoped to share is found in these words from Henri Nouwen after he said, 
"Don't put the cure before the care":

Real care is not ambiguous. Real care excludes indifference and is the opposite of apathy. 

The word care finds its roots in the Gothic Kara, which means lament. The basic meaning of care is ‘to grieve, to experience sorrow, to cry out with.’ 

I am very much struck by this background of the word care because we tend to look at caring as an attitude of the strong toward the weak, of the powerful toward the powerless, of the have’s toward the have-not’s.

And, in fact, we feel quite uncomfortable with an invitation to enter into someone’s pain before doing something about it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

... more on life in this land

Troy walks onto campus two times a week to sit in class and get some higher learning.  He has decided that even the lady that claimed to be older than him, is not older than him. 

He has determined many other things as well. I'm trying to get him to put into writing just a few of his mini-rants and deep cultural observations. Don't wait for it.  

I am kind of shocked at how quickly the day arrived where I am married to a guy that is saying things like, "Kids today!" I guess we he recently crossed the invisible line into the old-crotchety-people season of life. I wish I had noticed when it happened.

~          ~          ~

Also, "Plays Well with Others" the August post at same site, here.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

everything is bigger in Texas


Isaac wrote on his blog today.  Find it here.  

Isaac and Noah were a barrel of laughs this weekend. We took them into a store to choose shoes because for the first time ever they both get to play on an organized sports team. They don't know the rules of the shoe store. As Isaac pointed out, "I never choose my shoes, they always just come to me in Haiti."  It was a laugh a minute, I'm due to write at 'A Life Overseas' this week, so I'll share all the ways we're failing to make them well rounded consumers later this week.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


Hat, Holster, Boots, Denim #becauseTexas
Dr.Pepper is claimed by Dublin, TX and Waco, TX - Soda as a claim to fame? #becauseTexas
(Glass bottles and sugar cane make it awesome.) Filed under "Maybe that's true" - According to Wikipedia "Each year, as many as 80,000 visitors flocked to Dublin, drawn to the antiquated bottling plant and its old-fashioned soda."  

Po-po on horseback in city park - #becauseTexas

When you first arrive to live life in a new culture (which doesn't, by any means, need to be a new country), everything stands out to you. Over time, as you sllllowwwly begin to assimilate, those oddities that grabbed your attention begin to diminish. Being new means noticing more.

Years back, early in our Haiti time, we were better about writing about those quirks and idiosyncrasies. (We wrote a short explanation post about it that is pasted in below.)

Now that we're sitting in Texas for a few months, we are truly enjoying a new culture of oddities. Because of that enjoyment, today we introduce a new series called #becauseTexas . Troy and I heckle our way around town trying to beat each other to the punch and point out all of the #becauseTexas peculiarities to one another. It could be said that we're TOO entertained by all of it. Laughing like a hyena feels good, so we don't care that we're obnoxious. I've posted just a few of them, our library of #becauseTexas posts has only just begun; there is an unending stream of awesome here --- #becauseTexas.

Stuff a dead snake? #becauseTexas

For posterity's sake:
FRIDAY, JUNE 6, 2008


Today we are formally introducing you to a very important part of our vocabulary here in Haiti.
T.I.H. stands for: This IHaiti. 

There are actions that go with this saying. In order to use T-I-H properly, you mustlift both shoulders up (a shrugging motion) and raise your eyebrows at the same time. It is all one fluid motion. 

Try it.  

Now try it while saying the letters – T I H.

Got it?

If you have seen the movie “Blood Diamond”, set in Africa, you might remember this saying as T.I.A. (This is Africa). It can apply anywhere really; if you live in a weird place where things happen just because it is locally accepted you might say, “T.I.S” (This is Small-townUSA)

We hail from ZimmermanMN where having a broken washing machine, and maybe an oven on your lawn is totally acceptable. When your friends visit and ask you about said washing machine, we would just shrug and say, “T.I.Z.” Actually, as long as you don’t live in TexasTennessee or Tulsa this works.
There is nothing derogatory about using TIH. It is simply a way of saying MANY things. If something happens for which there is no great explanation you might shrug and say “T-I-H” If nothing went as planned and cultural norms kicked your rear-end, you might throw your hands in the air and say “T-I-H!” If you’ve just been beat-down by the way things work here - and you’re aware of it - yet slightly annoyed; “T-I-H.”

Below are just a few “TIH” examples to help you fully understand.
Troy buys Coke, Pepsi, and Sprite by the case in glass bottles. This pop is all produced here in Haiti. It is pretty cheap but you must return the glass bottles when you go get a new case. We go through a ton of it when teams are here, and would probably be considered a high volume customer, if such a classification existed. There is a guy on our road about a half a mile from the mission that sells it. There is also a much bigger and more reliable place that sells it about three miles away. The man on the road that sells it is named Rudy. Troy and Rudy have a pretty decent working relationship. Rudy trusts Troy to bring the empties back and will sometimes give him a new case with just a verbal promise that the empties will be brought to him within a day or two. For quite some time now Rudy has not had Coke or Pepsi, only Sprite and Teem. Troy keeps telling him that he will need to go to the other vendor to get it. Rudy keeps saying, “It is coming tomorrow.” This game has gone on for a while. Tomorrow never comes. Finally, running out of patience, Troy goes to get Coke from the other vendor. We have to drive by Rudy to get home. Rudy is very upset that Troy went elsewhere. Rudy says, “I thought we were friends!” Because this is a cultural thing, where relationship matters more than a need for Coke, Troy broke a cultural rule. Rather than be annoyed with Rudy, Troy shrugs and says, “T-I-H” and we hope next time Rudy actually has Coke so that we can be friends again.
When we’re out and about and we see something that absolutely defies logic or safety, it gets the “T-I-H” stamp. Brief examples:
  • A Donkey carrying a very large Television
  • A motorcycle carrying one adult and five children
  • A man sleeping on the top of a bus as it barrels down the bumpy road at 50mph
  • A truck so loaded down with people the back bumper drags at times
  • Grocery stores without bread, meat, or cheese
We’ve learned that Gas stations don’t necessarily have gas. The name “gas” station is misleading. True. When the station is out of gas, Troy might ask them when they expect to have Diesel delivered. Their response never varies, “Demen si Dye vle” which translates, “tomorrow if God wants”. Rather than be annoyed at that response that means something all at the same time that it means nothing … you just give it a good old, “T-I-H!”

Now you are in the club. Keep practicing the motion along with speaking the letters,  put your own hometown spin on it … and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Buechner and Talking Heads

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. 
In the boredom and pain of it, 
no less than in the excitement and gladness: 
touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, 
because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, 
and life itself is grace.


~        ~       ~

Chicken Marsala, Roasted Chicken, Chicken Vusuvio, Chicken Cordon Bleu

For many years I sold and served chicken for a living. I did this job at various hotels in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the surrounding suburbs. 

Chicken salesperson is just 'street' for catering salesperson, by the way. 

Working with brides and grooms to choose the menu for the celebration that would follow their wedding ceremony was work I enjoyed. I cannot even begin to guess at how many chicken menus I expertly chose back in the glory days of chicken sales. 

Years later after I married Troy and after Isaac and Hope came into our lives I stopped selling chicken and started serving it on Friday and Saturday nights instead. That change allowed me to be home with the kids during the week.

Serve from the left. Remove from the right. Working banquets was easy money.

When Noah was growing large in my womb it became a little less easy. Squeezing between tightly seated crowds to put the chicken down in front of them became more complicated by week twenty-eight of the pregnancy. Worse than trying to suck in a uterus to fit between tables was kicking the drunk people out at 1am; reasoning with the intoxicated is not nearly as much fun as you might like to believe. 

But I digress - because this is about  ?? chicken  ?? 

~       ~       ~

The Talking Heads had a song in the 80s with many lyrics that go through my head more often than I care to admit to you. Many of those lines are on repeat, but one especially, it goes like this: 

"And you may ask yourself, how did I get here?" 
(Same as it ever was - same as it  ever was - time isn't holding us time isn't after us)

As it turns out the process of figuring out what I am passionate about has taken some time...Decades of time. The path here has been all together zig-zaggy and unpredictable in every way. The path has been filled with grace. (And life itself is grace.) 

The one constant has been change. The other constant? I cannot seem to get away from chicken. 

While in the USA this fall I will study text books and work under accomplished midwives,  and I will be working with chicken yet again. This time, I will stick a curved needle into that blasted piece of chicken while I practice figuring out how to suture a vagina properly. (And then I WILL ask myself, how did I get here?

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine all this weirdness. It is the kind of awesome insanity that regular people cannot come up with. It screams of God-size-awesome-insanity, doesn't it?

The mysterious and winding path that led us to Haiti and eventually to Heartline and later into midwifery has been a journey of slow and steady. The speed at which I arrived here was exactly what I needed. Any faster and I would have wigged out in total fear. Any slower and I would have flipped out in impatient restlessness.

When I ask myself, "How did I get here?", I am compelled to review the ways that God has been faithful and merciful and SO.very.reliable. 

Isn't it easy to get frustrated when we don't really get where we are headed? 
On the path we rarely see the destination. On the path the destination changes again and again. On the path fear and doubt creep in and try to take root. 

You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead to? 
You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong? 

(Talking Heads)

Frederick Buechner said that brilliant thing at the top of this post. He also said, "The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."  

Sensible or not, the incongruent, beautiful and difficult place called Haiti has become a large part of our deep gladness ...  

skyping with the ladies from the USA on a prenatal Thursday

... And when I ask myself - How did I get here? - I can recall His provision and faithfulness  - and draw on the deep wisdom of Buechner and the Talking Heads.  

What about you? Do you ever ask yourself "How did I get here?"