Sunday, August 21, 2016

45 days and nights: A long time and a short time depending upon who you ask

America is hard, you guys. 

I don't really know how you do it to be honest. 

So much !order! in society (and so much electricity) means you have to do so.much.more. every day. The expectations to perform many many tasks in one day are real!

One errand per day is not impressive to anyone at all in America, whereas one errand per week is freakin reason to celebrate your bad-assery and moxie in Port au Prince. 

If I were to announce, "THIS WEEK in Port au Prince I made it to an office seven miles away, met with the person that works in that office, took care of my problem and made it back home." Confetti would fall from the sky and Troy would hand me a trophy so large I could barely maintain my balance to walk over and set it down in my errand trophy case  - which by thew way is now filled with three total trophies after ten years of trying at it.

In Minnesota I might have said to you all,  "I went to the post office and mailed mail today." I would then look for some affirmation and positive feedback, at least some sort of small deposit in my self-esteem account.  But you would just stare blankly at me. You would expect that I could do much more than that in one 24 hour period. And you would be correct.  

That was the hard part, too much efficiency equals too much demand to do the errands. Do the errands. Do the errands.

There was one particular day when three of our kids all had an appointment spread out in three different cities in the span of eight hours.  In my mind I was all, "Yeah right, as if three appointments can happen in one day. not gonna happen."

I tell you what.  It was like nothing I have ever seen before. 

One after the other after the other we showed up on time, people were working at the receptionist desk, the Doctor we wanted to see also showed up, the electricity stayed on for lab work, the car did not break down or get hit, the traffic and/or being parked into a spot did not prevent us from moving across many miles with ease. Miracles abounded and abounded some more. Order and structure and more. 

I fully recognize I was given more than my share of angst and crazy.  I own that.  

One morning I was in the Minneapolis St Paul long term parking garage and as I entered the ramp there was a digital sign listing how many empty parking spaces were available on each level of the different ramps and floors.  Is that not crazy!?!?!  If you don't think that is insanely orderly, you need to know you are incorrect.   

On that morning I had one of my too much angst moments and allowed myself some tears.  A ramp that tells you where to find empty spots so you don't waste time looking on full levels.  That is order, people. Take that fact and try to find congruity with another fact ...  Incredibly sick babies and women in labor cannot find a hospital with a single open bed or a doctor who can see them. Sometimes people die (like actual real death) traveling from one unavailable hospital to the next. 

Now you can cry too if you need or want. 

~   ~   ~   ~ 
(Stories to go with photos are below if you want to read first.)

Whit and Cutler's Wedding Day

Tina and Matt and kids & Grandma and Papa Porter with the happy newlyweds
Whit and her Two AMAZING Moms

Gazing into her brother-in-laws eyes  (soul?) with all the passion and fierceness she has

Jen and Josh's Wedding Day

Folks that worked at Field Hospital at Heartline after EQ

The amazing clean up crew after the wedding

Britt got to fly in for the wedding  - our first of the summer reunions with all 7 kids together

G & G Livesay with the Livesay flower girls 

Non-Wedding Events ... 
it appears to be a hot date night - it was fun but not really as sizzly hot as it appears

Paige and Michael and Graham are expecting a baby boy in late December.

The Porter Family week "up north" on Pelican Lake
G & G Porter (Tara's parents) with the clowns
(two daughters gave them 11 grandkids, 1 great grand so far)

(I would keep sharing photos but perhaps at some point it becomes obnoxious.  My Instagram Feed has the entire six weeks and over-posting of both weddings.)

The 45 Days/Nights Trip:

We flew into Ft. Lauderdale, drove to our friends in Naples for two days and nights. We got accused of illegal behavior with the Melton Family when we did sparkler-type fireworks in the street. Welcome to America!  GET OFF MY LAWN, said the neighbors. 

We left Naples and went to Knoxville, TN with friends for a night. Norris and Melissa Hill are the ones that need to go to jail for fireworks that cross legal lines. I managed to get hit by a bottle rocket at their raucous 4th of July event.  

After making it out of there alive we then went on to Simpsonville, KY where we stayed in the home of friends that were gone on vacation for a couple nights. Our kids loved being in that house and pretending they lived in KY near horses.  After KY we had a meeting in Chicago, and made time to show the kids the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel ( whoa, spendy!)  After Chicago we headed to the final destination in the Twin Cities. 

The road trip was so fun. We listened to podcasts with the kids and ate Crispy Cream donuts until we wanted to puke and stopped at grocery stores to buy deli meat and fancy breads for lunches on the road. Our kids are really awesome road-trippers. I would always pick that type of vacation with them. The cheesy saying is true - the joy is in the journey - and these five kids teach us that daily.  The way they marvel over the smooth roads and the lack of traffic is enough to paste on a perma-grin for seven hours and a few hundred miles.  Right as we landed in Fort Lauderdale, Lydia looked down from the airplane and yelled, "LOOK! A forest!"  Floridians know there is no forest, but not Lydia.  Six tress is a forest to Lydia. (I am going to save the rest of the TCK comments for a separate post.) 

Once to Minnesota we stayed in the Vik home in White Bear Lake, MN.   I never understood the total obsession many have with White Bear Lake ... Until now.   It is the kind of town that novelists write about, just quaint and perfect and people seem really happy there. I bet nobody ever gets sick or passes gas in White Bear Lake.  Perfection, I tell you.  Troy grew up spending time at the house we stayed in, so it was very weird for him to be living there for four weeks as an adult with his own clown show.  The kids loved seeing all the places Troy remembers and where he had his first job and taking walks by the lake. We walked to 'Cup and Cone' for ice-cream cones several of the nights.

We went to Whitney and Cutler's wedding.  Those that read here know that Whitney is my niece and came back into our lives five years ago.  Sitting there watching her trade vows with her love was one of the most surreal and holy moments for my sister and my family as a whole.  I kept thinking, "Oh my gosh. WE ARE HERE at THIS wedding with THIS girl we prayed for for so long."  (To read more about Whit and my sister, Tina - go here.)  Grace upon grace.  

My experiences with Isaac and Hope and Phoebe's birth/first families are all more important to me because I have witnessed the adoption and reunion of my sister with her first born. No matter how hard and complex these open international adoptions might be at times, we stay committed to doing uncomfortable things and honoring our children's first families. 

I think we have become proficient at awkward situations. 

I digress ... back to the trip ... 

We got to see a couple of our nephews' baseball games, and enjoyed that and several other Minnesota summer things that never happen in Haiti. Everywhere we went the kids ate their weight in strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, and grapes. The Meltons and Troy's parents both went in search of extra watermelon once they saw how our kids and watermelon interact.

Jen and Josh's wedding was so beautiful.  I have known Jen and counted her among my very best friends for 8+ years.  If you are a long time reader you know that Dr. Jen saved Lydia one Friday night in Port au Prince. (Like FOR REAL saved her life.) You know she helped our Maternity Center become the kick-ass place that it is.  You know she is a gift to Haiti and our community here.  Seeing her find love still makes tears drop from my eyes. (grabs tissue)  Jen found Josh and Josh found Jen and nothing is more lovely than seeing this with my own eyes. We love Josh. He is perfect and he has our stamp of approval. 

Besides the weddings, there were adulting type activities too. 

The vast majority of our time was spent dealing with Phoebe's poor little lungs and a couple of mental health situations our family needed to address. The machines they used to test her lungs were amazing and I have repeated my awe at those machines enough times that my friend KJ is now mocking me. 

As far as our mental health situations, I'm finally to the point where I have children at ages that deserve the privacy and autonomy we all expect and need.  It is hilarious to share ALL the stories about 2 and 4 year old kids -but not quite so hilarious when they are 12 and 14. We are doing okay. They are doing okay. I have a story to write about the people God sent us in the midst of that stuff, I will do that this week. 

I only say that much because I want it to be known that of course there is way more to life than what we all see on social media.  Nobody has an easy life without pain and/or trauma.  Myself included.  My kids included.  

We appreciate that many of you have come along for this ride with us for the ten years we have been writing. Those of you that have been around that long were here reading when Lydia was born and Phoebe joined the family. Because you have been here and have cared, I will simply say - puberty is a real beast, being human is hard, raising kids is difficult. We are with all of you parents out there - we also throw our hands up in despair on occasion - we are in the trenches too. We can do hard things. Right?   

Side note:  Lydia left the note below for the folks at the Macon, GA Marriott - I love it. - It is now our life mantra - our manifesto - the truth of being human.  

We invite you to use it freely. 

While we were in Iowa at the conference I grew up attending almost every summer of my life, we got word that my cousin had lost his son, daughter-in-law, and three very small grandchildren in one horrible car accident in Nebraska. 

The loss of five family members all at once is unimaginable. Of course while being unimaginable, it is also real. We were grateful to be able to witness the testimony of their lives and grieve with our family at the funeral two weeks ago in Minneapolis.  (If you want to read about them you can read their blog - they were preparing to move their family of five to Japan in October. You can also search for the media stories - Jamison and Kathryn Pals).  

Grief is such a beastly and long process. If you want to pray for my cousin Rick Pals and his wife Kathy, I know they would appreciate any and all prayers as they face life minus five people they really really love.

When it came time to pack up and return home, it felt like seven years AND/OR seven minutes had passed.  I don't know what that phenomenon is, but it makes a person feel a little more crazy than they normally feel.

I am recognizing that I miss regular writing and hope I can find the time to write (for the therapy alone) more frequently again. 

Until next time, thanks for reading and praying and loving and giving and caring.