Monday, July 16, 2018

Blogging is dead: A lengthy cranium upload

I sit down to write this with an elevated level of irritation directed only toward myself. 

When writing a blog post was in fashion, we all did it.  I did it.  I felt better much of the time because processing things in writing and telling the stories helps my mental stability.  Yet, I don't do it often lately and thus am often teetering right over that thin line.  Luckily, "stable" is a relative term. 

I can go read about our life in 2006 and read about things that I have no memory of at all. I can smugly sit and be so.very.pleased that I have that record to look back upon. I can do that. I do do that.  Noah used to pee in the corner of his bedroom instead of in the toilet when he was three.  He used to dump bottles of shampoo down the drain.  I only know that because it is written in the annals of history.  I spelled that with two 'N's -- stay calm and mature. 

Back to my irritation.  I have not written most things down in at least a dozen months. I won't remember most of 2017-2018 and won't be able to look here for help recalling it all.  Praise be, Instagram is the new micro-blog and much (not most) is stored there. 

The volume of events and challenges in the first 53% of 2018 could be placed into a 40,000 word novel without any effort at all.  

Today I am going to attempt to write a review of the first half of 2018 along with specific details for my kids about the trip we just took from Florida to the far west side of Texas.  When I am dead, I want them to know we went on a road trip and remember me fondly due to all the soda I let them drink. 

Here we go ... 

2018 began with our whole tribe in Haiti for an after-Christmas family reunion. We had all three grandsons here at once,  we had the adult daughters and their adorable husbands here. It was mind-numbingly good if you forget about the vomiting and diarrhea at the back end (see what I did there) of the time.  We took a family photo that week and I look at it every day. 

By mid January things took place that changed the trajectory of the year. 

Stress and pain defined every moment of mid January to May.  I am very on purpose not going deeper than that. I know that sentence is poorly formatted. That is how I want to say it. 

In review of the entire five months, let it simply be said, we have learned a lot. Hard times are teachers. Harsh, unlikeable, teachers  just like Miss Trunchbull only less gentle. 

I will fast forward a bit.

On June 1st Troy declared we were going to begin 2018 all over again. A do-over of sorts.

Fresh start weekend was kicked off by taking the kids to Jacmel, a beautiful southern coast town that we last visited in 2009.  It is weird to live in Haiti and never see a lot of Haiti but that's what I have done for more than a decade. This is not a blog post of my complaints though, so I commit to you, I will stop there. 

Jacmel in early June was a blast.  We had an amazing time with our tribe, we stayed a weekend in a fun house overlooking the bay. I posted a lot of the photos on Instagram and the highlight for most of us was the hiking and time jumping off rocks at the Bassin Bleu waterfall. It was a vomit and diarrhea free weekend and those always stand out as excellent. There was one bat in Lydia and Phoebe's room, but that made for some excitement and not rabies, which is an event I've already lived. I don't think we need to do that one again.

The five kids finished school on June 15.  We moved the location of their school in February and they rolled with it like the champions that they are.  They had been in the same location since 2011 so it was weird to do school somewhere else but I think everyone actually likes the new location better. It means they sit in traffic less hours per week.  Their beautiful teacher is coming back again next year and I felt insanely grateful to her for her love of teaching and her heart for them  -- but also that the kids did not have to go through yet another goodbye and another loss of someone they love. That stuff comes with the territory living here.  We love when we don't have to do painful goodbyes. (Or when we can put them off for a year or more.) 

On June 22 the kids and I said goodbye to Troy for a bit and we all went to the airport to fly off to Florida. KJ is the best friend of most everyone in this family, we were so grateful we had Maternity Center coverage so that KJ was free to take a break with us.  We had all been looking forward to June 22 for many months. 

The kids are all about minivan transportation and we picked a really lovely Dodge Caravan at the Alamo lot and started out on our journey. The minivan was trusty. We put more than 3,000 miles on it in the period of 21 days. We pumped gas in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico. 

Our first stop on the journey was to see our friend Winifred. She is a good friend and was a nurse at Heartline for many years before moving to the USA and getting married. Wini fed us dinner while we caught up a bit. After we left Wini's house in the Orlando area we drove to Tallahassee to sleep.  I thought we were going to sleep in Pensacola and researched the wrong city in advance so we got to Tallahassee without knowing where the nearest donut place or thrift store was located. RISK TAKERS, all of us.  

After a quick sleep we set out again. We found the donuts and a GoodWill to grab some books and a cooler for the mini van.  

The cooler purchase was one of the more exciting parts of the trip for KJ and I. It meant we had ice and cold brew coffee and creamer at ALL TIMES.  What a feeling of safety those liquids provide us. We don't need a lot, just constant access to coffee and ice.  God Bless you and Keep you, GoodWill Retail Store and Donation Center of Tallahassee.  May you reapeth what you soweth.

We drove again and listened to podcasts together. We went to check in to an AirBnB house in Montgomery, AL. It was fun because it was a pretty worn-out place and we had to use a wrench to turn on the shower --- we felt quite at home.  I appreciate things that are not perfect and rather enjoyed the challenge and process of getting the water to turn on.  You know what?  It was not a wrench.  It was a pair of pliers.  I apologize for that inaccuracy. 

The reason for two nights in Montgomery was because we wanted to visit these two places:


I think I speak for all of us when I say, there is so much to process and consider after reading and viewing and seeing all the history and facts presented at the museum and memorial.  I assume we will be unpacking that for months or years.

I posted dozens of photos on Instagram of both places if you want to see more.

We left Montgomery to drive to Selma.  We stopped and walked across the Edmund Pettus bridge.  We continued on to Shreveport, LA and stopped to sleep in a fancy hotel that we booked last minute for an awesome price.  My kids in a fancy hotel are a lot of entertainment.  They are so impressed by everything.  People around us seem pretty impressed with them too. Their plastic sacks and various backpacks with their stuff hanging out everywhere is good times for all.  I always ask them to diminish in size and perhaps find a way to become less noticeable while in hotel lobbies. Inevitably that means somebody will trip and fall or spill an entire Coke on the floor of the lobby. 

The next day we went to Dallas.  In Dallas we saw Britt and Chris and Gideon in their final hours as Texans.  We spent time with KJ's family in Dallas and we stayed at an AirBnB near downtown Dallas that blew Isaac's mind.  He gave a tour on social media and discussed the amazing sink hose and other high-end features.  

After Britt and Chris left for Minnesota we headed out toward El Paso.  On that drive it was the first leg of the trip we did without KJ.  My kids seem less pleased with life when it is just me.  I don't really take it personally except on occasion when I do.  I guess KJ is way more fun than I am.  We went to the vast metropolis of Odessa, TX and jammed all into one room with a king size bed.  I found out via an online poll that most people rent hotel rooms and sneak extra people into the room beyond what the hotel wants or "allows".   I was able to justify that choice based on dozens of people telling me that they grew up shoving many animals and humans into one hotel room. 

From Odessa to El Paso we drove 80 freaking miles an hour and had people passing us.  We had discussed letting Isaac drive a bit because he got his permit in TX last summer, but he was not having it once we saw what a freakin hurry everyone is in in that part of the world. 

We arrived in El Paso to find the Gonzales family waiting for us. They had prepared air mattresses in every spare corner of their home and gone to Sam's Club to buy all the large family items of food.  The next few days we ran errands and got people the glasses they need and bought the shoes they need and laughed at Graham and Abner and swam and ate and ate and played.  Doctor Jen joined us and we went to fireworks at Fort Bliss.  My kids told me that every 4th of July prior to this one was lame and dumb -- but finally we found fireworks that pleased them.   I actually had to point out that there is a slight difference between private citizens buying fireworks and lighting them at home and the U.S. Government doing fireworks at an Army base.  They thought they were making an apples to apples comparison.  Such simple little third-culture-kids they are. 

Troy flew in late on July 5. We "caught up" at an undisclosed location before going to Paige's house. Va va voom.  Air-conditioning and advanced romance are a winning combination. 

Oddly, Troy got out of Port au Prince just in time because by Saturday all the flights got cancelled and he would not have gotten out.  I was so glad he made it.

On July 6 we headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  In New Mexico we met up with Jen's husband Josh and KJ flew in too. We went to see Troy's long time friend, Matt, as well.  

Matt lives in Santa Fe and gave us tips about where to eat, shop, hike, swim, and disappear into a relaxing temperature controlled space for the rest of your life. 

On one of the hikes Phoebe and Lydia had diarrhea (see the theme with us?) and were weak so Troy and I had the pleasure of carrying them down a mountain. I felt so freaking young, strong, and badass that day.  The following day my knees screamed for ibuprofen and I felt much less young and strong.

On the last day in New Mexico Matt took Lydia and Phoebe to see a local horse ranch, Lydie scored a cowgirl hat and loved seeing the ranch that works with veterans to help with PTSD. 

After Santa Fe we drove south to White Sands Nat'l Monument and went sledding in the dunes.  Paige and Graham came to meet us there. Many (Josh) were skeptical and did not think White Sands would be fun.  Many (Josh) were converted that day.

KJ and Paige dared us (Troy and I) to do dumb things and we did. Mark this down:  Nobody DARE DARE us -- we WILL DO the dumb thing. 

The adults all did what the kids said to do and we all left covered in sweat and sand and dislocated shoulders.  We laughed much and experienced incontinence together there in the dunes that day.

After White Sands, we took the three car caravan back to El Paso.

The next day Jen and Josh flew home to Minnesota and the rest of us did errands again.  

Getting Hope her TX driver's permit ended up being harder than donating a kidney or becoming a U.S. citizen.  I am pretty sure that Texas has a real fear of 16 year old drivers.  They act like giving a permit deserves the same scrutiny as choosing a lifetime partner or being approved to adopt another human being.  

Hope just stood back and watched it all, wide-eyed. She is seriously wondering if she can even ever be qualified to live her life without an advocate.  I assured her, no.  You won't.  All of us need an advocate when it comes to entering a government office and trying to do business.  None of us were born for that shit.

Troy and I went with Graham to buy him a bike. It is pretty crazy how fast we forget what it is like to manage a three year old boy in a public place. He gave us all he had and we departed that Walmart in need of caffeine.  One of the highlights was when he told us, "Mojo and Tito, my mom never buys me any jackets. Can you buy me one, I am cold."  

On Thursday night we heard that it was possible Haiti could have a second round of demonstrations and political upheaval. Long story with many details made short without any details, we scrapped our plan to drive back to Florida and booked flights home. We decided not to bring Phoebe and Lydia home with us as had been the plan all along.  Paige and Michael rallied and said, "No problem. We got this, guys."  So far, they are proving to be much better parents than Troy and I.  I am hoping Paige gets all the teen angst handled and all the puberty drama wrapped up before I see them all next.

El Paso Summer 2018 Tribe (Plus Paige and Michael)

That might not seem like a big deal, but now Lydia and Phoebe have tasted freedom and they won't ever want to spend a summer in Haiti with me again.  I have lost my chance to keep them from knowing what the big kids get to do with their summers away from Haiti. I have no babies anymore. 

* * *

I am going to sidebar for a moment here.  Go off-road with me, if you want.

* * * 

Recently I began (note the use of the word BEGAN which has nothing to do with finishing) reading a book called "Mistakes Were Made but Not By Me".  It is a fascinating look at human behavior. 

Specifically it takes a look at the way we use justification to helps us with our cognitive dissonance. 

The description on Good Reads says:

Why do people dodge responsibility when things fall apart? Why the parade of public figures unable to own up when they screw up? Why the endless marital quarrels over who is right? Why can we see hypocrisy in others but not in ourselves? Are we all liars? Or do we really believe the stories we tell?

Renowned social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson take a compelling look into how the brain is wired for self-justification. When we make mistakes, we must calm the cognitive dissonance that jars our feelings of self-worth. And so we create fictions that absolve us of responsibility, restoring our belief that we are smart, moral, and right -- a belief that often keeps us on a course that is dumb, immoral, and wrong.

Backed by years of research and delivered in lively, energetic prose, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) offers a fascinating explanation of self-deception -- how it works, the harm it can cause, and how we can overcome it.


I have been thinking about this book a lot.  I have been thinking about my own self-justification habits. I also recognize that I judge other people for theirs. (Admittedly NOT cool.) 

Since the unrest in Haiti began I have observed as some people posts on social media about how important it is they come to Haiti in spite of any warnings made not to do so.  

I saw some funky theology about God's protection being promised because the good work planned is so important.  

Full Disclosure: That's a rough one for me to read. Maybe that person did not know people doing good work in Haiti got crushed to death by buildings in 2010, etc, etc, etc.  If nothing scary or bad happens to people doing good work, it must mean a whole crap-ton of us are doing some very sub-par work. 

(I digress. This is not about bad theology.) 

I have watched others post on social media about how dangerous it is and how important it is they get out of Haiti now due to perceived (and real) danger. 

Simultaneously we have one group raising money to COME and one group raising money to LEAVE and it seems it is a BOTH AND situation.  In the same week people must come and people must go.  

It is not too dangerous. 
It is too dangerous. 

***The book I mentioned explains exactly why this happens. ** 

People hate cognitive dissonance and they create narratives to help them do what they want to do  -- they might feel a bit bad about what they want to do - or just uncertain of it  - so rather than dig into the confusion or lack of peace the feel, they create peace with justification and their own narrative.

So - to clear up my own cognitive dissonance when it comes to Haiti this month ---  let me say this -

I wanted to come home to Haiti after being on vacation for three weeks. I don't feel afraid to be in Haiti  -  that is not to say I would have felt that way had I been in the middle of an store that was looted.  I wanted to be at the Maternity Center and with the people we love here. I wanted to know it was semi-stable here before my kids came back. I don't have anything for them to do in the summer and if they have to "shelter in place" things would get so boring for them so fast. 

I decided to leave all my kids in America not knowing enough about how things would be in Haiti.  I don't at all feel good about being away from my kids  (especially the two I think are too young to be far away) but it was what I decided in the moment I had to decide.  I don't know if I was right or wrong.  I am trying to tell you -- I FEEL COGNITIVE DISSONANCE.  I am glad they are having a blast in Texas.  I am sad to be away from them too. Maybe it was dumb to leave them. Maybe it wasn't. Maybe later I'll think it was a good decision. Maybe later I will wish I hadn't done that.  After the earthquake I had regrets about my decisions in the middle of the trauma. It's life, regret comes with it at times. 

We are glad to be here with the brave and wonderful employees of Heartline. You can tell they thought we would not come back.  Everyone has been happy we are back in Haiti and I can imagine it would feel scary as an employee to wonder if your job is going to remain or if the unrest will close down a ministry or destroy an employment opportunity.  

Additionally, I brought a lot of bacon home from the USA and now I want to eat a lot of it in one sitting and I am working on my justification of that now. 

* * * 

Back on the main road now ...

I am hoping Haiti remains calm and "stab" (stable in Kreyol - not a knife stab) so that in the first half of August the tribe can begin to return home to be with us before we go entirely crazy with sadness.  

We took 47 photos of the dogs yesterday and allowed them to be on our bed. That just cannot stand long term.  We need some kids here. 

We already had a baby at the Maternity Center since arriving home Saturday. We also got to go get a mom from the hospital.  The update is here on the Heartline blog on the two high risk situations from a week ago. 

Things are eerily calm here now. It creeps me out how this house feels without the fab five. 

Troy is planting lavender and marigolds. He bought pots and soil today. KJ is growing mint and making cold-brew coffee.  I am not growing or making anything, but I did hand carry that mint plant back to Haiti and then handed it to KJ to keep alive. Mojitos and Coffee are yours if you wish to visit us.  You will have to ask Troy what the heck he is doing with his plants.

We have abandoned all the rules of moderation when it comes to ice consumption while the kids are gone.  We are buying and using as much ice as we want. We will do ANYTHING we want in the ice department.  As soon as a child returns to the island, we shall immediately return to the scarcity mentality. 

That is it for January 1, 2018 to July 16, 2018.  The three week trip from June 21 to July 13 was so much fun and Isaac, Hope, Noah, Phoebe and Lydia are road tripping champs.

In order to title this blog, I had to ask if getting rid of information in my head is an upload or a download.  KJ and Troy said it is an upload. If you disagree, speak with them.