Friday, April 30, 2010

Commentary on my moto abilities

PS in advance: I lost the below-mentioned race and so I am posting this morning. This was mostly written last night...
---
So, I am in a race against time. I was about to head to bed... took my Ambien, etc. and decided JUST FOR THE HECK OF IT, to check and see if there was internet. Ta Dah!!! There is. Finally.

So, I wanted to fire off a quick post and I have the perfect story. However, I have to hope I get it down before the Ambien kicks in... just a word of warning.

Yesterday Nick drove the moto out to the land and I met him there in the truck with the kids who were on a fruit-hunting expedition. (A quite successful one at that-- sitwon, corosol, mangoes... but I digress.)

I was there mostly to practice riding the moto, but unlike the other day, I drew quite a crowd. These kids just kept running after me and laughing at me. They would yell out instructions about what gear I needed to be in, etc. They were really irritating me. I finally had to just turn around and yell at them to get away from me because I am not that good of a driver and I didn't want to hit them. (Not to mention that they were on private property... like THAT matters.)

Another 1/2 hour of my wobbly, yet accident-free, driving passes and I am at a quitting point for the day. So I parked the bike and then waited for the kids to come back. I saw Jean Louis coming towards me (and the group of about 8 kids that had congregated around my parked bike). I yelled for him to climb the coconut tree to get some coconuts because Nahomie had asked for them.

This little boy (probably about age 10) jumped in and insisted he be the one to be chosen climb the tree. Our dialog went a little like this, except for that it was in Kreyol...

****
Boy: Let me go get coconuts for you.

Me: No, Jean Louis' good at doing that. He's gonna go for me.

Boy: I am actually faster and stronger than him, so let me climb.

Me: I am sure you do a good job but he does too, and besides he's my son.

Boy: Looks at me skeptically and says, "He's not your son."

Me: Yes he is.

Boy: No, he's not. You're white, he's Haitian. (Actually he said I was "rouge" which is a common term for lighter-skinned black people or darker skinned white people).

Me: So what?

Boy: So I know he's not your son.

Me: You don't know anything.

Boy: I know that you don't know how to drive a moto.

Me: You win.

*******
Ouch.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Belated surprise party 2.0

So, I am having the birthday that keeps on giving.

Earlier this week I was going through my box of birthday presents to get Riann's birthday present ready for her and I discovered a surprise. Several weeks ago, some friends had sent down some birthday gifts for me but it was well-ahead of my birthday so I tucked them away so I could open them on my birthday. Then I ended up in the states for my birthday and TOTALLY forgot about the gifts.

So, there I was... nearly a month after turning 33, with ANOTHER birthday surprise!

Thanks Kris, Deena, and Cathy. Bet you didn't know you were throwing a surprise party for me.




:)

FAIL

Wow.

http://failblog.org/2010/04/24/epic-fail-photos-thailand-fail/

Happy Belated Haiti Anniversary to us!


The 27th of April (Tuesday) marked ONE WHOLE YEAR in Haiti for the Mangine family.
When we moved here a year ago, we were the "Mangine 5."

Including live-in staff, we're currently at 16... about 1/2 way to full. This past year has been a WILD ride, but dang... what a ride.

Life is always noisy, but it's also really, really good.
God is so faithful...

(Sorry for the recent lapse in regular posting, the internet in Jacmel has been down... not sure when it's coming back up. I am a hotel right now using their internet and having some breakfast.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

my bruise

Nick and I went out on a date this past week and he taught me how to drive his moto. We went out to the land in Raymond and actually, I think I did pretty great... for the most part. I got kind of nervous but there were ZERO spectators, which, when you're a big white woman with a pink helmet learning how to drive a moto in Haiti, is no small feat in and of itself. Nick was my only spectator. That and the video camera. If we had decent internet and I was ABLE to upload video, I'd show you some of my sweet moto driving. Maybe another day.

But that's not what the post is about is it? Ah yes, my bruise. I did have ONE little accident where I ran into a big shale wall. I got scraped up and have been kind of sore. I busted the fender of the moto. ( It was nothing $25 didn't fix.) I also got this giant bruise.

So, I am not sure when (if) I will get back to trying again. (I did drive home after the accident.) But Nick is a really good moto driver now, so maybe I will just leave the driving to him.

Just as a side note, Nick and I are like the only people in Jacmel who wear helmets and we get made fun of all the time. I'm okay with that.

Life in the camp these days.

Because I was able to bring back lots of donated diapers this time when I came back to Haiti, I have been visiting Pinchinat a lot lately. Been talking to a lot of moms. Kissing a lot of babies. Beginning to realize HOW MANY babies we're talking about.

Conditions at Pinchinat are not very good these days. When I go during the day, there are a lot of moms and babies-- usually who I talk to, and really, who I am there to talk to. When I come later in the afternoon, or the evening, it's not the same dynamic. (I do not go after dark.) There are A LOT of men there. A LOT. This is encouraging in one sense because maybe that means the men are working? I am not sure. But it makes me really nervous. I've read many articles about the high occurrences of rape in these post-quake camps. The way I am treated and spoken to in the camp when I go in the late afternoons often leads me to believe the stories are not an exaggeration. The downside of being a blanc who speaks Kreyol is that you understand what people are saying when they think you do not understand. Needless to say, I like to go earlier in the day.


The biggest concern I hear OVER and OVER and OVER is that the tents are really, REALLY hot. It's starting to get really hot in Haiti these days. These heavy, dark green canvas tents have no ventilation. There are no windows. They are so closely placed to one another that the "alley" between them is practically impassable because of the ropes. There's no space to catch a breeze. It's just HOT. Many mamas are telling me that it's too hot for their children to sleep in the tent and it's making them sick. I've seen babies with heat rash all over them. Mamas will pull their babies out of the tent to greet me when I come and they will be all hot and sweaty, as if feverish. But it's just from being in the tent. There's been a new sense of frustration about this and I am asked for tents every time I come so that they can go somewhere else where they can be cooler... I have none to give. I honestly don't know who does. And this is only April. May, June, July, August, and September are still coming.

And then there's the mud...

Still, I think the camp seems like it has less people in it these days. I could be mistaken. I think this could be attributed to many different things.
  1. I think some people are finding tents and moving to other locations. I drove by a tent city that I had no idea even existed the other day when I was driving our security guard home. I actually had no idea he lived in a tent. (I am a stellar employer, don't you think?) He sleeps in a tent every night because the house he has is damaged. So he still keeps stuff in it, but he's afraid it will fall on him in his sleep. I tell his story because I think his story is the situation that many people are facing. I think some people have just returned to houses that are damaged because the conditions are so bad in the camps.
  2. I am starting to see some houses repaired. I've seen some temporary structures (wooden frames with tarps nailed on) constructed on the cleared slabs of former houses.
  3. And I have heard that there are some homes being rebuilt. I haven't seen a lot of that, but I have seen isolated cases and I believe it's happening.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lica


Today I had a visit with Lica. She's one of the babies that we are providing with diapers and formula (and baby food also, because we had some donated.)

Lica's story is amazing. She was in Port Au Prince with her mom and dad when the quake happened. Her house fell and all were assumed dead. Her aunt (the mom's sister) was there three days later when they were digging through the rubble trying to recover the bodies. They moved a piece of rubble and there was Lica. Unharmed. Three days.

We first met Lica during the medical clinic that the Crosspointe team did in Pinchinat. She was living there and brought by her aunt. She was a bit dehydrated and tiny, but she was overall healthy.

It was a joy to see her today. She is being well cared for by her family-- her aunt and her grandmother. She's living with the grandmother for most of the time, up in the same village where Patricia is buried.

Today the aunt told me that she (Lica) is starting to get happy again. After her parents were killed she was very down for a few months. It was hard to get her to drink formula after being exclusively breastfed, but she has made the switch. She's not eating a ton, but she doesn't look malnourished. Developmentally she's doing great. At 9 months she's already walking. She's not the smiley-est baby I've ever seen, but heck, I don't think I would be either.

Thank you to all the people who donated formula/diapers. It is helping Lica to stay with her extended family in the absence of her parents.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Guerilla Aid Shout out

Love the organization Guerilla Aid. Love the founder, Barton Brooks.

We all miss him like crazy-cakes down here.

BUT, he did send me THIS T-shirt and this wish bead...

I love my new stuff. But I still would rather have him here...

Missing Jabez today.


Was reading out loud, "The Year of Miss Agnes" with Nia today in school. Read this quote and couldn't help but think of Jabez and how much this rang true with his life and our family...

"Everything had something to do with what we learned from (him), as if we just woke up to see the world around us, and way beyond us. But when we thought about the things (he) taught us, we thought about (him) not being there anymore. There was a lump in my throat every time I thought of that." -- Kirkpatrick Hill

Dear God I miss that boy. Be praying for the Pye family as we are approaching the anniversary of JB's death and his birthday...

Sage advice from Nia, age 6

“Mom, I have a little secret to share with you. If you can’t understand someone or you don’t want to talk to them, you know what you should do? Ignore them. It works.”

And example of why I love Jean Louis.

I REALLY love Jean Louis. He's an amazing kid and he and I have a special connection.

This morning, he came up to me with a picture of Sleeping Beauty that he'd colored and cut out. He said, "This is for you mama. It's you."

It's weird. There is something endearing about when your daughter thinks you're pretty. There's something simply HEART-MELTING to hear your new 12-year-old son call you a princess.

Here's Jean Louis showing his picture.


I think it looks just like me, what do you think?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Save a life: Sponsor a child.

Wildarne and dad.

Two days until Earth Day.

Earth day is April 22.

In an effort to be more green, I have decided to take the following steps on Thursday--
  • Cut off electricity to my home for several hours.
  • Use collected rainwater to bathe, wash clothes, wash dishes, etc.
  • Use a motorbike as our primary, around-town form of transportation to cut down on fuel consumption.
  • Not use air conditioning in this blistering heat.
  • Drink my soda and beer out of refillable, glass bottles.
  • Save the dirty (rain collected) wash water after clothes are washed to wash the motorbike, car and to flush toilets.
  • Only use cold water in the house-- for washing, showering, etc. so as to not use electricity necessary to heat water.
  • Wash the majority of the clothing in our house by hand, line dry all clothing.
  • Buy the majority of my food from local sources-- including all meat and produce.
Oh wait. We already do all that. My friend Neil calls it going green the third world way. :)

It cracks me up when people visiting Haiti look at the trash everywhere and the lack of recycling, etc. and talk about how Haiti is just an environmental catastrophe. Super-crunchy people especially get torqued. I am not saying that there are not challenges.

But in terms of the global footprint...

Just saying. :)

It's April 20th.

Just an FYI in case you do come here for your news and do not watch television, read a newspaper, listen to the radio, or read internet news... there was NOT an earthquake in Haiti last night, yesterday, the day before yesterday or the night before that. Apparently "President Preval's warning on the radio" (and I put that in quotes because I don't actually believe it was him spreading the rumor) was wrong.

I am hoping THIS will be talked about on the radio today in Haiti.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Josiah's limp.

Something happened to Josiah's foot when he jumped off the table today. (No, he's not allowed to jump off the table.) Anyway, it's not seriously injured, but it's given him a little limp.

So Nick and I are sitting here talking (well, not actually talking, just being anti-social on our respective computers)...

I say "Josiah's little limp is kind of cute."

And Nick says, "Yeah, wonder if we could find to keep a way to keep it that way."

I look at him incredulously, "You're sick, I can't believe you said that."

He looks at me more incredulously and says, "I'm sick? You're the one who thinks his limp is CUTE?!"

----

Point noted.

Writer's block.

This never happens to me. I always have something to say. But for some reasons, there's no new news. Lately the stories don't seem that interesting. Well, actually they are kind of interesting but in a more subtle, less dramatic way.

Wait, life hasn't been NON dramatic in a while.

I guess that in and of itself is news.

Life is good.

And for the record, we're all sleeping inside. No one ever actually asked to sleep outside so I didn't mention it. All that contemplating for a non-issue.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pinchinat

That's the name of the refugee camp.

It's also the name of this baby girl who was born since Mama's been living there...

Another baby I've met in the camp recently (whom I do not have a picture of but I wish I did) was a light-skinned baby with curly, non-Haitian hair. When I asked what his name was, the mom said, "MINUSTAH." I asked her for clarification several times to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding, but no. For sure, it was MINUSTAH. All you people who live in Haiti will get it. All of the others, you can google it if you're interested.

*sigh*

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"How does a person forget God?"


"The answer we’ve seen again and again in the Scriptures is you forget God when you forget the people God cares about. Over and over God speaks to of the widow, the orphan, and the refugee. This is how you remember God: you bless those who need it the most in the same way that God blessed you when you needed it the most.”


Rob Bell—God Wants to Save Christans. Pg, 124



Thursday, April 15, 2010

the rumor mill

You remember that game, "Telephone" you used to play as a child? You know the one-- it's where you'd whisper a message to someone, and they whisper it to another person and on down the line until the end where, "Bobby has 10 rotten bananas" turns into "Do you want a chocolate milkshake?" or something equally non-related.

It's cute game when you're a kid. It's not as adorable when it's the primary way people an entire country get their news. It's actually quite frustrating. To begin with, there's not exactly a very high level of broadcasting integrity amongst many radio stations. And so this is where the rumors begin. Then they get passed. And changed. And convoluted. And people "can't believe" the news they are hearing, but unfortunately they do believe it. And they spread it some more.

Where am I going with this?

Well, here's the current rumor. The current rumor is that President Preval went on the radio and told everyone that "they" (whoever "they") are has predicted that there will be another big, giant earthquake on either April 18 or April 19th. So, until then, no one should sleep indoors. No one should enter cement buildings. Etc, etc. etc.

This rumor is a doozy. It's not just that I've heard it from one person. I am hearing it ALL around me. And so are Danny and Nick. So are our kids. Everyone is SURE that there is another (bigger) earthquake coming.

I've tried to explain that this is not something that can be predicted. But then I am told, "Well, if the PRESIDENT of Haiti said it, he must know SOMETHING you don't." No one is making me make any promises about what we will or will not do this weekend in terms of sleeping arrangements, but I kind of get the idea that they are wanting me to tell them to sleep outside this weekend.

So I am really torn. Do I allow/encourage my family sleep outside this weekend for their own peace of mind? Is this a part of their healing from fear? Or do I dig my feet in and tell them we won't live in fear and be railroaded by the hype?

What do you all think?

this used to be my playground.

Today is our day off. Every Thursday our family takes some time to relax and Sabbath together. This doesn't mean we give our kids Benadryl and sleep all day. (Though I'd be lying if I said the thought has never crossed my mind.) It just means we try not to work. I have explained that this is a difficult concept when your job is your family. We don't really answer emails. We try not to take work calls. We just sort of "BE." We do things we WANT to do.

Today we drove downtown to do some non-work-related errands. One such errand was returning a fan we'd bought yesterday that didn't work. That was right by the park... well, what used to be the park and is now a small tent city. The kids saw where we were and asked if we could play at the park. I told them there isn't much of a park to play on anymore, but we could walk around and see what it's like now. (We've been trying to expose them to the reality of what has happened in small doses.) Plus the day before we'd seen Stanley and Jocelyn (two of the street boys who used to spend lots of time at our house when we lived downtown.) They asked about the kids and I really wanted to bring the kids to see them. They are both living in the park now so we thought it would be a pretty good bet we'd find them there. We didn't need to worry about finding them because the moment we pulled the truck in, they saw us and came running.

We hung out there a while with them. But like I've previously said, I don't bring my white kids into the refugee camps because it attracts too much attention. Though this isn't one of the huge refugee camps, our experience today was no exception. Josiah is a tough enough kid (read: bully). He can run with the big dogs. He just naturally gives off a "I hate everyone vibe" that kids don't usually mess with him. Nia on the other hand, cannot STAND the attention and manhandling. (As it should be.) So she stuck pretty close and was VERY ready to go.

Here's a few before/afters for you to give you a frame of reference. Sorry the angles aren't exactly the same, I didn't get the idea to do the before/afters until I got home:

General before shot:
General after shot.

Swings before:

Swings after:

Climby thing before:

Climby thing after: (check for the tiny red hole peeking out.)

Heading into the park before:

Heading into the park after:

I can't get that Madonna song out of my head...

marriage

Marriage is hard. Sometimes it's really hard. These past 6 months have been more difficult than any other time in the previous 9.5 years we've been married. We've had to play new roles. We've had to adjust our expectations. We were JUST starting to get there at the beginning of January.

Then the quake.

I am learning that during times of great crisis, people just naturally return to who they are at their core... their base self. That's not been great for our marriage. Most other times in our marriage, when one of us was struggling, the other would be strong. But starting in January, we were thrust into this place where we were both struggling. And we didn't have it in us to think about anyone other than ourselves, and, occasionally, because we had to, our children. Believe it or not, selfishness and and feelings of self-preservation are not actually that great for a marriage.

Anyway, this post as a much more negative tone than I mean it to have. Not really my intent. I guess the point of what I am saying is that yes, marriage is hard, BUT...

Man it's great.

I am going to be honest. I don't always LOVE being married. But I always love Nick. And though every single day I make mistakes and I fail him over and over (and yes, he fails me too.) I always love him.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A very happy belated birthday

I returned yesterday to a couple of great birthday surprises.

My staff had bought and wrapped gifts for the birthday I had while on sabbatical. We had a little party. It was SO sweet and thoughtful. Honestly, there's nothing that has happened since I've lived here that's made me feel so accepted by Haitian people. They used their own money to buy me these gifts-- these two vases with white flowers.

And then two of these bird figurines. (Only one in is shown in the pic, but now I have a matching set.) :)

Very Haitian gifts to be sure. :) I love them and the thought that came along with them. Here's an example of some of the thoughts they shared...

From Nahomie and Hugues (yes on a Christmas card in Spanish--I love it all the more because of that. Whatever works, you know what I mean?)

From Esther. Yes, she spells my name 'Green' at first. That's better than the way most people around here spell my name. And the way she actually spelled it at the bottom of the card, "Grenn." Grenn means testicles. So I am more than happy with Green.

PS- Yes I am aware that I am fatter and whiter than 3 weeks ago. I am also over it. It's all part of the USA scene.

mean boys

Apparently I have two mean boys in my house.

So, while we were gone, one night Yves and Jean Louis caught a small snake and PUT IT IN JERRY'S PANTS when he was sleeping. Somehow they thought this would stop him from wetting the bed at night. Well, at least that was their excuse. I think they were just being mean boys.

*sigh*

Fortunately Haiti doesn't have poisonous snakes.

(And yes, I told them that they are NEVER TO DO THAT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE.)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fireworks Explode

I mentioned on my facebook that we had the chance to have our family photos taken by rockstar photographer, Daley Hake. They are pretty rad. They make us look much cooler than we are. Except Nico. He's pretty cool. He knows it too. Check him out in this pic...



So, onto the point of my post. Before we left, I asked him if he could take a picture of Josiah's scars on his chest. With his 3rd birthday approaching, I wanted a recent pic of him where we can see his scars. It's a very visible reminder of a very emotional time in our lives... a time where God showed his grace and provision in the midst of the biggest trial I'd ever faced (up to that point.)

Later that night, or maybe the next one, we got call from Jonathan. He'd been talking with Daley and apparently Daley really liked this pic of Josiah and put it up on his website. Apparently he is in a band called Theft. Well they are kind of famous and up-and-coming I guess? (Sorry if anyone from Theft is reading, like I said, we're a very non-rad, non-culturally-relevant family. If it makes you feel better, I had never heard of Glee or Jersey Shore until recently either and apparently both of these shows are popular???)


Back to the story. Theft is partnering with MTV to release an acoustic version of their song, "Fireworks Explode" for charity. (See HERE for more details.) The song was written about a friend of theirs who was had a serious brain injury. Josiah and his scars were a good visual. MTV producers contacted Theft after seeing Josiah's picture on Daley's website and wanted to use it for the single cover. We, of course, said yes.(And before any of you jerk sisters of mine make a snarky comment about how my son is a poster child for brain trauma, know that I realize the hilariousness of this.)

Anyway, check out this awesome pic.


When we finally had a moment to listen to the song yesterday, we couldn't believe the imagery they chose to portray the trauma they'd experienced... If I knew how to cry anymore, I would have been crying. Here's the first verse of "Fireworks Explode":

Your world has a fault line that runs through it
And it's shaking all the walls
The clouds have opened up
The sewers overflow
This is the end and the start of everything that you know
The fear shakes us hard and slow

***
Using the imagery of an earthquake, the song is about hope in the midst of despair.
Pretty "coincidental" turn of events, eh?

You can check out Theft on Itunes (their EP is called "Breathing Underwater") or at their myspace page. The acoustic version of "Fireworks Explode" isn't available yet from what I understand, although when it comes available, I'll let you know so you can buy it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"How are you REALLY doing?"

Hey all.

Only two more sleeps until I get to go back home. I love that I am homesick. I asked the kids today at lunch if they were excited about going back to Haiti and Nia said, "Uh, yeah." (Kind of with the intonation in her voice that said, "Mom you're an idiot.")

We've had a great visit. It was, by pretty much every definition possible, a true sabbatical. We really rested. We did whatever we wanted. Sometimes that included talking about the earthquake, Joy in Hope, etc. In other words, sometimes it probably appeared that we "worked." But our FAMILY is our job. And so, yeah. There's going to be overlap between work and rest.

During our time here, we've gotten this question a lot, "How are you REALLY doing?"

Great question.

We are actually doing really well. This respite was REALLY needed. We are mentally all in a much better place. We've been talking to a counselor and feel like we're coming in to a healthier spot in processing all we've seen and experienced. I've been writing a TON. I have only published about half of the posts I've written lately. I've written several letters recently and then just deleted them. The act of writing out my feelings has been, in most cases, enough processing. I've come to realize that most (not all) of the tension that I've been feeling in relationships lately is just stress from the trauma we've experienced. Having my head on straight again has helped me to see where I've just needed to let things go and where I've needed to and take a stand on other things that I needed to be firm on.

I have realized the importance of the friendships that I formed in the time following the quake--specifically with Barton and Patrick. It was a weird thing, but I believe God sent these guys into our lives at such a strategic time. A time when we needed friends who weren't judgmental. A time we needed people we could be our true selves around. A time where we needed the comfort and security of people who spoke English and could help us process. People who we (I) could drink a few beers with and just chill out after a long day. Now that those relationships have moved from an everyday type relationship to long distance, I can see very clearly how they were so instrumental in keeping me sane in the weeks following the quake. It's also made me realize how happy I am to have a friend in Sarah-- someone who fits all those above descriptions and is in Haiti for the long haul. She's been so amazing. She's also taught me a lot about how to be culturally appropriate... she should teach classes for visiting teams and relief workers.

I have also realized how thankful I am for our team-- Danny, Leann, Mikey + Georgette. We've made it through a MAJOR disaster together relatively unscathed in terms of unity. We've been through major stresses and life-altering things. Destruction. Serious injury. Fires (two of them). Political upheaval. Death. We're THROUGH those things. And yet, we're a team. We worked together as a team. We accomplished amazing things as a team. I was writing out a thank you note the other day and was listing all of the things that our team has done since the earthquake-- all the hats we've worn and roles we've played. It was mind-boggling. Each one of us brings something amazing and unique to the table. I got to thinking, if we can make it through what we've already been through, we can probably make it through anything.

We are looking ahead to the future. While I realize that things are much better in terms of our mental state, I also realize that we are headed back to Haiti on Monday. (Woo hoo!) Things are still crazy there. Things are not fixed. They are still broken. A million people are still displaced. I am smart enough to realize that 2.5 weeks in America hasn't "fixed" us. We are continuing to meeting with counselors to debrief from this trauma, both in person and over skype. I purchased two books about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and am committed to making reading together with Nick and working through the exercises they lay out. I am not saying we have PTSD, I just know it's very likely that if we do not now, we are good candidates for developing it over time.

I have also been trying to make my walk with God more of a priority. I think I fell into some bad habits after the quake. I was quicker to anger, quicker to swear, and make inappropriate jokes, make fun of people, etc. I know that some of that is a "normal response to abnormal stressors" as our counselors would say. But at the same time, I don't want to BE that person. So I am working on allowing the Lord to convict me of these things and try to move forward in a new direction.

Thank you for your love. Thank you for your care. Thank you for even taking the time to read this. Why you would be sitting here reading something I wrote is something I really don't fully get.

In closing, I just wanted to share this great video that my mom made for us. All of the video it contains was pre-quake whereas MOST of the stills are post-quake. Looking at the freedom and joy we all had pre-quake makes me excited. Because it gives me hope. And though I say it so much I sound like a broken record, I really mean it... there is JOY in HOPE.



Much love,
G

Friday, April 9, 2010

While we're on the subject of adoption...

I have received probably no less than 5 dozen inquiries since the earthquake about adopting Haitian children. I wanted to make another blanket statement that Haitian Children's Home/Joy in Hope does not do adoptions. We are not licensed as an adoption orphanage and we have no plans to seek that out. Personally, the families involved in Joy in Hope are very pro-adoption. As you know, we have a son we adopted from Haiti almost 3 years ago. (Wow, I can't believe it's been that long!) However, since our adoption, much has changed and many things have gotten much more difficult.

Here are the Haitian regulations for adopting from Haiti. These are from Nico's adoption orphanage website www.chances4children.org. (By the way, I don't know if they are accepting new families now, but we LOVE them. LOVE them.)

Adoptive Family Requirements

1. One Parent must be between the ages of 35 and 50. The younger parent must be at least 30 years of age.

2. Marriage: Must be married for 10 years.

3. Must not have biological children - if parents have one biological child they can adopt with proof of infertility.

4. Single women over 35 years of age with strong references may also adopt.

Many of you have heard about the special UN Humanitarian Parole that was expediting the adoptions of many Haitian kids. That was only for people who were already in their adoption process and had met certain criteria/regulations in advance of the Jan 12 earthquake. That program is being ended this week. See here for more details.

From the information I am getting from adoption agencies/adoptive parents, if UNICEF and Save the Children get their way, there may no longer be international adoption. They are making adoption in a post-earthquake Haiti very difficult.

Finally, the last question I often was "how much does it cost to adopt from Haiti?" That is going to vary from adoption to adoption. Chances 4 Children estimates anywhere between $15,00-$24,000. Nico came home nearly three years ago and start to finish, all costs associated with his adoption came to about $20,000. (Including one visiting trip and work that had to be done in the states after the fact for re-adoption/citizenship, etc.) I would believe now it's closer to the $24,000 end of the range, but you others who have adopted more recently can probably speak into this more accurately.

Abandonment vs. surrender

As and adoptive mother, sometimes I run into people who are pretty uneducated about adoption. I am not counting this as a fault, they are just uneducated. And if they’ve never been exposed to adoption, why WOULD they be educated about it? There are plenty of things in life that I am uneducated about. Lots actually. Sports for example. I don’t know anything about sports. I don’t know names of players or equipment or tournaments for really any sport. It doesn’t make me an idiot, it just makes me uninformed.

One uneducated thing I’ve heard (and continue to hear with startling regularity) is some variation of this sentiment, “I just don’t understand how a mother could give up her child.” I hear it usually from white, middle to upper class mothers. I want to be very careful not to paint a picture that I am not painting. I am not saying ALL white middle class mothers feel this way. I am a white, middle class mother. I’m just saying that in my experience, most of the people who have made these kinds of statements TO ME have fit into that category.

So, back to not getting how a mother could “give up” her child. I am a mother. I get the whole mother’s heart thing. I get the attachment that forms between mother and child. I get the mama bear thing. That’s me at times. And this might be a bit controversial of a statement, but, I don’t think that anyone who’s NOT a mother really gets that. They might think they do. But it’s my opinion that they do not. If you have another opinion, that’s fine.

The crucial piece that many people fail to realize is the absolute powerlessness that SO many mothers in this world face. One might pose a hypothetical question like, “Would you give up one child to save another?” And we (as mothers) say things like, “I could never choose between my children.” Well that’s awfully convenient to say when we are never PUT in a situation where we need to chose between children. Nor will we ever be. But what if you were? What if you were a single mother and you only had enough food to feed three children and you had four… what would you do? What would you do?

Some of you mama bears among us would say, “Well, I just wouldn’t eat so that my child could.” Noble. Sure. That’s only going to last you a few weeks. And then what? Then you die and leave 4 orphans or you start eating again. Let’s be real. There ARE people—hundreds of thousands of moms—who face THIS very situation all the time. But from our cozy Lazy Boy recliners, we look at the situation as if it were hypothetical.

If there truly are no options to parent, the MOST loving thing that a mother in that situation can do is surrender her mother’s heart to another mama. But that’s not how it’s viewed, is it? We call it abandonment. But it isn’t really abandoning. I prefer the term surrendering. Think about how badly it hurts, how much it COSTS emotionally to surrender in an argument. And usually, most arguments are about something stupid. Now multiply how difficult that is by the depth of a mother’s love.

Today I found myself trying to define “love” for my children. I explained that loving someone means you choose to do what’s best for THEM, not for you. I remember my mom spanking me as a kid and saying, “This hurts me more than this hurts you.” (Not sure I really feel the same way all the time to my discredit….) But my God, isn’t that what being a mother is? Choosing things that hurt us more than it hurts them? That’s why we set boundaries for our kids. That’s why we discipline our kids. That’s why it hurts so bad to let them pay the consequences for their actions. But it’s necessary.

I know there is such thing as a truly deadbeat mom. I hate that for kids. But I don’t think that is the majority of birthmom situations. I am so thankful for all of the birthmothers out there who LOVE their children enough to choose life for them even when it means a death in their own soul. They are the true mama bears.

Nico’s birthmother, or first mother as we often call her in our family, comes to my mind a lot. I wonder where she is. I wonder what she’s up to. I grieve that Nico doesn’t know her. I grieve that she doesn’t know Nico. And I grieve that she will never know how very much I admire her for surrendering Nico. She sent her son, my son, to live in an orphanage with nothing more than the hope of a better life for him. Greater love has no one than this…

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A hometown welcome

My parents moved to Manteo in 1995, the same year I went off to college. Coming home from college on weekends or over the summer was always kind of weird because it didn’t feel like coming home. Instead it felt like visiting a new place. My mom was sweet; she tried to hook me up with other young people, and I started to get plugged in. But I didn’t ever spend a lot of time here out on the Outer Banks like my sisters did. Melody was in middle school when they moved here and Gretchen moved to the Outer Banks with her husband after she got married. Jenny, a young girl who became like a sister to me, had grown up here in Manteo too. Manteo was “home” for all of them, but I still felt more like a visitor.


I got married in Manteo, and shortly there after my husband, Nick, began to call Manteo, “the happy place.” He loved visiting my family. Manteo just felt great to him—to us. Time passed, we had children. They fell in love with Manteo too. Of course they did, it was the home of their Nana and Grandad. They loved visiting the aquarium and playing in nana’s playhouse. But still, I had a hard time claiming Manteo as my “hometown” because well, let’s just face it, it wasn’t.


Fast forward a bunch of years to April 2009. Life had all sorts of surprising twists and turns for us. Through a series of events that only God could orchestrate, Nick and I end up living in Haiti. We moved there to be houseparents at a home for orphaned and abandoned children. We’d been living in Haiti for about 9 months when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked our country and our community. I could spend days telling you about what our lives were like right after the quake—the way our organization (Joy in Hope) became quickly mobilized in the community for relief. I could tell stories that would be so unbelievable you’d probably think I’m making them up. Stories about how a group of 4 Americans and 1 Haitian with no aviation experience started up an international airport. Stories about a volunteer medical clinic in a refugee camp that treated 1,200 patients. When my mind flips through some of these stories, I sometimes have to remind myself that they are true. But that’s not what I want to focus on today.


Instead, I want to focus on what happened to me about two weeks ago when I returned to the United States. My sister, Gretchen, was lying in an ICU hospital bed incredibly ill. She was unconscious and on a ventilator. The source of her infection was unknown. She had no real diagnosis and we were all very scared. My sister Melody had also returned to Manteo and along with my mom and we were taking shifts watching children and going up to Norfolk to visit Gretchen. Gretchen’s kids were having a hard time being away from their mother and we were trying to make it a priority that each kid get special attention. It was because of that reason that I found myself in Magnolia Grill with my nephew, Micah. We were headed out for an outing together. Breakfast. I’d call it a date but when I tried to do that around Micah he got incredibly embarrassed and told me to “quit it.” :)


I went up to the register to pay for our meal when we were done eating and I saw a professionally printed canister with photos I recognized on it. Upon further inspection, I realized it was for Joy in Hope. The Magnolia Grille was collecting change for Joy in Hope—the organization I worked with.


The next day I took my niece Evie out for a coffee date. We hit the coffee shop and again, I saw a Joy in Hope canister. Getting gas at Hatchell’s I saw another two. My mom had mentioned that she had started a canister collection project with a local friend, Dennis Schurr. But until I returned to Manteo, I had no idea the scope. Everywhere I went there were canisters. My mom and Dennis had been working like crazy on these canisters. There was a whole system. They were numbered and inventoried. They were emptied regularly and accounted for by store.

Knowing I was only here for a short time, I asked my mom if I could help her on her canister project. She said, “Sure, I have a bunch of full ones from Gilbert. Let’s get them counted and deposited.” Gilbert at the Subway had taken the challenge and ran with it. There is no one who has been a bigger cheerleader than Gilber So far his Subway cans alone have collected $1130.13

As of yesterday, the total so far that has been collected in the cannisters combined with the related donations that were made as a result of the awareness my mom and Dennis have raised is $4028.49. Pretty good for pocket change, huh? I was even more impressed when I learned that these WEREN'T professionally printed, but a labor of love from Dennis and my mom. She found some NASCAR coin banks at the Dollar Tree. Dennis took it upon himself to go to Staples, format the can covers and have them all printed. They made 100 of them at a cost of about $3 a can, which they covered themselves.

Yesterday I went around with my mom replacing canisters and thanking business owners/managers for their support. It was awesome. I was overwhelmed. People who I’d never met before “knew” me. They were behind me. They were behind Joy in Hope. They were interested in what was happening in Haiti. They were personally invested in my story. And finally it hit me why I was so overwhelmed. I was receiving a hometown welcome. Here’s me. This girl who never really felt at home in Manteo. Receiving a hometown welcome. Man I love small towns.

I am headed back home to Haiti early next week. As great as my visit has been, I am anxious to get back home to my kids—all 9 of them. But I leave with joy in my heart knowing that the next time I come back to Manteo, it will now also be coming home.


Big thanks to the store owners/individuals who have/are collecting for us. You are making a difference.

1. Food a Rama – Manteo

2. Ann’s Thrift Shop – Manteo

3. Manteo Post Office

4. Island Pharmacy – Manteo

5. Manteo Booksellers

6. Darryls – Manteo

7. Subway –Manteo

8. Hot Line – Manteo

9. Reynolds Barber Shop – Manteoo

10. Subway – Manteo

11. Colony Tire – Manteo

12. Fine Yarns AT Kimbeeba – Manteo

13. Tranquil House – Manteo

14. Magnolia Grille – Manteo

15. TL’s Family Restaurant – Manteo

16. Sugar Shack – Nags Head

17. Poor Richards Tavern – Manteo

18. Top China- Manteo

19. Poor Richards Tavern – Manteo

20. ACE Hardware – Manteo

21. Hatchells – Manteo

22. The Coffee House – Manteo

23. ACE Hardware – Manteo

24. A Perfect Hair Image – Nags Head

25. TIAKO Restaurant & Sushi Bar – Nags Head

26. LA FROGATA –Nags Head

27. The Lone Cedar –Nags Head

28. Colony Tire – Kill Devil Hills

29. Christmas Shop – Manteo

30. His Shells—Manteo

31. Front Porch CafĂ©’ - Manteo

32. Pioneer Theater - Manteo

33. Family Dollar--Manteo

34. Pizza Hut--Manteo

35. Garden Deli and Pizzeria--Manteo

36. Home of Dennis Schurr & Kaeli Spiers