Saturday, October 30, 2010

Josiah's preschool painting.


This year we made the decision to send Josiah to Haitian preschool. It's supposedly the "international" school, but he's actually the only "international" person in it. He does well but it's a LONG day-- 7AM to 1PM 5 days a week. That's a lot for a three-year-old.

He came home with his first art project the other day, and the reality of Josiah in Haitian preschool really hit home to me.



It says "Thank you Dessalines for our independence."

And by the way. Josiah totally didn't paint that. His teacher did. He's not that coordinated. He even admitted it that he made his teacher do it for him. :) That's my boy.

Yves' apology

Yves has been a real pill lately. I am not sure what has gotten into him. Well, I mean he's a 12 year old boy. So that's probably gotten into him. He's spent a lot of time having privileges taken away lately and has been having a lot of "room time."

Yesterday he was in his room A LOT.

Even though he was acting really sassy and mean, one of the times he was in there he wrote me this note.

It says (roughly), "Mommy Gwenn, I want to say pardon to you for all I have done to cause trouble. I did it. I know. I made lots, lots, lots of trouble. Forgive me for all of it. Forgive me, Mommy Gwenn?"

******
How can you stay mad at that?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Missionary kid FAIL

Today at recess I was telling Nia a story about when I was a little girl. It's one of her favorite pass-times and since I aspire to be a great storyteller (like my dad, who is, incidentally, the best story-teller I know) I practice on her.

Today I was (again) telling her the tale of how my dad hammered my finger and broke it when I was in third grade. (The more I tell it, the more dramatic it gets.) But that's not the point of the story.

In the story, I was going into great detail about my dad's landscaping business and how I was his best helper. (Yeah, sure, my other sisters were his helpers too, but I am pretty sure I was the best helper.) I told her all the scenarios about how I scraped mower decks, stacked firewood and helped him pick up tools that he dropped. (I can see you getting a picture in your mind of how helpful I was.)

I was divulging all of these details to Nia and she said, "Yeah, it's too bad you didn't have any brothers."

And I said, "Why?"

And she said, "Cause then Grandad could have had really good helpers."

Nice.

She also told me this week that when she grows up she's going to be a doctor "for white people." I seriously almost drove off the road. Upon further (stern) probing I learned that she simply meant she wants to be a doctor in the US (as opposed to Haiti) and most of the people she knows from the states are white. Except Nico, (she was very clear on that she realized he wasn't white but he was American.) So I guess he will be allowed to visit her practice. :)

How is this sexist, racist child MY daughter?

Have I taught her nothing?!?

God's will.





What Francis Chan sensed in his soul after asking God, "What is your will for my life?"

"Think about the earth right now. Think about all those MILLIONS of people who are suffering. WHAT DO YOU THINK MY WILL IS FOR YOU TODAY? What do you think my will is when there are people who just want to feed their kids? They just want to find some water-- something for their kids to drink so they don't die. What do you THINK my will is for you today?"
- Francis Chan, Forgotten God video

Thursday, October 28, 2010

inadequate.

Here's the thing about malaria.

It tricks you.

You think you're better. You feel 100% better. Literally 100%. Like go-out-for-a-burger-and-a-beer-for-lunch-with-some-friends better, and then BAM. 3:00PM hits like a freight train. You're in a staff meeting and you start sweating. The sweat literally beads up on your face and you feel it trickle down the back of your neck.

That was my day today. What I SHOULD have done then is go back to bed. What I DID was head out to Bwa Vital and De Izin to do diaper distribution. This was completely unnecessary. The whole process can and does function perfectly well without me. However, there's something self-serving in it for me. It's part pride and part that I just LOVE these babies.

But it's never just an in-and-out thing.

Today there was me the lady pregnant with twins, due in November with HUGE swollen ankles (I have never seen anything like it) and me begging her to go to the hospital to get her blood pressure checked. Then there was the lady who just gave birth this morning in tent 173 who was still cramping and miserable. I checked the cord on the baby (because I am friends with a midwife now and it's like second nature to check to see how the cord was handled). The baby, brand new and bundled to oblivion had about a 6 inch umbilical cord all wrapped up in gauze and twine. Who knows what was under there?

And then there was the new mom in 174 who had a 6 day old baby and was having breastfeeding issues.

And then there was Daphkalene. She's the 6 month old baby with the giant ears that I think is just cuter than a speckled pup. Life is not easy for her because her big sister, Esterline who is 3 has hydrocephalus. Esterline is my only exception to the no-babies-over-2-years-old-get-diapers rule. Her mom has been fighting for her to get the surgery she needs. Today as I passed their tent, the big sister who is about 10 (who-- God forgive me, I don't know her name) said, "Madame Nick. Vin wè Daphkalene." (Gwenn, come see Daphkalene.)

Guernia and Black (our security guard and diaper carrier) had gotten ahead of me while I was talking to the huge-ankle-pregnant-with-twins lady and I so I went off on my own to see Daphkalene. Her hair was all matted with debris in it.

I asked where Esteraline was. And she said that she and her mom went away. I asked where they went. She said they went to get Esteraline's operation. This made me very happy but then I asked who was staying with her and Daphkalene. She said she was taking care of the baby and that a neighbor was helping. The dad comes to sleep in the tent, but she takes care of the baby. Knowing that Daphkalene was still nursing, I asked how long the mom had been gone.

The answer--since Sunday.

Today is Thursday. So I asked when she was coming back.

"Jodia si Dye vle." (Today if God wills.)

Sigh...

I asked what Daphkalene was eating. She said she was feeding her and that sometimes the neighbor helped. I don't know what that means. I just didn't ask. I seriously just didn't know what to do. I was still feverish and honestly my world was woozy. I don't know how I walked away and did nothing. But yeah, I didn't have a solution. I didn't have a solution for huge-ankle-lady. I didn't have a solution for 6 inch-umbilical cord-baby in 173, or breastfeeding-problem in 174.

I just left them all there exactly the way they were when I came. Except that they all had a neatly packed packet of 10 diapers for their babies.

BIG. FREAKING. DEAL.

This place my pride told me I HAD to go today, I was leaving the same way it was when I came.

I am SO inadequate for this job.

So I get home at about 6PM to screaming, fighting, crying children. My staff are mad at the kids who have been disobeying the whole time I have been gone. My head is pounding, my stomach is churning. That burger and beer that was so great when I felt 100% earlier in the day were now revolting and racing to come out me at both ends. I run to the bathroom to be sick and then I just collapse into tears on the bed-- supposed to go out in a few minutes with a group of friends to celebrate a birthday. I call Nick into the room and tell him (beware, I know I was being dramatic, but that is how I felt,) "Nick I feel as if I may ACTUALLY perish tonight."

It's how I felt.

But like there always is in Haiti, there was a job to do and Nick had to leave and the only thing I could think that would make me feel better is someone laying next to me. I called Nia into the room and asked me if she could read me a book. I didn't know what else to do. She picked out my favorite children's book, "Five Minutes Peace" and read it... with all the voices.

Oh. my. gosh.

I love that girl.

I felt like such a scumbag mom just clinging to Nia with tears streaming down my face.

I am SO inadequate for this job.

Nia finished and said, "Now which one would you like?"

More tears.

I am SO inadequate for this job.

She read some silly book about dinosaurs and table manners and then Dr.Suess' "The Sneetches" which I told her was probably too hard for her because of all the nonsense words. She just rolled her eyes and said, "Mom, I've read it a million times." And she proceeded to read it aloud to me the millionth and first time.

During this time, my two boys (who I was having no idea how I was going to wrangle into bed since Nick was out for the evening) wandered their way upstairs and into my bed to listen to the story. Before long we were all snuggled up together-- the kids fighting of course, but this time fighting about who got to sleep right next to me.

Their snuggles against me were a soothing balm.

Yeah, they skipped brushing teeth tonight, (cause remember, I am totally inadequate for this job) but after some more books, we said prayers together and by the time we were done, Josiah's heavy breathing (almost snoring) made me turn over to see his perfect little eyelashes closed and his lips pursed in an almost-smile in his sleep. I honestly couldn't help myself from reaching out and touching his face. I have never loved him more. My mind flashed through all we'd been through with him... how we almost lost him. And his hot breath on my face now... it was possibly the most heavenly thing I have ever felt.

I just laid there-- smooshed in the middle of three sleeping children. (They all fell asleep in less than two minutes... literally.) And all I could think about was how horribly (physically) I felt and yet how ALIVE and fortunate I am.

And then it hit me.

I realized that God didn't just send HIS child to save me, he sent MY children to save me too...

I just laid there and prayed and told God THANK YOU and that I GET that I am TOTALLY and UTTERLY INADEQUATE for this job.

(And then I wriggled my way out of the middle of them because if you think this feverish mama with a sleep disorder can POSSIBLY sleep in the same bed with three children, you're crazy.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A visit with Dr. Bertrand, MD---

  • 250 gourdes ($6.25US)
Two vials of blood drawn and resulting labwork done at the lab next to St. Michel hospital
  • 350 gourdes ($9.75US)
 Cholorquine 10 pill prescription necessary to eradicate the malaria you tested positive for
  • 15 gourdes ( $0.37US-- yes that's CENTS)
Being able to have psychedelic groovy dreams where I wore magical golden contact lenses...
  • PRICELESS.
There are some things in life money can buy, for the rest of it, there's Haiti.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Before the storm-- preparation

There's a lot about this cholera outbreak in Haiti that brings back into my mind the panic that surrounds two sets of circumstances that I've experienced at times earlier in my life.  Snowstorms and hurricanes.

Now, while I grew up the first half of my life in New Jersey and the second half (pre-Haiti of course) in North Carolina and so you'd think the snowstorms would apply to NJ and the hurricanes would apply to NC.  Not so much.  Really, NJ was pretty used to big snowstorms, so even thought they would come and go, people didn't get their panties in a bunch about them.

Now.  NC is another story completely.

For whatever reason, when there is a hurricane/tropical storm watch impending, OR the suggestions of the possibility of snow flurries... all heck breaks loose.  People leave work early days in advance to stock up on  milk, bread, and eggs.  Water.  Snow shovels.  De-icing spray.  Generators.  Snowblowers.  Shelves in the stores are empty and there are lines of people shoving their way to the cash registers while attempting to hide and protect their coveted supplies.

With the outbreak of cholera inching it's way south and the expectation that it will hit Port Au Prince in a somewhat significant way, we've been doing our own "before the storm" preparation.  We've been going tent to tent in the camps in Jacmel handing out Kreyol flyers that explain basic sanitation practices, explains how diseases are spread and steps people can take to protect their family.  We also are handing out hand-washing instructions and bars of soap.

Yesterday though, I started realizing that this is all well and good, but what if cholera actually makes it to MY home?  I have 10 kids and 6 adults who live in my house.  I realized I probably needed to head to the pharmacy to stock up on antibiotics, rehydration salts, IV supplies, bottled water, etc.  And so out I headed.  I expected that this late in the game, some of these things might be challenging to find.  But I was wrong.  At the pharmacy they had everything I needed and there were no lines.  The merchant (unaware that I was buying stuff preventively) asked who was sick.  I told him that no one was sick, but we had an orphanage and wanted to be prepared with necessary supplies if cholera reached Jacmel.  He sort of raised his eyebrows and said, "Oh yeah, that's a good idea."  (As if the idea had never occurred to him.)

And then it hit me.  Yeah, the idea wouldn't occur to most people in Haiti.  There's a stereotype present here that Haitians live for the day.  I have found some merit to that.  Why would people save a bunch of money, when they don't know if tomorrow they are going to get sick and die?  Or a hurricane would come wipe everything away?  Or an earthquake.  So yeah, that's the first reason it wouldn't occur to Haitian people to prepare in this way.

The second factor is simply economic.  We have the reserve to spend $50US to do a little preparation for our family in case the worst happens.  Not so much with most families here.  In fact, that would be out of the question for nearly all families here.  Especially considering the hospitals will (should) have these supplies and they can get them for free.  Sure, you have to fight the lines of puking, diarrhea-ridden people for a corner of space on the ground as you wait for a doctor or nurse to see you, then go find the supplies (which they hopefully have) and then get you hooked up to fluids... but it's really your only option.  And it takes time.  Haitians are good at waiting, but when we're talking about this cholera killing in literally a matter of hours...  well, will there be time?

So I have these dual emotions tugging at me.  On the one hand I feel like I've made wise choices trying to get some basic supplies prepared in case the worst happens.  But on the other hand, I just feel like a stupid rich white girl... thinking about myself and my family and setting up things so that we'd get better medical attention in case the worst happens.  

It's a hard line to walk.  One which I think there simply isn't a good answer.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cholera.

Seriously? Cholera?

I literally thought cholera ended with westward expansion.

And now, of all places it is here in Haiti.

So far 138 dead.

I am not one of those people that spend a lot of time wondering why God allows bad things to happen to Haiti over and over again. I am just not. And I am not surprised when things like this happens because (though we're ALL tired of hearing this key phrase) "Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere." Poverty leads to high percentages of malnourished people. Acute problems (like cholera) destroy life quickly here. When you're talking about chronic malnutrition, there simply is no nutritional reserve to sustain life.

My favorite Haitian proverb says, "Bondye konn bay, men li pa konn separe." God gives but he doesn't separate.

You're probably tired of me saying this but again I ask you-- what if the distribution of assets in this world were OUR job?

Why did God bless you with all you have?

Is it really for you?

Here is something I've been convicted of today-- I joke a lot about being a big girl. Here in Haiti, it makes me popular. (In the states it makes you sort of shunned-- go figure.) Here's the thing. When I lived in the states, I spent (over the course of time) THOUSANDS of dollars (I have no idea how many thousands) trying to lose weight. I am still a big girl. However, here I am healthy. I am active. I don't have to try to exercise, because living in Haiti is exercise in and of itself. But I digress...

What if years ago God gave me the job of providing food for someone in Haiti? What if I was too consumed in my own life and my own problems and my own pleasures to hear him? What if the money that I spent on Weight Watchers or LA Weightloss or Slimfast (etc, etc, etc) was not really intended to be spent ridding me of my excess pounds but meant instead to provide someone with their necessary pounds? What if it's one of those people who have died in St. Marc? What if it was meant for one of those people with no reserve?

No wonder big girls are desired here... it just means you can live through cholera, shigella and giardia.

This isn't meant to guilt you. It really isn't. It's just been convicting my heart all morning.

Remember the end of the movie Schindler's list? I am talking about the scene when Oskar Schindler is talking about how he could have and should have done more. He should have given more. If he'd only made a few more sacrifices, how many more lives could be saved? I GET THAT. It is impossible to live here and not feel that way. (Well maybe it is, but I can't imagine that.)

This is all I know. In the end, we will NOT regret choices we make to sacrifice our "extra" to provide others with the "necessary." We will not look back and think, "wow, if only I'd given a little LESS away to the poor, my life would be so much better." I just don't think that happens.

God gives, but he doesn't separate.

Think about it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

hope, trees and other insomniac ramblings.

There's this verse that I have loved forever...

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." Proverbs 13:12

I've always said that I am a big believer in hope.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. Isn't that the truth? When you have your mind set on something happening and then it doesn't happen, or it doesn't happen when YOU think it should happen... yeah, it makes your heart sick. When I've completed psychological evaluations in the past for college or jobs or counseling or our adoption, one thing has always stood out about me. I am extremely relationally oriented. This means that I love being around people and I am extroverted... to the nth degree. When there is not peace in relationships, it's all I can do to hang on and HOPE that there will be restoration. And until such a time, there's a part of my heart that stays sick. That's where I am living now.

But hold on to that for a second because the second part of the verse is kind of awesome too and it all comes back together.

A longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Think about some things in your life you've longed for. Not just a passing want, but an actually LONGING in your soul. For me, it has a lot to do with my family. In college, I longed to be married. After I was married, I longed to be pregnant. When God blessed us with Nia, I longed for something else, something deeper-- and that's when I found a true LOVE for our Father and His ways. I longed for Nico to come home from Haiti. I longed for Josiah to be healed. I longed to move to Haiti. I long for our children to experience redemption in our family. There's a hundred more longings I've had... those are just some of them.

A longing fulfilled is "a tree of life." What does that mean exactly? I don't know, but in the Bible starting in Genesis and ending in Revelation, it is discussed. It was something good-- present in the beginning when it was planted by God in the paradise of Eden, and it will be in there end bearing fruit and healing the nations.

Trees have always had a big significance in my family of origin. They were at the core of my father's livelihood as tree specialist. His business was (and still is, though much smaller) named, "Landscape and Tree Preservation." Sure, he cut down trees, but just as often, his job was preserving them. This usually involved heavily trimming the tree. It might be a tree with a disease or with dead limbs. It might just be old and overgrown and in need of relief from some of the weight of non-bearing limbs, or even over-bearing branches in order to preserve the tree and improve the quality of the fruit. I remember as a child watching my dad climb up to the very top of very tall trees with his chainsaw. (I always remember feeling very proud of him that he could do something like that... kind of like how I feel about watching my son Jean Louis climb a coconut tree.) He would cut the limbs and together with a partner would lower limbs down with a rope. And it was one of those things where right after a tree was trimmed (especially one that was overdue), it looked kind of sparse and naked. The branches would be thrown into his wood chipper where they would be ground up to become wood chips-- mulch essentially. They still had a purpose, but a pretty humble one. Or sometimes (in the case of disease or infestation,) the best bet was to be burned and totally cut off the potential for malady to spread. Pretty harsh, huh? Maybe. But let's not forget the goal.

Tree preservation.

It might be ugly for a time. It might be painful but inevitably, trees that are properly trimmed and cared for have the potential continue to be a thing of beauty and nourishment for hundreds, even thousands of years.

Which brings me back to the relational part of my life

My soul longs to live in peace with others. It is part of my DNA. And when I find that not happening, my heart is sick as I long for restoration and reconciliation. God brought this verse (and all its related imagery) to my mind tonight in a moment of clarity during the frustration of my insomnia.

The goal is preservation.

The goal is for our lives to be a thing of beauty and nourishment for others that makes a long-lasting (eternal) impression on others. We are all born with the potential of leaving an eternal legacy. But getting there is not an easy process. Because when allow God to trim, prune and shape us (see John 15), it's ugly and painful. It hurts like hell. It hurts like hell because it's him literally cutting the hellish parts of us away... killing them, and throwing them through the chipper to be (eventually) thrown on the ground for a much more humble purpose. (Or maybe even into a fire pit to be destroyed.) And for a time, yeah, it looks bad. For a time, it's kind of awkward. For a time you just wish things could go back to the way they were before you were trimmed because at least you were symmetrical in your un-health. Even though you were bearing crappy fruit, you were bearing fruit, right?

And now, here you stand. Awkward. Ugly. Unproductive. And you long to be NORMAL. BEAUTIFUL. PRODUCTIVE.

It sucks now, but hang with me here because, if properly channeled, you've just been perfectly set up for HOPE.

So may we all be trimmed and pruned. May we be awkward and ugly and unproductive. May our limbs be chipped and thrown on the ground and even burned. Because it's only by cutting off the potential for disease that we can be healthy. It's only by cutting off the over-bearing limbs that we can have the potential to bear good fruit. May we endure when our hope is deferred so that we may experience the fulfillment that comes from being a well-watered tree of life, a tree that bears fruit in season and is useful for healing the nations.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Getting eaten alive by mosquitoes tonight.

I will let you know if they are the malaria-carrying kind in 7-14 days. :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Haitian honesty- episode # 9690

We're having some ... hem... "transportation issues" in Jacmel these days. Long story. But I find myself driving on motos a lot lately. I don't mind riding on the back of motos, but I don't do it with people I don't know because... well, it's just weird to me. And most of the moto taxi drivers here look like they are 12. So while I do ride motos, I don't ride on mototaxis.

Usually, Nick or Hugues (our manny) is my driver. However, lately as we've had more official errands to do and a lack of vehicles, Eddie (our head security guard, general right hand man, and as of today, my ex-friend) has been driving me around. Today we had an appointment to look at a house. (Our lease is up in December, and even though we think we're gonna stay here, we're looking around. Just to get an idea and because it's kind of fun to look at houses.)

So driving down to meet our... "hem" contact, who shall remain nameless. When you're looking for a house, you suddenly become a popular person because there are many people vying for the 10% of the yearly rent "finders fee" they are unofficially entitled to.

But I am getting off topic.

So we're about to stop the moto and Eddie, as he laughs says, "Gwenn, ou lou. Ou geyen pwa. Anpil." (Gwenn, you're heavy. You have pounds. A lot of them.)

Nice.

I couldn't argue with him and I knew it wasn't meant as an insult so I said, "Wi, e vre." (Yes, you're right.) And just quickly moved on before I thought too much about how tight my jeans were feeling.

A little bit later, after we'd moved on to something else, we were coming out of Bwa Vital (one of the refugee camps.) It's a really rough road. Eddie stops the moto, looks at the back wheel and says as he shakes his head, "Oh Gwenn, pwa'w ap touye mwen jodia!" (Oh Gwenn, your weight is KILLING me today!)

As if.

As if somehow the size of my bounda (buttocks) has something to do with the fact that HE drove over a nail.

Loser.

:)





Sunday, October 10, 2010

Paradox

How can I love this place and these kids so much?



And at the same time love this place and these kids so much?


To quote Carolyn Arends, "The yearning deep within us tells us there's more to come... Maybe that's what heaven is for."

Sarcasm runs in the family.


My over-tired 5 year old niece, Abbie, came in crying and whining to her Grandad.

Here's how the conversation went:

****

Abbie: (tearfully) Grandad. I ran over my thumb with the skateboard and it hurts so bad.

Grandad: (Looking shocked and surprised!) Holy sh... eh, Toledo!
That wound might have killed a lesser child.

Abbie: (crying more) I know...

Grandad: I have just the thing. It's the universal placebo cure. Come with me.

****

A minute later Abbie came back all bandaged up with a camouflaged handkerchief. I gave her a beater of icing to lick on. And she was good as new.





Saturday, October 9, 2010

Wedding of the century




My friend Pam got married last night.

It was a BLAST! I got to see nearly all my best friends in one place. I know it was Pam's wedding, but I am pretty sure I had just as much fun. Here's a small sampling of pics. Many more on facebook and TONS more will be circulating soon I imagine...









Congratulations Pam and Jason!

Thanks for throwing a great party. (That comment was directed at Andrea...)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sewing school

Nick's mom, an expert seamstress and all-around great person, came to visit us last week and she didn't come empty handed. She made a big facebook campaign to collect stuff to teach our kids to sew. She got lots of material, LOTS of sewing notions and even a sewing machine donated.

She came with several projects prepped and my kids fell in love with sewing. Also, my eldest staff member, Felecia, who already knew how to sew on a foot treadle machine, learned to sew on the electric machine. She's been sewing HOURS AND HOURS each day since. It's so exciting. I am so proud of her.


Here's Grandma in the midst of all the kiddos, modeling their new dresses/shorts they "helped" Grandma make.

The girls and their new dresses. (Bev taught Felecia how to sew with elastic thread to make gathered top dresses.) I love them because they are cool and practical for Haiti, yet have wide enough straps to be modest. LOVE IT.
They boys in their new shorts. Does anyone remember JAMS?

Grandma works with Sanndi on the machine.
Jerry was the hand-sewing star.

It was an amazing week. We have tons of left-over material and I can't wait to see all the new creations that Felecia will be working on in the days and weeks to come!

Thank you Bev. And thank you to EVERYONE who donated sewing supplies. Our lease at this house is up in December, and I think we are going to try to find a new house with a sewing room!


the list.yi


Found Nia's list for the other day hanging up...

And oh, just two quick fyi's--

  1. Yes, I am aware that we need to work on her spelling. (School starts Monday!)
  2. With fyi #1 in mind, please know that the 5th item on the list SHOULD have been spelled B-E-A-C-H. :) Just thought I'd clear that up. She is missionary kid for Pete's sake.

Friday, October 1, 2010

My most vain post ever.

Okay, so it wasn't a TOP SECRET kind of secret, but it was something of a secret that I went back to the states for a week a couple of weeks ago. I just needed some time away and rest.

And it WAS FABULOUS. I loved every minute of it. (Well, except missing my family. Which was kind of a lot. So much that I literally spent two entire nights with skype on with Nick on the other end on the bed stand while we both slept. I know we're pathetic. But you have to admit it's KIND OF cute, right?)

The purpose of the trip was to take care of myself and let others take care of me.

I had some generous folks donate some money and some services so that I could get the works.

Here's what I had done:
- A facial
- A haircut
- Color and highlights in my hair
- Some new clothes
- Therapy
- Eyebrows waxed
- Mustache, er.... "upper lip" waxed
- A new tattoo
- A new nose ring (I say new because I actually used to have one in my previous life.)

And last but not least... (and I can't believe I am not just admitting this, but PROUD of it...)

-BOTOX.

Yes literally. My goodness. What a fabulous concept. I know it's terribly vain of me and I also know that it is a toxic substance that I had injected under my skin, but DANG I look so much younger without my forehead wrinkles. And since it was donated... what the heck?! Right? (And btw-- it takes a real friend to tell you that you need to do a little somethin' somethin'.) :) Thanks J.

It's great.

I feel like me again.

And not for nothing... my forehead is really freakin' smooth. That is INDISPUTABLE.