Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Update on Black- graphic picture warning

Black (our security guard who was in the moto accident yesterday) is doing a bit better tonight. He had a bad day but seems to be a bit better tonight now that we got him some pain meds.

He only has a really small fracture in his wrist so it's definitely concerning us how much pain he's still in. I am pretty sure there's something going on with the nerves because his fingers are getting numb and he has to hold all his fingers back to not be in extreme pain. Though we went to the hospital again today and we were AGAIN told to wrap his wrist, he simply cannot tolerate it. Any time it's wrapped, within minutes he's writing around screaming in pain. So there's obviously something else going on.

He looks like crap, as you can see. But he never complains that his face hurts. So looking at the picture below, and seeing how horrid that looks, I am pretty sure he's not exaggerating on how bad the hand hurts (as Nick asserts.)

But my main concern today was that he started to get a fever. It climbed all day in spite of already being on antibiotics, ibuprofen and Tylenol with codeine. Around 2 this afternoon it was up to 102 and I was worried about infection. I called a doctor friend who recommended I take him to the hospital for further evaluation and he also recommended starting another antibiotic alongside what he was already taking.

I did just that. I started the new antibiotic and brought him to the hospital. This was another hospital, not the one we went to yesterday. They looked at him and were more concerned that he had a facial fracture because of the swelling in his face. So they did an x-ray, which turned out totally normal. (Thankfully.) They also looked at the x-ray of his wrist from yesterday and said that he thought the pain he was feeling was being a bit exaggerated. (I stand by FIRMLY and say he's not exaggerating. For Pete sake... look at the guy!)

She didn't think the fever was related to infection. But I didn't believe her. So I decided to go with the other doctors advice and start him on the second antibiotic. I saw how they stitched him up. They cleaned him up and stitched him with the same two bloody pieces of gauze for all 25 or so stitches. They didn't irrigate any of the wounds or properly clean them. So infection is not only likely, but very probable.

Well, later on this afternoon, Black said that his eye (the really puffy one he can't open) was starting to drain a little bit of water and he wanted me to clean it for him. I soaked some clean washcloths in (clean) warm water and just laid it over his eye for a few minutes. I tried (in vain) to get inside the swelling to clean inside (as it was really icky) but I couldn't because it was SO swollen. I had some sterile irrigation syringes and tried to get in there with those, but really had no luck. After a while I asked him if he'd like to try to put some ice on his eye to see if it would help with the swelling. He said yes, and I laid it on there and went away for about a minute to get something and I came back and (gross alert!) he was laying there with a HUGE puddle of pus and blood running down his face and all onto the towel below him (which he was unaware of thanks to the make-you-loopy pain pills.)

I asked him if he was pressing on the swollen eye and he said no, that he was just trying to force himself to open his eye. I told him to do it again and it was like a freakin' geyser. I know gross. But also kind of cool-- come on, admit it, it's KIND of cool. He worked on that for a little bit, just trying to open his eye, and I just kept irrigating it as it drained for the next 10 minutes or so. By the time that was all over the "swelling" (ie abscess) had drained so much he could almost open his eye again. Very, VERY much reduced in size.

I don't know if it was the draining of the infection, the addition of the new meds, God's mercy or a combination of it all, but just right now before hitting the hay, Black was no longer running a fever. At all.

I am so glad he and Kati are staying with us. My kids (while I am trying to get them to leave him alone) are just being so sweet and endearing and kind to him. And I can't help but think about how I have been praying for ways to better love and appreciate our staff and forge more meaningful relationships with them and their families. Didn't expect it quite like this, but hey... this is the way that's been provided--- so I take great joy in getting to walk in it.

Thanks for everyone that supports us. You may have literally saved Black's life. I am sure his pregnant wife, Kati, appreciates that too!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Black: A commentary on Haitian medical care



Black, one of our security guards was in a motorcycle accident today. Given the current unrest, we had him go along with AnnDavid (one of our nannies) to the market. There seemed to be a communication issue, but he thought he was supposed to leave her there and then return to get her afterwards. On the way home (on Nick's new moto I bought him for our anniversary), he had a tire blow out and it threw him off the bike. He landed on his face/head.

We got the call that he'd been in an accident after he was brought down to the hospital by some Good Samaritan. (Haiti is pretty good for having Good Samaritans.) Nick and I rushed down to the hospital and found him getting stitched up. It was not a pretty sight.
The funny thing was that his wife was there and she was begging me to take pictures of him (in misery) so that he could see them later. (It's a cultural thing, everyone also takes out their phone and takes pictures of the deceased at funerals.) I won't post anything too graphic here.

The story ends with him getting A LOT of stitches in his face and on his head. He has major contusions. I am sure he has a concussion and his eye is swollen shut like Rocky Balboa (probably because there are a dozen or more stitches on his eyelid.)

He also fractured his wrist. Surprisingly, THAT is what is causing him the most pain. Like major pain. Like my big tough grown man security guard is crying pain. It was breaking my heart. But the worst part of it is that there is very little value on bedside manner here. So he was told over and over by doctors and nurses and family members to stop crying because "he was a man not a little baby" and "crying doesn't make anything better so stop it." That kind of infuriated me. I know that there are different cultural values in different places, but I told the nurse to be quiet.

Actually this is how our conversation went. (It was in Kreyol, but I will write it in English for the sake of time.)
****
Nurse: Black. Stop crying. Crying doesn't make anything better.

Me: (looking over at her kind of sharply) Um, yeah, actually sometimes crying DOES make things better.

Nurse: Oh yeah? How does crying make things better?

Me: Have you ever had a baby?

Nurse: No.

Me: Well I have. And it hurts really bad. And crying makes it feel a little better.

Nurse: It's not the CRYING that makes it feel better, it's the PUSHING that makes it feel better.

Me: (glaring in a pretty sarcastic, un-Christian way) Well, since you HAVEN'T HAD A BABY, I'm sure you would know something like that. (Yes, I know that was sinful, I probably need to go apologize to the nurse the next time we are there.)

******

Well as we were about to leave we encountered a bit of a struggle. You see, there were major riots in Jacmel again today. Election related. People shooting guns and hurling boulders at people and cars, burning tires, pepper gas... it was a mess. And OF COURSE it was downtown near where the hospital was, so we were stuck there for some time while we waited for things to cool down.

While we were waiting, Black's pain got a lot worse. So I went in and I found the doctor. I told him that Black was still in a lot of pain and that he needed to give him something stronger than the ibuprofen they'd had him take. He told me that he was supposed to be in pain. His wrist was broken, it was normal for him to be in pain. (Which incidentally, they just wrapped up in an Ace bandage and told him to come back on Wednesday when there would be an ortho there.) So I asked him if he knew that he was in pain, why he wouldn't prescribe a stronger pain killer to help him through?

He literally told me this. "I could give him a stronger pain killer but it would make him not be able to function properly sexually." I had never heard any sort of thing so I was a bit incredulous, and I asked "Okay, so are we talking like a temporary thing, or a forever thing?" He said it was just temporary. And I said that wasn't really my business but if it was temporary, then I was pretty sure it wouldn't be a problem. The man is writhing in pain, I am pretty sure temporary impotence is the LAST thing on his mind. I beg the doctor. The doctor agrees to give him a shot of something. It starts to mellow Black out a bit. So then I push my luck and I ask if I can get him to write a prescription for some pain pills for when the shot wears off tonight. And he said, "No, I just gave him a shot. I can't give him more. I already told you that it is not good for him. If he has more, he will not be able to "service" his wife." WTH?

I about blew my stack. I did say a few things to the doctor I won't repeat here but basically left it at, "Why don't we ask Black what HIS priority is right now?" The doctor wouldn't budge.
Things cool off in town. Eddie comes and picks us up. We left with just the ibuprofen, but I was on the phone with every doctor or doctor-ish person I know to try and get the poor dude some pain killers. (Should have some tomorrow by the way...) We headed back to our house seeing the evidence of the manifestations. Huge rocks in the road, burned out cars, smoldering tires...

Once we arrive, we had to literally cut Black's shirt off since it was filthy and bloody and he needed to get cleaned up. His wife helped him bathe and then we dressed the rest of the wounds that didn't merit stitches. We got him settled in in Nia's room and his wife then left to go bathe and get some clothes before coming back to spend the night.

While she was gone, I was on "Black duty." I seriously have never felt more horrible for a human being than I did tonight. He was writhing around on the bed trying to get comfortable. He was crying, screaming at times. It was worse than watching a woman in childbirth. I was just trying to comfort him, but there's NOTHING I could do. So I held his hand and prayed with him. And when he wanted to stand up, I helped him stand. And when he wanted to sit down, I helped him sit. And when he wanted to lie down, I helped him lie down. And I counted the minutes until his wife returned because watching a grown man in that much pain was breaking my heart. He just kept muttering over and over, "Oh Mommy Gwenn. Oh Mommy Gwenn. Mwen fè mal. Mwen fè mal.." (I hurt, I hurt.) I just held him and kept saying over and over again, "M konnen, m konnen." (I know, I know.) I felt the same kind of empathy that I feel for my kids when they are sick... I just wished at that moment that I could just take on his pain for him.

Finally his wife, Kati, arrived and took over. I stayed in there a few minutes to get her acclimated with where everything was-- more sheets and pillows, clean towels, etc... But I had to make myself leave, because Black was still in so much pain and his wife just kept telling him to stop complaining. Now, let me again say here that I FULLY recognize this is a cultural thing. But it's one of those cultural things I JUST DON'T GET! HOW do you NOT comfort someone in such severe pain???

Anyway, that's where we are tonight. I am in my room wanting to go check on him but knowing it's not my place. I dipped into my stash of sleeping pills (with doctor permission OF COURSE) to help him get some rest.

I am praying for healing for him. We can't see an orthopedic doctor until Wednesday. Please pray along with me for his pain to decrease well before then...

Functional exercise ideas.

I have this theory that Haiti ages people prematurely. I could offer a lot of photo evidence to the claim, but will not incriminate myself and others I love. :)

The thing I am learning lately is that even though my life if more physically active from a day-to-day perspective here in Haiti, I really am starting to feel OLD. Stress has been at an all-time high (though is starting to descend as I am sleeping well lately.) Everything is just flabbier and saggier. And I just feel like I need to be taking better care of myself.

But here's the thing. I am not going to go to the "gym" downtown. I just can't do it. See, Haitians are naturally ripped (for the most part) and the ones who go to the gym are like the Schwarzenegger type of Haitians. I cannot go there and disrupt their 1,000 pound lifting sessions with my 10 and 15 pound weights on the machines. Plus it's all men. And Haitian men with that much strength and testosterone maybe scare me a little. (Actually, that's just called "wisdom" ... it would just not be wise for me to go there.)

So. I need some functional toning exercises. Something that I can do here that will help me feel healthier and less jiggly. (Though I do understand that at this point, a moderate to high amount of jiggle is a foregone conclusion.)

If you have any ideas, email me at gwenn@joyinhope.org or comment on my facebook once this note imports there...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Our first advent celebration.

Today is the first day of advent and since I've been a very young child, it's been a season I cherish. I loved having nightly devotions with my family as we waited in hope for Christmas, the arrival of our Savior to arrive.

Well. We couldn't drive because of the elections today so we did a home church and started off the advent season together. I am finding out as an adult that my sentimental memories were probably not as sentimental for my parents. I spent most of my time yelling at my kids to be quiet and respectful since we were "in church." (Which of course prompted discussion as to why I was wearing jeans... (don't get me started...)

Anyway, we had just explained the concept of how the Israelites had waited for hundreds of years with only the hope of a promised Savior. I then posed the question, "What is something you've had to wait a long time for that you felt like would NEVER arrive?"

When I was met with blank stares, I elaborated about when we were waiting for Nico to come home from Haiti. It just seemed like it took forever but we were spurred on by the hope that he was coming.

I could see things starting to resonate in their young minds. It's as if lights were starting to go off in their heads. So I again repeated the question-- "What is something you've had to wait a long time for that you felt like would NEVER arrive?"

Josiah's little pudgy hand pops up.

I call on him, "Yes, Josiah. What is something you've had to wait for?"

Without a pause he says, "Si ou genyen cholera, w'ap mouri." (If you have cholera, you're gonna die.)

Nice.

That prompted a fresh round of laughter from the entire family which threw everyone off of the seriousness of the solemn season and then devotions were pretty much over.

Gotta love advent.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Repost: The Nightly Light Contest (a Mangine family tradition)

Originally posted December 2, 2007

The Nightly Light Contest (a Mangine family tradition)

I love Christmas lights. I mean I REALLY love them. That probably came from my dad. He loves Christmas lights and when I was growing up he was a snow plow driver. So he was out driving all over our township at all hours of the night during the Christmas season plowing roads. (I grew up in New Jersey.) Every Christmas Eve after the Christmas Eve service at Three Bridges Reformed Church, we would pile into the station wagon, turn on Christmas music and drive around looking at lights. My dad would save his "favorite" houses to show us that night.

After Nick and I first bought our house about 5 years ago, one of the great joys for us was putting up Christmas lights for the first time. That night we walked around the neighborhood and looked at other people's lights and commented about how ours were better. :)

We were pleasantly surprised by how many people had lights up, so one night we decided to count to see how many people had lights up. The next weekend we decided to walk again and this time we tried to guess at how many people would have lights up. This sort of escalated in the weeks that followed. Each year we've added new "rules" to the contest, and have improved our methods of counting.

So, in case you are wondering, YES! We DO realize we are dorks. But let me share with you the guidelines, rules and procedures for the Nightly Light Contest.

Prior to embarking on the walk, we both silently consider our guess for the nightly count, count to three and say it at the same time. (This may seem juvenile, however, we had some conflict in our family with one family member-- who shall remain nameless-- who had a habit of constantly just waiting for his wife to make her guess and then guess one over.)


We have a set "loop" we walk, with only a little bit of overlap to get to the loop. So, on the way to the loop, we only count on the RIGHT side of the road. Once we reach the loop, we count both on the left and the right. When we've finished counting the loop, we continue with the right side rule until we get back to our cul de sac.

We've recently acquired a "clicker" to keep an accurate count of houses. This has become necessary since we now have small children on the nightly walk who like to distract us and are not very good at counting, so we found ourselves floundering in certainty as to whether or not we had an accurate count. It has worked out well. Tonight Nia tried to claim our number was not right and we showed her the clicker and used our newly coined phrase, "The clicker doesn't lie."

We do NOT count a home until we are passing the driveway of said home in order to not "get ahead of ourselves" and forget whether or not something has been counted.

When passing a cul de sac or side street, we wait until we can see all the houses in the cul de sac and add all the clicks for those houses at once.

There has been a lot of discussion as to what "counts" as a holiday lights. We've come up with the following parameters.
- Any outside lights for the purpose of holiday beautification DO count.
- Any outside lights not specific to the holidays (ie. lamps on a walkway) do NOT count.
- Outside holiday decorations (wreaths, etc) do NOT count, unless they are lighted by a light specifically designed for viewing that decoration. (ie. a spotlight on a holiday display DOES count, a porch light does NOT.)
- Inside holiday lights visible from the outside do NOT count UNLESS the primary purpose of the inside lights is for external adornment. For example, a Christmas tree visible in the window of a home doesn't count. However, lighted candles in the windows DO count.

Lights can ONLY be counted if they are on.

Lights can ONLY be counted when you pass that specific driveway. For example, if you pass a home that has lights up but they are not on, you may not count it, even if you notice later that they ARE on. You may however, wait outside a home to see if lights will be turned on. (Hypothetically, of course.)

Scoring:
The nightly winner is the person who is closest to actual count. If the actual number is evenly in between the numbers guessed by the participants, the participant who guess the higher number will be declared winner.

In theory, you would keep track all season long (each person's guess and the actual number) and determine the seasonal winner. Interestingly, two years ago, I (Gwenn) was the winner in terms of how many nights I was closer, HOWEVER, Nick was closer overall in terms of numbers. (Meaning the nights I was off, I was very, very off.) We have since scrapped keeping track of winners.

I think that's it.

That's the tradition. I know-- pretty dorky-- but LOTS of fun.

PS-- Nick was the winner tonight. I guessed 32, he guessed 39. The actual number was 48.
(Nia guessed 20-- she's not very good at this game.)


****

Edited to add:

So this is no longer relevant now that we live in Haiti, but perhaps we could play a similar game with houses that have electricity vs. houses that do not... hmmm. With modifications we could maybe make this work.


Girlfriends.

One of the hardest parts about our move to Haiti a year and a half ago was leaving my girlfriends. I have THE BEST girlfriends anyone could ever dream of in NC. (You know who you are!) And I REALLY, REALLY missed my girlfriend time. All of you who have great girlfriends know what I am talking about! The people with whom you never have to TRY to think about something to talk about. Conversation just rolls. The inside jokes that never die, the pee in your pants laughing, the conversations you NEVER imagined you'd have out loud.

I HAVE MISSED THAT SO MUCH!

I've tried to connect with Haitian women here to make those kinds of relationships, but the cultural divide is so great that (while I don't doubt it will someday happen) it seems like I am going to have to nurture theses transracial relationships a lot if I hope to get to the pee in your pants kind of place.

Well... I am pleased to announce, that as of the past few months... I HAVE GIRLFRIENDS HERE IN JACMEL! REAL girlfriends.

I would like to introduce everyone to my "core group" of GF's-- (l-r Melinda, Laura, Sarah)... (Yes, I am the oldest. BY A LOT. Don't ask me by how much. :) We generally have a weekly girls night out (GNO), and our group has grown like CRAZY.

Last Sunday night at GNO we had 11 girls--
Me, Ginny, Sarah, Melinda, Amanda, Kara, Laura, Alex, Elizabeth, Natalie, Jen

Tonight is pizza night at Ginny's house. Mdm. BBQ apparently also makes pizza and is making it for us as a special favor to Ginny. Hoping Gette will come along tonight. I will be sure to get pics of the whole group... cause really, you need to meet these gals.

I LOVE HAVING GIRLFRIENDS AGAIN! Bondye fidel...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sanitation and the cholera panic.


Been thinking a lot about sanitation lately as cholera is ravaging Haiti.

Took a few blackberry pics between here and Port Au Prince the other day.






This is WHY 50,000+ people in Haiti have/have had cholera and why it's expected to grow to more than 200,000. It's in essentially every area of the country.

Everyone is sensitive about it. Rumors abound about how it can/cannot be transmitted. (And fyi--Rumors in Haiti might as well be fact with the way people heed them.) I've read article after article about how people are dying trying to get to treatment centers because public transport won't pick them up. I read a quote from an article on CNN yesterday that said the two biggest needs right now in Haiti are doctors/nurses who know how to treat cholera and trucks to carry dead bodies.

I had a good friend of mine (a fellow ex-pat) whose (Haitian) boyfriend's father recently died suddenly in Port Au Prince with cholera-like symptoms. They did a bunch of labs. Turned out he did NOT have cholera. Still, the morgue initially wouldn't take his body. They brought the labs proving it was not cholera from which he died. They finally agreed to take the body, but had to pay double the price because of the "risk" they were assuming.

I don't know what to do to prepare. So far, Jacmel has seen few cases but it's spreading rapidly in other places in the southern peninsula so it's likely just a matter of time. I have antibiotics on hand. I have ORS and IVs for our family but I have no idea what will happen if cholera hits Jacmel with force.

We keep up with what's being said on THIS BLOG. It's discouraging but I believe it is doing an accurate job describing the situation. There are maps that show the country is covered that they regularly update.


Individuals, schools, political candidates, NGO's... everyone is handing out information about prevention and treatment.

Not really sure what else to say, so I have to end the post with a somewhat humorous story about the efforts to curb cholera in Josiah's preschool. They are apparently pretty vigilant about sanitation there. How do I know this? Because Josiah has become the "cholera police" for our family. Any time he sees anyone with their fingers or thumb (read: Nia) in their mouth, he breaks into a speech that goes something like this:

"Madame mwen di ou pa kapab mete dwet ou nan bouch ou. Si ou fè sa, w'ap genyen mikwob ki bay ou cholera. Cholera ap bay ou GWO dyare e w' ap mouri."

Translation:
"My teacher said you can't put your fingers in your mouth. If you do that, you're going to get germs that will give you cholera. Cholera will give you LOTS of diarrhea and you will die."

Not sure if that's exactly how Josiah's teacher puts it (knowing the bluntness of Haitian demeanor, it's likely), but she's made her point one way or another. And Josiah's doing his part to advance public health in Haiti's cholera crisis.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

safety

Hey all.

For a time, I have disabled comments on my blog. I've said it many times, as an external processor, this is where I go to process the events that become the story of my life. I appreciate people reading, but it really is something I do for MY health.

And while I haven't had any negative comments here on the blog lately, I've been dealing with a string of untrue and malicious attacks on my family and my character. They've been so vicious that they have again re-started a process where we question our safety... because we all know that mentally unstable people sometimes do mentally unstable things. I no longer feel safe to travel outside of my home alone without security.

If you have constructive comments, please feel to email me at gwenn@joyinhope.org. Any threatening emails will be blocked and reported to authorities.

Additionally, my blog imports to facebook, so if you're my friend there, you can comment through that venue.

Thank you.




Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Redemption: A story in process.

Redemption is a process.

It's not this thing that happens overnight. I guess sometimes it is. I mean I have seen it happen that way. But more often I've seen how we see an initial step forward, and then it's hundreds and thousands of steps back before we see a few steps forward again.

Let's use Pinchinat as a backdrop to explore this thought.

There was a terrible earthquake in Jacmel and overnight, the city soccer field called "Pinchinat" became transformed to a refugee camp with homes made of sticks, tarps, bedsheets, and palm fronds.

And then everyone thought the Venezuelans were the redemption of Pinchinat... they came in with bigger, more waterproof tents.
(one step forward)

But then... it turned out the tents were waterproof (for a time anyway), but they had no ventilation so they would reach 130+ degrees F or more during the heat of the day. And they were bottomless and so when rained, the whole place was just a muddy mess.
(two steps back)


Diarrhea and scabies spread rampantly...
(another step back)

Then standing water lead to malaria and typhoid...
(two steps back)

and sick, sick babies--
(step back)

Several who died...
(a hundred steps back)


With 8 families per tent and no security, women and young children were vulnerable to rape and sexual assault.
(another hundred steps back)

And just when you think it couldn't get worse...

Tropical Storm/Hurricane Tomas HAD ITS WAY with Pinchinat.
(step back... seemingly, all the way back to start...)


And it seemed un-redeemable.

It SEEMED un-redeemable.

But yet here (just days later) Pinchinat stands again. And somehow it's better and cleaner. There are fewer people. There is less mud. It just doesn't make sense.


Tents (albeit fewer) in place.
(one step forward)



Decorative rock gardens made by residents in the place of tents that were destroyed.
(one step forward)

Haitian tenacity rallies.
(a dozen or more steps forward)
.

But hope doesn't rise again because Haitians are the most amazing people I have ever met (even though they are.) It doesn't rise again because Haitians are the most tenacious people I have ever met (even though they are). It doesn't rise again because Haitians have a super-natural strength to over come adversity (even though they do.)

Hope rises again because real redemption, comes through the
GRACE and MERCY
of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

These pictures I show, are just an allegory for what my life has been like during the past 10 months as well. There have been few steps forward, and many, many, many (seemingly uncountable) hurts and wounds and THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF STEPS BACK.

Relationally.
Spiritually.
Practically.
It's too raw now to explain.
But all of it seems SO broken!

And so, while it doesn't feel like it now, because I know the nature of Christ, I stand with the saying on this sign I saw hanging in Pinchinat yesterday.

Translation: "With Jesus, everything is going to be fine."

"I do believe. Help me over come my unbelief." (Mark 9:24)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Joy in Hope Christmas Shopping-- we need your help!

Hello friends and supporters,

I know a lot of people don't want to hear anything about Christmas until after Thanksgiving... but Thanksgiving is not a Haitian holiday, and it takes TIME to get things here, we have a ministry "family" of 32.... and it takes TIME to get things here. (Did I mention, it takes time to get things here?)

So with no further ado, I'd like to offer you the following link to the Joy in Hope Christmas Registry.

Click on the link and you can be taken directly to an online Target registry where we've registered for gifts for all our kids and our staff. We'd love it if you can help us share this project.

There are two ways to shop:

1. If you are a Triangle, NC local you can go to any Target, print the registry and purchase it from a store. Then you can contact Bev Mangine (919-876-4826) to coordinate delivery.

2. Shop online. Items purchased off the registry will be shipped automatically to Bev Mangine.

(Bev is Nick's mom and is going to coordinate the storing/packing of all gifts.)

A few notes:
When I look at the list, I get overwhelmed. Our family is huge. The need is big. But I know we have people all over the country (and beyond!) who share in our desire to celebrate well. Some info on how we do things at Christmas.

This year each of our 10 children will receive:
  • One DVD
  • A scooter or skateboard
  • One other toy (Barbies for our smaller 4 girls, MP3 players for our older kids, and walkie-talkies for our two little boys.)
We have 22 staff members that we'd also like to bless.
  • For our live-in staff members, this year we wanted to get them one nice gift rather than several small ones. (That's the digital cameras.)
  • We're getting pocket knives for the security guards. (Just wanted to be clear those weren't for the children!) :)
  • Part time staff will each receive a small gift like an umbrella or a wallet.

One more time that link: Joy in Hope Christmas Registry. (in case the link isn't working, copy and paste this into your browser: http://www.target.com/lists/3FVJ2Z5CK8PU5.)

We need to have everything shipped/delivered (or otherwise received) by NO LATER THAN DECEMBER 5th! (That's creeping up on us... so jump on it!)

Pass this info along to your friends and we will be sure to post lots of pictures on Christmas morning!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Have some major organization project to do in the next month.

Seriously, my house is being over-run by crap and I need to sort and throw out (er, redistribute).

(The key is the redistributed items are not allowed to EVER show up at my house again.)

Who is gonna come help me?

Okay, y'all live kind of far for that.

Who's going to give me motivation?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Conclusion on the whole Josiah affair.

So today, I was literally hours away from mounting a plane with Josiah to get this crazy string o'fevers tested in the US of A (I had plane tickets on hold....)

Then Darla Gallentine talked me down.

Josiah now has a diagnosis. And it's really boring. And should have been predictable.

Sinus infection and ear infections.

Now. I am not an idiot mom. (Well, sometimes I am.) But he has not had a snotty or stuffed nose, so sinus stuff never crossed my mind. But apparently the green goopy eyes that have been fused shut with pus every morning was NOT pink eye, that was his SINUS infection draining through his tear ducts.

Turns out also the crusty stuff that he woke up with dried to his face the other morning below his ears were also from the said infection bursting both his eardrums. (And I was ticked off at him for waking me up screaming that night... see THAT's the kind of idiot mom I am... not the not-knowing-that-kids-can-have-a-sinus-infection-in-their-eyes idiot mom.)

This also explains the fevers... especially since the ear infections have probably been going on for some time. At least the fevers since the malaria he had. Darla said that kids who get a lot of recurring ear infections many times won't complain of pain because it's just normal for them to feel that way. (I could draw a lot of parallels to Haitian life here based on that statement, but I will let it go for now.)

The good news is that I have exactly the right oral antibiotic for him with exactly the right antibiotic drops for his eyes and exactly the right antibiotic drops for his eyes. Not an easy thing to accomplish in Haiti.

AND, I found a great ENT in Jacmel. Who actually gave me a followup appointment. At a specific time on a specific day AND actually had a secretary who wrote it in an appointment book AND gave me a reminder card. (I KNOW, RIGHT?!?)

So, within a day or three... this should all be in the passed. (Though he will need to stay on a long course of antibiotics because of his predisposition to ear infections and the length of time this infection festered in him.)

So there it is. A boring old sinus infection. Boring old ear infections. Nothing rare or tropical. Just a normal preschool kid thing. I have never been so happy to be boring.

Bondye fidel.

Blended last names

This post has the potential to offend a great number of people, BUT, since that's sort of where I live these days, what the heck? I have never been a fan of blended last names. Let me clarify-- hyphenated last names. I just don't get it. I mean I can UNDERSTAND why people might want to do it-- perhaps wanting to retain pieces of their former life before their marriage, perhaps not wanting one person to have more "power" in the relationship. Perhaps wanting to acknowledge both partners as equally contributing.

But I just find it confusing. And I think it's confusing for kids. And it has the potential to get really out of control REALLY quickly.

Let's say Ruth Smith married Dan Jackson.

They have a kid named John Smith-Jackson.

John Smith-Jackson marries a girl named Shirley Jones-Franklin.

Their kid is then Jill Smith-Jackson-Jones-Franklin.

And on and on and on...

You have to draw the line somewhere. So where do you draw it? And HOW do you draw it? Whose name goes first? Does that give that person more power?

I think these are all valid questions.

But today, Yves (whose last name is Dervil,) made me a bookmark that has made me rethink my disdain for blended last names.
It kind of has a ring to it for me. :)

These tear-in-the-corner-of-my-eye moments...
when my Haitian kids show me that they are
choosing to connect themselves to me...
they are the glimpses of
hope
and
grace
and
redemption
that remind me that all this is worth it.




Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Here's the thing about Haitians...

When they dress alike and don't smile in pictures, you can NEVER tell them apart.

:)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Let's play a game.

Let's play a game.

J-man has pink eye.

How many people in our house will be infected before this is all over? 16 people live in our house and we have three other day/night employees--- so the upper end would be 19 people.

Extra points for mentioning the names of who will get it second, third, fourth, etc...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

New baby.

No secret that I have the baby bug. It's also no secret that Nick does not have the baby bug. He's coming around. We've basically decided that if the right situation presents itself, we will be open to it. (Now, mind you, for us, the right situation is NOT the 2-3 overwhelmed moms each week at the camps that offer to give me their babies.)

Today Nick was adding all our kids names and birthdays to his facebook and the following (light-hearted... not serious) conversation ensued:

****
Josiah: Why isn't daddy doing MY name yet?

Me: Well, you're last because you're the baby.

Josiah: I don't want to be last.

Me: Well talk to your dad about that. If he'd let me get another baby, you wouldn't be last any more.

Josiah: (walks over to Nick) Dad? Can we get another baby so I won't be last?

Nick: Why don't you tell your mom that I said if she can find another baby, we can get a baby so you won't be last anymore.

Josiah: (walks back over to me) Mom, dad said you can get a new baby!!!

Nico: We gettin' a new baby?!?!?

Nick: Sure, ask your mom about it, she needs to find us one.

Nico: (eyes light up as if he has got it figured out) I know it! She can get one at Pinchinat! There's lots there.

******

Oh my word. It was so funny.

(Maybe you had to be there.)

favorite haiti pic ever.

I have a bunch of stories in my head to share about Hurricane Tomas. I don't have the time right now. But I just had to share this one picture that captured the situation for me. At the risk of sounding like a broken record HAITIAN PEOPLE HAVE AMAZING TENACITY! It's my favorite thing about living here. This picture, to me, shows a tenacity that is just so VERY Haitian. As we were evacuating Dè Izin (a small tent city) mid-storm, people were gathering their most important possessions to take with them. This little girl (standing in front of the "tent" she's lived in for the past 9.5 months) grabbed her Haitian flag.

I. love. that.

I. LOVE. HAITI.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

times like this.

As hard as this terrible weather is for the people of Haiti right now, I am choosing for a few hours to think about something else. (Sometimes I find I have to do that or I fear I will die of a broken heart.)

There's something that feels nostalgic to me about hurricanes. Preparing ahead of time, stocking up, hunkering down, being a little chilly and cozied up in comfy pants. (Nick and I during our college days actually coined the term, "hurricane pants" for really cozy, comfy pants.)

Nick and I have been going through a rough season lately. Not like we don't love each other. In fact, it's the opposite. We've just been weighted down with many responsibilities and are in a very busy season... It's hard to spend time together and there's so much to get done in this season, that it seems were both working really hard, just not working together, which is (if I might boast for a moment,) something we've always done really well together. We're just a good team. But it's just not practical for us to both be in the same place at the same time working on the same thing when we can work apart and get twice as much done (and therefore be that much closer to the busy season ending.)

I know this will pass. It is a season. A lot of it has to do with the paperwork (ie-trips to Port Au Prince) we have to do to make our orphanage legal. A lot of it has to do with Josiah being sick (ie- trips to Port Au Prince.) Some of it has to do with being the parents to 10 children... (that part won't end.)

We're actively trying to plan ways for this season to change. In fact, today we settled on a new vacation destination for the spring to celebrate our 10th anniversary trip that we had to cancel back in October. It was fun to dream together about that together.

But that's not until April. So for tonight anyway, I am going to be completely take a mini-vakay with my hubs. I am going to put the kids to bed, and then we'll slap on some hurricane pants, drink some hot cocoa, open the windows and listen to the rain... feel the wind... be chilly and snuggle up like we did in the olden days...

Makes me think of one of my favorite songs of all times-- (also from the olden days)

"Times Like This" (excerpt) by Edie Brickell

Raise the window, let's listen to the rain
I'll be your pillow rest your head on me again
Here in the darkness let the lightning flash our room
And smell the rain, it's in the air like sweet perfume

I live for times like this...

We've got each other and a soft blanket to share
The rainy weather washed away all of our cares...

Oh I live for times like this
Hey, hey I live for times like this


universal hurricane occurrence

There are some things that are very different about living in Haiti.

There are some things that are just the same.

Today in the car on the way back from Port Au Prince I was double checking with Nick to make sure we were stocked up with everything we needed at home... After the phone call, Hugues (who is starting to speak more English now) says:

*******
Hugues: Um, Gwenn. I have important question.

Me: Sure, what is it?

Hugues: Do you have beer in refrigerator you? (this makes more sense if you understand Haitian grammar.)

Me: Yeah, I think there's some.

Hugues: How much beers?

Me: I don't know, why?

Hugues: Because I think tonight or maybe tomorrow I drink beer.

Me: Okay. (He's like 25 so I don't care as long as he's not getting drunk.) But why tonight or tomorrow?

Hugues: I like drink beer in hurricane.

**********

Apparently hurricane parties are universal.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

the plan.


Well, I know this blog is getting boring with all the health updates and the latest crisis updates, but here's another. (Feel free to not read on.)

Illness update:

-Wildarne is the latest (as of today) to fall to the feverish misery of malaria. She's a tiny little bit of a thing, so please pray for her to recover quickly. She has already started treatment, but malaria SUCKS for a few days. (Plus our TV is broken again, so no movies for her during her day off school tomorrow... maybe Nick will let her play "Angry Birds"on the Ipad. :)

-Josiah is doing much better. He seems well and he hasn't been having fevers. (He has a new cough, but so does everyone in our house-- so don't get your mind a wanderin' with the TB thing... so far the PPD is NON-reactive. However, we've been here before and given the fever history as well as his previous medical history (ie. heart condition) we feel very prompted to do all we can to evaluate everything. We just don't know if the fevers are going to return again (as they have on and off all month). So, fortunately, we were able to get hooked up with a cardiologist in Port who is going to see Josiah tomorrow and he will get a full exam, echocardiogram and all. We have found a lab that will do full blood work-- cultures and all, so we're hitting there too to FINALLY be able to get some of this done. I am so thankful for the "learning how to do this" process while Josiah (or another child) is not gravely ill. Off I journey to Port au Prince even EARLIER tomorrow morning, to arrive at 6:30AM. Eeegads!

Tropical storm update:
Well, it looks like something is coming. We don't know exactly when or how bad it will be. Here is the current projection.

It's looking like by Friday we should be feeling a bunch of rain and wind, however, it appears that it will remain just a tropical storm, right on the cusp of being classified as a hurricane as it hits. (Currently it is a tropical depression, but looks like it will strengthen again to be a tropical storm.) We're doing all the prep right now, but feeling horrible for all those who have no option for preparation. We're opening our home to all our staff and their families as a place to wait out the storm. Pray for continued weakening of the storm.

Also, please continue to pray for the Pye family as they prepare and that Danny would be released so he can be with his family during the uncertainty of this storm.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Singing my brains out.

We left this morning at 4:08 (to be exact).


Had a great drive into Port.  Josiah slept the whole way and Hugues had brought his ipod along.  (Seeing how Nick's got stolen -- like pretty much everything else good we've ever had) and mine got drowned in sweat one morning when Nick was preaching and had it in his pocket.  (Yes, it's THAT hot.)  So it was my first time with music in a long time.

I chose Sara Groves (one of my VERY favorites) and just SANG MY BRAINS OUT!  It was so great.
Pretty much every song hit me at the heart and I even teared up as I sang along...  here are some of my favorite quotes:

- If I were honest with myself, if I were standing at that tree, my mouth and my hands would be covered with fruit-- things I shouldn't know, things I shouldn't see.  Remind me of this with every decision, generations will reap what I sow...

-I've been painting pictures of Egypt, but leaving out what it lacked.  Cause the future feels so hard and I wanna go back.  But the places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I've learned.  Those roads were closed off too me while my back was turned.

- I will not let this bitter root grow in me.  I will not let you leave that legacy.  But it gets so hard when pain is all I see...

- So much of what I do is to make a good impression.  But this journey is my own.  And so much of what I say is to make myself look better, but this journey is my own.... Cause trying to please the world, it was breaking me down, breaking me down.  Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one... cause I know, this journey is my own.

-  May the first song that I sing, be praises to my God and king.

- You wore the chains, so I could be free... you did that for me.

- It's been a hard year, but I'm climbing out of the rubble.


******
I really could go on and on.  I sang my lungs out for like 3 hours. It was a beautiful time of worship for me. Well, 2 and a half hours.  And then I got lost trying to find the hospital and got really pissed off and apparently forgot about God.  (I have a tendency to be swayed by my surroundings I'm afraid.)

The appointment was... well, frustrating.  I walked away literally in tears (but come on, that's not saying much...) Not mad tears, just really sad tears.  I was trying not to cry in front of the doctor but I think I few tears might have slipped out.  Here's what we did learn.  Well, take a look at the diagnosis:

Fever of unknown origin.

Uh, yeah.  I went in with that diagnosis. :)

They did do another urine test (which was all negative.)  Ruled out any hepatitis/liver concerns.  And put in a PPD so we can check for tuberculosis in two days.  They actually said that they think tb is their most likely guess.  I think they are wrong.  I see no evidence (other than the fevers) of TB.  Yes, we live in Haiti.  Yes we are exposed to things like this, but I think he would be sicker.  And I think they were visiting American doctors who have been treating Haitian patients for the last week and didn't consider that our living conditions are a bit different than most of the patients they are seeing.  Either way, we will know in 2 days I guess. :)  (Btw-- as much as I want an answer, pray it's not TB.  That's an 8 month treatment...)

My main frustration was that they couldn't do ANY of the blood work we needed done. They didn't do anything to check on his heart (other than listen with a stethoscope and get a pulse ox reading) I suspect that there is a hidden infection somewhere.  Getting blood work would help us determine that, but it seems to be IMPOSSIBLE to find a lab who has the supplies to do give us the answers we need.

The only other suggestion (other than taking him to the states) is to get some more malaria smears when he is febrile.  When they checked him at the hospital the other morning, he wasn't running a fever, and apparently that matters.

However, Josiah is sleeping soundly.  (And he has been since he fell asleep in the car at about 1 this afternoon... I suspect he will sleep through the night... man I sure HOPE he will!)  He's been fever-free since the middle of last night.


So... here is what I know.

He's healed or he's not.
We will know more soon or we won't.

In the mean time, God is giving me the grace for this minute.

And his grace is sufficient for me, for his power is made PERFECT in my weakness.

grace.

How grateful I am for God's grace.

For those of you new to the concept of grace, let me offer you a few definitions.

Grace: (noun)
1. a manifestation of favor, esp. by a superior
2. mercy; clemency; pardon
3. favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity
4. the freely given, unmerited favor and love of god.
5. the influence or spirit of God operating in humans tor generate or strengthen them
6. the condition of being in God's favor or one of the elect

God has shown his grace to me in all these ways lately. Which isn't to say things have been easy. These past two months have been rather hellish for us.
However, God has been there with his grace throughout it all. He's provided encouragement in emails and phone calls and visitors and well-placed scriptures in the mouths of people I would have least expected. He's shown his provision and the given us the ability to walk on when we just feel as if we can't take another step.

Tonight I come before God and again ask him for grace.for youngest son, Josiah, is sick. He has been sick on and off for a month with very high (105+), somewhat random, fevers. Once it was malaria. The other three times we don't know what it was. We've had many labs done and just today started to maybe get some hints in the right direction. Because of some excellent doctor friends in the states, I now know what needs to be done, but I am also scared out of my mind a little bit because of Josiah's "fragile" medical history. (ie food/medication allergies, former heart surgery, etc.) When I think (and am informed of all the possibilities it COULD be-- anything from NOTHING (just a random stretch of unspecific viruses), to hepatitis, dengue or tuberculosis or even an abscess in his heart...) Man, it just makes your mind wander and let's the worst-case scenario fester in your brain if you're not proactive about staying positive. I would assert this is all the more difficult when you live in Haiti... just because of the number of children you SEE dying around you each month.  Which is where the grace part comes in.

My sister Melody was very wise long ago to remind me that God gives us the grace for the situation we are in, but not necessarily the grace for all the what ifs we imagine. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus. We need to keep our eyes on the unmerited way God clenched us from the paws of death into eternal life. If we can look at that, there is no reason to believe that one way or another He doesn't have our best in mind.

So in just a few hours,Josiah and I are headed out on a journey to a hospital in Port Au Prince that is better equipped to do the necessary testing Josiah requires. I will be honest, I am scared. I have clothes and sheets and pillows and passports packed just in case. I have Hugues coming with me to change any tires along the way and hold Josiah down while he curses at the doctors (in Creole) as they draw blood. Aside from Nick and I, don't think there is anyone who loves my Josiah more than Hugues... how thankful I am that God grafted him into our family as a big brother of sorts for our kiddos.

So here I am again, asking for grace on behalf of Josiah (well, and me too)...  a manifestation of favor, mercy; clemency; pardon, favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity, the freely given, unmerited favor and love of god, the influence or spirit of God operating in humans tor generate or strengthen them, and the condition of being in God's favor as one of the elect.

Join me in this prayer.