Thursday, June 30, 2011

how good and pleasant it is

It's a lovely season of our lives. Having spent a good chunk of time working back towards emotional health, I feel like we are seeing the dividends of that. We're settling back into our own skin and approaching life from a healthier outlook. We feel like the Gwenn and Nick that we were when we lived in the states, and we have our hunger and passion for Haiti back. Our lives are clicking along-- the ministry is becoming more focused and defined, which means programs are being done with more excellence, something I forgot was important to me. We're networking well with other missionaries and NGO's in the area to avoid duplication of efforts. And not for nothing, I am SLEEPING at night. (I am down to 1/4 of an Ambien a night. You all who've known of my sleep struggles know this is huge.)

Integral to this is that for the first time in two years, it feels like we're experiencing a network of true community with other individuals and families here. We're thankful for local people: the Rigels, the Browns, the Webers, the Whitakers, Megan Haug, the Pierce family, the Concepcions, Paul Dehann, Eddy Toussaint, Tina Isenhower, Stacie Tippett, Ginny, Sarah & Laura Wallace, Hugues Pierre, Kyle (before you left for med school you jerk), Melinda McClaren, Vanessa... And probably others too-- sorry if I forgot to add your name! (There are the cool Port people too. And we really were jealous of the community they have there. But now that we're getting our own, we can just be happy for you and not covet. :)) We just glide in and out of each other's homes and lives and work. Some are Haitian, some are American. My kids (American and Haitian) have other kids to play with and speak English with. We may not approach all our projects from the same strategy, but we all really do have each other's back and believe in the value of the work each other is doing.

It's a lovely thing. It's a really, really lovely thing to have people to call who have your back, love your kids and "get it."

It's a JOY working alongside of you guys!

How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity! Psalm 133:1

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tete changes everything.

There have been several people (whom I respect greatly) who've been blogging lately about the need for breastfeeding education in Haiti.

Like this post from Tara.

And this post from Heather.

Which reminded me of this post I wrote a long time ago.

But yeah, if you don't feel like listening to a bunch of white girls rant about what Haitian women should be doing (albeit REALLY cool white girls), just take a look at this picture.

Baby on the left:
Age: 7 months.
Formula fed.
Calculated cost of what formula would be for 7 month old = $1250 US.

Baby on right:
Age: 4 months.
Calculated cost of what breastmilk would be for a 4 month old = $0.

A few things to consider. Both babies are being raised in IDP camps in Jacmel, Haiti. Both moms are single but living with a (somewhat deadbeat) boyfriend.

Haitian minimum wage is $5US/day. However, average Haitian wage is $2US/day. So the amount of money that could be made by one parent in Haiti if they worked EVERY day of the seven-month old baby's life (with no days off) would be $1050US (based on minimum wage.) However, the average amount of money actually made by a parent working EVERY day of the seven-month old baby's life (with no days off) would be $420US. (Based on the average wage in Haiti.)

I don't have a degree in math like Nick Mangine, but this seems like a no-brainer to me.

PS- Tete is the Kreyol word for breast, but I didn't think a missionary should have a blog post called "Breasts change everything." Like how I am all on the down low?

Monday, June 20, 2011

loaner baby.

So we have a baby on loan to us for two weeks... it's baby Schneider again. Though I don't love the circumstances for having him here, I am so glad we get to have him for a bit. He's the cutest baby. Like maybe literally.

My kids cannot keep their hands off him.


Be praying for baby Schneider. He's had a rough (almost) 7 months of life. Way more rough moments than easy moments. Not sure what the best option is going to be for him at the end of his two weeks with us. It was a crazy day today of police station visits, IBESR meetings, run-away baby mama, run-away baby daddy... Phew. Crazy crap that would only happen here.

And (I never thought I'd say this) I am coming to REALLY like the people at IBESR (Haitian social services). Contrary to what I thought their job entailed, they are really doing a good job finding solutions to impossible problems.

Friday, June 17, 2011

As a dog returns to its vomit.

The proverb reads, "As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly." (Proverbs 26:11)

Animals are gross. They eat anything. They are just nasty, especially the ones here. Meat here tastes like garbage because that's what most animals eat.

But I have a theory that humans are grosser.

I have been SO frustrated with, well, pretty much everyone lately. My kids, my family, my staff… not my friends so much (unless you count my friends who are also part of my staff, then yes, I will count that.)

I am just tired of people being FOOLISH. Now, I will warn you ahead of time that this is going to start off as a great big gripe session, but hang in there, because I do have a point. (Well, at least at this point in the game I do… let's see what happens when I finish my griping.)

There's this one mom that Nick and I really want to work with to help. She's single mom of 5 kids and she's, well, she's a mess. She claims to be a really good cook and she wants to start a small food business in the camp she lives in because she thinks she can make some money. She just needs a little start up. We WANT to help her but we have this one sticking point. See, her tent is ALWAYS filthy. Now, I get that it's rainy season and she lives in a camp, but it is SO dirty in there that I seriously just want to puke. Even though I give her diapers all the time, she never diapers her babies. I will go over and the babies will be lying in their own urine and filth on the floor. Chickens will be walking around closed up tent. There will be dozens of clean diapers stacked in the corner and yet the babies will be naked. The smell is horrific and she NEVER opens up the tent to get air. The walls are moldy and mildew-y. Now, I GET that she lives in a camp. But so do the 200 other families around her. They are in transitional housing (meaning she has a concrete floor and half-walls and a breathable tent with ventilation.) Granted, not an ideal place to raise 5 kids, but so much better than a lot of families have it in Haiti these days. Hers is, without question, the filthiest tent of anyone I know in this camp. And her kids are ALWAYS sick. (Duh, of course they are.)

So I want to help her, but I don't feel like I can give her money to start a food-making business in her tent when the conditions are so unsanitary. So, first things first. I asked her if I could help her clean things up. She said she didn't have soap. So one day I went out and bought laundry soap, bleach, bar soap and general cleanser. I bought her a broom and watched the babies for her one morning so she could clean things up. I came back every 3 hours for her to nurse the babies and at the end of the day she had done almost nothing. She promised me that the next day she'd clean up and wash the laundry. But she didn't. This has been going on for weeks now. I tell her that whenever she's ready to get things cleaned up, I am ready to help her get her business started. I GET that is super "white" of me. But it's really not meant to be a "my way or the highway" kind of thing. It's more, "I want to help you but we need to work together on this." There's always a reason why she can't clean up. Or why she can't take her kids to the doctor (even if I give her the money.) There's always a reason why she needs food or medicine or diapers or… whatever. She's ALWAYS calling me. But she's not willing to do the things she needs that I've asked her to do so that we can work together.

There's another lady in the same camp. Not going to go into the whole story, but someone I know just recently helped her escape from her abusive boyfriend. They have a small infant together and he's been beating her (like black and blue beating her) and bringing a 14 year old girl in the tent to have sex with. A friend of mine came up with a safe house solution for her and they made a daring night-time escape with the mom/baby. A week later, in spite of being fed and housed, given employment opportunities and a community to support her, she left the safe house and went back to live in the tent with her abusive boyfriend.



One of my kids keeps getting in trouble for the same thing. Over and over. And over and over and over. And I am just getting tired of it.


It is totally maddening.

And here I am-- sitting on my high horse wondering these things at the same time I am eating ANOTHER pack of Combos. The same time I am saying to myself, "I am tired of being sick. I need to eat better and exercise more. Tomorrow. I am totally going to start that tomorrow. And also tomorrow I am going to get my email inbox down to zero. I am going to spend more intentional time with my kids. I am going to read my Bible. First thing tomorrow morning. But I'd better go to bed early tonight so I am prepared."

It seems like EVERY single day I have this conversation with myself. Tomorrow. For SURE tomorrow. Or maybe Monday… Or the first of July sounds like a good time to get my mess together. But then it's the beginning of the hottest month of the year. So… probably the first of September. Well, actually, the kids don't go back to school until the end of September. So the first of October. Except that I am going on vacation with some friends in October and so that's a really bad time to try to start eating healthier because vacation is a time to celebrate. So November. For sure November. Oh crap-- Thanksgiving. What's that you say? Haitians don't celebrate Thanksgiving? Well I am American and I do. (Some people are so unpatriotic.) So December. But why start something like this right at the beginning of holiday season?

January first it is.

Sounds like a plan.

Y'all. I am a LOSER. I can come up with an excuse for ANYTHING when it comes to something I don't want to do. It's ridiculous. And in my head it's always, "Next time."

So WHY am I judging those around me when I still wear an 18/20 size jeans? Why can't I just get my mess together and do the things I need to do to be a successful individual?

Why not? Because as a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his foolishness.

So here's to all of us stepping into the grace to step out of our own vomit. The single mom with the dirty tent. The abused girl with battered wife syndrome. Me and my stupid obsession with food issues. You and your issues with ___________.

It is ONLY through grace that we can step out of our folly.
PS- I wrote this yesterday and when I went to see the mom today she'd cleaned up her tent. (I told you I am all up on a high horse.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Hey guys. Sorry for the relative silence. It's been a discouraging (and sick) couple of weeks in our house.

Please pray for our physical health. We've just gone from one thing to another and when there are 17 people living in a house... well, you get it.

In related news, if you have ANY tips at all on ridding your home of staph, please share.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Malaria and dengue.

There's been a ton of rain lately. Rain in Haiti = malaria (and dengue.)

Malaria is not fun, BUT, it's actually not that big of a deal. It's like having the flu but shorter because chloroquine works quickly and effectively. (Unless you're Josiah who has an allergy to it... guess how we found out?) But nonetheless, when one of our kids starts getting sick I always find myself thinking, "I hope it's malaria." I know it will be miserable for a couple of days but I also know how to handle it.

We don't know for sure because there is not a test available for dengue in Haiti, but we suspect that Josiah had dengue fever last week. This is what Dokte Jen suspects (based on his symptoms and bloodwork) and the day he got home from the hospital he had a rash on his belly chest and back-- leading further credence to our (well, her) hypothesis. For the most part, Josiah is better. He's lost a TON of weight. I wish I would have thought to weigh him before/after. He also tires more easily and take LONG (like 4-5 hour long) naps in the afternoon. I've read that it can take a month to bounce back all the way from dengue. But he's feeling much better, eating and drinking and causing daily-increasing trouble. So that's pretty indicative of him being on the mend. :)

Yesterday when he cut his own hair with craft scissors and I had to shave his head.

His weakened state made this easier to accomplish. And then his obstinacy about me showering him after the haircut seemed to wear him out because he fell asleep (buck naked) for the next 4 hours.

Oh Josiah.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Two good surprises.

Haiti is a place where you get surprised every day. Usually those surprises suck. Ie- "Surprise, you have no water!" or "Surprise, no power today!" or "Surprise, your kids teachers are tired so there's no school today!" or "Surprise, your horn's been replaced with a Haitian horn that has different super-embarrassing"ringtones!" or "Surprise, IBESR is here with 7 employees for a four hour inspection!" or "Surprise, you just paid $579 for your new air conditioner and the hope of a more comfortable life this summer but guess what? Your power won't let it stay on for more than 10 minutes at a time." Surprise!

It's not that the surprises are NEVER good. Sometimes the surprises are good... but usually they are just something that cost money or cause inconvenience. (Or more likely, both.)

Today, however, I had not one but TWO good surprises. (Which two good surprises is almost like a third surprise, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.)

First surprise- Josiah is great. He's (for all intents and purposes) better. It was like a switch flipped earlier in the day and he's fine now. Phew. That boy knows how to scare me. He's still looking skinny and kind of sickly, but a few days around my staff catering to his every whim will fatten him up and brat him back up. :) A big giant thank you to the people who were praying for him (and us.) I am so relieved and feel like I can breathe a bit easier.

Well, the first surprise LEAD to the second surprise. Last night I pretty much had it in my mind we would be headed to Port Au Prince with Josiah to take him to a different hospital. When he was just better this morning, it meant that we no longer had to go to Port and it also meant that I was free to take my day off. During the last 6 months or so, days off have become pretty sacred around here but (obviously) when you have a sick kid, all bets are off. So surprise #2 was that I have the day off. There's a big temptation when there have been weeks like this to just fight through and skip the day off because you're already so behind from the work that DIDN'T get done when Josiah was in the hospital. It was after I decided I was taking the day off that I was reading this post of Tara's blog. (Tara Livesay is one of my very favorite people in the whole world.) My favorite part of the blog was her quoting Beth McHoul who said to her once, "unhealthy people make the best missionaries." It's SO true. I have fallen into this trap over and over. I have seen others fall into it and take their family and ministry down. I never realized how important it was until our lives fell apart from the lack of it.

So all that is to say, I just slapped my bathing suit on and am headed out to the beach with the single ladies. And no, I am not going because they are single. It just happens that the all of these particular girls that I am headed out with are single. Which means, yes, I will ABSOLUTELY be blaring Beyonce on the way there.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Haiti-riffic day.

Today has been a doozy.

First a ti (little) update on Josiah...

Josiah has been pretty sick.

We went to the doctor on Monday and he had some labs done and all the results pointed to a virus. No malaria (which is good because he's allergic to chloroquine), no typhoid (which is good because he got the vaccine when we were in the states and paid out of pocket, so I want it to work. (Okay, for all you people out there devoid of a sense of humor, that was SARCASM. I really don't want it to be typhoid because I don't want Josiah to have typhoid.) I don't care the cost. (Even if it was like $80.--- again, sarcasm. Don't worry, you'll learn.) But I digress... Doctor said he thought it was a virus. Sounded good to me. I had some assurance to give it a bit more time but felt confident it would clear up the moment I left the doctor. And yesterday he seemed to be on the mend. He was taking small sips of things.

But then the barfing started in again last night. And then the stomach acid barfing. And then the dry-heaves.

Morning rolled around. More of the same... Barfing, bile barf, dry heave. Repeat ad nauseam. (Pun intended.)

I finally buckled and gave Josiah the shot the doctor gave me to give him of anti-nausea meds if the barfing persisted (which I think I've established that we have.) He hated me for about 25 seconds after I gave him the butt shot, but then he fell asleep. This medicine did help with the nausea, however, it made him so dang tired that we couldn't get him to drink but just little, little bits. He woke from his drug-induced stupor about 4-5 hours later vomiting his little brains out, and quite freaked out because it was like the scene in 'Stand by Me' where the big kid from the pie-eating contest... well, you know.

Not wanting to waste any more time I high-tailed it over to the hospital with him. They did a dossier for him real quick and then we were seen fairly quickly in the urgency area. They got some info and decided to admit him.

So that's where he is now. He's in the peds ward at St. Michel hospital in Jacmel. I am not going to lie, this hospital has some reputation-problems for a good reason. (I won't mention its nickname around here.) It's sort of a last resort. But I didn't go there because I can't afford to take Josiah somewhere else. I took him there because he needed fluids and I could get them quickly there.

The big concern with Josiah is hydration. Poor little bugger can't hold anything down. Not even a teeny, tiny bit. This was a way to get him hydrated quickly and near our home while still getting some medical supervision.

So he's there all tucked in for the night. He's got my Ipod (with some Sesame Street videos on it), his new Mercy books and his Mercy pig. And oh yeah, his pillow and sheets and towels and stuff. (Cause you have to bring all that to the hospital here in this country-- they did, however, provide a mosquito net... go figure.)

So, tomorrow morning he's (hopefully) more hydrated and feeling better. Nick is on with him tonight but I will head back over tomorrow morning.

We'll keep you updates as we know more.

Monday, June 6, 2011

the thing(s) about living here.

I love Haiti (duh.) I love living here.

But there are times when I don't love living here and that's when my kids are sick. The thing about living here is that when your kids are sick, you have to at least entertain the thought of wild/weird tropical diseases.

Case in point.

Josiah has been barfing for the past 36 hours or so. Can't hold anything down. Has a high(ish) fever. (102.7 was the highest but now it's staying right around 102.) I give him Tylonel. He barfs up the Tylonel. I give him a few licks of a Pedialyte pop, he barfs up those licks. I give him the tiniest sip of water... well, you get it. Any normal parent who has a kid with a stomach bug would be the most nervous about the hydration issue.

And I am.

But the thing about living here is that you also have to think about things like typhoid. And cholera. And malaria. And dengue. And hepatitis. (And all other sorts of water/food-borne nastiness.)

Now, let me be clear. I don't think it's any of those things. But since these symptoms are sticking around longer than a traditional 24-hour bug, we have to start investigating them. That most likely means blood work and urine/stool samples. They will most likely start him on an IV.

He will probably be better later this afternoon (well before we even get the results of the tests returned.) He probably just has a nasty stomach virus.

But the thing about living here is that you just can't wait and see.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ain't it the truth?

Facebook You vs. Real You: The Animated GIF!
see more Failbook

Random "newsy" stuff.

  • It's raining, it's pouring. Yesterday started Hurricane season and we were surprised with a tropical depression that's still bearing down on us. Lots and lots and LOTS of rain. Imagining the muddy hell that are the camps. This feels discouraging but not in the overwhelming way that it did this time last year. This year (I think) I have a healthier view as I am trying to stay focused on doing a few things and doing them well. Yesterday my friend Sarah told me this Mother Teresa quote that really resonated. “What we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But if that drop was not in the ocean, I think the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. I do not agree with the big way of doing things."
  • Yesterday was Josiah's birthday. My baby is 4. He's one of the most amazing ways God has ever showed his love to me. He's also one of the most, hem... "thorough" ways God has used to teach me patience. That kid is a rascal.

  • I am missing some big events back in the states this month. Like really MISSING. This weekend my friend Erik is getting married. Erik is the closest thing to a brother I've ever had. Best wishes Erik and Stacy. I can't wait to see pictures of the big day!

  • My sister (Melody) is due to have a baby in just a few weeks. I HATE that I am missing this. This is not the first niece I will miss the birth of. No. It is the third. You'd think it gets easier to miss things like this. It doesn't.
  • In case you're not on facebook/twitter, we are pleased to announce publicly a new member of our family--
Yes my friends, Nick and Gwenn Mangine have an air conditioner for our bedroom. (Whenever I say that I really can't get the song "Love Shack" to stop from playing in my head.) The irony is that we bought it on Monday and it's been cool ever since. So we haven't used it yet. And in fact, last night I almost got up and put socks on because I was so cold. But to quote Nick Mangine, "If we never have to plug it in, it will still be worth the money." I know this is idiotic, but I can't even explain the sense of lightness that's returned to my heart since getting this bad boy...

  • Nick claims to speak French these days. He would argue that he's 80% fluent. I would argue that he's 0-1% fluent.
  • I am starting to think about embracing aging. Now, don't misunderstand me. I am not happy about the physical signs of age my body is showing. But I am BEGINNING to think about questions like this, "What would it look like if I truly didn't care about what other people thought about how I look?" I watched a movie about Amish people last night and the point was made that most of our sins in some way come from pride. Isn't it ironic that I have been working for months to try to teach my 4 year-old son that he's not the center of the universe and I think I might have forgotten to teach myself that I am not either.
  • We're passing a (mild) staph infection around the family. (Bet you feel like visiting.) So far this is who's been hit-- Nia, me, Yves, and Josiah. It's weird, it seems like there's a ton of it going around Haiti lately. I had a bunch of my friends in Port deal with it recently, as well as a couple of other people in Jacmel have recent problems with it. I know it's wicked contagious, but is staph like the flu in that there are certain seasons it's more likely?
  • Ok- that's all for now. I am going to log off and ENJOY my day off. Have a great day!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011