Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My mom's morbid fleece

I was looking across the room at this blanket that was draped over one of the chairs in the living room and thought, "Why does my mom have that crazy, creepy skull blanket in her living room?"

And then I realized I was just looking at it upside down.

Okay- come on! That's weird, huh?

Monday, December 26, 2011

all in the family...

A few times in the past I have been accused of being dramatic. (Uh... duh!)

While looking through pictures from Christmas yesterday I realized where it came from. Let me let you in on the secret.

Here's a pic of me opening a great gift from my kids--

And here's my mom opening a great gift from my dad--

Just saying, I come by the drama honestly.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

comparing piles

We had a great Christmas day. The American child contingent who were with me were SURPRISINGLY well behaved considering the indulgence of the holiday.

All day long I have been asking Nick to send me a picture of the kids opening presents. Instead he sent this "before" picture. I couldn't help but notice how skimpy the pile looked under the tree. Don't get me wrong-- the kids got plenty and they got really nice stuff. But here's the pile for 14 people (9 children, 5 adults.)

Compare that with THIS pile (below) for 6 people in America (3 children and 3 adults.) And this wasn't even all the gifts!

Made me feel a bit like maybe I got sucked into the marketing machine that brainwashes us into thinking we want and need more... (Well, not maybe... definitely.)

But it is the tiniest consolation to me that my kids absolutely adore the presents they received. So that's something, right?

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My life as a rat-bat.

So I went out on a bit of a fashion limb yesterday when I bought a new top off the clearance rack at TJ Maxx for $6. It's not something I'd normally wear but what the heck? It was six bucks and I thought I liked it. And all the kids in our family were getting new Christmas Eve clothes, why not me too?

When I got home I put it on and asked Nia what she thought. She gave me a long once-over and then said carefully, "You know, I remember studying something in science class..." (I knew in my head a compliment was not coming.) "... I remember studying this mammal..."

"...It wasn't a rat..."

"... but it wasn't a bat..."

"... it was kind of like a bat with wings. You kind of look like that."

Upon relaying the story to Nick Mangine, he quickly inserted, "Oh geez, she's talking about flying squirrels... we were reading about them. I feel certain that's what she's talking about. (sigh)"

So I after I got dressed tonight I asked her, "Nia, was it a flying squirrel you were thinking of when you told me I looked like a rat-bat yesterday?"

Her face light up with recognition, "Yes! That's exactly it! You look JUST LIKE a flying squirrel!"

So here I am. The rat-bat-flying squirrel mama.

I still kind of like the shirt.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


As I was downloading pics from today onto my computer I saw this image and thought, "Wow, this is what Christmas in the States feels like." It's fast-paced, dizzying, and somewhat out of focus.

I will be the first one to admit that I have NOT done a good job of making Christmas about the birth of Christ. Our lives are chaotic this year. And yeah, it just feels like I have failed in so many ways to make this Christmas season as awesome as last year.

Which is why it was also good to have this pic on my card-- from the Crosspointe service. I won't ruin the surprises for those of you hitting one of the next SEVEN still available, but I will just say it was very mellow and low-key... and focused on Christ.

Thanks, Crosspointe, for slowing me down and reminding me tonight of what I needed to hear in the midst of the chaos.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Culture Shock, Reverse Culture Shock, and Reverse-Reverse Culture Shock.

One of the things you will hear missionaries talk about all the time is this totally weird feeling of fitting in nowhere. And everywhere. And nowhere. When you're "here" you're thinking about how much you miss it "there." When you're "there"... well, you get it.

Culture shock is a phenomenon most of us have experienced at times. I thought I'd consult an expert on the topic and I remembered something once said by Michael Scott, "Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information." So Wikipedia seemed the best place to start.

Do a quick Wikipedia search on culture shock and you will read this, "Culture shock is the anxiety, feelings of frustration, alienation and anger that may occur when a person is placed in a new culture."

Totally serious-- when I first moved to North Carolina at age 18 after growing up in New Jersey my whole life... culture shock. Like seriously. I didn't understand people when they talked. And once I did come to understand the accent, their expressions were "adorable" to me and I'd make people say them over and over. (And you can bet your sweet tail that Southerners did not appreciate a Yankee thinking their expressions were adorable.) But they were. I still stand by that. (Bless their hearts... ;)

But nothing really prepared me for the culture shock I'd experience upon visiting Haiti for the first time. I remember having the thought, "Oh wow. Places like this really DO exist." I mean, sure, we've all seen the pictures in National Geographic. You know the ones you showed your friend as a kid because it had the baby who looked like a skeleton and the topless old woman with her skinny saggy breasts down to her belly button. (I am not using hypothetical descriptions, I remember seeing these two pictures in National Geographic when I was a kid.) But I wasn't REALLY aware that conditions like that REALLY existed. And there I was seeing it with my own eyes.

And then I moved here. And there was a ton of transition. The speed at which vacillation between love and hatred for this country was astounding. Poor Nick. The only way I can explain transition to someone who has not lived through it is that it's like being a pregnant lady. Or living with one. One minute everything is great, everyone is happy and then WHAM! EVERYTHING sucks. Nothing is good enough. Nothing is clean enough. What were we thinking? (Blah, blah, blah...) You can imagine how charming this must have been for Nick Mangine, (who, incidentally) was going through his own case of transition. Oh man, I just thought of this... can you IMAGINE being PREGNANT during a cultural transition? Wow. I shudder at the thought. But, as always, I digress.

I have been back to the states LOTS of times in the past two and a half years since moving here so it's not always very pronounced, but still, there's always at least a bit of this WEIRD reverse culture shock.

Wikipedia has this to say about reverse culture shock-
  • Reverse Culture Shock (a.k.a. "Re-entry Shock", or "own culture shock"[5]) may take place — returning to one's home culture after growing accustomed to a new one can produce the same effects as described above. This results from the psychosomatic and psychological consequences of the readjustment process to the primary culture.[6] The affected person often finds this more surprising and difficult to deal with than the original culture shock.
Did you catch that last sentence? Let me repeat it for those of you who are "skimmers" of the blog--

The affected person often finds this more surprising and difficult to deal with than the original culture shock.

We talk to short term teams about reverse culture shock. We warn them it is coming. But the warnings don't seem to really sink until BAM! you're in it and it's TOTALLY weird. And the next thing you know you're falling apart in tears in the Walmart screaming at your two year old who wants to buy yet ANOTHER pocketbook when you're there to buy shoes for the kids at the Durham Rescue Mission and does she KNOW what it's like to not have shoes? No she doesn't know. And if she did know then she'd stop whining and asking for stupid stuff because there are kids that don't HAVE shoes. That's who we're buying them for. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.)

How do you make "here" and "there" all fit in the same picture? Heck, how do you put them in the same WORLD? It doesn't make sense.

But being quite the jet-setter these days (ha!) with all my "glamorous" trips back and forth between the poorest country and the richest country in the hemisphere lately, I have sort of grown accustomed to both places. Neither felt weird for the most part. I could drive and speak in both cultures. I could roll with the punches either place. Being such a people person, my love for people in each place was enough to propel me towards positive thinking whichever place I was. For the most part anyway.

But for this past trip, I left under pretty scary circumstances. And I was in the states for a LONG time. (More than FOUR weeks.) And I was there during Thanksgiving and the Christmas season with Santa and Christmas shopping and all sorts of crazy cultural customs. It has been GREAT, don't get me wrong. But there are ALL sorts of twangs. ALL sorts of trying to figure out which end is up and wondering why we do the things we do. I was getting into a groove (except for the full day-long temper tantrum I had about my inability to unlock my telephone in the richest country in the hemisphere... but I digress.) So I was in this groove. And while I REALLY missed Nick and the kids, it was pretty much all good. Until I came back home again last Tuesday.

And then, man!, reverse culture shock hit me HARD coming back to Haiti. (Or I guess it's reverse-reverse culture shock?) It was as if I had never lived here. Everything about Haiti annoyed me. Like pretty much everything. And everyone. (Well, except my kids... but, honestly, even they got a bit annoying after a few minutes.)

I read down on the Wiki page on culture shock and read about how culture shock is part of a category of shock called "Transition Shock." (Italicized below is from the this page.)

Culture shock is a subcategory of a more universal construct called transition shock. Transition shock is a state of loss and disorientation predicated by a change in one's familiar environment which requires adjustment. There are many symptoms of transition shock, some which include:

  • Excessive concern over cleanliness and health
  • Feelings of helplessness and withdrawal
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Glazed stare
  • Desire for home and old friends
  • Physiological stress reactions
  • Homesickness
  • Boredom
  • Withdrawal
  • Getting "stuck" on one thing
  • Excessive sleep
  • Compulsive eating/drinking/weight gain
  • Stereotyping host nationals
  • Hostility towards host nationals[8]
So out of those 15 symptoms, I have experienced at least 14 during the past several days since being back home in Haiti. (I'll let you all wonder which one I HAVEN'T experienced! ;) And here I am heading out again next week for a few more weeks in the states. (So will that be reverse-reverse-reverse culture shock? Followed by reverse-reverse-reverse-reverse culture shock when I return again in January?)

I must say, more and more (for more reasons than I have time/energy to explain) lately I long for us all to be a part of the kingdom of God.

No more goodbyes.

No more accidentally speaking Kreyol to black (non-Haitian) people in the states when they hold the door for me.

No more culture shock.

No more reverse culture shock.

No more reverse-reverse culture shock, etc. etc. etc...

*Top Illustration from
**Bottom Illustrations belong to Lea Becker, and were inspired by her trip to South Africa.

On a moto, episode 9, Knock-Knock...

I wish I had snapped a shot of this from the moto driver's perspective because he was actually holding it as well-- and from the front it wasn't obvious that there was someone on the back. It was pretty impressive.

Also impressive is that I had my camera in the camera bag on the front seat of the car and (while driving) I managed to fetch the camera and get this shot. Multi-tasking should be my middle name.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A thank you to our church home, Crosspointe.

I got a message a few days ago asking us if we'd left Crosspointe. This friend had noticed that I'd been attending Source Church and was curious if we'd left Crosspointe.

The answer is NO!!! Definitely not! We are Crosspointe people-- that's our family.

We have been staying out in Manteo this trip and the 3.5 hour commute to Crosspointe each Sunday might take a toll... so we're being loved on by another great community of people in Manteo for the majority of time we are here. Hope that makes sense.

I just wanted to take a moment to publicly thank our Crosspointe family, once again for continuing to support and love us well. Our lives have been somewhat turbulent in the past few years since moving to Haiti, and Crosspointe has never wavered in their support-- (financial, emotional, spiritual) even when we felt like we were wavering.

You guys are the bomb. In case you're a member of the Crosspointe family and you're not really sure how your tithes and offerings support our family, let me share just a bit--

  • First-- Crosspointe provides our family with significant regular financial support. You are our sending church and your support accounts for almost 50% of our monthly family budget.
  • Second-- special gifts. Over the years Crosspointe has SPOILED us with great computers and electronics, cool family presents and cash to love on our family well during holidays and furloughs. I am writing to you today on my laptop that was a gift from Crosspointe. I have a Wii in my car with 4 controllers that was a Christmas gift from Crosspointe to our family!!!
  • Third-- HEALTH. Crosspointe has always been committed to helping our family be healthy for service. Always. Since the beginning you have helped coordinated and foot the bill for the extensive counseling, debriefing, therapy that we've needed to keep our wits about us on this really weird life journey we're on. This has been the most significant blessing I can think of. Through crazy life events and trauma, Crosspointe has been there for us... coming along side of us. When we were going crazy, you sent friends down to be with us... to live with us and sit with us. When our kids needed to evacuate the country after the earthquake, you spent significant time and money to make that happen, even though it seemed a logistical impossibility.
I am so thankful for our church family.

Thank you, Crosspointe family, for giving sacrificially so that we can be sent out so well-resourced.

We will be around a few Sundays at Crosspointe (as well as for one of the Christmas Eve services) before this is all said and done. So I hope I get to see you all, to hug your necks and thank you in person. But if not, I don't want it not said so let me very intentionally say thank you.

Thank you for loving us.
Thank you for walking with us.
Thank you for steering us towards life, health, and, most importantly, JESUS.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Jotham's Journey

So those of you who have been following along for some time know that I LOVE the advent season. It's always been something that has been super-significant in our family. My mom always made it a special time of the year.

This year we are reading the book, Jotham's Journey, as a part of our celebration of advent. It is fantastic. It was recommended to me long ago by my friend Kris, but when Nia was wee it was out of print. And then life happened and maybe I forgot about it. But this year I remembered it again and thanks to Al Gore's invention, the internet, I found out that it's in print again AND they had a Kindle version. Score.

I downloaded it (it's actually part of a trilogy so you have three years worth of material to read with your kids, but I digress.)

Jotham's Journey is about a young shepherd boy (I think he's 10 years old) who, after a stubborn argument with his father, runs away hoping to be found. When he finally returns home his family has left thinking that he was killed by a wild animal. It is the story of Jotham trying to find his family. It's separated out for the days of advent and each night after another installment of the story it has a short lesson that teaches about Christ/prophesy/advent.

The story is pretty captivating and exciting. I am making myself not read ahead so that I will be motivated to read it with my kids each day. This is tough for me because I am REALLY, REALLY bad at delayed gratification. But so far so good. ;)

So-- back to my point. There's a paragraph in this book that gripped my heart when I read it several nights ago and I keep going back to read it because it won't let go.

Just three sentences of back story... This is very early in the book. Jotham has been taken in by a kind family. The father in the family is named Eliakim and the first night Jotham is there they are gathered around for family devotions when this dialog is spoken--

"It is written," he started without introduction, "that Jehovah shall send His Anointed One to bind up the brokenhearted, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve. And so we wait. We wait for that Anointed One to appear; we wait for the Messiah to reveal himself to us. But this day," he continued, looking now toward Jotham, "this day Jehovah has brought one who cannot wait. He has brought one whose heart is broken, one who mourns, and one who grieves. And so," Eliakim said, looking now at the other faces in the camp, the light of the fire dancing on his own, "we must ourselves be like the Messiah to this young one. Even as we wait for Jehovah's Anointed, we must act as he would. We must do what we must to bind the broken heart, comfort he who mourns, provide for him who grieves. It is thus so, and it shall be, in the name of Jehovah."

May we be like the Messiah to those we meet each day who are brokenhearted, who mourn, who grieve, and who cannot wait.