A Pain In the Gum.

I won’t lie. I was feeling a bit anxious going into yesterday morning.

About two weeks ago my wisdom teeth started giving me problems, at least the two I still had. It started with pressure on my jaw and then the whole left side of my face feeling pressure, a headache and an aching neck. We went to our dentist in Gonaives last Monday, hoping he would be able to pull them out there, but without x-rays he didn’t want to go ahead because it’s an invasive surgery.

I should stop here and just mention something that some of you might not know – white people and black people’s jaws form differently. I don’t know about other races, so someone can feel free to chime in down in the comments if they want. People from African descent tend to have jaws that are larger, and therefore it’s very normal for wisdom teeth, or the third molar, to come down or in normally. Us white people, not so lucky.

Now, let’s put this in the context of Haiti. I am a white girl in a black culture. Going into to dentist office to explain that I have teeth that just never came in is stressful enough. I was worried that I would get resistance from our dentist simply because it’s not a common problem with 99.5% of his patients that he sees. Thankfully Dr. Miguel was great and completely understood. He has big posters of teeth and jaws on his wall and we were able to talk about everything with those. I’m also thankful that he knows his limits and had no problem telling us that he would rather refer us to a colleague in Port than do it himself. A quick phone call later and things were all set up for me to see his friend at the Dental University in Port au Prince yesterday.

I had been there before, last summer, to get x-rays on my front tooth so Dr. Miguel could do a crown for me (which turned out so well!), so there was some level of familiarity. But, I knew this would be different.

The university, like most places in Haiti, is not what you or I might expect. Some of the teaching areas are very basic and open air. The equipment might be older, but it still does the job. Despite appearances, they’re doing good work there. Upper level students must have been working on dental castings yesterday because repeatedly they came in to where I was having my work done to get Dr. Phillogene’s approval on things.

We waited in the waiting area, which is a nice deck lined with chairs. When it was time for the consultation part of things Chris and I went in and sat with Dr. Phillogene to start my file. We met his colleage, Dr. Felix (I think!). We discussed the issues I’d been having and then headed back for x-rays.

The x-ray room is about 5×10. The walls are nicely installed wood panels, I think plywood, with finishing. The window has re-bar bars on it with a screen. There’s no light bulb in the socket on the ceiling, but that makes sense if you consider it’s an x-ray room with a window. The darker the better. There is a chair to the left of the door, an x-ray chair. I sit down and there’s a piece of pvc pipe coming out of the floor that’s just the right height to use as a foot rest. I think it might have been there to allow for a drain of some sort, assuming that they were maybe going to use the room for something else other than an x-ray room at some point. On the wall to the left of my chair is a very old x-ray machine. It only gets plugged in when they need to use it, because this is Haiti, and power is crazy here and it would probably get fried if it was left plugged in. There’s another, slightly newer x-ray machine in there, but they aren’t using it for some reason. Maybe it’s the back up? Over in the corner to the right is a basic table with a portable “dark room” unit on top. Inside is a cup of solution to develop the x-ray films and the doctor or tech just pulls everything apart inside and then dips the films in the cup to expose them. After a minute, they get pulled out and the window is used to check out the contents.

We do my x-rays. It’s obvious that the top tooth is pushing into the roots on the one before it. I’ve felt the pressure for a while now and am looking forward to getting it out. We redo the bottom x-rays 4 times because the bottom tooth is so close to the surface that it looks like one of my regular molars. Initially it was so confusing that everyone thought the pain I had was from just the top and that I didn’t actually have a bottom one, but after some closer looking the dental work in my last molar showed that the wisdom tooth was right there, and explained why my gum was getting soft in that place. It was trying to push up, but giving me a lot of pain in the process.

X-rays are done and I get settled in for the work.

I should back track here and tell you that the last time I had this procedure on my right side wisdom teeth, the top one had already pushed down, and the bottom one was a challenge. It had grown too close to the bone and they had to grind off some of my jaw bone to get it out. I didn’t get put under, but rather had local anesthesia for all of it. Yes, I hurt after, but it wasn’t terrible and within 24 hours I was eating soft foods. I didn’t swell up too badly and I didn’t bruise at all.

I got frozen and they went to work. They were doing the removals in their teaching room where they have 8 chairs set up in one big room. I’m guessing, from our previous visit, that they have days where they accept patients and upper level dental students get to work on teeth with supervision. We were the only ones in the room yesterday. Yes, their equipment might have been a bit older, but everything was clean and sterile and they were diligent about all of that through everything. I lost track of how many glove changes happened.

I would really love to say that things went smoothly and it was easy, especially with the location of my teeth, but I can’t do that. Nope. Apparently another 18 years actually makes things more difficult. It gives your teeth more time to grow closer to your jaw bones and to grow into the roots of your other teeth. No, there was nothing easy about yesterday.

I did end up getting some of my left jaw bone ground off. I guess it’s good to keep things equal, right? I wish I was exaggerating when I say that they had my mouth open for about 3 hours. Not just me laying there with them looking at things. That was 3 hours of grinding, digging and prying. My mouth has been contorted in ways I didn’t know was possible. Eventually my very obstinate teeth gave up and let go, but they did not do it happily.

Now, I know that some of you might be thinking something along the lines of this whole thing taking a long time because of ill experienced dentists. I’m going to shut that down right now. Yes, they may have not had extensive hands on practice with wisdom teeth (even the poster in the room showed all molars in place, none impacted) but they were very thorough every step of the way. They didn’t do anything until they were satisfied with the x-rays, and they deliberated over every step for best practice options. They worked hard. They listened when I told them I needed to be shot with more freezing. They did a good job. At one point I thought about asking for my phone so I could get a picture of their two heads bending over me with the concentration I was seeing, but I thought that might be a tad distracting and weird :)

No, I very much appreciate Doc Phillogene and Doc Felix for what they did for me yesterday. They earned every Gourde we paid. I wasn’t an easy patient in the sense that things were straight forward. In fact, on the way home Chris and I were laughing (as much as I could laugh) at the fact that they were kind of on a high because of the procedure they’d just done. I can’t imagine they get many opportunities, if any, to do it, so it was that high of having accomplished something and helping someone at the same time. It made me happy to have provided them with the experience. When I gave birth to Alex I was asked if it would be okay for a second year med student to observe the birth. By the end of it she was taking pictures for our family, and the next morning my delivery doc thanked me for allowing her to be there because my birth had been completely natural, and Alex was a big baby. She was happy that this med student got to see that so early in her studies, but also to see that as a woman. I felt thankful that I got to be part of that, and I felt the same way yesterday. Maybe I provided an opportunity to learn. Maybe those dentists will be able to teach others and help others because of that experience.

I realized a lot of other things while lying on the chair yesterday.

Our society likes to soften the blows of reality. We like to remove the hard stuff whenever we can. I’m not being critical, just stating a fact. We avoid pain, and we avoid even knowing the details sometimes. In this specific example, it’s common practice to be put under rather than have local anesthesia so that you not only don’t feel anything, but also don’t remember it. I get it, oh boy, do I get it! There were times yesterday where I thought, “This is why. This is why they knock you out. They do it so you don’t have to feel the insane amount of pressure put on your mouth from them trying to get leverage. They do it so you don’t hear the tools grinding against your teeth. They do it so you don’t have to watch them trying to figure out what to do next. You just get to wake up being sore and thinking this is just what it is.”

And then I would think about all the Haitians that might never get to go to a dentist in the first place. And then about those that might and wondered what quality of care they would get. I thought about all the people I’ve met here with missing teeth, knowing that many of those probably came out with no anesthetic. And I felt grateful that there is a teaching university in Haiti with guys like this leading the way. Aside from doing a job I could tell they cared about doing it well. It wasn’t a show for me. I was just a patient with a problem.

I thought about the fact that being awake for the whole procedure helped me appreciate all the work that went into helping me feel better, and how grateful I was to be able to actually get this taken care of. Often we get asked about the hardest things here, and I frequently tell people my biggest fear is that our family wouldn’t get the medical care we needed in an emergency. Yet, time and time again God has provided access when we need it. I couldn’t imagine having to live with wisdom tooth pain until we came home next summer, and we can’t afford to pay for dental in Canada or the US anyway. Having Dr. Miguel in Gonaives has been a huge blessing to our family. When he did my crown, he only charged us $350 US for the entire procedure, including the root canal, the form work, ordering the crown from the Dominican Republic, a temp crown and then the final work. Chris just had a root canal finished up for $150. My wisdom teeth? $220 for the whole thing. Such a blessing! God provides.

I also thought about the people that God has made Chris and I to be. I fully realize that this life we live is not for everyone. There are many that, just reading this, would feel stressed out. But, we wake up each day knowing this is where God wants us to be, and because of that I can push aside any of those feelings that I might have over any given situation and know that it’s all going to be okay. Is it stressful to go into a medical facility and think that it’s definitely below what my North American standards might be? Yes. But, I can do it. And I can be okay doing it. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful that God knew we could do this.

So, here I sit, taking tons of Ibuprofen and Tylenol looking like I got in a bar fight and wishing I could eat everything in sight but sipping on chicken broth. And I am thankful. Yes, it hurts, but I know that is now temporary and that in about a week I’ll feel mostly normal. There won’t be any more pain and I can move on.

~Leslie

Getting to Start Over

Yesterday was one of those days. You know the kind. You wake up having an idea of how you plan to use your time and what’s on the “to do” list for the day, but then you hear the record scratch of things taking a completely different direction. The train has basically derailed and you just get to go for the ride.

As I went into the day I had plans to finish taking certain things off my old computer and then cleaning it off so we could use it for other things. One of the things that I really wanted off of it was all my autofill contacts from Outlook. Let me put it this way – five years is a long time to be using autofill and not entering addresses in your contact base. 

Apparently there are ways to transfer the old files to a new Outlook version, but after fighting with it all morning not a single one wanted to work for me. Beyond frustrating. 

After fighting with that for way too long I decided to switch gears. Somewhere in the midst of that stuff the old laptop shut down. I was working unplugged, and it did what it normally does when the battery dies, so I didn’t think anything of it and just plugged it in to charge. A few hours later I went to start it up again and couldn’t get past the Lenovo screen. It just sat there. Chris mucked around with it for a bit then took the hard drive out to put into an external drive and the drive worked fine. I can plug it in to my new computer and see and access everything on it. We decided that it was best to just put the old one a way for a bit. We may try to see if we can get it to boot sometime down the road, but not now. It’s not a priority. It was frustrating because we were excited about having a spare computer that we could use for non-essential things like watching movies.

So, it was one of those days where I felt like I was getting nowhere. Nothing was working. In fact, things were doing quite the opposite. 

It was one of those days where I just had to let go of some stuff because I couldn’t do anything about it.

I wasn’t making headway with importing addresses, so I had to walk away. Maybe one day I’ll figure it out, and maybe I won’t. If we’ve emailed in the last 5 years and you want to hear from me it might be a good idea to send me an email… ;)

Maybe one day we’ll be able to boot the old computer and use it again, but not this week. There are other things to do. 

When Peggy arrived and we were talking about what a typical day looks like here I said, “You know how it is, you can go into a day with a list of things you want to do, but then 5 other things pop up that take priority, because this is Haiti.” 

You don’t get to pick and choose. Just just have to go with it. 

And then you remember that tomorrow is another day.

As I was venting and saying choice words yesterday afternoon just out of sheer frustration Peggy gently reminded me that everything happens when it’s supposed to, if it’s supposed to. Yes, so true. 

Tomorrow is another day, and each day has enough trouble of its own. But, even with trouble, we get to wake up each day and start over. 

Whatever bogged me down yesterday, doesn’t have to bog me down today. I’m not saying that there won’t be stuff that I have to continue to deal with, but rather that sometimes having a night of rest and fresh perspective helps me to see things through different eyes.

Is it annoying that I now have to rebuild my contacts one by one. Yep. But, not the end of the world. 

Is it annoying that the old laptop doesn’t want to work right now. Yep. But, we can’t and don’t want to do anything about it right now. 

When I woke up this morning I tried to come into the day with a fresh start in mind. I have a list, I’m crossing things off. Something that I was thinking was going to take a few more days is now done. Other things, I’m doing what I can but I can only do so much when I’m waiting on others to do their part. And the rest? It’ll happen when it happens. 

I think one of the greatest things I’ve learned since moving to Haiti is what flexibility really looks like. 

Flexibility isn’t adjusting your calendar when you have all the options to do so. Flexibility is rolling with things when you have zero choice in the matter, and trying to do what you can, then leave the rest. It’s seeing the advantages in the situation when it seems like none are there. It means learning what you can and being grateful. 

What am I grateful for?

I’m grateful that we took the steps to get me a new computer when we did. Like I said a couple posts ago, there was no crisis this time, so it felt weird. And, here we are two weeks later with the crisis completely avoided. I feel really grateful for that! Aside from a few bumps, it’s no big deal. I had already done all the work for the most part, it was just a couple little things that we can do without. 

I’m grateful for my husband and the fact that we balance each other out and carry the load when the other is having a hard time. When I was having a minor meltdown yesterday he just went to work on what he could do, and let me feel frustrated. No telling me to suck it up, and lots of sharing in the frustration where he could. 

I’m thankful for Peggy, who gently spoke words of wisdom, encouraged, and then helped Olivia with her homework when I was trying to get dinner ready so I didn’t feel burned out. Such a sweet blessing. 

I’m thankful for a comfy bed and good rest. For many years I’ve struggled with back and joint pain that would leave me feeling exhausted in the morning and it’s dissipated a lot in the last year. I sleep more soundly now than I have since we started our family, which I think is mostly because there are a lot of nights where neither kid is waking up anymore. Being able to sleep through the night…priceless!

I’m grateful for coffee. Not in the “I need it to give me a jolt” kind of way, but in the way where I fully appreciate the work that goes into it. Yonese buys our coffee green in the market, then hand sorts it and roasts it. The smell of freshly roasted coffee is amazing. Getting to drink her coffee every morning is such a gift. We. Are. Spoiled. I also have a fun wood plate on my counter that holds shakers or cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin spice mix, yummy Coffee mate from Chris’ Mum, and a couple bottles of homemade flavor syrup. With my microwave and a cheap $10 battery operated milk frother I get to have lattes every morning. It’s my special little thing. My morning treat. And after almost 9 years of being here I savor it not only for the deliciousness, but also for the little bit of normality it brings.

I hope that if this finds you struggling today that it might be a reminder that tomorrow is a new day. You can wake up and start all over tomorrow. And, you might be able to see things more clearly or differently. And, maybe things will still be just as hard, or harder tomorrow. But, at some point they will get better. Keep moving forward. Tomorrow is coming.

~Leslie

Can I Be In Love With A Lappy?

Okay, this is going to be a slight diversion from our regular programming. Wait, do we even have regular programming? Huh. 

Anywayyyy…

When we were home in the summer and I was meeting with our board member that is helping me get all the stuff that I need to know for the website, etc, and he looked at my laptop and said, “How old is that thing?” 

Five years.

Okay. He’s a software guy. He looked at me and told me that it would probably be a wise decision to look at getting a new one sometime soon because once I got all the programs loaded that I needed it would not only slow down my old one, but there was a very real possibility that the old one would end up crashing from all the work it would be expected to do. And, this girl ain’t got time for that!

One day a couple of weeks ago I was chatting with him on Skype and we ran through a list of things and ended up talking computer replacements. And that night I got one. It was all so fast and it didn’t involve some sort of crisis like the blue screen of death or being told my photos were lost and gone forever. It almost feels wrong or frivolous when you don’t buy a computer because of a crisis. Am I on my own with that one?

So, Peggy arrived on Thursday with my new little friend, and yesterday I spent the day loading and transferring things and mucking with settings. Moment of truth here – I only got about 3 hours of sleep the night before because I was thinking about all the work it was going to be and having to get acquainted with Windows 8. I am so not joking. At 1 am I was lying in bed watching tutorials on the iPad with my earphones in so I wouldn’t wake Chris up. Crazy, right? I was reminded of an interesting personality trait that I have – when I’m in the learning process with something my brain goes into overdrive until it starts to get some form of mastery, then it totally chills out and acts like we’ve been here all along. Photoshop – dreaming about it until I got several days into tutorials and now I think about it, but in a “hey, I can totally do that” sort of way.

So, yesterday was lappy day and I hate the process. Inevitably there’s something that’s not going to work right or files won’t transfer or you just look at this piece of plastic and microchips and wonder what the heck all these programs are for. All in all? Not too bad, actually. I had some bumps trying to get it to connect to our third world internet system, but once I got through that things moved ahead nicely. File transferring? Fastest and easiest that it’s ever gone (I’ve been around the block a few times). In fact, it was so easy that I felt like something was wrong. it was too easy. I may have uttered the words, “Technology is amazing!” more than a few times. 

I know we’re still getting to know each other and that I shouldn’t make any major judgments until the third or fourth date, but I think I’m in love.

What did I get?

Well, after several failed attempts at mainstream laptops in the past Chris insisted that my last one had to be a Thinkpad, because Thinkpads have always been industry leaders not only in performance, but in durability. I didn’t love the choice at first, but 5 years people! And, the computer is no where near worn out, it just won’t work well for what I need going forward. The only things we ever needed to do to it were get a new battery, and upgraded my memory a couple years ago with a solid state drive. No matter how well you treat a computer here, Haiti is hard on them. It’s the humidity and dust, and it can’t be avoided. Yes, they can be more spendy, but when you consider the cost of having to fix a computer here or replace it, as well as the frustration of not having one available, it’s worth it. 

After a bunch of research looking at all the Lenovo Thinkpad options, as well as reading reviews, I got a Thinkpad T440s. People, this thing is slick! It’s meant to be a workhorse but it’s also fancy. By fancy I mean it’s about 0.8″ thick and weighs 3.5 pounds. I got a great deal on one that has maxed out RAM and a big solid state drive. We’ve just had too many drive crash issues that we won’t go without now. Because TIH (this is haiti). I love the keyboard, it’s super responsive and great to type on. I just love everything about this little guy so far. 

Windows 8? I completely understand why people would hate it. And I’m really happy that I read and watched the tutorials on the Windows website before I went into things. If I hadn’t, I would have hated it too. The thing is, it’s actually pretty brilliant and intuitive if you consider that it was designed to be used with touch technology. And, they give you all the same options with a mouse. Most people freak out because it looks so different and they don’t have the same desktop view, but the desktop is still there and it’s easy to get to. You just have the option of navigating between the standard desktop and the Start screen where you can have everything consolidated right in front of you. You can have live updates for things like Facebook and news feeds right there. You can see your calendar and get reminders, have all the applications that you use the most right there rather than having to go through menus to get to them. You can personalize it as much as you want by moving things around, resize the icons, group and label things. I’m still getting used to it and know that it’ll take a bit of time, but overall not a bad experience. 

So, that’s me! Me and my lappy. 

Have a great weekend!

~Leslie

 

These Kids…

I thought that after the last post it might be fun to finally share some of my pictures. If nothing else at least the grandparents will be happy ;)

Our kids both have big personalities. Alex, when he’s in the right mood, is such an easy subject. Olivia is in this stage where she tries to perform for the camera so it’s hard to get good, natural pictures of her right now, but every once in a while she gives me something to work with. One of the advantages of having white walls in and out along with big shady trees outside is that we get amazing light in our house at different times of the day, as well as out on the deck. I especially love the light in our bedroom. Most of these were taking on our bed. They definitely weren’t edited to the extent that they could have been because I think that there’s something sweet about keeping kids natural to an extent, remembering bumps and scrapes and food on their faces.

Kids May-3

Kids May-5

I LOVE that picture of Alex so much. I don’t even have words.

Kids May-9

Kids May-13

Kids May-22

Kids May-25

Kids May-30

 

Little Mister insisted on playing with the swim goggles.

Kids May-27

Kids May-34

Kids May-33

Kids May-35

Kids May-39

Kids May-38

Kids May-42

 

Kids May-58

Kids May-47

Kids May-43

Kids May-56

 

Kids May-61

Kids May-62

Kids May-68

Miss O loves being dramatic :)

 

God Only Knows

I’ll be the first to admit that I can be one cranky bear, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed or just “off”. Typically it’s triggered by tiredness or something like that. Ahem, 91 and your humid friend, I see you both lurking there in the corner…

I’m a huge advocate for doing what you love, because I believe that God has created us, and that he’s made each of us with unique gifts and skills and that it brings him great happiness to see those things that he’s planted in us being used in many ways. Helping people. Loving others. Creating things. I could go on. I think you get my drift.

Coming from that place it’s hysterical to me that I’m sometimes the last to figure some of this stuff out in regards to myself. I can have conversations with friends and family and point out things in them and encourage them to run with it, knowing it’ll be an amazing thing, and yet I can have all those things in front of me and have a hard time putting the pieces together. 

Or, maybe it’s not that I can’t always see them, but that I can see those pieces and just feel like I can’t do anything about it.

That’s where I’ve been sitting for the last few years. I know I’ve talked about this in some detail in the past few months, but it’s a process and I’m processing right now, so this is what you get.

Here’s the thing. I think that I’ve always been a creative. A person who needs to be making and dreaming and doing. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized little quirky things about myself that I now see are all glaring indications that I’m a creative type, but I’ve just dismissed them as quirks and never put them in the context that I’m putting them in now. Things like loving texture and always having to touch things. Looking at scenery and getting more excited about the way a sun beam is shining down than about the whole scene. Collecting stationary, not because I actually want to use it but because I love the feel of it and the graphics and all the things. Being a mixed bag when it comes to narrowing down any kind of “style” because one minute I love things that are bright and bold and the next I want wood grain and rusty metal. I’m the one that has sun patterned floor tiles at my husband’s suggestion – but am totally fine with it for this house – and baby blue cupboards. I’m not afraid of color. 

And I’ve been stuck at a desk doing admin work for the past, well, my whole working life pretty much. 

I remember the day a few months ago as I was processing through Peggy arriving on staff (which is tomorrow, by the way, and IT’S TOMORROW!) and what that would mean for things here going forward. As I was thinking about it, it was like scales were peeled off my eyes and all of the sudden I saw it. 

I saw all the pieces of this giant puzzle that is me come together and I finally stepped back to see the bigger picture. All these needs that the mission had, it was me  that was supposed to fill them. Until we had Peggy lined up I wasn’t in a place to even think it was possible. I had been creeping in that direction and loved it, but never thought it would be me.

And now, fast forward a few months, and I’m sitting here settling into this new phase and it feels like coming alive. I didn’t realize how much I’d stagnated in the past few years. It’s not that I wasn’t doing something good, because I was. I was doing a lot of really good things for the mission that needed to be done and I needed to be the one to do them. It was just time to step forward and bring all of these pieces together for something more.

You see, as long as I can think back in my adult life I’ve been hovering around things like graphic design and photography and visual arts in general, as well as writing. I know what I like. I have visions for end products, but haven’t had the time or the tools to do any of it. Programs were too expensive. I couldn’t take time away from a “real” job to go to school for specific training. I like to write, and do it as a side gig here on the blog. I just wasn’t in a position to pursue any of it in any seriousness. And, I’ll admit it, there has been a part of me that has thought some of that was frivolous because I had all this “important” work to do. 

But now here I am. 

This past January I got my new to me camera, and while not every picture is amazing (talk to any photographer and they’ll tell you this is actually the norm) there are many times where I load stuff into my computer and I get giddy because some of my stuff is good. I’m proud of it. And I realize I might actually be able to do this. 

As we transition Peggy to taking over a lot of the admin stuff my desk has been cleared of so many of the mundane tasks I’ve been bogged down with and in the past two weeks I’ve been pouring over things like learning Photoshop and everything that goes with it.

And you know what? I love it

I am absolutely in my element. Chris keeps finding me at my desk working through tutorials and watching videos and playing around. He keeps commenting on my dedication to wanting to learn all of this because we both know that it’s going to lead to a giant step forward for the mission in everything from our print materials (already been working on these over the past couple years) to our website to video and social media – all major needs. 

The thing is, I find myself thinking, “I’ve gotten through everything else. Now I get to go play with Photoshop. I get to do…” And I have to be honest with him about the fact that it doesn’t feel like work. That I’m excited to get at it and pour over it for hours on end. I’m giddy about it because it’s unlocked this world for me that I’ve been hovering on the outside of for so long. It’s bringing all these parts of myself together. 

I think a big part of not exploring some of this stuff sooner was just plain fear. It all seemed so complicated and overwhelming. I could never figure all of that out. But, I can, and I am. And it feels amazing. It’s amazing because in the process of engaging my brain, my spirit is coming alive. This is part of who God has made me to be, and he loves that I’m figuring it out. He loves that this creativity that he’s planted in me is being woken up and that I can use that to love his people. I can use the love of beautiful things and communicating that to people to honor him. 

Does it get any better than that?

And, why did it take me so long to get here.

Well, I actually know the answer to that. It just wasn’t time. I needed to be doing other things, good thing, before this so that when it was time to be here I could see God’s hand in the whole plan and I could more deeply appreciate arriving here. And I do. It’s so beautiful and I love how he orchestrates things. Bringing details together to make something even better. 

God hears the whispers and hopes of our hearts. He feels our groanings when we know we’re in process. All those years of being crabby and overwhelmed were my spirit saying, “This isn’t it. I’m here, and I’m doing it, but this isn’t it.” The process has allowed me the time to learn more about who I am, and it’s allowed Chris the time to learn who I am and what I need. He sees how happy I’ve been in the past few weeks and he loves it. He just keeps telling me how happy he is to see me so engaged and excited. My brain has been in high gear again. It feels amazing.

I share all this with you because I know we all go through periods where we get stuck and it feels like we’re slugging through mud. I want to encourage you, keep slugging. It’s especially hard when you know that there’s nothing bad about the place you’re in. Even harder when you know what you’re doing has a lot of value to it. God wants to take each of us to the place where we can fully be the people he’s created us to be. He hears the small whispers of our hearts, wanting something more, even if we don’t know we’ve whispered them. He cares about those things. 

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

I’ve lost track of how often God has provided for those small whispers. Things that I never utter out loud to another human soul. And it’s always so humbling when he does provide and I see it. I feel so cared for. Sometimes the reason things never get spoken is because they feel silly or frivolous, but he cares. 

Olivia Faces-1

I’m learning to own this new phase and that’s hard at times, but in other ways it feels like coming into my own. 

It’s hard to wake up in the morning and change my internal conversation and to remind myself that what I considered “fun” and things to do when all my other work was done, now get to be my work. Daily I’m having to remind myself that this is what it’s going to look like going forward. That’s not to say that I won’t have other admin stuff do, I will. It’s just that this is going to be what I get to do for work! Seriously?!? 

 

This summer when we were at my parents house, one of the first things my dad said to me within hours of arriving at their house was, “So kid, when are you going to write a book?” And for the first time I actually said, out loud, “I really want to, I just know that while the kids are small I just don’t have the time, but I really want to one day.” And then I realized that I had just owned that for the first time.

It’s not just that I want to write, I need to. It’s part of me. It’s not just that I want to take pictures, I need to. It’s part of me. It’s not just that I want to do visual design work, I need to. It’s part of me. All of it is how I see the world and how I communicate and I’m finally in a place where I know I can own that.

I have a huge learning curve ahead. A lot of work ahead of me. But, it’s so exciting and freeing to be in a place where I finally have the tools and the time and the opportunity to explore than in depth. 

Random Update

Edit: I was having internet issues last night when I tried to post this, so I apologize to those of you that are confused about why I would have written a post with nothing more than “b” as the title. 

It’s 8:30 pm and 91*. In case you don’t know what that feels like, it feels like sitting in your own sweat. It feels like sweating when you’re hardly moving. It feels like chugging a quart of Gatorade because once you open the hatch your body realizes that you’ve sweated so much that guzzling the stuff might be your lifeline.

I wish I was joking, but I’m not. It’s dang hot right now. And we keep getting little hints of rain, but then it doesn’t amount to much or doesn’t cool things off. Today Chris muttered the words, “Don’t worry, September is coming.” He was trying to be optimistic, like, “Hey, we’re heading toward the finish line!” but I had to remind him that sometimes September is the worst month of all, then October sneaks in and one day you realize that you aren’t sweating from just thinking anymore and that maybe life with cohesive thought is possible.

It’s hot.

Other random happenings…

We’re raising a tadpole in a jar in our window sill. His name is Freddy. Olivia scooped him out of a puddle in the work yard two days ago and he was literally the size of a mustard seed. He’s happily swimming in his jar and enjoying the view of our kitchen. I had no idea tadpoles grew so fast.

We’re potty training. Little Mister was bribed with candy every time he sat on the potty and tried, and three days later we’re doing pretty darn good. There might actually be light at the end of the tunnel, which is refreshing considering that on Friday he informed me that he was going to wear diapers for the rest of his life.

Chris and I have been walking around with perma-grins on our faces for the last week and a half for several reasons work related. Some of it we can’t talk about yet because it’s in relation to the study I mentioned last time. Today we had a visit from DINEPA, Haiti’s water authority. In the past we’ve felt frustrated with the organization, but they’ve had a change over in staff and strategy. Today’s meeting was happening because the consultant working with them wanted to visit the most well functioning filter projects in the country and we came highly recommended by several people and other organizations in the household water world. I may have had to pick my jaw up of the floor when he told me that their main reason for visiting was to understand what we do better, and then figure out how they can help us ramp up what we do so we can do more of it. I’m still baffled. We’ve been so encouraged by that and the other things going on because it’s meant years and years of hard work all coming together to make something that is working really well. I really want to write more about our model and why it’s working and what the markers of that are in the development world, but that needs to be for another day.

Now. Now I’m going to take the 3rd shower of the day, drink some more Gatorade, and watch a show with my man.

Happy middle of the week friends!

~Leslie

Frustrated Gratitude

I think one of the greatest things I’ve learned while living here in Haiti is how to have gratitude in the midst of frustration.

I’m sure any Haiti peeps reading this probably either just head nodded or snickered in agreement. This. Is. Haiti. The place where the most frustrating experiences happen, where everyday things take so much more energy and time, and somewhere in there you realize that it’ll eventually all be okay if you only exercise extreme amounts of patience and maybe cry a little to let the pressure off. 

Yesterday was just one of those days for me. It was the collision of what we might call “first world problems” colliding with triggers here in real world Haiti.

I’m going to be transitioning the type of work I do here at the mission over the next few months as we welcome Peggy on staff. She’ll be taking over a bunch of my every day admin stuff (and there were angels singing…) and it’ll mean I can transition to doing more creative work like website stuff, photography and the like. I’m really excited about it. While we were home I had a good visit with one of our board members who’s been doing the website stuff and he let me know what I needed to get as far as programs in order to take that over from him well. It’s all new and crazy and kind of overwhelming to me, but I’m excited about the challenge and the learning because it’s been a while since I’ve been in that frame of mind.

This week was our first week back at work and it felt really good to plug through a bunch of stuff that was productive. We have a friend in the states who has taken on the gigantic task of grant writing for the mission. Chris and I have literally been giddy about this because she works in the non-profit sector and knows the funding battle we’re always facing, and also has experience with grant writing. She’ll be partnering with that same board member I mentioned because that’s where his heart is at (thus me taking over the web stuff = freeing up more of his time). 

It was so encouraging to sit down with the two of them this summer and to go over where we were at and what we needed to do in order to be ready for bigger funding. The time was informative. We’ve spent the past few years at an organizational level, as well as at the on the ground level here in Haiti doing a lot of hard work to build up our overall foundation. We’ve really felt that while our funding has been slower, that God has used this time in the life of our organization to do some important work that is laying a foundation for the next phase. 

And I feel it. We went into this year and after several years of slugging through and pushing and just trying to keep our heads above water I felt this sense of hope that hadn’t been there for a long time. Deep in my heart, and with every other part of my being, I know we’re on the edge of something bigger. Something more. I feel like we’re doing the prep work for a big growth spurt that will mean we can do more of what we do at a higher capacity and help more people. 

There are so many good things that Chris and I can see and I won’t lie, it’s so hard to be patient with this process. In the past few months we’ve just been so blessed by our staff. They’ve really come into this new place of, well, so many things. We’re so proud of them and we’re so loving this amazing team that we have here right now. 

We’ve been blessed with this wonderful new property and we’re just waiting for funding to come in so we can break ground on the house/office space. When we started this process we wondered if it would be hard to leave our current location when all was said and done, and what we’re realizing is that because this process is long, God’s doing so much of that transition work in us now. We’re attaching to the new community in so many ways, and emotionally we’re letting go of our current place. 

We’re welcoming a new, long term volunteer, and I can’t even begin to tell you how excited we all are about what this is going to be and mean for the mission. So. Excited. 

As a development organization it can be so hard to dig in for the long term. The “results” often aren’t measurable like everyone would like to see. They’re in the relationships, the baby steps and the small victories. We don’t get to see quick fixes and people praising us for the work we’re doing (and we’re great with that, btw.)The good news for us is that after over a decade of hard work, we’re starting to see some big things. I can’t go into any detail right now, but in the coming months we’re looking forward to having access to hard info that shows that what and how we’re doing it is working. It’s the validity for certain groups of people that our model is effective not only in quality, but in methodology. 

So, this stuff is always rolling around in my head and my heart and just there. So many things.

Because it is always there, when I dive into working on a project or task, and things don’t go well, it heaps frustration on top of stress. Does that make sense?

Yesterday, after plowing through budgets and other stuff like that I decided I would work on downloading Photoshop, one of the new programs I need going forward.

FYI – to those of you working with US registered non-profits, churches or schools – Adobe, as well as several other big software companies, provide deeply discounted licences – that numbered key that allows you to use the program – for people like us. Just Google “program name for non-profits” (ie “Photoshop for non-profits”) then click on the “Shopping” tab at the top of the results page. You should find several options through different companies to buy the license. You pay the company and they send you an email requesting a copy of your 501(c)3 tax exemption letter, you reply with it attached and they forward it to the company, who then responds with an email providing you access to your account with your codes and download links. In the past month we’ve saved probably $1000 or more with licenses. I used Tech Crawl when I bought ours. Such a blessing! 

Back to my story…

So, I start downloading. But the instructions tell me that I need a special download manager program to not only make the download go faster, but to also extract the zip/compressed files. I spend an hour fighting with websites trying to find a download link for this free program. I finally download it and try to install, but get a message that the installation couldn’t be completed. In the mean time the stupid thing dumped stuff on my computer that was giving me delightful pop-ups everywhere. Gar!

I fight with it. I decide to attempt another download through other methods to see if the file will be different that way, only after another hour of hunting for solutions online. 

We get our internet through hotspotting, or connecting our computers to our phones, and using our phone data plan. It’s pretty handy most of the time, until you’re working on something and you get a phone call. Phone calls disconnect the internet – period. Yeah, you can see where this is going. I was minutes away from being done a 1+G download when my phone rang. It was Chris, and it wasn’t pressing and I may have had a crying meltdown on the phone. It wasn’t Chris’ fault by any means, there was no way for him to know. I was just so done at that point. I’m grateful that he’s patient with me. I had to run virus scans on my computer twice to get rid of everything, and it still didn’t work completely. 

I stepped away from things a bit then decided to once again attempt to download this stupid file. All in all I used up about 5G of data yesterday, every bit of which we pay for, trying to download this thing. I put it on, walked away, took a shower to wash away the hot, sweaty yuck that was also not helping my coping skills, and sat down to read with an ice cold Coke. 

The download eventually worked. I eventually found another program that was a free extractor that didn’t come with junk files. I eventually got it all extracted, loaded and serial numbers in it and ready to use. I eventually downloaded Spybot again and ran it on my computer to clean up the mess. That had been another several days of fighting before which had also left me in tears so I had just walked away. 

Long story short, I did it. It was frustrating. I cried a couple times because it was so frustrating. And then it was done.

And I realized that it wasn’t just the frustration about none of it working and the fact that I spent an entire day trying to download and install a computer program. 

It was frustration that we have basically one option for internet in our area. There are other options, if you live elsewhere. Most of them don’t work in our area because there are no towers or the service is incredibly slow.

I was frustrated that the internet we do have cuts out when the phone rings.

I was frustrated that the internet we have frequently cuts out and gives me “This web page is not available” messages, and that it’s always in the middle of trying to do the most important part of whatever I’m doing.

I was frustrated with the fact that our office is in our living room and that it’s school break and that my kids are always under our elbows and making noise and that it’s hot and it feels like trying to do anything productive is like slugging through mud most days.

I felt frustrated that I’m the tech person. The IT girl. The on-site expert. That calling anyone means broken phone lines and frustrating connections. That if this didn’t work it would be money wasted and more frustrations with trying to find solutions. 

I was frustrated that once again, an entire day of my time was eaten up with something that should be easy. That should take less than an hour to do.

I was frustrated that my time and my computer was so consumed with this one particular thing that I couldn’t interrupt in fear of once again losing the download and used up gigs of data that I couldn’t get other things done that our staff needed yesterday.

I was frustrated with all the things.

But, hovering in the back of my mind is also the gratitude.

I’m grateful that we DO have internet. Even though the system is frustrating at times, it’s so much better than it used to be. And, we actually have pretty decent plans for phone and data time here.

I’m grateful for companies that want to help non-profits like us. It’s HARD to try to do everything that we want to do, well, and to do it on such a tight budget. In the past we’ve had people volunteer to do things like promotional materials, and while it was appreciated, it was just hard because it didn’t quite meet the vision we had. We believe in doing things really well, and I’m the visionary behind all this (just ask Chris and our board – I’ve learned to just show them the finished product :)) so having the possibility to do things in house means we can do better than what we would probably get if we were trying to communicate things through email to someone else who’s never been here, etc. Getting top notch software at drastically reduced costs is a gigantic blessing. I’m a nerd when it comes to graphic design and the like and seriously, all of this is making me giddy. Tools! Pretty things! Yay!

I’m grateful for the opportunity to transition to something new for me. To be challenged. To be overwhelmed. To be excited about it. And to have a team cheering me on because they’re all excited about what this is going to mean for our organization. People, this is getting real for all of us in a whole new way!

I’m grateful for land. For land that is the next step for this whole thing we’re doing. Land that is going to give us the space to do more. To be more effective in how we do it. To have an actual office. Chris and I have worked on house and office plans for over a year, and really he’s let me do the work and just signed off on things with input where needed because he knows me. In my mind I see it, and it’s just the process of working it out, hashing through it and then putting something down on paper that will become reality. 

I’m grateful that one day I’ll have a real office. With a door that closes between our work space and home space and yet still allows for flow between the two. I dream about the space and having all the supplies and tools we need in any given day in one room. Of having a place that’s set up efficiently with each of us having enough elbow room to really work rather than pushing things across our shared 6 foot table. 

I’m grateful that we DO work and live in a situation where our kids can be under our elbows and we’re both accessible during the day to them. So many never have that option. It’s truly a blessing to us.

I’m grateful that God has made both of us resourceful and stubborn enough to push through situations we encounter on any given day, whether it’s fighting with a computer program or solving some greater issue. When you literally don’t have the default option to seek help from somewhere or someone else you take on the role of the learner and step into arena’s that you would never have been in before. 

So yes, in the midst of the frustration it is also possible to be simultaneously grateful. In the midst of the groaning and anger and choice words. In the midst of the tears and the wanting to throw something and the exasperation that comes from feeling powerless. In the midst there can be more.

In the middle of all that there can still be that still, small voice whispering, “It’s okay. It’ll be okay. Breathe. Step back. Remember I’ve already got this figured out. I just need you to be willing to keep walking forward. I’ve got it covered. Just rest.”

And I remember that it is okay. And I go and take a shower and sit on the couch and unwind a bit. I snuggle my babies and thank God that each of them are who they are even when it drives me crazy. And I thank God for this life that he’s led us to and brought us into and is taking us through because we as people are so much more than we were before. I thank him for the vision to see that there is more. To be excited about it. To know that it is coming. That it is good. 

So very good. 

And then I rally up and go again. 

~Leslie