Out With the Old, In With the New!

I’m kind of sad, and yet VERY excited to be writing this post.

You’ve probably noticed that in the past couple of months my presence here has been scarce. I just looked at my post list and it’s literally been a post every two weeks or so. Don’t worry, I’m not here to tell you I’m bailing out of this whole blogging thing. Actually, quite the opposite.

The main reason that things have been almost non-existent here is that I’ve been working on a project behind the scenes. I know I’ve mentioned on here that work stuff is changing for me, and part of that is taking over the mission web stuff. Huge learning curve for me! But, as part of it I decided to learn and work out the details while I developed a new site – for myself.

I’ve literally been working on this off and on for the past two months. And, today is the day! Just minutes ago I took down the “under construction” page and released leslierolling.com and Soul Food to the world. (Wow, that sounds melodramatic…)

I could go into a long explanation here as to why I wanted to do this, but it would be better to just go there and read all about it on the Welcome post that I wrote just for those of you that have been so faithful in following along with us here.

I won’t be taking this space down, so you can still come here and re-read stuff you’ve liked, or reference it. I’m sure the grandmothers were just about having seizures thinking about all the kid stuff that’s on here. Don’t worry! It’s still here. I may eventually, after a good amount of time, password protect it so that our kids can still access it later in life, as well as family. But, for now it will stay and you can still visit. I just won’t be adding any new content here.

So yes, feeling a wee bit sad because it feels like the end of something, but I’m mostly excited because it’s really a beginning of something else. Sometimes we just grow and change and need something fresh. Something that will grow with us better over time.

Thank you for spending time with me, and us, in this space. I hope you’ll go now and check out Soul Food. I love it. I’m excited about it. And I’m excited to share it with you.

~Leslie

Sweet November

It’s been a while. Again. I thought I would pop in and make my presence known so no one thinks I’ve disappeared or don’t care.

I find myself sitting here and looking at the calendar and it seems crazy that we’re already into the middle of November this week. This time last year I was well into getting excited for Christmas and the holidays. I think, looking back, I was really struggling with having a sense of contentment. I was having a hard time with my work load because I just wasn’t excited or engaged, and yet knew I should be. I was missing family and really excited that my parents were coming (hi parents!) for Christmas, their first visit in about 5 years. I think I just needed something to be looking forward to because I felt like I was just plugging along.

This year though, is very different. It was baking hot here until the middle of last week. I was posting on Facebook later in the week that I had to wear a long sleeved shirt for the first time in a VERY long time and people we’re laughing at me. I know it seems strange when I say that I was chilly and the thermometer still read 80*, but that’s what happens when you’re acclimated! It would probably also help to mention that the last part of last week, and still this week has been regularly overcast. The temps have dropped to the lower 80’s but the most significant change is that the humidity has dropped. Where we were regularly seeing it hover between 75-85%, last week on the coolest day it was down to the high 50’s. That’s a huge change in how the air feels!

Yesterday I was at a local resort exercising in the pool with a friend (some sweet friends blessed her with their passes when they left the country so we get to go for free!!!) and as we walked in there were crunch leaves under our feet that hadn’t been swept up, and the sky was grey, and the air was cool. It felt like fall! And we noticed it and it made us both exhale a bit and be so thankful for that sweet moment. Later, after swimming for about an hour, a breeze started to blow. Just a light one. But, it was enough that I had to keep my wet self under the surface of the water and Olivia’s teeth were literally chattering. I got out to towel off and got excited to see goose bumps on my legs. I don’t think I’ve every had goose bumps on my legs in Haiti! It’s just been such a nice weather treat, especially because last winter didn’t seem to cool off much. The rain stopped, but the temps stayed in the high 80’s and so did the humidity. When it cools off it literally feels like the cogs in our brains start to turn again, things get clearer, we’re more alert, and just function better.

So, as we move through November, I keep feeling grateful that we’re actually getting some kind of fall, and remembering that this is how it usually feels (funny how one year can make a person forget!) and my heart feels really calm right now. Which, when I look at everything going on around me, seems kind of funny.

I am thinking about the holidays, but I don’t feel the need to dive all the way in yet. Last year was really busy once the end of November hit, again, I think because I was searching for some kind of normalcy and wanted to do all the things! This year I just feel like I want to slow down, step back, and enjoy. Chris’ parents are coming for Christmas this year and we’re so excited, and very much looking forward to a relaxed couple of weeks with them. Chris turns 40 at the beginning of December and I’m looking forward to celebrating him with our friends here. We also have some plans for fun things with our staff and our missionary community, but none of it feels pressing or overwhelming.

Perhaps part of it is that things have just gotten busy around here. Rather than just plugging away we’re in full on management mode, which requires more of my time and brain power, and it feels like things are getting accomplished. Don’t get me wrong, things were getting accomplished before, but they had become routine. Chris and I both do really well with managing things. Where I am organized he is logical and methodical. Those things compliment one another so well. Add Peggy to the mix and we now have someone that can come behind us and fill the holes and I can’t tell you how much that helps. Rather than feeling frazzled because I might be forgetting something she’s right there asking about those things and then taking care of them. Such a blessing!

It’s very normal for things to take a couple of months to pick up speed after we get back from our summer vacation. We’re still in the rainy season, so deliveries to some areas can be difficult just because of mud. When September comes people start preparing for school fees and aren’t putting their money anywhere else. For the past few years school has actually started in October, but a week beforehand the government announced an earlier start that had everyone scurrying for things like uniforms and books.

Our filter installations have taken off in the past month and a half. Last month we were up almost 50% from months previous, and here we are mid-month and already at the 100 filter mark as of tomorrows delivery. That feels really good!

Earlier this year we were approached about receiving a Rotary grant for filters and since then have been in discussion and planning with the club in the US and the local club that would host it. We love Rotary and feel really blessed that they approached us. Those conversations stalled out for several reasons over the summer, but in the past 6 weeks have resumed and things are moving forward, and it’s exciting. This week Chris had a meeting here with some of the key local club members, and several members from the US who were in Haiti to discuss the next steps. The grant would mean filters for a lot of families!

We hired 3 new employees in the past two weeks as well. We haven’t hired new staff in a long time, and it feels really good to do so. We really sought our staff input this time around because everything is so communal here. They know the people in the community who have submitted applications, and can give character feedback. A while back they asked to be involved in the process because any time there are issues with an employee it affects everyone, not just us as leaders. The guys we hired came highly recommended by the staff that knew them, and we’re excited they’re part of our team now.

There are some other exciting things going on, and I’m itching to share, but not just yet. I promise I will as soon as I can! In the meantime, please be praying for Chris and I as we manage everything in front of us. Our workload has literally doubled in the past week, so it’s a lot to be thinking about and taking care of, and we just want to do it well.

Until next time,

~Leslie

Third World Rodeo

I know a lot of the stuff that I talk about on here isn’t actually directly referring to life in Haiti, but more life in general. Today I have a treat for you.

I hate twitchy animals. Anything that can scurry or slither is not something I want to be around for any length of time. I can’t help it, it’s just the way it is. And then I move to a country where we have mice and rats that we learn to keep at bay, and lizards that not only run around our yard, but that we also welcome into our homes because they eat the bugs. And, they’re usually more afraid of us than we are of them.

Until they’re not.

I just had a shiver run through my body as I was thinking about the next words to type.

No, I don’t do well with twitchy things. Especially not when they decide to be brave and run up and then back down my bare legs, or over my feet, or jump onto my head and run in circles. I kid you not – all of those things have happened, and every time it was a little lizard. Yes, I could have squashed it, but instead I resorted to flailing and shuddering. And maybe some jumping and dancing. There’s the shiver again.

Today I had some friends over. Friends that have been away all summer and finally (finally!) came back to me, and now my life is complete again. We spent a fun afternoon catching up with each other like ladies do. These friends are my “loud” friends. When we’re together the volume goes up right along with the laughter. We’re good at laughing at life, at each other, and ourselves.

As the afternoon drew to a close I went to hop in the van with one friend to take her and her daughter home. I was chatting with a neighbor through the fence while she buckled the kids in and threw her stuff on the front seat. As we both turned to get ready to climb in she said, “Um, there’s a lizard on the dash…”

Sure enough, he was just hanging out there. I had parked the van on the grass because the guys had been moving trucks around and fixing tires and there hadn’t been enough room to park where I usually do. There was a small tree right next to it and we’d left the passenger window open. The little monster must have run along a branch and into the window thinking he’d just found a palace.

I don’t remember what I used, but my first instinct was to start swatting at the dash to make our new “friend” run back to where he came. My friend grabbed her shoe and started whacking the dash from her side to help in the efforts. He wasn’t having any of that and rather than staying on track and just jumping outside, he jumped all right, but onto the seat. And then he scurried.

He scurried all the way under the drivers seat.

There was no way. Out of sight was NOT out of mind in this case, and there was no freaking way I was going to sit on him and just assume that he wouldn’t be running down my legs at any point in the trip there and back.

I whipped my seat into the farthest forward position to try to see him. I crouched down and scanned. And there he was, his two beady little eyes staring back at me. I may have yelled, “He’s here! And he’s looking right at me!!!”

DSCF1037

This. This is what I didn’t want happening anywhere on my body*.

I reached down and grabbed a very meager looking twig off the ground, then jammed that thing under and around the seat whacking whatever I could until our lizard friend ran out and down and back over to the other side of the van, this time on the floor.

Now would be a good time to mention that loud friends don’t become quiet friends in a crisis – they become louder friends. Somewhere around the time that he hit the deck Peggy yelled “What are y’all making so much noise about out there?!?!” from our house. We were in fits of hysterical laughter with undertones of squeamish terror by this point.

I ran out and yelled that there was a lizard running around in the van. It was also about this point that I remembered that our guard and the neighbor I’d been talking to were only a few feet away watching all this go down.

I ran back to van to find my friend waving her shoe around on the floor to try and flick the lizard out of her side. I did the calculations. It wasn’t much space and I could tell the awkwardness of her flailing arm was because she knew that if she was successful there was a good chance she would get him out, but that he would fly into her in the process of making his exit.

And then it happened.

Unless you’ve had first hand experience with these lizards, it’s very shocking the first time you see it. What am I referring to?

The tail drop.

Yep, these little guys will just drop off a part of themselves when they feel danger lurking. The whole idea is that it’s most likely that a predator will grab for the tail, so they can drop their tail and still run away.

Apparently my friend was a worthy foe because that tail dropped. Right there on the floor board. And then proceeded to wriggle and squiggle. She got momentarily distracted by this phenomenon until I started yelling to keep whacking. She flicked the twitching tail out of the van, not hitting herself, and went back to work on getting our castaway out. Her attempts were futile. He headed for the underside of the dash.

We knew where he went, and we looked at each other, then at the piece of plastic that wasn’t very firmly attached to the bottom of the dash and both grabbed at the same time, and I flung it out of my side onto the grass. She whacked with her shoe and I flicked with my stick. I stuck the key in the ignition and raised my foot awkwardly to push on the clutch to start the van, thinking maybe the vibration and noise would drive him out. He was nowhere.

We looked. I jabbed with the stick. She saw him for a brief moment, hanging out on a wire, and then he was gone again.

We looked at each other across the seat, defeated.

“How brave are you?” I asked.

We reattached the dash piece. She put her shoe back on. I put my seat back in the right position. We adjusted ourselves. She rebuckled Alex, who had undone himself to watch our rodeo. We climbed up gingerly and buckled ourselves. Closed our doors.

As I put the van in gear I looked over, and there’s my friend, sitting cross legged on her seat.

And, all I can think about is how jealous I am, because a) I’m driving and don’t get the option of doing that without my feet on the floor, and b) I’m not that flexible.

We pull out of the driveway and onto the road.

“I’m just going to apologize in advance if I start screaming and whip the car over to the side of the road. And, I’m thankful that you’ll be totally okay with that.”

If the van has a funky smell in a few days, at least I’ll know why.

~Leslie

PS – If you click on the photo you can go visit the blog where that photo was first posted. It just so happens that a Google search on “haiti lizards” brought that up, and the post was written by friends of ours up in the north. Haiti is a small place :)

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

 

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