Haiti update!

I am so excited to finally update all of you about my trip to Haiti in April.  There were a few tense weeks earlier this month, when I got news that the trip might be cancelled due to low enrollment on our team.  Thankfully, the trip will be proceeding as planned!  Even though we didn’t get the minimum of 10 people for our team, Heartline decided to allow our team to travel anyway.  I am so relieved and thankful.

I have received many questions from family and friends over the past few months regarding what exactly I will be doing while I am there.  Those details are still not firm.  I was told that our team contains 5 people with varying types of medical experience.  They are going to try to provide us with some experiences that will use our skills as much as possible.  What that will look like, I am not sure of yet.  I am told that it is difficult to schedule things in Haiti too far in advance (something we, in our Western time-oriented society have trouble with!).  Also, the organization wants to remain open as needs arise.  I should know a little more as the trip gets closer.

I have a conference call scheduled with my team on March 3rd, at 8 pm.  What I like best about this meeting is that I am pretty sure that I can attend it in my pajamas!  Why can’t all meetings be in pajamas?

Let me give you a little more background about Heartline Ministries, as I have received many questions.  This organization has an amazing back story.  In 1989, two missionaries moved to Haiti to open a children’s home (also called a creche) to help place children that had been relinquished by their birth families for adoption into North America.  As they worked with these children, they learned that most of them were given up for adoption by their birth families due to maternal death during or after childbirth, extreme poverty, or other social issues.  Over time, their ministry changed from facilitating adoptions, to trying to address some of these underlying issues with the goal of keeping Haitian families together.

From 2007-2009, Heartline opened their Maternity Center, in order to address the unfulfilled need for maternal health care in Haiti.  The maternal death rate in Haiti is 1 in 83, as opposed to 1 in 3800 in developed countries.  There are many orphanages, but very few maternity centers.  In many cases, receiving proper pregnancy care prevents maternal death, thereby preventing children from being orphaned.  Through the maternity center, expectant women are offered prenatal care and education, delivery services, postnatal classes, and support.  The program is based on building relationships with the Haitian women who present for care.  They are currently in the process of expanding their maternity center so they can serve more women and families.

In 2007, Heartline also opened a small sewing school to help women learn a trade, so they could make money to help support their families.  Over time, this grew to a full Women’s Education Center, which today offers classes to teach women sewing, cooking, literacy, cake decorating, or crafts.

Heartline also partners with local schools and helps to sponsor children to give them the opportunity to attend school.  At school, the children receive a valuable education, and a daily meal.  They run a camp in the summer, specifically for girls, to give the girls a safe place to go when school is not in session, have fun, and stay off the streets.

Heartline also offers a men’s discipleship ministry aimed at teaching men job skills and supporting them to be involved husbands and fathers.  One of Heartline’s mottos is “strengthening families”, and they are committed to approaching this goal from many directions.

SO.  That is amazing, right?  Do you know what is even more amazing?  The way that my family, friends, community, and coworkers have rallied around me to support this cause.  I am completely blown away by your support.  Let me share with you some of the things that have been happening.

the people at my work have been throwing an ongoing “baby shower” for the maternity center.  We have a little corner set up in our lunchroom where people can drop off donations.  Here is a picture of that corner:

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I have already collected 2 boxes of donations in my office, and the giving is ongoing until the end of March.  Thank you to my coworkers at Clinton Woods!  You are awesome!

my kids organized a donation in their classrooms too!  They each picked a few items off the wish list for the maternity center, and the kids in their class brought in their offerings of love.  Here is their haul:

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-I am waiting on some used surgical instruments from InterVol, which is a local organization that collects medical equipment for use on medical missions trips, among other things.  A truly amazing humanitarian organization!  I haven’t heard from my contact person in a while, so I plan to reach out again this week.

-I have a sweet friend, Amy, whose mother works at an OB-GYN office.  Her office recently relocated and they had some surgical instruments that would have been tossed, but instead are going to Haiti!  Thank you Amy and Amy’s mom!

-My beautiful friends at Long Pond Pediatric Group, where I used to work, have committed to buying a baby scale for Heartline.  I love that they are doing this.  It seems so symbolic to me.  They care for children here at home, promoting health, and trying to keep kids healthy and safe.  This gift will help the children of Haiti to do the same.

-my super-cool friend Margo is a surgeon, and she has been collecting random supplies for me from the OR that would otherwise be discarded.  Thanks Margo, xo!

-the missions committee at Pearce Church, where we attend, has graciously offered to cover any shipping expenses for donations.  My current plan is to take one additional suitcase with me on my trip, with as many things as I can jam in there.  Anything that can’t fit in there I will ship ahead of time.

-this week I met with the Spencerport Kiwanis Club to tell them a little bit about my trip.  My friend Dominic introduced me to them.  I had heard of the Kiwanis club but never knew much about it.  This community organization exists to do good deeds.  Who knew such people existed?  But here they are:

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Thanks to my new friends at Spencerport Kiwanis Club, for your generous monetary donation!

For those of you who want to be involved, there is still time!  As I shared before, the maternity center has a list of ongoing needs.  You can see that here.  You can also shop on Amazon (in your pajamas!!)  for Heartline.  You can see that wish list here.

Thank you all so much for your support!  I can’t wait to see what the next few months brings as it all comes together!

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Tony

dad1

Something strange has been happening to me over the past 10 years or so. Every once in a while, I do something, or hear myself say something, and have this out-of-body experience for a second.  A moment of reckoning.  A little attack of vertigo.  “Where have I heard that before?”  Things I never thought I would say sometimes roll right off my tongue.  Like a few weeks ago when I was helping my son with his math homework, and said, “I can’t believe the way they teach you kids to do math these days.  There is a much simpler way to get your answer.  I don’t get this new math.”  Or more recently while we were out for dinner, I heard myself complaining about how loud the music was in the restaurant, and why on earth do they need to have it so loud?  I’m trying to have a quiet pleasant evening out, for heaven’s sake.  Then one day, I hit a low point.  I was in a gift shop while we were on vacation, eyeing a bag of tortilla chips that usually cost about $1.99 in the good ol’ USA, but were marked at $8.00.  That’s right, $8.00.  For a bag of chips.  “Can you believe the price of these chips? ”  I exclaimed loudly for all to hear.  “What are they, laced with gold?”  I turned around to engage the other shoppers in my rant of disbelief.  My husband told me to be quiet, because I was being embarrassing.  Who, me?  Embarrassing?  Then it hit me.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  I am turning into my father.

Let me tell you a little bit about my dad.  He is the kind of guy who will buy a brand new BMW with all the bells and whistles, yet refuses to forward his mail when he moves because the post office charges $40, which he considers “too expensive”.  He wears a button down dress shirt to the office, with black sweatpants and sneakers.  When someone points out to him the incongruity of such attire, he responds by saying, “but these are my dressy sneakers.  They’re black.”  He has been known to try to cross the six-lane Pan-American highway on foot so that he could go to the shopping mall on the other side (thankfully, mom prevented this from happening).  He is a creature of habit–up at 6 am, in his pajamas at 7:30 pm, and in bed by 9:30 pm.  He is, in fact, so predictable that when I was growing up, our family dog would start to pace around when it was time for dad to change into his PJ’s, knowing it was just a matter of minutes before she would gleefully chase him up the stairs.  He is one of the smartest people I know who is completely oblivious to most everything happening around him.

One time my dad was hanging out at his gym.  He goes there almost every day to “work out”.  The reality of the situation is that, while there is some treadmill action involved in his routine, mostly he goes there to shower, chat people up, and use the sauna.  On this occasion he decided to use the hot tub.  Now, the hot tub is in a common area adjacent to the women’s and men’s locker rooms.  My parents had belonged to this gym for years at this point.  So there my dad was, having a nice little time in the hot tub, when a woman comes out of the ladies locker room into the common area to get into the hot tub.  This was the moment that my dad realized that this was, indeed, a CO-ED hot tub, and maybe he shouldn’t be sitting in it buck naked.

I have always heard that women turn into their mothers as they get older.  Oscar Wilde has famously said that “All women become like their mothers.  That is their tragedy.  No man does, and that is his.”  I was on the look-out for signs that I was becoming like my mom (which wouldn’t be the worst thing–hi mom!).  There were a few things here and there.  Nothing that scared me too much.  But I didn’t even think about worrying about turning into my dad!

Sure, there were some subtle signs along the way.  My general dislike for staying up past my bedtime.  My love of comfortable pants that don’t constrict the midsection (who doesn’t love that though, really?).  My Type A personality.  But lately the signs have been coming on stronger.  I used to always listen to pop radio stations.  Now the dial in my car is permanently tuned to NPR, keeping me informed on all the global news events.  (My dad is famous for being tuned in to CNN 24/7.  No news story escapes him.)  The girl who used to not care about politics has started to publicly (and sometimes loudly) declare her distaste for Republicans in general, and Donald Trump in particular.  Pajama time for me has crept from 8 or 9 pm, to 7 pm, sometimes sooner.  And I embarrass myself in public.  Frequently.

One time, after I did something embarrassing, I turned to Jeff and asked him, “WHY do I always embarrass myself??”  “Oh, honey”, he said, “it’s not just you.  Sometimes you embarrass me too.”

So here it is kids.  My destiny.  One day I will say whatever is on my mind, to whomever I want to say it to.  I will eat large quantities of butter, and when chastised, will shrug and dip the knife in deeper.  I may try to bribe the hostess at a chain restaurant with a $20 bill to convince her to get us a table before all the other people who are waiting.  I don’t think that I will talk about the stock market, but you never know.  That could be next.  So get ready, it’s coming.

P.S.–Love you dad.  Thanks for all the comic relief, xoxo.

dad2

True love

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“She gets the house and the garden, he gets the boys in the band.
Some of them his friends, some of them her friends, some of them understand.
~James Taylor

 

I am good friends with a beautiful couple who is really struggling in their marriage right now.  It’s interesting, these phases of life that we go through.  There are these familiar themes that follow you around, depending on which life decade you reside in at the moment.  First college, then career.  Then you start spending your weekends at bachelorette parties and weddings.  Baby showers soon follow.  It doesn’t happen that way for everyone, of course.  But the rhythm is there, in the background.

I don’t go to baby showers or wedding showers anymore.  Most of my friends have children in elementary school or older, and we are in the phase of pouring ourselves out for the sake of our families, and trying to reclaim what little of our own selves is left in our “free time”.  The other theme, the one that not many talk about, is that this is where marriage sometimes gets hard.  The shine has worn off, and we are tired.  We’re not newlyweds anymore, enamored with the task of discovering each other and the thrill of beginning.  And we are no longer adjusting to going from a family of 2, to 3 or 4, or more.  Most of us are done with that, with the vasectomy or tubal ligation to seal the deal.

In the midst of this very un-shiny, tiring, hard work, we find that our marriages, and/or our friend’s marriages, sometimes start to struggle.  We see some of our couple friends break up, or “consciously uncouple”, if you hang with celebrities.  And even if your marriage is not in dire straights, it hurts to watch, and it feels so vulnerable.  Because if this beautiful couple–my friends–whom I love and respect so much, can unravel right before my eyes, all the while fighting for their relationship, going to counseling, getting the help and support they need to no avail, who is to say that I’m not next?  When you go to a wedding the bride throws the bouquet, and all the single ladies line up to catch it with the wild hope that they will be “next”.   No one lines up to see who gets to be next to see the demise of their marriage, but we all know that there will be more, the same way we know that we will start going to baby showers after the wedding showers taper off.  It’s that rhythm, always there in the background.

My friends, as I mentioned, have been doing all they can to save their marriage.  It’s a long messy process, and I feel helpless on the sidelines.  There is nothing to say and nothing to do to make it better, or even OK.  It’s not OK.  You just do your best to try not to say something stupid or insensitive, and be a listening ear when needed.  You just try to keep showing up for your friends, even when it hurts to watch.  Because as much as it hurts to watch, you know that where they are hurts more.

This friend recently had her engagement ring stolen.  Great timing, right?  You’re on the brink, not sure if you’re going to stay together, and the ultimate symbol of your love gets taken from you.  The ring was insured, so they submitted a claim to their insurance company, and in order to receive the insurance payout they are required to buy a new one.  Well, that’s awkward.  Hey honey, I know we might be breaking up and living in 2 separate houses and dividing all our assets, but let’s go engagement ring shopping.  Do you have time on Saturday?  Her previous engagement ring had borne the inscription “True Love” on the inside, which the police told her might one day be helpful in recovering the ring.   They started joking around about what exactly they would inscribe on a brand-new-divorce-is-possibly-imminent-engagement ring.  “True Love” just doesn’t seem quite right at such a time as this.  They came up with “STFO”–as in, “start the f– over”.  Which I have to tell you, I really love.  Because it’s real.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

“The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Maybe being allowed to STFO in the middle of your ugly mess is the very definition of “True Love”, a definition we didn’t completely appreciate when we were all shiny newlyweds.  My friend’s marriage is Real now, and being Real hurts, and it isn’t always pretty.

Rings photo credit-Image by Boykung at FreeDigitalPhotos.net