Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The snow is lightly falling, the Christmas CD is playing, the house is snug and warm. Yet, my heart is heavy for the people of Haiti. A nurse who is spending 6 months volunteering at GLA writes every Sunday about her week and experiences in Haiti. This past Sunday she shared about a trip taken to a remote village in Haiti, a place that appears to be off the radar of most of the world.
High in the mountains above Jacmel, in the South East of Haiti, lies the remote community of Baie D'Orange. Following media reports that 26 severely malnourished children died there in November, the Association of Haitian Orphanages planned a mission to deliver aid to the area. On Thursday night, 5 trucks were loaded with emergency food packets, medical supplies, seeds, tools and banana plants. At 5 am on Friday morning, GLA staff piled into two of the trucks and headed for Port-Au-Prince to join a convoy of 3 other vehicles which would make the 6 hour journey to Baie D'Orange.
The heaviness of despair comes through loud and clear. And somehow, she manages to end her writing with joy and hope. I'm so thankful for all of the volunteers and staff at GLA who are working to bring joy and hope to so many people.
Robin and Emily are getting ready for their trip to Bainet, Haiti in February. They are thinking about what they will bring. A carry on will take care of all of their personal needs, but they can bring 2 suitcases each full of items. It just seems critical to not waste their space and to bring items that will bless and help the people of Haiti.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
My literacy tutoring is over for the holidays and so we ended with a party. The class I volunteer with practiced a song all week to perform at the party. What a time!!! I don't know if it's cultural or not, but the consensus was that only children sing... not adults. But the teacher perservered and they faithfully worked on it. And sang it. And there were smiles all around.
What really amazed me was the Christmas tone of the party. And why not? It was a Christmas party. But the vast majority of the students don't celebrate Christmas. In fact, the message I've been getting for the past few years, is the need to be sensitive to others during the holiday season. It's "Happy Holidays", not "Merry Christmas". But yesterday was totally Christmas. There was no attempt to pretend anything but. One of the classes even sang "Silent Night". And then Santa came and handed out presents to all of the children. Yes, some of the kids have been in Canada for a few short months and already they learn the joy of Santa... NOT. There was terror on many of the young faces.
This organization is very mindful of the sensitivities of the students and most of the staff have come to Canada from another country. But I've also noticed a strong push to teach the students about life in Canada especially where it's different from what they have always known. I don't know if this Christmas party was in that light or not. But we all exited with "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". Not the PC party I envisioned.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I think the reason this homestudy update bothers me so much, other than the waste of money & time, nothing to gain from it, yada yada yada, is my old timeline. When we received our proposal last October, I really thought Peterson & Gaëlle could and would be home by this Christmas. When it took us 7 months to get through IBESR (our permission from Haitian social services to adopt them), well I knew in my head that there was no way they would be home this year. But I still had it in my heart that I thought maybe, just maybe, by this Christmas.
Next, I adjusted my expectations to spring 2009. But the crushing reality is that even that is a stretch. We're still in Parquet with no end in sight. And now the powers to be in Haiti have added ANOTHER step to this madness for American & Canadian families. There's a new phase called "MAE". In MAE they are supposed to check all of the documents to make sure everything is in order before the file goes to MOI where they check the documents to make sure everything is in order. It makes me want to scream. I can only imagine the lawyers and adoption facilitators in Haiti.
Not everything is gloom and doom tho. I posted Christmas photos from last December. And then contrasted them with Christmas photos from this year. In most of the photos we received of Peterson, he always looked a bit sad and withdrawn. In our latest photos, he always has the biggest grin and seems to be fully engaged in his life at GLA. I know that he is doing just fine. And for that, I'm thankful.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
We just found out that our home study "expires" March 2009. It only has a 2 year life span and we have to update it for our province... NOT for Haiti. Ok, it should be simple and straight forward. And it is... but it will cost us another $800 to get everything done again. I just want to scream. It is useless bureaucracy. It is paper work simply for the sake of paperwork. What? Are they going to take away our permission to adopt? Is there a chance that we are now unsuitable adoptive parents? No... it is just somebody's brilliant idea that home studies need to be kept up to date and the social worker will now be making a ton of money for a couple of hours of work.
I really thought our kids could realistically be home by this Christmas and then this update would not even be necessary. Our province doesn't even require any kind of contact once the children are home. BUT we need to update our approved study because who knows what can happen in 2 years? Right?
I'm going to write an official complaint to Community Services here in NS. I am just spitting mad at this waste of money and time.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I have been volunteering 2 mornings a week in a literacy class for new immigrants to Canada. I love it. The students I help are in the beginning literacy class and their English speaking and understanding is very low. The students continually humble me with their persistence and determination. But last week I had a small reminder of just how difficult this must be for them.
A lady brought in food in anticipation of the coming holiday that most in the program celebrate. So being a bit ignorant of their holidays, I asked what the celebration was called. The students tried to tell me but I didn't understand them. When I went home and looked it up, I realized that they had said the holiday clearly and correctly but because I wasn't aware of the term, I didn't hear. Because they couldn't say, "It is called .....", I didn't understand. Because I am illiterate of their culture, I didn't know what they were saying.
So many of the concepts that we try to teach are totally foreign to them. Concepts that are vitally important to North Americans have no meaning to them. These beginning students learn almost everything by rote memorization. It must be so difficult to memorize words that have no meaning or context to them. But it is beautiful to see the lights come on when they learn something new and it sticks.
Monday, December 1, 2008
I was so fortunate to be able to spend some time with my family down in the states over American Thanksgiving. My daughter, Kaylin and I were the only ones able to go this year, which was a bit sad, but we still had a great time. We met up with my son, my parents, and my brother and his wife and cute little baby boy.
While I was gone, we received our update AND another message with some info on Peterson & Gaëlle. What a blessing... to have family near and far... and to connect in some way over the holidays.
I don't know how this happened but lately my daughters are regular gum chewers. Honestly it bugs me a bit, but there are worse vices. Apparently, Gaëlle likes her gum too. This is a story that Molly from GLA just sent us, along with a picture.
(The background info: We made a short little video for Gaëlle's 3rd birthday and posted it for Molly to share with her. Our family does puppets, so it involves a cute little boy puppet that we call Jean-Luc.)
Gaelle LOVED LOVED LOVED the birthday video you sent. Her and Peterson were quite captivated and Peterson kept asking me to play it over and over. Gaelle wasn't sure what the puppet was, you could see her little mind trying to figure out what it was. She's seen homemade sock puppets before, but nothing quite that big or resembling a person quite that much. Gaelle had just gotten up from her nap when she watched it and hadn't seen Peterson for an hour, Peterson had just come from school and was chewing gum... hence the photograph of Gaelle with her hand up to Peterson mouth. She didn't even have to say a word, all she did was put her hand up and instantly Peterson had given her his gum which she happily started to chew. He loves her so MUCH!!!! It is such a beautiful thing to see the way her takes care of her, and spoils her.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
It's here. Our first real snow of the season. And the kids had to go to school, which was a downer. Because there's nothing like the first snow day of the school year. But it won't be November 20, 2008. We'll have to wait for that joy.
And I absolutely love the mini snow plows that zip along and clear out our sidewalks. I wasn't sure we would have them here, but sure enough, it just zipped by. I think I'll go out now for my run.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
When I was a teen I was involved in Bible quizzing for one year. It was quite popular in some of the churches in our denomination and there was a man in our church who was passionate about Bible memorization. Mix in a few teens and there's your team.
We soon discovered how difficult this was. To be good, you have to work hard at memorizing the material and then you have to be able to recall it... on the spot. I wasn't a stellar quizzer. I didn't put the time in the top quizzers did.
Anyway, fast forward to today. I've been reading "To Live is Christ - Embracing the Passion of Paul" by Beth Moore. Today's reading was from Acts 7 where Saul held the coats while Stephen was stoned. And it hit me. Whenever I come across anything from the book of Acts, it's all so familiar. That was the book I studied during my one year of Bible quizzing 29 years ago. What a gift quizzing is to young people. That was so long ago and yet the knowledge is still there.
Learning is not wasted on the young. It's all right there, ready to bubble to the surface.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
The anticipation builds as each month ends because we know we'll receive our update. Then it arrives.... and it's always a bit of a let down. Because I want more. More information. More contact. More pictures. Other adoptive parents feel as though they get to know their children. I feel so out in the dark. I feel as though I don't know anything. I know bits and pieces but I don't really know them at all.
Look at Peterson's knees. I can imagine that he is all boy. I can imagine that he plays on the ground and scuffs his knees. But what does he play? What sounds does he make? Does he have a favorite toy? How does he laugh? I don't know anything.
Gaëlle sounds like a little diva. But does she whine? What makes her laugh? Does she like her doll? In one of the first pictures we saw, she had on feet pajamas and she looked so tiny. Now she looks like a young lady. She always has sandals that are too big. Does she demand to wear them? Or are her feet just so tiny? I don't have a clue.
It doesn't look like I'll know the answers any time soon.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
My daughter is participating in "Take your child to work day" on November 5. She didn't want to go with a parent because she's always been interested in medicine and neither parent works in that field. But, we didn't find an adult to take our child to their workplace so... she's going with her father.
When Kaylin initially confessed that she didn't want to go with her father she asked, "Can you really see me in law enforcement?" To which her father responded, "Well, not right now, but 10 years from now, who knows?"
And my memories of her 10 years ago flooded back. She was easily the most assertive of my young kids. I was used to my babies passively watching other kids take their toys, but not Kaylin. She fought back. And she pushed her older siblings away with, "My mommy, not your mommy!!!"
Now, she is perceived as gentle and sweet and soft. Not exactly police material. But like Robin says, who knows what 10 years will bring.
Then there's Josh. For the first 15 years of his life I would have rated music as the least likely hobby my child will ever have. I would have predicted a future as a medieval sword maker - we had lots of those floating around. Or professional video game player. But nothing to do with music. Then the switch flipped and now he's passionate about music. I never would have guessed but now it's hard to see his life without music. How does that happen?
No matter what they choose to do with their lives, it will be fun to sit back and watch the journey.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Several students were trashing celebraties, not even specifically- just in general, for all their wasted spending. Now there's a topic most people would not dispute. From our middle class perch, it certainly looks like celebraties waste a lot of money. The students were particularly scornful because there's such poverty around the world. Places where money is desperately needed and just a little money could do so much good. Again, nobody can dispute that.
So, what on earth could my daughter object to? And what am I so proud of? Well, she said that she finally had enough of the discussion. And so she turned it back on them. What are you doing for the poor? We're all rich compared to the majority of the world. How much of your money are you giving away?
It is so easy to put others down for their spending choices. But until I can say with all honesty that I have not wasted my resources and I have spent my money wisely, I had better not get up on my high horse condemning others in a higher tax bracket.
I'm so proud of her for taking responsibility for her actions. Financial responsibility is a huge lesson and I think she understands the importance of not being jealous of others for their wealth (not an easy thing to do) and not being critical of others for their wealth and the perception of their selfishness. She is accountable to God and to herself. Way to go.
Friday, October 17, 2008
My daughter graduates from high school this year. So so hard to believe, but that's not what people don't get. She has decided to take a year off from school and volunteer. She is currently looking into a Christian organization in Thailand that works with physically and mentally disabled children. Her unltimate goal is to go into physiotherapy, making a difference.
Earlier this week she was discussing some of this with her dance teacher, who's also helping her become a certified highland dance instructor.
"Why would you want to do that? I'm sure you don't have to. I'm sure your grades are good enough for university."
I don't know my daughter's exact words, but she was a bit speechless. Yes, she has excellent grades. Yes, she can easily just go straight to university. But she wants to make a difference. She wants to help people. Life seems meaningless when it's all about me, me, me. What's hard to understand about that?
These are exciting times for my daughter as her dreams are starting to take shape... starting to look like a reality. I'm so proud of her and her determination.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I remember talking with other moms when my kids were quite young. Did we lie to our kids about little things that really didn't make a difference?
"No, sweetheart, there aren't any onions in the spagetti sauce," to a child who totally hates onions.
Even if it inconvenienced me, I declared that I would tell my children the truth- point blank - if they asked me a question. I was appalled that moms would do differently. If you would lie to your child in the small things, what would prevent you from lying with the really big things.
Well, so much for good intentions. Today I practiced "deception by omission" with my daughter. She had all 4 wisdom teeth out today. She had me laughing so hard in her drug induced haze. Apparently she was concerned with ice cream and teeth brushing. Repeatedly concerned. Then quite confused to hear she had already asked the same question 2 minutes before.
But she did ask a legit serious question (even with the drugs making her wonky) and I knew the answer would upset her, so I dodged it. Then wouldn't you know it, while I was running this afternoon I just happened to listen to a podcast about "Lies we tell our children".
Telling white lies eventually makes one color blind.
Ouch. Convicted! So, when I came home and we were sitting around the table, I confessed. Sure enough, she was upset. But I tried to convey the importance of this issue and she eventually accepted it, even though it upset her.
My lesson learned: kids will respect the truth. They may not like it, but they will deal with it, often better than our imaginations give them credit for.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
This past weekend we went out and enjoyed the local fall festivities. I just love fall!!!! This is our hike to Cape Split.
Maritime fall fair. As a child I was terrified of petting zoos. I cowered in fear of those pushy goats and llamas trying to get any food I might have for them. My girls love, love, love a chance to pet the animals. They have always wanted a hobby farm. The closest they will get is visiting their Aunt Carrie's menagerie.
Who can pass up a beaver tail?
Robot guy... he certainly entertained my children.
It was Thanksgiving. I'm not too old for Thanksgiving crafts or I'm a Martha Stewart wannabe or something.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Gaëlle with Adrienne.
Peterson with Nadine.
Our kids are fortunate to be living in a really great orphanage - GLA. One of the areas that GLA takes seriously is bonding. Knowing that the children have suffered devestating loss in their young lives, the staff at GLA works hard to let the kids know that they are loved. The nannies are vital to their physical and emotional health. In September we all received photos of our kids with their nannies. Beautiful pictures.
So hard to believe that we've been married for 21 years. Wow!!! I know this is where I'm supposed to go on and on and on about how wonderful it's been. It's not that I can't do that, I can because I'm really blessed to be in such a great relationship. Quite honestly, it's been easy. After 21 years, I know how rare that is in relationships. And for that I'm grateful. And I'm looking forward to many more years together.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
I haven't voted since 1984. Yikes. That was the first year I was eligible and the last election I was physically living in the US. After I moved to Canada I didn't realize that I could still vote in the US elections. To be quite honest, the possibility never crossed my mind. During the 2004 elections there was a lot of media attention here to all of the Americans living in Canada and how they were voting.
So, I looked into it and what do you know? I can vote.
My absentee ballot arrived this week. I'm actually excited.
Monday, September 29, 2008
When my son was just a toddler, I had an invaluable parenting lesson. We were eating a meal with several people, some we were close to and some we weren't. A man who really had no business instructing my son, told my son to finish his glass of milk before he was allowed to leave the table. Now, I was relatively new at this parenting thing and I allowed this man to badger my son while I was steaming inside. It all had to do with me wanting to be respectful of this older man and really not knowing how to gracefully reassert myself as the parent.
The episode eventually ended and upon reflection, I vowed to never allow my children to be put in that position again. I was the parent, and I don't care if somebody disappoves of my decision... it's my decision to make. I will let my son leave the table without finishing his milk, if I choose. What a stand!
It seems like a no brainer, but it's not easy for some of us people pleasers to face the disapproval of others, especially if we admire and respect them.
Each family has their own values, what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.
When we moved here, we were pleased that mass transit would be available for our girls. They would have a bit of freedom to come and go, all for the price of bus fare. We were excited that they would get to go to the city and explore a bit. Another family was shocked that we would allow our teenage daughter to go in by herself and meet a friend. For a moment I wanted to smooth the peace, be the people pleaser and explain my decision to them. To us, it's perfectly acceptable and even desired that our kids do that. But I just stood quietly by our decision.
And guess who went into the city again on a bus? Yep, my daughters. And they loved their adventure. And I loved their growing sense of independence.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
I don't know how it started. But my son developed a strong interest in the conflict in Sudan... no, not the Darfur conflict, but the north-south conflict sometimes called the 2nd Sudanese Civil War. I think it was a combination of things he had been reading and items we had read as a family. Never dismiss the power of reading. Anyway, he was committed to praying for the end of the civil war in Sudan.
I am by no means an expert, but on a basic level, there were tensions because of religion, Muslim vs. Animism/ Christianity. Tensions because the south had vast natural resources (not accessible but very much present) and the north wanted access to them. Tensions because of Arab vs. non-Arab factions. And of course, tensions because of economic hardship. I'm sure a real expert could give much more nuanced details and explanations, but this was the basic understanding our family had.
Josh prayed regularly. Technically, this conflict ended on January 9,2005 with the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement. There are estimates of 2 million civillian deaths and 4 million displaced persons because of this north-south conflict. People may have heard of the lost boys of Sudan yet I doubt they can name the conflict. Few people know.
Enter Darfur. Another genocide. People are trying to get the word out... trying to stop the madness. Bloggers are using the power of the written word to publicize this tragedy. I picked up The Translator, A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur to learn more. It's just madness. I don't even know how to review the book. But I do know that the courage and persistence of people like Daoud Hari has not been wasted. He did all he could to let the outside world know of the destruction and violence in the Darfur region of Sudan. He and others continue to spread the word and hopefully to stop the madness.
Friday, September 12, 2008
The 2nd Thursday of every school year in Nova Scotia has been proclaimed, "Stand up against bullying day". This is a response to a bullying incident on the first day of school last year. A new student at Central Kings Rural High School wore a pink polo shirt and was harrassed. 2 grade 12 boys went out and bought 50 pink shirts and passed them out to friends to wear the next day to show their support and to speak out against bullying. The idea caught on and yesterday all students were encouraged to wear pink shirts.
I just couldn't help but think of my high school years. I'm sure bullying was a part of life for some students, but not for wearing pink shirts. I was in high school during the height of the "preppy" look. The cool guys wore pink shirts... button down... Izod... cotton sweaters... pink belts. The list could go on and on and on.
Where is the progress? For all of the tolerance that is being preached, we sure seem to be an intolerant lot.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
With the horror stories coming out of Haiti, most of us just feel so helpless. Even if we send money, it still doesn't feel like enough.
The orphanage we're adopting from sent out an urgent appeal asking all of us to contact our political representatives. According to a fellow missionary, there are supplies on the ground in Gonaive but the UN forces have not been handing them out. Paul Farmer of Partners in Health mentions something similar. Aid agencies have been SLOW to respond and the UN forces initially refused to hand out supplies because of "fear of riots".
Time for action. This is something I can do.
So, I emailed several of my political representatives in Canada. Imagine my surprise when my local Member of Parliament actually called me. Instead of blasting the local government in power for their lack of action (isn't that what opposition politicians do?) , he took this opportunity to educate me on Haiti.
They have the most corrupt government in this hemisphere.
The Haitian government doesn't allow aid groups to respond and truly help. Do I remember the response of the Burmese government just a few months ago?
So, this was my opportunity to educate.
Canada donates to Haiti and in fact, it is the 2nd largest foreign contribution Canada makes.
Therefore, Canada has a huge amount of leverage, unlike Burma, and this is the time to use that political leverage and demand action.
The UN force in Haiti is a military force and should be able to manage the threat of riots in order to save people's lives.
Oh, I see you know a little about Haiti. I just wanted to respond to that.
I just want my political representatives to use Canadian leverage to save lives before it's too late.
Thank you. Have a good day.
Now, this is where I fell short. I should have point blank asked him what he intended to do. Ugh... I still need to learn a little bit about action. Because that's what I wanted... action... not an education session.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Fast forward to the summer of 2004. Our family was in the car and Focus on the Family was playing. Bruce Wilkinson was discussing his new book, The Dream Giver. I never did read the book but after listening to the interview we all discussed our dreams... our big dreams. My big dream that was unfulfilled was my dream of adoption and God brought it to the forefront so powerfully that day. We all talked about it but it was clear that my family was not on board.
September 2004. Tropical Storm Jeanne hit Haiti... HARD. The exact same area that is facing the deadly waters today was devastated by mud slides that September. As soon as I heard the news, I just felt this heavy heavy burden. I felt like my kids were stuck in that mud. My family was in need. I'm not a melodramatic person, but I really felt despair and the sense that my family needed me.
July 2006. Our family had the privilege of being in camp meetings with a great speaker. It's not that Jo Anne Lyon is the most dynamic speaker I've ever heard, but her message was just what we needed. She used her book, The Ultimate Blessing, Rediscovering the Power of God's Presence as the backbone of her messages. We were finally ready to commit to adopting from Haiti. We started the process.
September 2008. Haiti is once again feeling the power and destruction of water. I know that my kids are safe. GLA is high in the mountains and their buildings are strong. I have a peace about their safety, but Gonaive and other flat lying areas are just being decimated. My thoughts are a jumble. My questions are many.
He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how. ~Friedrich Nietzsche
"I had always loved the word hope, but the idea behind it was elusive to me. What is hope? How would you describe it? Finally I hit upon an analogy that helps me understand the concept. I envision my life as a train, set on railroad tracks, with an engine that makes it go. I see hope as the destination of the train. The tracks upon which the train moves are love, and the engine that makes it move is faith. The apostle Paul referred to 'Christ in you, the hope of glory' (Col. 1:27). When I see my own suffering as a way of sharing in Christ's suffering, I'm driven toward hope. I know that I have a 'why,' a reason for what I experience. Therefore, I have hope." The Ultimate Blessing (p. 132-133)
Friday, September 5, 2008
Kaylin with our "daughter" from last year. She's living at home, but she followed Emily to her new high school.
Emily and friend leaving for school.
Snickers, left behind.
It's back to school time and because our homeschooling days are finished for now, it's time for a new school. With all of the moving our family has done, homeschooling has been a huge benefit. It provided consistency and stability in the kids' education.
But as of last February my daughters are both in the public school world and with a move, that means a new school. The jury is definitely out on their new schools. Especially with the high school. We had heard horror stories about this particular school from kids who don't attend there so we didn't really pay any attention to them. Emily now thinks they're true. She's not too impressed with the control, or lack of control, the administration has on the students. She thinks things are out of control. Not exactly what every mom wants to hear from her daughter.
This is her last year and so we'll see how it goes. I let her know that home was very much a possibility, but for now, she'll stick it out.
Kaylin is also not convinced that this school will be good for her. But she's going to continue and see how it goes. I have been in a constant state of prayer this week and I'm sure that will continue. I'm thankful that I don't feel stuck... we have options... I've homeschooled my son through high school... I can do it again.