Livesay Haiti

The Christmas Letter in January - Better Late Than Never

Once upon a time I sent my Christmas letter out on December first, taking far too much pride in hearing, "Yours was the first one I got this year."  Perhaps I am competitive. 

Once upon a time is a long long time ago.  I'm in mid-life now and mediocrity (survival) is to be celebrated. Better late than never is my mantra. I've recently had it tattooed across my buns. 

This last year I couldn't muster up a letter in December - like at all.  I started one and realized it sounded negative and maybe even old-lady-grouchy. Instead of any newsletter-type insert I wrote a quick note to each household and called it good. No news added.


On my post on Facebook to review 2017,  I managed to say it all with carefully chosen words to protect the innocent and fatigued and I did it in less than 300 words:

I am weepy today as we start this new year. I want to thank you for the love and kindness you showed the Livesay Family and Heartline Ministries in 2017. It is more than humbling to us to receive prayers and encouragement from people all over the place, many of whom we have never met. 2017 was a very difficult year for Troy and I. Even though I hope the year ahead is much easier, we are grateful for what we have learned through various personal and professional challenges and hoping we can grow in grace and love as a result of the rough stuff. On the Mission/Heartline/Haiti front we completed our first full year as mission Directors and went through some big changes. At times we were pretty aware that we were in over our heads and had an acute awareness of our failings. The learning curve has been UUUGE and we know we have let folks down at times without being able to get back to everyone in a timely manner or in a personal way. If you were disappointed with us we apologize and ask your forgiveness. We deeply appreciate every donor, prayer, employee, and board member. What an honor it is to work with you all ... Truly, an honor.On the personal front, the month that our sweet Gideon (our third grandson) arrived, my body decided to toss me into a hormonal tsunami that I could never have imagined would be this challenging for me. I'm grateful for the two people that have consistently whispered in my ear, "You're doing great. You are not as crazy as you feel. Keep going." I cannot imagine this life without you two.On the family front, 2 of our kids had major breakthroughs (I cannot come up with a better word - but that is not exactly the right word - but close) this year that have led to a lot of discovery, grief, pain, & ultimately a whole lot of healing too. Troy and I knew when our family size exploded in the early 2000s that the day would come when the number of puberty/teen hormones in our house would be frightening. Well, the day is here - and we are still upright. That is grace that can only come from a very Good and Gracious God.In a nutshell:
I am really glad 2017 is over.
I am sorry if I let you down this year.
God is gracious.
Let us begin again.

Now that we have arrived in one piece to mid January, and I have had some time to work through the negativity and fear I was feeling when I tried to write my December letter, I feel prepared to write the details that aunts and uncles and grandparents care to know about. This will bore the vast majority of readers.


Britt and Chris and Gideon -Gideon was born in April, Lydia and I were given the gift of being present in the room that day.  Britt is working at Children's in Dallas as PA. The shifts are 12 hours long and she has found that to be really long when leaving her baby guy who digs nursing and free-flowing-milk.  Chris is wonder-dad and cooks insane meals on top of a dozen other BA skills. I had one night at their house recently on my way to Austin, TX and I ate a PeanutButterChocolate cheesecake that he made from his bare hands. I tried to talk him into starting a business because I know a bunch of moms would totally come get a cheesecake from him and their lives would be made. Gideon has begun taking his first steps and is officially a first born over-achiever like his parents. 
Paige and Michael and Graham and Abner -The Gonzales crew of four moved to El Paso in April, where Michael is stationed with the Army.  They really like El Paso and have adjusted well to the culture and climate. Paige and Michael are great parents and manage to laugh at all the chaos of two wildly active little dudes. Laughing at chaos is the only way through it.  Both are taking classes and working toward their goals in the medical profession.  Graham is three and spicy as can be. He likes to be entertaining and seems to achieve it effortlessly.  His favorite word is "naked" and sometimes you just need to yell it and channel Graham's joy.  Try it. Abner just turned one while they were in Haiti in late December.  Being the second child, we have no photo of a cute party and pointy paper hats. Paige said, "He needs to be in bed - sing!"  So we sang to him without cake and put him to bed. 
Isaac - (16)This last year was the year Isaac suddenly became a young adult. Emotionally he has always seemed younger than his age, but this year he made up for it all.  He is a 10th grader with plans to do something with animals and vet medicine.  He loves animals so much and will be great in that line of work. Since May he has been going a few hours outside of Port au Prince to one-week classes to learn about caring for animals. I call it a "vet-camp" because I don't have a better way to describe it. He sends us photos of goats being dissected and other amazing animal innards. Several things brought Isaac life this year, we are grateful to see him feeling whole.
Hope - (16)This girl is stunningly beautiful and it is kind of nerve-racking watching her walk across a room.  People turn their heads.  Too many of the people are adult dudes.  She excels in many areas but given the choice to do only what she wants, you would find her in her bed reading Jane Austen all day every day. If you know of someone that pays a salary for that, please give us a call. Hope is also a 10th grader and is looking for a school that will allow her to major in Jane Austen and cuddle under blankets.
Noah - (13.5)Noah is for sure the winner of the growth spurt award for 2017. He grew more than six inches in one year and is now right on Isaac's heels and feeling pretty smug about it. Noah's biggest news of the year is his decision  (along with his teacher and Troy and I) to switch to an on-line high-school program.  This means that on December 5th he started the 9th grade. He had to wait until he was 90 days from being fourteen years old. Noah is a perfectionist and reminds us much of a first-born. 
Phoebe - (11)Is as tall as Hope and headed for giraffe status. Puberty has been a rough transition for PJ but in recent weeks she seems to be coming into her own.  We have addressed some learning challenges at school and with Stefanie's (the kids' professor) help I think Phoebe will find her place. She has always been our quiet background kid, but she has it in her to party and take charge.
Lydia - (10)Our reversal child  is feisty beyond description and absent minded and makes my forgetfulness seem mild.  We all get a kick out of what a hot mess she is and just sort of roll our eyes when she continually forgets to pack the lunches on her day. or shows up to school without shoes. She digs being an auntie and spent every minute of our family time taking care of Graham. 
School Stuff-Stefanie Raleigh has been teaching our kids since September and we feel as though we won the lottery. Each kid is being challenged and Stefanie had their numbers within a few weeks. It is beautiful to watch her do what God has so gifted her to do. We will finish school in mid June and the kids will all get out of Haiti again because they are way too old to handle non stop sit at home long summers in Port au Prince.
Heartline Stuff-I recently posted a few things about the Maternity Center and Heartline as a whole. I won't repeat it, please just check out recent posts.
Merry Belated Christmas and Happy 2018.
Let us Begin Again.

topics for the new year


The Internet is a place where the main objective sometimes seems to be disagreement. It would be silly for me to pretend I'm not part of the problem. I get a bit feisty red-head ticky and sometimes defend friends and enter into the fray when I should probably just go for a walk and do some square breathing. 

I enjoy writing but I don't want to get into giant debates. This makes it tricky to write anything except silly stuff.

For example: If I write about the problems with sexual abuse in orphanages, someone will take issue because their orphanage is great and needed and why am I always hard on orphanages. If I write about Haitian babies dying in childbirth someone will write to tell me it happens in the USA too and not to focus only on Haiti. If I write about short term missions someone will tell me that short-term missions led to their long term service and I am forgetting that. 

All of that to say, of course every thing has nuance and there are rarely situations in life where it can be said "100% always wrong" or "always ALWAYS right".  

Real life makes absolutes pretty hard to come byam I right?




Today I decided to put all the sticky topics of my life in one place ... Just to get it all out there and have a post to refer back to when these questions/criticisms come up in the future. 

Agree or disagree, this is how we landed where we are on several frequently discussed topics. We have changed our minds over the years and reserve the right to be wrong and change our mind again in the future if needed.  

Here we go!


RE: Social media and photos posted on the Internet-
Every so often someone will feel concerned that I am  (we are) breaking privacy by sharing photos of new moms and babies before or after birth. This is a great concern to raise.  
It is always our goal to respect and honor women. All of the women that pass through the Maternity Center sign a waiver/contract that states that they understand it is possible their photos might be used for fundraising and marketing purposes.  If someone doesn't want to be photographed, we respect that. We are constantly reevaluating how we share on social media and want to get it right. 
The reason we use photos is because transparency and donors demand photos. Who wants to send money to something they cannot be sure is actually happening? If I told you we had a clinic delivering babies in a developing world country - would you please support us, but I never showed you the clinic or the babies and mommas, would you blindly send a financial gift?
Honestly, if you bristle or judge the use of photos for promotional purposes - you cannot possibly judge as much as we do ourselves. It is uncomfortable. We don't love talking about the programs non stop, but that is  how things get funded. I don't know many people that deeply enjoy the part of non-profit or humanitarian or mission work where it is required we ask for help.  
The truth is, we need your help.  None of this happens without you. 
Asking the women we work with to acknowledge that we might use photos does create a power imbalance. How can someone who cannot pay for their care say no to my request for photos?  That is an excellent point, it is not lost on me.  This is not easy and it is not fair. I do want to assure you that if we share a story and photos about a woman, she knows and is able to decline if she wishes.
If we could provide the care for the women without ever talking about the work or sharing photos, trust me, we would. In today's social media driven world, if you have a solution for us to be funded without ever posting on social media, please call me this afternoon.

RE: Groups / Volunteers and Short Term Missions- 
This is something I need to write about carefully. It is not my intention to cause anyone to feel defensive or ashamed. I tend to write in a style that is too straight-forward for some folks and I recognize that I have caused hurt feelings in the past. I am sorry if you've felt that. Please hear my heart.  
For the ministry Troy and I are honored and humbled to lead: We don't need painters or hole diggers or short term volunteers. 
We do need to attempt to give Haitians jobs to paint and work and do things that will provide an income. More than anything, Haitian men and women need opportunities to work and provide for their families.
There are some organizations that fund everything they do from fees that are imposed for short term groups that visit. Those organizations might allow you to paint or do hands on physical labor for them.
That is not our model at Heartline. 
We want our focus to be on building relationships with our 50 plus employees and with the families/women that participate in the programs. It is difficult to have the time and bandwidth to build relationships with those folks if we are frequently hosting North American short-term visitors. 
We have found a partner that shares our philosophy and are currently working with them to offer occasional trips. These trips will not participate in visiting orphanages (to be clearer, Heartline does not have an orphanage) and the visitors will not paint. 
If you would like to check out Spero, they have date options to visit and see Heartline a few times a year.  
At this time, our model, our focus and our vision for the future is to leave team hosting to Spero while we continue to focus on our daily work. If you have questions about what I have written here, please feel free to email.
RE: Doulas and Midwives or Nurses volunteering or interning at the Maternity Center-
The Midwifery model of care is relationship first. To do relationship in Haiti it means speaking Creole (Kreyol). At this time, it means we only need long long term midwives (two years+) or Haitian midwives that are invested and able to learn language and culture. Just five years ago our staff was one full time local nurse.  Today we employ six Haitian nurses and/or midwives. Our intention is to provide as many jobs as our budget and patient/client load demands and allows and to invest in local midwives. Unfortunately if we are training anyone that is not Haitian we are likely to be speaking English and therefore losing our focus on training and raising-up local midwives.
Our Manifesto at the Maternity Center, or our Theology of Care plays into this policy. 
RE: Tours-
We love to show the Maternity Center. So many of you that read this helped to remodel and add on to it a few years ago. We want you to see it. The larger property where Heartline's bakery and trade school are located is also open for tours when scheduled. We  do allow and welcome folks to see the two properties. At the Maternity Center we can arrange tours every day except Thursday. On Thursday we focus on 70 pregnant women and cannot easily stop to give tours. If you are visiting Haiti and want to stop in for a tour, please contact us via email and we will do our best to schedule it and make it happen.
RE: Sharing our Model-
It is common for other organizations working in Haiti to desire a chance to come see and observe what is happening at the Maternity Center.  At times a long meeting is also desired to learn as much as possible about how it all works. Because these requests come frequently we decided to develop a manual and also a corresponding class.  
The manual is about 80% finished at this point. We believe it will be ready in June.
We will be offering our first class to medical professionals and women's health-care administrators later in 2018.  The date will likely be July or August. The first class will only be offered to those working in Haiti. Once we have the kinks worked out this will become an annual class open to others serving in other countries as well. 
Our hope and prayer is to share the Midwifery Model of Care (operating a Birth Center and Prenatal Care/Postpartum Care program) in a Developing World setting along with what we have learned and failed at and succeeded at in the last ten years. 
Please stay tuned.  If you would like to be placed on a list for further information as the details are firmed up, please email me at tara.livesay@heartlineministries.org  
As always, please let us know if you have questions or concerns. I am so grateful for each of you that give and pray and follow along with the happenings at Heartline in Port au Prince. We can be reached via email or FaceBook at the Heartline Facebook Page.


A Manifesto



Heartline Maternity Center Theology of Care 

At the core of the Heartline Maternity Center is our unshakable belief that every woman and every baby is created in the image of God. 
We believe their lives have unsurpassable worth and value. We believe every woman and child are deeply beloved. We believe that each of them deserve our respect as well as our care.
We believe God’s dream for humanity includes the women and children of Haiti. 
We believe God dreams of shalom - an all-encompassing active peace that is more than the absence of conflict but the life-giving presence of justice, wholeness, and flourishing. We are committed to participating in God’s heart for the women, girls, and babies of Haiti to grow and thrive.
We believe that lament and joy are sisters in this work. We are unafraid of the hard and challenging truth of life here in Haiti. We believe in holding space for the truth-telling of lament and grief. But we also believe in making a commitment to celebration, to life and joy as an act of resistance to despair, anxiety, hopelessness, and powerlessness. 
We believe God has called us to actively pursue peacemaking through birth. 
We believe in “stay and listen” because we are committed to faithfulness. We are stayers- we are not quitters. We have been here for more than a decade and we are committed to our friends and clients for the long haul.  We still believe in transformation - that God is still transforming the world and we are participating in that transformation, one safe birth at a time. 
We believe that maternal health care is vital to the rise of Haiti. We believe that it is the best and most long-lasting way to reduce the number of children placed in orphanages and effect change in our community. 
We believe the materially poor deserve access to Maternal Healthcare, & that Haiti needs more accessible care. We believe in tackling the root causes of poverty, oppression, and injustice by supporting and equipping the women of Haiti as mothers.
We believe that caring for women and babies is how we are experiencing and knowing God. Jesus said he was among the poor, the marginalized, and oppressed of our world and so we are there, too. 
We believe that the physical needs and the spiritual needs of our clients are inherently intertwined. 
We believe that maternal justice is holistic, - it includes the whole woman: her spirit, her soul, her mind, and her body.



We believe this. 
Your participation is key. 
To join us in this exciting work please consider a year-end gift here.




Click here for 2017 Full Review

Thank you for your love and support in 2017.Troy and Tara LivesayHeartline Ministries

All the Christmas



"But this child was a new kind of king. Though he was the Prince of Heaven, he had become poor. Though he was the Mighty God, he had become a helpless baby. This King hadn't come to be the boss. He had come to be a servant."
-the jesus storybook bible





Written by Rick Porter, Spirit Lake, Iowa Perhaps it’s just the Ebenezer Scrooge in me, but I’m not much of a caroler. When pressed into participation I sing, but rarely with the gusto of those around me. And too often I sing in a rote way, not giving full attention to the words. There is however, one line of one verse of one carol that always captures my attention.
A story is told of a man seasonally employed to bring the presence of Santa to Christmas gatherings for businesses and schools. He was on his way to a gig, an office party, but had been asked to stop by the nursing home to make a quick visit to the residents. This was pro bono work, but if Santa won’t do it who will?
He quickly made his rounds with a “ho, ho, ho” to each room. Just before departing, he peeked into a darkened cubicle where an elderly man lay apparently asleep, curled on his bony side. Santa prepared to leave in a flash. But the man made a feeble beckoning gesture visible in the dim light of a tiny Christmas tree. The volunteer Santa approached. The man whispered something so faintly as to be inaudible. Santa moved his jolly old ear very close to the man’s dry mouth. “Forms are bending low,” the man said. Santa did not connect the phrase, assumed confusion, gave a patronizing pat, and hurried off to his paying job.
As he arrived at the office party, holiday music was filling the room. The words of an old carol floated from the ceiling speakers:
O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

The song was “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” written as a poem in 1849 and put to music 10 years later. The essence of the song is that angels did not just appear and sing at the birth of Christ. They show up and serenade regularly and often. 
Just when we are so burdened as to not hear, at the most difficult of times, when life’s loads crush and our forms bend, they minister most. Immanuel, meaning “God-with-us,” attends us as His invisible person, the Holy Spirit, and He is attended by angels. The heart of God is to meet us at life’s darkest intersections with comfort, encouragement, a touch of heaven, and a breath of hope. The old man in the nursing home wasn’t just complaining to Santa about his lot in life. He was acknowledging that in Santa’s visit, no matter how hurried, there was an angelic grace.
Whether or not you sing the carols this year, be encouraged to live the carols. For you, this season may not be one of happiness, good memories, or togetherness. You may be grieving, regretful, or lonely. Life’s road seems crushing and your form is bending low. That does not disqualify you from the true Christmas message. While others scurry in apparent happiness, the invitation to the crushed and the bent still stands:
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 



A tradition that causes some snapping (Troy) 
and joy and laughter every December ...




2008 is restricted to me only because of our internet restrictions or by something illegal we did with copyrights or something.






2010 is restricted (to us only) for the same reasons


2011








GO HERE for 2014

HERE for 2015



and ...

HERE FOR 2017



Heartline Maternity Center, Port-au-Prince, Haiti 
 SARAH STYLES BESSEY originally posted on DECEMBER 14, 2011




If more women were pastors or preachers, we’d have a lot more sermons and books about the metaphors of birth and pregnancy connecting us to the story of God. (I am rather tired of sports and war metaphors.)The divinity of God is on display at Christmas in beautiful creche scenes. We sing songs of babies who don’t cry. We mistake quiet for peace. A properly antiseptic and church-y view of birth, arranged as high art to convey the seriousness and sacredness of the incarnation.  It is as though the truth of birth is too secular for Emmanuel, it doesn’t look too holy in its real state. So the first days of the God-with-us requires the dignity afforded by our editing.But this? This creating out of passion and love, the carrying, the seemingly-never-ending-waiting, the knitting-together-of-wonder-in-secret-places,  the pain, the labour, the blurred line between joy and “someone please make it stop,” the “I can’t do it” even while you’re in the doing of it, the delivery of new life in blood and hope and humanity?This is the stuff of God.There is something Godly in the waiting, in the mystery, in the fact that we are a part of it, a partner with it but we are not the author of it. How you know that there is life coming and the anticipation is sometimes exciting and other times exhausting, never-ending. How there is a price that you pay for the love love love.I was fortunate to give birth to three of my tinies without complications. I find myself thinking of those experiences often during Advent; they are still very fresh for me. My eldest daughter was born in the hospital in a fairly usual way. My littlest girl was born at home, in water, with midwives, a beautiful and redemptive experience for me. But it’s the birth of my son, my Joe, that stays with me in these winter months.  His was an unintended free birth in our building’s parking garage while we were on our way to the hospital. We were alone – no midwife, no doctor, not even in our own home with a clean floor but instead a garage filled with gasoline and tire smells. My husband was scared; a lot of things could go wrong in this scenario (he had the good sense to act like he was in control though). And we were surrounded by strangers – helpful, concerned strangers but strangers nonetheless – and they were witnessing me give birth.And yet my body had taken over and all we could do, all I could do, was surrender to that moment fully. Every muscle in my body was focused, my entire world had narrowed to that very moment.  And then there he was, born while I was leaning against our old truck, standing up, into my own hands, nearly 9 pounds of shrieking boy-child humanity, welcomed by my uncontrollable laughter and his father’s uncontrollable relief-tears. A few people applauded.There wasn’t anything very dignified about giving birth.And yet it was the moment when I felt the line between the sacred and the secular of my life shatter once and for all. The sacred and holy moments of life are somehow the most raw, the most human moments, aren’t they?But we keep it quiet, the mess of the Incarnation, because it’s just not church-y enough and men don’t quite understand and it’s personal, private, there aren’t words for this and it’s a bit too much.  It’s too much pain, too much waiting, too much humanity, too much God, too much work, too much joy, too much love and far too messy. With far too little control. And sometimes it does not go the way we thought it was supposed to go and then we are also left with questions, with deep sadness, with longing.My entire concept of God shifted in that moment, leaving my brain and my life and my theology to catch up with what my soul now knew deep. I could never see God as anything other than through the lens of the Incarnation, of his Father-Mother heart and his birth now. No theologian or counter-circumstance-experience can take away from what I know, what many mothers the world over know in their heart of hearts about loss and birth and raising babies and real transformation: it’s Love and it is sacred and it is human and it all redeems.  The very truth that God put on flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood through birth, even – especially –  that experience of birth, now showing us what it means to be truly human.Women can tell this part of the story this Christmas, the glimpse behind the veil, the life lived in the in-between of the stuff of God. There is a story on your lips, isn’t there, mama? of how you saw the face of God in the midst of fear or pain or joy and understood, really understood, Mary, not kneeling chastely beside a clean manger refraining from touching her babe, just moments after birth but instead, sore and exhilarated, weary and pressing a sleepy, wrinkled newborn to her breasts, treasuring every moment in her heart, marvelling not only at his very presence but at her own strength, how surrender and letting go is true work, tucking every sight and smell and smack of his lips into her own marrow.God, Incarnate, Word made flesh, born of a woman. We can tell the true, messy stories of the Incarnation. Emmanuel, God with us. May we recognise the miracle of the Incarnation, not in spite of the mess, but because of the very humanness of it.

~~~~~~~~

The 11th Annual is here ...







In 2007 when this family tradition began, Britt was 17 years old and Lydia was 2 months old.  

Britt and Paige have basically aged out of this obligation. Soon we will need to start incorporating their offspring. 

The last five kids were given a chance to call this a dead tradition. Troy and I said, "Hey guys, we can call it if you want. Would you want to call last year's production the last one?"  

They would hear nothing of it. They are not too cool for this tradition yet.  

We had about 8 hours total to give to the project so it was a simple year. One-half day of filming a few hours of recording Hope singing and putting clips together, voila. At one point in the filming Troy was negotiating with some guys who thought we needed to pay them, while the kids and KJ and I quickly filmed what we needed. It is always good times and negotiation on this island. 

From our Winter Wonderland, we wish you and yours a most beautiful and joy-filled Christmas holiday season. Thank you so much for loving Haiti, Heartline Ministries, and us. 
Your encouragement and engagement has meant a lot to us this year! 
XOXO,Troy, Tara, Isaac, Hope, Noah, Phoebe & Lydia 

pataje istwa ou ~ share your history


Time is hard to measure in Haiti. Surviving day-to-day does not allow for a lot of calendar awareness.  It can be difficult to remember dates of events.

Around the time of the solar eclipse, she was fighting with her brother a lot and her mother grew weary of the fighting.  

It was decided she would go stay at her aunt's house for a while, putting some space between herself and her brother.

At her aunts house she remembers that one night her aunt brought her something to drink that was a syrup and also a pill to take.  Her aunt told her it would help her sleep. She doesn't recall anything else until waking up.

She woke up "arranged in the bed" and her male cousin, the son of her aunt, was there with her.

She stopped getting her monthly cycle.

She is four months pregnant.

She is sixteen years old.






Christmas History ~ Year Three



(2009) This year will always and forever be my favorite year.  There was something tender about this year. It felt like we had a tiny piece of Bethlehem in our back yard. The kids totally enjoyed every bit of the making of the video.  The animals brought so many laughs.  Troy was convinced we'd all gone crazy, but in the end as he fought to get the borrowed donkey back into a truck, I wasn't necessarily disagreeing with him.  Britt and Chris gathered all the costumes and sent them to Haiti.  Troy wrote a simple song and Hope sang "glowy to God" over and over.

There is something about this that will always be deeply important to us all, in that less than a month after we put this together our lives were literally rocked as we watched and experienced our precious Haiti suffer the devastating effects of a giant earthquake.  This sort of represents the end of that stage  of our lives and our time in Haiti.

#BigFamilyProbs

Wouldn't it be so incredibly amazing if the world was able to provide our kids with fair and equitable treatment in the specific and crucially important area of "supply of sugar and junk food" as part of the minimum standard of operation?

Certainly our five children are entitled to a sustainable and more measured minimum provision of Poptarts, AppleCinnamonCheerios, Skittles, Cheetos, and Twix Bars.  

I know they are entitled to this because they tell me so. 


~ ~ ~
Observing them in their natural habitat instills fear. 

The deprivation they face on the regular leads to risk. They are in danger of extinction and have resorted to hiding, rationing, all varieties of dishonesty, and malfeasance. 

It opens up the age-old-question.  (You know the one.)

What is the minimum standard obligation for the universe and the parental unit to provide their dependents with a bilateral  investment in their felt and real need for junk-food? 

What approach is best? The Modern approach? The Non-Contingent approach? The Delayed Gratification Model? The Less is More wisdom of the ages? 

HOW DO WE NAVIGATE THIS???





They are basically participants in a dystopian survival game and it appears that they will ultimately battle to the bitter end over candy and breakfast cereal. 


These kids need help.  An intervention.  Something.


Say for example, a friend visits and brings in a box of Apple Jacks.  The next morning, a kitchen that routinely does not have a single visitor until 7am, is suddenly transformed into a high-traffic zone with three of five children up at 6am to get their hands on the best choice for breakfast.  

When the fourth kid arrives the accusing begins. "WHAT? You had three bowls of Apple Jacks? That was for all of us!!!!" 

Then the defense presents a case: "I got up at six. You slept. You know the rules. The early bird gets the cereal."  After that there is general disgust displayed through jerky-angry movements to get the spoon and bowl out along with the use of heavy sighing over the bowl of dull and sugar free Haiti corn flakes. 

Dokte Jen showed up with cereal and several bags of candy the other day.  Every kid grabbed a bag and ran away to bury it in the yard or shove it inside of a hollowed out book for safe keeping. It caused a stir because Lydia arrived and grabbed first. The others quickly made a claim on their bag. They were behaving like animals afraid of starvation.  

At this stage of my life, I'm right on the edge of snapping at all times - sometimes I just do a little theatrical fake snap to practice for the day the BIG one finally comes. 

"THAT IS IT YOU GUYS", I yelled.

"THIS IS COMMUNITY CANDY."  

We made a plan to combine and share all of Jen's candy. This way everyone could sample a variety of options. I suggested four (they are small) pieces per day per child - until it was gone or until a new edict was issued. 

We placed the bowl on top of the refrigerator.

A few children grumbled that it wouldn't work out fairly.  I heard those complaints - - and promptly ignored them.

Foolish.  That is what I am. 

The next day Troy provided me with jarring video.  

Prior to 7:30am the world's premier most Twix enthusiast, KitKat connoisseur, and chocolate aficionado had taken three quick hits from the chocolate bowl. In total far more than the four piece allotment was consumed. No breakfast on that particular morning, just sugar hits. 

That night I said, "Lydia, would you ever have candy for breakfast?"   

She seemed bewildered. 

"WHO, ME?"   

Isaac created a new verb a while back.  He says when I get sick of seeing him wear and re-wear the same t-shirt too often that I "disappear it".  He recently told Jen, "That shirt you gave me, she disappeared it."

It turns out that Lydia disappeared the candy. Video footage don't lie. 

Going forward we have no solution except maybe to place her in restraints during the hours we cannot watch the candy.

We are trying to sober her up and working on some sort of accountability partner for her.  We are wondering how we can be a big family that is not freaky weird about treats and the distribution of said treats.

Once that critically important task is taken care of we hope we will be ready to present our 11th Annual Livesay Christmas Extravaganza.  

~ ~ ~
This year we ran into a bit of trouble when it suddenly became obvious that we don't have enough hours in a day to finish the video as early in the month as in all past years. 

Until the 11th offering, we would like to point you back to the past 10 years, available at our YouTube Channel.

We recently got to see the Baby Jesus from 2016, he is one year old now and doing well.  

Last year ...


I married this guy ...





Forty five to ninety minutes before we actually have to leave, I get Troy started on his goodbye so that I can actually leave when we need to leave.

This is basically a true representation of Troy's goodbye process.


Send Help. 

My Struggle Bus Broke Down

My almost 23-year-old kid, Paige, likes to tell me that I am on the struggle bus.

I think it is ha-ha funny for anyone to tell me that, mainly because **I know** that the bus I am on has three flat tires and no jacks or spares.  I'm on that broken down struggle-bus sitting on the side of the road cursing at it all.

The year two thousand seventeen has been somewhat of a butt kicking.  I think maybe I have said that every year we have been in Haiti except perhaps in twenty twelve. That year (2012) I think our butts were less kicked and less bruised.  

2017 has been a ton of tears and struggle and big life and work transitions.  I am referring to things we have shared openly and much that is too personal to put on the Internet.  (I know it may seem that I am willing to share everything, but that's not true. I only share super personal things about Troy.) 

My point here is not to gripe about 2017.  (another day)

Let me pivot now to my point. 

No, actually, before I pivot let me tell you what Troy said to me about thirty minutes ago. 

Troy Livesay - on the changes in his life and marriage as a result of his 45 yearold wife and perimenopause:
"It's not bothering me at all. I have a different wife, like a different one you know? It is kind of fun and entertaining - this flaky and forgetful wife for a while - I know it is not forever so I like it, you know?"
** ** ** 

Daphnee came for an ultrasound early in her pregnancy.  A doctor in Port au Prince had given her an ultrasound. He told her that her pregnancy was outside of her uterus and that she needed to terminate for the sake of her own life.  He told her the price of termination.  It was much more than she could pay.

Daphnee had family members that had delivered with Heartline Maternity Center.  Her family members, Fedline and Phanise, told her to come get an ultrasound at the Heartline Maternal Health Program. 

Daphnee came for an ultrasound one Friday.  

We saw a normal intrauterine pregnancy and encouraged Daphnee not to go back to the doctor that had suggested termination.  Daphnee had a hard time taking that information in and asked over and over again, "It is a normal pregnancy?"  We just kept reassuring her that we saw what looked totally normal.

She delivered a healthy baby, her firstborn, on the 17th of October.  Below, Daphnee is pictured on the right - and then bringing her little one home in the second photo.





I would like to tell you stories like this are rare.  I want to say that it is likely just practitioner error and that certainly no doctor would take advantage of someone by false diagnosis and scare tactics.

I would like to tell you that.   
To be clear, I am not at all telling you that.

It breaks my heart.

** ** **

On Wednesday Nurse Nirva came in to ask if we would come talk to the client she was working with in another exam room. 
We (two midwives) went to speak with the client. We entered the room to find her boyfriend sitting there as well. We asked how we could help and he explained that he really wants her to terminate the pregnancy and that he already has another woman he supports and that he did not want the client we are seeing  (a girlfriend of his) to carry the baby. I listened and then turned to her and said, I know it is not the same thing - "I had more support, but I want to tell you my story."I know what it is like to have the father of the baby saying you should have an abortion. I shared a bit of my history and I said, "This is your choice. He doesn't get to decide this for you, you will need to decide." The Heartline Maternity Center offers 9 months of prenatal care, six months of postpartum care, support, love, and education - These 14 months of weekly classes and community are offered for the cost of 500gourdes ( $8.06 USD ) paid one time. The client (S) was crying and wouldn't look at any of us. I told her we cared about her and left the exam room saying, "I am so glad that I cancelled my abortion appointment in April 1994 because that daughter is one of my best friends and her life is a gift to us all."I obviously don't get to decide what "S" does and I will only be able to wait and see if she returns next week for prenatal class. But, your donations allow us to (at least) offer love and support to women like her that feel afraid or unsupported in their pregnancy. WE NEED YOUR PRAYERS AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT. You are in this with us -- every day.  We are asking you to be here.

One Day's Wages is matching $14,600 of giving this #givingtuesday --- Yes, I know today and this weekend are the days to go to BestBuy and Kohl's and Target  ----- BUT --- please, when you get home from there, please check-out this matching Grant offer out and consider helping us reach the goal and receive their matching dollars.
Click here to see and read more about the matching grant!
I might be forgetful and even flaky, but I just started and finished writing this in one hour's time, take that, TROY LIVESAY.  

New Tricks, Old Dog

All the popular wisdom says when you write anywhere except perhaps in your own diary, you write because you know what your point is.  

Have a theme, an outline, and goal to communicate a specific message.

(Popular wisdom is so popular with the wise.)


* * * * 

It probably comes as a shock to no one at all that in this world of polarized everything and dishonesty and hurt piled up on top of heaps of injustice, the post about my husband's vas-deferens etc. etc. became the most read post of the last five years.  

Suffice it to say, I'm quite proud of the boys.

This Op-Ed ran earlier this week, I stressed about the fact that they put our blog address at the bottom of it.  "Argh, if anyone goes there the recent posts are about an adult man trying to pick-up our fifteen year old and my plans to threaten him and Troy's vasectomy reversal."  I contemplated tossing up a quick Bible study or maternal health post to make myself look more well rounded.  

I have learned something.
Contemplation does not equal action.

* * * *

This summer (maybe you recall this) a young mom that had a baby at the Heartline Maternity Center (as a result of a rape) was considering giving her baby up to the rapist's family.  She was under pressure to do so. People around her were saying she couldn't take care of a baby. They said that his family was more financially able. Those of us that know her well tried hard to stay calm and use wisdom. (But not popular wisdom.) We were watching her take care of her baby and she was doing a beautiful job. 

When the thing you want to do most is scream hysterically at the top of your lungs "NONONO, THAT CANNOT HAPPEN" - it is best to not do that screaming.  

Gratefully, the baby is 10 months old now and still with her mother. We have all emotionally prepared ourselves for the fact that we do not control outcomes of these wonky and broken situations.  However, while preparing ourselves for several Haiti-like-possibilities, we are also thrilled to share that the young Mom is in school. 

Her daughter cries every morning when she is dropped off for day-care and has to say goodbye for six hours.  The bond between them is real. In my mind, this has been the story of the year. Success is hard to measure and it most often feels difficult to say, "Oh, yes! Now THAT is so the goal happening right there before our eyes!" In this case, right now, it is indeed good. Thank you to every single person that prayed and supported Sarah and Sophia. 
Sincere, sincere, thanks. Please keep praying for them.

* * * * 
In September I went to Paige's best friend's wedding.  I danced with Graham and wore floral print "booties".  

The trend in the USA, if you don't know this, is to start making a perfectly cute boot, but then get lazy and call it good right at the ankle. The stores are full of unfinished boots made by lethargic and unmotivated people. To be super creative instead of calling it a boot, it is called a bootie.

There is no reason to share that really, except to complain that the fashion trends seduced me and I wore a pair for six hours and that bootie killed my second toenail on my left foot. It is dark purple and about to fall off.  Just a word of warning before you invest in your pair.

* * * *Yesterday at the Maternity Center someone came to me asking for a pregnancy test to be able to take to her Pastor.  I thought I heard her wrong.  I said, "Wait, your Pastor wants to see your pregnancy test?"  I of course thought that he must be the kind of pastor that also sleeps with his congregation, or why else does he ask?  The woman explained it this way to me: "My Pastor needs to see a negative pregnancy test before our wedding later this month because if it is a positive test he won't allows us to get married in the church. He would still marry us but we would be unable to invite guests and wear a dress and use the church."  

I stared at her waiting for her to burst into laughter and say, "GOT YOU! HA HA HA."  It got awkward and I stopped staring.

Turns out, that's a thing this pastor does.  


* * * *
Why do they call some wrinkles "fine lines"? 
Who determines what is a wrinkle and what is a fine line? My face is getting older every day.  I want to know how deep the line is when it switches over to a wrinkle.

The other week I needed to bring a Momma and her baby home. They lived crazy far away and up a steep mountain. While I drove I saw on my phone that I was headed south.  At the same time I was headed south I was climbing up a hill. Prior to that day I have never been able to believe that both can simultaneously be true. On that day, I gave Troy a call and told him of my changed perspective.  "Babe, you can climb up a mountain while heading south."  

He expressed relief that I have been able to switch my paradigm at such an advanced age.

In thirty nine days all of my children, son in laws, and grandsons will be standing before me in my home.  It's the first annual because, well because, we have never done this since Britt and Paige have been married adult people. I'm super cool about it. Not that excited, really.

If it doesn't happen, I'll adjust. By jumping off the nearby bridge into the trash below.   I>AM>SO>EXCITED.

Troy and I got to go to Atlanta for our Anniversary last weekend.  We had a long layover and I forced Troy to get a pedicure for the first time in his life. He was such a weirdo about it. He was all squirrely and complaining he didn't know what to do.  I explained that a pedicure is where SOMEONE ELSE has to know what to do.  

You just sit there and watch them know - while you know nothing.  
I'm happy to report it went well.



This week Beth Johnson (you know her as KJ and I prefer you call her that in your mind) found a pretty significant heart defect while doing a twenty week ultrasound on one of the women in the program.  

In Haiti the poorer than poor will often times work for the regular poor in exchange for a place to live or maybe a promise of education or something else similar.  (And the poor work for rich too, of course.) There is also a system of slavery that is not seen as such and is generally accepted - a person that works for another person is called a restavek - you can read about it . The gal that KJ was seeing for that ultrasound is a restavek of sorts. She's not young like many in her position, but she does have a lower capacity to understand things and is looked down upon by others and works in the home of another family. 

It sort of feels like the most beat down folks, just get more beatdowns in life. I have no statistics, but if you would like me to make some up, I would say that of the people that have a really hard life, 70% of those folks have a bunch of OTHER EXTRA crap happen that makes it even harder.  That is an asstistic, take it or leave it.  I am just saying, this lady that already has very little, now has a baby with a heart problem too.

Once every couple months a young gal will come in for a pregnancy test and share the story of the person she works for being the father of the baby - but because he was married, once she is pregnant she no longer has a job or a home.  He fires her. 

You can go from being an abused/used restavek to being homeless and pregnant. I don't know how to figure out which one is worse. Do you? 

* * * *
Communication in this country is THE HARDEST.  I actually cannot be moved on this issue.  I'm willing to believe you can go up a mountain and go South at the same time, but I will not waver on the issue of the difficulty level of communication in Haiti.  THE.HARDEST.  

At the end of a long day it feels like perhaps the entire day was spent talking and communicating and perhaps nothing was understood. Or perhaps nothing I say makes sense. Or perhaps nobody answers the question asked.  I could write 3,000 words worth of examples but here is one that just happened thirty seconds ago. (Underlined words indicate one person.)

"Are you having pain or is it the same as before?"

"It's the same."

"Okay, not more then Thursday? Exactly the same?"

(Nods - confirms not having more contractions/pain.)

(literally) Five seconds later  - another Midwife asks...

"Is the pain worse?"

"Yes"

"When is it worse?"

"It (the pain) is all the time."

"You know contractions come and go, yes? They come and go frequently. It is not an all the time pain. Are you having a pain that comes and goes - it is that or no?"

"Yes."

This continued on for a while.  The pain is worse and it is not worse and it is constant and it comes and goes. 

Someone - Please let me know if this makes sense.

Troy and I try SO SO HARD to communicate often and well, but when we sit down to talk we have usually had a day that includes so much talking and not understanding that by the time we reach home we just have eye contact and call that communication because SO MUCH TALKING.

Two weeks ago on Saturday night we went to one of the most well funded international medical providers around. Their Obstetrics hospital is for high risk only.  We know that and we have a list of the criteria they published.  We rarely go there even though it is close to us because it seems to always be super discouraging. On that night KJ and Nirva had a woman bleeding a lot but having no contractions. They determined quickly it was either a partial placenta abruption or a placenta previa.  Both of those two very dangerous things are on the OB their criteria list - because that is HIGH RISK and time-sensitive.  When the Midwives arrived at the hospital (remember, very well funded, very well known) the nurses and midwives there had an empty triage room.  It was a quiet night there by all observations. No physician made themselves known. The medical employees that were present said that the hospital does not take bleeding women unless there is pain/labor/contractions with the bleeding. Nirva reminded them of the criteria list. They disagreed and refused to take the 39 week pregnant bleeding woman.

KJ and Nirva had to leave that hospital to go to another one before the woman bled too much.  They got her to PIH (the hospital we usually refer the ladies with huge complications - but it takes much longer to get there) and PIH said "Yes, this is previa." They did a C/S and Mom and baby are okay now.  

This is the second time that aforementioned hospital turned away that exact very dangerous complication listed on their criteria list. We are attempting to make noise with that organization.  The issue is, the administration changes every so often (sometimes every three to six months) and making contact with someone that is leaving soon and complaining is almost the same as never talking to anyone. Short-timers have zero cares to give. 

Sometimes I feel murderous rage.  This is an example of one of those times. I talked to KJ that night and I can tell you she felt murderous too. Actually, she is sitting across from me and I think she is still feeling high level rage.

Isaac has been doing the Vet-Class stuff every month.  One week a month he goes north of Port au Prince and learns about veterinarian medicine.  He sends home THE VERY BEST TEXT MESSAGES and photos.  They make us roll around laughing.  Since I used the word murderous, I think you should know that Isaac says that when you give pigs a vaccine everything about that pig changes, they become murderous.  

He told us one time, "I'm great except for these murderous pigs." 



We are hoping that the Americans reading will have an excellent Thanksgiving week with family and friends. I know that I speak for Troy too I when I say, THANK YOU for being a source of support and love and kindness. Thank you for caring about Haiti. Thank you for caring about Heartline Ministries. Thank you for caring about the women we work with day to day. Thank you for caring about us.  We are grateful for you this week, as always.

Next up, I plan to regale you with tales of short term memory gone rouge. That to say, my next post will be totally dedicated to complaining about how bad perimenopause is (for me) and discussing why it is that the only thing ever discussed much is menopause  ---- menopause is not the problem - or not yet anyway.  I am the forgetful foggy proof. 

All the popular wisdom says when you write anywhere but in your own diary, you write because know what your point is.  

Have a theme, an outline, a goal to communicate a specific message.

(Popular wisdom is so popular with the wise.)


Life and the Saving of It

Yesterday Troy saved a man's life. To be clear, I mean exactly that.  A man is walking on his two legs around Port au Prince thanks to Troy.
Last week when Troy was in Seattle the kids came home telling us that a man had been hitting on Hope.  They shared some details, including the fact that he had been bugging Hope to give him her phone number. They said that he spoke English and hangs out when possible around the kids’ school. Isaac, who misses about 80% of social cues and body language things and such said, “I totally see him staring at her butt a lot.”  


Isaac noticed.  This is serious.   
That was it for KJ and I.   We made our plans.
At the MC we have a fake male part that is used to teach how to put a condom on correctly.  We told the kids we would show up with our fake male part and explain to the guy creeping on Hope that the last guy that wouldn’t take no from Hope is now our condom model.  
The kids howled with laughter and asked us no less than 25 times if we were really going to do that.  “Of course we are!” KJ said.   
(I can neither deny nor confirm how serious we were about this idea.) 
We missed two chances to get over to the other property and see our plan through. Life here is busy and sometimes it takes a long time to make a plan into a finished task. 
Troy got home from Seattle and didn’t like our plan.  He said that would cause a mission-wide stir and it might not be too good for overall morale and such.  
He said he would "calmly" handle it.
Yesterday Troy sent a text message to say he had spoken to the guy and to confess he wasn’t as calm as he had originally planned to be, but it was in-fact handled. The adult man understands he is not to bother Hope any more. 

These are the sorts of things that happen frequently that I don’t write about.  I am supposed to be an ambassador for Jesus and that probably does not include threatening a man that he is about to lose his member if he talks to my 15 year old again.
Culturally, it is all sorts of grey about what is permissible and what is not. I have met mothers that do not mind if a 30 year old is pursuing their 15 year old and I have met Moms that find that abhorrent.  
I can tell you that the Director of Heartline made it clear that whatever age gaps (for romantic pursuit) might be appropriate sometimes in Haiti -- those are not applicable to the Livesay Family.