Monday, February 28, 2011

Haiti Experience

Last month I promised to share my experiences from our trip to Haiti.  We were only in Haiti for 2 full days but it seems we were there so much longer.  Haiti is a very powerful place - so many good people, so much misfortune, so much corruption.   It's hard to even put into words what Haiti is.  You just need to experience it.

Upon our arrival at the border, Karris, one of our missionary friends, greeted us and escorted us through the customs and immigration process and then we walked to the orphanage.  We were greeted by more old and new friends. 

Here are some highlights:

We arrived on Danita's birthday and got to celebrate it with her and all of her children.  It was an amazing experience when we got to hear the older children share their stories and tell Danita what she has meant in their lives.  I felt like we were intruders at an intimate family gathering:

 I was so happy to be able to spend time with Everson, one of our sponsored kids whom we had met on our previous trip.  At that time, Everson was living with his mother and grandmother and attending a different school.  He now spends part of the week at Danita's and attends school there:

I got to see one of the village girls, Widlene (on the left), who captured my heart on our last trip, and also met her older sister, Magdelene (on the right):

The girls took us back to their home where we met their mother and grandmother.  Below is a picture of the girls at home with their mother.  As the girls are 10 and 11, I calculated that their mother must be in her early 30s:

I met one of the children who was rescued after the earthquake.  Josiah and his mother were brought to live at the orphanage.  Danita was in the process of making outside living arrangements for them when his mother abandoned him.  I just wanted to take him home with me:

Another of the rescued children was Marie Joy whose arm was severely burned as a result of falling into a cooking fire during the earthquake.  She was abandoned, malnourished, and described as "too sad for a girl weighing only 15 pounds" when rescued.  Marie Joy is now the darling of the preschool.  She's shown here with her constant companion, one of the missionaries, Brittany Joy.  They both live up to their middle names:

In addition to spending time at Danita's Children, we also spent part of a day at another orphanage and got to visit with Emily, a missionary nurse extraodinaire who has committed to spending several months working at the orphanage and helping at the medical clinic on Danita's property:

Emily is living with Pastor Daniel, his wife Clynie, and their 40 children at the House of the Lambs of God Orphanage.  In addition to the orphanage, they run a school for the community children.  Here is Pastor Daniel, Clynie, and their daughter Dalisse, whom we sponsor as a caregiver for the other children:

It's incredible how much time one can pack into two short days when visiting Haiti.  These photos just capture a portion of all that we did and all the people that we saw.  We met two new missionaries at Danita's, Jen and Mya, and several more of the children who came to live there after the earthquake.  We got to tour phase one of the new pediatric hospital that is being built on the property, a facility that will benefit the entire community.  I know I've left out lots of things we did and saw, but I'm hoping this will give you just a snapshot of our experience.  We had far too little time with our friends but look forward to seeing them on another trip.

After a whirlwind two days in Haiti, we again crossed the border to meet Francis, the taxi driver who took us back to Puerto Plata.  Francis is a trusted driver who has worked for Danita for many years, escorting people to and from the border and bringing in provisions when necessary.  When we pulled up at the resort where we had stayed earlier in the week and were going to spend one more night, Francis got out of the taxi to help us retrieve our luggage from the trunk.  After ensuring that we had everything, Francis departed, but not before giving each of us a giant bear hug, much to the puzzlement of those in the outdoor lobby.  (Don't all cab drivers hug their fares?)  It was then that I realized we had become part of a family, a family of orphans.

In closing, I'll include a gratuitous photo of me and my hubby.  (Notice all the trash on the ground around us.  Haiti occupies one-third of a small island, has no landfills, and no means of disposing of refuse except by burning it.  Thus, there is litter everywhere.)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Quote for the Day

"It is not the mountains that we conquer, but ourselves."
~Sir Edmund Hillary

Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Project

I'm working on a new project that has actually been on my heart and mind for over a year now.  Back in October of 2009, my hubby and I watched the movie Food Inc. with two other couples.  One part of the movie profiled a low-income family that was struggling with food and health issues.  The father was on several very expensive medications related to diabetes and hypertension.  This family shared the fact that due to their low income, they were often forced to eat off the dollar menu at fast food restaurants.  To prove the point, they went to a grocery store and showed how expensive fresh produce was.  At this point, I almost jumped to my feet to shout "foul."  What about frozen foods?  Or even canned?  What about beans and rice?  Certainly, there had to be a middle way!  I also calculated that if the family of four each purchased three items off the dollar menu (drink, burger, fries), that would result in a family meal costing $12.  I was sure a family of four could eat cheaply (and healthfully) for much less than that.  One of the couples watching the movie with us was on a very tight budget, so I asked if my thinking was unreasonable.  I was assured that it was entirely possible to eat well on little money. 

I also pondered the thought that the father in the movie, who was overweight and possibly in the obese range, could reduce his dependence on pharmaceuticals by losing weight.  Not only would he experience improved health and reduce the risk of suffering from other degenerative diseases, but it would help the family pocketbook.  A win-win situation in my mind.

Thus I began my quest to find a way to help low-income families learn to eat better and to experience optimum health.  The result is a cookbook that will be made available to low-income families through our local food bank.  I approached the director of the food bank with the idea and she told me to "run with it."  A group of lovely, civic-minded, and hardworking ladies are now helping me with this project.  We're in the process of gathering facts and ideas to help make it a success.  We're looking into recipes, pantry lists, money, cooking, and eating tips, and community resources to include in the cookbook.  We have lots of ideas we're exploring right now, but would welcome any input into this project.  

Friday, February 25, 2011

What Are Our Values?

Lately, I’ve been hearing a bit about the new federal budget.  An acquaintance of mine posted an article on facebook that talks about how the House has made a huge cut in the social services portion of the budget, cutting programs that care for the poor.  This section is less than one percent of our entire budget.  On the contrary, someone else pointed out that we will have the largest increase in military spending, ever.  And military spending makes up the bulk of our budget.  We are the richest, most powerful nation in the world, several times more powerful than any friend or enemy.  I wonder, how many times over do we need to be able to kill our enemies?  (And as an aside, Christians were told by Jesus to love our enemies.  Where does killing them fit into the idea of a Christian nation?)
In contrast to where our money seems to go, I think about how often Christian church leaders insist that we were founded as a Christian nation.  Usually, this belief is often brought around the 4th of July.  Although I disagree with this viewpoint, I wonder what happens to all those who believe this when it comes time to direct our representatives who spend our hard-earned tax dollars.  I’m in the process of reading though the entire Bible in a year (the Old and New Testaments simultaneously) and was struck by Matthew 25:36-46.  My reading of this passage tells me that as Christians, we are supposed to feed the hungry, to be hospitable to strangers, and to care for the sick.  And yet, I find many Christians arguing against universal healthcare because “it’s not Biblical”; fighting for stricter immigration laws because this is “our” country; and fearing the “bogeymen” rather than fighting for “the least of these.” 
As I’ve said, I don’t believe our nation was founded as a Christian nation.  I do, however, believe we are a nation made up of people of faith.  I believe that as people of faith, we need to start thinking about what we really value and direct our federal, state, and local representatives to act accordingly.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Upward Mobility v. Upward Spending

I'm so glad I live in a country where the origin of your birth does not necessarily dictate your station in life.  In the United States, we do not have a caste system and we offer free education to all.  As a result, a welfare mother's son can grow up to become president. 

However, the downside to this freedom is that people often believe because we are not limited to a class system, we are entitled to live as well as anyone else, regardless of our income.  Often, I witness individuals who I believe cannot really afford it, indulging in what I would think should be luxuries on a regular basis.  Eating out, taking trips, decorating their homes, purchasing new clothing.  None of these things are necessities for most individuals in the U.S. as they already have a kitchen full of food, a closet full of clothes, and sufficient furnishings as to be comfortable.  Trips are nice but if you cannot afford it, you shouldn't take one.  It's no wonder we are in a credit card crisis because we are spending more than we are making and don't see a problem with it.

What we need to do is rethink needs and wants.  Sure, it's nice to have a brand new wardrobe or to not have to cook a meal, but when you do not have the money to pay for it, you are not entitled to it.  Yes, the neighbors might be enjoying a brand new German sports car and just got back from six weeks in Italy.  However, it doesn't mean we have a right to the same luxuries.  Life's not fair; deal with it.  

And while we're dealing with it, we can plan nice dinners at home, take excursions in our surrounding area (such as hiking, visiting a museum, discovering a free cultural fair, even exploring a large library, watch a high school football or basketball game).  We should plan an occasional dinner out; it can be something to save for and look forward to.  In the meantime, we can pack our lunches, meet a friend or coworker at a park, and take a much needed walk on a nice day.  If we feel we need to buy something new for the house, have a yard sale to help finance it (most of us have far more than we need anyway), and then make an adventure of it by haunting consignment, thrift, and discount stores until we find what we truly need at a good value.

I've read studies that say the majority of individuals in the U.S. consider themselves to be part of the middle class.  However, the numbers for a lot of people do not add up to a middle class income.  So why are we living as if we are?  We need to rethink our station in life, which means our income, not our value as human beings, and plan life accordingly.  A few years ago a book came out, The Millionaire Next Door, that brought attention to the fact that middle class people often become millionaires, not because they earn a lot of money, but because they do not spend more money than they earn.  They save money and make sacrifices.  They buy Fords and send their kids to public school.  They live in modest homes and avoid the temptation of advertising.  They know the difference between needs and wants and make wise choices.  This is how we are able to be upwardly mobile - it is not through our possessions but through our money sense.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The ABCs of Me

I've seen this around the blogging world lately and since my blog has been so quiet, decided I'd play.

A.  Age - 51
B.  Bed size is a king
C. Chore I dislike – cleaning toilets
D.  Dogs – adore them; but then, I love most animals
E.  Essential start of your day – a nice big glass of iced tea, even when there is snow on the ground
F.  Favorite color – don’t really have one, but I really dislike orange
G. Gold or silver?  Silver
H.  Height – 5’3 1/2
I. Instruments you play or played  - I played the violin as a child.  Can still remember my sadistic violin teacher.
J.  Job title – volunteer extraordinaire? 
K. Kids – 2 college-aged kids
L.  Live – rural Virginia
M. Moms name – Margaret
N.  Nicknames – none
O . Overnight hospital stay – other than when I was born?  Had my tonsils out, had to stay overnight for observation after a head injury (caused by my brother), and when I had my 2 children
P.  Pet peeve – unfortunately, lots of them.  Typos in books; people who cannot understand the difference between your and you’re or their, they’re, and there; people who leave shopping carts in the middle of parking lots…
Q. Quote from a movie – “Vote for Pedro”
R.  Righty or lefty – Lefty; I’ve been told I’m sinister
S. Siblings – younger brother and sister
T.  Time you wake up? 6:30-7:00 a.m.
U.  Underwear - MYOB
V.  Vegetables you don’t like?  Beets and radishes
W.  What makes you run late? Other people.  I’m obsessive about being on time - sometimes it's not very healthy.
X.  X-rays have you had any? Dental, back when I had whiplash, and the above-mentioned head injury caused by my brother (do you think I’m holding a grudge too long?)
Y.  Yummy food you make – chocolate chip cookies baked with my daughter
Z.  Zoo animal favorite? Hard to choose – I love them all!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Please keep the people of New Zealand in your thoughts and prayers.  Christchurch, their second largest city, was hit with a massive 6.3 earthquake during lunchtime.  Go here to learn more.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Quote for the Day

"Until a great mass of people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained."

~Helen Keller

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Good Reminder

Today I saw this 

on the blog Passage de perles.  A grim reminder to us all to eliminate the distractions of talking, texting, and checking emails while driving.  It just takes one moment for a disaster.  Read the entire blog entry about this dangerous habit here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day*

An extra quote in honor of St. Valentine's Day:

"What barrier is there that love cannot break?"


*I'm a bit tardy because I didn't have internet access until this evening.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Quote for the Day

"That's all nonviolence is - organized love." 

~Joan Baez

Friday, February 11, 2011


I'm temporarily in my second home, again.  One thing I've noticed whenever I'm in our condo is how few things I really need.  I have fewer clothes, fewer kitchen items, and, of course, a smaller space.  We don't have internet access so I go to one of the wifi spots near our condo - usually a bookstore or coffee shop.  Since I have to leave home to access the internet, I find that I'm more careful in planning my time and the sites I will visit.  This actually results in my being more efficient, both while online and off.  I don't have the distraction of being able to get online for "just a few minutes" that actually turn into hours. 

In addition, I find my clothing choices simplified.  I have all the basics available and just was a little more frequently.  It's easy to do the laundry as we have a compact, stacked washer/dryer duo that can quickly do a load of laundry while I'm cleaning, studying, or running errands.

The simplified kitchen is easier to maintain, as well.  We have few pots, pans, dishes, and flatware so it's hard to make a huge mess when I'm cooking.  When I need a dish, it's easy to just run hot soapy water in the sink and handwash a few dishes.  Sometimes I'm lacking a pot or other kitchen gadget, but I find it's easy to improvise.

Although if I had to live like this longterm, I might get bored or frustrated with the choices available.  However, the takeaway for this experience is that when I get back home, to my other home, I will look at things with fresh eyes and try to find more ways to simplify my life.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hitting the Nail on the Head

Yesterday I learned about a very interesting book from Vegetarian Chic, a blog written by a woman who has recently gone vegan after learning the truth about the meat industry.  The book is Addict Nation by Jane Velez-Mitchell.  In an interview, Ms. Velez-Mitchell seems to hit the nail on the head when she sums up many of the problems plaguing Western society.  We've become addicts - we're addicted to drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, and even pharmaceuticals.  In our culture, just as in an addict's world, "more is better."  

The problem is, we don't recognize our addictions and we even become enablers.  While one would never serve or drink alcohol around a recovering alcoholic, we see nothing wrong with pushing food on someone with an obvious food addiction or suggesting going shopping with someone whom we know is struggling with debt or even a hoarding problem.  Yet the person who over-eats or over-spends is no different than the alcoholic; they  have a serious addiction.  Pharmaceuticals are also a problem.  I am often amazed at the array of pill bottles I see in homes or the drug names that are commonly dropped in conversation.  It seems everyone is rushing to the doctor for a pill to cure what ails them, even when there are healthier and safer alternatives.  Sometimes the cure is a lifestyle change -  but the pills are easier to swallow.  And yet the person who is quick to seek out and take a variety of prescription drugs from the doctor is sometimes the first to condemn someone who uses illicit drugs.  But it's all the same - we are addicted.

For some time now, I've been trying to understand our culture - our rampant consumerism, our huge credit card debt, the rise in hoarding of possessions, the increasingly dangerous obesity crisis, the proliferation of snack foods and fast food outlets, and our dependence on pharmaceuticals as a way of life.  Looking at all of these issues as an addiction problem makes so much sense.  

Monday, February 7, 2011


Sad but true.  I've been neglecting my blog lately.  It's not that there hasn't been anything to blog about - living on a farm means there's always some kind of activity.  It's just that I've been feeling the tug of so many things in my life that blogging has ended up on the bottom of my To Do list.  

This morning I thought about all the things I want to accomplish in a day and realized sometimes it's quite a lot - and I don't even have an outside job!  Mornings often consist of letting the chickens out of their coop, visiting with the goats, feeding the pets, checking my email, catching up on blog reading, working through the Bible in a year, journaling, doing yoga, cleaning the kitchen, doing other housework, and getting some school work in.  Then I have chores to do, animals to check on, errands to run, more school work, cooking, etc.  The days really fill up fast.

We've had some new births on the farm - several new kids.  Unfortunately, we did loose three of the kids but this winter has been nothing like last when at one point we seemed to be losing goats every day.  Yesterday, one of our goats, Judy, had two of the prettiest kids I've ever seen on the farm.  Too bad they're males as we sell all the males.  We didn't know she was as far along as she was so the babies were a bit of a surprise.  By the time my husband found them, they were cleaned up and fluffy, and already standing.  I've been bad about taking photos and I'm going to try to be better about it as I love to share pictures of my beautiful goats.  

We've had strange weather this winter.  A couple of snow storms and then some 60 degree days.  Mainly, though, it's been freezing.  I don't think I will ever get used to it - my body demands 80 degree days.  I have gone through a bit of evolution as far as the cold is concerned.  My first winter here, I was cold, very cold, but it was a novelty since I had never lived in a cold climate.  The second winter, the novelty had worn off and I spent winters two through seven in a deep state of depression and denial.  Now, however, I've reached acceptance - it's just the way it is.  I'm cold but I deal with it.  And I'm very much looking forward to that early spring.

I also bought myself a new computer.  My laptop was 5-6 years old and was slow to start up and always giving me problems.  I was afraid of it crashing and taking everything with it so I splurged - nothing fancy, of course, just another simple laptop.

School can be problematic at times as the workload sometimes seems unreasonable.  I mean, why can't they just let me read the assignments and then award me the degree?  All the writing and research, in addition to the reading, is really a time sapper.

Now that I've brought you up to date, maybe you'll excuse my occasional absences from the blogging world.  For those of you who blog, I continue to read your posts although I don't always comment.  I'll get better again this summer, I promise.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Quote for the Day

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards."

~Soren Kierkegaard