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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Follow-up Notes

Hey blog friends. After three days of serious rage, I'm finally on the mend. Note to ANYONE who travels abroad, listen to your doc and take the meds while you're there if you start to feel sick. Being stubborn about pills did me no favors. What I had was something a little cipro could cure. Note for next year's trip.

* * * * * *

My first night home was very restless. I wanted my kids next to me all night. Picture the bed - Sofia, me, Henry, Jason. And of course Squeaks had to be in the mix. It was a very full bed!! I fell asleep quickly, back in the security and comfort of my home with my family all around. I remember waking up at one point, very disoriented. The next morning Jason asked me if I remembered talking about Josette. It took a second, then hit me like I ton of bricks. I remembered. I woke up and saw her laying there. As clear as day I could see Josette's sweet little body laying next to me on the bed. I remember trying to reach for her. I remember realizing that she wasn't there. And when I remembered, I cried.

It's happen the other nights as well, but I don't remember it. Last night I asked Jason if there was a baby laying between us. The night before I woke up and had no idea where I was. It's part fatigue, but it's also that I left part of my heart back in Haiti.

Jason and I have been talking, and believe it or not we're starting the adoption process. From what I understand you can't pick a child. Meaning, I can't pick Josette as the one we want to bring home. COTP will match us with someone. We do get to request a few different kids. Can I just write Josette in each of the lines? Young and female - that's the biggest request when it comes to adoption. People want to adopt healthy baby girls. I don't want to adopt Josette because she's little. I don't want to adopt Josette because she's female. I want to adopt Josette...because she's Josette.

Our heart is in this. We - I - have to let go and trust once again. If she's meant to be with us, she'll be with us.

* * * * * *

Someone told me that when I came back I'd have trouble relating to people. Trouble trying to share my experience with others. I understand that now. How do I respond to the question, "How was your trip?" Let's see, it was exhausting, heart-wrenching, joyful, sad, eye-opening, HOT and filled with hugs and sweat and pee and poopy diapers. I can't explain Haiti. I can't explain how I'm feeling now. And I'm having a hard time adjusting back to the hustle and bustle of life back here.

It started as I was going thru security in Miami. A woman was staring at me. Up and down, over and over. Here she was - all dolled up, dress in the latest fashion, carrying an expensive bag. And here I was - wearing my comfortable cotton outfit that had been hand washed and dried in the sun, covered in spots, bright green $10 backpack, holding back tears. I was soooo not Miami material. (I'm still not Miami material)

I can tell you this: salon hair coloring, pedicures, the latest fashion, fancy cars, big houses, and tons of toys for my kids is something I will NOT be spending my money on going forward. If you don't like my small house, my 100,000 mile Saturn Vue or my ugly toes, you'll need to find someone else to hang out with. Every chance I get I will be buying formula, diapers, receiving blankets and anything else I can afford that COTP needs. I've been there. I've seen it. And it's forever changed me.

I'm not going to kid you. I still feel the 'keeping up with the Johnson's' pressure back here. Little Miss Miami brought that flooding back. It's something I will constantly keep in check. But after spending time with babies who didn't have their mothers with them, didn't have their own bedroom, didn't have arms to pick them up when they cried, didn't always have toys to play with - I've got a different perspective on life now. I think I'm changed for the better.

* * * * * *

Many of you have been asking about what they need at COTP. I've got a direct line down there and have been getting requests since I've gotten back. Here's the start of the list:
* receiving blankets
* blankets for the kids to nap on
* formula - any brand, any type
* diapers - mostly newborn, 1, 2 - though I'm on a mission to get all the toddlers in disposable diapers
* toys for the baby house. Email me if you want the link to a specific request. karen.gigure@yahoo.com
* light weight PJ
* large canvas bags

You can mail items to the Florida address on their website, or give it to me and I'll mail it for you.

These kids didn't chose to be born in Haiti. They didn't choose to be born into poverty. Just like you didn't choose to be born where you are and with the comforts that you have. I don't want to talk politics and I don't want to talk corruption. Those are things far beyond my control. All I know is that there are very deserving babies at COTP who need our help. They deserve a chance. And they deserve the best.

* * * * * *

So, have any of you considered joining me next year? Maybe my blog hasn't done a good job of selling the trip to you. :-) Think about it. You'll have a built-in tour guide. Been there - done that. I can even navigate Port-au-Prince now. All you need is time, patience, and a big heart. I promise - it's worth it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How could I forget this picture?


Josette pretty much sealed the deal with this.

A few pictures

I can't post pictures of the kids anywhere on the web. If you want to see them, you can go to www.childrenofthepromise.org. If you want to see my pictures, shoot me an email: karen.gigure@yahoo.com

Here are some that I CAN share.

Holding Guerlin's hand.


Handbags for Hope










Josette's sweet little foot


The pavilion that you all helped get a new roof on!!


Roxy, one of the guard dogs

Notes from a flight


I'm sitting on the plane to PAP, feeling the first cool air I've felt since the 16th. The sun is shining on my face, and it feels wonderful.

I cried at the Minneapolis airport as I was leaving my children. Now I am crying because I'm leaving the children of Haiti.

Last night was restless for me. I'd bet I slept all of an hour. At first it was because of the massive spider Mindy felt the need to point out of me (love you Mindy!). I checked my mosquito netting over and over again. But after I settled in I reflected on my time at COTP. It was the single most challenging experience of my lifetime. Take all the AIDS Rides, MS Walks and the birth of both my children - stretch them out end-to-end - and they are a walk in the park compared to my time in Haiti.

I think mostly it's because I didn't know what to expect when I got there. My flight into PAP, being the only white person waiting at the airport in CAP (Nick was late) and seeing poverty unlike anything I could ever have imagined.

This trip was really an experience in trust. God put this crazy idea on my heart - to help the children of Haiti - and I trusted that everything was going to be OK. A 41 year old mother of two from Wisconsin, traveling alone to a third world country. It sounds crazy, doesn't it? And yet as the phrase goes, with God all things are possible.

My purpose - the postcard - is very clear to me now. This was not a one-time event. I'm in this for the long haul now. And I'm bringing all of you with me. God doesn't want us to feel guilty for what we have. He wants us to be thankful for it, take only what we need, and give the rest to others. People - you aren't taking your toys with you when you die. Do they really matter now?

Jason sent me many text messages, but one brought me to tears. He said he knew what we were going to get our kids for Christmas. I thought he had some new, fun idea. When I texted back to ask what he was thinking, he said we would be sending toys for the kids of COTP. He wasn't there with me, yet he gets it.

How about you? After all of my ramblings, do you get it too? I certainly hope so.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Karen's home!

Karen landed safely this evening and after a tearful reunion she is headed home to sleep in a big soft bed for 12 hours straight! I am so grateful to have her back home. I can't wait to hear the stories and see the pictures. Karen, you made a huge difference to the babies, staff, and to your friends and family. I'm proud of you! XOXO

Where in the world is Karen update!

Karen is in MIAMI!!! She will have a few hours to wait before her flight to Minneapolis, but just one more flight and she will be home. Thanks for all your prayers and finger crossing!

Where in the world is Karen?

Just got a text and call from Karen. She is in Port au Prince hoping to board her flight to Miami. Will let you know if she gets on the plane (around 10:30 this morning). From Miami she would head straight home, so fingers crossed and prayers being said!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

And then, God sends joy

I was busy making dinner for the crew tonight when Carla, a long-term volunteer asked if I was going to go over to the baby house and say good-bye. Those of you who know me know that I'd rather just leave then have to deal with the good-bye. I used the excuse that I was cooking, and I'd go over if I had a break.

Well, that break presented itself. I finished up the meal and made it over just as the toddlers were watching their nightly video. When I sat down, Odelande immediately sat in my lap, followed by Rivaldo, then Mac. I sang all of the songs (it was in English) and little Wedley kept turning around to laugh at me. I could feel the sweat pouring down my back. I could feel the mosquitos eating me up. I even felt something fly into my ear (eeew). But I didn't care. This was my time of joy with the kids.

When I got back to the volunteer house most everyone was ready for dinner. I must admit, it turned out pretty good. :-) First things first, I asked them what they need, then what they want. If they had unlimited money, what's on their wishlist. Jamie answered first. They need a new roof for the pavillion that the kids play under. $1,000. Those of you who donated money and got me nearly to that goal just paid for a new roof. I sent the email immediately, got the money allocated, and the ball is now rolling.

After a great meal, I heard little Magdaline crying. I've been trying to get her to eat all day. She sat in my arms and polished of SEVEN OUNCES of formula!! God is good.

I'm about to head off for my last funky smelling shower before I leave here. And I leave with peace in my heart. Thank you God.

Karen

Last Post

Well kids and campers, unless I have insomnia tonight, this will be my last post. You know how you plan something for months and it takes forever to get there, only once you're on that journey it flashes by in the blink of an eye? I cannot believe that tomorrow I go home. Hopefully.

My name is on the list to fly out tomorrow morning. However, having my name on a list does not guarantee I'll get out. In addition, if I make the flight to PAP, that doesn't guarantee a seat to Miami. Please do not ever complain about flights in the US. Ever.

Josette moved into her new room first thing this morning because she's doing so well. It's a good thing, yet I had to hold back some serious tears. I wonder how much I'll cry when I get home - since I've been holding back so much for so long.

This afternoon she was outside with the nannies and I went over to touch her. She was sound asleep and simply beautiful. Can't type anymore or the tears will flow.

Mindy, the super amazing 22 year old nurse who is wise beyond her years, continued to deal with all sorts of bodily fluids today. It was so much that I had to laugh at times. Seriously, she's been puked on more in the few days she's been here than I think anyone ever has. God sent her here just in time.

A new baby was admitted this afternoon. From what I hear she's 12 months old. Magdalyn. I'm not sure how to spell that. She's very malnourished. Since my room was baby-free she moved in with me for the day. We've got so many sick babies in the volunteer house that she, like Josette, could not come out of my room. I've spent the day trying to coax her to eat. As of this post she's had 7 ounces. Have you ever seen a malnourished child in person? It makes me feel guilty for all of the over-indulging I've done in my lifetime. We have excess in the US.

I'm certain I'll sleep like a rock tonight, since I'll be baby free. The alarm will be set for 5:15. Just enough time to get dressed, brush my teeth, and make sure everything is packed. I will miss it here. And I will miss the kids. But I have to say, I will not miss this intense heat or the evil mosquitos they have down here. Oooh - or the black and white spiders that have lobster claws.

My sister Beck will update the blog as I make my way back so you can play a little "Where in the world is Karen?" tomorrow. Pray that I make it back and get to snuggle my family tomorrow night. Sofia, remember what I said?

It's currently thundering and lightening out. I wonder if it will rain.

Karen

p.s. Linda Emmons - I can see you here. Please consider coming next year. I've felt safe 100% of the time. Even when we ventured outside the gate for walks with the kids. Just make sure you book a flight into CAP. Then there will be nothing at all to worry about. Except those evil mosquitos...

She just smiled

Last night was the first night I was so very homesick. I was up much of the night missing Henry and Sofia, just wishing I could hold them. Fingers crossed that my flight leaves tomorrow morning. I don't know what Plan B would be.

Josette started smiling this morning. It's the sweetest little face. I tried to get a picture, but pictures just don't show how beautiful she is.

She's advanced to 4 oz per feeding and is pooping regularly. :-) And right now she's crying because she wants to be held. There's so much work to be done here that a crying baby cannot always be held. While I've gotten used to the crying, I still have a hard time with not picking them all up.

A new nurse has been here for a few days - Mindy - she's an adorably, spirited 22. She's was thrown up on from the moment she arrived. She's got Erickson, the only baby who is sick at this point. He's got it coming out of everywhere. The other day she must have changed 4 times. I feel for her, but she said she's used to it because she's a nurse. God bless all nurses.

It's the final day today. My camera will be in my pocket the whole day so I can try and capture what it's like here to share with you. There's so much of a story here. So much that needs to be shared. And so many things they need.

Well, I'd better get out there and start pulling my weight. It's going to be another crazy day today. As you sit in your AC today, picture me being puked on a few times. It's ok - you can giggle.

Karen

Monday, August 23, 2010

Oh my

What a day today. I'm sitting here, watching a beautiful sunset, being used to wearing clothes that are never dry do to sweat. I'm covered in the usual stuff, and then some, and I don't care. It's just the way it is here.

The rage is just a way of life. Everyone gets it at some point. Doesn't matter how many drugs or mosquito netting or deet - you're going to feel the rage at some point. It's come and gone all day for me.

There are many sick babies. It's like daycare or schools. One gets sick, then they all do. Hopefully it passes soon.

At lunch I went over to feed the toddlers. It was going so well. Wedley was in his seat, Jackson was on my lap, Odelande was between my legs. (I was sitting on the floor) Wedley's a chunk. Look him up on the website. He ate his entire bowl. You should see how big the bowls of food are. Jackson did so-so, then got up and left. Odelande starting eating like she'd never eating before. And I just kept shoving it in. Yah, then it happened. That sound that all mothers know. The one that makes you want to clear the area. I saw all of her lunch come back up and most of her breakfast. It was all over the floor, and all over my legs and feet. Oh my.

Needless to say, that kind of lunch doesn't do good things to the rage. I had to go back to the volunteer house to wash off, then get some water.

Josette seems to still be doing really well. I don't know how I'm going to leave her. She's started to hold my finger when I feed her. I love her smell. I know her sounds - I'm hungry vs. I'm pissed vs. I'm tangled in my mosquito netting vs. I see you and just want attention. Gotta let go and trust.

So much more to type but she's crying. Not sure I'll get back here later.

Karen

You must be praying

You must be praying, because my stomach is better. Call me stubborn or stupid, but I haven't taken any drugs for it yet. I did the BRAT diet all day yesterday and that helped, though after a banana last night I thought it was coming back.

Josette is in my lap right now. She's gassy and it's making me giggle. Who knew a tiny baby could make so much noise?? They weighed her last night. She was 4 lbs when admitted in early August. Drum roll please....she's up to 6 lbs 2 oz!! It's nice to know that I had a week to contribute to that. Man I'm going to miss her. She's got the softest curly hair. It's a bit of a mowhawk right now because she had an IV in her head before. But it's super cute.

Just two full days left before I leave. It's hard to believe. I'm still praying my flight actually makes it out. There's no customer service line to call in Haiti. You get what you get here.

I'm going to miss these kids. Walking into the baby house reminds me of when I get home from work most days and Henry greets me at the door. Except multiply that by about 10. They all say YAY then run over and wrap their arms around my legs. Makes ya not mind being covered in doo by 8am.

I figured out the funk. It's the water here. I smelled the clothes yesterday when they came back from being washed. Funk-o-rama. We're very fortunate here that there are laundry ladies who wash our clothes, etc every day. They wash it by hand then let it dry in the sun. That's a lot of work. I won't complain about the funk anymore.

As many of you head out for work today, please be thankful for what you have. A house, breakfast, a car, a job, medical benefits, clothing. That isn't the case in many places outside of the US.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rage 3.0

I'm sick. Rage 3.0. Beck - the cirpo doesn't touch this one. It's interesting, this rage in my gut. It's like being stabbed, though I've never been stabbed before. It comes on fast and doubles me over. I should take my temp.

It's sweeping thru the baby house as well. The babies are kept away from the toddlers. One baby is sick, it seems ALL toddlers are sick. We're going thru serum like mad trying to keep them hydrated.

Thankfully my mom is in Ireland and doesn't have access to the Internet. I'm pretty sure she'd have words with me. If I need you Beck, you'll have to call Matt and take a helicopter out here and get me. :-)

There is no time to be sick in Haiti.

Haitian Church

This morning after breakfast, they gussied up a couple of the kids and we took them next door to attend a church service. Wow. It's the same format, for the most part, but the passion is amazing. There were maybe 30 people there. When it came time to sing they sang with such force. There was no music, no piano, no organ. Just the Haitian people singing and praising. Very powerful stuff. (of course you know what I had to hold back...)

The children that we brought sat so still. I was holding little Rivaldo and he sat calmly in my lap the entire time. We were so hot and sweating like mad, but no one cared. That's a way of life here. He fell asleep on my chest at one point, which was so sweet. Love that little boy.

I wish I could have recorded the service so you could see the power and spirit in the room. When it came time for offering they gave all the children a coin to put in the basket. Reminds me of the widow's mite. They don't have, and yet they give.

* * * * * * * * *

I'd like to put a bug in the ear of anyone considering sending items here. Just because it's Haiti, just because it's third world, just because these kids are here...doesn't mean they don't deserve the best. I'm a big garage saler and will be looking for gently used clothes and shoes from now on, but there's a new standard I've set on what I'll send down here. The Haitian people are very proud. They dress up when in public, and truly wear their Sunday best to church. They deserve the best from us. Not torn or worn or used up.

As you're putting something in a box down here, ask yourself if it's something you'd give to a close friend. Remember they have to pay shipping from FL to CAP, and then pay customs once it gets here.

* * * * * * * * *

I miss my family today and I wonder what Henry's reaction is going to be like when he sees me. Hopefully it's not like when I left - he refused to hug me. When I get home I want to snuggle with my entire family in bed all night long. I don't think I can get close enough to them. Even the cats. :-) Sofia - tell Daddy that we're breaking all the rules and that everyone is sleeping together on Wednesday night. I don't care if I don't sleep a wink!

Please say a prayer for my flights home. (and please don't ever complain about flights in the US!!) Just because I purchased a ticket does not mean I have a seat on the plane. I'm taking the crap-shoot with the option of purchasing another flight if needed. Hoping and praying my original flights work out. It would be hard to delay my homecoming.

* * * * * * * * *

While I have a special bond with Josette, I love all of these kids and could bring any one of them home. I wish you could meet them all. My day starts with screaming kids clinging to my legs. There's always someone who needs holding and cuddling. And there's always a head to kiss.

* * * * * * * * *

Say some extra prayers for health today. We've got lots of throwing up and diarrhea (how do you spell that??). It could be challenging. And please send up some extra prayers for the kids at the hospital in Milot.

* * * * * * * * *

That's it for now my friends. Another hot, sticky day in Haiti. I really hope you can keep an attitude of gratitude long after I write these posts. We have so much. Keep saying that to yourself. Even though you may not understand it, because you haven't been here, let me be your eyes and trust me when I tell you there's so much to be thankful for.

What I love

Good early morning greetings again. Josette was up 3 times last night, and I'm officially tired. Someone offered to take her last night and I didn't want to give her up, but I think I'll take the sleep tonight. It was really hard getting up. She just ate, and I'm wide away for the day. Needing that cup of coffee now.

As I was dozing off last night I was thinking about all the things I love about Children of the Promise. Amongst the chaos, sickness, and poverty, this place is love and peace and hope. They take in sick babies, special needs babies, and those without parents. They aren't an orphanage - they are an infant care center. I've finally learned to say that. Some of the kids will just stay a couple of months while the parents get settled, or the child gets healthy, and they will go back home. Some of them are indeed given up for adoption because a parent has passed away, or left, or they simply cannot provide for the child.

It's beautiful here. The kids are fed, and bathed, and loved. They have swingsets, a few toys, and even movies in English at night. Last night it was Kid's Favorite Songs from Sesame Street. They kept looking at me as I sang all the words. It was pretty cute.

The accommodations for staff and volunteers are nicer than I expected. We have showers, flushing toilets, a kitchen, and 2 meals a day with the exception of Sunday. Today we're on our own.

Some asked about cribs - they each have their own crib to sleep in. There are clothes here, but they need more. Any child that leaves the gate must be dressed and have shoes or socks on. They are always dressed up when a parent comes to visit. That's the Haitian way.

Everything is used here. Everything. Unless it's puked or spit up, a drop of formula is not wasted. They reuse plastic containters, bags, cardboard. Talk about the ultimate recyclers.

We are not black and white. We're actually brown and tan. Or in my case, brown and pasty white with red spots. All children - regardless of race or location - have the same needs. They want to be cuddled when they hurt, fed when they are hungry bathed when they are dirty, played with, sang to, kissed and snuggled.

* * * * * * *

Today I might get to attend church. I didn't pack a skirt, so it's up in the air a bit if I'll be able to. They dress nicer here than you'd ever imagine. I don't want to offend them, and at the same time I want to experience it. I'm sure it will be hot and loud and full of spirit.

My stomach was better yesterday. It was toast, applesauce and Sprite for me all day. Hopefully when I attempt to put real food in there isn't another revolt. I guess it's just what happens down here.

I feel lighter today. You could probably tell by my last post that my emotions were changing a bit. Things are still heavy here. I still cry. But I'm starting to see more joy and happiness. I guess I've settled into the routine that is Children of the Promise.

I will look at what I have so much differently now. This is something that everyone should experience. We are so excessive in the US. Have to have the biggest, best, most expensive. That makes me sick now. I have a house, 2 cars, a job, food on the table, and a medical system that I will not complain about. I wish people in the US could see that. I saw an article on Yahoo titled "How to complain to get what you want". It reminds me of the Splenda guy at Starbucks. Just appreciate what you have.

I will not complain about my job, or my car with 97,000 miles on it, or my house, or our medical system, the clothes I have, the food I eat, or what toys I don't have. I am coming back with such an appreciation for what I DO have.

I am not broken. But I am forever changed.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What a joyful day today!

I don't have my time to write, but have to tell you that amongst the sickness (pray for Guerlin and Guerlande please) today was really fun!!

Have you ever seen a premie sneeze?? She winds up, then lets it all out. I makes me laugh! This morning I was going to ask you to pray for poop, but she did it! Biggest, badest, most beautiful poo ever.

Nurse Amy is on the way to the hospital right now. I was going to tell you how amazing she is. I've never met anyone with more energy and love than her. She has this way of saying "none of your business" in the most pleasant kinda way. (I ask too many questions - it's the therapist in me) She is up late with the kids, has random stuff that comes up all the time, and she is the med lady. She does it all with this wonderful smile. I asked her where she gets the energy and she said, "God gives me what I need." Love her!!

I'm currently covered in pee. Went over to play in the baby room and it was just before bath time. They were pretty darn wet. I no longer mind being covered in pee. We had fun singing and exploring. These children are truly precious.

OK - enough typing time. More tomorrow.

Karen

A busy Saturday

What a busy day today. Can't believe it's nearly 2:00 and this is my first post!

Last night was dreadful. Sweet little Josette was a dream. The rage, however, was not. I can laugh now and how I call it The Rage, because I'm feeling a little better. It sounds like an MMA fighter. "In this corner, we have one ton The Rage. In the other corner...Karen's gut." Ding Ding Ding

The rage won last night. I was seriously concerned about my health. This morning it's nothing but bland food and Sprite, and even that is tough.

Guerlin is sick. He was throwing up last night and still is today. He's so weak, it's hard to see. Guerland, a little girl, is also very sick. She's getting dehydrated and doesn't want to eat or drink. It's very hard to see. I was cuddling with Josette in my room and heard screaming. I realized it was the nurses (we have another one now) trying to put an IV in. :-(

Thank you again to Mary for the beans. Even though my stomach is battling me, I still drank my cup of coffee this morning. Might as well take care of the head while the gut rages on.

For lunch today it's a Haitian meal - beans and rice, some deep fried something with meat, and goat. I'll take applesauce.

That's all you get for now folks. Josette is awake. :-)

Friday, August 20, 2010

The joy, and the sorrow

The excitment for today is that the UN was here. Official truck and everything. I have no idea why they were here, and us short-term volunteers don't always hear the stories. But it made for an interesting bit of time.

An SUV arrived with 2 families including 2 babies and 3 boys I'd say ages 10-12. They were so sweet, waiting at a distance and waving. I asked if I could give them a snack - from my personal stash - and was given the OK. We can't always give out things as it will draw locals in. The food here is for the babies. At any rate, I grabbed 3 packs of granola bars from my backpack, filled up 3 glasses of water and headed out to the boys.

I called one of them over and asked him if he would like it. He smiled and said, "Bless you". The other two followed suit. I heard so many thank-you's and God bless you's - of course it made me cry. I learned how to ask if they wanted more, then proceeded to refill their glasses and give some to the minister who brought them and the 3 parents who were meeting with the RN here.

I found out they had driven about 35 miles to get here. 35 miles in Haiti can be hours of driving. There's no real road system here. A road might see 5 cars in a day, so it's not worth the expense to upkeep even the dirt roads. (paved roads are rare)

A bit later the boys were given a ball and they began playing soccor with the pastor and Nick and Nikki - the long-term couple that works here. I sat under the mango tree with Guerlin, watching them play. The boys ended up playing by themselves, having such a grand time.

At the end of a very long day for them, both babies were admitted here. I didn't hear the entire story, but one of them had lost his mother. The father was weeping as he left him here. The boy is 17 months old. Just imagine how frightened he is right now. My heart breaks for him and his father. I imagine what it would be like to have to leave Henry.

* * * * * * * * *

I am but a servant. My body is weary.
I am but a servant. My emotions are raw.
I am but a servant. I'm so very hot.
I am but a servant. I'm in love with a little girl that I have to leave here.
I am but a servant. I am so tired.
I am but a servant. My needs don't come second, or third, or fourth...
I am but a servant. I miss my children. My beautiful, healthy children.
I am but a servant. God give me strength.

Oh...so...hot

Today is by far the hottest since I've been here. For those of you 'back home' in MN/WI, take the days they had the heat advisories, add 10 degrees, then go sit outside all day. Then laugh at the meteorologist at the lame heat advisory. I now understand - we do not know true heat back home.

The UN is here right now. No clue what's going on, but I want to go take a picture of the truck. I don't think that would be a good idea for some reason. :-) There's never a dull moment here at COTP.

My bum hurts. One other thing to expect if you come here is that Irlene will bite your rear. My first day here I was helping brush teeth in the evening. All of a sudden my ass was on fire. (sorry - that's the only way to put it) I looked down and these beautiful little eyes were looking up at me, waiting for a reaction. In my pain I had to laugh. It was her little initiation. A bruising, painful initiation.

Sweet little Josette is not allowed out of my room now. I've had her in the common area and would rock her outside under the mango tree. But now, due to being frail and ill, she can't leave the room. Makes it super challenging when I have chores to do, other kids to play with, and her to tend to. I could totally do twins now. Piece of cake. Ooh...chocolate cake. That sounds really good right now. Can you tell it's just about lunch time?

The stomach rage has calmed itself - thankfully. I'm sure it was the meat. I'll do my best to avoid it. Today it's burritos. Homemade tortillas and everything. The cook, Maude, is amazing. I want to hug her every time I see her.

For those of you wondering about Guerlin, Heather's comment to the post was right on. That's exactly what he's got. And Heather - I never knew that about you! You are Guerlin are kindred spirits. :-)

Hopefully I can get back on here tonight. My phone is working like a charm, which means Internet is a challenge. Just know that I'm doing well. Hot, teary, in love, hungry, headache gone, loving the kids - well.

Karen

Early morning greetings

It was a restless night last night. Josette was up a midnight, 3:00 and 5:30. While I'm exhausted, I cannot complain. Her being awake means eating and pooping. Both great things for a premie.

With lack of resources comes competence. Josette would be in a NICU back home probably with all sorts of tubes and nurses and doctors. Here in Haiti - she's got me. Just a mom.

Last night I took a much needed shower. As I was turning the water on I could hear her crying. It was a hard shower to take, but the funk must come off. I'll admit - I didn't speed up the shower to get out to her. Oh the guilt. But the water felt so good as it washed away 24-hours worth of sweat.

When I got dressed and walked into the common area, she was gone. I was looking around when Nicki said, "I've got your baby." My baby.

While I am tired each time she cries, I joyfully wake up to feed her. At the 3:00 feeding I was zoning out a bit. When I looked back down at her, she was looking right into my eyes. I find it amazing. Here's a baby with a head just bigger than the size of my fist, and she's looking right at me. It was at that moment that I realized...she's the one.

I didn't think it would happen, but it did. It's her beautiful eyes. The way she grunts while falling asleep. What she feels like as she's resting her tiny head on my chest - after letting out the loudest burp. In my head I call her Josie. Josie Marie.

I'm in love. Completely, totally, 100% in love. She is the one I will think about all day and night when I'm back home. She is the one who will keep me wondering. She is the one that makes me wish I was the one at home full-time. I'll clean up after her, wake up with her and go to all of her appointments and I promise to never complain.

I wish you could hear her right now. I'm in a different room but can hear her grunting. Grunting = poop. That makes me stop crying - and start smiling.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

On a much lighter note...I shaved off all my mosquito bites last night. It wasn't on purpose, of course. I thought it would be nice to shave. When I got out of the shower my legs were bleeding. TMI but you're on this journey with me, remember? I am so attractive right now I can't even tell you. My pasty white legs are filled with red dots. I tried so hard last night to not scratch but couldn't stop. Which only added to the attractiveness.

You ever put bug spray on shaved off mosquito bites? Kinda stings a bit. I've got it all over my body, yet they keep biting. These are super-strength mosquitos down here. Anti-Malaria tablet, do your trick.

I was cold last night. Actually pulled a sheet over my legs. I think that means I'm getting used to the heat. I had two fans on me last night. My battery operated dream - which is still running strong - and an electric one which was at my feet. I found out that the generator was upgraded and we can use fans all night. One extra fan and I got cold. That makes me giggle. (I'm certainly not cold now!)

I can't forget to tell you what to expect if you come down here! Here goes:
* You can expect to be overwhelmed and feel helpless.
* You will be hotter than you ever imagined you could handle.
* Most likely, your stomach would get the rage. It happens to most.
* Expect to cry when you see the poverty. It's worse than you expect.
* Know that you're going to be eaten up by mosquitos - and pray that your meds work.
* You will be covered with snot, pee, sweat, dirt and funk. And it will all happen before 8am.
* Expect to be frustrated at the amount of crying - knowing there's nothing you can do about it.
* You will be moved to tears at many things - hugs, cuddles, Haitian women singing, little arms reaching up to you wanting to be held.
* You will find a new sense of purpose and all that stuff back home won't matter.
* God will be everywhere you look.
* You will see the most amazing sunrises, and the most beautiful sunsets.
* Expect some interesting food. Who knows, you might actually like goat.
* Cockroaches and geckos will be your friends.
* The strangest things will make you giggle, and if you're like me you'll cry for no reason at all.

I consider this to be the most amazing experience of my life. I promised Jason I wouldn't come home broken. I really don't think I will be - I'm stronger than you'd imagine. I know that I'll come back on a mission - with a long list of items I'm going to ask people to donate, that I'll buy myself, and that I'll find resources for. And after lots of soul-searching and thinking, I just may ask Jason if he'd consider bringing Josette home. My baby.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oh my

There's so much to update you on. Where to start?

First, I just read the last post. Holy typos batman! There's no time to proof. Hope you can figure it out.

I ate the deep fried deliciousness at lunch - and paid the price. My stomach - I will not get into the details. It was wonderful. Some kind of root. I was excited to have an all veggie meal. The food isn't that healthy here, but it's oh so good. Rice with this amazing juice and the fried root. I had to walk away from my plate because the revolt happened quickly.

My headache is gone. THANK YOU MARY for the coffee beans!! Guess I need to drink that every morning.

Guerlin - oh sweet Guerlin. He took his big trip into PAP. He's got some big medical name, but what I picked up on is that at the top of the heart blood comes in one side and out the other. There's a hole between that which is causing challenges. In addition, the bottom of the heart filters good blood and bad blood. He's got something going on there too where the blood is mixing. One of you medical people help me out here. What it means is open heart surgery - in the states. This is a huge, long process. Have to get a surgeon and hospital to donate the services and find a family to care for him. I told you before, but this little baby has stolen my heart. He's more beautiful than I could ever describe, and pictures do not justice.

Handbags for Hope. They arrived today!! When I first got here I was thinking, what in the heck did I send those for?! Today, I know why. They lined up all the bags and let the nannies, cooks and laundry ladies choose their own purse and wallet. I was almost in tears. (Go figure) They were so appreciative!

I let Maude choose first. She's the cook. Cheryle - she took your red bag and LOVED it. Emma, your two bags with you name on them went fast. They were thrilled. Next went bags from Dawn, and many from Susan Nichole. There are still a bunch left, and many that have not arrived yet (those with all the goodies). I have seen where these women live. You cannot call them houses. They are so painfully poor. If I could have captured the light in their eyes, it would have lit the world for a year. Truly a beautiful moment. Thanks to you ALL who contributed.

I'm forgetting things. This is frustrating. A day's worth of things to share and my mind is going blank.

The geckos here are so funny. I love watching them crawl around all over the place. The cockroaches are tiny but abundant. They don't scare me but I don't really care for them crawling on me. The mosquitos - oy. Please just say some prayers that I don't get Malaria. I'm completely chewed up. Tarantulas? I most likely will not get to meet one. (sure I just jinxed myself)

Oh - the haircuts! How could I forget? I was asked to cut 10 of the boy's hair. They get cookies as an incentive, but it doesn't work for long. Dawn - thanks for the tip. They told me to put the stuff in AFTER. When I put it in before it was like butter. Most of the boys were fine. The special needs boys - I had to hold back the tears. They were so rigid and crying. I now understand a nurse giving a child a shot. You've gotta do it. But it completely sucks.

I could not get myself to do Theo's hair. I know how painful buzzing is to my nephew Michael, and can only imagine the pain he'll be feeling. Tommorrow it must be done.

I am but a servant here. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - this trip is not about me. His words, my voice. His mission, my hands.

There are three babies out there waiting for me. A premie, one with Downs, and Guelin with the heart condition. When they cry, how in the world do you choose which to pick up? So many babies. Not enough arms.

That's it for tonight my friends. The emotions at the surface - but a truly beautiful day. Time to shower and wash off that funk. Tomorrow I'll share what to expect if you're truly considering coming down here.


Karen

p.s. Countryside Vet is donating Frontline for the dogs!! God bless you Lynn. They want the kids to get used to dogs, but won't until they are cleaned up. You have no idea the impact of the donations. THANK YOU!

Bananas, Worship and Haircuts, oh my!

First things first, you have not had a banana until you've had one direct from the tree in Haiti. They are sweet and tart and so much softer. It will take me a long time to eat one back home.

You have not worshipped until you have attending a service with Haitian women. They have beautiful songs, beautiful voices, and a beautiful language. Though I didn't understand a word, it was incredibly moving.

You have not experienced peace until nap time with 35 babies.

And you don't know patience...until you try to update a blog with a premie sleeping in your arms.

I bought a present for Sofia today. Can't say what it is because she's reading the blog. Sorry kiddo - you'll have to wait. The gentleman that works here asked if anyone wanted to purchase it. One of the volunteers said the price was a bit inflated. In a place like this, it seems wrong to barter. I paid equal to three day's wages in Haiti for her present. And I did so gladly. (Can you guess what the wages are? Pretty sure you'd never complain about your next raise again.)

Today is very busy, yet I have a break right now. The babies are napping. When that's done my next chore is haircuts for the boys. I'm so thankful that I do Jason's hair. I hear him in my head saying that if I go too fast it hurts. He's got coarse hair - not quite as thick as the boys down here. But all I think it "Go slow Karen, or you'll hurt them." They get cookies to eat as an incentive to be good. That only goes so far.

So today I'm covered in sweat, the all popular funk, spit up, pee, and now HAIR! Showers are a beautiful thing in the evening.

I attended the worship this morning. They do it every morning after breakfast. When I walked thru the gate into the baby area I started to cry. I'm telling you, the emotions are right there. I'm trying so hard to not let them out. (I'm too tired at night to cry) They were singing the most beautiful song. I grabbed my phone to record it but got back too late. Hopefully they sing it again.

A huge box of the handbags arrived today! Thank you to everyone who donated. I'm not sure when we get to hand them out. I'll try to take pictures, but cameras are not popular here in Haiti. Fingers crossed.

It's lunch time. There's some fried deliciousness out there calling my name. No clue what it is but it doesn't involve any meat. It will do terrible things for my upset tummy, but right now I don't care.

Please - always be thankful for what you have. I want every one of you to come here with me so you truly understand what I mean.

Karen

Hot, sticky morning greetings

Internet finally came back up - thankfully.

It was a restless night with Josette. She's so cute that I can't complain about the lack of sleep. This morning all she wants is to be held and rocked. Hard to not cave to her wishes. She's the most beautiful tiny baby.

Guerlin left with the RN Amy early this morning on a flight to PAP to get his ECHO. Is that how you spell it? Don't have time to Google it. Praying they get it figured out and he can get a medical visa to the states so he can get it fixed. The best guess is that he's got a hole in his heart. I wish you could see him. This is the one kid who's completely stolen my heart, for lack of a better phrase. He has a mother here, so most likely he'd have surgery in the states, recover, and come back to her. It's a bittersweet process, but as a mother I cannot imagine giving up my child for something they tell me is 'better'.

Brett, a second year medical student, left this morning as well. We're down to 2 babies in the volunteer house, but today will be challenging with the care for the 50 others in the baby house. I'm going to be busy and sweaty all day long. (sorry -but you've gotta live it with me! :-)

I've finally settled into my routine here and enjoy this so much. Even getting used to all the heat - I don't sweat the second I come out of the shower anymore. Oh, today Jamie brewed me a cup of Starbucks. Ahhhh. I brought the beans down for them, not me, but I have to admit it was a slice of early morning heaven. Hopefully my head will stop throbbing now that my body has something familiar.

We heard this morning that a school collapsed in PAP due to the rain. Many lives were lost. Please pray for the people of PAP. While it's truly challenging here, it seems more so there.

I can't tell you how much your comments mean to me. I read them, cry a bit, and smile a lot. While I can't respond to them all, know that they really keep me going.

Internet and cell is spotty. My cell was down all day yesterday, but is working this morning. Kinda. The text messages are WONDERFUL too! Since it was down yesterday, my phone was buzzing like mad this morning when it started working. Just makes me smile.

This morning, before I start what I expect to be an insanely busy day, I leave you with a quote:

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
~ unknown

A peace that passes all understanding. It is back.

Karen

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

And then, there is joy

After all the heartbreak today, there was joy tonight. I did my first turn in lotioning up the babies. They get bathed twice a day and you can imagine how dry their skin gets.

I started to lotion the first child, and a Haitian nanny started singing. I could not understand her, but it was the most beautiful song I've ever heard. It was so peaceful, massaging babies and listening to the singing.

Tonight I leave you with something from Fancis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in the giving that we receive;
It is in the pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in the dying that we are born into eternal life.

The emotions leaked out today

Today has been very busy. Sweet little Josette is doing really well. She's been eating a lot and her diapers are very wet. YAY! Guerlin, with the heart condition, has acclimated very well. Most if his tears the first two days were just from being away from his mama. He's a playful little thing now, and has completely stolen my heart.

This afternoon I made the journey to Milot to visit the hospital. The ride in was interesting, to say the least. The kids would run out in the streets to wave at us. Many had no clothing on at all, some in just underwear. The houses, can I call them that? I don't know how the people live in them. I pray I will never complain about the size of my house again. It's a mansion by the standards down here. I have so much.

The smell. Dear God the smell. I cannot describe it. I can only tell you that I'm shocked when I saw people washing their clothes and their bodies in the water that's in the ditch. If I had to smell that all day I would not last here.

When we arrived in Milot I saw the tent community that was set up after the quake. Loads of people were brought in my helicopter because most of the hospitals in PAP were destroyed.

The hospital. I won't make it thru typing about this without sobbing. I wasn't expecting Children's, but I wasn't expecting this. Chaos is the only way to describe it. We went to drop off supplies for the two COTP babies who are there. What I learned is that the hospital will tend to the medical needs, and that's it. No feeding or changing. COTP has a nanny who stays with the babies 24/3, then they rotate out.

The room as a combo NICU/PICU. The babies broke my heart. Our little KenLove was there. While he's much older, his body was so much more frail than sweet Josette. I held him before we left. He was a bit tentative at first, but his frail body didn't have enough energy to protest. He slowly laid his head on my shoulder, and that's when I couldn't take it anymore. All of the Haitian women were staring at me as I sobbed. I tried to think of anything else, but all I could feel was KenLove's little head on my shoulder. God, please save him.

I pulled it together enough to help go pick up a bunch of docs from the US. They came back with us to tour, and answer questions about medical needs. They are with the babies now, which is the only reason I'm able to post.

A note for Jaclyn - here's another tear moment, but tears of joy. Jaclyn from Canada sent down about 20 canvas bags. I've been storing supplies in my room, slowing bringing them out so I don't overwhelm them with all there is. Jaclyn, they so need these bags. It's as though you knew it!! Two of the bags will be used to transport the supplies to Milot for the babies at the hospital. I know that a lot of love will travel along with them.

Along with the heartbreak, there are some pretty amazing moments. If you would have asked me Monday if I would come back here, my response would have been, "Absolutely not. And God, please get me out of here NOW!" Today, that response has changed a bit. While this is the most difficult thing I've done in my life, there is a purpose.

I miss my children. I miss my husband. Oh I miss air conditioning and my coffee every morning. But for this next week, I'll keep that to the side as I cherish my time here.

Just a note- you won't be seeing pics of the babies on this blog, even when I get home. For the safety of the children we are not allowed to post pics on the Internet. I'll print and email to anyone who requests. I've got some fun video as well.

Ok - time to sign off. There's always someone who needs to be fed.

Karen

Sweet little Josette

Did you ever think there would be this much Internet time for me in Haiti? I think it's healthy to get all of these thoughts out, and knowing you're all on the other end is so comforting.

Sweet little Josette slept, well, like a baby. We were up 3 times last night and she just gave me some false alarm crying, which has me up for good but her in the bassinette snoozing away.

She ate like a charm last night and didn't throw up on my watch. Dehydration is such a big concern. I'm happy to report that she had 2 really wet diapers. Would like to say that's the mother's touch, but I know it has more to do with the guy upstairs.

Breakfast for me consisted of 4 Advil and a regular Coke. (Mary - it's too hot to drink coffee!) Thankfully my stomach settled down before I went to sleep last night. But the headache lingers. I'm drinking tons of water, so no worries there.

So you all know, they have a water purification system here. It tastes like it has a lot of chlorine in it, but it gets the job done. A lot of this trip involves faith and trust. Many people before me have made this journey, and many people live here for a long time, so I trust I will be healthy.

The lingering thought in the back of my head is my flight home. The flight in had the potential to be terrifying if it were not for my guardian angel. He flies home a day after me, so I'm hoping there's another one for me when I leave. The airports are complete chaos. When I stepped outside the PAP airport there were a swarm of men, all trying to grab my bags. I knew what it was about and clung onto them, not wanting it all to get lost in the crowd. Just a few feet before my awaiting 'taxi' a very pushy man grabbed them both, and off he went. Once I got in the car he had words with me in Creole. Basically, cough up some cash lady. It's part of the game here. Thankfully almost everything I brought down here is staying, including my large bag, so it will be easier to manage on the journey back.

Just another example of how we are a bit shut in our happy little world in the US. We have expectations and demands and will be on the horn with customer service to demand a refund if our expectations are not met. I'd love to have that crabby screaming guy at Starbucks set foot down here for a few minutes. I'm pretty sure he'd be OK with his latte sans Splenda after it.

A side note about bugs. I met the cockroaches last night and giggled. They are TINY! No fears there. I thought they would be like the ones they had on Fear Factor. Oh, and my mosquito netting is only as good as the mosquitos I don't let in with me at night. One of them munched on me pretty good last night. Praying it's a happy, healty little mosquito or that my Malaria tablets do the trick.

It's absolutely beautiful here. The sunrise bring beauty to the new day as I watch the mountains appear before me. It's all God's creation. There is beauty here amongst the sickness and dispair.

Today I might get to go to the hospital in Milot to visit the babies. It would be an interesting journey if I can make it. Two white faces in the brown crowd. I'm told the people here are just amazed by us. While COTP has been here for a long time, they are still amazed at our coloring. Very interesting to be on the other side and get a different perspective, being the outsider.

Please keep those prayers coming. I truly feel them as they are being said. They give me the strength each day that I need. This journey has a purpose on so many levels and I'm happy to share it with you throughout the day.

Here's your challenge today - no complaints. Not a single one. As soon as you feel it coming out of your mouth stop, and be greatful for what you have.

Thanks for being out there for me.

Karen

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More thoughts

It's amazing how little sleep I've survived on these past few days. It's like having a newborn again! Oh wait, I'm with nothing but babies...

Tonight I have Josette sleeping in my room. She's the tiniest baby I have ever seen. My babies - in the womb even - cannot have ever been this small. I asked the nurse here if she'd be in the NICU back home. Yes, she would. Say a prayer for this little life that's in my non-medical hands tonight. I'll channel my inner Jocelyn.

Whoever is posting the quotes, please keep it up. You are helping me shed the tears that need to get out. I'm the first person to rattle off a quote when needed, but I can't tell you how much they mean to me RIGHT NOW. They aren't just quotes - they are absolute truth.

Here are a few more things I know for sure:
* I will most likely not lose weight here. The food is all carbs. With a side of goat. Poor, poor little goats.
* Haitian women are not all a TAD bit smaller than me.
* The people working here are amazing.
* I still have not figured out the funk smell. It's either something used to purify the water, or a chemical they use to clean. Either way, it's something I've never smelled before.
* Yes, this is a different culture and some things are taking a while to get used to
Finally...
* MY CELL PHONE IS WORKING!! Those of you who have my number, please text when you can. It feels so good to have that connection, even though I've been updating this blog all the time.

I'd better go be with Josette. Hopefully I get a little sleep tonight, but sleep can certainly wait.

Love, hugs, and sweat from Haiti.

The emotions

I know. You don't hear from me all day yesterday, and all of a sudden there are 4 posts today. Everyone is sleeping so I've got two hands - AND the Internet is working. Call it a perfect afternoon!

My emotions are pretty raw right now. I could cry at any second, but don't want to in front of the staff, nannies, or the babies. I think it's mostly because of the frustration. Back home I could take every one of these kids to a pediatrician - some to Children's, some to Gillette, and max out a credit card to make some of their stuff better. I can't do that here. And it's really frustrating.

There's so much 'stuff' down here. CP, hydrocephalus, the heart condition. I wonder how they survive at all. God put them here for a reason, yet I found myself questioning what that reason could be. I think along the lines of a mom back home who has a very sick toddler - why would God do this? And if He didn't do it, why doesn't he take it away?

Don't worry - I'm not losing my faith by being here. Surprisingly, it's strengthening. I see people who commit months, years, their entire life to care for these children. There's God written all over that, if you ask me.

On a lighter note here, I will forever laugh at how the people walk their goats and cows out in the morning, tie them up to munch for the day, then bring them back home. Have you ever seen a cow tied in a ditch? Hilarious! I'm giggling about it now. It keeps me from crying.

Whoever prayed for cooler weather - THANK YOU! It's not cooler but there's an amazing breeze right now and total cloud coverage. Breeze + tons of sweat = a little bit cooler. Ahhhh. The skies are getting black. Wonder if I'll experience my first Haitian storm.

Someone please call Sofia and tell her how much I love her. Then please spend 30 minutes on the phone listening to Henry's ramblings.

One last thing - next time I'm bringing a pediatrician, a dentist and a VET! There are 3 dogs here.

Things I know for sure

Afternoon greetings! I'm currently holding Guerlin, the 7 month old with the heart condition, so please excuse all errors.

This afternoon, these are the things 10 I know for sure:
1 - It's hot here.
2 - I smell like formula, sweat, spit up, poo, and funk. I don't know what the funk is but it's coming out of my pores.
3 - There's nothing sweeter than cuddling with a sleeping baby.
4 - I miss my kids.
5 - No matter how hungry I am, I won't try goat. Yes Beck - that was lunch.
6 - Other than goat, I dig Haitian food.
7 - I can tolerate the heat much better than I thought.
8 - My head still hurts, so maybe I can't.
9 - I love being mobbed by kids.
10 - We have it so good in the US and most of the times aren't thankful for it.

Cuddling babies and changing poopy diapers causes one to think a lot. Lucky for you, I've got a crying baby to take care of. :-)

xoxo - Karen

NEEDS!!

Here's a list of what I've gathered just this morning as to what they need here. If you can find it in your heart, and your wallet, please help take care of some of these. Go to www.childrenofthepromise.org for shipping information. It goes to Agape in FL.

* Soy formula
* Diapers (newborn, 1, 2)
* Corkboard material. They will build the boards here.
* Dry erase boards with markers. This is used for preschool.

There will be so much more added as I spend more time here. I can't tell you enough how far your money goes down here. For just $15 they can send a child, with their parents, to the local doctor. The basics - just a co-pay - something we do without thinking.

Off to hold babies. And sweat some more. Eeesh.

I'm here and I'm safe

Hello world out there! Sorry for not being in contact yesterday. There's only so much Internet usage here and it was maxed out before I even tried to update this. I'll try to post in the morning while everyone is still sleeping.

Yesterday was a whirlwind of travel. My flight into Port-au-Prince was uneventful. I was thinking, "this is a breeze!" Little did I know that when I got off the plane I'd be stepping into what have been the most terrifying experience of my life. Thankfully God gave me a guardian angel that I could follow to my next flight and who interpreted everything for me. I don't even know his name, but he kept me calm. Not for one second was I nervous.

I'm thankful Jason had me pack Advil because I woke up with a raging headache. Most likely it's because I didn't sleep the night before. I was the first one up so I'm taking it with some cold water from the cooler. Being an early bird has its perks.

When I arrived at COTP I got a tour, and cried as soon as I saw a couple of the babies. It sounds like that's a standard reaction. It was a 'thank GOD I'm here' coupled with 'I can't believe I'm actually here!!'

As soon as the tour was over I was handed a baby. Pretty much ever moment after that I was holding a little one. That will certainly help me when I'm missing my children.

Which reminds me - my cell DOES NOT work here! No text messages, no calls to Sofia. Jason just might have to log into his email and send me messages. :-)

I woke up last night each time a baby cried. There's a crib in my room, but they give volunteers the first night to sleep without a baby. I've got those ears and still heard the crying. Pretty restless night.

There's the sweetest little guy here with a heart condition. He's really congested and each cough seems so painful for him. I'm trying all my mommy techniques to help him from crying. He has this look of horror in his eyes each time he's about to cough. He was seen by a local doctor yesterday, but there's nothing that can be done for him at this point. Yes, that's going to be the hardest thing for me. About a hundred times yesterday I was about to cry upon seeing each little face but I held it back.

I have never sweat so much in my life as I did yesterday, and I'm pretty sure I'll be the same today. Becky - your forecast was wrong. Painfully wrong. It's is a million degrees here. OK, that's exaggerating a bit. It's a THOUSAND degrees here. I took a shower last night and, other than finally getting the funk washed off, it really served no purpose. I opened the shower curtain and started sweating again.

My stomach is pretty sick this morning, along with my throbbing head. Fifty bucks says it's because I ate BEEF yesterday. Someone alert the Vegan police. I'm in a third world country - can't really be picky about the food. It was lasagna for lunch yesterday and I was so hungry I didn't care. (sorry poor little cow!)

My life was put into complete perspective in just the few hours I've been here. I truly have nothing to complain about at home. I have an amazing husband, healthy kids, great friends and family and air conditioning and ice cubes. Really, what more does one need?

Eeesh - just thinking about the day ahead of me is bringing on the tears. Those of you who know me well know that I cannot stand the sound of a crying baby. Pretty sure I'll be over that right away today. There are so many tears and not enough arms. We can only do so much - especially now that there's a sweet new boy with the heart condition. His crying is the hardest for me.

One more thing. Jerry. We have to find a way to get him a shunt. He's absolutely beautiful!! I sat down with him yesterday. Of course he was a bit shy at first. Poor thing, and overexcited new lady just picks him up and sits down with him. He had his back turned to me but kept reaching out to touch my leg. Then he'd turn back to make sure I was still there. It's not fair that he has the opportunity to be healthier and that isn't happening. The little boy needs a shunt. Consider that Karen mission #1. Guaranteed there will be a thousand added to that!

For those of you who donated money, I will tell you that it's doing amazing things down here. The need is so great. Your dollars are going far to help. Just know that I'll come back asking for more. And I'll have a list of items they need shipped.

Better sign off before I use too much of the Internet. If you don't hear from me, know that I'm completely safe. There are no worries down here, other than that I might sweat out all the fluid in my body.

xoxo - Karen

p.s. I'm in love with my battery operated fan. It was right next to my head all night. What will I do when the batteries run out?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Today is the day...

I got up with the kids this morning so Jason could sleep in. A few things amazed me as I sat here watching them.

First, my kids look so much alike. They are beautiful gifts from God. Fearfully and wonderfully made. I pictured a little boy or girl sitting next to Henry. One with brown skin, dark eyes, and black hair. It's a guarantee that I'll come back wanting to adopt.

Next, we have so much. As Henry sat munching on a banana and drinking some milk, it hit me that we can provide for our kids. How many of you think about that - about how much you have? Or do we focus on what we don't have? I wonder what it's like for a parent who can't provide. Who knows their child is hungry and has no food to give them.

Finally, I'm amazed at the butterflies in my stomach. It's mostly because I still haven't figured out how I'm going to get from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami at 1am. It will work out.

It's time to revisit how this all began. Running, praying, and a message. Below is an excerpt from my sermon so many weeks ago.

* * * * * *

I often joke with my friends that prayer would be so much easier if God just sent postcards. You say a prayer, ask a question or have a request, and a few days later a postcard shows up in the mail. Wouldn’t that be beautiful?

Picture the scene: After getting home from work, I grab the mail. As I flip past all the bills, I come upon a beautiful postcard. There’s a picture with a blue sky, a couple of wispy clouds, a rainbow streaking across it. The card reads:

Dear Karen:

You know that animal rescue you keep thinking about opening up? I want you to do that. Buy the hobby farm down the road. I will provide.

Love,

God



I run into the living room to tell my husband. “Jason! We HAVE to buy the hobby farm down the road!”

Jason’s response? “Are you crazy? That place is half a million dollars. We can’t possibly afford that!”

“But I got the postcard!”

“Ooooh…well then…”

You can’t possibly argue with a postcard from God.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Many weeks after the earthquake in Haiti, my postcard arrived. It came in the form of a whisper. A thought that never left my mind. A voice that kept saying:

“I need you to help the children of Haiti.”

Since it wasn’t an actual postcard, doubt crept in. Maybe I’ve just been watching too much CNN. He can’t possibly be asking me to travel to Haiti. I’ve got my own children. Has He SEEN how big the tarantulas are there? And what about the LITTLE bugs? Malaria, Typhoid Fever, Hepatitis.

“I need you to help the children of Haiti.”

But God, this isn’t what I’ve been asking for. I’ve actually been asking about my JOB. What do you want me to do for work? You know, I really want to buy that hobby farm down the road and save a bunch of animals. All God’s creatures. Get it?

“I need you to help the children of Haiti.”

What followed was something that will still bring me to tears. A series of what I call ‘divine coincidences’. An orphanage presented itself. The money to cover the travel expenses came in the way of an unexpected bonus at work. My boss actually approved the vacation time.

I will be traveling to Haiti the early hours of August 16th where I will be volunteering at an orphanage called Children of the Promise. My days and nights will be spent caring for little ones, primarily ages birth to 2 years old. Changing diapers, bathing, feeding, providing therapy. There will be big bugs, and there will be little bugs. But I got the postcard, and I have to go.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The good...the sad...the weight of it all

This morning it's the real deal - time to get everything packed. I have shoved everything I can into the bag I'll check, and there are 14 lbs to go! I'm officially excited that my flight changed because I can bring so much more. Henry and I are going through my drawers and anything that's too small is getting packed. It will go to the nannies and mothers. Hopefully. I'd suspect I'm a tad bit bigger than the Haitian women. (And by TAD I mean...)

Henry is being a dream now, after a huge toddler tantrum this morning. He's on the bed counting, calling out shapes, and petting "Geeky Boy" our rescue kitty. It's so sweet.

And then it hits me. I am leaving my children for over 10 days. The weight of that thought is really heavy right now. Will there be any tears left in me before I leave?

I trust the postcard that I got so many months ago. I trust that my children will be safe. I trust that I will be safe. I trust that Jason will do just fine being home with the kids. Yet I'm finding this really hard right now. But I'm not nervous. (Ask me if I am when I land in Port-au-Prince.)

I know that I am just one person. A blip on the screen of the need that's in Haiti. Yet I feel a higher purpose of this trip. There's something bigger brewing here - I just haven't figured it out yet.

One more post tomorrow before I leave. It's time to revisit the postcard.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Here I Am...


Tonight there's a hymn playing in my head. It's been one of my favorites since our Sunday School kids sang the chorus during a church service. There's something about those sweet little voices.

This past weekend we were at a family reunion. My sister Deb prepared the church service for us. As a surprise, and big teary moment, she had the 3 cousins sing a song for us all. Little did I know that Sofia picked the song they were going to sing. Sofia, Lou and Alyssa got up in front of everyone and started singing. When they got to the chorus, the tears started flowing.

Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord, If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart.

The anticipation of this trip is pretty amazing for me right now. I can't sleep at night. The thought of being able to finally meet these sweet faces I've looked at for so many weeks, to give kisses and cuddles, and probably do more crying at the frustration of the needs.

My prayer is that you will join me in this journey. Not just this trip, but for the long-term with Children of the Promise. Start saving your pennies now and consider coming along with me next year. (Yes, I'm planning the next trip before taking the first.) Maybe your pennies will be used for a plane ticket and vaccinations. Or maybe it will be sent directly to them. Pray about it. See what God places on your heart.

I am here Lord. And I am ready to go!