help our children be un-STUCK

Thursday, September 3, 2015


this lovely short video was produced by amazing people i am happy and proud to call my friends.

gracie pfaff, the founder of harvest 107, is a bright and caring young woman with a passion for nourishing the underserved and underprivileged. this is a glimpse into the world of, "she". it is a small and beautiful reminder of what women are capable of. it was created for international women's day to honor those who support the work of harvest 107. i'm a proud supporter. will you consider joining us?

Monday, August 31, 2015

frentz neptune, human extraordinaire!

if you see my facebook posts, then you know that a significant bit of the work i do with the haiti foundation against poverty is to raise funds for sponsorship of children at our les bours school of hope in port au prince, haiti. sponsorship of these children is vital. in les bours there are few options for children to receive education, proper health care, and nutrition. there is a bleak future predicted for many who don't have the opportunity to obtain an education. there just simply aren't doors for them to open. there aren't choices for them to make that will allow for hope - except school. frentz neptune, our favorite resident renaissance man at hfap, is a perfect example of the result of loving sponsorship and the impact it can make on a single child. frentz was sponsored and has grown into an incredibly talented and resourceful man who we credit with keeping the functions of hfap, and our crèche, hope house, as well as our staff and a significant amount of our daily functions going. simply said, we would not be who and what we are without frentz.

long before our founder mallery opened the les bours school of hope, she traveled to haiti and found a land that became home. she fell in love with haiti and in return gave her heart to the country and her people. she held and cared for babies at the sister's infant malnutrition mission founded by mother teresa. she sat and prayed over the ailing children and watched as flies landed on their tender faces and as she soothed their fears and wiped their tears, one of the prayers she said was that someone would come to the malnutrition center and build screens to prohibit the insects that exacerbated the health concerns of the children. little did she know that her prayer would be answered by the man who would become her future husband. frentz was a student of the school run by the mission and works still today to return the blessings he received through his sponsored education. after a skilled builder who visited haiti on a mission taught frentz to make screens, he knew that his calling for this new taught task was to make screens for sister's to help protect the children. frentz gave back, and mallery's prayer was answered. 

frentz is a man of strong faith and he is using the opportunities given to him to help as many people as he possibly can. he is a good man and he seeks opportunities for others to create a future for themselves as well. there are many wonderful stories that can be shared about frentz. he is one of the hardest working people i have ever met. and he happens to possibly be my daughter's favorite human, which places his rank pretty high in our family. frentz was born in the same city as my son parker, jeremie. it is by all accounts a lovely city located on the southwestern tip of haiti. he was raised in port au prince, not far from where my boys and v were living before we brought the boys home and moved v to hope house. as frentz grew, he came to find that his education was not easy to obtain - and as he would share, he knew that he owed a debt of success to those who believed in him and supported him. he took school and the education he received seriously and knows that without the love and compassion of a couple that sponsored him, that he wouldn't be the man he is today. 

frentz has a special way with people that few have. his personality is admirable and his ability to ascertain the truth is as well. he is a commendable man and serves as a beautiful example of a leader and a strong but tender man for all of the children he is helping raise. he is well respected by his staff and is a wonderful husband, father, son, and friend.

in a given day i have witnessed frentz begin by greeting a group of the children at hope house and instantly reminding them that they are a group of super heroes. they all love him and enjoy the time he happily spends with them. each of the children has an individual relationship and respect for him, and i stand in awe of how he has accomplished the balance of guiding and disciplining the children while they also do not fear but respect and love him. he moves through his day orchestrating and maintaining the hfap haiti headquarters as well as what i would refer to as juggling a random series of duties that is as impressive as a unicycler carrying an elephant spinning a plate on a stick. the sheer number of items on his proverbial daily to do list is dizzying, and yet he dutifully handles each task with professionalism and patience. from dozens of phone calls with lawyers to help facilitate the adoption process for our adoptive and biological families, networking with haitian nationals and ex-pats to continually keep our facilities running, answering questions for adoptive families, developing business plans, running errands, fixing things, having play time with his son jayvan, paying forward favors for other ex-pats in our community, attending to the needs of our mission teams, negotiating improvements for our school in les bours, planning the future, designing products for our ladies program, making more phone calls to facilitate the future for all of the children in his care, playing with the children again, answering more questions, running more errands, and somewhere in the middle of all of it eating lunch and then starting the process all over again in the afternoon. in short, frentz is working all of the time.  on top of all that he manages, frentz is also an extremely talented photographer. he is passionate about his work behind the camera and captures the subjects of his work in a beautifully inspired way. it is quite a treat to see him work creatively. 

frentz has a wide network of friends. recently we were on our way back to port from montruis for a quick respite trip to the beach when the front left tire split on one of our suv's. within minutes frentz had a proverbial escort brigade that showed up. considering that we were at least 45 minutes from the compound, but luckily not far from our school, it was a refreshing scene to look around and find friendly faces hopping off of moto's and support police staff showing up to make sure that our small band of relative foreigners would remain safe while we fixed the tire. but not only is frentz's networking so amazing that we had help while we were on the side of the road, we also received an escort back to the neighborhood. this was an example to me of what a great person frentz is. he made a phone call and a small force showed up to insure our safety. it was a small slice of awesome indeed.

one of my favorite memories since joining the hfap family by moving v to hope house was the day i received an update photo of v in frentz's arms. the one you see above. it was immediately obvious to me that she was happy. relaxed. leaning back on his shoulder with a big smile on her face. and he glanced at her with a deep and true love that confirmed everything i already knew...that v was in the most loving place possible outside of my arms. i was so comforted to see her being resuscitated. she was just starting to thrive. not just sustained. a small but vivid burst of life was sparking in her in ways that i hadn't seen in so long. and it was simply beautiful to see how loved she was - summed up in one wonderful photo of a fleeting moment in life captured for me to cherish. this is the best part of his day, i'm sure. the part where he sees the proof of his hard work. where he can share a few quiet moments with the children he helped rescue. the children he keeps healthy. the children he knows will have a future because of his sacrifices. 

working with special people like mallery and frentz fills my heart. i'm proud to call them my friends and i'm elated that i can work to support them.  i'm incapable of fully expressing how thankful i am for this dream team couple and for the work they do. i'm thankful that frentz is the answer to mallery's prayers, and together they are working every single day to change the future for so many in haiti and make our dreams of bringing home our daughter come true.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

sincerely, hot in haiti

many of us dream of a day when we can run away from the burdens of life in the united states and live on a warm, lush, tropical island.

then there are those of us who live on one of the most scorchingly hot parcels of land in the middle of the ocean, directly under the blistering sun, and we dodge the rays of fire that shoot down upon us all day long in search of a small pool of shade and a breeze that reminds us that we are losing precious ounces of fluid with each breath. we can look around and see palms, and signs of the tropics, like a blue sky, the sounds of roosters crowing, and goats greeting tap tap's bumping up the road nearby...and we have to remind ourselves that this is a slice of the heaven many thriving in the rat race of the concrete jungles of the u.s. crave. frankly, we crave productive wifi. we crave air conditioning, we crave starbucks, and we crave enough time in our day to be as productive as we know we can be in the states.

but this is haiti. it's a land of time lost. it's a dustbowl of heat. and though it is our slice of paradise, it is far from an easy place to live. living in haiti is tough work. some mornings we wake up, scratch the bites on our ankles, and feel as if we haven't rested. we rub our eyes and notice that we've already worked up quite a bit of a slick on our chests and it's only 7 am. we embrace that small bit of cool that remains in our increasingly warming rooms, and don't want the day to wear on toward 9am when the full sun will reign high in the sky and raise the mercury. we can lay in bed and prepare ourselves for the day, urging our bodies to take that first step and climb into our 15-18 hour uphill battle that is our every monday through monday. and we remind ourselves why we are so tired. it could be the stagnating heat. it could be the rooster's notifying the world that they're awake and so should we be. it could be the dog fight on the corner that surely rendered one less canine in this world. whatever the reason, we slept at least half of the deserving hours our bodies need.

breakfast can be hard to consume. it's too early. we're too hot. it's just too H.O.T. and yet we need to eat. we need to keep up our strength or at least give our weary bodies the illusion that nourishing food will help propel us toward the abyss of need that we face in haiti daily. so we swallow. and we hydrate. and move on with the day. we step out into the sun and look for the pool of shade to hop to.

productivity here means many conversations with many people. and then once an agreement has been made, sometimes those conversations need to take place again. and again. and ultimately, sometimes yet again. or with someone else. and hopefully the result of several attempts to make a point will eventually produce action. teaching a new topic or idea here can be a little bit like watching water boil. except that you can't step away because someone will unplug the stove. and you can't add salt, because that will further dehydrate you. so we continue with the ground hog day effect and remind ourselves that this island is deserving of our time. of our energy. of our love. and that we as americans have to remember that we came to haiti with intent and purpose, and what we are learning in return is patience. patience for time. for learning. for understanding. for failure. for lack of progress. for frustrating days when we can't connect with the outside world because our wifi is possessed and selfish and there will not only be no netflix, but also no facebook, and no email. questions will sit unanswered, not because we don't care, not because we're ignoring the situation, but simply because the mice who spin the wheel in our proverbial internet machine likely also didn't sleep last night while the dog fights and the roosters crowing and the thundering of bullets hammered on, breaking the silence of the night sky. or one of our local internet providers found a slurpy, kicked back at the wheel and accidentally unplugged the power chord. and if that's the case, we'll have to spend the next week or so calling to find out the issue. if our phones work. or pay the bill. again. or switch providers. it all comes down to this - haiti is just not the u.s. it's just not. 

transportation in haiti is worthy of writing a book. sometimes you can facilitate an errand with relative ease. the streets are wide open, no one is threatening to shoot someone or hit them with a rock on the side of the road, you don't get a flat tire, you don't feel the familiar sputtering of your engine indicating that you may have filled your car with tainted gas, and you reach your destination feeling happily surprised by the convenience of modern machinery. there are other days, however, when everything you touch moans, spits, and dies. those days suck. the roads here are a hodge-podge of fabrication. some are stone. some are concrete, some are dust and rocks and pits, and some are actually paved! some have lights, others have stop signs...stop signs are loosely interpreted here. you pass through with your breath held and a prayer sent up. and each road has the ability to trap you. demonstrations arise and escalate very quickly here in haiti. one minute you could be on your way to a depot for a toilet repair kit, and the next you're circumventing trouble and finding a new two hour back way home to your broken toilet with little accomplished. a broken toilet is much better than a cracked skull. it's always worth the caution and the missed chance than to wind up in the midst of an angry crowd.

moving on with the day, lunch should be rum punches and some sort of fresh lobster that can be consumed in a hammock on a crystal clear, aquamarine, white sand beach, right? totally. but it's not. we have sandwiches. and we're usually eating as we type. if we have wifi. and we're under a hot tin roof doing so. the afternoon scorches on, promising few breezes, and we spend it running errands, trying to obtain products that may have expired or spoiled on the boats bringing them here. but who knows, it's a gamble. you can pick up a box of milk or a tub of yogurt with a decent expected lifespan noted on the outside, bring that sucker home, take one bite or sip and toss the whole thing. a following rant ensues because it's hard not to think about the two hours of your day spent to go to the best market possible to get your needs met just to find out that your day and your money is wasted and your taste buds are no happier for it. dinner is the quiet respite, or should be, that anyone who lives and works in haiti deserves. but usually dinner is another source of bombardment. the debrief of the day, the complaints about the heat, the flickering wifi woes...people running out of toilet paper, septic systems overflowing, tired children who are finding their third wind begging for your attention to play before they fall into their nightly coma...oh how we wish we were all the children who can fall into that blissful slumber at 7:30pm, but our work is nowhere close to being done. there are few tasks that are completed here without a multitude of interruptions from a plethora of people.

as the sun slumbers and leaves us with less of that stagnatingly face melting heat, ala a dali likeness, the mosquitos come out to claim their territory and give you notice that you're welcome to join the party but only if you're willing to be the meal. they're like demon vampires with diseases. and they somehow choose the most inspiring places to chow down. like an eyebrow. ankles are a favorite as well. knuckle itching is a special kind of frustrating sensation. or the corner of your eyelid. that's one of my fondest of their choices. these are the moments when you fondly think of screened in porches on a comfortable house in the u.s. a place where you can live outside of walls. a place where you have just about every luxury and comfort and peace and relative quiet if you seek it. a place where your grocery store will exchange your rotten products, where you can grab a latte at a drive through to calm your nerves on a hectic day. where you can crank up the music and the a.c. and complain to someone who will actually do something about it if your phone, your wifi, your a.c., and your plumbing don't work. here in haiti we can only complain to ourselves. because we are the plumbers, the builders, the do'ers. we know it is up to us if it is going to get done. and yet, with our world so dependent upon computers, phones, the internet, and other resources it is difficult to prove that we are as productive here in haiti as we are in the states when we can't communicate and provide tangible evidence of all that happens in a day. and when we can write an inspired or funny post on facebook it simply doesn't sum up the holistic experience of our day. sometimes those quick proof of life posts had to be generated by hot-spotting a signal from someones phone to a computer with a gentle nudge and promise of sharing a treat in return for compliance with posting. or threats of hardware harm.

if one could imagine hiking a mountain daily, i would suggest this is a comparable activity to life in haiti. sometimes we dream of a day when we can run away from our burdens here in haiti to live our lives of ease in the united states. but we love this island and her people, so this is what we do. if you love us, please understand that we are in the trenches, doing what needs to be done, and when you don't hear from us we are still doing just that. supporting them. assisting and providing for their needs and welfare. teaching them. guiding them. and loving them. 

sending this message with love and hopes that the wifi will comply with my desire to post it!


hot in haiti

Monday, August 3, 2015

missionaries and cute kids

it has been said so well many different ways, but today i'm writing it my way so that those who may not have considered their time spent loving on orphans to be as detrimental as it can be.

as a family, we have gone through and are still going through the unbelievably difficult...gruelingly long, and down right tortuous process of adoption from Haiti for over five years now. in that period of time we have learned a thing or two about our kids. about this process. and about how others can impact our children while they wait to come home to their families.

we have trolled and scoured the internet for a mere glimpse of our children's faces as they've grown in our absence. we've become friends with anyone we know who visits our children. and while we are thankful for the time those who travel to haiti devote and give in service to our children and the foundations who provide their needs, we need you to know a few things:

bonding is for families.

bonding is a cycle of growth and development that we take very seriously. it is a process. it is a long and at times frustrating process. when you meet and fall in love with a child who has lived through more difficulties than most can imagine, what you find is that behind that sweet smile and spunky disposition is a child who has felt deeper pain than they can describe. they may have been left, lost, abused, abandoned, given up on, or given away because they came from a place and a group of people who they look like, talk like, and maybe even act like - because they can't be cared for as they deserve and need. they will cling to anyone who is willing to give them what they want and need. when you visit a child and love them for a week and then leave them, it adds too their trauma. it helps build their walls. and it makes our jobs as their family members harder. bonding is for families. please don't try to bond with children you think are adorable and will be happy to love for one week. please consider that loving them for a week and leaving them is perpetuating a secondary trauma. it is not what they need. it is not helpful for their development. it is not helpful for the bonding cycle for the family. in fact it hurts it.

they do have families.

we have seen and heard many comments over the years about our children. "i want to take him home with me!" or "he's precious, i can just put him in my bag." even "why did that child have to go home before i could visit again?" that last one kills me e.v.e.r.y. single time. we are their families. and we also want to take them home. and we know exactly how they will fit into our lives, not our bags. and we will not waste a second when the time comes for them to come home. and we will not consider your schedule and your visits. because one of the most momentous times in all of our lives will be upon us. and we will be together as a family; not divided by an ocean. that is our time. not yours.

memory building is our right.

my son was not allowed to go to the beach with me in haiti. however, he was allowed to be taken to the beach by a group of random strangers. once. and those random strangers who spent an afternoon in our sons life have made an impact. but not one that is fulfilling and lasting. he doesn't even remember their names. the impact it made is that our son was given the opportunity to share his first experience at the beach with complete strangers. and they lavishly bought him every single thing his heart desired that day. and now when our family goes to the beach a simple picnic isn't good enough. because it doesn't compare to the experience he had with a large group of missionaries who treated him like a golden child on a pillar. we're just his family. we're not nearly capable of providing that kind of experience because we make our sandwiches at home. and the soda tasted better in a glass. and he got to sit in the front seat to drive there. whatever he has determined to be the reasons our trips to the beach aren't good enough, the point is that our family deserved to make that memory. not strangers.

we appreciate you. please appreciate us.

we do. we appreciate your heart. what you're willing to give. that you have devoted time to our children and the foundations who provide for them. when you're working, please know that we also devote time to our children - even when we aren't with them. we work diligently for years in the struggle and fight to bring our children home. we pray for them every single day. multiple times a day. we live with the ghost of our child's presence in our homes. there is not a single activity that takes place in our lives that we don't miss the presence of our child, that we don't painfully hold back the tears and try to remember that there will be many opportunities for more experience with our children - but sometimes the missed moments are the hardest. we are missing precious time in our children's lives. so while we appreciate you, we also want you to appreciate us. we want you to know that even when we're not here, we are loving our children with our whole hearts. we are hurting for their homecoming. and we hurt when we see our children in your arms and not ours. if you love our children, please appreciate us as much as we appreciate what you try to do to support our children.

please visit. and work. and love. but do so properly.

your prayers, your energy, your passion, your sweat, and your dedication is so valuable to us. we dearly appreciate that you have chosen to give yourself to us and our children. so please visit. please go to work hard to support the staff who take care of our children. please continue to send your love to our families and for our children. please just know that doing this properly can make a world of difference for our whole family.

thank you,

fiercely loving mom of a couple ridiculously cute kids.

Friday, April 17, 2015

sweet v turned 3...

3.16. she turned 3.
3.19. i cuddled her and thought of the moment i first laid eyes on her.
23 trips to haiti.
3 long years.
she is growing with our long distance love.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

a reminder of my last night living in haiti...

Thoughts from the evening of Feb. 12, 2014:

At this very moment one year ago I was hugging and kissing our entire Haitian family after they came to visit the boys and celebrate our grand exodus from Haiti.
Our families and friends anxiously awaited our homecoming after four years of adopting from Haiti and seven months of living in country. Thank you to all of you who cheered us on, prayed for us, screamed with us, cried with us, laughed with us, and celebrated with us!
Samantha BertierNatalie Claire HollyHolly HarmonJoanne Kimball, Diony Monestime, Patrick BentrottAshley GibsonMallery Neptune,and Jean Hilaire Filder thank you all for being a magnificent part of the final stages of our journey.
There are so many names I would like to include on this list. Those who weren't there with us in person were with us in spirit. Kelly Lefeber Blanchard, you walked every day of four months of hell with me like a sister and I'm so proud to call you family. There are countless mothers and fathers who have, did, and are walking the land mine that is the path of adoption with us and I want you all to know that you own a special piece of my heart.
I'll never forget our last night among many spent in Haiti. Surrounded by family with eyes full of happy tears. Surrounded by friends who knew how badly I wanted to go home but how hurt I was to close part of this chapter of my life.
Harry Hames thank you for your love and compassion, your loving fatherly spirit and your shared respect and admiration for the people of Haiti. I miss you so much. I'm not sure if I can aptly share with you how special our visits were to me. You are a gem.
Natalie I want to kick trees on swings with you again. Joanne, you saved me by delivering our visas. Diony, you are the most important puzzle piece that without our boys wouldn't be home. Ashley your love for Haiti, her children, and my sweet V helped me get on that plane. Holly, your love and support carried us through so much even long after we came home. Patrick, thank you for coming to our rescue with documents and your amazing sense of humor when I wanted to go postal at Ibesr. I still owe you a prestige for that one. Thank you for being the absolute right person to be there for our final moments and for being our "stand-in" for the happy family photo! Thank you for all you've done for V. I'm happy to call you family as well! Filder my amazing friend, I can't tell you what your friendship means to me. You are an amazing person. Your heart is so gentle and you care for people so well. I admire you and am so happy to call you my friend. Thank you always for our many adventures, even in your pony - which clearly hates me!! Samantha you and your family were a beautiful warm hug for Kelly and I and I cherish you and them. And Mallery, our adventure has only just begun but I thank every star above for you every day. The mold was truly broken with your creation. You are my resuscitation, you are my sanity. You are an amazingly beautiful person, and I'm so honored to have you as a friend. Thank you for everything you do every day, your sacrifices, your love, your dedication and devotion, and your loving and kind heart. The gift of loving V that you give me daily is a debt I will never fully be able to repay.
I miss Haiti so much. I miss momma Epheta, Darline, Darla, the worlds cutest grandpa and grandma, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We never realized how many people we would bring into our lives and our hearts with the special gifts that are our three children.
Stepping down the escalator to the faces of Melissa Bolt Dunkleberger,Teresa HuberKaryn Puller, and Kate Romero as well as J, Britt, and Leo was exactly the rescue my heart needed to know that no matter where we go people who love us are there. Thank all of you beautiful women for the special people you are.
I hope you all know that we love you and you are in our hearts every single day.

Friday, April 10, 2015

a small dose of healing

the grasshopper, normally extraordinarily agile, took a good tumble today after getting hit in the head with a ball.

he's ok. but it has made me do a lot of reflection on the times he took swipes, dings, bangs, slams, spills, and outright splats on rocks and cement in haiti. there were so many days i couldn't nurse the wounds. so many tears i couldn't wipe away. so many snuggles that didn't happen. so many boo boo's not kissed. like when he split his face open on the shower wall at the orphanage. that one is an ever-present reminder when i look at the scar on the bridge of his nose.

today as he got off the bus with the ice pack on his face and his glasses tucked into his bag for safekeeping because they were sliding off of his swollen face, he stepped into mine and britt's outreaching arms. his bus driver gave her dose of hope that he would heal and rest comfortably over the weekend. leo was behind him holding his bag and his nurse's note. he was enveloped in the love of the family we are. he has us and we have him. and i'm so thankful that we can provide the love and comfort for him that so many children need.

please let your heart love a child from afar today. tonight. right now. please send a little love to a lonely little heart who has a skinned knee. a busted lip. a scraped eye...they need it. they may not feel your touch. but they will feel your heart somehow. there are so many children who need the rescue of a family. they need love.

please also send your love to the families who wait for their children to come home. they long to have their children in their arms. they want to kiss their boo boo's. they are fighting so hard to bring them home. they need your love too because they fear what they don't know is happening to their children. their hearts ache over the time lost to this process. they hurt knowing that they can't nurse their sick children. they can't pick them up when they've fallen. they can't clean up the scraped knee. they can't soothe their pain. they need your love.

this. today. soothing his pain. being there for him. wrapping our arms around him. letting him know it'll all be ok. these are the moments that make everything we did and do worth all of it. all of it. he's here. he has a belly full of pizza, his glasses have been bent back into shape. his fabulous lips are just a little fuller right now. he's surfing the couch like a champ. and he will be ok. and because he will be ok, so will i.