Monday, January 30, 2012

Twins? Um, not so much.

I have officially worn out my favorite jeans. I bought them just before Christmas a year ago. And I have probably worn them 300 of the last 365 days. No exaggeration. They fit perfectly and are very comfortable. So naturally I decided to buy an identical pair to replace them-

Same size, brand, cut, color, and everything. What do you think? Not exactly identical now are they? The new pair, which is in theory the same size as the first pair, are a good 2 inches smaller around the waist. I can barely pull them up! (The color difference is okay considering how many times the original pair have been washed.)


So do I return them (via Amazon) or make these my new "goal pants?" I'm very actively dieting and attempting to lose weight right now. I could use these as my incentive...

In other fashion industry of Erin's closet news- I bought a pair of jeans a few weeks ago (also online- what can I say? Shopping is really limited in Roanoke.). The same size as the jeans above actually. They are made with a little bit different cotton and lycra blend than I am used to. (Skinny fit jeans from Lands End.) I wore them a few times, and washed them several times, thinking I could make them shrink, and to run out the excessive indigo dye in them that kept turning my hands and legs blue. The color has finally set, but the jeans refuse to fit. Skinny fit jeans that are too baggy! Go figure! I also have a skirt that is just a little too baggy on me, so I figured it was time to do the thing I've always said I was going to do. I took my clothes to an alterations shop. For $8 the maxi-skirt is getting hemmed up (I bought it on sale for $4) and taken in, and for $10 the jeans are getting hemmed up several inches, and taken in through the waist, and all up and down the legs. I am picking them up from the shop tomorrow (took her 4 days). I'm excited to have a pair of jeans that won't gape open around the waist (you know what I'm talking about, it happens to all of us), and fit me perfectly. Considering I bought both the jeans and skirt on great sales, I'm still getting a really good price on them even after alterations.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Best Calling Ever

I can barely express how much I love working with the youth at church. I've been involved with the teen program at our church in different capacities for several years now. For the past 1.5 years I have had the joy and privilege of working in the Young Woman's Program. I served as the Personal Progress Adviser in my old congregation, and again now in my current congregation. I've also served as the Girls Camp Leader (last summer), and I will be serving again this upcoming summer.
Personally, I think Girls Camp Leader is pretty much the best calling ever.
This week I've had a few moments where I've woken up and realized just how much I love my girls. At our activity last week, we had a fairly simple activity planned for the night. Our oldest girl turned 18, and we had a birthday party for her. We had a few ideas for goal oriented activities following the cake and ice cream, but we didn't have to do them. We played a few games, laughed riotously, and just enjoyed ourselves. There was even a moment where we all spontaneously broke into singing, "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt." Why? I don't really remember. But the laughing afterwards was priceless, as was the look on the face of the woman that walked in in the middle of it.
I love that our girls so regularly give hugs to each other and their leaders. Every time I see the girls, whether at church or out in town somewhere, they give me big hugs and tell me they love me. I have learned so much from them about not judging too soon, and loving unconditionally.
College acceptance letters are coming soon, and I find my prayers including the girls from my past congregation, as well as one from my current, as they anxiously wait to hear from schools. They have grown up so much in the time that I have known them into such beautiful young women with so much to offer. I am so excited for them to take this next step in life! But I'm going to miss them so much when they are gone!
There is so much to learn and enjoy in the YW program. I wish more women would accept the opportunity to get involved with the girls. The next few weeks I will be busier than usual with the girls, and I have to admit, I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How Erin Got Her Groove Back

Just before leaving town 2 weeks ago my life had started to take on a new shape. What had at first been a potentially good situation with a writing job had changed into a much more firm and reliable writing job. And then a second writing and editing position had landed in my lap that would also keep me busy. Suddenly, completely out of the blue, I have work and income!
But then I took off for South Carolina and focused on other things for 8 days. Eight really awesome days.
Now that I'm home and rested, I'm getting into a new groove. (How many times this year have I had to stop, erase, and start a new groove all over again?? I've completely lost count.) But I'm excited about this new routine and these opportunities. I actually got a paycheck (the day I left town) and I'm going to get another one! The idea is so foreign to me I can barely accept it!
If you've known me for long, or read this blog more than 4 years ago, you know that I love being busy. I used to thrive on event planning, travel, and being involved in dozens of things at once. Due to the changes life threw at me, I haven't been that way in years. I've missed the "old me" quite a bit. For the past 3+ years I've primarily worked from home and it has been very quiet, and rarely busy or stressful. I'd prefer the crazy life! That's just me! The week I spent on the campaign was very fun for me. I got my groove back. I got to be busy and crazy, and running a program, managing people, and getting involved. I felt like me again. I would welcome the opportunity to be busy like that again.
These new writing gigs won't keep me busy like that any time soon, but still, it is a good groove. But they do keep me busy and mentally engaged. And thankfully, in spite of being home-based, and online work, there is reason for human interaction! (I like humans!)
The gigs are freelance, no contract. I have reason to believe that the first one could extend indefinitely, and if they company likes me (and so far they do!) they may offer a secure contract at any point. The second job is only for one month, but has potential to extend in the future.
I have work, people. Actual work. I'm earning money and working. I like how that feels! This is a great groove to be in. I get to engage in so many things that appeal to me (news, politics, religion, and believe it or not, I'm starting to like the stock market)! That spark inside of me that loves to write and get opinionated has taken over and I like it!
Watch out world, Erin's got her groove back. 

Happy Birthday to Our Little Man!

The picture that went viral on I can has cheezburger with the captions "I babysit" and "Babysit- ur doin it wrong"
In the dog house!
Super Diaper Baby!!

This will always be my favorite picture of my little man!

Seriously, how can you not love this picture? He is ALL that is little boy! (Note the skull tattoo on his arm)

Whether my nephews realize it or not, they each have a different nickname from me. Tell was the Little Dude, now just the Dude. Dallin is our Favorite Guy. And Porter, the baby of our family, and all that is boy, is the Little Man.
Happy Birthday Little Man! I wish I could be there for your birthday! I hope you have a very fun day! I love you lots and lots!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Happy Birthday, Dad! I'd write you a much more eloquent and elaborate post, but I know you would prefer that I stick to writing jobs that pay today. Also, you should be sure to check out my column on Meridian when it publishes in 8 hours. Why? Well, just between you and me, we both know that I would be the person in that article if it wasn't for you. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Campaign Carolina Complete

A few of my cousins, aunt, uncle, and me after the election night party

This was a long and crazy week. Yesterday alone felt like I had lived a lifetime before lunchtime. We didn't get to take home the win, but we gave it our all, and have no regrets.
More later. Now? SLEEP!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Campaign Life

Today is/was my 37th birthday. I had been planning on completely ignoring it and staying 36 forever. It is an unglamorous and uninteresting birthday to say the least. And being on the campaign trail, away from all of my friends and family, (but making plenty of new friends) it didn't seem relevant this week. But Facebook has a way of making birthdays a dozen times better. After working a 14.5 hour day, and coming back to my hotel room completely exhausted, I turned on Facebook to find 115 (and counting) birthday greetings! Talk about feeling loved!
Other things that made me feel loved today were all of the fun texts and phone calls. And the very entertaining happy birthday serenades. My favorite had to be from two of the young women in my ward, who didn't know I am out of town, and went to my house to bring me a cupcake. When I didn't answer the door they called to find out where I was. When they found out I wouldn't be home for a while, I insisted that they send me a picture of the cupcake and eat it themselves. They sang me a rousing rendition of happy birthday, and ate the cupcake. I laughed so hard that the other campaign vols asked what was going on, so I told them. After that I got some extra nice attention from my fellow campaign trench mates.
It is hard to believe it is just Tuesday. I spent the majority of the day convinced it was Wednesday. My body is convinced I've been doing this a month, and not just 4 days. I need a personal chiropractor and massage therapist to just follow me around and work on my back when I travel. And a personal chef who also reminds me when to eat. Come to think of it, why don't I have an entourage yet?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Greetings from South Carolina!

A few days ago I got a phone call asking if I wanted to return to my roots and get back into politics. Three days later, I'm in South Carolina, volunteering for the Mitt Romney for President Campaign. I'll be here till the primary next Saturday. I'm very excited to get involved here. I've worked on presidential campaigns, Capitol Hill, and for a lobbyist in the past. I've just been out of the game for a while.
This week looks to be completely busy and crazy. I can't wait. I'll probably blog more of the political side of this experience over at my other blog-
I'll save this blog more for my personal thoughts.
For starters, I stopped and bought some new music CD's on my way out of town. (Employee discount + Buy 2 get 1 free sale= awesome deal!) I know I'm a little tardy to the party on this one, but I LOVE the Adele 21 CD. I think I've listened to it ten times in the last 700 miles. Love it. I also picked up The Band Perry. Good CD, but I'm not in love with the unreleased songs. Whereas, I love every last song on Adele. The third CD was Simon and Garfunkel's 2 disc greatest hits. It has long been one of my favorite "albums."
In other news, oy, I'm exhausted. Drove 8 hours plus worked several hours at the HQ. I think I shall take advantage of these lovely clean hotel rooms and get some sleep!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Remembering Haiti

I've been thinking a lot about Haiti this week, and wondering what story or picture to share on the actual anniversary of the quake. Today is January 12, the second anniversary of that horrible event. And my heart misses Haiti more today than ever before.
I went back through my old posts and my personal writings and found an experience I had mostly forgotten. It happened at the beginning of my trip, and just got buried in my memories. I originally wrote about it here- Days 2-5 In Country- Croix de Bouquets. It was written and posted while I was still in Haiti, and happened roughly 3 weeks after the actual first earthquake. Due to the circumstances I wrote it under, it isn't my best work. (Did I really write 'site' instead of 'sight' that many times?) I'd like to retell the story now, and add in a few thoughts.

The background-
I was working with the construction team in a town just outside of Port au Prince called Croix de Bouquets (roughly translates to "Woods Cross," which was a nice thought of home to all the Utahans). It was my second day waking up in Haiti. I went with two men from our task force in a small moving van (Uhaul size) back into town to pick up some extra supplies. I was still a little green on how to handle myself.
We parked in the construction district. A little neighborhood where you can buy every kind of home building supply Haiti has to offer. Considering the devastation in the country, this was a very busy area. But not as busy as you might think- people had no money to buy materials. They weren't looking to repair their homes. They needed to rebuild their homes altogether. The arrival of a large truck and 2 white people caused quite a stir (our 3rd companion was of Haitian descent).

Just another common scene in Haiti

I had barely opened the truck door. I hadn't even stepped out of the truck yet when a man walked up and started talking crazy to me. The two men I was traveling with had already exited the cab of the truck and had stepped no more than 2-3 feet away from me. Suddenly, without any warning, there were 20 men surrounding me. I tried not to look too scared or shaken, but in my head I was screaming, "HOLY CRAP!" There was a lot of yelling, and a little shoving among the men. I was grabbed by our driver, and forced back into the truck. We quickly drove around the corner, away from the group. The driver (of Haitian descent) went back to find out what was happening. We learned that the crazy man wasn't from that neighborhood. The other local men were yelling at him to stop talking to me and to get away so that their neighborhood wouldn't get a bad reputation. Haitians are interesting like that. They will start a fight to stop a fight, not realizing how it makes them all look to outsiders.
I silently vowed in that moment to never allow myself to get out of the sight of my companions again. Not even by a few feet like that. Later in the day, I would find myself making that same vow again.
We went about our work trying to find the right materials. We went from shop to shop (or what was left of the shops). We quickly learned that the presence of two "blanc blancs" (whiteys) was driving the prices up. Materials could be had, but we were paying the American tax. The driver sent my companion and I down the street so he could bargain without our assistance.
The "stores" where we bought our supplies were below this building. I think at one time the stores had been in the building.

A few minutes later, we met a man from New York who now lived in Haiti. He spoke perfect English. He told us his wife had been badly hurt in the "event." (Something I came to discover while there. The Haitians all referred to the earthquake as the "event." I never heard them call it the earthquake.) His wife was a school teacher, and was at school when the event happened. The school fell to one side. She grabbed a child and held on to him for several hours, saving his life. Her foot got caught on something while she hung upside down, holding the child, until help came. Her husband suspected that her foot was broken.
At first I wondered why this man would just come up to us and start telling us about his wife. It didn't take long to learn that when Haitians saw "blanc blancs" they just assumed they had food and/or medical supplies. Just by virtue of being there, this man assumed we had medical knowledge.
I was (and still am) a very out of practice EMT. I didn't have a medical kit on me, but I can still tell if a foot is broken. I agreed to go look at his wife and see if I could help. I looked at her foot and could see it wasn't broken. It wasn't even sprained, it was just badly bruised and swollen. But how do you tell a woman who lives in under a tarp in the back yard of her destroyed house to "ice it, keep it elevated, and try not to walk on it?" Especially in a city with no electricity or ice anywhere? I told her instead that she was very brave and a hero, and to not walk on it, and try to take some advil, if she can find any.
We had walked off the main road into the backyards of a few homes. The houses were giant piles of rubble and debris. The residents (mostly family members of the woman) had managed to get a few sheets and tarps out of the homes to string up tents. 
I stood up after helping her and turned around to find a line of people waiting for me. I was completely overwhelmed. I didn't have a medical kit or anything useful with me. (I had been sent out to buy building materials!) But how can you just walk away from a line of people looking desperate and sad? There was a little girl with a raging fever, and probably malaria. Another woman with paperwork showing she had been diagnosed with cancer before the earthquake but doesn't know what to do now. A little girl with a sore on her leg with worms crawling out of it. A young mother handed me her baby and said, "he doesn't see good." My completely uneducated diagnosis? From his severely pointy cone shaped head, and his inability to control is tongue, arms, or head muscles? He has cerebral palsy. Treatable and manageable in the States. In a tent city with no medical care? He will die in a few months.
What do you do? How do you stomach all of this? The answer? You just keep moving. I talked to each person. Pretended I was helping them. We found a bottle of Advil and gave each person one pill each.
Later that day, after finally finding a few construction supplies (emphasis on few), we headed back to Croix de Bouquets, where were were staying at an unfinished orphanage.
In Haiti it is very common to see broken down cars EVERYWHERE. Apparently Haiti is where old cars go to die. Not surprisingly, our box truck broke down. We had just turned off the busy main road on to a very, very bumpy dirt road. Our broken down truck was blocking the road and in the way. It was blazing hot outside and even hotter in the cab of the truck, so we hopped out to stand in the shade.
Out of nowhere, a young man appeared. I would guess he was between 16-21. He wore a bright yellow soccer (futbol) jersey and had crazy puffy hair. He didn't look like most Haitians. For some reason that still sticks out in my mind. He looked like the kind of teenage boy that causes trouble in bad neighborhoods in the States. I don't know why I still remember that so clearly.
He kept indicating that he was hungry by pulling up his shirt and pointing at his stomach. He kept saying “Manger!” (eat!) I remember thinking it was odd that he was speaking in Creole, when he looked so much like an American teenager. We had no food to share with him, but he wouldn't stop. He kept insisting we help him, and then starting banging on the truck. He hugged my white companion. He knelt in front of me and started kissing my hands. He banged on the truck again. Finally we figured out that he thought we had food in the back of the truck. After all, it does look like a food drop truck! We opened the back of the truck to show him that all we had was a few sheets of corrugated sheet metal. I thought for sure he would go away.
But no! He kept insisting. Suddenly more men arrived. Remembering that earlier in the day when a bunch of men suddenly swarmed like that it meant they were there to protect me, I thought for a split second that this was a good thing. But instead what had been one young man insisting on food, was now several angry men. Thankfully (and in answer to all of everyone's prayers for our safety) our “tow truck” arrived right at that moment. Our “tow truck” was actually an ancient school bus. The bus driver (a Haitian) jumped out, ran over, grabbed me by the arm, and seriously PUSHED me into the bus. Several of the helpers he had brought followed me, blocking me in the bus, clearly trying to keep me inside and protect me. I might add, the same treatment was not given to my other 2 companions. They came and joined me in the bus, but they were not forced in like I was.

Again, things escalated outside of the bus for no good reason. We allowed one of the angry men to come inside the busy and see that there was no food in it. This did not make anyone happy or help the situation.
I looked out the window and realized one of the men was holding a machete. NOT GOOD.
Because I really was too stupid to know better, I took a picture of it.
And then, just as strangely and quickly as the incident started, it dissolved. Machete boy stomped off in the opposite direction. We used a rope to tie the box truck to the ancient school bus. (And by “we” I mean the men on the outside of the bus, while I was kept safely on the inside.)
That wasn't the end of the boy in the yellow jersey or machete boy. Two weeks later, I was back out at the orphanage again. We had two helicopters land in the field to make an exchange with each other. (As strange as that may sound to you now, it was completely uneventful to us then.) The exciting arrival of two helicopters brought every man, woman, and child in Croix de Bouquets running to see what was happening. It was like the circus had come to town or something. They stayed on the outside perimeter of our fence, staring in awe as the helicopters landed and parked for a while. We the volunteers kept on working, but maybe had a little fun checking the birds out for a minute or two. It can be hard to stay focused when you know you have a huge audience watching you like that. I looked over after a few minutes and suddenly saw a bright yellow shirt again. We were working in a large field, with a very small fence around it. The school bus (our favorite form of transportation) was parked along the far side of the field. I had to walk in plain sight to get behind it, but I scurried over there anyway. From my almost hiding place I could clearly see machete boy and the yellow jersey boy in the crowd. And it was obvious to anyone looking that they were up to no good.
The view of the orphanage from the front gate

Just like box trucks meant food and supplies, so do helicopters. The Haitians couldn't tell that these weren't supply helicopters. And there was no doubt in our minds that the 2 boys were going to figure out how they could get some supplies out of us.
Truth be told, a huge supply drop had been made the night before and was locked up in the orphanage. But those were supplies for the orphans that were coming to live there in the next 2-3 days. They were not meant for the community. And truth be told again, they were not locked up very well. It was an unfinished building with a dozen ways in or out. We needed to worry about protecting the supplies, and ourselves. We decided that the only people who needed to hide were me and the 2 guys that had been out with me that day. For what seemed like an hour (but was probably just a few minutes) we hid behind the bus where no one could see us. We didn't want the 2 guys to see us and remember us, and think we had held out on them. We quickly told the helicopter pilots what was going on, and that we were worried something might happen. They completely understood and left as fast as they could. Sadly, the reason they had landed there in the first place was because when they had gone to their original drop points, the crowds were too big and rowdy and they couldn't safely land. They had to fly back and land to discuss a new plan, which is how they ended up with us.
I still remember the anger and fear I felt when I saw those two men. I had no doubt in my mind that if they saw me or could get close enough to me they would hurt me to get what they wanted. But then there was the flipside of that experience as well. To just be standing alone and have people line up in the most humble and desperate manner you have ever seen, asking for medical care.
I still follow the news about the recovery efforts down there. Much of the aid money that was sent to Haiti was never distributed because the Haitian government couldn't get its act together in time. The money "expired" in a way. Having been there and seen the different sides of the people, I understand how that happened. People react very differently in desperate situations.
I will forever be grateful for the experience I had to go down there and serve the people. I am forever grateful to those family and friends who sent money and supplies to help me go. I went there just a few weeks after getting laid off from my job. I had no way of knowing then how long it would be before I would find a job again. (2 years and counting!) I can say for certain that what I experienced and witnessed there changed my perspective so much that I have been able to handle unemployment far better than I would have otherwise. I will always be grateful for all that I have. Even the worst homeless beggar in the US still has it better than nearly every tent city Haitian. And that is something I will never forget.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Review and GIVEAWAY!

Looking for a good book to read? A fun story with a great plot based on real-life events, with good morals and values? It is time to read Agency by Shantal Hiatt!
Part romance, part modeling adventure, this story will catch you early and never let go. From learning that she has what it takes to become a professional model to the fast-paced, sensuous ending, Michelle experiences everything from the most traditional elements of her religion to the wild and urbane city scene in which she must live in order to work. Add to that a handsome and charismatic returned missionary who falls hard for her and wants to pull her back, and you have a love story in the midst of it all. As she struggles to maintain her independence, she tries to keep her balance between the exciting life that beckons in front of the camera and her conflicting values system. She discovers that exercising her agency--a word she has heard all of her life--is not so easy.
This story is loosely based on Shantal Hiatt's real life experiences as she juggled college, modeling, and all that she believed in. Did I mention I'm lucky enough to call Shantal a friend? It's true! Look- I have picture evidence!
She's the stunning blond in black. I'm the clown in red. Hey, fun coincidence that this picture was taken at a book signing for the book I was involved in, "Don't Forget the Pepper Spray." Also, here's a fun tip- Shantal is also the face on the cover of the book!
And because I'm lucky enough to know Shantal, I get to giveaway a copy of this awesome book! Here's the deal! If you want to be entered in the contest go to the Facebook Agency fan page, "like" it, and leave a comment on the wall there saying "Erin said so!" And then, come back here, leave a comment for me letting me know you left a message there, by saying, "I said it because you said so." A winner will be picked at random on Friday! 

Want to buy your own copy now? It is available in paperback via Amazon and Lulu, or you can get it for your Kindle or Nook immediately as well!

So what are you waiting for? Go leave a comment on the Agency page, and then come back here and leave me a comment too!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Remembering Haiti Part 2

Standing at the top of the hill of the golf course, overlooking what remains of Port au Prince.

Some of my memories of Haiti are still hard to talk about. Each day brought challenges and scenes out of a nightmare. Don't be fooled by the smiles in the pictures. Oftentimes we were smiling out of exhaustion, or out of nothing but love and faith. Or simply just because it is a habit- there's a camera, you smile.
One of the more other worldly experiences came on the day we were invited to go to a camp at a golf course. We had been hearing about a golf course that was providing shelter, food, and medical care to anywhere between 5,000 and 75,000 people. As with many things in Haiti, the reports were confusing and we had no idea what to expect. But off we went, to see what we could see, and serve who needed to be served.
Somewhere along the way I was either too tired to compute everything I was hearing, or maybe I was just never told the whole story. But after 2 weeks of hearing a lot of Creole and French, I was just fine hearing words that made no sense to me and going with it. To my ears, the golf course was being called the "jean penh camp" (say it with a French "jean"). I just assumed this was a French or Creole word and didn't ask. So when I walked up the hill to the golf clubhouse and this happened a minute later, you can understand my confusion-
Sean Penn meets Brig General Keen
Don't recognize him? That would be actor Sean Penn. He was directing and financing the golf course operation, providing shelter and food to the thousands of people there.
But before the entourage and paparazzi attacked him, he was just a guy walking next to me into the tennis courts area. (The tennis courts had high fences around them that could be locked. That was where all the food was being stored.) Maybe confusion isn't the right word for what I felt right then. It was more a blank stare, complete stupor of thought, and a shrug. It was Haiti, strange things happened all the time. A celebrity offering me his granola bar while we stood next to a tent full of orphans? That was just Haiti.
But on to what we actually saw at the golf course.
Meeting the general. Nice guy, nice troops. Didn't stop me from wanting to slip my bodyguards.
Thousands and thousands of people living in tents, built from bed sheets, sticks, and plastic tarps if they were lucky. The US Army was providing security, OxFam was providing the food and medical care, and several other organizations were helping out as well. They had suffered from some unfortunate violence and rape deep within the camp, and the volunteers, especially the females, were provided military security as we walked through the camp. For whatever reason, I was tired of having a bodyguard by my side and did my best to sneak away from the young 19 year old boys with their huge machine guns, and just walk around alone. The boys were enjoying having American female companionship and more than willing to keep a close eye on me. I'd give them the slip, but they'd find me a minute later. I'm thinking my blond hair didn't help me much.
The camp was crowded, but well organized. The tennis courts and club house were high on top of a hill, and the golf course itself down at the bottom. There were hundreds of acres, all covered by tent shelters. The occupants had managed to place their tents in lines, allowing for roads and intersections. There were even road signs and names, written on cardboard and hanging on the side of tents. Periodically you would find a small area where a clinic had been set up, or a small area for kids (or grown men) to play soccer in. Our people were sent to the clinic areas throughout the camp to provide medical care. (With armed escorts from the Army.) We sat on buckets (no chairs anywhere), and the patients lined up 20-50 deep, waiting for help. In so many cases there wasn't really anything we could do for them. They had been through a horrible trauma, and wanted help. They were sleeping in a crowded, disgusting area, sleeping on the ground. I have no doubt that they felt sick and miserable. They wanted someone to make them feel better. But with no real illness for us to treat, we would just take their temperatures and blood pressure, ask a few questions, determine who was really sick, and treat as necessary. Oftentimes we put bandaids on sore arms or knees, or dispensed Tylenol and Advil with a bottle of clean water. We'd hold the babies while their mothers were treated. The poor mothers hadn't been able to put their babies down for weeks. We were literally "lifting the load" for them. I remember watching the mother's arms drop down as I took a baby from her. They were so tired and exhausted and overwhelmed. They had lost their homes, livelihoods, and family members, forced to live in a makeshift tent with no privacy, unable to put their squirmy babies down. More than anything it is the mothers that I remember, and the looks on their faces when we would help them, or care for their babies. There were so many times where I would take a few steps away and turn my back to everyone, unable to keep my tears and sobs to myself. I would take a deep breath, regroup, and turn back around with a smile, and keep helping. If it was that hard for me to see, can you imagine what it was like to live in?

There was a picnic shelter at the top of the hill that was used as a hospital or clinic. I spent a few hours up there, treating patients the best that I could. I saw some awful injuries and illnesses in there. I remember there was a baby in a box. As long as he or she was in the box s/he didn't cry. But if anyone dared moved him/her, s/he would start bawling. So I sat there holding a blood pressure cuff, attempting to entertain the baby. (Even in the box there was crying.) After a few minutes I realized there was something else wrong. The baby was favoring one leg to lean on. I moved around so that the baby was forced to move as well. After another few minutes I realized that one of the baby's legs wasn't moving right. I risked the bawling, picked the baby up, and took it to a doctor. We realized the baby likely had a dislocated leg or hip, and it was taken away from me to fix. I don't remember why I didn't stay with the baby. I think I was pulled in another direction to go help with something else. The small incident stayed heavy on my heart for a long time. Where was the mother? How long would it have taken for someone else to figure out why the baby wanted to be left alone?
Things like that sadly happened a lot in Haiti. The walking wounded were everywhere. People were unable to get medical care until a doctor literally tripped over them and found them. People relying on food handouts from other nations. Can you even imagine what it must feel like to be dependent on a group of volunteers from the other side of the world, who held a yard sale, raised a few dollars, and flew to your little island country to share it?

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Remembering Haiti (part 1)

On January 12, it will be the 2 year anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
For the past few weeks my life has been overwhelmed with studying politics and the stock market. But for the last few days all I have thought about is Haiti. I still think about what I saw and experienced there. It was a life-changing experience for me. I'd give anything to go back again. I want to see the progress (or lack of it) for myself. I'd give anything to find some of my old patients. And my heart just aches to see the orphanage we helped build.
I can't remember the name of the girl in this picture. I remember so many things about her. We were close in age. Her chart said she weighed about 60 lbs, or maybe it was kilos? She was slowly and quietly dying from HIV and malnutrition, among other things. If you look closely you can see I'm holding a plastic baggy of water. I'd squeeze it into her mouth every few minutes. After she had managed to get a few mouthfuls down, she would start talking to me. She didn't want water. She wanted Tampico. And she would tell us where we could go find some. I came back the next day with some Tampico, but she had already passed away. She was "my" patient. No one else seemed to be caring for her (or anyone else in that unit- where people were basically sent to die quietly). I would keep coming back to bring her water or change her diaper. She would always just smile up at me and hold my hand. I never thought to write down her name. I never thought I would forget it. But here we are 2 years later, and I can't remember it anymore. But I still remember vividly that even as she was dying she still had spunk.
Over the next few days, maybe weeks, I hope to share more of my Haiti memories and pictures.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Working Girl

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