Sunday, March 25, 2012

Haiti: Pati De (Part Two)

Much to my pleasure, I successfully refrained from buying anything for my kids for Christmas.  Not a single, solitary gift.  But, I still couldn't stop thinking gifts.  I racked my brain trying to think of something meaningful to take to our hosts, Beaver and Kathy Brooks.  But what?  What do you buy people who are already wealthy beyond their neighbors wildest expectations.  What could I bring to someone who sees hungry, distended bellies daily without seeming like a) I am completely out of touch with their daily reality, or b) I am a classic first world snob who can't help importing my materialistic mindset to a culture that has so far escaped Christmas = overspending.

Honestly, I tried to ignore the idea that I should arrive bearing gifts...but I also tried to put myself in Kathy's place.  Yes, all her kids (sans one) would be there with her and that in itself is the most precious gift a mom can receive; but even so, I'd still want Christmas morning to be somewhat different than all other mornings.  I finally settled on stockings filled with a mixture of goodies and necessities for the guys.  Alyssa and a friend went shopping for them.  I guess they figured all single 20ish aged guys need socks, gum, goldfish crackers and...oh, I can't even remember what else.  Victoria and her friend Lily had been accumulating gift for Rebecca for months, so I knew she was already well taken care of.

I still found myself wanting to do something special for Beaver and Kathy.  I asked around and no one who'd been to Haiti could offer me any direction.  Being left to my own devices, I prayed.  Novel thought, I know.  Should have done it weeks before rather than on December 22, but there you have it: a perfect illustration of how I like to rely on my own wits rather than the voice of the Lord.  Thankfully, I felt God whispering an idea, a Kindle.  A Kindle?  In a third world country?  Would they want one?  Is that just too much of a luxury item to own in a country where few can read and even fewer can afford to buy a book?  Do they already have one?

I asked around.  Victoria said Kathy owned a Kindle.  Taylor, their son, said they didn't.  I couldn't come up with anything better and so bought a new Kindle Touch and an Amazon gift card to get them started.  My thinking was, shucks...even if they already have on Kindle, there's three readers in the family living in a country with no libraries.  I despise sharing my Kindle so they, if they are as selfish as I am, probably would love to have another one too.  I then told Patrick I had bought Beaver and Kathy a Kindle...sort of an "it's easier to ask forgiveness than get permission" kind of moment and so my Christmas shopping was complete.

Medical Supplies - a gift from Patrick's staff to take to the Brooks
Armed with my gifts, the 300lbs of lined paper for the journal maker and countless other supplies, we packed...and packed...and packed.  We weighed bags, redistributed goods, and reweighed and then reweighed again.  After hours and hours we finally thought we had 2 bags per person, totaling 80 lbs between the two bags with no single bag over 50 lbs as per the directions at the Insel website.  Yes, it's true...Insel Air still allows two free bags for each passenger.  Each Eades packed in a carry-on so that we could take as many supplies as possible in the luggage.  Everything was labeled and ready for the drive to Miami.  Let the fun begin!
More gifts from Patrick's staff for the ladies who make jewelry in Jubilee Blanc.  Add in the paper for the journal man, 20 sets of sheets, bags and bolts of fabric that Kathy requested and I collected for the newly formed fiber arts guild, and the gifts for various Haitians that started pouring in from friends who had been to Haiti and we easily maxed out our 480 lb. limit for our luggage for the six of us.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Oops...How Could I Forget

Pitiful as I have been at blogging this year, I still can't believe I haven't given my few faithful readers the low down on our Christmas adventure to Haiti.  Looks like this is going to be a multi-part post, so stay tuned for "the rest of the story".

Sometime last summer, the kids concocted the idea of skipping know...Nora and Luther Krank's idea of no presents, no tree, no Christmas anything and going to Haiti to spend Christmas with our friends the Brooks in Gonaives.  If you haven't read Grisham's book, Skipping Christmas, AND seen the Jamie Lee Curtis/Tim Allen flick, "Christmas with the Kranks", you are missing a treat...but I divert.  Patrick and I asked the kids questions.  Lots of questions like: So, you know this means no presents?  Zip, Zero, Nada?  They said they were fine with that.  They just wanted to make a mission trip as a family.  And you also know Mom's not decorating the house. No tree, no garland, no lights?  It's like Luther says, "A total boycott!"   They assured us that was perfectly fine.

Somehow that gave me pause.  A part of me wanted to jump up and down and cheer.  No tree, no decorating the house...think of all the money and time in December that would save me.  Nutcracker wasn't in the cards for the year, so it was like I was adding a whole month to my life that had been annually missing for the last 8 years.  Then a part of me wanted to cry.  The kids don't even care about all the things I've done to make Christmas special for the past umpteen years.  I wanted to have a bit of a pity party - and feel like a failure that my kids can do without all the traditions I've created (or thought I had created) to make Christmas, well...Christmas.  But I confess, the thrill of a short term mission trip together (which also meant less holiday stress for me) won me over.  Besides, it might be nice to see Christmas from the perspective of being an observer of holiday materialism rather than a participant.

Sometime in mid September, while Kevin was gallivanting about Europe, we took the plunge and bought six tickets from Miami to Port au Prince.  As excited as I was, I wasn't certain *I* could do Christmas without buying gifts.  I LOVE giving gifts.  I was beginning to think I was going to be the problem child in all the Haiti preparations, since it was really me all along who loved the tree, the traditions, and seeing the smiles of surprise on Christmas morning.   Almost daily I would wake and resolve NOT to think of gift giving and Christmas decorations.  I realized I had been conditioned to be a part of Christmas commercial madness, and this whole "cold turkey" approach was probably good for me.

In hind sight, I'll probably never see the trappings of Christmas quite the same.  In the future, I think I'll be able to see the decorations and parties as a way to facilitate the real meaning of Christmas rather than be the focus of the holiday season.  It's something I've always wanted to do, but in retrospect, probably failed to accomplish.  All in all, even if you don't go on a cruise (like the Kranks planned to do) or visit the poorest nation in the western hemisphere like the Eades, I highly recommend a year of "Skipping Christmas" to adjust your perspective.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring Training Trip in Pictures

Our first visit to Space Coast Stadium, home of the Washington Nationals
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.
                              - Ernest Lawrence Thayer

Kevin really wanted Bryce Harper's autograph, but had to settle for Stephen Strasburg's.   While we were impressed that he signed balls, programs, and various baseball paraphernalia; he seemed as though it was a part of some sort of punishment for being tardy to class. 

Maybe he was just having a bad day.  I'd hate to think he was simply patronizing the very people who make his fat salary possible.

Strasburg was the name du jour.  Even Peter Gammons got in on the action.

The foul ball that Alyssa "caught".  It would be more accurate to say, "the ball that found Alyssa".

Alyssa, Hannah, Lauren, Kevin, Victoria and Grandma

The kids at Daytona Beach

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Europe Revisited

I have spent months procrastinating, but finally made albums for Sam and Kevin.  I sorted through well over a thousand pictures and ended up with this:
Kevin's Album 

I hadn't even seen some of the pictures and was blown away by some of the snaps they took in Venice.

Sam has a thing for hand stands.  Not sure how it started, but there are about two dozen pictures of him doing hand stands in all the cities they visited.  His album has fewer pictures of Kevin and more of his hand stands.
Because everyone does a hand stand in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.