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Starting a new chapter

As usual, it’s been a little while since I last wrote. I have since left Haiti and moved to the Twin Cities area in Minnesota. Leaving Haiti was no easy thing. I miss it everyday, but I know I am the right spot for me at this moment.

When I made the decision to leave Haiti earlier this year and began processing what that might look like, I knew I had to find a way to keep my roots where they had grown deep. Living in Haiti for five years I had meet many amazing people, from those who came on teams, to my students and of course many many others who called Haiti home. From the desire to stay close to Haiti, Cedar and Cypress Designs was born. Since I left Haiti in June, I have been working on becoming a business owner. I can proudly say that as of July 31st, I officially am!

Cedar and Cypress Designs is an on line retail store where you can purchase all sorts of jewelry and other products for you and your home. All the products are hand made in Haiti. Each of the companies I partner with as suppliers are people I know personally. People who have big hearts for Haiti and understand the importance of socially aware business practices and what a dignified living wage can mean to a person.

As I have relocated back to the United States, I am able to get the products I fell in love with in Haiti out to consumers in the US. I started this new chapter as the new school year in Haiti is also beginning. My heart misses the kids and everything that is in Haiti, but I know that thought Cedar and Cypress Designs, I’ll be visiting home soon. I will continue to blog on this site, but I will also be blogging on the Cedar and Cypress Designs website as well.

Thank you for following my journey, for praying for me, thinking about me and supporting me. I hope you will continue to check in and I will continue to update!

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A ‘Tough’ Day



Today is your day.

You’re off to Great Places!

You’re off and away!”

Dr. Seuss wrote these words in his famous book Oh, the /places You’ll Go! and they are read by graduating High School Seniors everywhere. I got this book from my mom at my High School graduation, flipping through the pages and thinking about my future, it made me cry. I took it out to read a time or two during college, maybe once more as I packed it away before I came down to Haiti, but not since. Working at a school Dr. Seuss seems to have found his way back into my life.

Friday wasn’t such a great day for me and I can tell you Dr. Seuss and his fantasy land of Thing One and Thing TWO were very far from my mind. My students however were very much everywhere I turned. Thank goodness for the Chinese who first invented sunglasses to hide emotion because my teary eyes were masked.

 I had two classes to get thru to finish out my day and I could not fathom how I was going to pull it off. As soon as I turned around to walk out the gate to go home and eat my lunch in solitude BAM, there was my answer. I was face to face with a student, big grin on his face, ghosting me all the way thru the gate. I couldn’t help but laugh. Turning, the only thought in my head “these kids, Lord, thank you for these kids.”

They are my life, they are my joy and I am ever thankful for them. They get me through my day time and time again.

And when the path gets dark, as we know it eventually will:

“And when you’re in a Slump,

Youre not in for much fun.

Un-slumping yourself

Is not easily done.”

Dr. Seuss

Luckily I don’t have to un-slump myself. My students are there to make me laugh, my friends are here to offer words of encouragement, and my heart stands strong to rest in my faith.

“Truly my soul finds rest in God,

my salvation comes from him.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation,

He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Psalm 62:1-2

I am in the center of His will. I put both my fear and my trust in Him and I will never be shaken.

When I doubt and fear creeps in, God sends me countless reminders and blessings that help me realize I am exactly where I am called to be. My students. Living, breathing blessings. Joy. Happiness. Hope.

I am so blessed. I think about Ann Voskamp and the challenge of 1,000 blessings I am on.

My students, Lord, I thank you for the blessing they are to me. I thank you for their inquisitive minds, their expressive spirits, their excitement, their drive, their joy, their purpose.

And so I pick myself up and I go to class. I get through my lesson and decide I need to take some time to get into real life with my students. We put the books away and we talk. I pull up the encouraging words of Ann and read them with my students; Why You’re never ever really a failure.

I read this as part of my morning devotions: “ If you’re not willing to look goofy in the eyes of others at some point, you will never make it to your God-sized dream.” Ann Voskamp

I thought of my students, preparing college applications, writing essays, discussing their futures with each other, their parents, themselves. Afraid of failure, afraid of their futures, afraid of the un-known. But we can’t be afraid of the un-known. Being afraid of fear, is that possible? We can fear ourselves, we can fear others; fear the future, fear our fate, but are we just getting in the way of ourselves.

I thought of myself, am I my own worst enemy? What am I so afraid of? The Bible tells me to fear God; am I fearing God or am I too busy fearing myself?

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7) Ecclesiastes concludes “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of every human being.”(Ecclesiastes 12:13) I have no one to fear but the Lord. And yet, too often I allow the fears of this world to creep in. Death, failure, sin, faults, pain…

“I’m afraid that some times

You’ll play lonely games too.

Games you cant win

Cause you’ll play against you.”

Seuss has it right again. I’m in my own way.

And so I stood in front of my students and tried to hold back my tears. I left my fear of what they might think of me and I opened my heart to them. When it was over and I told them what they mean to me. I see hope in them. I see joy and beauty and bright futures. Peace. God has put me in this place, with these people, these students, these faces. Sometimes it’s not so easy and we fall into a slump.

“Except when they don’t.

Because, sometimes, they won’t.”

“And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.”

And I drift back to Seuss and his kind loving words:

“Somehow you’’ll escape

All that waiting and staying.

You’ll find the bright places

where Boom Bands are playing.”

And at times I might feel it’s just me and alone, I am reminded to look up at the bright light shining…. I am never alone, for I walk in the light.

“For you, God tested us;

you refined us like silver.

You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.

You let people ride over our heads;

we went through fire and water,

but you brought us to a place of abundance.”

Psalm 67: 10-12

I can tell you of Friday I was not alone. I felt God in my heart and got hugs all day long. And to my students I want to say,

“Your mountain is waiting.

So….get on your way!” Seuss

I am so proud to call you all mine!

Welcome to the world baby Nora!!

Around the corner from where I currently live is a pretty amazing family (click for their blog). I was hanging out one evening for some fellowship and laughter when, Tara (the other Tara, I know-WHAT?!!? two Tara’s!) got a call that a woman was in Labor.

Troy and Tara Livesay work for Heartline Ministries, an amazing mission here in Haiti with a focus on women. Heartline has many women’s programs ranging from a cooking and a sewing school, to a teen mom house and maternity center. One of my favorite things to do in Haiti is network and partner, for anyone hoping to do the same, volunteer in Haiti or just looking for an honest mission to donate toward-Heartline is on the top of my list!

After Tara got the call she asked if I wanted to join her to see a birth…umm let me think…YEAH! Tara, her daughter Paige and I drove a mile up the road to the Heartline Maternity Center. We got there a little after 7PM, momma to be (Astrid) was walking around trying to speed up the process and poppa to be was patiently waiting out front.

Around two hours and three chocolate bars later we were still waiting. I was impressed by many things during this experience, but mostly the willingness and trust of Astrid with the Heartline staff. The three midwives from Heartline were too amazing, from their Kreole skills to their gentle ability to walk Astrid through what she needed to do in order to ease her pain.


Prior to the birth Astrid had attended different maternity classes offered at Heartline. This was Astrid’s fourth birth (all with the same father-sort of a big thing here in Haiti!) so she was pretty prepared, but I am not sure one can ever be 100% prepared with something so unexpected and varying as birth. Everyone present did a phenomenal job and baby Nora was born around 11:30PM on April 27th!


I can honestly say I have never experienced something like this before; this was the first birth I have been able to witness. It is a beautiful thing and I feel so blessed to be a woman and one day (hopefully) experience the gift of life myself (using a midwife for sure!) I am so thankful to Astrid, Tara and Heartline for allowing me to be there and ask so many questions! It was an experience I will never forget! Welcome to the world baby Nora!!!




Day 2-Starkey travels to Cap Haitian

Day two of my first Starkey mission was a bit of a whirl wind; most of my experiences in Haiti have been learn-as-you-go, and this was no different. About two weeks before Starkey arrived, the schedule was set and all arrangements were made, I felt prepared and ready. Then one afternoon I got a call from Jamile, Haiti’s President Martelly canceled school Monday-Wednesday when Starkey would be here due to Carnival; needless to say I was a mess. Time to ‘de ga jey’ as we say in Haiti, loosely translated to ‘make it work’.

Of the 227 patients we did impressions on in Cap Haitien over 50 of them were adults. The ladies who run Sister Augusta School for the Deaf knew the benefit of the hearing aids and agreed to put out a notice we would be there and see how many of the adults would turn up; they were also calling in the school children for us. Wednesday morning I was a bit nervous as we boarded the airplane to fly up to Cap Haitian; part of me was nervous thinking the rickety plane might not make it, and part of me was nervous not knowing what to expect when we arrived. I wanted everything to go smoothly, but so much was out of my control. I needed to remind myself to let go and give it to God, everything would work out just as it should. There is no point in stressing over something I have no control over in the first place. I can do my best and that is the best I can do.

Not quite sure what lies ahead...

We landed safely and when we got to the school it looked like there was a full house. We started setting everything up-laying out hearing aids, passing out custom molds to everyone who had an impression taken and training teachers on how to care for the hearing aids so they could teach everyone who received one. It was a well-oiled machine. Everyone had a bag with their molds and name in them, those who were walk-ins got fit with general molds to the best of our resources, children and kids lined up and we were ready to go. Shannon Kelley who runs the World Wide Village guest house with her husband, Brad, came with us to help with the database. She is a professional wedding photographer and takes the most beautiful pictures. It was nice to have a familiar face there amongst the chaos, and to capture the whole day through her photos.

Our greeting

Fred from Starkey Hearing Foundation working with the teachers.

It was great working with Starkey Hearing Foundation founder Bill Austin, he and his staff did a phenomenal job talking me through the process and equipping me. It is important to understand these are field tests we do, on one mission Starkey can see thousands of people, donating thousands of hearing aids all over the world to people who would never have the means to a hearing aid. I understand there are skeptics, I was one myself at first; but experiencing the process first hand has changed my mind. The look on their faces, the strength of their hugs, the overwhelming feeling of love and gratitude….

Being fit for his first Hearing Aid!

Little cuties waiting their turn.

As the day flew by we worked as fast as we could to get everyone in. Bill continued to remind us, ‘DO NOT RUSH because it is the end of the day, spend as much time with each patient as you did this morning.’ Needless to say when 3:30 rolled around and we were supposed to be on our flight back to PaP and there were still more patients to be seen and only a slight indication of worry regarding the plane I began to panic. I called Jessica, the stewardess at the airline who told me 4:15 was the absolute latest they could hold the chartered plane, the Cap Haitian runway DID NOT have lights! At 4:00 we saw our last patient and began the mad rush to pack up, I jumped in the first car with half the team and headed to the airport. I thought it was wise to get Jessica back on the phone as she was waiting for us on the airstrip, as I argued back and forth with her about leaving us I could feel my blood pressure rising, everything had gone so well all day long…they COULD NOT leave us!

We pulled into the closed down airport and made our way to the runway, as half the team was still driving I told one of our Haitian staff Peter to wait in the airport for the rest of them. He told me ‘NO way!’ as he thought we would leave him. To which I responded ‘Well then you better be prepared to lay in front of the plane wheels because that’s what I am about to do!’ He laughed and decided he would wait safely in the building for the rest of the team who fortunately showed up within minutes.

Shannon captured the beauty of Cap Haitien as we took off...

At 4:45 we were on the runway taking off to PaP, I sat in the back of the plane and took a deep breath taking in the entire day. We pulled it off and it was a success. We saw over 250 people including four who drove two hours from near the DR border to get to us. Now it was time to go back to Ali and the team for a few more days, then Jump into planning for March teams all the while continue working on everything I have going on in my Starkey role…it never ends, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Bill helping me fit a patient.


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