Monday, February 22, 2010

On location, Senegal

Hello everyone! Short update from Kafountine! Arrived safely!
All is well. We have a total of five midwives from the States, and two American midwives who live here in Africa taking good care of us. Up until now, we have been getting settled in and figuring out where things are. I got a local SIM card for my phone so I can call and text my kids, which always makes me feel more peaceful, having that connection.

Only one problem. It made my phone settings all go to French. Wow. My phone speaks French.

And I ate barracuda for lunch today. Tomorrow I have my first 24 hour shift at the clinic.

Thanks for love and prayers! Jam rek. Only peace.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ready, where it counts

So with less than twelve hours to go until I board the first plane of three that will take me to the Centre Maternite des Kafountine in Casamance, Sengal, West Africa for an intensive three week midwifery internship, I'm thinking about how I need to make more copies of birth record keeping forms, make sure my extra underwear gets packed, vacuum my floor, wipe out my fridge, wash my dishes, and maybe put in that application for reduced electric bills so it's already in progress when I get back in March.

(March can be hot in Texas.)

But actually, I'm ready. I'm ready because I've had so many friends encouraging me and praying for this trip. Friends calling from out of town and from out of state. Friends calling that I have known since I was 9 years old. Friends messaging me on facebook. Friends texting. And everyone praying for me. Over the phone. In person. At church. At Bible study just a couple of hours ago.

Prayer prepares me like nothing else and gives me confidence, knowing that I am covered.

Maybe even enough confidence to go to bed now, and leave my floor un-vacuumed.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Normal is Never

This week Dallas broke the record for amount of snow-fall in a twenty-four hour period- twelve and half inches. Not much for our friends up north, but considering that our normal amount of yearly snow is two inches, it's notable.

My children were amazed. I was less so. Not because of the snow, but because life is always breaking some record, as far as I am concerned.

Maybe not so much breaking the record, as never settling down to normal, whatever that is. You know how it is. We constantly say, "As soon as_________, things can get back to normal around here." Pick anything to insert. The holidays are over. Someone gets well from a sickness. Your husband get home from out of town. You get packed for the trip. You get back from the trip. You get unpacked and recover from the trip. You meet your deadline. You catch up on laundry or housework. You get organized. You get through the current crisis. The kids get back in school. Whatever.

But here's the thing I've noticed. It never happens. "Normal" never happens to me, or to most people I know. It's a fleeting mirage we are always chasing or expecting, and never quite reaching. The dictionary definition of normal is "conforming with an accepted standard." But maybe it should be, "conforming with an EXPECTED standard." Expected by whom? By ourselves. It's in our head, this state of myth called normal.

What do you think of as normal? No crisis? No sickness? No death? All work completed by the end of the day? Nothing breaking down? No one freaking out? Plenty of money for everything? Are you crazy? You've just described heaven, not life. Life is always something ABnormal going on.

Whether it's twelve and half inches of snow in Dallas, or something else, life is not going to give you what you expect. Or what you think you want, or that picture you have in your mind of normal.

Gradually coming to realize this has definitely influenced my life choices. If life is going to throw me one snowball after another anyway, why not just go out and join the snowball fight? Yes, I'm going to get cold and wet, but it will be more fun than getting cold and wet while expecting to stay warm and dry.

So, I've finally accepted it. I'm not normal and neither is my life. So I might as well go off to Africa or something. I'm fairly certain there won't be any snow there.

But you never know.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Landing Back In the Tale

"....We shouldn't be here at all, if we'd known more about it before we started. But I suppose it's often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually- their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten. ....I wonder what sort of tale we've fallen into?" (LOTR, The Two Towers, Sam to Frodo)

For a long time I felt like I had lost the plot of my story. But recently it's been coming back to me. And now I feel like my feet are finally on a path I can see again.

Nine years after coming off the full-time mission field, I'm back. Seventeen years after retiring from full-time midwifery practice, I'm back. Last month I became a full time staff member of BESTWA- Building Economic Success Together in West Africa- as clinic director. My first assignment is to get a birthing clinic up and running in Liberia. While it's being built, I'm brushing up on my midwifery skills with a three week internship with African Birth Collective in Senegal later this month.

That all sounds pretty amazing, and it is. But today, my first day home after resigning from my previous job at a library, was spent mostly in my apartment with my kids, homeschooling, doing laundry and cleaning. We did go out in the afternoon to buy my son Daniel the hermit crabs he's been saving up for. He named them Merry and Pippin, and they are at this very moment in a mini aquarium on the dining table. The last load of laundry just went into the washer. And the kids begged to stay up late watching Lord of the Rings- again- so the sounds of Sam killing the Orcs punctuate my blog writing.

I don't mind. I appreciate the inspiration. If a simple Hobbit from the Shire can kill Orcs, and walk into Mordor and save Middle Earth, a single-mom with three kids can be a full time missionary midwife on 100% support.

I'm like Merry. "I know I can't save Middle Earth. I just want to help my friends."