Monday, September 30, 2013

Haiti's Acting Lessons

Our resort where all the water drinking will take place!
I regard theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.  Oscar Wilde

Through the World Wide Orphanage, the benevolence of a couple of good friends and The Grove Church, my husband and I leave in a few days for Haiti. We're teaching older orphans how to teach theatre and communication skills to their fellow orphans. Isn't that nice?

I don't quite know how we'll manage, well, most of it...there are still arrangements to be made for our kids who will each be in a different place, when I don't work-I don't get paid and we often don't make it month to month as it is, we'll be teaching "communication" in a country whose language we don't speak among some frightening cultural differences, not to mention unspeakable conditions and poverty and pain.

And yet...

We are flying first class. Thanks to my friends from college. Our trip has been underwritten by some friends we made while teaching theatre to their kids a lifetime ago in Rolling Hills, California. We're staying in a "resort" in the mountains. It is apparently beautiful in the mountains where we are mostly sleeping. (Amy Poehler also taught theater for this same organization! (I love Amy Poehler.) (I feel we are in good company.) Family, friends,acquaintances,have all offered help to care for our girls and have showered me with puppet making supplies. It's all working out, because we are sparrows with mustard seed faith...


My husband suggested I not drink a lot of water so I wouldn't have to go the bathroom at all when we aren't at the "resort." Okaaaayyyyy...

I'm fairly certain I'll do something stupid so there is potential for humor, and for unending, eternally heart-breaking moments.

We are leaving our own children to do this.

Animals are treated differently in Haiti. I'm a complete wimpy mess when it comes to animals.


We will be teaching acting. And acting is about trusting your instincts, making choices, listening, truth, putting all of your attention on someone else. Acting happens in plays. We are going to Haiti to play. Playing is good. Playing is what I do best. We made the choice to go to Haiti based on all of the above. We are blessed enough to have choices.

It's highly likely I will want to bring them all home. I will not be able to, due to laws and practicality.

I can hardly believe we have this opportunity.

I feel my heart will finally break beyond repair. It's so close already.

I'm fairly certain I'll have something to say about the discrepancy between life here and life there. In the mean time, I would appreciate any prayers from those of you who pray - mostly for my children to make good choices while we're gone helping other children learn that choices do, in fact, exist.

Smiling cuteness.

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. Victor Borge, my idol.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Fingerprint of Second Thoughts

"Thank you for not abusing me" she said.

"You're hasn't been easy" I replied.

My daughter, Talia, is training to be a volunteer on Teen Lifeline, the suicide hot line here in Phoenix. We had the above conversation more than once after the session on abuse.

I didn't plan to have children. They just showed up. I thought about having a baby once and then BAM! pregnant. That first one just about killed me too, not all the way to fully dead, but dented into an unrecognizable state.  I have a salvage certificate.

Six months after the first baby was born, in a moment of weakness to many, many, things, I thought about a new baby again, and BAM! same thing. I have not allowed myself to "think" since. 

Talia Hope became the second "thought." Before she was Talia, she was 25,023,800 seconds of panicked thoughts. 24, 419,000 seconds is the length of an average pregnancy. Talia stayed another 7 days to put up shelves, it seems, in the hope of staying.

There are times in my life where I have been closer to God than others. Waiting for my second child to emerge while caring for a seven-month old was a time spent in close proximity; through prayer, pleading and endless bargaining.

At the risk of sounding crazy, when I was about 2 months into the pregnancy, I heard these words in reply to an outcry, "You're having a girl. Her name is Hope."

"I am? Whose hope is she? Mine?"  I replied. "Nice."

Since you can't name a child Hope Burns (for obvious reasons) we named her Talia Hope. Talia is Hebrew/Greek and means "Dew from Heaven." Hope and dew from heaven are maybe too much to expect from a small person, especially since I've only ever hoped to keep my children alive or on good days to walk upright.

Through much doubt, I was "believing" for a pain free natural child birth while waiting for Talia to be done with her shelves. The pain free part didn't happen, which leveled my faith for awhile. When Talia was done with her shelving project, she came hurtling out of the shoot with such a force that she broke her face and her collarbone and arrived the color of soot. Since my husband and I are not that color, it was a little suspicious...But, within 24 hours she was back to resembling us, along with a little bit of Yoda..(She still doesn't like that comparison.) (The resemblance was striking though!)

The moment she was placed on my chest after her shoot hurtling entrance into this world, she cracked me up. She had a remarkable over-bite. ($5,000 later this has been fixed. Thank you Dr. Chamberlain!)  "This is the one that's going to make me laugh" I told my husband through sobs and chuckling. Which has turned out to be true.

My second moment of weakness has become a person who notices "an underlying tone of agony" in humanity and is on a mission to find out why that is. And to make everyone laugh; at her, at themselves, at all the other ridiculousness in this world. It is her sense of curiosity and humor that focuses her listening so intently. Laughter and listening. Good qualities in a hopeful lifesaver.

She won't find out if she "made" the Teen Lifeline team for another 2-3 weeks of training and finals and mock-phone calls that make her alternately break down in sobs and beam with pride. I dearly want her to pass these tests, just as I am deeply afraid that this may have too much tragedy for a tender 16-year-old to take on.

My second thought...noticed her life with us has been free of abuse,  thinks I'm cute, wants me to think this too, and is learning how to offer hope.

It's enough to make me start to "think" again. Because one sarcastic, snarky, overly observant, sweet, clever, sometimes insecure, kind, fingerprint, maybe wasn't enough.

Have you had a second thought that worked out better than you hoped? Has it changed your life? Or someone else's life that you've had the privilege to notice?

If not, here's mine. Maybe mine will help you find yours.

Yoda at 14.
Talia's fingerprint:

* kindness wrapped in sarcasm.
* Compassion covered up in a contrary, perky, shell.(hence the "it wasn't easy" comment above.)
*  is not gentle with herself, but is with everyone else.
* is love. A rescuer of precious creatures. Not the least of which is me.
 * is permanently pink, just because...

Talia, I suspect that God is giggling about His creation of you.