2011: stealth deliverer of good things

Before I write anything, I would like to share that “ninja spanker” was my top search this week. Where do people come up with these things? And also, how did my space become relevant to ninja spankers? (As I type this, I recall mentioning Spanker Banker after Krewe du Vieux sometime in 2008, and also dressing up as a ninja for Halloween that year and fighting pirates on Jackson Square. The internet don’t forget, y’all).

That said, it’s been two years since I did a year in review, two years since I wrote some resolutions, and consequently, two years since I resolved some resolutions. In the two year gap, I got engaged, got married, moved to a new city, bought a house, started 3 new jobs, graduated, became licensed, acquired a couple more nieces- you know: Almost all of the most important things that can happen to a person besides being born. Now that I sit down to review last year, it seems like nothing happened.  But alas. It did.

January  Co-piloted a tiny plane from Belize City to PG. Swam in a blue creek. Climbed into a cave. Met some fun UWisc Physical Therapy peeps. Watched the Rose Bowl on a rigged up TV, under a thatch roof outside, sitting on benches removed from a mini-van. Spent nights in tiny cabins above water. Ate seafood caught on a kayak with a spear. Took a 6 hour bus to Cayo. Shed tears over this discussion with my former supervisor: “Your work is being used here, Brooke. Every day.” Discovered God doesn’t need a person to use a person. Understood that sometimes we don’t even know we’ve been used. Said goodbye to the BZ. Again.

More pics: here

February  Worked a 16-hour shift during Snowpocolypse 2011 and felt like a Lamb in a Bow Tie. Discovered, via Jeff, that cross-country skiing on the Monon during an ice storm is possible, and acceptable. Went to New Orleans and spent time with my good ole friends and co-workers. Got my Haydels King Cake. Got my Abita. Got my Steins, my Surreys, my house party with a nice brownie spread, my 2 days of 65/sunny, got my washboard band, got my Kim, got my Mandy. Could not have been happier until Tator Tachos appeared. Realized (besides the availability of junk food & supportive social worker friends) why the NOLA feels like home: it’s where I fell in love! J and my’s entire do-I-like-you-do-I-love-you-I-totally-love-you-let’s-get-a-daiquiri-let’s-get-married happened here. Sigh :)

March Went to Cuba Belize Mexico Belize Cuba Belize. Cuba with some good friends. (If you’re an immigration officer, I would like to state for the record I oppose the embargo.)  Had many rooftop mojitos. I neither confirm nor deny the Cuban cigar or the night dancing in Old Havana. Listened to old men argue about baseball in the center of the park. Watched a Cuban baseball game. Became entranced by and forever drawn to Cuba and its music. Thanks friends!

More pics: here

April  Unveiled Brooke 3.0 to the public. Not so bad, 30. Received breakfast in bed from a dude I thank God for by the minute, and a tent. Promptly camped in the backyard. Celebrated Lil’s 3rd birthday (where does time go?) Took down the Christmas tree… and put it in the Monon. Can you find it? Spent Easter with the Hartmans in WI, and got the Easter flu, which everyone mistook for morning sickness. If that had been the case, I’d be 9 months pregnant today. Told you guys.

May Started a new job! Waved goodbye to the hospital (although I still pick up ER shifts here and there when they need help) and joined a private practice in Carmel. Hosted the Kaminski Fam for Memorial Day and ran around Lucas Oil. Celebrated J’s birthday. He continues to be in his 30s. That’s all he would want you to know, I think.

June Celebrated our first anniversary with a romantic evening alone the Hartmans, Kaminiskis, Sellers, Sharon, Pat and 2500 others for the 18th annual Indy Nite Ride. Jeff and I enjoyed a burger at Bub’s after everyone left. The event has facilitated use of the following statement all year to justify anything we’ve wanted ever since: Well, this can be our anniversary meal/gift/trip since we didn’t really have one? Celebrated Maycie’s 2nd Birthday. Love her.

July Breckenridge! This was our anniversary trip, since we didn’t really have one. Also, it was truly the anniversary and location of our honeymoon! Hiked some hikes. Snapped some pics. Ate some good food. Drank with friends. Hot-tubbed with family. Surfed on snowfields. Biked down Vail pass. Garden of the Gods. Pike’s Peak. Celebrated a Hartman (the original Hartman- well, not the original original, but the Ron & Kathy Hartman ) Anniversary. This one gets 2 rows of pics, because I’m the boss of this space, and it’s what I want to do.

  More pics: here

August Hosted the Sellers/Wilsons for Labor Day. Shucked some corn. Grilled some food. Played with some noopy nieces. Dad’s family reunion in Brown County. Spent some time in Nashville and a good night at a Brewery. Hosted Elaine & Doug, also Sprinky. Cut into a sex cake. Found out E&D are having a boy! Can’t wait to meet brand new Baby Luke.

    More pics: here

September visited some good (fun!) friends in NYC. This was our anniversary trip, since we didn’t really have one. These friends appreciate my knowledge of pop culture, which is sometimes a foreign language to J (although he is the one who first informed me of the Kim/Chris split and insisted I see Bridesmaids. He heard both on sports radio). Observed 9/11. Held the Statue of Liberty in our palms. Went to the Catskills. Ate some good food. Played with an adorable baby. Participated in the first bonfire of Fall. Played in a kickball tournament, concussed myself on the pavement. Celebrated Callie’s first birthday. Love her. Joined a small group at church. Made some friends.

   More pics: here

October Destin! I know I’ve said this before, but this was our anniversary trip, since we didn’t really have one. Plus it was the location of our other honeymoon, between the ceremony and actual honeymoon in Breck. Spent some time with the Grampies. Spent some time at the Blossfolly (ceremony beachouse) beach, for nostalgia’s sake. Ate dinner at Henderson Park Inn, where God gave us the most amazing anniversary sunset ever imagined.

More pics: here and here

November Hosted the fam(s) for Thanksgiving: Hartmans, Sellers, the Grampies, Wilsons, Kaminskis, Sharon, & Grams. Got rear ended. Saw THREE rainbows in one day. Spent a noopy weekend with Callie.

December Watched the Badgers win the Big Ten Championships. For reasons unexplained, my nieces started calling me Uncle Brooklyn. Dressed up in snowflake placemats & battery operated lights for a party. Celebrated our engageaversary in Chicago on the 96th floor. Celebrated Christmas in Iowa, Wisconsin, Indy, and Sprinky (not a place, but a BFF). Celebrated the last moments of 2011 with good old friends and good new friends.

          More pics: here

The End! Cheers to all for such a great year, and thanks for the friends who hosted us.


Grapefruit-o-lanterns. They Exist.

Well, there I was feeling all homesick for some fall in the Midwest—pumpkins, leaves, jackets, football—or at least a little Halloween fun in New Orleans, when lo and behold, I walk into the kitchen and they’re all carving  grapefruits.  They did it just like a pumpkin: cut a little hold in top, reached in and pulled out the insides, then very carefully, using gigantic knives with no handles and teeny little fingers and grapefruits, carved out spooky little faces. Then they put a candle inside, tied some ribbon to either end, and hung them on the doorknobs to greet trick-or-treaters, who don’t come on October 31st. They come on November 1st and 2nd for All Saints and All Souls days.  They even have a creepy little version of trick-or-treat: Eshpasha pa la calabera, si no me das te da cagalera.

Translation: Special porridge for the skull, but if you don’t give me, it will give you loose stools. Usually, then, the villagers give the kids some porridge and sweets, realllly wanting to avoid those loose stools.

grapefruit pumpkin 1


grapefruit 4

grapefruit 5

On All Saints Day, they light little candles for the kids and babies who have died, and place the first plate of food they cook on the table next to the candles and wait for the steam of the food to go to the souls of the babies. After about half an hour, they say, “Okay. The souls are finished eating. Now it’s time to eat!”

They also place one plate of food and one little black candle on a chair for the anima soula: the lonely soul.  Each person gets a plate of food, including kids who come to the door, and a special plate is always set aside for the lonely soul.  The very next day, on All Souls Day, they do the same thing for adults who have died.

Also, we’re out of water again. The water went out Friday night, and by Sunday night—with no clean dishes, no reserve water in the drum and nothing to bathe with, people started asking around.  Apparently a pipe broke. I suggested we try to wash some dishes with the maybe 5 liters of water we had left in the drum, but Antonia said it wasn’t clean.  She said we have to be careful because these are the times when people, especially ones with babies, are desperate to use any water they can find to wash and cook and bathe, and people start getting sick from the unclean water.  Point taken. Taking a shower now costs $2.50 in 1.5L of Crystal water:


Update: it poured all day. Everyone ran outside with soap and shampoo and bathed, right there in the front lawn. I really wanted to lay all the dishes out on the grass, too, but I didn’t think of it in time.

Hillside, PG and Snake Caye

So. After a 7-and-a-half hour ride on the non-express bus from Cayo, across the Western Highway, down the Hummingbird Highway, through the Maya Mountains and down the Southern Highway, through Belmopan and Dangriga and a bunch of little villages like Roaring Creek and Teakettle and Independence, I spent a surprise weekend with Jeff at the Hillside clinic in Punta Gorda.

Thanks to careful and sneaky coordination with the Brinkmans and Dan (one of the nurse practitioners) I got a pick-up from the bus terminal, homemade chocolate-chip cookies, an afternoon with Dan’s family, an introduction to the Jesuit volunteers, dinner with the doctors and a tour of Abby’s house.

Jeff and I got to stay in the Treehouse, and we lucked out on a little excursion with TIDE (Toledo Institute for Development and Environment). The TIDE trip was supposed to be a community event, but no one else showed up, so we had our own personal boat tour of the Rio Grande river, the mangrove Cayes, the TIDE lookout tower, and a burrito-pineapple-chips lunch with snorkeling at Snake Caye. It was beautiful and fun, and totally unexpected.

I may have spent more time on the bus than actually in PG—I haven’t added it all up—but it was a fun and sweet weekend. Thanks for all who helped!

Here are some pics of the weekend, and pics of Independence Day, because I forgot to post a link.