This Guy.

To the handsome guy who gave me beautiful black (and then prematurely gray) hair-

To the inventive guy, who designed and created dreamy houses and then rolled out the red carpet to host us “monkeys” as he called us, in these dreamy places on every possible school break any of us could get down there for-

To the adventurous storm-chasing guy who said, Let’s go to the beach!  (even though everyone else was taking cover) during hurricane Gustav because they knew how much I loved weather-

To the trustworthy guy who first knew about Jeff and kept it a secret for FOUR MONTHS-  Continue reading This Guy.


Advent For When Your Stuffing Is Falling Out

One of my favorite Christmas songs is Selah’s O Come, O Come Emmanuel. It’s all mysterious and dark and heavy.

(So, exactly opposite of what people love most about Christmas.)

It sings deep notes of suffering and waiting and captivity, with a tiny sliver of light that bursts into rejoicing in every chorus. But not even rejoicing because Jesus came right there in the song. It’s a rejoicing because He will come. He’ll come and disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and put to flight death’s dark shadows. He’ll bring victory and save everyone and we’ll all be winning!

But right now in the song? Israel waits. In either exile or slavery, hungry and grumbly, and cold? I think, yes, they must have sometimes been cold.

This is why the Advent is so fascinating to me. Because right in the middle of all the candle-lighting hope and anticipation is lament. In my Advent book, Enuma writes, “In its peculiar way lamenting is an act of faith because it speaks to our understanding that things are not as they should be.”

Almost nothing is as it should be. Families, bodies, the earth’s temperature, justice, my humidifier which has dumped a couple gallons of water all over my floor three nights in a row…

And so we wait (most days) in full belief that God will show up and fulfill his promises. In fact, Enuma writes, the reason we are called to wait on God during Advent is because God always shows up.

He has done this for me time after time, and I continue to be the worst at waiting. Also, suffering. I would never have made it as an Israelite. I’d have been that a-hole in the back whining first for food, then complaining about the manna (God, we just had this yesterday), then wanting to go back home TO SLAVERY because I’m too short-sighted and anti-suffering to understand things like the promised land, which lay just around the corner. Everyone would be blaming me for the entire 40 years.

And so acknowledging my own lament and then lighting a candle that physically demonstrates patience and hope and the belief that God will show up feels like a sliver of light that bursts into a dark and gloomy nothing-is-as-it-should-be world.

Nothing makes me say Come, Lord Jesus more than drunk phone calls from my brother. We’re a disheveled bunch, held together by thin threads with giant gaps at the seams and stuffing falling out all over the place. It’s not a coincidence that Christmas is when all our stuffing falls out, by the way.  With all the expectations and Christmas-movie-merriment trying to work around divorce and mileage and scheduling and kid-sharing, with a drug addiction or two thrown in for good measure some years, plus a case of Coors Light. If you’ve known me for a few years, you’ll remember my spoofy Holiday mailers in ’05 and ’06 about the magic of watching Mortal Combat III with my brothers on Christmas Eve by the light of a 4-foot fiber optic rotating tree at my dad’s while the toast burned. Anyway, disaster, is what I’m saying.

(Which is so opposite my in-laws, it’s comical. Last year J’s family talked through how we would all feel if our gifts to one another were supporting various charities instead of gifting and opening actual things. I personally love selecting and wrapping the perfect gift, and so my sentiment was equally Great Idea, and Oh.  This happened to be the same year my brothers all called one-by-one wanting to cancel Christmas because everyone was in a tight spot and felt they had nothing to give.

I was like: I got it! Why don’t the Hartmans gift to the Wilsons?!)

Come, Lord Jesus.

And it’s not just us. I have friends who will be running in circles collecting their own handfuls of leaked-out-fluff. Friends who are not in relationship with one parent or the other, or who will be celebrating their first Christmas without their brother or mom or six-year-old or never-was-year-old, who will be lamenting the unfairness of breast cancer, or trying to keep uncle out of the liquor cabinet. Someone I know will inevitably spend Christmas Eve at Taco Bell.

And so as we stuff each other’s fluff back in, and we find the brother out in the cold somewhere addicted to something and beg him home, and narrow down that perfect hour when all three nieces are available despite their sugar comas and other families, and we manage double the amount of parents, step-siblings, grandparents and ex-wives than normal, and we overlook past resentments, and we choose to open the doors for each other instead of closing them, and we mourn those things lost among us and the ones that never were, and we agree to focus on something other than the brokenness for just a minute: we light a candle.

The flame will represent equal parts lament, waiting, and hope.

Things are not as they should be, we’ll say. But we are waiting for God to show up.  We believe he will, and we sure hope he restores everything.

I Am (married)

Anniversary Edition!

I Am, by marriage, second-generation thin crust pizza, spicy Italian sausage from a local butcher, whole milk mozzarella and pizza sauce that’s not to sweet, not too tangy, not to salty.  I am popcorn at 10pm with garlic salt and crushed black pepper, scrambled eggs most mornings, and breakfast in bed on my birthday. I am a cup of coffee snuck onto the bathroom counter while I’m in the shower. I am a late night mini DQ run accomplice.

I Am, by marriage, at the very top of a 14 thousand foot mountain. I am sitting at the UW Terrace with some kind of local brew in Madison, WI or at the New Glarus brewery with a $3 flight, or taking a lazy stroll on State Street after the Farmer’s market when the weather is warm and I’m in a sundress. I am in the upstairs bedroom on the left, waking up on holidays to rolling hills, Palamita Pond and a little farmet outside frosted windows in Beloit, Wisconsin. I am our very first Indiana Avenue facing one-bedroom apartment just a few steps from the Canal and White River State park by foot. I am sitting on a fixed and treated deck, sipping a summer Shandy by the Monon, with a yard just mowed, twinkle lights on, and a grill cooking fat-tire brats in Carmel, Indiana.

I Am, by marriage, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, aunt, niece, and cousin. I am Bucky the Badger and flip-flopper and Merlot Kathy and Indiana Ron/Wisconsin Ron depending on the score. I am Brookaliscious. I am a gold medal swimmer at an Olympic wedding! Most of the time, without even thinking before it slips out even at work, I am simply Babe, which is okay with me.

I Am, by marriage, always in style. The dress never makes me look fat, the hair always looks good, there is definitely a change in my arm muscles, and yes, I can have the last bite/piece/sip. I am good enough, cool enough, nice enough, honest enough, funny enough, pretty enough, smart enough and competent enough. I am known. I am forgiven. I am loved. I am “I will” and “I do” and “I now pronounce you man and wife!”


PS: Some friends have started doing this exercise with me, and I’m so thrilled it’s catching on. Three friends means catching, right? I do these weekly on Sundays, except for today which is Monday,  If you like it, please respond with your own answers.  Wouldn’t that be fun? (Yes, Brooke, that would be SO fun.)

Thanks to my pals who have responded- I love knowing who you are!
So tell me, everyone else, who are you?

I Am (Father’s Day Edition!)

I Am my dad’s namesake. I am college-educated, a direct result of the Indiana State Police construction zones and Mike’s Car Wash—his 2nd and 3rd jobs when I was in college. I am a game of basketball in the driveway every evening that one summer between 7th and 8th after he got home from work so I could make the school team, and I am Pistol Pete, basketball between each step the entire length of the driveway.

I Am the opposite of rib-eye sandwiches from the State Fair and some kind of seafood soup that stinks up the whole house. I am not mayo and pickle and peanut butter all in the same sandwich. I am not the Super Delicious Chinese Buffet any chance I get. But I am a big Christmas eve breakfast, my dad’s BBQ ribs and burgers on the grill, and a poolside cooler full of snacks and wine. I am a Colts party black & stormy, a glass of apothic red or chilled white, always welcome for dinner.

I Am my dad’s backyard—both Pinesprings and Birdkey—chasing my nieces and ol’ Lily dog with bubbles. I am around his dinner table and lounging on his couch for Colts parties. I am a Belize vacation, cannonballs at Cahal Pech, a sea breeze and musical chairs at Captain Morgans, a Belikin at Old Belize, snorkeling and pool-floating, all on the house. By “the house” I mean, my dad. I am a summer evening Indianapolis Indian’s game and the mouse roller coaster at Old Indiana Fun Park.  I am moon-dancing with my dad the night before my wedding on a beach in Destin as he choreographed the next days “moves” including a section he referred to as “the hip-hop” J

I Am “Oh fooey!” And “Gee-miny cricket!” And “What a bozo!” And “You know what assuming does?” I am “10% in the bank and 10% to the church and the rest to spend.” I am “Hey-lo little girl! So what else is going on?”

Cannonballs at Cahal Pech
Cannonballs at Cahal Pech
Belikins at Old Belize
Belikins at Old Belize
Hot Dog at Indians Game
Hot Dog at Indians Game
Wedding Dance Rehearsing
Wedding Dance Rehearsing
Wedding Dance Rehearsing

IMG_40851 6 5 4 3 2

So. Who are you?

I Am: Coffee, Target, Aunt and Abundance

Context for this: here

This week:

I am a chocolate croissant early in the morning and coffee-flavored Belgian chocolate late at night. I am stove top brewed single-cup decaf espresso poured over creamy vanilla ice cream. I am summer shandy and creme ale after work. I am grilled chicken stuffed with Havarti cheese and hot, crispy falafel covered in cucumber sauce when it’s chilly.

I am the Target dollar spot, the Old Navy clearance rack, the REI 20% off sale. I am I am the Emergency Department: chair ducking, grief holding, support offering, bus pass distributing, safe house finding, adoption facilitating, report filing, family calling. I am these things from a 10×10 foot social work office.

I am Aunt Brookie to three little girls, and Little B to the best aunts.  Combined, we are wise and silly, baked cookies and explorations through the Monon “forest”, nicknames and knock-knock jokes, princess puzzles, swim dates and bike dates. I am early morning blanket wrapper, scooped from the pack-and-play, nuzzled with a million kisses, footie pajamas, cinnamon rolls and dinosaur-shaped banana pancakes.

I am still Be safe and Be smart and You’re gonna bring home an orphan. I am God doesn’t just provide adequately, He provides abundantly. I am Nothing good happens after midnight. I am Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Please tell me: Who are you this week? Food, places, people, and words spoken into your life…

Dorothy Lee Dismukes McInnis Mecca the Third

She’s not really a Third, but the title doesn’t accurately reflect Queen Grandma’s importance without it. This is my grandmother: deeply southern, big-sunglass wearing, Pritchard Alabama born and politician father raised, eye-batting, order barking, Give me some suga’ saying, Grams. I used to be her favorite, but then my younger brothers got married. Marriage is valued over firstborn granddaughters in the south, so if you are an oldest child and approaching 24, move over. Your younger married siblings will take your birthright.

I was married at 29- a quick 10 months from spinster, per the southern family. These days, all conversations start like this: Brookie? Is Jeff taking care of you? No, wait. I got that mixed up. Brookie? Are you taking care of Jeff? Are you being sweet? I hope you’re treating him real good. You better keep that man. Let me talk to Jeff. Hey Dahlin’! Is my granddaughter taking good care of you? Is she cooking for you? Tell me what you’re eating…

Last month, the family gathered, covered in dots, to celebrate Grandma Dot’s 75th birthday. My job was to pick up the cake, and because it wasn’t ready on time, I spent an unexpected hour in the lobby of Classic Cakes. Browsing the clearance selection, I had this present-time flashback (because it still occurs) to all the clearance cakes my grandma had purchased from Classic Cakes through the years, stockpiled in her freezer, and forced upon us at birthdays or overdue birthdays, or hostess gifts, or a friend-of-a-friend’s birthday, or just because it was on sale. She can throw a grad party in under an hour because she’s owns 3 floor-to-ceiling cabinets full of party favors, tablecloths, hats, napkins, forks, candles, plates and noise-makers for every occasion. All that, and this was her conversation to my mom several years ago for my brothers’ high school graduation:

“Trisha? Honey, I’m here at this paper place… oohh, yes, is this one on sale too? and…hello? You there? I’m at this paper place and for $26 we can have the napkins…let me describe them…they have a confetti-like in the corner…well, a triangle shape in one direction, its real festive looking, and they have a special where you can get 100 napkins with their names imprinted. Well, the one I’m looking at has four girls names, because they all had their party together, but, I mean, we could print Ben-uh-Bry-uh Benjamin and Brandon’s names on—this one? No, no, I mean this one— Trisha? And they can put their school and the date…now did you say their school colors are burgundy and white?”

She bought the napkins.

She could decorate every house in China with Christmas Villages from her own attic.

In that little cake shop, I thought to myself: I love this cake lady. I love how every fall from the time I can remember though college, she took me school clothes shopping to “freshen up” my wardrobe. We only bought things that looked “smart”. I love how she bought me the Clinique three-step system from 8th grade on, and still asks me today if I’m using my Clinique when she looks closely at my face. I love how one of my earliest memories is going to Clowes Hall or Beef & Boards or the LS Ayers Tearoom in matching black velvet jackets. I love remembering those long summer days at her big house on the tiny lake, which, at the time, seemed like the ocean. I love that she once offered to pay me $100 to grow out my nails and/or memorize the Gospel of John. I love how she blames the way I eat a salad on the fact that I climbed trees with all those boys instead of enrolling in ballet. I love that she won’t let me out of the house if my nail polish is chipping until she’s removed it. I love that she offered us a 50-inch TV for my birthday, a mattress for our wedding, and a sliding glass door last summer and the only thing I’ve actually walked away with is a juicer from 1991. I love that at work, when someone asks: where did you get that unique hot pink and brown animal printed tunic with sequins around the neckline? Or that sharp black and white swirly ribboned tunic thing with the white linen capris, I can say: my Grams. She gave me a Wedding Trousseau. I had never heard of a trousseau until I got engaged. It’s a collection of clothing and linens that a bride assembles for her marriage so she’s all prepared for the first year, or as my Grams put it: so Jeff won’t have to buy me anything.

Here is a quote that accurately reflects a) how trousseaus were a symbol of wealth and social standing and b) what I’m sure my Grams thought we were doing at Steinmart:

“The society woman must have one or two velvet dresses which cannot cost less than $500 each. She must possess thousands of dollars worth of laces, in the shape of flounces, to loop up over the skirts of dresses… Walking dresses cost from $50 to $300; ball dresses are frequently imported from Paris at a cost of from $500 to $1,000… There must be traveling dresses in black silk, in pongee, in pique, that range in price from $75 to $175… Evening robes in Swiss muslin, robes in linen for the garden and croquet, dresses for horse races and yacht races, dresses for breakfast and for dinner, dresses for receptions and parties…” from “Lights and Shadows of New York” by James McCabe, 1872.

In 2010, you’ll need a work outfit, a dress outfit, a lounge outfit, pajamas, unders, and bras, per Grams and the state of Alabama.

I love how when I was spending my first Thanksgiving holiday with Jeff and meeting his family, she insisted we go to the outlets to buy a pinstripe pajamas set and coordinated sweat suits for lounging. T-shirt and Nike shorts were not appropriate PJs in Dallas when meeting J’s parents.

On the PJ buying trip, Jeff met Grandma (and all the southern Aunties) for the first time. As a side note, they made us sleep on two separate queen-sized air mattresses next to each other on the porch, with the curtains open and the lights on. We were 29 and 36. We were just getting ready to leave the GAP outlet that day after trying on way too many matching pajamas and sweat suit coordinates. Just before the credit card was swiped, Grams turned sharply to her left, zeroed in on a blue-and-white-striped sweater and yelled with conviction: STOP! She threw her arm out to the left, blocking anyone from passing her or moving ahead. Somebody in my family has to have that shirt. Somebody has to have it. Brookie, go get that shirt. It looks so smart. So fresh. We have to have that. We just have to have it.

Jeff now thinks it’s appropriate at Home Depot to halt in the middle of the aisle and yell: STOP! Somebody in my family has to have that mulch. Somebody has to have it.

I love how even now with limited mobility, medication reactions, and 75 years of accumulated opinions, I can drive the mile to her house at 10pm, and she’ll be up. She’ll rub my back or play with my hair or take off my nail polish and send me home with the bottle. She’ll scroll through 8 programs she’s saved on the DVR for over a year having to do with Belize or New Orleans in case I come over. I love that she offers us a Bloody Mary before my brothers come over.

Despite the silly scars I thought the previously mentioned things would leave—for example, that one Christmas when she called me a puppy, or the moment she looked at my engagement ring and said, Is it plastic? or how sometimes she glances my way and asks if I’m going to put on lipstick because I look dead—somehow in the cake shop that day, all these memories swirled into a uniquely hilarious and lovable Grandma. Soft skin and a soft lap to lay on. Stories we’ll pass around the table with the Classic Cake Grandma plans to will us in the future. The only remaining scar is a tiny little gash above my left eye acquired while running buck-wild around her coffee table on that big house on the tiny lake, back when I was the favorite.

**Submitted for Scribes as a Scar Story

For J, on his Day

To the type of husband who sneaks a cup of coffee onto the bathroom counter while you’re in the shower-

To the type of ‘band who pulls the stove out from the kitchen wall looking for the GFCI outlet, and lets you off the hook when you see a spider, no matter how dirty and dusty it is back there. You flip and dry heave, he remains calm and cleans the entire thing until sparkles-

To the dude who keeps all the plants alive in our house-

The the husband who brings home some nail clippers randomly one day from the store because he remembers yours got confiscated in the Cancun airport-

To the husband who can capture the perfect picture of your baby niece’s sparkly shoe on a skateboard

To the guy who lets you pick the Garden Salsa Sun chips even though he really wants the Harvest Cheddar-

To the husband who wakes up one day and with a tiny shovel rips out the front bushes or finds our screens in the garage-

To the guy who secretly fills up the humidifier when it’s my turn and I’m already in bed-

To the husband who leaves these in my car-

And this on my table-

For no reason at all.

To the husband who brings home an US weekly before a road trip because he thinks its the kind of magazine I like-

To the guy who walks into Charming Charlies, picks a colorful pair of sandals, and orders them in my size for an unexpected birthday surprise-

To the man who took me to the top of a 14-thousand foot mountain on our honeymoon-

To the guy who values everything I write and every pic I take-

To the husband who always offers me the last slice of pizza, the last bite of cookie, the last kernel of popcorn-

To my Friday morning egg-maker and my Sunday morning road-tripper-

You will never believe how glad I am that you were born. We need a new word for glad. Happy Birthday!

Flak Vest with Kevlar Plates

Hi, it’s me again. I had to take a little internet break, because I almost came back to disclaim everything from the last post. Pride has a way of making you want to shout: WE ARE OKAY. NOTHING TO SEE HERE. EVERYTHING IS FINE. even though you let your own self out of the closet.  But then J reminded me: this experience has drawn us closer to God, demonstrated our frailty, and humbled us. Sometimes those things feel uncomfortable, and part of humility is being okay with people feeling sorrow on your behalf.

(But seriously, we are okay.)

To everyone who reached out earlier in the week: Thank you! Our phones and inboxes were filled with messages from friends and family offering support and love. Some of these messages were from right down the street, people we see weekly. Others were from old friends we haven’t spoken to in 15 years in other states and countries. Many are walking the same journey at this exact moment. To quote Kim again (she’s good at this, obv):

However you’ve come to join this community—infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, interrupted adoption, or other form of desire unfulfilled, may I offer you a very sorrowful welcome? What I’d really like to do is come over to your house, wrap you up in the coziest blanket you own, pour you an inappropriately large glass of wine (if wine isn’t your thing, please have mercy on us both and substitute “hot tea” wherever I mention it), and just sit.

Yes, that.

To those who are walking alongside us: I know that down the road when/if we become parents by whatever means we’re able, I’ll likely have thrown the journey aside for the prize, and God’s work is evident in the journey, whatever the outcome. If we’re never able to become any kind of parent in any way, or if 3 weeks from now, you find me rolling on the floor eating a sleeve of Oreos, you’ll be able to point me back on track with my own words. At least it’s documented.

God has protected our hearts, and save for just a few of moments of despair, we are hopeful.

A couple of months ago, my mom posted this status on Facebook, and here was my brother’s response (If you don’t have a funny brother, go out and get yourself one):

What are some ways YOU guard your heart? “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. (Proverbs 4:23 NLT)

Bryan Wilson Flak-Vest with kevlar plates in them………and my Jesus Chain

Brooke Hartman I usually just check the weather radar and stock up on water and canned goods. Sometimes I sit on my heart’s porch with a shotgun, though.

Bryan Wilson You mean, you haven’t heard of the Heartometer 3000….ADT sells them in a package deal with your home alarm system..It comes with a little heart pendant to wear on your shirt to let people know you are “protected”.

Trisha McInnis Sellers You guys are brats and you’re probably going to hell for making fun of your mother

Bryan Wilson You should have picked up the Heartometer 3000 or invested in a vest…you might not have been offended by this!!

Brooke Hartman Mom, obviously your heart is exposed. Guard that thing!

Bryan Wilson Brooke, can you check your warranty paperwork…I think it also cover “not going to hell”….but I’m not sure???

Brooke Hartman My agent is Jesus. I’ll just ask him. He said yes. Policy is good for life. And death. Boom.

Bryan Wilson Mom….we can save you 15% or more on heart protection…Just make the switch – it’s so easy a Brandon Wilson can do it!

So here we are: piled under flak vests with kevlar plates, Bry’s Jesus chain, a shotgun on my heart’s porch, the Heartometer 3000, warm cozy blankets and large glasses of wine, and cross-country hopes and prayers from friends and family. J and I are wrapped in love, hope, and a pretty solid dose of laughter.

In some supernatural way, God has made us glad. Thanks, God. Thanks, friends.

C & JL

Mr. Gay wrote this on a little piece of paper at her funeral: Bonne nuit joli petit oiseau – Goodnight pretty little bird.

We’ll see you on the other side.

Operating Instructions: First Year of Marriage

1. While many people are afraid they’ll discover some kind of annoying habit about the other during the first year, it turns out marriage functions like a full-length mirror. You might discover some crazy habit you didn’t know about yourself reflecting right back. (Me? Yes, you.)

2. Sometimes you can learn adaptive habits from each other, like making the bed every day. There! Now, doesn’t your day feel more organized? Yes!

3. Per the prior, the last one out of bed makes it. Except for today.

4. Sometimes you need to go to the bathroom for 45 minutes. What you do in there (examine your pores, pluck your eyebrows, steam clean your face over the sink on one leg with John Legend on your ipod- whatever) is your own business. It used to be your SSB: Secret Single Behavior. Now it’s your Secret Married Behavior. It’s okay to keep it secret.

5. Separate bathrooms are icing on the cake.

6. Engage in hobbies together. People might laugh when you turn your living room into photo studio, but it’s y’alls own thing.

7. A programmable thermostat can help facilitate this discussion: The heat was on all day?

8. One of you may be the type to save the good champagne and Swiss fondue for a special occasion; the other may want to pop the cork at 8pm on a Tuesday. Find a way to make 8pm on Tuesday a special occasion. S’mores fondue night by the river? Yesssss.

9. Re-evaluate goals when things like thousand-dollar car repairs come up. You’re probably working toward something. Continuously reset the course together.

10. Keep a bottle of Fat Bastard in the house to uncork after your first fight. The presence of the wine itself may keep you from having a worst-ever first fight.  For all who wondered, we have not yet opened the Fat Bastard…

11. You might accidentally buy a house. When you do, agree in advance how many towel bars and curtain rods you will ask him to help hang. There is a threshold.

12. Per the prior, don’t flood the house.

13. Per the prior, know where the water shut-off is if you begin to flood the house.

14. Per the prior, when your spouse floods the house, take the opposite temperament, call the insurance company, set up a fan, and get away for the weekend. It will fix everything.

15. Discretionary spending accounts: one of you may be at a constant balance of $5 as you happily line up shoes and play with new hair accessories (Jeff?); The other could fly to Hawaii with his. Mutual goals achieved otherwise.

16. The Ron Hartman rule: don’t take the last slice of pizza.

17. Post-it notes, breakfast in bed, and knee squeezes- excellent forms of nonverbal communication.

18. If you can make each other laugh, you’re already through it.

Any tips for year two?