Boonjy

My brother, Benjamin Lee Wilson (known affectionately as Boonjy, or sometimes Boonjermin) turns 21 today! I would write something embarrassing about him, but then my grandma would march out of the kitchen straight to Belize and say, “Nobody talks bad about MY American soldier!” so I’ll leave it at this:

Of all the brothers, Ben always ALWAYS offers his bed when I come home, even if he is on leave from boot camp, and sleeps on the couch. He is also the only brother to call me in Belize with his precious 8 minutes. That was so special. He doesn’t even have a phone!

Cheers Boonjy!

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Bryan Buffington Wilson

Bryan Buffington Wilson

That’s right. I said Buffington.

He’s the type of brother to walk into your gymnastics class and do a standing back tuck, when you’ve been practicing for over a year—he was just there with your dad to pick you up.

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Today is his birthday.Happy birthday Bryan!

Update: I am teaching two classes in the morning and doing an art activity with the Infant classes in the afternoons at the San Marcos school. Here are my new classes:

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Classes on Tuesday afternoon were canceled to clear a soccer field.It was only supposed to be the standard 4, 5 & 6 classes, but the smoke was so bad everyone had to go outside. I got a kick out of the infant classes- they just pulled up their plastic chairs and watched, like it was a soccer game or something:

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I did not get a kick out of the tarantula…

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Tomorrow election day in Belize, so all schools are closed tomorrow and Friday. That means 2 days off, yahoo!

Miss you!
Love you!
Tell my brother happy birthday if you know him…

Brooks Buffington Wilson

That’s right. I said Buffington.

Today is my dad’s birthday.

In Vegas last year, my friends didn’t even bother using his name—they just called him “Best Dad Ever” which I think explains everything.

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Happy Birthday Dad!
I love you.

Projects Anonymous: meeting one

So, here’s the situation. I’ve been in Europe for about 6 weeks (minus a week and a half in the middle) and imagined that I would have already updated everyone on the ghost tour in Prague, or the train strike in Paris, or the much anticipated reunion with my great-uncle-in-law, who I haven’t seen in 8 years and only speaks as much English as I speak French, which is to say we were able to count to each other, greet each other, and name various kitchen appliances.

But it turns out, I am a terrible vacationer. And because I can’t vacation, I can’t write enthusiastically about vacationing.
My name is Brooke, and I am addicted to projects.

Apparently I only love traveling when I am completing a task, when I have something to build or teach or clean-up or fix. If I am not working or working on something, I am a total wreck.

It finally dawned on me in Rome (Rome!) five weeks into the trip, four days before I was supposed to come home, that there is a time to be still. A time to relax, to wait, to be satisfied in the moment, to trust that the world is spinning flawlessly outside my hotel room and that some other perfectly capable person is helping cyclone victims in Bangladesh or teaching Health & Life skills to kids at the B&G Club or driving my old clients to food banks. This verse runs through my mind all the time: Be still and know that I am God, which I usually take to mean: hurry up and figure everything out and when all else fails, start another project.

This entire trip has been a struggle to be still. To me, it sounded like this:

Be broke, and know that I am God
Be unemployed, and know that I am God
Be 6000 miles away, and know that I am God
Be out of touch, and know that I am God
Be at a crossroads, and know that I am God

And I was like: but God, seriously. I need to go home right now and work. I have to save up some more money, figure out what to do about grad school. I’ve got this major project in Belize to plan for, and I have to fundraise $3000. Three thousand dollars, God, do you even know how much money that is? And, also, I miss my friends and I miss my coworkers and I need to figure out how to get to Bangladesh this week. I could do it, because I am not working. I’m just hanging out here in Europe and there are CRISES going on…

And God was like: B, I’ve got the whole world in my hands. Sit tight, I’ve got something really amazing to show you, something I created. Oh, and Mr. Gay needs some salt and light in his life, and he could use some hugs and company and you’ll remind him of Candy, and he’ll remind you of her, and you’ll both be blessed.

Of course, when I stopped flipping out long enough to experience where I was and what I was doing, I found myself staring at the most spectacular views of the world I’d ever seen.

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I learned how to tell Mr. Gay in French that my family loves him very much. I read though entire stacks of letters my Aunt Candy had written while she lived there and touched the map of Florida in Mr. Gay’s hallway where she had circled K & JL to show him where Destin was. We walked through olive groves the family had been keeping and pressing for over 300 years and sampled the olives.

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We brought happiness to a man who had lost his entire family—I mean, everyone. He does not have one single living relative. We looked at his pictures and filled his home with smiles, warmth, blow-dryers, ipods, and chocolate cereal. He kissed my head about 50 times each night and each morning (before he banged on our doors, rang a bell and threw open our windows at 8am) and he paused sometimes when he looked at me because he said my expressions reminded him so much of Candy, which made me cry. He took us to the cemetery, and we watered the flowers. His joy and kindness in the midst of so much tragedy broke my heart, and I am convinced God has protected his life for a reason.

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In Rome, we stood in the epicenter of historic Christianity—stared at the actual Coliseum, Peter’s tomb, the wall where Peter and Paul were chained, the oblique marking the center of Nero’s circus, the Sistine chapel which sequenced the history of the world (according to Michelangelo) before the birth of Jesus: God dividing light from darkness, creating the sun, moon and vegetation, separating land and water, the creation of Adam, the creation of Eve, the fall of man, Noah’s sacrifice, the flood, and (funny) Noah’s drunkenness. It was unreal. Plus the hotel had MTV, so I caught up on all my music news and watched Scrubs and Roswell in Italian. Below is a picture of the Coliseum and my own personal interpretations of the Vatican.

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Tomorrow morning I fly home. For the record, Elaine has been the most flexible, gracious host a girl could ask for. I came here mostly despondent: sad about leaving my job, totally culture-shocked from Belize and re-entry to America, homesick and Europe-wary, depressed over the loss of a good friend, and (annoyingly, I’m sure) unable to identify or verbalize any of those things. She got it anyway and accommodated perfectly. Thanks Elaine…

I’d like to end with a monologue. Just kidding. But, really, with Highs & Lows. (My friends and I used to do this at dinner when we all lived in the same city…)

Prague
Highs: St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle, Wenceslas Square, The walking ghost tour, Astronomical clock, St. Charles bridge, Golden Lane, Basilica of St. George, Jewish quarter, huge fire burned Pizza which I did not have to share, and a heavenly slice of chocolate mousse cake.

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Lows: Giant, life-sized human spiders crawling on me at the Black Light Theater

Marseille
Highs: WINE & CHEESE, COFFEE and SORBET every day with every meal! The view of Marseille—the mountains and the sea—outside my bedroom window every morning, communicating despite being unable to talk with our teeny little translation book, Claire and Fernande’s tea party in Forcalquie, Notre Dame de la Guard and seeing the real prison from The Count of Monte Cristo, a delicious pizza at Chez Jean-Louis, the first snow of the season in Cassis, dinner with The Berger Family, lunch on the terrace with crepes and pear sorbet, driving to the top of the cliffs and looking down on Marseille, Cassis and Ciotot, and over at the Alps and the Italian border.

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Lows: Mr. Gay finding out my nickname was Brookie and calling me Bwooo-kie the entire trip so as not to confuse me with my dad, Brooks. He thought they sounded the same and said that Bwooo-kie was more feminine, anyway. The weird food, the pate and the “meat” balls Mr. Gay ordered us in Pierrerue, which my grandma said she hid in her lap, dropped on the floor on and kicked across the room. (I’m not supposed to tell.) The train strike and trying to get back to Paris was the ultimate low and very stressful.

Paris
Highs: The Eiffel tower, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, Moulin Rouge, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Montmatre, Crepe stands, The Louvre, watching a statue take a smoke break, chocolate croissants, and the perfume museum!

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Lows: The train strike. It was crazy, and by the end, even the air traffic controllers at the airport were striking. We were lucky to make it home…

Germany
Highs: Elaine! We had a fantastic time with lazy days, the Lancôme counter, Thanksgiving on post, shopping, The Me lounge, Elaine’s friends, beer, beer, liquor, wine, beer, barbeque chicken pizza, and curry farfel chicken.

Lows: Seriously can’t think of one. Maybe the weather?

Rome
Highs: everything. Rome was the center of the WORLD! The Coliseum, Spanish steps, Forum, Pantheon, Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel, the capitol building, the Vestal virgins, Nero’s oblique, Caesar’s Palace, Circus Maximus. All the little piazzas and the cute nuns and monks walking around, the Roman soldier who took pics with us outside the Coliseum. And the food! Pizza, ravioli, penne, pizza, spaghetti, pizza, cappuccino, pizza, cappuccino, wine. Delish.

Lows: a weird eye infection

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Aunt Brookie

Close your eyes and imagine me standing in front of you jumping up and down, more excited than I’ve ever been about anything—even more than my MacBook or Chocolate Chex or Belize or perfect moments or Mexican food or clearance sales or Mango Mojitas or anything—yelling over and over at the top of my lungs, “Nuh-uh. No way! No! Are you serious? Nuh-uh!”

Are you picturing it? Good.

I’m gonna be an AUNT!!!

Bryan and Jessie are expecting! Parker Bryan—my brother already swears it’s a boy, and they’ve got the name picked out with a blue bib that says ‘I love my daddy’—is due April 10th or 12th…my birthday! Who gets a niece or nephew for their birthday? Me. I do. Aunt Brookie does.

I just wanted to run up to her belly and scream: I love you so much little baby, I will kiss you and hug you forever! But I thought that would sort of freak everyone out, so I just jumped around the back yard for an hour or two like any good crazy old aunt would do.

If you told me today that the sky is falling or that Martians invaded or that President Bush just declared a national chicken-fried chicken holiday, I’d say, “Yeah, but who cares? Bryan’s having a baby!”

He also graduated college on Saturday and celebrated his one-year wedding anniversary today. Cups are overflowing around here!

It’s enough to make a girl want to change all her plans and move into her brother’s house as the live-in nanny…

My salute to failure

On the news tonight, I saw an event at the Botanical Gardens honoring all the valedictorians and salutatorians in our city from every school. LOL.

Prior to the news, my mom called and told me that my brothers are banned from walking across the stage, because Brother 1 (the 20-year-old) may not have enough credits due to the school losing his records. Oh, and also the fact that he keeps leaving school an hour-and-a-half early to come home and eat a bowl of cereal. And Brother 2 (the 18-year-old) couldn’t refrain from smoking pot on the day of a scheduled drug test 2 weeks before graduation. Take note: the alternative school doesn’t support potheads or undereducated 20 year-olds, even though a nice teacher physically drove to my dad’s house, yanked Brother 1 up out of the recliner and drove him back to school.

Also, my dad wants to storm the district advocating for Brother 1 because it’s wrong that the school lost his records, and for Brother 2, because, well, for starters they already paid for the cap and gown. They’re all convinced that the school just mistakenly misplaced it’s irritation with Brother 1 onto Brother 2, and he really doesn’t want Brother 2 to see a bunch of adults using vengeance and think that vengeance is the answer. Pot, though, may still be the answer if he’s allowed to walk the stage. Who fails a scheduled drug test?

Three out of three brothers have been expelled from the public school system for various reasons, sent to the alternative school and, of the three, only one will have actually graduated. Vengeance is the scariest part of this situation. (Obv)

My grandma on the other hand, who already owns 3 floor-to-ceiling cabinets full of party favors, tablecloths, hats, napkins, forks, candles, plates and noise-makers for every occasion, up to and including graduation, and would never let a silly thing like expulsion keep her from throwing a good party, called my mom today and this was their conversation:

“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?”

Hopefully my dad will convince the school that vengeance is not the example to set for a truant, drug-using 18 to 20 year-old so that we can have graduation party instead of an “OMG, you’re still in high school?” party, because my mom already sent out the invitations and grandma’s at the party store.

That would be like throwing myself a shower at 30 for the party of it, which I am still planning to do if I have not yet found something to celebrate. It will be held at the Botanical Gardens, and I will invite my brothers and anyone else who has a failure to celebrate, and I’m going to call the news and we’ll all make extraordinary speeches.It will be just perfect.

Desperate Housewives Christmas Special

Happy February.

For the longest time I have been trying to write a holiday letter merry enough to recount our first Christmas since the divorce/remarriage of one parent. Don’t get me wrong, I love the new family. And I love the old family. But when Crazy Grammy opened the liquor cabinet at four-thirty on Christmas Eve for her own personal happy hour and tried to get us all half-sloshed before my mom arrived with her new husband, Steven, who is a recovering alcoholic, it was more like a Desperate Housewives Christmas special than the actual celebration of the birth of our Lord, although Grandma batted her eyes and insisted we all read the Christmas story aloud. Bryan just giggled and hiccupped.

What was funny was picking Sprinky up from the Indianapolis airport at midnight on Christmas Eve and pulling up to the Waffle House in Anderson to see all the Sprinkles (grandparents included) huddled in a minivan after ringing in Christmas with the locals. Waffle House was the only thing open in Anderson at 1am on Christmas morning.God bless the Sprinkles. The only thing better than Penny Sprinkle handing me a homemade iced Christmas cookie in the Waffle House parking lot was Ben (you know, the one without the smart chip?) running around on Christmas day with a framed picture of the boys yelling, “You guys! We look like twins! All three of us!”

My favorite Christmas gift (besides the pink Iowa t-shirt and the magazine rack my mom grabbed from the downstairs bathroom, wrapped, and shoved under the tree) was the cup of coffee my dad sipped in my mom’s living room when he dropped me off on Christmas night– wait, am I bound by weekend/holiday custody agreements if I’m 25? Well, anyway, when my dad dropped me off, my mom invited him in for coffee, and he said yes.

Moving on. In January, I went skiing for the first time. That should have been the punchline, but it’s not.The punchline is that I went skiing with my dad AND HIS SINGLES GROUP, where there was, amazingly, a rugged looking twenty-something male, who I only saw once when he walked over to get the number of my twenty-something blond friend. Earlier in the day I had fallen over sideways on the conveyor belt and was dragged uphill by my skis while the 14 year-old instructor flagged down the belt operator to turn the thing off so he could unhook my boots. How was I supposed to know you just had to push that little lever down? Also, my dad slipped and fell at the bottom of the ski lift and, of course, the ski lift didn’t stop, so the next 15 people glided right into him, forming a massive pile of skis and 6-foot men. Seriously, why did no one ask for our numbers?

Weddings. As in, my brother’s.

My brother is getting married on Saturday. Funny thing. I have a thousand thoughts on this topic that I might come back to another day. I might title it: Bryan– the type of brother to walk into your gymnastics class and do a standing back tuck when you have been working on it for a year passing through all the appropriate levels while he was just there with your dad to pick you up. I think that explains the problem of him getting married before me.

The heavier topic on my mind, though, as I think about the upcoming weekend is: The Aunts. The Aunts are the older and younger sister of a one Dorothy Lee Dismukes, otherwise known as Crazy Grammy. The Aunts hover just above and below the mental frequency of Grammy, shorting out at all the same places. This means at least 5 times, one of them will approach me and say, sweetly, with a twinkle, “Darlin? Anything speeeeecial in your life?” and they’ll wink, leaning in, eagerly anticipating an engagement story.

When I don’t produce, they’ll lower their glasses, cock their heads to the side and say, “We-ell, sugar. You just aren’t sweet enough, thats all. You know your cousin Darcy is getting married next week. And Will just graduated Law School.”

They’ll all turn and compliment each other on such successful grandkids, momentarily forgetting pathetic old me in front of them. Then they’ll turn back and squint, automatically zooming in to the teeniest flaw on my face before they can even help themselves, and my grandma will take off her glasses and say, “Brookie? Do you need some more Clinique?” in the sweetest possible voice, and I’ll say, “No grammy. I’m fine.”

She hasn’t bought me Clinique since 8th grade.

So she’ll pull her head back and raise her eyebrows as she puts her glasses back on just in time to spot a hideous pair of orange slingbacks walking by that she immediately needs to go address.

I love her. I really do. And one day when she’s long gone, well laugh about these things. I just wanted to get a head start.