2008, we did the best we could.

Moved to Belize. *Carry-on bag wouldn’t fit in the overhead compartment. Attendant made me take out bulge on top, which happened to be a Ziploc gallon-sized bag of underwear. Held underwear on lap for duration of the flight.

Lived on an Iguana reserve. Learned how to do laundry with a hose. Experienced Belizean wedding and funeral in the same week. Set out to teach everything I knew about conflict resolution, drugs, and AIDS. Learned everything I know about love. Got accepted into grad school.

February Caught a parasite, hiked to the top of a ruin, swam in a cave, experienced my first Belizean election and confirmation. Fought a piñata. Lost.

March Overcame fear of spiders. Discovered a new love for choco-bananas. Played with a monkey. Met real Guatemalan Indians in Guatemala. Bought skirt from them. Watched the Ruta Maya river race. Said goodbye to the Caribbean. Understood that life would never be the same.

April Got a niece! Heart opened a little wider. Fell in love with her.
Turned 27. Panicked. Cut my own bangs.

May Got another step-family. Danced! Celebrated! Laughed!
First laid eyes on my new city, New Orleans. Stabbed my foot with a parking lot spike.

June Went back to work at Boys and Girls Club. Happy to find that I still loved the kids. Got shingles. Thought I was dying.

July Sold everything I owned on Craigslist. Moved out of Fort Wayne (ten years!) Received Carrie Bradshaw as a parting gift.

August Moved to New Orleans. Found the two-story target, which I had previously thought was an urban legend. Took a family vacation to Destin. Came back. Became acquainted with city life. Loved it. Went to Tulane for student orientation after a month of waiting. Got evacuated for Gustav at lunch.

September Stayed evacuated for two and a half weeks. Went back to school. Dropped ten pounds for lack of friends.

October Made friends! Gained ten pounds. Heard that Taylor Fort Wayne would be closing. Felt orphaned. Dressed up like a ninja and fought pirates on Jackson square.

November Watched history unfold in the TSSW building with snacks and wine. Found out Bry and Jess are pregnant again. Went to Belize. Delivered school supplies. Painted a cafeteria. Provided flood relief with two armed guards on the Guatemalan border. Became acquainted with Big Mac and Quarter Pounder, the tarantulas. Realized I had not overcome fear of spiders. Had the sweetest reunions I could ever imagine at San Marcos School.

Learned that a plan is usually unfolding around me even when I am not still or patient enough to see it. Discovered that if I feel lost even for a second, all I have to do is ask for help. Understood the beauty in a prayer that goes, “Hi God, I’m an idiot and I don’t trust myself. Could you make this one clear for me?” Trusted completely. Found out I am purposed. Convinced Tulane I am purposed. Doing last semester internship in Belize!

December Wrote a thousand papers. Failed a final. Got all A’s!
Watched snow fall in New Orleans. Saw Lily take her first 3 steps.
Went to Chicago. Smile.


20 hours of alone time

Hi, I’m Brooke.
I used to live a relatively stress free life with lots of fun and a part-time job and no kids.

Then last week hit, and I had this epic adventure where the conflict was not, like, dragons or slaying or finding love, but babysitting a ten-year-old whose mom was flying standby and kept getting bumped and bumped and bumped for days.

My little miniature obstacles were things like death defying field trips to the Eagle Marsh—which is a never ending expanse of grassland with pockets of deep mud and murky water along the 102 exit on I69—dragging along a troupe of 7-year-olds in the 90 degree heat behind Miss Nancy, the Ultimate Journey lady, who loves this type of thing. Miss Nancy forged the way, while I jumped around because a spiky caterpillar was on my shirt and a mouse ran over my shoe. The kids were poking along saying things like: I hate this field trip. I want to go home. I’m hot.

I should have said something like, “Well, sugar, it’s almost over. We’ll get a nice long drink. Just keep going. One more step.” But instead, I was like, “I know. I hate this field trip too. How about if one of you guys pretends to faint?”
Then there was the Old Fort—which might seem like a fun trip, but it was with that same poor group of 7 year-olds who I had to beg and bribe and convince to come, with the promise of playing in the Headwaters Fountains at the end. Of course that day the Fountains were closed, and all heard was: I hate this field trip. I want to go home. I’m hot.

You can be sure that anytime I show up with the van these days, kids run screaming and crying from the Club.

And, finally, there was the zoo—wherein a bird shit on my head. I had to take all the girls with me to the bathroom to wash my hair. I kept saying over and over that I was going to sue the zoo, which I thought was hilarious (get it? Sue the zoo—it rhymes). I just kept laughing and saying it and laughing and saying it, and none of the girls were laughing, which was so strange seeing as how I am so hilarious, but then I turned around. A zoo lady was behind me waiting to wash her hands. I had to tell her that I wasn’t really going to sue the zoo, but that it just rhymed and all.

Other hardships included occupying the 10 year-old while trying to video conference a Belize meeting in Indianapolis from a coffee shop in Fort Wayne, fighting the dog-and-cat-allergies in a dog-and-cat-house, plus an extra high mold and ragweed count, and warding off an especially annoying encore of shingles, which felt—and this was horrifying for me—like spiders were crawling across my stomach at all times. We also had to defend ourselves against the bathtub in my apartment. Apparently, you have to clean those things. Poor Elaine came to visit and was forced to stand on a tiny little washcloth in the shower so that the tub didn’t eat her alive.

I usually keep a clean apartment. And by usually, I mean 40% clean, 40% of the time. But this month—well, this summer—has been unusually filthy thanks to the chaos of moving. It took $25 worth of cleaning materials and an hour-and-a-half of hardcore scrubbing to get this tiny little bathroom sparkly—the magic eraser shower and tub cleaner gets a gold star.

I gave the ten-year-old a $10 bill and a dairy queen blizzard for her bravery in the face of black mold, and we both learned a lesson. Her lesson, she said, is never to let her bathroom get like this when she goes to college. God bless her for still thinking I am in college. My lesson is that all of us are just too old and too messy to be living together. No one wants to clean up anyone else’s anything. I guess marriage is out.

Finally, the height of action here- the beginning of the end- was running a red light at State and Coliseum ten seconds after finding out the kid’s mom wasn’t coming home for another 36 hours. It was one of those miserable moments where I just thought I could not possibly handle one more thing. The lane next to me had a green arrow, which I mistook for a green light and pulled out. I realized in the middle of the intersection that I was the only one going.
I stopped cold and held my hand out to the scared old man and lady in the turn lane and mouthed, “I’M SORRY. I’M REALLY SORRY!” Then I looked around, totally embarrassed, and crept through the intersection to the other side where I could pull over. Immediately two police tried to pull me over. But I was already pulled over. Fort Wayne cops are just like that. I tried not to cry, but I really believed that I might die of babysitting and sinus pressure. I didn’t have any money left to feed me or the 10 year-old dinner, and everything else I was stressed about somehow made its way to the rim of my eyes and I just laid my head on the steering wheel and looked at Elaine.
“Don’t do it,” she said. “Be strong.”
I quivered and sniffled and swallowed hard.After taking my license and registration to the squad car, the police lady came back to my window and said. “Are you stressed out?”
I said, “Yeah.”
She held my license and registration behind her back and said, “Why?”
Elaine gave me the eye and I didn’t want to scare the kid.

I said in my best strong and shaky voice, “Um, well, it’s just been a long day.”
“I’m going to give you a verbal warning for this,” she said. “You have an excellent driving record.” Thank God.I gave the kid back on Monday at midnight, then had another 12 kids plus the original one all day yesterday at the zoo. One kid accidentally rammed his foot-high soft serve ice cream cone into my elbow.

Today I called in and was like, you guys? I’m taking the day off. I need about 20 hours of alone time, some coffee and a nap.

It has been a spectacular 20 hours.

Tap dancing in the cafeteria

Behold the funny, followed by the crazy.

This is a video of the Fort Wayne Ballet doing some tap lessons with a group of our kids in the cafeteria.  Note the big guy in the plaid shorts pointing his foot just so.



Today I went to the McCormick site to collect some pre-tests and attendance records, and here is an account of everything that followed:

  • The radio announced a severe thunderstorm warning for Allen county.
  • I got out of the car and walked toward the club, but was momentarily distracted by the dark swirly clouds above me. Also, a witch on a bicycle in the sky. I think I have a sixth sense about these things.
  • The electricity went out in the club.
  • The plumber arrived to fixthe overflowing toilet on the first floor.
  • Tornado sirens went off.
  • Parents came running for their kids.
  • We stuffed 35 kids into one hallway the size of a bathtub.
  • The executive director arrived to give a tour with the housing director and a potential donor.

At this point, Ken was standing on a chair in the bathroom shining a flashlight onto the plumber, and the kids and I were stuffed like sardines into the stairwell trying to figure out whether or not the tornado warning had expired.

The director didn’t even know there was a tornado. I can only imagine her internal dialogue.

After two hours with no electricity or air circulation, the entire club smelled like an overflowing toilet and dirty kids. We had to close early.

It took me 40 minutes to get back to the Fairfield site, because all the roads looked like this:


It’s a floating Cadillac.

Fun with BGC kids

I really am trying to get back into the habit of posting consistently. By trying, I mean definitely thinking it in my head and sometimes making post-its. For now, you’ll just have to settle for some summer highlights with the BGC kids.

The first is a video I caught of the McCormick kids singing in the van. Note, especially the enthusiastic singer in the lower right corner, and the girl who just ignores us in the lower left corner.

Next is a series of pictures from the penny pitch carwash we did with WOWO- thats, AMradio, if you didn’t know. Ronnica and I were the only ones who showed up at 7am:Photobucket

Here is how we spent most of the morning.
So… are there supposed to be cars to wash or something? Anybody want to donate to the boys and girls club? Anyone?


Our local celebrity


By 9am, we made $170 and 2 boxes of donuts.


The next is a series of Ronnica dancing for the carwash guys in the name of the BGC



And me attempting the same moves, not permitted to be in any way associated with BGC or Ronnica, who had a crush on Andy, the carwash guy


The next two are Girls Weekend Out with Janelle…



And my personal favorite: BLAZES OF GLORY- win or die trying.










I love these guys. I love this place. It will be a sad day for me in three weeks, the closing to a decade-long chapter here. Boys and Girls clubs, you’re my heart.