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.

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Late for 2010. Early for 2011.

**We realize this never made it out to some of you. We don’t know why. It’s okay to put 200 stamped letters in your mailbox with the little flag up, right? I don’t really know about mail etiquette. But here is. A little holiday update. You’re drooling. I know.

Happy Holidays! Jeff and I want to take this opportunity during the season of Thanksgiving to express our sincerest gratitude for all who have planned, helped, participated, and celebrated the last 6 months with us. We were blessed with a spectacular oil-free wedding in Destin, FL and a gorgeous rain-free reception in Beloit, WI and were able to visit with many of you during those gatherings- although not for as long or intently as we’d have liked!

We also want to give an update on the life and times of the brand new Hartmans, including our relocation to a new city and new jobs- which we request as justification for how late (or how not at all) this thanksgiving has arrived in your mailbox! Please?

Following our honeymoon in Breckenridge, Colorado, Jeff returned “home” for the first time to Indianapolis, where Brooke had moved three months earlier to begin as a Social Worker at a downtown hospital in the Emergency Department.  Prior to the wedding, Jeff accepted a unique position as Physical Therapist in the same Emergency Department and began on August 2nd. We have been working across the hall from each other for about three months now, and the Social Work department has seen a sharp increase in printing activity, as the printer is located in the PT office.

In addition, Jeff continues to work part-time as the Stateside Director of Operations for Hillside Healthcare International in Belize, and Brooke works part-time as a Behavior Consultant for developmentally disabled adults through the waiver program and a therapist for emotionally impaired kids through a state grant.  Jeff would like you to know, he is not one of Brooke’s clients.

Jeff also continues to mourn the loss of Madison, but we’ve added the Big Ten Network to the cable line-up and he’s discovered an iphone app (yes, Jeff has an iphone!) that allows him to tune-in to the Madison radio talk shows. As we embrace our first winter in Indianapolis, Jeff asks things like: does water freeze here? And Brooke is rolling around in winter coats and boots she hasn’t had use for the last few falls in New Orleans or Belize. Somehow we’ll adjust.

Until this week, we’ve been living downtown Indianapolis on the Canal, but we close on our first home together in the Arts & Design District (spoken with an English Accent) in Carmel, a suburb north of Indy. We put those qualifiers on the Carmel home for the local friends who are standing by with Carmel jokes. We will be in Old Carmel, two blocks off Main Street, and we bought the house from the friend who set us up in the first place!  Given that she introduced us and sold us our first home, we are considering an advanced order for kids. Kidding.

As we reflect on this past summer, we want to thank you (yes, you) for making 2010 the best year ever. Thank you for the gifts, cards, fellowship, prayer and celebration!  Please accept this thanks, albeit a couple of months late, as sincere and heartfelt.

We did.

Welp. I’m back on the writing train, because every 5 days I think: Oh! I need to tell the internet that. No really, I do. I’m just that kind of person.

For starters, I got engaged.
Then, I got married.
Next I hiked to the top of a mountain.

The engagement was not a fee-for-service arrangement, which shocked my brothers, I think. It was totally voluntary on his part, and dreamy. This from our wedding site:

We met. We fell in love. We’re getting married.

More?

Okay, we were introduced by mutual friends and our work in Belize in the spring of 2008. We spent a few months sending e-mails like: Hello. How are you? The weather’s great! before Brooke left for graduate school in New Orleans and Jeff continued life and work in Madison.

We stayed in touch throughout the fall and discovered we would both be in Belize at the same time that November. Of course we would try and meet up! Unfortunately our plans were interrupted by country-wide flooding and busy schedules. We were 90 miles apart in the same foreign country working on two different projects with the friends who had first put us in touch, and still couldn’t meet.

Three weeks later, we met for the first time under the silver ball at Millenium Park in Chicago. It was December 20, 2008, and it was snowing.

We spent the next year jet-setting between New Orleans and Madison, Destin and Indianapolis, Las Vegas and Belize, and finished the year back in Chicago on the 96th floor of the Hancock building. Overlooking the city we’d first explored the year before and the adventures 2009 had brought us, Jeff proposed and Brooke accepted.

It was December 20, 2009, and it was snowing.

The real story is this: Jeff said, “Will you marry me?” and I said, “Wait! You have to put it on my finger.” So he put the ring- which was from Tiffany and engraved with I love you– on my finger and asked again. Of course I said Yes! But he likes to tell people he had to ask twice.  What I remember most is that we sealed the deal over guac. What a story.

What I find hard to believe is that for 29 years, I didn’t have a fiance. And for 29 years, there has not been an oil spill in Destin.  But then I get engaged and plan a wedding in Destin on the beach.  A month later? The gulf is filled with 200 million gallons of oil.

Life’s like that, I guess.

Prior to the wedding, our families spent an entire week together at the beach house sharing meals and stories and sunscreen. To my knowledge, no one peed her pants laughing, which tends to runs on my side of the family. Whew.

The wedding was held on a private (oil free!) beach accessed by a spectacular 50-foot dock, lined with little flicker candles, at sunset. Perfection. I floated right down that long, plenty-of-time-to-turn-around aisle toward a handsome groom in a cream-colored suit without a second thought. Well. I did wonder if the flower in my hair was falling out, since it took a glue gun, wire cutters and a thousand bobby pins to secure in the first place. And the reception was held at the beach house, on the other side of that same aisle, with bistro and twinkle lights strung over tables and balconies.

It was an Olympic wedding. Literally. Our pastor, my friend Kim Black from grad school (go ahead, google her), was a gold medalist in the 2000 Olympics and brought her medal to our Olympic wedding to share. I held it. You want to touch me? 

Of course we plan to renew vows every 4 years.

For candid pics of the ceremony, click here
For  professional ceremony/portrait/reception pics, click here
For getting ready pics, click here
For reception pics, click here
For wedding week pics with the fams, click here

2008, we did the best we could.


January
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.

Tulane Prez & Tornado chasing

Tulane President Scott Cowen is being interviewed live on NPR’s Talk of the Nation today at 2:30pm central time.

Yesterday we were able to do a live chat with the Prez in Nashville, and he did a great job of spreading the calmness around while CNN riled us all up. At this point, Tulane is officially closed until next Monday, September 8th and CNN is officially useless.

Here is a copy of the LIVE CHAT TRANSCRIPT – AUGUST 31, 2008. It’s an interesting read.

As far as the students in Jackson, they all seem to be doing great and are being sheltered in the Jackson State gymnasium with meals and snacks provided through the dining facilities. Jackson State has also opened recreational facilities and university center amenities to Tulane students. Aw, Jackson.
As for the rest of the city… things are looking up!
Talked to a friend who is hunkered down in the Bywater in her house near the Industrial Canal with a bunch of people. (Bywater folks: It’s Stacey G.) Her notes:- The Industrial Canal is overtopping – they see it on TV like the rest of us – but she says there is no water in the streets of the Bywater except rainwater. Some of the wind gusts are stronger than they’d expected: “Some people are going to have wind damage.” Power’s out in the area, as is Internet.

– NO LOOTING. NO CIVIL UNREST. “The area is being really well-patrolled.” At the Bywater house they are BBQing on the back porch of the house and NOPD and National Guard are dropping by for food; the authorities say that they haven’t picked up a single person in the area.”

Me? I’m tornado chasing.We keep getting squall bands and tornado warnings every 15 minutes. A few hours ago, with two tornado warnings in Destin- one to the east and one to the west- my grandparents said, “Grab your camera. Let’s go to the beach!” We wanted to see the beach swells and try to catch pictures of waterspouts. How did I get lucky enough to have storm-chasing grandparents? It’s my dream evacuation, for sure.

Storm chaser Brooke:

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We stopped at the grocery on the way home for fried chicken and were attacked in the parking lot by fast-moving abandoned carts, not tornados. But the fried chicken was delish.

Home away from Home away from Home

I had to give myself a mandatory 12-hour break from the Weather Channel and CNN so I could sleep last night. According to my dad, those channels play up weather problems to bring in more advertising revenue and it really won’t be all that bad, anyway. I told him he would be that guy standing on top his house waving and yelling out “Rescue Me! Somebody help! I didn’t know! I thought it was an advertising ploy!”

I’m sure he was just trying to make me feel better.

The school texted us last night at 11:30 to tell us to get out if we weren’t already. Today they are having an online news conference at Noon in Nashville and a live chat with school leaders at 3:30. To be sure, I have a list of questions for Mr. Tulane President. Mail? Financial Aid? My first and last check from the ol’ Bookstore? Transfers? Stop-outs? Host schools?

I can’t believe I left all my winter coats and jackets and shoes, and don’t even get me started on the unopened case of Diet Coke in the fridge, DVDs, Journals, socks, hair products, hats, sheets, etc. … but I had to share the bell-cart with a bazillion other people and it was a battle of picking and choosing.

Nagin just said, though, if anyone is caught looting they’ll go straight to jail. At least SJP won’t get kidnapped. She just better not break curfew, is all I have to say.

Contraflow began this morning out of New Orleans, which was so strange. I had received a map about this contraflow business last week and couldn’t figure it out. Basically all the lanes going into the city are reversed and used to evacuate people, which is great considering gas is gone and ATMs are empty.

Here is some other good information from local blogs and papers that are funny and informative:

Saturday

Saturday

Sunday

In the meantime, I have been staying with my grandparents in Destin (on the Florida panhandle just across the Alabama border) learning about everything hurricane. We started getting storm bands from Gustav last night and swells were supposed to start this morning at about 4. We put up hurricane panels over the windows and blocked the front door from the inside—all things I’ve never done before—and then filled up our gas tanks.

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My grandma and I also went to the beach early this morning to scope everything out. It was so hazy and beautify and eerily quiet…

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(Is that a silver lining?)

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I have to say that my grandparents have been the best evacuation hosts a girl could ask for: great food, great company, great little puppy, and a full tank of gas to boot. Thanks for keeping me safe, sheltered, well-fed and gassed up! If it wasn’t on the verge of a panic/breakdown and it wasn’t totally inappropriate to joke about yet, I’d say we should be evacuated more often. It’s that great here.

Alas.

I am trying to act like a reasonable person (vs. my normal neurotic self) and realize that things happen, and we adjust.

This may be an important piece in the empathy puzzle that will help me understand what people are going through in the future. The levels of irony here are too many to list… three years ago my bags were packed and waiting by the door so I could get into the city and help, and today I am shoving everything into my car to get out- on the anniversary of Katrina itself, which is what brought me here in the first place.

“As they experience acculturation and assimilation to the culture here, these students are experiencing their first storm,” notes Johnson. “Many of our students will become leaders in public health — prevention, planning and emergency response — so this puts what they’re learning in the classroom into a real-life setting.”

-Jefferey Johnson, Associate Dean at the School of Public Health.

I’ll try not to be a baby and have the same attitude and optimism as I did before this was MY home, MY stuff, MY school, MY future, etc… it looks a whole lot different from the inside out.

For now, here I am:

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Reflexes like a drunk cat

I feel like someone balled me up and tossed me into New Orleans over their shoulder with their eyes closed, and I landed on my feet, but then 10 seconds later fell over and broke both ankles and dislocated my knees and maybe, like, both wrists or something. Then 5 cars ran over me and I fell down a manhole, floated around and flew back to my apartment on a geyser.

The point is, I have an apartment now. Here is the order of events:

1. Arrived at Grad school dorm
2. Tried key to apartment 322A
3. Key didn’t work
4. Moved things into storage closet
5. Manager unlocked door
6. Moved things to 322A
7. Air conditioner froze, then melted, then molded
8. Moved things into temporary apartment 204
9. Waited in temporary apartment for 3 nights
10. Room was ready
11. Room was not ready
12. Went back to temporary apartment for one more night
13. Room was ready
14. Moved into new room
15. Discovered out old room was fine, they had meant to send me to 722A not 322A

Here is my new apartment:

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My original room had a view of the skyline, but that room was accidentally given away when they assigned me to the first wrong room. The new room, and I’m not complaining, I’m just saying, has a view of the hospital. I am not used to being so close to other people who can see me 24/7 and I am constantly forgetting to close the bathroom door. I step out of the shower to see 4 IV drips and a nurse. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve screamed and slammed the door. Yes, it’s totally embarrassing and totally true.

Along the same lines, I had an entire list of stops to make at the uptown campus today and walked around for like 4 hours from the Accounts Receivable, which is in the middle, to the Uptown parking department, which is at one end, to the Registrars, which is on the opposite end, to Financial Aid, which is back to the middle, to the Bookstore (where I got a job!) to Student Employment to the food court. Here is where it gets great.

I bought a coke and some fruit. Yes, I said fruit. It’s a new thing I’m trying. I took the full cup of coke into the bathroom and set it on the toilet paper dispenser while I hooked my bag to that little hook. Then I turned around and accidentally knocked the coke over. It just seeped out from underneath my stall toward the drain in the middle of the bathroom. People walked in, stopped, looked at the drain, looked at my feet, and walked out. You can be sure I did not make any new friends today.

But I did get a job, which is important, and I did get a refill on my coke. I also discovered an Aveda salon in the main commons area outside the food court and was thrilled. Also there was a Fedex.

My hair stayed straight all day and I have started adjusting to the heat- I have even been wearing jeans and shirts with sleeves on them, if you can imagine. I am finding new ways to get the same places, and I have learned how to drive without getting hit by streetcars. The crazy thing is that you can never turn left. Instead, you have to do all these unnecessary u-turns. Navi would just love it here!

Sprinky and I found two great breakfast nooks with fantastic pecan waffles, a French bakery & Café (that one is for you, Elaine), two dessert places, two pizza places and two Mexican places. We were also driving down Tchoupitoulas minding our own business when Sprinky said, Giraffes. I looked up and out of the blue, across the street from residential houses, was a bunch of giraffes eating off the trees. I guess the zoo keeps them there…

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I also went to get my ID on the downtown campus and made for the skybridge, when, thankfully (although I think I would have figured this out on my own eventually) they told me that the skybridges connecting one of the 5 buildings collapsed during Katrina, and not to use it.

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Well. I guess it had.

SJP is doing fine, thank you. She keeps telling me how fanTAStic everything is. I love that in a cardboard friend.

Sprinky, on the other hand, left today at 7am. When she left, it occurred to me for two panicky hours that I was by myself here. What would do if my car broke down or if a semi ran over me or if I stabbed my toe on a parking lot spike or got shingles or ran into the bleachers during a basketball game? Things like that ALWAYS happen to me, and who would I call? It was a scary, lonely feeling.

(Pam- you are my closest relative. That means you’re on standby!)

I was thinking today- even though it seems a tiny bit backwards- that I feel like Belize prepared me for this. I have already jumped head-first into an entirely new place without a friend in sight, have even caught parasites and been in third world hospitals and came out just fine.

Welp. That’s it. Tomorrow I am driving to Destin to visit the grampies. When I get back, I start working in the bookstore, which means 35% off clothes and books!