Thanksgiving, revised and expanded

It’s Thanksgiving time, and if I’m thankful for any one thing this year, it’s for the gift of relationship. This includes the new friends we’ve made across the world through World Next Door and for the old pals that somehow keep popping up all over the place.

Newer and further away: I’m thankful for the Nkuzi family in Rwanda who fed us and welcomed us and invited us into their grief; who trusted us to tread lightly and accepted our empathy as though it was enough. I’m thankful for all the dinner conversations with Peter and Fredrick and Nepo and Eriane and V for, like, the entire month of April in Rwanda. And I’m thankful for our friends Rachel and Ricardo who offered their home (and their liquor JUST KIDDING SORT OF) several times as a getaway. I am thankful for Katy and Alan, our Americans-in-the-field-with-kids people, who enriched our marriage and gave us a new picture of how we could do this if kids ever would enter the picture for us. I’m thankful for Mamsung who literally cared for our every whimsical need in Cambodia. (If you don’t know about her, click the link. You’ll thank me.) I’m thankful for our host family and 14 brothers and sisters in Nepal, who sang us to dinner and hugged us out every day. I’m thankful for Sarah and Kylie and Carlie and Kara in Nepal, who made us feel like we’d always been a part of their group and that there would be a piece missing when we left.  And for our beloved Cupcake Girls, with offers of Thanksgiving love and hospitality through show invites and dinner invites and all the laughing.

I am thankful for the trust of organizations like Tiny Hands and Cupcake Girls doing tricky work who allow us to tell their stories.

And of course, I’m thankful for the organization we write for: World Next Door (and the 62 people who funded us through World Next Door). WND is seeking out justice all over the world—looking for it, writing about it, exposing it—in the middle of tough injustices and laying everything out for all of us to be a part of through a free magazine. Free, you guys.

If you like what you’ve been reading in this space, please show us by downloading the World Next Door app and pass it on. These are the exact things World Next Door writes and publishes for free each month.

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My blog brings all the Raccoons to the yard

A few years ago I found this little thing on my blog that keeps track of page referrals.  I was thrilled/disturbed to discover my words were a resource for immunization-seeking, parasitic, shingly or scabie ridden people who have blood in their stool but want it to turn out okay, for those seeking life-changing moments in either Paris or unemployment, for pregnant women in 19th week, and also for the Jewish. Go ahead. Google “stirrups doctor Indonesia me, there I am. Top of the page.

Tonight I logged on to see which health issues I might be inadvertently talking people through this year. Parasites? MRSA? It turns out, I have become quite influential in the field of… raccoons. Over 200 searches with 3-5 hits each, on the following (actual) searched topics:

Sleepy raccoon
Happy Thanksgiving raccoon
Raccoon driving a car
Smiling raccoon photos
Grilled raccoon
Raccoon climbing wall
Raccoon in red truck
A raccoon having sex
Raccoon crap
Raccoon homes
Raccoon wine
Raccoon fighting
Raccoon diet
Funny raccoon
Broke raccoon
Raccoon dancing
Mean raccoon pictures
Raccoon phone
World record raccoon
Raccoon ninja
Raccoon stare
Raccoon in school
Violent raccoon
Hilarious raccoon
Running raccoon
Raccoon thief
Caribbean raccoon
Funny raccoons driving
Birthday raccoon
Strange raccoon behavior
Raccoon house
Cute outfits for raccoon
Raccoon man
Raccoon jokes
Raccoon street in Belize City
Raccoon at bus stop
Raccoon in car
Wet raccoon
Raccoon toast

What?! I would deny any association to this raccoon business, except for that one time when I actually did post a picture of a raccoon chained up in the back of a truck in Belize linked with the following sentence: The minute I caught that first campfire and coconut smell and saw my first raccoon on a chain in the back of a truck, I knew I was home in BZ.

Just like that, my blog-fluence was hijacked by this raccoon. Although, honestly, he looks very sad. Maybe it’s not his fault? Just his other dancing, mean, sleepy, smiling, world-record breaking, ninja ones driving cars, and on the phone in cute outfits, or else the wet and thieving ones in the Caribbean. It was probably those guys.

Raccoon searchers, you’re the best. Thanks for keeping this space active.

Honorable Mention Searches

lipglosses that are exotic colors
(Guilty as charged)

denise sex fort wayne video
What kind of space do you think this is? (And Denise who?)

ninja shoes
Of course

“peed her pants”  
Yep. Google knows me.

hallmark card “thinks I’m funny” 
Punchline: they didn’t

sweatpants bulge
(Seriously, Google? I’m working on it)

friends are just parasites
Aren’t they?

sprinky lobster
I’m sorry. Did you say Sprinky Lobster?

kickball angry pirates
Yeah I got all those things

Take home exam, Part II

I had a meltdown tonight that started with the realization that there was a Part II to my take home exam. I called Sprinky. She asked if I had a cold. I told her no, that I was crying and that I couldn’t even think of a good reason why since Part II only added two more double-spaced pages.

By the end of the conversation, I’d cried through the cellulite I had discovered on my thigh 20 minutes earlier and the resignation to aging and out-of-shapeness, which was only amplified by the understanding that I would not be able to get to the gym to play basketball tomorrow at 6 because I’d have to stay up later to finish the stupid exam; and after that, that I’d seen the most beautiful sunsets from the levee 4 nights in a row and had done my best to share them with people, but that at the end of the day, it was still only me walking to my car in the dark; and after that, that I’d missed the gorgeous moon tonight, but saw it last night when everyone else was busy and I was exploding with spectacular full-moon goodness; and after that, that the plane tickets I went to buy jumped like $70 during the 3 minutes I was trying to purchase them. My family—all 8 sides of them—will be together on the same day at the same time for my niece’s first birthday party, and American Airlines is messing with me. I don’t know when that will happen again barring a funeral or my own wedding. Doesn’t the airline industry know that?

In the end, it turned out that 80 degrees and sunny reminded me of summer in Fort Wayne with our little sliding door open, and me on the couch and Sprinky in the bedroom, and everyone coming in and out, and air mattresses all over the place, the OC and champagne, and the baby Weber grill, and my family only 2 hours away. I haven’t spent a summer outside of Fort Wayne in almost 10 years. What I’m missing here is couple of SCAN peeps, a very icy tall nonfat mocha on the corner of State and Coliseum, Elaine on my air mattress, a ten-year old following me around for weeks at a time, dusk on my balcony, and one very important Sprinky on the couch.

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What I have instead is Schroeder’s take home exam part II, which seems to be as hazardous as tear gas or something.

And then I woke up in the Cafeteria, naked.

Dearest friends and family.

I know it’s been forever, but besides the fact that I have no more time for writing (which isn’t really true, because I do it anyway) I was paralyzed for a short time by the fact that 58 new people who don’t really know me are all over my internet space.

Don’t worry, I invited them. Then I went and started a giant group on facebook. Then I realized this internet business is a two-way street (which my grandpa always warned me about) and realized they can see all my pages and my pics and my notes, too. That’s why you may have received a little message ex-naying any comments about how many new friends I have. Not cool. Equivalent to waking up in the cafeteria, naked…Anyway, Elaine wants an update.

I currently live in the Public Health building downtown. I am not a Public Health student. I am a Social Work student, uptown. This is how things typically go for me. Always in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I’ll post some pics of my apartment downtown, but you should know, in two weeks I am moving uptown. It will be fantastic. For starters, I expect less mold. Also, I will not have to park on the 4th floor, take the elevator to the 2nd floor, walk across the skybridge, walk through the hospital, walk across another skybridge, take the elevator the 3rd floor and walk to the end of the hall to get to my apartment. Also, I’ll have a pool. Oh, and complimentary coffee and pastries in the morning. I expect 3-5 more friends after my chocolate party, poolside.

Current apt:

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Yes, SJP is doing just fine. But she’s always staring off into space. I wonder if she’s not adjusting well.

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Here is my home office, which doubles as my bed:

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I searched all my files for a few pics of the campus. Here are two from welcome weekend in August while I was working in the bookstore:

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(As a side note, I emailed Intervarsity last week and found a small group to join on Tuesday nights. They were very welcoming even though I walked into their living room off the street and said: Hi, I’m Brooke. The guy who emailed me about the meeting wasn’t in attendance, so I can imagine it all seemed very street peddler-ish, especially when I started my tap routine and held up a sign asking for 5 dollars. They could have called the police. Instead, they invited me to sit down, thank GOD.)

Next. Sprinky’s sister, Christy—who I partially evacuated to during Gustav—came to visit yesterday. I was totally free to be out and about with no party-of-one situations.

(Like those even scare me.)

In 48 hours, Christy and I have eaten more food than we could handle. Christy weighs about 95 pounds, and had you been following us with a camera, you would have seen her eat 4 bites and slip off to the bathroom or something, and me digging into her plate looking over my shoulder. That’s a lie too. She outright gave me everything—jambalaya, margaritas, fajitas, ice cream, hummus. I had to roll myself home.

While we were out, I tried to snap some pics of the city. I live off of Canal, so anytime I leave my apartment after 9, I run into these guys, on the corner of Canal and Bourbon.

Me, playing the invisible trumpet with the band (one time I peed my pants playing the invisible trombone at Joe’s Crab shack—Engler, Jill, Lainey & Sprink, I’m tagging you on this one):

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And, while I’m at it, me playing the invisible violin with the band in Prague:

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Typical scene. Walking down the sidewalk behind a guy with a Tuba.

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At Sucre (dessert boutique)-

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Me with SJP. I came home and the house was trashed. She pulled this deer-in-the-headlights look on me.

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Thank you and goodnight.
(I miss you guys.)

Speaking of hurricanes

Everyone keeps asking if I’ve made friends yet.

Facebook says no. Facebook is just being smart, I think.

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Fall is an apprehensive time around here.  Everyone is obsessed with weather, and rightly so.  I overhear ten-thousand conversations a day about active weather off the coast of Africa that might turn into a tropical system. Lucky for all of us, I am obsessed with weather, too.

I watch the weather channel 24 hours a day and have the local radar widget on my computer, phone and ipod.  I wake up to Jim Cantore and fall asleep to Jennifer Lopez (the meteorologist, not the singer).   I love local on the eights and the tropical update at 50 past the hour. I have the music memorized and I watch storm stories late at night. When I was little and my family returned from vacations, I couldn’t WAIT to run inside to see what I missed on the Weather Channel while we were gone. My family can attest to this.  It’s true.

I also love tracking storms.  In another life I would have been a tornado chaser.  People give me tornado mousepads and buttons and books, and when there are hurricanes, they call me with questions about why the storm is taking a certain track versus another knowing I have been briefed by the Weather Channel itself.  I explain about the high and low pressure systems and feel giddy.  It’s just all so delicious to me.  I think, in reality, I am a nervous person and I enjoy something that updates me every 8 minutes.  Whatever.  I fit right in here is what I’m saying.

When I first arrived, we had to fill out a personal evacuation plan and sign up for text or email alerts.  We got an alert today about Gustav. Just an alert to be on the lookout for an alert.  I like how they think.

Katrina hit on the first day of school in 05. Orientation is Thursday, the storm is supposed to hit on Monday, and the first day of class is Tuesday. Everyone here is very concerned about the first day of school. All my friends (from the bookstore) are locals who go to Loyola or Tulane. They spent the first day of school in 05 evacuating, and spent the first semester of the 05-06 school year as strangers at other schools in Texas and Alabama and Georgia.

This says it all.

I really hope we have a first day of school here.  (I already have an outfit and all.)

Oh man.

My dad is learning how to text. He called me tonight and said it took him 25 minutes to text “Are you watching the Olympics?”

I told him I think its hilarious that he had a blackberry before they were cool and didn’t even know what it was, figured out how to “wink” and “poke” and find a wife on the internet, but is just now learning to text. Dads.

Okay. Down to business. Yesterday I got back from Florida. Sometime between last Thursday and now, I forgot that New Orleans was my home- I kept thinking I was going back to Indiana. Even worse, no one here knew I left, and no one knows I am back. I went all day today without talking to a single person except Navigon. To her credit, we had some great conversations about how to get to Target and Wal-Mart and the importance of u-turns. I eventually tabled the issue as she was getting edgy through her passive aggressive use of the words “Please” and “When possible” and “Now” but it was great to hear her voice. At 7:30 I realized Navi wasn’t actually a human and started calling real people. I just felt like someone should know where I was and what I was doing.

Then I came home to the cardboard cutout of SJP. She was glad to see me, I could tell by her stare. Her eyes were saying, “Welcome home. You look fantastic.” I wanted to have some coffee and tell her about Florida, but her legs don’t bend and she can’t handle liquids of any kind. So I settled for Subway and the weather channel meteorologist.

I feel like a stranger in my own life. Especially when I am in Wal-mart or Barnes & Nobles and get caught up in produce or magazines and walk out expecting to see Jefferson Point, but instead see the New Orleans skyline. I typically gulp and wimper and suck it up. But it is an awful 2 seconds during the realization.

Earlier today, I went to the uptown campus to find out about the job (the lady was gone) and must have arrived right at the beginning of welcome weekend or something. There were a million undergrads everywhere all fresh-faced and cute and hopeful. There were parents and little brothers and looks on their faces like, “This is my best friend, Sue. I just met her 5 minutes ago.”

I could have cried remembering that feeling—although my family never actually moved me in, it was the Broadheads—but seeing Elaine and Sprinky on that first day and thinking I was going to die when I got a load of Sprinky’s blues clues bedset. Hello? Blues Clues! Then making instant best friends with everyone, and switching friends, like, every 3 weeks until we found our places. I just loved it. Even things like Cara threatening to rip out people’s ovaries for being too loud in the lounge. Even that. And Jill tearing my shirt, and Sprinky killing Jill’s hermit crab, and Elaine saying inappropriate things to Millenium Bear in her sleep, and all of us making Helen pee her pants in the middle of the night; stealing all the shower curtains, Crazy Lena firing me in my sleep. Honestly, I could go on for 4 years.

This afternoon, already reduced to conversing with my navigation device and a cardboard cut-out of SJP due to lack of readily available friends, I couldn’t help but feel unbelievably jealous and nostalgic for my college friends and the intimacy of life together—literally, next door from each other. Now I am just a way older version. With less fun. And less energy. And less metabolism. And less friends. Boo.

My good friend said I am good at collecting people and that I’ll have plenty soon.
I said I USED to be good at it, but that I didn’t think it was my thing anymore.
She said it’s who I am.
I told her I was too worn out for social awareness. Those types of things take a lot of emotional energy and motivation, which I had in abundance at 19.
At 27, I feel very comfortable settling for 25 Oreos and America’s Next Top Model at home by myself.

Us as freshmen- you guys will love this:

Hausser

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Me, Chuck, Steph, Beth, Trish

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Making Koolaid

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Finding moldy koolaid (we thought we had created a jellyfish)

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Bball- I miss this! Team sports are the best.

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Bethany (the person and the dorm :)

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Valentine’s Day- I actually got called off this shirt

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Millenium bear- the giant stuffed bear my grandma sent me for Christmas. Not quite how she envisioned us using it…

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Family weekend

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Twister in Bethany lounge

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Sprinky and the Bethany lounge mantel

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Miss you guys.
Love you guys.
(This whole college thing just isn’t the same without you.)

Birthday. Bangs.

The bad thing about not having a job is that you have time to do things like cut your own bangs. If you look at my bangs, they’re equally proportionate to my life since returning from Belize: sort of aimless and random, but well-intentioned with a touch of frantic. They scream: Something good can be done with this space if I could just get it together!

There was lots of cutting and fixing and cutting and fixing, because, well, you know how cutting and fixing goes. I tried to do it exactly how Hannah does it—I twisted them all together and snipped. Then I tried to even them up, but they were short on the left. So I tried to even them up, but they were short on the right. So I tried to even them up and they were short on the left, again. So I tried to even them up, but they were short in the middle. I gave up. Then I tried again the next day, because I still didn’t have a job yet and I had already seen all the E! True Hollywood stories.

My bangs are about 2 inches long now. Gosh.

Also, my birthday was Saturday.

We had a little birthday bash on Thursday night at Cheesecake Factory in Indy with friends and family, which was the best ending to an entire week of baby Lily, my adorable week-old niece.

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Weekly Lily pics

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On the actual day of my birth, I made a Belizean Cuisizean dinner in Fort Wayne for a few friends, and then—I’m just going to skip to the punchline here—Elaine from Germany showed up on my doorstep with Doug, home on leave. They spent the night. It was the best birthday surprise ever.

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Pay no attention to Scary Sprinky on the bottom.

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Sidenote:
Isn’t it weird that I’m 27? There was a time when I thought 27 year-olds knew everything about life. Turns out, they’re more like 19 year-olds with 4 grey eyebrows and really short bangs.

(The things I wish I’d known.)

On the upside, I have found that most car dealerships have free popcorn, Diet Coke, coffee, internet and cable. It’s my new thing. Car dealerships.

Goodbyes & The OC

Previously on the Brooke-C (my own real life version of the OC):

  • San Marcos school threw a good-bye party.
  • I received 26 key chains, 2 t-shirts, 4 snow globes and a porcelain dolphin.
  • We ate huge, overflowing plates of coconut rice & beans, chicken, tortillas and coleslaw- the staple Belizean meal.
  • We played volleyball all afternoon, teachers & parents vs. students
  • It was perfect
The dish-washing/kitchen cleaning committee:

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(She ran out of chips, plus she couldn’t play with the 409)

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The serving committee

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The eating committee

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“So, how do you feel about our government’s export of local wheat for ethanol production in the States?”

“Well, personally I think its a misappropriation of our local resources and puts us at a disadvantage.”

The surprise good-bye assembly

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My entire heart was in this school. It was a hard good-bye, though the porcelain dolphin and alligator snow globe made things easier.

In the meantime, after only one episode on a random Thursday last week, I came home to find the entire family addicted to The OC.

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When I went to sleep, Inez was watching. When I woke up, she was watching, when I left for school, she was watching. Then one day, Ricardo started watching, and then Bryon and Richard. I became sort of concerned when I walked into the kitchen one night to find the whole family, plus Mr. & Mrs. Cabb, deeply engrossed in whether or not Ryan and Marissa would end up together. I tried to pull the plug. There was a mild panic when the electricity went out for a few hours and Season 2 disc 6 was stuck in the DVD player…

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I love this family.

Melcher

So, the plan was to go to Guatemala (only a few miles away) to Melcher so I could purchase all my little souvenirs for all of you, at a cheaper rate. You know, the little beaded bracelets and coin purses and things that say Belize? I made a checklist to be organized, because I break into a frenzied sweat when trying to buy souvenirs. Just ask Elaine, who sat with me on the floor of a German supermarket while I tried to figure out what kind of chocolate to bring home, and for who, and how much? It was stressful.

Anyway, the first thing I bought was ice cream- not on the list. Then I followed Francis around for an hour through rows and rows of clothing- not on the list. Then we stumbled upon this amazing little shop owned by real, true full-blooded Guatemalan Indians and purchased two bags of things not on the list. But CUTE things, okay? Including a little handmade Guatemalan sundress for baby Lily.

I never even saw one beaded bracelet or coin purse or anything that said “Belize” so, Erin, sorry. I am still going to do my best to find you the coinpurse that says Belize, but if I come home empty-handed, you’ll know I tried… I can still check that one place by the river…

Anyway. Here are some pics of the day.

Me & Francis

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Me & the Indians

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France & the Indians

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Dwayne, Frances, Me & Inez

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After hours and hours at the Indian shop

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Inez & Dwayne (on the streets…)

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PS- My brother, Ben, graduated from boot camp/AIT on Thursday. He was one of 3 people (out of 190-something) to receive honors and a promotion to the next rank- go boonjy! He leaves for Alaska tomorrow, where he’ll be stationed until he leaves for Iraq in August.

He told my mom, “Yeah, the tower was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Man, looking down from there and having to repel down, i mean it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I’m so afraid of heights.”
And then he said, “When I get to Alaska I’m putting in for Airborne school.”
Good ol’ Boonjy.

He’s third from the right. The cute one in the back.

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Love you Ben!