Resolved. 13 to 3.

Goodbye, 2009. You were Awesome.  Let’s look at the list of things I promised you:

Wear less sweatpants. This is the beauty of a tropical climate. You own a thousand cute outfits that are perfectly wearable year round. Hello? After writing this last year, I immediately went to the outlets and bought 2 pears of comfy warm sweatpants from J. Crew- including the infamous “yellow sweatpants” from Vegas. However, after Mardi Gras, I did go organic and accidentally lose a bunch of weight which allowed me to wear pants without elastic waistbands more often. I even got new jeans. Resolved.

Do not wait until the last minute to read an entire semester’s worth of articles. You are paying a trillion dollars for this education, so you might as well learn actual theories and not just Marva Lewis’s notes on attachment via overhead (read: iChat). I never took Marva Lewis again. Resolved.

Get more than 6 hours of sleep per night. This will likely mean limiting midnight back-to-back episodes of Chelsea Lately and Sex and the City. You will manage. Ummm. Mostly resolved. It resolved itself when I went to Belize.

Remember the athletic center you are forced to pay $900 a semester to use? Go to it. Your friends used to have to come pick you up because you rode your bike too long and too far. Figure out where that bike riding joy went and reinstate it. Except, don’t ride yourself silly in New Orleans. You will get kidnapped. I never bought a bike. Unresolved. But I joined the ABT class at the Athletic center and started swimming when the weather got warm. I also took up running again for about 2 weeks. Resolved.

Do not drink Diet Coke for breakfast. Start each morning with a giant glass of water. End each day with a giant glass of water. If you must have the Diet Coke, at least buy it from the machine where Molly won $1.25 and haunted house tickets. Unresolved. End of Story.

Stop writing emails on Ambien. If you send an email after 10 pm, there’s a good chance it was written under the influence (cough, Judy Lewis). You are not more hilarious on Ambien. You simply have no filter. Find the tool on gmail that screens for irresponsible emailing and enable it.  I’m 5 months off the Ambien! Resolved!

Stop being so afraid of new things the first time around. They always turn out just fine. Unresolved. I’m always afraid of new things. I just don’t like change.

Be patient. Timing is everything. Patience is not really my thing, but in this particular circumstance (and I remember what it was when I wrote this) I was. And it paid off. Resolved!

Clean your apartment so you can begin hosting the over-promised, under-delivered hot tub reading parties and Sex and the City Sundays. Your home should be your place. That means you should be able to walk through it without having to scale piles of clothes. Cleaning- Unresolved. Hot tub parties- Resolved!

Purchase cleaning supplies and hangers. Resolved.

Be intentional with keep-in-touch-Sunday even when other things try to crowd it out. Relationships are most important. Don’t forget.  You tell me?

Ski. You know you want to. Un. Re. Solved.

You are about to become an intern again. Be yourself and trust that who you are is good enough, cool enough, nice enough, honest enough, funny enough, pretty enough, smart enough and competent enough.  Resolved. Right, Mia? Riiiight?

Embrace the next eight months and try everything. You’ll never get this season back. Resolved. Mostly- with a few grass is greener… moments.

Graduate! It’s sort of the point. Re-to-the-solved!

Allow God to lead your heart. He did a fantastic job in 2008, and if you pay attention, your whole life could be as amazing. Resolved :)

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50 days of oatmeal and 10 face wipes

Today the AT&T guy asked for my address, and I was totally stumped. I couldn’t remember the address to my dad’s attic.  AT&T had a Fort Wayne address in the system and a New Orleans address in the system, and there I was in Indianapolis trying to suspend my plan while I go to Belize.  He squinted at me with that you’re-an-identity-thief-look, then asked for my license and the last 4 digits of my social security number. I started to explain the situation, but he was bored by the fifth word, so I just sighed and waited while he dialed customer care.  He told customer care I was going to Guatemala.

Some people do displacement well. I do it kind of complainy and neurotic-like.  I feel like my life is totally out of control when I can’t put together a good outfit, and when doing so includes a trip to the attic, a trip to the trunk and rummaging through 4 suitcases. Is it in the Belize bag? Is it in the Thanksgiving bag? Is it in the New Orleans bag? Is it in the Madison bag? Nope. It must be in the trunk. Nope. It’s gotta be in the attic. Oh. There it is. Right there in the 4th box from the back labeled dishes. My black sweater!

Yesterday I purchased 50 days worth of Instant oatmeal and Fiber One bars- both items of comfort and ease that are simple to make, quick to fill and parasite free- and spent 2 hours rearranging and weighing suitcases to get them to fit. Also $80 worth of bug spray, sunscreen, tee trea oil, wet wipes… and a jump rope. For exercise. I remember doing this last year with Steph at the target- should I get washcloths or face wipes? The kind that’s already wet, or the kind where I have to add water? Which takes up less space? Which one is heavier? What I have found is: little luxuries go a long way.  I can’t bring 90 days of face wipes. But I can bring a washcloth and know that 10 Olay face wipes will feel like gold on ten special days when the water is off and I really just want to wash my face.

And you should have seen Elaine helping with my clothes… There were mountains and mountains. Then piles and piles. Then stacks of three.

  • Please can I bring my blue and white striped pants?
  • Will you even wear those pants?
  • I think so. I don’t know. Maybe.
  • But you already have the khaki and white striped ones.
  • I know but I like the blue ones.
  • You can’t have both. You already have 8 other pants. Pick one.

And on and on and on: please can I bring my 10th green tank top… please can I bring my 8th pink Nike shorts… please can I bring my 4th white sweatshirt… It felt like last year’s Gustav evacuation. It was a careful selection process, and in the end, I always wanted the thing I dind’t bring.  Sigh.  As of tonight, my clothes for 3 monts fit into one moderately sized suitcase. My supplies fit into an second, and my sheets/towels/bathroom/bugstuff/meds/snacks/etc. fit into a third. Whew. I’d like to share a picture sequence of my life in relation to this topic.

My apartment at the beginning of the school year:

Apartment 1

My apartment at Finals:

Apartment Finals

My apartment in the middle of selling furniture and hosting guests:

Apartment guests

Apartment during packing phase:

Apartment packing

Post Packing:

Post Packing 1

Post packing 2

All the lipgloss I found while packing up the apartment:

Lipgloss

What happened to SJP- kickball. Home run if you hit her in the face:

SJP kickball

Getting home:

Packed car

My mover: Note the basket he’s holding. It wouldn’t fit into the car, so we dropped it off under the I-10 overpass where the homeless hang…

Jeff

My life now:

suitcases

The end:

Empty apartment

In case you wonder about me, you can find me according to the following itinerary:

  • August 29th Madison
  • September 1st Indianapolis
  • September 5th Belize
  • November 25th Dallas
  • November 29th Madison
  • November 30th Indianapolis
  • December 1st New Orleans
  • December 11th- GRADUATE!

Goodbye. Post you in a couple days.

Good Morning, August. Who let you in?

I don’t even know how to start this one. Apparently life moves slowly while you’re waiting for it to boil, and then one day you wake up and it’s over. Not life, just your time in New Orleans.

Sprinky asked me yesterday if I was sad yet about leaving. I had meant to already be sad by now, but I am just way behind schedule. In the midst of all the violence papers and statistics labs and policy analysis and client terminations and closing summaries and furniture selling and Belize packing and friend hosting, I hadn’t really thought about it. The end-of-the-semester glow in my eyes had failed to consider that at the end of the semester a) assignments must be finished and b) I have to leave. What?!

Per a), I cannot possibly finish in time. Here is how homework has gone for me lately:
8:40- arrive
8:45- arrange table
8:47- dig for change
8:50- Buy tea
8:51- mess around on Facebook
8:52- open the document
8:53- go to the bathroom
8:55- check my phone
8:57- write a sentence
9:01- check my email
9:03- stretch
9:05- check my phone
9:07- mess around on Facebook
9:10- make sure the document is still there
9:15- save the document
9:18- pack up
9:20- leave

Per b), But I just got here! I can’t even wrap my brain around the fact one year ago today I packed up everything I owned and moved to New Orleans. We poured sugar on Sprinky. We sang with the Hattiesburg Applebees singers. We dumped my stuff into a storage closet and took the city by storm. What I mean is, I flipped out. New Orleans just seemed so new and scary and impossible then. But things settled, I took a few deep breaths and couple thousand beignets and recovered. I really thought I had arrived, you know? And I thought I’d be here for a while. I had no idea that, behind its back, life held a bunch of other crazy ideas: an opportunity to do my last semester in Belize, a brand new adorable Maycie to love in Indianapolis, along with a delicious old Lil, a best-ever Jeff (don’t start!) in Wisconsin, and the impossible task of graduating into the non-profit world during the worst possible job-finding time ever… with a special expertise in an area that doesn’t really exist outside of New Orleans. Sigh.

But it will be okay.

Two weeks from today I’ll blow a kiss to New Orleans & thank her for her hospitality, then head north. I am drooling at the thought of getting my hands on all those cute winter coats… but only for a second. Three weeks from then, I’ll leave for Belize.

August equals change. I have to tell myself every 25 minutes that everything will be just fine. I also have to keep myself from stockpiling Bee Sweet cupcakes in my cheeks…

New Orleans, you’re crazy and I like you. Don’t forget about me.

NOLA sunrise

It’s about that time again.

I have to tell you three things:

1. I have a boyfriend. That’s both ‘boy and ‘friend’ in the same word. I do not have to pay a monthly boyfriend fee. It’s totally voluntary in his part.

2. I’m graduating this year! Not in May, but in December. I have been working toward my Master’s Degree in Social Work at Tulane University in New Orleans. I’ve had the best experience doing individual and group grief and trauma counseling in the Recovery School District with kids who are experiencing stress due to having witnessed a violent crime or having been through Hurricane Katrina.

3. As my culminating capstone experience, I will be taking this grief/trauma model to Belize in August and implementing it in a grassroots Domestic Violence shelter. I’m dying to tell you the story of how this whole thing came about, but it would be impossible and annoying to make you read a 5 page letter, so I’m just going to list the facts:

  • I went to Belize in the fall with CFI. A team member saw “Open Doors” on a storefront. Team member said, “Hey, we have an Open Doors food bank in Westfield! Let’s see what this place is!” Team drove around for an hour trying to re-find Open Doors. Couldn’t be found. Gave up. Went back to hotel. Front desk lady said her aunt works for Open Doors and lives right behind hotel. Open Doors Lady came over after dinner to talk. Open doors lady has a name: Marilyn.
  • Turns out, Open Doors is a domestic violence shelter in San Ignacio that was just opened last February. It’s only the second safe shelter in the entire country. One woman walked miles from three villages over on a broken foot, broken hip, and broken hand carrying a baby and a three-year-old with a broken arm.
  • Marilyn and her friend, Anna, started Open Doors to provide support and help for the women who come in, but they have no idea what to do with the kids, many of whom are imitating violence and showing significant distress.
  • I have been trained in how to help and treat kids who had witnessed ongoing, traumatic violence in New Orleans. I felt the tug to find a way to bring the New Orleans program to this shelter and train the shelter staff.
  • I went back to Tulane over Thanksgiving break and proposed the program. Tulane pulled strings to get me into the International Program, but said I’d have to find someone in the country to supervise me.
  • I called Open Doors. Marilyn said she had a student was working with her, and I should talk to the student. The student wasn’t there. Dead end. Student walked into the office as we were hanging up. Marilyn handed over the phone. I couldn’t hear the student because of a bad connection and only 1 minute on my phone card. I asked for student’s email address to e-mail questions. Student said: Melissa@TULANE.edu. As in, TULANE UNIVERSITY, my school in New Orleans!! She (Melissa) is a cultural anthropology doctorate student and has been doing research on domestic violence in Belize since 2002. She will be leaving in July. I’ll come in August. A seamless transition.
  • Even in the retelling of this, I feel unable to express God’s clear and shining presence in all our lives in that moment—Marilyn, the Tulane student, me and the kids who need services. All of our lives intersected in the realization of that little email address, and God’s plan became clear and undeniable to all of us. Everything we’d wondered on and off before—why I was at Tulane of all places, why Melissa was in San Ignacio of all places, why Dave (the team member) had insisted on finding Open Doors that day, that the front desk lady happened to be the niece of Marilyn, and that their exact need was my exact training—it all came together. God makes me cry, He is so perfect and organized. Sigh.

In addition to this project, I’ll be continuing the AIDS/HIV prevention programming I did last fall in the schools, and starting a mentoring program through CFI to match up the Standard 5 and 6 girls with “big-sister” type women in the States. These women will hopefully serve as pen-pals and supports, and will be a source of encouragement for the girls to continue their schooling past primary school.

Please know that if you’ve been involved in any of this Belize business for the past few years by supporting or encouraging in ANY way, this opportunity could not have come together without you. Although I am certain God would have met their needs with or without me, I appreciate your willingness to serve through prayer and financial support so that we could all be a part of it.

I’m working hard to fund the projects through student loans and corporate sponsors, however, if you feel particularly drawn to any of these upcoming fall projects, I’d love your prayer and support. The total cost of all three projects is $3,900 and if you’d like to contribute, it can be done in three ways:

• Make a check out to CFI with “Brooke Wilson” in memo line and mail to: CFI, 448 Leeds Circle, Carmel, IN 46032 (this method is tax deductible)

• Go to CFI website and contribute online (this method is also tax deductible): http://www.cfikids.com- designate to “Brooke Wilson”

• Make a check out to Brooke Wilson (this method is NOT tax deductible): email me

I hope you get a sense of my heart and my calling through this letter. It’s hard to put into words, but I feel blessed through this opportunity and want to help with the skills I’ve been given.

The end!

Brooke Wilson
brkwilson@gmail.com
http://www.brkwilson.blogspot.com

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.

Lets get this party started.

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Dear B,

Wear less sweatpants. This is the beauty of a tropical climate. You own a thousand cute outfits that are perfectly wearable year round. Hello?

Do not wait until the last minute to read an entire semester’s worth of articles. You are paying a trillion dollars for this education, so you might as well learn actual theories and not just Marva Lewis’s notes on attachment via overhead (read: iChat).

Get more than 6 hours of sleep per night. This will likely mean limiting midnight back-to-back episodes of Chelsea Lately and Sex and the City. You will manage.

Remember the athletic center you are forced to pay $900 a semester to use? Go to it. Your friends used to have to come pick you up because you rode your bike too long and too far. Figure out where that bike riding joy went and reinstate it. Except, don’t ride yourself silly in New Orleans. You will get kidnapped.

Do not drink Diet Coke for breakfast. Start each morning with a giant glass of water. End each day with a giant glass of water. If you must have the Diet Coke, at least buy it from the machine where Molly won $1.25 and haunted house tickets.

Stop writing emails on Ambien. If you send an email after 10 pm, there’s a good chance it was written under the influence (cough, Judy Lewis). You are not more hilarious on Ambien. You simply have no filter. Find the tool on gmail that screens for irresponsible emailing and enable it.

Stop being so afraid of new things the first time around. They always turn out just fine.

Be patient. Timing is everything.

Clean your apartment so you can begin hosting the over-promised, under-delivered hot tub reading parties and Sex and the City Sundays. Your home should be your place. That means you should be able to walk through it without having to scale piles of clothes.

Purchase cleaning supplies and hangers.

Be intentional with keep-in-touch-Sunday even when other things try to crowd it out. Relationships are most important. Don’t forget.

Ski. You know you want to.

You are about to become an intern again. Be yourself and trust that who you are is good enough, cool enough, nice enough, honest enough, funny enough, pretty enough, smart enough and competent enough.

Embrace the next eight months and try everything. You’ll never get this season back.

Graduate! It’s sort of the point.

Allow God to lead your heart. He did a fantastic job in 2008, and if you pay attention, your whole life could be as amazing.

Love,
B.

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.

The Great Snow of 2008, and other silly stories.

I think you probably heard, but it snowed in New Orleans.

This was not just a little dusting; it was a full inch. School was canceled. Businesses pushed employees outside to run willy-nilly through the yard and throw snowballs. The entire city fell apart at the age line and turned six-and-a-half, simultaneously.

I’d heard there might be snow on the North shore, so when my mom woke me up with a text that said, “snow?” I turned on the TV and rolled over. I only jumped out of bed when Good Morning America and the Today show were preempted by local news standing at Audubon Park frantically and joyfully screaming about how blinding it is when it falls heavily. And white! I waited patiently for Geraldo to show up and walk sideways into the wind.

Kids were rolling around and spreading snow all over their bodies. Adults were sledding on suit coats and building thousands of teeny, tiny 6-inch snowmen, and then adorning them with full-sized hats and scarves and carrots and sticks. We were encouraged not to venture out if we didn’t have to, because the roads were very, very bad. The bridges and overpasses were closed, and government offices closed in two parishes. I ran outside to take pictures, and found clumps of people gathered all over the sidewalk and streets staring up at the sky. Most had their tongues out.

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I called the Red Cross to make sure they were still open before I ventured out in the snow that wasn’t yet accumulating, and they asked me if I was comfortable driving in “this”. I told them they could count on me. They said good, because Orleans parish was in a Level One snow emergency and they were in the midst of pulling together staff and volunteers for two standby cold weather shelters.

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All day stations played, “Let it snow” over and over, and it has since been referred to as the Great Snow of 2008. If you go to Tulane’s website, you’ll see an entire photo album and slide show documenting happy students playing in the lawn with scarves and hats to lure prospective students into thinking, “See? We have Christmas, too!”

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It was a joyous and happy Christmas miracle. It melted by dinner, and the next day was 65 and sunny. Just how I like my snow—beautiful, then gone.

Here are some pics of the Christmasy city yesterday-

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Santa and His half-brass Band

When right in the mall there arose such a clatter, I got up from the food court to see what was the matter.

Only in New Orleans would Santa and half a brass band saunter around the mall singing.


Finals Week

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As of now, I am one-quarter Master Social Worker.
(You can call me Master for short.)