Are you going back to the room, babe?

I know! Let’s go to the quarter.
We don’t live in New Orleans.
Oh.

Want to go to the lake?
But we don’t have a boat.
Oh.

We could call our friends- maybe they have a boat?
But we don’t have any friends.
Yeah we do. We have those one friends.
They’re in Ohio.
Oh.

Let’s go to Taste of Madison!
We don’t live in Wisconsin.
Daggers.

How about a hike.
Where? It’s 96 degrees.
Ugh.

Let’s take the kids to the pool.
We don’t have any kids.
Crap.

We could ride our bikes to B. Ripp for lunch and–?
Nope.
Fine.

Having already covered this in other cities, I immediately knew what we had to do:

Get iced coffees and sneak into the Sheraton Rooftop Pool downtown, duh.

In which we pretend to be staying here: Are you going back to the room, babe?

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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.

August and Everything

August is this creepy little month that sneaks up behind me while I’m laughing and oblivious in July and says, Hey. Buck up. A lot of things are about to change, and it’s going to be hard for a minute, and very cold, but there’s coffee, at least, and fireplaces, and when it’s over, you’ll be okay.

Last fall, I packed up my comfy little 400 sq. foot apartment and said goodbye to New Orleans. I cried through 3 Gulf states, thought I didn’t know why at the time, and said goodbye to Jeff. Three weeks later, I was knee-deep in grapefruit-o-lanterns and Belizean 8-year-olds.

Two falls ago, I stuffed SJP and Sprinky into the Rendezvous and drove to New Orleans, threw my things into a supply closet, got evacuated for Gustav during orientation, and came back 3 weeks later a total stranger, still. A month after that I was dressed like a Ninja fighting pirates on Jackson Square. With friends.

Three falls ago I was meeting my French uncle at a train station in Marseilles. I don’t speak French. He doesn’t speak English. I hadn’t seen him in ten years. Three falls ago, Katie died.

Four falls ago, I got rejected to 14 grad schools. For writing. Which ruined my whole plan. Tale spin.

Five falls ago, I was driving a 24-foot diesel truck, on fire, from Austin to Beaumont and living out of a 50-degree medication closet. Red Cross. Katrina.

Eleven falls ago, my aunt died.  In a car accident. Just like that.

So here I am, in fall. In that strange quiet sunlight, with those twirly little yellow leaves, a ten minute drive from family, in a cozy home, with the most kind and loving husband, three little nieces, jobs we are blessed to have, access to pumpkin spice lattes- and I feel panicky. Even when I’m happy, I’m anxious.  And even sometimes, sad.

I think August is really saying: Hey. Your aunt died.
She would have been 50 last week.
And further still, August is really really saying: life is out of control.
I’ve never been able to dissociate fall from that feeling.

But it’s only a season.
N.N. says it better than me:

And even when the trees have just surrendered
To the harvest time
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
And sending us inside
Still I notice You when change begins
And I am braced for colder winds
I will offer thanks for what has been and what’s to come
You are autumn

And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath
And still I notice you
When branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter
You are winter

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
What was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green
So it is with You
And how You make me new
With every season’s change
And so it will be
As You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring

N. Nordeman

I Might Be An Ecoterrorist in Mexico.

This is the reason people hate blogs: I’m getting ready to talk about myself, and no one even asked me to.

Sometimes we go through these spectacular seasons, like living in the land of Mardi Gras, having daily coffees and margaritas and bagels and shrimps and po-boys; becoming a scholar, trained by all the best trauma & Disaster Mental Health people around— even if they don’t actually lecture you, but start out their year on sabbatical, which leaves you staring at theories of attachment slides from the 60s, but whatever. You stumble upon an accidentally perfect international project to culminate your learning experience, and it happens to be in Belize, your fave, with all your favorite people, and you are sort of forging the way for this kind of work there, and you feel a tiny bit like floating because the project was executed so flawlessly with such a kind and encouraging supervisor. And you come home to a two-week graduation festival/margarita marathon with free dinners and parties and regalia and sleepovers, and you walk away from New Orleans with a diploma in one hand and a certificate in the other hand—I mean, so what if you ran to the LBC for your big congratulatory reception through the rain to find four stale pieces of cheese and two hundred confused family members? (Tulane was sorry, they dropped the ball: would your family consider coming back for another reception? We promise cookies this time.) It doesn’t even phase you. Your family’s there, your best friend is on your one side, and your boyfriend is looped through the other arm, and two weeks later, at the top of the Hancock building in Chicago, at dusk, in the snow, he proposes.  Seriously. A spectacular season.  It doesn’t get any better.

Then you come home and move into your dad’s attic. Although, to be fair, he did clear out a lot of drawers and squares of closet space to be the most accommodating. And you’re not actually living in the attic. All your stuff is up there, but you have a nice cozy bedroom on the main level. You start the job search.  You! The best most awesomely trained Master Social Worker with the best resume in the world, straight out of New Orleans with your shiny new diploma and your new fiancé and your new city—Madison WI, of course, which you prayed and prayed and prayed God would help you love. And he did. You love it.  So you start applying.  The first place contacted you way back in Belize, so you go though two rounds of interviews with seven board members, including an hour-and-a-half role-play while they watch you through a two-way mirror, and they say, “We’ll let you know by the end of the week.”  Two months have passed.

You apply for more jobs—part time, full time, lots of types, lots of interviews, lots of blasted role-play, lots of promising contacts, lots of people affirming your resume and experience despite your age, which is great because your smile is getting a little droopy, and you’re starting to wonder if Tulane lied to you.  But nothing materializes.

So you go home. Or, really you feel like you leave your new home to go back to Indianapolis: land of boring familiarity with grey winters and no fiancé (not to mention a super bowl loss to your OTHER city), but a curious job opportunity.  You didn’t apply for it. It found you.  Before you know it, you’re sitting in a second-round interview with an unexpected chance to be the Social Worker at a level 1 trauma center, and the option to pick up shifts at the children’s hospital you always wanted to work for.  It’s a dream. EXCEPT IT’S IN THE WRONG CITY!  You’re like, “Hello, God? Remember that part about how I’m supposed to be in Madison?  Wrong hospital. Call Meriter or UW or something. If I’m good here, I’ll be good there, too.”  God’s plugging his hears & humming like, “I can’t heeeaaaaarrrrr youuuu….”

In the meantime, fiancé gets an opportunity to go to Haiti with an international organization and a team of PTs. Your joint dream has always been to find a way do these types of things together! This is perfect. The two of you put together a proposal explaining the need for a Disaster Mental Health worker on the team and list your skills.  The agency, to your surprise, believes you, and they schedule an interview for the next morning at 11am.  The hospital agrees to give you the six weeks off to go. You wink at God and say, “Okay. Okay God, I get it. Yep, this is it. This is better. We must be supposed to go to Haiti.”

You and fiancé spend the weekend weighing out the costs, benefits, problems and solutions of leaving for 6 weeks before a wedding in 4 months.  You don’t really trust yourself making huge, life-altering decisions, so you’ve been praying all along that God will only open the door you’re supposed to walk through, and so far you haven’t had to make a decision. So, in the same way, you promise that if the Haiti door opens, you’ll walk though it.  But if it doesn’t, you’ll trust the provision.

The door doesn’t open.  You glare at God.

You’re disappointed for you, and for fiancé. You realize with the Haiti door closed, and the Madison door closed, you’re back to the attic. (Which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with dad’s attic, if he’s reading this. You have lots of food here and free laundry and water aerobics on Wednesday nights!)  But you feel exhausted from stacking up every possible opportunity and then starting to build a life around each option, attempting to get a head start on every possible thing.  On top of that, you did hot yoga and almost died.  You really feel, physically and metaphorically, like every single thing in entire world is flowing in the opposite current you’re trying to walk through.

You don’t understand why God isn’t helping.  You thought you were clear with your order. Obviously God didn’t write it down when he was at your table…

Then you read this, by Donald Miller (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years):

A while back I was working on a novel about a performance artist-turned-ecoterrorist. I never published it because, well, it was about a performance artist-turned-ecoterrorist, and I couldn’t exactly find a market for the story.

I’d get up every morning and make my coffee and toast, I’d put my laptop in a backpack, and then I’d walk…  I’d create my stories while I walked, thinking about what I wanted my characters to do, what I wanted them to say, and how I wanted them to throw headlong into whatever scene was coming next. By the time I got to my desk, I’d had plenty of time to plan whatever was coming in the book.

But stories are only partly told by writers. They are also told by the characters themselves.  Any writer will tell you characters do what they want.  If I wanted my character to advance the plot by confronting another character, the character wouldn’t necessarily obey me. I’d put my fingers on the keyboard, but my character, who was supposed to go to Kansas, would end up in Mexico, sitting on a beach drinking a margarita. I’d delete whatever dumb thing the character did and start over, only to have him grab the pen again and start talking nonsense to some girl in a bikini.

And as I worked on the novel, as my character did what he wanted and ruined my story, it reminded me of life in certain ways. I mean, as I sat there in my office making my worlds, and as my characters fought to have their way, I could identify with them. I was also that character fighting God, and I could see God sitting at his computer, staring blankly at his screen as I asked him to write in some money and some sex and some comfort [and some job in some city].”

Maybe I’m the ecoterrorist in Mexico. Who knows.

But I accepted the job at the hospital. Translation: I accepted three more months away from fiancé and the nights & weekend shift.  I’m closing both eyes and crossing my fingers that a loving author is writing something perfect for the two of us…

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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.

My motherboard, myself

Macbook is home.

The motherboard was defective, whatever that means. I thanked the guy and said, “Yeah, my mom has been acting funny too lately, can you do anything about her?”  He would have laughed, I’m sure, but my phone rang. It was my mom. See? She knows.

Which brings me to my next topic: Adult Children of Active Facebook Users.

When did it become normal for parents start creeping onto Facebook? I realize my parents are just extra-technological with finding internet spouses and all, but honestly you guys, as a group, we really dropped the ball on this one. Parents should be confined to the geriatric network (as opposed to the Indianapolis or FW network)—which could be visited, but, for the love of God, not flung wide open for all of them to just run loose. Don’t even get me started on grandparents hanging around—there goes my whole new blog idea: Conversations with Crazy Grammy.

Brookie?
Hey grandma.
Are you working?
No.
Are you busy?
No.
Well, I didn’t think you’d ever call me back.
Grandma, I’ve been calling you all week. I left three messages.
No, you didn’t.
Yes, I did. Check your messages.
Nope. My phone makes a little noise when there’s a message.
Well, I left one. Maybe its broken or something.
No, it always makes a little noise. You must have called someone else.
Grandma, it was your voicemail. Your number is on speed dial. It was you.
No. Huh-uh. It didn’t make that little noise.
Why don’t you just check your messages. Just in case. I’ll wait.
No, Brookie. It always makes that little noise, but—Oh! (laugh) Isn’t that funny? (laugh) I have three messages. (laugh) It always makes that little noise. (laugh) Isn’t that funny, darlin? (laugh)
See? I told you.
Well, I just hadn’t heard from you in a while. I thought I might get a thank-you card or something for the pajamas I gave you last spring.
Oh, well, yeah, I love those pajamas. I thought we covered that at the house. Sorry.
Well, you’ve been busy. You’ve got a lot going on up there. Are you running around with Sprinky today?
No, she is in South Carolina
Oh! She is? What’s she doing there?
Visiting our other friends, Bethany and Mike.
Oh! Bethany and Mike live in South Carolina?
Yeah.
You never told me that.
They’ve lived there for a year and a half.
Well, you never told me.
They moved last April.
You didn’t tell me they moved.

I didn’t know you knew them.

You didn’t tell me.
Grandma, I didn’t know you wanted to know.
That’s okay. You never tell me anything about your friends. You’re just too busy. Too busy for your grandma.

Hmmm.

In other news, I started working this week. I got a job at the Tulane bookstore. I basically hang Tulane clothes all day and refold everything when waves of freshmen or cheerleaders or foreign golf players come in and try everything on in front of the mirror. My favorite is when the owner comes through, stands in front of a certain display and says, “Y’all’s folds are bad.”

I also love watching at all the bossy mothers in east coast accents holding up 80 different-colored sweatshirts to a nervous, eye-rolling new freshman while the little sister tries on $90 hoodies and the dad just moseys behind, whistling. I can’t help but imagine my little brothers being interested in a sweatshirt or a Taylor hat. It just never happened. If my brothers had been there, we would have ended the day in Allen County lockup for minor consumption, especially now that Brandon has taken to running around town with a can of Budlight in his hand pawning other people’s books. They were just never really into things like college hats or college sweatshirts or traditional college at all, really.

Moving on.

I made three friends in three days. They work with me in the bookstore, and all three wanted to know if I had gotten a daiquiri yet and where. They are serious about their daiquiris. By the third day, I was directing new students and worried mothers all over campus or to the nearest Wal-greens or Whole Foods or daiquiri stand like a good little local…

PS- I thought about this all day. Nine years ago today my aunt was killed in a car accident. It was awful and heartbreaking and felt like, at the time, someone had taken all the color out of the world. Whenever I think of her, besides crepes and laughing and hideous hand-me-down purple zip-up bathing suits, I think of Mr. Gay and what he wrote on a little piece of paper in the guestbook at her funeral: Bonne nuit joli petit oiseau – Goodnight pretty little bird.

Over and Out

I moved out of Fort Wayne today.

By and far the best good-bye gift I received:
A life size 7ft cardboard cutout of Sarah Jessica Parker from Sofia.

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She will be my first and only friend in New Orleans and will hang out with me in my living room at night or while I am brushing my teeth in the morning. We had a long talk on my way to Indy about how much things are about to change for us.

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About New Orleans. I have gotten into this awful habit of checking all the crime alerts on campus by the hour. It has been integrated into my daily routine: check e-mail, check facebook, check crime alerts. Statistically, I’m sure to get shot, mugged, carjacked or burglarized within the first ten minutes.

People have encouraged me to take a self-defense class. The thing is, self-defense classes are in the recreation center, which is far away, which means I’ll have to drive. I am most concerned about getting from cars to buildings and back into cars. I will be doing it as little as possible, and most often with hand-held shrubbery to disguise me as I scurry between buildings. This makes something as dangerous as a self-defense class more risky than helpful since it will involve a parking lot and all. I mean, how would I get from my car to the building, or from the building to my car? Especially if the class is after 6pm or something?

A person has to think about these things.

Also, the fact that there is no Taco Bell in the city. My diet consists of mostly fast food and $3 champagne. While local fried food is available, I am worried about the effect this lack of Taco Bell will have on my body. Don’t even get me started on the prospect of having to introduce fruits and vegetables at some point. I don’t want to overwhelm myself.

Happenings of note.

I had to drink Sprite out of a bowl this week because there were no other dishes.

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Saturday we had birthday mimosas at Spyros—our favorite breakfast joint. BYOCAOJ- Bring your own champagne and orange juice. Classy.

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Favorite goodbye party moments of yore:

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The box of sweaters in the closet that let me know I was definitely home at my dad’s

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Belizean Cuisizean Saturday

Hey you guys. Thanks for all the kind words in response to my SOS.
It turns out, people love.

(And while I’m at it, thanks for the gentle nudging to put down the Oreos. Thanks to Kenzie for wrestling me to the floor over a second slice of chocolate cream pie. And thanks to Sprinky for holding her back while I ate it off the floor.)

I have a few things to report, including reflections on my new hair color, the status of Samantha and Jon (my parasites) and pictures of our spectacular Belizean Cuisizean Saturday. But first I want to share a couple of insights from encouraging e-mails I received this week. Consider it eavesdropping. It’s much more fun that way.

God is good! He doesn’t leave us where we are to wallow in our pity. He shows us how to find love, joy and peace. He is where you are.

Did you guys know about this? God is right here in my extra twin bed at my dad’s in Indianapolis AND he is next to Inez and Bryon and Antonia and David in their beds in Belize whispering us all to sleep. I just love that about God. It’s enough to make me want to stand on my dad’s balcony and sing “Somewhere Out There” to the moon. But he doesn’t have a balcony, and his porch faces the pool. So that option is out.

Next.

You’re right. We’ve got lots of things really screwy. We’ll probably never get them unscrewed. Our “progress” has come at a cost.

Interesting insight. I’d like to counter it with the John Legend song that always makes me cry in the hopes that it’s actually true:

I still believe that-
We’ll get it right again

We’ll come back to life again

We won’t say another goodbye again

You’ll live forever with me

Someday, we’ll be together…

Unfortunately, I don’t think this will be fulfilled until we are all sitting on heaven’s curbs eating calorie-free ice cream and cheesy potatoes together. Steven (my step-boo) wrote something last fall. I hope I am not taking this out of context, but it struck me when I read it and has stayed with me ever since— especially in light of my visit with Hannah yesterday and the time we spent remembering Katie, and in the wake of the Cerak/Van Ryn family tragedy:

This is what heaven will be for us. It is a journey we should look forward to with great anticipation knowing that we will not be disappointed as we round that last bend and see it all unfold in front of us. There will be the laughter of those we love most, the old friends we’ve not seen in years, even those we have known in our hearts but have never seen with our eyes, they will all be there. There will be peace and comfort and every earthly pain we have felt, every bit of sadness and heartache, they will all be gone forever. It will be family and friends and life and love and it will be unlike anything we could ever have imagined but it will be just as we had always hoped. It will be perfect.

And the coffee…

I love the part about the coffee. Thanks for letting me share, Boo.

The thing is, I had ice-cream with my old best friends last night.

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These three saved my life once, literally. Tonight, they just reminded me that we really can reconnect even after 10 years. It gave me a sliver of what heaven might be like, because I couldn’t have pieced together better company, better conversation or better dessert. Unless, maybe, it had been Chocolate Odessey 2001.

Which leads me to my next comment:

No matter how much we want it and how much we miss it and how much we beg, Baskin Robbins is never bringing back Chocolate Odyssey 2001.

Well. I am starting a prayer chain calendar for a 2010 comeback. Who wants April?

Great. Moving on.

This is important, as Bryan would not let me touch the baby unless I had a note from my doctor:

I am parasite free!

I spent an exhaustive 3 days at the Doctor getting tested for things like TB, and making sure all my little parasites and E. Coli were gone, which involved a very intricate stool sampling kit. In Belize, they just handed me a container and told me to eat some burritos, walk around and come back with a full jar at 2. Here, I was totally confused by the take-home kit they gave me, and I’m sure Sprinky was thrilled to find the little container labeled “refrigerate” in the back corner when she reached for her Las Lomas leftovers.

Hil-air.

Anyway, the TB test came back negative and the chest x-rays are clear. Whew!

Tomorrow is the welcome home celebration with CFI & my Belize team from last fall. Lisa, Mackenzie and I spent the day experimenting with all our favorite delicious dishes from Belize. I like to call it Belizean Cuisizean Saturday.

The results were fantastic! (Except for the tortillas, which looked like tiny little weird ovals. Antonia warned me this would happen if I didn’t practice. She also frequently sent me out back to pick cilantro from the grass and said I always came back with the leaves that would kill us.)

So, who wants to try my special cilantro salad?

Here are some pictures of the day. I WILL be recreating this event in Fort Wayne, so friends beware. You’ll be receiving an invite shortly.

The international isle at Wal-mart. Actually, we just think this picture is funny because it looks like I am caught red-handed trying to hide, like, a pack of Oreos under the rice and beans, drunk.

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Tortilla mixing

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Result

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Quote of the day: “Yeah, but I think she would say my balls are just too small.”

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Empanadas (I realize taking pictures of food puts me on the same page as my Great Aunt Gwen, but I am just proud, okay? Cut me some slack.)

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Garnaches

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One out of one Randys found our food deliciously satisfying.

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This was a trial run. Stay tuned for the real thing tomorrow at 2:30/1:30 central.

Thanks again for the support this week. I mean it.

Oh!
I almost forgot the funniest thing. Hannah colored my hair yesterday. We got rid of the highlights and took it back to my natural color, black. You’d think it was a simple procedure, but, actually, there are a million shades of black. This one is dark. I loved it at first. But now (maybe it’s just because I’ve had sun-streaked hair for over a year) I sort of feel like the Wicked Witch. Especially when toddlers look at me and then start crying. I’m just sayin.

Parasite, I think we should just be friends.

Yesterday morning, after dreaming I was in Indianapolis, I woke up in Belize and wondered who I was and what I did with myself.

And then it happened (it was bound to): I cried.
I cried in bed.
I cried while I was getting ready.
I cried all the way to school.

Europe felt like a dream—I had to look at the blog to see that it was really me.
My friends felt imaginary—I had to text to make sure they still existed.
I wanted a hug from my dad.
I wanted to understand one entire, full conversation.
I wanted to digest food.

I’d been sick since Friday and “caught a pain” every time I ate.
(I had only eaten one cucumber and one tomato all day Saturday, which is the day I hiked Xunantunich.)
One old lady said it was air.
Another lady said I don’t eat in time.
Another lady said I don’t eat enough.

They gave me boiled garlic.
They gave me lime water.
They gave me Pepto.
On Sunday night, when nothing worked and I turned down CAKE, Alice said it was amoebas.

Antonia said, “Come Brooke, right now,” and she hitched us a ride to Cayo on Monday morning.

We went to the Post Office and, incidentally, paid 95 cents for a package that came regular express mail—got here in 3 weeks, and had a blanket, crackers, PB & chocolate: perfect. (Thanks, Denise ☺)

Then we went to the lab.
They took two blood tests and asked for a stool sample.
I cannot produce stool on demand.
(Not even explosively)
They told me blood results would be ready at 2pm and would tell whether or not I had a bacterial infection. It would also rule out salmonella.
The stool sample was most important, the man said. It would confirm and diagnose the right treatment for the right amoeba. He gave me a little container and told me come back at 2.

Poor Antonia.
We ate huge burritos and walked around for 2 hours trying to provoke the problem I’d been trying to avoid for 4 days. I had 3 false attempts and sent out a mass text asking for prayer that God would supernaturally “move” me (which is ironic, since all weekend I was begging God to stop “moving” me—or to at least stop “moving” me in public places). But nothing.

I had given up all hope and started to feel crazy, like I’d made the entire illness up, and decided I probably didn’t have amoebas anyway…

When lo and behold, in the computer lab, I moved.
Antonia stood up in suspense, so did the lab worker and the 3 other people checking their email—and I gave a victorious thumbs up.
It was 2:15.

“Right now, Brooke,” she said. We gathered our things and went straight to the lab.
I handed over my sample proudly (and all but bowed and curtsied), then waited 15 minutes for the results.

Results:
2 Amoeba (parasites)
1 E. Coli
1 blood infection

We took the lab results, thanked the man, and headed for the doctor—an internist Antonia’s sister works for. First, though, we stopped at the furniture store to pay a bill. It wasn’t until we were leaving that I realized we paid an electric bill, and that the electric office was in the back of the furniture store…

The doctor looked at the lab tests, stuck a thermometer in my armpit, and conducted a physical-like exam. He answered all my questions and gave me 3 antibiotics: two for the amoeba, one for the blood infection.

We paid about $200 BZ (which is about $100 US) for the blood tests, stool samples, Dr. visit and antibiotics.

Sidenote: Antonia’s father told me that the water filtration/cleansing machine broke recently, and, No, they do not have little scrolling “boil water advisories” at the bottoms of the TV screens here. You either know those things or you don’t. We don’t drink the water, but all of us bathe in it, and I definitely brush my teeth with it.

My issue (we think) has more to do with no refrigerator and eating food that has been sitting out but not reheated. Its too hot for that. Bacteria grows. We tried to explain the bacteria to Ms. Ida, but she doesn’t believe me. She thinks my stomach is just allergic to cold things. She insists that I shouldn’t drink cold water or sprite. Only coffee.

Bottom line: Ms. Ida does not have a refrigerator, and we just don’t waste food, you know? Bottomer line: there is no hand soap to be found among the kids. I don’t prepare my own food, and I play with the kids all the time.

*Interesting insight, an email from a friend said: “Pray that God uses this to help you understand what people in different places go through, and that maybe others don’t always have the means to take care of it like you do, or as quickly.”

When I got home, I called Hillside (a clinic in PG with doctors CFI knows and trusts) and double-checked everything with Patricia. She said they are taking good care of me and that she would have prescribed the exact same meds. She told me to boil my water bottle and toothbrush, and then echoed everything the Dr. said. She told me I’d be feeling better in a few days, fully recovered in about 2 weeks.

Then she invited me down to PG for a weekend in March!

I took the meds, slept all night, washed my sheets this morning and have enjoyed a nice relaxing day in front of the fan with my trusty little MacBook and gmail chat. Thanks for the concern, and for chatting with me today, friends!

In the meantime, I have decided to name the parasites Samantha and Jon, after our first cats. They died.

Pray for a quick evacuation of all things buggy. Also, I couldn’t help but remember the Kirsty Alley episode where they tell her to go to a developing country and get a parasite to “reduce” and I laughed about it all day. Funny. I’m definitely reduced.

Week four, look out! You’re almost over.

(In all seriousness, your e-mails and comments and phone calls mean a lot. I have been really homesick this week. Thank you.)