I Am (married)

Anniversary Edition!

I Am, by marriage, second-generation thin crust pizza, spicy Italian sausage from a local butcher, whole milk mozzarella and pizza sauce that’s not to sweet, not too tangy, not to salty.  I am popcorn at 10pm with garlic salt and crushed black pepper, scrambled eggs most mornings, and breakfast in bed on my birthday. I am a cup of coffee snuck onto the bathroom counter while I’m in the shower. I am a late night mini DQ run accomplice.

I Am, by marriage, at the very top of a 14 thousand foot mountain. I am sitting at the UW Terrace with some kind of local brew in Madison, WI or at the New Glarus brewery with a $3 flight, or taking a lazy stroll on State Street after the Farmer’s market when the weather is warm and I’m in a sundress. I am in the upstairs bedroom on the left, waking up on holidays to rolling hills, Palamita Pond and a little farmet outside frosted windows in Beloit, Wisconsin. I am our very first Indiana Avenue facing one-bedroom apartment just a few steps from the Canal and White River State park by foot. I am sitting on a fixed and treated deck, sipping a summer Shandy by the Monon, with a yard just mowed, twinkle lights on, and a grill cooking fat-tire brats in Carmel, Indiana.

I Am, by marriage, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, aunt, niece, and cousin. I am Bucky the Badger and flip-flopper and Merlot Kathy and Indiana Ron/Wisconsin Ron depending on the score. I am Brookaliscious. I am a gold medal swimmer at an Olympic wedding! Most of the time, without even thinking before it slips out even at work, I am simply Babe, which is okay with me.

I Am, by marriage, always in style. The dress never makes me look fat, the hair always looks good, there is definitely a change in my arm muscles, and yes, I can have the last bite/piece/sip. I am good enough, cool enough, nice enough, honest enough, funny enough, pretty enough, smart enough and competent enough. I am known. I am forgiven. I am loved. I am “I will” and “I do” and “I now pronounce you man and wife!”


PS: Some friends have started doing this exercise with me, and I’m so thrilled it’s catching on. Three friends means catching, right? I do these weekly on Sundays, except for today which is Monday,  If you like it, please respond with your own answers.  Wouldn’t that be fun? (Yes, Brooke, that would be SO fun.)

Thanks to my pals who have responded- I love knowing who you are!
So tell me, everyone else, who are you?


Hikes and Home visits: A forehead hug

*Make it to the end of this one, it’s where the goods are.

There came a day in Cyimbili when Jeff and I were so tired of the rain and the porch sitting, we took off in reckless abandon. It had cleared for a split second, I put on warm clothes, and we started hiking. Fifteen minutes in, the sun came out, and it was instantly unbearably hot. We had not put on sunscreen. Daggers! After a quick u-turn, a change of clothes, sunglasses and SPF, we again set out on the open dirt road.  We would hike somewhere. Anywhere. We grabbed rain jackets, too, because we have learned, finally, to take the raincoat everywhere no matter what the skies look like. We are on our way to learning this about the sunscreen, but my peeling neck, arms and ears make me feel a little bit brain-dead.

We hiked a giant hill that afternoon, trailed by 35 kids collected along the way— one or two at a time, a little face peeking around the corner, an excited muzungu!, one more kid added to the single-file procession up the hill, all the way to the top. This little (out of focus) bebe was very last and very angry the older kids kept leaving her behind.


Other kids

At the very top, we were escorted by a couple of teenagers to a footpath that led to spectacular views of the plantation and Lake Kivu, where the skies immediately opened up on us—thunder, rain, the works.  We ran down the mountain, and felt very proud of ourselves when we got home. We told others we had hiked to the top of the hill. Yes, they said, smiling.


Imagine our surprise when, two days later, we set out to visit one of the supervisors we had interviewed the day before. A 30-minute walk, they told us. No biggie. We climbed that hill yesterday!

We began walking in the direction of the giant hill, and as we turned onto the dirt path that led up the hill, I thought to myself: Wow, the supervisor must live on this hill. What a steep walk to work and back every day. If only we had known yesterday, we could have visited him while we were just here…

As we walked past all the houses on the hill heading toward the very top, I thought: Wow, the supervisor lives on the top of this hill? So far! And he walks the hill every day? Yesterday we were so tired and proud to have made it. Silly us.

Then we walked over the top of the hill and down the other side toward a village. I looked back at Jeff and thought: No way! He lives up the hill, over the hill, and in the village on the other side? So far! I can’t believe he walks this every day…

Maybe you’re sensing the pattern. Maybe you also wear sunscreen and always carry your raincoat.

As we walked through the village on the other side and continued down toward the main road, I started really wondering. He walks up the mountain, over the top, through the village on the other side and down to the main road?! I can’t believe this.

But then we continued on the main road, past a little girl wearing a Packers T-shirt and another kid pulling a cut-up pill container on bottle cap wheels, onto a steep dirt footpath, and I was like: Whaaaat? He lives up the mountain, over the top, through the village on the other side, down the main road, and up the next ridge? Omg. Where’s my water?!



When we walked up the dirt footpath, up the ridge and through the next village, I was sure this would be it. But we kept walking…

Three ridges, three valleys, three villages later, lots of kid-trains and muzungu squeals, over an hour from where we started, we arrived at the supervisor’s home! We were promptly greeted with chairs and Fanta, and in our cartoon lives, they were fanning us with giant leaves, wiping our sweaty faces.

We spent time with the supervisor and his wife along with all the neighbors packed into the tiny, but clean and welcoming house. Over and over, each person shared how excited the village was to welcome us—many muzungu had visited the coffee plantation, but none had ever gone walking to the villages! Especially not one so far!  Many had never seen muzungu before in person, right here, they said! They hugged and prayed and smiled and offered us more Coke, saying they were so encouraged and blessed by our visit. They insisted we take their greetings home to our families, and we shared greetings from all of you to them.

Spv house

In the most simple display of connection and community, we were all just happy to be sitting there together each enjoying the other’s company.

This supervisor and his wife have been married for 15 years without kids, he had described in his interview the day before. They had been to various doctors through the years, but could not find an answer to their infertility. Here in Rwanda, like so many other cultures, infertility is viewed as a curse, and often leads to isolation of the woman by others. We shared with the supervisor the day before how our own experience had been so difficult, how we would commit to praying for each other, and we sent him with hugs for his wife.

When I found myself face-to-face with the wife that day, she greeted me with a more intimate but familiar greeting of three hugs and cheek touches—left side, right side, left side—but then there was also something I had never been included in until that moment: forehead to forehead, eye to eye, and we rested there for a moment. It was more than a hug. It was like the insides of her soul reaching out to the insides of my soul, through our eyes and foreheads. She and I, in that moment, the same.


Yes, we will pray for those two- these who have put at least two orphans through school and help support several village “moms”- and we believe they will pray for us. We offered each other peace and truth in spite of those blasted ancestors…

Aaaaaaaand then we hiked the hour-and-a-half home at sunset, back through the villages and the valleys and the ridges, collecting another muzungu parade of kids, just like the supervisor does every day to and from work, rain or shine, and I think his quads are probably ripped!


For the entire photo album, click here!

But in the meantime, how about some cute twins who were terrified of us?

Twins 1Twins 2Twins 3happy twins

For J, on his Day

To the type of husband who sneaks a cup of coffee onto the bathroom counter while you’re in the shower-

To the type of ‘band who pulls the stove out from the kitchen wall looking for the GFCI outlet, and lets you off the hook when you see a spider, no matter how dirty and dusty it is back there. You flip and dry heave, he remains calm and cleans the entire thing until sparkles-

To the dude who keeps all the plants alive in our house-

The the husband who brings home some nail clippers randomly one day from the store because he remembers yours got confiscated in the Cancun airport-

To the husband who can capture the perfect picture of your baby niece’s sparkly shoe on a skateboard

To the guy who lets you pick the Garden Salsa Sun chips even though he really wants the Harvest Cheddar-

To the husband who wakes up one day and with a tiny shovel rips out the front bushes or finds our screens in the garage-

To the guy who secretly fills up the humidifier when it’s my turn and I’m already in bed-

To the husband who leaves these in my car-

And this on my table-

For no reason at all.

To the husband who brings home an US weekly before a road trip because he thinks its the kind of magazine I like-

To the guy who walks into Charming Charlies, picks a colorful pair of sandals, and orders them in my size for an unexpected birthday surprise-

To the man who took me to the top of a 14-thousand foot mountain on our honeymoon-

To the guy who values everything I write and every pic I take-

To the husband who always offers me the last slice of pizza, the last bite of cookie, the last kernel of popcorn-

To my Friday morning egg-maker and my Sunday morning road-tripper-

You will never believe how glad I am that you were born. We need a new word for glad. Happy Birthday!