Flak Vest with Kevlar Plates

Hi, it’s me again. I had to take a little internet break, because I almost came back to disclaim everything from the last post. Pride has a way of making you want to shout: WE ARE OKAY. NOTHING TO SEE HERE. EVERYTHING IS FINE. even though you let your own self out of the closet.  But then J reminded me: this experience has drawn us closer to God, demonstrated our frailty, and humbled us. Sometimes those things feel uncomfortable, and part of humility is being okay with people feeling sorrow on your behalf.

(But seriously, we are okay.)

To everyone who reached out earlier in the week: Thank you! Our phones and inboxes were filled with messages from friends and family offering support and love. Some of these messages were from right down the street, people we see weekly. Others were from old friends we haven’t spoken to in 15 years in other states and countries. Many are walking the same journey at this exact moment. To quote Kim again (she’s good at this, obv):

However you’ve come to join this community—infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, interrupted adoption, or other form of desire unfulfilled, may I offer you a very sorrowful welcome? What I’d really like to do is come over to your house, wrap you up in the coziest blanket you own, pour you an inappropriately large glass of wine (if wine isn’t your thing, please have mercy on us both and substitute “hot tea” wherever I mention it), and just sit.

Yes, that.

To those who are walking alongside us: I know that down the road when/if we become parents by whatever means we’re able, I’ll likely have thrown the journey aside for the prize, and God’s work is evident in the journey, whatever the outcome. If we’re never able to become any kind of parent in any way, or if 3 weeks from now, you find me rolling on the floor eating a sleeve of Oreos, you’ll be able to point me back on track with my own words. At least it’s documented.

God has protected our hearts, and save for just a few of moments of despair, we are hopeful.

A couple of months ago, my mom posted this status on Facebook, and here was my brother’s response (If you don’t have a funny brother, go out and get yourself one):

What are some ways YOU guard your heart? “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. (Proverbs 4:23 NLT)

Bryan Wilson Flak-Vest with kevlar plates in them………and my Jesus Chain

Brooke Hartman I usually just check the weather radar and stock up on water and canned goods. Sometimes I sit on my heart’s porch with a shotgun, though.

Bryan Wilson You mean, you haven’t heard of the Heartometer 3000….ADT sells them in a package deal with your home alarm system..It comes with a little heart pendant to wear on your shirt to let people know you are “protected”.

Trisha McInnis Sellers You guys are brats and you’re probably going to hell for making fun of your mother

Bryan Wilson You should have picked up the Heartometer 3000 or invested in a vest…you might not have been offended by this!!

Brooke Hartman Mom, obviously your heart is exposed. Guard that thing!

Bryan Wilson Brooke, can you check your warranty paperwork…I think it also cover “not going to hell”….but I’m not sure???

Brooke Hartman My agent is Jesus. I’ll just ask him. He said yes. Policy is good for life. And death. Boom.

Bryan Wilson Mom….we can save you 15% or more on heart protection…Just make the switch – it’s so easy a Brandon Wilson can do it!

So here we are: piled under flak vests with kevlar plates, Bry’s Jesus chain, a shotgun on my heart’s porch, the Heartometer 3000, warm cozy blankets and large glasses of wine, and cross-country hopes and prayers from friends and family. J and I are wrapped in love, hope, and a pretty solid dose of laughter.

In some supernatural way, God has made us glad. Thanks, God. Thanks, friends.

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Hark! What shoe through yonder window breaks?

I am home! SJP is a little damp, but still fantastic.

It took 5 years to unload my car because of this:

Parking spot on fourth floor
Adorn myself with bags and tubs
Take elevator to second floor
Cross skybridge
Wobble through the hospital
Cross skybridge
Up elevator to third floor
Drag myself down the hall
Unlock apartment
Drop load.
Repeat.

Everything I own. One armful at a time.

By the time I was finished, it was 6:00 and The Hills was on—an excellent and surprising turn of events! I really needed groceries, but decided (in light of Audrina’s birthday party in Vegas) to put off grocery shopping until tomorrow. I could totally make do with these ingredients in my kitchen: oatmeal, shells, butter, and Diet Coke. Easy. I made shells and butter for dinner and had oatmeal for dessert.

Unfortunately, that held for only 20 minutes and what I really wanted was Double Stuffed Oreos, wine and milk for the morning. When Sprinky told me this exact same episode was re-airing tomorrow, I was out the door.

Right away, I noticed something different on Canal. People were already out on Bourbon St. and you could already hear Jazz, and it was only 6:30pm. Usually things are quiet until about 9:30. After 10, there’s a band on every corner. But 6:30? Unheard of.

(You should have seen me and Sprinky cruising around at 8pm when I first got here looking for all this so-called jazz and crazy nightlife…)

Then I remembered the curfew in still in place, and I understood that people were just getting everything in before dark. It’s like the whole pattern of nightlife was picked up and dropped off about 4 hours earlier. They must have gotten started at 2 in the afternoon! I decided curfew was just how I liked this city: a little food, a little jazz, a few drinks, some dancing—in bed by 10.

Bad news for early evening grocery runs, though. Everything closed at 5. And everything else closed at 6. Gas stations, Wal-mart, Whole Foods, Walgreens—everything. On top of that, National Guard troops were posted down every possible side street you could think to try—with their scary guns and big tanks and camoflauged hummers. I felt like they might not understand my late-night Oreo run as a matter of importance.

So I turned around. Dusk closed in. Street bands packed up their instruments. The city was a ghost town by 7 and it was dark by the time I made it back up to the 4th floor of the parking garage. No Oreos. No Hills. Only noodles. Oh, and a bag of peanut M&Ms from the vending machine: a well-balanced meal before my VERY important first day of school tomorrow.

PS: Hark! What shoe through yonder window breaks? The mustard mary-jane pair: my brand new school shoes that can FINALLY be worn tomorrow!

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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.

Week Twelve: SOS

I’m drowning in Fruit Loops and America’s Next Top Model.

It’s killing me, literally. I may have turned diabetic this week for lack of self-control and the abundance of Oreos and Milano cookies. I turned down lunch at the Indian buffet today, because yesterday I ate my weight in cheesy potatoes and didn’t think I could be trusted at a buffet.

Also, I spent 5 hours in the eye-shadow section at Ulta and tried to buy shampoo a few times with a 20% off coupon and finally settled on the Paul Mitchell Color Care line with a buy 2 get 1 free option, but gave up after not being able to pick the third product.

I guess you could say I am overwhelmed with the overabundance of food and hair product options.

After a complete meltdown on Sunday, it took a full 24 hours to figure out what was really going on.

Here it is: There are holes in my life that can’t be filled with Paul Mitchell Color Care Detangling Conditioner or cheesy potatoes, even though I am thankful for those things and love them with all my heart on a normal day.

I have come to the sad realization that we have everything backwards.

I was upset on Sunday because my family jumped through hoops to get to the right church (out of hundreds in the city) at the right time (out of 8 services) to meet my brother and sister-in-law, who didn’t even show up or call to tell us they weren’t coming.

In Santa Familia there is one church with one service, and your brother lives 5 houses down. Not everyone has cars. Most people just walk. And if Antonia doesn’t show up, Father Foley goes to her house for lunch—just to make sure everything is okay. Most people go to church if only to make sure Father Foley doesn’t show up for lunch.

As I settled in on Sunday afternoon with my bag of Oreos and the Disney Channel (don’t judge), I understood that no matter how many cereals I can choose from, or how many Salon Style conditioners I get to use, no matter how great it feels to drive around 8-lane highways in my shiny SUV, passing two malls and 15 Starbucks, I will never have the quality of life I had in the village for those short few months.

My entire family will never live on one street; I’ll never be within walking distance from everyone I’ve ever known; my best friends are not my cousins or my nieces or my back-door neighbors.

Kids there have 15 moms and 15 dads—aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends. It was so cute to watch David’s eight-year-old son curl up in Imanuel or Ricardo’s lap, and to watch Juliet be passed around the church from aunt to aunt to cousin to cousin (though it was sort of embarrassing when she woke up while I was holding her, took one look at me, and wailed like she had been abandoned at the local homeless shelter).

I’ll probably never speak 3 languages or enjoy a fresh orange or a chocolate-chip ice cream cone as meaningfully and effortlessly as I did with Inez and Frances— though my cherished single-dip cones on the curb of Ben & Jerry’s and Baskin Robbins with Bec and Sprinky rival.

But that’s my point. Happy, simple meaningful moments are rare and hard to come by here, which is why they are etched into my memory and logged as happy places for me. It was never about the ice cream (except that one year when they had Chocolate Oddessy 2001). It was 20 uninterrupted minutes on the curb with my good friends.

In the village, moments like that happened all the time. Nobody had anywhere to rush off to. My time there was a thousand simple, meaningful moments strung together into days and weeks. One of my favorite memories will always be that half-an-hour between dusk and total darkness when Inez and I would walk to the shop for an ice cream or a snickers or in search of hard-to-find flour. It was just nice to be with her, and to not have anything else to do but walk around together.

Now I have no choice but to settle for The GAP and America’s Next Top Model in lieu of everything my heart really wants—community, an entire Sunday afternoon with all my friends and family in one place (can you even imagine it—all your best friends and family together in one location, for LIFE?)

My friends and I used to joke about living in a commune.

In the village, they have that. They have community. Not as a concept or a small-group idea. But as their actual life.

We have water, Tyra Banks, paved roads, Fruit Loops and Paul Mitchell.

(And we think we’re the lucky ones.)

I agree: in some ways, we’re privileged. I feel blessed to live where I live with the opportunities that have been given to me. Even after village life, I don’t feel guilty for loving Target. Or TV. Or the mall. But more than privileged, I would argue that, mostly, we’re distracted. And I sort of feel sorry for us. I think we are distracted in order to not be depressed.

For example. On Sunday, when family plans fell through, I got my tall-nonfat-sugar-free-caramel-macchiato, sat down with a handful of Oreos and the Disney Channel (don’t judge), periodically checked my Macbook for emails, and when there were no emails, I downloaded new songs on iTunes.

So I enjoyed a day of first world conveniences. But only as a filler for what I really wanted, which was to hang out with my brother, or chat with friends, or, in the deepest part of my heart, be celebrating Easter with everyone in Santa Familia.

Moments:

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“Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good.”

For Good
Steven Schwartz