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A different kind of Valentine's

People often seem to think that I am making up some of the stories I tell about Brandon. I am always talking about how he started the non profit and how he is now teaching at the local university and how we have more staff than we know what to do with because he likes hiring people. When you meet Brandon it is actually pretty easy to miss his sensitive side. He makes fun of people, he is highly opinionated and as we all agree, just a bit weird. I thought Brandon’s Valentine’s Day present to me shows the kind of person he is beneath the grumpy guy who hates being woken up and whose favorite hobby is getting kicked in the head. This is what Brandon values:

Hello my little valentines,

So what do you get the girl that has it all, what’s the one thing all women want…how about a bike repair business that supports a family of 9!!!! Yay!!!!

If you count the number in the photo you will see its only 8 because number 9 is on the way. And No, the girl in the front is not huge, she just is standing closer to the camera and on something higher than the rest. I am a bad photographer but I told them I needed photos because my wife was supporting them. They are very happy and just in the short time I was there did good business. For now the only round object I have for you doesn’t go around fingers, it goes around wheels. The man told me he tried to get everyone to loan him money but no one would give him a fair shot. His older kids go to school and help him when they finish classes. He told me that he thinks if he does well enough he will send his kids to learn English near his house. So there is the fact that a whole family is thankful that you are such a good wife and let me spend the money you work so hard to earn in crazy ways and….

The profits from your new business can all go to buying a huge ring. This gift truly is the gift that can keep on giving!!!!

Thanks for being such a fun wife and helping me sort out my crazy ideas and my ADD view of the world. Love you tons and wish you were here.

Love you,


So yes, for Valentine’s Day he gave me a bicycle repair shop that he has invested in. The owner needed more than our microfinance project allows so Brandon decided to make it his own personal project. He has a big heart and isn’t that what Valentines Day is all about? That and chocolate, but I can buy that for myself! Here is a photo of me with my repair shop partner…


Gavin, the rockstar.

It’s 3:00 in the morning, we’ve just finished the last leg of our 18 hour journey, we’ve landed in a foreign country, our minds are as disheveled as our bed head and Jet-lag has become a new four letter word. The thought of smiling was as foreign as the country we were now in – but that was all about to change. Waiting for our bags at the Bangkok Airport my soon to be 2 year old son Gavin had decided that the middle of the walkway was as good as a place to take a nap as any. While I was mortified and trying to maintain some sort of composure, an unusual thing happened. The local staff began surrounding us and smiling saying hello and asking “Can I take a picture?” . “Huh?” I asked. A sweet girl then said – “Of the baby.” I had to giggle, these people we all deeply entertained by my son and his choice to lay down on the floor. Not ten minutes after we had landed Gavin had acquired a fan base. The laughter began to uproar as soon as he realized that if he made a funny face or performed some sort of trick people would laugh. And this was just the start of our journey. Everywhere we went at least 5 people asked if they could take a picture or hold him. While at our hotel in Chiang Mai the girls there came just short of knocking on our room door and asking if Gavin could come out and play. As we drove up the entire staff would run to the van “Gavin!!” they cheered. He would then be whisked away and given candy and toys and delight as the girls all smiled and laughed when he’d perform one of his silly tricks. Not only was Gavin’s picture taken, and gifts were constantly bestowed upon him, he also received three surprise birthday parties! We had cake and candles in Cambodia, cake for breakfast in Krabi and cake for desert in Koh Lanta. Everywhere we went girls surrounded Gavin, I felt like Justin Timberlake’s mother (but much younger!) Now that we are back home Gavin can not quite understand why he can’t illicit the same attention while wandering through the market – although I think he’ll continue to try.


It’s all fun and games until the gecko eats the baby!

Living in Cambodia you get to love geckos: they eat mosquitoes, they are pretty cute and they make a cool sound that reminds you that your life is different. In fact, in our bedroom we have an accidental terrarium that I love. When they house was built at the top of each wall they built vents, areas for air to move in and out. When we took over the house we glassed these in so we could use the AC. The glass still lets out the light so at night bugs gather here and so do the geckos. It’s essentially an all you can eat buffet for geckos and we get some large gatherings sometimes. There are love affairs, fights, naps, in fact I often find myself ignoring the TV and instead watching the Gecko Soap Opera. Anyway, we had heard one particular gecko on our back balcony for a long time; he often made his chuck, chuck, chuck, ge-cko, ge-cko, sound while we were having drinks with guests. I had commented that he sounded big, but Brandon had laughed at me, saying it was just a gecko! Then one night, when Callie was about 3 months old I went in to check on her before bed. As I glanced around the room I saw a huge shape on the floor. Grabbing Callie I ran screaming from the room and into ours. Bursting in I screamed at Brandon that there was a crocodile in Callie’s room!

Brandon leapt out of bed and ran to see what I was talking about. His reaction might surprise you, most husbands would probably say I was imagining things and roll over, but you see the possibility of a crocodile in our house wasn’t as far fetched as it sounds because we lived next door to a crocodile farm. They raise them for meat and the skin in Cambodia, we actually have our own farm…but that’s another story). Anyway, though unlikely, it was not as improbable as in some of our past homes. Brandon rushed into Callie’s room and spotted the culprit, not a crocodile as it turns out, but rather our extremely large back balcony gecko. Turns out I had been right and it was big, huge in fact, the Godzilla of geckos! Brandon closed the door and headed off to fin reinforcements. My dad, who was visiting, was quickly drafted, and Brandon also rounded up our two nighttime security guards, Puan, a Cambodian kick boxer and tough guy and Samboon, who we affectionately referred to as Jungle Boy and could have weighed more than a buck ten with his clothes on. All four men (you are always a man when dealing with reptile or rodent issues) headed upstairs and opened the door to peek inside. The gecko still lay in the middle of the floor staring back at them. With a scream Puan turned and ran. Not just out of the room, but out of the room, down the stairs and out the front door, only stopping when he reached the end of our driveway and the main street. Having just lost his biggest “man” Brandon once again closes the door and goes to figure out why. Turns out Puan was deathly afraid of geckos and not even Brandon threatening his job could get him back into the house. Puan had thought he was being called upstairs for one of my regular spider or mouse requests, both of which he was happy to oblige, but a giant gecko was a whole other story. Down to three my dad, Samboon and Brandon went back in and cornered the beast before throwing a blanket over it before carrying it outside to freedom. I like to think that it was a bit Crocodile Hunteresque with Brandon holding the head down, my dad straddling the body and Samboon being whipped back and forth by a giant tail. They assure me that it was nothing like this, but I think they’re just being humble. The gecko was released in the back yard and we all went back to bed, but every now and then I still think I hear him and I keep the kids close!

Writers Note: Even gigantic geckos are not dangerous and no B&B guest has ever been harmed by one, we look forward to having you to stay =)