Monday, December 31, 2007

Poster child

Long after I stopped being a "young adult," I have continued to enjoy reading YA literature. Give me a good Lois Duncan or the latest volume of Princess Diaries, and I am quite happy.

One YA author whose work I have enjoyed over the years is Chris Crutcher. His books involve teenagers who are dealing with big problems, and there is usually a strong element of athletics interwoven in the plot.

Mike is currently working really hard on his 100-yard breaststroke and is hoping to take it to the state competition in February. He goes to practice with the team but also puts in a fair bit of his own time, whether by lifting weights in the basement or running with his dad. I'm really impressed at how dedicated he is, and I thought he might enjoy reading Crutcher's book STOTAN!, so I tucked a copy in his Christmas stocking.

Here's what Publisher's Weekly said about STOTAN!:
To be a Stotan (a cross between a Stoic and a Spartan) is to push one's physical and emotional capabilities beyond the limit, as four high school swimmers find out when they accept the challenge of a week-long endurance test devised by their coach. Though it is swim team captain Walker Dupree who narrates, this is every bit as much an ensemble novel as it is four individual stories. Each young man pursues a personal goal, but together the team pursues demons outside the group, ranging from an "anonymous" neo-Nazi association distributing offensive newspapers to the abusive father of one of the boys, who drives his son to suicide. But a demon bigger than any individual or group effort comes along when illness strikes one of these Stotan young men. Then the team finds out that you can't always make sense of everything, you can only go after it with your best shot. Crutcher has written an involving, realistic novel; though it deals with tough, unsolvable issues it is often leavened with humor.
Fast forward from Christmas to the swim meet last Thursday in Bowling Green . . .

I looked over and saw Mike, wet from his last event, listening to his tunes, and reading his book. I couldn't resist snapping a picture without him noticing:

I sent the picture to Chris Crutcher along with an email explaining how happy I was to be able to share my enjoyment of his writing with my son. I got back a nice note and a request for permission to post the picture on his website. I said sure, so now Mike is featured prominently at the top of the page. You should go over there now and check it out!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

LeavingLeft on a jet plane

Fred and I drove up to Louisville this afternoon to take Mike to the airport so that he could catch his plane to Tucson. He's going for a week to visit his friend Nick. He's so excited; I kept marveling that this can't be the same kid who cried at sleepovers in the second grade. That doesn't seem like that long ago, but he certainly didn't have any second thoughts as we bid him farewell at the security line:

After we deposited Mike at the airport, Fred and I went to do a little shopping. Apparently, the dress code for school next year is "business casual," and given that he spends most of his waking hours in uniform, Fred's business casual wardrobe leaves a fair bit to be desired. We have decided to work on it a little bit each month so that we don't get hit with a huge clothing bill at the last minute. So today we went to Kohl's and got him a camel hair blazer, a pair of dress pants, and a pair of blue jeans (not for school but just because he desperately needed them). We made a quick stop at the mall, where I ran into Sephora to get some makeup that I needed. The crowds were crazy, so we didn't stay long.

For supper, we decided to go to Lynn's Paradise Cafe, which I have been dying to try. Lynn's Paradise Cafe is a cool little spot near downtown with good food and funky decor. According to Esquire magazine (2002), it is "one of the four most fun restaurants in America." As we sat at our table, I kept noticing little touches, like the dinosaur on our table and the fake legs hanging out of the wall and the bottlecap mosaic. Fred had an omelet, and I had the potato pancakes with herbed goat cheese. All the food was great, and we will definitely be going there again!

Mike called while we were shopping at Whole Foods after supper to let us know that he had arrived in Chicago. I guess he's somewhere in the air between Chicago and Tucson now. I hope he has a great time!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Too stupid for my camera?

Did I mention that Fred gave me a new camera for Christmas? It's a beauty, the Panasonic DMC-TZ3. I took it to today's swim meet in Bowling Green and faced the learning curve. After being a Sony girl for over 3 years, it's going to take me a while to get used to some things, but I think in the long run, it's going to be perfect. Today though was not so perfect.

I started off by using the video feature to record Annabelle's 50-yard freestyle. Somehow though, as soon as I started recording I also pushed to stop recording. Therefore, at the end of the race when I pushed again, thinking I was stopping it, I was actually starting it, just in time to capture 12 breathtaking seconds of footage of ceiling, feet, and empty pool as I wandered back to the bleachers.

For her next race, a freestyle relay, I decided to experiment with the burst mode and shoot some stills. I took this picture, which I was quite please with (I'm not down-sizing any of the images in this post, so feel free to click and see the full-size version):

I admired it on my way back to the stands, where I found Fred cheering wildly for some girl in the pool. Who, I inquired, was that? Oh, just Annabelle. Yes, I had taken pictures of the WRONG KID! Everybody around Fred got a good laugh out of that.

Fortunately I also took this picture, thinking it was Annabelle gearing up for her dive, and you can see her cheering and waiting her turn:

I tried video again for Mike's 100-yard breaststroke, because he likes to be able to critique his form afterwards. First, I almost did a repeat of what I did when I tried to tape Annabelle, so I had to start the recording again shortly after his dive. I was a little disappointed in how jerky the quality was:

A practice clip that I shot in the heat before came out fine, so I think it was just a combination of shaky hands and being too close to his lane.

What was NOT disappointing was his performance in the race. He was seeded last in his heat, but he finished fourth. At 1 minute, 17 seconds, and change, he had managed to shave a couple seconds off his time and was ecstatic when he came out of the water:

I shot more stills in burst mode for the freestyle relay that followed immediately. I didn't get anything as good as I got of NOT Annabelle, but here's his dive, which I pulled out of this original photo:

I also managed to get this semi-close up out of this original photo:

It's nice but not as cool as the one I got of NOT Annabelle. Still, swim pictures are really hard, and these are better than any others I've ever taken before, so that is progress. It's a little demoralizing for me to have trouble with something I'm used to being pretty good at. I'll keep working with my new toy though (and maybe even read the instruction book), and I hope to have progressively better pictures to share here soon.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Metaphorically snowbound

We drove to Rochester on Monday afternoon and made it home without any major snags. Since then though, I have been playing whack-a-mole with duties and deadlines, smacking each one down only to see 2 more pop up in its place.

Christmas is kicking my rear end this year. Remember the cards I started working on back in mid-November? I am just now getting around to mailing them. I think my shopping is finally done, but there's still wrapping to be done and food to be bought, cooked, and consumed. I think I would enjoy Christmas more if it weren't an annual event.

Sometimes it startles me when I see myself in a Cathy cartoon, but this captures the essence of my Tuesday and Wednesday so perfectly:

I am going to have some non-holiday fun tonight though! My friend Angie and I have tickets to see the new "Sweeney Todd" film up in Louisville. On Halloween night, when Annabelle came running home to announce that one of the neighbors actually knew she was Mrs. Lovett without needing to be told--Angie is that neighbor. Should be fun!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Yup, definitely snowbound

Ah, home sweet Holiday Inn Express!

Fred and I went to the airport this afternoon to turn in the rental car, re-book our flight for tomorrow, then take the shuttle back to the hotel. Well, nobody at the counter would talk to us at first, as all they were "authorized" to do was "help" people use the do-it-yourself check-in kiosks. I called NW and was told yeah, I was free to rebook but everything tomorrow is full. Then there was a rumor (out of the NW people) that we would be flying this afternoon first to St. Louis and then to Detroit. Then (finally) the flight was cancelled. At that point, they handed out the emergency rebooking number, and I managed to renegotiate by phone. Fred re-rented a car, we got another room at the hotel, and we're flying out of Rochester tomorrow afternoon.

I'm am told that there was much squealing with delight at Maya's house when the girls were informed of the change of plans.

Let's hope the roads are clear between here and Rochester tomorrow. They were saying at the Northwest counter that nothing will be leaving Syracuse until Tuesday or Wednesday.


Greetings from snowy Syracuse, NY! We arrived on Friday, and Maya was waiting anxiously for Annabelle:

Fred and I turned Annabelle over to Maya and her mom for safekeeping for the weekend, grabbed our luggage and rental car, and headed 3 hours south to Split Rock Resort in Lake Harmony, PA. We got checked into our "room," which was actually an apartment with a huge whirlpool tub and a gas fireplace, and Fred taught his classes at the conference. We went out for dinner and then started anxiously watching the Weather Channel. We had been lucky in dodging Friday's bad weather and getting everyone where they needed to be, but Sunday (today) was looking dicey.

Fred hated to cut out early on the conference, although he was done teaching on Friday and our only real official event on Saturday was the big dinner. Still, they were predicting a buttload of bad weather for Sunday morning, and I asked him what he would tell one of his captains to do. He had to admit that in that case his advice would be to get the hell out of Dodge, so that's exactly what we did.

We traded our gas fireplace and whirpool tub for a quite acceptable room at the Holiday Inn Express at the Syracuse airport and waited for the bad weather to hit. Sometime around midnight it did indeed hit, snowing all night and then turning into the dreaded "wintery mix" (doesn't that sound like a Chrismas breakfast cereal? "I would like a bowl of wintery mix, please").

Annabelle is continuing to have a fantastic time across town with Maya, and I have to wonder if they didn't pretty much wish this snowstorm into existence. The universe is not equal apparently to the whims of determined 12-year-old girls.

Meanwhile, I'm playing weather detective and trying to figure the likelihood of us getting out of here, through Detroit (ha ha ha ha!), and back to Kentucky tonight. I wouldn't mind being stranded for an extra day too terribly much, although this certainly doesn't get my indexing project done or my Christmas cards and the rest of my Christmas presents sent. I just want to know NOW, not after I have the pleasure of hanging out at the Syracuse airport for hours on end and then stressing about the possibility of getting our hotel room again. Is that too much to ask?!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mental block

When we picked Ginger up from her breeder, one of the many extra items we were given was a nifty little folder with her shot record in it. I carried that folder back and forth to the vet's all last fall as she got the rest of her shots, but when it came time to board her for our trip to New York, the folder was nowhere to be found. At the last possible moment, I wound up having the vet fax a copy of the record to Fred at work, and that's what we took to the kennel as proof of immunization.

Fast forward to this year . . .

When I took her in for her shots this fall, I had the vet's office make me a new copy of her updated shot record since I knew we would be boarding her for a little weekend getaway we're leaving on tomorrow. Today though, when I was getting her stuff together in preparation for her stay at Doggy Camp (food? check. blanket? check. toys? check.), once again I couldn't find the stupid shot record! Fortunately, the kennel has a fax machine, so the vet was able to fax it directly out there.

What am I DOING with the shot records? Do I wander the house at night, tearing them up and burning the pieces? Our kennel is a very nice place, but I have to think maybe my subconscious mind is trying to avert us boarding her. Either that or the papers are buried somewhere on my desk.

We're off bright and early tomorrow morning for a fun weekend!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The weather is messing with me

It's 63 degrees out there right now, people! 63 degrees, and it's supposed to hit 68. We had days last week that didn't get out of the 30s, and they were so windy and nasty. But today is downright balmy! We have Fred's office holiday party today, and I'm wearing a sleeveless red sweater, jeans, and sandals. I'll take along a cardigan in case it's cold in the restaurant.

I know I should just enjoy it, but I'm looking at our highs for the rest of the week--51, 46, 44, 38--and I feel this sense of dread. Winter is coming for me. But right now it's playing with me.

I really need to live in a warm climate. This just isn't my natural habitat.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Every year at the holidays, Fred's unit has a door-decorating contest. This year Fred's office went for the sentimental vote. They decorated the wall around the door with pictures of deployed soldiers:

Adam, the son of Fred's deputy, played the part of a young boy dreaming of Daddy coming home from the war:

The office won the prize for Most Traditional:

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Freedom--so close I can almost taste it

This semester will be DONE soon. I'm currently sitting in my last class, waiting for the prof to post the final. My other class is over, and yesterday I turned in the paper that is due tomorrow. It has been a really good semester, but I'm dying to get on with vacation.

Oh, he's getting ready to post the test! Must go!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cinderella (and fella)

Here are a couple pictures from our formal last Saturday. This was taken at the beginning of the evening:

And this was taken later that night, after the official part of the evening concluded:

Fred is wearing a shirt I got him for Christmas but gave to him early. I told my friend Amy exactly what I wanted, and she had it made for him in Korea. Pretty cool, eh? A lot of the guys in Hawaii had shirts like this that they bought when they were TDY in Korea, and Fred always regretted that he hadn't bought one as well. No more regrets!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Why be a turkey . . .

. . . if you can be an Eagle? Here is Mike with the trophy he got tonight at the football/cheer banquet:

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Two parties and one near tragedy

Fred and I went up to Louisville last night for his office holiday ball. Then this afternoon, we were at the club here on post for the CG's holiday reception. We were just getting ready to leave the reception and blow off going to the commissary in favor of ordering pizza for supper when Fred got a message on his Blackberry that some friends of ours had been in a traffic accident back up in Louisville.

They got side-swiped by a semi, and their car is pretty much totaled. The dad stayed at the scene of the wreck waiting for the tow truck while the mom and 2 kids went ahead to the hospital in an ambulance. Finally, a cop took the dad to the hospital, and we met up with everybody there.

Fortunately, everybody is OK although definitely shaken up. Everybody got a good dusting with shattered glass, and the mom has a banged-up wrist. It's amazing though when you consider how very bad it could have been that things turned out as well as they did.

We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out in the ER and then took them home. Then Fred and I went through the BK drive-thru and brought home supper. I'm just signing on long enough to post this, because I have a date with "Desperate Houwewives" in a few minutes.

The parties were a blast; the accident, I think we could have all done without. Still, this was definitely one of those "best worst days of your life" situations. We're happy that our friends were so lucky!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Go, Team Orange!

I don't have much time, as Fred and I are getting ready to leave for our holiday party up in Louisville. It just didn't feel right though after a month of daily blogging not to "hug" my blog today.

I've been meaning for ages to mention that my cousin Laura's daughter Lauren is a contestant on the Discovery Kids show "Endurance: Fiji." It's kind of like "Survivor" for kids only without the extreme physical deprivation--probably because that would be child abuse.

I set my DVR to record the show when it first started several weeks ago, only to realize after the fact that my stupid cable package didn't include that channel. So I missed the first episode, although I was able to add the channel in time to tape a repeat showing. I never got around to watching though, so pretty soon I had about a half dozen episodes saved up. Last week, Annabelle and I sat down and had an "Endurance" marathon, and now we're caught up and totally hooked.

Normally the new episodes air on Saturday nights, but I notice that it's not on tonight. Next week, however, they're showing the first episode. I guess the show is on break for the holidays. At any rate, it's a perfect opportunity for you to get caught up if you're not already watching. Just make sure you cheer for the orange team!