Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Technology Trifecta

I may be getting a little too tech-y for my own good.

For the record, even though it looks like it in this picture, I'm not an Apple snob. My first laptop, a gift from my parents five years ago, was an iMac. I LOVED it, mostly because Apple designs are easy for people like me - who aren't actually all that tech-y - to use. And because I loved my iMac, I went with an iPhone when Tom finally convinced me to join the 21st century and trade in my old-school cell phone for a smart phone. (I'm always a little behind new waves of technology - I recall telling a few friends during my freshman year of college that I wasn't going to worry about learning to email because I was pretty sure it wouldn't catch on.)

And now, my beloved first iMac is knocking at death's door. Only one program can be open at a time, the battery is completely shot, the power cord only works about 50% of the time, and I celebrated two birthdays in the time it took for my last batch of pictures to upload. It was necessary to purchase a new computer before the old one died, and I decided to stay with the familiar. You know, since I don't like change.

I'm thrilled to report that my new best friend and I are already very happy together.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I don't like change, EXCEPT when it comes to my hair.

As a little girl I had long, blond hair. I loved my hair so much that I would start panicking DAYS before getting trims because I feared my mom would accidentally cut off too much. (She never did, and she continued to cut my hair until I went off to college. I literally didn't sit in a salon chair until I was 18-years-old.)

My first short hair style, when I was about 17, was an accident. I asked my mom to add layers while also trimming off a few inches, and as it turned out, we had very different pictures in our heads of what layers were supposed to look like. So while my hair actually looked really nice when she was finished (I grew to like it and my friends thought it was cute from the get-go), I FREAKED out when I first looked in the mirror. I cried and cried and when I was done crying I raided my closet for hats because I just knew I'd have to cover my head until my hair grew back. After apologizing profusely, my mom stated publicly that she would no longer cut her daughters' hair.

Like I said, I grew to like - even love - my short hair style, and at the risk of sounding a bit cliche, it opened up a whole new world for me. I realized - a little late in the game, I know - that HAIR GROWS OUT. And that hair color CAN BE CHANGED. And so began my love of changing my hair.

We're not talking red mohawks or green perms here, but over the last 14 years I've had almost every length of hair possible, and have lightened and darkened my hair color multiple times. Then nine or so years ago I learned about hair donation and decided I wanted to give that a try. It takes years to grow hair long enough for a donation, so there's quite a bit of commitment required.

I chopped my hair after our wedding,

right after Will was born,

and on my 30th birthday.

You can see from the pictures above that my hair is often a shade of dark blond, however I've gone brunette as well. (I actually loved this color, and plan to revisit it in a year or so.)

And then last week, I took the plunge once again - multiple inches of my hair are in an envelope on my kitchen counter (a little gross, I know), ready to be dropped off at the post office.

I've made four hair donations, and because it takes six donations to make one wig, I can now proudly say that I've now donated more half a wig. And my head is a whole lot lighter!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


"You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the play and the opera, and grace before the concert and pantomine, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing; and grace before I dip the pen in the ink."

~ GK Chesterton

In our family we regularly say grace, or a short prayer of thanks to God, before we sit down to dinner. But today, taking my lead from Chesterton, I will also say grace before I climb out of bed; hug my kids; savor my morning cup of coffee; watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade; play in the backyard and ride bikes with my kids; walk leisurely through the neighborhood, hand-in-hand with my husband; enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with my family; and read books to my kids before tucking them into bed.

This year on Thanksgiving I will slow down, appreciate my wonderful friends and family, and celebrate the gifts I've been given by saying grace.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,


Thanks, Leslie, for posting this quote a few weeks ago!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Red Cross Blog Post: Happy Thanksgiving! (And Thankful Wednesday)

This week's Red Cross blog post goes into detail about a few Red Cross-specific people and experiences for which I'm thankful, and calls others to do the same by posting on the National American Red Cross Facebook page or in the Comments Section of the post. Come on over!

And here are a few more - somewhat random - things I'm pretty darn thankful for today:

I'm thankful for my thunderstorm birthday gift from Mother Nature, even though I actually asked for a snowstorm.

I'm thankful for (one of) my birthday gift from Tom: a morning off from breakfast and preschool drop-off duty so I could take an early class at the gym and then drive out to the Student Bonfire site (more on that next week).

I'm thankful for cloudy skies and a day cool enough to actually enjoy my Caramel Apple Spice.

I'm thankful the exclamation "Surprise! I secretly made this for you with craft glue, a hole punch, and purple glitter!" didn't create the large-scale mess I at first envisioned.

I'm thankful the statement "Uh oh. I pooped in my unnerwears." was a false one.

I'm thankful the nativity scene my mother-in-law sent the kids could actually withstand kids, and that Gorilla Glue fixed the Batman ornament that couldn't.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Red Cross Blog Post: Computer Games - Not Just for Wasting Time!

Last week's Red Cross blog post went up a little late, so I'm a full week late in posting a link to it. Perhaps that's a good thing though, because you'll probably have a little free time this week and can you use it playing Red Cross computer games!

Thankful Tuesday

Today is my birthday.

I'm thankful for the 33 years I've lived, the eight years I've been a wife, and the five years I've been a mother.

I'm thankful for the husband by my side and the children under my feet.

I'm thankful for the parents and sister who have loved and supported me from the beginning.

I'm thankful for the parents-, brothers-, and sisters-in-law who have loved and supported me since the day I joined their family.

I'm thankful for the friends who may as well be family.

I'm thankful for my health, my home, and my faith.

I'm thankful for another day, and pray for another year of this great life.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thankful Monday

I'm thankful for my son's intense and never-ceasing curiosity about the world around him. In the last week I've been asked about and then explained to him the following:

- School Zone speed limits
- Candidates, elections, and voting
- The concept of "defying gravity"
- Native American hunting attire
- "Singing the blues"
- Sewer systems
- Headlights, taillights, and brake lights
- The Force
- Single elimination in NCAA tournament brackets
- The various spellings and meanings of we/wee/whee/wii and know/no

And I'm thankful that I've been able to come up with answers that, while perhaps not 100% correct (my knowledge of sewer systems comes only from a Magic School Bus children's book, and I'm pretty clueless when it comes to The Force), my inquisitive five-year-old deemed acceptable.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thankful Sunday

I'm thankful that only two shoppers heard me singing the following (original) song to my potty-training daughter in the Target restroom last week.

(Sung to the tune of Little Bunny Foo Foo)
Sittin' on the potty, in the Target bathroom.
Waitin' for the poop to come out of my butt.

I've even more thankful that after 17 minutes (which may not seem like a long time, but when you're squatting in front of a public toilet AND holding a 21 lb. toddler up so her teeny tiny butt doesn't slip through the toilet seat AND singing the previously-mentioned song, 17 minutes parallels a cross-country road trip in length), our waiting paid off.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tradition: Bonfire Memorial

When Bonfire collapsed at 2:42am on November 18th, 1999, more than 5,000 logs stacked 40 feet high came down on and around the 58 people working on the structure at that moment. 12 Aggies (11 students and one alumni) were killed, and 27 others were injured, some very severely.

Rescuing and recovering those trapped in the heap was a painfully slow and difficult task, as it was determined that removing the fallen logs manually was the safest route to take. The Texas Task Force 1 (the state’s elite emergency rescue team), the ENTIRE football team, and many members of the Corps arrived in the middle of the night to help as the Civil Engineering Department determined – in what sounds like a horrible game of Jenga – which logs could be removed and in what order they should be removed to give those still alive the best chance of survival and to keep the structure from collapsing further.

While a commission created by TAMU sited “excessive internal stresses on the logs and inadequate containment strength in the wiring” as the primary cause of the collapse, many also blamed school administrators for turning a blind eye – in the name of tradition – on an “unsafe structure being constructed with minimal engineering and safety protocols”. There were also claims of alcohol use/abuse at the site, as well as unsafe horseplay on the structure.

All that being said, focusing on what went wrong is not all that important anymore, especially because Bonfire no longer exists as it once did, and the Student Bonfire replacement is held to much more rigid safety and conduct standards. Focusing on recovery and honoring those who lost their lives is much more important, hence the memorial.

The Bonfire Memorial was completed in 2004 on the site of the accident. You enter the memorial through Tradition Plaza, meant to inspire reflection on Aggie traditions.

Aggie Spirit

Twelfth Man

Next you enter the History Walk, which consists of 89 stones representing the first 89 years of Bonfire. There are gaps in the 89-year timeline to mark the 1963 Bonfire (which was dismantled instead of burned to show respect for and honor John F. Kennedy after his assassination) and the three previous Bonfire-related deaths.

Finally you arrive in the Spirit Ring, which surrounds the site of the collapse and “represents the spirit that brought the students together.” Twelve large rectangular openings, one for each of the fallen students, are built into the ring. Each student’s opening is oriented toward their hometown, and is engraved on the inside with the student’s name, signature, face, and either quotes or stories about their life. The ring itself is built out of 27 stones, each one representing one of the 27 students injured when Bonfire collapsed. The center of the Spirit Ring is marked with an engraved stone, where many visitors to the memorial often leave flowers, coins, and mementos.

We obviously didn’t live in Texas, nor had I even heard of Bonfire, when this tragic accident occurred. But after a couple of days spent researching the tradition and recalling my visit to the memorial back in April, I feel as though I understand the Aggie spirit a bit more than I did before and am hopeful I will be able to witness that spirit firsthand at Student Bonfire in a couple of weeks.

To those who passed away twelve years ago today, rest in peace.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tradition: Bonfire

According to the 1947 Corps of Cadets Handbook, Bonfire at Texas A&M University represented the “undying flame of love that every loyal Aggie carries in his heart for the school”, as well as the students’ “burning desire to beat the hell outta TU”. (TU, or Texas University, is a derogatory term referring to the University of Texas.)

The long-standing tradition of Bonfire began on November 18th, 1907 as a burning pile wood and trash meant to welcome the recently-victorious TAMU football team back to town. (I might prefer a “Congratulations!” banner, rather than a smelly pile of burning garbage, as a welcome home present, but that’s just me…) Within a decade Bonfire developed into an annual and much-loved tradition, always burning the night before the TAMU vs. TU football game.

In 1936, Bonfire became a school-sponsored event (TAMU started providing equipment and designating locations for tree removal after farmers complained about their equipment, trees, and even barns “disappearing” in the days leading up to Bonfire), and in 1942, students “upgraded” Bonfire from a pile of wood/debris to a teepee-style structure. This adjustment allowed students to grow Bonfire from around 25 feet to an impressive 109 feet in 1969. The 1969 Bonfire was the largest bonfire ever constructed and earned itself a place in the 1970 Guiness Book of World Records.

In 1978, Bonfire upgraded again, this time from its teepee design to the wedding cake (tiered) design associated with Bonfire today. The structure was built around a central pole, and upper stacks of logs were wedged on top of lower stacks of logs.

Impressive, right?

Members of the Corps built Bonfire until 1965, when serving on the Bonfire leadership team was made available to the general student population. In the years that followed, an elaborate organizational leadership system, led by nine seniors and nine juniors known as “redpots” (they wore red hats), was created. Interestingly, no official documentation associated with the design and building of Bonfire was kept; senior leadership passed their knowledge to junior leadership orally, and when juniors became seniors, they did the same with the new junior leadership.

Note: Texas Governer Rick Perry, in addition to being a Yell Leader, was also a redpot.

In 1991, Aggie Replant – an environmentally-focused service day, during which students plant trees to replace the ones cut down for Bonfire – began, and the tradition continues today.

As I mentioned above, Bonfire has roots in and ties to the rivalry between TAMU and TU. Over the years, TU attempted to the destroy Bonfire mid-build or light Bonfire before its official lighting multiple times. Planes dropped fire bombs on the site, remote control vehicles carrying explosives were driven into the structure, and actual bombs were launched from afar. One year, a plane carrying explosives intended for Bonfire had to make an emergency/crash landing at the College Station airport; the next year the wooden parts of the plane found themselves in Bonfire. ☺

Most of what has been written about Bonfire at least mentions the safety precautions taken during Bonfire builds and burns. Nearby campus buildings were equipped with rooftop sprinkler systems. Only 70 students were allowed to work on the stack (and by on the stack I mean ON the stack, many stories up in the air, placing and securing logs) at one time, and only students were had been safety-trained could work at the burn site and on the stack. Additionally, both EMTs and volunteer professionals (engineers, machine operators, etc.) were onsite at all times.

Since it’s inception in 1907, Bonfire did not burn just twice. The first was in 1963, when Bonfire leadership made the difficult decision to completely dismantle the already-assembled Bonfire to honor President John F. Kennedy after his assassination. Head Yell Leader at the time, Mike Marlowe, was quoted as saying, “It is the most we have and the least we can give.” The second was in 1999, 92 years to the day of the first Bonfire, when the stack collapsed at 2:42am, tragically killing 12 Aggies (11 students and one alumni) and injuring 27 others.

After the terrible accident in 1999, Bonfire ceased until 2002, when a student-sponsored coalition constructed an unsanctioned, off-campus student bonfire called the Unity Project. In the 2003 the Unity Project was renamed “Student Bonfire”, and this alternative to the original Bonfire still burns annually during the week before the TAMU vs. TU football game. This year the Student Bonfire will burn on my birthday, and I'm pretty sure checking out this feat of engineering and representation of the Aggie Spirit is what I'd like to do that evening.

A powerful memorial was build on the site of the 1999 accident, and on Friday - which is November 18th and the 12th anniversary of the collapse - I will share my experience of and photos from visiting the memorial a few months ago.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Oh Fall, How I Miss You So...

Everyone has a favorite season. Most people I've asked enjoy summer above all others, but spring came in a close second. Finishing a distant third was fall, and an even more distant fourth/last was winter. (My informal poll involved questioning those I see on a regular basis why they live in this sauna of a state...I'm willing to admit my results MAY be a bit biased.)

My favorite season, without question, is fall, for a whole slew of reasons:

- College and professional football and tailgating. Especially when my teams are winning. (Which my Green Bay Packers are, and my Hawkeyes are not, at least not enough to satisfy me.)

- New and old-but-returning-with-new-episodes television shows. From the moment season finales wrap in May I start counting down the days until my "friends" return in the fall. Unfortunately I have pretty bad taste in television shows and many I come to enjoy one year don't return the next. Flash Forward and The Event are recent examples - I lie awake at night wondering how these shows would have ended.

- Caramel Apple Spices. Starbucks actually makes this drink year-round (though it used to be a fall-only special), but I only allow myself to indulge in its thick, rich deliciousness in October, November, and December. And sometimes January.

- Pumpkins. I love decorating with and carving pumpkins, but I love devouring all things made with pumpkin - bread, muffins, cake, Dairy Queen Blizzards - even more. The pumpkin shortage of 2010 (what's that you say? You didn't know there was a pumpkin shortage last year? I assure you, there was - not a can could be found in grocery stores across the country) was rough on me, and I plan to make up for the lack of pumpkin baked goods in 2010 by baking up a pumpkin storm this holiday season.

- Apple picking. Our favorite apple orchard in Michigan was a bit of a cliche, but in a good way. It offered everything you'd expect and hope to find at an apple orchard: apple trees of course, but also a pumpkin patch, berry patches, and warm apple cider and (the most amazing) donuts for sale. The orchard wasn't commercialized like so many these days, but was instead simple and organic.

- The colors. Recent trips to Iowa and Illinois reminded me what Texas is missing, at least color-wise, during the fall season. The fiery red, brilliant orange, and warm, golden yellow leaves that define fall in the Midwest were everywhere I looked, and their beauty brought tears to my eyes.

- Will's birthday. Will's birthday marks another year of life for him, but it also marks the anniversary of when I became a mother.

- Halloween. If I didn't already love Halloween for its cupcakes, candy, and costumes, I'd certainly love it now, after trick-or-treating with my kids and listening to Will yell, "THIS IS JUST SO MUCH FUN!!!!!" over and over and over again for nearly an hour.

- Chicago. Every fall for the last 10 years my mom, sister, and I have met in Chicago for a girls' weekend of shopping, sight-seeing, and shows. I look forward to this weekend away all year, and I always return home feeling more connected to my mom and sister and rejuvenated as a wife and mother.

- Thanksgiving. When I was younger I wasn't a big fan of Thanksgiving. Every seven or so years my birthday and Thanksgiving fall on the same day, and as a child I couldn't stand having to share my special day with everyone else. Now I love when Thanksgiving and my birthday overlap - Tom and I don't have to work and the kids don't have school so we're all on vacation, and we usually spend the weekend with one side of our extended families. Not to mention the football games and pumpkin baked-good eating that goes on.

- My birthday. I'm approaching my mid-30's (when do the "mid" 30's officially begin? Will I be in my mid-30's at 33 or 34? Please weigh in) though, so I expect to look forward to my birthday less and less in the years to come.

- Christmas festivities. Some people find the red and green twinkly lights and sparkly decorations; continuously-streaming Christmas music; and frantic, last-minute shoppers a little on the annoying side. I, however, love the excitement and anticipation leading up to Christmas. I'm cheesy like that; I truly believe that Disney World is the "Happiest Place on Earth" and the Christmas season is the "Most Wonderful Time of the Year".

- And last but not least, the cool, crisp fall weather. Oh how I miss you, sweaters and jeans. I long to slide Smart Wool socks on over my cold feet and cuddle on the couch in my fuzzy bathrobe. I wish we could play outside all afternoon (without sweating), and then enjoy a cup of hot apple cider in front of a roaring fire while a cool-turned-cold night wind rattles the windows. But alas, these things are not to be. As I type I'm wearing shorts and a tank top, having spent the morning sweating at the park with Tom and the kids. Our air conditioning is running, and will have to run through the night. Oh, and I gave most of my sweaters to my sister, who lives in Illinois; packed up my Smart Wool socks for our next garage sale; and traded in my fuzzy bathrobe for a lightweight one.

Even though it's technically fall - and we're watching football; enjoying new television shows; decorating and baking with pumpkins; celebrating Will's birthday, Halloween, my birthday, and Thanksgiving; and getting ready for Christmas - it just doesn't FEEL like fall without the cool weather and changing scenery. Those of you who've transplanted from the Midwest (or anywhere that has an actual fall season) to a warmer location, does it ever get easier?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Night Lights, Take 2

After such a memorable Friday night experience at the Consolidated vs. Bryan high school football game, we decided another Friday night out was on the cards. This time though, we went to the TAMU vs. Drake University (which is in the great state of Iowa, incidentally) women's soccer game.

I grew up attending the University of Wisconsin women's soccer games. I knew many of the UW players and coaches from soccer camps I attended and many of the fans from my own club and high school soccer teams. Most of the fans were, like me, young girls who loved soccer and needed to see the sport played at a higher level in order to dream of playing at that level themselves. (I decided not to play soccer in college, mainly because I wanted to go to a larger - Division 1 - school, and the only schools that pursued and/or offered me money to play were Division 2 and 3.)

The best part about attending these soccer games was that I almost always went with my dad. Even when we didn't sit together (there were times my sister and I would run off with our friends and my dad would sit with other parents and his soccer fan friends), we were THERE together. It was our "thing", and still is, whenever we can make it happen.

The TAMU game was a little different than the games we attended at UW. The TAMU women's soccer facilities - which include stadium seating, a press box, a huge and informative scoreboard, a gigantic screen on which live action and replays are shown, actual bathrooms, and a concessions building - are brand new and top-of-the-line, at least as far as women's soccer is concerned. (The UW facilities, if you can even call them facilities, are anything but new and top-of-the-line - the team has an acceptable field but nothing else.)

A view of the field, the stadium seating, and Will's friend Ian's dad.  (Ian's dad, Coach Paul, helps out with Will and Ian's soccer team and is also the strength and conditioning coach for the Aggie women.  He's wearing a black shirt and khaki shorts and standing on the sideline.)

The stadium has lights for night games.

The fancy scoreboard just as the Aggies scored their second goal.

The fans are enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and they come out in droves to support their Aggie Women - there were 4,300 people in attendance that Friday night. (I remember crowds of a couple hundred back when I attended UW games and my dad says the numbers haven't risen much since then.)

The Yell Leaders attended the game and led the fans through 25+ cheers and songs throughout the game. (I don't recall ever seeing a cheerleader at a UW women's soccer game.)

The Drum Line played nearly every minute that the Yell Leaders weren't leading cheers, which I at first thought would be kind of annoying but actually ended up being pretty cool.

Incredibly, all four of us made it through the entire game - that's 30 minutes of pre-game, 90 minutes of soccer, and a 20-minute half time for a total of 140 minutes spent at a sporting event. Being close to the field, lots of action on the field, good concessions, real bathrooms, and great October evening weather combined for a fabulous night out.

Lil' Aggie

Proof I was at the game!  (There are rarely any pictures of me. 
 It's a shame the one picture of me that night isn't a very good one.)

The only proof I have that Tom was at the game is this picture of his 
Strawberry-Shortcake-Bandaid-wearing arm. That's right, people, he rocks 
Strawberry Shortcake Band-aids. They smell delicious.

Friday nights are quickly becoming my favorite part of the week.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Honoring Our Veterans

This week's Red Cross blog post recognizes the tremendous contributions of our country's veterans. Please stop on over to read about how you can honor those who bravely and generously served our country through membership in the Armed Forces beyond just saying "thank you". (Saying "thank you" is of course important, but there's more we can do!)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Donkey Whisperer

As I've mentioned before, I will always stay fairly far away from politics on this here blog. I'm not a big fan of all the arguing, finger-pointing, and taking sides that comes with politics, nor do I have any interest in trying to convince people to vote like I do/will, so it makes perfect sense for me to avoid the topic/category whenever possible.

I am, however, a big fan of clever advertising, so while this advertisement is in fact a political ad, I think it's too funny and clever not to share.

Roger Williams, a Republican, is running for Congress in Texas. As the quote accompanying this video on The Hayride says, "He's got a sense of humor. But Democrats probably won't like him."

My sense of humor found this guy pretty funny.

Monday, November 7, 2011

100 Down...

Moving to Texas was a shock to my system. New city, new house, new family schedules, no job outside the home. I was busy (taking care of the kids, unpacking into our rental house, searching for a more permanent house, etc.), but I needed more structure and direction.

I found both when I started writing Midwestern Girl. It didn't matter if anyone ever read what I wrote (though I've now discovered that the whole process is a lot more fun when people DO read and follow and occasionally comment on what I write); documenting our family's experiences, on both Wiggles and Midwestern Girl, made me feel like I was contributing - in a small way - to the success and strength of relationships within our immediate and extended families.

I figured I'd give it a few months, then reassess to decide if blogging was really a worthwhile way to spend my time. Now, today, after 100 Midwestern Girl posts and a brief reassessment, I've decided I'm in.

Let's be honest - I'm not making any money. And that's alright, because I'm not blogging to make money. But because I'm not making any money, the benefits associated with blogging need to be pretty significant in order for me to justify spending 7-10 hours a week on writing and photographing for Wiggles, Midwestern Girl, and the Red Cross. Luckily for me, the benefits rock.

Blogging connects me to family members, friends, and networks of women, mothers, writers, and now Red Crossers in ways I could never have imagined. We live thousands of miles away from nearly all of our family members and close friends, and blogging allows me to share our children and experiences with those we love. Additionally I've found information, guidance, reassurance, and support through the blogs of other women, mothers, and writers who are working and/or playing in this crazy world of internet connectivity.

Blogging creates a beautiful - even when it's not - chronological picture of our lives.

- (IMO) Blogging tells a more accurate and truthful story than journaling, at least in my case. While I enjoy reading my journal entries from high school and college, the pictures these entries paint in my memory are never complete. I journaled frequently when I was in angry or sad (break-ups, friend troubles, family crises) but very little when life was good, so a quick skim through one of my journals reminds me only of the heartache - and not the joy - I experienced during a particular time period.

- (IMO) Blogging tells a more accurate and truthful story than baby books and scrapbooking. Both highlight only the cheerful moments and milestones reached, and are the opposite of journals (or at least my journals) which highlight the rocky roads traveled. I'm not all that interested in the "sugar-coated" version of life, and when my kids and I look back on their youth, I want the words they read, pictures they see, and videos they watch to be representative of their entire lives, not JUST the parts that were all sunshine and roses. Will should understand how difficult it was for him to join his first soccer team, and appreciate how terribly hard he had to work to learn how to swim. Hallie should read about how she used to destroy everything under the sun and know how we ALL struggled when she said goodbye to her sucker. Childhood can be joyful without being perfect, and I want to chronicle this beautiful and messy ride just as it played out.

Blogging adds depth to my days. I now look at and absorb my day-to-day experiences differently than I've done in the past, knowing that every encounter, conversation, and outing could turn into something more. My eyes and ears are more open to and appreciative of the world around me.

Blogging is a step - a small step, but a step none-the-less - in a new direction for me. For eight years I dedicated myself (professionally and in some ways personally as well) to the Red Cross. And while I'm still incredibly committed to the organization and its mission, as evidenced by my new partnership with the National American Red Cross blog, I know and have accepted that I will very likely never find what I had at the Ann Arbor Red Cross here in College Station. I'm not yet ready to define this new direction, but I am willing to say that writing here and for the Red Cross are baby steps down the path.

So like I said, the benefits rock and I'm in. For 100 more, 200 more, wherever this thing takes me. Thanks for reading, for following if you feel so inclined, and for your support.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Night Lights

"Friday Night Lights". I've not read the book, seen the movie, or watched the television show. Despite that, I'd created in my head a very clear picture of what the phrase meant, especially with regard to the high school football experience in the state of Texas. (And I'm not talking about the heavier issues - racism, drugs, etc. - addressed in the book and on the television series; I'm talking about the enthusiasm and support communities have for their high school football teams and players.)

Football is a big deal in Texas. A BIG deal. And College Station is no exception.

Every year the match-up between A&M Consolidated High School (College Station's high school) and neighboring town Bryan's High School is played at Kyle Field, the TAMU football stadium. Can you imagine what that night must be like for these high schoolers? Getting to play in the same stadium and on the same field as the Texas A&M football players they've likely looked up to and idolized for nearly all of their 18 years? I get shivers just thinking about it.

We'd heard this high school football game was one to see, so the four of us packed a bag of snacks, our jackets, and my camera; bought our tickets; and set out to see for ourselves what Friday Night Lights in College Station was all about.

The night delivered, in every way possible. High school football in Texas was exactly what I'd hoped it would and pictured it to be.

Bus after bus pulled into the parking lot carrying players, coaches, band members, 
cheerleaders, dance team members, and students to the big game.

As the sun set, the stadium lights came on.

We happened to be walking through the tunnel toward our seats when the Consolidated team exited their locker room and crossed the tunnel to the field. Will stood, mouth gaping, just feet from these already-exceptional athletes as Tom realized aloud that nearly every single player on the team was bigger than he was.

Gigantic high schoolers ready to take the field.  

Gigantic high schoolers headed into the tunnel at half time.

The stands were packed with students wearing team gear and covered in body paint; parents, families, and friends of players wearing booster club t-shirts and buttons with pictures of their kids' faces on them; and community members - like us - who didn't know a single kid on the field but were there to show their support and for for a fun evening of football.

The crowd roared (figuratively and literally, well, Hallie might have been the only fan literally roaring) as the Consolidated players ran onto the field through a gigantic, inflatable tiger. I can't recall seeing an entrance as impressive theirs at any other high school or college football game I've ever been to.

There were cheerleaders (no pictures of them - I'm not a big cheerleader fan), the Bengel Belles Drill Team (which Will called the Cowgirl Dancers),

a (somewhat mangy and kind of creepy) tiger mascot,

baton and flag twirlers, and an impressive marching band. (Equally impressive were the student conductors.)

The football itself was pretty good, though I wasn't able to watch as much of it as I would have liked because I was constantly explaining what was going on to Will and Hallie. And trying to keep Hallie from kicking the poor woman in front of us.

I have to mention, though it's a little bit mean and for that I apologize, the flag carriers for the Bryan High School Vikings. They had a few organizational problems that evening, and while I felt badly for them, it was really funny to watch them run the length of the field first with their flags in the wrong order, and then with the second half of the word not able to keep up.

What is supposed to read "V-I-K-E-S" actually reads "V-I-E-K-S".  Oops!

"K" couldn't keep up, so "V-I" is at one end of the field and "K-E-S" 
is at the other end.  Oops again!

We ended up staying through the entire first half and half time, which was about 30 minutes longer than I thought the kids would last. Turns out they enjoyed staying up late under the Friday Night Lights as much as I did.