Saturday, December 31, 2011

Red Cross Blog Post: New Year's Resolutions

This year I made a few Red Cross-specific New Year's Resolutions, which I've written about here. I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to actually commit to - and then write about - a couple of personal New Year's Resolutions...

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Year in Review

2011 was a year of significant change for our family. In January we left our lives in Ann Arbor, MI – our home of six years; many wonderful friends; our University of Michigan, Red Cross, and Vineyard “families”; and my job as the Director of Volunteer Resources at the Red Cross – and moved 1,291 miles away to College Station, TX.

The reason for our move was an exciting one though: on January 1st Tom joined the faculty at Texas A&M University as an Assistant Professor in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department. He works exceptionally hard – often harder than he worked during his last months of graduate school (I wouldn’t have thought that was even possible) – and while he might tell you he’s still trying to find his groove, I’m pretty darn proud of all he’s accomplished in less than a year. Tom’s free time, what little he has of it, is spent on the disc golf course or playing Wii with Will; reading books, making music, or dancing with Hallie; and helping me tackle projects around the house.

Will is somehow already five years old. (I’m lucky though, because while Will’s getting older, I remain the same youthful 27-year-old I was when he was born.) Wildly competitive and extremely driven, Will loves all sports but gravitates toward and is very good at soccer, golf, and disc golf. He plans to try basketball this winter and baseball next spring, but I’m not sure what to expect on the court and diamond given Will’s fear of catching balls… When not focused on sports, Will spends his time on Star Wars, super heroes, sword fighting, video games, Checkers (I expect he’ll be skilled enough to beat me in about two weeks), Memory (at which he can already beat me), math puzzles, and reading. On a good day – one when Will and Hallie aren’t trying to drive each other mad – Will especially enjoys reading to his little sister. While she sits on the potty. It’s a heart-warming but odd scene.

I have never feared my children growing up, but as Will approaches kindergarten (he missed the cut-off to start this fall by 33 days, much to his dismay), I’ve begun to wish, for the first time, for a way to slow the clock and keep my little boy a little boy for a little while longer.

Hallie is two AND A HALF, and is a beautifully complicated blend of – nope, not her parents – her two theatrical and musical aunts. She loves identifying numbers and counting, but prefers to do so while twirling through the living room in her tutu and ballet slippers while I quiz her from the couch. She loves reviewing the sounds and shapes of letters, but only if she can do so melodically or while painting and glittering them across heart-shaped pieces of pink construction paper. There is no doubt Hallie was born with a flare for the dramatic and a song in her heart.

2011 was a year of milestones for Hallie: she graduated from a crib to a big girl bed, traded her suckers (pacifiers) to the Sucker Fairy for a “peent jumping rope” (pink jump rope), and most recently, decided she was done with diapers. She does absolutely everything ALL BY HERSELF and when she’s good and ready, and she can’t be bribed with anything except donuts. But along with being ridiculously stubborn, Hallie is also extremely social, enthusiastic, diplomatic, and organized, all traits that will serve her well – as I’ve been told by three different teachers at two different schools – when she’s the President of the United States… Perhaps you’ll see my little spitfire’s name on the 2044 ballot. ☺

For the first time since I graduated college I am without a regular job outside the home. Despite that, I find myself busier than I’ve ever been, perhaps in part due to my newfound love of blogging at Wiggles and Midwestern Girl and for the National American Red Cross. When not at my computer, I can be found substitute teaching at the kids’ preschool; volunteering for the local Red Cross; assistant coaching Will’s soccer team; and shuttling kids to and from soccer games, swimming lessons, and Zumbatonic classes. There is no doubt I miss the Red Cross – especially MY Red Cross in Ann Arbor – and an official career outside the home, but I am certainly not unhappy where I am today.

As this year of change comes to a close, I am more grateful than ever before for the love and support of our families and friends. There is no doubt that without our parents and siblings and our friends old and new – without all of you – I wouldn’t be smiling today.

I wish you all the best for a peaceful and joyful new year.

With love,

Erin (and Tom, Will, and Hallie too)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

American Red Cross: A Year in Pictures

As I'm sure you know, my ties to the American Red Cross are strong and run deep. And so while I'll certainly recap my own year for you later this week, I thought I'd recap the American Red Cross year for you as well.

"From responding to record-breaking tornadoes to rebuilding in Haiti to teaching lifesaving skills to 11,000 people on Gabrielle Giffords Honorary Save-a-Life Satruday, 2011 has been a busy year for the American Red Cross."

See for yourself!


Monday, December 26, 2011

Kids These Days

Experience #1

Will, Hallie, and I were at the park, and after playing for a while on one structure, we decided to move across the park to a second structure. Will took off in the wrong direction, so I yelled, "Will! Come back here please!" in his general direction. I then bent down for a few - less than 10 - seconds to help Hallie with her shoes, and when I stood back up, a little boy around the age of 10 was standing directly in front of me. "Yes, Ma'am?" he asked, looking at me with wide eyes and a nervous smile. Very confused, I simply said hello to the little boy, who then noticed the puzzled look on my face and cleared things up by saying, "I'm Will".

So this little boy, who I'd never seen before in my life, took me seriously and respected my authority as an adult enough to break away from his basketball game and report front and center immediately when I called his name. Of course he probably thought I was a friend of his mom's (that's what I've become to ALL children now, a MOM), and was afraid that if he didn't listen to me I'd tell on him, but the point is that he listened and responded respectfully.

Of course I apologized to the little boy, and explained that I was calling the crazy five-year-old running away from me. 10-year-old Will smiled and returned to his basketball game, unphased by the encounter. I stood there, somewhat befuddled, until Hallie yanked on my hand and pulled me toward the playground.

Experience #2

A few weeks later, at the same park, Will pulled out his two Star Wars light sabers and asked me to sword fight with him. My sword fighting time limit is about three minutes, so after a few minutes had passed I told Will I needed to take a break. (For the record, at the three-minute mark I'm not tired FROM sword fighting. I'm just tired OF sword fighting.) Instead of melting down, like he usually does, Will approached another boy - who was about 11- or 12-years-old - and asked him if he'd ever seen Star Wars. I didn't hear the boy's answer, but I'm guessing it must have been something like "OhMyGoshILoveStarWars" because within a minute or two, Will and his new friend were engaged in an epic sword battle.

After about 10 minutes I felt the need to offer the older boy an "out" and told him he didn't need to sword fight with Will anymore. He responded with a sincere, "It's alright, Ma'am - I'm having a good time and he's a fun little boy". I thought Will's head just might explode with joy and admiration.

The boys continued sword fighting for another 15 minutes or so, until we had to head home. Before leaving I had an actual conversation with the older boy that began with him actually introducing himself to me (what?!), thanking me for letting him play with Will, and telling Will he hoped they would run into each other at the park again in the future. At this point Will's head actually exploded.

We did run into the older boy - whose name is Jacob, by the way - the following week. Jacob remembered Will (as if Will would have let Jacob forget him) and they sword fought again. At this point I was REALLY digging Jacob for taking over my place in the sword fight, and I was thinking about asking him if he wanted to come and live with us until I realized that you don't joke about things like that with kids. Might get myself arrested.

After a few minutes of sword fighting, Jacob walked up to me and apologized, saying that he really needed to work on his homework and therefore would have to stop playing with Will. He then proceeded to ACTUALLY WORK ON HIS HOMEWORK at the picnic table for at least 30 minutes, which was when we left to walk home. Seriously, I need to call that Jacob's mom and find out how she raised such an awesome 12-year-old.

One of the things I was nervous about when we made the decision to move to Texas was the conservative nature of the community. I'm not referring to politics (though College Station is without a doubt the most politically conservative city in which I've lived), but instead to the more formal and traditional relationships between husbands and wives and between adults and children. For some reason I felt uncomfortable with my kids being "required" to use "yes, sir" and "no, ma'am" when speaking to their elders. Don't get me wrong, I will settle for nothing less than respectful children. But I didn't feel comfortable forcing Will and Hallie to speak in a way that, while culturally acceptable and encouraged here, felt so strange to me.

They look like respectful children, right?  
At least they do from behind.

And then we actually moved here. Both Tom and I noticed almost immediately that College Station's young people, especially those in their teen years and young adults, are noticeably and collectively more respectful than the young people I've encountered elsewhere. The stories above are just two examples; I have at least 10 additional and similar stories that support this claim as well.

I also discovered, after a few months, that "yes, sir" and "no, ma'am" didn't make me feel as uncomfortable as I thought they would. So while I'm not requiring my kids to use "sir" and "ma'am", I AM asking them for a level of respectfulness when communicating with adults - including me - that I might not have asked for if we hadn't moved here and been exposed to something new and different.

Pulling all this together, I can't help but wonder if there's a correlation between teaching young children this style of communication and the level of respectfulness many older children and young adults here seem to have for their peers and elders. And while I don't know if such a correlation exists, I'm going to work on the "yes, mama" and "no, daddy" at home in hopes that someday my Will and Hallie are as respectful as 10-year-old Will and sword fighting Jacob.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas in College Station

Though we unofficially relocated to Texas (as in we moved our furniture into our rental house) midway through December, we didn't actually get a chance to celebrate Christmas in College Station last year. After less than a week in Texas, we climbed back into our car and drove north to Illinois for Christmas and to meet our new niece, Lily, who was born on December 17th.

This year I did my best to take advantage of all the city had to offer - within reason, of course, and keeping in mind the ages of our kids - when it came to Christmas celebrations.

We baked and decorated Christmas cookies...

...and decorated the Christmas tree.

We welcomed Chris the Elf (short for Christmas, and chosen 
after Super Grover, Mark, and Ho were nixed) into our home...

...and made Christmas cards for Armed Forces service 
members, veterans, and their families.

We wrote letters to Santa...

...and then visited with him in person.

We participated in (with the Red Cross) and then watched the Bryan Christmas Parade.
(Will rode on the float, I handed out candy, and Tom and Hallie waved and shouted
"Merry Christmas" to the crowds as they walked and rode in the stroller,
respectively,along side the float.)

We visited "Christmas at the Creek", 

attended an abbreviated Nutcracker ballet at the public library,

and drove through the city's Christmas light display.

And that's not to mention the activities and parties at school.
There were the Christmas Chapels, first Will's...

...and then Hallie's.  (That girl is a performer through and through.  She knew those
Christmas songs, and the motions that went with them, like it was her job.)

Will's class held a "Happy Birthday Jesus" party, which I coordinated,

Hallie's class decorated Christmas cookies, and the last day of school before
Christmas vacation - which I worked - was Christmas pajama day.

I've just realized why I'm so tired.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Spirit Booster

On one hand you have Christmas songs, of which I'm a big fan. On the other hand you have flash mobs, of which I'm a big fan as well. Now, what do you get when you put your two hands together? Christmas music flash mobs, of which I'm a HUGE fan. I may or may not have just spent the last hour and a half watching them on the internet.

If you need a little help getting into the holiday spirit this week, might I suggest watching this video?  I promise you won't be disappointed.

And here's one more video get you in the Christmas spirit.  This one isn't a flash mob, but is instead a staged-but-impromptu-appearing musical in the middle of a mall.  I don't know about you, but I would love to witness one of these entertainment pieces (singing flash mobs, dancing flash mobs, musicals, etc.) in person. I'm obviously shopping at the wrong malls though, since all I ever see at the Post Oak Mall in College Station is the back of my son's head as he's running away from me.  I digress...  Enjoy the video!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Red Cross Blog Post: Merry Everything

This week's Red Cross blog post is particularly special to me, as it showcases the compassion - and talent - of my sis-in-law, Jenna Christine.

Check out the post, which will link you to her "12 Days of Christmas...and Worthy Causes" campaign and the video she created in support of blood donation through the American Red Cross.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Black Friday, Greenbrier-style

We were in Greenbrier, AR, visiting my Grandma and her husband, for Thanksgiving this year. That means we were also in Greenbrier, AR for Black Friday.

I'm not much of a Black Friday shopper. I have absolutely no interest in rising before the sun (or worse, staying up late on Thanksgiving), waiting in line in the freezing cold, battling CRAZY shoppers, and - as seems to be necessary these days - fending for my life just to go home with a $25 DVD player. I've never joined the throngs of early-morning Black Friday shoppers, and I have no intention of starting anytime soon.

All that being said, I AM a big shopper. I regularly shop with my mom, sister, mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law, and I've enrolled Hallie in a vigorous shopping training course (run by yours truly - contact me if you'd like to enroll your children) so that when she's seven and her cousin, Lily, is five, my mom, sister, and I can take them on a dream shopping trip to the American Girl Place in Chicago.

Greenbrier is a very small town, without any of the big box stores usually visited on Black Friday. We weren't too keen to drive ____ miles to Little Rock, so we decided to instead shop some of the nearby flea markets. I don't think I'd ever been to a flea market before this trip to Greenbrier - they're not all that common in the cities where I've lived - so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I was a little nervous when, at our first stop, I exited the car and was met by these fellows.

I DO NOT like birds.

After I escaped the roosters, I looked up and saw this sign.

This DOES NOT ring true for me.

I was not feeling the flea market scene, and we hadn't even set foot inside.

But then things started to look up. (After I stopped looking up at the signs, of course.) Throughout the morning we snagged an armchair for my grandma's living room, brand new cutting boards, a Christmas cake plate, a loaf pan, an Ernie puppet, a Chinese Laundry purse, a few pieces of clothing, two pairs of shoes, and an authentic horseshoe hook, and I bet we spent no more than $125 total.

One of the highlights - besides the deals and spending time with my grandma, mom, and Hallie - was the moment when Hallie, who was trying SO hard to fish a stuffed penguin out of a bin of stuffed animals, fell face first into the bin. The owner of the flea market looked on - both in amusement and with disdain - as I searched for my camera and took a picture of Hallie BEFORE I pulled her out.

I am pleased to report that Hallie's shopping training is going well - in general, she can shop for 15 minutes longer than her snacks hold out. 37 minutes worth of snacks? Hallie can shop for 52 minutes. 240 minutes worth of snacks? Hallie can shop for 292 minutes. It's important to note, however, that minutes are subtracted when Hallie is "forced" to stop and eat lunch, but bonus minutes are earned when she is allowed to visit to indoor playgrounds. Hallie did a fantastic job that Friday, though she was pretty beat by the end of the day.

Wiped out

Close up of Hallie's flea-market-find princess high heels

A special thank you to my grandma and mom for helping me take Hallie out on her first Black Friday shopping trip!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Eating My Way Through Iowa City

In late September, Tom and I headed north to Iowa City (our “second home”, where we met at the University of Iowa) for the wedding of our friends Mitch and Jess. You're right, I should be embarrassed by how long it took me to post this vacation recap.

I love so many things about Iowa City: the University of Iowa campus, the downtown Pedestrian Mall, the river front/walk, the Farmers' Market, the Newman Catholic Student Center, the independent clothing and gift shops, the Coral Ridge Mall (perhaps it's shallow to mention the mall as a great feature of Iowa City, but you too would start dreaming about malls from your past if you visited the mall in College Station), the independent book stores and public library...I could go on and on. And I will, for just a moment longer, because this list wouldn't be complete without adding to it bars and restaurants.

Old Capitol (Iowa City used to be the Capitol of Iowa) 
on the University of Iowa Campus

We stayed at the Sheraton, which opened out onto the Ped Mall.
The Ped Mall straight ahead.

The Ped Mall to my left.

The Ped Mall to my right.

The University of Iowa Foundation, where I worked during my junior, senior, and super senior years.  I know my association with the Foundation was the boost I needed to earn my first job at the Red Cross.

Outdoor booths at the Farmers' Market.

Another view of the Farmers' Market - it's grown exponentially 
since I went to school in Iowa City.

We were in Iowa City to celebrate Mitch and Jess, but I ended up (over) celebrating the food and drink Iowa City has to offer as well.

I arrived in Iowa City on Thursday Night and left for home on Sunday afternoon. Call me the Very Hungry Caterpillar, because in those 68 hours I ate/drank my way through:

- Atlas (drinks and dinner with Melanie and Jamie)
- Panera (breakfast with Tom)
- The Wedge (spinach artichoke pizza all by my lonesome)
- The Java House (a long-anticipated root beer cream soda)
- Motley Cow (for Mitch and Jess' rehearsal dinner)
- Bo James (for FAC - college friends, did you know FAC isn't a big deal anymore?!)
- Whitey's (a chocolate-covered banana, which was just as funny to eat as it was when I was 22)
- Starbucks (we have Starbucks here, but in Iowa City it was chilly enough to actually enjoy a hot drink)
- The Farmers' Market (oh, the pastries)
- Mickey's (drinks and lunch with Leslie)
- Panchero's (1:00 am - heck yeah, I made it to 1:00 a.m. - quesadillas and burritos)
- Quinton's (NOTHING beats their creamy potato bacon soup in a bread bowl)

I realize this list only means something to readers familiar with Iowa City, but since I know there are quite a few of you out there, I wanted to provide specifics.

And that list doesn't include Mitch and Jess' wedding reception, where I indulged in (as if I hadn't already indulged up until that point) the best wedding reception dinner I've ever tasted. So you can add "Mitch and Jess' wedding reception catering company" to the list. I had also intended to include Bruegger's Bagels on the list, but on the morning we'd planned to eat there we discovered it had burned down just hours earlier. So sad.

I'm hoping that when I return to Iowa City (please, someone get married there - we seem to travel only for weddings and work conferences) Bruegger's will be back on it's feet and I'll be able to add it - along with The Hamburg, Taste of China, The Sports Column, The Airliner, and Mondo's - to the list.

Well, now I'm pretty hungry, so I'm off to scrounge up some grub in my kitchen. I'll leave you with a couple more pics from our trip.  (For some reason I can't find any of my pictures from Mitch and Jess' wedding, which is why they're so obviously missing from this post.  I'll keep looking!)

The sunrise view from our hotel room.

A new store in the Coral Ridge Mall.

My home for my junior and senior years - good times...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


In staying with my Iowa City-theme, I'd like to share a story about my and my mom's first trip to Iowa City. But first, a little background information...

In Madison (and elsewhere in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan), Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are called TYME Machines. TYME is pronounced "time" and stands for Take Your Money Everywhere.

In Iowa City (and perhaps elsewhere in Iowa and beyond - I'm not really sure), ATMs are called Shazams. "Shazam" is kind of an odd name for an ATM to begin with, but the whole money retrieval thing gets even more confusing when you take into account that the word can be used as a verb or a noun, as in "I need to Shazam before we go out to dinner" or "Have you seen a Shazam in the mall?".

When we first arrived in Iowa City - having never been there before - for a campus tour, we decided we needed a little cash for shopping and dining. The following conversation ensued between my mom and a young male college student as we attempted to take the next step in the process:

Mom: Could you tell me where we could find an ATM?
College Student: Sure. There's a Shazam just down the street, in the bank on the corner.
Mom: No, I'm looking for an ATM.
College Student: I know. There's a Shazam a block away.
Mom: Could you just tell me where the nearest TYME machine is?
College Student: (hesitantly) Ma'am, I don't think time machines really exist.
Erin: (under her breath) Heaven help me.

While I was in Iowa City I made sure to Shazam once, not because I actually needed cash, but because it just seemed like something I should do. Thanks for the memories, Mom!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Red Cross Blog Post: Shop 'Til You Drop

Still looking for holiday gifts for your family and friends? Don't know what to buy for the person who already has everything?

You've come to the right place!

Check out this week's Red Cross blog post for holiday gift ideas from both the Red Cross Store and the Red Cross Holiday Giving Catalog.

Happy shopping!

Monday, December 12, 2011


This post began as a play-by-play of our recent trip to Iowa City for the wedding of our friends Mitch and Jess. But after writing for a few minutes, I realized my post had deviated off course to become a tribute to three close friends of mine - all bridesmaids in my wedding, hence the title of the post - instead of a vacation review. So while the vacation review is coming (I can't NOT post about a trip to one of my favorite cities in the Midwest), today's post is about my bridesmaids.

Melanie and I were randomly paired together as roommates our freshman year, and I first met her in the Memorial Union bookstore during Orientation. She recognized me (we’d exchanged photos) from across the store, yelled my name, and came running over to introduce herself. Melanie was friendly and outgoing and confident (all things I wasn’t during my college bout of homesickness). We became friends over the course of the year, and have been close – roommates again our sophomore and junior years, bridesmaids in each other’s weddings – ever since. And while I am of course grateful for her friendship, I am even more grateful for the support and encouragement she gave me during the most difficult transition of my life. If Melanie had not taken my hand (figuratively and literally) and led me through my first few months of college, I would not have stayed at the University of Iowa. She helped me take control of my life, and is indirectly responsible for the love in my life today.

Jamie lived on the same dorm floor as Melanie and me. She too was friendly and outgoing and confident, and an outsider might have observed that she was a little too cool for me. (She’s still a little too cool for me. ☺) We became friends throughout our freshman year, lived together our sophomore (with Melanie) and super senior years, and were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. It was during our stint as roommates that we discovered a tremendous overlap in our interests; our shared love of Friday night dance parties, Saturday morning tailgates, workouts at the gym, and late-night walks around campus brought us even closer together. Jamie was – and still is – a gracious and understated blend of intelligence and beauty. She is comfortable in her own skin and confident in who she is, and she taught me to be the same.

Melanie, me, and Jamie

Like Melanie and Jamie, Leslie and I met my freshman year of college, became friends as the years went by, lived together for a few months during my senior year, and were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. The summer after my senior year, Leslie and I spent eight weeks working at Point O’Pines Camp for Girls in upstate New York. Whereas in a normal environment you might have one friend you call for laughs, one you call for tears, one you call for advice, and one you call for help, in the secluded environment that was summer camp in the Adirondack Mountains, we became all of these friends – rolled into one – for each other. I shared more with her in those eight weeks than I’ve ever shared with anyone in a similar period of time, and I believe she did the same with me. She saw me at my very best, worst, and most ridiculous, and loved me something fierce when I needed it most. At one point during the summer we realized that while we each had and would always have many friends – even best friends – other than one another, she and I would always be kindred spirits.

Bernadette and Bequitha 
(I know we gave each other those nicknames during our summer 
at camp, but to save my life I can't remember how they came about)

I am lucky to have had these women in my life. Just wanted you to know.

(A note to Sara, my sister, and Jenna, my sister-in-law, both of whom were also bridesmaids in my wedding: I promise you'll have a post of your own someday. I didn't write paragraphs about you here because I didn't see you on my trip to Iowa City. Love you both!)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Student Bonfire

The 2011 Student Bonfire (which I wrote briefly about a couple of weeks ago) was scheduled to burn on November 22nd. Because of the severe drought, the state has been under a burn ban for months and it was decided - by Bonfire leadership - that bonfire would not burn this year. According to the Student Bonfire website, "...under no circumstances will Student Bonfire act against a burn ban. For the safety of our surrounding community and the future of the Bonfire Tradition, we must and will exercise discipline and demonstrate sound leadership, just two of the things the Bonfire experience provides in abundance every year to generations of Aggies". These "kids" sound a lot more mature than many of the adults I know...

I was disappointed though, because I had planned to attend Burn Night 2011. Once I learned of the decision to not burn the stack, I decided I'd make my trek out to Bonfire's location earlier in the day, while the kids were at school, rather than late in the evening when I'd rather be enjoying a glass of wine and emptying the queue on our DVR.

It took me close to 30 minutes to reach the site, which was in the next county and out in the country. The last mile of the drive took me past rundown and seemingly abandoned houses adorned with confederate flags and signs warning me to "keep out". Mangy dogs and goats roamed yards loosely defined by chain link fences so damaged they would neither keep me out or the dogs and goats in. It was a lovely neighborhood.

When I pulled up I found the gates at the site's entrance locked and the site completely void of people. Since I couldn't get close to the stack how I'd planned, and because I wasn't going home without a picture after spending such a significant portion of my child-free morning in the car, I drove on and turned down the first side street/dirt path I came to so I could photograph the stack without having to do so standing on the shoulder of the busier road.

In hindsight, the shoulder of the busier road would have been the better choice. I ended up taking my pictures (while wearing a jean skirt and ballet flats) through a barbed wire fence while straddling a small runoff "stream" and with one of my shoulders dangerously close to an enormous thorn bush. Needless to say, I didn't focus much on photo composition - I pretty much just clicked away for about 30 seconds and then jumped back into my car before an escaped goat could come after me.

After taking photos, I sat quietly in my car for a few minutes and reflected on how it felt to be in the presence of something so historical, so steeped in tradition. I had expected to find the site bustling with excited college students, but instead found the stack standing alone. I had expected the energy surrounding the stack to electric and contagious, but instead found the atmosphere solemn and hallowed. Though the students who died tragically exactly 12 years earlier had not perished at that exact location or at the hands of that exact stack, the site - and the stack on it - may as well have been a burial ground. I said a prayer of peace for their souls and for their families, and drove away.

Bonfire 2011 was not the experience I'd expected, but was an experience none-the-less. Perhaps next year I'll actually see the fire.