Monday, January 30, 2012

30 Day Photography Challenge

I've decided to try a 30 Day Photography Challenge in February (though I guess I'll start tomorrow, on January 31st, since February only has 29 days). My plan is to, in following the instructions of the challenge, take one picture each day, but I'll post my pictures to the blog only once each week.

There's a bit of research to be done before I begin, as I have no idea how to take a long exposure picture or what bokeh and sun flare mean. Any advice, photographer friends?

If by chance you're interested in joining me in this photography challenge, let me know by commenting on the post, leaving me a comment on Facebook, or sending me an email. I'd love to post some of your favorite photos from throughout the month here with mine!

Happy snapping!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tradition: Reveille

Reveille, the "First Lady of Aggieland", is the official mascot of Texas A&M University. She is the highest-ranking member of the Corps of Cadets with five diamonds (making her a Cadet General) on her blanket; in comparison, the Commander of the Corps of Cadets has only four diamonds.

Oh, and Reveille is a dog. The First Lady of Aggieland and the highest-ranking member of the Corps of Cadets is a Border Collie.

The mutt who eventually became Reveille I first arrived at TAMU 81 years ago, in January of 1931, after a group of cadets found her on the side of road and brought her back to campus with them. Despite the fact that dogs were not allowed in the dorms, the students hid her overnight in their room. The following morning, when Reveille was played, the dog began barking and earned her name.

The following fall, when the football season began, Reveille was named official mascot of TAMU and led the band onto the field for their halftime performance.

Reveille I

When Reveille I died on January 18th, 1944 she was given a formal military funeral on Kyle Field and buried at the North entrance of the field, facing the scoreboard so that she could keep track of how the Aggies were doing during their games.  Eventually Reveille II, III, IV, V, and VI were buried alongside their honored namesake.

Reveille II, a Shetland Sheepdog, was donated to TAMU by an alumni eight years after Reveille I passed away and served her school from 1952 until 1966. During her tenure, the tradition of the mascot being escorted by a member of the Corps of Cadets at all times began.

Reveille II

Reveille III was the first purebred American Collie, and all Reveilles since have also been purebred, female American Collies. Interestingly (and jumping ahead a few decades), Reveille VII's behavioral problems (I bet watching the Cadets struggle with an overexcitable and unruly Reveille would have have been kind of like watching me struggle with Hallie at the library) created a need for Reveille candidates to be more carefully screened and chosen not just on breed and gender, but on personality as well. After Reveille VII, it was determined that future Reveilles must "have an upbeat personality, be at ease around crowds and like people, be calm around loud noises, and be positively motivated as well as not highly reactive". It's a tough job, but some dog's got to do it...

Reveille VII - the "problem child"

Today Reveille VIII, who was introduced on August 30th, 2008, is cared for the Corps of Cadets Company E-2, nicknamed the "mascot company". A sophomore member of the company, known as the "Mascot Corporal" is responsible for Reveille at all times - as I mentioned above, Reveille is always escorted. Freshman are required to address her as "Miss Rev Ma'am". She is the only dog, with the exception of service dogs, allowed in campus buildings, and she has her own cell phone (operated by her Mascot Corporal) and Student Identification Card.

Tradition states that if Reveille jumps on a Cadet's bed, the Cadet must sleep on the floor (thought this tradition may have just applied to Reveille I, who lived in the dorms). Tradition also states that if Reveille barks in class (remember, she's always escorted, which means she attends classes with her Mascot Corporal), class is cancelled.

I'm a little obsessed with Reveille, to the point that I may or may not have freaked out and embarrassed my husband when I saw and took pictures of a border collie - who was NOT Reveille, by the way - walking around on campus.

And while Tom is not at all obsessed with this famous dog the way I am, he's crossing his fingers that one of these days the Mascot Corporal - and therefore Reveille - will be in one of his classes.  He's perfecting his methods of getting a dog to bark...and practicing throwing up his hands in exaggerated frustration when he has to cancel class.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Red Cross Blog Post: Driving in a Winter Wonderland

Has winter arrived where you live? Yes? Then check out this week's Red Cross blog post for tips on pulling together an emergency preparedness kit for your car. No? You should still check out the post (everyone should have an emergency preparedness kits in their home and vehicle), but then you should thank your lucky stars you just spent the last 90 minutes basking in sunshine and 65 degree temperatures and not shoveling your sidewalk.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Little Aggie Love in Wisconsin

My aunt snapped this picture in a small town bar in Wisconsin - the Packers may be on television, but there's still a little love for the Aggies.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland

I was raised in Madison, Wisconsin. During Wisconsin winters, high temperatures hover around 32 degrees and low temperatures regularly dip into the teens. According to my good friend,, the city receives an average of 45 inches of snow each winter, but in recent years snowfall totals have been closer to between 70 and 80 inches.

In my 13 years of elementary, middle, and high school in Madison, we had only five snow days TOTAL. Two were because the temperature outside was around negative 20 degrees (windchill of negative 40-50 degrees), and the other three were due to early morning snow storms that dumped more snow than the city's expert road crews could clear (we're talking more than a foot, AT LEAST) before the buses needed to begin their morning runs.

Now I know that what I'm about to write might sound made up, like something your grandparents scoffed in your direction when you were a child and complained about how difficult your life was ("When I was your age, I walked 10 miles to and from school, uphill both ways"), but I swear to you, it's true. I walked to and from high school - more than a mile each way, almost every day - in FEET of snow. The walk often took 40 minutes, and I made the exhausting trek in full winter wear. Well, I take that part back. I didn't wear snow pants, because while they would have kept my high-waisted, stonewashed, tapered jeans dry, they would have made me appear even less cool than I already looked after pulling off my stocking cap and revealing my flattened, static-y head of hair. (Can you picture how awesomely cool I was back then? Good. Now add glasses and braces and you've completed the picture.) I walked down the center of the street because at 7:30am most people hadn't yet had a chance to shovel their sidewalks and the road offered tire tracks in which to walk more easily.

When I was six and my little sister was four, my parents spent a winter evening at hot tub party. After a few drinks the partygoers started rolling in the snow and then jumping back into the hot tub. The next morning, after my mom shared with us how much fun the evening had been, my sister and I asked if we too could play outside in the snow in our swimsuits. I'm sure my mom's response was something like, "um, I guess so...", which in our eyes made her the coolest mom EVER. Sara and I put on our suits and headed out back to the swing set. It was a little colder than we'd expected, so we went back inside and put on flip flops. And then sweaters. But we eventually made it to the swing set, and thus began an annual tradition of playing in the snow in as little clothing as appropriately possible.

My apologies for the odd scanning of the following pictures - my mom's scanner wouldn't cooperate.

Heading toward the swing set.

In the years that followed, and all while wearing ONLY swimsuits (we ditched the flip flops and the sweaters), we made snow angels, had snowball fights, went sledding, and, during my college years, ran past the front window of the restaurant across the street from our house. We encouraged others to join us, and they did; at one time or another, our parents, cousins, friends, and spouses joined in the fun.

Making snow angels.

Sledding down a homemade slide.

Sunbathing on the deck.

To many people born and bred in the southern half of the United States (and to Hallie, who while not a Southerner by birth, certainly shivers like one when it comes to cold weather), the thought of enduring such weather conditions, especially for an entire winter, is simply incomprehensible. I LOVE winter weather, however, and wear my cold-tolerance as a badge of honor, especially down here in Texas.

Last winter I didn't wear coats. I even gave two of my coats to my sister, who lives in Illinois. Last winter I didn't turn on the heat until Will complained that he couldn't feel his fingers anymore. (I know, parent of the year I'm not.) Last spring I pulled out my shorts when the temperatures climbed into the 60's (what?! That's when we wear shorts in Wisconsin) and my tank tops when the temperatures reached the mid 70's, not knowing how much hotter it would eventually get.

I'm not complaining about the winter weather here (how can you, really, without sounding like a crazy person - it's 72 degrees outside right now and when the kids wake up from their naps we're headed to the park with friends), but I miss the wonderland that is the Midwest this time of year. Snow, while treacherous to drive on and back-breaking to shovel, is so pure and simple and gloriously beautiful when it covers the otherwise brown and barren landscapes of winter. Snow offers children - and adults, should they feel so inclined - a playground in which to exercise their creative and physical sides. And snow, along with the frigidly cold temperatures, make home - coming in from the cold to enjoy a mug of hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire - feel even more comforting and safe than it does during the other three seasons.

I doubt there'll be much cold weather here this year, but by golly, if it snows, you can bet we'll be outside playing in it in our swimsuits over here at our house. College Station friends, you're welcome to join us.

Friday, January 20, 2012

My Apologies

Dear Citizens in the Larry J. Ringer Library in College Station, TX at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 11th, 2012:

I'm terribly sorry you had the misfortune of encountering my family at the library that afternoon. I completely understand that the library is intended to be a peaceful, quiet refuge from the busy world around us, and I'm certain that if you came within even 100 yards of me, my son, or my daughter you felt anything but peaceful and heard anything but quiet.

Let me be more specific in my apologies...

I'm sorry my daughter, who is two-and-a-half, could not use her inside voice. I assure you she is very capable of whispering, but for some reason she felt the need to shout from the rooftops that a cat in the book she was reading looked just like our old cat Clementine. (For the record, the cat in the book looked NOTHING like Clementine.) I assure you she is also capable of following directions, but at her current age she prefers to do exactly what I ask her not to do OR not do exactly what I ask her to do. If you were frustrated, just think how I feel, having to spend nearly all day every day with her. (Note to self: write thank you notes to Hallie's teachers, who give me exactly nine hours of peace every week. They are my heroes.)

I'm sorry my daughter, who is potty-trained, pooped in her underwear. I rushed her stinky butt to the bathroom as quickly as I could, but I am well aware of the fact that while I was hunting down my son to inform him that I was taking her to the bathroom, she ran a full loop around the library just to make sure that each and every person in the building caught a whiff of her.

I'm sorry my daughter yelled/sang songs about her bagina - and the fact that she and I do not have penises - while in the bathroom. She knows she's only allowed to talk about private parts in the bathroom, so by golly she takes advantage of her time in any room with a shower, sink, and/or toilet to use those words as often as she can. I'm also sorry she loudly announced that I threw her underwear in the trash can and that she was therefore no longer wearing any underwear. I believe she used the words, "butt naked".

I'm sorry I chose that afternoon to acquire a library card for my son. In case you don't remember signing up for your library card, let me gently remind you that you're asked/required to sign your name TWICE during the process. It takes my son approximately two minutes to write his full name, and during those four painful minutes, five people formed a line - waiting to check out - behind us. After Will finally had his new library card (so proud!) I had to pay a fine, renew my library card, and check out that day's stash of new books, which brought our total checkout time to around 14 minutes.

I'm sorry my daughter was a holy terror during those 14 minutes. In case you missed even a part of her "act", let me refresh your memory. She started by nudging her brother, just ever so slightly and for a moment at a time, to see how he'd react. He valiantly ignored her for at least two minutes, but when the nudges became pushes he started to push back. I asked her to sit on the floor near my feet or at the table behind us. She sat at the table for .7 seconds, then jumped up and started running in circles. I asked her to run in circles near me, and to stay out of people's way, to which she proudly shot back, "I am running in circles and I AM getting in people's ways!" She ran away. I ran after her, grabbing her arm as she attempted to covertly slip into an opening on bookshelf. She SCREAMED that I was hurting her shoulder. (I wasn't hurting her shoulder. She's completely recovered from that pesky broken collarbone, but knows that if she says someone is hurting her shoulder they'll back off.) I attempted to hold her while we finished up, but she kicked me in the groin. I set her on the floor and trapped her between my legs until the poor librarian could finish processing everything we had to accomplish.

Again, my apologies for ruining your trip to the library and for the extended period of time you were forced to wait in line that afternoon. I must say, however, that while I completely understand your dirty looks, they didn't help. I was doing the best I could, wrangling a two-and-a-half year-old in a way that didn't create even more chaos and noise (time-out) and didn't also punish her well-behaved older brother (leaving the library).

We'll be taking a week or two off from visiting the library, so you should be able to browse, read, and work there in peace until the end of January. Then I'll be back, this time with an extra pair of little girl underwear in my purse.



Thursday, January 19, 2012

Red Cross Blog Post: Water Safety: Not Just for Swimming Pools

Since it's not exactly swimming pool weather throughout much of the country, this week's Red Cross blog post (which you can read here) focuses on a different kind of water safety: keeping kids safe in and around the water in your bathrooms.  Important information for parents of infants and young children!

Donut 2.0

A big thank you to my parents, who after reading yesterday's blog post, walked past and took a picture of Greenbush Bakery on their way home to the UW men's basketball game last night.

You'll notice that the sign on the front of the building reads "OPEN". That's right, people. While run-of-the-mill donut shops and bakeries are generally open from approximately 6am until 1pm, Greenbush Bakery is open from 6am until...wait for it...2am. Apple fritters and cinnamon rolls taste even better on the way home at night than they do first thing in the morning.

I'm so, so hungry right now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


No, really. You can call me Donut.

During our summer spent working at Point O'Pines Camp for Girls in upstate New York, my kindred spirit Leslie lovingly bestowed that flattering nickname upon me. And lest you think I earned the nickname by making clever donut jokes or working at Dunkin' Donuts or regularly bringing donuts to my coworkers, I should clarify that it in fact had to do with the simple fact that I ate so, so many donuts. I still eat so, so many donuts - that's why I have to go to the gym every day.

Last week the website The Daily Meal: All Things Food and Drink published an article highlighting America's Best Donut Shops. Or American's Best Donut Shops according to their researchers, who couldn't have have been very thorough in their investigating/taste testing because they didn't include any of my top donut shops. They should have asked for my input - I've done A LOT of research and could have steered them in the right direction - but since they didn't, I thought I'd share my two cents here.
Below are my favorites in each of the cities in which I've lived:

Madison, WI: Greenbush Bakery (overall winner)
Iowa City, IA: Daylight Donuts
Cedar Rapids, IA: Donutland
Ann Arbor, MI: Wasem's Fruit Farm (technically in Milan, but worth the short drive from AA)
College Station, TX: Top Donuts

If you're ever in any of these cities, it would be worth your while to stop by for a breakfast (or lunch, dinner, or snack) donut. Tell them Erin sent you - they'll remember me.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Recognized as one of America's greatest leaders, King believed that all people - regardless of the color of their skin - should be awarded equal rights and access under our nation's laws. All human beings, simply because they live and breath, should have the right to work and earn an honest living for themselves and their families, the right to vote, the right to a quality education, and the right to use all public places.

In 1963, King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech to thousands of civil rights supporters gathered for the King-organized March on Washington. To these thousands of people Kind spoke of his dreams for our country.

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged on the color of their skin but on the content of their character."

Today, nearly fifty years after King's powerful speech, I find myself dreaming the same dream for my children. I hope and pray they will always be evaluated by their words and actions, and that they in turn will always use words and actions to form opinions of others.

But I also hope to teach my children that our differences - from the color of our skin to our religion to our sexuality - are actually what unify us as a people. For while we are all different, it it our differences that make us essentially the same: we are all unique individuals, worthy and deserving of respect and kindness from our fellow human beings. Our differences should be celebrated instead of ignored, or worse, used to justify discrimination.

Today I will to talk to my children about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy. I hope I can find acceptable and age-appropriate answers to their questions, and that these questions go beyond the one I've already heard today - "Mama, since he was a king, did he get to wear a crown?".

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Make it a good one.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Rethinking Those New Year's Resolutions

I wrote my New Year's Resolutions last week, when I was on vacation in Nebraska and sleeping in every morning and only responsible for about 40% of the care my children require and therefore feeling very peaceful and reflective. My resolutions were simple, and like my state of mind at the time, peaceful and reflective.

The problem is that now that we've returned home from vacation and I'm no longer sleeping in every morning (or sleeping through the night, for that matter, thanks to my two-and-a-half-year-old "MAMAINEEDSOMETINGRIGHTNOOOOOWWWW!" embodiment of a night terror) and am once again responsible for about 95% of the care my children require, I no longer feel peaceful and reflective.

And because I no longer feel peaceful and reflective, my previously-written resolutions strike me as a little too "sitting around the campfire singing Kum-ba-ya" for someone like myself, someone who needs structure and parameters in order to cope with life on a day-to-day basis.

So while I'm not scrapping my first set of resolutions, I've decided to add an appendix. Let's hope I'm a little more on target this time around.

- Limit dinner from McDonald's to once each week. Limit Happy Meal purchases to once each month. (We're already pretty good about the once/week part of this resolution, stopping at McDonald's only on soccer/basketball practice night, but it's time to cut the toys out of the deal.)

- Stop giving in to Hallie's ridiculous bedtime demands and teach that girl to GO. TO. BED.

- Teach Will how to independently use his inhaler and epi-pen in preparation for kindergarten.

- Enter the doors to Target ONLY with a list. Stick to the list.

- Meet Tom for a lunch date at least once each month. Choose restaurants where our meals cost less than $20 combined.

- Finalize our will, set up a 529 plan for Hallie, and start contributing regularly to both kids' 529 plans.

- Address the "Ferris Family Recliner Situation". More specifically, reupholster Tom's teal recliner so that it can move from the garage to our bedroom. OR...purchase a new recliner and convince Tom that the new recliner is in fact his old recliner reupholstered.

- Read one book each month and figure out how to check out library books on my Nook. The second half of this resolution is dependent on our library getting their butts in gear and actually following through on their promise to make library lending available to Nook and Kindle users; I'm crossing my fingers but not holding my breath.

- Knit two scarves for friends/family members who live in climates where scarves are worn.

- Climb into bed no later than 11pm with the goal of turning off the light by 11:30pm. Skip the late-night reruns of Grey's Anatomy - it's not like I haven't seen them all two or three times before.

- Take the initiative when it comes to play dates for the kids and getting together with friends.

- Get to know at least one neighbor well enough so that when we go out of town we have someone we can ask to check on our house. And to make sure Tom's television set isn't stolen.

- Stop complaining about the heat.

I feel confident that all of these resolutions can be accomplished, except maybe that last one...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Red Cross Blog Post: Recognition

While they're still a couple of years away from caring about and therefore recognizing clothing and shoe brand logos, my kids already recognize logos for restaurants and chain stores. "Mama, are we going to Yowe's (Lowe's) again?!" (Hallie) "Yeah, we're going to Target!" (Will)

And, as I discovered yesterday and am proud to report, Will recognizes the logo of and understands the mission of the Red Cross. That's what I'm writing about over on the American Red Cross blog today - check it out here!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Christmas Light Critics

Outdoor Christmas lights are easily one of my top five favorite seasonal traditions. I can't remember a time when my sister and I didn't count Christmas lights while driving home in the dark during the weeks before Christmas. Our goal was always to find at least 100 lit houses, and we weren't above begging our mom to drive the long way home or around an extra block or two in order to meet that goal.

I also remember helping my dad hang lights on the crab apple tree in the front yard of our first house, and on the front pillars and back deck at our second house; he took great care to place the lights evenly, with the goal of not having to adjust a single light after my mom came out and "checked" our work.

On Christmas Eve Eve, my sis-in-law Jenna, her friend Kelsey, and I spent a couple of hours driving around Lincoln, NE admiring Christmas lights. Or at least we intended to admire Christmas lights. I HATE to say it, as did Jenna and Kelsey, but as we cruised through some of the nicest neighborhoods in town we found ourselves more and more disappointed in the Christmas light displays. To help us cope with our disappointment, we created a friendly list of guidelines for hanging Christmas lights, and decided the best place to document and share these "Guidelines for a Perfectly Decorated House" was to post them right here on this blog:

1. Less is more. Please do not cover absolutely every single surface of your house with lights. I'm fairly certain that at least two of the light displays we saw were so bright they could be seen from space.

2. Commit. First, commit to a decorated house. While less is more, please do not consider your house decorated for the holidays with only one six-foot strand of lights haphazardly draped on your evergreen tree. Second, commit to a particular color scheme (all white, red and green, traditional multi-color mix, etc.) and a specific light size (large bulbs, small bulbs, icicle lights, etc.) instead of using every single strand of lights you've every owned.

3. Skip the paraphenalia. While lawn ornaments and inflatables are tolerable in small doses, they should never share a lawn. Rope lights and palm trees should be avoided at all costs. And yes, we saw palm trees. Two of them. In Nebraska.

4. Take pride in your work. Don't leave gaps when you light your roofline or driveway, replace burned out bulbs (especially when the bulbs are large and/or they impact an entire strand), and don't just throw your lights onto the bush. You might think people won't notice, but I promise you, they will.

5. Don't neglect your branches. I lost count of how many trees were lit up to their branches (just the trunks were wrapped with lights), and while I can understand why people do this - it's tough to reach and wrap the branches - it just looks weird. The branches are lonely, people - give them some love!

6. Sync the lights. For the love of all that is good and holy, if you're going to use flashing lights, sync up the flashes of different strands. There were at least a few displays that made the three of us feel nauseous, and likely would have induced a seizure in someone prone to that condition.

I'll admit that this year the lights on my house were anything but impressive; they were actually a little embarrassing considering my dad's lawn/house decoration teachings when I was a child. But it was 85 degrees with 147% humidity outside on the LATE NOVEMBER NIGHT we hung them, and after about six minutes of sweating and being eaten alive by mosquitoes I just draped the lights over two nails near our front door and scurried back inside where my air conditioning was working overtime.

But just because my house isn't on the "Top 10 Best Decorated Houses of 2011" doesn't mean I don't know my Christmas lights. Next year, instead of critiquing Christmas lights, we're going to award the owners of the most beautifully decorated houses. The awards won't be big - just little notes or ribbons or candy (we haven't thought the award process through that far yet) - to let those who worked on the light displays know that we appreciate their hard work and artistic efforts. I'll let you know when we're getting ready to hand out the awards so that you can let us know which houses not to miss!

And in the meantime, enjoy these highlights and lowlights of our Christmas light adventure!

This house looked so elegant - the entrance and trees 
(trunks AND branches) were aglow with bright white lights.

A simple, well-lit nativity scene.

The bulb lights along the roofline and Christmas ornament decorations over 
the garage looked lovely in a traditional red, green, and gold color scheme.

Not everyone appreciates the leg lamp from The Christmas Story, but I do.  
Thanks to my sister's creativity and sewing skills, next year I'm going to dress as the 
leg lamp - and Tom will be the wooden crate in which the leg lamp arrived - for Halloween. 

These were hung on a rickety fence, and many of the bulbs were 
flickering on and off in warning of their soon-to-come fizzling out.

Palm tree #1.  The worst part about this display was the fact that 
someone worked this obviously artificial palm tree into their regular 
lawn design.  The ornaments just added insult to injury.

A good idea in theory, but it just looked like a creepy Christmas octopus. 

Palm tree #2.

This house broke nearly every single rule: way too much going on, every single color 
of the rainbow and size/style of lightbulb used, tacky lawn ornaments in the side yard 
(not visible in this picture, thank goodness), lights burned out all over the place, lights 
completely out of sync.  The one thing this house had going for it was that the 
branches of the trees were covered.

Here's a close-up of the tree on the lefthand side of the picture above.  
This tree - all on its own - broke nearly every single rule.  Here it is one minute...

...and here it is the next.  All of the strands were blinking 
and changing colors.  It was nauseating.

I love all Christmas light displays - the good, the bad, and the ugly - but I can't wait to secretly award the good next Christmas season!

I'll leave you with this video, which showcases a fun Christmas light display set up to sync with the Aggie War Hymn.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Though I usually come up with a couple of New Year's Resolutions in the last days of the year, I rarely take my resolutions very seriously.

I think we, collectively as a society, put too much pressure on ourselves to make dramatic changes in our lives and/or to ourselves at a time of year when change is particularly difficult and therefore doesn't make a lot of sense. I've long been a proponent of starting the new year in September - when summer ends and the kids head back to school - so I often make changes to my schedule and habits then, when it feels more natural and less stressful.

I did, however, make a few Red Cross resolutions this year, and decided that a couple of personal resolutions should go along with the Red Cross resolutions. Here they are, simply stated and in no particular order...




Make dinner.

Consume less.

Save more.

Express gratitude.

Set an example.


Any interesting New Year's Resolutions you'd like to share?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Red Cross Blog Post: The First Step

Last week on the Red Cross blog I wrote about making - and my personal - Red Cross-themed New Years resolutions. This week I wrote about how to take the first steps toward following through on those resolutions.

The first step is often the hardest, but the road gets easier. And when you cross the finish line or accomplish your goal, the pain of that first step is all but forgotten.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Way Home

December, 2010

A visit to my in-laws home in Lincoln, Nebraska had come to a end. Tom and I woke and begrudgingly rose at 7:30am, stumbled to the bathroom for quick showers, packed up the car, buckled two restless and grumpy children into their carseats, and drove south.

After a long and exhausting day in the car, the four of us stopped for the night at a Country Inn & Suites in Norman, Oklahoma. We treated the kids to a quick swim in the pool and a dip in the hot tub, fed them a hodgepodge dinner in our hotel room, and tucked them into bed.

Once the kids finally drifted off to dreamland, Tom and I watched football on television, reminisced about the year we would soon leave, and worried about about the year on whose door we were knocking.

On that day, almost exactly one year ago, we had just bid farewell to our lives in Michigan and were midway through moving more than 1,000 miles away to Texas. We were less than excited about leaving our families and friends, nervous about Tom's new job, and scared we might not fit in in our new city and state, which we knew would be dramatically different - demographically, culturally, politically, religiously, climatologically - than the cities we'd previously called home.

The following morning we finished the drive to Texas, hoping and praying we weren't making the biggest mistake of our lives.

Fast forward to this morning...
December, 2011

A visit to my in-laws home in Lincoln, Nebraska came to a end. Tom and I woke and begrudgingly rose at 7:30am, stumbled to the bathroom for quick showers, packed up the car, buckled two restless and grumpy children into their carseats, and drove south.

After a long and exhausting day in the car, the four of us stopped for the night at a Country Inn & Suites in Norman, Oklahoma. We treated the kids to a quick swim in the pool and a dip in the hot tub, fed them a hodgepodge dinner in our hotel room, and tucked them into bed.

Once the kids finally drifted off to dreamland, Tom and I watched football on television, reminisced about the year we would soon leave, and worried about about the year on whose door we were knocking.

Today, almost exactly one year after we bid farewell to our lives in Michigan and moved more than 1,000 miles to Texas, we consider ourselves lucky. We still miss our families and friends, but Tom has settled into his new job and all four of us have found a way to fit in. And as it turns out, "different" doesn't necessarily translate to "bad" or "worse" or "less desirable" as I feared it would.

Tomorrow morning we will finish the drive to Texas, headed home.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Tradition: The 12th Man

90 years ago, on January 2nd, 1922, the tradition of the 12th Man began at Texas A&M University.

The Aggies were playing top-ranked Centre College, and though the team was holding its own, injuries were knocking players out of the game more quickly than usual. Coach D.X. Bible, worried that his team would soon be forced to forfeit, remembered that a former member of his team - E. King Gill, who played football during the regular season but left the football team during the post-season to play basketball - was in the press box, helping members of the media identify players. Gill, eager to help his fellow Aggies, came down from the stands, dressed, and joined the team for the remainder of the game.

Though Gill never went in, when time expired he was the only player left standing on the sideline. (11 players finished the game on the field, making Gill the 12th member of the team.) Gill's "spirit of readiness for service, desire to support, and enthusiasm" helped kindle a flame of devotion among the entire TAMU student body, and today they are collectively considered the 12th Man, standing - at the ready to help their team - for the entire game. (Source)

While I admire this commitment to and support of the team, I don't love the idea of standing for three and a half hours straight. Just thinking about it makes my feet ache...

The funny thing is that since the students are always ready to help and support their team, they are also ready and willing to take credit for the team's successes. In accordance with the tradition "when the team scores, everybody scores", whenever the Aggies score points during a game, students kiss their dates.

Unless you know you and your date are a great match, I can't think a TAMU football game would be the best choice for a first or even second get-together...imagine a 56-0 Aggie victory, and having to kiss your date - with whom you discover you have very little chemistry after the first score - eight times. AWK-WARD.

Though I've yet to attend a TAMU football game, I've been told by many that the experience - thanks to the 12th Man and the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band - is one of the best a fan can have in a college football stadium. I can't wait to see and hear and feel what everyone is talking about for myself.

P.S. On January 2nd, 1922, the Aggies beat Centre College, 22-14. Gig 'em!