Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tales from my father: Christmas tradition

My grandfather always told my father that dads were supposed to make memories and traditions for their children.

My grandfather was an amazing man who did just that for all of his children, and, furthermore, his grandchildren. My grandfather passed away on Dec. 22, 2002, and still every time Bing Crosby croons "White Christmas" on the radio, I think of Grandpa. But I don't remember if he really sounded like Bing. What I do remember is an open-mouthed laugh while sitting in his chair at his kitchen table, spinning stories about his youth and years gone by. I loved those stories.

The first thing that hit me when I found out that he died was remorse for not doing what I told him I was going to do. I never made it down to his house with a tape recorder. I have no guilt over not visiting him or spending time with him -- I did that quite often. But I always told him I wanted to record his stories, his voice. And now I don't remember what that voice sounded like. And I wanted to write those stories down for him, for his children who loved him, who still speak of him (as well as their mother) with admiration and love.

He died before I could record him. I do feel guilty for that, although I'm sure he doesn't hold it against me. I miss him. I miss his wit, humor, and those wonderful stories of stubborn ponies, and baseball, and going to watch movies. I miss my Grandma cutting into those stories with an aside or laughter. And while she passed away not long after he did, I'm glad I got to have them for so long.

So one of the things I want to do is record some of those stories as they come up in a timely manner. I have a thought of binding them together in a book to give to my father. Hopefully it will give way to that some day.

But since it is almost Christmas, I'd like to talk about one fabulous story that speaks highly of my grandfather's character. Christmas is a great time to think about my grandpa. Of course, it is near the anniversary of his death, but Christmas meant so much to my grandpa. He would sit in his basement on Christmas Eve with his children and grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) surrounding him, a huge smile on his face as he unwrapped presents. On Christmas, my grandpa was like a king.

My dad's family got their Christmas tree as well as presents from Santa. So the kids (7 of them!) would find the presents and tree in the morning. I can imagine how magical that would be -- go to bed one night and wake up the next morning to Christmas! Although it would make for a very tired mom and dad the next day, I'm sure.

Well, one Christmas, my grandfather went out Christmas Eve to find the tree (it was always a live tree) and was disgruntled at the choices he had left. For, since it was Christmas Eve, many of the good trees had already found their way home to be strung with lights and ornaments. Grandpa found himself looking at the misfit trees -- those trees that were a little bare, a little puny. Grandpa couldn't bear to present his children with a puny Christmas tree, so he did what a man with an extensive tool collection could do.

He bought two -- and fused them together into one.

Imagine that -- bringing home two trees and working to cut branches off one to drill into the other. Grandpa apparently really loved a full tree. Christmas Eve and it's cold, and he's putting together a live tree so his children will have a happy Christmas.

Now, THAT, is making memories.


My dad confirmed that I did indeed learn to hula hoop in a bar and grill. The bar and grill, called Toot's ( was located in Murfreesboro, TN. However, a little exploration of the web site shows that the restaurant now also has locations in Bowling Green, Ky., and Loveland, Ohio! So, dad, we might have to go while we're home for Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Passing time

I've been trying to write this post for about a half hour now, but I haven't been able to because I've been involved in a full-out frustrating battle of Minesweeper.

You know Minesweeper, it's that PC game where you click on little boxes and numbers come up telling you how many bombs touch the boxes. If you click on a bomb, then you die.

I am hopelessly addicted to Minesweeper. I have been for several years now. I was proud of the way I could navigate the expert level (although I usually only win once or twice a day) until I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and found that the narrator also loved Minesweeper. The catch? The narrator was autistic.

So perhaps my Minesweeper addiction is not "normal." However, it is a good way to pass time during the day.

There are many things I should be doing during the day. Laundry, cleaning, writing the great American novel. However, it is vacation, and I can't seem to get up to speed doing anything.

Some may recall that I had a similar problem in the summer, which was only exacerbated by the fact that I didn't have cable, and thus spent my time surfing the web and watching Dawson's Creek episodes on DVD. Well, now I have cable, but there isn't much on.

I usually flip between ABC Family, HGTV, and FoodNetwork, with some MTV2 thrown in (if there's an America's Next Top Model marathon!). I try to catch House Hunters on HGTV every day at noon, which is a fabulous show and allows me to live vicariously through people who can buy houses and move out of the apartments.

I often catch several things on ABC Family. I like Gilmore Girls and several other shows. Every so often I will catch part or all of an episode of Full House.

However, the past two days have been Happy Birthday to Stace in terms of Full House episodes! (My former students will recall learning the story arc through an episode of Full House. Or perhaps they won't recall -- it's hard to tell if they listen or not!) A couple of my most favorite episodes (and, yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds that I have favorite Full House episodes) have been playing.

So we got to see "Stephanie runs Joey's car into the kitchen because she thought the R on the gear shift stood for RADIO because 1. she is ridiculous and 2. Joey is a moron and left her watching his car, which had the keys in it. Danny gets mad because he just mopped and Steph tries to run away to Mexico to be a Mexican Hat Dancer" episode. Love it because it's so ridiculous!

Today's episode might be my favorite ever. "D.J. goes to school dance with Kevin, who is dwarfed by DJ's huge hair. Kevin feels inadequate -- probably as much because of the hair as because DJ knows everyone and he's admittedly 'not good at that stuff.' Kevin's friends loosen him up by giving him BEER! Then they spray DJ with beer when she tells them they are idiots. Jesse catches her with the beer and assumes she's been drinking it." Whoo-hoo! A message episode! Kids are very susceptable to peer pressure, after all. Kevin, that tool, admits to his 8th grade friends that he's nervous (yeah, right, like that would ever happen) and then offers DJ beer by saying, "It tastes terrible! You want some?" I'm not sure why I have such an affinity for this one -- perhaps because Danny says, "I don't know how to handle this!" which is totally unusual, because everyone knows between the three men, Danny always knows how to parent. They also need to figure out WHY DJ did it so they can figure out a way to HELP her. It all turns out okay in the end, of course, and DJ goes on without being punished because Kevin admits to Danny and Jesse that he was the one drinking and DJ tried to stop him. (Perhaps if Steph had been the subject of this Very Special Episode, she would have stayed off the meth in later life.)

Anyway, obviously I have been lazy these past two days. Perhaps watching TV isn't the best way to pass the time, but it is one way to do it. I also read a ton during the day, and just broke into a reserve box of books that were still packed because we don't have anymore shelf space for them.

Tomorrow is all business, as I have to pack and wrap Christmas presents!

How do you pass time when you have nothing hanging over your head?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Silliness --- a contest of strength and skill

This weekend I returned home to NKy for a good friend's bridal shower. Hal stayed in Bloomington so I could return at my leisure on Monday, and in case I got snowed in.

While home, my sister, her boyfriend, and I watched a movie together.

But before the movie, we engaged in a little competition with each other.

Who could jump rope the most times with my sister's scarf?

Let me tell you, there are few things I should be doing less than jumping rope. My knees pop and give out and I generally feel lots of pain in the legs from jumping around. However, I'm always up to a good challenge, so when sister's boyfriend, Pete, started jumping rope, I had to try to beat him.

And beat them I did! I jumped for a grand total of 13 hops before I got the scarf caught on my head. Of course, during the jumping, something popped in my ankle and I felt a hot, liquid pain shoot through my foot. But it's ok, because I won! And after I finished, I fell to the ground and couldn't get up for awhile.

Pete was disadvantaged because he is tall and so he had to duck to get the scarf to go over his head. Jennie was disadvantaged because she just simply wasn't very good. I was brilliant! And later, I even jumped 15 times!

I used to jump rope as a kid quite a bit. First of all, jumping rope was allegedly supposed to make my feet faster for sports -- and everyone knows I need all the extra speed I can get. Also, a group of professional jumpropers, or something, come to my school once and did all sorts of tricks, and I thought it was awesome. And on the playground, we often jumped rope and sang silly little songs. Sometimes we played in some sort of strange reverse limbo, in which we would jump over the rope as it got progressively higher. One thing I could never do, however, was double-dutch. I do not have the coordination for that.

However, jumping rope wasn't the thing I was best at. My talent was left for ... the HULA HOOP! I was amazing at hula hoop and once beat everyone in the second grade during Olympic Day at my school in the hula hooping contest (don't worry, I was also in second grade -- this wasn't last year or anything). I believe that there might be a story in which I was taught to hula hoop by a waitress in some bar and grill in some city -- Dad, you need to remind me of this story.

Along with the hoop and the rope, I often did the Skip It. For those of you unlucky enough to never have a Skip It, it was a plastic thing pictured here:
To work it, you put one foot in the looped end and then spun the thing around so the ball would run along the ground. Then you would jump over it with your other foot. The Skip It had a counter on the ball part so it counted how many times you were able to spin it around. It was amazing, and I spent many hours with it attached to my foot.
I suspect that I would lose a Skip It contest to Jennie and Pete simply because I have not the stamina to jump over it for that long. Hula Hoop might fare better for me, assuming I have not forgotten, in my old age, how to Hula. I suspect that I would, however, rise to the top!
So this leads me to a question:
What silly non-sport games did you engage in as a child (or recently)?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


The writing is finished. I have emailed it to myself. Now I will get ready to go to school and catch the bus.

Hal called and warned me (I sent it to him as well) that I spelled Media wrong. LOL -- that would have been a bad error. I sent it to him to print out in case I couldn't access it at school. That would definitely be my luck today.


Argenfargle is something my sister and I say when we are frustrated.

I was up until 3 a.m. last night getting most of my theory final finished. I saved the document. I left it on the screen as I was just going to come right back to it today.

I came back to it today and Word is not up. When I opened my final, I was missing work I had done from about 1 a.m. until 3 a.m. So a couple of pages. I have no idea what happened!

So this morning I have been rewriting parts of my theory paper. It is due at 5 and I should have it finished in plenty of time.

I will provide breaking news alerts as they come. :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

17 hours

I have a little less than 17 hours until I turn in my final final for the semester. It is going relatively well. I'm in a good place and can probably even go to bed now if I want to. However, I will stay up and work on it a little bit more because I won't be able to sleep anyway.

Today I proctored my first exam for the 110 class. Now, our scheduled exam time is the LAST exam of the week -- 7:15-9:15 p.m. on Friday. Yuck. My professor is an incredibly nice man who understands that some students might not want to stay that long. So he applied for an received an alternative exam time this morning, which he offered in addition to the regular exam.

Now, we had about half the class show up. The kids were great, the exam went well.

Except that we seem to be missing a test.

You see, we (the professor and I) always lay the tests out on chairs before the kids come in. That way, we can stagger the tests if we want and have some control over where they sit. We did that this time, and staggered the tests at every other chair so no one would be sitting next to someone else.

At the beginning of the class, my professor walked up the stairs in the middle of the classroom and noticed that there seemed to be a chair in which no one was sitting that should have had an exam but didn't. So what were the possibilities?

1. We forgot to place an exam on the chair.
2. The exam fell of the chair and is wandering around on the floor.
3. Someone stole the exam.

We didn't see the test on the floor and the professor thought he put one on the chair. So we were left with option three.

What is the solution?

We searched 75 students' bags as they left the room.

No exam. But the kids were great. They were incredibly understanding. And I got to see all sorts of fabulous bags that the undergrads can afford. :)

We counted the exams when the class was over.

He had 166.

He ordered 165.

So we're not exactly sure what happened, other than an exam spontaneously budding, or perhaps the counter gave us an extra. We feel better about it now that we know we at least have as many as we're supposed to.

We shall see.

Friday, December 7, 2007

I did it!

Who says college students can't get certificates for perfect attendence. I have wanted one all my life, so I made myself one. :-D

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Shameless plug

On a side note, Hal has started a food blog! He is an incredible cook, if any of you have been lucky enough to partake in one of his meals. If you want to check it out, visit him at:

Last day

Tomorrow, assuming I make it to class, will be the first semester I have achieved perfect attendance! I am very excited about this, probably unduly so. Hopefully, I'm not jumping the gun and jinxing myself by writing this.

As you can probably guess, tomorrow is finally the last day of classes for the semester. I am all but done, having turned in 2 out of my 3 big research projects. I handed back 160 research papers today (dear sunrise_sets, if only you had written all 160 of them). I have to revise my J500 (research methods) project and turn it in on Monday. Tonight, we received our theory exam, which should amount to 10+ pages of pure comfort a joy, just to mark the season.

So now, with these two huge projects ahead of me, today is probably not the time to reflect upon the semester. I will subject you to that soon, I'm sure.

But hear this -- I have never been so wildly interested in everything that I've learned. My grad school experiences to this point -- law school and a stint at Xavier for a teaching class -- were not very good ones. (Of course, law school brought me Maria, Bryan, and Carrie -- and that was the best thing!) But here, I actually think I'm more excited now than I was when I walked in the door in August.

In August, I was so woefully uninformed. So clueless.

I can't wait to tell you all about this semester! But, for now, I should probably do a little bit of reading for 500 --- I'm mapping the blogosphere, people, and my literature review is lacking!