Saturday, July 31, 2010


July 30, 2010

Happy Birthday to my sister Elisabeth! Thanks for sharing Annabelle with us last week.

(NOTE: if your fingers are flying over the keyboard, "sister" can become "sistern" faster than you think. Luckily, spell check thought I had misspelled cistern, so I caught my almost insult, before it happened).

Walter and I made a break for it on Thursday and headed west for one last gulp of cool air in the New Mexican mountains so we can re-group and face a summer whose heat and humidity will last another two months, even as the responsibilities of our jobs and the fall semester fast approach. I thought July had more "must do" activities than it should, but August is shaping up worse. It is never a good sign when you have things penned onto your calender for a majority of days in a month BEFORE the first day of the month has yet arrived.

I am solacing myself with several quick and fun reads this trip. I'm laughing my way through Fool, by Christopher Moore, who reeks of inappropriateness in every sentence he writes. Here's perspective: Carl Hiaasen (author of Sick Puppy and several other wickedly humorous books and who is quite reek-y himself) writes this blurb on the book cover: "Christopher Moore is a very sick man, the the very best sense of that word." I also picked up a Tony Hillerman mystery and will try the first one In Nevada Barr's series featuring Anna Pigeon (has anyone read any of these and do you have an opinion about her work--not, of course, in a literary sense, but in a quick-but-enjoyable-easy-as-cotton-candy-to-swallow vacation fare?).

The satellite radio came in handy on the long drive out. But, at about hour six and not even to the halfway point, my mind started wandering. I am no longer a young chick. I have been listening to music since I started school (not college, not junior high, but first grade at Trudy's Kiddy College!). I can sing (I use that word very loosely) along with a huge number of songs. For many of them, I can recall when I first heard them. Most songs I know bring to mind certain summers or particular friends or special occasions.

I am not above admitting that I danced to "Brick House" in junior high down at the Friday night Manvel dances sponsored by the catholic church there (probably on the theory that if young people were dancing in the fellowship hall they weren't doing other, more regrettable things). I can remember singing along with the "Stray Cat Strut" as I watched the video on MTV. If we want to go waaayyy back, I can remember playing 45s of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on my little record player as a five-year old--most likely right before or after I shook my fine self to the "Hokey Pokey" .

Revealing my dicey taste in music over the years to you is not the point of this post (although it is tempting to reveal that I my first live concert was jazz trumpeter, Maynard Ferguson, and my second live concert was the inaugural Texxas Jam at the Cotton Bowl. Eclectic tastes, if nothing else). My point is that somewhere between Sonora and Ozona yesterday, I realized that I did not have a soundtrack to my life for the last two decades.

Well, strictly speaking, that's not entirely true. I just don't want to admit that Raffi took over the playlist in the 90s, and after that I reverted back to replaying and luxuriating in old tunes rather than doing the hard work of listening to new music and attempting to separate the wheat from the chaff. How does this happen? I know all the songs from the 70s, most from the 60s, a large number from the 80s (despite the weakening quality of music and encroachment of corporate music which began in the 70s). I can sing along with many songs from the 50s, despite never drawing a single breath in that decade, and sadly recognize more popular songs from the 40s than from the 90s or 00s. Yet, besides Taylor Swift (who my young junior high friends listen to), I cannot name (or really even discern) artists or songs from the last twenty years. How, tell me how, did this happen (AND PLEASE don't answer with reference to my ancientness if you were born in either of these two decades)?

Sunday, July 25, 2010


July 25, 2010

A friend of mine recently responded to an email I sent her. A few months ago she had asked me to make some Christian Year necklaces based on our Christian Year lanyard because she thought folks at her church might be interested in them in our effort to raise money for neuroblastoma. We made them up and sent them on. A little while ago I got them all back, and I had asked her if they never got there or if they hadn't been that popular. She wrote me back:

I haven't been back to that church in a while. I used to be on staff until I hurt my back again in Jan. But I never received a card, call or visit since then, so my feeling were hurt.

I'm not going to jump in right here and make a judgmental comment about what church family is for (which my baser instincts would prefer), but I would like to take the opportunity to reflect a little on that experience and reflect it in our own.

I can remember getting Erin's diagnosis eight years ago this month. When we got back to town, I drove straight to my friend Elaine's house and had a good cry. Soon after I made an appointment with our associate pastor for lunch and share our heartbreaking news with her. Of course, at that point my priorities were hugely confused. There was no doubt in my mind that Erin would survive her cancer, but I was really worried about how it was going to change our life and how folks would treat her. I didn't want her to be a freak or damaged goods or cried over or pitied. Both Elaine and Marie encouraged me to take the lead about the way I wanted people to act and they would follow, and follow they did.

Eight years, they followed, through pastor changes, multiple turnovers in the session and diaconate, new staff, new members, and every step of the way we felt the loving arms of our community of faith. We had more meals delivered than I ever had time to give proper thanks for, endless crafts, gifts beyond measure, visits on lonely days, written messages on every imaginable occasion, and so many, many voices of commiseration, celebration, and encouragement. We shared our friends arms for hugs and shoulders for strength.

This didn't end when April 2009 ended. We still look to our many, many friends at First Presbyterian Church, Bryan with awe and inspiration for how they continue to live in relationship with us. I am reminded of the verse (maybe in Luke, despite teaching adult Sunday School for fifteen years, I'm not very good with verse citations) that loosely translated says love God with all your heart and strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. And I have to say that our friends at church really take the second half of that verse seriously.

Knowing such an experience is possible made me really sad for my friend who heard nothing from her church family when she needed them most.

P.S. Let me know if you are in the market for a Christian Year necklace. I have a dozen or so.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Run (like a Chicken with Its Head Cut Off)

July 19, 2010

Davis made it back from Utah Saturday evening, stuffed with new knowledge from his classes and sprinkled with freckles on his arms and legs from the UV rays that flash through the thin atmosphere that one finds at an altitude of almost 7000 feet.

The whole adult son relationship is a crazy one to navigate, especially considering that our time together this summer is split between cozy togetherness and distant apartness. We keep getting thrown in with each other and then apart from each other, and it takes us all a couple of days to get our sea legs stable (not to mention coordinating our biorhythms and sleeping and eating patterns).

We have refocused on the 3000 piece puzzle that we started before his Utah trip, and have it more than two-thirds finished. Of course, most of what remains we saved for last for a good reason (and not because they were the easy and obvious pieces left to fit in). I remain motivated, however, so that I can rescue my drop-leaf table and reclaim a large swath of my living room.

Today I wore a variety of hats. I packaged up a new shipment of lanyards to send to my internet friend and marking partner, Marni, in Chicago. The office staff at Children's Memorial are crazy about the lovely lanyards we make. I dashed to the bank to make a deposit (and avoid those pesky bank fees). I spent a couple hours planning some house parties for my friend Chet. I am also subbed this afternoon at the Brazos Democratic Party headquarters because my friend Maggie finally got to take a vacation. At 3:00 I jumped in the car to meet Athena in Plantersville to do a lanyard supply and display transfer for her pre-school teachers' conference in Spring tomorrow. Now I am updating the website while the oatmeal from the breakfast dishes soaks off, so I can put them in the dishwasher.

My booth mate in Dallas sent some photos of our lanyard booth. We sold about 110 lanyards and made $2035 dollars, plus I got to see both my sisters, one niece, and my cousin and her daughter. Talk about win, win, win. Tomorrow I drive to Austin to see my sister-in-law, teach a lanyard workshop to participants at her Education Through Music Conference, and hopefully find some new adoptive parents for our lanyards!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


July 13, 2010

As in, cut me some slack for letting a week slip by without an update. For those of you who lost interest in my World Cup ramblings, it is safe to come out and read. I will say I have no idea why an octopus named Paul would have more skill at picking games than I do, but clearly, he outclassed me coming and going. I will also say that I may have to find a 12-Step program to help me break my habit of WC watching. Luckily we are only weeks away from the start of the EPL season.

I am completely out of my comfort zone this week. I am manning a booth at a conference as a vendor. I spent the entire weekend trying to figure out what that meant. I am hustling lanyards for CNCF, but because I am not comfortable "selling" (see my entry about ask versus guess), I was, it's safe to say, a bit concerned. My natural strength is planning and organizing, so I spent Saturday, Sunday, and Monday morning doing the prep. You can imagine me, sorting and labeling lanyards, doing quality control, thinking about display options, et cetera, et cetera. Everything to prepare me for the "moment" when someone wonders into your booth and either loves you (actually your lanyards) or NOT!

Even though I have time write now to write this entry, I think it is just a temporary lull. The conferees at the Texas Career Educators Conference have been enthusiastic supporters of the Lanyard Project so far. Here's where I need to thank everybody: Athena F-B (not facebook) for securing the booth and encouraging me to sell, to Rachel H. my cousin's daughter (is that a second cousin or a cousin once removed?) for helping me with the set up (there is no way I could have done it without her), and to my sisters, Katherine and Elisabeth for helping me in the booth. I feel all kinds of personal growth going on for me here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Catch Up

July 7, 2010

I don't have a lot of free time this week. I'm getting ready to take lanyards to a big conference in Dallas next week (free reminder: Red-Hot Lanyard Workshop at my house on Friday afternoon/evening to add the final touches to the inventory) and The Chet Store opened this week.

Some of you recall what fun Erin always had visiting The Chet Store (which is really just the local campaign office for her friend Chet Edwards). Because of their relationship, I am donating my time this summer to help with his re-election bid (more on this later).

I did a couple of things you might be interested in this week. Some of you have your own blogspots. If you do, you may have noticed they recently rolled out a new design upgrade for templates and layout. I have played round a little with this on some of the other blogs I keep, most noticeably on the Erin's Dream Lanyard site ( if you want to save the URL).

The whole lanyard project has gained momentum and spread. We want to be absolutely inclusive and welcoming to anyone who has a stake in neuroblastoma, so we have widened access and created a portal to everyone's lanyard projects. Go to NB Lanyard Link ( to check this out.

When I am confident enough that I know how to manipulate the new Blogger, I may even take a crack at modernizing Let's Do It!

I have also taken a few extra minutes each day to check on the status of the Giant Swallowtail eggs that someone (should I say somecaterpillar) deposited on a citrus-type scrub tree by my driveway. The really cool thing about caterpillar eggs is how quickly they grow into big fat caterpillars. As Eric Carle promised, they are hungry. . . so hungry in fact, that they decimated my little tree, and I had to collect small, leafed branches from a tree down the road and around the corner, so they wouldn't starve. Please do not confuse Eric Carle's Very Hungry Caterpillar, with the one in this YouTube video.

The last of them moved along into chrysalis land today, and in less than a couple of weeks I will have a herd? flock? of giant swallowtails in my front yard.

Have your ever seen a giant swallowtail caterpillar?

Do you now know why they are called "bird poop" caterpillars? Here's a hint:

Friday, July 2, 2010

And in the Second Match?

July 2, 2010

As much as a younger version of myself could fall in infatuation with Uruguay's Diego Furlon, I think I will have to go with the Black Stars on the merit of their performance against the USA and their 2009 U-20 world championship. Here's my prediction:

Ghana-2 Uruguay-0

Here are my picks for tomorrow as well:

I think Argentina and Germany will end regulation at 2-2 and Germany will win by one in extra time. I am not confident about this prediction at all. It could be just the opposite.

As much as I would like Paraguay to win, I think Spain will win this one 2-1.

I took some time off from blogging the game to have lunch with my lady friends. In the knock out round, the second half is often quite exciting. Suaraz, who is in the running for the golden boot, just looked quite dangerous. It makes me wonder if this brash young Ghana team can hold it together under the onslaught that will no doubt come over the next half hour.

This foul (67th minute) looks like a get back even call for not calling the short pulling, push from behind in the box a couple of minutes ago. Ball over the frame.

In the meantime, here are some of my fan picks:

Here was the first fan I captured. Although, sadly, Brazil is headed home, we thought that this fan won the "Best Use of Country's Flag" category:

These Chilean fans also won in a flag category. When we found them in the Sandton Center (a Galleria-style urban mall) they had a great difficulty posing, leading them to win the "I Love My Country, but Can't Tell the Top of Its Flag from the Bottom." Luckily, Davis is a flag afficianado and helped them out so they didn't embarrass their countrymen. I'm pretty sure the man to my left was not pleased with Davis's assistance.

With fewer than ten minutes remaining, nerves seem to unraveling. So far, it is looking like extra time. Will Ghana keep their cool or will Uruguay just chip away at their confidence. Forlan just had a really good chance, but couldn't quite catch up with the ball (in the replay he looks off).

Wow, the Ghana goalie's face looks frustrated and concerned (his eyebrows are stuck in that perpetual surprise position). I'll bet he is wanting the ball down at the other end for a while. Whatever happens, he's better off now than he would be if this goes on for another half hours and ends up in PKs.

901st minute. The Ghanans look like they remember how the USA game ended. They are really pressing.

If it goes another 30 minutes, you have to wonder whether athleticism or experience will win out.

Are you up for some more fan shots?

Here are fans from our play group. I think we combine to win the Best Overall Group Costumes (though Group A with Mexico, South Africa, France, and Uruguay came close, and Group G, with Brazil, Ivory Coast, Portugal, and North Korea would have been the big winner of this prize if Kim Jong-il had let ANY fans out of North Korea. . . instead he hired 100 Chinese to go to South Africa and pretend to be Korean fans).

We also had the opportunity to take pictures of fans whose teams did not make the World Cup (I suppose that comes from making your airline reservations and buying your game tickets before your team actually qualifies). They win the Fans Without a Team Award.

Here are a couple of Polish fellows:

And here are some French-hating Irish:

Fifteen more minutes on the field. Then more drama.

The final couple of fan awards go to Fans Who Exceeded Their Team's Efforts. Cameroon and Honduras ended up at the bottom of their play groups, but their fans we met were really FANTASTIC.

Wow!!!! Suarez! Red! Hand on the ball at the goal line! In the last seconds!

Gyan shoots for Ghana. And he missed it. . .

On the third kick, Ghana opens the window for Uruguay.

Uruguay wins. Cheeky final goal.

Catch Up and Go Forward

July 2, 2010

The announcer just said that all the starters for Brazil are happily married (though I'm not sure how anyone would actually know that). Such a factor could give Brazil and edge that I hadn't added to my calculations when I made my prediction. Given that it is a warm and sticky day in Port Elisabeth, there are other reasons why I might reconsider. I have to assume that warm and sticky fits with Brazil more than Holland.

In fairness, I will now show you the complete table of my group and first knock out round predictions and outcomes. I have italicized the matches where I predicted the outcome correctly and italicized and bolded them if I got the actual score correct (rare event).

Group A

South Africa-2 Mexico-3
Uruguay-0 France-2
South Africa-2 Uruguay-2
France-2 Mexico-0
France-1 South Africa-1
Mexico-3 Uruguay-1

Obviously I knew Nothing about Group A.

What a softness in the middle. Rabinho scores for Brazil, and it was no fluke. Beautiful movement to free Rabinho.

Group B

South Korea-2 Greece -1
Argentina-2 Nigeria-0
Argentina-2 South Korea-2
Greece-0 Nigeria-2
Nigeria-2 South Korea-1
Greece-0 Argentina-2

A bit better in Group B.

Group C

England 2- USA-2
Algeria-0 Slovenia-2
Slovenia-2 USA-3
England-2 Algeria-0
Slovenia-0 England-2
USA-1 Algeria-0

Given that USA really probably beat Slovenia 3-2, this is one of my best efforts.

I'm thinking that the 40% of employed folks in The Netherlands who took time off from work today or this afternoon may be biting their nails at this point. The Orange defense looks so much shakier than they have in their first for games and the Brazilians (who look strange to me with blue on top) look customarily collected.

Group D

Serbia-2 Ghana-1
Germany-3 Australia-0
Germany-2 Serbia-1
Ghana-2 Australia-2
Ghana-1 Germany-2
Australia-0 Serbia-2

Pretty mediocre. Missed out on Serbia's effort completely.

Sidenote: I met some Serbian fans at the Lesedi Cultural Village and, of course, asked if I could take their photo. They didn't have on fan gear, just black coats with Serbian crests, but I didn't think I would have a chance to see Serbian fans any other time so I went for it. As we lined up and Davis prepared to snap the shot, the man standing next to me reached over and pulled my stadium coat more closed. When I looked puzzled, he said, "I must cover your Adidas [on the soccer jacket I wore as an extra layer]. We are Nike."

Brazil seems to have a secret map to the seams in The Netherland's defense. The are looking quite dangerous. I think Robben has a goal in his shoe, if he can just get in the box without nine blue jerseys.

Group E

Holland-2 Denmark-1
Japan-0 Cameroon-2
Holland-3 Japan-0
Cameroon-2 Denmark-2
Denmark-2 Japan-0
Cameroon-2 Holland-2

Obviously, betting against Japan and in favor of Cameroon was an ineffective strategy. The Indomitable Lions were actually quite domitable. Oh Well. And Japan fielded a team that had more than just skill on re-starts (which was quite amazing). Honda has become one of my favorite players!

Group F

Italy-1 Paraguay-1
New Zealand-0 Slovakia-2
Slovakia-2 Paraguay-2
Italy-2 New Zealand-0
Paraguay-2 New Zealand-0
Slovakia-2 Italy-3

After a brilliant first match call, this group fell apart for me. I didn't think New Zealand had a chance to score and they left the tournament unbeaten. In the process Paraguay became one of my favorite teams to watch (gotta love the barber pole red and white socks).

Can the Dutch answer fire with fire. We will see over the next forty-five minutes. I hope they added starch to their back line at half time.

Equalizer in the first 10 minutes. Sneijder from quite a distance.

Group G

Ivory Coast-2 Portugal-1
Brazil-4 North Korea-0
Brazil-2 Ivory Coast-1
Portugal-2 North Korea-0
North Korea-0 Ivory Coast-2
Portugal-1 Brazil-1

This group had the advantage of having North Korea in it. making three of the picks pretty obvious. My best percentage correct.

Group H

Honduras-0 Chile-2
Spain-3 Switzerland-0
Chile-2 Switzerland-0
Spain-2 Honduras-0
Chile-1 Spain-1
Switzerland-0 Honduras-2

Finished with one exacto and half the group.

Holland adjusted some at half and currently the game looks more like I thought it would.

Unbelievable header from a corner for the Dutch! Sneidjer again!

Melo sent off? Who can believe it. While it makes it difficult for Brazil, perhaps that will fire their belly to counter this surge from The Netherlands.

Ten minutes left and things are getting quite scrappy.

Obviously, given my lukewarm predictions (20 right, 28 wrong), my Round of Sixteen predictions had to be re-vamped a little, based on who was playing, rather than how I filled my brackets before the Cup started.

I actually predicted three-quarters of the teams going through on the left wide of the bracket and five of eight on the right side. I think I only predicted two match ups correctly: Argentina/Mexico and Brazil/Chile.

I'll start with those two:
Argentina-2 Mexico-1
Brazil-2 Chile-0

The Dutch ends up on top. Unbelievable. I can't believe Brazil couldn't hold it together.


July 2, 2010

I want to get my prediction down, before I attempt a little live blogging and World Cup commentary over the next couple of hours.

Holland-3, Brazil 2 (maybe in extra time)
Erin Rules- Brazil wins