Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Short (Cry Me A River) Post......

Ugh.....toothache again. It appears to be related to cycling (rode my bike home today), which may seem silly at first. But when you think about breathing that cooler air..... Maybe there's something to it. At any rate, I've had three of those PM pain killers and two glasses of wine, so I'm headed for bed. If only I can get my restless left leg to cooperate. Damn, getting old kind of sucks.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Some Days Are Like That...Part 12714.....

I can't really say today was a disaster by any means. There was no bloodshed, no fights occurred at school, Hubby and I didn't argue, we didn't get any bad news. But for some reason I felt slightly out of kilter all day (not at all helped by the fact that when it's 60 degrees outside in January - thank all that is holy for THAT - it is still FREEZING in my classroom) and it just seemed that things that could go wrong...went slightly wrong.

  • I have a tooth that is killing me sometimes. Other times it's just a dull ache. It just happens to be the same tooth that is sporting a brand-new $900 crown on it. I could use that money for a crown to wear on my head, where it belongs. I put off calling the dentist all day today, partly because I wanted to ride my bike when I got home and not go to the dentist AGAIN, and partly because I don't have a planning period or any free time during the day to MAKE that kind of phone call.
  • I was 19.27 miles away from my cycling goal for January. And while I spent copious moments justifying and making excuses in my mind that no law said I HAD to meet my January goal, parts of my mind didn't listen. So I came home this afternoon and got on my bike, even though I was tired and already worked out on the elliptical this morning and really wanted a nap, and I rode. I rode 15.6 miles. I'm still not at my January goal, which means I will have to ride again tomorrow if I am to reach it. OCD much? I had ridden about 10 miles and was about to make a left-hand turn for home when the arm came down for the railroad signal. Seriously? Thwarted by a train? (That became the name of today's ride, by the way.) That's where the other 5 miles came from. It's also why today's route map looks like this:
  •  One of our co-workers had surgery today and will be out of school all week, so we volunteered to cook dinner for her and her husband tomorrow night. They are trying to eat healthy these days, so I offered to make a turkey tetrazzini or tetrazinni or however the heck you spell it. (I'm much too tired to go look in the cookbook, and my spell check wants to change it to "tetracycline." I'm pretty sure that's not what I cooked.) I was following the steps carefully, and had mixed the cornstarch with the milk just like it said. Then I got to "add milk." Wait...isn't that what I just DID? Oh, that was the BROTH I was supposed to combine with the cornstarch and bring it to a boil and stir until it thickened. Crap. Maybe I can convince my friend that "turkey soup" is what I intended all along.
  • I told Hubby we were having chicken strips for dinner, but I didn't think we should have both fried chicken strips AND fried potatoes. I told him he could either have grilled chicken strips (not his favorite - heck, he's not even crazy about chicken at all, but we can't have steak EVERY NIGHT) and fried potatoes, or we could have fried chicken strips and homemade potato salad. His response, just like always, was "whatever is easier for you." Great. So I compromised and breaded the chicken strips but baked them in the oven so they wouldn't be so dry. I poured canola oil into the iron skillet and reached for the potatoes...that we didn't have. Who runs out of potatoes? I usually have to throw away a few that have sprouted appendages. Not a potato in the house. And chicken strips already in the oven. Crap.
  • I don't know what kind of butter or margarine I THOUGHT I was buying at the grocery store, but I'm pretty sure I didn't mean to buy the kind that requires a jackhammer to serve. It comes in a plastic tub, but when it comes time to butter toast, it's the kind that will tear a piece of bread all to hell and back and will NEVER spread.
Enough belly-aching for tonight. I'll go take my nighttime pain reliever (don't really have any pain, but they say prevention is just as important, and I don't CARE who "they" might be) and get a good night's sleep. Who knows, maybe I'll have another crazy dream I can write about tomorrow night instead of complaining.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

College Gymnastics 101......

**DISCLAIMER**: I am not a professional. I have never competed in, had a daughter in, judged, or coached college gymnastics. The information contained in this blog post is not meant to suggest that I know even a tenth as much as the next person. It's just information I've gleaned from watching and studying the sport, mostly over the last 7-8 years.

UGA had its second home gymnastics meet yesterday, and it was all around a good meet. It was a win, we scored over 197 (good for this time of the season), several girls hit season highs, several freshmen hit career highs, and yet there is still room for improvement.

Last season we were riddled with so many injuries that sometimes we didn't even put a sixth floor routine up if we had five hit routines in the bag. For those of you who don't know about college gymnastics, six girls compete on each of four events (vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise), with the highest five scores on each apparatus counting for the team score.

If you've watched gymnastics in the Olympics or any of the other televised events leading up to the Olympics (the Visa Championships, the World Championships, Cover Girl Classic, etc.), don't let their scoring confuse you. I still can't understand it, and if college gymnastics ever adopts that scoring system, I'll have to abandon the sport in favor of ... I don't know ... wrestling. Or curling. In those OTHER gymnastics events, higher difficulty is rewarded, and you can get away with errors as long as you pack a ridiculous number of skills into the routine. No wonder girls who come to college gymnastics from the elite system often arrive broken in body AND spirit.

In the college world, the scoring is simpler. A perfect routine with all the required elements earns a 9.5. A gymnast can add enough bonus to any routine to earn up to a 10.0. She can put MORE than that, but she doesn't get extra credit. Bonus can be earned by connecting skills (two leaps without a pause in between, for example) or by inserting more difficult skills (I believe a double front somersault earns a higher bonus than a double back).

Yesterday our total team score was 197.25, which divided by four events and five scores on each gives an average for each routine of 9.86. That is excellent, but still gives room for growth. Last year I would go back over our scores, trying to determine where we might have gained an extra tenth or two. (Because I like torturing myself, apparently.) Often I couldn't find a single routine where we could have expected a higher score. We just didn't have the depth, and it was almost a miracle that we even made it to the national championships. (More on that format in another post.)

In college gymnastics, two judges assess every routine, and their scores are averaged together for the final score. Their scores must be within a certain range of each other, or they must conference and work out the difference. For example, one of the LSU girls yesterday dragged her feet on her uneven bar routine. One judge gave her a 9.6, the other a 9.15. They had to conference and compare notes; you can't just average two scores that far apart. Perhaps one didn't see the girl drag her feet; maybe one considered it a "fall" and the other didn't. They worked it out, though, and her final score was a 9.3. 

I won't get too technical here, mainly because I don't KNOW ENOUGH to be technical. But here are some of the basics required to get a good score on each apparatus.

VAULT: Judges are looking for a gymnast to have good height and distance from the table (it used to be called a horse, but the vault table was changed sometime around 2003), and perfect form in the air. Legs should be glued together, toes pointed, body straight but hollowed out. The gymnast should land directly in front of the table, and the ultimate goal is the "stick," landing on the mat and not moving the feet. Often gymnasts take a step or a hop backward or forward, depending on the vault, but hopping to the side is a bigger deduction. Landing in a piked position with the chest down is also a deduction. After the landing the gymnast is required to salute the judges, but there must be control demonstrated before the salute. Some gymnasts try to get away with a little shuffle of the feet WHILE they are saluting, but they rarely get away with it. If you are interested enough to search on YouTube for some good vaults from the college world this year, look for Geralen Stack-Eaton (Alabama vs Georgia), Vanessa Zamarippa (UCLA vs California), or Kat Ding (Georgia vs Denver OR Georgia vs LSU).

UNEVEN BARS: The emphasis on uneven bars is on body lines, particularly in the handstand position. Gymnasts should achieve a perfect vertical line on EVERY handstand, with up to a tenth of a point deducted each time vertical isn't achieved. Release moves are required, as is transitioning between the high bar and the low bar. Often the coach will stand near the bars and even hold out his hand (it drives me CRAZY, and I can't imagine it doesn't drive the gymnasts crazy too, but I guess they're used to it) in case of a fall. I don't know why they do that, since if they inadvertently touch a gymnast, it's an automatic one-tenth deduction. It's not like holding his hand out there is going to save her from falling. But whatever. As mentioned above, athletes can earn bonus by connecting or combining skills. The most common dismount is a double back somersault in the layout position, and as always the judges are looking for a stuck landing. Kat Ding of Georgia is the reigning national champion on uneven bars, and you don't need to look any further than Kat for a perfect routine. She hasn't yet earned the perfect 10, but it's coming. Her first routine this season she earned a 9.975. That means one judge gave her a 9.95, the other a 10. And as sad as it is true, it could have simply been that the judge who gave her a 9.95 gave it because it was the first meet of the season. You can't really blame them, I guess. If you give a 10 right out of the gate, where do you go from there for the rest of the season?

BALANCE BEAM: Obviously the most crucial part of a balance beam routine is simply staying on it. It's four inches wide, and gymnasts are required to perform both backward and forward tumbling in addition to leaps and a full turn on one foot. (You'd be amazed at how many girls complete a tumbling series without a wobble but then nearly fall off just doing a full turn.) The tumbling series (or acro series, as some call it) must be at least two elements connected, but some gymnasts choose to do three. Gymnasts are also required to get down on the beam at some point, lying down or sitting down (which I have never understood, and I'm guessing everyone has forgotten why THAT rule is in place). Georgia has had several gymnasts from the past turn in perfect balance beam routines: Grace Taylor, Courtney McCool, and Courtney Kupets. Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs of UCLA has also earned a 10 on balance beam in the past. Bonus comes not only from connecting elements on the balance beam, but also with added difficulty on the dismount. And of course only a stuck landing will earn a perfect 10.

FLOOR EXERCISE: This is Hubby's least favorite of all the women's events. He says "all they're doing out there is wallering (wallowing) around on the floor." Routines are choreographed to music, often a compilation of two or more songs, but the music cannot have words. Only recently have the rules been amended to allow "human sounds" (I don't want to think about what mental images THAT creates), as long as there are no words. Routines are about a minute and a half in length, and most girls have three tumbling passes in their floor exercises. We have one gymnast this year who only has two passes, because she has battled chronic back issues. She puts enough into her two passes to earn her a 10.0 start value, though, and that's all that matters. Dance moves are judged in addition to the tumbling and leaps, and just like beam, gymnasts are required to "waller" on the floor. Oddly enough, it's much harder to get a 10 on floor exercise, because the routines vary so widely and judging the dance part is so subjective. Georgia's Courtney Kupets earned a 10 on floor exercise in 2009. Courtney McCool and Shayla Worley of Georgia have also come very close.

I was so proud of our team yesterday, but probably the best news of all is that there is still room to grow. I think our girls could easily earn an additional .5-.75 (although scores of 198 are almost unheard of) before the season is finished with a few more stuck landings on vault and some cleaned-up floor routines. Yesterday's score was our highest in two years, and it should move us into fourth place in the country when rankings come out tomorrow. If we keep improving little by little, we will definitely be in the conversation when the post-season arrives. And I hope we speak very, very loudly.

Go Gym Dogs!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy.....

Maeve Binchy is one of my favorite authors, one of those whose books I buy immediately when they come out. I don't remember how I got interested in her writing, but most of her books are set in Ireland, and I'm fascinated by the culture. Her writing style is simple without being boring or dull. (Is that redundant?) Many of her characters show up across several books, but it's not like you HAVE to have read the earlier ones to "get it."

Minding Frankie is about a young man named Noel whom I would probably describe as a "loser" if I knew him in real life. He still lives with his parents, didn't finish school, is in a dead-end job that he hates, and hides his alcoholism (but not very well). His (quite a bit older) cousin arrives from America and takes their little town (village? street?) by storm, taking on many people-projects and doing pretty well with most of them. Noel becomes a project unwittingly when he is called to the bedside of a terminally ill, very pregnant woman and told he is the father of this soon-to-be-born-and-subsequently-motherless child.

I like Maeve Binchy's writing style because she doesn't try to make readers like the unlikable, and she doesn't try to hide characters' flaws. They are people, after all, and you have to take them "warts and all," as my mother used to say. Characters don't always wind up "happily ever after," but you get the feeling they wind up as they were meant to.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Favorite Things Friday - Dog That Isn't Mine....

I've written a good bit about Gus, the world's most wonderful dog. Like many dogs, he doesn't think he IS a dog. He's a people too, in his little bitty mind.

Outside of my own dog(s), though, I have another favorite. I guess you would call him my dogphew. Nephdog?

This is Chico. He belongs to Katydid. Or rather, Katydid belongs to him.

How could you not love that face? I make fun of him, saying his tongue is too long for his mouth to hold it all. Or maybe he's just sticking it out at ME for making fun of him. Either way, that tongue is always visible. I also call him "Taco" sometimes, but he doesn't seem to mind. At least he's never bitten my ankle for calling him that.

This is his Doggy Ride, which allows Katydid to pull him behind her bicycle. Now folks, that's love right there. Considering the dog weighs 5 pounds and the trailer weighs about 30, that's going above and beyond the call of duty. As much as I love Gus, he's never had the privilege of riding in a fancy trailer behind my bike. I once bought a wire basket for the front of my bicycle (when I still thought he was going to be a tiny thing), but the first time I put him in the basket, Gus clearly said to me, "I don't THINK so, Scooter." (Name that comedian.)

Chico isn't one of those yippy chihuahuas. He has a sweet personality, and he seems to like me, for some reason. He goes on BRAG with us, and he's not a bit of trouble. He's probably the sweetest pocket dog I've ever known.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

It's Real.....

Today I filled this out. It's the first time it's felt REAL. 

At one of the schools where I used to teach, the preference sheet had a blank where you could check "I plan to retire at the end of the ________ school year." I always wanted to check that box.

But then what would my statement have said?

I don't know how binding these documents are. The school district doesn't HAVE to offer you a position just because you get one of these forms. And I think January is a little early to ask most people to declare their intentions for the next school year.

But this person?

Not so much.

I had tears in my eyes as I filled out this form. But believe me, they were tears of JOY. 

Not that I hate my job. I'm not miserable, homicidal (most days), suicidal, disgusted, burnt out, angry, or frustrated. At least no more than 99% of the rest of the teachers in the nation.
I'm just ready.

And now it's real.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Groundhog Day.....

I realize that Groundhog Day isn't until next week. This blog post is in reference to the movie Groundhog Day. And I'm going out on a limb here, referencing a movie I've NEVER SEEN. As I understand it, though, a man is forced to relive the same day over and over again.

Almost a year ago, I wrote this post about the fact that my husband, who could not WAIT to retire, kept returning to work for Pepsi. And he kept hating it. And every time he hated it, he told me to remind him next time to tell them to go ____________________. Any random expletive will do there.

Last week Hubby and I exchanged this flurry of text messages while I was at school:

Hubby: Going back to Pepsi for little while. Do resets at Quality Dills Bells. By myself except first store. Off Fridays.

Me: Is this a joke?

Hubby: No. Don't mind doing something by myself and prob finish in 2 weeks. But he said only have to do 1 per day if I want.

Me: You told me to remind you...

Hubby: I know but I think this will b different.

I'm not going to bore you to death with the details of why this time has NOT been different. Hubby worked one day (yesterday), they were off today, and he is thinking of telling the guy tomorrow (his former supervisor) that he's not interested in doing this after all.

Sometimes "I told you so" just doesn't cut it.

The next sound you hear will be Bragger banging her head against a brick wall. It has much better results.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Looking Ahead.....

I think I've always been a planner (and a dreamer), but it is possible to OVERplan? I don't mean scheduling every little detail of an event and being inflexible or blowing up when things don't go according to the plan. (Like a certain person I know and love, but who shall remain nameless here in the interest of family harmony.) I guess what I'm talking about is being overly concerned with the future.

This isn't coming out right. I'm not CONCERNED about the future...I just want it to GET HERE. NOW.

It seems I'm always looking forward to something. Can't wait until the weekend. Next gymnastics meet. Next football season. Payday. Bike ride. Summer. Retirement.

It's not that I don't enjoy NOW. I just always seem to be looking ahead, eagerly anticipating...something. Is that unhealthy? I seem to be antsy a lot of the time, wanting time to pass faster so I can get to the next thing. Hubby says his father used to say, "Don't wish your life away."

Again, it's not that I'm unhappy. I'm not necessarily looking forward to something BETTER. Just something ELSE. Sometimes I get frustrated (that's not the right word, but neither is depressed or dismayed or annoyed) that I won't live long enough to do all the things I want to do. Maybe that's why I try to cram so many activities into any free time I have.

That doesn't mean I don't know how to kick back and relax. I spend a lot of time crocheting, particularly in the winter. I can't wait to finish the project I'm working on so I CAN GET TO THE NEXT ONE. And there's always a next one.

I suppose an obsession with the future is better than dwelling on the past.

I guess.

Monday, January 23, 2012

More Pettiness.....

I promise this blog post isn't written with as much grumpiness as it will sound like. It's more a case of, "Hmmm...Didn't see THAT one coming." I really don't just sit around and think of things to complain about. Really. I don't.


And this isn't a gymnastics post per se, although gymnastics will be mentioned tangentially.

Isn't that a cool word, "tangentially"? Makes me feel smart. Unless I'm not using it correctly, in which case I feel dumb.

When we go into the Coliseum for home gymnastics meets, we go from the training facility (where the hospitality room is located) through a corridor into the Coliseum. We don't enter from the outside like the common people people who don't contribute like a gazillion dollars to the university every year.

Katydid and I had an extra ticket at the first meet, because Frogger Blogger couldn't be there, and I asked the lady who scans our tickets what I could do with it. Not many people wander by there needing an extra ticket. She said I could give it to one of the "common people" ticket takers at the outside doors (those are my words, not hers, because she was clearly a lot nicer than I am), because sometimes people arrive with babies and don't realize the infants also need their own tickets.

So I approached a man at the door and gave him the extra ticket, saying, "Here is a baby ticket if you need it. But don't put it next to me!" He laughed and thanked me, and we went on about our business.

Imagine my surprise when a little while later the "baby" showed up at our seats in the person of a teenager and said we were sitting in HER seat. I argued with her at first, until she showed me her (my) ticket stub. She had a friend with her who could NOT have had a seat in that section because it's full of season ticket holders, and I was SO HOPING the folks to our left (the one who has serious iPad envy when I keep up with scores during the meet) would show up and kick them out of THEIR seats. But no, they picked that meet to stay home and allowed the little twit and her little twit friend to occupy seats they didn't deserve.


I realize that I gave up all rights to the ticket when I relinquished it. I didn't have the man sign a contract stating that he would ONLY give it to a family who needed it for a baby and he would ONLY put them in a dark corner far, far away from my seat location.

The meet wasn't a sell-out, so it's not like she was desperate for a way to get in. She just batted her little eyes and got a free ticket. And she isn't a baby.

I'm not angry or bitter, and I didn't memorize her features so I could hunt her down and instruct her in the error of her ways. I didn't even consider going to the man at the door and asking him what the HELL he thought he was doing, giving MY ticket to a silly teenager instead of the BABY I intended it for. At least the BABY wouldn't have spent the entire meet texting on her cell phone. Probably.

Katydid and I may end up with an extra ticket for this Saturday's meet as well. Guess where it will be?

In. My. Pocket.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Crazy Dream #16......

Here's another crazy dream with vivid detail, so real to me that I woke up angry at Hubby.

I dreamed Katydid, Rozmo, and I were walking to my home from the town where UGA is located. Specifically, we were walking home from the high school where I used to teach, a distance of about 23 miles. We weren't at all dismayed by the distance we were walking, and we weren't tired at all. We were laughing and having a grand old time.

We were all laden with ... stuff. I don't know what we were carrying or why, but I was carrying my stuff in a white plastic kitchen-sized trash can.

Oh, and we had Gus with us. No collar or leash, but Gus was with us.

We had made it to about 6 or 7 miles from my house, and I realized that it was going to be a problem walking through town with Gus due to all the traffic. No matter that we had already walked almost 20 miles on the Atlanta Highway. I decided we needed to call Hubby to come get us. I was going to tell him to be sure and drive my SUV, since there were so many of us.

I didn't have my cell phone, because I had had to leave it somewhere to be ... repaired? ... charged? Anyway, I had to use Katydid's cell phone. And it was a good thing she had Hubby's number in her phone, because I had no idea what his number was.

I called him, and when I told him I needed him to come get us, he said, "You should have made better plans before you got all that crap. I'm laid up here on the couch sick."

I have no idea how he knew we had "crap" with us. I said, "Never mind, we'll make other arrangements," and I hung up on him.

I can picture the exact location where we were on the Atlanta Highway. There was an old abandoned business there named "Dunham's." There is no such business on that highway, abandoned or otherwise, and the only Dunham I know of is Jeff, the comedian.

Naturally Hubby called back, and I was (rightfully) hateful. I said, "To think of all the times I've hauled your drunk ass places when I didn't feel like it." (Don't tell Hubby, but I think I had him confused in my dream with my ex. He would be offended that I had confused him with that jerk.)

Then in the phone conversation Hubby started talking like Carl from Slingblade, and I told him that was getting pretty damn old. (If you've never seen the movie, or even if you have, please forgive us for finding the movie so hilarious. It isn't supposed to be a comedy.) At least I know where THAT part of the dream came from. Hubby and his golfing buddies have started talking like Carl ALL. THE. TIME. Katydid and I had the distinct privilege of listening to that for approximately eight hours last weekend, four on the way to Tuscaloosa and four on the way back. In my dream I had the nerve to tell him it was getting old. Not so much in real life.

I woke up SO ANGRY, and I never did find out if Hubby intended to come get us or not.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Year She Fell by Alicia Rasley......

I read this book on my iPad after downloading it for **FREE** on the Kindle. (I like the way the pages look on the screen on the iPad better than the Kindle.)

I didn't have high expectations for the book because it was free. Does that make me a snob? Or just stupid? I'm not sure what attracted me to the book, except its freeness. Maybe it's the subtitle, barely readable at the bottom of the cover: "Every family has secrets."

This is another of those books in which the story is always told in first person, but the narrator switches characters every few chapters. The first time that happened I thought, "Oh no, here we go again..." but I was so far into the book that I didn't want to abandon it.

One thing that stood out to me in this book was the quality of interpersonal relations and conversations among family members. They appeared to be "real" conversations; I didn't find myself thinking, as I do with so many other books, "There's no way anyone would really say that in the same circumstances." I like real people who speak to each other the same way people I know would speak to each other. Only maybe with fewer curse words.

The first character introduced in the book is Ellen O'Connor, a Presbyterian minister. When a young man shows up at her church, she assumes he is there for counseling. He says he was adopted and is looking for his birth parents, and he produces a birth certificate that lists Ellen as the mother. She is confused, naturally, since she has a daughter only a few months older than this boy, and he becomes angry, thinking she is trying to deny him. Ellen realizes almost immediately that while she cannot possibly be the boy's mother, it is apparent that her husband is his father.

I had no problem with this author switching point of view. In fact, she did it with such skill that she managed to change characters at just the right moment every time, creating a "cliffhanger" effect every time. When the next character picked up the storyline, there was just enough overlap that it was informative without being tedious. It gave a fresh perspective on events that had already occurred; I didn't find myself thinking, "I already KNEW  that."

I couldn't put this book down. In the interest of full disclosure, that could be due to the fact that we had about a gazillion inches of rain here today, and there wasn't much else to do. Toward the end the plot line became a little contrived, and the ending was a little too pat for my taste. Still, it was a worthwhile read, and I would recommend this book.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Favorite Things Friday - Picture of Hubby.....

I have many pictures of Hubby through the years, naturally. What I don't have is many pictures of me, which may not be a bad thing. When my screen saver starts scrolling through my pictures and I occasionally see one of myself, I look at two things: #1 - my weight; and #2 - my hair. The hair fluctuates almost as much as the weight. And I usually see pictures of my hair and think, "What in the hell was I THINKING?"

But I digress.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Hubby.

I took this photo several years ago, right after I got what I call my "big dog" camera. I took it from what I thought was a cool angle, and I like the look on his face. A better photographer would have arranged it so that the shadow didn't cover his face, but whatever. Naturally he's smiling because A) he's got a beer in one hand (that you can't see); and B) he's got a golf club in the other hand. Life is good.

I have some video taken on this same trip of a one-legged man playing golf. He was riding in the cart with Hubby, and he didn't mind at all when I wanted to take some video. I'll upload that on another day.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Flexibility is a Good Thing........

Flexibility is a GOOD thing, so why did it take me 50 years to figure that out?

Katydid (and Frogger Blogger, when she's not inconsiderate enough to go to GRADUATE SCHOOL and render herself unable to attend sisterly events for a period of time) have both humored me and gone along with my passion dedication obsession attraction psychotic interest in college gymnastics. They have driven to my house to attend home meets (the meets aren't actually at my house, you understand), they have spent nights away from their families and/or dogs (or brought their dogs with them, when we discovered we weren't nearly as sneaky as we thought we were), and they have accompanied me to faraway locations like Nashville and Jacksonville and Birmingham to attend 7-team meets that begin to look like a 3-ring circus.

Because I sometimes often always take even good ideas to ridiculous extremes, I made plans to attend not only all six home gymnastics meets this year, but three away meets. I have already told you about last week's meet, so don't be afraid that I'm going to go into all THAT again.

Katydid and I had made plans to drive to another meet in Alabama tomorrow night, this time in Auburn. It's a much more reasonable drive, only a little over two hours, so we were planning to come back home after the meet, getting back between 12:30 and 1:00 AM.

Katydid is unable to go, however, due to an ongoing illness, and she texted me today to see if I could get someone else to go. My mind immediately started spinning, wondering who besides my sisters would be willing to go along with me to see something they probably don't give two rips about. Hubby doesn't even like to go to the HOME meets, much less drive two and a half hours for one. And get off the golf course early just to do so? Not gonna happen.

Then a thought occurred to me.

"Psst. Hey, Bragger. You spent $10 on the tickets. You could just ... NOT GO. Save the $65 or more in gas. Watch it online. Go to bed at a decent hour. Avoid driving through Atlanta during rush hour." (Even my thoughts are long-winded.)

So I decided not to go, and I'm ... relieved. Worried about Katydid (so I wouldn't have enjoyed myself anyway), but relieved.

It also saved me the added pressure of writing tomorrow night's Favorite Things Friday blog post tonight. It's a win-win-win situation.

And we should win.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Doctor is In....Wait....Not....

One of my students came to me yesterday, obviously distressed. She is participating in a weight loss/healthy choices challenge at our school, and she was apparently dismayed to learn that she weighs FIFTY-THREE more pounds than she thought she did.

Of particular concern, though, was her blood pressure, which she said was 146/100. I agreed that was alarming, particularly the bottom number. We discussed some changes she could make, small ones that she could actually put into practice, both to treat the blood pressure and to help her lose weight. I encouraged her to pick very specific things (walk 30 minutes a day rather than "exercise more") and not try to cut out every single bad food all at once.

We talked for a few minutes, and I think I succeeded in making her feel better. As we were wrapping up the conversation, she thanked me and said, "I couldn't even concentrate on my work. I told myself I had to go talk to Dr. [Bragger]."

Holy mother of all that's good.

I hope she doesn't think I'm THAT kind of doctor.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's the Little Things That Make Me Happy........

I'm not just a fan of college gymnastics; I'm a student of the sport. By that I mean I like to learn about its inner workings, the technical jargon, the political aspects of it, and even the gossip.  I'm no expert by any means, but I enjoy learning about the sport. Few days go by that I don't learn something new, whether I meant to or not.

Because I like hearing what others have to say about college gymnastics (and what I hear most is that most of them hate UGA, hate the Gym Dogs, and won't ever change their minds about that, and yet I continue to read), I routinely visit a message board devoted to college gymnastics. I post sometimes, but very infrequently. Usually my posts are questions about scoring, or policies, or things I'm confused about. I rarely offer up opinions because I'm afraid I'll get my feelings hurt.

Just like in the general population, some people on the board are polite and knowledgeable, and some are stupid and not ashamed for everyone to know it. The following posts were copied and pasted from the site; I did not edit them in any way. You will be able to tell which comment is mine, because I use the same name I use on this blog.

Gymfan04: I know everyone that reads this board is a college gym fanatic & more than likely has a favorite team, myself included. That said, must we bash the gymnasts? They have worked so hard to get where they are & should be commended for it. Yes, there is questionable scoring at times-there always has been & there always will be, that's the nature of the sport. It's not the gymnasts fault that one gymnast scored higher than another gymnast that should have scored the same. Why not enjoy the season & take it for it is, tremendous athletes competing in a sport we all love :)

Year of the Hog: You must have a very liberal definition of bashing.

The fact that fans are interested and passionate enough to discuss and question things on this board and in other forums is a good thing for our sport. No debate=no one watching or caring.  

Gymfan04: I'm not saying everyone on here does so, there are a few that go overboard in my opinion. My point was we shouldn't direct our distaste for scoring towards individual gymnasts, rather the way the scoring system is set up.

lsugymfan: totally agree its not the gymnast fault about the scoring of course i love LSU but I love gymnastics what would we do without. Its Olympic year and the college season has started some people on this board should realize that instead of demeaning these gymnast because of toe point form and scoring. Just be grateful and some opinions should be kept hidden regardless if this is a discussion board or forum. 
AreYouJoking: So in other words, pretend everything is perfect, give everyone a 10 and eliminate the postseason. Everyone gets a trophy! No opinions for anyone!

lsugymfan: Its people like you Areyoujoking that we can do without most of your post are always condescending or degrading. Your very disrespectful with some of the teams on your post yeah everyone should get a 10 thats not the world of gymnastics since u have so much to say and comment on get your ass out there and compete you take subjective to the top get a life

Bragger: On a positive note, AreYouJoking, I appreciate your use of punctuation in your posts.

louanne: :) Coffee just almost shot out of my nose.  [Accompanied by a smiley face emoticon rolling from side to side]

EliteAthlete10: Same here! Although it was green tea. ;-)

When I read the two responses to my post, I went all Sally-Field-like, thinking, "They like me! They really like me!"

Then I realized they have no idea who I am, and I came back to the real world.

But I went back and read them three more times.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Almost Famous.....

When Katydid and I were walking to Coleman Coliseum for the gymnastics meet Friday night, there were nice police officers directing traffic. FOOT traffic. I've always been kind of smug about the fact that at UGA we have police officers directing traffic after home meets. But I never realized that some places have to direct traffic - FOOT traffic at that - BEFORE the meets. I'll tuck my smugness away where no one can see it.

Anyway, as we crossed the street I was reminded  of the time I was almost famous. It took me almost the rest of the way to the Coliseum to tell it, because I get hysterical every time I try to recount the story. Oddly ... no one else thinks it's as funny as I do.

Way back when Sweet Girl was a little bitty thing, we had some kind of official convocation at the University of Georgia. I think it was in 1985, which would have been the 100th anniversary of UGA, so that kind of makes sense. It was apparently a very big deal, because then-Vice-President George Bush was the keynote speaker. The first George Bush.

Because I worked at UGA and the ceremony was in a building right up the street from my office, and because it made me look interested and got me out of the office for a couple of hours, I attended the convocation. I cannot for the life of me tell you to this day anything anyone said at the ceremony.

After the speeches and pomp and circumstance were over, I had to leave to take Sweet Girl to the doctor for a check-up. The streets adjacent to the parking lot where I parked were blocked off, and a policeman was standing in the road directing ... nothing. I approached him to ask what time the streets would be reopened, because clearly my daughter's health was way more important than any old Vice President.

As I opened my mouth to ask my question, the nice policeman snarled, "Lady, get out of the ROAD!"

I looked up, and the Vice Presidential motorcade, flags a-flying and Official Seal of the United States of America a-blazing, was bearing down on me. Fast. Very fast. And their agenda did NOT include stopping for some dumb broad standing in the middle of the road asking a police officer a very legitimate question.

I scurried out of the way, embarrassed and chastened, and never did get the answer to my question. I guess the roads opened up soon enough, though, because I'm not still there.

And that is how I almost got famous.

Dead, but still famous.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Georgia versus Bama.....

I haven't been to a lot of gymnastics meets away from the home arena, but Katydid and I made the decision (actually, I made it and she was gracious enough to go along with me) to go to the Alabama meet. We are also going to the Auburn meet next weekend, and Sweet Girl and I are going to the one in Florida.

When Hubby and I went to the Meet the Team Dinner a couple of weeks ago, Georgia's head coach came over to us and thanked us for being there. Hubby felt compelled to tell the coach, "She'll be there with y'all in Tuscaloosa."

I kind of expected some coachy reply like:

"Thanks for supporting us."

"You must be a true fan to drive 4 hours to a meet."

"Why don't you come down on the floor and help with the team?"

Not really on that last one.

What he ACTUALLY said to me, though, was: "Boy, you're brave."


It's not that gymnastics fan are especially hostile. We don't boo the other team when they march into the arena. We don't cheer when an opponent falls on an apparatus. We wait for the girl to remount the apparatus, and then we applaud her for continuing. (Even if inside we are SILENTLY saying, "Yes!")

Alabama's gymnastics team is the reigning national champion. And they're just darn good. And this was their home opener. And they have a tremendous fan following. That was what prompted Jay to tell me I was brave for venturing into that arena.

When I called to get tickets, I did request that they be with the (small number of) other Georgia fans. About halfway through the meet, Katydid and I finally spotted them - all the way across the Coliseum, in the OTHER dark corner. What part of WITH the other fans did the guy think I meant? He was very nice, but I guess he snickered when he hung up the phone. So not only were we in enemy territory, we were right there behind enemy lines. We didn't even cheer very loudly for OUR girls.

College gymnastics is a weird sport. (I'm considering writing a "College Gymnastics 101" blog post, if it won't send most of you screaming and tearing your hair out.) It's weird in that there is no defense. And while a winner is announced, wins and losses are irrelevant. Average scores are all that matter (and Regional Qualifying Scores when they start mid-season, but I won't get into THAT) when it comes time to rank teams. Teams don't compete against the same number of other teams. Heck, the other team doesn't even really have to BE there. You could compete in two different places and email the scores in. But I guess judges would be much more expensive that way.

The other thing I think is weird about college gymnastics, at least for the women, is that it's the only sport I can think of in which the athletes compete in full make-up and elaborate (for some) hair-dos.....and bare feet.

We didn't win Friday night, but we only lost by .15. And in the gymnastics world that is not noted as "fifteen hundredths of a point"; it's "a tenth and a half." The weirdities are adding up here.

I don't think anyone voiced it outright, but Georgia wasn't expected to compete that closely with the defending national champions. Our coach is in his third year (although he served as assistant for a legend for seventeen years, so he must know a thing or two), and we haven't replaced the superstars we graduated a few years ago. We still have some awesome talent, but expectations for the program aren't great. Personally, I LIKE it when popular opinion ignores us. I prefer flying under the radar. The pre-season coaches' poll had us listed at #9 (exactly where we finished last season), and following this weekend's competition we should move up to #6. Last weekend we posted the highest score in the country, but not everyone (including Alabama) had competed yet, so rankings don't start until this week. That's fine with me. If you're #1, there's only one way to go. And folks are gunning for you. I prefer they overlook us.

Not only did we keep it close Friday night (and we had a pretty darn good lead after two rotations, but floor exercise proved to be our nemesis again), but we posted a good road score. That's another thing about team calculations - three of your scores MUST be from away meets, so you want some of those to be high scores. I know, it's confusing.

Anyway, I'm glad we went to the meet in Tuscaloosa, but I'm not sure we will go back. It was uncomfortable sitting there in the middle of the other team's fans, and we could have watched it online. It will be two years before we compete there again, though, due to the every-other-year nature of the schedule, and I'm sure by then I will have forgotten how awkward it was. Because I'm a butthead that way.

Here are some Georgia highlights from Friday night:

We had a 9.9 on vault from Cat Hires, a sophomore who has been a powerful vaulter for two years but never could stick the landing. She's now had two sticks in a row. Good for her!

We had a 9.875 on vault from Kat  Ding. She also had a 9.875 on bars, which is low for her. She's the reigning national champion on bars and had a 9.975 last week. She's had a 10 coming for two years, and this is her last year to get it.

We had a 9.95 on beam from Shayla Worley, who has found it impossible to live up to the enormous expectations laid out for her. One judge gave her a 10, and the other a 9.9. Still, we will take a 9.95 on the apparatus that is hardest (in my opinion) to get a 10 on.

We didn't have any stellar performances on floor exercise.

Alabama had a 10 and a 9.975 on vault. I told you they were good. If those two vaults hadn't been up there in the stratosphere, we might have held on for the win.

Now before you go accusing me of being the "fanatic" kind of fan who stalks the team travels to ALL the away meets, let me assure you that isn't the case. I'm NOT going to the meet in Salt Lake City. Or the one in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Men Shopping...Unsupervised......

Hubby and two of his buddies went to the casino after dropping Katydid and me at the gymnastics meet in Tuscaloosa (more on that tomorrow night).

Hubby and one of his buddies both have birthdays this month, so they had some extra "points" on their casino rewards cards, and the points expire at the end of the month. Because the main shops weren't open when they left this morning, their only option for spending the points was a smallish convenience store right down the road from the casino. Hubby filled up my car with gas, so that was a good use of some of the points. He still had a lot, though, so he proceeded to buy the following:

  • Two drinking glasses with the name of the casino etched on them 
  • Four ink pens: one that has the Sullen Teenager's name, one that says something about a teacher, one with his daughter's initial on it, and one with his own initial on it 
  • A box of chocolates (he gave it to his mother) 
  • A box of Funky Chunky, largish pretzels covered with a combination of chocolate, caramel, and peanut butter. Heaven in a box, and don't think I won't be checking out their website. Uh oh...guess I better log THOSE calories. May as well wait until I finish the box, which shouldn't take long. 
  • Some Oakley sunglasses 

His buddy bought the following:

  • A 12-pack of Diet Mountain Dew 
  • Five or six 5-Hour energy drinks 
  • A Barbie doll (he has one child, about five years old - a boy) 
  • Two packs of cigarettes (he doesn't smoke, nor does his wife, nor any of his friends)
  • A handheld poker game 
  • Two gallons of anti-freeze 

Clearly they need some training.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Favorite Things Friday - Calorie Counter....

I don't usually use my blog to tout products or websites, and this time next week this website may have fallen off my favorites list.

I took a suggestion from a fellow blogger, DJan, about writing down everything I eat. I'm still struggling with it overall, because I tend to eat things and then neglect to write them down if they will negatively impact my efforts. Note that I don't hesitate to EAT them; I just don't write them down.

One of my co-workers told me about the Calorie Count website. There are a gazillion websites out there for counting and tracking calories, and there are probably a ton of them that are better than this one. I go back to what I said a few weeks about about the concept of "favorite" being a fluid situation.

I like this site because it's user-friendly, it allows you to track activity AND food, and it has the usual communities and message boards for support. I'm a techno-geek, though, so the feature that I found coolest was the fact that you can download the app onto a smartphone and scan the barcode on a packaged food to add it to that day's log. I was at school when I downloaded it, so I walked around my classroom trying to find things to add to my log. Books, boxes of pencils, anything that had a barcode. If any of it had registered, I would have been forced to eat it. The one food item that WAS in my cabinet was sugar-free instant spiced apple cider. Its little barcode wasn't recognized. Buttheads.

There are quirks with the site. In the first place, when I entered my personal data, it suggested that I weigh 120 pounds. Hello? Did you see my birthdate? Do you really think a 50-year-old who has struggled with her weight all her life will EVER weigh 120 pounds again? I mean, without several amputations?

The site also suggested I stick to a diet of 1200 calories. And that was after I told it I was "moderately active." I can't stay under 1200 calories by 11:00 AM.

It was possible to change both the goal weight and the daily calories, though, and even with those changes the website said I could reach my goal weight by May 14. Of this year.

You knew I would find something to snark at regarding this site, though, didn't you?

You know how some websites take keywords and then related advertisements pop up in the sidebar when you're finished with whatever you're doing? I've noticed it on Blogger, on message boards, and now on the Calorie Count website. What I don't understand is where they're getting the keywords.

Today alone these advertisements appeared in the sidebar:

  • Special K Challenge (twice - duh, it IS a calorie counting website)
  • Why Men Lose Attractions: 10 Ugly Mistakes Women Make (I don't have a webcam at school, so how did they know?)
  • Prepare to Be Shocked: Take the FREE RealAge Test (I'm not ashamed of my age, so why do I want to take your dumb test?)
  • Fun Brain Test Games (maybe they knew I was a teacher and, surrounded by teenagers, my brain has become mostly mush)
  • Negligencia Medica? (uh...I've got no clue on this one.)

And the two most shocking suggested advertisements of all:

  • 2012 BCS Champion Gear
  • The University of Alabama

Have they freakin' MET me? Maybe they hijacked my computer and knew I was going to Tuscaloosa this weekend.

As a matter of fact, even as you read this, Katydid and I are on the campus of the University of Alabama for a gymnastics meet.

But that doesn't mean I'm going to buy any of their stinkin' championship gear.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Special People.....

Every now and then I like to write about people who are special in my life. I have to walk a thin line, though, not wanting to violate someone's privacy even while expressing my love/admiration/respect for him or her.

This week's contestants are the precious couple pictured below.

Looking at this picture is the first time I've realized how much she looks like her mother.

Get over it, kid, we're ALL destined to look like our mothers.

They really ARE fun people, but they don't like to show it in photographs. Here's another one from a family reunion a couple of years ago.

They really WERE happy to be there, and don't let them try to convince you otherwise.

This is my niece and her boyfriend husband. It's so hard for me to realize they are married. I don't know why, since they are certainly of legal marrying age (barely) and I was THERE when they exchanged vows.

They were the precious folks who planned an outdoor wedding in August, thereby single-handedly ending the drought that had gripped Georgia for the past couple of decades. I took pictures at their wedding, and there were very few decent ones. The majority of them were marred by a lens that fogged over every time we went outside to take pictures. And the inside of the church wasn't psychologically ready for the wedding to be moved inside. I still feel awful about the quality of the pictures. There was another (supposed) photographer there, but apparently she wasn't all that.

These are two incredibly smart human beings. Their future children are destined to be geniuses (geniusi?). While they both spent a very short time at my alma mater (endearing them to me forever), they both subsequently transferred to a DIFFERENT university that has the name Georgia in it, but unfortunately ends with Tech. Having endeared themselves to me forever already, though, I couldn't hold it against them. I think he's majoring in (and I know I'm going to get this wrong, sweet niece, so don't hesitate to correct me) something with the words "bio" and "medical" and "physics" all contained in the name. I think she's majoring in ... majoring.

They are both witty, probably the quality I most admire in people, because it implies not only intelligence but also a sense of humor. They like to make fun of the same people I do, for the same reasons. They probably make fun of ME when I'm not there, but I would prefer to remain blissfully ignorant.

And while we're talking about special people...

You should see the little guy on the other end of these feet.

(Forgive me...I have a thing for baby feet.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pet Peeve......

I'm not sure that title is correct for this post, because pet peeves are, by definition, petty, and I don't think this (particular) irritant is petty at all.

I sort of lost my mind for a couple of minutes the other day. Unfortunately, a couple of minutes is long enough to send a text message that has the potential to render you an indentured slave for the rest of your life.

Fortunately, that is not what happened to me the other day when I temporarily lost my mind.

A couple of my students are taking online courses with the school I used to teach with part-time. I logged on to check on their statuses, and I found myself sort of missing that other world. What is WRONG with me?

So I fired off a text message to my former department chair (because she usually doesn't pick up her cell phone and is spotty about returning emails - great leader, huh?), the one who told me she refused to acknowledge that I had resigned and instead was going to list me as "inactive."

I said in the text, "Hey, it's _____." (Another aside: I identified myself because it wasn't uncommon for her to respond to a text message with "Who's this?" Hurts my feelings when I'm not important enough to be in someone's address book.) "How are you? I have officially applied for retirement, so life is good. I don't know what your numbers are like, but if you get desperate..."

I didn't want it to sound like I was desperate to go back to that part-time job. I wasn't sure I even wanted it to sound like I would go back if they WERE desperate. But as I approach retirement (and I DID officially apply last week, and I haven't stopped smiling yet), it would be nice to have something to fall back on, a source of income in addition to my retirement.

And I distinctly remember writing a blog post about how relieved I was to give up that full-time-stress-for-part-time-pay job and asking my readers to help me remember that feeling.


Not to worry ... I am not in danger of becoming an indentured slave. Again.

Because I'm finally (much to your relief, I'm sure) getting around to the point of this post.

I got no response.

Even Hubby, who isn't the world's most prolific texter, will respond to a text with "K." It's one letter. Very few key strokes. Two, in fact. The letter "k" and the word "send." Two strokes.

And that's my pet (which isn't so petty, in my opinion) peeve: People who don't even respond to a text message or an email.

Let's just say, for argument's sake, that my former department chair wasn't as crazy about me as she pretended to be. Let's just say she was glad to be rid of me. Let's say she wouldn't hire me back if there were a semi-apocalypse and I was the last English teacher remaining on what's left of Earth.

She could at least acknowledge receipt of the text message.

"Thanks. I'll keep you in mind."

"Gosh, our numbers are way down. Sorry."

"You must be a glutton for punishment."

"Yay! I'm on it, girlfriend!"

Any of these would have been appropriate responses.

Instead I got deafening silence. Which, again, kind of hurts my feelings.

She had these tendencies when I worked for the online school, so it's not like I'm surprised or anything. When I was working for them, I would occasionally run into a situation for which I needed help. I know, I know, hard to believe, right? I would ONLY call my department chair if there happened to be something with the online platform that I couldn't figure out myself, or if it were something for which I thought I needed higher authority. Now keep in mind she worked full-time for the online world, which meant she was at home. All. the. time. On duty. All. the. time. And she never once picked up her cell phone when I called. I would leave a detailed message and ask her to call me back. Instead, I would get an almost instant email from her, in which she would try to solve my problem as she understood it to be.

And I would think to myself, "No, dumbass, that's NOT what the issue is. If you would pick up the DAMN PHONE, I could explain it to you."

My feelings aren't REALLY hurt. I know deep in my heart that I don't want to go back to that stressful environment. And I don't want to work for a bunch of cliquish folks who won't even bother to pick up the phone or return an email or respond to a text message.

I guess I just want them to want me.

Maybe it's pettier than I thought.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner......

I haven't done much reading lately. I've been way too busy watching gymnastics meets that I've already seen a dozen times and/or that I attended in person. Oh, and crocheting scarves. And scarves. And scarves.

My reading time is usually limited to the few minutes after I go to bed before I get sleepy. Sometimes that's only a matter of two or three minutes; sometimes it's 30.

I did manage to squeeze this one in during the last couple of weeks, reading it on my iPad.

I was confused by the plot line at first. I understood what was going on, but it took me a while to make the connections among all the characters. (Sometimes I'm a little slow.)

The story is about a woman who decides to become a surrogate, the woman who wants a baby, her step-daughter, and the egg donor. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the characters. Sometimes I find that annoying, but it worked very well in this book. I am in awe of authors who can adapt to different characters' voices and still carry the plot line forward.

This book was a very good read, not predictable at all. I found the characters very human and could relate to most of them easily.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Future Christmas Gifts.....

Right around Christmas, Hubby and I heard a news item on one of the Atlanta stations about a theft from a man's car. Apparently he had retrieved a Christmas gift from a safe, driven to a different location, and locked it in the trunk of his car. When he returned to his car, someone had broken into it and stolen the gift. He stated he had almost certainly been followed, for someone to know something that valuable was in the trunk of his car.

The gift? A $27,000 necklace he had bought for his wife.

Upon hearing that story, I told Hubby, "If you're ever inclined to buy me something like that for Christmas, just buy me a $7,000 necklace. I'll take the rest of it in cash."

I guess it's just a matter of different priorities. I can't imagine a $700 necklace, much less wearing something that is worth $27,000. But those aren't the things that make me happy, and I'm not criticizing people who ARE made happy by that type of thing.

If I had $27,000, or thought I might receive a gift worth that much, I don't think I would spend it on jewelry. Or clothes.

I might buy a new motorhome. (Trading in the one we already have, of course.)

I might do some renovations on our house. Starting with my bathroom. But don't tell Hubby, because he'll buy a new living room suit and have to tear down the whole damn house to accommodate it.

There are several things I might want to buy with my windfall, but they would be small things that would add up to $27,000.

I would probably pay off Sweet Girl's car.

I would most definitely NOT wear something worth $27,000 around my neck.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Birthday Boy.....

For some reason, at some point today I realized it's Gus's birthday. He is seven years old today, and I can't remember what life was like before we had him. We didn't do anything silly like bake a doggie cake or even make him some homemade treats. Goodness knows we don't need to give him any more excuses to expect royal treatment.

I swear to you, when I got ready to take this picture, I patted my recliner and told him to get up there. Then I told him to smile. I promise you I didn't give him a treat or any food or even put peanut butter in his mouth. He just smiled.

It's hard to believe he once looked like this. I think he was wondering what in the world had happened to him.

"Please, can I just go back to my mommy now?"

His fur began to fill out and his darker colored spots started showing up.

Personally, I like him with a longer coat, but it's just such a bear to brush. I mean, it's such a bear that the groomer charges extra to groom him when we let his hair get this long.

And then we have to shave him. I don't blame you, Gusman, I would turn my back on the folks who made me look like this too.

He has such a unique personality.

I don't know what we would do without him.

Happy Birthday, Gusman!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Slap Scarf Happy.....

Right before New Year's Eve, I wrote a post about my new favorite scarf pattern, and the fact that the main reason it was my favorite was that I made it up myself.

Since then I've become a little ... scarf happy.

First I made this one, the one I referenced in the blog post.

Note to self: If you want to use a certain piece of furniture to hold up your scarves for a picture, you might try using something that has been DUSTED RECENTLY. You're welcome.

The scarf is a little wide, but I think it's serviceable.

Then I made a black one for Hubby, and he swears he actually wore it on the golf course one day last week. I didn't put a fringe on his, because he said a fringe was "girly." (Is he right?)

Mom saw me crocheting Hubby's scarf, and she wanted one too, but in dark brown, and only about half as wide. I don't have a picture of that one, because I hurried to finish it and put it in the mail before our trip to Atlantic City.

Then I made this one.

I could make about 30 of these if I were so inclined (and might be, depending upon the weather and how the football playoffs go). I have several HUGE skeins of off-white yarn, mistakenly ordered for a project that I started but hated immediately.

Then I made this one, using the softer yarn of the type I use to make baby afghans. I purposely made the fringe a little shorter on this one, just experimenting with different lengths.

At Sweet Girl's request, I made this one in alternating red and black. I like the way it turned out, but I'd rather not have to figure out when to change colors and deal with the whole switching back and forth thing. Call me lazy. (I will put this one in the mail Monday.)

That's a total of six scarves I've made in this pattern so far, and I'm not even tired of it yet. I don't know why I like it so much, unless it's that it keeps its shape, I don't have to count stitches, and I can alter the pattern slightly to make it wider or narrower, longer or shorter, fringed or not. I've got lots of extra yarn (other colors in addition to the off-white), so I could stay busy for a while making scarves.

This pattern also works up fairly quickly. I can finish one in about a day and a half, if I take time out to eat and go to the bathroom. 

What am I going to do with them, you ask?

I have no idea.

I thought about taking them to our family reunion next summer and putting them in the auction or the store, but really, how many scarves can I expect to sell in June in South Carolina in the marsh? MAYBE some of them might look far enough ahead to think about Christmas gifts, and MAYBE some of them might buy them just to contribute to the family coffers and pet my ego a little bit. Maybe.

I also thought about selling them on Etsy, but I've never done that before. When I looked on the site, it looked as though roughly the same number of people as the population of Rhode Island had scarves for sale. I wouldn't have any idea how much to ask for one. 

Before I made this batch of scarves, I crocheted one in a different pattern for one of my favorite bloggers.

Dang it, why couldn't I have discovered the prettier pattern BEFORE I used up all that hot pink yarn? I hope she likes it anyway.

I may have to take time out from the scarves to make another baby afghan. Either way, I have enough projects to keep me occupied through the long six-week winter we typically have in the South. Tee hee.

(Okay, okay, sometimes it's eight weeks. Ten in a really harsh year.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Another Friday Failure.....

That title sounds a bit melodramatic, don't you think?

I just mean that I don't have a Favorite Things Friday topic planned out, and it's way past my bedtime. Tonight was the season opener for the college gymnastics season .... ahhhhhhhhh ....

It was a win for UGA, and probably the best of both worlds: a decent score (highest season opener since 2008), but not terribly high. There's still room for improvement, which should keep the competition going in the gym. I would make a terrible gymnastics coach, trying not to post ridiculously high scores at the beginning of the season. I would be all-out every meet, and I would wind up like SOME COLLEGE TEAM WE ALL KNOW AND LOVE TO HATE, posting huge scores out of the gate and then crashing and burning at nationals, when everything counts.

One-third of our scores tonight came from freshmen, which should bode well for the future.

Our reigning national champion on bars, who has deserved a 10 for the last two years, should have gotten one tonight. One judge gave her a 10, the other a 9.95. Her score of 9.975 ties her career record, and I think it's the third time she's gotten it. She's a senior this year, and I think she's destined to get that 10.

Our score should move us up in the national rankings, and we have a couple of individual gymnasts who will be right up there on a couple of events. All in all it was a good night.

Good night.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Our Atlantic City Trip.....

Hubby and I traveled to a certain casino in Atlantic City for our Christmas-gift-to-each-other trip this year. It was one of those deals where the casino paid for our airfare and accommodations (and we wound up getting all of our meals except one comped), and all we had to do was gamble.

Whenever anyone has asked us how the trip was, we have both replied, "It was all right."

But I have to stop and wonder here: Would our responses be any more enthusiastic if we had won a boatload of money? Or any money? Does the whole experience get colored by our success (or lack thereof) in the casino? Hmmm....

One thing that was different in this casino was its setup. To get to the registration desk, you had to go THROUGH the casino itself. Hauling your luggage. Every other casino I've been to has been set up so that the casino is in the center, with security people standing at every opening to guard against minors being on the casino floor. But this one forced everyone to march right through the middle of the action.

And speaking of minors, why do people bring CHILDREN to a casino in the first place? It wasn't like there was anything for them to do. There was a pool (outdoor, but with a cool dome built over it so people could actually swim in it), but even it had a sign that said only people 21 and over could use it.

Our flight was late leaving Atlanta, so it was probably around 8:00 PM when we got to our hotel/casino. We didn't stay up super late, and when we went to bed the noise from the room next door was horrendous. There were two adult women and about three or four children, and you could hear every word any of them said. And every other one of those words was "m***** f***er." That's from the kids AND the women. You could hear the video games the kids were playing. Every time they slammed the door. Flushed the toilet.

When we started down for breakfast the next morning, that family was checking out. Hubby and I did a little happy dance right there in the elevator. We didn't have a lot of luck that day, and we turned in very early (our usual bedtime - 7:30 PM) that night. Hubby went to sleep immediately, and I read on my iPad while a football game played in the background. I started hearing something from the room next door and got curious, so I muted the television for a second. I was immediately sorry I had done so. Yes, they were doing THAT, and apparently she liked it. I don't think they came to gamble. On the third night, another loud family moved in. Sigh.

I know I shouldn't stereotype or assume things about people from different parts of the country. The casino we frequently visit in Mississippi is in a very, very rural area. It's where I took a 65-mile bike ride and was at 49 miles before I found a store. That's rural. The first time we went there, we were absolutely thrilled to find a Wally World. Rural.

I expected to find a different clientele in Atlantic City. I even packed differently - no jeans, and only two pairs of shoes: a pair of high-heeled black boots and what I called my "wicked" shoes (destined to be featured on a Favorite Things Friday). Midway through day 2, I would have sold my soul to the devil for a pair of sneakers. Especially after playing craps for a couple of hours, because I had to stand up.

But casino people in Atlantic City were just like casino people I've seen everywhere else. Lots of blue jeans and t-shirts, lots of shorts and flip-flops (hello? 50 degrees is not THAT warm). Now I'm no snob and I'm certainly not one to hand out fashion advice, but I was surprised that people were dressed as casually as they were.

We could have taken a shuttle to any of four other casinos owned by the same folks, but we didn't even venture outside the whole time we were there. And I certainly wasn't of a mind to WALK anywhere.

I'm not sorry we went, but it's not a place we'll probably go back again. On the other hand, if they send us a free trip to Vegas, color me there.

Speaking of colors: We had a pretty good run on the craps table one night, and Hubby was cashing in his chips. I saw the dealer hand him an orange chip ($1000), and I yelled down the table, "We don't DO orange! Get two purples!" The dealers were quite puzzled. Hubby, paying me about as much attention as he usually does, happily took his orange chip. And gave it back to them the next day.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

First Day of My Last Semester.....

I promise you I'm not going to carry this theme out for all 90 89 days remaining in this semester. You might get sick of hearing about my impending retirement. Unless you're sick of it already, in which case I apologize.

I was the first one at school today. That includes the custodian, who is ALWAYS there before me, and our math teacher, whom I have accused of sleeping at her desk because she's there when I leave and there when I arrive. I TOLD you I was ready to get this semester underway.

Our school day officially begins at 8:50. The person who is notorious for not showing up for work and not calling and ultimately having to have the police called to his house to do a welfare check only to discover that he's actually at the grocery store finally dragged in at 8:45, looking like hell. Baby Luke's daddy was already out (he spent the entire Christmas break in the hospital with the baby, so he's taking some time off now, and who can blame him?), so I was just about ready to panic when the Freak my co-worker finally dragged in.

But that's not what I started to write about.

By 8:30, I had already had a conference with a student about a practice essay he wrote in the car sometime during Christmas break. He has failed our state writing test, and he wanted to practice to improve his skills. I think he has been mostly home schooled, and they must focus a lot on facts and figures and not so much on writing essays and spelling words correctly. But he really wants to improve, he listens to instruction and accepts constructive criticism, and I'll take those any day over the smart-asses who already know everything and are only there to go through the motions of school.

By 8:40, I had given a mini-lesson to this same student on active and passive voice.

And at 4:00, when I was on the way home, I found myself wondering, "Wait...was this just ONE day?"

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

50 Things Update.....

It's been almost a year since I posted the "50 Things to Do" in the year during which I turned 50.

(Prepositions really give me trouble. Could we just do away with them?)

Surprisingly, I didn't do all 50 things on my list. It's surprising because I'm mildly sort of extremely OCD about lists and goals and things like that, and I shocked myself by NOT killing myself to cross every single one of them off the list.

I'll post the ones I managed to complete, along with a link to the blog post explaining how and when I finished them.

3. Take a hot air balloon ride
6. Eat a new type of food
8. Get a massage
11. Take a yoga class
12. Take a spinning class
13. Take a water aerobics class
14. Knit something
15. Attend play at local theater
16. Take a kayak trip
18. Run/walk in a 5K/10K/half marathon
19. Run/walk the Peachtree Road Race
20. Become debt-free
21. Take golf lessons/play a round of golf
23. Perform random acts of kindness
25. Try vegetarianism for 7 days
30. Take a trapeze class at Canopy Studio
31. Have $______ in savings
33. Go to a UGA basketball game
34. Go to a UGA women’s basketball game
35. Go to a UGA baseball game
36. Go to a hockey game (Gwinnett Gladiators)
38. Ride my bike 2500 miles
40. Attend gymnastics Regional Championships
43. Be “overweight” on the Wii instead of “obese”
44. Ride bike in at least one of the counties in Georgia where I've not yet ridden
47. Ride local roads I’ve not ridden before
50. Go to the chiropractor

Now for the ones I didn't accomplish. Some of them are things I still have as goals; they just didn't happen this year. Some of them I've either lost interest in, or I just put them on the list to begin with because I needed 50 things. Full disclosure here.

1. Take a pottery lesson - I met a woman on the kayak trip in June who teaches pottery, and she has "clay church" at her house on Sundays. This one is still in the realm of possibility, but to be honest this woman ... and she's VERY, VERY sweet ... is one of those types who, if you show interest, will have you staying at her house for a week while she grooms all of your pets and has her mechanic look over your car and signs you up for a weeklong hike in the Adirondacks.

2. Take a photography class - I've kind of lost interest in this one. I have a so-so camera and what I consider a very nice camera, and with both of them I occasionally take (accidentally, you understand) some quite passable pictures. That's enough for me. I watch them scroll by on my laptop or my iPad, and the memories they provide are enough for me. I don't want to turn it into something I have to understand.

4. Visit a national park - I realized I had already done this one, although I wasn't aware it was a national park at the time. I dragged Hubby here on our way to Florida very early in our marriage, and he hasn't spoken to me since. It wasn't really on the way, and while it was fraught with history ... it was standing in the way of the beach.

5. Study a new foreign language - Well, at least I picked a language. I would like to learn some Italian, because I fully intend to take Hubby to Italy someday. He wants to see Rome, and I would love to see it too, since that's once place Sweet Girl and I didn't get to see on our trip to Italy. Oh, SWEET GIRL has since been to Rome (thank you, U.S. Navy), but I've never been. It's sort of cheating to choose Italian, since it has so many similarities to the little bits of French and Spanish (and teeny tiny bits of Latin) I already know.

7. Meet a blogger in person - Definitely still on the table. This one will be much easier to accomplish after retirement.

9. Learn more about how to play the hammered dulcimer - I don't know why I haven't approached this one yet. I have the book, I have the DVD, and oh yeah, I have the hammered dulcimer. And I would really like to do more than just pick out a tune on it. Still on the table, but obviously not a priority.

10. Take a formal art class - Have completely lost interest. I would still love to paint and perhaps do some watercolor work, but kind of like photography, I don't want it to be like "school."

17. Write some poetry - I have done this one. But the poetry is so bad (and so personal) that I'm not willing to offer it up as proof, so I'll just pretend I haven't done it.

22. Read 5 novels from the all-time list (I think it was published by Time magazine) - I'm wavering on this one too. Because reading a book because SOMEONE thinks I should is too much like school too. I'd rather read what I choose to read. For now.

24. Volunteer at a hospital/hospice/nursing home/homeless shelter - I'm not ready for this one. And that makes me just a teensy bit ashamed of myself. Those people probably weren't ready to be in those places either, and they don't get to choose.

26. Take ballroom dancing lessons - I was kind of cheating on this one. My intention was to wait until our next cruise and then either shame Hubby into taking a couple of lessons on the boat (doubtful and completely dependent upon the quantities of beer consumed) or go alone (much more likely). But I don't think we are going to take a cruise this year after all, and I'm certainly not going to sign up for 6 weeks of lessons by myself.

27. Visit the High Museum in Atlanta - Definitely still in the works. In fact, there's an exhibit at the High right now that I'd love to see, entitled Picasso to Warhol. In looking for this link I also discovered that they are also having an exhibit entitled The Art of Golf, which I may ... just may ... be able to drag Hubby to see. Have to catch him on a cold, rainy day.

28. Have a yard sale - Personally, I'd rather just donate my stuff to goodwill. It's much less trouble and I can feel good about contributing something to charity.

29. Ride a unicycle - I have taken steps toward achieving this particular item. I have a unicycle. I have been on it. And I've been off it. I haven't taken enough pedal strokes to constitute "riding" it, though, so I'm not ready to mark it off the list. When I can find a flat spot with pavement and a fence to hold onto and where no one can watch me, I'll give it another go.

32. Take pictures of places I’ve lived - I still want to do this one, too. The one place that is holding me back right now is the trailer park where we lived when I was about ages 5 to 10. It's a little bit scary now, and I'd be afraid to go in there alone. And if I start taking pictures, well.... Maybe I should just leave this one off and take pictures of the rest.

37. Go to the Tipsy Canvas - I still want to do this one too. I love the concept - take your own bottle of wine, get some lessons in painting a specific subject (would that count as a formal art lesson, I wonder?), and socialize with friends while you do it. Definitely a Warrior Princess activity. But we're going to need a designated driver.

39. Hike part of the Appalachian Trail - This one needs to be a day trip with Rozmo and Katydid, and perhaps Jenny Frog. It will require a drive of about 2 hours to get to the Georgia end of the AT.  The hard part is that any day that is fine enough to hike is also fine enough to ride bikes. Maybe we could combine them. Hmmmm....

41. Make something in filet crochet - I have a pattern, and I THINK I grasp the concept now, but my eyes and fingers are the problem. The crochet hook and thread are so fine that it causes me great frustration to try this one. Maybe I should find a pattern for a wall hanging and do it in regular yarn...

42. Join Friends of Yargo - I didn't realize that we already sort of do this when we buy our annual pass for Fort Yargo, which is the state park just across the road from our house. What I really meant was I intended to join the group of volunteers that pick up trash and trim the hedges and cut the grass around the park one or two weekends a month. Yeah, I'd just rather kayak and hike.

45. Write a book - I have the book in my head. Actually, I have 3 books in my head. And I've written a great portion of one of them. I may finish it. Them. Or I may not.

46. Buy and experiment with Photoshop - Just like the photography class, I've lost interest. I'll never have "actions" and I'm over it.

48. Ride the double-century to Anniston and back - Definitely still in the works, and I'm aiming for this year. It's easiest done during the week when the Silver Comet Trail isn't nearly so busy, so it's a nice post-retirement thing to do.

49. Write a will - We really, really, really need to do this one. When I put it on my list, I thought it would be easy, using one of those online services. Then someone told me those online wills weren't worth the paper they're not written on (I'm hilarious), so I discarded it. Plus I don't really have that many possessions anyway. Not that anyone would want.

So there they are, my 50 Things to Do or Not, Depending Upon How Capricious I Feel at Any Given Moment. (Is that a correct usage of the word "capricious"?)

I toyed with the idea of coming up with 51 NEW things for this year, but then I came to my senses. I will, however, strive for some new experiences this year, whether they are on the list or not. I may start with "suturing a wound myself" if the cut on my left hand does NOT stop bleeding soon. Apparently if the little foil tab on a bottle of wine breaks off, using a steak knife to cut the foil thingie off is not the best approach.