Sunday, December 21, 2008

The stocking are hung by the chimney with care....

"T'was the night before Christmas, when all through the house...," you know the rest, right?

Will and I laid awake last night trying to recite T'was The Night Before Christmas, thinking of course we knew it. We both fell asleep struggling to remember where the "nose like a cherry" came in and when exactly Saint Nick "whistled and shouted and called them by name." We didn't quite have it right.  

Just hearing a few of the rhymes, though, flood my mind with the old worn illustrations from my childhood book, and in my mind, Christmas is here.

My family always did an incredible job of making Christmas so special. I have memories of Advent, sledding down our big hill on 75th street at midnight, ICC choir concerts dressed in funny polyester uniforms (only to be trumped by even worse garb in high school), Katie and I (post consumption of all those little gold chocolate coins in our stocking) running like mad through ice covered, knee-deep snow drifts and the sound of our moon boots crunching over frozen leaves, knees buckling. Grilled bagels and PJs and reading the from the Bible. Pineapple Mango Lipsmackers, matching dresses from Chocolate Soup, red velvet hair bows, dancing at the Athletic Club with Grandpa Fred and Grandma Rosie, and begging for macaroons. Even after my parents divorced, they made a great effort to keep our family together during Christmas while Kate and I were young. My mind swirls with excitement for a new year.

Now Christmas is in my house, and finding those magical tid-bits to warm up the holiday and keep Christmas true to its meaning for the ones I love feels so important.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lean on me

Last night, I had the privilege of hosting dinner for a few of my dearest friends. We enjoyed delicious food, a couple glasses of wine, stories, lots of laughs and each other’s company. From discussing the anticipation of a new baby in our group to my oh-so-graceful tumble into a cold tub of water in my party dress just the night before, we found ourselves carried into the wee hours with conversation.

Each time they leave, I find my shoulders just a little lighter-- whatever I had been holding onto all day (that project at work) falls away, and they do it just by being them.

No, we don’t see each other enough. We don’t write enough or text enough or stay involved in the intricate fabric we each weave throughout our days like we should, but we know and we understand and love each other still.

Happily, several of my good friends who have been living far away are back in Indy now, and I’m thrilled to be able to see them more. I don’t know who I’d be without my girlfriends. The gift they have to give is as unique to our relationship as the person within them I have come to privately know.

I received this from one of them this week, which seems so fitting: Kelly Corrigan reading from her piece, “Transcending.” So beautiful and true.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Authentic Travel Experience

Well, I am back on the road today for a quick event in Richmond, VA. I got to fly out of the new Indianapolis Airport for the first of several trips. Mandy got the pleasure before I did a few weeks ago and she was spot on: The place is amazing. The drive in while it is dark out really magnifies how big it is. Lots of skeptics always ask me why Indy needed a new airport. I can't definitively answer that question, but I know that what they have created really brings our city into the 21st century in terms of airport facilities. Wow.

Okay, back to the reason I decided to blog from my Richmond hotel room. Ron (co-worker and fellow Butler Phi Psi) and I got here a little after 1:00 this afternoon and we were starving. We aren't very far away from the campus of VCU and he decided to give me a little tour while we walked to find a restaurant. Well, we got to a corner and needed to make a decision. We settled on an authentic-looking place called the Village Cafe. Walked in, had some booths off of a bar and settled in. Boy, were we in for an "authentic" treat.

Oftentimes, when I travel, I forget to think about the culture of the area where I am heading. In this case, it was the heart of Virginia. Tobacco country with these folks, and it was everywhere. In the booth next to us was an old lady. This woman was worn. She looked like Mother Teresa after getting her butt kicked by the Marlboro man. She sucked down her cigarette with ease (I knew not having teeth had some sort of benefit) and barked out orders to the waiters. You couldn't understand much without the teeth, but you feared her. She looked like a walking raisin drenched in a spitoon. She wanted a meal served with an egg. When asked how she wanted it prepared, she stared off in the distance, glazed over, puffed and then looked back at the guy and said, "I don't care, just cook it some way."

Time to order... I love restaurants with evolving menus. The only problem here is that I think they never remove something from the menu if something else is added. You want a cold sandwich, got it. Want one hot, sure! How about pizza? Pasta? Fried Chicken? Soup? BBQ? Got it covered! Too many choices, so we had to take our time. Fortunately, the drink choices were only a page long (and double spaced!), so we ordered sodas.

Wait, I meant to say


Yep, they serve them in pitchers with a straw. And you wonder why people in this country think we are fattening ourselves uncontrollably.

Well, I got enough carbonation in me to make an terribly awful decision on lunch. Every sandwich seemed like a good choice, but in a smoky, corner diner-style restaurant, what should I get??? You guessed it... Chicken Burrito! With diner refried beans and rice. Actually it wasn't half bad, until about an hour later when I (along with most of the 12th floor at the downtown Doubletree) discovered that the Village Cafe burrito may not be the best idea.

Meanwhile, Mother Marlboro Man and her walker (did I mention the walker?) are joined in the booth behind her by a white-collar worker for a late lunch. What a different patron! Clean clothes and no noticeable tatoos (I think the average in the place was 3.4 per person), he sat down for a bite. Now, I understand the smoking is probably a but higher with both Phillip and Morris looking over the town, but this guy wanted to help stain the wood in the place. Most people light up after a good meal. This dude lit it up after a good item. 'Mmm, what a delicious helping of potatoes, time for a smoke!' 'Oh look, the check is here, where are my cancer sticks?' I understand the little buggers are pricey, so I understand when somebody hustles to finish one. But this guy actually puffed one down fast to light up another one.

All in all, a fun day of witnessing Americana. Got an event tonight and then a flight home tomorrow. My only authentic tourist experience in Richmond was the little corner restaurant. Priceless first impression!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thankful... It's Basketball Season!

Yes, it is freezing out (0 degree wind chill this morning) which means it is officially time to start thinking about hoops.

Last night, my (actually, our, right Mandy?) beloved Butler Bulldogs stayed undefeated with a buzzer-beating win at Cleveland State (the unanimous favorite to win the Horizon League). We watched the broadcast with a ton of friends at a bar in Broad Ripple, and it went CRAZY when this happened:

Note three funny things in the video:

1) Hahn's sliding dive to the floor
2) Coach Brad Steven's never-flinching demeanor when the shot is in the air. He was already walking to the CSU bench to shake hands
3) How quickly Shawn Vanzant (#2) sprints out to congratulate Hahn, the hero. Vanzant wasn't even on the floor playing and is the first person there. Fast!

The high from that shot last night will carry me through the weekend!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thankful... it's December!

Welcome to the home stretch! That period between Thanksgiving and Christmas that seems to fly by in moments and stretch out in others. I remember this stretch in school being the quickest time of the year, because you had the free time to actually take in the holiday ambiance. Now, juggling work and trying to get everything done before the Xmas break can be daunting by itself.
First things first, Mandy and I had another relaxing (and filling) vacation in Alabama with the entire Wingo side of the family. With over 1,500 acres to lose ourselves in, it was hard not to relax. It was so remote and quiet, you could hear a squirrel running 100 yards away, or amaze in the "explosive" whisper of a group of ducks darting overhead. We ate loads of turkey, sweets and bread, and the only fruit I saw came in cobbler form! In addition to our relaxation, it gave Grace a chance to run free, swim and bring out her inner country dog. All in all, a great Thanksgiving. And with thankful sentiments at the front of our mind, I think I can sum them all up in one statement: We are thankful for the opportunity to be thankful. It may sound stupid, but think about it for a minute. The entire weekend was one big thing to be thankful for, and all of the blessings that came with it are a reason why we are even able to appreciate it all. Not to mention a full stadium of people at the Iron Bowl: Alabama vs. Auburn. I LOVE SEC FOOTBALL!
Note the time of the clock... 35 minutes left before kickoff and the place was already near capacity. Great atmosphere and one of the coolest football experiences I've been a part of.

Back at home, it was full speed ahead to the holidays. Mandy and I have actually completed all of our Christmas shopping before the start of December, a goal we always had but never lived up to. So, now we can focus on the decorations and making our own winter wonderland. Here's Grace enjoying the 2008 version of the holiday living room:

The tree itself was an adventure. Our first family tree was a little water logged after the spring flood, so this is Version 2.0. Perfect height, well lit, full figure, nice price, all at WAL-MART. However, the box didn't quite fit in the car. Have you ever seen those pathetic people in a parking lot late on a cold night trying to wedge some big piece of purchase into their undersized vehicle. Yep, that was Mr. & Mrs. Haskett this past Sunday. So we thought to ourselves, "What would those 'losers' do in a situation like this." Rip open the box in the parking lot, pull the pieces out 1-by-1 and take them home that way. Brilliant! Anybody have an extra Christmas Tree box lying around? How about an SUV that can transport it to our place?

Well, we can't wait to watch the next few weeks fly by, get to that joyous time of year and continue to be thankful. Oh, and don't judge us when we photoshop a picture of ourselves into the image above and use it as our Christmas Card!