Saturday, May 31, 2008

Lake Placid

We spent most of Chad's First Quarter 2008 paycheck filling up on gas for our Memorial Day weekend trip up to Lake Placid, NY. Luckily, our trusty '98 Nissan Maxima (the younger of our two cars) is fuel efficient and so we had a little money left over for some crackers.

On our trek north through the Appalachians, we passed the city of Scranton, PA, home of "The Office" (if you didn't know that, then ... we will attack you with the North) and Dunder-Mifflin paper company. Although we didn't have time to stop and see the sights, we did see road signs that piqued our interest and brought back fond memories of our Thursday evenings from 9-9:30pm over the past few years. The Steamtown Mall is where Michael and the girls went to "dish" about Jan and other things. Lake Wallenpaupack is where the entire office took their "booze cruise." We can't believe these places even exist!! Is Schrute Farms, then, a real place, too? And where can we sign up for the "Michael-Scott-Dunder-Mifflin-Scranton-Meredith-Palmer-Memorial-Celebrity-Rabies-Awareness-Race-For-The-Cure-Pro-Am" 5K charity run?
We also noticed signs for Penn State University's Scranton Campus - and Chad almost wet his pants with excitement. A whole new world has opened up to us. We feel like Columbus sailing the ocean blue. Chad is thinking about transferring to this smaller branch campus and practiced his Michael Scott face and Kevin Malone smile (can you guess which is which?) for material if they do grad student interviews there. We don't think PSU-Scranton's Theatre Department will be needing his services.
We continued north through the Catskills and into the Adirondacks to a city that has hosted two Winter Olympics (1932 and 1980). Lake Placid, however, didn't even look big enough to host two county fairs. It reminded us of Beulah, MI - a town with some charm overlooking an inland lake where the men are men and the women are too.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Lake Placid's Hilton Resort hosted the 2008 conference of the North American Society for Sport History (NASSH) and Chad was scheduled to present a paper. Centrally located, the Hilton has a beautiful view of Mirror Lake, but since we spent all our money on gas and crackers, we stayed a mile and a half from the lake in the homely Swiss Acres Inn. The SAI did not have refridgerators in the rooms and we could hear conversations from guests in the rooms on each side of us and above us, but our reservation did get us one free scrambled egg at breakfast and a free drink at dinner (making it totally worth it - we got tired of crackers).
NASSH is the world's largest sports history organization and is a very reputable group. Sports historians, however, are often derogatorily labelled as "sports fans with typewriters." Whoever came up with that needs to a)come and see this conference to understand the depth and excellence of research being done, and b)quit living in the Stone Age - no one uses typewriters anymore.

Many of the conference's sessions were very interesting (to anyone that appreciates sports history - those people are called "nerds," and there were plenty of us them/us at the conference). Yet some presentations just didn't whet Chad's appetite. So he and the other three Penn State grad students at the conference decided to forego sessions on "Modern History of Snowboarding from a Jungian Perspective," "The Sacred Peace Run of the Wabanaki People," and "Anti-Semitism in the Lake Placid Club" to meet up with their families and hold their own Lake Placid Olympics.
Kathi took these games very seriously, spending time stretching before our first event. It paid off for her as she won mini-golf on Pirate's Cove, defeating everyone in the field despite some strong gender bias sentiments early on. The boys she beat got a taste of what it felt like on the playground at recess back at Sandyview Elementary School in Overisel, MI in the late 1980s. When Kathi wants to win a sporting event, she does so (she also peed in the sandbox at Sandyview Elementary in first grade).
The next event was the Polar Bear Swim in Lake Placid. The crowd expected Chad to have a poor showing in this dreadful dip in sub-40 degree water because he doesn't have much body fat for insulation. However, once he took his shirt off and showed enough body hair to prove the theory of evolution, the crowd's fears subsided. Chad tied for second place, avoided hypothermia, and had to deal with other symptoms that accompany men in cold water.

The third, final, and most competitive event was the bobsled. Lake Placid natives take their bobsledding seriously, finding sponsors for their sleds and all. Feeling like NASCAR racers (and never wanting to feel like that again) we were in the Budweiser bobsled. Our competition included one sport historian that received his bobsled license in 1937 (one has to be 12 to attain that license - you do the math) and a British sport historian named Norman that spent the entire weekend flexing his calf muscles for the grad students and proclaiming to have the best gastrocnemius' (scientific term for calf) of any septo-genarian in the world. We will say it again, competition was fierce (old).

However, we never actually got a chance to compete. The judges at the starting blocks deemed Kathi to be perfect for the race with an athletic and petite body, but they disqualified Chad for having legs that are too skinny. They admitted that no one wants to look at his chicken legs in the saggy spandex outfits required for bobsledders by NY state law. Chad argued to no avail that it would look no worse on him than on the 83-year old expert or the 75-year old calf-y Brit.
At least we got to drive through Scranton on the way home.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Newest Penn State Convert

Much to Gampa's dismay, Grant became the newest Nittany Lion fan this weekend. It took a lot of time, but he really seemed to understand the pride involved with being a Nittany Lion (that's right, we brainwashed him). At last, a belly-showing, bottle-drinking, Beaver Stadium-going JoePa fan.

Mothers Day

Since LeBron James' mom rushed the court to defend her son after he was intentionally fouled, many other mother's have come to the aide of their sons. Its a liberating and empowering Mother's Day tribute to the women behind the powerful men of the world. Just as Gloria James tried to pick a fight with a man twice her size to stick up for her 6'8" 250-pound son, the Boyz II Men's moms told them they really love that annoying song "Mama," Donovan McNabb's mom said she will continue to serve Campbell's Chunky Soup, "Babs" Bush told the nation that her son really does know that Africa is a continent and not a country, and Stacy's mom has still got it going on.

Our nephew Grant had more than just his mother sticking up for him this Mother's Day. He had his "Gama" and "Auntie" there by his side. Grant's mother bought him a schoolbus tent that they set up in the basement. This schoolbus is not a normal length bus, in fact it looks like a "short bus." When Chad saw this, he could barely contain his excitement at this perfect opportunity for "short bus" jokes, plus it would be a few months until Grant outweighs Chad to be able to physically retaliate.
Unfortunately, no one else in the family found the "short bus" to be an object of humor except Grant's dad who made Chad promise not to make any "short bus" jokes on the blog (these are not "short bus" jokes as much as jokes about "short bus" jokes, or meta-"short bus" jokes, in philosophy lingo). Auntie Kathi and Gama came to Grant's rescue and had a great time with him in the schoolbus tent as they all sang/screamed, "The wheels on the bus go round and round..."

Friday, May 2, 2008


"We're not going to have church. Instead we're going to be the church," our pastor told us a few weeks ago. Calvary cancelled all five of its weekend services and encouraged the church members to go out into the community and serve in place of coming to church for worship.

Our Life Group at church decided we would spend most of the weekend serving, since we are able-bodied and active people. Here are the highlights.

Strawberry Fields. We spent Saturday morning doing yard work at a group home. Our Life Group thought this would be a great opportunity to be able to work and interact with some people that may not get visitors a whole lot. However, when we arrived the social worker in charge of the home told us that all of the residents were non-verbal. Non-verbal is much different than non-communicative, as we found out. Pete, a wheelchair-bound resident that hadn't made a noise in over 10 years, started grunting intermittently as he watched us pull weeds out of the yard and landscaping. We thought Pete was explaining to us what it would be like to watch Monica Seles play Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon but found out later that Pete was trying to let us know that the crabgrass and dandelions we were pulling out at the roots were actually onion grass and tulips. Oops.

West Branch Park. We have some real go-getters in our Life Group that have far more gall than either of us (that isn't saying much). When they said they wanted to go door-to-door at a trailer park asking people if they needed help with anything, we both scrambled for excuses to bow out. Luckily Chad has a collection of "excuse emails" from his students that finally came in handy. Kathi used the common "doctor's appointment" excuse (with women, you just can't ask questions when they pull that card) and Chad used the "my mom gets worried when I'm outside in the wind working up a sweat because I might catch a cold" excuse that a 23-year old former Golden Gloves boxer gave him last year before a tennis class.

Actually we joined our group Sunday morning at the (dirt road) entrance to the (trailer) park (not very) excited about serving the (mobile) community. Feeling like we had been transported to West Virginia, we put on smiles to serve. A bumper sticker in a window reading, "Have you hugged your assault rifle lately?" and a pick-up truck proudly displaying the slogan, "Dodge the Father, Ram the Daughter," on its windshield did not make us feel real comfortable but we had a great time rounding up stray garbage, sweeping off a roof and cleaning out gutters. It was a great experience for us and we hope we are able to help them again in the future.