12/10/2001: "Let it roll across the floor; Through the hall and out the door; To the fountain of perpetual mirth; Let it roll for all it's worth; Let it roll." I find the first verse (indeed the whole lyric) of the Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp to be a good metaphor for life. It may not hurt that Caralyn has been letting me sing my rendition of On Top of Spaghetti in the car sometimes, it also has some parts about stuff (specifically a meatball, of course) rolling out the door. I seem to make a connection between the two. They both have catchy tunes and lift up the spirit in an earthy kind of way. But we had to lose another Beatle in order for me to rediscover the ballad subtitled "(Let It Roll)". It's on George's All Things Must Pass album -- I don't imagine he was thinking of only 58 years when he titled the record, though. For the full lyric and to spoil the metaphor, and see who the heck Frankie Crisp is, check out the Restless Wind. Hey, I just realized the end of the Spaghetti tune is metaphorical, too: " Hold on to your meatballs; And don't ever sneeze."

Whoa, back from the brink. I thought we were plunging into a really damp holiday spirit there for a minute but it veered off in a whole other direction. Humor up, lads and lasses, we've got a note to cruise. Let's start with Sally. That's our little dog, and a good one. ("Good thing for her," Madelyn always adds.) When I do the dishes at the sink after dinner I call her over: "Sally, sit! Sally, down. Sally, stay. Sally, be-a-good-dog." Then she lies there until I'm through and I give her a treat. Wait, wait, here's a better story. A couple weeks ago I taught her to paw at her dish when she wants her supper rather than to bark insistently at us. It only took 15 or twenty minutes over a couple days. Yesterday, Nathaniel taught her to, get this, pull her bed back up onto the dining area floor when it tips down into the sunken family room so she can get into it while we eat. Again she learned very quickly. I think she is "learning to learn". When white mice do that in the Psychology Lab they get put to sleep, but I think it's pretty healthy for the rest of us. Okay, let's move on from the tongue-in-cheek shaggy dog stories. (Yech!)

Caralyn is 5 now, but missed the September 1 cutoff for getting into Kindergarten here so we are teaching her the K grade at home. Madelyn is handling it most of the time but I sub in a day or two per week. We do some fun exercises, like one week our letters were B and T and we had to make up our own Dr. Seuss's ABC book entries: B...b..B, What begins with B? Big bats on a boy's bunk bed: bounce, bounce, bounce. And T...T...t...t: Twelve toads traveling to a tent in Timbuktu. Then Madelyn had her start each session by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I was a bit rusty my first day and Caralyn was leading it pretty well until we got near the end: "...indivisible with little B and justice for all." So she's still a little girl, thank heavens; but she will have a never-ending very adult conversation with you about almost anything once she lets it roll.

My son, whom his mother named Nathaniel, is becoming a teenager. I know this in many ways, not just because he will turn 13 in April. He towers over Madelyn by a couple solid inches, his shoe size is within a half of my own. But I also know this in less physical ways, like his school band's program listed someone named "Nate Patton" on Percussion. "Who is this 'Nate'?" we asked him. He doesn't mind the shortened form, but for years he has dutifully corrected all and sundry that deigned to call him something lesser. No longer. Madelyn gave him a rich and full name, Nathaniel; in the old Hebrew it means "a gift from God". As he becomes a teenager I am wondering if that is "a gift from God" in the same way that a small slip of paper in your post-sweet-and-sour-pork dessert says, "You will meet unusual travelers on your road." Well, thank You and we will be proud to care for this gift. He is a busy boy: after outdoor Fall soccer is now indoor soccer and piano lessons and school, school, school. He's in Algebra as a seventh grader and in the Gifted and Talented class and swamped with reading and projects. Still he brings home A's and praise from other adults who deal with him, so we tolerate minor rebellions, some mislaid dirty socks and an insistence on opening anything new immediately. If there are 4 flavors of ice cream already open but we bring home a "Special Edition: Vanilla Avalanche" you'd think that "Fudge 'n' Cups" went out with the Power Rangers.

Just last weekend Nathaniel and I got a "behind the scenes" tour of the new Heinz Field where the Steelers play football. The University of Pittsburgh Panthers also play there, it's brand new this season. Nathaniel unscrewed a winning cap from a Coke bottle when we picked up Madelyn's sister Peggy from the Pittsburgh airport. We toured the "Great Hall" where the Super Bowl trophies are on display and then went "behind the ropes" into the locker room and down onto the field. We also got to sit in the press booth and tour the "Members Only" bar and restaurants where the suite holders and Club seats get to hang out when the game gets dull. The Steelers are even winning this year, but we haven't been to a game.

Madelyn is back to working part time. She's at a Health South rehabilitation hospital up here now. It was an independent facility but bought out by Health South same as the one in Huntsville was. I know she gets satisfaction out of a number of aspects of her nursing job but I wish the circumstances of her starting back were a bit different. The company I took a job up here with, Tpresence Inc., went out with the Internet Bust. I was laid off at the same time as everyone else (except the mop up crew) on the last day of July. The owners are still looking to sell the assets but there aren't a lot of buyers in this market. I've been looking for other positions, which are much scarcer than a couple of years ago, and Madelyn and I are having a fairly serious disagreement about my employment situation. We'll have to see how it pans out.

So we missed taking Caralyn to the beach, or even camping, this year but we made it to Hershey, PA and "had chocolate for lunch" as she says she wants to do again sometime. We've had several trips up to my parents' house and seen other relatives in Western New York and had a good trip to Peggy and George's at Thanksgiving. We've taken some advantage of being back in the Northeast.

Well, to paraphrase the Grinch, it's practically Christmas. And to bring us full circle back to George Harrison: Let it roll !

Happy Holidays!


-- Chip, Madelyn, Nathaniel and Caralyn