December 20, 2005 (Greeting Card Photo by Chip Patton)

Everyone is making lists this year: Best Books of 2005, Persons of the Year, Worst Dressed, Biggest News .... Certain individuals are even checking their lists twice; but I can't seem to get that organized. It's practically New Year's and I'm still tallying the things I'm thankful for.

So where did it go, this two-double-naught-five? Well, to work, to family, to running and ping pong, as usual. And what is on my summary list of superlatives for the past 354 days? Let's see:

Favorite Athlete: Caralyn the soccer player. She played "club soccer" for the first time and played well. Overnight to the Governor's Cup tournament in Birmingham was a highlight.

Most Inspiring Athletes: I spent 4 days last week watching the US's best table tennis players compete, and they were awesome. I played some there myself, somewhat less-than-awesomely. But along one side of the convention center was a group of international athletes with incredible skills and more amazing attitudes. These were the participants in the 2005 U.S. Paralympics Table Tennis Championships. Adult players scarcely taller than the table, players in wheelchairs, players that have to Velcro the paddle to their hand, players with limbs twisted by Cerebral Palsy that appear unlikely to be able to open a drawer, yet they could easily have outplayed me at table tennis. These men and women competed and laughed and applauded each other. Most inspiring.

Most Convenient Consumer Product: Easy Glide Reynolds Wrap. I will suffer no other brand before me. Pull some plastic wrap out, slide the plastic glide and "Voila!", a perfectly cut leftovers cover. Move over sliced bread, this is the new "the best thing since...".

Best Resort Vacation Destination: It's still Walt Disney World. We spent a carefree week in the hands of the Disney cast, staying at the Coronado Springs and gorging on the meal plan. We rode the buses and monorail and all the rides we could stand. We followed the Unofficial Guide and fought few crowds in mid-October. We saw deer and turkey and an alligator. We dined with Cinderella. We swam and we strolled and we ate crème Brule. Okay, Caralyn ran a fever for a couple days and I got motion sick on the Mission To Mars; but these mostly served to slow us to a more rational pace.

Best New Driver in our House: Nathaniel; but our little dog Sally might've given him a run for it if she could reach the pedals. He backed into the cable TV box that sits next to our driveway and into the curb at CVS, too. He's out right now, doing some Christmas shopping on his own (and making his mother pace the floors, no doubt). We did buy a car with an automatic transmission because operating a clutch seemed to give him one more thing than he really needed to think about at a time, and that brings me to my next item.

Most Timely Purchase: 2000 Toyota Echo in late spring. Bought as a third car, at 40 mpg, it proved worthy when gas prices spiked after Katrina and her waves hit. It's red.

Best Day Trip: After Christmas last year we toured the Golden Flake potato chip factory. It was delicious; there are no chips like fresh chips.

Personal Best: Madelyn's Half Marathon Time; she bettered last year's mark by 30 seconds! (I was 1 second slower this year.) I did manage to win the Alabama State Over 40 Table Tennis Championship.

Best Web Logs: (Tie.) 1. English author Neil Gaiman's blog ( I don't want to be President of the United States, or Center Fielder for the Mets anymore. If I'm jealous of someone's career now it is this earthy author with multi-media talent. We do have similar aged daughters: "Fame is rot, daughters are the thing." Amen. 2. The career and life that it's fun not to envy is that of Staten Island Girl ( She gives insight into the young semi-urbanites, complete with angst, slang, all manner of allusions (musical, film, literary) and humor, always with humor. She writes in a voice that carries.

Best Lecture: Daniel Pink, discussing his book, A Whole New Mind, at Chautauqua Institution (easily the Best Place to See a Lecture). To quote from his talk; "There are 3 things that make a good speech: Levity, Brevity and Repetition. Let me say that again.." He gave us all three. I bought his earlier book, Free Agent Nation, and had him sign it. Mom enjoyed the talk, too.

Best Vacation: Nathaniel started the trip by flying solo to his grandparents Patton's a couple weeks before July 4th. The rest of us followed in time to see my fellow CCS alumni, 25 years after graduating from high school. We enjoyed a 10K run with HS track star Mark Maxwell; recapturing "a little of the glory of". No time to dally though, we drove over to NJ and were treated to fine dining at Peggy and George's. We watched the fireworks over Manhattan from there; well they were on TV, but with Lisa up from Staten Island it felt like we were in New York City. We had a few more restful days back with my mom and dad, and a 5K run in Mayville, before heading back south.

Least Good Time: I guess I should have a couple negative items, although again we've had a fine year. Nathaniel continues to do well in school, inducted into the Spanish Honor Society while taking Spanish IV; he's continuing with Math and Computer Studies, too, and I'm proud of all of that; he's a Junior this year, looking seriously at colleges. He refereed a bunch of soccer and played some, too. He helps me run the weekly league at the table tennis club. Caralyn is fitting in with her 4th grade schoolmates quite well and gets top grades and is usually my buddy. She has me use a dozen different combs and brushes on her hair, or run the massage wheel over her back while we watch TV; she'll do mine, too. Then I get to do Madelyn's. So least good time? Probably Madelyn's second gum surgery, should be the end of that though.

Worst News: In a year that was truly disastrous for many people around the world, we fared well again. Still it was upsetting when my dad broke both his legs falling 10 feet into an untended hole at a restaurant. He's recovering nicely now, but a variant of a quote from Dune kept running through my head: "They have let my dad fall into a pit!" ("They have tried to take the life of my son!"). Those evil "they".

I hope your lists are also heavily tilted toward the Bests. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, -- Chip, Madelyn (, Nathaniel and Caralyn