December 15, 2009 (Greeting Card Photo by Tanjie Nash Schrimsher)

", math, history; unraveling the mysteries,
that all started with The Big Bang."

We like The Big Bang Theory; not the conjecture that our universe begot itself in a giant original explosion (not that we have any strident animosity toward said theory, although I do find it a bit unsatisfying in the same way as an older theory that asserted the Earth was held up on the back of a giant turtle: "...and where does that turtle stand?" "On the back of another. And it's turtles all the way down, I say!" That is, it just begs another question.) Rather, we like the television show The Big Bang Theory, or TBBT, for short, if I may. The quote's a snippet from its theme song.

And when I say "we" these days I mean, primarily, myself, Madelyn and Caralyn. That's us-around-the-house. Nathaniel, in one of those happy-sad eventualities, is mostly away at Auburn: learning, Resident Directing, soccer refereeing and soccer referee coordinating. He missed our October weekend in Chattanooga, where we saw dinner theatre one day and rode the River Gorge Explorer the next. He missed our trip to Florida in November, where we saw spoonbills, herons, and more than a few Drumms; I know he would have particularly enjoyed that last. We celebrated Anthony and Megan's marriage with all of Madelyn's brothers and sisters and more. Young people kicking a start into a shared life, like the characters in TBBT. I loved being there for that, and the personal highlights that the occasion precipitated: Roddy's fatherly pride (and his joy at bringing all seven siblings together), Madelyn dancing with Peggy (Somebody call 9-1-1!), Caralyn dancing with Uncles George and Roddy, and hanging with the unique congregation. We had no tangelos though, despite it being Florida.

We did have tangelos back in March, in Arizona, and Nathaniel, too on that trip. Picked them from my parents' back yard at their winter house in Sun City. Madelyn especially relished the fresh fruit. It was a new state for all but me, and a new climate (desert). We visited a grand canyon, rode horses among the cacti and saw cactus league baseball with Patton-side relations.

Our flights to Phoenix were free. Well, like the proverbial unpaid lunch, we had incurred a cost, Caralyn most dearly, the previous October. In the Atlanta airport, en route home from a week at Disney, we volunteered our seats in exchange for 400 Delta dollars. Each. Caralyn was very, very tired and just wanted her own bed, but it was a little too sweet to pass up. Huntsville celebrity Liz Hurley took one of our seats that night. She's a news anchor and breast cancer survivor and chairs a 5K road race each year to raise funds and awareness. We've run in it all six years. Madelyn chats with her now if she comes into Bruegger's Bagels while Mad's working.

I had another free flight, and close encounter with celebrities, to Montreal, Quebec in August, at the Sci-Fi WorldCon. I met favorite author Neil Gaiman. I've never before been in the personal presence of that much charisma; there's a palpable change when he strolls into a room, an expectancy which he coolly delivers on, he's very real, with an earthiness that pervades his space, too. Nice. I got to stroll a bit there myself with other authors, out on the streets of Montreal one crisp morning: Cory Doctorow and Larry B. Hodges. It was a bit like a fantasy camp for me.

Also fantastical, but completely different, was my 25th college reunion at Binghamton University (solo again, Madelyn wasn't interested and my attempts to cajole ex-roomie David into attending bore no fruit). The pulse of the place was familiar. The free young minds were inspiring, and overwhelming, and I was grateful that my alumni pals, Linda and Diane, invited me for meals and touring (but I passed on the antiquing, Diane found some treasures, though).

Caralyn had a solo trip of her own, to her grandparents'. A big trip for a 12 year old. She painted with Grandma, on slate and on canvas. Her flower on black is framed and soon to be hung in our dining room. Come see it; or check it out my website. Caralyn also continues with soccer, kicking her way to a spot on her school team.

Madelyn is kicking herself because she's re-aggravated a hamstring injury and been sidelined from hard running for several months. She's filled the void through volunteering at races (we made hundreds of PB&J sandwiches, to order, for the finishers of last weekend's Rocket City Marathon), working out with weights and doing a little geocaching.

I kicked the tires and then bought a new Subaru Forester, trading my 14 year old Explorer through Cash for Clunkers. I know a salesman there, from ping pong, so I think we got a fair deal.

So we're kicking along quite well and maybe not unraveling too many mysteries, but at least reveling in some. I hope that you are kicking up a big bang of your own, or reveling in the mystery that is Christmas,

-- Chip, Madelyn (, Nathaniel and Caralyn