December 14, 2007 (Greeting Card Photos by Chip Patton)

Here's a "micro thrill" for you (y'know, those tiny highs gleaned from twisting and stretching everyday activities into a miniature "happening"). When brushing your teeth at night, first line up all your tools along the bathroom countertop: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouth rinse. Then treat them like instruments laid out on a surgical tray. Pick up the toothbrush in one hand and slap the handle firmly into your other hand, between the thumb and index finger. Wrap a good grip around it with all your fingers and then go for the tube of toothpaste. Hold the cap in your teeth, off to one side behind your canines so that you have to sneer a bit; twirl the whole tube quickly to unscrew the cap. Apply a generous portion to the brush, then recap the tube in the same manner. Okay, that's enough, let's not over do it, these micro thrills can quickly become anticlimactic. Finish your routine as normal. This works especially well if you have a cooperative 11 year old daughter to act as your assistant: "Toothbrush". Slap. "Paste". Squirt. And so on. Not that I do. Oh, I have the 11 year old daughter, but she's much more likely to roll her eyes in a rainbow arc from horizon to horizon and sigh "Dad! Please!" even before the first toothbrush slap has finished reverberating in the faux marble sink. Still, it makes me smile.

And Caralyn is often my buddy in the evening these days. Our rhythm has shifted in the house a bit. Nathaniel is away. (Where'd he end up? Hang on there, Shorty.) We found Sally-the-dog a new home. She was really Nathaniel's dog, although we all enjoyed her, and with him gone we were looking to be tied down a bit less and she needed surgery... Anyway, one of the assistants at the vet's had always loved Sally and took her on. We chipped in on her operation, but after 10 years we don't have the little purebred mutt to kick around anymore. I think Madelyn misses her as much as any of us. As for Sally, I assume she never had it so good. I can hear her thinking, "Dogs can go in the kitchen? Dogs can get up on the furniture? Dogs can sleep in the master bedroom? Are you kidding? Wow".

And Caralyn's being home schooled this year for 6th grade (about 95% by Madelyn, plus some classes and field trips through a home school center). It seems to be going well, something they both wanted to do again (she was taught at home for K and 1st). It's a lot of hours together for them, but the main reason Caralyn is my buddy at night is because Madelyn hits the hay early and gets up the same way. She goes running, usually with friends, before dawn most mornings. She often tells me how beautiful the stars and then the sunrise are, but I just can't drag myself out of bed then. It's working for her; she's been setting PR's and winning the awards a bunch lately at 5 and 10 K events. She's enjoyed a couple mini-triathlons, too. So Caralyn and I unwind with some evening TV like "Heroes" and the Zen-filled "Life".

So where is Nathaniel these days? Here's a clue: 'Auburn.' You burn. We all burn for Auburn U.. (With apologies to ice cream because we still all scream for that, too.) In August we shipped Nathaniel off toward southern Alabama where they house him in a quaint dormitory with other Auburn University football fans. They keep them busy between games with classes and clubs and such. I think he is adjusting nicely to his new rhythm of college life and fending for himself. It's good to have him not too far away; he got home to referee once, and for Thanksgiving.

So all our rhythms have changed a bit, and maybe our taste buds, too, but I'm running out of quota to tell you about the joys of non-melted butter on toast or hearing Homer Hickam (Rocket Boys/October Sky author) speak under the old cap of a Saturn V rocket under the stars on a mountain top; or our great summer trip to see friends all over NYC or to vacation with other friends at Pigeon Forge, or the drive-in pizza place that was closed the day we were in Knoxville, or all 3 of Caralyn's second place soccer tournament finishes, or Madelyn's chatting with everyone from moms to the mayor while working her breakfast shifts at Bruegger's Bagels, or Nathaniel's all-around best senior award at BJHS, or running with a bald eagle, and more. Although you can, and maybe you have, read about some of these at my web log ( It's commercial free.

All these make our life more than a micro thrill a minute. May your thrills come as often, and in as many sizes.
Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.

-- Chip, Madelyn (, Nathaniel and Caralyn