Monday, November 9, 2015

Welcome to the Party

It's that time of the year again--there is a chill in the air and people are looking forward to the winter holidays.  You know, New Years, Thanksgiving, and It's-My-Christmas-Not-Your-Happy-Holidays.

Yes, the "War on Christmas" has begun and I haven't even finished putting away my Halloween decorations, yet.

Things have already reached a fevered pitch--some people plan on boycotting Starbucks because their traditional red cups do not have a Christmas motif on them this year. Because....?  Snowflakes are a secret code for "Christ is born"? (I must have missed that day in parochial school.)

I understand that people object to their holiest of celebrations being made into something less. (I mean, were are talking about the birth of a savior here.)  I agree the whole thing has turned into a over-blown commercial frenzy and often leads to more stress than fellowship. Yes, Christians claim this holiday as their own and want to keep it focused on the "reason for the season" which is a wonderful intention.

However (you knew it was coming, right?):
1) Not everyone in this country is Christian--and that's okay.
2) Why can't non-Christians celebrate a general holiday season?  And why can't governments and retailers and Starbucks invite them to join in the spirit?

Let's say all your friends are going to a birthday party and suggest you come too.  You're not friend-friends with the guest of honor, but your everyone tells you to come anyway.  You show up at the house and the birthday boy answers the door, but won't let you in unless you know the secret password.  Your friends all tell you it's "New England Patriots Rule" but you just can't manage to utter such a thing.  So you are turned away from the party and all your other  football-fan friends act smug as you go home alone.

Or, let's say Jesus is having a birthday party and invites everyone to celebrate with him.  You are not yourself a follower, but your friends assure you it's cool.  You show up at the house and Jesus answers the door.  He might ask you to wipe your feet, but do you suppose he insists you wish him a happy birthday?  Does he check for your Christian membership card?  Or does he welcome you to the party and tell you where the wine is? (Made fresh today!)

The point is Jesus was all about including everyone--children, lepers, and tax collectors.  No one needed a secret code word, no one needed a membership card, everyone was invited.  Why would we insist that Buddhists/atheists/Muslims/People who like to say "Happy Holidays" can't come to our party?

So you can wish me happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, or Festivus.  I may reply in kind, or I may wish you a Merry Christmas.  I like to think what we are actually saying to each other is "Welcome to the party! (The wine is in the back.)"

Friday, July 31, 2015

Life at 90

Here in Washington state we know rain. We have accepted that the majority of our lawn is actually moss; that gray, cold, and damp are a lifestyle, not a choice; we own plenty of Gor-tex.

Weather forecast: HOT
What we don't understand is this thing people in other parts of the country call "dry heat."  Dry and heat don't even become part of our vocabulary until the first time we vacation outside of the state. Which is why this summer has come as such a surprise for many of us.  We've had a record number of sunny days reaching 90°+ with little or no rain. Our lawns are dead (even the moss), wild fires spring up in suburbs, and we are feeling a little loopy from all the heat. Okay, maybe that's just me.

Summer, as most of the country knows summer, has changed me.

I have developed a love/hate relationship with air conditioning.  When it's been over 90 degrees for the last several days you kind of need it, but something about the recycled, dehumidified, Arctic blasts our window unit puts out causes my sinuses to freeze up.  I need air, not processed air-like emissions.  Give me some old-fashioned marine influence over a freon-induced gas any day.  And while many people like the white noise effect of the air conditioner, having that hum going all night gives me weird dreams. Jets landing on my house, robots taking over the world, and polar bears playing shuffleboard do not make for peaceful dreams.  Of course, neither does roasting like a pig in a blanket.

At the local water slide park--argh!
At the beginning of the summer I went out in the sunshine every chance I got.  I developed what one might call a golden tan (keep in mind my natural color is white--not flesh, or ecru, or peach, but pasty-are-you-sure-you're-not-sick-white).  I would put off household chores because "you never know when we'll get a day like this again!"  Yeah, I am so over it.  Now we hide inside, out of the harmful UV rays, breathing our fake air and becoming increasingly pale.  It might as well be winter.

We used to joke that the stores put their summer clothes on sale right around the time we in the Pacific Northwest could finally start wearing them.  We don't usually get consistent sunshine until after the Fourth of July, but this year it started before the kids even got out of school.  I have already run through my entire summer wardrobe, which consists of the three pairs of shorts I'm willing to be seen in public in, as well as last year's swim suit (which may or may not fit).  I have begun to stare longingly at the fall boots and cute cardigans in the back-to-school ads. Things that, at this rate, we may not get to wear until December. My body is not built for hot weather fashions (except for mumus--I could totally rock a mumu.)  I am not now, nor will I be anytime in the next month, "bikini ready".  If I'd known we were actually going to have swim suit weather for more than two days, maybe I'd done a few more of those Biggest Loser workouts.  Okay, I probably wouldn't have, but at least I'd be mentally prepared to bare my sturdy thighs for three months in a row.

I am physically and emotionally done with summer and heat and all that it entails.  If next year is anything like this year, I'm moving to Iceland.  Do you know how warm it is in Iceland right now? Forty-six degrees. I bet they had to put on a sweater when they went outside. And it's supposed to rain there tomorrow.


It's important to keep a sense of humor

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Kristin Alvick Graf's Manual on Motherhood: Winging It

Recently I put out a query to my Facebook friends: should I let my daughter give up on drum lessons after only 2 sessions?  Many friends responded by saying she should stick with it, that they wish their parents had made them see though a few more things they had started.

Well, the month of lessons I had paid for is over and my daughter is no longer a drum student.  I figured I was already making her do one thing she didn't really want to do--school track--two such things might be too much.  And a school sport is cheaper.

I thought about making her stick it out for another month, but finally took her word for it when she said she was no longer interested.  Would she regret it? Was it the right decision?  I honestly don't know.

Once again it becomes painfully obvious that, when it comes to parenting, I really don't know what I'm doing.

When I started this gig 19 years ago, I read the books and asked for advice.  I weighed input from friends and family, seriously considering each issue carefully.  At his point, however, I'm just winging it.

Did I ruin my kids by not weaning them at 12 months, or letting them have a pacifier?  What about  not allowing them to spend the night at that one kid's house, or letting them eating peanut butter crackers for dinner?  Was I teaching my kids the right things?

After this last round of "Spin the Wheel to See If I Just Ruined My Kid's Life", I decided that my choices as a parent may or may not lead to my kids having a stint in therapy/never fulfilling their potential as a rock star/knowing what a "normal" mother is like.  And I've made peace with that.

The way I figure it, I taught them to read and to look both ways before crossing the street.  Everything else they'll have to figure out on their own.  A little intellectual ability and a little common sense should see them through just about anything.

So if my daughter comes to me in 20 years saying she wishes I'd made her stick with drums, I'll tell her the God's honest truth:  it was too expensive.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Riding in Cars with Teens

Our middle child is six weeks away from getting her driver's license.  She's been through the driver's ed course, has passed both the written and driving test mandated by the state, and now waits (impatiently) for her 16th birthday to roll around.

Oh God, how I hate this stage.

While I support all growth opportunities for my children, I am not a fan of riding with my kids.  At the beginning of this little adventure I tried arguing that I had taught all three kids to read so it was my husband's job to teach them to drive. For the most part he has honored this, but since I work from home I am usually the one riding shotgun to sport practices and after school events with the 15-year-old and their brand new learner's permit.

You'd think having been through this before with our oldest child, it would be no big deal.  Teen drivers are by turns overly cautious and frighteningly optimistic about road conditions and their driving skills so they need lots of practice. Two licensed drivers down (well, once my daughter hits magic 16), with only one to go, and no accidents yet (knock on wood).

Yet there is something about putting my life (and insurance rates) in the hands of a child I gave birth to that makes me a little nervous.  It's not that either child has ever been a "bad" driver (inexperienced yes, reckless no). It's just that I've always been responsible for them:  their health, well-being, manners, everything.  So when they get behind that wheel with me in the passenger seat, they may be in control of the car, but if they hit a cat, run a red light, or even dent the bumper, it's partly my fault.  Because I am the licensed driver overseeing them, but also because I am their mother.  I know, this is my own weird hang-up, but there it is in all it's weirdness.  These are my babies, it is my responsibility to keep them safe.  But how can I keep them safe if I'm not in control?

And there it is, the real reason I have such a problem with this whole process.  I have to let go and trust that they can do this on their own.  Oh poop, being a parent is hard.

I am actually looking forward to my daughter getting her license because then I will not have to ride with her anymore. I plan on blaming any of her mistakes on the driving school... or her father. 

(For the record, she's an excellent reader.)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Dog's Breakfast

My self-imposed Facebook fast is almost over (6 hours and 45 minutes to go, but who's counting?) and now is the time for me to reflect on what I did during my six weeks in the desert of no social network.

(I did try out some Instagram-meh-and I attempted a little Twitter but it was too ADHD for me.)

I watched quite a bit more TV ("Rehab Addict" and "The Rachel Maddow Show" topped the list.  I am now well informed about politics, but want to buy old houses.

I meant to write more...yeah, did't happen...but I did read some new and interesting books.  Normally I don't read many mysteries (I have a hard time warming up to a genre that centers around someone dying) but I picked up a book from my library's "Best Bets" shelf that I found intriguing.  Louise Penny's The Long Way Home is part of a series centering around a homicide inspector in Quebec.  The story had well developed characters and several other story lines going on besides just a dead body (that doesn't show up until the end).

Two of the main characters are artists and the discussion of how they approach their creations becomes an important turning point for the story.  One woman says her first attempts at paining were a mess, like a "dog's breakfast"--a confusing jumble of what she was trying to convey.  But the fact that she put it all out there, trying a new approach to art, made it a worthwhile process.

At this point I realized my writing is sometimes like the dog's breakfast (my dogs eat Beneful for breakfast and dinner, in case you're wondering).  My process often involves me just throwing it all out there and seeing what sticks.  Sometimes some stuff sticks that really shouldn't and I try to scrape off what I can.  But it doesn't have to be perfect--especially at the start--it just has to be started.  Because those dogs are hungry.  (I really don't know where I'm going with this now, but the fact is that I'm going.)

I also realized that since I wasn't sharing my blog posts on Facebook (since I'm still on my Facebook Fast) very few people are actually reading this anyway (except my mom--Hi Mom!).  Dance like no one's watching and write like no one's reading--except the one person who is biologically pre-disposition to think you're special anyway.

Friday, March 20, 2015

This Dog Won't Hunt

When I take my dogs for a walk I like to let them loose in the empty field of our neighborhood. There they sniff out the resident bunnies and transient mice, catching a whiff of a few wandering deer.  Our dogs are Labrador Retrievers, a breed known for its hunting skills.  My husband takes them hunting for pheasant, ducks and geese, so these two are trained to pick up scents, flush prey, and then, well, retrieve.  As I watch them do their bird dog-thing, I think about how happy this makes them.  This is literally what they were born to do.  They lift their noses to the wind, interpreting smells (and sometimes rolling in them) and then twitch their ears around to detect the sound of scurrying feet or flapping wings.  At that moment their lives are complete.

Wouldn't it be great, I think, if  humans could have the same experience?  If you knew instinctively, through hundreds years of evolution, what you were born to do?  And then were able to do it?

I am not a hunting dog (and I would hope that is obvious to all of you). If my ancestors were selectively mating to ensure a certain skill or trait that would lead to a perfect career, they didn't mention it in any will or Ouija board seance.  What was I born to do?

Hunting is definitely out--you have to get up way too early, it's usually dark and cold, and I don't care for wild game.  I like my food full of steroids and wrapped in cellophane, thank you very much, just as God intended.

I love words and books and thesauruses
(or is it thesauri?) .  Of course, I also love chocolate.  And shoes; I always feel one with the universe when I get a new pair of cute shoes.

I know I was meant to be a mother.  (Whether or not I was meant to be a good mother is still up for discussion.  My kids remain skeptical.)  But I always knew, without being able to give a concrete reason, that I wanted to have kids.  They'll wreck my body and spend all my hard earned money? Sign me up!

I was not bred to have any sort of athletic talent.  Or to even particularly enjoy watching any sort of sporting event, unless it involves one of my offspring (see previous entry). This is another reason my siblings are convinced I was adopted.

I seem to have a sixth sense for sarcasm.  It comes very naturally for me and required no special training. How this translates into a life's purpose I have yet to discover, but I remain hopeful.

Some days I think I was born to write and read and to share the funny and wonderful things I come across in my life. Other days, not so much.  But I come from a family of artists and teachers, musicians and poets.  I have apparently been bred to be a thinker of thoughts who dabbles in words.

But I will not hunt.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Graduation Ready

My oldest graduates from high school in two days, people, TWO DAYS.  And you know what will happen once he has that diploma in his hand?  He will be impossible to live with, which  is why God created college.  Yeah, yeah, higher learning, improved job outlook, blah-blah-blah.  Four year universities were created so mothers would not kill their newly independent offspring.  And by "independent" I mean thinks he knows it all and can do whatever he wants, but still complains about the selection in the fridge and would like you to wash his favorite shirt. Today.

I am trying to keep it together.  As he likes to remind me, graduating from high school is not that hard, it's no big deal.  Except it is. 

When I went to the parent orientation for high school the spring of his 8th grade year, I remember the principal telling us that the most important key to your child's high school success was showing up.  That's it?  All he has to do make it to class?  Wow, they're not setting their standards very high.  And honestly, there are days when that's all the effort my my son would put into it.  But show up he did and graduate he will.

So I'm trying not to make a big deal of the whole event.  There will be no lavish party (he's going to numerous of his friends parties and doesn't want to hang out with us anyway) and no new car with a bow on it in the driveway.

Talking to other senior parents about what their kids are doing next year reminds me of the conversations we all had as they were moving out of preschool up into grade school.  What school will they be going to, have you met the teacher, yes I've heard they have a good program there.  But this time they are all going off to do it on their own.  It feels like some crazy parallel universe where your baby is taller than you with more expensive shoes and a better laptop..

I should note that I missed my son's first couple days of kindergarten because of the arrival of his new baby sister.  He could do kindergarten with out me, surely he can make it to college too.

Epilogue:  I started writing this post last spring and never finished it.  I am happy to report that both my son and I are enjoying his college experience.  You'd think I'd miss him like crazy this first year, worrying if he's okay or eating enough.  But he's having the time of his life. (and just maybe he's learning a little something in those classes) and when I do see him I get to treat it like it's a special occasion.  And I don't have to worry about having just the teenage boy approved food in the fridge all the time. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

OGD: Obsessive Grammar Disorder

I've seen a lot on social media lately criticizing people's grammar and, honestly, it's time to cut everyone a little slack. The Your/You're/There/Their/They're thing has been done to death. I understand when to use an apostrophe, when a quotation mark is called for, and who's on first. But typos happen, brain farts happen.  Bad grammar happens.

As an English major-turned-blogger, you'd think I would be all about the grammar.  But we didn't study dangling participles or dependent clauses in my college classes--I guess they thought we already knew all that.  I have a confession to make:  I couldn't diagram a sentence to save my life.  (Please don't tell the English Department at UW, because they might revoke my diploma.)  My 7th grade daughter recently asked for help with language homework that involved predicates and subordinating conjunctions. (Cue chirping crickets.) Not a clue...

I have probably broken three major grammar rules in this post alone--I couldn't tell you which, of course, since I am not a Grammar Nazi. This is not to say I don't think good grammar is important, but an occasional slip here and there does not doom one to Punctuation Purgatory.  I will not think you're stupid if you misuse parts of speech, but it's quite possible that I won't  understand you. "They're dog was over their with there cat" would leave me puzzling for days.  I know it's a personality flaw of mine--being so literal means I spend way too much time obsessing over such things.

Hello, my name is Kristin and I suffer from Obsessive Grammar Disorder.

I love words and how, when combined just right (and with a little pixie dust) they can create magic.  While growing up (the youngest in a family of five) I realized that I was never going to best my brothers at anything physical, so I decided to out-vocabulary them. (See, I'm pretty sure that was not the correct way to say that, but I'm going to call it "Poetic License" and move on.)  I started looking up words in the dictionary and dropping them casually into conversation.  I once told my brother that he was obtuse and he stared at me with such a mixture of such frustration and loathing that I felt a little giddy inside.

When used correctly, words can exert tremendous power; when used incorrectly, they create confusion.  And it drives me insane.

There was a construction site near our house last summer that posted a sign along the road that read "Truck's Crossing". Every time I drove by there I went a little crazy trying to figure WHAT THEY WERE SAYING. Was there just one truck that somehow owned that part of road?  Could I not cross there? Curse you, OGD!

There are many examples of grammar gone bad on Pinterest.  I came across this beauty recently: "Southern Born/ Southern Bread/ and/ Southern Girl/ Til I'm Dead."  I got to the "bread" part and was prepared for a clever play on words, but instead was sadly disappointed with plain old bad grammar.  She, of course, meant "bred," but there I was trying to figure out what southern bread was (biscuits maybe?) and obsessing over what could made this into something funny. ("Southern Baked/Southern Bread/and/ Southern Girl/ 'Til I'm Fed," maybe?)
Web MD defines Obsessvie Compulsive Disorder as a "potentially disabling illness that traps people in endless cycles of repetitive thoughts and behaviors."  Much like its counterpart, Obsessive Grammar Disorder causes those afflicted to compulsively try to extract meaning from bad grammar. Treatment involves a dictionary, a thesaurus, and spell check.  Or you can go with the holistic approach:  read three books and call me in the morning.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Six Weeks in a Desert

Lent begins tomorrow and so I begin my annual Facebook Fast.

My second grade teacher at St. Joseph's parochial school, Sister Judith, told us that we were to give something up for Lent so we would understand the suffering of Christ as he was crucified.  (She was not known for her warm demeanor, but for the Vulcan death grip she applied to unruly children.)

Somehow I don't think not being able to see funny cat videos on Facebook or take a quiz to see which Disney princess I would be (Belle) quite equates to being having your hands and feet being nailed to a cross. But giving up Facebook is hard for me.  And I don't think a loving God, such as my man Jesus, really wants me to experience the same pain He did. (That and He sometimes laughs at my status updates about grumpy teenagers because he remembers how moody I was.)

The first year I gave up Facebook for Lent it was mostly to prove I could.  I guess my friends and family felt I shared a little too much in my timeline posts and  didn't believe I'd last the 40 days.  Well, I fasted in that internet desert of no status updates and rose again as a blogger.

Last year I didn't Facebook fast--I thought I'd try a six week program of exercise and healthy eating instead.  That lasted about a week and a half.

The year before that, however, proved enlightening.  I had been Facebook-less for about four weeks and had convinced myself I'd never do it again.  What was I getting out of it, anyway, besides being cat-video-free?  In a bout of boredom I started perusing Pinterest (another internet time-suck).  There I snooped through my teen daughter's boards (which in Pinterest-ese is a grouping of like things, or "pins") titled "bucket list." On that board was a pin about meeting her favorite author.  Hmm, that was kind of interesting.  I found the website for the current author of choice and saw she was doing a tour to promote her newest title.  AND she would be a bookstore in Seattle in a few weeks time. So I took my daughter and friend to see the author she loved and became, for one short moment, not the worst mother ever.  All because I'd given up Facebook.

It may not have been what Sister Judith had in mind, but it was pretty darn cool.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Writing from the Dark Side

The other night I watched a movie about a woman who was having a hard time being a stay-at-home parent ("Mom's Night Out"--don't waste your time, even if you get it free from the library like I did). She found herself hiding from her kids in the closet, sobbing into her glass of wine, until she learned to deal with her stress by writing a blog.  Then her days were filled with sunshine and rainbows.

If only life was more like the movies...

This made me realize, however, that most of these so-called "mommy bloggers" are parenting small children, babies to elementary-school-age.  You don't see many bloggers waxing poetic about the joys of teenage offspring--why do you suppose that is?
Mother/Son Bonding

I, myself, am up to my eyeballs in teenagers (well, more like several inches over my head, since two of the three are taller than me) so I have a few ideas on the subject.

1) Teenagers are on the internet.  They do not take kindly to their parents broadcasting to the world-wide-web that Johnny just got his first pimple, or that that Suzy is hormonal and is being a major pain in the butt.  If you want to live with your offspring for the next several years without WWIII taking place in your living room, you just can't even go there.  If you want to write about your kids, your only option is to create decoy titles for your posts, like "Why the 80's Were So Cool" or "Retirement Planning for the Active Mom."  Throw them off the scent, as it were.

I don't know you.
2)  Raising teenagers is not for sissies.  While writing about young children can involve all sorts of cute and funny stories, it's hard to come up with a delightful anecdote of how your sixteen-year-old slammed the door in your face after yelling he hates you, or a heart warming tale of a teen daughter freaking out because you went into her room after dirty laundry.  It's sometimes dark on this side of parenting.  You say things you don't mean, you yell, and you make mistakes.  There comes a day when you realize you only have a year or two left to turn this swirling mass of hormones and body odor into a functioning adult. And you panic. We are not laughing at these events, and quite honestly we'd rather no one else knew about them.

3)  We are crazy busy.  Don't get me wrong, parents of littles are also trying to juggle all sorts of stuff: tying shoes, finding binkies, washing load after load after load of tiny socks and shirts.   You'd think parents of teens, with their kids half grown and able to feed themselves,  would have all the time in the world to spin tales of their parenting glories. But right now we're just trying to keep it together as we drop off and pick up, drop off and pick up, fending off major teenage attitude all the while. We are coordinating school sports with driver's ed and dinner and the tenth load of laundry filled with stained team uniforms and the oldest's favorite shirt.  We are filling out forms for college applications and graduation requirements and the permission for the HIV class at school. And we are reminding (nagging), counseling (bossing), and reminding/nagging again trying to make sure our kids get it all done.  The teenage years are crunch time for parents--did I mention they have to be functioning adults in a year or two?

Don't Talk to Me
I don't consider myself a mommy blogger because I sometimes write about my kids, anymore than I ever considered myself to be a soccer mom because my kids all played soccer.  I did a quick search for blogs about parenting teens and they all sounded equally serious and dull.  These years can be tricky, but if you don't have a sense of humor as a parent, you'll never survive.  I once told my son that getting through his teen years was going to require either military school for him or AA for me.  Luckily we didn't have to resort to either.  Yet.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cult of the 12th Man

Being a non-football fan while the Seahawks are in the playoffs is kind of like being a Buddhist at Christmas.

Right now people across the Pacific Northwest are gearing up for the big game (against who I do not know).  Whole families dressed in 12th Man gear are flooding the grocery stores to stock up on chips and drinks and anything decorated in blue and green.  Faces are painted and flags are flying. Meanwhile, at the Graf house, we are spending a lazy Saturday watching movies and reading.  Not a single Seahawk logo to be seen.  Why, oh why, does everyone else seem ga-ga over this sports team, but we could care less?

Last year as the Seahawks played their way to the Super Bowl, I wrote a piece about my ambivalence for the game  ("Only the Lonely").  It's not that I hate it, I just don't get it.  And quite honestly, the crowds of people decked out in team gear everywhere I go is starting to creep me out a little.  Is this a cult or something?

Merriam-Webster defines "cult" (in the non-religious sense) as:
 a :  great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or    book); especially :  such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad
 b :  the object of such devotion

 c :  a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion

So yeah, it's a cult. (Except for the small group part.)

When I googled "why do people like football?" I came across this article at that claims it's mostly testosterone.  All that charging and tackling and manly behavior.  Also it gives guys something to bond over.  But what about the women?  I know plenty of females who love the actual game itself just as much as they love the socializing that goes with it.  Who knows what sort of chromosome I am missing that prevents me from bonding with football. (Though my siblings claim it's further proof I was secretly adopted.)

Sure, I see everyone getting behind the local team who's winning.  And, hey, think of all the tax revenue it's bringing to our state (Seahawks win = more money for schools!) And I think many of the team's players are very fine inividuals:  from weekly visits to Seattle's Children Hospital, to their time spent with the local  Marysville Pilchuck team that was devastated by the shooting at their school, these men really have shown how to be a sports hero.

So there's this giant, happy blue and green cult going on and I just don't fit in.  I will never a member, I will never drink the kool aid. But somehow I ended up in a place where everyone not only gets it, but LOVES it.  Sometimes to the extreme.  From the  couple named their baby girl "Cydnee Leigh 12th Mann", to the guy who got the Seahawk logo stamped on his prosthetic eyeball.  And yes I know die-hard football fans everywhere do crazy things, but usually I don't have to live among them.

The bright side of all this for the non-football fan:  come game time the grocery store is practically deserted.  I can happily trip up and down the produce aisle with nary a sighting of those blue and green jerseys.  Just a few stragglers who forgot dip.  And to those tardy few 12th Men (and Women) I can shake my head and smile.  Yes, you, the 12th Man, just paid for my kids' education.