Awesome Christmas Decorations

We were done at Purdue a few weekends ago to see the Boiler Women’s volleyball team compete in the NCAA Tournament (they beat Kentucky on Friday and Louisville on Saturday). My wife an I both went to Purdue so we like to walk around campus whenever we are down there and this time was no exception.She was in the AZD house which is not very far from where the matches were played, so we decided to walk by there after the game.

To our surprise, we came upon a nicely decorated house two door down from her sorority, but what really caught our eye was the house between the two. If you look closely at the photo below, just below the re added that I added in, you will see the word ‘DITTO’ and an arrow in lights pointing to the house with all the decorations.



I guess they thought instead of putting the time in to decorate, they would just let the neighbors do it and say they feel the same way. Made me laugh.

Volleyball Is Back In Session

After taking a few weeks off from tournament play, the girls are back doing pool play this weekend. Unfortunately, their lack of tournament play or at least playing together as a team is showing. They have been accustomed to always finishing the day as one of the top three teams but yesterday they finished 7th which dropped them down a bracket for today’s play. They lost the first match in 2 games and they seemed very uptight which I attribute to lack of real game time. They have been practicing as usual for the past few weeks but nothing can replace the experience of  real game pressure.

Jen’s team did end up winning their next two matches in two games straight each so I am a little more hopeful but it still looks like they have a long road back to get to where they were before the break. I have read many times that if you stop running for a month you can loose up to 70% of you capacity. There must be a similar statistic for staying away from real game play but that one I am sure is harder to quantify.

At any rate, I will continue to be a supportive parent despite my competitive urge to yell and scream at the matches (I have not done that since I was coaching soccer). They need to gel by the first week in March otherwise the Denver qualifier will be a painful experience.

Skype Is The Best Thing Ever

If you are fortunate enough to travel frequently (or unfortunate depending on the length and destination) you may find your self missing out on events or just missing someone. With my schedule I often find myself missing special events that my kids participate in. Now I’m not just talking about missing one of Jenna volleyball matches or an extra great practice session that she wants to talk about, but sometimes just simple everyday things that bring joy to everyday life.

Matt has discovered the joys of shopping at the Salvation Army thrift store and donating back to them as well. He would much rather spend an hour or so looking for great finds at the store on 75th and Lemont in Downers Grove or the impressively large store in Oak Lawn, than go to the mall and waste his hard earned cash. I have followed his lead in finding some nice items for welding class and for the marathon as I mentioned in my post on January 10, 2010 all in great shape and purchased for pennies on the dollar. He has been collecting shirts from all the major league baseball teams as well as other items that relate to MLB, like caps and glassware. He also has had a few good finds related to the actual implements of the game like baseballs, gloves and bats.


So back to my reason for this post ( I tend to wander but I hope to get better at this as time goes on). Today he scored a really nice pair Nikes, an MLB shirt and a few other items. Normally a phone call to explain his find would be nice but we agreed on a Skype video call so he could show off some of his score. I have a little Logitech Quick Cam for Notebooks (mine is an older version) that I can clip to the top of my laptop and at home we have a webcam connected to our Media Center PC which servers up media to the big screen in the back house. The family can sit on the couch and do a video call with me from anywhere on the planet (limited only to available bandwidth).

We started a video chat after my client visit, diner and a quick run (more on that pain tomorrow.) I find that a video call is much more engaging as I am able to enjoy his expressions and animated gestures, things that you just can’t pick up with a simple voice call. Being two time zones away can be difficult when you are so close to your family so Skype has been one of my most awesome purchases ever. You can get a free account, but I opted for the $3 per month unlimited calls to Canada plan to cut down on the cost of calls to the customers up north (I’m all about saving money).

If you are able, donate your lightly used items to organizations like the Salvation Army. They could really use your help. Or if you have large items or non ‘Consumer’ items, consider giving them away via FreeCycle. Freecycle is an organization that allows you to give and get stuff for free. Instead of adding to the landfill, there may be someone who can use that old bird cage or extra three stacks of shingles that you don’t need anymore. Many communities, including mine have a local chapter. Check it out and help someone out.

Volleyball…Lots and Lots of Volleyball

The club season is in full swing already and pretty much every Saturday brings with it pool play. In Jenna’s case they call it Power League. Sounds bad ass like they should have their own hall of justice and secret decoder rings to unite their bump, set and spike powers.

In reality it is a huge thriving business in this down economy. Even when layoffs and unemployment are on the rise families shell out big bucks every week, every month and return year after year to the traveling volleyball scene. In addition to the thousands of dollars they spend on club fees every year, each weekend involves some sort of travel. Today for us it was only a 45 minute drive each way so not too much fuel cost. But that is just transportation for one day. You also have an entrance fee at each of the venues per person per day and food cost. You are not allowed to bring in your own food or drinks so you need to eat before you come, buy something from the concessions or go out between games.  The space is usually just a converted industrial warehouse with anywhere from 4 to 8 courts running continuous games throughout the day.

Today all six courts are running so that is about 24 teams with 8-12 girls per team and a few hundred parents, friends etc. I am seeing more and more of these facilities in different states as we travel around to watch her play. Instead of building and selling widgets to pay for the space and keep the lights on, they are selling competition and in America who doesn’t like competition. As a bonus, there a quite a few college scouts walking around here today. A college scholarship would make for a nice ROI.