Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Morning: Weekend Round-Up

What a weekend!
Back when I was in the Army, the thing we used to practice all the time was breaching obstacles.  It was a different Army back then, and I suspect that the emphasis on breaching came largely from the experience of the First Gulf War when the Iraqi Army spent six months digging in, and America and its allies then had to breach to get at the enemy.  It’s also possible that we practiced breaching simply because it’s a tremendously complicated and difficult operation, and by practicing it, we were effectively working our combat command structures in a useful way up to the battalion and brigade level.

There were two ways you could breach an obstacle back in the day.  You could do a “hasty” or “in-stride” breach when the obstacle wasn’t that big, and you needed to continue moving after you’d gone through.  Or you could do a “deliberate” breach when the obstacle was larger and more complex, and the enemy you were assaulting had dug into fixed fighting positions close by on the other side.
As you might expect, a hasty breach is not a big deal.  For a tank platoon, executing a hasty breach means pulling one section up long enough to attack by fire while the other section—the one with the plow tank—drops the plow and drives through, creating a lane amidst the mines and wire.  Then you kept moving.  The whole point is not to stop, not to slow down the unit’s momentum.  By contrast, a deliberate breach is a complex, highly detailed operation.  You have to set up a support by fire position and bring up artillery and engineers…  I’ll spare you the details, but as my father would’ve said, “It’s an intricate evolution.”  
I’m glad I never had to do it under fire.
I bring all of this up because I felt on Sunday like Sally and I are having an in-stride Christmas this year.  There have been years when the family has stopped, set up Christmas deliberately, and made it a whole thing of it, but for better or worse, this year is not one of them.  This year we are barely breaking stride for Christmas.  We’re trying not to slow the family’s momentum because it seems like there was already a Hell of a lot going even before we start considering the season itself.
The weekend started off on Friday night.  Sally and I headed to Two Roads Brewing Company for the Coastal Connecticut Arts Guild’s annual Christmas party, which turned out to be a Hell of a good time.  I don’t often think of myself as an artist, but Sally convinced me to join the Guild—we now have a family membership—and I have to say that everyone in the Guild itself was interested and encouraging when I told them about my book.  They asked questions, and I could tell that they paid attention to the answers.  I’m personally a little more focused on putting out the book’s second half these days, i.e. Sneakatara Boatman and the Crown of Pluto, but it feels like the re-writes are coming along well, and that’s worth a lot all on its own.
I'm in a guild!
Anyway, the party was great.  I hung out with my friend Collin and his wife Elizabeth, and I met the editor of the Stratford Star, and in general the whole affair was a terrific and rewarding experience.
Saturday was a good day, too.  I got up early, wrote some on the blog, had some coffee, and then headed over to the YMCA to meet my friend Ben for swim practice.  Ben’s been trying to prep himself for a run at the Masters Swimming Nationals this season, so in the course of practice we did a 100 Fly for time.  I went 1:05.5 from a push and was extremely satisfied with it.  I got out fast but loose, turned, and had plenty of power left for the back half of the race.  I feel certain that I could go under a minute for a 100 Fly from a set of starting blocks, and considering that I’m 41 and that I only swim twice/week, I think that’s entirely respectable.  I’ve been back in the weight room for about a month now, and I can feel its effects when I swim and when I run, and I feel like I’ve lost some body fat.  Granted, I still weigh 198 pounds, but I’m down a belt buckle size and I’m pushing for a second.  I may not be the same skinny kid I was way back when, but I’m in decent shape, and that’s all that really matters.  
Eh.  I’d probably run a little faster at 190 than I’m running at 198, but I honestly don’t know if I can get down that low, even once tri season starts in earnest.
After swimming, I took Hannah to ice skating, and when we got home, we had some leftover pizza for lunch.  I flipped on the TV, but nothing was no, so—yes—I flipped over toCBS Sports and wound up watching every minute of the march-on before the Army-Navy game.  It makes me feel old to say this, but I actually enjoyed the march-on.
We’ve already talked about the game, so I won’t rehash it here, but I will say that I had a few friends over, and collectively, we had a good time watching together.  Yeah, it would have been nice to actually go to the game, and I understand that my class had quite a few folks attend, but after seeing four Army games the season, this particular game didn’t fit into our budget.  I also have to say that for all that I love Army Football, my favorite memories are definitely not from Army-Navy.  It’s always freezing at the game, and I’d always just shaved my head for the swim meet back in the day…  Yeah, we won three out of four when I was a cadet, but the experience itself was usually kind of miserable for me personally.
I was upset after the game—and more than a little drunk.  It took me maybe an hour to calm down, after which Sally and I settled on the couch, and I promptly keeled over and fell asleep.  
What are you gonna do?  Honestly, one of the reasons I’m glad football season is over is that I need to quit drinking beer during the games, so I can get a little more serious about losing weight and prep’ing for triathlon season.  I’ve been dieting for two or three weeks now, and it’s going okay, but so far that has mostly meant skipping ice cream after dinner.  We’ve been out to parties every weekend for the past several, and it’s been fun, but it’s not conducive to my tri season diet.
Sunday morning rolled around, and for the first time, I started considering Christmas.
We’ve been getting Christmas cards for about a week now, but we haven’t even thought about ours yet, and like it or not, I think we’re gonna have to do New Year’s Cards this year instead.  I haven’t even considered what to put in our Christmas Letter, and in fact, in the age of Facebook, I’m starting to wonder if it’s even worth writing a Christmas Letter.  No one else does.  Who knows?  Maybe you guys hate my letters.
We headed down to get our tree—finally—Sunday morning.  The guys at the lot laughed at us.  They’d gotten four hundred trees, but by the time we got there, they only had eight left.  We picked out the nicest one we could find, but it is easily the smallest tree we’ve ever had.  It’s not going to fit all of our ornaments.  In fact, I doubt it will fit half of our ornaments.  It’s a six-foot blue spruce, but it’s skinny as can be.  I kind of like it, honestly, because it fits easily into one corner of the living room, but Sally only needed one-and-a-half strands of lights to get it going, and I don’t think she liked that particularly well.  
We still haven’t trimmed the damn thing.  It’s standing in our living room with the lights on it, and all the boxes of ornaments are just sitting there.  We never got around to putting them on yesterday afternoon.
We got the tree, set it up, stuck it in the corner, and then I took the kids to back to the YMCA.  The YMCA is having a water obstacle course race for kids next weekend, and Sally wanted the girls to get a chance to practice.  That was really cool.  They each did a few warm-up runs, and then they raced twice, with Hannah going 2-0 in the Head Household Water Obstacle Course Championship race.  I expect both girls will acquit themselves well next week.  Meanwhile, I put in another swimming workout and felt good in the water.  It felt like a luxury getting in the pool two days in a row.
By the time we got home, it was three o’clock.  We had a quick lunch, and then I put on the Giant game and ironed some of the kids’ clothes for school while Sally and the girls went to work cleaning and re-arranging their room.  This turned into a whole deal, and we wound up waiting until nearly eight o’clock at night before we sat down for dinner.  It was fine, but I keeled over again as soon as we sat down to watch TV afterwards.  I slept well, but that’s about all I can say for myself.
We’re nine-and-a-butt away from Christmas, and the event itself has turned into something we’re trying to fit in between all the other little things that we’re already trying to get through.  Our kids are taking it okay (full disclosure: I hate Christmas), but I’m sure they’ll turn on us a little as the actual day gets closer.  I still need to find some time for Christmas shopping, and I’ve got to take Emma to see the new Hobbit movie, and frankly, although we’ve nothing planned next weekend, it already feels like it’s going to be just as busy as this weekend was.
But it wasn’t a bad weekend; it was just full.  How was yours?

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