Friday, March 31, 2006

Monkeying Around

Be sure to tune in. This is apparently all we're going to get.

Seems fans weren't the only ones going ape over the demise of "Love Monkey."

VH1 has announced plans to air all eight episodes of the short-lived CBS dramedy beginning next month.

While the cable net was quick to dismiss the notion that they will resume production on the series, most of the episodes will be new for viewers — CBS yanked the show after airing only three of the eight shows that were shot.

The music channel will air the three previously seen shows in succession on April 11, with the five remaining installments set to air weekly on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. beginning April 18.

Based on the book by Kyle Smith, "Love Monkey" starred Tom Cavanagh as a record company exec who loses his job and his girlfriend in the same day. With help from his buddies, including Jason Priestley and Larenz Tate, he bounces back, finding a new dream job and girl.

While the show fared well among critics, Nielsen box-owning viewers failed to be as equally delighted by the Monkey business.

CBS brass high hopes for the midseason replacement, but the show's audience continually dropped after each airing, with the three shows averaging just 8.1 million viewers.

The show was quickly scrapped and replaced with The Amazing Race and alternating reruns of "NCIS" and "CSI."

Not even the promised stream of music industry guest stars managed to keep Monkey afloat. Ben Folds, LeAnn Rimes and James Blunt all appeared as themselves in the aired episodes, with new TRL favorite Teddy Geiger regularly showcasing his vocal cords as an aspiring singer-songwriter Cavanagh's character took under wing.

VH1, which, like CBS, is owned by Viacom, is betting the music-centric show may find a more loyal audience on its airwaves. Future episodes include cameos from Aimee Mann, She Wants Revenge, Paul Shaffer, Nic Harcourt and Si Se.

But even if "Love Monkey" proves successful for the cable net, the show is still limited to the in-the-can episodes. Cavanagh has already moved on, signing on to another CBS project, this time a comedy, called "My Ex-Life." The show revolves around the lives of two divorced couples, with Kelsey Grammer directing the pilot.

—By Gina Serpe

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Humbling Tetris Revival

Greg and I revived our Super Nintendo last night with the classic Tetris. (The cartridge is actually a Tetris/Dr. Mario combo, but Greg prefers good 'ole Tetris, if he has to choose one.)

Despite failing to meet my usual crushings of him, I ended up beating Greg 4-3, meaning I won four of the best-of-five series while he tried to make a comeback, but came up one series short. When we used to play cards with Kelly Clem's family, her mom would call tie-breakers "The Grand Bump Off." Let's just say, Greg and I had The Grand Bump Off of The Grand Bump Off last night. The last best-of-five series came down to the last match. Tied at two matches apiece, I prevailed.

For you old-school Tetris players, you have to remember that Super Nintendo two-player Tetris adds a variable to the game. Say I make more than one line at a time — it can be two, three or four lines — then the game builds up that many lines on Greg's screen. It can complicate the plan, trust me.

Trust Greg too: "This game humbles you. Just when you think you're good, it tells you you ain't." And that came before he officially lost the Tetris revival.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Rerun: Joey Potter

Thanks to our TiVo-wannbe Microsoft Media Center Extender, I have recorded some "Dawson's Creek" episodes lately. I watched one last night. Yes, the show is sort of overly dramatic for a bunch of high schoolers (and eventually college students), but I really like the characters, particularly Joey, Pacey and Dawson.

I can relate to Joey. She gets too caught up in tasks (in her case school, in my case work) yet wants to be so much more to the people she cares about. I just wish my Joey image wasn't slightly tainted because Katie Holmes has turned crazy. Thankfully, Joey is still Joey because that's the joy of reruns. But Katie Holmes herself is a whole different story.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Monday morning...

So I took work home with me this weekend, but I let it sit in the bag Friday night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. That was intentional. Instead, I hung out with Greg, watched basketball, cooked white chili, scrapbooked, hung out with the in-laws, ate lunch with friends, ran errands and cleaned.

Now, I'm making progress, but not fast enough for my own approval.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

life and love

Two sides of my life sort of overlapped the past two weeks. Maybe overlapped isn't the right word. They really mirrored each other.

Angela and Charles were in town this weekend with their kids. Remember Elijah is only three days older than Milla, so I often compare them. I realize this isn't fair, and I'm not doing it in a this-one-is-better way. Really, it just reinforces that kids are so different from each other and there's not one way to go about things. Anyway, Elijah was a lot of fun Thursday and Friday evenings when we saw him. He was giving out sweet kisses and babbling to no end. (We're just not sure what he was saying!)

He made me think about Milla last weekend. I got to babysat her and she was so fun to be with. She said my name, well, sort of ... Kritin. She talked (complete thoughts I could usually understand) laughed, make jokes, counted, sang, danced and played endlessly. She was most cuddly when she was tired and she climbed in my lap to read her books before bedtime. Both my niece and nephew from different sides provided some precious moments to me.

Then on the other end of life's spectrum are our grandfathers. Last week I visited Poppy (my mom's dad) in the hospital. He had just had surgery to clear out an artery. They just ended up keeping him overnight, but he has this scar near his neck that's at least 4 inches long. He's 80, and really an inspiration to me. His wife of 50-something years -- I called her Nanny -- died in October 2001. Until that point, he devoted his life to taking care of her. Since then, he's made a routine of going to the YMCA, Mass on Saturday night, seeing his friend with Alzheimer's, and having a couple drinks at the American Legion post. Following his surgery, he was most disappointed that for 10 days he couldn't go the YMCA (I suppose the treadmill wouldn't jive with the metal staples in his body) or have gin and tonic. He kept telling my mom and me that he knows he's a burden. And really that's just ridiculous. Considering, he's really independent. Sure, he doesn't drive because his eye sight isn't good, but he still has the desire to do things and be with people. That seems so much more important. Sure, he relies on my mom to help him out, but she doesn't think twice about it. It's sort of the circle of life just coming around.

Meanwhile, Greg's grandfather has had pneumonia a couple times recently, and this time he decided he had time to stay a few days in the hospital. That's right, last time he told his wife, other family and doctors that he didn't have time to stay and needed to get back to work. At 79, that's almost an impressive attitude. But everyone knew he needed to stay. Well, he's back, and hopefully giving his body the rest and medical attention it needs.

What's most interesting to me is how two 27-month-old kids, a 79-year-old man and an 80-year-old man can all teach me things. Granted, they teach me different things, but somehow everything goes back to: This is the life I've been given, blessed with, really, and I need to live it. I need to love people with everything I have, because that's really all it's about in the end.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

a sign of self-discipline

I've always wanted long fingernails.

Well, nothing extremely long, but long enough to be long. So I finally demonstrated enough self-discipline that my fingernails look good. I haven't picked them off like I usually do — in at least a few weeks. A couple weeks ago I awarded myself with a manicure. Since then, I've maintained my nails.

So there are a couple things I didn't think about. First, taking my contacts out is more a trick. I've scratched my eye once and come awfully close many other times. It's just a matter of adjusting the technique I've used for so long. Also, when I type, it's a little louder because the nails peck on the keys.

Maybe nobody really notices. But I do, and I guess that's all that matters. Well, Greg thinks his back scratches are bette. And Katie — my long-time, nail-biting friend — noticed this weekend.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Despite the weather ...

Happy spring! Ignore the rain. I'm eagerly awaiting constant flip-flop wearing opportunity and warm sunshine.

From Dayton ...

I wrote this for Saturday's paper from my seat at UD Arena.

DAYTON, Ohio — Racers fans: Will travel to cheer.

And the cheering started well before the game. In fact, it started during another game. Decked in navy and gold, many Murray State fans were in cheering position well before 11th-seeded George Mason knocked off 6-seed Michigan State.
Maybe we could relate to the Patriots’ underdog role. Or maybe it was because when their fans — dressed in similar gold accented with green — chanted "Let's Go Mason!" it sounded a lot like "Let's Go Racers!"

Either way, the earlier game was a warm-up session. We were really awaiting our third-seed opponent, defending national champion North Carolina. And let me tell you, it was one heckuva game, watching the teams basically trade baskets as neither squad got a double-digit lead.

The cheers lasted past the last seconds until the Tar Heels walked off the court with a 69-65 win that could have been Murray State's. The team walked off to applause from Racer-loyal sections and the band kept playing as the fans kept clapping.

After spending about five minutes watching the two green teams battle it out on St. Patrick's Day, the Racer basketball team retreated to the locker room. Of course, the players exited to a standing ovation cheer from the Murray contingent. Not long after, the George Mason section of the University of Dayton Arena returned the support with "Murray State" chants.

Like I said, underdogs stick together.

Here are some observations and conversations, straight from Section 207, nine rows behind the media tables at UD Arena, across from the Racer bench.

HOME AWAY FROM HOME: Not all MSU fans had to travel the six hours from western Kentucky. Todd and Jenny Collignon live about 15 miles south of Dayton in Monroe, Ohio. Both Murray State graduates, they bought tickets from a fellow Racer fan during a pre-game party. Since graduating in 1999, Todd, an Owensboro native, watches the Racers on TV whenever he can.

That may not be as often as he'd like, but he remembered the "R-A-C-E-R-S, Racers, Go, Racers!" cheer well.

QUICK LEARNER: Wearing a No. 22 jersey, 3 1/2-year-old Jay Nimmo claims Shawn Witherspoon as his favorite player. But that doesn't keep him from knowing all the Racers' names, numbers, hometowns and heights. Too bad for the young fan — and all of us fans — that Witherspoon left in the first half with an apparent foot injury and never returned to action. He used crutches to help him off the court at the end.

During the earlier game, Jay was studying the North Carolina roster. "He's working on those," his mother, Annette said of the Tar Heel players. "He knows No. 50."

Yeah, Tyler Hansbrough from nearby Poplar Bluff, Mo. We all know him.

NOT ALL CHEERS: There were plenty of boos from the MSU section. In the first four minutes, MSU players were whistled for four fouls. UNC wasn't called for its first until 10:55 left in the half. At intermission, Murray State had a one-point lead on the scoreboard and a 10-2 foul disparity against them. Poplar comments regarding the black-and-white-striped men varied from "I can't believe I'm seeing this" to "This is ridiculous."

The best observation: "We're shooting 100 percent on our free throws — all three of them."

Coming back from the break, Murray State fans cheered when our players took the court, and then promptly booed the referees. And trust me, we didn't forget as the second half played on.

MADE TO BE BROKEN: Apparently there is some rule — supposedly for the courtesy of those around us — about standing when the games are in action. The announcer advised fans to stay seated during play several times. Needless to say, we didn't exactly obey that one. Oh, yes, my lawyer husband encouraged the standing in our section. But people around us were quick to join us on our feet.

IMPARTIAL: The Bloomington, Ill., man sitting next to me came to Dayton after buying tickets many months ago hoping to see Illinois. Well, the Illini are in another part of the bracket, but he said he was still enjoying good basketball.
And I even caught him standing up (probably because he couldn't see otherwise) and cheering for the Racers.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Representing Murray

As a journalist, I appreciate the cleverness. But a little googling might have helped him be just a bit more accurate.

... Although your stay here will be brief, I'm sure you quickly will discover why our motto is, 'Dayton: Every Bit Exciting as Any Other Ohio City.' We are thrilled to have you all here, representing as you do, North Carolina, Iowa, Michigan, the District of Columbia, Ohio and maybe some other states. I'm not sure about that, because, like most people, I don't know where George Mason, Murray State and Davidson are. I'm sure they are fine schools, but it has long been my position that all universities that want to be in this tournament should be required to have their state or city in their names, which would keep my office pool bracket sheet from being filled with names such as Gonzaga and Winthrop.

—From D.L. Stewart's column in Friday's Dayton Daily News

Yes, more basketball ...

So for the third consecutive weekend, Greg and I watched basketball. Wait, let me rephrase that: We traveled to watch basketball. It started with the OVC Championship in Nashville. Then last weekend it was the SEC Tournament, again in Nashville.

Yesterday, we went to see Murray State almost beat North Carolina. OK, OK, almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. But, man, it sure was a fun game. It was a nice in-person introduction to the NCAA Tournament. It's no secret I love college basketball, but the energy so different actually sitting in the stands at a game that really matters, at least in the sports realm of life.

The trip was easy. We left Murray after I worked a few hours in the morning. We hit some traffic in Cincinnati, but what's else is expected close to rush hour in a big city in a state that isn't known for its kind drivers? Once we got north of Cincinnati, we stopped at Skyline Chili. Like I told Greg, it was really the perfect Ohio treat.

On to the game ...

Tyler Hansbrough is amazing. Still, we think he got by with a few fouls (including a charge or two) and a couple walks. But somehow Murray State still only lost by 4. The game was tied at 65 with 1:03 to go. Then Hansbrough hit a hook shot. MSU came back down the floor and ran its offense (I use that term loosely because "its offense" varies from one game to another. Thankfully, defense is a little more consistent!) and Trey Pearson (I'd put the ball in his hands too at this point of any game) got an open (well, as open as anyone gets in the final minute of a game with possibility upset effects on a national tournament) 3-pointer. It was long. UNC got the rebound. Two foul shots sealed the deal. 69-65.

Moral victory? If there is such a thing, most definitely. But I can only imagine that those MSU players felt more disappointment than anything. Adding the misery, the guy who plays with the most heart and energy hurt his foot (grapevine says it's broken) in the first half and never came back. Well, he spent the second half on the bench and walked off after the game on crutches.

Yet MSU still hung with - and could have beat - the Tar Heels. As a Kentucky fan, any victory over UNC is sweet, but if it had come at the hands of my underdog alma mater ...

Other basketball notes:
* I really should get serious props for picking 13th-seeded Bradley over Kansas.
* 25-of-32 isn't bad for first-round picks. As much as I would have loved to see UConn go down at the hands of a 16th seed, it would have definitely screwed my bracket, which has UConn winning the national championship. Still, upsets are so intriguing.
* I missed two of the games because I picked upsets that didn't happen. I seriously thought Florida and Indiana would choke. Well, maybe it was more about Indiana being overrated as a six seed.
* We watched George Mason beat Michigan State prior to MSU's almost-win against UNC ... I'd cheer for the Patriots again, even though I had Michigan State beating North Carolina in my bracket.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Go Chiquita!

I read something really interesting about bananas. So I'm going to steal it — You know, the copy and paste commands sure make stealing easier! — and hopefully somebody can tell me whether it's true. Bananas are one of my favorite fruits, so I really want it to be true.

Bananas contain three natural sugars — sucrose, fructose and glucose — so combined with fiber, a banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Research has proven that just two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout. No wonder the banana is the number one fruit with the world's leading athletes. But energy isn't the only w! ay a banana can help us keep fit. It can also help overcome or prevent a substantial number of illnesses and conditions, making it a must to add to our daily diet.

... Bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel better.

PMS: Forget the pills — eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.

Anemia: High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anemia.

Blood Pressure: This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it the perfect way to beat blood pressure. ...

Brain Power: ... Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.

... Mosquito bites: Before reaching for the insect bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling and irritation. (I like bananas, but I don't know about that!)

Nerves: Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.

... Temperature control: Many other cultures see bananas as a "cooling" fruit that can lower both the physical and emotional temperature of expectant mothers. In Thailand, for example, pregnant women eat bananas to ensure their baby is born with a cool temperature.

Seasonal affective disorder: Bananas can help SAD sufferers because they contain the natural mood enhancer tryptophan.

... Stress: Potassium is a vital mineral which helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates your body's water balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels. These can be rebalanced with the help of a high-potassium banana snack. ...

So, a banana really is a natural remedy for many ills. When you compare it to an apple, it has four times the protein, twice the carbohydrates, three times the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals. It is also rich in potassium and is one of the best value foods around. So maybe its time to change that well-known phrase so that we say, "A banana a day keeps the doctor away!"

Monday, March 13, 2006

I was TRYING to be nice to the telemarketer ...

OK, so I was just nice to a telemarketer, at least at first. Well, he was a taking a survey, does that make him a telemarketer? Anyway, for some reason I started answering his questions about my involvement in the community, my perception of the local government and its services and how important libraries are to communities. OK, I actually have opinions about that stuff.

So I start answering his questions, like I said, but I felt like I never going to stop answering questions. Finally I just told him I had to go. It had been like 10 minutes. He didn't act like it was going to be done any time soon because he asked if he could call back and finish it. I told him I didn't think that was a good idea.

You know, I thought I was doing him a favor, helping him by not hanging up on him. Actually, my new thing would have been to tell him no one older than 18 was home when he asked. But something inside me was more willing - at least momentarily.

By the way, I think libraries are important and that ours isn't very good. (I think I communicated both of those ideas in at least six different ways during the survey!) That's definitely something I miss about Louisville and Lexington. Along with bookstores, of course.

cooling off, seriously

Seriously, I was hot yesterday from when I got out of bed until I went 9 p.m. when I sat down on the couch in shorts and a T-shirt under the ceiling fan with the windows open to watch "Grey's Anatomy." (SIDE NOTE: Have I mentioned lately how much I love that show?)

OK, so we did the typical go to church, go to lunch, go to the grocery, etc. Because we had been gone Friday and Saturday, I definitely needed the catch up time. You can't tell by looking at my living room, but I got a lot done. Hey, go look at the bathroom, kitchen, bathroom and laundry shoot. That's evidence for you.

So, back to FRIDAY. I had worked pretty late Thursday night covering a couple meetings. Then I went into work early, like 5:30 a.m. early, so I could write my two stories from the two Thursday night meetings. Once I got those done, I had to tend to some other deadline-type stuff at work - laying out the obit page, typing police log. Exciting stuff. Then Greg and I left down about 10:30 a.m. en route to the SEC Tournament in Nashville. Greg's parents and brother went down earlier to buy tickets from scalpers. (The tournament was a Christmas gift for Greg from his parents.) They really did a pretty good job, which was good for us. We made it by halftime of the Tennessee game. (South Carolina beat the Volunteers ... We loved it!) Kentucky went on to beat Alabama in the second game. (Whoo hoo! Go Cats!)

Did I mention there were a lot of Kentucky fans?! Seriously, after the Wildcats beat Alabama, we couldn't get a cell phone signal. I guess that's partially because Kentucky is a little more the underdog this year than usual. But, really, you'd thought something life-changing had happened. Big Blue fans were nuts - in a good way.

So the tournament broke for a couple hours and we got to meet up with our friends Rod and Corbitt, who live in Lexington. (They are expecting a baby in September. Corbitt is 12 weeks along. Long story, but it's a blessing for sure!) We ate at Joe's Crab Shack, which despite the countless times I've driven by that restaurant in Louisville and Lexington was new to me. Great food. Great company.

We went to a couple more games that night then ended up buying tickets for the next day for face value from a sad Arkansas fan who just wanted to go home. (We cheered for the Razorbacks, though.) She was sweet and just wanted what she had paid for them. Good deal.

So we got to see UK play South Carolina. The Gamecocks (Seriously, I think the cheerleaders just like holding up signs that say "Go Cocks!") were on a mission. I really wouldn't have minded if they had gone on to beat Florida, but they didn't.

Going to the SEC Tournament isn't something we could afford to make a regular thing, but it was really quite an experience. I'm glad we had the opportunity with the games just being a couple hours away.

Speaking of tournaments, Murray is NCAA bound, to Dayton, Ohio, specifically. That's the closest first-round site possible, so that's good news for us fans. Bad news: The Racers have to play North Carolina.

By the way, it's cooling off outside so maybe the humidity - yes, even in March; it's Kentucky - will stay away until the heating and cooling man gets our central heat and air installed later this week or early next week. Then we'll be ready. Thankfully, our new windows open easily when necessary. Trust me, I learned yesterday.

Let's hope the Cats don't cool off. UAB has been known to beat the Wildcats. At least once. Likely-second-round-opponent UConn is a different story.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

dreams and sounds for my soul

DREAMS: The thing about dreams is they can be restful for my soul.

Sometimes I dream about people I don't think about or talk to as much as I would like. OK, never. People drift apart sometimes without explanation or real reason, but it's nice that sometimes they pop up in my dreams. It's almost like they are in my life again — at least subconsciously.

OK, I kept saying "they," but I really mean "she" was specifically in my dream last night.

SOUNDS: We had a pot luck and hung out with some friends last night. Yes, pot lucks are dorky, but they are so practical. And I love not knowing what all will be there for me to eat.

Anyway, it was one of those nights I didn't really know if I was looking forward to or not. Nothing personal. My living room just seemed more inviting to me.

Recently, we have been meeting with this group of friends on Wednesday nights to talk about "Blue Like Jazz." But we took a break from the book to just hang out. We played some games (Set is really hard, but fun.) and then Greg and Chris (who plays these whistle/flute things and had a drum) played some music on the front porch. It was such a nice night. Slightly cool but comfortable. I listened — sometimes as background noise to the thoughts in my head and sometimes focused on them — and really rested. I really love watching Greg play his guitar because he just seems so peaceful when he does. It's almost like an illustration of the peace I yearn for at certain times of certain days.

On a related note, I really need a porch swing. I enjoyed the one I sat (and swung) on last night.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Where Does the Good Go?

Where do you go with you broken heart in tow?
What do you do with the leftover you?
And how do you know, when to let go?
Where does the good go?


—Tegan and Sarah's "Where Does the Good Go"
from "Grey's Anatomy" soundtrack

Monday, March 6, 2006

Who cares about the awards show?

Oscar interferred with my time with Meredith, Izzie, Christina and George.

Seriously disappointing.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

time for an update

Sometimes I look at friends' blogs and think, "Man, I wish they'd update..."

That's probably what people are saying about mine. Well, maybe not. Depends on the audience, I suppose. And that's the crazy thing about this bloggin' thing: I'm never quite sure who's reading.

Anyway ...

So this weekend has gone by much to fast, but thankfully I still have Sunday left. FRIDAY evening after work Greg and I ate Pizza Hut while we watched MSU play Jacksonville State in the semi-finals of the OVC Tournament. We were cheering for them to win for a couple reasons. One, the Racers are our team. (Well, Kentucky is too, but that's a whole different level.) Two, we wanted to go to Nashville to watch the championship game. After a close game, MSU won.

Then I had to go back to work. My turn to put out Saturday's paper.

SATURDAY we met Michael on our way to Nashville and the three of us headed to the game. But first we stopped in Clarksville so Greg could get his fill of Rafferty's and I could take a quick gander at Hobby Lobby. (That's what a scrapbooking addiction will do to a girl!)

Watching the championship game was fun, especially because Murray beat Samford. The players literally danced afterward in all the celebration that they would be headed to The Big Dance. Oh, and Michael got some good pictures.

Here it is SUNDAY. The church is having a pot luck after the service. (I love pot lucks.) And they Greg and I are going to watch the UK-Florida game on our own personal tape-delay. (Seriously, why play a basketball game at 11 a.m. CT?!) Then the rest of my day will be pretty typical: scrappin', walkin' and watchin' Grey's Anatomy. Or at least that's my plan.

How's that for an update?

Thursday, March 2, 2006

More than words

This is definitely worth reading. Even though it will make your heart a bit heavier.

By LEON ALLIGOOD
The (Nashville) Tennessean

FRANKLIN, Ky. (AP) — I have written about 50 obituaries of servicemen killed in the Iraq War since the fighting started three years ago this month.

I did not know any of the dead personally. I never got the chance to shake their hands. Or listen to their life stories. Or watch them proudly hand over a photo of a loved one for me to see.

Today, that changes.

It is my regret to inform you of the death of Staff Sgt. Christopher Schornak, 28, killed by small arms fire last Sunday evening as he led his squad on a patrol in Baghdad.

Schornak, formerly of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., had been assigned to the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, earlier this year.

I knew the man. Readers of The Tennessean knew him, too.

You may recall a story about Sgt. Schornak’s wife, Robyn, published March 26, 2003, as she was days away from delivering the couple’s first-born. Robyn was six months pregnant when her husband left for Iraq.

By the time the March story was published she was anxious for the baby to arrive and for her husband to come home safely.
Robyn, who grew up in Hendersonville, Tenn., and Springfield, Tenn., shared her hopes and fears with readers and readers responded with notes and gifts and prayers.

One of the young woman’s concerns was her soldier-husband would not immediately know he was a dad. Sometimes it took up to six days for the news to pass through the military chain.

On April 1, 2003, Tristan James Schornak came squalling into this world. A photo of the infant was shuttled around the world to Tennessean photographer John Partipilo, who was embedded with the sergeant’s unit, the 1st Battalion of the 327th Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st.

Schornak got to see a photo of his new son in hours, not days. Today, that little boy is almost 3.
And fatherless, although the active preschooler is too young to comprehend the tragedy that has befallen him and his mother, a widow at 24.

Tuesday, with tears tracing a salty path down her cheeks, Robyn remembered her late husband for the loving spouse he had always been, for the nurturing father he learned to be. And for the soldier he was born to be.
“That’s what he was called to do,” she said.

The couple tried life without the Army. About 18 months after returning from his first tour in Iraq in February 2003, Schornak, a native of Marietta, Ga., decided to leave the military — at least active duty; he switched to the Reserves. The former sergeant tried working for a heavy equipment firm in Birmingham, Ala.

“He hated it,” said Robyn. “He was miserable, and that made me miserable, and that made everybody else miserable. We discussed it and he said he wanted to go back.”

Even though he was not offered a post at the 101st Airborne, his top choice, he still re-enlisted.

“I never tried to talk him out of it,” Robyn said.

She spoke Tuesday in the living room of the small white house she rented in Franklin, Ky., to be near her mother while her husband was deployed. She wore a T-shirt that read “Army Wife,” a pair of dark pants, with the ensemble punctuated by a pair of fuzzy brown slippers on her feet and an elegant pair of twin loop earrings swaying beneath her ear lobes. On a table next to her was a cell phone that rang every five to six minutes, like clockwork.

Sometimes when she talked on the phone, to people as far away as Baghdad, she closed her eyes to keep from sobbing. Relatives — siblings and in-laws — swirled around her.

Husband and wife had last spoken to one another on Saturday. She thinks hard trying to remember whether there was any changed inflection in his voice, any telltale discrepancy in his manner that could be construed as a premonition. There was none.

“He was Chris, just Chris. He was upbeat and in great spirits. He was joking with me,” Robyn said.

Nothing prepared her for Sunday night’s summons to her mother’s home. Robyn had not told the military she had moved from her mother’s home to the rented house on Morris Street. Her mom did not say why Robyn must come quickly.

On the 10-minute drive, she prayed there wouldn’t be a car with government tags in the driveway. When she saw the government car, she prayed the men inside would be wearing their camouflage “battle dress” uniforms, the Army’s version of everyday wear, instead of their “Class A” dress uniforms, buttons gleaming, shoes shining. BDU’s would mean Chris was wounded. Class A’s would mean he was gone.

What she knows of her late husband’s final moments she learned from the soldiers who were with him Sunday. They called all through the afternoon Tuesday. The evening patrol was uneventful, Robyn was told, until Schornak’s squad approached two suspicious vehicles on a side street. Her husband’s comrades told her Schornak was warning the rest of his men, signaling with his flashlight. The soldiers said her husband was picked off by a slanting shot that entered his chest high, near the shoulder, an area not covered by body armor.

“They said Chris was a real hero,” she said. “They said he died right there.”

Sgt. Christopher Schornak’s death comes about three weeks before he was scheduled to come home for two weeks of rest and relaxation. He was planning to be there for Tristan, a sandy-haired boy who likes to play with toy dinosaurs and miniature trucks, when the youngster turned 3.

“He loved being a dad,” Robyn said of her husband.

I knew that already. The last time I saw Sgt. Schornak was February 2004 at Camp Victory, a desert tent village near Kuwait City where soldiers wait for chartered planes to take them home after their tour of duty in Iraq ended.

The planes also were for embedded reporters such as me. Schornak, presenting a war-wizened visage common to veterans of any war, was in line at a Pizza Hut concession. I was behind him. I saw from the patch on his shoulder he was with the 101st Airborne and asked his name.

When he said “Schornak,” I told him I was finally glad to meet him in person. And I shook his hand.

As we waited for our cheesy pies to cook, we talked of many things, of the horrors and fears of war, of his pride in his men, and, as he reached into his wallet to retrieve a baby’s photo, of a son he wanted to get to know.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Inside Looking Out

I wrote this poem during one of my many meetings last week. It's ironic because last week I covered planning commission, zoning board, city council, hospital board and board of regents — plus all of the other day-to-day stuff — and then this week nobody is meeting. The timing of this business is strange. Anyway, it's been a long time since I wrote a poem.

I look out the window
and I think I see the world.
The sun seems to make it all
clearer.

I see people walk by
and wonder why they frown.
I see people run by
and question what they fear.
I see people pause
and appreciate their deep breaths.
I see people sit down
and I want to join them.

I look out the window
and I think I see the world.
But I wonder if the sun
really shades the truth.

I want to do more.
I want to carry their weight
on my shoulders.
These people always seep into my heart
and away from my mind.

And all the while I forget
I'm behind a pane of glass
and they are out there
living their lives.

Happy March to me!

As much as I came to love my boots this winter, I'm really happy to be wearing my sandals/flip-flops. In March, 72-degree weather is a much-loved thing. Too bad the temperature is supposed to drop the next couple of days.