Michiganova

Because they don’t tip off the final game of the NCAA tournament until everyone (meaning the old people — cousins and aunt) is ready for bed, I feel I’ve got a few extra minutes to do a curtain-raiser of the final game, touching base with everyone.

I write to you from the Star City, Big Lick, if you will, otherwise known as Roanoke. We are here on the first leg of our spring break.We visited my original boss at VCOG (Frosty Landon) who is now in a nursing home, after visiting the national D-Day Memorial in Bedford. In case you didn’t know, the Boys from Bedford suffered the largest per capita loss of life on D-Day than any community among the Allied Forces. IMG_2181

The memorial is in a lovely spot, with walkways lined with cherry blossoms, which were in full bloom and gorgeous, but which also struck me as odd as coming from an Axis power. The monument itself is also rather odd: it’s very wordy, with lots of bio details about the commanders and where the divisions came from, but there’s very little about the operation itself. The beach-landing tableau is moving, with features including sculptures of soldiers in various stages of assault on the beach and water spouts to simulate the bullets stabbing into the water. The plaques describing the sculptural elements, however, seemed to have been written by a master/mistress of 19th Century purple prose, admonishing readers not to think that one sculpture represented the assault on the cliffs, but instead were emblematic of the Allies’ assault on Hitler. We were glad we went: It was worth a look — the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains make any monument majestic. If you find yourself, for some unknown reason, in Bedford, go.

burger-bar

Tomorrow we head for Bristol, Virginia/Tennessee. We will try to manage a tour of the Martinsville Motor Speedway, but really our main objective is to go to the Original Burger Bar for dinner. This is the place that has two grilled cheese sandwiches for the hamburger bun. I’ve had it before and it is as awesome and as life-shortening as it sounds.

 

After that, we head to Asheville, N.C. We’d love to get a hike in at Roan Mountain, which was always a favorite of Edwin & Laura (and if you remember the family reunion in Boone, Ed made an ass of himself insisting on going to Roan Mountain without regard for whether anyone else wanted to go or when), but it may rain, which will force us to set up camp in one of the 75,000 brew-pubs in this Boulder of the East. Mike may head down to Augusta to meet up with his brother and nephew who have tickets to the Masters. This is TBD, though.

ANYWAY, we are supposed to be talking about basketball. And really, I don’t think anyone in our group could have imagined how things would would have shaken out, not even since the first tip of the play-in games.

In the Sweet Sixteen, we had to bid adieu to Christine, Dell, Dub, Ellie and Susan. And, miraculously, Piece STILL had his two teams intact with Loyola and Texas Tech. Even Dottie’s improbable Kansas State remained so that the standings looked like this:

Carl Kansas (1M)

9

Christine

12

Dell

7

Dottie Kansas State (9S)

25

Dub

20

Ellie

20

Gordon Villanova (1E)

17

Honor Florida State (9W)

20

Katie/Dave Michigan (3W)

18

Kiran Duke (2M)

7

Pierce Loyola-Chicago (11S) Texas Tech (3E)

14

Susan

9

Then there were just eight teams left, when Kiran gave up the ghost of the ACC when Duke lost, and Kave’s Michigan squashed the Orange of Syracuse.  After that round, we finally lost Dottie, and we also lost Honor and Kiran.

Carl Kansas (1M)

9

Dottie

25

Gordon Villanova (1E)

17

Honor

20

Katie/Dave Michigan (3W)

18

Kiran

7

Pierce Loyola-Chicago (11S)

14

Into the Final Four marched Carl’s and Gordon’s swaggering #1 seeds — Kansas and Villanova, respectively — and Kave and Pierce.

Carl Kansas (1M)

9

Gordon Villanova (1E)

17

Katie/Dave Michigan (3W)

18

Pierce Loyola-Chicago (11S)

14

If you watched the semifinals Saturday, you would have seen two very different games. You have seen a mostly-close game between Kave’s Michigan and Pierce’s Loyola-Chicago, and then you would have seen an absolute beat-down of two elite teams when Gordon’s Villanova hammered Carl’s Kansas, just like A&M did with UNC a week before.

Which brings us to tonight’s final: Michigan v. Villanova. Kave v. Gordon.  I love my nephew dearly, but it would be a sweet wedding present for Kave if Villanova could once against rain down 18 3-pointers to win the championship. Plus, I still owe penance for when I was such a bad sport against my law school best friend, John — a Michigan alum — when Carolina won its 1993 championships, helped by Chris Weber and the nonexistent timeout. Anyway, for real, I’ve felt guilt about it every since and promised John I’d root for Big Blue if they ever made it to the final. Gordon, I love you, but I have karma to overcome.

So, I hope you’re all watching, and I hope this note finds you all well. Thanks, again, Elaine, for posting that wonderful photo of O.P., Huldah & Edwin. Libby was right: not many pictures of a young Hulday, but O.P. looks the same whether it’s the 1930s or the 1970s!

Love to you all!!!

Megan

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The world turned upside down

I needed today.  The winds and snow of the first day of spring have been chased away by the sparkling sun, budding trees, chattering birds. A vase of daffodils on my desk and the room is filled with their sharp-sweet scent. The house is quiet, the expletive-generating machine that is Mike having ventured into other people’s homes for the day, and the four felines blissfully nap on the most cat-hair absorbant surface they can find. Calm and stability regain their footing. A long, cleansing breath centers me.

Because, people, this past weekend was one hell of a shit storm!

It is tempting to pile onto UVA and its historic loss to UMBC (I always thought UMBC was short for “umbilical cord,” but apparently this is really an institution of higher learning), but really there is no room on the pile. Suffice it to say that there is no joy in Charlottesville nor in the hearts of our UVA alums (and eventual aluma) Daniel, Honor, Dan and Ellie.

Nor is there joy in Rivers’ heart, because not only did our seed-total superior lose the overall #1 seed in the first round, he also lost his #4 seed, Wichita State in another shocker. Bounced, he was, as were many of those expected to fall in the first round (Claire, Karen, me), and those where it could have, in a usual year, gone either way (Elaine, Elizabeth, MikeP, Rhyne, Robert).

No one, and I mean NO ONE, could have predicted that Dottie would have gone into the second round with both of her teams intact. Dub was also a surprise, with his #7 and #13 sallying forth, as was Honor, whose #9 and #11 prevailed (go, ACC!). They joined other two-teamers Christine, Dell, Kiran, Pierce, Rebecca and Susan.

Everyone else retained one team, so that at the end of the first round, this is how things stood:

Beth Marshall (13E)
Carl Kansas (1M)
Caroline Houston (6W)
Christine Rhode Island (7M) Kentucky (5S)
Claire
Dan Alabama (9E)
Daniel Ohio State (5W)
Dell Michigan State (3M) Gonzaga (4W)
Dottie UMBC (16S) Kansas State (9S)
Dub Nevada (7S) Buffalo (13S)
Elaine
Elizabeth
Ellie West Virginia (5E)
Gordon Villanova (1E)
Honor Florida State (9W) Syracuse (11M)
Jim Xavier (1W)
Joe Auburn (4M)
Karen
Katie/Dave Michigan (3W)
Kiran Clemson (5M) Duke (2M)
Libby Tennessee (3S)
Martie/Lee UNC (2W)
Megan
MikeB Butler (10E)
MikeP
Pierce Loyola-Chicago (11S) Texas Tech (3E)
Rebecca Florida (6E) Seton Hall (8M)
Rhyne
Rivers
Robert
Sarah Cincinnati (2S)
Susan Texas A&M (7W) Purdue (2E)

If anyone thought that the second round would be where the 1st round chaos would settle down, that top seeds would prevail and perennial favorites would again be labeld “sweet,” they were as wrong as wrong could be. Wronger than a kimchi and strawberry jam sandwich.

It was a killing field out there, with the second #1 seed, Xavier, held by Jim, exed out and Dell’s #3 Michigan State unceremoniously ejected by Honor’s #11 Syracuse. The Rivermeade Runners’ #2 UNC was ousted by their own grandson/nephew’s #7 Texas A&M. Who among us wouldn’t have loved being a fly on the wall of the Salvato/Blyth house while, as Joe so eloquently put it, “them Aggies mopped the floor with them Tar Heels.” Well, we Tar Heels might have been aggravated by the Aggies, but at least we still have grammar.

Speaking of Joe, his #4 Auburn Tigers were scratched by son-in-law Kiran’s #5 Clemson Tigers. Libby didn’t volunteer for her #3 Tennessee to lose to her son’s #11 Loyola-Chicago (oh, and the now-famous Sister Jean did say that God was on the Ramblers’ side; I guess He could have predicted Dottie’s improbable run, but I’d be mighty pissed if He filled out a bracket in my pool), nor was it expected that Sarah’s #2 Cincinnati would have exited amid the howls of Dub’s #7 Nevada Wolfpack.

Miraculously, Honor’s high-seed ACC duo heads into the third round. Only Pierce and Susan join her there with both teams. We lost Beth, Caroline, Dan, Daniel, Jim, Joe, Libby, the Rivermeade Runners, MikeB, Rebecca and Sarah. And here’s who else remains:

Beth

27

Carl Kansas (1M)

9

Caroline

18

Christine Kentucky (5S)

12

Dan

18

Daniel

18

Dell Gonzaga (4W)

7

Dottie Kansas State (9S)

25

Dub Nevada (7S)

20

Ellie West Virginia (5E)

20

Gordon Villanova (1E)

17

Honor Florida State (9W) Syracuse (11M)

20

Jim

15

Joe

20

Katie/Dave Michigan (3W)

18

Kiran Clemson (5M) Duke (2M)

7

Libby

18

Martie/Lee

8

MikeB

21

Pierce Loyola-Chicago (11S) Texas Tech (3E)

14

Rebecca

14

Sarah

14

Susan Texas A&M (7W) Purdue (2E)

9

In tonight’s and tomorrow’s games, father will face son, mother will face same son, cousins will spar and we’ll all thank our lucky stars that we’re not Virginia.

Beware the Sides of March

Howdy, howdy, happy, happy. I hope this missive finds you all in fine fiddle, back from your sojourns in Thailand, Kenya, Japan, Italy, Honduras, Guinea (that’s Guinea, Virginia, where Mike had an appraisal and trust me, it’s LIKE a foreign country) and points near and far, ready for some bad-ass basketballery.

But, I know how personal things can get when these 32+ competitive people get together, so I’ll say, on behalf of an ancient soothsayer, “Beware the Sides of March.” And like my buddy Marc(h) Antony also says, “Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!” (That’s just fancy talk for, “Let’s Go, Team! Beat the snot of the other guy!”)

Before I go another misguided step further, let me extend a much overdue congratulations to last year’s winner. *ME*… I mean *UNC*… I mean, yes, I mean RIVERS!!!

Rivers Patterson kept it in his family last year (Susan won in 2016), even if he was betraying his Wake Forest roots by backing Carolina. UNC pulled out the win for the 2017 title, elating the many on this list with ties to the Tarheels. This tied one watched the game in a hotel with Mike and Dell from that hotbed of hoop mania, Burlington, Vermont (after chowing down on dinner with Gordon and spraining my ankle; everyone should watch a national title game like this). But, if he’ll accept my belated accolades, I hail Ribbet (as Dell calls him) and wish him well this year, too (remember the soothsayer, for these words prove prophetic).

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad to get this family fracas underway. It’s good to have a touchstone to come back to amid all the chaos and upheaval, some real (the loss of our beloved Dot), and some even more real (the Trump White House personnel merry-go-round). We return to the bosom of our loved ones to reaffirm all that is good and solid in the world.

This week I find myself — again — in the middle of Sunshine Week, where I held three online webinars and two in-person events. I will get a better audience share with this post than I did for all five events put together, such is my drawing power.

Dell celebrated his birthday by helping me draw teams for this year’s challenge. (He’s a Spinal Tap moment, y’all because The Boy goes up to 11!!!) But in full disclosure, he did not pick his own teams. I did. I can already hear the accusations across the miles (really, it’s just Carl who does this; was he like this as a kid, Elaine/Karen?). And maybe I did unintentionally give him a little extra birthday present.

The cat commissioners were out of commission this year, however, busy as they were with NCAA allegations of pay-to-play, hookers, booze grade scandals and contraband catnip.

Again, I divvied us up to get to 32 entries. I doubled Martie and Lee up into one team (the Rivermeade Runners), and I doubled Katie and Dave up (Kave). This is Dave’s first foray into the fray, and I made he and Katie ONE before they legally become one this summer. Also, as affianced and not yet married, they still actually like each other.

The wee ones — Cora, Revi, Rowan, Simon and Teddy — are going to be represented through their parents. I realize some of the tiny tots, especially 7-month-old Teddy, are going to be disappointed by not getting to sit at the big kid table, but, if there’s one thing I excel at it’s in crushing the hopes and dreams of our youth.

And before I get to the picks (hurry up, the first games are already over!), let me say that Virginia has been making a play of late to join in the pantheon of overrepresented schools in this thing. UNC still pulls in the most members, but Duke is close behind, as is Texas, and now Virginia, who this year pulls in not just a #1 seed, but THE #1 seed.

So, NOW, without further, further ado, let’s get on with this 21-year tradition, the 2018- Mostly-Annual-Rhyne-Blyth-Patterson-I’m-Not-Cyberslacking-I’m-Updating-My-Resume-to-be-the-next-Secretary-of-State-NCAA-Basketball-Extranvaganza!

Beth Marshall (13E) Stephen F. Austin (14E)

27

Carl Creighton (8S) Kansas (1M)

9

Caroline Houston (6W) Davidson (12S)

18

Christine Rhode Island (7M) Kentucky (5S)

12

Claire New Mexico State (12M) Charleston (13M)

25

Dan NC State (9M) Alabama (9E)

18

Daniel UNC-Greensboro (13W) Ohio State (5W)

18

Dell Michigan State (3M) Gonzaga (4W)

7

Dottie UMBC (16S) Kansas State (9S)

25

Dub Nevada (7S) Buffalo (13S)

20

Elaine Arkansas (7E) Texas (10S)

17

Elizabeth Murray State (12E) Oklahoma (6M)

18

Ellie Iona (15M) West Virginia (5E)

20

Gordon Villanova (1E) Radford (16E)

17

Honor Florida State (9W) Syracuse (11M)

20

Jim Xavier (1W) Montana (14W)

15

Joe Auburn (4M) Texas Southern (16W)

20

Karen Providence (10W) Georgia State (15S)

25

Katie/Dave Cal. St. Fullerton (15E) Michigan (3W)

18

Kiran Clemson (5M) Duke (2M)

7

Libby Lipscomb (15W) Tennessee (3S)

18

Martie/Lee UNC (2W) TCU (6M)

8

Megan Bucknell (14M) San Diego State (11W)

25

MikeB St. Bonaventure (11E) Butler (10E)

21

MikeP Miami (6S) Wright State (14S)

20

Pierce Loyola-Chicago (11S) Texas Tech (3E)

14

Rebecca Florida (6E) Seton Hall (8M)

14

Rhyne Missouri (8W) Arizona (4S)

12

Rivers Wichita State (4E) UVA (1W)

5

Robert Pennsylvania (16M) Virginia Tech (8E)

24

Sarah South Dakota State (12W) Cincinnati (2S)

14

Susan Texas A&M (7W) Purdue (2E)

9

Congratulations to our #1 seed holders: Carl (Kansas), Gordon (Villanova), Jim (Xavier) and Rivers (UVA). See what I meant now about Rivers’ continued good luck? In fact, the last two tournament winners, Rivers and Susan, have among the top seed totals, since Rivers also has a #4 seed, for a total of 5, and Susan has a #7 seed and a #2 seed for a total of 9. Dell and Kiran are actually in second place in seed totals, Dell with #3+#4, and Kiran with #2+#5. The Rivermeade Runners come in with a #2 and a #6 for 8, and Carl ties Susan with a #1+#8 for 9.

At the bottom of the pile this year are Beth, with a total of 27, followed by Claire, Dottie, Karen and Yours Truly, with 25. Robert is nipping at our heels with 24, though MikeP is Robert’s greatest cheerleader since the Atlanta Entrepreneur holds Virginia Tech.

Despite his Big 12 credentials, Kiran can’t escape the ACC: he has both Clemson and Duke.  His aunt-in-law, Elaine, holds his Texas, while Elaine’s alma mater, William & Mary, has still never, ever been to the NCAA tournament. (Moment of silence, please.)

Gordon is guaranteed to keep one of his teams into the 2nd round. On the other hand, he’s guaranteed to lose one of his teams in the first round, too, since his #1 seed plays his #16 seed in said first round.

Dan will be cheering in red, and rooting on the close-to-home Wolfpack of NC State when it plays also-red Alabama. Rhyne has two cats (2 more and you’re the Crazy Cat Dude) with Missouri and Arizona. MikeB has the Gone With the Wind duo of the Bonnies and Butler (look that up, young ‘uns). Libby is Tennessee Two-Steppin’ with Lipscomb and, well, Tennessee. Beth has two universities named after famous Americans, the 4th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (Marshall) and the Father of Texas (Stephen F. Austin). (Psst, the Padre de Tejas, Antonio López de Santa Anna, might have something to say about that sobriquet.)

And so, because it is clearly obvious that I am straining to say anything meaningful, much less amusing, I’ll draw to a close here and wish everyone a day of total basketball immersion.

May the best team…nah…scratch that…may my team win.

Cry Havoc!

Revving up Fast Tammy

 

Though the sky was leaden and the rain fell steadily, the rolling hills of Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond were studded with the pale pinks, greens and whites of spring, as Beth, Jim, Ellie, Rebecca, Mike, Dell and I gathered with Gwynn’s children, grandchildren and her most recent love under a tattered awning to say goodbye to the pride of North Little Rock. Afterwards, we gathered at a church hall reception with her friends to share stories, browse fabulous photos (arranged on a timeline so you could follow the progression of her always-stylish glasses), and nibble on some really tasting roasted veggies and ham biscuits.

It’s always that contrast of the sad circumstances balanced against the joy and fellowship of being with people you have shared a bond with. If it’s wrong to say I had a lovely time today, then, well, I’m wrong.

And the positive vibes of friendship and family were coursing down I-85 (well, not the I-85 in Atlanta — hope you’re OK, Pattersons!) as Dot was slated to be taken from the hospital back to Carol Woods, where she will be treated with antibiotics for two weeks. Let’s all cheer for that medicine to do its work and get our Miss Coquette back in the game. That woman’s got azaleas to fawn over, people!

We, the Parkers, have been braving the rain to pack up a big black rented minivan dubbed Fast Tammy for a spring break trip up north. We’ll stay Saturday night with Daniel, Honor and Simon in Summit, spend a day/night in the Hudson River Valley (where our only aim is to eat at a restaurant I saw in a picture posted on Facebook by my former boss), and then continuing on to Burlington, Vermont, to see that species known as College Studentenous Gordonous Coates. It’s supposed to snow. And sure, everyone spends their spring break where it’s snowing but without skiing.

But speaking of Fast Tammy, I must share a Dell bon mot that Beth and Rebecca will have to suffer through a second time.

We named our car last week by randomly picking adjectives and nouns and putting together combinations like the Crunchy Spaceship, the Dangerous Dirigible, etc., and eventually settled on Fast Tammy. As we drove to the library the other day, Dell said Fast Tammy was a “he.” imagesI told him Tammy was a girl’s name and methods of transport tended to be female.  He said in his mind certain cars were girls and certain cars were boys. At that moment, this car (or one very like it) passed us in the opposite direction. Without missing a beat, he says, “And that one’s transgender.”

Sign of the times.

So, about those games. Dub went into the Sweet Sixteen with both of his teams still intact, yet remarkably, he exited the round with none. His two #4s did him proud, but alas, it was time to go. We also lost Beth, Dan, Elizabeth, Martie, Susan, and, oh yeah, me.

No one was more surprised than Mike P. to be remaining for the Elite 8. His #11 Musketeers of Xavier were still hanging on, but then again #11 is essentially the numerical representation of “one for all, all for one.”  Joining him in that round were Carl, Ellie, Gordon, The Greatest, Kiran, Rivers and Robert.

But Mike P. was led into a valiant defeat in that round, as was Ellie, Carl and The Greatest. And though it may be disrespectful to that generation, can I just get a hallelujah that the Wildcats wilted? Christian Laettner and Luke Maye can both live forever in the glory of knowing they dashed Kentucky hopes in the final seconds of a Game That Counts.

And that leaves Robert vs. Gordon in the first game tomorrow, a southerner vs. a northerner, a west coast team vs. an east coast team. And in the second game, Rivers and Kiran will have face off in the another bicoastal battle. We’ll be watching from New Jersey, and I hope you’ll be with loved ones where ever you are,

Cheers, all!

Needed: self-frying potatoes

Question: How many many projects at a 4th and 5th grade science fair will involve using a potato as a battery?

Hypothesis: Three of approximately 45 projects will involve using a potato as a battery.

Experiment: Stuff hands in jacket pockets and slowly walk along 15 cafeteria tables worth of science projects, nodding respectfully and smiling indulgently at eager elementary students. Make mental note of electric potatoes.

Observation: Apparently a lot of kids are also interested in the electricity-producing properties of lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, carrots, peaches and apples.

Conclusion: There are only so many voltage veggie and fizzy fruit projects one woman can handle in one night.

And so, yeah, that’s where I’ve been this evening and why (among other reasons) I’m writing this during half-time of the first third-round games.

But what was there to say about the first two rounds? Oh, I don’t know. How about, with the exception of UNC and Wisconsin, if any Rhyne-Patterson-Blyth had anything to do with any of the schools in the Big Dance, it was as good as the Kiss of Death going in to the Sweet Sixteen.

Arkansas. Duke. Maryland. Vermont. Virginia. Virginia Tech. Wake Forest. Done.Done. Done. Done. Done. Done. And done.

The ACC? Let’s just pretend that that didn’t happen. I mean, who woulda thunk that only one of the nine teams from the league would still be alive. Call it the Atlantic Choke Conference.

The first round was fairly free of upsets, but there were just enough to keep it interesting.  We lost only a few people, including our newly minted double-digit dude: Dell Parker. We also lost Elaine, Jim, the Northerners, Rebecca and Sarah.

Dub, Elizabeth, the Grandest Generation, Kiran, Mike B. and Rivers all coasted in to the second round with both teams intact.

Name Round 1
elizabeth Villanova 1-e UCLA 3-s
rivers Iowa State 5-mw UNC 1-s
dan Arizona 2-w
dub West Virginia 4-w Purdue 4-mw
kiran Oregon 3-mw St. Mary’s 7-w
gwynn/dot/lee Michigan State 9-mw Kentucky 2-s
carl Kansas 1-mw
dell
susan Baylor 3-e
gordon South Carolina 7-e
libby Duke 2-e
caroline Florida State 3-w
ellie Florida 4-e
mike b USC 11-e Virginia 5-e
robert Gonzaga 1-w
claire Arkansas 8-s
elaine
karen Louisville 2-mw
megan Wisconsin 8-e
marty Butler 4-s
rhyne Wichita State 10-s
christine Notre Dame 5-w
jim
simon, revi, cora, rowan Rhode Island 11-mw
beth Michigan 7-mw
dottie Northwestern 8-w
joe Cincinnati 6-s
daniel, honor, katie
mike Xavier 11-w
pierce Middle Tennessee 12-s
rebecca
sarah

The second round was ruthless, though, when our first #1 seed was bounced by my Badgers. Number 2 seeds Duke and Louisville crashed and burned, as did No. 3 seed Florida State.

As a result, we lost Caroline, Christine, Claire, Dottie, Joe, Karen, Libby, Rhyne, the Tiny Generation, and Pierce.

Dub is dominating with both of his teams still alive and kicking. The other 14 folks still fighting are Beth, Carl, Dan, Elizabeth, Ellie, Gordon, the Greatest, Kiran, Marty, Megan, Mike P., Rivers, Robert and Susan

Name Round 2
elizabeth UCLA 3-s
rivers UNC 1-s
dan Arizona 2-w
dub West Virginia 4-w Purdue 4-mw
kiran Oregon 3-mw
gwynn/dot/lee Kentucky 2-s
carl Kansas 1-mw
susan Baylor 3-e
gordon South Carolina 7-e
libby
caroline
ellie Florida 4-e
mike b
robert Gonzaga 1-w
claire
karen
megan Wisconsin 8-e
marty Butler 4-s
rhyne
christine
beth Michigan 7-mw
dottie
joe
mike Xavier 11-w
pierce

For those keeping family tabs, that means there are 6 Pattersons, 5 Rhynes ,3 Blyths and the Greatest.

But at this point, speaking of the Greatest, I do have some sad news to share. You may not have known it, but Gwynn has been battling leukemia for the past several years. With regular chemo cocktails, and an occasional blood transfusion, she somehow maintained her energy and charm. Unfortunately, the meds had become less and less effective over the past few months. Now, the leukemia is not responding to any medication.

Gwynn is now in hospice care in a facility connected to a hospital in Richmond. Her sons and their wives are staying by her bedside and talking to her, even though she cannot communicate. I just got a message from her daughter-in-law saying that a music therapist came in and asked what kind of music Gwynn liked. They ended up having a Sound of Music concert there in her room.

She really enjoyed you all, and she had a lot of fun with this silly family tournament thing. In fact, she wrote me just last week to say she was happy to still be included in our nonsense and hoping that her last blood transfusion came from a basketball player.

We will keep you posted on her progress. Her son says that they are planning on a small graveside service, and a reception at a later date.

Hug each other extra tight tonight.

Would you like to dance?

Greetings, my lovely family!

It is with alacrity that I cordially invite you to join me in a turn about the ballroom floor. A sojourn of serpentine steps in simple but sophisticated symmetry to the subtle but sultry strains of a string symphony under the steady skills of a seasoned supervisor. It is commonly known as the Big Dance, of course, but you you may call it the Hippest Hoops Hootenanny in the Whole Hemisphere!

I hope this note fines you all healthy and hail and free from the effects of the Nor’easter known as …

//giphy.com/embed/xT5LMPkYvZ0yt0LFks

via GIPHY

Here in Williamsburg, Stella brought a lot of wind and rain and much colder temperatures, but we dodged the snow that points north and west suffered. It was winter’s (hopefully) last gasp and I for one am eagerly awaiting warmer temperatures and sunnier days, also known as Mojito weather.

As in past years, the first games of the NCAA tournament coincide with Sunshine Week for me in my professional-in-name-only capacity. I celebrated by teaching a class on Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act at William and Mary and then coming home, taking  some cold medicine and sleeping for three hours. The cold brought me a cold, you see, which also meant that I couldn’t taste the donuts, apple fritters, scallops, steak, chocolate cake, Twinkie cake, Caesar salad, mashed potatoes, and a few other choice morsels ordered up by Dell for his double-digit birthday on March 13, also the day Robert and Christine celebrate their entries into this world. But by God I did try to taste all of the above. I tried.

The Cat Commissioners (Jinx in the East, Brook in the Midwest, River in the South, Julep in the West) have been as busy as Kellyanne Conway on a Sunday talk show after a Saturday morning Twitter storm from her boss coming up with this year’s picks for the tournament. They did some devisions doubling up to arrive at 32 participants, with each participant getting two teams. One group consists of the Littlest Generation: Simon, Revi, Cora and Rowan. They may be tiny, but we all know they are tough and not to be trifled with.

Another team consists of the Grandest Generation: the lovely ladies Dot, Gwynn and Lee. They, of course, have better things to do with their time than to read my rantings, but with their powerful picks, we will probably hear a lot more from them.

The final team is made up of what I like to call the Defectors. Northerners. Yankees, if you will. Daniel, Honor and Katie. They’re wonderful people, y’all, and we love them dearly, but bless their hearts, livin’ like they do north of the Mason Dixon line. Why, I declare, it’s enough to give me the vapors. Where are my smelling salts.

We’re international again this year, too, since Dottie is off gallivanting in Gaulle country. Oui, oui, mon ami, je m’appelle Dottie Lee.

And now, stateside, may I present this year’s picks for the Rhyne-Blyth-Patterson-Mostly-Annual-Am-I-The-Only-One-In-This-Country-Who-Hasn’t-Spoken-To-A-Russian-Ambassador NCAA Basketball Extravaganza!!

beth Kent State 14-s Michigan 7-mw
carl Kansas 1-mw Nevada 12-mw
caroline Florida State 3-w Winthrop 13-s
christine Troy 15-e Notre Dame 5-w
claire Vanderbilt 9-w Arkansas 8-s
dan Creighton 6-mw Arizona 2-w
daniel, honor, katie VCU 10-w New Mexico State 14-e
dell Minnesota 5-s Miami 8-mw
dottie Northwestern 8-w East Tennessee State 13-e
dub West Virginia 4-w Purdue 4-mw
elaine UNC-Wilmington 12-e Maryland 6-w
elizabeth Villanova 1-e UCLA 3-s
ellie Florida 4-e Princeton 12-w
gordon Dayton 7-s South Carolina 7-e
dot, gwynn, lee Michigan State 9-mw Kentucky 2-s
jim Iona 14-mw SMU 6-e
joe Cincinnati 6-s NC Central/UC Davis 16-mw
karen Louisville 2-mw South Dakota State 16-w
kiran Oregon 3-mw St. Mary’s 7-w
libby Duke 2-e Vermont 13-mw
martie Butler 4-s Jacksonville State 15-mw
megan Wisconsin 8-e Marquette 10-e
mike p Xavier 11-w Bucknell 13-mw
mike b Providence/USC 11-e Virginia 5-e
pierce Middle Tennessee 12-s North Dakota 15-w
rebecca Kansas State 11-s Tennessee Southern 16-s
rhyne Wichita State 10-s Seton Hall 9-s
rivers Iowa State 5-mw UNC 1-s
robert Gonzaga 1-w Northern Kentucky 15-s
sarah Florida Gulf Coast 14-w Mount St. Mary’s 16-e
simon, revi, cora, rowan Rhode Island 11-mw Virginia Tech 9-e
susan Oklahoma State 10-mw Baylor 3-e

First, and most obviously, what has Robert and family been mixing in their morning coffee because they are rocking the picks! Robert, Rivers and Elizabeth have three of the four #1 picks. This is fresh off Susan winning the whole tournament last year! She passed her Villanova gene on to Elizabeth this year, with Robert picking up Gonzaga and Rivers carrying the Tarheels to rep the ACC since his beloved Demon Deacons duffed it in the play-in game.

Carl holds the last #1 pick with Kansas. Daughter Sarah, however, was not so fortunate as she has one of the #16 AND a #14 pick, and nor was husband Joe, who also has a #16. Karen and Rebecca round out the bottom feeders (heh heh, Rebecca  … rounded … bottom … heh heh).

The best overall seed total goes to Elizabeth (4), followed closely by Rivers (6), with Dan and Dub (8) nipping at their heels. Sarah(30), Rebecca (27) and Pierce (27) are bringing up the rear (Rebecca … rear … heh heh — Hey! This isn’t shade, it’s a Rhyne family trait!).

This year we welcome back in to the tournament Mike P.’s favorite Hokies, and Gordon was so excited to be at University of Vermont this year that he persuaded his Catamounts (without a fine set o’ whiskers, that Cat amounts to nothing) to join the fray. Libby is the only one, however, who holds her own alma mater’s fate in her hands: she has the #2 seed Duke.

I am the Queen of Cheese with my two Wisconsin-based picks, the U and Marquette. Kiran’s got Ducks and Gaels, just to prove how whacked people in the West are. Dell has the snowbird duo of Minnesota and Miami. Martie’s sporting fighting dogs and chickens (Butler and Jacksonville State). Pierce is sporting Blue Raiders (Middle Tennessee) and Fighting Hawks (North Dakota). Fighting hawks? Because Hawks aren’t legit killing machines unless they’re also fighting?

Husband and wife will be tangling when Elaine’s UNC-Wilmington takes on Mike B.’s Virginia. Father and son will battle when Kiran’s St. Mary’s takes Revi and the Littlest Generation’s VCU.

The fight for Florida (Florida State and Florida Gulf Coast) will be taken on by Caroline and Sarah, while the Kentucky clash (Kentucky and Northern Kentucky) will be waged by the Grandest Generation and Robert.

As of this writing, two play-in games had not been decided, but I’ll be back with a roundup of rounds. For now, may your days be filled with basketballs bouncing your way.

Take that, y’all!

Susan

Congratulations to Susan and her Villanova Wildcats: the 2016 Family Challenge (oh, and NCAA Championship) winner!

I suffered several blood-pressure and/or heart attack events during that game, and while I wish things had turned out differently, it was no doubt a game to remember.

Thanks for playing along, everyone. I can’t wait to see many of you in just two weeks for the Happy Occasion of Carl and Joe’s wedding!