A Christmas list and some early gifts received

As I write this, Black Friday is winding down and the annual frenzy of doorbusters and discounts is fading away as our attention turns from Thanksgiving’s feast to Christmas. I have my list ready, which I want to share, but I’ve already received an annual gift that makes November great. First, let’s talk shopping, USNA style.

And remember, if someone tells you that you have too much USNA-themed stuff, get new friends. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

If you read this blog (which I must assume you do 😊) and listen to my annual Herndon Playlist (if you don’t, you should), you know I am an unabashed fan of the work of Kristin Cronic, the artistic dynamo behind Easel On Stribling. She delivered one of the first gifts of the season, announcing that her long-awaited book, A Midshipman’s Journey, will be shipping soon and she’s taking preorders. Kristin graciously invited me to take a sneak peek and I have to tell you, the combination of her amazing artwork and heartfelt writing will resonate with anyone connected to USNA life. And I wouldn’t stop at the book (though that is where I’d start). My son bought his mother one of Kristin’s prints and I have to tell you that it’s now a prized possession. Of course, you’ll find more than artwork on her site including postcards, clever mugs, and other USNA-related items. And, yes, she is having a Black Friday sale where you can get 15% off every item by using the code HOLIDAY2022 until November 28.

Susan Weisberg dropped another gift on the USNA family by announcing the release of the third and final installment of the Chester Midshipmouse series, “Time and Tide.” As a writer, I continue to be amazed at the way Susan not only mesmerizes me with a story I was a part of but that she makes me feel like these rodents are a part of my family. If you’ve read the first two installments, of course, you must read the third (available only on Chester’s website). And if you know anyone connected to USNA who hasn’t met Chester, give them the gift of an introduction.

I want more books! You got it.

Know someone who wants some USNA insight spun with Southern wit and charm? Share “The Naval Academy – A Parent’s Ponderings from Home Port: Untying the Bowline on I-Day,” released by the eloquent Steve Wade earlier this year.

Know someone who’s considering an application to USNA? Give them the gift of insight with A.N. Shine’s “A USNA Mom’s Journal: Plebe Summer through Commissioning and Beyond! What You Need to Know.”

Know a history buff who doesn’t understand why I do a Herndon Playlist every year? One of my son’s Sprint football coach wrote the definitive history – The Herndon Climb: A History of the United States Naval Academy’s Greatest Tradition.

Know someone who needs a dose of somewhat arcane USNA trivia? They might enjoy my admittedly unofficial collection of facts, figures, and humor – Anchored In Tradition. Unlike Susan, Kristin, and Steve, I couldn’t get my latest tome completed this year.

I don’t want books, I want more! You got that, too.

First, refer to the link to Easel on Stribling above, and, while you’re at it, did you actually look at A.N. Shine’s Etsy shop? Cute, customizable Midshipmen pins, bracelets, charms, and coasters.

Second, how would you like your purchase to benefit the Brigade? Easy enough, just shop online at the Midshipmen store and 100% of the proceeds go back to the Mids. On the top of my list this year is the Midnopoly game. I’m not the biggest Monopoly fan in the world, but if I can play a game that gives me a chance to make every single turn a chance to share a story about my four years directly connected to the Yard, you better believe I’m all in. I actually toyed with picking up a copy of Reef Points for my son as a joke but thought better of triggering a flashback to Plebe Year.

< – Does this one even need an explanation? Always in style (and it’s something that both my submariner and USAFA cadet can agree on!)

And you can always browse Amazon for about a billion other options.

I RECEIVED MY ANNUAL GIFT ALREADY

If you didn’t already know, I love football. I mean l-o-v-e. I can watch football at any level without a rooting interest and be totally engrossed in the game – pee-wee to pros and everything in between.

Here’s the thing, though. I’m also obsessed with football uniforms. It combines two of my great passions – football and design. So in almost every game, I objectively complete the battle of the uniforms. There are some standards – I loathe helmets with a school’s abbreviation (e.g. NIU for Northern Illinois University or the “G” for Georgia or even the BG on the otherwise beautiful helmets of my alma mater, Bowling Green State University). Likewise, I don’t like the team’s name scrawled on the side of the helmet (Gators, for example). Give me a strong logo any time.

The jersey should be clean and its lettering should be bold. And … well, you get the point. I love good football uniforms. That’s why I look forward to the end of November because that’s when N*avy drops its special uniforms for the Army-Navy game. And this year, N*avy absolutely CRUSHED it. The astronaut-themed uniforms are uh-mazing. I mean, they never really get it wrong, but this year’s are off the charts.

This leads me to the TOP of my Christmas list (which has been the same since 2016) – a win over Army!

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