How to celebrate Christmas ... Waner style

Editor's note: In conjunction with goduke.com, members of the Blue Devils' women's basketball team are sharing a blog with ESPN.com. Check back for regular entries in The Duke Diaries.

By Abby Waner
Jan. 3, 2008

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a … well, not exactly. That is, not if you were in the Waner household that night. Someone was definitely stirring, and that would have been me crawling on all fours from my bed to my bathroom, proceeding to throw up for the seventh time, and then collapsing in a state of feverish exhaustion on my bathroom floor.

My long winter's nap consisted of a series of delirious dreams, if you can call them that, broken up with me either putting on my second hoody or throwing off the multiple blankets and sweat pants, depending on which way the fever swung! By no means am I looking for sympathy because I was so happy to be at home for a few days, that I honestly didn't mind spending some time with my head in a toilet -- hey, that was my toilet in my house!

So here I was, quarantined in my room for two nights and one day, sipping on Sprite and watching my fair share of movies. Outside of "Superbad," because no matter what time of year there is always good reason to watch McLovin and crew, I attempted to prepare for Christmas all by my lonesome with "Polar Express," "Love Actuall" and "Home Alone." Aside from the aforementioned and probably-too-graphically-described stomach flu, I was full blown with my sinus infection that I had been fighting off for a solid two weeks at school. So picture this: trash can close at hand alongside my bed, Sudafed and cough drops piled on my nightstand and my Christmas tree that my mom so festively decorates every year when I come home in the corner.

Enough about my Christmas Eve spent in isolation, let's move on through the rest of the house. So Christmas time for all mothers is their time to shine. Not saying moms are anything less the other 364 days of the year, but Christmas is really a time to go all out. And let me tell you, Jeanie Waner can run with the best of them.

Christmas Eve last year we went to a fondue restaurant for a change from the typical ham and mashed potatoes meal. Well, this year, not be outdone by last, my mom decided to make our own fondue dinner before going to see the play "White Christmas." I, however, was not allowed to breathe outside of the confines of my room, so I missed the all day preparation for this fondue dinner. (Those who know my cooking ability, this is no great loss. I am fabulous at avoiding the kitchen.)

So apparently the dining room table was all set special-occasion style, Kenny G's Christmas album was rolling and the family (minus yours truly) was dressed all frilly for the fondue dinner. Well, my dad was handling the hot (scalding, scorching, sizzling, hot) oil and moved a bit too fast -- and what do you know, hot (scalding, scorching, sizzling, hot) oil all over Tim's hand. Needless to say, if I wasn't singing along to "All I Want For Christmas Is You" in my room, I would have heard the commotion. From my window I saw the jeep and my mom and dad peel out of the driveway and my brother cracked the door open to my room to relay the happenings I missed.

Now here is the scene: Kenny G still rolling, fondue (safely) arranged on the dining room table and the last two family members (bro and sis) dressed all frilly eating their Christmas Eve dinner over candlelight. Oh, and I'm sure the dog had his usual place at my brother's feet. (Is it obvious which member of the family doesn't eat his veggies?) After a few hours, Jeanie and Tim made it back to the house and (again, this is all relayed through the crack in the door) Tim's second degree burns are bandaged up and he is feeling great on some doses of Percocet.

We have a tradition in our house that the book "The Night Before Christmas" is read every Christmas Eve night. Us Waner's take pride in not breaking tradition, so that night the family (again, without the germ-infested middle child) was cuddled up on the couch with Tim's hand well out of reach of the fire burning nearby. The phone was put on speaker and I was on the other end on my cell cuddled up amid Kleenex's, Sprite cans and Christmas paraphernalia in my bed while listening to the annual reading. All in all, my dad's hand was fine and I was able to keep solid food down.

Christmas morning I woke up to an amazing white Christmas in Denver. The fact that I was in my home, with my family nearby and (just about) safe, was all I needed for it to be a wonderful Christmas, because that is really what it is all about in the end!

So here we are again, back at Duke, with one game under our belt post-Christmas break. This is the best time of year to be a college basketball player because that is what you get to do -- play basketball. No exams, papers or deadlines make for a much easier schedule!

However, with all this time available over winter break, I have a problem. You see, every time this year I fall in love. Yep, that's right -- Abby in love. With who, you might ask? His name is James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser and, rather unfortunately, he is an entirely fictional character. I fully blame Jessica Foley for my love sickness, for she got my sister started on a series of books by Diana Gabaldon starting with Outlander. My sister got Ali Bales hooked and, by default, I was the next in line.

I am on the third book and seeing as how they are more than 1,000 pages long each, I only have time to read one over each winter break. I almost started recommending the books to Britt because they are just that good, but then that would mean someone else would fall in love with Jamie and, to be frank, I have become quite possessive over him and don't want to share. If anyone feels this is an unhealthy way to live your life, relax, I am 400 pages from being done. While Jamie will be the measuring stick for any real live man, I understand I must let Jamie go (however, while never fully accepting the fact that he is a Scottish man from the 1700's solely existing on the pages created by Diana Gabaldon!). Just let me have my few weeks, OK?! :)

Enough on my end. I hope everyone had a wonderful and stomach flu/sinus infection/second-degree burn-free Christmas. Happy Holidays from the Blue Devils. Hope to see you on Thursday when we take on N.C. Central!

The other side of the microphone

By Abby Waner
Nov. 16, 2007

Well, it's that time of year again and we are loving it! I am lounging in a Westin hotel bed (the ones with about 13 pillows and a comforter straight from heaven), watching SportsCenter for the second time today (Kobe needs to share the top 10 with other people … it's just not fair), and slightly mocking my friends in class through instant messenger. Err, I mean, I'm sitting at the desk diligently working on my paper due next week! Well, not quite, but hey, at least I'm honest.

The above scenario means that college basketball season is finally here, classes are conducted through e-mailing professors, and my wardrobe consists of blue, gray or black sweats. As for any social life, get back to me in April.

How do we do it, you ask? It's easy -- we love basketball. Now, film, practice and weights -- it's pretty safe to say none of us are going to be walking out of that weight room jumping with joy because we love the game and consequently have a five-page paper looming that night. But ultimately, there is nothing we would rather be doing with our time at Duke. Sure, we are students first (clearly -- see the opening paragraph). But basketball is what brings us all together.

That being said, I'm not going to write a dumb jock, stereotypical, overused phrases at their finest, "Basketball is life, the rest is just details" sort of blog. It's just that the first road trip, Cameron Crazies voices reverberating through Cameron, and Jay Bilas back on ESPN gets me all giddy inside. (Did I just say "giddy inside"? What am I, 12 years old?) Well, here are some details of the commencement of the most wonderful time of the year. (And I'm not referring to Christmas … yet!)

I have now been to the other side. No, no … I'm not sporting anything baby blue. I have had the opportunity to become part of the most loved/hated entities of the game -- that of the media. I have an interest in sports broadcasting once I am through playing, and recently a few openings around Duke media have allowed me to be on the mic and in front of the camera. I am so grateful to Cable 13 and Duke Radio Network for the debut of, in my opinion, Abby's Humorous, Humbling and Humiliating Broadcasting Career. Who knows, the career could have already come to an end! Nonetheless, I had so much fun sitting up in the overheated, 2-by-2 space of the Crow's Nest, and being on the floor donning what has been termed the "Mickey Mouse Headset" with excitable Cameron Crazies ever so mildly stating that Marty does, in fact, not foul.

They were both incredible experiences and I guess I can never really learn until I throw myself into it -- and throw I did. There were moments of stuttering, repeating, stifling laughter at my stupid remarks, and trying not to yell into the mic when Kyle Singler outright toyed with a defender or Gerald Henderson seemingly flew from the free-throw line and practically somersaulted before dunking. So let it be heard here, Abby Waner has a brand new respect for the media and the tough jobs they have. People, just think twice before you yell some choice words at your TV while proceeding to press mute and swearing that your grandma could do a better job commentating than broadcaster X.

We have been in Tampa, Fla,. for the past day and a half, and on Wednesday I felt like I was more on vacation than a basketball trip. This was the ESPNU Invitational and we went on a cruise ship dinner last night. Tennessee, Oklahoma, South Florida and us got all fancied up and mingled amongst each other for the night. While every one of us is a pretty fierce competitor, it is nice to see the friendships that have developed amongst the teams despite wanting to embarrass each other on the court. Hey, Pat Summitt was the one who brought up our 19-0 start against Tennessee last year -- not us! And Coach Summitt, your rendition of Rocky Top was quite spectacular; however, the version in the cheerleading outfit from last year was a tad bit more entertaining. We are trying to talk Coach P into wearing the Blue Devil mascot outfit and directing Cameron Indoor Stadium in a sing-along to our fight song. What do you say you help join the cause?

There was a point in the night where one player and the head coach from each team were part of a question and answer session with ESPN play-by-play announcer Beth Mowins. Now, I need to clear something up and try to salvage a friendship.

Courtney Paris and I have played together for about four summers now and I definitely consider her one of my closest friends in college basketball. Not only is she the most dominant post player in women's basketball history, she is one of the greatest characters and personalities as well. Traveling the world with her and winning gold medals has been a blast, but we developed quite a sarcastic relationship. But instead of it being a poking-fun-at bond, it's more like a full-out punching-fun-at relationship.

She sure can dish it out, and unfortunately, I didn't feel like I got back at her as much as I would have liked to this summer. Therefore, when Beth opened the mic up for questions to other players, I had to jump at my chance. It was really a simple question, and began with, "Court, I think it's amazing that you already have 584 double-double games in a row." Quite impressive when you think that she has only played in 60-some games. I then proceeded to ask, "But do your teammates get upset at you when you miss your layups on purpose just to pad your rebounding stats and blow their assists?"

Her response was exclaiming our friendship was over. So, the secret to Courtney Paris' success is revealed … thank you, thank you very much. However, I am going to publicly throw my heart and dignity on the line and ask Courtney Paris for her friendship back. I apologize, Court -- you win.

On a different note, I just want to thank the state of Colorado for making a return trip home for me and Emily so wonderful. While it was very obviously a season opener with out-of-sync offense and our fair share of fouls and turnovers, it gave me goose bumps to look up at the end of the game and see an almost sold out arena. Emily and I would not even have had the chance to attend Duke if it weren't for the Colorado coaches, teammates, friends, teachers and family who shaped us as people and as basketball players. Coming out after the game and seeing everyone from my elementary school teachers, my fourth grade coach, old classmates, boys I grew up playing against, and the little girls who now dream of playing at Duke, was absolutely surreal. While Duke is on the other side of the country, Colorado is home to me and a place filled with people that have influenced and touched me in a way that is irreplaceable. So thank you to Coach Pam Tanner, Coach P, my parents, and my brother for making this trip happen and one that I will always remember as a highlight of my playing career.

Now that I covered the endorphin-filled, sarcastic and sentimental sides of my life, I'm emotionally spent! Up next, Duke vs. UNC Greensboro at home on Sunday. Come out and help us try to sell the place out! Until then, just remember, basketball is life and the rest is just details!

P.S. The shout-out today goes to one of my best friends growing up, Andrew Brown, who had 21 points and seven rebounds for Lafayette in an OT win the other night! Too bad he still denies those times I beat him in one-on-one and still can't beat me in HORSE. Love ya, AB!

From pool workouts to pushups, it's life with Coach P

By Abby Waner
Oct. 24, 2007

Hello to all Blue Devils and Blue Devils fans!

Nov. 11 is only two and half weeks away, and if you are even half as excited as we are to get the season started, then I understand the anxiousness you are living with right now! Here is a quick update on the Duke women's basketball end.

Preseason came to an end not too long ago, and I'm not going to lie -- I was by no means wishing we could have another week or two. I became entirely too adjusted to my alarm going off at 5:12 a.m., lying in bed for an extra three minutes, and then hearing Britt's alarm go off through our very non-durable and noninsulated walls of our apartment. When it gets to the point that on the weekends "sleeping in" is considered 7:30 a.m., you know it's time for preseason to come to an end.

However, I must praise our team and coaches for a great preseason. Coach P has really stressed that if we want to be a
championship level team, that means every little thing we do is championship-caliber. It took a weight session or three to really get that change of mind down, but once you saw my sister do more than 10 pushups in a row, it is obvious that our lifting mentality has been altered. It was unbelievable the progress that we saw at the end of those six weeks. Nish and Britt were both benching two times Jas' [Jasmine] body weight at least, and B [Bridgette] tore the mile and a half run up!

Seeing as how I was hurt and on crutches/in a boot/casted up for most of preseason, my routine was strictly upper body. The team is doing agilities with Houser -- Abby is doing pushups. The team is warming up for the track workout -- Abby is doing pushups. The team is doing the jump-roping test -- Abby is doing pushups. Let's just say that Coach P and I had a little heart to heart where she put it not so lightly that I need to up the strength factor.

Now here is my dilemma that I struggled with before. I would be in the weight room, and struggling to curl those 10-pound dumbbells, and when I was done I would be quite pleased to see just maybe the curve of a bicep. However, I would go home on a Friday night, put on that cute little tank top to go out, and there was that bicep curve that just did not look quite so little anymore. However, Coach P was quick to jump on that issue and I have now learned to embrace being a female athlete even more so -- which just might mean having some muscle and being proud of it! (And this is regardless if I am wearing my jersey or that utterly too expensive halter top from Bebe.)

Now, our championship mentality crossed over from the weight room to our swim workouts as well. That's right, the women's basketball team entered into the realm of Michael Phelps and Amy Van Dyken -- scary. I will just get right to the bloopers. First, I am so disappointed we didn't have a camera to document just the flat-out awkwardness we displayed. All of us wore those little floaty things that you strap around your stomach to help keep you afloat. Bridgette did not use one -- but two. Her entire midsection was covered with blue floaty material.

There is a team tradition that the bright pink pool shoes get passed to the smallest player on each team. One day before we headed to the pool, Jas was prancing around the locker room in her spandex, sports bra, shower cap, and bright pink swim shoes. (Got the mental image? Go ahead -- it's OK to laugh out loud!) She claimed she didn't want to wear them down to the pool because they "looked silly," but Jas, I know you took those home and wear them around your dorm room every night!

By no means am I bragging about my grace and elegance in the pool. Britt and I decided it would be fun to start off the swim workout by jumping off the diving board. I haven't jumped off a diving board since I was 11, when I slipped off the edge of the board and covered the mistake by nicely belly flopping into the deep end. Well, this time probably didn't look much different. We wanted to coordinate the time we jumped. Obviously I went on three and Britt wanted to watch me make a fool of myself before she proceeded. My attempted cannon ball turned into me holding my nose, legs tucked tightly as I curled into a ball (with my flexibility, it instead becomes legs sticking out at awkward angles), and a just ridiculous splash as I struggled to come back to the surface.

Needless to say, the actual swimmers who were in the pool at the same time got their entertainment for the day. If you ever need a pick-me-up in your swimming confidence, ask me to go swim a lap for you.

Preseason is finished off with a much-needed fall break trip, where Emily and I made the trek back to the Rocky Mountains. We caught a Colorado State football game (Yay Jesse! Go No. 59!), watched my brother tear it up for ThunderRidge HS JV football, and I went with my friend, Tyler, my dad, and my brother to watch the Rockies finish off the sweep of the Phillies. That being said -- Boston Red Who? Go Rockies!

Practice has been going smoothly for the past week and we would love to get all the support we can get for our Blue White Scrimmage on Sunday at 2 p.m. Because, team, we are just getting better, right? Just getting better! We are just getting better! (Team inside joke … how am I doing, Coach P?!)

Lastly, Emily and I are struggling with choosing our Halloween costumes. Feel free to give your input, here are the options:
• Galenda (the Ga is silent) and Elpheba from the Broadway play, Wicked
• Dottie and Kit from the movie A League of Their Own
• Wendy and Tinker Bell (we need a Peter Pan if there are any offers!)
• Serena and Venus
• Britney Spears then and Britney Spears now
• Kelly Hathorn and Erin Hathorn of Duke women's soccer
• And a singular costume of Miss South Carolina ( … "because most Americans don't have maps" … "The Iraq" … "such as")

Hope to see you all this weekend!

P.S. Just want to give a little shout-out to my favorite teams at Washington University. I was able to make a trip out to St. Louis to visit Tyler and shot around with a few players from both the women's and men's team -- who are both preseason top five! Go Bears!