Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lesson 30: It Ain't Christmas Around Here Unless......

It just 'Ain't Around Here.........

.....unless the smoke alarm goes off:  Yes, I set the smoke alarm off Christmas morning.  I manage to do it somehow every year.  I love to make the house smell all good in the morning, so I usually throw some cinnamon rolls into the oven before the kids wake up. As Ellen was retiring on Christmas Eve night, I asked her what she was looking forward to most about the next day.  She replied, "I love to wake up to the smell of cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning."  My responding thought:  "Oh crap."  I forgot.  So I got up extra early to go through all my cookbooks to see if I had something delicious to bake with the ingredients on hand.  I settled on a "Bisquick Banana Bread" and whipped it up really fast.  Maybe it was too early for me to be baking (Eloise is not Cake Boss), the lack of sleep I've been getting, or lack of love for baking--but the bread turned out just how my breads, cakes, and cookies usually do--crispy on the outside and doughy in the middle.  The recipe overflowed, causing the spillage to smolder and smoke, setting off the smoke alarm.  Oh well, the kids had to get up sometime.  So, they were a little traumatized at the thought of a possible fire in the house Christmas morning.  But if you have read my previous blog about the LOST Complete Collection, then you know that they were expecting a blow torch.  I got my presents, so that never had to happen.  We opened presents that day to the smell of blackened bananas, but it was Christmas morning just the same.

........unless someone pukes:  Christmas night at 9:00 pm, I realized that Sam wasn't just red faced because of all the rude things he said to everyone--he was cooking.  And so spiked the fever, that caused the headache, that led to the upset stomach, that spewed the vomit--sort of like the Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.  By the 28th we went from Urgent Care to the ER with a LaFuria record high fever of 105.  It turned out to be a 9 hour day in germ filled waiting rooms for me.  If I am lying in my hospital bed dying from a strange disease contracted from this occasion, please come and stop my husband from pulling the plug.  LaFuria's tend to jump the gun a bit and you all know how slow we Overdorff's are.  You all need your dose of Eloise and need to keep me around, even if you all haven't realized it yet.  Trust me on this.  Eloise can see into the future.

.......unless somebody cries:  Good old Natalie.  Every stinkin' year she asks Santa Claus to bring her "presents."  On December 25th, he always comes through and she loves looking at her sizable pile of beautifully wrapped gifts--then doesn't like to open them.  She likes the presents just as they are.  She once carried around a wrapped birthday gift for three days before I couldn't stand it anymore and opened the package for her when she was sleeping.  So she cried as she usually does.  Gone are the days of gently desensitizing her, preparing her for Christmas with visual cues on the refrigerator, and no "social story" about how presents are things wrapped in paper and it is OK to rip them open.  We all screamed, "Suck it up, Natalie!" and went about our business.  If her teacher Mr. Fritts just read this he'll be calling Social Services on January 3rd. 

.......unless something embarrassing happens at church:  In years past, my children have been tough on Christmas church services.  For this reason we seem to wind up in a different place for our Christmas worship service every year.  Natalie does not like the crowds and gets ornery.  Ellen is usually an angel, so God smiles on my family because of her.  Keep up the good work, honey.  Two years ago Sam stole the baby Jesus out of the church display at South Harborcreek United Methodist Church and ran with it like a football.  Last year we went to Saint James with Karen's family, but Sam tore page 116 out of the hymnal.  I mailed it to Jack with a note to give it back to Sister Colette, but I don't know if he ever did.  (Catholic kids go to Hell for that Jack, so you better return it if you haven't yet).  This year I decided to get nostalgic and asked Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Don if we could go to Saint Stephen's Lutheran Church with them.  They kindly obliged, but little did they know what they were in for.  When we sat down, Aunt Jeanne asked us if we got candles for Silent Night at the end of the service.  I replied, "Are you sure about that?  This is an old church and it looks pretty flammable.  It could go up like a tinder box.  There is no telling what we can do to the place."  During the silent and reverent prayer, Sam pushed the button on his Buzz Light Year toy and Buzz announced, "To infinity and beyond!"  Buzz was speaking out about his love for the Lord, so he is forgiven.  Towards the end of the service, Sam had enough of the singing of every verse as Lutheran's usually do.  He asked Aunt Jeanne and the rest of the congregation very loudly to "Please stop singing!  I am trying to talk to my mom!" 

.......unless I am worrying about the large tumor on my dog's neck:  Last year I discovered the lump on Christmas Eve while petting Josie 'neath the Christmas tree.  Not wanting to ruin anyone's Christmas, I kept the discovery of the lump quiet until the tax return came in March.  I then announced to my husband the blessed news and said, "I love this dog like I gave birth to her myself.  We are going to the vet tomorrow and I don't care how much it costs to save this dog's life."  $80 and a needle biopsy the next day revealed that it is just a water tumor, and though it is unsightly, it was not life threatening.  This Christmas Josie and I have been enjoying many snowy morning walks through the woods behind my house.  As she trots in front of me, I've been watching that ever growing tumor jiggle.  Tumor has grown just like the Grinch's heart did--three sizes that day.  It is time for another vet trip and something tells me this time, the surgery required to remove it is going to be a chunk of change.

........unless I am reflecting on what a lucky girl I am to have all that I do:  We had a beautiful Christmas and we still have several days left to celebrate and ring in the new year.  Am I really lucky?  No.  I am blessed, and that, my friends, is the best thing you can ever be. 

Happy Holidays,

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Lesson 29: Welcome Holy Child

I am a good writer, but sometimes I cannot find the right words to express the message I want to convey, so I borrow someone else's.  This Christmas Day post is the song Welcome to Our World by Chris Rice.  I am uncertain to whom to give credit for the lyrics, but they are in a simple word, beautiful.  I hi-lighted in red and green my favorite lyrics from the song.  When coupled with the moving images, they touch your heart in deep places where no one else but the Holy Spirit can reach. 

Unto us a child was born over two thousand years ago.  Welcome holy child.  Eloise

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God

You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home

Bring Your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven's silence

Welcome to our world

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Welcome to our world

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lesson 28: Listen to Linus, He's the Smart One

Charles Schultz has always been one of the writers I admire most.  His creation of the Charlie Brown characters are one of the literary world's greatest masterpieces in my opinion.  He had a writing style that I admire:  simple, poignant, and humorous. 

I make references to Linus a lot on this blog as I always compare him to Sam--because of the blanket only.  Sam does not have the gentle nature of Linus.  My friend Beth and my sister have always compared me to Lucy.  They claim that I like to give out psychiatric advice, am bossy, and enjoy tormenting people like when Lucy pulls away the football from Charlie Brown every single time.  Yes, I give out advice quite often, but I am asked for it and I don't charge 5 cents.  Bossy?  No way.  Someone has to take the reigns of this family.  I am the only one brave enough to step up to the plate.  For that I should be commended, not condemned.  And if Karen is dumb enough to fall for the football trick over and over again in life, than that is her problem.  Live and learn, sister, live and learn.

The above post is my favorite part of Charlie Brown Christmas.  Natalie refers to it in her flat, monotone voice as "Brown's Christmas."  Can you just hear her?    For those of you not familiar with chapter and verse, I'll be your guide.  Dust off your Bible, one of the best books you'll ever read.  You can find these words in Luke, Chapter 2, verses 8-14.   See your yourself, and you will take the first step in becoming a changed person because of it.

The angels and Eloise wish you glad tidings of great joy this holiday season.  Merry Christmas from the Lamp Post.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lesson 27: Retro Night Before Christmas Poem

The snapshot above is from last December 30th, my dad's 65th birthday breakfast at Bob Evans.  When the eleven of us are brave enough to out in public together it is always an interesting experience.  Natalie and Erik were happy because food was involved. Ellen and Jack were having fun daring each other to eat jelly packets "raw" and spoonfuls of coffee creamer mixed with syrup.  Linus, I mean Sam, was fine doing the coloring page as long as he had his pink blanket wrapped around his shoulders, and sat between his two favorite people, Grandma and Grandpa.  They didn't seem to think it was weird that the only thing he had for breakfast that morning was a plateful of ketchup. 

I had to include Sam in this photo because he is omitted from the following poem.  I know what you are all thinking---Eloise is holding quite a grudge over this potty training issue, but that is not the case.  The poem below is one I wrote a decade ago, during the Christmas of 2000.  Natalie was 2, Ellen was 2 months old, and the thought of having a son one day was the furthest thing from my mind.   Natalie had just been diagnosed with Autism.  Ellen had the most ridiculous case of thrush you ever did see and also had her days and nights mixed up.  I was completely exhausted and running on caffeine and pure adrenaline.  Sometimes it is then when I find my greatest creativity.  It just occurred to me, that is probably why I did so well in college.  Hindsight really is 20-20.

This version of Clement C. Moore's Night Before Christmas was one of my favorite things to write.   I liked it so much that I used it for my Christmas card that year.  You may have even received one and reading this will trigger your memory.  I've held on to it all of these years hoping to use it again one day.  Never did I think that I would do so in this manner.  A decade ago I didn't even have a computer and "blogging" sounded like a college drinking game.  It goes to show you how much can change in ten years.  My family of four became a party of five.  I cannot live without my home computer and I hardly have to go to the library because I have Mr. Google as my best friend.  Can we all just pause a minute and imagine what is coming for us in the next decade? 

Enjoy your retro Christmas poem.  I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.
Merry Christmas, Eloise

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through our house,
Not a person was sleeping, not even a mouse.

The pillows were stacked by our wood stove with care,
In hopes that a night's rest would one day be here.

Natalie was jumping up and down on her bed,
While Ellen was holding up her wobbly, little head.

With Louie in his sweatpants and Opie in my lap,
We had just settled down for a short winter's nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
We sprang to our feet to see what was the matter.

When what to our wondering eyes should appear,
But a red, van-like sleigh and two we hold dear.

With a driver and passenger so lively and quick,
We knew in a moment it was Helen and Dick.

More rapid than eagles from next door they came,
And they whistled, and shouted, and called them by name.

"Now, Karen!  Now, Elaine!  Now Steve and Louie!
On, Erik!  On, Jack!  On Ellen and Natalie!"

"Let the holidays begin!  Come on, let's have a ball!
Now here we come!  Here we come!  Here we come, all!

As we drew in our heads and were turning around,
Up the driveway the grandparents came with a bound.

Up the porch steps, these two grandparents they flew,
With a bag full of toys and a case of beer, too.

What a pair these two were, right jolly old elves,
That we laughed when we saw them, in spite of ourselves.

Helen was dressed all in red, from her head to her foot,
And her clothes were all "Tommy" with not one speck of soot.

The stump of Dick's pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

They spoke not a word, but went straight to their work,
And filled all the stockings then turned with a jerk.

They then sprang to the van; the old engine gave a whistle,
And away they both zoomed like the down of a thistle.

But we heard them exclaim as they drove out of sight,
"Let's stop to get beer!  They're closed tomorrow night!"

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lesson 26: Horizontal Stripes are not Flattering

 Some of you have been asking how the potty training has been going.  I attached some pictures from last week to answer that question.  

I could smell him in the kitchen from way into the living room.  When I came upon the scene, I knew he did his business in his brand new Gap Christmas underwear because Linus was clutching his blankey.  It's his security for nighttime, while he's at his Preschool, and for when he knows he's going to get it for whatever he's just done.

This picture shows his rear to the left.  The photo to the right shows Sam's reaction when I asked him, "Sam, what is in the back of your pants?"  His reply:  "Nofing."  I think he was more puzzled why I was standing there this time with the camera.  I know, Freud would have a field day with this. 

I don't know what Freud would say to it all, but I think we could both agree on this point:  Horizontal stripes are not flattering.  They give away every bump and lump.

Happy holidays, everyone.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lesson 25: A Reminder About the Birth of Jesus

For the 25th blog post in December, I have no choice but to post a story in Jesus' honor. I've been listening to the above song constantly this season.  It is sure to be one of your favorites, too. 

As the writer of this blog, I wear many hats.  I am one part comedienne, one part motivational speaker, one part big sister to the world, and one part disc jockey.  If you recognize the name, Chris Tomlin, he is one of my favorite Christian Music artists. I posted his version of Amazing Grace on one of my earlier blogs.   I was not familiar with the featured singer, Audrey Assad, until this year, and she is equally as enchanting.

I stumbled on this song from some digging I was doing on itunes, thanks to a post on facebook by my nephew Chris LaFuria.  He called out to everyone, asking for their suggested favorite Christmas tunes.  He, at the time of the post, was listening to The Crooners Christmas and highly recommended it.  I was looking for song suggestions for him when I came across this one.  This goes to show you that all one needs is a little motivation and you too, can stumble upon something new and great.

My husband, being the baby of his family by a decade more or less, came with nine nieces and nephews as part of his package deal sixteen years ago.  Ben, the oldest is exactly 20 years to the day older than Ellen.  I worked hard to make that happen for the family, by the way.  I missed a wedding of a cousin on my side just to go into St. Vincent's Hospital to push her out at 11:10 pm.  Jon, the youngest up from Natalie is sixteen.  The rest range in age in between them.  They are a source of constant fun, and they keep me up to date on the most current tunes.  All of them love music and are frequent concert goers.  Ben, Chris, and Dan all taught themselves how to play musical instruments, which as a teacher of gifted students, I recognize as quite a gift.  Dan has a really quirky-cool record collection that I love to discuss with him.  Chris constantly comments about music on facebook.  When we are together as a group, often the guitars come out and impromptu sing-alongs erupt, making lasting memories for everyone.

Thanksgiving night after all the digestion is over with, they gather in our basement for our annual card game.  There is lots of noise, typical of the LaFuria's, but mostly laughter.  When I was upstairs giving Sam a bath, I could feel the shouts and the laughter reverberating up through the floor boards.  Some of us even got to talk to Matt that day through the Skype camera, as he is serving in Iraq through the holidays this year. 

Louie and his brother and two sisters are very close.  It seems like the next generation will be following along the same path---staying in touch, singing, laughing, sometimes fighting, but always forgiving.  This is what keeps a family a family.  So Ben, Kim, Cora, Matt, Chris, Dan, Rosalee, Pat, and Jon--thanks for the inspiration.  You all will serve as fine role models for your youngest round of cousins, Natalie, Ellen, and Sam.  You remind us that families are not perfect, but they are sacred.

Since we are all part of God's family and really all brothers and sisters in our human nation, please listen carefully to the words to this song.  It is true that God could have sent our savior in any manner as he has the power to do so.  But instead of a mighty wave with the strength of a hurricane, God sent us a baby.  One soft like a winter snow; quiet, soft, and slow, falling from the sky to the earth below.  Take time to stop and remember this during the flurry of activities in the next few weeks.  And if we do get the predicted winter storms here in Erie this weekend, step outside and look at the falling flakes from heaven and remember how Jesus came to us--soft and slow like the winter snow, and breathe in the air of the sacred night.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Lesson 24: Everyone Needs A Silent Night

I have received a huge response to this blog, far greater than I had ever anticipated.  There is always someone new coming up to me saying, "Hey, I read your blog and it was really funny!"  It makes me feel good that people enjoy my stories.  People seem to have two common questions, and I have been asked them so many times in the past few months that I will comment on them here.

The first comment is usually something regarding my writing style.  They ask if I make drafts, edit, rewrite, etc.  Truth is, I don't.  I can't explain why.   I just sit down and write.  It's always been something I do easily.   The ideas just flow out of my fingers effortlessly.  I am a much better writer than I am a speaker, though.  Sometimes I have a hard time fielding an off the cuff question, or think of the perfect comeback three days later.  We all have our strengths, I guess.  People call it a gift and that could be what it is.  I am just glad that I can share my gift with others.

The second most commonly asked question I get is, "When do you find time to do this?"  My response to you is this, "During my silent nights."  It reminds me so much of my new favorite Christmas song by Amy Grant, posted above.  It is called, I Need A Silent Night.  I just found it this year.  I am not sure how new it is, but I know that if you are a mom getting ready for Christmas, you need to listen to this.

I have been asked to categorize myself by being asked to determine  if I am an early bird or a night owl.  First of all, I don't like the thought of characterizing myself as a bird because birds are, well, flighty.  I don't think "flighty" is a word that describes me best.  In the event that I am forced into giving a response, I usually reply, "Both." 

I come from a family of strange sleep habits.  I think they began during the years we all lived crammed in the kitchen when my parents were renovating the first floor of the old, red farm house.  Maybe I never slept soundly as a child with all the clatter of four people and a dog living in the kitchen.  We all are early risers and like to get up with the sun.  My mom gets up early just because she is nibby and doesn't want to miss anything.  I think the years in the Coast Guard still stick with my dad.  He'd get us all up with a bugle if he could, but thankfully he doesn't have one.  I remember being a teenager and Karen and I would be asleep on a weekend morning.  He'd call up the stairs, "Girls, are you going to sleep all day?"  We'd roll over to look at the clock and see that it read 7:53 am. 

We also can party with anyone into the wee hours of the night, and belly up to the bar with any college student.  The difference between Overdorff's and college students is that Overdorff's don't sleep until 11:00 the next morning.  This has given me the base skills to be an excellent parent.  I can be up until 3:00 am with a vomiting child, catch a few z's before 6:00 am, and I am good to go.

How I do it?  I am the Queen of the 10-minute Cat Nap.  Plus, I like being thought of like a cat much more than I like being thought of as a flighty bird.  Cat's are sleek, stealth, and beautiful.  Plus, they eat birds for fun.  When I say 10 minutes, I mean just that--10 and only 10 minutes.  More than that causes you to fall into a deeper sleep and it leaves you to either wanting more, waking with that groggy feeling, and screwing you up for the night ahead.  10 minutes is enough to take the edge of fatigue away and leaves you feeling refreshed.  During my dad's "Overtime Years", especially the last three that he worked at GE, I saw him tilted back with his eyes shut many a time.  I would say to him, "Dad, you're sleeping--why don't you lie down?"  He would reply, "I'm not sleeping.  I'm just resting my eyes."  This is a line I use in my house all the time.

So it is mostly in the wee hours of the night, after I put my kids to bed, when I work on my blogs.  It relaxes me and gives me time to think through my day, as well as about all of you.  I think of things that happened to me that were funny that day, or perhaps something that inspired me that I feel just may inspire you, too.  It is in the silence of the nights that I find my words and find my God.  He blesses my fingers and lets me use my gift to benefit others, even in this simple way.

Once last winter, I was going to bed very late, probably well past 2:00 am.  I brushed my teeth and was about to turn off the bathroom light.  My bathroom is on the east side of my house.  I can look through the trees and see into my parent's bedroom and living room on the west side of their house.  They don't like me saying this, and will hate it even more when they read this, but I always look across the yard to see if their lights are on or off and to make sure everything seems OK.  The long standing joke is that if I ever look over and see flames shooting out of the windows, I am running across the yard and saving all of my Christmas presents hidden in my old, upstairs bedroom first.  Then I will run downstairs and bodily throw them out of the house.  Sorry.  I have my priorities, especially in December.   Nevertheless, as I looked across the yard, I saw my mother standing outside on the back porch step, looking up, twirling around. 

It was a particularly beautiful night.  The snow was falling gently and it landed softly like tiny little sparkles, one piling up on the other.  She looked particularly beautiful and youthful that night as the flakes landed in her white-blonde hair.  I could see her smile from across the yard. 

The next morning I asked my mom what she was doing outside at 2:00 in the morning.  She countered right back asking why I was up watching her.  Sharp lady.  Mom said, "I was smelling the snow.  It was so clean and fresh."  I thought that was a beautiful way to describe an even more beautiful night.  I also realized that I am a chip off the old block, albeit an ice block on that night in particular. 

So ladies, when you are listening to the song, play it a couple of times through.  If you are about my age, I think many of the words will fill you with memories of Christmases past and make you think about how your mom handled Christmas compared to how we prepare for it today.  When you feel tired, overworked, and under appreciated this holiday season, take my advice.  Invest in a ten minute cat nap.  Then stay up late and have a Silent Night.  Watch the snow fall, count your blessings, and listen for God.  Sometimes he speaks to you softly in the still of the night, like tiny little sparkles that land in the snow.  You don't want to miss that.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lesson 23: Christmas by the Numbers

 4-8-15-16-23-42  The LOST Numbers
These are pictures of the ceiling of the lamp post dining area.  The ceiling was recreated to look like Jacob's cave for the LOST finale on May 23rd.  My house has looked like this ever since.  I have threatened arm breaking if anyone attempted to remove the names before destiny ran its course and brought each one down in it's own due time.  The names written on the black papers are the island's candidates, and a number corresponds with each.  They are also the numbers that Hurley won the lottery with, but he thinks they are cursed.  The sum of the numbers is 108, which equates to the amount of time that had to pass between Desmond's button pushes down in the hatch.  Huh?  What the heck are candidates?  Why are you talking about curses so close to Christmas?  And who the hell is Desmond?  All in the good name of LOST, I tell you. And I end this paragraph with my favorite saying, "If you haven't watched LOST yet, shame on you!"  Intrigued?  You should be.

Granted, this has aroused much curiosity from visitors to the lamp post.  It also annoys my father and he asks every time he enters my house when they are coming down.  Dad one day will learn to play my game.  The more you ask and show the slightest bit of annoyance, the longer and more gleefully I do just the opposite. He should know how to play, because word has it, he was the one who invented the game. 

For those who have heeded my recommendation to watch LOST, I am not about to spoil it for you by explaining the significance of the numbers.  Keep watching and know that it will all come together in the end.  Unfortunately the picture on the top right shows that I am no longer a candidate as my name is falling down.  Fate dealt my card and it looks like I'll be around in this world for a little longer.  My Mom's name was up there too, but destiny took her out of the running in August.  My fellow LOST fan friends, the Hess's, also fell at the beginning of September.  Number 23, Jack Shepard is still hanging on though.  He is pictured here on the right.  This is good, because Jack is my hero.  I never got to have a big brother, but if I did get to pick one, it would be Jack.  This blog post, #23, is in honor of him.  I've been waiting to write it in his honor all of this time. 

Since I am out of the running for candidacy, it is bad for the island because I believe I would be an excellent keeper.  Having watched the entire series two times through, I know where to find water, where the caves are to hide in, the location of all the dharma stations, and which house is the best to live in at the Others Barracks.  It is good for all of you though, because this means I will keep writing my blogs, which you all seem to be enjoying.

One of the famous LOST quotes is, "Jacob (the island's keeper) had a thing for numbers."  I think I would have been the perfect replacement because I also come from a line of people who have a "thing" for numbers. 

My mother counts things, namely people.  Weird habit, I know, but she's done it all my life.  If you see her head bobbing silently in a crowded room, please know that she has not gone insane---she's just counting heads.  Often when we are together in a crowd she will sidle up to me and say, "Can you believe there are 55 people here?" 

My dad is also good with numbers, years in particular--anything from models of cars ('57 Chevy), to the year of the Magna Carta (1215).   He also is a whiz at estimation.  He can figure how much something weighs, can estimate height and distance, as well as how many beers he has left until he needs a new case.  It's a gift.

So it seems fitting that my apple wouldn't fall from their tree.  I mean that in both the literal and figurative sense as I live next door to my parents.  I too, like numbers and now heat up my coffee for 108 seconds in the microwave if I lose my cup somewhere, thanks to LOST.  I also can't get off of the treadmill, no matter how bad my side stitch is, before 23 minutes are up as a tribute to my hero Jack.  When it comes to the numbers relating to Christmas, here is my big number--TWO.  This is how many Christmas presents I asked for this year.

Usually on Black Friday, I go out Christmas shopping on a solo trip, between 5:00 and 6:00 in the morning.  I usually return home just as the kids are getting up and they "surprise me" every year by putting up the Christmas tree.  It is a fun tradition in our house that gets everyone in the mood for my favorite holiday.

Eventually on Black Friday, the conversation rolls around to what I want for Christmas.  I have a different answer every year.  My responses range from "world peace" to "a cure for cancer."  All things that cannot be purchased.  I am a simple girl at heart, and don't need much to keep me happy.  It's better to give than receive, so whatever I do get for Christmas, I am always happy with.  My husband and kids do a great job choosing just the right scent of bubble bath, the perfect pair of slipper socks, or a new book to keep my mind occupied.  But this year, I stopped all four of them dead in their tracks when I didn't give the answer "brotherly love" when asked what I wanted for Christmas this year. 

The creators of LOST put together this cool collection of LOST DVDs and memorabilia and called it, LOST--The Complete Collection.  It contains all six seasons of LOST, a replica of the island, the senet game, a black light for finding hidden clues on the box, a full episode guide, and bonus features.  All for a reasonable $179.99 on Amazon.  That is the price for the Blu-Ray collection.  So, oh yeah, I need to mention that I need a Blu-ray player, too. 

When I spouted off that response, I had to walk over to my husband and use my index finger to push his bottom jaw up to close his hanging-open mouth.  We have been married for 16 years and he still is bewildered over the Overdorff style Christmas.  Generally conservative spenders throughout the rest of the year, well except for Karen that is, we go all out for Christmas.  $179.99 is a drop in the bucket for us. My Italian in-laws have the way bigger piles of delicious food on their plates, and we Germans have the way bigger pile of presents under the tree.  Maybe we should try to work a deal and form some sort of alliance, but I guess that didn't work too well in World War II, so on second thought, who cares.  I get the best of both worlds. 

I thought I'd put a little extra pressure on Louie by getting in the kids' heads a bit.  I told them that this year--no me with the camera waiting at the bottom of the staircase to grab a shot of their joyous faces Christmas morning.  I am beating them to the tree this year.  And if I don't find two wrapped gifts marked ELOISE, containing my Complete Collection and new Blu-ray player, I told them I was going to light the tree on fire.  Dad has lots of gasoline out in the barn.  One match and that tree is toast.  We can roast chestnuts over that open fire.  How nice.

Mean, I know, but I was trying to make a point really only to Ellen.  She has the most leverage with Louie and is a pretty good gift-picker-outer herself.    The comment went right over Sam's head, and Natalie heard, "fire" and ran to get her poker stick that she used at the Outback this summer.  Ellen can make this happen for me, I just know it. 

If the spaces between my blog posts grow a little longer after Christmas, know that I am busy on my third trip through LOST on Blu-ray, apparently the ultimate experience.  If Santa brings you a boxed set of the series and you need a tutor, I heard there is this great teacher who lives at the lamp post.  Her name is Eloise and I am sure she will help you through.

See you in another life, brothers and sisters.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lesson 21: Roasted Husband With a Side of Sam

I've heard many times before from various people that "I will get my reward in heaven."  The comment is always regarding the person whom is giving me the hardest time at the moment.   The reference could be made to anyone living in my household, human or furry.   I found heaven last Saturday on my morning walk with Josie.  This is what the November sky looked like.  I not only know the way to the island, but now I know the way to heaven.  Just go to MacQuarrie's Pond and turn and look due south.  You'll find it.  I guess my reward is there.  If you get there before me, don't tell me what it is.  I like surprises.  Plus I don't like ghosts.

God must be stacking up my rewards after the last few days of grief the males in my household have given me.  Sam had a rough week at school, even in our full blown attempt to improve his behavior and toileting skills.  Given that this is the week prior to Thanksgiving, my friends at Milestones Early Learning Center are discussing thankfulness with the children.  On the way home I asked Sam what he was thankful for.  Thinking that his answer would most likely be "toys" or "trains", but I still held on to the hope that he would answer, "Mom", "Dad" or "Sisters."  Nope.  Sam's response:  "Dog food."  He also drew a picture of his favorite food at Thanksgiving dinner.  Sam only has a repertoire of five foods:  ketchup, Cool Whip, Cheese Puffs (gluten free and $7 a bag kind, nonetheless), dry Life Cereal, and milk mixed withe Nestle's Quik--exactly two scoops, no more-no less.  What does Sam draw?   Gravy.  The kid has never even tasted gravy!  And all of this was BEFORE I read the notes. 

Here are two examples of his finest notes home from last week:

 From Monday:  "Sam had a hard time keeping his hands to himself today.  He pushed our new friend down and hit her.  He later pinched another friend.  When asked about this, he hit and pinched me."  Great.

From Wednesday:  "While sitting and waiting to go potty, Sam poked another friend in the eye.  When he went to apologize to the child he hugged them and liked their shoe."  Guess that explains the dog food. 

To punctuate this spectacular week, I went to get him out of bed Friday morning to find him covered in vomit.  Lovely.  And so begins the stomach bug a week before the biggest eating holiday in America.

Despite Sam's flu, which consisted of no fever and vomiting twice a day, which really isn't too bad as far as the flu goes--I still managed to have a fun weekend.  My cousins from Cleveland came in for their annual pre-holiday season overnighter.  The beer flowed right along with a year's worth of stories and laughter.  It is always great to see them and this year it was even better.  They brought their two grown up children, Sara and Tyler along with them, plus little Jaclyn who is exactly three weeks older than Ellen.  I warned them that Sam would be a beast, but it was kind of nice because he had an excuse after all; he was sick.  We ate too much, drank too much, and slept too little.  But it was all worth it.  I love my cousins and it wouldn't be fall in Erie without their visit.

Sunday morning, Louie treated everyone to a breakfast, LaFuria style.  Big, fat, fluffy waffles with mountains of butter and rivers of syrup.  He likes doing the bacon in the oven and gets it nice and crispy.  After breakfast Karen and clan came for a quick visit before the Ohio O's headed west again. 

It was about 2:00 when I noticed Louie taking a nap.  Not a normal part of his high-energy routine.  He then disappeared into the basement for awhile.  The next thing I knew he was calling for a garbage can, and could I please empty the garbage out of it.  Oh no.  That was the last time I saw my husband upright, unless it was sprinting to the toilet.  Since then he has hit every garbage can, pooped in every toilet, and slobbered on every pillow in the whole house.  The washing machine is working overtime, as am I.  I love my boys, but they have a way of being high maintenance during times of sickness.   

I imagine the Ohio O's have just shouted a resounding O-NO!  I couldn't bear to call them.  I chose to deliver the news the cowards way---through this blog, so they are finding out this pleasant news along with all of you.  My Uncle John is still an ace with a sling shot.  Apparently that is how he shoos deer away from his bird feeder.  He can hit them in the arse and send them on their way even at 84 years old.  Impressive.  I wonder if that sling shot can reach Erie.  If so, I am in major trouble.

So if you want to stop by on Thursday, I'm serving up Thanksgiving dinner this year.  On the menu is roast husband with a side of Sam (gravy, since it's his favorite).  Feel like the dinner could be a bit toxic to the taste buds?  We can always feed it to the dogs.  Another good idea since that is the thing Sam is most thankful for.  Waste not, want not, I guess.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Heaven help us all.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lesson 22: You Too, Can Have a Picnik in the Winter


I was waiting for the first snowfall to put this one up.  There were some flurries as I was in the flurry of Black Friday shoppers early Friday morning, so close enough.  Plus we are supposed to get more snow tomorrow. 

Since I am writing about snow, I just want to mention don't be looking for my Christmas card to arrive in your mailboxes before St. Nicholas fills your wooden clogs on December 6th.  Snowfall is a key player for the card that I have planned in my head, and it isn't even made yet.  Be patient.  Masterpieces take time.   With three children, one being autistic and another being a beast, you never quite know what you'll get.  I'll surely need extra time this year.  At least Ellen has proven pretty handy with a camera herself, so there is hope that she will come through for me, too. 

Click on the link to, posted above the snapshots on this blog.    It will take you to a slide show of my winter photos from the last three years.  It just takes a couple of minutes.  Just click the back arrow in the upper left hand corner of the screen when you are done and it should take you back to the blog.  I recommend reading the blog all the way through, then going to view the slide show in case you kick yourself off the website.  That is annoying and I did it myself.  It is not a good time of year and think hateful thoughts and be cranky, you know. 

Picnik is the photo editing website that I use to doctor up my digital pictures from time to time.  I've tried several different ones, but picnik is my favorite.  It is the easiest to navigate, even for novices.  Most of the applications are free, but I paid the $24 yearly fee to have access to the stuff they tease you with, like the great holiday borders that I'll probably never use. 

The snapshots above were all doctored up on picnik.  I also have this great full body shot of myself where I've carved and shaved enough off of my frame that I am a dead ringer for Jennifer Aniston.  I just felt funny putting it on here, not sure who would be reading this.  Did you hear that?  I just heard all the women lamppost fans simultaneously click off my blog to go sign up for picnik, but I was just kidding.  Just making sure you were paying attention.  It's a teacher trick.  Sorry. 

Truth is I rarely am in a picture.  You may think I am camera shy, but I am really not.  I have the best camera in the family and I don't like anyone touching it.  Selfish Sally, I know, but you got to guard the things you love in my house.  The larger reason is that no one has the ability to take a good picture in my family besides me.  Well, there is my cousin Sean Heasley, but we east-enders don't venture out to the Frontier Area much for him to take my picture, so that doesn't count.  If you don't believe me, take a look at what my sister posts on facebook.  National Geographic hasn't been hounding her to apply for any recent job openings.  Plus she could never write captions either as she is prone to typos.  She blames her "focky nails" but I know otherwise. 

The other day, I looked through the three years worth of shots on her digital camera that she's never done a thing with.  I found exactly one of me.  Of course it was the one picture I told her not to take, but she caught me off guard because I was talking on the phone.  I was in the last days of my pregnancy with Sam and you couldn't tell if it was me or her GE Side by Side refrigerator standing there.  I'm not kidding--I was wearing a tan sweater and just about the same size.  If you study the photo closely you can see my eyes all squinty and mean-like.  Sam must have been working his magic on me from the womb.

If you do give picnik a try and need a real world tutorial, don't hesitate to give me a call.  It's not as hard as it looks.  The link will take you to a slide show that has a winter scene, complete with falling snow.  All of the pictures are my wintry ones that I am certain are from the last three years.  It's easy to count the years because Sam is in them.  As I have written before, all time lines for me are divided into three periods:  BC, AD, and AS--after Sam. 

The only bummer was that I couldn't figure out to download music with it.  I am sure it is some violation of copyright that exists, therefore it is not allowed.  I am not in school and protected by my favorite broad term that keeps me out of copyright jail--"fair use for educational purposes."  Humor me and hum your favorite Christmas tune while the pictures roll through.  Just as long as it is not Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, I'll be happy.  Grandma makes Christmas really fun around here and we need her!

Enjoy the start to your holiday season.
Love, Eloise

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lesson 20: Wegmans Carries Bastard Turkeys

The girls and I were driving past Wegmans last week on the way to a Saturday afternoon trip to the mall with my sister.  Karen, who has always been a person who thinks out loud, said, "Oh! I wonder what frozen bastard turkeys are?"   Bewildered, I followed her eyes to the large sign in the front lawn of Wegmans along Peach Street.  I said to her, "That says frozen BASTED turkeys, you idiot!'  Spoken with true love from the heart from her only sibling. 

I turned slowly backwards to make an eye to eye connection with my daughter Ellen, as she was the only other person in the car who caught the flub.  Eric and Natalie flanked her on either side.  There she goes again, my middle child stuck once again in the middle.  A rose between two thorns. 

We laughed together until the Barnes and Noble traffic light.  When my sides stopped hurting, I thought it was over, but it had only just begun.  It was then that Karen spoke again.  She said, "You know, speaking of turkeys, I am thinking of taking up hunting."  And so my Thanksgiving story begins.

Karen went on for the next ten minutes giving reasons as to why she was considering this fun, new hobby.  They are as follows:
  • Jack will be turning 12 next August and will be old enough to do it.
  • Since she has taken up running, Karen prefers hoofing it through the trails of Harborcreek Community Park.  Apparently while she is communing with nature in this way hunting crossed her mind.
  • She wants Jack to be with a parent when he hunts and Steve gets to take him fishing, so she volunteered to take over the hunting responsibilities.
  • According to Karen, she has had some experience with shooting both arrows and bullets and is a good shot.
Ellen and I just sat and listened and tried to interject while she prattled on and on.  For those of you who know Karen, it is very difficult to get a word in when she is on a roll.  Ellen and I used Natalie's echolalia to our advantage.  We would tell Natalie "Say shut up, Aunt Karen."  A "Shut up Aunt Karen." would bounce right back.  Even Erik squeaked.

We tried to tell her that flame orange was not her best color.  She countered by saying that she was thinking of looking for a coat more the hue of pumpkin.  We also told her that her new svelte figure would be covered up in a bulky Carhart.  She said that she would try to find one that is a little more fitted.  We warned her that you could not use perfume, text, or talk on the phone while hunting.  This she was aware of  this but thought maybe adding the use of a cell phone would revolutionize hunting.  Hunting needed a make-over and Karen determined that she was just the person to bring it up to date, make it a little more hip.  She could post deer tracks on Facebook in the matter of seconds. 

Any argument we tried, she had an even better answer for.  But as always, Karen saved the best for last.  I told her that we just could not see her holding a camouflaged bow and that camouflage was just too boring.  "Not if you bedazzle your bow," she replied. 

Folks, hunting is about to get GLAMOROUS.  Hence the song posting above.  Karen will get those bastard turkeys one way or another, even if she has to distract them with bling.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  I am thankful for my sister who can ALWAYS bring a smile to my face, no matter how hard my day is. 


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lesson 19: All Pooped Out

All right, already!  I have heard the outcries from my followers looking for another blog post.  We had a little longer pause than usual, but I had a very good reason.  I was in the bathroom.  With Sam.

Sam and I are having our rounds over pooping in the potty.  The whole situation has turned into a prize fight between mother and son.  We are now headed into the final rounds, each pulling ourselves up by the ropes and staggering to the center of the ring, as in toilet seat ring, unwilling to give up.  My mother commented on my black eyes, of which I have two. They aren't the shiners from typical blows to the face.  They are the dark circles that are the dead giveaway that I am losing sleep over this process.

Looking at these cute pictures, you would never guess that my son Sam can be the devil in disguise, the wolf in sheep's clothing, or the green grape out of the bunch.  Big blue eyes, a dimple on the left cheek, and a charming smile make him look ready made for a Little Tykes commercial.  I am the first to admit that he is far from easy.                                        Being that I am a teacher, I can smell trouble at school from a mile away.  I actually get nervous pulling into the parking lot of Milestones Early Learning Center.  Milestones is a new business owned and operated by two high school friends of mine.  They have embarked on a journey to see a life-dream to fruition, owning and operating their own Day Care/Preschool.  The pair has done a fabulous job getting their business off the ground, and have hired the nicest most patient staff to help them out.  Miss Erin, Sam's teacher is a saint.  When I got a note in his mailbox the other day that said, Conference Needed, I knew I was in major trouble. 

Every day the teachers write the parents little notes about how the day went.  I can tell when I eyeball the note, even from a distance, by how much writing there is on the lines, how much trouble Sam got into that day.  Sometimes there is so much writing on Sam's notes that I have to flip the sheet over to read the rest. 

I'm over reacting, you're all thinking?  Judge for yourself.  Here is a sample of some of his finest:

Sam threw his shoe at Miss Brenda today.  This is unacceptable behavior.  Sam was removed from the classroom and spent time with Miss Brenda thinking about his behavior.

Miss Brenda, being the director, has many duties throughout the day, one of them being the preparation of lunch.  Sam apparently was sitting on the naughty stool thinking about his behavior while she was in the kitchen fixing the plates.  When I asked Sam about how it felt to have to leave all the other kids because he made a poor choice.  His response to me was this:  "It was cool in there.  I helped her make lunch."  Can you say D-I-S-C-O-N-N-E-C-T?!?

Here is another:  When Sam is asked to do something, he usually screams "NO!" and stomps his foot and folds his arms across his chest.  When I asked Sam to read me his note from that day, he pointed to each of the above words and said very angelically, "Sam---was---a---good---boy---today."  Hey Sam, K-Mart called and your personality is in.  Go pick it up.

I approached Miss Erin about the conference.  I told her if she needed Louie and I both to take off work at 2:00 next week to come in and sit at a table made for 3-year-olds, so she can tell us that Sam is stubborn, that we were fully aware.  No news to us.  She smiled and corrected me.  Miss Erin said that out of the fifty kids enrolled, he is the MOST stubborn.  Great.  We agreed to spare everyone some time and determined that we would all keep working hard, and remain firm, consistent, and patient.  Much like an animal trainer does when trying to break a wild pony. 

I challenge any wild pony trainer to try to get that pony to poop in the potty instead of the preferred pasture.  That is what I have been doing with Sam the last week.  It has been Sam vs. Mommy every evening for 12 days straight.  Hard core poop training.  We come in from school and play a bit.  The first signs I see of Sam taking his telltale sneak, I put him on the potty and make him sit there.  I am done with the bathroom entertainment sessions.  No more me sitting there reading him books, blowing bubbles, and singing songs.  Just Sam and his Thomas the Tank Engine Potty seat and a job to be done--literally.

On Wednesday, he was sitting there for awhile and nothing appeared to be happening, so I let him off the hook, or the ring rather.  He got all zipped back up, hands washed, and ran right into the living room and hid behind the curtain and started to grunt.  I flew in there as mad as not just a hornet, but the Queen Bee Hornet.  I said to him, "What do you think you are doing?"  He said in a not so nice tone, "I prefer to poop standing up!"  (As you all can gather, he has my language ability).  I screamed, "If you can use the word PREFER, you can poop on the potty!" 

I put him in a barrel hold, and carried him kicking and screaming the whole way into our bathroom just off the kitchen.  I stripped his pants and threw his komodo dragon underwear with the smushed Hershey Kiss turd in the bottom into the sink for soaking.  I told him that he was not leaving the bathroom until something brown came out of him, even if I had to squeeze him like a tube of toothpaste.  Sorry friends.  I am at my breaking point so this was warranted.  I wonder what Freud would say to that.

Sam cried and carried on so loudly that we shut the door to the bathroom and cranked the Carrie Underwood CD in the kitchen stereo.  I made dinner.  We ate dinner.  We cleaned up dinner.  I was on my second cup of coffee on the couch when I realized Sam was still in the bathroom.  Flashes of that red ring around his naked little butt were running through my head as I was running to the bathroom to see if he still had circulation in his legs. 

The bathroom was quiet as I approached it.  I slowly opened the door to find Sam sitting there very calmly.  I noticed little pieces of something white and curly all over the floor surrounding the toilet.   I took a step into the bathroom and bent over to inspect what they were.  I had to actually grab the wall to steady myself when I realized Sam had peeled the wallpaper off of the bathroom wall, piece by piece. 

The room started to spin when I croaked out, "Sam, what are you doing!?"  He looked at me and said, "It's boring in here.  There is nothing to do!" 

Round 12 went to Sam.  TKO.  Technical Knock Out.   

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lesson 18: Take a Chance, Even on Halloween

Nothing in my life is random.  Nothing much left to chance.  When you are a teacher by trade, you learn to make plans.  Preparedness makes for a smooth day.  Life is crazy enough, but factor in two working parents, school activities, a 3-year-old who is refusing to poop in the potty, and an autistic daughter who is looking for the green wash cloth (that she lost 5 years ago); being well planned is the key to my sanity.  Even on holidays.

Halloween is kind of like that, too.  I am a girl who loves my themes and loves to see the connectedness in everything.  Therefore all my kids' costumes have to match in some sort of way each year or I feel defeated.  For example when Sam was a baby, the year of the bats, I dressed them as two bat girls and baby bat man.  The next year things were really wild, so I made Sam a monkey, Natalie a cheetah, and Ellen was the zookeeper (how fitting).  Last year we took two Penn State Cheerleaders and a Penn State football player on the rounds around Karen's Foxwood neighborhood, while riding on Jim Zielinski's hay wagon with Wonder Woman (my sister).  The hay wagon was back again this year.  Karen was a German Beer Girl and Grandma fit into my dad's Coast Guard uniform--great for Grandma!

For Halloween 2010 I struggled to find some sort of commonality that would link the three together and keep everyone happy.  Natalie is getting older, Ellen has social concerns about having the "just right costume", and Sam needs something that is fitting for a 3-year-old boy.  Ellen suggested that she could be a box of popcorn.  I thought a minute, and found some hope in this "corn" theme.  I could make Natalie candy corn, which is her favorite candy.  Try finding candy corn in the spring and summer!  Some thoughtful friends and family members actually have, and we now have a hidden stash for her in the top shelf of our cupboard.  But that left Sam.  After some thought, I considered making him a corn dog, which is one of the few things he will eat on occasion.  With every sketch I tried however, the costume just kept looking like a big, giant penis (equally fitting, may I add).  I moved on to Plan B.

Ellen then suggested that she and Natalie could be a set of dice and make the costumes out of felt and cardboard boxes.  I loved the idea and Ellen got right to work.  I named her Ellen after combining the names Elaine and Helen (my mother), but I should have named her Martha, as in Stewart.  She is very artistic and extremely crafty.  I still have the school bus she made out of an empty Kleenex box when she was 2, complete with pop out people and a working stop sign.  That still left Sam.....

I figured I could make him a card--the Joker would be appropriate, but he didn't seem to get that idea at all.  I stretched the theme thing to its max and decided to go with a "box" theme, just to say I kept to one.  We decided to dress him as Thomas the Tank Engine's engineer because he loves trains.  We had the hat, the overalls, and a neckerchief, so that would be affordable enough.  Dad always has an ample supply of beer boxes in the barn, so Martha could turn one of them into Thomas the Train.  We figured we could attach a rope to the box and he could pull Thomas along and put his candy in the box.  "There," I said as I brushed my hands together, "I pulled it off again--interconnected Halloween theme of boxes.  Mission accomplished."  Until last Tuesday, that is.

On Tuesday Sam decided that he wanted to be a coyote for Halloween.  He started practicing his howl and got it down pat after about 90 minutes of straight practice.  I kept changing the subject or leaving the room whenever he asked to see his coyote costume.  He is one persistent kid.  I was torn.  Should I stubbornly continue on the path I had intended with the box theme, or should I abandon it and roll the dice and try for something better?  For the heck of it, I took a chance and threw Sam in the van to go see what Wal-Mart had left in the Halloween costume aisle. 

Upon arrival I found a fair number of equally agitated parents, whiny kids, and some light arm wrestling over the few remaining costumes.  There were some werewolf masks left and I showed him one, knowing full well what he'd do.  Sam is not a shy kid, but is a complete chicken.  He took one look at the mask and ran down the aisle screaming "Help, Help!  There is a hairy monster!" 

We took a little break and went to the toy department to look at the trains.  He settled down a bit, so I thought I'd give the werewolf costumes one more try.  Standing in the middle of the aisle, there was some little kid who was deciding between the pirate and a somewhat tamer version of a werewolf.  I glanced at the size of the werewolf costume and it read, BOYS SMALL, Size 4-6.  It looked to be the only one left.  I boldly inserted myself into the conversation he was having with his mother, and knowing kids as well as I do, took another chance.  I said, "Boy, I sure do love that pirate costume.  Where did you find that?  Does that really come with the hook, the eye patch, and that feather?  That's a deal."  The brat, I mean the boy, didn't disappoint.  He clutched the pirate costume to his chest and said, "This is mine!".  He tossed the werewolf and I snatched it right back. 

Being the quick thinker that I am, I whipped out the picture cover from the plastic and flipped it over to the plain cardboard side.  I said, "Oh, Sam!  I found a coyote costume.  The picture fell off, but this coyote has brown fur.  Do you want to pet it?"  Sam loved petting the fur and couldn't wait to take the costume home.  So I took a chance and it worked, but I still had a couple of obstacles to climb--how was I going to get him to wear it without scaring himself to death?

I dashed up to the computer as soon as I got home and Mr. Google and his Image Department came to my rescue once again.  I found an image of Wylie Coyote from the old Warner Brothers cartoon.  A quick click, copy, and paste had Wylie on a word document, where I added a neat little title:  Boys Coyote Costume, Size Small 4-6.  I stuck it into the plastic sleeve, and showed Sam the picture I found.  "That's what you look like, Sam!  How cool!"  I told him.  Like Dracula, all I had to do was keep him away from a mirror. 

Once in awhile, a working parent has to choose between their children.  It is a painful sacrifice we all make from time to time.  Both Sam and Ellen had Halloween parades on Friday, each inviting parents to attend.  Sam's was early in the day, but I had a class and some responsibilities with my morning students.  I opted to go to Ellen's parade as it was later in the day.  Mom and Karen both volunteered to go to Milestones Early Learning Center's first ever Halloween Parade. 

I wish I was savvy enough to know how to get pictures off my cell phone and onto this blog.  If you have a sixth grader in your house who wants to come and show me how to do that, please call.  Karen sent me one photo which read, "Which one is Sam?"  In a line up of three-year-olds there was a Hello Kitty, Little Miss Muffett, GI Joe, Thomas the Tank Engine, and a werewolf--I mean a coyote.  A full head taller than everybody, he was kind of hard to miss.  The cutest, scary werewolf/coyote in Milestones history.

I took a chance this year and didn't follow what I usually do.  I wrote a new equation when I couldn't solve a problem.  So, I broke the mold and this year the kids didn't really match.  Did it really matter?  Not really.  The brave part for me was taking the chance and hoping that it would all work out. 

It was that which reminded me of another Five for Fighting song that I love called Chances.  The video is posted above.  The tune is great and it catches you as the singer has such a distinct style.  The video is a bit contrived, but it is neat to watch two people brave enough to take a chance--probably when they were 15 (read blog post 15 in case you missed that one). 

Take a chance every once in a while, dear readers.  You never know, you just might make history.  Hoooowwwwlllllll! 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lesson 17: Almost a Victim

I am reading this book right now.  It gets a big WOW!  It's not a book for everyone and the beginning is very tough unless you are up to date on your Swedish history.  Steig Larsson was a Swedish author who climbed to posthumous fame.  I wrote in the past tense there specifically because he died before his three manuscripts made it through publishing (that would be just my luck).  The book has sold over 21 million copies to date.  When 21 million people had read the book, I felt like I was missing out on the party.  One run down the book aisle at Sam's Club and that baby was mine!

I am a sucker for a well written mystery, and this one keeps you guessing.  As a caution to my readers, there are parts that are quite grotesque.   I passed on the book a couple of times due to readers' comments about "graphic sexual violence against women."  I finally decided to be a big girl and try to read it with the full lights on at night, not just my book lamp.  It has a "Kiss the Girls" feel to it.  Not Freddie Krugger frightening, but scary more so because this #@%! happens.  Women vanish every day in this world and some may suffer similar fates at the hands of sick and twisted individuals. 

If you too, are a chicken but still want to read the book, send me an e-mail and I'll warn you about some rough parts and reword them in such a way that will allow you to sleep at night.  I am the queen of softening the blow.  I'll tell you the pages you can pick back up on without losing the gist of the story.  And if you do read the book you most certainly will think to yourself, "What the heck were these girls thinking?  How dumb can a person be?" 

Guess what?  I was that dumb and lived to tell about it.  This is the scariest story I can tell you during Halloween week.  It happened several years ago, but it is a story worth sharing and serves as reminder for us all to be careful--even in little Mayberry where I live.   My story appears in colored print below.

It was the Sunday night of Labor Day weekend in a year I can't quite pinpoint.  It seems I can't remember certain years anymore, but I can recall dates on my BS/AS time schedule--that is Before Sam and After Sam.  Everything else just blends together.  So it is definitely a BS year, as the girls were small and I was working in North East.  So let's just say it was around 2004. 

We realized that we didn't have school the next day and the girls wanted to stay up late and watch a movie.  I volunteered to drive into Video USA to grab a movie.  I snatched the keys and five bucks out of the cookie jar, stuffed it in the waistband of my gym shorts, threw on a pair of flip flops, and jumped in the van.   I'm not much for purses or cell phones, so I left my bag sit on the kitchen counter. It was dark outside, maybe about 9:00, but not quite pitch black. 

I was zipping up Clark Road, probably a bit too fast, because the kids weren't with me.  I know the road like the back of my hand because I've been driving on it my entire life, as I now reside next door to where I was born.  I can tell right way when something is out of the ordinary, even in the dark.

As I crossed the bridge for 6-Mile Creek,  and was rounding the uphill bend by my old hot spot, The Fireside.  To my left, on the west side of the bridge, I saw something out of the ordinary sitting in the parking lot.  Remember, I was speeding, so I thought I saw a baby in a car seat carrier.  I hit the brakes for a second, but it was hard to control a speeding car up that hill if you are familiar with the area.   I got up to Route 20 and I couldn't get the image out of my head.  I had to go back and see for myself.  I spun the car around and headed back for another look-see. 

I crept back down Clark Road much more slowly this time, aiming my headlights to where I thought I saw the carrier.  For a second, I thought I had imagined it, because the carrier was not in the middle of the parking lot where I thought I saw it.  A second or so later I spotted it.  It was up on a grassy knoll a bit, right along the edge of the creek.  There is a tree lined area at the south end of the parking lot, along about a twenty foot cliff to Six Mile.   I berated myself for going too fast, as I had misjudged where this object was in my mind.  Still, there it was, albeit a bit off from where I had thought, but it definitely looked like some sort of baby carrier with something in it.  I had to go check it out.

Being that I am an imaginative person,  I wondered if someone had actually left a baby there for someone to find--you know, like the little orphan Annie thing.  Maybe a distraught teen who felt she had no other alternatives.  Or, more rationally, I thought that maybe it was a toy that a child left behind mistakenly.  I had two little girls at the time who were insanely attached to their dolls.  I felt bad for the child who left the toy at the restaurant.  I aimed the car's headlights at that spot, but still could not tell if it was a real baby in the carrier or a doll. 

I left the keys in the ignition and kept the car running, opened the driver's side door, and began calling to it, clapping my hands, and honking the horn, but I heard no sounds.  I was so lost in thoughts of "dead baby" that I could barely breathe.  Nothing in the seat moved, and I felt a strong urge to rescue this thing--whatever I happened to find.

I walked around the front of the car and out about 20 feet, into the path of the headlights and bent over the carrier with my heart pounding.  I pulled back the knitted afghan that the thing was wrapped in, and was startled to find an odd looking plastic doll in a black leather biker outfit.  I still remember the matted hair and the smudgy face.  I stood there for a second relieved to find that it was just a doll.  I didn't even have to think twice about scarfing it up and bringing it home to the girls for a "look what Mommy found" surprise.  It was gross.  I stood there chuckling to myself about being such a sucker when I got a very funny feeling--a sensation, rather.  Then a stick snapped.

You've heard the phrase "blood runs cold."  I know now what that means.  It was the only time I felt that kind of fear and it is something I never want to experience again.  It was as if my mind was spinning in a spiral when I realized what I had just done.  I had fallen into a trap.  More than that, I had been lured. That baby carrier was out further along the road in plain sight, then was deliberately moved closer to the tree line.   I was literally paralyzed with fear, a doe frozen in the headlights.

Then I saw the movement along the tree line.  A charcoal gray shirt perhaps.  My fight or flight instincts told me to fly, and I ran like I have never have before.  I don't  remember screaming.  I don't remember breathing.  All I can remember is trying to jump in that car from that awkward angle and throw it in drive with the door still open.  Thankfully the car was running and I think that made the difference for me to this day.  The car slid in the gravel and the nose ended up pointing north, back towards Route 20.   I gunned it and sped onto Clark.  I got to the intersection of Route 20 and drove right through it.  Had there been a car coming, I would have t-boned them at a high rate of speed while not wearing a seat belt.  I only knew I wanted to get as far away from that place as I could, as quickly as I could. 

The thing that happened to me next was very unexpected.  This still seems strange to me when I think back about it, and even stranger to write it, but the next thing I remember is walking into Video USA barefoot.  How or why I kept driving that way, I haven't a clue.  I had lost one of my flip flops, and must have left the other in a car.  I walked blindly to the kids' shelf, grabbed a video without looking at the title, and when I was checking it out I realized that I had peed my pants.  The clerk must have noticed something and I remembered the long haired teen say "Hey, lady--are you OK?"  I guess that is what shock must look like.

When I got in the car, all I wanted to do is get home, but I had to drive back past that spot.  It was then that the gravity of the situation set in.  I was furious at the person who was behind it and mad as hell at myself for falling for it.  I never once thought about heading directly to the police station either.  I now realize I must have been in shock, and that is what people in shock do--an auto pilot just takes over.  Something to block out fear and pain so you can survive. 

I just wanted to go see if that carrier was still there or perhaps catch sight of someone running.  Within three minutes or less, I was back at the same spot, speeding again.  No sign of anyone AND THE BABY CARRIER WAS GONE!  Upon my return home, I spewed the story as quickly as I could to my family and called the State Police.  They said they would send someone out to investigate.  I never got a call back that night. 

Annoyed that I had to call THEM the next day, I was somewhat impatient with the police officer handling the investigation.  I guess its the same with cops as it is with nurses--they've seen and heard it all, so nothing is really that big of a deal.  Besides, there really was no "crime" to report.  The officer told me that upon investigation they had found two things in that area, but no sign of the baby carrier.  One was my flip flop, the other was a rope.   They had taken both into the station.  Given that I live less than a mile from that spot, I was irritated that someone didn't even call to tell me what they found that night.  I locked everything up nice and tight for sure, but had I known that, I'd have put someone on watch with a shot gun, too.  I have a couple of farmer neighbors who would have gladly volunteered for that job.

The policeman dismissed the incident as a juvenile prank.  There was one other report of something similar the week before that on Hannon Road and two in July in Girard.  They were unsure if the cases were connected.  I was surprised when the officer began to turn the tables a bit, which I guess, is what officers are trained to do.  He began having me repeat my story over and over again, almost as if he were trying to confuse me.  He then asked why I didn't return directly home to my husband and why after all of that I would continue on to purchase a video.

Looking back, I can see how that must have looked.  The policeman didn't know me.  And more importantly, I couldn't believe my reaction either.  You think you know what you would do in any given situation.  Me, being slightly opinionated so I am told, always had a plan for everything.  "If this happened to me I would blah, blah, blah..." I would always say.   I learned a harsh lesson there.  Face the fact folks, you just don't know what you'd do until you were in the situation.  Withhold judgment if you can.

Being that I am a teacher, we are constantly reminded about safety.  We have fire drills, bomb drills, and armed intruder drills.  McGruff the Crime Dog still visits and we all know to be on alert for Stranger Danger.  I teach that stuff for cripes sake!   And look what I did. 

Here are some of Eloise's words of wisdom:  women, be wise.  Don't leave home without your cell phone and your purse, even if it is just a quick trip to the store.  Be cautious of your surroundings.  Don't ever think that you are immune from being outsmarted.

Will I ever know if it was some twisted person looking to tie me up and drag me away, or if it was a little jerk that I went on to teach?  Probably not.  I hold on to the hope that it was the same little jerk who stole my birdhouse out of my front yard and all the beer out of my dad's garage refrigerator (but they did leave him one, so the thief must have some heart). 

It did change me forever though.  I am a little more careful now.  I also own a big, black dog, which I decided upon after much careful research.  I found out more people fear black dogs than any other color, which led me to that purchase six years ago.  Funny to think of if you know my Josie given her gentle eyes and docile nature.  But to a stranger passing by my house that sees me or the kids playing in the yard, she's a big, black dog, nonetheless. 

If this story sounds familiar to you, it may have been passed to you several years ago through an e-mail.  Circulating e-mails--the predecessor to blogs.   

I was telling my story in the teachers' room in North East the following Tuesday.  It so happened that the Superintendent was in there at the time and also was female.  She insisted that I go back, type the story into an e-mail, and click "send to district." Every teacher, aide, custodian, bus driver, cafeteria worker, and maintenance man received it and read it.  I heard from people far and wide for a good part of that month.  In fact, one of my teacher friends sent me an e-mail a year and a half later, stating "Look what I found in my in-box!"  There it was again, coming from a friend of hers in Ohio.  What do you know?  I am an urban legend.

I sometimes get those Internet stories too, and I've shared a few on this blog.  You just never are 100% sure if those things are real.  But when it comes time for me to decide the authenticity of a piece, I do what I do with just about everything in my life, pray about it and trust the feeling I get after that.  I can now tell when it's a "no" and when it's a "go."  I guess that is what you get with a little life experience and lots of trust in the Lord.  40 is looking better by the minute.

Be safe,