Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lesson 86: On the Road to My Favorite Song

While we are taking our backwards trip to my favorite song of all time, we will take a rest stop at Favorite Song #2--Broken Road by Rascal Flatts.  I love this song and I don't think I'll ever tire of listening to it.  I've listened to many artists sing their versions but my very favorite is a duet preformed by Gary Levox of Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood.  That is one big wow if you can find it on the Internet somewhere.
Here is a photo of the pair singing it.  Beautiful.

This seems like a sad song, but it really isn't.  It is a song about heartbreak, but the pain of it all leads you on a path to something greater, that it's all part of a grander plan, as the song suggests. Therefore the pain is purposeful.  Lesson learned.  I'm a girl who prefers a good laugh over a good cry any day.  I don't want to list my heartbreaks in life and make you sad at the end of the summer.  Instead I'll tell you about this summer's true "broken road" experience.  A jogging story, and a humorous one at that:

If you've been following this blog for the last year (10,000 hits in 12 months), you are aware that I have taken up outdoor running as my newest form of exercise.  I've been a treadmill addict for years and quite preferred the sanctity of my basement for my daily exercise.  But that got old after awhile so I decided to change it up a bit.  In May, I tried my luck on the road a time or two and limped for a couple days afterwards.  My shins were mad at me.   But in time, they grew used to the new pounding and my daily trots were something I looked forward to.

I always take along a fanny pack when I go jogging.  When you are outside in the countryside, you never know what you may run into.  I have water, Kleenex, Benedryl, bug spray, a whistle, dog biscuits for those flesh eating farm dogs (I'm trying to make friends with them), my cell phone, and Ellen's little camera.  The snapshots from the above photo movie are from my morning jogs around my area and where we go camping.

I kept at it all summer long--I never missed a single day---6 days a week, allowing for one day of rest on Sundays just as the Good Lord ordered.  One morning a few weeks ago, I encountered my first rainstorm.  The lightning delayed my run for about an hour, and it seemed to be letting up.  I didn't want to break my streak, and was determined I'd get out there, even for a short one, just to say I did it.  It was this day that I will always refer to as my Broken Road Run.  Read on.

I sneaked into the bedroom as not to wake my snoring mate, and thought I'd just throw on my jogging undergarments beneath my pajamas which the pj bottoms read GAP GIVE BACK, across the arse.  They weren't something I'd ordinarily be caught running in, but hey,  I was just going for a short run, and no other lunatic would be dodging lightning bolts down in the park, so I took my chances.

Note:  whenever you try to sneak, you always seem to get caught----because that is just what happened to me--I awoke the sleeping beast and he very encouragingly said, "I hope you plan on getting wet."  My husband is nearly blind without his glasses, so he didn't see me stick my tongue out at him.  I grumbled and moved on.

That comment kind of put me in a grumpy state, so no songs from my God's Songs playlist.  I needed to run fast because I knew it could very well rain again, so I opted for the heavy metal folder on my iPod--mean, shouty music with lots of guitars and drums---yeah, that would be perfect.  I put my iPod in a protective baggie, clipped it to my fanny pack, and got my fanny moving.

I no sooner rounded the corner to the park and a cloud let go--like one of those cloud bursts out of nowhere--a total down pour.  Rather than go home and face the I Told You So of an unsupportive husband, I decided to change my attitude.  I switched my iPod to Luke Bryan's Rain is a Good Thing, and thought of the thirsty vegetables growing in my garden that needed it.  Change your attitude Eloise and you can do anything, God reminded me.

Maybe today I would try something different.  Maybe I'd try to run fast like Kenyan Karen, my super speedy sister.  Yeah--that's it.  I'll try a short, fast, heart pumping run today--even if it was just a mile or so, it would be good for the old ticker.  I decided to sprint through the rain as fast as I could to the pond about half a mile from my house and seek shelter under its lone tree.  I was doing pretty well until that little thing called a MUSCLE CRAMP got me in the right calf.  Crippling pain.  I made it to the Pond Sign, which is full of bullet holes, and grabbed it to steady myself while I stretched out my calf.  I kept thinking, If I am holding onto this metal sign and God sends a lightning bolt from the sky in close proximity to where I am standing, would I be electrocuted?  

So now I am paranoid, in pain, and soaking wet.  Not a good combination for a crabby Eloise.  I suddenly wished I would have turned back because my cramp won't go away and I have the urge to kick something, so I kick the sign post.  Hard.  At least the pain in my toe trumped the pain in my calf for about 3 seconds until I landed on my butt.  I was so full of grouchy, I kicked the sign a little too hard and lost my footing and fell......right into a pile of goose poop!

GAP GIVE BACK got something back alright.  Crap. Literally and figuratively.  I had to regroup and needed the tree as an umbrella.  I limped over to the tree to lean against it, forgetting the tree is a locust.  The trunk was smooth, but the immature branches of a locust tree have big, sharp thorns protruding from them.  I wasn't looking closely when I leaned back onto one of those thorns and now I had to pluck one of those out of my wet, muddy, goose pooped, GAP GIVE BACK pajamas.

Then and there I almost quit.  ALMOST.  Seconds away.  But Eloise is not a quitter. I never give up.  Then I looked to the woods and noticed the opening.  It is the first picture on the movie.  I started to think that it was probably drier in there, and heck, I was wet anyway.  Change your attitude Eloise, and you can do anything the Lord reminded me again.  I blew kisses to God and thanked him for the revelation, and started out on the next leg of the journey in a better mood, albeit a bit slimy.

I was quite surprised that the woods was really no drier than the open fields, and after stepping in my second puddle, I realized I put my newer sneakers on--not my old beater ones for when the earth is muddy. I think a bad word again, then apologize to God because I know he heard it.  Tsk, Tsk, Change your attitude Eloise....God said.  OK, OK--I heard 'ya---I guess I now have two pair of beaters.  Yeah!

I looked at the woods on that stretch with different eyes as I ran through the rain, paying no mind to any puddles.  It was beautiful.   The bark of the trees were dark with moisture.  There was so much humidity in the depths of those woods that it made this beautiful fog throughout the forest.  There were places so pretty that I decided to stop and snap some pictures.  I had Ellen's little camera but unfortunately it wasn't powerful enough to grab those images in the darkness, so I'll just have to remember those places in my mind.

While I stopped to get one of those photos, I kicked out two deer.  They almost ran right over me and one I swear was an elk.  He was H-U-G-E.  He must have been eating my apples from the tree in my yard.  I still had the camera in my hand, so I tried to snap his picture.  Tried and FAILED I should say.  Killed the battery on the dumb shot I took before that one.  Great.  I almost died from a head on collision from some sort of freakishly huge mule deer and I can't even get a picture of it.  Here comes the nasty again.  It's creeping back.

Just get home, my precious, muddy child, the Lord says to me.  Okey dokey, was my response.  I took off flying through the rest of those woods.  I was wet, muddy, crabby, pooped on, and out of breath by the time I popped out of the woods and hit the road to home.  Just a couple of football fields and I'd be back in the safety of my garage.  I turned my nice, even, controlled pace into this ugly sort of "run like the devil's chasin' ya' sort of thing.  I wasn't really paying attention, because it took every ounce of my gumption to keep my legs moving at that rate when I looked up to see a truck beside me.  I didn't hear it because I was blasting Metallica in my ears.  It was Fitzgerald my neighbor--the bane of my existence in junior high because he constantly teased me--then bought a house three down from mine as an adult.  We've since become friends, but he's not the sort of chap that you want to see you in that condition.  He honked, waved, and I could see him toss his head back in a chuckle.  Man did I hate the whole world right then.

Upon return to my house, I tried to sneak in without being heard.  Do you remember the special reader's note I put on here earlier:  when you try to sneak, you get caught...well I got caught.  Hubby was up and looking smug.  He greeted me with an "I told you so" which I pretended not to hear as I unpacked my very wet fanny pack.  Bug spray--no damage; dog biscuits---disintegrated; Kleenex--resembled wet toilet paper; camera--dried off the lens but still OK; cell phone----cell phone-----cell phone----OH MY GOD WHERE IS MY CELL PHONE!!!!!!!!  I realized it must have fallen out when I opened my pack way deep in the woods to photograph Dasher. ...................................................I put all those dots there because I can't really write what I said on this public blog, so you can fill in what you think there.  Pretend it's a guessing game.  Have fun with it.

I jumped on my mountain bike and headed back down.  It had stopped raining for the moment, so that was a good thing.  Just had to concentrate on finding that cell phone before it got soaked.  I was riding downhill pretty fast and when I hit the woods trails I noticed something happened between the run and the bike ride.  The temperature must have climbed 5 degrees and there were these big black clouds hanging low in the woods.  What the heck?????  I said.  I really wished I would have thought that one instead of said that one because I found out soon enough.  9 million mosquitoes or maybe gnats came out to play in those warm, moist woods.  Whatever they were there were swarms of them.  I drove right through them on my bike.  They went up my nostrils, down my throat, and I inhaled a couple.  I coughed and spit and gagged up bugs for the next quarter mile now in a pissier mood then ever.  I was just about to scream a very bad word at the top of my lungs to no one in particular, when I saw it.  MY PHONE!  There she was, lying on the side of the path with but a few raindrops on her.  She was alive!  I had to get her out of the rain and I realized I left my fanny pack on the kitchen counter.  There was no place else dry to put her, so I had to shove her down the back of my GAP GIVE BACK pajama bottoms.  They got something back alright.

Change your attitude, Eloise the Lord reminded me again.  Sigh---okay, okay, can't get much worse.  I thought I'd liven things up a bit and pretended in my mind that I was Lance Armstrong on the Tour de France.  I was going to pedal as hard and fast as I could no matter how much my quads burned.  Heck, I had a twitchy calf, a stubbed toe, and a locust thorn in my arse, so what's the matter with a couple of lactic acid filled quadriceps?  Plus all those bugs were chasing me because they were pissed off that I just ate some of their friends.  I was a wanted woman.  What I failed to factor in is that mud gets very slippery when its wet.  I probably shouldn't have taken that last hill by the creek at top speed because my bike slid out from underneath me and I wrecked.  And it was an ugly one.  I was bent, tangled, muddy, and this time I did scream.  I picked up a rock and threw it just because it felt good to throw something.  I called to my elk to come help me up and do you know that apple eating jerk didn't even come to my rescue.  Forget him.  The hunters can have him come November.

I prayed that I would have at least one broken bone, just so I could muster up some sympathy from my hubby, but I was able to stand on my own two legs without needing assistance.  Shoot.  I looked down to see my chain had fallen off, so now add GREASE to the list of things that covered my body.

Defeated, I rode slowly home, hoping to get hit by a bolt of lightning--you know, that sympathy thing again, but no luck.  I walked into the kitchen and hubby was sitting at the counter eating pancakes, of which he saved none for me.  "What in the hell happened to you?" he said.  I couldn't even respond.  I needed a shower, some floss to remove the gnats from my teeth, and a surgeon to remove the hooked tip of the locust thorn from my bruised backside.  The bruises there were nothing when compared to the bruises on my ego.

I sighed and took five steps through the kitchen, only to hear a clatter on the floor.  It was the cell phone and it had just fallen from the leg of my GAP GIVE BACK pajamas.  Guess they gave me my phone back.  My back was to hubby, so I can only imagine his expression of (surprise, bewilderment, disgust--you choose).

And that my friends, is my broken road story.  I bet you'll never think of this song the same way again.

God bless you,

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lesson 85: Back to School

Here is a short little post for all parents.  It is one of my favorite commercials of all time.  I bet this is how some of you are feeling right now.

If I could find a way to cut and paste a sundress and cowgirl boots on this guy, he could pass for my sister, because I am sure that is about how she's feeling at the moment.  Yes, tonight Karen's a bit sad that summer has ended--even though it is her son's birthday.  The warmth of twelve candles on a birthday cake couldn't take away the coolness of the fall nights that are creeping toward us.  But come Monday, when both of her fellas head off to school, she'll be (and I quote this) "doing cartwheels in her front yard."  That may be mighty tricky on a hilly lot wearing cowgirl boots.  Be careful, Sis.  You can't be a good mom with a broken leg.

Welcome back to school, kids.  Mrs. Eloise can't wait to see you, and I mean that!  Forget January--tomorrow is really the first day of the new year.  Let's all resolve to make this the best one yet.

Work hard and learn lots,
Mrs. Eloise

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lesson 84: Luke Bryan Knows It

Eloise has yet another summer concert under my belt.  After reviewing the list of recent concerts I've attended, I should wear a buckle on it like this:
I've gone to several country themed concerts this year:  Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw, American Idol (which had lots of country flavor this year), and on Tuesday night, Luke Bryan.  I'm far from a country girl though as many would see it when I sport my pink fingernails and high heeled shoes.  I'm scared to death of horses and I constantly dis the south on this blog.  However it's the west that calls me to trade in my wobbly heels for the more sturdy cowboy boot kind.  Western cowboys on those big fat ranches are intriguing.  My dad's brother lives in Colorado and I can only recall seeing him a few times in my life.  I asked him once why he moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado and I remember him saying, "the west called my name."  I kind of get that.

As a mom and a teacher I am constantly surrounded by people, usually those under the age of 12.  My days are busy and filled with the questions and excitement that children foster.  When I have some private time, I do long to be by myself, particularly outside.  I love the vastness of being alone in nature with only it surrounding me.  It's peaceful.  All those cowboys on those western ranches must think the same way when they look to the mountains or the skies.  I am sure they appreciate the beauty of nature.

The picture movie above was created with snapshots I gathered on lots of those private moments I took advantage of on my long jogs this summer.  You'll see all my favorites:  deer, water, and skies.  The best one is of the fawn I came across in Cook's Forest a few weeks ago.  She's a beauty.  I set the photos in motion to Luke Bryan's song, I Knew You That Way, one of my current favorites.

Country songs have caught hold of old Eloise this year.  I love them because they tell stories, and this one tells a beautiful one.  The lyrics in the beginning really grabbed me the way Luke sings about nature:
The secret way long shadows bleed into the night.
The desperate way leaves in the fall hold colors tight.
The way that thunder knows the taste of summer rain.
I knew you that way.
The way cool mountain waters, dance down to the sea.
Bound by something strong, but still so wild and free.
It gives into the passion of the path it takes.
I knew you that way.

I am no poet, nor have I ever claimed to be, but I do love the way Luke Bryan put those words together to describe nature; shadows bleed and thunder tastes rain.  And if you are wondering, yes, Luke Bryan did write the song.  I checked.

That's how you know if your singer is the real deal--do they actually write the music and the lyrics along with singing the songs?  My curiosity led me to find out a little more about this country singer/songwriter.  He is a Georgian in his mid 30's who is on the road to stardom.  You can tell he's Georgian (as in USA Georgia, not Soviet Georgia, Slovenians) because he sings about peanuts and tractors and trucks.  Luke Bryan's new album Tailgates and Tan Lines was the top selling country album in the US last week, verifying that the consensus is in--Americans like those things, too.  I believe that someday I am going to say, "I saw Luke Bryan for 25 bucks at the county fair."  He's written songs for Billy Currington and Travis Tritt.  That got Eloise a-thinkin'--wondering why a good looking guy such as himself, who could sing so well, spend lots of his career writing songs for other people and not take the show on the road himself.  When you read his bio, it  says that his career was waylaid a couple of times by the deaths of his siblings; a 39 year old sister, and a brother only a few years older than Luke.  With losses of that magnitude one can understand why Luke's getting a bit of a late start by some people's standards. Perhaps that is part of the reason Luke Bryan writes and sings with such emotion.

I love Luke's story and I love that he writes the songs he sings, but most of all it's that ACCENT that gets to me.  That heavy, southern one that drags out the vowel sounds and mixes up short i's and short e's.  It makes me want to sit next to him on a squeaky swing on some big, wide, Georgia front porch that over looks a peanut farm and have him read me a bedtime story.  You'll hear it when you listen to the song--it's part of its appeal.

This post is actually a two-part post.  Read this one and also Lesson #83:  Accents are Cool.  They go together just like the way teardrops know the words to Amazing Grace.

Enjoy the song, Y'all,

Lesson 83: Accents are Cool

I have always said that I am a sucker for a guy in a uniform.  It could be anything ranging from a football jersey to dress blues and Mr. Handsome has already caught my attention.  It's the same for me with accents.  They fascinate me.  When I am speaking with someone with an accent, be it foreign or just a regional American one, I get lost in it.  I have to fight hard to concentrate on WHAT the person is saying, not HOW they are saying it.  We came across a clerk in a souvenir shop in Cook's Forest this summer with a heavy British accent---not one I was expecting.  She was pleasant and chatty and I found myself asking her questions just to keep her talking.  I had to fight the urge to crawl up in her lap and have her read me a fairy tale.

But this chick on the above video is unbelievable.  Seattle actress and singer Amy Walker is simply quite amazing.  Watch this video and if you are further intrigued, you can find her with an easy Internet search. You'll come across her Today Show interview with Matt and Meredith that is very entertaining.  One of my favorites though is another youtube post called Yes-Amy Walker.  This shows you what an excellent actress she is, however the comments below the youtube post aren't all appropriate for my younger readers.  Above school-aged people, check it out and read some of the comments below it.  Some praise her, some say she's scary, and a few made me laugh right out loud, which rarely happens.

Auf Widerhoren, (Goodbye in German)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lesson 82: We Are Penn State

Recognize this photo above?  This is Ellen's Pop Art Era mural from my last blog.  I asked you in the photo movie if you could figure out what it says.  If you are like my mother and haven't figured out how to pause the slide to study it closer, and had to watch the entire show the whole time through, then you most likely gave up.  Here it is again in still form.  Take a minute and see if you can read the message.........................................................................................................................................................................................................................you see some of the letters form words....................................me.........ron.....................oh, wait---there's jersey.....................no, it's not about the state of New Jersey, Slovenians.  I hate that state.  Had a rough vacation there once---3 kids, one autistic, another 16 months old and not walking, and a hubby in a leg cast----let's not revisit that.......................................most.................one....................back........................OK, do you give up?

You read the message from top to bottom, left to right.  When you do, it reads:  It's the name on the front of the jersey that matters most not the one on the back   

The quote is from the legendary Joe Paterno, head football coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions since 1966.  I have loved that quote since I heard it years ago.  Yes, I am aware it is missing an apostrophe in the opening contraction.  Now don't get your underwear in a bunch over it, Critics.  It simply didn't fit in our 8 by 8 grid.  You can come to my house and put one in with white out if you feel like climbing a ladder.  This mural on canvas (featured in blog #81--I Like It) hangs in my garage.

Coach Paterno spoke these words in reference to the fact that Penn State football players do not wear their last names on the back of their very plain navy blue or white jerseys, probably the most boring shirts in the league.  It is the team philosophy that playing football is just that--about a team.  Individual players rise to stardom, no doubt, but the scouts have to work a little bit harder to remember their names.  What is important is that they play together for Penn State, one of the finest universities in our country, notably for agricultural studies.  

The montage at the beginning of this post gives you a nice 3 minute glimpse into the 50 year career of Joe Paterno.  Coach Paterno will turn 85 this December and is all set to begin this season as Penn State's head coach once again.  Joe took a bad hit by one of the players in a practice a few weeks ago.  At the bottom of this blog, I attached an article from the August 12th issue of Sports News out of State College, PA.  It is funny, so if your eyes aren't too taxed after reading my words, you can read some accounts of this year's players.  They are in blue.  Thank you to my nephew Chris for sending me this link.

More and more students are applying to Penn State in recent years.  Some have suspected that they are doing so because of the extra attention the university gets because of Joe Paterno himself.  Will he return to coach?  Can they snag another National Championship under his reign?  Will he ever retire or hold the position until his death?  
We have to bottles of Nittany Lion wine waiting in our basement for both of those things to happen, hopefully one before the other.  One we will open to celebrate the National Champion victory, and the other we will open to toast Joe's admirable career.

I've read lots about Joe Paterno in recent years.  All reports generally carry the same themes--that he is a tough nosed coach who speaks the truth in plain language.  Just like the jerseys, there are no frills or fluff about him; a "what you see is what you get" kind of guy.  From what I've read, his dedication and loyalty extends to his wife Sue and their five children.  I understand that they still live in a simple ranch house in Happy Valley and he gives much of his coaching salary back to the university.  Eloise likes this.  I wish I had that little thumbs up facebook thingy to put on right here.

Maybe one of these three will wear Penn State on their fronts someday.

They are all smart, so it is a possibility.  There is a Penn State branch campus 3 miles from my house, and that sure seems like a good place to start.  Sam's leash could reach that long and it would give me a little more sleep knowing he was close by.

I know my limits as a parent though.  I can't choose their futures for them, but I can try to steer them in the right direction.  Wearing Penn State lion attire and making murals of motivating quotes is a good starting place to get something good into their heads, don't you think?  From now until that time that seems to be fast approaching---post high school--I can only reiterate what Coach Paterno says, but in my Eloise sort of way.  It isn't so much about what the name reads on your back.  I have many:  my birth name, my married name, my pen name, and most recently "Cheer Mom."  It is what I wear on the front that matters most, and this is what I wear, and it speaks volumes without uttering a single word:

 And one day, when and if Sam ever applies to Penn State, I can only hope that the admissions people remember this, because sometimes the name on the back speaks volumes, too:

As for Ellen and her daddy, what they display on their backs means something too.  Hubby hopes that he has actual reason to wear his smurf-like wardrobe---perhaps there will be an alumni among us one day.  For dear, sweet Ellen, I believe the quote is more about surviving life with her little brother than the LeBoeuf All Star Softball Tournament that she played in to earn this t-shirt.

Don't forget to read the article below.  An extra assignment on a beautiful summer day I know, but it is quite good.
Looking forward to a great year on the gridiron.  We are.......................Penn State!

Penn State Players All Worried They're Going To Be The One Who Accidentally Kills Joe Paterno

AUGUST 12, 2011 | ISSUE 47•33  From SPORTS NEWS

STATE COLLEGE, PA—Hospitalized after a receiver crashed into him on the field last Sunday, Joe Paterno’s return to practice Wednesday came as a vast relief to Penn State players, all of whom live in constant fear of being the one who inevitably kills the 84-year-old head coach.
“Every day we go to the field worried about which one of us will accidentally bump into Coach, cause his entire body to fall apart, and kill him,” senior defensive end Jack Crawford said. “There’s no doubt we are going to be the ones responsible for his death. That’s inevitable. It’s just a question of who and when."
“At this point, it’s part of the Happy Valley tradition," Crawford added. "No names on the jerseys, ringing the victory bell, and being very, very careful not to be the reason Coach Paterno dies."
Paterno, who suffered minor fractures during Sunday’s accident, also had his leg broken during a 2006 game against Wisconsin and injured himself in a 2008 practice while demonstrating an onside kick. In fact, Nittany Lions players and coaches confirmed, Paterno has been close to death an average of once a week for the past 30 years.
"His heart and lungs actually first stopped functioning for a few minutes when Alabama upset Penn State in the 1979 Sugar Bowl," Penn State athletic director Timothy Curley said. "And I estimate about 13 times since then. For God's sake, don't tell him, but after that kid ran into him Sunday, Coach Paterno was clinically dead for five minutes."
Paterno has been a constant presence at practices during his entire 46-season tenure as head coach, and in recent years, players have developed special procedures to minimize the risk of inadvertently killing him. According to team sources, the Nittany Lions offense runs plays away from the fragile, ancient coach, and any ballcarrier who finds himself within 10 yards of Paterno is expected to stumble harmlessly to the turf.
In addition, Penn State has reportedly managed not to practice punts or kickoffs in Paterno's presence since 1996, when the then 70-year-old Paterno was lightly grazed by a member of the return team and had to be rushed to a hospital, where a cardiothoracic surgeon massaged his heart for 30 minutes.
"Every game, every quarter, every down, I’m terrified I might be the one who kills Joe Paterno," said junior wideout Curtis Drake, who now refuses to run sideline routes. "It’s not just playing football, either. The tough part is all the little things, like staying 3 feet from him when he's talking so you don't use up all the oxygen in the air, and making sure he's not standing in your shadow, where he could get cold.”
“There are just so many ways we could potentially kill this man,” Drake added.
Team sources said that while it may not be obvious to the casual observer, the entire Penn State sideline has for decades been more committed to preserving Paterno's tenuous hold on life than to winning football games.
"Of course, we hate to lose, because Coach could take it too hard and die,” sophomore quarterback Paul Jones said. “But we can't win by too much, either, because then he could get too excited and die. We also can’t not hustle or play hard, because then he might get angry and die. So basically our game plan is to establish an eight-point cushion and keep it there, easy does it, no drama."
"And if we do win, absolutely no dumping Gatorade over Coach Paterno," Jones added. "I mean, are you fucking kidding me? He'd fall apart like a stewed chicken."
While Penn State sources admitted the team's focus on preserving the delicate health of their octogenarian coach has somewhat limited their football program, all agreed that at this point Paterno's presence on the sidelines means more to the school than winning games.
"Joe Paterno is a national treasure, and as far as I’m concerned, he can coach as long as he wants,” Penn State president Graham Spanier told reporters. “I mean, without Penn State, the man would drop dead in a second, and I’m certainly not going to be the one to kill him.”

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lesson 81: Everyone is an Artist

Miss me?  I betcha did.  It's been a week between posts, I know.  I got some of your e-mails, but I didn't respond.  No, I wasn't on some fantastic get away vacation.  I was home tending the Lamp Post.  I had a couple of things cooking this week, but I made it up to you with this nice picture movie set to Enrique Iglesias's I Like It.  The movie shows some of my favorite art projects of my children Natalie, Ellen, and Sam.

One of the things that was keeping me busy was Operation Clean Sweep--a hard core clean up of the house at the end of summer.  I go through the place with a vengeance several times a year, but it is the end of the summer when it gets hit the hardest.  My poor house takes some wear and tear with all five of us home all summer long.  Everything felt sticky and grimy and I couldn't stand it one more minute.  I put posters around the house warning everyone when it was about to begin.  "If it is not nailed down or seems to no longer have any value, kiss it goodbye!"  An issuance such as this strikes the fear of God in any child and mine run for their rooms clutching their favorite belongings.  I did an area of the house a day for a solid week, saving The Lamp Post for very last.  I just finished it two hours ago and so here I sit in the gleam of my defingerprinted computer screen, inhaling the lingering scent of Murphy's Oil Soap.

Another reason for my delay is that I was suffering from yet another loss on a personal level.  I broke my camera.  Killed it actually.  Death by drowning.  Accidental of course, but she took a float down some creek in Cook's Forest a couple of weeks ago.  If you are wondering, cameras do float.  Trust me.  Don't test it for yourself or your good friend will die.  How did it happen, you ask?  How did a woman of my fortitude become so careless with a piece of equipment she held so dear?  Let me spell it for you in three little letters:  S-A-M.  

 This is the last photo I took on my Panasonic Lumix camera--a darn good machine that came through for me time after time for three years.  We were at the Ranger Station in Cook's Forest and Sam was hanging on a bridge.  I loved the look of the creek behind him and stopped for a moment along the creek bank to snag a couple of shots.  I was looking through my view finder when I saw the long dark object fly into the gap you see in his shirt under his right arm pit.  It was a wasp.  I big black one.  I saw his face change from that look you see there, to surprise, to agony, all in about three seconds.  I knew Sam suffered his first bee sting and I knew it was a humdinger of a sting--I guess we could call that a buzzdinger.

I've been very honest on this blog about the often volatile relationship between my son and I.  I love my boy with all of my heart, but I'll be the first to admit he's been a challenge to raise, far harder than both of my girls. My actions should prove to you that I am, in fact, a good mother who loves her only son dearly, no matter how you may have interpreted some of my past posts.  In order to come to Sam's rescue I had to drop my camera and make a run for it.  I set it on the edge of the creek bank and hoped for the best, while I took off after Sam, who in turn, tried to flee the pain at top speed.  Try chasing a four year old in pain wearing a pair of flip flops.  As I took off, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw my camera take a tumble down the bank.  I managed to catch Sam, rip off his shirt, and put him in a barrel hold to take him down to the creek bank to slap some Pennsylvania creek mud on the welt.  That sucker was the size of a half dollar within 30 seconds.  While Sam howled, I did a quick survey of the grassy area and found no camera.  I scrunched my eyes tight and turned to face the creek.  I slowly opened one eye to see what I had hoped I wouldn't see---my Lumix floating away.

I waded out and managed to save her in time to save the camera card.  My pictures from the trip were not ruined.  Poor Lumix was demoralized--I shook her and opened every door and window, exposing every hidden little crevice she had.  I blow dried her, put her in a bag of rice, and set her on my air conditioner to dry out for two weeks, never losing the hope that she would become an Internet legend and survive the fall.  All the wishing in the world didn't work--no luck.  She was gone.

The Niagara Falls pictures from my last blog were actually taken with Ellen's little camera, a hot pink number--called a Cool Pix, kind of designed for kids.  Not a bad camera for a hundred bucker from Wal-Mart.  I highly recommend it for the casual photographer.  I tried to make due with this camera for a week or two, but it just wasn't the same.  I missed the feel of my big lens and all of the neat settings I could use.  I knew I needed to bite the bullet and get another one.

Pictured here is my old friend the Lumix with my new camera I named Pinocchio because his nose grows (I'm a girl who likes her close ups).  I put them nose to nose for a bit so they could talk to one another.  I heard Lumix say to Pinocchio--Good luck, she'll love you, but she'll be hard on you.  I wasn't offended because that is how I am with all of my things.  I use what I love to death.  I run holes through my Asics and I still have my favorite Edinboro t-shirt from 1990, albeit bleach stained and worn thin with age.  (Did you hear that?  That is my sister calling What Not To Wear to do a clothes closet intervention).  Sorry, Sis.  The sneakers and t-shirts are staying.  Readers, remind me to wear them to the next family get together just to get her goat.  Again Slovenians, Karen really doesn't have a goat.  If you knew her, she's not the goat type.  It just means I am playfully trying to provoke her.  I do that every once in awhile.

I always dreamed of being an artist, but God didn't give me too much talent with a paintbrush, so it didn't work out.  My hopes were also dashed when I grew to be 5'8" by sixth grade, so I had to X "Olympic Gymnast" and "Pairs Figure Skater" off my list too.  But God did give me the ability to write and instilled a love of photography in me.  Pairing my two loves on this blog is a way I can share my form of art with you.

This past school year, I worked with my friend and colleague Jan on the elementary art shows in our school district.  Jan saves the best pieces from all of her students all year long and displays them at the end of the year in the evening, so families can share the beauty and innocence of childrens' art work.  My students and I helped out by adding "living history docents" who dressed in period attire and were able to tell visitors the high points of a particular art period.

Pictured here is Ellen dressed as one of the Greeks.  I had to choose her for that period because there were just plain too many nude sculptures for a kid to be assigned that art period for independent research.  She did just fine with Mother Eloise in a chair pulled up next to her at the computer.  It took a little convincing for a couple of the boys to wear knickers and tights like the artists of the Renaissance, but they came through for me. Bribe a sixth grader with "pre-show pizza party" and you can get them to do just about anything.

The shows were quite a success, but as with anything, it was not the big event that meant the most.  It was the journey I took to get there.  I love art, but I am no connoisseur, that's for sure.  I had to do a crash course in art history on a long weekend before I could plan lessons for my students.  Here is some of what I learned:

This is a Picasso, and it resembles me after a hard day with Sam.

This is DiVinci's The Last Supper--a beauty to last through the ages.

This is Van Gogh's Starry night, which is Ellen's favorite painting.

This is "Black Square" by a Russian named Malevich.  For real.

This is an Andy Warhol.  The kids love this type of art.

This is a Monet, titled Sunrise.  That's Eloise in the boat.  Peaceful.

This is a Jackson Pollock.  He's the paint splatter guy.

This is a Sam LaFuria on a little number he titled The Worm Woke Up the Cat.  The kind and good preschool teachers are nice enough to write on the titles the children give to their pieces of art.  Thankfully this is just one in a series of three.  You will see the other two on the picture movie.  One is titled "A Frog Riding a Helicopter" and the other is creatively called "A Cow Mooing."  Don't flood me with telephone calls with purchase offers through.  These are keepers.  All mine.

This is Natalie's finest 3-D art project--her birdhouse from Wood Manufacturing.  We have the most well fed birds on our street.  She feeds them every single day.

And this little beauty is an Eloise Hawking original--one I captured on Pinocchio's maiden voyage on August 11th.  I was near water and I made sure I hung the strap around my neck.  I didn't doctor this at all.  The sky really looked like this Thursday evening.  This, my friends, is what a quality camera can capture for you.  I was as happy as Sam was with that splash when I pressed the view back button.

It doesn't matter if you make a birdhouse, mold some clay, paint a picture or snap one.  What matters is that you take a moment to see the beauty in something.  I don't care if the composition isn't quite right on the photo or if it needs to be darkened. All I care about is that I like it.  My artist friend Jan taught me one of the most important lessons I've learned so far:  Everyone is an artist.  It's just that simple.  Now get busy and go find your art and don't be afraid to share it with others.

Until next time,