Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lesson 119: A Public Confession

Like the blog title this week, Folks?  I am sure I just killed a couple of people with it.  If you live in the Foxwood subdivision, you may want to swing by my sister's house. I am sure she has passed out cold on the floor and Erik has the run of the place.  That could be dangerous.  If you are brainless enough to live in South Carolina (in July), Tracy Southern just got a case of the jitters after she read the title and screamed "Now What?"  She could use your help.  And if you happen to live between the towns of Harborcreek and North East, stay off the road because Tracy Northern is already in route at a high rate of speed with two cups of strong black coffee in her cup holders.  Sorry to disappoint; it's nothing THAT juicy.

I do have a confession to make though.  It's about my book.  My novel.  Mentioned in a few previous blog posts throughout the year.  It's done.  You knew that.  Now you have to help me figure out just what to do with it.  I'm like that last sign post on the video with all the arrows pointing in different directions. You can't see me, but I am actually standing beneath it scratching my head.  It's left me experiencing some Emotional Traffic,which happens to be the title to Tim McGraw's new album.  One of my new favorite songs from that newly released album is the music for my video.

Here are some updates.  I finished the book on September 6th, which is a young adult novel I titled The Key.   It is 33 chapters in length, approximate to that of JK Rowling's first Harry Potter book, The Sorcerer's Stone.  It is a sweet story, somewhat of a mystery, and set in my hometown of a Mayberry-like, great lakes region area.  It turned out to be above average, by my standards.  Good, not great.  Imperfect, yet perfectly flawed.  Eloise is content with her handiwork.

I had some copies printed and floated the story to about ten readers.  The only condition I gave them was that after reading it (and hi-lighting every typo), the volunteered editors needed to give me their honest feedback.  The responses from most everyone were favorable, which I expected because they were namely friends and family members.  I took their suggestions seriously, ruminated about them for a couple of months, made a few minor changes here and there, and so the book sits.

So now what?  I've had many more requests to read The Key as word got out about its completion.  The original readers are going to get to keep their draft copies, therefore I have no more to distribute.  The problem lies in the copying costs.  Just the dozen I made were a couple hundred dollars and I got a good deal. The copying costs for sporadic copies here and there would be too great for me to cover.

How about e-copies sent through the internet or for posting on this blog?  That would be efficient and eco-friendly.  Since our family gift was a Kindle Fire this Christmas, I see the way the population is moving with this book format.  I can't say that I like it.  I'll accept it as I did saying goodbye to the phone booth with the introduction of cell phones.  I'll accept that more books will one day be read with e-readers instead of on paper pages.  The e-format makes the most sense, yet without a copyright I fear that the potential for my baby to be cyber swiped would be a risk too great for me to take.

I looked into getting a copyright for it.  I can apply for my own through the Library of Congress and it is relatively and easy process and inexpensive.  However, once the work is copyrighted, it can no longer be entered into contests and is less likely to be picked up by a publisher.

Publisher?  Having one of those means that I would have to put my efforts into becoming published.  I am not sure that is a path I want to venture down.  It is so Un-Eloise if you know me.  Good writing then becomes a business with agents and contracts and book deals.  I looked into it once with my first book Misunderstood,  which will never be published because if it is I will not have a friend left in the world after it is read (it's the hardcore truth about autism).  You would be surprised at the cost a beginning author actually has to pony up for the first run at the market. It's more than my teacher budget can afford.

Plus, I am a teacher.  I am not a writer.  And you have my parents to thank for that.  I came home from college one weekend in the early 1990's to inform my parents that I had been under the tutelage of a very good Edinboro professor for three straight college writing courses.  During that third course in the spring of my sophomore year, he asked me to come to his office and wanted to suggest that perhaps I look into a career path change.  He thought I had enough natural story telling ability to be a writer.  In order to get to the level I needed to be to become a writer of any value, I would have to change my major from Education to English in order to pick up the needed language and writing classes to hone my craft.  It was a flattering day for me, and I promised the professor that I would take the time to seriously consider it.

I then did what any nineteen year old would do, went home to Mommy and Daddy to ask them for some advice.  Over a cup of coffee in the old red farmhouse kitchen, I rested my elbows on the sunny yellow counter tops and listened.  And listened.  And listened.  Being the daughter of many generations of working class people, in the end, the advice given boiled down to one simple sentence:  Get a real job, then you can write all you want.  

A real job meant teaching school.  A forty hour a week home with health benefits.  So, I took their advice and got myself a real job, fresh out of college, and went to work that following September.  Since then I've put almost eighteen years into the Pennsylvania Public School System and I can say that it's the best advice I've ever taken.  I love my profession and will stand in full support of what my colleagues and I do day in and day out.  We teach your children, do doubt, but also discipline them, keep them safe, stay current with ever changing technology, and incorporate the fast way in which children learn and receive information nowadays.  Children have become finicky learners and need some degree of "entertainment value" to every lesson. It isn't easy, but I (we) love it.  So thank you Mom & Dad.  You were right.  (Can you hear that?  That is the sound of my mother's printer humming to life so she can have a paper copy to hi-light and hang on her bedroom mirror.  You were right--isn't that one of life's most beautiful three word combos?).

And now at this point of my life, mid career, and not quite mid life (I'm living to be 100), I find myself doing just that.  I teach school 40 hours a week, and get to blog on the weekends.  A real job, plus a fun hobby that you all enjoy.  Because I have a Blogger account, I get frequent emails and paper mailings of writing contests and writing workshops.  I actually signed up for an online writing course last fall that I completed between the hours of 11:00 pm and 1:00 am most nights.  It was interesting if nothing else, and proved to me that creative writers are well, um, out kind of hovering out in space.  I wrote some things, but spent more time reading the submissions of others.  Most were about pebbles on the beach and unicorns and fairy dust and $%&*! (stuff), and that is so not Eloise.  I definitely needed a practical profession.

With my online course sign up, I got a free subscription to this writer's magazine, Writer's Digest.  I get it in the mail every couple of months and still get that same lift as when I found TEEN magazine in my parent's mailbox in the 1980's.  In it is practical advice for writers, contest notifications, and also information about Publishing Houses when they take open submissions for manuscripts.

I just read The Help and saw the movie this fall.  I keep calling myself Skeeter.  After all, on a humid day, my hair is kind of like hers.  I really felt like her when I saw a listing for an open submissions for Random House in New York City, one of the biggest publishing houses in the country.  The only type of manuscript they were taking had to fit the following criteria:

  • first time novelist
  • without an agent
  • genre:  young adult fiction
That meant:
  • me
  • me
  • me
I found this notification the first week of December and the due date was December 31st.  I tossed my Writer's Digest next to the bed and got right to work.  Talk about feeling just like Skeeter.  I pulled some late nights with the final edits and heavy doses of Ivory 2 Concealer hid the dark rings under my eyes.  I submitted it on December 17th and it is currently sitting on 9th and Broadway, probably in someones slush pile.

I know the history of my authors.  It was on Dr. Seuss's 51st attempt that finally gave him his shot for his first work, Mulberry Street.  Stephenie Meyer got 15 rejections for Twilight before someone took interest in her love story about vampires.  So on December 17th I sent it off with a kiss, knowing that The Key will most likely never get a second glance.  But there was a great sense of accomplishment sending it off, just the same.

It's now been six weeks since I tossed that Writer's Digest aside, and in my January bedroom clean out, I found it again.  "Huh, I guess I never finished this one," I thought as I smoothed the crinkled pages.  "Time for a break anyway."  I flopped down on my bed, propped a pillow under my knees and leaned back against the headboard to take in some good advice.  Ahhhh..........relaxation..............until:

The article past the notification section was:  TOP TEN MISTAKES NEW AUTHOR'S MAKE.  This should be interesting I thought.  I better get my hi-lighter.  #5 on the list was this:  
Make sure to include your contact information:  You'd be amazed how many people don't.  At a minimum, list your e-mail and phone number so that if we're excited about the submission (or if we have questions) we can ring you up.


 I hope they saved the original envelope.

I guess you would chalk this one up to live and learn.  Perhaps someone will find Eloise Hawking, but I don't think it will be this time.  I'm mature enough to know there will be others.  

This is about as good as the Christmas Eve disaster.  Word to the wise:  Do not shut the automatic garage door when the truck tail gate is in the way.  You'll see the picture on the movie.  FYI:  We are still finding shattered glass from the back truck cap window. 

These are the mistakes we make because we are human.  Human Error.  That has a nice ring to it because it let's you know that lots of other people do dumb things, too.  I guess that's why Tim McGraw sings the song Only Human on his new Emotional Traffic album.  

On the first run through of the album released this week, I liked six songs immediately, so I knew it was going to be a good one.  By the second time through it I liked all twelve.  One is Felt Good On My Lips, a previous hit, but the other eleven are new.  Only Human also houses the line for his album title.  I love it when a song title is not the name of the album.  I like the album titles to have an overall feel and have names of their own, apart from the songs.  You'll hear the line early in the song, listen for it.

Only Human also rides in the eleventh spot on the CD.  I like numbers and 33 is my favorite number, but I always liked number eleven, too.  My high school friend Vicky will remember this.  She always seemed to look at the clock at that time and it freaked her out.  Maybe it will take me 11 years for The Key to be read by the right eyes.  By the way technology is advancing, I am sure the words will be virtually projected right into the New York offices of Random House on 9th and Broadway by then.  The words can hover right in front of you--no need for paper or a computer screen.  

I'm willing to wait eleven years.  Are you?  Let me know if you have any great ideas, Readers.  I'd like to get my story out to you. It has a nice message that I feel should be shared.

Love, Eloise--Flawed Human Being

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lesson 118: Everything is Beautiful

The youtube clip posted above is the story of Leslie Lemke.  It is one that I watched in 1981 TV show called That's Incredible!  It was one of my favorite shows when I was in elementary school.  I think back to when I first saw this, watching it in our living room in the old red farmhouse with my mother and sister.  I felt at that moment something.  I can't say what exactly in words typed on this screen because there are no words when you get a feeling like this and you're ten years old.  I knew after watching that story that there was for sure, undoubtedly, without question, a God.  I was at the age when I was questioning about everything in my mind, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.  But God.  No way.  Only God could give someone a gift like that.

But who's gift was it?  Leslie's or his adoptive mother May's?  Did God say, Leslie, because you were born with so many physical problems and you have struggled your whole life, I am going to give you the beautiful gift of musical ability.  Or, was God rewarding May?  May, you took on a lot adopting this child.  I brought him to you because of your great strength and determination.  You believed May.  You held on to the hope even when there seemed to be no hope to hold onto.  For this I am giving you Leslie and his gift of song.

Here's an analogy for you (Eloise loves analogies):  May Lemke is to Leslie as Annie Sullivan is to Helen Keller.  I love the story of Helen Keller.  I've read that one several times throughout my school years, too.  As humbled as I am to think of the gifts God gave both Helen and Leslie, I am more in awe of Annie and May.  They never gave up on something they believed in.  These women knew in their hearts there was more inside those handicapped bodies than what was showing and they worked tirelessly to bring out the beauty.

It took Leslie Lemke 12 years to be able to stand and another three on top of that to walk.  In Leslie's sixteenth year, the Lemkes were awoken in the middle of the night to Leslie playing Tchaikovsky.  Leslie could not talk, but his first words were in the form of song.  How beautiful.  In fact, you will hear Leslie singing Everything is Beautiful.  Leslie, I very much agree.

In the case of Helen Keller, to think one could learn to communicate being blind and deaf is beyond what I could comprehend at the time.  Look what we would have missed if Anne Sullivan wouldn't have opened the door to communication.  Keller writes, Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.   That's a good one to frame and hang in the Lamp Post, wouldn't you say?  And that's just one example.  Check out Helen Keller quotes to find many, many more.

But when my time came, when I was a grown up and had to decide like a big girl what to do with my life, I knew I needed to be a teacher.  I knew because the Lord put it in me when I was a young girl that I would need to work with handicapped people.  It didn't surprise me one bit when the time came to raise my own family and my nephew and daughter would have severe handicapping conditions.  I knew.  God showed me the strength of these women early on in my life and their stories never left me.  I bought the book, May's Boy, which is now out of print.  I keep all my favorite books on a bookshelf in the Lamp Post, and this is one of them.  I read it so much the cover fell off and my fingers had to hold the edge down in order to take a picture.  Look closely and you'll see The Story of Helen Keller next to it.  I watched the movie about the Lemkes called The Woman Who Willed A Miracle.  Now wouldn't that be something---to be called the woman who willed a miracle?  Wow.

Raising Natalie & Erik (and I speak of my nephew like that because my sister's children are like my own) has left me thinking if either Karen or I will be that woman.  Will either of us have the strength or fortitude to will miracles of our own?  We have an inside joke between us, my sister and I, about the kids having extraordinary gifts we have yet to discover.  Once I dumped a box of toothpicks out in front of Erik just to see if he could instantly count them.  No luck.  We have dreams about Natalie waking at night and coming to the piano to play Moonlight Sonata.  However, now that she has her iPod and is more current, I think it will be Lady Gaga's Marry the Night instead.  But alas, that has not happened yet.  Or has it?

Natalie's art from my previous blog post is what brings me to the point of this message on this cold, January, double blog post weekend.  I posted a picture of her watercolor she painted this past week.  After viewing it on my blog, I got a late night, strong response from TSouthern (my South Carolinian Tracy-friend), insisting that Natalie was a savant.  Didn't I SEE what she painted?  she asked.  According to Southern, it was a fairy.  Eloise twisted and turned.  I winked one eye and brought the picture up close to my face then pulled it out as far as it would go with my two arms.  Hmmm.... Could it be?  Here is the painting:

What do you see, Readers?

This is Southern's pencil sketch rendering over top of Natalie's original work.  TSouthern and I go way back.  She was my kindergarten comrade, elementary school chum, high school pal, college roommate, and current soul sister.  She is an artist and has one of the most creative touches of anyone I know.  TSouthern thinks it's a fairy but now is wavering between that and a lioness. Today is her birthday and who's to argue with a girl on her birthday.  But a lioness?  Where did she get that from?  From my facebook, of course.  I put the picture on there this morning, intrigued as to what others would see.  Would you like to see the other responses?  Read below.

  • a pair of hands cradling the world. and obviously the sky in the background.
  • a lioness
  •  A snail or brontosaurus
  • A rabbit trying to break out of its box
  • I see a drumstick...maybe a turkey or chicken?
  • I see a person on a cliff standing with arms wide open.
  • a puppy's face.
  • elephant with trunk turned up for luck..
  • Chicken breast
  • a sand dune
  • Natalie, herself, with her arm raised to the world!
  • It's a cat facing away with tail up in the air.
  • Face of animal with nose pointed down. Tan left side of picture. Dark eye lid, nose, & mouth. Maybe Sadie!!
  • Louie
  •  I see the back of a woman with long curly hair. Her left arm is up and she is looking to the left, resting her face on her arm. I'm guessing she is in the shower. The blue is the water running down on her. That's what I see!
  • A girl doing the backstroke in a pool
  • A basket of fruit

Those were the posts through midnight.  Me, myself?  I thought maybe it was a tree gone bad, as Ellen was painting a tree right next to her and Natalie mimics everything Ellen does.  I thought about each one of those above responses from my facebook friends.  I thought how kind they were to give Natalie's art a minute of extra thought and try for a minute to see if there was something beyond the obvious.  And what's funny is I saw what you saw in every single one.  I saw beauty through all of those interpretations.  Thanks to those of you who caught the post in time enough to respond.  

No one got it exactly right, but one person came very, very close.  GRANDMA!!!!!!!!!  Oh, Lord.  I can hear her whooping and hollering next door now.  She's jumping around the kitchen with her sneakers on.  Glad she wasn't on Fosamax or she would have surely busted her femur by now.  Had to give her credit for knowing her grandchild, even though I won't be able to stand the I Told You So's for the next week.  But kudos to Grandma.  You were the closest.  

Now for Natalie's response (also on facebook, posted as a video--check my wall if you are a friend of Eloise):  a wolf.  I even asked her twice to clarify.  Look again.  Do you see it now?  What do you think?  

Even me, her mother, is quite baffled.  It is very unusual for Natalie to say the word "Wolf" anyway.  To her a wolf, a puppy, a coyote, and anything of the like, is a dog.  When she is exposed to an animal she doesn't have the world for, albeit a monkey or a centipede, she calls it a cow.  Some autistics similar to Natalie use generalized terms sometimes because their vocabularies are not as big.  Ellen even said, "That was from out of nowhere."  Nicely put Ellen.  

Here are a couple more pictures of Natalie from the basketball game this afternoon (see below).  She is on the Sparkles Squad, an inclusive cheerleading opportunity led by the girls on the varsity squad.  They got t-shirts and had them printed with the clever saying, and they all wore them today.  It was great.  Natalie even got to do a lift this week and she pumped her fist high in the air and yelled Go Huskies!  AND I MISSED IT, because I was home with the bugger, I mean booger, I mean Sam, because he was sick, but I did make it over to the second half.  You can see we lost a heart breaker.  

I'll end with a happy attitude of optimism tonight, knowing I am doing the very best I can for my daughter, my nephew, and our entire family.  I will never stop looking for miracles in them and in me.  In fact, Helen Keller conveyed this message in her unique way, far better than I can.  Keller writes:   When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.
Helen Keller  

Nicely Put, Helen, and I mean as in KELLER, not YOU, Grandma!  You got the wolf, not the quote, remember?

Got to go clean up those paintbrushes.  We're going to be busy at the Lamp Post tomorrow.  
Good night,
Eloise--see below for more pictures


Harbor Creek Sparkles
Cheer For A Change

Cause Everybody
Deserves a Chance to

  We lost the game.  Bummer.
  But these girls won much more.  Awesome.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lesson 117: A Pinteresting Weekend

The above video is something I think many of you will find pinteresting (no that is not a misspelling).  Watch the video for a dose of inspiration and then read on to find more things of pinterest.  (Thanks, Terri).

Happy weekend, Readers.  It's the middle of January and if you are an Erieite like Eloise, you may be getting itchy for something to do.  I get restless in the wintertime.  Eloise can only brave the elements so long and hauling three kids and a dog around with mittens and boots is exhausting.  I am a teacher, not CEO of a Fortune 500 company, therefore weekend beach getaways are not within my budget.  My finances and the weather leave old Eloise grounded, but luckily I found a pinteresting new pastime thanks to our school's tech teacher's suggestion (Thanks, Amy).  If you haven't heard about, read on.  It's my new Favorite Thing.

Pinterest is an online pinboard, a virtual bulletin board for images.  It is referred to as a social networking site for images.  Don't have a heart attack like I did.  Immediately I thought of every bad thing that could be on there, so I launched a full investigation.  For once, I liked what I found.  Pinterest began in March of 2010, and by the fall of 2011 it already climbed to the top ten list of social networking sites.

Social networking is a term that I am growing to accept.  It used to run shivers down the spines of me and my fellow teachers, after hearing presentations from the school's resource officers about the dangers of My Space.  Facebook accounts were frowned upon, but now they are almost accepted, but there is an unstated but very understood use with caution clause for any teacher, or anyone for that matter.  As with anything, when used with integrity, social networking is a good thing.  Misuse equals abuse.  Period.

A pinterest page kind of looks like this.  It is almost like a columned facebook newsfeed.  People from all over are posting images of things they love.  There is room for a few comments underneath--just short little posts that say "love this" or "my dream shoes."  There is everything of interest on there, from recipes to photography, to workout tips, to books you want to read, to places you want to visit before you die.  There is a huge section for easy to do crafts---the simplest ideas you can make out of some paint and an oatmeal canister.  The cleverness of people never ceases to amaze me.

Ellen came home from her friends house with this cool art project---just some crayons, hot glued to a $2 canvas from Walmart, then hit with a blow dryer.  "Where did you find this idea?" I asked.  "Pinterest" was the reply.  I've been hooked ever since.

You will need to apply for a pinboard.  That freaked me out for some reason.  To what criteria must I meet to have a pinboard?  Was the Great and Powerful Oz himself determining if I was worthy enough for one?  Was there some sort of fee?  I never got clear answers to the first two questions, but I did confirm there is no fee for a pinterest account.  It links directly to facebook and twitter.  You log in that way.  I feared that perhaps everything I "pinned" to my virtual pinboard would be made public to the world, as in "Eloise likes crock pot apple pie."  Seemingly a harmless thing to let the world know, but PRIVACY is important and we as citizens must never forget that.  I've been testing the site for about two weeks and you can "like on facebook" as an option, or pin to your pinboards privately.

How about kid use?  I've been looking into that, too.  All of the posts are appropriate for my fifth grade daughter.  There is nothing that would really interest Sam or Natalie, but nothing that I would not let them look at.  The site must be policed somehow--by it's own users or perhaps a larger governing body, I don't know, but inappropriate images have been absent since my involvement.

You can make as many pinboards as you like once you get your account.  I of course, separated mine into categories and gave them cool names instead of just the general THINGS I LIKE and PLACES I WANT TO GO.  I called my recipe board NOURISH.  I called by exercise board STRIVE.  I called my craft board CREATE and my Bible quote one INSPIRATION.  I even made Ellen her own and named it ELLEN LOUISE.  She can pin anything she wants to on it, but it is under my account so I can always see what she's pinning.

This is a braid I pinned to my beauty board which I named HELLO, BEAUTIFUL!  You save the image on your pinboard, and when you want to try it yourself, the image takes you directly to the how-to link--usually on someones blog like this one, with a youtube video with how to do it.  I used Tracy Northern as my guinea pig on this one.  She has nice, long wavy hair, and lives with all men so she was more than willing to comply.

This is another craft idea I pinned to my CREATE board.  There was a similar Button Tree on pinterest and I showed Ellen.  We busted out the buttons and used her canvas and some paints she got for Christmas.  It's not exactly the same as the original--as a recreation never should be.  In fact, it's better, because it's Ellen's.  If you go on pinterestPinterest makes this ever so simple.  
This is the final product.  I love it.

In fact, I loved it so much I put it up in the Lamp Post so I can look at it when I write.  Creative people are supposed to surround themselves in things that they love when they embark on creative projects.  I love my daughter's artwork and you can see a couple of examples just from this shot.  At only 11, she is showing some great talent already.

This watercolor art is Natalie's which I think is equally beautiful.  Natalie follows her sister's every move.  When Ellen reads, Natalie reads.  When Ellen puts in a pony tail, Natalie goes searching for a hair tie.  And when Ellen does her artwork, Natalie is right next to her.  Ellen even let her sister use her good paper and new watercolors from Christmas without blinking an eye.  When I say that my daughter Ellen is a selfless soul, I mean that.

That's why I believe God gave Ellen some artistic talent to balance the stress of an autistic sister who follows you like a shadow.

Take for example the other morning.  This was the sky.  I took this shot at sunrise off of my front porch.
This one, too.  I loved how the colors turned out.  After school last week I showed Ellen.  "I think we should pin THIS to pinterest," I said.  I would, but I don't know how about doing that.  Plus I am not into sharing really, I'm into seeing what other creative people are out there doing.  I'm not out to one up anyone.

"Paint me this," I said to her.  Ellen went up in her room and came down twenty minutes later with this:

Pretty awesome.  I don't have this one on display though.  I mailed it to Tracy Southern.  It's her birthday on Saturday.  Ellen and I named the picture Twilight, in honor of her and mailed it down to her.  It represents the story she got us both sucked into (literally, it's about vampires).  Art isn't meant to be hoarded, it's meant to be shared, (Thanks, Jan) hence the idea of pinterest.

 But the most pinteresting thing about my weekend is this:  Sam got sent home from preschool today with the pukes.  "My tummy hurts and I am NOT happy," he told his Momma.  I'm in for a long weekend.

It's nice to know that I have a lap top and can surf pinterest while sitting on the other end of the couch, watching Toy Story with Sam.  Perhaps I'll find something inspiring---or a good concoction to remove vomit stains from the carpeting.  Eloise has ridden through many a January stomach flu.

Enjoy your new pinterest, Pinheads.  And don't forget to say a prayer for that beautiful boy in the opening video clip.  God really does give us all gifts and talents.  That is your lesson for today.

Happy Pinning!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lesson 116: Ice Baby

Winter has finally made its very late arrival here at the Lamp Post.  Sure, we've had some snow covering a few times (and I mean a very few), but really no significant and lasting accumulations.  It's been a very unusual beginning of winter.  To remind those of you who have forgotten what snow and ice exactly look like, I created this picture movie as a reminder.  It is set to Vanilla Ice's tune, Ice, Ice, Baby.

My babies are going to be like three little ice pops this weekend.  When snow covers the ground the trio is outdoors.  Everyone around here needs a dose of vitamin D, so I'll probably strap on my new fur ear flap hat, a Christmas gift from my parents, and take a romp in the snow, too.  Eloise lives next door to her parents, it is often in the winter time that one of them will spot me outside playing with my kids.  "You better put a hat on," they holler from the kitchen window, "it's cold out."  It's nice to be 40 years old and still so well taken care of.    Hence, I opened the box to find a hat something like this:
 Hey, if it's on the cover of Vogue, it must be cool, right?  If you drive by the Lamp Post you'll know which one I am if you see me outside.

Natalie and Sam love to sled ride on the neighbor's hill.  I love looking out the window in the morning at the Burns's cozy home (everyone needs a next door neighbor with the last name of Burns--sounds very American suburban).  It's big and white and they have candles in their windows.  The new fallen snow looks so pretty on their sloping lawn.  It's like a Hallmark card moment with Winter Wonderland playing in the background.  .......record scratch.............  Peace interrupted.  New fallen snow now flattened and brown with size one boot prints.  Out runs Sam, screaming at the top of his lungs, ready to attack that hill.  "No STANDING on the sled, Sam!" I yell out the window.  Sometimes he listens.  Ellen is usually nearby building a snow sculpture of some sort.  You'll see her on the video with a heart tromped into the snow.

You'll find me attempting to cross country ski, AGAIN.  My sister's Wisconsin in-laws gave me a set of skis a number of years ago.  The Lamp Post property borders a beautiful community park and I have a Labrador retriever who loves to play in the snow.  A perfect set up for cross country skiing.  Record scratch.......Eloise is not athletic, and you need a fair amount of athletic ability to be able to ski.  I am awkward and clumsy and flat out not that strong despite all the working out I do.  A weekend distance runner does not an athlete make.    I get those skis on and my ankles tip.  I wobble.  I try to slide my feet forward and instead I fall over sideways.  It's an ugly scene.  And without fail, every year my neighbor Fitzgerald drives by at the very worst moment, honks and waves, usually as I have my hind end up in the air trying to right myself.  I'll admit on this blog that I gave him an angry gesture, but he didn't see it because I was wearing mittens.  But Eloise is stubborn and flat out unwilling to give up.  We've got a nice covering this morning--a good six inches I'd say, so I'll be out for another attempt.  If you don't see another blog post for awhile, assume that I am in traction.

A safer winter time activity for me is my photography.  I love the contrasts of the darks of nature with the white snow.  My favorite days to photograph are the ones with the blanket of crisp white snow against a bright blue and sunny sky, but that literally happens maybe once or twice a winter around here.  The sun is always behind a thick layer of cloud cover and is a colorless gray.

 Rather than feel more depressed at the lack of sunlight, I went out at night last week.  The moon was beautiful and I got some really cool shots of it.  My favorite though, was the one of the ice crystals on a mirror in my dad's barn.  The mirror is on an old medicine cabinet that he just couldn't get rid of.  It hangs inside the man door and he keeps things inside of there.  The barn is heated only by a burner that was crafted out of a and old, heavy metal gas tank, which I have named The Incinerator.  The uneven heating and cooling made these super cool ice crystals and I was trying to get a close up.  When I went back through my shots, I was stunned to see that my daughter's husky hat that I shoved on my head was showing in the mirror.  If you look closely, you can even see my gloved hands holding the camera. I wasn't planning on the shot to turn out that way, but it ended up being my favorite of the batch.

Sometimes things surprise you.  They don't turn out as you plan them to.  Like winters.  You know winter always comes, but you are always waiting to see what it will bring.  Today, despite its very late arrival, we'll see what the day brings.

Time to strap on my skis.  Wish me luck, Readers.
Eloise Vonn Dang--my parents got me the wrong hat.  If they bought me this one, this is what I'd look like.  Note to self:  Be more specific when adding "hat" to Christmas wish list.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Lesson 115: My Heroes Part 1

You get a two part blog post this weekend, Readers!  I thought about giving the following title to these tandem pieces:  It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It.  Instead, I broke the post in two, one for Sam and one for My Girls.  Featured are two versions of Holding Out for a Hero, first made popular by Bonnie Tyler in the 80's.  It was from the first Footloose movie.  It's upbeat and sassy with a hint of angry, so that worked well for Sam's movie.  The same song was included in the remake, but it is so different you can hardly believe it's the same song.  I love that one too.  It's moody and broody and feels girlish so that one went to my ladies.  Make sure you scroll down to the post beyond this one to check out both songs and think about which is your preference.  That's what this blog is about after all.  It's purpose is nothing more than to give you something to think about.

...........or something to laugh about.  The photo movie above stars my little Hero, Sam along with some of his male cousins.  Sam has the quick temper of his Italian heritage, blended with a good dose of stubborn German.  The two have made for a lethal combination that I am trying very hard to shape into the positive.  Sam's fuse is about an inch long and is quick on the draw.  Rather than trying squelch and internal fire that seems more like the eternal flame, I've tried to teach him to use his quick fists for a purpose.  I tell him that he is my Hero.

Heroes in Mother Eloise's Handbook fight to protect the innocent, save the helpless, and lend a hand to the needy.  The good guys are never afraid to battle the bad guys and the good guys always win at The Lamp Post.  I tell Sam that he has to behave and learn and do well in school so that he can grow up to be a Police Officer, a Fire Fighter, or a Soldier.  Sam likes all of those ideas and as far as he knows, you need to earn straight A's, use good manners at all times, and keep your teeth brushed in order to be one.

I read to my children every night.  Sam has now advanced beyond Dr. Seuss and Curious George.  He's a bit, well, um.........bored with happy endings.  The kid craves action and adventure.  After we read at least one book for practice, he snuggles down under his covers and says, "Now tell me a REAL story Mom."  It makes me smile as I type this.  It's my favorite part of my day with him when I get to tell him a story.  I start one, usually with a brave, nameless hero, and Sam helps me fill in the action and adventure parts as we go along.  There are rules, however.  No one can be killed, but they can be captured and sent to jail.  Sam prefers tying up the bad guys in ropes for some reason.  Look what he recently did to poor Woody.  Before you all start thinking things, Sam told me Woody was captured by the bad guys and Sam was saving him with his plastic sword.  That is Ellen's paint splatter duct tape he used.  She was not pleased as she was trying to make a purse out of it and he curtailed her plans.

I've been brushing up on my stories of heroes from the Greek myths (thanks to one of my Clark School 6th graders), Gary Paulson's outdoor adventure stuff, and Bible stories so I have some material to draw from.  Sam's favorite he begs for every night is the story of David and Goliath.  And every single night when I am done telling him that one he asks me for a sling shot.  I'll announce it on this blog when I finally do let him have one, and you will hear the pounding of a For Sale Sign into the front yard of my parents, who happen to live next door.  Heck, that complete set of new windows are a few years old now, right?

Enjoy your movie and seeing my real life heroes.  Don't forget to read part 2 to check out the Heroines.

Lesson 115: My Heroines Part 2

This weekend's blog post cannot be complete without giving some cybertime to my gals, Natalie and Ellen.  They are my heroines.  Tonight was the first Sparkles cheerleading event.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Sparkles are the girls who add some sparkle to the high school basketball cheerleading squad a few times a season.  Our high school includes girls who are physically or mentally challenged into some of the games.  The cheerleaders stay late on Monday nights to teach the Sparkles cheers and chants so they can participate in the fun, too.  The girls who bravely stand before the hometown crowd are as much my heroines as the girls who give their time and patience to include them.

Below you will see a picture of Ellen and Natalie at last year's Dance Show.  Ellen attends dance class with her sister to help her out during class and practices the routines with her at home.  Come show time in June, Ellen waits backstage with Natalie and performs with the group as the leader.  Without Ellen's patience and kindness, this would be very difficult for Natalie.  You can see some snapshots from tonight below.

But the very coolest part of this Part 2 post is the song.  Did you listen to it?  It is the same song as the first posting--just slowed way down and it's sung in that manner that leaves the listener desperate to find a hero, too.  This version is from the 2011 Footloose.  It is performed by Ella Mae Bowen and I really enjoy it.  I have both the newer and older versions on my iPod and it depends on my mood which I want to go out for a run with.  When I'm mad at the world, Bonnie Tyler's version from the 80's is it.  It's a little sassy and angry and I play that one if I have to run uphill.  When I'm moody and thinking of Tim McGraw on the way to Australia with his beautiful, skinny, talented, and rich wife, I play this one.  No one got me tickets to the Melbourne show for Christmas, even though they were at the top of my list.  Bummer.

Hold out for your hero, girls.  Even if you have to wait forever to find him, he'll be worth the wait.
Eloise---pictures below