Friday, November 30, 2012

Lesson 197: I Feel So Alive

I did it again, Readers!

stormy night...

"Now what?" say my parents, who happen to live next door to The Lamp Post.  At times, my life is like an episode from Ray Romano's sitcom, Everyone Loves Raymond.  After last week's blog post teaser about my special announcement I was going to make this weekend, I've caught my parents sneaking glances at my midsection.  No, Mom and Dad.  I am NOT pregnant.  I wrote a novel.  Again.  

November is National Novel Writing Month, in case you weren't aware.  Eloise participated in this program:

I highly recommend it if you, too, are tossing around the idea of writing a book.  Every single one of us has a story that needs to be told.  You all have been reading about my life.  Give me a chance to read about yours.  Give it a shot!

NaNoWriMo as it is nicknamed, takes place during the month of November.  That is the only drawback.  It's a tough month if you are a working mom.  It is completely free and the operation runs entirely on donations.  You simply sign up with the intention to write a novel during the month of November.  The book you write must be at least 50,000 words.  If you complete it by November 30th, you are considered a winner.  Last year 250,000 people signed up, and 33,000 finished.  I was a winner last year, too.  I wrote the third revision of my first book, The Key, soon headed to your bookshelf.  I got this t-shirt as proof:

Here are my stats for further proof that I actually did it.  Again.

Every night when I updated my word count, I was led to this screen to track my progress.  You can see at the beginning of the month, I wasn't making much progress.  That is when poor Eloise was a sorry soul, with a painful bout of Shingles along my trigeminal nerve.  I was put on physical and mental rest.  Basically all I was allowed to do was lay in my chair and look out the window.  For a creative soul such as myself, that was complete and utter torture.  Instead of bird watching, as my physician recommended, I planned my novel in my head.  I couldn't write it because my headache was so intense my eyes could not tolerate a computer screen.

You can see from the statistics when I began to get better.  I started turning on the steam around Day 13.  To write 50,000 words in half a month means devoting between two and three hours a day to writing.  I almost gave up.  Almost quit.  But if you know Eloise personally, you know that I am NOT a quitter.  I got up earlier, stayed up later, and held off looking at my Christmas List until now.  I have to admit, it made me a little nuts, but according to this pinterest pin, that's okay:

I guess mine will be outstanding.

"So what's it about, Eloise?" you are asking.  My 1989 graduating class may remember some of the plot of this mystery.  The novel includes, autism, a kidnapping, a school play, a dead president, a famous artist, and the urban legend of a hermit named Stanley.  89'ers, do you recall Stanley's house?  Can you read the title?  89'ers, your homework question is this:  Why is this title significant to Eloise?  

I made this one a mystery, which was very challenging to write.  The draft is complete crap, so don't expect to see it for awhile.  I'm going to put it on simmer on the back burner for awhile and work out the minute details to make it good.  In fact, the story was so scary that I had trouble sleeping a couple of nights---and I was the one writing it!  

For now I'll concentrate my efforts on getting The Key available for you to read.  Tracys Northern and Southern volunteered to help me with it, so I am sure you will see it soon.  Friends are good.  They keep Eloise on track.  

"Why did you do it, Eloise?" you ask.  

I did it because writing makes me feel alive.  It's my turn to ask you a question now.  What makes YOU feel alive?  

For me, aside from writing, it is concerts.  They make me feel alive.   I traveled with my mom, sister, and daughters to Pittsburgh this week to see this lovely lady perform:

This is country music star Carrie Underwood, Slovenians.  She is one talented human being.

Eloise is a frequent concert-goer and I am a good critic. I'd give this show a ten out of ten stars.  Not only is Carrie's voice excellent, but the staging and costume changes were top notch, too.

She likes daisies as much as I do.

She flew over the audience on this hot air balloon contraption, 

allowing for Eloise's lens to grab this close up.

How I wish I could look that good in cut off jeans and a t-shirt!

Another thing that makes me feel alive is Friday nights.  Friday at quittin' time is my favorite time of the week.   I usually have one of these to celebrate:

As you can see, Eloise is calorie conscious for the next two months, so I switched to Rock Light.

It has a cool looking cap.  I'll be mailing it to you soon, Mikey.

But even better yet, Rock Light has its own mystery.  Look at the "10".  What does that mean?

The original Rolling Rock has a "33" at the bottom.   It has been the source of much rumor and speculation.  Google it yourself to see.  Now I have the mystery of "10" to look into.  That's good, because I am in to mysteries at the moment.

Ellen feels alive with her artwork.  This is her hand she made tonight.  Can you see it?

Natalie, who has the starring role in my new novel, likes to organize things.  She is extremely neat.  We reorganized the refrigerator according to new ideas I gained from a team I am working with (story coming on that at the end of December).  Natalie was happy.  Orderly things make her feel alive.

 Yes, those are all veggies cut up and ready to eat.  I told you Eloise is calorie conscious this month!

 Sam is extremely neat, too.  

He's been making these "paper wrestlers" this week.  
I triple dog dare you to call them "paper dolls" in front of him.  
They are action figures, Readers. Let's be clear on that.

He keeps them all in a hat box. 


 Lord help me.

What makes you feel alive, Readers?  Answer this question for your weekend homework.  What makes you tick?  

In the video below, you will get a peek of the Lamp Post at Christmas time.  Eloise is not much for video.  I prefer pictures.  The flip camera happened to be next to me when Sam discovered the bubble wrap from one of the MANY boxes that have been arriving daily from my on-line shopping this year.  If I don't fess up to my on line shopping (I had SHINGLES for cripes sake!  I had to catch up!), someone will think I am having a fling with my postman.

Actually, my UPS driver was a high school friend of Kenyan's unbeknownst to me.  His wife is a reader of this blog and will surely chuckle at the mention.  He once said to me as he was dropping off a package, "I don't know who gets more boxes, you or your sister!"  I immediately called Kenyan to told me that the UPS driver was on to us and that somehow he knew we were sisters.  I was creeped out.  Then Kenyan told me who he was, and I exhaled a sigh of relief.  

This minute long video will give you all some glimpse of what I deal with in raising my son Sam.  He's all boy.  Sitting and popping bubble wrap with his fingers just wasn't an option.  You'll see that he is a well as ambidextrous.  Sigh.  I just exhaled again, but this is not one of relief.

Enjoy your weekend.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lesson 196: Thanksgiving Leftovers

Hello, Readers!
Here is your plate of Thanksgiving leftovers.
It's just an easy read; a hodgepodge of photos from Thanksgiving vacation.

My sister Kenyan hosts Thanksgiving every year.  It is my favorite day of the year.  I get to eat a great meal, and don't have to go to a restaurant.  Eloise is a cheap date---I don't like restaurants.    

Kenyan and Steve make everything, and I mean EVERYTHING.  My brother in law is the only person I know that leaves an eater wanting a second helping of vegetables. I don't even have to bring anything.  I feel guilty though. All that upbringing from my parents which taught me never to show up to a dinner empty handed, I guess.  So I brought this, along with a case of beer and a board game:

Eloise is a seasonal eater.  I love Pumpkin Anything in the fall.  Anything Cranberry, too.  My favorite is the jelled cranberry sauce out of the can.  I consider it a successful dish if I can extract the cranberry sauce with the can marks still in the jelly!  Kenyan says part of fine dining is in the presentation.  Before I brought this dish up to Magnolia Blossom to share, I centered it just right on my Wal-Mart plate.  All in the presentation, right?

My favor to Kenyan and Steve in exchange for the grandiose dinner is this:

I take Erik for a couple of hours so they can make the final feast preparations in peace.  

For my Slovenian readers, Erik is my fifteen year old nephew with autism.  He and my oldest daughter Natalie slog through life with this puzzling disorder.  Kenyan and I try to give them the best lives possible.  We buy them the nicest clothes, take them places in the community, and advocate, advocate, ADVOCATE for people with disabilities.  

Erik is fifteen and has yet to speak his first word.  He is hyperactive, has seizures, and can never be left unattended---even for a split second.  One of my many nicknames I have for my nephew is Houdini, as he is known for disappearing.  

If you are familiar with old Eloise, you know that I can be, well, um, er, ahem, a bit distracted.  I got a lot going on at the Lamp Post and my attention has to jump from one thing to the next.  Not wanting to ruin any one's holiday by filing a missing person's report on my own kin, I came up with this solution while Erik is under my watch:

I hook Josie's retractable dog leash to his belt loop, and take him outside to roam.

I am completely over the "what will the neighbors think" thing.  Autism is so well known now in the public realm that no one flinches at seeing teenagers on tether cords, and parents holding an adult child's hand while going through a parking lot.  It is all about safety.  

While I was letting Erik roam my yard, Ellen and Jack were in charge of entertaining Sam.  The teen and preteen were not completely thrilled with Sam busting in on everything they attempted to do.  My five year old is sometimes hard to take.  This is what I had to deal with:



And lots of tattletaling.

When I asked the dynamic duo if they were antagonizing Sam, this was the response:

You be the judge.

As much as Sam is the subject of torment on this blog, I am thankful for my boy.  I get one more Christmas with a five year old.  How excited he is!  Sam could not wait for Santa to arrive at the Macy's Day Parade. 
He climbed the piano bench seat to get a closer look.  

Sam played Santa a song hoping to earn a few bonus points.  Sam was operating in the hole for awhile.

Some proof that Mother Eloise is teaching Sam that "the news" is an important show to watch.

Sam clapped at the end of the parade.  
Mother Eloise teared up, thankful for one more holiday season with a five year old.
It's magical.

 But.... Sam was back to bugging me by today. 
Look what he did to my newly cleaned windows.....

Sam proudly announced, "Look, Mom!  See what my bref can do!"

 I can write my name!

Hey!  It's snowing!  When can we go outside?

Yes, it did snow in the Erie region today, Readers.  
Tuesday it looked like this:

Today my mums were covered in snow,

As were my roses.

Sam made a snow fort,

at the very same place this photo was taken four days ago.
That, Slovenians, is Erie weather in a nutshell.

Ellen made her own snow fort.

Someone doesn't take it too well when he gets hit.

 Thank the Lord he wasn't an only child.  His sisters laughing at him will make Sam a better person in the long run.


 It's a short post tonight, folks.  My creative energy is being put forth to another project.  I have a big announcement I'll make next weekend.  I can't wait to tell you and to be fair, I'll announce it on my blog.  The early birds get the worm on this one.  I am sure Tracy Northern will be up at 4:00 am for her cup of coffee.  My mother just may not go to bed.

Whoops!  Did you hear that?  Wait.  I have to go check something out.  Some disturbance outside that needs investigated.  I'll be right back......

......whew!  It was just my Dad.  Mom read him this post and he went out to root through my garbage for a pregnancy test.  No, Dad.  That's not the announcement.  Sam is the punctuation mark on your grandchildren,  I promise you that.  Check in next weekend and you can find out with the rest of the world.

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving Leftovers.  I did up the remains of my turkey every way possible by using this link:


By today we were sick of turkey, so I made spaghetti sauce instead, and fed the last bits to the dog.

But I did think of number 51 today.

Here is my best Thanksgiving Leftover recipe.
One part chicken wings from Gary's Superette (Cajun style),

And one part pony bottle of Rolling Rock,

Add a dash of your favorite music (Zac Brown Band, tonight).

And Wa-la!  You get this video below.

Have a great week.  Don't forget to stop by the Lamp Post next weekend to read Eloise's Big Announcement.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lesson 195: Thank the Lord

It's Thanksgiving!
Thank the Lord!

Here are two shots of the sun coming up over the frosted vineyards.  They were taken last weekend on one of my first days out, after a two week bout of shingles.  The chicken pox virus the second time around was as no fun as it was the first time.  Round one was when I was in  fourth grade, and missed Trick or Treating as a result.  Round two was virus versus Adult Eloise and it kicked my @$$.  Caution to virus:  I look sweet, but beware.  I can kick back. Hard. Six week healing period?  No, thank you.

Eloise set her mind to getting better.  I prayed a lot.  Thank you, Lord.  I drank a ton of smoothies.  Thank you, Tracy Southern.  I tried to rest.  I kept thinking just make it to Thanksgiving and things will be better.....  They are.  Much better.  Although I still have some healing to do.

The Single Shingle as I've so named the cold sore-like blister on the side of my nose, is a barometer for my health.  Until it is completely gone, the virus is still active.  Every time I try to do more, or push it too much, it glows red and Eloise looks like Rudolph with his nose offset.  It is a lovely shade of amber today.

I've got some fun things planned, 188 Dr. Seuss tests to grade (we studied him first quarter), and my Mom List is growing by one or two bullets by the hour.  Still, I plan to try to rest and finish healing all of the way.  I am thankful for the time off. Thank you, Lord.

I'm also thankful for the beautiful vineyard across the street from the Lamp Post.
I caught a ray of light the other morning.  

I was thankful for that.

I'm most thankful to be spending time with them:

We experienced some really nice weather in my Lake Erie region today.  As of this writing (Wednesday afternoon) it's 51 and sunny and I'm headed out for a very slow trot soon.  Maybe I can sweat this sucker out of me.  Thank you, Lord.

Ellen and Sam played catch all afternoon, and Eloise had some peace to clean up my house.
Thank you, Lord.

Ellen got to use sidewalk chalk in the driveway today instead of a snow shovel.
Thank you, Lord.

The boys gathered in my backyard for a game of football.

Sam made a macaroni turkey. 

Natalie couldn't wait to paint.

A little down time is good for everyone.  Readers, I hope you all get at least one day of rest over the holiday.  That is one hard lesson that I learned.  Rest is important.

Sometimes the only rest I get, is to get away from the Lamp Post as there is always someONE or someTHING than needs my attention.  A good escape for Eloise is a movie.  A two hour confined place for me to sit down for a little bit and watch something for enjoyment.  I only like to go to movies during the winter months though; from Thanksgiving through about March.  After that, I can't stand to be cooped up inside.  

This weekend I have several to choose from:

My girls and my two friends Tracy--Northern & Southern can't wait to see how Stephenie Meyer ends this saga.

Sam has his eyes set fists set on this one:

I'd kind of like to see the one about this man:

That is Abraham Lincoln, Slovenians.  He was the sixteenth president of the United States.  Lincoln was our best president in Eloise's opinion.  He governed when the strength of our union experienced its most severe test.  A movie has been made of his life and opened on November 9th.  

The movie stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, and Sally Field--all fantastic at their craft.  It looks to be a good one.  

I love my presidents.  I read about them all the time.  Most of my energy goes to the presidents in my lifetime--from Nixon through Obama.  Jimmy Carter is my favorite person who was ever president---a real and honest individual.  He's written a multitude of books and when I read them I can almost hear his southern drawl.  I'd like to get to Plains, Georgia soon while he is still living.  I'd love to get the chance to meet him.  In all honesty, if given the choice, I'd choose a backstage pass to meet Jimmy Carter over Tim McGraw, if you can believe that!  

I got into Lincoln again because the sixth grade in my daughter's school studied the Civil War.  She was bringing home tons of research material and books on the subject and many an evening the two of us leafed through them and talked history.  Lincoln is most famous for his image on our penny and the five dollar bill.  He's hailed for holding our nation together through the Civil War.  

What I almost forgot about, but was reminded of this fall, was that it was President Lincoln who declared the first national day of Thanksgiving in 1863.  However, we don't have Abe Lincoln to thank for that.  Thank her:  

This is Sarah Hale.  

Sarah knew the power of the pen.  She was a magazine editor.

Sarah felt that the nation needed a national day of Thanksgiving.  This was a seventeen year long project for Sarah that began years before Lincoln's time in office.  She sent requests to four presidents prior to Lincoln:  Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan.  None considered a unifying day of thanks top administrative priority.  Then came Lincoln.

She sent President Lincoln her letter in September of 1863, right smack dab in the middle of the Civil War.  Part of Sarah's request was worded as follows, according to Abraham Lincoln Online--Speeches & Writing:

You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritative fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution."

In a war torn nation, it seemed very unlikely that such a request would be recognized.  Yet just a week later, President Lincoln read her letter and responded immediately.  Lincoln composed a written document that is known as The Thanksgiving Proclamation.  Google that, and you can read it in it's entirety in just a couple of clicks on line.  Lincoln had a passion for the pen.  His words are beautiful.  A good writer always impresses Eloise.  The document's language is somewhat difficult, so I broke the words up in phrases for you for easier reading.  I can't help it.  I'm a teacher.  

I also took the liberty of hi lighting my favorite words and phrases.  Words are cool, and old Abe really had a way with them.  

Some of the wording from Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation, October 3, 1863:

By the President of the United States

A Proclamation

The year that is drawing to a close,
has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields
and healthful skies.

To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed
that we are prone to forget the source from which they come
others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, 
that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart
which is habitually insensible 
to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. 

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, 

Population has steadily increased, 
notwithstanding the waste that has been made in 
the camp, 
the siege 
and the battle-field; 
and the country, 
rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, 
is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. 

No human counsel hath devised 
nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. 
They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, 
who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, 
hath nevertheless remembered mercy. 

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, 
and gratefully acknowledged 
as with one heart and one voice 
by the whole American People. 

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, 
and also those who are at sea 
and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, 
to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, 
as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. 

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him
for such singular deliverances and blessings, 
they do also, with humble penitence 
for our national perverseness and disobedience, 
commend to His tender care all those who have become 
or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife 
in which we are unavoidably engaged, 

and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand 
to heal the wounds of the nation 
and to restore it as soon as may be consistent 
with the Divine purposes 
to the full enjoyment of 
and Union.

Done at the City of Washington, 
this Third day of October, 
in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, 
and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Impressive, wouldn't you say?

Here's another impressive fact:  4,000 are running our local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning!

Erieites, don't look for me to be running under the name of a dead US President. I'm up to William Henry Harrison, but he won't be making an appearance.  Eloise will be at the Lamp Post enjoying a morning off.  Thank the Lord! I don't like crowds and am no good at math, but I know that means 4,000 runners to 6 port a potties does not make a favorable ratio.  No thanks.

To Kenyan, Northern, Doc, and all of my team mates--trot tough.  I'd lie and say something lame like I'll be with you in spirit, but Thanksgiving is a day declared by Honest Abe so I can't do that.  I won't even give you a second thought.  I'll be sipping my coffee in my pajama bottoms, watching the Macy's day parade.  Thank the Lord!

One of the things Eloise is most thankful for is Sam's smooth transition into our public school system in the Great State of Pennsylvania.  Eloise was worried.  He's a hard kid to channel, and I'll be the first to admit that.  My boy loves school though and is doing very well.  Thank the Lord.

Sam has been drawing these "sky scrapers" lately.
Sam's art intrigues me.  I am not sure why the building is rainbow striped,
or what exactly those USA things are on the sides.
He's made at least five of them this week.

Here is another example of a "sky scraper."
Read closely under Mom & Dad.
All Eloise has to say to that is Thank the Lord.  

And here is one final Thank You, Lord, meant very literally.  Thanks to the Erie Lord Manufacturing Plant for the nice tour on Tuesday.  My students and I enjoyed it.  You are proof that manufacturing can hold its northern roots strong.  We're glad you are staying with us, and best of luck in the transition to your new facility.  I brought you some smart ones.  You may have just had your first encounter with your future boss.

In your Thanksgiving prayers today, borrow some words from Abe Lincoln.  Remember to thank The Most High God for the bounties, healthful skies, and a day full of blessings.  To bless not only those around our tables, but also the widows, orphans, mourners, and sufferers, too.  To heal the wounds of our nation, and bring peace, tranquility, and unity to all people.  

Lincoln movie trailer is posted below.

Bountiful blessings,