Friday, April 26, 2013

Lesson 228: Tested

What are you made of, Readers?
Sticks and snails and puppy dog tails?

Sugar and spice?

Everything nice?

I think I'm made of steel.
I spent my entire day with teenagers.

But it was a good day.  Eloise left inspired.

News has not been good for children and youth.  Reports from the experts tell us they are materialistic, selfish, lazy, and disconnected.  They are the first generation that is not expected to outlive their parents....if they don't kill us.  Our nation's worst tragedies as of late have been at the hands of teens and young adults.  What is happening?  Can we stop it?  After today's event, I do believe we can.

Mrs. Eloise spent the day with some students representing our school district at the Power of Youth, Choices Day.  It was nothing short of inspirational listening to teams of teens share what their schools are doing to improve school climate, open lines of communication, and increase tolerance.  

It was sad that there wasn't one representative from any news media to publicize these good things.  The bad stuff makes for the best news, I guess.  Our faith is tested after hearing such poor reports day after day. That is where I step in.  

Many groups were represented.  The North East School District Inspire Team was one of the best groups of the day.  Mrs. Eloise also needs to give props to the Principal's Cabinet of General McLane for their Ribbons of Kindness, and for the persistent group of teens who stormed City Hall to prove need of a Skate Park.  (They succeeded).

I wish he was there to see this.  

That's my Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Corbett.  That's him pointing his finger at the public schools.  He's testing my patience.  Governor Corbett was actually in my city today, speaking at a gathering of the Republican party.  His wife, PA's first lady, spent the day touring some city schools.  I hope she saw the belief and dedication at work.  We'll prove ourselves again this year.  

Natalie has been tested this week because her evening routine has been interrupted.  With Little League under full swing, her 7:30 baths with her lined up tub toys have to be backed up a bit.

Natalie doing fine.  Natalie is her brother and her sister's biggest fan.

Spring has arrived here at the Lamp Post.  It's been sunny enough to bring out the buds,

the daffodils,

and the fat robins.

However, sunny does not equal warm in Erie.  Eloise still has to bundle up.

Unless, of course, I attend a Team Adrenaline workout.  Then I get hot and sweaty.

I love the organic, outdoor exercise.  It makes Eloise feel like a kid again.

This is good, because my kids are getting involved with my workouts.  Talk about testing my endurance! Doc's a pussy cat compared to my three drill instructors.  They even make me up workouts to do.

Getting kids involved in your fitness is a very good thing.  I love Sam's hiy nees (high knees).  Ellen seems to like to suggest butt kickers and she knows full well I hate moving jumping jacks.  I can certainly tell by her choices that she's almost 13.  

The girls and I try to hit out bikes a few nights a week.  Our route really tests our strength as the whole way home is UP hill.  

Heck.  I think we may have even inspired him......

that's my dad.  

He mounted a basket on the back of Natalie's bike for us so she can carry our water.

He took her pink Schwinn for a test ride thinking no one was watching.  The photo credit goes to Ellen on this one.  She's as dangerous as her Momma with a zoom lens.

My patience was tested last week with Sam's new love of Legos.  I never played with them before in my life.  This was a gift from Aunt Karen for Sam's birthday.  

Sam has been begging me to build them with him.  Knowing that I am not a whiz with spatial design (as it relates to math), and following directions are not my forte, 

I told Sam to hold off until we had a vacation day on April 19th.  On that day we built the city.

It couldn't have been timed better.  Last Friday was the live coverage of the crisis in Boston and I had the TV on in the kitchen watching the news.  It just so happened that we were building the kit that was centered around the Bad Guys hideout.  The set contained a couple of cop cars, a get away boat, and a police helicopter.

Sometimes things just fall into place when you need to talk about the important topics with your child.  You know, the big three:  drugs, sex, and Santa Claus.  Our topic last Friday was "bad people."

"Why did those guys blow up bombs?" asked Sam.

"I don't know, Sam," I sighed.  "They must have been filled with lots and lots of hate."

"Will a bomb ever go off in our town," Sam asked.  He put down his action figure for a moment, and looked at me intently, waiting for my answer.

What does a parent say to a question like that anymore?  A "no" sure did feel like a lie at that moment.  A "I hope not" didn't seem to offer the security six year old Sam was searching for.  Instead I steered the conversation to focus on the helpers, with the help of this hero:

That's Mr. Rogers, Slovenians.  I watched his show every single day when I was little.  Lady Elaine Fairchild was the ugliest puppet in the kindgom....remember that?   This image was circulating through social media last week, and I thought it was blog worthy.  Look for the helpers.  Great advice, Mr. Rogers.  Thank you.

On a happy note, literally and figuratively.....I'm getting Tim McGraw tickets on Saturday!!!! Eloise and some friends are going to see him on Memorial Day weekend.  Yeehaw!  That must be why this was in my fortune cookie for dinner!

The obscure Fionnula Flanigan remained in hiding this week.  I'm waiting for my secret admirer to send me another clue.  Number 217, the clue on the lamp post card from last week, has me stumped.  Eloise went through her entire address book, looking for an address with 2-1-7 in it, and no luck.  I then searched every facebook friend's birthday, hoping someone would be born on February 17th.  No luck there either.

Tracy Southern sent me a good lead.  She's a sharp little cookie.  She said if you turn the number 217 upside down it spells LIZ.  Can you help me, Readers?  Does tinkle any bells in your heads?

No sign from Fionnula Flanigan, but a friend sent me this sign!  I love the number three.  One of the reasons is because it represents the holy trinity.  Oh thank heavens Jimmi was thoughtful enough to send me this sign. I should have known he'd do that---he's a Noticer, too.

Thank heaven the weekend is here.  Spend some time with someone you love, doing something you love.
Enjoy the picture video below.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lesson 227: Tornado

Sti bili to gledal, Slovenci?
You've been watching this, Slovenians?
We have ourselves a crisis situation in my country.

As I write Friday night, everything is still unfolding in Boston.  The city is under lock down as law enforcement searches for a man responsible for the detonation of bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon earlier this week.  It has been a sick, sad week.

Who knows what will have happened by the time you are sipping your coffee reading this post?  Eloise is sure of the fact that we will be afforded all the details, if we choose to watch (or read).  This tragedy has been receiving live coverage for most of the day today.  Some say that the coverage is too much; it gives too much attention to the wrongdoer and it may cause copycat acts.  True.  But freedom of speech and freedom of press are crucial to making this country strong.  Remember you always have the choice to step away.

Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don't you think?--The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Me and many like me, have moved through stages of grief this week.  We all do it, whether we realize it or not.  In 1969 Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book titled On Death and Dying.  In it she outlined what she believed to be a series of five emotional stages a person moves through when faced with an extreme (death, tragedy, terminal illness, divorce).  

Kubler-Ross hypothesized that everyone moves through these five stages, each at his own pace:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance
Eloise has determined that she is at stage 2--Anger.  I find myself getting mad often.  Mad at the evil.  Mad at the loss of innocent life.  Mad at the system.  That is why I chose Tornado as the song for my pictures from this week.  It's kind of an angry song by Little Big Town.  The song fits the mood at the Lamp Post perfectly.  Scroll to the bottom of this post to check it out.

Tornado also works well because my students and I are continuing to pick our way though the 1900 book version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.  I've never read the book until this year, and it truly is a work of art.  

Fantasy is not Eloise's favorite of genres but there is so much more beneath the absurdity of Tin Men and Lollipop Guilds.  Weekend homework:  Google Wizard of Oz symbolism and see what pops up.  Frank Baum stated that the story was nothing more than a written form of a bedtime tale he told to his children, put into writing by the urging of his wife.  Most of the speculation of a larger, underlying story came after his death, therefore we can never be certain of Baum's true intent.  I do know that when you study every gifted writer, there is always a story that lies beneath.  Eloise loves looking for them.

My favorite quote from the book, which never made the movie, is about courage.  It reminds me of all the Bostonians this evening:

"You have plenty of courage, I am sure," answered Oz.  "All you need is confidence in yourself.  There is no living thing that isn't afraid when it faces danger.  The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty."--The Wonderful World of Oz

Hang in there, Boston.  We're all with you.

Erie is a good jump from Massachusetts, and it sure isn't Kansas, but we did have some high winds today.

Grandpa's wind gauge he made was a-spinning. The warm south wind met up with a cold front sweeping across the Great Lakes; hence a 40 degree temperature drop in one day.  Snow is predicted for some areas tonight.

Grandpa's wind gauge is pretty accurate,
despite the fact that he welded together a broken fan,

and made center out of a discarded lid.

Eloise has been her own kind of tornado this week.
I'm spring cleaning.

Storage room gutted......

Storage room back together.

Drawers dumped.

The prize: Eloise has been removed from Clark School Library's Most Wanted List.
(It was in with the coloring books!)

"It is such an uncomfortable feeling to know one is a fool."  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Speaking of shoes--did you know the original slippers in the novel were silver, not ruby red?  Dorothy also wore a pink sunbonnet, too.

Eloise has been able to take her mind off of Boston from time to time, as I've got a mystery to solve.  Eloise has a secret admirer!  I had one in high school and it was fun figuring out the person's identity over two decades.  Now I have another.  A letter from Fionnula Flanigan of Orange Beach, Alabama showed up again this week---with an Erie postmark!

Last weekend I switched on the night light here at the Lamp Post and went to bed, thinking I had the mystery solved.  I even sent a package to the persons I thought responsible for sending me this fabulous new writer's notebook.  

Eloise and family were WRONG! Imagine my surprise when I received a letter this week.  It came in a handmade card.  The outside gives a few clues, 

...and the inside gives us a few more.

 Eloise was stumped, so I put her on the case.

That's my mother.  She lives next door to me.  Nothing gets past the woman.
I noticed your garage door was down....
I noticed that your upstairs light was on.....
I noticed your bike was gone from the garage.....
I noticed Sam has a bruise on his cheek.......

(Maybe I shouldn't have suggested she read The Noticer..)

Still Grandma comes in handy when there is a puzzle to solve.  She's got a mind for the complicated.  She's scrutinizing every detail and I wouldn't put it past her to dust for fingerprints.  I think they need Helen in Boston.  She's deduced the following:
  1. Fionnula knows my family, as she/he mentioned "Karen" (my sister's birth name), not "Kenyan" (my nickname for her)
  2. 217 (on the lamp post) is the number of which the writer of the rhyme speaks--house number?  birth date? dollars in your bank account?
  3. This person is a good writer, clever poet, a reader of books, and perhaps a LOST fan.
  4. Who uses the word "gaffe"?  If you speak to me regularly, it is sure to slip, and I'll hear it.  We are ALL listening for it.
  5. This person has my ticket at the moment, but I will find you, someday.  You can plan on that!
Thank you, Fionnula, Whoever You Are.  This has been really fun.  The challenge has shown me that I am not as smart as I think I am.  I struck out once already.  I do LOVE the excitement I feel trying to solve this mystery.  

So what is more important, Readers, brains or heart?  I think Frank Baum got it exactly right, and if we all would have read the book instead of just watching the movie, we would have learned this:

"Oh, I see;" said the Tin Woodman.  "But after all, brains are not the best things in the world."

"Have you any?" inquired the Scarecrow.

"No, my head is quite empty," answered the Woodman; "but once I had brains, and a heart also; so, having tried them both, I should much rather have a heart."

--L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

I very much agree, Mr. Baum.   I've proven that I'm lacking in the logic department, but I am long on love.  So because I have a little extra heart to give, tonight a piece of mine goes out to:  


One of you lucky Readers will be the recipient of Guess #2.  I'm mailing it to who I think Fionnula is on Saturday.  Let me know if I'm correct.

Love Always,