Saturday, June 29, 2013

Lesson 242: Cruise

Around and around we go, Readers.  
The end of one week meets the beginning of another weekend.
Life is spinning fast here at the Lamp Post.  

That's me on the carousel at the Darien Lake, NY amusement park, by the way.  

There were lots of good opportunities for picture taking.
This one is our reflection in the hot air hand dryer in the bathroom.
Eloise stretched the limits of amusement.

On the two hour cruise east, while my excited children chattered about the excursion, I had time to consider how I would star in the day's show.  Would Eloise continue to display fraidy-cat behaviors in regard to thrill rides, or would this time be different?  

Typically amusement parks are a bust for my clan.  No one rides much besides the merry-go-round.  We are not, by any stretch of the imagination, thrill seekers.  We usually end up spending hundreds of dollars on gross food and arcade games.  

This time we brought along a daredevil, my fourteen year old nephew Jack.
He'd ride a bull bareback down the streets of Pamplona if you'd let him. 

Jack knows Aunt Eloise is a chicken.
 I quite surprised him when I walked into the park and suggested we ride this contraption.

This ride is called the Boomerang.  It's a short coaster that takes you on a upside down, twisty little journey, all while being shoulder harnessed into the seats.  Looking at this photo as I write, I still can't believe I did it!

So how did you do it, Eloise?  How did you overcome your extreme fear?

I began to remember that I wasn't always such a baby.  I had a horrible experience riding a monster of a coaster at Cedar Point twenty-two years ago with my friend and then college roommate, Tracy Southern.  My students beg me to tell them the story about the ride from hell that caused me to rip the shirt of the Puerto Rican man, who happened to be sitting in front of me.  I sang Jesus Loves Me on the way up the hill, and screamed  through the rest of it.  After I unclenched my fingers from his shirt at the end of the ride, he turned around and said to me, "Hey lady, you got a problem."  He sounded like Cheech from Cheech and Chong.  

From that day on, I let that experience define me.  I put myself into the category of "non-rider" and never have stepped onto a coaster since.  I decided last Sunday that it was time to put myself into a new category. I picked "brave".

It was more than just a personal revelation, though.  I had the idea swirling around in the big empty space underneath all of my hair; seeds planted from a couple of books I've been reading:  Divergent and Habit.  
Stemming from a recent conversation with a friend over some topics in the book The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, I decided to look at my fears from a habit standpoint.  This made them controllable.  

By changing my perspective, and having a nut like my nephew along, I rode more coasters, and also this giant Ferris wheel.

The Ferris wheel ended up being my favorite ride in the whole park.  I would have missed this awesome shot of Darien Lake had I not decided to put a stop to my behavioral habit of being afraid.  Thanks for your love and support, Jack!

The combo pass to the amusement and water park was a smokin' good deal because we had purchased concert tickets for the outdoor arena that same day.  After Eloise had screamed herself silly on thrill rides and wave pools, I hauled my tribe to see this band:

Eloise highly recommends their album released last summer, Uncaged.  

The cover looks a bit creepy, but the music is actually very light and summery.  With songs like Jump Right In and The Island Song, it is the perfect summer album to add to your playlist.  Zac Brown does some great remakes.  They did a blend of their song Free and Van Morrison's Into the Mystic, which was my favorite song of the night (and also available on iTunes).

Landshark Lager was a sponsor, so I even stepped out of my green bottle comfort zone to try one.
It was very good and Eloise has a new penny bank!

It helped take the edge off after a day of watching them.....

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I say no more.

I was  a little hesitant taking the kids to a country concert.  I've been to many and there is always someone visibly drunk.  Mother Eloise knew this would probably be the case, so I lectured the young 'uns on the way in that they may see a few people who have made poor choices, as we say in school.  

We had our butts planted in the grass but ten minutes when my teachable moment arrived.  MomentS actually, (plural).  The lesson came in the form of these two bozos in their early twenties.  The guy in the tank top was trying to act nonchalant, but he was actually trying to sneak his buddy over the fence to see the concert for free.  That's the buddy in shadow waving to all of you readers.

We watched as the visibly drunk young man made several attempts to launch himself over.  He kept falling into the bush you can see in the lower, right portion of the picture.

If you look closely at the top of the fence, it was covered in barbed wire.  

The alcohol cruising through his body must have deadened some nerve endings.

He made it!
The shirt didn't though.
Eloise hoped he was wearing some Kevlar boxer shorts.

The sun set on Ellen's little league season this week.

Neighboring community Corry hosted the All-Star Tournament this year.

She missed the first game because we were partying it up at the Zac Brown concert.  It was a very good lesson for Ellen.  Her team lost that game, and when she returned to play the next game in the series two days later, she was benched for most of it.  If you don't practice,  you don't play.

Lucky for us, (and according to Sam), it was a double HUMILIATION tournament, and the girls needed a second loss to be out.  They played hard on game number 2, and came out with a sizable win against the Lady Bison of Fort LeBoeuf.

The girls were all smiles because they got their groove back.

We had to play Corry, the host team, for the title game.  
Both schools wear colors of orange and black.
We were the ones sporting the paw print socks.

Number 22 gave it her all, 

but the series ended with a heartbreaking loss in extra innings.
Ellen learned it is more painful to lose by one run than by ten.

The girls had to settle for second, something that is very hard to do.

We spent lots of time cruising last week, because we were camping in Cooks Forest at the same time the tournament was going on.  Every afternoon, we'd have to pack up and make an hour and twenty minute, drive one way, (on curvy and hilly roads) just to get to the games.

Sam, my physical child who does not like to be sedentary, was the hardest to entertain while buckled in for three hours a day.  

I found this game for $4.97 at Wal-Mart.  
If you have a car trip this summer, Eloise highly recommends this little purchase.
We played every day, and the kids beat us in this series, five games to one!

Camp was fun as always. The mountains of Pennsylvania are really beautiful.  

It rained every day this trip.
So much so that we spent some of the time without power.
The deep woods sure does get spooky in the pitch black of a stormy night.
This is the three of them eating a melting tub of ice cream for dinner.

The rain left us looking for some indoor things to do.

The Ranger Station sure is nice.

We toured some of the small town grocery stores.  This one outside of Cooks Forest looked like it could have been in a Walton's episode.  Outside of the store, hung a payphone.  Sam saw it and said, "Hey!  I want to play that game!"  My six year old had never seen a payphone before!

We also went out to eat to pass the time.
We have to pull straws to see who gets to sit next to Sam.

Sam is not the easiest kid to sit next to.

There was a lot of this going on...

"Enough, you two!" scolded Mother Eloise of her children Ellen and Sam.  "Eat!"

Look how my boy chose to eat his animal shaped chicken nuggets........

He doesn't bite the heads off first like most kids.  Sam goes right for the @$$!

I refuse to let this sub par summer weather bite me in the @$$ either.  It's been a rainy June here on the north coast of the USA.  We're cruising through the summer in spite of it.

We fit in some fishing.

...and some dancing.

My lens didn't miss some great nature shots this week either.

There is good in every day.  Sometimes you just have to look a little harder for it.  If you can find the beauty in a mud puddle or the lesson in the loss, then perhaps you are a divergent thinker like 'Tris, from my book.

You still have time to grab a copy of Divergent if you are looking for that good summer read.  I'll be blogging about the topics of intelligence, aptitude, government, and fear interwoven in its pages over the next few weeks.

Midwesterners, you may recognize that sky line as the city of Chicago.  That is where the story of a future America, takes place.  The beginning reminds me a little of the Harry Potter Sorting Hat Ceremony, but the characters in this book have more choice as to where they belong.

Your homework for the week is to decide which faction you would join.  Would you become a member of:





I know what I would choose, and I will tell you next week.  

In the meantime, cruise with me on a photo display of my week.  The pictures below are set to Cruise by Florida Georgia Line.  This version features rapper Nelly, which I think is way cool.

Rev up your engines and have a great week!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Lesson 241: Tail of Two Cities

Happy weekend, Readers!
Summer has officially arrived in Erie and it finally feels like it.
Time to bust out the flip flops.

Here are a few snapshots of what my city looks like at her finest:

It sure is nice to have a sister.........

...with a pool.

It gives Eloise tons of summertime fun, 
not to mention countless photo opportunities.

Where's Sam?
Is that what you are asking, Readers?
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Scroll down...............
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Here's the little cherub!

I believe his exact words to me at the moment this picture was taken were:
"Save me, Mother!  I am your only son!  You can't do it because you are old and useless!"

The one kid who had to inherit my way with words................

Leo the Lionhearted is really one big feathery clucker at heart. Sam's a chicken.  He has a multitude of fears.
This day, it was of deep water.  He was convinced that the water was over his head.  All he needed to do is to extend his leg and put his foot down on the pool bottom, but he refused (loudly).

Thank the Lord for a very patient sister.

In time, Sam came around.  He always does.

The warm weather allowed for other outdoor Happy Activities:

Little league championship games,

(thanks Wendy, for the picture!)

Early morning Eloise Adventure Runs,

Father's Day.
That's my dad.  I cherish this shot I trusted my mother to take.  Dad is like photographing a rare and exotic bird.  Maybe that's because he's a bit of an odd duck.

But birds of a feather flock together, therefore my mother is a bit off kilter, too.  Her favorite game this summer is kickball.  Family driveway kickball has been a hit.  

Grandma always jumps right in for a game,

and plays All Time Defense.
(She caught five fly balls in a row during this particular game, earning the respect of her scrappy Grandson).
Grandma, you rock!

The weather is a very important influence in how one views an activity.  Did you ever sit through a graduation party in the cold, wet rain?  How about a downpour on your wedding day, or a blizzard when you are waiting for a flight to come in?   

The weather can definitely put a damper on an event, and living in Erie my whole life, I can say I've experienced many of those days.  As much as the weather can darken a mood, a beautiful day like these photos show can make you feel so good.  

It is all in how we choose to look at things.  We cannot change the weather, but we can choose how we let it   control us.  Rather than viewing my city as Dreary Erie, I cherish the many nice days we do have, and look at it another way.  

Erie, Pennsylvania made another top ten list.

10 Safest Cities in America from Natural Disasters

2. Erie, Pennsylvania

Population: 103,571
Violent Crimes per 100,000 Residents: 219
Best Known For: Presque Isle State Park, an arc-shaped peninsula in Lake Erie that is a popular destination for hiking, swimming, fishing and boating.
We can complain all we want about the weather, but at least we're safe!

Unfortunately, Erie tied for 10th in this "contest."

April 20, 2013

The fattest cities in America

11. Erie, Pa.

Percentage obese: 32.5% (tied for 10th highest)
Percentage with high blood pressure: 28.5% (93rd highest)
Percentage exercise regularly: 45.2% (3rd lowest)
Poverty rate: 16.4% (181st lowest)
Percentage with at least bachelor's degree: 24.2% (164th lowest)
One of the big problems for Erie that contributes to its high obesity rate is a lack of exercise. Just 45.2% of Erie residents claimed that they exercised at least 30 minutes a day for at least three days during the past week
This makes Eloise very sad.

Take heart!  Eloise is here to spread some cheer.  We cannot change the weather, but we can change our reaction to it.  Your thought patterns are a habit, as much as your unconscious actions are.  Don't believe me?  Check out the book that has recently piqued my interest, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

Chapter 9 of the book was very interesting.  It is titled The Neurology of Free Will--Are we responsible for our habits?  A very interesting read, indeed!  William James, doctor/writer/teacher/philosopher in the mid to late 1800's had some good thoughts on the topic of free will.  They can be found on page 272 if you have a hard cover copy.  Good luck finding the spot in your Kindle (I still can't get used to that.......).  

As brilliant as he was, James was a mess.  He couldn't get his life together.  James stopped and started many careers, was constantly frustrated with his life, and eventually wound up in a mental institution.  Contemplating suicide, he decided to give himself one last shot.  James decided to conduct a yearlong experiment on himself.  From page 272:

He would spend twelve months believing that he had control over himself and his destiny, that he could become better, and that he had the free will to change.  There was no proof that it was true.  But he would free himself to believe that change was possible.  

Basically, James chose to make positive thought a practice.  He had to fake it at first, but day after day, his thoughts became a habit.  Within the year James's life came together, and his insightful work still influences us today.

So in which city does Eloise reside?  
  • Dreary Erie--the one filled with fat and crabby people whose lives are dictated by the weather. 
  • or Safe Haven---the number two city in the US, least likely to experience a natural disaster.      

You choose, because ultimately, your thinking is YOUR choice, not mine.  I choose the positive and I like to hang out with some people with like thinking.  Here is my workout group participating in a Challenge Erie 4 weekend activity.  It was a Beach Challenge.

We worked out right on the beach!

Our group gathered at Beach 1 on Presque Isle State Park, early on a Saturday morning.

We ran some trails,

and along the shoreline.

Climbed some hills,

over natural debris found along the beach,

and belly crawled in the sand.

 With teamwork, we moved logs.

When the challenge was over, we smiled because we were in it together.

Everyone knows that I am the World's #1 LOST fan, hence the pen name Eloise Hawking and my writing station, The Lamp Post.  My daughter Ellen's rite of passage into Junior High School involves watching the entire series with me this summer.  We are finishing up Season 1 this weekend.  

Eloise is a self-proclaimed connector, and I couldn't miss this one.


The Island:

Those castaways built a raft, Doc.  Maybe that should be one of our future challenges.

The blogs that involve Challenge Erie now circulate the most, surpassing the autism posts, Tim McGraw, and Moon Me, visited daily by a Blake Shelton fan in Meadville.  

Curious?  Get your tails to a workout, Erieites and decide which city you want to live in--the fat one or the safe one.  Come see what it's all about.  If I photograph your tail, I promise not to tag you.  See, I didn't do it here:  

FYI:  (I'm gonna catch hell for this one---my teammates are all good natured until the butt shots come into play)

You can get started by making fitness a habit.  Set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier, and put your sneakers next to the potty.  That's where I keep mine.  I have no choice to look at them after the morning bladder relief.  My first thing in the morning workouts have become such a habit that last month, the dog woke me up  in the night to go out.  Before I even looked at the clock to consider the time, and I was fully dressed and ready for a workout at 2:42 am.

Lots of people in my workout group claim that outdoor fitness is an addiction. It made Eloise stop and think about the fine lines between addiction and habits.  When is an addiction beyond your control, and when are behaviors a habit?  Are habits addictions?  Fine lines exist like that all throughout our language.  For example, when is a person intellectually confident versus arrogant?  Can someone really pull off being sassy and brassy, or is it just a nice way of saying, "You're a bitch?"

Duhigg explains this well, and footnotes this for us on page 69:

(paraphrased in parts)
The line separating habits and addictions is often difficult to measure.  For instance, the Amercian Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a "primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.....Addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished relationships."  

By that definition, some researchers note it is difficult to determine why spending fifty dollars a week on cocaine is bad, but fifty dollars a week on coffee is okay.  

Speaking of coffee, I promised I'd disclose how much I had been drinking...

90 cups a week!!!!
If I seemed a bit twitchy, that was why.  

After I got involved with my outdoor workouts last winter, I noticed my heart racing and some mild chest pain during and after really hard running.  Given that I would down cups 9, 10, and 11 right before a workout, that was probably the reason why.  I made a decision to cut the coffee down.  I now have just one cup in the morning--7 a week! I've learned to like green tea and if I do want some in the evening, I have decaf.  I began that challenge on March 3rd, my 42nd birthday.  Three and a half months later I can say that I have not had a single chest pain.  

How hard was it to make that abrupt of a switch, Eloise?  It was rough for the first five days, and after that it wasn't that bad.  

Here's more from Charles Duhigg on why:

A physical addiction to nicotine, for instance, lasts only as long as the chemical is in a smoker's bloodstream---about one hundred hours after the last cigarette.  Many of the lingering urges that we think of as nicotine's addictive twinges are really behavioral habits asserting themselves.

Attacking the behaviors we think of as addictions by modifying the habits surrounding them has been shown to be one of the most effective modes of treatment.  

The Power of Habit has definitely been an interesting read for me.  I would definitely add it to your List of Summer Reads if you are seeking to make a change in your life.

Some other changes have been going on at the Lamp Post.  We have not one but TWO bird establishments. Robins have built nests on opposite sides of my house.   This truly is the Tail of Two Cities.

The North Establishment was built here, 'neath the grape vines that cover my back deck:

Here's my ladder I have left out.  I photograph them daily.

Here is Mother Robin North.

She has four healthy babies.

Boy, have they grown fast!
This is a span of less than two weeks!

Mother Robin South braved a nest on my front porch.  She's about a week behind North.  There is really no natural cover, but this side of the house does not get the wind and the rain that the north experiences.  

She too, laid four eggs.

I watched from peck mark,

to Hello, World!

One by one, they all hatched, too.

Man, do they eat!  

I completely understand, Mother Robin.
I can never keep enough food in the house this summer.

Eloise will be packing a cooler this weekend as we are headed out for a little summer vacation fun.  We are going to see these guys:
Zac Brown Band

For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is Zac Brown.

Zac Brown Band

He's the burly, bearded football player type, always sporting the knitted beanie.  He and his Georgia based band have some of the best lyrics in all of country music.  Sponsored by Landshark Lager, I'm hoping to try one for the first time while I listen to some tunes with my family.  

There is an amusement park linked to the concert arena, so we will be purchasing combo passes.  I have not ridden a thrill ride in years, since the dreaded Cedar Point trip that only Tracy Southern will remember.  Maybe I'll give it another try this weekend.  I'm feeling brave after reading Divergent.  If you have yet to get a copy, you have a week left until I start blogging about that book.  I am wondering which faction you would choose.

Eloise plans on jumping right into summer this weekend.  I'll follow the advice of Zac and his friends.

Jump right in-zac brown band

No problem.
Enjoy some summer snapshots set to Jump Right In by the Zac Brown Band.

Make a splash today, wherever you are.