Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lesson 35: XLV means 45

On Sunday, February 6, 2011 my family will have the ultimate football showdown: a Pittsburgh Steeler vs Green Bay Packer match up in Super Bowl XLV--that's 45 if you aren't familiar with the Roman Numerals--We still use those, why?   It will undoubtedly be legendary.  The Overdorffs are die hard Steeler fans and the Groshek boys are big, giant cheeseheads.  With intermarriage, Karen is allowed dual allegiance.  This keeps her well pleased as she can buy twice the merchandise. 

Both teams are not only deserving to play in America's top game, but have the most interesting histories behind their franchises.  I thought I'd take a bit of cyber space to give you a little NFL history lesson.  When I am done, I hope that you find it almost hard to choose who to root for.  If you are one of my Slovenian followers, pick Pittsburgh because Eloise is a Pennsylvanian.

My sources of information are mainly personal comments from my father on the Pittsburgh side and brother in law, WisCONsin native, Steve, as well as my friend Mr. Wikipedia, and numerous NFL and fan websites.

We'll start with the underdogs in my opinion, but not according to the odds makers (who do they think they are anyway?):  The Packers.   Many people know that Green Bay is a fan owned franchise and that the wait for season tickets is now estimated to be 100 years.  Aunt Eloise loves to buy her nephews Erik and Jack, Green Bay team attire for Christmas every year.  I also love to find things with the big G on them because I tell them the G really stands for Groshek.  I was always under the assumption that the G was for Green Bay.  Here is a little gold nugget of information for you:  the original intent of the golden G was to stand for "Greatness."  The Pack also has quite a following that is admirable given the winters they have up in that God Forsaken Land.  I found out that every game at Lambeau Field has been sold out since 1960, regardless of their performance, no matter the temperature.  Now that readers, is something special to be said about loyalty to your team.  Hats off to.....,or rather, hoods up to the Packer fans on that one.

The Steeler fans, who have united under the name Steeler Nation, do not share quite as warm and fuzzy reputation.  They are often referred to as "white trash hillbillies". Given the working class town that the Steelers call home to, the fans match the rough and tumble nature of the team.  Sports journalists have sometimes portrayed the fans in according to Wikipedia, "an unflattering light."  One sports journalist called them the "grubbiest, loudest, and nastiest fan base in all of sports."  I think I should send that writer to Cleveland to visit all of the Ohio Overdorffs and sit him in the Dog Pound, or have him shout "I love LeBron James!" at the top of his lungs.  I beg to differ.  Cleveland fans are way worse.

Rough as the fans can be, Steelers fans are loyal too, as they bow down to the Rooney family who has owned the franchise since the beginning.  The Rooney family history is extremely interesting and if you want a good read, look up some of that on the internet.  They love the city of Pittsburgh and always use the team to help the betterment of the city. 

Love and loyalty are two themes are interwoven into both teams.  The Pittsburgh fans will surely be gnawing on Roethlisburgers and smashing the Iron City beer cans off of their foreheads next Sunday.  The Cheeseheads of WisCONson will be no doubt eating cheesecurds while swilling Milwaukee brewed Miller Genuine Draft.  Both will be 100% behind the team they love.  They'll cheer, clap, shout, yell, and even cry.  If you don't believe me, just come and see my mother watch a Steelers game. 

No matter where you live, or who you like, pick a team and watch the game.  It is part of our culture, part of America.  If you don't understand the game, wait for the commercials.  If you aren't much for those, watch the half time show.  If that doesn't trip your trigger than at least cook up some food and invite a few friends over and watch them watch the game.  If none of that catches your fancy you are a total loser so get off of my blog.  Eloise does not have any room in her life for crabby people.

I feel like I can't lose this year.  I got what I really wanted--the match up and two weeks of squealing and anticipation and speculation over what might happen.  The anticipation is often better than the actual event in my book.  I hope it's a great game.....legendary.

Here we go!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lesson 34: Everyone Needs a Pal and a Confidant

Lordy, lordy!  All my friends are turning 40!  Because I have a March birthday, I fall to the younger side of my peer group.  Those born in the fall and winter have all crossed over into the next decade.  It is fun to run into people from my graduating class, because the first question we ask each other is, "Did you turn 40 yet?" I just ran into my old locker buddy Renee Parton Kertulis at the Harbor Creek vs. North East basketball match-up and it was the first topic of conversation.   It amazes me how I can usually remember the month of their birthdays--even if they were just acquaintances.  When you are friends with people during their youth, you experience the "big birthdays" with them:  13, 16, and of course 21.  I can remember the month of the birthday usually by remembering which bar I met them at to share our first drink.  Was it in the summer or during Christmas break?

Two of my special friends will be turning 40 this year.  Both are named Tracy.  Both are very dear to me.  Tracy #1 is Tracy Montgomery Cargioli whom I met the first day of Kindergarten and have been friends with ever since.  She was known throughout my college years as "my sidekick" as she was my college roommate, fellow Pizza Hut and Marketplace Grill waitress, and even for one summer---Cheerleader!  She has a great power of persuasion packed into her 4' 10" body, and convinced me to try out with her for the Erie Wave Cheerleading squad in the early 1990's.  Tracy is front and center.  Eloise is one of the big-hairs in the back. Have fun trying to find me!  Being such a positive thinker, she was convinced I stood a chance against the 200 other girls trying out, despite the fact that I had never cheered before in my life.  She gave me a crash course as I drove us to the Gannon Rec Center for try outs. Imagine my shock when the letter came in the mail to my Darrow College apartment that we both made the squad.  Because Tracy is a talented graphic artist, I assumed that she doctored the letter to pull a prank on me, which is consistent with her funny sense of humor.  It took an hour or so of convincing me that the letter was authentic.  I guess there is something to the power of positive thinking. 

 In college I had a pickle green, 1980 Omega that I drove around.  Tracy was always my co-pilot.  The car's previous owner must have tried to soup it up and cut in a sunroof to attempt to make the vehicle look more cool.  It didn't work.  The sunroof was prone to leaks, and it made the headliner inside the car fall down.  I kept a stapler between the bucket seats to temporarily reattach it when it let go.  Because I am tall, it sometimes rested on my head.  Given the hairstyles of the early 90's, I had tons of curls and hairspray, so my own stiff hair served as a fine support for the drooping headliner.  I also kept an umbrella in between the seats, too.  When I turned corners too fast when it was raining, water would rush in and dump on Tracy's head.  Sometimes she'd ride around with that open umbrella over her inside the car.  Oh what we must have looked like!

There is only one thing that I have never forgiven her for--her "black and white" art assignment for a photography class she was taking.  Youngsters, when you do go to college, I highly recommend living with an art major--it is really interesting.  Caution though--you could find yourself being the subject of art assignments, often against your will.  We had another roommate named Stephanie.  She was a beauty from Pittsburgh of Italian heritage.  She had shiny black hair, big brown eyes, stunning cheek bones, and a dazzling smile filled with perfect white teeth.  Tracy dressed Stephanie in black from head to toe--black turtle neck, black leggings, and pulled her jet black hair away from her beautiful face.  I was not so lucky.  I was deemed "white" which is actually fitting for me given the pasty hue my skin takes on during the long winter months.  She put me in a white turtle neck, white puffy sweatpants, and pulled my curly blonde hair away from my face.  And oh yeah--told me to wear no make up.  And so began a series of poses with Stephanie and I side by side, back to back, and face to face.  Ladies--you know what happens when you wear white---it really does make you look bigger.  I have opted for wearing black ever since I saw those photos.  Hideous.

Tracy and I had always discussed the adventure of moving south together after college.  We were kind of in the middle of formulating those plans after college graduation when I met this guy named Louie.  We began dating and I told Tracy I thought I was going to stick around home for awhile to see about this guy........  Being adventurous herself, that didn't stop Tracy.  She grabbed another high school friend named Jay, and took him along on her adventure to North Carolina.  Glad she did, because they have been married for 13 years and have two boys named Tommy and Mikey.  See how things work out?

When she left town, I felt like a part of me left too.  I was happy that we both were beginning new chapters of our lives.  I knew we would always be friends, and we have maintained our close friendship despite the 500 miles between us.  She is still my first call when I have news to share or need a shoulder to cry on.  However the distance between us makes meeting for coffee and a chit chat a little difficult.  When she left, I prayed to God to prepare her path for her and make her journey safe and fruitful.  I also prayed to God to send me someone to fill the void for me, too.  I would miss my friend and the companionship someone living close by brings.

God did just that.  He brought someone new into my life, and another Tracy at that!  Tracy #2 is Tracy Stetson Scotch, currently a reading teacher in the North East School district, mother to three boys, avid sports fan, and God Mother to my son Sam.  She and her husband Dave are old friends of my husband's from high school.  God brought Tracy into the new chapter of my life--the hard one, if you ask me.  This phase of my life and what has been involved has been really tough at times--the pregnancies, the child rearing, finding balance between work and home, school activities, etc.  It is the busiest time in a person's life.  One that robs a woman of the freedom of your own "Me Time."  She is the friend that I would call and say, "Bring the boys over to play.  Let's catch up."  We'd sit and drink coffee and discuss how to lose baby weight and how our husbands don't help us enough and let the kids tear up the house.  We have a standing agreement that if I am ever in accident and stuck in the hospital, she is to come and clean up my house so my in-laws don't find out that my "clean house" is only surface level--she promised to straighten out the closets and the drawers.  

Tracy is such inspiration to me because of her dedication to her family and her stick-to-itiveness.  She started running a few years ago and has kept pushing herself for continuous improvement.  5K's turned into triathlons.  Now the triathlons have given way to dreams of a half marathon.  She was discussing the training regimen for it while we had our butts planted in the bleachers watching her son's basketball game a few weekends ago.  The training regimen does not sound fun.  I told her that if and when she did go for it, I'd be there at the finish line waiting for her.

The funniest story I had about Tracy #2's dedication as a friend happened this summer during her August 21st birthday.  I had purchased a triathlon t-shirt for her as a special gift.  I can never catch her at home it seems because she is always at some sporting event for one of her boys.  I grabbed the pink t-shirt and tied a simple ribbon around the middle of it, and left it on the back door of her house.  She stopped by my house wearing the t-shirt that evening to thank me for the gift.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the door and I found her wearing a t-shirt I had purchased for my daughter at the same place.  A special order one that I chose for Ellen--also in pink.  The shirt read:  LIFE IS BETTER IN MY TREE HOUSE. 

I did what only a good friend would do--screamed at her and bodily shoved her out of the house, down the garage step and into the driveway.  I told her I gave her the wrong shirt and I didn't want Ellen to see it because it was a special surprise for her birthday that was a few weeks later.  My husband built Ellen a fabulous tree house this summer and the t-shirt commemorated the event.

Tracy did only what any good friend would do in return...stripped her shirt off and was soon sitting in the front seat of her van only in her sports bra.  What a friend!  I ran in and got her the intended t-shirt to wear--a pink t-shirt that said TRIATHLETE.  Luckily Tracy Scotch has a great sense of humor and we laughed together until our sides hurt.  I asked her if she wondered why on earth I would get her a tree house t-shirt.  She said she did, but knows that I always have my reasons for everything and she was sort of anxious to hear my explanation.  The only thing she was annoyed with was the fact that I got her a medium!  She is in great shape from all that exercise, but still is my height and prefers a roomier shirt.  I get that.

The lyrics to the song prove so true to my friends whom each turn 40 this year.  Tracy Cargioli turns 40 today, January 21st.  Tracy Scotch turns 40 exactly seven months from now on August 21st.  "We've traveled down the road and back again."  We sure have!  Tracy C. was my co-pilot in a 1980 pickle green Omega.  Traveling down Tracy S.'s road is a bit harder as I will be chasing her to snap her photo as she runs her races.  Girls, pretend I am singing you each this part:  "your heart is true, you're a pal and a confidant." 

God brought me two friends named Tracy.  Each came into my life at just the right time and I know that neither will ever leave me, no matter how far they move or how long it is between our coffee visits.  My goal is to get to Heaven someday, and to do that I have to make it through this life.  That is not always easy, but it would be deemed an impossible task if I didn't have friends to take along on my journey. 

So ladies, the above song is posted just for you--thank you for being a friend, moreover thank you for being MY friends.  I am looking forward to all we experience in the next chapter of our lives.
Always and Forever,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lesson 33: This Blog Just Upped It a Notch

A good story teller is always on the defensive.  Those with a God given way with words can tell a story in such a manner that the audience is on pins and needles with anticipation or laughing in hysterics.  But once in awhile, a story is so good the audience turns on the storyteller because the tale seems too good to be true.  A person wonders if parts are embellished like the folk tales of Paul Bunyan, or if it is flat out a load of crap.

I must admit that yes, this story is about a load of crap.  Unfortunately it is all true because it is yet another saga about the potty training of my three year old son Sam, who happens to be about the size of Paul Bunyan.  What makes this Sam story even better is that it is accompanied with sound--the true blue voice (and quick glimpse) of my baby boy.  This should prove to all of you what I have been going through every single day for months on end. 

Yep--you got it folks.  Eloise has her paws on a flip camera and is having a great deal of fun.  Today marked a momentous day in my history.  I made my first youtube video.  There are many benefits in being a teacher of youngsters.  One of which is they teach you how to do lots of cool things on the computer during the last five minutes of class. 

Those flip cameras really are a cinch.  Thank Santa Claus because a cute little pink one found its way under the Christmas tree for Ellen this year.  They really are as easy as they claim to be.  I plugged the above video into my computer tower with this handy little flippy-outy-thingy right on the camera which is the size as a pocket Kleenex pack.  The step by step directions that popped up on the screen walked me through the entire process, all the way to the doorstep of youtube.  Once I entered the youtube gates, I registered for an account and had the video uploaded in a matter of two minutes.  I forgot to give it a name, so until I figure out how to change it, Sam's potty video will remain named "Video 15."  Kind of sounds like the secretive "Area 51" out in Nevada, doesn't it?  That sounds about right since I am still trying to uncover the secret to his potty success.

About a week ago I was on my massive clean out after Christmas.  We had to find homes for all of our new Christmas toys and clothes.  My rule is that when something new comes in, something old must go out.  We are at capacity level in our house.  Unfortunately I told my brain the same thing years ago, and I have been suffering because of it.  Sorry if I forget your names every now and again.  I do get 100 plus new students each year. Something new in, something old out.

I hollered my usual phrase before I began the massive attack:  "IF IT IS NOT NAILED DOWN AND IT DOES NOT LOOK LIKE IT HAS BEEN USED OR LOVED IN THE LAST DAY IT IS OUTTA HERE!!!!!"  As I was snapping my big, black garbage bags to life and my daughters were running to scoop up everything near and dear to them in their arms, I happened to discover our first "camcorder" from about 12 years ago.  My parents bought it for us as a gift to record all the special moments and milestones of Natalie's life.  I was amazed that the size, weight, and expense of the contraption.  It is amazing how small everything is getting.  If technology keeps reducing in size and Americans keep getting larger in girth, we are going to look like the most ridiculous humans walking the earth.  Great big people talking on phones the size of postage stamps.

God knows what this will do to Sam someday.  Don't raise an eyebrow at me because I have considered the consequences.  But I know all my readers with teenagers and beyond have flashed that "bare butt lying on a blanket" picture around to the new boyfriend or girlfriend at least once.  Not only will Sam have the oral stories, photographs,  and have eternal life in blogosphere, but now video can accompany all of that.  I am hoping his counselors in Juvey can help him straighten that all out one day.  I mean no harm, my boy, but you are causing Eloise great grief. 

I tried to respect his privacy.  That is why I focused on Natalie's snowman near the bathroom door for most of the video clip.  Just hearing the sound of his protests builds the anticipation until you actually get a quick glimpse of Sam in action.  The only reason I did turn the corner to the bathroom was to show you all where he peeled off the wallpaper, but the paper is tan and I am not great with the camera yet, so it didn't focus as clearly as I would have liked it to.  Maybe someday you'll see the carnage.  I'll have to post that mess along with the shots of the living room carpet.  His blue crayola paint made a nice 20 foot trail on the carpet throughout the house.  Washable?  Yeah right.

This blog is not solely for your entertainment.  There is some knowledge to be gained here.  Maybe if an occasional bout of constipation hits you, you can remember Sam's rationalization.  I bet your "poop flew away out of your butt", too.  No need for over the counter remedies or a needless doctor visit.  It will fly back to you sooner or later. 

My first subject for the video just had to be Sam as he is so well known by my readers.  Maybe none of you are feeling safe right now knowing that I have this capability.  So consider this your fair warning to be on guard.  Eloise has a handheld video camera in reach.  Scary.  At least you know now that my nose isn't growing like Pinocchio.  Eloise speaks the truth, no matter how painful it is.  If you don't believe me about Sam--just watch the clip.  The proof after all, is in the pudding.  With Sam though, the truth is in the pooping.

Goodbye my readers.  I'm all pooped out for today.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lesson 32: Word Travels Fast

 I have to extend a nice thank you to my hometown newspaper, The Erie Times News for running the name of my blog along with my story about reading aloud to my son Sam.  It was included in a features piece written by Heather Cass about spending quality time with children. 

By the time I got home from work on Thursday, January 6th, the day the story ran, the blog had already 50 pageviews.  I received six comments from anonymous readers, stating  that they enjoyed the blog, the music, the stories, and words of inspiration.  That made me feel beyond good knowing that I touched strangers in my hometown.  A feature on Blogger allows a writer to view the number of pageviews per day, week, month, and all time.  Since my first post this past August, Lessons From the Lamp Post has been read by many people in the US and other countries.  The Times article attention pushed the pageviews over the 3,000 mark on Thursday.  I've had hits from the US, Canada, Russia, China, Japan, Denmark, Croatia, and Slovenia.  Not to cause an international incident or anything, but I must look up where Slovenia actually is.  Sorry.  I mean "zal" for you Slovenian followers.  Thanks for reading everyone, and keep doing so because I have lots of stories to tell. 

 If you read my New Year's Day blog post you should be a changed person.  I have full confidence in making this bold statement knowing that if the How Great Is Our God song is in your heart, you are well on your way.  I advised you all to bag the resolutions this year and just try to make a lasting change within by listening to Christian music.  We already do that in our house as a CD is always in the kitchen player.  Therefore we have to make some attempt to resolve some of the nagging problems in our household.  Here are some things I plan on attacking in 2011:

#1--Get to the bottom of the mystery track.  I posted the top shot on my facebook page and circulated the picture around my 'hood and my parents' New Year's Eve party.  I found this track in the woods on December 30th while walking the dog.  It looks like a bear print to me.  I was so convinced that I ran the whole way back home (uphill-and took the "shortcut" through knee deep snow) to grab my camera to capture the shot.  Any ideas, anyone?  The responses were 50-50.  The
biggest surprise was not the mixed reaction but that no one was really all that concerned with my safety.  They kind of skimmed right over that.  The only cause for alarm was raised by my fashionista
sister over the very unstylish, flame orange mitten.  The mittens came to me in the pocket of my father's hunting coat he gave me when I moved to my house 13 years ago.  I enjoy walking through the woods, and he was convinced I was going to get shot.  The zipper has since ripped on the original coat, and I have replaced it with a newer, better fitting version, but I kept the mittens.  They are my favorite.  They keep my fingers nice and toasty.  As an added bonus, they have the tops that flip off to free your fingers.  I am sure the design is for shooting, but since I cannot kill anything, the feature will have to make shooting photos of nature at its finest with my camera easier for me.  Sorry Karen, the mittens are here to stay.  I promise not to wear them in public.

#2--Find a way to make January and February more fun:  Eloise tends to get that cagey, cooped up feeling in January and February.  I don't have a trust fund I am siphoning off of, so traveling to an island all-inclusive resort to beat the winter blahs is not on my roster.  I do enjoy the outdoors, but with lack of available sunlight during the week, leaves me and the family looking out the window most weekdays.  On the weekends, if the temperatures are not sub zero or we are experiencing snow measured in feet not inches, then sometimes we can brave the elements and sled ride or build an occasional snowman.  We usually make a yearly excursion to Peek n Peak for tubing with cousins Kayla and Morgan in tow.  That always proves to be a good time, especially if you ride down the icy hill connected to Kayla.  Let's just say the decent is mighty fast and mighty loud.   I was so desperate for fun last year that we celebrated Elmo's birthday.  He turns three every February 3rd.  I got balloons, made a red velvet cake, and our collection of overpriced Sesame Street stuffed animals were invited to the table to have some cake.  I am looking to continue my wintertime creativity by developing some "theme weekends".  I have a Chinese night planned, a Mexican fiesta, and a Casino Night.  Call me if you're bored.  Don't forget your fortune cookies, sombrero, and spare change. 

#3--Ride out the "Terrible Three's and enter into the Fantastic Four's:   The third year of Sam's life has proved to be, well, 'er, um.....let's just say a bit of a challenge.  I am writing to the publisher of What to Expect the Toddler Years and tell them that the 3's are way worse than the touted "terrible 2's."  I want to try to find a way to tame the temper, subdue the stubborn, and just flat out make Sam more likable.  Wiping "the look" from his face is a good starting point.  If you aren't familiar with it, take a peek at the posted photo.  This is when Sam was supposed to be participating in his preschool sing along, welcoming Santa to Milestones Early Learning Center.  All the kids were jingling and ho-ho-hoing on the carpet, and Sam was frowning between our legs.  He's had some past issues with Santa, and I think he had that nagging fear that Santa does, in fact, hold grudges.  He had the opportunity to see about sixteen Santas this year so his issues were resolved for the time being.  We will have to see what the fourth year of his life brings, beginning on March 27th.  Prayers, well wishes, and alcoholic beverages are welcomed.  Send them my way.

#4--Find Slovenia on the World Map:  Eloise wouldn't want to cause an international incident, now would she? 

Do naslednjic (Until next time),

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lesson 31: How Great is Our God?

If you have been a regular reader of my blog, the Christian music artist Chris Tomlin keeps popping up.  I really love his music and his story.  He is one year younger than me and just got married in November.  He has collected several Male Artist of the Year awards in the Christian Music realm and is well deserving of all of them.  Chris taught himself how to play guitar at 11 years old after being couched with a case of mono.  Mr. Wikipedia states that he wrote his first worship song by age 14.  Chris entered college with the plan of being a physical therapist and left because he felt God's calling. 

I love stories like that.  I love reading about the people who are in tune enough with God to feel the movement within them and then brave enough to act on it.  God usually richly rewards those individuals.  And for us, we are blessed with Chris Tomlin's music as a result.

The above post is the 2004 song How Great Is Our God.  I really liked this performance that I found on youtube.  It is long, but well worth the seven minute time investment.  It begins with Chris as a solo singer, in a single spotlight, playing an upright Yamaha piano, very softly.  The audience, which looks like a packed house somewhere, is singing along.  How must that feel to hear thousands of believers singing your song? 

You will notice with this song, as with many Christian songs, the lyrics are repeated.  This allows God to put the song in your heart.  A friend of ours, Alan explained this once to us in a simple way.  He said that the first time you sing something, you have to get over yourself singing it and the self consciousness that comes with public singing.  The second time you sing it through, you have to let go of listening to the others around you.  The third time, which is always the charm, is the time in which you sing for your God, with no cares in the world.

The song really picks up strength after the first couple of minutes and you will see the bright lights and the full band behind him.  I also love the lyrics that are on the screen above the stage.  Our church, South Harborcreek United Methodist does that also.  I think when you couple words, music, and human voices, the impact on a soul is deep and lasting.

I saved this post especially for New Year's Day.  All of us are known for making those pesky resolutions from year to year, hoping to have less weight to carry on our frames, cleaner and more organized homes, or become kinder and more tolerant people.  I have tried to do all of the above and last year, even put a twist on things to challenge myself a bit.  I resolved to take up the habit of smoking out of my contempt for anti-smoking laws.  Plus I have that three year old I am raising named Sam that is making my nerves a bit raw.  Maybe there is something to that nicotine that I need to investigate.  Thankfully, I still haven't gotten around to that one either.  The Extra pink bubble gum is serving as a good fill in for the smokes for the time being.  I am going to live to be 100, so I have lots of time to work on that one. 

Are we failures year after year because we never follow through with those January, post holiday, I-am-going-to-turn-over-a-new-leaf resolutions?  Of course not.  We are only human.  We are born weak, but God can make us strong.

Eloise says forget about the resolutions.  You too can become stronger this year simply by putting a song in your heart.  Try listening to some Christian music once in awhile.  Start with this one.  Let a CD play in your car while driving around.  If you have children, by all means, keep it in your home as background music.  What a better way to raise a child than by letting the music of God soak into their souls. 

Begin this first day of 2011 by asking yourself this question:  How great is our God?  Eloise says He's pretty fabulous.  Check Him out.

Happy New Year,