May

Restoration.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Funny Guy Friday... Follow the systems...

     Funny Guy Friday is written by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     If you have ever been to our home for any celebration, you would think that we have it all going on. Lovely home with lovely decorations. A lived-in neatness that is inviting to all comers.
     And we really do live in our house. We don’t take off our shoes upon entry, and we come in through any door we please.  For almost twenty-seven years we have lived in a house that most guests would not only consider inviting... but also neat and tidy.
     However, if you opened up a closet...and looked behind the curtain… you would think that we lived in a house of horrors. Closets full of coats, hats, shoes, cleats, bats, balls, golf clubs, last year’s science project, Christmas decorations, Christmas lights, unopened Christmas presents, the baby Jesus from our nativity set, a half burned yankee candle, half of the pieces from Monopoly… etc… etc! I think you get the picture.
     The way Cheryl always cleaned up is a little… how shall we say… roundabout…
     She would take everything out of Room One and only put back what was neat and clean and looked perfect in there. In the course of cleaning Room One, she would stop and do laundry. She would then get back to Room One and put the unwanted items from Room One into Room Two. In the course of returning things to Room One, she would stop to fix the leg on the wobbly table. Then she would move into Room Two… moving unwanted items from Room Two into Room Three but not before she changed the liners in our cabinets… and we don't even have liners in our cabinets.
     This zig-zagging would continue all the way up until she ran out of “the next room.” With nowhere else to go, the excess clutter made its way into our front hall closet or our pantry along with the regular closet/pantry clutter. Keep in mind that our front hall closet is about 2x4 and our pantry is about 3x6.
     Throughout our marriage, I have tried to make life easier by making suggestions and implementing systems and procedures. For instance, in order to keep the laundry room clean, we (and by we, I mean Cheryl) should separate the clothes and do one load of laundry a day. Wash… dry…  and PUT AWAY!  I capitalize “put away” because things never got put away in the drawers. It is like being on vacation and living out of your suitcase only you are not on vacation and you are living out of your laundry basket.
     My personal favorite system and procedure was the monthly cleaning of the pantry. Each month, so it seemed, I would drag all of the junk out of the pantry and throw away the out of date food, the butter container tops, last year’s Halloween candy (not sure how it got in there every month, but somehow it did), the broken plastic forks, the crab pot, the vacuum, the fondue machine, the chocolate fountain, coats, hats, shoes, cleats, bats, balls, golf clubs, the baby Jesus from our nativity set… etc… etc.  I think you get the picture.
     Each month, it seemed, I would warn that anyone who stashed something in the pantry that did not belong, would be shot on sight. I even posted signs. Seriously. I posted signs!
     I also wanted to rent a dumpster and throw all of our junk away. If we haven't used in it over three years, we throw it away. This is met with great resistance.
     No, we can't do that, what if we need it.
     Needless to say, my suggestions and my efforts were in vain.
     In order for a system to work, the system has to be followed. People have to buy in. There has to be cooperation. There were a myriad of reasons why my systems and procedures were abandoned by my family: time constraints, inconvenience, insubordination, and a general lack of love for me, to name just a few.
     Some time last month, Cheryl read some articles and watched some videos. She has announced her new plans to change our lives and keep our house tidy and organized. I have to admit that I have met these new plans with a little bit of skepticism. Systems only work if systems are followed.
 
     Cheryl, I have implemented systems in the past, you all have ignored my systems. Systems only work, if systems are followed.
     But honey, the Clutterbug gal labels people like insects. Ladybugs are people who are beautiful until they open their wings. Once they open their wings anything can fall out… Coats, hats, shoes, Jesus from the nativity set. Ladybugs like visual simplicity with all of their belongings put away in general organizing systems. Butterflies flitter from here to there and like their things out in the open where they can see them… but they also need big organizing systems or they will look like they never finish one job before starting another. Crickets and Bees like everything very specifically organized. I found out that I am a ladybug!
     You are a butterfly. I have told you for years that you zig zag.
     No I do not, I am a ladybug. That's what my new friend said. She knows me so well.
     Your new friend is a nut bug!
     Oh and get this… this other Frugal Cheap and Fun gal has an awesome laundry system. You sort it, you wash it, you fold it, and you put it away.
     That's my system! Whoa… wait... there are two new You Tube friends!
     Actually, there are three but you somehow have managed to conflate them into one… but their way is better… they sort it all differently... so their way is better.
     That explains why she sometimes looks Japanese and sometimes she doesn’t. So what do these chicks say about clutter?
     That you have to know which system works for you… and of course, if it isn't lovely or doesn’t spark joy, you throw it away.
     What if we haven't used it in three years?
     Is it lovely? Does it bring you joy?
     I don't know because... I haven't seen it in three years.

     The new plans also somehow involve making lists.
     I chuckle at the list-making process because in the time she takes to make one list I could have had two rooms cleaned and half a dumpster loaded.
     I have asked Cheryl why she thinks that all of the sudden, her clean pantry and new pantry procedures are better than my clean pantry and my procedures.
   
     Because everything has a place.
     But everything in my clean pantry had a place.
     Mine is better because it is! Your places were just stuff lined up. My places involve containers. Containers are the key. It's the C in the cleaning ABC’s… Containerize. Don't feel bad because your system didn't work. You tried.
     Whatever. My system was just as good and containerize isn't even a word!
 
     It has been two weeks and she is still buying containers. I think the butterfly lady must have stock in the container industry.
     The fact of the matter is that I don't really care what system we use. I just want someone to come over to our house… enter through whatever door they please… walk around the clutter-less rooms… open every closet… and then grab something from our tidy, containerized pantry. And I want to get credit for it all.
     You see... I am the reason that things work around here because I follow the new procedures!
     It is the F in the ABC’s of cleaning… spark followage!
     See… I can make up words just as well as Cheryl’s new besties!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Funny Guy Friday... Christmas in Texas

Funny Guy Friday is written by my husband, Mark. So... I married a funny guy...
    The first serious thought of returning to write Funny Guy Friday came at Christmas... Why? you ask? Let me tell you what I did on my Christmas vacation.  
    We are a family of Christmas traditions.
    Every year we do the same things, go to the same places, and see the same people. I love it, and I never want to change a thing.
    Until this year. Since this was Gracie's first year away from home, we decided to surprise her on Christmas Day and show up at my sister’s home in Houston. The newlyweds moved to Killeen, Texas last October. They live four hours from my sister in Houston. So Grace and Brian, along with all five of my sister’s kids and their kids, were going to be at my sister's for Christmas dinner. The only person that knew we were coming was my sister.
    This was a big move for me.
    On the way from the airport to their house, Noah asked if I thought Gracie was going to be surprised.  Do you really think that Grace suspects that I would ever leave town on Christmas Day?
    Then we discussed how we were going to spring our surprise.
    Cheryl suggested that we just barge in and start singing Christmas carols. The boys… and I mean all the boys including the dad boy, rejected this out of hand. It was three against one so, of course, we decided to... just barge in and start singing Christmas carols.  
     When we arrived, Cheryl, finding a locked front door, rang the doorbell and then inexplicably, ran and hid. She ding dong ditched, leaving the three no votes on the porch… ill-prepared to sing. Eventually, Cheryl reappeared and announced our presence. Grace was upstairs but was eventually was led out to see her mom with arms wide open… the visit was off to a great start.
     If you are Italian, you may have heard of the “Feast of the Seven Fishes.” Each course involves some variety of seafood. My sister went in a slightly different direction with the “Myriad of Five Meats.” There was turkey, ham, bacon, prime rib, and a roast. On a side note, don't tell my sister that she served prime rib, which is not the same as a roast… but she kept calling the prime rib a roast, much to the amusement of her daughters… who pointed out that the prime rib was probably a tad offended to be called a roast.  
    Anyway, dinner was delicious. We all had a wonderful time. The conversations were entertaining; the company was delightful. It was picture perfect, like a Norman Rockwell painting.
    Right up until the vomiting started.  
    What's that? Vomiting?
    Um... yes. Apparently, the twenty-four hour stomach flu started tearing through my sister's family about 5 minutes into our visit. Upon greeting my nephew and asking... Hey how’s it going?... I think he may have mentioned something about a queasy stomach. Yeah, that was just chit-chat formality stuff. Am I really required to listen to his response? Anyway… he is a doctor. He would have known if there had been cause for concern.
    The first to really fall was my niece’s husband. No problem, I thought. He is not blood-related, so he probably comes from a long line of people with weak immune systems. Palumbos are strong… like Bull!
     Next was his wife, my niece. She is blood-related… but from a different branch off the ol’ family tree. She's my sister's kid, but with no real direct line to me.
    By this time, my wise daughter Grace and her heedful husband Brian bolted to the nearest hotel to try to escape the outbreak. They urged us to join them, but we said we would take our chances. The rest of my sister's kids folded through the night. Weaklings who have forgotten that they have Palumbo blood in their veins.
    My kids are studs, they would never allow some silly flu to ruin this Christmas vacation. I don't get sick, so they don't get sick.
    Who am I kidding. Yes they do. While it’s true I hardly ever get sick, Cheryl and the kids have the immune systems of gnats. Sick gnats.
    I had actually made a note on my cell phone that Matthew would be the first to break ranks, followed by Cheryl, who would get it worse and have it longer than everyone else.
Matthew would be the first. Cheryl would be the worst.
    Why did I record this on my phone?… so I could say I knew this would happen. Just another way to let everyone know how smart I can be. What do you know?... I was right on both counts.
    Since we knew we had to high-tail it out of sick-bay central, we packed up as soon as we realized the body count was five and probably climbing, not counting my sister’s husband who had come down with the actual influenza through the night.
    Time to go. Four hours north to Gracie’s new home.  
    Matthew, of course, started yawning in technicolor before we could make our speedy getaway. Always pleasant traveling in the nice rental vehicle with towels and buckets at the ready. It was so bad that I actually felt guilty stopping at the Dairy Queen for a nice little strawberry sundae. As an aside, strawberry sundaes are just as good in Texas as they are in Maryland.
    Matthew had to take our word for it.
    Grace's husband Brian went down swinging that very night, despite his attempt to seek refuge in a hotel the night before, but he manned up and went to work the next day. Of course, I think that was more of an opportunity to get away from us as it was a reflection of his admirable work ethic.
    Cheryl was next. Naturally. 
If you’ve never had an illness around Cheryl, you wouldn't know that whatever you have, she has it ten times worse. So, for example, if I have a headache, she has a migraine. If I have a scratchy throat, she has strep. If everyone in the state of Texas has a twenty-four-hour bug, she has it for forty-eight hours. You guessed it… forty-eight hours of tummy issues for my darling wife.
    Besides predicting the general order of things, I also knew one more thing about my darling daughter. While Grace may not catch the bug, she will worry so much about catching the bug, that it would be better for everyone involved… if she just caught the damn bug! True to form, she kept “feeling weird” and loading up on vitamins and essential oils… the snake oil of our day. Fortunately, she never did catch the stomach flu, but I kind of wish she had. She would have saved herself a lot of anguish.
    Noah and I were the only real survivors. We were the only two able to make every meal, every game of bowling, and every shopping spree.
    Speaking of shopping sprees, did I mention that Chip and Joanna Gaines live an hour from Killeen? Evidently, you can't be one hour from the Magnolia empire and not pay a visit.
    Let me tell you, those folks are marketing geniuses. They can take a ten dollar item, slap a Magnolia sticker on it, and sell it for twenty. The place was packed and the lines were long. But I must admit, there was an air of festivity about the place. And the cupcakes? Well, you have to taste them to believe them.
     Matthew mentioned that the whole Magnolia experience kind of reminded him of that scene from Santa Clause 3 when Jack Frost had converted the North Pole into a theme park… Remember wives, the amount of money your husbands spend on you is directly related to how much they love you! Apparently, I love Cheryl quite a bit. And I would have loved her a lot more had she not purchased all sale items!
    All in all, aside from the upchucking, we had a great time on our Christmas vacation. At the end of the week, as we headed back to Houston, I mentioned that there is really only one thing that would ever bring me back to that part of Texas. The cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery, of course.
    Just kidding. I was talking about Grace, of course.
    Just not on Christmas Day. The thought of doing that again kind of makes me feel sick to my stomach.   

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Funny Guy... Saturday?... Better late than never...

Funny Guy Friday is written by my husband Mark... So, I married a funny guy...
     For five straight years, every week, I wrote a little blurb about the goings on in the lives of the Palumbos. Topics would range from the time that I shot Noah in the rear end, how Matthew hated the Pope, or the hairbrush wars with Gracie.
     The way it worked was that something would strike me as funny, I would think about it for a day or two, spend a day or two writing a draft and then Cheryl would edit it. By editing it I mean she would make the necessary grammatical corrections and take out the really funny stuff that she thought might offend her family… and her family can be so sensitive.
     I had a formula that varied from time to time but basically, it included 80% truth, 15% exaggeration and 5% complete fabrication…. And 100% funny.  Would have been 105% funny if not for Cheryl’s family.
     Historically, no matter what havoc I may have created, I ended up being the hero. Cheryl, on the other hand, was blamed for all the bad stuff that happened.  Anyway, some weeks were easy, other weeks were a struggle… but I managed to churn something out week after week.
    During this Cal Ripken like stretch, people would approach me and ask if they were going to be in it and I would always tell them “sure… Do something stupid.” But mostly it, it was about my kids. They were all good sports and never asked me to keep their most embarrassing moments private.
     Then like Forrest Gump running cross-country, I just stopped. And that's all I have to say about that.
     Since I retired, hundreds of people… maybe not hundreds but many people… by many, I mean over ten… okay, it is three…  three people have asked that I resurrect Funny Guy Friday. Up until now, I have dismissed the urge to return. After all, Jordan returned and was a shell of himself, Ali returned and got beat up by Larry Holmes, Bjorn Borg returned and got his wooden racquet shoved up his rear by a bunch of teenage girls swinging titanium.
     So why will my return be any different?
     There are two possible reasons… First, I am a superior human with a superior intellect.
     Or it could be that I am not a superior human with a superior intellect at all but instead, just some guy who sits on his couch and thinks of stupid stuff and then types. Those other guys performed super-human physical feats... and just got old. This happens to all great athletes, with the possible exception of Tom Brady. Writing FGF is not exactly the most physical event in the world. In fact, at this very moment, I am eating a caramel cream and a bag of chips.  I somehow doubt that caramel creams and potato chips were on the Jordan, Ali, Borg diets.
    So without any further fanfare, I am announcing my return. Going to try and write something each week. It is going to be tougher to come up with stuff because Grace is married and living in Texas, Matthew is in college and Noah… well, Noah may just be goofy enough to carry me through most weeks.  
    Some of you may be asking yourself why. Why now?
    To be honest, I am feeling my mortality. My kids are getting older… my daughter is married and someday will have my grandkids. I may not be around to tell them how nutty Grandma Weezer or Geezer (I just made that up but I think it is a name that might stick) is and how I manage to solve all of her problems. I also need to let my grandkids know how cool I am/was… and if I don't tell them, who will.  And I will do so with a completely accurate depiction... with only 15% exaggeration and 5% total fabrication.
    Just a quick note to start the comeback… I hope everyone had a great Valentine's Day. I remembered it was Valentine's Day when I was driving to court and one of the attorneys in my office called me and said Happy Valentine's Day!
     The typical response is Happy Valentine's Day to you too.  My response was OH CRUD! (okayit could have been stronger than Crud) I completely forgot and did not say anything to Cheryl this morning.
     Then it dawned on me that Cheryl didn't say anything to me either so if I can get off the phone and call her before she calls me, I can beat her to the punch and feign irritation at the fact that she forgot to wish me a Happy Valentine's Day. The best defense is a good offense.
     Hey Weezie, you forgot to wish me a Happy Valentine's Day this morning, what's up with that?  
     I know, you ran out to your car and I thought you were coming back into the house. I waited but you never came.
     Okay, for the record, I called you first… Because I remembered… before you… I win Valentine’s Day.
     Whatever. I have a surprise for you when you get home.
     Oh yeah, well I got all kinds of surprises for you too!  I didn't really. In fact, I had nothing because I had forgotten.
     I felt kind of bad and it didn't get any better when all of the secretaries in our office kept getting roses from their sweethearts. I’m better than those guys, most of whom I have never met, and they remembered.
    I mentioned to the ladies in the office that I may have… kind of… maybe forgot it was Valentine's Day. One of them said it was because you don't have to remember, you're happily married so every day is Valentine's Day!
   Finally, someone who gets it! My wife is so lucky to have me!
   I decided that I was going to use this line but quickly realized by the reaction of every girl in my office that she was not being serious and no woman would ever buy that nonsense. Things were so bad that one of the gals offered me one dozen of her TWO dozen roses that she received from her hubby.
   You got two!  Did he do something wrong or something?
    I couldn't accept her generous offer to re-gift her flowers but I still needed to get Cheryl something. Then it dawned on me… we went out to dinner about a month ago and Cheryl ordered a drink that she loved. I took a picture of the table and had the ingredients somewhere on my phone with the two specific types of alcohol used in the drink. I went to buy them on a previous occasion…but they were both too expensive... so I didn't.  I substituted cheaper stuff but the drink wasn't the same. I love my wife but I have my financial limits.
    Well, I rationalized my overspending on alcohol by noting it is Valentine's Day… And I do love her… And I have no other ideas. It was decided, I was willing to break the bank. Bonus… It looks like I actually noticed something insignificant... like a drink she liked… and then went to the trouble of remembering the ingredients.
    I truly am the best husband ever!
    When I got home, the house smelled delicious. Cheryl and Noah were cooking an Italian meal and the theme from the Godfather was playing on the radio, or google or Alexis or whatever. My favorite wine was chilling and a fresh baguette of Italian bread sat on the table. Things were looking good.
    Cheryl handed me a scroll with the best lines from my favorite movie, The Godfather. She recorded both Godfather I and Godfather II and we were going to watch the movies that night. This was huge because she hates these movies. She claims they are the most violent movies ever. I counter that the Home Alone movies are more violent and Michael Corleone is simply misunderstood. Anyway…
   She planned this fun Godfather themed night with all my favorite things. I anticipated Noah getting whacked at some point in the evening but luckily, that never happened.
   Two things went through my mind. First, I am going to have a great night! Second, Cheryl is going to be happy that I bought her the booze.
   We ate our Caesar salad, our bread, and our ravioli. We drank the whole bottle of wine, which is unusual for us. After dinner, she broke out tiramisu, a cannoli and almond cookies for dessert.
    At this point, Noah made her favorite drink from the Ginger liquor and whiskey that I bought and then we retired to the living room with every intention of watching the movies. Then a funny thing happened… We took our respective spots on the couch and promptly fell asleep.
    This happens pretty much every night at our house. I fall asleep next to my lovely wife, my most favorite thing in the world. So, as it turns out, this year's Valentine's Day was not unlike most nights at our house… except we may have had more to drink than we usually do. And my one secretary was correct…
    I am happily married so every day is Valentine’s Day!
    My wife is so lucky to have me!
    

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Funny Guy Friday... The Big Day...

    Funny Guy Friday is written by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
    Last Thanksgiving, Grace and I were in our basement discussing her future. It became clear to me that we had different versions of her future when she asked me if I would be upset if she and her boyfriend, Brian, got engaged at Christmas.
    Of course not.  I know that you have been thinking about it and I know Brian is going into the Army and I would not expect you to wait until he gets out of the Army. However, I do have a few concerns, like you are young and you don't always react well to change. When he goes into the Army, you are going to face a lot of changes in your life. That is what I said.  
    OH MY GOSH... NOOOOO! WHAT, ARE YOU CRAZY! I AM NOT OLD ENOUGH TO HAVE A MARRIED CHILD. YOU ARE A BABY... OH MY GOSH THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING!!!! I HAVE OVER A HUNDRED CONCERNS... THE LEAST OF WHICH IS THAT YOU ARE WAY TOO YOUNG! YOUNG YOUNG YOUNG!!! YOU ARE LIKE... YOUNG. WAIT... YEAH, WAIT UNTIL HE GETS OUT OF THE ARMY... I'M GOING TO BE SICK, This is what I thought! 
    Grace advised me that she is ready for the changes that will come her way and that she only gets upset around me and her Mom... which I found funny because over the years, we are the two people that have fixed the things that have caused her to be upset.
 
    Well they did get engaged over Christmas and my baby girl gets married today... on Father's Day, no less. Nuptial Mass at Sacred Heart in Bowie followed by a reception in Ellicott City. You have heard of Ellicott City... it has been in the news a lot lately. This little thing called a flash flood washed it away three weeks ago.
    What's that, how can you have a reception in a city that has been washed away? The answer is that you can't.
    Turns out, you can't even get near the place.
    It could be worse, we could have had the reception on the day of the flood. There was a wedding there on the day of the flood and everyone had to be evacuated. We heard that every person at that wedding had their car washed away.  That will make for a great story some day... I am glad that I am not the one that is going to tell it.
    Grace was away when we heard about the flood but I was sure she was going to flip out. As is typical in our home when things do not go as expected, I took the news much better than Cheryl.  She was very matter of fact, just kept watching the news and reporting on what she was hearing and muttering things like, God has a plan! or  Things always work out. Crazy stuff like that.
    I just stared out to our backyard in a semi-comatose state conjuring up the worst possible scenarios.
    You can play along... We are going to lose our money. We will never find another venue in three weeks. Grace is young. Even if we do make it into Ellicott City, I bet they will not let us do a floating bar. Grace is still young... really young! She is going to be devastated!
    When we finally got in touch with Grace, who was with Brian and his family at his parent's home, her response was shocking.
    I heard... boy, I really feel bad for those poor people. I feel terrible for the lady we are renting from! 
    Wait, there must be a mistake. You see, my daughter reception venue got washed away and the wedding is in three weeks. She will be devastated. I am looking for Grace Palumbo... P A L U M B O.
    This is Grace, Dad. I feel bad for these folks. This happened before, just a few years ago and now the have had to go through this twice. 
    Put Grace on will ya? At this point I was getting nervous. Her reception venue has been washed away, we probably cannot find any place else with only three weeks to go, our deposit is gone and we are in full disaster mode. Put my baby girl on the phone, I need  to calm her down.
    No big deal... I have been looking online and there are a few places that have our date available. We will be okay. 
    No... No we won't be okay. At least not until I fix it. This is how it works. This is how it has always worked. Things go wrong, you panic. Mom fixes it and I take credit for it!  Why are you changing everything now?

    Oh, I get it, she is acting like she is a grown up and trying to convince me that Brian is some kind of calming influence in her life. That is funny because we all know I am the calming influence in her life. She is a child and I am an irreplaceable influence in my daughter's life!
    There, I said it!

    Problem is ... it may not be true. She may already be a grown up and she may be capable of fixing things on her own... or worse... GULP... capable of fixing things with a little help from Brian.
    I like Brian but as these types of things continue to occur, I can see myself changing that opinion!
    In actuality, Grace handled this whole change in plans like a champ. I can honestly say that I have never been more proud of her. Her thoughts and prayers were with the folks in Ellicott City and  then she went about finding a new reception venue with military precision.
    Wait a second... I see what's happening here. She never did anything with military precision in the past. In fact, when things did not go as expected, she would kind of panic a bit, expect the wort cse scenario and then go about trying to minimize the damage. Frankly, she was just like me. Now that Brian is in the picture... she is all different.
    While certainly more efficient, I don't like it... I don't like it at all.  I definitely see my opinion of Brian changing.

   The wedding weekend has begun. A few weeks ago, Cheryl and I discussed how this weekend would be... a quite time spent focusing on Grace and the blessed sacrament of marriage. Minimal visits from family... we have time to visit with them when we see them at the wedding.
   That was the plan.
    Friday, was like an Open House combined with a work zone at the Palumbos. We had over twenty five people coming and going. My brother painted our front door and the sprinkler people came and advised that we need to dig up the back yard to find a leak. I made an unexpected trip to the Italian market in Baltimore and we did what we always do when we have friends and family in town, we eat, we drink, we laugh and we play games.  What we did not do was quietly focus on the wedding.
    Same thing on Saturday with a wedding rehearsal and a rehearsal dinner sprinkled in.
    You know what... it was perfect. It all worked out fine and I would not have changed a thing. It turns out that married life is not that much different from planning a wedding.  Unexpected things happen, plans change, you figure it out. In fact, the only thing consistent about marriage is that things change. You might as well learn to deal with it from day one.
       

    Over the last few months, when I tell people that my daughter is getting married, they put their hand on my arm and gently ask... How are you doing.. how are you handling all this? 
    The answer is simple... I am not sad, I am not worried, I am not anxious. I feel great about it. I believe that this is absolutely the right thing.  For years, Cheryl and I have been praying for Brian... only we didn't know it was Brian at the time. At the time, it was just some random guy that would someday marry our daughter.  Granted we expected her to be twenty eight when it happened but remember what I said about unexpected things.
    Brian is the second oldest of eight home schooled kids. He is a devout Catholic who is smart, disciplined and loves his family. Most importantly, he loves Grace. His family is as nice as can be and the more I am around them, the more I like them. On a side note, two of his brothers stayed with us  Saturday night and the only criticism I have is that they just are not that good at the game Reverse Charades. I like their competitiveness but they are lacking in execution!
   Brian's family has accepted Grace with open arms. Cheryl and I know that when Grace and Brian go to visit them the day after every major holiday... Grace has promised that they will be spending the actual holiday at our house, especially after they have kids... it will be as if she is at home. Only with more kids, more noise and on a small farm.
    Grace didn't really promise that they would spend every major holiday at our house. I made that part up. But if Grace reads this, she should know that it would make her mom very happy if they did spend every major holiday with me... I mean us. You see Cheryl worries about stuff like that. I just smile and tell Cheryl that God has a plan or Everything happens for a reason. You know, grown up stuff like that!
    So Grace... at least consider the holiday thing... you know... for Mom.

    So today on Father's Day, I am giving a gift. Giving the most precious gift I have. But I am also getting a few gifts also... the gift of a new son and the family he brings with him.
    You know the only downside to this Father's Day wedding is...  I really could have used a few new dress shirts and ties.

    If you find yourself alone with some time on your hands today, please say a prayer for Grace and Brian as they start their life together.  Cheryl and I very excited and cannot wait to spend some time with friends and family.
 

Friday, May 4, 2018

Funny Guy Friday... Changes on the horizon...

    Funny Guy Friday is written by my husband Mark. So, I married a Funny Guy...
    So it has been a while.
    Let me fill you all in on what's happening since we last met.  I will do so in chronological order so you can fully grasp what we have in store.  Sit back... Enjoy... FEEL MY PAIN!
    Noah got confirmed last week.  Beautiful Mass followed by a little dinner party at the house for friends and family. Nice lead off event!
    Matthew goes to his senior prom next weekend.  Bought him a tux instead of renting.  Why, you ask? You will understand in a moment.
    Grace graduates from Mount Saint Mary's on Mother's Day... she gets no party.  And while no party for a family that commemorates every big event (birthdays, baptisms, major holidays, including but not limited to Flag Day, first bike rides and that time we caught a mouse) with a party full of  food, wine, beer and great merriment, not having a party for graduating college may seem odd.  Trust me, you will understand in a moment.
    Matthew graduates from High School in three weeks. He does get a party.
    Grace gets married on Father's Day weekend.... WHAT? Grace gets married on Fathers Day?... that can't be right... who would do that to their dad... I mean parents.  
    Well... okay... I do mean who would do that to their dad.  The ink is not even dry on the last tuition check. I waffle between liking the fiance... by the way, I can't stand that word... and hating him for what he is doing to me.
    Not really... I like him... sort of.
    Now you understand why no to the Gracie graduation party and yes to the Matthew tux, but we are still not done.
    Matthew leaves for college in August... going to Salisbury University. He is excited and has even told friends, I have a beach house thirty minutes away.
    Not so fast young squire!  I am not an accountant but that beach house may be in foreclosure by September.
    Finally, my bankruptcy in October.

    So now that you are all caught up, I will let you all in on a little secret.  I am very excited about all of the changes and celebrations and have nothing but excitement and joy at each of the above referenced events... except the foreclosure and the bankruptcy.
    But one big event that I did not mention does have me feeling a bit melancholy. I don't use the work melancholy much, so I am going to tell you that I think of melancholy as not quite sad but a little bit sad.
    Yesterday, the Spalding baseball program had its annual Senior Night honoring the graduating seniors.  Matthew has decided that he probably will not play college baseball.  He once asked me if I would mind if he did not play in college, and I told him that it was entirely up to him and my goal had always been to help get him ready to have a good high school career.
    Baseball all started when I was out throwing a wiffle ball at him when he was six years old.  A dad in the neighborhood was out scouting local talent and asked if Matthew wanted to come play machine pitch. Apparently, they were looking for a portly blond kid that took hacks. I had never heard of machine pitch and thought that Matthew was too young to get involved.  We went to a try out, and not only did he play, but I resurrected my coaching career.  We were the Bees... as in buzz buzz Bee. We had two girls on our team and one wore a skirt to every practice and to every game.  The other... I wanted Matthew to marry someday... she was cute and had a nice swing. It was the beginning of a fun-filled career and friendships that will last a lifetime.
    Matthew was a chubby kid that all of the sudden got skinnier and more athletic.  He made a ten year old All Star team in Little League when he was nine... despite the fact that his coach did not lobby for him to be on the squad.  That idiot coach was proved wrong when he played well and even  broke up a no hitter.
    On a side note... his mother still has not forgiven me for not lobbying for him to be on that team. 
    He (We) worked hard at being a better baseball player.  Besides our regular practices, we would go out and hit by ourselves for hours.  Teammates began to join us at these informal workouts and they became a big part of nearly everyone's Saturday morning routine... as long as the temperature was above fifty degrees... my rule, not Matthew's.
    I coached him up until he was twelve years old. That final year may have been one of the most fun times coaching that I had ever had.  A group of kids that gave every ounce of talent they had with parents that understood what this was all about.  This was also the first team that he played on that he was clearly one of the better players.  I will tell you that it is easier to coach your son when he is not one of the best players on the team, but Matthew made it easy because he always worked hard and he never expected anything different from me. Unfortunately, Matthew had to drive home with his coach and his coach was not always as calm in the car as  he was on the field... you know, when all the parents were watching me.
    Our "car discussions" often led to my apologizing the next day. Matthew was always so quick to forgive me and tell me: Don't worry about it, I know I have to get better.  
    Of course, this just made me feel worse.  It was sneaky the way he would do that!
    Matthew went to Spalding High School in large part to play baseball.
    His cousin is the head coach at Spalding.  Not sure if this helped or hurt Matthew, but he did not make the JV team his freshman year and was sent to play on the freshman team.  Matthew took advantage of his playing time and had a great year.  His sophomore year was spent on the JV team and I would venture to say that this was as much fun playing baseball as he has ever had with guys that he loved. Every practice had a funny story to tell.
    The past two years he has played on Varsity, coached by his cousin Joseph.  Joseph is demanding of all of his players and he expects them to work hard.  I never thought that Joseph was any harder on Matthew than he was on any other player.  The only difference between Matthew and everyone else was that Matthew had to hear how he screwed up and then go out to dinner with Joseph or see him at every celebration like baptisms, birthdays, major holidays, including but not limited to Flag Day, first bike rides or the time we caught that mouse.
    It was not always easy for Matthew, but he rarely complained, and whenever we would talk about it, he would ultimately say, He is right, I have to get better. 
    Matthew's senior year has not gone exactly as planned.  He has played well but never as good as he would like... you never do. Facing great pitching every night doesn't help. But like always, Matthew is positive and they are making a push for the playoffs.
    But I will say this... I have never been prouder of Matthew than I am this year.  He has, in my humble opinion, emerged as one of the team leaders.  Always in the right place, always positive, always encouraging, and always working hard.  He cares first about the team... which is a quality that is getting rarer and rarer as "travel baseball" focuses on an individual's size, velocity, exit speed, pop time, and time in the 60 yard dash (which I never understood because you never run 60 yards on a baseball field).
    Hitting a ground ball to the right side with a runner on second does not get you noticed and please don't ask me to bunt.
    Let's just say that to many kids, the team and winning is no longer the main priority.  I understand travel baseball... I just don't like travel baseball.   
    From his time on the Bees to his senior year at Spalding, baseball has afforded Matthew opportunities to develop as a person.  I will clearly state that Matthew is a better person than he is a baseball player.... and I mean this as the ultimate compliment. Unfortunately, I may have been a better player than I am a person... and I was not that good of a player... so this may explain a few things in my life.   
    The other day, I asked Matthew if he wanted to go and hit and he said that it was okay, that I did not have to do that... and then said something about my being old! I told him that it was quite alright. I wanted to throw to him because, with the season winding down, this would most likely be the last time I would be able to do it.
    I considered it well worth the risk of a sore elbow and an achy back.
    Confirmations, graduations, and weddings are the beginnings of new chapter in everyone's life.  On the other hand, Matthew's baseball career is coming to an end.  This makes me sad (sad is more accurate than melancholy).  Not sad for Matthew.  He has grown up playing a game that he loves and along the way, has learned life lessons that will help make him successful... no matter what he does.
    I am sure he will miss baseball, but he will find something else to fill his time. College offers lots of opportunities. Good for him.
    But I ask... What am I supposed to do?
    Fortunately, Grace has me covered until mid-June! After that... I guess I will make a few tee times with my younger son Noah.
    There you go... Golf... something I can do with the boys for the rest of our lives! 
    Sign me up!


Friday, September 8, 2017

Funny Guy Friday... Rules is rules...

    Funny Guy Friday is written by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy.
    Michael Irvin is a wide receiver that played for the Dallas Cowboys.
    I hated the Dallas Cowboys.
    He attended college at the University of Miami. "The U" as they annoyingly refer to it. The U was full of talented self-professed gangsters that attempted to... and often succeeded... in intimidating their opponents. I hated the University of Miami.
    Irvin had one of the worst reputations in the NFL. Often boastful and loud and frequently in trouble with the league. I hated guys that acted that way!
    Michael Irvin was the type of guy that I loathe.
    Having said that. Michael Irvin may just be one of my favorite players of all time.
    Why? you ask?
    Michael Irvin was on the very first fantasy football teams that I ever owned.
    He was awesome that year, leading the Palumbo Patriots to the championship in the inaugural year of the BSFL. The League initials were derived from the founder of the league, Barry Smith. Either his initials... or another word that has the initials BS... I was never sure.
    Barry dubbed himself The Commish and ruled with an iron fist. He was not kind, and he was not benevolent! RULES IS RULES was his mantra... and always in caps!
    We were ahead of our time.
    The first year of the BSFL, we met at The Commish's house and immediately retreated to his basement. There were no computers, no internet, no cell phones, no shows dedicated to "the top fifty running backs for fantasy football." And no computer drafting. The Commish took a roll of paper and taped it to the wall.  We walked up with a magic marker (sharpies had not yet been invented) and we wrote down our picks. The pressure was on to not only make a good selection but to do so with good penmanship.
    There were twelve teams whose owners were manned with football magazines that were purchased... typically on the morning of the day of the draft. Magazines were necessary so we could figure out who the hell we were drafting after the fifth round. It took hours to get through the draft and guys would draft players that were injured and out for the year or guys that were retired or my personal favorite... drafting guys that had already been drafted. That would typically consist of someone saying...
      With my last pick of the night, I will take Dan Marino. I am surprised he is not already taken!
      He was taken at 8:15 with the third pick of the draft, you idiot. Please, dear God, just pick someone... it is 2:30 in the morning! 
      There was no computer scoring system. We had to get the newspapers out on Monday or Tuesday and calculate the scores for ourselves and the person we were competing with that week. We had occasional controversies but the league policed itself. For instance, one playoff week my kicker attempted an extra point but the snap was bad and he never got the chance. A missed extra point was -1 point. This; however, was not a missed extra point as it was never attempted and I won the week by one point.
      Naturally, a protest was filed.
      Typically, all protests would be submitted to the Commish and he, like Roger Goodell, ruled with an iron fist. He was my competitor that week so he agreed to submit the protest to another very smart, very intelligent member of the BSFL (who also happened to be a fellow member of the Bar... legal Bar not the other bar).
      I am sad to say that I actually submitted a legal brief on the subject... obviously, it was very persuasive!
    By the way, the arbitrator was very smart and very intelligent man because he ruled in my favor issuing a well thought out, well reasoned opinion siding with the side of justice and the American way!!!
    We had a great time with the BSFL.
    Twelve teams but thirteen guys. One team was a brother combo... two knuckleheads that couldn't make a decision to go out of the room to pee without meeting with each other three or four times. On one occasion they called another team and proposed a trade. When the trade was accepted, they accused the guy of trying to rip them off... on the trade that they proposed! Those two only lasted a year or two. Not sure if they quit or were asked to leave. I am guessing they were asked to leave because it would have taken them at least four seasons to come to the agreement to leave the league!
    Every year we would get together three times. Once for the draft, once for a mid-season get together and once for the the season finale at some restaurant where cash prizes were awarded and the bottom six treated the top six to dinner and drinks. It was always good to be an eater as opposed to a buyer!
    I had a lot of success during my time with the BSFL. The inaugural championship and a couple second place finishes. Most years I was a eater.  It didn't really matter if you were a winner or a loser because it was always good to get everyone together to talk about what else... fantasy football!
    All of this is fresh in my mind because my son is now competing in a couple of fantasy leagues... but it is not the same. Last year, he drafted his team in the car while were driving on the Ohio Turnpike. The entire draft took about forty five minutes and it was all done on line. If he did not make a selection in two minutes, the computer selected for him. Once the season starts, he will log onto a website to check his scores and he will never have any contact with any of the other guys in the league.
    What is fun about that?
    Nobody to yell at when they select Aaron Rodgers for the second time in the eleventh round and proclaim I got a sleeper in the eleventh round. Nobody to protest a scoring error to. No-one to laugh at when they select Peyton Manning to lead their squad through the 2017 season only to be reminded that he retired two years ago. Okay, I'll take Ryan Tannehill... he's good, right? 
     Yep, he is great... but he is out for the year, you idiot!!!
     Not to sound like an old curmudgeon but... our way was way better. I know that watching the games and keeping track of your players during the season is going to be fun for folks, but there is no personal interaction with other guys in the league. Of course, the lack of interaction is perfect for a generation of kids that never talk to each other but spend every second texting.  Never a conversation but constant contact.
     It is all very idiotic to me!
     They need to do the draft in person. They need to meet periodically. They need to laugh at each other and make fun of their stupid draft picks. They need to do it the way that we used to do it.
     They need to draft a guy they hate... from a team that they hate... from a college that they hate... and then fall in love with that guy!
     This is the way we did it. This is the way they should do it. It has to be this way.
     After all... a very wise man once proclaimed RULES IS RULES!  

Friday, July 21, 2017

Funny Guy Friday... Live by the... stats?

     Funny Guy Friday is written by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy.,,
     My boys have been altar servers for a few years now. Typically they serve at the same mass but occasionally, one of them will fill in for someone and only one of them will be up on the altar. Several Sundays ago was one of those days. Matthew was a "fill in" at the 8 o'clock Mass.
      I love the 8 o'clock Mass! It is the Reader's Digest version of our weekly obligation. It is quick and typically sans music... except for the concluding hymn. Not that I don't like music, I do. But occasionally, you just want to spend a little quiet time with the Lord, get your blessings, and hit the road.
      Cheryl goes to adoration every Sunday at 8:00 a.m., so it was just Matthew and I. After the Mass, while walking to our car, Matthew was singing the concluding hymn.
      Live by the Cross... Dumdee dum dum dum.  He sang the first line but faked the rest because he didn't know those words. Then it occurred to me that he didn't know any of the words. I gently advised him.
     It's not Live by the Cross, knucklehead. It's Lift High the Cross... Dumdee dum dum dum. I didn't know the rest of the words either, but we both knew Dumdee dum dum dum. But at least I knew it was Lift High and not Live By!
     Matthew insisted he was correct, but he has a habit of singing the wrong words to songs. I correct him all the time because I don't want him embarrassing me when he sings out loud in public. He knows it drives me crazy, so he does it on purpose. At least I think he does it on purpose.
     Anyway, Matthew was pretty insistent so I began to doubt myself  This is not typical because I am right most of the time. Okay, sometimes I am wrong but I am never in doubt. I have heard that song sung hundreds of times. So many times, in fact, that I should probably know the second line.
     There was only one way to settle this... we would ask Cheryl. She knows all the churchy songs. She immediately advised that it is...
     Lift High the Cross
     The Love of Christ proclaimed
     'Til all the world adore
     His sacred name 
     She knew the part in dispute, but she clearly did not know the Dumdee dum dum dum part.
     Vindicated! I won. I beat Matthew. I cherish these victories.
     Why? Because it is becoming clearer and clearer that these victories will occur less and less as he gets older, bigger, stronger and smarter.
   
     It is the middle of summer and Matthew has completed his junior year and is in the middle of summer ball. Matthew played for his high school's varsity team and all things considered, had a pretty good season. The team did well and Matthew had some good games along the way. I believe among his several hits, he finished with five triples and seven doubles. And after a slow start to the summer season, he just went crazy down at a tournament in Florida.
     I love watching him play and breaking the games down afterward.    
     Sometimes, during some of our discussions, he asks me about my high school team, and if we could compete with his current high school team.
     Compete... We would beat you guys! I declare with great confidence.
     No way, he says with equal confidence.
     Yes way... In fact, we could have beaten last year's team. That was a bold statement because that team was pretty good.
     Those guys won three championships... you are crazy!
     Crazy?  Well not to burst your bubble but we were State champs, 22-0, selected as the number one team in the nation by Easton Bat Company in 1981.
      I was told this back in the day by one of our coaches and have repeated this line on numerous occasions but I have never actually fact checked it... I am pretty sure it is true.  Even if it is not true, it has been repeated so many times that I am officially announcing its truthfulness... Sort of like a political talking point.
     Matthew was not convinced by our lofty rankings and demanded that we go position by position and see how you old guys stack up against us.
     I can do that... but you can't! Because between the two of us, I am the only one that saw both teams play and I can assure you that we match up against you pretty well.  I am not sure what you think... we were not all fifty-year-old-out-of-shape men when we were in high school. We were all in shape back then, just like you guys.
     That last line is not necessarily true.
     That is one thing I can say with certainty: These kids work out all year long and they are big. Even the little guys are big. When I was in high school I was 5'9" and 135 lbs. Now that may surprise you if you ever see my high school program listing me at 5'9" and 160 lbs. Matthew is 5'8 3/4" (although he denies it... just a smudge shorter than I... another win for me) and a solid 170 lbs. We had some big kids, but overall, today's kids are much bigger and in much better shape.
     When we ran through the lineups and got to second base, he immediately declares that You were not better than Dave Harding!
     Dave Harding may... and I say may because I like the kid... have been our right fielder! Ultimately, I get to the one thing I love to repeat... We had four guys who were All Met in my senior year... Best players at their position in the entire Washington Metropolitan Area.
     Ah, the All Met card. I love to repeat this because as you might have guessed... I was one of the four.  That's right boys and girls, All Met Second Baseman in the Washington Post and the Washington Star! Lest you think that my brothers let that go to my head, one reminded me that all the real good infielders were playing shortstop!
     As an aside... Unfortunately, I peaked in high school but I don't ever tell that part of the story. And I think the Harding kid was just named a Freshman All American at Princeton!
     Forget what you just read and move on to read more about my high school greatness.
     Every now and then, Matthew will ask if I were better than he.
     Yes, I was! I was as good a fielder as anyone and hit well over .400. I led our team in walks and stolen bases. Yes, I am sorry to say, I was better.
     Now, truth be told... I did hit "well over" .400 (to many .405 is well over .400) but I was kind of a Punch and Judy hitter.  I dinked and dunked my way around. I also had a great relationship with our lovely scorekeeper who may have hooked me up on a hit or two along the way!
     Shout out to Tracy Hooper!
     Matthew, with his five triples during his Junior season had five more triples than I had my senior year and with his seven doubles, had six more doubles than I had my entire senior year.  And truth be told, my one double was a single that I took second on an overthrow... Thanks again Tracy!
     The true story is that every hit my senior year was a single. That would be kind of embarrassing if not for the fact that they were some of the hardest hit singles you ever saw.
     The other thing that Matthew does not understand is that his teams face much better pitching than we did. They see guys throwing in the mid to upper 80's and some in the 90's almost every game. We saw two all year! I am sad to say that I hit well under .400 (.250 is, in fact, well under .400) against those guys.
     Alright, full disclosure... We would have been competitive against Matthew's high school teams but we were not better. And I will agree that if we played in their league, we would not have gone undefeated. But I still like to cling to this delusion.  Why you ask?... Because it is getting to be all that I have. Matthew is bigger than I was, faster than I was, and stronger than I was. I just don't want him to know this. For instance, when he tells me he squatted 265 pounds, I respond that when I was in high school I squatted 270. He may be on to me though because he mumbles... You never squatted in you entire life!
     This is true, but if I had, it would have been 270... maybe even 275!
     I have to stop. This is bad. I have to face reality.
     Okay, I will say it once and for all. Matthew is bigger, Matthew is stronger and Matthew is faster.
     There I did it!
     Wow, that is liberating. I feel pretty good about myself... I think that I have turned the corner.
     Of course,  it easy to feel good about myself because I can say with complete confidence that I was a much better fielder than he will ever be.
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