July



Our Lady of Fatima... Pray for us.
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament... Hear us.
Our Lady of the Rosary... Strengthen us.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Funny Guy Friday… Who goes to 8:00 Mass on Christmas Day?

Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband, Mark. So I married a funny guy…
     About three weeks before Christmas day, our Priest sent out the most recent schedule for the altar servers. Our church is blessed with over 100 altar servers and our Matthew is one of them.  He serves about once every month so we look forward to the new schedule coming out every three months or so.
     As our family was all together in our car, Cheryl mentioned that the new server schedule had come out. She followed that up with a long pause so I took the bait and asked as to what mass Matthew had been assigned. She advised that he had been assigned to the 8 a.m. Mass on Christmas day.  I blurted out No way, that will ruin our entire Christmas morning. Who goes to church at 8:00 on Christmas morning!?! Oops! wrong thing to say in front of Saint Cheryl.
     Of course, I did not mean that going to church at 8:00 on Christmas morning would ruin our Christmas morning.  I just meant that……..going to church at 8:00 on Christmas morning would ruin our Christmas morning. I mean, we have certain Christmas traditions. We get up in our new pajamas and we unwrap our gifts and we eat a nice breakfast made by yours truly and then and only then, do we go to church---the noon mass. We love the noon mass, thank you.
     We decided that we would give it a day or two before deciding whether we would look for a replacement or go ahead and serve. I took the decision seriously as I knew that if we tried to get a substitute, that young man would have his Christmas morning ruined, er, uh altered. We really could not do that to some other unsuspecting family, could we?
     Thankfully, we did not have to. The next day, we got a call from a mother of a family that has 12 kids, several of which are altar servers. She had checked the schedule and advised us that they attend the 8:00 mass on Christmas day every year and she graciously offered to sacrifice up one of her sons. A Christmas miracle. Problem solved.
     Unfortunately, we encountered an unexpected plot twist----Matthew heard that the mass was going to be at the Chapel, which happens to be one of the first Catholic churches built in the United States. He had never served at a mass in the chapel and he was thinking that  it might be kinda cool to serve on Christmas morning. Oh no, now what? We decided to leave the fate of our family's Christmas up to our 11-year-old son.
     You know, mothers have a certain way of influencing kids. I have no proof, but I would bet dollars to donuts that Cheryl got to him. Of course, Matthew decided to do the "right thing" and serve on Christmas morning. He mentioned it was an honor to be selected and that Father Parry chose him for a reason, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Sounds like all the things a certain mother that we all know might say, don't you think? His decision was much to his sister's chagrin. She demanded that we would immediately return home after mass and get back into our pajamas. We were to act as if the whole thing never happened. Now that I think about it, her reaction sounds like something that a certain father that we all know might say, don't you think?
     So, despite the fact that Santa did not make an appearance Christmas Eve until after 2 a.m.---if he did, I did not see him---we were up and out of the house bright and early on Christmas morning. In fact, we left the house at about 7:15 a.m. That's right, I said a.m. I must say, the kids were awesome. Grace even woke up by herself when her alarm went off. This sounds like a small thing but believe me, it is not. In fact, I considered this to also be a Christmas miracle. As you can see, my bar is low when it comes to Christmas miracles.
     I will give Gracie girl credit. She stuck to her game plan and did not even look under the tree before we left the house. Noah tried to ignore his booty from Santa but could not muster up the will power. As he stared, slack-jawed and slobbering, Cheryl told him it was okay. It is like a moth drawn to a flame---just a natural reaction to Christmas morning, she advised
     On the way to church, I gave Matthew a scouting report on what I anticipated from the congregation. They would be older and hard core. Lifelong Catholics who took their church going seriously. No sirree, no one in this group would get confused and wish someone a Happy Easter on Christmas morning. This group attends mass weekly, if not daily. I told him that any mistake, and I mean any little mistake, would be picked up by the crowd and that would spell d i s a s t e r. "Seasoned parishioners" can be pretty unforgiving. I advised Matthew of all of this, but followed up by assuring him that there was no pressure---but please don't do anything to embarrass me! Just good parenting.
     The church was beautiful and we had a great opportunity to take a long look around as we were in our seats by 7:30 a.m. On the way, I wondered aloud what we were going to do for a half hour before mass and once again, Saint Cheryl told us we could pray. What prayer takes a half hour? I only have the five minute variety in my repertoire. So after finishing my prayer, Noah and I told a few jokes----just a couple of seven-year-olds having a good time.  
     Monsignor Parry had the mass and he spoke about the history of the church and the hundreds of thousands of people that have sat in these pews to enjoy the Christmas mass over the years. He pointed out that by our mere presence on this Christmas morning, we were part of history.  He then described how Mary and Joseph, parents for the first time, must have felt on this day many, many years ago. His homily made me think of a couple of things.
     First, I contemplated the fact that it was possible that my rear end was sitting in the same pew as some historical figure's rear end. Made my rear end feel kind of warm and fuzzy. Second, and way more important, I thought of how proud I am of my kids on this day, with Matthew on the altar and Grace sitting with my mother at the end of the pew and Noah sitting on my lap. This confirmed what I already knew---We are truly blessed!
     The mass was perfect, went off without any glitches by the altar servers. We were home and back into our pajamas by 9:30. The kids were incredibly patient and had a great time opening their gifts. I found it very interesting, and kind of gratifying, that they had as much fun giving gifts that they selected for one another as they did receiving gifts for themselves.  In fact, I would venture to say that we had the best Christmas day ever.
     Why... The 8 a.m. mass didn't stop Christmas from coming... it came!… Somehow or other... it came just the same! Like Christmas in Whoville… Christmas morning wasn't ruined at all.
     So with that being said, and with all the blessings that I have in my life, you would think that I could at least get on my knees and be able to say thank you for thirty minutes. I will try to remember that next year at the 8:00 Christmas day mass. What the heck, every family tradition has to start sometime.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Steve and Eydie… always good at Christmastime...


Reprinted from last Christmas. Steve and Eydie never get old...
     When I was a little girl, nothing said, "Christmas is coming," like the song, Sleigh Ride, by Steve and Eydie!
     Music was such a big part of my childhood. My parents must have played this album every day in December. My mom and sisters will especially appreciate hearing it one more time.
     Merry Christmas. Do you remember?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Funny Guy Friday… THE TALK...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So I married a funny guy.
     My son Matthew landed the key role of Joseph in the Church Nativity play. Mind you, it had nothing to do with his acting abilities. No, he got the part because his main competition for the role was the real life cousin of the girl playing Mary. They all thought that cousins playing Joseph and Mary was too weird, so the other kid conceded the role. My guess is that Pacino got his first role in a similar fashion.
     During the drive to the opening show---it also happened to be the closing show as it was a one time deal--- Matthew asked me if I was aware of the fact that Joseph did not want to get married to Mary after he found out that she was pregnant. Matthew found this to be a bit odd. I told him that I was aware of that fact, and that I did not think it was odd at all. The conversation that followed relieved me of much anxiety regarding THE TALK.

Me: You know Matthew, it is not really odd if you think about it. Pause, pause, pause.  Do you know how a woman becomes pregnant.
Matthew: Yes. Yeah, I guess it is not that odd now that I think about it.
Me: So you know how all that works.
Matthew: Yeah, I'm good with all that.
Me: Great. You know, Mom is going to ask me some day if I have had this talk with you and we need to be united in our response. We have had THE TALK and we are cool, right?
Matthew: Yeah.

     At this point we exchanged a fist bump to seal the deal.
     I must admit, our little talk went pretty well---way better than I ever expected. Although relieved, I did feel a little bit guilty for not really following up on the details. He told me he was good with all that, so why give the boy the fourth degree? I trust him.
     As we continued our drive, I felt the need to be a responsible adult and follow up. The conversation continued:

Me: You know, mom is not going to give up easy on this, don't you?
Matthew: Yeah.
Me: Okay, someday---but not today---I will ask you what it is that you think that you know, and after you tell me, I will confirm the information with mom, and let you know if you are on the right track or not. Good?
Matthew: Yeah. 

     Followed by a second fist bump.
     Whew! Now my conscience was clear, and my work was done.
     Now when I informed Cheryl that we had had THE TALK, she required details. I told her that there was a little of this, a little of that and we bumped fists. She was not sold on the idea that my work was done. In fact, she insisted that I re-open the discussion and find out everything that the boy knows, and that I fill in the blanks. No way, you wanted to home school, you home school. I took care of the basics and now you deal with the details.
     Besides, I informed her that I may not be the right guy for the job. I explained to her that I consider myself akin to the great quarterback to whom the game comes so easily that it prevents him from being a good coach. These types of superior athletes just cannot relate to the players with lesser skills. 
     To this she replied that I was pathetic. I am assuming/hoping that she is referring to my parenting skills.
     This whole experience reminds me of the time that I walked in on my brother having THE TALK with his son. I did not know what was going on, but I did get the hint that I should leave. I left and went to the store and ran into my sister-in-law who gave me the heads-up of what was going on at their house. She asked me how it seemed to be going and I told her that it seemed to be going well, that my brother was wide eyed and was doing a lot of nodding and saying things like Really! I never knew that! to my 10-year-old nephew.  
     So there you have it, a great day in my evolution as a parent. And to think, I have a seven-year-old that will be ready for THE TALK in just a few years. Hopefully, his older brother clues him in on whatever it is that he thinks he knows and three years from now, we can have a similar in-depth chat---sealed with a gratifying knuckle bump. Seriously, it's not like the future generations hang in the balance.
   Or do they? I get so confused over all that stuff.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Funny Guy Friday… The Most Wonderful (Party) Time of the Year...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband, Mark. So, I married a Funny Guy!
     Let's see, it is ten days before Christmas, so let's check my list:
           Lights up. Check.
           Tree up. Check.
           Tree decorated. Check.
           Tree still standing. Check. Check. Check.
           Shopping completed. Check.
     I am good to go. The only thing left to do is party, and this weekend it is party central at our house. (If you could see me right now, I am punching my right fist up in the air in a circular type motion and "woofing" like a dog.) Let me explain. The parties, not the woofing!
     The year before Cheryl and I were married, we (along with my roommate at the time) decided to host a Christmas party and invite everyone that we knew….everyone we knew was invited to my then-tiny little house with a living room, a kitchen and a basement. We had over 100 people piled into that house that first year; most of them were either single or newly married and very few had kids. It was packed, and it was a blast.
     In the early years, my former boss graciously donated a keg of beer with the only condition being that I had to go pick it up at his bar near Baltimore. He did not tell me that the keg was in the walk-in freezer in the basement, with little room to maneuver up the steps, and that nobody would be there to help get it up those narrow steps. That first year, I went by myself. I never made that mistake again. I couldn't even drink the beer that first year because it didn't mix well with the meds that I needed for my back.
     If memory serves me correctly, the keg ran out at about 10:15. We had gone way over budget (even with the donated keg), so I had to pass a hat around to collect money to make another beer run. I chuckle at the fact that we went way over budget because I don't remember having much besides wine, beer, carrots, celery, chips and dip at that first party.
     That celebration lasted until about 3 a.m. When the last guest was leaving, she drunkenly mumbled that she was glad that she was not the last one to leave. I informed her that she was, in fact, the last one to leave. She informed me that there were still about ten people going strong down in the basement.
     Sure enough, they were still down there. I told them that I was going to bed, but that they were welcome to stay and lock up when they left. Heck, I sold that house eleven years ago. As far as I know, they could still be hanging out down in that basement.
     We continued to have that party every year for about fifteen years, and it was interesting to see the evolution. People started having kids and the party kept getting shorter and shorter. Kids ruin everything! The food became more important than the drink, and we went from kegs to inexpensive domestic beer bottles.
     About six years ago, when my brother-in-law Ray got a job as a liquor distributor, I figured he could hook me up. I told him that my beer budget was about $120 and he said no problem. He brought in all kinds of imported and seasonal beers. I was thinking that he must have got some great discounts. He then advised that I owed him more than $300. Wait a second, what happened to my beer budget! The whole party usually didn't cost me more than $300. He informed me that I was an adult now and it was time for me to buy big boy beverages. I never knew that my brother-in-law thought of me as Peter Pan. I never liked my brother-in-law.
     In 2009, we skipped the party because my nephew got married in Florida during the usual week of the party. Then we skipped another year because we enjoyed the relaxation of not having the party the year my nephew got married in Florida as much, or more, than we enjoyed having the party. But I should point out that we were never party-less this time of year as my office annually hosts a HUGE shindig for Christmas.
     The office party is quite a production. It is a catered affair with over 500 guests. We shut the office down on Thursday afternoon and Friday and we transform the law office into a party house with an open bar, a separate martini bar, and a separate wine room. We have a huge conference room with a buffet including salmon, turkey or beef, vegetables and rice along with a smaller conference room with desserts. On a separate floor, we have another buffet with finger foods and small sandwiches; and my personal favorite, a raw oyster bar. On the top floor we have live music. Every floor has buckets full of beer.
     Think of putting on a wedding reception every year and you get the idea. It is a pretty awesome production, and it is safe to say we spend more than $300---Take that Raymond!
     Two years ago, a local politician approached me at the office party and asked me my name. I had met her several times before and may have even spoken to her a time or two that very night. Oh, by the way, I was also wearing a name tag. I told her my name and she looked me up and down and said No, that's not it. I assured her that I was who I said I was. She then asked me where I worked. I informed her that I work right in the very building where we were standing, sharing a drink together. She again told me that is not right. I told her that I was not sure of a lot of things in my life, but two things that I was a 100% sure of were who I was and where I worked.  I volunteered to show her my i.d. and the name on the sign out front.
     I never did convince her and I remember thinking that everyone always knew me at my house party.
     Which brings me back to this weekend. We decided to resurrect the house party in addition to the office party. The main reason that we went back to the house party is because my mother decided that she was not going to host her annual family Italian Christmas dinner. For those of you that don't know my family, whenever we have a get-together like that, we are talking about having as many as 40-60 people depending on who is in town. I told my mother that we could host the family dinner at our house and that everyone else would prepare the food. She declined my offer so Cheryl and I decided to go back to the house party.
     We sent out the evites (another new and innovative thing that I hate) inviting everyone over for an open house on December 17th. A few days later, I got a call from my brother advising that his boys were all going to be at my house on the 18th.
     The 18th! Huh? Uh, no, you mean the 17th, don't you? No he meant the 18th for the family dinner. But, er, uh, mom said she didn't want to have that dinner. Did you talk to her? No, he did not talk to her but he had heard some rumblings about her not wanting to have the dinner. Uh, yeah, I thought that since she didn't want to have her dinner, then her dinner would not be had. 
     To this, he gave the most common sense response that I have ever heard. If mom dies are we never going to get together for Christmas as a family. Have the family dinner and invite mom, if she comes, she comes, if she doesn't than she doesn't---my guess is that she will be there.
     HOUSE PARTY ON THE 17TH---FAMILY DINNER ON THE 18TH. Woo hoo!!! (again, I am doing that arm raising, woofing thing!)
     What the heck, we will only have to clean the house one time! But I swear, if one person at either of those two get-togethers doesn't know who I am, I am throwing them out in the street.
     If you happen to be in the area on the evening of the 17th, please feel free to stop by and please bring only your Christmas joy. If you did not get an evite, it is because we did not have your email address.
     If your last name is the same as mine, or if you are married to or dating someone with the same last name as mine, please come on the 18th and please bring an appetizer, bread, a dessert, beer or wine. You are not allowed in empty-handed.
     There, I think that covers just about everything until New Year's.
     Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Osawatomie, Kansas...

     So, President Obama gave a speech criticizing America in Kansas last week. That's all I had heard... Kansas. But do you know where in Kansas? Osawatomie, Kansas.
     Coincidence?
     Please read this from Romantic Poet. Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Funny Guy Friday... A Christmas Tree Story

    Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband, Mark. If you are a fan of A Christmas Story, you'll enjoy this one. So, I married a Funny Guy!
     Christmas is on its way. Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, upon which the entire kid year revolves. Like every family, we have our Christmas traditions. One of my personal favorites is when we go to purchase our Christmas tree. There is a local nursery that we frequent in the summer, and we have gotten to know the owners pretty well. We go early, so we don't miss all the good trees.
     The nursery is right around the corner from our home. Every year they have a huge fire pit which makes me, and I am sure, every other man, envious. They serve cookies and hot apple cider brewed with a secret ingredient---red hots (I guess it is not really secret in the sense that nobody knows about it...but secret in the sense that it is different.)
     Every year, we traipse on up to that nursery, and every year Cheryl and the kids eat cookies and drink cider. Then they sit around the fire and talk with the owners. At some point, Matthew and Noah will break away and play hide and seek in the tree lot, and Cheryl and Grace will go into the store and look at wreaths and other decorations.
     If you have been paying attention, you will have noticed that nobody is actually looking for a Christmas tree. That is because I am the only one who actually cares about the tree. Every year, Cheryl and I have a similar dispute about the big purchase:
Cheryl: This year, why don't we just buy a small tree.
Me: We can't, we have hundreds of ornaments and we have a room that is 400 square feet with a cathedral ceiling---the room will eat up a small tree.
Cheryl: But they are so expensive, a small tree would be so cute. (This was a brilliant maneuver in the legendary battle of the tree that will live in the folklore of our little street.)
Me: No. No small trees. You have been saying the same thing for twenty years. The money argument made sense when we didn't have any money, but we are doing fine now.
Cheryl: Okay. I suppose that the next time we want to eat out, we won't... and we can save the money that way.
Me: Sure. You say that every time we make an unnecessary purchase. By the way, do you want Chinese or Italian tonight?
Cheryl: Chinese. Maybe tonight we can introduce the kids to Chinese turkey.  
     So I go through the lot looking for that perfect tree. A Frasier fir, about nine-and-a-half feet tall with no bare spots----I don't want to have to hide one side in the corner. And I don't want one of those trees where all the needles fall off---like them balsams.
     Matthew and Noah may offer some suggestions as they dart in and out from behind the trees, but for the most part, I am on my own. I always pick the one that I want and then offer two or three other "choices" to the rest of the gang. It is then, and only then, that they become fully engaged in the selection process; however, their involvement is a mere formality---the tree that we will buy has already been selected.
     Cheryl always picks out the worst tree among the choices, which usually happens to be the least expensive. I tell her no, and that we are getting the one that I want, after assuring her it will fit in the room.
     Once the fresh cut is made, Cheryl reminds me that we are in a race to get the tree home and get it into water. She tells me this as she is saying her good byes. This takes up to twenty minutes as the sap seals the fresh cut. Heaven forbid we have a blow out on the way home. But if we did, I can change a tire in no time. I had always pictured myself in the pits of the Indianapolis Speedway at the 500. When we do make it home, we unload the tree and then the fun begins---putting up the tree.
     If I have any doubts about buying a big tree, they creep in right as I am putting the tree up in the tree stand. I won't bore you with the details of our tree stand, but it rivals the pyramids in its ingenuity. I was told when I purchased it that it is "the best tree stand on the market and the trees never fall." It may be the best, but in the past, I have proven that the trees will fall.
     About seven years ago, I came downstairs and found the tree lying on our living room floor with water and broken ornaments all over the place. Cheryl came down and calmly asked what had happened. I may have cursed. In fact, I may have said THE word, the big one, the queen mother of dirty words, while answering her question that had a very obvious answer. I also may have demanded that she help.
     I have since heard of people under extreme duress speaking in strange tongues. I became conscious that a steady torrent of obscenities and swearing of all kinds was pouring out of me as I screamed. The details are a bit foggy at this point, but you would think that my tone and my unusually harsh language would have had her leaping to my aid. She leaped alright, back upstairs with the admonishment that she would help only after I calmed down, and that "a lot worse things could have happened."
     As an aside, she always uses that a lot worse things could have happened defense. It is the classic Cheryl block. That deadly phrase honored many times by hundreds of wives is not surmountable by any means known to husband-dom. But Cheryl does not realize that things could get worse. Why, Cheryl knows nothing about creeping marauders burrowing through the snow toward our kitchen where only I stand alone between my tiny huddled family and insensate evil. All alone except for my trusty old Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range model air rifle. However, this scenario is a bit unrealistic because I don't own such a weapon as it could......put my eye out. I digress.
     After I cleaned up the mess that year, by myself, I put the tree back up and went off to work. I called Cheryl from my car, and I started out by saying, "About this morning..." She stopped me in mid sentence and said, "About this morning, did you call to apologize?" Well, not exactly to apologize, I called to tell you that I am normal and you are not. It is okay to get mad at things every once in a while. Several irreplaceable ornaments were broken and you... That's about as far as I got before she ended the "make up call."
     Anyway, back to this year's tree. As usual, once we got the tree in the stand, we let it sit for a day as we attempted to adjust it. This is always a painstaking process, as Cheryl is adamant that it be perfectly straight up and down. This requires hours of me manipulating ropes under the tree and sliding from side to side on my back. An inch to the right, now back toward the window, can you move it to the left and toward the center of the room. How does that look from down there? She actually asked me that as I squirmed around under the tree.
     We finally got the tree straight and began to decorate. My mom was over. We were watching White Christmas. And all was good with the world.
     Noah had the bottom sufficiently decorated, and we had put on the last of the candy canes when the worst thing ever happened---the tree came down. Oh, life is like that! Sometimes at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.
     Now, in the past, I have been known to weave a tapestry of obscenities that, as far as we know, still hang in space over Lake Michigan. But I have learned from my mistakes, plus my sainted mother and our kids were in the room with me. I stood there quivering with fury as I tried to come up with a real crusher of a word, but all I could come up with was, "Naddafinga."
     I always say that The Godfather provides a quote for every situation that may come along in life. A Christmas Story is the Christmas version of The Godfather---that movie provides a quote for every situation that may come along during the Christmas season.
     Naddafinga summed up my feelings about our tree.
     After the tree was restored, and the kids were asleep, Cheryl and I sat and admired the tree. She mentioned that it was beautiful. I told her that it is beautiful....but I hate it! Maybe next year she will take my advice, and we will go with a smaller tree.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

Funny Guy Friday... Missing my dad...

    Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband, Mark. So, I married a Funny Guy!
     Friday after Thanksgiving, I did what I always do on Black Friday---I brighten up the day by putting up our Christmas lights. 
     Every year, I drag my lights out of the attic and out of the basement---I have a lot of lights----and I call my dad and ask him to come over to help with the ladder. He was always more than willing to come and offer his assistance. In fact, it was kind of embarrassing the first time he came over because I had no idea how to work the extension ladder, and I was scared to death to get up there and hang lights on the high gutter. Regrettably, I did not take that class in Law School. So, after watching me on my first trip up that first year, my dad took over the entire operation.
     The first few years in my current home, if my dad were in a hurry, he would ask me to invite my brother over to help. This was complete and utter humiliation for me, as I was then reduced to getting coffee for them as they put up my lights. 
     My brother is a complete show-off because he is able to get up on the roof and parade along the edge like a cat. I have actually tried to prevent this because I can't even stand to watch it. At this point, I am always ordered to go inside while they work. Here I am, a grown man in my own house, being put in a time-out by my dad. Humiliating! By the way, I hate cats.
     As the years passed, and my dad got older... and I got more comfortable going up and down the ladder... I would still call him to ask if he could come and help. 
     He always came. And he always held that ladder. I think he would have been offended had I not called. 
     Even though he passed away in March, I still called my mom when it came time to put up the lights. Ever protective of her baby boy, she suggested that I call my brother. Even she knows how helpless I am. 
     I assured her that I would be okay and that I would recruit some helpers. We then both agreed that my dad would have gladly come over to help if he were still here. There are a lot of things that I loved about my dad, and his willingness to drop everything to come over and help was one of his greatest qualities.
   
     Well, the lights still needed to go up, so I had to rely on my immediate family members, whom I love dearly, to help with the ladder. 
     My son Matthew was the first person to offer his assistance. I do not own a ladder, so I borrow my neighbor's. Everyone on our street knows it is Christmastime when they see me tiptoeing through the neighborhood with another man's extension ladder.
     Matthew was great at first, but then he started darting in and out of the house. It seems that the Michigan/Ohio State game was on TV, and the results of that game were more important than dear old dad plummeting thirty feet to a certain death. Matthew assured me that the fall wouldn't be so bad. He was probably correct; the fall would not be so bad, but I am pretty sure that the sudden stop would have been a problem.
     I really did not have too much of a gripe with Matthew going in and out because the first section that I do is above the flat part of the patio, and the ladder stays pretty straight. I really needed help moving the ladder and having someone hold the ladder as the walkway slopes downhill. That section comes at the very end of the process. No problem. My lovely wife was now on the job. 
     We soon had to maneuver the ladder down a step and work down an incline. This is definitely a two-person task. In the middle of us both moving the ladder, the phone rang. Just so you know, seventy-five percent of the time, my wife just lets the phone ring and never answers it. And she only answers it if she can actually find a phone to answer---it rarely makes it back onto the cradle. Her refusal to answer the phone and the fact that phones never make it back to the cradle usually drives me crazy.
     Anyway, on this day, at this time, in the middle of moving a ladder that is extended to the tippy-top of the roof, my wife decided that she was going to take this call. She literally dropped everything, including her hands that were assisting with the ladder, and she dashed into the house. The ladder started to swing and sway as I tried to prevent a disaster. Fortunately, disaster was averted, but my confidence in my ladder-holder was shot. Upon Cheryl's return, she, like Matthew, assured me that falling wouldn't be that bad. I love that my family thinks I bounce like a ball.
     The lights are up. And they look great.
     Putting up lights this year was a different experience without my dad.  I thought of him as I climbed up and down that ladder, and yet I felt an emptiness where he used to stand. I am sure that Christmas will be a little bit different, too, and I will continue to think of him. In fact, had I fallen off of that stupid ladder, my final thought would have been I wish that my dad were here! 
     That thought may be a familiar refrain this Christmas season.      
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