Our Lady of Fatima... Pray for us.
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Our Lady of the Rosary... Strengthen us.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Funny Guy Friday… Happy Anniversary

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. 
     So… I married a funny guy...
     Last Sunday brought us some much-needed rain, but it also resulted in the cancellation of a much-needed double header. Rain-outs are a bear to reschedule.
     Anyway, I took advantage of the extra time at home by cleaning out our pantry and taking the kids to a movie. I clean the pantry about once every three or four months, and each time I do it I declare that this is the last time that I do this. Everybody has to stop piling stuff in the pantry when there is no place else to put it.  Now this begs the question, if there no place left to put it, what should they do with it? Frankly, I don't care… just don't put it in my clean pantry.
      After I was done, I drove the two older kids to the mall to see the Hunger Games… the movie not the Home Edition. As I watched my 15-year-old Grace, her good friend Lizzie, and my 12-year-old Matthew stroll into the mall… all by themselves... I suddenly became reflective about the fact that my kids are growing up. I realized that that they will only be getting less and less dependant upon Cheryl and me, and as cool as we are, they won't choose to be around us all the time.
     I suppose this has been coming for some time, but it hit home as I watched them happily disappear into the mall. I was eager to get home to pick up Cheryl, Noah and my mother (she spent the weekend with us), and take them to a different movie, one more appropriate for a seven-year-old. I was totally ecstatic when Noah jumped up on my lap as the movie started. I couldn't feel my legs for ninety minutes, but it was well worth it.
      I suppose this is a good time to be reflective about my family. On Wednesday, Cheryl and I celebrated our 20th anniversary. Who would have thought?
     Actually, Cheryl and I both knew from the outset that we were going to get married. We had discussed it on our second date. I can honestly say that I knew I was going to marry her from the very first moment that I laid eyes on her when she was singing in the Church folk group. The problem was that I was dating someone else at the time. A small detail that was easily… well... not so easily… resolved.
     When I finally did break up with the other young lady, she requested that although we were no longer going to date, would I still attend her friend's wedding with her. That wedding was scheduled to take place six weeks later.
     I agreed, but in the meantime, I was not going to wait to go out with Cheryl.
     For our first date, we had a great time at Riordan's restaurant in downtown Annapolis. We ate, we drank, we laughed, and we got an education about the mating rituals of ducks by some crazy lady on the dock. On the drive home, I thought that I should advise my future wife about the wedding that I was going to attend in six weeks… with another woman. Why did I tell her? What the heck, I knew I was going to marry her, I should at least be honest with her. Her response was immediate... Call me when you are done with all that! 
      My response was pretty immediate, too. There was no way I was going to wait six weeks. I called the girl the next day and advised her that I would not be attending the wedding. I actually used the line….It's not you, it's me! Actually, it was Cheryl, but that's our little secret.
     After a six-week whirlwind romance, we got engaged. Kind of ironic now that I think about it; we probably got engaged on the very same day that I was supposed to attend that wedding. Honestly, I am only now just realizing that. That explains the angry phone call I got a week later back then. I digress.
      I wanted to get married right away, but this was the first wedding for Cheryl's family, and plans had to be made… and changed… and rearranged. Funny thing was, Cheryl was pretty much laissez-faire when it came to wedding plans. Her mother and her younger sister seemed to be in charge. This was my first introduction to just how laid back Cheryl can be. I would be discussing wedding plans with her mother while Cheryl danced with her sister in the living room. To this day, she still wants to lead.
      I mentioned that I fell in love with her the very first time I laid eyes on her. That is not exactly correct. Technically, it was about the 50th or 60th time I had laid eyes on her because we went to the same junior high and senior high school together for six years. During that time, we never once spoke to one another. She happily reports that although she was a cheerleader in junior high and I was the point guard on our championship basketball team, she can not remember my playing. When I first heard this, I pointed out that there were only two white guys that played all the time. She immediately named the other white guy, but could not remember me. When asked if she remembered my playing baseball on our high school's state championship team, she responded that she didn't even know that our school had a baseball team.
     Over the years, there have been times when we would talk about some event that we were involved with, or a party or concert that we had attended, and then realized that we were both at the same event… albeit with some other guy or girl. In my mind, this confirms that God had a plan for us to be together, even if we were together with some other guy or girl.
     We got married on April 25th, 1992 at 2 pm. It was sunny in the morning for pictures; it poured during the ceremony; and then it got sunny again for more photos, as soon as the ceremony was over. Perfect timing.
     Over the years, I have come to learn that this is how things work out for Cheryl. No matter how bad things might seem, they always seem to work out for Cheryl. Even when they don't quite work out, she will smile and say God has a plan… everything happens for a reason. We need to wait and see what His plan is! How can you argue with that? Irritating and irrefutable all at the same time.
     Cheryl is clever, smart, funny, honest, faithful… and not hard to look at. But among all of her many great qualities, none is more obvious than her gifts as a mother. Our marriage has blessed us with three beautiful children. Each shares with her the common traits of faithfulness, kindness and love. Cheryl is the perfect example for the kids because she exhibits those qualities every day.
     I have often said that Cheryl is the nicest person that God ever put on this Earth, and she lives like that every day. A friend once told us that when he first met Cheryl, he thought it was all just a big act, that nobody could possibly be that up-beat and kind all of the time. I am here to tell you that she is… and it is tough on me… try living with that for twenty years. I suppose we all have our crosses to bear.
     Despite our kids' similarities, Cheryl also encourages them to express themselves with their own individual and unique styles. I have said that it is surprising to me that our kids were raised in the same house by the same set of parents. They each exhibit different strengths and traits that keep things both very interesting and very challenging in our home.
     Despite my efforts to muck it all up, Cheryl keeps things going. She encourages them to try new things and, above all else, to be kind and supportive to each other. As parents, I think our greatest blessing is that our kids do genuinely enjoy each other… except when Matthew is trying to get Noah to "tap out." This rarely ends well for either one of them.
     Each week, I write Funny Guy Friday about things that I think are funny. I suppose… you know… if  you read them all… there has been a time… or two… here and there… where, I might have… kinda… made fun of something Cheryl has said… or has done. I know her mother has pointed this out to me on occasion. My response to my mother-in-law is that I kid because I love. I kid her so much because I love her so much. I give her that response or I point out that her daughter has it pretty good with me, and that women die and want to come back reincarnated as Cheryl… so lay off.
     Well, the truth is that I am the one that has had it pretty good over the past twenty years. Despite our hasty decision to get married, for the past twenty years, there has never been a day that I have wondered whether I had made the right decision to propose. There has never been a day that I awakened and did not want her lying next to me. There has never been a day that I questioned her love and commitment to me, to our kids, or to her faith. And I cannot imagine, in the next twenty years, that any of that will ever change.
     Happy Anniversary. I love you!
     Having said all that, if you say or do something silly this week that I find to be funny, I am going to write about it next week.
     Like I said, we all have our crosses to bear.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Funny Guy Friday… Hunger Games Home Edition...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband, Mark. So… I married a funny guy...
     So we were driving down the road the other day and Grace mentioned that she loved PETA. Matthew concurred. Then he mentioned the things that PETA would do for a meal, which I, of course, assumed would be a vegetarian meal since it involved PETA. Seriously, all of the sudden, you guys have some great affection for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals? What did I miss?    
     Apparently, there is a popular book out that I know nothing about. It wasn't PETA, but a fictional character named Peeta, and the book is The Hunger Games. Both Grace and Matthew read the book in under three days, which is kind of amazing since it has taken them both two weeks to get through their current twelve page history assignments.
     Gracie read so much so quickly that she diagnosed herself with eye strain. Of course, the eye strain could be the result of not only the non-stop reading at all hours, but also the subsequent texting her cousin about Peeta, facebooking about Peeta, and searching on Pinterest for pictures of Peeta. But I digress.
     They started to explain the book to me, and my mind started working, and I did what I do best: I came up with an idea for our own home version of the Hunger Games. This is what I do; I am an idea man! I feel that life has been too easy for our kids, and they have never really had to work for anything in their lives. Well, we are going to step it up a bit.
     Our home will be divided into three separate districts, with each district represented by one of our kids. Each kid will be responsible for keeping their district in proper working order and repair. Each kid will get specific training to help them prepare for the  forthcoming events. I will interview each of the kids to see what special skills they possess.  They will be given specific tasks that coordinate with their particular skill set. 
     If I had to guess, I would say that Noah, the artist, will specialize in camouflage; Grace, the chef, will be good with knives; and Matthew, the athlete, will excel in running from the little boy in the camo and the crazy girl with the knife.
     Just to make it more interesting, I am going to televise my interviews, so friends and family can decide if they want to sponsor the kids. It will be like a very cool reality show, and I may even make some cash off of the sponsorships---win-win for me.
     After the interviews and the special training are complete, every morning the kids will be banished to the basement where they will race to find weapons such as nerf guns, wiffle ball bats and pirate swords.
     It will be first come, first served, as far as the weapons go. I will control the basement climate by cleverly regulating the thermostat. I can make them irritable by making it too hot or too cold. Each morning, they will take part in a battle royale. The winner is the one who emerges from the basement unscathed. That child will then have food available for his district for the day. The losers will go to bed hungry.
     I love the idea of our own little family Hunger Games. First of all, it will thin the herd in a survival of the fittest sort of way. Each child will have to hone their skills in order to survive. That, or they NEVER make it out of the basement.
     Other benefits include fewer grocery bills---feeding one child each day is much cheaper than feeding three. The losers will lose weight immediately---the 17 Day Diet is nice but why wait 17 days? And finally, Cheryl and I will have daily periods of peace and quiet while the kids partake in the "Basement Battle"---it is actually very nice; we can't hear a thing in the basement once that door is shut.
     I know what you are thinking… Their basement will be a mess if they let this occur down there. If you are thinking this, you have never seen our basement after the kids have been down there with their friends. Every toy is left out, the pool cues are all broken, the toilet is backed up and food is left all over the place. In fact, we are going to have to do a sweep of the basement before we start the Hunger Games Home Edition so the kids don't consume any left-over food from our last party.
     If the kids get together and decide that they will not participate in our little home version, I will create situations in the basement that will be sure to get a fight started. For instance, I will turn on the TV and only put one chair in the room. I might even put a board game down there; it seems that they regularly end up in fights over board games. Or, I will add little bonuses like the winner does not have to unload the dishwasher, distribute the laundry, or take out the trash. I mean, they argue over all these things all the time…..even when food is not on the line. Oh, they will fight or none of them will eat!
     Now, Cheryl has not signed off on this project yet, but she will once she hears that she can get some extra sleep out of the deal. I mean, several years ago, she pitched a similar idea that she called the Sleepy Game.
     The Sleepy Game started on a Saturday morning. It rewarded the last child that woke up each Saturday morning. The kids did not actually have to be sleeping; they could just be lying in their bed or watching TV downstairs. They just had to be out of our bedroom. You see, the winner of the Sleepy Game was always Cheryl.
     The other thought that I had was that if this Hunger Games thing were successful, someone may want to make a movie out of my idea. It has all the elements of a major motion picture-----conflict, violence, heartache, developing relationships, and ultimately triumph.
     You know, on second thought, the movie idea is just stupid. I cannot see people going to theatres to watch a depressing movie like this. Oh well, for now I will just have to be satisfied with making our home a better place by turning my basement into a war zone and rewarding the day's sole survivor with food.
     This is what I do. I am an idea man.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Funny Guy Friday… The favorite son returns...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband, Mark. So I married a funny guy...
     As some of you may know, my brother Paul is a Lutheran minister. He and his family live in a beautiful town called Chelan, in the state of Washington. Chelan sports the third deepest lake in the United States, and is about three hours from Seattle. Paul is the pastor of a church there, and, according to the stories we hear, he is kind of "a big deal" in his little town.
     His daughter has been attending St. Mary's College here in Maryland, so my brother has made it home a bit more frequently in the past four years. You may know that he is the fourth child in my original family of six kids (4 boys, 2 girls), and was always a little bit different than the rest of us.
     You may know all of these things, but there is one thing that I bet you did not know--- Paul is my mother's favorite child. We all know that he is her favorite and that every other child is a distant second. It is not that we care all that much. I mean, I wrote her Last Will and Testament, and when all is said and done, we all get the same amount. Nobody quite knows the reason why she loves Paul so much. I mean he is okay, but in my mind, he is nothing really special.    
     I mentioned he was different. For instance, when we were growing up, we played sports, and the sports kind of consumed us and occupied all our time. Paul also played sports but he did a bunch of other stuff, too. For instance: he worked a job during the basketball season; he took the time to have a friend teach him how to play the guitar; and he learned to speak fluent Spanish.
     I mean, those things are nice, but what does that get you later in life. Because of his lack of commitment to athletics, I doubt very seriously if Paul could even be a contributing factor on his current church's slow pitch softball team. Kind of embarrassing if you ask me, but perhaps my mother liked him better because he was so different and did do all that other weird stuff.
     But a better theory is that my mother is a practical woman and since Paul is a pastor, she feels her soul is safe. In fact, she was disappointed when I became a lawyer because I was her last chance at a mechanic. What does she need a lawyer for? She has no legal problems, but her car does break down from time to time.
     Anyway, her favoritism is really insignificant except for one huge benefit… her meatballs.
     My mother's meatballs are the stuff of legend.
     When my father passed away, I was the last of several speakers at his funeral. The first speaker was the Pastor of my parents' church. She told a story about my father's selflessness. She said that every time she had asked my father if he needed any special prayers, despite his failing health, he would never ask for prayers for himself, but would always ask for prayers for my mother.
     Yeah, yeah, yeah. Big deal. I had a similar story. I acknowledged that the Pastor's story was nice, but my story was a better example of his selflessness. When we were kids, my mom would make spaghetti and meatballs... the all day meatballs that sat in the sauce for hours and hours. The ones that had everyone sneaking into the kitchen with a piece of bread during breaks in the Redskin game and making a meatball sandwich hors d'oeuvre. Then at dinner, we would each get two or three meatballs that we would scarf down leaving us no meatballs and a whole meal to finish. When my dad saw that we had placed ourselves in this precarious predicament, he would offer up his own meatballs. We would ask, don't you want to eat them yourself? He would always say he was full and that he really did not want them. He was lying, of course, but knowing that he was lying did not stop us from taking him up on his offer.
     Prayers for my mom were nice, but we were talking about meatballs. (When you read that last sentence, you need to read it like you are Allan Iverson talking about practice.) 
     I am pretty sure that at the conclusion of my little talk, the pastor nodded in acknowledgement that my story was way better than hers. My guess is that she had previously had a taste of the magic meatballs and knew the magnitude of my father's sacrifice.
     Well, this is all very relevant today because Paul came home this week and Mom prepared him a special dinner. Cheryl and the kids and I were lucky enough to score an invite to Mom's for the welcome home (again) meal. When I walked into her house, I asked if we were having the usual roast and potatoes, knowing full well that we were having spaghetti and meatballs. How did I know?… because Paul was home.
     At the outset of the meal, Noah stated the obvious: that the meatballs were good. My mother slyly mentioned that Nick's Grocery Store had a sale on meatballs so she picked some up. I had not eaten anything yet, but I quickly pointed to my boy that Grandma was a big fat liar. These meatballs were not from Nick's, they were homemade. My mom asked how did I know. Because you would never serve Paul fake meatballs, you always kill the fatted meatball for the prodigal son. 
     My sister walked into the house at mid-meal. You know my sister, the one that built a home for my mother and father on her own property. The same sister that looks in on my mom on a regular basis. Yeah, that sister. Well she came in and could not even get a seat at the table. She was forced to sit at the bar, and had to eat food off of one of those small dessert plates, thus limiting the amount of meatballs that she might get. We need to save a few for lunch tomorrow… Paul will still be here, you know. 
     Yeah, we know.
     Hey Paul, how long will you be here? Here is your hat, what's your hurry?
     I am pretty sure that if a group of travelers came by the house and were looking to buy a slave, the five siblings would gladly sell our brother Paul, and then tell my Mom that he met an untimely demise. Joseph had his amazing technicolor dream coat that drove his brothers crazy, and Paul has his amazing melt in your mouth meatballs. 
     Now that I think about it, when my dad was sick, there was a period of time when Paul had to go back to Chelan to take care of some things before returning to Maryland to be with our parents again. During the time that he was gone, many families were kind enough to prepare meals or have restaurants deliver food. The food was a blessing for obvious reasons, one of which was that it freed my mother up from having to prepare meals. Paul returned from Chelan and lo and behold, my mother was in the kitchen cranking out a nice spaghetti and meatball dinner. She could not have had food prepared by others crossing the lips of her precious little boy.
     I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure that when my dad was alive, he loved me the best. Unfortunately, his special love came with no added benefits… he was a terrible cook. He had nothing to offer me.
     Oh, but my mom and her meatballs. I would do anything for her meatballs. For now, I am just like a dog looking for scraps… panting at the proverbial meatball door waiting for my brother to return home. Now that Paul's daughter is graduating, he won't be coming home as much. I suppose I should be content to take what I can get.
    Unless… Do you think it is too late for me to learn how to fix an engine?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Funny Guy Friday… Somebody please tell me the rules...

     As as young man, I fondly remember playing games with my brothers and sisters. Being the youngest of six, I was on the losing end of many games. On that rare occasion that I would actually be on the precipice of a victory, the rules would mysteriously change and ensure yet another victory for my siblings. This was extremely frustrating. and I thought that this would not happen to me as an adult.
     This brings me to my lovely wife Cheryl. It seems that she is playing by the same set of rules that my brothers and sisters used way back when. Her rules are chameleon-like in their adaptability.
     Let me use the events of this past week to illustrate my point. There have been occasions when I have seen attractive women and mentioned that they were pretty. I will admit that there have even been times when I have said that a particular woman was hot. Cheryl advises that this is disrespectful to her, and it does not set a good example for my two young sons.
     I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't curse (at least not in their presence). I go to church every Sunday and I am kind and generous to everyone. Apparently, this powerful two-word description undoes all the other times in my life when I do set a good example for my boys.
     Her complaint will typically lead me to talk with the boys and explain that, in actuality, I have no idea if these women are hot, cold, warm or chilly. It is wrong for me to talk about a woman's temperature without actually knowing what her temperature might be, and that no man, and I repeat no man, should ever try to predict a woman's temperature.  I think that this is a completely accurate instruction and it covers my tracks pretty well. I also think it properly prepares my sons for their future marriages.
     After our thirty-year high school reunion, I may have commented on a particular woman's temperature. Ever since that day, Cheryl has reminded me of my comments on a fairly regular basis. Mind you, I had not seen this woman in, well, I had not seen her IN OVER THIRTY YEARS and HAVE NOT SEEN HER SINCE THAT REUNION.
     Well, every morning, I wake up and grab the laptop and check email, read an article or check my facebook page. Usually, Cheryl is asleep, but if she wakes up, she will ask if she can borrow the laptop for a second. Of course, once she gets it, my time with it is over.
     On Monday morning, this very scenario played out when she commandeered the laptop and began to check her own facebook page. She asked if I were friends with a certain handsome guy we see every once in a while and when I advised her that I was not, she actually bragged that she was. She went to his page and showed me a picture and said, Look how handsome he is. 
     I mentioned that her comments were disrespectful to me and were no different than things that I may have said after our reunion. Now, I did not care one bit about her comments, but fair is fair. If I cannot make a comment about a woman that I have seen one time in thirty years and haven't crossed paths with ever since, why can she make a similar comment about a guy she sees two or three times a month. Cheryl advised that it is completely different because, and I quote, because I am not in love with him and you are in love with her. 
     Really, in love with her? You see the rule was changed.
     This was not the only example of rule changes on her part. On Sunday, Noah lost his glove at the baseball field. This is the second glove lost in three baseball events. Now, if  Noah can manage a way to go two for three for the rest of his baseball career, he will make millions of dollars. On the other hand, if he loses two out of every three gloves I buy him, I am going to go broke. I was not happy with this turn of events and I let him know that I was disappointed in him. You are going to have to figure out how to field a ground ball using your bare hands because I am not buying you another glove. 
     Noah was very upset and made a bee line for his mother when we got home. This always leads to a conversation where I explain to Noah that I love him even though I think he needs to stop losing his gloves. I explain that I love him a little less but I do still love him.
     On that same day, Matthew spent the night at a friend's house. While at his friend's house, he called and he asked to speak to me. Of course, I immediately knew he was seeking permission to watch a movie. How do I know this, you ask. He knows his mom always puts the big kibosh on any movie that is not a Disney cartoon. Actually, I stand corrected, she does deny some Disney cartoons. Anyway, I asked what it was rated and then advised Matthew that you can start the movie and if it is not appropriate you can watch it but don't tell your mom that you watched it. If you do tell your mother…….we…… never…… had….. this……conversation.  
     A problem arose when Cheryl overheard my discussion with Matthew and demanded an explanation for my comments. Don't you hate it when a person asks a question that they already know the answer to and then stare at you dumbfounded looking for some other explanation? Everyone knows why I said it----Cheryl never lets them watch anything and I do….and when  I do, she gets mad at me. Seriously, who needs that. After I gave her some lame explanation that I was putting the responsibility on Matthew and giving him the opportunity to think for himself (what I refer to as my other explanation), Cheryl let me know that she was disappointed in my response.
     As I was getting dressed for work on Monday morning, I once again mentioned how irritated I was at Noah. Cheryl immediately stopped me and told me that she has heard it all already and that we do not have to rehash the events of the previous day. I was a bit irritated but after a few seconds, I realized she was probably right.
     Within seconds of my coming to the realization that she was right, Cheryl broke the very rule that had just crossed her lips. I cannot believe that you told Matthew not to tell me that he watched an inappropriate movie. 
     She just got done telling me that we don't have to rehash last night's events, and there she was rehashing last night's events. Once again, the rules had changed. Of course, there was a difference---you see Cheryl was rehashing my alleged bad stuff and I was rehashing cute little Noah's bad stuff. She used to think that I was cute! I guess the rules aren't the only things that have changed around here.
     After twenty years, I think that I have figured out that rules of engagement are only applicable when they help make Cheryl's point. I would change the rules myself but Cheryl has advised that the rules are clear… only she can change the rules.
     It's all right there, right in the rules!
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