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

Friday, December 28, 2012

Funny Guy Friday... Christmas traditions...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So... I married a funny guy...
     Like most families, we have our normal Christmas traditions... like hunting for the perfect Christmas tree... attending Mass on Christmas Eve (or Christmas morning if Matthew happens to be serving)... putting up the outdoor lights... and watching our favorite Christmas movies.
     However, some of our Christmas traditions are not so normal. For instance, every year, I announce that all shopping will be completed by December 23rd, and every year, we get up early on December 24th to run out to get "one last thing." That early morning shopping for that "one last gift" usually runs into the early afternoon, putting us behind schedule on the day's itinerary of DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING until we go to church and to dinner at our friends' home.
     Usually, that one gift is something that our kids failed to mention the first twelve hundred times they recited what they wanted for Christmas and then failed to mention when they were sitting on Santa's lap. They bring it up on December 23rd just to irritate me.
     Speaking of Santa, I am not sure how they do it, but the folks that run the Annapolis Mall have the real Santa Claus locked up under a lifelong service contract. They do not fool around with one of the "helpers" that you see on fire trucks in your local neighborhood or at the local Garden Store. Don't get me wrong, those guys are good, but my kids do not waste their energy asking for gifts from the fake Santas. Heck, they might as well be sitting on my lap asking for stuff for as much good it will do them.
     Grace is sixteen years old and every Christmas picture of her for the past sixteen years is with the real Santa. I know he is the real Santa because he remembers us every year. And I don't mean the insincere hello that you get when people pretend to remember you. No sir, he gives us a hello, greets us by name and recalls the time we saw him during the big snow storm two years ago when we were the only ones in the mall. He had sat with us for more than thirty minutes that snowy day.
     I love Santa, and I truly believe in his magical powers.
     Anyway, as parents, we all know that Santa can't possibly bring everything on the list, so we pay careful attention when our kids rattle off the booty they hope to acquire on Christmas morning. We hope to hear mention of those deeply desired treasures so we can fill in Santa's gaps.
     This year it was a little different because our kids had relatively small lists, and over time, Noah has devised a diabolical plan of asking Santa for one gift before politely adding, Plus whatever surprises that you want to bring me. Surprises! What surprises? Polite to a fault. He has deployed this strategy for three years now, and judging by the size of his Christmas pile, it seems to be working well.
     Why can't he be obnoxious like every other kid and ask for everything under the sun. This does not happen often, but sometimes I wish Noah were more like his father than his mother.
     Speaking of his mother, she has started her own tradition. About three days before Christmas, Cheryl will announce that she is way ahead of where I usually am this time of year. This announcement makes me very hopeful that she has done all the wrapping and we will get to bed at a decent hour. Alas, every year she has done no wrapping (usually because of the last minute, Christmas Eve shopping spree mentioned above). Santa has his elves to help out with the wrapping and Cheryl has me... the grouchy elf.
     These late nights have given rise to one of my personal favorite traditions. In fact, this year, after we opened our gifts and had our Christmas breakfast, I sat on our couch with that far away look in my eyes. Cheryl asked what I was thinking. A bit embarrassed to be caught day dreaming I gave the usual response that men give... nothing.
     You have to be thinking of something, she declares, as she snuggles up next to me, gently lifting my arm and placing it around her shoulder. Are you thinking about how Jesus came to us as a baby? Are you thinking about how great our kids are? Are you thinking about your family and Christmases from long ago? C'mon, 'weetie, tell me what were you thinking. 
     Well, I was thinking that I can't wait to get to your mom and dad's house so I can take my Christmas  
nap on their white couch! That's it, that's all I was thinking!
     I don't typically sleep when I go over to my in-laws, but I make an exception on Christmas. It is our last stop of the day, and by that time, I am just looking for a place to fall. I take my spot on the white couch while gifts are being exchanged and wait for the right time to doze off.
     I have no shame. If the whole couch is available, I will lay down and take up the entire couch. If someone is next to me, I may just lay my head on his shoulder. This year it happened to be my brother-in-law's sister, whom I may see only three times a year or so. She is not even a blood relative, for crying out loud. She's not a relative by any definition of the word. I gave her fair warning but she didn't move. My conscience is clear.
     And get this... I can actually open gifts while sleeping. This year, when we got in the car, I had to ask the kids if they were in the room when I opened my gift. I was trying to find out what Grammie gave me. I can't explain it except... it is a Christmas miracle!
     I love that couch and I truly believe in it's magical powers!
     Two final family traditions involve some old friends and some relatively new friends. Nothing really funny about the stories, but they both really capture the truly magical power of Christmas.
     I grew up across the street from my best friend PJ. Every year, he and his wife invite us to share Christmas Eve dinner with their family. They prepare a feast that includes crab cakes, crab dip, a variety of cheese and crackers, Caesar salad, clams, muscles, oysters, and pasta. The meal is followed by a variety of Italian desserts.
     This year, both of our mothers attended the dinner. Old friends and neighbors that probably have not seen each other in more than twenty years. A few years ago, I found an old picture of PJ and
me when we were maybe six and seven years old (I still remember the day that I found out that he was a year older than I. He received an invitation to kindergarten and I did not. One of the worst days of my life). I put the photo in a frame and I gave it to him as a gift.
     During a break between food courses, PJ had everyone recall the best Christmas gift that they had ever received. I chose the lifesaver packages that I got every year growing up... and still get every year... from my best friend PJ. He told the group that the picture that he got from me was his favorite ... Although, he did manage to slip in a complaint that I had been wearing clean clothes that day, and he was in an old ratty shirt with dirt all over his face. What can I say? We grew up on different sides
of the tracks! Well, there really were no tracks; we just lived on the clean side of the street.  
     PJ has a seven-year-old son, and we have Noah, who is eight. Since our mothers were present, we took a picture with our sons and our mothers. Great idea for next year's gift.
     The final family tradition involves our friends, Ken and Mary. Before Cheryl and I were married, I bought a house across the street from them. They were nice... kind of kept to themselves a bit. Then after Cheryl and I were married, we got to know them much better because... well, er uh... because Cheryl would actually talk to them. In retrospect, it could have been I that kept to myself. Anyway, we became great friends and every year, we make it a point to get together with them for dinner or lunch during the Christmas holiday. Including our three kids, Ken and Mary have three grand kids.
     Here is the dirty little secret: they are not really our kids' grand parents. But please don't tell Ken and Mary because I would hate for them to treat my kids any differently than they do. In fact, they treat us all like we are one big family.
     Mary may be the best gift wrapper in the world. She can get five outfits in a regular size box, and the box does not appear to be bursting at the seams. Lately, she has not been feeling all that great so she did not get out to shop for the usual five outfits per kid box. Instead, they gave the kids a greeting card with a Visa gift card inside. Noah excitedly exclaimed that they gave him their VISA credit card. I excitedly opened my gift, hoping for their American Express card.
     I think that my kids do love all of our Christmas traditions, even the goofy ones. More importantly, they get the true meaning of Christmas. Noah can recite Linus's That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown speech, but more importantly, he understands it. When he heard someone complaining about the gift they received, he muttered that Christmas is not about what you get but about the King
of Kings. 
     Our kids love spending time with our family and our friends, and they love giving a gift as much as receiving one. They love the time that they spend at my brothers' and my in-laws on Christmas day. They love their time with Ken and Mary and the dinner with Mr. PJ's family. Every year, they ask the same questions... Are we going to see the Gossetts'?... Are we going to Mr. PJ's for dinner? Are we going to Uncle Jeff's? Are we going to Grammy and Grampy's?
     Each year the answer is the same...Of course we are, it is a tradition.
     I hope you all had a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Funny Guy Friday... Shopping for Cheryl

    Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So... I married a funny guy...
    Matthew and I just got home from a night out Christmas shopping for my beautiful wife. Two things are certain... the first is that Cheryl is so nice that no matter what you buy her, she will love it. The second is that she is impossible to shop for. Now these two certainties may seem a bit inconsistent, but I assure you, they are not.
    Like any other husband, I try to look for clues as to what she may want or need. Sometimes this calls for a subtle approach. First thing I try to do is listen to the things she says when we are out shopping for other people. For instance, she recently had a new closet built in our bedroom. While in Target, she saw something that prompted her to say that I could buy her something to go in her closet. Sweet, I can buy her some hangers and we are good to go!
    I thought that hangers was an odd request so I asked her Did you see some hangers? 
    She laughed at my question, despite the fact that I was not joking. Then it dawned on me that she must be talking about some clothes. Then I fake laughed. You know the laugh that you do when you want to save face when someone laughs at your serious, but obviously stupid question. Hee hee, of course not.  So do you want a new dress or an outfit?  
    No, I need something for my underthings.
    Now I was completely perplexed.
    I saw some cute storage baskets that I can put my unmentionables in and then put the baskets in the closet.  
    Okay, not the greatest gift in the world but practical I suppose. I made a mental note of the baskets for a later date. But as usual, Cheryl giveth, and then Cheryl taketh away.
    Of course, I would not want those baskets... I would want shabby chic!
    Is there any male alive that would know what shabby chic is? I dare say, if there is, he would not admit it. Then she tried to explain it to me. My eyes glazed over and I was back to square one.
    Once the subtle approach fails, I go to the less subtle approach... I ask, what do you want for Christmas?... Tell me.  Tell me now!
    You know what I like, just buy me something pretty.
    This, of course, means absolutely nothing to me, but it is with this bit of information that Matthew and I set out on our shopping expedition.
     Matthew and I have similar shopping strategies. We get settled in the car and ask each other, Where are we going to eat? Once we have the menu established, we map out our strategy.
     Our first stop was Dick's Sporting Goods. Matthew correctly pointed out that there is nothing in that store that mom wants. This was true, but it accomplished two goals... it got us closer to Smoothie King and closer to a store that surely had the perfect gift for Cheryl.
     After predictably striking out at Dick's, we headed over to Smoothie King and "the other store."
We each got a delicious strawberry/banana/papaya smoothie. We sipped our little treat while chatting it up with a very pretty Ravens cheerleader we met. We were then off to buy our first gift of the night. Unfortunately, we may have chatted it up a bit too much with the pretty cheerleader because when we got to the store, it was closed. Ninety minutes in and not a single gift.
     Off to the mall.
     First things first, Matthew and I agreed to grab a bite at Chipotle...but we agreed that this would be a victory meal after we found a few things for Cheryl. We started at one end of the mall, and we were not going to stop until we found the perfect gift. In the middle of our lap around the mall, it occurred to me that not only were there very few stores that have gifts for Cheryl, there are very few stores that Cheryl would ever step foot in. They either smell a thousand smells, which makes her sick to her stomach, or they lack the virtue of modesty which... makes her sick to her stomach.
    [I think a side bar is needed at this time. When I write things like lacks the virtue of modesty, you know that I have been married to Cheryl for a long time. As you read on, you will also realize that despite our long marriage, I may be a bit more tolerant when it comes to the lack of the virtue of modesty.]
    There is actually one particular store where young men stand half-naked in the doorway greeting guests. I thought that was something that you only saw on a sitcom mocking these kind of hipster stores. The sight of the naked boys prompted Matthew to recall a conversation that he had with his cousin, who pointed out that it is ironic that they stand outside the store half-naked in hopes of selling clothes.
     Personally, I was thinking that if these guys get half-naked outside of their store, we should stroll on over to Victoria's Secret to see if their employees use a similar strategy to peddle their unmentionables, er uh, goods. Since I was with my twelve-year-old son, I could not actually make this suggestion. Even if I had, he would not have heard me because he had taken off in a full out sprint in the direction of Victoria's Secret. That's my boy. Merry Christmas, son.
    Alas, we did not find a single gift for Cheryl, but all was not lost because we still had Chipotle waiting for us. Imagine our disappointment when the restaurant closed two minutes before our arrival. The night would have been a total disaster if not for the food court. We headed over to the Kabob Store and ordered us up a Gyro to go. It was a tasty finish to a very disappointing night of shopping,
    We headed home, empty-handed, albeit with full tummies. As I lay in bed lamenting the night's results, Matthew came in our room and thanked me for a fun night. I guess we did meet a pretty cheerleader. We did pass Victoria's Secret. We did get some yummy smoothies and a delicious Gyro. Why, it wasn't a wasted night at all. My son and I had a great time.
    Also, and please don't tell Cheryl this but... I also got some great ideas for gifts for her... gift certificates to Smoothie King and the Kabob Store. She can take Matthew.
    These are gifts that I am certain that she will love.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Funny Guy Friday... Sunday at the Christmas movie fest...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So... I married a funny guy...
     At Mass last Sunday, the priest began his homily by mentioning that, for some people, the meaning of today's Christmas season can be captured by a popular Christmas movie. The movie to which he was referring was, of course, Home Alone. 
     What's that, you say? How does Home Alone capture the meaning of today's Christmas season? In my opinion, Home Alone is the most violent movie ever made. Cheryl won't allow me to watch The Godfather with Matthew despite my argument that The Godfather is less violent than Home Alone. 
     The priest went on to explain that the family in the movie is so frantic running around getting ready to go away to celebrate Christmas, that they forget about their son. Today, some families are so frantic running around getting ready for the Christmas season that they forget about the Son. He spoke for another ten minutes and said some other stuff, but this is all I can remember.
     Anyway, during the other ten forgettable minutes, I had some thoughts about other Christmas shows. I must say that I look at these shows with a much more discerning eye than when I was a kid. The following reviews are based on the candy cane scale, with one being "the equivalent of coal in your stocking," and five being "getting everything you want on your Christmas list."
     The first classic Christmas story for review is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Imagine if they tried to make a movie called Rudolph the Jewish Reindeer and nobody would play with the kid in the yamaca; they could not make that movie in today's politically correct world. Another thing, let's get this right out of the way: Santa is a real jerk in this movie. His discriminatory actions would have resulted in an Equal Employment Opportunity lawsuit that would have brought his entire North Pole/Christmas empire to its knees.
     Despite the fact that Rudolph is clearly the best flying reindeer competing at the reindeer games (hereinafter referred to as "the combine"), he is blackballed by his coach and reprimanded by both his father and his future father-in-law. I am assuming Rudolph and Clarice got married, but you never know if these mixed relationships ever really work out.
     Because of his "deformity" Rudolph is exiled and eventually meets up with a smallish dentist who suffers a similar fate at the hands of his fellow elves. Personally, I do not think it is fair to compare Rudolph's rejection with that of Hermie because Hermie is annoying and deserves to be kicked out of elfin society. I digress.
     The pair find themselves on an island with a bunch of misfit toys. Can somebody say internment camp?
     After disposing of the North Pole's arch enemy, both Rudolph and Hermie are accepted back into society. Then, when Christmas is on the verge of being cancelled due to a dense fog, Santa has the audacity to ask Rudolph to lead the sleigh. Rudolph graciously agrees.
     If it were me, I would have had a two word response for Old Saint Nick, and it would not have been Merry Christmas!
     I give this Christmas movie two candy canes. This movie provides few likable characters. If not for the great soundtrack, this may have only gotten one candy cane.
     The second classic for review is Santa Claus is Coming to Town. A baby is raised by Jingle Kringle, Bingle Kringle, and Dingle Kringle. Is it any wonder that each of these three short little fellas remained a single Kringle? Baby Kris Kringle grows up to become an outlaw who breaks into houses in order to leave toys for the kids of Somber Town. One disturbing moment occurs when Santa sings the following lyrics... "If you sit on my lap today, a kiss a toy is the price you pay." Okay, my kids are not hanging out with this guy anytime soon.
     Somber Town is ruled by a mean man with the greatest name ever... Burgermeister Meisterburger. Fitting name for the leader of Somber Town. Seriously, would you move to a place called Somber Town?
     Yeah, we were going to move to Depressionville or Down in the Dump Land before we found a 
quaint little condo in Somber Town. 
     'Coming to Town does get us our first introduction to Mrs. Claus, the busty, former school marm named Jessica. Typically, I would not make a reference to her ample bosom... but it is distracting. Good thing too, because she has a totally forgettable, boring solo in the middle of the show that adds nothing to the story. 
     I give this Christmas classic three candy canes. Very informative and historically accurate as it gives the history of Santa, but at times, kind of boring... and at times, kind of creepy.
     The final Christmas classic up for evaluation is The Year Without a Santa Claus. Once again, Santa is a bit of a disappointment as he laments the fact that... Nobody believes in me, Mama. It looks like... I'm gonna be canceling Christmas this year. 
     Nobody likes a whiny baby and nobody likes a man who calls his wife Mama. But with the help of Mrs. Claus and two idiot elves named Jingle and Jangle, Santa's faith in the children is restored and Christmas is saved.
     Christmas was saved by the children's belief in Santa, and this movie was saved by the writer's belief in Mother Nature's children. Of course, I am talking about the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser. These two scene stealers give new meaning to sibling rivalry. Snow Miser is the cool brother that everyone loves, especially around Christmas time. Heat Miser struggles with his brother's popularity.
     I am sure that Heat Miser gets tired of hearing about how great his brother is... how smart his brother is... what a great athlete his brother is... what a great coach his brother is... if only he could be "more like his brother." This is why I hate Jeff. Oh... wait... Did I just say I hate my older brother Jeff? I'm sorry... The Snow Miser... I meant to say that this is why I hate the Snow Miser.
     Of the three shows, The Year is my favorite. Despite Santa's shaky start, he delivers, pardon the pun, in the end. I give this show four candy canes.
     I hope that these reviews come in handy and that you all have the opportunity to sit back and enjoy the Christmas season.
     Don't be frantic. Don't leave your kids home alone. And most importantly, try to stay focused at Mass.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Funny Guy Friday... The common thread...

    Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So... I married a funny guy...
    Two things happened this week, and although they are completely unrelated, they have a common thread.
    The first thing actually began about three months ago, when I walked by our receptionist, Jeannae, and noticed that she was looking at wedding websites. I knew she was dating a guy. In fact, I met him a time or two, but I was pretty sure that they had not been dating long enough to get engaged.
    I'll remind you that I had only dated Cheryl for six weeks when I asked her to marry me, but I would not suggest that anyone else take such drastic measures. Although it worked out, and I would not change a thing, it was an act of idiocy.
    Anyway, I asked Jeannae why she would be casing wedding websites (during work hours, no less), and she mentioned that she had gotten engaged... about two months prior.
    How did I miss that? I pride myself on keeping up with my co-workers. We are a relatively small business, with about fourteen employees, so I really shouldn't miss an engagement. That's kind of a big deal.
    Fast forward to last week, and she was not at work on Monday or Tuesday. When I asked my secretary if she were sick, I was informed that she had gotten married over the weekend, and was enjoying her honeymoon.
    How did I miss that? Seriously, I missed her engagement and now I missed her wedding. I told my secretary that it must have been a small wedding because, well, because I was not invited. My secretary advised that it was not that small; in fact, she had a great time. Ouch!
    How did this happen? How did I miss her wedding? More importantly, why would I not score an invite? Perhaps if I had been aware that she had gotten engaged, she might have invited me to the wedding. You'd have thought that she would have forgiven that little oversight. Apparently not!
    She must think that I am an idiot.
    Anyway, she was back in the office this past week, and just to show what a good sport I am, I went in to greet her and tell her congratulations. In fact, I plan on getting her a nice wedding gift.
    She and her husband honeymooned in Williamsburg, Virginia, and saw all the sights... and ate at all of the old colonial restaurants.
    I thought about the time that Cheryl and I took the kids to a restaurant in Williamsburg, and the hostess, dressed completely in authentic colonial garb, approached our table and struck up a conversation. She told us that she has one dress... this dress... that her husband had made... and that he works nearly sixteen hours a day to provide food and shelter for their family. I was amazed by her story and thought it was both inspiring and a bit sad that they had such a hard life.
    As we left the restaurant, then-eleven-year-old Matthew mentioned that it was very cool the way that the hostess stayed in character the entire night.
    In character? Wait a second, you mean that whole "my husband made my only dress and he works sixteen hours a day blah blah blah" thing was just an act? I thought that she was serious about all that stuff. I told her how impressed I was with that whole "woe is me" junk! I am such an idiot. 
    The second thing that happened this week actually started last Christmas, when my old tree stand broke. I hated that stand because it didn't actually keep the tree standing upright, as the name tree stand would imply. I think that that is the least you can expect from a tree stand, you know? I vowed to get the best tree stand that money could buy for this Christmas season.
     My research was extensive, and it all led to the Grinnen's Last Stand. From the photos, it looked like a cross between a tree stand and a medieval torture chamber. It has spikes, ratchets and straps. I think that any tree would be afraid to fall.
     I placed my order and waited the two business days for delivery. The timing would have been perfect. I ordered it on a Wednesday, and we were supposed to get our tree on Sunday. Friday arrival and all would have been right with the world.
    Then I got the email from UPS advising that the stand was shipped on Thursday and would not arrive until Monday. Who knew that Saturday was not a business day? I called UPS and pointed out that I have seen their brown trucks on Saturdays, and I really wanted to get my Christmas tree on Sunday. And I really needed that stand.
    They pointed out that those people are paying extra for that Saturday delivery, and I am really not going to get my stand until Monday.
    Defeated, I set my sights on Monday. I had court in Annapolis, so I got home early and the wait was on. Every vehicle that came roaring down our street had me craning my neck to see if it were the UPS truck. Vehicle after vehicle passed with no delivery. Do you know how much a school bus sounds like a UPS truck? Very much. Too much.
    I was like a little kid waiting for a new toy to be delivered. As I tell the story it is kind of embarrassing. The good news is that the stand did arrive late Monday night, and we got our tree up in a matter of minutes.
    The stand is awesome.
    So, here we have two seemingly unrelated stories... and you are probably wondering how are they connected. Well, in both stories, there are numerous examples of me being kind of silly... kind of childish... and frankly, acting like an idiot. That, of course, is not the common thread.
     No. The thing that brings these two stories together is this:
     I think that I am going to buy Jeannae a new tree stand as a wedding present.
     What do you think?
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