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

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... For better or worse... but not for renovating...

    I, Mark, take you, Cheryl, to be my lawfully wedded wife... to have and to hold... for richer, for poorer... in sickness and in health... to love and to cherish... from this day forward... until death do we part.  
    I uttered these words more than twenty years ago and have not regretted them since... until maybe this past month.
    You see, on New Years Eve, Cheryl and I decided to re-organize my closet. We started off by measuring the closet space so that we could purchase the appropriate parts at Home Depot. It was right there in the closet organizing section of Home Depot where twenty years of a blissful marriage began to unravel.
    Cheryl was thinking out loud and talking her way through the math. I was listening and felt that she was making an error in the way she had measured. I interrupted her to ask if she were starting from the correct corner. She ignored me and continued to plow ahead aloud with her incorrect premise. I plowed ahead with my attempts to correct her.
    After my second attempt to right the wrong, Cheryl uncharacteristically snapped at me. I felt that this was not necessary and instead of arguing, I said we would do this a different day. I was uncharacteristically calm. Cheryl did not like the idea of coming back on a different day, so we actually began to argue in the store. This is the first time that I was thankful that you can never find a Home Depot employee anywhere in Home Depot.
    As she turned and left the aisle, I turned to Noah who was riding in the cart and asked if I said something that would cause my lovely bride to become so upset. Now, I know that you should not include your kids in your arguments, but this was different... I am never the calm one and this time, I was... he was my only witness.
    Ever the diplomat, young Noah answered, whoever is pushing the cart, that is whose side I am on.
    This can only be interpreted one way... I was pushing the cart... so I won.
    Point Mark!
    We eventually purchased all the parts and we began the project. I installed the tracks and began to line up the rods. After I had everything just right, Cheryl poked her head in and said that I needed to move the track over a few inches. I unscrewed the track and moved it over a few inches. She then poked her head in again and said that I had moved it over too far.
    I moved it four inches.
    I know. I said move it a few inches!
    Four inches is a few inches.
    Four inches is too far.
    I don't see how four does not qualify as a few. Unfortunately, Noah was not around to settle this argument, so I cannot declare myself the winner.
    We finished the project, but there was still some lingering tension.
    Last Saturday, Cheryl took Noah to his CCD class and met a friend for breakfast. She had a great time. So, this past Saturday, I though it would be nice if she and I took Noah to CCD, and then the two of us could go to breakfast. I seem to recall that people refer to these one on one encounters as dates.
    Five minutes into our date, the topic of my coaching basketball came up. In the past, Cheryl has mentioned that she thinks that I yell too much. I point out that half of my team thinks we are playing offense when we are on defense, so I feel there is a need to yell. She feels that they must get confused because I yell. It is the age old "chicken or the egg" argument.
    How did the date end, Chuck? Not so hot.
    We barely spoke through most of the meal. I cannot imagine that she and her friend sat there in silence and stared at their plates. What went wrong? We were so happy to be out without the kids... I was going to eat my entire meal without sharing with some bratty kid... and she was going to only cut up the sausages on her own plate. It started out with such great promise... we had both chuckled when we told the hostess, table for TWO please!  
    I had to know what went wrong. So that following Monday, while getting ready for work, I questioned what she and her friend had discussed on their "date." Cheryl responded by asking me what my friends and I talk about. 
    Who knows? We talk for hours and don't talk about anything! 
    Well, there are things that I can talk about with her, that I can't talk about with you.
    Really, like what? 
    You don't take criticism very well. 
    Do your friends take criticism well? You go out with friends so you can criticize them?   
    No, I don't criticize them. 
    Sooo, who do you criticize... Me?
    I don't criticize anyone. We didn't even talk about you.
    So why bring it up when I ask what you talked about. 
    I don't know. I was just pointing out that you do not take criticism very well. Like the other day at breakfast. 
    For the record, I agreed with her... I agreed with her because I am of the opinion that nobody, and I mean nobody, takes criticism well. To prove my point, I did an experiment right then and there... I criticized Cheryl. Guess what... she did not take it very well.
    Point Mark!
    I thought that things had settled down a bit by Thursday, but then I got on Facebook and saw a post from a friend of ours that read as follows:
    Advice to young married couples: never hang wallpaper together. It only ends one way, in tears and screaming. Your wife may get upset too. 
    Imagine my shock and horror when I read the following comment from my wife:
    Forget Pre Cana... Just assign the poor schlubs the task of renovating a closet, and see if they still want to get married on Monday. 
    I am pretty sure that was directed at me, and I won't lie, that stings a bit.
    So now, I have the task of piecing together a tattered marriage. Perhaps we can repeat our vows. Of course we may have to alter them a bit. Perhaps.....
    I Mark, take you Cheryl to be my lawfully wedded wife. Whenever I'm right and whenever you're wrong... my love for you will always be strong... I will love you more than you will ever know... despite your yelling at the Home Depot... I promise to laugh and never be grim... even when my team shoots at the wrong rim... It's you that I'll love like a bright shining star... I'll move mountains for you... is four inches too far?  
    I am hopeful that this works... I kind of like being married. Plus, we need to re-do the hardwood floors.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... Shave and a haircut... two shekels?

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So... I married a funny guy...
     When I was a kid, my hairstyle was closely monitored by my father. He had pretty strict requirements for our hair. When we went to the barber shop, he alone told the barber how long my hair should be. I had no say in the matter. I could not wait to get old enough to go to the barber without the Hair Tyrant.
     That day finally came when I got my license. Dad still required regular trips to the barber, but at least I could drive myself... and I had the control. Or so I thought.
     Just a trim please... tapered in the back... and I would still like it to hang over my ears. 
     As I settled back in my chair grinning, I gave the last instruction: Just clean it up a bit, no big deal! I swear, if I could have cracked open a can of beer I would have... I was the man!
     So how is your dad?
     He's fine. He's cool... no problems with him. Is he here? 
     No, just asking.
     Okay... remember just a little trim. 
     No problem.  

     Twenty minutes later, I had a regular boys hair cut... well above the ears, and not the little trim that I ordered up.
     Hey, what's the big idea?
     Your dad would never let you leave here with the haircut you wanted... plus, he called before you came. 
     The Hair Nazi strikes again.
     I know what you are thinking. Why go to the same barber shop? Actually, as grown up as I was at sixteen, I never even knew there were more than one barber shop in Bowie.

     Today, I, like my father before me, monitor my boys' hair.
     They like it short, but they do have their specific styles. Matthew swears he has trained his hair to have a little swoop across the front. I don't have the heart to tell him he has a cowlick that is going to haunt him for the rest of his life. Noah likes it short on the sides, with a little spike in the front. He spends hours getting it juuuuust right. It's "kind of a big deal."
     We have our regular barber shop where two Korean gals take good care of us. One is named Sun and the other has a name I can never remember, so I just call her Moon. This particular shop is old school, just like the one my dad used to take us to. Sun and Moon see us about once a month, but we are not above trying other shops.
     This past Sunday was one of those days that we decided to change things up a bit, and we went to a new barber shop owned by a high school friend in Crofton.
     From the minute we stepped into the shop my boys were a bit surprised. It is kind of hip and modern, with pictures of iconic musicians, actors and cars. There was even a computer set up for customer use. My boys had confused looks on their faces and asked... Are you sure a friend of yours owns this place? 
     Yes, I am sure. Why?
     It seems like a place for young people.
     How old do you think that I am? 
     Pretty old, Dad.   
     We were seated pretty quickly, with three different "stylists" working on us.
     Noah was in the chair next to mine. His stylist commented about his beautiful eyes... hazel with touches of copper and green. Very cool looking eyes. This led my stylist to comment that Noah's eyes were just like mine... except that your eyes are all brown, she said
     Why yes... Noah's multi-colored eyes are just like my brown eyes... we both have two of them... we both see out of them... and we both blink... yeah, we both blink... a lot. 
     Two pretty girls talking about his beautiful eyes prompted Noah to flirt with himself in the mirror. He narrowed his eyes into a steely gaze. He opened them wide, and then he winked. Then... the coup de gras... he gave the smolder look. The girls ate that one up. In fact, one of them asked him to come back in about ten years so they could date.
     My stylist was very nice and struck up a conversation. In the course of the conversation, she mentioned that she grew up in Israel. When I heard that, I wanted to ask her if she spoke Israeli. That's right, I wanted to ask if she spoke Israeli. 
     Luckily, I caught myself and recognized that people from Israel do not speak Israeli. So I asked, Do you speak the language? The language... that covers it.
     I asked if she had been back there to visit. She advised that she indeed had, and that her favorite thing about Israel was the food.
     I mentioned that it would be fascinating to go to places that you've read about in the Bible. She agreed, and then mentioned that she visited the church where Jesus was buried.   
     I didn't say anything, but I may have raised my eyebrows. Then I worried that she would think I was trying to do that smolder thing that Noah was doing. Anyway, my reaction might have tipped her off that she may not have had the facts quite right... but she was sure that Jesus had had something to do with it. I can accept that. I am sure that He did have something to do with it.  
     At this point I noticed that Matthew was off on his own, several chairs away. His stylist was discussing "product" with him. There is no way Sun or Moon would ever discuss product with the boy. Whenever they cut his hair, the only product they ever discuss is the lollipop that they'll send him home with.
     All in all, we had a great haircut experience. And get this, after each of us received a great hair cut, we got an added bonus... a short vibrating massage. Watching Noah giggle the whole time the machine was on his back was worth the price of admission.
     When we got home, I did what I always do whenever we all get our hair cut... I asked Cheryl to pick her favorite one... and she's not allowed to say it's a tie. I never win this, but I keep trying.
     As I retold the story of our time at the new "hair salon," I told Grace and Cheryl that my girl told me that I will never go bald. I was very satisfied that a hair care professional had diagnosed that I will never go bald. 
     Matthew burst my bubble when he asked whether this was the same girl that visited the church where Jesus was buried.
     I am confident that my girl is correct about my hair. After all, she said it in plain English. I think she also said it in Israeli.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Funny Guy Friday… And the band played on...

    Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark.  So…  I married a funny Guy...
    Let me begin this week by pointing out that I love the music during Mass. In fact, I owe my marriage to the nine o'clock folk group at Saint Pius Church.
    You see, about twenty-two years ago, I decided to become a Catholic and went through the RCIA program at Saint Pius. My RCIA group was assigned to go to the 9:00 Mass every Sunday. The 9:00 Mass had a folk group that was led by my soon-to-be mother-in-law.
     Every Sunday, I sat in the front row near the group, and every Sunday I would see this beautiful curly haired girl sneak in the side door, always a few minutes late. I was pretty sure that I went to Junior High School and Senior High School with her, but I had never spoken with her. She would sing and play instruments like the tambourine and my personal favorite, the bongos. I remember thinking, she has great bongos... er, uh... I mean... she plays great bongos.  
     You know something: it has never occurred to me until just now, that my wife has never once even mentioned the bongos since that time. I know my wife pretty well and I can see her arriving late to rehearsal, interrupting a conversation about who in the group might be able to play the bongos. Despite never having played the bongos in her life, she probably walked in and said, I'll do it! without any hesitation. Even today, she volunteers for stuff like that all the time. The only difference now is that I am the one who actually does the work that she volunteers to do.
    Anyway, I watched her in the folk group every Sunday and knew that I was going to marry her before we ever went out. I mean, seriously, who could resist the late arriving bongo chick?
     I tell you all of this because of what happened at church this past weekend.
     Sunday was Epiphany and we arrived at our usual 10 a.m. Mass. As is our custom, I dropped the family off at the door and went to park… no sense in all of us being late. As I approached the door, I could hear the music and it was louder than ever.
     Now, our current church does not have a regular music schedule, so we never know which music group we will get on any given Sunday. We do have six musical options that include no music at all, a cantor, two separate folk groups, the traditional choir and the children's choir. Each brings something special to the table, and each has its own effect on the length of the Mass. Obviously, no music at all is the winner. Typically, these Masses last about forty-five to fifty minutes. The regular choir brings up the rear with a seventy to seventy-five minute range.
    When I refer to the Masses as being winners or losers, I am not implying that a short
Mass is a winner and a long Mass is a loser. I am just saying that there are some Sundays when I feel like a winner when Mass is short and there are some Sundays when I feel like a loser when the Mass is long. I am sure the reverse has also occurred, I just don't ever remember it happening that way.
    As I approached the church entrance, the music was blaring. As I entered the church, it became crystal clear as to why the music was so loud… all five groups were participating in the Mass. When I took my seat, I told Matthew to hunker down, we are staring straight down the barrel of a ninety-minuter.
    The music was beautiful, but if you have five groups, each group has to have a specific role. Each role will be a little longer than normal so that particular group does not feel snubbed. Do you remember the song, We are the World? A long collaborative song that mixed all kinds of music. This was our church's version of that song.
    The first collaboration was the Gloria. Sometimes this is read by the congregation. It is four paragraphs long and takes about forty seconds to read. Typically, it is sung and depending on the music group, it will take a minute or two to sing. On this particular Sunday, the children's choir sang the first paragraph (or stanza for all you music freaks out there). These kids are so cute with their little angel-like voices. Then the regular choir kicked in and the poor children were never heard from again. I mentioned to Matthew that it was as if the men in the choir ate all the cute little children. Then they kept repeating the first stanza after singing the second, third and fourth stanzas.
    I have been told that this is called repeating the refrain. Next time, I hope they would refrain from repeating it.
    After the third time of hearing stanza one, I turned to Matthew and whispered, this is like hearing A Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall, for crying out loud.
    You will notice that I whispered a lot of stuff to Matthew during this particular Mass. There are two reasons for this. First, Grace is out of town, and she usually likes to sit next to me during Mass. I will make an occasional observation that will keep her entertained. Since she is gone, Matthew was by my side and provided a fine audience.
    The second reason is that I can never say this stuff directly to Cheryl because she will reprimand me right there in the middle of Mass. However, I do like to include her in our little reindeer games, so I told Matthew to tell Mom about my keen observations… but make her think it is your keen observation… and that I yelled at you when you told me. I think that this gives me plausible deniability when she looks a me and rolls her eyes. I raise my hands and give her a confused look and just for good measure, I might rap poor Matthew in the back of the head. Cheryl is tough, so once we enter through the church doors, it is every man for himself.
    Back to the concert... I mean the Mass. They broke out the trumpet. That is when you know it is a big deal. I must admit that I liked the trumpet solo. It was very well done: it was short, and it was an effective ending to a very nice Mass… did I mention that it was short?
    As much as I liked the trumpet, it was nothing compared to Cheryl's reaction to the whole Mass. As the trumpet was playing, I looked over at her and she had her eyes closed and was swaying back and forth. If there were bongos in our pew, she would have been all over them. I swear, it would not have surprised me if she had taken a lighter out of her purse and held it over her head calling for an encore.
    Look, I will repeat, I love music at Mass. In fact, I think that the music enhances the whole celebration, and I miss it when it is not there. I have seen first hand how hard the folks work to put the music together when my mother-in-law was running the folk group over at St. Pius. But I am reminded of the time I went to see Bruce Springsteen in concert. I loved Bruce, but his concert lasted for more than four hours. Enough already, I was ready to go home after two. Sing Born to Run and I am on my way.
    On a completely separate note, how cool is it that I married a girl from the band!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Funny Guy Friday… Blessed Mothers… Blessed Babies...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark.  So… I married a funny guy...
     On New Year's Day, we went to church for the Feast of Mary. A great way to bring in the new year.
     On most Sundays, we go to the 10 o'clock Mass, or, as I like to call it, the 10:03 Mass. You see, we have a bad habit of being a few minutes late. We always sit in the same area of the church. I would like to say that we always sit in the same pew, but there is that 10:03 issue.
     There have been occasions when we have had to give up our first row pew to some goody two shoe early birds. If I weren't such a good Catholic, I would say that I hate those goody two shoes.
     We don't really know everyone in our section, but we do recognize most of the regulars.
     A few months ago, a young mom, who typically sits in the next section over, was trespassing in our section. Again, she is a regular church goer so we kind of knew who she was without actually knowing her.
     On this particular Sunday, she was alone with her two infant twin daughters. Believe it or not, she and her husband also have two toddler sons, who were safely tucked away in the basement with a whole congregation of pre-K kids… and some poor teenage babysitter getting service hours for her high school.
     One of the twins was giving her mother fits, so Cheryl offered to hold the "good one."
     Cheryl... what are you… crazy? Do you really expect this woman to hand over one of the most precious things in her life to you… a complete stranger? 
     Of course Cheryl did expect the woman to hand her baby over… and of course, the young mom did, in fact, hand that baby right over. Then she scooped the squirmy one up and made a bee line to the crying area. After a few minutes, I was holding the baby in the back of the church doing the rocking-standing thing that you do whenever you hold a baby. Everyone knows this instinctive, involuntary rock. I sang to the baby and fought the urge to kiss her on the top of the head. She was very cute.
     Once Mass was over, we reluctantly returned "our" baby to her rightful owner and spent a few minutes chatting with the mom. As usually happens when chatting with people at church, we discovered that we know a lot of the same people and even learned that she reads this very blog.
     We also learned that she lives near us, and Cheryl offered up our services to babysit if she ever needs a break. This was one of those sincere offers that you never really expect to be accepted. But Cheryl extended the offer with the knowledge that our kids love babies, and what could be better than watching two babies at one time.
     Unfortunately, this woman's mother got sick around Thanksgiving, and she had to take Cheryl up on the offer so she could spend some time with her mom. So my family got the chance to spend an entire day with the baby girls. When I got home from work, I asked Grace if she had done any homeschooling that day. I knew she had not, so I was surprised when she quickly replied that she had done some math.
     You did not. You watched those babies all day. 
     That's right, Dad, I did babies squared!
     Anyway, when we arrived at church on January 1st, we took our seats in our usual section and our new friend arrived with the girls and sat in the pew behind us. I was a bit surprised to see her because her mother had, sadly, recently passed away. Ten minutes into the Mass, one of the girls started acting up again, so I turned to offer my assistance. I never even got the chance to say anything because mom was practically throwing "our" baby at me. Once again, she made a bee line to the crying area leaving us alone with the golden child (for the record, I have no idea which baby is which, but I do know that I always get the good one).
     The twins have gotten older, and they now have sharp teeth…. and long nails. They like to bite... and pinch....and squeeze cheeks… and pull noses. It was great. Halfway through Mass, I turned to Cheryl, who was a few seats away, and whispered let's have another one. 
     Chuckling, Cheryl turned to the woman sitting to her right and told her what I had said. This woman turned to me, shook her head and mouthed NO WAY! I hope this woman didn't think that I wanted to have another baby with her.
     A lot of thoughts went through my mind as I held that baby.
     First, I thought of our new friend and how she recently lost her mother. I had never met her mother, but everyone speaks very highly of her. I do know that she must have been a pretty good mom herself because she seems to have done a great job with her daughter. With the possible exception of trusting strangers maybe a little too much, she, in turn, does a great job now with her kids.
     This, of course led me into thinking of my own dad and how much I still miss him.
     I also thought of my own kids, and how I used to hold them in church. How I wish that they could all stay little and be with me forever. I always tell Noah that he has to stop growing because the other two are just getting too big.
     It isn't working; they all keep getting older. They never listen!
     I also could not help but think that this was the perfect Mass to have on the first day of the new year. A little shout out to the Blessed Mother to look over us and care for us all throughout this new year.
     Finally, I sat in that pew and thought I wonder if Mary ever handed her Son over to a complete stranger?
    The answer is obvious. She handed the most precious thing in her life over to an entire world full of strangers. For that, we can all be thankful.        
    I hope you and your families all have a blessed year in 2013.
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