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

Friday, September 27, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... Left, right, left...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     I consider myself to be a bit of a snappy dresser. I always chuckle when people ask me if my wife dresses me. I have way better fashion sense than she. I actually care if my socks are the right tone of beige and that my tie hits at the exact right place on my belt. She just smiles with amusement whenever I change, readjust or tinker.
     I live by the credo, If you can't be a good lawyer, at least look like a good lawyer!
     On Tuesday, I woke up, got dressed, and as I often do, checked my look in the mirror. I looked good, if I do say so myself. I did not have court so there was no suit... just a simple oxford shirt with a nice, freshly pressed pair of slacks. I was ready to take on the day.
     As I got out of my car and walked into my office, I was talking on my phone with my head down. Suddenly I noticed that something was amiss. As I put my left foot forward, my shoe was a nice black loafer with tassels. Awesome shoes, but what was I thinking. I had on khakis with a beige shirt... why had I put on black shoes? As I mentioned, I am somewhat girlie when it comes to fashion, and I would never wear black shoes with khakis. Never.
     This was a disaster!
     Then I put my right foot forward... I saw a nice brown loafer with tassels. Ahh, that's better, I thought to myself. I must have been seeing things in the morning sun when I thought I saw that black shoe, and so, I continued into the office.
     Disaster averted!
     I went up the stairs and onto the second floor past my secretaries. I greeted them and again looked down and again saw the black mirage on my left foot. This time I kept my head down for three steps. Black... brown... black. It actually made me dizzy!
     Clear disaster!
     What to do? There was no way I was going to walk around all day with two different colored shoes.  I had to get to a store and buy a pair of shoes!
     There is only one store near my office that sells shoes, but it did not open until 10 a.m. So I had to sneak around my office for an hour... then sneak into the store... way in the back to the shoe section to get a matching pair. The nice lady in the store asked if I needed help, but I quickly blew her off. There was no way I was going to let this lady see what the nicely dressed idiot had done.
     After much angst... I did not really need new dress shoes, so I had to get a pair that looked good with nice freshly pressed khakis but that I could still wear with a pair of jeans... I finally settled on a pair of brown Dockers. Problem solved, and nobody was the wiser. I stuffed my mix matched shoes in the box and donned my new shoes as I went to check out.
     The nice lady that I had blown off completed the transaction. Unfortunately, she was not a nice lady at all... she was a big fat busy body. She had to go and stick her big nose into my shoe box before she stuffed it into the shopping bag.
     She looked... she paused... she looked again... and then she looked at me.
     I smiled and told her that I have a pair just like them at home! 

     A few days later, I had the unfortunate need to wear my black shoes... both of them this time... to a wake. A beautiful woman from my hometown passed away.
     She had raised eight children, so naturally people of all ages came to pay their respects.
     I played baseball with her oldest son back in the day... and I coached three of her younger boys along the way. I know most of her kids pretty well, and I know many of their friends too.
     Having said all that, I always leave these things realizing that I am no longer a young man.
     I was greeted by many of the kids that I coached more than a decade ago, and they suddenly referred to me as Mr. Palumbo. First of all, I am not Mr. Palumbo. That name will always be reserved for my Dad. When these kids were 11 and 12 years old, I might have been Coach Mark, but I was never Mr. Palumbo.                  
     Second, the fact that I refer to thirty-year-old men as kids, is further proof of my aging.
     And lastly, among the people who went out for a beer after the wake were these kids, and when I saw them at the bar my first thought was... Do their parents know that they are out at a bar on a school night? 
      The wake was part of a beautiful celebration of this woman's life. She was a kind, faith-filled woman who was devoted to her husband and to her children. One son described her as simple and from another era... a better era in my opinion. Her legacy is her family... specifically that she infused her family with her steadfast faith... and when she reaches heaven, she will surely be rewarded for a job well done.
       Please keep Judy Wells and her family in your prayers.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... Some old friends...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     Last week I attended a crab feast for the many people that volunteer at our church. This is the one and only perk that comes with being the co-chair of the Labor Day Festival. I was standing alone when a very nice elderly woman approached me and told me that we had done a great job at the "Labor Day Picnic."
     I was indignant.
     Picnic? Did you just say picnic? I bust my rear end to secure rock walls, moon bounces, pony rides, games, music, bingo, auctions, book sales, police escorts across the highway, food, liquor licenses, drinks, popcorn, cotton candy and icy treats... and you have the nerve to call it a picnic? A picnic is a basket with two ham sandwiches, some soda and a bag of chips. 
     My dear sweet woman... what we... dare I say.. what I put on... is a festival! F-E-S-T-I-V-A-L madam!
      Well... okay... maybe I just thanked her and asked her if she had had a good time.
      This was the starting point of a very nice conversation that included much discussion about her  children and her grandchildren. She was genuinely proud of each and every one of them, and they all sounded like great kids who have accomplished quite a bit both academically and athletically. One of her grandsons played college lacrosse at Loyola University when they won the National Championship. She told an impressive story about when this young man was a student in high school.
     He had attended a Catholic school and had to complete several service hours. Part of his service hours included going to an old folks' home and meeting with an elderly gentleman. He would regularly go and talk to the man and, more importantly, listen to the man. The two developed a friendship and both looked forward to the weekly visits. I thought, what a great story... and what a great idea.
     Then I had two more thoughts. First, I was a bum when I was in high school. I thought that I was all that and a cup of tea, but when you peel away the dashing good looks, the award winning athleticism, and the honor roll academics... I was a bum.
     Second, my kids don't know this yet, but they are not going to be bums. I am going to find them an old person... and they will befriend that old person... and they will play cards with that old person. They will talk to them, laugh with them, and look forward to seeing them at least once a week. They will leave their ipods and telephones at home, and they will make new, albeit older, friends.
     They will do this whether they like it or not.
     With that backdrop in mind... I came home from work the other day to find my mother visiting with Cheryl and the kids. My mother was spending the weekend with us and although she is not here every weekend, her visits are becoming more and more frequent. We all love having her, and I think she enjoys her stays.
     On Friday night, we started an innocent little card game called Kill Your Neighbor. Nobody actually gets killed, though. In fact, it is very similar to Crazy 8's, except the direction never reverses, so you can only kill the neighbor to your left... never the player to your right. Nobody ever wants to sit to the right of Grandma because nobody ever wants to be the one to kill poor, sweet Grandma. Of course, they don't like sitting to the left of the Ole' Bird either because "poor, sweet Grandma" is a ruthless card shark. Typically, the spot to Grandmas's left is reserved for yours truly.
     Anyway, Noah, in particular, loves Kill your Neighbor. I must say, he is both lucky and good so he wins a lot. I must also add that he is an annoying little winner... what... with his singing and gyrating and taunting. I am not ashamed to admit that I agreed with Grace the time she looked at him and kiddingly said... you don't know how much I hate you right now. 
     I told her to stop saying that... but to be frank... I did know how much she hated him right then. Funny thing is that Noah never sings, gyrates toward, or taunts Grandma. No, he apologizes to Grandma if he happens to lay a Joker on her, causing her to skip her turn and take five cards. In fact, they all apologize to Grandma whenever they play a card that messes her up. They don't apologize to me... unless BOOM SHAKA... TAKE 5 DADDYO! really means Sorry that I made you take five cards Daddy.
     I am not sure... but I don't think it does.
     The card games continued for that entire weekend.
     Most of the time it was just Noah and Grandma, but the other kids took their turns. My mom commented on how much she enjoys her little card games... adding how lucky Noah is. She also made it a point to tell me how good our kids are, and how they are all so willing to just sit and visit with her. In fact, Cheryl's parents expressed similar sentiments about our kids when they had visited them for a week this past summer. Grammy said how much she, too, enjoyed and appreciated the fact that our kids were so willing to sit and chat.
     At some point during the visit this past weekend, everyone took a break from the card games to prepare dinner. Not just any dinner... Grandma's Spaghetti dinner... with the "all day" meat sauce.
     When we were kids, my mother would typically put the sauce on in the morning and let it simmer all day. We would grab some bread and dip the bread in the sauce and "taste test" it throughout the day. On a good day, she made her magic meatballs. Magic, not only in the way they tasted, but in how they never seemed to run out. We would take the bread, put two or three meatballs on the bread and "taste test" the sauce (and the meatballs) all day long. Despite our many snacks, the meatballs never ran out. The all day sauce was not to be confused with the quick sauce that she would throw together at the last minute. The quick sauce was good... but nothing compared to the "all day" stuff.
    Last weekend's meal did not disappoint either. Everyone joined in on the preparation and we sat around the table enjoying the great food and the great wine. More importantly, we enjoyed the company of our guest chef.
     So my kids spent the weekend playing cards, cooking, cleaning and visiting with an old lady right there in our house... and the old gal loved it.
     They had spent much of their vacation chatting it up with their Grammy and Grampy... and they both loved it.
     Come to think of it, these are not just rare occurrences. They have been doing these types of things their entire lives. When my father was alive, they loved sitting around the table playing cards and listening to his stories. To this day, they think he was the toughest and fairest man ever to roam the earth. They miss him, and they miss listening to his stories.
     So do I.  
     You know, maybe my kids aren't bums. Maybe they understand how important it is for them to chat with and listen to people that have been around awhile and have great tales to tell. To play games with... to cook with... to clean with... or to just hang out with.
     Maybe my kids are way better than I thought. They are certainly way better (albeit less handsome, athletic and smart) than I was when I was a kid. Maybe they can make some new older friends some other time. They seem to love and enjoy the ones that they already have right in their own back yard. It is clear to me that it is working out pretty well for all involved.
     What could be better?
     Oh, I know. I have a great idea for this coming weekend... they can put together a basket full of ham sandwiches, a few sodas, and a bag of chips and go on a picnic with their grandparents.
     It's no festival... but the company will be great!  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... or more like Funny Guy Foursome...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     Several years ago, a local priest, Monsignor Tom Wells, met a very tragic, untimely death. He was a good man who left behind a wonderful family of brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and a slew of great friends. I met him only a time or two, so I did not know him as well as these folks, but it is very clear that everyone whose life he touched loved the man.
     Every year, his family holds a golf tournament in his honor as a way of raising money for students in need of financial aid for a Catholic education. For the past two years, my good friend Mike has asked me to play in his foursome. I can only assume he is my friend because he asks me to play in his foursome, and I am not a very good golfer.
     If you've never met Mike, he is a twelve-year-old trapped in a seventy-year-old body. On a side note, he is married to one of he nicest women you will ever meet. She is a slightly older version of Cheryl. Always nice... always upbeat... never has a bad word to say about anyone.
     Believe me, it is not easy living with that kind of constant optimism. I feel Mike's pain!
     Mike also invited his son-in-law, Brendan. He, too, has a cheery wife that takes after her mother, which, I am sure, drives Brendan crazy.
     Rounding out our foursome was a young priest from our church, Father Lewis.
     Now I know what you are thinking, how is it possible to play golf with a priest in your foursome. I mean, I believe that there is a line in the Bible that somehow forgives what we affectionately refer to as "sports cussing" on a golf course. I believe it is in the book of Arnie... or Jack.
     Well, I am here to tell you, it was not easy playing with Father Lewis. But there are two ways to look at it: you can cuss like normal and confess it all between holes... or you could get creative with your swearing like you do when your nine-year-old is riding in the car with you.
     C'mon now, don't act like you don't know what I am talking about. You're driving down the road and you realize that you have forgotten the jacket to your suit and you start the bad word but quickly realize your kid is listening in the back seat. You cleverly drag out the first sound of the aforementioned bad word long enough to think of a better alternative.
     Oh shhhhhhugar!
     Does that ring a bell?  I thought so.
     Anyway, I always tell people that don't play a lot of golf that it is silly to get upset when you only play three or four times a year. People play for years and years and still struggle with the game. So my advice is great advice for everyone... except, of course, for me.
     I am the exception to the rule. I should be able to recreate the same swing every time I drive the ball, I should be able to chip within three feet of the pin every time, and I should be able to drain every putt that I take that starts within ten feet of the hole. When I don't, I am allowed to chastise myself, my driver, my irons, my putter, or any other person/thing in my general vicinity.
     Why, you ask?
     The answer is simple... I am me and other people are not, and despite what my mother always told me when I was a kid... the rules don't always apply to me!
     This charity (remember the word charity) tournament was a "best ball" tournament. This means that each member of the foursome hits from the tees and then each golfer in the foursome plays the best tee shot. This continues until the ball makes its way into the hole.
     If you have four great golfers, you will post a very low score. We did not have four great golfers. Mike and Brendan played well. I hit a few good shots here and there. And Father Lewis... well... let's just say... he was our spiritual leader.
    Whenever men get together in a semi-competitive setting, there is bound to be some good-natured  ribbing. I was not sure this would be the case with a priest in the foursome. Honestly, what could be a quicker ticket to hell than trash talking a priest. Brendan had similar concerns... for about four holes. After that, Brendan announced that if Father Lewis left another putt four feet short of the hole, he was fair game.
     When the good Father did leave another putt short... on the fifth hole... Mike and Brendan had seen enough. Father Lewis became Sister Patrick. One would quip, Sister, what Order are you with? after each short putt or they would ask, Do any of the other nuns play golf? And my personal favorite, C'mon Sister... hit the ball! 
     Brendan was especially adept at this verbal banter.
     I thought about this and wondered if he had ever played golf with a priest before or if his religious based barbs just came naturally to him. I am pretty sure they just came naturally to him, and although I do not condone trash-talking a priest, I will say that I was both amused and impressed. Unfortunately, I was driving in the same cart as Brendan, so I worried that when the lightening struck, I was going to be collateral damage.
    Father Lewis took it all with great amusement... but not everyone was in such great spirits.
    On about our ninth hole, we played a drive up the left side of the fairway. Father Lewis' second shot traveled about forty feet short of the green. As we approached the green, unbeknownst to Father Lewis, Mike picked up Father's ball and carried it up to where we were putting. Before we took our putts, Father noted that it was noon and suggested that we pray the Angelus. I was not familiar with this particular prayer and was slightly embarrassed when Mike joined Father Lewis in his recitation... what a show off that guy can be.
     Anyway, this was a first for me, an organized prayer right on the green in the middle of a round. I mean, I suppose I have said a personal prayer to myself on a golf course before... if you count Please God, let this ball go in... just this once Lord! but nothing like this.
     While we were in the middle of our prayer, the foursome behind us hit a tee shot that landed near Father's second shot. After we made our putt...a thirty footer that I sunk for a birdie... confirming that prayer works and that there is, in fact, a God, Father Patrick went to pick up the ball that he thought was his second shot. The foursome behind us screamed and carried on and Father quickly realized his mistake and put the ball back. This is when the fun began.
     The group behind us bypassed their ball and came racing toward our tee box. At this point I had two thoughts. First, these guys were pretty big and pretty upset. This brought on a slight feeling of trepidation. Second, these guys, two of which I remembered from years ago playing baseball against their CATHOLIC high school, are going to feel pretty silly when they discover that the guy they are yelling at is a full blown, bona fide, man of the cloth. This brought on a feeling of amusement.
     They started off by stating that they had a chance to win this CHARITY golf tournament and wondered why Father Lewis would purposely thwart their efforts.
     Now, I had two more thoughts... What do you win? It must be such a great prize that you would beat up a priest to win it... and then, How long into this confrontation before this information was going to be made public knowledge.
     I think it was Mike that let the collar out of the bag.
     Needless to say, our two groups were great pals the rest of the day, and they turned out to be good guys. However, this little altercation also provided Brendan and Mike more fodder for heckling Father Lewis, who, of course, started the fight.
     We finished the tournament at four under par. Not too bad for our group. We did not win any of the super duper prizes that they must have been giving away... but we had a great day. I was very thankful that Mike had asked me to play. And if you are reading this, Mike, I am available next year!
     Cheryl always mentions that God has a plan and everything happens for a reason. Who are we to question Him. I thought a lot about that as I played in this tournament in honor of Monsignor Wells.
Perhaps they will raise money for some kid to go to a Catholic High School... maybe decide to be a priest... and who knows... maybe become a Bishop... a Cardinal... or the maybe even the Pope.
     Who knows?
     Then again, the kid might just grow up only to rough up some priest on a golf course during a charity golf tournament some day.
     Who knows why these things happen... and who are we to question?


     This past week, my lovely wife celebrated her fiftieth birthday. On my fiftieth birthday, she listed the fifty things that she loved about me. I, on the other hand, decided to show my love in a little different way.
     On Cheryl's birthday, I woke up and wished her a happy birthday... and she got up and got the kids ready for school. She was off before I got out of the shower. I saw her for about ten minutes.
     I rushed home from work... because I had to pick up Matthew and get him to his baseball practice. I got changed and rushed out. I saw her for about five minutes. Short visit but I am pretty sure I snuck in a kiss.
     Cheryl came to the field to pick up Matthew to take him to CCD class. I had to stay and coach some more. Saw her for about two minutes. She looked good.
     I left practice and hurried to meet Cheryl and the kids at her mom's house. Cheryl was not there... she had left to go pick up Matthew from CCD.
     Cheryl returned to her parents' and we had cake and ice cream. I left before she did to go to the store. Thirty minutes.
     Got home and Cheryl opened her gifts. I was pretty tired, so I went to bed immediately after the big gift exchange... thirteen minutes.

     If you are keeping score, I showed my love for Cheryl by seeing her for a total of fifty minutes on her fiftieth birthday. This is our life together. I love every minute of it.
     Happy Birthday honey.
     I love you.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... Is it Labor Day again?

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     I am the co-chair for the annual Sacred Heart Labor Day Festival. You know... pony rides, arcade games, prizes, food and drink, rock wall, moon bounce, bingo, silent auction, book fair, face painting, cotton candy... and so much more. I am told that it is our church's biggest fundraiser of the year. This begs the question: Why in the world would they put me in charge of the thing?
     The answer is very simple: they couldn't get anyone else to take the job, and I was the only one gullible enough to be tricked into it.
     That's right. Tricked into to it... by the head of the church.
     No, not the Pope. Not even our pastor... but the lady that used to run our CCD program.
     You see, three years ago, I was late, as usual, taking Matthew to his Saturday morning class. As I tried to sneak down the hallway unnoticed, I got "the call" into the church lady's office.
     This was bad. This was really bad. At the time, she was the most feared person at the church.
     The sweat began to form on my brow as I walked into the office and... she... shut... the... door. SHE SHUT THE DOOR!!!
     Mark, you know the church puts on a festival every year on Labor Day.
     No, I didn't know that but ...
     Yes we do. Every year. We need to get some younger people involved. 
     At this point, I began to realize that this had nothing to do with being late for CCD, so I stopped listening. I should have kept listening.
    Okay, I will start asking around. I know younger people. 
    I am talking about you.
    Me? You consider me younger people. My mind was a scramble, but I do recall thinking that cavemen must have been running this thing in years past.  
    Sure... I can help out. Anything you need. 
    I did not really mean anything you need. I really meant: I am happy you are not mad at me for being late every Saturday, so I will say whatever I need to just to get out of this office without having to put my tail between my legs.
    I'm pretty sure I then skipped to my car!
    A month later, I got an email from the church lady telling me that it was time to schedule my first Labor Day Committee meeting. This was obviously a mistake. I recalled something about a conversation in her office about my moving some tables or some such menial task.
    Apparently, by saying "anything you need," I was volunteering to be in charge. Now who would put someone in charge of an event that he did not even know had existed. I tried to back out... but she would not let me. SHE WOULD NOT LET ME!
    Oh... she was gooood!
     Three years later, I remain the co-chair of the Labor Day Festival. The church lady retired last year.
     In reality, I am just a figurehead because before retiring, the church lady also tricked an elderly gentleman into "helping out." He does all of the work and I get all of the credit. Of course, if anything goes bad... it's Tony's fault!
     She had tricked Tony into the post by telling him that she had recruited me, a big Know Nothing, to be the chairman. Poor Tony had panicked, and because he is such a good man, he volunteered to help me. She quickly had co-chairs of the big event.
     Like most volunteer jobs, it is mine until I die.
     I have tried to get fired... but to no avail.
     We raise less and less money every year. We only have two planning meetings, and hardly anybody even comes to the first one. We no longer have live music (not really my fault, but nobody knows that). And this Labor Day, we ran out of beer for the volunteers.
     Unforgivable, no? But still not enough to get me fired. Sigh.
     And believe me, I have come up with a few ideas that should have resulted in my getting canned.
     At our final meeting before the big day, our pastor made a surprise appearance. I was telling the volunteers that I trusted their judgment, and that they did not have to ask me about every decision. I commented that if they made a bad decision, Father would let me know... and if it were really bad, I would lose my job.
     Father nervously laughed and jokingly agreed with my assessment.
     Hmmm... This gave me an idea. An awful idea. This gave me a wonderful, awful idea.
     Okay, the pony ride people arrive at noon. The rock wall and the moon bounce come at 12:30. And the strippers come at 1:00. What do you think, Father? How many tickets should we charge for that?!
     More nervous laughs. 
     Still in charge.
     So then, I trotted out my suggestions for our signs.
     For instance, the Rock Wall (sponsored by the local funeral parlor, by the way) could have a sign that reads, "If you fall and die, we'll be here." Or how about tagging the Pony Rides with a sign that reads, "Put your @** on ours." Even the welcome sign for the event could read, "Welcome! If you have too good a time... just go to Confession!"
     Still not bad enough to get me fired.
     Hmmm... I'll have to keep brainstorming.

     Actually... all kidding aside... I kind of enjoy my role in the Labor Day Festival.
     Despite the fact that I'm "in charge," this year's festival was a great success. It is a big production and I am grateful for such cooperative and giving volunteers. Especially Tony!
     I have no idea how much money we raised, and frankly, I don't care. The focus of the day is not as much to make money as to encourage fellowship for the folks at our church and in our community. As I look at the smiles on the faces of the hundreds of people who attend, I am sure that we do that every year.
     I have come to the conclusion that I am stuck with my post indefinitely. So, naturally I will carry on with great gusto. I guess my only real worry now is that one of these days, the new church lady is going to stop some young late-comer in the CCD parking lot and tell him that "they need some young people" to help out with the Labor Day Festival.
     Until then, only 361 days until next Labor Day. I had better start planning.
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