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

Friday, October 25, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... I just want a small refrigerator...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     Every ten or fifteen years you have to do it.  You don't like to do it. You don't want to do it. But you have to do it. You have to purge the old and replace it with the new. When all is said and done, you are happy to have the nice new shiny stuff.
     Of course, I am talking about new appliances.
     We did not intend to buy all new appliances. In fact, we were only going to buy a small refrigerator  to put in our garage for the overflow of stuff that ultimately lasts long beyond the sell by date. Kind of a holding cell until the moldy stuff gets thrown away.  Then we met Kim, the salesman at hhgregg. He was nice enough, appeared to be a laid back kind of guy... but then he asked a sneaky question that he probably learned at Commission School.
     Do you need any other appliances? 
     Do you think that you could have withstood that type of pressure? Of course not.
     Cheryl was first to crack... Well, as a matter of fact, our oven takes forever to heat up... and one of the burners on the stove doesn't work at all... and one of the other burners only works every once in awhile.  
     I chimed in... And the door falls off once a month. Our dishwasher leaks... and the inside is kind of falling apart... so maybe we should consider a new dishwasher. 
     The salesman asked about our microwave and we both proudly blurted out... The microwave is good; that works fine. It is not installed properly... and doesn't vent correctly... but it heats stuff up like crazy! We are good on the micro!  
     Kim pointed out that the microwave is, by far, the "cheapest" appliance to replace and that they all kind of last the same amount of time so ours is probably getting ready to break anyway, sooooo that should not get in the way of... A PACKAGE DEAL.
     We couldn't help ourselves. Basically, Kim asked us if we wanted to abandon our plan to buy a small refrigerator for a few hundred dollars and instead spend thousands for a complete kitchen redo and we responded with a resounding: YES, YES, YES... WE WILL SPEND THOUSANDS... YES, YES, YES... WHERE DO WE SIGN?
     We liked the idea of a package deal, but the package deal comes with the basic models. We did not like the idea of the basic models. We wanted bells... we wanted whistles... we wanted a warming drawer. In fact, our new oven is a double oven that allows us to cook two things at different temperatures at the same time... with a convection option.
     I did not know what a convection oven was, but I knew that we had to have it.
     All of this was important because one time, about nine years ago, Cheryl had to bake an apple pie at the same time that she was cooking a ham at... gasp... a different temperature in a... gasp... conventional oven.
     I was surprised to hear that Cheryl had to endure such pitiful, archaic conditions.
     Kim and I held her hands as she told her tale of woe!
     I tried to make it up to her by agreeing to upgrades on every appliance except the microwave. Kind of ironic since that was the "cheapest" appliance to replace.
     Kim told us that we were purchasing the quietest dishwasher on the market. I guess I never noticed the racket of our old dishwasher over my cursing the water leaking all over the kitchen floor.
     Oh and get this, we get a $150 rebate off of our BGE bill this month because we purchased an energy efficient refrigerator. Please don't tell BGE that we are putting the old energy guzzler in our garage, so we are going to be using even more energy than before.
     I really enjoyed Kim, who hit all the right notes... right up until it was time to close the deal.
     When I sat down with him and gave him my last name, he asked if I were from Bowie, and did I have a brother that played baseball. I told him that I did and assumed he knew my oldest brother, Joe, since Kim graduated high school the year after Joe.
     No, not Joe... do you have another brother that played?
     I do... Jeff and I both played.
     Yeah, Jeff. He was really good. Right?
     Then he called his manager over and introduced me as a guy that had an older brother that was a great baseball player back in high school.
     Yeah, he was good. I was All Met! 
     I had seamlessly slipped in the All Met thing.
     Really... what is Jeff doing these days? 
     Well, I can tell you one thing he's not doing. He's not dropping thousands of dollars here at hhgregg. 
     Kim redeemed himself by knocking a few bucks off of the total.
     Our next step, before bringing the new appliances lovingly into our home, was to clean out every corner of the kitchen. I suppose a dirty old kitchen with dirty old appliances is fine, but these shiny new appliances deserve a nice clean kitchen.
     You wouldn't bring new appliances into a dirty old kitchen would you?
     Of course you wouldn't.
     My first assignment was the pantry. No appliance is ever going to see the inside of that tiny cubicle, mind you, but we must make a good first impression. I love cleaning the pantry because every time I clean it out, I feel like I have scaled Mount Everest. A pantry has to be pretty messy to make you get that kind of feeling.
     After conquering the pantry, I set my sights on the old refrigerator/freezer. We had to banish the expired yogurt, cottage cheese, lunch meat, and salad dressings. Only the finest food and drink shall remain. Let me just say this... there is a problem when you cannot identify half of the stuff that comes out of your freezer. None of the mystery meat was going to have the opportunity to soil our new freezer. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why we had three bags of a substance that can best be described as a combination of cut red onions and freezer-burned spaghetti noodles. Not to mention the hockey puck like, unpeeled, way past ripe, brown bananas.
     Isn't it always the case: when you clean up the old stuff, it doesn't seem so bad.
     Maybe we didn't need all this new stuff. Maybe, if we just took care of the old stuff. Maybe, just maybe, we made a mistake.
     What are you kidding me? That is crazy talk. Remember... New and Shiny!
     After Cheryl reorganized every drawer and cabinet, we were ready for delivery. Today was the big day, and they... look... great. We could not be happier.
     Guess what we did to celebrate our new kitchen?
     Go ahead... guess.
     We went out to eat.
     Seriously, would you eat in a kitchen that recently housed a substance that can best be described as a combination of cut red onions and freezer-burned spaghetti noodles stored in the freezer? Not to mention the hockey puck like, unpeeled, way-past ripe, brown bananas.
     Of course you wouldn't!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... Mark Chandlee is a good man...

     As you know, Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. This is the text of the speech Funny Guy gave for our very dear friend, Mark Chandlee, as he took his seat tonight on the Circuit Court bench for Calvert County. 

     I met Mark about twenty years ago when we started out as Assistant State's Attorneys in Prince George's County.
     I remember my first week, I sat with him during a trial against some guy that Mark referred to as "that guy with the fake Boston accent." Mark would remember the guy better than I (Mark went on to become law partners with that attorney).
     Anyway, I look around here today and I see so many of the people that we worked with in that office who are now Judges... and I am left wondering... what do I have to do to get one of these cushie jobs.
     From what I have been able to gather, it all starts with a call to Senator Miller’s office and a chat with one of the most influential people in the State... I plan on calling Monday... I hope his daughter Missy will take my call.
     When Mark called me to tell me that the Governor had selected him as the next Circuit Court Judge in Calvert County he was so happy. I asked him how his wife Liz had taken the news, and he told me she too was ecstatic. My next question was Why did you call her first? You always call me first with any big news. We talk four times a day. 
     I talk to him more than I talk to my wife. When he has a problem, he calls me. When he has a case he wants to discuss, he calls me. When some client is driving him crazy, he calls me. He gets appointed to be a Circuit Court Judge... and he calls his wife. C'mon man!
     After he realized the error of his ways, he apologized profusely, and then asked if I would be one of his speakers at his swearing in. Of course, I told him that I would be honored, and I asked if there were anything specific that he wanted me to address, or whether he wanted me to set a certain tone for the ceremony.
     He told me he had chosen three speakers: one who was smart; one who was kind; and one who was funny. I knew I wasn’t the smart one, so I asked whether I was the funny one or the kind one? He told me I was neither. But he did say he had a kind person already lined up to speak.
     Further, as for possibilities for some humor: Mark's brother Steve would probably stand up there and cry; the always entertaining Judge Steven Clagett was already booked for Judge Saunders’ swearing in;  and he could not get a hold of his first grade teacher or his high school football coach. So I was going to have to do for the funny part.
     Mark’s exact words were, Be funny and make fun of me.  
     I immediately said, Your Honor, I have known you for more than twenty years, and in all that time, you have never done anything or said anything that I could possibly make fun of. He quickly reminded me that I cannot appear in front of him because we own a place in Ocean City together, so... where do I start and how much time do I get?
     What I thought I would try to do is to give everyone a glimpse of what kind of person Mark is and thus give everyone an idea of what kind of Judge he will be.
     First, Mark can always find the bright spot in the worst of circumstances. Judge Marjorie Clagett has often said that she has a Pollyannic view of things and that you should see the glass half full and not half empty.  Mark has that same quality and had it even as a young man. The best example is one from his youth.
     When Mark was ten, and was just starting to play tennis, he entered his first tournament. As luck would have it, he drew the number one player in the State of Maryland as his first opponent. This kid was fast, strong, handsome, and came from a family of superior athletes.
     It was my brother Jeff.
     Jeff beat him 6-0 and 6-1 in a two-set match. Every time Mark tells that story he always adds, It was the toughest 6-0, 6-1 match your brother ever had... we had a lot of long points.
     I told him that my dad made Jeff throw at least one game to the kids that weren’t any good, just so they wouldn’t give up on playing tennis. Mark also has a long memory because when my brother was in the hospital a few years ago recovering from lung surgery, Mark called the hospital to challenge him to a rematch.
     Second, Mark is an idea man and a leader. He has coached baseball, basketball and football. He has organized adult softball teams, parties, camping trips and canoe trips. And even if the ideas are not his own, he will happily take credit for them.
     I was on the Calvert County Bar Association Board of Directors for eight years, and at the end of my last term I finally came up with two ideas... a golf tournament and a ski trip. I told Mark about my ideas and two days later I get a call from Amy Lourenzini asking me if I wanted to go on a ski trip that Mark Chandlee was putting together... and if I had any interest in a golf tournament that Mark was organizing for the Spring.
     In fact, now that I think about it... about seven months ago, I mentioned to Mark that I was going to put my name in for Circuit Court Judge... and now here he sits.
     Third, Mark is a confident man but not overconfident. After the initial excitement of the Governor's appointment wore off and a few days had passed, Mark had a moment of doubt and questioned whether he was smart enough to do this job. I told him that there are tons of judges that we know and you are at least as smart as they. After ten minutes of discussion, we came up with two in particular. But just to be clear... neither of them is here in this courtroom today.
     I also don’t think that this new position will change him in any way... but yesterday, I had to go to Baltimore for court and did not get back until 4:30, so I was late for Judge Saunders' swearing in. I had to sit in the overflow room over in District Court, and guess who was standing in the back all by herself... the lovely Liz Chandlee... while Mark sat up front in the main room with all of his new judge friends. The poor thing was all alone.
     Of course Liz did not help my confidence when the first thing she said to me when I walked in was Wow, Judge Clagett was really good... and he was funny! Tough act to follow!
     Finally, Mark is an understanding and forgiving man. He has practiced in just about every jurisdiction in the State, yet neither he nor his secretary Michelle, have any concept of the whole space-time continuum. They don’t understand that you cannot be in Ocean City at 1:00 and Prince Frederick at 2:00. I suppose the one thing that I am not going to miss is that 12:45 call from Mark, when I’m just getting in from lunch, asking me if I can go over to District Court to hold one of his client’s hands while he finishes up in Greenbelt.
     In all seriousness, I do want to tell you what kind of man Mark is, and I do believe that it will tell you what kind of judge he is going to be.
     When my father really liked and respected someone, he would admiringly say, He is a good man. It was his highest compliment. What makes up a good man? Let's take a little closer look at Mark.
     Mark is a tireless worker. I have called his office at all hours of the night, and he would always be there, prepping for trial or meeting with clients.
     He is loyal to the end. He has been so with his friends, his family, and his colleagues. He worked with his law partner for more than twenty years and developed a tight bond with him and their staff. I spoke with him two nights ago while he was cleaning out his office. Despite this wonderful opportunity opening up before him, he was in tears about having to leave that workplace. He refused my offer to drive by and give him a hug.
     Mark is smart. He has an honest and practical way of analyzing and breaking down complex issues.
     He is perhaps one of the kindest and funniest people that you will ever meet. His presence in the Courthouse is going to make it an even better place to work. I have heard from the courtroom clerks, the court reporters, the folks in the assignment office, the clerk’s office and the Sheriffs about how happy they are that he will be here every single day.
     Anyone who spends any amount of time with Mark walks away with a smile on his face. My wife and I had a party the other night and I found Mark and my 83-year-old mother sitting in a room together... and my mom was telling him stories about how she met my father... and I was amazed at how comfortable she was him and how willing he was to just sit and listen.
     Mark puts other people’s needs ahead of his own. When I spoke earlier about the call that he made to tell me about his appointment, it was the first time that I had ever heard him excited about something that involved just him. Usually his excitement is reserved for something that Liz or their sons have done.
     About a week ago, we were playing golf and talking about our kids, and he made a statement that kind of stuck with me. He said that some people wonder why God put them here on this earth. Mark said that he has no doubt as to why God put him here... he is here on this earth to be a good father to his four boys and raise them to be good men... and to be a good husband to Liz.
     He is absolutely correct, but I would submit that God has more plans for Mark. The benefactors are going to include the folks in this courthouse, the litigants that appear in front of him, and the people of Calvert County.  I think that the best thing I can say is that Mark Chandlee is a good man!
     We pray for you, Mark. We pray that you will have patience, wisdom, and an understanding of the truth. We love you and we know that you will do a great job.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... A toast to the bride and groom...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     My nephew Adam got married last weekend, and like most of our family weddings, it was a beautiful celebration. It had one huge glitch that we will get to in a moment, but in the meantime...
     The wedding was held on the shady lawn at a country club... overlooking the water... on a picture perfect 85 degree October day. The minister spoke of the sanctity of the sacrament... and that the bride and groom will change and be refined during the marriage... that fifty percent of the bride and groom die as a result.
     I turned to Cheryl and mentioned that it feels like I've died about ninety-two percent since we were wed. Surprisingly she agreed... and then added. "Only eight percent to go."
     She is a quick one, that Cheryl.    
     The reception was held afterward at the grand ballroom.
     It started with the typical meet and greet in a gathering space that backed out to a patio and yard, complete with corn hole and other yard games. This is always the best opportunity to catch up with those friends and family that we don't get to see nearly enough. If our family were a college football team, we would score a lot of good bowl invitations because we travel well. If there's a family wedding, we show up in large numbers.
     Adam happens to be the last of seven siblings to get married, and in attendance were his six brothers and sisters and their children, eight aunts and uncles, about sixteen cousins, his folks, and of course Grandma.
     Noah commented that our family will win every wedding that we attend.
     After about a half hour of mingling, we were escorted into the dining room where the table decorations were "unique and cool." I'm not sure what they looked like because those are the details that get lost on a person like me... that is, a member of the male species. However, Cheryl advised that the tables were decorated exquisitely... so I'll take her word for it.
     We took our seats and waited for the the wedding party to be announced.
     Adam looked as happy as I had ever seen him, and his bride, Sarah, was never more beautiful. All was good, and then Adam's brother Joshua got up to give the toast. Remember that little glitch that I spoke of? Well, this is when things started to take a downward spiral.
     The toast started out okay, which was a little surprising given Josh's history of unintelligible thoughts and ideas. He spoke of his younger brother's shortcomings and their family's prediction that he might have never gotten married. He then reminded Adam of the many great examples of marriage that he had witnessed over the years.
     Specifically, he mentioned my father, his own father... and me. Well... not exactly me by name... but he mentioned how their uncles have all had long, successful marriages. My marriage is the best of the group, so I can only assume he was talking about me... but he couldn't exactly have singled me out and mentioned me by name, could he? Of course not, that would have been in poor taste.
     Josh then welcomed Sarah, who has one brother, into our large family.
     He explained that it can be difficult coming into a big family like ours... with all of our little idiosyncrasies. I nodded in agreement because you wouldn't believe the crazy stuff that some of our other family members have done in the past. Josh specifically mentioned his own mother. You can imagine how a mother of seven can be... always being in charge, always getting her way, controlling every situation to her liking.
     I love you Pammie, but you know I speak the truth... and to be frank, you deserved the good natured ribbing.
     Suddenly, things took a dramatic turn for the worse. Josh started droning on and on about how whenever my nephews would start dating a girl, there was always a time when they had to decide if  the time was right to take the girls over to Uncle Mark's house.
     I thought this was a bit odd... taking a shot at my beautiful wife. I mean, nobody knows better than I how difficult she can be, but being the exemplary husband that I am, I never mentioned it to anyone. Was it really that obvious? Did they really dread meeting Aunt Cheryl?
     Josh then continued on about how Uncle Mark has a tendency to make fun of people's mistakes. How one simple mistake can be fodder for a lifetime of ridicule.
     Wait one second here, this toast was fine when you called out your own mother... and it was okay as long as you were going to talk about how Aunt Cheryl was the nut job... but now people might get the wrong idea that somehow I am the crazy uncle.
     Hmm... they might think it... because YOU SPECIFICALLY MENTIONED ME BY NAME. You failed to mention me by name when you were talking about the great husbands, and now, all of the sudden, you are naming names? Did we forget that that's in poor taste?
     How did I become the last leg of the marriage gauntlet that all contestants must pass through before accepting the invitation to join the family?
     Then he said the words that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
     You know it is not so bad when you grow up around him, and he makes fun of the things you say and do... but if you're new and you don't know him, he is just some STRANGE, OLD GUY who makes fun of things that you say and do.
     I am supposed to toast to this? No way, Jack!
     I put my glass down in protest.
     Then I started thinking... Josh and his three brothers are now married, and all four of them are lucky to have had me as part of the overall screening process. Maybe I poke fun at the things their wives have done... but if they can't stand the heat, don't bother coming into our family's kitchen. My nephews need to realize this... to quote the great Jack Nicholson... You want me on that wall... you need me on that wall!
     I mean, is it my fault that one of the gals forgot the words to the National Anthem? Sure, she has a beautiful voice, but if she can't remember the words, what good is she?
     And is it my fault that one of them didn't knock when she entered into a bathroom stall... and walked in on my brother's wife? Have you ever heard of knocking? Then she just stood there with nothing but toilet paper in her hand and started blubbering about how she hoped that the woman sitting there with her skirt around her knees was not Uncle Mark's wife!
     And finally, is it my fault that one of them never met a party that she didn't like... and oh, by the way... would dump her husband in a New York minute if she ever had the opportunity to date a Washington Redskin?
     The answer to all of these questions is no, it is not my fault. And these boys should thank me for weeding out the weak ones. Who wants to be married to some woman that can't take a silly little joke?
     People who don't have a sense of humor are not worth keeping around.
     Now... back to that stupid little toast...
     I am neither strange nor old. And now that I think about it, I like my sister-in-law Pammie, and Josh was wrong to poke fun at her. She is none of those things that I said earlier. She is never in charge, she never gets her way, and she never tries to control anything.
     In fact, Josh, after your silly ol' toast, I took a little family poll. You might be interested to know that if for some reason we ever have to choose between our actual nephews and their lovely brides... the nephews lose.
     And another thing... each of your lovely wives had the opportunity to meet me before you asked them to marry you, and each of them still decided to accept your stupid proposals. As fate would have it, they have each been wonderful wives, and they have produced adorable and charming children... no thanks to you boys.
     You are welcome.
     Now back to the wedding.
     The reception was awesome. Great people, great food, great music... and a lot of dancing.... especially my man, Noah.
     With the glaring exception of the toast, every little detail was perfect.
     We welcome Sarah into our family, and I will leave her with these two bits of advice... First, always have a great sense of humor, you will need it. Second, never do anything stupid in front of Josh because he will never let you forget about it.
     We wish Adam and Sarah a lifetime of God's blessings.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... A little driving technique of my own...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     Just put a gun to my head and shoot me. End it now.
     Forget that... you don't have to do that. Grace just got her learner's permit, so my fate has been sealed. I am going to die of heart failure.
     I am not suggesting that Grace is not a great driver... but on the other hand... Grace is not a great driver... yet. To be fair, she is learning... and she gets better with each outing. But in just three days, she has taken a turn wide and almost hit a parked car; she has run a stop sign; and she has managed to park our car just to the left of our driveway.
     That's a nice way of saying she parked our car in our front yard.
     So far, the only good thing to come out of her getting her learner's permit is that she likes driving with me better than she likes driving with Cheryl. Personally, I like her driving with Cheryl better, but I'll accept my little victory. I get so few wins when I compete with my wife.
     I try to keep a running dialogue with Grace when she is driving, and I remind her of what she is about to encounter. Gracie did not say why she loved me best (okay... okay... prefers me in the passenger seat), but I can hazard a guess.
     People don't see this in public, but Cheryl can be anxious and overbearing in pressure-cooker situations. Especially when there are parked cars and pedestrians in peril.
     That's my story and I am sticking to it!
     Anyway, when Gracie informed me that I won the driving instructor contest, I was gracious in victory. I told Grace that it's hard on both her mother and me because we don't know exactly what she does and doesn't know about driving and the rules of the road. Gracie's response was not encouraging.
     I don't know anything! 
     Wow! With a response like that, I do wish that Cheryl had my serene and unruffled manner in times of adversity. Okay... maybe those are my words, not Gracie's.
     What I really wish is that Gracie could be as good a driver as I was when I was her age.
     What's that? You heard that I hit two parked cars in the first three months of having my license? Okay, that is true, but neither accident was my fault. Both cars were parked in such a way that it was impossible for me to get into my space without hitting them. I know this because if it had been possible, I would not have hit them.
     The first incident occurred on my way to sign up for an 18-and-under intramural basketball league. I was running a bit late, and as I turned into my spot, I hit a little MG. The details are a bit sketchy, but I seem to recall that the MG was parked illegally.
     As luck would have it, the owner turned out to be the commissioner of the league. At first he was upset, but as soon as he heard my last name, he changed his tune. It turns out that my reputation as a big-time baller preceded me. After all, I was a member of the high school's JV basketball team. Not too shabby.
     He told me not to worry about it and that he would have the light replaced. I will always remember his kind words. No big deal... Jeff!
     Jeff? I am not Jeff. Jeff is my brother and a member of the high school's varsity basketball team. This guy doesn't think I am a big-time baller at all. He thinks that I am my brother Jeff.    
     How fortuitous!
     Under normal circumstances, I would have been offended, but under these circumstances, I let it go. My parents already thought that Jeff was a bad driver, so why upset the cart with two lousy drivers in the family? It was the right thing to do.
     My second teeny tiny little fender bender happened in the parking lot of a grocery store. As I pulled into my spot, I hit a very large, very old, station wagon. Again, I seem to recall that the vehicle was taking up two spaces... just begging to be rammed. This little mishap dented my mother's car and tore off the metal trim adorning the side. The other car had little to no damage at all. That thing was a tank.
      I went into the store and paged the other owner. She was so nice. She told me that she, too, had kids, and, besides, there was very little damage to her car. Like the MG owner, she told me not to worry about her car. In fact, she told me that she was more worried about what my mother was going to do when she saw the damage to her car.
     I picked up the broken trim, threw it into the trunk of the car and headed home to face the music. I went into the house and told my mom what had happened.
     Have you ever seen the Flintstones when Fred gets upset and the roof of his house spins up in the air when he yells? That's what happened when I told my mom about the accident... only it wasn't Fred doing the yelling.
     When we went outside to inspect the damage, my mother turned to me and said, You didn't do that, your brother Jeff hit a fence the other day and did that damage. 
     Really? I knew he hit a fence, but I had no idea about the extent of the damage. Actually, I was with him and knew the exact extent of the damage... and it was not this bad.
     My mom continued: Yeah, when he hit that fence, he really messed up the side of my car. 
     Well, you know, the lady that I hit had no damage to her car, so now it makes sense. 
     And with that, my mother skipped back into the house and went about her day.
     I too skipped into the house, and when the coast was clear, I grabbed a big green trash bag... went out to the car... opened the trunk... scooped out all of the damaged car parts... placed them in the green trash bag... and then tossed the bag out with the rest of the trash... never to be seen again.
     Evidence disposed of... but more importantly, crisis averted. And Jeff was still on the hook for hitting that fence.
     In retrospect, I think that I have learned two valuable lessons.
     First, I need to be patient with my new driver. Grace is sure to make mistakes, but she will learn. As she practices, she will increase her confidence and develop little techniques to help her along.
     Second, if she ever gets into a little fender bender of her own, she can always blame my brother Jeff!
     This was a driving technique that always seemed to work for me!     
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