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

Friday, February 28, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... Have I ever told you about my freshman year?

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     Grace wants a panini maker. Not sure why, but she has mentioned that she needs one for when she goes away to college in the fall.
     Ugh, my daughter is going to college. I am not old enough to have a daughter in college.
     It was only about four or five years ago that I, myself, graduated from college. I don't want to be one of those old coots that rehashes everything buuuut...
     My freshman year, I lived in the athletic dorm at the University of Maryland on the same wing as most of the basketball players. My roommate and I shared a room that had belonged to Buck Williams the previous year. Buck was an All-American basketball player at Maryland who left a year early to be the first pick in the NBA draft. We used to get his mail which, in my mind, qualified me as some kind of celebrity.
     That room was too small for two guys. I am pretty sure that Buck stayed by himself, but one of him equalled two of us so it was understandable. We had two beds, two desks and a tiny little refrigerator. The refrigerator was kind of a big deal.
      I remember one night I was studying with my door open to the hallway and my desk pushed up against the wall. All of the sudden the room got dark as the door spontaneously shut itself... only it wasn't the door. It was a six-foot-nine hulk-of-a-guy that had two bowling balls strapped to his chest standing in our doorway. He had just transferred in from the University of Minnesota to play basketball. He too eventually played both in the NBA and professionally overseas.
     He asked if he could store his vodka in our little freezer. I told him not only could he store his vodka, he could have the entire refrigerator if he just promised not to eat me. He was a nice guy who limited himself... and his vodka... to some simple storage space.
     The star player that year for the Terps was a kid who chose Maryland because it had a great engineering program, and ever since he was a kid... he loved playing with trains. I remember getting up early one morning to go take an eight o'clock final. As I was getting on the elevator, all of the sudden, this superstar asks me what time it was. I told him it was 7:45 and he looked at his roommate and said, We need to get us an alarm clock next year. 
     How is it possible that an individual could go an entire year of college and not have an alarm clock?
     I suppose it is possible if you are six-foot-six with some sweet moves to the rack, because this guy also made it to the NBA.
     I remember, on the weekends, I used to throw my dirty laundry in a magic bag and head home. I could drop it off in my mother's laundry room on Friday, full of dirty clothes... and POOF!... on Sunday evening, all the dirty clothes were clean and folded and back in the bag.
     Oh, how I wish I still had that bag!
     What a year. But what does my freshman year have to do with Grace's request for a panini machine? Nothing really but.....
      Because Gracie was so excited (and more than willing to make dinner that night), Cheryl ran down to our basement and recovered a brand new George Foreman grill. Only... it was not technically brand new. It had been sitting, unopened, in our basement for nearly twenty years.
      Grace asked why we had never used it before.
      Because it was a gift for your cousin Jonathan. 
      For what? she asked.
      For his high school graduation. We thought it would be a great idea for a college kid to have a George Foreman grill for his dorm room.
      Dad, Jonathan is in his thirties.
      I know. He probably doesn't need it anymore, so we can use it. I don't think he'd mind. 
      I went on to explain to the kids who George Foreman was... an unlikeable young heavyweight champ who lost the title before regaining the championship belt as a lovable 46-year-old teddy bear of a man.
      In between, he made a fortune selling these grills. I concluded by telling the kids that everyone we knew had one of these babies.
      Everyone... except, of course... Jonathan! Matthew chimed in.
      This was true. I bet he would have enjoyed the wonderful paninis Grace made that night. Just as I am sure that he won't mind when she takes it with her to college in August.
       Ugh! My daughter is going off to college.
       I am not old enough to have a daughter going off to college.
       Have I ever told you about my freshman year?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... Shepherd's Pie, you say?

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     I do most of the grocery shopping in our family. In fact, Cheryl does not like shopping of any kind. This can be a good thing because she does not spend any money. On the other hand, it can be a bad thing. See sentence number one.
     Actually, I do not mind doing the shopping because I get to buy stuff that I like. I refuse to buy the fake stuff that the grocery stores try to trick us into thinking is just as good as the "real stuff." They even try to give those products fake names that are similar to the original. For instance, instead of Cocoa Puffs they try to sell you Choco Puffs... or Fruity O's instead of Fruit Loops... or Crispy Rice instead of Rice Krispies... and my personal favorite: Dr. Perky instead of Dr. Pepper. Like we wouldn't notice.
     I do my shopping at Safeway. I used to go to Giant, but they reorganized and that threw me off my game. I knew what I wanted and I knew where I could find it. Once they rearranged, I was looking for milk in the seafood department and getting my prescriptions filled by the florist. It took too long, so I made the switch.
     Safeway is much easier. Everything is always where it is supposed to be. I even have my own personal checkout lady that gets my name wrong... in a different way each time... every time she tells me how much money I'll save on gas. Do you know how much money you have to spend to save ten cents a gallon?
     The answer is a lot.
     The worst part of shopping is when I get a call from Cheryl asking me to buy some obscure item. For instance, Sunday afternoon, I was at Safeway when Cheryl called to advise me that she had a great recipe for Shepherd's Pie and would I mind picking up a few things.
     Terrific...what is Shepherd's Pie? Sounds like a yummy dessert!
     It is not a dessert. You need to buy some chopped steak?
     Who sells chopped steak? Do you mean ground beef?
     No, I mean chopped steak.
     This wasn't too bad because if they sell such a thing, it is in the meat department. But then she followed up with a request for beef bullion.
     What is that?
     It should be with the spices. Yet another thing that is not on my normal shopping list.
     Is it really necessary?
     Yes, just find it.
     The hunt was on. Noah and I found the spice aisle and there was not a beef bullion in sight. This is when my survival instincts kicked in. As women walked by, I pretended to be confused and helpless. You may think that I am typically confused and helpless, but I was just setting a trap for the more experienced shoppers... preferably of the female persuasion.
     The first gal must not have seen me because she walked right by without offering any assistance at all. She must have had a heart of stone.
      I made a few adjustments as lady number two approached. I was not taking any chances with this one. I turned to nobody in particular and as pitiful as I could, I said,
     I hate when Mom sends me on these wild goose chases... who ever heard of beef bullion? 
     I think Noah began to respond but who knows... who cares? What really mattered was that my unsuspecting prey bought it hook, line and sinker.
     Excuse me sir, I couldn't help but overhear... are you looking for beef bullion?
     Oh, I am so sorry, was I too loud? I was just talking to my poor little boy over there. Hey Tiny Tim, limp on over here and try to stay close to Daddy.
     Oh... he is cute! Little did she know that the boy was just a prop in my web of deceit.
     Well, the beef bullion is over in the next aisle. Come with me, I'll show you. 
     Boom baby! Beef bullion bought!  
     So we bought all the ingredients for Shepherd's Pie... chopped steak, onions, potatoes, peas, carrots, corn, and worcestershire sauce. This was going to be yummy!
     On Sunday, we ate at California Pizza Kitchen.
     On Monday, we had tuna sandwiches.
     On Tuesday, Green Turtle.
     On Wednesday, Chinese.
     On Thursday, we ate the ground steak with baked potatoes.
     Do you notice what we didn't have? That's right... Shepherd's Pie!
     Perhaps, I should stand in my kitchen and look confused and helpless, with Tiny Tim by my side, and, as pitiful as I can, ask...
     Does anyone know how to make Shepherd's Pie?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... Mamas... Don't let your babies grow up to be cussers...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     I love my wife. Let me just get that out of the way before I move forward.
     I caught a lot of flack for my very sappy post last week about our marriage retreat. I don't care... I love her... and I don't care who knows it.
     Now... that being said... Cheryl drives me crazy.
     Take this morning for instance.
     We woke up to a foot of snow, and my office did not close, but instead, opened late. Now, I am one of the bosses, and I can do whatever I want; however, I think it best that if the office is open on a snow day, I should show up. I may show up later than everyone else, though, and perhaps even leave earlier than everyone else... being the boss does come with some privileges.
     Anyway, I got up and ventured out to dig myself out of our driveway while everyone else slept. I contemplated waking Matthew and having him help, but I thought I would let him sleep in. Everyone had stayed up late figuring that we were getting the "biggest snow storm of the year." Mind you that our kids are home-schooled and school cancellations don't really mean what they used to mean.  
      After two hours of shoveling, I came back in the house and found the boys watching a show on the laptop and Cheryl reading on her ipad. I thought that I deserved pancakes for breakfast, and so I said, Who is making the pancakes?
     This can be translated to, Cheryl, get out of bed and make me some pancakes.
     Cheryl slightly misinterpreted it to mean, Matthew, get out of bed and go make everyone pancakes. so she said, Matthew, get out of bed and go make everyone pancakes.  
     Matthew, in turn, completely misunderstood Cheryl's demand and interpreted it to mean, Hey, Matthew, go take a shower.  So he grabbed a towel and started for the shower.
      I must admit, I was not too upset by this turn of events because I wanted Cheryl to be the morning chef. I was in a hurry, and Cheryl is way more efficient in the kitchen than everyone else besides maybe Grace, but she was asleep. Mind you, Matthew is capable. He can follow directions. It is just that he is thirteen years old and... how can I say this without offending him.... at times he can be a little bit goofy.
     There, that shouldn't be too offensive.
     I half-heartedly ordered that he put on some clothes and head downstairs. Dutifully, he left our bedroom and headed for the kitchen.
     When Cheryl and I walked into the kitchen, Matthew was busy stirring up the pancake mix.
     I was, at the same time, satisfied that he was on task... but horrified about his wardrobe. He was dressed in his underwear and had his towel wrapped around his neck like a cape. Who dresses like this when they are preparing another man's meal?
     I said the first thing that popped into my head: What in the hell are you wearing?
     Cheryl, too, was offended but surprisingly not at my half-clad, superhero, pancake-making son.
     Cheryl was offended at my language. She labeled me as a "cusser" and worried aloud that the boys are going to grow up to be cussers. I pled my case: I rarely cuss, except, of course sports cussing (when you are either playing or watching a sport), funny cussing (to emphasize a good joke or story) and then there is the mad cussing (out of anger).
     Truth be told, you don't even have to confess to sports cussing and funny cussing.
     She did not agree and again pointed out that I am a bad example for the boys who will grow up to be cussers.
     Ninety-nine percent of what I do in my life is positive: I am a faithful husband, a good dad, and a good friend. I work hard to provide for my family, and I go to church every Sunday. Apparently all of that is destroyed by a teeny weeny little humorous inquiry as to why my son is making my breakfast dressed like Captain Underpants.
     Cheryl mentioned that the cussing thing was not just this one time but that she has noticed it more and more lately. So I asked for examples and she came up with two words that are not even technically curse words. Even Matthew had my back on this one. Admittedly, they are not the best way to say something is "not good" or that something is "junk" but, they are not curse words!
     Noah walked in the room and I asked him if he thinks that I cuss a lot. He said that he has heard me "bad cuss" about fifteen times.
     Fifteen times for bad cussing? No way! Again, I asked for examples.
     When we couldn't go to Grayson's baptism because Rocky had messed all over the place, and it took you two hours to clean it all up. I heard you cuss then.
     Oh yeah. Cussing about missing a religious event. Hmm.
     And when we left Vermont that one time. You cussed a lot that day! 
     Oh yeah, the Vermont trip!
     That Vermont time only counts for one time even though I may have cussed all fifteen times in one steady stream. We had driven halfway home before I realized that I had left my skis in Vermont, so I should get a pass on that one!
     Funny thing about that was that I realized I left my skis as I was bragging about how much better I had packed on the trip home than on the trip there. Want to guess as to why?
     Anyway, Cheryl was convinced that the boys were going to grow up and become serial cussers. I tried to explain that I don't cuss that much and they'll be fine.
     She then she re-told a story about her dad... a story I hear every time she accuses me of being a cusser.
     Growing up I never heard my dad use bad language. Never. He always said that people who cuss lack real intelligence and imagination. 
     Oh yeah... I got a surprise for you... I have heard your dad cuss. 
     This, I will admit, was a bald-face lie, but I was not about to go down without taking someone else with me. It's true... her dad never cusses. Rotten, goody-two-shoes ba$&@*>!
     It was about at this time that I remembered my and Cheryl's little unity battle cry: "It is always us against them."
     This did not feel like "us against them at all." In fact, it felt a whole lot like them against me.
     I had to devise a way out of this. A way to change the topic. Fortunately, just then, Grace walked into the kitchen, took one look at Matthew in his get-up, and asked... What in the hell are you wearing? 
     Look, I never said that my daughter wouldn't grow up to be just like her old man.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... Mawwage...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     We walked the church grounds, hand in hand, having some of the most serious discussions we have ever had about our marriage. We did not discuss the kids, my job, or the work that had to be done around the house. We talked about the good, and we talked about the bad. It was a heartfelt effort to strengthen the bonds of love that we had pledged to each other more than two decades ago.
     Okay, full disclosure... when we had these discussions, it was Cheryl doing all of the talking and I said things like... Uh huh... Sure... Yeah, yeah... I agree... I know. 
     And get this, typically, I said these things at the appropriate times, tricking Cheryl into thinking that I was actually paying attention.
     At one point she told me: You need to agree to do more things that will strengthen our marriage.   
     Liiiike agreeing to go on an all-day marriage retreat? 
     Yes! That is exactly what I mean! she said excitedly.
     Well... cross that off the list because here I am... walking hand in hand around the grounds of the church... listening to you talk... and except for a few texts trying to find out how the boys did in their basketball games, I haven't thought of our kids one time! Oh... maybe two times... Gracie wants to go to a movie tonight!
     If you haven't guessed yet, last Saturday, Cheryl and I attended a marriage retreat at our church.
     I must admit, Cheryl used her usual tricks to get me to go. You know how she works it... on Monday, she asks if I want to go and I say no. Same thing on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Then, on Saturday, she tells me that anybody who is anybody will be there and that two of my favorite people, Mike and Michelle, are leading it. So, in an effort to appease her and prevent her from asking me again on Sunday, I say... Oh, okay, maybe! I will think about it! Never really intending to think about it.
     That was the chink in the armor that she was looking for, so she immediately booked us a spot for the day.
     With the lone exception of Cheryl always bugging me about ways to improve it, my thought was that our marriage was just fine. Why do we have to go on some silly Catholic retreat?
     Well, let me tell you...
     We started the day off with Mass. The first reading was about how King David had sent his faithful soldier Uriah to certain death so that he could have Uriah's wife Bathsheba for himself.
     Great start to the marriage retreat! I wondered, do I love Cheryl enough to have killed her first husband so that I could be with her? The priest admonished that the church would not recognize such a coupling, so I let that thought go. Just so you know... I was leaning towards no on the whole murder the other guy thing!
     On a side note, once the actual retreat started. I could not help but notice that Mike of the Mike and Michelle "two of my favorite people" leadership couple was conspicuously missing.
     It appears that Mike had a shooting lesson that he had previously scheduled with his grandkids... you know, in the event that one of them ever has to knock off some girl's husband. So, somehow he got permission to be late!
     After Mass, the rest of the retreat consisted of two morning talks followed by each couple breaking away for discussion, lunch, time for confession, an hour of Adoration, a couples blessing, and the renewal of vows.
     A visiting priest, Father Wilson, led the retreat.
     People may wonder what a priest would have to offer to a group of married couples ranging from newlyweds to 60 year vets. The answer is... quite a bit. To be honest, it was as if he were right there with me whenever Cheryl and I argue.
     He pointed out that priests are married... to the Church, the perfect spouse.
     And all this time, I thought I was the perfect spouse!
     Father Wilson's first discussion dealt with the Holiness of Marriage and the Family as laid out during Vatican II. On a side note, as a converted Catholic, I notice that Catholics say the words "Ever since Vatican II..." quite a bit. I digress.
     A portion of a handout included the following:
     For God Himself is the author of marriage... and has endowed it with various benefits and with various ends in view: all of these have very important bearing on the continuation of the human race... on the personal development and eternal destiny of every member of the family... on the dignity, stability, peace, and prosperity of the family and the whole human race.
     Wow! Talk about pressure.
     I looked at Cheryl and told her that we need to work on this marriage thing so we get it right... for the good of the whole human race. No more fooling around!
     Then Father went on to explain that we should strive for perfect love in our marriages, like the love that Jesus has for His Church. Some may think that that relationship did not end very well for Jesus. Certainly man got the better end of the deal. So... after that, instead of thinking about whether I would knock off Cheryl's first husband so I could have her for myself, I began to consider... Would I give up my life for her?
     Just so you know... I am leaning towards yes on this one. It would be the right thing to do and kind of heroic on my part, don't you think.
     Father Wilson then went on to explain that it is our duty as a spouse to make sure that our partners make it to Heaven. This was encouraging for me because Cheryl takes this stuff very seriously, so I should be covered. Conversely, I just have to get out of her way and Cheryl should be good!
     The second talk discussed a passage from 1st Corinthians. You all know it; you all love it; you all have heard it at most of the weddings you have attended.
     Love is patient... love is kind... love is blah blah blah... love is blah blah blahtty blah blah!
     Now substitute your name in there and see what you get. Go ahead... do it!
     Yeah. That's what happened to me... not a pretty picture.
     But the good news is that we can continue to strive to be that perfect love, and it is Cheryl's responsibility to make sure I get there.
     Perhaps the best part of the day was Adoration and the renewal of our vows.
     Someone in the group pointed out the awesomeness of what had occurred. We stood before the Real Presence of Almighty God in the Holy Eucharist exposed... and we renewed our vows.
     I felt blessed and embarrassed at the same time. Blessed to be part of the whole experience... and embarrassed by the fact that I giggled like a eight-year-old throughout the whole thing. Why did I giggle you ask? Father Mike told us that it would be just like the day we were married.
     I will start you with "I (state your name), take thee, (state her name) to be my lawfully wedded wife."
     Simple enough. So Father started us off with "I"... and I took it from there. Only I did not just state my first name, I stated my first and my last name... to my wife... whom I have been married to for more than twenty years... you know... just in case she forgot which Mark she was marrying.
     When I realized that I had fully identified myself, I began to chuckle.
     Poor Cheryl was staring at me with her beautiful smile and her bright, soft eyes... looking every bit as gorgeous as she did on the day we were married... and I could not stop giggling. So Cheryl did what any woman would do in her position, she ran her tongue across her teeth, assuming that she had something stuck there.
     At this point, I was out of control... and it all happened right in front of our most Honored Guest.
     Getting me to Heaven is not going to be easy. My girl has her work cut out for her.  
     We concluded the retreat by writing a Valentine. Not to get too mushy but...
     As we renewed our wedding vows today, I could only think of one thought... yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. I have never questioned my decision to spend my life with you and would never change a thing. Each week I pray for our family and thank God for your presence in our lives. You provide guidance for all of us and lead us by your example. You are a definition of God's love. 
     No matter what happens, you know that I love you more than anything on this earth and will always be here for you. 
     I love you!
                          Mark Palumbo  

    When all was said and done, it was a pretty good retreat. I hope I can convince Cheryl to go again next year.
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