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

Friday, September 26, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... Just like when I was in school...

    Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
    They rescheduled Matthew's back-to-school night this past Tuesday. It had been cancelled last week due to a gas leak.
    To be honest, I go to these things not because I want to but for two other reasons. First, as a parent, I should go. Second, as an award-winning writer of a weekly column... I need material.
    Okay, I am not an award-winning writer... but someday... maybe.
    So, with hopes of hearing teachers tell me what a knucklehead my oldest son is... I happily entered the halls of Archbishop Spalding High School.
    "Happily" is probably not the right word, since I asked Cheryl if it were too late to call in another gas leak. She reminded me that you can't actually "call in" a gas leak.
    So be it... Let the fun begin.
    Let me start by saying that I kind of envy Matthew.
    He has jumped into high school with both feet. He is playing fall baseball, playing ultimate frisbee, and has even signed up for the ping pong club. He has made a slew of new friends... both of the male and the non-male persuasion. He goes to football games, bops around from group to group, and yells until he loses his voice. He is all in and enjoying every minute of it.
    Back in the day, I was kind of the same way, except I only dipped my toe in.
    I played baseball all three years of high school but was never totally confident I would even make the team... which was just dumb because I was a captain as a junior. Talk about a lack of confidence. I also did not go out of my way to meet people, and I did not really see that much of the friends that I did have.
    And the girls? Forget about it! And I don't mean "forget about it" in that macho Italian mafioso voice. I mean forget about it... as in, it wasn't happening. I was pretty shy. Especially in my first year!
     And as much as I loved sports, I only went to a handful of football games in three years. When I did go, I usually just sat at the top of the bleachers and watched... Embarrassed to show any emotion.
    Despite all that... thinking back... I was kind of a big deal... in a weird sort of way. Like Captain America. Only, more like Steve Rogers before the juice.
    Anyway, as Cheryl and I entered the Spalding parking lot, I noted that there were presumably two parents for every kid. For half of these kids, the parents were arriving in separate cars. Even if 25% of the parents were complete no-shows, there was not going to be any place to park. Who planned this fiasco?
    Fortunately, we were able to triple park.
    At this point, I would like to take a second to offer a sincere apology to the owner of the Toyota Camry that we blocked in. But you have to understand... they overbooked this thing.
    We started in Matthew's homeroom, which made sense.
    What doesn't make sense is that Matthew actually goes to homeroom after second period. In my humble opinion, this would make homeroom... third period. I would have loved this when I was in high school because I was late for homeroom almost every day. I would have never been late had I not had to report until 9:30 a.m.
    As we entered that first classroom, we were greeted by a parent that was very excited to see us. I gave him a hardy hand shake and he gave Cheryl a big hug. As we took our seats behind him, he turned to a parent that was seated in front of him and reported that we are practically family. 
    Those were his exact words... practically family. This made me feel really good that this guy, this other brother, if you will, would consider us like family.
    Here is the problem... I had no idea who he was. I played along with the charade because I knew that Cheryl would know the guy.
    Nope. She had no idea. I mean... she knew she knew him... but for the life of her, she could not place him.
    I was getting that same uneasy feeling that I got back in high school.
    Cheryl and I just stared at each other and wondered who it was that we were hugging. I was not going to be able to concentrate on Matthew's faults and foibles until I figured this out.
    Five minutes into homeroom, it came to Cheryl... husband of a good family friend. Great. But then all I could think about was that his wife was also at the school in a different car. Probably driving that Toyota we blocked in.
    I enjoyed homeroom, and despite warnings over the intercom that these ten-minute classes were not opportunities to have parent/teacher conferences, Cheryl insisted that we meet each teacher after class. These meetings were going to add to what I was already anticipating being a long night. On the
bright side, it would give me the opportunity to hear about my goofy son.
    Unfortunately, Matthew's homeroom teacher gave us nothing but positive feedback.
    This was the beginning of a trend.
    We met teacher after teacher, and they all had nice things to say about him. In fact, instead of getting good stories about Matthew, I found myself getting overwhelmed by his classes. It seemed to me that each class required a great deal of effort, and Matthew never seems to be doing much of anything.
    How is this possible? I was convinced that he must be failing every class.
    Cheryl figured out how to log in and check his grades, and it turns out he is doing pretty well.
    I know that I would be failing every class... except keyboarding. For those of you that are older than forty... keyboarding is just a fancy name for typing. I took typing in high school, and I can still rap it out pretty goof, er uh goos, I mean good.
    By the way, I remember that typing class because I was a sophomore, and despite my shyness, there was a beautiful senior girl that could not resist me. She used to wait for me to walk her from typing to her next class. I was pretty cool, if I say so myself... and I do... often.
    Turns out she was just using me to get to my older brother. Well, the joke was on her because she ended up marrying him. Ha!
    What's that you say? Keyboarding is just the first part of the class, and then we have to learn about the hard drive? What's the hard drive? Then we need to run a program?
    When we sat down, I noticed that there was that metal computer box thing on the table with all of its guts all over the table. The teacher said that the kids were learning about the inside of the computer... what makes it work.
    I always thought it was magic.
    Okay, I suppose that I would bomb out of that class, too.
    Even if I understood all of this stuff, I would still fail every class. Each teacher advised that students no longer hand anything in. You do the work on your device and then you drop it into the teacher's drop box. 
    And every teacher warned that if it is not in the drop box by the designated time, your son or daughter will receive a zero. 
    This is all very stupid to me. I would never sleep worrying whether or not I had dropped my work into the right box at the right time.
    Remember, all I know how to do is type.
    About halfway through back-to-school night, I made the very uncomfortable discovery that Matthew is fine... I am the idiot in our family. I would never survive in today's high school.
    I barely survived my own high school. In fact, if you think about it, I was the high school knucklehead. I was a shy, uncomfortable teen that was either (a) delusional in thinking that some senior girl would want to hang out with me, or (b) just a pawn in that vixen's tricky little game of love. Looking back, neither really makes me look like the stud that I recall... and speak so fondly of.
    Well, here is the silver lining to the night.
    I got to roam the halls of Spalding with the prettiest girl in the school. In fact, at one point, as we strolled along, trying to find the cafeteria to buy some pizza burgers and tater tots, I put my arm around her and slipped my hand into her back pocket. We walked clumsily along in that position for several seconds, if I recall. Completely starry-eyed. Reminiscent of all those cool couples from back in the day.
    And get this, once we finally got out of that parking lot, I took that girl out for a beer. I even got a kiss good night.
    Yep, no doubt about it... I was pretty cool.
    Just the way I remember it back in high school!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... And he cried, "Wee wee wee wee... all the way to the golf course..."

    Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
    Last night was supposed to be Matthew's back-to-school night, but it was cancelled due to a gas leak at the school. This was bad... this was really, really bad. Not because the school was going to blow up or anything... I mean that would have been bad, I suppose. But the real tragedy was that I had planned on getting some good stuff to write about... and then, I had nothing.
    Matthew started high school at Archbishop Spalding and I have to be honest... I have no idea how his academics are going, but I do know that he is rocking the social life. He seems to know everybody and has something going on every day after school. I was looking forward to meeting his teachers and finding what idiotic things my son has done.
    Oh well, I guess they will reschedule, so look for some future FGF about Matthew.
    Cheryl and Noah are back in the swing of home schooling, so I suppose I could write about that. Again, I have to be honest... I have no idea what is going on with home schooling other than Noah has taken an interest in cooking. He has prepared two delicious dinners the past two nights.
    I have no idea if he is learning anything, but I do know that my little man is going to make someone a great wife someday.
    So, now what do I have? Oh, I know...
    About three weeks ago, I needed to quickly move some boxes out of my car and so slipped Matthew's slides onto my feet. Slides are best described as a flip-flop/sandal blend... only they don't stay on your feet. After the fifth time walking out of them, I kicked them off and carried on in my bare feet. Thirty seconds into my project, I jammed my two small toes into the curb... OUCH!
    I am not a doctor or anything, but I am pretty sure I broke my little piggy toe! Not much you can do about a broken piggy toe except go barefoot until the swelling goes down and the pain subsides.
    The pain started to subside this week, and so I did what every normal person with a broken toe does when they start to feel better... I ran the bases with Noah's baseball team to end Wednesday's practice.
    Again, I am not a doctor, but I am pretty sure that this was a mistake. Not only did my toe hurt again but my lower back began to ache. This was bad. This was really really bad... not because of my health, but because I was scheduled to play golf in yesterday's First Annual Calvert County Bar Association Golf Tournament.
    My good friend became a judge last year, and now that he is no longer required to work, he has time to implement all of my great ideas (see Golf Tournament and Ski Weekend). He will claim the ideas as his own, but we both know who's the brains behind the operation. Please don't say anything to him about this because he is a judge... and I am not!
    So I woke up with my broken toe and sore back and entertained second thoughts about playing, which was too bad because I really like these types of tournaments. They are Best Ball or Captain's Choice; everyone hits a shot and you only play the best one. I play about three or four times a year, and for as little as I play, I am not too bad.
    This is kind of a curse.
    You see, I refuse to play more (not that I have much time for that anyway) because, at least, now I can say... For a guy who never plays, I am not too bad.  If I played more and didn't get any better, I'd be just a bad golfer.
    I couldn't handle that.
    I understand I set the bar low, but it works for me.
    Anyway, I was scheduled to play with my friend (the new, semi-retired, full-time judge), a retired partner from my firm, and his friend, a real-retired judge.
    Now, here is the thing... a few years ago, the real-retired judge was involved in a head-on car crash and probably broke half the bones in his body. He has undergone more than twenty surgeries. He is lucky to be alive! His walking, let alone his golfing, is quite a miracle.
    But I doubt if he ever had... like... you know... a broken piggy toe... or uh... er... an achy lower back.
    Okay, if he could go golfing, then so could I.    
    I played... but not very well. He played... and here is the thing: with all of his replacement parts, he is still much better than I.
    Must have been the piggy toe.
    I would hit a great drive, and he would hit one forty yards further. Fortunately, he would only mention that he out-drove me... every time that he out-drove me. Teasing aside, just watching him was really an inspiration.  I'd like to think that my playing injured was an inspiration to him as well.
   In the end, both he and my retired partner were much better golfers than my friend and I.
   So here is the take away: I need to become a judge or retire, so I can play more golf. That and a mended piggy toe... and there'd be no stopping me.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... A birthday blessing in disguise...

    Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
    Every few months or so, I go to confession and one of the things that I typically talk to the priest about is my failure to commit things to prayer. It is not as if I never pray... I do. Just not like I should.
    I don't sleep much, and every morning when I tell Cheryl that I was up all night, she asks if I said my prayers.
    How can I pray when I am trying to get past level 267 of Candy Crush? 
    I know what you are thinking... Level 267? That guy is awesome!
    I know. I am.
    Exhausted... but awesome.
    Now, please, don't misunderstand; I can break out a pretty good prayer before a big family gathering. And not just the typical Bless us O Lord and these thy gifts prayer... but more of a freestyle rap kind of prayer, where I weave in and out, mentioning those people with us, those that are missing, those that prepared the meal, and those that are less fortunate.
    Can I get an Amen?
    Darn right I can!
    Anyway, Wednesday was Cheryl's birthday.
    On Tuesday, she received an early birthday present from her doctor's office. She had had a physical the week before, and had undergone a routine mammogram. Tuesday's mail brought simultaneous letters from her doctor and the radiologist advising that there were some abnormalities with her mammogram and that she had to come in for another look.
    Some abnormalities are what you call it when it is someone else's test results or someone else's wife's  results. When it is you or your wife... it is a BIG PROBLEM! 
    Cheryl called the radiologist, and they scheduled her for the very next day... her birthday.
    There are two ways to handle the speed with which they got her back into that office. On the one hand, I could have been grateful that there was an opening. On the other hand I could have panicked and wondered why are they getting her in so quickly? What do they know that they are not telling us?
    I preferred the panic button! Well... preferred is probably not the right word, but you get the drift.
    I had court that morning, so I could not go with Cheryl to her appointment. Plus, she really didn't want it to be "a thing" until they had more information.
    Anyway... this is where the prayer part comes in. I have a forty-minute drive into work and the first ten were spent thinking about all of the what if's. The next thirty minutes were spent praying about those what if's and hoping that they remained never were's.  
    If you read Funny Guy Friday on a regular basis, you might notice that, on occasion, I poke fun at my wonderful bride... much to the chagrin of my mother-in-law... who often facetiously refers to me as Happy Boy. But I am going to let you... and my mother-in-law... in on a little secret.
    I kind of like Cheryl. In fact, I kind of like her a lot.
    This trip to the doctor was not what I had in mind for my wife's 33rd birthday (I just said 33rd to see if you were paying attention).
    This second mammogram... followed by a sonogram... was a cruddy birthday present. Unfortunately, it was her best present because I had gotten her nothing. Nothing but my prayers.
    I called before, during, and after my hearing and finally got through to Cheryl. I am happy to report that I am an awesome pray-er. Her breasts are good to go.
    Can I say that? Well... you can imagine my relief and thankfulness that she is fine.
    In honor of Cheryl's birthday, I would typically do a top ten list of things that I love about her. But this year, in honor of her clean mammogram, I am going to shorten the list to, oh, I dunno... the number two comes to mind.
    The first thing that I love about Cheryl is... she is the nicest person that God has ever put on this earth. I could never divorce her because if I did, I would forever be known as that guy who divorced the nicest person that God has ever put on this earth.
    Who could possibly live with that?
    And the number two thing that I love about Cheryl... she is a devoted daughter of Christ. Every Sunday at mass, I say the same prayer. I save this prayer for mass time to ensure that I go back every Sunday. Besides, as you already know, I am a really good pray-er, so one time a week is sufficient.
    I always ask God to be with our kids that week and to help them to become better brothers, sisters, friends, teammates, classmates and Catholics. I then pray that God would continue to bless Cheryl and help her to continue to be a great mother and the spiritual shepherd of our family.
    Our kids are good sisters, brothers, friends, teammates, classmates and Catholics because of the example that is set every day by their mother.
    Clearly, it's not my example... I am just the idiot that writes about his wife's boobs.
    Happy birthday honey!
    I love you more than you could possibly know, and I have a great idea for next year's birthday present... a brand new colonoscopy!

Editor's note... from Cheryl... You didn't think this Funny Guy Friday thing edits itself, did you? 
    Let me start by saying that we almost didn't post this story because of, surprise, surprise, its very personal nature. Plus, when telling a story, I really don't think any grown man should ever use the word "boobs" with a straight face.
    And I didn't want this whole thing to be a big deal. But ultimately, I thought that this story might help to raise breast health and cancer screening awareness... and bonus... we didn't have to wear a bucket of ice water to do it!
     All kidding aside... again and again, I had always put off getting a mammogram for another day "when I have the time."  And people would say, "Don't wait," and, "Early detection is key," and in my mind, I believed it, but still, no mammogram.  
    Finally, I decided to put it off no longer. My birthday was coming up, and I thought I should start the new year off right. Check up... blood work... mammogram. The works. All my ducks in a row from here on.
    And then, of course, came the call-back from the radiologist. Just a bit scary... and I don't get scared. But soon enough, fear gave way to relief and thanksgiving. To God goes the praise.
    And I will never neglect again. 
    Not to give you too much information (as if that's possible at this point), but my tissue is "heterogeneously dense, which may obscure small masses..." aka... really difficult to see through on a mammogram. I know now that I will have to be watched closely. 
    So anyway... I won't lecture you... I won't admonish you. Believe me... I'm the gal whose tombstone will read, "Nothing bad's going to happen."  
    But I had told myself, again and again, "Yeah, yeah, yeah... I'll go one of these days... when I have time."  Trust me, now I'll make the time.  
    My follow-up is in six months. My half-birthday. You'll find me celebrating at the radiologist's office.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... A bullish recovery for Grandma?

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     As you may have read in last week's FGF, we had a busy week. If you thought that the week was busy, let me fill you in on how the weekend went.
     On Friday morning, as chairman of the Sacred Heart Labor Day Festival, I made a quick trip to the church to finalize a few things for Monday's big event. Specifically, we were going to move the gambling wheel (yes, we had a gambling wheel at the festival. It is a money maker and we have very low ethical standards... but to show we are not completely without morals, I did get rejected on my idea to have strippers. That is a story for a different day).
     Anyway, the Big Wheel has been in the same spot, run by the same elderly gentlemen for the past twenty years. I wanted to move it because we needed the space for a fast-pitch radar booth.
     Here is what I learned: elderly gentleman who have been doing the same thing in the same spot for twenty years are resistant to change. Most people respect what little authority I wield as chairman of the festival, but old guys don't. They just tell me no. And they are emphatic with their no... NO! We need the cover from the sun that this spot provides, and we have been in this spot forever!
     Well, we need it for the fast pitch booth. We will find you a new spot with some shade.
     There is no other place for shade, and nobody is going to do that baseball thing... and are you (and he said "you" in a kind of mean, scary voice) willing to stand out in the sun for five hours? 
     He might as well have called me a young whippersnapper at this point.
     A lot of thoughts went through my mind... mostly to remain respectful. I would have finished the old-timer off with some clever retort and a declaration that it was "my way or the highway," but another elderly gentleman arrived on the scene and informed me that the problem was resolved and that the baseball guy agreed to move. I okayed their plan but only because at this point it was two against one... and they looked pretty tough.
     Besides, I had bigger fish to fry... I had to do battle with the Catholic Insurance people over the mechanical bull that I had ordered.
     Look sir, the archdiocese has a policy on mechanical bulls!
     Are you trying to tell me that the archdiocese... with all the concerns facing the church... has taken the time to carve out a policy on mechanical bulls? I find that hard to believe. 
     It is a dangerous thing!
     Look, I am not trying to maim our parish members; I just want this to be a fun event. Can a mechanical bull be any more dangerous than the rock wall or moon bounce we are getting? 
     As soon as I said this, I knew it had been a mistake.
     Rock wall? Moon bounce? Have we okayed those?
     Uh, well. Yeah, I guess. I mean yeah. I mean we, like, have those things, like, every year. 
     I sounded like an idiot kid trying to explain why I had taken my dad's car without permission. Then I went on the offensive.
     Look, we can agree it is a dangerous ride but that is not the question... are we covered in the event the bull gores someone?
     Reluctantly, yes. But only for adults.
     No problem!
     "Adults" over four feet were good to go. All problems solved, and on to the big wedding!  
     My nephew got married on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. in St. Mary's Church, downtown Annapolis, and I am happy to report that the traffic was manageable. Oh yeah, the Mass was absolutely beautiful. Beautiful bride, beautiful groom, handsome wedding party, and I looked awesome. Cheryl was there too! She looked okay... better than okay! Maybe even as awesome as I.
     Anyway, the reception was in Pasadena at one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen... right on the water. The only problem was that my mother was not doing well. She had been weak and confused for days. She has been staying with us for the past month and the plan had been to have her go back to Washington state with my brother Paul on Monday... to stay with his family for a month or two... and then come back to live with us permanently. All of this was in jeopardy based on her rapid downward spiral.
     Only a month ago, she was going with us to our boys' baseball games and hopping up and down steps with very little trouble. She did laundry and cleaned our house whenever the mood struck her... and the mood struck her all the time.
     It was great! We had had our own live-in maid service and suddenly I could see it all slipping away. Maybe that sounds kind of callous... but she did laundry every day! 
     All six of her kids were kind of concerned about her condition but none more than I.  I mean, she cleaned and did laundry every day! 
     Anyway, my brother Paul is a pastor at a Lutheran church, and on Saturday morning, he mentioned that many ladies in his congregation have had urinary tract infections that caused weakness and confusion. This struck me as odd... not that a UTI could cause weakness and confusion but that old ladies were telling my brother all about it. What kind of church is he running out there on the west coast? I go to confession and that kind of stuff never comes up!
     Cheryl and Paul and his wife took my mom to the emergency clinic and sure enough, the UTI was a positive. Antibiotics were prescribed with the hope that she would show some improvement. Not knowing what the next day would hold, my brothers and sisters all came to my house to discuss what we were going to do with our rapidly failing mother. Not just in the short term regarding her trip to Washington, which seemed like a long shot no matter how much she improved, but also in the long term in the event that things did not get better.
     After about two hours of discussion, this is what we decided...
     Lets wake mom up in the morning and ask her what she wants!      
     In retrospect, we could have done that without the long meeting but what the heck, we enjoy each other's company.
     Happy to report, Sunday showed big improvement and on Monday, she got on that plane and headed out west. In fact, my sister-in-law just called a few minutes ago and said that my mom has been cleaning and doing laundry at their house. I want her back!
     Finally, on what should have been a day of rest to celebrate the last day of summer, we headed off to the church for the annual Labor Day Festival.  We arrived at 8 a.m. and stayed until after 6 p.m. You want to know something? The elderly Big Wheel guys rigged a canopy overhead, but it provided very little shade. Ironically, the location of the fast-pitch radar gun was covered in shade for most of the day. I felt bad for the guys and tried to slip them an occasional cold beverage. Hopefully, we buried the hatchet from our previous day's encounter.
     Ooh, that gives me an idea for next year... The Hatchet Throw. I'll have some parish member stand against a wall and kids can buy three hatchets for a dollar and see how close they can get to the guy standing against the wall. The insurance guy will love it!
     It was an exhausting day, but I am happy to report that the only injury as a result of the mechanical bull was my bruised ego... I lasted only 12 seconds on "baby speed." For some reference, there were many four foot adults that lasted well over thirty seconds with the speed increasing the longer they rode.
     So just to recap my weekend... fought with old guys... fought with insurance guy... attended wedding... attended reception,,, worried about my mother... met with my brothers and sisters... single handedly nursed my mother back to health (I am taking credit for it because she was at my house during her recovery)... managed the church's Labor Day Festival... and rode a bull (poorly, I might add).    
     Oh, I almost forgot... I did a load of laundry Monday night.
     Have I mentioned how much I miss my mother?
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