April



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


Friday, November 28, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... Who could ask for anything more?

    Happy Thanksgiving!  We had quite a day.
    In fact, we had quite a week.
    Forget that... we have had quite a month.
    Several months ago, my family and I decided that it would be a good idea for my mother to move in with us. She had been living in a house that my sister Sheree built for her, but since my father passed away, she had begun to feel a little lonely.
    We have constant chaos at our house so it was perfect.
    I told her that the best thing about my house is that my wife and kids are there all the time... and the worst thing about my house is that my wife and kids are there all the time.
    The plan was for my mom to visit my brother, Paul, in Washington, for about a month in order to give us time to get everything ready. We had to clear out our basement, which like most basements, was full of junk. Then, we were to bring over her personal items and furniture and get things situated for her return.
    We had the perfect set up in our basement: a large bedroom... a full bath... a little kitchenette... and her very own spacious living room with a 54-inch TV. The only thing missing was a closet... so we had one built for her.
    Besides having the perfect set up, my mother was getting the opportunity to live with her favorite son!          
    Okay, maybe I am not her favorite son.
    This was made perfectly clear when my sister jokingly commented that Paul was her favorite. Without hesitating, my mother said, You would understand why if you ever spent any time with him out in Washington. Everybody out there loves him, too!
    I am going to chalk my mom's immediate response up to her being old... and crazy... and old. Because frankly, that woman is not that funny... and nobody likes Paul here on the east coast, so why would they like him out west?
    So, back to my perfect plan...
    Yes, it was perfect... until "he" called, in the beginning of October. That's right, "he" is west coast-favorite Paul. You see... he had been talking to Mom about the big move, and it turns out that my basement plan was only mostly perfect... there was one huge problem.
    Hey, Mark... this is Paul.
    Hello Paaaaul (and I said it in a weird, drawn out kinda disgusted way because I wanted to make him feel like I was disgusted that he called me). I know who you are... you're Mom's favorite. 
    Yeah, well funny you should mention Mom because I was talking to her, and she does not want to live in your basement. She feels like she is going to be separated from everyone.
    Whaaaat? (I said this in a weird, sorta panicked kind of way because in a weird sort of way... I was sorta panicked.) I continued, This is why we don't talk to Mom here on the east coast! You didn't tell her that we were going to put her down there and forget about her, did you?... like we did when we were kids... when our other sister Michel got married... and we put her parakeet out in the garage and forgot about it... until it was too late! Poor Petey! We promise to bring Mom up every day!
    No, that is only part of it... she does not want to go up and down steps.
    Paul... we have no bedroom on the first floor... we have no shower on the first floor... we only have 37-inch TV's on the first floor. Stairs are going to be a daily part of her routine, no matter where she sleeps. Did I mention that we had a closet built?  
    Well, she was hoping you could figure a way to work it all out!  
    Hey, wait a second. You're not trying to keep her, are you? You're not getting her. 
    No. I am not keeping her. She is just concerned about being in the basement. 
    Does everyone now understand why we don't talk to her on the east coast? ...And why we don't like Paul?   
    Cheryl and I came up with a second perfect plan... perfect plan B, if you will: shorten our living room and make that her bedroom... expand our bathroom to become a full bath... push our laundry room out into the garage... and create a hallway through the new space with easy access from the laundry room to the garage... and replace the former laundry room with a roomy walk-in closet.
    And one final detail... we would do all of this by Thanksgiving!  
    On a side note, the laundry room kind of intrigued me.
    My mom loves to do laundry. I felt that this bigger laundry room would not only appeal to her, but would satisfy me in ways that I cannot begin to describe.
    We called a couple of contractors to discuss our plan... including our time frame. After they chuckled... or downright laughed... they told us that, yes, it could be done. They made no promises but thought it would be possible.
    I called Paul back and advised him that mom would have stay out west for an extra month... but don't even think about keeping her. She is mine!  
    Remember our basement full of junk? We sort of had a whole house full of junk. We had a lot of work ahead of us before they could start tearing down our walls. This was not going to be easy, but it had to be done.
    The construction commenced on October 22nd.
    Funny thing about doing a construction project with my wife: the entire house looked like a snow globe that you just picked up and shook, and she was losing sleep over a door jam that was off by a quarter of an inch... or a tile joint that was not exactly straight... because she claims that she is a perfectionist. 
    At the time I said, confounded: Perfectionist! Our washer and dryer are in our kitchen... laundry is piling up everywhere... the entire house is full of dust... and our garage is full of tools and supplies... and you claim to be a perfectionist? Well, I am here to tell you that it looks just fine. The problem is that you are watching them make the sausage, and now you don't want to eat the sausage.
    That is not it. I am telling you... the door frame around the laundry room is not level... and the grout lines are off on two of the rows! I can tell!
    What is that... some kind of superpower that you have?... the ability to tell if things are level? I would prefer that you could fly... or make yourself invisible. Well... you tell the workers. I will back you all the way, Wonder Woman! 
    Turns out she was right... the door was uneven and the tiles were off. It was obvious. As the man of the house, I had them make the proper corrections... right after Cheryl asked them to do it!
    Once the work was done, we had to add the finishing touches.
    Throughout the project, Cheryl painstakingly looked for the right vanity and sink... the right bedding... the right curtains... the right paint colors. She hung the right pictures on the wall... perfectly level, by the way... and she had the right flowers on the dresser... ready to greet my mother. Cheryl joked that she was building my mother the room of her own dreams.
    Four days before Thanksgiving, my mother walked into her new bedroom for the first time... and cried. I must admit that it was perfect! All of our hard work and Cheryl's planning paid off.
    On a side note, when my mother walked into our new laundry room, I cried! My clothes are going to be so clean!
    So... she has been here for a few days, and it is as if she has been here for years. The only hiccup so far was on her first night here, Mom said she was going to go rest in her room... and promptly opened the door to the garage.
    Just a small learning curve.
    Right now it is three o'clock in the morning... the day after Thanksgiving. We just hosted dinner for my family, which included nearly fifty people. Everyone got to see the new digs and to visit with Grandma for a bit.
    It was perfect.
    We had had so much help with this project over the past few weeks because everyone wants my mom to be happy.
    There are many things that I am thankful for because God gives us so much. But there are two, in particular, that stand out this Thanksgiving.
    I am blessed to have the chance to provide a home for my mom. She has done so much for all of her children, and this is a great opportunity for me to give some of that back to her.
    I am also blessed to have a wife who cares for my mom so much that she opened our home for her. I would say that Cheryl willingly agreed to this arrangement, but that would not be accurate... she insisted that it be this way.
    So... in a nut shell... I am thankful for the two most important women in my life, and as a bonus, all of my laundry is going to get done... and everything in the house will be level.
    Who could ask for anything more?    

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... You never studied...

    Appear weak when you are strong... and strong when you are weak.
    The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise attributed to Sun Tzu, a high ranking military general, strategist, and tactician. The text is compiled of thirteen chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare. For the last 2000 years, it has remained the most influential military treatise in Asia and has had an influence on Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategies, and beyond.
     My man Sun Tzu was one tough dude. And I bet that he had the mental advantage in every single battle over every single opponent... except one.
     Mrs. Sun Tzu.  
     You see, I have come to the realization that women, of which my wife is one, can be... how can I say this without offending anyone... diabolical masters in the art of confusion.
     Sun Tzu would not last three rounds with Cheryl.
     Now to be clear, I am not talking about Cheryl's arguing skills, which by the way, are more than formidable.  Instead, I am talking about her pre-argument head games that put me at an immediate disadvantage once the arguing ensues.
     On the outside, Cheryl appears to be the kindest, nicest, mildest person that God has ever put on this earth. But in reality, she is a mind numbing ninja warrior. Unfortunately, it is my mind that is numbed. It is at those times that I have no idea what to say or what to think... and I am confused and helpless. Like a fly caught in a spider's web... knowing that at some point... I am going to get eaten. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow.
     But make no mistake; I am going to get eaten.
     This past Sunday, we pulled up in the church parking lot, and like on most Sundays, I dropped Cheryl and the kids off at the door. A woman, whom I had never met, was unloading her children. Cheryl commented that she is whosamajig's sister! 
     Who is whosamajig? 
     You know her... she's got the kids. 
     Lots of women have kids in our church. 
     Theresa... You know Theresa. 
     Ah yes, now I know. I didn't really know, but I was trapped... what was I supposed to say?
     You never studied, she added disgustedly, as she shut her door and headed into Mass.
This is a reference from the movie Ghostbusters. Bill Murray's character never understood anything his colleagues said because he... never studied.
     Cheryl says that a lot to me.
     I drove away to park the car and wondered, How could she possibly be irritated by the possibility that I did not know who that gal was or that she was whosamajig's sister. I mean, she did make a point of pointing her out to me so she assumed I was clueless as to her identity... and that woman certainly did not look like Theresa whosamajig... Whoever that is. My gosh, this is confusing. 
     So... fast forward to Tuesday evening... Matthew and I were moving a freezer from the basement into the garage. I was on the top part of the stairs pulling up on the dolly while Matthew was at the bottom pushing.  We were taking it one step at a time when we got to the top step. I was at a weird angle and could not get my feet under me. The dolly came to rest on on the top step. The problem, was that my finger was caught between the dolly and the step. It hurt. It hurt a lot. I was afraid to let go because, as much as my finger hurt, a freezer smashing my son at the bottom of the steps, would have hurt a lot more.
     Eventually, I extricated myself from the self-inflicted position, and that is when Cheryl, who witnessed the whole episode, asked, Is it heavy?  
     Yeah! Only I did not just say yeah.  I gave a sarcastic chuckle and said, Uh... yeah. 
     Conversation over! You see, she did not just hear me say yeah... She heard me say Hell yeah... duh... of course it was heavy. It is a freezer... Did you not just watch me nearly lose a digit... What kind of stupid question was that? Why are you even here? 
     In fairness, she was partially correct.... I did mean the first part!
     Eventually, I apologized. This is when she told me that she knew it was heavy. What she was really asking was Matthew, is it too heavy for you? Are you okay? 
     Matthew! I nearly lose a finger, and you are worried about Matthew? You're kidding, right?
Only I did not say that... I thought it but did not say it.
     What I did say was Yeah, as I once again chuckled! And with that chuckle, I started the whole thing all over again.
     But still, Cheryl had more Jedi mind tricks up her sleeve.
     On Saturday, we were getting ready to attend a charity dinner. As I was putting the finishing touches on my tux, I asked Cheryl for some help with my cuff links. As I prepared for her to slip the cuff links through the holes in my sleeves, Cheryl mistakenly assumed that I was just rolling my sleeves up. She inquired... What are you doing? 
     I said nothing. I looked at her and continued getting my sleeves ready for presentation for the final cuffing.
     Somehow, this was bothersome to Cheryl. I remind you, that I had said absolutely nothing!
     You could have just said that you were just rolling them up so the holes lined up... you didn't have to do that. 
     I................said..............nothing.
     Despite my silence, I felt bad for my actions.
     How does she do that?
     Clearly, I do not quite understand the Art of War. I appear weak when I am weak... and weak when I am strong!
     I don't think that is right.
     But who knows? Certainly not me.
     I never studied.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... Hey, good lookin'... whatcha got cookin'? How's about cookin' somethin' up for me...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     I called home a few weeks ago and informed the love of my life that I had some clients coming to the house but that I was running late. I advised that these folks are friends of mine, and it was safe to invite them into the dining room. I would be along shortly thereafter.
     When I got home, my clients were seated in the dining room, so I quickly greeted them and poked my head into the kitchen to say my hellos. On the counter was a tray containing some drinking glasses and a pretty, crystal pitcher of ice water topped with lemon slices. Not just any glasses... but our nice drinking glasses. You know the ones... they are so high up in the cabinet that you have to get a chair to get them down. They are much too good for us to ever use. My sweetie had gone to great efforts to make a beautiful presentation.
     Is this for us? I inquired.
     Yeah... I figured that you all may want something to drink, and we had some lemons, so I though it would be nice. 
     Wow! Thanks. 
     As I carried on with my meeting in the dining room, I noticed a flurry of activity in the kitchen... as well as the sweet smell of tomato sauce. Suddenly, the doors to the dining room were pulled shut and I was left to talk with my clients privately.
     After I concluded my meeting and my guests departed, I quickly made my way into the kitchen to see what all the action was about.
     It appears that ravioli and meatballs were in my immediate future, but evidently, there were some problems preparing the meatball part of the meal. The onions and garlic had been chopped, the eggs were waiting to be cracked, and the salt, pepper, bread crumbs, and Parmesan cheese were ready to go. The problem was that the ground beef was still frozen, and there appeared to be no ground veal anywhere.
     Typically, none of this would be a problem. Cheryl always knows the right microwave setting, and she remembers exactly where to find the ground veal... assuming that we have some.
     But you see... Cheryl was not home... she was spending the day at the hospital with her mom who had had hip surgery.
     Did you think Cheryl was doing all of this stuff? No, no, no... it was Noah.
     You see Noah is the new love of my life. He is my sweetie.
     He has taken up cooking, and get this... cooking is considered a class in home school. How great is that? Measuring the ingredients is part of math, nutrition satisfies the health requirement, and cooking involves chemistry... I guess.
     By the way, a ten-year-old cooking meals? Yeah... we are not talking burgers and dogs.
     So far, Noah's repertoire has included stuffed acorn squash, spaghetti and meatballs, steaks on the grill, scallops in a white wine sauce (speaking of scallops, how many dads have their ten-year-old call them and ask if he can pick up some scallops on the way home for a recipe I want to try out), bang bang coconut shrimp with mango salsa, meatball subs, and under the tutelage of his wonderful Aunt Annie, lasagna.
     Yes, Cheryl's sister Ann has fallen in love with Noah, as well. A couple of weeks ago, she drove three-and-a-half hours just to give him a goody bag full of cooking gadgets. Okay, maybe she was also stopping along the way to visit with Cheryl's mom, but given the way she feels about Noah, I think that Ann's visit with her mom was secondary.
     And my heart's desire doesn't make just dinners; Noah also makes some killer desserts. We have had pumpkin pie, apple crostata, baklava, and of course, the all-American milkshake.
     When Cheryl and I were first married, I made a little promise to myself that once a week, I would bring home flowers for her. We were young and thrilled to be together. I would rush home to see her and to find out what was waiting for me once I got there. I suppose it was the novelty of being married.
     So, I ask... is it weird that I now have that same feeling about Noah? I mean, I don't want to bring him flowers or anything, but still. To be completely honest, that flower thing only lasted for about a month, anyway.
     But with Noah, I am excited to get home and see what's cooking. When I call home, I can't get Cheryl off the phone fast enough; I want to talk to Noah and see what we are having for dinner.
     Noah watches all the cooking shows. Bobby Flay is akin to Peyton Manning in the cooking world. From what I can tell, Bobby Flay is on about eighty percent of the shows on the Food Network. There is Grill It with Bobby Flay... Cooking with Bobby Flay... Beat Bobby Flay... The Iron Chef with Bobby Flay... Throw Down with Bobby Flay... and Bobby Flay Can Play Croquet. Okay, I just made that last one up... but you get the picture.
      Noah watches the Food Network all the time, and I wouldn't dare stop him. Not only do I not stop him, I encourage him... and will physically hurt anybody that interferes with his marathon TV sessions. Giada... Ina... the crew from the Kitchen... They are all friends of his.
     Of course, unfortunately, he does have other interests. He recently asked about going out for basketball. I tried to discourage it.
     Wait... Noah if you play basketball, you will have to practice at least two or three nights a week.
     I know. I like to practice. Lots of running and exercise...
     Who needs that? You do understand that if you are out practicing, you won't be home cooking. We already miss you on Tuesdays because of CCD. Can we... I mean... can you really afford two more nights out of the kitchen?
     Mom can make dinner. 
     Yeah.. right... sure. Maybe you can skip practices... I checked out the rules, and they have to play you half the game no matter what. 
     Dad, I can make dinner the other nights. 
     Whatever. Go play your stupid little basketball game. You do realize you are only going to be about five-foot-ten. I have done some research, and that is the perfect height for a chef! 
     Here is the good news... Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Noah won't have any of those pesky little games or practices. He will be free to cook until my stomach... er uh... until his heart's content.
     Who knows, I may even bring him some flowers.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... (Don't) let me see some ID...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     I still remember the first time.
     I was eighteen years old. As I closed the curtains, I was standing there... vulnerable, nervous, and very apprehensive. At the same time, I was very excited to be in this position. I was asked to be there by the one that I loved and respected... who was I to say no?
     This person meant the world to me.
     In spite of my nervousness and apprehension, I performed my duty. And if I may say... I performed it well.
     At the age of eighteen, I cast my first vote ever... for Ronald Reagan... the greatest president of my lifetime... if not of all time.
     You knew I was talking about voting right? What else would you be thinking?
     Now that I think about it, in most instances, people get better with experience... but my first vote... and the same vote four years later... were the two best votes of my life. Of course, it is entirely possible that it may have more to do with the candidates than my voting skills... but they were definitely my best votes.
     Of course, all of this is relevant because this past Tuesday, I voted in the mid-term and gubernatorial elections. I love election day, and I take my duty to vote very seriously. Despite the fact that my preferred candidates have little chance of winning in the deep-blue, great state of Maryland, I still vote in every election.
     Up until two years ago, I voted at our local fire house.
     The person that signed me in every two years was a family friend and has known me since I was six years old. We would chat, and then he would give me my card, and away I would head off into the voting booth. Certainly no need for me to provide any identification under those circumstances.
     Two years ago, after the gerrymandering (I say this with great derision... see Maryland's congressional and legislative gerrymandering here and here) that resulted in my two-and-a-half square mile town being split into two separate voting districts, our polling place changed to a new location ten minutes away, and our friend is now nowhere to be seen.
     I understand that Maryland no longer requires proof of identification to vote.
     I think this is ridiculous, but as they say... Rules is rules! My mother used to get mad at me whenever I did not follow the normal routines that everyone else would follow. She would ask with disdain... What... you don't think that the rules apply to you?
     You know, sometimes they don't.
     As I entered my new polling place, I did not recognize any of the volunteers. And if I don't recognize them... my guess is that they don't recognize me.
     As a result, every time I vote, I whip out my driver's license to show that I am, in fact, me. The result of my sinister act of identifying myself has been met with the same reaction the last two voting cycles... the pollster throws his hands up in the air and pushes away from the table as if my driver's license has been stricken with the Ebola virus.
     We don't need that... we can't have that!
     But how do you know that I am who I say I am? 
     We are going to ask you a few questions to prove your identity. What is your name?
     Mark Palumbo.
     Mr. Calumbo... how do you spell that?
     With a P.  Let me show you... it is right here on my...
     No! That won't be necessary. What is your address? Month and date of  birth?
     All of that information is right on my driver's license, and those are not exactly secret questions that would prevent some other schmuck from coming in here and saying he is I. For example, I know my brother's name, his address, and his birth date. I could be he for all you know. Please, just take a second and look at my driver's license. 
     We can't do that Mike!
     Mark... My name is Mark Calumbo, er... uh... Palumbo. Now, even I am confused about who I am. 
     These folks were steadfast in their refusal to take my ID. They wanted no part of it. I honestly got the impression that had I wanted to, I could have pulled out my license and started taking hostages.
     Don't anybody make any sudden movements, or I swear, I will make this pollster hold my license in her hand and get information off of it. I swear... I will do it... don't test me! 
     After a few minutes of this clever banter, I finally gave them the information that they had requested. As an fyi... I was the only one in line, so my obnoxiousness was not intruding on anyone else's right to vote. I was eventually handed my voting card and sent off to vote.
     As I was leaving, I asked the poll workers what time their shift changed. One nervous pollster asked why I needed that information...
     Because I plan on coming back and voting as my brother, and I just want to make sure I don't run into any of you folks the second time around.  
     They hate me at my new polling place. But that doesn't faze me one bit. In fact, they better get used to me because I vote in every election... and since three of the folks that I voted for in this election emerged victorious... I consider this to be my lucky polling spot.
     Who knows? Maybe some day, I will be able to cast a vote for a president as good as Reagan. If he were still alive today, I am sure he would tell me...
     Well, there you go again... hoping for another president just like me. But there is only one Ronald Reagan. I can prove it to you. Just take a look at my driver's license!
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