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

Friday, December 26, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... A very Merry Christmas...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     One of the great things about the Christmas season is getting to spend time with my family.  Cheryl and I are excited about having Gracie home from college and just as excited that Matthew has no school or basketball practice until after the New Year.  And, of course, Noah enjoys hanging out with... and cooking for... his brother and sister.
     But the fact of the matter is that we see these three every Christmas season. They really don't change all that much... at least not anything worth mentioning. Once Grace realizes that we don't have a conveyor belt to take all of her dirty dishes from the kitchen, things will get back to normal around here.
     But we do like a challenge, so we decided to spice it up a bit this year and add my mother into the Christmas fray.
     My mother moved in with us in November, and so far, so good. We provide a roof over her head and and three square meals a day, and she does the laundry and the dishes... sans the conveyor belt.
     It is a win-win for all of us.
     This Christmas, I have had the awesome experience of spending some bonus time with my mother.
     Our fun started this past Monday, when just the two of us went Christmas shopping. I probably have not been out shopping with my mom since we went out to buy corduroys at the Pants Corral back when I was in seventh grade. My mother is now... and always has been... a bargain hunter... so price is definitely an object. This was never more evident than when, after she bought gifts for my kids, she went hunting for new shoes for herself.
     She established a pattern... try on the shoe, comment on how much she liked the shoe, ask me the cost of said shoe, and then adjust her opinion of the shoe based on the cost of the shoe. She tried on ten pair of shoes and, predictably, purchased the cheapest ones.  
     This reminded me of the time when I was playing basketball in Junior High School and wanted to buy a new pair of Converse Hook Star shoes. They were the bomb diggity of athletic shoes back in the day... and cost forty dollars. Each time I asked for them, I was reminded by my mother that she had played ten years of women's volleyball and wore the same Fruit of the Loom sneakers for all ten years. Why should I need a new pair of shoes every basketball season?
     Well, let's think about that... she played one hour a week for three months out of the year, and her shoes lasted ten seasons. I played basketball every day for two or three hours a day and wore the same shoes for every practice and game... as well as wearing them every day to school, to church, in the rain, snow or sleet. Uphill. Both ways. Oh, did I mention that my shoe size changed from month to month.
     Nike... NO! Adidas... NO! Reebok... NO! Converse... NO! Fruit of the Loom... YEAH BABY... Those are the shoes for me!
     Our recent little shopping spree was a blast and I am hoping we get the chance to go out together... just the two of us... every year. A new tradition. And who knows? Maybe next year, we will hit the Pants Corral.
     When Christmas Eve rolled around, Cheryl pulled up lame with a fake stomach bug!
     I believed it to be an elaborate effort by her to avoid helping with all of the wrapping that had to be done. This was a bit of an unusual tactic because in Christmas Eve's past, Cheryl would just pass out asleep after we got home from church and our yearly Christmas Eve dinner with our good friends, PJ and Geraldine, leaving the final preparations up to me.
     Apparently, this year Cheryl decided to cook up a convoluted ruse... complete with fake vomiting... to avoid the late night fun!
     Okay, she may not have been faking.
     I was convinced she was really sick when she decided to stay home from Christmas Eve Mass and skip this year's dinner with the friends. So it was just the kids, my mother and me... all alone to fend for ourselves.
     I am going to admit something that may get me a one way ticked to Hell, but... Christmas Mass is
 my least favorite Mass of the year. No matter what time we get there, there are never enough seats, or worse, there is some kid sitting in a row... sometimes two rows... with a bunch of people-less jackets. No people... just jackets taking up space. We always... always... have to stand in the back.
     Anyway, I was a bit concerned that my mother would not have a seat, and her biggest advocate was home sick in bed.
      We arrived at the small church near our house... not our usual parish... fifteen minutes early... and the parking lot was packed. We caught a break when a friend of mine was directing traffic. He sent me to drop off my mother and then scored me a spot close to the entrance of the church. I quickly parked the car and got into the church ten minutes before Mass started only to find my kids standing in the back... without Grandma.
     How did you lose Grandma in the little bit of time that I was parking the car?
     We didn't lose her... the priest just snagged her and escorted her down the aisle to the front row. 
     Looking around, I noticed there were not a lot of open seats... front row or otherwise.
     Well, where are we sitting?
     We're not... we are standing in the back. 
     I was thinking that this had to be some mistake. but just then the priest popped back into vestibule and asked if that were my mother.
     It sure is, Father!
     Oh, well I just told all the ushers that she was my mother, and that is why I walked her down the aisle. 
     As I wondered why he would do such a thing, I commented, Well, Father, "your mother" is not Catholic... and you just ushered the only Lutheran in the building into the best seat in the house! 
     Soon after that, I became concerned that my mom would get confused about all the particulars of the liturgy. I mean, a Catholic Mass can be like a high school cheer... Kneel to the left... Kneel to the right,.. Stand up, Sit down... Fight Fight Fight!  I was concerned that she might get confused and make some tragic mistake... right there... in the front row... for all of the congregation to see. I told the kids if she screws something up, we are going to stick with the priest's story that she is his 
     I kept a watchful eye on her, and she seemed to handle things like a pro.
     But as the Mass continued, I became more concerned about how we were going to get her out of there. We couldn't very well run up and get her before it was over, and once the priest left, the entire church would be pouring down the aisle against us. In addition, I thought I should go get the car, at the risk of fighting traffic, to get back to the front door to pick her up.
     After receiving the Eucharist, I skipped my normal prayer time and concocted an escape plan that would have made Seal Team 6 envious. I told Grace and Matthew that as soon as Mass was over, and the priest had exited the church, they were to swim upstream and grab Grandma. 
     Noah and I will leave to commandeer the transport vehicle while the two of you make a break for Grandma, and we will all rendezvous at the front entrance of the church.
     My final instructions were... if Grandma gives you a hard time or can't keep up, knock her out, throw her over your shoulder, and carry her out to our meeting point. Failure is not an option gentleman!
     Of course, I performed my duties flawlessly and got to my car with plenty of time to spare.
     Unfortunately, I was so good that I was sure that I'd be sitting at the front of the church blocking up traffic. But much to my surprise, as Noah and I pulled up, Grace and Matthew had Grandma ready to go. I was thinking that my plan ran like clockwork... they should have sent my kids and me out to get Bin Laden.
     As I commended my troops, I was interrupted by Matthew... Actually, General, er uh, Dad... the priest walked her back down the aisle. 
     Wait... you mean to tell me that as the priest walked down the aisle... as he recessed from the church at the end of Christmas Mass... he stopped and grabbed Grandma?
     Not only that, my mother chimed in, he asked if I had a ride home. I told him that I hoped that I had a ride... and that I hoped that my son did not leave without me. He told me if you had left me, he would have given me a ride home himself!
     I pictured her walking down the aisle, giving the Princess Di wave to the congregation, as if she were royalty.
     Funny I should mention her being a princess because once we got to PJ's house, he... and his wife... and their kids... and their other guests all treated my mother as if she were a princess. It was as if I weren't even there... until PJ was ordering me to get my mother a plate or a drink or some dessert.
     Despite the fact that my wife was home sick, my new date and I had a delightful evening.
     As an added bonus, Cheryl rallied while we were gone and got some wrapping done... right before passing out on the couch leaving the final preparations up to me.
     Every Christmas morning, we open our gifts before heading to visit, first my brother Jeff's home, and then to Cheryl's parents' home, for some very special time with extended family. Tradition. But then, late in the day, we make it a point to return home to prepare a fancy Christmas dinner. Also tradition.
     This year was no different. Noah and I collaborated on a delicious meal followed up with banana splits. Between dinner and dessert, we broke out a Christmas trivia game. We first asked everyone individual questions... guaranteeing everyone some success. And then we upped the competitive factor by adding some all-play rounds... and, finally, we enjoyed some heated one-on-one challenges. Unfortunately, Grandma considered every question an all-play and blurted out answers whenever one popped into her head.
     The whole game broke down when my mother faced off against Cheryl for a one-on-one challenge. The question was... Name the three reindeer that have a name that starts with the letter D! 
     Grandma was quick to respond... Donner, Doctor and Dentist! 
     Close, but not quite right!
     The game was a blast, but the lasting thought that I had was that this will be a memory that my kids will talk about every time we sit down for Christmas dinner.
     New roommate... new traditions!
     It was a great Christmas holiday for our family... made extra special by our new housemate... Queen Vonnie.
     But for the record, now that Christmas Day is over, we fully expect the princess to turn back into Cinderella and start using that brand new extra-large dish drying pad that we bought her for Christmas!
     I sure hope everyone enjoyed their time with their family as much as I did... and I hope that you all had a very blessed... and a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... The game that will live on in infamy...

     Funny Guy Friday is written by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     'Tis the season!
     Christmas is full of so many great events that will live forever in family infamy. Moments that nobody will ever forget.
     One such episode occurred in our first year of marriage.
     A few days past Christmas, we were visiting Cheryl's family, and they decided to play a brand new game called Humble.
     Humble is a board game where one person hums a tune and his/her teammates have to guess the song. Sometimes the hummer hums for a single teammate, and at other times he may hum for everybody in the game... Sort of like an ALL PLAY in Trivial Pursuit.
     Now, if you have never met my wife's family, I will try to give you a quick description: If the Von Trapps married the Partridge Family and had kids... those kids would be my in-laws. The hills are alive with the sound of... C'mon get happy!
     They love music and music has always been a big part of their lives.
     I, on the other hand, used to play Bread albums in an effort to impress girls... and I listened to the radio if, and only if, there was nothing on TV. The conventional wisdom had me overmatched in such a musically dedicated game. Ahhh, but I am a competitor and would surely rise to the lyrical occasion... or as it turned out... not.
     Things did not go well for me in Humble.  
     In fact they went badly... really, really badly.
     My wife and her sisters knew the names of every show tune, classic rock, pop, religious and folk music song that came up. Pick a decade... any decade. And they could all carry a tune.
     I only knew those few Bread songs, songs that played during the seventh inning stretch, and perhaps a few ditties by Michael Jackson, and of course the Tea for the Tillerman stuff. But even if I had known more songs, I would have still stunk at Humble. As the name of the game would suggest, you had to be able to hum a tune.
     The game took a turn for the worse when I got caught up in a challenge with one of Cheryl's sisters. Another sister was humming a tune that we had to guess. Neither of us were able to name the song. I was doing so poorly that I considered this a victory. Sure, my team didn't gain any ground... but it did not lose any either.
     Yay for me!
     Then the humming sister commented that she was surprised that the other sister did not get the song because we all used to sit around the campfire and sing that one right after we would all sing Kumbaya, my Lord. 
      My competing sister's reply was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back:
      I did know the song, but I really wanted Mark to get one... and I did not want him to feel bad about losing every round!
     I would like to tell you that what I am about to describe next is an exaggeration, but sadly, it is not! I got so mad that I could hardly think... although one could argue that I really wasn't thinking straight the whole night. I stood up and announced I am not going to sit here and be patronized... humiliated and pitied. If I lose, I will lose with dignity. Cheryl... get your shoes on... we are going home! 
     The words that my lovely wife then spoke are as clear to me today as they were some twenty-two Christmases ago: No! We are not going anywhere. If you don't want to play, then don't play... but we are not leaving because you are mad about losing some stupid game. 
     This exchange was followed by an awkward silence.
     A long awkward silence... a silence that was broken only when Cheryl ordered that someone roll the dice and play on! Time's a wastin'!
     You know, my eyes well up with tears every time I think of the "support" that Cheryl showed that night. Although, truthfully, I do get a little filled up thinking back on her competitive display that night.
     So, I ask you, what was I to do? I had been verbally castrated in front of Cheryl's entire family. Keep in mind that this was early on in our marriage, and I had not yet established myself as the coolest son-in-law in the family. I had little goodwill to rely on, so I was kind of naked on an island. Of course, and how can I say this without offending anybody... I must admit, the competition is slim for that coveted spot.
     So, anyway, I put on my shoes and walked out to the car... and with all the dignity that I cold muster, I walked back into the house and waited for Cheryl to finish her stupid game. But I showed them... they got nary a hum out of me!   
     Unfortunately, I was not kidding when I wrote that this was a moment that nobody in Cheryl's family will ever forget. In fact, I am sure that all of Cheryl's sisters are reading this and chuckling at the memory.
     So as Christmas rolls around... I send them glad tidings of joy and wish them all a very Merry Christmas. And I pass on the words that are uttered at every holiday family function...
     Cheryl, get your shoes on, we are going home!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... You know Dasher and Dancer...

    Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
    It came once a year!
    The success of the entire kid Christmas season was dependent upon this event. I dare say that there was zero percent chance that you could have a truly merry Christmas without it... and if you missed it, there was no second chance.
    Talk about pressure!
    Your parents were always aware of it... but it was clear that they did not care about it as much as you. Sure, they would sit with you, but it did not have the same meaning to them.
    The smart kids planned for it a week in advance.
    Of course, I am talking about the annual viewing of the 1964 classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
    When I was very young, there were no DVD's... no VCR's... no VHS or Beta.
    There was CBS... one showing per season... and I loved it. Every bit of it... with the notable exception of the song, There's Always Tomorrow, by Clarice, Rudolph's young girl friend. Just too slow. It brings the audience down.
    My, how times have changed.
    You can watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer 24/7 if you so wish.  DVR it or pop it in the VCR.  That's not all that has changed. As I have gotten older and have become a little more critical, I have come to the following conclusion... Santa Claus was a jerk!
    There... I said it.
    I realize that this may result in coal in my stocking, but the truth has set me free. In fact, I will go even further than that. Every character in that show... with the possible exception of Yukon Cornelius... was a jerk.     
     Don't believe me?... then let's review.
     A beautiful baby deer is born with a slight defect. Instead of a big black ball for a nose, he has a shiny red nose. Mom seems okay with it, but Dad... not so much. In fact, good old Comet, is so ashamed that he makes his son wear a prosthetic nose whenever he goes out in public. The prosthetic nose is not only too large for the poor buck, but it restricts his airway and causes a bit of a speech impediment.
     Comet's biggest fear is that his boss... Santa Claus... may see the young buck's red nose and not only reject young Rudolph, but the entire family. Comet's job was clearly on the line with the big red man!
     So off goes poor, pitifully disguised Rudolph to participate in youth sports and in the process, try out for the BIG SHOW.  That, of course, is the opportunity to lead Santa's sleigh. Rudolph was a stud. He was light years ahead of the others.
     In the midst of the big tryout, he manages to meet a young, attractive doe... the aforementioned show-killer, Clarice.
     As an aside... I learned this week what the deer rutting season was. I had never heard that expression before, and a friend mentioned that he was going hunting for a doe. I asked why specifically a doe, and he explained that the males are "rutting" and only have one thing on their mind. They tend to get skinny from neglecting to eat because they are on the move... wanting nothing but to... ahem... mmm... rutt!
    I commented that this explained why I was so skinny... just kidding!
    Anyway, back to the show...  Clarice's dad, Donner, who also happens to be Rudolph's coach, upon discovering Rudolph's red nose, forbids his daughter from seeing Rudolph. In fact, he takes it one step further. Donner actually encourages Rudolph's potential teammates as they make fun of Rudolph, laughing at him and calling him names. Ultimately, Donner bans Rudolph from participating in "any reindeer games."
    He actually uses those exact words, just like in the song.
    Santa comes upon the scene and throws fuel on the fire by confronting Rudolph's dad and telling him that he should be ashamed of himself, trying to pass this oddity off as a normal-nosed reindeer.
    If that were my son, Santa would have had to undergo a antlerrectomy. For those of you that are not trained in the medical field, an antlerrectomy is a medical procedure whereby trained surgeons remove antlers from being deeply buried in one's posterior.
    Rudolph is ashamed and is forced to leave town. On the way, he meets up with a wayward elf named Hermie and the happy-go-lucky prospector, Yukon Cornelius. What can I say about good old Hermie and Yukon?  Both kind of odd ducks... but harmless.
    Hermie was forced out of Santa's sweatshop by his supervisor, who can best be described as "an angry elf." My apologies to Buddy the Elf for stealing that line.
    We have no idea about Yukon's backstory, but he seems to be a good guy who looks after young Rudolph and Hermie.
    The three carry on together in search of a better life.
    Their journey is complicated by the existence of the Abominable Snowman. He is a hairy, hairy gent, who ran amok in Mayfair. No wait, that is the Werewolf of London. Good old Abominable just wants to eat everyone!  
    The three castaways ultimately find their way to the Land of Misfit Toys. Now I ask you, who banned these toys to this island? I have a theory, but I am not sure, so I won't speculate for fear of spreading rumors.
    Rudolph decides that his red nose makes the trio easy prey for Abominable, so he sets off on his own. In the process, Rudolph grows up and comes to the realization that he has to go home and make things right with his pop. Not sure why Rudolph feels as if he has anything to apologize for, but he returns home. To his pop's credit, he has also realized the error of his ways and had set out looking for Rudolph. But even in doing the right thing, Comet demeans all of the women out there when he orders his wife to stay put because this is "man's work."
   The wife ignores her husband's admonishments and sets out in a separate search party with Clarice, who happens to be in complete defiance of her own parents. At this point it was The Hunt for Red Rudolph.
    Alas, they all become caught up in the clutches of the Abominable Snowman with only one chance at survival. Rudolph and his friends arrive to save the day.
    Everybody, including Santa, realizes the error of his ways, and all is well.
    Except, of course, the big snowstorm.
    You would think that after years of doing this, the North Pole would have some contingency plan... but they don't. As a result, Santa is forced into canceling Christmas.
    As if.
    In the middle of Santa's big announcement, Rudolph's nose goes off. Despite our being advised by the narrating snowman that Santa had learned his lesson, Santa is noticeably annoyed at Rudolph and in the process of ordering Rudolph to turn that thing off, Santa gets an idea.
    Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight?
    This guy has got some nerve... huh, don't you think? He chastises Rudolph's family. He humiliates Rudolph and runs him out of town. He promotes a hostile work environment for anybody that is the slight bit different. And now he wants Rudolph... and his red save the day.
     I may have had a different response... one that might have resulted in Santa undergoing a second antlerrectomy. Of course, Rudolph does save the day... and NOW... only NOW... do all the reindeer love him! 
     So now I am starting a campaign to combat the mistreatment and bullying that occurred to Rudolph. We can all agree that we don't want what happened to Rudolph to happen to anyone else. I am selling tee shirts to NBA all-stars that say R3too... or R Cubed Too... that they can wear in pre-game warm-ups. Of course, this means that Red-nosed Reindeers have Rights too! It's kinda catchy.
     So, if anyone out there knows any NBA stars... or any NBA scrubs... let me know.
     If not now, when? The time is right! I mean... as long as we're re-living the '60's.
     Do it for Rudolph! We, along with Rudolph, will all go down in Hiss... torr... eeeey!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Funny Guy Friday... I'm an idiot...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     I am an idiot!
     I thought I was smart, but I am not. I'm an idiot!
     This was never more clear than when my sister and her two daughters, Katherine and Jennifer, came to visit this week. Her youngest is getting ready to go off to college and is preparing her college application essays.
      I never had to write any essays for college. I remember getting a call from the baseball coach at the University of Maryland asking me if I were going to attend their school.  I told him that I had not yet heard if I were accepted. He put me on hold and came back thirty seconds later, saying... You're in... are you coming? 
     That was it. No essays. No nothing. I loved it!
     Nowadays, after getting great grades and kicking butt on the SAT's... you have to write essays. Say it like Allen Iverson discussing practice... We talking essays.... essays!
     Katherine's topics include... Describe a conflict in your life and how you were able to overcome it.... Describe a setting where you interacted with people whose beliefs are different than your own... and Consider your lifetime goals and discuss how your current and future extra-curricular activities may help you achieve those goals.
     She was struggling with ideas... which was not surprising since she is only seventeen years old and really has not had much of an opportunity to get into any good fights with idiots she doesn't agree with.  And at seventeen, do you really have any lifetime goals... other than either being rich or marrying somebody rich?
     I, on the other hand, am a fifty-one year old man, so this assignment would be a piece of cake for me. Being the good uncle that I am, I volunteered my services. You see, I am married... I deal with conflict on a daily basis. For example, my wife wanted to paint our study red; I wanted to keep it the same off-white color that it had been. The room is red... I overcame the conflict by caving in.
    Mark is the name, conflict resolution is the game!
    I have children; therefore, I deal with people that have different beliefs than I on a daily basis. For example, I think that our bedroom floors should be free of wet towels and my kids think that bedroom floors are the perfect place for a couple... TEN... wet towels.
    And my lifetime goals are the same today as they were when I was six... I want to be rich or be married to someone who is rich. So my extra curricular activities include hanging out with rich people.  I suppose that if I ever did take up with some rich woman now, I would have more to write about regarding that first conflict in my life topic!
     That was it. That was all I had to offer.  You know why this is all I had to offer? Because I am an idiot!
     Then Jennifer rolled into town, riding on her dissertation. And get this, she had to write a 30-page prospectus explaining what she was really going to write about!
     Think about that for a second: thirty pages just to get to the two hundred pages you really are going to write. I don't know thirty pages worth of anything, much less 200 pages of stuff!
     Jennifer's topic is Paradigms of Knowledge in 20th Century British Theater. 
     She described it as follows... I used six British plays and reviewed the characters and how they acquired knowledge and blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah bladdy blah blah blah blah.... blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah and of course bladdy blah bladdy blah bladdy blah blah. So you see... Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.  Uncle Mark, please stop singing "paradigms equal 20 cents"... And  blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah!  
     In fact, at one point, Jennifer observed that the conversation was getting a bit deep and not everyone may have been interested in hearing the entire story. I interpreted that as Uncle Mark is starting to drool and nod off, maybe we should go back to discussing who had a better career, Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny! 
     I am not kidding... that is how she explained her dissertation topic, only it went on for what seemed like hours. I pretended to understand... I even mustered up the courage to ask a question. But it was clear to everyone that I was confused and bewildered.
     I had more glaze in my eyes than a Krispy Kreme donut. To paraphrase Renee Zellweger... You had me glazed at the word prospectus! 
     This happens often.
     For goodness sakes, there are people who have worked in my office for more than three years now, and I still have trouble recalling their names. What is wrong with me?
     Cheryl says I don't try. Sadly, I do try... I am just an idiot.
     In fact, I often think... How did I get through law school? How do I have any success in my law practice? How am I able to convince anybody to do anything? How was I able to get someone like Cheryl to marry me?
     I have thought about this for a long time... at least 45 seconds or so... and the only answer that I can come up with that will account for any of my success... and this should not surprise anyone that has ever met me... because I have heard people say: I am pretty funny!
     An idiot... Yes. But a funny idiot.
     Let's be honest, if every week, I sat at my computer and typed away at Deep Guy Friday, how many of you would read it? How many of you would read about The quantum physics involved in the propulsion of an air pellet through the barrell of an air soft gun versus How I shot my son in the rear with an air soft gun?
     Like any 12-step program, the first step is admitting there is a problem. I recognize my strengths and my weaknesses and I do what I can.
     I have no idea what the other 11 steps are, nor do I care... but I've got number one down, so I've got that going for me!
     Finally, although he may not have had the staying power of Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny was a way better actor. You know why? Because he was funny!
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