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

Friday, February 27, 2015

Funny Guy Friday... The boyfriend...

     Funny Guy Friday is written by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy... who happens to reeaallly love our daughter Grace...
     Well, it happened. The day I had been dreading for the last eighteen years.  It happened... and it was awful. I hated it!
     Grace called us from college about a week ago and wanted to come home for a day or two.  This, in and of itself, seemed odd because she likes college, and it seems to me that she only comes home when she has to... or if there's too much drama.
     When Cheryl mentioned that she was going to go pick up Grace, I immediately asked... What's wrong?
     Nothing... she just wants to come home.
     Well it's Valentine's Day... and maybe she just wants to escape the drama.
     This was good news... for me!
     I had heard rumors that she was dating a young man, but I had never gotten any solid verification of such a relationship.
     In fact, just the opposite.
     Over Christmas break, Grace had been home for four weeks, and I never saw the so-called boyfriend around the house... despite the fact that he allegedly traveled right through Maryland on his way from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. Additionally, I never saw Grace actually talking... in a real conversation... with words and such... to this guy during that entire Christmas break. Admittedly, there was quite a bit of texting, but who uses texts as the sole mode of communication these days? And she could have been texting anyone. And she never asked to head off to his hometown to see him.
     After the break, when I drove Grace back to school, she refused to let him know that I was there, so I never saw the guy. I had begun to think that he was made up! Cheryl claimed to have met him, but as far as I could tell... she was just covering up for our poor, pitiful, imaginative daughter.
     At this point, I started calling him Remington Steele.
     A few days later, our little Laura Holt... er... um... I mean... Gracie... upped her little ruse by changing her facebook status to read... "In a Relationship."
     Can I digress for a minute? Do we really need to let seven hundred of our facebook "friends" know when or if we are dating someone? Do people actually troll facebook for dates and cross off those "friends" who have declared themselves to be "in a relationship?"  Just another stupid social media thing that I don't understand!             
     So, why did I say Grace's visit home during Valentine's Day was good for me? Because she was finally throwing in the towel on the make-believe boyfriend and coming home to see me... the one and only true love in her life.
     I mentioned all of this to Cheryl, who then pointed out that Grace was bringing ol' Remington home with her.
     Brian, the boyfriend!
     Brian, the boy she is dating.
     So, he is for real?
     Yes. She told you. Cheryl tells me I never listen.
     I tried to cover: Right. Where, did you say, he is coming?
     Here... to our house... for the weekend.
     This weekend.  
     Is this for real? He is coming here? This weekend?  
     Yes, honey. Do you need to sit down?   
     So... this kid shows up at my house... and after meeting him for one weekend, here is my scouting report.
     Kind of quiet. I like that.
     Not totally into sports, but he does snowboard. That's a plus.
     As an aside, I should have known something was up when Grace wanted ski boots for Christmas. Grace never liked skiing when she was younger. In fact, several years ago, we bought her boots and skis for Christmas only to have her return them. Hmm... Remember who snowboards? Brian!
     Okay... back to my report... He was home-schooled. That's no guarantee. I've known too many home-schoolers.
     He is a Catholic who goes to church regularly. Big kudos from Cheryl!
     He pokes fun at Grace. Bigger kudos from Gracie's brothers.
     He is in the ROTC program at school, which explains why Gracie has requested that we wake her at 0-800 hours.
     He is an EMT and can differentiate between the sound of a police siren and an ambulance siren. Not really sure what to make of that special skill, but it is nice to know if I keel over from a heart attack, somebody will know what to do.
     Although politics never came up, I am told he is politically conservative. I will reserve passing judgment on this topic until we discuss Ronald Reagan.    
     But, at least, for now... he's alright. I did not hate him like I should hate the boy my daughter brings home from college. I hate the thought of him, but personally... he's okay.
     I'll give him a B-... which is a pretty impressive grade because I fully expected him to fail... miserably!
     To be fair to the poor kid, in order to get an A, Brian would have had to be a Catholic, conservative Derek Jeter... so he should be feeling pretty good about my grade.
     And you know what... if he has the right opinion of the Reagan presidency, he could even move up to a solid B.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Funny Guy Friday... Lent begins...

     "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return."
     It is that time of year: the Lenten season.
     It all starts with Ash Wednesday when all good... and some not so good... Catholics get ashes spread on their forehead. This marks the first of forty days of sacrifice.
     This Ash Wednesday, I received a call in my office from a good friend, who happens to be a judge, asking if I wanted to join him and his secretary at the local noon Mass.
      I enjoy both of them and thought it would be a good idea to knock out Mass early in the day.  The only down side of going to early Mass is that you walk around all day with a black smudge across your forehead. No problem, I wear it like a badge of honor.
      On the way to church, I put Cheryl on speaker to give her a heads up about our plans, and at the end of the conversation she asked that we pray for her. As I hung up, the judge asked... Does she want you to say her prayers for her? or say a prayer for her soul?
      What? I was a bit confused.
      Again, he wondered aloud: Does she want you to say the prayers that she usually says so now she does not have to say them? or to say a prayer for her so that she goes to heaven or something?   
     Pray for her soul, I tried to assure.
     Are you sure?
     I can call her back if you wish so we can get an official ruling.
     The clever banter was just getting started.
     We got to the church very early and took our spots in the pew. His secretary asked what I was giving up for Lent. I don't typically give up something but try to do something to improve my life. I explained that I was going to take each day of Lent and start cleaning out junk in each room in the house. Get rid of what I don't use and donate stuff to those in need. Forty bags in forty days, if you will.
     You have to give up something, the judge interjected.
     You don't have to give up something, I insisted. You can do something to improve your life and bring you closer to God... I will say a prayer while I clean.  But... just so you know... I have given up stuff before... I gave up sodas three years ago and have never gone back. I don't drink coffee, so that was the only caffeine that I had ever had.  
     So what are you giving up? he asked again.
     I got an idea... I suggested... why don't we pick something for all of us to give up... like chocolate and coffee.
     You don't drink coffee and you don't like chocolate, said my friend.
     True... but I will be cleaning out my closets and you won't be.   
     Well, I do like the idea... I could give up coffee and desserts.
     That will be tough because you are going to miss the caffeine, I insisted.
     No, I won't... he assured... caffeine does not affect me. 
     How do you know?
     I never used to drink coffee... and it never bothered me not to have the caffeine. 
     That is because you never had the caffeine... but now you have so you are going to get headaches and get tired when you quit cold turkey.
     No I won't, he persisted.
     That is like a heroine addict saying that the heroine that he never did... did not affect him. 
     It is nothing like that, he said, starting to get a little testy. You know what?... I am going to give coffee up for the Lord but also just to prove that you are wrong. 
     By the way, I added, you can't just substitute some other form of caffeine, or it's no good.   
     Not good for you or for God?
     Neither. I could see he was starting to hedge his bets.
     He followed up: I also need a ruling on the desserts... what if I eat a donut in the morning. That is not really dessert.
     I would agree with that. 
     What about apple pie in the middle of the day?
     So your dilemma is... if you eat a dessert-like food but not for dessert, does that count as a dessert?
What if we just say you will give up sweets? 
      No... I am not giving up coffee and sweets. Coffee and dessert, he insisted.
      I will give you the donut... but not the apple pie. That's fair.
      Agreed. If he'd have had his gavel, he might just have hit the pew with it.
      Hmm... I wondered what the elderly lady in front of us was thinking about our interpretation of sacrifice!
      So with that settled, we listened to a great homily about what we as families and as individuals can do during the Lenten season to bring us closer to the Lord.  We got our ashes, took Communion, and went back to work.
     I won't bore you with the banter about the Latin singer. She wasn't Latino, but she sang a song in Latin.
     I had an appointment later that afternoon, and before it began, I looked in the mirror and saw the ashes on my forehead. I had forgotten about them and wondered if my client might be a little taken aback. As I entered the conference room, I decided to put him at ease, so I commented that I had just seen the ashes on my forehead in the bathroom mirror and remembered that I had received them earlier in the day.
      My client looked at me and said, Yeah, it has been so cold... everyone is using their fireplaces and stuff! 
      My client thought that I had just gotten ashes on my forehead from handling wood in a fireplace. I started to explain about Ash Wednesday but thought better of it.  I had had enough clever conversations for one day and besides that... I wanted to get a jump on getting home early. I only have forty days to get all my closets cleaned!
     I hope you all have a great Lenten season.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Funny Guy Friday... Good night, Uncle Dave...

     When I was a kid, my family used to make annual trips to visit my grandmother and my Uncle Dave, in Connellsville, Pennsylvania.
     As I recall it... from my days as a youth... Connellsville was about eight hours away. We would stock up on comic books and candy for the long trek. We would jump in the back of my dad's station wagon and sit in the way back. Often, we would sit facing backwards looking at the vehicles driving behind us.
     I am getting nauseous just thinking about that.
     Once we arrived, we would greet my grandmother in her roomy townhouse before running out to play kick the can or hide and seek. Once it got dark, we would play tag with a glow in the dark ball. In between games, we would run to the candy store that was, oh, I dunno... about two or three miles down the road... all by ourselves... like we were adults living on our own.
     During most visits, we would head into town and hit Bud Murphy's for pizza.
     I loved those visits to Pennsylvania.
     I mentioned that my Uncle lived with my grandmother.
     Uncle Dave had down's syndrome and lived with my grandmother until she passed away several years ago. He then moved in with one of my aunts. Uncle Dave passed away at the age of 62 last week, and Cheryl and I drove to Connellsville for the funeral with my older brothers Jeff and Joe.
     Some of what I am about to write I knew before this trip... but some of it I learned on Saturday.
     Turns out that Connellsville is only about three and a half hours away. My grandmother lived in a small public housing community in a small brick dwelling. I have no idea how we were all able to walk around in that home, much less find sleeping space for six or seven people. And the candy store was about 200 feet away... just at the end of the sidewalk. Joe informed that my dad would stand in my grandmother's doorway and watch us every time we made the trip for some candy.    
     Bud Murphy's was not really downtown, but was right across the highway from my grandmother's home.
     But we did play for hours and hours, and I did love those visits to PA.
     One of the things that made those visits enjoyable was seeing my Uncle Dave.
     Uncle Dave did not talk much, but that did not mean that you couldn't understand how he felt or what he wanted. If he were thirsty, he'd put his hands to his lips as if sipping from a cup. When you forced him to tell you want he wanted, he would say Waaater! as if he had been crawling in a desert for days.
     Whenever he met one of our girlfriends, he would point to the girl and look at the boy and ask You? as if he wondered how "You" could get someone this pretty. That was always followed by a demand to Kiss her! which would then be followed by Uncle Dave kissing her hand and mockingly claiming her as My girl! as he faced you chest to chest.
     One of Uncle Dave's biggest advocates was my father.
     My dad would do anything for Dave, including making him say and do things for himself. Dave did not always like being forced to ask for the water. And he sure did not like it when he would ask for water and then be told that he had to get up and get it himself. In fact, on his way to get the water, he would often brush by my dad and say, in a slow almost-whisper:  I hate you Paul! 
     If you ever met my dad, you would know that not too many people could get away with that. We loved that line and my brothers and I often used that line when my dad would ask us to do something that we did not want to do... of course we never had the guts to say it within earshot of dear old dad.
     During the service, the pastor mentioned that Dave loved hot dogs, pizza, listening to music and most especially, Elvis. When the mood struck him, Uncle Dave would grab a microphone... typically a clothes pin, a pen, or a spoon... and shake his hips while lip syncing the words to Jailhouse Rock.
     I would add John Wayne to that list of things he loved. When John Wayne died, or anyone who Dave associated with being a hero would pass away, he would put his GI Joe in a shoe box and drape a rag/flag over the casket. Always paying his proper respects.
     The pastor concluded that Dave enjoyed the simple things in life and commented on how Dave was able to make an impact on so many people's lives. And with that, I would whole-heartedly agree.
     In my own life, when Cheryl was pregnant with our first child, the doctor asked if we would like to have amniocentesis performed, explaining that it could reveal potential problems. The doctor specifically mentioned down's syndrome. This made the decision to pass on the procedure very easy. I remember immediately thinking about my Uncle Dave and thinking... that would not be the worst thing in the world. I would have a child that I would take care of for the rest of my life. 
     The pastor mentioned that we were not saying good bye to Dave, but instead we were saying good night. He opined that Uncle Dave was probably greeting people in Heaven. At this point, I turned to Cheryl and said, I hate you Paul! I thought that was funny... and appropriate for the moment. Cheryl just blubbered at the thought of the two of them being reunited.
     Uncle Dave also had nicknames for most people. My mom was Ma'am. As in How do. Ma'am? as he hiked his pants up and puffed out his chest. Another of his sisters was Toots, and an older brother was Sonny. Most pretty girls were Cookie. He couldn't really whistle, but he would pucker his lips and make the whistling noise... right before he would call them Cookie!
     I am not sure how he came up with most of these names, but there was one name that had an obvious explanation.
     One of my younger cousins was Whaa Whaa because like most babies, she cried a lot. Unfortunately for her, when she was a baby, she spent a lot of time around Uncle Dave. Whaa Whaa was at the funeral, and as she turned to leave, I could see that she was crying as she was leaving him for the last time. Again, I turned to Cheryl and told her that Whaa Whaa was appropriate. This made Cheryl smile through her tears.
     Uncle Dave had a special place in Whaa Whaa's life, just like he did in everyone else's there.
     I said earlier that if I had a child with down's syndrome, it would not be the worst thing in the world. When I said that, I was thinking that I could have a positive impact on that child's life.       
     In reality, it was a child with down's syndrome that had the impact on our lives.
     You hear it all the time... that every life matters. It may not be what you wanted, and it may not be what you expected. But every life is a gift from God... and He makes no mistakes.
     Good night Uncle Dave... you will be missed.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Funny Guy Friday... I win I win I win!

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     I am not the most competitive person in the world.
     Don't get me wrong... I want to win when I play a game or enter a contest, but I am not crazy. Having said that, I want my kids to know what it is like to compete. Win or lose, they need to know what it is like to work against other people, to perform under pressure, and to keep their wits about them when the pressure is on.
     Matthew is a lot like I am.
     When we play against each other, I try... and am often successful at... getting inside his pea brain. He tries to give it back, but he does not understand that, as a white kid growing up playing a lot of basketball, I have heard it all. The only new retorts I've heard from him have something to do with my being an "old man." At least, I think it has something to do with my being old, but it is hard for me to hear because typically he utters this nonsense as I am driving by him for a layup.
     Noah, on the other hand, is not cut from the same cloth. He likes to take his time and does not like to be rushed. He crumbles whenever I talk trash.
     I know what you are thinking: why is an adult talking trash to a ten-year old? The answer is simple: I want to win.
     I know what else you are thinking: can't he just beat his kid one-on-one without talking trash? Well... yes, I can. However, I don't challenge Noah to games of one-on-one. That would be too easy. No, I challenge Noah to drawing contests. I will admit that he is a way better artist than I... but he tends to panic. On occasion, I may point out his every little mistake... or tell him that his mother loves me more... or that he was adopted from the Indians.
     No... wait a second... my sister Michel used to tell me that I was adopted by the Indians.  I never liked Michel.
     Anyway, this past week, Cheryl posted a picture of Zeus that Noah drew.
     They are studying mythology, and as part of the lesson, Noah drew a pretty cool picture of Zeus. Of course, people commented and mentioned what a great artist he is... or ... he gets it from his mother. 
     I had read enough, so I challenged him to an art contest. We each would draw a character from Greek mythology and post the two pictures on facebook... and let our facebook friends decide.
     My plan was to get us both in the same room on Sunday afternoon and begin drawing.
     In the course of the contest, I would torment Little Picasso and make him as crazy as that ear chopping nutjob Van Gogh (by the way, I just exhausted all of my knowledge about artists... Van Gogh was crazy). This may sound harsh but I was going to render Noah totally incapable of drawing something as simple as a stick figure.
     I could taste victory!
     On my drive home from work, I decided that I was going to draw Poseidon. He is kind of a cool god and there were limitless possibilities with oceans and ships. I may have even laughed a sinister laugh as I drove home knowing that my little boy would soon be reduced to a bowlful of jelly. The thought of a little bowlful of jelly with a pencil in its little jelly hand amused me!
     As I walked through the door, Cheryl asked if I had seen Noah's entry in the contest. Poseidon.
     No way, jack... the drawing does not start until Sunday. 
     I must admit, it was pretty good.
     Besides... I am drawing Poseidon... and the contest does not start until Sunday. 
     It was actually really good. 
     We have to be in the same room... and we have to draw in the same room... on Sunday!
     Both of us drawing on Sunday was crucial to my strategy.
     Noah broke in: You never mentioned any of that when you issued the challenge! Poseidon is my entry... you can draw Cupid!
     Cupid! Cupid is a sissy in a diaper. I am not drawing Cupid. 
     When I started to do my research to select the perfect mythological character, I ran into two little problems. Well... considering this was a drawing contest, you could say that there were two big problems. First, all the really cool characters were hard to draw. Second, I really can't draw. I was really putting all of my eggs in the turn him into a Van Gogh crazy jellyman basket.
     Ultimately, I selected Atlas. Why Atlas? He is symbolic of my life, what with weight of the world on my shoulders. Kind of ironic because Noah's drawing of Poseidon is symbolic of his life... a day at the beach.
     Despite my lack of talent, my rendition of Atlas was a worthy entry into the contest.
     In fact, I won by a very large margin.
     The facebook vote was eighteen for Noah and two for me. (On a side note to Ray Wander and Bob Higgins: I plan on drawing you both an original piece for Christmas this year. Thank you for your support.)
     There were six weenies that could not pick a clear cut winner and refused to cast a vote either way... and one person... that I plan on un-friending... that picked whichever one that I did not draw.
     You may be wondering how it is that I won by such a very large margin when the facebook vote was 18-2. Well, not only did I fail to tell Noah that that we were supposed to draw together on Super Sunday, I also failed to mention how I intended to keep score. You see, I know that all the people that could not pick a winner, really wanted to pick my drawing... but were afraid to hurt little Noah's feelings. Those votes go into my column. That brings the score to 18-8. But I am not done yet.
     Cheryl has 303 friends. Out of those 303 friends, only 26 cast a vote. That leaves 277 voters that did not cast a vote... because they did not want to hurt Noah's feelings. Those non-votes go into my column. But to be fair, I am only going to count half of those 277, conceding that that approximately half of the voters never saw Cheryl's post announcing that the voting had commenced.
     So the final vote was 146.5 for me and 18 for Noah. I don't want to appear to be gloating, so I will round down to 146 votes for me and 18 for Noah.
     Why round down? I don't want to rub Noah's face in it. I mean I am competitive, but I am not the most competitive person in the world. I mean... I'm not crazy!
     What I am... is a winner!

Noah's Poseidon
Funny Guy's self-portrait
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