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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pulling for Texas for Right Reasons...

Up until last night, I wasn't very interested in the World Series.  My team was long gone and every other team I had some interest in also was knocked out.  I frankly didn't care less about the two teams left standing.  I was more interested in the Miami Heat than baseball (which continues to be my favorite sport).

Even so, I tuned in last night, more out of curiosity then anything else.  But, as the game developed, I found myself rooting for the underdog Rangers and the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  By the end of the game, I was not only interested in the World Series, I was convinced about rooting for the Rangers.

These are the top 5 reasons why I am cheering for the Texas Rangers to win this year's World Series:

1-After the Mets (you may laugh, but they are still my favorite team), Phillies (despite being a Mets' rival, I was rooting for Mike Sweeney), Marlins (just cause they're the home team) and Yankees (although most Mets fans hate the Yankees, I moved to Miami too young to develop that animosity) were eliminated, the pickings were slim.

2-Josh Hamilton, who is one of the best stories in all of professional sports.  He was drafted as the Number One Pick in the nation out of high school in 1999 and received a $4 million signing bonus.  But, his career almost faltered before ever getting underway due to an addiction to drugs and alcohol.  After being suspended and repeatedly violating his suspension by testing positive for illegal drugs, Hamilton stopped playing baseball altogether for two years; from 2004 to 2006.  During that time off, He turned his life and career around after converting Christianity.  In fact, as this YouTube testimony indicates, Hamilton is not shy about sharing his conversion with others.  He returned to baseball in 2007 and today is considered one of the best players in Major League Baseball.

3-Jeff Francoeur, an ex-Met, who was traded to the Rangers towards the end of this season and despite his struggles in the Big Apple, was one of the best clubhouse influences on the team.  Francoeur is known as a great teammate, a hard worker and having a positive, never-give-up attitude. 

4-Nolan Ryan, one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, is now part owner of the Rangers.  Aside from his stellar playing career, Ryan is considered one of the true class acts in all of sports (not to mention, he is a staunch Conservative. Did you notice GW, a former Rangers owner, and Laura sitting next to Ryan and his wife, Ruth, in the stands?).

5-They make their home in an area (Arlington, TX) known for those who cling to their Bibles and guns, as opposed to making their home in an area (San Francisco, CA) that is at the forefront in trying to legalize marijuana and gay marriage and keeps reelecting Nancy Pelosi to Congress.

Need I say more?  (C'mon, admit it, if you weren't already rooting for the Rangers, Pelosi was the clincher in making you want to).

I could add that they have never won a World Series since the original Washington Senators moved to Arlington in 1971 and the fact that I played on a men's baseball team for more then ten years, that wore the Rangers' uniform and used their name, but I rather not have to come up with three other reasons to complete 10.

So, what team are you rooting for?

Friday, October 29, 2010

GW Takes the High Road...

No pot shots, no counter-attacks, despite the constant barrage of insults and blame he continues to receive from the current administration, Democrats and critics, and, according to early reports, no excuses. 

George W. Bush’s about-to-be released book on his memoirs, titled Decision Points, is even being released a week after the General Election, on November 9th, to avoid political controversy.

In the book, Bush reportedly openly discusses his personal life, including his alcoholism, and the motives and reasoning behind the most critical decisions during his two terms in the White House.

For me, one of the fascinating aspects of the preliminary information on the book is the former President's faith and the role faith played in his convictions and decisions. The Drudge Report states: 
In the chapter "Stem Cells", Bush describes receiving a letter from Nancy Reagan detailing a "wrenching family journey".

But ultimately, Bush writes: "I did feel a responsibility to voice my pro-life convictions and lead the country toward what Pope John Paul II called a culture of life."

In the book, Bush describes an emotional July 2001 meeting with the Pope at the pontiff's summer residence.

Savaged by Parkinson's, the Pope saw the promise of science, but implored Bush to support life in all its forms.

Later, at the Pope's funeral -- and after a prodding from his wife that it's a time to "pray for miracles" -- Bush found himself saying a prayer for the cancer-stricken ABCNEWS anchor Peter Jennings.
Although not Catholic, Bush demonstrated great respect and affinity for Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and the social teachings of the Church. His pro-life views on issues are unquestionable and he surrounded himself with many Catholic advisors.  In fact, since his brother Jeb and good friend Tony Blair converted to Catholicism, there were many rumors that GW was a closet Catholic, or at least, had a great affection for the faith.

If anything, Decision Points should shed a different perspective on the man that led our nation for eight years and his image that, while tainted over the last years of his Presidency, still commands respect among those closest to him for his honor and convictions.  And, if the early leaks on the book are any indication, Bush takes a low profile, humble and high road approach.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Silence is Golden But Not Always...

I’m not much of a talker first thing in the morning. In fact, I’m not much of a talker later in the morning, at midday, afternoon or at night (I’m what you may call the strong silent type, and I use the term strong loosely!). My wife, friends and co-workers are use to my quiet demeanor (and can usually tell if I am truly listening or focused on something else, which I will admit is one of my many faults).

“Did you hear what I said?” my wife often asks me, to make sure I am paying attention. “Of course, I am.” I answer (trying desperately to recall what she may have just said). “Then answer me!”

It’s funny, sometimes my wife tells me something and, although I am listening, she pauses and waits for a response. I think she’s done and start doing something else and she gets really upset. What? What did I do?

I get wary whenever I hear, “answer me” (It’s like I feel the hairs in the back of my neck rise and the sensation an inner voice is telling me, “get out!”). At that point, I know I’m walking on thin ice. What does she want me to answer? Do I need to say something? Can I get away with: “Ok,” “That’s nice,” “Sounds good,” “I’m with you,” “You’re the bomb!” “Way to go!” or “Count on me.” I usually don’t know what kind of response she’s looking for. Any ideas?

But, going back to my early morning silence, I usually get up by 5:45am (3 or 4 times a week) so I can exercise. How else do you think I can maintain this svelte physique? I either go jogging, which is a great way of just being in silence, praying and thinking, or go to the gym, which, aside from exchanging superficial pleasantries, is also a time for thinking and praying. Obviously, I like keeping myself company (I can be very entertaining, at least in my own mind!). Maybe, I would have made a good Trappist Monk…. Then again, maybe not!

Anyway, my morning workout routine is my time to get acclimated to the day, at my own pace, before having to deal with anyone else.

Yesterday morning, I went to the gym and somebody must have overslept because, when I got there, several people were outside waiting for the doors to open and talking. Apparently, one of the women had just returned from a trip to Europe and was very chatty with the others, who all apparently know her.

After waving hello to the group, I sat in one of the benches to tie my shoes (I usually just slip them on at home and tie them when I get to the gym) and waited for the doors to open.

I am in my zone (inner-self, peace, not very attentive to my surroundings. I guess I can add being selfish, distant, unsocial but I rather not).

After the doors opened, we all herded in.

Not long thereafter, Luis, a very gregarious, goodhearted and physically average-looking trainer (not your typical muscle-bound high energy character that goes around saying, “I’m going to pump you up!”), comes over to me to ask about my family, just before I start a set on the universal machine.

Luis is one of the few guys in the gym that actually goes around talking to people and listening to what they say. Sure, it may be part of his job to drum up business but he comes across very sincere. He actually remembers things people tell him, which, for me, is a great feat. Many times, I forget a conversation by the time the other person turns around (not a bragging point).

So after briefly talking to me, Luis starts training three women (ranging in age from early 30’s to one, that I swear, is in her mid-to-late 80’s). He works them out simultaneously on different exercise routines.

Luis is the kind of person that attracts people. I admire that. That is a quality that I strive for but often fall short of (especially in the morning). That is the quality of a Christian; demonstrating a true concern and interest for his fellow man (and wo-man). I'm not even sure where he stands spiritually since I have never approached the topic with him (I've been too busy not talking!).  

As I finished my routine, another woman arrives, who I recognized as a regular at 8:00am morning Mass at my parish. I don’t know her name but say hello. Then, I noticed that after hugging the woman, who had been on a trip, she also joins the other women working out with Luis (He has the early morning training market cornered).

While actions speak louder than words, and there is something to be said about doing instead of talking, I realize that while in my morning silence, self-absorption and indifference (and to think, I like to think of myself as a man of faith, yikes!), Luis is showing me a thing or two about serving as an example of Christ to others; through caring (and thus love).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fr. Barron on St. Thomas More and the Bishop of Rome

In the same place (Westminster Hall), where Sir Thomas More was condemned to death, accused of treason, for failing to take King Henry VIII's side against the Roman Catholic Church, the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI, addressed both Houses of the British Parliament last September.

Fr. Robert Barron's latest commentary sheds light on the irony of this historic event, which symbolically brought into full circle an almost 500 year enmity from when the English monarch severed ties with the papacy and established his own church, the Church of England (aka the Anglican Church), so he could get divorced from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

St. Thomas stood by his convictions, despite knowing the penalty for his action, stating:

"I die the king's faithful servant, but God's first."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Parenting and Partying Make Strange Bedfellows...

We usually hear the footsteps approaching from down the hall (having a 1926 Old Spanish style home with wood floors, it’s not uncommon, as small steps sometimes make big noise, especially in the silence of a night’s sleep).

I can usually tell by the sound of the steps, whether the culprit is my 6-year-old daughter or my 3-year-old son that is heading towards our bedroom. They walk past my side of the bed and beeline to Mommy’s side (probably, thinking correctly that my wife is more receptive to the intrusion). Then, I feel them climb into bed.

It seems that several times a week, either my son or daughter end up finding their way into our bed in the early morning hours (occasionally they both do) and interrupting the soundness of our sleep.

Having a queen size mattress, that has seen better days over the past 12 years (we have been meaning to replace it for, at least, the last four), it seems the kids always end up rolling into the “pit” (the noticeable indentation on my side, which, at this point, doesn’t matter how many times we flip the mattress).

Not long after getting into bed, I feel the first smack of an arm in the face, or knee in my side, or my right arm starting to tingle from a loss of blood flow or a foot fight over the bed sheets. Annoyances that would warrant an immediate response of tossing the child off the bed but, in my deep slumber, just try to shove them (towards my wife) and continue sleeping.

It’s funny, my older daughter would always get kicked out of our bed (she was the first and we had a lot more energy to fend her off back then). By our second child, we started getting more lenient and now, by our third, my wife actually helps them up herself (yeah, maybe that’s not what parenting experts will advise but, at this point in our life, it takes too much effort to wake up and force them back to their room. Hopefully, it won't catch up with us in the future!).

Fortunately, they don't sleep in our bed all night. We usually get the little guest sometime between 5:00am and 7:00am, which during weekdays, is not as disruptive. However, on the weekends, it can take a toll, especially on nights that we go out and go to bed late, as we did this past weekend.

Both Friday and Saturday nights, my wife and I had parties to attend and burned the candle at both ends (although, for me, that’s not saying much since anything past 10:00pm, is already past my bedtime).

Friday night, we had a fundraiser for my men’s church group, which was an open bar, roasted pig and karaoke affair for about 100 of our closest friends.

Saturday night, we had our daughters' school's Kindergarten Parents’ Social, which was also a large event with an open bar, food, music, dancing and many Jell-O shots (I'm sure our parish pastor and school principal would de-emphasize the latter at a school parents party but, hey, the purpose of the gathering is to get to know the people we will be socializing with during the next nine years or so. What better way to get to know someone then with Jell-O shots?).

On both nights, we got home at a reasonable time (although way past my bedtime) and on both nights, we had a little visitor come to interrupt our night just when we thought we were going to sleep in a little longer.

To make it worse, on Saturday morning, our daughter apparently came when she was ready to get up and started kicking her leg on the bed and talking. By 4:00pm, I was exhausted and, while my wife worked out (her way of relaxing), I fell asleep (my way of relaxing). Fortunately, my Mother-In-Law came over to take the kids out to an early dinner before babysitting for the night and I was able to get some much-needed beauty sleep before getting ready for the parents’ party.

Sunday, both my daughter and son ended up in our bed and, if that weren’t bad enough, our Rottweiller, Garbo, started barking to be let out shortly after the break of dawn. I had to get up, turn off the security alarm, and go let the dog out. By the time, I got back to bed, my older daughter, who is almost impossible to wake up for school during the week, had also made her way into our bed (in my spot).

We ended up waking up early and were at morning Mass by 9:00am (as most parents know, sleep deprivation is part of the job description, and I've heard, it only gets worse!).

This week, instead of looking forward to the weekend (we have another party Friday night), I'm looking forward to the work week, to hopefully get a little more rest.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

New York Times gives Archbishop Big Apple Blues...

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan has had about enough with the anti-Catholic slant in The New York Times.

In his latest blog, Dolan writes that it seems the paper has a different set of standards when addressing Catholic matters, as oppose to say, the Jewish, Black, Islamic, or gay communities.

Dolan got upset at two recent rave reviews given by The New York Times on artist expressions disparaging Catholics.  One is a play that mocks the life of nuns and the other is an exibit by a homosexual rights group known for anti-Catholic attacks, which The Times stated is a "must see."  He writes:

This glowingly reviewed not-to-be missed “art” exhibit comes to us from Harvard, and is a display of posters from ACT UP. Remember them? They invaded of St. Patrick’s Cathedral to disrupt prayer, trampled on the Holy Eucharist, insulted Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was here for a conference, and yelled four letter words while exposing themselves to families and children leaving Mass at the Cathedral. The man they most detested was Cardinal John O’Connor, who, by the way, spent many evenings caring quietly for AIDS patients, and, when everyone else ran from them, opened units for them at the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center and St. Clare’s Hospital. Too bad for him. One of the posters in this “must see” exhibit is of Cardinal O’Connor, in the form of a condom, referred to as a “scumbag,” the “art” there in full view in the photograph above the gushing review in our city’s daily.

The paper, which spent months trying to establish a direct link between Pope Benedict XVI and the Church sex and cover-up scandal, and later failed to retract it after proven unsubstantiated, has apparently been on the Archbishop's crosshairs since being appointed head of the Archdiocese of New York early last year.

Dolan admits that he has yet to develop the thickness of skin needed in New York City.
I guess I’m still new enough here in New York City that the insults of The New York Times against the Church still bother me. I know I should get over it. As we say in Missouri, it’s like “spitting into a tornado.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Political Correction of NPR Senior Correspondent...

National Public Radio announced the "severing" of contract (i.e. firing, showing the boot, pink slipping, or canning; whatever sounds best to you) of Senior Correspondent, Juan Williams, for making comments deemed too politically incorrect against Muslims. 

For those not familiar with his work, Williams is an award-winning journalist, who has authored or co-authored six books on the Black American experience in the United States and writes for several newspapers, including The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Aside from his print work, Williams worked (until Wednesday) as Senior Correspondent for NPR and is a Fox News Analyst.

During an appearance on The O'Reilly Factor Monday night, Williams was talking to host Bill O'Reilly about the growing problem in the United States with Muslims, who have ties to Jihadists around the world.

Williams said:

Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

NPR executives did not take too kindly to his comments, especially after receiving complaints from the Council on American Islamic Relations. Williams told Fox News that after 10 years with the company, NPR didn’t even have the courtesy to fire him in person. They told him over the phone that his contract was terminated.

According to an NPR statement:

His remarks on The O'Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.
Now, I don't know about you but, does expressing a very "personal" concern about flying make you a bigot?  Then, why, after more than two decades of expressing his opinion on NPR, CNN, Fox News and several national newspapers, would it be undermining to the credibility of NPR for Williams to express this opinion?

Unfortunately, it's yet another indication of how we, as a nation, are walking on thin ice when it comes to political correctness.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chasing the Essence of St. Francis...

“Figúrate, para eso somos los padres,” (or loosely translated, “Imagine, that’s what parents are for”) the man in his late 70’s said as he gave me a ride to my car.

Tuesday morning, I was on my way to my parents’ house for coffee and a quick hello before going to work. On my way, I noticed an elderly man and a woman trying to push a car in the middle of LeJeune Road, several blocks north of SW 8th Street.

As I drove past, something told me to stop and help.  I made a U-Turn, parked my car on the street they were trying to turn into, crossed the street and started pushing the car quickly across the busy avenue. I suggested that the elderly man get behind the wheel and the woman, who was much younger, help me.

We were able to avoid the incoming traffic and moved the car into safety.  They were very appreciative and couldn’t express their gratefulness enough.

After pulling the vehicle to the side of the road, I found out the man lived a couple of blocks away and they were planning on pushing it home so that a mechanic friend could work on it.  I offered to help them finish the job and we started the treck to their house.  While on the way, the woman, who I found out was the elderly man’s daughter, told me she had been praying for someone to stop and help them.

After pushing the older model Saturn sedan into the side of the house, the white haired man and his daughter again profusely thanked me.  In a genuine gesture of appreciation, he said, “Aqui tienes tu casa” (“Here you have your house”) and offered me coffee or something to drink. Knowing I was pressed for time, I was unable to accept. So, instead, he offered to drive me (in another car) back to my car.

As we drove off, I noticed a small statue of St. Francis of Assisi in his front yard and commented on it.  He told me his daughter put St. Francis there as well as several statues of angels around the yard. “She loves angels,” he said.

Then without any prompting, he confessed that his daughter was going through trying times. She lost her home to foreclosure, had recently lost her job and was in the process of getting divorced. She and her 15-year-old daughter moved in with him and his wife.

At that point, he made the statement, “Figúrate, para eso somos los padres.” How true, I thought. Once our children are born, we are called to live a life of sacrificial and selfless love for them and, for most parents, it doesn't end when our kids get older and start their own families.

He then quoted from the Prayer of St. Francis (one of my favorites), “For it is in giving that we receive” and we briefly discussed prayer and the faith.

As we arrived at my car, he extended his hand to me, “Jose Sanchez, at your service. Thank you greatly for your help. I always tell my family that there are a lot of bad people in this world, but there are also many good ones.  May God repay you with many blessings.”

While driving away, I remembered another quote from St. Francis, “Preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words.”

And, I realized, this opportunity had already been my blessing.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lovely Way to Start the Day...

Well yes and.... maybe, not so much.

I'm getting ready to serve in my first Emmaus Retreat for Men in Spanish this weekend (I’m part of the English Team at my parish but have never served with the Spanish group).

For those unfamiliar, Emmaus is a weekend retreat (some for men and others for women) that allows average, everyday people (non-clergy) to grow closer to God through a series of talks and exercises. It is a wonderful bonding experience with God and people from all walks of life and from varied religious and, even, non-religious backgrounds.

Knowing that I was going on retreat (and would be eating more than several men consume in a 2-day period), I got up this morning and went for a jog for the first time in about two weeks (I’ve been lazy, what can I tell you?). I didn’t finish my usual 3.5 miles but did run three and walked the rest of the way (considering that I haven’t been jogging, I felt pretty good.  It helped that the weather was unusually cool and dry).

For me, one of the benefits of running is the opportunity to concentrate on prayer, without the distractions of cell phone, radio, television, computer or even kids. I usually pray the Rosary but often get into deep conversations with God between the decades. It actually keeps my mind off the pounding on my knees and ankles (at a robust 240 lbs on my lean mornings, naked and before breakfast, my body takes a beating!). In fact, when I don’t pray the Rosary, and instead use my iPod (I haven’t graduated any higher in the techno gadgetry), I tire a lot faster and mentally give up. Go figure; Mary helps me run longer!

After my run, I got home and, while getting ready for work, packed my clothes, towel, sheets, toothbrush and C-Pap machine (I suffer from sleep apnea and need it for sleeping. If not, I snore fiercely and my sleep is interrupted every 58 seconds, according to the sleep study I was administered at the UM Medical Center).

My wife came home unexpectedly after dropping off our daughters at school because she wasn’t feeling well (I actually thought she was coming home to make up with me since we have been in a tiff since yesterday and I will be away this weekend). She lay down in bed next to our son, who was still sleeping (Oh well, so much for a REALLY good start to the day). After the initial disappointment, I decided to rush to morning Mass, which I thought I would have to miss for a lack of time (Since, my wife and I couldn't become one body, might as well become One Body with Christ, right?  It's a Catholic joke, if you don't get it).

After Mass, the weather was still beautifully cool and pleasant, I briefly greeted some friends outside of church and then went back home in a great mood, with all intentions of making up with my wife before leaving for my retreat. (what a great day, I thought, filled with joy and peace).

When I got home, my wife and son were still asleep. I decided to get him ready and carried him into the bathroom. He woke up and sat on his baby potty. Remember, the stomach virus that my 6-yr-old daughter had last week? Well, my son has it now.

This is where the morning gets ugly.

I went to flush his gift and the toilet started overflowing.

It was 8:30am. I need to get on a conference call for work at 8:45 and drop my son off at school by 9am.

The adventure begins.

I got the plunger, and started to try to unclog the obstruction carefully, so as to not make a mess in the bathroom (I was already showered and dressed; and didn’t need to start cleaning up feces. That was absolutely not in my plans!).

It was not working.  I decided to put more force behind the plunger… still not working.

Forty five minutes later, with splashes of toilet water (and more) all over my jeans, shoes, the bathroom rug and everywhere around the bathroom, I was sweating, disgusted, had missed my conference call and had yet to take my son to school. I was already running late for work and, needless to say, was in a foul mood (what a great day, I thought, now filled with spite and resentment).

It’s amazing how things change and go from a lovely start to a beautiful day to being covered in fecal matter in just the blink of an eye.

Obviously, God is trying to tell me something.  Maybe, I should put my house in order before venturing to try to put others' in order this weekend...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Faith Kept the Miners Focused on Living...

Esteban Rojas, 44, gets on his knees to pray after being rescued.
Sixty nine days trapped in what amounts to be a large hole about two thousand feet into the depths of the earth.

As we all know, thirty three men survived the collapse at the San Jose Mine in northern Chile. Starting last night, the tedious rescue began, using a single-man-capsule hoisted from half a mile deep through an opening of 21-inches in diameter.

As they started pulling them out, one by one, it was heartening to see many of them, making the sign of the cross and praying.

Omar Reygadas wrote on his helmet, “God lives” with today’s date.

Mario Sepulveda, who was one of the first to be rescued last night, told a television station, “At no point in time did I doubt that God would get me out of there.”

His wife Lilian told a CNN reporter, “If not for faith, they would have never survived.”

And then there was Mario Gomez, who at 63, is the oldest of the group and suffers health issues that were of concern to the rescuers.

One of the many poignant images of the day, was when Gomez, who has worked in the mines since he was 12 years old and was going to retire in November, got down on his knees after hugging his wife and prayed before hugging all the rescuers, friends and well-wishers present. 

Gomez described his rescue as a “miracle from God” and, after praying, was heard saying, “I’ve come back to life.”  He wore a rosary around his neck; a reflection of Chile's population, which is considered to be over 90% Roman Catholic.

President Sebastian Pinera, who was there to welcome some of the miners as they were rescued, said, “Today, life defeated death. Hope defeated anxiety.”

Photo: Hugo Infante/Chilean Government/AP Photo)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Coming to a TV Set Near You; Muslim Superheroes...

This is interesting; a children's television network, The Hub, formerly Discovery Kids, which launched this week, is planning to show a Muslim faith-based superhero cartoon program, called "The 99."

The program is a hit among kids in Arab countries and has gained an audience in Europe.  Network officials are hoping to have similar success in the U.S.

The NY Post's Andrea Peyser writes:
Hide your face and grab the kids. Coming soon to a TV in your child's bedroom is a posse of righteous, Sharia-com pliant Muslim superheroes -- including one who fights crime hidden head-to-toe by a burqa.

These Islamic butt-kickers are ready to bring truth, justice and indoctrination to impressionable Western minds.

The program chronicles the adventures of 99 superheroes, each of whom embodies an attribute of Allah.

Jabbar is a Muslim Incredible Hulk. Mumita is wicked fast. But Wonder Woman-style cleavage has been banned from the ladies. And, in this faith-based cartoon, hair-hiding head scarves are mandatory for five characters, not including burqa babe Batina the Hidden.

In another break from standard world-saving fare, male and female characters are never alone together. (Imagine the stoning super-strong characters would dish out.) "The 99" even has the seal of approval of a Sharia board -- which polices Muslim law -- affiliated with an Islamic bank from which the show received financing.

What a great time to come to the United States!
The program is already getting the highest possible endorsement from a U.S. official.  At last April's Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship, to promote ties between the United States and Muslims around the world, President Obama praised the work of the comic's creator for embodying the "teachings of the tolerance of Islam."

Look, I think letting our children be exposed to other religions can be a positive, since it gives parents an opportunity to re-enforce their faith (that is, if the parent understand their faith well enough and makes the time to discuss and explain it to their children, although, I would be a bit wearisome about younger kids) but I can't recall any cartoon promoting Christian or Jewish teachings, at least in my lifetime, do you?

"The 99" has reportedly been pushed back at least until January.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Taking the Blame for Others' Foulness...

So, why is it that anytime something smells funky in my house, everyone looks at me?

"Daddy!!!..." I hear said, in an I-can't-believe-he's-at-it-again tone.

Sure, I'll admit some responsibility on occasion, but I'm not always at fault!

This weekend, my 6-yr-old daughter had an upset stomach.

On Friday, she went home early from school after complaining that her belly was hurting. We thought it had something to do with her older sister going away for the weekend to see her cousins in Washington, D.C. (our daughters can be a bit melodramatic at times; I wonder where they get it?). However, when my wife got home from work, she was already in bed and wearing her pajama (it was about 3:30pm, which just doesn't happen).

By the time I got home, she was feeling a little better and said she wanted to go out to dinner. However, at dinner, she did not eat a thing and as soon as we walked in our house, she threw up in the living room (Friday nights are just not what they used to be). Afterwards, we figured that whatever was ailing her, she would probably feel better in the morning.

In the morning, she spit up a couple more times, mostly bile since she had nothing in her stomach, but then started feeling better.  By early afternoon, she was well enough to go to (yet another) birthday party for a classmate in South Miami (I tell you, since the beginning of the school year, not one weekend has gone by without a party). That night, she actually wanted pasta and ate pretty well.

But, Sunday morning, she finally went to the bathroom. It wasn't pretty. It was poor liquid.  I know because she called me to help her wipe (one of the perks of being a dad). The stench was suffocating and lingered in our master bathroom after I flushed, spilling into our bedroom.

As my wife came into the room about 15 minutes later, she said, "My goodness, Carlos, what a stench! (aka que peste!)  You're stinking up the house!"

O.k., was that really called for?

Friday, October 8, 2010

My Daughter's Trip Leaves me Feeling Out of Control...

Against my better judgment, my oldest daughter, who is nine-years-old, is traveling without Mom and Dad for the first time this weekend. She is going with her grandmother (my Mother-In-Law) to Washington, DC to visit her cousins for the Columbus Day Holiday (No, I’m not saying “against my better judgment” has anything to do with my Mother-In-Law).

I say that because I’m not one that is big on letting my children travel without me. Maybe, it’s insecurities. Maybe, since I work in the television news industry and see so many incomprehensible and illogical stories, it’s fear. But, whatever it is, it makes me uncomfortable (should I be concerned about feeling a sixth sense?).

I’ll be honest. I didn’t want her to go and put my foot down when my wife approached me with the idea.  "Absolutely, not," I said.  Several weeks later, as I'm signing a legal waiver for my daughter to travel despite my objection, I'm thinking, "Now, who wears the pants in this family?"  Maybe that is another reason for my grievance. 

My wife constantly reminds me of how much traveling she did as a child, including from Spain to Miami without an adult with her younger sister.  But, they lived in Europe!  Do I need to say more?  (In all honesty, my wife actually helped make me the man that I am today.  When we met, I was a bleeding-heart liberal, or should I say "progressive" to avoid insulting anyone?)

My daughter is extremely excited. She will be visiting my wife’s cousin, her husband and their three kids (like us, they have two older girls and a boy).  They live on the outskirts of DC in Virginia. One of the daughters is just a little older than our nine-year-old and they are very close. They see each other every summer, during our yearly family vacation, and during the Christmas Holiday but, aside from going to Virginia for her First Holy Communion, this will be the first time they get together in-between.

I remember, with great fondness, visiting my cousins, who live in Chicago, as a kid. The anticipation of the trip and seeing my cousins, the adventure of being in cold weather, where we needed coats and occasionally saw snow, was more than I could contain inside. However, I never went without my parents until I was in high school.

I guess probably the biggest reason for my reluctance in letting my kids travel without me is the lack of control. As a father, I want to be in control of what my children do. I want to protect them against evil. I want to be there to share their happiness and console them when they cry.  I want to guide them and give them advice. But, no matter how much I try to influence and direct them, all kids eventually grow up and they leave our control (Just that nine seems a bit premature for my taste).

As a Christian, I can compare this to my faith walk. I often think that everything depends on me and I have to be in control but in the end, it’s not. No matter how hard I try, I have little to do with what ultimately happens.

It’s funny, I sometimes read friends on Facebook giving advice, urging others to think positive and make their own breaks in life because it “all depends on you” and you control your destiny.  Nothing could be furthest from the truth. Sure, you have to make good choices, stay positive and live proactively. But, in the end, it has nothing to do with us.  It has everything to do with God.

My cousin Dario was 25-yrs-old, in the prime of his life, when he had a heart attack that killed him (while giving his toddler daughter a bath). Could he have done anything to add single minute to his life? Maybe, we will never know for certain, but how many times do we read about young people that die in a car crash or from an illness? My good friend and high school baseball teammate, Eloy, was 45-years-old when he went for a jog on Father's Day of this year.  He had a heart attack and died in his car.  Whether we are overly cautious, avoid alcohol, tobacco, eat right, work out, or not, it’s not in our control.  Your chances may improve but it's not a guarantee.

I was talking to a good friend, who is a doctor, and this week performed a medical procedure on me that required general anesthesia. I was telling him that I was talking to him like nothing one minute and the next thing I know, I wake up in the room I was before being taken to the operation room. It was surreal.

My friend asks me, “Wouldn’t it be great, if our faith was that easy?” In other words, that we trusted God so much that we could let go completely, like little children unjaded by the influences of the world (or in my case like someone under general anesthesia). 

I went into the hospital with a lot of incertitude. I was nervous about what the process would entail. Would it hurt? Would anything unexpected be found?  How would I feel afterwards? Again, a fear of something going wrong; of not being in control. All I could do was trust in my friend and trust in God.  And, before I realized, it was over and all my concerns were for not.

Hopefully, I can take the same approach with my daughter’s trip this weekend.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

University Quells Freedom of Expression?...

An art exhibit by a Penn State University student against Islamic terrorism was deemed too derogatory by university officials and censored, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

The drawings in the exhibit depict a history of connections between terrorists and Muslim fundamentalists, including ties to the Nazis during World War II.

FIRE produced a five-minute documentary shedding light on the matter.

Look, I'm not advocating insulting others' religious beliefs. But, most law-abiding people would condemn terrorism; no matter what its motivation. It seems if the exhibit would have disparaged the image of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, or any other Christian symbol, it would have been fair game.

Is it just me, or is there a double standard when it comes to Christianity? And, why?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Creative Extremist on Mission to Save Lives...

22-yr-old Lila Rose may not be a household name (yet).  But, she is fast becoming one of the most influential pro-life figures in our country. 

President of a non-profit organization, Live Action, which she founded in her mid-teens, Rose has built a reputation for exposing Planned Parenthood, the nation's leading abortion provider (which by the way collects over $300 million tax payer dollars from the U.S. government each year), for unethical and misleading practices, including covering up sexual abuse and advising minors to lie so that they can have an abortion. (Many of her videos are on YouTube)

The UCLA student is unabashedly counter-cultural in her fight against legalized abortion (which since becoming legal in 1973 has claimed the life of over 50 million babies; an entire generation!) and is often asked to speak at universities, radio and TV programs, including a recent feature on CNN's Right on the Edge Documentary, about four young people, trying to make a difference in society.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Being Schooled on Parenting and Sin...

So, there I was, walking my 3-yr-old son to class, as he drank milk from his baby bottle. Unlike, my daughters, who even at that young an age, would have never been caught dead at school with a bottle in their hand, my son had absolutely no qualms.

In fact, he was walking rather proudly. Sort of like the self-assured man who drives a beat up old car and says to himself, “Women are going to have to like me for who I am and not what car I drive.” (Only in this case it was more like, “Girls, I still drink from a bottle, and do you have a problem with that?”)

When we arrived at school that morning, I attempted to take the bottle away and he fought me off like Frodo, fighting off Gollum, when he tried to take the One Ring away in The Lord of the Rings. Therefore, I let him keep it momentarily, hoping that he would hand it to me as we got closer to his classroom. Yes, the pediatrician has told us that he should already be off the bottle.

My son has a bottle of milk in the morning, which he usually drinks during morning Mass (friends always compliment me on how well he behaves in church), and one at night. However, on this particular day, I was running late. We didn’t make it to morning Mass, so I gave him the bottle as we headed to his school, which is about five minutes from our house.

As we walked across the parking lot into the school, I started feeling a bit self-conscious about what other parents might think (many kids start to wean off the bottle anytime after their first birthday). Again, I tried to take the bottle from him, and he gave me a Frankenstein-like groan with his bottle in his mouth, as he pulled his head and torso away from me to put distance between the bottle and me.

And, as we turned the corner of the hallway, there she was, my son’s Pre-K teacher, who is a woman of Irish-descent in her late 50’s. “You’re still drinking from a bottle?” was the first thing that came out of her mouth, as she looked at me and rolled her eyes (C'mon.. we're Cuban, I thought. We probably coddle our children a little longer and he might still be living with us into his late 20's, but did she really have to roll her eyes at me?).

As if that were not humiliating enough, another well-intentioned mom, with a son in my son’s class, tried to give me advice on how to take my son’s bottle away. “We gave our son those nipples full of dimples, and he wanted nothing to do with them.” (Oh the shame, I thought. Here is, probably, a first-time parent schooling me on how to do my job). "My son insists on his morning bottle," I pathetically offered, throwing my son under the bus and trying to shift the blame on him (He's only three!).

Fortunately, at that point, I was able to pry the bottle from my son’s hands as he went into his classroom.

As I reflect on this episode, I realize a few things.

Sure, I will never show up again at school with my son sucking on his bottle and we really do have to make a consorted effort to get him off it, but, the most important thing I learned is that this had nothing to do with my son, who was oblivious to what happened that morning. It had everything to do with me; my ego, my self-esteem, my insecurities and my pride. It was a simple lesson on the subtle way sin creeps into my life.

Forgive me, Lord, and thank you for the lesson.