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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Thought I Was Past Peer Pressure...

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” (OK, so it wasn’t exactly what Michael Corleone meant when he used these words in The Godfather Part III but that’s how I felt last week... sort of…).

It has become my friends' Thanksgivings Eve tradition. For the past several years, some of the guys (those whose wives don’t object or are unmarried) get together at the Biltmore Hotel bar for a few libations (not referring in the Jewish ritual sense of the word) to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season.

Mind you, these are church-going Christian men, who are trying to live their faith. They are guys that over the past several years, at the risk of sounding less than manly, I have grown to love. We have become very close and socialize regularly with our wives and kids.

That night, as I started getting text messages on my cell phone asking where I was, while heading to dinner with my wife and kids, I regressed to my first day as a high school senior when my friends decided to skip homeroom to go “celebrate” our senior year.

Yes, I did want to go (as I did in high school). I would never do something just because everyone else was doing it but I also understand my role as husband and father. Still, even at 46, I was getting that I-don’t-want-to-miss-out-again feeling (having missed the previous gatherings and hearing about the great time they had).

So, I mentioned that the guys were getting together at the Biltmore for some drinks to my wife (ever so delicately) and that they wanted me to go.

“Oh, no; you’re not leaving me here alone with the kids, unless they're asleep! None of your friends have small kids,” she said (I'm the only one with a toddler amongst my friends but I don't consider it a strike against me!).

I tucked my tail between my legs and said I would rather spend the night with her and the kids anyway.

Alright, I know, at this point, why not roll on my back in total submission? But, as a husband, who enjoys and plans on remaining married, I have to pick my battles. I knew I wasn’t going to win this one (at least not going about it in a frontal caveman approach).

I go out to dinner with the family and, as we are heading back home (having put the Biltmore thing aside and planning on watching a movie), my 3-year-old son falls asleep. “He didn’t nap. He’s probably out for the night,” my wife says (My heart rejoices with unexpected excitement.... Did that just sound too gay?).

I get another text message from the guys. It simply said, “…and you?” In other words, where the heck are you?  We're still waiting.

I show it to my wife as we stopped at the grocery store to buy milk (isn't this like something Will Ferrell would say in the movie Old School?). As I park the minivan (yes), we notice, our 6-year-old daughter had also fallen asleep (Wow, two down.  God must be on my side!  Now, if only my wife was as accommodating).

Another text from the guys, “the boys say, lift up your skirt and get over here.” (Thanks a lot.  Talk about peer pressure!)

We get home. I carry both the kids into their beds and change them into their pajamas.  Our older daughter is still awake but she's old enough to take care of herself and not cause too much of a raucous with her siblings asleep.

I linger around our bedroom hoping for a signal; pretending to look busy and knowing that my wife knew exactly what I was thinking but was trying to make me suffer a little.

“Have fun,” she said.

What? Yes (I would have pumped my arm but thought it would be out of line and was trying to be discrete).

“I’ll be home early,” I answered, as I headed out as fast as I could before one of the kids woke up and she changed her mind.

It's amazing; almost 30 years out of high school and I'm still succumbing to peer pressure...

Christmas Village No More...

It seems every year, during this season, stories pop up of municipalities, businesses and organizations around the country getting so caught up with political correctness, that they remove Christ from Christmas. 

Never mind that this country was founded on Christian principals, that Thanksgiving and Santa Claus (aka St. Nicholas) are rooted in Christian tradition and that Christmas itself has been celebrated in the United States since colonial times.  

Philadelphia, "The City of Brotherly Love," birthplace of the American Revolution, which served as the nation's temporary capital, is the latest to join the growing frenzy.  A German-style Christmas Village, that has been co-sponsored by City Hall for the last couple of years, has been renamed, Holiday Village.

An article on Philly.Com states:
It's that season again, which means that for the third year in a row, the German Christmas Village has set up a cozy collection of wooden booths and tree vendors in Dilworth Plaza on the west side of City Hall.

But a few shoppers noticed something amiss yesterday on the tall metal archways signaling the entrances to the shops. The archways had just one word on top - "Village."

Sounds festive, eh?

It turns out that the letters spelling "Christmas" were removed yesterday afternoon from the archways on the north and west sides of the plaza, at the request of Managing Director Richard Negrin. They will be replaced with the word "Holiday."

Our Founding Fathers must be rolling in their graves...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks For Many Blessings...

Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving
As we prepare for Thanksgiving, a holiday synonymous with family, food and football, it important to take the time to reflect on the purpose of the day and consider the things we are thankful for (whether acknowledging our blessings to God or coincidence).

It is interesting to note, as I learned from a friend last week, that despite Thanksgiving finding its roots in the earliest settlers in our yet-to-be-nation, it became a national tradition during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.

During that time, the country was immersed in the bloodiest and most divisive experience in our history; where brother fought against brother, a generation of men lost, families destroyed and displaced and human suffering was palpable throughout the nation.

At the height of this pain, despair and grief, President Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving to the Almighty God in November 1863. It has been a yearly celebration since.  In the proclamation, Lincoln states:

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
And, to think, some say our nation was not founded upon Judeo-Christian values.

So what am I thankful for?

I often find myself thanking God for His many blessings but let me try to list a few:

Thank you, Lord for my faith (which I realize is a gift that not everyone has), for giving me life, for the health of my family, for my marriage and the love my wife and I share (realizing the most important relationship I have is with my spouse, without which I have no family), for our three children (who have given us more happiness and let us experience greater love than I could have ever imagined), for the health of my parents and my wife’s mother (who are a huge part of our life), for my brother, his fiancĂ©, my wife’s sister, her husband and two children, for my grandparents (who although no longer with us, were instrumental in my upbringing through their example), and for both of our extended families.

Lord, I give you thanks for our home (despite having outgrown it and constantly having to make the repairs and maintenance required for a 1926 house, it is more than most people have), for the providing for us so that we can send our children to Catholic school (which in the secular society we live in, is very important to us), for our jobs (at a time when many people have lost theirs), for our many friends (many of whom are like family), for my co-workers (who we share more time than with our own families), and for the many hardships, trials and tribulations that have made me the man I am today.

Finally, Lord, I thank you for being raised in the United States of America, for giving us the Eucharist (the highest form of Thanksgiving, and meaning of the word), the Holy Catholic Church, your Blessed Mother, and for all the things, that I don’t even realize you give me and take for granted.

What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 22, 2010

When Hell Freezes Over....

A recent excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI's new book, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times, to be released tomorrow, has many in the mainstream media frothing at the mouth with headlines stating that the Pope has softened the Catholic Church's teaching on the use of condoms and artificial birth control.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The controversy was prompted by statements the pontiff made in the book in relations to the moral use of condoms to contain the spread of Aids; specifically Pope Benedict describes an "exceptional" circumstance where a male prostitute would use a condom, as a first step in realizing a moral responsibility of his actions by trying not to infect another.  Time Magazine's Howard Chua-Eoan writes:

Benedict's so-called condom concession was not a huge one. He still proscribes the use of condoms as contraception (as he does the birth control pill). His specific example, that of a male prostitute choosing to use a condom in a conscious choice to prevent HIV infection, is couched as "a first step in the direction of moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants."...
Fr. Federico Lombardi, of the Vatican Press Office puts it this way:

"... the pope takes into consideration an exceptional situation in which the exercise of sexuality may represent a real risk to the life of another person. In such a case, the pope does not morally justify the disordered exercise of sexuality, but maintains that the use of the condom to diminish the danger of infection may be "a first assumption of responsibility", "a first step in a movement toward a more human sexuality", as opposed to not using the condom and exposing the other person to a fatal risk.
"In this statement, the pope's reasoning certainly cannot be defined as a revolutionary shift
It amazes me how so many "journalists," as well as naysayers, either misunderstand the role of the pope and the Catholic Church or purposely try to impose their ideology upon a two thousand year old institution, so as to conform to their personal perspectives and/or justify their understandings of right and wrong. 

In a response to the recent press coverage, Pope John Paul II biographer George Weigel writes:

This latest example of pack journalism was a disservice in itself, and it also highlighted several false assumptions that continually bedevil coverage of the Catholic Church and the Vatican and one specific media obsession that is, to be brutally frank, lethal in its consequences.

The first false assumption beneath the latest round of media condomania is that the Church’s settled teaching on sexual morality is a policy or a position that can change, as tax rates can be changed or one’s position on whether India should be a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council can change. To be sure, the theological articulation of the Catholic ethic of sexual love has been refined over centuries... But it has not changed and it will not change because it cannot be changed. And it cannot change or be changed because the Catholic ethic of sexual love is an expression of fundamental moral truths that can be known by reason and are illuminated by revelation.

The second false assumption beneath the condom story is that all papal statements of whatever sort are equal, such that an interview is an exercise of the papal teaching magisterium... Reporters who insist on parsing every papal utterance as if each were equally authoritative — and who often do so in pursuit of a gotcha moment — do no good service to their readers.

The third false assumption was a “historic change” of Catholic teaching of the sort that was misreported to have taken place would be announced through the medium of an interview. It will perhaps come as a blow to the self-esteem of the fourth estate to recognize an elementary fact of Catholic life, but the truth of the matter is that no pope with his wits about him would use the vehicle of an interview with a journalist to discuss a new initiative, lay out a pastoral program, or explicate a development of doctrine...
Truth does not change according to modern times and man's will, nor does the Church's moral teachings.

Anything to suggest such change is, at best, wishful thinking...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

She's Nine, For Goodness Sake!...

"Look, Daddy," my 9-year-old daughter says proudly as she reaches into a shopping bag and pulls out two little brassieres (with small padded cups!).

Padded bras? “Why in the world, did you buy her padded bras?” I ask my wife (she’s only nine for goodness sake, what is going on here?).

My wife tells me they are actually lined, not padded (and the difference to me being?), and are better because they cover up any unwanted protrusions (protrusions? She’s nine!.. Can I repeat “for goodness sake” again?… Ok, she’ll be ten in late January but still).

Whether I want to admit it or not, my little girl is physically maturing faster than we expected (or I am prepared to handle) and it seems, as people always tease, payback is just around the corner. Noooooooo!!!! (as Luke Skywalker yells out when he finds out Darth Vader is his father, or, for the younger generation, when Buzz Lightyear discovers the same about Emperor Zurg).

I should have known something was up with her development when she started losing her baby teeth by the age of four (fortunately, my younger daughter is six and has yet to start losing her baby teeth).

It seems like only yesterday, I was in a birthing room at South Miami Hospital when my cone-headed and purple-colored firstborn daughter arrived in this world (like her dad, she had wrapped herself in her mom’s umbilical cord). I’ll be honest, being a first time dad, I was a bit concerned when I saw this dark little creature come forth. But soon, the nurses cleaned her up and her skin started turning pink, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

It was love at first sight. They placed her in my wife's arms and we held her together in a family embrace and cried (yes, I’m a crier and am proudly in touch with my feminine side).

I love my girls. When my wife got pregnant four years ago, I was convinced I was having another (at least I was psyching myself mentally so as to not get disillusioned if, what I thought, the inevitable happened). After the first two, I had convinced myself that I was only going to produce girls, known in Cuban language, as a “chancletero.” I have at least three friends that fit this description.  However, God gave us a boy instead.  (and yes, Cuban is a language) 

While my girls are still young, considering how fast life comes at us, before I know it, I will be dealing with teenage girls with all the phone calls, pimples, temperamental behavior during certain times of the month, and, worst of all, the “bad boy” love interests, that it implies. (even more disconcerting is knowing that I was a "good boy" that was able to charm parents into undeservedly trusting me with their daughters.  Payback is definitely a female dog!)

My oldest daughter is still more likely to do a cartwheel or break into song than talk about boys, but her body is unquestionably changing. And, soon, the boys will start noticing (if they haven't already). 

As if that wasn't concerning enough for me to deal with, my wife tells me "preparate" (brace yourself) because 4th Grade is when the boys ask girls to go with them to the school fair (Say what?  Are you kidding me?).  Our daughter apparently can't wait (But I can, couldn't we wait at least until 5th Grade?  She's nine, for goodness sake!). 

And, to think my younger daughter is learning from her older sister and already wants to wear her bikini bathing suit top underneath her shirts...    

Lord help me.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Boy Meets Great Granpa and Miscarried Sister in Heaven?...

While the recent Hollywood blockbuster Hereafter, starring Matt Damon, and directed by Clint Eastwood, shed light on the possibility of an afterlife, albeit one without God, as pointed out by Fr. Robert Barron in a recent commentary, a story on Fox News' morning show gives a different perspective.

Yesterday, Fox and Friends interviewed seven-year-old Colton Burpo and his father Todd, who has written a book, Heaven is for Real, about the boy’s afterlife experience when he was four. In the book, Colton describes, not only a Heaven with God the Father and Jesus Christ, but he also vividly describes meeting his great grandfather, who he never met, and a sister, that he never even knew about, who had died as a result of a miscarriage.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Orthodoxy Prevails in Selection of U.S. Catholic Leader...

Archbishop Timothy Dolan
This may not be white smoke coming from the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican but for U.S. Catholics, it’s an important selection nonetheless; president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  

Today, the U.S. bishops shocked many religious and secular pundits by electing New York City Archbishop Timothy Dolan as their next leader over Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson.

Kicanas was the expected choice after serving as vice president of the ecclesiastical body during the past two years.  An article on Catholic Online states:

Most pundits and ecclesial commentators strongly predicted Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson would be elected to succed Cardinal George on Tuesday, November 16, 2010. In response to what they considered a foregone conclusion, a portion of the Catholic blogosphere was preparing to respond with anything but glowing acclamation.

Then, a surprise of the Holy Spirit occurred, demonstrating, once again, who is really in charge of His Church. At 9:40 A.M. the names of the nominees were placed on the screen and an explanation followed; if a majority is attained on the first ballot, then the election is over. If not, then there would be a second ballot. Such a situation is, according to some observers, almost unprecedented.

That was until Wednesday November 16, 2010. We seem to be living in a very "unpredictable" time, on so many fronts. On the first ballot, Bishop Kicanis failed to win a majority. Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York surprised many with a very strong showing.

On the second ballot, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York won, but there was a need for a run off in order to meet the necessary majority. When the excitement subsided, the results were both unexpected and simply amazing; the gregarious, dynamic, orthodox and beloved Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, was elected to the Presidency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops by 128 - 11 votes or 54 - 46%

Bishop Gerald Kicanas
This is the first time in recent history, since the 1960’s, that the vice president is passed over by the American bishops; a decision that apparently took some discernment.  There were many concerns raised about Kicanas, who was supported by many liberal-minded and dissident Catholics.  Blogger Thomas Peters writes:

Bishop Kicanas has a troubling reputation. The arch-liberal Father Thomas Reese has described Kicanas as “the leading liberal hope” among the progressive wing of the Church. And for this reason (and others noted below) I believe Bishop Kicanas is not the right choice to lead the bishops during these next two critical years.

What others have not written about but what I think is important to bring into the mix is the fact that Kicanas has a strong reputation for being a “Bernadin” bishop, in other words, a bishop in the mold of Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, famous for his close allegiance to progressive and liberal ideologies. This is not just a reputation, this is how it appears Bishop Kicanas has intentionally formed his Episcopal priorities since becoming a bishop.
Not surprisingly, the liberal Catholics at Commonweal Magazine and National Catholyc Reporter are adamant supporters of Bishop Kicanas. He is their kind of bishop, indeed probably one of the most liberal bishops in America. And all of this should set off warning alarms for those of us serious about continuing to rebuild orthodoxy in America.
Fortunately, orthodoxy prevailed.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Drano, Tylenol, Men and Instructions...

"Don't you read instructions?" my wife asked exasperated by my questioning her for having poured the entire content of the Drano (or Liquid Plumr) into the shower drain last week (Hey, how was I supposed to know? Some bottles require that you only pour half the bottle and then the other half, as needed).

Without missing a beat, I picked up the bottle from the bathroom counter, flipped it around and pointed to the pictures in the back and sarcastically said, “These are my instructions. I don’t have to read them.”

“That explains a lot!” she shot back.

It definitely does.

Several weeks before, I had poured half a bottle of Drano (or Liquid Plumr) into our toilet (remember my clogged toilet fiasco?). Afterwards, my wife tells me, “You know, you’re not supposed to use the Drano in the toilet. It says so on the instructions.” (Woops… I eventually had to call a flesh and bones plumber to fix it)

Ok, I’m not good at reading and following instructions. I think it is a default of many men; I guess you can trace it back to when God created Adam and told him to stay away from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If you recall, Eve was conned by a charming snake (sound familiar?). However, Adam was given specific instructions not to eat from the tree, and he did (it wouldn’t have mattered if God had written it down).

You would think I would have learned my lesson. I remember when my oldest daughter was sick and about 18-months-old, my wife traveled to one of her best friend's bachelorette party in New York City for the weekend (am I an understanding husband or what?). She left me very specific instructions on the amount of medicine to give her (which were on the label of the Infant Tylenol bottle!).

Since my daughter was sick, I put her to sleep with me so I could monitor if she got a fever. During the middle of the night, she woke up crying with a fever. I went to give her the Tylenol. However, in my disoriention and exhaustion, I totally forgot the right dosage to administer. To top it off, in my just-awoken-blurriness, I couldn’t read the instructions on the bottle (have you seen the size of those infant Tylenol bottles? You need Superhero vision to be able to read the tiny print in the middle of the night).

Instead of giving her the 1.6 milligrams as my wife told me, I think I gave her twice that much (it could have been dangerous). My daughter fell asleep right away (Any wonder? She was overdosed!). She slept peacefully the rest of the night. I didn’t notice I had surpassed the dosage recommended for her age and weight until morning and when I was finally able to read the label.

By the Grace of God, and despite me, nothing happened to my daughter and she awoke rested and happy.

So, following instructions has never been one of my strengths. Then again, I can always blame Adam, who by the way, got another instruction from God which he apparently fumbled; dominion over all living things, including his wife, Eve.

As we all know, that didn't go over too well for him and for most married men since.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Weekend With The Boys is Serious Business...

It was another glorious weekend with the boys.

Every six months or so, I go hang out with about 40 plus of my closest friends and 20-25 other guys, who get invited to our biannual getaway.

However, unlike the male bonding weekends promoted and seen in movies, where the purpose is getting drunk, gallivanting and debauchery or roughing it in the woods with gassy men, animals, guns and hillbillies that want you to squeal like a pig, what my friends and I experience is much more wholesome, profound, and gratifying (without having to deal with hangovers, diseases or accidental or not-so-accidental deaths).

Last weekend, I attended my parish’s Men’s Emmaus Retreat at the Archdiocese of Miami Youth Center, next to LaSalle High School in Coconut Grove. It was the eleventh time I participate in such a retreat since my first one in April 2006 (call me a glutton for punishment but I can’t get enough).

For those of you who have never attended an Emmaus Retreat, the purpose is to disconnect from cell phones, computers, I-phones, blackberries, TV, stress and all the distractions and noise of everyday life and focus on reflection, spiritual growth, camaraderie with men, from all walks of life and faith backgrounds, sharing in great meals and, more importantly, contemplating transcendental matters.

It is raw. It is real and it is powerful.

To give you a sense of just how serious we consider what we do is, on the retreat that I was a retreatant, there was a man who attended named Andrew “the Ram” Crawford. Andrew was homeless (he had been living in his car) but had been attending morning Mass at our parish for several weeks (“the Ram” is what he wrote on the team roster).

Some of the guys thought he was not too stable because he was boisterous and bordering on disruptive at Mass. He would answer and pray with much more zeal and animation than most. However, one of the men in the group decided to invite him to the retreat. If anything, he thought the guy would get a chance to clean up and eat three square meals a day.

When he got to the retreat house, he was disheveled and had the scent of someone who had not had an opportunity to bathe for a while. He also had an unhealed sore on one of his arms and seemed a bit detached.  Andrew was the kind of man who, just by looking at, you could imagine had experienced tough breaks in life.

During the talks Friday night, while everyone else was listening quietly, he would interject, “Amen” or “You’ll be ok., brother” or “God bless you” while men were speaking.  I found out later that some of the team members were concerned that he would become too disruptive.

Yet, there was something attractive about his passion and faith. It was very sincere and heartfelt.

As the weekend progressed, I made a point to talk to him, if only briefly.

When the retreat ended, you could tell that Andrew was filled with the kind of joy and contentment that he may not have felt in some time. Although already more devout than most of the retreatants (including me), he appeared as if the experience had made an impact on him.

He was picked to carry the offertory during the end-of-retreat Mass and walked up proudly, wearing his white Emmaus shirt. If there was someone that I wanted to introduce to my wife and family to, it was Andrew Crawford, I thought. There was just something about him.

When the Mass ended, it was a mob scene of people walking out. I kept running into many of my new friends and their families and introduced them to my wife and daughters (my son had yet to be conceived). There were so many men that I wanted to introduce my family to that I lost track of Andrew. When I looked for him, I couldn’t find him so I figured; I would get another chance to do so in the near future.

During that week, the men that attended morning Mass noticed that Andrew was not showing up as he had been for several weeks. On Thursday of that week, we had a follow up meeting. He wasn’t there either. Many of the guys, including myself, had been looking forward to seeing him. We were disappointed when he didn’t show up.

As fate would have it, a couple of weeks later, before our next Emmaus meeting, I get an email at work that Andrew Crawford had been killed in a car accident.

I’ll be honest; it hit me like a rock and began to cry in front of my computer. Some of my co-workers noticed and asked me what was wrong. I felt as if I had lost a longtime friend even though I had just met him.

Well, we find out that several hours after the end-of-retreat Mass, Andrew had been involved in a fatal car crash not far from the church. His sister, who lives out of state, contacted one of the men in the group when police returned some of the belongings from his car, which included the Emmaus phone list and the Bible he was given. He was wearing his Emmaus shirt when he died.

We also found out that Andrew came from a large Catholic family of about 12 kids, who had grown up in the Coral Gables area and attended our parish school. He had gone into the military and the rest of the siblings started moving away. His parents had died and most of the family had become estranged over the years.

His sister said that Andy was a man of faith, as was she. In fact, she shared that when police contacted her to give her the bad news of the accident. She immediately knew something had happened to Andy, who she had not seen in several years. Before the officer had a chance to say anything, she asked him if he was Catholic. When he said he was, she asked him to pray a Hail Mary with her before telling her what he had to tell her.

We also found out that Andrew was a carpenter by profession (an irony not lost to most of us who had commented that he looked like Jesus Christ).

We will never know why God put Andrew Crawford at that retreat but I can tell you that on a personal level, however brief my encounter with this strange man was, he has made a lasting impact on my life. I will never forget Andy “the Ram” Crawford.

Like him, through the years I have met many men, whose lives have been affected for the better by attending the retreat. Among them was a man who found out he had stage 4 prostate cancer about three weeks after attending the retreat that I led in November 2009. He was at peace and showed amazing strength and courage during his final months. Also, another man, who had battled cancer for several years and had been in remission but had a relapse and was taken from this world a couple of months after attending our May 2010 retreat.

I realize the person I am today has been deeply shaped by my experiences with the Emmaus group and men like Andy the Ram. 

Although I greatly enjoy my weekends hanging out with the guys, I realize that it is serious business. 

As my friend, Joe, put succinctly, “This is life and death stuff.  In fact, it's beyond life and death stuff."  It's about our eternal soul and the souls of those we love.

Friday, November 5, 2010

High Tech Lingo Leaves My Head Spinning...

“In what format are files usually sent to us; M.O.V., A.V.I…?” He asked me nonchalantly and waited for my answer.

Say, what? My mind started racing; what the heck is he talking about?

“I know what a computer is.” I offered.  He didn't seem too amused.

I’m not the most technically inclined person that you will meet. In fact, aside from my newly acquired blogging prowess, I usually have to refer to my wife for just about anything that has to do with technology; whether internet, cell phone or anything else.

This morning, I was called into our Executive Producer's office at the television newsroom I work in, Noticias 23/Univision. She wanted my input on something.

I jokingly did the Sign of the Cross and bid farewell to the girls that work with me on the Assignment Desk and headed off. When I went in, I saw three M.I.S. computer-types and our Chief Engineer sitting on chairs encircling our EP’s desk.  The head of our M.I.S. Department was on speaker phone (by the way, what the heck is M.I.S.?).

Luckily, I was able to provide the information they wanted.

But, one of the guys asked me for more information than I was "qualified" to provide.  In other words, it went way over my head. 

Then, over the next 15 minutes I was overwhelmed in a flurry of exchanges between the three men, where I heard: Rosetta, Drop folder, Watch folder, I.C.M., P.R.X., C.P.U., Velocity, VizRT, Harris Servers and my personal favorite, F.T.P. (which always brings warm memories of the Naughty by Nature song, “Down wit O.P.P., yeah you know me.” Hey, I can get jiggy with it).

I felt like I was dropped in an episode of the Twilight Zone or, better yet, in a bad Chinese Kung Fu movie (without the English translation!). It was surreal.

I stood there in a daze until finally the EP noticed the blank stare in my face and gave me a reprieve, telling me I could go if I wanted.

Thank you! And T.G.I.F.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What a Difference a Day Makes...

Last night, as I waited anxiously for the results of the Florida Governor's Race (way past my bedtime), Fox News cut in with new Speaker of the House John Boehner's speech on the results of the election.

I'll be honest, I didn't know much about Boehner, except that he was the House Minority Leader and that President Obama and the Democrats had aggressively come after him in recent weeks, in an attempt to motivate their voter base.

During his emotional speech, Boehner thanked his wife, his two daughters and his eleven brothers and sisters.  Say what? Eleven brothers and sisters? I told my wife, this guy has to be Catholic!

This morning, my wife was on the internet and noticed an article on Catholic Online about Boehner.

The new Speaker of the House will be John Boehner of Ohio. He is a faithful Catholic who fully understands the teaching of his Church and has earned a consistent 100% Pro-Life score from the National Right to Life Committee. Just as importantly, he has also earned a 0% score from the National Abortion Rights Action League, an organization which promotes the killing of children in the womb as a "right". John Boehner is a truly Pro-Life Catholic and a champion of children in the first home of the whole human race, their mother's womb!
As the article states, we went from one Speaker of the House, who publicly professes her catholicity, only to reject many of the moral teachings of the Church in her functions as a public policymaker, to another, who apparently wears his faith on his shirt, and is willing to fight for it.

What a difference a day makes…

Ghost of Halloween Past Leaves Haunting Memories...

Alright, call me a party pooper but I have never been big on Halloween.

No, it's not because of religious reasons, as many people know, Halloween sprouted from the Christian tradition of All Saints and All Souls Days, which the Church continues to celebrate (although it has Celtic influences as well).

The reasons for my indifference to the October 31st celebration are mostly personal.

I think I stopped dressing up for Halloween by the time I was in Junior High (with the exception of several parties as an adult along the way). I never got into the egg tossing and pranks or walking around aimlessly with other kids in hot costumes (I guess you can call me the Ebenezer Scrooge of Halloween).

Part of my lack of enthusiasm may stem from residual psychological effects of having to wear those cheap one-piece paper thin costumes with the plastic masks when I was a kid. They were always too tight for me since I was a "husky" size and would tear somewhere along the route. I don't know if the costumes were too cheap, or the one I wanted was never available in the right size, but, needless to say, I remember ending several Halloween nights walking around with a tear.

I was usually a chunky superhero, who was sweating profusely through the costumes in all the wrong places (which reminds me of the time I wore a Speedo bathing suit to the beach when I was in high school). Talk about childhood traumas! (The ghost of Halloween past was not too kind)

So obviously, whenever October rolls around and jack-o'-lanterns, witches, skeletons and ghosts start popping up around our neighborhood, I don’t exactly jump for joy in anticipation. My kids, however, are a different story.

As the month progresses, my children excitedly start planning their disguises (they actually start several months before) and prompting me to put up decorations in front of our house. I usually procrastinate but eventually my wife and I get around to putting up some pumpkins, spider webs, and, usually, a scarecrow (which was in storage and this year got left out). We put up just enough to satisfy them (which luckily, doesn't take much).

So after months of planning, this year my girls dressed as: a "pink lady" from Grease (not exactly an image I was looking for since they were the ones that made out with the boys and hung out with gang members, but I don't think my 9-yr-old even knows what a "pink lady" is since she has never seen the movie), and a 50's style girl with puffy below-the-knee skirt and a polka dotted leotard and gloves (her planned Jessie from Toy Story costume didn't fit so we went with Plan B; her older sister's dance recital outfit). My son dressed as a very funny-looking Darth Vader without the mask and a light saber bigger than him (He actually looked more like Lord Dark Helmet in Mel Brook's Spaceballs).

On a more serious note, I'll take part in Halloween for the sake of the kids and keeping a tradition as American as baseball and family reunions on Thanksgiving, but I draw the line when it comes to costumes that resemble witches, vampires, zombies or monsters. It may not be a big deal for most parents, but, that is where my faith clashes with the culture. I feel the influences society has on my young children is scary enough. I don't want them to be confused and desensitized on the occult and supernatural by making them fun (I'll get off my soap box now but it's a subject near and dear to me that my kids have reluctantly accepted; so far!).

Unlike last year, where we went to a Halloween night party, while the kids and their friends went to a haunted house at the home of one our daughters' school parents, we had an old fashioned, no frills or thrills, night of neighborhood trick-or-treating (it was Sunday).

Some good friends came over with their daughters and our children went trick-or-treating around the neighborhood for a couple of hours. In fact, the biggest excitement we had was when the dogs of one of the homes the kids went to got loose and the owners went into a frenzy trying to catch the loose dogs in the yard.

By 8:00pm, we were back home, heating leftovers for dinner (my wife refuses to cook on Sundays!) and trying to keep the kids from overeating chocolate bars and candy. It wasn't easy. Our older daughter got upset that she couldn't go to the haunted house with her friends. Meanwhile, our two younger ones got hopped-up on sugar and separately started crying for different reasons (or no reason, I forget which one). There was a lot of drama at the Espinosas.

Despite the commotion, the girls were in bed just a little past their bed time (our younger daughter complaining about a belly ache) and our son stayed up watching the World Series and drinking milk for a little while before falling asleep, which was a perfect time for me to raid their goody bags looking for Snickers, Twix and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (The ghost of Halloween present treated me well).

As I look ahead, I realize that, while All Hallows Eve brings back unfavorable and lackluster memories, the most important memories are those that are yet to come by living it through the eyes of my children.  Therefor, this year's experience gives me some optimism about the ghost of Halloween future (although I am very opposed to any form of fortune telling).

And to think, I have about another ten years of trick-or-treating to look forward to.  I can't wait till next year!