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Friday, July 29, 2011

Chargers' Philip Rivers is Living by Example...

Remember before Charles Barkley’s infamous, “I’m not a role model” statement in a Nike Air commercial, when many athletes cared about setting a good example for kids and protecting their images?

It appears that unlike generations past, when most professional sports heroes embraced their responsibilities to the youth of America, and were willing to sacrifice for the greater good, grounded on God, family and country (Ted Williams, Bob Feller and Roberto Clemente come to mind), today, too many of them are caught up in the selfishness, narcissism and voyeurism of the culture, and give more value to “bling,” living it up with celebrities, and flaunting a lifestyle that most of their fans will never experience, than using restraint, humility and protecting their image. In fact, some even thrive on the bad boy image (i.e., Dennis Rodman and Mike Tyson).

Admittedly this may be an unfair generalization, but for the past couple of decades, it seems that you can’t turn on the news without hearing about athletes embroiled in scandal; Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Tiger Woods, Tyson, Kobe Bryant, Michael Vick, Andre Agassi, Lawrence Taylor, and even some with more All-American images like Mark McGuire, Brett Farve and Lance Armstrong. Granted, the media scrutiny and relentless hunt to knock down public figures has never been greater.

Philip Rivers
Nevertheless, there are still many rays of hope in professional sports; more than we may hear about since immorality and extravagance make for better headlines than righteous family living. One of those rays is San Diego Chargers Quarterback, Philip Rivers.

Most football fans would recognize Rivers, as a two-time Pro-Bowler, who is considered one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, but not many know his prowess off the field, as a man, husband, father and youth activist.

I’ll admit knowing little about him until last week. I was switching through the channels and came across a program on EWTN, where he was the invited guest.

I tell you what; I was totally impressed by his faith, his character, and his commitment to his wife, family and society.

When asked about being a role model, Rivers answered, “It’s a responsibility we must accept as professional athletes. It comes with it, regardless of whether you want to be one or not. In this society and culture, these kids watch athletes on TV and that’s what kids want to be… I feel like I have been given a platform.”

He went on, “It’s so hard to keep our kids focused on what’s important; on the foundation of our faith, seeing what is worshipped in our culture. It’s a challenge and even more of a challenge with the Internet and social media.”

Rivers was raised in a very devout Roman Catholic family in Athens, Alabama (not exactly known for its Catholic population). His father was a high school football coach. At an early age, he was introduced to the faith, prayer, and acts of charity. He grew up with a passion for Christ and the Church, and even served as an altar boy.

Tiffany and Philip Rivers
When he met his wife Tiffany in junior high school, Rivers says he pointed her out to his mom and said, “That is a good girl.”  And, he knew she was the one for him.

While the medium age of people getting married for the first time continues to rise, and some waiting until their 30’s to tie the knot, Rivers and Tiffany got married after his freshman year at North Carolina State University. He was 19. She was 18 and freshly converted to the Catholic faith. They have been married for ten years and have five children (four daughters and a son) with a sixth child due in October.

Rivers says faith and a common desire to help each grow in holiness and to raise their family is the key to their success as a couple.  

“No matter what the outcome of the game, you come home and you’re still dad to your kids. And that’s where it really settles in, that, as important and as much time as you put into football, they (family) think you did great no matter what.”

“That balance of the family at home, with our faith; teaching the kids the faith, having family prayer, going to Mass together and then football… That’s our role as dads. It is raising our kids in the faith. We always say a blessing at supper, the family rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet; things they can see and touch, that has long lasting impact on them and they can carry it into their families one day.”

Another one of Rivers’ commitments is going to high schools to talk to teens about chastity and living chastely.

“I think it’s often seen as too hard or unrealistic. But, it certainly is.”

He compares it to his professional sport lifestyles and says he learned at an early age to “bounce his eyes.”

“We’re in a position, because of the pedestal we are put on, the money that’s involved, and the TV, that people think our temptations are greater. It’s a matter of not putting yourself in these situations. You have the means and are in these big cities. It’s about having a plan beforehand and avoiding being put in tempting situations.”

“I hold on tight to the sacraments, and the faith, and the Church, and my family. And that’s when the football seems to be at its best; when you have everything in order.”

He also tells kids that just because they have already been sexually active, there’s no reason to give up trying to live chastely.

“It’s never too late. We all fall and stumble. But, keep going. That’s one of the beauties of the sacrament of reconciliation.”

As if that wasn’t enough, last year, Rivers and his wife started a charitable foundation called Rivers of Hope, which helps place abandoned children with adoptive or foster families.

“We are pro-life and wanted to help somehow. My wife and I started talking and thought, what about those kids that are given life but don’t have a mom and dad to tuck them in at night? How can we give them hope?”

They're giving them hope by bringing awareness to the plight of thousands of kids in foster programs, who are looking for permanent homes, and trying to match them with adoptive parents.  They also have a birthday club, so that kids who are in transit to and from foster homes or adoptions, are never forgotten on their birthday. 

Now how’s that for positive role model?

Check out Rivers on Life on the Rock.  He appears about 8:30 into the program…

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fear, Suffering and My Daughter's Blister...

The dreaded cuticle scissors...
“Trust me!” I said, while raising my voice, as I held a pair of sharp-pointed cuticle scissors in my right hand and struggled desperately to hold my ten-year-old daughter’s foot steady with my left hand (in retrospect, maybe not the portrait of calm and pacification I was aiming for).

She wasn’t having anything to do with my demands, frantically pleading in agony. In fact, it was the type of agony that appeared to come from the depths of her soul.

“No daddy. Not right now. Let’s do it later,” as tears rolled down her face. Things obviously weren’t going very well.

Maybe, her fear was more acute because I was the one wielding the scissors instead of her mom. I sometimes wonder if I left a psychological scar on her the day I dropped her from our bed when she was 8-months-old. The poor baby went plummeting headfirst into the floor and was in such shock when I picked her up that she couldn’t even cry. We had to call rescue, which by the time the paramedics arrived, our daughter was playing peacefully on our bed. As first time parents, it was one of the most harrowing experiences in our life that I certainly will never forget. 

Anyway, the current crisis started as our Sanibel vacation was coming to an end last weekend. Our daughter started limping around and complaining about a blister on her right foot. By the time we drove back home, she was whining about the “unbearable” pain so my wife and I decided it was time to pop that sucker and ease her suffering.

C’mon, my wife runs marathons and triathlons and I played baseball and wore cheap dancing shoes for most of my life (I was a ringer QuinceaƱera dancer in my teens), we know a thing or two about blisters on our feet.

If she had listened to us that night, we would have drained it while it was still relatively small. But noooo, when we tried to heal her, she bolted from our room, screaming hysterically in terror, “No, no, no… Not now! Later!” As if later was going to make it any easier or give her more courage.

You would think, as a stage actor wannabe, she was drawing on the Agony in the Garden from within her (only probably with more crying, distress and sheer terror). Not that I’m making a comparison. Let’s be real. Jesus was facing the cruelest, most inhumane torture and death imaginable and all my daughter was facing was the prick on a nagging blister!

Instead of holding her down like a calf about to be branded, we decided to let her suffer the consequences.

She spent all of the next day limping around at summer camp and the blister grew to the shape of about a two-inch roasted peanuts shell on the bottom and (now) side of her foot.

At that point, she was clearly in a lot of pain (although her pain threshold is apparently nothing to brag about) but her fear of the remedy was even greater.

Mind you, this is the same girl, who at 4 years of age, did not even whimper as a doctor stitched up her forehead above the eye, after my wife split it open with a dumbbell while working out in our living room. (You could say living with the Espinosas is not easy!)

However, now, at about 5 feet tall (she was the second tallest in her 4th Grade class) and slightly over a hundred pounds, she was groveling and wailing irrationally.

It reminded me of a story that author Kimberly Hahn, the wife of Dr. Scott Hahn, tells on her conversion CD about a time that she had to rush her young daughter to the hospital with an extremely high fever. The doctors and nurses came into the room with ice cold towels and place them on her daughter’s body, as the little girl screamed in agony and pain, calling out to her “Mommy, Mommy.” Kimberly said that she was torn to shreds inside but, despite her daughter’s anguish, helped the medical team hold her down to apply the cold towels. She knew it would help heal her.

The author used the anecdote to point out how we often treat God. We can’t understand the pain and anguish we are put through. Some may even think God doesn’t love them because He allows them to suffer yet, although extremely difficult for most of us to grasp, because we are allowed to suffer, may be an indication of how much God loves us; more than we can ever imagine. Only when we get through the rough times can we reflect and realize the benefit of our suffering.

Bl. Pope John Paul II described suffering as a way of uniting ourselves to Christ’s suffering on the Cross. He said we are sharpened like metal through fire and, in the process, grow closer to Christ and become more like Him, as Christians are called to be.

This of course, is more philosophical and profound then my daughter’s blister would elicit and, while I must admit, slapping some sense into her did cross my mind; I decided to try a more loving approach. I took a step back from my own determination to get the job done and calmly tried to diminish her fear (by creating an even greater fear!).

I asked her, “Do you want the blister to continue to grow and be even more painful tomorrow?” She shook her head. I’m sure the cuticle scissors started making more sense to her.

In all honesty, fear can be a paralyzing emotion and, as I now understand, it is nothing more than a lack of faith and trust in God. Moreover, regardless of how weak or strong our faith is, we all experience it from time to time.

I’m sure this point would be lost on my ten-year-old daughter but, like anyone who is afraid, she had three options; either do nothing, continue to cower from it (both of which were bad options considering the seed I had planted in her mind) or confront it. I’m proud to say, despite her inclination to fight with every fiber of her being; my daughter calmed down enough, and trusted me enough, to choose the latter.

I was able to pop that sucker after all and by the next morning, she was walking around as if nothing happened…

Friday, July 15, 2011

Battling Cancer, Chavez Turns to God...

President Chavez receives sacrament of Anointing
It is often said that when we have no where else to turn, we turn to God.

This may be the case for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who last year waged a very public war of words against the Roman Catholic Church for opposing his regime, and  now, as he battles cancer, is apparently turning to God and the Church, for solace.

Tuesday night, the 56-year-old, who returned home after spending almost an entire month in Cuba to have surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, which he described, was the size of a baseball, from his pelvic area, was shown on Venezuela’s national TV network attending Mass at Caracas’ Military Academy Cathedral.

Cameras rolled as Chavez prayed, participated in the liturgy and later received the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, usually the last of the seven Roman Catholic sacraments, which is normally administered to those who are in the latter stages of life or are facing a grave illness.

Although, it must be stated, the priest officiating the Mass and administering the sacrament, Bishop Mario Moronta, is a personal friend, who Chavez has openly asked the Vatican to elevate to Cardinal.

Still, this public display of faith seems odd, considering his self-proclaimed socialist views, which the Church condemns, and his antagonistic relationship the Venezuelan Church.

The man, who once stated that Jesus Christ was the first socialist and revolutionary, who rebelled against religious hierarchies, imperialism, and was an agent for change, was raised Roman Catholic.  In his youth, he served as an altar boy, and, says, even considered the priesthood.

However, his political allies, which includes dictators, communists and extreme leftist and radical world leaders, and socialists measures have prompted concern by Church and opposition leaders, who have been harassed, intimidated, threatened and some say worse.

Many Venezuelan clergy have been outspoken in warning parishioners about Chavez, including Cardinal Jorge Urosa who said he wants to model the country after Communist Cuba.

In turn, Chavez has denounced and threatened to prosecute certain Venezuelan Church leaders, including Urosa, calling them anti-Christian, liars, and that if Jesus were around today, he would whip them all.

Venezuela is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, which according to studies, accounts for over 90% of the population. Therefore the Church’s outspokenness against Chavez’s socialists and authoritarian initiatives have rattled the feathers of the Venezuelan leader.

Regardless, during the time he was in Cuba getting treatment, Church leaders urged countrymen to pray for his full recovery.

Upon his return to Venezuela, the flamboyant president expressed thankfulness and praise to God. Now, as he starts the next phase of his treatment, which he says calls for radiation or chemotherapy, he may be open to reconciliation with the Church.

Since it is also often said, the Church is a hospital for sinners not a museum for saints, Chavez should fit in quite nicely.

Let's hope his publicized re-embracing of faith is a sincere conversion that will lead to his serving Christ, His Church and his country accordingly.  Then again, he is running for re-election, and this could be a good way to garner sympathy votes. 

In any event, only God can judge his heart…

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

After Marriage, Sleep is a Lost Commodity...

Most parents would tell you that sleep is never the same after having kids but, let’s face it, sleep is never the same after taking our wedding vows, period.

It’s funny how couples are portrayed sleeping together in the movies and on TV. They are usually shown with their arms wrapped lovingly around each other, lying peacefully, and, apparently, comfortably.

I don’t know about other couples but in my wife’s and my case, nothing could be further from the truth. Early into our marriage (and I'm talking honeymoon at most), when we tried to cuddle to sleep together, aside from losing sensation in my arm and shoulder, I usually started sweating profusely and, as we shifted to seek a more comfortable position, there was bound to be an elbow to the head or face. Making it worst, my wife would argue, was my heavy and loud snoring in her ear. And, that is where our sleep troubles begin.

It all started the first night we slept together. Despite trying desperately to stay awake until she was asleep, so as to not scare her away (it never works since as soon as my head hits the pillow, I’m sound asleep), I kept her up for most of the night with my escalating snoring, which starts off as a deep breath and by the third inhale becomes a thunderous roar (and I’m not talking Helen Reddy or garden variety wild animal. I mean digitally re-mastered theatre quality surround-sound MGM lion roar).

In the morning, I looked at her, and noticing the bags under her eyes, asked her hesitantly, although knowing the answer, “Did I snore?” She just looked at me with a blank stare on her face, probably numb from the exhaustion and the somber realization of what she was getting into, and just smiled.

On a positive note, she must really love me because more than thirteen years later, despite a short intermission (more on that shortly) we are still sleeping together (although alcohol may have helped her through the early years!).

Let me put it into perspective. My snoring was so bad that I woke myself up from time to time. In fact, I was once sent on a business trip to a Hispanic journalists’ convention in Atlanta. A friend, who had worked with me at local cable television news department, before landing a reporting job in Arizona, calls me up to ask if I was going and if he could bunk with me, since he was paying for the trip on his own. I said no problem but warned him about my snoring. “No problem,” he said.

We went to sleep that first night and, when I got up in the morning, my friend was not in his bed. I figured he was an early riser and may have gone for a run. I go to the bathroom, turned on the lights and find him sleeping in a makeshift bed, with blankets and pillows, underneath the sink. He opens his eyes and says (get this), “You really do snore!” Hey, I warned him. On the second night, I think he begged someone to take him in because he never returned.

Another time, I went with a group of friends to a baseball tournament in Tampa/St. Pete. Trying to cut costs, I shared a room with five other guys (yeah, we were being cheap!). Sometime during the night, I felt socks and pillows being hurled at me from different directions. Apparently, my snoring woke the other guys, who couldn’t believe the noise I was making. Fortunately, the next night, we stayed out late and they collapsed from both the alcohol and sheer exhaustion from the previous night, which, as I stated before, may have helped my wife, along with a noisy air conditioning wall unit, get through the first few years of marriage.

It got worse, of course, when our kids came along.

I remember the first night after our eldest child was born at South Miami Hospital. We were so excited, as first time parents, that when they gave us an option of having her either sleep in the nursery or stay with us for the night, I convinced my wife to keep her.  Unfortunately, it was probably one of the longest and stressful nights of our lives. She did not stop crying. I tried to let my wife sleep (which was useless) and held her our daughter all night. I walked her, rocked her, made the clicking noise that parents use on babies, and caressed her soothingly but nothing worked. It only went downhill from there.

A few years later, when our daughter was about three-years-old, and my wife was pregnant with our second daughter, it got so bad one night that between my snoring, her discomfort, having to get up to go to the bathroom, and our toddler climbing into our bed (she was a kicker), my wife turned to me and said, “Either you do something about your snoring, or we’re getting a divorce!” (Insert dramatic music here)

Needless to say, I was relegated to the living room couch for the next several weeks, until I made an appointment at the University of Miami’s Sleep Disorder Clinic for an overnight sleep study that I can honestly say, didn’t just help save our marriage and get me back in our bed, but changed our lives (even if short-lived).

The study determined that I had Sleep Apnea and that my sleep was being interrupted every 58 seconds. They put me on an oxygen machine, called a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) Machine, that allowed me to sleep, and rest, the entire night, probably for the first time in my adult life.  I have been using it ever since, no matter where I travel (even for naps).

I may sound like Darth Vader, which has a lulling effect on my wife, but by the time our second daughter was born, the next wave of nocturnal crying, crib wettings, nightmares, sicknesses, and sleepless nights were back.  And, by the time our son was born, we were so beat down and exhausted, that we didn’t even bother taking them back to their beds when they came to our bed in the middle of the night.  It was like Grand Central Station in our bedroom. Between our middle and younger kids, it was a constant flow of incoming and outgoing traffic.

Adding to our misery was our mattress, which needed to be replaced over five years ago, but wasn't until recently.  I felt like I was sleeping in a hole. It was worn down (literally) to the point where no matter how many times we flipped it or twirled it, there always a noticeable dent on my side of the bed (obviously I weigh a tad more than my wife). In fact, just getting up in the morning (in all my slenderness), required the right amount of impulse and my legs raised at just the right angle, so as to allow me to swing forward. Not pretty!

Now, even after finally replacing our mattress and getting our kids to stay in their beds for the entire night, which was a longstanding mission (and continues to be), we can never sleep in. A normal weekend in our family means waking up early and rushing to get the three kids ready to make it to, either my daughter's soccer game on Saturdays, or Mass on Sundays.

Worst of all, the older I get, the more I realize that I'm turning into my dad, who while I was growing up always appeared to be up at the crack of dawn (of course, he dozes off at the drop of a hat).  They say that older people need less sleep, which I don't believe.  I just think older people can't sleep!  

Recently, we were invited to dinner at the house of good friends, whose kids were gone for the summer because the wife had open heart surgery and needed time to recover.

Since their kids would not be home, we decided to make it an adult night out and sent our kids to my mother-in-law’s condominium for the night.

As it turned out, another mutual friend, who we hadn’t seen in a couple of years, shows up at our friends’ house and we were having such a good time, after polishing off, at least six bottles of wine and a bottle of Champagne , that when I looked at my watch, it was already 2:00am. Mind you, anything past 10:30pm, is past my bedtime.  By now, I'm sure you think we are drunkards but, hey, Jesus' first miracle was turning six twenty gallon water jars into wine, more than the entire population of Cana could possibly consume (not that me and my friends were trying to!).  We ended up getting home at about 2:30am, and, by the time we went to bed, it was closer to 3:00am.

You would think that having the kids out of the house, would allow us to sleep in a little.  But, despite our plans to forgo 9am Mass and go to 10:30am instead, by 8:00am, instead of the pitter patter of my younger daughter or my three-year-old son, I heard the shuffling about of my wife, who was getting up to go for a one hour run.  Say what? Are you kidding me? We just went to bed! I looked at my watch and noticed the time. I still had another hour of sleep left.

As Cuban grandmothers would say, “Cada loco con su tema,” or loosely translated, “Each crazy person has their own issue.” Ok, go! Knock yourself out, I thought.

There I was, in our comfy new mattress, eyes closed and taking deep breathes. The room temperature was just cold enough to require the covers to be pulled up. I scooted into the middle of the mattress.  The only sound was the hum of our central air unit. I was nice and cozy. And, did I mention I had another hour left of sleep? My wife is gone. I have the bed to myself and… nothing! I couldn’t go back to sleep. C’mon! I went to bed at 3:00am. I’m severely dehydrated from all the wine. My head is pounding. Then, since God has a good sense of humor, nature calls. I had to get up.  Moreover, as most people in their late 40's will tell you, unless it is still dark out, once you get up, you're up.

Not that I'm blaming marriage, but it seems that all my sleeping problems began shortly after tying the knot.  Of course, I must admit, I wouldn't change it for the world...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Trying to Find Justice in Caylee's Murder…

Caylee Anthony
There’s no doubt that Casey Anthony’s behavior in the aftermath of her daughter, Caylee’s, disappearance leaves a lot to be desired.

Most parents would tell you that if their child was missing, their reaction would be complete hysteria and desperation. Being a father of three small children myself, including one who is still a toddler, I couldn’t imagine the sorrow and anguish that would overcome me if one of them was missing.

Instead, the young mother was seen living it up in night clubs with friends, tattooing the words Bella Vita (Beautiful Life) on her back, and moving in with her boyfriend on the night that she was last seen leaving her parents’ house with Caylee. It’s not exactly Mother-of-the-Year behavior.

Just that alone was enough for many people, including myself, to conclude, Casey was guilty as charged, of murdering her daughter, whether premeditated or not.  It just didn't make sense (still doesn't).

Justice had to be served for the tragic ending of such an innocent life. A child that was snuffed out at the tender age of two and whose skeletal remains were found stuffed in plastic garbage bags in a wooded area near her home.

I’m not a legal expert, or pretend to be, and only followed the trial through the media, but as I understand, besides Casey’s partying (which if you think about it, is unfortunately indicative of a greater malaise plaguing our society today.  How many mothers silently "choose" to kill their children legally in clinics across the US, so they can continue enjoying their lives as they see fit?), there was the smell of “death” in the trunk of her car, the Internet searches for how to break a neck and chloroform, which was found in high levels in the trunk of the car, the duct tape found on the remains, the numerous lies Casey concocted about Caylee’s whereabouts, a job she never had, and a rich boyfriend, and, probably most incriminating, her failure to report her daughter’s disappearance until a month after the fact.

Happier Times for Casey and Caylee
Yet, there was no forensic evidence linking Casey to the murder, no definite motive, except those prompted by her erratic post-disappearance comportment, and no concrete proof as to how the baby girl was murdered, where she was murdered or how the body got to the wooded area, where it was found. 

Even so, despite all the Monday morning quarterbacking, other juries have convicted defendants with less evidence.  When the “not guilty” verdict came in, there was disbelief in the newsroom I work in. Some co-workers, who were much more absorbed in the trial than me, were totally flabbergasted, not just by Casey being found “not guilty” of first degree murder, but of manslaughter and child abuse as well.

Foul cried many of my Facebook friends.

"I can't believe it," was a common reaction.

"Another O.J. verdict," one friend stated.

While another commented, "Clearly getting away with murder."

Everyone had an opinion and, with a few exceptions, most expressed that justice was thwarted.

After a three years in jail, six weeks of trial and eleven hours of jury deliberations, Casey Anthony may be walking away scot-free! But, is she really? Will she ever live this down? Will she ever move on with her life, and put Caylee’s death behind her? (I'm sure some would argue, at least she is alive and, like O.J., not to compare the case but just for reference, she can relocate to another part of the country and at least try to start over and have more children as recently revealed in a letter she wrote)  Or, will she forever be marked as a pariah?  And, more importantly, will justice for Caylee ever be served?

While the pundits continue to argue about why the twelve member jury ruled as it did, after all is said and done, we can only certainly know that a beautiful little girl, who loved her mother dearly, is dead, her killer will probably never serve time for the murder, and a family, regardless of how dysfunctional they may or may not be, and community, who embraced Caylee as their own, are scarred forever.  

Justice in this case, may only be found in the hands of the ultimate Judge and, regardless of Casey's sentence, judgement will be served. As Christ says in the Gospel of Matthew, "Just as you did to the least of these, you did to me."

Having that said, I am not the judge and whether I still think she is guilty of her daughter's death, in some way, is irrelevant.  There should be plenty of time for repentance.  May God have mercy on Caylee, Casey and all involved…

Friday, July 1, 2011

Midnight in Paris is About Living for Today...

Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris
As many of you know by now, I love Fr. Robert Barron's commentaries. He finds the most significant religious underpinnings in the least likely places of the culture.

In his latest commentary, Fr. Barron reviews Woody Allen’s new film, Midnight in Paris.

Now, you might say, as I did, what a great title.  Midnight seems to be a natural fit for a movie title i.e., Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Midnight Express, Midnight Cowboy, and Midnight Run (that I can recall offhand).

You throw Paris, with its romantic imagery, into the mix (which is dear to my heart because it's where my wife and I spent our honeymoon) and it’s a box office hit waiting to happen.

However, according Fr. Barron, the movie, which is written and directed by Allen, is more than just a good title. It actually has a deeper philosophical message; live for today.

It’s a romantic comedy about a Hollywood screenwriter named Gil Pender, played by Owen Wilson, who dreams of writing great novels, in the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. He travels to Paris with his fiancee and her family.

During his trip, Gil starts imagining and glorifying what it would have been like to live in the Paris of the 1920’s, fresh after WWI, when upper and middle class Parisians tossed pre-war morals out the door and embraced fun, decadence, frivolous living and personal freedoms. It was the time Fitzgerald and Hemingway roamed the streets by the Seine and were inspired to write some of their great works.

This romanticizing, Barron says, is a tendency many people suffer from, at times, including myself, who often idealize and try to imagine what it would have been like to live in a more innocent time of our nation, like the 40's and 50's.  The problem is when people get stuck in the past, or worse, live in their past, which leads them to frustration and disenchantment with the present.

Interestingly, I experienced a sense of nostalgia very recently when attending the 30-year class reunion for the class that graduated before mine at my high school.  Although, my reunion is not until next year, I was invited and gladly took my wife to meet old friends that roamed the same corridors of my senior high many years ago.  Despite the rainy night and low turnout, we had a wonderful time.

However, during the many conversations, laughs, recollections of "glory days" and getting caught up, I couldn't help but to think that the best of times in my life are being lived now with my wife and children.

I recently heard a co-worker say , "What I wouldn't give to go back in time to high school, knowing what I know now."  Really?  I don't think he really meant it but if you think about it, some people do.  Was high school really that much fun that I would be willing to give up the life to go back?  In my case; no way! And, let me tell you, I loved being on the baseball team, hanging with the popular crowd and having no responsibilities but to have fun. 

None of that can compare, however, to having my son run and hug my leg when I get home from work, or listening to my older daughter talk for days (weeks and months) about the talent show she is planning with her cousins during our trip to Sanibel (she can be a bit obsessive!), or seeing my younger daughter's smile that lights up any room (I would say something about my wife, but you get the picture).   

Other people, Barron says, get too caught up in the future.  They are so busy planning, working and saving for the future, that they don't enjoy life.

If there is one thing my wife and I have made a point of doing during our marriage, and now with our family, is to enjoy our life.  It doesn't mean living extravagantly (three kids in Catholic school is enough to curb any incline that either of us might have) but we don't live worrying and planning for the future.  I know that in today's portfolio-minded culture, we may seem odd but as the saying goes, "life is short and then you die."  My wife's father died when he was 53, which I will turning (God willing) in just six short years.  Why am I going to worry about what may or may not happen? 

The only thing we ever stress about is having the funds to continue to send our kids to parochial school, which for us is extremely important.  Although, I realize stress and anxiety show a lack of faith in God, sometimes in my humanity, I can't help it.  That said, once we have the tuition for the year covered, for me, everything else is gravy.

As for Fr. Barron and Midnight in Paris, which is the reason I started this blog, through the magic of Hollywood, Gil is transported back in time to the era he longed for and meets his writing heroes. But, what he finds is that like him, those that live in the 20's, are romanticizing and pining about a previous time in history.

In other words, at the risk of stealing some of Fr. Barron's thunder, his conclusion is that we should leave the past behind, stop worrying about the future and live for the "glory days" of today because this is the time we have been given, which is exactly what Woody Allen (coinciding with Christian teachers of the past, although probably unintentionally considering he's Jewish) is apparently trying to say with his movie...