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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Inspiration from a Reader and a Bobblehead...

I'm going to pump you up!
Alright, so I'm already digging myself out of a hole, after promising to write more in my last blog.  I was called out on it by a reader named Norma, who wrote, "Blog more?  You've already failed, and it's only Jan. 29 ;-) I blog several times a day," and she'a absolutely right.

Unfortunately, my workload has been heavier than usual due to some personnel issues we've been dealing with and having to prepare for the upcoming ratings period starting next Thursday (which a good part of falls on me!), not to mention, employee evaluations, which have taken a great deal of my time.

I've also had to prepare a couple of discussions I led this month.  The first on Life in Christ and the Moral Law for the adult catechist class (RCIA) at my parish, where I discussed the Beatitudes, finding happiness and why we need to gear our lives towards the will of God.

The second was a discussion I led for my wife's Spanish women's group, which was only the second time I ever spoke to a group in Spanish (albeit a small group).  While, Spanish is my native language, it's not the one I am most comfortable with.  There I discussed my faith journey and elaborated on the meaning of the Mass, the Eucharist, how the Bible was canonized and the covenants that God made with mankind.  Although, it may sound all over the place, I was able to weave them in cohesively into my talk.

Still, I can also admit that those are not the sole reasons for my failure to write more often (This being just the third blog this month).  Part of it (and possibly the greatest part) has been pure and unadulterated laziness.  Sloth is another of my recurring sins in the Confessional!  Whether as a writer, as a husband, father or in fitness, which is obvious by my svelte and chiseled physique, I have a problem with inertia.

In any case, as I sit here in my home office looking at a bobblehead of a man with no shirt and rippled stomach that my wife got in the mail, as part of her burgeoning Beachbody coaching business (Doesn't every woman get a shirtless man's bobblehead in the mail?), and the toy's menacing eyes feel like they're looking at me in judgement, I realize the need to heed to Norma's admonition.

In fact, as I sit here with mister shirtless bobblehead looking at me, I think I'll go for a run as well. Thank you, Norma for the good kick in the butt.  Hopefully, it won't take me over two weeks for my next blog...

Thursday, January 14, 2016

It's High Apple Pie in the Sky for Me This Year...

Just what makes that little old ant think he'll move that rubber tree plant? 
Anyone knows an ant, can't move a rubber tree plant.
But he's got high hopes.  He's got high hopes.
He's got high apple pie, in the sky hopes
-- Frank Sinatra
High Hopes

Yes, it is... 
Ah, resolutions.

What's the start of a new year without resolutions?

Every year, at least half of the people in America resolve to lose weight (one of my favorites), to eat healthier (another one of my top five), quit smoking, work less, spend more time with family, drink less (never on my list), be less stressed, etc., etc.

The problem is that ninety percent of those people fall flat on their face, like the fat girl singing on a coffee table on YouTube, within first few months of the year.

In my case, except for the year I vowed to read the New Testament and finally finished it in early August, it hasn't been much different.  Except, I'm more like the girl with the clown mask singing Beyonce's Single Ladies by the TV set.  Smack!  Ooh, that's going to leave a mark!

Nevertheless, since I am a glutton for punishment, this is a New Year (you know what they say, "Hope springs eternal"), and I have a hard head (Just ask my wife), I thought I would set some new goals for 2016 and want to share them so you can hold me accountable!

In order of importance, I resolve to:
  • Continue to deepen my faith and study of Catholic Christianity.  Yes, I know; it's bit pious. But, this is one resolution that I have been putting on my list for several years and have done a decent job of fulfilling.  Still, I got a long way to go.  For me, it's about putting God first, since without Him, I am nothing. Among my concrete goals this year are to finish reading the Old Testament and various Church documents I have on my book shelf. Also, to re-listen to the dozens of faith CD's I own, which have gotten as much playing time over the past couple of years as RGIII did last season with the Redskins.     
  • Be the best husband I can possibly be. Instead of pictures of her running shoes and laptop, look for photos of my wife doing back flips tomorrow morning during her Beachbody work out!  I'll be honest, I can get lazy around the house.  It's one of my recurring sins in the Confessional.  I can do a better job to help my wife and can also be more attentive to her needs. At least until the baseball season begins! (Don't judge; it's about baby steps!)   
  • Be the best father I can possibly be.  Talk about absentee fathers, I was in total shock when my 8-year-old son didn't make his school's baseball team last year.  To him, it was no big deal and he forgot about it quickly but, for me, it was a reality check.  I have been in turmoil ever since, knowing that it was all my fault. I never have (or make) time to practice with the kid! This year, I hope to be less self-serving and pay more attention to my kids' needs, even when I'm tired!  So, whether that means going to pick up my teenage daughter at a party late at night, playing Life or Clue with my younger daughter or practicing baseball or flying a drone with my son, I plan to be more present.  At least, more than I have been.   
  • Be the best Managing Editor I can possibly be.  Let's just say, this has not been on my list in recent years (if ever) but I've come to term with the fact that it's what I do.  It's not who I am by any stretch but it's what pays the bills.  I need to be more focused, continue to be a stabilizing force in a very chaotic environment and control my frustrations.  Maybe, a good motto for me this year should be, "Lord give me coffee to change the things I can change, and wine to accept the things I can't."    
  • Blog more, which may conflict with the previous goals but I want to start setting time aside everyday to write.  I really enjoy it.  I like telling stories.  Maybe, it's why I got into news in the first place (or why I'm still in it!).  I want to start taking it to the next level this year. 
  • Be more generous of my time, talent and treasure.  Look, I am very involved at my parish in various ways and am a regular contributor.   But, I want to be more generous at home and with my friends as well.  I have a tendency of being selfish with my time and effort.  This year, I want to challenge myself to get off the couch and out of my comfort level to do things for others; even if that means, going for a run with my wife, or (say it ain't so, Joe!) going to one of her Zumba classes (Let's keep this last one to ourselves, just in case!).  
  • Be more grateful; have an "attitude of gratitude," as our Pastor says.  It's appreciating all the blessings that God has given me, especially my wife, my kids, my parents, my brother and his wife, my sister-in-law and her family, my mother-in-law, our health, my job, our small house, my faith, etc., etc.,  Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate them all but regularly take them for granted.      
  • And, since this is the Year of Mercy, I want to incorporate the corporal works of mercy in my life; i.e. feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit those in prison, comfort the sick, and bury the dead.  
I realize these are lofty goals and the odds are stacked against me making it without a bruise on my forehead or rear end from falling.  However, this year, I got high hopes (not that in previous years I didn't but...) and, maybe, just maybe, I can be like the little old ant in the Sinatra song that keeps trying against the odds, even if I stumble and fall at times, so that, as the year progresses, I can hear Old Blue Eyes singing in my head, "Oops there goes another rubber tree, oops there goes another rubber tree."...  

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015: A Year to Remember for My Family...

"Manu, where are you?" I texted our eldest daughter (sadly, the best way to reach her!), in hopes she would join us to countdown the New Year.  She was lost amidst the throngs of people gathered at a party to ring in new beginnings and say farewell to old acquaintances, who would never be thought of again." (As the song says; although a bit harsh, don't you think?)

"Leave her alone," my wife insisted, knowing she was with a group of girls about her age somewhere in the house, or in the vicinity!

Listen, our daughter is a freshman in high school.  In four years, she'll be out of our house (not that I want it but she has her heart set on going away!) and who knows how long before she starts wanting to celebrate New Year's Eve with friends, somewhere other than with us.  I'm clinging to those last few years we have and, so, is it out of the question that I would want her to be with us, as the clock strikes twelve?

"I see mama," she texted back from somewhere in the crowd.  As I scanned the crowd like the Terminator scanning the landscape for the young John Connor (albeit without all the fancy computer data popping up in my viewfinder), I still couldn't see her.  Before I knew it, the fireworks started going off.  It was the new year! (We were at a party across from the Biltmore Hotel, which has a yearly fireworks display.)

La familia; notice the wine, cigar and cell phone... 
I kissed my wife and little ones, as friends hugged and kissed their families and everyone around them, ate the traditional grapes for each month of the upcoming year and drank champagne (neither of which I partook in because I was too busy smoking a cigar with a few male friends and, when we noticed the time, we had to scramble out to meet our families about five minutes before midnight!). In the haste to look for my wife and kids, I forgot to get my grapes and champagne!

In the midst of our celebration, pictures and selfies, I turned around and there she was; our lost sheep. We hugged and kissed her and took more pictures and selfies before I started calling my parents and brother on my cell.

Now, I'm sure for many, 2015 was a year of great loss, regrets and even some forgettable moments.

For the world, it was the year that ISIS became a household name; the bloody massacre in Paris that took the life of more than 130 people and injured another 350, the downing of a Russian plane, which killed over 220 souls on board, the indiscriminate slaughter and beheading of Christians, including children, in various Muslim countries and the escalation of the civil war in Syria, which left hundreds of thousands of innocent victims dead or displaced.

For the nation, it was the year marriage was redefined, reality TV stars Donald Trump (called the most hated man in America) and Caitlyn Jenner (the man formerly known as Bruce, who will unlikely become an unpronounceable love signal before turning Jehovah's Witness, but who knows?) jostled for media headlines, a white supremacist in Charleston massacred a prayer group at church, a reporter was murdered on live TV and the images posted on social media by the killer and an ISIS-inspired terror attack at a company holiday party in California.

Winston came to stay...
However, for the Espinosa clan, 2015 was a banner year.  It was a year of Sacraments (our oldest daughter, yes, the lost sheep, received her Confirmation and our son's and niece's First Holy Communion), a graduation (again, our eldest from grammar school), new beginnings (my brother finally got hitched at the tender age of... well, let's just say in his 40's, and the same daughter started high school; yes it was a huge year for her!).  We had an addition to the family; a furry Yorkie-like mix named Winston, and, to carry the banner theme further, after years of suffering and frustration, my New York Mets finally won the National League Pennant and made it to the World Series, though they lost!  (Not to mention, my Washington Redskins made the playoffs after most experts had picked them to finish last in their division, but who's counting?)

Furthermore, my wife's Zumba business took off.  She's become the fitness guru to a group of friends, which call themselves "The Mamitas."  Her translation company had another successful year, as she worked for one of the GOP presidential candidates in his bid for the White House.  And, to top it off, she started a Beach Body business as well. Now, that's not counting her day job or real estate business, which she put to the side this year, but what more can I say? My wife is an overachiever!

You already know about our eldest, but our younger daughter (and middle child) had a great year too. After recovering from a broken foot (she is the first ever to break a bone in our household) that she suffered while dancing, she recovered well enough to compete at Nationals in Orlando, where despite going up against much bigger schools, they ended up placing.  She went on her 4th Grade trip to St. Augustine with Mom and earned First Honors at school in her first semester in 5th.

Just chilling...
As a family, we had a busy summer.  We went on our annual family vacation to Sanibel. My wife, eldest and mother-in-law traveled to London for our niece's First Holy Communion.  The kids and my wife went to Orlando for the dance competitions and I took the kids to Ashland, Oregon, in what began as our own version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, for my brother's wedding.

Therefore, as the new year brings hope of greater things to come for most, I can't help but remember 2015 fondly.  It's going to take a lot to top it for us.  Yet, hopefully, God will continue to bless our family with good health, lots of love and plenty of peace.  In fact, maybe, the Mets will actually win the World Series!  And, then,  I'll be saying the same thing next year, as we celebrate with family, including our lost sheep (who will be one year closer to leaving home, yikes!) and great friends.

Cheers to 2016...