The Inevitable is Here

The thing about the inevitable is that it comes. Sooner or later, but it comes. There are many “inevitables” during the course of one’s life – – dental work (my favorite…NOT!), taxes (yes, even for politicians), death of course, and a parent’s first real separation from a son/daughter. The latter, my friends, is my inevitable at this particular time.

Lauren leaves to New York at the crack of dawn tomorrow. Her first outing without us. That’s especially big for us because those of you who know us well, know that we’ve travelled in a pack since inception of this family. Even to do as mundane a thing as grocery shopping. Right. So the thought of our baby girl leaving us for a week is a bit unsettling. Don’t get me wrong, we couldn’t be happier that this opportunity arose for Lauren. Being part of this event is something she had been hoping and praying for since her freshman year at this school. She, along with 6 of her classmates, will be representing the State of Florida at this Leadership Retreat, where they will not only be injected spiritually, but also socially, as they will be meeting and interacting with teens from Salesian schools from other states.

It has hit her hard all this religion stuff. We noticed her interest when at the tender age of 8 she asked to join our Catechism staff to help out every Saturday. She’s still doing that. And since her freshman year at La Salle, she has progressively gotten involved with various service clubs and with helping out during retreats given for other students, etc. She’s got the fever in a big way. But before you go assuming that we think we have a daughter who’s “all that,” let me assure you that Lauren is not a “perfect teenager” — that being an oxymoron if I ever heard one. She’s your typical attitude-filled teenager, with a wide array of moods, and who makes mistakes she later regrets (thank goodness for that because we all know that’s when most of the lessons come). But yes, we are very happy that, at least for now, she has chosen this road. The other day she told me she had come to a realization. She said, “Mom, you know how I don’t really like any sport and never been involved in any? Yes, I said (the girl is not sports-inclined at all, is she really our daughter?). “Well,” she said, “it came to me that all this service stuff I do, well, that’s MY sport.” I like that, I said, that’s cool. I can only hope and pray that this will be a life-time sport for her.

Meanwhile, back to the inevitable. “Now it’s your turn,” my mother said to me, referring to my first outing on a missionary trip when I was a teenager. “Preparate.” Prepare yourself, she said. I remember my mother’s concerned look at the airport that first time; and actually come to think of it, each and every trip that followed. I thought I knew and understood to a certain extent how she felt, and appreciated her letting me go. But no, I really didn’t. Not until now. This type of inevitable is hard to swallow for parents. Both of us will be going through some serious separation anxiety this coming week, I can assure you. Even as I write these words I think I feel the freak out mode kicking in.

Okay, forgive my restless tone. We are newbies at this type of preordained separation. Some people tell me it gets easier. Does it? Oh God I hope not. As much as I hate the anxiety it causes, I love the affection and connection it stimulates. Not to mention the faith it triggers, as we confidently put her in God’s hands.

My family and friends, may I ask that you keep in your prayers Lauren and the rest of the teens attending this event? That our loving Virgin Mary sees to their health and safety. And that the the grace of God instills in them enough spiritual energy to carry them through years to come. As I wrote to Lauren about this retreat: soak it up and breathe it in, so you can later live it out.

Thanks to all of you.

 

Lent 2009: Ash Wednesday

Tomorrow we awake to Ash Wednesday. May this be the beginning of a meaningful and faith-fueling Lent season for all.

Jesus, you place on my forehead the sign of my sister Death: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

How not hear her wise advice? One day my life on earth will end; the limits on my years are set, though I know not the day or hour. Shall I be ready to go to meet you? Let this holy season be a time of grace for me and all this world“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.”

– a meditation by Victor Hoagland, C.P.

Change Is In The Air

        Change, change, change is in the air.  I don’t think we had ever heard the word “change” mentioned as much as in the last year.  But no, I’m not talking about THAT change, not in a political context. The change I’m talking about is not an external one of conditions or behaviors, but rather an internal one that transforms us.  The type we experience during Lent.  Yes, it’s incredible, but Lent is around the corner once again.  It begins next week on Ash Wednesday, one of my favorite days of the year, and continues until Easter, Sunday, April 12th

        It is a perfect season for cleansing and renewal.  A time for us to take stock of our lives and our relationships to figure out and adjust those glitches which may be distancing us from the Lord.  In a perfect world, we wouldn’t rely on Lent to make these adjustments; this would be a year-long effort.  But let’s face it; it’s not a perfect world.  Fortunately Lent affords us this specific time in which to look within, and hopefully experience a change of heart and a deeper conversion.

        I came across a question once that asked, “Do you need a faith lift?” I loved that.  I can tell you that I live in constant need of that kind of spiritual makeover.  Because just when I think I’m good in that department, something happens that shows me I’m not. There is always room for growth in the faith department.

        This Lenten season we should ask ourselves what we need to do to strengthen our faith and get closer to the Lord.  Is it to spend more time in thanksgiving and gratitude? We are so blessed on so many levels that we should be in a continuous state of gratitude.  Is it to practice forgiveness and humility? Yikes! This is my area.  There may be people in our lives we need to forgive or from whom we need forgiveness, and pride should play no part in this.  Is it to serve? This is a good time to put into practice the love your neighbor part of that greatest commandment.  Is it to attend Mass weekly? The opportunity to receive the Eucharist should be right up there on our list, we should honor this invitation from Jesus.  Or is it maybe to dedicate time to prayer? Without prayer our faith just wouldn’t be. You could say it would be like not making time for someone close to us.  He or she probably wouldn’t remain close for every long.  

            This Lenten season, let’s take a look at what’s inside of us and ask the Lord to help us tweak those glitches that need adjustment so that we can be better towards ourselves and others, and in turn feel closer to Him.  And let’s definitely strive for this to become a a year-long practice in our lives.  On that note, I leave you with some very good advice:

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.

Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragements; feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on verities that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that undergirds.

-Unknown Author

Wishing all of you a blessed Lenten season.  May the peace of the Lord live in your hearts.  : )

Out of Sight Out of Mind

        Out of sight out of mind.   Ay, how I despise that phrase!  I think it’s even worse in Spanish — “ojos que no ven corazón que no siente” — eyes that don’t see heart that doesn’t feel — Yuk.  Few things in life rattle me.  Seeing someone use this approach is one of them.  Just gets under my skin.  Why does this practice appeal to some people?  In a nutshell, because it shields the heart.  But at what cost?

        I mean, I understand the reasoning behind it.  We don’t want to suffer through the mayhem playing out in the news, so we change the channel; we don’t want to be troubled by that homeless soul begging at the street light, so we change lanes; or we don’t want to deal with that someone who triggers in us certain inconvenient emotions, so, no matter how dear or close to us, we shut down and leave them hanging.  Eyes that don’t see heart that doesn’t feel.  It’s an easier way around life.  Oh but what a blatant act of indifference.

        I think this practice of detachment, of conscious avoidance if you will, is to our detriment.  Its only accomplishment is to place our concerns, worries, pain, anger, disappointment, pride, or what have you, in hibernation while we wait and hope for these feelings to fade away or the circumstances to resolve.  And yes, occasionally it works, but at a high cost.  This indifference may shield the heart from certain inconveniences, but it leads to lack of compassion, and that my friends, hardens the heart.  Going against every ounce of what God wants for us.  Because a hard heart cannot hear God’s voice.  Yet it’s tempting, this turning a blind eye so we don’t hurt.  I know, I’ve tried this OOSOOM thing.  But I’m what you call an emotiochist (yes I just made that up, like epishowers, those epiphanies I have in the shower, which is where the thought for this writing originated), so I must feel.  I tell you, with that array of emotions, an introverted personality and an extra large size conscience, the type that causes me to constantly kick myself in the butt (but that’s a topic for another day) it’s no wonder I suffer from arrhythmia.  Pero doesn’t matter, I just rather feel, and a hardened heart doesn’t.  So this “not able to be seen and so not thought about” philosophy is not for me.

        Besides, at first, it may seem like it’s doable.  Like it’ll help us get away with not having to feel whatever it is.  But most often than not, because we are good and decent, chances are we won’t be able to get rid of those inconvenient emotions and instead we’ll piggyback ‘em until, all of a sudden, we realize that it’s been in vain, not having served a purpose or resolved a thing, other than to make us physically ill and emotionally reckless.  I’m telling you it’s like waterproofing a structure that you cover with concrete or pavers or plants – the deterioration goes unnoticed until the leaks surface.  Then we realize that turning away from that inward or outward experience only increased its power over us.

Bottom line is that when confronted with life’s challenges, those we rather drop like a hot potato, it’s always best from the get go to resign to the power of stillness and prayer, recognizing that there lies the true path to our heart and our ability to truly listen to God’s guidance, to in turn be able to better deal with circumstances.

        Out of sight out of mind.  May the Lord never allow us to give into that phrase.  May He help us rest in the cooling shade of His presence, slow down our restless hearts and fill us with gentle compassion for all people.


“The opposite of love is not hate,
it’s indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness,
it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy,
it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death,
it’s indifference.”

– Elie Wiesel

“Compassion literally means to feel with, to
suffer with. Everyone is capable of compassion, and yet everyone tends to avoid it because it’s uncomfortable. And the avoidance produces psychic numbing — resistance to experiencing our pain for the world and other beings.”
– Joanna Macy

“I came upon a doctor who appeared in quite poor health.  I said, ‘There’s nothing that I can do for you that you can’t do for yourself.’  He said, ‘Oh yes you can. Just hold my hand, I think that that would help.’  So I sat with him a while then I asked him how he felt.  He said, ‘I think I’m cured.'”
-Conor Oberst

 

Walking the Talk

This Tuesday my son will be receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation.  In preparation, this past weekend he attended a retreat given at his school.  His first retreat.  He loved it.  Said it was great.  Having been through a number of retreats myself, both on the receiving end and as a leader/helper, I know the life-altering effect they can have on one, especially a retreat well planned and lead.  His retreat was.  And I want to take a moment to thank the teachers and school alumni who made it happen.  In particular, Ms. Cindy — you rock!  She did an amazing job.  As well, the group of teenagers who volunteered their time to plan and work this retreat — Vicky, Juanqui, Ali, Annette, Ashely, Melissa, Lauren, to name a few.  These teenagers’ dedication and show of faith is a refreshing reminder that not all the youth of this country is lost.  That a large number of them are out there doing their best to set an example for us all, spreading and living the Word — walking the talk, if you will.

Thank you guys for making this a special and memorable retreat for Danny and his classmates.  Keep up the good work.  The Lord needs you.  The world needs you.

There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men.
There is no greater contribution than to help the weak.
There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.
– Walter ReutherOne thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really
happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.
Albert Schweitzer

You’ve touched people and know it. You’ve touched people
and never may know it. Either way, no matter what your life
feels like to you right now, you have something to give.
It is in giving to one another that each one of our lives
becomes meaningful.
Laura Schlessinger

 

Flak about Michael Phelps

[Contributed by Barbie Rodriguez]

You know what? I am really, really, REALLY tired of the “I’m only ___ years old.” and “I’m sorry, I used poor judgment” excuses. People are criticizing Kellog’s for dropping Phelps, or rather, not renewing his contract. I say, good for them. He should be dropped from any and all contracts. Yes, he’s young. Big deal. He still knows right from wrong. As to all the brouhaha over his Olympic record. Big whoop. Yeah, great, he’s a great swimmer, sportsman, whatever. Yeah, great, he broke records. IN SWIMMING. Did he cure cancer? No. Did he cure AIDS? No. Come up with plan to end poverty, hunger, homelessness? Achieve world peace? No, no, no and no. Yet still people made a “hero” out of him. Looked up to him. For swimming. You know who the real hero is? The captain who landed his plane in the Hudson, kept his cool, saved ALL lives on board and has kept a low profile and humble demeanor throughout all the hoopla surrounding him. The real heroes are those that keep their families together, their priorities strong and trudge through day after day, paying the bills, taking care of their families, sometimes under the grimmest of circumstances. Those are the real heroes. People who devote their lives to sports and go to the Olympics? Yeah, they are great athletes, but should they be put on a pedestal and get a bazillion dollars in promotional contracts? Not in my book. It’s time for people to start taking responsibility for their actions. And stop using the “I’m young, I’m sorry, I used poor judgment” excuses. Get real. Grow up. Face the facts. People are living under bridges, children are going hungry, the sick are going untreated, the elderly are being mistreated. Why don’t people get as outraged over these facts as they do over the fact that Phelps got canned by Kellogg’s? How skewed are our priorities? Michael Phelps, a fallen hero? Oh, please!

 

I Went to That Game With Your Grandmother

        A couple of weeks ago I got to go to a football game with my son Danny.  But not just any football game, “THE” football game.  The BCS Championship bowl game between the Florida Gators and the Oklahoma Sooners.  Okay so that may not mean much to you, but for football fans, it meant the hottest ticket in town.  Never mind how we came across the two tickets, the sweet thing is that my hubby, being the great guy that he is (plus it doesn’t hurt that he’s a UM alumnus and a Gator-hater), offered his seat to me saying “You went to that school, so you go.” To which I promptly responded, “Okay.”  Don’t need to tell you the look on his face.   Gator-hater and all, he was as excited about the opportunity of going to the game as I was.  But like I said, he’s a great guy.

        Terrific, except I figured my son would not be down for the deal because what 13-year old boy wants to be seen at such gigantic event with his mother? I mean, sure, Danny and I are close, he’s my grocery shopping partner, we bike ride, toss the ball around some (I happen to like sports), and even slap each other around often (that game I’m gonna have to put an end to soon if I don’t wanna end up getting hurt, given his growth spurts as of late).  But the bottom line is that he and Dad are skin-tight, and big football games belong to fathers and sons.  So I thought nah, this isn’t gonna fly.  I think my husband thought the same thing.  Until Danny said he really didn’t care much who took him as long as he got to go.  Such tactfulness…NOT!  Great timing for it though… wink, wink.   During the next few days, however, I did have second thoughts about going.  Being the big game it was I wondered whether he would have a good time going with me.  But instead of folding, I started seeing in this the opportunity for us to make one of those lasting memories together.  The kind he would tell his own kids about.  At least that’s what I hoped it would be.

        Game day came and my hubby dropped us off at the stadium (all the limos in town had been rented…no, not really).  We power-walked through the parking lot amidst a slew of tailgating fans who looked like they had been there a wee-bit too long if you know what I mean.  For a minute there it sorta felt like we were “walking the line.”  But since no one had won or lost yet, everyone was in good spirits so we made it in safe.  We entered our gate and took our seats.  Three seconds later we were gone for food and memorabilia.  Danny and I walked like crazies scouting the stadium stores and concession stands.  We returned junk food loaded, heavy on orange and blue beads, and sporting Gator sweatshirts.  Well what did you expect; we had to look the part, no?

        As kickoff time neared, the stadium filled with a sea of orange and blue.  It almost seemed the entire Gainesville population was at Dolphin Stadium, which by the way saw its largest crowd ever to watch a football game there.  Talk about home field advantage.  It felt like I was back at the Swamp.  Trust me, I remember it still.  Yikes!   So far we were having a good time and the game hadn’t even started.  Once it did though, things got serious and down to business.  We had a job to do. To roar at the top of our lungs, and even louder on third downs.  That was our job and we did it dutifully and proudly.  HA!  It was fun. So far Danny looked like he was having a good time.  I was glad about that.  By the time half-time came around, our ears were ringing.  We needed a break so we went inside for some more food and some more junk to buy.  This time a disposable camera since with all the excitement during drop off, we both forgot our digital in the limo, I mean the SUV.  Our stroll around the lounge area included an unexpected bump into Bob Costas, yeah you know, that giant of the sportscasting world; figuratively that is, because the guy is Danny’s size, we almost missed him.  We rushed back for the second half and made our way to our seats high-fiving everyone in our row because by this time in a football game if you’re not at that point with those around you, you’re a dead beat.  And my son and I weren’t there to be deadbeats.  No, we weren’t, and we got pictures to prove it.

        The second half was even louder.  The day after the game I read an article which said that a field-level decibel-reading devise indicated the noise during parts of the game was equal to that of a jet engine.  The entire game was like that, but even more so during the fourth quarter.  I don’t think we sat down but a few minutes all game long.  Danny and I cheered along with every other rooter to every single cheer there was, Gator chomping along to the theme of Jaws and in the face of every Sooner we saw.   It was fun, to say the least.  Especially since the Gators won.  We stayed through the end of the trophy presentation, as we sat back in our seats totally exhausted by this time, and watched Tebow and his John 3:16 scripture painted face walk around the stadium shaking hands with fans.

        Meanwhile, across the highway, our chauffeur was maneuvering through the traffic madness. We eventually made our long walk back to our pick up point, somewhere out there around the stadium, where we met up with the limo, I mean the SUV, as it swiftly picked us up while still in movement.  Yeah there was no going around again for that driver, the poor guy.  Thank you honey for giving up your seat and for so graciously getting us there and back.  As we sat there tired, our voices hoarse, and our heart rates just then returning to normal, Dad asked, “How was it?”  — “Awesome,” his son said.  So it sounded like I had held my own, scoring about an 8 in the “football buddy” department, with zero embarrassments.  I did wait for him outside the men’s bathroom, but c’mon, what you want from me?  

        In the end, I thank God for the opportunity He gave me to make yet another lasting memory.  One I will hold dear and high up there with those to come — his graduation, his wedding, his children’s births….But it was just a football game you say.  Not to me. And I hope one day, if and when the topic arises while reminiscing with one of his own, he’ll say, “That game? Oh yeah, I went to that game with your grandmother.  It was wild….”    : )

-by Connie Perez

Worth Watching: 22 Weeks

Here’s a low budget film which was released late in 2008.  The film “22 Weeks” shows the hidden side of abortion.  It is based on the shocking World Net Daily article by Ron Strom, about a woman in her 30s named Angele who went for an abortion at an Orlando clinic in April 2005, while 22 weeks pregnant.  The film is scheduled to be shown in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, the day before the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, and the annual March for Life protesting the decision.  The official web site for the film is http://22weeksthemovie.com/index-flash.html, and you can go to http://22weeksthemovie.com/ to check screening dates, to purchase the DVD, or to request a screening of the film in your school or community.

The abortion controversy stems out of some people’s adamant and sometimes prideful fight for a “woman’s choice.”  But at what price? is this blogger’s incessant question.

Source:  YouTube

Book List 3

More books I recommend (most current read on top). You can click on the links to read about them. Note: For you Spanish speaking folks, the titles marked with an asterisc are a better read in Spanish.

Nieve en la Haban: Confesiones de un Cubanito* by Carlos Eire

The Shack by William P. Young

How Good Do We Have to Be? A New Understanding of Guilt and Foregiveness
by Harold S. Kushner

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

Brida by Paulo Coelho

A Day With a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny
by Robin S. Sharma

365 new ones!

Family and friends – We are hours away from welcoming a new year…PHEW!! 2008 has been a duzy that’s for sure. Anyone out there who did not fear they could end up living on the streets by year’s end raise your hand…anyone?…anyone?….Right, I thought so. This year brought us the collapse of banks, the stock market, and the U.S. auto industry, sending many to the unemployment line. And all courtesy of the third deadly sin: Greed. Greed on the part of the companies that enticed us with their rose-colored avarice; and greed on the part of the consumers who, despite their own economic hardships, thought that bigger and better than their neighbor meant happier. Luckily we’re all quick studies. Hopefully, no?This year also brought us the continuation of the never-ending Middle East chaos, which sometimes looked like child’s play in comparison to the atrocities being committed right here in our homeland by some of the less than human and more possessed-like individuals to make the freak list. Unreal! Oh, and yes of course, it brought us a new president…uhum uhum….

It wasn’t all bad though, and many of us triumphed as we fought tooth and nail to overcome whatever stones patterned our paths. Fortunately for us, the infinite grace of God once again held our planet together yet another year, despite our relentless attempts to destroy it and everything in it. May He continue to be ever so merciful, is all I can say.

Meanwhile, my sincere best wishes go out to all of you for a healthy and happy 2009. May the Lord provide you with a daily dose of serenity, strength, courage and wisdom. God bless you, and your 365 new ones!

I leave you with a recipe for a Happy New Year that I found recently:  

    Take twelve fine, full-grown months; see that these are thoroughly free from old memories of bitterness, rancor and hate, cleanse them completely from every clinging spite; pick off all specks of pettiness and littleness; in short, see that these months are freed from all the past—have them fresh and clean as when they first came from the great storehouse of Time. Cut these months into thirty or thirty-one equal parts. Do not attempt to make up the whole batch at one time (so many persons spoil the entire lot this way) but prepare one day at a time.

    Into each day put equal parts of faith, patience, courage, work (some people omit this ingredient and so spoil the flavor of the rest), hope, fidelity, liberality, kindness, rest (leaving this out is like leaving the oil out of the salad dressing— don’t do it), prayer, meditation, and one well-selected resolution. Put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a sprinkling of play, and a heaping cupful of good humor.