Archive for the ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Category

Dear Readers,

After writing more than 70 columns about films, faith and family, I’ve decided to take a break.

I would like to tell you that I am flying to New Zealand for a small part in Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit.”

But the simple truth is that I have a number of writing projects I would like to complete in the next twelve months. Discontinuing my monthly Reel Life Journeys column will free up the time I need for these new projects.

However, I did not make this decision quickly. Only after much thought and prayer did I see that this was the best road to take at this point in my writing career.

“My writing career”… I like the sound of that. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and thanks in large part to the interest and support shared by Rick Musacchio and Andy Telli of The Tennessee Register, I have a great start.

Looking back over these past six years of writing this column, I learned a number of important lessons:

~ Writing is hard work. I can remember only a few magical moments when whole paragraphs flowed through my fingertips. For the most part, I wrote my 850-word columns after purposefully sitting down at my laptop many times to write.

The editors asked that I e-mail my column to them on the Tuesday before the newspaper is published on Friday. That means during the previous week I would ponder the column’s topic, what movie to feature and other quotes or song lyrics I could use to illustrate the topic.

The columns I like the most had a rough draft done by Sunday, extra quotes added by Monday and a final edit before e-mailing the text to Andy on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, too many of my columns, either through procrastination, family duties, my daytime job or other diversions (the Chicago Cubs, pizza, Notre Dame football) did not see a rough draft until Monday, some updates on Tuesday and a final edit early Wednesday morning. I know that most newspapers have a hard print deadline and I know it’s best to get things done sooner rather than later. I just hope I didn’t cause too many late nights for the TR staff.

~ Live each day to its fullest. Unless you are Phil Connors, the weatherman reporting from Puxsatawney, Pennsylvania in Groundhog Day, you can never repeat today. As many others have tweeted or posted on Facebook, today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.

~ Show respect to everyone. A simple school project of collecting one paper clip for every life lost during the Holocaust continues to teach valuable lessons of respect and tolerance to the students, parents and community of Whitwell, TN Middle School. We should remember that lesson and stop judging people because of their looks, their wealth (or lack thereof) or their religion and show them respect. We would all hope to receive the same.

~ There’s no crying in baseball.

~ Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. As Master Yoda so eloquently states, fear is often the root of many evils. But when we sing John Michael Talbot’s lyrics “Be not afraid, I go before you always. Come follow me, and I will give you rest,” we know that our God is ever before us, guiding us in love.

~ Even the smallest person can change the course of the future. This theme from The Lord of the Rings is much more than supporting a three-foot, seven-inch hobbit on his quest to destroy the One Ring of Power. One individual, standing upon this rock in space we call Earth, is a minuscule part of the world’s population of 7 billion people. Yet that one individual, by his or her acts of kindness and love for other people, can start a chain reaction that will transform this world into a better place to live. You are just one person, but you have a very important role to play.

~ All you need is love.

~ The richness of life is not found in a large bank account. The first Reel Life Journeys column I wrote centered on the song “If I Were a Rich Man” sung by Tevye in The Fiddler on the Roof. In this column I imagined what I would do if I won the Powerball lottery. I realized that the things I wanted to do most (write, talk to Grandma more often, spend time with family and friends) were things I could do now without the winnings. Carpe diem!

So thank you, dear readers, for your interest and encouragement through the years. It has been a pleasure and an honor to write this monthly column. I may yet show up on these pages again in the future. “God only knows when we will see each other again,” Hodel says to her father Tevye before boarding the train to Siberia. “Then we will leave it in His hands,” he replies.

The von Trapp family said it best in The Sound of Music when they sang: “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye.”


Christopher Fenoglio is grateful for the loving support of his wife and family, to whom these columns are dedicated.

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Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play?

Going off to college for the first time is a very exciting time for students – a new bedroom, a new school, new friends and new freedoms.

For parents, however, it’s a whole different story.

In the midst of shopping to outfit a dorm room, rearranging work schedules around a trip to campus and organizing finances to write tuition checks, many parents will stop and wonder this month: where did all those years go?

I don’t remember growing older, when did they?

It seems like only last year that my oldest son made his first Communion. Then a couple months later he won that trophy at the forensics contest. Two months after that he joined the high school marching band. Just last week he joined the university marching band.

Time is not what it used to be. My four years in college seemed like an eternity.

Thirty years later, four years of high school are just four blinks. Poof, gone. Last year our daughter left for college, this year it’s our oldest son.

It’s sad to see them leave home, away from our protective nest. Are they prepared to be on their own? Did we do everything as parents to help them get ready?

We think so; though we worry it’s not enough. We just want what’s best for our children, like the character Michael Newman (Adam Sandler) in the current film Click.

Motivated to provide a good life for his family, Newman cancels a long-planned camping trip to work on a project for his inconsiderate boss (David Hasselhoff). But when Newman can’t find the TV remote to watch a planning DVD, he drives to the local Bed, Bath & Beyond.

There he talks to Morty (Christopher Walken) who handles products in the “Way Beyond” department. Newman happily leaves the store with a new universal remote with wondrous powers.

In a short time Newman learns that he can fast forward through arguments with his wife, mute the barking dog and pause time to torment the neighborhood brat.

ClickHe also discovers that he can fast forward through his big work project. As he tells his wife, all he wants to do is get through the daily grind to the stage in his life when he can be the boss. Then he can finally spend quality time with his wife (Kate Beckinsale) and their two children.

But life is not a destination, it’s a journey. If you wait until you arrive at a destination to enjoy life, you’ve already missed it.

Newman finds out that there are dire consequences to his fast forwarding. When he is under the influence of the remote, he is on auto pilot, barely speaking to his family, concentrating only on his work.

His family drifts away during this neglect. His wife divorces him and remarries. His own health deteriorates from years of eating fast food and unhealthy snacks. Even his son shows the same signs of a “business first” attitude. Newman finally understands what he missed and regrets how he let his work (and the remote) control his universe.

With our children going off to college, it’s easy to look back and feel some regret – the big game missed, the ‘N Sync concert tickets not purchased, the Disney vacation during their “perfect ages” not taken.

But regret is a crippling emotion. It can clamp down on you like a pair of too small gym shorts, overwhelming your thoughts until you take them off.

Katherine Mansfield, New Zealand’s famous author of short stories wrote, “Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; you can only wallow in it.”

Instead, we should view our children through the words of Thomas Merton: “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

I don’t lament that our children have out grown out of pajamas with feet. Now that they are older, we can enjoy new adventures and experiences (they may even understand more of my jokes). I am comforted in knowing that my wife and I will always be their parents, ready to support, guide and love.

When I grew up in my parents’ house, my mother had a framed needlepoint hanging on the wall. It read “The best things we can give our children are roots and wings.”

So fly away Connor, fly away Kristin, may God keep you and all the college students safe until you come home again.

First published in the August 11, 2006 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2006 Christopher Fenoglio.

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“If I were a rich man…” – Sung by Tevye in The Fiddler on the Roof

A couple of years ago, before Tennesseans could buy lottery tickets at the corner store, I drove to Kentucky to buy Powerball tickets. I think I spent five dollars on tickets and probably more on gas.

But in the category of “entertainment dollars,” this money was well spent.

During the drive up and back to Nashville, I daydreamed about what I would do with one hundred million dollars.

TevyeIt was like the scene in The Fiddler on the Roof in which Tevye has a conversation with God. He imagines what life in their small Russian village would be like if he had more money. He would fill his yard with chicks and turkeys and geese to squawk for all the townspeople to hear. He’d make sure his wife looked like “a rich man’s wife with a proper double chin” as she ordered their many servants around the house. He’d renovate their single level house to two levels with lots of staircases, even one just for show.

But after dreaming about the material goods that would make his life more comfortable, he realizes that what he wants most is to have time to read the Holy Scriptures and discuss them with other learned men. “That would be the sweetest gift of all,” he concludes.

I wonder how many of us, if we had the financial freedom to do anything we wanted, would turn more deeply to a life of Scriptural studies and prayer.

Sure it would be easier to devote more time to these studies, since all our bills would be paid and we would be surrounded by all the comforts of home. Life would be easier. We would now have time to do the things we really wanted to do.

I thought the same thing during my drive home from Kentucky. With so many millions, our family could build a bigger house in the country. Each of our teenagers would have their own bedroom. There would be plenty of storage, big bathrooms, a bigger kitchen, a soundproofed den for music and a big theater room to watch movies.

Of course my wife and I would be able to quit work since college tuition payments would be easy to pay. We would spend that time managing our investments, transferring funds to different portfolios, and enjoying the walk to the mailbox to collect the interest statements and dividend checks.

A good portion of our windfall would also go our church, alma maters, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and other worthwhile organizations across the country. With such an abundance of riches, it would be easy to give lots of time and treasure to these programs.

But after thirty minutes of dreaming about the easy stuff, I got down to the things that matter the most. I thought that if I had all the time and money I needed, I would talk more with my family, especially my 90-year-old grandmother. I would spend more time writing, especially devotionals based upon my favorite movies. I would also spend more time at church with my music ministry and possibly record a couple more albums.

Suddenly I realized that I could do the things that matter the most WITHOUT winning the lottery. Sure there are many demands on my time, but if I manage it better, I could find the time to write, to call Grandma, to sing and to pray. And if I spend the most time on the things that matter the most, then I’ll be able to deal with the daily struggles in a better frame of mind.

By putting my family, my faith and my lay ministry ahead of everything else, I’ll be working from a Christ-centered mindset. I can do that now, without the luxury of mega-millions and fancy homes. I bet you can too.

So God, thanks for the opportunities to write this column and sing at church. I don’t think it will “spoil some vast eternal plan if I were a wealthy man,” and I won’t shun the opportunity to cash in the winning ticket if it ever comes my way. I just pray that you fill my heart with love and help me spread that love to those I meet every day.

Talk to you again soon. I think I’ll go now and call Grandma.


First published in the May 20, 2005 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2005 Christopher Fenoglio.

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