Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More Attorney Woes

I really do not like our legal system.
Why is it that when someone legitimately has a situation in a store
and legitimately gets hurt
that because of past frivolous lawsuits we are screwed?
why is it that we can only see the side of the person hit by a drunk driver
but we cannot see the failure to keep customers safe in a store?
Why is it that we will be forced to sell our house
but the store continues to make billions each year?
This was not our fault

Personal Injury Attorneys

What is it with those personal injury attorneys?

Or is it just us?

My husband was seriously injured in a home improvement store two years ago and the attorney seemed interested in the beginning, although he was an immediate jerk. His first words were, "well, you aren't going to be retiring in the Bahamas but this looks like a good case."

First of all, we were not interested in retiring in the Bahamas, we were interested in making sure this never happened to anyone else and we didn't feel it was fair that we had to pay medical bills for something we did not cause.

Secondly, the injury was much worse than we initially thought, resulting in nine cervical fusions--both posterior and anterior. My husband suffered horrifically after the surgery and continues to do so nearly 18 months later.

We sent the required medical updates to him--no response

We sent the bills to him-no response

We called only four times in the past two years to ask specific questions and were treated as if we were bothering him.

The last time we met with he and one of the partners, they both acted as if we were trying to malign the system because my husband had a lot of medical bills--well hello! Have you seen the pictures of the surgery we sent you? He is filled with metal. You try holding your head up high with 20 pounds of titanium screwed into your neck and tell me how you feel.

They kept telling me husband he had to work, had to keep his job and so we did all we could to ensure that this happened--but the stress has been unbelievable.

Later we find out that most other people who have had this surgery are on disability. But Blaise keeps plugging on.
Today we meet with them again to set a value on the case and I am ready for them.
I want them to know how this accident has changed our lives
He is not the same man any longer
We don't have the life we used to have.
He can no longer play raquetball,
No basketball
No swimming
or his favorite past time--golf.
He was ready to go pro, he used to be a scratch golfer-Golfing was his dream and now it is shattered.
At home, he is not the same man
He gets tired
He is in pain
He gets frustrated at his limitations
We don't have fun anymore
and, we are broke from all the medical bills
This has affected me too.
And I am tired.
My question is, are there any Personal Injury Attorneys in Wisconsin who are there because they sincerely want to help people?
Or are they here to merely do the least amount of work in order to line their own pockets?
I just need to know that there are lawyers our there who are not rude and who are not jerks.
Let me here from at least one of you--please!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Father Aims to Set Good Example for Son -Catholic Herald

Father aims to set faith example for son

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

Franco Tenuta believes that God is the keeper of a huge treasure box in heaven, and is just waiting to bless his children; we only have to ask.

"God is waiting up there and I believe he is saying to us, 'Pray and tell me what you want and believe, and it will be done. If it is in my will, it will be done for you,'" the Pleasant Prairie resident said enthusiastically. "We need to say at least one prayer every day to God. His arms are wide open and all he wants us to do is send up a prayer to him."

The soft-spoken Tenuta is a gentle giant among parishioners at his home parish of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Kenosha, and when he isn't spending time with his wife, Betty Saveria, tending to his 7-year-old son, Mariano, or working as network manager at AT&T, he is volunteering at church.

He's served as chairperson of the "Grilled Chicken Booth" at the annual parish festival for 10 years, ushered and lectored at Mass, taught religious education and was an assistant basketball coach. The 41-year-old is running for parish council as a way to share his love of the Catholic faith with others, and to serve others.

Additionally, he is discerning the permanent diaconate after the former Christian formation director at Holy Rosary approached him with the idea recently.

"She came up to me a couple of weeks ago and said, 'Franco, I have been praying for you to be a deacon.' I was stunned and said, 'You have?' Then she told me that she even spoke with my mother about it. So now I am discerning about it to see if it is my calling."

A long way from his native Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tenuta is first to admit he wasn't always so focused on his faith or in volunteering.

"In the past few years, God called home a couple of close friends of mine," he said. "In perspective, I know we are not here forever, so I want to do whatever I can do on earth to fight for God and bring more people to him. Whatever I can do to bring more people to Jesus Christ and for me to get closer to God, I feel it makes my life worthwhile."

Through the encouragement of Betty, whom he lovingly refers to as "The Rock" of their 14-year marriage, he has become a strong Catholic.

"I give her all the credit, and before I was married, I didn't go to church as often as I do now," he admitted. "She encouraged and pushed me to go; she has always been spiritually the strongest in our marriage and it is about time I stood up to lead the household."

Tenuta wants to show Mariano what it means to be a strong and faith-filled Catholic - the same lessons taught to Teunta at Don Bosco Elementary School in Buenos Aires and through his parents, Mariano and Jema.

"My dad came here in 1972 by himself and worked four years to be able to support us. So four years later, my mom, my sister, and my twin brother came to Kenosha in 1976," he said. "And the first opportunity, we all became citizens at the same time. I was 17 and it was in 1983."

He hopes Mariano will learn to rely on God for all of his needs and learn what it means to be a true Catholic Christian man.

"I want him to imitate what I do," he admitted. "I have read that if the father goes to church that there is a 90 percent chance that the children will continue that tradition," he said. "It is vital for me to continue that tradition and set an example for him. When I am in church, he is looking at me and I make a point to sing the hymns real loud and humble myself before God and hopefully he is taking it in."

Tenuta said an awareness of God helped him redirect his life.

"I used to say all the time that I had more important things to do than to help out at church," he said. "I wanted to do personal things on the weekends and at nights during the week and I was selfish in that regard."

Tenuta encouraged others to seek volunteer opportunities within their parishes.

"Most people, I don't think, feel that their life experience and what they have to offer is valuable to the church," he said. "That is nonsense; everyone has something to offer to the church. We get caught up in the world and think we are going to live forever, so I don't think people feel they are needed. We are all needed in God's world."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Little Sister Comes Home-Kenosha News Article

The DVD “Little Sister,” available at many local stores including all Kenosha-area Walgreens, was filmed at nine farms in Kenosha, Racine and Walworth counties

'Little Sister' comes home
April 23, 2008
Movie-making family films children's DVD on nine area farms

Look closely at the scenes in "Little Sister," and you might see something familiar.

The 80-minute DVD, available for purchase at many local stores including all Kenosha-area Walgreens, was filmed on nine farms in Kenosha, Racine and Walworth counties.

"We love southeastern Wisconsin," said Greg Lavin, "Little Sister" director and writer. "So the potential of making other films here is very possible."

It's no surprise Lavin is fond of the area. He grew up in Kansasville and still lives on the family farm, though now in a home built on a corner of the property that has been in the family for five generations.

Family is important to Lavin, whose "Little Sister" crew included sons Nathan, 27, and Matthew, 21. They spent seven weeks filming the DVD from August to October in 2004. If all goes as Lavin has planned, "Little Sister" will be the first in a series of DVDs that will include both rural and urban settings.
"'Little Sister' represents the first in our rural cycle of stories," Lavin said. "There is an urban cycle as well. Those stories will cross all racial lines.

"What connects them is their focus on what it's like being a very young person entering life. Each story promotes self-esteem building within children. And each adult role in these upcoming films is designed so that their conduct reveals the importance of patience, encouragement and tenderness in dealing with the sometimes unnerving world of being a very young child."

"Little Sister" is a story about 4-year-old Cora, who spends an enjoyable morning with her mother feeding the baby animals on her family's farm. It stars Cora Hulsey of Kansasville as Cora and Marya Bradley of Milwaukee as her mother.

Falling asleep while waiting for her brother and sister to return from school, Cora dreams about the baby animals wandering away from the safety of their families. Troubled by this, she decides to help the babies find their way home.

As the dream continues, Cora has no luck in finding the mothers of the baby animals, and in looking for assistance, realizes her own mother is missing.

A kind neighbor soon remedies the problem, and each of the animals is reunited with its mother. Cora awakens from her perplexing dream and is pleased to be surrounded by her brother and sister at a tea party prepared by their mother.

Lavin was pleased with how quickly Cora adapted to her screen role.

"She caught on so quickly, memorized her lines, and even cried on cue," he said. "For such a young girl, it was incredible, really, how well she took to the role."

Lavin's methodology is similar to that of the late Fred Rogers, whose idea was to give children time and help them grow up by constantly reaffirming their sense of self-worth. Lavin and his sons come close to capturing Rogers' gentle and leisurely style in the DVD.

Lavin has years of experience in the writing and filmmaking business. His motivation behind creating "Little Sister" was to provide a gentle, calming experience in a film for children.

"The marketplace for children is underserved and inappropriately served," Lavin said. "As corporations dominate, some of the products are synthetic, and clearly the dollar signs are showing."

Inspiration behind "Little Sister" and young Cora's relationship with her mother is reminiscent of the love that Lavin said his own mother, the late Helen Bennett Lavin, showered upon him while he was growing

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Into the Wild

This little cutie was in our backyard the other evening scavenging for treats

Meet Bluebell--our newest feathered friend

Blaise's manager tired of his little bird--whom they affectionately called 'Bird.' Knowing that we are suckers for anything that eats and leaves droppings--he asked us to adopt her. We renamed her Bluebell, got her a new cage, treats and toys--she seems pretty happy and is desperately in love with Frankie. Of course, I had to include photos of him and Zachary too as they are very jealous creatures.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Swap Gifts from Kathy P

This is for you Toni, part 1

Okay Toni-Here is the yard--it doesn't usually look like this in the spring and summer though. We have had such a long winter that nothing is blooming, I am just happy that the lawn is turning green. Come on over for a visit and bring Linda and Loretta too!

This is for you Toni

Okay Toni--here are other views for you

After lifetime apart, aunt, nephew cherish friendship

After lifetime apart, aunt, nephew cherish friendship

Faith, family ties unite Paul and Elsie Bucher

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

JEFFERSON - She remembers living on Keefe Avenue in Milwaukee as a toddler, but until recently knew little else about her childhood home, twin sister and other family members. Elsie Bucher was just 4 when she was driven from her home to St. Coletta, a facility set in the peaceful rolling farm country of Jefferson County.

Her family knew that the Franciscans sisters who ran St. Coletta cared for children such as Elsie, who was born with developmental disabilities.

Since that day in 1923, St. Coletta has been home for Elsie. She spent years living there, working in the laundry, peeling potatoes and washing dishes in the kitchen. Later she traveled to Alverno College, working in the kitchen and laundry until her retirement approximately 10 years ago.

Although she grew up without her parents and siblings, Elsie made many friends with other residents and staff. She enjoyed shopping excursions, luncheons at her favorite restaurants and even a European vacation with several of the Franciscan nuns. Several years ago, she moved to the group home for older residents, just east of the campus, with her best friend, Margaret.

According to resident counselor, Jackie Gess, the two women have been close for approximately 80 years.

"We even celebrate their birthdays together," she said.

While Elsie had heard of former Waukesha County district attorney Paul Bucher, until an impromptu visit five years ago, she never imagined that he was her nephew and the connection to her heritage.

When the popular attorney arrived at St. Coletta's he was surprised that Elsie knew all about him through watching him on television.

"That just made me question why she was at St. Coletta's," he admitted. "Anyway, she was very happy to see me and meet me, as I was with Elsie."

Beaming, the petite 89-year-old said she had no idea that the man she saw so often on television was related to her.

"I was surprised to see him, and he was so nice to me right away," she said. "He comes to see me whenever he can and sometimes brings the baby, Anna, who will be 3 very soon. She is Paul's youngest child."

Soft spoken, but articulate, Elsie has a keen memory. She rattles off dates, names and other historical events with little effort - a feat which initially bothered her nephew for she did not appear to have a serious disability.

"You know, I kind of knew that there was 'somebody' in some institution related to my father, but it was never discussed. My father and I did not really talk until he became ill and I began to care for him," Paul disclosed. "I then learned that he also had a younger brother who was tragically killed at a young age, and then he opened up on the details of Elsie. He confirmed the fact that she was at St. Coletta's and then I insisted that he take me there. He did, and introduced me to her. I really didn't know what to expect, but what I saw was something that surprised me. I guess I expected someone severely retarded or disabled; that is not who I saw. I was then even more curious as to why she was there, much less for over 80 years."

Careful prodding of his father only revealed to the perplexed nephew that placing Elsie in a place like St. Coletta's was the way that developmental disabilities were handled many years ago. By the time Paul entered her life, she was incapable of life outside that kind of care facility.

"The limited information I was given as to why she was there was simply that she was retarded," he said, adding, "I really didn't know what that meant. I was told that she had some problems speaking at a young age."

Adding to Paul's confusion was the knowledge that not only did his grandmother, Elsie's mother, not mention her institutionalized daughter, but Elsie has a twin sister, Helen, living in their childhood home on Keefe Avenue who rarely mentions her existence.

"I can only assume she was ashamed," admitted Paul. "My grandfather was a very, very strict Swiss man so maybe that had something to do with it. I don't think my Aunt Helen is all that thrilled about me meeting Elsie and I'm not sure why."

The opportunity to forge a friendship and family bond seems to offer a sense of grace and fulfillment for the two who share more than a genetic background. Both are devout Roman Catholics who spend their days living their faith. Elsie participates in devotions each week, prays a daily rosary and enjoys watching Mother Angelica on EWTN. Paul, a resident of the Town of Merton, was raised Catholic, and attended Catholic schools his entire life. He, his wife Jessica and their five children (four from his previous marriage) are members of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in North Lake.

Elsie believes God brought Paul to her, and considers him not only a nephew, but also her friend.

"I know God put him into my life," she said matter-of-factly, "God is just so good to do that for me. That is how he is."

The bond between the two is a gift to the other, for Paul has information to complete Elsie's yearning for her family's history, opening up a new world of belonging to her. In turn, she gifts Paul not only with St. Coletta history, but also with a childlike faith, love and admiration.

"Meeting Elsie has simply given me a connection to the past," Paul admitted. "She is a bit difficult to understand, but her entire life is St. Coletta's and she has a tremendous amount of historical information about St. Coletta's but no information about her family."

For the past five years, Paul has been intent on putting the puzzle pieces together for Elsie so that she no longer is isolated from her birthright.

"I have since introduced her to my older brother David who lives in Arizona," he said. "She has met all my children, Breanne age 23, Tim age 21, Chris age 18, Matthew age 14 and Anne Catherine age 2. My kids also expected someone much different than Elsie and asked me why she was there."

Elsie's longevity is remarkable, as children with developmental disabilities were only expected to live for about 10 years during Elsie's day. According to St. Coletta officials, she is a living example of an emerging trend of people with disabilities having a lifespan nearly consistent with that of the general population.

Paul explains her longevity a bit differently.

"I think it is just the Bucher blood," he quipped. "Her sister shovels snow and cuts the lawn and still drives and is very lucid and with it. I really think it is in the genes - I hope!"

Before Elsie became dependent on oxygen to assist her with the effects of congestive heart failure, Paul would often take her out for lunch or special dinners to give her a change of venue.

"She also was a special guest of honor at my second wedding," he said, adding, "And when I would take her out, she enjoyed having chocolate or Grasshopper drinks for dessert."

Although less frequent, Elsie still travels to Wal-Mart, Kohl's or out to chicken dinner at the Riverfront, said Gess, who remarked that Elsie will often use those times to stock up on goodies to satisfy her desire for anything sugary.

"Oh, she loves treats," Gess said. "And because she is on hospice here, we let Elsie eat what she wants to eat."

And what was breakfast for Elsie that cool spring morning?

"I had black jelly beans, a chocolate bunny and toast," giggled Elsie like a young girl, "I guess you could say I have a sweet tooth."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Feeling the Power

Repeat after me, I have power over my crabgrass!

Yes, folks--after living here for six years, the application of crabgrass killer and lawn feed was finally placed at the appropriate time.

It never failed, each year when I saw the crabgrass, I pestered Blaise into going to the Hardware store to pick up the crabgrass killer. But, almost as if he were waiting for him, the old guy with the bib overalls that works there, would say to my husband,
"Yure too late," he said, picking his teeth with a piece of a straw broom, "Yeaup, it's on its way up rite now--can't do nuthin bout it now."

So, Blaise would come home and give me the sad news, bracing himself for my disappointment. "What? Why can't we kill it now? I want it all dead! Dead I say."Of course, I'd respond in the nicest tone of voice........

All summer as if to taunt me, the crab grass would poke its ugly mounding form high above the rest of the grass, covering it like a parachute. I could hear it snickering--"ha ha, you can't stop us--we are taking over the entire yard!"

Well, not this year, pilgrim!

We bought three bags of the stuff and the old guy just gave us a nod as if to say, "finally you got it right." We bought a brand new broadcast spreader so Blaise could apply the stuff this week as the weather is beginning to warm up--finally.

BUT, what I did not count on was him having to fly to California to see his sick brother---the spreader sat in the garage. The bags next to them--and this morning, I swear I could hear that crab grass beginning to laugh a hideous, diabolical laugh.

So, I put down my writing assignments, forgot about baking, laundry--and did the entire 1 acre lawn myself.

Gosh, it felt good. The sun was baking on my hair, lightening it to my summer hue, my thighs were jiggling like they didn't know what was going on, and best of all--I heard crying.

I am sure it was the crab grass.

I felt suddenly powerful!

Now, watch out dandelions--I am ready for you too!

Go ahead punk, make my day.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hate Hotmail today

Boy I am so sick and tired of hotmail going down for me all the time. It seems to affect my Mac more than it does my PC computer, but my Mac is a laptop and I like to use it more for emailing because it is portable.

Just curious, is ANYONE else out there having trouble with hotmail today? I am about ready to open another email account and get rid of this one. It is so darn annoying! My gmail doesn't go down like hotmail does.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I am at home--but not having a retreat

Here is the spoiled doggie, Zach eating some leftover mashed potatoes-he was so lazy that he didn't want to step out of his bed.

Boy, I desperately need a retreat and I think it has to be anywhere but here. Blaise is in California, Erin is in school so it would be the perfect opportunity to relax, read a good book, watch a little television, right?


I picked this time to shampoo the carpets
Wash the floors
(After washing the kitchen floor, I shattered a glass and had to sweep and shampoo the darn floor all over again--grrr)
I did some massive laundry which caused my clothes dryer to reciprocate and break down
Now I am waiting for the Maytag Repair Man--I've been waiting for two days.
If he doesn't get here soon, I'll be visiting the neighborhood laundromat or take to beating the clothes on a rock and hanging them on the bushes to dry.....I didn't sign up to be Amish.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Stay at Home Retreat

Stay-at-home retreat accommodates busy schedules

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

Ideally, participating in a retreat is a good means to achieve solitude and serenity while growing spiritually, but actually finding an opportunity to attend can be an undertaking.

Alanna Wilgus, a stay-at-home mother of two children, ages 8 and 11, finds few moments for herself. Admittedly, the 51-year-old Wauwatosa woman would relish a bit more time for herself, or the chance to attend a spiritual retreat, but her options are limited until the children become a bit more independent. Therefore, when the option to retreat at home arose, she jumped at the opportunity.

"I just wanted to do something different for Lent than the ordinary - like giving up things," she said. "So when I saw the flyer for the 'Busy Person's Stay at Home Retreat,' I just knew it would be perfect for me."

Wilgus participated in the alternative program through her parish, St. Joseph, Wauwatosa.

Program begins with orientation

The program generally begins with orientation and prayer the first night and a closing session the last night. Occurring primarily within one's home, the retreat is adaptable to a variety of situations. In addition to daily prayer and reflection, each participant meets with a spiritual director four times during the two-week period.

The experience was so profound for Wilgus that she plans to continue with ongoing spiritual direction.

"I just loved working with my director; she is awesome," she said. "We talked and prayed and she gave me a lot of insight into things."

Due to poor winter weather and an early Lent, this year's retreat was not as successful as in previous years, but Jim Gill, director of adult ministry at the parish, is optimistic.

"It was tough this year and I think a lot of people did not have the best Lent experience for many reasons," he admitted. "But I have participated in several of these at-home retreats and the experience works quite well. Many people just can't take week or two off for a face-to-face directed retreat; they just don't have the time."

Spiritual director guides process

At the initial meeting, each participant receives a folder with Scripture passages, reflections and ideas to improve prayer life. Participants become acquainted with their spiritual directors and meet to discuss their goals for the next two weeks. Directors discuss attitudes and faithfulness to prayer and what to expect during each of the four meetings.

"This way the director gets a feeling where the person is at and what they would like to accomplish. They might give Scripture to reflect on, and some things to think about until they have their first meeting," Gill said. "Generally, participants will gravitate toward a Scripture passage to work on. This isn't a Scripture study, but reflecting on how it affects their life."

Retreats introduce spiritual direction

Although St. Joseph Parish held the retreat in February, Gill said that the retreat would be appropriate during any church season.

"This can also be used as an introduction to spiritual direction for some people," he said. "There are some who have decided to have spiritual direction on an ongoing basis; it's also good for somebody who is just beginning their work in spiritual direction or for any seekers for more reflective prayer."

Also experiencing a decline in retreat participants for the first time in six years, Franciscan Sr. Eileen Kazmierowicz, director of adult and family ministry at St. Alphonsus Church in Greendale said a benefit to the stay-at-home retreat is that attendance is not a major concern.

"No matter if we have two people or 20, we can have the retreat as long as you have directors available to mutually schedule times," she said, adding, "The big piece is that people are praying at home; they have guidance, structure, and professional spiritual directors who have gone through training to do the retreat."

Both St. Joseph and St. Alphonsus held the retreats sans the large, initial and closing gatherings, instead allowing for flexibility between the directors and the participants.

"But you see, the retreat still happened and it was a success," emphasized Sr. Eileen. "The biggest thing is both directors were able to commit to a block of time in two weeks and so were the retreatants. They made a commitment to grow in praying with the Scriptures and a desire for one-on-one guidance and it served their need for this time in their life."

The retreat coordinator facilitates the confidential meetings between spiritual directors and the retreatants. According to Sr. Eileen, that location may be in the director's office, or in rooms on the parish site.

In addition to presenting the folder of materials at the initial session, Sr. Eileen always includes a homemade journal and a guided meditation for prayer.

"The director is listening to the participant in how they pray and will offer suggestions too," she said. "We have information on tips for prayer with a variety of approaches, including praying with Scriptures. I always tell our directors that prayer is what works for you, and to set a pace with the participant at where you are and where you will go."

Web a resource for home reflection

Overall reactions to the at-home retreats are positive, said Gill and Sr. Eileen. "You know, we had one married man who did this retreat every year, but this year decided to try a different type of retreat," said Sr. Eileen. "We have some who may come once and then use it as a stepping stone for longer ones. This retreat is nice because it works for different faith journeys and different personalities."

For ongoing spiritual growth Sr. Eileen encourages ongoing study, such as provided through American Catholic's Minute Meditations, Creighton Ministry, and the Jesuits.

"Just having daily Web sites to turn to for prayer are important in reflecting on how my day is going," she said.

Thanks to the Stay at Home Retreat, Wilgus learned to put small blocks of time to good use in her daily reflection and prayer. She plans to attend next year, but hopes for a better turnout.

"I highly recommend this experience," she said. "It took so little ti
me and I got so much out of it. It was the perfect fit for my lifestyle."

Latest Catholic Herald Article-Sharon Murphy

Lifelong Methodist realizes she was Catholic all along

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

It is one thing to devote your life to sharing your faith, but entirely another to share a faith to which you didn't realize you belonged all along.

For years, Sharon Murphy, a lifelong Methodist, fulfilled her promise to raise her daughter, Erin, and two sons, Timothy and Kevin, in the Catholic faith, as was promised when she and her husband, Chuck, were married in the early 1960s.

In the early years of their marriage in North Dakota, where she taught junior high school English, Murphy, 66, remembers how earnestly her mother-in-law tried to help her understand church doctrines.

"It seemed so formidable and so harsh to me," she admitted. "But because of her sweetness and goodness, I tried, but wasn't able to accept. Those times, 46 years ago, were very different than they are now. The divide between Catholic and Protestant was very wide at that time."

At first, she attended her Methodist church while her husband and children went to Mass at their home parish. However, juggling little children and two faiths proved difficult, so Murphy began attending with her family.

Not long after, the parish priest asked for volunteers to teach religious education, and while she was not Catholic, she offered to help if they were interested.

"They welcomed me with open arms," Murphy said, "I taught my second son's class for two years, was given lesson plans and learned as much as I taught. In just those few years, the church's rigid teachings had lessened and I was able to embrace the fact that although my children were not of my faith, they were being given a good foundation for their lives.

I was pleased."

The children attended Catholic high school in the Twin Cities, and Timothy, the oldest, graduated magna cum laude from St. Thomas University. Kevin attended St. Norbert College, joined the Army and served four years in Germany. Erin graduated summa cum laude from Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire.

"While we were out East, we attended a little Catholic Church where we got a really good lesson in dialect," Murphy joked. "No r's in words like 'Lord,' but added in words like 'idea.'"

Moving back to Wisconsin and the Midwest felt like coming home to Murphy and her husband, who were approaching their golden years. With their children grown, married and living near Wisconsin, the move was a chance to get to know their eight grandchildren.

"We retired, and now there was time to read and read some more, do all the gardening we'd talked about, all the trips we'd discussed, all the cookies to bake and the bird garden to build," she said. "Now every meal was spent observing our feathered friends from the window by our table. Life was good. We were so blessed."

Despite living the retirees' dream, Murphy couldn't shake an unexplained shadow of discontent and a sense of loneliness and loss. She had everything they dreamed about and more. Last year, on Palm Sunday, she knelt before the crucifix at her home parish, St. Paul the Apostle in Racine, but was at a loss on what to pray.

"I just stared at the crucifix on the altar," she confessed. "Later, as I listened to Fr. Bill's (Dietzler) homily and heard about Christ's suffering for us, and how we need to consider our pain and suffering a contribution to what he so freely gave for us, I knew then that I no longer had any disagreements. I embraced these messages. All these many years, I had been a Catholic. I don't even know when it happened; I just finally knew it had. It was time to make it official."

Hesitant at waiting so many years to convert to the Catholic faith, Murphy was shocked at the reaction of one of the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) staff members when she stated her intentions.

"She just looked at me and simply said, 'Welcome,'" Murphy said. "And that is exactly how I feel. The RCIA program has been so helpful and informative in my own personal struggles with my many faults - but most of all, it is so very welcoming. The Rite of Election at the Cathedral in Milwaukee was so beautiful and special. It will remain one of my most treasured memories."

Murphy explained her ongoing desire to learn as much as she can about Catholicism as an education that demands to be continued.

"The people at St. Paul and the other churches we've visited have all been so kind and willing to share their knowledge," she admitted. "The lessons we have learned from many of the area's priests and teachers have been wonderful and I don't think I will ever be able to express my gratitude fully to these good people."

Perhaps the wisdom of that North Dakota priest who accepted a non-Catholic into teaching a children's religious education program planted a seed. While she realizes some may have regarded his decision as unwise, Murphy described how it has left her with a childlike enthusiasm for a faith that many cradle Catholics take for granted.

"This Easter Vigil I was finally able to join in the sacrament of the Eucharist; I no longer have to scrunch myself up so people can wiggle by me on the pew as they go to receive Christ's body and blood," she exclaimed. "I can finally join them! I can be a part of this community. I can't think of a better way to end this journey, or to begin the rest of my life."

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Lisa Vandegriffe Trautman New Catholic!

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Double dates between Lisa and Brian Trautman and Reanne and Mark Maney became more than just shared dinners and Trivial Pursuit. The couples found themselves discussing faith and Catholicism. When Lisa, seated, entered the Catholic Church at Easter, Reanne, standing, was her sponsor. The two also work together at Brian Trautman’s Racine chiropractic office. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)
Newlywed finds Catholicism foundation for marriage

Faith’s ‘daily tools’ help build relationships

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

RACINE - Lisa Vandegriffe Trautman learned about God by attending a variety of non-denominational, Catholic, and Baptist churches. The daughter of a Catholic mother and Baptist father, her parents encouraged Lisa's personal pursuit for a permanent faith home. She attended a Christian youth group with friends and, at 17, was baptized at the First Presbyterian Church in her hometown of Jefferson City, Mo.

Lisa began exploring the faith of her mother and grandmother while in her mid-20s. At the time, she was dating Brian Trautman, a Roman Catholic chiropractor from Racine.

"I began to seek more outside myself and began to have time to develop my purpose, and as mine developed, it seemed to continually point in the direction of God," she said.

As the couple's relationship grew, Lisa and Brian attended the enrichment program for engaged couples while planning their Nov. 17, 2007 wedding at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Racine.

To some couples, the engagement program fulfills a requirement to marry in the Catholic Church, but to Lisa, the Christ-centered, family atmosphere left her wanting more.

"The choice to become Catholic wasn't so much to be titled 'Catholic,' but more driven by Catholic faith formation methods, focus on family, and childhood education," she admitted. "I found the enrichment program for the engaged couple to be extremely helpful in providing couples with daily tools to build a better relationship with one another through God. That is what being Catholic is to me - providing tools to make life more fulfilling."

With the help of Anna Marie Clausen, RCIA coordinator at St. Paul, Lisa, 27, prepared for full reception into the church during the Easter Vigil at the parish.

"I had to travel extensively back and forth from St. Louis to Racine during the wedding planning, and Anna Marie provided a few books and suggested readings regarding the topics of discussions that I would miss at the RCIA classes," she said. "It was helpful in many ways. I tend to shy away from discussing feelings, especially with 'strangers' I had just met in RCIA. Anna Marie is an insightful Catholic. She is the perfect person for the position of RCIA director."

Initially, Clausen and Lisa would meet over coffee to discuss the topics of the week, which would eventually roll into personal questions on faith formation.

"That was the beginning of my RCIA experience, thank goodness," Lisa said. "By meeting with Anna Marie initially, I was more open to discuss and share my thoughts with the RCIA group."

The sharing experience opened up a desire for Lisa to share her faith, and others began to take notice, especially Brian.

"He was so happy to see the change in me," she said. "Also, at the Rite of Election, Anna Marie asked Brian to bring down the book of candidates. By making him a part of the ceremony, he had a rejuvenating moment in his own faith."

Finding a new comfort in sharing feelings, faith and Scripture, Lisa and the other candidates are a close-knit group.

"Each week we attend Mass and after the homily, we dismiss for discussion of the readings," she said. "My favorite discussion we have had was the reflection retreat. It was a daylong event that included reconciliation, Scripture studying and fellowship. You learn a lot about yourself and become more conscious of God's presence."

Instrumental in Lisa and Brian's marriage at St. Paul was co-worker Reanne Maney, who works with Lisa at Brian's chiropractic office. Lifelong Catholics, Reanne and her husband Mark began attending Mass together and shared conversation, lively faith discussions, game and movie nights, wedding planning, and the beginning of a new life.

"Reanne and Mark had their first child in July, Adelynn, and this miracle was a true testament to their faith and its contribution to their marriage," Lisa said. "It was an unforgettable moment to be with them as they became new parents."

Because of their close bond, Lisa asked Reanne to be her sponsor, and throughout their frequent nights of shared dinners and Trivial Pursuit, Lisa found answers to her faith questions.

"I didn't have any major faith formation questions," she confessed. "Mainly, I had logistical questions about when to do what. Brian's favorite lesson he learned at St. Francis all-boys Catholic high school in Buffalo, N.Y. is 'Spirit of the Law vs. Letter of the Law.' This simple outlook clarifies much of the confusion about faith formation."

While busy with her administrative job in her husband's practice, Lisa finds time to volunteer. But some of her duties may change, however, as she and Brian prepare for the birth of their first child.

"Another miracle, due Nov. 6! I look forward to deepening my faith and relationship with God. It is comforting to be released from control and trust God to move me in the direction he has planned for me," she said. "My marriage, parenthood and friendships will blossom in this new perspective. I enjoy participating in community worship and I learn a lot through the different interpretations of parishioners."

Becoming Catholic is a necessary component in the completion of her relationship with God, Lisa said. While building a stronger relationship with God, she has noticed that her relationships with her husband, family and friends have become more significant.

"The relationships become 'unconditional,'" she said. "Acceptance of yourself and others is peaceful. Love does not feel as 'vulnerable' and feels more fulfilling."

While they may not share the same beliefs, Lisa's family is supportive of her choice to become Catholic and to go where God is leading her. However, one member is very happy to see Lisa join the Catholic faith.

"My grandmother is particularly excited because when I come home, she has a new person to celebrate Mass with," Lisa said.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Signs of Spring

Besides the obvious signs such as muddy doggy footprints on the white carpet and losing our car in the enormous potholes--spring seems to be on the immediate horizon.

Today, each of our approximately, 30, yes 30 and maybe more birdhouses are filled with new bird couples readying their little homes for their next brood of babies. All over the yard, Robins, Finches, Sparrows, wrens, Nuthatches, Bluebirds, Grosbeaks and many others fritter about grabbing bits of string, twigs, grass and other filler to build their nests.

What a delight for us after the gloomy and frigid days of winter to hear the melodious chirping of so many different varieties of birds. Of course, the onset of spring would not be complete without us purchasing a few more homes, bird seed and feeders for our little feathered friends.

The odd thing is, they seem so happy to see us and don't mind when we putter about in the yard. Too bad our human counterparts aren't as welcoming and cheerful, isn't it?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Great Day

(Ryan and Kelly before he left for Iraq)

I have finally heard from my son, Lance Corporal Ryan Urness from Fox 2/24- currently stationed in Baghdad--praise God he is fine. Sitting here in my rural home in the U.S.,my imagination runs rampant with curiosity--wondering whether he is eating, healthy, injured or even alive. I live with the fear of a home visit from the armed forces preparing to give me bad news--and each day that they don't arrive, I breathe a sigh of relief. So, even though the letter comes three weeks after his penning, it carries a tangible awareness of his being. He took the time to write, to express his feelings and to tell me that he loved me and that I have been an excellent mother. I don't pretend to realize that this could be the last time I hear from him especially under the consequence of war--but it is a lifeline to me and holds a bit of promise for his homecoming.

So Ryan, I love you and am so grateful that for now, you are well--another box comes your way today!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

First is a note from Allison and following are my questions to her about her new book, Setting Boundaries with your Adult Children--great book, please read it if you are a parent!

Our country is in a crisis of epidemic proportion concerning adult children whose lives are spinning out of control—leaving parents and grandparents broken-hearted and confused. This painful issue is destroying individuals, families, marriages, churches, and communities. I believe in my heart that you are reading this message today for a very specific reason. Do you know someone who has an adult child who is always in crisis? An adult child who brings chaos to virtually every situation? Could this painful issue be touching your life today?

If so, there’s a truth I’ve come to embrace that has changed my life—it can change yours, too. It’s taken me more years than I care to admit, but I no longer believe in “coincidences.” The truth I’ve come to embrace is that God is the Master of orchestrating “God-cidences.” He has a plan for who he wants us to meet, what lessons he wants us to learn, even what books he wants us to read. He even has a plan for the trials and tribulations of life.

When we begin to look at everything that happens to us throughout the day as “God-cidences” (and not accidental coincidences) it changes the way we view our world.

That said, my prayer is that you will see the following message and the book; Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing as a “God-cidence” placed into your life today for a powerful purpose. Perhaps it’s to help heal your family or the family of a loved one. Perhaps you are here to help us introduce this resource to a broader audience via additional media contacts you may have. Whatever the “God-cidence” may be, please know our primary goal is to bring hope and healing to families around the nation—thank you for helping us do that.

I pray you will view what you are about to read as a “God-cidence” meant just for you.

God Bless and Keep You,
Allison Bottke

The book comes out of your own personal experience with your son. Please tell us about that.

ALLISON: For years I really thought I was helping my son. I wanted him to have the things I never had growing up. I love my son, and I didn’t want him to hurt—but sometimes pain is a natural result of the choices we make. For a long time I didn’t understand the part I was playing in the ongoing drama that had become my son’s life—I didn’t understand that I didn’t have to live in constant chaos and crisis because of his choices. When I chose to stop the insanity and start living a life of hope and healing my life changed. It’s a feeling I want other struggling parents and grandparents to experience. I want other parents to know that change is possible when we choose to stop the destructive cycle of enabling. And we can stop it. I know, because I’ve done it.

How can we determine whether we are helping versus enabling our children?

ALLISON: Helping is doing something for someone that he is not capable of doing himself.

Enabling is doing for someone things that he could and should be doing himself.

An enabler is a person who recognizes that a negative circumstance is occurring on a regular basis and yet continues to enable the person with the problem to persist with his detrimental behaviors. Simply, enabling creates an atmosphere in which our adult children can comfortably continue their unacceptable behavior.

What are some of the most common ways that parents enable their children?

ALLISON: Being the Bank of Mom and Dad, or the Bank of Grandma and Grandpa. Loaning money that is never repaid, buying things they can’t afford and don’t really need. Continually coming to their rescue so they don’t feel the pain—the consequences—of their actions and choices. Accepting excuses that we know are excuses—and in some instances are downright lies. Blaming ourselves for their problems. We have given too much and expected too little.

Why are you so passionate about reaching out to other parents?

ALLISON: Because I’ve been there—I still am in many ways. I’m a parent who has traveled this painful road of enabling. I understand what it feels like to have your heart break because of a choice our adult child has made.

What are some things that parents can do to break the cycle of enabling?

ALLISON: Follow the six steps to S.A.N.I.T.Y.: Stop blaming yourself and stop the flow of money. Stop continually rescuing your adult children from one mess after another. Assemble a support group of other parents in the same situation. Nip excuses in the bud. Implement rules and boundaries. Trust your instincts. Yield everything to God, because you’re not in control. These six things can start a parent on the road to S.A.N.I.T.Y. in an insane situation that is spinning out of control. However, a key issue in breaking the cycle of enabling is to understand whose problem it really is.

What does this book accomplish that other books on the topic do not?
ALLISON: Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children will empower readers with a no holds barred six step S.A.N.I.T.Y. format, stating in black and white the parental behaviors that must STOP, along with identifying new habits to implement if change is to occur. Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children will identify the false conceptions parents believe about themselves and their adult children and will counter each lie of captivity with the truth that setting boundaries is not only a good thing—but a vital part of hope and healing. True stories from other enabling parents and grandparents are woven throughout the chapters. Discussions with and observations from licensed psychologists and psychiatrists are also included.

What is the ultimate goal of Setting Boundaries?
ALLISON: While recognizing and identifying enabling issues must come before positive change can be made, it is the eventual peace and healing parents will feel as they gain power in their own lives that is the goal of this book. It’s a tough love book for coping with dysfunctional adult children, as well as getting our own lives back on track, Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children empowers families by offering hope and healing through six S.A.N.I.T.Y. steps. I walk parents through a six step program to regaining control in their home, and in their life.

ALLISON: I encourage your readers to tell me what they think about Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children. I really do want to hear reader feedback. They can reach me at: Please be sure to visit our web site at where they will find additional resources for helping them on their road to S.A.N.I.T.Y. Remember to tell a friend in need and help save a life!
Quotables from Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children

Note to Blog Owners: Feel free to use the following quotes as sidebars within your blog, or inside text boxes or any other ways best suited to your publication.

On Enabling…
As long as we continue to keep enabling our adult children, they will continue to deny they have any problems, since most of their problems are being “solved” by those around him. Only when our adult children are forced to face the consequences of their own actions—their own choices—will it finally begin to sink in how deep their patterns of dependence and avoidance have become. And only then will we as parents be able to take the next step to real healing, forever ending our enabling habits and behaviors. (pg. 33)

Many of our adult children have retreated from the trials and tribulations that not only test their faith but would also stretch them in ways that would develop their character, prove their mettle, and give them a sense of achievement. Consequently, many adult children have no idea what they’re truly capable of accomplishing. They’ve never really tried to move ahead with confidence and be all they can be. (pg. 35)

On Letting Go…
It’s a natural instinct to protect those we love, to help someone when he’s down, to offer assistance during times of tribulation. Yet for some adult children, “tribulation” is their middle name. When is enough enough? Our adult children are no longer babies, toddlers, or adolescents. We must stop treating them as such. Gone are the years of trying to mold their character. Unless they decide to change as a result of changes we make (if we truly want this to stop), what we see is what we get, as the saying goes. (pg. 43)

Setting our adult children free to live the lives God intended them to live is not abandonment—even if it means setting them free during a time of severe trial and tribulation in their lives. (pg. 57)

Our money must cease being the life preservers that buoy up our adult children, keeping them afloat through yet another storm. We might be amazed at just how well our adult children can swim when giving the opportunity to do so. More important, they just might be surprised at their own ability to survive without life support, a powerful lesson that no amount of money can purchase. (pg. 107)

On Healing and Restoration…
We do not parent as those who have no hope. We have a God who watches over our children—if we’ll just get out of His way and let Him do the restoring. Restoration is such a promising word to parents in pain. But to get to restoration, we must start with the truth of where we are. We must be honest. The truth is that those once-innocent children grew into the jaded and unmotivated adults they are today under our parental watch. And now we find that one huge step in the restoration process is to honestly see our adult children for who they really are now, not as we remember them in their Kodak moments. (pg. 72)

Real healing begins when a parent stops believing the excuses and lies and insists on the truth. As we develop our action plan, there must be no room for excuses. Our boundaries must be firm. There is a right and there is a wrong, and we are going to choose to do what’s right. Period. (pg. 118)

Healing often comes through pain first. Physical therapy is painful, but it’s always conducted for our own good. So too are God’s plans always meant for our good—even when we can’t understand them. (pg. 172)

We should never give up hope that our adult children will find a way out of the dark abyss of addiction. We should never stop encouraging them, emotionally supporting them, and loving them. And we should never stop praying for them. Miracles happen every day, and God will make a way where there seems to be no way. (pg. 189)

On Listening…
As parents in pain, we’ve been living in places of weakness for a very long time, but we haven’t done the kind of listening that has brought us closer to God—or to any firm results in the challenges of our lives. We have become emotional repositories for everyone else’s problems, and the time has come for that to stop. (pg. 132)

Rarely in our prayers do we think about listening to God or about implementing the biblical principles that will bring stability to our lives. Instead, we fall back on bargaining. But I’ve discovered that listening to what God teaches us in His Word about all things—parenting included—should be the number-one goal in the life of every Christian. Too often we listen instead to worldly advice, to secular self-help gurus, and to the never-ending stream of trendy cultural messages designed to fix whatever ails us. Ironically, those were often the very sources of “wisdom” that either caused us to make parenting mistakes or caused our children to succumb to temptations that led them into their destructive lifestyles. (pg. 144)