Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fun looking back at when they were young

Things were much simpler back then. My kids thought I was the greatest thing since sliced bread and then they grew up and now much of the time, I feel like discarded crust. Some of them are still respectful and loving--but the others, well--let's say that I pray that their children never hurt them as they have hurt me. Here are some photos of happier times.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Still selling my dolls on ebay

So far I have sold about 10 dolls to help pay for all the medical bills associated with Blaise's accident. I am running out of dolls and am a bit disappointed that they aren't fetching at least the amount that I paid. Oh well, I have to leave it all in God's hands to get what He feels is acceptable for now and be content with that. At least I have something to sell to help out our family as my writing doesn't seem to be generating enough capital to land us on our feet.

Thought I'd post this doll which is listed on ebay as item # 250275858143. I think she is really cute--mainly because she is unusual with her black eyes.

What do you think of her?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Humanae Vitae Pt3

Couples see 'Humanae Vitae' as guide in marriage

Teachings encourage ‘unselfishness, openness’

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

This is the third in a three-part series that examines "Humanae Vitae" and its role and impact in Catholic life.

It is not just about sex and birth control; it is about the way in which one views life, emphasized Mary Rindone when speaking on the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae.

"My parents both died within the past few years," said the New Berlin mother of seven and member of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Greenfield. "Mom died first and then my dad was dying of cancer. My siblings were unable to spend much time taking care of my dad, so I spent as much time as I could helping him."

What Mary didn't know at the time was that John, her husband of 22 years, sat their children down and explained that it was important to give their mother time to allow their grandpa to die well. In this way, Mary could spend as much time as she needed to care for her father, knowing that John and the children would pick up the slack at home. For Mary, it was another turning point in their marriage.

"I fell in love with him all over again," she said. "It freed me from the guilt of being gone and I knew that John understood that this was for me, as well as for my dad. He knew and the kids knew that a part of living was to help him die well."

While caring for her father was a sacrifice, Mary believes it was a grace-filled time in their marriage and the teachings of "Humanae Vitae" strengthened John and her and filled them with faith, hope, love and a sense of family that they wish to pass on to the next generations.

"Having that before us is a legacy to us," she said, adding that the same grace extends to their marriage covenant and living out the teachings of "Humanae Vitae" in their everyday life.

"When we had our first child, the phrase 'and the two became one flesh' really came alive in my mind," she said. "Normally you think of the husband and wife becoming one flesh in marriage. But, here we were, the two of us, and with God's blessing, the combination of the two of us became one flesh. God manifests this before our very eyes and when you look at it this way, it is hard to comprehend the idea that children are a burden and a right, because that takes away from the gift, beauty, real love and freedom that comes in choosing what is good and right in love."

God's grace evident in marriage

Pope Paul VI emphasized the principles governing marital sexuality in "Humanae Vitae" "... each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life." While it might not always be easy to follow, John believes that faith, and the realization that God is not going to be outdone in generosity, gives them the grace to follow the church's teachings.

"If we are generous with God, he will be generous with us," said John, adding, "And it has certainly held up."

Held up through living the first several years of marriage with two small children in the dorms at the University of Dallas, while John was attending graduate school. Held up through the birth of seven children and when one of them was diagnosed with type 1 Juvenile onset Diabetes, and it held up during a miscarriage.

"While the miscarriage was the most painful thing, there was also so much grace and it really helped me to realize just how pro-life I am, and it helped me to realize how we in this country treat miscarriage - almost as if it is nothing," Mary said. "At our priest's suggestion, we had a memorial service and so many people came to the Mass - many we didn't even know. God was using what happened to us to shine his light on the truth of the importance of life from its very beginning. So many women were crying. They were not crying for us; they were grieving for their own children. They had no opportunity before to grieve their own children."

Pope was 'ahead of his time'

Emily Kang, member of Three Holy Women Parish, Milwaukee, believes Pope Paul VI was ahead of his time, and was like a captain who was protecting his crew and warning them of the dangers ahead, when he wrote his 1968 encyclical.

"These truths, when shared lovingly, are to be like a 'lamp unto our feet,'" she said.

Although Emily and her husband Dave have no children yet, and have only been married a year and a half, for them the teachings of "Humanae Vitae" are summed up in one word - openness.

"It is about being open to Christ, to seeking God's will, to trusting him and being completely open to each other," said Emily. "Though 'HV' is often disparagingly known as 'the birth control document' there's really so much more to it. In our lives, we could speak about being open to and receiving Christ's real power and grace. Once we experienced that, the teachings of 'Humanae Vitae' flowed so naturally. Without Jesus' power being real, it would be difficult for us to make sense of the teaching."

Delving into all aspects of Catholic teaching brought the Kangs to the truth of Christ and the church. The lessons learned proved real, complete and more beautiful than either could have imagined, they said.

"What happened then is that it became easier to trust God in other ways in our daily life," Emily said. "So then, the things we needed to live this teaching out started to come our way - the Theology of the Body and Natural Family Planning. Now, in our daily life, we are looking to be more completely given to each other in our marriage. We've found that the practice of NFP is part of God's loving design in that it brings us more deeply in tune with each other, and through each other, with God."

Document encourages unselfishness

According to the Kangs, the concept of family is clearer to them as they see God unveiling his plan for their marriage to them, and that the connection between fertility and a loving relationship is growing. Emily and Dave are learning that "Humanae Vitae" is asking them to become more unselfish and more loving in their hearts and actions and both know that children will be a part of their marriage.

"Rather than something that will happen someday," Emily said, "family is something that is already here and being planned for."

While couples might struggle with the teaching of "Humanae Vitae," according to Emily, those struggles come from only knowing a partial truth or incomplete explanations on the meaning of the document and Pope Paul VI's reason behind it.

"Many people have never heard that God has a loving plan to bring us happiness and fulfillment," Emily said, "And that God's will for us does bring our hearts the deepest kind of joy."

'Having children is impractical'

When Grace and David Urbanski, members of St. Mary Visitation Parish, Elm Grove, were first married, both were a bit shocked to discover that not only was NFP glossed over by the priest at their former parish, but that they were told they could ignore "Humanae Vitae" if they found it impractical.

"Guess what? Having children is often impractical," admitted Grace. "For the first five years of our marriage, having children was entirely impractical, but four children were born just the same. As I behold my growing children now, I shudder to think of the implication had we prized practicality over the truth of the church's teaching. Can a parent ask, 'Which one of you should not have been born?'"

Despite Grace's reaction, the physical, economic, emotional and mental strain on the couple with four babies was a bit overwhelming. While grateful for their family, both were frustrated with the method of NFP they were using. Intense prayer and rereading portions of "Humanae Vitae," where the pope appeals to scientists to study effective methods of natural birth control, led them to the Marquette University Institute of Natural Family Planning.

"Science had produced the Clearplan monitor that charted its way through my bizarre cycles where other methods had failed," Grace said. "Using the Clearplan monitor and the Marquette method, we waited a healthy three years before conceiving our fifth baby. When people ask what the difference is between contraception and NFP, since the goal of both in this case was to avoid pregnancy, we respond that we are always acutely aware of God's creative power. When it is an infertile time in the cycle, we are 99 percent certain that God will not choose to exercise that creative power, but we stand in utter awe of it."

Living a fully Catholic life has given the Urbanskis the opportunity to witness to Catholics and non-Catholics about the beauty of NFP and growing their relationship with God as a couple. Some chastised them, while others looked wistfully at Grace's growing belly and admitted that they wished they had more children.

"Some close friends of ours who are not Catholic talked with us on many occasions about contraception," Grace said. "After months and months of these conversations, they decided to stop using the pill. The wife told me that there was an entirely new atmosphere in their relationship that she had never known to hope for. It was like going from perfectly adequate black and white television to mind blowing HDTV. Moments like those strengthen me for the condescending comments I hear."

Archdiocese promotes NFP

As the new director of the Nazareth Project and NFP coordinator for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, Lydia LoCoco emphasized that their organization is committed to standing with the church on the side of life by promulgating the church's teachings at every stage in the areas of young adult, engaged, marriage, family and human sexuality.

"We promote Natural Family Planning as a highly effective, maritally enriching, spiritually enlightening and moral means of planning one's family, and we are here to help them not only to understand the church's teaching but to learn the NFP method of their choice and to support them in their ongoing living out of their marital promise," she said. "We are looking for trained NFP instructors and we will offer scholarships for people to be trained. They just need to call us."

Compassion Second Nature to Catholic Central Grad

Valerie Ketterhagen

Compassion second nature to Catholic Central grad

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

Fourth in a series of stories featuring inspiring 2008 Catholic high school graduates from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

BURLINGTON - Odds are that the average person would have a tough time keeping pace with Valerie Ketterhagen.

For Ketterhagen, her June 7 graduation from Catholic Central High School marked the end of a long, arduous journey that began more than four years ago when her father, Gary, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. In remission following the first set of chemotherapy, the cancer returned this year and settled in his lymph nodes.

"It was heartbreaking for all of us," she said. "He went for chemo again for four weeks and the spots seemed to have gone back down; we are hoping that this works. If this doesn't work then he might have to have a bone marrow transplant."

The youngest of three children, the Burlington teen took it upon herself to make sure her father's days were peaceful and comfortable during his off and on chemotherapy treatments.

"My parents are divorced so I live with both parents for part of each week," she said. "I try to do what I can to help make things easier for him."

In addition to coping with her father's illness, Ketterhagen is battling her own health issues in conjunction with caring for two young foster children and a host of activities that leave little time for self-pity.

"I've been having trouble with seizures, and they have been doing all sorts of testing to find out what is wrong with me; so far they don't know," she said. "I think it could be stress, but I am trying to maintain a steady, healthy life to help me get through all of that."

Nearly three years ago, Ketterhagen's mom, Marlene, opened her home to two girls, Albie age 2 and Joleen age 3 months, who needed a safe place to live.

"My mom knew their mother from AA and the girls' mother was having trouble with her own recovery," she said, adding, "The girls were in several different foster homes but things weren't working out. The girls weren't being treated right, so their mother asked my mom to care for them until she got out of rehab."

What was to be a six to nine month arrangement lasted two and a half years, ending in the mother losing her rights to her children.

"My mom would have kept them, but she knew that since she was a single mom, and 50 years old, that it would be too hard," said Ketterhagen. "We found a nice couple up north who had no children and they adopted them. They are doing really well; we just went up and saw them a couple of weeks ago."

While many teens might consider bringing two small foster children into the home a burden, Ketterhagen regarded the experience as a chance to make a difference in the lives of others. Instead of nights out with friends at the local pizzeria or attending a concert, Ketterhagen often spent evenings changing diapers, reading stories or teaching manners.

"There were days, of course, that I would rather be out with my friends, but then I realized what matters most. When I began to think that the girls could be moving out any day, I began to relax and found it nice to be with them," she said. "I was like an older sister to them and tried to teach them the right way to do things. My mom taught us that the girls are a 24-hour job - you can't just put them in a cage and leave them. My mom, my sister and I worked as a team to take care of them."

Juggling her schoolwork with six dance classes, a performing water ski club, softball, school musical, working as a lifeguard, and taking an in-school CNA class, coupled with the health issues and helping her mother with the children, it would be easy to get overwhelmed. Not so for Ketterhagen, who manages each facet of her life with tremendous faith.

"I prayed a lot, but left a lot in God's hands. I don't know how I get through everything, but I was raised with a strong faith from my parents - they both are very strong in their own Catholicism," she said. "God gave me the power to juggle everything and still maintain my grades, have an active life and still spend time with my friends. God had a plan and he knew what he was doing."

Forthright and open about her life situations, Ketterhagen appreciated the support of teachers, staff and students at Catholic Central.

"I was close to the other kids and the guidance office and teachers because we saw each other all the time," she said. "They were always right there for me and understood what I was going through."

Plans include attending UW-Milwaukee, where Ketterhagen plans to major in medicine, and one day hopes to become an obstetrician gynecologist.

The soon-to-be college co-ed expresses no regret about the many potential obstacles in her life. The hours spent caring for her dad and the two girls have strengthened her faith and resolve.

"I always knew that I was supposed to be taking care of them for a reason," she said, adding, "Those reasons will be revealed to me someday - maybe even in my future career. I don't regret any of the time I spent away from my friends. After all, I have the rest of my life and my college years to be with friends."

Master Gardener also Master Volunteer

Name: Wally Fleuchaus
Age: 68
Occupation: Retired
Parish: St. Paul the Apostle, Racine
Favorite movie: "On Golden Pond"
Book recently read: No time for books, but loves to read Readers Digest, photo and travel magazines
Favorite quotation: "Never say it can't be done."

(Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

A few hours scratching in a vegetable bed can be soothing for most people, and therapists are convinced that gardening is a serious healing tool.

Senior citizens, convicted felons and psychiatric patients, among others, are heading to gardens for recreation, rehabilitation and self-respect. For 68-year-old master gardener Wally Fleuchaus, a little dirt under the fingernails seems to go a long way with youth at the Racine Youth Offender Correctional Facility.

For the past several years, the Racine resident and member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish has made twice weekly visits to the facility, guiding offenders ages 15-24 to plant, hoe, weed and harvest thousands of pounds of produce each season. While the youth receive just pennies per hour for their labor, they are learning to give back to the community by donating their harvest to local food banks.

"I have two bad knees and struggle along," said Fleuchaus, "but I love going out there and helping those kids grow things."

As a member of the Racine /Kenosha Master Gardener Association, Fleuchaus is expected to volunteer 24 hours and participate in 10 hours of continuing education each year. Last year, when he volunteered more than 170 hours at the Racine facility, members of the Case-New Holland Corporation took notice. He recently received the Case-New Holland Agricultural Award for the impact his volunteering has on the young men with whom he works. While grateful for the consideration, Fleuchaus admitted that his parish priest, Fr. Bill Dietzler, had to talk him into receiving the award.

"He made a big deal of it in church," Fleuchaus admitted. "I don't like the spotlight at all, but he said I needed this exposure to send an example and encourage others to volunteer."

For Fr. Dietzler, the award was a small recognition for all that Fleuchaus contributes to the community and the parish.

"Wally has worked a long time with the youth in prison," he said. "He is well received and comes to them with a wonderful message of creating life in the darkness of their world. He and his wife also tend the flowers here at the parish. He really deserves his 15 minutes of fame - although he shies away from it."

As captain of the 450 youth offenders, Jyl Brunner agreed, and acknowledged that cultivating the plants gives the inmates a sense of responsibility and a feeling of worth.

"We have eight inmates hired as garden workers and Wally and Sandy, another volunteer, come in once or twice a week," she said. "They plant vegetables and show the young guys how to harvest. They also take care of my flower beds inside, too."

Brunner said Fleuchaus has affected the lives of many of the inmates over the years with his patience and receptiveness of the youth.

"Some of the inmates really learn to care about what they do - and they understand that their efforts go to feed the homeless," she said. "They don't get paid much for what they do, it's just 19 cents an hour, but they are learning to think about others."

Admittedly, there have been times when Fleuchaus wondered if his efforts made a difference in the lives of the youth. Some inmates only volunteer to get out of their cells. Some don't want to work, but occasionally there are a few whose lives are changed immeasurably and that is enough to keep him coming back.

"We had an appreciation luncheon last fall for the volunteers," said Fleuchaus. "The kids testified about how they felt and how they appreciated the volunteers. One kid was in tears. He said that if it wasn't for all of us coming here to volunteer that they wouldn't have had anybody. They have nobody. We are the only direct people from outside other than the correctional facility staff. So if one kid changes, everything I do is worth it."

His strong Catholic upbringing helps him to see the potential in every young man with whom he works in the gardening program.

"I don't do what I do to get to a better place afterward," he said. "I just think about these kids and meet them where they are at and want to make a difference. I mean, why do people do things? Why do people do stupid things? What did the kids do to get them here? My goal is to help them change their lives in whatever small way I can."

When Fleuchaus is not helping at the prison or tending the flowers at St. Paul with his wife, Paulene, he is by her side gardening at home.

"We have a beautiful perennial garden, including grapes and pears, that we use to make wine," he said. "We do some canning and give a ton away. We love flowers - my wife, especially. Four years ago (our gardens) were on the garden tour in Racine; that was really nice."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Erin's Cannonball


Erin having fun at the picnic

Getting ready for some heavy duty tubing
bouncing through the waves
that one sent him overboard!

Blaise's Company Picnic

Stella's kids swimming

Erin swimming and perfecting his cannonball!
Stella and Blaise pontificating!

Blaise's Company Picnic

Erin had a great time swimming in the lake--as did the other kids!

Blaise's Company Picnic

Blaise and little Caden playing Ladder Golf--Go Caden!

Blaise's Company Picnic

The Invisible Man Play at Salem Grade School

Erin starring in THE INVISIBLE MAN

Erin finished his last performance as Dr. Kemp in The Invisible Man today. He did such a great job--hope you enjoy the pictures!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Village Tables Wake Proposal

Village tables wake proposal
July 22, 2008


Read & React

TWIN LAKES - Despite a last-ditch attempt to change the ordinance, Twin Lakes' current no-wake rules will remain in effect until the water level drops.

During a volatile Village Board meeting, residents argued both for and against a higher lake level for no-wake restrictions.

Lake District chairman Bob Livingston implored the board not to vote on a quick fix. Instead of raising the level, he recommended pushing the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission for a hydrology study to build a larger spillway to handle excess water.

"If you raise the water levels to 16 inches, you are not going to solve your problems," he said. "You need to factor in wave, height and energy in whatever you do. The winds alone will do big damage with the water level that high, and now imagine what will happen when you bring boats into the picture."

Resident Bob Burmeister, a 50-year lake resident, said the level was higher in the past.

"I want to know how we made it through in the past, but we can't now," he said. "What damage was done then as opposed to what is going on now?"

Livingston explained that in the 1970s, lake levels were higher, homes were smaller, but piers were higher and boats were smaller. Additional vegetation along the shoreline slowed water damage.

"The DNR sets our water levels, and the current conditions don't warrant a change in the ordinance," he said.

Lakeshore Drive resident Adam Yunker argued that those who have sustained damage have not properly cared for their piers and property.

"The economy of the town is dependant on the lakes, and many businesses cannot survive this way. I have seen the water a lot higher, even in the '90's, and the traffic was the same as it is now."

Threats of lawsuits from both sides prompted Trustee Jeremy Knoll to speak up.

"Property owners are threatening to sue the village due to property damage, and those who can't use the lake for their boats want to sue the board too?" he said. "Well, we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. Instead of pointing your fingers at the board, why don't you point it at Mother Nature for all the rain?"

Resident Bev Kendall suggested sending surveys to property owners to ask about damage incurred from the water levels. Village President Howard Skinner was in favor of the idea and plans to add an item asking owners who are in favor of the current ordinance and who would like it to be changed.

"If people like to live on the lake, they are going to have to deal with what happens in different kinds of weather," resident Linda Smith said. "We have been waiting two or three years for a SEWRPC study, and if we do put in a spillway, there is still water in Illinois - we can't control them at all. How will anything change?"

After lengthy discussion, the board decided to table the item until January when board members hope to have some answers from SEWRPC regarding a larger spillway.