Friday, February 26, 2010

Laptops to replace backpacks

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Backpacks, like these toted by students at John Paul II Academy, Racine, earlier this month, may be a thing of the past next year at the new St. Catherine Middle School in Racine, as the school plans to implement wireless education in the fall. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)
RACINE
— Next fall, sixth grade students will be carrying lighter backpacks and reading assignments measured in megabytes rather than page count. EBooks may save the school money and paper cuts in the near future.
EBooks, digital books that can be purchased and downloaded to a computer, come in various formats and can even be edited or highlighted. Students will also learn to turn the resources of the Internet into a personal tutor, library and reference tool.
Thanks to an anonymous donor, members of the first class attending the new St. Catherine Middle School in Racine will have their own netbook laptops to use interactively online with eBooks. This wireless feature will allow the school to go green and save money and trees as it reduces its paper use.
With a commitment of 25 students for the incoming class, including netbooks in the curriculum will add $400 to regular tuition costs, much less than actual costs incurred in adding this program, thanks to the donor who provided funds to purchase the laptops.
The wireless program coincides with the school’s mission to prepare its students for modern problem solving, focusing on advanced academics, putting students on a fast track and enabling them to begin taking high school credit classes as seventh and eighth grade students.
Eventually, St. Catherine Middle and High School plans to include wireless education for all six grades, but will be implementing the process one grade at a time said school president Christopher Olley.
“This will give staff time to prepare and train our staff,” he said. “We hired Elisabeth Blandford for our incoming sixth grade; she is a master teacher who is excited about researching and utilizing new methods to reach out students. We are on the cutting edge of 21st Century education by utilizing eBooks and going wireless.”
While the eBooks won’t replace all textbooks, they are cheaper to produce as they save on printing and paper costs. In addition, rather than replacing pricey outdated textbooks every couple of years, the eBooks can be quickly updated and edited with pertinent information.
“After the year is done, we make sure the computers are upgraded for the next year,” said Olley. “And upon graduation, there would be a fee to buy the computer at a reduced rate, if the students are interested.”
Utilizing textbooks is an important facet of education, but overall education depends upon the curriculum, the teacher and keeping current with technology. For Olley, bringing St. Catherine to the forefront of technology gives the school an advantage in the Racine educational market.
“I am not aware of any one-to-one computer school or Catholic grade school with one-to- one computer technology,” he said. “We are committed to being the best educational resource in Racine and Southeast Wisconsin and adding value to what we do. We have always had a good high school and this is a great way to differentiate in the marketplace and stay one step ahead of the game.”
Addressing Catholic education by adding middle school and wireless education adds a powerful technological punch that might set St. Catherine into a league of its own, during a time when many Catholic schools are struggling to stay open.
“We are hoping that people will look at our school, including the public school kids,” said Olley. “We need a new block of kids to replace the ones we have lost in the Catholic school system. With our school, a fifth grader faced with finding a middle school can now just go to one school from sixth through 12th grade with current technology in a faith-based atmosphere and stay there until graduation.”
Faculty and staff are excited and nervous about this new era in education, according to Olley. Some are concerned how other area Catholic schools will be affected and whether the new technology will be enough to sustain Catholic education as a whole.
“I really believe that this will be a great safety net for us with the technology,” he said. “We are a good Catholic school and this gives us the potential to become a great Catholic school. We love our school, love our kids and we don’t want them at a disadvantage as they proceed in the 21st Century.”

What is forgiveness?

Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt or offended you may always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.
Forgiveness doesn't mean that you deny the other person's responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn't minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.

Today I work on forgiving those individuals who have hurt me the most. 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Welcoming new babies into the family

When I think back to my own pregnancies, I remember alternating thoughts of excitement, fear, nervousness and overwhelming joy. Now that three of my five children are experiencing parenthood for the first time, it is edifying for me to see the circle of life continue. 

While I am unable to be present in the lives of two of my children, I pray intently and eagerly for the their happiness and the good health of my unborn grandchildren. Despite my hopes for reconciliation, it will have to be our dear Lord Jesus who ultimately softens their hearts, as my heart will never grow hard for them. If they never return to me, I am content to know that Jesus loves them even more than I can ever begin to love them and will watch over their lives--and that will have to be enough. 

One thing they cannot prevent, however, is my continuation of daily prayers and keeping a vigil candle burning in our home for them.

For my son, who I do see, I pray for God's infinite blessings on his daughter, my first biological grandchild. I pray that Annia's mother will also soften her heart and allow us the joy of participating in her life--and if she does not, I pray that the courts will allow my son to bring her here from time to time. 

And for my step-granddaughter Linzy, I am grateful to see so much of her daddy and grandpa bursting forth in her exuberant personality.  Alternating between tomboy and girly-girl, I am blessed to be making her a pink ruffly Easter dress this year--quite a change from the Texas Ranger Denim jacket I made for her last Christmas. She is a joy and a treasure to us.

While many on the outside looking in see one thing.......only our Lord knows the truth and love within my heart for all of my children. It is he who sustains both Blaise and I each day and it is His love, mercy and grace that are sufficient.

God Bless you my grandchildren and God bless you Ryan and Molly--we will never stop loving you.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart's knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

And it is well that you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
and the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

New Worship Pastor at Kenosha Bible Church

Kenosha News Correspondent
Karen Mahoney

In some ways, it’s no surprise that Mike Middleton became the new Worship Pastor at Kenosha Bible Church, 5405-67th Street. Growing up in Kenosha, he watched his grandfather serve as Pastor, and his parents work in music and youth ministry. While his path was always Christ centered, it appeared to be headed down a slightly different road.

“During middle school and high school, I was very active in our youth group leading worship,” he said. “From 1993 to 2003, I played with a band named Hangnail. We actually started playing together in middle school and started getting more serious about the band after we won the Kenosha County Fair Battle of the Bands.”

Following graduation from Bradford High School, Middleton and his Christian rock band were offered recording contracts from multiple record companies. They finally settled with Tooth and Nail Records, based out of Seattle, Washington and went on to produce three full-length national releases and one Extended Play over a four-year span.

His eyes on a degree in Music Performance, Middleton attended Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL for a year and a half, taking a break to travel with the band.

“We traveled on average about nine months out of the year around the U.S playing a wide array of venues from churches to run down bars,” he said. “It was an experience of a lifetime to say the least.”

Although they didn’t win, the popular group was nominated for four WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) awards and one Dove award for their original songs. Middleton wrote and co-wrote nearly 70 songs and arranged countless more.

When the tour finished, Middleton attended UW-Parkside graduating with a degree in Business Management. Six years ago, Middleton, now 30, married his wife Erin, and they have two children, Ana, age 4 and Josiah, 7 months.

While he had not planned it, he knew that despite earning his business degree, God was calling him back to minister through the calling of his childhood-his music.

“I used to drive my parents nuts by tapping all the time and singing the same things over again, and later I learned how to play songs using chords,” he said. “Writing songs for worship is something that I’d really like to be able to spend more time on now that I am doing this full time.”

In serving as the new Worship Pastor, Middleton explained that his primary goal is to be faithful to God’s call by using his abilities and opportunities to build up the church.

“I think the hope for anyone’s ministry is to make known the message of the Gospel to those who have not yet believed in it and to come alongside those who do know Christ to challenge, encourage, and equip them to live the live that He’s called us to,” he said. “In terms of worship, I believe that the purpose of worship is to bring glory to God. And if through our ministry we can help those who believe and those who don’t, recognize Him for who He is and the magnitude of His grace in light of who we are, then we will have accomplished, by the work of His spirit, what we hoped for.”

While not isolated to Kenosha, Middleton is concerned about those who profess to walk the Christian road, but don’t always seem to live Christ centered lives.

“First Peter says that we are ‘aliens and strangers in the world;’ unfortunately, I have witnessed time and time again, that many of us are more concerned about the ‘freedom’ in terms of morals we have in Christ, than we are about pursuing holiness,” he said.

To bring about a closer personal relationship with Jesus and alongside other Christians, Middleton would like to see Christians of other faiths pray and worship together on a regular basis.

“It seems like we often times look at the task of reaching Kenosha as something we need to do on our own, but the fact is, there are many other brothers and sisters in Christ that happen to attend other churches that have the same objective,” he said. “It would be cool to see our churches come together to spread the good news of the Gospel in Kenosha. We could learn a lot from our youth who have already begun to do this type of thing through a group called Allies.”



If you go

Kenosha Bible Church
5405 67th St.
(262) 652-4507
Sunday Worship Services:
9:00 and 10:30 a.m.

Hello Dolly


Hello Dolly

by Karen Mahoney
Westine Correspondant

Fay Neidermeyer does not attempt to hide her obsession.

“I’m addicted,” the Union Grove resident giggled. “I take one look at their eyes and if they speak to me and the price is right, I bring them home.”

The object of her obsession? Neidermeyer collects and at times, creates dolls.

“It’s something that comes from my childhood,” she said. “I started collecting them at age 3 and I guess I never grew up.”

Touted as one of America’s most popular hobbies, doll collecting now spawns a growth industry of books, magazines, clubs and dolls, of course.

There are plush dolls purchased at oh-so-exclusive auctions for higher prices than historic homes-somewhere around $300,000. There are plebeian dolls offered via TV home shopping and toy stores that cost less than a bag of groceries. Somewhere under $25 and sometimes less than a glossy magazine.

There are dolls of wood and wax, porcelain and papier-mache. Dolls that smile, cry, talk and walk. Dolls decked out in silk and sable. Mature dolls. Baby dolls. Doll of various nationalities.

The retired Union Grove Elementary teacher cares little about value, prestige, or brand; her collection of 150 dolls remind her of special vacations with her husband, happy childhood memories, gifts from treasured friends and relatives and ones that have simply captured her heart.

“I have dolls dating back from the 1800’s to modern dolls made today,” she said. “I still have dolls from when I was a little girl. One doll in my collection is an original Magic Skin doll; the skin has gotten dark but has not broken down. It is wearing a sweater that my mom knit for it and she made one for me to match. This doll marked the beginning of the doll industry.”

For the month of February, Neidermeyer will share her entire collection with visitors to the Graham Public Library and will offer a special doll program and Valentine Tea on February 10 from 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. Guests are invited to bring their own teacup to share in the tea or coffee provided by the library.

“It will be strange not to have them displayed throughout my home,” she said. “I have them in every room and each one has a number next to their name that corresponds to a page in my doll record book.”

Each doll is categorized to reflect a page in one of four albums, which describe the date acquired, price paid if applicable and story behind the doll. During the library program, she will share some of the stories behind her dolls and answer questions about her collection, including the person behind her obsession.

“I had an aunt who had an Armand Marseille from Germany and it started me going with wanting more dolls. She and I had shopping trips to buy clothes and wigs,” she said. “That is probably the doll in my collection with the most value. However, I am an amateur and don’t really know the values of the dolls I buy because I like them and do them for fun. I am not a professional.”

Because her collection is so large and spills over from the living room to the bedroom, kitchen and sewing room, Neidermeyer rotates the doll display every few months or so, storing some of them in large plastic bins. Any boxes are stored in the basement and wrapped in plastic.

“I have them sorted in labeled bins by type or brand name,” she said. “I have Red hat dolls, craft dolls, dolls from other countries, holiday dolls, storybook dolls, dolls from thrift shops, Cabbage Patch and American Girl doll containers.”

Despite her husband Robert’s affinity for travel and sports, the number of dolls in the home doesn’t seem to bother him; on the contrary, he seems to enjoy her hobby, assured Neidermeyer. In fact, much of her collection was acquired on the couple’s travels throughout the every state in the U.S and 14 countries.

“We began traveling together on our honeymoon,” she said. “I look for dolls everywhere, but I don’t always get them because sometimes I can’t find one I like or it is too expensive for me to buy.”

Including her two granddaughters into her hobby is a joyful time for Neidermeyer, who often sews clothing for their American Girl dolls, and tells them the stories behind her collection.

When granddaughter Molly was born, she found a Molly doll on a website and was pleasantly surprised that the Molly doll was a bit unique, just as her granddaughter was.

“My granddaughter was born only being able to hear in one ear,” she explained. “When I got this Molly doll, I learned she was a World Peace and Harmony doll from Australia. The motto of the doll line was that we may all look different but we feel the same. This Molly doll is a Milly-Molly doll that flips over to reveal a different doll and gives the message that all children are different, but we love them all.”

As a teacher, she often utilized some of her Miccosukee Indian dolls in her classroom and students worked on research projects about the tribe.

“I also have some handkerchief dolls and told my students the history behind them,” she said, explaining. “During the Civil War women would take the man’s handkerchief and turn it into a doll and it would be a reminder for their daughters that there dad was at war. They were also called pew babies to quiet little children in church.”

Neidermeyer is not involved with doll clubs, nor does she know many collectors, her collection is a sharing of her heart joined with the activities she loves, such as her Red Hat dolls, a Russian doll from a trip to Sitka, Alaska, and a simple, but beautiful Salvation Army find. 

While she has plenty of friends, sharing her home with dolls bring her joy and the twinkle of childhood alive in her eyes.

“They make me feel good and it’s like having more friends,” she said. “They all bring back good memories and each doll, including my little $2.99 doll with the sweetest eyes are wonderful.”



If you go:

Doll Program and Valentine Tea
Wednesday, February 10
2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.
Graham Public Library
1215 Main Street
Union Grove
Bring a teacup to share tea or coffee
For more information call: 262-878-2910





Friday, February 19, 2010

Siena Center, Lincoln Lutheran plan collaboration

It might be an unprecedented opportunity to meet more needs, help more people and increase future growth if leaders of the Racine Dominicans and Lincoln Lutheran collaborate to construct a single faith-based campus on the Siena Center grounds.
The collaborative idea follows more than nine months of discussion between the two entities, according to Dan Risch, CEO of Lincoln Lutheran, a social ministry organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, offering a variety of housing, nutrition, home and community based services, assisted living, and skilled nursing care in Racine County. For 55 years, Lincoln Lutheran has served older adults in the City of Racine.
“Our organization is a service primarily for seniors and we have been looking to create a single site campus in the Racine area. This was already identified by us as a strategic initiative and aligns nicely with the Dominicans due to our conversations about continuing care,” he said. “They have ministries and work in place to help us create a new community.”
If approved, a faith-based campus would provide space for the Racine Dominicans and some of their ministries, including, if possible, the retreat program, as well as headquarters for Lincoln Lutheran’s full continuum of health care.
The Siena Center, which occupies 47 acres along Lake Michigan, is home to 70 sisters and a variety of ministries including the retreat program, which attracts retreatants from throughout the world.
The idea to collaborate stemmed from a study in 2007 by the Racine Dominicans to determine the best and most responsible stewardship of their properties, primarily the Siena Center, said Racine Dominican Sr. Suzanne Noffke, chair, Racine Dominican stewardship study committee.
“The idea was eventually presented that a partnership with a health care entity could benefit both us and a partner as well as the broader Racine community, provided that the health care entity shared our principles and sense of mission, especially to the underprivileged,” said Sr. Suzanne. “For us it would ensure that the Siena Center site would continue into an indefinite future to be used for purposes consonant with our mission and ideals.”
Bringing the two faith-based ministries together would broaden the Racine Dominicans’ outreach to the community and also present the possibility of providing skilled nursing and memory care for the aging sisters on campus.
“We hope that the presence of the Racine Dominicans and our ministries would enrich the ministry of the health care partner,” said Sr. Suzanne. “Lincoln Lutheran was one of several health care entities we considered, and was the one which eventually entered into serious exploration of the possibilities with us.”
While construction plans have yet to be determined, the Dominicans are eager to consider the best approach to deal with the current building and the land in the most responsible way possible. Considerations include renovations, adding new space or building a new structure. Whichever decision is best, the most important facet will be the strong ecumenical community that would respect the faiths of all parties, said Sr. Suzanne.
“The Racine Dominicans would be no less Roman Catholic, and Lincoln Lutheran no less Lutheran,” she said. “We and Lincoln Lutheran have a long history of ecumenical spirit and endeavors.”
The vision of the collaboration team is to create a vibrant community to provide a facility with programs to promote opportunities for lifelong vitality in body, mind and spirit not only for the Racine residents, but for all who come to the campus.
“Residents will be bonded, not necessarily by religion, but certainly by spirituality,” said Sr. Suzanne. “We hope the greatest benefit would be to those to whom we minister.”
The prospect has the support of most of the Racine Dominican sisters, as well as support from the majority of staff and residents of Lincoln Lutheran.
“We have great respect for the ministry of the Racine Dominicans in the community and have often utilized their facility for our leadership retreats,” said Risch. “Our retreats are incredible. We know the sisters are praying for us and we feel that their strong sense of support lends itself quite nicely to establishing community with the sisters. The interaction of staff would greatly increase the moral compass with team members of our organization.”
A decision on the proposed partnership is expected to be made by early 2010.
“The sisters have endorsed this exploration at its inception and at various stages,” said Sr. Suzanne. “And the partnership would not be finalized without the sisters’ endorsement.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Spending time with Linzy today

We are looking forward to spending time with our sweet granddaughter Linzy today! She is the joy of our lives! Little Argyle is getting to love her just as much as we are! Speaking of Argyle, Happy 3 month birthday!

Volunteer Drivers turns in keys after 20 years


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Herb Wollner, a member of St. Francis Borgia Parish, Cedarburg, was honored recently for 20 years service as a volunteer driver for the Cedarburg Senior Van Program. Wollner also spent the past two decades as an usher at his parish. (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina/PhotoVentures.com)
When people in the City of Cedarburg needed a Good Samaritan to drive them to a local hospital, beauty shop, visit friends or go grocery shopping, they could always count on Herb Wollner. Last May, Mayor Greg Myers presented Herb with an official proclamation at the Cedarburg Common Council meeting recognizing his 20 years of service as a volunteer driver for the Cedarburg Senior Van Program.
Although he recently retired from the program, director of the Cedarburg Senior Center Carol LaFontaine admitted that Herb is missed by the center’s regular riders.
“He is one of only two other drivers who have driven that long,” she said. “He drove every week and for the last 15 years; he drove on Friday mornings. People liked driving with Herb because he was courteous, friendly and always willing to help. We all miss him.”
With more than 15 people driving the single vehicle each week, LaFontaine admitted that the van gets quite a workout. In the 20 years that Herb volunteered, he has driven and helped care for the five city-owned vans.
“The program is unique in that it costs the taxpayers nothing,” she said. “The drivers are all volunteers, the vans are funded through donations and riders pay a modest fee to help cover operating expenses. It is a super service and the drivers are a great asset.”
In addition, Herb and his wife Laverne delivered Meals on Wheels on a regular basis for the past 20 years.
He also served as an usher at St. Francis Borgia Parish for the past 20 years.
But, at 84, Herb decided it was time to turn in the keys, retire from his volunteering and spend more time with his bride. They have been married 63 years and with just one car between the two of them, they can drive more places together, including visits to the homes of their four children and nine grandchildren.
“Laverne never grumbled, not even once in all those years,” Herb bragged. “It was inconvenient at times, but it worked out all right. I go to daily Mass and sometimes my first stop was right after Mass, so I would park by the church, get the van and pick up my first customer.”
When the Wollners sold the family farm and moved to Cedarburg 20 years ago, Herb wanted something extra to do besides yard work and other household tasks.
“My neighbor, Carol, lived a couple of houses away and she said she could use a driver for the Senior Center and that’s how it all started,” he said. “I really liked doing this. It felt good to help others, and in the back of my mind I always thought that someday it might be me that needed a ride – and how nice it would be to have this program available.”
While a few riders were a bit on the grumpy side, Herb said that most were very appreciative of the lift and often tried to offer him a tip, something he always refused.
“I never wanted to take any money because I figured it would be defeating the purpose of volunteering and I wanted this to be from the goodness of my heart and nothing else,” he said.
Giving back to God has been the mainstay of Herb’s life, going back to his fondest childhood memories – the years spent as an altar server.
“I have great memories of being on the altar from when I was a little kid – this is my church; I have always felt at home here,” he said. “I feel that we are supposed to give back because we have all been blessed so much.”
The mayoral recognition was a surprise to the unassuming Herb, as well as the appreciation party that LaFontaine arranged to honor his service.
“There were a few tears and it was sad for me, too,” he admitted. “I felt really funny when I gave up the keys – it was quite emotional. I have made some wonderful friends through the program, and some I got to know quite well. One man calls me all the time and I like that.”
The decision to quit driving came upon him gradually, but Herb began to notice that many of his riders were younger than he was, and safety wise, it began to concern him.
“I remember this lady who I drove to the doctor, she said to me, ‘I am going to be 80, can you imagine?’” Herb explained. “Here I was older than her and then I began to worry, what if I would be in an accident – it would have been in the paper and that would not have been a nice headline. So, the time was right to give up the keys.”
While their children often tease the couple about all the extra time on their hands, Herb scoffs and reminds them, that at their age, everything takes a bit longer.
“We aren’t as involved now, but we still do yard work and everything else around the house. We don’t watch TV but keep pretty busy outside,” he said, adding, “Besides, we have plenty of doctor appointments these days, but at least I can still be the one driving.”

Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake


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Contact Pam Milczarski at (414) 409-4848 or by e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to request an informational packet about Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake.
The dust, piles of earth and construction machinery outside the Sacred Heart Monastery in Franklin aren’t an attractive sight, but Mary Gorski, communications director of the U.S Province, Priests of the Sacred Heart couldn’t be happier. “It’s hard to envision anything right now with dirt all over the place from the construction,” she said, “but the vision for the complex is very nice.”
Construction of the $12.8 million retirement community began Dec. 14 on the 14-acre Sacred Heart of Monastery Lake property located at 7330 S. Highway 100, across from Sacred Heart School of Theology. This community will be located on the same property as the current Villa Maria, a retirement community for members of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
A portion of Villa Maria originally housed the Benedictine Sisters from Yankton, S.D., who provided domestic services for the priests and brothers at Sacred Heart Monastery. Later, the house was a residence for the provincial superior and was eventually remodeled into the priest retirement complex.
The multi-phased project will include a 180-unit apartment building that would house active and retired priests as well as members of the public age 55 and older. Most units will have a private balcony or patio. All include fully appointed kitchens, private laundry facilities, storage and spacious floor plans; some will include elevated ceilings. The complex will feature a large chapel for Mass and religious services, as well as for other programs. The former convent, on the grounds of the original Sacred Heart Monastery, will be razed to make way for a new retirement community.
Overlooking Monastery Lake, the campus will be integrated into the peaceful nature conservancy adjacent to it. The retreat-like setting of religious shrines and monuments will allow for quiet prayer and meditation throughout the year.
According to Gorski, the first wing for the retired priests and brothers is scheduled for completion in September, and the second and third phases, with apartments for the public, will be available in the summer of 2011. All wings will feed into a common “Main Street” which will be the heart of the community. Residents will have access to heated, underground parking, and elevators will be available throughout the complex.
“The 165 one- and two-bedroom units designed for the general public will be sized and priced for a variety of needs and income levels,” she said. “As the general population ages, there is an increased need for good housing options for seniors. A project like Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake offers seniors a comfortable living space, as well as on-site services such as a bank, media center, beauty shop, craft room, guest suite, coffee bar and group activities. Such services not only benefit the general pubic, but our senior priests and brothers as well. Added to these conveniences are the chapel and opportunities for prayer and liturgy.”
Looking into the aging Baby Boomer population, the retirement community will fulfill a significant need within the southwestern corner of Milwaukee County, and Gorski admitted that the residence might appeal to retired diocesan priests and religious.
“The Priests of the Sacred Heart looked at the wider needs of the local community, but also of our religious community,” she said. “More room was needed not only for our senior priests and brothers, but the SCJs also hoped to find a larger living space for our non-retired members. Currently, SCJ priests and brothers live in a variety of locations in the Milwaukee area. As the province sought to address the needs of seniors, it was decided to also look at developing a new community for the non-retired, to meet these two needs together.”
While private community space will be available for the SCJ retired religious, the opportunity for fellowship with public members of the residence will offer opportunities for social activities and friendship.
“With the mobility challenges that seniors often face, especially in the winter months, having the ability to interact with others within a short walk of one’s living space is a wonderful benefit,” said Gorski. “And, as with lay residents, members of the Priests of the Sacred Heart will be able to take part in a variety of social activities that a larger complex can offer.”
Provincial treasurer, Deacon David Nagel, SCJ, and priests and brothers living on the current Sacred Heart campus are looking forward to the retirement complex and watching its progress. As with all that they do, the project began with prayers of thanksgiving.
“The first thing that was done was the removal of several trees in front of the existing house,” he said. “A prayer service was held to mark the occasion so that the fellows could mourn the passing of these trees that were planted by the early fathers and brothers who opened Sacred Heart Monastery on that site in 1929.”
Before its demolition Jan. 20, a Mass was held in the old wing and retirees shared memories. As the earth moved, prospective residents, including a missionary bishop, contacted Deacon Nagel looking for information on the new complex.
“The bishop has returned to the United States and is looking for a place to retire,” he said, adding, “Also, one of our priests, Fr. Frank, is working in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. He is 73 and ready to retire. He asked me to hurry the building along.”
Word of the facility is spreading quickly, and Priests of the Sacred Heart are scrambling to send information packets to prospective residents, such as alumni of the Sacred Heart School of Theology and parishioners from St. Martin of Tours Parish.
“They were surprised to hear that other people were receiving information about the retirement facility before they did, since their parish is served by the Priests of the Sacred Heart and they should have their first choice of apartments,” said Deacon Nagel. “I had to chuckle when I heard it.”
Despite the current financial downturn, the high interest and overall need for retirement communities such as Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake give Sacred Heart staff confidence that the building is timely and appropriate.
“While it certainly would be preferable to undertake such a project in a stronger economic climate, the needs that the project addresses are still with us,” said Gorski. “We need more space for our senior priests and brothers, the Hales Corners-Franklin community at large would benefit from a Catholic-based retirement community, and there is a need for more space for our priests and brothers in active ministry.”
Gorski admitted that even in a thriving economy, a community such as this one would be costly, but with the assistance of generous benefactors, the dream is becoming a reality.
“Because it is the benefactors we depend upon, we will always be careful in how their generous donations are used,” she said. “Careful stewardship is even more important in a challenging economy, but it is always something of which we are mindful.”

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Afghan makers, from left, Paula Meisner, Angie Marano, Marilyn Powell and Marge Brannon get together at St. Paul the Apostle church in Racine on Wednesday, Jan. 13. Not present were June Nienhause and Marilyn Fralich. The women make afghans from yarn donated to them by parish members and distribute them for charity each year. In 2009, about 100 of the afghans they knitted were given away.
RACINE
— Sometimes a little comfort and a lot of warm thoughts can go a long way toward comforting the sick, aged, lonely or newly born.
That thought is what keeps the women of St. Paul the Apostle Parish knitting or crocheting the warm, colorful afghans that they give to community members, residents of nursing homes, and to low-income mothers of newborns.
As part of the church’s SPAM group, an acronym for St. Paul Afghan Makers, these women knit or crochet for people needing a little extra warmth in their lives, said group coordinator Margaret Brannon.
For the past three years, about six or seven women have participated in the ministry. While their work is done independently, the yarn is collected from donors and stored in a craft room at the parish.
Years ago, Brannon crocheted an afghan for her mother, who resided in a Burlington nursing home, and when others took notice of the pretty design, she began crocheting for Society’s Assets, and organizations that help single mothers.
“I started running out of yarn and my daughter posted online (bulletin board) that I
AFghan05
Marilyn Powell knits an afghan at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Racine on Wednesday, Jan. 13. She is one of several women who comprise the church’s SPAM group, an acronym for St. Paul Afghan Makers. (Catholic Herald photos by Ernie Mastroianni)
needed yarn for afghans that I was donating and people began giving me all sorts of yarn,” she said. “I started bringing some into church to be distributed to shut-ins and nursing homes through the human concerns committee.” Recognizing the ministry’s potential to serve others, Fr. William Dietzler, pastor, suggested to Brannon that she get a group going, find a name and then ask for donations through the church bulletin.
“I thought and thought about a name and suddenly it came to me, SPAM,” laughed Brannon. “Since then people have been giving us yarn and the volunteers crochet or knit afghans or lap robes. We have no pattern or size requirements. Some ladies have made small baby afghans with soft baby yarn, and some have made large afghans to cover a single bed.”
The afghans are stored at St. Paul Church until Christmas. Last year, SPAM presented 84 afghans to the human concerns committee for delivery. While most of them went to nursing homes or shut-ins from the parish, some were donated to the annual parish baby shower to benefit low-income, single mothers.
“We wrap everything and the Boy Scouts get involved and make Christmas cards to go with the afghans,” said Brannon.
While SPAM’s ministry is primarily behind the scenes, June Nienhaus, who crocheted six last year, admitted it makes her feel good to be involved in such a good cause.
“I know that we have gotten thank you notes from quite a few people, and it makes me feel good that we can give these people a little happiness,” she said. “My parents were both in nursing homes and I know they always enjoyed having an afghan or nap blanket to throw over them. A lot of older people don’t have anybody and this little gift makes them feel special. They just appreciate any small thing so much.”
Most SPAM members do the bulk of their needlework in the winter months, but Marilyn Powell enjoys the art so much that she crochets year round. Not content to simply crochet for family, she spends hours making buttery colored baby afghans and brightly hued lap robes and adult afghans.
“I always hope the ones I make are a nice enough gift, especially for a baby,” she said. “I really enjoy helping out in some way and it makes me feel good.”
Much of the donated yarn comes from unfinished projects, remnants of finished projects, attic finds, or just from someone who no longer knits or crochets. Because of the variety, Brannon often chuckles at the interesting finished projects.
“Sometimes we get some very colorful results,” she said. “We might have a small amount of orange, with a lot of green, purple and blue, but they all look pretty anyway. What matters is that when these people are riding in their wheelchairs, their legs are exposed and this keeps them covered and warm.”
The ladies normally don’t know the recipients of the lap robes or afghans. But during the days it takes to make one, they pray that God empowers their work so that it can bring comfort to the recipient.
“I know a lot of the ladies say prayers when making them,” Brannon said. “You just can’t help but do it when you are making something for someone you don’t know. I always hope that it keeps the person warm and blessed by it and say a few prayers for the person.”
Content to remain behind the scenes in their ministry, the ladies don’t expect notoriety for their efforts.
“We are just grateful that people give us the yarn and there are so many who are willing to do this to help others,” said Brannon. “We don’t do this for the purpose of being recognized; we just do it to help.”

Guy Next Door Welcomed at Racine Mass

RACINE — Monica Darga, a member of St. Edward Parish, did not expect to be singled out during Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki’s Mass Monday Feb. 1, at St. Paul the Apostle Parish, but then again, it isn’t often that a Chicago Bears fan receives a handmade Green Bay Packer blanket as a gift. “Where is Monica Darga?” asked Archbishop Listecki, holding up the green and gold fringed blanket. “I just want you to know that although this is green, I can’t wear it during Mass.
Darga laughed, and quickly retorted, that while the colors were liturgical, the archbishop was right; it just didn’t fit for Mass.”
“Well, the G stands for great, right?” laughed Archbishop Listecki.
Darga had planned to make him a Bears blanket, she explained, but ran out of time and used fabric on hand.
“At least the colors are liturgical, and that should make up for the fact that he isn’t a Packer fan,” she joked.
Darga appreciated Archbishop Listecki’s demeanor, humor and ability to be down to earth, especially during his homily.
“He is just like the guy next door,” she said.
The Mass was the last of six regional welcome celebrations throughout the Milwaukee archdiocese since Archbishop Listecki’s installation Jan. 4. The 1,000-seat church was packed to near capacity with Catholics from Racine and Kenosha counties, including a 13-member honor guard comprised of Knights of Columbus from Racine and Kenosha councils.
Looking around the crowded sanctuary, the new archbishop shared a story about another archbishop scheduled to celebrate Mass at noon.
“He arrived 20 minutes early, was dressed, vested, put on his cross, miter, got his crosier ready, and watched the sacristan frantically running around the church, looking out the windows and acting nervous,” said Archbishop Listecki. “Finally, it was about three minutes before 12, and the archbishop said, ‘Fred, what is going on?’”
The sacristan confessed that he was shocked that so few people were in the pews for Mass, and was embarrassed to tell the archbishop. Finally, the archbishop asked the sacristan whether he publicized that he was celebrating Mass that day.
“’Well, no I didn’t,’ confessed the sacristan, ‘I just figured that word would get out,’” said Archbishop Listecki to buoyant laughter. “So I am glad that word got out in Racine that I was coming because we have a great turnout.”
Earlier in the day, the archbishop celebrated Mass and visited with students at St. Joseph School in Kenosha and during his homily, he shared the meaning of his crosier. While he said he didn’t plan to share the same message with those at St. Paul, some of the message bore repeating.
“This bishop’s staff is entrusted to me like a shepherd to keep the sheep on the right path,” he explained, holding his staff high. “It is a sign of protection and if the wolves come the shepherd will use this to keep them at bay – even it means killing them by bopping them on the head. I am not afraid to use this if it means saving your souls. But I need your support to protect and guide souls and keep them on the right path.”
The Gospel from John is among the archbishop’s favorites and was used in his installation Mass. In the passage, Jesus asked Peter three times if he truly loved him.
Yet Archbishop Listecki explained that Jesus was not really talking to Peter, “he was talking to us. The living word of God is touching the hearts of the faithful. No matter what the age, those are words for today.”
It is incomprehensible to fathom God’s creation of our universe, the galaxies we can see and that go unseen, and realize that God also created every molecule of our bodies and his creation is infinite, said Archbishop Listecki.
“We should be on our knees giving praise to God for the beauty and gifts of his majesty,” he said. “We are called to re-establish our relationship with God. We are called to sacrifice as Christ sacrificed and to reach out in love to each other. I pledge to do my best as your archbishop, to guide you, direct you and stand before the Lord in love and service.”
When the archbishop processed down the aisle, Margaret Matter, a member of St. Paul the Apostle, thought Archbishop Listecki looked a little stern and serious – until he spoke to the crowd.
“He was just great and had such a good sense of humor,” she said. “I liked him right away.”
Her husband Tom agreed, and added, “I think he will do great things for the archdiocese; I was quite impressed.”
Srs. Mary Michael Butler and Anne Marie Cheikh, both Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus and employed at St. Joseph Home for the Aged in Kenosha, are optimistic about the direction of leadership under the new archbishop.
“I think he will bring a beautiful new dimension to our archdiocese,” said Sr. Mary Michael.
They agreed that he is charismatic and humorous, and pray that the archdiocese will be drawn together in Christ and become more unified as a community.
“I am impressed by his deep spirituality because that is most important,” said Sr. Anne Marie. “He is a good, special and prayerful man.”
Jim Riese, member of St. Mary Parish, Kenosha, and district governor of the Serra Club, was impressed after a brief meeting with the archbishop. He anticipates continued spiritual growth, and an increase in vocations for the archdiocese under his strong leadership.
“I don’t think he will rock the boat, but he is conservative and personable,” said Riese. “I think for now the archdiocese will continue on an even keel, but will continue to move forward. He is a wonderful, prayerful guy.”

In the God Box

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Lynn Neu and her husband, Jerry, pose for a photo in fall 2006 in what Lynn describes as a “first writer’s getaway,” following her cancer diagnosis. The couple are posing in Central Park, New York City, during a three-week getaway that they took shortly after Lynn began writing “The God Box.” (Submitted photo courtesy Lynn Neu)
Two words strike fear in the hearts of women and those who love them: ovarian cancer. Lynn Neu lived through the shock of that diagnosis, suffered the grief and numbness that followed and then turned her medical condition into an opportunity. In her new book, “The God Box: Hope Strength, Courage @ Your Fingertips,” she provides a spiritual roadmap for those facing this disease. The 62-year-old Kenosha native and former parishioner of St. Mary Parish, Kenosha, spent 10 years working for the Milwaukee Archdiocese in youth ministry and 10 years teaching at St. Catherine High School, Racine. She and her husband Jerry moved to San Diego, Calif., where she worked as a freelance writer, public speaker, consultant and trainer in adolescent faith development and leadership skills for the Center for Ministry Development. In 2003, she was diagnosed with the disease.
“When I found out I had cancer, I was like a deer caught in the headlights,” she said. “It felt surreal. I went numb. I can still remember standing at the top of the stairs at home, looking down on a living room where so many family gatherings had occurred and thinking, ‘I’m not ready to leave all of this yet.’”
While she wasn’t ready to die, she discovered that she was not afraid to be reunited with her parents and other loved ones in heaven. She began taking action by notifying friends and family members about her diagnosis, and asking them to pray.
“I leaned on them, and I leaned on God,” she said. “I engaged my powerful mind with affirmations and visualizations. I read everything I could get my hands on about ovarian cancer. I invited in all the Reiki, Healing Touch and massage therapists I knew. I listened to music, laughed, cried, and kept moving.”
From the beginning, Neu realized that the only way to proceed was to accept and go through the cancer process, but she wasn’t prepared to handle it alone. Her personal therapy included writing e-mails to her friends, sharing her fears, prayers, feelings and emotions. The more she shared, the more her friends begged for more.
“They encouraged me to share my e-mails more broadly, with a wider audience,” she said. “I considered rolling my e-mails about my cancer experience into a book someday. But then the God Box phenomenon emerged.”
Those who spent their days and nights praying for Neu’s healing asked her to send out prayer requests for their friends and themselves. Through sharing her suffering and insight, a virtual community of loving, kindness blossomed.
“As I discovered how eager people are to pray for one another, how interested they are in finding new ways to pray, and how cyberspace was becoming sacred space, I realized that this was a story that needed to be told,” she said.
After her fourth round of chemotherapy in December 2004, she wrote her annual Christmas letter. In her self-disclosing way, she revealed lessons learned and the ultimate blessing that followed the dreadful diagnosis.
We are dependent on God … and one another .. .more than we know. The generosity of others is bigger than we ever imagine.
Forgiveness and laughter are healing therapies. Letting go of rigid expectations enlivens us; being easier on yourself and others has enormous benefits. Waiting for someone’s eulogy to tell them how much you love them deprives them of life-giving energy while they are alive! Let yourself receive what others have to offer. There are so many healing touches to be had; be open! The time you “waste” on relationships and developing your faith is the most precious time you can spend; it all boils down to faith, family and friends. Slow down, listen, savor the moment.
Neu credits her close relationship with God in getting her through the tough days of no hair, nausea, and a face that she barely recognized after chemotherapy ravaged her body.
“My love for God grew and I realized that one of the many things I loved about him was Jesus, God’s skin. I got in touch with the suffering Jesus in ways I hadn’t before,” she said. “’Why me?’ became ‘Why not me?’ What deepened in me through my experience with cancer is trust, and gratitude. My dependence on God for breath itself became more focused. I recognize the gift of everyday, and give praise to the Giver.”

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The God Box is available at Amazon.com, Barnesandnobel.com and Xlibris.com and can be special ordered through a local bookseller. Autographed copies are available from the author This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For more information on creating your own “God Box” online community, visit the Web site.
In writing “The God Box,” Neu learned that prayer recognizes that she was not able to do everything herself. While studies demonstrate that prayer lowers blood pressure, decreases depression and anxiety and lowers mortality rates, for her, it was a calm for her racing mind, and a “tent for which to hide,” and away from the noise of her fears. “I can rest in God and know that all will be well,” she said. “And I believe in miracles, but we don’t always get the miracle we ask for. Sometimes the miracle happens in us. It’s like the peace advocate who is asked if he really believes that his picketing will make a difference because nothing every changes. He replies that things may not change, but he does. I prayed to be healed completely. The miracle stories in Scripture gave me the courage to ask that boldly. ‘Ask and you will receive,’ became my mantra.”
Despite Neu’s recovery from cancer, she realizes that many who pray as she did, who demonstrate faith in God’s healing, will lose their battle with cancer, or will lose someone dear to their heart. She reminds them of Christ’s suffering in the garden of Gethsemane.
“He asked, ‘Father, let this cup pass.’ It didn’t. Yet, through this death, redemption came,” said Neu. “I believe the same is possible for us. Death is a part of life. But, it is not the end.”
The book, which took Neu a couple of years to write, has struck a chord with those suffering with cancer and those who want to draw closer to Christ.
“People tell me it is a fast, easy read, that it is like having a conversation and they believe that what I say is true,” she said.
“It’s a book they can return to again and again. One person described it this way, ‘It’s not a start to finish book, but a jump around sampler read parts over book.’ One of my former high school students who is now a mom to teenagers herself tells me that the inclusion of trusted Web sites helps her guide her kids. My young adult house sitter said she couldn’t put the book down. She began reading it in the tub and didn’t know when to get out. Took it to Starbucks the next day and overstayed. Then curled up on the couch to finish it. She cried and laughed and prayed through all the prayers in the book – prayers she’ll return to often now that she knows they’re here.”

Thursday, February 4, 2010

St Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers

I love this quote from St. Francis de Sales writings. As a freelancer, it is something I need to remember while walking through life, doing what I can despite what I might consider menial writing for little pay. My focus, regardless of the lack of compensation or respect has to be on doing it all for Jesus and keeping my heart pure and open to His infinite will.

Anything else, doesn't matter.


Do not pay any attention to the kind of work you do, but rather to the honor that it brings to God, even though it may seem quite trivial. Desire only to do the Divine Will, following Divine Providence, which is the disposition of Divine Wisdom. In a word, if your works are pleasing to God and recognized as such, that is all that matters. Work hard every day at increasing your purity of heart, which consists in appraising things and weighing them in the balance of God's will. (Letters 280; O. XIII, p. 53)

[from "Everyday with St. Francis de Sales" by Rev. Francis J. Klauder]

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Feast of St. Blaise

St. BlaiseFeastday: February 3
Patron of Throat Illnesses

Many Catholics might remember Saint Blaise's feast day because of the Blessing of the Throats that took place on this day. Two candles are blessed, held slightly open, and pressed against the throat as the blessing is said. Saint Blaise's protection of those with throat troubles apparently comes from a legend that a boy was brought to him who had a fishbone stuck in his throat. The boy was about to die when Saint Blaise healed him.
Very few facts are known about Saint Blaise. We believe he was a bishop of Sebastea in Armenia who was martyred under the reign of Licinius in the early fourth century.
The legend of his life that sprang up in the eighth century tell us that he was born in to a rich and noble family who raised him as a Christian. After becoming a bishop, a new persecution of Christians began. He received a message from God to go into the hills to escape persecution. Men hunting in the mountains discovered a cave surrounded by wild animals who were sick. Among them Blaise walked unafraid, curing them of their illnesses. Recognizing Blaise as a bishop, they captured him to take him back for trial. On the way back, he talked a wolf into releasing a pig that belonged to a poor woman. When Blaise was sentenced to be starved to death, the woman, in gratitude, sneaked into the prison with food and candles. Finally Blaise was killed by the governor.
Blaise is the patron saint of wild animals because of his care for them and of those with throat maladies.
In His Footsteps:
Take time as Saint Blaise did to find out how you can help wild animals. Find out what is being done to support and protect the wildlife in your area. There is wildlife everywhere, even in cities. Even a birdfeeder can help God's creatures survive.
Prayer:
Saint Blaise, pray for us that we may not suffer from illnesses of the throat and pray that all who are suffering be healed by God's love. Amen
Sisters, Shopping and a Search…
Third Time's a Charm


The Satisfying Conclusion of the Sister-to-Sister Series



About the Book

(Dual Residency: UT & KY) – There’s not too much in this world that a little retail therapy can’t fix—except maybe the empty hole in your heart from lost and undiscovered love. Tori Sanderson is no exception. Facing abandonment issues with her father, Tori sets out to find the real reason he left her. Along the way she discovers even deeper truths. Add in two matchmaking sisters plus a couple of attractive men vying for Tori's attention, as well as a tempting job promotion possibility, and you’ve got one confused sister. Through it all, Tori searches for the love she’s been missing all these years.

Author Virginia Smith, presents Third Time's a Charm, the third installment of the Sister-to-Sister Series. Page-turning humor surrounding the lives of three sisters will once again engage readers, while somber self-discovery will unveil Tori's struggles, and perhaps a few of your own. In a world with more than a few dysfunctional families, this story will ring true for many.

Interview Questions
1. This book is the third and final book in your Sister-to-Sister Series. How did you feel when you completed this last book?
I felt a little sad, because I have lived with the characters for three years, and they're very real to me. I'll miss them. Plus, I wanted to leave readers with a good impression, so I was anxious for the last scene to be strong. I prayed over that last line for a long time, and when the words finally came, I got chills. They were absolutely the perfect wrap-up for the whole series. I still get tears whenever I read them.

2. Which of the sisters in this trilogy do you relate to the most? Why?

That's a hard question to answer, because there is a piece of me in each of the Sanderson sisters. But I'd have to say I relate most closely with Tori, because she is professionally ambitious, and she struggles to balance her career and her personal life. I did that for over twenty years, so much of her conflict comes from my experiences.

3. You've been contracted to write 12 times in the last 4 years. To what do you attribute this success and how would you encourage others who are doing everything possible to get published?
Perseverance. I wrote for over twenty years before my first book, Just As I Am, was published. But I believed that the Lord gave me the desire to write, and even when my pile of rejections was growing (to an astounding 143 before my first publication!), I knew if He wanted me to write, I was going to keep writing. Even now - or maybe especially now - I trust Him for every story, every contract. Sometimes I still receive rejections, but I keep writing because He keeps giving me stories.

4. How is your relationship with your own sisters similar to Tori and her sisters? Did you pull from these sibling experiences when writing Third Time's a Charm? How?

I sure did! Actually, my sisters were the inspiration behind the whole Sister-to-Sister Series. They are the most incredible women in the world, and I wanted readers to glimpse the relationship we have. And they were excited to have starring roles in my stories. It was funny watching them try to identify themselves in the books, because I took characteristics from each of us and mixed them up to create each of the Sanderson sisters. Tori, for instance, is a career-minded person, like me. She's creative, like one of my sisters. And she's a big flirt, like the other sister. Uh… I’d better not identify who that is, or I'll start a family feud! 
5. What's next for Virginia Smith?
In May of this year I have a new book coming out from Steeple Hill. Researching A Daughter’s Legacy was a lot of fun, because it is set in a zoo! It’s my first straight romance, and was something of an experiment for me to see if I liked writing the genre. I loved it, and have a few ideas germinating in my mind for future romance novels.

Then later in the year, Into the Deep will hit bookstores. That's a romantic suspense novel with a scuba diving theme. It takes place partly in Key West, and partly in Cozumel, Mexico. Can you tell I have a lot of fun researching my books?

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Revell
Release: January 1, 2010
ISBN-10: 0800732340
ISBN-13: 978-0800732349
Retail: $14.99



The Inspiration Behind the Main Characters

I was watching a DVD when I first envisioned Tori Sanderson. In Sweet Home Alabama, Reese Witherspoon is chic, petite, and more than a little headstrong. Plus, she's ashamed of her upbringing, and therefore insecure even though she enjoys a successful career.

That's exactly how I pictured Tori as I wrote the first two books in the Sister-to-Sister Series. But Tori is several years younger than Reese, so as I wrote the opening chapter of Third Time's a Charm, I was struggling to come up with the perfect visual image.

One evening I saw an advertisement for Samantha Who, starring Christina Applegate. I jumped out of my chair and shouted, "That’s her! That’s Tori!" So I gave my character a curly perm to match Christina’s.

I Googled the show's cast and found Barry Watson, who became my model for the handsome handyman, Ryan Adams. And Mitch Jackson is modeled after Michael Weatherly, the gorgeous but suggestively inappropriate Tony DinNozzo on NCIS.

Sounds like I’m a television junkie, doesn't it? Not really, but I do like to have a visual image for characters as I write. It helps them come alive in my mind, and hopefully in the minds of my readers, too.
 


Virginia Smith recently contracted her twelfth book in four years. Previous books in the Sister-to-Sister series include: Stuck in the Middle and Age before Beauty. In 2008 she was named Writer-of-the-Year at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Stuck in the Middle was a finalist for American Christian Fiction Writers’ 2009 Book of the Year Award. A Taste of Murder was a finalist for the 2009 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Ginny and husband, Ted, divide their time between Lexington, Kentucky, and Salt Lake City,
Utah, escaping as often as possible for diving trips to the Caribbean. Admittedly, her adventurous outings are often as much fun as they are “book research.”

For a more indepth look into the life of Virginia Smith visit the KCWC blog.

The Grand Prize will be awarded to one fortunate person who leaves a comment at one of the blog tours participating in the KCWC Third Time's A Charm blog tour. It includes:

The complete collection of Virginia Smith books, TEN in all (listed below), with a personal behind-the-scenes commentary written by the author - especially for this tour!

Sister-to-Sister Series, including: Stuck in the Middle, Age Before Beauty, and Third Time's A Charm.

Unforgettable Mayla Strong Books: Just As I Am and Sincerely Mayla.

Classical Trio Series from Love Inspired Suspense: A Taste of Murder, Murder at Eagle Summit, and Scent of Murder.

Murder By Mushroom

Bluegrass Peril

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Blog Tour Tomorrow

Be Sure to Pick up 'Third Time's a Charm" by Virginia Smith

The Awesome Bond of Sisters
By Virginia Smith
 
 Having a sister is like having a best friend you can't get rid of.  You know whatever you do, they'll still be there.  --Amy Li
 
My middle sister and I fought like wildcats when we were growing up. One of my most vivid childhood memories is of being forcibly separated during an argument and banished to sit together on the living room couch with orders not to get up until we could get along. I huddled against one arm and resigned myself to living on that two-foot square cushion for the next eleven years, when I would turn eighteen and could get my own apartment. After an eternity, Mom entered the room to mediate. “Girls,” she said, “you are sisters. There will never be another person in the world more closely related to you than your sister. So you’d better learn to get along, because someday one of you might need a kidney.” Not, perhaps, the most convincing argument for reconciliation ever presented, but it worked. For the moment, anyway.
 
A woman has many relationships in her life, but the bond between sisters is unique. There is the biological link, but the connection goes beyond that. Sisters enjoy a shared past. They experienced many of the same events that molded their personalities, and therefore they understand one another in a way no one else can. They speak the same shorthand. If one of my sisters says, “I know! Let’s put on a show!” we all laugh, because we remember the first time one of us said that, and the resulting spectacle that has become family legend.
 
Sisters “get” each other without having to go into all the background. When I’ve had an argument with my husband, I can call my sisters and say, “He doesn’t want a puppy. I think I may divorce him.” My sisters understand my reaction immediately, because they remember witnessing our parents’ argument over the same subject. They can talk me down from the ledge, and away from the divorce attorneys. And they will do this even if I call them at three o’clock in the morning, with only a minimum amount of grumbling about the loss of sleep.
 
Psychologist Marcia Millman, author of The Perfect Sister, said during an interview, “I think sisters can help repair the injuries of childhood.” That’s certainly been true in my family. Whenever we get together, our husbands cover yawns and eventually slip away to the other room to watch a ballgame while we rehash events of our childhood, and discuss how they have impacted us as adults. Often I come away with a new perspective and a better attitude, so gatherings with my sisters are sort of like group therapy sessions. Only less expensive.
 
While it’s true that we share a common past, even sisters experience different events while growing up in the same household. I like to remind both of my sisters that, being the oldest, I blazed the trail for them. They both got their ears pierced sooner than I did, and wore lipstick, and shaved their legs. They were both allowed to date at an earlier age than I was, and stay out later. There are ten years between my youngest sister and me, so by the time she became a teenager, I had successfully driven our parents into a state of exhausted stupor, and she got to do pretty much whatever she wanted. (Which I still think is totally unfair, but that’s the way it is in most families, I’ve learned.) I think she owes me big-time.
 
My sisters and I do still have the occasional conflict. Author Linda Sunshine said, “If you don’t understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child.” Our arguments don’t become physical anymore (we all understand the importance of good hair now, so we are no longer tempted to grab a handful), but these days, being at odds with one of my sisters is far more painful than our childhood brawls.
Several years ago, my middle sister and I had a disagreement and didn’t speak to each other for a few days. I was miserable without her, but we both stubbornly refused to back down. While cooking dinner one evening, I dropped a glass measuring cup she had given me, and it shattered. When it did, my stubbornness broke into a million pieces. My husband brought the phone to me where I sat sobbing on the floor, surrounded by shards of glass, and said sternly, “Call your sister.” Never has a reunion been so sweet.
 
Someone once said that relationships between siblings are the most long-lasting and influential of all. My sisters have been a part of my life longer than my husband or my children, and they will be part of my life even after our parents are gone. They know me, and understand me, and they like me anyway. They’re one of the best blessings God has given me. And as Mom said, if I ever do need a kidney, I know who to call.
 
------------------
SIDEBAR
 

8 Tips for Maintaining a Relationship with your Sister

In today’s busy world, it’s easy to let a relationship slide. That’s true regardless of whether you live nearby or far apart. Here are some tips for maintaining a strong relationship with your sister.
 
Scheduled Phone Calls – Communication is the key to any relationship, so don’t leave it to chance. Select a specific day each week for an uninterrupted phone call. Put your sister on your cell phone “Favorites” so you can talk free.
 
Text Messages – Texting is the preferred method of communication for one of my sisters. Be sure you have unlimited texts on your cell phone plan.
 
Utilize the Internet – Email and social networking sites like Facebook are wonderful ways to stay connected. On Goodreads and LibraryThing you can keep track of what your sister is reading, too.
 
Skype – If you both have a computer with a camera, this software allows you see each other while you talk – and it’s free.
 
Letters – Email is wonderful, but there’s nothing like reading your sister’s words in her own handwriting.
 
Cards – Next time you browse the card shelves, pick up several funny ones and tuck them away in a drawer. Send one every so often to surprise your sister with a laugh.
 
Sister Sleepovers – Even if you live near one another, there’s nothing like getting away from it all with your sister. Schedule an annual sleepover at a lodge, or hotel, or even at someone’s house. Leave the kids at home, and focus on having fun with each other.
 
Start a Tradition – Create a tradition you share only with your sister. For instance, my sister and I exchange ugly ornaments at Christmas every year. We spend months shopping for the ugliest ornament we can find, and love the competition of seeing who “wins” that year.
Virginia Smith is the author of a dozen Christian novels including the Sister-to-Sister Series, which is based in large part on her relationship with her own sisters. Stuck in the Middle was a finalist for the 2009 ACFW Book of the Year award. Her newest book, Third Time’s a Charm, the third and final book in the series, is now available wherever books are sold. Learn more about Ginny and her books, and enter a Prize Bonanza Giveaway, at www.VirginiaSmith.org.
 

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Revell
 Release: January 1, 2010
ISBN-10: 0800732340
ISBN-13: 978-0800732349
Retail: $14.99
 




Kathy Carlton Willis Communications
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WillisWay@aol.com | kcwcomm@rgv.rr.com | 956-642-6319 | www.kathycarltonwillis.com

Monday, February 1, 2010

Baptismal Day for Annia

Our beautiful precious little granddaughter was Baptized yesterday! The little angel was perfect! Thanks be to God for this wonderful Sacramental day!