Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dad's final journey is lesson in faith

Joe Hanneman sits with his father, David Hanneman, in August 1998 at his parents’ 40th anniversary party. David died last year after a three-year battle with cancer. Joe documented his father’s final journey in a book, “The Journey Home: My Father’s Story of Cancer, Faith, and Life-Changing Miracles.” (Submitted photo courtesy Joe Hanneman)

It was the little things. Shoveling the sidewalk in his pajamas and bathrobe, carrying a couple of teenage pumpkin smashers by the scruff of their necks and turning them over to police. Wearing shorts with black socks and sandals; or playing 500, Monopoly, or cribbage until the wee hours in the morning about which Joseph Hanneman reminisced while sitting vigil – his dad flittering between this world and the next.
He loved his dad, David, a well-respected, former alderman, county board supervisor, municipal chief executive, and mayor of Sun Prairie, but he didn’t really know him until his father’s final journey to heaven.
In his book, “The Journey Home: My Father’s Story of Cancer, Faith and Life-Changing Miracles,” Joe, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish, Racine, shares his experience with his dad’s incurable lung cancer diagnosis, through his final months and his last message to his family.

Journey began before cancer diagnosis
Joe realized his dad’s journey home began long before the cancer diagnosis, and the ability to gracefully accept his path was the result of his ardent faith as a lifelong Roman Catholic.
“For 53 years, my dad was a member of the Knights of Columbus, including 35 years as a Fourth Degree Sir Knight,” he said. “He did a lot of charitable and patriotic work with the Knights. He was also an extraordinary minister of holy Communion at Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church for 12 years.”
David’s faith was an example to members of his close-knit family and circle of friends as he gracefully carried his cross.

"The Journey Home"

is available through or through Joseph Hanneman's Web site.
“Once I saw the Holy Spirit working in all of our lives, the whole picture began to make sense,” said Joe. “The ‘why’ of cancer. The knowledge that suffering does have a meaning if it is united to Christ’s sufferings. The realization that the destination of it all is a home with God in heaven. I truly believe the Holy Spirit worked through Dad’s illness and death to bring these messages home to us and others.” While the book is a tribute to his father, it is also a shared legacy of faith and suffering passed from a father to a son. The crisp, cool October day in 2006 was painful, surreal and like a punch to the gut when Dr. Gregory Motl delivered the grim diagnosis in a stuffy office inside the Dean Medical Clinic in Sun Prairie.

‘Lifetime of lessons from Dad’s suffering’
Through three years of mind-numbing painkillers, chemotherapy, illnesses and blood transfusions, Joe sat by David’s side, praying, often saying nothing, but serving as a quiet comfort while his dad regained his role as teacher.
“I learned a lifetime worth of lessons from Dad’s sufferings and his cancer,” explained Joe. “I learned that seemingly senseless suffering takes on meaning through God. Dad was called to carry a cross called lung cancer. He did it with quiet determination and grace. He never once asked, ‘Why me?’ My job was to support him and to be a careful observer of his journey so it could be shared with others. I didn’t fully figure this out until after he died.”
While it wasn’t openly shared, Joe knew that his father’s faith was tested throughout the disease. David often confided in close friend and priest, Msgr. Duane Moellenberndt from Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Church in Sun Prairie, about death and dying.
“They talked it through and that was a big comfort to him,” said Joe. “Whether he was well enough to make it to Mass, Dad received the holy Eucharist regularly. He had a favorite black-bead rosary he kept with him, given by my mom’s father, Earl Mulqueen Sr. Even though his cross was heavy, he kept his feet moving toward Calvary.”
Joe still marvels at his father’s graceful embrace of death because he wasn’t one to speak of it or complain. He just trusted and followed his path.
“His journey reminds me of the quote attributed to St. Francis: ‘Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words when necessary,’” said Joe. “Like all of us, my dad was imperfect. I make no claim to the contrary. But that’s part of what makes his journey home have such meaning.”

Jesus led family on the journey
The greatest lesson for Joe was that the seemingly unmatched puzzle pieces of suffering fit and joined to form a breathtaking work of art. He learned that each of us is called to follow Jesus no matter the cost, and by dying to ourselves, we rise to him in the home he prepared for us.
“Jesus led us all through this journey, with sign after sign,” said Joe. “And at the end of Dad’s life, he gave us a glimpse at what Easter Sunday really looks like. I wrote in the book that this left an indelible imprint on my soul. And it is true. Seeing my dad step into eternity after his own personal Calvary is something I can never forget. It’s why I had to write this book.”
Miracles happened throughout David’s suffering, but it was his last few breaths that brought the deepest and most powerful understanding of God’s love for us and the new home that awaits after we die, Joe said.
“The night Dad died, we kept a vigil at his bedside at HospiceCare Inc., near Madison,” said Joe, who was joined by his mom, sisters, Amy and Marghi and brother David. “We sat around his bed and told stories from growing up in Sun Prairie. It was almost like those Saturday nights at home playing games at the kitchen table. Dad had been virtually comatose all day. He seemed very far away. About 11:30 p.m., my mom started praying the Lord’s Prayer. The five of us held hands and said the ‘Our Father.’ At the end of the prayer, my dad’s lips moved and he said, ‘Amen.’ He could hear us praying and he prayed with us!”
It seemed as if David had passed to heaven after that last Amen, April 14, 2007, but he had one more startling and life changing message for the family, and one that Joe shares with readers to energize their paths to Jesus.

Hopes book leads others to Christ
“I hope the book strengthens people’s faith and leads them to Christ and his church; that’s the purpose of it all,” said Joe. “I want people to be uplifted by the book, to realize that even sad stories have great endings. But, I believe the Lord has much more in mind. If you approach the book with even a measure of faith, it will strengthen you. Life lived by faith is a journey and a destination. Christ is the center of both. Those messages resonate from this book.”
While the process of death is not pretty, the acceptance for those making sense of losing their loved one is also not pretty. The strain on Joe’s faith was excruciating, he said, but once he surrendered his own powerlessness, God began healing and preparing his heart.
“When I first heard the diagnosis, I panicked. I thought, ‘We’ve got to fix this; get rid of this disease,’ he confessed. “Over time I realized that it was not my job to fix it or make it go away. I prayed that whatever happened, God’s will would be done, and my dad would find the strength he needed to get through it all. Both things happened, although not in the way I would have imagined. As each piece fell into place during the journey, I felt a nudge from God. Like a tap on the shoulder. I got plenty of reminders that God had it all worked out. After Dad was safely home, I realized how much my faith had grown. It was tested, yes, but it became anchored like I could never have imagined.”

Widows' prayers support ordained ministry



Written by Karen Mahoney, Special to your Catholic Herald

Thursday, 22 July 2010 09:17

As Fr. Erich Weiss prepared for his ordination last May, he knew a group of women had his back. Without their prayerful support, his journey to becoming the associate pastor at St. Jerome Parish in Oconomowoc may have had a different outcome.

“To know that people are supporting priests by their prayers is very comforting for us because the priests I know well possess a strong belief in the power of prayer,” he said. “As we priests pray for all in the world, all in the world must pray for our priests. While priests sacrifice, preach and sanctify; we are still ordained ambassadors of Jesus Christ’s most blessed humanity and need all the help we can get. No prayer, no power. Game over.”

Since 2005, Milwaukee members of the Widows of Prayer ministry have dedicated their lives to serving Christ by praying for priests and others in church leadership, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to promote adoration of Christ in the Eucharist.

Each year, members contact the transitional deacons preparing for ordination, letting them know that they have been “adopted” by a Widow of Prayer and are being prayed for in a special way. The widow sends periodic notes of encouragement, Christmas and birthday cards, and attends the ordination of the priest.

Members also attend the Mass of Thanksgiving of their priest if possible, and receive a special blessing from the consecrated hands of the newly ordained priest.

According to Helen Krueger, servant leader, the Milwaukee chapter began with three women and now consists of eight widows who have made final promises.

“The promises mean that the widows have been called to a specific vocation within the church, similar to a third order group,” she said. “Our ministry involves a commitment to a life of prayer and service. We promise to pray one to three hours per day for priests, vocations and ministries of the church.”

A widow interested in this vocation prays with a chapter for one year before deciding to make a first promise, then another year before making the second promise and another year or more before committing to the final promise. Included in the promise is the dedication to praying for vocations and living a chaste single life. Women who wish to be part of the Widows of Prayer, but who are not committed to the three promises are still welcome to participate in the group activities, but are referred to as the Friends of the Widows of Prayer.

Mary Reardon, widowed after 36 years of marriage, founded the organization in Appleton in 1994. While she initially contemplated the consecrated life as a religious sister, she said God was calling her to begin the Widows of Prayer group.

For more information on the Widows of Prayer contact:

Helen Krueger, Servant Leader, Milwaukee/Franklin:

(414) 858-9811, or

Mary Ellen Morrow, Servant Leader, Wind Lake:

(262) 895-3482,

or visit the Web site.

Since the Appleton group began, members have formed two chapters in Indiana, three in Wisconsin, one in Illinois and one in Michigan. According to Krueger, interest is growing through word of mouth.

“We keep in contact with each other and include all members in a day of recollection, and for our annual September retreat in Appleton at Monte Alverno Retreat Center,” she said. “It’s a nice way to meet widows from the other chapters.”

The widows gather every Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Clare Meadows I Chapel, a senior residence, where Krueger is a resident, to fulfill their mission. For the first three years, Franciscan Fr. Joachim Studwell served as their spiritual adviser until his transfer to Indiana. Since that time, Fr. Mark Brandl, pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish, Greendale, has been the group’s spiritual advisor.

“He celebrates Mass with us once a month and gives a teaching,” said Krueger. “On the first Saturday of the month, we attend morning Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Convent and spend an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament in their adoration chapel.”

A Third Order Franciscan, Krueger, a longtime member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Milwaukee, joined the Widows of Prayer after learning about it through other residents at Clare Meadows. Like Reardon, she contemplated joining a convent after her husband died.

“But I learned about the Widows of Prayer from a friend of mine and contacted Mary Reardon,” she explained. “I was looking for a Milwaukee branch because there wasn’t one around here and Appleton was too far to travel. I started thinking that maybe God was telling me to start one here and so I got a couple of friends together and we started this Milwaukee Chapter.”

Members range in age from their 50s to Alice Scheele, who admits that praying for priests and vocations is something she is still able to do at 93 years of age.

“Some people just sit and watch TV or sit and rock and this is something I can do that years ago people didn’t do,” said Scheele, a former beautician. “I used to go to people’s homes and do their hair and they would either crochet or just sit there. This is something I can take advantage of — while I can still do it.”

Scheele said she wants to be ready for the day she returns home to God.

“I think this group is great; it puts you in a mode and helps you prepare for what is coming,” she said. “I think of the people who have died and didn’t think about it early enough and could be suffering right now. I dwell on the world and see how things are getting worse and I pray for everyone.”

A resident of Franciscan Villa, Scheele is not able to attend many of the Widows of Prayer gatherings due to her age and transportation issues, but she prays for vocations, the other members and the world.

“I feel good about praying for our priests,” she said. “They need all the prayer they can get – and it makes me happy that our little group gets together and prays for their intentions and I truly believe it helps them out.”

Fr. Weiss agreed, and noted that if others would imitate the mission of the Widows of Prayer, every man’s journey to the priesthood or religious life and every woman’s vocation to religious life would be radically fostered.

“The widows’ perseverance in prayer is an excellent example in that ability to pray is always possible and beneficial,” he said, adding, “Especially when one encounters difficulties in prayer. We truly help one another through prayer.”

For Mary Ann Pajewski, a member of Divine Mercy Parish, South Milwaukee, joining Widows of Prayer helped fill the loss she felt when her husband died five years ago.

“This group has increased my faith deeply,” the 73-year-old said. “I consider myself to be a good Catholic and these women who are involved just have had a tremendous and positive influence in my life and drawn me closer to God.”

After three years as a member of the Widows of Prayer, Pajewski has made the third promise. Like the others, she feels that God called her to this lifestyle.

“I don’t think of myself as a ‘holier than thou’ person, but felt strong in my faith,” she said. “This ministry has just enhanced my faith.”

Program aims to keep seniors from falling

by Karen Mahoney, Special to Your Catholic Herald

When slippery winter weather makes us more vigilant as we traverse sidewalks and parking lots, for older adults, falling can be debilitating, leading to isolation and illness. With a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Geriatrics and Gerontology Section launched “Stepping On,” a study aimed at helping older adults conquer those fears.

Based on a study originally performed in Australia by Dr. Lindy Clemson, the Stepping On program was brought to Wisconsin for further research and modifications to Americanize the program.

The fear associated with falling can be a big problem for older adults who have fallen or who worry they might fall, according to Maureen Redmer, a registered nurse for 27 years. For the past eight years, she has served as parish nurse for St. Francis de Sales Parish in Lake Geneva, and is hosting her second Stepping On series aimed at adults over 65. Ten participants signed up for the first session and ranged in age from 69-91.

Wisconsin 5th in nation for elderly falls

“The research in Australia showed that the course decreased the rate of falls in the participants by 31 percent,” said Redmer, adding, “And Wisconsin is fifth in the nation for falls in the elderly and the second cause of death in those over age 65. Falls-related deaths can be from the fall itself or from complications from the fall such as pneumonia.”

The seven-week series begins July 27 and concludes Sept. 14. The course, free to pre-registered participants, emphasizes balance, exercise, moving about safely, home hazards, vision, proper footwear, bone health, medication, and the use of safe mobility techniques.

Redmer expects that seniors, by attending the class, will remain more independent as they age, thereby reducing the chances of residing in a skilled nursing care facility.

“I believe that the longer we can keep people in their own homes and living at least semi-independently, the healthier and more mentally alert they will remain,” she said, adding, “To say nothing of the cost of long-term care, which can eat up a life savings in a very short time.”

UW-Madison Stepping On research program manager Vicki Gobel is working with grants and state funding to test key elements that cannot be changed from Clemson’s original program, as well as revising the course to better fit American society.

“We are updating the program and working on a training program for leaders and running the series in three sites in the state,” she said. “We are directing our emphasis on three areas: independent living residences, senior centers and parish nurse programs.”

Early feedback is positive

The grants include funds for eight pilot classes in the three locations. Gobel anticipates that once data is collected from the test sites, the program will be developed further and marketed nationwide. As data collection is still coming in to the university, official results will not be available until the entire series is completed, but early feedback is positive.

“Word of mouth is that people really like the program,” she said. “We have heard that the Waukesha Senior Center has a waiting list for another program because it is so popular. This mirrors the history from around the state.”

While she has never fallen, Rita Bouras, 76, a member of St. Francis de Sales Parish, felt as if she were living on a slippery slope and was concerned that she might join the ranks of peers who have suffered hip or pelvis fractures after falling. After participating in the first session, she said she has boosted her self-confidence and learned methods to reduce her chances of falling.

“I have been really lucky and healthy all of my life, and I want to stay that way,” she said. “The program was great and it taught us about keeping an uncluttered house. I am not a messy person, but I had this big throw carpet in my front room that my grandkids would always stumble over, but not me. I learned during the class, that I should get rid of it because I might be the next one to stumble and fall.”

Fear of falling also limits activities

According to the CDC, about one in three older adults who live independently at home will fall each year. As people age and develop health issues, those odds get worse. In 2005, 15,800 people 65 and older died from injuries related to unintentional falls; 1.8 million people 65 and older were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal injuries from falls, and more than 433,000 of these patients were hospitalized. Over the past decade, the rates of fall-related deaths among older adults rose significantly.

It appears that the fear of falling – not just the falls themselves – can cause some of the problems that lead to declining health. When seniors develop a fear of falling, they tend to limit their activities, which can lead to decreased strength, confidence and overall quality of life and which will cause the weakness and dizziness that might inevitably cause a fall.

“It can happen so fast; it might be just a simple accident, and from there it is a downward spiral resulting in an additional loss of confidence and the person becomes afraid to go anywhere,” said Gobel. “This class helps the senior adults feel empowered and can make a huge difference. They aren’t having to sit home and accept the thinking that just because they are older that they will fall and there is nothing they can do about it. Those who have taken the class feel more confident about what they can do – that’s what we have been hearing all over, through word of mouth.”

Some falls are avoidable

Some falls are avoidable. As part of the course, participants learned about engaging in meaningful activities, education about fall avoidance, and exercises. Simple techniques to conquer dizziness associated with rising from bed, from the church pew or a sitting position were especially helpful to Bouras who remembers jumping out of bed the first thing in the morning.

“We can’t do it like we did when we were younger,” she explained. “Maureen taught us to get up slower so we wouldn’t get dizzy, and to keep a flashlight by our bed so that when we got up at night we could see exactly where we are going.”

Included in the program were guest speakers that included nutritionists, exercise therapists, pharmacists, police officers, as well as a representative from Prevention for the Blind speaking on eye diseases.

For Redmer, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and she expects that results in the study will mirror those in Australia.

“All of the participants report that they can do all of the exercises, some have been able to increase the number of repetitions and a couple have added weights, which we offer on loan during the entire session,” she said. “Several are reporting feeling more confident in their balance, less dependence on walkers and having an easier time getting up from a chair.”

Bouras urges seniors to learn more about fall prevention and to take a class if one is available because it just might make a difference in their quality of life.

“Just when I thought I knew everything, I found out I don’t,” she said, laughing. “I hope that the program expands and everyone can learn the techniques we did.”

Who is at risk? (statistics from the CDC)

•Men are more likely to die from a fall.

•Women are 67 percent more likely than men to have a nonfatal fall injury.

•Rates of fall-related fractures among older adults are more than twice as high for women as for men.

•In 2003, about 72 percent of older adults admitted to the hospital for hip fractures were women.

•The risk of being seriously injured in a fall increases with age. In 2001, the rates of fall injuries for adults 85 and older were four to five times that of adults 65 to 74.

•Nearly 85 percent of deaths from falls in 2004 were among people age 75 and older.

•People 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer.

•There is little difference in fatal fall rates between whites and blacks, ages 65 to 74.

•After age 75, white men have the highest fatality rates, followed by white women, black men and black women.

•White women have significantly higher rates of fall-related hip fractures than black women do.
•Among older adults, non- Hispanics have a higher fatal fall rate than Hispanics.

What can you do to prevent falls?

Older adults can take several steps to protect their independence and reduce their risk of falling. They can:

•Exercise regularly; exercise programs like Tai Chi that increase strength and improve balance are especially good.

•Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines, both prescription and over-the-counter, to reduce side effects and interactions.

•Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year.

•Improve the lighting in your home.

•Reduce hazards in your home that can lead to falls.

The seven-week "Stepping On" Program runs July 27 through Sept. 14 at St. Francis Parish, 148 W. Main St., Lake Geneva. Classes meet each Tuesday at the parish center from 1-3 p.m. To register for the free course, call (262) 248-8524.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More Kitty Pictures!

We are having so much fun with our new little furry family--the kitties now don't mind that we are outside by them and don't complain too much when we pick them up. I didn't realize until yesterday that we have 5 babies rather than 4!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Kitty pictures!

We are having such a wonderful time playing with these little babies! I hope they stick around and become our good friends!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

We have kittens!

Well, our little feral cat, Callie that hangs out on our property had babies last month. Today I was able to sneak a peak--well more than just a peak of them! I actually nuzzled one close to my heart and peered into his baby blue eyes--the most gorgeous little beige kitten! She had a litter of four--black, grey, beige and multi colored--and they are all so sweet. I tried to snap a photo of them, but by the time I grabbed my camera they had all run off--I'll keep trying though. No wonder we are going through so much cat food!

Avoiding, Our me-first world

As a long time homeschooling mom, many will ask,  "How, in this materialistic, competitive world can I raise kind children?" My answer is to begin by being a kind adult. When your child sees you going the extra mile to help a friend, carrying someone's groceries, making a meal for someone who has an illness in the family, just moved into the neighborhood, or perhaps inviting people into your life who aren't exactly like you, he will naturally see this as the right way to live.

We are mirrors for our kids: When children observe your examples of kindness, they'll know where to begin, at least we hope that is the case. When I felt sick or tired, my 15 year old son offered to make dinner, or clean the house, or rub my aching neck. He recalled times when I was there for him and he has learned to be reciprocal in his actions.

Kindness is a quality that isn't often rewarded in our schools, so we must make a strong effort to acknowledge it at home. Kids are naturally empathetic from an early age: As newborns, they cry when they hear another baby crying; they offer their favorite doll to the friend who has scraped his knee. We tend to expect our young children to grow out of this compassion and become self-absorbed. "Oh it's the terrible twos," we say. "Kids just can't share at this age." What if we shifted our expectations and saw our kids as truly caring beings? Boys in particular are often rewarded for being clever or assertive, but not often for showing compassion.

Kindness, empathy, compassion, and love grow from appreciation and respect, and in turn create more of both.

In an achievement-oriented culture, we may focus more on grades and sports victories than on values of the heart. Take the time to acknowledge kind actions as having true worth.

We can weave kindness into our everyday lives, for example, by creating a "kindness board" and posting it for all to see. Each time a family member does something kind, he or she can write it on the board when it's acknowledged.

Try These Random Acts of Kindness
Ask your kids to come up with their own list of everyday opportunities to show kindness. Some ideas to get them started:

-Smile at your teacher, or the mailman.
-Compliment at least one person a day.
-Hold the door for the person behind you when you come in from recess.
-Pass on to someone else a book you loved.
-Offer to walk a neighbor's dog.
-Help someone find something he or she has lost.
-Recycle magazines to the local library.
-Help a younger sibling with homework.
-Sit with the kid who usually sits alone on the bus.
-If kids are speaking unkindly about someone, even if it is about their parents, take a stand against it.
-Bake an extra batch of cookies and leave them on a neighbor's doorstep.
-Hug somebody who needs it.

Remind your children they can make a difference each day. They can touch other people's lives through simple efforts: a smile, a nod, a shared laugh, a kind word, a quiet prayer.

Friday, July 16, 2010

You are mine by David Haas

I will come to you in the silence,
I will lift you from all your fear.
You will hear my voice,
I claim you as my choice,
Be still and know I am here.

Do not be afraid, I am with you.
I have called you each by name.
Come and follow me
I will bring you home;
I love you and you are mine.

I am hope for all who are hopeless,
I am eyes for all who long to see.
In the shadows of the night,
I will be your light,
Come and rest in me.

Do not be afraid, I am with you.
I have called you each by name.
Come and follow me
I will bring you home;
I love you and you are mine.

I am strength for all the despairing,
Healing for the ones who dwell in shame
All the blind will see,
The lame will all run free,
And all will know my name.

Do not be afraid, I am with you.
I have called you each by name.
Come and follow me
I will bring you home;
I love you and you are mine.

I am the Word that leads all to freedom,
I am the peace the world cannot give.
I will call your name,
Embracing all your pain,
Stand up, now walk, and live!

Do not be afraid, I am with you.
I have called you each by name.
Come and follow me
I will bring you home;
I love you and you are mine.

"I will never forget you.
See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name."
Is 49:15-16

"I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me."
Jn 10:14

Narcissim ramblings

Everywhere I look it seems that narcissism, or excessive self-love, is marked by bloated confidence, vanity, materialism, and a lack of consideration for others. These narcissistic personality traits have become so pervasive in American culture that they seem to be transforming this nation into a bunch of egomaniacs.

Where the heck did it begin?
Did it begin with the "I am somebody" campaign back in the 1970s?
Or with the "everyone's a winner?"
Have we pumped up the egos of our kids too much?
Have we put too much emphasis on beauty, plastic surgery, thinness, making everyone feel oh so good about themselves?

We are bombarded with statements to love ourselves, put ourselves first, be good to ourselves--so, have we as a nation become so good to ourselves that we forget others?

Have we forgotten where we came from?

I remember the sacrifices of my parents--my dad working 20 hours a day to put food on the table. I did not have a mother who took me to dance classes, baseball, attended my band or orchestra concerts, listened to my piano music, had birthday parties, or came to my field trips--but she was there, cleaning, cooking and caring for the five of us the best she could.

These days, we take our kids to art classes, music, band, orchestra, dance, baseball, school trips, field trips, buy them phones, computers, nice clothes and home cooked meals and willingly forgo our own needs and wants.

But, it isn't enough--just once it would be nice if those very kids we raised with so much, when we went with so little would just say two little words--Thank you.

Instead--it seems that if we don't fix their personal lives, send a bit more cash, or agree with whatever they feel that day--we are worthless and unnecessary. We are superfluous to them--and an easy discard.

I mean having a basic sense of self-worth is a good thing. But when those feelings cross over into narcissism, it becomes toxic for other people, for the society, and for the individual in the long run.

  Yes, we have healthy competition in the world, and much of that is good-- however, narcissism isn't going to help you succeed. Narcissists aren't any more successful than anybody else. Narcissism helps you succeed in the short-term—it's great for trying to win a role in a play, or a spot on American Idolbut in most professions and in the long run, nobody likes a jerk and most narcissists end up being jerks.

When things are going well, and they are making big bucks or are immensely popular in their world, narcissists do pretty well, but when things are not going well, loss of job or other personal strife, they don't fare as well--they want someone to fix them. The thing is--the repairs have to come from within and maybe, just maybe an extra dose of compassion by the narcissistic person to others might just enable others to feel empathy towards lending them an ear or a helping hand.

Maybe if we could all get a mulligan--we could go back to the old values where we worked hard, didn't get what we wanted all the time, respected our parents, revered our elderly, and kept our faces on Jesus....maybe this world would be a lot better place.

The Journey

All of life is a journey; which paths we take, what we look back on, and what we look forward to is up to us. We determine our destination, what kind of road we will take to get there, and how happy we are when we get there.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Annia Day

We have absolutely the most beautiful granddaughter in the world. I am so blessed to be able to be part of her little life.
I cherish very single day we have with her
Every opportunity to hold her,
every smile,
every blink of her eyelashes,
each of her pearl white teeth, 
and thank our Lord God Almighty for this precious life and we are grateful.
We are grateful that despite all odds, she was born into this world and we love her so very much.

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.  Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.  Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.  Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.  Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.  But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.  ~Buddha

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pro-life mom seeks to put beliefs into action

Danielle Silva Heckencamp and her daughter Lucia display some of the homemade items that will be sold at the Swaddle for Life organization’s trunk sale at St. Stanislaus and Oratory Church in Milwaukee on July 17. Among the items shown at her Wauwatosa home are a quilt, made by Danielle, and hats, mittens, jewelry and a child’s tutu made by other contributors to the cause. (Catholic Herald photo by Ernie Mastroianni)

In the end, a tiny newborn T-shirt and receiving blanket broke down the wall of a woman’s heart. Her teenage daughter was pregnant and she was encouraging her to obtain an abortion. But the two walked into the Women’s Support Center of Milwaukee and into the arms of Mary Gilpin.

The executive director counseled the grandmother-to-be about the benefits of life, of opening up to God’s will, and of the long-term physical and emotional effects of abortion.

“The mom was giving her daughter all the reasons for having the abortion, so I brought in the tiny undershirt and blanket and the girl kept looking at it,” Gilpin said. “It brought the reality of the baby to both of them, and helped begin an attachment between the teen and the baby growing inside her – and she went on to have the baby.”

That’s just one of the many success stories Gilpin has been part of as director of the Women’s Support Center.

Before her daughter Lucia was born a year ago, Danielle Silva Heckenkamp, as a volunteer with the Women’s Support Center, witnessed similar difficult scenarios faced by unwed teen and young mothers, and of families experiencing financial hardship.

“However, after having our baby, it became difficult for me to devote so much time outside of the home,” said the 26-year-old who has been married to her husband, Joel, for three years. “But I still wanted to help.”

Last January, Heckenkamp developed Swaddle for Life, a company developed to aid families struggling with the commitment of a new baby.

“It is a life given an everlasting soul by Almighty God,” said Heckenkamp who also owns a floral design company that creates arrangements for weddings and special events. “Through monetary and material donations, Swaddle for Life works to reach those mothers and fathers who chose life and are in need of the support, care and love required to raise a child in God’s beautiful world.”

Through the sale of handmade and gently used items, Swaddle for Life will donate a percentage of its sales to provide pregnancy help centers with formula, diapers and layettes; for education of parents with critical information and advice in raising and caring for children; for additional items to be given to parents in need; and to educate the public about the purpose of pregnancy help centers.

“As a parent, I know the many costs involved in raising a child, and Swaddle for Life was developed with the dream of supporting those pregnancy centers and families who are having trouble meeting those monthly expenses,” said Heckenkamp.

For its first fundraiser, Swaddle for Life is hosting a trunk show, Saturday, July 17 in the auditorium at Heckenkamp’s parish, St. Stanislaus, on Historic Mitchell Street in Milwaukee.

“Local designers will be selling their products at the trunk show,” she said. “Such items will include handcrafted purses and jewelry, baby quilts, nursery d├ęcor and children’s clothing, which are a few items among many more. The event was organized to provide a fun shopping experience for a great cause, and we hope it can be a regular event in the Milwaukee area.”

A group project, Heckenkamp, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science and who has worked as a paralegal, developed Swaddle for Life with the assistance of friends and family dedicated to supporting life and local pregnancy centers.

“My designers (are) people I already know that do this for fun. When I mentioned starting this company and using it to help support pro-life organizations, they were interested in selling items to benefit a good cause,” said Heckenkamp, explaining she was raised with a pro-life outlook. “My grandma was big into pro-life and I followed in her footsteps.”
If you want to go:
Swaddle for Life’s trunk show
When: Saturday, July 17
Time: 12:30 - 3:30 p.m.
Where: St. Stanislaus Parish (in the attached school auditorium)
524 W. Historic Mitchell St., Milwaukee

There will be a small coffee and pastry bake sale whose proceeds will be donated to the parish and oratory of
St. Stanislaus as a thank you for allowing the use of the auditorium.

For more information
or to volunteer,
contact Danielle Silva Heckenkamp:
swaddleforlife@yahoo.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

She noted that many friends and family members have volunteered to assist with her new venture through advertising and marketing, creating handmade items to sell or volunteering to set up the event. Her husband, an accountant, has helped her with the business part.

In addition to the local designers, Heckenkamp will offer her own handmade children’s quilts, knitted baby hats and hand-painted nursery accessories, as well as a section of gently used adult and children’s clothing, shoes and books.

“A 10 percent discount off the total purchase will be given to anyone who brings a package of diapers to the trunk show,” she said. “These diapers will in turn be donated to a pregnancy center or directly to a family in need.”

Pregnancy help centers, such as the Women’s Support Center, look forward to help from the trunk show.

“We are really hurting financially,” admitted Gilpin. “We are hand to mouth every month – we are really busy and should be hiring people, but we can’t and rely on volunteers to help us … and when I get a woman (who comes) in who is considering abortion, I drop everything and work with her first, so we are appreciative of any help we can get.”

In addition to providing pregnancy tests and layettes for expectant mothers, funds from the trunk show will assist the Women’s Support Center in developing its “Earn while you learn” program. The program is designed to educate new parents on child rearing topics in exchange for coupons for the center’s new store.

“The program will be up by August or September and will allow parents to take classes in exchange for ‘baby dollars’ to be exchanged for baby items in our store that they might like,” said Gilpin. “This is another way to bring the idea of having a baby in a positive light. The new parents can walk into the little store and see the baby items and will help make the attachment for the new life.”

Following the trunk show, many of the designers will feature items on the Swaddle for Life Web site. As with the show, a percentage of the proceeds will benefit Women’s Support Centers of Milwaukee, and Care Net Pregnancy Centers.

For Heckenkamp, developing Swaddle for Life is an extension of her commitment to life.

“My only motivation (in developing the pro-life outreach) is from my time volunteering at the pregnancy crisis centers, and since I don’t have the time to physically go there now, I wanted to do something to help, and that’s why I started this business,” she said.

“As a Catholic, I believe it is important to support and help other souls, as we are all created and loved by God. The sanctity of life is not always valued in our society as it should be, and through Swaddle for Life, we hope that our mission will reach those families who do not completely understand the wonderful blessing of children given to us by Almighty God,” said Heckenkamp.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


As I struggle with erratic drivers, lost tempers, impatience, these words are ones I seek to model my life upon. While I have not accomplished them, they are a model to work towards.


Joy is the greatest cleanser, and it is
the greatest testimony of our

"Toil with happiness," my Lord once
said to me.

God sent a servant on an errand
through a dangerous part
of the world.

The servant, having received in hand
what God wanted

turned to the Holy and said,
"My Beloved Master, do you have a final instruction?"
and God replied,

"A kind face is a

[St. Francis of Assisi, from "Love Poems from God" by Daniel Ladinsky]