Friday, April 29, 2011

The sun is shining-could it possibly be a sign of spring?

So we have had these flats of flowers, packets of seeds, tomato and pepper plants, as well as about 10 bags of soil--just waiting for the opportune time to plant.

It hasn't happened

Snow during Easter week, frost and endless rain have precluded us from getting our garden started this year. However, today looks hopeful! The sun is shining, and I didn't need an umbrella and a winter coat to take the dog outside today. Looks like spring or perhaps summer might be around the corner.

Thanks to our hard as a rock clay soil and a yard filled with Black Walnut trees, planting flowers and vegetables is always a challenge. So this year, we are trying a new plan.

Less flowers, but a unique vegetable garden using black garbage bags. I learned this technique from Mary Hunt's Cheapskate Monthly website. All it takes is a few garbage bags, a few bags of Miracle Grow soil and plants or seeds,and mulch.

  • Find a nice sunny spot
  • fill the bags with soil
  • lay them on their sides
  • poke a few drainage holes on the bottom
  • cut holes on the top
  • put plants or seeds in the openings
  • cover with mulch to hide the fact that you are actually using garbage bags!
  • water and wait
  • No weeding
  • More time for fun

This is so right up my alley and I will post pictures after they are ready to go

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rising from the Deaf

With eyes as wide as saucers, my kindergarten religious ed students listened as I told the story about how, after Jesus died he was laid in the tomb, a rock was rolled in front of the opening and a guard kept watch at the entrance so Jesus would not be taken.

They were excited as I went on to explain that on the third day, the rock was rolled away, the guard was found laying on the ground and that two angels told the women who came to lay flowers at his grave, that Jesus was alive. 

For 20 minutes, we discussed Jesus' presence in our lives today, how he is alive and speaks to us either audibly or into our hearts. We discussed St. Faustina's visits from Jesus and the beautiful rays emanating from his body and we discussed Divine Mercy Sunday coming up this Sunday.

Imagine my surprise when I reviewed what we discussed and little Maddie raises her hand and said, "I know what we were talking about--Jesus rose from the deaf."

Uh yeah......

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Molly Kathleen Urness Thompson

It is hard to believe you are 22 today! I remember the day you were born as if it were only a moment ago, and was filled with such joy at having another beautiful daughter. You were always so happy, funny and adorable with your dimpled little face. Watching you grow up over the years from a toddler, to a young girl, teenager and into a woman was an incredible and wonderful metamorphosis.

I have fond memories of your love, compassion, humor and penchant for Owen Wilson impersonations. I will never forget you smoking that stogie in the side yard when you were 13, just to see the reaction of the construction workers, or peeking out of your bedroom window at 'Booth's' and Angie's antics. It was always an amusing experience scouring the malls for Prom and Homecoming dresses, going to lunch, getting latte's, making costumes for your plays and talent shows, and of course traveling to San Francisco in celebration of your high school graduation. We did have some fun times and I will never forget them.

You are indeed a lovely young woman and a beautiful mother. I pray that you are gifted with as much joy in your motherhood experience as I was with you. God bless you today.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

My Mother's China

"Remember Karen, the flowers need to be the right direction.
..turn those plates
...yes, the cups and saucers too."

Setting the table for Easter Dinner today, her voice was unmistakable. It was as if she were by my side as I arranged her Noritake china--the set with the pink roses. 

My Dad brought the set with his first couple of paychecks, a gift for his mother, when he came back from Japan where he was stationed in the U.S. Army, during the Korean Conflict. Because he was so concerned with the service for 12 getting chipped or cracked, he hand carried the boxes on his lap during the long flight home. I can only imagine the surprise on his mother's face when she opened those boxes with the delicate, colorful dishes. 

So used to being the one to give him everything she had--here she was, receiving such a special gift from her only child. I wonder if that was the day, she realized that her boy was a man?

She passed away in 1961, when I was a year old, and the set passed onto my mother, who cherished each piece for its beauty, but more for the story of the love between a son and his mother. Dad's face would like up like the sun's rays breaking through a foggy day when he would see that setting on the holiday table. And Mom beamed as if she knew she gave him the gift of his mother's memory for a few hours.

Usually it was me that was given the task of setting the table for the holidays, but it was never complete until Mom's inspection. Each plate, cup, saucer, and bowl needed to be placed just so. The pink roses at 3 and 9 o'clock and the leaves pointing up from the bottom. I dreaded those inspections as invariably, she would notice something amiss and I would be called back to correct the setting. 

Later on, my rebellious side would try to trick her. Perhaps I'd set each place perfectly, but turn one plate slightly. Or turn the flowers on the saucers upside down because I rationalized, the cups would hide the flowers. My mom had the eyes of an eagle and caught each one. 

Finally, it became a game for me and I'd purposely set the plates, each in a different angle to get her to laugh. I loved hearing her laugh when she figured out what I did....and she'd call, "Karen Anne" and then I knew, I got her! While I still didn't see the purpose of her meticulous obsession with the dinner plate, bread plate, dessert bowl, cake dish, and cup and saucer placements, I relented and returned to correct the many faux pas. 

When she died in 2001, the china came to live with me. It took a while before I could use it, but the first Christmas that I had a gathering, I decided it was time. As I pulled all of the pieces from the china cabinet, I began haphazardly placing them on the table with the full realization that I could do whatever I wanted.
It was mine. 
It was my house. 
It was my party and if I wanted the roses at 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock that was going to be just fine. 
But it wasn't. 
My mom, while not here, still lives. Just like Jesus lives, my mom lives and her voice is still unmistakable and talks to me from time to time--especially when I set the table improperly. 

That first party and every party since then, her china has been placed perfectly, just as she wants it. However, because I love hearing her voice, I always leave a couple items for her to correct--just for fun.

Happy Easter Mom

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Musician ‘fires up hearts, souls for Jesus’

p.6john-angottiInternational Catholic Musician John Angotti is scheduled to perform for St. Anne Parish, Pleasant Prairie, on Tuesday, May 1. Utilizing Latin and jazz with pop rock, Angotti’s style is often compared to that of Elton John and Billy Joel, but with spiritual and meditative hymns. (Submitted photo courtesy John Angotti) A small spark, a little kindling, some oxygen and the result is a crackling, roaring fire. Mesmerized by the flames, John Angotti spends most of his days as a fire starter which is not necessarily a bad thing, considering the international Catholic musician, singer and composer spends his days firing up souls and hearts for Jesus through his unique style of music.

On May 1, the 47-year-old Memphis, Tenn., artist brings his combination of old, traditional hymns with new rhythms to St. Anne Catholic Church in Pleasant Prairie. Utilizing Latin and jazz with pop rock, Angotti’s style is often compared to that of Elton John and Billy Joel, but with spiritual and meditative lyrics.

“I want to awaken their faith, start their fire and then get them thinking about becoming involved in ministry,” he said.  “My performance might make people feel good, but I want them to create feel-good moments afterwards that only come when feeding the poor and volunteering with youth groups, missions, and sharing time, talent and treasures.”

Angotti has written and played church music since he was a little boy, growing up in Clarksburg, W. V., the third in line of four adopted children. His father was a coal miner and his mom was a musician in the Catholic church in a community with strong Italian ancestry.

At 4, he sang the hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation,” and at 7, learned to play the piano. His mother encouraged him to become involved with church music at an early age through the children’s choir at church.

“I believe it was there at that age where I truly began to form my beliefs about God through the songs we were singing,” Angotti said. “I was playing in rock bands and writing songs as a teenager at St. Joseph’s High School Seminary. I was always the kid who raised my hand in band to play whatever instrument they needed.”

During high school and his first year in college, Angotti considered the priesthood, but decided it wasn’t for him.

“I went ahead and earned a degree in marketing from West Virginia University, and a degree in piano and voice from the Navy School of Music as well,” he said. “I am also currently working on a master’s in pastoral theological studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.”

Angotti played the piano and sang at Mass, describing it as an art form that burned deep within his soul.
If you want to go
John Angotti
Sunday, May 1, 6:30 p.m.
St. Anne Catholic Church
9091 Prairie Ridge Blvd.
Pleasant Prairie, WI  53158
Tickets: $10,
5 and under are free. 
Advance tickets:
(262) 942-8300

“You can’t just write a song,” he said. “It happens – so through my life’s experiences and playing at church, I began writing songs about my faith and started playing some of them at Mass and different events.”

After he wrote several songs, his then girlfriend Tracy, now his wife of 16 years, suggested he record his songs so others would be able to enjoy them.

“I put them on tape and sent them to Catholic publishers, and was so fortunate that World Library Publishing from Chicago bought 100 from me on a distribution deal,” Angotti said. “It snowballed and transpired into what I do now.”

That was in 1995, and while working with WLP, he met Dominican Fr. Jim Marchionda, also a composer with the company. Fr. Marchionda invited Angotti to participate in Christian workshops at the Los Angeles Religious Education Conference.

“Things really began to spiral for me then,” he said. “I played in a rock and roll band on the weekends, had a regular job and a new baby and then a job opened up for me to be a full-time music director. I discerned about it because it was a huge pay cut, I had the new baby – but when you think back, you see these life changing moments, and this was one of them. It all led to having an opportunity to study liturgy further and take a look at what minister was like. I fell into it – I didn’t write it, it wrote me.”

Since 1995, he has promoted his albums, played concerts, led parish workshops and worked with the youth. His goal is to re-energize services with music and other elements, and so far, most churches have been receptive to his musical style.

John Angotti is available for concerts, workshops, youth minister conferences, and confirmation and youth retreats.
He has released 10 albums, all available at his concerts or through iTunes or
More information can be found on his website:
“There is a lot of hunger in our church and a whole misunderstanding of faith and being Catholic and what going to church means,” said Angotti. “It isn’t punching a Mass card, but actively participating and making a conscious effort to know what is going on – what Mass means. What God is trying to do through me is to wake people up and take a look at what it means to be Catholic.”

When people criticize the Catholic Church, Angotti reminds them that the institution of the Catholic Church is not the whole church, but the human aspect of the church.

“We get caught up in the rules and regulations and forget the doctrines and the source,” he said, adding, “And if we forget the source, we are just going through the motion. We bow before and adore the Eucharist and treat each other like garbage. To adore the Eucharist and not see Christ in one another is missing the connection. That is what I do. I am the bridge builder. Because I am building the bridge between the human story and the divine story and all of that meets in the Eucharist. The human meets the divine and the ritual is that we go through that makes things connect. If no one understands the rituals, then it is just punching the Mass card.”

On the surface, the entertainment lifestyle seems elegant and exciting, but it often can be lonely and much of the time Angotti misses Tracy and his two children, Dominica, 14, and Tre, 9. While he evangelizes through his music, Tracy attends the ball games and other activities, and sometimes he questions whether he is doing the right thing.

“It is at those times, when I am really homesick, that someone comes around,” he said. “Just today I got an email from someone who said they had a bad day yesterday and I helped to make it better. Those moments keep me going forward.”

When he comes to St. Anne Parish, Angotti will reunite with Les Stahl, music director, and parishioner Anna Nuzzo.

“I have worked with Les many times, he has worked with me in producing and performing and is a wonderful person,” said Angotti. “And Anna recently sang with me at Carnegie Hall – that was me taking the message to the streets. It was so exciting and we were so happy we could do that.”

Nuzzo, a cantor and wedding and funeral soloist met Angotti at a National Pastoral Musicians Conference in Indianapolis a few years ago, and kept in contact through Facebook. She sang back-up for him at a teachers conference in Indianapolis last October and then recently at Carnegie Hall.

“There were about 300 voices that made up his back-up choir,” she said. “It was truly an amazing experience. He only asked a few people to sing a solo there and I was one of them. I was very honored that he asked me, and I am thrilled that it went so well. We received a standing ovation at Carnegie Hall – it was definitely one of the highlights of my life.”

Paper folding aids earthquake victims, honors grandmother

_MG_7770Mary Jo Haase of St. Agnes Parish, Milwaukee, poses with grandson Jacob Seligmiller after Mass at St. Matthias Parish in Milwaukee. After hearing stories of the devastation in Japan from the earthquake and subsequent tsunami this past March, Seligmiller raised $1,200 by selling 350 homemade paper cranes. (Catholic Herald photo by Kevin Pauly)To entertain her young grandson until his mother came home from work each day, Rimiko Seligmiller, a Japanese immigrant, would create origami cranes out of anything she could get her hands on, newspapers, old magazines, soft dishtowels, even occasionally, toilet paper.

As the years passed, Jacob Seligmiller created them on his own as a hobby. Recently the 17-year-old student at West Allis Central High School used his love of Japanese paper folding to honor his late grandmother by selling handmade paper cranes to raise money for those suffering the effects of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Jacob hoped to sell 500 cranes over the weekend to raise at least $1,500 for Catholic Relief Services. He offered one crane for a donation of $3 and two for $5. While he fell a little short of his 500-crane goal, selling 350, he came very close to his fundraising goal, bringing in $1,200.

“I sold 350 of them, but I made $1,200,” he said, adding, “The best part was the people. They were so supportive and it really boosted my faith to know how much people care. Some people would give me $20 for one crane, and one guy just gave me $60 and he didn’t even want a crane. It was amazing.”

When the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in March, Jacob felt helpless and worried for his family members still living there.

“Thankfully, they all live in the southwestern area of the country, that wasn’t affected by the earthquake,” he said. “The destruction happened in the northeastern area near the Fukushima Prefecture. But when I looked at all of the images of devastation caused by the massive earthquake, subsequent tsunami and finally the nuclear power plant radiation leaks, it haunted me, and left me seeking a way to reach out to this country I love, with whatever support I can.”

As a junior in high school, with a part time job as utility clerk at Pick ‘n Save, taking ACT tests, and worrying about where he will be going to college, Jacob didn’t know how he could possibly make a difference.
To contribute to
Catholic Relief Services
efforts in Japan:
call (877) HELP-CRS,
donate online at
or by mail to
Catholic Relief Services,
P.O. Box 17090,
Baltimore, MD 21203-7090.
In the memo of the check,
mark “SE Asia and Pacific Rim Emergency Fund.”

While reflecting on his heritage and the loving moments with his grandmother, he remembered her telling him the story of the “Legend of the Crane.”

“The crane in Japan is considered to be a mystical or holy creature,” he said. “An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds 1,000 paper cranes will be granted a wish, such as long life, prosperity or recovery from illness or injury. Over time, the Thousand Paper Cranes have come to represent a symbol of world peace.”

When Jacob learned that his parish was coordinating a special collection for donations to Catholic Relief Services for the Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims, the idea came together.

“It was like someone suddenly shone a light on me and showed me the way to help, make a difference and honor my family at the same time,” he said. “And, I began making them out of printer paper, colored paper and even magazines.”

With precious spare moments woven between school, homework, his part-time job, and other activities, Jacob’s mother Vicky worked out a plan for him to accomplish the 500-crane goal in time for Palm Sunday Masses.

“She calculated the days with the number of cranes and determined that I needed to make 20 per day,” he said. “It took me a while each day to do this, but I got it done.”

Proud of her son, Vicky was amazed that Jacob thought of this project on his own, and implemented it with such enthusiasm.

“He is a great kid,” she said. “For him to put this together to use the skills that make him think so fondly of his grandmother and the laughs they had together and to be able to use it to bring honor to her and her culture and to help people who are so in need, is just thrilling. She would be so proud and I wish she could be here to see him, it brings me to tears – that the aspect of his heritage in that silly thing they used to do together has come to some really good benefit and help, is wonderful.”

Combining Jacob’s fundraising efforts with those of the parish will ensure funds reach the needy in Japan as quickly as possible, said Vicky.

“With other groups such as the Red Cross, administration costs eat away at the donations,” she explained. “With Catholic Relief Services, it is a direct pipeline, there are no puzzles pieces to work through to get the money where it is needed. It’s so rewarding for me to see that his deep love for culture and heritage will have a direct impact on the country he cherishes so much.”

With Jacob demonstrating the example of stewardship at its core, Fr. Dave Cooper, pastor of St. Matthias is inspired by the young man, who like any high school student, would naturally struggle with responding to the Gospel call to serve.

“What can one 17-year-old boy do?” he said, adding, “And this is all something that came from him. No one told him, he came up with this pretty much all on his own, despite going to school full time, working, all within his spare moments he wanted to respond to the need. It’s so inspiring in a world with so much greed and self interest to see a young person make a concerted effort to do something to make a difference.”

While Jacob was happy to help in what he considers a small way, he falls short of giving himself any credit for the success of the project.

“It is overwhelming to see what God did,” he said. “The people were so generous and the only thing I wish would be that my grandmother could be here. I think she would have liked to see how much people care.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Holy Week: My Favorite Season of the Year

Each Lent, when I am trying to keep my Lenten sacrifices and often failing, my mind wanders to Christ who was faced with infinitely more challenges and suffering that I can imagine, yet he never failed. While it would be easy to wallow in self-pity with the knowledge that I can never be perfect, I rejoice, for this week--the holiest of all weeks is our reminder that He who was without sin, gave us His body as an offering so we can all be given the opportunity for Heaven.

The Easter Triduum begins on Thursday with Mass of the Lord's Supper,  continues through Good Friday with the passion of the Lord, and the glorious  Easter vigil, and concludes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.

Holy Thursday

The Easter Triduum begins with Mass on Holy Thursday evening, when Jesus sacramentally anticipated the gift he would make of himself on the cross to his disciples, who did not understand. He instituted the Eucharist and created the priesthood this Last Supper. His command to serve others recalled this night in the ceremony of the washing of the feet,  in remembrance of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Like the Paschal lamb, killed and eaten by the people, according to the Old Testament account read from Exodus this evening, Jesus is a sign of God’s salvation.

Good Friday

The Good Friday service is a powerful recalling of the Passion of Jesus. We Catholics join our hearts in prayers for the entire world, and solemnly venerate the Crucifix, sacrifice and mourn the death of Jesus

The Easter Vigil

The Easter Vigil is the most beautiful Mass of the entire Church year, and my favorite Mass. We  celebrate the empty tomb, the resurrection of Jesus. With a rich display of symbols, rites and readings, the church in worship expresses her faith in the mystery that brings her into being.

Light conquers darkness

The vigil opens in darkness with a service of light.

The outdoor lighting of the fire and the Easter candle go back to rites that long preceded Christianity. The candle, carried with loving reverence and lyrically praised in word and song, is a sign of Christ, “the light of the world,” and celebrates the victory of light over darkness that humanity has ever longed for. The candle is notched and accompanied with prayers declaring Jesus as the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.

God’s love endures forever

A series of readings and Epistles recalls the great interventions of God in history, from creation to the the redemption of Israel from Egypt, and ends with the story of Jesus’ resurrection. Finally, we again join in the great “Alleluia” to proclaims with joy the triumph of God’s Son. Those who have prepared to enter the Church receive the sacraments of initiation, such as Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation. The blessed water sprinkled over others signifies the blessing of new life.

Rejoice! This night says as it brings before us the deepest symbols of our hopes and fears. The darkness, sign of evil and death, has been overcome by light. A lamp, a candle has been lit; a fire is enkindled in our hearts; a nourishing water flows through our lives; a baptism destroys what is unclean and brings to life again. 

Rejoice! this night says to all creation. The Word who made all things, as a new Adam, freshly proclaims God’s promise of life. All creation celebrates God’s love.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Allow me a moment to brag

My daughter Kelly is a knitting genius.
She has made family and friends countless scarves, sweaters, hats, gloves and toys---each one more adorable than the last. After a bit of prodding on our part, she opened her own Etsy shop--and if you think the enthusiastic encouragement didn't have a selfish side on my part, think again.

Don't tell her, but it's my hope, she brings in enough change to fund some yarn to create a creamy white Aran sweater for me.

And if you are reading this Kelly, there is no pressure-no, none at all, but, well, really, I would like one!

Anyway, her little shop will be featured on the left side of this blog and if you click on an item you like, it will take you directly to her shop where you can peruse all of her gorgeous wares.  Have a look!

 And here is my gorgeous daughter sitting with her Pops, in case you are interested in knowing just who you are buying from.

Here is her shop, if you would rather check it out from here The Caffeinated Ewe

Now don't tell me you can't find a single thing for that baby shower, Mother's Day or Easter!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Missing you

It's been 11 years today that you went home to be with Jesus. I miss you today Dad, like I miss you every single day. There are days I really wish I could share so many things with you--grandchildren, great granchildren, my work, the birds in the yard, ice cream, and the daily dose of puns we tossed back and forth.

On numerous occasions I hear your voice in my heart, in my husband, in my thoughts, and now and then, in my dreams--and I smile because I know that you will never truly be gone. You are with our Heavenly Father and interceding for me with the entire communion of saints.

I love you so much Dad-give Mom a  kiss from me too.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring cleaning our hearts

Wisconsin winters are long and brutal, so when the first wisps of summer float through the air, we have our windows open and are outside playing and working in the yard.

This winter marks one of the longest in my memory, but I am not complaining for it gives me opportunity to thank God for each luscious scent of lilac, rose, and honeysuckle the summer brings. For me, I think if we had those lovely days year round, I might not be grateful for the bumblebees, chirping birds, the spring shower, and the 75 degree balmy weather we are having right now.

The first warm day of the season also brings the opportunity to clean the screen porch--my favorite place to be on warm days and affectionately known as my outside office. I am sitting here now listening to more than 30 wind chimes play in unison, as if they were each tuned in a different, but perfectly melodious cadence. Thank you Blaise for loving wind chimes as much as I do--and thanks for putting them all up today! I think that was when I first knew I really loved you, the day you gave me a set of chimes from your yard because I didn't have one.

For the first two hours after Mass today, I pulled everything off the porch--the firewood, bins of birdseed and all the furniture. Then I swept and vacuumed every square inch, took the birdseed to the shed, the firewood stacked neatly for next winter, and the sweepings into the fire pit. The furniture was cleaned, vacuumed, dusted and polished and the clean rugs replaced for another summer of tea parties, cookouts, and late summer evenings talking and playing games with Erin and Blaise.

My mind began wandering as the cleaning and purging went on, and I began to realize that Lent is somewhat like cleaning this porch. We try to rid ourselves, our hearts and our minds of the dirt, cobwebs and dead leaves that make us impure in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. We examine, clean up and ask forgiveness through the Sacrament of Confession and once again, our hearts, our minds and our souls are ready to receive the gift of new life, of Christ our Savior.

Thanks be to God.

If you are in the area--stop by, we'd love to see you

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Aquinas Academy opens doors to Japanese students

Sarah-Yoo_-Sein-Yoo_-and-Nan-Ross----Director-of-Admissions--Nan Ross, admissions director at Aquinas Academy, hugs Sarah, left and Sein Yoo, as the girls prepare to leave the school for the last time, Friday, April 1. The Yoos spent three weeks at the Menomonee Falls school after fleeing their home in Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in that country. More photos of the family’s visit to Aquinas Academy can be viewed at (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina)MENOMONEE FALLS — After Japan’s 150 earthquakes last month, including the one topping 9 magnitude on March 11, followed by a devastating tsunami and frigid weather, 7-year-old Sarah and 4-year-old Sein Yoo were understandably terrified. All that they knew of their world crumbled; their home and their father’s office building were damaged, leaving it unsafe to remain in their city near Tokyo.

They needed stability and they craved normal, but all that surrounded them was destruction and chaos. The girls’ uncle, Daniel Yoo, formerly of Korea, resides in the Milwaukee area and he invited his brother and family to live with him until it was safe to return. 

“They were lucky to get the plane tickets right after the earthquake. People were just waiting for any available ticket to get out of Tokyo while they were sleeping at the airport,” said Yoo. “Their house was OK, but their business will need repair and remodeling for normal operation. They didn’t have much for water and food supplies because of the radiation infection in Tokyo.”

As Yoo prepared for the family’s arrival, he also paved the way for his nieces to attend school temporarily at Aquinas Academy, a private school in the Catholic tradition in Menomonee Falls. The owner of Capitol Cleaners in Brookfield is no stranger to Aquinas, as he has served as a liaison for many Korean exchange students who come to Aquinas during their summer vacation or for the full year for immersion in a Christian environment or to learn English and American culture.

According to Mike Schmainda, executive director of Aquinas, Yoo called the week following the earthquakes, explained the situation and asked if his nieces would be welcome at the school. Since the earthquake, students and staff have prayed for all affected by the earthquake, but never imagined that it would touch their own community.

“There was no question, of course, and we were charmed with their sweet faces at our door that first Monday morning,” said Schmainda, referring to Monday, March 14, when the youngsters arrived. “With that impressive Asian sense for orderliness, the girls arrived with their school uniforms from Japan, blue plaid jumpers with matching jackets and bobby socks. We witnessed some touching moments that first day. Our second graders especially enjoyed the opportunity to welcome these new friends who have come so far, and with so much courage. I saw the girls laughing and chatting during their lunch period, while one of the bubbly second graders tried to speak to the petite Sein, whose language skills at 4, are limited even with her native tongue.”

For three weeks, Sarah and Sein began each day praying, “Good morning dear Jesus; I love you. My Jesus, everything I do today I do for you,” with the rest of the school children.

According to admissions director Nan Ross, although the three weeks the girls attended school went much too quickly, they fit in perfectly with their classmates.Sarah-and-friendsSarah Yoo, 7, says goodbye to the new friends she made while at Aquinas Academy in Menomonee Falls. The Yoo family returned to their Tokyo home on Saturday, April 2. (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina)

“The older child, Sarah, spoke English very well, Sein’s language is not as developed, however language was not a barrier. Kids are kids and although the K4 children didn’t always communicate perfectly with Sein, they understood each other and interacted as if there was no language difficulty,” she said. “Our children were thrilled to have Sarah and Sein visiting from Japan. We teach our Aquinas children through formation that all children are valued and a wonderful gift from God. They were all anxious to be their friends, sit next to them, play with them, and ask questions. It was a totally positive experience for both Aquinas students and for Sarah and Sein.”

Coming to the more relaxed environment in the United States seemed to be the ideal antidote to combat the frightening experience the earthquake brought to their lives, she said. Being able to freely express themselves and participate in classroom activities seemed to give them a much-needed diversion, according to Ross.

“Sarah and Sein exhibited confidence academically and socially and appeared to be very well adjusted. The girls were polite and respectful to teachers and staff members, looked at you when spoken to, answered in complete sentences and always had a ready smile,” she said. “Sarah appeared to be perfectly stable emotionally, however Sein was, at first a bit reluctant to leave her mother. I think she felt insecure to be in a strange school with all new friends at age 4. The first few days we allowed Sein to visit her sister from time to time during the day hoping to build her trust and confidence. We also encouraged Sein to sit next to her sister at lunch and participate in the same recess.”

For Yoo, he is grateful to Aquinas Academy for welcoming his nieces, showing compassion and making them comfortable in an uncomfortable situation.

“My brother was very touched and appreciated when everyone encouraged them and told them to pray for them,” he said. “My nieces really enjoyed going to school everyday and it was a great opportunity for them to learn English and American culture. I hope they will keep in touch with their new long distance friends.”

While there continues to be danger in Tokyo, the family hesitantly returned home Saturday, April 2, as the girls’ father needed to oversee the repairs on his business and return to work as an entertainer and producer.

“They felt a relief when they arrived in America, but they have been thinking of their friends and co-workers who stayed in Japan,” said Yoo. “The girls will return to their schools; Sarah is in second grade at Tokyo Kankoku School and Sein attends pre-school, and the family is anxious to return to Kajeto Hibana Presbyterian Church.”

While the girls’ smiling faces will be missed, Schmainda believes their presence benefited the Aquinas students and reminded them of the inestimable grace of family bonds, which, he said, when built on Christian love, cannot fail in times of need.

“We saw it in these girls, whose affection for each other could not be missed. We saw it in the fourth-grader, Philip Yoo, Daniel’s son and their cousin, who welcomed them like younger sisters, helping with translations, and calling home when the situation demanded. And we admire tremendously the two sets of parents – one having to leave their country because of tragedy and the other welcoming an entire family into their home. When we saw them here, they did not complain. In fact they bowed repeatedly and thanked us just as often for taking in their girls.”

Work hard, achieve goals, say health care professionals

wheatonfranciscan1Students from Prince of Peace, St. Adalbert and St. Rafael schools, Milwaukee, listen to Jose Acevedo, plant manager of Wheaton Franciscan and one of the speakers who on Tuesday, March 29, encouraged the students to study hard and be prepared to enter the workforce. (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina)FRANKLIN — The ultraviolet light did not lie; Kevin Ramirez, student at Prince of Peace Elementary School, was surprised to see that despite his best hand washing efforts, there were a few spots he missed.

“They were still a little dirty,” he said, looking down at his fingertips, “I washed them for three to four minutes, too.”

Ramirez was one of approximately 100 eighth grade students from Prince of Peace, St. Adalbert, and the two campuses of St. Rafael Catholic schools participating in a hand washing exercise Tuesday, March 29, at Wheaton Franciscan Hospital in Franklin, as part of a presentation by members of the health care field.

The purpose for inviting students to the hospital from predominantly Spanish speaking households was to provide them with ideas about and goals for future careers, explained Judy Paz, volunteer with the Wheaton Franciscan outreach program.

“We wanted to give them examples of health care professions from people with immigrant backgrounds and demonstrate to them that they can achieve their goals just like anyone else,” said Paz. “They are just as smart as anyone else, but they have to study and work maybe a little harder because they might not have parents who speak English or parents who finished eighth grade, so they don’t know what to expect. We want to get the message to the kids and parents that no one turns 40 and ever said they were glad they quit high school.”

The message offered to the students by health care professionals of Latino descent was to study hard and get good grades, finish high school, plan and finish career studies, stay out of trouble and ask for help when they need it.

For Marc Cohen, executive director of Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, presenting the program feels good and is an opportunity to do something positive for the community.

“I write a lot of grants to provide health care programs such as nutrition help, suicide prevention, depression screening and other outreach,” he said. “I want the students to know that they are all important, and to encourage them to look for support systems in their high schools and any other support systems they may have. I also want them to know that God gives them many blessings and to use them wisely.”

When Dan Mattes was in high school, he never imagined that one day he would be the president of the Franklin and St. Francis hospitals because he didn’t do well in the beginning of high school. But he worked hard, attended college and eventually succeeded.

“God puts things in front of people to see what kind of a person you are,” he said. “Sometimes you are going to make the wrong decision, but if students think and use their gifts, they will learn that they have the talents to make it. I was raised by a single mother, but I had a good support system through my grandparents. If students build their foundation through their education, there is nothing they can’t do.”

The panel of Wheaton Health Care speakers varied in professions and included a doctor, nurse, translator, security and plant manager, but all had a Latino background in common.wheatonfranciscan3 A student from St. Rafael School, Milwaukee, participates in a hand washing exercise during her visit to Wheaton Franciscan Hospital, Franklin on Tuesday, March 29. (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina)

Marissa Sarson of St. Rafael School was interested in hearing the stories by each of the speakers, but was most touched by Martha Hernandez’s story.

“It was interesting hearing all of the stories and the perspectives of each of the speakers,” she said, “But I liked Martha the best. She came from Pulaski High School like my dad and it was a tough education, but worth it.”

Martha Hernandez, a surgical nurse, explained the difficulty of living with a mother diagnosed with cancer. Yet, the most devastating aspect of her childhood was the catapult for her future career.

“I was touched by the way Mom was cared for by the nurses,” she said. “And I noticed that those in most service-oriented jobs seemed pretty crabby. So I figured, why not take care of someone who has a reason to be cranky and so I decided to become a nurse.”

Without a backup plan in place, Martha Hernandez, whose parents were immigrants from Mexico, focused on nursing while plunging through studies in college, and graduated from Cardinal Stritch University.

“I began working at St. Luke’s in the cardio vascular department and then moved here. The profession has its tough days, but I am very happy with my job,” she said. “It is very achievable; if you keep in mind your goals and focus, the sky is the limit.”

Infectious diseases physician Dr. Francisco Aguilar described to students that education is information and information is power, and by studying hard and not taking shortcuts, they can achieve whatever they want. Most of all, he encouraged students to remember that despite their Hispanic heritage, they are Americans.

“You are the future, for your community, your family, city, state and country,” he said. “Maybe one of you will be the future president of the United States – an American president with a Latino background. Don’t ever consider yourselves a Latino first, because you are Americans and you compete with Americans. You are all so lucky because you have had so many people help you. Think a bit, about what your parents had to do to come here, to give you a better life, and one day you will be parents, too. Be a good son and a good daughter, and learn from your parents.”

St. Rafael student Alejandro Hernandez was encouraged by Jose Acevedo’s journey of moving up from changing filters in an assistant mechanic position, to floor mechanic, to plant manager of Wheaton Franciscan.

“I liked how he worked his way up from the bottom, went to school and got where he is today,” said Alejandro Hernandez. “This program was very good because it encourages us to go to high school and college. My parents were immigrants to the United States and they want things to be easier for me than it was for them. I am not sure what I want to do when I get older, but I know I want to do something good.”

According to Luz Ortiz, director of translators at Wheaton Franciscan, Hispanic students have an advantage in the work place due to their bilingual abilities which offer the opportunity to translate Spanish and English. As the daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants, Ortiz learned early on that the only inheritance her father desired to give his children was an education, as he regarded it as key to a better life.

“I am the youngest of four children and the first one to graduate from college,” she said. “At first when I went to UWM, I was the only person of color and felt that everyone was smarter than me. We had no computer at home so many nights I would study at the library until midnight and if I had to do more work, I would go to a 24-hour Kinko’s and study there. It was not easy, but I knew if I wanted to make my parents proud and succeed, I had to work hard at it. I just can’t describe the look on my parents’ faces when I walked across that stage.”

Monday, April 4, 2011

QVC and Visual Therapy Giveaway

Well here is a pretty sweet deal to brighten your April morning, most of the time I review books, but the folks at Visual Therapy and BlogHer are offering a free book to a lucky winner and a free item from Visual Therapy if you check out QVC today and make a comment. So check out this collection VT Luxe Fashion and the BlogHer website BlogHer Samplers to register to win! It is that easy, and the clothes and accessories are just that cool.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Joke's on me

Those prowling about my neighborhood early this morning may have wondered why I was walking Argyle on an 'O so short leash' holding a large soup ladle next to his private parts.

Early senility?

Tempting, but no.

The things you learn when you are a dog owner. For instance, I had no clue that my 11 pound Bichon Frise could get a bladder infection. At first when I noticed that he was leaving puddles and droplets throughout the house, I thought he was misbehaving, or perhaps he forgot how to ask to go out. However, just a few minutes after taking him out, he'd have another mishap and then I realized, something was not right in the netherworld.

After cleaning all the carpeting in the house, and washing the floors multiple times, I had had enough and called the vet. Oh sure they would be more than happy to see him, but I needed to bring in a urine sample.

By the time I stopped laughing hysterically, I realized they were serious. "How am I supposed to do that? I asked.

"Get an old pie tin and put it under there and he will go in it."

Again, hysterical laughter, but they were quite serious.

Ok, got an old pie tin, took him outside and he got ready to do his business. Although I tried to be coy, he recognized the foreign object almost immediately and looked at me as if I were nuts. Of course he wasn't going to go with a large metal object under him.

Hmmm, another idea popped into my foggy head (I had been up since 3 a.m.) and I ran inside to get a soup ladle. Sure enough the next try, I casually stuck the ladle underneath and he was none the wiser.

so, got the collection, grabbed the dog and hauled him to the vet, where indeed, it was a bladder infection. An antibiotic,anti-inflammatory, new food, the exam and culture I went home with $150 less in my pocket.

Oh who needs groceries anyway?