Archive | September, 2017

St. Theresa of Lisieux

September 29, 2017

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St. Theresa of Lisieux

October 1 is the memorial of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus. She is also known as “St. Theresa of Lisieux” and the “Little Flower.” Her life story is also the subject of the feature film “Therese” released by Xenon Pictures in 2006.

St. Theresa was born on January 2, 1873 at Alencon in Normandy, France. She was the youngest of nine children. Five siblings died during infancy, and only Theresa and three older sisters survived.

After Theresa’s mother died when she was four, her older sister Pauline helped to raise her and taught her about Jesus and the gospel. Pauline entered the convent when Theresa was nine, and at that point Theresa decided that she wanted to be like her older sister. Theresa suffered a life-threatening illness when she was ten but she miraculously recovered, a cure attributed through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Two years later another sister, Mary, also joined the convent. Then on Christmas Eve, 1886, when Theresa was thirteen, she had a profound mystical experience in which the child Jesus brought light to the darkness of her soul.

The following year Theresa announced her intention to join her sisters Pauline and Mary in the convent. Her father approved but the mother superior and the bishop refused, citing her age. Subsequently, she accompanied her father on a pilgrimage to Rome and attended a papal audience. While kneeling before Pope Leo XIII she asked for his permission to enter the convent, but the delay continued only a short while longer.

The local bishop relented and gave Theresa permission to enter the Carmel at Lisieux in 1888 when she was fifteen. She was guided by Jesus’ words, “Unless you change your lives and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Mt 18:2).

At first Sister Theresa wanted to be a martyr, but she discovered “a still more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31), love. Her plan was to perform ordinary kindnesses throughout the day, small good deeds done frequently, humbly, generously, quietly, and without fanfare, a spirituality that she called the “Little Way.” She practiced this herself, and her example served as an inspiration for others to do likewise.

She was appointed director of novices when she was twenty, but three years later contracted tuberculosis. During her final 18 months she wrote her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, in which she explained the way of doing little things with great love. She died on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24, and was canonized by Pope Pius XI twenty-eight years later in 1925.

St. Theresa is the patron saint of florists, airline pilots, Vietnam, and religious freedom for Russia; as well as the co-patron saint of missionaries with St. Francis Xavier and the co-patron saint of France with St. Joan of Arc. She was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II on October 19, 1997.

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St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: a unique four-week span

September 22, 2017

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St. Paul's letter to the Philippians

A Four-Part Sampler. Four scripture passages from Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians are featured for the second reading from the Twenty-Fifth to Twenty-Eighth Sundays of Ordinary Time in Year A. It is the only time in the three-year Lectionary cycle that there is a sequential progression of readings taken from this letter following the principle of Lectio continua, a continuous series of passages from the same book over a number of Sundays in a row.

The City of Philippi. Philippi is a city in the district of Macedonia in northern Greece several miles inland from the Aegean Sea. It is the first place in Europe that St. Paul visited on his Second Missionary Journey. St. Paul stayed in Philippi a number of months in late 48 and early 49 AD. He made the trip to Philippi by ship. He set sail from Troas in northwest Turkey, went by way of Samothrace, an island in the Aegean Sea, and arrived at Neapolis, the port city on the northern coastline (Acts 16:11). During his brief stay St. Paul preached the gospel; made his first convert, Lydia, who was baptized at the river; drove an evil spirit out of a slave girl who was possessed by a demon; was attacked by a crowd and beaten with rods, then imprisoned and miraculously released; converted the jailer; and founded a Christian community (Acts 16:12-40).

The Letter to the Philippians. This letter is one of the authentic Pauline letters, one written by Paul himself, not one of his followers using his name. After Paul had been away from one of his new communities, he would write to them to encourage, instruct, or correct them, depending upon their unique situation and the reports that he was receiving. Paul states within this letter that he was writing from prison (Phil 1:7,13,14,17), but the location and date is not known with certainty. At one time it was thought that he wrote this letter from Rome late in his life (Acts 28:16; 61 to 63 AD). Other possibilities include his imprisonments, either in Caesarea (Acts 24:27, 58-60 AD) or Corinth, but most scholars today believe Paul wrote this letter from Ephesus during a confinement in 55 AD.

Week 25A, Life is Christ (Phil 1:20-24,27). St. Paul wonders aloud whether it is better to be alive on earth enjoying the benefits of physical existence or to be dead in heaven enjoying eternity with Christ. As long as a person is alive, a person should live in a manner consistent with the gospel.

Weeks 26A, The Christ Hymn (Phil 2:1-11). St. Paul begins with an urgent plea for unity within the community (2:1-5). Then Paul includes within his letter a hymn that was sung and recited by the first generation of Christians. It was in use as early as the 40s AD and it may be the oldest piece of New Testament literature. It served as a creed and provides a list of what the first Christians believed about Jesus.

Week 27A, Calm and Peace (Phil 4:6-9). St. Paul offers solid spiritual advice. First, there is no need to be anxious about anything. Prayer and a strong relationship with God is the sure pathway to calm and peace. Paul adds an encouragement to strive for Christian ideals of truth, honor, justice, purity, beauty, generosity, and excellence. These also lead to peace.

Week 28A, Christ is our strength (Phil 4:12-14,19-20). St. Paul describes how in every circumstance, good or bad, high or low, well-fed or hungry, easy or difficult, comfortable or suffering, God supplies the grace and strength that is needed to carry on.

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St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

September 22, 2017

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St. Matthew was an apostle and an evangelist. Matthew was also known as Levi, the son of Alphaeus (Mk 2:14; Lk 5:27). He was born in Capernaum, a fishing village on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee, and he worked at a nearby border crossing as a customs agent where it was his job to collect a toll or duty on all of the people, animals, and goods. These “toll collectors” or “tax collectors” were very unpopular with average Jewish citizens because they were viewed as greedy and corrupt as they regularly overcharged and pocketed the difference for themselves, and as traitors because they consorted with the Romans who were despised as pagans and an unwelcome foreign presence in their homeland.

On one occasion when Jesus was walking along the north shore of the lake, he came to the toll booth where Matthew was stationed. Jesus paused, looked at him, and said, “Follow me” (Mt 9:9). It was shocking that Jesus would call someone so scorned by so many to be one of his apostles, and equally shocking that Matthew would accept the invitation, leave his family and friends, job, income, and security, all to follow Jesus without a moment’s delay. Then Jesus shared a dinner with him in his home (Mt 9:10). Matthew is mentioned only four other times in the New Testament, always on a list of the apostles (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Lk 6:15; Acts 1:13).

After the Ascension, Matthew receives no further attention in the New Testament. According to tradition, after Pentecost Matthew began his missionary work in Judea, but accounts of his other destinations vary. Some say “the East,” including Syria and Persia; others Europe, maybe Macedonia, possibly as far as Ireland. His final destination most likely was Ethiopia where tradition says he was martyred, first crucified on a T-shape cross and then beheaded with an axe.

Matthew also was an evangelist or the author of a gospel. His gospel was composed around 85 AD and intended for a Jewish Christian audience. One of his major literary purposes was to present Jesus as the fulfilled of the Hebrew Scriptures. His book has twenty-eight chapters which makes it the longest of the four gospels, and for centuries it has been considered the best textbook or catechism for teaching about Jesus and the Christian faith. Prior to the liturgical renewal there was a one-year Lectionary cycle and Matthew’s texts were most used at Mass. As part of the renewal a three-year Lectionary cycle was developed, and today the gospel selections are more equally distributed between all four evangelists.

Matthew is represented by a number of symbols in Christian art. As a money collector, he is represented by a coin purse, a treasure chest, one or three money bags, or a scale which was used to weigh gold; as a gospel writer, he is represented by a quill pen, a scroll, or a book; as an author guided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, there may be a dove or rays of light; and as a martyr, he is sometimes represented by a spear or a sword, but more often by a battle axe, the weapon used to behead him Ethiopia. The symbol for Matthew’s gospel is a human being with wings, “the divine man,” because his gospel includes Jesus’ genealogy (Mt 1:117) and gives special attention to Jesus’ human nature. The image is also drawn from Ezekiel’s vision of the four living creatures (Ez 1:9-10).

Matthew is the patron saint of tax collectors, customs officers, security guards, accountants, bookkeepers, bankers, financial officers, money managers, stock brokers, and money changers.

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Deer escape on archery opener

September 18, 2017

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I felt very good about my first foray into the woods for the 2017 archery opener. Both Minnesota and Wisconsin opened the same day, Sept. 16. The weather was rainy Saturday, so I opted to sleep in and wait for Sunday.

My destination was Wisconsin, where crossbows are legal for all hunters. I wanted meat for my freezer, so I figured the crossbow would give me the best chance to harvest a deer.

Not only that, but my scouting trip Labor Day weekend revealed a white oak tree dropping lots of acorns. I saw evidence that the deer were hitting them, so I put up a stand downhill from the white oak about 25-30 yards.

All I needed was a west to northwest wind to blow my scent away from where I thought the deer would come to feed. That’s exactly the wind we got Sunday.

So, I was optimistic as I climbed into my stand about 4:30 p.m. It was about three hours before the end of legal shooting hours, but I wanted the be there nice and early so that the woods would be quiet when the deer chose to move.

It happened right around 6:30. I heard shuffling noises at the top of the hill, then saw the body of a deer. Then, a second deer came in behind the first. My heart started pounding as I cradled my crossbow in my lap. Very slowly, the two deer worked their way down hill and to my right. I was hoping they would cut left and hit my shooting lane.

But, they kept coming downhill to my right. Eventually, the fawn got to the bottom of the hill and still was to my right. It slowly started moving to the left, and I thought it might just make it into my shooting lane.

I’m not picky about what I shoot, so I would have taken the fawn if the doe stayed out of my shooting lane. For most of the time, the doe stayed out of view, and eventually popped up about 5-10 yards behind the fawn. I spotted movement as I was looking at the fawn, then turned my head toward the doe.

Big mistake. When I locked my eyes onto the doe, it had its head up and was looking right at me. It stared for a few seconds, then turned and took a few hops back up the hill. A few seconds after that, it snorted once and took off with the fawn behind it.

Game over. I had forgotten how wary mama does can be. They go through the woods always looking around for danger. I should have kept my head still and just looked out of the corner of my eye.

There’s nothing like consequences such as this to reinforce the importance of staying still. The lesson is painful, but I’m glad to learn it now while the season is still young. There will be more chances ahead. I have three more stands on the property to hunt, and I may move the one I sat in Sunday to a different spot. I think once a deer like this doe busts you in a stand, it’s time to move it.

I have one other early season spot to try. The landowner has seen them coming out of the woods and into her alfalfa field. I set up a stand overlooking an alley of tall grass that the deer go through on their way to the alfalfa. She said they were coming through almost daily during the summer.

If that pattern holds, I may get a chance there. One thing’s for sure — there are plenty of deer on the property. There are a good number of does around, and that will mean bucks before too long.

One thing I will be hoping for this fall is more cold. The last two Novembers have been ridiculously warm, with highs in the 60s and 70s, and lows in the 40s and even 50s. That’s just too warm for deer movement.

In the fall of 2014, we had a very cold November, and the deer movement was excellent. I won’t tell many people this, but I’ll be praying for a chilly November this year!

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Jesus: the Divine Physician

September 15, 2017

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The Doctor from Heaven. In addition to being known as Son of God, Messiah, Lord, Teacher, Lamb of God, Good Shepherd, Savior and Redeemer, Jesus is also known at the Divine Physician. This title comes from Jesus’ statement: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do” (Mt 9:12 and Mk 2:17; see also Lk 5:31).

Not Your Average Physician. While many doctors specialize in a certain aspect of medicine, Jesus is a generalist. Jesus is a primary care physician and a family doctor, the one who attends to us first with our ordinary ailments, but he is also on call at all times, the doctor at urgent care or the emergency room, the one who is there for us in times of crisis when the situation is serious. Jesus is also the neurologist who attends to our feelings, the pulmonologist who is the breath of life, and the cardiologist with a Sacred Heart who heals those with wounded or broken hearts. He is a holistic doctor that attends to a person’s total well-being, body and soul.

Triage: Address the Most Life Threatening Illness First. When it comes to healing, Jesus, the Divine Physician, is more concerned about a person’s spiritual well-being than physical well-being. Jesus came first and foremost for salus, the Latin word for health, and his top priority is a person’s eternal health, salvation. The most urgent cure, then, is the forgiveness of sins so the person can be recreated, born anew, and enjoy perpetual perfect health in the heavenly mansion in the new and eternal Jerusalem.

The Sin-Sick Soul. Jesus demonstrated the priority that he places on the wellness of the soul when a paralyzed man was lowered in front of him. The first thing that Jesus told the paralytic was, “Child, your sins are forgiven” (Mk 2:5). Jesus knew the man would like to be able to walk from place to place, and Jesus was very concerned about his long term physical disability, but Jesus was far more concerned about his ability to walk into heaven. Jesus cured the paralytic’s spiritual infirmities with his healing words, and he extends his spiritual cure to each and every person with the blood that he shed on the Cross for the forgiveness of sins (Mt 26:28).

The Sick Body. Jesus also cured the paralytic’s paralysis which shows that Jesus has great compassion for the sick in their suffering. He focused a great deal of his time and energy on the sick from his first days in Capernaum (Mk 1:21-28,31,34) to his last day at his arrest in Gethsemane when he healed the severed ear of the high priest’s slave (Lk 22:51). Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law’s fever (Mk 30-31), many who were sick with various diseases (Mk 1:34; 6:56), a leper (Mk 1:42), a man with a withered hand (Mk 3:5), a woman with a hemorrhage (Mk 5:29), a deaf man (Mk 7:35), a blind man (Mk 8:25), and blind Bartimaeus (Mk 10:52).

Sacramental Grace. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is an encounter with Jesus, the Divine Physician. Jesus’ first concern is spiritual well-being, and the sacrament imparts the forgiveness of sins and the special grace restores spiritual health. It is important to note that when Jesus performed his miraculous healings, “He cured many who were sick” (Mk 1:34a) – not all. A physical healing does not occur every time because suffering is redemptive and each person will die eventually, but the sacrament often confers a marvelous miraculous grace, either physical improvement or a total cure.

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A five week set of parables

September 15, 2017

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Jesus, Master Teacher by Parable

The parable is the literary form used by Jesus to teach in the gospels of Weeks Twenty-Four to Twenty-Eight of Ordinary Time in Year A. Jesus was unparalleled as a teacher. In modern terms, he was a “master teacher.” Jesus went from town to town teaching (Mt 11:1). When he taught, the people were simply astounded, spellbound at his words (Mt 7:28; 22:33). His teaching was like no one else; it was authoritative. He was commanding, convincing, reliable, truthful, insightful, helpful, far better than the scribes (Mt 7:29) and everyone else of his time. Jesus used a wide variety of teaching methods: speeches, wisdom sayings, scriptural interpretations, question and answer exchanges, friendly words of advice, rhetorical questions – and parables.

The Parable. A parable is a literary form. It is a story, usually short in length, used to teach a lesson or a moral truth. It uses people and situations from ordinary daily life that are common and easy to understand. Many of the features of the story, either the characters, the event, the items used, or other carefully selected details, are allegorical – they represent something else. The parable is an effective teaching tool because it grabs and holds attention. The listener is captivated by the characters and setting, and curious to know how it will turn out in the end.

Jesus’ Use of Parables. Parables were widely used by the better teachers of the First Century, teachers, wise men, rabbis, and scholars, but Jesus took them to a higher level. Jesus used his parables to challenge his listeners. He devised characters that seemed innocuous that his listeners would easily identify with, and then his parables would end abruptly with an unexpected twist. The story would reveal a fault or deficiency in a character that would challenge the listener’s preconceived notions. His parables employed symbolic imagery, had multiple levels of meaning, could be interpreted in a number of ways, and were open-ended. His parables do not have a single absolutely correct interpretation and the richness of their meaning is never totally exhausted. There is a call to conversion imbedded in each story.

Week 24A, The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Mt 18:21-35). As the master forgave a debtor who owed a huge debt, we should also forgive those who are indebted to us. If we are unmerciful with others, why should we expect God to be merciful with us? Jesus wants us to forgive others from the heart.

Week 25A, The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Mt 20:1-16). The master gave a full day’s pay to everyone who worked in the vineyard, those who started at 6:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, 3:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. Jesus wants us to do his work, and he wants us to get to work as early as possible, but no matter when we finally accept his invitation, once we finally do his bidding our salvation is assured.

Week 26A, The Parable of the Two Sons (Mt 21:28-32). The elder son made a good promise and failed to follow through, while the younger son made a bad promise, reconsidered, and finally did the right thing. Jesus wants to implement the positive features of each son, to make the right promise and then to do the right thing.

Week 27A, The Parable of the Tenants (Mt 21:33-43). The vineyard is the People of God, and the tenants are the religious leaders who are supposed to serve and feed the people. Anyone in a position of authority that does so in a self-serving way is not following God’s way.

Week 28A, The Parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt 22:1-14). The wedding feast is an image for heaven, and Jesus wants us to accept his invitation to attend without excuses, and when we arrive, he wants us dressed in the proper wedding garment, a white robe emblematic of a life of good deeds and a soul cleansed of sins.

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The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

September 8, 2017

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Feast Day. September 8, the nativity or birth of Mary, is nine months after December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Parents and Lineage. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the daughter of St. Anne and St. Joachim. Mary belonged to the tribe of Judah and David’s royal bloodline (see Mt 1:16).

Biblical Silence. The story of Mary’s birth is not recorded in the Bible anywhere, not in the Infancy Narratives of Matthew or Luke, nor anywhere else in the gospels or the New Testament. The legend is found in multiple non-canonical, non-scriptural, or apocryphal sources: the Gospel of James, also known as the Protoevangelium of James; the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew; and the writings of St. Jerome.

A Legendary, Miraculous Birth. According to the legend, Joachim and Anne reached old age without a child, a devastating disappointment and embarrassment to each of them. Anne was barren, much like a number of other great heroines in the Bible who had miracle births: Sarah (Gn 18:11), Manoah’s wife (Jgs 13:2), Hannah (1 Sm 1:5), and Elizabeth (Lk 1:7). Both Joachim and Anne were devout Jews who prayed daily. On one occasion Anne was at home deep in prayer lamenting the fact that she was without child. Coincidently, Joachim had gone to the desert to fast and pray for forty days and forty nights, and like his wife, was distraught because they had no children. An angel appeared to Joachim to announce that Anne would conceive. Joachim hastened home to share the good news with Anne, only to find her waiting for him at the city gate, eager to inform him that an angel had appeared to her with the same message. Shortly thereafter Anne conceived in her old age, for nothing is impossible for God (see Lk 1:37), and nine months later gave birth to her daughter Mary, especially chosen by God to be the Mother of the Savior of the world.

Liturgical Reflections. The Mass prayers describe the magnificence of Mary’s birth: the Entrance Antiphon states that from Mary “arose the sun of justice, Christ our God;” the Collect further explains that Mary’s birth is “the dawning of salvation”; and the Prayer after Communion re-echoes that Mary’s birth is “the hope and the daybreak of salvation.” It is from Mary that Jesus took his flesh and human nature (Prayer over the Offerings). The second antiphon from Morning Prayer says poetically: “When the most holy Virgin was born, the whole world was made radiant; blessed is the branch and blessed is the stem which bore such holy fruit.” Mary’s birth was the arrival of the Mother of God.

Site. The birth of Mary is remembered at the Basilica of St. Anne in Jerusalem. It is located inside the Lion’s Gate or St. Stephen’s Gate, a short distance north of the Temple Mount, and next to the Pools of Bethesda (Jn 5:2). The place is traditionally regarded as the place where Sts. Joachim and Anne had their home. Mary’s birth is commemorated on the lower or basement level at her Birth Crypt. St. Anne’s Basilica was built in 1140 AD during the Crusader Period over the site of two earlier churches, a small oratory built in the Third Century, and then a much larger church dedicated to Mary, built in 438 AD, which was destroyed by the Persians in 614.

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At the start of the school year, coincidence by design

September 5, 2017

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A grandmother’s one-time project will help guide grandson’s path as he starts preschool

W-A-I-T

It keeps repeating in my head – that digital voice at a city crosswalk, designed for blind people to cross. Wait. Wait. Jack turned three and started preschool Tuesday.

My art life has always spookily prepared me for my real life. Like when I lost William at 20 weeks pregnant, and the nurses at Abbott Northwestern sent me my own card, from years before when I did artwork for a card company that specialized in sympathy products for when babies die. Those nurses could not have known from the name on the back.

Karen Ritz

And Jack starting preschool? He’ll be hopping on the same floor that I helped to design. His mom and her brothers went to Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul starting in the late 1980s, and by 2000, I found myself as Chair of an Art and Environment Committee that oversaw design details on an extensive renovation of the church and school. The church came first, with repair and studied renovation, returning design elements to their original intent in 1937. The school followed in 2005 – a $15 million dollar renovation and an addition that somehow needed to look seamless, tying together new structures with those from 1923 and 1960. If any of you have built or renovated, you know the volume of decision-making – paint and carpet colors, lighting, bathroom tiles for boys and girls, flooring, grout choices, but on a larger scale and with church ladies saying, “If you paint it that color, I’m never coming back!”

Toward the end of the school reno, our pastor, Father Peter Christensen, was named bishop of Superior, Wisconsin, and I found myself at a Tuesday meeting choosing those dreaded grout colors with Kate and Margo. The architect announced that the delayed floor tiles were in, and they would start installation on Friday. They had a draft of the plan (we had worked hard on the floor transitions to try to tie in existing tiles from the original structures) and it lacked spark. I asked if I could draw out a pattern using the same tiles, since they would be following one anyway. They architect agreed, if I had it back to them on Thursday, all three stories (of course, they didn’t think I would do it).

I sat with my colored pencils and those plans, and thought about how big this new school would seem to such a small child, and that a pattern, and change of pattern, would help them find their way. I thought about the excitement of going somewhere, and the need to hop. I made a predictable pattern around doorways, so you would know when you’ve arrived (and to stop hopping). I thought of another generation of kids, and delivered the plans that Thursday.

The world spins and it is 2017, with Jack starting preschool on Tuesday. W-A-I-T. His parents don’t know that there is no going back – the getting up on time, breakfast, and rush, and adjusting all over again with daylight savings. (His mom went to afternoon preschool in my attempt to avoid this, but we would find hot dogs and parts of sandwiches under the rug when we cleaned. “Hurry up and EAT!”) The playdates, volunteer hours, reading lists, math problems, and spelling words, learning to follow directions, play sports and make friends. All the way to college.

Look down, Jack, and follow the path. You will find your way, and it’s ok to hop now and then. The light has turned green just for you, “WALK.”

Karen Ritz is an award winning Illustrator of over 46 children’s books, including Ellis Island, a 1995 Minnesota Book Award winner, and for 2017, “Sadie Braves the Wilderness,” a picture book about kids’ first trip to the Boundary Waters. http://www.GrandyCamp.info is her latest creation, knowing that busy, active grandparents needed quick, great ideas and answers when the grandkids come along!
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