The Need is Great

My chest is bursting with pride. I just completed and posted a new website for my Lions Club. I had one linked to my Lions page, but it led to a funky page that was hard to find, hard to use, and limited in what I could do on it. This new one starts with our own domain name,
My goal was to have the website up and running as part of the Frankfort Lions Club 27th Annual Charities Sweepstakes. Tickets went on sale this week. The Sweepstakes Dance is the unofficial kick-off for the Frankfort Fall Festival. First prize is $10,000 in cash. We charge twenty dollars per ticket. It is a chance in the raffle, and entry for two adults into the beer tent for the dance.  We limit ticket sales to 2000. Since I joined this club we’ve never sold all the tickets. That means the odds to win are really good . In addition to the $10,000 first prize there are six additional prizes ranging in value from $1000 to $200.
The Sweepstakes Dance is a lively affair with the famous “Brother John Band” providing the music. Sandwiches, pizza, and drinks are available for sale. It turns into a neat social gathering. The crowd starts out with the seniors and evolves into the “Thirty Something” group closing it down.
The dance is on Thursday evening August 28, 2008. Action begins at 6:30 p.m. The music plays from 7:30 p.m. till 11:30 p.m.
The charities supported by the affair are: Scholarships to deserving Lincolnway East H.S. grads, food baskets to needy families at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, the “Sights and Sounds” fund of the Lions of Illinois Foundation, free eye exams and eyeglasses for poor children, and a host of additional community needs. The list is endless, the need is great, the resources in short supply.
Help me out by going to our new website, and calling a Frankfort Lion from the list for a ticket now. 

“Because You Loved Me”

Grumpa Joe Looks at FlowerLast night Peggy and I attended a special bereavement prayer service. She being a widow, and I a widower who met at the bereavement group we still go to meetings. The Saint Anthony group was begun, and is run by the pastoral minister Katie A. She has a unique format which keeps us coming back monthly.  We miss more meetings than we attend these days, but the June meeting always includes a balloon release, and we go.

Katie began the meeting with a prayer followed by Celine Dione singing the song “Because You Loved Me.” For anyone who has lost a loved one and is grieving, this song goes right to your heart. I can’t give credit to the composer because I don’t know who wrote it.

Because You Loved Me -Celine Dione-

For all those times you stood by me

For all the truth that you made me see

For all the joy you brought to my life

For all the wrong that you made right

For every dream you made come true

For all the love I found in you

I’ll be forever thankful baby

You’re the one who held me up

Never let me fall

You’re the one who saw me through it all. 


You were my strength when I was weak

You were my voice when I couldn’t speak

You were my eyes when I couldn’t see

You saw the best there was in me

Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach

You gave me faith ‘coz you believed

I’m everything I am

Because you loved me


You gave me wings and made me fly

You touched my hand I could touch the sky

I lost my faith, you gave it back to me

You said no star is out of reach

You stood by me and I stood tall

I had your love I had it all

I’m grateful for each day you gave me

Maybe I don’t know that much

But I know this much is true

I was blessed because I was loved by you


You were my strength when I was weak

You were my voice when I couldn’t speak

You were my eyes when I couldn’t see

You saw the best there was in me

Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach

You gave me faith ‘coz you believed

I’m everything I am

Because you loved me


You were always there for me

The tender wind that carried me

A light in the dark shining your love into my life

You’ve been my inspiration

Through the lies you were the truth

My world is a better place because of you


You were my strength when I was weak

You were my voice when I couldn’t speak

You were my eyes when I couldn’t see

You saw the best there was in me

Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach

You gave me faith ‘coz you believed

I’m everything I am

Because you loved me


 I’m everything I am

Because you loved me 

Katie and Deacon Rich followed the song with more prayer then we listened to another song, “If You Could See Me Now.” This song also speaks to those who lost a loved one. When our emotions died down a bit, Katie distributed note paper and pens.

We wrote a note to our deceased loved one.

Mine went like this:

“Dear Barb,

I love you, I miss you, I wish you were here with me. You would be so proud of the children and their children. Please help me become the best version of myself that I can be.

Igen Szeretlek,


We rolled up our notes and tied them to a balloon. Together the group assembled in the prayer garden outside the church. Katie took photos, then we released the balloons and watched them ascend toward heaven to our loved one. The first note I wrote to Barb five years ago brought me to tears for the remainder of the evening. This year, my eyes were moist. The tears were constrained by a sulleness, as I watched the pink baloon disappear.

After all the baloons were out of sight, we went into the church hall for a social. Everyone brought a dish to share. As the ladies set up the table, I talked with members who had joined the group five years ago when I did. It is amazing to witness their growth. All of us have moved on, thank God. I remember when I first joined and I listened to members talking about their grief and that they were members of the group for five or more years, I thought they must be very sick. How could anyone harbor grief that long? I didn’t like the idea of hurting that much for such a long time, I wanted the hurt to go away immediately. Five years later, I know how it feels. I still have moments of sorrow when I am overcome by depression and desire to have my old life back with Barb. It won’t happen, she never talks to me even though I still speak to her almost daily.

Barb’s Aunt Marie, also a widow now ninety three, told me it was five years before her beloved Henry was not on her mind every day. After my five years, I have to say she didn’t remember how long it took.

We never lose the love we have for the one we lost. They are in our mind and heart constantly. We speak to them, we see them clearly in our minds, yet they are as gone as can be.

I firmly believe that one day, we will be together again in the eternal garden of heaven. In the meantime, I must get on with becoming the best version of myself that I can become.

 After the funeral, a friend gave me a gift for the garden. It was a stepping stone with the following inscribed:

“If I could build a stairway to heaven

I’d walk right up and bring you back again. ”

Certainly a nice sentiment, but if I could build a stairway to heaven and I walked up, why would I want to come back down to this miserable earth?

Maggie, Where Are You?

Grumpa Joe Looks at FlowerReading the Sunday Tribune this weekend I came across columnist Mary Schmich’s request for leads. She is looking for material about people and happenings on the Chicago lakefront. I figure  she will be overwhelmed by input, including mine. My lead goes like this:

Two years ago Peggy and I were invited to take an evening skyline cruise off the shore of Lake Michigan. A good friend was entertaining a group of his clients. The boat was out of Burnham Harbor. i.e. the one behind Soldiers Field,  just north of Mc Cormick Place.  Since I had never driven there before, Peggy and I left early to leave plenty of search time. I know that if I miss a crucial turnoff on the outer drive, it would take a long time to recover. As it happened, I hit the correct turn and got to the harbor in record time. We were forty five minutes early. The parking situation confused me, so I left the car running in front of the Harbor Master’s building to ask for instructions. I was met outside the door by an eccentric looking elderly lady holding a cup of coffee.  The lady asked if I needed help. Before I could tell her what I needed, she was explaining the best place to park and the best place to wait for the group. Her demeanor was absolutely pleasant. She looked to be in her late seventies, about five feet tall, and thin, very thin. Under a captain’s cap, her hair was light blond turning white. She wore baggy pink cotton pants, and a lime green windbreaker. Her skin very tanned and wrinkled. My first sight of her gave the impression that she was homeless, quite the contrary, Peggy and I learned later, she was not homeless.  I thanked her for the directions then dropped Peggy at the Harbor Master’s building and parked the car. It was June, but the evening was cool. The wind blew in off the lake  from the Northeast and the water was choppy. Usually the breakwater protects the harbor from choppy waves, but this evening it was choppy. The water beyond the breakwater was sporting four foot waves with white caps.

By the time I returned, Peggy and the lady whose name is Margaret or “Maggie” as she preferred to be called were chatting away as though they had known each other for years. It doesn’t take Peggy long to make a friend, especially one whose name is Margaret. Peggy will always ask a lady whose name is Margaret if she is a Peggy or a Maggie? It seems Irish women named Margaret are never called Margaret, only  Maggie, Peggy, or Margie.

In the twenty minutes we waited for the remainder of our party to arrive, we learned much about Maggie. She was a widow, who continued to live on a boat during the summer just as she and her husband did before. When she tired of the boat, she took a cab, a few miles north, to her lakeside condominium on Sheridan Road. She and her deceased husband had used the boat for many years. I envisioned  her to be a real beauty in her youth. I imagined her strutting the deck of the boat in a bikini, sporting a tan to die for. Although age had taken its toll, she was still stunning.  Peggy and I liked her instantly, her friendliness, and desire to help a stranger was impressive. Her stories about her husband and their exploits on the boat were fun too

Peggy and I visit downtown Chicago often. Every time we pass the harbor we look for the boat and wonder if Maggie is still sporting the flashy colors and the captain’s cap looking for people to befriend. We are often tempted to park in that harbor to look for her. We wonder if she would remember us as well as we remember her. I for one would love to hear her tell the stories of her youth when she and her husband took boating adventures. 

Eventually, we boarded our boat for the cruise. The drill was to cruise along the Chicago skyline at night. There was a buffet and drinks too. As I said earlier, the water was choppy, and the boat was rocking and rolling as we cruised the shoreline just outside the breakwater. The wind made the temperature feel colder. No one wanted to stay on deck, so everyone crowded into the warm cabin holding on to anything they could. Walking inside was difficult with all the movement. Peggy, just sat in one place and turned green. She was sea sick and not having a good time. She could not wait to get off.  I sat next to a man named Ted from Ted’s Greenhouse in Tinley Park. He told fascinating stories about his business, and his cactus collection. The cruise finished by ten and by the time we got home it was midnight. Peggy and I talked about Maggie the whole ride home. Peggy couldn’t, nor wouldn’t discuss the cruise.

Aw Shits and Atta Boys

Grumpa Joe Looks at FlowerA friend introduced me to a new term as a joke, but it has become a hard fast rule with me. We go along in life doing good work and maybe we get an “atta boy” from our boss or a co-worker. One day something happens and we have an “aw shit” moment. We screw up. Did you ever notice that it takes only one “aw shit” to negate one hundred “atta boys?” Why is that? Why is it that people tend to remember those “aw shit” moments and forget about all the “atta boys” we’ve accumulated along the way?

I like to believe that I get “aw shits” by trying hard. The more work I do the better the chances are that I will occasionally fail.  The failure does not mean that I am a failure, it only means that I tried something that didn’t work. It is human nature to play up the negative. Why? I haven’t a clue. Maybe one of you can fill me in.


Warm and Fuzzy Moments

Grumpa Joe Looks at FlowerEvery once in awhile a moment occurs that is special. One of my motivational teachers put me onto  keeping a list called “Warm and Fuzzy Moments.”  Moments come along that make us feel good. The moments are special.  Sometimes it is an unexpected card from a friend, or a “thank you” for something you did for someone. By recording the moment one can occasionally review it and feel good all over again. This technique is especially helpful when I am stressed out and not feeling good about myself. I can remember all the times when I received something unexpectedly for a positive action I took unconsciously.

This morning one such moment occurred while I was walking on the path near my house. I was totally zoned saying the rosary and listening to the songs of the birds. I felt a presence near me, but kept walking. Sometimes it is another walker or a runner who silently approaches from the rear. Many times I never hear or see the person until they are next to me. This morning it was a deer. Not a fawn, nor an adult mature deer, but a teenager. It sported the beautiful honey brown color of a springtime deer without the baby spots of a fawn, or the antlers of a buck. He/she stood just above my waist in height.

I was totally surprised and amazed that this beautiful animal should come so close to me and walk along my side for a few steps. She finally picked up the pace and trotted out ahead of me and off into the brush along the side of the trail. The encounter lasted only a few seconds, but it is etched into my mind as a “warm and fuzzy” moment. It is written on my list.

My deceased wife Barbara loved deer. Could this magnificent animal been sent by her to tell me that she is well? Did God chose to let this creature wander into my path to make my day? What ever the reason it happened, a freak of nature, a coincidence, a sign, it made my day.

I recommend to all goal achieving people on this earth to keep a log of their “warm and fuzzy” moments. The moments relived will pick you up, and help you through the times you are low and not feeling good about yourself.