Maybe I’m Amazed

What came first, my fascination with Paul McCartney and Wings or The Beatles? I really can’t be sure. Since I was pretty young when the Beatles first took America by storm, my recollection of what got me turned onto their music was listening to my brother Rodney sing and play Paul McCartney songs on his guitar. All I know is I’ve been a fan for almost as long as I can remember and The Beatles have been and always will be my favorite band and Paul McCartney is my favorite singer of all time.

There’s something about Paul McCartney that has kept me infatuated with him all these years — he truly is the most talented musician ever. When John and I had the opportunity to see him in concert for the first time at the Rosemont Horizon Arena in Chicago in 1989, we scraped together every nickle we had and made the trip. Who knew how many more chances we’d have to see him and how much longer he would be performing? Trust me, it was worth every cent to see him. The show was outstanding! To say we were blown away would be an understatement.

We know the answers now to how long Paul would be touring and how many times we’d get to see him. It’s pretty incredible that 26 years later he’s still going strong and hasn’t skipped a beat. Earlier this month, on October 13, John and I had the pleasure to see Paul McCartney and his band perform for the sixth time! What made this even more special for us is we got to take our three daughters and our son-in-law (plus a friend of our daughter’s) to  Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio to see his latest tour, Out There. This was the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had ever since we introduced our children to The Beatles (i.e. at birth). We know we’ve raised them right because all four of them are avid Paul McCartney fans. Our son and his wife weren’t able to join us but had the chance to catch Paul’s tour in the summer of 2014 when he performed at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

Words really can’t describe what an awesome concert it was. The energy was electric, Paul sang for three hours straight and had two outstanding encores. It was so neat watching the looks on the kids’ (technically young adults’) faces when Paul rocked out on some of the greatest hits of all time. When he played Maybe I’m Amazed in tribute to his late wife Linda McCartney, one of my favorite songs, I had tears in my eyes. It was so moving, as was his tribute to the late George Harrison (playing Something on the ukulele) and John Lennon (If You Were Here Today).

Experiences like these are what life is all about and I’m so happy we got to be with most of our family for this concert. The only thing that would have made it better would have been to have Nick and Emily with us. Hopefully next time! Or if Paul keeps going as strong as he is now (could it be the Kangen Water?) maybe we’ll be attending his concerts with our grandkids someday!

Check out the set list below and you’ll see why this concert was so outstanding! John and I had a 12-hour drive home around Upper Michigan admiring the beautiful fall colors and we rocked it out listening to Paul McCartney, The Beatles, and Wings albums the whole way home. Life doesn’t get much better than this!

  1. Eight Days a Week
  2. Save Us
  3. Got to Get You Into My Life
  4. One After 909
  5. Temporary Secretary
  6. Let me Roll It
  7. Paperback Writer
  8. My Valentine
  9. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
  10. The Long and Winding Road
  11. Maybe I’m Amazed
  12. I’ve Just Seen a Face
  13. FourFiveSeconds
  14. We Can Work it Out
  15. Another Day
  16. Hope for the Future
  17. And I Love Her
  18. Blackbird
  19. Here Today
  20. New
  21. Queenie Eye
  22. Lady Madonna
  23. All Together Now
  24. Lovely Rita
  25. Eleanor Rigby
  26. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
  27. Something
  28. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
  29. Band on the Run
  30. Back in the U.S.S.R.
  31. Let it Be
  32. Live and Let Die
  33. Hey Jude
    • ENCORE
  34. Another Girl
  35. Hi, Hi, Hi
  36. Can’t Buy Me Love
    • SECOND ENCORE
  37. Yesterday
  38. Helter Skelter
  39. Golden Slumbers
  40. Carry That Weight
  41. The End
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The Vacation that Almost Wasn’t…

As parents, my husband and I couldn’t be prouder of our four children. They were a joy to raise, they get along great, never caused us any major concerns, they all graduated from excellent Catholic colleges, they are self-sufficient and working in the fields they went to school for, the two that are married have wonderful, loving spouses, and as young adults they all continue to practice their faith.

Once they left the nest, none of them came back to live at our house for any extended time, so we truly are empty nesters. The only downside to having these independent and confident children is that none of them live in our state so we don’t get to see them nearly as much as we’d like to.

With our daughter and daughter-in-law expecting, we really wanted to carve out the time this summer to have a nice long weekend family vacation. Between our 2-year-old grandson and the new babies on the way, it may be quite awhile before we have the time or energy to do this again.

We chose to rent a large house that was about equal distance from all of our homes for our vacation weekend this month. After many phone calls, Google Hangouts and group texts, we settled on a place that was eight hours or less of a drive for each family.

Things got kind of dicey as the day of our trip drew near. We were told that the house had been double booked for the last night of our stay. The owner said he’d find us a comparable place in the area for the last night. To repay us for being willing to pack up and move for that last night, we were told that he’d give us five free nights at his house sometime in the future.

We were out of state visiting our daughters when things first started to unravel. The owner claimed he couldn’t find us another place within 60 miles for that last night so he just refunded a portion of our payment. We asked to go back to our original agreement and have the other party check in a day later because we really didn’t want to cut our vacation short. According to the owner, that was not possible.

So, three cars set out towards our destination on the first day of the vacation with the thought that we’d work out the Saturday night lodging once we got there. When the first car arrived, our son and daughter-in-law used the code to open the door to the property and walked into an absolute mess. Our son-in-law described it as looking like a frat house. It didn’t look anything like the pristine pictures we had seen on the internet. Not knowing what else to do, they waited a couple of hours for the next car to arrive. Meanwhile, I was in the second car and we heard about the condition of the house and called the rental company.

Here’s where it really got interesting. The owner, who was traveling in Europe, without calling, texting or e-mailing, had cancelled our reservation earlier that day. We were dumbfounded but with no other options at that point, headed to the rental house to meet up with the first group.

Once I saw the place, I knew we couldn’t stay there so we packed up the vehicles to head into town to get dinner and try to figure out some other options. As we were leaving, a vehicle pulled in behind us with two men who testily wondered why we were on the property. It turns out that they had been staying there and the owner told them that he had cancelled our reservation (apparently everyone knew but us) and they could continue to stay there for two more days. They were also going to be the ones cleaning the place. Judging from how they had left the house when they were gone that day, I could only imagine what condition it was going to be in after they were done “cleaning” it.

We left the property, found a restaurant and while eating dinner we got some tips of different places to try to rent. There was a resort less than an hour north by Starved Rock State Park in central Illinois. The web site said they were filled but when we called they were able to book us a villa that slept 10 for three nights at a reasonable price. We were so happy to have found a place that could accommodate us. By 9:30 that night all of us were together in a quaint, rustic-looking villa that was clean, comfortable and perfect for our group.

So the vacation that had a rocky start turned out to be one of the best ones we ever had! The villa was great and it was set in a wooded area that was relatively quiet. When you walked outside at night it was so dark you could see countless stars in the sky— it was breathtaking. It was fun walking outdoors with our grandson because he was looking at bugs and squirrels and finding sticks to play with. Plus they had a waterpark at the main lodge that was the ideal size for him and a play area next door with a huge slide that he loved riding down with his dad and uncle. There was a nice miniature golf course on the property where we enjoyed some friendly family competition. I was proud to say that I scored a hole-in-one after shooting through a water hazard and over a grate. Is there a PGA tour for miniature golf?

The villa had a kitchen so we were able to prepare some food there and other meals we ate out. We found this amazing bakery for pastries and doughnuts called Nonie’s. The food was delicious and very reasonably priced. Starved Rock State Park was just a few minutes down the road so we went hiking there for a morning. It was beautiful — we not only got a lot of pictures of the scenery but many family pictures as well. The last night we were there we ate at the Starved Rock lodge and had a really nice meal together.

How blessed are we to have a family where we all love each other, respect each other and enjoy spending time together. We had such an awesome time and as stressful as the beginning was, this was a vacation we’ll be talking about and laughing over for years to come.

The other side of the microphone

As a journalist, I make a living interviewing people. So it was somewhat surreal for me to be the interviewee rather than the interviewer on Saturday, June 27, 2015. It was my honor to interviewed by Michelle Raley, who hosts an international call every Saturday where she interviews some of the top leaders in Enagic Corp. There is a recording of our conversation and if I ever figure out how to attach it to a blog post, I’d be happy to share it. So stay tuned!

The bottom line is I was talking about the various things I do in my day-to-day life and how I keep things in balance (kind of goes well with the theme of this blog). Before the interview I wrote up bullet points to help me remember the things I wanted to note. Here’s some of the highlights…

  • How did we get involved in Enagic?
    • Enagic promotes true health – physical, mental and financial
    • We were struggling in all three areas  — our youngest child was a Make-A-Wish child at that time
  • My previous experience in sales
    • Direct sales – Tupperware
    • Network Marketing – TPN with Jeff Olson and Eric Worre
      • After TPN was sold I swore I would never get into another network marketing company again because I couldn’t imagine getting as passionate about anything else as I had been about personal development
  • Started in Enagic May of 2010
    • All I did was give away massive amounts of water, that’s all I knew to do
    • Never intended to do this as a business
    • How did I really start building?
      • Kept meeting people through my journalism business
      • Handed out my Enagic card — “I have a profession but changing lives one glass of water at a time through Kangen water is my mission”
    • Had no intention of being a leader but realized I needed to step up
      • As my confidence grew in the water I got more confident and my business grew
    • Now working Enagic full time and my other career in my spare time
      • Jobs
        • 6A1 distributor with Enagic Corp (check out KangenWisconsin.com)
        • Author of A World Such as Heaven Intended
        • Freelance journalist for The Business News and The Compass
        • Proofreader for a local college and other venues
        • Write product reviews for a national retail chain
        • Work in R&D for an international product development corp
        • Actress in local commercials
      • Volunteer work
        • Parish
        • Burundi Education Fund
    • “Think of only three things: your God, your family and the Green Bay Packers — in that order.” – Vince Lombardi
      • For me it’s God, my family and Enagic/Kangen Water
      • Build week starting with God
      • Schedule in the most important things
        • Church/prayer
        • Water consumption
        • Exercise
        • Personal Development
        • Family time
      • How do I do it all?
        • I don’t
          • Don’t cook (thanks to my amazing husband)
          • Don’t clean, mend, iron, garden (thanks to my wonderful mom)
      • Sometimes I get a sense of overwhelm
        • Just keep plowing ahead
        • Fight the biggest fires first
        • Plan out every day the night before
          • Prioritize everything on my list
          • Surround myself with pictures of our family to keep motivated
      • We all have superpowers
        • Mine is, I am willing to do what other people aren’t willing to do
      • What did I need to give up to achieve my goals?
        • Television
        • Newspapers (except positive ones like mine)
        • Sleep :o)

That’s it in a nutshell — my crazy, busy life (which could explain why there hasn’t been a blog post since March)! But, you know what? I wouldn’t trade my life with anyone! My faith, my husband, our children, our grandchildren, our businesses — everything is perfect for us. John and I have a mantra, “I’m lucky and blessed!” No matter what happens in my daily life, I truly feel that way. Hope you do too!

My life is an open door

Lent is a busy time for a Catholic newspaper, all sorts of events to cover. So I’ve been to my share of retreats, conferences and talks over the last six weeks covering them for The Compass newspaper. It’s always a trick to record what is going on, get interviews done, take photos and yet still try to capture the essence of the event for myself. Many times it requires going home, writing the story, sending the story and pictures to my editor, and then sitting down to think about whatever gold nugget caught my attention during the event and pondering how I can implement that bit of wisdom into my life.

On March 14 I covered the Feminine Genius Conference held at St. Pius X Parish in Appleton. The speakers, including Rose Sullivan — executive director of the National Conference for Diocesan Vocation Directors and a USCCB consultant to the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, Father Mark Toups — pastor of Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and who also works with the Institute for Priestly Formation,Teresa Tomeo — author, syndicated Catholic talk show host, and motivational speaker, and Sister Maris Stella of the Sisters of Life who works in the Hope and Healing Mission, a work providing retreats and accompaniment to women who are suffering after abortion, were all outstanding.

Here’s the interesting thing, the one thing that I heard that has stuck with me since that day wasn’t some profound line from one of the keynote speeches. In fact, it wasn’t from any speech at all. It was actually from a conversation I had with Fr. Mark Toups after he finished his presentation. I was able to catch him in the lobby as people were milling around, looking at the various vendor booths set up for the day. Father and I were having a conversation about our busy lives between working, traveling and doing presentations (the bulk of my traveling and presenting is for my mission of sharing Kangen water) and balancing everything we both have going on.

As we were concluding our conversation, Fr. Mark asked if he could pray for me. I never turn down the opportunity to be prayed over, so of course I said, “Absolutely!” He started out the prayer saying, “I pray that the Lord opens the doors that need to be opened in your life.”I was really touched by that because that is really something I’ve been praying for as well, he certainly could read what was on my heart. If the prayer would have concluded right there, I would have been at peace with that. However, it didn’t end there and his finishing request was actually something I really need (even though I won’t always admit it).

“And may the Lord close the doors that need to be closed in your life.”

Wow! I was speechless. Boy oh boy, did I need to hear that.

There are so many opportunities that I could take advantage of in my life, with more coming my way every day, and each one could be so wonderful in its own right to pursue but I cannot continue to spread myself so thin or I won’t be doing any opportunity justice. This is something I really need to ponder in my life so I can discern between all the doors open before me. It’s somewhat mind blowing, that’s for sure.

I can’t thank Fr. Mark enough for his prayer over me. I have thought about that every day since and really consider it as things continue to come my way. It’s causing me to narrow my focus so I can be better at the things that are my absolute priorities right now. I will continue to write newspaper articles (but keep that number down to one article per week), I will work harder and smarter sharing the message of living water, and I will complete the manuscript for the book I’m writing. Now I just have to work on saying no to some people and opportunities so I can say yes to the things that matter to me the most right now in my life. Easier said than done, but I’m determined to stay the course!

Happy Easter everyone!

Confession…

When I say I’ve got a lot on my plate and I’m striving to keep my life in balance, I’m not kidding. I can’t get over how busy this year has been so far. There have been so many events to cover for The Compass newspaper that most of my weekends have been spent going to churches, schools and other venues to listen to speakers. Between that and writing for The Business News, my writing plate certainly has been full. It’s all good though because every event I attend, I meet more wonderful people and have the honor to share their stories with the world, so it really is gratifying.

I had the privilege to be assigned to cover the Women Celebrate weekend in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin on Valentine’s Day weekend. It really was a blessing because I had wanted to attend for years and this was the perfect opportunity for me to do that. It was a bit hectic for me because not only was I an attendee and doing my best to absorb all that I was exposed to and take in the wonderful speakers and worship music but I was also busy writing notes, taking photos, getting interviews and to top it off, when I was between things, I was selling and signing my book, A World Such as Heaven Intended, in the hallway.

The weekend was incredible. I always say if you go to an event and can walk away with just one gold nugget, then it was worth your time. That’s exactly what I experienced when I was there. Throughout the weekend they had various presenters who had moving and meaningful messages to share. The keynote speaker was a young woman speaking on the topic of sex trafficking and how prevalent it is in our area. It was an eye-opening talk, given by a person who had been forced into that world herself.

There was a lot of fun mixed in as well. We had a chocolate fountain to enjoy Friday night, Saturday was a pampering session (and what busy woman doesn’t need that?), and Saturday evening we got to enjoy an ice cream sundae bar. We were wined and dined all weekend (the sponsors didn’t provide the wine but there was plenty available as many of the gals brought wine and treats from home to share in their hotel rooms).

We had time for reflection and prayer as well. There was a prayer chapel set up that was a quiet refuge from all the other happenings throughout the weekend. Plus groups of women took time Saturday afternoon to pray over woman who needed spiritual support.

Our spiritual director for the weekend was Fr. Dave Pleier from St. Francis Assisi Parish in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. He kept everyone laughing with his stories and jokes but he also had some wonderful lessons to share. On Saturday afternoon we could go to breakout sessions and I chose to go to Fr. Pleier’s session on questions about the Catholic Church. One lady asked about confession (otherwise known as reconciliation). She was an older lady and said she hated going to confession. Father addressed her concern and said he finds that a lot of people seem to fall into two groups — they either go to confession on a regular basis and feel like they don’t really have anything to confess or they go to confession with something they really need to get off their chest but feel like they didn’t adequately confess their sins to the priest. For the second group, Fr. Pleier said that when you go to confession and are truly sorry for your sins, whether you tell the priest all the details or don’t even say out loud the sin that is burdening you the most, God forgives you for everything. Your slate is wiped clean!

That just really hit me. Wow, it was exactly what I needed to hear because, being the perfectionist I am, I was never quite sure if I was confessing properly or completely.

Later that afternoon seven priests were at the conference conducting confession privately throughout the ballroom where the main events were held. There were probably about 100 women sitting in chairs waiting to go to confession. When you got tapped on the shoulder you went to whichever priest was available. I sat there waiting and hoping I’d get Fr. Pleier because I really wanted to talk to him about what he said. It was meant to be because sure enough, he was the open priest when my turn came.

I went over to the spot where he was seated and sat down with him face-to-face. I started our session with the traditional, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned,” but then immediately struck up a conversation with him about confession. It was then that Father shared a story from his own life and said something so profound that it will stay with me forever. He said that even though he went to confession and had been absolved of his sin, he had a hard time forgiving himself because what he had done was so out of character for him. I felt like Charlie Brown in the Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon when he’s meeting with Lucy the psychiatrist and she discovers he has a fear of everything and he yells, “That’s it,” and she goes tumbling off her chair.

That truly was it for me! I tend to beat myself up over things that happened years and sometimes decades ago. Even though I’ve been to confession many times through the years, because some particular things I’ve done in my life were so out of character for me — a person who really does her best to be the nicest person she possibly can be at all times — I couldn’t forgive myself even if God had forgiven me.

Talk about the weight of the world being lifted off my shoulders. When I was given the final blessing after my confession and was told to, “Go out and sin no more,” I really took that to heart. It’s definitely a work in progress but I do strive every day to be the best version of myself and to stay on the path of never-ending improvement.

If you have an opportunity to take a retreat, I’d highly recommend it. You never know how your life can change. Or if you really want a life-changing experience, go to confession. It may seem uncomfortable at first, especially if it’s been a long time since you’ve gone or if you’ve never gone, but it feels so good to have someone say out loud that you are forgiven and can start your life anew. What better time to experience this rebirth than the Easter season?

Interview with Working Mother Amanda Lauer

I had the honor last week of being interviewed by Erin McCole Cupp, author of the biblical historical fiction ebook “Working Mother.” The book is available on Kindle through Amazon for only $.99! Here’s the synopsis: “With her husband disabled and out of work and her child in mortal danger, a mother must leave her family and find work so they can all survive. The husband’s name is Joseph. The child’s name is Jesus. The working mother is Mary.” You should check it out! But before you do that, take a minute and hear what I have to say about being a working mother…

New post on Will Write for Tomato Pie

Interview with Working Mother Amanda Lauer

by Erin McCole Cupp

Here at Tomato Pie, we’re celebrating the release of my biblical historical fiction ebook “Working Mother” by celebrating the working mothers among us. Today we’re interviewing working mother Amanda Lauer!
What’s your name?
Tell us a little bit about your family.
My husband John and I have been married almost 34 years, we have three daughters and one son ranging in age from 23 to 29, we have a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law, and a precious 2-year-old grandson.
Imagine you’re at a dinner party.  Someone asks the question, “So, what do you do?”  What’s your answer?
The short answer is that I have a career in journalism and a mission to spread the word about true health through living water. The longer answer is I am an author (my book A World Such as Heaven Intended came out October 29, 2014 and has been on the best-seller list for Amazon for its genre several times in the last two months), I write and shoot photos for the Green Bay Diocesan newspaper The Compass and The Business News, I proofread for Saint Norbert College, and I am an independent distributor for Enagic Corp/Kangen Water (KangenWisconsin.com).
How do you think God uses your job to help shape you into all He made you to be?
Every day I am challenged to learn and grow through both my career and my mission. I’m always trying to be a better version of myself and God has brought many extraordinary people and circumstances into my life that have helped me do just that.
What benefits (besides the economical) have you seen to your family that are a direct result of your work away from home?
I would not be the person I am today without all of these experiences that have caused to me grow in my knowledge, communication skills and faith.
How do you balance any guilty feelings you might have in the tension between your workplace and your homespace?
Because I work from home, there is really no separation between home life and work life which can definitely be a challenge. Between my career and my mission it’s almost like having two full-time jobs. Each is equally important because they are a means of evangelizing for me so that does help assuage the guilt a bit. My goal is, when I step into my office or go to outside appointments, to completely focus on the work that needs to be done at that moment. When I close my office doors for the day, my goal is to focus on my husband and our time together and connecting with our kids, who all live out of state. It’s not always easy because the office is so close by and there’s always something I can be doing there. It’s a work in progress.
What is one thing that you would ask the people in your life to do to support you more?
When I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the tasks on my plate, give me the time and the space to do what I need to do to get a handle on everything. If you can’t give me that, then give me chocolate.

Great suggestion!  Thank you, Amanda!  

Let’s Start A Movement!

These thoughts have been brewing in my mind for a while but some things I recently noticed on Facebook inspired me to write this post today.

Social media can be a blessing or a curse. It can create powerful change, it can bring light to topics which need to be exposed, it can educate and entertain the masses. On the other hand it can be a source of pain, degradation and destruction. People have various opinions on everything under the sun and in general it can be fine to state your opinion in a respectful way. But when people on Facebook or Twitter criticize a person who has a different opinion or stance than they do on a particular issue and they make it a personal attack on that person (their character, their appearance, their voice, their religious affiliation), then that’s just downright mean and uncalled for.

As a human race we have common goals we strive for — health, safety, security, love and happiness for ourselves and our families. If every one of us just followed the Ten Commandments, life would be pretty tranquil on this planet. But, if that’s too much to ask, can we just be as nice as we possibly can be to each other? I propose that we start a movement, not sure of the name yet, maybe something along the lines of the Kindness movement? Or the Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? movement?

How about we hold ourselves and our fellow human beings to a higher standard. If people are talking about other people, whether in person or on social media, and they are being less than kind, let’s point it out. If you see a mean post about a celebrity, how about we comment with Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? or #isittrueisitnecessaryisitkind. It may be a bit uncomfortable at first but can you imagine how this world would change if people started standing up for common human decency and kindness?

Below is a copy of my post on Facebook from this morning. These are the thoughts that wake me up from a deep sleep in the middle of the night! I can’t rest until I know I’ve captured that divine inspiration!

What do you think? Are you in? Let’s start a movement and see how many lives can be changed!

This poem, written in 1872, is timeless. In this day and age of social media its message is even more important. Just because a person is a public figure — whether it’s politics, the film industry or professional athletics, it doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable to ridicule them (their looks, their intelligence, their faith, whatever). This just seems like another form of bullying. The things you write on Facebook, would you really say that to someone in person? We’re all God’s children made in His image. “Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?” should be something for all of us to consider before we talk about other people. Or in the words of Thumper, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

“Is It True? Is It Necessary? Is It Kind?

Oh! Stay, dear child, one moment stay,
Before a word you speak,
That can do harm in any way
To the poor, or to the weak;
And never say of any one
What you’d not have said of you,
Ere you ask yourself the question,
“Is the accusation true?”
And if ’tis true, for I suppose
You would not tell a lie;
Before the failings you expose
Of friend or enemy:
Yet even then be careful, very;
Pause and your words well weigh,
And ask it it be necessary,
What you’re about to say.
And should it necessary be,
At least you deem it so,
Yet speak not unadvisedly
Of friend or even foe,
Till in your secret soul you seek
For some excuse to find;
And ere the thoughtless word you speak,
Ask yourself, “Is it kind?”
When you have ask’d these questions three—
True,—Necessary,—Kind,—
Ask’d them in all sincerity,
I think that you will find,
It is not hardship to obey
The command of our Blessed Lord,—
No ill of any man to say;
No, not a single word.

Mary Ann Pietzker – 1872