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Diary of a Worm’s Life in a Home “Growing Power” Box and Garden

Rain Garden July 31, 2009

Front Lawn Garden 08/09

Garden 08/02/09

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Spark Of Imagination - Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Shroud of Turin

March is at an end as we enter into the Holy Week — three days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, celebrating the life, torture, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. My ten year old grandson and I tonight watched part of the History Channel’s presentation of The Real Face of Jesus. The Real Face of Jesus follows a team of graphic experts as they use cutting-edge 3D software to bring a holy relic known as the Shroud of Turin to life. It is fascinating to watch science and devotion combine to give us a possible image of the face of Jesus. One thing was clear from what I saw tonight: that the person, perhaps Jesus, on the cloth shroud was cruelly tortured before he was crucified.

I have been a strong advocate of the use of the five senses of the imagination, hearing, seeing, smell, touch and taste, when praying. St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises introduced me to this way of praying. My experience has been that it is easier for children to pray with the five sense of the imagination than adults. Sadly we seem to lose our imagination as we grow older.

Imagination is powerful tool for compassion and solidarity. If we can imagine the horrors of war or the cruelty of torture we are less likely to tolerate it in our society. If we can imagine the hunger that too many persons in the world suffer we can be in solidarity with them and act accordingly. In fact the first step toward real compassion and solidarity seems to be imaginative reflection.

I find that in our busy world imagination is at a loss. TV and modern day movies leave little to the imagination. As I observe and participate in this world of “reality TV” I long to stop, look, listen, smell, touch and taste life. Maybe seeing the real face of Jesus will help us to be aware that Jesus was truly human as well as God, and that is why his life, death and resurrection sparks our imagination.


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Trains, Buses Not Cars - Tuesday, March 30, 2010

High Speed Trains in China

Reflecting with a distant friend on how I spend my time, I realized that a lot of it is spent driving persons around, to doctor appointments, to visit someone in an assisted living situation, to a store, post office or pharmacy. In Milwaukee driving persons without cars is more significant than in most cities due to our very poor transit system.

Politicians in their frenzy to avoid raising taxes have let many things go, especially a system like the transit bus system, that affects low income and elderly persons. There are many attempts to fix the problem, taxpayers even voted to raise taxes to pay for good transportation; businesspersons, the young and old support it; yet politicians, who think they know best what is good for us, say no.

Tonight on TV a politician running for governor said we should turn down a rapid transit train system between Milwaukee and Madison that is being paid for in its entirety by the Federal Government. His reason was that we would need to pay for the upkeep of the system after it is built. Even though it will create jobs and infrastructure he says No due to taxes.

This obsession with putting the individual taxpayer over the common good of the many, especially the poor, is reflected in this transit issue. However, it is everywhere in our society: upkeep of our Park system, educational and health care systems, for examples. Neglect of transit, health, educational and park systems, all serving the common good, will prove to be expensive in the long run. But in the short run the individual with his individual car is king. No one talks about cutting back on road work.

We need more trains and buses, not cars. But until we focus on the common good over the individual, driving persons is important work.


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Life Is Hot! - Monday, March 29, 2010

There is a new TV series called Life on the Discovery Channel. It is an amazing and awesome look at all forms of life, fish, reptiles, mammals, insects, birds, primates and plants. The photography is unbelievable, some of it not seen before by human beings.

However, what is most fascinating about this series, Life, is the simple but deep understanding it offers us of the mystery and wonder of life in its everyday form in nature. It is hard to look at a worm or frog the same way as before.

TV shows like this one, produced by BBC and the Discovery channel, feature the best TV media has to offer us. We can become aware of the dignity and complexity of life in a way that we could not have imagined.

But most of what we watch on TV, speaking for myself at least, is not like this series. It is news, entertainment or a mix of both. In many TV shows the unusual, the talented, unique or sensational is featured. The beauty of ordinary life is not shown. We are bombarded with violence, sex, anger, fear, affection or intrigue. The line between so called ‘reality TV’, fictional shows or news events is blurred. We are bombarded with so much that it takes more and more to move us.

For those who make war and profit from it this is good. We become insensitive to the disaster of war. It seems not to affect us even though we pay for it, participate in it and are educated by it.

In the sixties we called TV, after Marshal McLuhan’s work on “the media is the message”, a ‘cool’ media, one that allows us to be ‘detached.’ We become desensitized by TV as it takes more and more stimulus, more sex or violence for example, to keep us interested. Even war, a very hot thing, can become ‘cool’.

One can view the TV series, Life, as ‘cool’, just more great photography and video. However, if one really watches Life, and has the eyes to see and ears to hear, one will see that in this show Life is ‘hot’, involving us at its core.


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Messy Silence - Sunday, March 28, 2010

Messy Desk Contest Winner

In our culture being organized is a valued trait. In some ways I am organized, preparing an event, working in the gardens or making a meal. But in other ways, keeping my office and storage areas in basement clean and organized I am very UN-American. Why am I so organized in some ways and in other ways a failure?

My guess is that it has to do with personal priorities. I value being available to drive a friend in need somewhere or having the garden in front and back look good. But unless I get motivated I will just let organization of my office become a major mess.

There seems like always so much to do in life that one way to control it is to do what is a priority and ignore the rest. Priorities are built around persons and relationships and with a reflection and awareness of what is important. Being aware of one’s priorities and doing them first is something I need to work on and so does my Church, the Roman Catholic religion.

Working in a Catholic Church some years ago when the sex scandal first broke into national attention, I felt the Church was putting a lot of time and attention into damage control and preventing future abuse of children. That was good but something seemed to be missing.

Now that the abuse scandal of priests has raised its ugly head again I think I know what was missing, and still is, that makes me uneasy about how the Church is handling this scandal. The bishops of the Catholic Church were quick to apologize for past abuses in the Church and were quick to say how it was in the past and how we must forgive and work on preventing it from happening in the future. What was missing was the admission and awareness by the bishops and priests how their silence about what was going on contributed to this terrible abuse.

Keeping silent or just ignoring something so wrong is contributing to it. History of failure to break the silence needs to be acknowledged by authorities in the church and forgiveness needs to be requested for this sin of silence.

Persons who keep silence or ignore the face of sin and wrong-doing are guilty of contributing to it. The first step in reorganizing the Church, just like the first step in organizing one’s office, needs to be awareness of one’s role in the mess, even though it might have been by keeping silence or ignoring the mess.


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Salad Bowl Day - Saturday, March 27, 2010

Holy Land

Today was one of contact with friends from many parts of my life. This morning I collected my food from Share, a community food program, at the Catholic Church where I used to work as a youth minister. There I met a number of elderly members of the Church who volunteer with the Share program at this church.

A friend I had originally met at the church was having a slide show at the Catholic seminary where she works of a recent visit of the Holy Land, Palestine and Israel she had made with a group. Watching her digital pictures of Holy Land on the screen reminded me of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land that I made in the 90’s. I took many pictures, in those days, non digital slides, and meant to make them in a slide show. But shortly afterward slides were out of fashion and digital cameras and pictures took over. I meant to change the slides into digital images and do a presentation on the web like I have done with other journeys like to Guatemala or India. But I never did and her presentation made me want to do it now. But there are so many other things to do first.

On the way back from the Holy Land presentation I stopped at the house of my friend Tegan, the wiki master for this web site and many others. Tegan and her husband showed me around their expanding garden in the backyard. They have a decent backyard with great southern sun exposure and a few gutter spouts that make a good source of rain water for the garden. This experience made me want to get back to work on my own gardens, which is a priority but I did not get to today.

Tonight I received an email from a friend since the 70’s, who with his wife moved to Texas for the winter months. This friend has a unique way of looking at the world, a a lateral thinking approach to life. He solves problems with unique and creative ways of looking at things, not necessarily the logical way. In the email tonight he looked at some problems I am facing, like heating my unheated sun room, and came up with some unique ideas, like using “incandescent bulbs and leaving them on a lot.”

All three encounters with friends, the friend presenting the pictures of the Holy Land, Tegan and her husband in their garden, and the letter from my old friend in Texas, left me a better person with a deeper appreciation of life. Together with my contact with my wife and adult son, both friends, and a few phone calls with friends and encounters while I was grocery shopping, they made my day full. Some years ago in this Diary of a Woman I wrote about Salad Bowl Friends. Using this metaphor I can say today I had a wonderful salad bowl day.


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Quotes of Joy - Friday, March 26, 2010

Some quotes, even taken out of context, seem to sound a universal note. I try to preserve a few of these on this web site, at Jokes and Quotes. Here are a few recent quotes you might have missed: from Mahatma Gandhi, “Everyone in the world knows that Jesus and His teachings were nonviolent except Christians.”; “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.” And finally, “Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself.” And from Thomas Merton, “When we live superficially … we are always outside ourselves, never quite ‘with’ ourselves, always divided and pulled in many directions … we find ourselves doing many things that we do not really want to do, saying things we do not really mean, needing things we do not really need, exhausting ourselves for what we secretly realize to be worthless and without meaning in our lives”; “We must not lose sight of the real problem, which is not the individual with a revolver but death and even genocide as big business … It is this polite, massively organized white-collar murder machine that threatens the world with destruction.” The third main person I collect quotes from is Dorothy Day who said: “You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you.”

Also I have a few friends that keep me smiling with email jokes. Despite getting many jokes a day sent to me I keep very few. Some jokes sent to me make me smile and laugh but I seldom save them. What does that say about me?

Looking through many of the quotes I see a lot of common themes, like the notion that the sign of the right work and vocation is joy. Great persons make for great quotes. They suffer and sometimes give their life for their work. But there is always joy in their words and work.


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Romero Lives! - Thursday, March 25, 2010

Archbishop Oscar Romero

“If I am killed, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people.” Archbishop Oscar Romero shortly before he was assassinated March 24, 1980.

Yesterday I was trying to explain to my grandchildren that it was the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Romero, a holy leader in El Salvador. I explained how he stood with the people, especially the poor and repressed and that he had been killed for his work by the military.

Usually I am good at telling stories about persons like Romero to children but I sensed they had a hard time understanding this story. I finally realized that the idea of a ‘martyr’, someone who dies for her or her beliefs, is a foreign concept in our society. A modern day martyr is a hard for us to understand. A soldier dying in war is easy to understand but not a nonviolent warrior giving his life for others.

Today, not hearing anything about the anniversary celebration in El Salvador, which was being prepared for when I was there, I looked up Archbishop Romero’s 30th anniversary on the web. I found a Tim’s El Salvador blog which was about El Salvador and Archbishop Oscar Romero. To my surprise Tim is right here in Milwaukee.

From Tim’s El Salvador bog I was led to The Archbishop Romero Trust, “a precious resource bank of materials on Archbishop Romero’s life and martyrdom”. One of the resources is translated copies of his homilies from 1977–1980.

Also yesterday I started to reorganize the ‘nonviolent’ side of this web site, I am putting three major pages under the heading “Nonviolence or Militarism”. They are Teach War No More; No More War Spending; Spirituality of Nonviolence. In days to come I will try to organize already posted articles and research under these three major categories.

Archbishop’s Romero’s life and message has plenty to say on all three of these areas of Nonviolence and Militarism. For example the day before he was assassinated he had these words for soldiers in the military. With a few minor changes these words could apply to us and our military.


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Pre-Dung - Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Compost Rows Pre-Dung

Today I prepared the two compost rows that new cow dung will be dumped on with more worms to make more castings. Not able to find the pitchfork I shoveled the compost from last year into two rows, noticing that there were many worms that had wintered in the leftovers from last year. Soon we will ask the dairy farmer to dump a new load of cow manure on the piles, and adding some more worms will start the casting-making process once more.

For now the rows are marked by some stones. I would like to build a rock wall around the two rows and build some type of canopy over the rows to protect them from the sun. My oldest grandson said he would care for the compost-to-castings rows again this year. He hopes that this year we can bag some of the castings and sell them in Milwaukee. He is more motivated by the profit motive than I. Making money or not, we will be sure to have some valuable fertile soil for growing from our efforts.

In India they talk about “Mother Earth” and “Mother Cow”. The earth and a cow are ‘mother’ for Indians because they provide so much of what we need, fertile soil to grow, medicine, milk, products and for some of us meat.

These two rows of composted earth await fresh cow dung. With the earth of ‘mother earth’ and the dung of ‘mother cow’ the worm will turn these two roles into fertile soil to grow new life.


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Meaningfull Life Message - Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Graf Kids Summer 09

All is quiet on the home front up here in northern Wisconsin. My three grandchildren are in bed, TV and video games are off and it is deeply dark outside.

I checked out the remains of our two rows of cow manure with working worms in them and the worms are still working. Hopefully we can expand and develop this casting-making enterprise this year. Also when my friend Prasad was in town yesterday he promised, once more, to connect us — my son, the dairy farmer across the road and myself — with the technology persons in India who turn cow dung into energy, Poop to Power, in an affordable way. Hopefully we someday can use these working milk cows’ dung to turn on the lights in a few homes.

The silence of tonight is in sharp contrast to all the talk of last night at this time when I was at a local peace group’s steering committee meeting. There was a lot of talk but left the meeting feeling like it was a waste of time. Hitting baseballs to my grandsons tonight, at least trying to hit the ball with the bat, seemed more meaningful tonight than this meeting. Certainly the silence of the moment is more peaceful.

At our gathering Monday to meet with Prasad we talked about importance of meaning in our lives. Sometimes we put a lot of meaning into one person, like our spouse or into raising our children, and when the spouse dies or the children grow up and are independent, meaning suddenly disappears.

Yet we need meaningful work or relationships in our lives. This might explain why playing with my grandchildren feels more meaningful than talking about a lot of ideas and concepts without taking any action.

I remember a pastor I worked for in a church telling our youth group at a retreat that we all need something meaningful and worth dying for in our lives. Principles, as people, can be worth dying for but the principles must be embodied in our beings. Concepts and words only have meaning when we live them and put them in our lives’ actions. We struggle to say as Gandhi did: “My Life is my message. You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” The more we can say, “my life is my message”, the more meaningful our lives will be.


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India Is It - Monday, March 22, 2010

Prasad and Pilgrim Today

My friend, Prasad, from India, was in Milwaukee today for a brief but meaningful visit. Prasad was the leader of the Gandhi movement that led our Pilgrimage of Peace in 2009. His visit was not meaningful for what we did but from who he is. He has a sense of presence about him that special. He says that his deep interest in Gandhi and living his lifestyle is something contagious. He is living proof of that statement.

For him wars and violence are symptoms of deeper problem the lack of peace and satisfaction with life that many feel. Often there is a need for ‘more’, more food, more money that people feel and leads to unrest. People he meets are always asking him for pamphlets, web site, writings and articles about his experience of the movement to spread the good news of Gandhi across the world. He does not have much more than his business card to give them. It is in the experience of life that he finds meaning not writing or talking about it.

Prasad is planning another Pilgrimage of Peace in the Footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi for Jan. 2011. He will be back in July of this year to hopefully firm up this trip. If anyone is interested please let me know at . If you want to experience Mother earth, Mother cow and the richness and healing power of the Indian culture, this is it.


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Health Care and Bananas - Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bananas for sale in San Salvador

Some say that the Health Care bill set to be passed tonight by the U.S. House of Representatives is historical. To that I say ‘Bananas’. From what I can gather the Health Care Bill being passed in Congress is not historic but neither is it as disastrous at some critics make it to be. It turns out that the bill emerging from the congress is almost identical to one written by insurance companies in 2009. It certainly is not universal health care or universal health insurance which most of the world enjoys. Check out this Fact Sheet: The Truth About the Health Care Bill.

On the other hand what I have heard about bananas is that they truly have healing powers. They provide an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Also they can help overcome or prevent a substantial number of illnesses and conditions like depression, anemia, constipation, hangovers, heartburn, ulcers, Seasonal Affective Disorder and many others. A talk a professor at CCNY for a physiological psych class about the origin of the phrase “going bananas” describes all the many benefits.

Many countries from a poor country like El Salvador to rich countries like Canada or France to populous countries like India enjoy some form of universal health care. Health care is a right paid for by everyone in the country, not a privilege. We can only hope this bill being voted on is a step toward a form of universal health care coverage for all.

Bananas, on the other hand are a universal healthy food. On our pilgrimage of peace to India, to my recent trip to El Salvador, bananas are plentiful. At the Natural Cure Health Center where we stayed in India bananas were provided to each guest room. The difference of bananas available is one of color. I noticed that the bananas for eating in El Salvador and India were what we would call ripe, ready for banana bread, in the U.S.A. We like our bananas yellow, not yellow with black spots.

Recently I faced a health care dilemma that neither the new, about-to-be health care bill nor bananas can solve. I have had the same personal doctor for the last 15 years through different types of health insurance my wife and I had. However, now without changing health insurance companies my doctor is suddenly not covered by our health insurance. It seems like the type of health insurance, now called POS plan, has changed and my doctor’s network is covered but not him personally. I found this fact hard to believe but after checking with our insurance company and my doctor’s office this seems to be true. He is not on the approved ‘list.’

Where is this historical health care bill or bananas when you need it?


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Balance in the Now - Saturday, March 20, 2010

A light, wet snow covered the ground this morning, the first day of spring. Today is the Spring Equinox, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun. The night and day are approximately equally long. This day, the equinox, which occurs only twice a year, is a day for prayer and meditation on the spirituality of nature. It is a day “to restore balance to the healing word” as this YouTube video sent to me today, Global Healing Meditation, illustrates.

A friend called today who was struggling to keep balance in his life. I did not have much advice at the time to give my friend, but as I watched the YouTube meditation tonight I realized the answer lies in being present to now, in the moment we are facing. Living in the present has always been a challenge in my life, but it also has been the only way to keep my balance of mind.

We can have all the well-prepared plans we like for what we will do each day, but unless we live in the present we will not have a peaceful day. Today I had some plans to work to prepare planting in the sun room. However, when I started the project a friend, who is ill, called and said she needed to get her car from the repair shop and needed a ride. She also needed to have some copies of keys made.

If I, in my mind, had wanted to keep working with preparing the soil, I might have helped my friend but not been happy doing it. However I chose to live in the moment, and although not perfectly, did enjoy running this errand for my friend. I even managed to find a good deal on some seeds when I was waiting in the hardware store while the keys were being made.

The balance of nature and our lives, like in the equinox, is found living in the now.


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Happy Spring - Friday, March 19, 2010

Backyard Garden Before 2010

Today I took the promised ‘before’ picture of the backyard garden. It does not look like much but, hopefully, with some TLC will grow green and bear a good harvest this year. I should take before pictures of the rain, front yard and side yard gardens also but that will need to wait for another day.

I have been raking leaves on top of the worm depository, the mound in back where worms wintered in the heat of the compost. The leaves will make the base for a new compost pile in the back of the garage as I use the present compost for the worm condo and to spread in the gardens.

Working with the soil is healthy and so was another part of my day when two persons called who needed some help. One was a friend that needed me to pick up some medical supplies from the pharmacy and one was one of the persons we had made a home visit to as members of a St. Vincent De Paul conference. He needed a replacement voucher for one he had lost. I always find doing these chores for others a good experience, just like working in the garden.

Today these two calls were real blessings. Today being the seventh anniversary of the start of the Iraq War there was a protest downtown. Friends were going but I really did not feel like protesting. These calls for help gave me a very good reason not to go. I understand better the saying: “Blessed are the Poor.”

Finding blessings and joy working in the garden or with persons in need promises a happy spring.


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Ignore At Risk - Thursday, March 18, 2010

Today working in the backyard garden it occurred to me that I should take a ‘before’ picture so I have something to compare to it to in the late summer. But I forgot to take a picture before sundown. Well, there always is tomorrow.

Or is there? Today a powerful article called We Stand on the Cusp of one of Humanity’s Most Dangerous Moments came across my computer. It is an article about doom, how we lost the struggle for America and how the USA will eventually self-destruct. However, at the same time it presents hope, how we must continue to resist and, like the monasteries of the Middle Ages create sustainable community within this country to preserve the culture and what is best about the USA. This article deserves to be read by all who are concerned about the future of America. I made it the Featured Article on .

The analysis of where America is going reminds me of a recent interview with the filmmaker Michael Moore. In the interview Moore was showing some frustration of how people would praise his documentaries but were not getting the message. He felt his message and warning were being ignored. I’m not such a big celebrity as him, but I do know a thing or two about being ignored. So I decided to write him an open letter about the road toward rejection he was traveling.

Open Letter to Michael Moore

Dear Mr. Moore
“You are slowly become one of us, the ignored and rejected. First they, powers that be, praise you and your work, calling you a ‘prophet of our times’. When you continue with the same message they, left and right, for better or worse, personalize the message to you, so they can ignore the message. Finally, if you continue to speak the truth, as you know it, they, liberal and conservatives, marginalize you as much as they can, and if that does not work, you persist in speaking the truth as you know it, and you are ignored. This is the most difficult stage, being ignored, to deal with. I am not sure you, due to your fame, will ever get there, but if you do, do not feel alone. We the rejected and ignored of society are many, mostly poor and ordinary persons.

We have lost the battle but still resist. We look for community of others who are also marginalized, rejected and ignored. We try to form sustainable communities within the greater society that, in the USA, is quickly deteriorating before us. Read the article: We Stand on the Cusp of One of Humanity’s Most Dangerous Moments, to read more about our future so, if you get to the ignored and rejected stage, you will know where to find us.”

If I ignore my garden it will not grow. If we ignore the signs of our times, the message or the messenger, the truth will still persist. Ignore at Risk.


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Let Green Reign - Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Starts

Into the darkness of winter the sun is shining brighter and longer each day. Spring is on its way and the green of St. Patrick’s Day, today, is here to stay for awhile. There is no winter killing of nature just as there is no killing of the human spirit.

Archbishop Oscar Romero, whose 30 anniversary of his assassination we will celebrate March 24th, said to his people: “If I am killed, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people.” In modern day El Salvador we can see the spirit of Oscar Romero alive and well in the spirit of the people, especially some of the youth who were not even born when he was killed by the US-trained military.

Cleaning out our sun room today I moved away some dead plants. I guess you can say I was doing some spring cleaning and getting ready to sow some new seeds.

In the sermon just minutes before his death, Archbishop Romero reminded his congregation of the parable of the wheat. “Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ will live like the grains of wheat that dies. It only apparently dies. If it were not to die, it would remain a solitary grain. The harvest comes because of the grain that dies. We know that every effort to improve society, above all when society is so full of injustice and sin, is an effort that God blesses; that God wants; that God demands of us”

In American society we talk a lot about change. However, I wonder if we are always willing to make the sacrifice, to suffer the loss, to face the death that it takes and is demanded of us?

We are blessed in the Midwest to have four definite seasons. We can see each spring in nature what we thought was lost and dead rise again. Spring is not eternal but I am glad it is here at last. Let green reign.


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The Little Way - Tuesday, March 16, 2010

St Therese, The Little Flower

People say, “What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?” They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time. We can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes. -Dorothy Day

Today I actually did a little work in the backyard garden. It felt good and helped keep me grounded the rest of the day. In the garden I sense what one person can do. With some consistent work and with the blessing of nature I can Grow Renewable Affordable Food G.R.A.F..

With other bigger issues like war and peace it is not easy to have that feeling and sense that our small effort can make a difference. But as Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement reminds us, our small actions with love in our hearts can be the one brick that builds the foundation for real change.

Naturally, as with our work in the garden, we need help. Not from nature this time but from God. We believe that our small efforts can be multiplied, just as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.

A few of us met tonight for dinner and talk on how we can best make a difference to Stop Teaching War at our local Catholic University. Our nonviolent actions may be small but they can, when multiplied, help to “break the silence” on teaching war and more military spending in our society.

Dorothy Day called this way, making a difference by doing small things with great love, the “little way” after the example of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. St. Therese entered the convent early in life, and although she had dreams of being a priest and missionary, never the left the convent and died at a young age. However, she did ordinary things, such as washing dishes, in an extraordinary way and with great love. Now she is the patron saint of missionaries over the world. Her “little way” like Dorothy’s and the Catholic Workers’ daily works of mercy, feeding the poor and giving shelter to the homeless, was multiplied by her great love.


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Miracles Happen! - Monday, March 15, 2010

Planning ahead, today I received noticed about the fifth conference on Ignatian Spirituality for the summer of 2011, over a year in the future. What stirred my interest in this notice, however, was the request for prayers for Father Fleming S.J., prolific author on Ignatian Spirituality and one of the founders of this conference every three years. He is seriously ill with pancreatic cancer and ‘perhaps’ in the final months of this life. They say ‘perhaps’ because many people are praying for a miraculous cure through the intercession of Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the saintly past leader of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits.

Miracles do happen, and to be an official saint in the Catholic Church, a miracle from God through the intercession of an individual on the official road to sainthood, called a “servant of God”, needs to be recognized.

Also today I received phone calls from two friends who are in serious stages of cancer spreading in their bodies. I also know another friend who is suffering from advanced cancer. I checked out the web site promoting the sainthood of Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. There I found a prayer for the intercession of Dorothy Day for a ‘favor’ or miracle, from God.

Putting the pieces of the day together, phone calls from friends with cancer and the official process for Sainthood for Dorothy Day, a true inspiration for many of us, I thought why not start prayers through the intercession of Dorothy Day that God grant a cure for my three friends? We could even add a few more persons in need of cure. With more we might increase our chances of a miracle happening.


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Nuts Are Affordable - Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cashew Fruits and Nuts

Today I did start writing out my notes about my recent journey to El Salvador. Perhaps inspired by this beginning, I created a special pasta/vegetable dish tonight that was unique, healthy, affordable and tasted good. I say inspired by El Salvador because in that country, due to the warm sunny climate and plenty of water, almost everything grows.

One of the co-operative communities we visited produces organic cashews. Cashews are a labor intensive item to grow. Cashew nuts grow out of the bottom ends of large fruit on a tree. After the nut is removed from the fruit, taken out of the shell, dried and roasted, only a small cashew nut remains. I will describe the process in more detail and how the whole fruit and shell are used in my reflections, but note it now because of all the work it takes to produce cashews. After the community takes what it needs, the rest are sold to countries in Europe that appreciate these organic ‘fair trade’ cashews.

The good part about this experience was that we were able to purchase these cashews at a low price and bring them home. These nuts are renewable, healthy and affordable.


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Distractions and Deflections - Saturday, March 13, 2010

I was going to take time today to write out the notes I took on our journey to El Salvador. But in the USA it is easy to get distracted or deflected and not get done what you want to do. Shopping, talking, emailing, whatever it may be, distractions seem to be a way of life.

Politicians seem to be especially good at distracting us from the issue, or some would call it, deflecting the issue. Our congresswoman is very good at that. When some of us met with her recently about her votes on war spending, she deflected and distracted our concern all over the place. Even in saying yes to our request for a public meeting on war spending, she was able to deflect the issue by throwing out the name of a well known anti-war congressman and including him in the public gathering. Some of the group bought this distraction and said how nice it was for her to meet with us and to invite to the public meeting this anti-war congressperson. Last week this anti-war congressperson initiated a resolution to pull our troops out of war by the end of year and our congresswoman voted against it. She was not distracted.

A friend of a friend, however, wrote tonight that he was in town for a meeting today when he came across the St. Patrick’s Day parade. He saw our congresswoman in the parade. Someone in the crowd yelled out to her: “Do the right thing… Vote against war appropriations.” She looked a little surprised, and then nodded her head. A well known deflector got distracted back.

It always struck me as odd that there were so many different organizations and groups working on the same issues and goals. I always wondered why they did not work together. It seems like they would be more effective. But now I know that many groups working separately on same issue was a simple way to keep everyone distracted and keep the focus off the real issue. They might form ‘coalitions’ at times but their separate identity is prime.

Last week a number of local university students were arrested while protesting an issue, the high cost of education. Although they should be supported, I noticed the focus has switched from the cost of education to the issue of their being arrested. Is this not another distraction from the main issue?

When one is poor and struggling for survival it is hard to get distracted. People might take time out from their day-to-day struggle for survival for a revolution, but an ordinary distraction is not worth it.

Perhaps if we can live our life in solidarity with the poor, if not actually being poor, we can keep our focus on what really matters and not be turned away by distractions and deflections.


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Living In Fog - Friday, March 12, 2010

Fog in San Salvador

Driving to and from Appleton today for my grandson’s birthday party we drove through fog. The fog reminded me of El Salvador, although there the weather is usually sunny. It probably reminded me of this country since the suffering and death of the civil war has left the country in a foggy milieu. People are still trying to feel their way out of the deep darkness that covered this sunny land.

At times we all feel the fog of our minds. When we are sick or when our mind is overcrowded we fail to see what is around us and see little in front of us.

Some people seem to prefer the fog. They do not want to know the reality that surrounds them but stick to words and ideas that are easier to deal with than the contradictions of daily life.

USA society seems to live in a fog when it comes to the rest of the world. We see our needs and desires in El Salvador and elsewhere not the needs and desires of the people who occupy the country. Thus the cry we heard over and over again from the people of El Salvador to the USA: “Do not interfere, let us be.”

In the G.A.T.E. trip to Guatemala, ( Buried in Guatemala), Father Greg in his talk about economics had the same message for us. He told how the people of Guatemala would like to be an agricultural society but industrialization has been forced on them.

Soon the fog outside will pass but the fog we see the rest of the world will continue until, with awareness, we see what we see.


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El Salvador: Barb Wire and Flowers - Thursday, March 11, 2010

This “Diary of the Worm” author has returned from El Salvador, the land of barb wire and flowers. It will take some time and reflection to digest my experiences, but for now I can state that El Salvador is a land of contrast. On one had we have all the death and torture of the people by the American financed military government during the long civil war. Yet we have the survivors rising up from the remains of the many martyrs with hope and promise. We have a newly elected president from the party of the FMLN, who were the guerrillas in the civil war. Yet the neo-liberal party of the death squads still holds sway in the legislature and courts. We have uniforms for USA state employees and Disney workers made in sweatshops by woman working for $5.79 for a nine hour work day. We have a country rich in fertile land importing food from other countries. We have the American dollar from the richest country in the world as the currency of this poor country. We have a sweet and loving people yet gangs roam the streets. El Salvador is a land full of rivers and on the ocean, yet people thirst for drinkable water.

El Salvador is a country still seeking its own identity. The USA has dominated this country as can been seen in the fast food chains and shopping malls. Yet when a professional in one of the largest public hospitals for the poor was asked the one thing she would ask of the USA, it was not medicine or equipment sorely needed, but a plea for the USA to “not interfere.” First Europe and then the USA has bled this country and used and misused it. Now amidst this small country of contrast the cry goes out “Do Not Interfere”. Let them be.

The barb wire is everywhere to keep the gangs and criminals out. Yet there are flowers growing freely in this land of sun and water. Reviewing the pictures, my notes and reflection on experiences, I will try to learn from this land of contrast, barb wire and flowers.


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