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

Rain Garden
August 2010

Tomatoes & Basil
from Front Lawn
Garden 2010

Back Yard
Garden 08/02/09

Click below to read any post in full.’‘

Hopes and Disappointments of Year - Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 has been a season of great hopes and of great disappointments. A great hope are the breakout of nonviolent revolutions from Egypt to Wall Street. Yesterday I heard about a documentary about Gene Sharp, the father of modern day nonviolent revolutions. The documentary is called How to Start A Revolution . Let’s hope the Occupy Wall Street movement can be revived in the spring and spread.

A disappointment this year was again our President, Barack Obama. As a candidate when he said “Yes We Can” we all filled in what it was we can do working together. I guess he did not share in our goals or else he decided to compromise and forget what we can do. Today, New Year’s Eve he signed the National Defense Authorization Bill which among many violent things allows US citizens to be held without due process by the government. Of course he said he would not do that as long as he is president but he has a history of doing what he said he will not do.

We can learn from our disappointments, electoral politics and the military/industrial/education complex and from our successes like practicing nonviolent resistance for real change you can believe in and see.

For myself I feel renewed in resistance to stop the teaching of war and immoral values, like reflexive killing, killing without conscience at Marquette University. However whatever hopes or disappointments happen in the New Year of 2012 they will be our choices of past and present and affect our choices in the future.


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Hero has Fallen - Friday, December 30, 2011

Will Allen conducting
a tour in 2004

Today my email mailbox was full of request for last minute end of the year donations. One of them was from Will Allen of Growing Power. Will was a real inspiration for me in starting my Home Model Growing Power Gardens and, in an indirect way, for the beginning of this web site. He gave me a lot of advice in the early days about building my home gardens, even at one time visiting our house.

Over the years as Will has become a bigger and bigger player in the world of growing affordable and healthy food in urban farms I do not see him much except on TV, press releases or appeals. Nowadays Growing Power charges lots of money for anything, even the free tours which I used to always go on and ask questions now cost $10.

Will has received many major donations, grants and honors for his work on urban growing, millions of dollars and even invitations from the White House. However, in today’s appeal I got wind of a million dollar donation Will has accepted from Wal-Mart Corporation. To many of us Wal-Mart, the largest corporation in the world is a symbol of greed and exploitation of workers, the opposite of what Growing Power stands for.

In an email sent to Will tonight I wrote: “I am sure you are aware of how much Wal-Mart takes from taxpayers to support the exploration of the poor, how poor Wal-Mart does in paying health insurance and decent wager to employees, how Wal-Mart is profitable built on slave labor in China and the Florida tomato growers (Coalition of Immokalee Workers), and how the wealth of Wal-Mart family is 90 billion dollar which they do not share with those in need.

But your idealistic argument on your web site really disturbs me: “We can no longer be so idealistic that we hurt the very people we’re trying to help. Keeping groups that have the money and the power to be a significant part of the solution away from the Good Food Revolution will not serve us.

This is the same argument used by those who oppose boycott of buying from sweat shops or those who opposed the boycott of apartheid South Africa used. Will, “the end never justifies the means” and you are hurting the poor by such thinking, as Bishop Tutu of South Africa will tell you and the poor of Haiti and Latin America sadly know.”

I doubt if I will hear from him but one of three or four Growing Power board members may respond. Another hero has fallen and perhaps he can justify accepting the million dollars but I cannot.


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Between Holy Days - Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Tree 2011

Between the holy days of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, and New Years, celebrating Mary the mother of Jesus, we have been busy visiting family and friends, catching up on chores around the house and eating and sleeping more than normal. My wife Pat had a vacation week so we were able to do the above together. There is more visiting and celebrating to do but having some in between time between Holy Days has been good.

Today we took stuff and purchased stuff at one of my favorite stores, the Goodwill thrift store. It is always amazing to me how I can purchase some fine clothes at a very low price and still fill good about it. Our brother-in-law that had suddenly died before Christmas made one of his last trips in a car to the local St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Store. He purchased a very nice sport jacket and shirt which he was buried in. About the same time I had purchased a similar sports jacket and shirt at our local Goodwill Thrift Store. During our Graf family gathering I wore it. Thrift stores are helpful for life and death.

This year, due to our family get together, we purchased a real Christmas tree and put lights, ornaments and even tinsel on it. In between seasons the Christmas tree is a good reminder of the joy and beauty that runs between these holy days and throughout the New Year.


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Midnight In Paris - Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tonight we went to the local Budget Theater to see Woody Allen’s recent movie Midnight in Paris. Like many of Woody Allen’s movies this one has a light, romantic and humorous touch to it. But what I found interesting was the protagonist’s fear and fascination with death. In fear of death he was afraid to take risk yet he kept regretting his past decisions and was living in the past. He is transformed at the end of the movie to face death and finds new life in the present.

There is a lot more to the movie but this underlying theme of facing death, as some you know, was of special interest to me. Living with death and facing the fear of death head on is the only way to live fully in the present I believe. It is sometimes hard to articulate thoughts about death but this movie does it in an understandable, light and funny way.

Men and woman not afraid to die, like Earnest Hemmingway, appeared in the story talking directly about taking risk, even risk of death, to fully live. How to live in peace and face death is still a mystery to me but experiencing “Midnight in Paris shines some light on the subject.


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Best Christmas Party Ever? - Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Graf Family Christmas
Gathering 2011

Today we had a Graf family Christmas party here at our house in Milwaukee. Graf family members came from Littleton,Colorado, Iowa City, Iowa and Angelica, Wisconsin. We were missing a few family members due to illness and distance but we all had a good time.

The main event was the Stuffed Grape Leaves Dinner, an annual tradition of our middle eastern ancestry we celebrate whenever we get together. Today the grape leaves had been picked in our backyard during the summer and today wrapped by nephews, brother, grandchildren and Pat and I. As usual we ran out of Grape leaves at the end of the meal, but managed to save some for my sick brother back in Iowa City. We played games and watch home videos from the old days when some of us were much younger and some not even born.

We are blessed in Milwaukee with a local Middle Eastern store operated by three Palestinian brothers and their families. There we can purchase freshly made pita bread, bulgur, pine nuts, feta cheese, olives and all the ingredients for a good Middle Easter meal. But the important ingredients are the grape leaves which are handpicked.

Grape leaves from vines that do not produce grapes are present all over the world. The recipe for making Stuffed Grape Leaves has been passed on from generation to generation. My full blooded Italian wife, Pat, learned how to make grape leaves from my mother who had learned it from her older sisters (since her mother died when she was young) who learned it from her mother and on and on all the way to our ancestral home in Lebanon which at the time my grandfather came to USA was Syria.

I have found grape leaf vines growing in Guatemala, India and other countries I have visited. It is a universal food that if it is cooked with proper ingredients, rice, meat and spices is delicious, at least to all the members of our family, from the youngest, my seven year old granddaughter to the oldest, me.

After some had left my seven year granddaughter came up to me and said this was the best Christmas party ever for her. The ingredients were family, games, memories and Grape Leaves.


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Christmas Leftovers - Monday, December 26, 2011

At Christmas time some of us eat too much but still there are leftovers. Here are some Christmas leftovers from Nonviolent Cow in the last week.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel just made its first documentary video, Imminent Danger. It is about the dilemma of getting persons with mental illnesses treatment. For more videos of individuals in documentary and for the articles in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel check it out.

Some of you may be familiar with Francis Pauc who does the blog on called Father At War. His recent letter to editor published in MJS last week was about Politicians Mocking Sacrifice of Soldiers in the recent National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.

Liberals and Conservatives that have read National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 agree that the bill passed by Congress and being put into law by the President does authorize the detention of American citizens without due process. The bill was passed by the overwhelming majority of Senators on December 15, 2011, the 250th anniversary of the Bill of Rights.

For those who want to fight the war at home there are colleges and universities like Marquette University, University of Notre Dame and University of Wisconsin in Madison that host regional base Schools of the Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force. They still refuses (or cannot answer) the academic, ethical and moral objections of being a military officer training center. These Schools of Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force account for over 80% of military officers. Recently I was part of a conference call with peacemakers in Baltimore who are battling the military training at Loyola in Maryland. One of the participants, David Tenney, was a former ROTC student who wrote an article for a local university magazine about why he quit ROTC. He is now a high school religion teacher. His article is called ROTC and Just War.

I have been thinking about the “Made in America” campaign that is taking on some new life. In response to a friend who thinks highly of Wal-Mart I found this quote from Same Walton the founder of Wal-Mart.]] : “So our primary goal became to work with American manufacturers, and see if our formidable buying power could help them deliver the goods, and in the process, save some American manufacturing jobs.” (Sam Walton in his 1992 autobiography “Made In America”).

As a Melkite Catholic I was touched by this Doomsbury Cartoon that was sent to me last week: You can find it at Editorial Cartoons or below. I hope you enjoyed some of the Christmas Leftovers.


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A Day In Between - Sunday, December 25, 2011

a lot of disregard by Peter Graf

Christmas 2011 was quiet day for my wife, Pat, and I. We came back from up north yesterday,from our son’s house were we celebrated with 12 children, 9 adults and three dogs. Tomorrow my brothers and family from Colorado and Iowa plus our son and family from Shawano County head our way.

However today, Christmas day, was a day in between the two family celebrations. We had a day to catch up on chores, watch the Packer’s football game, call friends to wish them a Merry Christmas and just hang around the house.

Last night at the Christmas liturgy a young woman volunteered to sing Silent Night for all of us. It was a spur of the moment decision for this woman who was just in town visiting, but it helped us all to get into the true Christmas season. Most of life is not days of big celebrations but more days like today, a day in between. Finding Jesus in quiet in between days can make Christmas every day.


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Children of Light - Saturday, December 24, 2011

Child of Haiti

A child shall be the light of the world is the message of Christmas Eve. As I get older I find this message grows clearer. Children, especially young ones, are not locked in the dark prison of the mind as many of us adults are. As I walking from my car to a store today I saw a young child that was locked in the car while her mother was shopping. I gave her a smile and she gave me even a bigger smile back. No fear in this child are eyes of this stranger smiling at her.

When I was in Haiti, ( Haiti Return To Slavery or Freedom) at a Sunday liturgy my eyes met the eyes of a young girl going back to her seat after bring up an offertory gift. She gave me a smile which I returned. It turns out she was sitting at the end of an aisle a few rows ahead of me. Haitians are very poor, living in the poorest nation in the world, yet at Sunday mass everyone is dressed up in their best clothes as she was. She kept turning around in her chair smiling at me. I returned the smile and after Mass went up to her and her mother and asked, without using words, if I could take the girls picture. The mom said yes and she was glad to have her picture taken. I probably will never see her again but her smile lives on in my memory.

The last few days I took some pictures at my son’s house full of 12 children. One was a silly one of my granddaughter and her cousin. Silly pictures come naturally to young children who are not worried what people think of them. The picture is below.

The child in the manger is the light of the world, as it was, is now and will be.


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Christmas Cows - Friday, December 23, 2011

It is two nights before Christmas and I am surrounded by 12 grandchildren, three of our own and nine of my daughter in law’s sister’s families. They are of age of one to nineteen and all call me Grandpa although their other grandpa, real one to all, is present.

The day has been one of awe, seeing the cows on the dairy farm across the road and one of chaos, opening of Christmas gifts. There has been plenty of food and lots of imaginative game playing, especially before the toy gifts were open.

I noticed many of teens and adults checking out their smart cell phones. I have to plead guilty to being one of them, with the desire to play with my new one. I forgot to mention there are three dogs around the house, my son’s family dog and her two parents that came up with one of the families. My son’s dog and her mother seemed to have unresolved issues.

Looking back on the day the most relaxing part for me was taking the younger children to see all the cows, across the road, a new born baby cow, young cows, mother and milking cows. Cows seem to have a way of lighting up the face of a child,perhpas in a small way how the baby Jesus lit up the world. Christmas cows certainly lit up this day for me.


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To Be Three - Thursday, December 22, 2011

Carson on new Nook

Today is my oldest grandson’s birth. He is 14 and very creative started his own page on this site, Carson Graf, and contributed to the Graf Kids web page. But not much lately.

Since entering middle school he has been too busy playing sports, being in th middle school band, participating in 4-H, and playing his various video games, the latest being on his new I Pod Touch.

In my view children reach the peak of creative imagination at age three. At three they have not started school and learned how to label and classify everything. I often say that I want to be like a three year old when I grow up. Being that I am 68, people take my remark as a joke. But there is some kernel of truth to this wish.

I mentioned my desire to be three in an email to a friend I recently met.
She wrote back saying: “According to one of my professors in Barcelona, Picasso said that that it took him his entire life to learn to draw like a child. I think being three is a wonderful goal.”

Thinking about the paintings of Picasso I can see how he brought the wisdom of his age to the creative imagination of a three year old.

My grandson has maintained his love of reading. So for his birthday and Christmas this year we purchased him a “nook”, an electronic reader where he can download books and allow his imagination flourish in reading.

Thinking about young men and woman, just a few years older than my grandson going to war “to kill or be killed” saddens me and makes me ponder how unimaginative and creative war can be. How many famous warriors can we name that were great artists? If our education system was based more on imagination than linear thinking and pasting test we might be producing less soldiers and more creative, nonviolent peacemakers. Oh, to be three!


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Christmas Rush - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I am experiencing the Christmas rush without even going shopping. There seems to be an increase in friends request for help, more stuff to do around the house, more emails, letters and cards to read, more corresponding, more phone calls and just plain more to do.

Jesus was born in a cave for feeding animals with just his parents. He was placed in a manager used to feed animals. It was a silent night in Palestine with maybe a few shepherd wandering in and out of the cave.

This picture of the birth of Jesus is in contrast to what Christmas is today. We feel we should be happy and have gifts and friends all around and be full of joy. If we do not, if we are lonely and afraid this time of year, it can be a very difficult experience. Keeping busy is one way to avoid the absence of meaning in the consumerism of Christmas today.

I long for the silent Christmas. It is there if I can stop doing and hear and see the lonely child in the manager or on the street. Instead of Christmas rush we may need Christmas slow down and more silent nights.


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Road Trip: Bigger the Better - Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Today my friend Joe and I moved another friend’s stuff from a rural area of Easter Iowa back to Milwaukee. She moved back to Milwaukee but had left lot of her stuff in a rural home in Iowa. How much stuff, Joe and I did not know.

Originally the three of us were to go there with a pickup truck from another friend, rent a U Haul trailer nearby and come back. As we talked more about this we decided it would just be best to take our car there and rent a U Haul truck. A 21 foot truck seemed more than enough for her stuff.

When U Haul called and said would we like to take a 26 foot truck, the largest one they have, for the same price as 21 foot truck, we said yes. Our friend Joe had experience driving big trucks. So early this morning the three of us by car crossed Wisconsin and right before the Mississippi river picked up the truck and went to this rural spot.

Fortunately someone there had boxed our friend’s stuff, except the furniture. We started to pack the boxes in the truck and every time we thought we were near the end of the boxes we found more ready to go. After we packed all the boxes there was barely enough room for the little furniture our friend was taking back to Milwaukee. At the end the whole 26 foot truck was packed tight. We left at 7:30 am from here and returned with full car and full truck around 9:30pm.

Using my new camera and new IPhone I took pictures which eventually I will put on the internet with a pictorial story of our ‘road trip.’ But for now I want to say, when taking a road trip to move stuff, the bigger is the better in truck size.


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Awake! - Monday, December 19, 2011

Wake Up!

Last Thursday, Dec. 15th, exactly 220 years after the Bill of Rights was ratified, the U.S. Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, allowing the indefinite detention and torture of Americans. When I first heard about the indefinite detention of American was in this Defense Bill]] passed by Congress and that President had said he would not veto it I could not believe it. I check it out and it was true but I heard little or nothing from the media and various peace groups and friends. Some say they did not believe it so I send them the few news report and comments on this part of the defense Bill. Finally today I received an email from someone in one of the peace group list that was outraged at this denial of the right of a U.S. citizen to due process of the law.

To me this casual awareness and acceptance of the lost of this basic human right is a sign of the time. We are all too busy with work, Christmas shopping, our own political and social causes that we are asleep. Where are the libertarians, conservatives and liberals when you need them?

One of the themes of the liturgical season of Advent, four weeks before celebration of Christmas, is waking up. When I was a youth minister and with youth planned a Mass in Advent we started it with an alarm clock going off on the alter and the start of some rap song that screamed “Awake”.

In the east people talked about ‘enlightenment’ which is not experiencing something new in life but really being awake to the present, seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling deep into the life of the moment.

In the West when an important issue comes up we talk and talk about it until the next hot issue comes up and we talk and talk about that etc. We seldom act and say like some are saying in the Occupy Wall Street Movement “we will not take it anymore”, we will stay here disrupt and occupy till there is change.

If a Martin Luther King Jr. or a political leader was emerging to unite people in struggling for basic human rights the government could stop that person, make him or her disappear indefinitely. But if the people move as a group, leaderless but united and strong, we could all come forward and, when asked for our leader by the government, say: “I am Spartacus.”

This is the heart of nonviolent power when individuals become aware of the powers they possess to “speak truth to power”, join forces, work together and be Awake.


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Odds and Ends from the Week - Sunday, December 18, 2011

Life becomes livable only to
the extent that death is treated
as a friend, never as an enemy

Tired tonight I am going to share a few new but old items from last week.

This week the article about mental illness that the local newspaper has been working on for about a year came out. If you check the article out at Imment danger and click on my picture (the full gray haired one) for a little bit of my story about my son Peter.

In case you missed it on this posting find some humor in the tragedy of Haiti with this video: Apple’s IPhone 4s, Siri, Speaks Haitian Creole

Under Teach War No More there is a new article One Less Excuse for Catholic Jesuit Universities to Teach War

Finally on the side and below is a new picture quote from Gandhi about death, a topic that I see to be concerned with the last year.


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To Give And Get - Saturday, December 17, 2011

It was just another day but it was a day closer to Christmas,
And with the shopping delayed I was glad that I had a few people on my gift list.
Christmas is a time of Joy, so they say,
But many find it a time of stress.
What to buy or not buy,
Who to give to and not give to,
Are the questions we ask as, if that was the meaning of Christmas?
Maybe it is.
The days are getting darker but at Christmas they will start getting longer.
We had no real snow yet but the reindeer will not mind,
For it means less slipping and sliding.
To give and get is what we do to celebrate the birth of Jesus
Who we say is our light and guide in the way of God.


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Walk Through Death To Life - Friday, December 16, 2011

Walk through darkness to the light

Once again death has struck our family. Our nephew called last night to tell us the sad news that his father, my wife’s sister’s husband, had died. Although he had cancer he died from an embolism, a blockage of an artery. It might have been a result of a botched surgical procedure that was meant to alleviate his pain but resulted in more pain.

My brother-in-law, as I told my wife’s sister tonight, was one of the most ‘decent’ persons I have ever met. By that I mean he was kind and good to all persons, quick to be generous with his time, money and talent. He was always there when someone needed help.

He grew up in the same little town as my wife did, outside of Boston. My wife knew him since she was ten and started to date her older sister that was in highs school with him at the time. For many years we used to take family vacations on Cape Cod where his grandchildren and our grandchildren got to play and fish in the ocean. We did not always agree on politics but there was no way a person could dislike him.

As with the death of my son I am somewhat numb about this one. As I said many a times in the last year and a half death follows me around and haunts me. I know I cannot accept death as the end so fight it but, at last, must work through death until the light.

About a year ago I was interviewed about the death of my son by a local reporter. I talked some about the stigma that stalked my son, who suffered from a brain disease, a mental illness until he died. Watching the video now on the internet at the site on Imminent Danger I realize how well I have adapted to the sorrow of death in my life. (Just click on the picture of the old white haired fat check guy.)

I told my sister-in-law something I am sure she already knows: Face the darkness of death, do not avoid it, and go through it. In death there is life. Walk though death to life


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Humor in Haiti! - Thursday, December 15, 2011

Haitian Hat Dance with a Milwaukee
Brewer’s baseball cap

In our web site Haiti, Return to Slavery or Freedom the extreme poverty of people and suppression of human rights in Haiti is evident yet a deep down beauty shines through. However, the sense of humor of the Haitian people was not communicated until yesterday. A friend from the delegation send me this YouTube video Apple’s IPhone 4s, Siri, Speaks Haitian Creole. Watch it, laugh and appreciate this Haitian humor brought to you by the Haiti X Change.

It was coincidentally that yesterday our upgraded cell phone, Apple I Phones 3Gs, arrived in the mail. It does not speak but get do a lot of things. I am resisting the temptation of playing around with it but still trying to get the basics, my phone numbers and calendar on it. It is an amazing device and makes a wonderful contrast to the situation in Haiti where it is hard to find a paved road, decent housing or clean water despite the millions of dollars invested in Haiti after the earthquake. In the IPhone we can see the time and money invested in it by Apple. In Haiti we still ask the question: Where did the money go?

This brief video shows how the Haitian people can take all the negative attitudes and stereotypes of its people and still live on, by using the gift of humor in Haiti.


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Less Liberty - Wednesday, December 14, 2011

City and people of Fallujah
destroyed in the Iraq war.

One of Frank’s military friends in response to his blog, Father At War posting The Recruiter wrote: “One of the blessings we have in this country is that our military has fought and defended this nation to secure the liberty that allows us to have and express different opinions.”

This statement went to the heart of something I have been thinking about for a long time: How can I support the warriors but not the war? While admiring and respecting persons in the military I do not believe, since I came to age in the 60′s, the wars fought by the US military have “defended this nation to secure the liberty that allows us to have and express different opinions.” The wars during this time are Vietnam, Iraq, one and two and Afghanistan. Also there have been many US military interventions during this time into Lebanon, Yemen, Somali, Libya etc. In fact I believe the wars during this time by the USA have more endangered our freedom and liberty.

In the sixties, when I became aware of the war in Vietnam, I was able to listen to both sides of our engagement in the war. We had “Teach Ins’ at the campus where the merits of the war were argued civilly. I saw the war in action on TV and read books about Vietnam before forming my opinion. Nowadays most people are silent about our present wars, and there is not much creative conflicts and talks. Soldiers coming back, although honored, are many times wounded inbody and so. Quite often the find themselves in an “alien” world where there is no sacrifice for the war by most Americans, not even paying for it. Soldiers are honored for fighting for our freedom but do not feel it. The promise of education, a job, adventure, money draws our young men and women into the military but is often a lure to a broken life.

In the fifties and sixties I was proud of my Middle Eastern ancestry and being a Melkite Christian. I did not feel or believe in the people in the Middle East, as one of Frank’s friends stated “hate Americans in general, but they hate YOU as an individual. It doesn’t matter that they have never met you. They hate YOU. No amount of love and kindness is ever going to get them to change.” In the 50′s or 60′s I did not think that was true but now, after the invasions and wars, I do think this is true for many persons in the Middle East.

There is a Melkite Christian priest, Ellias Chacour” who writes in his book “Blood Brothers” about growing up in a small Palestinian village in Galilee. He writes how town people lived in peace with their Jewish neighbors until 1948 when the ‘new’ European Jews came, took his Father and brother away as terrorist, took his Father’s fig orchard and destroyed his village. However his Father taught his family not to fight back and be kind and loving to these enemies.

Christians, a minority in the Middle East often suffered the worst repressions and discrimination and were driven out of their land. That some people of the Middle East hate us for what we and our allies did to them is not justifiable but understandable.

Before the recent war in Iraq there were no reported “al-Quaeda” militants in Iraq. After the war there was. I remember one that was captured thanking the USA for its “preemptive” active on Iraq and how it did more for their cause than they could ever do. Violence on the people of the Middle East is


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Great Teachers - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Father Robert Purcell S.J.

Nature is holding back winter, it is just cold and in the 50’s for now. This is good and will give my body a chance to adjust before the real cold and snow comes. Of all the seasonal body adjustments I find this one, fall to winter, the hardest. The sun seldom comes out and snow for me is just something to bear.

In our bi-weekly faith sharing group today the question was asked who our best teacher was. I have had a few great teachers but, for me, the answer was simple. Easily it was Fr. Purcell S.J. my speech teacher for the four years I was at Jesuit College, a Jesuit seminary in Minnesota. I entered the place a shy, introverted student with a speech defect and left four years later as an articulate, extroverted student without much of a speech defect.

Father Purcell taught us all how to speak figuratively and for me literally. One technique he taught us was how to keep an observation diary, to notice small things in life and see deeply into them. One of my first entries in my first Observation Diary was: “A mufti-colored rainbow effect is produced in the insides of milk pitchers after constant use.” I consider these postings Diary of A Worm, when they are at their best, an outgrowth of this lesson of how to keep an observation diary. Over the years I was able to keep in contact with Father Purcell and visited him often in his later years and was able to give him pages from the Diary of the Worm.

When Father Purcell noticed my speech defect he gave me special attention and tutoring. One summer he took a special course in Chicago of how to work with persons like myself. When he returned he had special exercises and tapes for me to practice speaking clearly. Thanks to him, after four years I was able to communicate effectively and clearly.

I noticed today at Faith Sharing that all the best teachers mentioned were ones that gave the person special attention, usually positive but in a few case negative. We all seek attention and recognition for who we are. We are not an island and need others to challenge us and/or encourage us. We all need great teachers.


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Time and Timelessness - Monday, December 12, 2011

Tell Time by Peter Graf

In nature we find timelessness and time. Seasons come and go but there is an element of timelessness in a beautiful sunset or a grand landscape.

In my life time dominates timelessness. For example, this morning I shut off the alarm clock instead of putting it on snooze and was upset when I work up much latter that I had wanted to. Time was lost in my opinion. This afternoon I took my friend Ann to a doctor’s appointment. The appointment was brief, but going to her apartment, getting her and wheel chair into her van, driving to the clinic, driving back with a few brief stops, in my mind, took too much time. Ann has been in pain for over four years and the more she sees Doctors, has surgeries and treatments the greater her pain gets. Time and healing have no relationship.

Tonight I went to get my cell phone to put on the phone calendar a few things to do tomorrow. I could not find my cell phone and thus my calendar. Hopefully I left it in Ann’s van but will not know till tomorrow. I realized my attachment to my phone to communicate and to manage my time is great.

I always talk about timelessness, being detached, and going deeply into the moment. But in practice I find it hard to do since timelessness is not doing but just being. What phone calls am I missing by not having my cell phone in hand? Do they matter?

Working in the garden, being in silence or mediating, praying seem to be acts of timelessness. Technology, like the cell phone, throws us back to time.

Time or timelessness is not a choice as doing or being is not. In the balance of time and timelessness lives a meaningful life.


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Stay Out of Prison - Sunday, December 11, 2011

This morning at Church our pastor, Brother Jerry, spoke of the scripture message to free the prisoners. Our Church is next to two large jails and has a major prison ministry. But he made us aware that some of the prisons we find ourselves in are self made.

One of the things of Advent, the waiting time before Christmas, is to “wake up”. Often because of fear or just not wanting to know we walk unaware and insensitive to our daily lives. I feel we have an obligation to wake ourselves up and live fully in the present but also to try to wake others up, even when it means disturbing the conscience of others.

Sometimes we wake up or disturb others when we are just trying to be true to ourselves. In last night’s posting told you about the experience of my friend, Frank, whose latest article on his blog Father At War was about his experience with an Army recruiter trying to recruit his son. Frank, being a pacifist, simply explains to the recruiter, his son, and all of us reading the blog his sincere beliefs.

A few of his friends are fellow West Point graduates who he is still in contact with, while most just ignore him and his message. One of his friends was really disturbed by the recent entry The Recruiter and took it as a personal attack on him and let Frank know about it. Frank appreciates friends that recognize him rather than ignore him but his blog was not an attack on anyone.

I find myself in this same position, especially being ignored on the message of Marquette, a Jesuit Catholic University should not be teaching war on campus. When someone attacks me it is for my delivery of the message not the message. The message seems to disturb their conscience and rather than deal with it they ignore the message and ignore or attack the messenger.

When this happens Frank or I can put ourselves in a self imposed prison fearing we might offend someone or we can continue, with reflections, speaking, writing and acting on our conscience. This way we can stay out of prison.


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Not Normal or Natural - Saturday, December 10, 2011

Earlier today my friend Frank sent me another article for his blog on called Father At War. It is a description of a family interview with an Army recruiter that is recruiting his youngest son. Frank, although a West Point graduate, is opposed, with his wife, to war and putting young persons in a position they must “kill or killed.” They are still adjusting to older son who is now serving in the military in Iraq and now with the thought of their younger son, a high school senior, interested in joining the army, is overwhelming.

Tonight Frank and his wife joined Pat and I for dinner and although we had a wide ranging conversation about life, we did drift into talking about their son being recruited from high school to the military. Knowing Frank and his wife has given me the major illness of militarism in our society.

Individuals suffered from mental illnesses that are brain diseases. American society suffers from militarism which is social diseases. Mental illnesses are incurable but often can be treated. Militarism is curable but is not treated. Society regularly stigmatizes persons with mental illnesses but praises members of the military empire. Most people with a mental illness, one of four Americans, do not stand out but when one does we make much of it. Militarism so invades our society we barely notice it. We even teach war and killing without conscience in our schools.

People with mental illness take medication for treatment. Persons in our militaristic society use violence as an answer to solving conflicts. Persons with mental illnesses seek refuge with family, friends and therapists. Our military society seeks refuge in making guns and weapons of violence more available to all.

Last night in this posting I wrote about ”Next to Normal”, the rock musical about mental illness. If there was rock music about militarism it could be call “Greed is Good”. In a militaristic society people are taught to fight for honor, power and riches. Military might is not normal or natural.


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Next to Normal - Friday, December 09, 2011

Tonight my wife, Pat, and I attended a performance of the rock musical Next to Normal at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Simply said it is a story about a “mother who struggles with worsening bipolar disorder and the effect that her illness has on her family.” But it is so much more. It is a powerful commentary on a disease one of four people experience and touches all of us. The music touches our very being and wakes up to a true understanding of this incurable disease. People with this brain disease need treatment and support of love ones but must learn, along with family and friends, that being “next to normal” is okay. The song ends with a song of how we all need the light.

The musical was two and half hours long but the emotion and feelings were timeless and made the play go by quickly. I thought I had come to terms with the suicide of my son Peter who had suffered greatly with this disease, but the words and music dug up feelings I had suppressed and they expressed so much of what I had learned about this disease of the mind. I could identify with the wife who had bipolar, her husband, the faithful caregiver and the daughter who struggled with life.

We got to the play because I was listening to public radio as I normally do when I am in the car driving. Some actors and the director from the production were on regular talk show originating here in Milwaukee. A musical about person with a mental illness and her family sounded interesting and not so normal. When we got there it was rock musical that made you laugh and cry and face the darkness of this disease yet see the light.

It left me realizing that my other son, my wife and I, like many others will need to live in the space of “Next to Normal”.


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From This Point Forward - Thursday, December 08, 2011

Last year two alleged sexual assaults by athletes at one of the dorms at Marquette University went unreported to police by Marquette officials. Everyone admits not reporting these alleged attacks were a violation of State and Federal laws by Marquette. When the allegation were finally reported the District Attorney, although admitting Marquette broke the State Law, he decided not to prosecute the university. A Federal investigation is still in process.

The Athletic Director of Marquette took the fall for the coaches and administrators that knew about the alleged attacks. Yesterday when a new Athletic Director was appointed he and the new President of the University went out of their way to say that “from this point forward” Marquette would follow all State and Federal laws involving reporting alleged sexual assaults. The fact they both used the words “from this point forward” struck me.

When the sexual abuse scandal hit the Catholic Church in the 90’s the Bishops made similar statements that this type of behavior would not be tolerated “from this point forward”. However, when it came to what happened and what they knew about sins of the past there was not much transparency. They were saying, in fact, “from this point forward” we will report allegations of sexual abuse and not cover it up.

Many countries where there have been atrocities in the past try to say “from this point forward”, they will be no more, but fail, unlike South Africa, to make known and transparent the crimes of the past.

The problem with this philosophy of “from this point forward” is that humans have great memories and unless the past is recognized, forgiveness and justice become hard. Forgiveness by the victim is easier when the perpetrator recognizes the wrong. Transparency of past violations and wrongs are necessary to move forward and honestly and effectively say “from this point forward.”


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Structure Speaks Louder Than Words - Wednesday, December 07, 2011

One of the sayings I have picked up in life is “What you do says more than what you say.” Often the structure says more than we teach.

An example came to my attention today. The Catholic Church has declared eight days of the year as “Holy Days of Obligation”, days that Catholics should attend Mass, a worship service. Tomorrow is one of these days, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. However, there are very few extra special Masses scheduled in Catholic Churches for tomorrow. When I was a child, a Holy Day was a big thing, like a Sunday, and everyone was expected to attend one of the many Masses at each church. Now Christmas seems to be the only day with extra Masses to accommodate all the Catholics, many who only come to Church on Christmas.

Recently I have been trying to change the structure of how conference members make home visits in the north side of Milwaukee. We say we serve the poor but we based our service on outdated boundaries of churches that no longer exist.

Another example of what you do, the structure you create, speaking louder than any words occurred in 1968 when a few of us were protesting against what we called “institutional racism” at Marquette University. Marquette said they were open to all, yet, outside of the basketball team, there were only about a dozen African American students. Marquette after protests and nonviolent actions changed. Now it says it believes in peacemaking the ‘priority of conscience’ and Christian values yet host military science department that teach killing and values contrary to the Gospel.

When I was a youth minister I learned soon this lesson. Many parents and religious educators said how important and valuable it was to learn about your faith yet religious educations were only once or twice a month for about 7 months to year. The structure said more to youth of the significance of religious education than anything parents or teachers said. When our few classes or retreats were in conflict with a sports event, basketball, football or volleyball many parents were the first to complain and encourage the youth to choose the sporting event over the religious education event. When the Churches in recent years had to make financial decisions often the youth minister or director of religious education were the first to go.

There are so many more examples in all our lives, what is done matters more than what is said. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits, in talking about love said it this way: “Love ought to show itself in deeds over and above words. Structure, like deeds, speaks louder than any words.


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Ten Lessons Learned in the Bathroom - Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The following posting is rated G E, Good for Everyone.

Recently I have had some work to do in my bathroom. The caulk around my bathtub became moldy and black. I thought the job would be simple. But my handy man friend, bathroom expert, told me that the caulk was silicone, heavy and hard to remove but that it all had to be removed before we could caulk it again. I said no problem, got the caulk remover and started to remove it with a putty knife. It did not go easily so I did it again and again. Still there was a roughness of the caulk. I ran out of caulk removal, purchased some more only to find out what the local hardware man had sold was not the right stuff. After some more cleanings I went to another location of the chain store where I purchased the original removal. The remover did not look like the old stuff so I asked a clerk if this was what I needed. He said yes but it did not work well. So today I went back to the same location of the chain store I had purchased the caulk remover the first time and without looking just asked the clerk for help. She led me back to same stuff I originally purchased so I am cleaning the caulk off over and over again. Each time we take a shower I need to put tape over the edge of bathtub so water does not leak in the basement. I am getting closer to getting it ready for new caulk to be applied but am not there yet.

While I was doing this the toilet seat top broke. I thought this is one thing I know how to do and had done before, it would be easy. I purchased a new toilet seat cover but when taking out the bolts on the old one found they were corroded and not ready to be removed. So again I am consulting my friend, the expert on bathrooms, who himself is remodeling a bathroom presently. In the meanwhile we are using the handicap toilet top my wife had when she was ill with a muscle disease.

Now the ten lessons learned in the bathroom are: 1) No job in the bathroom is simple as it seems. 2) The three main fixtures in the bathroom, toilet, bathtub and sink, need water to operate. 3) Persistence pays off in the bathroom. 4) Be careful what you buy; make sure it is the right stuff. 5) It is good to have a friend who you can call on for bathroom repairs. 6) Bathrooms are the smallest rooms in a house but play a big role in daily life. 7) Keep you tools organized so you are not running around looking for the right tool or need to purchase another one. 8) It is good to have an understanding wife when doing bathroom repair. 9) Do the job right in the first place so you do not need to do it over and over again. 10) Have a sense of humor while working in the bathroom. Ten lessons learned in the bathroom.


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Good Old St. Nick - Monday, December 05, 2011

Icon of St. Nicholas

My young friend Sophia, who was over tonight for dinner with her Dad, reminded me that tomorrow was St. Nicholas Day. St. Nicholas was 4th-century saint and Bishop of Myra, part of modern-day Turkey. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus. Many countries celebrate St. Nicholas Day but in the USA it is only in cities with a strong German tradition, like Milwaukee.

As a child on the eve of St. Nicholas Day we hung our special stockings on the fireplace and went to sleep that St. Nicholas would come by and fill them with candy and toys. He always did. When our two sons were young I had to teach my wife about St. Nicholas day since in the small town outside of Boston area that she grew up there was no St. Nicholas Day.

Just as St. Nicholas was the model for Santa Clause St. Nicholas Day was the model for Christmas. In fact in such countries, like the Netherlands, St. Nicholas Day is the primary day of giving gifts.

These days when Christmas dominates the gift purchase market from October thru December St. Nicholas is almost forgotten. Christmas becomes the day of gift giving, dominating the original idea of Christmas, celebration of the birth of Jesus. So I was glad when my young friend reminded me that tomorrow is St. Nicholas Day.

Tonight when I asked my wife about hanging our socks on the fireplace she responded that our Christmas decorations were still in storage boxes in our basement. I have some regular stockings lying around the floor of the living room. They are much smaller than the St. Nicholas stockings but maybe I will put one on the fireplace just in case St. Nicholas comes tonight.

Today while running some errands I happened to stop at the Goodwill store and purchased myself, nice pants, shirt and suit jacket. Maybe I already received my St. Nicholas gift. But for the sake of memories I will hang the stocking waiting for good old St. Nick.


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Be Not Afraid - Sunday, December 04, 2011

Today my wife and I made a number of home visits to some people in need on behalf of our St. Vincent De Paul (SVDP) conference. We were able to help a few struggling families with beds, appliances and furniture. Also at a SVDP meeting last week of all the conferences on the North Side of Milwaukee I mentioned again my idea of restructuring the way calls for home visits are handled. Rather than using an outdated church boundary system to make home visits to those most in need. One of the objections I got for this idea was that persons in nicer neighborhoods, like where I live, do not want to make home visits in poorer neighborhoods.

These two experiences remind me of a story that happen to us when we were members of St. Vincent De Paul conference in Madison. Since our neighborhood was in a fairy middle class, like most neighborhoods in Madison are, we were called on to make home visits on two poorer areas in Madison on the north and south side. In one of these neighborhoods there was a housing project that had been a source of some violence. We were told that we did not need to make home visits in this area. However, my wife and I decided to make a home visit to a needy family in this housing project.

There was a bitter winter storm the day we choose to make the home visit. Although the streets were full of newly fallen snow we managed to make our way to the housing project. As we approach the housing project we noticed a group of young adult African makes standing on the street outside of the project. The streets had not been plowed but we managed to park our car, lock it and make out way to the apartment. After our home visit we went back to the car that was still there as was the group of young adult African American males. We were about to make our getaway but found our car stuck in the snow. We just could not get our car out of the snow. Suddenly we noticed the group of young men quickly making their way to our car. With the stories of violence in the neighborhood in our minds we were scared. The men got to our car and started to push us out of the snow. After we got out, I opened our window and thanked them.

I told a few of the people who warned me at the meeting last week that others would not want to make home visits in poor neighborhoods, especially those in predominately African American neighborhoods, not to be so quick to judge other Christians. As we learned that snowy day in Madison the poor have much to teach us about generosity. Now I know why Jesus told his early followers over and over again: “Do Not Be Afraid”.


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Am I Dead Yet? - Saturday, December 03, 2011

deadlast by Peter Graf

Last night I asked if “Am I Crazy”. A few friends wrote me insuring me that I was not crazy. That is good, but brings up another question: Am I Dead Yet?

Facing all the contradictions and paradoxes in daily life, the wide gap between what people say and what people do, makes me feel like I am dying. If that seems strange it is. Most of my life till recent years I feel that I was sleeping, alive but not awake. When I retired from working for employment, I kept working but now it was for what I wanted to do. It was freeing act that gradually open my eyes and ears to see and hear all the contradictions and paradoxes in life. Living with contradictions and paradoxes is not easy when you are awake.

I remember when at the beginning of the Iraq war a youth that I knew from youth ministry work was killed. The funeral liturgy was full of contradictions. Inside the church the memorial mass was solemn and sacred. However, at the end outside the Church doors that had been opened soldiers fire guns into the air in honor of my young friend. My young friend was a happy, go lucky teen and had a lot to live for. He entered the military for disciple, education or job experience? What he got was death in a war that should have never been.

When my son, who suffered a brain disease, died I really had to face death upfront and personal. At first I went on automatic pilot, ignoring my feelings of death and sorrow. When I woke up I felt the shadow of death around me and still do.

When one is awake, living with death, as it is in nature these early winter months, is natural. I know that I am not really dying but being awake and being ready to live life fully I know that I must face death daily. Like the winter season reminds us in Wisconsin there is no other way to live life without facing death. So I know I am not dead yet but the only way to live awake with contradictions and paradoxes is to face death each day till it comes.

With all this talk about being crazy and death, I feel that I am living too much in my head. So tomorrow I hope to turn my life and this posting back to observations of everyday life. Looking deeply into anything we can find life.


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Am I Crazy? - Friday, December 02, 2011

Before everyone jumps on the bandwagon and says Yes, please read a few examples below of why I ask the question.

Last year I read that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Corporations were human beings and money was free speech. Today I read in the newspaper four or more persons cannot exercise their right of free speech in the State Capitol building of Wisconsin without a permit and need to cover cost, $50 an hour per individual, of any Capitol Police called to scene.

Wisconsin passed a law that said that persons can carry concealed guns with a permit into the Capitol building except for selected posted areas. Yesterday I read that the Governor’s administration is barring openly carrying guns into state buildings, even people with valid concealed carry permits.

Recent alleged sexual abuse scandals, related to sports program, at Penn State and Syracuse University have both universities calling for a complete investigation. Yet last year when two women reported alleged sexual assaults by athletes to Marquette University, Marquette violated State and Federal law by not reporting these allegations to police authorities. On the State law side, the local District Attorney gave Marquette a pass for breaking the law and the Federal authorities are now starting to investigate the incidents and violations of Federal Law.

The Roman Catholic Church, which I am a member, are all upset about any Catholic priest supporting Catholic’s woman’s ordination. They are excommunicating clergy who in conscience supports woman’s ordination. Yet how many bishops who knew about sexual abuse allegations by priest and kept quiet about it have been excommunicated?

Many Christian churches firmly oppose abortion and teaching of abortion but are silent about the killing and teaching how to kill of babies, children, youth, and adults of all ages in wars that their churches have declared “illegal, immoral and unjust.”

Marquette University last year withdrew a job offer for a Dean of Students who was a lesbian stating they did not discriminate against anyone on the basis of sexual orientation; yet at the same time three departments at Marquette, departments of military sciences, were discriminating based on sexual orientation.

Marquette will not allow abortion to be taught on campus in the School of nursery but when the base school of Army on campus teaches the priority of military values over religious values and conscience they do nothing about it.

The list of contradictions I see in my mind could go on and on. But I need to ask who is sick, these institutions or “Am I Crazy.”


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Value of Nothing - Thursday, December 01, 2011

Tom and Mom

Every 10 days or so, I take my friend Tom to visit his mom at a residential community home in the suburbs. She suffers from dementia and other disabilities and this is a good home for her. However, her son and my friend also suffers from a disability and he has no way to visit her except with a ride. We have known Tom and his mother for some years as they were long time members of the same parish as we were until it was closed last year.

Tom and I get into some interesting discussions as we drive back and forth to the home. Tom, although younger than I, has had some various interesting life experiences and can articulate them quite well. Sometime we got into this discussion of calling each other “for no good reason” probably because when he calls he usually is looking for a ride to visit his mom. Today Tom was talking about some insights into life and how he finally was getting to a zero point, a balancing point between minus and plus.

I had thought and talked about “doing nothing” in times of life, which usually meant just being in the moment and not always doing. In my younger days I even wrote about “Waiting for Nothing” an easy essay that is below.

As we were talking about zero or nothing, in a joking and somewhat serious way, we started to praise the glories of being a zero or doing nothing. To me it means living in the silence of the moment, enjoying the being of everyone and being balanced. It also goes to the heart of unconditional love and treating everyone as family. It was an interesting discussion and reminded me of the value of zero or nothing.


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