This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in any form without prior authorization. Flovent for cats Laboratory and/or medical tests (such as lung function tests, eye exams, bone density tests, cortisol levels) should be performed periodically to monitor your progress or check for side effects. Immediate and delayed hypersensitivity reaction(including very rare anaphylactic reaction). Advair instructions This website is funded and developed by GSK.

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.’‘

Attack on the Messenger - Thursday, May 31, 2012

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

I have been trying to pull back from some activities and have been somewhat successful. However, in one area, resistance to Messmer Catholic High School become a military school, I have suffered a setback. With the help of some friends I wrote an article called Militarization of High Schools. It is a set a reasons why the High School should not consider a contract with Department of Defense for JROTC high school program. I have been stigmatized for my research and conscience about the military departments at the local Catholic University. But on this issue of militarizing a Catholic High School there have been a major reaction from President and CEO, staff and friends of the Catholic High School. They have made major false personal accusations and called the article on reasons for not having a military school a ‘rant’. However, they are not responded to the conscience issue that we have raised.

Part of me wants to withdraw from the issue and personal attacks but my conscience tells me not to withdraw from the struggle to speak the truth as I see it due to personal attack on my integrity and person. My conscience seems to dominate over my feelings. I do not know if this is a blessing or a curse but it is just the way it is. All I can do is to respond but not react to personal attacks.

Last weekend when I was visiting my son and his family I saw my 8th grade grandson get up early on Saturday to run a few miles. He is not considered the athlete in the family but he shows great self discipline. I am a self motivator but have a ways to go in self discipline.

I think I have got better on responding but not reacting to insults, stigmas and accusations. But I am still an easy target for someone to attack the messenger and ignore the message. How to stay positive and on the offensive not being defensive when under attack takes self discipline. I am too old and slow to start getting up in the morning early to run. But I can work on responding not reacting to an attack on the messenger.


back to top

Remembering All Victims of War - Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Soldiers Praying

Last Sunday on my posting I was wondering how to honor and pray for military men and women and Veterans without saying they gave their life for our freedom. The next day my friend, Frank Pauc, who writes the blog Father at War send me this reflection on a conversation he had after mass last Sunday. Frank is a veteran, has a son in the military presently who fought in Iraq and another son about to enter the military. He is also a pacifist who believes in “loving your enemy.”

His reflection was in the form of a ‘letter to the editor’ to the local Catholic Newspaper. I hope, but doubt, it will be published. But here it is:

On Pentecost I served as lector during the 10:30 Mass. Immediately after the liturgy was complete, a man approached me and said, “I’m going to tell the priest this too, but you didn’t say one word about the troops! It’s Memorial Day weekend! I’m so upset about this!” The parishioner rushed off before I could respond to his remarks. He was busy tracking down our priest. His passionate comments were not completely accurate; during the prayers of the faithful, we did ask God to remember those people that had given their lives in the service of our country. Apparently, that was not sufficient for this gentleman.

If I had had the opportunity, I would have told the irate parishioner that I had served in the Army, and that our son has seen combat in the Iraq war. Fortunately, our son has survived his battlefield experience. I agree wholeheartedly that we, as Catholics, should honor our soldiers and pray for them. We should do that on Memorial Day and every day.

If I could, I would ask our congregation to pray for our troops, and then take our prayer a bit further. We ought to also pray for the civilian non-combatants in our wars, the women and children who are killed or wounded simply because they get in the way of the fighting. If we can do that, then we might also find it in our hearts to pray for the enemies of our nation. Perhaps we could pray for the members of the Taliban who have died in battle, leaving behind widows and orphans. These people are also created in God’s image, just like our son. God loves them too.


back to top

Match Beat of Nature - Tuesday, May 29, 2012

“The goal of life is to make your
heartbeat match the beat of
the universe, to match your nature
with Nature.”
Joseph Campbell

In our Faith Sharing session this morning the question was poised what is on your bucket list of things to do before you die. There were many answers ranging from ‘cleaning my basement’ to ‘doing something meaningful’. It was an interesting question for me since this was the first time since my son’s, Peter’s, death in August, 2010 I have thought about this question. Since that time the shadow of death has surrounded me. These days when I stop to reflect the first thought is what is most important to do. Facing death puts activities in perspective.

My answer to the faith sharing question of what I want to do before death was to live fully in the present moment. When facing death, hope and life is found by living in the present moment.

Now that I find myself involved with a number of issue, more effective ways to serve the poor with home visits, stopping military training at local Catholic University and high school, confronting the local church about serving the poor and marginalized I could not live if I was to worry about future activity. Also living in the present is important since the aura of death makes one sensitive to violence, war, injury and insults, discrimination and other evils. To detach oneself from all this activity and suffering by living in the present is essential to moving on with life.

All my life I have struggled to take the necessary time to center myself with prayer and reflection. Working on the garden nearly every day from March to October has been a blessing in my life. In the garden I find it easier to be in the present moment and that experience carries over to my everyday life.

Inside Nature there is deep awareness of the present. Meditation, working in the garden, prayer, reflecting can put us back in touch with our own nature which is always in the present. The picture quote above by Joseph Campbell says it all: “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.”


back to top

When the Air Clears! - Monday, May 28, 2012

Time for Discernment

St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus in his book the Spiritual Exercises has rules of discernment, rules that deal with ways to interpret the states of consolation (joy, peace, gratitude, and the like) and desolation (depression, anxiety, fear) that people typically experience in the course of cultivating a spiritual life. One of his rules of discernment that I thought of today was not to make a major decision when confused or depressed. I felt that way today so just went about my business as usual, gardening, writing, eating and making a St. Vincent De Paul home visit.

The person I visited had nothing in his upstairs flat. Fortunately his sister lived downstairs and his brother owned the house, so he had family support while he got his house together. The person, who had a disability, was very gracious and seemed happy, although he had nothing in his house. So I guess this man who had nothing in terms of household possessions might have been in a better possession to make a major decision today than I, with lots of possessions, was.

Fortunately I did not have to make a major decision today so all went well and tomorrow will be a new day. However, I did manage to write a little about how I felt and related it to Ignatius’s guidance of not making a major decision till the air clears.

When the Air Clears!

When all seems to go wrong,
Though you do the right thing
As you see it and think,
It is time to just keep going,
Do the best you can
And when the air clears
Reflect and make changes as need be.
Do not make major changes or decisions
When confused and distraught.


back to top

Namaste Veterans - Sunday, May 27, 2012

Namaste Veterans

On this Memorial Day weekend we honor the men and women who fight in the military, past or present. I sincerely want to do this but cannot buy into the hype out there that soldiers are fighting for my rights and freedom. This is a refrain often hear these days especially by passer bys to a protest on an aspect of military, like the recruiting and training of men and women. In fact according to one human rights lawyer, Bill Quigley, we have lost significant civil liberties since the start of the Obama administration. See Bill Quigley on the Obama Civil Liberties “F” Report Card.

I do not believe that my freedom and human rights comes from a gun or bomb in Afghanistan or Iraq. Yet the dilemma remains how to honor soldiers without justifying the wars they fight. In India there is a common greeting call Namaste. It can be made by a greeting or in silence and involves folding hands and making a slight bow when meeting someone. It is a sign of honor and respect. Silently or with a spoken greeting it means “I honor the place within you where the entire Universe resides; I honor the place within you of love, of light, of truth, of peace; I honor the place within you, where, when you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.”
So to all veterans and to those who want to fold my hands and bow my head, Namaste!


back to top

Working on the Hops - Saturday, May 26, 2012

Graf family working on the hops.

My son and his wife work full time jobs and our three grandchildren are always busy with school, sports, 4-H, Girl Scouts, band and much more. This is one busy family. A few years ago my son and his wife took on a major project, investing in creating a hops farm on their rural land. Hops are the female flower clusters used primarily as a flavoring and stability agent in beer. They plan to grow the hops and sell them to a distributor.

Today my wife and I joined the five of them to spend a work day working in the hops field. Today’s task was to find the young hop plans and create lines from wire overhead down to plants so they can grow up. Also, we, mainly I, did some weeding of the big bad weeds in the rows. For six hours, with a lunch break, we worked out marking the hops and putting down the lines. Some worked harder than others but we all worked on one common goal.

Tomorrow my son will be back to work, my daughter-in-law and kids to church and sports and other activities. We are back home to resume our busy lives. But for a brief time today we got the feel for a family working together on the land. There have been other hop work days and there will need to be more. Each of the seven of us have busy lives but we came together today working on the hops.


back to top

Help To Hold Arms Up - Friday, May 25, 2012

Today would have been the 40th birthday of our son, Peter if had not died tragically in August 2010. We celebrated our granddaughter’s eighth birthday yesterday and today my wife and I helped out our older son, David, on his hop farm, went out for lunch and spent some quiet time overlooking a lake as a way of honoring Peter.

The sadness of my son’s death has not left me and I doubt if it ever will. Sometimes I wish I could cry about it but this has not happen so far. Being with my other son, David, helps ease the pain. He is a good father, husband and worker. He is the quiet son as Peter was the social son. When they were young they were good friends but grew about with age. We have been blessed with our two sons.

With my holy wife they have given me strength to work for change on social justices and human dignity issues, even when not much happens and I think of giving up.

A friend in California has been talking for many years about writing a script on the Milwaukee 14 action of burning selective service files in 1968. Not much has happened to her script yet but the other day when she started to talk about it I told her to be sure to put the part in at the trial when I was testifying on the stand. I referred her to an article, on the trial of the Milwaukee 14 by Francine du Plessix Gray in the New Review of Books when I was quoted on the witness stand saying: “I’m inside the draft board, and I’m taking files which I believe to be those of my brothers and neighbors…the only sensation I can remember that day was that of my arm being extremely tired as I was trying to do as much as possible to get as many people freed as I could. And in this act of liberation my arm was just getting tired, and I guess it’s like the stories you hear when someone is drowning and someone runs out to save him, his arm, his body, his whole body gets tired in the act of saving the drowning person. That’s how I felt, my arm, my body was at full extent of physical exertion in order to get those records out.”

Now that I am older my arms and body are not as strong and grow tired more easily. I need the lives and examples of my two sons,my wife, my family and friends to help hold my arms up, like Moses, to keep struggling to save lives in any way I can.


back to top

The Beat Goes On - Thursday, May 24, 2012

Carson in Jazz band tonight

Tonight we went to jazz concert at the middle school where my grandson, Carson, plays percussions including drum. My wife, Pat, reminded our grandchildren that their great grandfather, her father was a drum player and had his own big band in the 30’s call Vin Gary. (See picture below). My wife wanted to be a drummer but in her day girls were not allowed to play drums. Our deceased son Peter was an excellent self taught drummer and played with various bands. Now our two grandsons play drums and other percussions in the school bands. The beat of the drum goes on now for four generations.

There is an African American youth group in Milwaukee called We are the Drum. Each year they perform a music and dance production that traces the drum beat from African to modern day. This year it was called the “Wisconsin Movement” highlighting civil rights struggle in Wisconsin. The beat of the drum goes on from African till today.

When I was in young a friend and I took a long walk in the woods. By pounding a rock on a rock we pretended we were inventing the first music of humankind. The beat goes on.

The music of many cultures, from India to Venezuela, is grounded in the beat of the drum. In our family and throughout the world the beat goes on. (See picture below of Vin Gary Big Band)


back to top

Militarization of Schools - Wednesday, May 23, 2012

JROTC student

The militarization of our education system has been growing since the end of the selective service system. The Department of Defense has programs for university, high school and middle school students. As we are found out at Marquette University it is easier to stop a military program before it starts and then after it is established in the school.

Messmer Catholic High School, a local Catholic High Schools in Milwaukee is considering a contract with the Department of Defense for a JROTC program. Here are a number of reasons why this high should say No to the Department of Defense. Although this is a Catholic High school, many of these reasons apply to all high schools, public and private. I welcome more reasons to Say No to the Military or flaws in the research and reasoning.

Biological: As car insurance companies, the military and many educators know, the brains of young men and women are not fully developed until they are about 25 years old. The part of the brain that it is not developed in high school youth is the “dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex”. It plays a critical role in: decision making, problem solving and understanding future consequences of today’s actions. John Carmody, Director of the Center for Christian Nonviolence, is a former Marine Corps Captain and a Vietnam veteran who was awarded a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts. He has created a slide presentation called Neuroscience of Nonviolence. He has put his slide presentation on a ‘cloud’ where you can download and open it to watch his presentation.

Gospel Values Vs Military Values The military claims, to be an Army leader and a person of integrity, all values, including religious values “must reinforce, not contradict, Army values.” (Army Field Manual, [FM 22–100, Chapter 2–32] ) Then Catholic Catechism says, “Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2242)

Followers of Jesus Christ, a statement by Don Timmerman: “If we are Christians then we need to act like followers of Christ…in word and deed. Christ told us to love our enemies, pray for them and DO GOOD TO THEM. How in the world can Christians support the military which has a philosophy totally the opposite of that of Christ? The military’s philosophy is to kill or destroy the enemy, not love him or her. To allow our young to be persuaded to accept the military as a life style is not following Christ. To condone or praise the military is not being a follower of Christ. We all have relatives and friends who have gone to the military either because they were drafted or because they felt they would be defending others. They were not following the command of Christ. They were following the command of the state. Christ too believed in defending others, but He would never condone violence as a means to do this. Christ did not try to set up an army to overtake the Romans who were persecuting and executing His own people. Nor should we who are His followers try to kill or hurt our enemies. Our goal is to follow the will of God, to love our enemies, and to get others to do the same. Our goal as Christians is not longevity, the quest to live as long as we can. Longevity has its place, but it is not the command of Christ. His command is to love all, including the enemy. If we die we have eternal life.” (Don Timmerman is a Catholic Worker in Milwaukee)

Academic Values: Military teachers provided by the military to ROTC and JROTC often do not have the academic qualifications required by accredited schools. See our Letter to the Provost of Marquette University under the topic Academic. Although my examples are from the University level, I understand from the preliminary study of JROTC the same applies to high schools and the middle school military education program. It seems you do not need a degree to teach military drills or how to fire a gun; however, during the teaching process other values must also be instilled in a Christian academic setting and that takes proper accreditation.


back to top

A Friend is Simply a Friend - Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Friend!

Today a Catholic Worker and friend turned 70. It is good to have friends older than our-self so you can have elders to look up. However, my friend is only six months older than I guess he is a fellow elder.

What makes a great friend is someone who takes you as you are, not always agreeing but never judging you. A friend does not stigmatize you or over glorify you. When you are down and up a friend is always there for you.
What makes this friend particularly interesting is that my friend practices nonviolence and Catholic Worker philosophy, not just preaching it. My friend lives simply, serves those in need and resist violence and injustice.

I am blessed to have a number of friends like this one, something I did not have 6 or 7 years back before I retired.. Running through life as an activist, business persons and religious educator I knew a lot of people but had few friends.

To be true friends with another person is gift to valued. You do not earn friendship but by being there for other people it happens. Today I talked by phone, in person or by email with friends of all types, one from California, one who is very ill and suffers, one from Church and many other ones.
Friends can be old or young, female or males, poor or rich, Christians or Muslims, tall or short; it does not matter. A friend is simply a friend.


back to top

Endless Wars - Monday, May 21, 2012

Endless War by Sanjay Patel

My friend took his daughter to the Brewer’s baseball game tonight. The game started at 7pm and now at 11:15 it is still going, the bottom of the 13th inning. I doubt if they are still there with school tomorrow but the game goes on and on.

Since the 80’s we seem to have a state of endless wars going on and on. Some the USA is directly involved in, like Iraq and Afghanistan and others, like in Pakistan and Yemen we are indirectly involved in. As wars became endless we need more men and women to fight the wars. We developed more indirect ways of killing, like Killer Drones, but we still need men and women to operate the technology.

When I joined in the Milwaukee 14 in 1968 in destroying 1A Selective service files I was motivated by the selective draft putting men in the position to “kill or be killed.” Now we have a so called “voluntary military’ but money, education and honor are used to motivate young men and women to put themselves in a position to “kill or be killed.” They call it a ‘voluntary’ system but brain studies have shown that young people till about the age of 25 have an undeveloped brain. The part of the brain that is now developed plays a critical role in decision making, problem solving and understanding future consequences of today’s actions. (See Neuroscience of Nonviolence slide show for more information.)

The baseball game is still going on but will end soon. When will the endless wars end? I think they will end when men and women, despite all the incentives, just say No. Without soldiers and money there will be no more endless wars.


back to top

Politics: Government, Church and Garden - Sunday, May 20, 2012

Politics of Garden

I am tired of the endless negative ads on both sides on the recall election for Governor. The presiding theory of these ads is that if you say something negative about the other candidate, although it is a partial truth, over and over again it makes it true. When people, like in Chicago today, protest NATO conference, try to speak truth to power they are ignored and/or arrested.

When I and others try to be a voice for the poor in the Catholic Church, being it speaking out for persons with mental illnesses or for people in need, who quickly are becoming the ‘silent majority’, we are ignored or call names and marginalized. When we the people in the Church try to bring up issues of war and peace or social justice that is not a sex or gender issue we find a deaf ear by leaders in the Church.

Politics in the Church or Government is so negative, behind the scenes and full of personal attacks that I get sick from participating. In the garden there are no politics. Only nature, water, sun, soil, weather preside. When nature is balanced all grows. There is some indirect politics involving the garden, like the city dump no longer making compost but paying money to a private company to take the materials away, compost it and sell it. There is some rules about where, what and when you can plant, but not much. With the ability to grow our own soil, thus making gardens possible even on concert, all we really need to do to have a garden is a little of sweat equality.

I am not saying we should not care about government, rulers and democracy. I am saying we can do government using our own rules and conscience. I am not saying to leave the Catholic Church, although many have done so facing the same stuff, but am saying to “do the right thing” following Jesus and our conscience.

However, the strength to deal with politics in government and Church comes from Mother Earth, God the creator and our inner being. A frequent remark by passersby when we are protesting the local Catholic University teaching of the politics of war and killing is that the “military gives you the right to protest.” One of my fellow protestors said the other day the military does not give me the right to speak the truth as my conscience understands it but God gives me the right.

In the Declaration of Independence we declare: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,[75] that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I find these kinds of truths in the politics of the Garden, not in politics of government or Church.


back to top

Iris, Flower of the Week - Saturday, May 19, 2012

Irises in Rain Garden Today

The Irises in the rain garden were in full bloom today, a day of flowers and plants. After going to church to pick up my last Share food order, I went to my neighbor’s garden sale to pick up a few more plants and then onto to the nearby environmental public school to pick up the annuals flats, one for sun and one for shade.

The roses and peonies are ready to bloom but the Irises are dominant in the rain garden this week. Although Irises come in all types and colors the ones in our rain garden are of one type. I am not sure what kind they are but they do look a little like the ones painted by one of my famous artist, Vincent van Gogh, in 1898. (See Below)

Irises are perennial herbs, used in perfumes and some medicines. The habitat of Irises vary, “ranging from cold and montane regions to the grassy slopes, meadowlands and riverbanks of Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa, Asia and across North America.” But for us and our gardens they are the “flower of the week.”


back to top

Endless Planting and Harvesting - Friday, May 18, 2012

Backyard Garden Plants And
Harvest May 17, 2012

With the early spring this year harvesting food from the garden is coming as we are still planting. In front of this picture of the backyard garden is three bowls of yesterday’s harvest from the backyard, mint, salad stuff and greens.

The front yard food garden is going slower since this is where we are planting the food that needs summer heat and water to thrive, peppers, tomatoes, basil and eggplants.

Tomorrow I pick up my last Share food order at church, the annual plants ordered from the nearby Environmental public school and checking out the plants at my neighbor’s annual plant sale.

There are more plants to plant and more plants to harvest. I have talked about endless work on gardens but now we see endless planting and harvesting.


back to top

Kernel of Truth - Thursday, May 17, 2012

In nature there is no stigma but, sadly, with human beings there is. I have written before in Stigma Stains the Soul that in every stigma there is a kernel of truth. When a person is socially unacceptable due to an illness, has a message that one does not want to hear r someone who you want to marginalize it easier to take a person’s weakness or illness and make it the whole of a person, not a small part. For example a person with a mental illness has one but does not mean the person is ‘mentally ill’ just as a person with cancer is not ‘cancerous’.

Persons usually do not voice the stigma in front of the person they are stigmatizing but sometimes it happens. The other day, in the middle of a meeting, a person who has cut himself off from me a few years ago started talking about me how I attack persons and such. I said I might have done something like that in the past but have really changed and asked if could name any examples in the last three years. He could not come up with any examples and started to name mutual friends saying they agreed with him. Stigmas like this have small kernel of truth but take one small part of a person and try to identify the person. People with mental illnesses, like my son Peter, suffer greatly from stigmas if they cannot take the kernel of truth and ignore the rest.

But sometimes a person is accused or stigmatized but there is no kernel of truth in the stigma. Although the district attorney has thrown out the accusations of sexual abuse against a priest friend of mine, the Catholic archdiocese opened up a new investigation and suspended the priest during his time. He was finally reinstated and although his parishioners understand there always will be people who associate him with these false accusations that have no kernel of truth.

Recently a respect person makes some accusations against me that have no bases in reality. I could not accept that something like this happened since he never did and could not challenge the person’s accusation; at least it would do no good. A good friend trying to comfort me said there is always a “kernel of truth” in such an accusation. But there was not small kernel of truth to these statements about me. In this case, when there is no kernel of truth, it is better not to respond at all but to keep pursuing the truth of conscience as you see it. Stigmas have a kernel of truth and lies have no kernel of truth.


back to top

Sound of Silence - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I was listening to the PBS radio program On Being while in the car today and heard a person talk about The Last Quiet Places. He was a silence activist concerned about how silence, not absence of sound but absence of noise, is an endangered species. Inspired by the sound of silence I wrote the following:

When you are down, when you know people are talking about your back about your past faults and holding on to your weaknesses and will not let go, when you work on something you believe in but seem to get nowhere, when people reject and insult you and you feel down, listen the silence around you and know you are the same person that you are, have been and will be, somebody precious, valued and love and this fact of being can never be taken away from you.

When you are up, when everything seems to be going the right way, when whatever decision you make seems to be the right decision, when friends and family show appreciation for you, when you feel a deep peace in your heart, listen to the silence around you and know you are the same person that you are, have been and will be, somebody precious, valued and love and this fact of being can never be taken away from you.

Be you down or up stay simple, grounded and bask in the sound of silence.


back to top

GPS To Find Home of Our Being - Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Future Home by Peter Graf

Today in our Faith Sharing group the question was “What Gives You Life?” One person in our group started to talk about how routine helped him get through life. Knowing how to get around, where he should be, where his cell phone is helps him get through daily life. Moving is difficult for him and he likes knowing his way home and where things are at home.

Another person in the group talked about just being present in life. How, if one had the basics of life, having more ‘stuff’ did not mean more happiness. If you acquire three times more stuff did not mean you were three times happier. When one had the fundamentals of life, food and shelter, more life was found in being present in the movement. Living simply was her goal.

After we each shared we had an open discussion. To my friend seeking routine and a defined way home I suggest he get a GPS (Global Positioning System) like the one on my phone. I told him the story how when once I misplaced my cell phone when it was on vibration. I went to my computer to find it. The GPS system in the phone knows where it is and sends out a signal. So going on my home computer and using a Google global position system I was able to locate my cell phone. It was in Milwaukee, on my block and in fact on the right side of my house. Looking around that part of the house I found my cell phone underneath the covers on my bed. He was impressed.

For my friend that found life in simply being I said more important than having stuff was being detached from stuff, places, habits and even people. Detachment to me seem the way to be to be home where we are, satisfied with whatever we have.

Suddenly I found myself putting the desire for routine at home and being home to our being together. I said what we all need in life is a GPS to find the home of our being. With such a device we could find our being wherever we are. Some say silence and meditation will get your there and I agree. Being completely silent releases a GPS to find the home of our being.


back to top

Slow Mooving Day - Sunday, May 13, 2012

Young cows in the field

I work up early this morning with a lot on my mind. We went to early Mass so we could head up north to be with my son and his family. My wife had volunteered her services with my son, his wife and our two grandsons at a 4-H food booth at a big flea sale in nearby fair grounds. With the five of them busy at the food both that left my seven year granddaughter to work around the market picking up honey candy and bracelet for her and sox, plants, garden ornaments for myself.

After roaming the flea market the two of us headed for my son’s house. After watching some of the Milwaukee Brewer’s baseball game on TV and resting we wandered over to the dairy farm across the road. There we found the young cows roaming the pasture, the milking cows in their barns, the very young in their pens, and the pregnant cows in another barn. Cows were everywhere on this dairy farm and a truck pulled up to take the fresh milk to a cheese factory.
In India the cows are sacred, some ‘wild’ cows are left alone to wander where they want and other cows are used for milk, medicine and the most precious gift of all cow dung. Cow dung has many purposes but the most useful one is to let it dry out, let worms eat it and make castings, worm poop from cow poop compost.

There is something about cows that slows one down and provides a more earthly view of the world.

After watching some more baseball on TV we started to take a walk back of my son’s house toward his ‘hops’ farm in the back. I had brought my son five bags of my own homemade castings to put around five of his poles on which the hops grow. I noticed he had a pile of matured cow poop mixed with straw on his land. While I was walking back there my wife called to say they were finished working and would meet us on a nearby restaurant. I asked her to put my son on the phone and told him that I had left the five bags of castings outside his door and if it was okay to take a few pales of cow dung back for compost pile. He said yes, we took some and headed for the restaurant.

As my granddaughter and I were driving over there we made up jokes about the ‘poop’ in the truck. I have found that young people from three to eighteen find the word ‘poop’ funny in almost all context. I joked with my granddaughter about not telling her grandmother, my wife, that we had pales of cow poop in the truck of her car. Although dried up poop mixed with straw did not smell she thought it was a funny secret to keep. I promised not to tell her mother about our ‘poop’ joke session, knowing she did not approve.

Naturally my granddaughter was itching to tell grandma about the cow dung in the trunk of her car. She kept asking me for permission. I said it was not good to talk about at a meal. After we were done eating she asked if now she could tell. I said yes and she did. My wife was not surprised because she knew my son had given me permission to take some manure but she acted surprised to the delight of my granddaughter.

The lesson of the day is that when you wake up with lots on your mind just have a slow mooving day with a child and all will be well. (Check out the Gandhi cow picture quote below.)


back to top

Yards To Garden - Saturday, May 12, 2012

Front Yard Rain Garden
April 2012

After a day of making Home Visits it was good to have a day where I could spend some time in the gardens, planting, making castings, watering and pulling weeds. Of course there is always harvesting. For dinner I was able to pick herbs and lettuce for the salad and kale and collard greens for my ‘potato green’ vegetables. My wife suggested that I take monthly pictures of the gardens in the various stages. I have some pictures from March and April of a few of the gardens but can start next week on May through October.

Garden work might be endless but working in the garden easily shows visible results. Some work, especially in peace and resistance work, does not always show results. We need to work for something with or without results.

I took time out from working on my gardens to go across the street to my neighbors who is a pro in growing plants and who has an award winning garden in front of his house. (Picture to come). He grows plants from seeds and by splitting roots. Once a year, next Saturday, he has a major garden sale. This year he has a web page of all the garden plants he has to offer at Schuler Gardens.

Gardens in the front yard are become more common and to me seem, more natural, than grass. With Growing Power ways of growing, maximizing a small area for maximum growth yards, front and back are turning beautiful and fruitful. Yards are growing into Gardens.


back to top

Home Visits are Our Mission - Friday, May 11, 2012

My wife, Pat, and I are members of the St. Vincent De Paul Society, SVDP, the largest lay Catholic organization in the world. The mission of the Society is for “women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering”. Simply said ‘home visits’ to people in need is what we are all about and were we find our ‘blessings’. Normally we make about 3 or 4 home visits in less than 2 hours. Today we made eight home visits to persons in need in 3 1/2 hours, an extra dose of blessings.

Each family had a story of why they suffer in poverty. There were some common themes like unemployment or lack of health insurance but each story was unique. We gave persons what we could, vouchers for appliances or beds, but the blessings came from listening to each story, seeing the smile on a child’s face and feeling the gratitude as we left a house. There were some light moments when a mother of nine with two grandchildren living in the house told us she received a lots of Mother Day cards from her children in school. There were some sad moments when a woman unemployed after suffering a major illness spoke of her adult son with a mental illness unable to get benefits for those who are disabled. There were prayerful moments when we prayed together at the end of some visits.

Since moving back to Milwaukee in 1995 I have been trying to get the Milwaukee SVDP to focus more on the main mission, home visits, than other supplementary endeavors like stores, social service work, meal programs etc. Also over the years many Catholic churches have closed, and thus their SVDP conferences, in the poorest and most segregated area of the fourth poorest city in the USA and the most segregated city in the USA. Where once there were 17 Catholic Churches helping those in need now there are only three and the three suffer from a lack of financial resources. All but one person we visited today were African American. The one white person we visited, who had recently moved to Milwaukee and was really outside of our conference area. There was a SVDP conference near her but by not making home visits, the heart of our mission had faded away. This woman had been told by her landlord in the almost all white neighborhood to stay out of the areas that were ‘dark’ as she called the African American neighbors nearby. We tried to assure her that African American neighborhoods were a result of racism and not to be feared. I do not think we were too successful since all she hears from people around and the white politicians and police chief is how terrible these neighborhoods are.

I, along with others, have made several attempts to restructure the St.Vincent De Paul Society in Milwaukee to more effectively serve those and need and to bring in more resources of people and money. For the most part we have not been successful as organizations do not want to change, even when they can serve their mission more effectively. At times, like recently I feel like giving up on the efforts to change and restructure our Milwaukee SVDP. However, after hearing stories like I did today I know we must keep up our efforts for change and to adapt to serve our mission, person to person home visits. Home visits are the mission of St. Vincent De Paul Society.


back to top

Stop and See - Thursday, May 10, 2012

Granddaughter taking pictures
at museum

Today I was a chaperone for my granddaughter on her class trip to the Milwaukee Museum. I met the 2nd grade classes at the museum and found out there was lots of chaperones so the only person I was responsible for was my granddaughter.

She had told me that she was bringing her camera and planned to take plenty of pictures. This was very accurate as she took me from display to display taking pictures of everything she saw.

She reminded me when I was young, about her age, and my parents took me to the Chicago Museum of Arts and Sciences. I was so excited about being there I kept going from exhibit to exhibit saying ‘you need to see this’. Finally my mother told me to slow down and really take a look at the exhibit rather than jump to the next one. If I would have had a digital camera at the time I would have been just like my granddaughter today.

Her taking photos as soon as she saw something reminded me of a story that Father Anthony De Mello S.J. spoke about a family making plans for vacation, going on it, taking pictures and returning home without every been present to where they were.

I love my granddaughter. She is so honest and beautiful with her childlike view of the world. I kept saying to her look at the exhibit before taking a picture. I think she heard me and did some of that at the end. Really seeing is difficult for a child or adult but we must stop and see to be fully alive.


back to top

Ordinary Things - Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Granddaughter, Ordinary Soccer Kick?

“[W]alking down a street, sweeping a floor, washing dishes, hoeing beans, reading a book, taking a stroll in the woods-all can be enriched with contemplation and with the obscure sense of the presence of God.” — Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation, William H. Shannon, editor, Harper, San Francisco, 2003; p 66

Thomas Merton has a way of writing about ordinary things and making them extraordinary. Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker admired St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower for how she did ordinary everyday things and made them holy. Dorothy called it the “Little Way”.

Children, for me, are very good for reminding us how ordinary things can be exciting. While I was working on the front yard garden today my six year old neighborhood came home from school. Immediately he jumped on his scooter and went over to see if his friend, neighbor on the other side, was home. He was not so he came back and asked if could help in the garden. I had him use a pitchfork to dig up some weeds in the front raised garden area to prepare the ground for planting. He was fascinated by what he found in the ground, ‘rollies’ as he called them, little bugs that roll up in a ball. He told me that in school he was studying shadows and space. I thought he meant shadows in space and asked him about them. He pointed to his shadow on the ground and said that was what he meant by shadows and how space was something out there in the cosmos. He added that he did not want to be an astronaut but wanted to study space.

Last night my eight year old granddaughter called up to remind me that I was a chaperone for her third grade class that was coming to Milwaukee for a visit to the Milwaukee Museum. She was excited about the trip to the museum even though my wife and I with her and her two brothers recently visited the Milwaukee museum. She told me that I could wear bright clothes in the butterfly area since she was no longer afraid of butterflies. She told me each child was bringing their own lunch. I said I would bring lunch and a piece of fresh pita read I had just purchased, something I know she really likes. She was excited about my bringing the pita bread.

Ordinary things are exciting for children of all ages but for many with education they are just ordinary things.


back to top

Saved by the Rhododendron - Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Perennial Flower Vase
with Rhododendrons

The weather was warm in the 60’s today and sunny. It was spring again. I say spring again because spring came early this year at the beginning of March and then went away and came back again a few times . Due to this spring on and off pattern spring flowers came early and then slowed down.

With the early March spring I decided to try to have a vase of fresh flowers on the kitchen table from March 1 thru October 31st. All started well with the daffodils and tulips but when the weather went cold and rainy again I started to wonder if I could make it to the next batch of blooming flowers.

But I was saved by the Rhododendrons in the corner of the backyard. I had not planted these exotic plants and since they do not come up every year had forgotten about them. When I was working on the trellis for the beans in the backyard I noticed the plants were blooming. It was just in time to keep the perennial flower vase on the kitchen table alive and well.

There are a number of plants ready to bloom in the rain garden. With the rhododendrons in the vase and in the backyard I should be safe to the new blooms. The weatherman says it will be cooler and rainy again tomorrow but I do not care. My perennial flower vase has been saved by the Rhododendrons.


back to top

Blow the Dynamite - Monday, May 07, 2012

“To blow the dynamite
of a message
is the only way
to make the message dynamic.” (Peter Maurin, Easy Essay, Blow the Dynamite)

When Catholic High schools Universities become military recruiting and training schools,
When the suicide rate of veterans rises over 80% in the last years,
When the former Prime Minister of Afghanistan accuses the US-led forces in Afghanistan of intentionally killing civilians in his country,
When the US neither confirms or denies a massacre of 41 civilians in Yemen in 2009,
When the USA government stops caring for the poorest and most vulnerable in society,
When USA CIA drone and covert action strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are intensified under current President killing hundreds of civilians,
When health care is for profit and not for the poor and sick,
It is time to blow the dynamite of our message that all human life is sacred, to teach war no more and to spend money on people not on war.

How do we blow the dynamite on this message and make the message dynamic?
This is the question and requires us to think of new and creative ways to blow the dynamite.
Old methods of protest, signing petitions, voting, being on the defensive and divided and “doing our thing” will not work any longer.
We must come together with new ways of nonviolent warfare just as the military has come together with new ways of killing and teaching people how to kill reflexively..
It is starting to happen with new ways of communicating and awareness.
But it is like an arms race, while the society becomes more and more militarized,
While the Industrial/Military/Education complex rises to power,
We must strike back nonviolently with tools of conflict, civil disobedience and self sacrifice.

“To blow the dynamite of a message is the only way to make the message dynamic.”


back to top

Taking One for the Team - Sunday, May 06, 2012

Some ants give up reproduction
and take care of the queen ant’s

Being in a sports season with the NBA basketball finals and Brewers baseball going on I am thinking of accepting injury. In the NBA finals and with the Brewers baseball team there has been a rash of significant injuries in the last week. Accepting injury and making the best of it is something a sport’s team and the individual player need to learn and do. Once the injury happens there is not much an individual or team can do but to learn from it, rehabilitate and go on.

Nature takes injury, like a wildfire, and does it best to recover. Consistent injury to nature and environment, as we are now finding out, can have some serious consequences.

In battle or dangerous situations a person will put themselves in harm’s way to save someone else from injury. Parents, friends, soldiers will risk life for love or duty. In modern biological evolutionary science they say that creatures that will sacrifice for the others, like bees, ants or humans have reached a higher level on the evolutionary scale.

The injury that I find it hard to take is insults, rejections, stigmas and wrongs directed to me. St. Ignatius of Loyola prays to God in the Spiritual Exercises (#98) for the “desire to be with you in accepting all wrongs and all rejections and all poverty, both actual and spiritual — and I deliberately choose this, if it is for your greater service and praise.” I find it hard not only to pray for this kind of marginalization but find it hard to accept. My instinct is to react, which only reinforces the wrongs of the accusers.

I need to be like a professional player, nature or one who sacrifices, take the blow to self, learn from it, rehab and comes back on offense. Taking one for the team or for self is the way to overcome wrongs and rejections and stay on the offense.


back to top

Middle Time - Saturday, May 05, 2012

Middle Time is Okay in the Rain
Garden June 26, 2011

Today I went to warehouse sale at SHARE, a nonprofit, volunteer-run food buying club. The sale was from 9am – 11am. I got there about 15 minutes after 9. There was a long line waiting outside to get in. I was too late in line to get in at the beginning at the sale. When after nearly an hour of waiting, when I finally went through the line, many food items were sold out. I came early for the sale but half way through the sale it was too late.

There is a monthly plant sale at a commercial company near when I used to live. When the store first opens there is a long line waiting to get in the store for best interior plants on sale. At the end of the day, in mid afternoon the remaining plant prices are drastically cut in price. When I got there it was too early to catch the best plants on sale and yet it was not late enough for the plants to be drastically cut in price.

Observing these two experiences I thought that sometimes coming early or late to events has some benefits. But going to an event in the time in the middle usually does not. Middle Time is not early or late enough.


back to top

God is not Repulican or Democrat - Friday, May 04, 2012

“Whatever you do for the poor
you do for me” (Matt: 25)

Yesterday I read in the local newspaper that the Gov. Walker’s ® State government administration had received permission from President Obama’s( D) USA administration to cut health coverage to poor persons in Wisconsin. Today a friend called to say how in the beginning of the year health care coverage had been cut to people on disability, including dental care for her son who had lost his teeth in an assault.

Another Wisconsin politician Rep. Ryan ® is not well known for his budget that calls for drastic cuts in aide for persons in need. As a Catholic he even had the guts to justify his budget on Catholic Social Teaching. As many others pointed out his proposal for tax cuts to rich and to cut services for the old, poor and sick is just the opposite of Catholic Social Justice that states the main purpose of government is for the common good and to serve the needs of the poor.

The poor are easy targets for the rich and poor. Republicans and Democrats want to serve the wealth and declining middle class, where now they estimate that half the person in the US are poor or ‘near poor’.

I sent a letter to the editor of the local newspaper about this budget proposal of Rep. Ryan but it applies to the President’s approval health care cuts for the poor that Wisconsin Governor is making. I do not think the newspaper will publish it since I had a letter in recently. But here it is, below. I guess God’s politics are not Republican or Democrat.


back to top

Best Plan Yet - Thursday, May 03, 2012

I had planned to work on the garden this afternoon but around noon got a call from a friend who needed a ride to a Doctor’s appointment. Due the lack of good public transportation in the city I was his only hope to make the appointment. Right after his call I got a call from another friend who needed a ride home for his daughter. I said I would call back and see what I could do.

Driving my friend to his doctor’s appointment I noticed I was low on gas. So after dropping him off I went seeking a gas station. The closest one I could find was a Mobile gas station. I just had heard about a new book about how powerful Exxon Mobile was, just like an independent nation. But after getting some gas there I headed back to the medical clinic. When I got there I got a call from my friend that he had discovered his doctor’s appointment was in two weeks and was on the road waiting for me.

I picked him up and as I was driving him home he started to tell how ‘people’ were angry and so ‘pissed off’ at him. He often makes general statements like this so I said “Wait a minute, if anyone is angry with you it should be me and I am not.” He agreed and admitted it was Mr. Paranoid that was telling him this. I said “Tell Mr. P to go piss in his pants” and we proceeded to talk about this phenomena. I will spare you the rest of the discussion.

Since there was no Doctor’s appointment I had time to drive my other friend to pick up his daughter at school. As I parked nearby he went over to get his daughter. She came out but then remembered that it was book sale and ran back in to purchase books. I did not think that would take long but then my friend told me how much time she took at book sales and she had “more than enough money” for this one. Eventually he went back in and got her. Fortunately she had purchased her books.

As I was coming back from this appointment a ‘hard rain’ started to fall and I was not able to get to the garden until after dinner for only a brief period.

I make these observations today since it is another proof that with the best lay plans, like working on the garden, Mother Nature and the needs of friends really can determine what you do and do not do. I would have been frustrated in the old days but now I realize that to take what is given me each day is the best plan yet.


back to top

Live and Die by Gun - Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Andre Charles painted this mural
on Houston Street the day that
Tupac was shot in 1996

Today after our second prayer vigil for a homicide victim, Russell Sedum 24 years old, I stayed to talk with a friend and neighbor about the young man that was killed. This neighborhood, near the 3rd district police station, had once been a white neighborhood with a heavy Jewish population. As African Americans moved in the whites move out. However, the neighbor I talked to after the vigil told me how they were had become, until recently, a tight knit neighborhood where everyone knew each other and the children grew up together. That was changing now, as people moved away, the crime went up. This lady’s daughter was raped in the house during a robbery and she herself was almost a victim of carjacking.

In fact a carjacking was how Russell was killed and his mother shot. Russell had got his life together and was in process of becoming a popular tattoo artist. With his fame and money he had purchased some nice items, like his car. He, his mother and friends were glad for his success. However, as the neighbor said, his success made him a target for the robbery and carjacking. His mother had two sons, but one that was sick and handicapped had died a few years ago. There is a banner on the house to honor him, Nicholas. When the mother saw what was happening to her other son she ran out of the house to plea with the carjackers not to kill her son. They shot at her hitting her in the foot and then killed her son.

Before the vigil I had talked with a 26 year old African American male who was walking his two dogs. He told me he had just moved into the neighborhood a few weeks ago right before the other homicide close to the police station nearby. He had been surprised to hear shots ring out each night in this neighborhood. He told me he had lost 10 friends and family the last year, aged 18–26 to homicides. I could see from a page that he was a security guard. He told me that he was getting gun training and soon would be getting a concealed gun permit.

The neighbor had told me that she too was now going to apply for a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The other young lady in the conversation after the prayer vigil was family friend whose brother lived down the block and was the first to discover the bodies. At the end of the conversation her brother pulled up with his car to take her back home.

We are seeing an increase in homicides in Milwaukee this year, see Mothers Against Gun Violence and I fear that with the new gun laws, Castle doctrine law and conceal and carry law. More guns might be good for a gun dealers business but simply results in more shootings and homicides.

Today I read an article how suicides of military veterans have gone up 80% the last five years. I heard on the news tonight about more shootings in our city and about a famous football who committed suicide with a gun today. With our endless wars it seems like USA had decided to live by the gun and as they say: ”If you live by the gun you will die the gun.”


back to top

Cry of May Day - Tuesday, May 01, 2012

May 1, 1933 Union Square, NYC

May 1 is a day of celebration around the world, Feast of St. Joseph, beginning of month to honor Mary, the Mother of God, Worker rights day around the world, a day for marches and parades, especially military parades around the world.

May 1, 1933 the first issues of the Catholic Worker, was sold for a ‘penny a copy’ at the rally in Union Square. On May 1, 1965 Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement gave a speech at a antiwar rally in Union Square in New York. The names of the countries might have changed but her words ring true for this May Day. A research article about this speech can be found at DOROTHY DAY, UNION SQUARE SPEECH. I will let the cry of this May Day speech speak for itself.

“It is not just Vietnam, it is South Africa, it is Nigeria, the Congo, Indonesia, all of Latin America. It is not just the pictures of all the women and children who have been burnt alive in Vietnam, or the men who have been tortured, and died. It is not just the headless victims of the war in Colombia. It is not just the words of Cardinal Spellman and Archbishop Hannan. It is the fact that whether we like it or not, we are Americans. It is indeed our country, right or wrong, as the Cardinal said in another context. We are warm and fed and secure (aside from occasional muggings and murders amongst us). We are the nation the most powerful, the most armed and we are supplying arms and money to the rest of the world where we are not ourselves fighting. We are eating while there is famine in the world. Scripture tells us that the picture of judgment presented to us by Jesus is of Dives sitting and feasting with his friends while Lazarus sat hungry at the gate, the dogs, the scavengers of the East, licking his sores. We are the Dives. Woe to the rich! We are the rich. The works of mercy are the opposite of the works of war, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, nursing the sick, visiting the prisoner. But we are destroying crops, setting fire to entire villages and to the people in them. We are not performing the works of mercy but the works of war. We cannot repeat this enough.”


back to top

back to top


Page last modified on December 07, 2012

Legal Information |  Designed and built by Wiki Gnome  | Hosted by Fluid Hosting  | Icons courtesy of famfamfam