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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

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Time Out Rough Waters - Thursday, August 30, 2012

Today was predicted to be the hottest day in August in eleven years. So being on our “time out” we decided to head for the lake. At the lake we found a strong wind and rough waters. There was no swimming or fishing today. However, even with the windy waters we managed to have a good day. The predicted heat did come. The wind made for rough waters but also made the heat more tolerable.


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Time Out Goes On - Sunday, August 26, 2012

Christiana Today

In last night’s posting I said: “I may or may not write my daily posting for the next week, a quiet time.” I am taking a week or so for quiet and healing. But I may be making exceptions. Today was one.

I attended the Graduation of a Masters Degree earned by my ‘African-niece’ Christiana, from Loyola from which Jesuit school I also have a Master’s degree.

I have known Christiana from the day she got off the plane from Sierra Leone via a stay in a refuge camp in Gambia. She was a refugee from the terrible civil war for ‘blood diamonds’ in her country. The rest of her family remains in Sierra Leone, with no war but still extremely impoverished. From day one she started to call us adults uncle and auntie, a sign of respect from her count. So I figured if she called me Uncle Bob, she must be my niece. We saw her graduate from high school, Marquette University, struggling a few years in the job market and now with a Masters degree in Social Work. She has been living upstairs for the last year while she finishes school and her internships. She happens to be an excellent cook of African food.

The smile on her face has a way of cutting through the shadow of death. When you are feeling low joy can cut through the darkness. I will be back after Labor day or maybe before. The time Out goes on.


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Tired Tomato Plants - Saturday, August 25, 2012

My tomato plants in the front yard have produced lots of tomatoes this summer, cherry, roma and regular tomatoes. Now they are tired; there are fewer tomatoes and the plants are now slowly dying. Branches are turning brown and there are fewer and fewer tomatoes for picking each day. We had an early hot summer, the tomato plants were well watered and the soil in the raised garden in the front yard is rich, homemade soil. Also I kept the tomato plants pruned so the tomatoes came faster. Tired old tomato plants are better than very green ones with green tomatoes this time of year.

I thought of my tired old tomato plants today since I felt like a tired old guy. My body and mind feel just tired out. I thought that once I finished the three research essays The Catholic Church in North Central Milwaukee I would feel reinvigorated for other projects. But just the opposite has happened.

Maybe at the graduation of my African niece from Sierra Leone from a Master degree program at Loyola tomorrow will help get me inspired again. Pat and I have known her since the day 14 years ago when she arrived with another girl and the girl’s mother in Milwaukee as war refugees from the terrible civil war in Sierra Leone. We watched as she went through high school, college, struggling with employed and now her finishing graduate school. Despite all odds, discrimination, lack of money yet expectations she paid for her brothers and sister education in Freetown, Sierra Leone, educational debt in USA, cultural shock, illnesses, lost of jobs she has survived.

Maybe I am tired since tomorrow is the second anniversary of my son, Peter. His sudden death really changed me and my awareness of death and dying has followed me ever since. Time has not healed the hurt of his death.

No matter what the causes of this great tiredness that has descended on me I know from experience how to cure it, rest, silence, relaxation and focusing my mind on fresh and alive realities.

I may or may not write my daily posting on next week. It does not matter but I will be back Labor day or soon after rested and quiet, ready to write more. Like the tired tomato plants I am too tired to write more.


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Imagination of a Three Year Old - Friday, August 24, 2012

Carolee at three

As summer nears its end I realized that Pat, my wife, and I have not been fishing or swimming once so far this year. As the symbolic end of summer approaches, Labor Day, maybe we can change this sad fact as my wife has some vacation time from work next week and we will spend some time visiting with our grandchildren.

My three grandchildren, Graf kids have also had a busy summer with soccer, football, baseball, 4-H, camps and more. Like other children their age summer is a busy time and goes fast. My oldest grandson, Carson, a freshman to be in high school, has already played in a few junior varsity teams and my other grandson, Dustin, started practicing with his football team weeks ago. My eight year old granddaughter seems to be the only grandchild with some free time to play and imagine.

A few years ago we, grandchildren and I, started a Wiki web page called Graf Kids. At first they were so excited they made many contributions to the web page. Tonight I took a few pictures from this summer I had of each kid and put it on the web page.

I say this about my grandchildren and other children being so busy all the time not to be negative. But it seems that as age and education increase imagination decreases. This is clearly visible with my youngest, 8, and her two brothers, 12 and 14. It is not even a girl/boy thing in my mind. I remember both of my grandsons have tremendous imaginations when they were young. We could make up games and play them over and over again, something now only my youngest seems to appreciate.

When someone jokingly asks me, 69, what I want to be when I grow up, I do not hesitate to say, a three year old. When a three year old tells me she or he is three, I said that I am free. Three year olds do not seem to have the ability to distinguish between three and free. Many of them look at me and say “No you’re not.” They have not been educated to know that a double negative results in a positive, so they agree with me. Jesus said “Unless you are like this child you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” How do we get educated and keep our imagination? Maybe it is as simple as keeping the imagination of a three year old.


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Daily Small Things Can Be Major - Thursday, August 23, 2012

Prayer vigil this morning

Today was low and high which makes it even. Disappointments happened as well as good surprises. Moments of awareness are longer than moments of no consciousness.

These platitudes come to me as I reviewed my day. There was the prayer vigil for a homicide victim this morning where a large group of family and friends were present. I did not hear on the news about this homicide victim, 27 year old African American male in North Central Milwaukee but I guess his death by gun got one line in the newspaper. After the prayer vigil a group of children went out on the street and let loose a bunch of balloons.

My veteran friend did not show up again to work in the garden. He is a good person but he wants basically money not work. I give him an advance in pay which probably contributed for his not showing up for work in the garden again.

Among other things I refined my recent research on Catholic Church in North Central Milwaukee and the Military spending records of Rep. Paul Ryan ® and Rep. Gwen Moore (D) of Wisconsin. So far those involved directly in the Church segregation issue or concerned about military spending of congresspersons have not responded. When the research says something you do not want to hear some believe it is best to ignore it. I sent the revisions to some who in words say they are concerned but the essays will probably get ignored again.

One of my friends who has a brain disorder called me tonight to tell me how once again he let someone take advantage of him and take some of his money. The person knows when my friend gets his weekly stipend from a social agency and is right there to take some.

Daily small things, when lived fully, can be major experiences in life.


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DMZ Gardens to Grow Food and Community - Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vacant lot before DMZ Garden I.

Today I received an email from a legislature aide with questions about a possible event at DMZ Gardens. I have not been directly involved in the garden the last few years but my name was still listed at the UW Extension as the contact person. So I called one of the other co-founders who are still deeply involved in the DMZ, Dawn. She told me how the second DMZ garden, DMZ II, started on another vacant lot nearby had received a grant from the government and via Growing Power and had established a very successful garden. She told me of the plans for DMZ 3 and 4.

I had known Dawn from the good work she does providing housing for those with mental illnesses. I introduced her to another friend, Marna, who I had known through my work at the time with Mothers Against Gun Violence. They, like I, were interested in gardening and when I introduced them to Will Allen of , my mentor in gardening. Thus D for Dawn, M for Marna and Z for me, DMZ gardens was born.

I gradually pulled out but they, with help of Growing Power and the community, kept right on going. It is really a good feeling to know that something that you helped plant a seed has grown so much. The three of us used to meet for lunch once a month to enjoy our good food and discuss our plans. I suggested to Marna and Dawn that we have another lunch soon. Dawn says I was a co-founder of DMZ Gardens but now am an ‘honoree member’. I am honored to be one.

The name DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) came to me since we were building the first garden in the middle of a neighborhood torn by poverty and crime. Our community garden was a place of peace. With the commitment of Growing Power and the City of Milwaukee community gardens on vacant lots have exploded all over Milwaukee. The DMZ gardens are lands of calm and safety in between urban war zones. We need more DMZ’s to grow food and community.

See DMZ Gardens for pictures of old. New pictures of DMZ 1 and 2 to come.


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Ears to Hear - Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Archbishop Oscar Romero,ears
to hear the people of El Salvator

We had a small base community that met for dinner, plan a nonviolent action and do it. We focused on two issues Teach War No More and No More Money for War. We had some great dinners, good meetings and some effective nonviolent actions. But in our small group there is a lot of activist who are active in a lot of causes. Our main thing for years is to try to get Marquette University to be Faithful to the Gospel but without doing something radical insuring our arrest we get ignored by Marquette, administration, Center for Peacemaking and students. We also said we were not a group just a movement and only adopted the name Breaking the Silence since we had to. I will not stop calling for Marquette to get the military bases off campus but how to go on the offensive needs some fresh ideas and attack.

My three essays on The Catholic Church in North Central Milwaukee got some attention but not from Church people it was directed. Unless I can think of something dramatically to do it will also be ignored by those who can do something about the million dollars taken from the area being put back into it. It is something that persons do not want to hear.

Someone today start telling me about the violence of football. I did not want to hear that since football, especially the play of the Green Bay Packers, is something I enjoy. I probably can rationalize watching football on TV saying there is a lot worst violence we are exposed to each day. We all have things we do not want to hear but when we hear them we need to act or pretend we did not hear. Breaking the silence of inaction, not practicing what we preach, talking about something and not doing anything, delivering a message some do not what to hear is all about of life. Living life with ears to hear is a struggle.


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Bottom of the Barrel - Monday, August 20, 2012

Back to the bottom of the barrel
We found a few of us on top of the masses
Of poor, marginalized and ignored.

We few are crying out for help for those below us to those above.
But nobody wants to hear us so our cries go unheard.
We can hear them talking about us and those below us;
But it is not very nice and not much.

The people just outside the barrel look in once and awhile
And even throw us bread or money at times.
But those in charge call them away from the barrel
Using the fear they might fall in.

There are other barrels around with other rejects and poor,
But we cannot see them unless we manage to crawl out
And then we will be put right back in the barrel
As they outside talk some more about us,
And how they can help us if we could help ourselves.

We wait but no one reaches in to pull us out.


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Dying to Live - Sunday, August 19, 2012

lowing the chains by
Peter Graf

I started this diary as an “observation diary’, a technique of looking deeply into an ordinary daily experience, something I had been taught by a teacher in college. Some days I do this but often I do not. It is a difficult task in today’s world for me to be fully alive to the present and see deeply into the moment. Recently I have a hard time focusing on two things at one time. When I drive a car and am talking with a person quite often I will make a wrong turn. If I am doing something and get distracted I might forget what I was doing. Like many old persons or person with dementia I forget where I left something.
Today I observed that in all these areas plus more I was lacking.

However, the biggest area I am deficient in is observing the moment when it means pain, suffering and feeling depressed. If you live in the moment and hear about a US trained Afghan soldier killing a US soldier, or about the homicide rate of Chicago and Philadelphia or see a friend in distress due to injustice or see the Church you love not practice what it preaches, it hurts.

I can get angry and dismiss the hurt with anger; I can get busy and try to forget the hurt; but these are only ways of suppressing reality and numbing oneself. How to face injustice and violence in daily life and still feel hope and fully alive is a challenge. I do not always do the right thing but that is no excuse for not trying.

Since the death of my son, Peter, I have been talking about feeling the shadow of death. It is a lot easier to ignore death than face it but do we really have choice if we want to live life to the fullest. Daily dying is the only way to living life.


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We Need New Tactics - Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dan Berrigan S.J. speaks to
the press at Zuccotti Park
as part of Occupy Wall Street.

A long time ago I had a business partner who taught me some tactics that I see being used most effectively by the Republican Party. One is always go on the offensive and keep the other party on the defensive. For example, the Republican Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates are vulnerable for their position on eventually eliminating Medicare as we know it. So what they do? They attack the Democratic presidential candidate as being against Medicare. The best defense is offense.

Another tactic taught me by my business partner is that if you say something over and over again some will believe it is true. For years the Republicans have been saying the best way to create jobs is to cut taxes for the rich, the job creators. It has not worked the last thirty years but people believe it and the tax for rich have significantly dropped without job creation.

Another tactic is to define the issue the way you want. For example the Republicans and insurance companies supported mandatory insurance for all but now that it is in the health bill that was passed and ruled constitutional they say how bad mandatory insurance is and want the whole health bill eliminated. The President allowed insurance companies to write most of the health insurance bill and Wall Street brokers to write the financial regulation bill. Now that both bills have been passed and enacted in law they both parties are against the respective bills they encouraged and wrote.

I do not think the Democrats are stupid and do not know the rules of the battle in politics. They play politics by similar rules and have their own set of tactics. Both parties are regulated by financial interest and ‘play fight’ each other to keep us distracted from the real issue: the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer while the middle class fights each other. Divide and conquer is one tactic both parties know and use.

Where are our tactics in the nonviolent peace and justice movement? We use the same old ones protest, vote, talk, complain and compete with each other. We need new tactics!


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What People Want to Hear! - Friday, August 17, 2012

Memorial for Homicide victim, male, 25.

Today we had prayer vigils for six homicide victims that were shot and killed during the last week. This was the same number of homicides committed by one individual who died himself at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek. But for one exception these men, from age 19–57 were barely mentioned in the media. The exception was Sikh store operator who was killed in an armed robbery of his store. Because he was a member of the temple where six members were killed in Oak Creek he got a lot of press.

The other five were of African American males, whose death, outside a group of family and friends, was. I sometimes feel like an abolitionist in the days of slavery crying out how these persons are also human and need to be recognized and respected so we stop this senseless killing.

I remember that when Tommy Thompson was near the end of his long terms as governor and after building a large prison system in Wisconsin he had a study done of the causes of crime. The people in the study said: Prisoners and Prisons “are bound to grow as long as the root cause of crime—poverty, lack of education and lack of family support—go unaddressed.” Governor Thompson, who now is running for US Senate said: Eliminate welfare, put the poor mother to work, build more prisons, end parole, and hand out more severe sentencing. That is what the people wanted to hear at the time and so it was done.

The headlines of today’s newspaper reads: “Prison pass UW in current budget”. It says: “In 2011–13 Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers allotted just 2.1 billion to the state’s public universities and $2.25 billion to the Department of Corrections. It’s a gap that is unlikely to close any time soon.”

Both Republican Governors know what the roots of crime are, “poverty, lack of education and lack of family support” yet address only the symptoms. Thus crime increases and so thus the budget for prisons.

At most of the homicide sites we visit there is a makeshift memorial. Common items are teddy bears, balloons, empty beer and liquor bottles and notes. The first memorial today, pictured above, was like this but, as one of our group noticed, featured a polar bear, as well as teddy bears. That was unique as are all the happy memories stories told by family and friends. A mother today at one of the vigils was just full of humorous stories about her son which motivated the victim’s brother and sister to tell a humorous store about the young man.

The six murders in the Sheik temple and the six on the streets of Milwaukee last week are preventable if we have the courage to limit gun availability, give all children an opportunity for a good education without joining the military and help people move out of poverty by giving them the welfare the giant corporations now receive. But is this what people want to hear?


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Blessed are the Poor - Thursday, August 16, 2012

Children in Guatemalan Orphanage
Buried in Guatemala

I feel blessed to have friends who are people in need. Some would call them ‘poor’ but I call them rich. They may have a disability or be low income or both but they are great persons as friend because they are themselves, open and honest and appreciative of friendship.

People go to third world countries say similar things, how they are rewarded by being with the poor. Today I heard a person who at age 34 gave up his lucrative job at Microsoft to start of foundation that has created 10,000 libraries and 1000 schools in third world countries. This is a tremendous achievement. Yet daily we hear about private schools, voucher schools, charter schools, military schools redirecting education funds from our public school system and the cutting back of library services. Who is going to stop our public school system and libraries in the USA from becoming like they are in the third world?

People travel the world to help the poor yet just across town we can find many people in need. Americans in need might be better off that poor in third world countries but that can be a curse as well as blessings. I found that the poor in third world countries accept their poverty because that is all they see around them. Poor in American see the celebration of wealth and buying things around them and thus often feel depressed that they cannot meet the standards of others. Poor in the USA are treated as lesser human beings, marginalized and stigmatized. The rich are in control and everyone knows it.

So to be friends with people in need and thus be blessed is easy in these days. Just look around you and you will find the blessed ones. Blessed are the poor!


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When Will We Ever Learn? - Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Endless Wars, When will we
will ever learn?

As I read and see the news from around the world it is hard to keep hope alive. Afghanistan had 46 civilians killed in one day by sectarian violence. Iraq is in disarray. Christians in Syria, like in Iraq, are being persecuted and killed. Is this what we brought to Iraq and Afghanistan and now privately by support of the rebels overthrowing the government in Syria? In the USA over 30 persons are killed each day by gun violence and as more persons armed themselves the more persons are killed. The complaint can go on and on but we must ask: When will we ever learn?

One of our congressmen from Wisconsin, who voted for two unfunded wars, voted for the stimulus program, voted to cut taxes on the rich, a welfare system in reverse and wanted to give the military more money than it requested is now running for vice president as a fiscal conservative. When will we ever lean?
During the day and at night I am tempted to escape into TV, browsing the computer or anything except facing the reality of what is happening.

We all say we are for better education for youth but more and more money is cut for education and diverted to private schools in vouchers, charters schools, military schools and tax cuts for families that choose private education. When will ever learn that we are destroying public education?

I sent out my three essays on The Catholic Church in North Central Milwaukee and heard back only from the two pastors of the African American churches in the North Central area. Maybe I will get more responses in the days ahead but sadly I doubt it. People do not seem to want to learn history when it does not agree with their set views and opinions. I will keep getting my ‘opinion of the truth’ as Gandhi called it, but try not to look for results. When will we ever learn?


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Opinion of Truth - Tuesday, August 14, 2012

All truths are easy to understand
once they are discovered; the point
is to discover them.
Galileo Galilei

Gandhi called his autobiography: “The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Gandhi believed, as I do, that we must always struggle for truth but we will not attain it until we die. However, never attaining is no excuse for us not acting on our opinion of truth. We might not have all the truth but we need to act according to the truth as we know it. We cannot force our ‘opinion of truth’ on others but we cannot put aside what our conscience says is truth in any action, even voting.

Today I read an article about Waging Peace at the Drone Convention by John Dear. Our President has really promoted drone warfare, killing by remote control’’ and has established a new arms race. Yesterday in the posting I wrote about how the present administration is building three new nuclear bomb facilities, the first new ones in over thirty years. Yet many of my family and friends, if not all, will vote for him to be President for another four years. Why? They say he is the lesser of two evils, not what they want to see in a president but better than the Republican alternative.

I am not saying the President is evil but his policies certainly are. What kind of democracy do we have when we must vote for one of two men, the one we consider the lesser of two evils. There are third party candidates but everyone knows they will not win. When electoral politics limits choices to the one with a vision we think he is the lesser of two evils, even thought it involves killing innocent persons by ‘remote control’ is it really a democracy?

Today is primary election day in Wisconsin and on the news I heard people say “It is my privilege to vote”; “It is my right to vote”; we must vote to be a democracy. Many of my friends and family will vote for the present of the USA so he can have a second chance as being the ‘lesser of two evils.’

Three years ago when I saw the direction our President was taking I predicted he will win a second term. I have seen nothing that would have me change that prediction.

Double talk by our new vice presidential Republican candidate that we get our rights from God and nature and not government is so hypocritical. I do not understand how he can continue to say that when he voted for two unfunded wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, for our government through the military to defend our rights that come from God and nature!

Truth is the looser if present day culture and politics. People say whatever they have to say and do not hear what they do not what to hear. Truth matters little. I do not have the Truth but most act on my opinion of truth.


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Individualism or Collectivsm - Monday, August 13, 2012

Three Transform Now Plowshares
who shut down a new nuclear
weapon factory

For some now I have been working on a three part essay called The Catholic Church in North Central Milwaukee. I am still not done with some editing, formatting, adding footnotes and pictures. But after working on this three part essay in bit and pieces for a long time I finally see the light at the end. The topic sounds quite non controversial but the titles of the three parts of the essay will give you more of a taste of how it may be controversial: Separate but Equal, Million Dollar Move and St. Vincent De Paul Stalled. Basically it is about how the Catholic Church in Milwaukee contributed to forming the North Central area, the most segregated (African American) area of the most segregated city in the USA according to 2010 U.S. Census and the poorest area of Milwaukee, the 4th poorest city in the USA.

If I did a good job I probably will be ignored, especially by the Catholic Church. If I did a poor job I will probably be criticized. If I cannot focus the spotlight on the message and get the 1.1 million dollars back into the area from which it came, I guess it will be better to be ignored than criticized. They say the “truth will set us free” but I found out that statement is true only if a person wants to be free. I would love to have some of my facts and opinions challenge and have a civil dialog about the message of these essays. But in today’s world ‘civility’ means for some no controversy and “everyone has a right to their opinion” no matter how destructive it is.

I was reading and listening today about the opinions and statements of the new vice presidential candidate from Wisconsin, Rep. Ryan. While he might be a nice guy and he is a Catholic, his strong opinion of the goodness of “individualism” and selfishness and the evil of “collectivism” and altruism goes against all I have learned about Catholic Social teaching.

Also today I read about a 83 year old Catholic nun who with two senior citizens got to the inner sanctum of one the new 6.5 billion nuclear weapons complex being built by the present administration. The facility is on lockdown. Clearly these Catholic activists, now facing 16 years of prison were not doing this for individual or selfish reasons but for the common good to protest against “an economy and social structure based upon war-making and empire-building.”

In my three essays the Catholic Church acted for individual and self centered reasons while contributing to the segregation and poverty of North Central Milwaukee. If the Church would have practiced Catholic Social teaching of working for the ‘common good’ and the “preferential option for the poor” who know what we would see today in this area. The choice is clear, individualism or collectivism.


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Eating Healthy and Ethnic - Sunday, August 12, 2012

Grape leaves growing
on backyard fence

My two brothers and one nephew were here for 23 hours, 8:30pm Saturday till 7:30 pm Sunday night. It was a good opportunity to visit, watch the Olympics, go to liturgy together, my brothers and nephew to visit the Wisconsin State fair and, of course, enjoy a stuffed grape leaves dinner. Grape leaves wrapped in rice, meat, spices are a traditional dinner of our Lebanese heritage passed from our grandfather to our mother and now to us. Grape leaves grow all over the world and is a common vine that seems to flourish everywhere. Our backyard fence is covered with grape leaf vines which is the major source of the stuffed grape leaves.

We went to the Middle East store today to get a few items, like fresh pita bread, for the meal. This store is run by three Palestinian brothers. They make their own bread, have a butcher shop in the store and sell authentic Middle Easter products, many from Palestine.

Talking with one of the brothers my wife and this brother were swamping ways to make eggplant. We had some nice eggplants from our garden which my wife has made into some wonderful dishes, Italian and Middle Eastern. My African niece made an eggplant dish of her native Sierra Leone. Eggplants like grape leaves are easily grown around the world and without a strong taste of their own with the addition of other foods and spices are delicious many ways.

We celebrate with stuffed grape leaves whenever there is a family get together like today. The Palestinian brothers are Muslims and in a few days will celebrate the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting. Next week their store will be busy with persons purchasing foods to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr, the feast day at the end of Ramadan.

My two brothers and I are Christians, Roman Catholics to be more specific, and celebrate with family the traditional Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter. Feast days and holidays are a good opportunity for family and friends to enjoy traditional dinners, like we Americans eating turkey at Thanksgiving.
Food is an essential way to celebrate with ever one, children and adults, getting into the act.

To eat, not overeat, to eat healthy and ethnic, to eat slowly with others not fast food quickly is a way to enjoy keeping a health weight and remember who we are and where we came from.


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To Listen - Saturday, August 11, 2012

Whoever has ears to hear,
let him hear.

Jesus is quoted often as saying “let those who have ears to hear, hear.” Because of my tendency to think fast I have been accused of not listening. There might be some partial truth to these accusations but actually I have a good sets of ears to listen, the way Jesus talks about it. Sometimes I do not want to hear what I hear but I listen anyway. What I have a hard time doing is listening and not acting on the message I hear. How people can hear about terrible war crimes our president and government commit, “crimes against humanity”, and still support the government and president I do not know.

Our pastor here in Milwaukee of the original Catholic Church created to keep black Catholics separate from white Catholics writes poetry. Here is what he had to say about listening.

To Listen




set aside
all device

without strain



Do you have ears to hear?


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Be Persistent and Hope - Friday, August 10, 2012

Persistent is a person whose
heart is full of hope

The cutbacks in government service have had serious consequences for the poor. One friend has gone months without his food stamps because he and his caseworker have not been able to get through the bureaucracy that has accumulated around this essential service, basic need to eat. Waiting on phones for automatic machines seems to be the norm.

Another friend, a young adult, is struggling in life now getting her education and just surviving. A car ran a red light and hit her car in the side. The person tried to get away but she stopped him and called 911. The operator said unless there was a physical injury the police could not be sent out. She did all the right things, taking information from the other person, reporting it her insurance company, to his insurance company and going to local police district to report the accident. The police just gave her some basic information and told her to fill out a form and send it to Madison, Wis. The insurance company given to her said that the person had not been insured by them since 2009 and her insurance company said they would repair the car but she would have to pay her deductible, money she cannot afford. She called the police district again but they put her on hold for 40 minutes. So she called the police central district, told them about the person running a red light, giving false information, having an outdated license and no insurance. They just told her to send the form to Madison and there was not much the police could do.

During drive time the street in from of my house is a raceway, with cars going 10 or 20 miles over the speed limit. This is because for nine blocks on this street between two freeway entrances there are no stop signs, so our street becomes a shortcut. On this stretch of road there are three grade schools and a home for the visually impaired. I reported this condition to our alderman who reported it to police. For a little while we got a digital sign telling cars how fast they were going but it made no difference. The raceway remains waiting for a tragic accident for action.

Our police chief has said the police do intense policing, stopping cars that are suspicious, only in neighborhoods with a high crime rate, which usually are neighborhoods suffering poverty. Poverty breeds crimes but unless we get at cause of poverty intense policing in poor areas does not work.

My two friends are poor but I am not. However, I am not rich enough with money and influence to get change the speeding on our street. However, like my friends we must consistently seek what we know is right and necessary and maybe our persistence will pay off. So if one is trying to get food stamps, or trying to get justice or to slow down cars on a street, one needs to be persistent and hope.


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Killing is not Human - Thursday, August 09, 2012

Talking recently with an active soldier and an 11 year old veteran I have gotten a deeper understanding of the violence military training and experience does to the human mind. As we learn more about the brain we discover how complicated and brilliant it is. It is extremely durable but it can be affected by a hard hit in the head during a soccer game or by a terrible experience like needing to kill someone to survive.

Soldiers are praised and honored as they should be for their courage. However, after the military service often they face poverty, rejection and unemployment. Only now after a terrible increase in suicide and violence of former soldiers is the military investing money into therapy and mental health of soldiers. But still they are looking at the effects not the causes of the brain damage suffered in military training and experience.

The movie Soldiers of Conscience a few years ago, with the corporation of the Army present an outstanding understanding of how military training and experience and activities like reflexive killing, killing without conscience, come into direct conflict with one’s conscience and values thus radically changing the brain. But this is information that people do not want to know’ even some so called peacemakers refuse to watch the movie while others just ignore it.

Talking with persons in the military and veterans does not lead to a common political opinion about the military and war but it does lead one to an understanding of how training in violence changes a person.

In the late sixties I spend a year in prison, mostly maximum security, for resistance to the Selective Service system and the Vietnam War as part of the Milwaukee 14 action of destroying 1A selective service files. At the time destroying these records that forced young men to put in a position “to kill or be killed” seem natural. Now talking with these soldiers and veterans I realize how unnatural it is to be trained to kill another human being due to orders, instinct or self defense.

Studies have been done by military and others showing how deeply killing one, even in self defense, affects the human mind and how even the training to kill reflexively can damage a mind. My time in prison was a life changing experience but an uplifting one. I do not know of any soldier or veteran that can say that. Many have survived but all seem to be effected by military training. As the stepmother of the man who recently shot and killed Sikhs praying in a temple said: “He was a completely different person after leaving or being forced out of the military.” He as a young man who had friends of different races and after the military he was full of hate and became a white supremeness.

When someone who is trained to kill human beings reflexively or, even worst, does it, there is something deeply affected in his brain, body and soul. To understand this is why we all need to say to Marquette University, an officer military base for Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force Teach War No More. Killing is not human.


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Fear Feeds the Epidemic of Gun Violence - Wednesday, August 08, 2012

I was glad to see an editorial today in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper calling for a ban for semi-automatic weapons which have no hunting purpose but are meant to kill persons. What about all hand guns, what purpose do they serve outside of harming people? But any attempt to control the use of gun is opposed by the National Rifle Association and politicians, Democrat and Republican.

Looking deeper we can see we are a nation of guns and other weapons. The same newspaper with today’s editorial about guns feature an article on the front of the business section yesterday: State firms could benefit from Senate Defense Bill. Our economy is built on war, guns and violence. Guns for all are a symbol of this faith.

On a pubic military site that I monitor there was an article today about the Army beginning a search for a compact sniper rifle.

Weapons and guns are glorified everywhere. There is a medical doctor at the Medical College of Wisconsin who for years, with others, has been calling for gun violence to be treated as a public health problem. Treating gun violence as we would any other disease would give us control over this illness of our society. The simple facts are Before a child in the U.S. reaches 15, when compared to a child in the rest of the industrialized world, he or she is: 5 times more likely to be murdered, Twice as likely to commit suicide, 12 times more likely to die a gun related death”. (Harvard Injury Control Research Center, Matthew Miller: Journal of Trauma, February 2002).

Why do we tolerate this epidemic of gun violence? Hermann Göring, a German politician, military leader, and leading member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in an interview from his prison cell after World II has part of the answer: “Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

Fear feeds the epidemic of gun violence.


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Organizatins Matter! - Tuesday, August 07, 2012

“Organizations, like men, if
they are to command respect and
grow, must have a sense of honor
and must fulfill their promises.”

Today after our Faith Sharing group met we had lunch and somehow the conversation got around to humorous remarks about individual achievements. There is a poster on my kitchen wall saying how by “working together we could make a difference”. I made reference to it in saying how in the ‘old days’, meaning the 60’s, how individual achievements were not as important to us then group efforts.

In the time of Jesus there was no sense of the individual; everyone was part of a group. Nowadays we take Jesus’ statements in Matthew 25 about feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, releasing the prisons as individual challenges. We often fail to read that in this story Jesus told starts off by saying on what basis nations would be judged not individuals. We are also members of groups and organizations that are responsible.

In many of the Olympic events that we are watching on TV these days, gymnastics, diving, shooting, archery, tennis, weight living, track and field events and boxing are about individual achievements and rewards. In politics we talk about individuals and what they can do or not do for us. Lowering the taxes for individual or organization seems to be much more popular than any talk about the ‘common good’. Talking about the ‘common good’ makes one susceptible to being a socialist, the opposite of the best, capitalist.

Yet in many faiths and religions working for the common good is praised. Yes we are judged as individuals but also, as Jesus said, as groups, organizations or nations.

My picture quote of the day from Gandhi says it well: “Organizations, like men, if they are to command respect and grow, must have a sense of honor and must fulfill their promises.” Organizations, countries and groups can do good or wrong. Organizations matter.


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Senseless Violence - Monday, August 06, 2012

Sikh women mourn senseless

The shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing seven persons, is being called an act of ‘senseless violence’ and it is. But as the Mayor of New York calling for regulations of gun said so are the 38 killings each day in USA. The 50 plus homicide victims in Milwaukee and the 294 persons who have been murdered in Chicago in 2012 are victims of acts of senseless violence. How many men, women and children have died by USA Killer Drones in Pakistan, Somali and Yemen, acts of senseless violence in my opinion. Senseless violence is celebrated in video games and par of many TV shows. Today we remember the greatest one action of senseless violence in history, dropping the Atom bomb on city of Hiroshima, Japan.

There was a lot of information locally by the act of senseless violence yesterday at the temple. But there was little focused on the cause. But I did see a small segment on TV where the shooters stepmother talked about he had radically changed when he came back from the military. And through a news service I saw an article in the the Jakata Globe in India that the shooter was a Psychological Operations Specialist in the Army for five years. It was from the Army that I learned “psychological operations specialist is primarily responsible for the analysis, development and distribution of intelligence used for information and psychological effect.” One of the job duties listed for this special op force is “Research and analyze methods of influencing foreign population from a variety of information sources.”

I do not what this information that I had to dig for but it is, for me, more helpful to understanding the why of this criminal act than all the political expressions of sympathy but failure to take actions to curb senseless violence that happens daily in USA and all around the world.

When I stopped today taking in information about the shooting and deeply let the reality of it sink in I was surrounded by the cloud of death. The same happened tonight as I watched at the end of PBS news hour as silently the pictures, names, rank and age of soldiers killed in Afghanistan recently.

Senseless violence will slow down only when we slow down and see, hear and feel the environment of senseless killing. We cannot stop senseless violence but we can create an environment that prevents senseless violence.


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Guns Kill! - Sunday, August 05, 2012

By our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim… we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yesterday I posted that More Means More, how means need to be compatible to the end for real change to happen. The same principle is true for gun violence. The more guns with the purpose of killing human being the more we create “an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.”

We are all shocked by the killing of six Sikhs during a religious ceremony in their temple in Oak Creek today. When the killing comes home to a community next to Milwaukee it is just as horrific and terrifying as it was at Columbine High School in my brother and his family’s city of Littleton Colorado or as it was in Aurora, Colorado recently. Gun violence increases in the USA as availability of guns meant only to kill become more available. Gun violence breeds more gun violence.

Gun sales, like after the Aurora massacre, will probably go up tomorrow since people still believe that more people with guns will make us safe from gun violence. The President and the First Lady naturally gave their condolences to the Sikh community. Yet the President retains a kill list and if a killer drone needs to take out six innocent persons to get one ‘terrorist’ he can justify it. Saying something about restricting the use of guns only meant to kill human beings is not politically correct for him or for the Republican candidate for president.

Tonight during the Olympics there was an ad for a new ‘reality show’ about ordinary persons competing with special op forces, Navy Seals, Delta Force Green Beret. It is called “Stars and Stripes.”

My friend Marna was co-founder of Mothers Against Gun Violence started when her son and two other mother’s son were killed by a handgun in the hands of someone who could not legally purchase a gun. The three mothers just tried to get a State law requiring background checks for secondary sale of handguns. Democratic legislatures, when they had a chance failed to pass the law and now with a Republican majority in the legislature there is not chance.


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More Means More! - Saturday, August 04, 2012

“This is it Charlie Brown, if you
vote one more time, there will be
real change!”

I survived two days at the Wisconsin State Fair. By survived I mean surviving from being stuffed with cream puffs, ice cream, brats, beer and fries. I was looking forward to a homemade Middle Eastern eggplant my wife was making tonight with eggplant from our front yard garden. This was going to be my first real food dinner since Thursday night when I was the cook. However in the middle of her preparation she got a phone call from a friend who was parked in our driveway waiting for her. A Barry Manilow concert she was going to attend with friends months ago had been cancelled and rescheduled for tonight. She rushed out telling me to finish making the dinner. I was thinking about in when my son who was here with my granddaughter suggested I order a Rocky Rococo pizza. I thought for a moment and chose the pizza. So the fast foods of the last few days lead to more fast food.

In life I find the way to something is usually the same as the means you choose to get to the goal. Many people believe that the way to peace is war though history has shown that peace is the only way to peace and war leads to more war. Eating leads to more eating, silence to more silence, writing leads to more writing and violence to more violence. The ends and means need to be the same for real change.

Some friends are upset when I talk about not voting in elections or voting for Nobody. They remind me that voting for the ‘lesser of two evils’ is better than not voting at all. I do not agree and believe that the means of voting for someone whose values and morals you do not agree with is giving more power to the end you do not want to see. The more you vote for the lesser evil the more you vote for the lesser evil.

Is life circular? I do not think so. But the more you do something the more you do something. If we lived in a democracy where the more you voted the more you could vote for someone who represents you, I would vote. But without a true democracy the more you vote the more you vote and nothing changes. Be careful what you do for you may do more of it. More means more.


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Watching Cows! - Friday, August 03, 2012

Carson, Cow and his brother

Since I was a small child I remember going to the Wisconsin State Fair and enjoying the food, rides and animals. When my two sons where in 4-H I got more interested in the exhibits featuring blue ribbon winners from the county fairs. Naturally one consistent factor of all the State fairs I have been to in my life is cream puffs. Nowadays there are all kinds of food, lots of fried food on a stick, but cream puffs remain the King or Queen of State Fair foods.

I had just a passing interest in the many animal barns and do not remember ever watching animal judging in the coliseum at the Wisconsin State fair. But today was different. I spend a good part of the morning watching cow judging in the coliseum. The reason was that the dairy farm across the road from my son had cows in the competition and my oldest grandson, Carson, was chosen to show one of the heifers, a young cow pre-milking days.

I have watched my grandchildren show cows in the Shawano County fair for a number of years but this was the first in the Wisconsin State fair, where only the best of the best make it. Today the cows were judged in a variety of classes and tomorrow in the showmanship judging he will be judged for how he shows the cow.

Today the cow he was showing got a red ribbon which in the Danish judging system, given to the second place cows. Blue ribbons go to all the best cows and white ribbons go to the others. Tomorrow he will be judged on how he shows the cow.

My grandson with other youth showing cows stays in a dormitory on the Wisconsin State Fair grounds from Wednesday thru Sunday. He has a work schedule for most of the day so the only time we saw him was in the cow barn before and after his showing. His brother and sister, parents, some of his cousins on both sides of the family and all four of grandparents were there to watch the cows and especially him.

After the cow showing we visited a few other places and my godson, 4 years old, and his brother 5, got a chance to play together. However, after we got back to the cow barn in the late afternoon I managed to go out and buy of three-pack of the famous cream puffs to share, at least two of them.

After watching my grandchildren show cows at the Shawano County fair I did not think this event would be so exciting. But it was and I will return to the State fair tomorrow to more watching cows.


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Work Together and Not Divided - Thursday, August 02, 2012

Today I took my nephew, Adam, 12 years old and my granddaughter, Carolee, 8 on a magical mystery tour of imagination. After some consultation we decided to go to the Science Store first, a landmark for my three grandchildren. There are a lot of science kits, things, toys for anyone 3- 80 years to enjoy. The kids got stuff and I even found a soil test kit that I think will work in our garden, after three failures earlier.

Next we went to one of the Kopps Custard stores for a Kopps burger and custard. Both youth thought the Kopps burger was the ‘best burger’ they ever had. I am not sure about that but it is good and ‘big’.

Next it was to the Lake Michigan Waterfront to feed the ducks and geese in a lagoon stale bread, a tradition that goes back to my childhood. Preparation for a water ski show in the lagoon this weekend had chased away most of the birds. But we found two ducks and two geese that enjoyed the bread.

After touring the lakefront we started to head home and I remember that I was close to the Urban Ecology Center. I remember the first time I took my two older grandsons there. They were convinced that it would be boring. But they left agreeing with my friend that had recommended the place that it was a fascinating, fun place. My nephew did not have much of a prejudice against the place since my granddaughter kept telling him how great it was. So he, as I and my granddaughter did, enjoyed it. The goal of the day was to use our imagination and I think we did that.

Tonight reading my emails I remembered why I enjoy the company of children over adults. One of my friends wrote me about four events he or his community was sponsoring in one week in August. They will all be simple protest where most members of his community will not participate, in fact there will not be many persons at all. There are all types of peace and justice organizations and individuals doing all kinds of education or protest events. Since my friend has been so supportive I have joined him in many of his protest, although often there are just two or three of us. But so many individuals and groups ‘doing their thing’ to me seems self defeating. If we really thought of ourselves in a nonviolent war against violence and injustice we would work together to focus on something we can do and win and fight together in a bigger battle.

Once and awhile we do come together as the opposition against the Wisconsin Governor and Republican Legislature after they got in power in 2010. But just at the peak of the nonviolent power movement we were divided into doing electoral politics which are won by the most money, something people do not have. The Occupy Movement at first seemed to offer hope and unity. But so many groups did their “own thing” and the movement got divided.

Youth know a good thing when they taste it, like frozen custard or a hamburger. They see it when they enter the Urban Ecology center. They unite when good things happen. Adults, with all their good education, when things seem to be happening for change get divided and competitive.

Work Together like youth and not be divided like adults is the lesson of day.


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Vote Nobody for President - Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Recently I sent an email to a few peace lists with an article about our President that most of us voted for in 2008, Obama: $70M in new military aid to Israel and saying that those who need to vote should vote for Nobody. I said, tongue in cheek, that Nobody would not disappoint and was better than voting for “the lesser of two evils.”

Most people, as usual, ignored my email but a few responded saying that it would be better to vote for a human being than Nobody, specifically the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein. A few of us exchanged emails back and forth but at the end not voting or voting for nobody seemed wrong for many.

I knew there have been other campaigns to elect Nobody or None of the Above in other presidential elections but did not realize that it started in 1975 on Haight Street in San Francisco. The official Nobody for President campaign is a humorous approach to elections designed to encourage people to register and vote. It continues today.

My email to vote for Nobody was not to encourage persons to vote or an anti apathy statement but was to call attention to how much time, energy and money is spent on a presidential candidate that distracts us for the real issues of changing our society. Change starts with a change of heart not with electing one of the two candidates the military/corporate/educational complex give us.
So in short, if you feel the need to vote, consider voting for Nobody. Nobody will not disappoint and will send a message to our government that we need our democracy back.


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