Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

This post was inspired by the book, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker.  As a member of From Left to Write book club, I received a copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own. You can read other members' posts inspired by this book at From Left to Write.

Click on the title above to buy this book from my aStore.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats tells the story of love, spiritual depth and family choices. Set in Burma, when Burma was Burma, Sendker brilliantly weaves the tale of three generations. The compelling story of a blind boy who falls in love with a club footed girl who can’t walk anchors the novel and showcases a love so deep as to overcome logic, continents and time.

All families make choices that deliver a wallop of impact which ripples forth and we never know how far the ripples wave before the effect dies. My father died last week and I am particularly aware right now of the decisions he made that rippled forth in so many lives.
Dad and All Six Wives
Photo by John Lynner Peterson

Dad was married nine times—only 6 women—but nine marriages. He produced seven children—that we know of. I used to say, “Dad is not immoral, he is amoral.” He did not think rules, propriety, manners, codes of conduct or logic applied to him. He was going to do what he was going to do regardless of what others thought. He lived his life this way and accepted the consequences of doing so.

I suppose all parents make decisions that affect their children’s lives. And we don’t get to choose our parents. So the lesson in life and from The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is to go deep, find peace and let love take precedence regardless of the ripples you are experiencing from decisions past generations may have made. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

RIP Clarence W. Sims AKA The Raggedy Ass Son-of-a-Bitch

Photo by John Lynner Peterson

I have written about my Dad in this space before—like the section on Dad from my memoir here:

And this post about my last visit with him.
Last visit with Dad
 The last few years have been a healing experience for me with Dad. After admitting I love him, I accepted that I would never get what I needed from him as a father. This acceptance permitted me to enjoy him as a human being. He was a one-of-a-kind character.

Dad declined rapidly in the last few months. My half-brothers and I began to talk about his death, burial and funeral service. I knew officiating at the service would be something I could contribute that others couldn’t. I knew the service shouldn’t be in a church and shouldn’t be religious. A one-size-fits-all service by a clergy person who didn’t know him, sounded disgusting. I had to do it. Could I?

I got the call that Dad was gone at 8:30 Monday morning. I started thinking. I determined I would not make comments about Dad that were untrue. I could find lots of positive qualities and decided I would make jokes about his shortcomings. And, once again, my friend Don Lichtenfelt came through with poignant quotes, poems and connective material.

Oh, Facebook also provided some fodder. Dad’s favorite tavern, Leroy’s posted on their page a tribute to him that stated he sat on the corner barstool, ordered a cheeseburger with onion and a 7 and 7. They closed with “RIP Shoestring.” I knew his eulogy had to be delivered from a barstool.

We left for Evansville, IN on Wednesday morning. The visitation started at 4 pm with a service at 6:30. People started arriving. As I stood at the far end of the room, a woman through the door at the other end.

“Who is that?” I asked my half-brother Greg, “She looks a lot like me.”

“It’s Carol Sue.”
One of the Sibs

Oh my, Carol Sue is my father’s first child from his first marriage, eight other marriages followed. I scarcely knew her as a child but remembered she danced as a go-go girl at a bar in downtown Evansville in the Sixties. She’s 71 now.

And that was the beginning of the funeral experience. More to come.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My favorite poem of faith

Photo by John Lynner Peterson


By Roberta Dorr

Sand is the water of the desert.
It can bear the traveler on its billows,
Or wash her cups
And clean her hands.
But when her body’s
Racked with thirst
No counterfeit will serve,
And one would trade
One’s kingdom in the sand
For one clear cup
Of sparkling, liquid water.
One faith is quite as good
As any other
Until the heart in thirst
Cries out for what is true.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This post was inspired by the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. The book was given to me by virtue of my membership in www.fromlefttowrite.com. This is not a review or critique.

Being an extrovert or introvert should not come with a value load---negative or positive. According to Susan Cain, the positive value in our culture is decidedly skewed toward extroverts. She and her book are intended to start a Quiet Revolution.

I say, “Have at it, Susan. Please take my portion of the Value of being an extrovert in this world.” Having said that I am forced to admit, extroversion does have advantages and I’m not ungrateful for those. I maintain it also has the disadvantage of having to due the extroverting for all your introverted friends.

I write this post as a tribute to Judy Bartella, Rachel Childress, Rhonda Johnston, Mary Henson, Wendy Wilson (although I think she is a closet extrovert!) and many of my family members. At one point in my life, I felt surrounded by introverts. I screamed at Rachel one holiday season, “I’m tired of doing the extroverting for all you introverts.”

The truth of the matter is that on most days I wasn’t tired of it. I loved it! But when an extrovert is extroverted-out, look out world. In my experience, she becomes a grouchy, bitchy witch until she gets re-fueled.

Cain’s thesis in much of the book is the benefits that introverts bring to the table which are often overlooked or outshined by the extrovert sparkling away at the head of the table. I can agree with Cain on this, I just wish she hadn’t thrown the extroverts under the bus and called us ax murderers in the process. My introverted friends bring great value to my life. Steadfastness, thoughtfulness, calm spirit, peace, good ideas and great loyalty to our friendship. 

Thank you, dear introverts. I bequeath to you my share of all that extroverted work. Hee hee hee hee hee.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 National Festival of Young Preachers

Click here for gallery of photos by John Lynner Peterson of this event.
As mentioned, John and I attended the Academy of Preachers' event in Louisville as “convener” and “evaluator.” Our positions though are irrelevant. The end result is we attended a spiritual feast presented to us by “children” young enough to be our grandchildren! Since it was our first experience with the Academy we had no idea what to expect. What a delightful surprise.

I learned from Willie Bodrick II that we are blessed so that we can be a blessing. This Harvard freshman preached a traditional African American style and packed it with original thought, righteous indignation and the Good News. One of Willie’s final comments was a quote from Edgar A. Guest, poet, “I’d rather see a sermon than preach one.” I saw a sermon that will bless the future in Willie Bodrick II.

Following Willie, we worshipped with Ashley Hawley, a fifteen year old high school sophomore from Sacramento, CA. As Ashley told us, “I’m a fifteen year old from California, so I preach like a fifteen year old from California.” So she did. While the Sermon on the Mount from the Gospel of Matthew was the text for all the preachers, could one really expect Willie and Ashley to have the same perspective on the scripture? No. And we weren’t disappointed.

Willie and Ashley were but two of the one hundred twenty five young preachers from thirty states and over thirty faith traditions. As I indicated in the previous post, I support the Academy of Preachers because it is one of few organizations that brings together people of faith from the entire spectrum of right to left and allows them to know and love each other for who they are.

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why I Do What I Do

I off to Louisville today—no, I’m not going there to gloat over the University of Kentucky’s victory over University of Louisville—although that is tempting.

Husband John and I will both be volunteering our services to the Academy of Preachers event called Preachapalooza. A friend of mine commented in the last few days, “What are YOU doing at an event called Preachapalooza? It sounds like conservatives?”

I agree it sounds more like terminology the conservative mega-churches would use. We liberals tend to eschew anything that smacks of stadiums filled with dancing fans unless it’s Kentucky basketball.

But the Academy of Preachers is not a conservative organization AND it is not a liberal organization. Therein lies the reason John and I will be giving our skills to the event. The Academy, founded by Rev. Dwight Moody and led by Rev. Lee Huckleberry, brings young people from a vast area of denominations--the entire conservative to liberal spectrum. They come together, preach to and for each other, become friends and share their faith.

It’s the “becoming friends and sharing their faith” that draws me to this organization. It is the first and only organization I have heard of in a long time that is bringing the extremes of our faith into conversation. And it's not like we haven't looked. John and I have both done a great deal of ecumenical and interfaith work. Somehow, the organizations are not doing a good job of bridging the gap. We live in our separate worlds, attend our separate churches, vote for our separate candidates and have our separate agendas for America. It’s not a healthy situation for anyone.   

So we’re heading to Preachapalooza today. And I hope you will spend some time talking with someone whose faith you disagree with. Who knows, we might learn something from each other.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

I wanted to recommit to this blog in 2012. I didn’t want to do it at 4 AM. Isn’t there a saying that what you do on New Year’s Day, you will do all year long? I pleased if that means more blogging, I’m not so pleased if that means more insomnia in 2012.

I crested the hill of sixty-fours years since I last posted on this blog. Creeping up on Medicare makes one think about “have I made a difference in my life.” I do feel I have made small differences but that is something else I want to recommit to in 2012.

One of the organizations that I am most proud of being part of is Avaaz.org. Below is a letter to Avaaz members with a sample of the difference Avaaz is making world wide. I met Ricken Patel, the founder of Avaaz when I was the Sr. Advisor for Religious Outreach for the Democratic National Committee in Washington, DC. Ricken was young, brilliant and on fire. I knew he would make a difference.

I hope you check out Avaaz.org and decide to make a difference in 2012. You can be part of this movement with the click of a mouse. Remember Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2012 was The Protestor. People in great numbers make a difference….it’s the only force that has ever made a difference…human beings.

Dear Amazing Avaazers,
Avaaz is on fire, at 10.5 million people and rising fast. But we're also deepening our activism -- and with the combination of depth and huge numbers, we're winning, over and over again. Scroll down to see some great examples from the last several weeks.

We're not just effectively delivering petitions, we're running safe houses and smuggling routes to protect democratic movements, challenging corporations by bringing lawsuits or calling all their shareholders, donating millions to equip human rights defenders with the latest technology, and powerfully delivering the voices of our community direct and in person to presidents, billionaires, ambassadors and cabinet ministers.

It's working -- scroll down to see how. In recent weeks alone, we've helped win victories on everything from banning cluster bombs and sanctioning Syria to saving the Internet and the UN climate treaty:

Wissam Tarif, a friendly Avaaz campaigner -- called “the most dangerous man in the world” by Syria’s brutal regime
Avaaz has been at the heart of the struggles for democracy in the Arab world. Funded by $1.5 million in small member donations, we’ve broken the media blackouts that dictators tried to impose -- training a huge number of citizen journalists and equipping them with top flight technology to get information out. Top editors at BBC and CNN have told us that in cases like Syria, Avaaz has been the source of as much as 30% of all their news coverage!

When no other organization could, our network smuggled in over $1 million USD of vital emergency relief to communities under brutal siege in Syria. We also smuggled activists and their families, at risk of torture or death, out of the country. Our secret safe houses shelter dozens of top activists from regime thugs, giving them a protected base from which to operate. Assad’s murderous regime is not happy about it -- Syrian state TV called our campaigner “the most dangerous man in the world” to the regime.

We’ve also matched front-line support to democratic movements with fierce global lobbying of our governments to squeeze brutal regimes -- millions of Avaazers successfully campaigned for powerful European oil sanctions and Arab League sanctions on Syria.
An Avaaz member sports our giant Murdoch head at a protest outside British Parliament. From London to L.A., Giant Murdoch appeared at protests all over the world
We took on the world’s most powerful and dangerous media baron, Rupert Murdoch, and won.

It was the biggest deal of Murdoch’s career, growing his extremist global media empire by 50% through acquiring a huge UK-based company -- BSkyB. Everyone said we couldn’t stop it, but Avaaz members thought differently, sending 668,784 messages and 30,000 phone calls to members of the UK Parliament, and running stunt after stunt as well as 2 opinion polls that showed massive public opposition. 

Avaaz was also the only organization to promise to legally challenge the government in court if they approved the Murdoch deal. The Minister responsible for the deal was so rattled that he repeatedly postponed approval for months, publicly blaming Avaaz. The delay gave us space to build awareness of a huge corruption scandal in the Murdoch empire until finally, the deal was dead.

We haven’t stopped there -- we need to roll back the Murdoch threat and fundamentally reform our corrupt media. Avaazers recently used our new tool to call all the shareholders in Murdoch’s biggest companies, NewsCorp and BskyB, creating the largest shareholder rebellions in the companies’ histories!

And in Australia, where Murdoch controls 70% of the print media -- we helped defeat Murdoch's attempt to snatch a $223 million TV contract from the public broadcaster and pushed the government to create a far-reaching inquiry into Murdoch and media reform. 
Leaders of the march closed their speeches by pointing to the Avaaz banner and stating: “We have the support of the whole world!”
Half a million of us joined more than 1,000 indigenous protesters in demanding that Bolivian President Evo Morales halt construction on a highway that would slice through the heart of the Amazon.

Avaaz staff delivered our petition to top Bolivian cabinet ministers in a long and stormy meeting. Our widespread solidarity strengthened the legitimacy of the indigenous protesters whom Morales tried to marginalize, and threatened his desired reputation as an environmentalist. 

The pressure worked! After our campaign, Morales canceled construction, repealed the decision granting permission for the project, and pledged to protect the impacted TIPNIS national park and indigenous territory -- the crown jewel of the Bolivian Amazon -- forever! We'll hold him to that promise.
Our massive petition was delivered by a cluster bomb survivor to the French chair of the conference
Three years ago, Avaaz mobilized to help push through a global ban on cluster bombs, saving thousands of children. This year, the US quietly lobbied nations to sign a new law that would have allowed their use again! Our 600,000-strong petition helped push 50 states to oppose the US’s underhanded plan.

Many delegates used our petition to strengthen their arguments in negotiations. Our powerful banner, placed right outside the conference room -- together with 1000 fliers that the Avaaz team plastered throughout the conference center -- sent an unmistakable reminder to the negotiators about the opposition they faced back home. The US initiative failed --together we helped save the lives of thousands of innocent civilians.
More than 800,000 Avaaz members fought to save the Kyoto Protocal at the climate meeting in South Africa
At critical climate talks in Durbanmore than 800,000 of us helped salvage the UN climate treaty from a cabal of polluters determined to kill it. Our team on the ground in South Africa delivered our message day in, day out through hard-hitting actions like this ad in the Financial Times -- released on the final day of tense negotiations. Despite massive pressure by oil-backed planet killers like the US and Canada a deal was struck to save the vital Kyoto Protocol and give us a fighting chance by keeping climate negotiations alive.

EU Climate Chief Connie Hedegaard said: "Thanks to the over 800,000 people from around the world -- your voices made a vital impact at the end of the talks.”
Avaaz campaigner Maria Paz Cambronero delivers our petition to top White House officials
In days, over 1 million of us worldwide signed a petition opposing a scandalous bill that would give the US government the right to shut down any website -- targeting sites like WikiLeaks, YouTube, even Avaaz! 

President Obama’s team responded, and Avaaz organized a 1 hour meeting with top White House officials to deliver the petition.

We’ve now been told privately that Obama is likely to oppose the bill as it stands. When we started, insiders all told us the bill could not be stopped, now they’re all telling us the bill may soon be dead in its current form -- that’s people power!
Avaaz members campaign against corruption in India
Avaaz’s anti-corruption campaign in India was the most viral campaign in Internet history! In just 36 hours, over 700,000 Indians joined the petition to support a strong law targeting corruption among public officials called "Jan Lokpal". We staged marches across the country, erected hard-hitting billboards across the capital, and launched an independent public opinion poll showing that the majority of Indian voters wanted an ambitious Lokpal.

We helped win that round -- a bill is coming before Parliament now! The Times of India hailed Avaaz as "a key player in the Jan Lokpal initiative." 
Avaaz members and campaigner Giulia Innocenzi protest draconian limits on free speech
During his last months in power, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi tried to gag democracy by enabling the government to shut down Internet websites on a whim. Our community fought back and won! 

Italian Avaazers sent 200,000 emails and flooded Facebook and Twitter. We mobilized hard-hitting public demonstrations covered by top media and shelved the law for good! Now Italian democracy is free from Berlusconi -- and we are still going strong.
These are just a few of the victories we've won together in the last several weeks. Since launching almost 5 years ago, Avaaz has run over 1000 campaigns! And as our community has grown and deepened our commitment, we're winning on more and more of them. If we stay on this track, and keep hoping and believing in change and in each other, anything is possible.

With hope,

Ricken, Dalia, Luis, Allison, Ari, Maria Paz, Wen-Hua and the entire Avaaz team