Thursday, July 14, 2016

Anastasia is now officially on vacation until mid-August 
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
For me this a season to be quiet in public as I watch and wait and spend my days, privately, trying to put gentleness first in my life; next to my ceaseless quest for Divine Guidance, amidst tumultuous days that I am trying to see simply as Divine Chaos.  

But serenity and gentleness do not come easily, probably not to anyone else either, these days.

On my end, my way up came when I finally embraced the astrological symbolism of Mars being retrograde; a planetary pattern I had not knowingly encountered previously. Maybe it possibly brought the recent upset into my life. 

What I read of Mars Retrograde corresponded, time wise, almost exactly to a heavy onslaught of turbulence entering my life. Then escalating into high drive by the time another eye crisis almost completely upended the joy I was experiencing in my new found visual clarity.   

It has been one upheaval after another since.  Until I read about Mars retrograde straightening itself out, as my daily astrology report informed me that it would, I wondered if I wasn’t heading full force into my own demise. “Just a matter of days,” I told myself, as I fearfully awaited the doom of my personal, final earthquake.

Then, upon reading of Mars retrograde, I took another look and began to consider that the upheaval I was experiencing might not be anything personal. In fact, perhaps most people, at least the sensitive ones, might have also been aware of the ground rocking beneath them in that same time frame. Now it is a week or so since Mars made its direction change – and – I’ve got to admit I see all kinds of shifts occurring toward the positive in my life, personally; the sheer quantity of little shifts quite striking. 

But then there is Baton Rouge and Minnesota and Dallas – and – the presidential campaigns, heading into high gear, as the RNC and DNC conventions get set to start. And, again I am called to realize how chaotic life is these days and helpless I am, or almost so, up against mass upheaval.

All of this comes to a crescendo in my limited purview of the world, alongside the realization that I am now just about one week before my birthday; a day for me and everyone else best suited to giving honor to the sacredness of one’s life. So I think, as I haven’t had much to say anyway this past month as I dealt with one personal upheaval after another, especially my eye crisis, it is time for me to officially take a vacation from blogging, which I have apparently been doing unofficially.  And give myself time to regroup.

With this in mind, I hope to be reminded, once again, as I rest and rejuvenate and heal from my recent eye crisis, of the one thing I can do, remembering one of Helen Keller’s favorite sayings originating with her friend, Everett Edward Hale –
I am only one, 
But still I am one. 
I cannot do everything, 
But still I can do something; 
And because I cannot do everything, 
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
Look to hear more from me around mid-August or so, unless I am moved to pen a word or two before hand when I will again know the “something that I can do” in this sea of turbulence where I am fairly powerless but not entirely.

 In the meantime, I will be doing my best to be serene and gentle up here in the mountains. And, hope to return with a filled reservoir from within which I can, again, speak out on the many reasons and experiences I’ve had that tell me that we MUST make it a a top priority– that we get used to talking to one another – and -- just keep talking to one another to get our societal problems resolved or on the way to solved, no matter what; African American and white, Muslim, Christian and Jew etc. etc.!

Without our politicians!!!  They are no where near showing us how to come together at this time. Just talk, talk, talk. I'm ready for action! How about you?

See you in September, if not a bit before.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Conclusion: The Way It’s Supposed To Be, Part III of III:

Read Part I here and Part II here.


The Way It’s Supposed To Be: Part III

Excerpted from 
The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard:
How Communities Come Apart and How They Heal


December 15, 2015 -- Continued from Parts I and II

There was one particular snag with a participant that had really saddened me as I was particularly captivated by him. I will call him Henry Clayman. Henry stole my heart almost from my first meeting with him at our very first Coffee House Conversations event. I remember him as sincere, vulnerable, straightforward, dedicated and articulate with a big heart that almost shone like gold.  Once I got to know and interact with him I felt I would do anything for him. And, from his side he pledged to always get my back and I believed him without conditions like I had rarely ever done. 

But Henry had gone away, I am sad to say, never even letting me know why he had “fired” me as his friend and mentor.  Was I “othered” because of my whiteness up against his African American Black?

Whatever the real reason, this much I do know: As Freddie Gray lay dying in Baltimore, in another situation of police brutality to a young Black man and Baltimore, correspondingly, erupted in a blaze of violent protest, Henry stopped talking to me; another one of those dialogue blockers -- silence. Was he disappointed in me about the time I  took him to our local Human Relations Commission to make a complaint, having to with his perception of negligence on the part of our local county toward the African American community, with no change resulting?

Or was it our visit to the Mayor’s office where lip service promises had been tendered him, fooling no one but the Mayor himself, if that?  Several months down the road Henry suffered a stroke; possibly because he was so plagued and heartbroken by the racial inequities surrounding him. I guess I will never know because Henry’s not telling; no dialogue, no discussion, no problem solving or bonding opportunity; polarization hangs over our heads instead.  Still I did come away with another lesson learned from our Coffee House Conversations; being white, even Jewish American white, is not an easy ticket to bridge building these days, if it ever was.

The New Horizons model, on the other hand, values conflict resolution, seeking common ground as opposed to either-or, black or white thinking – and -- above all, synergy rather than polarization. We define the latter, synergy, as the increased effectiveness resulting when two or more people work well together, even when it’s gut-wrenching hard. When we achieve this state, it is often accompanied by a sense of “awe.” But it takes resources; time, energy, talents and at least some minimal funding to sustain leadership and training efforts; all of which we are presently working to develop. Neither Sue nor myself are much good at fundraising and marketing. And a program such as ours needed both.

Right from the start at our very first Coffee House Conversation, back in January, we kept, along with printed handouts, introducing – and – stressing that the single most essential and practical principle for community development is through meaningful dialogue coupled with seeking win-win problem solving solutions. This means always choosing to lean in toward others, not blocking them as in debate or pulling away in anger, silence, withdrawal or “othering.”  

Leaning in skills include listening fully to the others viewpoints with no investment, whatsoever, to doing anything other than respecting them or perhaps inquiring more about what something means to another. Thus we really hear the essence of what is meaningful to the other person. Then, of course, we welcome the same from that other person.

Though we repeated this message again and again and at each event handed out an outline of fundamental principles on choosing to dialogue rather than debate, apparently the message just hadn’t held much weight. 

It certainly did turn out to be true that I had been so steeped in planning and organizing from one event to the next that I hadn’t taken enough time, other than a bit now and then, until this uprising with An-Nur, to stand back and assess the overall cumulative gains and losses from what we were doing and find out what I could do to further our agenda and I definitely had not done enough “leaning in.” Now with our 2015 calendar of events complete and the holidays coming on us – and – An-Nur’s apparent upset that was anything but subtle, I would have the leisure to do this. But how, I wondered, under pressure, as her anger seemed to escalate on the spot as she spoke?

Grasping for straws of experience and wisdom in my mind, at last I got hold of one of them and held on to the idea for dear life.

 “How about drawing An-Nur’s immediate attention to the handouts I always carried with me to this meeting on “Dialogue versus Debate,” I thought, prompted by urgency.

I did that! And it worked but not easily. Still I held my ground proffering her the fact sheet page I had in hand, repeatedly until she simply surrendered her upset, ready to move beyond it.

“Here, An-Nur,” I said, “Look here at this handout we have shared at each and every one of our events. Look here, you are debating with me, not having a dialogue at all. Nothing can get resolved this way!”

My voice sounded to me like a rant to match hers but I held on still as if my very life depended on it. Maybe in some ways it did, at least the life I had been standing up for in recent years.  Then like a Nor’easter blown violent and abruptly stopping as, unexpectedly, An-Nur quieted down; so much so that it seemed as if I could feel her heart reaching out for mine.  This was awe for sure!

It wasn’t completely smooth sailing from there forth. But we had survived the storm and we were intact. Just the way it’s supposed to be when hearts and minds reach out to one another in peace and love. 

What has come of this to date? Joy of all joys, through this upheaval and its calming Jewish American me made my first Muslim American friend. I hope it lasts a long, long time. Maybe we were now already on our way to truly building a “real” community; one person at a time.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be!


The End (for this piece)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Part II of III: The Way It’s Supposed To Be (Continued)

Again I state what may now be obvious.

The following is Part 2 of 3 (see Part I here), excerpted from my book in progress titled The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard: How Communities Come Apart and How They Heal. The focus of the following essay is on the Coffee House Conversations. My method of writing books means that what follows may be the basis for a chapter, or it may not. However, if it is, it is likely to be much changed by the time it gets into book form which may be as early as Fall, 2016.  We shall see.

But there is no reason now to hold back what is in the works that can spur your thinking and assist your exploration of this blog site as well as the other two for which I write and my two online radio shows.  I want us to have inspiring discussions that can lead to social and political change. That is why I offer this to you. And at what better time than the present when we are awash in political crises every where you turn

Enjoy, expand and write me, personally, now and again at SuperSleuthDSW@aol.com, or post your comments directly onto my blog sites or radio show web sites.


The Way It’s Supposed To Be: Part II

Excerpted from 
The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard:
How Communities Come Apart and How They Heal



December 15, 2015 -- Continued from Part I

What was the whole Coffee House Conversations project about anyway, if not to build bridges, not impenetrable walls?  But these encounters were definitely not “IT” by any stretch of the imagination. They exemplified debate at its worst extreme; anger and hostility carried to the point of abusiveness; a far cry from the peace building agenda we had in mind. But at least they were saying something of their views and for that I was grateful.

So when another round of the same seemed to arise, I gave the tension between An-Nur and myself my best knowhow, leaning in to hear and understand her anguish as much as I could.  Leaning in had grown to be a pledge in my mind, made to my heart. Or, had it been the other way around; a pledge of my heart with my head full of training, skills and experience to see my way through challenges like this? But try as I might, the effort this time had taken a toll, as it had on the previous two occasions, leaving me, soon again, feeling beaten up, attacked and abused.  

What gave me strength was that I had a vision, rooted in my Jewish heritage and my will to stand by what I believed, that we could surmount difficulties such as this, no matter how challenging, if everyone was determined to work things through. With that in mind I would do whatever I could to help lift this present tirade out of the sinking, stinking mud pulling it down and do my best to reach for the high ground

Quickly doing my best to quell that which seemed to be escalating, I set my mind to protecting this cherished space, An-Nur, the others present, the ideals of the Coffee House Conversations project and me, without too much blood shed, experiencing myself almost instantaneously summoning hidden reserves. Time was of the essence here, as a potentially out of control situation loomed in a time and space set aside for peace, hope and unity; a sanctuary for the arduous work of gathering collective dreams and considering the best ways to make them come true.

This wasn’t the first time, however, that the high minded intent of our Coffee House Conversations project had seemed to tarnish. But, as it would turn out, this was the one that in the midst of its corrosion, would come through the alchemical process, refining the lead of it to a higher quality, even gold perhaps.  Other complications before this, as we had adventured through the year, had been subtle. Some had shown signs of a slight refinement proportionate to the difficulties themselves and the challenges of untangling them.  Unfortunately these opportunities had been the exception.

One hurdle that was meaningful to me – and – that had gotten worked through, had to do with a gentleman who was an aide to our local County Executive. I felt particularly pleased to have him in attendance at numerous of our events, particularly so, as although he came representing the County Executive, he is also a man of distinction in his own right; someone you might expect to someday be County Executive himself or City Mayor.

That particular hitch had to do with his calling me out for publicly stating that I didn’t like Mr. Obama as president. Richard, I will name him here for our discussion, chastised me for acting politically incorrect, especially in public in my role as leader.  I, in turn, continued our repartee by suggesting that I had consciously chosen to insert that bit of potential controversy that might invite civil disagreement. If people could be adept at dialogue which Richard apparently could, such tangles as this could become teachable moments; opportunities for collective growth and expansion. 

After a few rounds of word play, eventually he and I did come to a common and comfortable ground, I thought, dialoguing on the significance of people needing to learn to speak truth to power as a viable and necessary methodology for developing healthy, sustainable communities; the goal I originally had in mind to demonstrate with my “indelicate” comments. However, both of us were skilled communicators so we apparently had some ease in getting through our tangle.

But there were other incidents; most that I caught as I saw them flying by but did not have the time, at the moment, to hold onto and follow through as I had on the one involving Richard. Conflict resolution, or as New Horizons likes to call it, working through everyday interferences in interpersonal human relations. This takes time. It is the rare, very rare, in fact, person who will make the time to take up the skill development necessary to achieve proficiency in even reaching for truth and reconciliation. 

Especially not in our fast-paced, internet driven world where hand held devices readily replace genuine people contact. Herein lie the greatest obstacles and challenges to community bridge building; endless time demands, some of them quite frivolous, and a disinterest in genuine, full-bodied connectedness. Even partners, parents and children seem to often prefer to avoid high-intensity interacting and the working through of snags in these closest of relationships.  

What great and wonderful opportunities, unique to humans, are missed this way!

In a setting such as we provide with our Coffee House Conversations some of the most common ways of avoiding leaning in and moving through interpersonal complications to meaningful growth and resolution are: anger, blaming, , judging others, sarcasm, gossip silence and withdrawal of interest or involvement and “othering” (i.e. seeing others as being so outside one’s particular frame of reference as to make any time spent engaging in dialogue or conflict resolution with the “other” as meaningless and as annoying as the nighttime mosquitos).

There was one particular hitch with a participant I was particularly captivated by. I will call him Henry Clayman. Henry stole my heart almost from my first meeting with him at our very first Coffee House Conversations event. I remember him as sincere, vulnerable, straightforward, dedicated and articulate with a big heart that almost shone like gold.  Once I got to know and interact with him I felt I would do anything for him. And, from his side he pledged to always get my back and I believed him without conditions like I had rarely ever done. 

But Henry had gone away, I am sad to say, never even letting me know why he had “fired” me as his friend and mentor.  Was I “othered” because of my whiteness up against his African American Black?

Whatever the real reason, this much I do know: As Freddie Gray lay dying in Baltimore, in another situation of police brutality to a young Black man and Baltimore, correspondingly, erupted in a blaze of violent protest, Henry stopped talking to me; another one of those dialogue blockers -- silence. Was he disappointed in me because when I  took him to our local Human Relations Commission to make a complaint having to with his perception of negligence on the part of our local county toward the African American community, no change resulted?

Or was it our visit to the Mayor’s office where lip service promises had been tendered him, fooling no one but the Mayor himself, if that?  Several months down the road Henry suffered a stroke; possibly because he was so plagued and heartbroken by the racial inequities surrounding him. I guess I will never know because Henry’s not telling; no dialogue, no discussion, no problem solving or bonding opportunity; polarization hangs over our heads instead.  Still I did come away with another lesson learned from our Coffee House Conversations; being white, even Jewish American white, is not an easy ticket to bridge building these days, if it ever was.

Part III, Coming soon

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Way It’s Supposed To Be: Part I of III

The following is Part 1 of 3, excerpted from my book in progress titled The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard: How Communities Come Apart and How They Heal. The focus of the following essay is on the Coffee House Conversations. My method of writing books means that what follows may be the basis for a chapter, or it may not. However, if it is, it is likely to be much changed by the time it gets into book form which may be as early as Fall, 2016.  We shall see.

But there is no reason now to hold back what is in the works that can spur your thinking and assist your exploration of this blog site as well as the other two for which I write and my two online radio shows.  I want us to have inspiring discussions that can lead to social and political change. That is why I offer this to you. And at what better time than the present when we are awash in political crises every where you turn

Enjoy, expand and write me, personally, now and again at SuperSleuthDSW@aol.com, or post your comments directly onto my blog sites or radio show web sites.


The Way It’s Supposed To Be: Part I


Excerpted from 
The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard:
How Communities Come Apart and How They Heal
December, 2015

I looked around at the “Monday Morning Meeting” attendees gathered in this cozy club-like room we had claimed these past months, missing my police officer friend, Jason, acutely. On this last get together day of what had been a year-long conversations adventure, my sense of Jason’s presence being necessary startled me along with his absence feeling important. I had grown close to Jason on this journey we had shared and often looked to him as a sounding board as we worked together to expand our project; our minds and our hearts – and – consequently the visions each of us held for the possibilities our joint endeavors might achieve, forging a bond of understanding between us.

But Jason had taken off for some family time; first a long-planned trip to Las Vegas to celebrate his son’s twenty-first birthday, then another week-end marking his wife’s. I probably wouldn’t see him again until after the holidays in January.  I sorely felt his being gone.

Today, overall, the attendance for our semi-regular meetings had dwindled but I made that fact incidental. I was just simply glad to be back here at Dublin Roasters, our neighborhood coffee shop with this special group of people now gathered. Long past were my days of being a loner; devotion to collaboration and team work had taken center stage. As I had grown more and more aware of what was important, the notion that life was with people had taken hold. I had no wish to release it.  It had been a long time coming. 

Once I caught on, however, this retired psychotherapist, Me, turned community development consultant and trainer became dedicated to the ideal of overcoming the polarization running riot throughout our society. It was now close to ten years since this shift had occurred in me. Drawing on my clinical training, experience and skills, especially in doing group therapy, I had then gone on to collaborate with a former ninth grade school teacher to create a model for community dialogue and problem solving that became the Coffee House Conversations series. We were in our eighth year with it.

Now like a recovering drunk who had found the Twelve Steps, I wished everyone could know and embrace the values interwoven into the transformational power of our model and apply them to everyday challenges; values built upon a belief and substantiation that through dialogue, truth and reconciliation practices people can find common ground and together build a better world. 

This set of beliefs was at the very core of my Being. And, our Coffee House Conversations project had given me, personally, a venue from which to shout out its beauty; loud and clear in everything I said and did in presenting it, or so I thought. After all, I came of a long line of folks who had fought for their very lives against the oppression of those who would do them in; from the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt, all the way down to modern times, including the Holocaust and the still active anti-Semitism throughout the world. 

I had a personal stake in overcoming polarization and our Coffee House Conversations project was giving me a much-needed setting from which to express my passion for peace and unity and teach what I knew on how to systematically attain that state. 

Both Sue deVeer, my collaborator who was born and bred Quaker, and myself had lived by these principles and related practices for most of our lives. We knew them from the inside out. But so far, where others were concerned, it had been like swimming upstream to sell our approach; the idea sounded appealing but the effort required to develop the necessary skills for genuine effectiveness seemed to be too much for most people. This disappointing insight had been one of the most revealing realizations for me from this past year of Coffee House Conversations. Additionally, neither Sue nor myself were much good at fundraising and marketing. And a program such as ours needed both.

But here in our hidey hole meeting place we, who were seemingly of like-mind, had found a back room for gathering and sharing our hopes and dreams for building a greater unity in our community. Here we had met as a group of not more than ten or twelve for months now, to develop what had turned out to be regular events, spotlighting certain sensitive issues in our community through the dialogue programs we called Coffee House Conversations; now our non-profit organization’s signature series. 

The first Coffee House Conversation we did, this past January, had a broad scope, billed as focusing on race relations, police relations and general community relations.  It had been an exciting and inspiring launching, especially on the heels of the previous year’s upset in Ferguson, Missouri, claiming the life of one more Black male youth, downed by a police officer, worsening the nationwide backlash already in motion wherever citizen-police relationships were in question.

Building on this platform, we had put in a rewarding year with our programs; five out of nine of them specially focused on citizen-police relations; “Kids and Cops,” which we had presented two times; one on site for the local Housing Authority and three of “Humanizing Citizen-Police Relations,” partnering with our local City Police. All had been well-received with the local media giving us our fair share of free publicity.

Now it was the end of the year, heading into the holiday season and people’s hearts and minds were turned elsewhere. Besides, we had already finished our slate of Coffee House Conversations for the year. The final one had been presented the Saturday before this Monday Morning Meeting; the first Saturday of December. So it was really wrap up time. 

But just as our meeting was ending, An-Nur, a Muslim woman from Bangladesh that I had come to know, admire and even love a little spoke out, adamant and angry! As my father used to say, given the volume and intensity of her voice, she was definitely a bit “hot under the collar” about something. But I didn’t quite understand what; her anger making it hard for me to hear her and register the actual source of her displeasure.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by the disturbance but I was. Actually both An-Nur and her husband, Ahmed, had accosted me at the end of last Saturday’s program; a  certain demonstration that the main lesson I had been attempting to teach all year; dialogue must supplant debate as our common mode of communication, if genuine bridge building and problem solving are our goals, had definitely not taken hold. 

Quite evidently the message intended had found no place for expression  in these exchanges with An-Nur and her husband. The conversations were the complete antithesis of what our project was about, leaving me feeling entrapped and abused with both of them coming at me angrily. I had also had a similar encounter with Ahmed following the Coffee House Conversations event in November.  What had been most unsettling to me then is that I had truly tried to listen carefully to him and his concerns at the time but could not find my way through his heavy Bengali accent.

The second time a similar encounter occurred, this one at the December event and including An-Nur, there had been two people talking hard and fast to me in a way that felt as if I were being hammered on. I had made my escape as quick as I could. Now here we were again. This time at the Monday Morning Meeting I had come to consider almost as sacred territory. Although with An-Nur only, especially away from her husband, I sincerely wanted us to work this thing out.

What was the whole Coffee House Conversations project about anyway, if not to build bridges, not impenetrable walls?  But these encounters were definitely not “IT” by any stretch of the imagination. They exemplified debate at its worst extreme; anger and hostility carried to the point of abusiveness; a far cry from the peace building agenda we had in mind. But at least they were saying something of their views and for that I was grateful.

Part II: Coming Soon!


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Have You Ever Wondered --

"How an exceptional community life became so essential for me."?

Well today along with my sharing an excerpt from my new book in progress, The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard: How Communities Come Apart and How They Heal, I am telling some of my story.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Communication and Conflict: The Exceptional Community Way

Or, how to get to awe in your own backyard!


Learn about it in our backyard

Then take it home with you! 

We will show you how!

Community Gathering: Sunday May 22, 2016

Join with us for a fun filled, community building, property remodeling day at –


11:15 a.m. till ????



We want you to learn with us how to get to awe.

We know how. We will show you!

For details and reservation, contact Anastasia at: 240.409.5347
or email us at: HarpersFerryNH@aol.com

For Gifts In Kind or cash donations, contact Lynn Cullather-Popkin
Cell: 301.775.1432,  email: aasscc@yahoo.com