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a pay it forward surprise

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Ok, so first of all I should tell you that I haven't cried since... well, a while ago. Certainly not since the election. I keep wondering if there is something wrong with me. I even checked out a bunch of tear-jerker movies from the library just in case I just needed a jump-start. But I couldn't even watch them. And I know this probably doesn't fall into the category of healthy coping mechanisms but I just feel like there is too much to do. To be clear, I have most of my evenings to myself in my cozy little apartment and there is certainly time enough to spare for crying. I don't know, the tears just aren't coming. It's not just the usual holiday busyness that needs to be done, but the work, all the work, to keep this country moving on a path towards the ideals it likes to promote so much. Like preparing myself to be better as an ally or interrupter (already a friend was on the phone in a Best Buy and someone came up and yelled at him "English! English!") I don't think it should be the job of those who are the targets of hatred to be the sole defenders - I think it is something we must prepare all of ourselves to do. So, no time for crying just now. 

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Add to that, this season has been full of slightly more than usual stressors. And, yes, I am aware that what I consider difficult is nothing compared to what other people face. But the end of the year/holiday season is a stressful time for an introverted shopgirl, as we count down the number of days I have left to modify the end of year profit report, and as I talk to what seems like exponentially more people per day, all of whom have their own stresses which I feel like I should try to ease, at least by finding the right card to send to Grandma, or by finding that thing they remember seeing maybe a year ago here in the store but they don't remember what it was but maybe I can help?  Then there's the uncertainly of bad weather falling on what could have been the biggest shopping day of the year for us but which fall flat because we live in Wisconsin and Mother Nature is fickle. Why she couldn't act out on Tuesday, I have no idea. Dad is fine but I did have go to the ER with him a few weeks ago after finding him unconscious in the other room. I am spending a little too much time thinking about what it would have been like if he died while I was just a room away playing internet games. I mean, at least I was at their house and not already at mine, but still. I am generally getting closer to having to face up to the mortality of parents. The holiday letter got done but now I'm obsessing over how it is being received (or even if it is received seeing as two have come back to me), presents to finish (WHY did I introduce a 9 year-old to Pinterest?!!). There is the whole disaster of a Trump presidency. Oh, I lost my wallet on the bus in the same week that I found out my tarot card for an art show I am participating in was the five of pentacles which is all about material loss and poverty and sickness and generally too much material lack for a shopgirl going into the 10 days she's been preparing for all year long and which, while, they can't make or break the year, can certainly do a lot of damage if they choose to. Well, I did work through that whole tarot card thing and am happy with where it ended up.

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Oh, and I was also in the middle of an argument with someone who told me I had to consider the greater good so I was wrestling with my feelings of what the greater good was and their definition, as well as that annoying spot in an argument where both sides are just repeating themselves and not really getting anywhere. Anyway, as I said, all things that fall within the range of typical challenges that everyone is having to deal with. I am well aware that many people are facing much worse.

But last week I went to breakfast with Dad and quickly ran over to Bloom Bake Shop to get some treats for the store. The woman behind the counter told me that it was my lucky day because someone had paid it forward and was treating me to my baked goods. I did start crying. I didn't totally collapse in a sobbing heap as I keep thinking I might do so I feel proud of myself for mostly holding it together. Now, honestly, I've never received a pay it forward before. I don't quite know what the proper etiquette is. I have had friends who get one while they are buying coffee and they are inspired to pay for the next person's coffee so it keeps going. And I don't mean to sound so terribly selfish, but I just didn't think of it. Naturally I protested and tried to decline but the manager said I had to take it. So I did. I still tear up thinking about. But it was a good little "snap out of it" moment - just a reminder that I was getting a little caught up in what is beyond my control in the realm of sorrow and anxiety, and forgetting that there is also surprise and wonder that is beyond my control and that comes to us as a gift. So, yes, just a little reigning in on the holiday stress level.  I did narrow down my to-do list to things that need to be done by 12/25, just not going to think about the following week or inventory that follows shortly after that (another stressful thing!). Everything fits on an index card and I'm not going to allow myself to get a larger piece of paper.

Anyway I didn't realize how much the pay it forward was needed which makes me hope that we all find ways to give and receive this time of year, and all times.  I know I don't know who it is who left the pay it forward at Bloom but I feel such gratitude to that customer, but also to Bloom for creating the kind of environment where a person is inspired to do something like that, which leads me to all the people everywhere who are working and creating and doing, who are committed to seeing the promise in other people, to expressing joy and gratitude.

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And just to reassure you, instead of paying it forward in place, I brought it downtown and made up little pay it forward packages for our customers. It was a perfect thing to occupy my time, instead of worrying about cold weather effects on sales or arguments I was in the middle of, I was putting my energy on positive things and gratitude. Naturally I had to put in our unicorn card.

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So, anyway, that's where I am this Christmas week. Feeling thankful to be in Wisconsin on the cusp of the solstice, knowing that winter is still long ahead of us but that light is starting to find its way in the world. In fact, that light has always been here, whether in the surprises of pay it forwards or all the other ways you can never pay back the generosity of your own life, or in the warmth of family and friends who gather together, or in the random goodness of people who never know you, even in the moments of darkness or stress or sorrow or strife. I have such gratitude for all the ways that Anthology has allowed me to be at work in the world, thanks to you my customers and readers for all the ways that you are at work in the world. I wish you the very happiest of holidays, no matter what you celebrate (even if it is just the end of hearing Baby It's Cold Outside in stores), and a new year that is filled with good surprises, wonder and gratitude.


 


 

 


Laura's annual holiday letter

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Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you. L.R. Knost

Hmph. I was hoping for better election results to set the tone for this letter. Consoling myself with the popular vote isn’t working that well. My basic concern is that fear & uncertainty blinds people to the ways they can act positively, makes them feel sorrow & loneliness when they only need to reach out, elicits hatred & anger instead of love & trust. And I get it, it is hard. But fear and uncertainty, anger and hate are not what I want of my life. Call me willful or foolish but I commit to accept change, meet fear with love, challenge loneliness with connection, and recognize grace & bounty with gratitude. I choose the spirit of the holidays. I choose light.

I’d probably have more trouble with the ghosts of the past, she said, if my memory wasn’t shot to hell. Brian Andreas

The past has been on my mind a lot recently. Perhaps it started with the demolition of the Pyare Square Building, which has been a monolith in the background of my life. Flashes of memory occur at odd moments: walking into the bookmobile in Crestwood, clamoring over the fountains on Library Mall, the smell of laundry and Felly’s Flowers inside Hilldale. Not just places, but also people, those who are grown-up or gone but still a part of me. What I feel is less about sorrow, more about wonder over all that has changed, gratitude for what those past places & people brought to my life, and curiosity about what is to come. Maybe this is just the relic of not-even-that-horrible middle school years, but there isn’t anything I’d go back to. I choose the future.

Living creatively is really important to maintain throughout your life. And living creatively doesn't mean only artistic creativity, although that's part of it. It means being yourself, not just complying with the wishes of other people. Matt Groening

Thoughts of the past conjure past lives, the college student, even the child. Perhaps that comes from my art classroom volunteering and the déjà vu of walking down elementary school hallways. I’d like to think I’ve grown and changed but my path seems more circular than anything. Instead of matching pens & socks & sweaters, I’m matching fonts & photographs & paper. Thanks to our part-timers, there is more time for studio work and we added many more Madison/Wisco souvenirs to the shop. In the spring, Hillary Clinton visited Madison and wanted to shop at a store locally owned by women. Despite seeming always to be at the shop, neither Komai sister was there to meet her, and we’ve had to graciously bear our customers’ sympathy for missing “the most significant moment in Anthology’s history” (as one put it). I am thankful for all of our customers and their support of our American Dream. I am grateful for the opportunities and people that feed my creative endeavors and trueness of self. I choose what sparks my wonder and joy. I choose creativity.

In truth, home isn't necessarily where you sleep at night. It's where you feel like yourself. Where you're most comfortable. Where you don't have to pretend, where you can just be you. Elizabeth Eulberg

This year held a little more travel than usual, a mark of my progress in delegation. I took my beach pilgrimage to the shores of Lake Michigan and traveled to Mexico for spring break with Sachi and her family. Our buying trip to New York City was an exhausting & stimulating adventure, as usual. For variety, we went to a trade show in Toronto. We were inspired by many local & independent businesses, notable in comparison to U.S. cities, and came home with a severe case of Canada-envy. In October, I spent a week in the San Francisco area, visiting our uncle, wandering the city by myself, and splurging on a three-day art workshop. The time away was invigorating & inspiring. As hard as it is for me to leave work, I appreciate the ways such trips help me grow as an artist, person, and business owner. The workshops did include Californians telling me how horrible Midwestern weather is but I refrained from mentioning how much time Wisconsinites spend talking about drought and wildfires and earthquakes. I am grateful the Komais are all within a few miles of each other so I can be helpful to Mom & Dad, and continue my Friday-night sleepovers with craft projects, dinner at the grocery store, reading & games with my niece, now nine. I am happy with this life. I choose Wisconsin.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do. There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. –Clarissa Pinkola Estes

If ever there was a time that I was thankful to have studied geology, this was it. I needed to remember that Wisconsin was once a tropical ocean, and may well be again; that huge & terrifying creatures once roamed the earth, and someday extinction will come to each of us. I would like to console you with six years of all three branches of government under Republican rule, but it is not a pretty picture. I am confounded daily by the lack of regard for free markets, small government and fiscal conservatism. Our Minnesota customers suggest there are successful ways to share wealth & build upon our Midwestern strengths; our Kansas customers tell us it could be worse. And that has been true since 2011. Sorry, Nation, if I could export only cheese curds & craft beer from Wisconsin, I would. But I will not keep a chair for despair. I choose soul on deck.

I just wanted to say I love Anthology so much. Whenever I'm stressed or just need to be in a creative space, I'll stop in. It's truly a solace. Anthology customer

My solace? Buttons. Small as they are, the production & sale of buttons is a source of ongoing consolation & connection. Whether it is “Black Lives Matter,” “Moms Stand with Planned Parenthood,” “live & vote your love & faith not your hate & fear,” or any of hundreds more, I see a little spark of commitment & connection going out our doors with each one. And that last debate before the election? When Donald called Hillary a nasty woman for telling the truth? In the two weeks before the 2012 election, we sold 789 buttons; in the two weeks before the 2016 election, we sold 2334. Over and over, I heard people who felt isolated from their families, who felt helpless and powerless. I am grateful to be present for people, to let them know they are not alone on their journey, to welcome them into a space that celebrates creativity and the gifts that all people bring to the world. Owning a business has given me a keen appreciation of our dependence upon each other, and deepened my sense of connection to the larger world. In these challenging times, I see the ways that ugliness has (always) been met by people who are deeply committed to the ideals of this nation. I am in awe of the ways that so many people are working, both as their faith and their citizenship demands of them, and grateful for the goals which we strive for (even as we fall short of them). Even in the smallness of humanity against the vastness of time & space, I choose dependence and connection. I choose community and country. And, why yes, I choose the women who tell the truth and are called nasty for doing so.

We’re here to end it, I said & she said, No, we’re here to begin it & then she turned & opened her arms & everywhere I could see there were people, like bright birds, calling with a thousand voices & suddenly I understood. Here is where it begins. With all of us, together, giving our children
a world worth loving for a lifetime to come. Brian Andreas

Across the miles & the years that separate us, I have unshakeable belief in our ability to connect with each other and to do the work that the world calls us to. I choose you. I choose friendship. I choose gratitude. I choose love.


December newsletter

Greetings from Anthology!

We hope you enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Laura and I are thankful to have each other as sisters and business partners; we are thankful for all the ways that family, friends, customers and community have supported us in our creative pursuits.

We are also thankful for the recent workshops we took that have sparked ideas and inspired new work. Laura flew to San Francisco for an art journal and collage workshop; she then treated me to a surprise letterpress workshop at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Both of us are now coming up with new designs for greeting cards, baby onesies, t-shirts, buttons and prints.

The Downtown Holiday Open House brought big crowds and big sales this past weekend. Our craft table is covered with boxed holiday note cards featuring llamas, penguins, zebras and kittens. We’ve put out our holiday wrapping paper sheets as well—you’ll find figure skaters, tinsel trees, penguins, poinsettias, Christmas puddings and dogs in sweaters.

So far the most popular presents have been our irreverent desk signs (“I’ll be nicer if you’ll be smarter”), Wisconsin socks, wooden ornaments (laser-cut with our own original designs), Wisconsin coloring books, t-shirts, prints, pint glasses, and onesies for baby’s first Christmas.

We really didn’t think anyone would be in the mood for more political pins post-election, but we’ll keep cranking them out as long as people demand “Love Trumps Hate,” “Nasty Women Vote,” “When they go low, we go high,” Hillary (“Voted Most Popular”), and a "Someday Even Trump Will Be Extinct" dinosaur. Our artist friend Emily Keown painted a number of great designs and helped us sell over 3,000 pins between the final presidential debate and Election Day.

Stop in and see what’s new! Laura just installed the holiday window--come check out this year's theme.

If you are interested in receiving our annual holiday postcard you can e-mail us your street address at Anthology@tds.net

Thank you,
Laura & Sachi
Anthology
218 State Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53703
www.anthology.typepad.com


now it's really looking a lot like Christmas

Though I promise that we still only have holiday music at about 50%. I'm mindful of the fact that not everyone loves this time of year as much as I do, let alone feels cheerful hearing yet another round of "Santa Baby." I had an enjoyable day off before Thanksgiving exploring some of my favorite shops in town. Though it goes against the principles of the season for me to do to much shopping for myself, I've got my eye on some gorgeous alpaca throws at Pieces Unimagined (where I could also spend a lot of money on fixtures if I ever had more square footage) and a sweet ceramic cloud factory at Hazel. Meanwhile at Anthology, I wasn't entirely ready to let go of the post-election window but amazingly my Donald Trump dinosaur print fits right in with the natural history museum theme that I had planned for the holiday window. 

 

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oh, and yes, we are still making buttons. Someone told me our button table made them sad, but we still have customers coming in to reenact the moment Hillary was shopping in our store and there are many "Nasty Women Vote" buttons that are going to show up in stockings this year, I'm guessing.

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I had an unexpectedly long shift yesterday but that gave me time to do a little rearranging around the shop. There's still plenty to choose from, trust me, but a few holes are opening up. We have a few last-minute shipments arriving but on the whole, selection is best the sooner you come in. We've spent the year picking out and designing goods for you and hope we can help you find just the right present. Sachi is particularly good at brainstorming ideas.

Our Wisconsin ornaments have been especially popular and we are so grateful that Amie in Lone Rock has been able to keep us so well stocked.

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I've gotten distracted with art projects not related to the shop like printing my holiday letter envelopes and making editions of my 2x2 book for our book arts group trade. Not to mention the looming deadline of getting craft projects done with a 9 year-old. I'm not sure how I ended up with so much hand-sewing. Oh, yes, that's right, I'm the person who introduced her to Pinterest. Stupid move.

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Meanwhile, Sachi has started work on a new design for the shop. We always laugh over Portlandia's "Put a Bird on It" except for us it is "Put a Wisconsin" on it.

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As the year comes to a close, we reflect on the challenges but also our immense gratitude for all of our customers, and for all the ways that our work at Anthology enables us to connect to our community and to fulfill our American Dream. I regularly have to consult my little book of compliments, but it makes relentless love a lot easier when I keep my eye on the prize that we've created and won.

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