December newsletter
a pay it forward surprise

Laura's annual holiday letter


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.


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Sandi Terry

I choose love too Laura. Every time!

Laura Komai

Thanks, Sandi! and thanks for sharing your creativity throughout the year!

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