busy Sachi

oh my goodness, Sachi has been so productive this year! My sisterly competitive impulses are in high gear but it's going to be tough to catch up.  I do a little prep work at the end to get the files ready for the printers so she has been sending lots of things home with me. Tonight it is two new designs for science t-shirts and a new print inspired by the flight attendant on the Spirit Airline flight to Baltimore filled with women going to march. 

But since January 1, the list includes: a Madison cheesemas card, a gingerbread State Capitol card (easier to work on Xmas 2017 now than in the season when things are busy), her family holiday card, a Great Lakes tote bag/t-shirt design, her mining Valentine (I pick you), the shop holiday 2017 postcard and gift tag, "nevertheless, she persisted" t-shirt design, her map of U.S. protest signs, a card about cake, and two pieces of stitchery which we turned into postcards. She's inspiring but kind of intimidating to be related to.






That is going to be the word of the week, if not for quite a while, I can already tell. I am getting the same feeling that I did after the "nasty women" comment and we're still running with that. It is nice when people come in the store and compliment us on our speedy reaction, but just as likely that someone comes in and asks for a button we don't yet have. Last week Wednesday, I took the day off to go to Milwaukee but checked Facebook before I left and was tagged by at least two people about "nevertheless, she persisted." I tagged Sachi and then left my internet connection so I had no idea how the rest of the day went until I returned home to lots of comments and likes. As expected, Sachi went right to work and came up with three new buttons. And the on Sunday, I came to work to this note, plus an email about how we were running out of pussyhat buttons. Naturally there are many variations rumbling around in my head, though I will say that the length of "nevertheless" is posing a bit of a challenge. We'll see how Sachi does with the hand-lettering. 

inauguration/protest window

Ok, this post got totally lost in the shuffle. It has been a crazy few weeks. And hard not to feel overwhelmed with the constant onslaught of annoyance coming from the White House. But I just read a useful article separating the actions into two piles:  typical conservative assaults (that you would expect from anyone Republican) and the assaults that hit the heart of democracy itself. Not to undermine the typical conservative assaults because we pretty disagree with that whole party platform, not the least reason being that they seem to only preach small government/free market/local control without adhering to it. But perhaps we can find common ground and work across party lines as citizens concerned about the very nature of democracy if we spend more energy on the larger threats to democracy itself? Because if democracy is utterly done away with then we have no chance to work on the other issues that are party specific. Or is that wishful thinking.

In any event, as I mentioned, I am going to try a revised format for blog posts but found this post lingering around in the saved drafts folder. I will at least finish it. With the following updates: we were gone for the Women's March! We were sad to miss it in Madison. It sounds like quite a lively time at the shop. We sold about 1000 buttons in one day (very close to meeting the record from a Saturday in March in 2011) and had to send Mom in to bring back-up buttons. Funny story: you may recall that I had switched copy centers because of some passive-aggressive Trump-supporting comments that I got the last time I picked up buttons. Even though I wanted some last "I'm not quitting" rejoinder to their comments, I had taken the high road and just disappeared to the other copy shop. However, that copy shop is closest to our parents' house so a little part of me didn't mind that I was going to send Mom in to pick up a huge batch of Pussy Grabs Back and other buttons. True to Mom form, she goes in, chats with a new guy who is working there who compliments her on her last name and they end up all buddy-buddy. That is something that I admire so much about Mom, even though it means that everywhere we go, she ends up chatting for a long time with someone, but she has this curiosity and openness about everyone which they respond to. I should be better about that.

Anyway, Sachi and I were in Phoenix for a trade show but took a half-day to march there. It was lively and energizing, a reminder of the fun days of the Wisconsin Uprising. The energy and feeling of solidarity is always a gift. So, Phoenix was great but a little tiring. We were juggling work, protest, anxiety about not enough buttons at the shop and sight-seeing. But all worthwhile. We went to the Heard Museum which was inspiring. I had just read an article about how the U.S. needs a unified national identity - the author was complaining that we are too bogged down in multiculturalism. But, of course, the good old days of national unity involved taking First Nation children away from their families to school them in the ways of White America. So that's no good. Clearly there are many aspects of a diverse (and immigrant) past which deserve to be a part of our national identity. Well, anyway, the trip to the Heard Museum just made me stop second-guessing my multicultural liberalism.

And, of course, we are still making buttons. The new designs just keep coming. We are grateful to Emily in Texas for the inspiration and supply and Sachi and I have both been coming up with new designs, though never fast enough to keep up with new indignities. We were inspired by the signs that everyone had at the protest and I've been enjoying Instagram hashtags which allow me peeks at other protests. I am particularly looking forward to the Science March.



We received copies of Resist! the 40-page publication featuring mostly women's comics and graphics in reaction to the Trump presidency. It is super cool. We still have copies left so you can stop in and pick up your free copy while they last. I'm leaning a bit on the people around me. Taking comfort from yoga class last night when my teacher said her mentor told them "Everyone will need your heart in these days." I am so in love with all the people who are dedicating their hearts to a vision of the world that is what I consider divine - loving/connecting/creating. I'm spending a little more time than usual on Instagram, enjoying the pictures of #womensmarch and #pussyhatproject. #stonewall. #sciencemarch. #dresslikeawoman. and on and on.I love all the knitting and sewing.

A woman I greatly admire had a wonderful comment on FB:  "When I hear public radio or others say he will become our leader, I shake my head and change the channel. He will not. He will be the President at least for some time. But he can only be our Leader if we follow him, and I will not. I will not follow him in the paths of divisiveness, racism, misogyny, taunting the differently abled, favoring the privileged, putting his own wellbeing above all others, being totally self absorbed." and I'm taking comfort from the almost 3 million more people who voted for Hillary.


My big preoccupation pre inauguration was the inauguration protest window. I've been mulling it over for a while, gathering all the pieces. You'd think after almost a decade of installing windows, I would have a better idea of how things will all come together but I don't really know until I'm in the midst of the work. That makes the time beforehand a little nervewracking. Lucky for me, I got an unexpected delivery of Kennedy Prints which is the icing on the cake, and a perfect touch to pull the window together and keep the focus a little bigger. The rest of the window is rather small - you have to come in close to really appreciate it, but people on FB helped me with a lot of great animal puns. In all, I'm pleased with how it all came together.




There really feels like so much to say. And so few opportunities to really speak to those in power making the decisions that affect us (seemingly more than affect themselves). Would Paul Ryan even read my window if he happened to walk by? Would equating him to Trump have any positive effect? I suppose not. I would really love to know what action is effective not just satisfying to one's ego or feeling of vindication. I'm trying to find some balance between protest and action, between being aware of all that is going on and protecting myself from the paralysis that comes from being overwhelmed, somewhat cautious about where I expend my energy. I recall, time and again, how I spend a lot of energy on what-ifs that never occur, or worst-case scenarios painted in a broad brush which end up applying only to a few. Specifically, I'm remembering a time when there were some armed robberies occurring downtown. We put safeguards in place, ran though various imagined outcomes, and I spent about a week bracing myself with every person who walked through the door. It's stressful, and exhausting, and it also kept me from getting other important work done. And all of this is not to diminish the need for protest but hope that we can all find ways to get energy from our protest to fuel us for the long work that lies ahead. Hope you are taking care of yourselves! 



week in review

but actually, I think I am going to try something new. Don't you just hate it when you go to a blog and the most recent post is really old? I feel like I'm falling behind. And of course, falling behind just makes me feel like I have more work to do to catch up and the task just gets bigger and bigger. In my defense, I will mention that we are working on a website (sometime in 2017) which will be integrated with our cash register software and will thus enable us to do more mail order for those of you far away. So there IS work being done. 

But I've also decided I am going to try a little variation on the theme and just post a picture a week. There are more photos on our Instagram and Facebook accounts, and you can always see new arrivals most quickly that way, but I will try to use this space to show off some of the highlights.


This week:



Yes, that's right, we're going all out on pussyhats. I was actually in the middle of  a different t-shirt design which involved me cutting and pasting a hat onto the head of Miss Forward. When I pasted, as is so often the case, the hat was extra large and clearly outsized for the image, but then I thought, hmm... I kind of like that on its own. SO, the pussyhat print was born. We have it in print and t-shirt and postcard and button format, and will soon be getting it in a rubber stamp. I'm pretty excited. I like not just the speed with which it came together but the happenstance of the event. We are in awe of all the knitters and sewers and crocheters around this country. Seriously. I love the transformation of something so mean and demeaning into something that has connected people. I mean, just the stories of people around the country who weren't able to march connecting with people who were marching but couldn't knit/sew. The little ways that people can say, here I am, I stand with you. Of course, as a crafter, I like that there was tangible project to work on; it is always satisfying for us to come into work and vent our frustration on the button machine and I expect similar feelings while people were knitting. But not just anger or frustration, also a sense of generosity and connection. Because THAT is what we need more of.

marching, with hats

I've been thinking a bit about God lately, spurred by two FB/email conversations with people who were coming to situations from different perspectives. They are both friends so I believe in their commitment and dedication, know their underlying goodness, but the interactions didn't really settle much for my own personal journey. I mean, I believe in some underlying truth/love/beauty/goodness and I do consider that divine. But there's a pervasive idea that involves God and merit that I'm having some trouble with of late; namely the implication that if you just pray enough or believe enough than you will be rewarded materially, or with good health, or whatever. Or, conversely, that this world is sinning so much that God has brought punishment down upon us. If I follow that backwards, then somehow it ends up that the suffering of a child in a cold refugee camp or in a lifeboat in the middle of the Mediterranean is somehow earned and I just can't square that with my idea of God. That idea that God has already done the judging and the doling out of punishment and that if your life station isn't that great, then it must be through some combination of your own doing and God's, without the context of, oh, say, generations of institutional racism or sexism, or decades of greed and power-grabbing by nations. In one instance, a lengthy discussion about whether politicians, namely Paul Ryan, are given their power through God and/or are doing God's work - which, obviously I completely disagree with, included multiple citations of passages from the Bible, which, I suddenly realized, don't really work on me, seeing as people seem to be able to apply them to whichever side of the argument they are trying to win. How do you resolve one person's understanding which they think is complete, with another's, which seems equally complete and well-thought-out and yet totally opposite? Well, I didn't mention that lack of effectiveness of Bible passages, for one thing. We basically had to agree to disagree about Paul Ryan. In the other instance, a family dealing with severe health issues which has led to a deepening of relationship with God. Now, particularly in hindsight, I can say that times of struggle for me opened doors to times love/beauty/goodness - so, again, I'm not saying that there is no God, just that I have a hard time for all of us with relative prosperity to make statements about the blessings of God, without there being some sense of self-satisfaction/congratulation. All that said, what came out of these discussions is my renewed commitment to what I do feel Jesus calls us to, and to the work of bringing forth love/beauty/goodness/truth.

So now we come to the week before inauguration. Blech. It's hard not to feel overwhelmed. I am, as usual, keeping myself busy and not totally facing up to the reality of Donald Trump. I just had to turn off the nightly news. I am quite sure that Obama was not featured on the news every single night of his presidency but the trend so far is not looking good for the incoming administration. I am keeping busy with the work and action that is Anthology's usual. I.e. buttons. lots of buttons. Plus our inauguration weekend window, which, if I do say so myself, came together pretty well considering all the protest that had to be done, and mostly in the form of animal puns. Will post that later. I did meet with our accountant and dealt with part one of tax prep, which included sending out various forms. She told me a dear conservative Christian friend of hers told her that the Donald Trump administration meant that the Devil was in the White House. So, we've got our work cut out for us. But what wonderful postage stamps Sachi got! I feel like we should buy these Wonder Women by the hundreds and send them with all our mail for the next four years. We all need to channel our superpowers.


To some extent, I see Anthology's role as one of support staff. Certainly during the 2011 protests, I was so thankful to be able to create a space where people could connect, could laugh and chat over the button table, could remind themselves that they are not alone. And that continues. We were laughing a little with a woman who came in last week who suddenly needed buttons that were Wisconsin-themed so she could represent in D.C. I went home that night and designed some new buttons, and Emily just sent me a few more files. Oh, also, we are expecting our copies of the Resist publication which is a great collection of mostly women's graphic art in reaction to the Trump presidency. We've seen a sneak peek and it's quite an amazing collection. That publication is free but we'll be collecting donations for Planned Parenthood over the coming weeks. Actually, this does remind me of the 2011 protests in one other respect: we had such an outpouring of support from our customers, such a big spike in button sales, that we were able to donate significantly larger sums to the various local youth arts organizations that we support. The ongoing button sales post-election mean we will be able to do similarly this year so there's something good coming from the incoming administration. There is a bit of a last-minute push to make sure everyone has their accessories. We are thrilled by the number of Anthology buttons that are making their way to marches around the country, including a customer who will be traveling on the day and thus marching in the airport.


Which brings me to Phoenix. Sachi and I have planned for a few months now to attend the craft and hobby trade show, which moved from California to Phoenix. It has been a few years since we've attended and we thought it would be good for the store, and us, to see what's new in the craft realm. Obviously I am hoping to find more washi tape. And bring home new products and projects. As it turns out, the trade show is this coming weekend, the weekend of the Women's March. Now, we were never planning to go to D.C., but of course we had expectations that we would be just two blocks from the State Capitol of Wisconsin, able to pop out from work and do a few laps around the Square, or just be present in solidarity as our customers walk by (and walk in for buttons). And then I really paid attention to the calendar. Now I had some reservations: first, when I googled "anti-inauguration Phoenix" what came up was a Libertarian party. And I know that we wouldn't fit in there. I like the things our taxes pay for. But, of course, I had type in the right search terms. So I figured out that yes, there is a sister march in Phoenix. My other reservations: 1. we are there for work and 2. what if I get arrested out of state? I have started to prepare myself for the idea of being arrested, but I was still thinking it would happen in Madison which is within the comfort of who my one phone call would be (though, really, should one call one's parents at my age? Perhaps I should think about a different one phone call). The first reservation was dealt with easily enough. Given the larger work that is my calling and that is Anthology, especially as it relates to what is mostly women's work of creativity which is usually undervalued and underpaid, standing up in the Women's March is clearly a part of the work. We had already decided the day was going to involve non-trade show work, which is still, just to be clear, a part of business travel: seeing stores that other people have, maybe even doing a little product scouting. So, the schedule is worked out. The arrest part? well, I've gotten advice to write legal aid's phone number in sharpie on my arm. Not that I'm planning on doing anything that merits arrest. I would feel a little more certain if I were in Madison since we've had the trial run of the 2011 protests. But this seems like the kind of thing that Jesus would be encouraging people to do, to leave their comfort and privilege and stand with and for others.

Anyway, the upshot is that even though we've been thinking about this for a few months, and even though I usually consider my role more of support staff, it was really only yesterday that I cemented our plans. Within 20 minutes of doing so, I had created a long list of tasks. As more active participants in a march who won't have a store two blocks away to run back to, what do I need to have? What sign should I bring?I think I'm going with my She Is print. I think it will fit flat in my suitcase but if I have to roll it, I will. Then what about buttons? Do you think TSA will confiscate buttons if I have too many? I was starting to think about a sash like the Girl Scouts/suffragettes but with buttons on it. But if they are going to confiscate it....  Maybe just bring along a stamped padded envelope so I could mail it home if I have to.


And after all of this posting about knitting, ack! do I need a pussy hat? I don't really know how to knit that well. I was kind of feeling jealous of everyone with their hats but feeling that I hadn't really earned one if I wasn't marching. But before I could feel too sorry for myself or get too stressed out about adding another task to my list, a dear person offered to deliver two hats: one for me and one for Sachi, with our initials on them! 


And I know that some people will say that is luck, but I'm inclined to side with Mother who would call it synchronicity and the evidence of of some underlying connection/truth/beauty/love which IS divine. Even if you think it is frivolous to find the divine in a pussy hat.

And, with that, I think we are ready for Phoenix! Ha, no, of course that's not true. I am sure that I will add more things to the list. Not only preparing for Phoenix, but making sure the store is ready for the weekend, and that we gird ourselves for the work that lies beyond the weekend. But there will be love/connection/truth/beauty, of that I am sure.


a pay it forward surprise


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. 


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.


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.


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.



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


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
218 State Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53703

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. 





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.


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.




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.

IMG_8677 IMG_8673

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.


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.


relentless love is required

You'll have to excuse me because now a part of me is always trying to think in short phrases that will fit on a button. There are a few that have been rolling around in my head for a while - "resolved not resigned" came to mind a few weeks ago, but some new ones came to mind last night. But I'm running with relentless love.

Here's my little story from election night: as you know, we have been making lots of buttons here at the shop. The process basically requires that an original image be created (by us or the amazing Emily) and then brought to the copy shop to be reproduced. Now, we have shifted almost all of our copy work over to small local businesses except for this last piece which is usually just a page at a time. So, since October 19th, the copy shop guys have been printing pages of buttons for us. 3000 buttons, 20 to a page. Let's see, there was "I voted for her, take that asshole," "nasty woman voter," "votes coming out of my whatever," "I'm not with stupid," "I vote for tacos." I don't think there's anything wrong with that even if you do take exception to my "he started it" and think that I should have let the nasty woman comment pass. I feel that Hillary was merely stating a fact and was being called nasty for it and thus I feel that perhaps the word nasty will be thrown around a lot just because there are still a lot of nasty facts out there. I will note that Michelle's "when they go low, we go high" button has also been a best seller. Anyway, I have had nothing but civil interactions with the copy shop guys, just the usual retail transaction you'd expect. Then, on election night around 7 pm, I had to run over to get one last sign for the window. Just before I arrived at the counter, another sales associate was also approaching. The one behind the counter says to the approaching one: "Trump is ahead," and the approaching guy says, "good." Then I arrived at the counter, he gave me my copy and I said thanks and turned around and left. Now, wasn't that rather passive-aggressive to mention Trump just as I was approaching? I thought so. Should I have said something? I've always felt, as in the case of our store and our windows, that I have already used my actions to make my point. Perhaps I'm relying too much on being an introvert and wanting to avoid a confrontation and perhaps I should learn to think faster. I never think of anything to say until later. Should I do better about that? Though, really, they'd probably say I started it. And perhaps the Donald Trump as a toy dinosaur put them over the edge. Who knows.


Anyway, yes, I will be switching copy shops. Yes, I am irritated with those guys. But I also feel sorry for them because a) I've worked corporate retail before and it is not a good feeling to be such a small cog in such a big operation, not to mention that uncharming warehouse space and b) what kind of life do you have where you want change in the system so you put your hopes behind someone who has done nothing but profit from the system and step on people like you to get what he wants, who promises to blow up the system which is one of the few things that is actually designed to help your life? when your hopes are placed in anger and fueled by hatred? I feel that there's going to be a disappointing outcome and not just for those of us who wanted a better outcome. But anyway, relentless love means I don't yell at the copy shop guys. Relentless love does mean that I make as many mindful choices as I can about the direction I want for this world. For me, most of that is moving as much of my money to small local businesses as I can, because I believe that small local businesses are better employers, do more for their community, and oh yeah, also don't make enough money to spend too much of it on lobbyists or donations to causes I disagree with. Relentless love does mean I keep making buttons. Perhaps a few will call someone an asshole, but the majority will be about the direction and the life that I want, not one consumed by hatred or anger or sorrow but one where I have pursued my passion and my creativity and where I help other people pursue theirs because that, I believe, is the only way for the world to be. Otherwise, I just don't see the point.

Oh yeah, and relentless love means I am giving serious considering to bringing back friendship pins. Remember those? I read an article about how people in Britain are wearing safety pins as a symbol of refuge, of safety. So that someone can be walking down the street and know they have an ally. But how fun would it be to be walking down the street and someone gives you a FRIENDSHIP PIN? Think about it. Also, I think we should see if the Southerners don't mind if we borrow "bless your heart" for a while. I feel like maybe that is a good response for a variety of situations. Like if you are walking down the street and someone yells out the n-word to someone walking near you - should you yell back "bless your heart!" or maybe just say to that person walking near you "bless their heart." Or to the guy with the Trump shirt who swaggered into the store yesterday? I would have liked to be able to pull off a "bless your heart" with just the right tone of voice. I'll have to practice that.

So here's what I'm thinking, in no particular order:

a. Action. Komai women are women of action. We don't do so well when we don't have a plan and I for sure have a lot of trouble with uncertainty. Drives my brother-in-law crazy that I can't be spontaneous, but there it is. Mostly because when I am uncertain, my mind is constantly running through the various options, what steps I will have to take, and the various outcomes. It takes a lot of energy and is irritating because I know that most of it is wasted since most of those outcomes won't even happen. So, fine, now I know what the outcome of the election is. I can start to make the plan for the next steps. I installed the window yesterday, I have buttons to make. Safety pins to dig up. One last photocopy job for the copy shop guys just to make sure they know that I am undefeated. 

(p.s. Two people recommended "ghost them" and "don't give them any more of your money." After complaining that no one takes the high road from my "take what you need" signs, I decided to take the high road. Not only not send them the dinosaur print, not even send them a relentless love button. Practicing what you preach is always so hard. I sent my copies to the new copy shop. I do not need the last word in the "battle" with two copy shop guys. They can have that "win." When I picked up my copies, the new copy shop guy complimented me on my dinosaur print so that's high road for the win.)


b. Connection. (you can skip if you read this on Facebook, but it is still part of my thoughts).  I REALLY did not want three Scott Walker wins to be good training for anything at all but I have learned a few things since 2011. Yes, horrible things are going to happen. In fact, there are going to be horrible things that you didn't even think about! So that really sucks. And even if thousands of you come out and protest, most likely, it will fall on deaf ears. EXCEPT for the ears of the people who are standing with you. And there are a lot of people standing with you. You have to be standing and you have to speaking to realize that people are standing and speaking with you, but they are there. Trust me. And all of this? It requires love, and it requires work, a lot of hard work. There are big forces in the world that feed on hate and fear and sorrow. They have always been with us. As an introvert, I would like to stay at home in my pajamas and just put Viggo's speech at the Black Gate on repeat. But that's exactly where those big forces do their work, when you are alone and disconnected and scared. As a store owner, as a citizen, as a Christian, I have been called out from my cozy nest. At times, it has been uncomfortable but I PROMISE that the reward was worth it. The connection, the love, the passion? it overwhelms the feeling that you can ease your pain if you just yell more or hate more or buy more or drink more. It shows you that the world is chock full of people who are following their passion, who are committed to what they love, who are working full out on their vision for this world and are doing so out of a grand sense of connection and love.

So, yes, the Scott Walkers of the world are going to continue to do bad things. I don't want to scare you, but they are going to do bad things you didn't even realize they could do. But your response cannot be to flee or to hide because those forces will just find you wherever you are. The only way to fight them is to join the fight wherever you are called: to shed light and love however you can, to call out injustice, to invite other people to find what they love, to challenge yourself in the ways you are complicit in a system that feeds on hate and sorrow and division. And when you join the fight, you will find that even though there are bad things you never even imagined, there is more power and love and connection than you could have ever imagined to fight this battle with you. And if you need numbers: I have been yelled at two times since 2011 and overheard disgusted mutters many times over that but we have sold 44,617 buttons and made at least triple that in connections to our community and customers. So the numbers are on the side of love.

c. Change. Have I ever told you about my death throes theory? I'm sure that I have. Here's the theory: there was a time in America's history when things were a particular way, great for some people, not so great for many other people. That time? it is in the past. It is dying or already dead. Like all times in the past, and we can't go back to it even though it looks nicer than it really was. I mean, do you really want to go back to a time when Spam was the greatest thing we had to offer? It's the old closing the barn door after the horse has fled or "that ain't no etch-a-sketch, this is one doodle can't be un-did" (that line from Juno keeps popping into my head). All that we have is moving forward, that's the only choice. So, imagine that time so far in the past and imagine that was the best time of your life, imagine that you feel that your entire life from then on has been on a steady downward slide, that there is nothing that is any better about now than what you had in the past, that all that was in the past is dead and that who you thought you were, where you thought your power and strength came from, is dying if not already dead. Sucks, right? And imagine that no one is providing you with the tools to adapt to the change, or the tools are being provided but they don't think they look like the way you thought tools should look. So, the death throes theory is that a particular way of life is dying. It is taking a while to die and the death throes are much more violent than I'd like them to be, there are people on the sidelines being struck out at but they are not really the true target. We just have to do the best we can to protect ourselves and to carry each other through these changing times. But death will come. We are not going back. We cannot go back.

d. Work. So much work to be done. It's exhausting. I know. But the more that I have learned, the more that I have seen that our American ideal of welcoming the poor, the tired, the huddled masses yearning to be free? We have a ways to go before we live up to that. Through all the ages, this country has received its immigrants with less graciousness than I would like, it has profited from the work of people without truly compensating them, it has manipulated people and it has marginalized people that don't look or act according to certain narrow expectations. The American ideal did not just fall on November 8th, it has always been rather tenuously maintained. And there are many people who have never really benefited from our "liberty and justice for all." They probably woke up on November 8th and thought, yep, just like I've been trying to tell you. I was already feeling so strongly that there is a lot of work ahead of us. Yes, it would have been easier with Hillary in the White House, yes, Donald Trump is probably going to create more work, but the work didn't suddenly appear this campaign season. In fact, if anything, what this campaign season has done (and the Obama years) has shed light on the work that needs to be done. Some of it, I'll be honest, I thought was already done. I am starting to awaken to the experience of African Americans in this country. It makes me sad and mad that we purport to hold people to certain standards of democracy and equality around the world when we are failing so miserably at it here. Over the course of this campaign, I have heard the stories that women share about casual and malicious invasions of their personhood, so many stories, stories that also make me sad and mad at this ongoing failure. But that doesn't change my feelings about the value of government and the value of pooling our resources to collectively create a better future, about our strength in our love and our ability to be good in the world, about the value of striving for our ideals. We just have to constantly push ourselves to broaden our circle. It starts with listening and connecting, crossing over lines and reaching for what brings us together instead of focusing on what divides us. And it gets going with work. It is big work about where you spend your time and your money, about being the world you want your children to inherit; it is little work about being ready to be an ally and an interrupter. When I woke up this morning, I was thinking about incidences of hate crimes that I hear on the rise. But you know, we have choices when we sit on a bus or when we are standing at a gas station or when we see someone vulnerable. I haven't quite figured out what my response is going to be. I am seriously considering adopting "bless your heart" as something to yell out. Or maybe just carrying around that box of questions for awkward single people to ask on first dates and be ready to start a conversation. Do you ignore people who are being hateful? Do you try to respond to them? Or do you just offer your presence and friendship for someone who is the target of hatred? How do you interrupt and diffuse a situation? When you've been in a situation where someone was bullying you, what would have been helpful? Someone yelling back at the bully? or someone just sitting by your side drawing your attention away from the bully? someone sitting down between you and the bully? I think we need to be more ready.


e. Math. I just crunched the numbers for consolation. Pro: 59 million out of 318 million voted for Trump. That is NOT a majority of citizens over the age of 18. You can stop feeling sad or mad or bad about 50% of the people you see each day and knock that down to one in four, one in six if you want to include children. Con: Why is it so f*ing difficult to get people to vote? I know, the answer actually relates back to the previous paragraph. To the ideal of democracy vs. how this nation actually functions. Do you know I learned about women registering to vote for the very first time in their life? They were in their 30s and 40s! What does that say about our system that they have gone so long into their life without voting being demanded of them? And let's not even talk about all the ways the GOP has tried to obstruct the votes of African Americans or about people waiting HOURS in line to vote. In all my life of voting, I have never had to wait more than 30 minutes. Why is that not true for everyone? The reality is that a lot of people are trained to expect that their vote is meaningless, are discouraged in so many ways to even cast their vote and then it's a downward spiral between the system not working and no one demanding, via their vote, that change be made.

f. Gratitude. Oh. My. Goodness. Did you see all those people working their heart out on this campaign? I am in awe. Did you wake up feeling sad and then read all the posts on Facebook about people who were sad, but also mad and ready to stand up? Not just absorbed in what this means for them but thinking about the wider world. Perhaps feeling totally depressed or angry or sad, needing some time to grieve but also looking up and feeling committed. I am really so in love with everyone right now.

g. You know the song going through my head right now? "Everlasting Love." The Carl Carlton version if we must be honest. Except instead of "everlasting," "relentless." That's what I have to come back to. Because the other option? The other option is to be so overwhelmed with fear or sorrow or anger that you've forgotten what you love, what gets you out of bed in the morning, what propels you forward. The other option is to let your anger consume you so that you stop seeing what connects you to other people and you only see how you are divided. You stop seeing that you have choices to make. And then you become everything you are feeling sad or mad or bad about.