protest prints, expanded upon

Oh, good grief! There is no end in sight! But, yes, you can be assured that we are still making buttons. and prints. and t-shirts. Buttons are certainly easiest for us because we can type them up overnight in response to whatever happens to be going on. But we have also been making more prints. Sachi has still been busy creating new designs but we are also particularly fond of the In Our America print from NWGSDPDX. We have them in store, but they are also available for free download here. We love the ways that sales of this print are supporting non profit organizations from our donations to the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County to the $10,000 (!!) that the founders donated to Lutheran Community Services NW Emergency Housing Fund. We are reminded of the Wisconsin protest days when the highest point of the moment was the level of creativity that people were called to. We are inspired by the ways that people are called to speak out and stand up.



International Day of/without Women


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March 8 is the day! Next Wednesday. What will you be doing to celebrate? How do you acknowledge the work of women in your life and around the world? Doesn't it always seem like these things need more than a day or a month? Shouldn't every day be all things? There have been rumblings for a while about a strike and we've been thinking about this a lot - indeed, we had practice for this moment during the Wisconsin protests of 2011 - the picture above was taken back then. (love that graphic!). At that time, our business was so new - I suppose we could have gone on strike against ourselves for not paying ourselves enough.

What does it mean for us as business owners? What does our labor mean? or protest? or strike? For that matter, surrounded as we are by so many hard-working and amazing women, well, frankly, I am well aware of how everything would just grind to a halt if women weren't working. That is as well the case if women weren't shopping. And I realize that I might be spending a lot of time thinking of efficacy and efficiency, but, particularly in light of the way Scott Walker's tenure just drags on and on, the way actions we take are twisted and used as weapons against us, I think a lot about how I can maximize the good and counter-effect of my work in the world. I understand you can't spend all your time second-guessing your actions or trying to judge them based on possible outcomes or misinterpretations (or, for that matter, criticism from people who are apparently working out of a completely different "reality") but I have to make my choices based on... it is not a matter of what I am comfortable with, I don't mind being uncomfortable. But I do have some sense of caution, that my action be grounded in being true to myself.

And who am I? Well, I'm a Capitalist. There, I said it. I say this often, I know, but I don't think everyone realizes all the implications. It means that we made this choice to participate in a system which, though we believe has many flaws, we also believe is how we can be effective. We use the system to achieve our goals, our goals of facilitating creativity in ourselves and our customers and our vendors. We act upon our belief in Capitalism by marshaling the money that we make for good - as we send it back into the community, as we direct it towards other businesses and non-profits. I'm definitely not the kind of person who can live off the grid. I like the things that money buys and I really believe that it has power to accomplish good things. In that respect then, I feel like we have more power and effect by participating in the system, not by absenting ourselves from it.  I am well aware that other people feel differently and there are calls to bring Capitalism to its knees through a general strike but I simply wouldn't have opened a store if I didn't have this underlying belief in the good that Capitalism can do. So, yes, we will be open on March 8. 

However, in honor of the work that women do, in recognition that so many women are denied their full humanity - their ability to create, their ability to participate, to learn, to grow, to shape the world in wonderful ways, we are going to be donating the day's sales to two organizations who work locally with women.


In all honesty, there are so many organizations and people doing really great work out there, finding ways to help women reach their full potential, it is hard to choose. We have some of our usual organizations that we donate to which focus mostly on young women but we decided to help organizations that help women at particularly difficult points in their life. The first organization is Domestic Abuse Intervention Services.  We are impressed by their dedication to safety, hope, justice and peace for domestic abuse survivors (mainly, but not exclusively, women) and their families. At this moment in time when there is such a culture of fear and threat, we appreciate their work to overcome violence perpetuated on others. The second organization is the Backyard Women's Mosaic Project, which provides safety and creativity and opportunity for women to discover and develop artistic skills as they return to their families and community from incarceration. The way this country has squandered the human capital of so many people is really a great loss to us as a nation, to our communities and to families. At this moment when it seems like only certain people are allowed the success and rights that are supposedly granted to all, when so many forces are acting to divide and separate us, we appreciate their work to instill a sense of creativity and connection.

On a tangential note: not to be a hammer looking at all problems in terms of hammers/nails, but the lack of response from Congresspeople is rather annoying and stumping. Ron Johnson took out a restraining order? Most aren't even holding sessions open to the public?  There seems to be a very limited idea of who their constituents are and what is being asked of them. Anyway, here's my thought. In addition to postcards or potatoes or phone calls; is there a way we can wield our power as consumers more? Would calls or contact with businesses in districts lend more weight to the matter? On the one hand, I object to the power that businesses have to shape legislators' minds; on the other hand, why should Ron Johnson only hear from businesses who want lower taxes? What about the businesses who understand that paying taxes is the price they willingly pay? You know, the Bill Penzey's of the world? There are more of us than just us and him.  SO I guess what I am saying is don't be shy about sharing your stories and moving your money. If you are a business owner, definitely write to your legislators from that perspective; if you are a customer, there are gentle and friendly ways to communicate to businesses your concerns. What would that start to look like? If, for example, all the farmers who rely on migrant labor started contacting Paul Ryan? If outdoor recreation businesses started contacting senators about the EPA? Well, these are just thoughts rumbling around in my head and you can tell I come to them from my Capitalist bent. But I firmly believe that we as a nation, as communities, and businesses, profit from things that are being overlooked and undermined by this administration. Talk of a general strike centers around bringing the economy to its knees, but what about making it work for what we want to see of this country?

And you? How will you celebrate? and speak and act and organize? how will you give thanks? We totally understand if part of your action includes not participating in Capitalism on March 8. We have our eye on some new spring dresses from our next door neighbors at Serrv, who are working to empower women around the world, and some loans through Kiva and some Madison community investment organization that I wrote down on a little slip of paper and now can't find. 

And, of course, we will have buttons. Someone kindly gave me a heads' up this Saturday. She called to ask if we had buttons, feeling that she cannot go on strike (at least most women have some sense of their indispensability I hope) but wants to support and represent on Wednesday. Made this one up special:



we have a website!

STORE - 004

Is it weird to announce that in a blog? Well, even though I have been a little neglectful of late, I do appreciate the role that this blog has so we'll definitely be keeping it. Some things require a little more than FB or Instagram have space for, or a little more mobility/responsiveness than a website has. But, yes, there's an online store. Not exactly earth-shattering, but it seems appropriate that we go live here in March, almost exactly 9 years from when we opened our doors. We are in the process of moving our inventory over to a new software system and I have therefore been reminded, daily, that this store has something like 16,500 items. Of those, about 48 are up on our website. This is going to take a while. I am trying not to get too stressed out so I took some time to look at pictures of Anthology when we first opened. Things have certainly filled in a lot since we first opened; I expect a similar trajectory for our website. All of which is to ask for your patience.

STORE - 099

There were several reasons that we decided to open a brick and mortar store instead of a website; all of those reasons pretty much hold true: we think it is better to see things in person, to the point that we don't think we can adequately portray the entirety of Anthology online; we like the immediacy of interacting with people, the randomness and serendipity that comes from people who just happen to walk in off the street; and as artists we certainly know that the products a person generates aren't necessarily so unchanging that we can stock multiples on a website. Much of what we have is more or less one of kind and doesn't readily translate to an online store. Did I qualify this enough? I mentioned on Facebook that we were getting a website and specifically told everyone not to get excited, and then had someone come into the shop that day to tell me she was so excited, and had several people comment similarly. The pressure!  Anyway, in service of putting more Anthology goodness out into the world, helping people carry more of it with them when they are not in our space, here we go.....

STORE - 098

kind of like a box of chocolates



Our order of wooden stamp blocks arrived this week. They look so tempting and wonderful! I had a lot of fun picking them out when we were in Phoenix - there's something hard to beat about seeing everything in person and making your pile of lovelies. I've used them with melted wax for batik printing but they are also great for printing on fabric and paper.  I have pretty much given up on sewing clothing because I just don't have the patience for it, but it would be fun to have a skirt with these stamps on the hem. Repeating a single pattern makes for lots of interesting possibilities. I've even had some customers use them for stamping on clay.

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.