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my open letter

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Well, let's face it, my sister is the one who gets letters published in the paper.  I can never pare things down enough.  But I decided to take up the challenge from Monologues of Dissent.  I am voting on June 5 to remove Governor Scott Walker out of office and here is why:

Since February of 2011, our store has sold over 23,000 buttons protesting the actions of Governor Scott Walker et al.  I will grant that most people buy more than one button, in fact, ten buttons is probably the average.  So perhaps we've only had conversations with 2300 people about the effects of Scott Walker on their lives.  Nonetheless, certain patterns emerge which have only reinforced the sentiments that prompted us to make buttons in the first place.

Now, our dad sometimes laughs and says, "you should write Scott Walker a thank-you note for the ways that he has boosted your business this year."  Ha ha.  Do I thank him for making my customers so worried about their health care, their livelihoods, their children's education?  Do I thank him for taking away the possibility of new jobs in reneweable energy sectors?  Do I thank him for threatening the quality of our waters and other natural resources?  No thank you.

Now, I know that there are those who will say that religion and politics should not mix, but I was raised in the United Church of Christ and my religion is a part of who I am.  I will admit that I might have a simplified version of Christianity, but mine is fundamentally about: "whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do so unto me."  That is about doing unto others as you'd have done to you, that is about justice and mercy and kindness, that is caring for those who might have nothing to give to you, and doing so because it is the right thing to do, not because of some eventual reward.  In that respect, I find Scott Walker unChristian and in a way that is truly offensive to me.  I don't expect everyone to agree with me, even about the existence of God, or about the value of the Church, but I DO expect people to adhere to some moral compass, whatever true north is for them.  I find Scott Walker utterly lacking in such direction.

But fine, perhaps you believe that church and state should be separate.  To that I would say that Scott Walker is also not abiding by the principles of state governance: accountability to taxpayers, transparency, the separate but equal branches of government.  I believe that all of his actions to "balance the budget" are really just an elaborate shell game to move taxpayer money into the hands of a few campaign donors, to reward these few people at cost to public well-being and to the natural resources of our state.

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My sister and I own a small shop two blocks from the State Capitol.  We object to the actions of Scott Walker on some fundamental moral/religious grounds, but we also object on behalf of our customers.  What we hear from our customers is that they are worried about paying their bills, they are wondering about their pension plans that they've been paying into all these years, they are worrying about budget cuts and layoffs.  Worries such as those give lie to the notion that this state is "open for business."  I have seen very little action from the office of the Governor to allay such worries.

I think above all, what I have learned from this last year, is our utter dependence on each other.  We talk as if taxpayer is separate from state worker or consumer, but they are really all connected, if not residing in the same body.  We as consumers and voters are an important part of the picture, the well-being of workers is intimately connected to the well-being of the state as a whole.  Just ask whoever is in charge of collecting state income- and sales- taxes.  Yet Scott Walker behaves as if the well-being of this state can be parsed out into little packages, appeased with tax breaks for a few corporations, weakened air- and water-quality rules for a few others, the promise of school vouchers for a few families, a few roads for some construction companies.  Never mind that doing so threatens the livelihood of small businesses who depend on tourists swimming in clean waters, the education of the very many children who will still be in public schools, the need for our state to start facing up to the realities of climate change and the majority of people who will never make large campaign donations to be rewarded by tax breaks and special favors.

We ARE all in this together.  We know it; Scott Walker seems unable to face up to the entirety of the state he was elected to govern.  He is not fit to remain in office.



Valley Ridge: just back

I just returned from three days out at Valley Ridge Art Studio, learning from Mary Beth Shaw and Julie Snidle, as well as my inspiring classmates.  It is always such a treat to get away to Valley Ridge, of course, it doesn't hurt that a 3-day weekend is such a rarity to start with.  The drive out past Dodgeville helps me transition to an all-art, all-the-time weekend and the poor phone reception means I couldn't even be connected to the "real world" if I tried.

The workshop, Wax On/Wax Off, focused on various techniques using melted wax.  On the morning of the first day, we learned about batik paper.  This is something I've been wanting to try for ages.  The results I've seen are always so amazing.  The color is super intense and they make even simple pieces like shipping tags turn into wonderful pieces of art.

Valleyr 025Well, on their way to being art.  I honestly could have spent at least two of the days doing just batik paper.  Though the technique is simple, there is lots of room for elaborate designs.  I had spent weeks thinking about various shapes and designs and patterns and I barely scratched the surface in terms of exploration.  Clearly I will have to do more. Such papers can, of course, just be cut up and used in book pages and covers, or as parts of journals, but I'm also interested in trying some that are more stand-alone.

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Basically, you apply melted wax down onto the paper surface - everywhere you wax, the original paper will show through - this in itself can be interesting if you use patterned papers.  You can use a little tool that dispenses a line of wax like a pen, or you can use metal objects dipped in wax - things like copper pipe, spatulas, potato mashers.  Gives a whole new level to a trip to the thrift store.  Then you paint on some dyes.  The dyes are basic procion dyes which are used for fabric dyeing - the color is really lovely and intense.  I hardly even explored all the different colors there were to explore.  Then, if you like, more layers of wax, more painting.  By the end of the morning, I was just starting to explore more complex designs.  Since you are painting with dye, you can't get a really precise line, but even working with swathes of color (and bleeding between colors) allows for some interesting results.

Valleyr 022I particularly like the look of batiks using map paper as the base - the underlying lines show through faintly with the suggestion of landforms... Yeah, I could have spent a day just dyeing pieces of maps.  At the end of your dyeing and wax applying, you make sure it is all dry, and then you iron off all the wax.  And even though you think you know what you are doing as you go along, that moment of revealing the finished product always has a little surprise.  I had in mind some sort of design that suggested birch trees... I feel like there is some more work to be done to refine the design but I was happy with the way it turned out:

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The remainder of the workshop was spent learning about encaustic.  This is a process that I have wanted to learn about for a long time.  I do make collages with melted wax and I love the effect of wax, so I was curious to learn more about this process which also uses wax but which was clearly more involved than my simple approach.

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My head hurts.  That's what a friend and I say when we have so many ideas and inspiration whirling around up there.  And boy do I ever have that going on right now!

It was so great to really immerse myself in all the different techniques and to learn more about the process.  I ended up working on a total of five collages.  I think for me, I'm interested in encaustic because of the depth that you can add.  My collages tend to be really dense, but two-dimensional, and I was curious to see if using encaustic would allow me to seperate some layers from each other.  The collage, above, is....well, I guess it is done.  It is not nearly as full as I would like it to be, but I also don't see what/where I would add. 

I have two other collages which are not quite done.  I'm not quite sure what else I'm going to do with them, but I'm not quite satisfied.  The first piece used a bit of a picture that I copied from a friend's Facebook page.  She is in Prague and I LOVE the clock that they have there.  I used that, along with other circular elements.  I don't know if it needs one more color for a little diversity, or what exactly.  But I love all the different layers that you can introduce - painting down some colors in wax, covering them with a layer of wax, adding papers, covering them with more wax, adding transfers... (oh, and by the way, I found that transfers worked much better on wax than they usually work for me in acrylic/paper so that was nice).

Valleyr 016The clock/constellation piece is pretty close to done; I'm really not happy with the fairy piece though.  In my case, that basically means that I need to add MORE, even though other people would say it means that I've added too much...  There was a lovely paint/stencil layer at the bottom of this collage but there's not much left at this point.  You can draw with some waxy color crayons so I might just have to add a little line or something. Valleyr 017

I think this piece might be my favorite.  It has a map buried underneath and I love just the hint of that, as well as the combination of the turquoise with a little flash of red.


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And finally, a belated birthday/engagement present for a friend.  I used her save-the-date card - adding it to the collage and also basing the color palate on that.    I tried a lot of different techniques on this one and it has a lot of layers.  I love it.  I used some found text, some of my own photographs, cut outs from magazines and field guides, stencils, various tools to make marks, black and white photocopies for transfers...  So basically what is nice about encaustic is that I can add even MORE to my collages!

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I have this vague idea floating around of making some Madison encaustics for the shop.  First I will have to get some supplies...

window for our Mothers

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I can't believe we are coming up on Mother's Day of 2012 and I am feeling like the battles being fought are from decades ago.  It's rather aggravating, to say the least.

But GOP politicians are not the only culprits.  I was reading something recently about the "mommy wars," as well as a blog of a teacher with a "mean girls" situation in her classroom, and also revisiting my own post about the customer who yelled at me, and thinking about the times that I make (or at least think) snide things about other women.  I think much of it comes from our insecurities and pains and angers, examples yet again of how we misdirect our energies.

But particularly in light of the current political climate, it seems like women should not be consumed with petty grievances and judgments over who is a better parent, which is a better career choice - I doubt we ever fully know the choices that a person has to make, the things they give up, the things they keep - isn't it enough that we just make our way in the world with our own idea of success?  We need a little more solidarity, I'm thinking.  All right, I know, that's easier said than done, because a part of me is still judging that customer who yelled at me, but anyway, it's something to work towards.


With that in mind, I made my Mother's day print - first just as a sign for the window, but now printed in quantity for purchase.  I could have spent another week agonizing over word choice, looking things up in the dictionary and thesaurus and even though I basically wrote it in a day, I decided that it really did say what I wanted it to say, and there is such a thing as overthinking, so I quickly sent it off to the printer before I could change my mind.

It is partly an external response to the way women's power is being attacked.  In all honesty, not to diminish the severity of recent legislation, but I kind of view this as the death throes of an era - women are earning more money, younger generations think gay marriage is fine, the country is becoming more diverse, there is more interracial mixing... you can't tell me this doesn't terrify certain people.  And their response? To try and legislate or otherwise force the world to stay the way they want it to?  It isn't going to work.  I know for darn sure that I'm never going to be a stay-at-home mom and the apron and pearls are pretty much just for show.  Why should there be a single role for a woman to fill? why can't we have as much say in our own lives as men do in theirs?  (I want to be very clear here that I am not criticizing the choice to be a stay-at-home mom, it is just not my choice.  I think the whole point of the feminist movement is for women to be able to create their own lives and while it is entirely true that I might not make such a choice myself, that doesn't mean it is not as valid.  My only concern for any woman is that she is following the path of her life that is of her choosing, knowing all of her options, and being true more to her own self than to the expectations of others.  But everyone is different so everyone's path will no doubt be different).

But the people who wish that women's lives were the way they were in the 1950s certainly aren't stopping from trying to make that so, are they?  So, the sign is, in part, externally focused, hoping to remind people that, hey, women in their lives are doing great things, they are your equal in as much as any human being is your equal.  Quit behaving as if they need you to direct their life (or supporting, or keeping silent about, other peoples' such behavior).

But this is also meant to be an internal document as well.  A personal reminder of the women that we each have in our lives, of their influence, and an... exhortation... to be as much in return, or to pay as much forward to other women in your life. Wed 001
And yes, I managed to have some pretty and flowery elements of the window, too.  It is possible that I've never hung the washi paper in the window... but it sure is lovely.  I had specifically ordered some bird and flower prints on antique book pages for the window.  They are from an artist in Texas who recently lost her mother, so it seems especially poignant that they are in the Mother's day window.  The prints looked so lovely against the washi paper that I bypassed my usual jumbled window and just left those two elements together.  I love the way the colors play off each other.  I had this grand idea of some sort of Anthropologie paper extravaganza - but there's a reason those windows always look so great - very time and labor intensive... and I just petered out.  Maybe someday.

I love our assortment of Mother's Day cards.  I'm reminded of our first year in business - we had only been open a few months when Mother's Day came along and we totally ran out of cards.  I was scrounging through my own collection, pulling out flowery and thank you cards that could serve the purpose.  We have more to choose from this year.  Oh, yes, in case you didn't know, Mother's day is May 13th.  It'll be here before you know it.

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The other project for the week has been an expansion of our protest bracelets.  We first started making bracelets because customers kept asking about them.  I make them in small batches and keep thinking that sales will start to slow but they really haven't.  And now, with the new emphasis on women's issues, it seemed like a new variation was needed.  Happily, I managed to get Sachi's panty protest pins sized down so she could make a protest bracelet, and I've also added a few such images (as well as "voting is sexy") to a new set of protest bracelets.

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And now, I think, it is safe for me to leave town for a few days.  I'll be out at a workshop at Valley Ridge Art Studio so I will be without phone and internet for a little while.  But I can't wait to report back next week with my creations and inspirations!

Mother's Day window, third draft


Well, in part, it's a Mother's Day tribute, a tribute to our mother (pictured above, with the two of us at the beach, circa 1975).  As I mentioned earlier, I'm working on details for the window installation, and started thinking about what the window should say, particularly in light of the upcoming protest.

I was thinking about a sign, about the women who have shaped my lives, and about myself.  Who I am, and my response to those who would say that my only value is as a vessel for future generations.  Which, by the way, if that is the only measure of my value, I have utterly failed... and yet, I think the world is a better place with me in it so clearly there is more value to me than just that.

I was thinking about my niece, my hopes that I have for her as she makes her way in the world, and about all the generations of women who have come before, and who will still come.  (Here's our mom and the adorable girl at the UW Arboretum today).

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(Please remember that I'm doing all of this on a tight timeline - the protest is Saturday, but more signficantly, the window installation is Tuesday, and I'm going out of town on Friday.  SO, there's not a lot of time).

With those thoughts on Sunday morning, I started a rough draft, which I finished on Sunday evening so I could send it to the printer.  There's not quite enough time for a huge print run as I've done with my "keep calm" print - that may yet be to come.  I need to sit with the words just a little bit longer, make sure I haven't overlooked anything major or messed it up with my inability to edit down any further.  For now, a quick and dirty production.  I have no doubt that I've already overthought the word selection, and every person who contributed their list of women who have shaped them has added a new word to my list.  But I think it pretty much says what I need it to say.


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I'm looking forward to hanging it up in the window tomorrow.




Mother's day window, second draft

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All right, here's the deal: The Mother's Day window is going in this week.  It was going to be all fluffy and flowery and pastel and pretty.  I've cut out butterflies from book pages, had Sachi make more bird nest necklaces,  ordered some special lovely things to put in the window and sell in the shop.  But I'm also starting to feel rather feisty about matters of women & politics.

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Interestingly, there is some national sorority group coming into town so the downtown business newsletter that I got recently said something to the effect of, "stock up on pink and green, because this is a shopping crowd and they love pink and green."  I am not judging the downtown newsletter, nonetheless, I find it rather interesting that my focus was momentarily distracted, or, rather, my pretty & pastel direction was being encouraged. 

I mean, we have so many lovelies to choose from, after all.  And I was thinking it would be nice to hang up our lovely washi paper which has never had time in the window...

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(Meanwhile, this afternoon, I am going to see Pink Ribbons, Inc. at the Film Festival.  Sachi saw it yesterday and said her head is spinning from all it gave her to think about: "Replacing the political march with a fun run, no anger allowed--only hope, the "tyranny of cheerfulness," women with Stage 4 cancer being "the elephant in the room," the "ideal" survivor being a middle-class white woman because she's the perfect consumer, pharmaceutical & cosmetics companies simultaneously causing the cancers that they promote themselves to cure, globalization of Race for the Cure...")

Earlier in the week, a customer asked me, "what are you going to protest when this is all done?"  He was referring to all our Walker protest pins, but I assured him that at the rate the GOP was going, I was pretty sure there would be more to protest.  (oh, and I shouldn't blame it all on the GOP, we are all in this together when it comes to our nation's defense budget and campaign financing - the levels of which I find rather gross and immoral).  In fact, yesterday there was as rally of Veterans for Peace and this coming Saturday is a rally at the Capitol: Unite Against the War on Women.

Meanwhile, we have Sachi's panty protest pins, but people are still coming in asking for new pins - a customer has returned several times for a "woman power" pin, and I've had requests and suggestions for many others (such as "something about Governor John Doe.").  And I find I still have more to say, though I'm having trouble fitting it on a button.  No, we aren't done protesting yet.

I am leaving town on Friday for my annual art workshop/spa getaway at Valley Ridge Art Studio so I'm frantically running around right now (in addition to attending the film festival) with various last-minute projects that I have to get done earlier than I would if I weren't leaving town.  My protest bracelets continue to sell well, but it occurred to me that I should make a women's protest/rights bracelet.... SO, now I have to make some images that will fit on tiny 1" buttons, get them copied and make them into buttons, glue them onto bracelets, all before Friday morning.   I've been hunting online for new button slogans but not really getting inspired ("women's rights" on Zazzle brought up the craziest assortment of buttons - everthing from I {heart} Sarah Palin to "never again" with a picture of a hanger, including one button that was something like "we fought for birth control, right to vote, equality... now we're tired. YOU do it."  This last button has me a little discouraged - first, the reminder that this fight has been fought already; second, well, of course a person is allowed to have fought and be tired and be done with it, but still, the sentiment rubbed me the wrong way;  third, I go back and forth - sometimes it seems like young people aren't doing enough, sometimes I am amazed at all they are doing.  I'm not really sure it helps at all to start making assumptions about ability and age, to absolve oneself of responsibility.  And yes, I got all that from one button.  But it also made me think that I need to work on using my voice and my strength... more.

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In this context, I was mentally planning the window last night: pretty papers, pink and green, flowers... but then I thought, no, that isn't all that I want to say.  And now, it is about 48 hours before the window is to be installed and I was going around in circles thinking about messages, signs, big posters, prints...  In the end, I think I will have to just make a simple print for the window and get it printed quickly.  I do think that it can become something like my "keep calm" print which I will have printed in quantity, but I don't quite have the time to wrap that up and get it done in time for installation.

Still, for now, here's the work in progress.  It will be an 11" x 17" print, black and white, in similar format as my "keep calm" print, but perhaps with just one font, for a change.  I've toyed with a number of options, all within a few hours this morning.  And no, I couldn't start with "keep calm" - that just seemed way too... placating... for the situation.

At first I was thinking about the equality issue.  I find people's arguments about women's inequality rather disingenuous, to be honest.  One man is really not equal to another man - in one way or another, one will be more talented than the other; and vice versa.  We all have our strengths and our weaknesses.  It is true both that no person is equal to another person, and that all people are equal to each other.  And to categorically say that equality among men is expected but equality between men and women should not be expected is highly offensive to me. It's like apples and oranges.  An apple is not equal to an orange; a green apple is not equal to a red apple.  But they are all fruit.

So I was going to dig up the statistic about inequity between men and women (the way that women do x amount of work and earn x amount of money and own x amount of property).  But the internet was not cooperating and the first search results came up with someone questioning the statistical accuracy of those figures.  Well, fine, I think it it still pertinent, but there are other ways of going about this.  And then I was reminded of a Facebook post from last week: Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.

So I think this is what I'm leaning towards.  More about what are women's strengths, how have they EARNED respect, equality, etc, and how do we celebrate them - since that's what Mother's Day is supposed to be anyway.  This is the rough  draft - the words that first came to my mind, but I'd be happy to hear from other people about what women have brought to their lives.

she is woman.

she is a person.

she is mother. daughter. wife. sister.

she gives you life.

she gives you respect, love, attention, gratitude, consideration, knowledge, beauty.

she will nurture you, fight for you.

she deserves nothing less from you.




Wisconsin Film Festival and other notes, at length

Sorry, I'm really trying to edit this down but I have a lot of thoughts and they really are connected, honest.  The short message of this post is: check out the works of Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution.  Watching How to Start a Revolution, really inspired me. a lot.  You should see the film and check out the book From Dictatorship to Democracy.

And now for the long version:

We are right in the throes of the Wisconsin Film Festival here in Madison.  It's wonderful to see where people's interests and passions have taken them, as well as to enjoy a little escapism.  As always there are many more films than I have time to see, particularly since I have to fit them around the shopgirl life.  Nonetheless, I'm a little under halfway through my 10 movies in 5 days.

On Wednesday night, I went to Monsieur Lazhar, a film about a substitute teacher in Canada.  I've always felt that the world would be better off if everyone spent a year in retail; perhaps that should be followed by a year in the classroom.  Honestly, I don't know how teachers do it.  That movie was followed by a hastily consumed but delicious dinner from Los Gemelos.  The handwritten sign at the register makes me smile:  "every day is judgment day."  It's a strange mix of homemade charm and threat from on high.  My second movie on Wednesday night was We Are Not Broke.  This is the kind of film you feel like you ought to see, along the lines of The Inside Job and Bowling for Columbine.  The film documents the money passing between Congress and multi-national corporations, and the way these corporations have thus reduced their tax burden, shifting it onto, oh, everyone else.  At the end of this film, I was seriously thinking about packing up my friends and family and the shop and moving to another country.  It's frustrating that there seems to be so little about our country right now that is of, for and by the people.

I have also had recent conversations with 60-somethings who are terribly worried about their grandchildrens' futures.  And when someone who has lots of experience and wisdom has such concerns, they are hard to dismiss.  I'm not denying there are things to be worried about - global warming alone should cover it, not to mention the aftershocks of all the budgetary crises and economic manipulations that are going on.  And after watching this film, I certainly didn't have a lot of confidence in our Congress or in the "free market" (I use quotations because I don't at all think that it is free - these corporations go to extraordinary lengths to stack the deck in their favor).

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, I was also yelled at by a customer.  In all my years as a shopgirl, I've only been yelled at twice so it is not a common occurrence (which is not to say that I am a perfect shopgirl; we all just usually manage to mask our displeasure with each other).  This customer has known me for at least 8 years, during which time, I feel that I have not  given her cause to talk to me that way, but I will also acknowledge that we never particularly "clicked" on a personal level.   Still...  In the past, I might have stewed about it for a long time and tried to figure out what I had done wrong, but for some reason, I was really just left feeling like, wow, she totally misinterpreted that situation.  Perhaps I ruined the rest of her day - but all that anger is ...well, I won't say that it is without cause, but I think more that it is misplaced.  Perhaps it is a general anger at the way shopgirls treat customers, or cumulative anger at all the times people implied that she wasn't smart (THAT was not my intention, but that was certainly her perception), or the way younger people treat older people, or the way life in general is not working out according to plan, or the way her knee is paining her at the moment... there's no end to the possible reasons.  This is particularly pertinent because last Saturday there was a Tea Party rally and I've been stewing ever since, holding the Tea Party responsible for dragging our country down (my anger is not totally misplaced, but the Tea Party did not make it so costly to run a campaign that you have to take donations from multi-national corporations who expect you to give them favors in return).  I was doing lots of yelling, but just in my head.  At the same time, a part of me feels sorrow and pity for people who are caught up in so much anger, so much of it feels wasted and misdirected.  Nonetheless, we are all walking around with our hurts and our sorrows and angers.  Perhaps the amazing thing is that we don't yell at each other more often.  Still, what is the benefit to ourselves, to our spirits and our lives, for holding on to such anger?  What is it accomplishing?  What is it creating?  I'm not saying there is no reason to be angry, but I do wonder if there is some anger that is from misinterpretation, or which is misplaced, in which case it seems like even more of a waste of energy.  Even anger with cause or purpose, if it just stops there, becomes less useful in my mind, if it does not propel you to make some changes, take some action.

That was Wednesday.

Yesterday was day two of the film festival.  Since I had spent Wednesday rushing around, stressed about getting to theaters on time, saving seats, getting food... only to have a depressing documentary as my grande finale, I decided to make some changes for Thursday.  Things had been relatively quiet at the shop, so I left early and strolled down State Street (in the pouring rain).  I stopped in at a few local shops, did some browsing at the bookstore, and ate a leisurely dunch at Mediterranean Cafe.  I never seem to get down there in time for lunch, and they close early so I can't eat dinner there they way I used to.  Mmmm.... I love their chicken shawarma.  After that, I consulted the bus map and realized that there is a free campus bus (#85) that would take me right to Union South for my movie.  And I arrived there in plenty of time to watch How to Start a Revolution.  I have to admit that I'd never heard of Gene Sharp before I read this movie synopsis, clearly I have some catching up to do.  The movie was.... what can I say?  deeply inspiring and heartening, a reminder that people around the world have faced so much worse than we will ever face here, and they have prevailed, succeeded, overturned regimes!  And done so non-violently.  Mr. Sharp was an inspiring figure; most of the movie discussed points from his book which has been distributed and transmitted around the world: From Dictatorship to Democracy.  If you follow that link, you will get to a downloadable PDF, but I would strongly recommend an accompanying donation towards his endeavors, the Albert Einstein Institution.  We need to support with our words, and our money, what we want to see more of in this world. 

My final film of the night was The Fairy.  This was a fictional work set in France, whimsical bordering on goofy and even slapstick but a nice light finale for Thursday.  I caught a bus between Union South and the Orpheum with ease, and got out of the fire-hazard stairway of the Orpheum with a few minutes to spare to catch my final bus home so transportation went smoothly.  In all, the day went much better than the day before.

A friend posted the following on Facebook: "Part of last night's teachings was this: instead of trying to cover all the thorns that are out in the world which can potentially hurt us, we learn how to cover our feet while we are walking. This is how mind-training will eventually lead to total freedom."

And another friend posted: "Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate."  That's something I've really been trying to be more mindful of: rewarding the behavior I like and putting my energy on what I appreciate and value.

These postings made me return to the idea of the angers and hurts that we all hold; to think about what were my own, whether misplaced or not, and to remind myself of the way that I really want to be in the world.

Furthermore, since I watched the movie about Gene Sharp, I've been filled with a sense of optimism and energy, bordering on giddy.  I think the thing that was so appealing is that I left with a sense of ability and action; instead of feeling overwhelmed with information and lack of power as I was the night before.  One of the appendices of his book is a list of 198 non-violent actions.  Perfect! Steps I can take, things I can do!

"Dictators always tell you they have more power than they actually have. The people always think they have less power than they actually have." Gene Sharp

Additionally - even though we have all these multi-national corporations, threats to our Democracy, tremendous income inequity, global warming, we also have such amazing democratization in other senses.  Technology has allowed us new avenues that were not available 30 years ago.  And I'm sure 60-somethings in the middle of the Cold War were filled with dread for the future, and yet, here we are.  If someone wants to say something, they can start a blog and say it.  If you want to write a book, you can (see any of my past ravings about We CAN share our stories with each other, we CAN connect, we can live a small life in relationship with businesses who support our community, we can fund endeavors we like with Kickstarter and Kiva.  We can live in ways that radically differ from the corporate and homogenous life that some would have us live.  I haven't quite figured out to live a life free of those big multi-nationals with offshore accounts (GE, for example, Apple and Google, for another)(these are the "dirty thirty" companies who've spent the most on lobbying and the least on taxes), but I feel satisfied with the steps that I've taken even in the past two years to reduce their participation in my life.  We can act in ways that support the equal rights of others, that promote democracy if only on a small scale.  Facebook alone is a truly amazing thing.  I know, it has its drawbacks but at least two leaders of revolutions mentioned the role that Facebook played.  Facebook.  I bet THAT was unexpected.  I won't be too surprised if that starts to be limited - because you can bet money that there are some dictators who absolutely cringed to hear Egpytian youngsters saying they used Facebook to keep in touch and spread the word.  But the point is that we don't know what is coming next - there will be bad things, sure, but there is also no end to what the mind can come up with and what the hands can make.  I will grant that my sense of democracy might be more related to this button than to on-the-ground reality, but it's not nothing.

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garland party afternoon

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Oops... I lost track of this post.  I don't know what happened.  This is actually from a craft party from last Tuesday.  Before the party arrived, Sachi and I were gathering supplies and brainstorming options.  There's always some element of uncertainty, even trepidation - is everyone going to enjoy themselves?  will the project be what they thought it was going to be?  You know, all those silly "what-ifs" that take so much of our energy.  Why do we do that to ourselves?  I don't know.

Thanks, in part, to my office-cleaning of the week before, I had uncovered a lot of thrift store books so we had lots of materials to draw upon.  And the minute the party arrived, they were oohing and aahing over all the supplies.  Nerves immediately eased.

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Most people used the circle punch from Fiskars (who I still love even if they did downsize the Madison office.  What can I say? I'm *trying* to shop smaller and locally, and have made big improvements in the allocation of my budget, but every once in a while, there's something made by a multi-national corporation manufacturing in China that is hard to resist).  The circle punch is the larger (and rounder) version of the square punch that we use for our photo snippets.

Anyway, everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves, and to put together totally unique garlands - which is one of my favorite things about craft parties: from a table of the same materials, everyone always ends up creating something different, something that is unique to them.  Aren't people so creative?


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new arrivals for the week, or thereabouts

We're still waiting on some more octopus ties, but the new arrivals continued with just a few stragglers from the San Francisco Gift show, restocking by our local artists, and some new finds.

From Madison and Wisconsin artists: typewriter onesies, coasters, t-shirts, notecards

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From indie artists and small workshops around the country: the sarcastic bird magnets, clever and detailed prints from Brooklyn, Madison map coasters on squares of marble


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For artists: more colors of baker's twine and washi tape, journals, mini colored pencils, stickers

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For the next round of special events (the Film Festival, Mother's Day, Graduation): vintage movie posters, Mother's Day cards, nest necklaces, and a great new book for the women graduating and moving to the City.

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still my favorite craft project


Altered Golden Book.  I {heart} you so much. It might be true that a daughter of a librarian and a book lover should perhaps not enjoy tearing pages out of books so much.  But they were from the thrift store.  I like to think of it as giving them a new life.

Sunday afternoon brought a party of six (plus two - Mommy and a new baby... oh so sweet.... sigh, how did that girl already get this:

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Anyway, I filled the table with a pile of Golden books, pre-cut pages of scrapbook paper, stickers, scraps of papers, glue sticks, scissors with straight and deckle edges.

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The process of making an altered Golden book is simple, but it is a nice introduction to altering books.  And then the bulk of time is available for people to cut out images and text and collage back onto their new pages.  It is particularly fun to take sentences from stories out of context.

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My all-time favorite altered book page is from a couple years ago, when a clever partygoer made the tragic Sleeping Beauty page.  It still makes me laugh.  It's the page with the title "a visit to the children's zoo," the image of Sleeping Beauty collapsed on the ground after pricking her finger on the needle, and the caption, "she's allergic." 

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I think what I like best is the serendipitous way that these books come together.  I've been trying in my own artwork lately to trust the process and my intuition and what just happens to come along - less planning, and more pure delight in finding randomly wonderful scraps.

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in case there is any doubt

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We're still mad at the Governor of our state.  I just don't want you to think that because I've been silent on the matter that I've forgotten it.  900,000 signatures were collected (540,000 were needed) so we will be going back to the polls.  He continues on a path which runs counter to all that I hold dear about my state and my country, to reward campaign donors at cost to public well-being on many levels, oh, and he's a liar.  Really, I don't call people names that often, but I do not trust Scott Walker.  I think he is unChristian, lacks caring and empathy, and I think that his idea of balancing the budget is really an elaborate shell game to move taxpayer money out of the light (and out of transparent accountability) and into the bank accounts of a few people.  So, yes, we will continue the work to recall him.  Whatever the outcome, the work will be ongoing, but I sure would like 1. more than 25% of Wisconsin voters to determine the path of the state (that's how many people voted for him) and 2. for more than 50% of votes cast to agree with me that other people are more fit to govern the state.

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The primary election is in May, the general election is in June.  If you live in Wisconsin, please please learn about the candidates and get yourself to the polls!  I understand that some people think they don't have a voice and that voting is.. I don't know....pointless?  But I think not voting is to completely give in and give over to forces which might seem greater than can be defeated by a vote but which will certainly not be defeated if you never use your voice.  Also, not voting is totally unacceptable in the democracy that we are supposed to have.  So, vote, wouldja?! 

We are still selling buttons - at last count, we've sold 22, 795 since February 2011.  That is a lot of buttons!  And a lot of conversation and commiseration, and a little bit of holding my tongue. 

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I had a labor history teacher from Chicago come into the shop last weekend; he told me that history is on our side.  Gosh, I sure hope so.  I'm looking forward to a time when we can look backwards on all of this.  In the meantime, I mostly hope that we can all continue to communicate and connect, to remember the very deep and intrinsic value of everyone, and to respect and uphold their rights.  I think the biggest thing I got from the protests of early last year and everything that came from that, is a keen sense of connection and interdependence.  Even though we speak of "taxpayer" "state worker" "politician" "businessman," I'm not really sure that we are gaining anything from being so vehement about our independence.  I'm not sure there is any independence.  As a small business person, I like to think that I'm making independent decisions and choosing a career where my only boss is myself and my sister, but I won't have much of a business if I don't have customers.  In so many ways, we are all connected, and I don't think we will really get anywhere if we keep buying into the divisiveness and partisanship (though sometimes I can't help myself, see below).

Sunday 017So, that's where we are.  We get a lot of out-of-staters in to the shop so it seems like we've been answering a lot of questions.  In some ways it feels like so many peoples' hopes are resting on the outcome in Wisconsin; in other ways, it only registers faintly when they are in the midst of their own daily lives and dramas of their own states.  Seems like simliar events are occurring all over, ones that I hope we can meet with our own strengths and resolve to address the changes that are taking place in the world, the new people and places and connections, the necessities of living smaller in a world that is strained to bursting...

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The shop was closed on Easter Sunday and I attended the church I have been attending since I was a child. The congregation is the Community of Hope, a United Church of Christ congregation on Madison's West side.  (I mention the UCC component because an article in the New York Times portrayed Obama's membership in a UCC church as fringe, which I find somewhat offensive.  Yes, we are a small denomiation, but we believe in gay marriage and in the rights and values of ALL people, men and women.  SO I don't really think that our beliefs should be considered "fringe.").  Our wonderful Pastor Tisha had us pick up stones as we entered - so there we all sat, holding our stones (as a geology student, I have great fondness for stones, and enjoyed the feel in my hand), and then she made us bring them up, and exchange them for flowers.  The idea was to emulate the women approaching Jesus' tomb - knowing the stone was there, not knowing how they were going to deal with it, but going nonetheless, and then finding the stone rolled away!  So, too, we thought about what were the stones in our life, the things that we weighing us down, holding us back, preventing us from going in the direction we wanted, and what we would we do if they were suddenly rolled away?  Then we carried those stones up to the altar, and swapped them for flowers, for the promise of Easter and spring and blooming and growing.  And then I went home, and all I could think about for the rest of the day was how could I end up with THAT notion of Easter, and my ideas of love and justice, from the same religion that has generated so much hatred and judgment.  It's really a puzzle, and a sorrow, to me.

I was also thinking about this quotation from the movie "Chocolat," one of my favorites, and also one that embodies what I consider Christian:

"I'm not sure what the theme of my homily today ought to be. Do I want to speak of the miracle of Our Lord's divine transformation? Not really, no. I don't want to talk about His divinity. I'd rather talk about His humanity. I mean, you know, how He lived His life, here on Earth. His *kindness*, His *tolerance*. Listen, here's what I think. I think that we can't go around measuring our goodness by what we don't do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we've got to measure goodness by what we *embrace*, what we create and who we include." Père Henri

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Which then brings me to national politics.  WHAT is going on?!  I don't think it is an exaggeration to call this a "war on women."  But I'm also not sure it is the benefit of anyone except a very few.  I think most 2-income households would LIKE it if there was wage equity; I think women are capable of deciding for themselves when/if they should have babies and doing/deciding what needs to be done; I think that two people in a loving adult relationship should be able to be married whether they are a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman; and I think that NOT talking about sex is not the way to avoid unplanned teenage pregnancies and that if you really want to avoid abortions, you should be a little more supportive of contraception.  Should I go on?  I know, there's a bit of a tirade element but I found a rubber stamp in one of our catalogs that's pretty much perfect:  "I myself have never known what feminism is.  I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat." Rebecca West

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In truth, my objections to the action of the Governor are similar to my objections to the actions of the Republican Party on a national scale.  I was under the impression that they are the party of small government, but that seems to be only in certain areas - no regulations on corporations, but, yes, by all means, regulate what goes on in the bedroom between consenting adults.

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Honestly, their actions seem based on greed for money and power, and an unwillingness to deal with the changes occurring in the world.  And, I know, I'm not practicing what I preach about connection and communication and trying to understand, but, I'm just totally bewildered, kind of sorrowful too, because there seems to be so much hatred and misinformation and distrust.  I don't know what to do about that exactly.  Usually I just try to focus on the happy things.

Like the crafty way that people have responded to various political and social issues.  Have you heard about the knitted uter...ii?  being sent to Republican politicians?  LOVE. 

Like getting to cast a vote for Obama.  The Wisconsin primary was last week, and I must say it was a thrill to mark that line.  I know there are people who were hoping he would get more done in the first term; maybe they are disappointed about the difference between campaign speech and the limits of our system of checks and balances.  I still shudder to think what things would be like if McCain-Palin were in the White House.  And I also read a 2007 Vanity Fair article about the decades it will take to recover from Bush's reign.  And Mitt?!  Please.  I've learned that Democrats are just as beholden to lobbyists and big-money spenders (that's a whole 'nother post, but, seriously, we need campaign finance reform), but there is not no difference between Obama and Mitt.  So, while we're still on the fence about the candidates for Governor, we know who we're voting for in November!


And in the meantime, here's to hoping for spring and blooming and rolling away the impediments to a just and happy life.

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