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Door Co. getaway

Ah, nothing like going away... and coming back home again...

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On Saturday, I crammed into a car with my parents and everything we'd need for 5 to 16 days (variable durations of stay depending on the person and the job they needed to return to).  It was kind of like the old days.  All we needed was my sister, and the ice chest between us and we'd be off.  Honestly, I don't know how my parents took us on those road trips all those years (Montana, Maine, around Lake Superior... all without mini van).

On the way up to Door County, we stopped in DePere to visit the Assemblage Studio, a place that our customers regularly tell us we should visit.  And, boy, were they ever correct! 

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It is PACKED!  In fact, if anyone ever complains about how full our store is, if I had the ability, I would transport them to the Assemblage Studio just for comparison.  The store is filled with inspiration and zillions of little trinkets and supplies for making your own projects - stacks and stacks of vintage cupcake tins and molds, filled with old jewelry, dominos and other game pieces, charms, beads, etc.  They have lots more on the supply end than we do - I've always loved those stores with little trinkets in them but haven't quite figured out how I'd deal with keeping track of inventory and prices at check-out.  The owner of the store makes these charming and whimsical assemblages and great altered books - if that's your thing, I highly recommend a visit.  My parents were outside patiently waiting, but I probably could have spent another hour in there just soaking it all in.  I've never been much for three-dimensional work, but I left very much tempted to make some little diorama.

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Then we made our way up into Door County, coming to rest just outside of Bailey's Harbor.  We spent the first three days mostly just relaxing: bicycling, walking, napping, lounging on the deck in the sun, lounging in the hammock, reading, eating.  It was quite lovely to get away.  I toyed with the idea of photo snippets of Door County but kind of petered out - mostly I enjoyed taking some scenic pics. 

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I was especially enamored of all the piles of rocks that people had built.

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And then I laid in the hammock some more.

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Took more pictures of rocks...

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Sachi and her family came up late on Tuesday night and we two Komai girls spent all of Wednesday shopping.  Some of my favorite Door County shops include: Viva La Cottage, Brilliant Stranger, Monticello.  Then there are the inspiring places filled with things I can't afford, most notably Edgewood Orchard Galleries.  Their sculpture garden is really amazing and totally worth the visit - you are welcome even if you aren't able to afford something.  We always stop at Something Fishy (where I was first inspired to make my charming ribbon necklaces), Patricia Shoppe, Maxwell's House and Blue Dolphin, too.

There was a sweet little book shop in Bailey's Harbor so I bought a couple children's books.  I had been thinking about the ways I would support the economy of Door County - food aside, I really have enough housewares.  I did find a lovely necklace for myself made by a school teacher in Sheboygan, and I found one part of Sachi's birthday present at the book store, as well as one to add to my own collection.  (The other part, I found on my way home when I stopped in downtown Appleton to visit Dainty Daisies - more buying local and handmade...).

I have to admit that I feel like Door County is missing an Anthology sort of shop.  They do the fine art very well, but I think there is a lot in the handmade, repurposed and indie world that would be a good addition.  Brilliant Stranger is a brilliant start, but there's only that one.  So, a little part of me can't help scoping around for locations, even though the logistics would be kind of crazy.  If I were less of a control freak, I could perhaps figure out some sort of co-op or something-or-other, but I'm not sure I am capable.  I certainly have plenty of friends who wouldn't mind tending shop for a time - but you'd have to rent an apartment, hire some part-time help, not to mention find a space and haul all the goods up there.  At the same time, I feel like if you are going to have a shop in a place, you should commit yourself to that place, and I'm not sure I can do that for both Door County and Madison.  When are they going to perfect the cloning process, I want to know!  I could use another of me.

While driving up and passing through various small towns and suburb developments, I was thinking a lot about the businesses that have closed since 2008, but also the economy in general - what do we individually and collectively need to do to foster a renewed sense of prosperity?  In part, I am left with the feeling that we all overextended ourselves.  I mean, are there really enough people to fill all those houses and condos? and enough people to support all those shops? 

I, myself, since we've opened the store, have been dealing with my own budgetary constraints.  I'm really committed to supporting local businesses, but I'm also constrained, or restrained, perhaps?  In my younger years, I would shop like crazy - there was not a lot of mindfulness, there was some credit card debt.  I'm just being more cautious.  And I don't think I'm alone.  So will everything bounce back to the way "it used to be" ?  I'm not so sure.  I'm not so sure that I want it to.  I know this sounds strange for a shopgirl to say, but I was feeling very much aware of the... stuffness of everything.  I mean, I know retail is about selling stuff, and maybe I just feel our store more personally because it is our store, and I know some of this is because of my personal situation - a reaction to the quantity of shopping that I used to do (perhaps even a little burn-out) - but I felt like a lot of the merchandise was missing a soul - had come over on a boat inside a box inside a box....  I don't know.  Am I just getting jaded? 

I guess the upshot of all of that is that I really like the life that I have made for myself here.  Imaginging transplanting ourselves to Door County, having to drive everywhere or bicycle along the sides of the roads (golly, I sure do love our bike paths here) instead of taking the bus to work did not quite seem so charming.  For its own sake, I hope that Door County explores what is going on in the indie and DIY world a little bit more, whether or not I have a place in that exploration remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, I'm committed to fostering creativity in the ways that I can, and supporting the wonderful local and indie crafters and businesses that I love so much.  I was glad to come home and come back to my little shop.

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“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” Terry Pratchett

week in review

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Phew! That was a busy one.  Sachi went out of town for a few days so I was shopgirl and temporary single parent.  I seriously couldn't do any of this without my sister, and am quite happy being the Auntie.  Keeping up with the day to day of the shop certainly feels like a two-person job... so a few things slid while one was away.  Three nights of sleepovers have disrupted my sleep so I am feeling a little off-kilter.  At least in a week, I will be heading up to Door County for a little vacation.  Hopefully I will finish up some projects before that time, and figure out what projects to bring with me.

The girl kept me company for a few hours on Wednesday but she was mostly at school.  We did take off early on Friday to go to Milwaukee for a wedding which was a fun getaway, even though, golly, I sure do love my little island that is Madison.  I can't believe someone would spend money on a billboard that says "Liberals destroy private sector jobs."  I mean, really?  First of all, don't you have something better to be doing with your money?  Second of all...  The jobs that the WI Manufacturers/Realtors/Grocers seem to be lobbying for don't seem that desirable and also, am I the only one who has been noticing the various layoffs from the private sector?  THAT, I believe, is caused less by liberals or government regulation, and more by the fact that those private sector companies are worried about where the revenue is going to come in.  And so they should be if their workers (i.e. customers) keep getting laid off.  Also, I just don't think that some things should be for profit.  Like the education of our young people.

Grr.  On the one hand, this is a discouraging moment.  On the other hand, I feel like younger generations, who no longer expect that their employer will provide a lifetime of work and pension, now also have more freedom about what kind of work they will find or make for themselves.  I see a lot of people taking initiative and creating their own job and I find that very promising.

That said, if the private sector does not create jobs that provide a quality standard of living, then they are just as guilty as liberals of destroying their jobs.  There seems to be such a disconnect between what happens to workers and what is going on with consumers - how is the private sector going to recover economically if the customers they depend upon are scraping by with three or more jobs per household?  These are the thoughts that woke me up at 1 in the morning after driving that stretch from Madison to Milwaukee. To be fair, there were much fewer billboards than I was expecting.

On a more pleasant note, the wedding was lovely.  Jen had the sweetest sweet table, with tributes to various family members.  Made me tear up a bit.  The day was lovely - we looked out over the lake and I took some deep breaths while the girl played at the playground.  We got some yummy treats, a little dancing, and then home again, home again.

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Meanwhile, at the shop....

Sachi is back from her Minnesota getaway filled with ideas and enthusiasm.  She is cutting fabric for altered sweaters and Christmas ornaments as I type.  She got this cute clock fabric...Can't wait to see what she makes with it!

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I did managed to make some new buttons and am working on some new button bracelets.  The dish of Madison buttons has been getting rather low and I had some new photographs to buttonize.

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We are slowly adjusting to our post-recall world.  I've been working on some new buttons and also modifying the remaining Keep Calm posters.  Turns out there are still a lot of re-words.  I think that redistrict is my favorite - I like the idea of turning around language and actions on those who've perverted them. It's not a sophisticated modification but it seems a shame to waste what is an otherwise totally up-to-date message that I still believe in.

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Sachi managed to whip up one new set of buttons before she went away.

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Other new arrivals include more prints and t-shirts from Brooklyn.  I'm not a game-player, but I couldn't resist the shirt with all the video game controllers.  I love the way people are arranging stuff visually right now.  We also received more Wisconsin ceramic dishes, inspiring spiral bound journals,

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Finally, happily, we received the small version of the "this is your life" print.  It's been selling well in the larger print size, which is a lovely letterpress, but some people are wishing for smaller versions.  Happily, there is a notecard, and a smaller print supposedly in the works.  We love the message and the inspiration.  (You can check out stories that people have shared here).

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and yes, we're still making buttons

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I guess I've become rather accustomed to my button therapy.  Since I can never think of quick replies or succinct letters to the editor, making buttons has become a way for me to express my thoughts - pressing out a few buttons is a good way to vent frustration too, as long as I take it easy on my wrist. It's satisfying to have a physical and creative activity. And even though there were some endings on June 5, there's still a lot of work to be done. I came in the next day, planning to remove whatever was no longer applicable, but also not ready to completely erase our thoughts on the matter. But as I looked over the table, I realized most buttons were still relevant. Because, really, I haven't particularly changed my mind. I still think Walker is a weiner. So, in the end, it turned out that I removed a few buttons but then kept Sachi busy the entire next day making and restocking buttons - new ones, Obama buttons (say what you want, he is still WAY better than Romney!), old ones (union yes, Expose ALEC, State Workers are Sexy, Librarians Can Do It, Teachers are our building blocks don't knock 'em down....).

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As I mentioned a few posts ago, I spent some time in the RE- section of the dictionary coming up with other RE- actions that can still be done. I think this is my favorite.Wisc 005

And of course, there are still many issues requiring our attention. Just yesterday there was mention of beach closings due to blue-green algae blooms. Remember when you used to go to the beach and not worry about touching the water? Phosphorus run-off is a serious matter in this state which costs a lot in lost business. I hope that tourist and lakeside businesses and everyone who enjoys a day at the beach in Wisconsin can make their voices heard in the discussion of keeping Wisconsin "open for business." On a national scale, the attacks on women's rights seem without end. For all those families out there who are living on two incomes, I don't understand at all how rolling back fair pay for equal work is going to help. And it looks like the panty pins are still important.  "Privatize this" remains one of my favorites.

I'm really going to make an effort not to succumb to the division and partisan "us vs. them" which is so prevalent in the media and all that surrounds us and am working on strengthening my Wisconsin Nice. I'm also giving a lot of thought to the ways that my fears are used against me (namely, to generate donations) and think carefully about where I want my money to go to.  I was slightly annoyed a week before the election to get an email from one of the national liberal PACs basically implying that if they didn't get more money, they'd have to abandon a few campaigns (Wisconsin was mentioned).  I didn't give them more money.  To start with, I resented the threat. I also feel like money is a big part of the problem in politics and even though my few dollars hardly make a difference, on principle, I've pretty much cemented my old policy of donating to church, to food pantries, to local non-profits, to Kiva, rather than to the national political machine.

I got sweet notes from two Republican friends this week which reminded me of the other ways we have much in common with each other. So I will try to judge less even though I still don't understand how someone would vote for policies that seem against their own self-interest. And also, I'm not really going to go back to saying nothing just to be polite.

I've been thinking about this a lot and I really think that campaign finance reform and overturning Citizens United are the critical issues we must focus our attention on. Most other problems derive from the influx of corporate cash into the political system. I haven't fit those thoughts into button form though, nor figured out exactly how I need to direct my own work. 

In any event, there are plenty of buttons still to make.  And while I have friends who are Republicans, I still believe the institution of the GOP needs to be called on the carpet.  So we'll keep going with our best-seller:

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As my sister said to our uncle, "as long as there is tyranny, there will be buttons."  Can you just see her standing in tatters in front of the burning Tara?



I'm still trying to work out the logistics of the remainder of my "Keep Calm Wisconsin" prints.  I edited the one we have hanging up - pretty much everything else still holds true - and I'm trying to think of a way for people to pick out their own new re- word.  I was kind of thinking it would be interesting to stitch a new re- word on top, but I'm not sure if my sewing machine will cope with the size of paper.  Perhaps just some new words and double-stick tape.

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Wisco love

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It's true, we still love our state and our city...

We've spent the last several months searching for new additions to the souvenir component of the shop.  Our Madison wrapping paper is one step closer to done, but we've also received some new prints and t-shirts, as well as restocked some that have been out for a while.

I've had some ideas in my head for a while, but I think I'm finally figuring out ways to get what I want without having to make it all myself (since, really, who has the time for all that?  I'm behind enough on my restock list as it is).  I don't always have the best luck with requests for specific items - our current map wrapping paper guy is a case in point since he turned down all my requests for something regional.  Luckily I found a way around that problem.

But I did find some t-shirt artists with shirts I liked and approached them about some custom Madison and Wisconsin designs.  Turns out I wasn't the first person to ask them about that.  We had a fun email exchange and discussion of unique Madison/Wisconsin items.  In the end, they came up with:


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And I know, some people will think we are talking about annoying children, and still other people will believe that is what Madison is the home of, but I love my little island.

They also have an entire series, of which we had to get:

Shirts 001The "easy breezy beersy cheesy" shirt continues to be a popular purchase, as well as the "Midwest is Best."  And we've restocked our onesies, including this new one:

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I have some new Madison photographs that I need to have printed and Sachi is working on some more photo snippets.  More Madison lakes and Great Lakes cut-outs arrived last week.  We restocked the county text map and also got in a new vintage-based Wisconsin map.
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Our mom has been traveling all over the state on various little getaways.  In a few weeks, we'll be heading up to Door County for our own little vacation.  Wisconsin has many treasures and wonderful places and people!  I guess we'll stay, even if we still can't stand the Governor.


the day after

Well, that was disappointing. I'm sure you are well aware of Wisconsin's election results. I didn't get what I wanted (stomp foot).

I say that somewhat facetiously.  Because I HAVE what I want. I HAVE the life that I want, the friends, the place, the work that I want. There was a sign in someone's yard that said "Recall Santa.  I didn't get what I want."  I found that sign rather insulting because it implied that the recall movement was about petty little things when I felt that the actions of the Governor were a threat to my business, to my friends and neighbors, to people's abilities to have meaninful and prosperous lives bursting with creativity, to my niece's future life, to the lakes and waters and other natural resources.  I am still left with the sense that some people felt that the recall was not the approach to take, that such actions should be reserved for someone who has committed some crime.  But I feel Governor Walker has, and will continue to, commit crimes against the people and the resources of this state.  Clearly others in the state disagree with me, but I will not retract my feelings on the matter nor my actions in the past year.

I certainly can't help a feeling of frustration (which echoes for me on a national scale) that people who are mad or unhappy or desperate in their own lives are being manipulated into actions which will only make their lives worse.  It's a downward spiral that makes me sad and fearful on their behalf. So I fear for them, I fear for my customers, I fear for the school children, I fear for a double-dip recession (or in some places, a continuation of the 2008 recession). Then again, I happened to be flipping around on TV a few nights ago and ran across the movie "Strictly Ballroom."  Did you ever see it?  It's a corny movie, but there's this moment when the downtrodden father yells to his son, "We lived our lives in fear!"  The mousy heroine blossoms and lives under a motto, something like: "a life lived in fear is a life half-lived."  And you know what?  I choose faith.  Happiness.  Gratitude.  Not fear.

I know I haven't written much in the last week. I had a partisan and non-partisan note started, I was editing down a letter to the editor (made it under 200 words but didn't make it to print) and was wrestling with how I should push myself beyond my comfort zone. Writing here is definitely within the zone - that's a compliment.

Anyway, perhaps I should have written earlier. Perhaps anything I write will sound like 20/20 hindsight but I thought it was important to mark this moment.

To tell the truth, for about a week, I've been thinking about all the relationships that have been fractured, the hurt feelings and hurtful words, the ways that other everyday tasks have been set aside. I am merely making an observation not a criticism. I feel no regret at all for what has happened in the last year, for the actions that I have taken, for the connections that have been made, for the work that has been done by people all around the state.

But I was thinking how, with all that energy, all that emotion, all that effort, there is nothing that could happen in a single day that would "fix" this state. I mean, obviously, I think that having a new Governor would do a lot towards that end, but at least half (or more) of the state, would feel exactly the opposite. Even as I was being told that "the entire world is watching," even as I had a feeling of the great import of this one day, I also had a sense of how small the moment was and how very much still must be done by each and every one of us.  How do we get back to "Wisconsin, Forward" for everyone?  I still don't know. I know that people who have money and power are unlikely to cede that readily and so, all along, this was going to be a long battle.

Yet the word that came to me was: resolve.

I have this growing sense of my committment to this state and to my city (I know, everyone calls it an island, but I LOVE my little island!), my ideals of democracy, my desire to follow through on all the promises and slogans that we put in button form in the last year. After Obama was elected, I had a sense of dread, quite honestly - a feeling that all the people who had invested so much in his election were going to expect quick hope and change, were bound to be disappointed, and then? were they going to return or be turned off? My worry at the time was that they would not follow through on their committment and to some extent my worries came true. But yesterday, I really just had this sense that we're all in this for the long haul. We would have liked our moment of jubilation to come sooner rather than later, but we have bolstered each other up, we have made connections, we have built a community.  I think Democracy can only be stronger for that. Anyone who did not participate in this last year, they missed out.  The DNC, Obama, the naysayers and the doubters.  Because what we have is something strong and awesome, something that I am proud to be a part of.  History will judge us, and I am confident that I can say I was true to my beliefs and my faith, I was true to myself, I did not live my life out of fear but I created it out of passion and committment.

My mom went to an event with Carrie Newcomer and Parker J. Palmer and Gary Walters called "Healing the Heart of Democracy: A Gathering of Spririts for the Common Good."  Her program is lying here at the computer so I've been mulling over the quotations that were on it for this past week:

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land , will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."  Abraham Lincoln

"The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our  whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, wihtout giving up - ever - trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?"  Terry Tempest Williams


So, those were my thoughts in the week leading up to yesterday.  We spent yesterday at the shop, making customized buttons (turns out the "I Voted" sticker fits perfectly into a button, and I added the date), treading...carefully.  I found myself taking lots of deep breaths.  And I was reminded of that scene in "The Return of the King" when Gandalf and Pippin are waiting for the battle and talking about waiting and the End, which Gandalf reassures him is no end at all, which is to say that I didn't have a sense that things were going to end that night.

And then I went home. I think I might have developed my new election-night routine.  Very early on, I left computerland (unlike past elections when I've spent the evening tracking results) and went home to watch "The Two Towers." Before I could get started, a Minnesota friend called to check in on me. I shared some of my feelings and said that maybe I was sounding like the losing team to be de-emphasizing the importance of this particular game; she said I sounded like I was running for office.  Resolve.  Perhaps a person shouldn't rely on fictional tales, but there's no denying that having Viggo Mortensen tell me there's still hope has a comforting effect.  In the middle of the movie, I paused to check results (ugh) and phone a few friends - my liberal Massachusetts friend was not home otherwise we would have raged into the night together; my Montana friend was home and kind of seemed like she needed more comfort than I did.  And then it was back to the rest of the movie, which ends more or less happily even though lots of people die grisly deaths and you know there are whole other battles ahead.  Then it was into pjs and a little reading of From Dictatorship to Democracy.  I haven't gotten very far in this book, but the documentary about its author was very inspiring. It is useful to be reminded of concrete steps a person could focus on, and also to be reminded of all the ways that people are SO MUCH worse off than we are.  Can you just imagine if Scott Walker installed himself as Governor with all the weight of the military behind him for FORTY years?!

And so I woke up this morning knowing that Scott Walker is still our Governor despite our best efforts.  But also knowing that the people of Wisconsin have awakened and, I believe, like me, have resolve.  I seriously doubt that he can put too much more crap on corn fields (literally or metaphorically) without serious challenges to his actions. I do fear that he will severely diminish the quality of peoples' lives but I also know that what I have control over is the way that I can enhance the quality of peoples' lives and go forward in my own life, not with fear, but with faith.

Sachi was off of work today though we checked in for some sisterly brainstorming.  During this last week, our button-making has been on hold just a bit. Someone came in a while ago and said, "and on June 5, this will all be over." I didn't really want to get into an argument, but particularly with what is going on with women's rights at the national level, it is SO not over.  I'll be making more panty pins for sure.  I went in to work feeling uninclined to clear out the store, to behave as if none of this had happened.  My "Keep Calm Wisconsin" print is still completely true except for one line, and I modified that so that we can keep it in the window.  I removed a few handfuls of pins from the table, but there were a lot that still apply.  As Sachi said, "My first thought this morning was, "Are we going to have to take down all the posters and stash the pins?" But then I realized that state workers are still sexy, and librarians sure as hell can do it."

And I spent much of the day in the re- section of the dictionary.  It occurred to me that perhaps "RECALL WALKER" doesn't work as a button, but there might be other RE- things we can do.  Turns out there's a lot: things to do to Walker (reveal, rebut, redistrict, remedy) and things that we can do (react, resolve, reason, rebel).

And relish.  Treasure the connections we have made and the joys we have in our lifes (isn't the girl adorable?!).  Move forward, Wisconsin, because that's what we do.  Remember all the other things that bring us together.  Regard each other.  Respect.  Rejoin.  Rejoice.  Renew.

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Finally, twice this week Facebook friends have mentioned Paulo Coelho, who, I confess, I have not read, but who offers up some more inspiring words.  My friend writes: "After the events of June 5th, I find these quotes from "The Aleph" by Paulo Coelho helpful:

p. 83 - Don't be intimidated by other people's opinions. Only mediocrity is sure of itself, so take risks and do what you really want to do. Seek out people who aren't afraid of making mistakes and, therefore, do make mistakes. Because of that, their work often isn't recognized, but they are precisely... the kind of people who change the world.

p. 154 - We can never wound the soul,....but we can imprisoned by our memories, and that makes out lives wretched even when we have everything we need in order to be happy.

p. 157 - I also forgive myself. May the misfortunes of my past no longer weigh on my heart. Instead of pain and resentment, I choose understanding and compassion. Instead of rebellion, I choose the music of my violin. Instead of grief I choose forgiving. Instead of vengeance, I choose victory.