why yes, we're voting for Mary

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I know, I've been a bit of a slacker lately. I'll admit that we were a little tired from all the button-making and protest activity around the time of the recall. But please don't think we've changed our minds or our commitment to making this state the kind of place that is true to its citizens. Nor have we changed our mind about how poorly we think of Scott Walker as Wisconsin's Governor. So, yes, we ARE voting for Mary Burke! It's a no-brainer as far as we're concerned.

We had a slightly bizarre experience this week as we received an anonymous letter complaining about our hypocrisy of supporting Mary Burke while supporting the buy local movement at the same time. It included a tirade of (now shown to be false) talking points put forth by Walker about Trek's outsourcing and wages. Essentially, the writer granted that we could sell whatever we wanted to sell but that we should not be hypocrites about our buy local principles AND support an outsourcer at the same time. Trust me, I am not losing sleep over this. I mention it mostly because it elicits an interesting reaction in me which I'm quite sure the letter-writer was not intending, namely, we restocked our buttons, I realized I had to write this blog post, and I went and bought a Stand With Wisconsin bumper sticker for my car. I don't actually know what's a good approach for modifying someone's behavior. Because any time someone has criticized me for my politics, I mostly just double-down. Take, for example, the I <3 Wisconsin (except Scott Walker) notecard. I found it this week, removed from its pocket and all remaining stock hidden amongst some journals. This happens every once in a while with some of our political signs or merch - they will be flipped over, shifted to the back, generally removed from view. I imagine a Republican snickering as they walk down the street: 'that'll show them... they won't sell any and then they'll lose money ... and THEN they'll turn into Republicans ..... ?"  Right, as you can imagine, when I find the hidden merchandise, I just move it back into a prominent position, and the notecard-hiding-shenanigans just caused me to tell Sachi to order more of them (they were running low after all). I don't know, maybe no one is going to change anyone's minds we just have to be happy with our little shenanigans and feelings of triumph over little moments? I mean, I DO realize that not all our customers agree with me and I personally feel like I don't make the shop intolerable. I mean, it is clear where we stand but we can all be civil, can't we?

Well, anyway, the letter was civil enough so that's not my complaint in this instance. Mostly it is the anonymity that irks. This applies to internet comments too (as I have observed a huge kerfuffle over Mary Engelbreit's response to Ferguson... I mean, Mary Engelbriet?! Who can be hateful to her? Apparently a lot of people. As a P.S. to that, I will note that whenever I get discouraged with the level of hate generated in the internet comments section, I retreat to the SNL skit with the Devil). How is it that we can be so brave to say things, and yet not brave enough to claim our words? It's an odd incongruity and hypocrisy... which, I believe, trumps the hypocrisy of which I was accused.

I am willing to concede that I have my share of inconsistencies - letting slide behavior in people I like which I would otherwise abhor in people I don't. But the idea that Scott Walker is a more buy-local-friendly candidate than Mary Burke just makes me laugh. I'm sure that all of his WMC campaign donors called him up and said "ixnay" the outsourcing criticism, just as I am sure that he would be the first in line to outsource jobs if it would improve the profits of his CEO pals. I doubt the workers and small businesses of this state matter to him much at all. That is one of many reasons why I believe he is a poor choice for Wisconsin's Governor. And when it comes to creating jobs and improving the lot of the average Wisconsinite, I trust Mary Burke's experience in business at Trek as well as her committment to our local community, much more than his as a politician who believes in small government only as it suits him, but not enough to effect his paycheck or his ability to grant favors to people who have donated to his campaign. Sheesh... there I go again...  it is so easy to run a negative campaign!

But you all knew where I stood anyway, I just felt the need to reply to the anonymous letter-writer and since there wasn't a return address, this is what we ended up with. Not that I imagine I would have any success having a dialogue had there been a return address. Don't worry, I'm not that foolish.

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The real challenge as we approach election day, to my mind, is to resist the temptation to take only cheap shots and run a campaign that is entirely based on all the ways that Scott Walker is bad for the state. On the whole, I think that Mary Burke is doing a good job, but, actually, I don't watch campaign commercials. I change the channel if they come on, but most of the time I'm watching Netflix or running to the sewing machine during commercial breaks. There are many faults of Scott Walker and they are of great concern to me. Sachi has been making buttons that address that, but we have plenty of "Keep Calm and Burke On," "I'm voting for Mary," and so on. I do believe she will be a good leader for this state.

I revised my Keep Calm Wisconsin print and have an updated version for this campaign season.

DSCN3841 (800x600)Sigh.... Russ..... Remember how nice it was when the Senate would vote on things and he'd be the lone Progressive Left voice voting against? How good and principled you felt as one of his consitutents? Instead of embarrassed by those lists that come out with Ron Johnson's name on them - undercutting veteran funding, jobless benefits, affordable care... oh the list goes on. Sigh.

I also ordered the great Stand with Wisconsin graphic sticker for the shop. I really love the graphic - Lily calls it the blue punch. We got it at the shop for the casual shopper, but we'd also encourage you to get them from the AFL-CIO shop for $1 each if you buy ten or more.


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And, what else? Just please please vote. Even if you don't live in Wisconsin, vote wherever it is you live. We need MORE people participating in this system, as flawed as it is. I know, I'm an optimist, but I personally think that politics would look a LOT different if all the people who don't show up to the polls would. Even with the manipulation by Wall Street and the writing of laws by ALEC and lobbyists, I believe in the power of people to have an effect but only if we do not cede our power and our votes. I ran the numbers in advance of our primaries earlier this month and if my calculations are correct, Scott Walker and Ron Johnson came to office due to just 3% of eligible voters. And 12 times more voters than that simply declined to vote. Clearly the outcome could have been different. Especially in this "off" year which everyone says always leans Republican because Dems don't come out ( ARGH! come out! come out! Think what the years could have looked like if the Dems came out in 2010! We could have still had Russ! We could have Tom Barrett, who, not incidentally, is doing cool things in Milwaukee). I am glad to see various initiatives, particularly aimed at women (and, I hope also, in African American communities) to get information and tools in the hands of ALL people so that everyone can participate in our democracy (little nod here to Ask. Learn. Vote! which is working to connect women in Wisconsin with the tools to cast their votes).

Learn about your candidiates. Register to Vote. Vote. YOU MATTER. YOUR VOTE MATTERS. The only people who tell you otherwise are the ones who profit from you staying home.


and oh yeah, we're still making buttons

Two nights ago, I watched the Independent Lens show "As Goes Janesville." (Which I should add was on PBS - that and This American Life and Bill Moyers - those are excellent shows that have inspired and challenged me in ways that reality TV never will. PBS is way more than just Big Bird.) And I have to say that I found the show rather discouraging. Maybe all of these events are too fresh for us to have any concrete evidence to support my sentiment that the political actions happening now are going to have disastrous consequences. I think I was expecting a little more cause and effect type of explanation, some sort of rebuttal of paths taken (and not).

The main thing that I have been turning over in my mind since watching the show, was the role of an M&I bank executive (a business I happen to know donated a LOT of money to Governor Walker's campaigin). She begins with the concerns over the high number of foreclosures in the area and ends up spearheading a business booster effort to bring more jobs to the area. That all seems well and good, and yet she seems to be accepting the idea that any job is a good job and while that seems true when you are unemployed, I have my doubts that lasts too long if your job doesn't bring you much further above national poverty levels. In a similar way, the efforts of our Governor seem less concerned with the quality of jobs created. Anyway, I've been stewing about this woman and what I am coming to call short capitalism. It is short-term and it is short-sighted. I feel that job creation is one part of a complicated picture, which has to include a solid educational system, healthy people and environment. Without looking at the entire picture, you can get economic success for a few, but it will come at a cost to others. I think there's a better way (incidentally, I'm glad I'm not alone in this and am so glad to be a part of the Wisconsin Business Alliance).

Most notably, as I watched this bank exec pander to executives who were pretty blatant about their intentions to create low-paying jobs, I wondered... how is this going to help her with her foreclosure problem? On the whole, I find such short-sightedness puzzling, and yet it seems a pervasive attitude in today's economy. Businesses promote the message that they need lower taxes and less regulation to be successful, but when push come to shove, they do little to change the stagnating worker wage situation that we've had for so many years. They say they aren't hiring because they are worried about consumer demand. But how can there be consumer demand if workers aren't earning a decent living?

Well, anyway, as you can see, I've been stewing. Luckily we have button therapy...


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Sachi's latest series is the Sesame Street series which has caused a renewed round of laughter at the button table. It did get me into a rather lengthy discussion with someone on Facebook. He was upset that we were focusing on trivialities.

And yes, I agree the Sesame Street thing is a triviality. But it is a rather amusing one... and so we had to make buttons. I have many other more serious reservations about the prospect of Mitt Romney as President. I think he is guilty of short capitalism which will continue to hurt our economic recovery; I think he will sacrifice the greatness of this nation (its human and natural resources) for the personal gain of a few people; I think he is likely to draw us hastily into war which will neither further the cause of democracy in the world nor improve the conditions of our own nation; I think he considers people who are not like him to be sub-par, and that includes women and minorities and the poor; I think he will only expand the national debt; I think he will use the budget as an excuse to pursue a social/religious/moral agenda which I totally disagree with and find unAmerican and unChristian; and I think he is stuck in a past way of thinking about what is valuable and what is success, a way of thinking that can no longer work in this world that we have now, and I think he is not suitable to carry our nation forward.

But the trivial comment about Big Bird also speaks to me about a manner of couldn't-care-less-ness which I find unPresidential.


you didn't think we'd stopped making buttons, did you?

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It's true that I've been a slacker about writing blog posts, thankfully Sachi is more on top of things when it comes to button-making. Shortly after the Paul Ryan nomination, she made a series of buttons, including "I stand with the nuns, not Paul Ryan." (Speaking of, have you heard Sister Campbell speak? She is really inspiring.) In addition to the small vintage ladies continuing from the 2008 campaign, Sachi's added many more vintage catalog people including: smokin' hot women, students, teachers, social workers, librarians, dads, beer drinkers.

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On the one hand, as summer winds down and I've been doing some last minute bike trips around town, I am more in love with this place - this city, this country - than ever before. I know there are people who say there's no point in voting, that we as individuals have no power compared to the lobbying and the politicking that goes on in Washington.  I know that in the grand scheme of things, our small lives continue - did the life of a Bristish commoner change that much when it went from being part of the British Empire to being what it is today? I don't really think so. There are many things that we have power over, there are many ways that this country will remain the place I call home no matter who is President.

ON THE OTHER HAND, I don't think I'm alone in my very deep concern for the fate of this country, and for democracy itself. What I love best about this country - the sense of equality and possibility, its newness and openness - these are things that I feel are in grave danger at this moment. I feel confident and optimistic about the many ways that all of us will adjust to changes in economy and society, but I realize there are those who will not adjust, and there are those who are being left behind, as well as those who are stacking the decks and generally not operating in a manner that fits with Liberty and Justice for all. As Americans, I feel like we have the ideals of the liberty part down just fine, but the justice needs work. A lot of work. In many ways, I am coming to see that justice and liberty temper each other - often one's individual liberty comes at a cost to someone else's, in which case you run into issues of justice, but we must not forget that it is liberty AND justice for all. I feel very deeply that the American ideals that we hold up as a "shining beacon" around the world, are being undermined, by the very forces that Mitt Romney would advocate on behalf of - large corporations that don't consider themselves citizens of this country even as they reap the benefits of being considered "people," militarization of all foreign policy approaches, faux austerity measures (enforced in ways that selectively target the middle and lower classes), restrictions in who can participate in voting and in elected office, restrictions in who "counts" as a citizen and a worker and a "job creator" and as a human being (personhood for a cluster of cells? Excuse me, but why is no one calling for personhood for the many sperm floating around inside a man's body?!).  Argh.

All of that is to say that I AM voting, I am paying attention. I believe that Barack Obama is the best choice for the job of President. I believe we have challenging times ahead of us, but we need to face them head-on, not rely on our old ways of coping, but act mindfully in ways that will continue the American ideals that we take so much pride in. The world is changing, our country is becoming more diverse - why not embrace the many things that the many people bring to this country? Why not live up to our ideals of welcoming the poor, the tired, the hungry? Women are a part of this world and this economy; why not value their contributions? Climate change IS happening, exploring alternative sources of energy only makes sense, particuarly in a world where our power may be on the wane. We do need to address the deficit, but to do so without considering military expenditures and raising taxes, is, I believe, equivalent to shooting ourselves in the foot. We NEED a good infrastructure for this nation to continue to grow, we need our children, ALL of them, to receive education that will prepare them for this world. We cannot continue to ignore the sacrifices of our soldiers and leave them to unemployment or homelessness. Barack Obama is the best choice to steer us through this changing world.

I believe in Hope and Change. Change, which is happening always, and to assume otherwise is really ... crazy, I think. And hope, what are we if we do not have hope? Isn't that the very premise of the American Dream, that a person can hope to have a better life - not without a lot of hard work, true, but if there is hard work with no hope and no promise of improvement, it seems unlikely that will continue very long (but check back with me if there are another 10 years of Republican/corporate stratgies demanding high worker productivity while keeping wages stagnant - that, I believe, is a recipe for civil unrest).

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So, perhaps I should be making more phone calls, pounding the pavement, watching more commercials and debates (or instigating debates?)... my approach is to make buttons. I've made several trips to the copy shop to stock up and now we have quite an array to choose from, vintage men and women, as well as the simple black text on white. I'm quite pleased to say that in my little world, people of all ages are buying buttons; young women and men are as involved as old, and the button table is back to being a lively community/commerce center. We are closing in on 27,000 buttons sold since last February and if anyone tells you that President Obama has done nothing for anyone, feel free to tell them that he is helping to pay the rent on a little shop on State Street. Last weekend we put out this sandwich board and, if not for the fact that I feel his grumpiness would have put a damper on the day, I really wished that the Mayor could have been at our store to see how many people came into the shop, just because of our sandwich board (no, I haven't let go of that issue. It seems to have been moved to a back burner, but I am no less determined to keep our sandwich board).

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Sachi was asked recently if she'd be part of a commercial supporting Obama. So last night we were brainstorming what she would say. Of course, anything that I come up with cannot fit in the space of a commercial, but here's why I am voting for Barack Obama:

1. As a Christian, I believe in Jesus' words "whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do so unto me," and I believe that we have the responsibility to help our fellow human beings, to use the collective prosperity of our nation to ensure a quality of life for all. That, I believe is the fundamental role of government, and is also not something that the churches of this nation can accomplish on their own. I realize there are Christians who will say that the "least of these" must mean the fertilized egg in the womb, but at the bare minimum, I would like them to acknowledge that Jesus is as much talking of the poor, the hungry, the children, the homeless, the sick, those among us without money or power who are in our midst beyond 9 months after conception.

2. As an American, I believe in liberty and justice for all people. I think we have to uphold at home the ideals that we try to export around the world, most notably the right of all citizens to have a voice and a vote in the governance of their country. We infer that all humans are created equal but it seems we have a long ways to go before that becomes a reality.

3. As a woman, I believe that I know my own situation and my own mind better than anyone else, and I believe that I am capable of deciding how my life will be. I am personally not sure that I would have had an abortion if I was ever in such a situation, but I believe that the way to prevent abortion is to create situations where women never have to make that choice - provide access to birth control, provide education, give our young women the knowledge and power to decide that, hey, this isn't the right time for me to have children, and to do so BEFORE they get pregnant. 

4. As an aunt, I want all children to come into the world and be as lavished with love as that adorable girl is. I have seen the repercussions that people live with - their entire lives - from being brought up in ways that are careless or even downright evil. We owe all the children, not just life, but happiness, quality of life, promise of satisfying careers and prosperity that come from the simple action of devoting more energy to education than to imprisonment and punishment. Those 9 months are a miracle, no doubt, but the 90 years that follow afterwards are even more so. No child should live any part of its life feeling unwanted.

5. As an aunt and a feminist, I want my niece to have as many opportunities as if she were a nephew. I strongly believe in equality for all people. No, a woman is not equal to a man, just like a Wall Street investor man is not equal to a plumber man. I know who I'd be calling when there's trouble with my bathroom sink, and in that regards, the Wall Street investor man is sub par. Just so, all people have their strengths and their weaknesses and are incomparable, but they are PEOPLE, and they all deserve the same rights that we grant to any other person.

6. As a scientist, well, quite frankly, I can't believe anyone still thinks there's "debate" about climate change. The evidence is weighty and industries like insurance are already adjusting how they set policies as a result of human-induced effects. It is way past time for the U.S. Government to deal with this issue. The way the GOP currently shrugs off the evidence of science in all matters is truly frightening to me.

7. As a small business owner, I recognize the true job creators. It is my customers who have created my job, and have created jobs for the many artists and vendors whose work we carry. We owe our livelihoods to our customers. Every business is different, of course, but my customers are women, are middle class, are teachers, are government employees. If that is not the case for your customers, I will bet money that they are only one or two degrees of separation away from the people that I just listed. I want a President who will support MY customers and I believe that Mitt Romney is not the slightest bit interested in my customers, which pretty much matches the level of interest that I have for him.

Thursday 090I could probably go on, but there's some value in the list that comes to the top of my mind. Of that list, there are none of my beliefs that seem to intersect with those of Mitt Romney and the GOP. I don't believe that Barack Obama is perfect, but I do believe he is the better choice for the kind of country that I hope to be a part of.


button sale (!!!)


I've been trying to work on a letter to the editor for a couple weeks now - mostly trying to corral my thoughts into 200 words or less.  It's a challenge!  In doing so, I've been thinking a lot about what it is that I have to say or do which is unique.  There are plenty of things a person can do in this time leading up to the June 5th election.  People can (and are) making phone calls, sending emails, writing letters to editors, blogging, knocking on doors...  The first letter that I started writing sounds pretty similar to the letters I've been reading.  And anyway, is there *really* anyone left who hasn't made up their mind who will decide based on my letter to the editor?  Well, I am not discounting that possibility so, yes, I will slowly work away at my word count.

In the meantime, one thing occurred to me that I can contribute which is unique.  Not everyone has a button machine!

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So, here's the deal: we're having a sale on buttons. Buy one Barrett or Vote button and get a second button (protest, election, Barrett, recall) of your choosing (equal or lesser value).  We're hoping this will spur a buy one, give one kind of movement, and perhaps give you an opportunity to have a conversation while you give a Barrett button to a friend. 

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We had a customer from Oregon who was trying to decide upon a button.  She said, "I like this one, but I'm not a hipster and no one in Oregon will know what I'm talking about."  Her friend said, "well, that's perfect.  That's like the ultimate hipster thing!"

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And yes, if there are any Republicans or undecideds who are actually still reading my blog, you will note that we didn't exclude you.  You don't have to buy a Barrett button - there are many general election buttons to choose from.

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The last time we had a sale on buttons was Labor Day weekend, in honor of the workers of the world.  It seems appropriate to kick off this sale on Memorial Day weekend.  In truth, if there is one overarching change that has come to my life over the past year, it is a stronger sense of patriotism, love and committment for my country and my state, or at least the ideals that we promise to uphold (you know, liberty and justice for all?).  My committment to buying locally and from independent businesses traces back to this - as a way to support my fellow Americans as they pursue their American Dreams; my committment to recalling Walker traces back to this - as a way to overturn what I see as a complete denial of those ideals of democracy.

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And so, here we are at Memorial Day weekend.  The sale flyers abound, but what does that really have to do with the holiday itself?  I feel even more keenly aware of all the sacrifices that the men and women of our armed forces have made.  And what were all those sacrifices for if not to uphold the ideals of our nation? 

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Ok, you can have your cynical beliefs about why generals and politicans get us into wars, but I believe the dedication and heart of these sacrifices was not about money or political gain, but some abiding belief in this country, in the idea of freedom to speak, freedom to prosper, freedom to elect people who will stand for, by, and with the people who elected them.  When I stand in line to vote, I feel the weight of this responsibility - elsewhere, people would KILL to have the opportunity that I have; elsewhere, people have DIED to bring this opportunity to others. 

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I DID tell you that I was getting more patriotic, didn't I?

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So, after thanking our military veterans, and the families whose sons and daughters gave their lives, how about we all go out and do OUR duties to protect, and serve, and uphold our pledge that we make - standing united, with liberty and justice for all.  AND VOTE.



*Sale runs from now (we'll start Memorial Day weekend early like some of you lucky ducks get to) (Friday May 25th) through election day (June 5th).  Buy one $1.50 Barrett/Vote button, get a second of equal or lesser value for FREE!

feeling feisty

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Well, I've been stewing about this for a little while.  Obviously the state and national politics aren't helping with their various ways of suggesting that women are lesser, weaker, dumber... you name it...   I'm utterly fed up with that.

This past week I have also been reminded of the middle of February last year.  When the budget rumblings were just beginning and customers were coming in asking for our buttons.  We didn't even HAVE buttons yet, we were still reeling.  And the requests have started up again.  Sachi just finished a series of Obama buttons; we had been talking about how we were feeling a little at a loss for where to go, but also trying to figure out what exactly to say.  Then on Tuesday, a few customers came in and said, "where are your contraception buttons?"  And on Wednesday, a customer called and said that she heard we might have some buttons, or could make some for her.  She said she hasn't been particularly political, but all these attacks on women's rights were forcing her to get involved.  "We're mad as heck, don't ya know."  Classic.  Seriously. 

So I told Sachi on Wednesday that we really needed to get going on the next set of buttons.  We watched the girl at her ballet class that night and brainstormed possibilities.  I went a little too far in the dictionary of urban slang.. but did emerge with "my lady business is none of yours."  Meanwhile, as expected, Sachi just needed a little push but threw herself into her panty protest pin series, debuting today.

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I've also had a few incidents - a very few, and not enough to constitute a pattern by any means, but nonetheless ones that makes me annoyed with a certain category of person - one who wields power and perpetuates a system whereby they have more power than other people; specifically, they, as men, have more power than other people, as women, and then goes out and yells at the people who have less power.

In all, over the last year, I have been pleasantly surprised.  I have managed to maintain mostly civil retail relationships despite having  opponents to my clearly stated point of view.  I don't expect everyone to agree with me.  And, fine, if you feel that you cannot support our store because we disagree with our Governor, that's your prerogative.  That said, I am much more likely to respond to paying customers.  Although I myself have been tempted with the boycott approach, on a very basic level, I feel like there's no way we are ever going to find any middle ground if we can't even buy, say, a donut from each other (a customer recently told me about a "horrible Republican" baker.. but, yeah, I won't give up the donuts).  Now that I have learned that I can still get along with some Republicans, well, hey, maybe we can start to have a conversation about what it is we do have in common and what it is we want to make our world better for our children.

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Nonetheless, between myself, my sister and our part-timer, we've had a handful of unpleasant experiences.  Maybe we just caught these men on a bad day, maybe as women, we just ignore the whisperings of other women, maybe it's just a matter of that particular communication style butting heads' with our own particular communication style.  Still, it is irksome.  And more than that when combined with the behavior of political men on state and national levels.

What is it exactly about these few incidents?  Well, for starters, they were all men.  They stopped in (or stood in the doorway); in all of my situations, there was very little room for discussion, because they basically said what they wanted to say and went on their way.  In the case of our part-timer there was some feeling... not threat exacly, but unease, given that the that it was a group of high school wrestlers (a situation with an underlying potential of physical harm, whether conscious or not).  And yes, this is our store, we are the owners, and we made the decision to be vocal about our opinion.  However, there is some imbalance of power in the retail relationship.  After all, we are trained in customer service that the customer is always right, even when they are wrong.  There is an underlying element that you must maintain civility and that the customer holds the fate of your store or job in their hands.  This gives the customer an advantage.  Additionally, I'm never really sure - does that customer realize that I am the owner of the store, or am I just a hapless shopgirl?  If you think I am not the owner who set policy, then that's even more objectionable that you take your ire out on me.  My objection to these incidents is they way they are like a microcosm of the way certain men (notably politicians) seem to be treating women right now.  No effort for interaction or understanding, just a wielding of power over matters that, honestly, are none of their business.  Sure, these customers are free to disagree with me, but they are not free to expect that I will change or impose their views over mine.  I have just as much right to have an opinion - but since they didn't stop for a conversation, they aren't even letting me have mine.  Well, they might say that I imposed mine on them first, but I don't require them to read or listen to mine.  YET, because of the imbalance of power in the retail relationship, I am required to "smile and nod" in the face of their opinion.

New 015(and another thing, what is the party that regularly complains about the
"nanny state" and calls for small government doing in anyone's personal life?  Unfortunately Citizens United only went one way to declare that corporations are people.  Because if people were declared corporations, then maybe the Republicans would be more amendable to privatizing our private lives?).

I have worked really REALLY hard to get where I am today.  I think every person should have a say in who they want to be and where they want to go.  I think you should behave in this world the way you want other people to behave towards you, and also not assume that your way is the only/best way.  I am personally not suited to stay at home in the kitchen with the children, but if someone else wants to do that, that's fine.  The point of all the work of all the people that have come before us is that WE get to have a say in our destiny.  Just like anyone else.  We can make mindful decisions about what our life is going to look like, and not be subject to the whims of other people.  We deserve that as much as anyone else.  We are smart enough, we are capable enough, and if anyone says otherwise, they are losing out because we could have rocked their world.

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protest buttons thanks

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In celebration of the 18,000th protest button sold and in honor of the kick-off of Recall Walker petition collecting season, Anthology will be having a button sale on Saturday, November 19th.  Protest buttons made in-house will be 50% off - regularly $1 and $1.50, now 50 cents and 75 cents. While supplies last, though we will do what we can to keep up.  Stock up and bring some home for the holidays.  We still have "with Liberty and Justice for all," which I think means that there's a button for everyone.

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This is the time of year when the slide from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day goes fast, when I'm thinking about giving thanks and wrapping up a year, about what has changed from last year (what new items do I have to offer this Christmas?  what have I accomplished in a year?), about what to write in my annual Christmas letter, about what I hope for in the coming year.

And it is not that there aren't other things in my life or the life of the store, but a big part of all those thoughts is... buttons.  Buttons, buttons.  A year ago, who would have guessed that would be so?  A year ago, I never would have predicted all that has happened and the role that buttons would play. 

Five years ago, to be precise, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, was when the plans for Anthology first solidified.  That was my light-bulb moment at 6 a.m.  It is funny to think about our path and the role button machines - which I first had to twist Sachi's arm over (She always wanted a button machine and I told her this would be a great opportunity since it would be a business expense and we could use it to make buttons for the store.)  We had so much fun making our own buttons that we ended up inviting customers to make their own buttons.  The button machine wasn't even in our business plan. 

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Even the process of making protest pins started very serendipitously.  We felt very strongly that Governor Walker's actions were wrong and were going to be hurtful to our community at large, as well as to our customers, and so we stood with the protesters from the beginning.  Sachi made her signs, we teared up as the firefighters passed by, I installed our first protest window.  But, mostly, the first couple days, we stood.  We witnessed.  We felt kind of blindsided and helpless; and it felt a little lonely to be standing in the store watching everyone walk up to the Capitol.  Of course, it wasn't about selling, this was not the time.  But then our customers (who regularly walk by and point us out as "the button store") started coming in and asking where our buttons were.  A friend commented that we must be selling buttons like crazy since protesters love their buttons.  Of course as a business, we are always trying to think of ways to build our business.  But I believe that you can't really sell a product unless you really believe in it - you have to pick the things that speak to you so that your heart is in your store.  And in the end, while making buttons has been monetarily rewarding, I think it has saved my sanity this year in many more significant ways.  I can feel alone, helpless, powerless; and then I can check our sales history and be comforted by the number of people who have bought buttons and who agree with me (and extrapolate how many recall signatures that translates into).  I am not alone.  I can feel minimized, marginalized ('oh, you're just a hippie Madisonian') and have my day immediately brightened by a phone order for buttons to be shipped somewhere in northern or eastern or western Wisconsin.  I am not alone.  I can feel voiceless and unheard, and then I can come into the shop and vent my frustration by coming up with new slogans, not to mention that the physical act of making buttons can use up a little aggression.  I can feel worried or threatened about possible hostility, and then I can appreciate that civility prevails.  Most of all, providing the space of our button table has created little pockets of community, moments when random strangers come together and share a chuckle over buttons - these moments of laughter are so valuable to me, and to play a role in hosting them is something that I am truly proud of.

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Yesterday we sold our 18,000th button since February of this year.  That is more buttons than we've sold in the previous years since we opened.  That is pretty close to the increase in sales between last year and this year.   A percentage of that funds our local non-profit donations, which have increased substantially this year compared to last year.  That is thanks to the people who have come into our store (or called/emailed) to purchase our protest pins.  THANK YOU!

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The Recall Walker catalog, of sorts

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In the past two days, I've received two out of town inquiries about "Recall Walker" prints.  I love to see the support for the Wisconsin fight rolling in from around the country, but there's little that gives me a greater thrill than sending items out to elsewhere in the state.  I think it is easy to fall into the trap that one is alone - too small to make a difference.  "Oh, you're just a privledged liberal hippie in Madison," they say, "no one else feels this way," "you're exaggerating..."  But each little package that goes out to the state reminds me that, no, I'm not alone.

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In any event, I am determined to persist.  I think that Governor Walker is bad for the state of Wisconsin.  I seriously doubt that he is motivated by anything except greed for power and money and I frankly don't think he cares about the well being of most of this state's residents, an approach which I find highly objectionable in the office of the Governor of the state.  I have seen nothing to indicate that he is interested in job creation except as it rewards the people who donated a lot of money to his campaign.  So, yes, we'll be collecting recall petition signatures at the shop.  And, yes, we will continue to sell our buttons, which have now been joined by other items.

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Here, in brief, is a catalog of the items we have in the store.  We are happy to ship them out (prices quoted do not include shipping/handling), just contact us via email at Anthology@tds.net


1. "Keep Calm &...."  My original creation - well, I came up with the words and the design and sent them out to be offset print.  11 x 17, black text on white cardstock. $5

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2.  "Keep Calm and Recall Walker" A commissioned print available in a variety of colors.  8 x 10.  $16.


3. "Don't let yer Badgers grow up to be Weasels" Screenprint in various colors. 12 x 18.  $10 - $12.

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4.  Buttons, buttons, more buttons.  We've added some more specific recall text to the collection, as well as some new vintage ladies, though OMG GOP WTF remains one of the most popular.  $1 - $4.50.  Also, protest button bracelets - a collection of 6 of our mini 1" buttons in bracelet form.  $14.

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5. Protest sign ornaments.  Personally, I like to find an ornament each year that commemorates the year.  I just have to decide on the message.  $12.

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6. Screenprints from Milwaukee artists.  Not exactly recall, but the "Union Made" print is a great piece of art, and we love "WI Rise Up."  $16.

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7. Postcards.  85 cents each.  Some of our own original photographs as well as work by other artists.

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Starting November 15th, recall signatures can be collected.  Sachi and I went to a training session and we will have forms at the shop if you want to add your name to the petition.  The Demcoratic Party of Wisconsin is working with a lot of different grassroots organizations, but centralized information might best be found here.  Wisconsin residents who are eligible voters are eligible to sign the form, and if you want, forms are available online to download, print, sign, and mail in.  The forms must be supervised (and not just left out on the counter) so you'll have to ask one of us if you would like to sign the form.  And don't worry, if you don't want to recall the Governor (or are otherwise tired of being asked to sign the petition) and are somehow still reading this blog post, we won't pressure you to sign.  We just felt it important to continue work in the direction we want Wisconsin to go forward.

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Yes, we love our state, and our city too...  Going away on vacation is always nice, but coming home is nice too.  Though I didn't mean to start bossing around my sister right away, it must just come naturally to me as a big sister, and she responded by making more photo snippets per my request, so we have a new batch, including some of the recent pictures I took at the Farmer's Market (so, yes, whoever approached me asking if I was taking pictures for snippets, you were right).


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I know I'm probably repeating myself but I am so pleased that we've been able to build up our collection of local imagery.  I missed out with a few artists, one of whom is no longer selling his wares, but some new ones have come to my attention in the meantime.

We are particularly excited that Tara in Milwaukee responded to our request with this great batch of Madison notecards.

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Our Madison neighborhood map has now been joined by a Wisconsin counties map, Madison sweetheart photographs, new t-shirts, and a return of the felt Wisconsin ornament and the Madison lakes paper cut.

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And we're showing the love for the Midwest too... don't worry: new t-shirts, and the popular Great Lakes cut-out is back in stock.

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And you don't think we've forgotten about our Governor, do you?  I think what's happening in Wisconsin is playing out on the larger stage with the Occupy Wall Street movement; it's ultimately about concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few, at cost to liberty and justice for all... but that's just my opinion.  I must say that police-protester interactions around the country have really made me thankful for the Madison Police Department.  Seeing protests from around the country and around the world bring home even more so how lucky I am to live in this place - to be able to express myself without fear of gunshots, arrests, or someone running the country for 40-some years.   I still haven't seen anything that convinces me that Scott Walker will be good for our state for a full term.  We are personally happy that our chance to collect recall signatures is fast approaching, and naturally Sachi had some new buttons to make.  We also have our prints, including the great new "Don't Let Yer Badgers Grow Up to be Weasels" made here in Madison and a new Solidarity t-shirt.  And, yes, bumper stickers.

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Labor Day weekend special

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Announcing Anthology's first Labor Day weekend special ever:  All protest buttons are 50% off!  (I use the word "protest" loosely - this applies to all the buttons on our back table, though not elsewhere in the shop).  Saturday through Monday, readymade buttons only.  And, yes, we have plenty of non-partisan buttons related to people of any political stripe.  "Librarians are Sexy" - surely we can all agree on that?!

Sometimes it seems like Labor Day sales are rather contrived, but we thought what better way to honor Labor than to show your favorite state worker that you think he/she is sexy. or let your teachers know you know they can do it!

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When I look back a year ago, I can hardly believe how much has changed.  I can't even remember what I did on Labor Day.  And in my little retail world, Labor Day has rarely meant a day off of labor (though perhaps a day of abbreviated hours), and certainly not a long weekend.  Not so this year.

After all the events in Wisconsin and around the country, I have never felt that Labor is as little-valued as it is right now. And, no I am not just talking about the attacks on state employee collective bargaining.  I'm also talking about this general sense that I have of businesses and government using the excuse of the economy and consumer demands to get the most work they can get, for the least amount of money.  The sharp inequality between the richest and the poorest, the denigration of the work that people do, the erosion of the safety net that more and more people are in need of...  and we're supposed to be celebrating Labor on Monday?  It seems a half-hearted and token gesture at best.

And I know, I can be a starry-eyed optimist.  But as I was enjoying my birthday present massage, thinking about the wonderful talents of Candice, the small businessperson with the talented hands (if you are in town, I recommend you check her out: In Balance Massage Therapy), I was thinking how lucky she and I were to be able to pursue our passions and our talents.  And yet how nice it would be if our Labor was rewarded just as someone's labor of collecting capital gains is rewarded.  Feeling a little sad about all the ways that we make compromises about what it is we enjoy doing and what it is that pays the bills; feeling indignant about the valuation that is made of which work is "better" or at least more deserving of higher wages....   Though, to be clear, I wasn't actually thinking about this during the massage, I was too relaxed to think.

So, I had to go to the source:  the U.S. Department of Labor website, which says the following:

"Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership: the American worker."

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And I know, not all of our protest buttons are Labor related but we still feel that the protests here in Wisconsin and the state of Labor in general are very much connected.  A sale on buttons is a small gesture from a small business, but it seemed like a fitting way of sharing our appreciation.

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Like most holidays, it never really seems like one day is enough.  But then, I'm the girl who takes a month to celebrate her birth.  Still, over this long Labor Day weekend, we do hope you take a moment to think about all the ways that Labor has contributed to the prosperity of the nation.

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still going...

This is supposed to be a short report from downtown Madison for those who are curious.  We're still here.  The fight still goes on.  There are not thousands of people surrounding the Capitol, they are on bus tours of the state, going door to door, making phone calls.  We hope that the recall elections on August 9th go enough our way to slow things down.  We hope that more than 50% of the voting population will come out to vote, that those who didn't vote will always vote from now on.  We hope that even though people have to wait hours to get their photo ID that they will persist and come to the polls.  We will be collecting recall signatures for the Governor as soon as we are able.  Anthology has now sold 15,000 buttons since mid-February so, yes button sales have slowed, but not at all ended.  More "recall Walker" bumper stickers are appearing around town; we've added some new prints and posters to our collection.  And if nothing goes the way we want it to, we will still keep fighting for the ideals of our nation, which are liberty and justice for all.  That's the short story.

Being me, I can't just leave it at that.  What should I tell you?  On the one hand, I feel like I've said everything that I want to say.  That I'm tired of talking and feeling sad/mad/bad and just want to look at pretty things on Pinterest.  That the signs in our windows, the buttons on the table, my bumper stickers speak for themselves.  That surely we're all just talking with the people who agree with us and saying everything that has already been said before.  If you feel that way too, perhaps you didn't even bother to open this post. 

On the other hand, I am in this for the long haul.  For life, as it were.  I believe in good and beauty and truth, and I believe in prevailing over greed and inequality. I don't see it as just a Wisconsin thing.  And I don't believe in being quiet about it.  Clearly there are issues at the national level as well.  And I have talked with many out of state tourists who come to Madison to commiserate and show their support, and who are asking nearly the same questions of their governors or legislators. There is much work to be done.  Even if all goes the way that I wish it to, there is much work to be done. 

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And of course, we keep making buttons.  Sachi just came up with a new series of pin-up girls, but I was also inspired to make a new Keep Calm print with a series of Wisconsin-specific suggestions.  As you can see from the picture, I am pleased with myself. The text is my own; I just did the layout in a word processing program.  And, per my own instructions, I had it printed locally.  I got a little distracted with political affiliation of printers (man, that list of Walker donors is long!).  But then I decided that if I could show someone that there was money to be made from a small business Democrat, perhaps that's not such a bad thing.  Also, my new policy is to shop as small as possible.  Even if a small businessperson disagrees with your politics, they probably don't have thousands of dollars to spare to donate to the candidate you disagree with.


Although it is fiction, I am right now reading Game of Thrones, which reminds me of the games that people play through all of time, games of money and power, without regard for the lives of other people.  In my world though, we are on an arc that brings us to more good, more peace, more justice, more happily ever after for all.

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, as long as they are left in peace. They never are." George R. Martin

Without our shop, I might be inclined to sit alone and sulk, to be alone in my worry.  With our shop, I am forced, on a daily basis, to hold my breath when someone comes through the door or pauses to read our sign.  Will they like me?  Will they hate my point of view?  Can we be civil to each other even if we do disagree?  As a shop owner, of course, I am limited somewhat by the bounds of customer service.  But I find those can be useful.  In fact, I wish we all practiced such bounds.  And I know, people say that we are more polarized now than ever before and it seems that n'er the twain shall meet.  But if we all just sit in our corners, talk and never listen, complain about how polarized we are, then that, indeed, will be our fate.  And I strongly doubt that anything can get done if we are like those two Dr. Seuss Zax, which even a preschooler recognizes is a silly story, not something to model oneself after.

It takes work and energy, but I believe we all need to speak up for the direction we want this world to go in.  That said, a critical component is also listening, making space for everyone's voices to be heard.  Which, of course, means hearing things you don't like to hear.  But then, I'm a big proponent of etiquette and manners and politeness so I'd love it if the dialog could take place with such tones.  My resolve is tested often in the course of a week.  A customer came in a few days ago and questioned if she could come in the store even though she wasn't a student, faculty, staff or state worker (per our sign which says we depend on aforementioned people).  I simply said yes, of course (even though I bristled at the obtuseness of the question).  I did have to add that, technically, aren't we all students of one sort or another... and then my sister came out of the office to make sure I didn't go any further than that.  I realize that some people see our signs and resolve not to buy anything in the store.  I'm sorry for that, I'm sorry that they dismiss the creative things that I've gathered, the work of the many local artists.  And because of that sorrow, I try to work harder myself not to dismiss someone just because we disagree politically.  I still have good things to offer a Republican.  But those that walk in, complain about my signs, and then walk out, are only proving to me that they are not my customer and therefore don't give me much incentive.  Meanwhile, I'm getting lots of positive reinforcement for my signs.  It isn't just about money, but certainly, as a business, the loudness of our voice would depend a bit on how our customers reacted.  So far, they are just telling me to speak louder.  So, yeah, I'm still going.

And I know, we all have our anger and our sorrow and our pain.  A guy drove by me a few days ago and yelled "a**hole" out his window at me.  Was it because of my bumper stickers?  Was it because I unknowingly cut him off?  I have no idea why. I linger a bit too long on the encounter, but am mostly left with a feeling of sorrow.  What kind of life is it when we have so much anger and violence in our interactions with each other?  When an unwitting mistake or a simple point of view causes us to completely write off the other person?  We have so much to offer each other.

So, all I can really say is that I hope everyone is still going.  Still being true to your own self and to your hopes and dreams, but also being true to the voice of our country, which, I believe, is supposed to be about liberty and justice for all.


P.S.  I also commissioned this print for the shop.  I probably have to uncover it three or four times a day - obviosuly some silent objectors can't walk by it without hiding it.

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