Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Knit 1, Purl 2, Knit 1, Purl 2

I learned to knit when I was Rowan's age - during Junior Girl Scouts with our "knitting grandmas" (older women from our community who had generously donated their time to teach a bunch of girls this carft. I loved it then, my hands wobbly and unsure, yet excited and my eyes big with anticipation about what my first piece would look like when finished. I still remember, it was a medium blue scarf, all done in garter stitch. We dontated them to folks who needed warm winter outter wear as a service project.

Through high school I kept knitting, until I thought I was just too cool for such things and preffered partying with my friends over the click of the needles. While teaching elementary-aged kids, I often taught circles of kids - boys and girls alike - to knit and loved watching their faces as the wonder of those threads of yarn came together into an actual product.

But I haven't made anything really for close to 30 years until I took inspirtation from three women - all of whom sat in community together in the Facilitating by Heart workshop series I co-facilitate. Each brought her project with her, needles flying as we did intense work on deep listening, working through conflict and living and working from a place of integrity when working with others. Their work - both in their knitting and the profound personal work they did during the workshop series - inspired me to pick up my needles once again.

I've been having a ball, surfing the net in search of patterns for things. Lion Brand, bless their hearts, provides many free and lovely patterns. A great place to start for a re-committed stitcher. My first projects were hats for the girls, as we approach this cold time of year.
As I walked into the yarn shop (a local place - I much prefer local over chain stores), my heart just sang. The shop is tiny, a narrow strip of a place, the left and right facing walls are filled with skeins upon skeins of yarn from the top of the 10 foot ceilings to the floor. The smell and sight of it all is intoxicating. I quickly zoned in on the type of yarns I needed for the hats - thick, chunky stuff - and selected colors just right for each girl. I happily proceeded to the counter to purchase it and needles like a kid in a candy store.
My Thanksgiving weekend was filled with hat making. A pink one for Gemma (of course) a blue multi-colored one for Rowan and then two additions for two of their cousins. I thought Jani had gotten a picture of the girls in their hats, but can't find it in our photo files, so we'll have to snap another.

My next project - a hood for Jani. She just needs to choose her yarn and a stitchin' we will go.

Go Bucky

If you are looking for us this weekend, look no further than the University of Wisconsin Field House, because our Badger Women's Volleyball team was awarded the privilege of hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA play-offs.
We'll be happily snuggled all up in our RED
While visions of POINT WISCONSIN and victory dance in our HEADS!!

Our Family

Photo taken at Thanksgiving at Jani's folks' house in Freeport. For those that don't "know" us - (from left to right) Rowan, age 8, Jani, Denise and Gemma, age 5.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

'Tis The Season

...for remodeling!!

As we enter into the dark days and long nights of late fall before the Winter Solstice, we decided it was time to turn our energies inward (inside the house) and start another remodeling project in our much-loved 1886 Queen Anne house. This one is a tad simpler than the last - it involves no moving of walls, rewiring or new plumbing. We are having most of the second floor rooms repainted.

As the sun gets ready for his re-birth on the Solstice, we are excited to begin a-new in our more intimate living spaces - the bedrooms. The girls are leaving their current bedroom (a small and cozy space) for a larger room with a bay window. We offered them each their own room and they declined, saying they[d be too lonely at night without the other. A very sweet sentiment to be remembered in those moments when the sister spats are running high. Their former bedroom will become their playroom, thus relegating toys to a more enclosed room. Anyone who has ever set foot in this house knows the kid-energy is everywhere - the place looks like a Waldorf school - with kid-created art adorning the walls and little alters of stones and feathers on any horizontal surface available. However, it will be great to have the toys (all those fairy villages, Barbie condos and My Pretty Ponies) residing in their lovely new purple playroom. The girls decided to keep their night sky ceiling (a dark blue with stars) in the playroom. It will be interesting to see how the purple and blue go together. Their bedroom will be a medium blue (like the twilight night sky). They want murals of trees painted on the walls, so it looks like they are sleeping outside. Mine and Jani's room will be a sage green.

We've hired a paint crew to do the work. As much as I love hands-on things, left for us to do, it just wasn't happening. Too many other things marched themselves higher on the priority list for weekends (like playing and having a good time with the family). It was very important for us to hire folks with really nice energy, as not only do they leave paint on the walls and woodwork, they leave their energy print too. These guys are very sweet and are doing a great job. Yesterday's task was the woodwork and it looks extrordinary!!!

We're also getting a new "lid" (aka roof) on the house. Any day now the roofers should arrive.

Pictures will come as the rooms are completed.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Swim Meet


Rowan with her Second Place Ribon for her 25 yard Freestyle and Third Place for her 25 yard Breast Stroke. Her favorite part of the meet - swimming - she wished she'd signed up for more heats.


Gemma wearing her achievement metal after her non-competitive swim. Her favorite part of the meet - standing on the dias to get her picture taken.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Point Wisconsin!!

Yes fans, we are at the height of University of Wisconsin Badger Volleyball season and those who know us, know that you'll usually find our family at the Field House on Friday and Saturday nights cheering on these women. One of the favorite parts of the volleyball experience for me is the grace of these young women after the games - singing Varsity surrounded by their young fans and hanging out on the court to greet people and sign autographs. Caty DuPont (a freshman outsider hitter) has scooped up Gemma to hold while singing Varsity and generously allowed a picture afterward. She's scooped up Gemma on more than one ocassion post game.

I also love the game for its wonderful excitement and upbeat fans. It would be hard to imagine being bored at a UW volleyball game and I appreciate that the fans take the emotional high ground, cheering on the team with enthusiams - rather than complaining or criticism.

Now one might say its easy to be enthusiastic, because the Badgers are doing quite well!! We are tied for the #2 position in the Big Ten Conference with the Minnesota Gofers. Our last loss was against them on their home court on October 18. Now they visit our home court on a rare Wednesday night game tomorrow night. Forget swimming lessons, piano practice and any of that usual mid-week evening rituals - we are off to the Field House for some fun and excitement!

GO BIG RED!!!!!!!! We're looking for sole posession of that #2 spot right behind Penn State!!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Scootering for Social Justice

The weekend before the election, we walked a suburban neighborhood with the Fair Wisconsin Get Out the Vote Campaign. Rowan's task was to find the "no" vote identified houses (we had a list).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

On a More LIght Hearted Election Day Note

We were at the polls last evening to vote. We always go to vote when we bring the kids, because we hope to instill the behavior of voting in them from an early age and because they love to go with us. Gemma usually stands on a chair, so she can see the ballot. Typically our voting booth conversations with her have consisted of how the marking pen works, how the computer records the votes, etc. Well, that was all before she learned something about reading. As I marked by ballot on the four yes/no questions, I hear her sing out loud enough for most everyone to hear "Mom, how come you marked "no" on those two questions and "yes" on those other two?" I hear lots of adult nuffled chuckling going on around me and think "oops, we didn't have that conversation about keeping one's votes private while at the polling site." This all led to quite an interesting discussion about why we make our opinions very apparent with our yard signs and with working on campaigns, but keep them private while in the polling area. Never a dull moment around here!!

Standing in the Threshold: Reflections on the Morning After Wisconsin Passes a Constitutional Ban Against Same-Sex Marriage and Civil Unions

Bittersweet would be the simple and rather cliché way to describe how I’m feeling o this post-election morning. I’m experiencing feelings much more intense and complex that can be captured with just one word – proud, angry, grateful, grief-filled, hopeful, rage-filled, heart-broken, exhausted, and enlivened.

My pride is huge. Even though our constitutional ban passed, my pride in the citizens of Wisconsin fills my heart. I am proud that

  • Ten thousand of us stepped forward around the state to volunteer - take time off work or give up our free time to make phone calls, walk door-to-door, enter data and basically do whatever was asked of us.
  • 450,000 Wisconsin citizens voted “no” on this constitutional ban.
  • The Fair Wisconsin campaign ads were positive and conveyed a sense of compassion and dignity – not fear and manipulation.
  • Our straight allies “outted themselves” publicly as allies and saw this issue as one of basic human rights; not just a “fringe” issue.
  • Many of us had difficult and moving conversations with friends, family and complete strangers about our private lives – our families – to help build understanding, open the doors to communication and dispel the myths.
  • Such a diversity of people stepped forward to say no to discrimination – a diversity of ages from our eight year old daughter riding her scooter ahead of us to point out which houses we needed to visit on our canvas list, to the high school aged students working the phones after school, to elderly folks who’d never worked a phone bank in their lives – across race and disability and class – amazing!!

My gratitude flows right from my pride. I am profoundly appreciative of –

  • The people we may have contacted numerous times through phone and door knocking, who treated us with dignity – thanking us for our dedication – who didn’t feel compelled to be slam down the phone or the door, who opened their hearts no matter the number of contacts.
  • The organizations that offered their space so that phone banks and staging areas could be set up around the state.
  • The religious leaders who spoke out against the ban – naming the truth about what really threatens Wisconsin families – poverty, unequal access to education, addiction.
  • The people who brought us food, coffee, water and soda as we spent hours with phones glued to our ears.
  • Those who find this work so very challenging – right out of their comfort zone – who did it anyway because they understood why it had to be done.
  • The young woman who called me while I was making phone calls. I had called her to remind her to vote. Shortly after we’d hung up, my phone bank extension rang – not a typical happening. When I picked up, it was the young woman, asking where she could go to help.
  • The poll workers who had a long day too – with our city voter turn-out high, they saw a steady stream of voters and got very few breaks in their 13 + hour day.
  • The staffers at Fair Wisconsin and Action Wisconsin who have worked insane hours, often running on empty themselves, to keep things moving.
  • The young woman who worked our call site, who enlarged all my phone lists to make them easier to read, found comfortable seating for the person with her leg in a cast and open space for someone else in a wheelchair to accommodate or diverse needs so we could be effective in what we were doing.
  • Those who I know and those who I've never met who donated money and sponsored house parties as fundraisers.
  • Again, those known to me and those not who found their center and their courage to talk about this issue and whose stories we may never know.
  • The friend who sent me a beautiful Maya Angelou poem this morning that really speaks to the bittersweet ness of this day.
  • The other friend who called to offer her support as I go into another day tomorrow of meeting new clients and working with them around the importance of respect and care of differences.
  • And still another friend who I swapped stories of pride with about our two different campaigning experiences.
  • My partner and my children – just because they are my family.

Often the big picture optimist, I also feel hopeful, because –

  • The issue of fair treatment of Wisconsin’s gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens and our families is no longer a “closeted” issue and that we have gained some amazing allies along the way.
  • I believe the tide may be turning – albeit if slowly – on our political climate. I feel hopeful to see our democratic governor re-elected, see us gain some seats back in our state legislature and see the House of Representatives again turn in a fair-minded direction.
  • The candidates here who aligned themselves with our issues were elected handily to their offices, despite being told that they would be committing political “suicide” by standing up for “gay rights.”
  • 70% of voters under the age of 30 voted against the constitutional ban.
  • So many young voters turned out at the polls, many voting for the first time in their lives. A friend who worked a polling place on the University of Wisconsin campus reported taking many pictures of students voting (at their request) for the young people to text message off to friends and family – very proud of themselves for voting.

Along with these feelings that fill my heart co-exist the ones that sadden and burden my heart.

I am angry, because –

  • The Associated Press called the results early in the game – before our polls were even all officially closed! We had one polling site still open under a judge’s order. The site (a high school on our side of town) had received a bomb threat earlier in the day. The building, including the 2,400 students, the faculty and all pollsters had to be evacuated. All voting machines were moved outside and voting continued while the building was searched for explosives. The site was allowed to stay open an extra hour to accommodate the transition out and then back into the building. That site still had ten more minutes to accept voters by the time the AP had called the election.
  • The State Elections Board distributed voter registration information that was unclear and confusing. I don't believe this had anything to do with the outcome of the election - it just troubles me greatly that with something so important more care wasn't taken in conveying a complete and accurate message.
  • The “yes” campaign” people would not let any press into their “victory” party last night – while I try very hard in my life to not run up my escalator of assumptions too quickly, it does beg the question of why this was a “closed door” event.
  • Despite having record turn-outs in many places around the state – particularly in our county which was really pushing for the “no” vote on the amendment, we still saw only about a 50% turn-out and we think this is “good.” There are places in the world where people travel miles to vote and risk their lives. There are countries that declare Election Day as a holiday to create more equal access to voting – and we’ve become so complacent that if the weather is bad, the lines or too long or we’re just “too busy” we don’t step up to participate in the political process.

My anger taps into my rage – rage that

  • This ban was even put forth in the first place – that key leaders used a “hot button” and emotional issue for their own gain. While the voters of the state of Wisconsin are starting to see these people for what they are (some of most hateful people lost their seats), they have carved out their legacy and it will take time and energy to undo the damage.
  • Fear was the motivating theme used by the “yes” campaign.
  • Ignorance of the law was used to manipulate voters. In Wisconsin before the constitutional amendment even passed, it was illegal for same-sex couples to marry and our state does not recognize civil unions granted in other states. This constitutional change just thickens the layers of pollution – illegal is illegal. And it risks the benefits we do hold through domestic partnerships.
  • Despite many logical and well-researched arguments from diverse communities (business leaders, educational leaders, some religious leaders) that this ban would be bad for Wisconsin citizens in the end, people either operated out of fear or didn’t fully examine their decision and voted “yes.” So much for logic and deductive reasoning.
  • Discrimination based on people’s differences continues to exist at all and that homophobia through jokes, slurs, emotional and physical violence is still allowed to exist in our society – in families, schools, work places and the larger community.
  • People use their religion to wield weapons of hatred. My understanding of Jesus’ teachings is that they are about acceptance and compassion (perhaps I missed something at Vacation Bible School). I can’t help but think Jesus would be jumping off his cross in a fit of rage to witness the hatred all wrapped up in his name.
  • The true threats to our families – poverty, discrimination, unequal access to education and chemical addiction still exist and people still wring their hands over what to do about these issues.

I have incredible grief and heart-ache when –

  • I look into the big round bewildered eyes of my daughters as they try to comprehend why people would even want to create a ban against our family in the first place and then why people would vote to constitutionalize it. Our older daughter questions why we say “liberty and justice for all” during the pledge when we vote to make sure it is not true.
  • I think about the elderly woman I talked with yesterday who said she’d already voted and that she’d voted for the ban – using a tone of voice that radiated “so there you go missy” and I think what her life must be like if she takes pride and finds satisfaction in the disparaging and unkind way she talked to me. Is her life experience so disempowered that she needs to take solace in making sure she lets me know she has treated badly (I am less troubled by her vote than her behavior on the phone).
  • I think of the countless hours spent defending people’s basic human rights when we could be doing other things – like caring for the sick, teaching, reading to our children, caring for the environment, singing, walking in the woods, enjoying life.
  • I think of the tens of thousands of us who dedicate our professional and personal lives to social justice as we witness backlash moments like this. To quote myself on something else I wrote awhile back “it’s like spitting in the ocean and expecting the pH level to change.”

I feel exhausted

  • My ears literally have sores on them from holding a phone to them for hours/days on end.
  • My eyes are tired from reading lists of numbers and addresses. I have renewed respect for those working at substandard wage, whose livelihood is dependend on telemarketing, after all of these phone calls.
  • I’m tired from sleepless nights wondering what the day-to-day ramifications of this will be – will we lose my health insurance, will we lose Gemma’s

And amazingly, I also feel enlivened to keep going, to take what is hopeful and what I’m proud of to gather those allies and to hitch a ride on that hoped for turn of the political tide. Often when I introduce myself to new client groups I tell them that I do this work because of my daughters and all children – that I want to help hand them a legacy where compassion and respect for all people are the norm – an everyday occurrence. So as one friend said to me this morning, “we stand at yet another threshold” and I wonder how will be walk through it and which path will be follow.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Been to the polls yet today???

If it is before 8:00 this evening it is not too late!!!!

Not sure where to vote?

Not a problem. Call your local League of Women Voters or your City/Town Clerk's Office to find out where your polling place is. In Wisconsin you can register at the polls. Just bing proof of residency with you if you'e never registered before.

Not happy with the way things currently are in your town, city, county, state or country?

Then register your desires, wants, needs through your right and responsibility to vote.

Want to do more than just vote, but you assume it is too late to volunteer??

It is quite likely that you can call an organization or candidate's office of your choosing and help them out with phone calls, door-to-door Get Out the Vote canvassing or driving voters to the polls. There is always work to be done and it is fun!

...I'm off for another day of Get Out the Vote Phone Banking!!

...And I'm keeping my heart open and fingers crossed that a FAIR WISCONSIN votes NO on the CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT to BAN Same-Sex Marriage and Civil Unions.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween Costume Parade

Gemma as Professor McGonagall in Cat Form

Here is Gemma in costume 657!! She's ranged this Halloween from the Easter Bunny, to a "fashion witch" to an old-fashioned girl, to a cat to Professor McGonagall transfigured into a cat!

Rowan as an Animungus in Bat Form

Ok let's try this. I've posted the pictures on and am uploading to the blog from here. Yes, some day I will have this technology figured out!

Here is Rowan in her self-designed bat animungus costume, spreading her wings.

Happy Halloween 2006

**Pictures will be posted whenever Blogger decides to cooperate**

It’s been a fun-packed Halloween weekend and start to the week with plenty of costuming opportunities!!

Friday night and Sunday afternoon were home University of Wisconsin Women’s volleyball games where fans were encouraged to wear costumes. To Friday night’s game, Gemma wore her Easter Bunny costume (yes, she’s been planning for months to be the Easter Bunny for Halloween!). Rowan decided to go as an animungus from Harry Potter fame (you know a human that has the ability to change into an animal). She was in her witch form on Friday night and Sunday both. Gemma was a “fashion witch” for Sunday’s game.

My folks accompanied us to Friday’s game. They were visiting from Washington Island on their way to a family wedding. They (and we) were treated to an AWESOME game with Wisconsin winning over #2 ranked Penn State. The Field House was ROCKING with excitement and I nearly lost my voice from cheering. We won on Sunday too, though it was a far less dramatic game against Ohio State.

Saturday brought us to a Halloween party hosted by friends with a daughter Rowan’s age. So there were lots of kid-friendly things to do, including decorating cookies and gourds and listening to “spooky” stories. Gemma dressed as an “old fashioned girl” for this event while Rowan continued her animungus witch/bat theme.

Trick-or-Treat evening brought yet another costume alteration for Gemma – of course. If this kid doesn’t work in theater someday, I’ll be stunned! She decided to go with the Harry Potter theme, abandoning her bunny attire and dressing as a cat – no ordinary cat though. She was Professor McGonagall in her cat form, because you see Professor M has the ability to transfigure herself into other things. Rowan took on her bat form, wearing a cape she’d made herself. And yes you can see that the girls’ normally lighter colored hair is darker than usual – thanks to black hair spray. You should have seen the ring that and the face paint left in the bathtub last night!!!

Gemma’s comment this morning as we were getting ready for school was “it’s so long until next year when we can celebrate Halloween again.” It is truly a beloved holiday for our family. It’s a good thing we are hosting a Samhain gathering on Saturday night, so we get to extend the fun (and remember the true meaning of this harvest festival) for just a little longer.