I have a basket in my living room that holds a collection of precious belongings; stones, sweetgrass, cedar, tobacco, scraps of cloth, and bits of fur, little memories from other adventures throughout my life and gifts from relatives who’ve since moved on. In that basket … Continue reading Reflections on My Travels 2023- A Travel in Time and Understanding
Reflections on My Travels 2023- The Alps
I’ve loved mountains since I was a little girl living among the tiny waves of the glaciated region of Wisconsin. Hills tell us so much. They are the home of our ancestors, those giant stones that tell the stories of our past and the trees … Continue reading Reflections on My Travels 2023- The Alps
Reflections on my Travels 2023– The First Days in Europe
It’s been just over a month now since I’ve gotten home from my trip in Europe. I’m a bit behind in putting my stories in writing, so it’s time to add to my blog and enjoy the chance to look back on the adventures a … Continue reading Reflections on my Travels 2023– The First Days in Europe
Thoughts On Being a Part of the Wisconsin Movement
It’s been twelve years now since thousands of angry, scared, and broken hearted Wisconsinites spent weeks camping out on the cold marble floors of our state capitol in an attempt to protect workers rights. While we didn’t win an immediate victory, we did change what organizing looked like in Wisconsin and throughout the US.
I was the person that the Teaching Assistants Association (TAA) called on when they realized that what began as a small protest was going to become a massive event and had the possibility of becoming dangerous. They asked me to coordinate non-violence trainings. During the weeks in the capitol I worked with a great team to bring together dozens of skilled trainers to provide non-violence training to thousands of people and the people of Wisconsin stood strong and peaceful. Here are few thoughts that I shared back then. I think that they may still ring true in many of the struggles that we face today.
Thoughts on Being Part of the Wisconsin Movement
- Why are you here?
If you are here to defend the capitol building, you are in the wrong place. If you are here to prove your belief that police are fascists, you are in the wrong place. If you are here to prove your righteous acts, you are in the wrong place. If you are here to prove Republicans bad Democrats good, you are in the wrong place. Movements depend on a shared sense of deeper purpose. The Wisconsin movement is complex because it brings together such a wide variety of groups with many reasons for acting. In order for us to succeed in the long haul we must have a shared sense of purpose. I would suggest that the purpose we share is to create a Wisconsin in which all people have their basic human rights met and in which the people of the state drive the government, not the other way around.
- What is Civil Disobedience and Why Do It?
Civil disobedience is intentional illegal action used to address injustices in the system. It is not simply actions used to make police officers work harder or to add excitement or interest. It is well thought out and used to attain a goal that moves us toward that bigger purpose of meeting the human rights of everyone in our state and gaining control of the governmental process. Civil disobedience is a tactic to be used when the legal means don’t work. It should be well thought out in advance and taken on only with people you trust implicitly. Plans should be made in advance to deal with any repercussions of your actions. Remember that the police, the courts, and our government have been dealing with protestors a long, long time. They are prepared. You need to be too. Doing the action and getting arrested is the easy part. Dealing with the repercussions can be more time consuming and difficult. Ask yourself “how will my action help the movement?” before taking any action.
- What about me?
Me is an interesting character in the movement, whoever that me is. Every action that each of us takes, positive or negative, affects every other person in the movement community. Movements are in some sense temporary minority groups. This is not to suggest in any way that movements or members of movements face the same levels of discrimination or oppression. What we share is that majority culture is quick to define minority groups by the actions of single individuals “all Black men are x,” “all women, all youth, all insert your favorite minority here are y.” The same thing happens in movements. You are a representative of the movement whether you want to be or not. So, it’s up to you to measure each action you take, even the mundane ones like the words you use or when and where you opt to play the drum or whatever else, to ask yourself is this
going to move us toward our goal or away from it. Everyone in Wisconsin is going to be affected by the decisions of our courts, the legislature, and the governor. We need a movement that is made of all ages, all races, and all backgrounds. This
isn’t some liberal, progressive, or even radical group. This is Wisconsin. We all drink the same water. Every person that you see could be a part of the movement. Each one could bring something that we need. It’s up to each of us to build the bridges, to win people to our side, to encourage that understanding that we all drink the same water.
- But I just need to be me!
If you are in a spot in which you feel a need to do something that isn’t going to help the movement take a break, step away for a moment to come back stronger. This fight doesn’t end with this budget session or even with the recalls. We’ve got a lot of work to do and it’s going to take a long time. Governor Walker, the legislature, the cops, the media, and sometimes even your fellow protestors are going to do stuff that in your mind is just idiotic and really ticks you off. If you can deal with it in ways that are both logical, empathetic, and feel right in your heart go ahead and deal with it. If you feel worn down, angry to the point of not being able to control your actions, deeply depressed or otherwise just don’t feel yourself, step back. We are a large group. We’ll cover for each other, so everyone can have a break.
- Going for the long haul
Bad stuff is happening in Wisconsin’s government, stuff that will take years to fix. We’ll need to fix it and we can. It will take a lot of work, a lot of creative thinking, and a lot of coalition building and strengthening. Right now a lot of people are burned out, more than I’ve ever seen in my 20+ years as an activist and organizer.
Go ahead and mourn. There has been a death in the family, many deaths. We’ve lost much that we love and depend on in this last legislative session and it deserves to be mourned. Crying is welcomed here. So, is talking, writing, song, lifting weights, prayer, running, hitting the punching bag, any and all of the healthy means of processing loss and regaining strength.
Angrier than you can explain? That’s good too if you use it. Organizers often call it ‘cold anger.’ If you can keep your anger controlled and directed toward supporting our forward movement in healthy ways, it is one of the best tools we have. Remember we are all family here. Take care of your brothers and sisters and let them take care of you. Caring for each other makes us each stronger.
- What’s my role here?
In my work we say “everyone a learner, everyone a teacher, everyone a leader.” It works here too. Each and every one of us is more than a body at a rally. We need you. Ask questions. Share what you know. Support others in doing the same. Share your talents, whether it’s facilitating meetings or baking cookies. Not everyone gets the spotlight, but everyone keeps the movement alive and strong. Thank you everyone for what you’ve been doing to keep us moving!
Reflections on Visiting Dachau
It’s been just over a week since I wrapped up my wanderings of the streets and mountains of central Europe. The vacation, which I booked months ago when I’d been planning to move forward in a career providing housing to terminally ill homeless people, wound … Continue reading Reflections on Visiting Dachau
Looking at Life’s Work
I was interviewing for a new job yesterday and was asked a question that while not totally unheard of was one I’d not heard often in job interviews that I’ve done either as the interviewer or the interviewee. I was asked how I identify myself or what I enjoy outside of my work life. What a wonderful question! Thank you for letting me know that you, as an employer, want to know me as a person that you value my work/life balance.
I grew up on a farm. My parents both grew up on farms as did their parents and their parents before them. For years I used that as a reason or maybe an excuse to devote my life to my work, putting in far more hours and more brain power than I was paid for. I would talk about how I grew up learning that farming wasn’t a job it was life’s work, and that’s what my work was as well.
Looking back now, I’m questioning what that “life’s work” means. Sure there is a lot about the work that simply needs to get done when it needs to get done no matter what. When the cows get out, you need to get them back in. There are no choices there. I think I misrepresented the 24/7 nature of “life’s work” types of jobs though. My Mom and Dad worked a lot, us kids spent our time helping out too. But, we also went swimming, watched tv together, took vacations, did all the things that others around us did that didn’t have “life’s work” kinds of jobs. The big difference between a job and life’s work isn’t the level of commitment, but the level of connection. For some farming is a job, a really hard job, for others it is life’s work. For me social justice is my life’s work.
I am thankful for this look at life’s work. It gives me a greater permission to take good care of myself as I move forward, continuing to do what can be very difficult and emotionally draining work. Today, I’m encouraging each of us whose had that great gift of being able to do the work that we feel called to, that we are connected to, that “life’s work” to celebrate that calling by caring for ourselves so that we might continue.
The Power of Paper and Pen
The key piece of becoming an author is writing, or so I am told. So, here I am writing. There are ideas that seem to be stuck somewhere deep in the muck of my brain and maybe even deeper in the mush of my heart and soul, but they are there- stuck. Meanwhile, I am digging through the layers and laying out what comes out in hopes that some of it finds value in the light of the page.
It’s a good tool to understand and care for myself. I stepped away from my blog for a few months this year as I started a new job. The role that I took on in my workplace was a tough one, a young non-profit organization in a period of rapid growth, I was the first staff person. The job was really one for at least two people, but I took it on in my spirit of adventure with a bit of hero thrown in. I set down my blog and my drawing pencils and pretty quickly found my number of seizures increasing, my anxiety rising, and my self-esteem dropping in a really difficult position with an organization that has a good dream, but doesn’t have a structure to support that dream yet.
Thankfully, over the years I’ve learned enough about myself to also recognize when I needed to take the risk to step away. I made the big decision to leave that job that had me struggling away for 50-60 hours a week trying to build an organization without team support. I’m transitioning out now and in the process of finding my next role. That process of finding the next role, not knowing what is coming up is in some way stressful, but it feels so much better. I’ve picked up my blog again. I’ve picked up my pencils. Last night I spent several hours working on a drawing from a dream the night before. I found myself fully focused, thinking about nothing, but shading and how the design was forming without being pushed by me. It’s not a question of me creating the picture, but of me asking the picture where the shading belongs, where I ought to put the pencil to fill in what needs to be there. It is simply working with the paper rather than trying to tell the paper what to do.
These things are a beautiful meditative practice for me, whether writing or drawing or even painting. They are important to my well-being to allow these things to just process through me. I never cease to be amazed at what comes out. I hope that you can find your meditation today, allow your art to process through and learn a bit more of who you are. Wishing you a joyful day.
The Little Girl in the Theater- A Dream of Healing
It’s that time of year again. The time of year for dreams. Winter time brings so many dreams, tells me so many stories that help me understand myself when I take the time to listen and understand myself. It’s a good time to spend a … Continue reading The Little Girl in the Theater- A Dream of Healing
No One Wants An Abortion
No one wants to have an abortion. Let’s just start there. It’s not something a woman does because she wants to have a surgery that will leave her with memories and questions for the rest of her life. She doesn’t want to always be able to look back and ask herself would it have been a boy or girl? Who would it have been? What would she have been like as a mother to that being?
The right to have an abortion is perhaps one of the greatest signs of motherhood. Afterall, the mother’s role is to do the best possible for the being in her womb. Sometimes the best and the hardest is to protect that being from a life of pain and want. Sometimes the best and the hardest is to protect them from abuse or from severe health conditions that would make living impossible. Sometimes the best and the hardest is to protect them from entering a world in which they will be treated with hatred by the people who are supposed to love them. There are so many reasons that a woman may choose to have an abortion. None are so simple as she wants one. All are about doing the best that she can for the being that grows inside her and for herself as well. The mother’s relationship with herself, with the world, and with her understanding of God will all change, but she will have done what she needed to do to care for herself and for the being she carried.
How can the court be so cruel to these women and unborn beings? Without legal abortions these women will not be able to save the beings in their wombs from lives of ongoing pain. If they try they will risk their own lives. What will we have won to lose both the mother and the fetus? Maybe it is these women who would risk their lives for the well-being of someone who they will never know who should be in charge instead of these judges who are willing to force them to put their lives at risk.
Mirrors of Time
Time confuses me more as it passes. It used to be so linear. Babies were young and old people were old. Now, I’m not so sure. April 1st would have been my Grandpa Mondloch’s 122nd birthday. I never met the man. He died in 1935, … Continue reading Mirrors of Time