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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

A happy Valentine's Day

Underwood Creek Parkway, Gratitude, Valentine's Day

I left work a little early today to grab some more of the light and the mild weather than my usual day allows. And to give my faithful love, Idgie, a decent walk for Valentine's Day.

The good thing about not having a romantic partner, if there is a good thing about it, is that you get to love more clearly all the rest of whatever it is you are given to love. This rescued dog, these children now grown, those neighbors and chance acquaintances, you friends who know me and let me know you back.

We walked the Underwood Creek Parkway as we often do. And though the sky was cloudy, the most wonderful colors hid among the grays. I felt a little sorry that dogs, except maybe the birding kind, don't raise their heads up much, except to catch a windbourne smell, a sharp sound.

There was one of those: sudden, high, bright. A child's voice. I can't remember the last time I saw children playing here. But there they were, this boy, about eight, and this girl, a little younger, cautiously making their way down the concrete walls of the creek. They'd come through the maple bog and crossed the railroad tracks, and now they were investigating the ice edging the water.

"Look," the boy yelled, excited. "It's pretty!" He paused, bent to examine something, and shouted again: "It's pretty!"

I don't know what he saw, but I hope the girl saw it too, and I hope she felt the same delight. Leaves layered and frozen in translucent ice, maybe, or the brittle, lacey, clear kind of ice that breaks in fractal patterns.

I think I know just how he felt. In the most unexpected places, you are seized by joy or love or wonder--or by all of those.

"It's pretty," your heart says, all on its own, without having to be taught.

I waited a bit, a little worried that these children might not know how to handle themselves even in such tame wild places. I'm a mother: that's what we do. But a woman followed them down to share what held their attention.

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A little spring hopey-changey in the air?

Scott Walker, Ethics, Non-partisan politics

It's been feeling like a strange and wonderful early spring around here, and the asparagus ($1.99 on sale at Sendik's) and the rhubarb (foraged from the County Grounds) pie we had for dinner last night helped that hopeful feeling along.

If I put up enough filters to the onslaught of information and disinformation, I can even feel a little hopeful about our political climate.

Can it be that more people are looking at even their "own guys" and saying "wait a minute. What's going on here?" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Mike Nichols writes ". . .here's what I don't understand: How come more conservatives--who, like me, believe Walker did the right and necessary thing (regarding unions)--don't look at Russell and scream?"

Timothy Russell was now-Governor, then-County-Executive, Scott Walker's aide. He's part of a still growing John Doe investigation into illegal campaigning and misappropriation (that would be theft) of funds. As Nichols, a conservative think-tank fellow, says, it's that stuff and not the union busting stuff that could take a governor down.

A little sneaky illegal action on the side is no big deal to insiders, for whom, too often, dirty pool is the only way the game is played.

But for the rest of us, who try to be decent and honest, having people do your not-quite-right or downright wrong work for you while you turn your back (and in this case, finding they are doing a little dirty work you may not have known about on the side) taints you, too.

If you'd asked me a month ago I'd have said Scott Walker is probably really as squeaky clean a guy as he seems. No hidden mistresses, no closet surprises. I'd still bet that about his personal life.

But when you start to live by the belief that the end justifies the means and make compromises accordingly, you lose your shine. Making sure you don't know what's going on damns you when people start to put bits and pieces together.

Now here's the hopey-changey part. With neither party doing any kind of stellar job for us (that would be the people) or our economy, we're starting to think harder about fairness, honor, and actual effectiveness. We're starting to question the claims and rhetoric we've accepted unquestioningly. This means going beyond blind party loyalty.

In the same Milwaukee Journal Sentinel issue, BadgerStat performance measurement guru Andy Feldman sets some criteria for deciding who to support for Wisconsin's governor. They could be adapted to any candidate for any office.

1.  A leader who is willing to speak candidly about the strengths and weaknesses of public employee unions and who supports legislation that reflects both.

2. A candidate who wakes up every morning thinking about how to help grow jobs in Wisconsin but who understands that some economic development policies are much more cost-effective than others.

3. The candidate who advocates most strongly for (non-partisan reforms that would give more power and information to the Wisconsin citizens and taxpayers).

More power and more real information to the people! Now there's a concept. Of course, when we get it, all of us need to call out our own guys and not just the other guy's guys when they fail to be honest, above-board, or take responsibility.

Not sure whether we have to scream, though. My guess, we can do it strongly and firmly without resorting to distortions and hysterics, even though we haven't had a lot of models for doing so lately.

Vote--and remember to bring your ID

Elections, Wauwatosa

Today's your chance to help narrow the field of competent, promising candidates for mayor of Wauwatosa. There's a county supervisor seat and, depending on where you live, you might be able to do the same thing for your city council representatives.

You'll need your ID this time. I don't expect that will make much difference here, but it will be interesting to watch the experience in communities with larger or more transient populations.

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