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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!

Who should we care about?

Wauwatosa Common Council, transmission lines, Mitt Romney, 47%

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's statement that he didn't need to concern himself with 47% of the population was a shocker.

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"4 sale - playground"

Recess, Wauwatosa, Jefferson School,


Right next to the "Kids eat free" sign in the old Lutheran (now Baptist) church yard: "4 sale - playgound."

The for-sale playground structure fills the entire pocket between the church and its former school on North Avenue. I recognize the church's original name, carved in stone, from my father's baptismal certificate, over one hundred years old now and written in German. I doubt they fed kids there in my dad's day, though they were not strangers to hunger. But those old Germans believed in exercise to build the sound body needed to house a sound mind.

Children don't live by food alone, regardless of who provides the food. To grow strong and whole, they need to climb and jump and play. Move through space, bend and stretch, reach for the sky.

Play is how children learn. Educational research shows that kids learn best when their entire bodies are engaged, at least up until age 9. And yet Wauwatosa's Jefferson School recently eliminated recess for 6 and 7 year olds, saying there's no time for it.

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Eagle Scouts to the rescue?

Root Commons, Eagle Scouts, Eschweiler Buildings, community development

Daughter Liz and I spent some pleasant Saturday hours at Tosa Fest, munching sweet potato fries and sipping Chimay white ale on the edge of the Menomonee River. We met some old friends, relished Paul Cebar's music, and picked up Save the Eschweilers yard signs.

If walking around Wauwatosa's village doesn't remind you of the delight and importance of preserving history and the places it happened, not much will.

Some fine work has been done on some of the old buildings there. Interesting businesses are growing roots, while new ones are sprouting because the area's attractive and there's foot traffic, the key to prosperity in villages.

But our hearts sank  we came upon  Root Commons. Even the road signs are askew. Mostly hard dirt now, the ground is oddly pitched, with a wooden picnic table dropped here, a random Port-a-Potty sitting alone there at a rakish or alarming angle, depending on how much history you have with outhouse tippage. I suspect the one cheerful note, a popcorn wagon, was less than delighted to find itself parked next door to a potty.

The commons used to be a real gathering place, with a central structure, grass, and seasonal plantings. Long before that it was the village green, just down the road from the first public school built in the city. Whatever it is now seems to have just happened, a combination of small attempts and large neglect. It's an eyesore. An embarrassment to a city trying to stay upscale.

That's what happens when you don't take care of things.

In 2007 the Community Development Committee passed Resolution R-07-94 for a proposed improvement project plan, subject to approval by many folks. Was tearing down what was there the extent of the plan? I doubt it.

Parks Board minutes from August 21st of this year note that they currently are waiting for central scouts office funding for an Eagle Scout project to fix the park, and that a mason will be around to supervise the work. No plan or description is available. Apparently this will happen sometime after the scouts finish another project, replacing a fence on 68th Street. Who knew we were outsourcing construction projects to children in search of community service and merit badges?

My enthusiasm for the nobility of volunteers is a little tempered by the belief that this pocket park needs to be a village centerpiece, not an after-thought. It's a big job. I hope the scouts are up to it.

Of course, it will take more than Eagle Scouts to save the Eschweilers. Maybe a couple former Eagle Scout, current millionaires. Though it really seems we should be able to steer our own civic destiny, make a smart investment in oursleves and our future, without having to depend entirely on good deeds and individual charity.

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Idaho peaches, oh my!

Idaho peaches, farmers markets, Brennan's

They say Wisconsin has two seasons: winter and road construction. But the Wisconsin I live in has two, and my favorite is farmer's market season. So while my friend Tom writes of the gustatory and comardely pleasures of the pursuit of the finned, feathered, and furry flesh, I must write of pursuit of the fruit.

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Further adventures in riding the bus

As I read the death dates tatooed on the beautiful brown skin of the woman sitting next to me, I wonder whether her heart rests a little easier for having them there, a reminder for everyone to see.

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