November 13, 2010

Santa arrives and helps light Downtown's Christmas tree

OK, it's now officially the Christmas season! Sure, retailers started putting up decorations and holiday sale merchandise before Halloween, and Black Friday's shopping mania is still two weeks away, but we date the season from the lighting of Racine's Monument Square Christmas tree.

Make-a-Wish participant Frankie Hernandez of Kenosha lit the tree Saturday night, pushing the "on" switch with the help of Santa himself.

The tree lighting followed a 90-minute parade viewed by thousands -- mostly children, huddled under blankets or bundled into parkas along Main and Sixth Streets. They were treated to the usual assortment of holiday spectacle: dancers, bands, a few holiday floats, princesses, reindeer and dogs in their holiday finery.

And the usual anomalies: cars promoting a driving school, radio stations and plasma; Star Wars characters; Corvettes for Christ; the mayor with a "Dickert for Mayor" sign on his car; SC Johnson "product characters." Ah, the true meaning of Christmas!

Oh, and Santa, of course.

She had the biggest candy cane along the parade route

Milwaukee's Dancing Grannies

Postal Carriers making sure kids' letters to Santa will get delivered

Rescue dogs

The Grinch rode a snowmobile

Atonement Lutheran Church's float had Santa and a Nativity scene

Frankie Hernandez and Santa lit the tree

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November 12, 2010

Library's bookstacks reopen to browsing

Is there more light on the stacks and reading area, or does it just seem that way?

Ah, the joy of rummaging through the library's stacks of books, movies and CDs, looking for nothing in particular but anything that catches your eye.

That pleasure -- denied us for the past 10 weeks while the second-floor adult section of the Racine Public Library was closed for renovation (new carpet, asbestos removal, construction of some new study rooms, etc.) -- is available once again.

The library reopened today, to heavy traffic, as those of us who've been going through text-on-paper withdrawal are now allowed back in the stacks. Lots of catching up to do! Early reviews are good: everything seems much brighter and lighter upstairs. Which is a good thing, since nothing is where it used to be, and it will take a while to get used to the new layout. But have no fear: there are maps, and helpful librarians ready to point you in the right direction.

Welcome to the Neighborhood -- one of several new topic areas

Graphic novels in the young adult area

My favorite improvement: current issues of popular magazines are grouped together,
making them more visible and more accessible

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November 11, 2010

Don't you dare tell Mary Beth Danielson
that you're suffering from compassion fatigue

By Mary Beth Danielson
For RacinePost
 I was driving back to work today after meeting a friend for lunch.  On the radio was an interview with a woman who works for a medical services program in Haiti.

I won’t go into the sad urgencies in that beleaguered country.  Decimated by poverty, rocked (literally) by the earthquake, subjected to torrential rains, now it is on the teetering edge of a cholera epidemic.  The interviewer asked the doctor, “But how do you raise funds when people seem to be suffering compassion fatigue?”

Compassion fatigue? 

Apparently the phrase means that if we hear too many hard luck stories, we shut down and pay attention to none of them. 

Oh, on some levels I get it.  There are more places to give money than we have money to give. There are more cause to support, than we have energy and time to support.

But Compassion Fatigue?  What an ugly thought and phrase.  Do we really, really want to measure out our empathy in doses, like cups of flour in a cake?  Is it okay for us to shut our eyes, close our ears, and just say, “Oops, sorry, I gave at the office”? Or “So sorry, I can’t think about suffering anymore, I have too much to do. I’m really very busy, you know.” 

Compassion fatigue? Good heavens. Compassion makes us be our best selves.   

Did you know that compassion is a stage of development? When small children play together, and one bumps his noggin and cries, and the kid next to him hands him a Teddy bear -- that moment of tyke compassion is a sign of healthy human development.

Which begs the question.  What do you call it when banks, or investment firms, or the uber-rich take over a viable, working company; then squeeze it with layoffs to “maximize profit”?  

This is what happens.  Raw greed takes over and our best humanity flies out the window. As we Americans, living in this time, know too well. 

Here’s another thing.  Look at your life.  When were you more beautiful, more noble, or having more fun than when you were inconveniently generous? When you made extra food and shared it, how great did you feel later? When you worked with others to fix a house for a person in need, did that make you less or more of an awesome person? When you joined a group that traveled across the county or across the globe to do your small part to serve people in need; was that awful or was that fun?

For me it was so many moments.  I have helped host dozens of Mayaworks Fair Trade sales of products made by Maya women in Guatemala.  It’s always a pile of work, and I’d be lying if I said I did all this with the Light of The Divine in my soul.  Nah, I complain a lot. 

But I went to Guatemala.  I stayed some days in the home of a MayaWorks weaver. I played checkers (I’d brought the game with me) on a rickety wooden table, beneath the only light bulb in the dark, unpainted, very, very poor home, with the handsome, dark-eyed 15-year-old son of the family. He was the only person in that family of 12 who sort of understood the rules of the game.  And, I swear, the other 11 members of the family all crowded around us in that dim room, cheering him on, except for 10-year-old Patricia who wanted me to win.  I lost.  She hugged me anyway. 

Here’s the stunning thing.  He was done with his homework for the day. I knew that because MayaWorks orders woven products from his mother, and she makes enough money to allow him the time to go to school.  In the third world, most 15-year-old boys are already working full-time.
My (whiney) compassion helped make a world where that handsome kid could have a future. 
Compassion makes us stronger.  It helps us make friends.  It leads us into adventures. It saves us from the tedium of being ridiculously rich. 

When we do our part to lift others, we are lifted. 
Of course I want you to come to some MayaWorks sales.  If you want to know more about MayaWorks check out

I am hosting the sale at Wilson’s.  Stop by and say hi to me.

Saturday, Nov. 13                        10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Fall Health & Gift Fest at Lake House Health & Learning Center   932 Lake Ave.           
Start your shopping in a beautiful Victorian home (that happens to be for sale).                                   

Saturday, Nov. 20                         8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Wilson’s Coffee & Tea   3306 Washington Ave.

Free Bonus Offer – Free writing sampler created by Mary Beth Danielson and her husband Leonard for shoppers who purchase something from Wilson’s AND something from MayaWorks. 

Saturday, Nov. 27                        10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Racine Marriott Hotel             7111 Washington Ave.
Free entrance with donation of non-perishable food item. Expo offers homemade crafts, jewelry, holiday gifts, wood crafts, pottery, gift baskets, and raffles. Snack bar available.

Friday & Saturday, December 3rd, 5-8PM  &  4th, 9AM-4PM
Quaker Meeting House, 3224 N. Gordon Place
, Milwaukee
 Shop for eclectic holiday gifts from around the world while you help support non-profit organizations. Enjoy hot drinks & hearty eats in the cafĂ©. Bring along a non-perishable food item to donate.

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Northern Lights Gallery honored for its work with the disabled

Northern lights Gallery has been named Wisconsin’s Small Employer of the year by the Wisconsin Association for Persons in Supported Employment (APSE). 

APSE focuses on career advancement opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Northern Lights was nominated by Careers Industries for providing work and training opportunities along with the sale of artwork produced by Careers Industries clients.

Northern Lights, 423 Main St., also has worked with Lakeside Curative Center and supported orphans in Tanzania through sales of artwork produced by the orphans, with all of the proceeds returned to them to further their education and improve living conditions. 
Jack and Pam Viroglio, owners of Northern Lights Gallery, said their business model from the start included supporting organizations whose efforts make the community a better place to live for all.
The award was presented at the APSE meeting on Nov. 2 in Elkhart Lake.

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Shhh! Tucker's looking for a quiet home

Hello, my name is Tucker! 

I am a 5-year-old neutered male brown tiger. I have been with Countryside Humane Society since July 2. 

I do not like the noise in the kennel so I went into foster care and did perfectly fine. I love to jump on the couch and cuddle with my owner. I'm a bigger gentleman so I do not like to be picked up in the kennel. I am for children over 10 due to noise. Please come visit me.

Tucker's adoption fees include all of his vaccinations, microchip and more. If you like Tucker but can not adopt consider a donation for his care directly through the shelter or through Pay Pal on Countryside's website.

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That train has left the station...

Walker firm on pledge to block high-speed rail

$100 million, and 400+ jobs lost now: Doyle

Illinois dangles gifts to entice Talgo move

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November 9, 2010

Racine Health Department launches WIC campaign

The City of Racine Health Department today announced a program aimed at signing up eligible WIC clients before the winter weather hits.

The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program provides food to help pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, and children under five years. You may qualify if you live in Wisconsin and you: are pregnant, breastfeeding, or a new mom in the last six months; have an infant or children under five years; have a health or nutrition need; and earn a household income meeting WIC guidelines.

Dottie-Kay Bowersox, Public Health administrator, said, “With the coming cold weather, many families are worried about the higher costs: home heating, extra clothing, medical care, and more. This can make it hard to afford healthy food for mothers and young children. The City of Racine Health Department wants to make sure WIC eligible families are signed up for benefits before the winter months.”

You are income-eligible for WIC if you receive Kinship Care, W-2, FoodShare, BadgerCare, or Medicaid, including Healthy Start. WIC uses the same income criteria as free and reduced school lunches.

The Racine Health Department is sending out mailers, above, to neighborhoods which often use WIC services. Those eligible should call the WIC office at 636-9494 for an appointment, then bring the mailer card with them to receive free Racine Zoo passes for some healthy and educational family time.
For more information, contact the Racine WIC Clinic at 262/636-9494.

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November 8, 2010

New Racine entertainment website launches

A new website that promises to make it easier to find something to do in Racine has just launched. is an online entertainment source and events calendar for everyone planning a night out or a fun weekend in Racine County.

Whether you’re in the mood for theatre or Packer game bar specials, fish fry or a gourmet dinner, live music, Gallery Night, seasonal events or a festival, says it will provide an easy way to discover the entertainment opportunities available here.

The site now lists 350 businesses and cultural organizations in the restaurant, bar, band and entertainment sectors, offering information on each establishment as well as tools for businesses to post live music schedules, events, specials, coupons, photos and videos.

“This website is a great vehicle for area businesses to market to their customers professionally and inexpensively with a medium that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” co-owner Caroline Fritchen stated.

RacineNightOut offers musicians and bands free profiles with the ability to post gigs and upload their music to the NightOut Radio, another feature of the website, that plays music by local musicians. Audiences will be able to locate where their favorite bands are playing or listen to their music.

“Much of our entertainment relies on the arts: musical, performance, culinary and visual, it seems only natural to combine them on one site to reflect our growing creative community,” said Maureen Fritchen. “Each week we will also feature a local musician or band and a visual artist on the site.”

For more information visit or email

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November 7, 2010

Photographer's book highlights sailing in Racine's waters

Photographer Craig Brandt has released a new book about Racine and the sport of sailing off her shores.

Craig is a freelance photographer/photojournalist whose work is on display at Northern Lights Gallery, 423 Main St.

His book, “Sailing by the Belle,” chronicles the sport of sailing along Racine's coastal waters, and features more than 50 of his pictures of local landmarks, club racing and coverage of national regattas. Along the way he provides an insight to the area, events and techniques used to capture the images.

 “Sailing by the Belle” is available from the photographer’s website.

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