Everyday Politics


Sometimes I wish politics didn’t play such an important role in everyday life. But it does.

After a year of polarizing issues in Wisconsin, everyday politics means we carefully choose our words because we know after we take a stance on an issue we will be sitting in the bleachers, next to our friends and neighbors, for the rest of the game.

Thankfully, there are people like Erika Hotchkiss who decide now is the perfect time to take everyday politics a step further.  With a passion for social justice, she brings the first fair trade coffee shop to Verona, organizes community forums and mixes business with politics by letting recall petitioners meet and greet at a table inside her local shop.  As if this isn’t enough to help her community and bring working family issues to the forefront, Erika sets her sights on a position with the Dane County Board and trains for political leadership by enrolling in Emerge WI.

She’s ready to serve the community with more than just talk.

Her endorsement list is long, but it’s Erika’s authenticity that earns my support.  Her actions align with her beliefs.

Erika Hotchkiss is an inspiration. If she can make time for politics, it must be time for everyday people to take our politics beyond the bleachers. It’s time to vote.

I support Erika Hotchkiss for Dane County Board and encourage you to enter politics in your own way by examining her platform http://www.erikahotchkiss.com/ and casting your vote for Erika, either in person or by absentee ballot, on April 3rd.


Letter to the editor in support of Erika Hotchkiss for Dane County Board
Submitted to Verona Press on March 20th, 2012.

by A. Woz@ChildGrower Blog


Spirit of Wrestling Shines Through


Letter to the Editor

March 5, 2012

Kudos to the Verona Youth Wrestling Club (VYWC) coaches, officers and volunteers for their work hosting about 500wrestlers for the annual Warm Up to Regionals tourney in Verona last Saturday.

Volunteer coordination, set in motion weeks ago by dedicated youth club leaders, organized an enormous amount of volunteer hours from current and former K-12 wrestling families.  The community support from Miller & Sons, Cousins Subs, Colonial Bakery and Culvers is outstanding. The janitors at VAHS are top notch and the ordinary dads who do the heavy lifting of the concession supplies and all those mats are extraordinary in their service.  Volunteers feed about 1500 spectators during the day. Wrestling families navigate a packed gym with 5 full-size wrestling mats buzzing with back to back matches.

If you haven’t been to a youth tourney, it’s quite the sight and very noisy! Volunteer referees donate an entire day to keeping kids safe and scoring the fast-paced action of youth wrestling. Most refs are high schoolers doing a tremendous job teaching wrestling to young competitors as they call the points.

Facing pretzel-like pinning combinations, young wrestlers-some boys, some girls- shake hands, look into the faces of opponents and then wrestle hard.  Sometimes it kinda hurts.  That courage is mirrored in the brave faces of the moms and dads who send them out to the mats to face one on one competition. There truly is no other sport like this!

We’d also like to recognize Verona’s positive matside parents and coaches who enthusiastically support club wrestlers without acting like fanatics. These grown-ups demonstrate good sportsmanship when referees make mistakes and offer a solid handshake to both wrestlers when it is over.  If a young wrestler gets discouraged or bent out of shape, the parents shrug it off with a hug, send them to the coaches for a little pep talk, and then get a good grip on the life lessons of winning and losing at the grade school level.

Verona’s youth wrestling leadership promotes having fun, a positive environment, quality coaching and uses parent-driven decisions to determine competition readiness. Good approach. We feel confident that someday, these youth wrestlers will be able to repeat the words of Verona high school wrestler, Eric Schmid, a 2012 state wrestling place winner and graduate of VYWC, who proudly says after finishing his first season on the varsity mat, “I love my time here.”

This is exactly what Verona’s K-12 Verona wrestling program is all about. Well done VYWC.


ChildGrower, A. Woz.

A version of this post appeared in the Verona Press on Thursday 3/18/2012.

When Violence is part of Dinner Conversation

Yesterday’s ChildGrower blog was about the Ohio school shooting and the sad and permanent choices made by immature teens.

The post was not about bullying but most readers did not hesitate to make the connection.

Though it is still unknown whether bullying played a role in the shooting deaths of (now) three students,  comments on the EmpoweringParents facebook page , which featured my post, thank you EP,   were largely focused on bullying behavior and prevention.

Bullying prevention, gun control, school safety and mental health issues and more, led as topics explored by journalists and professionals dissecting yet another violent situation we’d all like to prevent

There may never be any clear answers or causes behind this shooting – or similar shootings- but talking about it with your children, maybe over dinner, will be more effective prevention tactic than all the media coverage and school anti-bullying programs  in existence.

Social skills are grey areas.

Teens, craving both anonymity and popularity, navigate the narrow path between fitting in and flaunting their authentic self.  Someone’s difficulty connecting with classmates is another’s inability to overcome shyness.  Enormous emotional, physical and educational growth takes place for adolescents  while grouped together in one building  sometimes for as long as eight hours a day.   Effective communication skills allow everyone, and especially teens,  to navigate a world of imperfect people.

A teen, ignored or deliberately avoided, might need social skills more than bully awareness.  He or she may need extensive time with trusted adults,  like teachers, coaches or the school guidance counselor to learn and practice social skills, assertiveness and confidence.

One parent commented she is grateful her own angry teen has not taken the same path.   We worry.  But worry doesn’t accomplish much. Sometimes we have to say it out loud. We are afraid of what our angry teen might do and we are desperate to get them to talk with us and let us help them learn the skills to deal with situations that cause them pain.

Throwing in a few hugs on a daily basis will go a long way toward establishing a supportive environment but don’t wait until Junior is a teenager, start racking up the hug count early and increase as each pair of pants is outgrown.

Prevention of violence in schools

Are students part of the best solution? There’s a lot of discussion out there about classmates actively preventing bullying and even helping schools avoid situations like the one in Ohio’s campus cafeteria. Some of the current prevention strategies suggest students can recognize and report suspicious behaviors including bullying activity, violent threats, suicide hints and other mental health meltdowns.  Administrators and parents are not objecting to this new critical role for students and many are actively promoting it.

Heaping another duty on immature, irrational students,  this one a very critical responsibility, is a duty best left to professionals.

The American School Counselors Association (ASCA) recommends 250:1.  Does anyone else think one guidance counselor to 250 students is absurd?  Then be aware that in some state ratios are 450:1.  But wait, most schools, including Ohio do not have guidance counselor  mandates at all- including Ohio.

Education funding is being slashed across the nation with operating budgets decreasing for the past 10 years in my home state.  How many schools can afford to prioritize the funds needed to support the emotional needs of  hundreds of students walking, talking, maturing in real-time response to every negative and positive interactions that occurs in cafeteria’s and on playgrounds across America?

With shootings like Ohio continue to occur, how many schools can afford not to?

What can a parent do?
  • Do you know if bullying is part of the cycle of your child’s life?
  • Can you admit and address the problem if your child is the bully?
  • If your child is  a victim,  can you rely on the programs almost every school is trotting out including awareness campaigns and declaring prevention is in place while hoping results will be positive?
  • If your child is a witness to bullying does he or she have the words and the courage to do something, anything?

Despite the teenage surly appearance at times, or the constant eye-rolling and shrugging of shoulders, teens  and preteens do hear and learn from parents. You don’t have to be a guidance counselor or mental health expert to start an awareness campaign of your own.   The Family Dinner is a great place to start a tradition of exploring the national news and sharing the most important news of your teen’s day.

Many moms and dads just like you talked about it over last night’s dinner table.   Care to share what you learned?

by ChildGrower-A. Woz


Link and Think

Some of the best coverage of the these related topics are linked below.

Sharing the words of Marlo Thomas on the sad and desperate loneliness of bullied children (linked above) published by the Huffington Post on 2/29/2012.


Dr. Frank Ochberg is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Michigan State University and former Associate Director of the National Institute of Mental Health. Published on CNN on 2/29/2012


The Gunman is a Juvenile

 CNN report  on the Ohio school shooting on 2/27/2012.

Update 2/28/2012 1:00pm- a third student has died as a result of injuries from the shooting at the school. 

Title of the article?  Students describe alleged Ohio gunman as sweet, sad 

Sweet? Sad? Gunman? which of these words doesn’t belong here?

It’s gunman.

We’d like to think that the person with the gun at the recent school shooting in Ohio was a gunman.  A full-grown adult.  Someone mature.  Someone who has no future.  Someone who is capable of taking full responsibility for his/her actions.

Then the shooting  would be horrible and sad, but never sweet and certainly not “juvenile”- which is actually what the alleged ‘gunman’  is.

I watched the press pictures during the coverage.  Moms hugged daughters and sons as they picked them up safe and unharmed, okay physically unharmed.

Worse- the list of injured students, at the time of this post one student died.

Lives are changed.

This situation is not one of those documented behavior “incidents” for a student’s file. This is not one of those cases where parents convene with teachers to create a fix it plan. There is no going back for the young gunman.

And if the shooter were your young juvenile,  he or she would soon be viewed as so much older than an immature high school student.   And the consequences are so much greater than an immature high school student pays- sweet, sad or otherwise.

The shooter is a gunman and the gunman will not be disciplined by mom or dad  but will be punished by the court of law.  And that is the difference that one young and angry teenage brain did not take time to think through. Parents discipline;  the court system punishes.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and to the juvenile shooter in this horrible situation.  And to the parents of all.

-A. Woz.

Originally posted in 2009.

ChildGrower Blog by Annita Woz

seenoevilRight in the middle of watching the best Disney channel repeat ever, a shocking thing happened. The house went completely still. Power outage.

Some powerline crisscrossing the star filled night sky of this rural town, had been forced down, by the weight of the ice and the winds that chilled and convinced even the heartiest of the winter loving natives to abandon activities and bundle up with family while gathered around a fireplace stocked with logs split by someone who still considered necessary workout equipment to be an axe instead of a lanyard with an access card to the local gym. 

No hummm of the DVD player, no squeaking of the fan on the computer, no bubbling sound from the fish tank, just complete silence.

In a way it was a beautiful refocusing. A rare opportunity to rethink life as we know it and a wake up call to never take…

View original post 847 more words

It’s WIAA State Wrestling Weekend! Good Luck wrestlers and coaches.

ChildGrower Blog by Annita Woz

wrestlingfrontfeet1   Seconds of time on a wrestling mat combine with time spent at the Woz Hotel during the state tournament and become a part of our family wrestling story.

The yearly trek to the state tourneys is a cherished pursuit of athletic honor and a trip that team mates and family look forward to all season.  It is a bittersweet opportunity where mothers of wrestlers get sleepless nights while wrestlers dream deeply of walking in the Parade of Champions, lights out, single file, ready to work for one last win.   We would wish this on everyone if we could.

After the history books record the final match points, the fastest pins, the major decisions, what matters most is that the competitors got the chance to  face the best in their class and the spectators, the fans, the families, are all in the bleachers where they are able to embellish and retell the tournament with the detail that comes from having been there.

What is left…

View original post 1,508 more words


December 10, 2011
Letter by Erika Hotchkiss as posted on Forward Lookout blog. 

Since the beginning of the recall effort in Verona I have received many messages and phone calls both in support and in opposition to Tuvalu’s participation in the recall effort. I would like to take a moment to clarify why I have made the decision to involve my local business in this issue.
Tuvalu Coffeehouse & Gallery has, since it’s opening, been all about social justice.

Everything I do I do with the thought of how it will affect our community, our children, and quite honestly our world. I have set out to make a place in Verona that educates consumers and offers a family friendly environment and a socially conscious choice within our community.

I feel strongly that what is happening to the people of our state and the divisiveness that we see at the Capitol is, at its core, a social justice issue. I have, therefore, provided the recall Walker organizers in Verona a place to collect signatures where they can sit out of the cold at a table in the corner and be safe, and the people who want to sign the recall petition can sign it knowing that they are signing in a place where they and their signatures are also safe. The recall group has been very respectful of our business and our customers. They sit quietly at a table with their petitions waiting for people to come to them if they so choose.
As a customer recently wrote to me “Some might think that putting politics into your business is risky… Sometimes, separating the two is the least authentic choice. We must all go to bed at night knowing we are measured by the positions we take on a daily basis. I applaud the transparency and I know you sleep well.”
No matter the outcome, I wouldn’t change a thing.

As a longtime resident of Verona, a mother to three wonderful kids, and a small business owner I have to make the best choices I am able to every day. I love that we have a safe place in Verona for people to sign. I love that I am able to stand up for what’s right with integrity and feel empowered and supported by this wonderful community! I have never been silent when I see injustice and misuse of power no matter the risk. I truly would walk away from anything where I was not able to be authentic to who I am and what I believe. This is what Tuvalu is at its core… it’s more than just a place to get a great cup of coffee.

Thank you all and Happy Holidays!
Erika Hotchkiss

Erika is the owner of Tuvalu Coffeehouse and Gallery in Verona, WI. 

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