Message from Nan Stears (1/4/2011)

Dear WMD Members and Friends,

In the 46 years since our Heidi was born, this is the first time she has not been with us for Christmas; to our utter astonishment, we have survived. That little family – – our daughter, her husband and their son – – were able to fly to Spain on Christmas eve, and they had a wonderful European holiday. It has been a wonderfully quiet time for us. We needed to think about a lot of things and begin to make plans for the next two years. WMD figures prominently in those plans as we want to continue making mischief until after the 2012 election, then look at the rest of life. We both want to try our best to make a positive difference.

Because of many interesting conversations since the November 2nd election, we realize the discontent and worry about the state of our nation. But with the flurry of activity by the congress just before it adjourned for the Christmas holiday, we are personally pleased with what was accomplished by our president and the democratic party. When the balance tilts toward the republican party in 2011, we are worried. What will they be up to then? We decided two years ago that we hoped our grandson, Christopher, would be able to finish high school and nearly finish college while Obama was in the White House. We believed that strongly in him; not everyone does, but we still do. Christopher is in his sophomore year and will be in his senior year in 2012. We hoped he would be able to get through these vitally important years with a positive role model. Well, so far so good.

As I wrote in late November or early December, our plans for Democracy School fell apart when we failed to reach an agreement with all of the people in on the planning. I accept full responsibility for the decision to cancel the February intensive two days. Those representing DFNH have gone ahead with their plans. A chance meeting with Susan Carr at Souhegan High School made me aware that she has found an excellent venue for them. In the meantime, I have invited Gail Darrell to meet with us in January, around our kitchen table, as she prefers. Gail is the authority on Democracy School and can give us the information we need in order to plan our own DS. I would like to invite any of you who are interested in attending, organizing, funding, a WMD DS to give me a call letting me know you would like to meet with Gail on Tuesday, January 18th, here at our home in Amherst. There are a few with whom I’ve spoken who are interested. Please don’t be shy. Our plan is to have a morning meeting beginning about 10:30, followed by a simple pot-luck lunch. Please consider this opporknockity..

The next evening, at the library in Amherst, Ruth Heden and I invite interested people to attend a “conversation” about taxes in New Hampshire. We are both members of the Granite State Fair Tax Coallition, though Ruth has been a much more active member. (For those of you unfamiliar with the GSFTC, it’s an organization created to get folks in NH to start thinking about multiple ways to raise revenue rather than focusing solely on property tax.) This in not a WMD event, but we certainly hope many of you will be interested in having this conversation. Do you know what percentage of your income you pay in property taxes? We hope people will attend with an open mind ready to have a civil discussion about HOW we tax in New Hampshire. We have no agenda other than to make people more aware of the fairness or lack thereof of New Hampshire taxes. Please consider attending. That is Wednesday evening, January 19th, at 6:30 in the evening.

And to really start our year with a bang, we have invited Arnie Arnesen to come to a WMD event, also at the Library in Amherst , on January 30th – – a 5th Sunday. Few have anything scheduled on 5th Sundays, so we hope to attract a good number. Those of you who heard Arnie at the “summit” in December know how she can ignite a crowd. She truly speaks truth to power. We are using the library because we can advertise the event, which we cannot if we use the clubhouse at The Fells. The room in the basement of the library holds 50 – – come early. More information to follow.

December 29th was a special anniversary for me personally. It was 15 years ago that I fell skiing at Pat’s Peak and broke my left leg. A bad outcome left me with an injured right leg and a well-repaired left leg. That’s the bad news. The good news is that perhaps I would never have gotten involved politically had it not been for that accident. It is oh so possible that the world would be going by without our even noticing. One never knows what’s coming around the next corner. When we rounded that corner, back in 1995, life took on a different perspective. When we bumped into Howard Dean in 2004, life became really interesting. And as we look around the corner into 2011, we can hardly wait. Away we go!

May we take this opportunity to wish each of you an especially bright new year. Let us make mischief together and see what comes of it. We promise to eventually have a real list of members, to do a real phone tree, to establish a real letter-writing committee and to have fun doing so. Let me know how you would like to help and what you would most like to do. We need help, feed back and your commitment to make WMD a functional operation. Give us a call; we are at 603 673-3730.

Our warmest wishes to each of you, hoping you have had a peaceful holiday season and knowing you look forward to the year 2011.

Sending love,

Pete and Nan

PS Pete reminds me of all we need to address locally and at the state level. He has agreed to write down his concerns which will follow shortly. Without his support, there would never have been a wild-eyed, liberal organization called WMD. I’m going to keep him.

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Message from Nan Stearns – Oct. 17

Dear WMD – Women Making a Difference,

It has been too long since you’ve heard from your Fearless Founder! In August/September Pete and I drove across these United States and back, then spent a glorious week with dear friends in Wellfleet on Cape Cod. When we returned home we were stunned to learn that Cynthia Dokmo had been defeated in the primary; we had always supported Cynthia as well as Peter Bergin. We began to gather sources from The Citizen, The Cabinet, and word-of-mouth filling us in on the venom that had been spewing through our community. Then we read the destructive letter about our own Shannon Chandley, published in both The Cabinet and The Citizen this past week. We don’t doubt that there will be more poison poured into circulation before November 2nd bad-mouthing other candidates in our district.

Just before we left for California, and my brother’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration in Eureka, California, our book group had done Hamlet – – at my suggestion. I was the facilitator, worried that the reaction from our group would be negative. Much to my delight, we had a good discussion, and I was encouraged to reread more Shakespeare. So it was a thrill to attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s production of Hamlet while on the west coast. It was an amazing version, with the Ghost of Hamlet telling Prince Hamlet about his being poisoned “in the porches of my ear” using American Sign Language. The Ghost was mute. It was great fun then to read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, also mute, with Hamlet-linked characters and poison galore, in the bottle and in the verbiage. There was innuendo; there was the blatant lie. It reminded me of the suggestion that Obama was not really born in Hawaii. You have certainly heard the lie that he is Muslim And Cynthia, what of her? Shannon voted to allow men in a women’s bathroom. Horrors! Poison, Venom, Fear, Lies, Hate, Misinformation! I’d give anything for TRUTH, CIVILITY and KINDNESS! Pete adds, “Good government should never be ugly.”

Earlier this year we attended a town meeting of Carol Shea Porter’s. In attendance were “tea party” members whose soul purpose was to disrupt. It was the first time we had seen this toxic form of incivility. A very similar air blew into the School Board Meeting we attended when adults called for the resignation of the superintendent and school board members. It makes me wonder what people are eating or drinking or smoking. From our perspective there is too much poison in the air; we are going to concentrate on antitoxins.

An aside: My father was the village pharmacist in a little town in central Oregon. In the spring there was the potential for snake bites, so Dad sold snake-bite kits. I wonder if those kits might be just the thing for Amherst. Antitoxins? Let’s order some.

SO I have made an executive decision to ignore all of the toxicity and to formally announce our strong, positive and personal support for a few candidates. We have never done this before; we doubt you will be surprised or mind.

Starting from the top, we support Peggo Hodes’ husband Paul. They are a great team worthy of our support. If Carol Shea Porter is in your district, that is a no-brainer. We are making calls for Annie Kuster and know she will make a positive difference in the US Congress. Debora Pignatelli attended our founding meeting in February of 2005; she must be reelected to the Executive Council. Deb and Mike are also a great team. Our two local ladies, Shannon Chandley from Amherst and Ruth Heden from Milford are simply the best. They need and deserve our support. And we intend to write in Cynthia Dokmo. Cynthia has always had the interest of our community at heart, and we shall happily add her name to our ballot. We must be certain to spell her name correctly, to also fill in the circle by her written-in name and to vote for not more than eight candidates total. We know we’ve not touched all races, but this is our super-seven list.

One of our favorite songs has always been “Accentuate the Positive”. Do that! And as Flower said to Bambi, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” Trite you say? You betcha! But it has always been good advice.

I hope to refine this messy epistle and send it to both the Amherst and Milford papers. If you have any suggestions, please send me an email or give me a call this weekend. We are at home. Our email is and our phone is 673-3730.

Many thanks for making the time to read something sent from the heart.


P.S. Betty Hall, who is running for state representative in Hollis, Mason and Brookline, is on the ballot as an independent moderate. How fabulous it would be to find Shannon, Ruth, Betty and Cynthia together in Concord, working for the people for whom they care. We hope to make that possible. What great ladies they are – – wonderful women making a difference.

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Message from Nan Stearns

Dear Members of WMD – Women Making a Difference,

Yesterday I had a meeting of our book-selection committee here at home, so it was perfect to take a day to do something else and to think of other things – – and to reflect on the events of this past weekend.  So many of you attended one or both of the two “happenings”, and this morning it was your faces that awakened me.  It was your voices that made my heart happy; it was you who have made the mischief we’ve made so worthwhile.  As always happens, when I try to list people, someone is left out.  So please try to understand that I simply want to thank you for coming on Saturday and/or on Sunday.  If you were not able to attend an event, you might want to know a little of what happened.
On Saturday morning, it rained.  As Gail said on Sunday, we should have traded days.  The gorgeous day that dawned on Sunday was much more conducive to marching around the Oval in support of 350 Day.  But, that rainy morning did not dampen the spirits of the wonderful group that filled the sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Milford.  Young and old spoke out, sang out and rapped in honor of our support for this planet and the difficult work ahead in trying to reduce carbon emissions to 350 parts per million.  After the inter-faith service, many of us donned our rain gear and started for the Oval, but then the rains really came and we had to turn back to the church.  There, a warm and wonderful autumn soup awaited us, complemented by local greens and delicious desserts.  It was a perfect time for many conversations with those who have worked on the climate issue.  Tables of information gave us an opportunity to learn more about ways to help.  Gail Denemark gave a lovely welcome to all participants and read a letter from Bill McKibben whose initiative inspired more than 5000350 actions around the world.
Sunday was such a different time, but again we had a great turn out and a completely different subject.  Nancy Iannuzzelli had made all of the arrangements with the Amherst Library and had enlisted her husband’s help in setting up the DVD equipment so that we had no technical glitches.  The public was invited, and there were many gentlemen who came with or without WMD wives.  I was thrilled to see Joan Jones and her husband Nolan, who has recently had a stroke.  Joan let us know that this was Nolan’s first outing; we so hope we didn’t set back his recovery process.  Also, coming in just as we began, was Barbara Stromsted and her husband Erik, whom Pete and I have known forever – – since our daughters were in school together at Applewild in Fitchburg.  Erik has recently had a mass removed from his brain, and though this was not his first outing, we again hope we did not slow his recovery.  Two gentlemen introduced the Documentary, Rethinking Afghanistan, by letting us know it definitely had a point of view and was not “fair and balanced”.  For 45 minutes our crowd of 40 some, perhaps as many as 50, who had filled the basement meeting room, were stilled.  I was sitting just behind Christy Day, and certainly our “body language” was observable.  We were riveted!  We were saddened!  We confirmed to ourselves, and perhaps others, that we ought to be out of Afghanistan.
When discussion began, a gentleman sitting behind me made a comment about our body language and the slant of the film, and we were underway.  Dave let us know, in no uncertain terms, that he had spent lots of time in Afghanistan, that he was returning for the 4th time, and that he knew more about the situation there than any of the rest of us in the room.  This was really the first time, at a WMD event, we have had someone who has deliberatively tried to take over the discussion, dismiss other points of view and burst in at every possible moment.  This is my opinion.
And this is where I must use the term “learning experience”, for I hope it was for me.  I felt it necessary after only a little time , to point out to all that this was an organization of women founded so that women’s voices, often crowded out by “gentlemen’s”, could be heard.  I asked that the “gentlemen” give the women a chance to speak before taking over the discussion.  My sweet husband let Dave know that he, Pete, wanted too to hear from the ladies.  Well, HELP! We wanted to hear from Will, the young man showing the film, who has taken the job of Director of New Hampshire Peace Action.  Will served in Afghanistan and has a very different point of view from Dave’s.  Nancy Iannuzzelli, in her best teacher’s manner, asked Dave a few questions that gave us a little more information about Dave.  What we do not know is if he served four different assignments as a military man, if he works for a contractor, if he drives supply trucks, or if he is in charge of some other responsibility.  My husband suggested that he may be “A Soldier of Fortune”. Needless to say, the Sunday event at the library has heated my under collar.  Nancy Iannuzzelli, an unflappable teacher, was thrilled to have a different point of view and to give us an opportunity to grow from the experience.  She suggests that we monitor opinions only by allowing people a specific amount of time to speak and make sure everyone has an opportunity to weigh in on whatever subject we are discussing. 
I am writing as little as possible, and it is already too long, but it is impossible to keep from venting.  It would be so wonderful to hear from those of you who want to let us know how you reacted.  Too, it has been suggested that we do it again.  We could invite Will again, show the documentary again, and attempt to continue the conversation that was cut off too soon.  Certainly there is no shortage of passion on the subject.
And, one more thing, thanks to those who provided cider and cookies on Sunday.  We all look forward to the next time we make mischief.
Thank you for enduring my tirade.
P.S.  Fondest and warmest thanks to Gail Denemark and the Saturday committee and to Nancy Iannuzzelli and her husband for making each event possible.   Special fond and warm thanks to Christy Day and Betty Hall for their kind words of encouragement and support.  And heartiest thanks to all of you whose beautiful faces I remember in attendance at both functions.
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WMD Update from Nan Stearns

Dear WMD – Women Making a Difference,

Your summer was lovely, we hope.  Yes, there was a little too much rain, but the last few weeks have been so lovely that we’ve forgotten all about that.  And remember what a beautiful day we had on the 4th of July – – and on Labor Day.  I should have gotten off a report on the former and a regret on the latter, but the days have evaporated and it has been easy to be lazy.  Today is the last day of summer, so it seems a perfect time to send a word of greeting and a wee report.

Back to the 4th of July, we had just a small turnout for the parade.  Nancy Iannuzzelli once again provided her automobile and husband,  so some rode and the others marched.  Judy Gilliland, Elise DeMichael, Barbara Smith and Nancy I made a small statement with our banner and signs made by Mary Ann Conaway.  Gail Denemark and One Sky came right behind us with environmental signs.    Carolyn Coleman joined us in the car.  But there were many a WMD member in the area – – making a difference in a different way.  Carol Mannarino again took care of our table, greeting friends and signing up a few new members.  After leaving the parade, I ran immediately into Vanessa Foley and her activist daughter, who is really up on the issues.  We decided together that it might be a good idea to march next year with our daughters.  Food for thought.  Katey Hoose was on the green in her capacity of band member, and we had a good visit catching up on her family.  Ruth Heden and Lee Kass were gathering signatures for a Health-Care Reform petition.  Shannon Chandley and Debora Pignatelli marched with the “dignataries” in their roles of representative and member of executive council.  Laurie Biggers was also on the green with her husband, and she has recently made a difference in our lives with her counsel and advice as Pete and I chose colors for our fairly new condo.  You know full well I have already forgotten some, but thanks to all who participated in one way or the other when Amherst celebrated the nation’s birthday.

Ruth Heden has organized a “visibility” on the Milford Oval – – honk for health care – – which will continue through September.  Join Ruth and other hearty activists on Thursday evenings from 5:00 to 6:00.  You will be rewarded by many thumbs up and a symphony of horn honking.  You will be glad you came!

The Kitchen Cabinet recently met to talk about the coming year, and I would like to introduce these ladies to you should you not be aware of them.  Judy Gilliland is our great communicator, but Jeanne Ludt had the job earlier and is back again when Judy is away.  Susan Fischer, our web master, has reactivated our web site and has helped Judy and Jeanne coordinate our email list.  Susan offered her services; she is a wizard and knows what she is doing.  If all goes well we may become more organized and less dysfunctional.  Nancy Iannuzzelli will continue to be our parade person, though we decided to not join the Milford March on Labor Day.  Nancy also brings much expertise on environmental issues.  I promised not to call Gail Denemark our green elf ever again, but guess she will always be that to me.  Gail has worked so hard to get all of us going, and we can only hope she will continue to work on us in the future.  Barbara Smith, whom you may have seen tooting around on her motorized machine (scooter?) is involved in many causes to include keeping the Chair of the Amherst Democrats in top form.  Kathy Boyer continues to make great strides in her Dept. of Peace movement . She also alerted us to some important pending legislation called the “Youth Promise Act” to address the growing problems associated with juvenile delinquency. Our newest KC member, together with Susan Fischer, is Liz Morgan who is very involved with the arts.  We welcome her input.  Betty Hall is our sometimes advisor, and our never-ending inspiration.  

WMD has been making mischief since February of 2005, and it seems to be our intention to carry on.  Please join us when you can, send your emails when you are inspired, and continue to make a difference wherever you are and whatever to choose to do.  

I send best wishes for joy, peace, love, justice and all good things.