Story Wonders: What You Can Learn from Rummage

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I’ve learned priceless lessons from the transformation of a worship space into a gigantic place for trash that becomes treasures.

  1. Resist the ridiculous.We all have mountains of things like odd plastic mittens and pots that might be warmers but are not. The next time I see full price boot mitts for my Halloween costume, I will picture the teetering pile they will eventually perch upon.
  2. Hold out for the right amount. Full price is a crazy price. Most of what we buy will end up costing between 25 cents and ten dollars.
  3. It’s okay to give in to the sparkle now and then. Even though I have plenty already, a great bargain on a sparkly lamp has the power to tempt me. I reassure myself with the youth missions and women’s shelters my splurge will support.
  4. Hard work makes for time well spent. The monetary gifts from what might otherwise end up in a landfill make every moment with that roll of blue painter’s tape and a black sharpie worthwhile.
  5. Friends and family are better than the best deal. The true treasures I find at rummage sales come in the shape of smiles on the faces of workers who transmogrify chaos into a wonderland of bargains.

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Twice a year Puyallup United Methodist Church runs this sale, and here’s the basic blurb written by my friend and tireless neighbor, Donna McDonnell:

Huge rummage sale. Puyallup United Methodist Church at 1919 W Pioneer
in Puyallup, WA. Furniture, kitchen, bedding, clothing and lots more on Saturday March 26, 2017. 8am to 5pm. Great stuff. Reasonable prices.

Come by! You never know what you might find or learn.

Story Wonders: Why Turning the Other Cheek Doesn’t Mean Rolling Over and How It is So Freaking Hard

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Many years before crows feet landed under my eyes, I read a book about forgiveness.

I had long thought that forgiveness meant you just sucked it up, whatever someone did to you and then tried to move on. Over time, this became unsustainable. I could not keep walking away, biting my tongue, or taking the hits. My feet hurt, my tongue bled, and my arms bruised from the practice.

Then I found this book.

(I can’t find it now. I’m sure I gave it to someone, and I think it was my father, who worked so hard to let things go and not be angry.

A few minutes of scanning Amazon and the wide web did not find it. I’ll be sure to post it if I ever do come across it.)

The book said things that made me question what I thought I knew about Christianity.

It explained that turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and giving up your cloak–all things Jesus insisted we do–actually were forms of non-violent resistance.

If you turned the other cheek, for example, the Roman soldier hitting you would either have to punch you like an equal or give up slapping you as an inferior.

In other words, Jesus did not advise that we roll over and become doormats.

He did not advise that we turn away from injustice or the pain. Martin Luther King, Jr. also wrote of this third respond to violence-not returning the cruelty or passively accepting it but defying it in a way that values everyone involved.

At first I was sure my new understanding of turning my cheek was fabulous. Then I discovered how terrifying it is to creatively and compassionately stand up for what I believe is right while giving the other the chance to change.

It’s hardest, I discovered, when I want to protect my son or another loved one.

Last week, I listened to Rob Bell revisit these ideas about Jesus’ often misunderstood advice. Bell gives a much fuller picture of the historical context if you are thirsty for more.

And so I’m looking for more ways to do this and, because it works best, I am starting small.

How, for example, can I creatively address aggressive behavior in traffic?

How can I talk to people who disagree with me politically without shutting them down or withdrawing into my comfortable shell surrounded by people who only ever agree with me? (Okay. This is not small. Perhaps I’d better start with my son’s meltdowns over his brother’s teasing instead.)

When I am honest, doormat is my default. I’m grateful Martin Luther King pulls me up off the floor and chastises me for this, telling me that is only allowing violence to continue.

And so I keep at it in my small way, one act at a time, trusting that I’ll get better with wholehearted practice.

Do wish me luck, grace, peace, and all that jazz. I’ll need it.

Update! Beth the librarian extraordinaire found the book. She added ‘Jesus comics’ to the keywords. What didn’t I think of that? Here it is!

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Story Wonders: A Story Blogging Excuse

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Below you will find what I posted on my Facebook page about the crazy writing time I had yesterday. This is my excuse for not blogging on my usual day. I have ideas for next week brewing but that’s about it.

Had the story ready in November.
Contest date was all the way in March.
I’ll hold off, I decided. Hold off until they announce the judge so I can address the cover letter.
Today, I think, “Wait a second! This is March! I’d better check the deadline!”
When is the deadline? Today! March 8th is the deadline. (And that was extended from the original March 1st, lucky dog that I am.)
Yes, I got it put together.
Yes, I submitted it.
Yes, I wonder why on this planet full of passions, I happen to have this need to write.
I wonder this often with my stiff back, my tired head, and my cursor’s spinning wheels of doom that come at the most inconvenient times.
And then I just feel glad. Glad I get to do it. Glad my son will rub my shoulders and tell me it’s going to be okay.
Glad I wrote the story in November, even, so I could put off submitting it until now.

Here are some photos from the Nihonjin Face play that I couldn’t fit into Japantown last week.

And here’s a Neil Gaiman quote for good measure.

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As usual, I have more to say than I thought.

Have a wonderful week!

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Story Wonders: Tacoma’s Japantown

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The Japanese Language School Memorial on the University of Washington campus.

“I’m not from Tacoma and didn’t know there was a Japantown here until recently,” said writer and guide Tamiko Nimura. 

I wasn’t surprised. I’ve lived in and around Tacoma for the majority of my 40 plus years. I was born at Tacoma General. I even go to a church connected to Whitney Memorial, the one-time Japanese Methodist Episcopal church in the heart of Japantown.

I didn’t know, either.

About two years ago I stumbled on the history. Ever since I discovered Tacoma once had several blocks filled with businesses owned by Japanese immigrants and citizens, I’ve been trying to imagine the place. I’ve pieced the picture together in my own mind with historical records of the Japanese American Citizens League, the photo documents of the Northwest Room, and historylink.org.

When I was working at the downtown campus, I peered down the streets while driving up the hill off the 705 exit, wondering what used to be where.

About a year ago, I discovered Michael Sullivan with his Tacoma History blog and then somehow tumbled into a heartfelt post by Nimura. 

Then two weeks ago, I read of the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, the order that incarcerated over 100,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the U.S. without trial or recourse.

To commemorate this event, the University of Washington and the Broadway Center in Tacoma put together a play called Nihonjin Face and then a guided tour (my mouth dropped wide open when I read this!) of Nihonmachi, or Japantown.

By coincidence, I already had tickets for the play with the youth group from my church.

All I had to do was race from one end of the town to the other to make it to the tour on time.

Of course, I raced. 

When I arrived breathless at the starting point, I noticed many other interested tourists wanting to see where Japantown once rested on the side of Tacoma’s steep hill. I never counted heads but estimate thirty to fifty of us wandered around while both Nimura and Sullivan pointed to where the remaining buildings stood and to a grassy knoll. In that spot, the Japanese Language School taught a whole generation of children born in the United States before the incarceration.

We started at the corner of the university nearest The Swiss. From there, we could stare up at the Japanese Methodist Episcopal Church, now owned by the U.W. and used as an art studio. The congregation never fully recovered after Camps Harmony and Minidoka.

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Frederick Heath designed this church along with many other sites familiar to the area, including Stadium High School down the road.

Next we moved down Fawcett Street and across the hill to the Tacoma Buddhist Temple. Across from this once stood the Japanese Language School. After Pearl Harbor, the teachers faced arrest and the locals came to be sorted for removal.

(I missed on-site photos of this because I held the iPad instead here. Once I blogged about the mural behind the temple, though.)

We spent more time hearing about the buildings lost to the wrecking ball, including the Lorenz Building and the Hiroshima-ya Hotel. Sullivan and Nimura told stories of Chinese Americans wearing “I am Chinese” buttons to explain their right to stay in the area during the war and then went on to tell of one of the greatest community losses from the incarceration.

A massive parking garage now squats on the the corner of C and 13th. This is the former location of The Crystal Palace, designed by the same architect who built Pike’s Place Market in Seattle.

Here vendors from every corner of the area sold wares much like what still happens in Seattle. The freshest produce came from the Japanese American farmers in the Fife Valley, Sullivan told us. Months after the farmers faced life in the Puyallup Fairgrounds, the market closed and became barracks for soldiers.

I’m not sure how to end this post except to say that two years ago, when I started reading about the history in my backyard, I had no idea it would become so painfully relevant in 2017. I’m encouraged that so many of us turned out to learn what I wish we had known all along–what I wish still stood vibrant and alive perched on Tacoma’s hill.

I think now of all the other multicultural treasures we have and dream of keeping them thriving in our neighborhoods. I think we have enough memorials.

 

 

Story Wonders: Equity Day with Kids

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The last time I went to Equity Day in Olympia, or something like it, I was single, about 25, and ended up getting interviewed on some news channel before the whole world started watching social media.

Here’s how different it was this past President’s Day:

My friend Billie Jo has 3 children, 6 and under. Together with my six year old, we had a pack of kids with us, and I felt much more like a kitten herder than any sort of political activist.

We van pooled down there to arrive at 9:00 am before things got going at the capitol building. Quinton, usually the loudest in his home crowd, objected at one point to the noise level of our trip. We told him it was all a part of the adventure.

After a brief circling of the main streets, we found Batdorf and Bronson Coffee Roasters where we set up shop in the corner of their broad space with polished wooden floors.

With coffee for the moms and donuts for the shorter people, Billie Jo gave them card stock to draw onto and stickers to add. After they finished, Jo and I wrote messages asking our legislators to fully fund their public education. They have a few years in front of them! Because we live in Western Washington, my friend also packed ziplock bags to keep our words and art dry.

Then we tromped up the hill from downtown to the capitol where people of every order gathered to listen to speeches and lobby for equity of all kinds. It was even noisier than the van at some points and the crowd stretched from one set of stone stairs to the other.

Inside the building we found more quiet and the marble stairs of a building that looks like it lives in another time. The kids gazed up at the chandeliers and the giant dome where Quinton’s uncle Kim once worked to repair the earthquake damage of 2011. They stared down at the golden seal with George Washington on it in the middle of the floor and threatened to stress their mothers by stepping through the barrier ropes.

We even made it into the senate chamber during a recess. The suited guard ushered us in with a smile and asked us to put our pointy umbrellas to the side.

Sitting on the cushioned benches, we looked down into the chamber below with the swivel chairs while Quinton admired the piles of papers on some of their desks and the interns in suit jackets milled around. We talked about how the laws get made and the two branches of government working a little like a mom and a dad at home. Sam the four-year-old found this dull and circled the benches from beneath flashing us dangerous grins.

We did not push our luck and left the senate viewing before things got any wilder.

Before our bathroom break, I found my cousin Roxy and got to give her a quick hug next to the bust of Washington and the booths with Civics Day information.

Just like mountain climbing, the return to the van was more challenging than any other part of the trip.

The kids were tired. The moms were tired. And the five blocks to our parking space felt like five miles with whining about the walking and sidewalks too close to the traffic for the kitten herders.

But we made it. The kids settled into snacks and the moms loved the chat on our final push back home. I don’t know if any representative saw us but the kids know more about government, and I got to enjoy one of my favorite friendships once more.

I wouldn’t trade with the 25-year-old on TV for all the coffee in that shop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story Wonder: When that Thing You Hated Becomes Your Love

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I never meant to disappoint Mr. Zorro. Seriously, who could want to disappoint a teacher with a name like that?

He wasn’t as swashbuckling as the guy in black, but I liked Mr. Zorro. I agreed to do the solo contest under his guidance in college like I had done so many others before that–just because it was the thing to do. He chose Scherzo in C Minor by Paul Koepke and edited by H. Voxman.

The cadenza was the absolute worst. Every time I approached that string of notes in the score, my brain would start some sort of arooba noise, like a submarine dive alarm.

(Warning: This video is beyond annoying and way too long. I can’t be held responsible if you listen to the whole thing.)

This internal panic did not, as you might imagine, help my performance.

I think Mr. Zorro said something like: “Well, I thought this piece would bring out your tone but the notes held you back a bit.”

He was being kind. The contest left me numb, and it wasn’t long before I decided my part time job rolling tables, balancing beer bottles on trays, and folding napkins for the hotel banquets took too much of my time to continue with music.

I left the clarinet for a long time. So long, I almost forgot the sting until one day I started noodling on that old piece again with Mr. Zorro’s long ago notes telling me to memorize and use the H key for the trill.

Now, I love that cadenza if you can believe it. I love the roll of it and the way the notes pick up speed going downhill. I love that my fingers now find the notes like they would not when the judges sat trying not to shake their heads before.

For Mr. Zorro. I recorded my efforts last night. I won’t lie and tell you I got it all right. I didn’t. I do much better when I know I’m not recording with a demanding cell phone that insists on turning the screen to record my 1970s ceiling for you instead of the face down black screen I wanted.

It also helps when I’m not fearing the moment the 6-year-old barges in the pseudo-studio to ask a pressing question about whether he can have ice cream or not.

But the cadenza is better, I’m telling Mr. Zorro and you. Much better than it was in college. It’s better, I am sure, because I love it like I never did before.

Which just goes to show me once more.

I never know what joy might come around the corner even in things that used to freeze me in a panic.

Story Wonders: The First Snow Day

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The white flakes started falling on Sunday, and my teen wondered if the powers might, for once, cancel school on Monday. I had been burned too many times by the forecasters to get my hopes up yet again, but Quinton and I went for a walk in the woods to be sure we didn’t miss it.

We haven’t gone to the ravine much lately because it makes me ache for our dog. He would have flown around those trails and given that dusty white stuff a good shake up.

Still, I loved the way Q’s borrowed red jacket popped out of the scene like the girl with the riding hood.

After the flurry of school cancellations the next morning, we started in the warm living room with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Once the six-year-old figured out that wacky Gene Wilder was not going to go completely around the bend and that Charlie ends up with a life-time supply of chocolate, the movie with the Oompa Loompas became his all time favorite.

In case you’d like to hear a few of Gene Wilder’s snappy come backs made for the grown-ups:

Next we made the snowmen. (In Russia, they tell me, they always build a snow woman. I forgot to try this. Next time!)

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See the lean? This guy sadly did not last.

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After the teen left us for the his snowball fighting friends, Quinton and I searched for the perfect sledding hill. We never found it, but I did see a lamppost that reminded me of one of the best stories I know. The light in the snow wasn’t alone in the wood–I stretched my imagination to see it there without much trouble.

We finished the day with hot chocolate, cookies, and a craft with shaving cream. Thank goodness for snow and the little joys of life that add up to great big goodness.

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A bit more black and white beauty to close: