Story Wonders: Equity Day with Kids

Standard

img_9257

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

Standard

file6071259601378

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

Standard

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!)

img_9162

See the lean? This guy sadly did not last.

img_9161img_9165img_9164

 

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.

img_9167

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 6.57.01 AM

A bit more black and white beauty to close:

Story Wonders: On Finding our Hearts in the Midst of Protest

Standard

white-flower

I am deep in a new writing project so won’t be writing much of my own today. I just have  few thoughts to share from others.

A lot is happening in the world, as always. Things are happening in my country that anger and sadden me.

Like the practice of standing up for myself and others, I am now looking for ways I can do that when needed but also seeking compassion for those who disagree with me.

Here are a few resources I’ve found over the years. I share them with you now if you, too, are looking to stand up for those in need while keeping yourself centered in compassion toward everyone.

Brave Girls Club

This organization has always brought women together from every part of life. They discuss what matters to them most and, only later, do their politics come up. Melody writes long, but her message in this post rings true:

People Before Politics

Pema Chodron, the Buddhist monk, has much to say about anger and how best to respond to it. Here is a piece of her audiobook from Don’t Bite the Hook of Anger.

I am still calling my representatives. I am still donating where I feel my money will do the most good in the world. I still disagree with much of what’s happening from isolationism in an increasingly smaller world to political appointees who don’t have my children’s best interests at heart.

And I still believe this:

if-you-think-you-are-too-small-to-make-a-difference-try-sleeping-with-a-mosquito-the-dalai-lamaBut the the Melody and Pema are helping me, I hope, to advocate with grace instead of flaming anger that burns me and those nearest to me more than anyone else.

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 6.57.01 AM

P.S. I wrote more than I thought I would. So it goes.

Story Wonders: Finding the Courage to March and Write

Standard

img_9101

I didn’t want to write about this because I am afraid. I am afraid that people I know and care about will think less of me because I went to the Women’s March last Saturday. I’m afraid they’ll be angry or disapprove.

But every time I started to think about what to write this week, the march is the only thing that wanted to be written.

I posted before about how crushed I felt after the election. It is beyond my understanding that a man so clearly abusive to women could defeat the first woman candidate for president.

I know. These are fighting words.

As Brene Brown said: “I don’t know Donald Trump so the most respectful thing I can do is take him at his word. And, when it comes to women, immigrants, African-Americans, Latinos, and our Muslim sisters and brothers, his words have been threatening and dehumanizing. I march to say that’s not acceptable or American. That is not the heart of the country I love.”

While this, honestly, got me moving that morning, something about marching against someone doesn’t sit well for me. My friend Diane helped with this.

First, she listened as I tried to tell my six year old why we were marching. I started by saying that we were not happy with the man who had won the election has said and done. My friend reframed it for both my little guy and me.

She said, “I like to think of it more as standing up for what we do want.”

Another woman had this to say:

6fcd4c9cfb812a7ff4c3604bc6c99188

I agree with Diane, Mother Theresa, and so many others. My best self did not go to protest Trump. I went to say what matters to me most. That was the spirit I felt in Olympia, Washington, and what I saw in the crowds of pink hats from around the world.

The feeling of being there at my smaller 10,000 person march full of peaceful men, women, and children reminded me of a step back into time. I saw folks I am sure were there in the sixties. I saw young people. I saw people in crazy outfits. I saw angry signs and ones fun of humor.

When I think on what I experienced there and what I saw in the pictures around the world, I couldn’t help but remember the Whos chanting with every once of sound they had to be heard so Sour Kangaroo would not throw them in a boiling vat.

We know the election is finished, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still here and paying attention. It doesn’t mean we don’t need each other more than ever.

Of course, I loved the marching band’s way of putting music to the words. (Didn’t the Whos have a tuba?) I would love to know who they are, so I could play next time!

Of everything I saw that day, I think my favorite was the Diane’s daughter Rena in her Captain America outfit with a a sign that said ‘Be a hero. Stand up for ALL Americans.” She even had a shield. Cars stopped to honk, smile and wave for her several times. (I wish you could see her better in my photo!)

Something about Captain America and what we tried to do with the march expressed that need to say what we meant.

I’m still scared to publish this, by the way, but maybe, Mr. Gaiman has a sliver of good news for me.

fd205e06d6cfca6ddf58a75d174413df

Maybe, I’m stating to get it right because writing this sure feels more like ‘walking down the street naked, exposing too much.’ More exposing than even marching on a clear cold day for something I believe.

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 6.57.01 AM

 

Story Wonders: Who Remembers You?

Standard

“Hi there!” the woman said, and I knew I remembered her. Or I knew I should remember her.

My son and I stood staring at her at the YMCA near those tiny lockers with the punch codes. I peered a little more closely, hoping I could pull something from the back of my brain, and then I shook my head.

“No. I can’t think of who you are. Where do I know you from?”

“Aikido! I’m Lorelei. My sister and I took it with you and my dad in Tacoma.”

The light, I am so happy to report, went off in my head then. I did know her and have a fuzzy memory of her face once more.

I asked how she recognized me after all this time.

“I never forget a face,” she said. So it would seem. I took my last Aikido class before my oldest son was born some time in 1998 which means that she recognized me almost twenty years later.

But after seeing Lorelei, I did give the ukemi another try in the secrecy of my own living room. I’m pleased to report that I can still go backwards and forwards on the right side. The left side is another story. I also cannot recommend trying a flourish with pointed toes. That, it turns out, wasn’t what the Aikido founders had in mind when rolling away from an attack.

At least I can recall some things.

In case you think I was turning gymnastic style somersaults, here’s instruction on how to get started with a roll. Learning these made me feel as uncoordinated as that Disney hippo on a balance beam. I spent a lot of time very close to the floor getting acquainted with every wrinkle in the mat.

And here is another guy who has his ukemi down. I was never built up to that mid-air flip, but I loved that feeling of falling and not getting hurt. Last night I remembered I still do.

 Extra note: Lorelei’s memory isn’t perfect, either. 

‘Killer with a K!’ she said. 

It was Karrie. My nickname was Karrie with a K. (Killer! Ha!)

Story Wonders: How to (Not) Find a Grave

20775213_118620936247
Standard

20775213_118620936247

When I read about local history for my books, I sometimes find surprising information about people who once lived here and the places I now see everyday.

Not long ago, I was reading Furusato by Ronald E. Magden, a book lent to me by my friend and pastor Karen Yokota Love. Magden writes engaging accounts of the Japanese immigrants, and I became intrigued with the story of one second generation man who lived in this area.

James Yamamoto had always wanted to become a doctor but had to drop out of school to take care of the family when his father died.

He worked hard at farming in Firwood, running a gas station, and even selling sewing machines. Later he joined local community organizers to improve the lives of his family and those around him.

Then one night, he stopped on the Sumner highway to change a tire. In an instant, he was struck by another motorist and died shortly afterwards at the age of 28.

When I read of Yamamoto, I felt an instant connection. My mother lives on that road. I walk it frequently, and the traffic swishes by on the narrow road with no sidewalks and plenty of mud. I could see that dark night in October of 1931 and imagine the fog that made it so easy for the trucker to miss seeing him until it was too late.

And then I read he was buried in the cemetery on that same road.

That’s when I started trying to look him up and found his marker through Find a Grave.

I decided to find Yamamoto’s resting place myself on one of my many visits to my mother’s. The first time I took my son and the Barli the Dachshund only to find the cemetery staff were out for the Christmas holiday. The second time, the note on the office door said the staff was attending a graveside service.

I have also braved the cold to search the older part of the cemetery alone with no luck.

And today is the day I promised myself I would post this small tale, so here I will put in a photo (by permission) from Find a Grave and perhaps later I will update it for you when I find Mr. Yamamoto on a walk.

I think about him still. I wonder what more that energetic man would have done with the Japanese American Citizens League and how he would have faced the internment had he lived a longer life. 

And I sure do look out for trucks on that busy Sumner highway.

Wishing you safe walks and unexpected connections-

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 6.57.01 AM