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: 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 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:

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

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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.

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

Story Wonders: Finding the Courage to March and Write

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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:

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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.

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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.

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Story Wonders: How to (Not) Find a Grave

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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-

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Story Wonders: Japanese Thread Balls

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For this new year, I will be sharing the wonders I find when writing my stories. Even when my own words fall short, I find joy in my discoveries about the world around me. 

I am still shopping around for a new blog look, but, in the meantime, I wanted to get started with a colorful weaving I found.

Temari

Centuries ago, mothers in China and Japan began constructing balls for their children out of left over clothing. From strips of kimonos these balls evolved into today’s intricate Japanese thread patterns called Temari.

Check these out!

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Photograph by NanaAkua
Website | Facebook | Flickr

Often, the weaver places an object inside the ball to give it special meaning for the child. It might be a coin or some other small token that represents something special to the person.

I made my own simple ball a while back out of material I had in my crafting cupboard. Videos are all around and, once again, it’s amazing what you can do with YouTube. I am always impressed by people like Barbara Suess who take what they love and use the Internet to connect that love to others.

 

And here are more photos of those Temari. I found the photos below on Flickr taken by NanaAkua as well as an excellent article by Twisted Sifter on the the photographer’s amazing artist grandma. (These are only about a thousand times better than my first attempt.)

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Wishing you a joyful new year with your own story wonders,

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Wednesday Wonders:Mr. G the Gingerbread Man Goes to Japan Part 2

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When we last saw Mr. G on his trip, he discovered that people drive on the left in the island nation just before he enjoyed an apple–or rather he watched while the human ate the apple.

Today, I report on the rest of his adventures as told by tour guide Marci Kobayashi-Smith. These adventures took several days for our intrepid Mr. G.

Day 1

We went out for breakfast with the Gingerbread Man.

(They went to Denny’s in Japan!)

He looked over every page of the breakfast menu carefully.

Then we had fun taking pictures while we waited for the food to arrive.

He looked at both options first and then decided to share with Akira. You can see Akira is trying to teach him how to use chopsticks.

(Akira Kobayahi is tour guide Marci’s husband.)

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After breakfast Akira paid the bill and let the Gingerbread Man keep the change. He said he’s going to bring it back with him so Q can see how Japanese coins look.

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We took walk after breakfast and met someone very interesting but I’ll save that for later. Right now we’re driving to the nursing home to see Akira’s mom. Akira is helping the Gingerbread Man drive.

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Day 2

We have a lot to report today! First, I want to share some pics from yesterday. The Gingerbread Man (we’ve nicknamed him Mr. G) found some interesting things.

First, he found a big building just for karaoke. Inside there are many small rooms and people of all ages go in and rent the rooms and have fun singing. We told him it’s not so unusual. There are karaoke buildings like this all over Japan.

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Mr. G. also noticed there are a lot of poles and wires. You can see them here in this picture.

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In Japan, most of the telephone and electric wires are above ground. Mr. G said that in Puyallup most of the wires are underground. Is that true??

Even though there are many wires, there are still some beautiful streets. This street is lined with Gingko trees.

It was so pretty so we decided to take a walk. And we weren’t the only ones. Many people were out walking…

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We also found a flower shop, a grocery store with many bicycles parked out front and a Pizza Hut!!

Mr. G said he thinks there might be a Pizza Hut in Puyallup but he doesn’t eat pizza so he’s not sure. Have you seen delivery scooters like this in Puyallup?
Mr. G was really into the yellow leaves. He asked us to take many pictures…

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He saved a few leaves. You’ve probably seen Gingko trees before but just in case he’s going to bring back a couple of leaves to show you. Here is one.

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So you are probably getting tired of the yellow leaves, right? Well, on the way back home, we met someone really interesting. And, I’m not talking about the snowman. Take a look at this next picture. Can you guess what it is?

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Well how about this next picture? Look carefully and I bet you can figure it out!

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Did you figure it out? He is a police officer! The little corner office where he works is called a “koban” and in English everyone calls it a police box. It’s like a mini police station. Every neighborhood in Japan has one.

Usually there is only one or maybe two officers working at the Police Box. Sometimes you can see them out patrolling on their bicycles.
And one last view from our walk yesterday…

Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about the laundromat we visited. And, guess what? Mr. G. went out for sushi!

Day 3

Today Mr. G stayed home but I still haven’t shared some of the pics from yesterday…We went out for sushi. Instead of taking sushi that came around on the conveyor belt we ordered from the digital menu. A few minutes later it arrived on another conveyor belt right to our table. Then, Mr. G got really excited when we put the plates down the shoot. Every 5 plates we get a chance to win a prize and this time WE WON!!!

 

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But, after all that raw fish Mr. G wanted something different so we ordered grilled eel, tenpura and french fries! Yum!

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The french fries and plate prizes were a fantastic selling points for Quinton, too! He says he’d rather go on Mr.G’s trip than to Disneyland!

And that concludes the tour. Mr. G is somewhere on his way across the Pacific back to the Puyallup elementary school and Quinton’s class.

Wishing you peace and french fries for this holiday season,

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