“If you don’t like the weather. . .”

I grew up in Connecticut, where I often heard the old Yankee saying “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a minute and it will change.”

When we moved to St. Louis, MO, right after getting married, we didn’t initially have a car. I had to take a couple of different buses to get to work. On my first day of transferring from one bus to another, I asked an older woman at the bus stop if I was in the right place to get the bus I needed. She told me yes, I was. Then she asked me if I was new in the area, and we began to chat. Out of the blue she said, “One thing about St. Louis weather: If you don’t like it, just wait a minute and it will change.”

Now we’ve retired to the Pacific Northwest, and guess what people say about the weather here. Yes, “if you don’t like it, just wait a minute and it will change.” But this time people are right.

I arrived in Tacoma, after a week on the road from St. Louis, the night before I was scheduled to move into my cottage at the retirement community. I stayed at a nearby hotel that night. When I arrived at my cottage at 10:00 the following morning, it was pouring heavily. I was thankful that I had an attached garage to keep me dry as I unpacked my loaded-down little hybrid car. By 11:00 I had all the boxes out of the car and placed in the appropriate rooms (though not unpacked). I was ready to head off to Costco, Target, and Safeway for additional necessities such as food, a coffee maker, a vacuum cleaner, and kitchen storage containers. And when I left to run my errands, the weather was beautiful: a sunny, clear, warm spring day. What a difference an hour had made.

After about a year and a half here, I’m still getting used to this changeable weather. In St. Louis the hottest part of a summer day was usually from noon until about 2:00 or 3:00. After that the temperature would usually begin to go down at least a bit. But here in Tacoma the hottest part of a typical summer day is from 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon until sundown. In the winter we do get quite a bit of rain here. (Have you ever noticed that when a movie or television show is set in Seattle, the indicator of the setting is always rain?) But even in winter a day often starts off with drizzle and fog that gives way to sun, or at least less rain, by mid-morning or early afternoon.

In fact, I find the weather here one of the attractions of the Pacific Northwest. I know that if I don’t like it at any given moment, all I have to do is wait a minute and it will change.

ML King Day at WA State History Museum

Yesterday we attended a panel discussion called Diversity and Changemaking in Children’s Literature in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day at the Washington State History Museum in downtown Tacoma. Here’s a summary of the panelists and their messages.

Belinda Louie, Ph.D.
Dr. Louie is a professor of education at the University of Washington Tacoma. She immigrated to the United States from China to attend college. ( See her website ). In her presentation she stressed two points:

  • Authenticity.  She exhibited two books that present the same Chinese fairy tale. One of the books she bought in China. The other was published in the West. She pointed out that the illustrations in the two books are very different, with the Western version picturing a Chinese woman in a way that would not appear in China. She made the point that when looking at books aimed at diversity, it is important that the books depict the authentic experiences and beliefs of the culture represented.
  • Empathy.  Books that present the experience of people of diverse cultural backgrounds help children develop empathy. As an example she offered Black Misery (1969) by Langston Hughes.

Sundee T. Frazier
Frazier is an award-winning novelist of books for young people. All of her books feature biracial main characters. She stressed that seeing a main character in a book who is like them is a validation of children’s right to exist in the world. All children deserve this experience, she said, and she hopes her books show that being from a biracial or interracial family is normal. ( See her website ).

Richard Jesse Watson
Artist Richard Jesse Watson is a best-selling children’s book author and illustrator. His work was featured in a recent solo exhibition at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art and is also on display at the Washington State History Museum. In his illustrations especially he aims to present people from all over the world. ( See his website ).

Laurie Ann Thompson
Thompson’s books aim to inspire and empower young readers. Her first book, Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, is a guide for teens who want to change the world. Another book, Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, is a picture book about a young man from Ghana who changed his country’s perception of people with disabilities. ( See her website ).

Lois Brandt
It took Brandt 10 years to find a publisher for Maddi’s Fridge, her children’s book about friendship, promises, and childhood hunger. No one wanted to publish a book about childhood hunger, she said. The book is based on Brandt’s personal experience of visiting a friend whose refrigerator was as empty as a display refrigerator in an appliance store. ( See her website ).

Carmen Bernier-Grand
Bernier-Grand is a native of Puerto Rico. She said that she was surprised when a publisher asked her to write a children’s book about César Chavez because she was not Mexican. Apparently the publisher thought that anyone who spoke Spanish could write the book. She took on the challenge and immersed herself in the life and culture of her subject. She has since written several more children’s biographies of Latino artists and changemakers. She is a professor of creative writing for children at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts on Whidbey Island. ( See her website ).

Jesse Joshua Watson
Jesse, the son of Richard Jesse Watson, is an artist whose passion is portraying the diversity of people from all over the world. He said that he loves expressing both the differences and the similarities among people in his illustrations. ( See his website ).

Kathleen (Katie) Monks
Monks is head of instruction services at the University of Washington Taooma. She manages the children’s book collection at the university’s Tioga Library. The collection was begun with the donation by Professor Belinda Louie of her children’s books. The children’s and YA (Young Adult) collection now holds more than 8,200 books.

scroll divider

Another source of information about the need for diversity in children’s literature is We Need Diverse Books:

We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality.

The organization also has a Twitter page and a hashtag: #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

Three Things Thursday

Although so far in my challenge to write a blog post a day this year I haven’t had a problem finding things to write about, last weekend I went looking for a couple of blog challenges to participate in. Participating in these challenges will not only give me something to fall back on when I’m short on either ideas or time, but should also add a bit of variety to the kinds of posts you’ll see here.

This week I’m digging into the blog challenge Three Things Thursday, courtesy of Nerd in the Brain. The purpose of this challenge is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”

three-things-thursday-participant

So here goes!

1. Last weekend we finally made it to the movie theater to see the third (and final, thank goodness) installment of The Hobbit. I saw this bumper sticker in the parking lot:

Hillary

And I was reminded that, since we’ve now had our first Black U.S. President, it’s time to start thinking again about a female President.

2. No, this is not a full moon over Stonehenge. It’s the sun trying to pierce the fog of a January morning here in Tacoma, Washington, USA.

fog sun

3. While at the movies (see #1) we saw trailers for upcoming new additions to both the Terminator and Jurassic Park_ franchises. I’m not exactly sure what I think about this, but I find it interesting that movie studios apparently think it worthwhile to resurrect these concepts for a new generation. Will there truly be new takes on the underlying ideas of these films, or will the success of the new movies rest on the fact that special effects are so much more advanced now than they were when the original movies were made?

Mandolin Sushi & Steak House

My husband F. and I are regular participants in the Lunch Bunch, a monthly bus trip to a local restaurant offered by our retirement community. This past Friday we went to the Mandolin Sushi & Steak House:

3923 S. 12th Street
Tacoma, WA 98405
253–301–4969

There were about 15 of us, just the right size party for the separate room in the back, where the hostess seated us.

This restaurant offers many different kinds of food. F. and I went for our usual, steak and shrimp cooked at the table habachi-style.

Some of our friends ordered sushi, which arrived in a dramatic presentation:

Sushi in a boat
Sushi in a boat

I don’t claim to be an experienced food critic, but we liked what we had. Discussion on the bus on the way home suggested that most of the others had enjoyed their food as well. The restaurant has overall good reviews on yelp.

We were all impressed with the service. Our group consisted of couples and some individuals, which meant a lot of separate checks. Our waitress did a fantastic job of keeping all the orders straight, even at the end with all those separate checks and credit cards.

I’m Not Sugar

Recently after a gathering here at our retirement community, we emerged into the drizzling rain that’s standard at this time of year here in the Seattle-Tacoma area. I hate both raincoats and umbrellas, so I usually just brave the elements if I’ll only be out for a short time. A friend of mine, T., huddled with her husband under their big umbrella. “Oh, Mary, you’ll get wet!” she said to me.

“My mother always told me ‘You’re not sugar, you won’t melt,’” I told her.

“That’s funny,” she said, “my father always told me I WAS sugar and I WOULD melt, “ she replied.

Obviously T.’s father had a different attitude toward her than my mother had toward me.

I initially took this difference as an example of my mother’s lack of caring about me. But maybe the difference didn’t mean that at all.
Maybe what my mother was really telling me was that I should go forth in the world without letting a little thing like a drizzle affect me. Perhaps this was her way of toughening me up in preparation for whatever life might throw my way.

And perhaps there’s also a significant gender angle at work in this difference. As a man, T.’s father might have felt obligated to protect and shelter his daughter. He could have been exercising both his obligation and his right to guide her into the role of someone who needed to be cared for. But my mother, who had had to learn to take care of both herself and me on her own, had a different outlook on life. Perhaps she was really telling me that I didn’t need to become someone fragile and dependent on another person to protect and shelter me.

Whatever my mother’s reasoning was, there have been many times in my life when I took comfort in knowing that I wouldn’t melt.

8 Lessons College Bowl Season Teaches About Writing

I haven’t talked much about my writing here before, but I’ll be discussing it from now on because of my commitment to my writing for 2015.

Watching the Rose Bowl recently got me thinking about how dedicated and committed to their work these college athletes are. What can they teach me about how to commit more fully to my work of writing?

1. Success requires regular and frequent practice.

To win, you have to put in the time and do the work. Every day. If you’re serious, there is no off-season. For a writer, this means not thinking or talking about writing, but actually sitting down and writing.

2. Sometimes you have to drop back to move forward.

A quarterback steps back to see where he needs to go. For a writer, this means looking at what you last wrote to see where the work needs to go. This is why many writers advise stopping in the middle of a section instead of at the end. And once the first draft is done, a writer steps back to look at revising and editing the work.

3. Small amounts of progress can add up to big accomplishments.

Two five-yard runs earn a football team a first down. For a writer, writing even a small amount every day will eventually add up to a finished piece. Don’t knock incremental progress, just keep working at it steadily.

4. You have to study the playbook.

A team has to know what plays are available and when and how to implement each one. For a writer, this means reading widely to see what techniques other writers use and how they use them.,

5. There’s more than one way to advance.

There’s running and passing and all kinds of trick plays. For a writer, this means knowing what writing techniques are available (see #4) and what effects each one produces.

6. You have to be open the opportunities that present themselves.

The best quarterbacks are able to see the whole field and to recognize what options for advancement are available. For a writer, this means not only knowing what writing techniques are available, but seeing which approach or variation of an approach is the best choice in a particular context.

7. Sometimes you have to abandon one approach and try something else.

Often a team has to improvise when the planned play won’t work. For a writer, this means trying technique after technique to find the one that works best.

8. A season is more than just one game.

Whether a team wins or loses one week, it must be ready to play again a week later. For a writer, this means that finishing one piece means that it’s time to start working on the next one.

Zoolights 2014

Every year Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium holds Zoolights, a fantastic display of color highlighting many of its animals and several local features (e.g., Mount Rainier, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge).

The weather has not been very cooperative lately, but last night we finally got a clear and relatively mild night, so off we went. Check our my SmugMug album. Keep in mind that it’s very hard to get good shots in the dark, at least for a non-professional photographer like me.

Zoolights is a glorious sight!