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Do Tell Story Swap  January 2020

​The new year was welcomed by a strong showing of tellers and listeners at the January 2020 Swap. Meg Brown was MC and updated the group on the status of the Swap and our highlights of 2019. A look at 2020 is in the works by the Core Committee to report to everyone in the coming months. Then the stories began.

Mary Turner started the evening with a folk tale about the good witch, Baba Yaga and Big John. Left in charge one day while Baba Yaga was away, he got hungry. Big John asked the witch’s magic pot to make him some porridge with the magic words “Little pot, little pot, make some porridge nice and hot.” But when he was full he didn’t know the magic words to stop the pot. By the time Baba Yaga came back to the village, porridge was running in a river down the street. She stopped the porridge, and never left Big John alone again.

Sam Peters told of a lifeguard in Miami who was alerted to a boy struggling in the water. After heroic efforts to save him and bring him back to consciousness with artificial respiration, the lifeguard was not thanked. Instead, the grandmother who had been watching the whole process from the beach said, “He had a sweater.”

Elaine Stanley told a story about a man’s search for truth in “What IS Truth?; a tale of magic, wisdom and mystery. When a man finds an ugly wise woman with a beautiful voice in a cave, he stays to learn her wisdom. But can he tell the truth when she asks if she is beautiful? 

Sharon Elwell told of a typical day teaching 7th grade. There were detentions, disruptions, thefts, and even a fight. But in the end, many kids passed the test on scale factors, and created a poster for the class picture – a breakeven day.

Jessie Buckley told of her experiences giving birth. She was impressed by the woman who helped her through her first labor, with natural, non medical help. Jessie determined that the most important factor was the emotional support provided by the doula. She was inspired to becme a nurse, and now she is also a doula herself. 

Laurie Reaume related an incident she named “Close Call Blues.” Standing in a parking lot, she narrowly avoided being hit by a blue car. Later, she encountered a woman who commented on her blue eyes and in the discussion, the woman told her that she loved blue, and Laurie asked if she drove a blue car. It turned out that she was the driver that had nearly hit Laurie. The close call frightened both of them, and brought them together.

Evelyn Hardesty shared a recent experience where she encountered a favorite writer: Annie Lamott, in person. Lamott’s stories are so intimate and personal that Evelyn felt inclined not to bother her and reveal that she knew the most embarrassing and sometimes heart wrenching details of her life. In the end, she told the writer that she was a reader and had been a fan from the first Lamott book she had read, Hard Laughter. The writer thanked her, and seemed genuinely grateful.
Genevieve Franklin, who works as a court interpreter, advised us to take a resolution to “forsake, forswear, and forget” bad language in our lives. She said that as a young woman she had been known for saying “Shoot!” “Darn!” “Rats!” when things went wrong. But now in court, the language used by a defendant or a plaintiff can make a difference to the jury. She had to learn to use the worst possible words with no sign of emotion – no laughing, no wincing. She knows the power of those words and regrets using a word that should represent love and tenderness as a weapon. She suggested we all go back to “Shoot!” “Darn!” and “Rats!” when an expletive is needed.

Genevieve Franklin, who works as a court interpreter, advised us to take a resolution to “forsake, forswear, and forget” bad language in our lives. She said that as a young woman she had been known for saying “Shoot!” “Darn!” “Rats!” when things went wrong. But now in court, the language used by a defendant or a plaintiff can make a difference to the jury. She had to learn to use the worst possible words with no sign of emotion – no laughing, no wincing. She knows the power of those words and regrets using a word that should represent love and tenderness as a weapon. She suggested we all go back to “Shoot!” “Darn!” and “Rats!” when an expletive is needed.

Dimitri Nicholson told a story of a Russian peasant harvesting turnips when a bear came along and demanded half the harvest. The wily peasant talked the bear into taking the top half. When he realized he had been tricked, the bear warned the peasant to stay out of the forest. The peasant needed wood, so he eventually had to go into the forest. A fox offered to help the peasant deceive the bear so he could get his firewood, in return for which he also demanded half of the turnip harvest. The story teaches that sometimes the top is the enemy of the bottom.

Velvella Weiss told a parable called “The Fool and His Watch.” The fool had an impressive pocket watch, but didn’t know how to read the analog dial. He would ask others the time, then move the hands to tell the correct hour. Then someone wound the watch and said, “When are you going to start doing something with your life, sweetheart? In a watch, as in the world, gears, hammers, and springs work together. Only a fool pushes the hands on his own watch.”

Gerry Runz told a story that shows the importance of music in our lives. When her singing group sang old familiar songs to the residents of a care facility for those who had lost memory, feet would tap, heads would nod in rhythm, and lips would form the words to sing along.

Laurie Reaume closed out the evening with an experience helping a friend who sold at the flea market. Her friend needed a bathroom break and asked Laurie to mind her booth. Laurie speaks no Spanish, but her first customer was Spanish speaking and wanted to know the price of a pair of earrings. Laurie had no idea, but tried to explain that the owner of the booth would be back in two minutes. The woman interpreted what she said to mean that the price of the earrings was two dollars. At last, the real seller came back and told the customer that the price of the earrings actually was two dollars. 

Next Swap is February 11th. Please join us for more stories.

Do Tell Story Swap – December 2019

“It was a dark and stormy night,” but the storytellers were out in force. Celebrating the season with a special night of carol singing and snacking on sweet snacks, our tellers were inspired with stories of Christmases and holidays.

The evening began with a Mary Turner’s delightful version of “The Little Pagan Faun,” a folktale by Frances Burnett, author of The Secret Garden. The little faun was friendless in the forest; the nymphs were gone, and even Pan had disappeared. Following some angels preparing to sing for a baby, the faun follows. When the mother comes from the house to tell the angels she is sorry she couldn’t hear their music, the faun offers to make music for her: music of the natural world, like rabbits, squirrels, birds, and running brooks with fish in them. The mother and her baby love the music, but when the faun asks to stay and sing for them forever, the mother replies that the world will need to go around many more times before such a thing will be possible.

Sharon Elwell was the second teller of the evening. Her story was a reminiscence of an emergency room experience when a man who had gone out of his way to help a homeless woman found his own problems were solved because he was there.

Laurie Reaume remembered a childhood Christmas when Santa himself wrote a letter just to her, asking her to be his helper and put the tinsel on the family tree on Christmas Eve. As an eight-year-old, she was thrilled to take on such responsibility – especially since it was a secret she couldn’t tell her little brother. Her family helped each child to make an ornament every Christmas, so that by the age of eighteen each one had eighteen ornaments to take to start their own Christmas trees. She is grateful to her parents for bringing such joy and wonder into the lives of their children.
Sher Christian told of a poem that came to her spontaneously after a painful fall. The poem, titled “The Miracle of My Life,” ended with the words: “The moment contains a fullness of grace and wonder that wait to be received.”

Stan Peters related an experience working as a seasonal ranger in Glacier National Park. His four teenage children were with him when they were able, in their car, to get close to a magnificent grizzly bear. Together they experienced the thrill of the encounter, and the disappointment in knowing there was an unbridgeable divide between them and the bear. 

Katy Mangan told a winter solstice story about her beloved character, Eduardo. As the world grew dark in the winter, Eduardo was counseled to always look for the light of a fire on the mountain to the east. The fire would let him know that light would return. But one night he couldn’t see the fire. He traveled to the mountain and found that the fire was deep within. He had to descend a spiraling staircase and take a burning log from an old woman guarding a fire and carry it with great difficulty back to the surface. It was the longest night of the year, but the light returned.

Elisheva Hart shared a Dominican folktale called “The King’s Power.” A king was obsessed with the moon, and ordered his carpenters to construct a tower tall enough that he could touch it. With great effort, using every tree, board, and box in the country, a tower was built that was almost tall enough. The king ordered the workers to take out the box on the bottom and add it to the top. There is nothing left of that king!

Jessie Buckley recounted her experiences as a nursing student, living in a variety of housing, dealing with roaches, surprise eviction notices, and structures that would not meet standards for fire safety, until she miraculously was able to buy a home: a lesson in hope and always believing that everything will turn out for the best.

The story told by Gerry Runz had a similar theme of finding the good. Evacuated from a fire area to Sacramento, she found herself at the local Goodwill store, helping a fellow evacuee find socks and pajamas. To her surprise, there was a glass picture frame of the same design and size that she had been looking for ever since the one that held her wedding picture had been broken. 

Robin Whealdon reminded us of the stresses that come with raising a family and meeting all the demands of work and holidays. Assigned to bake 57 cookies for her second graders’ class, she resented the task, but finally came to the day when it could not be avoided. To her surprise, the pleasures of creaming butter and sugar, waiting for molasses to pour, mixing the dough, and smooshing each cookie with the bottom of a cup dipped in sugar took all her stress away. Baking, she tells us, is a very good thing.

Evelyn Hardesty rounded out the evening by telling about her Irish family, who could turn even a tragedy into a funny story. As an eight-year-old, she caught a wedding bouquet to the resentment of the bridesmaids and others who were hoping to be the next bride. Her relative lightened the moment by saying, “Well, it will be a very long time before we drink champagne again!” She told of a child who came home from school to find all the furniture gone because the family had moved and forgotten to tell him. She ended by reminding us that if you can’t have good luck, you can have a good story.

Our next Swap welcomes in the new year! Join us on January 14th, 2020 for more stories to warm a winter’s night.

Sam Peters, in Do Tell Swap's new home at Valley
Village, tells his tale.
Mary Turner tells a Russian folk tale.
Katy Mangan entertains with her Shirley Ann Story.
Hal McCown
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Elaine Stanley, Swap co-founder, at Valley Village.