Living History: Remembering Camp Harmony

Meeting Elsie Taniguchi, whose family was interned at Camp Harmony in 1942.

More than 1 million people attend the Washington State Fair every fall. Thousands of those fairgoers enter or exit through the Gold Gate, or main entrance. They’re welcomed by a large water fountain and the sites and sounds of a Puyallup tradition.

If you look for it, near the Gold Gate sits a sculpture that serves as the “Harmony” monument, dedicated in 1983.

Seventy-three years ago the fairgrounds served as the location for the Puyallup Assembly Center, a temporary facility used in the system of internment camps that held more than 7,000 evicted Japanese Americans as a result of Executive Order 9066.

Japanese American residents living in Western Washington and Alaska were relocated to what was dubbed “Camp Harmony,” before being transferred to camps in Idaho, California, Wyoming and Arkansas.

The Camp Harmony Committee’s mission is to preserve and educate the public on the history of Camp Harmony. Committee members include local citizens who were interned, or whose parents were interned.

The committee educated the public at a Puyallup Library event as part of the library’s Festival of Books. With the theme WWII: Memories of Valor, the library has scheduled numerous events to revisit the history of the war.

At the Camp Harmony presentation, an audience of all ages heard first-hand accounts of life behind barbed wire, just a few streets down from the fairgrounds where it took place.

Elsie Taniguchi shared her experience of growing up on a farm in Fife and being transported on a bus to the fairgrounds, where her family was interned. The Taniguchis were lucky in that they had Caucasian friends who harvested their farm during their internment and were able to pay the taxes. The Taniguchis had a home to return to upon release.

Another gentleman in attendance grew up on a farm in Fresno before his family was interned when he was 12. They did not return to the farm.

Another gentleman was 15 when his family was transferred to three different camps. He went on to serve in military intelligence for the U.S.

One of the Festival of Books events includes an artist in residence.

I’m grateful for the Camp Harmony Committee, who keeps the memory of the past alive. The committee is busy planning several projects for 2017 to observe the 75th year of Camp Harmony.

The Camp Harmony presentation is just one of several events happening this month at the library. Visit the library’s website for a full list of events.


Be a Blessing


Do you have something nice to say? Then say it. Your words of kindness, gratitude and positivity can do nothing but great things.

I have been sitting on this post since last fall. I was first inspired last summer, then a few months later did a re-write, followed by another and another and…

What first inspired me to write this has only multiplied as time has passed, and after an event today I am finally committing to finishing and sharing this. Because like I said, if I have something nice to say, I should say it.

You see, it’s easy to count our blessings, but are we as concerned about how we can be a blessing to others?

Out of the blue I heard from a high school/college friend today. Our paths don’t cross often, but after she released her memoir last year and my eagerness to promote, promote, promote, a writer-kinship was formed. And my encouragement and cheerleading compelled her to send me a letter of gratitude.

It was an honest confession and a letter of thanks that both humbled me and even encouraged me, and I let her know. She followed up by saying, “The beauty of writing these letters is that the response blesses me just as much as the letters are meant to bless the recipient!”

This is just one of many examples I have experienced in the last few seasons that have pushed me to write this.

My husband and I recently attended a 75th birthday party, an occasion normally dedicated to the person of the hour. But this wasn’t a typical cake and candles celebration.

All the party-goers (median age 60), gathered in a cramped overflowing circle as the birthday boy shared how grateful he was for everyone in his house. He went around one-by-one, telling each person what they meant to him.

He was selfless, kind and grateful. And I was blessed.

Last summer I attended a co-ed bridal shower with my neighbors and good friends, Jessica and James. We chatted in a small group with the bride’s grandmother, and in response to a question, Jessica began to talk about her commute to work.

Nothing exciting happened in the conversation. It was freeways and traffic wait times, but the grandmother was in awe – of James.

“You are blessing me,” she said to him.


“You are blessing me with how you listen to your wife. It’s like you don’t want to miss a single word.”

It’s amazing how we have the ability to be a blessing in any situation or opportunity. An act as simple as listening intently to your spouse had a positive effect on someone else.

Soon after the bridal shower I received a Facebook message from a sweet girl I worked with more than three years ago. She wrote me a thank you note.

“I just wanted to take a minute and make sure you know what a difference you make to those around you.”

Humbled. I’m so grateful I didn’t squander the opportunity I had while I was around her to make a difference, and I hope I still continue to do so today.

Bringing it around full-circle, my college friend from earlier created the Facebook group, Give Thanks + Get Fit, as a means to serve as an encouragement. Her name is Sarah and she is a professional writer and traveler. In fact, you can order her book here. 480914_10100815495911723_387681245_nShe had posted this on the group’s Facebook page:

“So I usually write from the RV, but I like to change it up and head to Starbucks sometimes. An elderly man overhead me saying I was from Washington so he started talking about how he was a green beret stationed at McChord back in the day, then he served in Vietnam. I thanked him for his service (without bursting into tears) then he showed me his puffed up, swollen hand, most likely a product of the war. We discussed treatment options then I told him I would pray for him. It was awesome to be able to offer up the most foolproof healing known to man. Don’t forget to slow down and talk to someone today, offer a smile, a prayer. Let these opportunities bless you and the people around you. Much love, friends!”

Every day is an opportunity to be a blessing. Whether it’s with a positive attitude, a smile, sharing a snack, giving an unsolicited compliment, helping someone with a task, saying hi.

If someone blesses you, tell them. If someone blessed you five years ago and you just now realized it today, let them know what that meant to you.

Don’t count your blessings, share your blessings! Be blessings.

What I’m Reading Wednesday


Lisa See, one of my favorite historical fiction authors, recently released her ninth novel China Dolls (June 3).

You might recognize the author from her novel (later made into film) Snow flower and the Secret Fan. In her latest novel Lisa once again sheds light on a forgotten time in history. In China Dolls, Lisa writes of a trio of ambitious friends who wish to find success as performers in San Francisco’s China town’s nightclubs in the late 1930s. The Chinese and Japanese-American females battle prejudice, old traditions, gender inequality, and in the 1940s, WWII.

The novel follows each character’s story as Grace, Helen and Ruby fight for their chance to shine in the spotlight. But we all know what happens when your best friend is also your roommate — there will be drama, there will be arguments and there will be jealousy.

Many of the characters in China Dolls are fictional, but Lisa did incorporate familiar names from the Chinese-American nightclub scene during the era.

I am always in awe of the research Lisa compiles for each of her novels. I didn’t become a big fan after her big hit Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, but it was after I read Shanghai Girls and the subsequent Dreams of Joy, I became a fan of not only the author’s prose, but also her extensive knowledge of China during a time that seems so long ago.

China Dolls was released soon after Jamie Ford’s Songs of Willow Frost was released. Both talented writers focus on Chinese stardom in the golden age.

Thirty in Victoria

Eating our way through Victoria.

It’s official. I have reached the 30-64 age bracket of car insurance. While we save a couple of dollars each month, there really haven’t been any other differences in reaching the big 3-0.

No new gray hairs (yet), no new smile/frown lines (or wrinkles) and my hearing and memory is still very much the same as it was at 29 (very poor).

Over the last year I had hoped we would celebrate our birthday (yes, my husband has the same birthday) in London. It’s a place we both want to visit, Trevor so he can visit Rolling Stones-type stuff and me so I can visit everything related to the Tudors, Jane Austen, Downton Abbey and all things historical.

Unfortunately it didn’t happen for my 30th. Instead we visited what my husband calls “poor man’s London” — Victoria, B.C.! No offense, Victoria. Your tea is delicious, the food delicious and the city as a whole is, well, delicious. It was much more feasible for us to take the ferry across the pond instead of the trek to the U.K.

Victoria bound!

In order to save even a few more dollars, we drove more than two hours to board the Coho Ferry in Port Angeles rather than the convenient Victoria Clipper out of Seattle. Ninety minutes later we were in the land of international cell phone service, tourism and afternoon tea. Because we were celebrating 30 and 29, we decided on a dinner on the fancier side. Luckily our hotel was across the street from a shopping mall as well as fine dining. When I think of the name Earl, I don’t think fine wine and steak, but that’s what it was, including amazing bare bulb chandeliers. Our Canadian mini-holiday started at Earl’s as soon as we checked in and discovered the wifi worked in the hotel!

We toasted to another year older and enjoyed an amazing steak and seafood dinner, with dessert of course.

I woke bright and early on Day 2, because that’s what I do on vacation unfortunately. With afternoon tea reservations at The Empress at noon, we had a couple of hours to check out the scenery, after Starbucks of course.

Afternoon tea (not to be confused with high tea) was the highlight of the trip for me. For Trevor, he was fulfilling his husband of the year duty to make his bride happy. My poor husband was just one of maybe two males in the tea room (No. 2 being our waiter Yosef). The pretty tiered trays of sandwiches, scones and desserts was amazing, presented after the strawberries and cream appetizer. We stuffed ourselves with miniature food over a pot of The Empress black tea, one of the best black teas my palate has ever tasted.

While the tea and treats are a little pricey — a little more than $100 — you’re paying for the experience, channeling your inner Lady Mary (Downton fans!).

Tea for two.

The rest of the early afternoon was spent at the Royal B.C. Museum, where our timing couldn’t have been more horrible. We happened to visit when the IMAX theater was closed for upgrades, and two new exhibits, including “Vikings” were not quite ready to open to the public. Alas, we still enjoyed the history lesson from the exhibits.

Even though our hotel was across the street from a mall, we did most of our shopping at a fun vintage clothing store called Patch. Trevor found this cool vintage letterman’s sweater from whenever school’s still had sweaters.

We ended the day eating as much food as we could, literally. Being right there on the water you start to crave seafood, and for me that craving was specific to clams. We had an appetizer of clam and mussel steamers at a spot on the water just so we could walk up the block to gorge on sushi. So. Much. Food.

We started Day 2 at a fun, very Portland-like style breakfast place called Jam. You know the lines of people you see outside of night clubs downtown? Well that’s what the outside of this place looks like during morning business hours! And for good reason. Not only is their menu unique, Trevor ordered the pulled pork pancakes, but it is delicious!

With our bellies full and our table open to a couple who waited patiently outdoors, we were off to explore Victoria. I drug Trevor to antique shops, souvenir stores and the mall to make sure we had purchased all we wanted before we left the next day.

Because of convenience of location we had breakfast at Burger King a couple of hours before we were to board the ferry back to the mainland. While eating our breakfast sandwiches we made friends with a local named Mike, a 66-year-old crooner singer. This guy had so many stories to tell, complete with song samples and a fedora. It was the perfect ending to our holiday.

Victoria is definitely a place I will return to. Save me a seat at The Empress.

In the mood

photo 1As we drove to downtown Tacoma for date night Saturday, my husband asked me, “Are you excited, old soul?

Indeed I was. Extremely! For that date night would be like no other date night. It would be a night right out of history.

When I heard the “In the Mood” 1940s musical revue was making a tour stop in Tacoma, I immediately sent the ticket link to Trevor with the words: “This sounds AMAZING!!!!!!!

My music-appreciating husband gladly agreed and we bought two tickets for the show at the Temple Theatre.

I can’t remember when my love of jazz music was born. I started playing the clarinet as many elementary-aged budding musicians did and continued on in junior high (and then high school). I really wanted to play jazz music but was dejected when my band teacher said clarinets couldn’t play in the school’s jazz band.

Wphoto 2At the conclusion of my eighth grade year, while looking forward to a summer vacation of being lazy, my teacher asked if I would be interested in learning to play the tenor saxophone over the summer for the jazz band. Finally, my big break!

I spent the next three months learning my new instrument and enjoyed being part of a group of jazz musicians my freshman year of high school. Fun fact: The first known photo of me and Trevor was our 1998-1999 jazz band photo.

I appreciate many different types of jazz, but nothing tops the sound of big band — the swingin’ era of 1940s horns gets me every time. When I heard of the “In the Mood” show, I felt it was created just for my old soul!

With lips and nails painted red, my husband and I enjoyed a night on the town! Upon entering the theatre we quickly learned we were one of the youngest couples in attendance, by about 30 years. Surrounded by baby boomers and military veterans, we enjoyed the popular sounds of the 1940s for two hours.

Along with the music was narration, dancing and singing — a scene right out of a USO dance circa-1944.

But the real star of the night was my husband’s zoot suit shoes, which he inherited from a friend’s grandfather. Only one of the eight who gave compliments noticed my shoes matched, too!

photo 3
Our vintage kicks.

The Justice Conference 2014

Image from

Feb. 27 is a day to bring awareness to the slavery of the 27 million men, women and children trapped in slavery all over the world, including our own country.

Freedom fighters will be displaying a red “X” on their hand to spread the word that slavery is very much still alive today and they won’t stand for it.

The End it Movement is less than a week after The Justice Conference 2014, which took place in Los Angeles. This year marked the fourth year of the conference, which serves to educate, inspire and connect those who share a concern for the vulnerable and oppressed.

The conference involves the gathering of teachers, leaders, artists, pastors and advocates who share what God has placed on their hearts to do in the justice movement.

I have had the good fortune to be a part of this powerful conference in person the last two years, and this year I had the opportunity to hear from the inspiring speakers through a simulcast. I think Lynne Hybels said it best when she closed out the conference stating the conference continues to improve every year. This year was no exception. WOW. The main speakers included a stacked lineup of those who work to bring justice, because it’s what God calls us to do.

Sometimes the messages were heart wrenching, sometimes they were funny, sometimes they made you angry, and always the messages were inspiring. We can make a difference when we give our life away to help others.

Justin Dillon, CEO of Made in a Free World. Photo by Paul Kim/Kimberly Sink

I wanted to use this post to share what spoke to me last weekend from the two-day conference. Here are some highlights:

Ken Wytsma (conference founder) — justice is not a fad. You have to become less and others have to become more.

Donald Miller (author) — in reference to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll befriending gang members, Carroll doesn’t have the “I can’t change something” mentality. Turn your pain into a beautiful project to try to change the wold; not to succeed, but to find meaning.

Nicole Baker Fulgham — standing up for educational equity with The Expectations Project. Why does education matter? A: it’s a pathway out of poverty. The church is needed to raise awareness, take action in their local community and advocate.

Rick McKinley (pastor) — in a passion for justice you can become arrogant. How will you sustain the passion for people? If you believe you’re God’s beloved, He will let love extend from you to others and that will change the world.

(This was just from the first night!)

Continue reading “The Justice Conference 2014”

Party like it’s 1979

Isn’t she beautiful?

We had the chance to be a part of something big. Something huge. Something historical.

When the Seattle Seahawks brought home their first ever Super Bowl championship, the city threw them a parade and invited every single 12th Man known to man. The Seahawks victory parade yesterday in downtown Seattle celebrated the team’s Super Bowl XLVIII victory, the city’s first championship since the SuperSonics won the NBA championship in 1979.

That’s a long time for a city to wait to celebrate. It was before my time, so when we had the opportunity to party with the Seahawks and the hundreds of thousands of other fans, my husband and a friend of ours drove right into the heart of downtown.


Lucky for me it was a working trip, as I went up to interview the local military service members who were involved in the parade. And being the worst case scenario planner that I am, we laid out a travel and parking plan that deprived us of sleep but saved us time stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic with a million other people.

We left our house at 5:15 a.m. and after a Starbucks run, found free parking near Safeco Field. We then hoofed it ALL the way to Seattle Center where the parade was to start. We made it to the Space Needle just as the sun was rising and it made the city that more beautiful to celebrate.

We killed time and enjoyed warmth in a building near the Needle before we waited in the longest McDonald’s line (seriously waited nearly an hour) for a cheap, warm meal.

While I want to the EMP to get my interviews done with the parade participants, my husband Trevor and our pal Nick found a spot along 4th Avenue toward the start of the parade. I thought it was really neat that our neighborhood emptied out into the streets after the Super Bowl win last Sunday, but to be in a city where everyone is in a constant state of euphoria (unless you try to stand on someone’s piece of sidewalk they claimed on the parade route), you couldn’t help but smile along with them.

Photo by Trevor Hanson

Miraculously I found Trevor and Nick along 4th Ave and squeezed my way into the crowd where we waited and waited in the frigid cold for the champions of the city to drive by.

Sunrise at the Space Needle.

The party didn’t disappoint. From the LOB to the winning QB, the lovable guys traveled the two-mile route for the 12th Man to celebrate them one more time for their 2013 championship season.

Once the last vehicle passed us we rolled out of the crowd and hustled back to the direction of our car with the hope we could beat the mega crowd near the stadiums. Intersection after intersection were flooded with people and all you could do was stand in awe at the sheer amount of bodies standing in one location. There were people on top of buildings, watching over balconies, straining to catch any glimpse of the world champions.

We made it back to the car and back to the freeway before the parade ended and on the ride home listened to the celebration inside CenturyLink Field on the radio.

We walked miles that day and stood for hours, and even though we couldn’t feel our toes, we knew we were part of something big. We were a part of history.

Go Hawks!

The LOB and the Vince Lombardi.

The day I became a journalist

As a kid I was pretty consistent (and specific) about what I wanted to be when I grew up. If I couldn’t be a professional beach volleyball player I was going to have a golden retriever and together we were going to drive around in a green van and I would be a travel writer. I told you I was specific.

When I was a senior in high school I got a little more serious about my future. While writing was still a vision, I first saw a career in broadcast journalism. That year I was involved in a video productions class where we filmed, edited and produced the school’s daily announcements. Because of my name I was a shoe-in for the weather girl.

Holly signed my yearbook with a picture of us my senior year.

My friend Holly and I wanted to pursue the same dream and together we went to Washington State University. I was a declared broadcast journalism major.

But one day, one person’s words steered me on another course that led me to a career in print journalism.

Before a student can certify into the communication program, Com 295 is the ticket in. The media writing course is the first real world experience of deadline writing. The computers in the classroom didn’t have spell check and if a name was misspelled or an address written incorrectly, it was an automatic F on the assignment.

My class was taught by Emily, a graduate assistant who was just a few years older than myself. I tried to ignore the horror stories about the course passed down from classes past and found that I thrived under the pressure and stress of quadruple-checking my work.

I was waiting in the hallway outside a professor’s office when I ran into Emily. It was the first time I had talked with her outside the classroom and she asked me what I was pursuing at WSU. I told her broadcast journalism.

Emily didn’t discourage me, but she asked me if I had thought about print journalism.  She had seen my work during the semester and gave me confidence that I kind of knew what I was doing. She also said I could always write for news broadcasts.

High on compliments I hopped on the bus to head home to my off-campus apartment and called my dad. Always my mentor, and a journalist himself, I told him I was changing my major to print journalism.

“Don’t do it,” he said.

*buzz kill*

My dad encouraged me to double major so I could become a teacher if I needed a backup plan, like if I was laid off two years after college…

As I neared my senior year and saw how close I was to finishing one degree, I ditched the double major idea and counted down to graduation! I had a sports internship lined up at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane where I covered minor league baseball, Seattle Seahawks training camps and other fun things!

I moved on to another daily where I won two awards for sports feature writing a year removed from college. But a year later I was a layoff casualty and suffered a midlife crisis at the ripe age of 24. As I contemplated going back to school to get my teaching certificate I got a call from a daily in Bellingham with a job offer and moved for the fourth time in three years.

Fast forward to now and I’m extremely fortunate to say I’m still doing the journalism thing.

I’m so thankful for that run-in with Emily. She didn’t know it then, and I didn’t even know it then, but her words led me on a journey of writing and editing all across this state and back to my hometown, where I’m still quadruple-checking names.

One Child

One_Child_Logo_WebMy beautiful friend Blaire has a heart for foster care. She is a foster care case manager for Tacoma Youth for Christ, which is launching their One Child partnership program this week.

I’m helping to spread the word about this program that supports local foster children, but I’m going to let Blaire do most of the talking. I asked her to share with me about why she became involved in YFC, what their new program is all about and how the community can get involved.

But first, here are some stats for Washington state:

  • There are more than 8,000 children in foster care.
  • 75 percent of kids in foster care are separated from at least one of their siblings.
  • 400 kids age out of foster care each year, without having found permanency.
  • 55 percent return home.
  • 29 percent find permanency through adoption.
  • The average stay in foster care for Washington children is approximately 17 months.

Q: Why did you become a part of Youth For Christ?

Blaire: I have always had a passion for working with children. Even as I was growing up, I always felt there was something intrinsically wrong with a child feeling lonely or forgotten or not having a home. The job opportunity at YFC came at a point in my life where I was really searching and feeling like God was asking me to become more involved in serving and loving those in my own community (as I had been previously working in other social service agencies in King County).

We have a saying for our staff here at YFC, that we are “wildly devoted,” and I definitely feel like that is something that is true for me. I feel like I am in the absolute place that God has called me to, and though it’s very difficult some days, there is a reason and a purpose that I am here, to be used to help bring hope and restoration to children and families in my community. Our purpose through our foster care program is to see families restored (children returned home to their birth families). We also believe that every child deserves a permanent home, and in instances when a child cannot return home to their birth family, we strive to find permanent, adoptive families for those children.

Q: What is One Child?

Blaire: Tacoma YFC is a Washington state licensed foster care agency, but the state provides less than 70 percent of the total cost of foster care. One Child is much like a child sponsorship for Washington state foster kids. The heart behind One Child is to enable the surrounding community to rally around these kids placed in YFC foster homes. For $15 a month, or 50 cents a day, anyone can join the movement! In return, every month you will receive the handprint and a bio of a child in care which tells the story of how your money helped him/her. Mother Teresa said, “Maybe if I hadn’t picked up the one child I wouldn’t have picked up the 42,000 others.” This is the heart of one child — every child deserves to know that they are loved, that there is hope, and that they are not forgotten.

Q: How can people get involved?

Blaire: Prayer — for our birth families who are striving to make changes, and feel like there is no hope and that everyone is against them; pray for foster children, who may feel scared, unloved and forgotten. And consider becoming a foster parent. I was at the Refresh Conference last February (a conference put on by Overlake Christian Church in Redmond for foster and adoptive parents) and one of the speakers who was talking about Christ’s command to the Christians to take care of the orphans said “I know that every Christian may not be called to foster or adopt, but I do know that there are Christians out there who are being called that aren’t responding. How do I know this? Because there are still kids out there who need homes.”

My husband and I became a One Child sponsor today. If you want to become one too, visit their website.

Ramen Girl

ramen3_sI’m on the hunt for a good bowl of noodles. I’m not talking about spaghetti, Cup of Noodles or even pho. I’m talking about ramen (not to be confused with Top Ramen).

The area I live in seriously lacks quality ramen options. I’ve been told the nearest place is in a different county than which I live in and I’m darn near ready to make that drive! Lately (as in the last couple months) my noodle craving was peaked and pho and packaged noodle soup just aren’t cutting it.

My brother and I grew up enjoying the fruits of the Asian culture with our Japanese grandmother. She makes so many amazing dishes and as a result we have become Japanese foodie snobs. Our grandmother took us to Japan about 10 years ago where we had the best of the best Asian cuisine.

Sidenote: In Japan you can order sushi and it will be delivered to your doorstep!

I’m starting to get hungry…

I traveled to San Francisco with my dad and brother a couple of years ago and as we wandered around unfamiliar surroundings we stopped for lunch at a ramen restaurant. It was pretty warm outside, but we had found ramen!

Have you seen the movie “The Ramen Girl” starring the late Brittany Murphy? No, just me? Brittany’s character learns the true art of making ramen in Tokyo. I’m not trying to endorse the film here, I’m just trying to say the ramen in the movie looks amazing!MV5BNjMyNjE3NzE0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDI3MjY1Mg@@._V1._SX355_SY500_

Recently I gave in to my noodle craving and decided to settle on a trip to a pho place near our house. My husband was busy so I made the trip to a sit-down restaurant solo. I pulled up in the parking lot only to see the neon light for bubble tea aglow but the open sign was dormant. Closed?! Nooooooooo!

I was defeated and dejected. So I settled. I walked over to the grocery story and straight to the Asian food aisle where I picked up a package of instant noodles.

Can anybody else relate to my story? Have you ever wanted a food so badly you didn’t care what the cost? What food do you crave?