Monday, March 22, 2010

And The Award Goes To...

Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES! It seems absurd that just a year ago, we were hoping to raise $10,000 with our little rummage sale in order to make a tiny dent in the money needed to keep our school running. It seemed a massive task back then and yet here we are twelve months later, having raised over three times that amount just by selling things we no longer want. Makes you wonder about the structure upon which the whole of society is based.

As the Goodwill trucks chug off into the distance, our feet start to return to normal and the woman on the next table wants one of whatever I'm having, it seems only fitting that after such a wonderful, wild and successful event we mark it by honoring a few of those whose contribution to the rummage sale industry at CLC was notable in some way. This is by no means an exhaustive list - there are waaaaaay too many people to do that - this is simply my attempt to inject a bit of brevity (ha!) and humor into a situation that can become self-aggrandizing and bloated - call me the Steve Martin (or maybe the Alec Baldwin - you choose) of our time: I herein announce the advent of the first SCCLC Rummage Sale awards; we shall call them The Rummies!

Unfortunately, we couldn't ask all those necessary to be physically present; no time for dieting, liposuction, colonics, dress fittings or the cosmetic surgery bruises to die down so I shall have to paint a picture and do it via email. Envision if you will, people sitting in all their splendor on chairs in the Old Gym (I know it's not the most elegant of venues but we prettied it up with leftovers from Spring Fling,) quietly anticipating the profundity of the event to come.

I asked Arnie if he could present the Awards but he was busy - out buying Maria a Bluetooth headset. He did promise to show up next year but when I mentioned we'd used eBay to raise funds, he went strangely quiet. Hmmm, if Arnie's fellow rivals for Governor were "girly men," would he call the Warrior Women of the Rummage Sale, "manly girls"? Perhaps he's scared. With good reason, in my opinion...So without further ado, it behooves little, humble me to announce the winners of the First Annual SCCLC Rummies and get the show on the road! (Drumroll, cymbals crashing - the man who bought the toy music set offered to do that :)

- The Hermione Award for hard work, dedication and the ability to remember spells and solutions to problems when all those around her were losing their heads goes to...Amy Truel!

- The I-Don't-Care-If-My-Neighbors-Don't-Like-Me-Even-Though-I've-Only-Just-Moved-In Award goes to The Smiths for their willingness to turn a perfectly good basement into a place which looked like three moving trucks had exploded.

- The Hercules Award goes to Giovanni Unpronounceable Last Name for saving the necks of the Clothing section customers (and therefore also those of the School District) by erecting a sturdy handrail on those scary stairs to the stage. Handrail will outlive stage by many years, if you ask me.

- Karen Latina wins the Julia/Harry Potter Award. Her ability to be in charge, get people to do her bidding and transfigurate huge items from the Old Gym to other people's homes *for money* rivals that of both real-life and fantasy fictional characters. And don't anyone even *think* of taking over her role next year, she ain't goin' anywhere.

- The Edward From Twilight Award is a tie and goes to Peters Coberly and Smith for their enthusiasm in Housewares and their non-realization that it is important to display *all* the glasses in a set of six and not just two with the rest under the table "in case the customer wants extras."

- The Mad Hatter Award goes to Michelle Mackenzie for her lack of progress one evening with her $50 linen table and her need to tell every single volunteer about it. Michelle gets very stressed about her linens, bless.

- The Don't Mess With Me Award goes to Charlene Nelson for her leadership at the cashier table, a role that scares us literature majors to death. She stood guard over her money and her girls, showed fairness and generosity of spirit in mediation disputes, a calm, unflappable attitude with our bargain hunters; and still gave the sense that she would bash you over the head with her cash box if you gave her any trouble.

- The Little Miss Cuteness Award goes to second grader Ellie for sorting out the stuffies with such care and attention and especially the bang-on English accent she assumed the moment she met me.

- The I-Might-Look-Like-A-Boy-But-I-Do-The-Work-Of-A-Man Award goes to Justin Olague for his loading and unloading of other people's detritus, his willingness to help around the Gym and particularly his advice to my fourth graders to work very hard and tap Chris for extra credit.

- And last but not least, The Poet-Laureate-Shakespeare's-Fool-I'm-Too-Sexy-For-My-Rummage-Sale-Dress Award goes to ........*me* for making myself a legend in my own lunchtime with my scintillating tales of the Rummage Sale Warriors And Their Intrepid Adventures Into The Wilderness of Warriordom. Thank you for listening, thank you for your support; I've enjoyed writing for you and loved every minute.

And with that, I will bid you adieu until next time; we'll have a new Governor, our children will be older but the sense of community and purpose will be the same. Just remember, when you are next tempted to throw something out, the Warrior Women of the Rummage Sale *will* be back to rumble the rummage, break all the records, and get just about everyone involved in the process.

Alison, in a dress from the 2009 CLC Rummage Sale Collection. March 2010.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Rummage Sale Is Over

Toys are scattered here and there, dust bunnies rolling in the wind, the clock is still on pre-daylight savings; and that's just at my house.

The Rummage Sale is finally over; our weary Warriors are resting. There were bruises, there were broken nails, there were problems, there were crises but mostly there was the satisfaction of a job well-done. The team and community spirit that carries the Rummage Sale is second-to-none; I haven't worked alongside a better bunch of people. As we reflect on our recent days, the enduring memory for me will be of how oppositional working the Sale is to the rest of our lives'. Technology is on the periphery instead of being central, sitting at a computer screen replaced by physical labor, independent and fractured working relationships displaced by a huge body of individuals working in unison to achieve a common goal without rancor or disharmony. It is almost medieval in its' simplicity.

But for now, the Old Gym is quiet and empty, the Goodwill trucks arrive tomorrow. Our Warriors have returned from battle and reacquaint themselves with family. Money people will count our takings and lessons will be learned. But most of all, the connection, the team spirit and sheer quality of people stand out as we march on with purpose.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Greatest Rummage Sale On Earth

At oh-dark-hundred hours this morning, our dawn posse went into action. Doug, Dot, and Todd (try saying that fast after just a few hours sleep) helped us set up for the Greatest Rummage Sale On Earth. We worked in silence and avoided eye contact, a factor so important to some of us at that time of the morning that we wore sunglasses even though it was pitch black.

Casey showed up shortly after wearing her headlamp, which, as a fashion statement certainly rivaled my own of wearing a dress over sweatpants but also shared the sense that practicality was going to win the day over finesse.

We started gaining an audience at around 6am as our Early Birds started to arrive. Early. And at 6:45am our security crew assembled to protect us. They didn't say much, just stood around looking mean and nasty and helping pregnant women with their heavy electronics. We were very happy to have them and their presence certainly helped people behave themselves.

By 7am, the line outside the Old Gym was nearly round the corner. There was the group of ladies who called their friends and screamed when they got in. There was the little girl who told me very intently that it was really, really, *really* important that she get a doll for less than six dollars and the man for whom getting a good deal on books was so essential that he brought his own bar code scanner. My, this was serious stuff.

At 8am, the Sale opened to the rest of the public. Suffice to say they came, they saw, they left with bags bigger than those under my eyes. The Rummage Sale Warriors are weary but content and looking forward to eating a meal containing a green vegetable for the first time in over a week.

Tomorrow, we price to move. 50% discounts, $5 bag sales in clothes and books. Get the word out. There's still great stuff to be bought and at these prices, fantastic bargains to be had. Starts 9am. Be there.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Rummage Sale Is Ready To Rumble!

OK, so it's 11:45pm on Thursday night and I have just left the Old Gym. A number of volunteers are still there. We are pricing everything and there is soooooooo much to sell, it's taking ages. This means that we have loads of opportunity to make money; it also means that we have got to have loads of bargain hunters to give it to us in exchange for our goods. There are books to the ceiling, more toys than a child could ever want, clothes that come from Nordstrom and a furniture section that resembles Pottery Barn. On a good day. It is astounding.

So, people, listen up: Forward these details to your friends, nag your neighbors, mail your mother's clubs, lobby your Little League and even spam complete strangers; we seriously need to move this stuff. Talk it up. Remember, our goal is $20,000 smackers.

Saturday March 20 and Sunday March 21, 2010
3/20: 8am - 3pm;
Early Bird 7am/$10 admission
3/21: 9am - 1pm

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Excitement Is Mounting...

Someone unconnected with the school told me this morning they had seen rummage sale fliers posted. Have you seen the sandwich boards are up around town? Anticipation is mounting amongst the committee as we turn our thoughts to the weekend.

There's still a long way to go but the Gym is starting to come together and, as you can see, volunteers come prepared. It's beginning to look organized and under control. By midday tomorrow we should be pricing, and Friday we will put the extra, and lucrative, touches in place.

We still need helpers especially heavies; men who can lift and test things. We need toy testers and game checkers and Coke (the Diet Zero kind.) If you can spare even half an hour, please just come on by - everyone is welcome.

On the weekend, our biggest needs right now are for organizers - people who float around, keeping things neat as our bargain hunters search their prey. There's no need to have had any experience of the rummage sale to that point; it's a quiet, almost invisible job but one that is incredibly important as it keeps things organized and calm amongst a frenzy of activity. Think of it like picking up around kids, keeping the environment clutter-free so that the stress levels and frustration don't rise, and their goals are achieved. I know you know all about that ;-)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rummageus Saleus Volunteerius

It has come to my attention over the past few days that a genus exists called Rummageus Saleus Volunteerius. Within this family are varieties of species into which most rummage sale volunteers fall. Which one are you?

There's the Alice who doesn't know quite what she's let herself in for; the Percy Jackson who's lightning fast. Hercules who wants the heavy, manly stuff and the Edward from Twilight who wants all that but to show his sensitive side too - by displaying Housewares.

The Tortoise is slow, steady and achieves great things; the Hermione who's smart and knows what she's doing. The Julia is indomitable, proprietary and great at what she does while the Jonas is only interested in good, clean fun (they're put on Bake Sale.)

Then there's the Mad Hatter who's overwhelmed and not making much progress; the Not-On-Your-Nellie - they come as far as the door. And if you want to know what I am, let's just say, I could use some help in Toys.

Many thanks to Betsy for her inspiration; she knows which one she is ;-)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My Favorite Rummage Sale Story

Those of you who have met me personally, know that I am English; I moved to California on October 30, 1996. Seat 49C, Virgin Atlantic flight # VS019 arrived at SFO at 2:50pm, to be exact. Not that it was significant or anything.

Five years prior to that or maybe ten, I forget (it wasn't as momentous as arriving in the US,) I bought a dress from Marks & Spencer, a British High Street chain. It was a floaty, swingy, summer dress with tiny flowers printed on it.

I loved that dress. It was loose, which meant I could gain a few pounds and hide them. It had crinkly fabric, which meant I didn't need to iron it. It hid my knees.

I wore that dress over and over for many years but fast forward to 2008 and it was time to say goodbye. It had been worn to death and reincarnated several times but it was now finally the end. My crinkly dress became a rumpled mess in my upstairs bathroom wastebasket.

One day, last May, a certain Michelle met me. It was the Rummage Sale cleanup rave. The day before we had had great success, pulling in $$$ way over target. She invited me, in that silky way of hers, to clean up books. And she insisted that I take a look around for something that might take my fancy.

Initially, I demurred. Frankly, Rummage Sale leftovers aren't typically inspiring. But boxing up hundreds of books isn't terribly thrilling either so I decided to take her advice. I walked around the toys but pieces spilled from puzzles. I walked around Media but all the Dead CDs were gone. And then. Gasp. I stopped.

Everything stopped. My heart. My lungs. The world. For there, on a hanger, was a very familiar-looking dress. Surely not? Could it be? I don't believe it! It was. 5000 miles and 17 (or was it 22) years later, there at a Rummage Sale in California, USA, was an identical floaty, summer M&S dress with tiny flowers printed upon it.

In my size.

I have worn that dress many times in the year since. And told many people my story. It makes me, and them, smile. You see, magic can happen in the unlikeliest of places; where it's dusty and dirty and cold. The SCCLC Rummage Sale appears a rare place for magic and wizardry. But as my story shows, it can make Harry Potters of us all.

Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers today, it was a tough day, and special thanks to the Food Fairies who seem to flutter in, leave their gifts, then fly away without me even seeing them, let alone having a chance to thank them. We will be back in business tomorrow.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Shock. Then Awe.

At precisely 7:45am this morning, our dedicated operatives went into action. Tanks, sorry, trucks moved into their positions around the city, loaders stationed themselves in driveways and unloaders practiced readiness outside the Old Gym. What followed was wave after wave of incredible teamwork underpinned by strategic thinking and tactical endeavor. Each driver got his or her truck filled, then drove to the school; and as soon as the vehicle was unloaded, it immediately swooped off to the next point of action while the donations were sorted inside the Gym.

Over and over and over again this happened, everyone working in virtual silence as they concentrated on the job in hand. I don't think I have ever seen so many people working in total unison like that; they were like a machine. Truly awesome.

Three people in particular deserve a mention. Carlos, Ryan and Jimmy, from Project 90, volunteered their time and were truly magnificent. They provided muscle, good humor and prevented a Merc owner who lived opposite the Smiths from becoming very unhappy on several occasions. If anyone needs a team with such a work ethic, please let Gretchen, Michelle or me know and we would be happy to provide you with their information. They were real stars.

This afternoon, we started the job of sorting. The job is, er, not for those easily intimidated. We have mounds and mounds and mounds of stuff. It's hard to move around. The floor is virtually covered. The stage is full of clothes. And we can't even get to the Baby section.

But we will return tomorrow to continue the fight. It is a battle we will ultimately win. This time next week, the first day of our Rummage Sale will be over and we will be relaxing and telling stories of the day. And hopefully, counting lots of money.

But that's a ways away. After a long, hard first day, it is time to thank our great Trojans of War for their incredible Dunkirk spirit, thank all those who provided us with refreshment to keep our energies and morale up and particular thanks must go to PG&E, Benjamin Franklin and whoever else was involved in the presence of hot water in my bath this evening.

Friday, March 12, 2010

This Is My Last Day... look presentable. Tonight, the decent clothes will be consigned to the closet, the makeup bag closed and the hairbrush put away in a drawer. In their stead, out will come the sweats, the tennis shoes and the headscarf as the Warriors of the San Carlos Charter Learning Center attempt to do what The Governator himself cannot - that is, pay for our children's education.

Our Rummage Sale starts one week from tomorrow on Saturday March 20 at 7am and we have rummage scattered all over town. Beds are in basements, clothes are in cottages, paperbacks are in pods. Tomorrow, an army of battle-hungry soldiers will transport our donations in their sturdy, reinforced armoured vehicles (aka mini-vans) to the Old Gym. When that deed is done, we will stand back and gulp at the size of the task before us. Thoughts of "what have we done?" "how will we do it?" and "can I run away?" will cross our minds. But then, fortified by caffeine and Girl Scout cookies, we will launch our campaign to defeat the challenge that stands before us.

Shock and awe. Awe and shock. We will straighten our backs, take a deep breath and advance under the steely eyes and exemplary organization of our leaders. Our strategy is simple; to keep going until it is done. One step after another. Dawn to dusk, for as long as it takes. And I'm keeping my jewelry away from the table marked "Valuables."