Always Check your Spam Folder

Way back in November,2019 PC (pre Covid-19)… November 5th to be exact I had the honor of speaking at the United Nations in New York City!!!(I know, crazy, right?!) Now, you may remember that in December 2018 I did my chair happy dance when the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) listed The Last Cherry Blossom (TLCB) as an Education Resource for Teachers and Students!

Well in April 2019, John Ennis, UNODA Chief of Information and Outreach invited me to participate in a New York City teacher education program in conjunction with Hibakusha Stories, an organization in NYC whose mission is to keep the stories of atomic bomb survivors(hibakusha) alive and taught to the younger generations. Not only that, but as a partner with International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Hibakusha Stories share the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize*! This teacher education program will assist teachers in adding nuclear disarmament to their curriculum. As if that were not amazing enough, I also would participate in the UN Bookshop Meet the Author event and discuss my mom’s experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and TLCB. I still feel so giddy just thinking about it 😊

The night before I spent time going over what I would say and taking in the view of Manhattan traffic in the glow of the city lights (my family knows that’s one of my favorite things to do). The view was just so amazing!

NYC lights view

The next morning, I woke up about 3 hours before we had to leave (we had to arrive 8;30). Watching the darkness of early morning burn off from the first ray of sun for the day- a perfect setting to pray, review my notes (again), marvel at the view, and repeat. While I was getting ready, my husband had returned with a surprise treat of a chocolate croissant with my much -needed large cup of coffee. He knows me so well 😊

We had a short walk toward the United Nations building. An interesting note about the UN building- did you know that once you enter you are no longer in the United States?! Yup, although its headquarters’ address is in New York City, once you go through security and enter the courtyard you are entering 18 acres of international territory. Yes, 18 acres- definitely a much larger facility than it looks from the outside! I was very grateful for their kindness in making sure that a wheelchair would be waiting for me(thanks to Diane Barnes)-I’d have never been able to walk everywhere we went that day. Before we entered the UN, I met Suzanne Oosterwijk, a lovely person who had been my main contact before our arrival and the person organizing where I needed to be that day.

View of UN from hotel window

Moments before my magical day began

With Susan Oosterwijk

Our first stop-meeting room for the teacher symposium. Next to the table of fresh fruit and bagels from Brooklyn(yes, I know, I am all about the food), we were greeted by Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, Hibakusha Stories Director and Education Consultant to UNODA along with, Robert Croonquist founder and treasurer Youth Arts New York(parent organization of Hibakusha Stories). Dr. Sullivan and Mr. Croonquist also share the Nobel Peace Prize as partners of ICAN. So not only did I have amazing opportunity to meet Nobel Peace Prize winners, I worked alongside them and they let me hold the actual medal!! THAT was so cool.

Matt and I holding Nobel Peace Prize Medal!

With Nobel Peace Prize winners Dr. Kathleen Sullivan and Robert Croonquist

Before the symposium started, I met, Mitchie Takeuchi. I was thrilled to finally meet a second generation Hibakusha like myself! I felt an immediate connection with her. As I listened to her tell the story of what happened to her mother and grandfather in Hiroshima atomic bombing, my heart ached with empathy. I know that we are both doing what we do to honor our loved ones’ voices, and to give a voice to victims who never had a chance to speak. It humbled me to participate in a session with over 40 compassionate teachers who came, on their own time, to discover ways to add nuclear disarmament to their curriculum.

With Mitchie Takeuchi

With NYC teachers, ICAN, Hibakusha Stories, and myself.

{Before I move on to the UN Bookshop presentation, I just want to say if you have a chance to eat at the UN Cafeteria (once it is safe to do so) the views alone are worth it! But the international selection of food is also delicious. 😊}

I am normally a little nervous before I speak no matter if it is in person or on Skype. But when we exited the elevator and I saw all the people in the bookshop, the various Japanese newspapers/photographers, and NHK World Japan, I’m not gonna lie, I was a potpourri of shocked, humbled, and suddenly extremely nervous. However, once I got to the front, I, reminded myself that this wasn’t about me. I prayed that I would honor the memory of my mom, family and all atomic bomb victims, and that my heart would shine through my words. I looked at my husband for that reassuring smile, and finally, I savored that moment and my once in a lifetime paparazzi experience. Having Dr. Kathleen Sullivan as the moderator was surreal. Did I mention she won the Nobel Peace Prize?! 🙂

Maher Nasser introductions

 
During the question-and-answer section someone commented that TLCB could be the “Anne Frank of Japan”. That totally blew me away. During the book signing I met so many wonderful people and educators. Our new friend Suzanne whisked me off for the United Nations podcast, The Lid Is On, (that aired on my birthday few months ago-a perfect gift)!

With Ana Carmo of UN podcast

Speaking with Fumitaka Sato ,NHK World Japan

The afternoon ended back where we began this joyous day and I had a chance to chat with the UN ODA staff and wonderful members of Hiroshima Stories. I’m so incredibly grateful to John Ennis, Chief of Information Outreach for UN Office of Disarmament Affairs and colleagues Soo Hyun Kim, Diane Barnes, Suzanne Oosterwijk, and Maher Nasser(United Nations Bookshop). As well as to Dr Kathleen Sullivan, Robert Croonquist, Diane, Debra, and Carolina from Hibakusha Stories/Youth Arts New York.

Dr.Sullivan on phone making Matt & my dinner reservations!

John Ennis, UNODA

Matt and I capped off the day with a delicious dinner at Sakagura restaurant. When we returned to the hotel room, I spent the rest of the evening looking out the window at the city lights and traffic below. Before I fell off to sleep, I relived all the amazing moments of the day. If I had to pick one word to describe that day it would have to be magical. The only thing missing was having my Mom there with me to share that day and to know her voice had mattered. But I believe my parents were there in spirit. ❤ The magic of that day shall live in in my heart forever. ❤

Sakagura restaurant,NYC

Matcha tiramasu-as beautiful as it is a delicious dessert


So, now to the reason I named this blog post… One of the interviews I had after the book signing was with NHK World Japan, that filmed part of my presentation at the UN Bookshop. Later they posted about it on NHK World Japan website.

A few days after I returned home, I happened to glance at my Spam folder and found an email from Fumitaka Sato the award winning Senior Correspondent for NHK World Japan that I met at the UN Bookshop! Sato-san wanted to learn more about my mom, how my daughter started my journey to write TLCB, and how it has been used in schools worldwide. And the rest you know from my social media posts about the Japanese and English segments on NHK World Japan TV 🙂 

So, my advice to you all is ALWAYS check your Spam folder. You never know if there is an email waiting to change your life. (Spoiler: if it is from a Prince in a far-off country-that is DEFINITELY NOT the one). 🙂 

* for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that the United Nations adopted on July 7,2017. Although it has not been ratified by all the countries involved, including the ones with the largest number of nuclear weapons (the United States and Russia)- it is a beginning and a sign of hope.








Taking a Moment to Do 4 Things…

I don’t know about you, but it seems that my days are filled with the low hum of anxiety in the background of everything I do. Since the medical term Covid-19 along with phrases such as social distancing, and shelter in place* have been introduced, my world seems upside down. Just recently when at Target®, I swear that there was a spotlight from heaven shining down on the Angel Soft® TP and I heard the strains of the Hallelujah chorus in the background…C’mon, I know I’m not alone in the quest for this new holy grail?!


Now that schools, churches, restaurants, libraries have closed for our safety, we add feeling fragmented to this emotional mix-tape(for those of you too young to know what a mix-tape is, just think of it as a playlist you make for a friend). However, there are some technological advances that can be used to connect with and comfort one another. Cyberspace is not just to show the best side of our lives in the perfect heart hands sunset, or the latest cute animal video-Although if you haven’t seen the penguins roaming around the empty halls of the Chicago Shedd Aquarium-you must stop right now, lift up the rock you’re living under, and watch it. Go ahead, I’ll wait….

Copyright Shedd Aquarium

Adorable, am I right?! 😊 So, back to using cyberspace to show our real side, as well. Teachers, parents, librarians continue to provide education to their students with remote classrooms through Edmodo® or Zoom®. Also, as authors, we want to help our readers. 
One of the best things about being an author for me, is visiting students (virtual or in person) and meeting readers at book festivals, but since in person visits cannot happen right now, there are other opportunities available. So, if you home school your child or if this is your first time home schooling your child due to Covid-19 school closures here is a list for you:

-Award winning PB and MG author Kate Messner(The Next President, and  Chirp are her latest ) has set up, and continues to organize/administrate Read, Wonder, and Learn! – Favorite Authors & Illustrators Share Resources for Learning Anywhere on her amazing website. It has videos of various PB, MG, and YA authors/illustrators discussing their book or a writing/illustrating lesson. In addition to this, many authors are reading their entire picture book or a chapter from their novel (with permission from their respective publishers). (Please note, if you are an educator planning to use this as part of your classes please consult this page for publisher’s Copyright guidelines during Covid-19.)

-Susan Tan, MG author of the loveable  Cilla Lee-Jenkins book series, has set up, organizes and administrates a YouTube channel of authors reading from their books or giving lessons in writing/illustrating as well – Authors Everywhere
I’ve recorded Chapter 2 of The Last Cherry Blossom (TLCB) and it is on the above sites. (Chapter 1 of TLCB is on my YouTube® channel– yup I have one, and heck no, I’m definitely not an influencer, not even close! But I welcome new subscribers 🙂 In addition to this, you can request a TLCB Discussion/Teacher’s guide on my website www.kathleenburkinshaw.com

Over the next couple weeks, I also plan to upload some videos discussing behind the scenes of writing (including deleted scenes) TLCB and my current manuscript, sharing pictures from my mom’s childhood, discussing Japanese culture, reading my mom’s favorite Japanese folk tale-Urashima Taro, as well as some writing prompts. In addition to this, I plan to do a few Facebook® Live readings/chats, and more Live Instagram®. I did my very first Live Instagram for Southeast YA Book Festival a couple weeks ago (when it cancelled for our safety due to Covid-19). Doing it was scary and unknown, but pleasantly, surprisingly fun! I don’t know if the viewers thought it was well put together, but those that did stop by seemed to think I did okay. The great thing about the Live videos on Instagram, they disappear once they are over(or after 24 hours if you share it as your Instagram® story) and so there’s no embarrassing evidence left behind. 🙂 I also know that there are families who may not have access to the internet for these services above, especially with libraries closing. But since you’re reading this, I can safely assume you have access to internet or smart phone. So if you want to recommend a way for the student to connect with an author, Educator Lorraine Bronte Magee is compiling all of the kidlit folks who are encouraging kids to #writetoanauthor while schools are closed. Through her website – Reading Connects Us If you could print out that list, mail it to the student, and let the students know if they write, authors will respond. If you know of someone that would like to write to me-but doesn’t have internet access, please go to my website contact page to let me know and I will then email you my mailing address for you to give them.

In the NC library system, The Last Cherry Blossom and many other amazing novels are available as e-books on Hoopla(Yay!). The indie bookstores in my area are Main Street Books in Davidson and Park Road Books in Charlotte. If you are under stay at home orders, as we are in Charlotte, NC-you can still support your indie bookstore by ordering an e-book or order a hard copy online from them.

Lastly, please remember that even though fear, anxiety are natural initial reactions in response to Covid-19; we can try counteracting these feelings,by taking some control of our situation and choosing to take a moment to: 1. pray/meditate/breathe, 2. to wash hands frequently, 3. be kind to yourself and be there for one another, 4. remind family/friends to follow stay at home ordinances. You can make up your own Top 4 lists. However, xenophobia should NEVER be one of our choices on that list.

My mom showed me that great strength, faith, and compassion for others can be found during and after the most devastating of circumstances- while we all wait for the season to change after the last cherry blossom falls..

Sending a virtual hug (from a safe social distance) and I’m praying that you all stay well and keep safe ❤

*Interesting fact– “Under local ordinance, “shelter in place” forces people to stay in their current building during a nuclear accident.So that they do not invoke the specific nuclear accident precautions, officials are calling it “stay at home” instead.” (Charlotte Observer)

Celebrating World Read Aloud Day with a TLCB Giveaway

“Just one more book, please.” That was my daughter’s beloved nightly mantra as a child. My husband and I enjoyed every moment reading to her. I loved how she would look at the pages in the book and pretend to be reading by explaining what the pictures portrayed. Although, she’d eventually have most of the words memorized because we had read the book to her so often! Once she could read, it was so touching when she insisted to read to us after we read a book to her. That memory still makes my heart swell.

Sara’s favorite story from this book, ‘The Little Airplane’ had to be read to her every night.

Starting with kindergarten, I volunteered to read a book to my daughter’s class at least once a year. I thought it would be a fun way to also discuss our Japanese culture. I enjoyed finding various books for each grade level along with a craft. I still remember the first book I read to her class in kindergarten – HOW MY PARENTS LEARNED TO EAT by Ina R. Friedman/illustrated by Japanese American author/illustrator, Allen Say. I brought in wooden disposable chopsticks and taught her classmates how to use them by picking up Cheetos and fruit.

I think way back(well not too far back) 🙂 to when my elementary teachers read a book related to the chapter we were studying in history. It truly made me think beyond just memorizing dates and names. The characters in those books breathed life into that time period for me. I think that’s one of the reasons I have always loved reading (and now writing) historical fiction.

So, as I wrote The Last Cherry Blossom (TLCB) and I visited a class to discuss my mother’s experience in Hiroshima, it was a no brainer that I’d read some of my draft chapters to them and ask for their feedback. Now that TLCB has been published and I read either my favorite scene or the most difficult scene, I can’t help but feel a special connection made between myself, the students, and my mom’s story.

Reading out loud brings the story to life in the listeners’ imagination, no matter what the age. It’s such an amazing compliment to me as an author when I’m told that a teacher has read TLCB to their class. Reading a book aloud is a fun and lovely way to open a reader’s heart as well as their minds.

That is why I’ve enjoyed participating in World Read Aloud Day (WRAD), since TLCB published. Litworld, founded in 2007 by Pam Allyn, (a literacy educator and author) celebrated their first World Read Aloud day in 2010. I think this quote from their website sums up Litworld’s mission beautifully, “Literacy is not a gift given just to some lucky ones, it is a foundational human right that brings joy, economic independence, gender equity and a pathway out of poverty.”

2020 World Read Aloud Day was yesterday February 5th and I enjoyed the opportunities to read TLCB to and virtually meet so many students and teachers! This year to continue my celebration of #WRAD, I am doing a special TLCB Rafflecopter Giveaway going on now that’s ending February 21st. Prize package includes what’s pictured here and some surprise swag 🙂 Good Luck!

 

Secret City and Its Song Part 3(Final)

I apologize for being so late with this post. Pain, starting PT, and a conference took a lot out of me. But if you have been waiting for Part 3(Part 1, Part 2) of Secret City and Its Song,(please tell me you were 🙂 ) here it is….

On my last day in Oak Ridge, I had the honor to meet the key person who brought the International Friendship Bell to Oak Ridge- Shigeko Uppuluri. In 1987 Shigeko (Japanese American citizen) and her late husband, Dr. Ram Uppuluri initiated the idea of bringing a bell to Oak Ridge after visiting one at the Atomic Energy Institute in Japan. The Uppuluri’s had been residents of Oak Ridge since Ram took a job with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in 1968. I also met Jerry Luckmann, an Oak Ridge resident on the International Friendship Bell public relations subcommittee*. Initially, the bell caused controversy with some town citizens. In addition to some anti-Japanese sentiment, some residents had a concern that the bell would look like an apology for Oak Ridge’s role in WWII (which was/is not the intent). However, the bell also had the support of many residents like Jerry and Shigeko, who wanted to continue strengthening the relationship between Oak Ridge and Japan.

source:2008 Historically Speaking International Friendship Bell by Ray Smith

In 1993, renowned Kyoto bell maker, Sotetsu Iwasawa cast the 8,000 lb. bonsho (unique style with long and low sound) bell at a discount.  Private funds were raised by Oak Ridge citizens and Japan. Oak Ridge artist, Savannah Harris, designed two panels on the bell. One panel represents Tennessee: Iris flower, Smoky Mountains, a mockingbird, and dogwoods. The second panel represents Japan: cherry blossoms, Mount Fuji, crane, temple buildings. Both panels have rainbows and atomic energy symbol as a sign that events will never be repeated. A company donated shipping supplies and Honda shipped the bell on its automobile barge to Savannah (at no charge) where a truck that happened to be empty and returning to ORNL brought it to Oak Ridge. The dedication and hanging of the International Friendship Bell in the newly built pavilion at Bissell Park took place, May 1996. The International Friendship Bell commemorates peace, Oak Ridge, and the Manhattan Project workers*.

friendshipbell.com

Panel representing Japan

atomicheritage.com

Tennessee Panel

 

Jerry and Shigeko both reminded the students of the good will, friendship, and hope that can exist after horrible acts of war by both sides. So, each time the International Friendship Bell tolls, its song of peace fills the air. Similarly, in my novel, The Last Cherry Blossom, as the temple bell rings in the new year, Yuriko says, “… with each bong I sat wishing, peace, peace, peace…”

My daughter ringing peace bell in Hiroshima Peace Park Copyright K.Burkinshaw

My mother’s story and the story of Oak Ridge’s (and Hanford’s) contribution to the end of WWII can co-exist as a bridge to understanding each other’s stories with harmony, peace, and the elimination of nuclear weapons on the other side.

The children in Japan loved their family, loved their friends, worried what might happen to them, and wished for peace. The Allied children felt the same. If we don’t stop dehumanizing our “enemies” of  74 years ago and start realizing that they were not so different from ourselves and focus on the emotional connection we have as human beings, then we are at risk of repeating the same deadly mistakes, and silencing the bell’s song of peace forever.

At Friendship Bell with Shigeko Uppuluri

with Shigeko Uppuluri, Jerry Luckmann,Emily Haverkamp, Kat Hall, Scot Smith**

My Mom & her Papa

“It would be the sound of peace and contentment, as sound that transcends political opinion or nationality.” Shikego Uppuluri 

 

*There are so many wonderful people responsible and instrumental in purchasing/celebrating the Friendship Bell in Oak Ridge than I could mention in my blog post. For more info about Friendship Bell https://www.atomicheritage.org/history/oak-ridge-international-friendship-bell 

*A lovely book given to me by Shigeko Uppuluri – 2008 Historically Speaking International Friendship Bell by Ray Smith was a great resource for me.

**Emily Haverkamp-Jefferson Middle School, Kat Hall-Norris Middle School, Scot Smith-Robertsville Middle School

Also sharing this post at Welcome Heart

Secret City and Its Song (Part 2 of 3)

If you’ve wondered about the connection between my mother and Oak Ridge, TN mentioned in Part 1 ( and I hope you did 🙂 ) here is Part 2…

I’m embarrassed to admit, I didn’t know that the U.S. Government (USG) founded Oak Ridge as a Manhattan Project site to enrich uranium for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. I knew about the Manhattan Project of course, but always associated it with New York City, Washington(state), and New Mexico. Yup, Oak Ridge lived up to its Secret City code name! 😊 In case I’m not alone, here’s a brief summary of the Secret City:

  •  1939 U.S. learned Germany might be developing a new “extremely powerful bomb” AND President Roosevelt set the Advisory Committee on Uranium in motion
  •  June 1940 Hitler invaded Paris AND the United States National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) formed

  •  July 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union AND the NDRC, became the Office of Scientific Research &Development (OSRD) & began studying uranium enrichment with Columbia University.

  •  December 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, U.S. formally entered WWII, & President Roosevelt authorized OSRD for atomic weapon production.

wheat fields and construction (Copyright K-25 Virtual Museum)

The USG wanted inexpensive land tucked away in a relatively unpopulated, unknown area to build their 2 million square foot facility (known as K-25). The small Wheat Community (pop. 1,000) fit the bill with its 60,000 acres of farmland nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains. USG hired employees, built dormitories for the workers, and eventually brought in prefab homes for them. Many of the initial workers were women (most men away fighting in WWII) who operated calutrons (device enriching uranium by separating isotopes). It wasn’t called Secret City just for the location. People who worked and lived in this gated community were explicitly told not to discuss their occupation and they only knew information pertaining to their specific job. No one (except some of the scientists) knew the final product/purpose of the facility. Sadly, many of the workers also died as a result of radiation they were exposed to at K-25*.

Copyright K-25 Museum

Okay, so once I knew all that, I can honestly admit that I initially had a pit in my stomach. Would they accept me or my mother’s story? How would I feel being there? But the more I thought about it, my message has always been not only to show why nuclear weapons should never be used again, but to also tell the human side of the story. I do not discuss TLCB and my mother’s experience for the sake of blaming anyone. My mother said that “war is hellish for both sides”.  My hope is that readers/students will see the connection we have with other human beings, that leaders and the fanatics of other countries do not define all the citizens of that country. In addition to writing about my mother surviving the atomic bombing, I wanted to make an emotional connection while correcting some misinformation about Japanese citizens during WWII. That’s why I wrote about the culture, family life, and mindset during WWII through my mother’s 12-year-old eyes.

Mom & family’s back yard in Hiroshima. (Copyright K.Burkinshaw)

I have great respect for the people who did their patriotic duty by working at K-25 and Hanford. Telling my mother’s story about her family (and mine) in Hiroshima, does not in any way vilify the K-25 or Hanford workers nor does it diminish the important work they did for the U.S. war effort. Both stories can co-exist without dishonoring the other and each deserves to be heard.

Oak Ridge workers, Copyright K-25 Virtual Museum

Hanford Washington copyright atomicheritage.org

 

 

 

The kindness and compassion from the Oak Ridge/Knoxville students, teachers, and the librarians I met touched my heart. Find out how a song of peace connects Oak Ridge, TN to Japan in my 3rd and final blog post of this series tomorrow….

Peace Dove,a gift from Episcopal School of Knoxville, TN

 

*Again, this is only a very brief summary. Please visit http://k-25virtualmuseum.org/index.html for more details about the Secret City.

Also sharing this post at Welcome Heart, Let’s Have Coffee

Melton Lake Park, Oak Ridge

Secret City and Its Song

Melton Lake Park, Oak Ridge

Melton Lake Park, Oak Ridge

I had been wanting to write about my visit in May with the amazing students, school librarians, and teachers in the Oak Ridge, TN schools for a couple months now. But my father passed away and my pain flare ups prevented me from writing this until now. Because I didn’t want to have one really long post, I’ve divided it into three parts, with the 2nd posting tomorrow, and the last posting on Thursday ( I know, 3 in a row-you will probably never see me do that again 🙂 ). While writing about my Oak Ridge school visits, I read an article about a Japanese exchange student in the state of Washington, that I wanted to use as my introduction…

Back in May, a Japanese exchange student, Nonoka Koga, made headlines in US and Japanese newspapers. Ms. Koga spent the school year at Richland High School in Richland, Washington. She made news’ headlines because she spoke out about the school’s logo (the capital letter R over a mushroom cloud) and popular chant (“Proud of the Cloud”). Richland is near the town of Hanford – one of the locations for the Manhattan project and where they enriched the plutonium used in the atomic bomb, Fat Man, dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

Nonoka Koga is from Fukuoka, Japan. But her grandparents lived about 30 miles from the town of Kokura which was the intended target for the atomic bomb that day. However, since it was a cloudy day in Kokura, her grandparents were spared and Nagasaki with clearer skies became the target city and over 80,000 people killed.

At the end of the school year, Ms. Koga wanted to give her thoughts on the logo and cheer. With the help of the photography teacher she made her comments on the short 3 ½ minute school morning announcements on Richland High’s YouTube channel Atomic TV.

Ms. Koga explained that she didn’t want them to change their logo/mascot, but to help them with another perspective about what that cloud represents. “…after the explosion the cloud is basically made up of things that the bomb destroyed…I’m here today because it was a cloudy day.”

As the daughter of a Hiroshima survivor knowing how much my mother suffered and lost under one of those famous mushroom clouds, I do wish that they would change their logo and chant. I understand the pride the school has for the Hanford workers who were doing their patriotic duty. I have no issue with that. What I take issue with is celebrating something that killed members of my family, innocent women, children, and the elderly. Perpetuating an insensitive chant dehumanizes the many innocents who suffered in the bombing. This is why the stories of the survivors need to be told so that the students/teachers can understand why people like myself find the logo and the chant offensive. I don’t feel that they are using this logo/chant to be cruel, they just may not understand what the mushroom cloud represents. (I want to make it clear that I do not find the students, teachers, or citizens offensive.)

If I can explain the damage, the loss, the death under that cloud, then students can understand what could happen to their loved ones, if events were reversed, and ultimately come to an understanding that no family should ever have to live through that again. Ignoring the effects of the bombing on the innocent confounds and angers me. We can/should be proud of the work Hanford citizens did for their country but not proud of the death and destruction a nuclear bomb caused. Both stories can co-exist with respect and peace. I know that because I experienced that first-hand just a few months ago when I visited another Manhattan Project site- The Secret City of Oak Ridge TN.

When I found out that the Tennessee Association of School Librarians (TASL) nominated The Last Cherry Blossom (TLCB) for the Volunteer State Book Award, I did my chair happy dance 🙂  Scot Smith, Media Specialist at Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge, TN invited me to speak about TLCB and my mother surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima to four middle schools in Oak Ridge and surrounding towns. I looked forward to my first chance connecting with students, in person, at Tennessee schools (I’ve Skyped with TN schools). I had no idea just how connected my mother’s story would be to that city. But, more on that tomorrow…

Homeward Bound

Bittersweet yet blessed describes my trip back to my hometown in Rhode Island for my dad’s memorial service earlier this month. I’ve been reading a lot about letting go in order to receive. I finally had to let go of my anxiety about traveling as well as letting go of the vice like grip I had on avoiding my feelings of grief. Grief not only in missing my father, or at realizing I’m an orphan, but also mourning my wishes that the relationship with him went differently after my mom passed away. I needed to let go of the anger that things didn’t go the way I planned/hoped. Once I loosened that grip (I still have a hold on it, just not as tight, but it’s a first step), I could begin to receive the comfort from my memories.

One way I indulged in these memories- visiting special, nostalgic places that my daughter and I associated with my parents. My husband patiently drove us to each one. Thankfully RI is a small state. 😊 I realized two things: 1. That visiting these places, didn’t make me sadder, but actually gave me a sense of contentment by reliving the happiness of being there with my mom and dad, and I could talk about these memories with my husband and daughter. I could allow these feelings associated with the memories of my parents to be forever imprinted in my heart. 2. A lot of these places involved food. Come to whatever conclusion you wish with that. 😊

A must have for me when in RI -NY style wieners(oddly enough never ate one in NYC)

I found joy in visiting the same grocery store (Stop and Shop for you New Englanders out there), that we shopped at many times with my parents. One special purchase there was Social Tea Biscuits (ones that we cannot find down south), which my mom always had in a crystal container on the kitchen table. Somehow physically purchasing them there to bring home, made them taste even better than when someone would be kind enough to send them to us. Now not everywhere we wanted to go involved just food. One place we had to visit was family owned Wrights Farm Dairy and Bakery-okay, it had decadent baked goodies, but there is more. My parents took me there when I was a child and I loved the greeting from the dairy’s mascot at the time, a friendly St Bernard. When Sara came along, they would take her there no matter what season, not just to buy the sweets and fresh chocolate milk, but to visit the cows (her favorite animal as a child) that provided the delicious milk. Going there was always a happy event, that just happen to end with yummy treats!

We also visited Newport, where my husband and I had taken many beach trips while we were dating. We also brought my parents there on day trips, many years ago we found out we were pregnant during a long weekend visit there, and once we had our daughter, we’d drive there, pick up a pizza (you knew food had to be involved somewhere), and sit in back of our station wagon facing the ocean and enjoying the sunset at Breton Point Park.

The family and friends that were with us at the memorial service, made a very difficult day easier because they filled it with love. Everyone at the service had known my parents for a very long time, so they could share special memories of both of them as well. I truly felt my parents being with us every step of our trip. All the anxious and fearful feelings I had about writing a eulogy for my father, how my body would or would not hold up during the trip, were replaced with a sense that I could let healing begin.

Military Honors for my Dad at the funeral home.

Military Honors for my Dad at the funeral home.

Of all the places we visited, there was one I could not even drive by-the house that I grew up in, that Sara spent most of her childhood visiting. Interestingly enough, it was right around the corner from the funeral home where we had the memorial service. Although I found it oddly comforting to know my parents’ home was nearby, I just didn’t think I could have handled seeing different cars in the driveway or different people living there. I just wanted to remember my mom at the front door holding their pet Shih-Tzu, Fuji, while waving goodbye with his paw. And to remember my dad in the driveway waving both hands and smiling at us, but especially at my daughter until our car turned the corner.

So, by letting go and leaning on the Lord, the love of my family, and friends (also now family) in RI, I gained the energy to push through, take in the moments, let the memories come and the inevitable tears fall. By letting the feeling of their love overtake any feeling of anxiety, anger, or guilt, I left RI feeling wrapped in a blanket of peace and contentment.

Last pic on way to airport (stopping for lunch,of course, in Wickford)

Returning home, I realized it will still take a while to heal physically and emotionally from this trip. I’m still on my grief journey, but I have taken more steps down this road and now know that I do not have to travel it alone. It’s okay to talk about the memories, and not hold it inside or worse, push them away.

**Three Extra Items(Most important is Number 3)**

1. While I was in Rhode Island I had the opportunity to be interviewed for a Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation podcast and was very grateful that they posted it on August 6th which is a very important day for me to honor my mom, my family, and all the atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima(and Nagasaki on August 9th).

2. This month of August happens to be the third anniversary of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM being published!!! So, to celebrate I am holding a Rafflecopter Giveaway of a signed copy of TLCB and all this adorable swag pictured here along with a 45-minute Skype visit to a classroom for two winners that will be picked at random on September 1, 2019.

You can enter at this link:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

3 I’m a little behind from traveling, but I do want to thank all of the people who have read my blog, TLCB, interviewed or invited me to speak, blogged about TLCB as well as all the teachers and librarians that have used TLCB. Because without all of you, my mother’s and atomic bomb victims’ stories would not be getting out there to our future voters. Thank you for helping me find and to be proud of my voice. ❤ 

Also sharing this post at Welcome Heart

Reflections and Changing Seasons

This month has been very reflective for me in many ways. August 1st was my daughter’s first full day home from Japan after 4 months of attending Tokyo International University. Even though she needed to catch up on her sleep-just knowing she slept in her own bed under our roof comforted me and I could finally exhale.

Sara in front of A-Bomb mother Ginkgo tree in Shukkei-en Gardens

Sara in front of the Osaka Castle

However, my heart may have been happy, but my body was not. Increased pain in my left leg returned (surgeon said this might happen because the stent couldn’t fully open the vein) along with worsening osteoarthritis in my left hand. So, when Sara moved back to UNCW for her senior year (EEK! It doesn’t seem that long ago when I moved back to Stonehill for my senior year…) I had to give in to my pain and remain at home. I, of course, did the only thing I thought would help me almost as much as prayer-yup, I made some crispy rice treats to bring to my pity party of one. 🙂

I saved my reflection of August 6th for last. The memories of what my mom and my family went through on that day, as well as the years that followed live in my mind and weigh on my heart.  So, in closing, I’d like to share my guest post,Changing Seasons, I wrote for MG Book Village about my mom and her memories here

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The Last Cherry Blossom Blooming Anniversary #2

 

Two years ago, The Last Cherry Blossom, bloomed and a dream of mine came true. I’d like to thank all the readers, reviewers, students, teachers, and librarians that have read TLCB, or used it in their class with their students. To know that something I wrote about my mother has resonated with you all touches my heart (and still amazes me).

During the next 3 weeks, I will be doing another Blooming Anniversary Rafflecopter giveaway for a signed copy of TLCB, book swag, and if a teacher/librarian wins, I will also be happy to add a free 50-minute Skype visit 🙂

Throughout the month of August my posts will be dedicated to my Mom and all the victims of the atomic bombing 73 years ago. I will be sharing guest blog posts that published in June/July while I was recovering from my lovely surgeries/complications and unable to post on social media then.

On August 6th I will premier special book trailers for The Last Cherry Blossom! I did not make them-I can’t even do a selfie on my cell phone that isn’t a big blur 😊. The 6th grade students at Hiroshima International School (HIS) in Japan made the book trailers!

I Skyped with these fantastic students and their teacher Mr. Samuel Sheehy after receiving an email stating that they chose to use The Last Cherry Blossom as the book for HIS’s Action Week.  During Action Week the students develop projects that align with their school mission: “To provide international education that promotes integrity, excellence, cultural sensitivity and a life-long commitment to peace and a sustainable planet”.

The entire 6th Grade read TLCB. The day after my Skype visit in June, they visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. As part of their school wide campaign to read TLCB, they created the book trailers for their presentation to the Grade 4 and 5 students. This 6th grade class wanted to share the message of TLCB and how it inspired them. Mere words cannot describe how moved I am by their compassion and that they chose The Last Cherry Blossom. I wish I could give them all a hug in person. I know my mom and family must be smiling up in heaven. ❤

Here are the posts/dates:

August 2nd: Rafflecopter Giveaway Begins Today!

August 3rd: Reposting NPR Communique interview

August 4th: My ON THE RECORD (NC News Program on WRAL-Raleigh) interview (new)

August 6th: Premiere of TLCB Book Trailers by Hiroshima Int. School 6th graders!

August 7th: Middle Grade Book Village Guest Post

August 8th: Children’s Book Council Guest Post

August 9th: Repost my NC BOOK WATCH interview

August 10th: Repost READING WITH YOUR KIDS interview

I’m so grateful to my agent, Anna Olswanger and to my publisher Sky Pony Press. I’m so very lucky to have a lovely daughter, family, &friends who have cheered me on.

But, I’d like to say a very special thank you to my wonderful husband who has been so supportive of TLCB, from day one.  He is the one who pushes me in my wheel chair when walking is not possible. Sets up all the computer gobbledygook components 🙂  He drives me to interviews, conferences, and school visits that are too far away for me to drive. In fact, at the recent May Animazement conference in Raleigh, he drove all the way back to Charlotte because he/we forgot the bag with my laptop and info for my session that afternoon (5 hours round trip). Not only is he a great husband, but he is the ultimate Book Tour Roadie!

Lastly, the most import thank you- to my Mom. She shared memories with me she never shared with anyone and trusted me to write/speak about them. Her strength and bravery has influenced me more than she realized. She would tell me that I (and later my daughter) were the biggest blessings in her life. I really feel that we were the ones blessed to have her love in our life.

On August 6th,I will be watching the Hiroshima Peace ceremony on NHK TV, and will be thinking of and holding my mom,family, and all atomic bomb victims in prayer. I will also be praying that nuclear weapons will never destroy families like that ever again. I hope you may join me by thinking and praying for that as well. ❤

 

(OH! By the way, if you have read TLCB(Thank you!!) 🙂 and have a few minutes to write just a 2-3 sentence review on Amazon and/or Goodreads, I really,really would appreciate it.) ❤

 

I will also be sharing at:

DiverseKidLit

On This Mother’s Day

Since my mom passed away, Mother’s Day seems to sneak up on me. I admit that I still turn the channel if a Mother’s Day commercial comes on-I just don’t have enough tissues in the house 😊.

This Mother’s Day is the first one (I’m sure of many) when I’m not with my daughter. We are still adjusting that she will be studying in Tokyo for another 3 months (although, the first month seemed to whizz by). But thankfully the ability to video chat and text her through the LINE app on our phone without any cost, helps a great deal!

I remember my very first Mother’s Day-my daughter was 6 months old and she sat up by herself for the first time-I of course convinced myself that she waited to do that just for me, on that day. I also remember my Mom thanking me that day for giving her a granddaughter to love.

I remember the Mother’s Day a few years later, after I had spent so much time very ill in the hospital with the debilitating blood clot, my then 4-year-old daughter gave me an adorable handmade card of a heart. Inside the heart she drew a picture of her and I holding hands-best stick people ever 😊 When she handed it to me, she hugged me and whispered in my ear, Thank you for not going to heaven. I can’t even……. ❤ I don’t think I could ever truly put into words how my heart felt at that moment.

On this Mother’s Day, the Japanese Wi-Fi refused to cooperate, and we could not video chat. Instead, we used our cell phones to have an actual conversation (seems like we use them for so many other things like texting or reading instead-I’m not alone in this, right?). Later that day, she emailed me pictures from her recent trip to Hiroshima with some classmates. One picture in particular- the Peace Bell in Hiroshima Peace Park stood out to me.

This bell designed by Masahiko Katori in 1964 displays a world without national borders embossed on the front.  The wooden beam strikes the atomic energy symbol carved on the bell, representing the end of nuclear weapons. Because each strike represents a message of peace to be heard in every heart around the world, there is also a mirror that reflects the person (their heart) ringing the bell. Inspiration for Yuriko’s words at the New Year celebration in THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM, “But with each bong I sat wishing, Peace, peace, peace…”

Looking at that picture of Sara striking the Peace Bell with love in her heart for my Mom, the family members we lost, and all the victims touched my heart and gave me such a feeling of connection-like a warm hug from my daughter and my Mom.

Perhaps another reason this Mother’s Day snuck up on me is that I’m recovering from a surgical procedure. Turns out, having your Ilial vein constricted by your Ilial artery in your pelvis, is actually a thing. It’s called May-Thurner Syndrome.  Unfortunately, the angioplasty done last week, isn’t working as the doctor had hoped. So now the next plan is to put a stent in that vein in June.  It’s not an urgent matter, just means more time with the extra pain,swelling, and my foot turning a lovely shade of sea green(but, maybe an excuse to buy more clothes that will match it, yeah? 🙂 )  I haven’t exactly gotten past the frustration and disappointment about needing the stent, yet. It will probably take one more round of crispy rice treats…

However, I have an upcoming event that I’m looking forward to speaking at- Animazement in Raleigh on May 25 and 26th (which, if my husband is reading this post-is our 27th wedding anniversary weekend-just sayin’). Attending the event has been in the planning stages for several months and I’m honored that they invited me. Plus, waiting a few weeks until June, will give my body time to heal at the incision spot. I always fear that the RSD burning pain will develop at an incision site. But, so far so good and I hope that with some time in between to heal, it will be the same after the stent procedure.

Because of these recent events, I did not get cards out. So, I would like to say that I’m so very grateful for all the women in my life who have been(but are no longer here) and are like another mother to me now. I’m forever grateful that I had so many wonderful years celebrating my Mom on Mother’s Day with her and that I’m blessed with a loving daughter to celebrate Mother’s Day with me-even if this year it’s from the other side of the world with the striking of a bell.

Wishing all Mom’s and people who are “like a mother” to someone they love, a belated, yet a very Happy Mother’s Day along with a warm hug! ❤

 

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