Flashbacks

The other day an app on my phone sent me a “5 years ago” grouping of pictures-usually it just reminds me that I take way too many random pictures of food, or my dog in such a short time span. But this time, these pictures sparked memories of when my husband, daughter and I visited Hiroshima for the very first time. It was July 15, 2015-6 months (to the day) after my mom passed away. As you may know, we honored her at the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims.

We stayed at a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn with traditional meals serving local and seasonal items) on Miyajima Island (10-minute ferry ride from port of Hiroshima). Interesting fact-the actual name is Itsukushima Island after the famous Itsukushima Shinto shrine (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) built over water there-but has been called Miyajima-Japanese for shrine island, for quite some time

We spent July 16th, at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum. We stood in front of the iconic A-dome building in shock and awe, we bowed our heads in prayer at the cenotaph (built in 1952-the year that all Allied Occupation Forces left Japan) that protected the cement vault holding 108 leather bound books inscribed (by hand) with names of over 297,000 people(2015 numbers) who had since died but were in Hiroshima on August 6th . My mother‘s name was added in time for President Barack Obama’s historical visit in May 2016.

We stopped at the school children monument to pay our respects to my mother’s classmates that died that day. At the Hiroshima Memorial Hall, I lovingly and proudly added her story to the database and her picture  on the Memorial Wall, near her Papa.

Inside the Peace Museum we listened to a survivor story, but instead of being told by an actual survivor or family member it was by a trained volunteer. Since the survivors are dwindling, and some family members may move away, the museum recognizes the importance of keeping these stories alive. TLCB wouldn’t come out until a year later, but after listening to that compassionate volunteer’s respectful manner telling that survivor’s emotional story-even though had no relation to them at all -sparked the decision that I would do my best at making sure these stories-of my mom’s , my families’ suffering and loss that day were also never forgotten. I think I cried from the moment we arrived until after we left. I’m tearing up as I write this now….

Okay, got my tissues-we can move on…

We not only took in the splendor of my mother’s hometown with the Seto Inland Sea, Mount Isen, and palm trees. But, as we walked the sandy path to the Itsukushima Shrine(famous also for the giant red Torii gate that seems to float in high tide) where my mother went for various festivals, we saw Hiroshima through her eyes. I finally understood why she always said she grew up in the most beautiful of places. Fun fact – Nara may be known in Japan for having over 1,000 sacred deer, but Miyajima Island also is home to many photo friendly deer. You might even see deer eating “street food” or wearing a pine cone on its back! 🙂 

Of course, as with any trip we had some drama-just a little typhoon headed for Hiroshima. We caught the last ferry back to Miyajima Island where a lovely ryokan employee waited for us at the ferry station, knowing we were due back that afternoon.  They didn’t know when, but wanted to be sure someone was there when we did return-so they waited all day-so very kind and thoughtful (heck, we can’t even get everyone to wear masks,here). I’d also like to mention that while in Hiroshima Peace Park and back on Miyajima Island,everyone was so calm about the typhoon-even as the wind picked up. It would be like having a summer thunderstorm here in NC-expected and usually no big deal(except to Scarlet, our kitchen ninja dog, whose only nemesis is booming thunder). I fully empathized with her and lost my feeling of calm, knowing the typhoon was headed our way. And oh yeah, we were staying on an island-you know- by definition- surrounded by water.

It was unnerving to hear the wind and the rain that night. I don’t think any of us got much sleep. However, the next morning we woke up to gorgeous weather. The worst of the typhoon veered around us-coincidence, I say not…. Especially if you knew my mom! She would never let something happen to us after we honored her and her Papa.

This trip down memory lane leads me to the fact that this year is the 75th Anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (8/6) and Nagasaki(8/9). I am beyond grateful for the upcoming opportunities to honor my mom, family, and other atomic bomb victims. I hope that I’m instrumental in giving a voice to what they endured. And that the type of horrific deadly destruction that lived in their hearts, dreams, and memories for their entire lives never happens to families ever again.

I truly wish that my body holds out so I may use the skills, and compassion the Lord gave me to continue sharing the message that we must remember our connection to one another as human beings. Hopefully my words can open readers,(future voters’) hearts as well as their minds to what happened at 8:15am that August day 75 years ago. Deadly mistakes that we are at risk of repeating if we don’t connect with the fact that the people under those now famous mushroom clouds were someone’s child-like my Mom or someone’s parent-like her Papa-my Great Grandfather.

My mom & family in their back yard

Below is the list of events along with description of the sponsoring groups. Please check out these sites and catch their commemoration if you can, not just to see me (which I would love to ‘see’ you), 🙂 but to hear other survivors stories, and from coalitions, that are working toward peace and elimination of nuclear weapons:

August 1 Ribbon2020 10am EDT   

(Sara and I will be holding the banner ribbon that Sara made.)

I met June Tano by email and a few months later we met in person at the UN Bookshop signing and she gave me two beautiful ribbon banners. The Ribbon was founded by Justine Merritt who had visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in 1982. She was greatly affected by the tragedy caused by the Atomic Bomb. After arriving home, it came to her to create a Ribbon, and decided to have a Ribbon event on the 40th memorial anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

August 4th Interview on Asian America Podcast with Ken Fong

ASIAN AMERICA: THE KEN FONG PODCAST is a weekly show that explores the cultural, artistic, historical, and spiritual aspects of the Asian American community. Each podcast, host Ken Fong shares stories and thoughts from his own life, and then interviews guests across all sectors of society who are transforming what it means to be Asian American.

August 5th May Peace Prevail on Earth 6-8pm EDT 

(I will be one of the people saying a few words.)

I was introduced to Fumi Stuart, Executive Director, USA World Headquarters, whom I instantly felt a feeling of friendship. The Organization’s first seeds were planted in Ishikawa, Japan where a small gathering of peace workers joined Masahisa Goi to listen to his philosophy and visions for a better world. Masahisa Goi came to be respected as a great master in his field throughout Japan and his ideals for peace on earth gained much support.

August 6 HiroshimaNagasak75 #StillHere

(Sara and I will be speaking live at 7:30-7:55pm EDT)

I had an interview on the podcast, Nukes of Hazzard(Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation Washington, DC) last year on 8/6.  They are one of the 150 coalitions that are organizing this National Virtual Event. and who invited me to submit a proposal for this event.

August 7 Greensboro NPR THE STATE OF THINGS 12-12:30 pm EDT

August 15 The Japanese American National Museum Virtual Event: Daughters of Hibakusha Tell Hiroshima Stories

“Two award-winning Japanese American authors Kathleen Burkinshaw and Naomi Hirahara,(Hiroshima Boy) join together for the first time to discuss how they felt compelled to tell the stories of their Hiroshima hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) parents through novels.”

Mom, I love you and you will always be the bravest person I will ever know ❤

Will also be sharing on Welcome Heart

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

Behind the Mask

(Halloween/Fall wreath I made last year)

One week out from Halloween, a day when people put on another face or personality, I thought about how much we sometimes pretend to be something that we’re not-or when we push something to the side instead of facing it(okay, it’s really about how much I do this). It’s been my theme for the past 12 months after the spinal cord stim (SCS) surgery(October 2017). With each medical procedure (to bring you up to speed, there were 3), I expected to be a step toward feeling better. Yet, other physical issues cropped up and a few visits from my old friend DVT(a.k.a. blood clots), had pretty much zapped away any strength or writing focus I have been grasping in my cold arthritic hands.

Please don’t get me wrong, I did have some fantastic news (TLCB being nominated for N. Carolina and Tennessee book awards!) and opportunities (most recently-my 1st time as an Author Moderator at ReadUp festival, SC) in 2018 amidst the various health issues, of which I’m very grateful. But pain has drained my energy and for each fun opportunity, my recovery period lasted longer than the time before. This is one of the reasons, I haven’t written a blog post in so long. I didn’t feel very creative and I didn’t want to sound so negative or ungrateful. Usually I like to share how I’m dealing with the difficulty and quite frankly I am still searching for a way to get through all this.

Being able to honor my mom while discussing The Last Cherry Blossom (TLCB) with students and knowing that I may have played a small role in their understanding that nuclear weapons should never be used again brings joy and meaning into my life. I have no regrets devoting my energy to that. However, I’ve also come to realize that when I’m doing school or conference visits, I’m unable to devote quality time to research and writing. I must confess that I’m disappointed that I can’t do both, as I originally intended. If I’m really honest with myself, I’m extremely ticked off that Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) brought my career to a halt 17 years ago and now that I thought I found something I could do, the progression of RSD may take that away as well. (it seems that my RSD pain is spreading to the incision site of the stent implanted in June-heavy, heavy sigh).

There have also been other factors causing me to question how I will proceed with writing. As some may know, this past spring the parent company (Skyhorse Publishing) of the imprint that published TLCB (Sky Pony Press), reduced the number of books it will be publishing annually, and their reorganization laid off the editorial staff of Sky Pony Press. So, my hope of a sequel to TLCB, to which I was devoting my time and energy, when I had it, is now looking less certain.

Any self-confidence I had evaporated. Insecurity and the awful feeling that I’ve let people down quickly swooped in to replace it. I’ve been pushing these feelings aside for the past months and pretending everything is going well. I mean, if I say something long enough, it becomes true, doesn’t it?  Sort of like if I keep saying when you eat crispy rice treats straight from the pan, there are less calories-don’t judge. 😊

I do have other ideas for manuscripts and have even started researching/writing them. Yet the story my heart yearns to tell is the one of my main character, Yuriko. How she is trying to find meaning for her life and dealing with symptoms of PTSD, while living among the soldiers of the US Occupation forces and without her Papa.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to acknowledge the fact that my health may not get any better than it is right now-and may even be getting worse. I’ve been praying. I’m reminded that with God all things are possible and that He is made stronger in our weakness (I know I gave Him one huge energy booster shot over the past year). I don’t like change-but then again, who does? So, I decided to write this post while I’m still in the mess of it all. The feelings are no longer put aside and hidden with a smile.

(EEK! A mask on building in Izu from our visit in 2015)

I hope I can gain a little more of my pre-surgery physical and emotional strength back. And you can be sure that I will keep visiting with students (I just may have to do more Skype visits). But I need to work on accepting the fact that an instant solution to all this will not arrive gift wrapped and tied with a sparkling bow-oh, but wouldn’t it be cool if it did?! 😊 So, the mask is off, and hopefully I won’t scare anyone away while I’m waiting.

Also sharing my post at :

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

I’m also sharing this post at: