Sorry for the late notice, but I’m inviting you to a just-in-time workshop before the end of our summer season.
I remember those hot summer days when I was growing up on the southern island of Kyushu, Japan. My neighborhood friends and I waited patiently for the Kamishibai Man to arrive on his bicycle, pulling his candy shop and a miniature kamishibai wooden stage. We all ran out of our houses clutching small amounts of coins in our hands as the wooden clicking noise echoed closer and closer to our street. We sat around his bicycle, positioning ourselves to get the best possible view of the wooden kamishibai stage. We showed Kamishibai man the coins in our hands and he smilingly gave us a handful of our favorite lemon drops, milk, and rice candies. We licked and sucked on our candies while watching his show … intrigued with the man’s storytelling as he pulled one bright-colored picture out of the wooden frame and another scene appeared.
Kamishibai is the magical art of Japanese storytelling. Kami means paper and Shibai mean play. Kamishibai is such a powerful communication medium that organizations worldwide have adapted to using it to clarify their vision and values. In addition, Doctors Without Borders adopted it as part of its AIDS campaign.
COME AND PLAY LIKE A CHILD!
Join me in a fun, light-hearted Zoom workshop as I share with you a well-known Japanese story, Rabbit and the Moon. Then we will draw and paint a scene from the story, Momo-taro, a boy who was born out of a peach that was floating down the rive.
Don’t worry if you are a beginner. You will become a Kamishibai artist and a storyteller as you cut papers and paint a beautiful stage scene that asks the question, “What’s in the Peach?”
After you take this class and practice more, you’ll be able to make your own Kamishibai stories, paint beautiful greeting cards, or make a colorful display piece for your home.
This is true in any relationship, don’t you think? In the beginning, everything seems so ideal. My relationship with MoMo has been no different than when I hire a new employee. Everyone in the salon exclaims, “Oh, she is the ideal person who will fit into our team!” I always answer, “We won’t know a person’s true colors until she begins working with all of us on this team. To have high expectations will lead us into disappointment. Just remember, no one is perfect. Everyone has issues.”
Well, it’s been four months since MoMo arrived from Korea. I’ve been putting in hours every day to get her acclimated to her new life and to help her overcome fear, anxiety, and lack of trust. Getting to know her and earning her trust has been one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. She still displays a sweet disposition, polite manners, and a fun-loving personality. I felt like she was my dog and my good friend and we were stepping forward into a happy life.
BOY, WAS I WRONG!
I was wrong in assuming that MoMo has graduated from the frightened and insecure dog into a confident dog in just four months. Now I realize that my over-confidence in her abilities and skills got us into trouble. Here are some things that happened.
Scene 1: Socialization at the Dog Park
I decided that it’s time to get MoMo involved in socialization skills with other dogs. I took her to the fenced-in dog park at Luther Burbank Park. We walked in slowly and let her sniff around to get familiarized with the new environment. She seemed fine so I released the leash from her collar. She saw three big wet dogs who had just emerged from the water and playing with each other. MoMo ran up to them. They immediately saw that she was a newcomer and started to chase her with ferocious speed. She ran as fast as she could, but she was no match for them and the three dogs jumped on her. Oh my gosh, my heart was beating so fast trying to figure out a way to get her out. I finally managed to isolate the shaken dog, leash her up, and walked out of the dog park. I apologized to her for what I’ve done. What made me think that she was ready to play with big dogs?
Scene 2: Stairway Fright
One hot evening, MoMo and I came home from a walk. We went to take the elevator up to our third-floor condo and saw a sign on the elevator door, “OUT OF ORDER, PLEASE TAKE THE STAIRWAY”. I walked MoMo to the foot of our stairway and said, “Let’s go up”. As soon as she saw the stairway, her body tightened up and she began pulling away from me. I said, “Come on MoMo, you’re not afraid of the stairs are you?” She resisted me with all her might as I tried to pull her up the stairway. She is so strong when she doesn’t want to do something, she can easily knock you down. On the third try to pull her up the stairs, she was so frightened that she bit her tongue. As I saw the blood dripping out from the corner of her mouth, I knew I pushed her beyond what she was able to handle. I thought, “Oh, oh. I’m in trouble. How am I going to get her home?”. There was only one answer… It would require me to carry a 32 lb. dog up three flights of stairs to get to our condo on the third floor. I decided that I would have to do what I needed to do. To make a story short, I did manage to carry a scared stiff dog all the way up to the third floor. Whew… that was truly frightening for me too.
Scene 3: Slippery Fall
It was a hot Sunday evening. MoMo was dusty and hot after running around with all her small dog friends at the park. I saw a dog wash area where dogs were being hosed down by the water before leaving the park. I thought, “this would be a perfect thing to do for MoMo. At least she can get her feet cleaned plus get cooled off from the heat. As I walked her into the area and turned on the water hose, she got frightened and pulled so hard to get away that my feet slipped on the watery area and I fell while still hanging onto her leash! I was not hurt except for a cut on my ring finger where the diamond on my wedding ring cut into my finger. After arriving home, I realized that my finger had swelled up so much that I was not able to get the ring off of my finger. I knew that I would not be able to wait until Monday, so I went to the Fire Station and it took two Firemen to saw the ring off my finger! I got home around 11:00 PM and MoMo was waiting for me by the door. She followed me everywhere, looking at me with a worried look on her face. I knew it was not her fault, but it was hard for me to be nice to her. I ignored her but she stayed right by my side. I really felt bad but I said to her, “Do you know how much trouble you are causing me?” She had the saddest look in her eyes but I didn’t give her a pet on her head as I normally would have. Instead, I just ignored her.
I could never understand when I heard that so many people returned their rescue dogs back to the pound after living with them for a while. For the first time, I realized how much love, compassion, commitment, and hard work it takes to care for older dogs that come from abused backgrounds. They know nothing about anything. Everything is new and the learning curve is so scary to them. It was wrong for me to assume that climbing the stairs, getting wet by a hose, or socializing with others is normal and should be expected.
Going through these experiences with MoMo taught me that it is no different in human interactions. We assume that everyone should think, act, and behave like us. We must remember that we have to help others by meeting them where they are at vs. where we are at or where we want them to be. If we can experience what it feels like to walk in their shoes, we will be able to show more love and understanding in every relationship we have in life.
CELEBRATING THE SMALL VICTORIES
Here is some good news:
MoMo is a Life-Long Learner, She is doing very well in her Level 2 Dog Training Classes.
MoMo has learned to chase after tennis balls.
MoMo continues to be sweet and polite inside our home.
MoMo is quite charming in how she snuggles her face between my legs and asks for a pet and a body rub.
A BIG THANK YOU
Thank you to all who donated funds for MoMo’s mission to help other dogs left behind in Korea. We sent a check for $1,200. to Ginger’s Pet Rescue.
If you got something out of what you read, please let me know. I’d love to hear what you have to say on this topic.
Do you remember how bad I felt for MoMo that she ended up in a training class being the only grown dog in the class? I’ve been thinking about why I felt that way. After all, she is a dog and I’m sure that she didn’t feel as bad as I thought she did. After thinking about it, I realized that I was reflecting on my own painful memories of being brought over to the US by my mother at the age of 11 years old without any preparation for entering a new school in a new country where only English was spoken. I had no idea how humiliating it would for me trying to fit in as an immigrant. It dawned on me that MoMo and I are both immigrants, and watching her trying hard to adapt to her new life in a new country has brought back the pain I felt many years ago.
I want to share with you a story from Chapter 17 of my book, Keiko’s Journey. I think you will see why I felt so sensitive about MoMo entering her first class in her new country. After you read my story, will you let me know the close bond I have with MoMo is because we are both immigrants and I understand the pain she is feeling … because I’ve walked in her shoes many years ago?
Chapter 17: Survivor
I don’t belong here. Dirty school grounds, books marked with scribbles, rude students with brown and blond hair. What am I doing here?
It had been three months since I was thrust into the fifth grade class at Highland Elementary School. I sat in class, in total silence, not understanding very much that was being spoken. I didn’t have even a friend to play with during recess. Even though I was totally isolated, I did my best to at least follow Mrs. Baldwin’s orders. I saw that she was frustrated and didn’t know what to do with a student who only understood and spoke the Japanese language.
After a few weeks of attending school, Mrs. Baldwin approached me before class started and said, “I need to talk to you about something. Can you step into my office?”
I followed her obediently. “Your Japanese name, Keiko, has been difficult to pronounce by the students in your class. What do you think about changing it to “Kay”? It will be much easier for students to call you with the correct pronunciation if you have an American name. Is that okay with you?” I nodded my head and answered, “Yes, Mrs. Baldwin.”
Finally, the day came when Mrs. Baldwin pointed me out in the class. She asked, “Kay, can you answer a simple question for me?” Every eye in the room turned to look at me. I’m sure if someone had dropped a pin, everyone would have heard it.
My face felt hot and flushed. I felt like hundreds of eyes were piercing through my body. I took a deep breath and nodded my head, “Yes, Mrs. Baldwin.”
“Kay, we are studying about the state of Texas. Agriculture is very rich there. Can you tell me what they grow in Texas?”
I stared intently at her and was sure that my eyes were blank, as if they were saying, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
She paused for few moments, waiting for me to reply. When I didn’t respond, she went on to say, “Okay, let me give you a hint. The color is white.” Again, I didn’t understand what she meant. I had a sudden urge to run out of the room, but I forced myself to stay seated. “Let me give you another hint. It’s fluffy. When you blow on it, it floats away.” At that point, I raised my hand and shouted, “Snow!”
The whole room broke out in laughter. The teacher hushed the students and said, “The answer I was looking for is cotton.” The students resumed laughing again.
I sat there with tears streaming down my face. I was not used to being laughed at. Why was I being subjected to this humiliating situation when I had been a shining student at the top of my class in Japan?
The closing school bell rang. As I stood up from my desk to leave the room, Mrs. Baldwin came over. She said, “Kay, I’m sorry you had to go through a hard time in class today. I know how difficult it must be for you to start all over in another country.” I nodded, trying to hold back the tears that seemed so close to running down my face.
”I want to make sure that you won’t be embarrassed again. Let me explain your assignment for tomorrow’s art class. We will be drawing and coloring pictures for our upcoming Christmas holiday. It’s a contest. The chosen artwork will be posted on the bulletin board in our school lunchroom. If you have crayons or colored pencils, please bring them with you to class. Do you understand what I just said?”
I nodded my head and replied, “Yes, Teacher.”
The minute I arrived home, I ran into the bedroom and flopped myself on the bed and cried. Mother came in and asked, “Keiko, what’s wrong, why are you crying?”
“I’m not going back to school and you can’t make me!” I screamed, tears running down my burning cheeks.
“Tell me what happened that made you so upset,” Mother asked as she gently stroked my head.
“All the kids are mean and they laugh at me because I don’t understand or speak their language. They treat me like I’m dumb. But, I am not, Mother!” I blurted out, as my body shook with anger. “I hate America. I want to go home to Japan. I miss my teachers and friends. They are waiting for me to come back.”
“Keiko, I know how much you miss Japan, but we aren’t going back. I promise, if you accept humility and try hard in school, your life will improve. I know you can do it. You are bright and you have good study habits.” I stood up and let Mother wipe my tears away.
I walked over to the closet and took out the gray suitcase I brought from Japan. When I opened its cover, I found the art supplies that I used in Japan. Old memories returned. I had previously been selected to represent our school in the citywide art contest. My artwork was often displayed in the largest department store in the city of Kokura. I carefully took out the oil paint and the watercolor set and touched them. Memories overwhelmed me with sadness. It had been over six months since I painted a landscape, flowers, or a bowl of neatly arranged fruit, sitting side-by-side with art contestants from other schools in the region.
The next day, Mrs. Baldwin stood in front of the class and announced, “Students, do you remember what I said we are going to do in class today? We will be drawing and coloring Christmas objects. You may pick your choice of what you would like to draw – Santa Claus, Christmas trees, snow-covered villages, or anything else related to winter or the holidays.” The students showed their excitement by yelling in unison, “Yeah!”
“If your artwork is chosen by Mr. Hall, our principal, you will have a chance for the whole school to see your talent. The winning artwork will be posted on the lunchroom’s bulletin board. Good luck!”
Everyone in the class took out their boxes of crayons and began drawing and coloring their art work.
I quietly took my watercolor set and drew a snowy forest scene where deer roamed. I closed my eyes and imagined I was in a Japanese forest in the winter time. I could smell the scent of the pine trees in the calm and pristine wooded area. I drew, colored, and shaded the trees. I added slender silhouettes of the roaming deer. The scene was unfolding and coming alive on the paper that lay in front of me. I had not had a feeling like this since I left Japan.
“Students, it’s time to stop working. Please hold up your artwork so everyone can see.”
I looked at the scribbled red Santa Claus figures and reindeers other students drew, and I saw how different my work was. Everyone drew figures with stick limbs. They were all brightly-colored with red and green crayons. I was the only one who painted a snowy forest scene that required creating many muted shades with watercolors.
When I held up my art work, Mrs. Baldwin came walking to my desk and exclaimed, “Where did you learn to draw and color like this?”
All the students looked at my artwork and, in unison, exclaimed, “Wow!”
I knew I had made up for the humiliation of replying “snow” in yesterday’s geography class.
My forest scene was chosen as the first place winner by Mr. Hall. He had it framed and hung on the wall of the lunchroom. The sign next to the painting read, “Painting by Kay Esaki, First Place Winner.”
I ran home after school. I flung the door open to Baachan’s house.
“Keiko, you’re home,” Mother greeted me.
“Mother, I’m sorry that I’ve given you so much trouble. I’m ready to put all of my effort into becoming a good student in America. You will see.”
“Keiko, why this sudden change of attitude?”
“Mother, I found out today that I can be good at something, even if I can’t speak or write English. The snow scene I drew in class today won first place in the student art contest!”
“I’m not surprised. I knew all along that this would eventually happen.” Mother looked pleased and beamed with pride.
“That’s not all, Mother. Mr. Hall, our principal, called me to his office today and told me how much he loved my artwork. He then asked me if I would like to draw a large mural on the lunchroom wall!”
Mother’s eyes were wet with tears. She came over and held me tight. Her voice trembled as she said, “Your father would be so proud of you, Keiko. You went through hard times in Japan, but you learned some valuable lessons as well. No one will be able to take your good study habits and your kind heart away from you.”
“Mother, I will try very hard to become a good student in America.”
From that day forward, I often recalled Mother’s wise words that gave me the courage and focus as I continued to grow in America:
Keiko, you are a special girl. Your life was spared. Take your passion for Japan and focus it on America. Study hard and learn English. Do something good for the world. You owe it to your Father who gave his life in the war. You owe it to everyone who died from those horrible bombings.
To this day, as I live my life in America, her teachings have been the guiding force within me. Remembering her constant sacrifices, selfless suffering, and positive influences have been the impetus for establishing the firm foundation I built for my life and career.
How time flies! I can’t believe it’s been 2 months since MoMo traveled 19 hours in a plane from Korea, crated with another in the same kennel. Since that day, She’s learned a lot about life in the states. Here’s her progress report.
She learned that grass is the appropriate place for dogs to go take care of their business.
She can ride in the car now without shaking like a leaf.
She now sleeps on a soft cushion instead of going by the door and choose to sleep on the tile.
She went through a grueling 2.5 hours of getting her matted hair cut and shampooed. Her groomer, Elaine asked, “Where has she been? She has bits of concrete stuck in the roots of her fur”.
She still doesn’t know how to play with toys or other dogs at a dog park. We are working on her social skills.
She went through a complete physical and teeth cleaning with Dr. Winnie Peng (Cobblestone Animal Hospital).
She now knows that her kennel door will be opened in the morning, and she can walk out into the room.
Today I want to share with you that MoMo graduated from five weeks of dog training called “Rough Around the Collar”. She was the only full-grown dog in the class. Here is a picture of MoMo and her classmates who were all puppies. I got a lump in my throat because she reminded me of when I first arrived from Japan and enrolled in a grade school. No one knew where to place me. The only thing the school knew was that I would not survive in a class with kids my own age. It was humiliating for me and I got the same kind of feeling watching MoMo in this class.
Here is a picture of MoMo and her classmates who were all puppies. I whispered to her saying, “It’s ok MoMo. You are a proud and smart dog, I know how you are feeling. I was in the same boat as you when I came from Japan and I felt ashamed that I was not in the class with kids my own age. Don’t worry, you will get through this like a champ”.
It was all worth it. MoMo went through the class in her polite manner and accomplished everything that was taught to her by her teacher, Katie Morrell. Starting in July, she will start her Intermediate training.
Thank you for taking an interest in reading MoMo’s journey. I think she has finally settled into her new life and learned to trust those who care for her. She wakes up so happy in the mornings, knowing that she will be let out. She bounces out of her kennel jumping and prancing with her tail wagging. When I see her happy body language, I say to her, “MoMo, this is the gift that you brought to the world. We are so lucky to be able to celebrate your joy with you!”
A Piece of Good News!
MoMo and I want to thank all the good people who attended the Summer Garden Flowers workshop on May 29th and the people who donated to help us with our cause. We are happy to say that $1,000. will be donated to Ginger’s Pet Rescue. We are asking Ginger to use this money to rescue other dogs from Korea so more can escape their life under extreme cruelty.
I’m planning a Summer Card-Making Camp for people who want to learn how to make beautiful cards one step at a time, painting flowers with watercolors. This six-day challenge is perfect for beginner card-makers. Dates will be announced shortly so get ready!
I want to share a story with you. Many years ago, I met a woman at a business conference. She was beautiful, well-poised, and radiated a look of health. She approached me and began conversing with me about women in businesses. It was difficult for me to concentrate on our conversation. I finally got my nerve up and asked her, “You are a gorgeous woman, what is your secret to looking so good?” She answered with a smile on her face, “I work on it … every day”. Today, I still remember her powerful words, WORK ON IT, EVERY DAY.
Today, as I teach the art of creativity to students, they often ask, “You can create wonderful art projects so fast and easily, is it because you have natural talent? I wish I had talent so I can do it too.” I reply, “I’m a self-taught artist. I got to this point because I taught myself step-by-step and worked on it every day. You can do it too, I can show you.”
I worked myself up to a point where I can watercolor a flower/foliage card in less than 15 minutes. Watch my video to see how this is done.
It’s not too late to sign up for my up-coming watercolor workshop, Summer Garden Flower Party. MoMo (My rescue dog from Korea) and I are excited to offer this workshop where 100% of your $40 registration fee will be donated to Ginger’s Pet Rescue. Our donation will be used to free another dog from Korea’s Dog Meat Trade.