Practice Artful Giving to Build Strong Relationships

It has been gray and steadily raining for the last several weeks in Seattle. When I greet the clients at my salon, I always try to put a bright smile on my face and approach each one with an enthusiastic, “Hello, how are you doing?” Lately, the most common answer I got was, “I hate all of this rain. The gray skies, in addition to all of the bad news around the world, is really getting me down.” As a result, I decided that I needed to put forth an extra effort to brighten up the salon with colorful decorations. In addition, I wanted to offer some cheerful and thoughtful, handmade gifts for my clients to purchase for themselves or to give as a gift to a special person in their lives.

I immediately got busy that evening after work, creating artful items while burning the midnight oil. Excitedly working throughout the night, my somber mood quickly turned into a feeling of joy and happiness by the time I decided to call it a day. While trying to fall asleep, I had visions of the smiles that would be created by those who would receive one of the gift items I had made that evening.

Take a look at my messy craft table!

When I make arts and crafts, I get totally lost in my own world and don’t pay any attention to the mess I’m creating.

The next day, I received a book that I had previously ordered. It was just released a few months ago by my friend Sherry Belul. The title of this little, but insightful book was, “Say It Now: 33 Creative Ways to Say “I Love You” to the Most Important People in Your Life.” I immediately began reading the book and could not put it down. “She’s so right!” I said out loud, as I turned through the pages. Here is a small excerpt from one of the chapters in her book:  “If you want to make an extra-special impact in your recipient’s day, I’d encourage you to give or send a gift that feels…different, something that’s creative, personalized, and made with love.” 

Upon further reading, I discovered that Sherry had past struggles with depression. During the darkest chapters of her life, she learned that when you send a little love toward someone else and bring a little delight to their day, it makes you feel that much better as well. You feel lighter, brighter, and a little more hopeful about the future – all because of that small connection you’ve shared with another human being.

Please meet lovely and whimsical Sherry Belul by viewing her video. I guarantee that she will bring a feeling of warmth and sunshine to brighten your day. You will soon be humming, “Singing in the Rain,” even if the skies are gray and it has been raining non-stop for several days!

Sherry’s book, “Say it Now: 33 Creative Ways to Say “I Love You” to the Most Important People in Your Life,” is available for purchase on Amazon.   
*I’m trying something new with affiliate links so if you purchase the book through this link, I’ll receive a small percentage of the sale (at no cost to you) to help fund my creative and philanthropic endeavors.

Now, getting back to where I started, here are the gifts I made. I’m sure that sweet ornaments and the face pins will put a big smile on anyone’s face, even when there are dark clouds and drizzly rain in the forecast. 

Sweet Expression Ornaments

These ornaments can be hung anywhere in your home. I’m sure that you will let out a sweet sigh of joy whenever you pass by this sweet ornament. I’ve hand-drawn and painted white bisque ornaments with acrylic paints. Why not gift them to the special people in your life who might be needing little caring attention?

Wood Face Pins

These 1 1/2″ round pins are made of wooden disks. Each pin has a unique look in their facial features and hair colors. They add lots of personalities to your outfits… especially (like me) if you wear basic colors like black, white and grey.

I created a special online gift store, Artful Giving Shop. I would love it if you would do go there and browse through all the art items I offer for sale. Let me know how you liked it. Did it make you happy?

Are You Ready to Kick-Start a Great Year?

Yikes! Don’t look now… January 2020 is almost over!

One evening last month, I was sitting at my home office desk, working on my computer after a long day at work. I imagined hitting the refresh button and pulling up a blank, new page on my Apple computer. In my mind, that’s how I wanted the new year to feel – a complete reset in seconds and my new year’s vision magically appearing in front of me. But, as we all know, it is never that easy. 

My internal gremlin quickly made an appearance and said, “Why did you sit around so long, enjoying the holidays? You should have been busy writing your personal and business plans for the coming year. If you had done that in advance, you would have been well on your way to rolling out a great, new year on January 1, 2020!” I shamefully nodded my head and mumbled, “I know. You’re right. I should have been a lot more diligent to avoid missing a beat in my planning efforts.”

Whenever I feel frustrated and paralyzed into inaction, I shuffle through my card deck, “Magical Mindshift” and pick a card that jumps out at me. Well, four cards jumped out at me… PURPOSE, COMMITMENT, COURAGE, and KAIZEN. My favorite pick was the word KAIZEN. This is what this card said, “Before you jump forward, look back and see how much you accomplished by working slowly, but surely”.


The Japanese business philosophy of lifelong learning in small incremental steps.

Master one thing at a time before trying something new.

From time to time, look back and see how much you’ve accomplished bt working slowly, but surely.

Kay’s quick doodle of a Rabbit looking back

Drawing a quick 2-minute doodle helps me to stay focused, visualize the concept fully, and helps my brain to think creatively to solve a problem. You should try doodling!

I decided to put my time into a period of reflection, looking back on all that happened in the previous year. I’ve always kept myself from looking back because all I seem to remember were the unpleasant memories of how much more I could have accomplished in the last year. I made up my mind to change things up for this year.

Resolutions tend to focus on our dissatisfactions and what we want to change. And while change is good, it can be unhealthy and unhelpful to focus solely on our deficiencies and shortcomings. It’s good to also notice how far we’ve come, reminding ourselves of how much we’ve improved, and the progress we’ve already made.

This way of thinking may seem like complacency but it’s actually the best catalyst for self-improvement. I’m more motivated by positive reinforcement than negative, so this mindset encourages more growth for me. It reinforces in me of my courage, commitment, drive, and resiliency, which in turn gives me the desire to continue growing and following my dreams.

Hopes and curiosity for the coming year.

Go ahead and make a list of things that are important to you as well as what you want to learn in the coming months.

Then create an action list of to -dos to keep you moving closer to what you want to accomplish.

New resolutions tend to focus on our dissatisfactions and what we want to change. While change is all well and good, it can be unhealthy and unhelpful to focus solely on our deficiencies and shortcomings. It is also important to notice how far we’ve come, how much we’ve improved, and the progress that we’ve already made. This way of thinking may seem like complacency but it’s actually the best catalyst I have found for self-improvement. Personally, I am more motivated by positive reinforcement than focusing on the negative, so this type of mindset works wonders in inspiring me to improve myself. It reinforces my courage, commitment, drive, and resiliency, which in turn gives me the desire to continue growing and follow my dreams.

In that spirit, I’ve outlined my thought processes for developing a simplified plan for 2020:

Step 1: Reflect on all that happened to me in 2019.

Disappointments – Focus on the wisdom I learned from these frustrations and regrets.

Accomplishments – Remember how these made me feel and what I learned from them.

Step 2:  Determine the kinds of skills and new mindsets that were learned during the previous year.

Step 3:  Define my hopes and curiosities for the coming year and outline what I want and hope to accomplish. 

Step 4:  Develop my Kaizen Plan for 2020 and be mindful of its mantra of “small incremental steps.” 

Step 5: Draw a visual diagram of my plan and post it in plain view so that I can stay focused on my goals each and every day.

Want to write your own year-end review and a plan for 2020?

Why not start your year with hope and curiosity by writing a year-end review of your own? What went well for you last year? What things improved in your life? What goals did you achieve? And what do you intend to do to have the greatest year ever? Comment below to share your thoughts with me.

To provide you with some inspiration, I want to share two videos with you. It involves a long-term goal that I always had in mind and was eventually able to bring to fruition in 2019. I will always remember this successful, “Women in Business” conference because it helped a diverse group of women entrepreneurs to learn, connect, and grow. Hopefully, it will provide some of the momentum you need to do something special and memorable in 2020. 

And here is my second video I want to share with you. My favorite philanthropy event of each year, “Angels for the Animals, Giving a Helping hand to the Animals in Need”. I have been helping the animals in this way for the past thirteen years! These are memorable events where the feeling of love, joy, and compassion stays in my heart throughout the year.

Stepping into the New Year, Embracing Childhood Memories

My childhood memories of the year-end traditions, while growing up in Kyushu, Japan always flood my mind this time of the year.

I went through culture shock when I arrived in America at the age of eleven and saw how differently people in America celebrated the coming of the new year. Lively new year’s eve parties, waking up late on January first and watching football games on TV while munching on various party foods was so foreign to me. 

The older I get, the more I cherish my childhood memories and the tradition of “starting new with a fresh mindset.” It’s such a good feeling to get enough sleep and rise early on January first, refreshed and ready to face the coming year.

Love is Kind artwork

My favorite thing about celebrating the New Year in Japan was to dress up in a colorful kimono and visit the nearby temple. I wrote my wishes for the coming year on a piece of rice paper and hung them on the large tree that stood in the temple’s ground. I can still remember the birds on the branches and few stray cats who came up to me asking to be fed.

New Years Memories Growing Up in Kokura

Starting at the first of December, Mother would say, “Keiko, we are going through each room in our house to clean every nook and corner. Here’s a check-list so be a good girl and do your part.” Without an argument, I helped Mother clean all the shoji-screens, de-cluttered the drawers in every room and scrubbed marks off the walls.

Mother’s To-Do list for me read like this:

  • Do you owe anybody money? Pay it back.
  • Did you say mean words to any of your friends? Apologize.
  • Did you mean to do a kind act for someone? If not, do it now.
  • Do you have any unfinished homework or projects? Complete them.
  • Did you think about what you will do in the coming year to become a better person? Write them down and bring them with you when we go to visit the temple.

After I finished my to-do list, it was time to relax and enjoy the coming of the new year on the evening of December 31. Mother and I sat in our clean house and enjoyed eating a traditional bowl of buckwheat noodles topped with grated mountain potatoes. While the slippery noodles went down our throats, we listened to the faraway sounds of the temple bells as it rang out the exact number of the year we were about to enter.

Mother said, “Keiko, soba noodles are the last to enter your stomach this year. This is cleansing. You will start out the new year with a clean body and a clear mind.”

I loved getting up early on New Year’s Day. Mother dressed me in a colorful kimono and we visited the temple and prayed for a good year so we would have the fortune to maintain good relationships, health and wealth. After that, we went home, ready to have fun playing children’s games with the neighborhood children and eating traditional New Year’s food which Mother prepared. 

Japanese new years is called Shogatsu, that lasted for three days (Jan 1st – 3rd). 

I still take this tradition seriously and try my best to follow through as much as I can with the list my Mother made for me. 

Why not try to follow this list, or something similar, for yourself? I guarantee it will make you feel so much better. Out with the old and in with the new!

2020 New Year


Here we are, entering a new year plus a new decade. What’s on your mind? One thing for sure, the year will slip by quickly without any results if we don’t create INTENTIONS. Don’t let your coming year slip by without a plan. Let’s all make sure that joy and happiness are infused in each day of 2020!

Word of the Year

This is the word I chose for 2020. I don’t want to keep struggling upstream. I want to enter every decision I make and everything I do to have a smooth, flowing energy.
Did you choose your word for this year? Please share it with me in the comment section below.

two birds flying

How I Make My Angels

I want to share a story of why I became enamored with Angels. Living in the aftermath of World War II in Kokura, Japan was not easy for me. Even for a little kid like me, I knew how hunger made my stomach ache. I asked my mother, “Will this go on forever?” She replied, “Keiko, I’ll have to show you how to believe in Angels. There is a special Angel who is keeping watch over you. But you must sit very still and think of how you want things to be…clear your mind by removing your thoughts of fear and anger out of your head and heart… invite love and hope instead. This is when I learned to find angels who were readily around me when I called out to them for help.


Angels are here to protect you. They are all around you so look for them.

Always remember that an Angel exists within each one of us. So why not be an Angel to others who need guidance from an Angel?

Angels are good either way.

Angels remain my most cherished girls. I draw, paint, and make things using the Angel as a metaphore. Lately, I’ve been making Angel ornaments. I gave one to a friend who was going through a hard time in life. She was elated when she received the sweet Angel ornament. “I know there are Angels, but I forget. This ornament stays hanging by my kitchen window. Every morning I gaze at her angelic face and she reminds me that I am never alone. She gives me the courage to face the day”.

This kind of feedback gives me the motivation to keep creating my Angel ornaments. Here’s a quick motion video on how I make them and a supplies list if you’d like to try making some yourself!

Here are more hand-made ornaments that you can purchase in my salon, Studio 904 Hair Design in Mercer Island, WA or by visiting my online SHOP. Still in time for year-end gift-giving!

Season of Giving

I believe that powerful collective energy emerges when we connect and work toward a common goal of helping those in need.

In this season of giving, my business, Studio 904, focuses on our annual Angels for the Animals campaign. I’m proud to say that over the 13 years that we have held this event, we’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars for several local animal welfare organizations: Pasado’s Safe Haven, Ginger’s Pet Rescue, The Old Dog Haven, and Precious Life Animal Sanctuary.

Ignite Sparks of Compassion & Joy

Looking for a unique holiday gift to inspire a friend? Feeling stuck and want to unleash your own inner power? The beautifully designed Magical Mindshifts card deck is full of inspirational words that are accompanied by whimsical, creative artwork. Each of the 56 cards in the deck contains an everyday word that can be used as a tool to help you see things in a totally different way. All of them are designed to create a mental shift away from the usual way you approach life to one that encourages you to open your mind.

Magical Mindshifts card deck

One of the Worst Moments of My Life

Two weeks ago, I promised that I would share another painful story with you. This unforgettable story is written in my book, Sheer Determination, Swimming Upstream in a Downstream World. When I was writing this book, I felt vulnerable sharing a story that I felt so shameful about but I forced myself to write it, hoping that it will help someone who might have gone through a similar experience.

Here is my story. plus a video.

I have a favor to ask you. Will you let me know if you’ve gone through a humiliating story similar to what I’ve gone through in your own life?

Share Your Story

Happy Halloween Day to you!. You’re probably getting your costume ready and/or your children’s’ costumes ready, you may be making last minute runs to the store for candy or you may be doing none of these things because Halloween isn’t your thing and you’d rather have a relaxing day and evening at home. Me? Halloween isn’t my favorite holiday because I’m the worst coward when it comes to ghosts and goblins. I have too many unpleasant memories of me shortly after I arrived to the U.S. from Japan at the age of 11. My cousins pushed me into the haunted houses on Halloween eve. It was especially scary since I never knew anything about this weird holiday called Halloween!

I was looking through my card deck early this morning and I saw this card titled, “SHARE YOUR STORY”. I thought the saying on this card is so appropriate for Halloween and I wanted to share it with you to get your creative energy going.

I’ve always kept myself from revealing my unpleasant experiences, even from my close friends or family members. I figured this is because there were so many things that were kept secret from me during my childhood years in Japan. The Japanese culture is engrained in “keeping things under the rug” and never reveal stories that are shameful or embarrassing. I started a new life in America at the age of 11. I even tried harder not to expose myself to the students in my school. I did a good job of not revealing things … like my step-father was abusive to my mother and so many unpleasant memories I had of living in a war-zone during World War II. I never told anyone that my Father who I never knew was killed in the Philippine Islands, fighting for the Japanese Navy. Keeping secrets for many years definitely took a toll on me. I felt like I was carrying a two ton sack of unwanted weight on my back everyday. One day, I decided to get rid of my load and spent the next two years writing my memoire titled KEIKO’S JURNEY. It was a hard book to write but fighting back the tears, I forced myself to write the truth. Writing my story proved to be the best thing I ever did. I was surprised when people from all over the world contacted me and told me their stories which they’ve kept locked-up in their hearts.

This is my wish for you today. Tell someone your story that you’ve kept in your head all these years. It can be a childhood memory or something that happened in recent years. You will be surprised how the person who listens to your story will open up and share his/her story too. A wonderful way to get to know the person better and you will build a relationship on a deeper level. Try it and share your story with me.

Coming soon… I will share with you a true story, “ONE OF THE WORST MOMENTS IN MY LIFE

How to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Have you ever been asked to do a project that could potentially help a group that you were passionate about? At the time, you were probably inspired to do something, but were also a bit hesitant because you were both excited and scared. Maybe you felt that same way when you thought about starting your own business. Or, possibly it was when you felt that you might be putting yourself too far “out there” by sharing your personal ideas in front of a group of strangers. Perhaps it was when you had second thoughts about picking up the phone and calling someone that you’ve always wanted to meet but were afraid to approach. I am sure you can think of many other instances. 

In any case, my question for you is this:  “What did you do in that situation?” Did you choose to follow through with your heartfelt inclinations or did you let an imagined fear hold you back? 

Here is my story on how I punched through the proverbial scary tiger that growled and tried to block my way… 

Here is my original art of the scary tiger. He is sweet now because I tamed him.

Recently, I was asked by my Score Business mentor if I would take on the planning and rolling out of a Women Business Owner’s Conference. This conference was badly needed and would be the first of its kind in our area.

She said, “Kay, this will get to the center of your passion. In the many years of building your own business, you’ve often told me that you are passionate about sharing what you learned with other women business owners of diverse backgrounds.” 

I replied, “Yes, but it’s really intimidating to think about taking on something of this magnitude. It will involve one-hundred-and-fifty attendees with facility rental, speakers, corporate sponsors, and more!”

The more I thought about it, the more fearful I became. I saw the scary tiger that always seems to lunge out in front of me when I want to step forward and do something that takes me out of my comfort zone. What didn’t help is that I also recalled all of those days when I sheepishly succumbed to the tiger and let him scare me from moving forward. By backing down, I knew that I was running away from things I really wanted to do and considered to be important. Worse, I often went through months of feeling guilty afterwards about remaining on the sidelines and not stepping up.  

Now I have a tool called, Magical Mindshifts card deck to help me realize that the tiger whose keeping me from going forward is only a PAPER TIGER!

Let me share with you some of the facts about women-owned businesses in our country and why I feel a conference to help women entrepreneurs of all colors is essential. I recently discovered an article entitled “Women Fall Behind in Business” at the Women’s Chamber of Commerce. After I studied the statistics, I was sad to learn that the numbers supported what I’ve always suspected:

Do you know that women own 36% of all firms and generate $1.4 trillion in annual revenues? However,70% of women-owned firms have less than $25,000 in annual revenues and only 10% have paid employees.

The obstacles women-owned businesses face isn’t just bad for women’s businesses but it’s especially bad for our national economy. Reports indicate that when women work, they invest up to 90% of their income back into their families and communities compared with only 35 to 40% for men. 

As stated in the article, “The obstacles to growth facing women business owners are dramatically impacting their business revenues and profits,” states Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce. “These struggles translate into massive opportunity losses for business owners, their employees, families and communities. It behooves every American to call upon political, governmental and business leaders to take action to open the doors to opportunity for women-owned firms.”

All of these thoughts and ideas have been ruminating in my head since January of this year. Fast forward to this September. It’s now happening! My team and I have been working diligently to organize, plan, and promote this exciting event that includes an Eileen Fisher Fashion show during the luncheon program. If you live close by, I’d love for you to attend and I guarantee that there will be a friendly PAPER TIGER to greet you when you arrive at the door! Don’t wait, purchase your ticket now.