Memory Days

Listen to Mustn’ts
By Shel Silverstein

Listen to Mustn’ts, child, listen to the Don’ts.
Listen to the Shouldn’ts, the Impossibles, the Won’ts.
Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.
Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.

Memory days come on holidays and birthdays and days that remind you to remember.

Memory days come on days like today.

71 years ago Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese navy. That day marked my country’s official engagement in the second world war.

My grandmother was barely 18 years of age that day. Hawaii was not yet a part of the United States. That would not happen until 1959, three years after my father was born. As a Japanese woman she was required to carry her birth certificate, including a current photo, with her at all times. I have no idea what she went through during the war. It was not something I ever discussed in depth with her. I can only imagine the fear and uncertainty that must have invaded as the bombs shattered her peaceful island life.

Just under 3 months shy of the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I was 18 and a freshman in college. Living away from home for the first time I enjoyed the freedom from the responsibilities of being the oldest child. On the morning of September 11, 2001 I walked into my 8 am class and was promptly told that classes had been cancelled because New York City had been attacked. I rushed back to my dorm room and called my family back in Virginia and then numbly watched as the towers fell.

I knew at the time that the world had shifted. Life would not be the same and we could never fully restore or rebuild the damage done, nor could we begin to understand the far reaching effects of that horrible day.

Unapologetic evil had exploded into my world as it had for my grandmother decades before.

In the years that have followed, my memory days become more meaningful. The more I learn about the world, the more I am grateful for the life that I have been privileged to lead.

I had an idyllic childhood that did not strip me of hope and faith. Life showed me instead how to find hope in the minute details and has taught me to use creativity and imagination to combat fear and despair.

Adulthood will do it’s best to hide those early lessons from me. Memory days always bring them back.

Today I remembered Hope and Love because they are worth fighting for.
Today I remembered Friendships and Fun because I’d be lost without both.
Today I remembered loved ones lost and those still here because they have made my way easier.
Today I remembered those who fight because they stand guard so I can walk free.
Today I remembered that I get to be me because of the sacrifices made on my behalf.

I am proud to be me. I can be more than I am. I can sacrifice for those who will follow.

How Many, How Much
By Shel Silverstein

How many slams in an old screen door?
Depends how loud you shut it.
How many slices in a bread?
Depends how thin you cut it.
How much good inside a day?
Depends how good you live ‘em.
How much love inside a friend?
Depends how much you give ‘em


An open letter to my 14 year old self.

Dear Keely,

A quick errand took me past a high school earlier this week. It was late afternoon and the football team was running drills on the practice field. Noting how small and awkward the young players looked in their bulky pads and helmets, I chuckled to myself as I remembered the way I used to crush on the guys on the high school football team. I continued on my way while decade old memories began to flicker past my mind’s eye in quick succession.

As a freshman entering high school I know you feel the invincibility of youth. The world is your oyster with the pearls of life lying around waiting for you to find like a giant game of finder’s keepers. Of course you believe life is going to go exactly the way you want it to. You will graduate from high school and college, get the perfect job, marry the perfect guy and live happily ever after. You have no doubts, very little fear, and all the naive confidence of a girl in her early teens. You believe in ‘happily ever after’ as it has been presented to you in all the stories you’ve read and all the movies you have seen.

My dear, you are in for a rather rude awakening. The ‘Happily Ever After’ as served up by Mr. Disney and most of Hollywood has set an unrealistic expectation. Writer/director Cameron Crowe put it best through the character of Elaine Miller when she said, “Look at this: an entire generation of Cinderellas and there’s no glass slipper.”

You and those of your generation have been culturally programmed to believe that you are entitled to this hypothetically blissful existence that continues in your imagination after the credits roll. You also believe that all it takes to reach this state of unending happiness is to make it through a series trials, mishaps, comedic interludes, and maybe a montage or two; all of which fit into a two hour fabricated world.

Life, unfortunately, does not work that way. Happiness and love are not a guarantee. Fairness, equality, acceptance, and gratitude are fleeting, if present at all.

Experience provides perspective, and while I don’t believe that hindsight is really 20/20, I do feel that it does allow an introspective individual to view life through a much more focused lens. In the years since you and I were the same person the things that I know about and expect from life have changed drastically. I’m sure that in another 15-20 years they will have completely shifted again.

As I approach the milestone age of 30 I wish for the ability to do two things.
One: send a list to you of perspectives gained and lessons learned in the last 15 years.
Two: receive a list of the same from our 50 year old self.

Because The Doctor and his Tardis are not likely to show up and make that first wish a reality, I’ll leave my list here and hope that it may find a few others who can use it to make their own lives happier. As for wish #2, I’ll just have to wait and learn. It is probably better that way. I don’t really want any spoilers.

The List

Happiness is a choice.

Love has as many definitions as the sky has stars. Each one is unique and some are not stars at all, but twisted black holes, voraciously consuming all the beauty and light that surrounds them.

Your worth as a person is not a value that others assign to you but one which you assign to yourself.

Give sincere compliments often and always say thank you when one is paid to you, even if it is not sincerely given.

Never treat a child in a way that would make them feel insecure or insignificant. Those feelings will eventually become a part of them, and I promise that you don’t want insecure people who have something to prove making decisions about your healthcare when you’re old.

Read good books, and lots of them. Informative periodicals too. You will be smarter, more informed, and you will be able to speak intelligently on a broad spectrum of topics.

Always have at least one friend nearby whom you can call at any time for any reason and they’ll be there.

Always have at least one friend nearby who knows that they can call you at any time for any reason and you’ll be there.

Make sure to maintain one good friendship from high school. Once you graduate, it’s nice to have one person who has known you that long and can reminisce and laugh with you about things that happened all those years ago.

A person’s religious beliefs and political opinions are unique to them and should be respected. They are a very personal thing and should remain so. They are not tools with which to beat others over the head. (suggestion: keep yours to yourself unless you know that respect and common courtesy will be provided by you and to you.)

Exercise more. You’ll learn to love it despite hating it at first. And don’t forget to stay hydrated.

Don’t wait to learn to do that one thing you always wanted to know how to do. Once you get started it will make you happier than you’ve ever been before, and you’ll wish you had started earlier.

Education is important but remember that some of the most valuable knowledge can’t be gained in a classroom and some of the best lessons must be learned the hard way.

Worry a little less what people think about you and a little more about what you think of yourself.

Own one casual outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks. Wear it at least once a month.

Good music, like good books, should be searched out, consumed often, and in large quantities.

Musical tastes, like politics and religion, are a personal thing. They should be respected and not imposed on others.

Who you are should be a more fluid idea rather than be set in stone. Allow yourself to be changed by positive experiences, ideas, and people.

Be creative. Participate in creative activities as often as you can. When you are creative, you are happier.

Take time every so often to be silly. Make faces at friends, play in the snow and rain, or just go to a park and play on the swing set. These things are a huge stress relief.

Let yourself cry. Everything always seems a bit more manageable after a good cry.

Take a cross country road trip by yourself at least once while in your twenties. It’s best to do this when moving to a new place. You have to learn to like anyone that you spend more than 20 hours in a car with.

Have a good homemade chicken noodle soup recipe on hand. Nothing cures a cough, heals a broken heart, or warms up a cold winter night quite like a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup.

People watch. You will learn more about the world you live in than you ever thought you could.

Age is relative. Older doesn’t mean wiser and younger does not immediately indicate stupid and immature.

Sing out loud and at the top of your lungs whenever you feel so inclined. It will ALWAYS make you feel better.

Trust your instincts. When you do, act without hesitation. If you wait too long doubt and fear will stop you from experiencing some of the most amazing moments in your life.

Never take a job just because it pays well. You’ll be miserable and no amount of money is worth that.

When you give, give freely and without expectation. If you seek reciprocation or recognition you’ll be disappointed more often than not.

Never allow anyone to belittle or demean your sense of wonder or your appreciation for the magic in child-like belief. Defend these fiercely for that kind of faith is the miracle that pulls you through the toughest times.

People will come into your life who will change you and help you become a better person. After a time, most of them will leave. Live in every single moment. Love them unconditionally and you’ll have more to smile about once they’ve moved on.

Learn to manage your money well. Money won’t make you happy but proper management of the money you have will relieve a ton of stress.

Instant gratification is WAY overrated. The best things come to those who work hard and earn what they get.

Spend less time heart aching over some boy or worrying about the man you’ll eventually marry. Focus instead on becoming the girl who that guy wants to be with.

Prince Charming is a myth. He’s also boring and predictable.

Be confident whether you feel it or not. And remember, there is a fine line between confident and cocky. Don’t cross that line.

I could keep going, I’m sure, but I’ll just end with this. Happiness in life is truly all about the little things. A smile, a song, an inside joke, a sunrise, a full moon, the open road, snow-capped mountains, and a spring storm. Late night laughter, fresh baked bread, a child’s hug, a moment of inspiration, a movie quote, a crowded dinner table, a good book, a great dance, and most of all, friends.

You will live a life with no regrets if you choose to be happy.

Oh, you’ll still struggle, you’ll experience heart ache and pain, and you’ll question everything you thought you knew.


Between all of that, there is still happiness to be found. Find it and you will cease to merely exist. You will be alive.


I Get By

“What would you think if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me? Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song and I’ll try not to sing out of key.”

It snowed several inches all through last week. Today dawned bright and sunny and WARM. Well, warm for March in Utah. It is the kind of early spring day that makes me pray REALLY hard that winter is on the way out.

I begin to think of summer. I dream of t-shirts, shorts, flip-flops. I start to think about road trips with friends driving with the windows down and classic summer hits playing on the radio as we sing along at the top of our lungs.

I feel 18 again, and I remember what it felt like to be invincible and at the edge of all the possibilities that life has to offer.

I’m a decade over 18 now. Older and wiser, I’m a bit more cautious and my expectations for life are a tad more realistic, but I am still at the crest of the hill looking forward to what lies in store.

And guess what?

I have my friends and family seated next to me, the windows are down, and the radio is blaring.

“I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Your Stories:

What is your favorite thing about spring? What are your favorite sounds of summer?

Aaaaand Scene.

All of Hollywood turned out in their best to celebrate the 84th annual Academy Awards yesterday.  Super Bowl Sunday is great and all (I typically don’t party unless my birthday happens to be the same day. This year, it was, but that’s beside the point.) but I really love to pull out all the stops for the Oscars.

I usually try to watch as many of the nominated films and performances as I can before the awards ceremony. I didn’t do such a great job this year, but that just means I have a solid list of movies that I need to see in the near future.

My point today is not to discuss Hollywood’s biggest night, the dresses (Octavia Spencer, Penelope Cruz, Natalie Portman, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Jessica Chastain wore my favorite gowns.), the winners (LOVED Meryl Streep and Jean Dujardin’s speeches), or the upsets (I feel bad for Martin Scorcese. The guy gets shafted ALL the time).

I wanted to just say that, as much as I love the silver screen, there are some moments in life that far surpass my favorite movie scenes.   These are moments where, for a brief moment, I am allowed to touch perfection.

Some are simple, each one surprises me, and all are treasured memories.

My walk to work when the rising sun makes the distant mountains seem to float on the horizon.

A soft, breezy, twilight stroll through my neighborhood that could almost transport me back 100 years.

The blinking lights, the buzz of hundreds of voices, and the smell of tons of fried food at the Texas State Fair, and how it all melts away to a low, glowing hum, as you ride the ferris wheel up into the night and look out over the Dallas skyline and wish you could just stay there for hours.

Laughing on the front porch with friends; playing music, singing songs, and trying to forget the humid, sticky heat that never quite leaves when the sun goes down.

Wind whipping through the open window of the car as we sing our anthems at the top of our lungs.

The smell before rain and the storms that wash the world clean.

Endless Texas Summers filled with more memories than you could ever hold on to.

The moment his back lit form turned the corner of the house across the street and walked toward me. Rose in-hand, he stepped into the yellow glow of our teeny little student-housing apartment porch light and asked ME to the prom.

Driving down the 101 listening to Phantom Planet.

Wagon Wheel and Apple Blossoms.

Running through the hotel, we were PRAYING that we’d make it back to our room before Rulon found us out and get us in SO much trouble for being in Trevor’s room after curfew.  Herbal Essences shampoo and the smell of diesel engines will always remind me of that band trip.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Stevie Nicks.”  I have never seen 5000 people get to their feet so fast.

3am Live and Odis.  The year that live music changed my life.

Walking into the dark basement, I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal that, “Tony just got shot.”  I’d soon find out just how big of a deal that was.  #badfeelings

Walking through my small town, the trees on fire as summer ignites and burns into fall.  Starry nights, bridges, parkways, bonfires, and good friends, all tucked into our little piece of Shenandoah.

My life is better than any movie.

Your Stories:

What are your movie moments?

Just Dance

Before I begin, let me just say that I LOVE technology. Technology allows me to wake up on a Lazy Saturday to Good Day Sunshine playing on my iPhone and stay snuggled up while I write this post. Amazing.

Over the last year I have been attending a couple free dance classes here in the Salt Lake Valley.

I have always loved to dance. I could follow okay and I knew that I wanted to get better, but I could never afford the classes that were available to me.

Within the first weeks of arriving in Salt Lake I was invited to a dance and dinner at the Salt Palace. I am always astounded by the way simple choices can have a lasting impact on my life. Through the connections I made at that dance I was able learn about the two classes that I now attend and acquaintances from that evening have become some of my dearest friends.

Last night, just a little over a year after attending my first dance lesson here in the valley, I went to one of the local social dance halls. For the first time since I began dancing, I didn’t feel like I had two left feet. I learned some new technique that made a difference almost immediately, I didn’t worry about the steps and had fun instead.

Do you want to know what the best part is? I was CONFIDENT. I couldn’t have cared less how many times I got asked to dance, and I didn’t worry what I looked like or about messing up when I did dance. I loved each moment with every friend and I enjoyed every dance. Somehow every worry, every problem in my life just melted away for a few hours and I was just me. No strings attached.

When I am learning new things in dance and in life, I often hyper focus on how I’m ‘supposed’ to do it and I let the things that I get wrong throw me off and shadow what I get right. I get self-conscious, I get frustrated with my mistakes, and that ends up creating more problems.

If I take anything away from last night, I need to remember to not worry so much and Just Dance.

Your Stories:

What is the one thing that takes all your cares away?

“Thank You, More Please?”

“I’ve been feeling lately that, maybe I’m more resilient than I thought.”

One more year down and only God knows how many more I have to go. Already 2012 has introduced an insane collage of joy, hope, pain, love, friendship, laughter, tears, hard lessons, and tender mercies. I hesitate to think what the coming months will bring me.

2011 dawned with many good-byes and a great big adventure! I spent the first week of January in Dayton, Ohio with the Rieben family. Val had gone to get Alexis from Bulgaria and I rode herd for the rest of the clan during the day while Richard was at work. I had seven kids, (4 of whom have special needs) one absolutely INSANE dog, and an aloof but annoying cat for one whole week. I LOVED it.

Insanity at it's most enjoyable!

When Val flew back in with Alexis, I hopped back in my loaded little Toyota and kept heading west.

Headed West

Friday, January 13th marked the 1 year anniversary of my arrival in Salt Lake City. I drove into town on that snowy evening and immediately joined Brianne and Peter for dinner and a show at the Pioneer Theater.

It was a pretty great way to start a year.

I started this year with a bang by co-hosting a house party with a friend of mine on New Year’s Eve. We had board games, Rockband, Just Dance on the Wii, Mocktails, party food, and dancing. At midnight we toasted the new year with Martinelli’s and partied like it was nineteen-ninety-nine. (It is hard to believe that 12 years ago, I was in high school celebrating a brand new century.)

Since that night, however, I have had more ups and downs and cried more tears than I probably did during the entirety of 2011.

During the majority of the calendar year I love my life and I cherish my friendships and experiences.  I have fun, I learn, I grow, and trust that my dreams will come true.  Life during the holidays, especially with two younger sisters married and starting families, is a bit more difficult. Magic and romance take over the world during the holidays and I carry that festivity through my birthday in February.  However, each year when I take inventory, as most are wont to do, I discover that one huge gaping hole in my life.  I am alone.


Since I left home at 18, I have been single.  (I never dated before that, but I was a Shiraki. You are NEVER a single person when you live in the Shiraki household, you are a Shiraki.)

I am convinced that if you were to survey my good friends from high school they would have all told you that I would get married young, and I actually did come a little too close to doing just that than I am comfortable admitting.

Fortunately I had a Heavenly Father who was looking out for me and who knew that I would be happier if I experienced a bit more of life first.  Instead of finding some young buck and getting married, I entered college, left college,  worked, played a bit more than I should have, made many stupid mistakes, and I lived my life.

I have learned so much from the people who have come and gone, and I love them all for the role that they have played in my life. I am eternally indebted to those who have not left me, who continue to support me, love me, and give me a swift kick in the pants when I need it.

As I’ve passed through my late twenties, and I look forward to my early thirties, I realize more and more that I would not change who I am or what I have experienced for anything in the world.  Each person, each mistake, each heartache, each moment of joy, and every lesson learned has shaped the person that I am, and they will shape the person I become.

Yet, with all the confidence that I feel in who I am and how strong I have become, I still fight the horrid insecurities that I have battled my whole life.

The devil’s nasty little minions pick at me and whisper in my ear;

“You’re too fat and you’ll never be skinny. Ever.”

“You’re not pretty, no one has ever thought you pretty.”

“You’re uneducated, a college drop out. A failure.”

“You’re too old.”

“It doesn’t matter how good you try to be, you will never be good enough.”

“No one wants to date you. You’re a fine friend, but who would ever more than that from YOU?”

“You will NEVER have the things you want. You screwed that up a long time ago.”

They begin to chant these and more until it is too loud to bear.  Like the Lost Boys  in my favorite movie version of Peter Pan, they yell, “Old, Alone, Done For!” as I, like Captain Hook am unable to find my happy thought while swinging over the gaping jaws of the ticking crocodile.

Despair settles itself into the hollow places of my heart and turns the small dark corners to cavernous wastelands, threatening to consume me whole.

One light only can dispel Doubt and Fear from their tireless beatings and allow me to again find my happy thoughts.  Faith, the union of Hope and Joy, comes with small reminders of love and fleeting glimpses of a vast, infinite, and FABULOUS future.

Faith comes by way of a movie, suggested by a friend:

“So here’s what I have to say to you… Sadness be gone! Let’s be people who deserve to be loved. Who are worthy. Cause we are worthy, we really are! You are a good [person]. Go get yourself loved. That’s all I got.”

Faith comes from inspired words of encouragement:

“This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.”

Faith comes with friends and family who prove more than anything else that I am loved.

Ringing in the New Year! Bring it on 2012!!

Carmen, Kember, and I at the Twilight Concert Series

Melyssa, Katie, and I at Grace Potter

Sean, Petey, Bryce, Kember, Me, and Sean on the 4th of July.

Megan, Justine, Kember, and I getting ready for a Masquerade.

Good Times. Fond Memories.

BV friends and family.

My Family. Some are blood related, some aren't. Some are here, some are missing.

In the end, I remember that I may be single, but I am not alone. I am surrounded by those who do love me and I have a loving Father in Heaven and a Savior who is ever near and aware.

In the end, Faith fills me with Gratitude, and Gratitude begins to heal what is broken and cracked.

In the end, I give you the following:

“You have great potential in this lifetime. The key to your life is gratitude. You do not give enough thanks’

‘Well, how do I do that?’

‘Simple, say ‘Thank You”


‘All the time. Right now. After you say ‘Thank You’, you should say, ‘More Please.’ With gratitude, the universe is eternally abundant.”


Find your abundance in Gratitude. It will come. Do not loose sight of Hope and Joy for they truly bring Faith to the forefront of your life.

“Send that note to the friend you’ve been neglecting.

Give your child a hug; give your parents a hug.

Say “I love you” more; always express your thanks.

Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.

Friends move away, children grow up, loved ones pass on. It’s so easy to take others for granted, until that day when they’re gone from our lives and we are left with feelings of “what if” and “if only.”

Said author Harriet Beecher Stowe, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”

In the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, [member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints] Jay Hess, an airman, was shot down over North Vietnam. For two years his family had no idea whether he was dead or alive. His captors in Hanoi eventually allowed him to write home but limited his message to less than 25 words. What would you and I say to our families if we were in the same situation—not having seen them for over two years and not knowing if we would ever see them again? Wanting to provide something his family could recognize as having come from him and also wanting to give them valuable counsel, Brother Hess wrote—and I quote:

“These things are important: temple marriage, mission, college. Press on, set goals, write history, take pictures twice a year.” 

Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family. One day each of us will run out of tomorrows.”

Your Stories:

What is YOUR happy thought and how do you find it?

Bold and Bright

Am I supposed to take it on myself to get out of this place? Now there’s a loneliness inside her and she’d do anything to fill it in…She feels like kicking out all the windows and setting fire to this life, she would change everything about her into colors bold and bright. But all the colors mix together to gray.

I think we’ve all felt this way at one point or another. We find ourselves stuck in the habits and routines of daily life. Desperate to break up the monotony we search for something or someone to pull us up and out.

Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter how colorful the world around you is. If you think it is gray, then gray is what you’ll see. No person, place, or thing can change that by itself. You have to change too.

The obvious question is, “How?”

Start looking for things that make you happy, the things that bring the brightest colors to your life. Identify them and seek them out. For me, one of the biggest has been dancing. I attend 2 social dance classes every week and I take advantage of as many other opportunities as possible.

You also have to pin-point what triggers the gray. For me, the most obvious is sugar. When I eat sugar that is junk sugar, I get depressed. I am more prone to feeling sorry for myself and I end up wallowing. The minute I cut out junk sugar and just stick to all natural sugars, I perk up and I am able to let the color back into my world.

Understanding this about myself was not easy and it took a long time. Even knowing this, I still sometimes find myself slipping back into gray. Bold and bright is something that must be chosen. So make it a choice.

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