Telling our grandmothers’ stories to seniors

Well we did it. Lisa Petrides and I (Judy Shintani) did our “Honoring Grandmothers from Far Lands” performance at the Ted Adcock Senior Center in Half Moon Bay.

Though we have done it 2 times before, this was a bit different. 1) we did not have a lot of time to practice 2) we were performing for an audience of over 80 people! 3) The audience was 65 – 85+!

grandmother in america

While the seniors were enjoying their mother’s day luncheon of crab, lobster, and shrimp frittata, we spoke about our grandmother’s journeys to America, life in America, questions we had for them, and the gifts of their lives. We both tried really hard to project and speak slowly since we knew some of these elders had hearing problems.

We wondered how this much older audience was going to relate to the stories of our family members who were probably in their own age range. Would they relate to the stories themselves? Would they see their own life moments?

After the event we did get some feedback. A Japanese woman came up to us immediately and related her own story of a stranger approaching her in a Japanese American History Museum and finding out that their parents had both been in the same internment camp. Another woman told me about her mother getting dressed up in her best white starched blouse to wear as she stepped off the ship on to Ellis Island, only to be immediately sprayed with delousing chemicals. Another woman told us why her parents did not want them to speak their native German – it was too dangerous and not American. My dear friend Charlene, came up to me in tears, saying that the part about my grandmother’s internment experience was very moving, and that she was now thinking about her own grandmother.

The experience was very powerful for me. This performance stuff is challenging – I was raised to be one of those “be seen and not heard” kids. I guess I’m not that kind of adult. It is good to get out of the box once in a while and see how much I can stretch.

Telling an Ancestor’s Story

Telling a story about an ancestor can be a gift to oneself and to one’s family. It is powerful to have your stories heard. Here is how Lisa and I did it.

Capturing the memories
We did a meditation to ask our grandmothers what they wanted conveyed in our storytelling. Then we both took some individual time to write down some of the things we remembered about our grandmothers. We thought about their history, things we liked about them, some hardships, our relationship with these women.

Collaborating – the similarities and contrasts
We got together and shared these stories and discovered that there were similar veins, for example, both our grandmothers had arranged marriages. It was through these marriages that they came to America. We also began to notice how different their lives were in America. Lisa’s grandmother lived in a city and my grandmother lived in a houseboat. Culturally their temperaments and styles were also a contrast we worked with.

Following the flow
We used the time line as the flow of the story. We started in their native countries and traveled over the ocean to America. We walked, following the shape of an infinity sign, to tell about the long ship journey. We brought in props which anchored their stories and clued viewers into where they were and what they were doing. As we took turns speaking, the other person swept the floor behind them. Lisa spoke in her grandmother’s voice as she washed dishes, and I was my grandmother as she washed the rice.

Practicing in the space
If at all possible practice in the space you will be performing in. This allows you to be more familiar with the sound level, lighting, seating, etc. If that isn’t possible, envision the space as you practice elsewhere.

Invite critiques
Before two shows we invited some folks in to critique our performance. We got some great feedback about background music and adding movement. We were able to make some changes which improved the show.

We did some advertising and promotion through the local newspapers, email, postcards, and posters. After doing all that preparation, it is nice to have an audience! Of course that all took some advance planning since the pr had to be out almost a month ahead of time.

Performing it
On the day of the performance try to take it easy so you will be at your best. We passed out brief programs so the audience could have something to read and follow what we were doing. We did a little introduction and then went into the 15 minute performance. At the end we invited the audience to participate by standing and speaking their own grandmother’s name and many did so.

Invite your favorite senior to our 5/8 performance and luncheon


Lisa Petrides and Judy Shintani are performing “Honoring Grandmothers from Far Lands” again, this time at the Ted Adcock Senior Center in Half Moon Bay at 12:20pm, May 8th. The performance is part of the Mother’s Day Luncheon which starts at noon. This event is organized by the Senior Coastsiders.

“It is interesting how much a woman emigrating from Greece has in common with a woman emigrating from Japan,” said Shintani. “For example, both of these women’s families arranged their marriages, which led to their journey to America. We explore how this shaped their experience in becoming “American”.”

While exploring the stories of their Greek and Japanese grandmothers often left them with more questions than answers, Petrides said, “the performance is really about bringing voice to their lives and celebrating the stories of the millions of women who came to this country with little knowledge about what they were about to embark upon.”

“Through our storytelling we hope to conjure up the audiences’ memories and questions about their own grandmothers. We want to honor our maternal forebears and remember we would not be here if not for the choices they made to lead the lives they did,” said Shintani.

To attend the luncheon and performance, make a reservation by calling the Senior Coastsider’s office at: 650-726-9056. Non-seniors must be accompanied by a senior and the suggested donation for the event is $3.50.

Founded in 1977, Senior Coastsiders has become the focal point for senior services on the coastside. They strive to create an atmosphere that acknowledges and affirms the value, dignity and self worth of seniors and adults with disabilities.

The agency also serves as a resource for the entire community for information on aging, support of caregivers, and development of innovative approaches to address issues of aging.

 They are located at: 535 Kelly Avenue, Half Moon Bay, California 94019. For more information go to their website at:

Art show raises $1071 for Doctors Without Borders

The Gift of Peace art show at M Coffee in Half Moon Bay, California, ended today and we brought in a grand total of $1071 for Doctors Without Borders! 12 artists participated in the month long silent auction. I wanted to provide a venue for artists to focus on peace and then offer these gifts of peace to the public. The reception was really well attended and fun. Thank you to all the artists and art purchasers and viewers! Maybe this will be come a yearly event.

Click here for some more background on the show:


L to R, Lisa Petrides, Kim Criswell, Judy Johnson-Williams

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L – Richard Kirchner, R – Jo Jackson


Ander Meyer


L to R: Iris Brightwater, Mauro FF, Stephanie Navarro, Shirley McClure

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L: Carol Brehm, R: Judy Shintani



thanks.jpgWell the holidays are upon us and with that often comes stress and money issues. I am facing this year’s season with a new goal: to look at it as a time to remember what I am grateful for and to express that gratitude.


I must say that I am extremely grateful for my community. The community of Half Moon Bay is a big part of my life with all the colorful, fun, and caring people in it.

I remember when I lived in my condo in Pacifica and was working in Silicon Valley, I had no time to meet my neighbors and spent big bucks on dog walking. Now, when we went away to New Mexico, we had friends jump in to feed and check in on our kittens, water our garden and care for our house plants. Everyone did this free of charge, as a neighborly gesture. Getting together to walk on the coastside trail to see the sunset is a common shared joy or an impromptu bonfire can happen in a moment, as well as an offer to help with computer stuff. Enso Yoga Center is the warm and cozy and nurturing meeting place for friends to gather for food and music and yoga and art. It is the crown jewel in our community. M Coffee is another place for friends to meet and debate and read and see art, oh and drink coffee too.

My artist community is an important and vital force that keeps me creating and thinking and being true to my art. We all learn and encourage and inspire one another. I totally respect and am excited by what my art comrades are doing in the world and for themselves. The JFKU Art and Consciousness group and HMB artists make up this incredible support system.

My partner, Ander is very dear to me. He keeps me going with challenging thoughts and feedback about the world and unseen goings on by our not too scrupulous government. He is my confidante, my protector, my builder and handyman, my buddy in life and partner in exploring new places and experiences. We are diligent in keeping to the path of sustainability and making a small footprint with the way we live and energy we use. This is not always the easy or comfortable route, but is a goal we stick to, in our part to help the world.

I am very grateful for my family. We all love each other very much and can count on one another in a pinch. I very much cherish my nieces and feel fortunate to have them in my life. My parents spent a great deal of their lives raising me in a safe and caring manner and providing me with a warm and secure home. They put an incredible focus on education and striving to be my best. They always gave me confidence that I could do anything I put my mind to. I am also very grateful to them for exposing me to my Japanese heritage, while allowing us to integrate into the American life. We took many family camping trips and also sojourns into San Francisco to theater happenings, aquariums, restaurants, and museums. I think we got a very well rounded view of life, even though we grew up in a small central valley town.

All of these connections are part of what makes me who I am and provides me with a feeling of belonging to something that is larger than myself. This is worth more than all the presents from the mall I could ever receive in a life time!

I challenge you now to write about the things you are grateful for. Believe me, it really makes your heart glow!

Intention and Creation Art Show

What is the relationship between artmaking and intention?

Does artmaking manifest our intentions?

How does the act of creation reveal conscious thought?


I have the wonderful opportunity to be part of this show that Margaret Lindsey curated and it is currently up in the Enso Art Gallery in Half Moon Bay, Ca.
The reception is November 24, 4-6pm.

The intention of this show is to explore the relationship between intention and manifestation, through a show of work by several different transformative artists. Each artist’s work will be accompanied by a statement about the relationship between intention and creation in the pieces they’ve displayed.

For example, some artists feel that intention arises first, and that the form subsequently created reveals new or deeper information about that thought. For others, the act of creating brings a previously undetermined intention into consciousness or focus. Other artists see artmaking as a way of organizing the energy of an intention into a coherent or directed state. This could include artmaking as the vehicle for conscious intention, when art is used as prayer, in meditation, or for directed healing.

13 Artists Create Gifts of Peace, Silent Auction for Doctors Without Borders, 11/9

"One of the most calming and powerful actions
you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up
and show your soul."
 - Clarissa Pinkola Estes


This show is about offering and receiving a gift of peace. Some of us want a ‘moment of peace’ in a hectic day and many want peace in the world. I have felt a lot of stress and anxiety in people’s lives and broadcasted through the media too. I wanted to create a positive alternative for people to experience.

I feel that M Coffee in downtown Half Moon Bay is an ideal location for this show because they have a loyal clientele as well as tourists that come in throughout the day. Many people do not have to go out of their way to experience these gifts of peace. The “Gift of Peace” show will be on display November 9 – December 3, with the reception on November 9, 6-8pm and will include a silent auction of the art, refreshments, and live music.

I invited a group of artists to create gifts of peace, using their own interpretation of what that meant to them. Many of the artists are from the Half Moon Bay area as well as from Oakland, Palo Alto, and San Mateo. Artists participating are: Iris Brightwater, Kim Criswell, Mauro FF, Jo Jackson, Judy Johnson-Williams, David Hodge, Hi-jin Hodge, Richard Kirchner, Shirley McClure, Ander Meyer, Stephanie Navarro, Lisa Petrides, and myself. There will be a wide variety of art including painting, photography, sculpture, video, and poetry on display and available for purchase.

The artists are truly gifting their works of art because proceeds from purchases made during a silent auction will be donated to Doctors Without Borders. This is an independent international medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural or man-made disasters, or exclusion from health care in more than 70 countries.

Peace will be getting a lot of visibility. A group of artists will be focusing on creating peace for a month, people will be reading about this show in the Half Moon Bay Review; and then there will be those viewing the art for 23 days while drinking coffee. People will want to have these “gifts of peace” in their homes and then the sale proceeds will go to Doctors Without Borders to help people in other countries. That way peace will resonate to other communities too. This is a way for many of us to make a difference in the world.

Event Details:
Gift of Peace Art Show – 13 Artists
Silent auction sales proceeds to “Doctors Without Borders”
November 9-December 3, 2007
Reception November 9, 6-8pm – Music, Refreshments, silent auction
M Coffee 522 Main Street Half Moon Bay, CA

Click here for results of the benefit. 

For more information: Judy Shintani, 650-464-4736