Education

A Teacher’s Perspective

I have had a few parents ask me lately about the general failings of the educational system. After careful thought, I wrote this 6-page essay on my view of what is happening. Although I am a teacher, I am also a mom of four children, a former homeschooling mom, and a proud citizen of America. My hope is that we will fix what is broken.

Here is my excerpt:

Why the Educational System is Broken
On any given day a typical school opens its doors and runs business as usual. Students, teachers, staff, and parents fill up the campus to begin another day of learning. There are a myriad of pencils, paper, backpacks, lunch boxes, and water bottles that shuffle around to be used for this one goal: to educate the children. Yet, every day, people are asking the same question and wanting to know why their children are not succeeding in a place that is supposed to guarantee an educated, literate, and self-directed person by the end of 12th grade. Where did the link break to allow a child to fall through the cracks in the system? The answer to this question lies with one word: link. The educational system is comprised of several links that hold together to have a common goal: create a circle of strength to embrace every facet of the purpose and goal of education. When one link breaks, the other links are jeopardized and may fail.


The first link is the government. Education began a long time ago, and the government stepped in to organize and fund this new entity. In America, the government relies on the taxpayers to work and turn a portion of their money back to Uncle Sam. Then, Sam is supposed to organize and distribute the money to the states for the educational institutions. As with every organization, there are no perfect humans in charge. Therefore, the allocation of funds varies from state to state, district to district, and even school to school. Yet, when the allocated funding is based on attendance, district test scores, or other measures, the balance can be skewed. Those that control the purse strings control the wave of currency and how it flows to those who need to keep the wheel of education moving forward. When the purse strings are broken, twisted, or cut, the educational system suffers, but most importantly, the people who are in the educational system suffer.


The second link is the district or charter that operates each school under its care. The districts are responsible for hiring the administrators, teachers, and staff to oversee their most valuable asset: the students. One local district is directing and overseeing a student population of 34,000, and manages over 4,000 teachers across the city limits. There are a lot of working parts to running a district successfully, and then it takes even more working parts to channel that energy to the daily needs of each school. Where the link in the district can get broken is multifaceted: the range of issues from legal to personnel can create a myriad of “hoops” to jump through and resolve. Metaphorical hands are tied in some cases, and other issues have easy green lights. The inner workings at the district level can either hinder or propel the successes of each school.


The third link is the individual school that educates a portion of the local population of children. In this one glance, the school is just a building, a brick and mortar icon that is a second “home” for many of the students. Some schools are in desperate need of upgrades, remodels, and keeping on track with safety codes. Other schools look like shining beacons of hope, safety, and success. Yet, the individual school is dependent on the very people who walk its halls on a daily basis. The school itself is a place designated for one goal: to safely house and educate the children who attend there. Therefore, this means that school is more than just a building. It truly indicates or infers a sense of home away from home. Precious lives are trusting that the schools will provide, protect, and promote success. When this link fails, the trust is gone. The students, teachers, and staff suffer from the lack of safety, and the fear from the lack of resources prevents the goal of education.


The fourth link of this educational chain is the staff of each school. The top leaders, the Administration, have been placed in these positions due to their level of experience and education. A well-oiled educational machine will run from the top down. The administration is responsible for the daily organization, function, and duties of all the working parts at the local school. They are responsible for the safety of the campus, the hiring of teachers, the management of students, and the care of the grounds. A lot of responsibility rests on the shoulders of the Administration team, and the link is broken when the support for Administration and by Administration is not there. Since the Administration is deemed the middle man between the district and the teachers, there is a lot of stress and reliance on them to keep a school functioning at an optimal level. Burnout is one term for those who have experienced a lack of support and too much stress. The link can be easily broken through burnout, and this link is vital to the success of each school and each student.


The fifth link in the educational chain are the teachers. Some people may think that the heart of education lies within the teacher. And yes, for the millions of teachers who show up everyday, their heart is evident in everything they do. The teacher is the one who stands before a class and pours the learning into the minds of the students. It is a picture of one of the most fundamental needs as humans: to be poured into, mentally, emotionally, and intellectually. The heart of education is inside a classroom, and this is where the goal of education takes place every day. Yet, for some classrooms, the teachers do not bring in their heart. Some teachers are burned out from the lack of support, lack of supplies, and lack of respect. Other teachers are there to collect a paycheck and be a warm body to oversee and manage a quiver full of children. And, then there are the many teachers who truly love their job. For them, it is more than a job, and more than a career. Teaching is the passion that burns within them, to reach the heart and minds of the children in their care. But, this precious link can be broken so easily when the teacher does not meet the expectations of the school, the parents, and the students. The statistics show that 42% of teachers will leave the post after three years of teaching. Therefore, the link is broken often at this point due to high turnover in positions, and the lack of consistency due to many factors listed above.


The sixth chain in the educational circle are the parents. Parents and guardians play a crucial role in the educational goals of their children, yet so many parents do not realize their importance. On a societal level parents are their child’s first teacher. They birthed these little humans and chose to raise them. The parents are responsible for nurturing and training them from infants to five years. Ask any educational psychology student in training, and they will tell you that the most important formative years are these first five years of a child’s life. What happens during these five years will set the
foundation for a child’s future in all aspects. Health, nutrition, safety, day to day learning at home, sleep, play, and love are all so important to the future of a child. Yet, many parents lack the experience, time, or intuition to provide even the basic needs of a child, and then they expect the schools to make up the difference when the child is placed in the school’s care. The parents are one of the most important links to a child’s education, bar none. While the schools play a huge role in education for cognitive and intellect, parents are also relying on the schools to fill the gaps for the social, emotional, and mental well being of the children. These gaps were never part of the plan when schools were established. These gaps were supposed to be filled at home. These gaps ARE supposed to be filled at home. When parents fail to uphold their duties at home, the students and the schools suffer in society.


The seventh link in the educational chain are the students. The children come to school in kindergarten either very excited or very scared. As a former kindergarten teacher the witnessing of tears and laughter are very common at this age. Young students naturally want to learn, to love, and to be loved. Period. Yet, the rigor and demands placed on the youngest students tend to burn them out faster than ever. The students are there to learn, but they are also expecting so much at their home away from home. They have needs to be met, and they bring in their baggage from home, unexpectedly, unknowingly, to have their gaps fulfilled. As the students progress from year to year, they still learn more and more. At one point, however, their love for learning starts to wane. The light in their eyes diminishes into a ember, barely holding on to the last spark that once blazed their heart and and their minds. The link begins to break when the love for learning fades away. The students literally and metaphorically check out, because they, too, are burned out, by the very system that is supposed to support and sustain them into adulthood.


The eighth and final link is society as a whole. The American society is so dependent on education, yet the irony is that the support is not wholeheartedly there. Yes, there are resources, funding, buildings, people, and space, but the lack of priority on education is what breaks this link. It is the lack of mental, emotional, and physical support to the very institutions and people within those walls that creates the largest gap. Education is an afterthought to many people in society, rather than a top priority. If an adult has successfully journeyed through the system, they tend to move on into adulthood and just expect that the system is still running smoothly. Yet, it is clearly evident that the system still needs support. Just as the Golden Gate Bridge needs those posts and suspensions to keep it upright and safe, the educational system needs the posts and suspensions from all facets of society to keep it upright, safe, and successful.


The eight links of the educational system are crucial for the future of humans. If a link breaks, the other seven links must scramble to strengthen and uphold it together. Yet, in many circumstances, one broken link will lead to another broken link, until the whole circle is broken. Then, the chain falls to the ground, broken in pieces, and the people wonder why the educational system has failed. As a nation, as a people, it is
imperative that every person takes a role in fixing and creating stronger links. The educational system only fails when the people fail. The mindset and heart of the people must prioritize education as its highest gift so that the gift will continue to give to each future generation.

Education, Gardening, Health, motherhood, Random, Reflection, Woman

Plant the Seed

We have all heard this before.

Well, maybe most of us…

Those who plant the seed may not always be the one who gets to water that seed. But, if we are blessed, we may be able to witness that seed sprout and grow in the future.

I have to slow down and remind myself to be patient. Especially in times of seed planting… not literally in seed planting, for I tend to have a black thumb.

But my type of seed planting is that of encouragement or knowledge or just… wisdom from a mid-life mama.

I have watched how my own four children have grown into some amazing human beings. As much as I want to take credit for their awesomeness, I realize that most of my “mothering” was really seed planting of their hearts and souls. I gave them consistency and intention and a whole lot of love and grace.

I believe that our society is lacking so much growth these days. The soil of our souls is depleted, and when a seed is planted we tend to grow cold, grow weeds, or just wither up and die.

We are in desperate need of a revival. A societal revival that emphasizes nourishing the soul of our souls. Taking time to find the things that make us grow as humans.

Love.

Generosity.

Kindness.

Empathy.

Forgiveness.

Remember, as I share my thoughts with you I am preaching to the choir. I am my own audience, too. I need to hear and see and believe these things.

For then, when my soul is nourished, the seeds that I plant in myself can grow in a healthy way. And I can bring the fruits of my labor to you, dear reader.

May you be blessed today because of your investment to become process driven, too.

#mysoulstory

#plantyourseeds

#nourishyoursoul

Education, Faith, motherhood

Blood Convos

Lunar light and heavy thoughts

Last night the western hemisphere witnessed the viewing of the spectacular super blood wolf moon. Although my little area was covered in a wispy layer of clouds, we were able to watch the moon rise in its glory and then disappear by 9:40 p.m. into a shadowy covering.

My 12 year old daughter and I sat in the patio area of our backyard, as the last glimmer of the sun’s reflection sparkled from the top of the moon, looking similar to a kippah. Then, a brief moment later, earth’s shadow swallowed up the remaining light, and the moon began to change into a brilliant reddish-orange color.

The conversation that began earlier in the evening evolved from laughter-filled pre-teen innuendos to a somber-bewildered pondering of ‘the end of the world’ topic. The light that normally consumes my daughter’s view of life disappeared at the same time that the moon decided to play peek-a-boo with the earth. She began to ask questions, and I sat there to answer in the calmest manner I could.

There are seldom conversations about the deep and heavy thoughts in life, especially when it derives from the mind of a young person. For someone so young yet so wise to ask such philosophical, scientific, and faith-based questions, it brings about the very thoughts I ponder as a mid-life woman.

And I smile.

We were able to divulge into the topic of the beginning of life (think BIG) and where we are headed as a planet, as a human race, as a small part of the Universe. We discussed our beliefs, our fears, our hopes, and our priorities. Yet, no matter how much was shared to ease this curious young mind, I did not have all of the answers.

I am learning through this process driven life that we aren’t always meant to know the destination. And sometimes, we may know the hopeful destination, but the journey still scares the bejeezers out of our souls. And, then, when the fear has floated in the forefront for a moment, we push it aside and let the time pass as it should. For if we knew what would happen in our future (and I am visualizing the horrible movie Knowing) then our world would be consumed in continual chaos and anarchy.

At the end of our blood conversation I know she found more solace in her thoughts. She and I shared a few moments of mother-daughter snuggle time, and she drifted off into a peaceful sleep. As a seasoned mother of four I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to guide and shape this young woman-to-be. The goal of my process driven life is to do that just that. Be present. Be available. But most importantly, BE intentional.

Education, Marriage and Family

Real "Face" Time

mattncadieBeautiful Children –

Gifts and Blessings from God

Yes, these two belong to me.

My oldest and my youngest.

I am such a proud mama.

It occurred to me the other day how much time we spend on our electronic devices.  We are in the same room. Yet separate. In our own little worlds.

We are spending time chatting, but not with our mouths. We are using the technology that promises to bring us together.

To reconnect.

The house it too quiet.

Face to Face

My kids know that I enjoy spending teachable moments with them. We sit around the table and have real conversations.

A lot. Face to face.

Even if it seems boring, I want them to know that I am here for them.

Once a Mom… Always a Teacher

Never forget that if you are a mom, you are also a teacher. You are your child’s first teacher. You taught them how to walk, to speak, to eat, to obey, to listen. You may not be certified to teach a classroom, but you were chosen to be his/her mom.

Take the time to unplug, to read a book, to color a picture together, to complete a puzzle, or to go for a bike ride or walk.

The investment of real face to face time is much more valuable than any electronic device, more than any classroom.

This is my reminder.

Someday soon my oldest will be going off to college. It seemed like yesterday I was walking with him to the park everyday, pushing him on the swings, wiping off his boo-boos, singing him night-night songs while I tucked him into bed.

He remembers those moments of time spent with him. He appreciates the fact that his dad and I would spend face to face time with him. On purpose. For a purpose. Now, he is truly grateful.

My little girl needs that same amount of attention. Not negative attention, but just… attention. I have to fight against the tide of technology, though, but it can be done. I will win this battle for her attention. I want her to know I was here for her.

In person. Not on the other side of the chat screen or instant message.

Education, Politics

Back to Basics

The remainder of my schooldays were no more auspicious than the first… but as I inched sluggishly along the treadmill of the Maycomb County school system, I could not help receiving the impression that I was being cheated out of something. Out of what I knew not, yet I did not believe that twelve years of unrelieved boredom was exactly what the state had in mind for me.

(Chapter 4, Voice of Scout, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee)

These words have pierced my soul a time or two this summer, as I re-read this forbidden novel with my two high school aged sons. The tone was cynical music in my ears, yet truth rang through each syllable. Even though this was written over 50 years ago, with the story taking place over 80 years ago, somehow the tragedy of forced education is surfaced through a child’s memory, embedded in disgrace and bitterness while yearning for real life.

I used to be envious of the stories that I would hear of the past century. Although life in general was much more difficult back then, I enjoyed listening to the pastimes of lazy summers that bled into a new school year filled with patriotism, prayer in school, and learning the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic. I thought that the “happy days” of the 20th century were truly happy, but if one were to dig deep into the archives of education, she would see that not much has changed in its mission.

As I ponder over the direction of education in the 21st century I want to be that mom – that advocate – who fights for putting the basics back into real education! I don’t want to hear about “no child left behind” or the new “common core standards.” I want to know that the schools are teaching the children how to read properly; how to perform the four foundations of mathematics; and, how to write in both styles: print and cursive. My knickers are in a twist of the recent awareness that the new nationalized standards will not be teaching cursive writing. And, the icing on this political scheme of a cake is that the experts are more concerned about teaching the “process” rather than finding the correct answer! Really? 2+3=5 is not necessary as long as you know how to discover your own path. I sure hope that these children do not become surgeons or pharmacists or rocket scientists. We will be in a world of hurt if the right answer is not necessary.

I had to take a moment to vent about this change that will forever alter our children’s future. I can’t help but think that there has to be more to these standards than test scores or trying to fit all children into one common mold. It will be my new plea, rather, a new passion, to encourage all parents to teach as much of the “old” style of learning at home. Forget the matrix of multiplication… teach them how to multiply the old school way!

I know there is no perfect school out there. As humans we will always error when it comes to human-made institutions. And yes, the current educational system is bleak at best. But, please, don’t make it worse by further dumbing down the children. Take back the control into the local schools, by starting in your own home. Read to your children every night. Do the math flash card practice. Play a board game to strengthen the logic skills. Print out and copy some cursive practice words.

There’s one thing that cannot be taken from you, and it is your intelligence. Just don’t let some “expert” tell you what and how much of that intelligence will be allotted to your child. That type of progress, that type of control, that type of spreading-the-wealth… it’s not healthy, nor is it good for our future.

Education

There's no place like home!

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So glad you took a peek!

Since other moms are posting their homeschool curriculum choices, I thought I would share what I will be teaching to my boys.

It is not that difficult to teach a 7th grader or a 10th grader. In fact, I have learned right alongside them in our journey of homeschooling in the past.

Here are the subjects my 7th grader will be learning (and following the guidelines according to the Arizona Department of Education):

1) Science: Apologia General Science by Dr. Jay Wile

2) Mathematics: Saxon Math 8/7 with Pre-Algebra by Stephen Hake and John Saxon

3) History: The Story of the World Vol. 4: The Modern Age (From Victoria’s Empire to the End of the USSR) by Susan Wise Bauer

4) Language Arts: Language Arts 7 by Harcourt, Spelling Workout “G” by Modern Curriculum Press, Test Prep 7 by Spectrum

5) Reading/Writing: Following Narnia by Institute for Excellence in Writing, with completion of several novels in the Narnia series

In addition to the lessons taught at home, my sons will be participating in extra-curricular activities outside of the home through a homeschool co-op group called KEYS. They are excited to be exploring the world of drama and art as well.

A new year of learning starts tomorrow! The curriculum we use are just tools for the trade. The real learning takes place through character development, self-directed study, respect and responsibility for self and those in authority.

I am so thankful that my family and I live in a country that supports home education. It wasn’t that long ago when education was only taught in the home. I am grateful for the time we have spent in public education, but there’s no place like home!

Education

Curing Boredom with Board games

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My little girl just loves to play this game! Of course, when I was her age, I loved this game, too! I can remember sitting outside on the sidewalk, setting up the game, and hoping that someone would play with me. There’s something special about playing a board game, and every kid knows it.

Bored? Get on Board!

The cure for boredom can be found in playing a board game. Even though it may be less entertaining than the latest electronic gadget, a board game allows two or more people to connect on a social level that is also educational, fun, and heck…. face to face! The best way to feel connected with another person is to interact with each other, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to enjoy each others company.

Self Education

So much can be learned through a board game, too. You can learn about strategy (especially when playing checkers or chess); you can learn about mathematics (such as making change in monopoly); and, you can learn about certain life experiences in a surreal way. No matter what is learned, you will feel more accomplished at the end of the game.

Real Socialization

A board game must be played with the foreknowledge that two personalities may clash at any time. There are two levels of intellect that come together. There are two worldviews that may see the board in a distinctive light. Yet, all of these differences can be enriching and nourishing for the developing brain. Even the soul can feel “fulfilled” through this type of entertainment and interaction.

Get Real!

Get unplugged and pull out a board game. Gather a friend or family member to the table, set up the scene, and start playing! You won’t regret it 🙂

Education, Reflection, Woman

Vintage is in my blood

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This little book has been far more valuable to me than I ever would have guessed on the day that I purchased it.

I had been on a lunch date with my husband, and then we decided to wander in the local bookstore across the street from his office. I wandered upstairs to the second level, and as I was waiting on my daughter (one of her many bathroom visits) I noticed this little book staring at me.

I picked it up and realized that I needed to purchase it. I had never heard of this title before, let alone the author’s name. But, something about the picture lured me to buy it. I was hesitant at first, but soon I realized that it would become a treasure to my soul.

I started to read the book, and I was finished within a week. There wasn’t anything spectacular about the novel per say; there were no vampires or children killing each other in the wilderness to satisfy Panem. It may or may not ever be a best seller, but it is invaluable to me for many reasons.

You see, the first time I read the book, I was caught up in the “idea” of vintage. I liked that the setting was in North Carolina; I enjoyed the main character’s role of being an “almost-college-graduate” who is trying to figure out who she is and what she wants to attain in her world. But, the biggest thing that I overlooked in the first reading was why the story took place: the main character, Dora, has a beloved grandma named Mimi, who suffers a stroke.

Exactly one week after I finished reading this novel for the first time, my own dear mother had a stroke. This type of stroke was the same type that Mimi had in the novel. But, my mother’s stroke was almost instantly fatal. As I realized this unusual similarity between the novel and my own life, I realized that this book was more than just reading for recreation.

This book has become a source of revelation, or rather, a source of healing for my spirit. Since it is never expected for a loved one to pass away so suddenly, the shock is completely incomprehensible, unexplainable, and shattering to the core. Just as Dora found out about her grandma’s stroke and had to endure the inevitable choice to let her grandma go, I had to do the same with my own mother.

In the month that my mom’s life has ended, I have picked up this book on an almost daily basis, and read a chapter or two to help my soul. There are no magical words or feelings that actually “heal” my emotional wounds, but just knowing that this was the final book I read before my mom passed has helped me to connect with that exact moment of her final days with me.

I do not believe in coincidence, so this book was definitely positioned to be in the right place at the right time. God knew that I would be eating lunch with my husband on that particular day, and that we would be wandering through the bookstore, too. He knew that I would be dealing with my daughter’s seemingly incessant need to relieve herself in a public restroom, and that this book would be strategically located right next to the restroom.

Yes, vintage is in my blood. I love all things that are old fashioned, express beauty, and are girly. I love that this book is about vintage clothes in a boutique shop in North Carolina, which was my mom’s birthplace. I love that this book was about enduring love between a grandma and her only granddaughter, whom she raised.

My mom would be proud that I am embracing the beauty of vintage. Nostalgia helps me to retain what I have experienced, and vintage is a classic reminder to continually embrace the beloved things that have made me who I am today. Thank you, mom, for installing this love of old fashioned style and grace in me. I will always love you.

Education

Shedding Some Light on the Dark Side

This is my reply to an article that exposes the “dark side” of homeschooling. I beg to differ, and I have no problem stating so. If you are curious about my reply, read on…

Recently I had the opportunity to read the article, “Homeschooling: The Darker Side” in your most recent issue of AmeriKidz magazine. As a parent of four children I completely understand the commitment of raising a family with the highest standards, and thus choosing the best form of education for my children.

As a former Orange County native I decided to move my family to Arizona in 1998; however, I have kept close ties with my friends there in California. One of my friends forwarded the above mentioned article for my review. I have to say that I was slightly appalled during my reading that such a negative tone was given to this wonderful venture called homeschooling.

My educational background is vast and of great length. I have always believed that a great education can lead to a great future. My own educational journey has included several starts and stops, including 19 years to complete a Bachelors degree. This long term goal was fulfilled in December 2011. As an avid believer of internal motivation, I continually encourage my own children to do their best in their studies so they may also achieve their dreams and success.

I first learned about homeschooling through an employer in 1990. There wasn’t a lot of credibility with this alternative form of education during this time. Although the seed of “teaching my own” was planted in my mind, I never thought I would teach my own future children through homeschooling. Back then I didn’t realize that every mother is already a child’s first teacher.

When my oldest son asked me to teach him to read before kindergarten, my mother bought a phonics program from an infomercial and gave it to me.  I spent 15 minutes a day going through the program with my son. Within three months’ time he had learned to read – fluently – and at a 5th grade level. When I put him into kindergarten that fall of 2001, the teachers were astounded at his fluency and comprehension. They were actually upset at me for teaching him to read, since they didn’t know what to do with him for the rest of the year!

The rest of the story is pretty much similar with my other three children, with the exception of my second-born son, who has a learning disability. I taught my third-born son and my fourth-born daughter to read before kindergarten, too. I even sent my children to public school because I thought it was the “right” thing to do. I still didn’t believe that I was “teaching my own” at home just because I had taught them to read.

In 2005 I decided to take the plunge and begin homeschooling my third-born son. He did not like preschool because he felt ‘trapped’ by the routine of the typical school day. He was a calm and easy going child, and he thoroughly enjoyed being at home. He flourished at home, and I continued to homeschool him through kindergarten, part of first grade, as well as third and fourth grade. He attended public school in the latter half of first grade and all of second grade for the “experience.”

In retrospect, I have done it all. I have public-schooled my children, and I have home-schooled my children. Currently, my oldest son is a junior in public high school, my second born son is homeschooled (due to his learning disability), and my two youngest children are in a local charter school. I have not regretted one bit of the homeschooling days. Yes, there are times when it seems bleak, redundant, and lonely, but that is only because there is not a lot of public support.

So, my reason for this letter is to ask of a favor: would you kindly post an article about the benefits of homeschooling, as it is a great alternative to traditional schooling? I think it would be a great source of encouragement for the many families in California (and the rest of the United States) who are sacrificing their time, talent, and treasure to make sure that their children are getting the best education they can provide. Although your article does point out truth of the “dark side” of homeschooling, there can be multitudes of books written about the “dark side” of public schooling as well.

I have been a teacher in the public school system, both in the special education field and in an inclusive classroom. I have interviewed many teachers who are burned out with their career because they cannot get the support from the powers at be, nor with the parents at home. The true “dark side” of education today rests with the fact that there is a lack of support from the home, the community, and the political realm. No dollar amount from any government system can make up the difference needed to support the future of our nation in education better than the encouragement and support from the home front.

If one parent can give sacrificially to their children because of homeschooling, I believe this path is much easier than one teacher trying to give sacrificially to her 30+ “surrogate” children in the classroom. So, please, write a sequel to this article about homeschooling. I would love to have the honor of writing the article as a guest author, if you are so inclined.

Whatever the outcome may be, I do appreciate your time in reading this letter. I fully believe that our children in this wonderful nation deserve the best. So, let’s support those parents who are willing to come alongside their children and devote every ounce of time, energy, and care into raising and educating their own.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Cerrone

Education, Faith, Health, Marriage and Family, motherhood

Four Decades of Signficance

Today, June, 24, 2012, I have reached a huge milestone in my life. It is the day that some people will say I am now “over the hill.” For me, it is the most significant day of reflection, gratitude, and peace I have embraced.

It is my 40th birthday.

As I look back on my life these past 40 years, I can see so many things that have brought to where I am today. Take a small journey with me through each decade, won’t you?

1972 – 1982

From zero to ten, I was an ordinary little girl. From my mother’s perspective, I was her “dream come true.” Known by relatives as a ‘tahitian beauty’, I was vastly different in looks and personality than what was expected. I was painfully shy on the outside, yet strong-willed on the inside. I obeyed my parents at every command; and, I embraced a genuine love for God and for church at the age of 5. I was a good girl, and I was proud of it. I don’t have many memories of this decade, except for the few routine events that shaped my early years: going to school, watching Saturday morning cartoons, playing outside, going to the beach almost every Sunday afternoon, and going to churchy events so I could see my friends. I learned to play the piano in this decade, and most of my spare time was behind the keyboard. There weren’t any lavish family vacations (except to go see extended family), and I loved becoming a pen pal to anyone who would send me a reply by mail. Secretly, I longed for something more, but I wasn’t sure what that “something” was… not yet, anyway.

1982 – 1992

Ah, the decade of adolescence and growth into a young adult. Wow, these were turbulent years for me, as I can imagine that most young adults experience. But, the turbulence was silent, inward, and kept to a minimum on purpose. I wanted so badly to please my parents, please my friends, please God, well, please everyone! I did my best in school, but it wasn’t good enough for scholarships. I did my best in my friendships, and I manage to retain some kindred spirits. And, I always tried to please God, because I wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing. I hadn’t learned the difference yet between “right doing” and right being.” Yes, there is a difference.

I also discovered in this decade that love hurts. From losing a first love in a breakup, to having several close family members die, love does hurt. I didn’t quite learn yet that there was no one to blame for this hurt, but as the old saying goes, “time heals old wounds.”

Perhaps the greatest significance in this decade has been the experience of travel. I didn’t travel far, but I traveled enough to know that I didn’t want to stay in one spot for the rest of my life. From the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona, to the barrios of Ensenada, Mexico, and across the continent to countryside of North Carolina, I discovered a big world out there that held so many niches for a restless soul searching for that “something.” Still, my time had not come to fruition for contentedness.

1992 – 2002

The 20-somethings was a roller coaster ride of change, even more than my silent turbulent adolescent years. This decade brought upon so many life-altering events, but each one has its own place for significance. From the death of my earthly father, to early marriage and motherhood, and finally an uproot from California to Arizona, I felt like life was a whirlwind that didn’t know how to slow down. I couldn’t find the eye in the storm. This was such a time of dreams ending, dreams revealed, and dreams hopeful. The fairy tale that plays in every little girl’s imagination comes to a dead end in this decade. Reality bites. Reality stings. But, reality is real. Not that I am sad, though, for reality keeps one’s feet on the ground, and points to a future that is shaped by wisdom and knowledge attained.

2002 -2012

At first I couldn’t embrace the word “thirty.” I felt like my tongue had formed a lisp, and it was twisting the word “twenty” into “thirty” by accident. It turns out that the 30s have been a second whirlwind of change, but this time I had a little more knowledge, a little more wisdom, and a lot less fairy tale imagination! Returning to college in my 30s was probably the most significant event of this decade. It was also a lot more fun and motivating to earn those As because I was completing a goal, rather than pleasing my parents (or society). This was the decade of learning the ups of downs of marriage, of parenthood, of finances, and yes, even health. This was the decade when I realized that life was flashing by at the speed of light, and if I didn’t awaken to the reality of health promotion (aka disease prevention), then the rest of my life could be cut short very quickly.

The 30s has been considered a second “wiggly” round of young adulthood, in my opinion. The first “wiggly” time was the teen years that melted into the roaring twenties. This decade has proven more of wrestling with oneself in that you know who you are and where you have been, but you are now asking, “where am I going?” “Am I doing the right thing with my life?” “Will this decision to do such-and-such help me or hinder me?”

2012 – 2022

Well, the history books haven’t been written yet for this decade. But, as I look back on reflection of four decades, I can see God’s hand in guiding me, and His footprints as he walked beside me. I may not have chosen the path that I walked, yet that “something” I was looking for has been found. It is called Intention, and it is the one thing that propels a human being toward a satisfied, fulfilled life. I have learned that money will come and go (mostly be gone when you have children); I have learned that love will come and go (for love is a choice, not a feeling); and I have learned that true success is not how much money or love you can acquire. True success is the significance that you have made in your life and in the lives that you touch. True success is driven by Intention. And, Intention is the fire that burns the soul with passion for living.

This will be the decade where I will start to reach new goals for living the next 40 years. Whether it’s doing things on my bucket list, or just continuing to learn how to be content in the moment, I am choosing to be proactive.

My challenge to you: choose Intention, choose Passion, choose Gratitude, choose Living!