How a Twelve Hour Trip to the Emergency Room Renewed My Faith In Humanity

Emergency

We almost made it through the baseball season injury-free. Almost. Then, this past weekend I got the call. I was en route from my daughter’s softball game to my 13-year-old’s final little league game of the season when it happened.

“Your son has a broken foot” said the voice on the other end of the line. Damnit.

When I arrived at the field a few minutes later, another parent was flagging me down, arms waving in the air, directing me to my son, Isaac. There he was, sprawled out under a tree, surrounded by his teammates’ concerned parents who had already iced and wrapped his foot and were now comforting him with encouraging words. As several people helped lift him into the backseat of the car, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude for the love with which my child was treated in my absence. “Call me tonight & let me know how he’s doing”, said his coach. I felt my tension subside, touched by their attentiveness…Community

Had I been a first time mom, I may have rushed my kid immediately to the E.R. But given the fact that I’ve been parenting for 18 years now, there’s not much that alarms me. Including sports injuries. And so, I opted to take my son to urgent care first, based on the fact that he was telling me his pain was manageable, and that he thought maybe it was a bad sprain. As soon as we signed in and the doctor pulled off the ice packs, however, I knew I’d made a bad call. His ankle was most definitely broken. So broken, in fact, that the first thing the doctor said to me was “What kind of insurance does he have?” (Side note: Thank heavens for the fact that my son is dually insured through both his dad & I, and that the insurance is more than comprehensive. That fact alone took much of the headache out of what was a long drawn out evening).

So anyway, the on-call urgent care doctor gets us to the X-ray room right away, where we were greeted by an older gentleman of Southeast Asian descent. He immediately gets to work, and as he is positioning Isaac’s leg on the table, he asks him about his injury.

“Ah, baseball” He says. “When you become famous big league player, you give me ticket to your game, okay? Because I help you through first big injury, okay?” My son cracked a smile, & I was glad for that because up until that point he was looking rather grim. The X-ray tech returned to his station to began snapping pictures, & he turned to me as he did & said “You know, won’t be long before he’s big time player. My daughter was young just a time ago, now….she graduate from high school. Valedictorian. Top 3 student in her class. She going to medical school. She want to become a doctor. She go to special program at UCSF, with other young doctors. They took a picture, all of them, when they finished the course. So powerful. I’m so proud.” As you should be, I replied. I remarked on how wonderful that must make her feel, and what a hard working student she must be. “She is,” he replied. “She study many, many hours. And I bribe her sometimes, but don’t tell your son I say that. I take her to mall and let her pick out something she like. She goes off with her friends, and comes back to me when all finished. I feel happy to do that for her.” I immediately understand what he means. He is grateful that he is able to provide his daughter with items she wants. He retuned to the table to reposition my son’s ankle for another X-ray. As he did, he told us of how he & wife immigrated from Vietnam many years ago in hope that their children would have a life better than the one they left behind. A familiar story. We learned that he and his family live roughly 175 miles from the clinic, but that there was no work available in the desolate Central Valley at the time, so he made the choice to temporarily live and work in Sacramento in an effort to provide for his loved ones. He travels home only on his days off. “I miss my family,” he said. “I can’t wait to see them tomorrow. But we work hard and do whatever we have to for our children, don’t we?” Yes, I answered. Yes we do…but all the while I was thinking that this amazing soul was doing more than most. As he finished up the X-rays, he told me that his hopes are for his daughter to eventually return to Fresno country, where she grew up, and practice medicine in the communities there. “There are a lot of farmworkers in Fresno county, you know? A lot of migrant people. They need help. They need care. I tell my daughter, these people you need to give back to. They need good care.”

I nodded in agreement, fighting back tears & thinking of my paternal grandmother, who was a migrant worker. How beautiful it is to witness the telling of someone’s own story. How humbling to learn that though their background & experiences are vastly different than yours, your collective ideals are perfectly aligned. Isaac & I made our way out of the darkened room into the brightly lit hallway & I turned to thank the X-ray tech. I’m not sure if he realized, but I was thanking him for much more than his service. I was also grateful for his willingness to share his wisdom with my son & I….Perseverance. Empathy. 

From urgent care, we were sent to the E.R, where the line was long & the patience of many worn thin. The first thing we noticed upon walking through the double doors was a shirtless boy, about ten years old, holding both hands to his chest in pain. I overheard his mother and grandmother asking someone for a blanket. Apparently the little one was on the basketball court at the time of injury & didn’t have time to gather his shirt before being whisked off the court. Isaac leaned my way from his wheelchair, & reminded me that I had a bag of clothes in the trunk that we were planning on donating earlier that morning. “You probably have something his size.” So, as my son talked to the nurse in triage, I ran back out to my car and searched through the sack of clothing until I found a shirt.  While sprinting back across the parking lot, I saw little guy’s mom coming toward me, about to make a phone call. “Would you like a shirt for your son?” I asked. “He can have it…it’ll fit better than a blanket.” She smiled, thanked me, then held up the shirt and noted that it was just the right size. Later that night, while waiting in the hallway outside the room where my son was having his procedure, I saw the family again. Little guy was in my kids’ old shirt. He grinned & said, “I hope your son gets better real soon so he can play again!” Likewise, I replied. The compassion that children are capable of showing toward one another is a beautiful thing to behold…Consideration

As we entered the ninth hour in the E.R., I began to wilt. Isaac had been rolled into a private room for assessment, & I found myself wandering toward the cafe for some substance. Overwhelmed by the array of granola bars, yogurt parfaits, bagels, & trail mixes before me, I decided on coffee & muffin. As I paid for my selection, the cashier informed me that it was Hospital Happy Hour which meant I get a free coffee with any one purchased. Not thinking, I went back to the pour station and helped myself to another cup, with sugar and two creams. I typically drink black. I sleepily made my way back to the E.R. wondering why I’d taken the extra cup of coffee, when obviously it was just me & Isaac (who was banned from food until after his procedure). I was chiding myself for being wasteful when a young mama in the waiting room spoke to me. “If I’d have know you were going to get coffee, I’d have asked you to get me some!” she quipped as her cranky toddler twisted in her arms and pitched a crayon across the linoleum floor. I knelt to retrieve the crayon, & offered the tired mama my surplus coffee, promising her I hadn’t drank any & explaining the 2 for 1 deal. She eagerly took a sip and said, “I guess it was meant to be!” It most definitely was, as most coincidences are…Synchronicity

In short, Isaac is going to be fine. He’s young, he has the best care, & a fighter’s spirit that he most likely inherited from his family.

My faith in humanity is also going to be alright. One injury, 6 doctors, several uplifting interactions & countless assistants & volunteers reminded me how amazing the human experience can be.

And again, I’m also very, very grateful for my health insurance.

How can I be a Leader when I’m not Even Ready to Parent?

Proud 2 Parent

Cam PhotoLeadership

Leadership is kind of a funny word.  Oxford describes it as “The action of leading a group of people or an organization.”  Well, that doesn’t sound so hard right?

Except for the bit about leading (what is leading anyway?)…oh and finding a group of people that believes in you…oh and the bit about actually being able to lead them, having the time to do it, being able to speak so that those people will listen to you, and even getting people to realize that you could be a leader.

So, other than all that, I could be a leader, or you could be, right?

Exactly!  From the moment your child is born, you’re a leader.  Parents are leaders.  Think about it, this is probably one of the only times in most of our lives that someone depends almost entirely on us…for everything.  Our kids literally couldn’t survive…

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Lessons I Learned From My Father (Part 1)

American River,   March 2015

Self-Actualization. Sacramento River
March 2015

Last night, I hung up the phone with my father, and began to silently debrief the whirlwind conversation we’d just had. Anyone who has ever engaged in a discussion with my dad will know exactly what I’m referring to. He has this tendency to barrel his way through an issue in a no nonsense kind of manner, and then quickly switch to another idea before you’ve even have a chance to formulate a response to the first topic. Sometimes I feel like I’m performing verbal acrobats when I’m talking to him, although no manner of appropriate pause or clever interjection will ever make communication with him any smoother. It’s not that he’s insensitive or dismissive. Not in the least. It’s just that his thoughts are almost always two steps ahead of his words, so much so that he’ll literally hop up mid conversation and leave everyone rushing to finish their closing statements.

The question of “Where’d Dad go?” has become a running joke in our household, because if  family conversation or household activity pauses long enough, he’ll just quietly excuse himself to a more productive venture. Sounds peculiar, I know. But I promise you, his loved ones find it one of his most endearing quirks.

I used to be embarrassed of my dad. In retrospect, I see that it’s normal for children to be ashamed of their parents at one point or another as they are growing up. But my embarrassment had less to do with who he was, as it did with how I feared his uniqueness would reflect upon me, especially growing up in a neighborhood that had yet to know diversity.

My childhood was spent in a suburban utopia, complete with wide tree-lined streets, top-notch public schools, and neighbors that brought homemade cookies each year during Christmas time. My parents sacrificed many things to ensure that my sisters and I were raised in the neighborhood that we grew up in. I see that now. We often have gain clarity  as seasoned adults that we lack as carefree youth.

I was embarrassed of our old LTD cars, and dad’s hobby of tinkering with them incessantly. And I’m not talking about souping them up, lowrider fashion. I’m talking about FIXING them. They were constantly breaking down, and dad would patiently put them back together, garage door open, tools strewn across the driveway for the world to see.  “Why can’t you just buy something NEW?!” I’d complain, glancing enviously at the shiny station wagon my classmate was dropped to school in. But dad wasn’t about new. Nope. In fact one of my earliest memories is of our weekend trips to thrift stores, where my sisters and I happily pick out bags of mismatched toys from the 99 cent bin. That is until I was old enough to realize that my classmates ruthlessly bullied any kid that dared to wear threads bought at a second-hand store (This was all long before hipsters & Macklemore made thrift store shopping a trendy activity).

What I didn’t understand then, was that my dad’s own childhood profoundly impacted the way he operated as an adult. Though Sacramento was a long way from the dingy garage he lived in in East L.A., and even farther yet from the Texas cotton fields he played in as the toddler son of a migrant farm worker, he brought the principles of poverty with him even as he purchased his first home in Sacramento’s coveted Pocket area. Principle 1: Don’t buy new if you don’t have to.

I didn’t understand a lot of things back then. Like the fact that my dad was right when he told me to be proud of my beautiful brown skin, even as some of my peers were poking fun of my pigment and my surname. I couldn’t comprehend why my parents took it so seriously when, later, I reported that there was a severe bullying problem going on in the upper-grade classrooms of my elementary school. A problem that had all the tell-tale ugliness of race and class discrimination. When my dad insisted upon meeting with the teachers to bring the issues to light, I remember wondering if my folks were overreacting.

Back then I couldn’t make sense of why my father felt the need to repeatedly recount to my sisters and I, the lessons he’d learned as a young boy in East L.A. And why his standards for us were so high, in regards to both education and personal conduct. Or how he’d often sit at the dinner table after a full day’s work, starring into space at some far away memory that we were not a part of. On those nights, sometimes I’d catch glimpse of a tear sliding down his cheek. I didn’t understand that either.

A few weeks ago, my dad celebrated another birthday. He talked about the accomplishments in his life, as well as the struggles. And, like always, he ended the momentary bout of reminiscing on a high note with an optimistic tribute to all the blessings in our lives.

My dad has never been one to purchase frivolous things. New cars, designer clothes, custom accessories…they aren’t alluring in his eyes. Because of that, he isn’t much of a gift giver, not in the traditional sense, anyway. Birthdays and events roll around and it’s likely that he won’t go out of his way to buy something just for the sake of marking the occasion. Someone asked me recently if I’ve held onto any of the jewelry my dad bought me as a child. I laughed.

Dad never bought me jewelry, but he’s decorated my life with a thousand pearls of wisdom. I wear them proudly every day, head held high and the confidence  of knowing that I am equipped with the skills needed to gracefully navigate through life and all of it’s thrilling complexity.

Eighteen.

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Elijah,

I promise you I won’t launch into a big sappy monologue, because I know how that bugs you. Also, I certainly don’t intend on writing you a letter on each and every anniversary of your earthly debut. This is your last public birthday post (I reserve the right to pen a few sentimental words every now and then in years to come, but I’m sure you and your siblings should be used to “mom’s birthday musings” by now).

The purpose of this letter, is to formally write down an account that I’ve told many, many times aloud but as of today, have yet to immortalize through written word. It is the story of how I chose your name.

When I was about 3 months pregnant with you, and just beginning to remerge from the hell that was hyperemesis gravidarum (aka severe morning sickness), I had a vivid dream.

Life during that time, was odd. Our family was going through some difficult times, completely independent of our circumstances. Things were challenging- for everyone. I felt like I was in the eye of a storm…watching all the chaos around me, yet grounded in a sort of calm certainty. I knew we were on the path we were meant to be on.

Anyway, one night, I dreamt I was at Nana & Tata’s house. The mood was still, almost too still, in the surreal sort of fashion that only comes in dreams. I walked into the back hallway toward the bedroom, and paused outside the door. There was an unearthly light radiating from the window facing the backyard. It brightened the entire room…Nana’s bedspread, the wooden dresser, the crucifix on the wall…all of it was illuminated in a glow that I can only describe as warmth. I walked into the room. And there you were. 

At the time, I didn’t even know you were going to be a boy. I didn’t know you at all. But in my dream, there you were…a boy. A child. You extended your arms toward me. I tried to remember every detail of your face at that moment. Your eyes, nose, mouth…

Your mouth. It was upturned in the sweetest smile. You opened it to speak….and this is what you said:

“I have come to save my people.”

I woke up.

Upon waking, I remember being filled with an incredible peace. The kind that comes with knowing that everything is going to be alright.

I knew, from that moment on, that you were going to be a boy. There was something else I knew: That when you mentioned “your people,” you were referring to your family. Long story short…your birth did save us. Your presence in our family healed many rifts. It brought us together in the ways that only a child can. You reminded us of what matters.

So what’s this got to do with your name? Well…upon waking from that prophetic dream, we knew you needed an equally fitting name. And so, it was decided. Elijah.

A simple story really, but significant to me. Just as all our moments together have been simple, really…but they all add up to an incredibly significant life.

Yesterday, I stayed up all night with you following your birth, my face against your tiny face, amazed that we were finally breathing the same air. Yesterday, you were clinging to my leg as we walked into new places together. My little sidekick. Yesterday, your nose was pressed up against the glass window of the preschool, watching a hail storm with the wonder of a small child. I stood on the walkway for a moment in the rain, and waved at you. Yesterday, you giggled in delight when I showed you that if you stir syrup into warm milk, you can make hot chocolate….you fell asleep on my lap, stuffed animal tucked under one arm, hand in my hair. Yesterday, you skated away from me at open house to join your peers, only glancing back to tell me you’d meet me in the parking lot when the festivities were over. Yesterday, I walked up to DMV with you so that you could obtain your license, and your newfound freedom. Yesterday, you texted me late at night to tell me not to wait up. I did anyway…  

Yesterday, you fell in love. Yesterday, you planned a post-graduation trip with your buddies, sans adults. Yesterday you applied for colleges, some of which are far away from this little house you call home.

Today, you are 18.

I am proud. I am honored. I’m in awe.

And because I feel a major bout of sappiness coming on, I’m going to leave you with the words of a book that we’ve read together many times. A perfectly reasonable book to revisit on a day like this. A book, called Someday….

One day I counted your fingers and kissed each one. 
One day the first snowflakes fell, and I held you up and watched them melt on your baby skin.
One day we crossed the street, and you held my hand tight. 
Then, you were my baby, and now you are my child.
Sometimes, when you sleep, I watch you dream, and I dream too…
That someday you will dive into the cool, clear water of a lake. 
Someday you will walk into a deep wood. 
Someday your eyes will be filled with a joy so deep that they shine. 
Someday you will run so fast and so far your heart will feel like fire. 
Someday you will swing high – so high, higher than you ever dared to swing.
Someday you will hear something so sad that you will fold up with sorrow. 
Someday you will call a song to the wind, and the wind will carry your song away. 
Someday I will stand on this porch and watch your arms waving to me until I no longer see you. 
Someday you will look at this house and wonder how something that feels so big can look so small. 
Someday you will feel a small weight against your strong back. 
Someday I will watch you brushing your child’s hair. 
Someday, a long time from now, your own hair will glow silver in the sun. 
And when that day comes, love, you will remember me. 

– alison mcghee

Happy 18th Birthday, son.

Love, Mom

Why I Chose to Be A Young Dad at 18 and How You Can Start Even If You Aren’t Ready

EYF Podcast Artwork

By Joe Chavez

This one is for all the young dads out there. In this episode, we share how we, as young parents (especially young dads), have a “choice” to play a role in our young families life. We will then cover some crucial areas where I, myself, struggled with when first starting out as a teen dad. Lastly, we’ll offer you three thoughts that should erase any doubt whether you are ready or not to be a young dad.

Thanks for listening
And don’t forget to checkout www.empoweringyoungfamilies.com for more inspiration, content and support to help you start smart as a young parent.
 


In this particular episode, I hope to explain:

  • That early fatherhood is a choice, one I made at 18 years old,
  • Things to watch out for when stepping into this new role,
  • How you can find purpose in being a young dad even if you think you aren’t ready.

Summary

I found out I was going to become a dad when I was 18 years old. I never really knew my father and I surely didn’t plan to have kids young.

Like many guys that have kids young, we aren’t thinking about the future, but what happens when we get a girlfriend, a “one night stand,” or a girl we just met pregnant? That’s the one reason I started this entire movement. There is an absolute need to know how to “Start Smart” as a young parent.

Regardless of what point you are in your life, you always have the potential to start off on the right foot. When you have a child young, it doesn’t have to signal the end of your future or your dreams and it certainly isn’t the end of your life as you know it. It is the beginning of a new chapter, of an entire new season of your life. While it may not make complete sense at first, you’ve just got to give it a little time, taking small steps toward being the dad you want to be for your little one and trust that both you and your child will be better off than if you just choose to run away from the whole entire situation, instead.

You have a unique opportunity to be present in your child’s life. Take advantage of it. It’s a gift.


Items Mentioned in This Podcast

We All Have A Choice

After all, you could just abandon your young family. That easy path is always available to you. But having the choice makes doing the noble thing, the responsibility of leading, loving and providing for a family all the more rewarding. It is tough, no question about that…

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons you might want leave, so you can better understand that it’s normal to feel like you do:

  1. Feeling Inadequate
    So you feel like you are not ready to be a dad and that all the goals you might have had for your life are dead. Ok that’s a bit harsh but that’s what it feels like at first. Trust me when I say, the added pressure to take care of everyone and everything but feeling unqualified and inexperienced to do so is entirely natural. But it will also end up motivating you to focus on the things that will bring you closer to the place where you need to be. You’ve got to trust in your ability to grow into your role no matter how far you are from where you want to be. Just give it time.
  1. Feeling The Pressure
    Feeling the demand from a baby and mom. This is normal but don’t trick yourself into thinking that you need to focus all your energy and attention on their needs. You are better off bettering and maintaining yourself so you can better support your young family. It’s easy to obsess over the things you are failing at as a young dad and the fact you aren’t sleeping well won’t help. It’s a trick; don’t fall for it. I am not suggesting you ignore your family’s emotional needs; instead, I am advising you to be a leader through every single conflict and sleepless night you go through. Stay focused, young dad.
  1. Feeling Trapped/Less “Me” Time
    At first your time gets cut in half. Yes, you are going to have to change diapers, sleep less and be annoyed because you are still trying to find out what the heck you are going to do with your life. Trust me, it gets better. Give it six months and, as you adjust, I am sure your love for your family will overshadow any feeling of being trapped. Also, it will only be a matter of time until you adjust to having less time for yourself as you learn to make the best and most of your time as it becomes more and more precious with each passing day.

Some of the Things I Struggled With As A Young Dad

  1. My Relationship With My Wife
    I didn’t realize that my communication sucked. I found out pretty quickly once I was sleep deprived and all over the place. Luckily, we had great friends close by and they helped us through a tough time in our marriage.
  1. Priorities

    I was putting a lot of emphasis on things that I thought were important. Then I felt like crap and really guilty when they didn’t work out as I would imagine them doing so. My intentions were always to improve things for my family. Sometimes, that part of it didn’t matter.
  1. Taking the Lead in My Household
    You are the head of your household. Make it count. When I first became a young dad, I was scrambling between the expectations of others and my own perceived obligations and I wasn’t aware that, in addition to it all, I also needed to lead my household; or what that even meant to begin with. I thought that was only for men like pastors, presidents and football coaches.
    I soon discovered that someone is always needed to lead. I volunteer as tribute.

Take Action
*Today

Take 15 minutes to think about why you are capable of being a young dad:

  1. Write down the one thing you rock at that sticks out most to you.
  2. Write down the one thing you can improve at that sticks out most to you.

*The next couple months

In the next three months, focus on the thing that you can improve at and keep doing the thing you are already doing well; block out the noise of negativity and self-doubt.

Ready. Set. Go.

EYF Website About Photo 500x500

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http://www.twitter.com/empoweryoungfam

http://www.instagram.com/empoweringyoungfamilies

A Memory, Nostaglia, & Foolish Games

1 - Sac City LRC

Sacramento City College, 1998.

The day I truly took interest in him, the quad was blanketed with leaves, leftover remnants of the previous night’s wind storm. I was caught up in a momentary fit of nostalgia (autumn evenings do that to me), and was walking briskly across the campus over the red and yellow pathway. He was ahead of me, backpack slung over one shoulder, novel in one hand. He glanced back toward me and grinned. “You’re in Fryer-Smith’s class, aren’t you, kiddo?”

“Yes, I am.” I answered a little too formally. He asked my name. I already knew his.         His name was Joey.

“Yeah…I thought that was you. You usually have your face buried in a book.” I smiled, pleased that he’d taken note.

I was 18 years old with a toddler and had recently completed high school on independent studies, meaning that I’d basically spent the past two years of my life in solitude as I balanced motherhood and schoolwork. Social life was minimal. Dating life was non-existent.

That first semester of junior college was like a re-birth for me. I emerged from the cocoon that was my high-school experience, wrought with memories of personal rebellion, social missteps, and school failure. Suddenly I found myself in an environment where I was free to completely re-invent myself. My reputation didn’t follow me, and neither did my previous school record.

Now, here I was blossoming into a 4.0 student and social butterfly. Every day was a dizzyingly entertaining mix of new faces and ideas. I was in love with my budding identity. And along with my academic success and new-found social sweetheart status, came a refreshingly improved dating scene.

I was completely unprepared for that. Whereas in high school, the majority of my boyfriends had been poster kids for the “bad-boy prototype,” the guys who pursued me now were of a different nature entirely. They came to me with their minds full of goals and ambitions, and hands full of sonnets. I swear to you, that first semester I spent nearly as much time swooning as I did studying.

But as the days grew cooler and shorter, I found myself spending the majority of my time with Joey. We were as different as could be. He was returning to college after years of living the quintessential California dream. Coastal living, surfing, and reveling in the glory of uninhibited youth. He was nearly 10 years older than I was. I was fresh out of 12th grade, with all the responsibilities of an adult, but none of the experience. Despite this, we shared a love of literature, philosophy, writing and coffee. For months, we met for late night discussions in the library during which we mulled over the writings of Nietzsche & Darwin. We attended a baroque quintet concert at the Crocker Art Museum, and convened for afternoon reading sessions along the Sacramento River. He introduced me to Kerouac’s On the Road, and I tried to convince him to consider reading the works of Peter S. Beagle (I’ve always had a soft spot for fantasy). I knew I was in over my head when he invited me to dinner with his family. We dined at a Thai food restaurant and afterward had dessert at the family home in Davis. I met his brother and his brother’s longtime girlfriend. His father was a lawyer, and that night I learned of Joey’s plans to transfer to UC Berkeley to pursue a law degree (Which he eventually did, followed by a graduate degree from a prestigious east coast school). Everyone was friendly, and overall the night was lovely. But my youth and inexperience were obvious to all, and it showed in the overly kind way that they humored me. It was the first time I felt unequipped in the world of adulthood (though it wouldn’t be the last).

The week before finals, he invited me over to his house for dinner and a movie. No one was home that evening but us, and I stayed late into the night. I talked about my son that night, perhaps a little too much, because in the end I think it highlighted the fact that no matter how bright, charismatic, and “datable” I was, I was the mother to a very young child. I was a package deal. And though I was largely inexperienced in the dating scene, I knew that this fact alone was a deal breaker for most.

I saw him once more after that, and the interaction was cordial and brief. The evening of our class final was a rainy one, and when I walked to the parking lot that night, I didn’t even bother pulling out my umbrella. I sat in my car for a while, watching the windshield wipers push away the water drops as quickly as they fell. Jewel’s Foolish Games was playing on the radio. And though I felt the tell-tale euphoria that every student experiences after finals are completed, I also had the sinking feeling that something important to me had ended. It’s funny the small details we remember.

You’re always the mysterious one with
Dark eyes and careless hair,
You were fashionably sensitive
But too cool to care.

I tell this story now because I think of it as one of my life’s many lessons. A story to tell my children later during a discussion of relationships and infatuations. Soon after the “Joey Semester,” I came across a poem by Veronica A. Shoffstall that I’ve retuned to time and time again over the years. It continues to move me to this day.

This morning, as I slipped on my peacoat while taking in a long sip of coffee and simultaneously searching the counter for my keys, my mom shared with me that she’d recently come in contact with a former beau with whom she’d once been intensely obsessed with. He’d shown only a casual interest in her, and at the time she was crushed. Now, decades later, she’s realized how profoundly different they are in all the ways that truly matter. She mused about the potential misery she’d avoided on account of his indifference.

And that’s the way life runs it’s course. In the present, we can never truly grasp the reasons why we face the trials we are given & the rejections we are subjected to. If we’re lucky, we’re blessed with the hindsight that brings everything into perspective. But often, we’re not. And in the latter case, I choose to hold tight to the belief that there is always a higher plan, even if we can’t make sense of it. And if that plan is never revealed, at least it makes for an interesting story to tell, years later when time has graciously dulled our feelings, and the only things remaining are a few recollections, scattered across our memory like leaves on a walkway…

 You Learn

 Veronica A. Shoffstall

After awhile you learn
the subtle difference between
holding a hand and chaining a soul
and you learn that love doesn’t mean possession
and company doesn’t mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
and presents aren’t promises and you begin to accept
your defeats with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of an adult not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build your roads today
because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
and futures have ways of falling down in mid-flight.
After awhile you learn that even sunshine
burns if you get too much so you plant your
own garden and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure
that you really are strong
and you really do have worth
and you learn
and you learn…

Why Teach

Preschool me. 1985.

Preschool me. 1985.

“You can be anything you want to be…”

We’ve all heard it. We may have uttered it to someone else at some point in time. It’s an incredibly overused clique. A phase we say in an effort to uphold the fairytale of the American Dream. It’s a well meaning thought, but at one point I stopped believing it.

I was around the age of 14 when I decided I no longer subscribed to the  “everything you want to be” promise. My grades in 9th & 10th grade were horrendous. As in, a 0.5 GPA horrendous. I was unfocused, unmotivated, and unlikely to graduate. Some of my teachers had given up on me, as did many other adults in my life. I could see it in the sideways glances they gave me every time I arrived late to class. I could read it on their faces, hear it in the tone they used when speaking to me. But there were a few, who continued to treat me as if I had potential. One of them, Mrs. Callahan, was my literature teacher during freshman year. I think she saw through my act. She might have had a hunch that, even though I feigned disinterest in class as we decoded verses of Romeo & Juliet, I went home at night and poured over the pages of that tragedy, rewriting passages that spoke to me in the lined pages of my spiral notebooks. Though I failed to turn in my assignments, I’m sure I did well on my tests. Maybe it was because of that that Mrs. Callahan treated me as if I had a chance, but I think there was probably more to it than test scores. She took time to check in with me, and to offer after school help, which I sometimes took her up on. I remember how her validation made me feel, during that tumultuous time in my youth. It made me feel respected, and worth the trouble.

Fast forward three years: I was a mother and a Senior in high school. I was on independent studies. My grades increased dramatically, as did my focus. I was a determined student who began expressing my desire to go to college, despite my circumstances. Still, very few took me seriously. But my home studies teacher did. Mr. Coombs worked patiently with me as I inched my way toward graduation. He advised me to enroll in Jr. College, then transfer to a University. He beamed in the audience as I received my high school diploma. And I took his advice. I went on to Sacramento City College and eventually transferred to a University.

My path into early childhood education (ECE) was not an intentional course when I first set out on it. I enrolled in a few child development classes so that I could become a better parent. My original plan was to take the pre-requisites needed for a nursing program. But I soon discovered that early childhood education was what interested me most. So I continued with it, and eventually applied for an early childhood program director permit with the California Commission on Teaching Credentialing. I pursed both an undergraduate and graduate degree in ECE. At age 26, I landed my first job in a school district, and have been teaching ever since. 

Lately, due to various factors including the uncertainty of funding for early childhood teacher salaries in my district, I have been considering pursuing a multiple subject (K-8) credential. Over the summer, I met with many of my past advisors to discuss my options. I was taken aback by some of the responses I received.

“Don’t waste your time on that. If you’re going to go back to school, get into another field.”

“With your level of expertise, I’d consider administration. You’re too bright to remain in the classroom.”

“Have you thought about teaching higher ed, or public policy? You should.”

I mulled over these responses for several weeks, wondering how we, as a society, got to this point. This place where teaching at the PreK-12 level is considered a second-class profession, something that is undesirable and unrewarding. I thought of the hundreds of students I’ve taught over the years, and the families who continue to return to my classrooms to visit and update me on their progress. I thought of Mrs. Callahan, and Mr. Coombs, and Mrs. Garcia, my 1st grade teacher who surprised me by attending my graduation party when I completed my M.A.

And though I’ve entertained the idea of teaching college students, pursuing a career in policy, or joining the ranks of administrators, I ultimately listened to my heart, and applied for a credentialing program. 

My loyalties do not lie with test developers, or administrators, or policy makers who have never stepped foot into a classroom. I’ve pledged to serve families, and the students they are raising. I’m ever so grateful for the educators in my life whose belief in my abilities fueled the drive to complete my goals. 

I can be anything I want to be. 

 I choose to be a teacher.