Brian's Ramblings

My thoughts in text, photo, and video form

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Conflicted

"Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose - not the one you began with perhaps, but one you'll be glad to remember." -Anne Sullivan
  
Graduation are special occasions, as graduates celebrate their accomplishment with friends and family. Be it high school, undergraduate, graduate, medial, or doctorate degrees - ALL of these milestones are to be treasured.

These moments can also be stressful, as you have family members waiting to celebrate with you. "When are you graduating?" was the most common question I was asked during my journey as a student. In fact, it still is a question posed to me by many. It's an exciting question, as those asking are eager to celebrate WITH you!

One of the hardest things, at least for me, has been telling people that I won't be "Dr. Kajiyama" or have three letters after my name - "PhD." It is definitely NOT one of my preferred topics of conversation. But, it's reality and one can never escape that.

In order to fully understand why this decision was challenging and "painful," I would like to take a look back with you.

On July 18, 1976, around 11:15AM, my mom gave birth to me at the old Kapiolani Children's Hospital, which was located in Liliha, where the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific is housed now. I really enjoyed sleeping in my mom's belly, so I was late in arriving (I guess nothing really changes!). Upon delivery, doctors realized I was in distress as the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck. It's been estimated I was without oxygen for fifteen (15) minutes; I fought to live, so I ingested amniotic fluid, desperately trying to breathe in oxygen. This caused both lungs to collapse. Tubes were inserted into both lungs to get them filled again; the scars remind me of this each day. Additionally, an intravenous therapy (IV) was started on the left side of my skull, as that was the most visible vein at the time. Medicine to get me back to baseline was injected; doctors didn't realize how strong those drugs would be, so I'm reminded of that with a scar in the form of a bald spot (size of a quarter) on my left side of my head. Luckily, the hair from the rest of my head covers it. Or I simply wear a baseball cap.

The first 48 hours were considered "critical," as if I made it through that period, the odds of me living became greater. My parents had to endure hearing doctors say, "you can be guardedly optimistic," which kind of brings down the level of joy of the birth of your first child. God definitely had/has a purpose for me, as I made it through that period.

I went home and was cared for as any other child would be. To get me to sleep, my parents took me on long drives, only to park the car at a condo near the Blaisdell Center and have me wake up screaming again! Fun times, indeed.

I started my educational journey at the age of two months, as my parents were referred to Easter Seals Hawaii, particularly for the infant stimulation program. This was not only beneficial for my development, but my parents found support in parents experiencing similar feelings with their children. NO parent expects a child to be born with a disability. It happens, you deal with it.

Upon graduating from Easter Seals Hawaii, I matriculated to Jefferson Elementary School in Kapahulu. We lived in Kaneohe at that time, but both of my parents worked in town, so it was easier to have me dropped off at the Respite Care program at Easter Seals Hawaii.

At Jefferson Elementary, I had wonderful teachers in special education who challenged me mentally. Eventually, I would be mainstreamed from about the fourth grade. This meant attending general education class for mathematics. I did well in that, so for my remaining years at Jefferson, I was fully mainstreamed for all core subjects (math, reading, science, etc) and I would come back to the special education class for therapy (speech, occupational, and physical). I enjoyed learning and enjoyed being with my peers, in both general and special education.

Prior to finishing at Jefferson Elementary, my parents and I met with the principal of the "feeder school" at Kaimuki Intermediate. I know this individual is still at Kaimuki, so I won't disclose any names. But this individual told my parents and I that I would need to prove myself in a fully self-contained special education class for an entire quarter, before they would consider mainstreaming me. The principal knew of my being mainstreamed at Jefferson Elementary, but held strong to whatever beliefs were present. Instead of fighting with this person and a set way of thinking, my parents decided to have me attend Kailua Intermediate School (KIS), upon graduating from Jefferson.

BEST decision, ever! From day one, I was greeted by the entire school administration as I got off the school bus and everyone was so welcoming! I immediately made friends, which was unexpected, as I knew nobody. The school placed me in basic courses, ensuring I would have a positive experience at KIS. I proceeded to earn a 4.0 that first quarter, making a deal with my dad; I could get a Nintendo gaming console if I had all A's. After my first quarter, I thought, "I might get lots of cool stuff at this rate!" 

To the credit of the KIS school administrators, they wanted me to really learn and have a quality education, so they placed me in gifted and talented (GT) classes. I would have a period to return to a special education classroom to receive therapy (speech, occupational, and physical). I remained a "good" student, taking pride in my academics. I was also experiencing the fun of having friends living close enough so I could have fun with them away from school. Daniel Schmidt was the first boy who befriended me; he had curly, reddish hair, and sat by me as if we had been pals forever. And I was using a communication board, where I spelled out what I wanted to say by pointing letter-to-letter. After a while, Dan became good at reading my thoughts, so I might point to the first two letters of a word and he'd finish it. 

One of my fondest memories was playing stick ball at recess and after lunch. One of the greatest athletes in Hawaii history, Alika Smith, was one of my pals, so I got to play stick ball with him! During intramural basketball, his team would ALWAYS win because Alika was just so gifted. I believe during computer class, I told him via my letter board, "I hope you go to UH and become a star there!" Those who follow University of Hawaii sports know about the dynamic duo of Alika and AC Carter, arguably the best back court in Rainbow Warrior basketball history.

I graduated from KIS, but not before receiving a deficiency notice from Mrs. Lorna Reyes, one of the BEST GT English teachers in the state of Hawaii! I simply stopped doing my homework for her class, thinking I'd get a free pass due to having a disability. I was badly mistaken! A deficiency notice was sent home and had to be returned, signed by my parents. I received one of the most epic lectures from both of my parents, but I think my mom came down on me much harder. I believe she might have yelled so much that she cried; it's a SICK feeling to know you've let your loved ones down. So, from that day forward, I never used my disability as an excuse for ANYTHING.

My time at KIS was fun, I participated in many activities, I even served on the student council and was selected "Mr. Japanese" for May Day. At least I can say I was Mister something when I die! Graduation at KIS was interesting. The stage had no ramp (what's with my penchant in finding stages with no ramp?!), so my dad had to use telescopic aluminum planks to get me up and down the stage. On the way up, or down, the ramp slipped....no one came to help, but luckily I didn't fall! Another thing that I'm happy about is an elevator was installed a week prior to my graduating. My GT Social Studies class was upstairs, and the teacher didn't want to relocated to a class on the ground floor, so I couldn't take that class. I also had to pass up being vice-president of the student council, as meetings were held upstairs and the advisor didn't want to relocate. Perhaps, this is where my passion to advocate was fostered.

I moved onto Kailua High School (KHS) and started in the summer, just to get my feet wet and get accustomed to being at a big school. The bus dropped me off in front of the school's office. An educational assistant (EA) greeted me and instructed me to follow the other students to the classroom. I was signed up for Pre-Algebra, so I  thought maybe my math class would start later. So, I obediently go to the special education classroom, was seated at a desk. The bell rang and the teacher passed out worksheets. I can't recall the specifics, but I know one entailed writing words and another required drawing a line within lines. So, in my mind I'm thinking, "High school is SO much easier than I expected!" But after receiving another worksheet, and finishing it quickly, only to be told that I'm rushing through and I missed a spot, I knew I was "out of place." So, I wrote, "I think I'm in the wrong class, I should be in Pre-Algebra."

This started some chaos. "Oh my gosh, you should have told us sooner!" my teacher said. I was ushered to my math class and saw some of my peers from KIS and felt "at home," once again.

I was nerdy in high school, as I had dreams of attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa. My goal was to be a computer scientist/programmer. I excelled in English and Social Studies, but didn't do as well in Science and Math. For Science, I requested a note-taker, but the teacher said, "No, I need to get you ready for college, and you won't receive such help there, so I don't want to give you that here." Another response I can look back and smile upon. In my Pre-Calculus and Trigonometry class, I ended up failing, despite going in daily for tutoring. In my senor year, I repeated Algebra 2 and breezed through it.

I made great friends at KHS, too. Brent Yoshikawa, who is now working for Homeland Security in Missouri,  Edward Priddy, who is a graphic artist and designer in Oklahoma City, and I still remained close to Dan, who had a nice career in the NFL's league office, running online auctions. I was horribly awkward with girls - some things never change!

I was great friends with girls, but didn't go to any proms. Shelly Matsuura, a senior portfolio associate in California, was a classmate I could chat with for hours and hours. During our junior and seniot years, the Internet was just starting to come to life, so we were issued computers that ran on a phone modem and allowed us to communicate with our classmates. I recall conversing with Shelly until the wee hours of the morning, just because it was fun! I didn't have guts to ask anyone out to proms, nor did anyone ask me. If I could have a "do over," I would have attended at least one prom, as that's something unique to being in high school.

Academics were my way to gain acceptance from the larger student body. In the halls, I could hear students telling their friends, "you see that kid? He's like a genius, you know." As a teen, you accept such labels, for there could be other words said. I recall my GT English teacher, Mrs. Barbara Teruya, and my GT Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Jan Young, being exemplary educators. They challenged me, but also provided appropriate supports. For oral presentations, because I had no communication device, I had my "speech" written on large lined-paper; either my mom or friends would help me write everything out that I typed. Technology was still evolving, so I couldn't mirror anything up onto a projector. But I learned a lot, not just about the content for subjects, but I learned about myself.

I still envisioned myself typing code by myself in some dark room, interacting minimally with humans.

My very good friend, Ed, who moved to Virgina to finish school since his dad was in the military; he surprised me by showing up at my house, keeping his promise to attend my graduation! We kept in touch via AOL Chat, but until he actually appeared at my front door, I had doubts! But, it was wonderful having him here. KHS graduation is a blur, but my parents said the entire student body gave me a standing ovation as I rolled across the stage (KHS had a ramp! UH-Manoa,'s COE you can be just as good with this!!!).

I was admitted into the University of Hawaii at Manoa after my second attempt with the SAT. I was still set on majoring in computer science, but that dream was quickly squashed, as I could not make sense of Trigonometry to save my life! So, I explored majors for a few years. Economics and English are two that I recall exploring. Again, I was limiting my options to career paths that required the least interactions with people as possible.

I had health issues and ended up taking about a year off from school. But, when I returned, I came with a mindset that I had to "give back" in some way. So, I found Interdisciplinary Studies and created my own major, "Advocacy for People with Disabilities." I selected courses related to this from a variety of departments.

In one class, I met Mark Yap, who is now the IT director for CRDG at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. For a class project, he produced a video about my life, which he titled, "If I Could Change the World." It was well produced, with the help of Doug Hamasaki of CTAHR (College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources). Both became great friends of mine.

In my final semester as an undergraduate, I was tired of school, as I had been in some educational setting for about 25 years, starting at the age of o-months and completing my Bachelor's of Arts Degree when I was about 25. However, I was enrolled in a class taught by Dr. Norma Jean Stodden and Dr. Steve Brown, who allowed me to take the course intended for graduate students. There were master's and doctoral students; some started asking me, "what graduate program will you be applying to?" More school, really?! But, as I talked with more of my peers, the idea of pursuing a master's in counseling sounded appealing. The kid who wanted minimal interactions with humans wanted to pursue counseling, go figure!

I applied to the Guidance and Counseling program, specifically Vocational Rehabilitation counseling. I felt this would truly allow me to "give back" to my community. I enjoyed the journey and met really wonderful people along the way. Dr. Brenda Cartwright was the chair of the VR component of the department and she challenged me to be the best I could be. She also questioned why I didn't have a communication device. Around this time, I reconnected with Dr. Jim Skouge, who was starting in the Department of Special Education. I was fortunate to anchor myself in Jim's office, Wist Hall 118. 

I met Kavita Rao, who was completing her doctorate, and we would meet weekly to just write together. This support was invaluable, as she held me accountable. I completed a Plan B (thesis) paper, which was about the challenges in obtaining assistive technology (AT) from the State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR).

In my last year of my master's, I met Bruce Flemming, who was a representative for DynaVox. He met with Jim and showed him a DynaWrite. Jim immediately felt I might take a liking to this device. And Jim was right; I LOVED it! I won't rehash what transpired with DVR, but if you're interested, you can look back at one of my earliest blog entries.

Again,  after completing my M.Ed. I thought I would be done with school. But, an opportunity arose, which entailed having a PhD in Exceptionalities (Special Education) funded through a grant. Only six individuals would be selected, and applications came in from across the world. So, my competitive nature kicked in and I applied; my goal was to just get to the interview process.

On my mortar board of my graduation cap, I had "2 ↓, One to Go," as I fully intended to earn the highest degree possible, a PhD.

The opportunity to be interviewed never came to pass, as an e-mail from Dr. Mary Jo Nooan, chair of the PhD in Exceptionalities program, informed me I was selected and no interview was necessary. I was happy and then thought, "what have I got myself into?!"

It was also in this same semester, Fall 2007, that I became a graduate assistant with the Hawaii Warriors Football team, under the leadership of June Jones. I made sure to maintain a very clear schedule, where I would do my work with the team from early morning up until the early afternoon. Then I would attend class, go home and have a bite, study, and sleep so I could repeat this routine again.

Course work was extremely enjoyable, as I took all courses with my cohort peers. We would study, have preparation sessions, and make sure we took time to socialize all together. I was well on my way to being able to sit for comps (comprehensive examination), which was a step before proposing a dissertation. I had a great PhD advisor in Dr. Dennis McDougall, who I selected since I knew he could push me to become a more polished writer (academic/APA-like). All of the major components were completed and cleared by Dennis; my lone artifact was a mini-study.

I planned to pound this out using data collected at the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind (HSDB), where I worked with Jim to teach students to produce multimedia pieces. I would examine the effect that multimedia had in the students' perception of learning while teaching simple skills (such as preparing a healthy meal).

I also started teaching SPED 480 - Technology for Children with Disabilities - for the department, which quickly kindled a LOVE in teaching! Yes, the kid who wanted as minimal interaction with human beings now loved teaching.

In May of 2011, my life would change immensely. The effects of an incident on that day were far more substantial than I ever imagined.

I'm not one who doesn't finish anything I start, but after trying for about 2 years post-incident, I concluded that stopping the pursuit of my PhD was in my best interest and for those around me. I fully respect, and admire, those who have earned a PhD. I'm happy for my friends in the cohort who finished. The process is grueling and not for the faint of heart. Significant time in prayer and consulting with friends, including my pastor, helped me to see that God was just opening another door for me, but I had to close the open door (the PhD) first, before entering the opened door (becoming an instructor for the Department of Special Education).

I've attended dissertation defenses to support friends, but it's become quite difficult to be there knowing that I "could" be the one up in the front of that room defending. Additionally, I still have this image in my mind:

This is what I would have worm for my FINAL graduation.

Graduation seasons since ending the pursuit of my PhD have been tough. The sheer joy, pop and circumstance, and FINISHING a long, tough journey are all things that just eat me up alive each year. NOT finishing something I started plain sucks; all of the work put into excelling in course work have become grades on a transcripts for the most part.

However, the PhD journey that I was on did prepare me immensely for the position I'm in today, for that I am grateful. Those unfamiliar with the PhD process may think, "Can't you just write a really, really long paper and be done with it?!" I know my grandparents were so excited to see their grandson earn the highest degree; they kept themselves in the best of health, as they truly wanted to share in the celebration.

The celebration would have been EPIC. My speech after my master's degree was lengthy, but the speech had I completed my PhD would have gone on and on!

This quote makes a LOT of sense to me.

Congratulations to ALL graduates this Spring. Celebrate your grand achievements, but remember that the end of one journey requires starting a new one. Embrace that new endeavor with unbridled passion and happiness. I'm happy for all who graduated, but that bitter taste of not finishing something I started is tough to swallow, and this may never go away.

If you can't accomplish a goal, don't view it as the end of the world. It just means looking for the open door, not remaining frozen looking at the closed door!

Lastly, if you've read this, I thank you and kindly ask that you refrain from asking me, "when will I get to call you Dr. Kajiyama," as that will never happen. There's a better shot of the Los Angeles Lakers winning the NBA championship this season, than me earning a PhD (I know the Lakers aren't even in contention this year [2016]!). The reason this "failure" stings so much is due to the fact that I've fought and persevered through all of the many challenges shared above.

My next goal in life is to be happy with someone and have my own family; let's hope I don't mess that up!

High school and college graduates, don't drink. It's not worth it. However, IF you feel you must drink, do NOT drive; call a cab (Yellow Cab Honolulu Taxi - 808-699-9999) for a free and safe ride home! Think about the great life that awaits you!

Until next time...

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Doors


"When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us." -Alexander Graham Bell

[Editorial note: This entry was composed over the course of about two months, as I didn't feel it had enough substance for a quality entry.]

On March 24, 2016, I had the honor of being invited to share my testimony at Grace Bible Pearlside Church during their pre-Good Friday service. Pastor Norman Nakanishi sent a text message maybe the week prior. Whenever a pastor texts you with an invitation, it's always good practice to say, "Yes!" We got the details squared away, despite both our hectic schedules.

I prepared quietly on the Monday of that week (March 21), once I had my lesson prepared for my final technology thread class of the science course that I am involved with this spring. What people heard on Thursday evening (March 24) could have come across as short, easy to prepare. But, it really takes stillness and silence to find the best words to share the works of God through my testimony. I also read through Bible passages for deeper, and enhanced understanding.

My dad and one of my twin sisters, Lori, came home that same afternoon, after visiting my other twin sister, Lynn, my nephews (one is a newborn), and my brother-in-law in Oregon. They had a nice visit and were excited to attend service that evening.

Pastor Nakanishi knows me extremely well, as we met every Friday for many, many weeks either one-on-one, with his partner, Anthony "Tony" Holyfield, or in Grace groups (small group). He's heard more about me, but more importantly, from me than most people anywhere. My journey to have Jesus back in my life is really because of his steadfast commitment to lead seekers on that journey. As I shared in my testimony that Thursday evening, I explained that I overthink things, so it took some weeks for me to finally surrender my life to Jesus. If interested, you can view the service below:


The questions posed were about experiences that I didn't share publicly before, so preparation was more intense than other services I've spoke at; just because of the overall message being conveyed. It's always good to be challenged to rise above, as was the theme of the series for that specific Thursday.

I didn't know Russell Tolentino, who is a leader for the "young adult" ministry, would be asking the questions. This plays into the rhythm or tone of a conversation. Pastor Nakanishi and I have shared a service more than a few times, so our rapport is well-established. He can play off me, and I can do the same, usually. But it was nice meeting Russell and interacting with him, as he covered the Hawaii Warrior football team in 2007, when we had a magical season, with the hand of God rooted deeply in the heart of it. Russell had heard a lot about me, but didn't get to talk with me during that season, as he had bigger "fish" to catch like Colt Brennan, Davone Bess, Ryan Grice-Mullin, and Dan "the Iceman" Kelly, just to name a few.

This was the first time experiencing Grace Bible Church Pearlside's great new church facility. It is truly beautiful and comes alive with people giving all glory to God. The people of the church have always treated my family and I as one of their own, even if we don't attend this church - simply because of location. If I could teleport, I'd be at this church weekly to enjoy Pastor Nakanishi's sermon and fellowship with wonderful people. I left with my family that night, grateful and humbled with the blessing to share my testimony during a special service.

I did not expect to be invited back to Grace Bible Church Pearlside only about two weeks later. But, again, when a pastor invites you to share at church, say, "Yes!" Be obedient and place you whole faith in the hands of God.

On April 10, 2016, I spoke at all three morning services - 7:30, 9:15, and 11:15AM - for the church. The series was now "Go Beyond" and my testimony focused on the story of Abram, and I shared parallels based on how others judged him for face value, which translated into lesser expectations. During this testimony, I spoke about doors being opened and closed purposefully by God; we need to fully trust Him and be obedient by not remaining "stuck," looking at the door that closed. We could miss the door that has opened, potentially missing an opportunity to continue God's work. If interested, you can watch the service below:


This was another special opportunity, but one that I viewed as an opportunity to openly share and invite my friends and colleagues to church. You never know how such invitations will be received, but we MUST go beyond and not concern ourselves for being fearless warriors for God. For the first service, which I admit was earlier than I usually am awake on Sundays, my colleague, and her husband, with a mutual friend attended. This immediately made me understand that I was here purposefully. My mom's sister and brother (my aunt and uncle) attended, too!

Sharing testimony during a service is quite an exercise in endurance, as you're choosing to open up so many layers of your life; taking courage and faith to do so, knowing that your words might resonate with at least one person in attendance. The first service ended and I tried my best to greet everyone who came up to me before leaving. This is when I wish time could stand still, just so I could connect with people!

I had some moments to "rest," before the next service. Based on listening to my testimony that during that early service, I made small changes in my testimony with the intent to make my message clearer and easier to decipher. I also could add in a little more, as the 9:15AM service could run over the 60 minutes, unlike the first one. So, I included some humor. There's a very fine line as to how much levity you can inject into a testimony, while still being true to His word and expressing how powerful a relationship with God can be. The congregation laughed when I hoped they would, so I was relieved. Service concluded and I saw my colleague and wonderful friend. This was special, as this individual openly admits to not attending church regularly for personal reasons. The person's wonderful son attends another church and has encouraged his parent to attend. That lasted for one Sunday. So, having this person tell me that my message was enjoyable was wonderful! Of all the people I invited personally, and directly, this person was one who I really didn't know how this friend would take to my invitation. God places people where they are at all times purposefully, and I'm glad that I could see my friend after the service just to say, "thank you for attending!" I believe this service had about 750 people in attendance. Amazing.

After all of the handshakes and hugs, I went back with Pastor Nakanishi and his wife, Faye, to rest and relax. Talked a little Hawaii Warrior football, but not too much. We used the time just to enjoy the company of each other!

I fiddled with my testimony, again, trying to make it better for the final service. The 11:15AM audience was more reserved than the others, but they did laugh when I hoped they would. We finished our last service and I thanked Pastor Nakanishi, Tony, and William Lile (who was extremely gracious in hosting my family and I). When I was on stage, I noticed one of Hawaii's finest (HPD), standing guard just in case. As I made my way out of the beautiful warehouse converted into a place to worship, the officer came up to me, asked if I attended Easter Seals Hawaii in the past. I said I did, which prompted him to share that he worked with me when I was a kid, attending the after school program at the 710 Green St. location. Talk about the world being so small! He was happy to be present to hear me speak and we exchanged pleasantries before I departed. I left with an energy that is difficult to describe in words - I felt uplifted, rejuvenated, blessed, and ready to be more of a blessing to others!

We stopped at Sam's Club to fill the van with gas. As we pulled up to the open pump, I heard the couple on our right arguing about something. "Remember, you need to be blessed to be a blessing!" the lady reminded the man outside holding a credit card. God has a sense of humor, as just after having that said, the man looked towards his left and saw me in our van; "Hey Brian!" he said happily. He stopped complaining and pumped gas into his vehicle without further bickering with the female in the car. Definitely a God moment!

I share all of this to get to where I am today, as sometimes doors will remain closed until you take proper and just action to push the door open. Especially if opening a "closed door" could bless others, too! [This is getting ahead of myself, but this entry was created under unique situations.]

I had a wonderful afternoon of "meeting" with an incredible person at Kailua Beach on Friday about a month ago. We arranged to do a lunch meeting to discuss potential collaboration on a project. At the last minute, I came up with the idea of bringing lunch to Kailua Beach and enjoying that beautiful scenery that screams, "Hawaii!" all over it. Just smelling the ocean sea, having sand get on you despite not even stepping into sand, and watching people joyous in enjoying being outside - THAT is simply priceless, confirming for ME that Hawaii will always, always be my home. Nothing, at this point in life, could cause me to up and leave this place that others call "paradise." God's timing is always perfect, as I had been struggling with a "situation," for the lack of a better term. We enjoyed food from the California Pizza Kitchen, which took much longer to prepare than we anticipated. Fortunately, we had the luxury of time and used it to catch up on life. My friend has exciting things going on and I was happy to learn about them. We discussed life, and any other things that great friends do when trying to "catch up."

What I took away from the afternoon, was that my friend is beyond amazing, working on MANY projects, each requiring complete "presence" and energy. There are exciting things on the horizon and I'm just grateful that this individual believes enough in me to ask me to collaborate on a "project."

In trying to be obedient and going where God needs me to be, I've tried hard, and will continue, to make the most of my current "home" - the University of Hawaii at Manoa's College of Education's (COE) Department of Special Education. "Leave a place better than it was when you arrived" has been my guiding mantra throughout my years.

A major breakthrough has taken shape, as the COE, mainly the Dean's office (Dr. Beth Pateman specifically) has been instrumental in addressing concerns of the lack of accessibility at the location of the COE Convocation. Andrews Outdoor Theater (Amphitheater) is a beautiful locale, as the visual imagery highlights all that is beautiful and special in Hawaii. However, accessibility for people with disabilities, especially people with mobility challenges, was really poor and lacking. Students and faculty sat on the grass field, which could be accessed only by navigating many steps. Thus, attendees in wheelchairs, or people who have challenges in navigating steps, are "stuck" in the lodge area at the top row of the bleachers. At the conclusion of convocation, faculty are right there to congratulate students in their cohort or those who were in their courses.

I've had students and friends participate in convocation, but had to send someone down to the grass field to request graduates to come up so I could wish them well. Additionally, family members who may have mobility challenges would need to wait for their graduating relative to finish celebrating with friends before making their way up the steps.

On Tuesday, April 19, 2016 a major development began to take shape. With an advocate in the Facilities branch of the university, the COE leadership (Dean Don Young, Associate Dean Beth Pateman, and Aaron Levine), along with beloved colleagues and a supporter in Facilities, Nicholas Metivier, Andrews Amphitheater was fitted with a ramp, so people with mobility challenges could access the stage and the grassy base of the amphitheater.

When my sister, Lori, and I participated in Convocation together in 2001, I had to navigate through a back gate, pushing away foliage and making sure I would not fall off path, in order to access the stage. All students were in chairs on the floor of this venue, while administrators and program chairs sat on stage. I appreciated participating in this ceremony, especially with my sister, but the accommodation seemed odd. "Go with the flow, Brian. Just go with it."

To see change in action is really exciting! I did nothing special to ignite this change, all I did was make people aware that this was an issue. I wanted to participate more fully, especially after emphasizing the importance of "inclusive communities" in my courses. Any change has resistance and requires time. I was really excited to see these pictures, shared by Dr. Beth Pateman from Mr. Metivier:

 

Upon receiving the photos, I was genuinely excited. Yes, I was excited for a ramp!

The pouring of concrete was scheduled for today, April 23, 2016 at 8:00AM. This was a tad early for me to make the trek in to campus from Kailua to watch this step of the process. But after doing errands in Honolulu in the early afternoon, I went to look at Andrews Amphitheater. This is what I saw:


I also couldn't resist taking a picture with the newly poured concrete!

I'm not excited because I'll get to enjoy COE Convocation more fully, rather I share a great excitement for all of the other individuals who will benefit from this enhanced accessibility. This is for the young child with a disability, who may have challenges with mobility, attending a concert, a convocation ceremony, or anything else that will be held in this beautiful venue; this child won't need to fight the same battles that have been fought. This was never about ME; it was about making things better for ALL. "Leave a place better than it was when you arrived."

With the gates to Andrews Outdoor Theater (Amphitheater) opening more fully, I am extremely happy and grateful I'm around to see this "door" opening. Life needs to be lived in such a way that you can truly say, "I gave it my all" in whatever you're doing. I've tried to do this throughout my time in my department. That said, there are times when you need to be brutally honest with yourself, which could entail realizing a "door" could be closing. I'm extremely grateful and fortunate knowing that I have a place in the Department of Special Education for at least another year. There are many things I'd like to accomplish, such as advocating for even greater accessibility within the COE and university. I also want to motivate students so the Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC) can flourish and become self-sustaining without a faculty advisor leading the charge. 

There are MANY things left to be completed. I can't fathom being anywhere other than the COE at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I love my colleagues and I feel blessed to have the responsibility of preparing future educators. I'll keep pouring all of my being into all I do there.

On Friday, May 13, 2016, the COE Convocation was held at Andrews Outdoor Theater (Amphitheater). I eagerly attended, walking to the venue with my friends and colleagues from the Department of Education. Upon arrival, some chose to enter through the "common" route, which had about 4 or 5 steps. Another colleague and two students from the Big Island walked with me to the entrance for the ramp.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, I'll share an e-mail I composed for Mr. Metivier and the Dean's office on Sunday, May 15, 2016:

"Hi Nick,
I wanted to thank you for being the champion needed to start positive changes with accessibility at Andrews Outdoor Theater (Amphitheater). I happily used the beautiful ramp on Friday to attend the COE Convocation.
However, when told I would be seated on the stage, I admittedly was a little befuddled, as I thought the ramp would lead to the ground-level, where the chairs for graduates and faculty were located. I enjoyed sitting under the tent with my department chair and with other esteemed chairpersons; it felt just a tad strange to not sit with my students and colleagues.
I have pictures from this momentous occasion:
Inline image 1
Even my mom and sister were excited to use the ramp!

Inline image 2
Dr. Aaron Levine, myself, and my service dog were really happy I could attend!

Inline image 3
I don't know if signage will be put up at some point, but when I got to this gate, it appeared "locked," but a colleague realized the pole just needed to be lifted.

Inline image 4
These are the four stairs/steps that are the next "hurdle" to overcome.

Inline image 6
I would have loved sitting in this spot on the ground-level, with my colleagues and students.

Inline image 5
As Convocation concluded, students and families exchange lei, take pictures, etc. I couldn't help but notice (with another colleague) that this gentleman (in white, top left of picture) had to just wait at the top of the bleachers to see/greet who he attended the event for.
With all that shared, I AM extremely grateful for what has been done at Andrews. It's a WONDERFUL first step. I hope the ramp remains until a permanent "fix" is actually scheduled. I believe an article in the KaLeo mentioned taking the ramp down during the summer.
The four remaining steps/stairs seem like a very minor problem (but I'm aware it's complex), but I'm confident that a solution can be found. By doing so, there will be even more individuals happy to use the ramp! On Friday, the A/V people from CRDG expressed great appreciation, as they used the ramp to bring their gear/equipment into Andrews. Walking out of Andrews. someone with a sore knee used the ramp to get out of Andrews, lessening the amount of stairs needed to navigate.
If there's anything I can do to help this process, I would be more than happy to assist in any way!
Thanks again to Drs. Bateman, Young, and Levine for their steadfast commitment and support. And thanks again to you, Nick!
With great gratitude,
Brian"
 ------------

This was a challenging message to compose, as I definitely do NOT want to come across as the radical advocate for issues related to disability, who will constantly find things to complain about. However, something HAD to be said, so people could recognize that the project to make Andrews Outdoor Theater (Amphitheater) more accessible for ALL people is not completed, yet.

Yes, I could just skip COE Convocation, but this is the "fun" part about teaching; you get to see people grow and develop into highly capable professionals; my promise to attend every Convocation once Andrews is fully accessible will remain. Let's do the right thing and make it FULLY accessible, as opposed to partially accessible!

Perhaps, one of the greatest outcomes from attending the 2016 Spring COE Convocation came in a simple message from a student, expressing happiness and gratitude that I could be there and see them finish a long, challenging journey!

Will a door close? Will a door open? Will I need to knock a door down? Only God knows. Remember not to stare too long at any door, as this wouldn't allow for great things to come to life!

I must remain obedient and trust God will place me where He needs me to be!

*As of Saturday, May 21, 2016, no reply to my e-mail has been received*

Until next time...
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alexanderg409116.html
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. Alexander Graham Bell
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alexanderg409116.html
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. Alexander Graham Bell
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alexanderg409116.html
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. Alexander Graham Bell
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alexanderg409116.html
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. Alexander Graham Bell
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alexanderg409116.html
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. Alexander Graham Bell
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alexanderg409116.html
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. Alexander Graham Bell
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alexanderg409116.html

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Monday, March 28, 2016

The Dawn of a New Era of Hawaii Warrior Football

 
Tomorrow, the work of a "new" season of Hawaii Warrior football will begin at 7:00AM on the grass fields known as Cooke Field. Preparation began immediately after the last game of the old regime, as young men prepared to be stronger, faster, and better for this 2016 season.

I wish head coach Nick Rolovich and his staff all the best, as they lead eager, young men, to experience what being a Warrior truly feels like.

In 2007, as I worked with the team in spring, and as a graduate assistant during that magical season, there was a different vibe. A feeling that doesn't become decipherable very often. I knew we had something special because of this.

No, it wasn't about Colt Brennan returning for his senior year, nor was it about Coach June Jones or his wonderful assistant coaches. It surely was NOT about me.

A feeling of playing for a cause greater than any single person was fostered. A feeling of playing for your brother next to you was forged. A feeling of trusting in the coaches' leadership transpired. And a feeling of representing Hawaii as Warriors was immeasurably felt.

Great bonds were formed off the field, in the locker room, at training table, and in the treatment room. EVERYONE bought in to what was happening.

It was special. As we saw with the men's and wahine's success in basketball this season, the entire STATE of Hawaii became much happier! The loco moco tasted better, drivers let cars into their lane without horns being honked, and people smiled at each other when running into others with any "H" or Warrior apparel. 
People spent life savings to travel to New Orleans to experience the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The team's hotel was filled with aloha! Despite the outcome of the game against Georgia (who was the better team on January 1, 2008 in all ways), the entire fan base of Hawaii stood up and sang Hawaii Pono`î, providing for a chicken skin moment.

The team was celebrated upon its return, as the state arranged for a parade so fans could see the team together for one last time. I don't remember specific plays or scores, but I do remember the special bonds that were formed within players, coaches, support staff (Al Ginoza and his great equipment crew; Eric Okazaki and all of the athletic training staff; Uncle Kimo [James Kon] and the custodial crew that helped keep the locker room looking as nice as possible), and fans.
It was special. It was fun. It was challenging. It was exciting. It was draining. It was grueling. It required sacrifice. It required giving up sleep. It required sacrificing time with family and friends. It required tremendous faith, too. But, it was worth it.

There have been great teams before, great players like Tommy Kaulukukui, Al Noga, Ashley Lelie, and more; we've seen great coaches like Dick Tomey, Bob Wagner, and more; but...as a TEAM, I would argue that the 2007 team could be the best team to have represented the University of Hawaii. I'd also suggest that the team should be inducted into the university's Circle of Honor.
The players and coaches in 2016 have a very special opportunity to pursue their greatness and to be a blessing to others; blessing others by being a team that makes ALL of Hawaii proud and exuberant, again!

Go Warriors. 

Define YOUR legacy. Play for the brothers lining up next to you. Live aloha, play warrior!

Until next time...

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back In Order to Look Ahead

"But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one."
-2 Thessalonians 3:3

2015 started off with signs it would be "just another year." However, it was a very eventful journey. There was great joy, happiness, and satisfaction. Conversely, it brought great sorrow, disappointment, and pushed me to depths of exhaustion that I never experienced before.

I did the best I could as an instructor for the College of Education's (COE) Department of Special Education, preparing future educators of our keiki (children). I genuinely loved every class session I taught, as I tried to provide the best educational experience for the students in my courses.

In Spring 2015, I taught SPED 480 - "Technology for Children with Disabilities" - in two separate forms of delivery. One was traditional, face-to-face, while the other was delivered solely online. This was my first time teaching the same course concurrently, delivering it in two different ways in the same semester. I had to make sure I was addressing the correct topic for each class, as I had two different schedules for each section. Was this the wisest decision? Probably not, but by going through it I'll hopefully develop into a better educator.

I also saw Boyz II Men in concert, on Valentine's Day! It was nice to see a live performance by a group I grew up listening to. Valentine's Day was still just "another day," though. I was just happy to experience something wonderful with someone I truly appreciate. Later in the year, we enjoyed a Janet Jackson concert. We'll enjoy a Brian McKnight and En Vogue concert in February 2016. It's nice to do fun things that provide a moment of "escape" from reality.
 
Boyz II Men (blurry because I took the photo)

 
Janet Jackson (Photo credit: Brian Kajiyama) 

Additionally, I experienced something "new" for work, an annual review. Prior to this, I was considered a "casual hire," meaning I would have semester-to-semester contracts. Preparing a self-evaluation was somewhat stressful, as I had to demonstrate that I was doing a decent job in the position I was assigned. Within this process, one needs to boast about what she or he accomplished. Maybe it's the Asian characteristics and values I carry, but bragging about myself was not exactly comfortable. Fortunately, I was deemed as doing well enough to be considered for another contract. What I did not realize was that protocol called for my chair, Dr. Amelia Jenkins, to draft a letter informing me I would not have my contract extended or renewed. In the moments where I waited for Dr. Jenkins to meet with me, all I could think of was, "oh my goodness, I'm going to be unemployed!" But, my meeting with Dr. Jenkins went well and I learned that the letter was drafted that way, as contracts can't be renewed, but the department could request that I be offered another year-long contract. Phew!

I also participated in interviewing students for admittance into College of Education programs. I did this, as I knew there was a demand for interviewers and I also wanted to learn more about the process. There's no better way to learn about a process or system, than going through it yourself. It helped to be paired with faculty who had gone through the process of interviewing potential COE students previously. It was neat to be on the other side, as I've almost always have been the one being interviewed.

The Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC) was as active as students' schedules allowed. We participated in the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Hawaii's Great Hawaiian Rubber Duckie Race, which has become a staple project for the SCEC. We help with roadside collection of monetary donations prior to the rubber ducks being dumped into the Ala Wai canal to start the "race." The SCEC also spearheaded a food drive for the Hawaii Foodbank, which was part of the campaign that the entire University of Hawaii at Manoa participated in. This was a great success thanks to the wonderful faculty, staff, and students in the COE. We also participated in the Best Buddies Friendship Walk at Kapolei High School, where the SCEC used funds from Jim's Trust Store to sponsor walkers, with proceeds supporting this organization. We did other service projects, which I really enjoyed; I appreciated students and other supporters making time in busy, busy schedules to volunteer!
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Me and Zeus enjoying Aidan James at the Friendship Walk (Photo credit: Joy Sato)

 
Le'a, me, Joy, and Joshua at the UCPA-HI Dessert Fantasy (Photo credit: Grace Kajiyama)

 
 Donations for a canned food drive during November 2015 (Photo credit: Min Wook Ok)

 
A face/hand painting booth at the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind's (HSDB) Winter Festival

Early in 2015, I experienced something I did not ponder previously. I grew up with my grandparents being a big part of my life; my grandpa was my biggest "cheerleader;" my grandma was my second biggest "cheerleader." Sometimes in life, you take things for granted, expecting things to always remain consistent. My grandma was taken ill from December 2014, but battled as much as she could until Super Bowl Sunday, February 1, 2015. On that day, she went to join my grandpa up in heaven. Again, I was asked to compose and deliver the eulogy. It's an honor to be asked, but it's one of the most difficult writings one could be charged with.

Fortunately, I was able to see my grandma while she could still sit and appreciate having her grandchildren there. She expressed how proud she was of all of her grandchildren, and I left with positive thoughts of her. My grandma LOVED our annual family Christmas gatherings. This year, being the first without any grandparents, was different; something was missing. I'll need to get used to the feeling of having something "missing," as the years go on.

At my grandma's funeral, on the Big Island, I saw relatives that I normally don't get to see.  I appreciated that aspect, especially seeing my uncle and aunt from my mom's side of the family. My aunt was just getting over a battle with cancer, but looked really happy. I also saw one of my good friends, Jess, who took time off from teaching so she could attend the service for my grandma.

Getting back into the mindset for teaching was tough, I don't know how I was able to carry on without having any of my students, nor fellow colleagues, knowing I was dealing with "stuff."

There was another realm of life that I did not think I'd ever be in. It's a deeply personal matter, so I won't elaborate. But, I'll say this - learning about a "system" was extremely fascinating. Through this journey, I met amazing individuals who are truly passionate about what they do. I also learned that sometimes in life, you'll experience things that can break you, especially without strong faith and without a deep relationship with God. Again, I was reminded of how blessed I am to have such an amazing family; they have been there for me at ALL times.

In early March, I received a call from my friend, Jeff Reinebold, who was an assistant football coach for the Hawaii Warriors during the time I was a graduate assistant coach. We were playing phone tag, reaching the voicemail box of the other, until I finally reached him as I sat in the parking lot of Costco. He wanted to establish a scholarship in my name and felt this was the "right" time to do so. I put up a fight, as I didn't feel deserving of such an honor. But, Jeff was persistent and I finally caved  in. In May 2015, the Brian Kajiyama Heart of a Warrior scholarship was established, under the larger umbrella of the June Jones Foundation (I am very appreciative of this, as having Coach Jones' provides greater "legitimacy" to the scholarship). We had a press conference in the COE's Andrew W.S. In College Collaboration Center (CCC), which I felt was the "best" place, as the COE has become my "home." The excitement of a press conference was amazing, but I'll admit the cart was put in front of the horse.
 
Press conference for the Brian Kajiyama Heart of a Warrior scholarship (Photo credit: Grace Kajiyama

The real work began once the press conference concluded. This has become another endeavor that has forced me to learn about another "system." Over the summer, I was fortunate to have people, much smarter than me, help draft and refine the application, criteria, description of the scholarship, and create a beautiful website. Our goal was to have high school seniors submit applications by mid-December, so we could award the first scholarship in early spring 2015. I learned many things through this particular journey. I cannot expect others to have the same high standards of excellence that I may have; I need to trust that others will fulfill their responsibilities; and I need to trust the process! I'm personally determined to make this scholarship the best it can be, and I hope it continues well beyond after I have left this earth.

In Fall 2015, I had a wonderful opportunity to teach a "new" course; one that I've been a guest presenter in numerous times. SPED 201 - Disability and Diversity - is an introductory course that makes students, who are mainly comprised of freshman, aware of various disability categories and issues through media (books, videos, news, etc.).  I consulted with my wonderful colleagues, Dr. Rhonda Black and Dr. Bryan Cook, to absorb their great wisdom about the content of the course. They were generous of their time and resources, but ultimately left me to design the course in any way I chose. I had my very first kupuna (senior citizen) to audit my course! I truly appreciated the presence of the kupuna, as she brought a perspective I could never provide myself. She was extremely prompt and engaged, taking notes diligently during each class session. I also used media that I did not think I could use - material that contained vulgarity and offensive comments. This was my attempt to keep the course as "real" as I could; I can only hope that my students appreciated this.
 
SPED 201 class picture (Photo credit: Grace Kajiyama)

Additionally, I informally mentored two new teachers, who graduated from the merged cohort. This was a new experience, but as a mentor I didn't do grand things; I tried to be a sounding board that my two graduates felt comfortable in reaching out to me if they needed anything. One highlight was being able to adopt a classroom through the Hawaii Jaycees Adopt-a-School program. The SCEC donated funds to three schools (Ben Parker Elementary, Kea'au Elementary, and  Kapalama Elementary), so teachers could purchase much needed resources so they could enhance their teaching.
 
Me and Maya (teacher at Ben Parker Elementary)

I also taught my final SPED 480 in it's current form this fall semester. After this, the course won't be required for all general education programs at the College. It's fair to say I strongly don't agree with this decision, as all cohort coordinators have heard nothing but positives from their teacher candidates who took the course from me and other faculty members. I went into this semester with the intent of making this round of SPED 480 the very best it could be. I invited as many guest speakers as I could; I'll openly admit that others bring much more "rich" dialogue into the discussion of assistive (and instructional) technologies (AT). I enjoyed the students in this cohort, as they were really enthusiastic to learn and to engage in various activities in class. On the last day of class, I was presented with something I never had received before. It was a "thank you" card from the whole class! Each wrote a simple note of thanks. This gesture provided me with some comfort that I actually did something "right!"
My last cohort for "traditional" SPED 480

I had doubts about my teaching overall in the fall semester, as I could not fully concentrate my efforts and energy on teaching. I had to deal with the other "stuff," which was simply draining in ALL ways (emotionally and physically). But, somehow I found a way each week to be present and available for my students. I also tried to be as transparent as possible, especially when class sessions didn't go as planned when technology didn't work the way I planned.

Another challenge about the other "stuff" came in the form of feeling like the elephant in the room. More colleagues and friends became "involved" in this happening, which was the last thing I wanted to occur, as I value my privacy. However, I am extremely grateful that ALL of them took time out of their busy, busy schedules to be a part of the "process" or "system." If you're reading this, THANK YOU.

As I look ahead to 2016, I have very lofty and concrete goals. I don't refer to them as resolutions, as those can easily fall by the wayside. Goals are more focused, I feel. One goal is to just be a better person - friend, colleague, brother, son, nephew, etc. Another goal is to try to start my own  501(c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt foundation, so the Brian Kajiyama Heart of a Warrior scholarship can live on it's own, allowing for easier access to critical information, such as how much has been contributed to this specific scholarship. I'll also tighten up the application process and all associated documents. And the selection committee will likely change, as I am learning that a quality committee is comprised of individuals who are committed to paddling in the same canoe and in the same direction. This will require tough decisions to be made, but by assuming responsibilities as chair of this scholarship, I owe it to the scholarship recipients to convene the best people possible. In a sense, I may be considered as a head coach of this scholarship, who relies on having awesome assistant coaches, who fully respect my opinions, but also aren't afraid to tell me things that I NEED to hear, rather than just saying what I WANT to hear.

My instructional duties for Spring 2015 are, yet, different challenges. Sometimes God places you in situations where He pushes you to make difficult decisions; I need to be obedient and truly listen to where He needs me to be. Ultimately, He will provide me with all of the strength and guidance to do the "right" and best thing.

Just to say it, as many have asked my opinion, yes I'm happy my friend, Nick "Rolo" Rolovich, is the new head coach for the Hawaii Warrior football team. He's been a terrific friend from the time he came to Hawaii to play under coach June Jones. His performance over a three-game stretch has to be the greatest performance by a quarterback in NCAA history. IF a position opens and if I'm asked, I would be foolish NOT to listen, as I LOVE being in that environment (being part of something greater than any one person). As Rolo said in his press conference, he's looking for Simba's so we can conquer Pride Rock! But for now, I'm just happy for Rolo and his grand opportunity to do something special.
 
A simple graphic I created in support of my friend, Nick Rolovich, head coach of  Hawaii Warrior football

Coach June Jones has been nothing but gracious and supportive in the decision made by athletic director, David Matlin. In spite of coach Jones' desire to come back "home" and bring the program up to where it was prior to his departure, he's been very professional and supportive of Rolo. That speaks volumes to the character of coach Jones. We (Coach Jones) communicate regularly and he's able to do things that weren't possible before with the luxury of a more "free" schedule, though he still keeps quite busy!

Even though there have been days when I thought there was NO way I could keep going, God has constantly provided me with the strength to carry on and has protected me, greatly, from any "attacks," from the other "stuff" I dealt with in the latter part of 2015.

I also appreciated having my sister, Lynn, my brother-in-law, Jeff, and my nephew, Jacob, visit Hawaii in 2015. My nephew is destined to grow up to be a genius, as my sister teaches him so much each and everyday!

I look forward to a wonderful 2016; I know there is a LOT I need to accomplish. Some can be achieved in the next year, while other endeavors will require me to be steadfast and faithful in seeing things through.

I have no hesitation in sharing that one goal for 2016 is to find my "last," as my window of starting a family of my own is not getting any wider. It's actually closing slowly, with each passing day. I want to ensure that I'm around to see my child, or children, go to proms, come home after a stated curfew, graduate from high school, go on to an institution of higher learning, and to just see a son or daughter be happy with life!

If you've read up to this point, thank you! I appreciate that I have a handful of "subscribers," who receive push updates when I post a new entry.
Here's to new beginnings (first, we must look back before looking ahead!)

Until next time... 

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Growing Young

If you can give your child only one gift, let it be enthusiasm.
 ~ Bruce Barton

Thirty-nine years ago, my parents were excited to go to the old (Kapiolani) Children's Hospital (now the Rehab Hospital of the Pacific) to have their first child born.

Early that morning, my dad took my grandparents to Honolulu Zoo.  When they returned to the apartment, near Straub Hospital, my mom was ready to head to the Children's Hospital.  My parents took a taxi to the hospital.

There was a resident doing an internship and asked my mom all kinds of questions, which she did not mind at first.  She was alert enough to notice that the tape, or paper, for one of the monitors had run out, as it dropped to the floor.

The birth process began and the lives of my parents would not be the same again.

As I was being born, doctors quickly realized this was not an ordinary birth.  Something had gone drastically awry, as they saw the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck as I entered the world some 15-minutes later.  Yes, I was without oxygen for at least 15-minutes. If God did not have a purpose for me, I would not be composing this entry today.

Out of survival instincts, my body tried breathing, causing me to ingest amniotic fluid.  This caused my lungs to collapse. as this sticky fluid had no mercy with developing lungs.  Doctors quickly went into "rescue" mode, placing tubes in both sides of my torso in order to manually pump air into my lungs to get them filled and open again.

An IV was inserted into my skull (I have a small bald spot that reminds me of my fight to live), as that was the most accessible vein at the time.  Once things became a little more stable, doctors spoke to my parents and said they could be "guardedly optimistic."  As first time parents, this is the LAST thing you expect to see or hear.  The next 48-hours would be critical.

My mom felt empty, as she saw other mothers being handed their newborn; here she was watching me being rushed into the NICU.

I was a pretty big baby, weighing over 8-pounds at birth. This played a big role, I believe, in my survival.  48-hours passed and I was still alive.

My parents didn't know what "guardedly optimistic" meant; to this day, we're still trying to figure that out!  God prepared me for a purpose that would be greater than myself.

I went home and my parents treated me like any other newborn.  They were happy to have me home. I would fuss before bed, so they would take me on long walks or car rides, hoping I would sleep.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.  Typical fussy baby.

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As I reflect back upon my life, the most fundamental character trait that enabled me to live purposefully was all of the many life experiences that my parents exposed me to.  They took me everywhere - Canada, Disneyland, San Diego Zoo, the aquarium, just to name some places!

The word CANNOT was not in their vocabulary, unless I was getting into mischief.

I grew up believing I could be anything and do anything I set my mind to.  Whether it was excelling in school, trying out for the high school bowling team (and being denied because I used a ramp), to having friends over for epic nights of Nintendo; there was enthusiasm from my parents, encouraging me to do what I wanted and to always give my best.

There were moments where I floundered, but I appreciated such moments since they taught me life lessons that I would have never gained without such experiences.  Such as, not throwing small coconuts off the second floor of Kailua Intermediate School.  Why?  You could misfire, hit a pillar and have the coconut bounce back into your eye!

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If anyone told me, or my parents, I would have a career in education, we would probably laugh at the thought. But, thanks to wonderful friends and mentors, I found my identity.  I am an educator!

There are days when the work just wears me down, but I still try to approach each day, each task, with enthusiasm.  The same enthusiasm that my parents demonstrated to me whenever I tried something new.

Another driving force behind much of what I do stems from a genuine desire to help others.  I've been extremely blessed to have so much help and love from others in order to get me to this stage of life.

I am extremely mindful of my body and how much it can endure.  When I take on a task, I pour my heart and soul into it; if I'm unable to do this, I simply won't pursue it.

I know I've put on blinders at times, focusing all of my being on what I'm doing.  Whether it was doing well in the classroom as a student; or being the best educator possible for my students...I'd do all I could to do quality work.  Quality that met MY standards.

However, as you grow and develop over the years, one learns how to better grow.  You don't want to grow older, but rather you should aim to grow younger.

When you grow older, you could become cynical and lose that sense of enthusiasm in whatever you're doing.  But, by choosing to grow younger, you form a mindset of approaching all you do in life with unbridled enthusiasm.  This allows one to do greater work.

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I chose to spend my day at home, quietly working on grading for my summer course.  I chose this because the summer is quickly winding down, so I wanted to keep up the pace I've maintained in grading work.  Sure, it would have been nice to be out and about doing fun things outside.

But, I really enjoyed reviewing student work and grading with enthusiasm.  I'll have time to enjoy living, a little, once I complete my summer duties.

Some might not understand my logic, which is perfectly fine.  People who want to celebrate and not think about work on a birthday are just as hard working as someone who chooses to do work instead.

I also realized that my Facebook wall would be flooded with birthday wishes; from people I know well, from people I call acquaintances, and from complete strangers.  Regardless of what category people were in, I enthusiastically composed a message of gratitude for every individual.

Does it matter that people shared birthday wishes because Facebook reminded them?  Not really.  People could see a reminder or alert and ignore it completely.  No one forces anyone to post birthday wishes.  So, in order to express my appreciation, I wrote back on well over 350 posts. The most meaningful posts came from good friends, but right up there were messages from former students.  As an educator, when a student remains in contact with you after graduating, that is priceless!  Seeing beginning teachers flourish and grow into seasoned teachers is the greatest gift I could receive.

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As I look ahead, my overarching goal remains the same - live everyday enthusiastically.  Tomorrow is never promised, so do everything you want to do today!  If you love someone, tell them; if you're bothered with someone, communicate those feelings to the person from a place of enthusiastically wanting to gain understanding.

If you want to pursue a new path, do it!  When you feel that seed within you heart starting to grow, do NOT let it die!  Care for it so it can blossom into something amazing.  Something so amazing that you, and others around you, can enthusiastically embrace whatever it is!

Life is too short NOT to live with enthusiasm.  I hope to meet that someone who will want to grow young together - enthusiastically loving, challenging, and encouraging each other through this wonderful process called life!

Never forget to live with enthusiasm and never pass up an opportunity to share this zeal for life with anyone you care about.

I'm grateful to my parents for entrusting me with the greatest gift of all the ability to live enthusiastically, so I can grow younger with each day that I'm here on earth.



 Dad, me, Mom

Until next time...

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