Why We Pledge

I love that I get to teach in a school that is liberal, and trusts teachers to put students’ interests first. One thing that is truly unique about the school I work in is that at no one ever makes any announcements, and no one ever leads the school in The Pledge of Allegiance.

When Patrick, my patriotic husband, heard about this, he was horrified.

“But you do The Pledge, on your own?” he asked.

“Sure, most of the time. When I can remember to. But there are lots of things happening in the morning, and if I don’t get to have any coffee…” I fumbled.

He steamed. I relented.

Now, each day, I make sure that my students join me in saying The Pledge. I never start it, and I’m never the loudest voice. Instead, I make sure that a different student begins it, and that all members are respectfully participating.

I don’t do this because my husband will yell at me, or because of some rule.

We pledge, because people across the country, throughout our history as a nation, have dedicated their lives for the ideals and freedoms that our flag represents. Each day, I acknowledge, and ask my students to acknowledge, the efforts and sacrifice of these men and women.

My husband, a Veteran, doesn’t thank others for their service.

He thanks them for our freedoms, which so many take for granted each day. Our children attend tax funded schools, regardless of race or gender. I can choose if I live or teach in a place that is conservative or liberal. I have the right to make of my life the best that I can. There are so many advantages to living in this imperfect nation, and so many things that we take for granted each day.

My sincerest thanks, today and every day, to all who sacrificed for these freedoms.

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“Freedom don’t come free…”

The Pumpkin Mania Spreads to Toddlers

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Most of our kid’s experience with pumpkins this year has been at Story Land. We were lucky enough to visit more than a few times, and Jasper loved every minute we spent there.

One of the rides that we did during every visit was the magic pumpkin ride up to Cinderella’s Castle. Pulled by “horses” the magic pumpkin fits about 6 people, and Jasper would light up with glee every time that we rode inside the orange globe.

When pumpkins started popping up on porches, Jasper was sure to point them all out to me, making sure that I didn’t miss one.

We visited Tougas Farm last week, and he really only had eyes for the tractor. (Sorry apples, pumpkins, donuts, and petting zoo… you’re nothing compared to almighty TRACTOR.) We left without a pumpkin, and ended up buying them at one of my favorite local spots, Nourse Farm.

Jasper ran up and down the rows of pumpkins like a wild-man, and the lovely owners just laughed at my boisterous toddler taking in the glories of fall.

How cool is it that we live in a place with so many local, family friendly farms?

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For Pride

I woke on the morning of July 4th, 2010 to the hum of the air conditioner in the dorm room. (If you’re doing math, that means that I’m nearly 27 and married. And sleeping in a dorm-sized bed. Again.) I looked out across the hills, and smiled at the sunshine.

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Another perfect 84 degree day in paradise.

I was lucky enough to spend eight weeks in Hawaii during the summer of 2010 studying World War II in the Pacific. On the 4th of July, we abandoned the classroom and visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial and met with some of the survivors.

As we approached Pearl Harbor, the vivid, striking blue of the ocean made the stark white of the floating memorial seem out of place.

The sweet, dusky smell of beach flowers mixed with the diesel from the boat and bus engines, twining with the salt of the ocean air. My heart thumped. I couldn’t help but imagine the perfect day interrupted on December 7th so many years ago, as we pulled into the immaculately landscaped parking lot.

Visiting the memorial with Veterans who survived the attack was life changing. Watching the trail of oil trickle darkly through the harbor towards the horizon, I wept for all of the men who paid the ultimate price for our country’s freedom. Being able to visit this memorial, on Independence Day, changed me.

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While the morning was a memorable, sacred experience, the most moving part of my day happened during lunch.

That’s when I met Ed.

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He grew up in California in the 1930’s; his parents moved from Japan to The States because of the unique opportunities American education provides. After December 7th, Ed was faced with a choice; enlist or move to an internment camp.

He said the choice was easy.

He worked in communications, and felt great pride in his service time. As our conversation progressed, I was struck by how humble he was, and I couldn’t help but think of the hours I had spent discussing situations like his with my grandfather.

Ed wasn’t angry that Japanese Americans were moved to internment camps. He wasn’t angry that the 442nd, the Japanese American Infantry Unit, the highest decorated in American History, were put in the most dangerous battle situations, again and again. All that Ed felt was pride to call a place like America his home.

“America’s education system is unique. It provides opportunities for anyone to reach for their dreams,” he said.

As an educator fighting in the trenches, I was struck by his faith in our system and pride in a country that felt failed him. That was when I realized that I owed my grandfather an apology. For years, I had presumed to understand how an entire group of people had felt, without having met and discussed the topic with a single one of them.

Throughout the afternoon, I talked to a number of Japanese American men who had enlisted instead of moving to internment camps, and all of them were proud of their service and their country.

The next afternoon, I called my grandfather.

“I can’t believe that you’re calling me from Hawaii! This must be costing you a fortune! I won’t keep you long!” He exclaimed.

“Cell phone calls don’t work like that Papa, don’t worry about it,” I laughed. “I’m calling to tell you about my visit to Pearl Harbor yesterday. I thought of you the whole day…”

… still thinking of you, Papa, wishing a Happy Fourth of July to all Americans.

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