Heart Twice Scarred

kimono

Optimistic anticipation of a new school year quickly diminished as “round eye” and “half breed” flowed through the room in a wave of whispers.  The cruel words of elementary aged children were an unsolicited voice reminding my mother, Kazumi, she didn’t belong and wasn’t welcome.

Mom’s childhood began in 1948, when she resided in Tokyo and Nagoya, Japan.  However, Japan wasn’t truly a home.  She wished the unrelenting cruelty of children and the judging eyes of adults could be escaped.  While innocently playing in front of her house, rocks were thrown at her.  The culprits would yell, “Yankee go home!  Go home, you Yankee!”  She also overheard such phrases from adults, as they guided their children in the opposite direction.  Mom didn’t understand what she had done to instigate such hostility; her heart scarred with the confusion of intolerance.

Kazumi was the first child born to Saku Mori and Paul Rasmussen. Paul met Saku when he was stationed in Tokyo, as a cook in the Army.  Like most soldiers, he would visit a seamstress for repairs on his uniform or to sew on patches.  Saku’s modest beauty caught Paul’s eye, so she was the seamstress he frequently sought.  Those visits quickly developed into a courtship, which resulted in three children: Kazumi, Lena, and Henry.  Unfortunately, since they were not 100% Japanese, the children were considered and treated as outcasts.  Due to the span in their age, mom was the only one who experienced the brunt of prejudice first hand.

Having a Japanese mother and an American father seven years after the attack on Pearl Harbor created a silent purgatory for Kazumi.  She was caught between two distinct cultures, unable to unlock her hurt and confusion from this intangible tug-of-war.  Mom’s childhood was lived in an environment where hostility towards Americans was still harbored by the Japanese.  The disdainful eyes of the community viewed her, her siblings, and her mother as outsiders.  Their fairer skin created a target that followed them everywhere.  Kazumi’s young, innocent heart was scarred from the isolation and her continuous desire to belong.

Mom’s journey had a drastic change when she moved to the United States in the spring of 1962.  A deep hurt and sadness from leaving the few friends she had and the fear of the unknown began to brew within.  She was on an airplane for the first time with her father, a man she didn’t know.  Her worries were momentarily put on hold when they stopped over in Hawaii.  Mom ate a traditional American meal:  hamburger and french fries.  She had never eaten such food before.  The saltiness of the fries is a memory that lingers on her palate to this day.  The entire family eventually arrived to their temporary destination of six months, Fort Lewis, a military base in Washington.  Despite the range of emotions, mom was thankful to reside in America.  She had new luxuries such as TV, an indoor bathroom, and nice clothes.  Sleeping on bamboo mats, bathing in the public bathhouse, wearing a uniform, and tolerating the rigidity of Japanese education was no longer required.

At home, mom was faced with yet another challenge, her father.  He was more like the occasional visitor, rather than a dad.  Kazumi saw him only a handful of times during her 14 years in Japan, typically during major holidays.  Now she was living with this stranger of a man in a new, foreign place.  He was trying to do what he thought was best for his wife and three children.  However, a dense fog quietly floated into their lives creating a permanent division between a father and his children.  Paul naively stripped Kazumi of her identity, creating a silent isolation that would last the rest of her life.  Speaking Japanese was now forbidden at home, since “they were in America now.”  Unable to communicate, this expectation created a state of constant confusion for mom.  Her red, Japanese-English dictionary became her “Bible,” the only resource she had to navigate her daily life.  The dictionary was a silent companion carried with her for years, translating the words she knew into the new words of the unknown; a liberator of knowledge.

There was another subtle division within the family.  Mom’s two siblings, seven and nine years younger, were given “American names” at birth, rather than Japanese.  Even in her own home, amongst family, she was different.  Over time, Kazumi decided she needed a nickname.  She selected “Linda,” after a pretty woman she met at the Albertsons’ bakery, where her father worked.  To her, this sounded more “American,” allowing her to find an avenue to try and fit in.  Kazumi was no longer required to repeat, sound out, or spell out her foreign name to others.  She was now one of “them,” an American, leaving her Japanese identity behind.

Kazumi entered the classroom on the first day of school, this time in Lacey, Washington at the age of 15.  She wore a pretty new dress, recently purchased from Sears.  Students gazed at her as she made her way toward her designated desk.  The teacher was talking assumingly in a kind way, but Kazumi didn’t understand a single word.  She doesn’t look like us; the classmates silently judged the only Asian child in the school.  I don’t feel like I belong her, Kazumi thought as her anxious heart thundered in her chest.

Once again, Kazumi was exposed to the verbal cruelty of her classmates.  This time, whispers of “Jap” and “slant eyes” floated towards her ears.  The same prejudice would creep up on her, like a mysterious predator following her, adding more scars to her heart.  Mom stood out among the new peers, both physically and symbolically.  Even though she was 15, the school placed her in the 5th grade.  She was definitely intelligent, despite the ignorant assumptions placed upon her, but she didn’t speak English.  Learning English was achieved solely by her own work ethic and determination.  The teachers didn’t help, there wasn’t a “special program,” and no support was offered after school nor at home.

Mom completed fifth through seventh grade, then jumped to tenth, eventually graduating high school in 1968 at the age of twenty-one.  Despite the incredibly difficult times, mom was very proud that she earned her high school diploma; a deep sense of accomplishment she finally felt for the first time.

In the depths of her eyes, the pain of Kazumi’s childhood is buried deep below the surface where only the observant can see.  Even in America, the “land of the free,” her experiences have not been free of hurt, prejudice, or ignorance.  Mom’s perseverance over time has created a quiet, determined strength that makes her the woman she is today.  The scars on her heart have begun to fade, but they will never completely disappear.  They are part of who she is, an identity, which she can proudly claim.

~D. Thompson

Sunday Reflection Quote, 8/16/15

SMRQ Aug 16

Sunday reflection quote (long)…The past week was a doozy regarding experiences, personal stretches, and emotions.

I got keys to my new classroom on Monday. I’m excited & motivated, which speaks volumes to my decision to return to the classroom after 6 years in administration.  As if reading my mind of self-doubt, a dear friend said, “welcome back to teaching; this is where you do your best.” And a colleague, “You’re a great teacher; students will love you; welcome home.” THANK YOU, I needed to hear it!

I played in a golf tournament on Wednesday. Although golf isn’t new, playing in a scramble all on my own without knowing ANYONE was a whole other ball of wax! There was plenty of anxiety, but taking the leap to tee it up with the big boys in support of a great cause was well worth the personal stretch.

Thursday was what I call a “calendar day” regarding an event triggering grief. It was rough w/waves of tears throughout the day, but I gave myself permission to grieve, kept busy, and powered through. Ended the night taking 22/111 in a poker tournament. I was grateful for the familiar faces and playful banter. Day started with waves of tears, but ended with smiles and laughs. Phew!

Friday was District Inservice Day; another personal challenge. Tough facing folks as I transition from supervisor back to peer. My heart was warmed by the acceptance and accolades for my decision. Folks said I was glowing, looked healthy, and happy. Hooray!! Of course, there were haters offering passive-aggressive comments or a cold shoulder. Life is too short and my time too precious; I refuse to take on their manipulation and negative shit.

Life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Nor do hunky heroes swoop in and save the day. Shocker, huh? However, there’s something to be said for intentional choices to reset a life working towards happiness, health, and peace.

#Sunday #reflection #quote #choices #goals #intentional #mindset #confidence #selfesteem #stretch #career #golf #singlelife #acceptance #smile #happiness #peace #friendship #thankful #myownstory #keeponkeepingon

Boo Hoo

Fallen Tears by Sugargrl14 on DeviantArt

“Boo Hoo” is what I call a vent poem.  When written, I was an Elementary Principal, I had the day from hell: hate emails, complaining teachers, and unreasonable parents.  I was at the end of my rope, so I sat down to write and it all spewed out, just as you see without any revisions.

Listen up-

listen up

you no good mother fuckers

sons of bitches,

bitches bitching

all the way home.

Wake up!

Wake up, I say!

Stop the sniveling-

suck it up

or I just might go

violent on your ass.

l’ll give you

something to cry about!

You want to cry?

Cry about the cancer–

infesting a family times 3…mother, father, and man’s best friend;

multiple homes swept off foundations,

bloated stomach of a malnourished child,

death of a loved one yesterday or long ago;

a druggie’s last hit,

in the clinker for grand theft.

No job for two years

despite five applications a day.

That’s something to cry about!

Stop the petty-

petty grumbles and pointless gossip;

clock that didn’t fall back,

jammed paper,

really? too small a font for your squinty eyes

fire drill bucking your cherished schedule

a whopping 10 minutes

that’s right,

I don’t do basketball at recess.

You no good mother fuckers,

just stop.

~D.Thompson: 11/2012

Massive Cluster

Road WP

I’ve implied in my posts and IG pics I’ve been going through a major transition in my life for several months.  In truth, it’s been one massive cluster, most of which I didn’t see coming.  I had no control and it all came blow after blow after blow.

However, there was one component where I did have control, which was my career.  I’ve always been driven, determined, and a leader.  From the onset, I was on a quick path moving up the chain in education going from a classroom teacher, to Assistant Principal, and on to Principal.  I was also actively pursuing higher roles at the county and state level seeing no end in sight with my eyes potentially at a national level.

After six years of not being able to lead as I wanted to, having my hands tied due to bureaucratic bullshit, and inundated with daily negativity, I came to the realization site admin wasn’t for me.  Thus, I intentionally made the choice to reset and simplify.  This August, I will be going back to the classroom as a fourth grade teacher.  The responses from others is a mixed bag.  Some think I’m absolutely crazy to take a 30K pay cut and loose all that ground.  Others, especially those in my inner circle, are supportive.  They know the score and get it.

For me, I’m chalking those six years up as a detour.  I was on a positive path, made a wrong turn, and now I’m back on track.  I’m still determined, driven, and a leader.  Although in a different capacity, I know my future will be bright and balanced.  Who knows where this path will lead.

**For those who are miserable in a career, I encourage you to step back and reflect.  Although terrifying, surely there are steps to simplify and change the current course.  Money isn’t everything (of course it helps!), but we only have one life. In my opinion, it is worth making a shift to the positive, rather than trying to force something that isn’t meant to be.

#myownstory #keeponkeepingon #letgo