Proud to Be an American

July 4, 1776, we recognize and celebrate the United States of America’s declaration of independence.  Many feel the American dream is for prosperity. I think it means more.  Next weekend is July 4th and I would like to share my sister-in-law’s story (with her permission).  It is time to reflect on our opportunities, appreciate each other, and live our best life for self, family, friends, and society.

A Life Journey – A Story of a Chinese Immigrant

Looking back my life o f 45 years, I am amazed how much my life have been changed and how much I have accomplished.  The life experience I have gone through, better or worse, made me the person today – a firm believer of individuality, capitalism, religion freedom and hard working and resilience.

I was born in China in the mid-sixties; 15 years after the communist party took power, the darkest era of Chinese modern history. At that time, the country population was exploding and the severer famine speeded around the country. The government did not focus on economic development and people’s wellbeing, but rather on securing the power. The notorious Culture Revolution and unconditional support of the Vietnam War and the North Korean War against American are some good examples how the communist party wanted to gain the super power. The schools became the propaganda institution of the communist party.  I had been taught since the first grade that there was no god, the capitalist was evil, and the communist was the future of the world. 

As the middle child of a family of six, I lived under extreme poverty, fear and uncertainty of our family’s fate. No running water, no pluming, no bathroom in the house. We used the public “bathroom” in the neighborhood, which had no roof, a few holes in the ground. We used coat stove to heat the house and cook food. We had to pump water from a well which was shared by the whole neighborhood. We shared one bed with our family. Our food is depending on the government rationing. Corn flour, half liter of cooking oil, and one pound of pork meat was all we got every month for a family of six. Only during the month of the Chinese New Year, the government gave each family a couple of pounds of rice and wheat flour. The Chinese New Year was my favorite time of the year. With the very limited food supply, we did not have enough to eat and we were hungry all the time. My mom used to take us to the field and dig some eatable wild plants and mix them in the corm flour and make pancakes in order to stretch the food we had to the end of the month. I still can feel the disgusting taste of the pancake today. Can you imagine today, a boiled egg was the best birthday gift for a child? I have to force my daughter to eat an egg every morning.

Things started change after the founder of Chinese communist party Chairman Mao died in 1976.  Many government reforms were underway. The two notable movements were open door policy to western world and the re-focus on education. It was an eye-opening experience for a lot of Chinese to see first time the modern western world and listen to the western music.  The Chinese people realized what the government had said about western world was not true at all.  At that time, I was in Middle school, I made pelage to myself  that I would do everything with my power to get rid of the poverty and pursue freedom and a better life for myself and my family. I made up my mind some day I want to live in America. I pushed myself very hard through the middle school and the high school, I became one of a few admitted to the highest ranking college in China. I had switched several jobs and fields to get a better pay check and treatment after I graduated, I joined millions of Chinese student to apply the scholarships provided by a few American universities and I made it. My life was forever changed after I decided to accept the offer of the scholarship and come to US. 

In October 1998, I left my toddler son and my beloved family behind and came to US with $2,000 in my pocket and with my broken English.  I worked through the college and graduated with high honor and 4.96 GPA from the business school. I came to Atlanta in 2001 to work for Siemens. I met my dear husband the same year. We got married in 2003 and we had a beautiful daughter one year after our marriage. We live in a beautiful house with everything I had never dreamed of. At same time, we fought with immigration offices to get my son from China and we united with him in 2005. My son and I both became US citizen in 2008. During the 12 year in US, I finally found my faith and became a Christian. 

Looking back, what an amazing transformation my life has been – from a Chinese girl lived under poverty and fear to an American woman with a beautiful family, great job and strong faith and political views. After today’s story, I hope everyone in the audience will be more appreciative of the opportunities we have in this great county and the constitutional foundations our foundering father had built for us. 

I am proud to be her sister-in-law.
I am proud to be an American.
Listen to Lee Greenwood (3 minutes 30 seconds) and
reflect on your opportunities and
your appreciation for others and society.

Title IX – More than a Game; An Opportunity

On June 23, 1972, President Nixon signed the Education amendment act, Title IX. The law says, “students cannot be denied participation in any school program solely based on their sex.”  Title IX is not without controversy, but I feel lucky to have been attending high school at the time.  As I reflect on the past 45+ years Title IX has been more than a game; it has been an opportunity.  

My Visual Blossom, titled “Title IX to Blog” shares my entry into sports and introduces the idea that the outcomes of sports participation exceed the physical aspect of active engagement.  I view the sports environment as a mini-society or participatory model of life. I feel that the developmental opportunities in the larger world and those in the sports environment are similar.

The most important outcome of my three years of high athletic participation and serving as a Senior Prep Assistant with Miss B was the understanding that blending the academic and co-curricular experience affects learning and development. Darling-Hammond, Flook, Cook-Harvey, Barron, & Osher (2019) confirm that human development is a lifelong process of acquiring, analyzing, and synthesizing information, ideas, and knowledge.

My education and athletic pursuits guided my career path

My competitive athletic life continued after college for another 20 years.  I ran road races from 5K to half marathon and competed in triathlons and duathlons. In 1987 I earned the “Open Runner of the Year” award and in 1995 I was the Senior Women Bike Time Trial champion. 

Serving as a recreational sports administrator for 10 years I contributed to the profession through presentations and research supporting the idea of the value sports participation on student development.  

The next 10 years serving as Director of Research and Assessment I studied the relationship between academic and co-curricular experiences and the ability of these experiences to facilitate student development and achievement.

As an adjunct faculty member in the School of Education Graduate Program for the next 15 years, I primarily taught research courses. In this faculty position I also directed my energy to mentoring doctoral students’ research initiatives as a subject matter expert on student development. 

Life stages overlapped and influenced others, but the foundation remained clear. I was the first generation to benefit from Title IX.  Title IX afforded many opportunities that led to many life lessons. The nine life lessons listed below is a partial list of what I learned through my sports participation that has carried over to other aspects of life.

Camaraderie (relationship building) from being part of a team

Sportsmanship being ethical and fair in my participation

Grace and resilience through experiencing successes and failures

Leadership through using my strengths to the best of my abilities through collaboration and cooperation

Confidence to pursue my goals

Time Management to aid in balancing life and work

Commitment to follow through on goals for self and for the team

Identity became grounded in principles and practices that define who I am

Integrity to abide by rules within the team and the sport

Title IX has directly and indirectly (formally and informally) influenced my life.  I strive to share my passion for life and learning by helping others connect the pieces in ways that matter.

Success is not how far you got,
but the distance you traveled
from where you started.
Steve Prefontaine

We all have dreams,
in order ot make dreams come into reality,
it takes an awful lot of
determination, dedication,
self-discipline, and effort.
Jesse Owens

A Virtual Trip Down Memory Lane

Last year (August 2019), I published a blog Keepsakes and Memories.  I concluded by sharing research to support the contribution of reminiscence to meeting the intent of Blooms to Blossoms.  I stated: 

A study from the Association for Psychological Science (2014) reported that nostalgia is now emerging as a fundamental human strength.  Studies by Hallford and Mellor (2015), Melendez Moral & Fortuna Terrero, Galan, and Rodrigues (2014) support the idea of enhanced self-esteem, life satisfaction, socialization and overall well-being through reflection and sharing of key life events.  

A couple weeks ago I shared an article I read about “front porch memories” and community building.  After reading the article I did a virtual search for, and found, my grandparents’ front porch.  Since finding my grandparents’ front porch I wondered about other places I have lived, gone to school, worked, and played.

Addis (2015) describes memories as having an important role to play in functions that directly impact our well-being. Moreover, memory is critical for our sense of who we are – in the past, present and the future. With the idea of connecting past, present and future with well-being I made a list of addresses, locations, and events I attended over the years, opened my map app and took a virtual trip down memory lane.

As I started my trip down memory lane, I was mindful that this adventure would be exciting and at times disappointing.  Like my grandparent’s porch, some places in my past were not visibly as grand as I remembered BUT the memories of my experiences and the people were wonderful.  I took my trip in chronological order so I could revisit how I moved from point A to B to C….ending this past month.  

Social connection and self-continuity describe the benefits identified by Baldwin, Biernat, & Landau’s (2015) review a group of studies on nostalgia and sense of self.

Baldwin, Biernat, & Landau BenefitsMy trip down memory lane
Boosts moods**remembering events, athletic competitions
Triggers inspiration & motivation**remembering educational and work accomplishments
Provides a glimpse of your authentic self**remembering who I truly am is a result of decisions and choices I made 
Aids problem-solving**remembering that various “bumps in the road” make me stronger
Creates sense of well-being**remembering my belief in the importance of a holistic, wellness guided life 
Improves relationships** remembering family, friends, students, teachers, mentors, and colleagues

I refined my goals, values, and ideals over the years, but I found a stable sense of self.  By reflecting on my past, I gathered insight into my present AND inspiration for my future.  

Life is a journey of experiences + people = the identity one becomes.
I discovered myself again after taking a trip down memory lane.

Taking the time to pause and really value each of the events that pass our way, rather than just moving mindlessly from one moment to the next, can ensure that we really experience life, instead of failing to see the ties and connections that truly prove the connectedness of us all.  Wolbe (2017)

Well-Being:Self Exploration Pt. 3

Happiness can be learned.

Last week I completed The Science of Well-Being course.  Today I conclude my 3-part “self exploration” series. Santos designs this course to “increase your own happiness and build more productive habits”.  I am glad to be one of the over two and a half million people around the world to complete the course. The course provides insight in how we can be more mindful of the difference between what we think makes us happy and what actually does make us happy.  

Part 1: Santos discusses how gratitude can enhance and expand well-being by taking time to savor and think about (realize) why you are thankful.

Part 2: Santos discusses how interacting with others, kindness, taking time for self, exploring mindfulness, and thankfulness are the key concepts to well-being.

The course structure was typical for online courses.  Lectures, videos, quizzes, and readings. The lessons, presentations, and readings were research based with assignments geared toward clarifying personal expectations, misconceptions, and direct application to life. Santos development the assignments (rewirements) as a set of “practices aimed at rewiring habits”.  In the first half of the course the rewirements were designed to learn about self.  Topics included an assessment of signature strengths, savoring, kindness, social connection, self-care, and gratitude.  The final rewirement, during the second half of the course, focused on putting the pieces together with the outcome being a personal plan to change a self-selected behavior(s).

I appreciated the quantitative measures at the beginning of the course. I value data from reliable and valid sources while understanding that these measures are a snapshot of life.  My learning in the course was certainly supported by Santos’ presentations and materials. The research foundation along with her conversational communication style and examples enhanced the learning of the key concepts.  I found the discussion forums the most interesting.  The discussion forums were, to me, a group of scholars and practitioners.  I engaged with others from around the world (many US states, Germany, Finland, Bahrain, Philippines, India, Egypt, Nepal, South Africa, Australia, Kenya, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, Austria) ranging in age from 20-74 years old. The peer learning environment was the most beneficial to me because of the variety of perspectives…knowing and understanding other interpretations of the concepts and associated experiences was valuable to me.  

I am more focused on improving habits that will lead to a better/happier life for me and for those around me.  The areas I chose to focus on to continue to live a better life are: savoring, kindness, and gratitude.  

I chose these aspects from the course because I see these as characteristics that would not only improve my life but help me contribute to the betterment of others.  

Creating Community on a Porch

A few months ago, my Dad gave me a briefcase full of reading materials he saved over the years.  The materials in the briefcase were from the last three decades.  Every time I open the briefcase, I find new treasures that result in bringing back memories.

Recently I have been reading articles in the Reminisce magazines from 1994-97. The article from July/August 1994, Our Front Porch Made Warm Memories of Summer, brought back memories of sitting on the porch at my grandpa (Buddy). My grandparents’ house was on the “main” street of a small town.  Buddy and I would sit on the porch and wave to any car that drove by…it seemed like we were the town greeters and it was fun.  We would also chat with neighbors and share stories of the day.  I have not been back to my first home since 2004 so I decided to use a map app to see if I could find my first porch.  I found the house and was able to see the porch.
NOTE: It was sad to see the deterioration and lack of landscaping but still brought back good memories.

By using a virtual tour, I could scroll up and down the street, through the neighborhood and the town. I spent a lot of time at the next-door neighbor’s porch and my dad’s sister lived on the same street. Her house had a covered front porch.  Once I reminisced on my own, I had to share this with my mom and her sister.  Below are some of the stories they shared with me:

Buddy and Granny had a closed porch (what I call a sunroom) and a stoop. The closed porch was not inviting to others but on rainy days it was nice to just sit and watch the rain and the cars on the highway go by.  On a snowy winter night, it was beautiful and peaceful to watch the snow fall.  The stoop (open porch) was an inviting area of the home.  If you were sitting there, you could and would expect anyone who passed by to say a few words or sit and visit.
Back when mom and dad bought and remodeled the house there were windows across the front and on the sides of the front porch, with sidelights by the door and venetian blinds on all the windows. The siding was white and there were shrubs beside the steps and a tree in the front yard.  Your grandma took pride in her garden of petunias and 4 o’clocks.
The neighbor’s porch was used by most of the neighborhood. It had a swing and chairs. If necessary, lawn chairs would be brought up to the front yard to accommodate more people. Being a small-town people knew each other and so many times walkers from other neighborhoods would stop by also. Our neighbors would visit and work, shelling peas, sewing quilt blocks or a variety of other chores.  
Even as a kid I would sit with the adults until dark and enjoy the porch and the people. There were other porches in the neighborhood that were used in the evenings but none so much as our neighbor’s porch.  
Your aunt’s porch had a swing too and neighbors sometimes gathered there in the evenings but the thing I really remember about that swing is how pleasant it was to sit out there and just enjoy day. And now while I don’t have a porch, I have the lanai and a glider and as I write this, I’m sitting listening to the rain and enjoying quiet time.  It does not get much better than this.

From Rory Feek blog “The Best Medicine.”

The founder of the Professional Porch Sitters Union (PPSU), Claude Stephens (aka Crow Hollister) believed porch sitting was a way to create community.  “When you’re on your porch you’re a part of your community. When you’re in your house you’re not.”

A porch community promotes face to face interaction and people connecting with one another.  Social connections form and people share recollections from the day, memories of the past, and dreams for the future.  The simple acts of relaxing and reflecting with others strengthens the community. This engagement leads to emotional well-being and happiness and scientific evidence supports the affect between happiness and health. I find that even if I am sitting on my porch alone I feel part of the neighborhood community. We live in at cal-de-sac so the traffic flow is limited but I carry on the tradition started with Buddy…I wave to anyone going by.

If you want to be nostalgic scan through the images and quotes provided by Porch Sitter Union.

Porch pictures & quotes 1
Porch pictures & quotes 2
Porch pictures & quotes 3

Porching isn’t just for small towns. It is needed now more than ever in cities and neighborhoods where we spend so little time thinking about the world outside the four walls we live and work within. Welcoming neighbors to our “porch” builds community. When people are connected within neighborhoods, their neighborhoods are healthier. As we build these connections throughout various neighborhoods, the anticipation is that our city as a whole will become healthier. Creating a sense of knowing, belonging, and connection to where we live and a renewed sense of the important role all people play is critical in making a community healthy and whole. Taft 2018

My friend Jim.