Roller Coaster of Life that Keeps Going UP

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I have been wanting to get in a roller coaster for a while.

Is it because i want to make a point to my 16 year old brother that i still can be cool and enjoy roller coasters without his formal invitation to roller coaster land? Maybe.

Is it because my journey has been a roller coaster of experiences that course throughout my body increasing the adrenaline and cortisol that makes me feel like a fool. Probably Yes!

The sensations of intensity throughout ones life are important and must be attended kindly to move forward. We all experience excitement as we go up. The expectation of the new, the unknown, the known- all of them contribute to the rush of excitement that makes us feel free, in or out control, and alive.

As planned the roller coaster also come down- a moment of pure freedom, where there is a combination of being in panic while knowing that there is a predestined
ending and that this experience will soon culminate.

Getting in a roller coaster is a unique experience can be both exciting and uncomfortable. Just like our journeys and life experiences, takes us to moments of excitement and crushing low moments when we want a warm blanket,mommy and a cookie.

Would it be possible to enjoy going up as we enjoy going down?- I think so.

Be kind to yourself and allow the experience of going up and down fulfill you in whatever way is needed. At the end of the day, roller coasters always go up.

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Grieving with Theory

Last month I grieved the departure of a special one. Chloe.

The profound lessons she left us allowed me to think with theory. This is my way of escaping the realities and constrains that i negotiate in daily basis with our world.

Chloe came to us as a surprise, very much like theory. I have heard about the importance of theory as i also have heard the tremendous love that someone could bring to the world. I tried to run away from the commitments but in fact what i discover was among chaos, confusion and lack of making senses that things start to make even more sense. It was in an apocalyptic way, uncovering the veil and breaking up the chains that have control my life, thoughts and my reality for a long time.

i knew that taking care of someone else is a big responsibility, just as theory and post-qualitative paradigms provide us the responsibility to see things differently. For so long, breaking up the chains, structures, systems and oppressive conditions that we have been conditioned to accept as reality, where not longer constrains but instead liberating.

Barrad reminded me that i was not longer dog-owner/dog-dad but i was entangled with a human/animal/dog/daughter/chloe that demanded my love, attention and commitment. All the boxes, stereotypes, were eliminating and all the boxes that could include chloe were not longer important. She was Chloe and she was as entangled in my life as i was with her. My subjectivity, multiple-roles would shift often between the care giver,love taker / love receiver and a father. Perhaps my idea of family might be very different from yours but in the assemblage we needed each other to make it work. It could not be separated, it was mutual.

Somekh and Lewin(2011),we can only begin to understand how people behave as they do, and the stories they tell, if we see these actions and words as entangled with many other “worlds” and words that we likely cannot see or hear, but we need to gain inside into (p.34).

Chloe became an essential part of my life. She showed unconditional love and kindness for strangers. She displayed qualities of happiness and sorrow. She suffered in her own ways never complaining. She was silenced. Just as many people that we know. Nevertheless, she loved every single person that came through my door. For her, they were not strangers, they were family.

On April 29th at 4:17pm i saw her depart in my arms. She slowly left earth leaving a great hole in my heart. However, I knew that she left us with great lessons, including care, compassion and love for others. Her departure has not being easy but I accepted her new entanglement with earth. Chloe Sofia Ramirez is among the living, the dead, among the dirt, and air. Her spirit is not bounded or constrains by a home, laws and rules. Her soul and spirit are not longer constrained. She is free.

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Descanza en paz!

Being Thankful

As i wrap up a leadership audit for one of my leadership (big monster paper, over 60 pages on organizations and culture) i had the opportunity to stop everything that i was doing, read the project, criticize it and celebrate my progress.

Oh boy! Oh Boy! I wondered…. Who wrote this? This is good!!! I know that there are tons of little adjustments to make, but i am feeling pretty accomplished for my work thus far. I never imagined that i would feel good about my academic writing. Think about it, a shy writer, non-native English Speaker in a doctoral program sustaining and maintaining with Directors, Deans, School Principals, etc. Pretty intimidating group for sure!

As i celebrate my progress (Good Practice, try it!) i am extremely thankful for the people that have guided me, watched me cried, supported me through good and bad times, to those that would call and ask how i am doing, to those that would lift my spirit up regardless of how bad i felt.

My family, the hubs for taking care of the furry babies, my mom that would call and text almost daily for no reason other than to tell me that she love me. To God for his kindness love even if undeserved. To my friend and gym buddy for encouraging to take care of my self, to eat well, and stay healthy. To the strangers that pray for me. To my teachers and mentors for pushing me beyond my limits.

I AM THANKFUL FOR YOU! Thanks for being part of my journey.

“No Nos Quieren Aqui”

Recently i had the opportunity as many of my fellow North Americans to listen to the President of the United States addressing the nation on immigration orders. As i read the twitter and Facebook feeds from the White House i was physically sick to see the posts and lack of respect towards our president. I wandered if we had a different president, if we would be the same responses? Perhaps the answer would be yes! But the most interesting thing of this day, was to note the intense and ingrained discomfort and racism by many fellow citizens. This trend is not new, in fact, it has happened to many before it became normalized and accepted. Don’t believe me ask my Native American friends, European Friends that left their homelands because of religion persecution, or how about my Black and African American or Japanese Friends. It all sounds too familiar! Does it?

The new kids in the block are now here and are here to stay. The kids came to get what was taken away over 180 years ago. Their lands, dreams, and a eloquent and vibrant cultural legacy that we can certainly learn a lot of from. I leave you in the wise words of a popular Mexican Proverb, “ They tried to bury us. They did not know we were seeds”(Author Unknown).

The Journey of LOVE

As an ordinary day, I started the process of getting ready to go to work, as it was my daily routine. Pants, an ironed shirt with a nice tie was all I usually needed it to be ready for a normal Friday at the office. While we had the opportunity to dress casual, I made the attempt to look even nicer since that was one of the busiest days in the retail banking office.

I went to the break room and ate my lunch and after clocking in I was ready to continue my day. Around 3:00 O`clock things seem to be busier. I started to think about my plans for the weekend. Maybe the club or hanging out with my friends. It was always a dilemma to figure out what to do next.

I quietly visualized what I was going to wear. Perhaps blue jeans and a nice shirt. The classics look that characterized my weekends.

It was 5:45 excitement gets in my head. It’s almost time to go home!

A customer patiently waits in line. I have never seen him before. He looks like he needs my services. How may I help you, sir?

He kindly responded. You speak Spanish Right! I responded nicely and preceded a conversation in Spanish.

I made his deposit and provided him with a receipt and account balance. Wow, I thought this is a hard-working guy saving his entire check.

We both noticed we had the same last name, perhaps a common one. He asked me where I was from and I responded appropriately. He also asked me about my ear piercing in the middle of my ear. Insinuating, that it was not a very common place for them. I laughed and he also did pointing at his ear.

Oh, you have one too, in the same place what a coincidence! The nice men politely said he was on his way to his job and offered to buy me a coffee if I ever visited the restaurant. I gratefully responded Gracias! And continued finalizing my closing procedures to enjoy the weekend.

There was something about that man that it was interesting to me. Perhaps a connection, and why not attraction right away.

I left the office and I was driving, I was thinking of him. A secret crush you may say.

The weekend passed by as usual. The club, hanging out and fun times we had.

On Monday I bravely decided to go and visit the restaurant this man invited for a free coffee. I could not pass this nice guy invitation. I arrived at the restaurant and had a nice lunch. My eyes are distracted looking in all direction but I could not find the nice men to pay for my cafecito. I was disappointed but knew that things like this happen all the time.

I never saw the nice men again. One day around three months later, i received a weird text.

” I would like to invite you for coffee after work”. My first reaction was to react with my clever saying, ” Did your mom did not teach you to talk to stranger”. The mystery person, sent apologies for bothering me.

A little bother and intrigued, I asked for the mystery person to identify, “Who are you and who gave you my number”?

The mystery person responded, a friend. Please don’t be mad.

I am already upset, so really who gave you my number, I responded.

A friend! He mentioned the friend name and I recognized the name.

I called the friend and sarcastically said, please don’t be giving my number away. He responded, there is a guy that works with me and he saw you at the bank. He would like to extend the invitation to drink a cafecito. “He is a really nice guy”, the friend responded.

I waited to respond since this might be a setup. I carefully said, why not but I pick the location.

Barnes and Nobles coffee sounds good to me, I’ll meet you there.

As I approach the entrance, an uncomfortable tingling starts to go through my body. Perhaps this is a sign of not to go in.

I carefully entered the door and as I was making my way to the coffee shop, guess who I found? The Coffee guy! The one with the same last name and with an earring in the middle of his ear. What a coincide or is it?

We had coffee, spoke for a while and had a great time. Wow! What a night!

After the coffee shop, we went dancing and had an incredible night!

We exchange numbers and agreed to call each other again.

This was such an amazing and weird feeling. We spoke and texted several times until we had to see each other again.

Minutes became hours, hours became days, days became years….

Moving forward in time, to after 12 years later. The coffee guy and I still together. We never left each other after the first date!

We now are married and have a beautiful furry baby (Chiko) that we love very much!

Do you believe in love at first sight? I definitely did not, but that is exactly what happened.

Every day I am very grateful for having the opportunity to love and be loved. It is surreal at times, but love triumphs over any obstacle given by societal structures and mankind.

Love knows no gender, age, or even nationally. It does not discriminate instead is natural, organic and pure!

The journey has just begun! My Journey continues…

Journey of Possibilities

Dear Student,

            Congratulations on your decision to continue with your studies . As you start this journey let me remind you that by being here already, you have displayed great qualities and skills that have made you a great candidate for this program. In the words of Dr. Chris Osmond, “admissions did not make a mistake accepting you to this program”. Keep this is mind as you embrace this journey as a doctoral student.

As a doctoral student myself, I can share with you that you will find the journey exciting, energizing and challenging. Let me not scare you about the challenging parts, however, as leaders we must constantly embrace the paradox of the unknown. By being in this program I can tell already that you are a motivated student and that your own journey of life has brought you to this point with a purpose. You might know your purpose already, but if you don’t, don’t worry, you will.

During this program you will have the opportunity to explore critically your topic of interests as well as other topics that are essential for leaders in the realm of education. Furthermore, you will have the opportunity to learn about your colleagues and faculty mentors own interest, which I hope you`ll find equally beneficial as you explore the complexities of the state of education in the United States and the world. In addition, you will find in this doctoral program a diverse group of committed individuals engaged in educational activities and research geared towards leadership, social justice and change.

            My journey in education started when I arrived to the United States as a political refugee in the year 2000. Obviously, I faced all the challenges that most newly arrived immigrants face in the United States such as cultural and language barriers. However, what was more surprising to me was the lack of resources and information available to immigrant students at that time. In a way it seem as though the lack of preparation from the school system limited the potential of many students and instead integration and acculturation became big buzzwords at that time.

I quickly managed to learn English on my own and petitioned not to be enrolled in English as Second Language courses since it was clear to me that those students were staying behind. Their expectation was to take the easier courses without taking in consideration the courses that people needed to enroll in college. The majority of students did not know any better and trusted their counselor in their course selections. I discussed my concerns with the counselors and I quickly recognized that their expectation for those students was to persist in school for the males and for the females was not to get pregnant. At graduation time the prophecy became truth. From a class of 30 students from Latino background only two of us were accepted in college.

After graduation, I figured that I needed to be competent explaining my own language and culture and I decided to enroll in a program where I could explore deeper the barriers for students of Latino backgrounds. I graduated with a double major in International Relations and Modern Languages and decided that I needed more education in order to promote change in my community.

I completed a Master degree in Strategic Leadership, which allow me to reflect on my role as a leader and i came to the conclusion that leadership is available to anyone that aspires to promote change. In my case, my qualifications came handy with the work that I conducted working for non-for profit organizations, but I realized that at the grassroots level my voice was being heard softly. As a young professional I discovered that the issue was more complex than it seemed. It was an issue of power, politics and equity.

I decided to enroll at Appalachian State University in the Educational Specialist program concentrating in Adult and Development Education with the hope to explore the role of adults in the promotion of social change. I figured that if I could assist educating parents, their children could possibly have a better future. My theory incorporated the use of the cultural traits such as family as a motivator for change. Along the way, I also explored underrepresented students, transfer students, and non-traditional students. All of the different populations I explored had similar challenges as the Latino students. However, as the number of Latino students in my community increased, there seemed to be a disconnection between access, persistence and success of Latino students in post secondary institutions. With the goal of connecting theory and practice in mind, I enrolled in the Doctoral program at Appalachian State University.

Today I write to you as a second semester graduate student and first doctor in the making from my family. To be completely honest, I have only met three or four people with doctoral degrees of Latino heritage in my community. While, I am encouraged to make a difference in my community, I must confess that this journey has not been an easy one for me. There have been many moments where I have struggle with the expectations of the program and the reasons for continuing to do this. Giving up would be so much easier, wouldn`t it? However, I constantly find those intrinsic motivators that brought me here in the first place.

Not only is my motivation to make a difference, but also feel I have the responsibility as a citizen of this land. I have been blessed to have a supportive family and organization that provide me the encouragement and support when needed, but there are so many sacrifices that have to be made such as spending time with your family and friends. I share my thoughts with you not to scare you, but to learn from my struggles and to gain the confidence that you will need to move forward.

In this program you will find a diverse group of individuals that have your best interest at heart. They will push you to the limit until you give 100 percent and more. The curriculum created for this program is as eclectic as its faculty. You will have the opportunity to learn from diverse faculty members from different departments and with research agendas. This preparation is intended to provide you a comprehensive foundation as a future scholar and steward of the discipline of leadership.

One particular class that you will find helpful and challenging is the intensive writing class. In this course, you will get preparation on your literature review session for your dissertation. In addition, you will learn about different styles and genres available as well as techniques and strategies geared towards academic writing.  

Writing is like a muscle; you must constantly practice to be better at it. With that in mind, I encourage you to practice at every opportunity that you have. I have been a shy writer until taking the writing course, not because I did not have anything to say, but because of my own insecurities. I often feel like my struggles with the English language will make it hard for the reader to understand what I am hoping to say. Well, I guess you are reading this page and hopefully you understand my message!

The writing course gave me the opportunity to reflect on my journey while being in an environment where it was fine to make mistakes. It was not about the ultimate goal, but definitely the journey. I exchanged the probabilities with possibilities, which has become my motto for this program.

In the spirit of possibilities, I decided to start a personal blog to document my journey, my struggles and my life. It has become another environment where I can freely explore my thoughts while allowing people to provide feedback. If you are not in the habit of journaling, I encourage you to put your thoughts in writing it will provide you with much needed practice and you will be surprised how much you will grow. In the future, I hope to be an active member of the academic community and hopefully publish a book.

I have enjoyed our conversation. I hope you can use my journey as a way to realize that despite all the barriers along the way, this journey it is also possible for you. Always remember “admissions did not make a mistake accepting you to this program”. I hope that my own journey of probabilities provided you with the possibilities to mold, shape and create your own journey as a steward of the discipline of leadership.

I look forward to hearing about your story! JuanEs