Rhonda Cagle

Posts Tagged ‘education’

I’m Still Here, Dammit!

In Uncategorized on December 30, 2016 at 5:04 pm

I get it – 2016 sucked for a lot of people, including me. For most of the year, I fought cancer. If anyone has the right to bitch about a bad year, I’m at least toward the front of the line.

But is it worth bitching? And was it really a bad year?

Cancer treatment left me with large gaps in my 2016 memory. The scraps I do have are mostly filled with pain and loss. My family, who acutely remembers all the things I don’t, tells me it’s probably best to leave the gaps unfilled.

But this past year also holds other bits and pieces of remembrances, memories worth noting and keeping. Friends who brought me food and gifts to help make the fight bearable – and winnable. My husband, who put his political and professional life on hold, to help me fight and win my battle. My children, who saw me at my weakest and worst, and loved me in spite of myself.

And then there are the memories of me. Me finding my voice and being an advocate for my own health and life – even when it meant changing doctors and, at times, pissing off the ones I kept. Me choosing to continue working through treatment, even when my doctors told me to take some time away from my professional life. Me staring down the demon of my late husband’s death from cancer and determining that my story, by the grace of God, would be different.

To say that 2016 was a hard year is an understatement. But it offered some hard-learned lessons – ones that are worth mentioning.

Make the pain pay. Inevitably, hard times come. Loss can be overwhelming. Disappointment can be bitter to the point of being disillusioned. Then what? For me, the answer is cry, curse, spit, rant – whatever it takes to get through the deepest and darkest of the pain. But then make the pain pay. Turn back around and use every hard-learned lesson to help someone who doesn’t yet know they, too, will emerge on the other side of darkness.

Work as though your life depends on it. Doctors don’t know everything, but they sure as hell like you to think they do. I frustrated my doctors because I refused to stop working during my treatment. What they didn’t know is that my work was sometimes all there was between utter despair and me. My work is full of purpose. It gives children who are too often marginalized and minimized an educational choice that results in a second – and sometimes an only – chance in life. I worked in order to survive the brutality of my treatment; otherwise I might have given up. Whatever brings purpose and joy to life is something worth doing, regardless of what anyone else says.

Don’t “should” on yourself. Should have, could have, would have serves no good purpose in life. Would my cancer have been caught earlier if I had been more diligent about screenings? Maybe. Then again, my sister was diligent and she ended up being in treatment longer than I for the same kind of cancer. Could my late husband have survived his cancer if the doctors had taken his warning signs more seriously? I don’t know – won’t ever know. The truth is that we all do the best we can with what we have to work with at the time. To “should” on myself only brings negativity and wasted energy into my life. Reflect, revise, and move forward, failing a bit better every step of the way.

Know what sustains you when all else fails. When body parts are cut off and poison begins coursing through your veins, you decide what you truly believe in a hurry. More than ever, my faith holds firm. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth… The disappointment, pain, and fear of 2016 makes my faith more sure than ever.

I’m thankful to be turning the page and beginning a new year. But I’m strangely thankful for 2016. I’m keenly aware that its hard-learned lessons will be needed more than ever, come January. For all the brightness of a New Year, storm clouds are on the horizon. There are more battles to come.

That’s okay. Thanks to 2016, I’m ready. I’m still here, dammit. Still standing. Still fighting. Still believing.

Ain’t it something?! Cheers.



The Value of Failing Better

In Uncategorized on May 7, 2014 at 7:59 pm

I recently found myself at the fifth annual Education Innovation Summit surrounded by people who are a lot smarter than I am and, frankly, a little intimidating. Jaime Casap, global education evangelist at Google, Inc. was one of those people.

Let’s be honest. Anyone who has the title of global education evangelist printed on his business card is automatically cooler than I am. But I was interested in listening to his presentation so I put aside my feelings of inadequacy and found a seat in his workshop. He made an observation that has stayed with me.

Instead of asking students what they want to do when they enter the workforce, he asks them what problem or issue do they want to solve when they grow up. 


I’ve been thinking quite a bit about his question and the implications it has in the lives of both children and adults. What if our attempts – and failures – are simply prototypes of what will, one day, allow us to learn a lesson and solve a problem. What if we are brave enough to keep trying and, in the words of writer Anne LaMott, “fail better” with each choice and every step?

You can read more about my observations in my latest column for The Arizona Republic.  http://t.co/F9ajmGsFG3

A Backpack Full of Hope

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2013 at 4:33 pm

School supplies mean a lot to a kid. Trust me, I know. As a child who started a new school at least once a year, I grew up learning the value of freshly sharpened yellow No. 2 pencils and a Trapper Keeper full of college-rule notebook paper. These items often earned me a seat at the lunch table or a welcoming conversation with a desk mate.


Photo: GreatSchools.org

Maybe that’s why I have such a soft spot for back-to-school drives for children who struggle to overcome poverty – to feel as if they belong. When you read about the numbers and discover that many of those children live across the street and next door to you and me, I’m hoping you’ll have a soft spot, too.

You can read more about the need and ways to help in my latest column for the Arizona Republic and azcentral. http://t.co/hmGV9EjuX2

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