WHO IS “MAMA WONG”?
And why is she on the team?
Meet “Mama Wong” — yes, she’s really Steph’s mom, but she’s WAY more than that. Joining the team as a retired 30+ year Principal and elementary/junior high school teacher, she’s here to help school us on raising our young people…and growing healthy families with whatever resources we have. She believes kids are our future, with a boatload of stories and perspectives to share that will help us be better adults. She’s a creative problem solver, and one of the most heart-filled advocates for youth we’ve ever met.
“Mama Wong” (aka – Bonnie Wong) was born and raised in Honolulu, HI, was the first person in her family to go to college, dedicated her career (and life) to serving youth since she was 18 years, birthed 3 girls, experienced the death of her husband at age 34 (Steph was only 9 months old at the time), put herself through grad school, and moved through life, learning how to raise a family as a single parent.
She stands behind the need to nurture and build love and connection in our families. She sees the importance and struggles to preserve the heritage and traditions of our diverse cultures. And she’s going to help all of us ask hard questions when it comes to raising young folks. “Mama Wong” will not be giving us mommy advice. Rather, think of her contributions as a cool perspective, from a hip, well-connected, mom/grandma and seasoned educator. She is amazing!
What’s your name?
Bonnie Jeanne Wong
No, we mean the name that all your close folks call you?
Each one of my daughters call me something different: MOM, MA, MOMMY and my grandson endearingly refers to me as Grandma. Any one younger than my peers call me AUNTY. Friends call me BON OR BONNIE.
So being your daughter, I know you’ve recently retired. HUGE! Congrats mama. Tell us what the last 30+ years have been like? Ha! Hard to accomplish in a few sentences, but what’s been your vision and how has that played out?
ALL I WANTED TO BE WAS A GOOD MOM. My kids made me special, my students nurtured and affirmed my initiative to nudge them daily. The past 30 years of parenthood and full time work was fueled by a strong work ethic, an appreciation for creativity and problem solving. Prayer, journaling, building simple traditions, and knowing the hearts and souls of my daughters and now grandson have been my threads that held the journey together. The journey isn’t over and has really just begun.
Why young people? Why did you dedicate your life to the kids of this world?
Why young people? Respect for life is engrained in my heritage and impacted by the diversity of cultures that I grew up with. My recent visit back to the Islands rekindled the value of the young and the opportunities to share wisdom by the elders. This is in context with the procreational life giving of those within the middle years. My passion to serve youth stems from the responsibility of nurturing and caring for the essence in every child. As a mother, my role was to provide each of my daughters with their basic needs and to continually nurture their spirit from within. As a principal and teacher, there were specific academic, emotional and social needs that readied each person to “become” who they were meant to be.
You’ve seen a lot in your lifetime, what’s your take on how to grow healthy families and children…with whatever resources you have? And no, I’m not even talking about food here.
Healthy families evolve with love, respect and an understanding of community. Healthy families nurture initiative, resiliency, resourcefulness and creativity. The essence of healthy families is how one makes lemonade out of the lemons provided in life. Generalizing about families can be very narrowing unless you become an observer in your city and communities. We all seek health, wealth and happiness. These are relative conditions dependent upon how we define our environment. I am very wealthy because my basic needs are met, I have a warm and inviting home and I am safe. Yet in relation to a billionaire, the comparison of wealth is totally different.
What’s your advice to single parents raising young folks and trying to grow their careers at the same time.
No matter what the configuration of your family is at this time, growth will influence change. Your three year old will become eight. And your energy will adjust to the demands and priorities of your family’s needs. The struggles of time are manageable. Investing in a future goal such as going to school and working full time is hard and doable. Plan to share important moments WITH your children. Ten to fifteen minutes of time with your children is remembered more so than folded laundry or a three course meal.
You’ve spent a significant time of your career in super diverse, public schools. Share with us, the beauty in that.
Before I retired as an elementary school principal, I asked many of my parents who were from Third World countries about their dreams and hopes for their children. Their responses were similar…I want my child to study hard, go to college and live a better life. They were proud of their ethnicities and open to sharing their struggles. They all wanted me in turn to love and care for their child in the school setting and to keep their children safe. Diversity was the greatest asset my school had to offer our community. Challenges of communication to support families was always present, but generally all families wanted the best for their children.
You’re a big family (aka – ohana) person. What traditions (in home and school life) would you like to see more of between parent and child?
In the old days, more of my parents post WWII era, kids grew up in safer neighborhoods, climbed trees, had expected chores. Modern conveniences (home appliances), technology, club sports has influenced how we interact with our children. We are over scheduled, highly motivated and very active for the most part.
So what traditions do we pass on? What are you good at that you can share with your children? grandchildren? Traditions create memories and stories to pass on. Interactions with your children are ways that nurture initiative, resiliency, resourcefulness and creativity. They are processes that include failures AND surprises. They can be incredible AND forgivable. They can be life enhancing AND exhausting.
Here’s an example for a 20 year Thanksgiving tradition: Monday and Tuesday nights of Thanksgiving week were pie nights (10 for the union Gospel Mission, and a few for family and friends). This year, my daughters and I were spread out between Hawaii, Washington and California. We each made our own specialty pies: dutch apple and fresh pumpkin, photographed them in a text message and connected with our Thanksgiving Pie tradition.
Cook, sew, plant gardens, golf, ski, swim…anything with your families. The benefits are innumerable!
What else do you love?
I love flowers, natural fragrances, plants that grow when they are on their last leg, reflections of glass as the sun pierces through…home baked pies, yummy soups and a my jeans.
We obviously wear multiple passion hats over here at Wake the Wolves™ and hate the “you must live in one bucket” perspective on life, so tell us some of your other hidden passions/hobbies/obsessions?
I plan to awake the creative “something in me” that will fulfill my true desire to be philanthropist. I’ve always wanted to be a philanthropist. I’m not financially rich, BUT I will find a way!
What fuels you on the daily?
Its easy to say — God. It’s true. God has been patient, when I have been silent. God has been responsive in my hours of need…and carried me one step at a time. Two cups of coffee, a list of meaningful tasks, inspirations from a good book, TED Talks or a wonderful story. Cat-naps are great too…just a short respite 10-15 minutes. A good meal, fruit of the season, creative salads and ice box soup. And of course, a stretch with my yoga video. (Steph scolds me to exercise!)
What gives you the juice to wake up and do the “damn thang” every day? Any foods? Particular daily rituals?
I have my health, purpose and family…ohana (including my extended family and friends) to wake up for and do what is needed. I am gifted with initiative, creativity and a ‘what if’ attitude. Anything and everything is possible. There are some sleepless nights when I approach a transition, such as retirement, but I know it is my energy that needs to be redirected.
My routines include getting up and heading for a cup of java, knowing what day it is and then spending about 30 minutes in a quiet space. In Hawaii last month, I listened for Sharmas and doves, at home in Seattle, I oftentimes hear the wind chimes, distinguishing the different sounds of those in the front of the house with those chimes in the back.
I give myself a pajama day, once a week. Somehow more chores get done when I haven’t applied makeup or changed. I am in a transition phase giving me opportunities to set new routines to help sustain my health and energy…drinking 4-8 glasses of water per day and reading more.
Taking care of myself is a a new priority in my transition. I truly understand the concept..Life is too short!”
Top 3 favorite restaurants/cafes (anywhere in the World). Go!
- Grondin (Honolulu)
- Grylit (Kahala Mall)
- The Coastal Inn (Seattle)
We are all perfectly imperfect, so can you reveal to us any challenges/struggles you have in living healthy?
I mean, I’m sure we can relate.
Stuggles: consistant exercise routine. I’m learning how to put “me” first in my early few months of being retired. It’s hard.
What’d you eat for breakfast today?
I have two breakfasts. I wake up at about 5:45, have two cups of coffee and a tropical fruit or a cup of greek yogurt. My second breakfast is around 10 after I have completed a task/exercise or chore. I enjoy an egg, or soup, or left over something.
We LOVE us some music. Ok so any thing on replay that your dying to share?
I love Ribbons in the Sky…Stevie Wonder…or Andrea Bocelli.
Wrapping it up. If you had a chance to school a younger Bonnie on living healthy, what 3 tips would you give her?
- Work with your hands and make something you have never done before, communicate through visuals, write or speak.
- Reflect on your intentions in relationships professionally or socially.
- Learn to listen (still working on it).
- Forgive when you can…it is freeing.
- Ask those around you “how was your day” …this opens a door to acknowledgement and honor. Share yourself …selflessly!
(I had 5 tips:)
Kale. All Day. Err Day.
Kale. All Day. Err Day.