Dear Family, I’m Grateful

Dear Family,

Living this life as a writer, as a person who sits most comfortably with words inside my head rather than sharing them in the moment, presents some challenges. I’m a thinker, and frequently get caught up with the stories swirling around in my mind that don’t always seem to make it out while we’re together. But please know, I’m listening, watching, taking notes and storing the moments until I can put them down to share with you – for moments like now, when the candles are burning, and the sun is just making its way over the horizon, and my mind is clear and still and centered and grateful.

the journey

This fall, I’m grateful for the small moments of life. For fiercely loving the arms around me, pulling me in, inspiring me to be present, and forcing me to stand on my toes to connect with you. For warmth, comfort, and unconditional love to see me through the moments that feel like life will never be the same again.

I’m grateful for my home, for the space and warmth and comfort of a space that lets me sink in and feel safe, for a little corner to close off the world when I need it to, and to show me how to embrace what I love within the walls that have weathered decades of love and pain, joy and hopes and dreams.

I’m so thankful for strong women, for those that paved the way for me to walk in their footsteps and finish their unfinished dreams, for the women who have stepped in my way, have held me up and pushed me forward. I am most grateful for independent women who said hello, who worked alongside me, who held my babies when I couldn’t handle one more second – thank you. And to the women who check in, who don’t let go, who know that no matter what, I love knowing their spirits are in my life, I am forever appreciative.

kids at Alta, Utah
kids at Alta, Utah

I’m grateful for a year that led me to the beach of Carmel, the sky of Lake Tahoe, the energy of New York City, the vistas of Utah and the majesty of Yosemite. I’m grateful for safe travels, for wanderlust, for soft hotel room beds and journals filled with moments of the splendor of our country. I touched two oceans, soaked in the glittering mountain sun, climbed alongside cascading waterfalls and ancient glaciers and sipped coffee from west to east.

I’m thankful to have a job which forces me to create and nudge and dream and think about how, if we all work together, we can help transform our world into the place we dream of; for students that smile and make me laugh and take chances and think critically; for a country that hasn’t yet lost the value of education to empower our youth.

I’m grateful that all I have is all I need, that life has a way of working itself out, and that there is true magic in the extraordinary moments of life. I’m beholden to the writers and artists and thinkers who share their work with the world, who inspire me to think deeply and offer my own words to the Universe.

C playing lacrosse

And for my son, my quirky, intelligent, clever boy, who taught me how to follow my dreams, to accept things I cannot change, and to never give up, I thank you.

me and my girl

For my daughter, my strong, honest, determined girl, who taught me to be true to myself, to hold onto good friends, to breathe in the mountain air and find my own unique path, I thank you.

This fall, I can’t deny my gratitude for the small, extraordinary moments of this ordinary life. Please know that when I seem quiet, when I gaze off and away, it’s my way of imprinting the exquisite, excruciating beauty of this brief interval of time we share. It’s my way of simply saying thank you.

Love,

J

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Damn You, Daylight Saving Time

It’s been over two weeks, and insomnia has taken over my life. My husband and son laugh at this time each year when I can hardly keep my eyes open at dusk, and my body turns me into a cranky, yawning sleep-deprived mess.

Damn you, Daylight Saving Time.

It’s not that I don’t WANT to sleep – I’d like nothing more than to drift off at a normal hour (say, 10:00 p.m.), snuggled up under my soft down comforter for eight hours of uninterrupted bliss. I’d love that, honestly. Imagine, eight hours of sleep would find me wide awake at a decent hour – 6 a.m. – plenty of time to write, savor some strong coffee and center myself with vanilla scented candles flickering in the pre-dawn light.

Oh, the joy and rapture.

Roasted coffee beans
Roasted coffee beans

And don’t tell me to cut down on caffeine, or keep the room cool, or turn off electronics well before bedtime. I’m doing that! My afternoon coffee has disappeared, only occasionally to be replaced by some nice Bengal Spice tea. I’ve tried a nice PInot, a shot of Fireball, and cutting back on sugar. I’ve got the windows cracked and the laptop closed long before I turn out the light – or rather, my husband clicks off the light and removes my latest read from my fingers, slipping off my glasses as he says goodnight. At 8:00 p.m.

What is happening to me? Am I becoming my mother?

Do you know how quiet it is at 4:00 a.m.? I do. It’s dark, and I hear every squeak and moan of my 60-year-old house. I hear the spirits as they come to the door, the thoughts that tumble around my brain as the wake me far before they should. I’ll get my eight hours, for sure, but this is ridiculous. I know you’ve been wondering why my tweets and texts come at such incredible hours – and no, I’m not reliving my college all-nighters, I’m simply suffering from middle-age adjustment issues.

Do I hear any ‘ayes’ in agreement out there?

sunrise
sunrise over the Salt Flats

There must be some sort of infomercial, some ‘As Seen On TV’ product that will solve my issues. I just want to stay awake like a normal person, watch a little prime-time TV maybe, and wake up AT dawn, not before. I don’t need to hear the early morning garbage pick up, or turn off the delay on the coffee pot to make the dark roast happen right now. I stubbornly set my alarm for 6 every night, hoping against hope that the quiet tunes of ‘Radiate’ will ease me into wakefulness. And every morning it’s the same old, same old – by the time my alarm is off, I’ve read my Facebook feeds, tweeted and texted and updated myself on all the news that I missed overnight.

It’s a vicious cycle, I tell you. But I have hope. I’ve got a good four months to get back on track before, well, you know. Please tell me I’m not the only one. Reassure me that I’m not just hitting that annoying part of middle age. I simply want to sleep.

Damn you, Daylight Saving Time.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Inquiring Minds-What I Wish I Knew

I sure wish I had the guts to ask a psychic about what my future holds. It’s kind of funny, really- as a kid I was never one of those people who knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t have driving passions throughout high school- unless you counted my passion to get out of there as quickly as possible. In college I switched majors three times, and didn’t decide to become a teacher until the second semester of my senior year. I absolutely didn’t have life planned out whatsoever. I guess back then I was somehow OK with that. Young, naive, I’m not sure.

But now, I’m realizing  I’d rather not know all the details about my future. I understand that to let grace happen, I need to trust that for now, things are happening as they should be. Teaching for 25 years has challenged me to both plan ahead and practice flexibility. I’m consciously trying to live in the present, which for a type-A-control-freak like me takes tons of energy. I’m realizing that being a teacher plays well into my style, but the negatives of always having a “lesson plan” can be super detrimental to other parts of my life. If becoming a mom taught me anything, it was that we can’t control other humans – no matter how hard I tried to get my first born to follow my lesson plan, she always had an idea to do it her way, and that’s exactly the way it should be.

inquiring minds choices

OK-I’ll be honest – as much as I’m realizing it’s best not to “future trip”, I’d love to just have a teeny, tiny peek into what might be coming up next for me. I’ve been feeling these stirrings in my heart for the last few years- and I’ve been trying to acknowledge them and allow for openings in my work life. Teaching is hard, and it’s getting to the point where I just can’t imagine continuing like this until I retire. I’d love for someone to ask me to write a book. About anything. And pay me, so I could back off from teaching 120% and just teach part time- or not at all. One thing I know, is that I can’t last teaching like this until I can retire at 65. I’ll have nothing left of me.

So I push myself to talk to new people, figuring that I never know what serendipitous moment the Universe might be offering me. I’m a natural-born introvert working in a very extroverted job, so my favorite icebreaker question is “What are you reading?”  I’m one of those people who connects with people through books. When I go to someone’s house for the first time, if I don’t see stacks of books I get worried. I’m most comfortable scanning bookshelves for something to share in common with a new friend; their book titles will show me their values and interests and let me know if we are like-minded. And if I realize their books are just for “show”- well, that’s a real deal breaker.

So for now, I’ll skip the psychic and trust the marvelous mystery of the Universe. I’ll shorten my life lesson plan to just the next week or so, and be sure to build in moments for grace to step in. Heck, we never know who the person we’re standing next to at a lacrosse game might turn out to be, or where the person holding the door open to the next opening in life might show up. It’s always best to be alert, watch out of the corner of my eye, and see what these folks have to say. Grace shows up once in awhile in the most extraordinary ways, and I’m ready to see what the future holds.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Being Normal

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who feels the pain of being in two worlds at one time. I remember thinking when I was in my twenties that finding a job with dyed green hair wouldn’t be easy-so I got a job as a barista, long before Starbucks surfaced. When I started teaching middle school, I learned how to balance my school persona with my “real” self, and although the green hair was gone, the green haired girl wasn’t. When I tell this story today most people don’t believe me. I’ve been wildly successful at wearing my teacher hat and keeping that other girl quiet when I’m at work. But those who know me well often get a glimpse at her- she surfaces when I see injustice, discrimination and sexism and has a hard time shutting herself up

IMG_0427

But at least I don’t forget her. I remember her when I look into someone’s eyes that I’m trying to understand. I remember how much I wanted to have someone understand me, to think about the girl inside me who didn’t want to be ‘normal’. I think about all the masks women wear every day, and all the back stories that lurk behind our lashes. Green-haired girl is there, reminding me not to judge, not to assume, not to for a moment presume guilt before assuming innocence.

My quirky side pays off when I find myself in situations where I’m the “other”. Green-hair girl can show her courage and surprise me with her fortitude. She can connect with the unconnected, and sometimes even know the right thing to say when someone- usually a teen- needs it most.

Being normal, for me, is feeling like I’ve got both slices of myself at odds, and my fingers in too many things at one time. It’s normal to be juggling teaching and mothering and marriage and self, and not sure which one is going to take control. Being normal, today, is remembering that girl, the one who lingers inside, and letting her out once in awhile.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Moments Like This Come Around Only Once In A Super Moon

I feel a little outnumbered these days. It’s always been an equal gig around here- two girls , two boys. Two kids, two parents. Now, with one boy kid left at home, the balance is all out of whack. And some days I really feel it.

We’d planned to stay late at his first lacrosse game to see the super moon. It’s a once in decades kind of thing, but the cloudy evening forced us to scrap the plans and head home early. And the boys conspired against me and before I knew it, my 16-year-old driver-in-training had slipped behind the wheel and was ready to roll onto the freeway. Driving into the sun. On the night of the mother of all celestial distractions. I was out numbered. I gripped the arm rest as he guided the Prius down the wrong street towards home.

Once in a super moon

“Don’t change lanes!” My shriek came out slightly louder than I intended.

“Actually, you can get over,” my husband countered from the back seat. “Those green signs tell you where the freeway on ramp is coming up.” I know he’s trying hard to be extra calm to make me look bad. It’s a boy thing.

“Do you know about the power boost button?” I questioned as the car strained to reach freeway speed as he navigated the on ramp like he was on a giant slalom course.

No response- not even from the back seat. At least he’s got his blinker on.

Outside his window, I’m noticing a pink tinge to the sky. Not that I’m going to say anything to anyone – just enjoy the beginnings of the super moon myself.

“Cam is driving on the freeway. I might throw up. I love you ❤️,” I quickly text to my daughter. I don’t remember driving so aggressively at 16. Maybe it’s a boy thing.

“Did you know the Pope can speak six languages?” My husband asks from the backseat. No questions, I think. No music, no distractions. Nothing but eyes on the road for 30 minutes, I silently plead.

“Wow- I wonder which six? Why don’t you ask Siri?” Cameron replies. “Should I change lanes?”

“No- stay right here.” My hand thrusts out into some sort of warning gesture. “This is where you should be. Not in the fast lane. Not in the slow lane. Right here. Go straight.”

“Wow!” he exclaims from behind. “I just typed in what languages and Siri added ‘does the pope speak!'” He is so easily amused. Doesn’t he sense the danger here? “Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, English, German and Ukranian. Really?” I notice the golden glow off the Sacramento skyline. The clouds are the color of raspberry sorbet, but I keep quiet.

“Slow down!” My God, where does this voice come from? I honestly don’t mean to be so shrill. “When you see brake lights you need to brake. Always look ahead!”

Silence from the backseat is broken from the drivers side. “Mom, I know. Stop stressing me out. When you yell it distracts me.”

The sky is like stripes of pink cotton candy against the darkening sky. I can’t see the super moon from the side mirror. We can’t see a thing except the southern sky through his driver’s side window.

“The clouds look really pretty,” I say, barely more than a whisper.

“I know,” he replies, his eyes not leaving the road. “I noticed.” I swallow my comment about why was he looking at the clouds instead of driving, try to relax into the seat, and enjoy the ride. I know it will all be over soon, and not surprisingly, I’m sure I’ll miss it. Moments like this only come around once in a super moon.

photo credit: Lunar Eclipse Rising via photopin (license)

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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