Life Lessons from Mikaela Shiffrin: What a Real Winner Looks Like

Meeting Mikaela Shiffrin, Squaw Valley, U.S. Nationals
Meeting Mikaela Shiffrin, Squaw Valley, U.S. Nationals

See that boy in the red sweatshirt? That’s my son. And the girl handing him the paper? That’s Mikaela Shiffrin, the World Cup champion slalom ski racer. She’s smiling, but she just lost a ski race. My son waited and watched her with careful concentration as she made her way down the ski course. She’s not hard to miss, really. We just had to follow the little girls, tv cameras and reporters that trailed her every move.

She was full of grace, really – on and off the slalom course. This year, 18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin won the World Cup in slalom. That’s a huge accomplishment for anyone, let alone a teenager. She’s only five years older than my son.

As soon as she crossed the finish at the U.S. National Championship races at Squaw Valley last weekend, she skied into the open arms of her fans, mostly young kids. The budding races were eager to meet her, pose for a quick photo or have her autograph something-anything, really. Helmets, speed suits, arms, sweatshirts and scraps of paper were quickly scribbled on, and then Mikaela flashed a huge smile for  the best moment any young racer could hope for. She’s quite cool for 18. Barely bigger than they are, she’s small for a female ski racer-but mighty.

Ski racing is a sport against the clock. Hundredths of seconds can separate the winners from the losers. The sharper the ski edges, the wax on the skis, the split second decisions as the racers run down the course can change a first place run to last place. Intense pressure, to be sure. Mental and physical toughness are essential. Hours and hours of training result in one sixty-second run. And one guarantee: everyone falls. Including Mikaela.

In first place after the first run, she was poised to win. But that didn’t happen. In front of a crowd of thousands, she straddled a gate instead of skiing around it, and her race was over.

C and Mikaela Shiffrin

And still, she smiled. She skied into the finish area to once again sign autographs and pose with her fans. All the racers knew how she felt, the disappointment of going from first to last in one split second. All the race moms wanted to give her a hug.

And still, she smiled. TV cameras waved in her face, and she smiled.

“I think it’s most important that I just try to connect with the younger kids here. Most of them say they watch the World Cup races so I think they’ve seen the skiing and it’s probably cool to see it live. But I think the most important thing is that I get to have some time face-to-face with them and show them I’m not actually that different and that I’m a goofball. We can have conversations and they can get to this point,” she said.

She’s right. The fans didn’t care  that she didn’t finish. This crowd of kids-including my son-know that she’s a real racer. She’s just like them. She’s not perfect. She falls, gets up, and does it again. Over and over. She knows there’s another race, another victory, and likely another defeat, too.

He’s still watching her, carefully. It doesn’t matter that the scoreboard shows her in last place. We can all clearly see what a winner looks like.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Karate and Calling Up the Creative Spirit

12 5 karate third degree extravaganza (8)Sitting in a karate dojo may not be the best writing environment for calling forth the creative spirit.  But it’s where I am for the next hour, and time is precious. Nine black belts gather on the bright red and black mat, geared for battle with padded sticks, thick, protective gloves and head gear that rivals any major league baseball catcher’s. Silently, they listen. Quietly, I watch, my fingers clicking the keyboard in opposition to their stick staccato.

I watch the instructor lead the class through drills that require intense hand/eye coordination, quick reflexes, and serious concentration to avoid a beating. “Don’t look away-stare your opponent in the eye,” the teacher directs. My son’s cat-like reflexes make it appear effortless, but I know better. I see what’s going on behind his stare.

I envy his ability to block out all distractions and focus on one seemingly simple act of snapping a stick towards his opponent. He’s not stressed out about the English homework left behind on his desk, or the piano practice he has to do when he gets home. He throws himself into the moment, fully present for the hour of training. I’m having trouble getting in my groove. Distractions abound in this place.

For me, being fully present in my environment is essential for creating, and while I find inspiration in the world around me, today the words come slowly. The train whistle, the beat of the funk music and the chants from the students across the hall challenge my focus and complicate my thoughts. I can’t concentrate. The words swirl. I need silence. Escape.

I could walk to my car-that’s always a quiet, controlled space for me-but that’s not politically correct in the parenting world. I could put in earplugs, but then how would I follow along with the class? Perhaps I should just sit with my notebook, jotting down words, thoughts, and inspiration that comes to mind…

They’ve moved to knife defense now. The instructor carefully tosses directions to his students. Tighter grip. Looser grip. Crowd the upper arm. Don’t let him wiggle out or get his posture back. Nice and smooth. It’s not about bending your arm 90 degrees in the wrong direction.

As I gaze down at my screen, I suddenly realize what I’m doing wrong: I’m bending in the wrong direction. I’m filling my days to the brim, looking for any moment to spill my thoughts. I’m immobilizing myself, keeping a tight grip on all the parts of my day instead of keeping it smooth. I want to capture it all, to not miss a moment. I’m bent over, poorly postured, no wiggle room. I’m not present in my now. I’m the epitome of multi-tasking. I’m the sucker walking down the dark alley, unaware of the danger lurking behind me.

I’m my own worst opponent here. I’m a sure target for being taken down. I have no self-defense.

The drills stop, and the students line up for last words. Today, it’s a motivational quote. Something by Winston Churchill – maybe “Never, never, never give up.” I’m not 100% sure. I’m listening, watching, writing, and only part-way there. Maybe that’s just the quote that comes to mind-my creative muse sending me a message after all, perhaps.

I’d better listen up and learn how to get myself out of this one – before it’s too late.

More life lessons from a 13-year-old.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Let It All Go, And Flow…

freeimages.co.uk nature images
image courtesy of freeimages.co.uk nature images

Let go of the ways you thought life
would unfold; the holding of plans
or dreams or expectations – Let it
all go. Save your strength to swim
with the tide.

The choice to fight what is here before
you now will only result in struggle,
fear, and desperate attempts to flee
from the very energy you long for.

Let go. Let it all go and flow with the
grace that washes through your days
whether you receive it gently or
with all your quills raised to defend
against invaders.

Take this on faith: the mind may never
find the explanations that it seeks, but
you will move forward nonetheless.

Let go, and the wave’s crest will carry
you to unknown shores, beyond your
wildest dreams or destinations. Let it
all go and find the place of rest and
peace, and certain transformation.

~ Danna Faulds

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Sixteen Years Old, and She Is Girl Power

ski racing Lily

I sat on the boot room floor early this morning, legs curled up in front of me, watching her get ready for her ski race. In between giggles with her friends and  thumping on red, white and leopard print ski boots (she is my daughter, after all), she stopped and said, “You look like me right now. Curled up on the floor-that’s something I would do.”

I smiled, and thought that for the first time she has actually compared herself to me. I took it as a compliment. So rarely do I think she is anything like me at all.

So much of her life is foreign to me. Her teenage experience moves her in a world I knew nothing about at sixteen. As connected to high school as she is, I couldn’t have been further from. As much as she loves her friends, socializing, proms and rooting at football, lacrosse and basketball games, I didn’t. For her, high school is a time to be cherished; for me, it was a time I couldn’t wait to dispose of.

At sixteen I felt powerless. My parents told me I never worked to my potential, never used my intellect in a measurable manner.  I didn’t even have the internet to blame for my lack of attention to school. I just simply wasn’t motivated. I remember being preoccupied with boys and dating, music, and not much else. For me, sports ended with the onset of puberty; I chose instead part-time jobs, limited class time, and had absolutely no vision of life in the future. And the funny part is that I don’t remember it really worrying me all that much.

At sixteen my daughter exudes girl power. She has everything that I didn’t, and I am in awe of her. Choosing a sport like ski racing has taught her how to accept victory and defeat, how to push her body and mind to the extreme, and she has found that instead of focusing on boys, she can pass them by on the race course.

She holds the power in her life-in the places where real power exists. Not in the alluring eyes and smooth foundation-laden skin of my youth, but in the powerful thighs, bruised biceps, and complete control she relies in to propel her down the course. She has learned to be soft and tough, as confident slipping on a revealing skin-tight speed suit as a chunky pair of sweatpants.

In sixteen years she’s learned the power of good friends; those girls who will stand by her, make her laugh until she hiccups, and hold her when she needs support. She knows the power of her convictions, for making the hard choices when it’s the right thing to do, and accepting her mistakes as they come.

She laughs, cries, and feels the frustration I remember from being sixteen. Except she looks at the future before her and knows that she will be ok. She knows she won’t have to wait until her forties until she finds her passion;

I'm just the same as I was Now don't you under...rather, she knows her passion will take her where she wants to go. Girl power.

As I spend another Sunday on the ski hill, safely nestled into a writing chair, I can’t help but smile at my girl. Her long cinnamon colored hair in a messy braid, her cheeks flushed with excitement, and surrounded by friends, my heart swells. Sixteen years and powerful. I can hardly wait to see what she does next.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

An Apache Blessing – A Little Beauty For Your Day

Yellow Lilies, Apache Blessing mamawolfe
beautiful blessing

 

May the sun bring you new energy by day,

May the moon softly restore you by night,

May the rain wash away your worries,

May the breeze blow new strength into your being.

May you walk gently through the world

and know its beauty all the days of your life.


~ Apache Blessing
Just because I need a beautiful blessing right now…and thought you might, too.
Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp