A Cowardly Act of Terror

Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wond...
Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz first edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like most Americans, I was horrified to hear of the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Our collective gasps of disbelief echoed throughout the day from radio to internet to television coverage as we watched in sheer amazement that a day so full of life and energy and dedication is now forever tainted.

It was a cowardly act of terror, to be sure.

Alongside the reports of runners blown off their feet by the blast, parents frantically searching for their children, and well-wishers scrambling to find their loved ones, another act of terror was playing itself across the country in my little town. Sadly, this act was complete, equally heinous, and inflicted upon an elderly couple for no apparent reason.

Cowards murdered them in their own home.

These were people who, like the marathoners, loved life. They loved their families, their communities, the arts, politics and music. They loved being together. They loved their home. They didn’t deserve to be victims.

As a mom and teacher I always wonder how to explain these tragedies to our children. How do we explain, soothe, and make it less scary? How do we assure them that this didn’t happen in their town, their state, or their home?

But what about when it does?

What I’m wondering now is how to explain it to me. How do we explain these cowardly acts of terror, these humans who believe they have the power to inflict suffering on anyone, let alone one they’ve likely never met, never had any sort of cosmic connection. How do I explain it to me when I have to go back to work, choose an outfit in the morning, savor my coffee with cream, and have the absolute luxury of kissing my children goodbye?

I‘m beyond feeling like my tears matter; instead, I go straight to anger. Rage fills my mind as I see the  photos of the 8-year-old boy holding a sign for peace, surely not knowing it would be used to identify him after he died. I tremble with fury when I think of the 86-year-old man and his silver haired wife so brutally stabbed less than a mile from where I’ll tuck my babies into bed tonight.

And I feel guilt- guilt that my children still have grandparents, guilt that I still have my children, and guilt that I at least have the  hope that these cowards will be caught, brought to justice, and be kept far away from me. I feel guilt that the tears just aren’t there this time, but simply replaced with frustration.

So tonight I’ll lock my deadbolt , set the alarm, and as I fall asleep, I’ll try one more time to explain it to me. I’ll try not to think about the cowards out there. I’ll try not to think about the mothers weeping for their children. Instead, I’ll try to nurture words that will calm my soul, ease my anger, and soothe my children.

And with any luck, I’ll wake up and remember these words from Abraham Lincoln, words that surely were born from times like these:

“Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.”

By the time I wake, I know those cowards’ victories will be dead. But do me a favor-if you have found a way to explain these cowardly acts of terror, please let me know. I could use some advice.

 

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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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Pandora’s Box: Preserving Her Scraps of Childhood

When she was little-not more than two- she was obsessed with a silky yellow and black polka dot swimsuit. It wasn’t a bikini- I shied away from the ‘Toddlers and Tiaras‘ set-instead, it was an adorable one piece tank style suit with an simple little ruffle that covered her rump.

Lily and RoseLike many little girls, she wore and wore that suit until it climbed up too high and I had to convince her that it fit better on her stuffed bear, Rosie. Carefully I placed Rosie’s long, spindly legs and arms through the swimsuit and tied a knot just below her neckline to keep it secure.  She was happy with the arrangement, and snuggled Rosie gently every night as she fell asleep.

Now, fourteen years later and several sizes larger, that memory surfaced as I was hanging up her lime green American Eagle string bikini after a night of hot tubbing with her friends. I’ve given up the battle over skin bearing suits, and trust her sense of modesty and self-confidence. Gone are the silver sparkle sneakers, the bows and headbands, and all the other innocent childhood fashions that kept her young forever.

Where has it gone?

I remember thinking that I could never survive the end of her childhood, sure that each subsequent stage couldn’t possible replace the absolute beauty of the one before. Gently I filled my pine wedding box with scraps of artwork, certificates and letters written in her childish hand. I tucked away unused diapers, baby socks and her favorite pair of red overalls, just to justify that she really was once that small. Photos, videos and journals fill boxes in my armoire as testaments to each moment, each step towards the moment I’m fearing the most right now: the one when she leaves.

She herself is hardly the sentimental type. Left to her, the memories would stay locked up inside, no tangible proof of the time she moved up from guppy to turtle in swimming lessons, or the little Colombian clothespin doll she created in honor of her great-grandmother’s heritage. Birthday cards, tied with ribbon, and letters that she wrote to ‘Jen’ professing her love mingle with newspaper clippings from gymnastic meets and ski races.

I can hardly bear to open the box right now. In fact, I can hardly write about it with my eyes tearing up with an overwhelming sense of absolute and overpowering love, tinged with a touch of sadness.

But I won’t let myself go there right now. Twelve months from now, when decisions are made, deposits placed, and the calendar ticks down to the remaining summer at home-maybe then I’ll crack it open and begin the process of unwrapping the last 18 years we’ve spent together.

Is this the way childhood is supposed to end? Bits and pieces of memories, tied together with love and tears, helping me to hold onto motherhood as I watch her grow up and away?

Is this how the Universe eases my grief? Squirreling away scraps and fragments of times joyous in the moment, melancholy in the past?

I’m fairly certain she has no idea the lengths I’ve gone to in keeping these moments alive and untouchable. But the one memory I don’t hold onto is Rosie. She was never willing to give her up, and although long removed from  under her covers, she resides somewhere close to her heart.

Maybe the time will come, twelve-or-so months from now, when she will reappear, and give me something to cling to, something to ease my grief, something to symbolize the love we created in her childhood. Until then, I’ll continue preserving her scraps of childhood, bit by bit.

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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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Right Women, Right Place, Right Time

Whoever is present are the right people. Whenever it begins is the right time. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened. And when it’s over, it’s over.

~ Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott
‘ Anne Lamott (Photo credit: On Being)

Anne Lamott- one of my favorites. I’m a picky reader, and it’s rare for me to find someone who can keep my interest through every publication while simultaneously helping me realize things I never knew about myself, my children, or life in general. Anne Lamott is right up there with Toni Morrison and  Maya Angelou in her ability to rock my world.

And while I can’t call Anne, Toni or Maya on the phone when I need advice or want to hang out, I’m lucky to have equally powerful women within reach in my life. The power of women to comfort, challenge, and change my world – I’m picky for a reason. Thank you, all, – you know who you are.

Who are the women you look up to? When they write, call or challenge you, do you listen?

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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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Forever Afterwards

“Only one thing for it, I said to myself, thinking of you, and I slipped out of the wrecked ship of my body into the black ocean. I swam upwards towards the daylight with all my strength. Not a mile deep after all. Because I was suddenly in a white room, brightly gleaming, smelling pungently of antiseptic. I heard voices and my name.”

– From Afterwards, by Rosamund Lupton

“Jennifer. Stop. Look at me. Look at me. You must stop pushing right now.”

My brain and body scrambled to focus on her blue eyes. Something wasn’t right. This wasn’t happening the way the book said it would. What is she saying?

I had watched all the movies, attended the birthing class, packed my bag, bought the diapers, and laid out your little white sleeper, recently laundered in Burt’s Bees baby soap, ready to bring you home.

“Stop,” her voice repeated.  “This is important.” My midwife’s normally calm demeanor was punctuated with urgency.

I couldn’t pry my eyes open. The pain was overwhelming; no time for medication, this was happening old-school style. My breath came in gasps, my fear in waves.

I searched for my husband, his hands on my legs. Finally he came into view, his blue eyes holding it all in.

“Her cord. It’s wrapped around her neck. You need to stop so I can flip her out. You must not push-do you hear me? “ I snapped into focus. I inhaled and for a moment, granted her request.

My body and brain were operating with broken connections, like a static dead space. I gave up control out of sheer and utter terror that my baby would be born dead.

This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen.

No one says that first babies come early. Tales of endless labor, walks around the hospital and enduring hours and hours of waiting for her to come were all I’d been told. Nothing-nothing at all had prepared me for these 30 minutes of laying in the hospital bed, feeling her force her way into the world.

The seconds felt like hours. I naively tried to regain control; not realizing that from this point on, you would shape every thought, every action, and every moment of my life.

“Jennifer, when I say so, you need to push harder than ever before. Go deep inside. Growl like a mama bear, and do it with all your power. Do you understand?”

Obediently, I complied.

One.  Two.  Three.

But wait – this isn’t how it is supposed to be. I haven’t even gotten into the birthing chair. The nursery-the laundry hasn’t been put away into your little dresser. We haven’t even decided on your name yet… I don’t know where you are, or what to do. The only thing I do know is that I’m not ready for this. Am I really going to be somebody’s mom?

But there you were, somersaulting into the world, slightly violet, but breathing.  And alive.

And absolutely perfect.

The struggle was over. We made it. Nothing in life could ever be harder than that, I imagined. I held you to my chest and breathed you in, feeling your warm stickiness. I clasped your tiny fingers.

“What is it?” I heard my mother hesitantly, yet pleadingly, call from behind the closed door.

“It’s a girl,” I panted in reply.

And forever afterwards, life as I knew it ended and began at precisely the same instant.

This post was inspired by the novel Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton. After witnessing her children’s school set ablaze, Grace attempts to find the arson as her teenage daughter lies in a coma in Lupton’s suspense thriller. Join From Left to Write on April 11 as we discuss Afterwards. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Afterwards-by-Rosamund-Lupton-194x300

Have you read Afterwards, or other books by Rosamund Lupton? I absolutely loved it, even though it made me cry.

If you’d like to know more about the author, visit her websiteFacebook page, or follow her on Twitter.

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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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Zen Master, Please Help Me!

Future Past Present
Future Past Present (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see.

Every breath we take, every step we take, can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity.

The question is whether or not we are in touch with it.

We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.

Each time I read Thich Nhat Hahn’s writing I know it has come to me at the right moment. This is no exception.
I need to slow down.
Peace in the moment. That’s a hard concept for many women who, like me, try to manage a home, children, a job outside the home, time for a spouse, and any small scrap of a social life.  It’s hard to be peaceful, present  and in myself sometimes. I want to feel like every breath and step is full of joy and serenity, that counting the steps I take in life can simply bring me into a meditative state. More likely, I’m counting to see how fast I can go and how far I can get in a set amount of time!
My ‘busy’ life season is November through April. I feel like I’m moving in alternate realities, never present in one place long enough to get grounded. Early mornings every day of the week and weekend leave me tired, very much alive, and frequently frantic.
I need to be present.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

Being in touch with the moment is something I strive for. Sometimes I feel it – that deep exhale as the soft breezes caress me, the warm covers enfold me, or the child’s arms envelop me. But more often than not, lately, I’m over-caffeinated, under rested and way too hyped out to simply sit and be present.

I need a Zen Master to come find me.

I need Thich Nhat Hahn to show me that really, peace is inside me.
I just need to know where to look.
I do know that I am alive, and I’m awake (barely).
I guess that puts me two-thirds of the way to peace, right?
Not that I’m counting or anything…

Zen Master, please help me.

What do you think? Be my Zen master?
How do you do at being peaceful, present, and awake in your life?
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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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