For All The Little Girls Who Are Watching This Election

my dreamers, 2000
my dreamers, 2000

For all the little girls who are watching this election,

My 20 year-old daughter voted in her first election this year. She’s practicing ‘adulting’ – she learned how to register, how to complete her ballot and vote early.

She grew up in house with vocal, political parents but in her own quiet way, she listened and absorbed the importance of using her voice.

My son is just shy of voting age. When he was little I remember him arguing with adults against George Bush. He used to hum the NPR song, and like so many children, developed views that similarly aligned to his parents’.

Last night my daughter began texting me about the returns. Although she knew her state would go red, she was scared. I tried to be optimistic, but my own fears were beginning to cascade and eventually, I dozed off. I couldn’t take it anymore.

It was unbelievable.

I slept fitfully, wondering if when I woke there would be some chance that the election would have gone our way. I wished for an intervention, for a collective ‘coming to our senses’ that never happened.

Her early morning text woke me up.

I wasn’t sure what to say, or how to convince her that everything would be OK. I scrambled my thoughts together and reminded her of all the kind people in the world. To surround herself with friends, and to work harder to help those up that others want to take down. I told her to watch Hillary’s concession speech; I thought it might help. I hoped. I reminded her that not everyone voting for him voted for his racist and sexist and bigoted policies, but that they voted for what he thought he represented, despite how he has shown us who he is.

My 17 year-old son stumbled into the room, hair tousled from sleep. He told me that last night, just as he was going to bed, he heard commotion from the nearby college campus. He heard changing: “F-D-T” and Snapchatted a college friend who confirmed the protest march happening. He said he had wanted to go, but didn’t. And as grateful as I was that he hadn’t left the house at midnight, secretly I would have understood.

I told him that as a white male he has privilege, not necessarily deserved privilege, and if there was any time to protest, it was now. I reminded him that he must work harder now to show kindness and compassion and prove that he isn’t aligned with the bigot America elected.

I’ve always been a listener, a people watcher. I grew up in the same idyllic California town where I now raise my own children. I wasn’t raised by especially political parents, and for most of my childhood I was reluctant to use my voice. I was shy and quiet and would much rather watch than participate.

It was the 1984 elections that woke me up – the moment when I realized what Reaganism really was and that I had to make some adult decisions about who I was and what I believed in. And my opinions lost, by a landslide.

I realized that adulting was hard, and that people didn’t always agree with me – even in my own family.

But I kept on voting, and talking, and standing up for what I believe in. I knew my children were watching.

So today, I’ve been letting the election news sit with me. I’ve been thinking about how to put my thoughts down in a way that might do justice to the overwhelming sense of sadness and fear I have. I’ve been scanning Facebook and online news and trying to think about what meaning I can make of all this.

And I’ve realized that so much of my sadness comes from the loss of a dream – a dream that my children would grow up always seeing our values validated in our country. That despite working and raising children for two decades, I could launch them into adulthood with confidence that the world would be somehow different – that my children wouldn’t feel the same sting of sexism I’ve felt, or live in a world where one of them would be paid more than the other. I’m grieving the lost ideals I had that not only would they grow up in a country that operated on shared beliefs of equity and fairness and Supreme Court decisions that could impact them and their generation. I’m sad that this election won’t show my children that the world they will be adulting in isn’t moving forward, but that half of America is merely showing them who they really are – and that they should believe them.

Watching Hillary’s concession speech did help us. As expected, she showed us who she really is – and that’s when my tears began to fall. But they weren’t tears for her, of for me, or for my mother or grandmother. When Hillary began to close her speech I cried tears for my children – for all children – who are learning to be an adult the hard way and I cried for “…all of the little girls who are watching this, (to) never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

We didn’t get to watch the glass ceiling being broken. We didn’t see our family values upheld, nor did we see a tough mama elected – and we didn’t see that love trumps hate –  not yet.

                                               

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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The Edges of Life and Death and David Bowie

“As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?”

David Bowie

David Bowie, dead? It can’t be possible.

I remember when I was young, kids would wonder who would come to their own funeral. It was a way of sussing out our place in the world, of trying to see beyond the exterior veneer and posturing so popular with young people. It was a way of finding our relevance before most of us had actually done anything relevant except to just be a living human.

This self-centered sort of reflection seems to dissipate as we age – many of us, as we become parents and watch decades of life pass by, begin to reflect on just more than how other people would react to our passing – we instead study the intricate balance between where we belong, where we are, and where we want/need/would like to be in this vast Universe.

Death has a way of forcing such reflection front and center, doesn’t it?

I spend so much of my time living up inside my head, thinking deeply and with my reading and writing attempting the unsurmountable task of deciphering where we are in the world – where I am in this vast universe. I watch the beginnings and endings of my lifetime with a mix of apprehension and dismay, knowing that it at the edges of life when I often feel the most deeply, yet find the most discomfort. I crave the middle, the solid surface beneath my feet, the sure path towards…well, joy, I guess.

This month has overwhelmed me with endings, sadness, introspection. I’ve felt as if with the turn of 2016, the Universe has collected in its arms the souls it needs, and I’m just waiting…

First there was Bowie; so long the soundtrack of my youth, his presence in our world will be missed. Of course, I didn’t know him, but through his music and his art, I felt connected, as if his contribution to the Universe was perpetual, something solid, steadfast, unchangeable.

On my first trip to New York City last July, I took an open-air sightseeing bus – one of those complete tourist attractions that allow newbies like me to get a glimpse of NYC all at once. I was overwhelmed, to say the least.

One moment that sticks with me amidst the swirls and scents of the vibrancy of the city is when the tour guide gestured towards a huge building and announced that was Bowie’s home. I felt surprised that he both knew where it was and would share it with us – it felt intrusive and presumptuous and wrong to be so public with something so private.

Our homes are our safe sanctuaries, after all.

I didn’t pursue a glimpse of the man I’ve admired since childhood – didn’t even think to snap a photo of it, instead choosing to slip into the maze of Central Park to carve out solitude.

Since Bowie’s death, I’ve been intrigued to find out how simply he, despite his superstar status, was able to live so unpretentiously. How does a man of his notoriety become invisible?

Purposefully, I imagine.

Bowie lived the balance. Knowing he was not indestructible, that the sureness of death was to come, he carved out where he wanted to be on his own terms. He, with all his fame and recognition, dug deep inside and birthed a gift to the Universe as he was dying. What an act of courage, of selflessness, of living. Of relevance.

I was shocked to find out he was 69, but not surprised at all when I heard his latest album. And his lyrics- what a gift to those of us searching for ways to gather together the edges of life and death, to think deeply of our existence and seam together the beginnings and endings with grace and courage.

The man who fell to earth wasn’t afraid of us watching his descent – no, not Bowie. He just wasn’t willing to let us watch.

I find it beautiful to think that in his last moments, he was where he belonged, with the people who needed to be there. He left his legacy to us with his last production, Blackstar, sewing together his life and death with threaded with certainty and stitched into a seamless, endless whole.

How long? And what do we do with the time we’ve got left?

May we all be as victorious in the end.

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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Parents, Do You Lead By Example? Ford’s Driving Skills For Life Program

How many of us parents lead by example? I mean, completely. Honestly. All the time?

Think back to when your kids were toddlers. Everything we did we wanted them to mimic – the words we said, the foods we ate, and the funny ways they saw us dance or jump of sing along to Dora the Explorer songs.

When our kids watched us read picture books aloud, we burst out with glee when their chubby fingers pointed to an image and sounded out the word. When my three year old sang along to Bob The Builder with me, I knew something good was happening.

We were bonding, developing trust and confidence that our children would follow our lead, and that they knew we would always, always do what’s best.

So now they’re teenagers. They’re getting driver’s permits, moving from the relative safety of bikes and skateboards to operating thousands of pounds of machinery – machines that can kill with a slip of attention, with a lapse in decision making or a caving in to peer pressure.

And don’t think for a minute they’re not watching you – closely.

It starts somewhere in their early teen years when they start noticing how fast you turn the wheel, or when they call out your speed and remind you you’re going too fast. They know when you really didn’t completely stop at the stop sign, and they hear you curse the driver in front of you.

And they watch you when you’ve had that glass of wine and slip behind the wheel, sure that you’re ‘ok to drive’. They see you pick up your cell phone for a quick call or text.

And guess what happens next? They do exactly like you do – because you’ve trained them that way.

We need to lead by example.

Watching my tiny 15-year-old daughter command her first car was terrifying. In that moment, I felt a complete loss of control, an inability to protect her. She was cautious, careful and probably more terrified than I. Intellectually, I knew this was a completely normal rite of passage, and that with practice, she would be a terrific driver. I was acutely conscious of every sharp intake of breath, every time I gripped the arm rest in panic, and I found myself mimicking her as she merged into freeway traffic or turned right near a bike lane.

Four years later she’s a competent driver. Heck, she even passed her CDL test and drives a school bus full of kids for her summer job! And now that she’s living in the mountains and commuting from her college up to the ski hill, I have new worries and a budding sense of fear that somehow my careful, cautious 15-year-old has become too confident. Complacent. Just full of enough experience to get a bit too comfortable – and that’s when the problems start.

I don’t want her to become a statistic. I don’t want her to become one of the 3,000 teenage drivers that dies in an auto accident each year.

I want to lead by example.

Ford driving LilySo yesterday we spent the afternoon at Ford Motor Company’s “Driving Skills For Life” event, practicing making mistakes and learning how to correct them. This international program is not teaching the kids HOW to drive, but teaching them what to do WHEN they’re driving. It focuses on two main driving skills – over steering and target fixation – while offering real examples of the dangers of impaired and distracted driving. And it’s FREE.

Ford driving Lily Mustang 3

Our first session found her behind the wheel of a 2015 Mustang, a professional race car driver/instructor by her side, as she learned what a car feels like when over steering sends it into a spin. I’ll admit – it was awesome seeing my girl behind the wheel, taking control of the car:

Next, she went to the hazard recognition/accident avoidance simulation, where she measured her ability to react to obstacles and changes in the road. I’d say she nailed it:

She also practiced her response time on a simulation machine – including the difference while texting on her cell phone.

The third rotation was on speed and space management. It was eye-opening to watch how she reacted to distractions in the road – and from the back seat drivers asking for more a/c, a different radio station, and to ‘watch out!’ for hazards. The instructor insisted the drive while holding and using her cell phone so she could feel the difference in her ability to handle the car. I had flashbacks to crying children in the back seat…same distraction that in an instant can impair our ability to stop and avoid hazards.

Ford drivng instructors and CHP

Finally, we wound up at the impaired and distracted driving simulation. Driving a new Ford Escape with a CHP officer in the passenger seat, she wore two types of goggles – first ones that simulated driving at an intoxication level of .07-1.0, and then another set that mimicked driving at 2.0 or above. All I can say is WOW-did it make me feel carsick riding in the back seat!  I also learned that anyone can be arrested for being under the influence of ANY substance that impairs their ability to drive – including cold medicines, cough syrup, and caffeine!

Before we left, we spent at least an hour chatting with the road officers about the intricacies of DUI and impaired driving. We watched a simulated DUI test, and learned that studies have shown that a person arrested for DUI has driven under the influence 350 times prior to their arrest. Frightening statistics, isn’t it?

I don’t want my children to be a statistic. When I asked the officers why they were involved with the Driving Skills For Life program, one responded quite matter-of-factly: “I got tired of scraping up teenage body parts off the road”.

If that doesn’t make you want to lead by example, I don’t know what would.

Parents, do right by your children. Follow the road rules. Don’t drink and drive. Put down your phone, pay attention and be present.

And make tracks to the Ford Driving Skills For Life event in your area. Visit their website and Facebook page and find out how you can take advantage of this free program.

Lead by example. Keep your kid from being another statistic.

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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Educators and Preventing Medicine Abuse

As a teacher, I know that teens face difficult choices and various pressures – I see it every day at school. But what many educators aren’t aware of is that teens are turning to the medicine cabinet to get high. Teens are misusing and abusing over-the-counter cough medicines by taking more than 25 times the recommended dose. Dextromethorphan (DXM), a main ingredient in cough medicine, can be found in over 100 over-the-counter products. And, since these products are often more easily available than other substances, teens are abusing medicines containing DXM because many believe it is “less dangerous” to use than illegal drugs.

As scary as this trend sounds, the good news is that educators can actually have an impact on students’ decision-making and behavior. Believe it or not, teens may be more likely to listen their teacher than anyone else when it comes to sensitive issues like drug abuse.

While from the onset it seems like medicine abuse can be an intimidating issue to call attention to, it doesn’t have to be. Here are some steps you can take right now towards preventing medicine abuse in your school:

Learn about the dangers of medicine abuse: First and foremost, it is important to fully understand the issue at hand. Educating yourself about DXM and the serious risks of medicine abuse will allow you to effectively talk to teens, parents and other educators about this dangerous trend.

Learn the slang terms: There are a variety of terms that teens use when referring to medicine abuse. These can include words liketussing”, “robo-tripping” or “skittling. If you overhear students at your school mention these terms, they may be discussing over-the-counter cough medicine abuse.

Look out for warning signs. Declining grades, uncooperative attitudes and changes in friends or physical appearances could be signs of cough medicine abuse. Since educators see students frequently, they may be more likely to notice changes that others don’t. Know that it is okay to pull a student aside and ask if everything is okay, or if he or she would like to talk. Sometimes, teens simply need someone who they can confide in, and this is a good way for you to figure out if there is a problem – and how serious it is.

Talk to other educators. Awareness leads to prevention! If there are other educators at your school who are not aware of this dangerous problem, talk to them about the risks. Educators have the power to bring this issue to the attention of the rest of the community. At Stop Medicine Abuse, we have tools for educators to help spread the word and fight over-the-counter cough medicine abuse.

Do you have tips for talking to teens about medicine abuse? Let us know in the comments below!

This is a guest post from Tammy Walsh. Tammy is a mother of two, a high school math teacher and a contributor to The Five Moms blog on StopMedicineAbuse.org. Tammy has a passion for addressing the issue of substance abuse openly and honestly with parents and teens. Through her work with The Five Moms, she hopes to reach more parents on a national level, educating and empowering them with the tools to make positive change in their communities. Join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.

 

photo credit: Heiwa elementary school 平和小学校 _22 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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Are You Teaching Your Teen To Drive?

When I was 16, I couldn’t wait to get my license. I lived just outside the city limits, and having a license equaled freedom. I didn’t care what I drove, I just wanted to not have to ride my bike miles into town or to school.

Maybe it’s a first-born thing; when my daughter turned 16, she was ready. She had researched online driving schools, taken and passed her driver ed course and written test on her own, and scheduled her behind the wheel for the day she turned 16.

My son is a completely different story. He really seems to have a much more relaxed attitude about driving; he’s nearly 16, and only completed part of his online course. He’s taking it slow, not in a rush whatsoever.

I guess I shouldn’t rush it; it’s kind of like when your kids were learning to walk. With the first born, I couldn’t wait to see her take off. Once she did, I realized how stressful it was worrying about where she might slip and fall and all the mischeif she could get into!

It’s the same with driving; when the firstborn gets behind the wheel it’s a definite milestone, but when you’ve spent hours waiting up for them to drive home safely on a Saturday night, the thrill is kind of gone. Quickly.

795583370_43e496410d_bLuckily, my girl is an awesome driver. But she hasn’t ever had the opportunity to participate in driving simulations to show her just how dangerous it can be to not know how to really handle a car in hazardous situations – she’s learned a bit on her own, unfortunately. The good news is that I just found out about a cool program sponsored by the Ford Motor Company – they’re going around to different cities to offer an Advanced Driver Training program, and they’re coming to the Sacramento area May 13-14. And the best part? It’s completely FREE! And we’re going! Want to join us?

Here are the details:

Ford Driving Skills for Life is a FREE program developed in 2003 in conjunction with the Governors Highway Safety Association and a panel of safety experts to address the leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States – vehicle crashes.

Operated by the Ford Motor Company Fund, the award-winning DSFL program provides newly licensed teens the necessary skills for safe driving beyond what they learn in standard driver education programs. An emphasis is also placed on the dangers of distracted and impaired driving.

Teens will drive specially-equipped vehicles on road courses under the supervision of professional instructors, improving their skills in these key areas:

  • Hazard Recognition • Vehicle Handling • Space Management •Speed Management • Reaction Time

  • Braking and Stopping Distances • and how to Avoid the Dangers of Distracted and Impaired Driving.

WHERE: McClellan Park

                                   3140 Peacekeeper Way

                                    McClellan, CA 95652

 WHEN: SATURDAY & SUNDAY, June 13 &14

                                    Session 1 – 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (both days)

                                     Session 2 – 1:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. (both days)

REGISTER: Spaces are still available for the Ford Driving Skills for Life program. For more information or to register a teen driver for a session, please go to www.drivingskillsforlife.com. This website has useful resources for teen drivers, parents and educators. 

We hope to see you there! Not in northern California? Check their website for a location near you!

Disclosure: mamawolfe received compensation for sharing information on the Ford Driving Skills For Life program. mamawolfe is not responsible for the accuracy of information presented or for the quality or safety of any products mentioned. 

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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