Halloween

Halloween Is Over-Rated, Isn’t It?

Halloween is over-rated.

And I’m over it. Done. I’m fine with no Halloween this year – seriously. Nothing…except memories.

The closest I’m coming to celebrating Halloween this year is driving by a pumpkin patch on the freeway and viewing other people’s costumes on social media.

Yes, I’m that pathetic. I’m an empty nester, you know – and just absolutely cannot bring myself to put out the decorations this year. First of all, Halloween is on a weekday. I’m too old for costume parties. I’ve got papers to grade. The dog goes crazy. I’ll get PLENTY of festivity teaching 7th graders in costume. There are no kids at home this year to celebrate, AND each Oct. 31 we’re lucky if we get two rings at the doorbell.

I’m over it, big time.

I bought pumpkins at Trader Joe’s, but won’t carve them.

I got a vanilla-pumpkin scented candle but haven’t lit it.

At Target I bought a few bags of candy – just in case – and already opened them.

This Halloween I’ll probably just stay home, in the farthest corner of my house, and think about when Halloween used to be fun.

I can have my own empty-nest pity party for one, yes I can.

Halloween is over-rated, definitely.

Halloween back then…

My mom used to make our costumes, or we’d piece together some sort of get up out of closets, dig into her makeup drawer and call it good.

My sister, the creative one, somehow managed to pull together the MOST amazing costumes for all FIVE of her kids – she sewed them herself and stole the show at the downtown trick or treat.

Our kids trudged around town in the afternoon heat, ending up sweaty, sticky and ready to be done before dark. Oh yes, those were the days. 

Halloween

Last weekend Lily and I spied a little girl, maybe around two, wearing a Minnie Mouse costume. She dropped her ears as she stepped out of the elevator we were on, and as I reached down to hand them to her, I noticed her shiny red shoes.

Memories streamed back to when two-year-old Lily was obsessed with her shiny red boots. My sister created the most adorable ladybug costume for her, complete with a backpack-type red and black spotted ladybug shell that slipped over her shoulders, and a little bouncy antennae headband. But it really was the shiny red shoes that put it over the top.

When I asked Lily if she remembered it, she said no.

Of course, she didn’t. So why is it so ingrained in my mind after twenty years?

I guess Halloween is over-rated, even in my memory bank.

Halloween

The first Halloween with two

I dressed him up as a red chili pepper for his first Halloween. His tiny three-week-old 6-pound little body zipped snugly into the red and green fleece, making it simple for his three-year-old witch sister to proudly snuggle him on the couch before we went out. I think we made it around the block that year; mostly, I remember feeling so proud to have two healthy babies to parade around the neighborhood. Maybe the chili pepper was a foreshadowing of things to come – Cam’s obsession with hot sauce just led him to research his favorite brand for his entrepreneurial class in college.

We went through Dorothy, Bob the Builder, cross-dressing, pirates, Pocohantas and whatever else their imaginations could conjure up. A phase of presidents and presidential candidates always brought laughs when the doors opened, even into the teenage years.

Halloween now

I think I’m OK with no Halloween this year. I’ll smile as my students come dressed up for school, and then slowly bike home before dusk.

I don’t think I can handle the cuteness this year. I don’t think I can watch Charlie Brown. I’m sure I just need to lay low, be quiet.

I know I can’t handle the memories right now, either. Maybe next year. 

Halloween

Halloween is over-rated anyway, isn’t it?

Nope. Not really.

But I’m still not decorating or answering my doorbell.

primark

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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stories

These Stories, Those Words, and Powerful Tests of the Universe

These stories.

“Our intellects, our hearts, and our souls are constantly being tested by the universe. Life will create new challenges for you to face each time you prove yourself capable of overcoming the challenges of the past. What you deem difficult will always differ from that which others deem difficult. The tests you will be given will be as unique as you are. If you focus on doing the best you can and making use of the blessings you have been granted, the outcome of your efforts will be a joyous reflection of your dedication. ” – DailyOm.com

Our intellects….yes, constant testing right now. What I know in my intellectual mind about justice, equity, respect has been certainly put through a tremendous challenge in the last hours/days/week/1 year, 253 days, 5 hours, 3 minutes and 16 seconds.

Not that I’m counting. Ha.

Our intellects

stories

My intellect versus my heart trying to process words of the victim and abuser, feeling the pain of so many friends/females who could (and should) be telling their own stories of violation, of terror, of abuse. Knowing and fearing that things haven’t really changed, that the generations of women before me cried at Anita Hill’s dismissal and now, once again, are facing all that we couldn’t do.

It’s so enervating. It doesn’t feel like this which I deem difficult, is any more or less than they felt but now that we’re naming it, now that we broadcast and talk back and make THEM LOOK US IN THE EYE and still, they vote for the abuser…these tests given now are unique, to be sure. But different? I’m not positive.

My intellect AND my heart burn with these stories. I knew these boys and men in the 80s. I’m that girl who got her ass grabbed/screamed at/cursed at/called at/insulted/humiliated…there are stories I haven’t shared, stories I didn’t have words for and not quite sure that I do even now.

But it’s not even just about all that – it’s about surfacing the stories of all of us who have hed back, quieted down, and been silenced. It’s remembering that just because you’re bigger/whiter/heavier/smarter/richer/ or more privileged, powerful or any terrifying combination of elements that makes you think it doesn’t matter, that THEY don’t matter, that THEY deserve it because they are whatever you aren’t – it’s still not OK.

Our hearts

stories

Our hearts are tested right now, absolutely. I biked through my tears on the way to work, listening to her testimony….wondering what to say to my own daughter and son. How can I explain my disappointment, my hopes, and fears for both of them in a world so misguided in so many ways?

And these women, these sister-hearts that I’ve held as they cried and told me their private horrors. I believed them. I believe her. And I believe all those others who didn’t have the words to explain. I believe those who didn’t have the courage or confidence to say, out loud, “He assaulted me”. Even when they were drunk. Even when they knew the guy. And even when he laughed…

Our souls

And our souls, oh, our souls. Universe, you are pushing hard. Your tests are gargantuan, each touchstone searing us forward into action. They’re moving us away from anonymity and into elevators and courtrooms and classrooms and news studios; empowering us with the monumental charge of knowing better, and now doing better.

The blessings granted are mighty, the platforms plentiful. The outcome of our efforts will certainly put into the Universe words muffled for decades by the powerful hands of those who wish to silence our intellect. You may batter and bruise our hearts and stifle our souls from doing the work we know we are here to do, but still, we will rise.

stories

These words.

I say, “NO. MORE”. I say to those men who are fathers, to those women who are mothers, how dare you deny our stories. How dare you continue to empower those who already suffer from the endowment of more than most on this Universe? Don’t you dare use your power to reduce others, laughing and backslapping as you rise…

I share these words, today, as a reflection of my dedication to telling the narratives held inside. Never assuming that silence shrouds the lack of story, and remember that the wheels of justice may turn slowly, but that slow and steady wins the race.

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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self-care

Saying No As Self-Care

Saying No As Self Care

The final bell FINALLY rang last week, and just as I shuttled out my 7th graders and sat down to breathe in and take some self-care time to relish the quiet, a new teacher burst into my room. I use the word ‘burst’ intentionally, as she was quite out of breath and started rambling about something I had agreed to do for her, and how thankful she was because it apparently wasn’t going to be very pleasant.

“Wow,” I replied. “Can you sit down for a minute?”

She stopped mid-sentence, pulled out the white folding chair across the table from me, and sat. I was actually surprised she agreed.

Over the next 40 minutes, I began to understand her breathlessness. She shared her overwhelm with being a new teacher, her desire to do her best, her feelings of being completely drowning in lesson planning and accountability and paperwork and adjunct duties and university coursework…and this is only the fourth week of school.

“Do you have any personal obligations?” I asked, immediately wondering if I’d probed too far. I remember feeling like her – as if the choices I’d made to be an educator were completely wrong, that I’d never have a life outside of school, and that despite all my earnestness and time and devotion and HOURS I gave to my class, I’d never be enough.

She luckily, at this time, only has a dog and some chickens to feel guilty about ignoring.

self-care

And yesterday I found myself in yet again another conversation with two teachers, both more experienced in the classroom yet young mothers. They spoke of hectic schedules, dirty diapers, daycare, and not seeing their spouses. And they talked money – how hard it is to be a teacher and want the ‘American Dream’ of a house AND a baby.

Preaching Self-Care

On both these occasions, I found myself steering the conversation the way I too often do these days – towards realizing you are enough just the way you are, preaching self-care, and the old ‘oxygen mask’ theory. Towards putting your own kids first, and to never feel guilty about moments spent with your own babies over someone else’s. 

Maybe it’s just that with my empty nest, I’m realizing how precious moments with my children were – not for only selfish reasons, but because the energy I put towards them and took away from my classroom meant that my kids would become strong, competent adults. Creating boundaries, saying ‘no’ instead of ‘ok, I’ll do it’ meant that my kids knew they came first.

It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it.

self-care

It just seems that so much of being a ‘teacher-mom’ is about creating a strong work-home balance, and with technology allowing us to be notified every second of the day, finding ways to distance ourselves from what happens at work must become more and more intentional.

Teaching, it seems, is one of the only professions where we feel like we are disappointing a child whichever way we choose. Creating strategies to ‘disappoint’ with grace and ease are crucial to our self-care. I’m hoping these four tips might help you the next time you have to choose between whispering ‘yes’ and screaming ‘NO!’

Four self-care tips:

  1. Start with being aware of the predicament you find yourself in. Say it out loud, write it down, share how it feels. Owning our situations helps us feel in control, and feeling in control helps us respond authentically.
  2. Consider the flip-side. You have so much to be grateful for. There are many worse problems than putting your children first – just ask someone who isn’t able to be a parent. Try to put the situation into perspective, and realize that this too, shall pass.
  3. Find a way to say no. Don’t feel obligated to offer a detailed explanation of why you are declining. “I’m sorry, I’ll have to decline” is honoring the situation AND yourself. Life will go on if you say no. And it will also open up more opportunities to say YES to things you really want to do.
  4. Breathe. Deeply, and from your belly. Slow it down. Take a moment to yourself, to change your state. Making decisions when we are emotionally heightened usually doesn’t bring good (or true) results. Nearly every decision can wait for a few deep inhales and exhales to help you center. Check out this video for more breathing ideas: 

Anna Quindlen said, “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” I’d bet that if you try these strategies, you’ll find your perfect self right there where you left her.

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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clearing out

Clearing Out and Making Space For Creativity

I spent the summer clearing out.

Clearing In Springtime

It started in May, actually, when my classroom began to feel like the walls were closing in. I needed space. Every day after school I would open something, fill the recycle bin, scrutinize and smile and either toss or find a new home.

 

clearing
What a mess…

I turned my classroom inside out before leaving in June; when I came back in early July after the carpets had been scrubbed clean and all 900 square feet felt fresh and everything was stacked neatly on top of my tables. So of course, I flipped it all around.

The back went to the front, the sides swapped spaces. Bean bags and folding chairs stacked in the center of the room on tables as I worked on creating more structure. I worked from the outside in, rearranging bookshelves and my teacher desk. I nestled new/old coffee tables in nooks with books and stools, and created AVID corners and reading spaces.

clearing
Starting to take shape…

Old paper ripped from the walls, became new blank bulletin board spaces. Wonder walls and student shout out spots smiled in anticipation of what would come in August… and I worked nearly all summer clearing out my classroom space until I could close the door and know that when school began August 27, I would be ready.

Ha.

Clearing At Home

At home, it wasn’t much different. The day after school let out in June, literally and figuratively, I opened drawers I hadn’t looked into for years. I pulled out all the linens and papers and blankets and stuff….and then I gently lifted them, breathed in the scent of memories and either gently folded and returned them to a place of honor, or let them go.

I knew what was propelling me, that life was tipping out of balance and only by clearing, by bringing awareness to the places in my life that I habitate and nest deeply, would I embrace all the change.

Before the end of July, I cleared out nearly every room in my house.  It was messy, and yes, a bit incomplete. There were tears of joy and overwhelming washes of memories that brought me down. I couldn’t go one room at a time; rather, I seemed to spiral from here to there depending on how the spirit moved me. It didn’t make much sense, but inevitably after I completed one part, an ease came over me. A sense of completion, of control, of calm.

Vaclav Havel said, I am not sure one is capable of reflecting absurdity without having a strong sense of meaning. Absurdity makes sense only against a meaningful background. It is the deeper meaning that is shedding light on the absurdity. There must be a vanish point, a metaphysical horizon if you will where absurdity and meaning merge.” Shedding layers of ‘stuff’ allowed me to shine a light on what means the most – it allowed the ‘absurdity and meaning’ of 22 years of parenting to merge and push me towards what was not only meaningful but possible.

Every Single Day

It became a daily practice. Like an addict, I fed on the need to bring balance and order. To create space for the change to wash in and out while my baby, my teenage son, wandered in and out of the house as he relished his last few months in the only home he’s ever known.

I spent much of the summer alone, in solitude. Aside from the obligatory summer excursions with the family (which I loved), I stayed at home, happily filling my days with clearing. 

May Sarton once said, “There is no place more intimate than the spirit alone,” and for me, the intimacy brought with clearing out gave me time to think. What would this next phase of life be like, alone with just a husband and a dog and no children in and out all day? What would my teaching transform into? For 22 of my last 28 years of ‘first days of school,’ I’ve juggled being that teacher-mom, trying not to show how I was always feeling split in two.

Clearing and Creativity

And to be honest, I have no idea. Two weeks after dropping off C at college and starting the new school year the very next day, my rhythm isn’t there yet. I’m exhausted, edgy, eager, curious, nervous, and mostly cannot imagine how to jump-start creativity. Seems like with all this clearing, with all this open space I should be oozing with ideas and the time to bring them to the surface.

clearing out

It’s making me a bit frightened, actually. I want to force it into shape, to dump it all out and mold a plan that seems unmistakenly possible. Things need to fall into place before me, wide and clear and clean. I feel the call to creative work – the years and years under me, of thinking about this time and feeling the foundation that I’ve been building with this blog, with my PLN. with my pushing myself into something that while at times cloudy and obscure, it seems like might just be starting to glitter. 

Feeding The Call

The poet Mary Oliver wrote that “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” 

I don’t want to push down this clearing and cleansing and creativity that is opening right in front of my eyes. I want to jump in, feet first, and see where I pop up, to give myself permission to fill those empty shelves with new ideas and opportunities. And maybe, embracing the change for once, not shrinking from it. Just as the smoke is finally clearing from the summer skies, I know this will happen. Eventually.

Patience, Jen. Patience.

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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What To Learn When You Want To Grow

What To Learn When You Want To Grow

My own children have officially launched, leaving me wondering, questioning, considering how now to become the very best version of myself as I move into another phase, one without my children here to direct my time. It’s still important for me to learn and grow and progress.

I’ve done my best with my kids and now life is different, ready to teach me new lessons, I hope! But right now, I need to keep busy – actively trying to nurture my mind and develop as a person, or it’s highly likely I’ll just stagnate. This isn’t ideal when I really want to flourish in this next phase of life. This is why committing to pushing myself, going back to school, and taking up new interests and hobbies can be very much a benefit. But where to start? And what kinds of things should you be looking to learn when you want to grow? Let’s take a look at a few ideas I’m mulling over:

Learn A Language

One of the very first topics that can help you to grow and develop is languages. When you can acquire a new language, you’re really broadening your horizons and opening up your mind to new possibilities. If you’ve always wanted to be able to speak another language, then this is something that you really should look to do. But do it in a way that really works for you. Book an online course, get a tutor, or even head overseas to master the language in the native country. Just do what you feel is best for you to be able to really grow as a person and speak a new language. I’ve been using Duolingo to work on my Spanish!

Learn A Craft

Or perhaps you’re not that interested in languages, and you’d rather learn a craft? Why not take a look at these crafts to make with DIY Joy and see if you feel inspired. From knitting to baking to even things like makeup artistry, here you’ll be looking to discover something that can give you a new skill for your own personal enjoyment, or inspire a new business venture for you. Baking has always been a stress reliever for me, but now that there are no children at home to eat my treats I’m going to have to bring them to school…

learn

Learn Coding

Right now, the internet and technology are so huge. So why not be apart of that and learn to code? Last year I used some coding hyperdocs in my classroom – you can try them out here. If you do have an interest in this area, coding is a great skill to understand for your own personal internet use and if you want to go into business too.

Learn To Teach

Maya Angelou said, “When you get, give. When you learn, teach.” Now, this can mean that you do want to go back to school and get your teacher’s credential, or maybe start by volunteering in a classroom – teachers always need help. When you love learning, it’s highly likely that you’ll be passionate about teaching too. So why not look to share your love of learning with children or seniors?

Learn Business Skills

Another skill area to consider involves business. Have you always wanted to launch your own company? Create a blog to showcase your creativity? Then why not try it out?

Blogging has turned into a big side job for me – it’s amazing how much I’ve had to learn about marketing, social media, and growing my professional networks. Read up on business skills online and with books. Find key business solutions that allow you to prevent fraud with Jumio’s Netverify or create a website with Wix. Scroll through blogs and even think about getting your MBA so that you could start off on your own.

If you’re an empty nester like me, consider investing in yourself. Learn and grow!

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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