Friday Photo: Free Falling

Sometimes as I’m moving around in my day, an image gets stuck in my head that I can’t shake. Sometimes it conjures up a memory, a feeling, or provides an impulse to do something. Often, though, I just see something that I want to capture in my mind for no particular reason-it just speaks to me. I’d like to offer these images up for ‘thought contributions’-as a way to generate a community of ideas together.

 

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This week’s Friday photo is all about the fall.  Some of us tiptoe out of summer, hoping to just hang on for one last barbeque, one last night on the patio.  Others jump into it head first, eager to reap the harvest of a summer of hard work and deliberate planning.

Either way, we have hit the equinox.  Day and night, perfectly divided, balanced, for a fragile moment in time before we slowly slide toward the winter solstice.

Are you ready?  Can you sit back and reap the harvest of what you’ve created for your life this year?  Or are you free falling, not knowing what you’re jumping into?

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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A Deadly Difference: The Story of Thong Hy Huynh

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”
Maya Angelou, The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou
When I first started teaching I worked in a rough neighborhood.  It was completely different from where I grew up-no long, winding bike paths, well manicured little league fields, or bountiful Farmer’s Markets.  There was no nearby college, rich with cultural opportunities, nor any kids hanging out at the public library.  Instead, there was concrete, apartments, iron gates and bars on windows.  There were grassy areas devoid of dogs on leashes or children on swings.  It was different, and I was a bit intimidated.
Where I went to high school

The 25 mile commute each day from the bubble of a community I grew up in took me from a place where crime wasn’t something we worried about. We hardly ever locked our doors, and if we broke curfew (or any other teenage rule) someone always saw us and informed our parents.  We knew everyone at school, and there was no escaping a reputation that siblings had left behind.  We went to school from kindergarten through graduation among children we played in sandboxes with-some might have called it utopia.  Until one day…

May 4, 1983:

Thong Hy Huynh was a new kid in town.  His family had recently immigrated from Vietnam, hoping for a better life. He was quiet-in fact, so quiet that I never even met him. I never knew his name until the day he was killed on campus.

On that day, life in our idyllic little town changed forever.  One minute we were walking to Home Ec during our senior year, preparing for another period of delightful cooking instruction.  The next minute, total chaos erupted just around the corner from our classroom.  People were screaming and a huge crowd hovered near the art room.  For a moment I thought it must be just another fight-not that fighting was an everyday occurrence.  But the teacher’s grave expressions and composed panic told me this was more-much more.

Thong was different.  He didn’t speak English fluently, and had seen horrors in his native country we can only imagine.  At that moment on May 4, he was defending a friend who was being tormented by a red haired, light skinned bully.  Words were exchanged, and before anyone knew it Thong was down, stabbed and bleeding to death.

Eight years after his death, I remember what I felt when I began teaching in my new community.  I felt different.  I was out of my comfort zone.  I felt scared and insecure.  But after a few weeks, I felt myself relaxing. I felt the love and trust of my students and their parents as they realized my care was genuine, and my passion for teaching began to override my fears of being ‘different’.

I don’t think it was until then, years after Thong died, that I really realized what Maya Angelou was saying.  And now, when my daughter walks past his memorial plaque at the high school I hope she understands.  Actually, I know she understands.  Because what I learned from Thong and my students is a part of me, and the message flows from my heart and actions into my children at home and at school.  We ARE more alike than we know, and being different is what makes life such a beautiful experience.

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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Monkey Mind

There she goes again.  That chatter.  That voice in my head that directs me like a traffic cop.  That sound of my non-existent older sister or nagging mother-in-law that won’t stop offering advice about what to do, how to act, where to be, and when to sleep.  She just won’t shut up.   From the moment I rise to the moment I rest she is there, nestling on my shoulder, whispering in my ear.  Do. More. Better.

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And yes, she is a figment of my imagination. I’m not experiencing any psychological disorder or seeing things that aren’t real.  But she feels real, and she makes me feel things I don’t always want to think about. Or shouldn’t really think about.  She’s my monkey mind, and she just won’t shut up.  And she whispers…Be. More. Faster.

Thoughts spin around my brain when I’m alone and when no children are needing me, no husband is nearby, and for that one split second it appears no outside demands are asking to suck me dry.  But that’s where Miss Monkey fits in.  She reminds me of the to do list, the to don’t list, and everything in between.  She moves me from the kitchen to the laundry room to the bedrooms and back.  She sits me down at the computer to write, then nudges me up to move the clothes to the dryer-oh wait-don’t forget to change the air filter and water the plants.  The dog needs a walk-gotta do that. Maybe I can stop at the bank…ACK! The tomato sauce is boiling over and now sticks solid on the bottom of the pan. Another tick on the to do list gets added.  Back to the computer-DING! The dryer is finished and as I walk to the laundry room she reminds me that the packages need mailing and the garbage cans are still on the curb.  Then grade the papers.  Kids have homework.  Practice.  Lessons.  Would that telephone please ring at a more convenient time; I don’t need to talk to a telemarketer EVER again.  The dog barks for his walk.  And she yells…Do. More. Now.

Seriously?  I’m so young!  I’m just a mom, a wife, a worker, a writer, a….woman.  Why won’t Miss Monkey just shut up and let me think? I could get it done if she. just. would. stop. that. incessant. chatter. that. reminds. me. I. am. human?  And she screams…Do. It. NOW!

She makes me think.  She makes me think I should trust her, not my gut.  Wait-who is she?  How dare she leave me thinking like this.  Making me feel upset, and vulnerable, and sometimes very alone.  She makes me forget where I started, and where I’m going.  She spins me around until I f.a.l.l.

But I’m not really, alone, am I?  You hear her too…don’t you?

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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Friday Photo: What a Woman

Sometimes as I’m moving around in my day, an image gets stuck in my head that I can’t shake. Sometimes it conjures up a memory, a feeling, or provides an impulse to do something. Often, though, I just see something that I want to capture in my mind for no particular reason-it just speaks to me. I’d like to offer these images up for ‘thought contributions’-as a way to generate a community of ideas together.

Today’s Friday Photo was taken a few weeks ago on Treasure Island.  Look at her!  Look at the balance, the coordination.  Look at the lines of her body. The steel of her frame.  The transparency of her skin.  The muscles of her legs.  The sway of her hips, and the grace of her hands.  She is larger than life, dwarfing all those around her.  Look at the peacefulness of her face, thoughts kept deep within.  Look at Her!  What a Woman!

What do you see?

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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Playground Paradise

When my kids were little, trips to the playground were a must. Their energy expenditure was critical to my ability to make it through the day sanely, and I’m sure that they benefited from not only the fresh air and exercise, but from the time to play and explore. After they were dressed, the stroller was packed with snacks, dig toys and a beach towel, we would head off on foot to one of the many kid friendly areas in our neighborhood. One of their favorites was the ‘The Grandma Penny Park”.

This park had all the prerequitsites for toddler paradise: a climbing structure, swings, a slide, soft woodchips to land on and best of all, the merry go round.  For kids who needed to test their boundaries and get their wiggles out, this was heaven.  For moms, the shady bench in close proximity to the playground was a perfect place to observe-just far enough away to give the kids some freedom, yet close enough to catch them when the fell.  And they always did.  I was there to scoop them off, brush off the woodchips, pull out splinters, offer sippy cups full of juice, and swallow a few Goldfish crackers before testing their courage all over again.  Cries of ‘Watch this, Mom’ resonated throughout the park nearly every second as my babies tested their balance, speed and courage.  Playmates screamed, laughed and occasionally argued over who was going down the slide first or who got more ‘under doggies’ on the swing.
Once elementary school began, life was so much more structured.  The “Grandma Penny Park’ was visited less and less, as t-ball, gymnastics, karate, rock climbing gyms and play dates because locations of paradise.  Occasionally we would stop by to take a quick swing or spin, but the twice daily trips to the playground became a thing of the past.  Energy was now expended in a more focused manner.  Shouts of ‘Mom, check this out!’ caught my attention as my children back flipped, tucked, and shimmied down every imaginable object.  Gone were the splinters and sippy cups, replaced instead with rope burns, blisters, bruises and Gatorade.  Hurt feelings from learning how to navigate friendships were soothed with hugs, talks and mommy time.

These days, trips to the playground are virtually non-existent.  Teens and preteens are much more likely to find their paradise  ‘hanging out’ with friends downtown, at the pool or bowling alley, or gulping down a Starbucks Frappuccino before shopping. Trying to hang onto the innocence of childhood becomes a balancing act between their quest for independence and my thirst to hang on to childhood.  Statements of ‘Can I hang out with my friends’ frequented our conversations.  Squeezing in the family vacations before college became our mission.  So many places to visit, things to teach them, and experiences we want to have as a family.

When we recently stumbled upon Fern Canyon, we were thrilled to watch our kids run, jump, swing and spin in nature’s playground.  Gone were the iPods, cell phones, playmates and Facebook connections.  Instead, our kids rediscovered their childhood pleasures among the fallen trees, dripping waterfalls and trickling stream.  Wooden board bridges offered just enough stability to cross back and forth while presenting them opportunities to test their boundaries.  Many times I called out, ‘Be careful” as one child scampered too high up a fallen log, or came close to soaking his only pair of shoes.  Declarations of, ‘Watch this!” echoed down the canyon as he darted from one wet rock to another, making it safely every time.  There were no swings, slides, or sippy cups in sight, just a mom, a dad and two kids creating their own bliss.
What I’ve learned is that all of us need to find our own paradise.  Sometimes we need  the structure of other people or events, and sometimes it takes the apparatus of a structure, or the companionship of friends.  Sometimes, though, all we need is our imagination and the opportunity to unleash it.
What I’m still learning is  how far away to watch, and how fast I need to rush in when they fall, as they always do.  I’m learning when to hug, when to wipe the tears, and when to stand back and let them handle it on their own.  Paradise found.

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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