5 Gratitudes For 51

Happy birthday to me! This is 51…a morning spent under the glitter of Christmas tree lights and flickering candles, a hot coffee and a cuddly pup by my side. I sit and wonder how to describe my gratitude about turning another year older, scribbling in my journal as a cold rainfall trickles down the gutters and peaceful holiday tunes ease me gently into the day…

5 Gratitudes for 51 years:

I’m grateful for 51 years of growing, becoming wiser and more centered with age. Life lessons are easier to recognize now compared to in my 30s and 40s, and thinking deeply has become a routine part of my day. I’m grateful for silent nights, for comfort, for ritual and for learning to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

I’m grateful for many relationships, but mostly for my children. To say they bless me daily would be an understatement; as we age, I treasure their laughter, their logic, and their unconditional love. More than any experience, motherhood is the most transformative. Watching my 20 and 17-year-old babies blossom and branch out into the world fills me with a sense of purpose and a feeling of contribution to our world.

I’m grateful for quiet mornings; summertime when the windows are flung open to inhale the fleeting hours of soft air, springtime when the backyard orange blossoms share their perfume, autumn when the transition feels most abrupt, and winter, wrapped in fleece and fog, candles welcoming the dawn.

I’m grateful for teaching, for a job which both fills my days with learning and laughter and challenges me to be creative, compassionate and caring. Every day offers me a chance to make a teenager feel cared for – and I get so much more than I give to them.

And finally, I’m grateful for the women who came before me, women who laid the path I walk every day. Mother, grandmothers, great grandmothers, and all the strong and caring women who did what they knew how to do, I thank you. Please know that you fill my heart and mind with your love and stories, with your gentle touch and creative spirits. Because of you, I know better. And when I know better, I can do better.

Happy birthday to me. May this next year be full of joy, peace, and kindness. Thank you all for playing an important role in my life.

May I learn more, do more, and be more.

 

 

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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Turning 50: My Transformation Into Wholeness

Two little girls nestled into their father in the pew in front of me, catching my eye as they jostled for position. The littlest one, no more than two years old, bounced on her daddy’s sturdy leg while her older sister, closer to five, curled her chubby fingers around his arm. The littlest one, blonde, wearing leggings and a pullover top, looked like she insisted she dress herself. Her undone back button and slightly mismatched outfit screamed, “I can do it myself”. Her sister’s sundress was a bit more pulled together, her honey-colored hair was gently braided to the side, and I watched as she fiddled with her headband during the sermon.

I wondered how long they would last, while at the same time, smiled silently in solidarity with a dad who could get two wiggly little girls not only to come to church but to sit quietly.

They honestly didn’t make a peep.

Within a few minutes of their arrival, the eldest removed her purple hairband and began running her fingers through her mid-length hair. Fascinated, I watched as she attempted to re-braid, then twist and contort her tresses into one up-sweep after another. When she tired, or when her hairband gave out, she would so tenderly stroke her sibling’s head as she laid on her father’s lap. I found myself wanting to reach out and braid their hair myself, to recall the memories of running my own fingers through my baby girl’s hair as she wiggled and struggled to get free.

Instead, I sat quietly and watched. I wondered what their story was. Where was their mother? Who helped them get where they were? How was their father, sitting so calmly, going to handle their squirminess when it got physical, as most siblings do?

It was their tenderness with each other that stunned me, really. As we sat, part of a bigger collective of people, I closed my eyes and listened; I thought about all that we humans do to each other when we get ‘tired’ of the way we are, or the way we look, or how our neighbor is acting. I thought about the lack of tenderness in our society and the blatant disregard many people have to simply stop, pause, look, and listen to others.

I thought about the common goals we all have, and how I see them in my middle school classroom every day.

The search for wholeness. For identity. For belonging. For authenticity.

When my kids were little, I remember often wondering what would be the measure of a successful day; sometimes, the simplest acts of survival were filled with such satisfaction. Getting up, getting dressed and figuring out how to balance mothering and teaching and marriage were my survival tasks. And on the days when it was good, I tried to set an intention to enjoy it.

And on the days when it wasn’t, I felt alone. I felt as if I must be missing something – that here I was, this educated, white woman living in a safe home in a peaceful state with two healthy babies, a job, and enough money to buy the food we needed, and yet still, my story wasn’t complete. I was now turning 50; this transformation into motherhood, I felt, should have been simpler.

Some people told me I was thinking too hard.

Some told me to relax, not to worry.

But I kept telling myself that someday, I would get there. That all I had was all I needed. That this transformation to the next chapter in my story would take time.

I was impatient. Like the five-year-old in front of me, I twisted and twirled and wrapped myself into all sorts of shapes, hoping that with any luck I’d find the one that stuck. I didn’t realize that what I was right in the middle of was what I needed. I was in the process of shaping wholeness; I just wasn’t seeing it.

Salt Lake City hike, half-way up.
Salt Lake City hike, half-way up.

Turning 50 has felt like a tipping point this year; mid-life, I can see the horizon in front of me with such an acute clarity. I feel firmly planted in my life. I’m learning to pay attention, to not only listen to my story but to share it, to pay it forward.

Maybe that’s why I reached out to help the little girl in front of me, clumsily attempting to part her hair and twirl it into a messy bun. My whispered offer of assistance denied, I sat back and breathed in. The hidden wholeness I wouldn’t have seen, couldn’t have seen, when my baby was five years old settled around me like a warm shawl. I felt it as the memories radiated through my being, resting so comfortably, so comfortingly, around my heart.

A daily reminder to be a possibilitarian.
A daily reminder to be a possibilitarian.

And in that moment, I set an intention to look for signs of transformation around me, to twist myself outside of my comfort zone, to make myself acknowledge the wholeness that I’ve been searching for, and that is right here in this ordinary day.

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 Transfer of Mothering

There’s no denying it’s been a tough winter. Since December we’ve been battling injuries, experiencing traumatic loss, and watching people we care about learn how to live with a new normal.

It’s been five months of deep, belly-filling breaths, long moments of silence and staring into the horizon, and valiant attempts to trust the journey we are on.

And it’s been a month since I found myself waking up on the floor of a restaurant, not quite sure how I got there; a month since the transfer of mothering took place, right before my eyes.

I remember seeing my daughter’s face as I came to; next to her, closest to my head, was her boyfriend, calling my name and asking me if I knew where I was and what was the name of the president. The looks on their faces signaled that something had gone wrong. All I could think about was my daughter, watching me lying there on the floor, and I was helpless to sit up and hold her, to reassure her that mommy was OK, even though I wasn’t quite sure that I was.

In fact, I wasn’t. But I am, now.

About five minutes before I hit the floor
About five minutes before I hit the floor

I’d never been on a gurney, never ridden in an ambulance, never been a patient in an ER. Sure, I’ve brought my son to ERs all over northern and central America (true statement), but I was always the mom on the side, asking the questions, making the decisions.

This time, it was up to Lily.

She was the one listening to the directions and handing over the insurance card. She, with her quiet control, was reminding me that it was all OK, that I would be fine, and not to worry. That things would all work out.

Her voice echoed mine, the words I’ve whispered to my children in times of crisis, in moments when fear tried to pull the strings.

Turns out, she was right.

This transfer of mothering was nothing short of magical.

I watched my daughter as she will be as a mother. I saw her ability to think on her feet, to quietly comfort, to do the right thing at the right time, even if she wasn’t quite sure.

Even if she didn’t have a handbook to tell her what to do next.

As I lay there in the ER, IV pumping fluids through me, I felt comforted knowing she was sitting beside me. I’ve always known this would happen someday – I just expected that it would be when my hair was a bit grayer, my steps a little shakier, and when my hands would look less like hers and more like my mother’s.

I found myself having to relax into the moment. I needed to be brave, to surrender my fear, loosen my grip on her and trust that all would be well.

And it was.

A snap of April's calendar by Kelly Rae Roberts, reminding me to embrace the change.
A snap of April’s calendar by Kelly Rae Roberts, reminding me to embrace the change and hold on to what matters.Kinda perfect, isn’t it?

On this Mother’s Day, I’ll spend the day like most other Sundays; I’ll walk my dog through the arboretum, breathing in the cool morning air. I’ll listen for the egrets flapping their expansive wings as they relinquish their perch, startled by my presence. I’ll write in my journal, and maybe go outside and feel the warm spring dirt crumble through my fingers as I scatter morning glory seeds along the back fence. This Mother’s Day, like every day, I’ll write words of gratitude for the life I have, for the children that bless me with such joy. I’ll try to smile with thankfulness that my baby girl is testing her endurance nearly four thousand miles away along La Peregrinación del Camino de Santiago de Compostela’.

This Mother’s Day, like every day, I’ll write words of gratitude for the life I have, for the children that bless me with such joy. I’ll try to smile with thankfulness that my baby girl is testing her endurance nearly four thousand miles away along La Peregrinación del Camino de Santiago de Compostela. I’ll warm with indebtedness for my son’s healing body, for my husband’s steadfast reassurance that we are on this journey together.

And on this Mother’s Day, I’ll set an intention to remember that every day is Mother’s Day, and that things are going to work out.

In fact, they already have.

Mantenerse a salvo, de la niña. Mami te ama.

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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it won’t go on like this forever.

It Won’t Go On Like This Forever

I discovered this most timely poem on The Writer’s Almanac, a favorite site for all things literary.

Does it speak to you, too?

it won’t go on like this forever.
It won’t go on like this forever.

Forseeing
by Sharon Bryan

Middle age refers more
to landscape than to time:
it’s as if you’d reached

the top of a hill
and could see all the way
to the end of your life,

so you know without a doubt
that it has an end—
not that it will have,

but that it does have,
if only in outline—
so for the first time

you can see your life whole,
beginning and end not far
from where you stand,

the horizon in the distance—
the view makes you weep,
but it also has the beauty

of symmetry, like the earth
seen from space: you can’t help
but admire it from afar,

especially now, while it’s simple
to re-enter whenever you choose,
lying down in your life,

waking up to it
just as you always have—
except that the details resonate

by virtue of being contained,
as your own words
coming back to you

define the landscape,
remind you that it won’t go on
like this forever.

“Forseeing” by Sharon Bryan from Flying Blind. © Sarabande Books, 1996.

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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Damn You, Daylight Saving Time

It’s been over two weeks, and insomnia has taken over my life. My husband and son laugh at this time each year when I can hardly keep my eyes open at dusk, and my body turns me into a cranky, yawning sleep-deprived mess.

Damn you, Daylight Saving Time.

It’s not that I don’t WANT to sleep – I’d like nothing more than to drift off at a normal hour (say, 10:00 p.m.), snuggled up under my soft down comforter for eight hours of uninterrupted bliss. I’d love that, honestly. Imagine, eight hours of sleep would find me wide awake at a decent hour – 6 a.m. – plenty of time to write, savor some strong coffee and center myself with vanilla scented candles flickering in the pre-dawn light.

Oh, the joy and rapture.

Roasted coffee beans
Roasted coffee beans

And don’t tell me to cut down on caffeine, or keep the room cool, or turn off electronics well before bedtime. I’m doing that! My afternoon coffee has disappeared, only occasionally to be replaced by some nice Bengal Spice tea. I’ve tried a nice PInot, a shot of Fireball, and cutting back on sugar. I’ve got the windows cracked and the laptop closed long before I turn out the light – or rather, my husband clicks off the light and removes my latest read from my fingers, slipping off my glasses as he says goodnight. At 8:00 p.m.

What is happening to me? Am I becoming my mother?

Do you know how quiet it is at 4:00 a.m.? I do. It’s dark, and I hear every squeak and moan of my 60-year-old house. I hear the spirits as they come to the door, the thoughts that tumble around my brain as the wake me far before they should. I’ll get my eight hours, for sure, but this is ridiculous. I know you’ve been wondering why my tweets and texts come at such incredible hours – and no, I’m not reliving my college all-nighters, I’m simply suffering from middle-age adjustment issues.

Do I hear any ‘ayes’ in agreement out there?

sunrise
sunrise over the Salt Flats

There must be some sort of infomercial, some ‘As Seen On TV’ product that will solve my issues. I just want to stay awake like a normal person, watch a little prime-time TV maybe, and wake up AT dawn, not before. I don’t need to hear the early morning garbage pick up, or turn off the delay on the coffee pot to make the dark roast happen right now. I stubbornly set my alarm for 6 every night, hoping against hope that the quiet tunes of ‘Radiate’ will ease me into wakefulness. And every morning it’s the same old, same old – by the time my alarm is off, I’ve read my Facebook feeds, tweeted and texted and updated myself on all the news that I missed overnight.

It’s a vicious cycle, I tell you. But I have hope. I’ve got a good four months to get back on track before, well, you know. Please tell me I’m not the only one. Reassure me that I’m not just hitting that annoying part of middle age. I simply want to sleep.

Damn you, Daylight Saving Time.

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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