embrace change

Being Brave Enough To Embrace Change

“Just where you are – that’s the place to start” ~ Pema Chodron

The next six months are a countdown in my life – or a count up, depending on how I look at it. That’s the issue right there, actually: am I brave enough to embrace change?

Ever since Lily went away to college Cam has been watching me – aware of my shifting focus from her to him, noticing my changing routines, a slight twist towards examining myself as the mom of a college kid, and as a result of his observant mom-study, he declared that he “realized how hard I took it when Lily left, so he needs to start preparing me now.”

Way to play on my anxieties, kid.

I suppose in his wisdom there’s some truth to his strategy. I DID take it hard – I knew it was coming, I tried to prepare, but it wasn’t until I was sitting in her convocation freshman year that I could start to verbalize what I was feeling.

I don’t expect a repeat next August when Cam moves across the country. Yes- he’s moving to Boston, just about as far as he could go from California. He was accepted early decision to his dream school, and without hesitation, he committed. Done deal, he’s going.

Early decision is kind of nice, except for the fact that instead of starting my empty next visualization in May with most of the other parents-of-seniors, he kindly gave me five extra months of it.

The silver lining? It made choosing my mantra for 2018 quite simple: EMBRACE CHANGE.

embrace changeI’ve been procrastinating on actually writing about the impending change for months. I guess that’s a strategy – avoidance, right? If I don’t think about it, it won’t happen…except, he’s 18 and reminding me daily that he’s an adult and that I should get used to it. As the days pass, he’s less and less patient with me, and I’m finding myself more and more often in my upstairs writing perch, candles lit, gazing out the window and wondering if I’m actually brave enough to break my own heart….as a mother.

Now logically, I know there’s no choice. My heart will break a little more each day, the cracks carefully covered with smiles and hugs and making his favorite meals. I’ll play along with the ‘when I”m in Boston’ talk, and remind him that roommates don’t like people who leave their wet towels on the floor. I’ll grin when he comes in for a hug now and then, and compliment him when his room looks clean and he goes out of his way to fill the gas tank. I’ll be grateful that he texts me from his girlfriend’s house, and rest easy knowing that at least her parents are getting to see what a nice young man he’s becoming during all the free time he spends hanging out with them, not us.

And I’ll let go of what’s no longer serving me – the story of all the things I thought I would do when he was little, the trips we never took, the books I never read aloud. I’ll let go of all that part that tells me what I should have done…and try to hang on to what I did.

I was recently listening to Cheryl Strayed talk about her writing and her reflections on motherhood, and she shared a story about making decisions as a mother that really resonated with me. No one prepares us for motherhood; we do the best we can with what we have, and hope that everything turns out ok. Along the way, we learn to navigate the rough patches, smooth the hurt feelings and wipe away the tears.

She reminded me of one of the most important lessons that motherhood has taught me: to do things that scare me and to let my kids do them, too. Making decisions for our children is a hard habit to break, even when we’ve been practicing for years. Sometimes when I tell other parents that my kids both chose colleges outside of California they tell me that they would never let their kids move so far away. I hear all sorts of excuses, but really, all I can think is how could I forgive myself if I never let them fly?

I have to be honest – I KNOW I’m brave enough to embrace change. I’m sure I will survive. I made it through Cam’s adventures at the ski academy, and Lily moving to Utah. I know that like all those other times when I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a child that was any older than they were at that exact moment – that just like then, I’m going to find that with change comes joy just on the other side. With change comes a new opportunity to push away what isn’t working and amplify what is.

I wear my mantras on my wrist, daily reminders of the words I promise myself. Courage. Trust the journey. Be here now. And now, embrace change. I trace my fingers over the letters, I twist and bend and alter their position but always, always the words are right there to remind me that yes, I am here and yes, I can.

Being brave enough to embrace change isn’t easy – but it’s worth it. I’m going to trust in that.

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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College Tours In Boston: Visiting Northeastern, Babson, Harvard and Bentley

Part of my teaching job is running our AVID program, which specifically prepares students for college and careers. I absolutely love that part of my job. I love helping kids see their futures, plan their goals and prepare for their dreams.

When it’s my own kid, I love it in a different way.

It’s like investing with someone else’s money. You care, you try to make the best choices to ensure a strong return. I do all that with my students. But when it’s my kid, sometimes my emotions get in the way.

Like when my youngest child is starting to prepare to go to college.

And when he says he wants to move across the country when he graduates next year.

I’m not sure if it’s really any easier the second time around. In 2013 I wrote about taking my daughter on college tours to Oregon and Washington, and I shared my feelings about her moving to go to school in Utah. I wrote a letter to her, and each year I’ve tried to share the changing emotions and dynamics of parenting your child from afar.

With my son, I’ve got a similar, yet different challenge. He wants to move from our home in California to Boston to fulfill his college dreams.

I’d never been to Boston before; neither had he, actually. So while most of his friends were doing the University of California college tours over spring break, I figured we’d better take a road (er, air) trip and check out the other side of the country.

Now, I’m pretty west coast. So is he. We love the mountains and the snow doesn’t bother us – lucky thing, since Boston was full of it. Our first stop was Northeastern University, located smack inside the city. In fact, we had trouble telling where the city ended and the campus began! Northeastern is a unique college offering a program called ‘co-ops’, where students are able to work at paid internships for 6 months, three times during their college experience. It makes the total number of years in school longer, but what a cool opportunity!

Can you believe these are dorms? Boston’s buildings are so full of beautiful architectural details; it makes walking around the city feel like strolling in an outdoor museum.

Our second stop was Babson College a very small private college in the suburbs of Boston. Babson is known for their entrepreneurial business program; in fact, they only offer a B.S. in Business, and students are able to concentrate on different functions of business as they earn their degree. Babson was the most beautiful campus we visited. The buildings were mainly brick, and the campus was a combination of grassy open spaces and forests of trees. I can only imagine the fall colors!

Despite having to trudge through the rain and snow while touring the campus, I was happy that we got to see what winter would look like in the northeast – definitely different spring conditions here than in California!

We were pleasantly surprised to see that despite their historic appearance, most buildings we toured were very modern inside.

Babson is known for hosting international students, as well as offering study abroad programs aligned with many international businesses.

I thought this classroom was particularly cool – the walls are whiteboards, and freshmen students spend an entire year utilizing this space to create, pitch, plan, market and sell a business. I love the real life applications – students will definitely learn if studying business is their niche!

The dorms below all center around a grassy quad. Most Babson students live on campus – can’t you just imagine this on a sunny day, full of students studying on the lawn?

Babson’s mascot is the beaver…

From Babson, our next stop was Harvard. My first impression? Tourists. Everywhere. Visiting Harvard’s campus felt more like visiting a historic monument than a college campus – kind of a turn-off. I don’t think I’d want to have to navigate people with selfie sticks on my way to class every day, would you?

But then again, if you want to feel like you’re going to school at Hogwarts, Harvard might be the place for you!

Our last college tour was Bentley University, another smallish private school located in the Boston suburbs. Bentley is another beautiful campus located along and atop a hill. That means a LOT of stairs! Bentley is also known for its business program, and the campus also had the beautiful historic feel of a northeastern school.

Bentley has its own trading room, where students learn investing skills by utilizing live stock market access.

It was pouring rain during our Bentley tour, but like Babson, can you just imagine the trees bursting to life? Or the brilliance of the fall leaves? College in Boston definitely will be beautiful, wherever he chooses.

Bentley is larger than Babson, but still has a nice community layout.

Many private colleges require interviews as part of the admissions progress. At Bentley, I got to nervously wait outside. I appreciated the descriptors!

As much as I love college tours, I couldn’t wait to see a bit of the history of the Boston area. Top of my list was Salem – the witch museum, taverns and walking on the jetty were such a special way to end our memorable trip.

Four days and four nights were just enough to get a taste of Boston, and enough to get me thinking of all the other adventures and restaurants and coastlines we could see…the bright side of thinking about my boy moving so far away, I guess.

Until next 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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reading with mamawolfe: A Life Apart by L. Y. Marlow

“Beatrice leaned into her daughters,  powerless to halt another round of tears. She thought about all that had happened, all that she had done, the years of deception and betrayal and hurt. And as her daughters held her, their contact comforting and familiar, she thought of them, and of Emma and Morris, all the lives that she had changed. So many lives. And she cried as she thought about Agnes.” ~ from A Life Apart


A Life Apart, a new novel by L.Y. Marlow, delves into the themes of race relations, love and family. A Life Apart is set first in World War II, focusing on a young sailor, Morris, and his wife Agnes. The novel is told from multiple points of view, each chapter switching narrators. The story begins in 1941 Hawaii, just prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and concludes in 1970s Boston. During the 30-plus year time span, L. Y. Marlow weaves a complex story of Morris, his wife and daughter, and Beatrice, a woman he meets when he returns home after surviving the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Spanning nearly 50 years, A Life Apart subtly weaves the stories of Beatrice and Morris while breathing life into the often forgotten memories of both white and African-American soldiers in World War II.

I was immediately drawn to A Life Apart because of its historical time period. I love learning about history through reading, and when I realized that A Life Apart delves into the race relations of the time period I knew this book would be something unique. Interestingly, what I ended up enjoying most about the story was the character of Beatrice, the young African-American woman Morris meets after the returning to Boston in 1942. Beatrice was a well-developed character; through her I could feel the pain of not only living within the societal confines placed on women in the 1940s, but also could begin to glimpse a life I’ve never experienced – a life where segregation dictated nearly every aspect of life. I admired Beatrice’s strength as she grappled with the pull of her heart against the ties society imposed against her. I respected her strength of character, as well as her ability to stay true to herself. In the end of the book I was intrigued with her ability to go beyond herself and make amends, not because she had to, but because she felt it was the right thing to do.

I felt at times that the plot of A Life Apart took some huge leaps; relationships were built a bit too quickly, and especially in the beginning of the book I found myself questioning if this would really happen with the speed and expediency that the author created relationships. I wondered if it would have been so ‘easy’ to give into the pull of the heart, especially knowing how deeply Beatrice was rooted in propriety. Towards the end, however, I began to fall into the rhythm of the story, and found myself eager to uncover each new element of the plot. 

In the end, I would rate A Life Apart by L.Y. Marlow four out of five stars. For readers looking for an easy-to-read historical fiction novel about World War II and the aftermath with realistic characters, this novel will satisfy.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this honest review.

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 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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