Equal Pay For Equal Work

“Equal pay for equal work!”

His words broke the silence. The midnight air was sultry and my feet ached from tromping around in sandals all day; in March, I’m not used to 90-degree weather, and my body was protesting. The bright moonlight and headiness of three new soul sisters, along with being 100 yards from my air conditioned hotel room were close at hand. In three days I have grown close to these three women surrounding me in the parking lot, and knowing this was the last night together was keeping all of us from retreat.

“I was billy clubbed for you,” came a voice from beside me. “Equal pay for equal work!”

Turning, I saw him as he spiraled, dancer-like, around his suitcase. “Billy clubbed – I stood up for you!”

I glanced at my companions and giggled at their astonished expressions. They’d obviously never come this close to a tweaker before.

“I went down and stood up for equal pay and those cops just billy clubbed me and you know I used to be the face, I used to be the one the agents were calling. I have two children, you know, and now those goddamn….taxi driver, you’re running the meter, right?” His voice rambled, almost incoherently, but we were intrigued.

The taxi driver stood with a coy smile on his face, his eyes glinting in recognition. Tweaker guy was entertaining, and he was getting paid.

Equal pay for equal work
Soul sisters night out

“Why are you standing so far away?” he growled at Kim, who hadn’t moved a muscle since he interrupted our soul sister circle.

“Dude, what’s up?” I tried to connect to his eyes, but they were darting between us like a well-caffeinated mosquito. Meth, I thought.

“I have two children you know. I was billy clubbed for equal pay for women. Those celebs, I was with the best of them. And now nothing…” his chiseled features and Southern California tan made him believable as he teetered between our reality and his. Twirling on the handle of his luggage, he recited his lines with Academy Award winning accuracy. “I was raped by a priest and then I protested for women. Burn the bras, I say! Burn them!”

It was silent in our circle; no one could respond nor get a word in. I reached out my hand to stop his pirouette, to somehow connect and see beyond his ramble. He grabbed it, and for just one nanosecond he stopped spinning. We were there, under the Palm Springs starlight, and I had gotten under his Hollywood veneer and seen him.

“I’m 51, you know. 51 and they all knew me, equal pay for equal work, I say! I love women!” he rambled as the moment was lost, and he was back inside his story. Four sets of eyes fixated on him, the taxi driver chuckling in the background as he waited, trunk open, meter spinning.

“Take care of yourself, dude,” I cautioned as we stepped away and down the driveway.

“Burn your bras!” he screeched back.

I walked along the moonlight driveway surrounded by my tribe. I wanted to buy him a coffee. I wanted to hear his story  – how did two of us, the same age, take such different paths yet collide in a hotel parking lot? What choices did we make to create this moment? Why did the Universe have our journeys collide?

“We need to load the car at 7:45,” I heard myself saying. “We can leave straight from the conference with plenty of time to make it to the airport. Maybe even grab some lunch close by.”

I could see the taxi lights in the distance; he hadn’t left. What was going to happen to him, this soul-sister in solidarity? Where would his story end tonight?

Helpless and hopeless, I slipped my key into the door, wishing I had taken his photo, wondering what his name was and where he would go. The taxi lights were still there, and the silence washed over me. His journey continues. I wished him to find a safe place to sleep, and someone to reach out a hand in the morning.

Equal pay for equal work
View from the next morning – the taxi was gone.

Drug abuse and homelessness are a choice away from so many in our society. Once whole, once vibrant, our journey can pull us in directions we never imagined – away from careers, from friends, from our children. We have the choice to look away or to extend our hand to those who are suffering. In your community, is there a way you can extend your hand, open your heart, and help?

In Sacramento, we have Saint John’s program, an organization dedicated to break the cycle:

“There is no easy way to escape living in crisis. Since our founding on the steps of St. John’s Lutheran Church in 1985, we’ve challenged many homeless mothers with children to grapple with that difficult truth. And not everyone can. It takes a certain type of woman to stand up to everything that’s ever damaged or broken her and take full, complete control of her life. It’s difficult. It’s painful. And again, it’s not for everyone. Saint John’s is for the woman who wants to make the leap. Who will fight the pervasive influence of homelessness, poverty, and abuse. Who will make an empowered decision to rise up and become a productive community member. Who understands, unequivocally, that the decision to create a better life – for herself and for her family – rests entirely on her.”

I’ll be working with Naot Footwear on April 2 as my way of reaching out. The Naot Trunk Show & Donation Event at Birkenstock Midtown Sacramento allows us to combine two things that we love, fashion and helping those in need. Everyone invited to attend the event will be able to contribute to Saint John’s Program for Real Change just by simply trying on shoes. If you try on a pair of Naots, they will donate a pair to those in need. If you buy a pair, they will donate two pairs. It’s fashion for a cause – and your small action can make such a huge difference!

If you’re in the Sacramento area, reach out and join me on April 2 between 10-5 at Birkenstock Midtown 2500 J Street Sacramento, CA 95816. Catch a ride with me if you need to!

I hope to see you there- remember together, we can do great things.

I received compensation for this post; however, I wholeheartedly endorse this orgaization.
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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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Isabel Allende's The Japanese Lover

Book Review: The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende's The Japanese Lover

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I cracked open the cover of Isabel Allende’s latest novel, The Japanese Lover. To be honest, I was surprised with the title – I always associate Allende with stories set in Latin America, magical and mystical and certainly not settings in Asia.

I quickly came to discover that Allende, in fact, utilized a familiar setting after all – San Francisco, close to her home in California, and sixty short miles away from mine. That got me hooked, and I could hardly put the book down.

Using the dual time periods of the 2000s and 1940s, The Japanese Lover tells the story of Alma Belasco, an elderly, eccentric woman living in a nursing home, and her decades old love affair with Ichimei, the son of her family’s Japanese gardener. At the end of Alma’s life, her grandson Seth and her care worker, Irina (who is harboring her own secrets) strive to discover who is sending Alma secret letters and gardenias.

I couldn’t help but be drawn into the story line as Allende weaves the disparate love stories of Alma, Ichimei, Seth, Irina against the backdrop of both World War 2 and contemporary San Francisco. I was swept into Alma’s life as a young girl, forced to immigrate from Poland to seek protection from Nazi persecution by living in the San Francisco mansion of her uncle Issac. And just as quickly, I found myself caught in the narrative of Irina, herself an immigrant who struggles generations later with her own back story and coming to terms with her inability to commit to a loving relationship.

Allende skillfully weaves in and out of current time to Japanese Internment camps, sharing the back story of Ichimei, his family, and offering a snapshot of what life was like for Californians of Japanese descent pre-World War 2 who were forced to leave everything they knew to live in government-run prison camps. As a student of California history, I found Allende’s historical details descriptive and factual, thought provoking and tender. Alma and Ichimei, cognizant of their inability to publicly demonstrate their interracial love, share a passion that spans generations

 

Isabel Allende's The Japanese Lover

I just loved this book – everything about it resonated with me. Allende’s tender portrayal of Alma and Ichimei illuminates a passion that spans generations despite societal norms which restrict their ability to demonstrate interracial love, alongside relationships that are both acceptable and secret in a multitude of ways. All along the way, I couldn’t stop thinking of our world today in 2016, that has come so far in defining both marriage and love, and yet we live in a country which still struggles with racial and societal inequity. For me, The Japanese Lover provided the perfect vehicle to think deeply about what our world would look like if we could put down the barriers between races, if we could eliminate the huge divide between income levels, and really look at each other as soulful humans, each with an ability to love and be loved for who and what we are, not who or what others think we are.

Isabel Allende’s novel The Japanese Lover is one of those books that I know will linger with me as I move through my own work and life, attempting to teach my children to love and not hate, to be kind and not cruel, and to make the world a better place for those who come after us.

For more great book ideas, head over to Brynn Allison’s Literary Maven site.

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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Being Normal

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who feels the pain of being in two worlds at one time. I remember thinking when I was in my twenties that finding a job with dyed green hair wouldn’t be easy-so I got a job as a barista, long before Starbucks surfaced. When I started teaching middle school, I learned how to balance my school persona with my “real” self, and although the green hair was gone, the green haired girl wasn’t. When I tell this story today most people don’t believe me. I’ve been wildly successful at wearing my teacher hat and keeping that other girl quiet when I’m at work. But those who know me well often get a glimpse at her- she surfaces when I see injustice, discrimination and sexism and has a hard time shutting herself up

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But at least I don’t forget her. I remember her when I look into someone’s eyes that I’m trying to understand. I remember how much I wanted to have someone understand me, to think about the girl inside me who didn’t want to be ‘normal’. I think about all the masks women wear every day, and all the back stories that lurk behind our lashes. Green-haired girl is there, reminding me not to judge, not to assume, not to for a moment presume guilt before assuming innocence.

My quirky side pays off when I find myself in situations where I’m the “other”. Green-hair girl can show her courage and surprise me with her fortitude. She can connect with the unconnected, and sometimes even know the right thing to say when someone- usually a teen- needs it most.

Being normal, for me, is feeling like I’ve got both slices of myself at odds, and my fingers in too many things at one time. It’s normal to be juggling teaching and mothering and marriage and self, and not sure which one is going to take control. Being normal, today, is remembering that girl, the one who lingers inside, and letting her out once in awhile.

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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3 Awesome Reasons To Have A Selfie Free Summer

It was a perfect blue sky day. We hit the road early (by teenage terms), and just about 90 minutes later found us in Pt. Reyes, California, ready for adventure.

It had taken some cajoling to get both of them to agree to go hiking with me; these days, getting both kids alone, together, is certainly cause for celebration in itself. It’s one of the things I miss most about them growing up, actually. The time I took for granted when they were little, time to just be together and hold their hands and explore somewhere new – all that isn’t as easily had as before.

Sunscreen applied, water bottles and snacks in our packs, we headed down the trail towards the coast. Everywhere we looked vibrant wildflowers dotted our view, and lush ferns and berry bushes obscured each side of our narrow trail. The hawks flew overhead, and the sounds of songbirds filled the air. It truly couldn’t have been more beautiful.

wild sweet pea flowersStopping to smell the wild sweet peas and snap a few photos, I found myself alone on the trail, lagging far behind my lanky-legged teenagers. Quickening my pace, I caught up just enough to catch a glimpse of them from behind. I’ve always loved the photos of them like this, when they’re not expecting me and in that instant, I imagine all the life they have before them.teens from behindI’m sure even the hawks could see the joy etched in my face on this glorious day; glimpsing over their shoulders I could just catch the shimmer of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. “Turn around, let me take your picture,” I quickly called, worried they would be gone before I caught up. Surprisingly, they obliged, and as I got closer I added,”Let’s take a selfie.”

I’m sure the hawks could hear their groans of disgust, too.

“No Mom – no selfies,” their voices replied in unison as they took off along the trail without me.

What? No selfie? How would we ever remember we were there together? How would they look back on this day and remember I was even there at all? 

I’ve often thought the invention of the selfie is genius – the one way moms are guaranteed to be in the picture! How many moments have I been behind the camera instead of in front of it? What do they mean, no selfie?

Kicking into gear to catch up, I spent the next five minutes being schooled on the three awesome reasons to have a selfie-free summer – according to my teenagers:

1. “Selfies are stupid,” they began. “They’re not as good as pictures someone else takes and everyone knows it was a selfie. Everyone knows you know you took a dozen shots until you got the right one, and that you stood there forever while the phone was angled in just the right position. Haven’t you seen those selfie-sticks, Mom? Those people look so lame waving them over everyone’s head, and then they have to carry them around.”

Hmmm. Good point. How many times have I been looking out at a gorgeous view when someone suddenly jumps in front of me, spends minutes posing, snapping, checking, posing, snapping, checking…

2. “Selfies are for Snapchat, and that’s about it. They’re not meant to be saved…they’re meant to be silly.  How many times have you seen selfies where people look like they’ve spent hours perfecting their pose? Like they’ve spent hours in front of the bathroom mirror perfecting their pout or messing around with the right filters?”

Ok-agreed. As much as I dislike Snapchat (I can’t stand only seeing an image for seven seconds; heck, it takes me that long to find my glasses!), I really dislike the Instagram selfies of people staring into their bathroom mirrors, perfectly made up and serious supermodel looks on their faces.

3. “Selfies make you miss the moment. Just look, Mom. You’re concentrating so hard on getting the right shot, you’ll miss all this.”

I get it. Isn’t that what I preach to them every day? Pay attention to the little things in life. Be present. Be grateful. Look out for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Use your voice – ask someone to help you take a photo instead of staying trapped inside yourself. Look up, breathe, throw your arms open wide and take it all in. This is your moment.

Suitably schooled, I resumed my position at the back of the pack, far enough behind to think. They’re so grown, I thought, and I’ve still got so much to learn. I’m just going to let them lead the way for awhile.

Coast Trail, Point Reyes, CA

selfie free summer-mamawolfe

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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Sheep Shearer’s Children In Lake Tahoe

 William Bolt was my two-times great grandfather. An adventurous spirit, as a young man in the late 1880s he traveled back and forth from St. Louis, Missouri to Laramie, Wyoming with his cousin Harry to work as sheep shearers. Lucky for me, his passion for storytelling compelled him to keep a detailed journal of his escapades – most notably falling in love with my two-times great grandmother, Mollie King.

I caught my breath when I came across his entries about one of my favorite places in the world, Lake Tahoe. His descriptions of the early days of Reno, Truckee and Lake Tahoe made my heart swell; what a tremendous gift to know we walk the same path. I now know for sure that there’s a special reason the Universe calls us there so often. I’m sharing an excerpt from his journal; sometime soon, I will flesh out his stories for all to enjoy.

 Winter, 1883

We are climbing the Sierra Nevada mountains. I ride most of the time on top of the freight cars. We stop for a long time at Reno, a rough town. Harry and I leave the train at Truckee. Smith goes on to California to spend the winter with relatives. Harry heard we could get a job of early shearing near Lake Tahoe. We stayed around Truckee a couple of days, a sort of a lumber camp of saloons and gambling houses and I could always see a bunch of Indians and white men sitting on the ground gambling. The Truckee River runs through there, a raging torrent all the way from Lake Tahoe. I seen some Indian women fishing. I went to them – they had a fire of only a couple of sticks and they catch a fish, hold it over the fire a minute, then give it to the little children. I seen them little two year old Indians eat the fish just the way it was and the only thing they threw away was the head and tail.

Harry had arranged with the stage driver to take us up to Lake Tahoe which is about 15 or 20 miles away. We could always count on Harry to plan everything without trouble or expense. He had a way of talking to everybody and always made friends and we always traveled as workers. We rode on top of the stage up through the mountains to the lake. The scenery was grand. Where we wanted to go was about six miles from headquarters – a yacht was going to our landing that took the mail and of course, Harry had him take us and our big roll of blankets. It was a grand ride. Lake Tahoe is so large you can scarcely see across it and they say there is no bottom. The Indians are afraid to go on it because if you went down you never came up – even the wood goes to the bottom. I can see a stack of wood laying on the bottom . The water is so clear we can see to a great depth.

McKinney's Landing, Lake Tahoe, CaliforniaWhen we got to our landing we found out there was no shearing to be done. The owner of the camp would like us to work for him. Harry told him we would stay a few days and work for our expenses. Our job was snaking in logs and we lived with the timber men. The fishing is very fine. We just go out a few short distance from shore in a boat and drop a hundred foot line and catch Speckled Mountain trout.

The time came to take the yacht back again. Sailing in a yacht was new to us – it was very grand on that beautiful lake on top of the mountains, then the stage ride back to Truckee.

This post was inspired by The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy, a novel about two women are connected by an Underground Railroad doll. Join From Left to Write on May 19th as we discuss The Mapmaker’s Children. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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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