My Heart Is Heavy As I Watch The Hate Unfold In Charlottesville Today

My Heart Is Heavy As I Watch The Hate Unfold In Charlottesville Today

My heart is heavy as I watch the hate unfold in Charlottesville today. I try to distract and distance myself by puttering around in my garden, moving the sprinkler from one dry patch to another, hopefully coaxing a few more blooms into fall. I dodge the bees in the veggie garden and catch a glimpse of a red throated hummingbird as it delicately feeds on my front yard red salvia. My four legged pal naps on the shaded wicker couch as I move in circles, trying to avoid confronting the hatred and violence I know is consuming my news feeds.

I don’t usually write and publish on the spot like this. I’m more of a pensive writer, allowing thoughts to mull in my mind, forming connections and thinking deeply about how I share my voice in this vast Universe of creative people. I typically journal and notetake and combine what I read and hear and see into hopefully, some version of hope and gratitude for all that I am and all that I have to learn.

But as I watch the hate unfold in Charlottesville today I find myself heavy with sadness, climbing the stairs to my upstairs writing perch. My phone has been exploding with Twitter updates and live videos from the New York Times, and I find I can only watch and read the smallest amount without having to shut it down.

It’s part self-care, part bewilderment, part fear – combined with an enormous amount of guilty helplessness as I sit safely tucked away, in my white family in my suburban home in my liberal northern California town.

my heart is heavy

But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? Those who stay safely tucked away in their beliefs, teetering on the edge of exploding and showing their real selves. I meant to be writing about my children today, about having seniors and about college and starting school years.

But I can’t. My heart is too heavy watching the hate unfold in Charlottesville today, and it simply feels selfish.

I know that racism exists. I know that there are those who believe in the ‘white right’ and above all else, feel victimized and as if they are somehow having their centuries old rights and ancestry stripped away by those who are different. From those who have darker skin, or religious differences, or who love people that they love even when being told that the Bible calls them sinners.

I know all that. I see it hiding in my community, occasionally creeping out in my classroom with greater frequency since last November. I understand the responsibility of raising a white male and think deeply about how I can use my life to make the world a better, kinder, more loving place.

I use my position as a teacher leader to teach compassion, to offer evidence from history about learning from the past, and employ my voice and my words to somehow attempt to do my part.

My Heart Is Heavy As I Watch The Hate Unfold In Charlottesville Today

But today, my heart is heavy as I watch the hate unfold.

I want to blame 45, but I know he didn’t suddenly cause people to think this way. What he has done since November is offered validation for those shallow, spiteful, fearful souls to empower themselves and speak out, lash out, and spew their hateful words into our Universe.

I know signs of hope and light will surface – the first to appear was John Pavlovitz’s “Yes, This is Racism”  for which I am holding onto while my news feed screams “Charlottesville remains on edge ahead of “Unite The Right” rally”, the governor declares a state of emergency, and a car plows down protestors. Violent clashes erupt as people supporting Black Lives Matter join in counter-protest. 45 tweets “Am in Bedminster for meetings & press conference on V.A. & all that we have done, and are doing, to make it better-but Charlottesville sad!”

All that we have done? Who are WE? It’s not me. It’s on you now, 45. All that YOU have done – and what are YOU doing to make it better? Get off your golf cart and step into reality.

Sitting in my writing room, gazing out at the green treetops and the sun dappled grass I feel so far removed, so helpless. I do not agree, I do not believe, I do not support. This isn’t MY America. This isn’t my view of how history should be formed. This isn’t what I want to teach.

This IS racism. This IS hate. This IS fear and vulnerability and small-mindedness.

This is NOT what I choose as the future for my son, my daughter, and the hundreds of children I’m about to share my heart with this school year.

I stand in unity with those using their bodies and voices and hearts against hate. I stand with the women and men and children to whom this is nothing new – just more visible.

I walked with women and men and children in January in hopes that my heart wouldn’t feel so heavy today; I write with hope for tomorrow.

THIS is how I fight back.

My Heart Is Heavy As I Watch The Hate Unfold In Charlottesville Today

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 Gods Are Here, In This Almost Empty Nest

“The Gods Are Here”

This is no mountain

But a house,

No rock of solitude

But a family chair,

No wilds

But life appearing

As life anywhere domesticated,

Yet I know the gods are here,

And that if I touch them

I will arise

And take majesty into the kitchen.”

Jean Toomer

The Gods are here, in this almost empty nest of mine.

Hovering over my family, my son frequently ticks off the months left he has until his birthday, the day he officially becomes an ‘adult’.

There’s less than four left; we anticipate with a mix of excitement and uncertainty. He for the former, me for the latter. More than some I know, less than others.

Yesterday he announced there were seven months before he would know officially where he’s spending his college years. Unofficially, he’s hoping for a location 2, 467 miles from home. Exactly. Yes, I checked.

The Gods are here, in this home. I surround myself with their comfort.

We watch “Blackish” together. It’s one of our few remaining ‘things’ we do, just the two of us.  That, and gardening. For anyone out there with a teenage son, you understand the joy of having a ‘thing’ to do together. For most days, we parallel, a mix of school and jobs and eating and homework. We say good morning and goodnight, and as ‘life anywhere domesticated’, we have our own strange daily routine. It works ok. I find myself forever on the end of wanting more, but swelling with pride as he feels his footing in wanting and doing more for himself.

A few weeks ago, “Blackish” hit home with their episode about their oldest child receiving college acceptances and struggling with a decision of the heart v. head. It’s the kind of struggle I’m all too familiar with these days: how hard to tug on the line, how much slack to release. How to truly sit with the situation in front of me and decide where I fit, how I respond, when I share my opinion and when I just listen.

“This is no mountain, but a house”, I remind myself. This is “no rock of solitude”, but a “family chair” to sink into. These are the small moments of life that slip in and out sometimes without notice, sometimes with great emotion surfacing at the most strange and inopportune times. This is my job, as a mother, to remember that it is my place to create the soft place to land, the cushion to spring into and out of and to trust the solid foundation that brought us this far. This is ‘life appearing’ whether I like it or not, despite my protests and preparations. This is my holy place, our landing space, our creation. I can trust in the sturdiness of our structure. I can close my eyes and remember the majesty of their first words and milestones. I breathe in the scent of their baby soft skin, fresh from the bath. I hear the whispers and the whimpers, the laughter and the squeals of excitement. I remember it all even when I didn’t think I would need to.

gods are here empty nest garden

I will arise, I am confident. I will take majesty, just as it has been given to me in all the extraordinary, ordinary moments spent gathered in this kitchen, this garden, this home.

I know the gods are here, in this almost empty nest. I will touch them here, I am confident. Here, rooted in this family, this place, this home, this life appearing and disappearing in front of me.

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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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Easy Ways To Embrace A Healthy Lifestyle

At this point in life, I’m learning that things that used to be easy in my twenties, like sitting cross-legged for hours on end, just aren’t quite as simple now. Or running a 5K. Or staying up late to go to see The Cure in concert night after night.  Passing 50 last December was certainly a milestone I’m proud of. But I’m equally proud of the work I’ve done to embrace a healthy lifestyle. I’ve realized that while some things used to be easier in my twenties and thirties, many struggles I had back then have ceased to be as anxiety ridden. I’ve learned that embracing a healthy lifestyle means more than just counting calories and getting enough sleep; I’m learning that for me to feel whole and balanced and joyful requires a few key elements.

Easy Ways To Embrace A Healthy Lifestyle

Setting boundaries

Like many working moms, I struggled in my thirties with how to balance my teaching career with motherhood. I wanted both. I knew I needed to work outside the home, and I felt the opposing pull to stay as close to my babies as possible. I tried every schedule I could think of. I switched schools, changed the subject I taught, and quit then worked part-time then quit again. Finally, after six years of this yo-yo life with teaching and mothering, I landed in the right school with the right schedule. In the fourteen years since, I’ve become adept at drawing the home/work boundaries. I didn’t grade papers when the kids were awake. I took time off to drive on field trips, and volunteered in their classrooms. I was home (mostly) in the afternoons and did the things with them that I wanted to do. It wasn’t always easy, but setting boundaries then has prepared me to set boundaries for myself. I draw a line between my work life and my creative/at home life, and rarely cross it.

Contributing to my community

When my four-year-old son started karate, one line of his daily pledge was to ‘contribute to my community’. I loved that message, and because of him we took it seriously. I tried to weave age-appropriate acts of giving into our lifestyles, and to teach my children that you get what you give. I love simple acts of kindness like bringing our neighbors some fresh cookies out of the oven, or bringing the kids to visit their great-grandmother at the senior center. We evolved into more involved, planned contributions such as trash pick up around our favorite creek, or cooking and serving meals at the homeless shelter. As teens, I’ve taken my kids to help improve schools in Nicaragua and am encouraging them to study and find jobs in order to make the world a better place.

easy ways to embrace a healthy lifestyle

Getting outside every day

In my twenties I used to love to run. Now, I love to walk. And I’m ok with that. yes, I have to walk much farther to burn the same calories as running, but to me, walking is meditation and exercise. I walk the dog, walk to errands, and walk to socialize with friends. I love to walk in cities I’m visiting, or along the beach. In the mountains, there’s nothing better than walking along a trail and just paying attention to what’s around me. Sometimes I listen to podcasts, but often it’s just me and my dog, and my teens (if I’m lucky!). A daily dose of nature lifts my spirits and reminds me that I’m just one small part of a very big universe.

Enjoying the ordinary moments

When my kids were little, I was obsessed with videotaping everything. I’m old enough that smart phones didn’t exist during their early years, but I faithfully recorded life from behind the lens, then followed up with daily journal entries. Looking back, our favorite memories aren’t necessarily the ‘big’ moments of life; instead, we love seeing the ordinary ones, the moments of everyday life when smearing yogurt on their faces made them giggle, or running after them when they rode their bike down the street, or just noticing the book we were reading or the car we drove up to Tahoe one summer. Now that I’m older and more reflective, I’m embracing those daily, extraordinarily ordinary moments. With one kid in college and one still a teen, my ordinary moments are less likely to involve my children, allowing me to slow down and really pay attention to the curve of the branches of a tree outside my window, or how the clouds flirt with the sun on an April afternoon. I treasure the first blooms in my garden and the way my students’ eyes light up when they understand what I’m trying to teach. Enjoying the ordinary moments leaves me joyful and grateful even on the most difficult of days.

easy ways to embrace a healthy lifestyle!

Eating well

I love to cook. A Saturday spent shopping and baking and preparing a creative meal for my family is one of my favorite ways to show my love. I’m a rabid fan of Food Network, having grown up on Julia Child and The Galloping Gourmet. Now, my love of eating well has transfused to my son, and we get downright giddy together in the grocery store. For a sixteen-year-old, he has sophisticated taste buds and reminds me to think about the flavor profile and what we’re eating, sticking to foods as pure and unprocessed as possible. Restaurants are a special treat; we’d rather spend a Sunday watching over a slow-cooker full of authentically spiced carnitas, or rolling out our own dough for cinnamon rolls. Eating well, to me, isn’t just about keeping a calorie count – it’s about indulging in food as a simple pleasure and displaying my creativity and caring towards my family.

It’s never too late – check out these fun and easy ways to embrace a healthy lifestyle with Chobani Simply 100! I’d love to know what you love to do!

Easy Ways To Embrace A Healthy Lifestyle

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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I'm flying

I’m Flying

It’s that uneasy feeling in my core that momentarily makes me shudder. I try not to sit over the wing, but this time I must have gotten too close. It’s grey outside LAX – an uncommonly rainy day in southern Californa, to be sure.

As the plane gathers altitude and begins to shake, my head swerves from left to right as if I’m stuck on  a spinning teacup ride.

I will not get dizzy. I will not panic.

I'm flyingFor someone who loves to travel, I despise flying. Each time I enter the stifling cocoon of an aircraft my breath begins to come in short gasps and I watch my hands as the grip and twist and fidget with anxiety.

I scramble for my earbuds, for my book, for anything to relieve the absolute panic I know is about to wash over me. It’s inevitable.

I’m flying. I’m released from the gravity that tethers me to my ordinary, everyday life. It feels like walking a slack line at first; I’m checking and rechecking for a diaper bag, I’m catching the eye of a toddler running away in my mind, I’m scanning for a plugged in teenager about to miss our boarding call. Strangely, they’re not there. I’m alone, feeling the float of lift off and gathering life from a new perspective.

It’s not exhilarating. To be honest, it’s unsettling.

This feeling of groundlessness unnerves me as we cruise along at 36k feet. Thankfully, the ride is smooth and my mind stills and wanders a bit.

I’m alone. Away from everything that tethers me to ME. I’m a stranger in a slew of travelers, incognito to everyone around me.

I could be an aging actress. A famous writer. A salesperson or an investment banker, or perhaps an editor or a restaurant chef or a politician.

I turn the pages of my novel to try and lose myself. It’s about a family of tinkers- travelers, nomads, those souls who wander but are not lost. Groundless, yet grounded. Their possessions with them always, settling briefly in one town and the next, they lead a decidedly unconventional lifestyle.

They’re outsiders, nudging the edges of discomfort as they roam.

I absolutely know that feeling.

Flying high in the sky, I can look back on my home and take in the vastness of our world. I can remove myself from my house and my street and my school and everything that is ordinary. I can become an outsider looking in.

I can see farther than I can imagine. I can revel in the anonymize of just being me. Jennifer. Mother, wife, daughter, sister, teacher, writer, friend.

The babies are crying in the back. I remember the weight of mine on my chest, nursing them to comfort so many years ago. I’m not that woman anymore, I remind myself. I can hardly remember her, it seems, outside of the visceral muscle memory of skin to skin, the sprawl of innocence spread alongside me. I’m flying and I’m weaving in and out of me, catching snippets of memories like I’ve just stumbled into a dream.

I’m flying, and I’m free of those old pulls of my ordinary self. I’m floating on my true nature, grabbing pieces of my life past, present and future.

Now, with only air beneath me, I’m unsupported, unrestricted. I’m free from my ordinary form, floating in a temporary state. It’s simultaneously unsettling and uncomfortable.

The pressure intensifies as we begin our descent to Salt Lake City and I breathe in slowly, then exhale. I pull Me back inside, I imagine the girl who will be waiting when I land. She’s a lot like me, but not quite. She’s her own, extraordinary, ordinary woman.

In and out, I prepare myself. It’s always bumpy on the landings.

Honestly, I need that jolt.

It’s sometimes hard to hit reality, isn’t it?

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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5 Years of Decembers

It’s been five and a half years since I started blogging; five Decembers that I’ve shared my stories with all of you, and 50 Decembers that I’ve been learning life’s lessons.

This December, I decided to look back and see what themes popped up during the final month of the past years, and I was both surprised and reassured when I saw my progression – and devastated that while I followed the thread of motherhood and memories in my posts, I also realized that every year has brought the loss of children.  Stepping back, I see the hopes and joys and sadnesses that parallel our ordinary lives.

I hope you enjoy my favorites from 2011-2015. Maybe you’ll re-read some favorites; perhaps you’ll discover we have more in common than you realized. Above all, may you experience the beauty of living the extraordinary in the ordinary, of loving fiercely and thinking deeply. Happy holidays, and thank you for sharing this journey with me.

2011: A Year Of Feeling Time Shift

Prom Night At Our Place 

“But what prom night really taught me this year is that belonging happens in many different ways.  The girls learned that they don’t need to be joined (literally or figuratively) with a boy to have fun.  The boys realized that if they ask, they have hope.  And now I know that I don’t really need to join anything to be important in my daughter’s life – by being myself she and her friends feel comfortable. Actions speak louder than words.  My house really is the place to be.”

Shifting Gears

“After driving through the mountains in the predawn hours, my son and I pass Donner Lake, and in that moment, as the water and sky met and steam hissed from its surface, I quickly stop the car. My brain pauses and we drink in the tranquility of the water before us. Silently I breathe deeply, wait, and shift back into gear with a new sense of calm.”

When You Wish Upon A Star

“As the sun rises over the mountain tops and the moon and stars fade for another day, once again I am challenged.  It is up to me to make my wish come true – no genie with a magic lantern or fairy godmother is in sight.  My wish remains inside my heart, but my actions I wear on my sleeve for everyone to see.”

Another Day

“Slowly he prepares for the snow, insisting on doing it alone.  His fuzzy brown head disappears beneath a royal blue helmet and goggles, contrasting the lime green and black of his jacket.  We kiss goodbye, my assurance I will be waiting for him when he returns.  It is dawn out, and he gets to have another day.

Yet as I sit by the window watching the sun crest the snow-covered hills, I cry for the mother and child who are apart, who will never feel their arms around each other again, and who cannot brush away each other’s tears.”

 

2012: Reflecting on Memories of Childhood and Tradition

Lily’s Apple Tart

This year, we decided to go simple yet elegant, and adapt a recipe from one of our favorites, Ina Garten.  Her apple tart just seemed like the perfect complement to a heavy dinner: sweet apples, flaky crust, and a tang of apricot jam make this simple dessert one you’ll want to try for any holiday gathering.  So grab your favorite baking partner, crank up the tunes, and have some fun!”

Just A Moment In Time

We stopped, you posed, we snuggled you between our legs, holding you tightly.  Never wanting to let go.  You raised your face to the sky and grinned with rapture. It was just one moment, really.  But I remember every detail.”

Christmas Tree Traditions

“I used to be a freaky mom.  Sixteen years ago, when I had my first child, I thought I could do it all.  Control it all.  Be the perfect parent.  I certainly had seen enough examples of what I considered ‘bad parenting’ – those kinds of adults who would make excuses for their kids, send them to school without their homework, and blame their teachers and the school for everything wrong in the world – plus some.”

47

My kids officially grew taller than me this year… I learned that letting go is growing forward. As I end 47 and open the chapter of 48, I think of all that I’ve experienced:  the children, parenting, family, teaching, education, memories and motherhood that blended themselves together and brought such lessons to me.”

Spending Time In The Snow

“And despite the struggle, the frustrations, and the hours and hours of driving – not to mention the ski race that was canceled, we ended up with a white Christmas after all.  And a whole bunch of memories, too.”

spending time

2013: A Year of Ski Racing and Empty Bedrooms

Morning Ritual of a Ski Racer Mama

“The alabaster snow catches a glint of moonlight out my window…savory bacon and eggs fold into warm flour tortillas with cheese as kids stumble downstairs in ski socks and fleece….boot bags bulge with gear.  Speed suits stretch over strong legs, and heavy parkas with hoods zip up as we push open the door. It’s time. Morning ritual of a ski racer mama.”

It’s A Different Kind of Christmas

“And every time I’ve walked through the door this month, I’ve plugged in the lights and sighed. I just can’t do it. The boxes of ornaments are still stacked in the dining room, unopened. And it’s December 23. This has never happened before. And I can’t blame it on holiday business, too many parties or anything else-except for one thing.”

retro Santa

2014: A Year of Change and Possibilities

Home

“The sun streamed in through her sliding glass door. It was mid-morning, and she already looked like she had never left for college. A wet towel hung over her pink desk chair, and her fuzzy sky-blue bathrobe still lay carelessly tossed on the floor. Her closet doors were flung open, and she rummaged around as she replied, “I don’t know. I didn’t pack much. I’m trying to figure out what to take home.”

My breath caught in my throat. Home?”

home

Birthdays

“I’m open to possibilities in this last-year-before-the-half-century. I’m open to quiet, to listening, to requesting and to hearing the Universe answer with guidance. Zora Neale Hurston wrote in one of my favorite books,Their Eyes Were Watching God, that “there are years that ask questions and years that answer.” I’m not sure what this year will offer me, but I’m ready to receive her whispers.”

birthdays

Two Kinds of Quiet

“There are two kinds of quiet. The kind of quiet when I hear the candles flicker, feel the crumbs drop onto my plate, and the Christmas music plays on and on and on. The kind of quiet that mothers dream of, and the kind they dread, one in the same.”

Interlude

“No, Mom, look.” Again and again his plaid Detroit Tigers sleep pants spun as he raised and lowered his body on one leg. “I’m getting there. I’m balancing, Mom – can’t you see? I haven’t been able to do this since the accident!”

She’s Nineteen, and She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

“I keep thinking that one day, you’ll understand the exquisite pain and pleasure of being a mom, and all my emotional antics will make sense. I hope that one day, when that thrill hits your heart when you see your baby living their life full of happiness and joy, you’ll understand why I have such trouble letting you go.”

me and my girl

In The Holiday Spirit

“Today, as the rain pours down the windowpane and the wind whips the trees around my house into a frenzy, I breathe, and pause, and think of them. I remember their love for each other, and for their families. I call in their spirits as my pen scratches gratitudes into my journal, filling the pages with small moments of the extraordinary ordinariness of my life, feeling their love, grateful for 50 years with their spirits by my side.”

50 years

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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