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.

primark

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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Determined To Do Less

This year, I am determined to be more unproductive. My goal is to do less and less – to move slower and slower until everything stops. I and the whole world will come to a sweet and silent stillness. And in this stillness, a great shout of joy will arise. We will all be free – free from the advice of ancient ages, free from the whining voices, free from the incessant objections of the responsible ones.

In this new world, it will be abundantly clear that the bare branches of the winter trees are our teachers. In their daily dance of moving here and there, we will see once again the true meaning of our life. In the wind song of their being, we will hear God’s unmistakable voice. We will follow what appears before us – what had once been difficult will now unfold with ease.

~ Hakuin Ekaku

 

I love this idea from Hakuin Ekaku of being determined to do less to do more. Being me, I’m on an endless quest for stimulation – my mind spins and cycles to the point where some days I feel like a pinball being batted around and never making it into the jackpot slot.

I cherish my still moments, my quiet times to center and breathe and just be. I know that it is precisely in those moments – usually early, before dawn, lit by candlelight and fueled by coffee, that I do my best thinking and find my best self. In these months of darkness and retreat, gazing out at the starkness of my backyard trees, watching the winter birds feast on seed and flit from bare branch to branch, I’m reminded that now is the time to think deeply, to listen, and not to miss the great joys that are right here, right now, in my life.

I’m determined to do less. What are you determined to do this year?

I found this poem on one of my favorite inspirational websites, First Sip.

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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My Favorite Moments of 2016 – In Photos

Even when I can’t find the time/inspiration/concentration to write, I try to always pay attention to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life. I used to print out all my photos, hand write captions in photo albums and stick the images onto the pages, gently smoothing back the plastic to protect the memories from sticky fingers turning pages. I think my last albums were from 2007, when I began collecting photos on floppy disks, then CDs and now in the cloud. I must say, while I don’t take quite as many snaps of my kids now that they’re teens, looking back on 2016 I am pleased that I caught so many of these ordinary moments that might have otherwise slipped my short-term memory. I’m grateful to be able to share my favorite moments of 2016 with you. Thank you for being part of my mamawolfe community, for your thoughts and comments and likes and shares. I’m looking forward to thinking deeply, loving fiercely and teaching audaciously with you in 2017,

Thank you for being part of my mamawolfe community, for your thoughts and comments and likes and shares. I’m looking forward to thinking deeply, loving fiercely and teaching audaciously with you in 2017,

December – I don’t always remember to have a family photo taken on Christmas, but this year we all managed to squeeze onto our sofa. As the kids get older, these moments of togetherness become so treasured. I wrote about turning 51 and my nightmares about the election results. As I love to do, I’ll ring in the new year in the mountains with these three people that make my life so extraordinary.

November – I always think of my son as a wanderer; he loves to go alone, to explore, to get lost in the moment. This image of him on Carmel beach was exactly one of those moments; we were all up at the car and I had to go back to search for him. I stood and snapped this photo without him noticing; so grateful for these small moments as reminders to slow down and just be. I wrote a bit about the presidential election, teaching, and the not-so-ordinary month of November.

October – To be honest, this photo just makes me smile. I went back to San Diego for a conference this fall – I say back, because in the late 1980s I made S.D. my home. I’m a completely different girl now, but I still find myself most comfortable hanging out with people who think out of the box. This night was a good reminder to remember who I am and what I believe in, always. This month I wrote from the heart about teaching and Trump.


September – When my kids were little, I loved throwing birthday parties for them. We invited the whole family, ate and drank and celebrated together in our backyard. These days, birthdays are celebrated much more quietly. September is always a month of new beginnings when you live as a teacher – and this year, we celebrated Cam turning 17. Bittersweet moments – he reminded me the countdown now begins to adulthood and leaving home. Glad one of us is excited about that! I only wrote a little – a sharing of a favorite Mary Oliver poem.

August – This summer, my two babies took off on a solo backpacking adventure – they hiked and camped and drove all around Wyoming, just enjoying being together. Although I didn’t hear from them too much, and I worried more than I should have, the moment they texted me this photo I knew that all would be well. I feel such gratitude that although they’re not living in the same home anymore, they love each other this much. I wrote about family time in Tahoe, sending my girl back to college for her third year, an awesome trip to Blog Her in L.A., and how much I love my ordinary life.

July – I love traveling, but I equally love spending time at home. July started off on a trip with Lily to Capital Reef National Park in Utah, but I found most of my mid-summer days best spent at home, surrounded with love in my garden, with my books, my dog and my family.

June – We celebrated Lily’s return from  hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain and her turning 20. The shooting in Orlando left me feeling sad about the fragility of life and committed to help end gun violence. I finished school, and spent the month reflecting and resting.

May – It’s always a good month when I can dig in the garden. This year, Cam and I planted and tended a veggie and herb garden – and were surprised with gourds sprouting up, too! I wrote about being healthy, stepping out of my comfort zone, finding wholeness and that curious moment in motherhood when you realize that your children are capable of taking care of themselves – and you.

The Only Appropriate Response Is Gratefulness

April – Another rare moment of togetherness in our backyard garden; the month of April made me weep more than once over the fierce love I have for my children. I thought and wrote about the fleetingness of this life, of gratitude for the smallest of moments, and of intuition and being in the moment.

March – I wrote a lot about motherhood, working and mothering, and equal rights. We had a rare ski day together at Tahoe; rare because I actually skied with my kids rather than watch them fly down a race course!

February – I found myself taking daily walks, searching for some center. My girl got a ‘real’ job, I hunkered down at home and read a lot of poetry from Mary Oliver, Jane Candida Coleman and Thich Nhat Hanh.

January – I was looking for joy everywhere – it was a hard month. Concussions, avalanches, and loss were surrounding me. I tried to focus inward, to be present and to pay attention to the beauty around me.

 

I’d love to continue this amazing life journey with you over on Instagram – you can find me at mamawolfeto2.

All the best,

Jennifer

 

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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Alone And Lost In A New York City Nightmare

It’s broad daylight on an ordinary day…or so I think. Over the loudspeaker, the emergency message screams to “pack all your belongings and get out!” Disoriented, I spin and spin until I realize I’m alone and lost in a New York City nightmare, away from my family.

Why am I here? My mind races to center, to grasp any sense of normal.

I can’t move fast enough, and I’m isolated. My children…..I can’t find you. You’ve disappeared, dissolving into a murky future that doesn’t make sense. Why can’t I find you? I always, always know where you are. 

Frantically I search for everything I know to be real. I’m in my house now, pawing through my childhood treasures, scooping figurines and trinkets with broad strokes into a bag as would a burglar. With each movement, my mind flashes back to small moments of beauty, happiness and joy. Where to begin, where to end? The clay figurines, so thoughtfully crafted with childhood fingers…the bookmarks they made in preschool, the framed photos of us smiling at the parade. 

I move from room to room wondering where I will put all this, what bag or box will be big enough, sturdy enough, to contain all that is dear to me. What will I forget? How will I choose what to carry? What will I leave behind, remnants of everything I once had?

I think of my husband, thirty years of him by my side, and I return for more. Remember my wedding dress, our box of letters from college. Our rings – I must get our rings. My children – where are you? Desperately, I run down the hall to their room…but it’s not there. I’m somewhere else, someplace I don’t recognize. Have I been here before?

Breathe…think. You can do this. Opening the door, I’m outside. The sun beams down as I approach the outdoor cafe. I see the complacency on their faces, the men who sit outside with their coffee and cigarettes. They smile, the edges of their mouth crinkling up in dominance. They know they’ve won. They think they’ve got this. They wouldn’t let

Right and left, I see bodies fleeing in desperation, moving chaotically as they search for helpers. I know I can’t be the only one…just breathe. Say excuse me, there must be some mistake. I just need to get past you…

They wouldn’t let me, though. They chuckle, and remind me to hold close to what care about – they are coming, and I’ll need my armor. This battle will be relentless.

Squinting at their glare, I contemplate my next move. They’re running now,  saw small pods of people flowing down streets and alleyways, towing bags and boxes of their lives. I feel my anxiety throb, my chest heaving for air. My hair covers my face, my hands strain to hold tight. I’m lost, alone, petrified.

 I stretch, desperate to see over their heads…swiveling to my left as the formation, comes towards me. I freeze, pulling my life towards my mouth paralyzed with terror…

I shoot out of bed, fumbling for my pulse. This is it. It was pitch black as I run for the front window, pull open the curtain and gazed out at the empty street. Silence. I’m alone. A shiver runs down my spine as the wind picks up, rustling the ocher leaves down the deserted sidewalk.

Pulling the down comforter guardedly under my chin, I withdraw to my refuge. My pulse calms as I settle in. I am home. Motionless, my body stills. I make out the quiet breathing echoing down the hall. Cola cocks one eye towards me from his dog bed, then gently settles down with a sigh. All is as I know it to be in this moment.

No more watching the news before bed, I promise as I will myself to sleep.

 

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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For All The Little Girls Who Are Watching This Election

my dreamers, 2000
my dreamers, 2000

For all the little girls who are watching this election,

My 20 year-old daughter voted in her first election this year. She’s practicing ‘adulting’ – she learned how to register, how to complete her ballot and vote early.

She grew up in house with vocal, political parents but in her own quiet way, she listened and absorbed the importance of using her voice.

My son is just shy of voting age. When he was little I remember him arguing with adults against George Bush. He used to hum the NPR song, and like so many children, developed views that similarly aligned to his parents’.

Last night my daughter began texting me about the returns. Although she knew her state would go red, she was scared. I tried to be optimistic, but my own fears were beginning to cascade and eventually, I dozed off. I couldn’t take it anymore.

It was unbelievable.

I slept fitfully, wondering if when I woke there would be some chance that the election would have gone our way. I wished for an intervention, for a collective ‘coming to our senses’ that never happened.

Her early morning text woke me up.

I wasn’t sure what to say, or how to convince her that everything would be OK. I scrambled my thoughts together and reminded her of all the kind people in the world. To surround herself with friends, and to work harder to help those up that others want to take down. I told her to watch Hillary’s concession speech; I thought it might help. I hoped. I reminded her that not everyone voting for him voted for his racist and sexist and bigoted policies, but that they voted for what he thought he represented, despite how he has shown us who he is.

My 17 year-old son stumbled into the room, hair tousled from sleep. He told me that last night, just as he was going to bed, he heard commotion from the nearby college campus. He heard changing: “F-D-T” and Snapchatted a college friend who confirmed the protest march happening. He said he had wanted to go, but didn’t. And as grateful as I was that he hadn’t left the house at midnight, secretly I would have understood.

I told him that as a white male he has privilege, not necessarily deserved privilege, and if there was any time to protest, it was now. I reminded him that he must work harder now to show kindness and compassion and prove that he isn’t aligned with the bigot America elected.

I’ve always been a listener, a people watcher. I grew up in the same idyllic California town where I now raise my own children. I wasn’t raised by especially political parents, and for most of my childhood I was reluctant to use my voice. I was shy and quiet and would much rather watch than participate.

It was the 1984 elections that woke me up – the moment when I realized what Reaganism really was and that I had to make some adult decisions about who I was and what I believed in. And my opinions lost, by a landslide.

I realized that adulting was hard, and that people didn’t always agree with me – even in my own family.

But I kept on voting, and talking, and standing up for what I believe in. I knew my children were watching.

So today, I’ve been letting the election news sit with me. I’ve been thinking about how to put my thoughts down in a way that might do justice to the overwhelming sense of sadness and fear I have. I’ve been scanning Facebook and online news and trying to think about what meaning I can make of all this.

And I’ve realized that so much of my sadness comes from the loss of a dream – a dream that my children would grow up always seeing our values validated in our country. That despite working and raising children for two decades, I could launch them into adulthood with confidence that the world would be somehow different – that my children wouldn’t feel the same sting of sexism I’ve felt, or live in a world where one of them would be paid more than the other. I’m grieving the lost ideals I had that not only would they grow up in a country that operated on shared beliefs of equity and fairness and Supreme Court decisions that could impact them and their generation. I’m sad that this election won’t show my children that the world they will be adulting in isn’t moving forward, but that half of America is merely showing them who they really are – and that they should believe them.

Watching Hillary’s concession speech did help us. As expected, she showed us who she really is – and that’s when my tears began to fall. But they weren’t tears for her, of for me, or for my mother or grandmother. When Hillary began to close her speech I cried tears for my children – for all children – who are learning to be an adult the hard way and I cried for “…all of the little girls who are watching this, (to) never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

We didn’t get to watch the glass ceiling being broken. We didn’t see our family values upheld, nor did we see a tough mama elected – and we didn’t see that love trumps hate –  not yet.

                                               

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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