My Little Girl Got A Real Job

“Sweetie, I just wanted you to wake up and know how proud I am of you. You took a big step, a big risk, and it paid off with a new adventure! You are so awesome!” read the text that I sent my little girl last week. We live in different states, different time zones now, and as any parent-of-teenagers know, the way to their attention is through a text, not a phone call.

I was just so proud I could burst, so texting seemed like my only release valve.

“Thanks, Mom,” she eventually replied. Not exactly the enthusiasm I was hoping for, but at least, I got some contact across the miles.

This text was during the aftermath of some particularly crappy, devastating weeks in our ski community, and having my little girl so far away was leaving me feeling raw and vulnerable. I wanted her close enough to hug. I wanted to hold her hand and look into her eyes and know that she was going to be OK. Her news that her college advisor had recommended her for her first ‘real’ paid internship was a bright light in the darkness – and it left my little girl feeling worried about her first job interview.

Do you remember that queasy feeling before you stepped into the adult world? Do you remember your heart pounding, wondering what will you say, and will you have the right answers? Did your hands start to tremble when you walked in the door, wondering if they’ll try to stump you or quiz you or just stare blindly until you want to scream for mercy and run out of the room?

Clearly, I’ve had some nerve-wracking interviews in my time…

But I knew this job was perfect for her – working at the Alumni House of her college, doing print and graphics and creating and managing events. Yes, she’s just starting her Communications major and yes, she is on the edge of a huge learning curve, but she met all the requirements (knowledge of InDesign, Photoshop) and has a smile that can make people forget their worries – I told her to go for it.

She listened to her mama.

When she was close enough to hug.
When she was close enough to hug.

All the memories of my nineteen-year-old self came flooding back – that time in March 1985 when life was shifting and I needed to find a job for my green-haired alternative self, and I walked into a cafe and convinced them I could make a cappuccino…and somehow, rose to the spot of manager. That job, back when I was 19 and so unsure of my future, made all the difference to my future; not because I ended up running a cafe, but because when I knew someone believed in me, I believed in myself.

Of course, as her mom, I was convinced that she was perfect for the job. I just needed to convince HER that she was perfect.

Enter the marathon texting conversations, mix in a few ‘live’ calls, and next thing I knew, she was done with her interview (I told her NOT to wear jeans – is that old school of me?) and to let them know she was bilingual (thank you, Spanish Immersion) and to smile, be friendly, and above all, be honest.

Basically, show her  she just needed to let her awesomeness shine.

After a stressful weekend creating their ‘test’ assignment, convincing her that she knew what she was going, sending a ‘thank you for interviewing me’ email (people still do that, right?), she crossed her fingers….and got the job! Starting immediately – year round.

Wait – what?

So this is what happens when your college kid suddenly finds herself in real life, with a real job, living 650 miles away from home.

My little girl got a real job. She’s creating an adult life, and even though I’m not right there, close enough to hug, I can text and emoji with the best of them.

But most of all, I can stand back and watch, smile, and see my pride ooze out of every pore of my being.

It’s not easy having your little girl move away from home, but sometimes it feels like she’s going to be just fine on her own.

Congratulations, baby Wolfe. Once again, you make your mama proud.

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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Summer Isn’t Just For Vacation

Summer vacation is almost here – teachers- are you dreaming about your summer vacation yet?


Growing. Trusting. Dreaming (big). Discovering. Feeling alive. Blooming.

The verbs jump from the calendar as I turn the page to August. Yes, yes, yes! Kelly Rae Roberts may not be a classroom teacher, but her artwork aligns with exactly what I’m feeling this month as I transition away from my only school-free days (July) and into a month of endings, movement, preparation and goodbyes.

Summer vacation is a teacher’s curse and blessing, all wrapped up in one big present you’re not always sure you want to open. For teachers, summer isn’t just for vacation.

I’ve always lived by the school calendar; I’ve never had a ‘real’ job that wasn’t in education, and I mark the passing of time by the start and end of the academic year. January may be the time for most people to make new year’s resolutions, to reflect and reminisce and plan and prepare, but for teachers, that happens as the August days sizzle, the vacations are in the rear-view mirror and the summer mornings still offer time for quiet contemplation.

Map Maker's Children book

Since my first official teaching year started in 1991, August has been bittersweet; the slowness of hot July days or travel to exciting locations has dwindled into something more real. The teacher dreams begin, so familiar yet absurd; not being able to find my classroom, suddenly teaching Spanish, or being unable to literally see my students due to the reconfigured classroom and the complete classroom chaos caused by custodians insisting on vacuuming in the middle of class to prepare for the ‘dress rehearsal’ haunt my sleep. The summer vacationto-do list, looking so ambitious and completely possible in mid-June, now is merely a half completed reminder of all I didn’t do. I quickly count down the ‘free’ days I have left, knowing that most of them will be consumed with lesson planning and classroom cleaning and meetings and meetings and more meetings, until one day the alarm will scream and I’m back in the rhythm of school.

At the risk of sounding ungrateful for the summertime freedom, I am not – without the unscheduled days of July, I’m not sure I could have sustained this job for two decades. After nine months of living by school bells that tell me when to talk, when to move, when to pee and when to eat, the endless moments of absolutely no expectation are sheer bliss.

on top of a NY mountain

They are the days I grow and dream, the hours I discover myself again away from my ‘teacher’ persona. They are the moments for my children, for me, for feeling alive and allowing my passions to bloom outside of the classroom. Summer mornings spent digging in the dirt of my garden, righting the chaos I allowed to grow forth in the spring, rejuvenate my spirit. Hiking seaside trails with my children, the wind on my face and the sun on my shoulders, restores my connection to the world. Baking bread and cookies and creating a meal full of love, my daughter by my side, deepen my relationships.

Summer vacation squashes into six to eight weeks of restoration, moments of anticipation that began last October. That’s when the back-to-school adrenaline usually wears off (for me and the students) and I begin making my ‘that-can-wait-til-vacation’ list, tasks that require more concentration/dedication/money/brain power than the weekends from September to June offer. Teaching isn’t just a 7-3 kind of a job, after all.

So as I turn the calendar one more page, I’m struggling with what-has-yet-to-be-done. The to-do list sits half completed. The days with my girl dwindle before she moves away again, and I find myself choosing between her and it. I know the moments are precious; I know that the filing can wait. I trust that I still have growing and dreaming and discovering to do.

Summer isn’t just for vacation. Summer is for feeling alive, for blooming back into me.

Summer Isn't Just For Vacation

 

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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What Would You Do If You Were Guaranteed Success?

What would you do if you were guaranteed success?

Would your life be very different from the way it is now?

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If I were guaranteed success….

I would create the perfect cup – or cups – of coffee, deliberately grinding the beans,

hovering over the red kettle as it rises to just before a boil,

grab it, and pour with gusto.

 

I’d exuberantly throw open the windows, welcoming the morning birdsong from my upstairs desk,

pull the blanket over my lap and scribble my thoughts with my cherished black pen,

and the words would fall into place…

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You’d see me wearing the slightly higher heeled boots with black tights,

not worrying about being on my feet all day

or if I could gracefully ride my bike to work.

 

If I were guaranteed success…

I would call and text her every morning and each night

just to check in and see what life is like so far away,

and send her a few dollars for fresh fruit.

 

I would zip up my ski parka and snap into my bindings,

jump into the race course and fly down the hill-

my smile blinding the spectators on the sidelines…

 

then go home to create the perfect tiramisu for her birthday party,

not buying any ingredients  fat-free, sugarless or on sale,

and sit by her side savoring every exquisite bite.

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If I were guaranteed success…

I would find a way to make a living

that doesn’t trade time and flexibility for income,

and no grouchy, uptight parents would tell me how to do it.

 

I’d buy a fast laptop

lock myself high up in the mountains or on a seaside cliff,

turning pictures into words, memories into stories

smiling broadly every morning….

 

opening the chest of love letters from long ago,

letting the words and memories pour into my heart-

dripping through my veins and onto a page

for you to read.

 

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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Halloween Costumes: Moments I Thought Would Never End

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All I wanted to find were the pumpkin lights to hang outside. It was Saturday and finally felt like fall. Hurriedly, I cracked open the plastic box and smiled as obnoxiously bright orangish-red curls exploded into my face. She was about 11 when she wore that, I thought. I never saw that coming – she was usually so reserved, so modest. I unwound a sparkly silver and pink princess tiara caught in the curls and slipped back in time to moments I thought would never end, to those October afternoons spent nurturing her dreams, spent coaxing out another side of herself.

The plastic presidential hopeful mask came next, squished under a handmade ceramic black cat. Not too long ago he confidently walked the town with his ‘binder-full-of-women’, confusing most children but eliciting guffaws from the adults.

He always had a dry sense of humor, even at ten. I didn’t realize then that it would be his last one.

She started as a teddy bear, snuggled up in gender-neutral brown furry suit that partially covered her bald four-month-old head. At the last minute I remember pinning on a tiny pink polka-dotted bow just for fun.

I had no idea when I first zipped him into his chili pepper suit at five-weeks-old what he would dream about fifteen years later. His tiny, premature body sunk into the red felt; only his generously-sized head kept the costume from slipping off entirely.

witch and chili pepper costume

At three she refused to remove her fire-engine red patent leather boots, so my sister created a masterful ladybug backpack when, worn over black leggings and a long sleeve turtleneck, showcased her rapidly energetic personality. Amazingly, the headband antennae stayed atop her head the entire day.

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I think Bob-The-Builder was his favorite. Never had I seen him believe so strongly in his alter-ego. He scurried around town that year in his plastic yellow helmet, tools banging against his little overall-clad legs, singing at the top of his lungs.

He wore that yellow hat until it cracked in half and no duct tape would keep it together. That was a sad day.

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I unfold a tiny white hand print nestled in bubble wrap, ceramic edges rough enough to reveal the artist’s age. I nestle my fingers into hers. She really was that small, wasn’t she?

I don’t remember every costume in between. There were dozens between the two of them – spiders and firefighters, Dorothy and several witch variations – even George Bush during the election years (my son’s wry sense of humor). Now, those moments are buried, memories triggered by photos in an album or a glimpse of glitter at the bottom of the box. They are all there, somewhere, stored in a place where they can be retrieved someday, but not everyday. Was her last one in high school, dressed as a cowgirl with her best friend? How could I forget the pirate in rubber fireboots? How have these moments escaped me? Extraordinary in their ordinariness, they flicker with time like a fading, silent movie reel.

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This may be the first year without costumes. They’ve both moved on, figuring out who they are and living their dreams in reality, without masks or face paint. Her tiara still shines on her head 600 miles away – I’m sure of that.

And so the years melted together, moments of Halloween joy captured behind glass and squished into plastic boxes. Not sure why, or what I think I’ll do with those fading clown wigs or teeny tiny hula skirts. All I do know for sure are those moments, those ordinary days in the life of a young mother, mark the extraordinary unfolding of a life I had no idea was happening. These are the moments I will look back on with wonder, moments I wish could have lasted just a second longer. Moments I wish I knew how much I would miss.

We hung the pumpkin lights ourselves this year, just the two of us. At twilight they make me smile. I hope some other young mom to pauses for a moment outside our front walk, glimpses at their beauty, and hugs her baby in the beauty of the moment. No selfies, no photos. Just a simple hug, maybe a kiss to the forehead, and a memory to etch in her heart.

Dear readers, what ordinary moments do you remember from Halloween costumes? Please share in the comments!

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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Broken

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~Ernest Hemingway

“Hi, Jennifer. This is Coach Karen. How are you?”

I knew when I heard her voice that this was not the call I wanted to receive. It was 9:00 on a beautiful Sunday morning, and I had just pedaled my bike into my driveway. We were celebrating that warm, sunny morning – an early breakfast out followed by a ride around the duck ponds, just chatting and excited about the day. Our girl was returning home after a summer away working in Oregon, and we were counting down the minutes until we would drive to the airport. I had a morning’s worth of preparation before our ‘empty nest’ would start to fill again.

It was that kind of morning when it was hard to feel anything but happy.

“I’m fine…how are you?”

This felt strange – I had never spoken to Karen before. I’d never even met her – we only knew her as the new coach.

“Well, I’m afraid Cameron has had an accident. He’s loading into the toboggan now. We’ll let you know more once we get to ski patrol, but we think his leg is broken.”

I sank to the stability of the black metal porch chair. No. Wait. What?

“Did he hit his head? Is he conscious?” My mind was racing to the worst possible scenario. I’m good at that.

“He’s awake. It’s just his leg. They’re taking him down now, but…they wouldn’t have said that if they didn’t think it was broken. I’m sorry. I’ll keep in touch.”

It was the phone call no mom wants to get – the call that says your baby is hurting, your baby needs you, and you’re 600 miles away.

I’m one of those moms who goes to every game, every race, every meet. I could count on one hand how many times I’ve missed a competition. I’ve dug my nails into my skin when there have been falls and crashes, and whispered quiet thanks whenever they’ve gotten up and back on course.

This time, I wasn’t there. As my stomach began to clench, tears began to flow. Then I sprang into action.

I’ve been struggling to write about this for weeks, which is strange to me – writing is my meditation, my coping mechanism, my way of digging through this life and coming out the other end. Somehow, the words churned in my mind but couldn’t find their way to the paper; instead, they remained trapped inside, almost as if writing them would make them real. As if I just kept them in the safety of my mind, they would transform into a bad dream. I would wake up, rewind back to our bike ride and our conversation about the future…I could pick up my Sunday to-do list, change the sheets, buy the groceries, bake her favorite pumpkin scones and head to the airport full of joy at seeing my girl and spending her last ten days together before she left for college.

Instead, time stopped. His body was broken. Broken badly.

broken tibia at Mt. Hood

The days passed in a whirl of plane flights, painful drives and hovering over my son as I hadn’t since he was born. I had surrendered, placing him in another mother’s care until I could reach his side. My gratitude was endless, my heartache terminal. I had entered a parenting sphere which tilted me on my axis, tossing me in a sea of emotion. Every part of me wanted to suck up his pain, to make it my own. To fix his broken leg and mend his broken dreams.

But all I could do was look at what was right in front of me – a boy, my son, in pain and in need of care. In survival mode, I was unable to look past the next hour, the end of the day. This broken leg had simultaneously broken long-held dreams, had cracked the future just big enough to keep me from wasting one second on it. When tears welled up I called for gratitudes – three, right now. It became our ‘thing’. It became our way of making that moment ok. My fourteen year old, once so gloriously independent, had been reduced to asking me for nearly everything. Humbling, to say the least – for both of us.

Humbling, in that the very struggle I find myself chasing every day had now been taken away – another struggle in its place, but for these moments, I was present. My boy, me, and the gift of time together. A broken leg had shattered dreams and shuttered any thoughts beyond right now.

As the weeks have passed, we’ve returned to a ‘new normal’. My girl got to college, I made it back to school, and Cam passed the first hurdle and replaced his full leg cast with a short one. Our days are filled with lesson plans, laundry, walking the dog, homework and dishes, and our nights are peaceful. We’ve learned how to navigate these new moments, and find joy in the smallest of blessings – a pain free day, ‘walking’ on a cast, and watching movies side by side.

first day of school, on crutches

And in the mysterious way that the Universe has of giving me just what I need, just when I need it, the talented writer/mom Katrina Kenison posted on her blog. Turns out, her summer has been ‘broken’ too. As I read her words, I finally found my own. She writes,

Even so, finding meaning in a situation that seems utterly meaningless, random, and unfair is hard, slow work. The “new normal” keeps changing. It’s human nature to want answers and plans and promises. And instead we have only the present moment, mystery, and hope. (Of course, we’re kidding ourselves if we think any life is predictable, any outcome assured, any promise a guarantee.) But slowly, bit by bit, the incomprehensible becomes more manageable.”

Right now, answers and plans and promises are for another day. Right now, right this moment, as he sits behind his closed bedroom door, homework completed with music shaking the walls, I know all is well. I know he is here, safe, and moving forward. I know, although broken, slowly, bit by bit, he is becoming whole again. And slowly, bit by bit, so am I.

Isn’t that all that matters?

 

 

 

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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