Finding The Extraordinary In The Ordinary October Moments

Don’t you just love the extraordinary moments in October? In northern California where I live, we do have a bit of a ‘fall’ season – and this year we’ve already seen some rain. I’ve been digging in – literally and figuratively – this month. Teaching middle school means that the first couple of months are crucial for setting up for success, so I’ve been digging deep to build relationships and think carefully about how to be my best in the classroom every day. At home, digging in my garden has given me a chance to clean up from the summer and prepare for the beauty of next spring. I love the cycles of life – keeps things interesting!

I wrote an October newsletter – you can view it here – and thought I’d show you what life has been like around here, and why I’ve slowed down my writing! I’ve been pretty active on Instagram – I’d love to connect with you there, too! @mamawolfeto2

veggies
End of summer harvest – peppers of all varieties, kale, tomatoes and gourds!
walking shadow
Walking…feeds my spirit.
Gourds
Gourds went crazy in our garden…I marveled at the colors, textures and intricacy of nature’s beauty.
AVID
AVID. Fuels my soul, makes me really feel like I can help change happen. I invited all AVID students, families, and tutors for a gathering in my classroom Thursday night. It was awesome!
Chromebooks
My students love to cuddle. I thought they looked like pomegranate seeds on Chromebooks. You can’t tell that they were reading heavy text about North Korea and comparing it to the society in The Giver.
quotes
I love quotes. Every month my planner gives me a good one, and I try to follow its advice.
garden
My garden is my solace, my stress reliever, my chance to create a little beauty. This month our arboretum had two plant sales, and I stocked up. Can’t wait to see the spring blooms!
firewood
I did it all by myself. Stocking up for winter fires and snuggly mornings.
San Diego
Once upon a time I lived in San Diego. I went back for a #gafesummit, and found a party in Balboa Park!
friends
My daughter and her daughter have been best friends since grade school. No wonder I like her so much! Great travel partner to #gafesummit on Coronado Island!
aunt
Everyone has that one crazy aunt, right???? #love
Grand Canyon
Meanwhile, my daughter’s adventures continued during her fall break trip to the Grand Canyon with her dad…
bike
I’ve ridden my bike to work every day so far this school year – this ride was the wettest one to date. Note the garbage bag my husband used to lovingly cover my teaching bag!
Socktober
Have you heard of Socktober? My AVID classes have collected nearly 500 pairs of socks for our local homeless shelter. It’s an easy way to pay it forward.

What were the extraordinary, ordinary moments of your October? I’d love to hear what’s filling your days and feeding your spirit!

 

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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life's other half

Being Reminded Of Life’s Other Half

Last weekend we remembered and rejoiced the life of a young man who died in an avalanche last winter. His tragic passing rattled any sense of security I was feeling about my own children on the mountain, out doing what they love and the possibility…

There, under the spectacular azure sky painted with swirling clouds, surrounded by oak trees and rolling expanses of green grass, we were reminded of life’s other half – the part where we question, and cry, and consider why.

life's other half

Carson was a young man, just entering adulthood, happy, healthy and loved. He was exploring life – creating a life – to be lived on his terms.

He was a man I’d watched over the years, sharing my school, karate and ski racing communities.

I remember him from karate classes, his tall, skinny frame clad in a white gi as he willed himself through an arduous black belt test with my son. I remember his legs in horses stance for what seemed like hours, trembling with determination.

I remember his curly, dirty blonde hair and shy glances when I’d see him in the hallways at school. Never his teacher, I still tried to draw him out and connect when I could. He was a shy one back then.

I think about him on the ski race course, carefully navigating slalom turns with the concentration of a scientist studying his experiment. I can see his mother’s smile as he watched him cross the finish line, or persevere through the final round of push-ups, sweat dripping off his face and legs and arms quivering under the pressure.

And looking up at the clouds, I think about the lessons we learn through life’s other half.

His service, full of music and love, reminded me of those ordinary moments we spend with people we love, and that in the face of their absence, we realize how prophetically purposeful they can be. Songs we loved, poetry we aligned with and talks along the beach or on a mountain top that at the time we knew were special, but when in the midst of life’s other half we realize were profound.

Carson’s memorial reminded me of my gratitude for the extraordinary in the ordinary every day. For the love of family, friends and community that surround us. And for the generosity of the universe, to open up the skies, to fill them with clouds and sunlight, and the reminder that we are all here for such brief, sparkling, exquisite moments together.

I hadn’t seen Carson for awhile. I was happy to hear he’d joined up with the ski team again, now as a coach, and he was happily living and working in Tahoe. In so many ways, he was just a regular human, finding his way and discovering who he was.

He was living life generously, with delight.

I am not saying that we should love death,

but rather that we should love life so generously,

without picking and choosing,

that we automatically include it (life’s other half) in our love.

This is what actually happens in the great expansiveness of love,

which cannot be stopped or constricted.

It is only because we exclude it that death becomes more and more foreign to us and,

ultimately,

our enemy.

It is conceivable that death is infinitely closer to us than life itself…

What do we know of it?

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

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 Only Thing You Shouldn’t Miss-According To Oprah & Me

The other night I sat at our dining room table, across from my daughter and her forever friend, A. It was late, and everyone else in the house had long since gone to sleep. As tired as I was, I couldn’t pull myself away from the moment – the chance to look across at them, remembering their fourth-grade sleepover faces and times before life threw boys and jobs and college and adulthood in their path.

I could see it in their eyes. They’re feeling the insidious creep of growing up, the heaviness of choices that at times seem overwhelming and exhilarating all at once.

I wasn’t exactly sure how much to say. I didn’t want to sound preachy or teacher-like. They both passed my 8th grade English class long ago.

So I listened. I hesitated, I looked in their eyes as they shared their fears and hopes, and finally, I took a breath and broke in.

Life isn't always a clear path ahead.
Life isn’t always a straight path ahead.

“I’m proud of you, you know,” I said, pushing my glasses to the top of my head. “It takes guts to listen to your heart. It takes a lot of courage to admit that the path you’re on isn’t the path that you want – that where you thought you wanted to go when you were 17 might not be the destination you want to head in right now. And that’s ok.”

They both looked down and back up at me. “Thanks, mamawolfe,” A. replied. I couldn’t tell if she was going to smile or cry.

“Life isn’t always a straight path. In fact, for most of the people I know, life was a curvy, squiggly, up and down and all around kind of a journey – especially in college. The idea that someone could know enough about themselves to make a decision about their future when they’re only 17 is crazy – you should know that decisions can be changed, courses can be altered, and if you listen to your gut and trust the journey, everything will work itself out.” My words hung there for a minute until the corners of their mouths started to turn up, their eyes met mine, and by the end, the three of us had exhaled.

I watched as they hugged and whispered goodbye, promised to see each other soon and that they would miss each other.

The only thing you shouldn’t miss

Later that night, after I’d tucked my girl in and kissed her goodnight, I was browsing online and came across Oprah Winfrey’s quote, “The only thing you shouldn’t miss is what matters to you”.

I know – you’re saying ‘easier said than done, Oprah’ right about now, aren’t you?

Of course, we shouldn’t miss what matters to us. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it. Why would we spend our time paying attention to those things that in the long run really don’t mean a thing?

But why do we miss it so often, then? What does matter most, I wonder?

These are the kinds of things I think about when I’m taking my dog for long walks. Or lying under the air conditioner on a hotel room bed, alone. Or when my hands are immersed in sudsy, grapefruit scented warm water and I’m unconsciously scrubbing the remnants of last night’s pasta sauce off the Teflon coated pan. Definitely when I’m elbow deep in dirt and weeding in my garden.

One thing you shouldn't miss- spring flowers in your garden.
One thing you shouldn’t miss- spring flowers in your garden.

When I was in my twenties, what was mattering most to me? Did I even know?  I remember feeling like my two girls did tonight – the fear, the insecurity, the cold sweats and second thoughts and absolute stupefaction over what life had in store for me once I graduated from college.

I stumbled alone, crossing my fingers and hoping the Universe would reveal the shortcut I needed to take to get where I thought I should be. It wasn’t a straight line for me, either. The circuit was tumultuous, terrifying and exhilarating, for sure, and for the last 25 years, I’ve towed the line in teaching.

All along, I’ve been trying to figure out just what Oprah reminded me of – what matters most.

Maybe it’s turning 50 this year, or perhaps it’s been watching my daughter move away and my son battle health challenges that has cleared the path for me. Because today, more than ever, I’m realizing that the words I shared at my dining room table were words I needed to remind myself – “It takes guts to listen to your heart. It takes a lot of courage to admit that the path you’re on isn’t the path that you want.”

The passageway of my life is narrowing with age, but widening with perspective. I know now, more than ever, that listening to my intuition and trusting the journey is the route before me.

I know that like the crack of daylight at dawn, it’s the glorious moments of each day, the little extraordinary ordinary moments that offer a glimpse into the world, are what matters to me.

These are the only things you shouldn’t miss.

The only thing you shouldn't miss
Just an ordinary, extraordinary moment with my two babies- what matters most.

 

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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Friday Photo: It’s Just Like Life

fall trees in California

It was the juxtaposition here that caught my eye; the hovering between the change of seasons, between permanence and the fleetingness of the moment. I ride by these trees every day, hurrying to school, never stopping to look up or notice.

It wasn’t until this month, when the light changed and the air cooled that I really noticed them – that I really stopped, looked up, and paused. It was the position, really, between the durability of the palm with its strong backbone, its wide, graceful fronds against the fragility of the pistache, finger-thin branches freeing themselves of vibrant red and yellow and orange debris.

It’s just like life.

One minute, we’re enduring life, riding the bumps and bruises and crests of the moment. We’re holding fast, occasionally throwing our arms up in glee, knowing that the immutability of what we know to be real is there to keep us safe. Strong. Comforted.

And right next to us, close enough to touch, a blaze is extinguished. A force at once vibrant and animated, slowly shedding its color in preparation for the next season. The next stage. To go dormant, to conserve its energy for what is yet to come. Fragile. Fleeting.

Both equally exquisite. Both equally elusive. Both equally extraordinary.

It’s just like life.

So I stopped my bike and snapped a photo.

Friday photos are a snapshot of life, a moment in time, an image that lingers. They’re my attempt at capturing the extraordinary in the ordinary – taking a pause to breathe in the moment in this wild and fleeting life.

p.s. – I think you might enjoy these Friday Photo moments from weeks gone by, when I captured a last gasp of summer, Dia de los Muertos and a harvest. Click over and take a look, and please, let me know what you think.

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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Something – Anything – Pumpkin

Trader Joe's pumpkin bread

It all started with a need for something-anything- pumpkin.

A simple request from my girl, far away in her dorm room, sent me rushing through Trader Joe’s, dodging the UCD freshmen scavenging for their Friday night snacks. Jammed up in the produce section, I can see the hunger in their eyes – already the cafeteria has tapped their taste buds out. They’re dreaming about real food, the kind mom used to make. I see their longing for the day when they can go back to their own apartments, bags of groceries ready to indulge their home-cooked fantasies.

“What are you hungry for?” I heard them ask each other. Must be freshmen. Their voices had a hollow ring to them, as if they weren’t sure a) what their new roommates would think acceptable, and b) how they would cook it like mom used to. They had the wide-eyed look that only 18-year-olds who are used to having mom do their grocery shopping get. They are the ones who linger just a bit too long in the produce section, intimidated by the choice of pre-washed bagged mixed greens or an entire head of organic red leaf. I often hesitate there myself, just in case they want some ‘mom’ advice. Sometimes they ask – usually they don’t.

English: Trader Joe's produce

I feel it in their body language, the bravado of a puffed out chest behind their shopping cart, attempting to believe that yes, they can do this. Methodically, they place their items in the bright red carts. There’s no rhythm there – that comes with years of experience navigating the aisles.

And I wonder, is my girl this girl who walks away? Does she pause over the frozen ravioli section and then casually toss two bags in her cart, only to be shut down over the myriad of red sauce choices? Does my girl scan the produce section with laser focus, or does she hope for help in the shape of a forty-something woman holding a latte and shopping list?

On a care-package mission, I turned the aisle and there it was: the pumpkin display. No one in my house craves pumpkin now that she’s gone. I toss the yellow box of pumpkin bar mix in the cart. Why not pumpkin bread, too? In it goes, without hesitation. Tears crack the corners of my eyes. Somehow, I will fit it all in the care package. I have to.

I watch the students with a wistful smile, knowing their parents might be just like me, wondering and wishing they could get a glimpse into the ordinary moments in their life as an 18-year-old away from home for the first time. The look so young. Have they ever been grocery shopping before? Did their mothers teach them to compare prices, or how to pick a ripe melon? My inner mama is surging. I feel her panic. Did I teach her before she left? Is she making her smoothies and eating enough protein?

Standing in the frozen foods section, I feel an obligation rise up in me – a sense of duty to all those moms out there.  Somehow I must let them know their kid is OK, that they’re choosing the produce over the sweets and six-packs. How can I make known that they have a jacket on, and remembered their reusable grocery bags? I want to somehow tap these kids on the shoulder and beg them to just send one text, simply snap one photo of this ordinary moment – something – anything –  to let their parents know they’re smiling and happy and making friends. To give them a glimpse of the extraordinariness of their life…their growing up.

But I don’t say anything – that would be creepy, I hear my daughter’s voice in my head. Instead, I squeeze my eyes together, willing back the tears, and hope that 600 miles away, some mom in a grocery store feels my call, looks into my girl’s eyes, and smiles.

I’m ready now. I can do this. The pumpkin will arrive safely, like a hug from home.

p.s. – if you’d like to make your own pumpkin bread, click here for our favorite recipe!

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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