What To Learn When You Want To Grow

What To Learn When You Want To Grow

My own children have officially launched, leaving me wondering, questioning, considering how now to become the very best version of myself as I move into another phase, one without my children here to direct my time. It’s still important for me to learn and grow and progress.

I’ve done my best with my kids and now life is different, ready to teach me new lessons, I hope! But right now, I need to keep busy – actively trying to nurture my mind and develop as a person, or it’s highly likely I’ll just stagnate. This isn’t ideal when I really want to flourish in this next phase of life. This is why committing to pushing myself, going back to school, and taking up new interests and hobbies can be very much a benefit. But where to start? And what kinds of things should you be looking to learn when you want to grow? Let’s take a look at a few ideas I’m mulling over:

Learn A Language

One of the very first topics that can help you to grow and develop is languages. When you can acquire a new language, you’re really broadening your horizons and opening up your mind to new possibilities. If you’ve always wanted to be able to speak another language, then this is something that you really should look to do. But do it in a way that really works for you. Book an online course, get a tutor, or even head overseas to master the language in the native country. Just do what you feel is best for you to be able to really grow as a person and speak a new language. I’ve been using Duolingo to work on my Spanish!

Learn A Craft

Or perhaps you’re not that interested in languages, and you’d rather learn a craft? Why not take a look at these crafts to make with DIY Joy and see if you feel inspired. From knitting to baking to even things like makeup artistry, here you’ll be looking to discover something that can give you a new skill for your own personal enjoyment, or inspire a new business venture for you. Baking has always been a stress reliever for me, but now that there are no children at home to eat my treats I’m going to have to bring them to school…

learn

Learn Coding

Right now, the internet and technology are so huge. So why not be apart of that and learn to code? Last year I used some coding hyperdocs in my classroom – you can try them out here. If you do have an interest in this area, coding is a great skill to understand for your own personal internet use and if you want to go into business too.

Learn To Teach

Maya Angelou said, “When you get, give. When you learn, teach.” Now, this can mean that you do want to go back to school and get your teacher’s credential, or maybe start by volunteering in a classroom – teachers always need help. When you love learning, it’s highly likely that you’ll be passionate about teaching too. So why not look to share your love of learning with children or seniors?

Learn Business Skills

Another skill area to consider involves business. Have you always wanted to launch your own company? Create a blog to showcase your creativity? Then why not try it out?

Blogging has turned into a big side job for me – it’s amazing how much I’ve had to learn about marketing, social media, and growing my professional networks. Read up on business skills online and with books. Find key business solutions that allow you to prevent fraud with Jumio’s Netverify or create a website with Wix. Scroll through blogs and even think about getting your MBA so that you could start off on your own.

If you’re an empty nester like me, consider investing in yourself. Learn and grow!

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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vegetarian awareness week

Vegetarian Awareness Week: My First Live TV Cooking Demo

Did you know the second week in September is Vegetarian Awareness Week? If you’re like me, eating veggies over meat is just a no-brainer; I think the last time I remember actually consuming a red meat burger was during my college years in 1985…

Things have definitely changed since then. I could barely cook back in the 80s, and going out for burgers was an exciting dinner treat on our budget. Just look at me now! Some of my best moments are spent in my garden and kitchen with my kids, cooking and eating as healthy as possible.

vegetarian awareness week

Living in California, having space to grow my own veggies and citrus in my backyard, and easy access to local farmer’s market produce has been such a gift towards healthy eating and cooking. This year we planted San Marzano tomatoes and 30 pepper plants! It seems like there’s always something in season that’s so delicious and full of nutrients that raising my kids on a low meat diet was simple; they’ve become fine cooks and enjoy trying all sorts of seasonal fruits and veggies. To encourage a love of food, one thing I always did when they were little was allowed them to pick out one new fruit or veggie on every grocery shopping trip. This didn’t always result in a new addition to their palate, but it did always result in them trying something new, like it or not.

Vegetarian Awareness Week
Making vegetarian tamales – I love cooking with my kids!

Vegetarian Awareness Week is just a perfect opportunity for me to share my love of cooking and healthy eating, and thanks to the folks at Cucina Antica, I have the opportunity to do my first ever live cooking demo on TV! And yes, just a little bit nervous, but honestly knowing that the product I’m sharing is one I use and enjoy makes it easier. You can watch my live demo here. Have you tried Cucina Antica cooking sauces? Cucina Antica sauces are authentic family recipes with no added sugar or preservatives and made with imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes. I love the copious amounts of veggies in each jar, the lack of artificial preservatives and no added sugar, as well as the variety of dishes I can make with each one.

For Vegetarian Awareness Week I’ll be making this yummy recipe for Spaghetti with Sautéed Eggplant – I’m so excited!

 Ingredients:

  • 1 jar Cucina Antica Tomato Basil Sauce
  • 1 lb. Spaghetti
  • 2 tbsp. Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 6 baby eggplants
  • 2 tsp. Romano cheese
  • Fresh basil to garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  Preparation:

  1. Slice eggplants into 1/4″ vertical strips. In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil.
  2. Season eggplants with salt and pepper and sauté in oil until just slightly wilted. Set aside.
  3. Prepare spaghetti al dente. Meanwhile, heat Cucina Antica Tomato Basil Sauce.
  4. When pasta is finished, drain and coat with one cup of sauce to prevent noodles from sticking.
  5. Plate pasta and top with eggplant slices. Cover with remaining sauce and top with Romano cheese.
  6. Garnish with basil and serve.

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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When Your Child Leaves For College

What To Say When Your Child Leaves For College

Three years ago, on this day in 2014, I was wondering what to say when I dropped my daughter off at college. It should have been simple, right? I write voraciously. I’m an educator. I’ve hundreds of kids leave the comfort of home and be absolutely fine. I’ve had good friends to mentor me through what to expect, just like during pregnancy. When your child leaves for college was most certainly a topic on the tip of my consciousness.

But on that day, when it was my 18-year-old baby girl launching off to another state, I was stuck.

I drafted and erased and revised and published getting ready for graduation essays, college tour recaps and leaving home for spending the summers at Mt. Hood. I’d survived a year with my 8th-grade son unexpectedly moving to the mountains to train for the Junior Olympics, yet I was a wreck figuring out how to handle his accident 10 days before her college move in day, a flooded kitchen and my own over-the-top anxiety. This definitely was not going according to plan.

When Your Child Leaves For College

And on this day, three years later, Facebook reminds me of our beautiful, bittersweet drive across the Utah Salt Flats, 10 hours of me and you and wondering how I would manage to say everything that I wanted/needed/should say in the next 24 hours.

I’m a Gen X parent. I grew up with a kind of free-range parenting, knowing I should be home before dark and feeling invincible. We hadn’t heard of HIV, or date-rape, or helicopter parenting. And here I am, the first generation of parents raising the i-kid, happily doling out dollars for the tech that would keep me connected – a part of my baby’s world 650 miles away.

Now I needed to figure out how to employ a kind of ‘stealth-parenting’ – finding the walk to back up my talk, if I could even figure out what that ‘talk’ was. After listening to her college president speak at the convocation, I scribbled out a letter to my college bound daughter. It’s been my most viewed post of all time – I guess I’m not alone in wondering what to say when your child leaves for college after all.

When Your Child Leaves For College

When Your Child Leaves For College

Two years ago – on this day – I became a shuttle driver, watching both my babies paddle out into a Utah river, scramble up a waterfall, and leaving me alone in a hotel room as they chose a campsite over room service. Thank you, Facebook, for reminding me that she could survive her first year of college, and so could I. Nervously relaxing in that hotel room, I struggled with my monkey-mind – what do I say when your child leaves for college the second time? What words does she need to hear – or do I? No longer was I dishing out advice about dorm rooms and ‘firsts’ – suddenly, adulting was more real than ever. My cyber-stealthing had helped somewhat; Instagram and Snapchat offered glimpses into the life I was sure she didn’t really want me to know much about, yet I was desperate to see.

The second year she was on her own, shopping at Costco and stocking up her apartment. She was cooking meals and going to classes and occasionally sharing a bit with me. Driving back, watching the sun rise over her city, the tears came. This time felt different, lonely, hopeful. I comforted myself by writing a letter to parents leaving their kids at college and didn’t look back-most of the time.

When Your Child Leaves For College

One year ago, summer started with her first study abroad, words only shared through sparse wifi connections along the Camino de Santiago. Adventuring is in her blood, and for the first time, I sank into the trust that things will be well, that she will be well, that I will be well. The power of prayer and hope and the knowledge that she would have to figure things out without my advice allowed for us to grow – mostly, for me, I admit. I couldn’t wait to see her, to hug her and note the changes that exploration had inked into her spirit. The third year leaving her at college was more about my transformation into wholeness; I was turning 50 and felt the crack widening. I learned to look at life as it is, to embrace change and hopefully anticipate the changes of motherhood in front of me.

When Your Child Leaves For College

This year I didn’t have to worry about what to say as I dropped her off because it didn’t actually happen. She’s officially adulting now, and never really came home. I traded my tech for travel and bought a ticket to visit her instead. I spent seven glorious days immersing myself in her life, discovering her city and the places she likes to buy her coffee and have special dinners out. I met her friends and bought her wine. We adulted together, no words needed, and then she dropped me off at the airport with a hug and a smile and a glint of a tear in her eye.

Now, her fourth year, I realize this: it’s not the words you say when you’re leaving your child at college, it’s the words you say when you’re not there. It’s how you find a way to be that safe place to fall back to, the warm demander from a distance. It’s the words you say when they fight with their roommate or fall in-or out-of love. It’s the words when you wish you were there to wrap yourself around her, to hold her close and smell the coconut shampoo in her hair and help her through.

It turns out, leaving her at college isn’t the hardest part; having her not come home is worse. This year, leaving her at college is more about leaving her childhood and welcoming her adulthood.

These are my words to help me through this one. Feel free to let me know if you have any advice.

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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is age only a number

Don’t You Think Age Is Only A Number?

I was skimming Facebook today- because I’m on vacation and that’s what you do when you don’t have to wake up to an alarm, right? Sitting in my daughter’s college apartment, I saw a post from a mom who was at the beach with her three young children. It was a shot like many I take when I’m enjoying the moment– legs stretched out, book balanced on her lap, sand and surf and the horizon in the background.  Her caption made me laugh: “I’m reading a book on the beach with my boys. No floaties or crying or buckets or arguing over sunscreen. I’ve dreamed of days like this”.

is age only a number

Funny how time works, isn’t it? I remember feeling that way, too. I remember ticking off the milestone ages in my head, dreaming about this little tiny, often crying, baby girl I was holding, wondering how she would ever grow up and grow away from home – and away from me.

Just below hers was another post from a dear friend, frantically traveling to see her father before he passes.

She didn’t make it in time.

She shared a simple photo of her with him, no caption, just the two of them smiling and hugging. I saw her son in father’s face. I wanted to wrap my arms around her, let her know that on this day that we dream of and dread I’m here for her.

That’s the thing about motherhood, and growing up, and growing old. The years pass, time trickling by whether we know it or not – whether we document the moments or wish them away. 

I wear a silver cuff around my right wrist- actually several, one for each of the years that my motherhood has shifted. 

They’re instead of a tattoo. My mother is much happier this way.

Engraved with my mantra for the year, Be Here Now, it’s my daily reminder to stop and pay attention. To look up at the sky and down at the shadows. To notice what is right here instead of worrying about what is ahead or what I’ve left behind.

Not to regret or second guess or future trip.

isn't age only a number shadows

Just before I left on vacation, my son reminded me that he’s almost the same age my daughter was when she went off to college. He still has one more year at home.

I reminded him she was actually six months older, and he scoffed. I smiled. Those six months between 17 and 18 can make a huge difference.

Or is age only a number?

I’m not sure how old the woman’s children were as she lay on that beach, coveting her quiet time.

I know my friend is in her thirties- too young to lose a father she adored, so many years ahead to parent without his guidance.

This vacation is all about soaking in my daughter’s life – her friends, her lifestyle, her new home. I breathed deeply as she, for the first time, order a glass of sangria last night.  It was her first ‘official’ drink with me since she turned 21. Sitting at an outdoor cafe, we were enjoying a warm Salt Lake City evening just after she finished her volunteer job.

is age only a number
pc: Matt Chirico

Of course, she got carded- and as the waitress scrutinized her ID I couldn’t help blurting out “It’s legit! I’m her mom. She just turned 21. She was born June 2 1996 at 11:37…”

Wait-where did that come from?

The waitress just laughed as my daughter wryly smiled. Maybe she’s used to my obsession with her growing up; I’m not sure.

She sipped her sangria slowly as we ate. “I’m enjoying it,” she quipped at her boyfriend as he teased her deliberateness. I noticed her carefully spoon out the alcohol-soaked fruit, enjoying every last bit.

She was here. Now. And so was I. 

I wasn’t with her the moment she actually turned 21. She was somewhere in the mountains of South America, surrounded by friends and coffee farms, hiking and laughing and enjoying life. It wasn’t exactly how I imagined this milestone- sort of like most every parenting moment I’ve had, actually.

I’ve dreamed of days like this, I’m sure. I’ve wished they wouldn’t come at strongly as I wished they would. I’ve held onto her hand and let her go more times than I ever thought possible.

I know that age is only a number, that turning 51 and 21 really just mark the moments we have lived, milestones of memories and not anything to fear.

I know that if I can just be here, now, that age is only a number on a day and what matters are the ordinary, extraordinary memories in each one.

Don’t you agree age is only a number?

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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Anne Lamott Stitch

Taking Life Stitch By Stitch – Anne Lamott

“When you can step back at moments like these and see what is happening, when you watch people you love under fire or evaporating, you realize that the secret of life is patch patch patch. Thread your needle, make a knot, find one place on the other piece of torn cloth where you can make one stitch that will hold. And do it again. And again. And again.”

~Anne Lamott, Stitches

To me, some writers are meant to be savored. I tend to plow through narratives with the pace of a runner rounding third base, so immersed in the story yet desperately eager to cross the plate and get my next up to bat.

I have “to-be-read” shelfies that are simply full to the brim.

stitch book

Yet when it comes to Anne Lamott, no such rushing is allowed. Anne Lamott is meant to be slowly digested, piece by piece, word by delicious word, allowing every nuance to be assimilated and mulled over and absorbed. Usually, that means multiple readings.

 

That’s what happened with her book Stitches: A Handbook On Meaning, Hope and Repair. I found myself reading, pausing,re-reading, more pausing, writing, reflecting, and re-reading again with the most wondrous sense of joy, snapping photos of pages and quotes and passages that just wouldn’t leave my mind.

“…the secret of life is patch patch patch…”

How often have I felt like my life is a series of stitches in a quilt, piecing together the sometimes hastily, often crookedly and usually wonderfully mismatched moments? This year, I promised myself to be.here.now. To step back and notice the moments in my life, in the lives of my children and my husband and everyone around me. To search for the stories behind the situation, to pause and be patient and trust that where I am – where we are – is where I need to be.

Sometimes, I’ve missed the eye of the needle. I’ve had to regroup, rethread, redo. I’ve tied knots that sometimes slip loose, but more than often have held tight. I’ve learned to gently pull the pieces together, to quietly look for connections in the colors and fabric that make up my extraordinary life. And I do it again, and again, and again, each day sticking with the stitches that held from the day before, gently guiding myself to the next connection. Subtly weaving moments together, I’m learning. I’m growing, laughing, loving, deepening.

I’m stepping back before stepping in, I’m watching the fire and the flame, the mist and the storm, the light and the lightness.

I’m patching together the secret of life – I’m weaving the thread of the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Stitch by beautiful stitch.

Anne Lamott Stitch

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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