Girl Power at Eighteen

happiness

“Have you seen my post yet, Mom?”

It was unusual to actually hear her voice, live. Most of the time since she left for college we’ve been reduced to communicating by text. I miss her.

“No….” I respond cautiously. “I’ve been at work all morning. Trying to get ready for next week, you know. Am I going to laugh or cry?” Something about this seemed, well, official.

“Neither. We made us official on Facebook. And then this guy…well, I’ll just send you the link.”

I exhaled, unaware that I’d actually been holding my breath. It seems that ever since she left, exactly one month ago, I’d been girding myself for what would come next. Facebook official – it’s been a long time coming. I guess after a month of actually living in the same city they decided it was going to work.

I’d teased her in the past about being tough; she wasn’t interested in letting anyone tell her what to do, not even the boy she liked. She has been perfectly content with their long distance relationship-their boundaries were clearly defined when they left their summer camp romance a year ago, and true to her word, she didn’t miss a thing about senior year of high school. But he clearly had a hold on her heart…

Back in March of 2013 I wrote about her at sixteen, full of spunk and stubbornness and girl power. I wrote about raising a strong girl, and the awe with which I watched her move through her high school experience with a confidence that was foreign to me. She, at sixteen, exuded the kind of power I only dreamed about at that age: the power that comes from possessing a strong body and mind, harnessed together to propel her down ski race courses and through teenage crises. She inspired me.

And as I wrote that essay, sitting in a ski lodge as I have so many, many weekends, my heart swelled. I wondered about her – would she find her passion? Would she go to college? Would she follow her heart? What would come next?

Today, seventeen months later, she’s Facebook official. Still strong and confident, she navigated the stresses of junior year testing, and realized she is NOT defined by her test scores. She studied and socialized and tried a new sport. She took risks. She stepped out of her comfort zone. She listened to me when I told her and her friends in my best teacher voice to ignore those who tried to compare, who wanted to know how their “numbers” stacked up, who wanted their college acceptance lists to be longer and lovelier and more elite than others.

She fell in love, and paced herself. She avoided the girl drama and the boys who couldn’t keep up. She left home for the summer, learned to drive a bus, and figured out that even she could identify the parts of a bus engine. She considered colleges for all sorts of different reasons and thought about what was best for her and her future. And she moved away, 650 miles across mountains and desert to follow her heart.

She is girl power – living life on her own terms. I couldn’t be more proud.

This post was inspired by The Underground Girls of Kabul by journalist Jenny Nordberg, who discovers a secret Afghani practice where girls are dressed and raised as boys. Join From Left to Write on September 16th as we discuss The Underground Girls of Kabul. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

photo credits to Matt Chirico – Chirico photo

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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My Best Life July 2014: A Month of Quiet

My Best July:

The month of July was quiet -sometimes, WAY too quiet. My grown-up girl has spent her summer working as a ski camp counselor at her beloved Mt. Hood, Oregon. My thinks-he’s-grown-up son has been back and forth between Mt. Hood and Lake Tahoe, and when he’s actually at home his social life keeps him WAY too busy for my liking. Even my husband took off for a few days, leaving me and the dog alone to deal with the 100+ heat and a kitchen flood that’s turning into a big-deal-long-awaited remodel. When my kids were little I longed for the kind of quiet I have now, but as time passes more and more quickly every day, I realize that those crazy, hectic, sweaty summers with two little kids were absolutely ethereal. With a blink of an eye, ten years whooshes past…so this July, I made my best life amidst the quiet. I’ve read, written, photographed, cleaned, organized, traveled, and walked, attempting to find the best in every moment. To read all of my blog posts from July, click here.

Best Quotes:

I’m a collector of quotes. I find great wisdom and inspiration in words, and I’m frequently suprised and delighted at the end of the month when I look back at those quotes I’ve chosen to share on my blog, Twitter, or Facebook. Here’s some of my favorites from July:

“Here are the two best prayers I know: ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.” #AnneLamott #quote

“The reality of what we really are is often times found in the small snips, way down at the bottom of things.” Jean Shepherd

“There are voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world.” Emerson

“After all, it is those who have a deep & real inner life who are best able to deal with the irritating details of outer life.”E. Underhill

“Prayer is not asking for what you think you want, but asking to be changed in ways you can’t imagine.” Kathleen Norris

Best Moment:

I’ve found myself having a bit too much quiet time this month; I know, you parents of small children are thinking I’m crazy, but honestly, my kids are growing up and going in different, independent directions, and they’re hardly ever at home. Combine their wanderlust with their ski training at Mt. Hood, and I’ve found myself away from my daughter since mid-June. The best moment for me this month was when she took her only day off and hitched a ride (or convinced two boys to drive her, not sure which is the truth) from Mt. Hood to Bend, just to spend five glorious hours with me. We packed in a day of shopping, great coffee, hugs, river swims, coloring (yes, teens still like to color) and catching up with the fam. Peanut, thank you so much for that gift of your time. It kept me going for the last few weeks!

L on the Deschutes River
L on the Deschutes River

Best Blog Reads:

My dear friend, Dawn Wink, introduced me to the BraveGirlsClub.com, and I just had to share it with you all. Not only do they use gorgeous art work to share their mission statement: “We are on a wild and crazy mission to find all of the brave women of the world…to help them find each other…then to change the world with good news, good ideas, good people, and good times,” but they also have lots of great essays, blog posts, and even a daily truth email, Facebook page and Instagram feed that offer lovely doses of inspiration. I loved this one from their Facebook feed titled, “Dear Super Smart Girl”. I think every mom should subscribe!

Best Photo:

Ok, I’m gonna brag a bit here…I didn’t take this photo myself, but I love it so much because it captures my brave girl in all her glory! Not only has she worked away from home all summer (I know-harder on me than it is on her!) but she has become a licensed Class 2 bus driver in the state of Oregon! Love her confidenc

e!L is a licensed bus driver!

Best Books:

Oh, this one is easy-peasy! I stumbled onto Nancy E. Turner’s amazing series about turn-of-the-century Arizona, and fell in awe of Sarah, her feisty, feminine and all-around awesome main character. I’d actually bought the first book in the series, These Is My Words, for my mom as part of a Christmas book bonanza gift (she’s a voracious reader, too). I could not put that book down, and to my complete delight, I discovered that it was merely the first in a series of three novels that trace Sarah’s life as she fights to survive on the ‘territories’. If you love historical fiction with strong female characters, you MUST read this series!

These Is My Words

Best Road Trip:

I took two amazing trips this month: one to Bend, Oregon, and one to Calistoga, California. I’d have to call the Bend, Oregon trip the ‘best road trip’ simply because I got to spend eight hours in the car with my mom. It was such a treat to have her all to myself-the hours whizzed by, and I was keenly aware of how precious time with your parent can be – are you hearing me, kids? Aside from the drive, the three days I spent in Bend with my extended family were pretty spectacular-I shared some of the highlights in my post, travel with mamawolfe: Bend, Oregon for Rivers, Books, Coffee and Consignment Stores. 

Best Quiet Place:

During my stay in Bend, we spent a bit of time down on the Deschutes River. The kids loved to jump from rocks, swim, and hang out on the ‘island’. I’m not much of a swimmer, but certainly hovered while my girl flew through the air into the water. The morning I left I took a quiet walk alone down to the river and just sat and thought about this amazing life I get to live.

Deschutes River near Bend, Oregon
Deschutes River near Bend, Oregon

Best View:

This one ties in with my best road trip – the most amazing sunset I’ve seen in a long time. I found myself glued to the deck chair, snapping photos every few minutes. I was convinced it couldn’t get any better, and after two hours of beauty, this took my breath away.

Sadie at sunset
Sadie at sunset

Best Selfies:

My kids get so mad when I try to take selfies with them…here’s a few of my faves from July:

L at Mt. HoodBend, OregonL and Mom in BendC on the way to Hood

Best Tweets:

From Stephen King: Revised Tea Party Gospel: “Suffer the little children come unto me. Unless they’re undocumented kids from Central America.”

This one really hit home for me; I’m so tired of all the arguing about these children being brought by their parents to our country. When I heard one of our country’s politicians call them ‘criminals’, I just about lost it. Despite what you might think about our immigration policies, these children are far from criminals. They are children. Their parents are doing what any one of us would do – well, maybe some of us wouldn’t actually be brave enough to do what they’re doing. Having spent time in Nicaragua and seen first hand the absolute poverty many families are living in in Central America, all I can think is that extreme situations call for extreme actions, and we need to do better than labelling innocent children as ‘criminals’. They are humans, and we can find a way to figure this out.

Best Morning Ritual:

I’m definitely a creature of habit, which sometimes drives my husband crazy. I’ve been thinking a lot this month about solitude – maybe because I’ve had so much of it forced upon me this month – and one thing I know about myself is that I require a certain amount of it as a morning ritual. My best day starts off with quiet, coffee, reading, writing, and after approximately 1.5 LARGE mugs of a good Central American roast, I’m able to face my day. Throw in my list-making, dog-walking, #quoteoftheday tweet and a small bite to eat, and I’m good to go on full speed for the next 15 hours or so!

gratitude

Best Wardrobe Staple:

I’m totally into the maxi dress this month – have you tried them? If I can wear them (I’m only 5’2″, you know), so can you! I picked up a little black one during a shopping spree with my girl last month, and am absolutely in love with it. It’s super hot here in the summer, but when I slip this on I just feel comfy!

Best California Food:

Since our kitchen has been torn apart this month due to a minor flood (it’ll all be back better than ever next month!), we’ve been eating out WAY more than normal – kind of awesome, actually. We’ve had it all this month – Thai, Italian, Chinese, American, and LOTS of Trader Joe’s prepared foods (have you tried their butternut squash/quinoa salad? It’s delish), but the memorable meal and true California food goes to our dinner at Season’s in Davis – the three of us devoured our plates of mozarella stuffed turkey meatballs over penne pasta, tiger shrimp skewers with peppered fettuccine, arugula, garlic mushrooms, copacolla ham and a white wine sauce, and a rosemary rubbed pork chop served over a mushroom risotto cake, swiss chard, pancetta jus, roasted red pepper and gorgonzola sauce. And no, we didn’t have room for dessert!

tiger shrimp at Season's in Davis
tiger shrimp at Season’s in Davis

Best Recent Read:

I’m smack in the middle of Erin Lindsay McCabe’s novel, I Shall Be Near To You, and so far I cannot put it down.  Combine that with getting to know the writer via Twitter, and I know this will be one of my fave summer reads! Look for a review (and if I’m lucky, and author Q/A, on the blog next month).

I Shall Be Near To You

Dear reader, what word best describes your month of July? Wishing you great possibilities and bit of quiet in August – and as always, thank you for supporting mamawolfe.

Each month I write about what makes up ‘my best life’. To see all ‘My Best Life’ posts in one place, click here. I’m always on the lookout for what makes life amazing – I’d love to connect with you on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, too!

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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Bras, Boys and Down-Undies: Inside Gilly Hicks

True confession: I’m not much of a shopper.  Malls make nervous. Walking around in circles without any true purpose, dodging strollers and aimless teenagers stresses me out. And of course, there’s the money issues.  But even more crazy-making is the thought of my teens doing it without me.

I’m not big on just ‘hanging out’.

I know the trouble teens can get into.

Cam and brasSo, being the mom of two teens-who-love-to-spend-money, and seeing that the great big Galleria was not completely out of the way to where our actual destination was, and knowing that my daughter would have to pay return shipping charges if we didn’t stop, I reluctantly caved in and with the caution we had to “make it quick”, walked through the glittering gates of doom.

Seriously, I dislike shopping.  Especially shopping malls.

There is nothing that will age a woman quicker than entering the dark, labyrinthine teenage-girl-shopping-nirvana called Gilly Hicks.

Scantily clad teen greeters welcome  us with message to be sure to “check out their selection of bras and down-undies.”  What? I think I’m blushing.

My 13-year-old boy’s eyes widen. He’s about to learn a lot more on this shopping trip than I expected.

An intensely sweet odor overtakes our senses as we wind through the darkened network of aisles inside the store.  Am I the only one bumping into racks of tiny t-shirts, and excusing myself as I walk into my own reflection in the fun-house-like profusion of full length mirrors?  Those not nearly as advanced in age (in their first two decades) appear to navigate easily, jumping from rack to stack with the giddiness of one about to enter Disneyland for the first time.  I have merely become the human shopping cart, arms full of nearly weightless tanks, Ts, and…down-undies?

Spinning around, I frantically search for a glimpse of him – he should stand out amongst the teenage females skipping around.  I wander through racks and rows until suddenly, like the heavens parting, I see him: he has stopped dead center, like a minotaur frozen in his spot. He has found it: the wall ‘o bras.

Suddenly I realize I’ve lost the boy.

I see the look on his face. I imagine the thoughts spinning through his head as he takes in the floor to ceiling rainbow display.  The colors glow through the darkness, towering far above my 5’2″ frame.  Eye-level cups and colors of all sizes and shades boggle the mind. My brain clicks rapidly, searching for the right words. I stop, waiting for him to make the first move, ready for him to bolt to the exit.

To my astonishment, he smiles.  “Mom, will you take my picture?” he asks with a grin.

I look into his eyes, and see the three-year-old I remember so well.  But his face is longer, his body lankier, and I realize I’m in for far more than I imagined. His eyes are sparkling.  He’s not squealing in disgust.  He’s amused.  He likes it.

IMG_3426[1]

Reluctantly, I snap the photo and watch while he posts it to Facebook.  He giggles.  The comment alerts start flashing on his phone.

Childhood innocence has left us behind.  Let the teenage games begin.

 

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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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Jumping Online: Is Facebook Really Part of Puberty?

I got a text message last night from my son.  That in itself isn’t unusual – he’s pretty good about checking in on a regular basis.  He’s been away at camp for a week, and he fills me in on what he’s doing, what the weather is like, the quality of the food, and how he can’t wait to come home and play baseball, and that he misses me.

What was unusual about last night’s text is that out of the blue, he asked to join Facebook.  It took me by surprise – he hasn’t indicated much interest in the past, and in fact, when I asked him in the spring if he had any friends who had it, he said no.

I guess he’s made some new friends at camp.

I immediately texted my daughter – being the 16-year-old social network expert that she is – and asked her to remind me how old she was when she “got” Facebook.  7th grade.  That didn’t give me much ammunition against his foray into the networking world.  Where can I find online reputation management for 13-year-olds?

The texting from my son continued with clever attempts to sway me with promises of all the fun we’d have once he was online, and how we’d be more connected, too.

Hit me where it hurts, kid.  What mom doesn’t want to be more connected to their teenager?

And after all, he pleaded, he’s the only family member who cannot get “tagged” in photos or “checked-in” whenever we visit some exciting locale.

It’s not that I wasn’t expecting this – I actually am surprised it took him so long to ask.

I told him to ask his dad, who apparently was obliviously sitting beside him in the van while he was chatting with me, unaware of the uncharted waters we were about to dive into.

Ingeniously, my boy responded that it only matters what I say, and that I’ll see everything he’ll be doing.  It’ll be fun, he urged, knowing that I was close to the breaking point.

OK.

And with those two little letters, our conversation ceased with a “Goodnight, mom. I love you.”

That’s it.  He’s passed through the innocence of childhood and entered that frightening arena that all parents dread.

Give me puberty any day – I’m much more prepared to discuss issues of young love than deliver the woes of social media.

Can’t wait for all that fun.

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: Opportunity Knocks?

Shortly after I posted this photo on Facebook I received a phone message from my mother.  She’s not a Facebook user, but became concerned after my younger brother alerted her that something might be wrong, since I posted a big red sign on my wall.

At first I had no clue what she was talking about.  I figured it was just a glitch in her understanding about Facebook.  Suddenly it dawned on me what they were worried about, and I reassured her that everything was OK.

Only, it’s not really OK.

These are difficult times for many Americans.  For teachers and students, it’s getting nearly impossible.

My school district is attempting to balance their deficit budget by laying off employees.  They’re threatening to furlough teachers again, which means at least a 5% pay cut next year.  Districts have met their March 15 layoff notification date ‘over notifying’ teachers, administrators and counselors in preparation for the state budget ‘worst case scenario’.

These people are me and my friends, my colleagues, and your child’s teachers, vice principals and counselors.  They are the people who run the after school programs children turn to for enrichment and support.  They are the teachers who used to make it easier for kids to have smaller class sizes and take elective classes that provide an alternative to core academic classes.   They are the elementary school teachers who create a stable foundation for the rest of your child’s education.

So yes, these are difficult times for me to go to work each day, wondering what my job will look like next year, what my school will look like, and what my son and his friends can expect to find as they end years of anticipation for junior high life.  These are difficult times for my daughter and her friends as they see the end of their high school years and now look forward to skyrocketing college tuition and challenging admission processes.

These are difficult times to see highly qualified professionals being released from their service.  These are difficult times to answer the probing questions from my students.  These are difficult times when I find myself questioning my 21-year career in education, and wondering how much longer it will last.

So I’m sorry, Mom.  It’s difficult to explain this sometimes.  It’s really difficult to see the opportunity here, but I’m trying.

I hope it makes you feel better to know that when I walk into my class each day, I smile.  That part is not difficult at all.

 

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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