My Heart Is Heavy As I Watch The Hate Unfold In Charlottesville Today

My Heart Is Heavy As I Watch The Hate Unfold In Charlottesville Today

My heart is heavy as I watch the hate unfold in Charlottesville today. I try to distract and distance myself by puttering around in my garden, moving the sprinkler from one dry patch to another, hopefully coaxing a few more blooms into fall. I dodge the bees in the veggie garden and catch a glimpse of a red throated hummingbird as it delicately feeds on my front yard red salvia. My four legged pal naps on the shaded wicker couch as I move in circles, trying to avoid confronting the hatred and violence I know is consuming my news feeds.

I don’t usually write and publish on the spot like this. I’m more of a pensive writer, allowing thoughts to mull in my mind, forming connections and thinking deeply about how I share my voice in this vast Universe of creative people. I typically journal and notetake and combine what I read and hear and see into hopefully, some version of hope and gratitude for all that I am and all that I have to learn.

But as I watch the hate unfold in Charlottesville today I find myself heavy with sadness, climbing the stairs to my upstairs writing perch. My phone has been exploding with Twitter updates and live videos from the New York Times, and I find I can only watch and read the smallest amount without having to shut it down.

It’s part self-care, part bewilderment, part fear – combined with an enormous amount of guilty helplessness as I sit safely tucked away, in my white family in my suburban home in my liberal northern California town.

my heart is heavy

But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? Those who stay safely tucked away in their beliefs, teetering on the edge of exploding and showing their real selves. I meant to be writing about my children today, about having seniors and about college and starting school years.

But I can’t. My heart is too heavy watching the hate unfold in Charlottesville today, and it simply feels selfish.

I know that racism exists. I know that there are those who believe in the ‘white right’ and above all else, feel victimized and as if they are somehow having their centuries old rights and ancestry stripped away by those who are different. From those who have darker skin, or religious differences, or who love people that they love even when being told that the Bible calls them sinners.

I know all that. I see it hiding in my community, occasionally creeping out in my classroom with greater frequency since last November. I understand the responsibility of raising a white male and think deeply about how I can use my life to make the world a better, kinder, more loving place.

I use my position as a teacher leader to teach compassion, to offer evidence from history about learning from the past, and employ my voice and my words to somehow attempt to do my part.

My Heart Is Heavy As I Watch The Hate Unfold In Charlottesville Today

But today, my heart is heavy as I watch the hate unfold.

I want to blame 45, but I know he didn’t suddenly cause people to think this way. What he has done since November is offered validation for those shallow, spiteful, fearful souls to empower themselves and speak out, lash out, and spew their hateful words into our Universe.

I know signs of hope and light will surface – the first to appear was John Pavlovitz’s “Yes, This is Racism”  for which I am holding onto while my news feed screams “Charlottesville remains on edge ahead of “Unite The Right” rally”, the governor declares a state of emergency, and a car plows down protestors. Violent clashes erupt as people supporting Black Lives Matter join in counter-protest. 45 tweets “Am in Bedminster for meetings & press conference on V.A. & all that we have done, and are doing, to make it better-but Charlottesville sad!”

All that we have done? Who are WE? It’s not me. It’s on you now, 45. All that YOU have done – and what are YOU doing to make it better? Get off your golf cart and step into reality.

Sitting in my writing room, gazing out at the green treetops and the sun dappled grass I feel so far removed, so helpless. I do not agree, I do not believe, I do not support. This isn’t MY America. This isn’t my view of how history should be formed. This isn’t what I want to teach.

This IS racism. This IS hate. This IS fear and vulnerability and small-mindedness.

This is NOT what I choose as the future for my son, my daughter, and the hundreds of children I’m about to share my heart with this school year.

I stand in unity with those using their bodies and voices and hearts against hate. I stand with the women and men and children to whom this is nothing new – just more visible.

I walked with women and men and children in January in hopes that my heart wouldn’t feel so heavy today; I write with hope for tomorrow.

THIS is how I fight back.

My Heart Is Heavy As I Watch The Hate Unfold In Charlottesville Today

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 You Have A Junior In College

I have a small whiteboard that hangs in my laundry room, right above my key holder. I’ve placed a few magnets there with inspirational quotes to read each morning as I head out to work. Last fall, it turned into my official countdown clock. The days and nights between summer and Thanksgiving are endless when you have a junior in college: things begin to get real in a startlingly different way.

Freshman year smacked me in the face. I wasn’t ready for the physical ache I would feel when I walked by her open bedroom door and nothing changed, day after day. I wasn’t ready to close the door, either, so I just avoided looking as much as I could. I counted down the moments from when she gave me a fist bump, jumped out of the car and made her way into the dorm alone, leaving me to drive across three states without her.

When you have a freshman:

When you have a freshman, it’s really ‘all about me’, as a friend so wisely recounted. The contact is limited as our babies tentatively try to fly on their own.  I remember the struggle to decide to text or not to text, or if it would really be OK to pick up the phone and see how she’s doing.  Those were the longest three months before Thanksgiving EVER.

Her freshman year winter break came and went. Her eagerness to leave was palpable; I was the only one dreading the airport that year. She spent her summer months away from home, too, choosing a paycheck over the comfort of her light-blue bedroom walls. No point in counting down to anything that summer.

When you have a sophomore:

Sophomore year I was more optimistic. Autonomy from dorm life seemed to agree with her, and suddenly her classes became more interesting and personalized. Gone were my worries of her ‘making’ it academically – she seemed to have the school part under control. When you have a sophomore in college there are a few perks. While my nervousness about the day-to-day activities decreased, my curiosity peaked about her future. It was hanging right there in front of her, somewhere. Would she connect with her Spanish class, or decide on an internship? Would adding a restaurant job open her eyes to the realities of hard work and relying on tips?

I should have known she would be fine. Things always have a way of working themselves out, don’t they? Zipping along, she had a series of firsts: first voter registration, first apartment lease, and surely many she didn’t tell me about.

When you have a junior in college:

Last summer, I noticed a transformation in my daughter – not just that she’s looking more and more like a grown woman physically, but that as she nears the magic age of 21, she’s subtly growing into herself. We spent very little time together; she chose to stay in her cozy college apartment, alone. , and that was it.

Counting down to Thanksgiving felt interminable; the green numbers eagerly wiped away each week, then each day, and finally I had her in my grasp. I think she got tired of all the hugs.

The magic of winter break wasn’t lost on me – when you have a junior in college, you learn to cherish the moments together as if they were snowflakes ready to melt. Every walk along the creek, every coffee date and cookie baking session I knew was a gift; the countdown begins to look like a bittersweet exchange of childhood for adulthood. My child begins to look like an adult; soon, the fulcrum will tip, and her decisions will seem to put all my childhood questions to rest.

When you have a junior in college, there is less past and more future. There’s a bearing witness to the unfolding of life, an undeniable concreteness of all the ‘I wonders’ whispered over diaper changes and sippy cups. Her eyes tell her stories and glint with the yet-to-be-determined. There’s a comfortable uncomfortableness that the decisions are hers to make, the adulting is closer than ever, and that the security of childhood still hangs by a whisper and the green tallies on the whiteboard are ever increasing.

And, as was during freshman and sophomore years, when you have a junior in college, the ordinary becomes extraordinary every day.

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 Transfer of Mothering

There’s no denying it’s been a tough winter. Since December we’ve been battling injuries, experiencing traumatic loss, and watching people we care about learn how to live with a new normal.

It’s been five months of deep, belly-filling breaths, long moments of silence and staring into the horizon, and valiant attempts to trust the journey we are on.

And it’s been a month since I found myself waking up on the floor of a restaurant, not quite sure how I got there; a month since the transfer of mothering took place, right before my eyes.

I remember seeing my daughter’s face as I came to; next to her, closest to my head, was her boyfriend, calling my name and asking me if I knew where I was and what was the name of the president. The looks on their faces signaled that something had gone wrong. All I could think about was my daughter, watching me lying there on the floor, and I was helpless to sit up and hold her, to reassure her that mommy was OK, even though I wasn’t quite sure that I was.

In fact, I wasn’t. But I am, now.

About five minutes before I hit the floor
About five minutes before I hit the floor

I’d never been on a gurney, never ridden in an ambulance, never been a patient in an ER. Sure, I’ve brought my son to ERs all over northern and central America (true statement), but I was always the mom on the side, asking the questions, making the decisions.

This time, it was up to Lily.

She was the one listening to the directions and handing over the insurance card. She, with her quiet control, was reminding me that it was all OK, that I would be fine, and not to worry. That things would all work out.

Her voice echoed mine, the words I’ve whispered to my children in times of crisis, in moments when fear tried to pull the strings.

Turns out, she was right.

This transfer of mothering was nothing short of magical.

I watched my daughter as she will be as a mother. I saw her ability to think on her feet, to quietly comfort, to do the right thing at the right time, even if she wasn’t quite sure.

Even if she didn’t have a handbook to tell her what to do next.

As I lay there in the ER, IV pumping fluids through me, I felt comforted knowing she was sitting beside me. I’ve always known this would happen someday – I just expected that it would be when my hair was a bit grayer, my steps a little shakier, and when my hands would look less like hers and more like my mother’s.

I found myself having to relax into the moment. I needed to be brave, to surrender my fear, loosen my grip on her and trust that all would be well.

And it was.

A snap of April's calendar by Kelly Rae Roberts, reminding me to embrace the change.
A snap of April’s calendar by Kelly Rae Roberts, reminding me to embrace the change and hold on to what matters.Kinda perfect, isn’t it?

On this Mother’s Day, I’ll spend the day like most other Sundays; I’ll walk my dog through the arboretum, breathing in the cool morning air. I’ll listen for the egrets flapping their expansive wings as they relinquish their perch, startled by my presence. I’ll write in my journal, and maybe go outside and feel the warm spring dirt crumble through my fingers as I scatter morning glory seeds along the back fence. This Mother’s Day, like every day, I’ll write words of gratitude for the life I have, for the children that bless me with such joy. I’ll try to smile with thankfulness that my baby girl is testing her endurance nearly four thousand miles away along La Peregrinación del Camino de Santiago de Compostela’.

This Mother’s Day, like every day, I’ll write words of gratitude for the life I have, for the children that bless me with such joy. I’ll try to smile with thankfulness that my baby girl is testing her endurance nearly four thousand miles away along La Peregrinación del Camino de Santiago de Compostela. I’ll warm with indebtedness for my son’s healing body, for my husband’s steadfast reassurance that we are on this journey together.

And on this Mother’s Day, I’ll set an intention to remember that every day is Mother’s Day, and that things are going to work out.

In fact, they already have.

Mantenerse a salvo, de la niña. Mami te ama.

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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A Leap of Faith

I don’t know if it’s just that time of the year that I’m feeling particularly vulnerable – maybe it’s more that time of life, that middle space where what always seemed so probable and certain has suddenly shifted. I’m feeling all at once teetering between so many worlds, so many lives, that every time I plant my feet down they sink, just the slightest bit – but not in a solid, comforting kind of way. In kind of a tenuous kind of way; that shifting of the sands of time that have always, always left me feeling hesitant towards change.

And everywhere I turn, the universe seems to be whispering to me. “Take a leap of faith, dear” swirls around my head in gossamer thin threads, taunting me to listen. It sings to me as I watch my daughter open college acceptance letters, and when she smiles, I know it’s time. It calls to me when I reunite with my son, after many days apart, and when he hugs me in his awkward teenage way, I know it’s near. I feel the vibration of change, that rhythmic sort of shudder that starts in my core and travels up my spine to rest in my head-where I promptly brush it off, dreaming for just one second that life will stay the same.

But I know that’s impossible.

This is the time of life when a leap of faith is the only available form of transportation. It’s the time to dream, to imagine, and to believe in possibility. It’s the time to run, skip, jump…to believe in what was meant to be, and to trust that what I open my heart and mind to will manifest.

It’s time to take a giant leap of faith, and hope for a soft landing.

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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Mothering By Faith

Emmalee pulled another mug from the cabinet and poured more coffee. She handed it to Cora. “Can I ask you a question? But you got to promise to be honest with me, even if it means hurting my feelings.”

Cora nodded and took a sip from the mug. “Sure.”

“It’s just that you know so much about babies and mothering, and I was wondering if you think I can take care of a baby on my own?”

“Of course you can, sweetie,” Cora said, sitting her mug on the counter and reaching for Emmalee’s hand. “But you ain’t alone.”

Emmalee brushed away another tear.

~from The Funeral Dress by Susan Gregg Gilmore

Mothering By FaithDo any of us really know if we can take care of a baby on our own?

Eighteen years into motherhood, and I still find myself asking that question on a regular basis.

Motherhood, for many women, is the ultimate mission in their lives. It is the transcendent goal they strive for, feeling that with the birth experience complete, their lives will somehow magically fall into place.

Many of my friends carefully planned motherhood. Some wanted to be young mothers, feeling that if they were able to give birth in their early twenties that they would be ‘young enough’ to enjoy their children – I’m sure some felt their youthful bodies could more easily survive childbirth and keep up with active toddlers. Numerous girlfriends, like me, chose the college and career path first, deciding that the stability of accomplishment would surely be the golden ticket for a successful parenting experience. I was confident that if I took care of myself first, I would be well-equipped to deal with the uncertainties of mothering.

Some women I know simply tumbled into motherhood, like many experiences in their lives, without any inkling of how they got to that place where they had to choose between what was right and best for their child, and what felt right and best for themselves. I have friends who have endured the torment of infertility, their bodies battling against every maternal instinct they feel, only to end in crumpled dreams and a reconfiguration of self. And I know women who calculate the ticking of the biological clock, never having cast their bet at deliberate conception but feeling each second tick by in real time, sure that if it doesn’t happen soon, it never will.

There is a certain sense of possibility in the unknown. The first moment our child is placed upon our chest is glutted with possibility and hope. We feel powerful, exhilarated, and terrified all at once, knowing that life as we knew it before has forever altered. Our insecurities, our inadequacies, and our aspirations pile into the six pounds of sticky, squirmy flesh that has suddenly become ours alone to nurture for a lifetime. And we wonder, can we do this? Are we enough? How will we know when they ________ or __________ what to say? To do?

And somewhere along the way, we realize the secret. We hear the words of those wiser than we, words that remind us that we all we really need to do is practice mothering by faith.

“Our crown has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do is wear it”― James Baldwin

We realize that we are not alone, that all those mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers that have come before us have set the course for that pocket-sized little person we cradle in our arms. We realize that we carry with us in the very center of our soul everything we need to take care of this baby on our own. We realize, that if we stop long enough to peer right into our hearts, that we really do know the answers.

We become conscious of ourselves. We exude the instincts bred into us. We wear the crown proudly, sometimes pausing to push it back into place when it teeters precariously, or drop to our knees to scrape it up off the ground when it falls.

But we smile broadly at our child, feeling every bit the queen of the world. We trust. We are mothers. We CAN do this. We are not alone.

We are mothering by faith.

“When nothing is sure, everything is possible.” ― Margaret Drabble

 No one has ever entrusted impoverished Emmalee with anything important but she takes it upon herself to sew her mentor’s resting garment in The Funeral Dress by Susan Gregg Gilmore. Join From Left to Write on October 15 as we discuss The Funeral Dress.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. 

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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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