Facebook

Life and Death On Facebook

“We are walking each other home”

– Ram Dass and Paul Gorman

Hey there,

I should be at your funeral right now. A celebration of life, your memorial…I should be there. Except, I just couldn’t.

It’s been on my calendar and in the front of my mind since you passed two weeks ago. I figured I would slip in, soak up all the goodness and love people were pouring out in their tears and slip out, unnoticed.

And then this morning, as I was waking up, listening to the mockingbird outside my window and looking into the eyes of my mutt, so happy to see me, I absolutely couldn’t bear the thought of it all. Despite how brave you were, how you surrendered your fear of death and embraced everything joyful about life, I knew that the best way I could honor you, sweet friend, was with words.

Facebook

You see, I dreamed about Disneyland the night after you died. At first, we were there and everything seemed fine. I had been elected some kind of ambassador to Disneyland and wasn’t quite sure why, because I never had that same feeling about it as you did. I know everyone says it’s the happiest place on earth but happiness was never my strong point.

When we first met in 1991, I was always the glass-half-full kind of girl. We were both fresh-faced teachers, barely adults, excited to be at Jackman together, not quite sure what the heck we were doing but pumped up to make things happen.

Suddenly, we were pushing through the crowds. I was smiling –  people were paying attention to us. You always had a way of lighting up a space, my dear.

PE teachers and English teachers don’t always gravitate towards each other, but being in the midst of a brand new school, kids who hungered for relationships and trying to build a community, we bonded.  That’s the way you were with everyone – your big smile, huge hugs, and endearing personality charmed everyone – especially our students.

Stopping mid-stream, I bent down and picked up a wedding ring off the ground and put it in my pocket. It seemed like someone must’ve dropped it but I wasn’t sure why and everyone was so happy I didn’t want to stop and damper the mood.

I only invited three work friends to my wedding in 1994 – you were sweet enough to come, helping me make my special day perfect. You just had a knack for that.

life and death on facebook
Pam and Carrie at my wedding – yes, she wore white!

We found ourselves on some sort of up in the air train or bus  – people kept sitting down and getting off, and at one point you leaned over and whispered, “I’ll be back in a second,” and you jumped to the side of the freeway. Another person came and sat down next to me – he had trouble with his legs. He was telling me how he couldn’t roll over and was having trouble with mobility.

John always liked you, you know. We were an unlikely pair, you and I – an ex-Goth girl turned English teacher, and an ex-basketball star turned PE teacher? Introvert and extrovert. Do you remember that time we went to CLMS with Ann and Tina? I’m pretty sure that was my first official work conference – all I remember is the laughter.

facebook
The three PE teachers – and me, behind the camera. Unlikely friends.

 

People kept coming onto the bus, sitting down, getting up, trying to get going. I asked the man next to me where you were and somebody shouted, “She’s over on the other side!” and there you were, smiling that enormous grin that filled up the whole room. It was taking forever to get to Disneyland, the traffic was bad, and you started talking about all the challenges in life. The mom behind me was arguing with her son because he wanted to get off, go out on his own, and I leaned over the seat and told her I knew how she felt – I let my son move away and eighth grade, but he came back. I told her was all going to be OK and we kept on the journey.

I remember the last time I saw you. It was after I started teaching AVID, and came back to Jackman to see the program there, but I think I spent more time with you than anyone else. It was so strange walking back through the gates, across the quad and back into another time. I had become a mom by then, and you’d met Nat and were so happy with her. I remember getting back in my car, driving around the neighborhood, and thinking I shouldn’t let life get in the way of seeing people I really care about. I wish I’d listened to myself.

I didn’t quite know what to do so I got up and started feeding people. I was cutting a cake into little tiny bites, hoping it was going to be enough for everybody – and suddenly, the train stopped. We were finally at Disneyland, and everybody started pushing to get off the bus and I lost track of you. And I didn’t feel so much like people were paying attention anymore – it was just over, we were going our own ways, not unhappily or happily, just moving through the journey.

I found out you died on Facebook. Not what I ever expected to read the morning of April 9, 2018 – that your journey on Earth was over. I was shocked. You looked so strong in your photos, so happy. How could you be gone?

facebook

I’m going to miss you, Carrie.

You were brave with your life. I’m grateful that Facebook brought us back together over the last decade. I’m grateful I got to watch as you filled your life with happiness and smiles, and that I saw you adore your family, your travels with Natalie and your Ladd-strong battles with chemo. I love seeing pictures of our old friends from the beginning years – people you stayed connected with, but I let go. When I look at my wedding photos I can hardly remember the girl I was in 1994; it was before I even knew really who I was, but you were there smiling cheering me and John. I can’t believe I can’t return the favor, that I can’t finally drive across the causeway, pull up a chair with you in a garden, drink a pint and just laugh and remember and let you know how important you were in my life. I’m sorry my kids didn’t get to know you, and I’m sorry that they didn’t get to see what true bravery looked like. I’m sorry I left it up to Facebook to keep in touch.

But my dear, sweet Carrie, please know that you are carried with me into my classroom every day. You’re in my heart when my students need a hug or someone who will listen. You’re with me when I look into the faces of children who struggle to get to school or to simply smile.  When I see a teacher being goofy, dancing to their own tune at an assembly, I know you’re with me, too. And you’re there, always, when a teacher friend walks up, puts her arm around me, and gently says, “Hey, Jen”.

You’re all that, and more, Carrie. I hope you understand now why I couldn’t slip into your service today, and instead, I sit alone in my room, gazing out at the treetops, writing these words, glancing up at my calendar that reminds me that although this is the month we lost your body, your spirit will always be right here with me.

Until our souls meet again,

Jen

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

fear

Learning To Conquer Your Fear

 

Learning To Conquer Your Fear

I love this quote about fear from Pema Chodron:

“The on-the-spot practice of being fully present, feeling your heart, and greeting the next moment with an open mind can be done at any time: when you wake up in the morning, before a difficult conversation, whenever fear or discomfort arises.

This practice is a beautiful way to claim your warriorship, your spiritual warriorship.

In other words, it is a way to claim your courage, your kindness, your strength. Whenever it occurs to you, you can pause briefly, touch in with how you’re feeling both physically and mentally, and then connect with your heart—even putting your hand on your heart, if you want to.

This is a way of extending warmth and acceptance to whatever is going on for you right now.

You might have an aching back, an upset stomach, panic, rage, impatience, calmness, joy – whatever it is, you can let it be there just as it is, without labeling it good or bad, without telling yourself you should or shouldn’t be feeling that way.

Having connected with what is, with love and acceptance, you can go forward with curiosity and courage.”

~ Pema Chodron

fear

I use this image on my daily agenda at school – partly to remind my students to brave, but also to remind myself.

Just because I’m an adult doesn’t mean I don’t have to think about conquering fear – it just sometimes looks a little different for me than it does for 8th graders. I love Pema’s idea of conquering fear as a way to claim both courage and kindness.

embrace change

For years I’ve been wearing a silver cuff reminding me to have courage – to look at each day and break it down, to find small ways to chunk out tasks and experiences and problems into manageable pieces.

Some days it works better than others.

I try to teach my students about time management, about self-advocacy, about believing that they deserve to be successful.

Some days my words are stronger than others. Some days they, believe me, some days they don’t.

“You’re still learning,” I tell them. “Excuses are useless,” I remind them.

I remind myself, too.

As teachers, we’re learning how to help kids experiencing trauma. We are begging for professional development to help kids with anxiety, to build relationships, to remember to put KIDS first, CURRICULUM second.

moms make awesome teachers

We’ve seen what happens when kids/young adults fall through the cracks.I’m sure that I spend more time with some of my students than they actually spend with their parents. I’ve got kids stopping by to say hello between classes, sometimes asking for a hug or sharing something they’re proud of. I’ve got kids who eat lunch on my beanbags or tables every single day, I think because they know it’s a safe, calm place.

I guess that’s one way they’re learning to conquer their fear – to find a community in a place where they know they’re not being judged or having to monitor their ‘likes’. They can just connect, just be there as is.

I love those lunch hours, knowing that I really just need to let them know they are loved and accepted and that they are connected to someone who cares.

fear
Me stepping out of my comfort zone – coding with my students!

I think that’s a pretty decent place to start learning to conquer fear, right?

Do you have any advice about conquering fear? I’d love to hear it – leave a comment below, or tweet me @mamawolfeto2!

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Living In Between Love and Fear

IMG_8586.JPG

“…the Outside had taught him that there wasn’t much difference between loving someone and being afraid of them. Loving a person meant needing them to stay: alive, around. But the shadow that love can’t help but cast is fear: fear they won’t stay alive or around–fear they’ll be reckless, or doomed, or just walk away and not consider you ever again. With love, you’re scared it will disappear. With fear, you’re scared it never will. The trick…was getting used to both of them at the same time. It was living in between.”

~Michael Christie, from If I Die, If I Fall

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

The Pull of Nicaragua

Nicaragua

The wide, green valley spread out in front of me, bordered by craggy eruptions of hillside left over from some volcanic afterthought of long ago. The smoke tickled my nose as I gazed out, scanning for any sign of humanity. As far as I could see, not a road, building, tower, powerline or semblance of society was in sight. I was looking for what I knew to be real, not what really was.

At this precise moment I was alone, a feeling not often experienced by a mom, teacher, and wife. My children were somewhere nearby, but the vegetation masked any sign of company. I felt the stillness, the quiet only punctuated by the occasional crowing of a rooster or barking dog. Everywhere I looked was green, still, and lush.

The first time I heard about a volunteer trip to Nicaragua my attention was piqued. My life, up until then, was ridiculously scheduled and predictable-as predictable as a mom with two kids and a full time job can be. Adventure travel had ceased with the post-college backpacking-around-Europe-with-my-boyfriend escapade, and my world, although rich and full and satisfying, had taken on a somewhat banal existence. My children were ready to explore. I was ready to explore. The world was out there, and I needed to be in it.

Nicaragua wasn’t a place I had any special attachment to.  I could have gone any myriad of places, but as fate would have it, we landed in a country vast and untouched by modern hands. In Nica, no one has the latest model car or cell phone. Clothing is dated and faded, yet the people take extreme pride in their appearance. Wide grins, open arms and gentle spirits pulled me in, enveloping me with kindness. I found myself feeling safe in an unsettled space, surrounded by unfamiliar language and customs. Food, shelter and stories were eagerly shared despite our meager surroundings. It didn’t seem to matter where I came from; I was there, with them, in the moment. That was all that mattered.

Every day I scrutinized my surroundings with the eyes of an outsider, sure that the moment would come when my guard would go up. Acutely aware of my status, I attempted to melt into the backdrop and become one of them. I wondered how I would survive in their world, so unaffected by the 21st century. Far and wide the verdant landscape spread, lush and green, shrouding what should have been obvious to see. Day by day I found myself settling into the daily rhythm, following the beat of the culture around me. I was stripped of my shell, my core exposed in a way I found frighteningly unprotected yet blissfully liberating.

The pull of Nicaragua altered my former shy and timid inner child into a woman no longer afraid to take risks, to step into the world and seek out the unexpected. The pull of Nicaragua transformed me, like a soldier burning to fight an unknown enemy or discover a place far beyond their imagination. The pull of Nicaragua liberated me, helping me discover what was real.

This post was inspired by The Cartographer of No Man’s Land by P.S. Duffy. Angus enlists in the Nova Scotia WWI regiment and travels Europe to search for his missing in action best friend and brother-in-law. Along the way Angus discovers more than he ever wanted to know.Join From Left to Write on November 14 as we discuss The Cartographer of No Man’s Land.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp