purge party

It’s A Purge Party – And You’re Invited!

Back in May, a few weeks before school let out for the summer, I decided I needed to have a purge party. In the last 27 years, you see, I’ve taught a huge variety of curriculum and grades, I’ve gone from overhead projectors to DLP to Chromebooks and devices, and yet my paper files were still there, haunting me from five huge, overstuffed beige metal filing cabinets.

I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I needed support…and fortunately, as every teacher knows, there are ALWAYS kids who love to help.

Grateful, tired teacher with purge party helpers.

Here’s how the purge party began:

I thought it would be simplest to start with my bookshelves. This year I returned to dedicated time for READING in my classes, and boy, did we all love it. Every day starting off with 10 minutes of relax and read helped us all to calm down, focus, and get lost in stories. And as a result, I bought new books…which meant purging titles I have had for decades. I didn’t think it would be too big of a deal – books are books, and surely I could make some space without too much heartache.

Letting go of books, to me, is like leaving old friends – and I realized just wasn’t up to that part of the purge party, so I asked some of my most voracious readers if they’d like to help…and boy, did they help!

We purged out an entire bookcase, and then she ORGANIZED what was left! Best of all, as I tried to sneak back some beloved titles, she reminded me that, “OMG, Mrs. Wolfe, you have TOO many books about baseball…and no one is going to want to read that one -just get rid of it!”

This is one huge reason my purge party was a success – I was reminded that while I might feel huge attachment to the books in my room, kids in 2018 have different tastes and I needed to make room for more current titles.

A few other students caught on to the idea of my ‘purge party’ – and to my huge surprise, volunteered to come back the day after school was out to help.

I honestly couldn’t believe they showed up. I HAD promised them a treat from Dutch Bros….but to show up eager to help at 8:30 a.m. the first day of summer? I’m the luckiest teacher…

Another sweet purge party helper!

Here’s how the purge party went:

The purge party went something like this: I open a file cabinet drawer, said just recycle everything, they look at me like I’m crazy, and then proceed to fill my green bins over and over and over with 27 years worth of PAPER.

I tried not to hyperventilate. I tried not to dig through the file folders and workbooks and transparencies, and just let them PURGE.

purge party

It was hard clearing out all those memories; I’m transitioning back to 7th grade ELA next year and this felt like the perfect time for purging. I’m grateful to be surrounded by loving students willing to not let me look back, and instead keep supporting me, pushing me forward and reminding me of the fun year they had. And not one part of that ‘fun’ came from those metal drawers.

In truth, I haven’t even touched those five filing cabinets for years. I was trying the ‘if you don’t see it/touch it/use it’ theory to make purging easier for me. I was never again going to teach French, or Yearbook, or 7th grade History…and if by some chance the Universe sent that curriculum my way again, I was now opening up the possibility for something new to enter.

It was a long, emotional day for me. The kids ate pizza, got caffeinated and silly and somehow, by 2:30, the purge party was done. Most of the kids stayed the entire time, supporting me and each other as we cleared out the old and made way for the new possibilities. I’m not sure any of us were really ready to leave, actually. 

The purge party continues:

The success of my purge party inspired me to continue at home. This summer, I’m starting to clear. I’ve done some drawers and closets, and already made two deliveries to the donation center. I’ve brought bags of books to the Little Free Library around the corner. I’m scratched by rosebushes by clearing dead debris in my garden. I’m spreading new mulch and propping up lilies that bloomed so big they fell over.  And I’ll be honest – I’m feeling a bit anxious about it all…just like watching my classroom memories disappear into the recycle bin, my home holds 24 years of memories. I have to learn that right now, clearing out doesn’t mean the feelings are going; instead I’m allowing space for possibilities as we enter this new phase at home and embrace the empty nest.

So this week, on my solo staycation, I’m taking the quiet time to pay attention to the places at home and life that are out of balance and making a daily practice to purge, to put away, and to allow the light to shine in and on and through, one minute at a time. 

I hope you’ll join me on this one. I could use some friendly energy to help me ride out the flood of memories I’m sure will come. I’d really rather not have a purge party for 1! Give me a shout out and let me know if you’d like to be here with me in 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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peace quote gandhi

Peace Begins At Home

Peace

“Peace, like charity, begins at home.”

-Franklin D. Roosevelt

This quote just seemed right today, on many, many levels.

We know we are better together, stronger together, more peaceful together.

Lily pumpkin patch

Cherish what is really important to you.

Lift your face to the sky, feel the air around you.

Breathe deeply, and enjoy the moment.

Hug your children, inhale their scent.

Breathe deeply and enjoy the moment.

Show your gratitude, say thank you.

Exhale, inhale, exhale.

Let calm flow in and out.

Without the struggle, the victory wouldn’t be as powerful.

Be proud of you and what you do. Embrace you.

Make your prayer for peace. Make it for you, your children, and your world.

The world is in need.

We are so very, very lucky to have each other.

Sharing is powerful.

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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authenticity reflection

Authenticity: When I Wonder If I Am Enough

Authenticity: When I Wonder If I Am Enough

I didn’t really set out to be a teacher – or a parent. I wasn’t a child who dreamed of my ‘perfect’ career or ‘perfect’ family. I didn’t have names picked out for my future children. I rarely thought about life too far in advance. I mostly did what I needed to do, took the side roads instead of the highway, and generally landed on my feet – often times a bit wobbly or off center, but not completely upside down.

At least not more than once or twice.

The fact that teaching and parenting have defined me for 27 years is really quite surprising.

I’m grateful for my teaching job. I’m told I’m good at it; I’ve stuck with teaching middle school, through three different districts, dozens of principals and multiple iterations of teaching kids. Yes, the content and class titles have changed, but not my focus: kids first, content second.

And I’m grateful for my parenting job. I’m thinking I’m pretty good at it; my oldest is graduating from college, my youngest from high school. Neither has been in ‘trouble’, they care about people and take their education seriously. They are good humans. And they still check in with mom and dad and put up with my innate tendency to worry and create elaborate ‘what if’ scenarios in my head.

And yet, still, those moments creep up on me, silent and stealthy and surprising with their intensity – moments when doubt creeps in, wraps like a tourniquet around my forehead and squeezes out my confidence. The moments that I’m learning to beat down, to thrash out at with a violence built up over half a century of battling self-doubt.

I’ve been rolling around this idea for awhile now, waiting for just the right inspiration – and today, the Universe responded with a quote from Coco Chanel in my “Year of Daily Joy” guided journal: “How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something, but someone.”

authenticity

I honestly think that’s where I am right now: deciding to be someONE. I’m fairly certain it has to do with being 50+, with having a supportive husband who helps me along a path that just feels like the right one to take – even when I’ve got no other justification than that. I would bet that it has to do with feeling supported in my work – but administrators, colleagues, parents, and students who allow me to succeed and fail, who listen to my audacious ideas and trust me enough to join in.

Authenticity: loving fiercely

And I know for sure that my children, the two humans who have taught me the most in life, are at the core of my decision. Loving fiercely, parenting two spirits that aren’t afraid to call me out and show me their side of the story, enable me to look in the mirror every day and ask, “Am I enough by THEIR standards?”

authenticity

Knowing that if I walk my talk, if I believe in my power enough to show them they can believe in theirs, is flexing my authenticity muscle. With every risk I take, with every failure and stumble and crash I hope I’m showing them that I care. That I believe in searching for fulfillment for myself and being open to what the Universe has in mind…even when I want nothing more than to stay under the soft covers of my bed and listen to the birds chirping outside on a cloudy morning.

Martha Beck says, “Refusing to risk is like allowing a muscle to atrophy; it doesn’t hurt, but when the muscle isn’t fulfilling its purpose, it loses whatever strength it has.” 

I love thinking of these moments of wondering if I’m enough like a muscle I need to exercise. We all have authenticity inside, wrapping our bones and covering our hearts with abundance and love. Why have so many, like me, found it easier to refuse to risk, to scramble under the covers instead of undertaking the hard work of finding – and cultivating – it?

I have struggled most of my life with a paralysis of perfectionism. I don’t know where it comes from or why, and I honestly don’t care.

What I do care about, however, is how this paralysis impacts my ability to find authenticity-in my parenting, my teaching, my writing, and my daily interactions with strangers and friends. Part of that is recognizing that when the Universe sends me former students who remind me I was their ‘favorite’ teacher, or when my son responds with a hug to my request to spend more than an hour a day together, or when I connect with a stranger on Twitter who honors my work, I am making a difference.

Authenticity: Being enough

I care about authenticity. I also care deeply about being ‘enough’. So I’ll show up, I’ll puff out my chest when I’m feeling less than brave, and I’ll live. I’ll take the risk. I’ll flex the muscle. I’ll show the Universe more love. I’ll do things that I want to do, and I won’t let perfectionism paralyze me ever again.

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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What Are Your Early Morning Rituals? How To Wake Up Right And Make A Difference

What Are Your Early Morning Rituals? How To Wake Up Right

I’m not much interested in New Year’s Resolutions – I’ve written before about my preference for following a mantra for the year and seeing how it unfolds rather than creating some arbitrary list of actions that, if I don’t complete, will make me feel worse than I did when I started. One new year ritual I do follow, however, is starting a morning book as one of my early morning rituals. This year I chose Jennifer Louden’s A Year of Daily Joy: A Guided Journal to Creating Happiness Every Day. It’s a book I’ve used before but never quite finished, but since our Universe somehow keeps on spinning, I’m able to start again. Fresh. So on January 7, when the prompt was to think and write about my early morning rituals I felt inspired – actually, I felt like I was going in the right direction, since before I turned to the page, I had already been  musing about how I love what I do in the early morning that helps me wake up right and have a happy day.

My early morning rituals include…

  • Going to bed early. Yes, starting the day off right means getting to bed early the night before. Years ago when the kids were little I’d fall asleep next to them, so exhausted from days of mothering and teaching I couldn’t wait to snuggle up with my head on a soft pillow, knowing that sleep would be interrupted but oh, so heavenly while it lasted. Now, with young adults living at home and out of state, I could stay awake as late as their body clocks want them to, but I’ve found that falling asleep by 9:30 p.m. (and setting an alarm for their curfew as needed) affords me at least 7-8 hours of good quality sleep. Oh – and no screen time after 9 helps immensely, too!
  • Waking up to an open window and natural sunlight. During the work week, I wake up at 5:30 a.m. Yes – it’s dark, but having my bedroom window cracked just a little bit not only keeps me cool all night but also allows nature sounds to be my wake up call. Just this morning I was greeted by a lovely owl announcing itself, and doves cooing on my back fence while finches chattered on the bare tree branches. Getting up early to see the dawn break over the treetops while listening to my live nature soundtrack reminds me of my small place in this great big world, and is one of my favorite early morning rituals – even in the cold California winter months!
  • Candlelight. I love lighting one, two, or sometimes three candles when I wake up. Easing myself into the light of day with natural sunlight and the flicker of meditative candlelight allows my mind to rest, to contemplate and prepare for the busy day ahead.Coffee. I had to add this one – for me, having moments alone with my first sips of a warm coffee with cream in my favorite mug is such a simple pleasure; I feel so strongly about my early morning ritual of calm and coffee that I travel with my own portable french press and favorite beans – there’s always hot water in hotel rooms, and it’s so much better to honor my need for caffeine than put up with a poor substitute.
  • Calm.com. Have you heard of the website calm.com? It’s full of beautiful, meditative music and visuals that I not only use in my early morning rituals, but my middle school students love it as well! You can use the app or desktop version, and I love being able to set a meditation timer or just let the music play softly in the background as I go about my rituals.
  • Writing and gratitudes. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have some sort of journal…I’ve handwritten decades of my life in spiral notebooks and cloth bound  books, telling stories and sharing memories, documenting quotes, writing to do lists and always starting with gratitudes. I try to write at least five gratitudes every morning – some days, yes, it is challenging to not fall back on those deep core values, but on those days when I am digging deep and reminded of the power of love, home, kindness, and nature, I know I have at least started my day remembering that some things never change. Lately, I’ve been adding a focus for the day – at least one daily goal that I can achieve.

early morning rituals

As the season change and my life evolves, my early morning rituals adjust with the times. No longer do I find myself nursing a baby while balancing a steaming mug, or being jolted awake and rushing to a ski hill. This time of life is evolving towards more time for self-care, allowing for more choice and control over how I start my day. Surprisingly, my core early morning rituals still hold up…calm, quiet, nature, soft light, coffee and gratitudes are what start each day off right for me. Bringing positive early morning rituals into your day is one way I know for sure to go out into the world ready to make a difference.

What are your early morning rituals? Do you find they change and evolve, or are you, like me, holding onto what is tried and true?

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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Inside The Mind of a Teacher-Mom: Poetry by Kaveri Patel

Inside The Mind of a Teacher-Mom: Poetry by Kaveri Patel

Going inside the mind of a teacher-mom in November feels so much like this beautiful poem by Kaveri Patel. The newness of the school year has worn off. Old habits replace the eagerness for a fresh start. Tired kids and tired teachers feed off of a desire for the long, long month to just pause, to stop the spinning and pay attention to the change of season.

Inside The Mind of a Teacher-Mom: Poetry by Kaveri Patel

I’ve written before about the teacher-mom balance. I know so many who relate to feeling like they’re pulled in too many directions and it will only take the slightest bend in a new way to s.n.a.p.

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?

You feel it.

Inside The Mind of a Teacher-Mom: Poetry by Kaveri Patel pumpkin

It doesn’t help that pumpkin is already being replaced by holiday silver glitter, subtly reminding us that there are only how many days left until the holiday season?

I know. I feel it.

I’m trying to stop, to listen to the wind tossing the branches against my bedroom window, to smell the last roses blooming in my backyard, to sip my coffee slowly and deliberately each morning as I attempt to fill my mind with an intention for the day.

Inside The Mind of a Teacher-Mom: Poetry by Kaveri Patel

It is with this deep gratitude and connection to all the parents and teachers trying to do their best, every day, that I share these words by Kaveri Patel with you today:

Inside The Mind of a Teacher-Mom: Poetry by Kaveri Patel

Dear you,
you who always have
so many things to do
so many places to be
your mind spinning like
fan blades at high speed
each moment always a blur
because you’re never still

Inside The Mind of a Teacher-Mom: Poetry by Kaveri Patel

I know you’re tired
I also know it’s not your fault
The constant brain-buzz is like
a swarm of bees threatening
to sting if you close your eyes
You’ve forgotten something again
You need to prepare for that or else
You should have done that differently

What if you closed your eyes?
Would the world fall
apart without you?
Or would your mind
become the open sky
flock of thoughts
flying across the sunrise
as you just watched and smiled

~ Kaveri Patel

Inside The Mind of a Teacher-Mom: Poetry by Kaveri Patel

I found this gem of a poem on A First Sip: Inspiration for Happiness, Love and Peace – if you haven’t checked out their website yet, I hope my sharing this gentle reminder helps bring more gentle beauty into your life 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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