Trust The Journey

“Ring out the old, ring in the new. Ring happy bells, across the snow.

The year is going, let him go. Ring out the false, ring in the true.”

~Afred Lord Tennyson

It’s clear and frosty this morning. C is asleep in his bedroom, and the house is still. Silent.

In the darkness, I journey down the stairs and nudge open his door, knocking into skateboards and loose lacrosse balls. He groans, “It’s still dark, Mom. What are you doing?”

“Just checking on you. It’s what mommies do. Are you warm enough?” I whisper.

“Yes….” his words come out in one breath as he rolls over.

“Go back to sleep, bud. I love you,” I reply, and gently shut his door.

Back upstairs, I light my candles and prepare for the last day of 2015 following my familiar morning rituals. Candles. Journal. Quotes to think on.

I notice the cantaloupe-colored sunrise just beginning to peek through my open window. There’s frost on the roof next door, and the trees are bare, thin branches mimicking the overhead power lines across the street. The candles flicker around me.

This won’t be the first New Year’s Eve we’ve spent apart from our four-person family. Our plans carefully crafted to coincide with Lily’s trip home from college, altered when C crashed into a tree ten days ago, taking the impact with his head.

Grateful for his high-tech ski helmet. Grateful he walked away.

2015 with mamawolfe

It’s been a rough journey for my boy since August 3, 2014, when he broke his leg on a race course at Mt. Hood, Oregon. Three days back into training this year, another setback.

I’m grateful he will recover. But I’m tired of this.

I’ve been in too many ERs and hospitals and exam rooms; I’ve read chapters and chapters in waiting areas and labs. I’ve asked occasionally for help, I’ve questioned and I’ve accepted. Mostly, I’ve kept it all inside.

I can “Fakebook” with the best of them.

I know how to selectively post, how to check in and let you know where we are. I gram and tweet and snap and I could tell you what a high school friend ate for breakfast (PG and J), who is on a romantic night away from the kids ( ūüôā ), and which motivated friends crawled out of bed in the dark for a frosty run. I see your smiles as you ski, the shared meals and new loves. I can almost see your life right there, your clues about 2015 shining through your status updates.

I see the pride, the hope, the joy and sometimes if you’re honest, a glimmer of sadness – all amidst those ordinary moments of living this journey.

Facebook proclaims it’s 2016 in Australia now, so the resolutions have begun. The lists, the fill-in-the-blanks, the wishes and dreams that maybe if we say them out loud, might just come true.

Instead, I pull out the box of memories I keep faithfully filling year after year, and open my journal from 2014.

Just curious,¬†I think. What’s changed? How have I filled a year’s worth of living?

The cover proclaims, “yes to growing and reaching, yes to healing, yes to soulfulness, yes to joy, ¬†yes to vulnerability, yes to change, yes to beginnings.”

Yes, I think. I’ve said yes to all of that this year.

Scanning the pages, I remember how sick I was this time last year – down on the couch, coughing and achy and sneezy kind of sick. Today, I feel well.

Last year I was reflective, grateful, struggling with change and believing in possibilities for the year ahead. I dreamed of joy and understanding.

I was hopeful.

It’s an hour later, and not much has changed. The sun is peeking through, reminding me that blue skies will be here soon. I can sill see the melon colored hue melding into the fog; the frost still clings to the roof tiles, and this, here and now, is still my extraordinary life.

Tonight I’ll ring out the old, I’ll let go of 2015. I’ll ring in the true.

This year, I’ll remember who I wanted to be when I grow up. I’ll trust the journey that’s taking me there.

 

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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Spending Time in the Snow: Making Memories On the Way to Mammoth

I spend huge amounts of time in the snow. ¬†I mean HUGE. ¬†More than normal people; well, ¬†people who don’t actually LIVE in the snow.

Last weekend, my trip to the snow started like this: left work at lunch,  loaded the car, started up some Taylor Swift on the iPod, and drove off in the early afternoon.

Lily Starbucks

Everything started off really well.  Driving up the hill, leaving the valley fog behind, we were making progress.  Only five hours to Mammoth-no problem before dark.

We even had time to pull off the road and load up on caffeine – it was BOGO Christmas drinks, after all!

This is what a trip to the snow should look like, right?

 As we drove uphill, things went downhill.  Fast.

Momentarily switching on the radio, we heard the news about Newtown.  Tears.  Shock.  Horror.

Then it started to rain.  Not good.  The Prius is a lot of things, but it is definitely not a snow car.

We checked the weather channel app – if we hurried, we’d make it over the pass and into Nevada. ¬†It would be smooth sailing after that.

IMG_3232Looks pretty, right?  It was.  Lily quickly  grabbed the camera while Taylor boomed through the speakers.  So cheery.  A white Christmas?

Not so fast.  Chains ahead.

Highway 50 isn’t called the ‘loneliest highway in the US’ for nothing. ¬†There were NO services, so I had to suck it up and bundle up. ¬†My daughter was watching. ¬†There was no one else who could do it.

Don’t be fooled by the smile on my face. ¬†It was all for the camera. ¬†Inside, I was starting to panic. ¬†Prius in the snow is not my favorite mode of travel.

IMG_3238My spirits were elevated when the CalTrans chain inspectors, amazed that I did it all by myself, fist-bumped me and sent me over the pass. ¬†It was only 12 miles-we could do it. ¬†It was ¬†only 4:00, and with a three-hour drive in front of us, I wasn’t too worried.

Forgoing our usual shortcut, we opted for the pass over into the Nevada desert.  I ditched the chains Рagain, all by myself, and as snow turned to rain, I thought we were clear.

Damn Weather Channel app.

What looked clear actually became snow.  Lots and lots of snow.  But it was flat, and as we passed through Bridgeport behind schedule, I felt nervous but confident we could make it.

Compared to 50, Highway 395 is desolate.  Flat and decorated with gorgeous rock formations and rivers, I usually enjoy the drive.  But at this point it was getting dark, I was tired, and there was snow hovering way too close to the six-inch clearance of the Prius.

Suddenly, we saw it: the one and only traffic alert sign, pronouncing our need for chains.  Now.

And like a beacon in the night, the Big Sky Motel appeared, equipped with a large floodlight.  It was the only light on the road besides mine, so I quickly pulled into the parking lot and prepared myself.

Like a scene from Psycho, the motel door opened and a grizzled, shaggy man sauntered out in his sweatpants, with an equally scraggly dog following behind him.

“Want a room? ¬†Only $69,” he croaked. ¬†I smelled something – he must have been enjoying himself in the motel lobby.

Although I desperately wanted to say yes, I declined, but when he offered to help with the chains I jumped on it.

Ten minutes later, we were off.  Until the chains broke.  In the dark.

At this point, I felt like Wonder Woman.  Faster than she could spin into her costume, I jumped out and pulled those suckers off.  I was muddy, exhausted, and determined to make it before dawn.

We did.

This is the next morning, enjoying coffee in our favorite funky coffee joint, Stellar Brew.

                   IMG_3242

And this view…what a reward.

Mammoth morning

She didn’t even mind spending the afternoon in the motel room, studying for finals.

IMG_3254

IMG_3263

And despite the struggle, the frustrations, and the hours and hours of driving Рnot to mention the ski race that was canceled, we ended up with a white Christmas after all.  And a whole bunch of memories, 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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It’s Good To Be Home…Kind Of

I’m still processing my trip to Indonesia…over 8,000 miles one way is a long distance to travel. ¬†Leaving everything that is known, for everything that is unknown, felt terribly unsettling. ¬†The 14 hour time change, living in a country that exists around a religion I was very unfamiliar with, and having to think and wonder and guess about nearly every move I made left me feeling worn out and ready for home.

I’d like to say that the trip was easy, that everything went smoothly and all my encounters were pleasant, but that wouldn’t be honest. ¬†I’d like to say that every bite I took, every car ride I took, and every breath I took was pleasant, but that wasn’t exactly the way it went.

I wish I could say that I was brave enough to try every food presented to me, that I learned to speak the language, and that I experienced every island and ethnic group in Indonesia, but I didn’t. ¬†I did pet a Komodo dragon, cross Jakarta traffic on foot, eat Durian fruit and board a sailing ship via a precarious gangplank over nasty water.

I can say that the plane ride from L.A. to Hong Kong wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected, and that all the teachers and students I worked with were absolutely welcoming and made me feel like a queen. ¬†I can also say that Indonesian Starbucks is eerily like California’s, and that nasi goreng might just be one of my new favorite foods.

from Obama’s elementary school in Jakarta

But most of all, what carried me through fourteen days of fatigue, over-stimulation, sweat and language barriers was what waited for me at home.  Knowing that what I was doing as a global ambassador, teacher and woman was teaching not only me, but my own children, that the world is a much smaller place than we know, and that when they grow up, my small contribution may make a big difference in their lives.

To read more about my day to day adventures, click over to travels with mamawolfe.

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 Ride of a Lifetime

We loaded into the back of the small, dilapidated whiteToyota pickup truck.  No safety restraints were in sight, unless the roll bars along the top counted.  Eight children aged 6 to 14 years couldn’t believe their good fortune.  Eight adults searched each other’s faces for solidarity.  This went against all our instincts, but so did waking up in a Nicaraguan compound with an armed guard standing at the door.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.¬† Although native English speakers, my kids had only ever attended school in Spanish.¬† They had no choice about it ‚Äď from kindergarten on, they attended a public Spanish Immersion elementary school and quickly became fluent.
At first, the road started out dusty but flat.¬† As we pulled out from behind the large black iron gates, I knew I was embarking on something that would take me far, far out of my comfort zone.¬† Dressed in shorts, t-shirt, sturdy shoes, bandanas, and hats to protect us from the blazing sun, I wondered how hard could it be? I had plenty of fresh water and granola bars in my backpack.¬† Two bottles of hand sanitizer ‚Äď one in my pocket and a backup in my pack ‚Äď would prevent any illness.¬† Our daily doses of malaria medication and enough industrial strength DEET bug spray to kill all the bugs in Nicaragua would keep us from insect driven disease.

 

As the pickup truck left town, I relaxed a bit.¬† Beaming smiles of bliss radiated from each child ‚Äď there was no fear on their faces.¬† Moving slowly down the dirt road we waved as we passed children and parents beginning their days in their humble, dirt-floored homes.¬† Cement walls created a shelter for them, and chickens and skinny dogs sauntered in and out.¬† Wisps of smoke rose from the outdoor fire pits.¬† Broad, white grins mixed with confused countenances met our white-skinned faces and shouts of greeting ‚Äď not many ‚Äėchelles‚Äô in this part of the world.

The tiny truck wound its way down the road, the homes spreading further and further apart.  A caballero and his companion greet our driver as he slows to a halt, carefully avoiding the emaciated cows on the road.  Relationships are key to survival in this part of the world.  The adults grab their cameras and snap away, most never having seen a real cowboy at work before.  The kids smile broadly in disbelief.

Sparse, green grassland dotted with the occasional tree line both sides of the road. Every few miles family home vegetable gardens interrupted the rocky outcroppings.  Undeterred, the farmers work around them.
Slowing to a halt, we notice a wrinkled old man on the side of the road.¬† Victor, our driver, calls out a greeting and waves him closer.¬† The man approaches the back of the truck, and I realize he intends to squeeze in with us.¬† As he throws one arm over the side and carefully enters the pickup bed, his two-foot long machete enters with him.¬† Our young American sons’ eyes widen in disbelief at the weapon within arm‚Äôs reach. ¬†The old American parents’ eyes widen in momentary panic.
Continuing up the road, local Nicaraguans looking for a ride repeatedly greet us.  No one turned away; we realize the amazing opportunity to meet them up close and personal as we squish back to back and side to side in the shrinking truck.
The truck takes a sharp left turn and wheels begin to spin.  Victor, unphased, eases it into low gear and we begin to climb a hill.  The flat road has disappeared, replaced by small rocks at first, then enormous boulders.  The adults begin to bark safety directions and plan for the eventual rollover.  The truck lurches to the right, and I yelp in terror.  The boys fist pump in jubilation, and we find ourselves right side up.

After an eternity, we make one last turn and the tiny pickup groans and lurches to a halt.  As I wait for my brain to stop spinning and my heartbeat to ease, a sound like thunder reaches my ears.  Children, teens and adults begin to crowd around, pulling on the doors and grinning widely.   The entire community is cheering and screaming as if Justin Bieber has just walked on stage, when in reality it is just us, 16 Americans about to continue the ride of a lifetime in Nicaragua.

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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Treasure Hunting: Geocaching for Memories

Sometimes, taking a walk with my son Cameron and my dog Cola is just the best thing to do.¬† We’re lucky in Davis to have a multitude of options for our journey-from our place in central Davis we can really head in any direction and find something to see.¬† After discovering geocaching a few years ago, our walks have turned into moments of discovery.
Geocaching is a game of high tech hide and seek.¬† It’s kind of like treasure hunting, except typical cache treasures aren’t worth much in monetary value-it’s all about the hunt.¬† “Cachers” find the thrill is in trying to solve the mystery and find the box, can, or whatever creative container has been hidden using coordinates from a GPS.¬† Personally, I like the geocaching app I downloaded on my iPhone-it has allowed us to hunt and seek for treasures everywhere we go, in any city or state.
As Cameron, Cola and I stroll along on our hunts we start to notice things we haven’t before-even in our own neighborhood.¬† We pay attention to the little details around us as we search for clues to the mystery.¬† We talk and walk, and when we think we’re close we check for ‘muggles’-(cache-speak for those who aren’t part of the caching community).¬† After we log our find it’s on to the next, and the next, and pretty soon it’s dark, and we head home.¬† We’ve cached all over Davis- the Arboretum, old North Davis, CommunityPark, Covell, Northstar and Stonegate.¬† We’ve climbed bridges, dug around in dirt and spiderwebs, and even stumbled across a large roosting bird of some sort out by the freeway.¬† There have been moments when I was ready to give up, and suddenly Cameron would pop up with a huge grin on his face and the cache in his hand.
What I’ve learned is that stuff is hidden everywhere.¬† For me, geocaching isn’t about finding the capsule, or logging the visit.¬† It’s the journey we take to get there.¬† It’s the wild turkeys roosting in the trees, or the geese in the bird sanctuary.¬† It’s the turtles and peacocks at the Arboretum and the yellow roses blooming along the Toomey Field fence.¬† And mostly, it’s the stuff that my son and I discover about each other along the way.
What I’m still learning is that it’s ok to get lost in the moment, and to slow down and notice the stuff.¬† The memories I log in my mind are the most valuable treasure of 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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