is age only a number

Don’t You Think Age Is Only A Number?

I was skimming Facebook today- because I’m on vacation and that’s what you do when you don’t have to wake up to an alarm, right? Sitting in my daughter’s college apartment, I saw a post from a mom who was at the beach with her three young children. It was a shot like many I take when I’m enjoying the moment– legs stretched out, book balanced on her lap, sand and surf and the horizon in the background.  Her caption made me laugh: “I’m reading a book on the beach with my boys. No floaties or crying or buckets or arguing over sunscreen. I’ve dreamed of days like this”.

is age only a number

Funny how time works, isn’t it? I remember feeling that way, too. I remember ticking off the milestone ages in my head, dreaming about this little tiny, often crying, baby girl I was holding, wondering how she would ever grow up and grow away from home – and away from me.

Just below hers was another post from a dear friend, frantically traveling to see her father before he passes.

She didn’t make it in time.

She shared a simple photo of her with him, no caption, just the two of them smiling and hugging. I saw her son in father’s face. I wanted to wrap my arms around her, let her know that on this day that we dream of and dread I’m here for her.

That’s the thing about motherhood, and growing up, and growing old. The years pass, time trickling by whether we know it or not – whether we document the moments or wish them away. 

I wear a silver cuff around my right wrist- actually several, one for each of the years that my motherhood has shifted. 

They’re instead of a tattoo. My mother is much happier this way.

Engraved with my mantra for the year, Be Here Now, it’s my daily reminder to stop and pay attention. To look up at the sky and down at the shadows. To notice what is right here instead of worrying about what is ahead or what I’ve left behind.

Not to regret or second guess or future trip.

isn't age only a number shadows

Just before I left on vacation, my son reminded me that he’s almost the same age my daughter was when she went off to college. He still has one more year at home.

I reminded him she was actually six months older, and he scoffed. I smiled. Those six months between 17 and 18 can make a huge difference.

Or is age only a number?

I’m not sure how old the woman’s children were as she lay on that beach, coveting her quiet time.

I know my friend is in her thirties- too young to lose a father she adored, so many years ahead to parent without his guidance.

This vacation is all about soaking in my daughter’s life – her friends, her lifestyle, her new home. I breathed deeply as she, for the first time, order a glass of sangria last night.  It was her first ‘official’ drink with me since she turned 21. Sitting at an outdoor cafe, we were enjoying a warm Salt Lake City evening just after she finished her volunteer job.

is age only a number
pc: Matt Chirico

Of course, she got carded- and as the waitress scrutinized her ID I couldn’t help blurting out “It’s legit! I’m her mom. She just turned 21. She was born June 2 1996 at 11:37…”

Wait-where did that come from?

The waitress just laughed as my daughter wryly smiled. Maybe she’s used to my obsession with her growing up; I’m not sure.

She sipped her sangria slowly as we ate. “I’m enjoying it,” she quipped at her boyfriend as he teased her deliberateness. I noticed her carefully spoon out the alcohol-soaked fruit, enjoying every last bit.

She was here. Now. And so was I. 

I wasn’t with her the moment she actually turned 21. She was somewhere in the mountains of South America, surrounded by friends and coffee farms, hiking and laughing and enjoying life. It wasn’t exactly how I imagined this milestone- sort of like most every parenting moment I’ve had, actually.

I’ve dreamed of days like this, I’m sure. I’ve wished they wouldn’t come at strongly as I wished they would. I’ve held onto her hand and let her go more times than I ever thought possible.

I know that age is only a number, that turning 51 and 21 really just mark the moments we have lived, milestones of memories and not anything to fear.

I know that if I can just be here, now, that age is only a number on a day and what matters are the ordinary, extraordinary memories in each one.

Don’t you agree age is only a number?

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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Teens aren't all that different in Indonesia

Teaching Teenagers In Indonesia – They’re Not So Different From American Teens

*This is an update of posts chronicling my Teaching In Jakarta, Indonesia, During Ramadan. As part of the U.S. State Department of Education’s IREX program, 10 teachers and I spent two weeks traveling, teaching, and creating friendships with Indonesian students. This trip was life-changing for me as a woman and a teacher; so many stereotypes of the Muslim religion and Ramadan were altered due to my ability to meet the Indonesian students, teachers, and families and observe what their daily life was like, what they valued, and how many similarities American and Indonesian teens share. As so many today are celebrating Ramadan, I’d like to share some of my experiences traveling in a Muslim country during their most holy time. I’d love to hear your stories of international travel and how it has changed your world, too.
~Jennifer

Sitting in my western style hotel room, sitting in a comfortable bed sipping coffee and watching CNN, I might think I’m at home in America.  Then I hear the faint strains of the morning prayers broadcast outside, and am instantly clear that outside this window is a completely different world than what I’m used to. Teaching teenagers in Indonesia is opening up my ways of thinking.

Indonesia
Indonesia city view

Systems in Indonesia

After only 76 hours in Indonesia, I’m beginning to understand some of the systems.  The Indonesian people are all about hospitality and helpfulness, even when they don’t speak my language.  I’m having a hard time learning Indonesian phrases – for some reason, they don’t hit my ear correctly and I cannot memorize even the simplest words. Teenagers in Indonesia aren’t really all that different than teens in America – but the schools are. Gender separation, strict uniforms, and forcing the teachers to move rooms instead of the students are unlike U.S. schools, but the goals and interests of Indonesian teens are amazingly similar.

Communicating in an Indonesian school.
Communicating in an Indonesian school.

 

What NOT to do in Indonesia

I’ve learned not to take photos in a grocery store, to use my hand in a downward flat palm position when I need to push through a crowd (personal space is very limited), and that cold Bintang beer tastes great after a day hanging out with a Komodo dragon in the 91-degree humid weather.

I’ve learned that teachers in Indonesia worry about many of the same things we do in the US – how to celebrate and teach diversity, how to engage students who are more interested in social media than school, and how to preserve their cultural identity, all on a salary of $150-$300/month.

Indonesian school project about climate change.
Indonesian school project about climate change.

Learning from each other

Today I begin teaching in a religious boarding school.  I’m hopeful that I make easy connections with the students and can understand what we can do to make our world a little bit better by working together.  I know the Indonesian people are as eager to learn from us as I am from them.

Teens aren't all that different in Indonesia
Teens aren’t all that different in Indonesia.
Teaching in Indonesia
Teaching in Indonesia.

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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Anne Lamott Stitch

Taking Life Stitch By Stitch – Anne Lamott

“When you can step back at moments like these and see what is happening, when you watch people you love under fire or evaporating, you realize that the secret of life is patch patch patch. Thread your needle, make a knot, find one place on the other piece of torn cloth where you can make one stitch that will hold. And do it again. And again. And again.”

~Anne Lamott, Stitches

To me, some writers are meant to be savored. I tend to plow through narratives with the pace of a runner rounding third base, so immersed in the story yet desperately eager to cross the plate and get my next up to bat.

I have “to-be-read” shelfies that are simply full to the brim.

stitch book

Yet when it comes to Anne Lamott, no such rushing is allowed. Anne Lamott is meant to be slowly digested, piece by piece, word by delicious word, allowing every nuance to be assimilated and mulled over and absorbed. Usually, that means multiple readings.

 

That’s what happened with her book Stitches: A Handbook On Meaning, Hope and Repair. I found myself reading, pausing,re-reading, more pausing, writing, reflecting, and re-reading again with the most wondrous sense of joy, snapping photos of pages and quotes and passages that just wouldn’t leave my mind.

“…the secret of life is patch patch patch…”

How often have I felt like my life is a series of stitches in a quilt, piecing together the sometimes hastily, often crookedly and usually wonderfully mismatched moments? This year, I promised myself to be.here.now. To step back and notice the moments in my life, in the lives of my children and my husband and everyone around me. To search for the stories behind the situation, to pause and be patient and trust that where I am – where we are – is where I need to be.

Sometimes, I’ve missed the eye of the needle. I’ve had to regroup, rethread, redo. I’ve tied knots that sometimes slip loose, but more than often have held tight. I’ve learned to gently pull the pieces together, to quietly look for connections in the colors and fabric that make up my extraordinary life. And I do it again, and again, and again, each day sticking with the stitches that held from the day before, gently guiding myself to the next connection. Subtly weaving moments together, I’m learning. I’m growing, laughing, loving, deepening.

I’m stepping back before stepping in, I’m watching the fire and the flame, the mist and the storm, the light and the lightness.

I’m patching together the secret of life – I’m weaving the thread of the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Stitch by beautiful stitch.

Anne Lamott Stitch

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 Gods Are Here, In This Almost Empty Nest

“The Gods Are Here”

This is no mountain

But a house,

No rock of solitude

But a family chair,

No wilds

But life appearing

As life anywhere domesticated,

Yet I know the gods are here,

And that if I touch them

I will arise

And take majesty into the kitchen.”

Jean Toomer

The Gods are here, in this almost empty nest of mine.

Hovering over my family, my son frequently ticks off the months left he has until his birthday, the day he officially becomes an ‘adult’.

There’s less than four left; we anticipate with a mix of excitement and uncertainty. He for the former, me for the latter. More than some I know, less than others.

Yesterday he announced there were seven months before he would know officially where he’s spending his college years. Unofficially, he’s hoping for a location 2, 467 miles from home. Exactly. Yes, I checked.

The Gods are here, in this home. I surround myself with their comfort.

We watch “Blackish” together. It’s one of our few remaining ‘things’ we do, just the two of us.  That, and gardening. For anyone out there with a teenage son, you understand the joy of having a ‘thing’ to do together. For most days, we parallel, a mix of school and jobs and eating and homework. We say good morning and goodnight, and as ‘life anywhere domesticated’, we have our own strange daily routine. It works ok. I find myself forever on the end of wanting more, but swelling with pride as he feels his footing in wanting and doing more for himself.

A few weeks ago, “Blackish” hit home with their episode about their oldest child receiving college acceptances and struggling with a decision of the heart v. head. It’s the kind of struggle I’m all too familiar with these days: how hard to tug on the line, how much slack to release. How to truly sit with the situation in front of me and decide where I fit, how I respond, when I share my opinion and when I just listen.

“This is no mountain, but a house”, I remind myself. This is “no rock of solitude”, but a “family chair” to sink into. These are the small moments of life that slip in and out sometimes without notice, sometimes with great emotion surfacing at the most strange and inopportune times. This is my job, as a mother, to remember that it is my place to create the soft place to land, the cushion to spring into and out of and to trust the solid foundation that brought us this far. This is ‘life appearing’ whether I like it or not, despite my protests and preparations. This is my holy place, our landing space, our creation. I can trust in the sturdiness of our structure. I can close my eyes and remember the majesty of their first words and milestones. I breathe in the scent of their baby soft skin, fresh from the bath. I hear the whispers and the whimpers, the laughter and the squeals of excitement. I remember it all even when I didn’t think I would need to.

gods are here empty nest garden

I will arise, I am confident. I will take majesty, just as it has been given to me in all the extraordinary, ordinary moments spent gathered in this kitchen, this garden, this home.

I know the gods are here, in this almost empty nest. I will touch them here, I am confident. Here, rooted in this family, this place, this home, this life appearing and disappearing in front of me.

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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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Paying Attention

Paying attention requires no equipment, no special clothes, no greens fees or personal trainers. You do not even have to be in particularly good shape. All you need is a body on this earth, willing to notice where it is, trusting that even something as small as a hazelnut can become an altar in this world.


~ Barbara Brown Taylor

attention

Pay Attention

If you’ve been reading my blog over the last 5+ years, it probably won’t surprise you why I loved this quote. I write about paying attention to the small moments of life on a regular basis. I frequently use the hashtags #lookup and #payattention on my Instagram and Twitter posts and am fond of catching images that are far above my head or down at my feet.

I love paying attention.

Being an introvert has always given me the gift of watching. I’d much rather hang to the side of a party, or sit on the edge of a group and just watch what is going on. I notice body language, gestures, and simple movements. I watch how people catch each other’s eyes when they want to make an impression, and how the touch of a hand on a shoulder, an aggressive hug or a tensed smile can reveal so much.

I pay attention to my students when we speak, often crouching down to get to their desk/eye level – or standing on my tippy toes to reach the really tall ones! I absolutely love when kids get lost in their conversations and forget I’m in the room – that’s really the time when I learn so much about what’s important to them.

And to my own children, I strive to pay attention to not only what they do when they’re at home, but also when they’re away and standing on their own. Part of my greatest joy as a parent has come in watching my kids ‘adulting’ – making their own decisions, both large and complicated and small and somewhat insignificant. I love watching how they react to situations, like problems with a roommate or frustration with a teacher. I honestly believe that the best parenting I can do really involves just being a ‘body’ willing to notice what is going on in their lives.

When I’m walking, paying attention requires no equipment. I’ve got my face forward, feet sturdy beneath me, and my dog to my side. I’ve sometimes got the sun on my face, or the mist on my jacket as I walk my favorite trail, past the same corners and ponds, not even in particularly good shape but willing, so willing, to notice the curve of a tree branch, the rustle of bird wings, or the delicateness of a cloud. I look up, I gaze down, I trust that my consistency in paying attention to the extraordinary in the ordinary world around me will make all the difference.

Today, just for a moment, try to pause. Look up.  What do you see? Can you feel a breeze on your skin? Breathe in deeply. Pause, and listen to the sounds that surround you. Be present. Be here, now.

Pay attention.

I’d love it if you’d share your observations in the comments – just a few words, a snapshot of where you are. It’s the small moments that count the most, really.

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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