“Let us be silent,
that we may hear
the whispers of the gods.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Thank you to First Sip for reminding me of the importance of quiet, of solitude, and of listening to messages from the Universe.
Thank you to First Sip for reminding me of the importance of quiet, of solitude, and of listening to messages from the Universe.
Have you ever done something that seemed like a good idea at the time?
Have you ever jumped into a project, or an adventure just because you felt so strongly in your soul that it was the right thing to do?
When my kids and I started volunteering for a Nicaraguan non-profit called Seeds of Learning in 2010, I had no idea the impact it would have on each of us – it changed our lives.
We went from a small, college town in northern California to the mountains of Nicaragua to build schools. We went loaded with books, teaching supplies, fabric and yarn and crafts and puzzles and backpacks. We went with anticipation, trepidation, and a complete and utter inability to know what life was like in a developing country.
We went with a sense of adventure.
We came home with love, laughter, uplifted hearts and stories – lots and lots of stories.
I’ve written here about our escapades; stories of the people we loved, the simplicity of the lifestyle, and the anxiety I felt before we left. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of the lovely Nicaraguan boys and girls who eagerly embraced us strangers, and my heart aches for the mothers who try desperately to provide for their children, to give them an education, feed them, and raise them to find joy in the most impoverished of conditions.
Their stories are embedded in my heart.
A few months ago I heard of a website, Story Shelter, looking for true stories of adventure – stories from regular people who have taken risks, stepped out of their comfort zone, and faced challenges. They want to create a Chicken-Soup-style book – but with an edge.
I instantly thought of Nicaragua.
With a leap of faith, I submitted “Ride of A Lifetime”, and they loved it. Yesterday, it was published in their anthology titled “I Am Here: The Untold Stories of Everyday People”.
It’s such a thrill to see my story in print – real print, on paper. Old school style. And in an e-book for Kindle, too!
For the next few days it’s free for Kindle – click here to find it on Amazon.
The publishers put together a cool promotion page – you can see it here.
They also made a book trailer promotional video, and I’m in it:
I’m really thrilled to see my first print publication – I hope you’ll order it and enjoy my “Ride of A Lifetime”. It’s getting exciting!
Amazon Paperback Version: http://bit.ly/i-am-here-book
Amazon Kindle Version: http://bit.ly/imhereboo
“Most often, after you have completed something you didn’t want to do, you wonder why you were so worried in the first place.”
~Madisyn Taylor, Daily Om
I feel like I live a double life – the life of an introvert forced to become an extrovert. As a teacher and leader at school, I’m constantly expected to stand up, speak up, and innovate. I love experimenting with lessons in my classrooms, integrating new technology into my teaching, and finding exciting, experimental ways to jazz up my teaching. Not much phases me in my work life. After 24 years, I’m comfortable with who I am, what I do, and that I can get the desired results. It doesn’t take much courage; it’s natural.
In my personal life right now, it’s a different story. I feel most comfortable in old routines, sinking into the safety of the predictable and sure thing. I default to pattern, to embrace only the tiniest amount of change. This year has tried me to the core, pushing my acceptable comfort levels to the bursting point. I breathe in change and exhale a need for consistency, but it’s slow coming. I’m parenting differently, I’m living differently. Some days it feels almost normal; others, I wonder how I landed here. It takes extraordinary courage some days just to make any sense at all.
Last month, about two days before the deadline, I took a deep breath in and hit ‘submit’ on a live spoken word production called “Listen To Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone”. I’ve wanted to audition for years, but always found it too inconvenient to commit to something that big at this time of year – normally a time when I’m in and out of the snow, driving up and down the state to ski races on the weekends and watching track meets during the week.
But this year, all that changed…so I decided to change, too. I went with courage.
And to my absolute surprise, my essay made it through the first cut, and I passed the in-person audition. No excuses anymore – it’s official. I am part of the 2015 Listen To Your Mother cast in Plumas County, California. You can read all about LTYM here, but for now, I need to get comfortable in front of a microphone; no hiding behind the keyboard now. I’ll be reading my essay, Extraordinary in the Ordinary, live on April 30, and it will be taped and broadcast on the LTYM You Tube channel this summer. Ack!
In an effort to embrace change and live in courage, I’m stepping out into new territory today…my first attempt at vlogging. This piece was originally written after I read the book The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver. The book was about survival, and how we create stories to help us muddle through life and make sense of the world around us. It reminded me of three distinct times in my life where the theme of power was prevalent: in my childhood, in my twenties, and recently, as a forty-something mom.
Step one complete. Less worried now than I was before…and luckily, I still have a month to rehearse.
The month of July was quiet -sometimes, WAY too quiet. My grown-up girl has spent her summer working as a ski camp counselor at her beloved Mt. Hood, Oregon. My thinks-he’s-grown-up son has been back and forth between Mt. Hood and Lake Tahoe, and when he’s actually at home his social life keeps him WAY too busy for my liking. Even my husband took off for a few days, leaving me and the dog alone to deal with the 100+ heat and a kitchen flood that’s turning into a big-deal-long-awaited remodel. When my kids were little I longed for the kind of quiet I have now, but as time passes more and more quickly every day, I realize that those crazy, hectic, sweaty summers with two little kids were absolutely ethereal. With a blink of an eye, ten years whooshes past…so this July, I made my best life amidst the quiet. I’ve read, written, photographed, cleaned, organized, traveled, and walked, attempting to find the best in every moment. To read all of my blog posts from July, click here.
I’m a collector of quotes. I find great wisdom and inspiration in words, and I’m frequently suprised and delighted at the end of the month when I look back at those quotes I’ve chosen to share on my blog, Twitter, or Facebook. Here’s some of my favorites from July:
“Here are the two best prayers I know: ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.” #AnneLamott #quote
“The reality of what we really are is often times found in the small snips, way down at the bottom of things.” Jean Shepherd #quoteoftheday
“There are voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world.” Emerson #quoteoftheday#solitude
“After all, it is those who have a deep & real inner life who are best able to deal with the irritating details of outer life.”E. Underhill
“Prayer is not asking for what you think you want, but asking to be changed in ways you can’t imagine.” Kathleen Norris #prayer#change#quote
I’ve found myself having a bit too much quiet time this month; I know, you parents of small children are thinking I’m crazy, but honestly, my kids are growing up and going in different, independent directions, and they’re hardly ever at home. Combine their wanderlust with their ski training at Mt. Hood, and I’ve found myself away from my daughter since mid-June. The best moment for me this month was when she took her only day off and hitched a ride (or convinced two boys to drive her, not sure which is the truth) from Mt. Hood to Bend, just to spend five glorious hours with me. We packed in a day of shopping, great coffee, hugs, river swims, coloring (yes, teens still like to color) and catching up with the fam. Peanut, thank you so much for that gift of your time. It kept me going for the last few weeks!
My dear friend, Dawn Wink, introduced me to the BraveGirlsClub.com, and I just had to share it with you all. Not only do they use gorgeous art work to share their mission statement: “We are on a wild and crazy mission to find all of the brave women of the world…to help them find each other…then to change the world with good news, good ideas, good people, and good times,” but they also have lots of great essays, blog posts, and even a daily truth email, Facebook page and Instagram feed that offer lovely doses of inspiration. I loved this one from their Facebook feed titled, “Dear Super Smart Girl”. I think every mom should subscribe!
Ok, I’m gonna brag a bit here…I didn’t take this photo myself, but I love it so much because it captures my brave girl in all her glory! Not only has she worked away from home all summer (I know-harder on me than it is on her!) but she has become a licensed Class 2 bus driver in the state of Oregon! Love her confidenc
Oh, this one is easy-peasy! I stumbled onto Nancy E. Turner’s amazing series about turn-of-the-century Arizona, and fell in awe of Sarah, her feisty, feminine and all-around awesome main character. I’d actually bought the first book in the series, These Is My Words, for my mom as part of a Christmas book bonanza gift (she’s a voracious reader, too). I could not put that book down, and to my complete delight, I discovered that it was merely the first in a series of three novels that trace Sarah’s life as she fights to survive on the ‘territories’. If you love historical fiction with strong female characters, you MUST read this series!
I took two amazing trips this month: one to Bend, Oregon, and one to Calistoga, California. I’d have to call the Bend, Oregon trip the ‘best road trip’ simply because I got to spend eight hours in the car with my mom. It was such a treat to have her all to myself-the hours whizzed by, and I was keenly aware of how precious time with your parent can be – are you hearing me, kids? Aside from the drive, the three days I spent in Bend with my extended family were pretty spectacular-I shared some of the highlights in my post, travel with mamawolfe: Bend, Oregon for Rivers, Books, Coffee and Consignment Stores.
During my stay in Bend, we spent a bit of time down on the Deschutes River. The kids loved to jump from rocks, swim, and hang out on the ‘island’. I’m not much of a swimmer, but certainly hovered while my girl flew through the air into the water. The morning I left I took a quiet walk alone down to the river and just sat and thought about this amazing life I get to live.
This one ties in with my best road trip – the most amazing sunset I’ve seen in a long time. I found myself glued to the deck chair, snapping photos every few minutes. I was convinced it couldn’t get any better, and after two hours of beauty, this took my breath away.
My kids get so mad when I try to take selfies with them…here’s a few of my faves from July:
From Stephen King: Revised Tea Party Gospel: “Suffer the little children come unto me. Unless they’re undocumented kids from Central America.”
This one really hit home for me; I’m so tired of all the arguing about these children being brought by their parents to our country. When I heard one of our country’s politicians call them ‘criminals’, I just about lost it. Despite what you might think about our immigration policies, these children are far from criminals. They are children. Their parents are doing what any one of us would do – well, maybe some of us wouldn’t actually be brave enough to do what they’re doing. Having spent time in Nicaragua and seen first hand the absolute poverty many families are living in in Central America, all I can think is that extreme situations call for extreme actions, and we need to do better than labelling innocent children as ‘criminals’. They are humans, and we can find a way to figure this out.
I’m definitely a creature of habit, which sometimes drives my husband crazy. I’ve been thinking a lot this month about solitude – maybe because I’ve had so much of it forced upon me this month – and one thing I know about myself is that I require a certain amount of it as a morning ritual. My best day starts off with quiet, coffee, reading, writing, and after approximately 1.5 LARGE mugs of a good Central American roast, I’m able to face my day. Throw in my list-making, dog-walking, #quoteoftheday tweet and a small bite to eat, and I’m good to go on full speed for the next 15 hours or so!
I’m totally into the maxi dress this month – have you tried them? If I can wear them (I’m only 5’2″, you know), so can you! I picked up a little black one during a shopping spree with my girl last month, and am absolutely in love with it. It’s super hot here in the summer, but when I slip this on I just feel comfy!
Since our kitchen has been torn apart this month due to a minor flood (it’ll all be back better than ever next month!), we’ve been eating out WAY more than normal – kind of awesome, actually. We’ve had it all this month – Thai, Italian, Chinese, American, and LOTS of Trader Joe’s prepared foods (have you tried their butternut squash/quinoa salad? It’s delish), but the memorable meal and true California food goes to our dinner at Season’s in Davis – the three of us devoured our plates of mozarella stuffed turkey meatballs over penne pasta, tiger shrimp skewers with peppered fettuccine, arugula, garlic mushrooms, copacolla ham and a white wine sauce, and a rosemary rubbed pork chop served over a mushroom risotto cake, swiss chard, pancetta jus, roasted red pepper and gorgonzola sauce. And no, we didn’t have room for dessert!
I’m smack in the middle of Erin Lindsay McCabe’s novel, I Shall Be Near To You, and so far I cannot put it down. Combine that with getting to know the writer via Twitter, and I know this will be one of my fave summer reads! Look for a review (and if I’m lucky, and author Q/A, on the blog next month).
Dear reader, what word best describes your month of July? Wishing you great possibilities and bit of quiet in August – and as always, thank you for supporting mamawolfe.
Each month I write about what makes up ‘my best life’. To see all ‘My Best Life’ posts in one place, click here. I’m always on the lookout for what makes life amazing – I’d love to connect with you on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, too!
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
– Martin Luther King, Jr. –
In the big picture, my life is pretty awesome. I live in a country where I have access to everything I need. I experience equal rights as a woman and a voting citizen. I have a family who brings me happiness. I have my health, a house to live in, plenty of food – fresh, wholesome food at that – electricity to keep me cool in the hot valley summer days, friends, and a job that provides me with enough money to make ends meet.
So when I find myself in times of challenge, holding a pity-party-for one, I need to take a serious reality check. Does this ever happen to you?
I’ve written extensively in the last few months about the angst I feel with my daughter graduating and leaving for college. The pain is real. The emotions are, at times, excruciating. I feel like part of my world has been ripped up, tossed around, and thrown back onto the ground in shards and pieces that do not resemble anything that I have experience with.
Life is very different for me right now.
Life is very quiet. I’m certainly not used to that.
These are most certainly my times of challenge.
Graduation is over. The graduation party happened. I managed to take her shopping, help her pack, and then leave for the weekend – not the timing I would have planned, but it certainly helped to rip the metaphorical band-aid off quickly.
When I came back home, she was gone. She took her gear, her skis, some sunscreen and hopefully a wide brimmed hat, and headed off to work at Mt. Hood, Oregon for the rest of the summer. She left her room in its typical state-towels draped across a chair, dirty clothes strewn about, faded flowers in a vase, bed unmade and makeup on the dresser.
The tears trickled down my cheeks at the sight of it all.
I tried to pull all my mantras together to remind myself that it’s not that bad. That this is what we prepared her for – what we prepared ourselves for. It’s her time in life to head out and tackle one adventure after another. It’s times of challenge that create our stories.
And then the dishwasher started leaking. I tried to ignore it – maybe someone spilled some water on the floor. Maybe it was the dog…but as the water seeped up from the linoleum in a continuous stream, I knew we had a problem. And when the plumber couldn’t fix it right away, and when the dishwasher was in the middle of the kitchen floor, and the fans were going full bore to dry everything out asap – that’s when my pity party began. All my feel-good self talk about times of challenge came out in foul language as I lugged wet, stinky rags to the laundry room.
Oh wait-did I mention that’s when my son got strep and an allergic reaction to his meds?
And the AC couldn’t keep up with the smell of 60-year-old wet floorboard? And the replacement part sprung a hole? And the linoleum started peeling up?
So I did what any 21st century mom would do – I popped a cold IPA, lit a candle, and wrapped myself up in my own pity-party-of-one.
And in a moment of quiet, my reality check came to call. First world problems, she whispered. She reminded me of gratitude, and perspective. She reminded me of my friends in Nicaragua who avoid these challenges by simply having a dirt floor and no indoor plumbing. She reminded me of myself at 18, a woman no where near as capable or confident as the one who lives – or lived- down the hall. She reminded me of my 14-year-old summer, the one that I can’t actually remember much about besides how important my friends were.
And then the message came that no one wants to hear: one of my former students, while celebrating his college graduation, had tragically died. He was a quiet, sweet boy I remember well. His death wasn’t due to reckless behavior,but the shock tipped me over and consumed my thoughts. His parents, his siblings…his friends. His life, on the brink of a new chapter. Like an overloaded circuit, I shut down. I was angry at myself, at the universe…at a world that can so quickly pull our center out from under us in a cruel, gritty display of reality. At a universe that would so painfully remind me of my own life.
Reality check. Oh yes, she reminded me, I have comfort and convenience in my life. I have many blessings and I have two children I can touch and hold and cherish and watch as they tackle life’s challenges. I have deep gratitude for all that I have been given, and all that I have worked to create. Shut down that pity party, she screamed.
So I tossed the empty IPA bottle in the recycle, blew out the candle, kissed my boy goodnight , texted my girl I loved her, and listened to the mockingbird singing outside my window. It is dark. Tomorrow will come. The pity-party has ended. Times of challenge will ebb and flow – they’re our ultimate measure of gratitude, after all.
And you, dear reader? How do you pull yourself back to reality in times of challenge? I’d love to hear from you.