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.

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Doing Good When People In The The World Are Doing Bad Things

Doing Good When People In The The World Are Doing Bad Things

Our connectivity is a wonderful thing – but with all the good, also comes the challenging.

Last week, listening to the terror and violence of another school shooting left me frustrated, angry, and so very sad. At times like this, being a teacher, it takes a tremendous amount of positivity and trust to walk into a classroom each day, wondering if like so many others, this ordinary day will end up going down in history.

It makes it hard to focus on the good – but in the end, that’s what I have to do. I have to trust in the beauty of people, in my desire to make the world a better place.

doing good

The world may, overall, be a beautiful, positive place that has more good than bad, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make it even better. Most people have a desire to do good in the world, especially if they’ve been watching the negative news, but don’t really have an understanding of what they can do. Well, there’s good news: there’s plenty of things that you can do. Indeed, the potential stretches across many different facets of life, such as our careers, hobbies, and roles in the community. Take a read of some of the ways you can make a difference below:

What Can You Bring?

Everyone has something they’re good at. Discovering what you’re good at will be key to figuring out where you can make a positive impact. For example, if you’re a master organizer, then you might want to consider organizing local groups. Campaigning is one of the most effective ways to make a positive difference in your local community, but not everyone wants to play this role. Are you a good writer? Then start a blog, and educate other people about the world. find some platform to use your voice to make a difference.

Looking at your Career

Of course, how much time you can spend making the world a better place will depend on how much free time you have. You do, after all, need to make sure that your job is well taken care of first. But what if your job enabled you to make a positive impact? Take a look at careers in public safety, education, healthcare, or social work, and it will. People tend to think that doing good is something that you can only do in your spare time, but this isn’t true; many jobs allow you to earn a living and make a positive contribution at the same time. If you make doing good a priority, you will find a way to integrate it into all aspects of your life.

Small Acts

We’ve talked so far about the big things you can do in life. But the truth is, you don’t have to over complicate your desire to do good things. Indeed, some of the most powerful contributions are the small ones! Giving up an hour of your time to volunteer, or agreeing to donate a percentage of your income to charitable causes, or any other small gesture can have a ripple effect that stretches beyond the initial deed. If you don’t have the time to do more or don’t know where to start, then just start small and see where it takes you.

Being the Change

Finally, remember that make the world a better place doesn’t just mean going out and affecting other people. It starts with you. Gandhi taught us to “be the change we want to see in the world.” It’s a simple phrase, but oh so effective. Think about the global issues that you’re most affected by, and make sure you’re not contributing to them. You never know who else you might influence just by being the best version of yourself.

You’re not going to solve all the problems by yourself, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try: you might solve one of them! And along the way, you’ll be setting an example for those around you, building momentum, and doing good. Together, we can achieve great things!

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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Silence Is Not An Absence Of Sound – Reflections on Gordon Hempton

I had just slipped out the front door in silence early one morning, hoping to squeeze in a quick walk-the-dog, when I realized I’d forgotten the library book I wanted to return. Quickly I turned around, and as I walked up to my driveway, my husband shouted ‘Jen” from the upstairs window.

I screamed.

Breathing deeply, I tried to recover from his startling interruption, all the while scowling at his hysterically laughing face in the window. “OMG – what if you’d been carrying groceries!” he managed to squeak out between bursts of laughter. “You’re so jumpy!”

Annoyed that my silence had been so rudely squelched, I slipped quietly inside, gathered my book, and headed back out. Jumpy? I guess so. I prefer to think of it as my Zen Jen mode that flows so naturally whenever I am by myself.

My family thinks it’s hilarious to make me scream while I’m gardening, or washing dishes, or writing. I think someday it’s going to give me a heart attack.

I’ve crafted a fine art of sinking into silence. It’s a coping mechanism, a centering tool, and most of all, a state of absolute bliss. Silence, you see, is not merely an absence of sound.

I’ve written before about how walking is my meditation. I’ve put hundreds of thousands of miles in during my lifetime, always preferring to walk instead of run, to go slow instead of fast. On a recent walk, I was delighted to listen to Gordon Hempton talk about silence on one of my favorite podcasts, Krista Tippett’s On Being.

I don’t always listen to podcasts or music when I walk; often I prefer to just listen to what’s going on around me, or the thoughts that are floating in my head from a busy day of teaching and mothering. But this day, a blue-sky January morning, I was mesmerized by his words. Hempton, an acoustic ecologist and founder and VP or The One Square Inch of Silence Foundation, blew open my mind with his explanation that silence is an absence of noise, not an absence of sound. His definition precisely named what I’m searching for when I walk, or sit in my garden, or stand on a snow covered mountainside – a way to cancel out the noise in my life in favor of a way to truly hear what is happening around me.

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

Aldous Huxley (Music at Night and Other Essays)

It turns out, finding silence isn’t so easy. Music, Hempton says, is a reflection of who we are, and who we are is a reflection of what we hear. As a kid, I remember my sister constantly wanting me to turn down the radio, to be quiet. Growing up, my parents listened to Simon and Garfunkel and country music. In my teens, I became immersed in Goth music, lulled by the almost hypnotic, soothing sounds and emotional lyrics. I met my husband at a punk show – he was the singer in a band, I was hanging out backstage after the show. As an English major, I spent hours in my Berkeley apartment crafting my senior thesis to a background of Chopin and Rachmaninoff.  Hempton’s claim fits me like a glove.

“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?”

Lawrence Durrell (Justine (The Alexandria Quartet #1))

Intrigued by this idea about silence as an absence of noise, I asked my family what their favorite sounds were. At first, my son replied, “crazy bass”, reflecting his place in the teenage culture of rap and urban music. But on second thought, he shared ”wind howling through the tall pines in a snowstorm far from any other source of noise”. I wonder if he knew that the whisper of pine trees is mine?

Hempton says true silence doesn’t exist; rather, we search for silence from modern life. Judging from the responses of my family, I’d agree. Rain, waves, water rushing, the absence of sound, and the cry of a raven were all sounds that my family loves, and to me, represent what it means to be in a place – of nature’s ‘acoustic system’, as Hempton shares.

Strangely enough, my middle school students are loving nature’s acoustics, too. My last period of the day is a remedial reading class – just imagine, for a minute, trying to get 12,13, and 14-year-olds who have below grade level reading ability to actually READ for 50 minutes.

It’s no small task.

Early on, I decided that my number one goal would be to help them develop a love for reading by learning that reading is relaxing. Every day, one student gets to choose where we ‘go’ for our relax and read time – to the ocean, by a foggy stream, in a sunny meadow, by a crackling fire – and for our ten minutes of quiet reading, we listen to nature sounds. And they love it. Curled up in a beanbag, hearing the sounds of rain trickling down the window (even on a sunny afternoon) helps them to relax and let their bodies and brains travel to another world. Spending time in a quiet environment helps them to calm down, and when they feel safe and secure I can start to help them become better readers. It works.

“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.”

Chaim Potok (The Chosen)

Finally, Hempton shares that silence is an endangered species. He believes that we must take our children away from human-constructed noise and experience spaces and times of silence. We should go into nature, to allow them to experience and feel their body, and to meet the sounds of wildlife. We are born listeners, he states, and as we age we are ‘taught’ how to listen. He believes that it is in nature where we are truly able to notice the darkness of night and an empty our thoughts. I wholeheartedly agree.

As I grow older, I grow more comfortable with the vulnerability of silence. When I’m walking, I feel a shedding of all that troubles me, the burdens of balancing life and the fears about the future slide into the dirt beneath my sneakers. It is in the absence of noise, in the silence, surrounded by the sounds of the world, that I feel most secure, where I find my center and can just be

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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My ‘Best of 34’ Books Read in 2016

I set a 12 month Goodreads Challenge in 2016 to read 30 books – more than I attempted in 2015, but as part of my ‘trust the journey’ focus, I knew that pushing myself to not only read more, but read more diversely, was key. I’m pretty proud to say that I made reading a priority, and completed 34 books in 2016! Last year, I wrote about my favorite books of 2015, and loved hearing from readers about what books they loved and were reading all during 2016.

If you’re interested in more recommendations, you can find them in my 2013 and 2014 favorites posts. I’ve also written a Books I Love post, and would love to connect with you on Goodreads to share more about reading in 2017. Goodreads is my favorite place to keep track of what I’m reading, and to look up reader reviews for new books I’d like to add to my ever growing shelf of ‘to reads’. 

In no particular order, I’d love to share My ‘Best of 34’ Books Read in 2016 – and please respond in the comments if you agree, disagree, or have a title to share for 2017! (p.s.- I included some favorite quotes just to tease you!)

“Love doesn’t work like that, one or the other. Don’t you know that yet?” – from June by Miranda Beverly Whitmore

I first learned about this author after reading her best seller, Bittersweet. When I finally was able to read June, I have to say, I loved it even more than her first. June is a story about a 25-year-old woman who, while mourning the loss of her beloved grandmother, lives in their old rural mansion and uncovers part of her past while creating a present full of love and excitement. If you enjoy small town stories, old time movie stars, and complicated love triangles, June is the book for you.

“We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.” -from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I figured that with all the hype over this book, along with the massive good reviews on Goodreads, that I would love it. I was right. I fell in love with Ove in the first few pages – his cranky yet lovable character made me really feel like he was someone real, someone human in his faults as well as in his incredibly huge heart.

“If you are going to abandon your work because someone speaks ill of it, then it has never been your work, has it? It becomes theirs. You give it up.” – from I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira

As a young girl I devoured Irving Stone’s stories of artists and politicians, so upon discovering this gem about Mary Cassat and Edgar Degas I knew I had to jump in. Besides all that, Robin Oliveira’s book My Name Is Mary Sutter made one of my top 2015 books as well. I immersed myself in Robin’s story of 1880s Paris and the stormy romance between Cassat and Degas made me grab for my art history books and remember how uncommonly common relationships can be.

Chasing the North Star by Robert Morgan

This book was full of adventure; I felt the terror, the fear and the hope of Jonah and Angel as they attempted to escape slavery and bounty hunters in 1850s South Carolina. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, particularly around the Civil War, and as such I loved Morgan’s strong characters and unusual twists on the slave narrative.

“It reminds us that as ordinary as we might be, we can, if we choose, take the harder road, walk forth bravely under the indifferent stars.” -from The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of the Donner Party by Daniel James Brown

Brown’s most well-known novel, The Boys On The Boat, is on my 2017 list – but I couldn’t resist reading his interpretation on one of my favorite historical stories. I devour books about the Donner Party – but this one was different. Told as a nonfiction narrative, Brown skillfully wove their story between historical information that really helped me get a sense of more than just what happened – but how and why it happened.

“There is no shame in who I am,” he said. “There is only shame in how I came to be, and that is not my burden to carry” -from Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom

Grissom’s novel The Kitchen House was one of my top books of 2015, so when I spied this sequel on the library shelf I grabbed it and jumped right in. I wasn’t disappointed. Picking up the story of Jamie, the author transports us to 1830s Philadelphia to develop the plot around his life, while weaving in familiar characters from The Kitchen House. Immensely readable and believable, this sequel definitely competes with the original.

“You see, I have never felt the need to invent a world beyond this world, for this world has always seemed large and beautiful enough for me.” -from The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Like so many, I adored Eat Pray Love when it came out in 2006. I listen to Elizabeth’s podcast and read her blog. Still, I wasn’t prepared for how much I would love this novel. L plants and flowers and all things eighteenth century, the story of Henry Whittaker, a wealthy trader in quinine, and his daughter Alma, a well-respected botanist, was a natural read for me. What I didn’t expect was for me to become so enamored of the characters as I was of the plot line. Explorations of science, religion, class, gender expectations made this a book that I never wanted to end – even after 501 pages! It was that good.

Last Ride to Graceland by Kim Wright

This is not my typical type of read – contemporary fiction about blues musicians and Elvis fans aren’t regulars in my reading choices. But I fell in love with Wright’s story of Cory, who travels South Carolina in search of her real father – who she believes is Elvis Presley. A sweet story of mothers, daughters, and what we really don’t know about each other…such a pleasant surprise.

“You only have one life, but if you live it well, that’s enough. The only reality is now, today. What are you waiting for to be happy?” -from The Japanese Lover by Isabelle Allende

Honestly, I have to say that this book was one of my TOP reads from 2016. I wrote a review about it here, and judging from the feedback I’ve received, everyone else loves it, too. Told in the tumult of pre and post WW2, Allende unravels the complicated love story between a young woman living in an opulent mansion in San Francisco and the son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Living near San Francisco myself, I could imagine the vivid settings and fell into the spell of their forbidden love of over 70 years. This story is about love and passion and history and the improbable situations we find ourselves in when we find true love.

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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How I’m Learning To Step Out Of The Comfort Zone Of Creativity

“The only unique contribution we’ll make in this world will be born of creativity.” ~ Brene Brown

There’s this crazy, confusing thing  happening as I get older. As I’ve passed through the decades and find myself looking at a life ahead that is bound to be on the downhill slope, I see with clarity things that I hadn’t seen before -I see the urgency to step out of the comfort zone of creativity.

Perhaps these things were never there to begin with. Maybe they’ve been inside all the time, and it’s taken this long to realize that creativity is a need, not a want.

I’ve never been what I considered the ‘creative’ type. My sister, my aunts, my mom, my grandmother – now there are women who are creative. Canvas becomes startling images of beauty. Clay transforms into object. Fabric turns into clothing and pillows and bags.

The closest I’ve ever felt to being creative was through my garden. My approach a cultivation painted with reckless strokes, sometimes wild combinations of color and texture, but always with the hands of a woman trying to squeeze beauty into my space; of one attempting to simultaneously curb and release the loveliness of a part of what makes a home. I guess some might consider parenting an exercise in creativity; I’ve always felt that if I do it well enough, my children will be my greatest contribution to the world.

Step Out Of The Comfort Zone Of Creativity

Step Out Of The Comfort Zone Of Creativity
My garden is my creative escape.

“When did inspiration promise us that it owes us anything?” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Writing wove its way into my life five years ago; blogging transformed my private journal scribbles into a rough-hewn, unrefined platform to practice sharing my stories for the first time. As my children aged and my confidence matured, I recklessly dove into my newly released creativity. Inspired to connect with other women – mothers and teachers and writers and like-minded creative spirits who used words as their outlet, I greedily crafted a community that lifted me up, gave me courage, and reminded me that I need to write every day.

“When you get to the place where standing on the edge is more fearful than the risk of failure, I think you owe it to yourself and your world to leap.” ~Brene Brown

And here I find myself, half-way to 51, standing on the edge of what is left of my life. I see my children launching into adulthood with grace and courage. I write and publish and share and push myself to refine, to reflect. I know the nest will be empty soon, and I’ll be left with a vastness ready to fill.

I think about teaching another 15 years, and wonder if the system will support my need for change. I’m astonished I’ve made it this far – 25 years ago, I comforted myself with the notion that there were so many possibilities in the world, and when I didn’t like teaching anymore, I would jump, hoping that the net would catch me.

Turning 50 has created a strange sense of comfort and discontent; the moments when I sit in my writing space, surrounded by all that I’ve created in this life, I feel as if there is nowhere else I would rather – or I should be. I breathe deeply and slowly and write my daily gratitude for home and family and this span of moments which weave together so exquisitely. I wonder where my creativity could lead me, and what is worth doing even if I fail.

Step Out Of The Comfort Zone Of Creativity
Looking down from my writing space.

“Failure has a function. It asks you if you really want to go on making things.” ~Clive James

And then the discontent creeps in on the back of absolute acknowledgment of where I am. I know my days are finite. I see my mothering transfer into my children as they age and grow and find their own space in the world. I wonder where my creativity could lead me, and what is worth doing even if I fail.

Now is the time to step out of the comfort zone of creativity, the time to leap without knowing where the landing is. It’s the time to trust the creative journey, and to know that whatever challenge the day presents is there for a reason.

It’s time to go on making things and continue the story.

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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