To Look At Life As It Is

Summers have always been my ‘mommy’ time. I’ve never taught summer school; I’ve always looked at my time away from the classroom as time to focus on my kids, primarily, and also to catch up on all the other life stuff I push off between August to June. These 8 weeks of no students are both well earned and deeply cherished. Summer, in truth, is my time to look at life as it is.

This summer is a bit different. For months, I’ve dreaded summer just because of what I knew it would hold: a house without any hope of my daughter moving back home. People always said this would happen, that college kids come home the first summer, and that usually is their last.

I’ve simultaneously been hoping that wouldn’t be the case while praying that my girl would be so content where she’s living that she wouldn’t need to come home. Selfish versus selfless, I guess.

Turns out, this isn’t the selfish summer. It’s the summer to look at life as it is, rather than how I might want it to be.

The Girl On The Train
Have you read The Girl On The Train? Sure helped pass the time through the Nevada desert.

 

So I headed out on a road trip. If she’s not coming to me, I’m coming to her. I’ve got a few weeks off, and armed with some of my favorite podcasts and this fabulous book on CD, I headed over the mountains, through the Nevada desert and past the Salt Flats to Utah, my girl’s new home.

The first night I headed to her workplace to relax and have a salad on the patio until she got off – 650 miles is a long drive! My heart nearly burst when I saw her there, surrounded by people who have grown to love her. She’s in a good place.

salad on the patio at Kimi's

She was able to piece together two full days off from both jobs, so we headed to the desert: Capitol Reef National Park, to be exact.

to look at life as it is Capitol Reef National Park
Heading up on our first hike at Capitol Reef National Park.

 

The southern Utah desert is not like what most think of as desert; majestic outcroppings of red rock suddenly appear after hours of driving through rolling hills. I couldn’t stop thinking about how in the world this could ever be real. Despite timing our trip during a heat wave (can you feel the 100+ degree heat radiating off those rocks? I certainly could), we doused ourselves with sunscreen, braided our hair and popped on a cap and headed out on our first hike. It was then that I discovered that as much as I’d like to believe my 50-year-old body could keep up with my girl, I had to look at life as it is, and tap out. I opted for a patch of shade and this great book while she bounded up and back without me.

A good book and a shade patch took the sting out a bit.
A good book and a shade patch took the sting out a bit.

 

Luckily, we found a flat, shady trail along the river where we could see petroglyphs from the Fremont Indian Culture. Who would imagine that thousands of years later, a worn out teacher mom would be staring in awe at the stories inscribed on these red rock walls.

Capitol Reef National Park petroglyphs
Capitol Reef National Park petroglyphs.

 

to look at life as it is Capitol Reef National Park

Lesson learned, we slowed it down. Capitol Reef National Park contains nearly a quarter million acres of diverse rock formations, desert plants and animals, and hidden stories of the people who have come and gone through this awe-inspiring canyon. If you look closely, you can see the layers of different rock in the background, each holding moments of time over the last 50-70 million years.

 

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Because the park was surprisingly empty, we resorted to a few selfies.

 

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Capitol Reef was created by the Waterpocket Fold – an 87 mile long ‘wrinkle” created millions of years ago, and created stunning cliffs, domes, natural arches and canyons like this one. We were happy to take the bumpy, but air conditioned drive into the Capitol Gorge. Surrounded by Wingate Sandstone, the towering cliffs reminded me of how small and insignificant we really are.

I can hardly comprehend what prehistoric humans must have thought when they gazed upon these formations, let alone the pioneers who decided this would be a good place to settle.

 

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When we got to the end of the dirt road, we jumped out and began to trek through the canyon. Along the way we spotted more petroglyphs as well as the “Pioneer Register”, where Mormons from the 1800s inscribed their name in the soft walls after clearing this first road through the Gorge.

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One nice aspect of having an adult child is really being able to enjoy traveling together. Gone are the days of packing diaper bags, snacks and sippy cups, or finding a motel that had a slide into the swimming pool. As often as I really do miss those days, I’m learning to embrace life as it is, not how it used to be. Together, we reveled in our room with a view, watching the sunset together. The cows were an added touch.

Capitol Reef National Park reading
The title of this book is not lost on me as I gaze at the vista.

 

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With every vista we uncovered, I stopped and listened. The occasional flapping of wings, the rushing melody of the Fremont River, and the wind caressing the boughs of the Pinon trees reminded me of how, even though we think our stories and our lives are so important, in the big scheme we really are just moments. We will come and go and leave behind evidence of our love and reverence and the beauty of the natural world will stand as the great collector of what has come and gone.

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A towering trail marker. Thank you.

 

Capitol Reef National Park
At the top, evidence that I made it.

 

This is life as it is, not how I might want it to be. I would have loved to climb to the vista of Chimney Rock, but settled from the view from the bottom.

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Driving home, the rain rattled our windshield, moving in and out of sunlight and clouds. As my girl slept, I inhaled gratitude for all that I have in this life, as it is. I have moments of love and sadness; I have seconds of clarity and confusion. I’m learning to open to the ordinary in the extraordinary, and live in the paradox between the light and darkness.

I’m learning to live in life as it is, not what I might want it to be. Because really, isn’t this extraordinary path we find ourselves on just exactly as it is supposed to be?

http://www.pasta-recipes.com

primark

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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3 Awesome Reasons To Have A Selfie Free Summer

It was a perfect blue sky day. We hit the road early (by teenage terms), and just about 90 minutes later found us in Pt. Reyes, California, ready for adventure.

It had taken some cajoling to get both of them to agree to go hiking with me; these days, getting both kids alone, together, is certainly cause for celebration in itself. It’s one of the things I miss most about them growing up, actually. The time I took for granted when they were little, time to just be together and hold their hands and explore somewhere new – all that isn’t as easily had as before.

Sunscreen applied, water bottles and snacks in our packs, we headed down the trail towards the coast. Everywhere we looked vibrant wildflowers dotted our view, and lush ferns and berry bushes obscured each side of our narrow trail. The hawks flew overhead, and the sounds of songbirds filled the air. It truly couldn’t have been more beautiful.

wild sweet pea flowersStopping to smell the wild sweet peas and snap a few photos, I found myself alone on the trail, lagging far behind my lanky-legged teenagers. Quickening my pace, I caught up just enough to catch a glimpse of them from behind. I’ve always loved the photos of them like this, when they’re not expecting me and in that instant, I imagine all the life they have before them.teens from behindI’m sure even the hawks could see the joy etched in my face on this glorious day; glimpsing over their shoulders I could just catch the shimmer of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. “Turn around, let me take your picture,” I quickly called, worried they would be gone before I caught up. Surprisingly, they obliged, and as I got closer I added,”Let’s take a selfie.”

I’m sure the hawks could hear their groans of disgust, too.

“No Mom – no selfies,” their voices replied in unison as they took off along the trail without me.

What? No selfie? How would we ever remember we were there together? How would they look back on this day and remember I was even there at all? 

I’ve often thought the invention of the selfie is genius – the one way moms are guaranteed to be in the picture! How many moments have I been behind the camera instead of in front of it? What do they mean, no selfie?

Kicking into gear to catch up, I spent the next five minutes being schooled on the three awesome reasons to have a selfie-free summer – according to my teenagers:

1. “Selfies are stupid,” they began. “They’re not as good as pictures someone else takes and everyone knows it was a selfie. Everyone knows you know you took a dozen shots until you got the right one, and that you stood there forever while the phone was angled in just the right position. Haven’t you seen those selfie-sticks, Mom? Those people look so lame waving them over everyone’s head, and then they have to carry them around.”

Hmmm. Good point. How many times have I been looking out at a gorgeous view when someone suddenly jumps in front of me, spends minutes posing, snapping, checking, posing, snapping, checking…

2. “Selfies are for Snapchat, and that’s about it. They’re not meant to be saved…they’re meant to be silly.  How many times have you seen selfies where people look like they’ve spent hours perfecting their pose? Like they’ve spent hours in front of the bathroom mirror perfecting their pout or messing around with the right filters?”

Ok-agreed. As much as I dislike Snapchat (I can’t stand only seeing an image for seven seconds; heck, it takes me that long to find my glasses!), I really dislike the Instagram selfies of people staring into their bathroom mirrors, perfectly made up and serious supermodel looks on their faces.

3. “Selfies make you miss the moment. Just look, Mom. You’re concentrating so hard on getting the right shot, you’ll miss all this.”

I get it. Isn’t that what I preach to them every day? Pay attention to the little things in life. Be present. Be grateful. Look out for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Use your voice – ask someone to help you take a photo instead of staying trapped inside yourself. Look up, breathe, throw your arms open wide and take it all in. This is your moment.

Suitably schooled, I resumed my position at the back of the pack, far enough behind to think. They’re so grown, I thought, and I’ve still got so much to learn. I’m just going to let them lead the way for awhile.

Coast Trail, Point Reyes, CA

selfie free summer-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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My Best Life July 2014: A Month of Quiet

My Best July:

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.

Best Quotes:

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

“There are voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world.” Emerson

“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

Best Moment:

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!

L on the Deschutes River
L on the Deschutes River

Best Blog Reads:

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!

Best Photo:

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

e!L is a licensed bus driver!

Best Books:

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!

These Is My Words

Best Road Trip:

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. 

Best Quiet Place:

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.

Deschutes River near Bend, Oregon
Deschutes River near Bend, Oregon

Best View:

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.

Sadie at sunset
Sadie at sunset

Best Selfies:

My kids get so mad when I try to take selfies with them…here’s a few of my faves from July:

L at Mt. HoodBend, OregonL and Mom in BendC on the way to Hood

Best Tweets:

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.

Best Morning Ritual:

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!

gratitude

Best Wardrobe Staple:

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!

Best California Food:

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!

tiger shrimp at Season's in Davis
tiger shrimp at Season’s in Davis

Best Recent Read:

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).

I Shall Be Near To You

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!

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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