Tell Me, What Do People Thank You For?

I’m a huge believer in gratitude. It’s actually had a huge, transformative impact on my life in the last several years, and gratitude makes its way into my writing with great frequency. Every morning I practice rituals – savoring a cup of coffee quietly, listening to the birds outside; setting silent intentions for the day; writing daily pages in my journal, always punctuated by five, detailed things that I am grateful for.

Oftentimes, my gratitudes are somewhat repetitive, but I find comfort in that. It’s my time of self-reflection, of noticing the ordinary things that bring me love and beauty and safety. My gratitudes are oftentimes balanced by what Anne Lamott refers to as “the three essential prayers”: Help, thanks, and wow.

The results are truly amazing.

In her book “Help, Thanks, Wow”, Lamott writes that gratitude, “…without revelation and reframing, life can seem like an endless desert of danger with scratchy sand in your shoes, and yet if we remember or are reminded to pay attention, we find so many sources of hidden water, so many bits and chips and washes of color, in a weed or the gravel or a sunrise. There are so many ways to sweep the sand off our feet. So we say, ‘Oh my God. Thanks.'”

I’ve been working diligently on paying attention in the last few years, especially since I realized that my time at home with my teens was ticking down. I so agree with Lamott when she juxtaposes a life without gratitude as one that scratches and leaves us parched with living in a space of thankfulness, where the world around us shimmers with color and brilliance and just plain ordinary extraordinariness.

I suppose that this practice of intentional gratitude is what made Lindsey Mead’s post catch my eye the other day. Titled “What do people thank you for”, Lindsey shares her discomfort with her perceived self-indulgence of flipping this idea of gratitude back onto herself.

I share that uneasiness – as a mom, a teacher, a wife, I wouldn’t necessarily say I enjoy the parts of my life that simply are thankless – but I do have a certain acceptance of them.

Her post definitely made me think about what people thank me for, which in a way, has deepened my gratitude practice and developed my own desire to do more of these things; not because I am acknowledged for them, but because when I expose them to myself, I realize they are the things that make me feel the best:

People thank me for cooking and baking and sharing meals with them. As a mom/wife, I fill this role with frequent happiness and without question, but I now realize that when I share my love of food, the love comes back.

People thank me for writing about things that they cannot. I started this blog five years ago to help understand my changing life, to help share my feelings about aging and parenting and teaching and loving. I never, ever imagined that other people would react with gratitude when they read something that resonates strongly with them.

People thank me for teaching. Whenever I answer the question “What do you do” with “I’ve taught middle school for the last 25 years”, the most frequent response is “Oh my goodness, I don’t know how you do it. Thank you.” Honestly, that response makes me smile every time. Teaching middle school is like breathing to me – I adore working with my crazy, puberty laden, self-conscious, silly and mostly lovable students. And when people respond, “You are a saint”, I smile, too.

Tell Me, What Do People Thank You For?Recently, my students wrote reflections of the year that thanked me for a variety of different experiences they had in my classroom. The one that made me tear up the most was the one that thanked me for ‘never giving up on him’. I never, ever take students’ thanks for granted.

Writing this post created internal discomfort, to be sure. It’s much easier to write about my own gratitudes; like Lindsey, these things that others thank me for create discomfort and make me wonder why I’m being thanked for them- because these are the moments and experiences and ordinary parts of my life that fill me up and that I can’t imagine living without. Family. Writing. Teaching. Students.

I guess I know what tomorrow’s entries in my gratitude journal will be.

So please tell me, what do people thank you for?

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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Thankful She’s Home

Thankful she's home
Thankful she’s home

I went to four grocery stores yesterday. She wanted fresh fruit and raspberry Greek yogurt-things she cannot get in her dorm cafeteria. Lucky we live in California – no struggle finding fresh produce, so I bought a bounty and brought it home. I was a woman on a mission, in search of the perfect pineapple, sweet berries, crispy Pink Lady apples, a juicy mango, ripe kiwis and tender tangerines. I found them all, along with ingredients for tomato tortellini soup and fresh bread. And that’s just for the first night!

She’s home, I’m thankful, and we’re happy. Peace settled over our roof just knowing that both babies were safe, sleeping soundly in their own beds. They’re never too old to have their mom worry about them; never too grown to be my babies. It’s a first for me – having her come back home, from her new home. I’m not sure just how to navigate all this – I kept her room just like it was pre-college, not disturbing her high school photos or clothes left in the closet. I restocked her bathroom, put on her favorite polka dot flannel sheets, and found some deep red lilies to say, “Welcome home”.

I realize this could be the last time she’s home for Thanksgiving; it seems to be one holiday that is easily discarded during the college years, too close to winter break to make the drive or purchase the plane tickets. I know home will likely shift with time, as she creates her new life and relationships and creates spaces for the world to wrap its arms around her in comfort. I’m aware that these fleeting moments are all we have, these fragments of our lives that come together, enfolding us in the safety and gratitude and love of home.

p.s. – It’s never a bad time to reflect on all we have, the richness of our lives, and the gratitude for all the memories we have. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d love to share some past thoughts on giving thanks, the comfort of home and pumpkin bread, the perfect dog buddy, baking bread,  and gratitudes that last over time, 

Sending love and thanks to all on this special day, and hoping you all revel in the precious moments spent at home with those you 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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Starting Now…

IMG_3364I’m starting now as if I haven’t already been up for hours…

as if I haven’t made the coffee and the bright red tea kettle hadn’t whistled for your pomegranate green tea…

as if I haven’t cooked the peppered bacon, veggie omelet with mushrooms, onion and crunchy green bell pepper, held together with gooey cheddar cheese…

as if I haven’t sliced the juicy melon or packed the food for your skiing lunch break…

as if I haven’t folded last night’s final load of laundry, and the washer wasn’t humming with today’s first…

as if I haven’t carefully packed your ski boot bag with dry gloves and hand warmers…

as if I haven’t re-positioned the blankets on our bed…

as if I haven’t received an unexpectedly long good morning hug and comforted you when your legs felt like jello and you’re not sure you can make it out the door in the dark, frosty air…

as if I haven’t already had three cups of that coffee with cream and cleared the dishes from the breakfast table…

I’m starting now as if today was all about me…

and grateful that it isn’t.

 

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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What Martin Luther King Jr. Means To Me

Martin Luther King JrI was just barely three years old when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.  That makes my life one that has really never had a first hands understanding of what his struggle was like.  I have never known a time when there wasn’t such a thing as the Civil Rights Movement.  I have never seen ‘separate but equal’.  I have never seen signs for ‘coloreds’ or ‘whites’.  I have never known a world when I couldn’t have black friends, go to school alongside black schoolmates, or date a black man.

That’s not to say that MLK’s dreams of a day when ‘children will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character’ plays true in every part of our American society, let alone our world.

But what it does say is what Martin Luther King Jr. means to me.

1.  History

With his death, I learned not to let history repeat itself.  I will not live my life allowing others to demean or discriminate based on race, sex, religion, sexual preference or any other criteria.

2.  Family

After MLK Jr. died, his daughter Yolanda began the crusade to keep his legacy alive.  Much of what he stood for revolved around his dreams for his family.  He taught them well – Yolanda’s dream of a national holiday in honor of his father is the reason we celebrate today.

3.  Service

Martin Luther KingMartin Luther King Jr. was a man who served his country.  Not every man or woman serves the same way, for the same reasons.  MLK taught me to work for social justice and to carry that value on to my children, and the children I serve every day in the classroom.

4.  Opportunity

As a white woman I have never experienced racial discrimination.  I can only imagine the incredible frustration and anger one must feel when denied opportunity due to the color of one’s skin.  Because of MLK opportunities were opened for those who never imagined they would.

5.  Wisdom

MLK made people think.  He made people act.  He made people remember him.  He made people wiser.

6.  Education

Before MLK education was not equal.  Black children were held hostage due to lack of equal access to knowledge.  Students were empowered to act and demand the right to the same quality of schooling being given to whites. Now, other underrepresented groups are standing up to be heard.

7.  Hope

Martin Luther King showed the world that if you dream it, you can become it.  He provided hope for minorities, women, men and children who knew that they could be better, could do better, could live better than they were.

Martin Luther King Jr MemorialSo today, as we honor a man who truly inspired a nation and influenced generations to come, please pause and think of what Martin Luther King Jr. means to you.  Give thanks for his life and vision and lessons of peaceful protest.  And, if you can, try to imagine what our world would be like had he never held fast to his dreams.

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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Another Day

Her face is turned toward the window, nestled on a deep feather pillow.  Long dark lashes flutter as I kiss her cheek, brushing back soft strands of hair from her forehead.  It is dark out, yet she will rise and greet another day.

His face is face up, eyes closed, arms thrown back over his head in the same position as when he slept as an infant.  I reach down to kiss the sweet spot between his jaw and neck, and he groans and pulls the covers tighter.  It is dark out, yet he will rise and greet another day.

Sleepily she pads downstairs, honey colored hair still in a messy braid.  Too early to eat, she sips cold orange juice as she pulls on long underwear and ski socks.  It is dark out, yet she will go and meet another day.

Groggily he pulls on his fuzzy black and white skull patterned bathrobe and gulps down fresh water.  He trods down the stairs, too full of chatter for such an early start.  It is dark out, yet he will go and meet another day.

She dresses quickly yet deliberately.  No worries about appearances, she thinks only of the snow that awaits her.  It is cold out, yet she will be brave and face another day.

He pulls on his layers, sweet grapefruit juice dribbling down his chin.  Thinking only of the countdown to Christmas, he hugs me in anticipation.  It is cold out, yet he will be brave and face another day.

Methodically she unscrews her ski helmet face bar in the dark lodge, preparing for the morning workout ahead of her.  Layer upon layer upon layer she bundles up and heads towards the lift, tousled braid whipping in the wind.  It is dawn out, and she gets to have another day.

Slowly he prepares for the snow, insisting on doing it alone.  His fuzzy brown head disappears beneath a royal blue helmet and goggles, contrasting the lime green and black of his jacket.  We kiss goodbye, my assurance I will be waiting for him when he returns.  It is dawn out, and he gets to have another day.

Yet as I sit by the window watching the sun crest the snow-covered hills, I cry for the mother and child who are apart, who will never feel their arms around each other again, and who cannot brush away each other’s tears.

It is bright out, and I get to have another day.

 

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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