stories

These Stories, Those Words, and Powerful Tests of the Universe

These stories.

“Our intellects, our hearts, and our souls are constantly being tested by the universe. Life will create new challenges for you to face each time you prove yourself capable of overcoming the challenges of the past. What you deem difficult will always differ from that which others deem difficult. The tests you will be given will be as unique as you are. If you focus on doing the best you can and making use of the blessings you have been granted, the outcome of your efforts will be a joyous reflection of your dedication. ” – DailyOm.com

Our intellects….yes, constant testing right now. What I know in my intellectual mind about justice, equity, respect has been certainly put through a tremendous challenge in the last hours/days/week/1 year, 253 days, 5 hours, 3 minutes and 16 seconds.

Not that I’m counting. Ha.

Our intellects

stories

My intellect versus my heart trying to process words of the victim and abuser, feeling the pain of so many friends/females who could (and should) be telling their own stories of violation, of terror, of abuse. Knowing and fearing that things haven’t really changed, that the generations of women before me cried at Anita Hill’s dismissal and now, once again, are facing all that we couldn’t do.

It’s so enervating. It doesn’t feel like this which I deem difficult, is any more or less than they felt but now that we’re naming it, now that we broadcast and talk back and make THEM LOOK US IN THE EYE and still, they vote for the abuser…these tests given now are unique, to be sure. But different? I’m not positive.

My intellect AND my heart burn with these stories. I knew these boys and men in the 80s. I’m that girl who got her ass grabbed/screamed at/cursed at/called at/insulted/humiliated…there are stories I haven’t shared, stories I didn’t have words for and not quite sure that I do even now.

But it’s not even just about all that – it’s about surfacing the stories of all of us who have hed back, quieted down, and been silenced. It’s remembering that just because you’re bigger/whiter/heavier/smarter/richer/ or more privileged, powerful or any terrifying combination of elements that makes you think it doesn’t matter, that THEY don’t matter, that THEY deserve it because they are whatever you aren’t – it’s still not OK.

Our hearts

stories

Our hearts are tested right now, absolutely. I biked through my tears on the way to work, listening to her testimony….wondering what to say to my own daughter and son. How can I explain my disappointment, my hopes, and fears for both of them in a world so misguided in so many ways?

And these women, these sister-hearts that I’ve held as they cried and told me their private horrors. I believed them. I believe her. And I believe all those others who didn’t have the words to explain. I believe those who didn’t have the courage or confidence to say, out loud, “He assaulted me”. Even when they were drunk. Even when they knew the guy. And even when he laughed…

Our souls

And our souls, oh, our souls. Universe, you are pushing hard. Your tests are gargantuan, each touchstone searing us forward into action. They’re moving us away from anonymity and into elevators and courtrooms and classrooms and news studios; empowering us with the monumental charge of knowing better, and now doing better.

The blessings granted are mighty, the platforms plentiful. The outcome of our efforts will certainly put into the Universe words muffled for decades by the powerful hands of those who wish to silence our intellect. You may batter and bruise our hearts and stifle our souls from doing the work we know we are here to do, but still, we will rise.

stories

These words.

I say, “NO. MORE”. I say to those men who are fathers, to those women who are mothers, how dare you deny our stories. How dare you continue to empower those who already suffer from the endowment of more than most on this Universe? Don’t you dare use your power to reduce others, laughing and backslapping as you rise…

I share these words, today, as a reflection of my dedication to telling the narratives held inside. Never assuming that silence shrouds the lack of story, and remember that the wheels of justice may turn slowly, but that slow and steady wins the race.

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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joy bubbles

Joy Is Not Made To Be A Crumb

Joy Is Not Made To Be A Crumb

choose joy

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate.
Give in to it.
There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be.
We are not wise, and not very often kind.
And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left.
Perhaps this is its way of fighting back,
that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world.
It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins.
Anyway, that’s often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty.
Joy is not made to be a crumb.
Do you hesitate when you feel joy, like, amidst all the suffering in the world, you should resist?
I wore my JOY REBEL shirt this week (thanks to the amazing creativity of Brad Montague) and I found myself explaining to my students why I chose it, and what it means.
Do you ever feel like a joy rebel?
It’s hard for me to remember that “joy is not made to be a crumb” when I see how many people struggle, and despite whatever I’m dealing with in the moment, I know for sure that there are many, many more who wish they could trade my problems for theirs.
And I look around at my students struggling to grow up, to hold onto the innocence of childhood and figure out how to be a kid as they are approaching adulthood at an earlier and earlier age. They feel anxiety, fear, confusion. Far too often joy is left out of their day.
Perhaps, as Mary Oliver suggests, MY way of fighting back is trying my best to share a bit of joy in the 50 minutes we spend together in class every day  -to show them I SEE them, I HEAR them, and I VALUE them.
It may not be much in the big scheme of things, but it makes me feel like a joy rebel for sure.
The real joy in life is definitely in what we give.

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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authenticity reflection

Authenticity: When I Wonder If I Am Enough

Authenticity: When I Wonder If I Am Enough

I didn’t really set out to be a teacher – or a parent. I wasn’t a child who dreamed of my ‘perfect’ career or ‘perfect’ family. I didn’t have names picked out for my future children. I rarely thought about life too far in advance. I mostly did what I needed to do, took the side roads instead of the highway, and generally landed on my feet – often times a bit wobbly or off center, but not completely upside down.

At least not more than once or twice.

The fact that teaching and parenting have defined me for 27 years is really quite surprising.

I’m grateful for my teaching job. I’m told I’m good at it; I’ve stuck with teaching middle school, through three different districts, dozens of principals and multiple iterations of teaching kids. Yes, the content and class titles have changed, but not my focus: kids first, content second.

And I’m grateful for my parenting job. I’m thinking I’m pretty good at it; my oldest is graduating from college, my youngest from high school. Neither has been in ‘trouble’, they care about people and take their education seriously. They are good humans. And they still check in with mom and dad and put up with my innate tendency to worry and create elaborate ‘what if’ scenarios in my head.

And yet, still, those moments creep up on me, silent and stealthy and surprising with their intensity – moments when doubt creeps in, wraps like a tourniquet around my forehead and squeezes out my confidence. The moments that I’m learning to beat down, to thrash out at with a violence built up over half a century of battling self-doubt.

I’ve been rolling around this idea for awhile now, waiting for just the right inspiration – and today, the Universe responded with a quote from Coco Chanel in my “Year of Daily Joy” guided journal: “How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something, but someone.”

authenticity

I honestly think that’s where I am right now: deciding to be someONE. I’m fairly certain it has to do with being 50+, with having a supportive husband who helps me along a path that just feels like the right one to take – even when I’ve got no other justification than that. I would bet that it has to do with feeling supported in my work – but administrators, colleagues, parents, and students who allow me to succeed and fail, who listen to my audacious ideas and trust me enough to join in.

Authenticity: loving fiercely

And I know for sure that my children, the two humans who have taught me the most in life, are at the core of my decision. Loving fiercely, parenting two spirits that aren’t afraid to call me out and show me their side of the story, enable me to look in the mirror every day and ask, “Am I enough by THEIR standards?”

authenticity

Knowing that if I walk my talk, if I believe in my power enough to show them they can believe in theirs, is flexing my authenticity muscle. With every risk I take, with every failure and stumble and crash I hope I’m showing them that I care. That I believe in searching for fulfillment for myself and being open to what the Universe has in mind…even when I want nothing more than to stay under the soft covers of my bed and listen to the birds chirping outside on a cloudy morning.

Martha Beck says, “Refusing to risk is like allowing a muscle to atrophy; it doesn’t hurt, but when the muscle isn’t fulfilling its purpose, it loses whatever strength it has.” 

I love thinking of these moments of wondering if I’m enough like a muscle I need to exercise. We all have authenticity inside, wrapping our bones and covering our hearts with abundance and love. Why have so many, like me, found it easier to refuse to risk, to scramble under the covers instead of undertaking the hard work of finding – and cultivating – it?

I have struggled most of my life with a paralysis of perfectionism. I don’t know where it comes from or why, and I honestly don’t care.

What I do care about, however, is how this paralysis impacts my ability to find authenticity-in my parenting, my teaching, my writing, and my daily interactions with strangers and friends. Part of that is recognizing that when the Universe sends me former students who remind me I was their ‘favorite’ teacher, or when my son responds with a hug to my request to spend more than an hour a day together, or when I connect with a stranger on Twitter who honors my work, I am making a difference.

Authenticity: Being enough

I care about authenticity. I also care deeply about being ‘enough’. So I’ll show up, I’ll puff out my chest when I’m feeling less than brave, and I’ll live. I’ll take the risk. I’ll flex the muscle. I’ll show the Universe more love. I’ll do things that I want to do, and I won’t let perfectionism paralyze me ever again.

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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embrace change

Being Brave Enough To Embrace Change

“Just where you are – that’s the place to start” ~ Pema Chodron

The next six months are a countdown in my life – or a count up, depending on how I look at it. That’s the issue right there, actually: am I brave enough to embrace change?

Ever since Lily went away to college Cam has been watching me – aware of my shifting focus from her to him, noticing my changing routines, a slight twist towards examining myself as the mom of a college kid, and as a result of his observant mom-study, he declared that he “realized how hard I took it when Lily left, so he needs to start preparing me now.”

Way to play on my anxieties, kid.

I suppose in his wisdom there’s some truth to his strategy. I DID take it hard – I knew it was coming, I tried to prepare, but it wasn’t until I was sitting in her convocation freshman year that I could start to verbalize what I was feeling.

I don’t expect a repeat next August when Cam moves across the country. Yes- he’s moving to Boston, just about as far as he could go from California. He was accepted early decision to his dream school, and without hesitation, he committed. Done deal, he’s going.

Early decision is kind of nice, except for the fact that instead of starting my empty next visualization in May with most of the other parents-of-seniors, he kindly gave me five extra months of it.

The silver lining? It made choosing my mantra for 2018 quite simple: EMBRACE CHANGE.

embrace changeI’ve been procrastinating on actually writing about the impending change for months. I guess that’s a strategy – avoidance, right? If I don’t think about it, it won’t happen…except, he’s 18 and reminding me daily that he’s an adult and that I should get used to it. As the days pass, he’s less and less patient with me, and I’m finding myself more and more often in my upstairs writing perch, candles lit, gazing out the window and wondering if I’m actually brave enough to break my own heart….as a mother.

Now logically, I know there’s no choice. My heart will break a little more each day, the cracks carefully covered with smiles and hugs and making his favorite meals. I’ll play along with the ‘when I”m in Boston’ talk, and remind him that roommates don’t like people who leave their wet towels on the floor. I’ll grin when he comes in for a hug now and then, and compliment him when his room looks clean and he goes out of his way to fill the gas tank. I’ll be grateful that he texts me from his girlfriend’s house, and rest easy knowing that at least her parents are getting to see what a nice young man he’s becoming during all the free time he spends hanging out with them, not us.

And I’ll let go of what’s no longer serving me – the story of all the things I thought I would do when he was little, the trips we never took, the books I never read aloud. I’ll let go of all that part that tells me what I should have done…and try to hang on to what I did.

I was recently listening to Cheryl Strayed talk about her writing and her reflections on motherhood, and she shared a story about making decisions as a mother that really resonated with me. No one prepares us for motherhood; we do the best we can with what we have, and hope that everything turns out ok. Along the way, we learn to navigate the rough patches, smooth the hurt feelings and wipe away the tears.

She reminded me of one of the most important lessons that motherhood has taught me: to do things that scare me and to let my kids do them, too. Making decisions for our children is a hard habit to break, even when we’ve been practicing for years. Sometimes when I tell other parents that my kids both chose colleges outside of California they tell me that they would never let their kids move so far away. I hear all sorts of excuses, but really, all I can think is how could I forgive myself if I never let them fly?

I have to be honest – I KNOW I’m brave enough to embrace change. I’m sure I will survive. I made it through Cam’s adventures at the ski academy, and Lily moving to Utah. I know that like all those other times when I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a child that was any older than they were at that exact moment – that just like then, I’m going to find that with change comes joy just on the other side. With change comes a new opportunity to push away what isn’t working and amplify what is.

I wear my mantras on my wrist, daily reminders of the words I promise myself. Courage. Trust the journey. Be here now. And now, embrace change. I trace my fingers over the letters, I twist and bend and alter their position but always, always the words are right there to remind me that yes, I am here and yes, I can.

Being brave enough to embrace change isn’t easy – but it’s worth it. I’m going to trust in that.

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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