My Best Life, March 2014: A Month of Anticipation

March was a month of anticipation; the wrap up of one ski season, the college acceptance letters, and the countdown until Cameron returns home from the ski academy. I struggled to stay in the present moment, to breathe deeply and know that everything will work out as it should. As we move into April, I feel the breath of possibilities whispering at the back of my neck. It should be an interesting month, to be sure!

My Best March:

Best Blog Reads:

I was fascinated with the idea of ‘grittiness’ this month; how do we cultivate grit in our children seems to be a hot topic for teachers and parents right now. Fittingly, Cameron’s ski academy school motto is “Grit, Grace and Courage” – what more could we ask for our kids? I loved this post from NPR titled “Does Teaching Kids To Get Gritty Help Them Get Ahead”, as well as this one from one of my favorite websites, Daily Good. Definitely worth a read.

Best Books:

I managed to get a bit of reading done this month between the anticipation of ski races and college tours in Salt Lake City. I really enjoyed What Would You Do If You Could Not Fail by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons. These writers collected stories of courage from everyday people and put them together with quotes and ideas for the reader to really use in their lives. The theme of grit really got my interest, and made me think about why some people have the drive to persevere and others don’t.

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger was written in the form of letters, emails, and documents, telling the story of a marriage in collapse. I wasn’t sure how I’d like this format, but it turned out that the characters were well developed and the plot surprisingly easy to follow. It made me think that teaching middle school was really a dream job compared to being a divorce lawyer!

Finally, I just finished Holly Peterson’s new novel, The Idea of Him. It really made me think about how so often in life we think we know what we want or how it will all turn out, and usually, life has a way of surprising us. Holly is a Goodreads author – if you haven’t used Goodreads yet to track your books and reading, you should start! If you already do, please friend request me! I’d love to see what you’re reading, too.

Best Quiet Place:

A long time ago, when my children were small and very demanding, I decided I needed to find a quiet place close to home where I could escape when I needed to center myself. Over the years, the path running along Putah Creek in the UC Davis Arboretum has offered me great solace and joy. One of my favorite times to visit the Arboretum is when a storm is looming – I love the quietness, the animals taking cover, and the whisper of the wind blowing through the trees.

UC Davis Arboretum trees

Redwood Grove in the UC Davis Arboretum
Redwood Grove in the UC Davis Arboretum

Best Photos:

A month of endings and beginnings…nothing fancy, just the fabulous moments of anticipation and reward in March:

Lily and Bob
Lily and her beloved high school ski coach
Lily Pole Vaulting 11 feet
Lily pole vaulting 11 feet, a new personal record
Lily and Mikaela Shiffrin
Lily and friends and Mikaela Shiffrin at Squaw Valley race.
Lily at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah
Sunset at Tahoe Park Beach with my boy
Sunset at Tahoe Park Beach with my boy

Spring is coming! In the UC Davis ArboretumSpring is coming! In the UC Davis Arboretum

 

A rare race day together at Northstar
A rare race day together at Northstar

Best Quotes:

When I look back at my Twitter #quoteoftheday postings, there seems to be a strong theme of openness to possibility and anticipation of what is yet to come. -I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time, but looking back, that’s really what March taught me.

“Stay committed to your decisions; but stay flexible in your approach.” –Tony Robbins

“You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out, but you gotta suit up for them all.”-J. Askenberg

“Instead of bracing yourself for the perils of the unknown, embrace the joy that is here, in your present moment.”
― Michelle Cruz-Rosado

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”- Brene Brown

“It doesn’t matter where you are, you are nowhere compared to where you can go.” -Bob Proctor

Best Moments:

High School State Ski Championships

It was a month of my girl pushing herself to the limit; finishing second place in the high school state ski championships gave her such a sense of accomplishment. And then a few weeks later, she went and did this – caution-it gets a bit loud at the end of the video! Facebook Post by Jennifer Mason Wolfe.

Wishing you great possibilities in April – and as always, thank you for supporting mamawolfe. I’d love to connect with you on Instagram and Facebook, too!

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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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Public Health – It’s Where The Jobs Are

Health
Health (Photo credit: Tax Credits)

In the current economy, most industries are shrinking instead of expanding as the stock market indices would have the public believe. However, there are numerous Baby Boomers who are in great need of top notch private care. They can also afford this care and will pay a premium for individuals with the right kind of education and skill set. In the event that government administration such as HIPAA does not appeal to you, then you can go into the private market as long as you are not afraid to relocate. There are such a large number of chances in terms of finding a job in the field of health that everybody can definitely find something.

However, you must first have the right kind of degree: an online MPH.

Are you looking for a change? There is one definite industry that is expanding and will continue to do so for the next few decades: public health. Obamacare virtually assures a need for more government bureaucracy when it comes to health. The government is also requiring the vast majority of practicing doctors in the country to conform to an entirely new set of administrative standards. Most doctors simply do not have the time to make the necessary changes themselves. They are in desperate need of individuals who understand medical administration and government oversight.

These are exactly the skills that an online public health administration Master’s degree program will teach its students. Upon graduation, a student will be able to immediately go into a private office and keep it up to code or move into the government to help administrate the huge program that is Obamacare.

Baby Boomers with no family are also in great need of individuals with high levels of medical and administrative skills to tend to their needs. If a student is ready to move to certain areas of the country, especially large, metropolitan areas, then they will definitely have their choice of employment when it comes to public health.

There are additional advantages to getting a public health degree. The program itself is much less expensive as well as less time consuming than many other programs that are after the undergraduate level. Also, no program has the ability to assure more of an opportunity at a job immediately coming out of school like the field of public health.

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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 You Grow To Be

“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.”

~J.K. Rowling

20130816-195436.jpg
Visiting the track at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon.

Sitting in my garden tonight, watching the sun set, with my dog on my lap. An evening of reflection and gratitude after 1,800 miles driven over six days, visiting colleges from Ashland, Oregon to Bellingham, Washington. I’m so thankful we were able to spend this time together, just us two. From the day she was born, I’ve watched over her as she attempted all her ‘firsts’, soaring through life with grace. This time, I’m watching differently.

This time, I observed my first born take it all in, her blue eyes scanning the campuses for reflections of herself, searching for that connection that would whisper to her, Yes, you belong here. This is where you will grow.

As the sun sets on her high school career, another life-episode calls to her, nudging her closer to the woman she is destined to be and farther from where she was born. I can see it in her eyes- the twinkle of slight recognition as she returns home tonight just a little different than when she left. She is no longer the child she was days ago-now,she is reaching for the light when before, just as she reached out, she shivered.

It doesn’t matter what she was born to be…she is creating, choosing, forming herself every day. The decision is hers. This time, right now, I’ll sit back, support her, nurture her, and marvel as she grows and blooms into something spectacular.

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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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Travel with mamawolfe: The Simple Life in Nicaragua

simple life in Nicaragua

There is something to be said about the simple life in Nicaragua. Every morning here starts out the same: I wake up, roll out of bed, and pad outside with my journal to listen to the morning sounds of doves cooing, roosters crowing and coffee percolating. If I closed my eyes, I could almost imagine I was home – except for climbing out of a sweaty bunk bed tangled in mosquito netting, swinging in a hammock, and the scent of burnt debris, it is eerily similar to Davis.

And that’s when reality sets in.

Traveling in Nicaragua is hard for foreigners. We’re constantly on guard to keep from eating or drinking the wrong things. We’re vigilant about drinking water to keep hydrated, spraying DEET to ward off malaria and dengue, and we sanitize like it’s going out of style.

But some of my favorite parts about traveling in Nicaragua are really the simple parts that are so very different from living in the US.

13 7 24 Nicaragua Casas Viejas 2 002 (59)

The truck rides

I absolutely love riding up the dirt road in the back of the pickup truck. The only rules? Stay seated on the pavement, hold on, and only 10 gringos in the back at once. Easy enough. I remember my terror the first time here at the thought of my children riding in back without seatbelts; I soon realized that the back of the truck was the most comfortable.

The sense of time

It does take some getting used to, this idea of Nicaraguan time. ‘Hurry up and wait’ is how we Americans seem to operate. As long as we make it safely, and everyone in the group is accounted for, time isn’t really something paid a whole lot of attention to. The only rule I’ve heard our host say is to not be driving after dark-it’s not as safe.

simple life in Nicaragua

The food

Most of our meals are prepared by a restaurant owner named Enrique. He has his own restaurant right around the corner, and we eat breakfast there every morning. Lunch and dinner are either brought to the work site (lunch) or to the Seeds of Learning compound (dinner). Simple and delicious, Nicaraguan food is a combination of savory and sweet, little salt or spice, not much dairy or cheese. The fruits are fresh, squash and corn plentiful, and nearly every meal comes with freshly made corn tortillas. The kids love the soda here – nothing artificial about it. Pure cane sugar!

Everyone worked!  There were NO power tools.
Everyone worked! There were NO power tools.

The activities

Each day here is some sort of combination of hard manual labor when building the school, connecting with the community, and working with children.

In Nicaragua we don’t use power tools or pre-made anything – we make our own mortar, cement, and rebar, and it is not unusual to see men working entire days with a pickax to remove one large boulder in the way of a new wall or foundation.

The people of Casas Viejas and Ciudad Dario couldn’t be more friendly and hospitable. We get a fair share of strange looks (19 white people walking down the street surely must look odd in these small, remote communities), and cat-calls (chellita! chellita! are the favorites), but considering the US’s checkered past with Nicaragua during the Reagan years, they really do welcome us warmly.

The children here really do seem happy with the simple life in Nicaragua. Although we bring crafts, they really enjoy coloring books, puzzles, Monopoly and chess games, Legos and playing catch. Not many kids here are plugged in or tuned out. Their favorite use of technology seems to be having their picture taken- “un photo” echoes through my ears every afternoon.

the community prepared songs and dances for our arrival
the community prepared songs and dances for our arrival

The focus on the family

Nicaraguan houses are simple and conducive to socializing with the family and their neighbors. An open door is an invitation in Nicaragua, and each evening we see families gathered on the sidewalk in front of their house, or inside their front room, having conversation and simply spending time together. Often they will draw us in, asking us questions or making friendly comments. In the rural areas, the same sense of connectedness happens with parents and kids sitting outside in the shade, in the crotch of a tree, or on a rock in their garden.

So while I admit I do look forward to a bit of air conditioning, purified tap water and a hot shower, I will certainly miss much about the simple life in Nicaragua. I guess that’s a good reason to come back.

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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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Travel with mamawolfe: Cementing Friendships in Nicaragua

Nicaragua Casas Viejas
Cameron and Lily on the first day.

The first day in Nicaragua is often a blur. Between the red eye flight, the road travel from the airport to Managua, and then arrival at the Seeds of Learning Resource Center midday, it’s hard for me to tell the date or time. All I know is I’m feeling a strange blend of exhausion and adrenaline that helps me stay awake for nearly 36 hours.

 Nicaragua Casas Viejas dirt road

Nicaragua’s landscape is amazingly green and tropical. The sky today is overcast and the scent of smoke hovers in the air as we load the Toyota truck and head off for the worksite. Twelve kids and seven adults, coated with sunscreen and loaded with backpacks and water bottles, took off down the dirt road for the first day of our adventure.

Nicaragua Casas Viejas school
The back of the existing school, where our building begins.

The children and teachers greeted us in Casas Viejas. Currently, the community has a two room schoolhouse for preschool through 6th grade. Our job is to help construct a two-room annex to provide a space for high school students. In Nicaragua, high school is grades 5-11. For the kids of Casas Viejas, the nearest high school is over several mountain passes, about a 90 minute walk. This addition will provide high school for not only kids, but also adults in the community.

 Nicaragua Casas Viejas
Teacher Ana (left) and Ize, our host at SOL (right)

Yuri  teaches 17 preschool students, Ana teaches 22 primary students in 1st-3rd grades, and Marisa teaches 22 4th – 6th graders. The teachers also serve as liaisons for the community to provide information about the school building project.

Nicaraguans are incredibly hospitable, and go to great lengths to make us feel welcome and comfortable in their community. As soon as we arrived, Carolina, a 6th grader, quietly came up to me and waited for me to speak. She had a sweet smile, and was excited to get to know the teenage girls and me. After a prayer and singing the national anthem, she proudly danced for us.

Our work task for today was to prepare to start building one of three walls for the school.  First, we had to create a human chain to move bricks from the front of the school to the back area where the annex is being built. It was a great way to get to know some of the kids, and we were able to move hundreds of bricks fairly quickly. Cameron managed to turn it into a game, while getting to make some new friends.

Casas Viejas
Cameron begins to build a foundation.

To the kids great delight, the wall building began a bit early! Lily took right to the bricklaying, while Cameron helped build a cement foundation.

 Nicaragua Casas Viejas

This trip, I decided to be much more organized about getting to know the kids’ names, so I took a photo of these girls and asked them to write their names and ages in my notebook. I’d forgotten that photos are a huge treat in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua Casas Viejas 1 Hassel

It snowballed, and soon I had nearly every child wanting to write in my notebook.

 Nicaragua Casas Viejas

After a few hours of brick laying, we tumbled into the pickup and headed for home. We knew we’d sleep well, with the work of cementing friendships in Nicaragua has begun. The awkward introductions were over, and tomorrow the real building would begin.

Nicaragua Casas Viejas Cameron
Cameron covers his face from the dusty ride home.

How can you resist these smiles? Not bad payment for a long day of work!

Nicaragua Casas Viejas 1 Julito
Julito
Nicaragua Casas Viejas 1 Josselina
Josselina
Nicaragua Casas Viejas 1 Jose Manuel
Jose Manuel

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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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