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?

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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I'm flying

I’m Flying

It’s that uneasy feeling in my core that momentarily makes me shudder. I try not to sit over the wing, but this time I must have gotten too close. It’s grey outside LAX – an uncommonly rainy day in southern Californa, to be sure.

As the plane gathers altitude and begins to shake, my head swerves from left to right as if I’m stuck on  a spinning teacup ride.

I will not get dizzy. I will not panic.

I'm flyingFor someone who loves to travel, I despise flying. Each time I enter the stifling cocoon of an aircraft my breath begins to come in short gasps and I watch my hands as the grip and twist and fidget with anxiety.

I scramble for my earbuds, for my book, for anything to relieve the absolute panic I know is about to wash over me. It’s inevitable.

I’m flying. I’m released from the gravity that tethers me to my ordinary, everyday life. It feels like walking a slack line at first; I’m checking and rechecking for a diaper bag, I’m catching the eye of a toddler running away in my mind, I’m scanning for a plugged in teenager about to miss our boarding call. Strangely, they’re not there. I’m alone, feeling the float of lift off and gathering life from a new perspective.

It’s not exhilarating. To be honest, it’s unsettling.

This feeling of groundlessness unnerves me as we cruise along at 36k feet. Thankfully, the ride is smooth and my mind stills and wanders a bit.

I’m alone. Away from everything that tethers me to ME. I’m a stranger in a slew of travelers, incognito to everyone around me.

I could be an aging actress. A famous writer. A salesperson or an investment banker, or perhaps an editor or a restaurant chef or a politician.

I turn the pages of my novel to try and lose myself. It’s about a family of tinkers- travelers, nomads, those souls who wander but are not lost. Groundless, yet grounded. Their possessions with them always, settling briefly in one town and the next, they lead a decidedly unconventional lifestyle.

They’re outsiders, nudging the edges of discomfort as they roam.

I absolutely know that feeling.

Flying high in the sky, I can look back on my home and take in the vastness of our world. I can remove myself from my house and my street and my school and everything that is ordinary. I can become an outsider looking in.

I can see farther than I can imagine. I can revel in the anonymize of just being me. Jennifer. Mother, wife, daughter, sister, teacher, writer, friend.

The babies are crying in the back. I remember the weight of mine on my chest, nursing them to comfort so many years ago. I’m not that woman anymore, I remind myself. I can hardly remember her, it seems, outside of the visceral muscle memory of skin to skin, the sprawl of innocence spread alongside me. I’m flying and I’m weaving in and out of me, catching snippets of memories like I’ve just stumbled into a dream.

I’m flying, and I’m free of those old pulls of my ordinary self. I’m floating on my true nature, grabbing pieces of my life past, present and future.

Now, with only air beneath me, I’m unsupported, unrestricted. I’m free from my ordinary form, floating in a temporary state. It’s simultaneously unsettling and uncomfortable.

The pressure intensifies as we begin our descent to Salt Lake City and I breathe in slowly, then exhale. I pull Me back inside, I imagine the girl who will be waiting when I land. She’s a lot like me, but not quite. She’s her own, extraordinary, ordinary woman.

In and out, I prepare myself. It’s always bumpy on the landings.

Honestly, I need that jolt.

It’s sometimes hard to hit reality, isn’t it?

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 Favorite Moments of 2015-A Year In Photos

I love the new year. Not because I’m a big one on resolutions (I’m definitely anti-declaration in that way). And not because I like to whoop it up on New Year’s Eve (I don’t – I was in bed by 10 p.m.). And I love photos – not because I’m any sort of skilled photographer, but because I love the moments they capture.

And certainly not because I love endings and change and the unknown (not.not.not.).

But I do love the new year because I adore reflecting on memories. I love stories. I’m sentimental that way.

I’m a huge creator of photo albums and memory boxes – at least, I used to be, before I got a digital camera.

Now my photos are stored all over the place – my phone, my computer, the cloud, Google Drive – and I need to do a serious project to get them organized.

Wow – that sounds almost like a resolution. *shudder*

To start, I searched up each month of photos that I could, and want to share my favorites here. Not because they’re terribly technically good photos, but because, for me, they tell a story of 2015: what happened, where I went, and who I loved.

And that will have to do for now.

JANUARY 2015

no cast

This was in the orthopedist’s office – it was the first time C had seen his leg outside of his cast since he broke it on the ski course. I love the look on his face and the fact that he wore his “Bomber” shirt that day – sigh.

FEBRUARY 2015

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While most days I dislike the fact that my daughter moved to Utah to go to college, when her photographer boyfriend sends me these shots, I can’t help but smile. Can you see her face? She’s loving life. What more can I ask for?

MARCH 2015

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I love the blurriness of this shot-it’s so representative of how life was (is?) feeling in this moment. I love that C is on his skateboard after months of being in a cast (wait -really?). I love that he hasn’t lost his confidence and that our dog follows him everywhere. A boy and his dog. And his skateboard. *sigh*

APRIL 2015

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Being a part of Listen To Your Mother seemed like an elusive writing goal – although motherhood tips the topic list of my blog, it took a huge leap of faith for me to actually submit my writing. My smile represents my joy at being chosen, at doing something that made me nervous, and the accomplishment I felt when I was done. And this photo also reminds me how short I am.

MAY 2015

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My girl and her dog along the trail at Five Lakes. It’s near Alpine Meadows, where we spend the winters skiing. If I was in this photo, my smile would fill the frame – this was the first time I’d seen L since Christmas, and I couldn’t get enough of her. This adventure, hiking with her and her boyfriend and our pup, was one of those perfect moments that I appreciate so much more now that she doesn’t live with me anymore.

JUNE 2015

selfie free summer

A day trip to Point Reyes, CA, was one of the first things we did when L came home (briefly) in June before she left to work in Oregon for the summer. My boy was still not 100% on his now-healed leg, and yet he made it down to the coast with his camera. Can you feel my heart bursting here? I assure you, it was.

JULY 2015

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NYC subway with one of my oldest girlfriends taking the snap. I’d never been there, never ridden the hot, steamy, sweaty, crowded subway, so I insisted she capture the moment. I’d just finished attending BlogHer16 (awesome) and was spending my last few days seeing the sights. I may not look like I’m 18 years old in this image, but I sure felt like it.

AUGUST 2015

Utah hiking

I can’t remember the name of this lake in Utah but I do remember the moment. C and I had driven L back to school and she and her boyfriend took us up into the mountains of Alta where they ski during the winter. I was pretty happy I kept up with the youngsters (elevation and all), but mostly, I felt the joy a mother feels when her babies are by her side, happy and healthy and loving life. I’m not sharing the photos I took the next day when I left her there and had to drive home…

SEPTEMBER 2015

sixteen

My boy turned 16. What I love about this photo is how much he’s changed, yet how he’s stayed the same. He didn’t want a ‘sweet 16’ party like my girl did, so I dug out an old cake photo to contrast with where he is today – the fact that his broken leg healed, he was able to skim board in Carmel and is growing into such a determined, kind human….I’m a proud mamawolfe.

OCTOBER 2015

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An Instagram screen shot of L and her boyfriend hiking in Utah. What mom wouldn’t be proud to see her daughter in love like this?

NOVEMBER 2015

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Even though I turned 50 in December, and even though I did NOT want a party, my mom did it anyways. The day after Thanksgiving, before L went back to college, and when my extended family was still in town, we celebrated. And I’m glad. I chose this photo because it is a rare moment when I am in a shot with both of my parents – they divorced when I was a teen and are rarely seen together. I love this because it reminds me what parents will do for their children and that I’m getting old. Older, but better. Definitely better.

DECEMBER 2015

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I love the holidays, but they overwhelm me. Too much going on, too many people, and I’m usually exhausted from teaching during those crazy December days leading up to the break. But here, on Christmas Eve at my dad’s house, this photo made it all worthwhile. My babies. My boy (with a concussion 🙁 – can you see his hospital bracelet?) and my girl, my best life’s work. What makes me mamawolfe.

Here’s to 2016, a year for more photos, more adventures, and more writing about thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. A year for trusting the journey.

That’s one resolution I can keep.

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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A Year of Change and Possibilities: September, October, November & December 2014

September came and went with two freshmen living in two states – an official emptiness in our home.

I made friends with a great new author and read some terrific books.

Meeting Erin Lindsay McCabe
Meeting Erin Lindsay McCabe

Cameron turned 15, and continued to heal his broken leg and dashed dreams.

Healing a broken leg
Healing a broken leg

I was finally able to write about the change in our lives with Lily going away to college.

Lily loving her new college life.
Lily loving her new college life.

The year ends with an interlude between pain and healing, our family back together, and hope for 2015.

Hope for health and happiness in 2015
Hope for health and happiness in 2015

Through all this change and tumult in my life, I turned to writing; my favorite posts of the last third of the year were:

Broken

Extraordinary in the Ordinary

These Moms, They Don’t Know Me

Home

Interlude

 A huge, grateful thank you to all of my readers, my friends, and to my family who tolerates my subjecting them to sharing their lives here on mamawolfe. Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2015.

All my best,

Jennifer

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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A Year of Change and Possibilities: January, February, March, April 2014

Lily and Cameron racing at Sugar Bowl, January 2014
Lily and Cameron racing at Sugar Bowl, January 2014

The year started with fireworks in the snow. Ski racing was front and center for Lily and Cameron, and me, by default.

Cam at Sugar Bowl Academy
Cam at Sugar Bowl Academy
College acceptance letters started!
College acceptance letters started!

I struggled with changing perspective in motherhood as Cameron moved to Sugar Bowl Ski Academy, and Lily received college acceptance letters.

On our way to Salt Lake City, Utah, for our last two college visits.
On our way to Salt Lake City, Utah, for our last two college visits.

Lily and I took our last college exploration adventure before her big decision.

And, I did a bit of writing, too. Some of my favorite posts were:

Thanks, Coach, For The Life Lessons

I Thought I Knew What Was Best For My Kid, But He Had Other Ideas

At This Moment, She’s Right Where She Needs To Be

Live A Life of Amazement

I had no idea that these moments, these bits of time and change and glimmers of possibilities, were only the beginning of the upheaval to come in 2014….more to come in my next post.

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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