Tag: Fiction

She’s Only 17, But The Decision Is Hers

Posted on August 7, 2013 by

            “Last night I dreamt I was returning
            and my heart called out to you
            to please accept me as you’ll find me
            Me kealoha ku’u home o Kahalu’u.”

-from “Ku’u Home O Kahalu’u,” a popular contemporary Hawaiian song written by Jerry Santos 

Lily at 5, preparing for kindergarten

Lily at 5, preparing for kindergarten

She’s feeling a bit anxious now. The summer before senior year, and the glow is slowly fading. School is no longer in the rear view mirror, and as September days inch closer and closer, she knows she doesn’t have much longer.

She’s only 17, but it’s time to think of leaving home.

Watching the college application process from the passenger seat feels a little bit like those first few days of elementary school, not knowing if we made the right choices, or if she would make it through the day by herself. We always knew she was independent, not terribly shy, and was an eager learner. But something about dropping her off on those first few days left me twisted up in knots. I couldn’t wait for her to come home.

Kind of how I feel right now.

When it was time for kindergarten registration, we chose where she went to school. She had no idea that her entire day would be taught in Spanish, nor that any other school was different. It was just what we thought was best, so she went. Things went well. She learned, she made friends, she laughed, and at the end of the day, she was happy to be home.

Now that it’s time for college choices, it’s really up to her.

She’s only 17, but it’s her time to decide where she wants to go next.

I sense her anxiety. It’s palpable as we click around websites and look at campus after campus.  So much to take in, making the decision that much more complicated. Intense. Insurmountable.

She hasn’t really changed that much since kindergarten-she’s still independent, social, and eager to learn. But something about the thought of dropping her off at college takes my breath away. I want to scoop her into my arms, make the choice for her, make the fears go away. I want to know that no matter what, she can come home at the end of the day and it will be OK.

But I can’t – she’s really 17.

Seventeen years spent nurturing her every interest, protecting her, creating a home for her to sink into when she needs it – has it all led up to this? GPAs, test scores, extra-curriculars…I can’t help but cringe at the extraordinary complexity of the decision, and wonder if it has to be this way. Can’t she just plug it all into some sort of app, and the perfect place will spit out at her on her computer screen, guaranteed to be her happy place?

Lily at 17, preparing for college

So we’ll make a list, do our research, and hop in the car to tour schools clear up to the Canadian border. We’ll walk the campus, take notes, and soak in what it feels like. She’ll try to imagine herself there, alone, independent, social, and eager to learn. Things will go well.

She’s only 17, but the decision has to be hers.

I’ll try to imagine myself next year, alone, missing her, but proud that she made her choice. And I’ll be there, next year, back at home, dreaming of when she returns.

Because she’s only 17.

No decision is forever. She can always come home.

This post was inspired by the novel This Is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila, a collection of short stories that shares a view of Hawaiians few tourists ever experience. Join From Left to Write on August 8 as we discuss This Is Paradise.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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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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“A Constellation of Vital Phenomena”:Taking Risks

Posted on May 19, 2013 by

Risk map in Wikipedia.

Risk map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember as a little girl spending countless hours hunkered over the board game, Risk. As the air conditioner cooled our house from the scorching heat of northern California valley summers, my elementary school friends and I would hunker over the globe, carefully strategizing our next move against countries I had never heard of before. We never imagined our world as a constellation of vital phenomena. Marching our players across the flattened, cardboard world, we had no more desire for world domination than any other nine-year-old. I believe we simply wanted an escape, a way to pass the long, summer day without today’s diversions of the internet, satellite TV or iPads.

In our young minds, the world really did have boundary lines. We assumed that moving from country to country, state to state, would involve some sort of hopscotch game in order to transport ourselves out of one place and into another. None of us had ever left the west coast, let alone the United States. we read Scholastic World magazine, looked at our parent’s subscription to National Geographic, and only imagined those places too far away to really touch.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

“a constellation of vital phenomena”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We couldn’t transport ourselves with a click of a mouse, fly over the South American jungles via Google Earth, or even comprehend the idea of one day setting our own two feet in the dust of a Nicaraguan road on a quest to discover what was really happening beyond our boundaries.

One roll of the dice, and our players advanced in the game, one more move towards occupying every territory and eliminating the other players. I remember the tickle of my tongue as I tried to pronounce “Kamchatka”, and the giggles when we landed on “Yakutsk“. Ural, Ukraine, Mongolia, Indonesia…our black and red players marched forward capturing one continent after another in our imaginary world where the Earth’s boundaries really were drawn in the sand, and the people there merely tokens in our game.

It wasn’t until nearly forty years later that I stopped to think about Risk and what it taught me.  I sorted through the pieces in my mind,  doing a quick Google search now and then for the new names of those foreign lands. I remembered the coolness of the linoleum floor as we lay prone for hours and hours, never wanting the game to end. I realized the damage it might have done as we learned from such a young age that the name of the game was to conquer at all costs, and I realized that actually, what it taught me was that what we do effects others. Our strategies impact lives. We may be divided by those imaginary boundaries, but we all share the same space together on Earth, despite where the lines are drawn or the battles fought. We are interdependent, reliant on each other to play the game. To break down the boundaries. To roll the dice, sometimes not knowing where we’ll end up, but knowing where we’d like to go.

To take risks.

This post was inspired by the novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. In a war torn Chechnya, a young fatherless girl, a family friend, and a hardened doctor struggle with love and loss. Join From Left to Write on May 20 as we discuss Anthony Marra’s debut novel. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. To purchase your own copy, visit http://amzn.to/XWBaxN.

 

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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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Book Review: A Good American by Alex George

Posted on February 26, 2013 by

good_americanReading Alex George’s novel A Great American was like climbing back into the pages of a family tree, uncovering historical secrets as I navigated through the story.  George begins his narrative in the early 1900s with main characters Jette Furst and Frederick Meisenheimer, two young misfits living in Germany.  As George says at the end of the first chapter, “It was Frederick’s capacity to dream that dazzled Jette the most. When she was with him, anything was possible,” establishing one of the themes of the novel: the capacity to dream the American dream was possible.

The novel continues in an operatic rhythm, as the reader discovers the dreams of not only Frederick and Jette, but subsequent children and grandchildren.  Alex George’s characterizations are so realistic and endearing that I often found myself wondering if these were real characters from his family tree, so fleshed out and vibrant were they.  Characters fall in and out of the course of the novel, their stories deftly woven together under the question of what a good American really is.

One of my favorite themes in the novel surrounds the power of food to nourish and transform a community.  Beginning with the lack of food on the ship as Frederick and Jette come to America, food not only represents the ability to nourish and care for a family and community, but also the desire to hold onto our cultures while assimilating into a new country.  As the novel progresses, the images of food change with the family’s deepening roots in the community, moving from traditional German fare to eventually a Mexican menu.

Music also plays a central role in the definition of what a good American means in the novel.  From opera, to jazz, soul music, and even rock and roll, the author weaves the development of American music throughout the generations.  Like food, music serves as another thread for the Meisenheimer family as they struggle to retain links to their old heritage while moving forward into the rapidly changing American landscape.

I enjoyed every page of A Good American. George’s writing was real, humorous, yet his research and knowledge of the evolution of our country through its immigrants was woven throughout. Questioning our understanding of what it means to be a good American, in the umbrella of race relations, religious views, gender expectations, food, music and the family structure allows Alex George to give the reader a deep look at the multifaceted history of our country.

If you’d like to read more about A Good American, join our BlogHer Book Club discussion by clicking here.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.”

 

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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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