happiness hacks for October 2017

Happiness Hacks For October 2017

Woohoo! October is wrapping up! If you’re a teacher, October is THE LONGEST month, and ends on a lovely day/days/week full of sugar, hyped-up kids, costumes and MORE SUGAR! Plus, it’s the month with the lowest energy for teachers and students…I’m happy to see the calendar change for November. But to end the month on a positive note, I’ve collected some of my favorite tips to share with you – enjoy my Happiness Hacks For October 2017!

Happiness Hacks For October 2017: Happy At Home

I kept super busy in October – for teachers, the ‘honeymoon’ is wearing off and the grind towards the end of first quarter begins. For teacher-moms, it’s a double dose of stress – especially for me this year, when my ‘baby’ boy is writing college essays and applying early decision for his top school…trying to avoid overwhelm amongst all this goodness is huge.

I’m a huge list maker by nature, and with the launch of Google Keep a few months ago now I’ve got both digital and hard copy notes..but it was getting a bit much, I must admit. I love the Google Keep notes for on-the-go voice typing of things I don’t want to forget, but I’m most productive when I’ve got a paper to-do list right in front of me. But when that list is front and back….I needed to make a change. I decided to try my classroom workflow strategy of must do – should do – could do to help me prioritize at home, and it worked! I used the large, lined sticky notes to prioritize tasks and move undone lists to the next week without having to rewrite everything. I can’t say the lists are eliminated, but I can say that I’m not as overwhelmed with trying to remember what needed to be finished by when, and even dreadful chores like filing the FAFSA were somehow completed early! WIN!

Happiness Hacks For October 2017: A Bit Of Reading Time

I’m still determined to make my Goodreads 2017 challenge of completing 37 books…my free time is slowing down, but I still cherish my reading time. All screens are going off by 9:00 p.m. each night, and if I still have some brain power left I’m turning pages. In October I chose two books that had been languishing on my shelf for nearly a year – The Ladies of Managua by Eleni N. Gage and The Book of Night Women by Marlon James. In a fit of procrastination late one night, I decided to search Goodreads to see which of my ‘shelfie’ books had the highest ratings and start there. These two were tops – for good reason.

The Ladies of Managua by Eleni N. Gage caught me completely by surprise – I originally bought it because of my love of Nicaragua and wasn’t disappointed. Gage smoothly weaves elements of the Nicaraguan culture into her generational narrative of three independent women, connected by blood and history. At times I was comparing it to Isabel Allende’s great novel The Japanese Lover – the flashbacks blending in a historical narrative alongside contemporary Nicaragua deepened my understanding of the country’s disturbing background while solidifying my love for the joyful, loving culture I’ve come to adore.

The Book of Night Women by Marlon James, however equally compelling, was one of the hardest books I’ve read in years. Winner of the Dayton 2010 Literary Peace Prize, Night Women echoes the writing of Toni Morrisson’s Beloved (one of my all-time favorite books) in the telling of the story of Lilith, a Jamaican slave living at the end of the eighteenth century. This is not an easy read, and is definitely a commitment of time and spirit – but honestly, as difficult as James’ realistic, sometimes horrific, descriptions of life as a female slave were, forcing me to want to avert my eyes at the words on the page just to let the images flee my mind, I absolutely could not put it down. The Washington Post describes The Book of Night Women as ‘darkly powerful’ for good reason. In today’s turbulent times, this story sheds light on the history of slavery what we might not want to see, but must understand.

Happiness Hacks For October 2017: Wise Words

happiness hacks for October 2017

Have you heard of Brad Montague? How about Kid President? You really need to. Brad created the video series featuring Kid President about five years ago because he wanted to make the world a more awesome place, and I absolutely fell in love with their short messages. Three years ago Brad inspired me to engage my AVID classes in #Socktober – an annual drive we do to collect socks for people living homeless in our community. It’s such a cool thing. Last weekend I was near happy-tears while listening to Brad give the keynote at the fall CUE conference- his message to all adults about “how can I be a better grown up?” and becoming a “Possibilitarian” full of “Wisdom, Wonder, and Whimsy” hit just the right vulnerable spot in my heart.

happiness hacks for October
Oh yeah – I got to meet him, too!

So often lately we’re hearing about all the horrible, unkind, mean-spirited actions going on in our world. Daily I see kids coming in my classroom full of sadness, fear, and anxiety. Listening to Brad speak reminded me that it is my daily responsibility to “to create things the way they could be” – in my home, my work, and my community. Be sure to check out Brad’s website, Montagueworkshop.com/wonder,  and see his joy-full rebellion in action! Here’s one of my favorite Kid President videos – I show it in my classroom every year:

Happiness Hacks For October 2017: Teacher Hacks

Teachers, I’m obsessed with Hyperdocs, and everything they’ve done for my students. Did you catch my post about teaching writing with hyperdocs?  The more I learn, the better my teaching gets – and I wanted to share a cool hyperdoc I got from my friend Kevin Feramisco, who got it from the original creator, Heather Marshall (that’s how hyperdocs work, folks!). I’ve struggled with teaching 8th graders how to integrate quotes into their writing, adding intros and explanations, for years. Finally, this hyperdoc on quote analysis nailed it! I love how kids first take the quote and break it down – critical thinking about the speaker and audience, context, significance, literary devices, and connections, then ‘putting it all together’ with an assist from some academic language frames…brilliant! Then, I had students share their analysis paragraphs on Padlet and taught them about how to comment…by reading other people’s writing the magic began happening fast! I started with four quotes from the novel we were reading, (one quote per hyperdoc) and by the last one, they were writing and commenting like rock stars! You can #filemakeacopy of my adaptation of the hyperdoc here.

Feel free to adapt, change, adjust the hyperdoc to meet your needs – just keep our names there, and add yours!

Happiness Hacks For October 2017: Something Yummy

pumpkin bread

An amazing recipe for Pumpkin Bread, of course! from Alton Brown – found on my fave new app Food Network’s “In The Kitchen”. I’ve made this recipe several times using canned pumpkin and omitting the nuts – it’s devoured in a day! The link will also take you to a fun Alton Brown video showing how he makes this super yummy recipe!

Happiness Hacks For October 2017: Listen Up, Podcast Lovers

Oprah’s Super Soul Conversation Series has become my go-to podcast at the end of a long day, or when I just want to relax and not think about teaching or writing or parenting…it’s just soooo good! Her interviewees are so intriguing, the podcasts are fairly short (under 30 minutes) and it calms me down and makes me think about life in the big picture. I find myself jotting down ideas to delve into, or texting a link to my friends who would enjoy a particular episode. Check it out – it’s well worth your time.

I hope these Happiness Hacks help ease you into busy November!

Love,

Jennifer

Background on my Happiness Hacks series:

Years ago I started a gratitude journal – just a daily addition to my morning pages that documented the ordinary things that I was grateful for – simple things that made me happy.

During this time I read Gretchen Rubin‘s book, The Happiness Project – Gretchen’s writing and podcasts inspired me to create what I hope are monthly lists of ‘happiness hacks’ – small, simple acts or moments in life that bring me happiness and maybe they’ll rub off on you, too. You can read my essay inspired by Gretchen’s other book, Happier At Home here. 

In June 2017 I started with my first set of ‘happiness hacks’, and loved the responses I received on the post and on social media. Turns out, you do things to make yourselves happy, too. 

You can read my past “happiness hacks” posts below:

Happiness Hacks For September 2017

Happiness Hacks For August 2017: Bring More Gratitude Into Your Life

Happiness Hacks: July 2017 To Bring More Gratitude Into Your Life

primark

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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state of wonder cover

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: An Unforgettable Book

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

“This was her moment, the perfect now.”
― Ann PatchettState of Wonder

The closest I’ve ever been to the Amazon was hearing stories from my husband about his adventures canoeing there as a young man – that was enough to make me understand the power of the river, and the prominence it plays in Brazil’s geography and culture. That is until I cracked open Ann Patchett’s 2011 novel, State of Wonder. This perfect novel took me into the ‘now’ of the life of two female scientists and left a story that lingers in my mind months after reading the last page.

State of Wonder
Started on the plane, couldn’t put it down.

What it’s about:

Everything magical and powerful and uncompromising about the Amazon wrapped itself around me and pulled me into the story of Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist, who is reluctantly sent by her company to locate her mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, in the deepest part of the Amazon. The unexpected strength of Dr. Singh hooked me into her story – how would an educated yet urban woman survive such a test of endurance, faith, and determination? It’s when she locates her mentor and begins to live alongside her in the jungle that the story comes into full bloom – Patchett creates two women of opposing points in life, both grappling with the idea of the fleetingness of time and the reality of our own mortality.

Why I liked it:

I ranked this a 5-star read on Goodreads – I only give top billing to books that I didn’t want to end and couldn’t stop reading. It took me only two days to buzz through all 353 pages, and when I closed the cover my head spun with Patchett’s mastery of language and characterization. My favorite characters, the doctors Singh and Swenson, offered a perfect contrast between the young woman full of hopes and dreams for a ‘conventional’ life of love, children and career and the woman in her last decades, still vibrant and quick yet realizing that some of her dreams are no longer able to be realized.

State of Wonder also made me think of the possibilities and limits of science and the ethics of going into a culture and forcing our ideas and opinions and lifestyles onto the people.Spending time in rural Nicaragua, I struggle with the idea of the ‘good life’ – is what I am accustomed to any better than the simple, slow pace of the Nicaraguan people?

state of wonder
Making tortillas over a wood stove, the simple life in Nicaragua.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of the plot to me was the idea of never ending maternity and the hazards of women being able to bear children in the last decades of their lives. How old is too old? How big a price would I pay to have a child, or to bear a child for another?

I know many women who struggle with the work-life balance, including myself, and I found that theme recurring again and again in the State of Wonder. Do women regret their choices to put career over family? Do we ever truly know the right choices to make for ourselves? At the end of my life, will I wish I had done more or less?

Words I loved:

One of my favorite aspects of Patchett’s writing is her dazzling use of language; from Bel Canto to Run to Commonwealth, Patchett’s novels keep me pausing to think with every page. Here are some of my favorite lines to ponder:

“He used to say we all had a compass inside of us and what we needed to do was to find it and to follow it.”
― Ann PatchettState of Wonder

“Never be so focused on what you’re looking for that you overlook the thing you actually find.”
― Ann PatchettState of Wonder

“The question is whether or not you choose to disturb the world around you, or if you choose to let it go on as if you had never arrived. That is how one respects indigenous people. If you pay any attention at all you’ll realize that you could never convert them to your way of life anyway. They are an intractable race. Any progress you advance to them will be undone before your back is turned. You might as well come down here to unbend the river. The point, then, is to observe the life they themselves have put in place and learn from it.”
― Ann PatchettState of Wonder

“One must not be shy where language is concerned.”
― Ann PatchettState of Wonder

Who should read it?

Everyone. State of Wonder is an exciting escape for the reader. While it’s a thrilling read, it shines with the complexities of themes of fertility, mortality, the ethics of science and the excitement of travel. If you’ve ever wanted to visit the Amazon, read this book. If you’ve struggled with relationships, read this book. If you’ve been intrigued with science and indigenous cultures and experimentation, read this book.

Above all, if you’re looking for a book that makes you think and lingers in your heart, you should read State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. And when you do, come back and let me know how much you loved it, too.

I review my favorite books approximately monthly. You can find past reviews here.

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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the fall of lisa bellow a must read

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo: A Must-Read About Mothers, Daughters, Trauma and Loss

“Sometimes in the morning, while she waited for her brother to get out of the bathroom, Meredith Oliver would stand in front of her bureau mirror, lock eyes with her reflection, and say, “This is me. This is really me. Right now. This is me. This is my real life. This is me.”~from The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo: A Must Read About Mothers, Daughters, Trauma and Loss

When I read the first page of The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo, I wasn’t sure it was going to be for me. Not only am I extremely picky about the novels I spend time with (have you seen my Instagram shelfie shots? It’s obnoxious how long my ‘to-be-read’ list is), but also I spend every work day surrounded by girls like the main character of the novel, Meredith Oliver. Meredith is a typically self-conscious eighth-grade girl. Now I love my job teaching 8th grade, but sometimes at the end of the day, I just want to escape into a  novel nowhere near my real life.

I’m sure glad I didn’t give up on this one. The Fall of Lisa Bellow got under my skin – in a good way. That’s why I’m calling this one a ‘must read’ about mothers, daughters, trauma, and loss.

the fall of lisa bellow a must read

What it’s about:

Meredith Oliver is the youngest in her family; her parents, are both dentists and her brother Evan, is a high school junior. The novel starts off describing her typical teenage angst as she goes about her day, feeling overshadowed by her brother who has experienced life-changing trauma. The plot takes an uptick when on an ordinary day, in broad daylight, Meredith finds herself in the middle of a sandwich shop robbery, quivering in fear on the dirty floor next to the most popular girl in her eighth-grade class, Lisa Bellow. When the gunman chooses Lisa as his hostage, leaving Meredith behind, the plot expands to pull in their families, Meredith’s emotional struggle with being the survivor, and the ripple effects of trauma on the mothers of both girls.

Meredith’s mom, Claire, is uncomfortably pulled into the grief Lisa’s mom is experiencing, which forces Claire to desperately try to cling to her own daughter, the survivor. Claire’s character development weaves threads of maternal guilt, the anxiety of knowing if she’s doing the ‘right thing’, and the universal struggle between parent and child during adolescence. Evan, Meredith’s brother, appears first as a victim of his own traumatic accident and develops as an example of how one can rise and triumph. Mrs. Bellow, Lisa’s mom, portrays the gut-shattering grief experienced by parents experiencing the loss of their child, and the conflict of trying to live without her.

the fall of lisa bellow a must read quote

Why I liked it:

Aside from the fact that I am fascinated by the teenage mind and how humans seem to navigate into and out of its murkiness, I think what I connected with most in this novel was the battle experienced by Claire as she grappled with her maternal instincts versus the reality of her life as a mother, wife, and woman. I know firsthand, like so many mothers, what happens when our children are hurt, either mentally or physically. When my son experienced his ski racing injury and had to rehabilitate and adjust the trajectory of his life experience, I felt the anxiety of second guessing the enormity of his experience and wanting to trust my belief that ‘all will be well’. You can read my reflection on that experience here. Motherhood is no simple task, and add in marriage and career and mid-life disquietude I certainly connected with Susan Perabo’s character.

One of my favorite scenes came about half way through the novel. Claire, in desperate attempt to connect to her daughter’s experience, is consulting Meredith’s therapist. Frustrated at her inability to control the situation, Claire asks,

“How will I know when she’s ready?”

“You’ve been protecting her your whole life,” he said. “You’ll know.”

But he was wrong. Protecting her? …She could not protect her daughter. She could not protect her from the stomach flu. She could not protect her from cancer or AIDS or the common cold. She could not protect her from the mean girls. She could not protect her from her friends. She could not protect her from her own thoughts…She could vaccinate them and make them wear seatbelts and batting helmets. She could give them cell phones with emergency numbers on speed dial. She could give them straight-talk books and scared straight DVDs and a solid, honest, pitch-perfect piece of advice every single morning on their way out the door. But in the end, there was no intervention.

There was only awareness”

~from The Fall of Lisa Bellow, page 165

How many parents have felt this urge to protect, to intervene, to try to anticipate every hurt and shield our children from the pain of real life? This novel reminded me so much of the book If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie with a somewhat reverse plot line. I wrote a post inspired by If I Fall, If I Die called “Please Don’t Go Outside” in which I explored the paradox of wanting your children to grow and love and become their own person and the fear of letting them go where you can’t see. You can read it here.

I also enjoyed the narrative structure of the story; told in alternating points of view, the novel bubbled with tension and kept me connecting with both Meredith and Claire as the plot unfolded. Additionally, there were points in the storytelling where I found myself pausing and thinking about why the writer chose a sort of ‘flashback’ technique that made me wonder if I was really understanding the point of view at all. This beautiful writing, combined with authentic characters and suspenseful plot lines, kept me pushing to finish my end of the year grading so I could reward myself with just a few more chapters of this lovely book.

Who should read it?

As I paged through the story, I questioned if this was a young-adult novel or simply a story for parents struggling with watching their children grow. At the end, I decided it was both. I’m going to share this book in my 8th-grade classroom, and watch who gravitates towards it. I think teens will certainly connect with Meredith’s character and conflict, and I know moms and parents will align with Claire and Mrs. Bellow’s challenges.

Overall, I think The Fall of Lisa Bellow is a must read, and I sure hope you’ll come back here and let me know what your thoughts are.

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo is published by Simon & Schuster, who provided me with a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

 

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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Anne Lamott Stitch

Taking Life Stitch By Stitch – Anne Lamott

“When you can step back at moments like these and see what is happening, when you watch people you love under fire or evaporating, you realize that the secret of life is patch patch patch. Thread your needle, make a knot, find one place on the other piece of torn cloth where you can make one stitch that will hold. And do it again. And again. And again.”

~Anne Lamott, Stitches

To me, some writers are meant to be savored. I tend to plow through narratives with the pace of a runner rounding third base, so immersed in the story yet desperately eager to cross the plate and get my next up to bat.

I have “to-be-read” shelfies that are simply full to the brim.

stitch book

Yet when it comes to Anne Lamott, no such rushing is allowed. Anne Lamott is meant to be slowly digested, piece by piece, word by delicious word, allowing every nuance to be assimilated and mulled over and absorbed. Usually, that means multiple readings.

 

That’s what happened with her book Stitches: A Handbook On Meaning, Hope and Repair. I found myself reading, pausing,re-reading, more pausing, writing, reflecting, and re-reading again with the most wondrous sense of joy, snapping photos of pages and quotes and passages that just wouldn’t leave my mind.

“…the secret of life is patch patch patch…”

How often have I felt like my life is a series of stitches in a quilt, piecing together the sometimes hastily, often crookedly and usually wonderfully mismatched moments? This year, I promised myself to be.here.now. To step back and notice the moments in my life, in the lives of my children and my husband and everyone around me. To search for the stories behind the situation, to pause and be patient and trust that where I am – where we are – is where I need to be.

Sometimes, I’ve missed the eye of the needle. I’ve had to regroup, rethread, redo. I’ve tied knots that sometimes slip loose, but more than often have held tight. I’ve learned to gently pull the pieces together, to quietly look for connections in the colors and fabric that make up my extraordinary life. And I do it again, and again, and again, each day sticking with the stitches that held from the day before, gently guiding myself to the next connection. Subtly weaving moments together, I’m learning. I’m growing, laughing, loving, deepening.

I’m stepping back before stepping in, I’m watching the fire and the flame, the mist and the storm, the light and the lightness.

I’m patching together the secret of life – I’m weaving the thread of the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Stitch by beautiful stitch.

Anne Lamott Stitch

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 ‘Best of 34’ Books Read in 2016

I set a 12 month Goodreads Challenge in 2016 to read 30 books – more than I attempted in 2015, but as part of my ‘trust the journey’ focus, I knew that pushing myself to not only read more, but read more diversely, was key. I’m pretty proud to say that I made reading a priority, and completed 34 books in 2016! Last year, I wrote about my favorite books of 2015, and loved hearing from readers about what books they loved and were reading all during 2016.

If you’re interested in more recommendations, you can find them in my 2013 and 2014 favorites posts. I’ve also written a Books I Love post, and would love to connect with you on Goodreads to share more about reading in 2017. Goodreads is my favorite place to keep track of what I’m reading, and to look up reader reviews for new books I’d like to add to my ever growing shelf of ‘to reads’. 

In no particular order, I’d love to share My ‘Best of 34’ Books Read in 2016 – and please respond in the comments if you agree, disagree, or have a title to share for 2017! (p.s.- I included some favorite quotes just to tease you!)

“Love doesn’t work like that, one or the other. Don’t you know that yet?” – from June by Miranda Beverly Whitmore

I first learned about this author after reading her best seller, Bittersweet. When I finally was able to read June, I have to say, I loved it even more than her first. June is a story about a 25-year-old woman who, while mourning the loss of her beloved grandmother, lives in their old rural mansion and uncovers part of her past while creating a present full of love and excitement. If you enjoy small town stories, old time movie stars, and complicated love triangles, June is the book for you.

“We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.” -from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I figured that with all the hype over this book, along with the massive good reviews on Goodreads, that I would love it. I was right. I fell in love with Ove in the first few pages – his cranky yet lovable character made me really feel like he was someone real, someone human in his faults as well as in his incredibly huge heart.

“If you are going to abandon your work because someone speaks ill of it, then it has never been your work, has it? It becomes theirs. You give it up.” – from I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira

As a young girl I devoured Irving Stone’s stories of artists and politicians, so upon discovering this gem about Mary Cassat and Edgar Degas I knew I had to jump in. Besides all that, Robin Oliveira’s book My Name Is Mary Sutter made one of my top 2015 books as well. I immersed myself in Robin’s story of 1880s Paris and the stormy romance between Cassat and Degas made me grab for my art history books and remember how uncommonly common relationships can be.

Chasing the North Star by Robert Morgan

This book was full of adventure; I felt the terror, the fear and the hope of Jonah and Angel as they attempted to escape slavery and bounty hunters in 1850s South Carolina. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, particularly around the Civil War, and as such I loved Morgan’s strong characters and unusual twists on the slave narrative.

“It reminds us that as ordinary as we might be, we can, if we choose, take the harder road, walk forth bravely under the indifferent stars.” -from The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of the Donner Party by Daniel James Brown

Brown’s most well-known novel, The Boys On The Boat, is on my 2017 list – but I couldn’t resist reading his interpretation on one of my favorite historical stories. I devour books about the Donner Party – but this one was different. Told as a nonfiction narrative, Brown skillfully wove their story between historical information that really helped me get a sense of more than just what happened – but how and why it happened.

“There is no shame in who I am,” he said. “There is only shame in how I came to be, and that is not my burden to carry” -from Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom

Grissom’s novel The Kitchen House was one of my top books of 2015, so when I spied this sequel on the library shelf I grabbed it and jumped right in. I wasn’t disappointed. Picking up the story of Jamie, the author transports us to 1830s Philadelphia to develop the plot around his life, while weaving in familiar characters from The Kitchen House. Immensely readable and believable, this sequel definitely competes with the original.

“You see, I have never felt the need to invent a world beyond this world, for this world has always seemed large and beautiful enough for me.” -from The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Like so many, I adored Eat Pray Love when it came out in 2006. I listen to Elizabeth’s podcast and read her blog. Still, I wasn’t prepared for how much I would love this novel. L plants and flowers and all things eighteenth century, the story of Henry Whittaker, a wealthy trader in quinine, and his daughter Alma, a well-respected botanist, was a natural read for me. What I didn’t expect was for me to become so enamored of the characters as I was of the plot line. Explorations of science, religion, class, gender expectations made this a book that I never wanted to end – even after 501 pages! It was that good.

Last Ride to Graceland by Kim Wright

This is not my typical type of read – contemporary fiction about blues musicians and Elvis fans aren’t regulars in my reading choices. But I fell in love with Wright’s story of Cory, who travels South Carolina in search of her real father – who she believes is Elvis Presley. A sweet story of mothers, daughters, and what we really don’t know about each other…such a pleasant surprise.

“You only have one life, but if you live it well, that’s enough. The only reality is now, today. What are you waiting for to be happy?” -from The Japanese Lover by Isabelle Allende

Honestly, I have to say that this book was one of my TOP reads from 2016. I wrote a review about it here, and judging from the feedback I’ve received, everyone else loves it, too. Told in the tumult of pre and post WW2, Allende unravels the complicated love story between a young woman living in an opulent mansion in San Francisco and the son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Living near San Francisco myself, I could imagine the vivid settings and fell into the spell of their forbidden love of over 70 years. This story is about love and passion and history and the improbable situations we find ourselves in when we find true 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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