girls night out

It’s Time For A Girls Night Out

We made it through September – it’s time for a girls night out. Seriously.

I cannot even remember the last time I saw a movie in the theater. I want to say it’s when my husband and I saw the first “Lord of the Rings” film – and it ended badly when he realized, after 2.5 hours in the theater, that it was the first in a series. He was not happy with a cliffhanger ending.

It always seemed such a hassle to get to the theater, to do dinner and pay a sitter and honestly, it was just easier to watch something on the DVR in our jammies while the kids played in their room or in the best case scenario, were tucked into bed themselves.

And then they became teens, and the thought of going out and drinking and whooping it up just didn’t seem like the right role modeling, if you know what I mean. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been too tired from teaching and mothering and writing and running a house to even consider a girls night out.

My 17-year-old son has been trying to ‘prepare’ me for his impending departure for college in TWO years. He reminds me constantly that I need to get used to the idea of ‘doing stuff with my friends’ instead of worrying about him, because when he’s gone, it’ll just be me and his dad and his dog and if I don’t start easing myself into it, I’ll have a rough time.

I suspect he’s got ulterior motives, but he’s got a point…

So, girls night out it was.

girls night out

What better way to hang with the girls than to celebrate Bridget Jones’s Baby?! Don’t worry…you’re not expected to bring a gift. But there will be booze! Have you ever heard of Studio Movie Grill? Do they have one in your neighborhood? Check – and if you can find it, grab a girlfriend and RUN there for a girls night out to see Bridget Jones’s Baby. It’s the coolest concept – you buy your movie ticket, sit in the comfiest of movie theater chairs, and just push a button and a waiter delivers drinks, snacks, dinner…as many times as you want!

Problems solved! It’s a one-stop-shop for a girls night out – or even a date night, or a bring-your-kids-and-blankies-and-have-a cocktail-while-they-eat-chicken-tenders kind of night!

At Studio Movie Grill you can sit back, sip on handcrafted drinks and laugh hysterically at all that is the incomparable Bridget Jones. Remember her from 2001? Before you got caught up in all-that-is-motherhood?

To celebrate the movie that everyone is expecting to be a sure-fire hit comedy Bridget Jones’s Baby, starring Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Patrick Dempsey, SMG invites you to indulge in a night of fun with the Bridget Jones’s Baby Package. This $27 package includes:

•     Admission to Bridget Jones’s Baby

•     One box of popcorn

•     Your choice of entrée from our 2 for $25 menu, and

•     A Not Your Father’s Root Beer Adult Float or a special Non-Alcoholic Baby on Board Float

Mark vs. Jack…who’s it going to be?! Find out with your closest friends.

I absolutely loved the movie; it far exceeded my expectations, I must say. I loved the first two in 2001 and 2004, but I was worried that after 12 years the magic would be gone. I’m happy to say, I was wrong. Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth were as charming as ever, and my girlfriends and I found ourselves laughing the entire way through! In true Bridget form, she finds herself pregnant at 43 and unsure of the father’s identity – which hilariously propels the movie forward, leaving us smiling and tearing up at the end.

If you’re needing a girls night out, please head for the Studio Movie Grill to check out Bridget Jones’s Baby – you deserve a night of food, drinks and laughs served right to your table!

Disclosure: I received free movie passes in exchange for reminding you that you need a girls night out!

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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Isabel Allende's The Japanese Lover

Book Review: The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende's The Japanese Lover

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I cracked open the cover of Isabel Allende’s latest novel, The Japanese Lover. To be honest, I was surprised with the title – I always associate Allende with stories set in Latin America, magical and mystical and certainly not settings in Asia.

I quickly came to discover that Allende, in fact, utilized a familiar setting after all – San Francisco, close to her home in California, and sixty short miles away from mine. That got me hooked, and I could hardly put the book down.

Using the dual time periods of the 2000s and 1940s, The Japanese Lover tells the story of Alma Belasco, an elderly, eccentric woman living in a nursing home, and her decades old love affair with Ichimei, the son of her family’s Japanese gardener. At the end of Alma’s life, her grandson Seth and her care worker, Irina (who is harboring her own secrets) strive to discover who is sending Alma secret letters and gardenias.

I couldn’t help but be drawn into the story line as Allende weaves the disparate love stories of Alma, Ichimei, Seth, Irina against the backdrop of both World War 2 and contemporary San Francisco. I was swept into Alma’s life as a young girl, forced to immigrate from Poland to seek protection from Nazi persecution by living in the San Francisco mansion of her uncle Issac. And just as quickly, I found myself caught in the narrative of Irina, herself an immigrant who struggles generations later with her own back story and coming to terms with her inability to commit to a loving relationship.

Allende skillfully weaves in and out of current time to Japanese Internment camps, sharing the back story of Ichimei, his family, and offering a snapshot of what life was like for Californians of Japanese descent pre-World War 2 who were forced to leave everything they knew to live in government-run prison camps. As a student of California history, I found Allende’s historical details descriptive and factual, thought provoking and tender. Alma and Ichimei, cognizant of their inability to publicly demonstrate their interracial love, share a passion that spans generations

 

Isabel Allende's The Japanese Lover

I just loved this book – everything about it resonated with me. Allende’s tender portrayal of Alma and Ichimei illuminates a passion that spans generations despite societal norms which restrict their ability to demonstrate interracial love, alongside relationships that are both acceptable and secret in a multitude of ways. All along the way, I couldn’t stop thinking of our world today in 2016, that has come so far in defining both marriage and love, and yet we live in a country which still struggles with racial and societal inequity. For me, The Japanese Lover provided the perfect vehicle to think deeply about what our world would look like if we could put down the barriers between races, if we could eliminate the huge divide between income levels, and really look at each other as soulful humans, each with an ability to love and be loved for who and what we are, not who or what others think we are.

Isabel Allende’s novel The Japanese Lover is one of those books that I know will linger with me as I move through my own work and life, attempting to teach my children to love and not hate, to be kind and not cruel, and to make the world a better place for those who come after us.

For more great book ideas, head over to Brynn Allison’s Literary Maven site.

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 Books of 2015

2015 best books mamawolfe

 “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

I am a book lover. I love being surrounded by stacks and stacks of books, both read and unread. I adore walking into someone’s home and scanning their bookshelves, and get giddy when I see familiar titles. I carry at least one – if not two (just in case, you know) – books with me everywhere I go. I typically read at least two titles at once – a novel, an inspirational morning book, and some sort of writing guide. I collect books like some people collect records (wait – does anyone DO that anymore?) and update my Goodreads profile like a pro. My Amazon wish list is full of…books. That’s about it. And I LOVE to gift books – in fact, this year my mom’s present was a HUGE bag of books that made her as excited to receive as it felt to give. She reads more than I do!

In 2015 I set my reading challenge too high, and missed it by about 13 titles. I did manage to complete at least 27 full-length novels, which I consider pretty satisfactory considering I have over 100 English students in class this year (think – 100 papers per assignment, at least 5-10 minutes to read/grade each, totaling 500 minutes which is OVER 8 HOURS minimum!). This year I’m sharing my favorite books, only because I want to share just the very best. I’ve added links to make it easy to read more about these titles on Amazon; I’d love to know if you agree with me – and if you’ve read something you think I should add to my list, be sure to comment. I’m always on the look out for great stories.

Here are my 2015 favorite books, in no particular order…

The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy

I read more historical fiction than any other genre, and this was one of my favorites. The main character, Sarah Brown, is the daughter of abolitionist John Brown, and embraces the cause of the Underground Railroad all on her own. The author weaves a parallel story set in current time about a woman struggling with infertility who finds a mysterious porcelain doll head in her root cellar. I loved the mingling of past with present, and the ideas that women throughout history have challenged themselves to create the life they really desire. I tried to write my own bit of family history after reading this book – you can get the story of my great, great grandfather in my blog post, “Sheep Shearer’s Children In Lake Tahoe”.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Pulitzer Prize winner. Besides that, this story is a glorious, delicate and beautiful tale about a blind French girl and a German boy who are trying to survive World War 2 in France. It’s a long read (530 pages), but I guarantee you will be captivated by the author’s ability to weave together two characters who should never have met, all the while sharing the idea that despite our circumstances, people really do try to be good to each other.

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

Another historical fiction story set in parallel structure, The House Girl tells the stories of Josephine Bell, a seventeen-year-old slave living in Virginia, 1852, and Lina Sparrow, a young lawyer living in New York City, 2004, who is tasked with research into a class-action lawsuit surrounding a mysterious Civil War era artist. I loved the interplay of art and history and secrets, and the idea about what does justice really look like.

If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

This book was deliciously creepy, telling the story of a young boy named Will who had never been allowed to go outside. So what does he do? He defies his mother, sneaks out (wearing a protective helmet, just in case) and finds a kid who shows him the joy of skateboarding. There’s a mystery that happens, too – but this story showed me the extremes that parents will go to to protect their children, and the dark side of not allowing kids to experience life on their own. You can read my blog post, “Living In Between Love and Fear”,  inspired by this book.

All Together In One Place by Jane Kirkpatrick


After reading this first book in a series, I am now completely hooked on Jane Kirkpatrick. All Together In One Place shares the story of life during the westward movement in the U.S., a time when women were forced to pick up, move, and follow their husband to someplace they had never seen. What made this one of my favorite books was the multitude of strong female characters – women so strong they outlasted most of the men and managed to create their own destiny along the way.

My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

I loved discovering this writer – another woman tackling the issues of feminism as told through the story of Mary Sutter, a Civil War era midwife who battles prejudice and discrimination against women. This was one of my favorite books because while the depictions of medical treatments of the time could be a bit hard to stomach, the courage and fortitude of Mary captivated me. I couldn’t put this one down.

Girl Who Fell From The Sky by Heidi W. Durrow


To my surprise, I wound up meeting this author during a conference at BlogHer this summer in NYC, and she was as lovely and delightful as her novel. While this wasn’t historical fiction ( the story is set in current day Chicago), her themes and story line most definitely have been repeated throughout our country’s history. Her story of Rachel, a biracial girl who survives a family tragedy, made me really stop and think about racism in our country, and how we all contribute to the ideas of social justice, and the power beauty and race hold in our world.

I Am Here: The Untold Stories of Everyday People 

OK- true confession – I’m sharing this title as one of my favorite books of 2015 because this collection of short stories is where I first became a published author in print. My story, “The Ride of a Lifetime”, was selected to be published by Story Shelter in their first ever print edition. To say I was over the moon is an understatement; after decades of seeing other author’s names on the title page, I did do a happy dance to see my very own there in black and white. I Am Here is an interesting collection of real life stories of regular people who have had extraordinary experiences – and my tale of our first trip to Nicaragua fit right into their theme.

Do you see anything you’d like to read in 2016? Do you share my love for any of these titles or authors? I’d love to hear your thoughts – please comment and let’s create another amazing year full of books!


P.S. – Too late for making my list, but I’m about to finish A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan. This title came to me via a friend’s blog A Design So Vast – Lindsey’s post about “Best Books of the Half-Year” is full of interesting titles. It’s fun to stray away from my usual genre to dump myself inside the life of another modern woman determined to balance motherhood, career and marriage.

If you’re interested in my past year-end book posts, you can find my 2013 recommendations here, and my 2014 favorites here. I’ve also written a “Books I Love” post 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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How To Know If You’re An Optimist – And 6 Easy Ways To Become One

optimism

(ˈɒptɪˌmɪzəmn

1. the tendency to expect the best and see the best in all things       2. hopefulness; confidence
      We’ve all heard it before – are you a ‘cup half full’ or a ‘cup half empty’ kind of person. Me? I never knew – and still don’t know – quite how to answer that question. Am I an optimist? A pessimist? Does it depend on the size of the glass and what it’s full of?
     If you answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions, I’d have to say you are an optimist – at least most of the time.
     Optimists don’t always have all the answers. They aren’t always smiley and cheery and living life on the edge; right there, it would knock me out of the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ group right there.
 optimist
     And where would that leave me? Pessimist? A “person who habitually sees or anticipates the worst or is disposed to be gloomy?” Well, sometimes, but not always. Sometimes life is gloomy. Sometimes really, really bad things happen – things so bad that we struggle to find a reason, to make sense, to ground ourselves in a place of security. When we fight the inner critic that tells us that we’re no good, that people are mean, and that evil exists in the world and unless we have superpowers, we can’t fight back.
    We wonder why bad things happen to good people. Why earthquakes and tsunamis and tornadoes wipe out thousands of innocent lives in a single moment. We ponder suicides and mass shootings and children who die and parents who have a terminal disease….when you think about it, being an optimist requires an antidote to kryptonite.
     Optimism requires hope. It expects good to triumph over evil. It obliges us to believe in heroes, in the rewards of virtue and that every cloud has a silver lining. Optimism requires us to believe that we can make a difference if we just put one foot in front of the other, even on those days when we feel like curling up into a ball and closing out the world.
     Therefore, I proclaim myself an optimist.
     Think about it – when was the last time you heard someone say they were ‘blessed’? This morning? Last night?
     I hear it every day, multiple times. In fact, I hear it so much I wonder if the true meaning is being lost. I wonder if what they really are saying is ‘I-know-this-is-hard-but-I’m-aware-that-I’m-luckier-than-most’.
     Is that being an optimist? I would argue, yes.
     And I’ll admit – I have it luckier/better/easier than most people in the world. Travel has taught me that.
     I’ll also admit that I’ve had some challenging shit happen to me in my life – and to those I care most about.
     Last summer, when Cameron broke his leg and we had to figure out what to do next, I decided that every day we would look for ‘silver linings’. I used those exact words, and when we were in the hospital, or stuck on a couch far away from home, or trying to navigate a full leg cast in a wheelchair or attempting to understand why-this-happened-to-him, we would stop, and say three ‘silver-linings’. And I have to say, it helped.
     Recently I was asked to review the book, 10 Habits of Truly Optimistic People: Power Your Life With The Positive by David Mezzapelle. And I’ll admit – I was a bit apprehensive. Could I truly make it through 288 pages of being ‘blessed’? Would my inner skeptic manage to stay positive?
     Happily, it did, and I found stories of real people peppered with optimistic quotes and ideas and actual nuggets of inspiration – some that I’ve regularly practiced in my daily life, and some that I’m working on embracing on a daily basis. Surprisingly, I found many of the themes here were ideas I’ve written about before: change, gratitude, small moments, value, self-care, inspiration, and service.
     Because I loved these ideas so much, I’m running a giveaway for the book  10 Habits of Truly Optimistic People: Power Your Life With The Positive. Viva Books has generously offered to send three copies to the winners – please enter, and share it with your friends who you think would benefit from reading stories inspired by these ideas:
1. Embrace Change
2. Appreciate Those Around You
3. Savor Every Moment
4. Believe In Yourself and the Value You Possess
5. Find Yourself In Service To Others
6. Have An Attitude of Gratitude
It’s simple to enter – just click the link below and choose your options.
Winners will be determined on May 3, 2015 – enter now! a Rafflecopter giveaway

photo credit: Better Future Ahead Sky via photopin (license)

photo credit: Things Will Be Fine via photopin (license)

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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Are You Afraid You Might Fail?

courage4

Is something holding you back from living your best life? Are you afraid that you might fail? Are you ready to move forward but find yourself frozen in fear?

You need to read this book: What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail.

 The parenting website, Ten To Twenty (I’m a regular contributor now) loved this review I wrote and is publishing it today on their front page – here.

I adored this little book; it was the first review I did for Viva Books, and has let to a great partnership. You can read more of my Viva books reviews about living in the present, gratitude, and finding the right words with these links:

Wholehearted Life

Toasts: The Perfect Words To Celebrate Any Occasion

The Grateful Life

Imagine The Life You’d Like To Live, Then Live It

header photo credit: Courageous via photopin (license)

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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