Best books

The Best Books of 2017

I set a 12 month Goodreads Challenge in 2017 to read 37 books – more than I attempted in 2016, and I’m proud to say that I made reading a priority of my be-here-now focus and completed 40 books in 2017!  If you’d like to read the best books I read in 2016 click here, and for more best books recommendations click over to 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 2018. 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’. With each book, I’m linking to Goodreads reviews/descriptions, and if I’ve written individually about a book, I’ll link to that post, too. I’m also adding my favorite quotes from the books – just for a little bonus! I also share monthly reads on my Happiness Hacks blog series – October’s post has a few titles you might enjoy.

In no particular order, I’d love to share My ‘Best Books of 2017″ – and please respond in the comments if you agree, disagree, or have a title to share for 2018!

Stitches by Anne Lamott

Best books
Stitches by Anne Lamott

Another one of the best books by one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott – she seems to be on my list every year! In Stitches, she shares her dry, witty, though-inducing words that enrapture me over and over again. I loved this book. Anne is who I’d love to be when I grow up – honest, unafraid, funny, outspoken and insightful. Her personal stories will ring true – I promise. Just check out her ‘secret of life’ below:

Best books

Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile

“How often, on this great spinning ball where we’re all just struggling to lead our tiny lives, do you get to see evidence of God’s grace and know, the way you know your name, that at least for a little while, maybe just a few seconds, you can stop worrying, and take a deep breath, because things are all right?” ― Natalie BaszileQueen Sugar  

I ALWAYS read the book before the movie – but in this case, I’ve been watching the Queen Sugar TV series and decided to read the book.  I liked the story and the main character, Charley, but felt like I was constantly comparing it to the OWN TV series instead of reading it on its own merit. I loved the TV series, and feel like the novel’s characters were much less developed than in the show.

Kid President’s Guide to Being AWESOME by Brad Montague

Best books
Kid President’s Guide to Being AWESOME by Brad Montague

“When you joyfully rebel against your circumstances, against mediocrity or negativity, you invite others into something really beautiful.” – Brad Montague

If you can’t tell from the photo, let me say that meeting this author was a highlight of 2017. I’ve seen him speak several times (AMAZEBALLS) and his Kid President video series has been a staple in my classroom for years. He’s why my AVID classes do our Socktober sock drive for the homeless every year. He’s why we giggle and dance and think after watching Kid President videos. He’s why I proudly wear my “JOY REBEL” shirt, and this year, he’s why I’m reminding myself to find joy at home AND at school. This book is perfect for adults, kids, and would make a fabulous gift for anyone you want to share a little joy with. One of the best books!

Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

“Bravery is acknowledging your fear and doing it anyway.”
― Cheryl StrayedBrave Enough

I loved Cheryl’s memoir Wild, so naturally, a book featuring her quotes on life caught my interest. It’s a fast or slow read, depending on how you want to use it – but the quotes will linger with you long after the last page. Another fun book to gift!

The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini

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The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini

“Hope is never false. One’s hopes may not be fulfilled, but that doesn’t not mean it was wrong to hope”
― Jennifer ChiaveriniThe Spymistress

I LOVE historical fiction. I’d say 85% of my reading is some sort of history related topic, especially when there are strong and intriguing female characters like in The Spymistress. This narrative, set in Richmond Virginia in the 1860s, shares the real-life story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a badass woman who stood up for what she believed in despite the consequences.

I like those kinds of characters. If you do, too, you’ll enjoy this read. You can read more about this book in my September Happiness Hacks post.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

“It is not biology that determines fatherhood. It is love.” ― Kristin HannahThe Nightingale  

Speaking of historical fiction: wow- what an intriguing plot line to this book! Hannah’s writing was immensely readable and intriguing. I loved the narration twist and applaud Hannah for pulling the reader through which an expansive view of WW2. I loved the relationships – especially between Isabelle, an amazingly strong young woman battling for justice during WW2 to present and her father, a complex character attempting to protect his daughters to prove his love. I wrote about this book in my November Happiness Hacks, as well as a few other titles I haven’t mentioned here.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Best books
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

“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

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. Oh, I loved this book and didn’t want it to end. It’s the kind of book that I couldn’t stop reading, and when I was reading I couldn’t stop thinking about all the themes woven in and out of the narrative. 2017 was the year of Ann Patchett for me – I read four of her novels, so I’ve almost read her entire canon. Ann Patchett is such a master of language and characterization, as evident in this story of an adventure into the Amazon – it’s full of sensory lushness, vivid imagery, and a gripping, tragic tale. One of THE best books of 2017 – and one of the few I rated five stars. You can read my full book post here: http://jenniferwolfe.net/2017/08/state-of-wonder.html. Click here to watch a video chat with the author: https://www.goodreads.com/videos/24362-goodreads-live-with-ann-patchett

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

“If you must err, do so on the side of audacity.”

A powerfully honest historical fiction novel told in parallel voices about the abolitionist, suffragette Grimke sisters of Charleston, South Carolina living in the 1800s on their plantation, and the relationship between Sarah Grimke and her slave, Hetty “Handful” Grimke. This is Sue Monk Kidd’s first fiction in awhile, and it was entertaining and well-written.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

“He told her that every one of her enemies, all the masters and overseers of her suffering, would be punished, if not in this world then the next, for justice may be slow and invisible, but it always renders its true verdict in the end.”
― Colson WhiteheadThe Underground Railroad

This was truly one of THE best books I read in 2017. An often difficult, yet breathtakingly written story to read that shares the brutality of slavery through the story of Cora, a slave on a Georgia cotton plantation, who decides to attempt the Underground Railroad passage after hearing of it from another slave, Caesar, who has just arrived from Virginia. This isn’t just another book about slavery – the author amazingly shares not only the story of slaves living in unbelievable oppression, but also ties into the reality of how this oppression has sculpted our American history and current society. You need to read this – there’s a reason it won the Man Booker Prize Nominee for Longlist (2017)Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2017)National Book Award for Fiction (2016)Arthur C. Clarke Award (2017), and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Fiction (2017) to name only a few awards. Watch a clip of Oprah talking about the book here: https://www.goodreads.com/videos/106773-oprah-reveals-new-book-club-selection. 

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo

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The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo

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. You can read my full book review here: http://jenniferwolfe.net/2017/06/the-fall-of-lisa-bellow.html

Devotion: A Memoir AND Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro

“Oh, child! Somewhere inside you, your future has already unfurled like one of those coiled-up party streamers, once shiny, shaken loose, floating gracefully for a brief moment, now trampled underfoot after the party is over. The future you’re capable of imagining is already a thing of the past. Who did you think you would grow up to become? You could never have dreamt yourself up. Sit down. Let me tell you everything that’s happened. You can stop running now. You are alive in the woman who watches you as you vanish.” — Hourglass

The summer months are my best times for plowing through my stacks of books to be read – and I made a good dent in August. Two of my favorites were by Dani Shapiro – her memoirs Devotion and Hourglass. Wow – I couldn’t get enough of either one, finding myself wanting to shout out loud, “Hey, me too!” on nearly every page. Dani just GETS it. Motherhood. Marriage. Womanhood. She’s a sage, in my opinion. Watch for more on her writing.

Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman

Best books
Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman

“She truly believed that she carried her own fate in the palm of her hand, as if destiny was nothing more than a green marble or a robin’s egg, a trinket any silly girl could scoop up and keep. She believed that all you wanted, you would eventually receive, and that fate was a force which worked with you, not against you.”
― Alice HoffmanHere on Earth

I was also on an Alice Hoffman binge this year ( I read three of her novels) – Here on Earth was a good read about marriage, love, motherhood and finding yourself – can you relate?

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

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The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

This book was another one of my RARE five-star reviews. This story was mesmerizing- I couldn’t read it fast enough. Weaving love and spirits and culture of St. Thomas with Paris and art and Impressionism and race….beautifully written, alive with color and bursting with the sights and smells and textures of place. If you remember your art history, the name Camille Pissarro might sound familiar. This story tells the life of his mother, Rachel, growing up in St. Thomas in the 1800s. It is a love story, a historical tale, a story about marriage and motherhood and love and beauty blanketed with the exquisite writing of Hoffman, who spares no detail in helping the reader feel like the magic of the islands has jumped into their own reality.

The Art of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein

“He died that day because his body had served its purpose. His soul had done what it came to do, learned what it came to learn, and then was free to leave.”

A surprise read was Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing In The Rain – it was one of those books I heard about when it first published but never got around to picking up a copy. Boy, am I glad I did – such an interesting narrative technique (it’s told from the point of view of Enzo, an almost human-like dog who seems to understand just what his owner needs), and if you’re a dog lover/owner, it’s a mmust-read Caution: it will make you cry.

Best books
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

“And I get up because it is the only thing I can do.” ― Jesmyn WardSalvage the Bones

This last title of my best books was another hard one. I found myself recoiling at the graphic imagery, yet leaning forward into the narrative. It’s the kind of book that really made me think. I originally I picked it up at the NCTE conference because I knew it was the precursor to Sing, Unburied, Sing, which I knew I wanted to read. This book, the winner of the 2011 National Book Award, takes place in Mississippi with a family struggling to prepare for Hurricaine Katrina – but remarkably the hurricaine dissolves into the background against the powerful narrative of Esch and her brothers, father, and the boy she loves who impregnates her early in the novel. It was a hard read – especially the parts about China, the family pit bull. I’m looking forward to the next part of the story in 2018.

That’s it for 2017 – I read dozens of excellent books and hope we can keep talking about life and stories and happiness all throughout 2018!

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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Tell Me, What Do People Thank You For?

I’m a huge believer in gratitude. It’s actually had a huge, transformative impact on my life in the last several years, and gratitude makes its way into my writing with great frequency. Every morning I practice rituals – savoring a cup of coffee quietly, listening to the birds outside; setting silent intentions for the day; writing daily pages in my journal, always punctuated by five, detailed things that I am grateful for.

Oftentimes, my gratitudes are somewhat repetitive, but I find comfort in that. It’s my time of self-reflection, of noticing the ordinary things that bring me love and beauty and safety. My gratitudes are oftentimes balanced by what Anne Lamott refers to as “the three essential prayers”: Help, thanks, and wow.

The results are truly amazing.

In her book “Help, Thanks, Wow”, Lamott writes that gratitude, “…without revelation and reframing, life can seem like an endless desert of danger with scratchy sand in your shoes, and yet if we remember or are reminded to pay attention, we find so many sources of hidden water, so many bits and chips and washes of color, in a weed or the gravel or a sunrise. There are so many ways to sweep the sand off our feet. So we say, ‘Oh my God. Thanks.'”

I’ve been working diligently on paying attention in the last few years, especially since I realized that my time at home with my teens was ticking down. I so agree with Lamott when she juxtaposes a life without gratitude as one that scratches and leaves us parched with living in a space of thankfulness, where the world around us shimmers with color and brilliance and just plain ordinary extraordinariness.

I suppose that this practice of intentional gratitude is what made Lindsey Mead’s post catch my eye the other day. Titled “What do people thank you for”, Lindsey shares her discomfort with her perceived self-indulgence of flipping this idea of gratitude back onto herself.

I share that uneasiness – as a mom, a teacher, a wife, I wouldn’t necessarily say I enjoy the parts of my life that simply are thankless – but I do have a certain acceptance of them.

Her post definitely made me think about what people thank me for, which in a way, has deepened my gratitude practice and developed my own desire to do more of these things; not because I am acknowledged for them, but because when I expose them to myself, I realize they are the things that make me feel the best:

People thank me for cooking and baking and sharing meals with them. As a mom/wife, I fill this role with frequent happiness and without question, but I now realize that when I share my love of food, the love comes back.

People thank me for writing about things that they cannot. I started this blog five years ago to help understand my changing life, to help share my feelings about aging and parenting and teaching and loving. I never, ever imagined that other people would react with gratitude when they read something that resonates strongly with them.

People thank me for teaching. Whenever I answer the question “What do you do” with “I’ve taught middle school for the last 25 years”, the most frequent response is “Oh my goodness, I don’t know how you do it. Thank you.” Honestly, that response makes me smile every time. Teaching middle school is like breathing to me – I adore working with my crazy, puberty laden, self-conscious, silly and mostly lovable students. And when people respond, “You are a saint”, I smile, too.

Tell Me, What Do People Thank You For?Recently, my students wrote reflections of the year that thanked me for a variety of different experiences they had in my classroom. The one that made me tear up the most was the one that thanked me for ‘never giving up on him’. I never, ever take students’ thanks for granted.

Writing this post created internal discomfort, to be sure. It’s much easier to write about my own gratitudes; like Lindsey, these things that others thank me for create discomfort and make me wonder why I’m being thanked for them- because these are the moments and experiences and ordinary parts of my life that fill me up and that I can’t imagine living without. Family. Writing. Teaching. Students.

I guess I know what tomorrow’s entries in my gratitude journal will be.

So please tell me, what do people thank you for?

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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Honoring Our Boundaries: “No” Is A Complete Sentence

“No” is a complete sentence.”
Anne Lamott

That sentence used to drive me crazy when my kids were little. Remember those days when every request, every plea, every last ounce of your mommy-breath received a “No”? Do you remember their determined little faces, squeezed into such ferociousness, fists in the air?

And now I realize my toddlers had a point.

The last few weeks were a doozy. Nothing particularly earth-shattering or heart-breaking happened, just weeks when I said ‘yes’ more than ‘no’ and let my boundaries get far too loose. Weeks when I had to dig deep for courage, weeks when I was tired, hungry, and felt like I didn’t give myself a moment to catch my breath.

And I did it to myself. I have no one to blame. I didn’t say “No.” Not once.

That old adage about putting on our own oxygen mask first is absolutely true.

 

 no boundaries

I’m spending the weekend trying to re-center and re-capture the fleeting muse of Persistence – sometimes is the only way I  make it out of bed in the morning. Does this happen to you?  When did you agree to do one more thing, schedule one more meeting, help one more person when what you really needed to do was stop, breathe, and help yourself? What did you say “Yes” to when you really wish you had screamed “No!”

What happened?

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.”
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

I didn’t set good boundaries. I let other people put me in places that made me feel resentful and  frankly, worn out. I forgot to hold myself accountable for my own happiness. I lost my center.

Being a teacher mom is a delicate balance, especially at stressful times of the school year – like the beginning and ending. And grading periods. The anxiety and busyness families feel at the start of the school year is definitely felt at my house, too. I still have to get my family back on a routine, make sure that my kid is ready for classes and homework and studying and sports. I have to get myself out of summer mode and suddenly, after 8 weeks of being mostly at home, I’m gone all day long. And sometimes into the night, too.

Teacher moms get the double back-to-school whammy. We get the sometimes unexpected bliss of watching our own children walk out the door and into new adventures alongside sometimes expected unhappiness of watching our life go back to bells and grading and teaching routines and behaviors and meetings and meetings more meetings.

We’re trying to make everyone else’s school year start off smoothly, and oftentimes around mid-September, we crash.

How much time do we give to our jobs versus our families? It’s why I’ve never become an administrator. I cherish the eight weeks of summer, the weekends and evenings when I don’t have to technically be responsible. I get to choose.

During this school year, I’ve been choosing to work late Friday nights. It’s quiet time for me – time when I can think, breathe, spread out and center. It’s my way of setting my weekend boundaries; if I leave it school ready to go for Monday, my brain spins much less over the weekend. I give up a few more hours on Friday to allow myself to get more space to choose.

One of my ‘extra’ jobs is training new teachers; this year, I’m working with two adults who chose teaching as their second career. All three of us have families and responsibilities at home. I’m reminding myself to walk my talk – teaching them to set personal and professional boundaries is so important as they begin their careers. I want them to learn not to promise too much – it just ends up disappointing everyone.

“If your boundary training consists only of words, you are wasting your breath. But if you ‘do’ boundaries with your kids, they internalize the experiences, remember them, digest them, and make them part of how they see reality.”
Henry Cloud

jumping sunset unsplash

Ultimately, it swings back to me. How do I teach my children to live their life within their own boundaries? How do I model for them a life that balances work and home? How do I show my kids how to follow their passion and not lose the trail back home?

I think it goes back to Anne Lamott – I think I’ll teach them that “No” is a complete sentence.

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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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6 Ways To Stop “Future-Tripping” And Be Present In Your Life

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
Mother Teresa

I’m coming up on a milestone birthday this year – a really big one. Social media is reminding me of this every day, as I watch one high school classmate after another hit the ‘big one’.

Of course, the ‘big one’ might be a relative term for many of us – life has so many milestone markers for us that it seems we are always stumbling towards one or another, aren’t we?

Was 16 the ‘big one’ for you? 21? 30? 35? 40?

50?

And parallel to this march towards a half-century are my children’s milestone markers, not just found in numbers, but moments along the way as well.

Those ordinary, extraordinary moments that as a parent take my breath away and remind me that the only way to move forward, to not blindly push through milestones and markers, is to breathe, to be present, to look up at life with my eyes wide open and my heart vulnerable.

It’s a daily struggle, to be sure. I make my own markers along the way, rituals I use, reminders I send, to train my highly sensitive body to stop, to breathe, to remember all will be well.

present in the moment

To be honest, it’s hard work for me. It’s a conscious awareness that my natural inclination to think forward, to plan, to control, isn’t always serving me in the best way possible. The hard work comes to remember that being here, now, allows fears of the past and future to fade away, and allows me to inhale every beautiful second of life, of motherhood, of simply being.

Not being present breeds restlessness. It forces the interior wiring to hyper-speed, to thinking too far ahead – ‘future tripping’, a friend once dubbed it.

So when time feels like it is spinning off its axis, when my worries send me off center, I try one of these six ways to stop ‘future-tripping’ and find my way back:

1. Put yourself on “time out”. Remember when the kids were little and this was a ‘consequence’? I say, take one! Do what you like to do, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. Cook a healthy meal. Bake something delicious. Dig in the soft soil of your garden. Close your eyes and dream. Pet the dog. Curl up under the covers. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something to nurture yourself.

2. Find your center. Finding places to express your gratitude will make you feel more connected. One of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, offers a simple meditation I use frequently: “Help. Thanks. Wow.” Write them down, whisper them to the universe, or meditate on them throughout the day. It’s an amazing transformation. Give yourself reminders throughout the day – I use the “Tell Me Later” app to send quotes to my phone at times in the day I know are particularly challenging for me to stay centered.

3. Make a list. OK- list making satisfies my inner teacher-mom. I have a general list of priorities, hopes and things-I’d-really-love-to-do-someday, and then each morning I choose a few to tackle in the upcoming day. They don’t always get done, but it’s amazing how when I commit to writing them down, I feel compelled to at least start. And plus, crossing it off when I’m finished is so satisfying! Sometimes seeing our responsibilities in front of us we realize they’re not as overwhelming as we once thought.

take a walk UCD Arboretum

4. Take a walk. I gave up running years ago, and find that making time for a daily walk helps me to slow down. I like to get away from people (introvert-raising-hand-wildly) so I can really feel the rhythm of my stride and sense the solitude wash down my body. I like the consistency of a familiar path each day, and delight in the small surprises of nature, water, and sky.

5. Breathe. Seriously – pay attention to it. I’m considering setting a “Tell Me Later” reminder just for this – a gentle nudge to inhale, exhale and slow.it.down.

6. Find my balance. For the longest time I was so caught up in the treadmill of raising small children, managing a home, teaching school and trying to maintain friendships that I lost my balance. I threw away those little joys – like writing in my journal and reading a great novel – because I thought I had too many other responsibilities.  After teetering dangerously out of balance, I’ve learned to not deny my inner planner – I think about what can I do for today, and how I can balance it all. We each have the same number of hours in our day – and we get to choose how we spend them. Take small steps, one at a time, to return to the fulcrum of your life.

I’ll be honest – being present sometimes feels like a chore. It sometimes seems easier to push ourselves to the end of the line, to view our life through a camera lens hoping to watch the replay some other time. Life is contracting before it expands; that squeezing sensation is the universe reminding you to trust, to open your eyes and look around. When you stop ‘future tripping’ and pay attention to the glorious, messy, sometimes chaotic but always real life before you, the universe will respond bountifully.

Remember: the milestones in your life are markers of a life well lived. Don’t you want to be present to celebrate?

6 Ways To Stop Future-tripping And Be Present In Your Life

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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