5 Gratitudes For 51

Happy birthday to me! This is 51…a morning spent under the glitter of Christmas tree lights and flickering candles, a hot coffee and a cuddly pup by my side. I sit and wonder how to describe my gratitude about turning another year older, scribbling in my journal as a cold rainfall trickles down the gutters and peaceful holiday tunes ease me gently into the day…

5 Gratitudes for 51 years:

I’m grateful for 51 years of growing, becoming wiser and more centered with age. Life lessons are easier to recognize now compared to in my 30s and 40s, and thinking deeply has become a routine part of my day. I’m grateful for silent nights, for comfort, for ritual and for learning to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

I’m grateful for many relationships, but mostly for my children. To say they bless me daily would be an understatement; as we age, I treasure their laughter, their logic, and their unconditional love. More than any experience, motherhood is the most transformative. Watching my 20 and 17-year-old babies blossom and branch out into the world fills me with a sense of purpose and a feeling of contribution to our world.

I’m grateful for quiet mornings; summertime when the windows are flung open to inhale the fleeting hours of soft air, springtime when the backyard orange blossoms share their perfume, autumn when the transition feels most abrupt, and winter, wrapped in fleece and fog, candles welcoming the dawn.

I’m grateful for teaching, for a job which both fills my days with learning and laughter and challenges me to be creative, compassionate and caring. Every day offers me a chance to make a teenager feel cared for – and I get so much more than I give to them.

And finally, I’m grateful for the women who came before me, women who laid the path I walk every day. Mother, grandmothers, great grandmothers, and all the strong and caring women who did what they knew how to do, I thank you. Please know that you fill my heart and mind with your love and stories, with your gentle touch and creative spirits. Because of you, I know better. And when I know better, I can do better.

Happy birthday to me. May this next year be full of joy, peace, and kindness. Thank you all for playing an important role in my life.

May I learn more, do more, and be more.

 

 

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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In The Holiday Spirit

I’ll never forget when I was given a gift of the spirit. It wasn’t my birthday or Christmas, both of which fall in this month of magic, but Thanksgiving Day when my aunt decided that it was time this jewelry, so treasured by my grandmother, made its way to me. As I cracked open the hinges and peeked inside, my grandmother’s face flashed before my eyes, and in my vision I saw her with the deep red garnet heart-shaped locket around her neck, the matching earrings dangling against her dark brown curls. She’s been gone for years now, but her spirit stays here with me every day. And in this moment of gratitude, of passing love from one to another, she was smiling.

I’d rather forget the time I received phone calls in the middle of the night – the ones that gently announced the passings of spirits. My grandfather died decades ago one November night; it seems as if I’d just drifted off to sleep in my future husband’s college apartment when I was summoned to go back to his house and comfort my grandmother. Those types of calls, the ones that jolt you out of bed and shatter your world, are at once impossible to dismiss and yet impossibly etched in our minds. She had the pendant on when I arrived that night; his spirit, his photo, fastened to the back of her garnet locket, stays with me. He was smiling, too.

holiday spirit

During the holidays, I usher in the day in the same way from beginning to end: Christmas tree lit, white mantle lights glowing, candle flickering, and I write. I listen for inspiration, for the spirits to remind me that this, here, now, is what the season is about. I know that as soon as the sun rises behind the heavy garnet colored curtains the moment is lost, the magic is put on hold until I return at dusk, and the busyness of everyday life will be upon me.

Today, as the rain pours down the windowpane and the wind whips the trees around my house into a frenzy, I breathe, and pause, and think of them. I remember their love for each other, and for their families. I call in their spirits as my pen scratches gratitudes into my journal, filling the pages with small moments of the extraordinary ordinariness of my life, feeling their love, grateful for 50 years with their spirits by my side.

50 years

The sun will be up soon, my teaching day will begin, but in a dozen hours you can find me, back here in my front room, surrounded by spirits and lights and love.

It’s a gift I’ve learned to give myself; the gift of the holiday spirit, feeling present right here, right now, and remembering all that brings love and comfort and beauty to my life. Today, her pendant will hang softly against my chest. holding their love and spirit, and I will be grateful.

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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This is Sixteen- Happy Birthday to My Boy

sixteen
sixteen and six

Yesterday he turned 16. I woke up early and made sure the house was festive, turning on the birthday lights and making French toast in the dark. I waited. Finally, with 15 minutes to spare, he emerged dressed and ready for school. He gulped down his breakfast, opened his cards and left. He’s 16 years old.

I texted him at exactly 11:47 a.m., telling him I was so, so glad he was born and that I loved him. He’s 16 years old – I got no response.

I kept teaching. I accidentally wrote 9-18-99 on the board. My students, confused, shook me back to the present-16 years later.

Eventually I gave up texting and called his phone, old-school style. I heard laughter and skateboard wheels grinding, and his voice sounded like he was having fun. He said he didn’t know his plan-sounds like sixteen.

I rushed home to start the five pounds of chicken in the slow-cooker; he wanted soft tacos, and sixteen-year-olds like to eat. I needed to be ready. Even though it’s Friday night, they would skate by the house, making a pit stop on the way to the first football game of the year. At 4:34 I texted, “Any idea when you guys might be here to eat?” “IDK,” was his reply.

It’s 6:42, and no skaters in sight. “Dinner is ready,” I sent.

7:26. “Where r u?” went out to the ethers.

7:45. I gave up and called. Voice mail. Damn iPhone battery. Called his buddy; the crowd cheering in the background. We’re close enough to hear it out our windows, too. No pit stop after all. Maybe later.

We ate without him. 16-year-old birthday party for two.

sixteen camera
Where he’s happiest

The clack of his board skating down the street woke me. 10:15? How could I have dozed off that early? He smiled as I opened the front door. “Want some tacos?” I asked, trying to remain festive. It’s his birthday, after all.

“Yeah, I’m starving. Sorry-the guys had to go home after the game. Smells amazing in here, though. I had such an awesome day, Mom. Ryan took me out for lunch, then after school we skated and hung out and…I love high school, Mom. I had a great birthday. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, bud.” I stood on my tiptoes to kiss that sunggle spot just below his chin. His sixteen-year-old cheek, no longer soft and chubby, absorbed my nuzzle. His arms wrapped around me, hugging me close.

“Happy sixteen, bud. I love you.” Releasing his arms, he smiled as he walked down the hallway, humming to himself as he closed the bedroom door.

“I love you too, Mom,” he replied, just before it clicked shut.

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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Toasts: The Perfect Words to Celebrate Every Occasion

That time of year is sneaking up on us again…when we are drowning in celebrations and occasions and oozing with smiles and happiness. A time when introverts like me hardly know what to do with ourselves, let alone what to say when we’re put on the spot. The right words usually come to me at the wrong time – about sixty seconds AFTER the fact!

Help is here! No longer will you be sweating the public speaking, or kicking yourself for thinking of that witty one-liner just a little too late.  The recently published book, Toasts: The Perfect Words to Celebrate Every Occasion by June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling answers every anxiety ridden thought you might have about what to say, when to say it, and how to walk away feeling like you nailed it.

Toasts Toasts was a long time coming; author June Cotner worked on the compilation of quotes and sayings for nearly a decade before connecting with writer Nancy Tupper Ling. Together they compiled words for every occasion – a peek inside offers everything from a guide to toasting (remember to introduce yourself), etiquette basics (thank the host, make eye contact, go out strong), and a plethora of delicious words for any occasion. 

As a verified ‘word nerd’, I’ve long kept journals of my own ideas, as well as of poetry, quotes, and other assorted lists of things I know I’ll never remember. One aspect of Toasts that I particularly like is the ability to use lines from a variety of well-known and yet-to-be known writers even when I’m not standing in front of a crowd. For example, in the “Birthdays” chapter, I might use an adaptation from William Butler Yeats, “In every succeeding year, may you sing more than you weep” when writing about my children growing up. Found in the “Charity” chapter, Thomas L. Reid’s quote, “May we realize that the best exercise for our hear is bending down and lifting up others” is perfect for my stories of working in Nicaragua. And in “Pets”, George Eliot’s words connect completely with writing about my dog, Cola: “Animals are such agreeable friends-they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.”

Toasts has something for all the common toasting occasions: for school or camp reunions (is your high school 30th creeping up on you?), to guests and hosts, and high school and college graduations (“You’ve earned your degree, You’ve made the grade, Success will be yours, once your loans are paid” – ugh, does that hit home!). Family reunions (we have a big one in August-and this year, I’ll be ready!), weddings, and memorials each fill a chapter, too. But Toasts also offers some surprises: four chapters devoted to children, children’s blessings (“May you be blessed by your dreams, and the courage to chase them” – ooh, I’m writing that one down!), children’s graces and children’s toasts (those would have come in handy about 20 years ago when I was surrounded by pregnant friends!), homecoming (yes-my college student should make an appearance in June!), patriotic toasts (Grand ‘ole flag party?), and 16 different holidays (May your neighbors respect you, trouble neglect you, the angels protect you, and heaven accept you – gotta love the Irish!).

Whether you’re an anxious first time toaster, a seasoned speaker who needs new material, or an introverted writer searching for inspiration, Toasts: The Perfect Words to Celebrate Every Occasion, is the perfect compilation for you. Perfect words to celebrate life, love, and the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Toasts: The Perfect Words to Celebrate Every Occasion for review purposes. These are affiliate links. 

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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Birthdays

I started counting almost as soon as my eyes opened. I’ve lived longer than many I have known before me, those who have been called back to take another turn down another spirit path. While mine has spiraled and stalled and oftentimes taken me in unknown and directions that made me tremble, I’m still here. And counting… and to those who say age is only a number I say yes, I agree – but for me, the number is significant in the marking of precious moments in this short, fleeting time we have here, together, in this Universe.

I’ve been writing this year about change and possibilities and as soon as I realized that this day, so notable in the large moments of my life, was more than just me – it was a reminder to pause, reflect, and remember the year that passed. Birthdays, of course, are a celebration of another year well lived,if we’re lucky. If we’re intentional. If we pay attention.

I’m open to possibilities in this last-year-before-the-half-century. I’m open to quiet, to listening, to requesting and to hearing the Universe answer with guidance. Zora Neale Hurston wrote in one of my favorite books,Their Eyes Were Watching God, that “there are years that ask questions and years that answer.” I’m not sure what this year will offer me, but I’m ready to receive her whispers.

December birthday

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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