Triumph of The Heart: How Forgiveness Can Open Creativity In Your Life

I changed majors three times in college: first business (what was I thinking?!), then journalism (on the right track), and finally English. I spent years floundering through courses, panicking in exams and wondering if I ever would find my heart’s calling.

I put a tremendous amount of pressure on my seventeen-year-old self to have all the answers, and when I couldn’t figure it out, when I lost my way and made mistakes, I spiraled down and hit bottom. I’m a first born to two first born parents. I was used to being successful. I was used to leading the way, and I definitely wasn’t sure what to do when life didn’t work out the way I thought it should.

So 22 years after I graduated, after a marriage and two children and 20 years of teaching, I began to forgive myself. I began to realize that just because I hadn’t followed a plan for my college and my career – just because I had stumbled into teaching after graduation – didn’t mean that I wasn’t on the right path for me. I realized that while mothering and teaching brought me joy and happiness and fulfillment, there was still room for more.

I forgave myself for making mistakes in college, for trying to parent ‘by the book’ when it wasn’t the right plan for my child. I forgave myself for being a working mom, for not being enough for everyone. I told my inner critic to shut up and step aside.

I forgave myself and forgave fate for the obstacles life had thrown at me, and I started to write again.

That was June, 2011 when I took responsibility for making my dreams come true – all of them. I gave up trying to come up with reasons why I couldn’t write and just started putting stories together, and I found that the more I wrote, the stronger I became. I found that my inner critic became my muse, and unleashed words to the world that had always found safety locked inside journals. When I forgave my life for being what it was, I began to create my life for what it is.

triumph book cover

I’ve been reading Megan Feldman Bettencourt’s new book, Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World, and through her words I’ve begun to realize just how miraculous this transformation of forgiveness really is. As a journalist, Megan’s journey brought her to a multitude of people with transformative stories of forgiveness and piqued her interest in the human capacity to forgive and whether it can really help us change our lives. As a teacher, I’m witnessing our school district implement the practice of restorative justice as an addition to our discipline policy. I’ve noticed the difference it has made when we bring children and adults together and walk them through a process of dialogue, discussion and determination of other’s feelings. The power of children to forgive each other is evident; a forceful practice that, if adopted by more adults, would unleash a flurry of creativity and problem solving into our world.

I’m happy to be able to host a giveaway for Megan’s book – I’m hopeful that by spreading her words I’ll help someone else unlock their capacity to forgive and help create a kinder, more understanding world. Enter to win by leaving a comment, and to increase your chances, tweet, like and follow mamawolfe on Facebook and Twitter! Winners will be chosen on September 24, 2015.
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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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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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ride of a lifetime

I Got Published! In A Book! It’s The Ride of a Lifetime!

the ride of a lifetime

Have you ever done something that seemed like a good idea at the time?

Have you ever jumped into a project, or an adventure just because you felt so strongly in your soul that it was the right thing to do?

When my kids and I started volunteering for a Nicaraguan non-profit called Seeds of Learning in 2010, I had no idea the impact it would have on each of us – it changed our lives.

We went from a small, college town in northern California to the mountains of Nicaragua to build schools. We went loaded with books, teaching supplies, fabric and yarn and crafts and puzzles and backpacks. We went with anticipation, trepidation, and a complete and utter inability to know what life was like in a developing country.

We went with a sense of adventure.

We came home with love, laughter, uplifted hearts and stories – lots and lots of stories.

I’ve written here about our escapades; stories of the people we loved, the simplicity of the lifestyle, and the anxiety I felt before we left. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of the lovely Nicaraguan boys and girls who eagerly embraced us strangers, and my heart aches for the mothers who try desperately to provide for their children, to give them an education, feed them, and raise them to find joy in the most impoverished of conditions.

Their stories are embedded in my heart.

A few months ago I heard of a website, Story Shelter, looking for true stories of adventure – stories from regular people who have taken risks, stepped out of their comfort zone, and faced challenges. They want to create a Chicken-Soup-style book – but with an edge.

I instantly thought of Nicaragua.

With a leap of faith, I submitted “Ride of A Lifetime”, and they loved it. Yesterday, it was published in their anthology titled “I Am Here: The Untold Stories of Everyday People”.

It’s such a thrill to see my story in print – real print, on paper. Old school style. And in an e-book for Kindle, too!

For the next few days it’s free for Kindle – click here to find it on Amazon.

The publishers put together a cool promotion page – you can see it here.

They also made a book trailer promotional video, and I’m in it:

I’m really thrilled to see my first print publication – I hope you’ll order it and enjoy my “Ride of A Lifetime”. It’s getting exciting!

Amazon Paperback Version: http://bit.ly/i-am-here-book

Amazon Kindle Version: http://bit.ly/imhereboo

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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Wholehearted Life: Big Changes and Greater Happiness

Big Changes and Greater Happiness: How To Live a Wholehearted Life

“Everyone chases after happiness, not noticing that happiness is right at their heels.”

~Bertolt Brecht

What is it you want out of life? Are you chasing around for happiness each day, searching everywhere but inside yourself? Are you pausing to breathe, to take in the ordinary in the extraordinary that is right in front of you? Are you creating YOUR story, or living out someone else’s version of your life? Are you living a wholehearted life, or feeling like there must be more but you’re just not sure how to make the change? Are you happy?

If you find yourself asking these questions on a regular basis, I have one suggestion: get a copy of Susyn Reeve’s brand new book, The Wholehearted Life: Big Changes and Greater Happiness Week By Week. Don’t wait another moment – order it right now, right here. You won’t be sorry.

As I’m moving into the second half-century of life, I’m noticing more and more frequently the questions that pop up in my mind – and how they are different than the ones I asked myself in my twenties, my thirties, or even last year. Less and less I find myself worrying about the external forces that impact my world, and more and more I’m concerned about how I  impact my own world. Questions about how what I do changes myself, my children and my students visit me much more frequently than questions about why someone or something might have exerted some action or influence. I realize how little control I have over anything or anyone besides myself, and how useless it is to get caught up in the cycle of wishing or hoping or willing change. The only way towards change, I’ve found, is to start within.

That’s where the appeal of The Wholehearted Life: Big Changes and Greater Happiness Week By Week comes in. Created over years as a self-esteem expert, master coach, corporate consultant, interfaith minister and award-winning author, Susyn Reeve has lovingly and carefully crafted a handbook-of-sorts to guide us through a weekly quest for mindfulness. This isn’t necessarily the type of book that needs to be started January 1 and then maintained on a rigorous daily schedule. Instead, The Wholehearted Life: Big Changes and Greater Happiness Week By Week allows the reader to move around at ones own pace.  If you like reading from start to finish, perfect. Prefer to take it weekly? No problem. Are you like me, and enjoy a daily dose of mindfulness each morning? Easy. And if life gets in the way, no worries. This book allows for multiple access points.

In her “How To Use This Book” chapter, the author compares using this book to ‘install(ing) a software upgrade in your mind, creat(ing) a personal ritual that nourishes wholehearted living in your daily life, and stock(ing) your personal medicine bag with remedies, tools, charms, and reminders to continually expand your capacity for wholehearted living.” I love that analogy of a software upgrade – my brain consistently feels like I have dozens of browser tabs open and scrolling at any moment! As a teacher-mom, I’m always harping about the need for ‘tools’ to navigate the world-and rarely do I think about replenishing my own toolbox.

The Wholehearted Life: Big Changes and Greater Happiness Week By Week consists of fifty-two ideas, organized with daily activities for each week. As a writer and wordsmith, I love Susyn’s incorporation of thought-provoking quotes from writers as diverse as Erma Bombeck, to the Dalai Lama, to Anne Lamott. A scan of the table of contents shows Week 1 beginning with “The Law of Attraction” – which inspired an upcoming blog post – and ending with Week 52’s “Celebrate Success”. I confess I did skip to the finish to read the last section, titled “Putting It All Together – Creating a Bag Of Tricks”-I always like to begin with the end in mind, and it made me all the more excited about what I’d discover in between.

If you’re looking to discover more, if you want to create happiness and get more out of this journey by living a wholehearted life, this book should be on your bedside table. Trust me – you’re worth it.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes; all links 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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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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