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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My Best Life, March 2014: A Month of Anticipation

March was a month of anticipation; the wrap up of one ski season, the college acceptance letters, and the countdown until Cameron returns home from the ski academy. I struggled to stay in the present moment, to breathe deeply and know that everything will work out as it should. As we move into April, I feel the breath of possibilities whispering at the back of my neck. It should be an interesting month, to be sure!

My Best March:

Best Blog Reads:

I was fascinated with the idea of ‘grittiness’ this month; how do we cultivate grit in our children seems to be a hot topic for teachers and parents right now. Fittingly, Cameron’s ski academy school motto is “Grit, Grace and Courage” – what more could we ask for our kids? I loved this post from NPR titled “Does Teaching Kids To Get Gritty Help Them Get Ahead”, as well as this one from one of my favorite websites, Daily Good. Definitely worth a read.

Best Books:

I managed to get a bit of reading done this month between the anticipation of ski races and college tours in Salt Lake City. I really enjoyed What Would You Do If You Could Not Fail by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons. These writers collected stories of courage from everyday people and put them together with quotes and ideas for the reader to really use in their lives. The theme of grit really got my interest, and made me think about why some people have the drive to persevere and others don’t.

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger was written in the form of letters, emails, and documents, telling the story of a marriage in collapse. I wasn’t sure how I’d like this format, but it turned out that the characters were well developed and the plot surprisingly easy to follow. It made me think that teaching middle school was really a dream job compared to being a divorce lawyer!

Finally, I just finished Holly Peterson’s new novel, The Idea of Him. It really made me think about how so often in life we think we know what we want or how it will all turn out, and usually, life has a way of surprising us. Holly is a Goodreads author – if you haven’t used Goodreads yet to track your books and reading, you should start! If you already do, please friend request me! I’d love to see what you’re reading, too.

Best Quiet Place:

A long time ago, when my children were small and very demanding, I decided I needed to find a quiet place close to home where I could escape when I needed to center myself. Over the years, the path running along Putah Creek in the UC Davis Arboretum has offered me great solace and joy. One of my favorite times to visit the Arboretum is when a storm is looming – I love the quietness, the animals taking cover, and the whisper of the wind blowing through the trees.

UC Davis Arboretum trees

Redwood Grove in the UC Davis Arboretum
Redwood Grove in the UC Davis Arboretum

Best Photos:

A month of endings and beginnings…nothing fancy, just the fabulous moments of anticipation and reward in March:

Lily and Bob
Lily and her beloved high school ski coach
Lily Pole Vaulting 11 feet
Lily pole vaulting 11 feet, a new personal record
Lily and Mikaela Shiffrin
Lily and friends and Mikaela Shiffrin at Squaw Valley race.
Lily at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah
Sunset at Tahoe Park Beach with my boy
Sunset at Tahoe Park Beach with my boy

Spring is coming! In the UC Davis ArboretumSpring is coming! In the UC Davis Arboretum

 

A rare race day together at Northstar
A rare race day together at Northstar

Best Quotes:

When I look back at my Twitter #quoteoftheday postings, there seems to be a strong theme of openness to possibility and anticipation of what is yet to come. -I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time, but looking back, that’s really what March taught me.

“Stay committed to your decisions; but stay flexible in your approach.” –Tony Robbins

“You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out, but you gotta suit up for them all.”-J. Askenberg

“Instead of bracing yourself for the perils of the unknown, embrace the joy that is here, in your present moment.”
― Michelle Cruz-Rosado

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”- Brene Brown

“It doesn’t matter where you are, you are nowhere compared to where you can go.” -Bob Proctor

Best Moments:

High School State Ski Championships

It was a month of my girl pushing herself to the limit; finishing second place in the high school state ski championships gave her such a sense of accomplishment. And then a few weeks later, she went and did this – caution-it gets a bit loud at the end of the video! Facebook Post by Jennifer Mason Wolfe.

Wishing you great possibilities in April – and as always, thank you for supporting mamawolfe. I’d love to connect with you on Instagram and Facebook, too!

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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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My Year In Books, 2013

In 2013, I set a goal to increase my reading this year, despite all the other events that take up my spare free minutes. I met my goal, and have some great titles to share with you! Thanks to all the wonderful authors that shared their stories with me this year – here’s to 2014 and many more great books!

January, 2013

I wasn’t sure if I would like (or finish) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot but finish I did-I was fascinated by the story behind HeLa cells, and the idea that racism could be entwined with medical science in such an unfair manner.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje, beautifully written and lyrical, shares the story of 1970s northern California – my own backyard.

Divisadero (novel)
Divisadero (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here I Go Again: A Novel by Jen Lancaster is a delightful read you’re looking for a good, funny escape-my-life chick-lit novel; check out my review of Here I Go Again!

Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Livesby Becky Aikman is a book that shows us how life has a funny way of taking us on a different path than we might expect; Becky Aikman’s novel was a great reminder for me to live in the moment and love what I have. Read my post, “When Life Doesn’t Turn Out The Way It’s Supposed To” inspired by her story.

February, 2013

I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, and adored A Good American for that reason – but also, because of the author, Alex George. Tweeting with him while I was reading was such a thrill-and I cannot wait for him to finish his next novel! Read my review of A Good American here.

Another brilliant historical fiction novel, The Kitchen House: A Novel by Kathleen Grissom, recounts the story of a white Irish servant girl and her attempts to survive  as she lives and works with the slaves in a plantation house during the 1800s.

March, 2013

Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives by John Robison Elder helped me understand some of my students who have Aspbergers in a touching story of a father-son struggle to love each other.

April, 2013

Afterwards: A Novel by Rosamund Lupton – oh, I loved this book, despite the constant stream of tears rolling down my face. You know what I mean-those books that touch you deeply? This one triggered volumes of emotions about motherhood, as I reflected on my post “Forever Afterwards”.

May, 2013

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel by Anthony Marra wasn’t at the top of my 2013 book list, but I did enjoy the story of the father and daughter in war torn Chechnya and how it reminded me of playing Risk as a child.

June, 2013

Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff, a beautifully written story about motherhood and change, left me teary and happy I was introduced to Lee’s writing. While her autobiography detailing the horrific accident endured by her husband, reporter Bob Woodruff, established her talent, this novel will solidify her ability to evoke emotion within her reader in this story of a fictional tragic accident.

The Binding Chair; or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society: A Novel by Kathryn Harrison satisfied my need for more historical fiction, this time a story set during turn of the century Shanghai combined the pull of the past with the push towards the future – really a good read.

The Samurai’s Garden: A Novel by Gail Tsukiyama didn’t catch my attention-maybe it hid in the shadows of Harrison’s novel-I’m not sure why I didn’t get into it.

I was introduced to the mystery novels of J.A. Jance years ago by my friend and author, Dawn Wink (see below for her novel Meadowlark) and fell in love with the character of Arizona sheriff Joanna Brady – think of Judgment Call: A Brady Novel of Suspense (Joanna Brady Mysteries) as a story to satisfy your need for a  grown up Nancy Drew

Home by Toni Morrison – what can I say about a novel by one of my all time favorite novelists? Simply beautiful, haunting and a must-read.

English: Graffiti de Toni Morrison en el front...
English: Graffiti de Toni Morrison en el frontón del barrio de Aranzabela-Salburúa, en Vitoria-Gasteiz. Imagen tomada el 30-12-2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

July, 2013

If you haven’t read Ann Patchett, you’re certainly missing out and you should certainly add Run, a story set in a New England snow storm,  to your 2014 book list!

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton: A Novel by Elizabeth Silver combines a mother’s love, a murder mystery, and the death penalty into a gripping novel. Reading it reminded me of  the power of memories, and as children when we feel powerless over our future.

This Is Paradise: Stories by Kristiana Kahakauwila is a beautiful collection of short vignettes about the author’s homeland, Hawaii. I loved her stories about making choices and growing up, especially as I was helping my daughter navigate the college application process. Kristiana Kahakauwila is not only a gifted novelist, but her ability to connect with her readers (me!) over social media made the reading experience really come to life.

August, 2013

The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese by Kathe Lison – I can’t really recommend this book unless you’re SERIOUSLY into cheese. I’m not.

Meadowlark was written by my friend, confidante and a wonderfully amazing woman, Dawn Wink. Elegantly written, Meadowlark is simply a beautifully heart-wrenching story of her great grandmother’s life on the South Dakota prairie that you MUST read! After being one of the first ‘editors’ of her story many years ago, seeing her first novel birth into the world was one of the highlights of 2013.

September, 2013

“Parenting is hard as hell” – that quote resonated with me, even though my parenting experience is vastly different than the author, Lori Duron’s. Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son is an eye-opening read for modern day parents and educators – see my reflection here.

Mother, Mother: A Novel by Koren Zailckas was the first in a series of stories surrounding the theme of motherhood that I read this year as part of the blogger’s book club From Left To Write. This psychological thriller left me wanting to hold tightly to my own children, and savor every momenet with them.

October, 2013

The Funeral Dress: A Novel by Susan Gilmore Gregg was a story that captured my attention and kept me up late for a few nights-I couldn’t get through the story of love, motherhood, and marriage fast enough. Can’t wait for her next novel!

The Dinner by Herman Koch wasn’t my favorite read of the year, but I was intrigued by the narrative technique used by the author as he shares the mystery story of a mother’s love.

The Cartographer of No Man’s Land: A Novel by P.S. Duffy takes the reader back in time to World War 1, but for me, it reminded me of my summer travels and the Pull of Nicaragua.

November, 2013

I was haunted by The Last Winter of Dani Lancing: A Novel in part because of the skillful mystery writing of author P.D. Viner, but also because it brought back memories of a horrible childhood memory when I first felt the horror of murder in my community.

I devoured Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (30 Minute Spiritual Series) by one of my all time favorite writers and life-guides, Anne Lamott. I spent this month hunkering down and preparing for big change; read my thoughts about Help Thanks Wow here.

Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man by Brian McGrory was a sweet memoir by the editor of the Boston Globe….reminded me of finding my own very first buddy.

December, 2013

Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey by Fiona Carnarvon tells the story of the REAL Downton Abbey-if you’re a fan, you’ll love this one.

I’m wrapping up the year with Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin – enjoying parts of her story, but not all.

Yes, I’m one of those people who has ongoing novels on my bedside table:

I’m slowly rereading The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav, which reminds me that every day should be infused with reverence.

Cover of "The Seat of the Soul"
Cover of The Seat of the Soul

I started reading The Merry Recluse: A Life in Essays by Caroline Knapp after reading blogger Lindsay Mead’s recommendation-I love savoring an essay a little bit at a time!

Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers by Kate Hopper is another blogger recommended book that I dip into, chapter by chapter, as I attempt to describe this glorious time of my life.

Have you read any of these great books? What was your favorite book of 2013? What’s your reading goal for 2014?

 

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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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Into The Fog: The Sweetheart Murders

Fog
Fog (Photo credit: rchughta)

They disappeared into the fog that night.

Months of preparation for the play culminated on a foggy night on December 20, 1980. I hadn’t really noticed how in love they were with each other-we were too busy with the mice, party guests, Chinese and Russian dancers running about backstage. Just turned 15, I felt the delicious taste of freedom that comes with a job and being out at night.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if we’d traded places that night…if instead of climbing into our warm old Volvo  with my mom in the parking lot, what if I had been Sabrina? No one in our tiny town would think twice about stopping to pick up ice cream with your boyfriend and heading off in the tule fog to a birthday party.

Our town is safe.

Was safe.

They named them the ‘Sweetheart Murders’ after they found their bodies a few days later, 30 miles away in a ravine. They died together, tragically, painfully, unnecessarily. I remember seeing his sister at school; she was a normal kid. Just like everyone else, except for this one thing. I wasn’t sure what happens to you when you die, but I knew what happened to everyone else.

John and Sabrina, Sweetheart Murders

Only 18 and full of life and love and promise, they left our little college town absolutely shattered. For years we lived in the shadow of their memory, wondering who among us could have the capacity to snuff out two lives so gentle and innocent. We settled back into our lives, and we picked up the bits and pieces of our memories and went on. We endured the theories, the false leads, the abrupt endings to arrests we thought would show us the answers to that night and bring us back to that time of innocence, the time of well-being, when all our parents felt safe letting us out on a foggy night. Their families never recovered.

Thirty years later, their killer has been tried and convicted. The children still gather on the same stage to celebrate the season, unaware of the love that was lost that night. Volvos still rumble through the parking lot, scooping up Clara, the Mouse King and flower dancers after rehearsal. We have our own children now, and watch them find their way through the world with a caution we never knew before that night. We think of John and Sabrina and hug each other a little closer, remembering how easy it is to disappear into the fog at night.

This post was inspired by The Last Winter of Dani Lancing, a novel by P.D. Viner. Twenty years ago, college student Dani was murdered but her killer was never found.  Now a promising new lead may change everything. Join From Left to Write on November 7 as we discuss The Last Winter of Dani Lancing.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

 

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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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Mother, Mothering, Motherhood

My babies
My babies

I rode my bike home at dusk today, far too late for mothers and children to be playing at the park. From a distance I could hear the pee wee football players running their plays as the coach barked inspirational suggestions of improvement. Nearby, the pee wee cheerleaders pivoted and jumped in unison to some hip hop song I couldn’t quite make out. As I rode the familiar path towards home, my mind ticked through the mental checklist that pops up far too frequently: dinner? homework? lessons? laundry? I wondered what my teens had been doing all afternoon while I was at work, and hoped for the best. My heart felt that tinge of loneliness that happens only when I’ve been away from them too long. His birthday is tomorrow. Fourteen years of blissfully mothering him. Crossing the bike overpass, I dipped down towards Sycamore Park as images flashed in my mind; we’ve been mothering together for 15 years. How could that be possible? Two thirty-something moms, both bulging from the last trimester of pregnancy in the scorching summer heat, we dreamed of a few moments of shade while our three-year olds dared each other down slides and monkey bars. We chased them down, secretly hoping the jostling would push us into labor. Juice boxes and goldfish marked our territory, shared stories and sympathy sealed our hearts. We searched the pages of the parenting handbook, sure that the advice we sought must be somewhere out there. Mothering toddlers together helped us feel less alone, less unsure, and more hopeful that just maybe we’d get it right.

My teenagers.
My teenagers.

I see now what they meant -those women who said, “Someday you’ll understand when you have your own.” Funny how that pops into my mind these days. I remember standing in our blue and white kitchen, my two teenage brothers pulling food out of the refrigerator like bears just out of hibernation. I couldn’t understand why my mother always complained that she had just gone to the store, and lamented about the empty cupboards left at the end of the day.Suddenly, with my own two teenagers I get it. I hear her voice when I pick up the towels from the bedroom floors, when I straighten their unmade beds, and when I wash the peanut butter crusted knife left drying in the sink. ‘Season the chicken more than you think you should’, and ‘Don’t work too hard’ ring through my mind when I find myself alone, silent in the moment. Mothering teens often feels treacherous, as if I’m teetering on the next big catastrophe. I breathe deeply, and Motherhood pulses through my veins, bringing forth all those lessons passed down from one to the next.

She couldn’t have been more than a few months old. Curled in her kangaroo sac, snug against her mother’s chest, Fiona coiled her chubby little legs tight against her torso, happy just to be pressed securely against the most important person in her world. I felt the weight on my chest, just looking at her, remembering my own first months of motherhood. I’m not sure I would have had the courage-or confidence-to bring my newborn into a work meeting. Life then had very separate lines, motherhood and teaching. Like flipping a light switch, I would move in and out of my roles with intentional distinction, not yet knowing that that movement was truly impossible.Not realizing that, like Fiona, my children would be forever on my chest, eternally positioned over my heart. I didn’t realize that, yes, I would make mistakes and wish words could fly back into my mouth and yes, I would occasionally miss a page from the parenting handbook. I didn’t understand that as my children aged and moved away from my reach that I would have to stretch my arms to reach out to them, never wanting them to leave and yet simultaneously thrilled to see them go out on their own.

Motherhood. Something learned, yet innate all the same. An experience to be cherished, not squandered. A gift to safeguard, not consume with personal neediness. Meant to be shared. Meant to be savored, every last second.

A controlling mother, a missing daughter, and a family who is desperate for love. This post was inspired by the the psychological thriller Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas. Join From Left to Write on September 19 as we discuss Mother, Mother.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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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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