The Grateful Life: A Book About Gratitude

grat·i·tude

ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/
noun
the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Gratitude is trending. In less than a second I can find nearly 400,000 hits for #gratitude on Google. Twitter is alive with posts about gratitude, everything from people’s 5 Things A Day, ways to teach our kids gratitude, and celebrities like Oprah reminding us to “never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.”

It’s everywhere. How could we miss it? How could we not feel it around us, a never ending reminder that life is good and we should be grateful?

On Facebook we’re grateful for leaves changing color, for veterans and our loving husbands. Some folks are grateful for their ‘amazing’ main course or dessert, for their adorable kids and dogs, and for…gratitude itself. For the awareness, finally, that life is worth shouting out about.

If you’re inspired by stories of gratitude – stories by REAL people experiencing the transformative power of gratitude – you should put The Grateful Life: The Secret to Happiness and the Science of Contentment on your reading list. Written by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons (I reviewed their last book, What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail), The Grateful Life offers tips and inspirational stories from people just like you and me who have experienced the benefits of living mindfully and with an awareness of the blessings in our lives.

Each of the ten chapters offers several short vignettes accompanied by sidebar tidbits, all centered around a theme. The book starts with Chapter One’s “How Gratitude and Intentional Behavior Move to Our Hearts, Creating Blessings in Our Lives” and sidebars “The Network for Grateful Living” and “Gratitude Prayer”, and ends with Chapter Ten’s theme of “The Secret to a Gratitude Makeover: How to Create Gratitude Practices That Stick” and sidebars about Jimmy Fallon’s Thank You Lessons, Writing Thank You Cards, and tips about how to bring more gratitude into your life.

I’ve experienced the power of gratitude first hand, as have millions of people. When my son was faced with a broken leg last summer and saw his ski racing dreams severely compromised, we got through the hardest hours by rattling off three gratitudes – and we made it. Life will always get better, but sometimes we need to take a little pause and give ourselves time and permission to remember that.

The Grateful Life: The Secret to Happiness and the Science of Contentment can offer just that – a reminder that in sharing our stories of the benefits of gratitude as told by people just like us, we can begin to live a life of more contentment, gratefulness and transformation.

To read more about the book, visit their website: http://www.vivaeditions.com/book_page.php?book_id=85.

p.s. – did you read my previous posts about gratitude? Deep Gratitude,  Thanks, Coach, For the Life Lessons, and Broken?

I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

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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Choice: It’s What Makes Life Full of Possibility

Choice.

If I had to choose one word I’ve used over and over in parenting and teaching, it would be choice. I learned early on as a parent that simply saying ‘no’ over and over had no lasting effect; if I really wanted something to happen – especially with any sort of chance that it would happen the way I wanted – I needed to give choices.

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It went something like this: “What do you want to wear today? You can choose either the red leggings and boots, or the red dress with tights.” Or with my son, “I haven’t decided what to make for dinner tonight –  would you rather have pasta or chicken?” Now, when they don’t respond to my texts or block me from some sort of social media, I feel 100% comfortable saying, “Ok, you can keep me blocked/don’t respond to my texts  and pay the monthly charge for your bill, or you can respond and I will continue to fund your phone.” That one always works.

Choices like these gave my kids a voice, and practicing that on something simple when they were little meant when they were teens, and we had to grapple with the big stuff, they were used to the process. They knew what it felt like to make good – and bad – choices. They understood logical consequences, and sometimes even unintended ones.

As parents, we are obligated to teach our children about choice from an early age. Kids need to know that their life is full of possibility, and certain choices will make doors open and opportunities appear – or disappear. Teenagers are bombarded with choices to make, some small, but at 15, 16 and 17 many are huge and can have lasting impact on their future. Should I post that online? Do my homework or go to bed? Drink and drive? Text and drive? Have sex? The list is endless, really. How do kids know how to trust themselves, how to weigh options and make good choices if they’ve never had any practice?

Giving my middle school students choices has really evolved for me over the years. As a beginning teacher, I felt insecure offering too many choices-I was afraid that if I didn’t set down the rules, chaos would break loose. In reality, when I started giving kids more choice about what they did and how they did it, management mostly became a breeze. Oftentimes I’ll give choices about what they need to do for a particular grade, or what order they need to tackle different parts of a task. As long as they get to the end result that I’m expecting, giving them choices about how they get there allows students to learn how to manage their time, how to push themselves (usually – but not always) and to take a route for learning that makes most sense to them.

Last year, when my daughter was navigating the stressors of senior year and college applications, I found myself repeating and reminding her that all her hard work paid off in all the choices she had between colleges. I tried to keep mum on my strong feelings about one school or another, and let her not only weigh the merits of each college, but also let her listen to her heart and choose the school that felt right.

Ultimately, I think choice is what makes humans stronger. Choice builds character, empowers people, and provides a barometer of how we navigate the world. Having choices teaches us how to be decisive, how to weigh options, but also to listen to ourselves and trust that we can follow our instincts instead of following the crowd. Sometimes, just knowing that we have choice – that every day we choose how we approach the world, how we treat other people, how we spend our time and what we work for – is enough to make the day just a bit brighter, just a bit kinder, just a bit more full of possibility.

This post was inspired by Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas, a novel where former Olympic hopeful Dan destroys his swimming career and his attempt at redemption after prison. Join From Left to Write on September 30th as we discuss Barracuda. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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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Finding The Teacher-Mom Balance

“You wander from room to room

Hunting for the diamond necklace

That is already around your neck.” -Rumi

from Thrive, by Arianna Huffington

I’ve always been a working mom. I guess I should qualify that – I’ve always been a work-outside-the-home mom. Since I was in my thirties before I had both children, I spent several years teaching before they rocked my world…and to be honest, it was a struggle to figure out how I could balance it all.

I loved being a teacher. In my twenties, pre-kids, I poured everything I had into my middle school English classes. It wasn’t that I necessarily felt that teaching was my ‘calling’-I just wanted to do the best job I could. It’s my personality. I devoured teaching-I couldn’t get enough training. I had my eye on reaching the ‘top’ of my profession as quickly as possible. I volunteered to be a ‘team leader’ of teachers, I worked on district committees, and pretty soon I was selected as the department leader and mentor teacher. I was right where I wanted to be.

And then my daughter was born. Naively, I thought I could jump right back in. I thought that after a few months, the title of ‘teacher-mom’ would slip alongside my other accolades, and life would keep chugging along. Of course, that didn’t happen. Balancing a commute, breast-feeding, and separation anxiety created more angst than I could imagine. Life needed to shift, and as life often has a way of doing, I would up exactly where I needed to be.

It wasn’t easy to get there, and residing in that place between ‘teacher’ and ‘mother’ was a constant state of unsteadiness for many years. I felt like I wasn’t doing the best job at either; on days when the teaching went well, I’d have to rush home to assume child care so my husband could go to work. At night, the babies were demanding when it was time to grade papers, and each morning I would wake, bleary eyed and exhausted, wondering how this was ever going to work. The joy was evaporating from both ‘jobs’. Nothing felt right, neither felt fulfilling. The fulcrum teetered back and forth as I searched for the elusive equilibrium I knew I needed.

I wish I could say it was easy, or that there was some sort of formula I read about that, like breadcrumbs along a trail, I could gather along the way to the end of the rainbow. The truth is, it was nothing like that. And sadly, it involved barrels of tears, volumes of journals, and book after parenting book to discover how I could thrive as ‘teacher-mom’. I’m not sure I would ever want to repeat that process, but I can say that the search for the perfect balance led to the discovery of my self.

I learned that it all goes by so quickly…those words of my grandmother certainly ring true as I’m watching my baby grow up and out of the safety of our space. I learned that  boundaries are vital for both teacher and mom; a life in balance is truly a life well lived. I learned that everything I ever wanted really is right within my grasp-all I needed to do was make a choice. Actually, it was quite simple: I  chose a life adorned with the sparkle of my children first-always.

And that has made all the difference.

This post was inspired byThrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington who encourages everyone to sleep their way to the top. Join From Left to Write on May 1 we discuss Thrive. 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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At This Moment, She’s Right Where She Needs To Be

It seems like it was just yesterday. It was, in fact, nearly the same time of year. The garden bloomed profusely, and she was just finding the confidence to let her feet take her where she wanted to go. We were never so happy that Fisher Price created a structure sturdy enough to endure the speed with which she would race down the long hallway, wheels screaming on the hardwood floors, the beam of her smile indicating her pride. She was independent; she no longer needed dad’s strong fingers to guide her steps. The tripod shaped vehicle was all the support necessary to take her where she wanted to go. And she always wanted to get there in a hurry.

I remember questioning if she’d ever have the courage to let go of that vehicle; at one year old, I expected her to be walking like some other babies I’d seen. But she was my first, my test-child, and when she grinned from behind her handlebars I knew that she was right where she needed to be. She was taking life on her terms even then; there was no time to waste, and she needed to find the fastest course between two points. Just over a year old, full of courage and determination.

It wasn’t long after that she began vaulting out of her crib, too. Nap times? Non-existent. Life had far too much to offer to waste any moment behind bars. She wanted to explore, to climb, to be surrounded by her people. It no longer mattered how soothing her nursery was, or how cozy I made her nap time ritual. When she swung those long, skinny legs over the side, we knew life was about to change. I think I even spent a night or two on the floor beside her crib, hoping that it was a fluke but knowing that if she vaulted, I would be there to break her fall. At that age, she already knew where she needed to be-and it wasn’t in her crib.

We weren’t quite ready for life with a toddler, but in reality, who ever really is? I’ve written countless times about the absolute inadequacy I felt at becoming a new mother, and how I’ve had to learn to rejoice in every moment. It’s kind of a cruel trick that life plays on some of us, those who get so caught up in the minutia of the moment that we miss the true beauty happening right in front of us.

And today I find myself equally unprepared, fighting nearly identical feelings of inadequacy about letting her go. The more I look back, the more I know that all that we have done, and all that we have experienced, has prepared us both for the moment yet to come – the moment when we wave goodbye, tears trickling down our cheeks, and walk away. The moment when she is right where she needs to be, on the precipice of her new life, ready to take it head on. She’s almost eighteen years old, still full of courage and determination.

This post was inspired by the novel Dad Is Fat by comedian Jim Gaffigan who riffs on his adventures co-parenting 5 kids in a two bedroom Manhattan apartment. Join From Left to Write on April 22 we discuss Dad Is Fat. 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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Teaching Middle School: My Dream Job

As I was driving home after a 13-hour day last week, it occurred to me that I had just hosted my twenty-fourth Open House. And boy, was I tired.

Yep-I’ve been teaching middle school for that long. I started teaching long before I had children – I wasn’t even married yet! I started teaching before cell phones, in a ‘technology school’ which boasted a cutting edge sort of network for computers, and we all had to learn how to email. When I went home, I used DOS to create spreadsheets for grades, and couldn’t even imagine an instance when my students might contact me at home after work on it.

Times have changed, but my love for my job hasn’t. I think I have a dream job. Some people think I’m crazy for teaching 7th and 8th graders for this long. They call me things like ‘saint’, and tell me how grateful they are for me – and that they could never ‘do what I do’.

To be honest, they’re probably right. It takes a certain kind of craziness to do what I do every day. to give you an idea, imagine walking into your job and being bombarded from the moment you open the door. Yes, I’m a question answering queen. I hear explanations, excuses, and sometimes even legitimate questions about what happened inbetween the time they last saw me and the moment I stopped gulping down my thermos of coffee. And then the day begins. From 8:00 until whenever I can crawl out the door (usually between 4 and 5), I am surrounded by kids in the throes of puberty. They are self-conscious, funny, silly, frustrating, and thought-provoking. They make me a better human, and most certainly a better parent.

Teaching has taught me to create strong boundaries, to protect my personal life and value my job as a mother just as much as my job in the classroom. There’s been a few times I quit teaching – both because I started to feel that I was spending so much time with other people’s kids, I was going to end up with problems with my own.

Back in the early nineties, before I had kids, every year one of my 7th grade students got pregnant. It shocks me then the same as it shocks me now-especially when I think that that child could be having their own child by now. I so clearly remember the first time one of my girls, Tiffany, brought in her baby to show me. She had always been one of those students I worried about, and I guess my intuition was correct. I can still see her round, freckled face, tousled blonde hair and bright blue eyes as she pushed her stroller forward so I could take a look at her baby. Thinking back, I can’t remember what I said. I hope it didn’t show the shock and concern in my heart.

There are still days when I question what I’m doing. I wonder if I made the right choice all those years ago. Maybe I should have gone to law school, or taken a shot at writing. I’ll teach until it isn’t fun anymore, I remember telling myself. And then what? Teaching is my dream job for a multitude of reasons…but mainly because when I’m feeling sad, or thinking I cannot teach that novel one.more.time., something like this happens and makes me remember it’s all worth it. I’m sure lawyers don’t get notes like this.

teacher thank you

This post was inspired by the novel The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger. Young lawyer Sophie unwillingly takes her first divorce case with an entertaining and volatile client in this novel told mostly through letters and legal missives. Join From Left to Write on March 18 we discuss The Divorce Papers. 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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