words that nourish

Words That Nourish, Friends That Write

I can count on one hand the number of women I trust will always be in my life. They each entered my world at different, crucial, life altering times, and while not one of them lives within walking distance of my home, our connection remains – through words that nourish.

I’ve been a pen pal, a journaler, a poet, a blogger, a note-take, list maker and a lesson creator. Words make my world centered, they offer me a chance to slip away and at the same time, ground myself. Words are solace in a life that I struggle to understand and often, to trust.

One of these phenomenal women is my friend Michelle. We met during our early years of teaching English – a time in our twenties when life as we know now was merely a whisper. Our paths crossed in an interview for a teaching position – I, the interviewer, she the interviewee. I was captivated by her quiet grace, her creativity, and her absolute desire to share her love of language and words and books.

That was over two decades ago, and despite many moves, some marriages, a divorce, numerous job changes and a few precious children thrown into our realiity, our friendship ebbs and flows like the tide, constant, reliable, soothing.

Michelle may not realize what an inspiration she’s been to me; she may not know that when I bake bread or dig in my garden, or read about her treasured Lousisiana or find myself succumbing to fine food and wine, she’s with me.

words that nourish

Today, we were on each other’s minds. Close friendships work like that – I mailed her a book she needed on her shelf this morning, and this afternoon she called to talk writing and summer travel plans.

Today, I’m happy to share a beautiful blog post written on Michelle’s new blog, A Power 4 Good. I know you’ll love her words that nourish – she’s one of a kind! Please welcome her to the blogging community with open arms!

Words that nourish; words that heal by Michelle St. Romain

“Wherever I’ve lived my room and soon the entire house is filled with books; poems, stories, histories, prayers of all kinds stand up gracefully or are heaped on shelves, on the floor, on the bed. Strangers old and new offering their words bountifully and thoughtfully, lifting my heart.” ~ Mary Oliver

I have been thinking recently about why we write stories, why anyone writes their thoughts on paper (or computer screens). In my days as an English major in college, I was always amazed by my classmates and even my professors who chose to put their written hats in the ring and try to publish their writing. Why would anyone pick out of the millions of things that have been written this particular piece or that particular poem? Why would anyone care about my writing, or anyone’s, for that matter?

And so I chose to do other things. I continued to write, because I cannot help it. I wrote in journals. I wrote essays. I wrote for a newspaper for a short time and I found quickly that my writing could be used in almost any profession, to entertain, market, raise funds, make a case, explain, take a stand.

At this point in my life, I find that the writers I have loved have become my teachers, their words the medicine for my soul. These are the ones who have the power to change my mood and my thinking in an instant. These are the ones with a power that transcends everything that is happening in our world, at any time, no matter how ominous or depressing.

They are Mary Oliver, Toni Morrison, Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan. David Whyte, Alice Hoffman, Joanna Macy. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Marge Piercy. Alice Walker and Maya Angelou. Sandra Cisneros and Kate Chopin. This list could go on, go deeper, go farther into the past, more fully into the variety of cultures and stories that inform our world, whether we are conscious of it or not.

words that nourish

It goes to Ovid and Shakespeare, Richard Wright and Steinbeck. Their classics shaped my view of the world, challenged what I was taught about class and reality. They are immortal inside me and the influence of their words on paper cannot be known, even in the singular strand of my life – of decisions I have made, paths I have taken, words I have spoken. Of stands I have made on issues that seem larger than my small life.

I am making these decisions today.  And their words are my solace and guidance. They are my living teachers. Their stories and reflections shape me still, in this time of great change in our world.

I believe that stories and words will heal us from all that is hurting around and within us. I believe that every story that has ever been lived or spoken is still alive today. I believe that every story we are now living, every truth and broken moment, every travesty and victory, no matter how small or large, has been lived in one way or another and we can learn from what has happened before us.

We may have to go deep, go far into the past. We may need to journey to cultures far from our own, or perhaps simply allow ourselves to imagine what it is like today, in this moment, in a country where running water is a luxury and homes have dirt floors. If we expand our thinking to include the larger stories of those who have gone before and of those who are now living lives much different than our own, we may find our way. We may find hope.

We will most definitely find sorrow and grief, but we will also find companions on the path. We must only look, be curious, be patient enough to step back and open to seeing the larger shape of what is happening in any moment of our own life stories.

Thank you, great writers and thinkers and teachers. Thank you for the living gift of words that heal and uplift, teach and guide and make us question ourselves. I bury myself deeply in your wisdom. I offer my own words as an offering of gratitude, and as a prayer.

(this post originally appeared on Michelle’s blog, A Power 4 Good)

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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A Year of Accidental Life Lessons

Dear Son,

Last August 3 I’m pretty sure I was sitting in this very spot, looking out this same window, thinking about my kids and how much I missed them. It was quiet without you both here, and I’m pretty sure I was anticipating your sister coming home from Mt. Hood that day, knowing I’d have a few days left with her before she left for college. I know I was wondering about you, and that I sent you our usual good morning text saying something about having an awesome day. You texted me back from the ski lift, and I was sure you were safe.

I was wrong.

A Year of Accidental Life Lessons

Your dad and I took our bike ride early that morning – it was going to be a triple-digit day – and we stopped for breakfast on the way home. The pancakes were huge, and I remember wishing you were there with us. We talked about how strange the upcoming year would be with Lily in college and you living back in Tahoe. We’d be empty nesters, and I wasn’t ready for it. I remember thinking about that year, and the next and the next and trying to predict what life would be like.

I had no idea.

Before I’d even gotten back in the driveway, my phone was ringing. I knew that if your coach was calling, it couldn’t be good. From that moment on, I gave up predicting…and just took life moment by moment, taking in the accidental life lessons as they arrived.

skiing accident

Life happens and show gratitude.

When you were lying so still in the hospital bed and I knew life was going to be very different from here on out, I momentarily panicked. How would I help you adjust? How would you go to school in a wheelchair and would you ski again and why did this happen to you? For all those moments of worry, all I could do was take them one moment at a time. Deal with what was here, now, in front of us. Accept the help being given. Trust that all will be well, and things will work out. And be grateful – do you remember our three gratitudes? At the time, they sometimes seemed silly – grateful for new water bottles with straws and free movies and Top Ramen – but boy did they make a difference. They made us laugh, made us think, and reminded us that we are OK.

You are stronger than you think.

You’ve always been goal oriented, driven, and focused – and physically strong. That’s what made you decide to move to Tahoe and dedicate yourself to ski racing. The accident squashed that dream, but your mental strength helped you when you couldn’t move or walk or stand anymore. You learned how to get yourself off the couch, into a wheelchair and ride in a car. You figured out how to navigate school, how to rip around on crutches, and even jump in a bouncy house.

cast into the car

Family is there for you, even when you don’t know what you need them for.

Without your dad, your sister, Grandpa Bruce and Grandma Sue, I’m not sure what we would have done. When we were stuck in Portland, your grandpa knew just what to do; we got the right doctors, the best treatment, and he decided to do the 10 hour drive to get us home when I had no idea how to get you on a plane. Your grandma knew to stay home and care for you so I could take Lily to college; she even put the kitchen back together after the flood while I was gone. I didn’t even have to ask either of them – they both just knew to step in when I couldn’t do it all by myself.

friends at Target dorm shopping

Friends can fill in the missing spaces.

I wasn’t sure how I would get your sister ready for college; all our planned time ended up just being a passing hello in the airport as she came home and I left to take care of you. Stephanie invited her home, took her dorm room shopping and elevated her ‘Tahoe mom’ status to another level. She even sent texts with silly Target shopping photos, just to make me feel included. I cried tears of sadness when I saw what I was missing, but the happy tears came once I realized what a great friend I had to count on.

When people show you who they are, believe them.

Kindness is free, but unfortunately, we learned some people don’t realize how easy it is to give. We’ve both met a few people in the last year -family, friends, teachers – who surprised us with their inability to look beyond themselves and that made us sad and sometimes angry. I think we’ve both learned to appreciate the kindness of those around us, and let go of the people in our lives who’ve shown us they’re unable of caring. Not the lesson I’d wish for you to learn at 15, but an invaluable one nonetheless.

Son, I can’t say that if I could ‘do over’ the last year I would want to do this all again. No mother wants to watch their child in physical or emotional pain. And I can’t say that I’d do over the tears or the worries or the uncertainty about our future. But these life lessons? I’d do these over in a second. It’s the experiences in life that are our teachers, the moments in life that push us to learn who we really are.

Wishing you a year full of love and (less painful) life lessons,

Mom

On the recovery couch, one year later.
On the recovery couch, one year later.

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, June, 2014: A Month of Emotion

June was a month of emotion, a month where I saw the end of eras. June was a month of spontaneous tears, trickles of emotion both quiet and forceful. It was a month of smiles, and hugs, and goodbyes. June was a month of mercurial emotion, a month I searched for and found gratitude over and over again.

My Best June:

Best Quotes:

Looking back on my Twitter feed (where I regularly post #quoteoftheday), I noticed my tweets fall into two categories: those for me to pay attention to, and those for my children to pay attention to. Can you tell which is which? Oh-the last one is my favorite 🙂

LOVE Brene Brown

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.” -Pearl S. Buck

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”-Eleanor Roosevelt

“Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.” -Buddha

“If you find in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.” ~Maya Angelou

“Refuse to settle where you are. There is a great plan for your life. Press forward and become everything that you were created to be.” – Joel Osteen

“I have accepted fear as part of life,specifically the fear of change.I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says turn back.” -Erica Jong

“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”-Havelock Ellis

“Mom, I don’t twerk” – Lily Wolfe

Best Compliment:

My girl can drive a bus!
My girl can drive a bus!

I wish I could remember exactly who said this to me…the one compliment that stood out the most this month – and I’m not even sure that the person meant it as a compliment – was that I’ve raised a ‘gutsy’ girl. I love that. When she was born, I was determined that she wouldn’t follow in my ‘shy girl’ footsteps….and she hasn’t. I’m proud to have raised a girl who is confident, adventurous, and trusts her ‘guts’ to try new experiences in life (like getting a Class 2 bus driving license!). You go, girl!

Best Recent Read:

These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner...LOVE.
These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner…LOVE.

I did NOT want this book to end…and was amazed that I hadn’t read it before! These Is My Words is the story of Sarah Prine, the author’s grandmother-with a  bit of historical fiction thrown in,too. Like my friend Dawn Wink’s novel, Meadowlark, These Is My Words tells a love story of Sarah Prine and her challenges as a strong woman in the Arizona Territories. I was captured in the plot, and fell in love with Jack Elliot alongside Sarah! Lucky for me – and for all other lovers of Turner’s story – this is only the beginning of a three-part series! I’m reading Sarah’s Quilt right now…I’d love to see what you’re reading, too – click here to follow me on Goodreads.

Best Way to Unwind:

My dog and my boy, evening walk (or skate)
My dog and my boy, evening walk (or skate)

When he was little, he used to love taking walks with me. We went all over town, usually with a tote bag to collect treasures. I miss those days. Deep gratitude for every single second together.

Best Photos:

Before she grew up and went away…

Best Selfie:

Me and my boy at the beach, Santa Cruz, California

Best Friends:

So much emotion this month as I watched girls who have been friends since primary grades finally graduate together. In these days of ‘mean girls’ and ‘girl drama’, I feel so grateful that my girl has such amazing young women in her life. True friendship is never to be taken for granted.

This is what friendship looks like
To be blessed with such good girlfriends…

Best Recipes:

Giada’s meatball paninis…must try!

Yes, these were as good as they look, and yes, I made the meatballs from scratch. My girl and I love watching Giada, and when we saw this recipe we knew we needed to throw a meatball party to celebrate her 18th birthday, so that’s exactly what we did! They were a HUGE hit!

Little bit of heaven right here...
Little bit of heaven right here…

Seriously, these are the BEST bites I’ve had in a very long time…chocolate honey tartlets with a graham cracker crust. Giada again-yep, we served them at her meatball party, then made them again for her graduation party, and ONE MORE TIME for a friend’s rehearsal dinner. They’re that good, and easier than you might think.

Best View:

This summer I’m staying put on the west coast, and to start off my summer adventures I traveled to Santa Rosa for a friend’s wedding. After the festivities concluded, I slipped away for an early morning walk. Our drought may leave the fields golden instead of green, but beautiful nonetheless.

A quiet morning walk in Santa Rosa, California

Best Moments:

I’ve written volumes this month about all the emotion I feel surrounding my girl’s graduation, growing up, and going away to college. This moment almost didn’t happen; the girls were struggling to find each other after the ceremony, but their determination to capture their joy and friendship conquered and while we were one of the last to leave the field, they made it happen. Deep gratitude right here.

My four ‘daughters’…

My AVID students worked over half the year to get this bench built; it began with learning about ocean gyres and recycling, then turned to stuffing plastic bottles with non-recyclable plastic, and ended with days of hard labor and sweat to get this earth  bench completed before the end of the school year. This project not only taught them about how to care for our world, but also how to work hard and be proud of their finished product. I saw some kids shine in ways I didn’t think possible…I’m not sure they know how very proud I am of them.

My favorites in front of our AVID project, an earth bench.
The finished  bench
The finished bench

A simple decoration for the graduation party, but so full of magical moments. How lucky am I to have been blessed with these wonderful children.

wall of memories
wall of memories

Dear reader, what word best describes your month of June? Wishing you great possibilities in July – and as always, thank you for supporting mamawolfe. I’d love to connect with you on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, too!

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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Deep Gratitude

Lily's graduation

There was deep gratitude in our garden Sunday night. All the people who love her were there to celebrate. Never quite sure who was coming, each time the front door opened, a new face of someone who played an enormous role in one aspect of her life entered into our space of celebration. There were spirits who helped her through her education, her athletics, or just those who helped her grow into a fabulous young woman. The common thread? Smiles. There were smiles everywhere, and with each I felt a shudder of deep gratitude run down my spine. I realized how the creation of a life of meaning takes so many of us, so many spirits contributing to molding, nurturing, and forming the young woman we are celebrating.

cupcakes

There was deep gratitude as I remembered the hours of planning and preparation by my family to celebrate her graduation. The  menu was thought out well in advance, created to please her with all her favorite flavors. The house was cleaned, the decorations purchased, and the garden tidied. The young boys strung twinkle lights, raked leaves, and scrubbed garden chairs. My sister arranged patio furniture and hung hand made balloon masterpieces. My niece and her boyfriend clipped endless snapshots to jute string to decorate a blank wall. Her best friend gracefully decorated vanilla cupcakes with the precision of a trained baker. My mom, in command of it all, moved from garden to kitchen without forgetting the smallest of details.

adventure maps

I was there, too, scanning my memories, fighting back tears of joy and sadness. Maps of important places were juxtaposed amidst adventure quotes to decorate the tables. I thought about all the journeys we’ve taken together since her birth, and the adventures she will have without us. Deep gratitude rose up as her girlfriends asked for Sharpies to calculate the miles that would separate them in college, their scribbles of loyalty became manifestation of the changes soon to come.

friendships

As darkness fell and the kids gathered around the fire pit, there was deep gratitude, again, for friendships. Children I’ve watched for a dozen years are now ready to take their life lessons to task. Friendships of women who have helped me navigate the challenges of motherhood. Families who have enveloped her with love and shown her that it isn’t only blood that ties us together. Friendships of those last to leave, relaxed into their chairs, faces lit by candlelight, and recalling the deep gratitude for girls who survived the crises of adolescence together as we sipped champagne and cherished the last moments, knowing it could be years before we all gather again.

gratitude for Lily

My dear friend Dawn Wink writes of her life’s journey as searching for a ‘rainbow between storms‘, and as I think about my own travels through motherhood, I find solace in her metaphor. Graduation, growing up, and going away to college are the rainbows all parents hope for, but they don’t come without a bit of struggle. But it is the deep, deep gratitude that I feel now more than anything – gratitude for her life, for friends and family, for achievements, and for possibilities yet to come.

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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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Double Delight of Beauty and Friendship

Double Delight beauty
Double Delight beauty

“To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing:

that is enough for one man’s life.”

— T.S. Eliot (The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism)

This double delight was right outside my door today,

bursting forth with vanilla scented deliciousness,

 flowers tipped in fiery pink.

When she blooms,

sometimes I walk right by

not noticing

or taking the time to stop.

But this day,

in this moment,

I paused,

and thought about this rose

given to me by a dear friend many years ago.

I remembered our tears when she left

and our smiles when we catch a glimpse of each other

every few years.

The double delight

of beauty and friendship.

Beauty is all around us. All we need to do is pause, look, and she is there.

Tell me, where did you find beauty today?

 

 

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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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