My Favorite Moments of 2016 – In Photos

Even when I can’t find the time/inspiration/concentration to write, I try to always pay attention to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life. I used to print out all my photos, hand write captions in photo albums and stick the images onto the pages, gently smoothing back the plastic to protect the memories from sticky fingers turning pages. I think my last albums were from 2007, when I began collecting photos on floppy disks, then CDs and now in the cloud. I must say, while I don’t take quite as many snaps of my kids now that they’re teens, looking back on 2016 I am pleased that I caught so many of these ordinary moments that might have otherwise slipped my short-term memory. I’m grateful to be able to share my favorite moments of 2016 with you. Thank you for being part of my mamawolfe community, for your thoughts and comments and likes and shares. I’m looking forward to thinking deeply, loving fiercely and teaching audaciously with you in 2017,

Thank you for being part of my mamawolfe community, for your thoughts and comments and likes and shares. I’m looking forward to thinking deeply, loving fiercely and teaching audaciously with you in 2017,

December – I don’t always remember to have a family photo taken on Christmas, but this year we all managed to squeeze onto our sofa. As the kids get older, these moments of togetherness become so treasured. I wrote about turning 51 and my nightmares about the election results. As I love to do, I’ll ring in the new year in the mountains with these three people that make my life so extraordinary.

November – I always think of my son as a wanderer; he loves to go alone, to explore, to get lost in the moment. This image of him on Carmel beach was exactly one of those moments; we were all up at the car and I had to go back to search for him. I stood and snapped this photo without him noticing; so grateful for these small moments as reminders to slow down and just be. I wrote a bit about the presidential election, teaching, and the not-so-ordinary month of November.

October – To be honest, this photo just makes me smile. I went back to San Diego for a conference this fall – I say back, because in the late 1980s I made S.D. my home. I’m a completely different girl now, but I still find myself most comfortable hanging out with people who think out of the box. This night was a good reminder to remember who I am and what I believe in, always. This month I wrote from the heart about teaching and Trump.


September – When my kids were little, I loved throwing birthday parties for them. We invited the whole family, ate and drank and celebrated together in our backyard. These days, birthdays are celebrated much more quietly. September is always a month of new beginnings when you live as a teacher – and this year, we celebrated Cam turning 17. Bittersweet moments – he reminded me the countdown now begins to adulthood and leaving home. Glad one of us is excited about that! I only wrote a little – a sharing of a favorite Mary Oliver poem.

August – This summer, my two babies took off on a solo backpacking adventure – they hiked and camped and drove all around Wyoming, just enjoying being together. Although I didn’t hear from them too much, and I worried more than I should have, the moment they texted me this photo I knew that all would be well. I feel such gratitude that although they’re not living in the same home anymore, they love each other this much. I wrote about family time in Tahoe, sending my girl back to college for her third year, an awesome trip to Blog Her in L.A., and how much I love my ordinary life.

July – I love traveling, but I equally love spending time at home. July started off on a trip with Lily to Capital Reef National Park in Utah, but I found most of my mid-summer days best spent at home, surrounded with love in my garden, with my books, my dog and my family.

June – We celebrated Lily’s return from  hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain and her turning 20. The shooting in Orlando left me feeling sad about the fragility of life and committed to help end gun violence. I finished school, and spent the month reflecting and resting.

May – It’s always a good month when I can dig in the garden. This year, Cam and I planted and tended a veggie and herb garden – and were surprised with gourds sprouting up, too! I wrote about being healthy, stepping out of my comfort zone, finding wholeness and that curious moment in motherhood when you realize that your children are capable of taking care of themselves – and you.

The Only Appropriate Response Is Gratefulness

April – Another rare moment of togetherness in our backyard garden; the month of April made me weep more than once over the fierce love I have for my children. I thought and wrote about the fleetingness of this life, of gratitude for the smallest of moments, and of intuition and being in the moment.

March – I wrote a lot about motherhood, working and mothering, and equal rights. We had a rare ski day together at Tahoe; rare because I actually skied with my kids rather than watch them fly down a race course!

February – I found myself taking daily walks, searching for some center. My girl got a ‘real’ job, I hunkered down at home and read a lot of poetry from Mary Oliver, Jane Candida Coleman and Thich Nhat Hanh.

January – I was looking for joy everywhere – it was a hard month. Concussions, avalanches, and loss were surrounding me. I tried to focus inward, to be present and to pay attention to the beauty around me.

 

I’d love to continue this amazing life journey with you over on Instagram – you can find me at mamawolfeto2.

All the best,

Jennifer

 

http://www.pasta-recipes.com

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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What If Books Were A Magic Potion?

What if books were a magic potion? What if you could walk into a room, and just sense the book that you needed to pull off the shelf? What if, when you were standing there, gazing at the spines and judging the covers, you could just feel the book calling to you?

Just imagine the power – if suddenly we turned to books to solve our problems. No more scanning Facebook for reassurance that we were parenting our children correctly. No more tuning into reality TV or talk shows to hear the experts tell us we’re right – or wrong. Imagine the smugness that would wipe off of our faces if we realized that all those faces, all those voices streaming through the internet, were just empty.

And what if, when we were feeling particularly down, the perfect book would fly into our outstretched hands and land with a soft thud? What if we, upon gently perusing the cover, decided to open to the first page, inhale, and hold our breath until the page was ready to turn?

I can think of the magic that could happen if I could suddenly find the answers I’ve been looking for inside the pages of a musty, gold-edged leather bound book. I can feel the giddiness rising up inside me when the words pelt off the page and into my heart, filling it with everything it has been searching for. And I can imagine the tears, the sobs of sorrow when, upon turning the last page, I realize that sadly, the solution I had been searching for was missing.

Can’t you just imagine the glory to be found when your toddler, unknowingly, teethes her favorite board book to shreds and simultaneously ingests the knowledge for her future? The bits and pieces of cardboard and color and text, surging forward and transforming into the life lessons we so hopefully wish she will learn, digested and consumed.

And teenagers – imagine the power. Downing words from vampires and dystopias and the Civil War? The power of the written word, the image on paper, would supercede any texting or Snapchatting or technology. What if parents were able to secretly select books just to share the messages they treasure, creating an underground cult of language and stories and thought?

What if books were a magic potion? Do you think we’d take a second look at what we’re reading? Do you think that books, real paper and print and gloss-covered books, would ever die? Would you take a sip?

Disclosure: This post was inspired by the novel The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, where Monsieur Perdu–a literary apothecary–finally searches for the woman who left him many years ago.. Join From Left to Write on October 8th as we discuss The Little Paris Bookshop. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
photo credit: Le Jour ni l’Heure 5709 : Paul Cézanne, 1839-1906, portrait de Gustave Geffroy, 1885-1886, dét., musée d’Orsay, Paris, jeudi 14 mai 2015, 20:43:36 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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Sheep Shearer’s Children In Lake Tahoe

 William Bolt was my two-times great grandfather. An adventurous spirit, as a young man in the late 1880s he traveled back and forth from St. Louis, Missouri to Laramie, Wyoming with his cousin Harry to work as sheep shearers. Lucky for me, his passion for storytelling compelled him to keep a detailed journal of his escapades – most notably falling in love with my two-times great grandmother, Mollie King.

I caught my breath when I came across his entries about one of my favorite places in the world, Lake Tahoe. His descriptions of the early days of Reno, Truckee and Lake Tahoe made my heart swell; what a tremendous gift to know we walk the same path. I now know for sure that there’s a special reason the Universe calls us there so often. I’m sharing an excerpt from his journal; sometime soon, I will flesh out his stories for all to enjoy.

 Winter, 1883

We are climbing the Sierra Nevada mountains. I ride most of the time on top of the freight cars. We stop for a long time at Reno, a rough town. Harry and I leave the train at Truckee. Smith goes on to California to spend the winter with relatives. Harry heard we could get a job of early shearing near Lake Tahoe. We stayed around Truckee a couple of days, a sort of a lumber camp of saloons and gambling houses and I could always see a bunch of Indians and white men sitting on the ground gambling. The Truckee River runs through there, a raging torrent all the way from Lake Tahoe. I seen some Indian women fishing. I went to them – they had a fire of only a couple of sticks and they catch a fish, hold it over the fire a minute, then give it to the little children. I seen them little two year old Indians eat the fish just the way it was and the only thing they threw away was the head and tail.

Harry had arranged with the stage driver to take us up to Lake Tahoe which is about 15 or 20 miles away. We could always count on Harry to plan everything without trouble or expense. He had a way of talking to everybody and always made friends and we always traveled as workers. We rode on top of the stage up through the mountains to the lake. The scenery was grand. Where we wanted to go was about six miles from headquarters – a yacht was going to our landing that took the mail and of course, Harry had him take us and our big roll of blankets. It was a grand ride. Lake Tahoe is so large you can scarcely see across it and they say there is no bottom. The Indians are afraid to go on it because if you went down you never came up – even the wood goes to the bottom. I can see a stack of wood laying on the bottom . The water is so clear we can see to a great depth.

McKinney's Landing, Lake Tahoe, CaliforniaWhen we got to our landing we found out there was no shearing to be done. The owner of the camp would like us to work for him. Harry told him we would stay a few days and work for our expenses. Our job was snaking in logs and we lived with the timber men. The fishing is very fine. We just go out a few short distance from shore in a boat and drop a hundred foot line and catch Speckled Mountain trout.

The time came to take the yacht back again. Sailing in a yacht was new to us – it was very grand on that beautiful lake on top of the mountains, then the stage ride back to Truckee.

This post was inspired by The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy, a novel about two women are connected by an Underground Railroad doll. Join From Left to Write on May 19th as we discuss The Mapmaker’s Children. 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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Rose Colored Memories

Point Lobos
Point Lobos, CA

The first time you took me there I couldn’t have been more than 12. My brown hair was cut shoulder length, signifying my emerging teenage angst. It was the 1970s, and stripes were all the rage. I remember that sweater, the pale yellow, rose and powder blue horizontals didn’t do anything for my pudgy frame, but it was comforting and soft against my skin as we walked along the shoreline.

Mom really looks like you, you know. I never realized it when I was little, or course, as children so often forget to notice the details. I remember your tiny, tiny feet, almost doll-like – I guess I thought everyone’s grandma shopped for shoes in the kid’s section. Visiting with you almost always involved a quick trip to Macy’s, and almost always resulted in a special addition to my wardrobe. Today I sometimes wear that heavy rose colored cardigan you made – the one flecked with gray and big enough to wrap around me like a warm hug from you when I’m freezing cold. My family teases me when I have it on, but I’ll never give it up.

Double Delight beauty
Double Delight rose

We always had to detour to say hi to Father Serra when we rolled into town, even though it was you I couldn’t wait to see. The last time we visited – a few months before you died – you held my boy on your lap in that rose armchair in your kitchen and smiled right into the camera. I’m sure he knows you loved him, even if he can’t remember. Lily was old enough to delight in the hidden treasures of your garden, skipping along the path, exclaiming with glee with each cement bunny or seashell treasure she uncovered. It was fairyland for her. Remember how she stood on tip-toe to smell your roses?

My son loves shortbread, you know. I wish you were here; you’d love feeding his lanky teenage body. You always had something delicious ready when his dad and I were dating; I’ve heard stories about Mom’s boyfriends always wanting to eat at your house, and now I realize why.   I know the shortbread recipe was really grandpa’s secret claim to fame – it was nice of you to let him have that little part of your world. You stacked the flaky, buttery shortbread squares right next to your dainty strawberry jam thumbprints. Oh, the cookies that came out of your kitchen. When we’d sit down for tea there was never a lack of sweets, always hiding in some sort of British tin you pulled out of the pantry. It made me feel like you baked them just for me, but I suspect that, like most everything in your life, you baked them just because you loved to.

Even today, when I walk into Mom’s house, I know you’re there. I can just feel you inside the adobe walls, I can hear your dainty feet pattering around the garden and your twig broom brushing the sand from the bricks, just like she still does today. You’re in the little kitchen when we eat – you know, the gas stove continues to  make it the warmest place in the house. Mom doesn’t make cookies like you did – but don’t worry, I use the shortbread recipe when I want to let my boy know how much he’s loved.

And just last week, right after I turned off the highway and whispered hi to Father Serra, I curled up in that rose colored armchair and thought of you.

This post was inspired by Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes, a memoir of her return to her roots in the South. Join From Left to Write on April 30th as we discuss Under Magnolia. 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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Please, Don’t Go Outside

“…the border between the Inside and the Outside wasn’t as impermeable as she liked to believe,

and he knew that sooner or later, the Outside would want in.”

~from If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

Today I planted tulips and pansies Outside, yanking out the weeds and cutting back debris I’d left since August. It was wet and grey and the grass came out in clumps, snuff-colored soil and worms clinging to the roots. This is optimistic, I think, planning for the spring. Thinking someday it will be pink and purple and white and alive. It’s green and lush right now, but nothing is really growing. It’s a ruse, a fake, it’s just a cover crop.

Sirens pierce through the bird song. I quickly inventory, wondering if you’re Outside. Are they screaming in your direction? They cannot be, they will not be, they are NOT coming for you.

Do you know I check on you every morning, first thing as the coffee brews? Usually your shoulders need covering, and sometimes as I pull the striped duvet over your shoulder, you smile. In that moment, in that smile I see the real you, the child I know will be ready for Outside soon. I pick up a damp towel and a dirty juice glass and click the door shut behind me. Exhale.  You’re Inside, it’s quiet, and we’re safe.

I walk in her room, too. I’m not sure why I do – she’s never there. It’s cold and white and full of a starkness that only happens when someone doesn’t live there anymore. I pull the shades open, sigh and run my hand along her dresser, my fingertips making faint lines in the dust. She’s Outside now, out of my control, where I want her to be and where I want her to leave. But the years are minutes, I scream to the silence.

boy with skateboard

You tell me you want more independence, you want me to trust you. You want to go Outside until after dark. You want to pick up your skateboard and throw your house key in your pocket and skate away with the homemade wax you made in my best stainless steel pan…and I’m supposed to be OK with that. I’m supposed to say yes, go meet your new friends and your new girl and just be careful, I whisper to you as you leave. Be careful, Outside.

This won’t last forever, I remind myself, these moments when life pushes along and I sometimes chase after it. These years that are really moments, these moments that hold my breath and make me pause midway through and wonder if this is the last time…

It’s getting late and I need to think of something to teach tomorrow – Steinbeck, The Pearl, and Kino who thinks all his dreams will come true now that he’s found the Pearl of the World and then the baby dies. He thought he had it all – for a moment. Yes, years are minutes, Kino. Stay Inside.

She calls to tell me she loves her Avalanche class, mentions she’ll be skiing out of bounds this weekend. But don’t worry, Mom, she says. I’m with my group. She’ll click on her skis just like Bryce and Ronnie and please don’t go Outside, I silently scream, please don’t slide down, buried with a smile on your face like they did…

I shower and  slip into my new fleece jammies, soft and fresh from the dryer, and walk down the stairs. You laugh when you see me and tell me that’s a whole lot of leopard. That you read somewhere that women my age shouldn’t be seen Outside in leopard – certainly not head to toe.

But I’m Inside, I reply. I’m safe. No one can see me Inside here.

I hear your key in the door. It’s dusk now, and you’re Inside. Your cheeks are glowing and your eyes sparkle as you explain all about your new tricks, how you’re learning and persistent and you’re better than you were before you broke your leg, better than that August morning I texted you to be safe Outside and you said you would.

But you weren’t.

post_description_If_I_Fall_I_Die_by_Michael_Christie

This post was inspired by the novel If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie,about a boy who’s never been outside, thanks to his mother’s agoraphobia, but ventures outside in order to solve a mystery. Join From Left to Write on January 22nd as we discuss If I Fall, If I Die. 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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