My “Do Something That Makes You Happy Today” List

I’m a HUGE list maker. I’m a planner. I come by it naturally – teaching forces me to know what’s going to happen (or at least have some sort of starting idea) every minute from 8:00 to 3:15. My days operate with lesson plans and bells, and I even can tell you what time I can take a bathroom break and when I can eat my lunch. Down to the minute.

Writing lists makes me happy.

It’s normal that this sort of planning would trickle over into my non-teaching life, right? Some call it a curse.

I have lists for this week, and then a specific plan for today. I write down what I need to do, what I want to do, and what I dream about doing. I have lists for the month, lists for the summer (usually full of big projects that I don’t have time to do during the school year, like painting the living room or sorting out photos on the computer), and lists for the different stores I like to shop. I have lists for cards to send, gifts to buy, and places I want to travel.

I’m sorry – does this sound overwhelming to you? Honestly, I don’t think I could function without a list.

This day definitely made my happy list.
This day definitely made my happy list.

In 2016, I’m adding one more list: a “What will make me happy today” list.

I was inspired by a meme on Facebook that read, “Make a list of things that make you happy. Make a list of things you do every day. Compare the lists. Adjust accordingly.”

Wow-  so simple, right? It made me stop and think. How many ‘happy’ things do I do every day? And why didn’t I think of this?

I had no idea that ‘happy lists’ were a THING. Wow – all the images and memes and ‘happy groups’ out there! I love it when Facebook teaches me something.

I realized that in the midst of all this listing, this recording and crossing off and getting-it-done, I was forgetting a key component.

Yes, I love the feeling of checking “it” off – that swell of joy at finally completing a long-overdue task, of not forgetting an important date or bringing something somewhere that I need to be.

But despite the momentary joyfulness, I noticed was a crucial missing piece: ME. I was missing from my own ‘to-do’ list.

I’m 50 now. Not that much has changed, really. I’m still mothering and teaching and partnering. I’m still me. Some shifting has happened – one of my kids is living in another state, quite successfully. I have one more at home for three years, and then it’s just me and my husband (imagine the kind of lists I can have then!).

Another happy list day - my 50th birthday celebration.
Another happy list day – my 50th birthday celebration.

I’ve decided that while I’m busy teaching and mothering and being a partner, I need to remember to do more of what makes me happy, every day. So simple, isn’t it?

But I need to not just say I’m going to do it – I need to write it down.

So every day, after I’ve written my morning pages, I’m adding a “What will make me happy today” list in my journal. It’s quite easy, and often it’s the same thing every day: 1. find time to read and write 2. spend time with C 3. take a walk and notice something 4. make something delicious to eat for my family

Writing it down, though, makes a difference. It says to me REMEMBER to do this. Take the time to squeeze in a few minutes of doing what makes you happy today. It says, “You’re important.”

I can check something off my happy list now – writing a blog post is definitely at the top.

What can you write on your happy list today? I’d love to know what’s on the top (or middle or bottom) of your list.

Do it. Now. You’re important, you know.

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 Happens When You Focus On Your Words?

It was a normal Thursday afternoon. I pulled my red Prius into the garage after a long day at school, ready for the weekend. Our car ride chatter was nothing short of normal – with my teenage son, I’ve learned that some days are talking days, and some are best to be left quiet – and that words matter. Today we talked about the day, his classes, homework, and what he needed to do that night. As the radio clicked off and he swung his long legs onto the garage concrete, I heard him whisper, “Whoa, deja vu.”

“Whispers from your former life, bud,” I commented as I pulled my bulging bag of papers out of the back seat.

“No-not a former life, Mom. This has happened before. It’s the same thing,” he snapped back. Guess he’s not ready to  believe in past lives just yet.

“Seriously, Cam. When we have deja vu it’s you repeating what you’ve experienced in another time. It’s part of the Universe,” I patiently tried to persuade him.

“No, it’s not. I’ve done this before. In this life,” he shot back as the door closed behind him.

And we were done.

I’ve noticed that conversations with him require intense concentration. They are short, deliberate and to the point – or they’re not. Sometimes they’re full of hidden meaning, of twists of language, or simply a game of trying to appease my questions and get me out of the room.

As a writer and his parent, this does not satisfy my quest for stories, to use language to share emotions, to delve into the insides of his brain, or even to recount how he made his chicken/pasta concoction taste like something from a Food Network chef.

But it does start me thinking about words, and what happens when we focus on what we’re saying. In my classroom, I’m forever telling my 8th graders that English class is to learn to communicate – to use written and spoken language to understand each other, to share history, to create an understanding of the human experience.

I want my students AND my children to feel the urgency to use words to learn and move forward with the magic of life, and to always remember where we came from.

For writers, the written language is our sustenance. Moving pen on paper or fingers on a keyboard brings vigor to our veins and joy to our world. Writers teeter between words gushing out and over and tumbling down our bones as a waterfall carries the current, debris tossed in with beauty. We then sort and shift and question every single word, each letter becoming part of a canvas for our emotions and thoughts and stories. We can squeeze out language in the most excruciating fashion, hovering for days to capture that precise moment stuck in our minds and begging release into the world.

This consciousness of language, of purposefully and deliberately thinking about the words we put into the world, becomes at times both painful and pleasurable. Head down, we squint to see a story take shape, to illuminate the shadows of our world with words chosen with calculating concentration. We seek to be understood, to create community with our words, searching for the beautiful connection that comes when the reader pauses, looks up to wipe a tear or breaks into giggles. And we struggle with the pang of unkind comments, misunderstood intentions, and careless words flung thoughtlessly into the universe.

Writers know how much easier it would be to dismiss our thoughts, to brush them off and become part of the unconscious masses who struggle to put together 140 coherent characters. We understand the ease of dashing off an idea, pushing submit and walking away, and yet we continue to push through the pain of process. Why? To nourish our souls, to spread joy and understanding and passion and consciousness and hope that someday, in that deja vu moment, someone will call forth an experience and smile, reach out their hand, and make the world just a touch more beautiful.

That’s what happens when we focus on our words. We compose a wholehearted life. We create the kind of world we want to live in, for now and forever.

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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Finding My Muse: Searching In Tahoe Snow and Pine Trees

Along the way via mamawolfeto2
Along the way via mamawolfeto2

I set out to find my muse today. Long dormant under piles of paper, loads of laundry and unwashed dishes, her elusiveness is starting to wear me down. Like the moment when you realize your body doesn’t react they way it did twenty years ago, panic begins to take over. Perhaps she’ll never return? Is there something I’m doing wrong? Maybe it’s just not meant to be this way.

Certain she won’t be found within the four pine paneled walls of the cabin, I zip up my vest, grab a camera and head out. The perimeter of the lake is blessedly free of snow, and as I walk I feel the rhythm return. The roads are quiet, the birds have returned, and the sun hovers before dusk. I can breathe deeply, matching the pace of my boots along the pine cone and broken branch strewn path with the breath in my lungs.

Snow art via mamawolfeto2
Snow art via mamawolfeto2

To my right I see the sun glistening through the pines, casting sparkles on what remains of the winter snowpack. It’s fading fast around here; trickles of run-off moisten the path beneath my feet. It’s funny how nature creates such unintended art. I’m fascinated by the randomness of it all; some places deep with ice, others down to the bare earth that will remain until next fall.

Something tells me not to go in my usual direction; she’s not there. I turn left instead of right, past the sign declaring to all that this is not a through road. There is no outlet. Stubborn, I continue.

Love via mamawolfeto2
Love via mamawolfeto2

Someone has created a bench out of cast off logs. Sitting on the edge of the meadow, I imagine returning next month. I suppose I’ll find mule ears just beginning to poke through the muddy dirt. I notice nature’s destruction next to me-it looks like love in my eyes.

The wind whistles through the pines, calling to me. I stop, intent on hearing her words. What does she want me to know? Stop teasing me…I’ve been waiting too long for this.

Pine tree
Pine tree (Photo credit: GaggieITMI)

Making my way to the end of the road, forced to turn around and retreat, I heard it. The whispers again. This has got to be it. The perfect place. Stopping to listen, wait, and absorb her message. In the trees, on the earth, all appears as it should be. Tangled branches push through, waiting for the moment to leaf out. Dusty brown leftovers of something long ago bloomed bend in awkward posture from the weight of the snow. Lime green spikes of grass poke up, the afternoon sun bringing them back to life.

Crossing the road towards home, I continue to see signs of life amongst the schizophrenic ground. Strength shows in the patches of sunlight. It’s there somewhere. I see it. I hear it.

I know it.

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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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Walk With Me: Happiness in the Moment

“Be happy for this moment.

This moment is your life.”

~ Omar Khayyam

My son and I took a walk to the local Farmer’s Market last weekend. The sun was out, and finding ourselves on a rare non-skiing weekend, we headed the few blocks north to see what we could see.  Along the way, canvas bag slung over my shoulder, camera in hand, and my son by my side, I savored the moment: pure happiness.

Take a walk with me. Share in my happy moment.

along the path  IMG_3544

loaves of bread IMG_3547 IMG_3548 IMG_3549beets peas cabbage

IMG_3554 IMG_3555 IMG_3556 IMG_3557  shadows

                  Sometimes it’s the smallest moments that make the largest impact.  Look closely where you are. Find pleasure.

Remember, be happy for this moment – this moment is your life.

Where will you find your next moments of happiness 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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