5 Years of Decembers

It’s been five and a half years since I started blogging; five Decembers that I’ve shared my stories with all of you, and 50 Decembers that I’ve been learning life’s lessons.

This December, I decided to look back and see what themes popped up during the final month of the past years, and I was both surprised and reassured when I saw my progression – and devastated that while I followed the thread of motherhood and memories in my posts, I also realized that every year has brought the loss of children.  Stepping back, I see the hopes and joys and sadnesses that parallel our ordinary lives.

I hope you enjoy my favorites from 2011-2015. Maybe you’ll re-read some favorites; perhaps you’ll discover we have more in common than you realized. Above all, may you experience the beauty of living the extraordinary in the ordinary, of loving fiercely and thinking deeply. Happy holidays, and thank you for sharing this journey with me.

2011: A Year Of Feeling Time Shift

Prom Night At Our Place 

“But what prom night really taught me this year is that belonging happens in many different ways.  The girls learned that they don’t need to be joined (literally or figuratively) with a boy to have fun.  The boys realized that if they ask, they have hope.  And now I know that I don’t really need to join anything to be important in my daughter’s life – by being myself she and her friends feel comfortable. Actions speak louder than words.  My house really is the place to be.”

Shifting Gears

“After driving through the mountains in the predawn hours, my son and I pass Donner Lake, and in that moment, as the water and sky met and steam hissed from its surface, I quickly stop the car. My brain pauses and we drink in the tranquility of the water before us. Silently I breathe deeply, wait, and shift back into gear with a new sense of calm.”

When You Wish Upon A Star

“As the sun rises over the mountain tops and the moon and stars fade for another day, once again I am challenged.  It is up to me to make my wish come true – no genie with a magic lantern or fairy godmother is in sight.  My wish remains inside my heart, but my actions I wear on my sleeve for everyone to see.”

Another Day

“Slowly he prepares for the snow, insisting on doing it alone.  His fuzzy brown head disappears beneath a royal blue helmet and goggles, contrasting the lime green and black of his jacket.  We kiss goodbye, my assurance I will be waiting for him when he returns.  It is dawn out, and he gets to have another day.

Yet as I sit by the window watching the sun crest the snow-covered hills, I cry for the mother and child who are apart, who will never feel their arms around each other again, and who cannot brush away each other’s tears.”

 

2012: Reflecting on Memories of Childhood and Tradition

Lily’s Apple Tart

This year, we decided to go simple yet elegant, and adapt a recipe from one of our favorites, Ina Garten.  Her apple tart just seemed like the perfect complement to a heavy dinner: sweet apples, flaky crust, and a tang of apricot jam make this simple dessert one you’ll want to try for any holiday gathering.  So grab your favorite baking partner, crank up the tunes, and have some fun!”

Just A Moment In Time

We stopped, you posed, we snuggled you between our legs, holding you tightly.  Never wanting to let go.  You raised your face to the sky and grinned with rapture. It was just one moment, really.  But I remember every detail.”

Christmas Tree Traditions

“I used to be a freaky mom.  Sixteen years ago, when I had my first child, I thought I could do it all.  Control it all.  Be the perfect parent.  I certainly had seen enough examples of what I considered ‘bad parenting’ – those kinds of adults who would make excuses for their kids, send them to school without their homework, and blame their teachers and the school for everything wrong in the world – plus some.”

47

My kids officially grew taller than me this year… I learned that letting go is growing forward. As I end 47 and open the chapter of 48, I think of all that I’ve experienced:  the children, parenting, family, teaching, education, memories and motherhood that blended themselves together and brought such lessons to me.”

Spending Time In The Snow

“And despite the struggle, the frustrations, and the hours and hours of driving – not to mention the ski race that was canceled, we ended up with a white Christmas after all.  And a whole bunch of memories, too.”

spending time

2013: A Year of Ski Racing and Empty Bedrooms

Morning Ritual of a Ski Racer Mama

“The alabaster snow catches a glint of moonlight out my window…savory bacon and eggs fold into warm flour tortillas with cheese as kids stumble downstairs in ski socks and fleece….boot bags bulge with gear.  Speed suits stretch over strong legs, and heavy parkas with hoods zip up as we push open the door. It’s time. Morning ritual of a ski racer mama.”

It’s A Different Kind of Christmas

“And every time I’ve walked through the door this month, I’ve plugged in the lights and sighed. I just can’t do it. The boxes of ornaments are still stacked in the dining room, unopened. And it’s December 23. This has never happened before. And I can’t blame it on holiday business, too many parties or anything else-except for one thing.”

retro Santa

2014: A Year of Change and Possibilities

Home

“The sun streamed in through her sliding glass door. It was mid-morning, and she already looked like she had never left for college. A wet towel hung over her pink desk chair, and her fuzzy sky-blue bathrobe still lay carelessly tossed on the floor. Her closet doors were flung open, and she rummaged around as she replied, “I don’t know. I didn’t pack much. I’m trying to figure out what to take home.”

My breath caught in my throat. Home?”

home

Birthdays

“I’m open to possibilities in this last-year-before-the-half-century. I’m open to quiet, to listening, to requesting and to hearing the Universe answer with guidance. Zora Neale Hurston wrote in one of my favorite books,Their Eyes Were Watching God, that “there are years that ask questions and years that answer.” I’m not sure what this year will offer me, but I’m ready to receive her whispers.”

birthdays

Two Kinds of Quiet

“There are two kinds of quiet. The kind of quiet when I hear the candles flicker, feel the crumbs drop onto my plate, and the Christmas music plays on and on and on. The kind of quiet that mothers dream of, and the kind they dread, one in the same.”

Interlude

“No, Mom, look.” Again and again his plaid Detroit Tigers sleep pants spun as he raised and lowered his body on one leg. “I’m getting there. I’m balancing, Mom – can’t you see? I haven’t been able to do this since the accident!”

She’s Nineteen, and She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

“I keep thinking that one day, you’ll understand the exquisite pain and pleasure of being a mom, and all my emotional antics will make sense. I hope that one day, when that thrill hits your heart when you see your baby living their life full of happiness and joy, you’ll understand why I have such trouble letting you go.”

me and my girl

In The Holiday Spirit

“Today, as the rain pours down the windowpane and the wind whips the trees around my house into a frenzy, I breathe, and pause, and think of them. I remember their love for each other, and for their families. I call in their spirits as my pen scratches gratitudes into my journal, filling the pages with small moments of the extraordinary ordinariness of my life, feeling their love, grateful for 50 years with their spirits by my side.”

50 years

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

On the Corner of Dream Ave. and Believe St.: Stepping Out Of Our Comfort Zone

“To the degree we’re not living our dreams, our comfort zone has more control over us than we have over ourselves.”

                             ~ Peter McWilliams

comfort zone
From angelvillanueva.com

What is on the other side of change?  How often, when we find ourselves happily cruising down the  road of life, do we stop and think about what’s next? The superstitious among us might not want to jinx a good thing-why think about what might be around the next bend? Why not just keep on chugging forward? Don’t rock the boat? The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, right?

I’m wondering if maybe it actually is.

As Peter McWilliams, author of Do It! Let’s Get Off Our Buts and Life 101: Everything We Wish We Had Learned About Life in School—But Didn’t says, if we really want to live our dreams, perhaps we should think what’s just beyond the horizon or around the corner. Pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone means a momentary loss of control-scary for some of us, exhilarating for others.

Living in our comfort zone is safe.  We know what to expect, and we often feel guaranteed of the outcome.  That is, well, comforting.  Whether it’s the salary we earn from a job we don’t feel passionate about, or a relationship we are used to, a weight we feel is ok, or a dream we think we’ll never achieve, staying put is only a guarantee that the part of life that is comfortable will likely stay the same.

But is that living our dreams? Are we simply designed to be content, with only the renegades among us willing to take a risk?

12 7 iNDONESIA TRIP 110Last summer, I traveled to Indonesia-a place I never considered as part of my life travel itinerary. That experience propelled me to take dozens of risks, including getting incredibly cozy with a Komodo dragon. I remember the palpitation of my heart, the baby steps I took, first touching the back, the tail, and them finally getting close enough to his face to brush my lips to his scales.  Recently, the Jakarta Globe’s story of a Komodo attack that left two people in the hospital prompted discussion among our travel group: were we courageous, or simply stupid?  I say, courageous.

I think of the pioneer women who traveled across the west without any clue of what lay before them. They stuffed their wagons full of all the comforts of life, sure that their china, linens, furniture and even their beloved piano would not only safely make the trip, but also provide the much desired civilization they left behind.  Leaving their comfort zone often meant following their husband’s dreams, not their own. But they went anyway, knowing they might never go back. I’m sure komodo dragons weren’t on their worry radar, but undoubtedly the fear of the unknown, the fear for their children, and their second guessing of their decision as they huddled over a campfire for the hundredth time must have seriously tested their strength.

The curveballs life throws today’s women is similar.  Many of us follow expected gender roles, marry, have children, and put our careers second to raising the family.  Others forgo the traditional route, choosing instead to follow their dream job at the expense of what our mother’s generation could barely fathom.  Still other women try to balance both, exhausting themselves between juggling babies, bosses and never feeling wholly present in both worlds. Like the pioneer women, we ruminate over our choices, wondering if we’re on the right path.

Stepping out of our comfort zone, regardless of our social, marital or work status, requires a leap of faith; sure that our future can be more than this, that our life is ours to create.  It requires courage, determination, and often, a bit of impracticality.  Taking calculated risks that push us towards our boundaries, to find out what is on the other side of change, is scary.  Like a rocket shooting off into the darkness of the universe, sometimes we must trust that the plans have been laid, but the process might bow,flex and bend us into places we least expected to land.

Power-shift
Power-shift (Photo credit: Brett Jordan)

With all our feminist advances, women today have no guidebook to navigate motherhood, marriage and the myriad of opportunities in front of us. I say that’s a good thing.

Consider that your comfort zone is perfect for where you’ve been and where you are right now. Consider going at your own pace, placing opportunities in front of you like a master chess player, sometimes hoping that the risky move won’t be noticed by the opponent and will propel you to the win.  Prepare for the setback, the capture, and the ultimate possibility that the grass really is greener on the other side. Think of the words author Neale Donald Walsch wrote, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Where do you want your life to begin tomorrow?

What are you waiting for? Where do you want to go in life? What have you got to lose?

Take that leap.  Step outside yourself. Take control of your dreams. Experience a little discomfort-it means that life is happening.

Let me know what changes.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Unlocking Her Personal Code For College

13 1 Lily lake

It’s February….the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping, and…the mailbox is overflowing with college recruitment letters?

Her weeks are spent in a juggling act between school, skiing, and a social life.  Training on snow four days a week requires discipline and dedication, not to mention time management.  Student first, athlete next.Wait – how can this be? She’s only a junior! She doesn’t even know what she wants to be when she grows up!

13 2 L and Dilara

I’m proud of her.

It wouldn’t be so bad if they were letters actually recruiting her-offering her money, I mean. These full-color mailers are an advertiser’s best effort to capture everything good about their college-and to make it personal.She’s working towards her future, but the mail is getting ridiculous.

She took the SAT in October, and now we’re inundated with offers from the east coast, the mid west, the northwest, and even some more ‘local’ California schools. All the flyers boast offers of a ‘personal code’ that is sure to provide prospective students with the persuasive elements to convince them that this school is the one.  Even when the prospective student has no clue?She’s our oldest, so this is all new territory for us.  I’m a teacher-I know all about admissions: test scores, application essays, and a-g requirements. Last fall we enrolled her in an SAT prep class-that’s something we never did back when I was in high school. Twice a week she went to an SAT tutor who helped her with test preparation, study skills-you name it.  Kind of like the endless other self-help type of classes designed to get kids ready for life after graduation. Our plan was to have her take the SAT first before ski season, then again afterwards.

I remember feeling that way.  I was more focused on completing high school than enrolling in college; I simply couldn’t see that far into my future.  It took me a few years, a few failures, quite a few part-time jobs, and changing majors multiple times.  How can a seventeen-year-old possibly know what they want to do with their life?

IMG_3199

Sadly, the college stakes are much higher now. Kids need to have a plan. They need to have a strategy. It’s not enough to just muddle your way through high school and expect that there will be a multitude of colleges opening their doors to you.

Right now, all I can do is encourage her.  Make good choices. Study hard. Think about what you like, what you’re curious about, what gets you excited about getting up in the morning.  I’m pretty sure that’s how I chose my college and my ultimate major, English.I wish I knew what to say to her. I wish I knew how to help her see all the options she has in life. I don’t want to be the mom that plans out her kids’ lives by filling out their college applications and holding their hand until….that’s the problem. It never ends.

I can do all that, and keep a box with all the personal codes that may help her unlock her future.  Once she gets off the snow, of course.

.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Take a Walk With Me…The World Is Holy

“The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy.

Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.”

~ Terry Tempest Williams

Take a walk with me.

When I need to be alone, this is where I head.

IMG_3522

When I need to remember to look closely.

IMG_3525  IMG_3518

When I need to hear prayers whispered to me,

IMG_3527  IMG_3538

and see the color, witness the adaptability and the tenderness of the world outside myself.

    IMG_3537  IMG_3531

When I need to be reminded that life is a study in contrast.

IMG_3517

and that we are merely the recipients of her beauty.

The world is holy.

We are holy.

All life is holy.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Julia Child Started It All: My Cooking Show Obsession

julia cooking

My name is Jennifer Wolfe, and I love cooking shows.

It all started when I was a kid-it’s my mom’s fault, you see.  Along with Sesame Street and the Dinah Shore Show, I remember watching Julia Child at a very young age. I was fascinated with how she could entertain and create food right there on the screen, and my mom could copy whatever she made.  It was magic.

Once I moved out of the house and into my own apartment, my cooking wasn’t so much magic as it was a mess.  I tried to duplicate my mom’s recipes, but usually I either ended up crumpled in tears or fanning black smoke from the kitchen. I think one of the reasons I agreed to marry my husband was the way he handled my first attempt at making spaghetti sauce from scratch, and ate every charred chunk of meat without complaining.

My little black and white TV became my companion as I discovered Yan Can Cook and the Frugal Gourmet...every Saturday morning I would do my house cleaning, study a bit, and then fill my Berkeley apartment with the glorious images of their culinary creations.  I bought their cookbooks and began to actually be a decent cook myself.the-frugal-gourmet-cooks-italian-31087l1

When my kids were little, Martha Stewart was all the rage; somehow I thought that watching repeats of her show at 3 am when nursing my firstborn was a good idea.  When I realized that I could not work full time, parent my children and keep my house moderately clean, let alone come up with marshmallows from scratch and decorate for every season, I clicked her off.

Then, along came Food Network.  My dreams had been answered; whatever I wanted to cook, at any time of day or night, was there at the click of the remote.  Guy Fieri took me to affordable diners, Giada tempted me with her laid back California cuisine, Barefoot Contessa reminded me to minimize my butter intake, and The Next Food Network Star was perfect family reality TV entertainment. Cooking is cool again.

Over the years I’ve tried endless TV chef’s recipes, and created a binder system to store favorite recipes.  I keep a healthy Pinterest account with recipes to try, and have even checked out a Meal Planning Template that helps to plan and purchase food for a week’s worth of recipes.  Currently, I keep a white board on the kitchen wall with menu options for the week, and the kids help me choose what to eat each night. Not super high tech, but it works.

Right now, I’ve got to get downstairs and get cooking.  Watching Paula Deen today made us crave watermelon and angel food cake…and Pioneer Woman’s Fancy Mac n Cheese!

What’s your favorite cooking show? How did you learn to cook?

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp