Determined To Do Less

This year, I am determined to be more unproductive. My goal is to do less and less – to move slower and slower until everything stops. I and the whole world will come to a sweet and silent stillness. And in this stillness, a great shout of joy will arise. We will all be free – free from the advice of ancient ages, free from the whining voices, free from the incessant objections of the responsible ones.

In this new world, it will be abundantly clear that the bare branches of the winter trees are our teachers. In their daily dance of moving here and there, we will see once again the true meaning of our life. In the wind song of their being, we will hear God’s unmistakable voice. We will follow what appears before us – what had once been difficult will now unfold with ease.

~ Hakuin Ekaku

 

I love this idea from Hakuin Ekaku of being determined to do less to do more. Being me, I’m on an endless quest for stimulation – my mind spins and cycles to the point where some days I feel like a pinball being batted around and never making it into the jackpot slot.

I cherish my still moments, my quiet times to center and breathe and just be. I know that it is precisely in those moments – usually early, before dawn, lit by candlelight and fueled by coffee, that I do my best thinking and find my best self. In these months of darkness and retreat, gazing out at the starkness of my backyard trees, watching the winter birds feast on seed and flit from bare branch to branch, I’m reminded that now is the time to think deeply, to listen, and not to miss the great joys that are right here, right now, in my life.

I’m determined to do less. What are you determined to do this year?

I found this poem on one of my favorite inspirational websites, First Sip.

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 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

 

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 Favorite Moments of 2015-A Year In Photos

I love the new year. Not because I’m a big one on resolutions (I’m definitely anti-declaration in that way). And not because I like to whoop it up on New Year’s Eve (I don’t – I was in bed by 10 p.m.). And I love photos – not because I’m any sort of skilled photographer, but because I love the moments they capture.

And certainly not because I love endings and change and the unknown (not.not.not.).

But I do love the new year because I adore reflecting on memories. I love stories. I’m sentimental that way.

I’m a huge creator of photo albums and memory boxes – at least, I used to be, before I got a digital camera.

Now my photos are stored all over the place – my phone, my computer, the cloud, Google Drive – and I need to do a serious project to get them organized.

Wow – that sounds almost like a resolution. *shudder*

To start, I searched up each month of photos that I could, and want to share my favorites here. Not because they’re terribly technically good photos, but because, for me, they tell a story of 2015: what happened, where I went, and who I loved.

And that will have to do for now.

JANUARY 2015

no cast

This was in the orthopedist’s office – it was the first time C had seen his leg outside of his cast since he broke it on the ski course. I love the look on his face and the fact that he wore his “Bomber” shirt that day – sigh.

FEBRUARY 2015

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While most days I dislike the fact that my daughter moved to Utah to go to college, when her photographer boyfriend sends me these shots, I can’t help but smile. Can you see her face? She’s loving life. What more can I ask for?

MARCH 2015

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I love the blurriness of this shot-it’s so representative of how life was (is?) feeling in this moment. I love that C is on his skateboard after months of being in a cast (wait -really?). I love that he hasn’t lost his confidence and that our dog follows him everywhere. A boy and his dog. And his skateboard. *sigh*

APRIL 2015

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Being a part of Listen To Your Mother seemed like an elusive writing goal – although motherhood tips the topic list of my blog, it took a huge leap of faith for me to actually submit my writing. My smile represents my joy at being chosen, at doing something that made me nervous, and the accomplishment I felt when I was done. And this photo also reminds me how short I am.

MAY 2015

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My girl and her dog along the trail at Five Lakes. It’s near Alpine Meadows, where we spend the winters skiing. If I was in this photo, my smile would fill the frame – this was the first time I’d seen L since Christmas, and I couldn’t get enough of her. This adventure, hiking with her and her boyfriend and our pup, was one of those perfect moments that I appreciate so much more now that she doesn’t live with me anymore.

JUNE 2015

selfie free summer

A day trip to Point Reyes, CA, was one of the first things we did when L came home (briefly) in June before she left to work in Oregon for the summer. My boy was still not 100% on his now-healed leg, and yet he made it down to the coast with his camera. Can you feel my heart bursting here? I assure you, it was.

JULY 2015

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NYC subway with one of my oldest girlfriends taking the snap. I’d never been there, never ridden the hot, steamy, sweaty, crowded subway, so I insisted she capture the moment. I’d just finished attending BlogHer16 (awesome) and was spending my last few days seeing the sights. I may not look like I’m 18 years old in this image, but I sure felt like it.

AUGUST 2015

Utah hiking

I can’t remember the name of this lake in Utah but I do remember the moment. C and I had driven L back to school and she and her boyfriend took us up into the mountains of Alta where they ski during the winter. I was pretty happy I kept up with the youngsters (elevation and all), but mostly, I felt the joy a mother feels when her babies are by her side, happy and healthy and loving life. I’m not sharing the photos I took the next day when I left her there and had to drive home…

SEPTEMBER 2015

sixteen

My boy turned 16. What I love about this photo is how much he’s changed, yet how he’s stayed the same. He didn’t want a ‘sweet 16’ party like my girl did, so I dug out an old cake photo to contrast with where he is today – the fact that his broken leg healed, he was able to skim board in Carmel and is growing into such a determined, kind human….I’m a proud mamawolfe.

OCTOBER 2015

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An Instagram screen shot of L and her boyfriend hiking in Utah. What mom wouldn’t be proud to see her daughter in love like this?

NOVEMBER 2015

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Even though I turned 50 in December, and even though I did NOT want a party, my mom did it anyways. The day after Thanksgiving, before L went back to college, and when my extended family was still in town, we celebrated. And I’m glad. I chose this photo because it is a rare moment when I am in a shot with both of my parents – they divorced when I was a teen and are rarely seen together. I love this because it reminds me what parents will do for their children and that I’m getting old. Older, but better. Definitely better.

DECEMBER 2015

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I love the holidays, but they overwhelm me. Too much going on, too many people, and I’m usually exhausted from teaching during those crazy December days leading up to the break. But here, on Christmas Eve at my dad’s house, this photo made it all worthwhile. My babies. My boy (with a concussion 🙁 – can you see his hospital bracelet?) and my girl, my best life’s work. What makes me mamawolfe.

Here’s to 2016, a year for more photos, more adventures, and more writing about thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. A year for trusting the journey.

That’s one resolution I can keep.

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, December 2013

December….always a month full of contradictions for me. Try as I might to keep it simple, stay centered and enjoy the moment, I must admit that it often pushes me to my limits. There are still a few things that I loved this December; I hope you enjoy them, too.

Best View:

Moonscape in CA

As much time as I spend outdoors, I struggle to capture the perfect sunrise, sunset or moonscape. This month I focused on looking up, literally a and figuratively. I love this image that I captured one night as I was walking home from a late work meeting. It was definitely the best part of my day!

Best Recipes:

Baking DOES reduce stress!

My daughter was on a baking frenzy this month…it went far beyond her ritual Wednesday afternoon baking sessions, and morphed into marathons of molasses cookies during finals week, intricately decorated sugar cookies, Mexican Wedding Cakes, loads and loads of peppermint bark, peanut butter balls, and delicious cream cheese frosted Candy Cane Kisses bars. I managed to squeeze in a new recipe for Saltine Toffee…I know, I thought it was weird too until I tried it!

Candy Cane Kisses Bars
Candy Cane Kisses Bars

Best Book:

Sad to say, I didn’t finish a book in its entirety this month. I’ve started several, and am in the midst of six…I’m currently enjoying Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin . She’s the writer who published The Happiness Project, and with this book she’s looking at how to “kiss more, jump more, abandon self-control, and other experiments in everyday life.” The chapters are organized by month, and cover topics like ‘Possessions’,Marriage”, “Parenthood”, and “Family”. I’ll let you know what I think when I finally finish it!

Best Blog Reads:

“The Map”, was written by my friend and neighbor Beth, who writes with such honesty about the journey of parenthood. Please do yourself a favor and click over to her blog, “Grace in the Ordinary”. http://grace-in-the-ordinary.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-map.html.

The holiday season brings out all sorts of emotions. This year, I experienced my version of the blues, but when I read “Some Times”, by Progressive Parent, I couldn’t help the tears for all that she’s going through dealing with the loss of her child. Just feel her grief…http://theprogressiveparent.org/2013/12/14/some-times/.

Best Moment:

Candlelight Christmas Eve

This month was full of elation and a bit of despair, change and (modified) tradition. I tried to hold it all together, keeping Christmas as it always has been, but finally gave in and realized we’d just be having a different kind of Christmas. One of my best moments came on Christmas Eve, as we breathlessly scurried (late) into the pew of our church, just in time for the candlelight service. I cherish the moments when I can wrap myself between my children, breathe down to my core, and feel a complete sense of peace and security. Turns out, it’s one of my kids’ favorite moments of Christmas, too.

Best Quotes:

Looking back at the quotes I save each month, I always get a surprising sense of cohesion-even when my month has felt less than connected. For me, December was about change, reflection, quiet, emotion and reaching out…

“Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.”
~Sydney J. Harris

“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
~Anais Nin

“I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world.”

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Best Photo:

This photo just squeaked in at the last minute, lovingly posted by my ‘little’ sister post-Christmas. I love the reminder that there were days when we didn’t mind looking alike – of course, this is long before my mother lifted the ban on us wearing all-black! Thanks, sis.

Christmas throwback, 1970s-style

Thanks for sharing My Best December, 2013. I hope your month concludes on a peaceful note, and I look forward to an amazing adventure with you in 2014!

~Jennifer

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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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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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