lily

Lily, The Perfect Prayer

The Lily

Night after night
darkness
enters the face
of the lily
which, lightly,
closes its five walls
around itself,
and its purse
of honey,
and its fragrance,
and is content
to stand there
in the garden,
not quite sleeping,
and, maybe,
saying in lily language
some small words
we can’t hear
even when there is no wind
anywhere,
its lips
are so secret,
its tongue
is so hidden –
or, maybe,
it says nothing at all
but just stands there
with the patience
of vegetables
and saints
until the whole earth has turned around
and the silver moon
becomes the golden sun –
as the lily absolutely knew it would,
which is itself, isn’t it,
the perfect prayer?

~ Mary Oliverthe lily

Oh, how I love Mary Oliver and her tremendous ability to weave language and nature and wisdom into a braid of enlightenment.

Her poetry always appears when I need it, whispering to me to pay attention – to be here, now.

Mary Oliver makes me think – makes me work for it. I slide her words around my mouth, swallowing bit after bit of understanding until suddenly, it makes perfect sense.

The ‘patience of vegetables and saints’ – yes, yes, yes.

The perfect prayer.

The realization that I, too, can “lightly” close myself, wind up my thoughts and pain and joy inside and just be content to be here, now, with them, whispering solitary prayers for peace and hope and grace and courage… and patience. Breath. Calm.

And the deep, deep knowing that all will be well.

The blooms spring up overnight, gracing me with their glory, their fragility, and their contentment to just be, to grow, to bloom “until the whole earth has turned around and the silver moon becomes the golden sun.”

One day at a time.

One prayer at a time.

Thank you, Mary Oliver.

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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2015: A Year of Courage

courage-does-not-always-roar-sometimes-courage-is-the-quiet-voice-at-the-day-courage-quote

My word for 2015 was courage – courage because I knew that coming off the significant changes in my life from 2014, I would need fearlessness to remember that when one door closes, another door opens.

I would need courage to really look at myself in the year before I turned 50, hoping to find some place to simultaneously settle into life as it is, while keeping an open heart and mind for new opportunities.

Courage opened my eyes to parts of my life, right here, right now, that I wanted to pour energy into, and parts that I wanted to shut down. Courage helped me to look at relationships, to identify friendships that were worth investing in, and to feel confident that putting family first was the right choice. 2015 helped me to examine my teaching, my commitment to my career, and most of all, to have the bravery needed to put up strong boundaries to create the life I want to live. And it took a bit of courage to admit that when I turned 50 in early December, I was officially ‘middle-aged’.

emerson courage

It surfaced in my writing, too. Courage allowed me to blog on my own schedule, to share with you, my readers, parts of my life that I was trying to decode, to comprehend, to adapt to. Today I’d love to share some of my favorite posts from last year, most of which reflected on this theme. I’m still thinking of my word for 2016; as many of my readers know, I’d rather focus on the broad expanse a word allows than to create a list of resolutions that somehow never seem to manifest.

Thank you all for reading and commenting and supporting my blog in 2015. I look forward to a prolific year in 2016, and to grow our mamawolfe community of lovers of thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously.

maya-angelou-quotes-courage

My top posts of 2015:

Letter To My College-Bound Daughter

5 Things You Probably Don’t Know Teachers Are Thinking

What Teachers Really Want For Teacher Appreciation Week

3 Fun And Easy Ways To Encourage Your Child To Write

Flipped Learning Using Edmodo

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

A Letter To Parents Leaving Their Kids At College

Finding The Teacher Mom Balance

Into The Fog: The Sweetheart Murders

A Year of Accidental Life Lessons

with-courage-dare-take-risks-mark-twain-quotes-sayings-pictures

My favorite posts about courage in 2015:

No New Year’s Resolutions: Just Courage

Being Normal

Love Makes Your Soul Crawl Out

It’s The Last Day of School – So Why Aren’t My Students Leaving?

Living In Courage: Three Vignettes Vlog

 

What are your reflections on 2015? Which were your favorite mamawolfe posts? Happy new year, to each of you, and thank you for being a part of my world.

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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Toasts: The Perfect Words to Celebrate Every Occasion

That time of year is sneaking up on us again…when we are drowning in celebrations and occasions and oozing with smiles and happiness. A time when introverts like me hardly know what to do with ourselves, let alone what to say when we’re put on the spot. The right words usually come to me at the wrong time – about sixty seconds AFTER the fact!

Help is here! No longer will you be sweating the public speaking, or kicking yourself for thinking of that witty one-liner just a little too late.  The recently published book, Toasts: The Perfect Words to Celebrate Every Occasion by June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling answers every anxiety ridden thought you might have about what to say, when to say it, and how to walk away feeling like you nailed it.

Toasts Toasts was a long time coming; author June Cotner worked on the compilation of quotes and sayings for nearly a decade before connecting with writer Nancy Tupper Ling. Together they compiled words for every occasion – a peek inside offers everything from a guide to toasting (remember to introduce yourself), etiquette basics (thank the host, make eye contact, go out strong), and a plethora of delicious words for any occasion. 

As a verified ‘word nerd’, I’ve long kept journals of my own ideas, as well as of poetry, quotes, and other assorted lists of things I know I’ll never remember. One aspect of Toasts that I particularly like is the ability to use lines from a variety of well-known and yet-to-be known writers even when I’m not standing in front of a crowd. For example, in the “Birthdays” chapter, I might use an adaptation from William Butler Yeats, “In every succeeding year, may you sing more than you weep” when writing about my children growing up. Found in the “Charity” chapter, Thomas L. Reid’s quote, “May we realize that the best exercise for our hear is bending down and lifting up others” is perfect for my stories of working in Nicaragua. And in “Pets”, George Eliot’s words connect completely with writing about my dog, Cola: “Animals are such agreeable friends-they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.”

Toasts has something for all the common toasting occasions: for school or camp reunions (is your high school 30th creeping up on you?), to guests and hosts, and high school and college graduations (“You’ve earned your degree, You’ve made the grade, Success will be yours, once your loans are paid” – ugh, does that hit home!). Family reunions (we have a big one in August-and this year, I’ll be ready!), weddings, and memorials each fill a chapter, too. But Toasts also offers some surprises: four chapters devoted to children, children’s blessings (“May you be blessed by your dreams, and the courage to chase them” – ooh, I’m writing that one down!), children’s graces and children’s toasts (those would have come in handy about 20 years ago when I was surrounded by pregnant friends!), homecoming (yes-my college student should make an appearance in June!), patriotic toasts (Grand ‘ole flag party?), and 16 different holidays (May your neighbors respect you, trouble neglect you, the angels protect you, and heaven accept you – gotta love the Irish!).

Whether you’re an anxious first time toaster, a seasoned speaker who needs new material, or an introverted writer searching for inspiration, Toasts: The Perfect Words to Celebrate Every Occasion, is the perfect compilation for you. Perfect words to celebrate life, love, and the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Toasts: The Perfect Words to Celebrate Every Occasion for review purposes. These 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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Broken

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~Ernest Hemingway

“Hi, Jennifer. This is Coach Karen. How are you?”

I knew when I heard her voice that this was not the call I wanted to receive. It was 9:00 on a beautiful Sunday morning, and I had just pedaled my bike into my driveway. We were celebrating that warm, sunny morning – an early breakfast out followed by a ride around the duck ponds, just chatting and excited about the day. Our girl was returning home after a summer away working in Oregon, and we were counting down the minutes until we would drive to the airport. I had a morning’s worth of preparation before our ‘empty nest’ would start to fill again.

It was that kind of morning when it was hard to feel anything but happy.

“I’m fine…how are you?”

This felt strange – I had never spoken to Karen before. I’d never even met her – we only knew her as the new coach.

“Well, I’m afraid Cameron has had an accident. He’s loading into the toboggan now. We’ll let you know more once we get to ski patrol, but we think his leg is broken.”

I sank to the stability of the black metal porch chair. No. Wait. What?

“Did he hit his head? Is he conscious?” My mind was racing to the worst possible scenario. I’m good at that.

“He’s awake. It’s just his leg. They’re taking him down now, but…they wouldn’t have said that if they didn’t think it was broken. I’m sorry. I’ll keep in touch.”

It was the phone call no mom wants to get – the call that says your baby is hurting, your baby needs you, and you’re 600 miles away.

I’m one of those moms who goes to every game, every race, every meet. I could count on one hand how many times I’ve missed a competition. I’ve dug my nails into my skin when there have been falls and crashes, and whispered quiet thanks whenever they’ve gotten up and back on course.

This time, I wasn’t there. As my stomach began to clench, tears began to flow. Then I sprang into action.

I’ve been struggling to write about this for weeks, which is strange to me – writing is my meditation, my coping mechanism, my way of digging through this life and coming out the other end. Somehow, the words churned in my mind but couldn’t find their way to the paper; instead, they remained trapped inside, almost as if writing them would make them real. As if I just kept them in the safety of my mind, they would transform into a bad dream. I would wake up, rewind back to our bike ride and our conversation about the future…I could pick up my Sunday to-do list, change the sheets, buy the groceries, bake her favorite pumpkin scones and head to the airport full of joy at seeing my girl and spending her last ten days together before she left for college.

Instead, time stopped. His body was broken. Broken badly.

broken tibia at Mt. Hood

The days passed in a whirl of plane flights, painful drives and hovering over my son as I hadn’t since he was born. I had surrendered, placing him in another mother’s care until I could reach his side. My gratitude was endless, my heartache terminal. I had entered a parenting sphere which tilted me on my axis, tossing me in a sea of emotion. Every part of me wanted to suck up his pain, to make it my own. To fix his broken leg and mend his broken dreams.

But all I could do was look at what was right in front of me – a boy, my son, in pain and in need of care. In survival mode, I was unable to look past the next hour, the end of the day. This broken leg had simultaneously broken long-held dreams, had cracked the future just big enough to keep me from wasting one second on it. When tears welled up I called for gratitudes – three, right now. It became our ‘thing’. It became our way of making that moment ok. My fourteen year old, once so gloriously independent, had been reduced to asking me for nearly everything. Humbling, to say the least – for both of us.

Humbling, in that the very struggle I find myself chasing every day had now been taken away – another struggle in its place, but for these moments, I was present. My boy, me, and the gift of time together. A broken leg had shattered dreams and shuttered any thoughts beyond right now.

As the weeks have passed, we’ve returned to a ‘new normal’. My girl got to college, I made it back to school, and Cam passed the first hurdle and replaced his full leg cast with a short one. Our days are filled with lesson plans, laundry, walking the dog, homework and dishes, and our nights are peaceful. We’ve learned how to navigate these new moments, and find joy in the smallest of blessings – a pain free day, ‘walking’ on a cast, and watching movies side by side.

first day of school, on crutches

And in the mysterious way that the Universe has of giving me just what I need, just when I need it, the talented writer/mom Katrina Kenison posted on her blog. Turns out, her summer has been ‘broken’ too. As I read her words, I finally found my own. She writes,

Even so, finding meaning in a situation that seems utterly meaningless, random, and unfair is hard, slow work. The “new normal” keeps changing. It’s human nature to want answers and plans and promises. And instead we have only the present moment, mystery, and hope. (Of course, we’re kidding ourselves if we think any life is predictable, any outcome assured, any promise a guarantee.) But slowly, bit by bit, the incomprehensible becomes more manageable.”

Right now, answers and plans and promises are for another day. Right now, right this moment, as he sits behind his closed bedroom door, homework completed with music shaking the walls, I know all is well. I know he is here, safe, and moving forward. I know, although broken, slowly, bit by bit, he is becoming whole again. And slowly, bit by bit, so am I.

Isn’t that all that matters?

 

 

 

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 July 2014: A Month of Quiet

My Best July:

The month of July was quiet -sometimes, WAY too quiet. My grown-up girl has spent her summer working as a ski camp counselor at her beloved Mt. Hood, Oregon. My thinks-he’s-grown-up son has been back and forth between Mt. Hood and Lake Tahoe, and when he’s actually at home his social life keeps him WAY too busy for my liking. Even my husband took off for a few days, leaving me and the dog alone to deal with the 100+ heat and a kitchen flood that’s turning into a big-deal-long-awaited remodel. When my kids were little I longed for the kind of quiet I have now, but as time passes more and more quickly every day, I realize that those crazy, hectic, sweaty summers with two little kids were absolutely ethereal. With a blink of an eye, ten years whooshes past…so this July, I made my best life amidst the quiet. I’ve read, written, photographed, cleaned, organized, traveled, and walked, attempting to find the best in every moment. To read all of my blog posts from July, click here.

Best Quotes:

I’m a collector of quotes. I find great wisdom and inspiration in words, and I’m frequently suprised and delighted at the end of the month when I look back at those quotes I’ve chosen to share on my blog, Twitter, or Facebook. Here’s some of my favorites from July:

“Here are the two best prayers I know: ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.” #AnneLamott #quote

“The reality of what we really are is often times found in the small snips, way down at the bottom of things.” Jean Shepherd

“There are voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world.” Emerson

“After all, it is those who have a deep & real inner life who are best able to deal with the irritating details of outer life.”E. Underhill

“Prayer is not asking for what you think you want, but asking to be changed in ways you can’t imagine.” Kathleen Norris

Best Moment:

I’ve found myself having a bit too much quiet time this month; I know, you parents of small children are thinking I’m crazy, but honestly, my kids are growing up and going in different, independent directions, and they’re hardly ever at home. Combine their wanderlust with their ski training at Mt. Hood, and I’ve found myself away from my daughter since mid-June. The best moment for me this month was when she took her only day off and hitched a ride (or convinced two boys to drive her, not sure which is the truth) from Mt. Hood to Bend, just to spend five glorious hours with me. We packed in a day of shopping, great coffee, hugs, river swims, coloring (yes, teens still like to color) and catching up with the fam. Peanut, thank you so much for that gift of your time. It kept me going for the last few weeks!

L on the Deschutes River
L on the Deschutes River

Best Blog Reads:

My dear friend, Dawn Wink, introduced me to the BraveGirlsClub.com, and I just had to share it with you all. Not only do they use gorgeous art work to share their mission statement: “We are on a wild and crazy mission to find all of the brave women of the world…to help them find each other…then to change the world with good news, good ideas, good people, and good times,” but they also have lots of great essays, blog posts, and even a daily truth email, Facebook page and Instagram feed that offer lovely doses of inspiration. I loved this one from their Facebook feed titled, “Dear Super Smart Girl”. I think every mom should subscribe!

Best Photo:

Ok, I’m gonna brag a bit here…I didn’t take this photo myself, but I love it so much because it captures my brave girl in all her glory! Not only has she worked away from home all summer (I know-harder on me than it is on her!) but she has become a licensed Class 2 bus driver in the state of Oregon! Love her confidenc

e!L is a licensed bus driver!

Best Books:

Oh, this one is easy-peasy! I stumbled onto Nancy E. Turner’s amazing series about turn-of-the-century Arizona, and fell in awe of Sarah, her feisty, feminine and all-around awesome main character. I’d actually bought the first book in the series, These Is My Words, for my mom as part of a Christmas book bonanza gift (she’s a voracious reader, too). I could not put that book down, and to my complete delight, I discovered that it was merely the first in a series of three novels that trace Sarah’s life as she fights to survive on the ‘territories’. If you love historical fiction with strong female characters, you MUST read this series!

These Is My Words

Best Road Trip:

I took two amazing trips this month: one to Bend, Oregon, and one to Calistoga, California. I’d have to call the Bend, Oregon trip the ‘best road trip’ simply because I got to spend eight hours in the car with my mom. It was such a treat to have her all to myself-the hours whizzed by, and I was keenly aware of how precious time with your parent can be – are you hearing me, kids? Aside from the drive, the three days I spent in Bend with my extended family were pretty spectacular-I shared some of the highlights in my post, travel with mamawolfe: Bend, Oregon for Rivers, Books, Coffee and Consignment Stores. 

Best Quiet Place:

During my stay in Bend, we spent a bit of time down on the Deschutes River. The kids loved to jump from rocks, swim, and hang out on the ‘island’. I’m not much of a swimmer, but certainly hovered while my girl flew through the air into the water. The morning I left I took a quiet walk alone down to the river and just sat and thought about this amazing life I get to live.

Deschutes River near Bend, Oregon
Deschutes River near Bend, Oregon

Best View:

This one ties in with my best road trip – the most amazing sunset I’ve seen in a long time. I found myself glued to the deck chair, snapping photos every few minutes. I was convinced it couldn’t get any better, and after two hours of beauty, this took my breath away.

Sadie at sunset
Sadie at sunset

Best Selfies:

My kids get so mad when I try to take selfies with them…here’s a few of my faves from July:

L at Mt. HoodBend, OregonL and Mom in BendC on the way to Hood

Best Tweets:

From Stephen King: Revised Tea Party Gospel: “Suffer the little children come unto me. Unless they’re undocumented kids from Central America.”

This one really hit home for me; I’m so tired of all the arguing about these children being brought by their parents to our country. When I heard one of our country’s politicians call them ‘criminals’, I just about lost it. Despite what you might think about our immigration policies, these children are far from criminals. They are children. Their parents are doing what any one of us would do – well, maybe some of us wouldn’t actually be brave enough to do what they’re doing. Having spent time in Nicaragua and seen first hand the absolute poverty many families are living in in Central America, all I can think is that extreme situations call for extreme actions, and we need to do better than labelling innocent children as ‘criminals’. They are humans, and we can find a way to figure this out.

Best Morning Ritual:

I’m definitely a creature of habit, which sometimes drives my husband crazy. I’ve been thinking a lot this month about solitude – maybe because I’ve had so much of it forced upon me this month – and one thing I know about myself is that I require a certain amount of it as a morning ritual. My best day starts off with quiet, coffee, reading, writing, and after approximately 1.5 LARGE mugs of a good Central American roast, I’m able to face my day. Throw in my list-making, dog-walking, #quoteoftheday tweet and a small bite to eat, and I’m good to go on full speed for the next 15 hours or so!

gratitude

Best Wardrobe Staple:

I’m totally into the maxi dress this month – have you tried them? If I can wear them (I’m only 5’2″, you know), so can you! I picked up a little black one during a shopping spree with my girl last month, and am absolutely in love with it. It’s super hot here in the summer, but when I slip this on I just feel comfy!

Best California Food:

Since our kitchen has been torn apart this month due to a minor flood (it’ll all be back better than ever next month!), we’ve been eating out WAY more than normal – kind of awesome, actually. We’ve had it all this month – Thai, Italian, Chinese, American, and LOTS of Trader Joe’s prepared foods (have you tried their butternut squash/quinoa salad? It’s delish), but the memorable meal and true California food goes to our dinner at Season’s in Davis – the three of us devoured our plates of mozarella stuffed turkey meatballs over penne pasta, tiger shrimp skewers with peppered fettuccine, arugula, garlic mushrooms, copacolla ham and a white wine sauce, and a rosemary rubbed pork chop served over a mushroom risotto cake, swiss chard, pancetta jus, roasted red pepper and gorgonzola sauce. And no, we didn’t have room for dessert!

tiger shrimp at Season's in Davis
tiger shrimp at Season’s in Davis

Best Recent Read:

I’m smack in the middle of Erin Lindsay McCabe’s novel, I Shall Be Near To You, and so far I cannot put it down.  Combine that with getting to know the writer via Twitter, and I know this will be one of my fave summer reads! Look for a review (and if I’m lucky, and author Q/A, on the blog next month).

I Shall Be Near To You

Dear reader, what word best describes your month of July? Wishing you great possibilities and bit of quiet in August – and as always, thank you for supporting mamawolfe.

Each month I write about what makes up ‘my best life’. To see all ‘My Best Life’ posts in one place, click here. I’m always on the lookout for what makes life amazing – 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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