words that nourish

Words That Nourish, Friends That Write

I can count on one hand the number of women I trust will always be in my life. They each entered my world at different, crucial, life altering times, and while not one of them lives within walking distance of my home, our connection remains – through words that nourish.

I’ve been a pen pal, a journaler, a poet, a blogger, a note-take, list maker and a lesson creator. Words make my world centered, they offer me a chance to slip away and at the same time, ground myself. Words are solace in a life that I struggle to understand and often, to trust.

One of these phenomenal women is my friend Michelle. We met during our early years of teaching English – a time in our twenties when life as we know now was merely a whisper. Our paths crossed in an interview for a teaching position – I, the interviewer, she the interviewee. I was captivated by her quiet grace, her creativity, and her absolute desire to share her love of language and words and books.

That was over two decades ago, and despite many moves, some marriages, a divorce, numerous job changes and a few precious children thrown into our realiity, our friendship ebbs and flows like the tide, constant, reliable, soothing.

Michelle may not realize what an inspiration she’s been to me; she may not know that when I bake bread or dig in my garden, or read about her treasured Lousisiana or find myself succumbing to fine food and wine, she’s with me.

words that nourish

Today, we were on each other’s minds. Close friendships work like that – I mailed her a book she needed on her shelf this morning, and this afternoon she called to talk writing and summer travel plans.

Today, I’m happy to share a beautiful blog post written on Michelle’s new blog, A Power 4 Good. I know you’ll love her words that nourish – she’s one of a kind! Please welcome her to the blogging community with open arms!

Words that nourish; words that heal by Michelle St. Romain

“Wherever I’ve lived my room and soon the entire house is filled with books; poems, stories, histories, prayers of all kinds stand up gracefully or are heaped on shelves, on the floor, on the bed. Strangers old and new offering their words bountifully and thoughtfully, lifting my heart.” ~ Mary Oliver

I have been thinking recently about why we write stories, why anyone writes their thoughts on paper (or computer screens). In my days as an English major in college, I was always amazed by my classmates and even my professors who chose to put their written hats in the ring and try to publish their writing. Why would anyone pick out of the millions of things that have been written this particular piece or that particular poem? Why would anyone care about my writing, or anyone’s, for that matter?

And so I chose to do other things. I continued to write, because I cannot help it. I wrote in journals. I wrote essays. I wrote for a newspaper for a short time and I found quickly that my writing could be used in almost any profession, to entertain, market, raise funds, make a case, explain, take a stand.

At this point in my life, I find that the writers I have loved have become my teachers, their words the medicine for my soul. These are the ones who have the power to change my mood and my thinking in an instant. These are the ones with a power that transcends everything that is happening in our world, at any time, no matter how ominous or depressing.

They are Mary Oliver, Toni Morrison, Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan. David Whyte, Alice Hoffman, Joanna Macy. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Marge Piercy. Alice Walker and Maya Angelou. Sandra Cisneros and Kate Chopin. This list could go on, go deeper, go farther into the past, more fully into the variety of cultures and stories that inform our world, whether we are conscious of it or not.

words that nourish

It goes to Ovid and Shakespeare, Richard Wright and Steinbeck. Their classics shaped my view of the world, challenged what I was taught about class and reality. They are immortal inside me and the influence of their words on paper cannot be known, even in the singular strand of my life – of decisions I have made, paths I have taken, words I have spoken. Of stands I have made on issues that seem larger than my small life.

I am making these decisions today.  And their words are my solace and guidance. They are my living teachers. Their stories and reflections shape me still, in this time of great change in our world.

I believe that stories and words will heal us from all that is hurting around and within us. I believe that every story that has ever been lived or spoken is still alive today. I believe that every story we are now living, every truth and broken moment, every travesty and victory, no matter how small or large, has been lived in one way or another and we can learn from what has happened before us.

We may have to go deep, go far into the past. We may need to journey to cultures far from our own, or perhaps simply allow ourselves to imagine what it is like today, in this moment, in a country where running water is a luxury and homes have dirt floors. If we expand our thinking to include the larger stories of those who have gone before and of those who are now living lives much different than our own, we may find our way. We may find hope.

We will most definitely find sorrow and grief, but we will also find companions on the path. We must only look, be curious, be patient enough to step back and open to seeing the larger shape of what is happening in any moment of our own life stories.

Thank you, great writers and thinkers and teachers. Thank you for the living gift of words that heal and uplift, teach and guide and make us question ourselves. I bury myself deeply in your wisdom. I offer my own words as an offering of gratitude, and as a prayer.

(this post originally appeared on Michelle’s blog, A Power 4 Good)

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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Friday Photo: Grown Don’t Mean A Thing

L and C 2015

“Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, but grown? What’s that supposed to mean? In my heart it don’t mean a thing.”

~ from Beloved

by Toni Morrison

Life changes when one of your children moves out of the house. Yes, the obvious things sting at first: an empty seat at the table, a bedroom that looks more like a hotel room, and a serious reduction in the laundry load. Over time, I’m finding, it’s the little things that get under my skin, that erupt when I least expect it and I find myself grasping for anything to hold onto – anything to feel safe and ‘normal’ again.

The holidays felt like that – a fleeting, ephemeral run of moments in which my heart would palpitate with the idea that things might be different this year, that our traditions and joys and moments we look forward to might be vanishing into distant memories.

I’m not ready for that quite yet.

It was an exercise in holding on and letting go, an endeavor of wills to choose from what was, what is, and what the ‘new normal’ will be. I struggled to figure out how to find a moment when the four of us could be together to decorate the Christmas tree. I waited to make the treats we love until she was back under our roof. We never did find time to hang the outside lights, drive around at night to view the neighborhood decorations, or do a full fledged day of Christmas shopping.

Thanks to my talented sister, though, we managed to get a Christmas card photo. That’s something that in normal circumstances is challenging at best, but when one child is 650 miles away, it becomes nearly impossible. In all the turmoil, excitement and confusion of the holidays, this photo is my greatest gift. My children. Bigger? Yes, definitely. But grown? Not really. Not yet.

I’ve got one more day with my girl before she leaves to her new home. She’s grown, moved away, and is creating her own version “normal”, but that doesn’t really mean a thing to me. In my heart, she’ll always be my first baby, my girl, the one who introduced me to motherhood. He’ll always be the little one. Moments strung together, like a tangled mess of discarded Christmas tree lights, cement their place in my heart. Flashes of what was, what is, and what will be light my way through the darkness.

No, grown don’t mean a thing.

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 Year In Books, 2013

In 2013, I set a goal to increase my reading this year, despite all the other events that take up my spare free minutes. I met my goal, and have some great titles to share with you! Thanks to all the wonderful authors that shared their stories with me this year – here’s to 2014 and many more great books!

January, 2013

I wasn’t sure if I would like (or finish) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot but finish I did-I was fascinated by the story behind HeLa cells, and the idea that racism could be entwined with medical science in such an unfair manner.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje, beautifully written and lyrical, shares the story of 1970s northern California – my own backyard.

Divisadero (novel)
Divisadero (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here I Go Again: A Novel by Jen Lancaster is a delightful read you’re looking for a good, funny escape-my-life chick-lit novel; check out my review of Here I Go Again!

Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Livesby Becky Aikman is a book that shows us how life has a funny way of taking us on a different path than we might expect; Becky Aikman’s novel was a great reminder for me to live in the moment and love what I have. Read my post, “When Life Doesn’t Turn Out The Way It’s Supposed To” inspired by her story.

February, 2013

I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, and adored A Good American for that reason – but also, because of the author, Alex George. Tweeting with him while I was reading was such a thrill-and I cannot wait for him to finish his next novel! Read my review of A Good American here.

Another brilliant historical fiction novel, The Kitchen House: A Novel by Kathleen Grissom, recounts the story of a white Irish servant girl and her attempts to survive  as she lives and works with the slaves in a plantation house during the 1800s.

March, 2013

Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives by John Robison Elder helped me understand some of my students who have Aspbergers in a touching story of a father-son struggle to love each other.

April, 2013

Afterwards: A Novel by Rosamund Lupton – oh, I loved this book, despite the constant stream of tears rolling down my face. You know what I mean-those books that touch you deeply? This one triggered volumes of emotions about motherhood, as I reflected on my post “Forever Afterwards”.

May, 2013

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel by Anthony Marra wasn’t at the top of my 2013 book list, but I did enjoy the story of the father and daughter in war torn Chechnya and how it reminded me of playing Risk as a child.

June, 2013

Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff, a beautifully written story about motherhood and change, left me teary and happy I was introduced to Lee’s writing. While her autobiography detailing the horrific accident endured by her husband, reporter Bob Woodruff, established her talent, this novel will solidify her ability to evoke emotion within her reader in this story of a fictional tragic accident.

The Binding Chair; or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society: A Novel by Kathryn Harrison satisfied my need for more historical fiction, this time a story set during turn of the century Shanghai combined the pull of the past with the push towards the future – really a good read.

The Samurai’s Garden: A Novel by Gail Tsukiyama didn’t catch my attention-maybe it hid in the shadows of Harrison’s novel-I’m not sure why I didn’t get into it.

I was introduced to the mystery novels of J.A. Jance years ago by my friend and author, Dawn Wink (see below for her novel Meadowlark) and fell in love with the character of Arizona sheriff Joanna Brady – think of Judgment Call: A Brady Novel of Suspense (Joanna Brady Mysteries) as a story to satisfy your need for a  grown up Nancy Drew

Home by Toni Morrison – what can I say about a novel by one of my all time favorite novelists? Simply beautiful, haunting and a must-read.

English: Graffiti de Toni Morrison en el front...
English: Graffiti de Toni Morrison en el frontón del barrio de Aranzabela-Salburúa, en Vitoria-Gasteiz. Imagen tomada el 30-12-2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

July, 2013

If you haven’t read Ann Patchett, you’re certainly missing out and you should certainly add Run, a story set in a New England snow storm,  to your 2014 book list!

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton: A Novel by Elizabeth Silver combines a mother’s love, a murder mystery, and the death penalty into a gripping novel. Reading it reminded me of  the power of memories, and as children when we feel powerless over our future.

This Is Paradise: Stories by Kristiana Kahakauwila is a beautiful collection of short vignettes about the author’s homeland, Hawaii. I loved her stories about making choices and growing up, especially as I was helping my daughter navigate the college application process. Kristiana Kahakauwila is not only a gifted novelist, but her ability to connect with her readers (me!) over social media made the reading experience really come to life.

August, 2013

The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese by Kathe Lison – I can’t really recommend this book unless you’re SERIOUSLY into cheese. I’m not.

Meadowlark was written by my friend, confidante and a wonderfully amazing woman, Dawn Wink. Elegantly written, Meadowlark is simply a beautifully heart-wrenching story of her great grandmother’s life on the South Dakota prairie that you MUST read! After being one of the first ‘editors’ of her story many years ago, seeing her first novel birth into the world was one of the highlights of 2013.

September, 2013

“Parenting is hard as hell” – that quote resonated with me, even though my parenting experience is vastly different than the author, Lori Duron’s. Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son is an eye-opening read for modern day parents and educators – see my reflection here.

Mother, Mother: A Novel by Koren Zailckas was the first in a series of stories surrounding the theme of motherhood that I read this year as part of the blogger’s book club From Left To Write. This psychological thriller left me wanting to hold tightly to my own children, and savor every momenet with them.

October, 2013

The Funeral Dress: A Novel by Susan Gilmore Gregg was a story that captured my attention and kept me up late for a few nights-I couldn’t get through the story of love, motherhood, and marriage fast enough. Can’t wait for her next novel!

The Dinner by Herman Koch wasn’t my favorite read of the year, but I was intrigued by the narrative technique used by the author as he shares the mystery story of a mother’s love.

The Cartographer of No Man’s Land: A Novel by P.S. Duffy takes the reader back in time to World War 1, but for me, it reminded me of my summer travels and the Pull of Nicaragua.

November, 2013

I was haunted by The Last Winter of Dani Lancing: A Novel in part because of the skillful mystery writing of author P.D. Viner, but also because it brought back memories of a horrible childhood memory when I first felt the horror of murder in my community.

I devoured Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (30 Minute Spiritual Series) by one of my all time favorite writers and life-guides, Anne Lamott. I spent this month hunkering down and preparing for big change; read my thoughts about Help Thanks Wow here.

Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man by Brian McGrory was a sweet memoir by the editor of the Boston Globe….reminded me of finding my own very first buddy.

December, 2013

Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey by Fiona Carnarvon tells the story of the REAL Downton Abbey-if you’re a fan, you’ll love this one.

I’m wrapping up the year with Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin – enjoying parts of her story, but not all.

Yes, I’m one of those people who has ongoing novels on my bedside table:

I’m slowly rereading The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav, which reminds me that every day should be infused with reverence.

Cover of "The Seat of the Soul"
Cover of The Seat of the Soul

I started reading The Merry Recluse: A Life in Essays by Caroline Knapp after reading blogger Lindsay Mead’s recommendation-I love savoring an essay a little bit at a time!

Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers by Kate Hopper is another blogger recommended book that I dip into, chapter by chapter, as I attempt to describe this glorious time of my life.

Have you read any of these great books? What was your favorite book of 2013? What’s your reading goal for 2014?

 

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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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Juggling

Boulder-juggling
Boulder-juggling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What they took for inattentiveness was a miracle of concentration.”

– Toni Morrison, Tar Baby

 

My hands deftly maneuver

Mismatched orbs up, down, up

Ascending with celerity

Descending just the same

Catch. Release. Watch. Drop.

Juggling my way through life.

Throw it up again.

Keep my eye on the ball.

Hands moving with dizzying momentum

I’ve got this.

Breathtaking

Spine-tingling

Overwhelming

Catch. Release.

Repeat.

The end.

 

 

 

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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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Where Did The Summer Go?

summer zinnias

Where did the summer go?

It went home

Where tottering stacks of ironing lay neglected

To cluttered cupboards that needed organizing

And dark, dreary closets that screamed to be thinned.

It went to the garden

Where stubborn weeds towered over rosebushes

To brilliant pink cosmos borders that needed deadheading

And hummingbird feeders, parched and waiting.

It went to the kitchen

Where warm blueberry scones burst from the oven

To freshly shucked white corn and barbecue any night

And sugary peaches, plums and dark chocolate at my fingertips.

It went to sleep

In between well worn cotton sheets

Early or late, it didn’t matter

And it woke me without an alarm.

It went to friends

On early morning walks to the Arboretum

Restaurants, cafes and bars for celebration

And long chats on the couch because we could.

It went to my children

Similing in the back of a pickup truck

Laying bricks and eating gallo pinto

And making memories to last forever.

It went to colleges

Searching for that perfect place for her

Soaking in the moments, the emotions

And feeling conflicted about her leaving.

It went to my students

Scouring the internet for the latest teaching trends

Reading, writing, planning, dreaming

And creating exciting new experiences.

It went to writing

Time to journal, to think, to center

Allowing myself time to feel the words through my fingertips

And share my life with you.

It went to books

Written by powerful, thoughtful women

Dawn Wink, Kristiana Kahakauwila, Elizabeth Silver, Lee Woodruff, Ann Patchett,

And Toni Morrison.

It went traveling

By plane, by car, by foot and by pick up truck

To Washington D.C., Newport Beach, Healdsburg, Lake Tahoe, Oregon, Washington

And beautiful, strong, glorious Nicaragua.

Where did the summer go, you ask?

It went inside my heart, stilled my breath, helped me grow

Paused my mind, made me think, cry, laugh, smile

And nurtured my soul.

Happiness in Nicaragua
Happiness in Nicaragua
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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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