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)

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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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What Happens When You Focus On Your Words?

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

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

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

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

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

And we were done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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The Words Get Stuck

I keep thinking about how I should sit and write this all down

about how there must be a poem or some sort of way to

explain,

express,

or at least remember what I’m feeling right now

these moments that are slipping away

 

But they don’t come

I’m still frozen in place

pen poised, heart full,

but still

the words get stuck in my mind

 

Every morning I wake early

pour my coffee, pick up my favorite pen

open my journal

and stare at the page

immobilized

the birds outside my window attempt to rouse me with their song

the moments thunder through my mind

but the words get stuck

 

It’s all in there, I know

the feelings and memories and hopes

but still, I just stare

maybe afraid that if I write it down

it really is real

you’re really growing up

graduating

and beginning the next chapter of your life

without us

 

Sometimes you wake up right in the middle of it

the staring momentarily interrupted as you pad down the hall

your hair tousled from sleep

you’re quiet, and mumble ‘I’m tired”

we hug and I kiss your forehead

as you quietly pour coffee

and head back to your room

 

Sometimes just that is enough

to make me weep

to remind me of what I’ll miss

your spirit

your eyes, cerulean against your freckled skin

but, still, I stare

the words stuck in my heart

 

I’ve even tried writing at night

convinced the melody of that country music song will drift down the hall

and trigger something

help me make this moment something tangible

determined that the words are there

waiting

 

But still,  I just stare at the page

hopeless

helpless

afraid

that it really is real

 

Sometimes you walk in mid-thought

the pen poised, the words on the brink of explosion

you’re breathless from track practice

your smile spreading across your face

you’re happy

you tell me about your day

you show me something on Instagram

and hiccup

and head down to your room

 

Sometimes I tell myself this will be the day

the words for this indescribable, exhilarating, devastating feeling will come

even if the tears fall alongside the page

even if it reminds me that yes,

this moment, like so many others

is real

and fleeting

and powerful

 

I tell myself this will be the day

I will make it happen

I will create words to look back on

to mark this moment, to revive all the moments

you’ve been here

you’ve been my baby

you’ve been my girl

 

I’ll mark this moment forever, I think

so that next year, when the quiet surrounds me

and your bed stays neatly made

I’ll hear your hiccup

and smile.

Santa Cruz Beach
Santa Cruz Beach

 

 

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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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On Blogging, Friendships, and Seizing the Opportunity

Indonesia essential oils
Essential oil altar in Tangerang, Indonesia

Last July I wrote a post about turning your dreams into realities.  That was right before I set off on my trip to Indonesia, which brought some of my dreams about world travel to life.

Traveling to Indonesia per se wasn’t one of my dreams; rather, it was the embodiment of pushing myself forward into the universe and seizing opportunities that presented themselves to me.  When I applied for and received the US Dept. of Education grant to study global education, teaching in a Muslim country was not on my radar.  But as the chance to travel to a country I’ve never visited, and likely wouldn’t have chosen on my own, presented itself, I jumped in. I didn’t look for excuses not to, or reasons why I couldn’t go. I just did it.

Indonesia market
Inside an Indonesian market

I started my blog in much the same way.  Just decided to do it and began sharing my stories, thoughts, and life lessons through my words.  I never thought much about blogging before that, but when the opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it.

I got hooked. Life hasn’t been the same since.

Blogging turned into a creative outlet, a launching pad for my dreams, and a platform to meet people all over the world.  For an introvert like me, blogging created relationships with women I now can call friends.

Two of those women, Val and Kathy created a website, Bonbon Break, designed to provide a space to share their thoughts, wisdom, humor and ideas with like-minded women.  When Kathy contacted me to be one of the first featured writers, I was thrilled to accept.  Since then, we’ve grown our friendships and our websites and pushed ourselves forward.

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This week I’ve written an original piece for BonBon Break, “Writing Well and the Readers Will Follow“. I hope you’ll jump over and take a look.

You never know what might be waiting there for you that you never imagined!

 

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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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Dear Family, Love J

Dear Family,
Last night, as we slumped around the table, bellies full and wine glasses empty, I took my turn and shared two words of gratitude.  Surprised, you asked if that was all.  The truth is, it wasn’t, but at the time, those were the only words I could say out loud.  Now, hours later in the light of day, I have the rest.
I am grateful for the dawn over the Sierras inching up, pale pink to my left, golden yellow to my right, unveiling my angels sleeping in the back seat.
I am grateful for the dark roast with cream warming next to me as I type, helping me greet every morning with a smile.
I am grateful for the new and the old, the memories that push me forward into the future and those that ground me in the past.
I am grateful for air conditioning, Bintang beer and chocolate-center Cotton Buns.  You saw me through some challenging times last summer.
I am grateful for friends I’ve made and lost, friends I’ve seen and those I have only thought of.  You may not know it, but I listen to you and learn more about myself from your presence.
I’m grateful for curiosity, challenge and conflict.  From them, I grow into a better human.
I’m grateful for brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts, grandmothers and grandfathers.  Your eyes help create my vision, even when they don’t see in the same direction.
I’m grateful for simplicity, complication, and everything in between.  It always seems to come at just the wrong, yet just the right time.
I’m grateful for the 6,000,000-plus like-minded people who turned left, not right, and helped me see a future.
I’m grateful for the wind whistling through the trees.  Some say it’s the spirit talking.  I’m thankful I believe them.
I’m grateful for language.  The words I write, the sounds I hear, and the letters I read teach me in a way I learn best.
I’m grateful for faith, wavering in and out, back and forth, between the sky, the spirits, and the universe.  Sometimes, you’re all I’ve got.
I’m grateful for June 29, 1985.  Our worlds collided then, and life has been a doozy ever since.
Now, I’m back to where I began.  Two words.  Two spirits.  Two reasons to face each day, to walk the talk, to take a step forward when what I really want to do is stay right where I am.  Because when the pink glow is gone, replaced by a blaze of red, or orange, or a blanket of black, those two words are all that matter.
And that, dear family, is what I’m grateful for.
Love,
J

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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