Tag: writing

5 Years of Decembers

Posted on December 23, 2015 by

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.”


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


“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?”



“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.”


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.”


“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.

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The Reasons Why I Didn’t Write A Book Last Summer

Posted on September 9, 2015 by

“What I want most this summer is simply to spend time with the ones I love. To have more days just like this one. Enough presence of mind to pay attention. And enough presence of heart to make gratitude my song, acceptance my refrain.”

Katrina Kenison

I didn’t write a book last summer. In fact, I didn’t even write a single word of a book. The boxes of letters remain untouched, unopened and unread in the same position that they began the summer, eager for my attention and begging to release their stories. But like so many things during the eight weeks or so when I detached from teaching and attached to myself, the book never materialized. The stories remained in their envelopes.

This was going to be the summer I finally did it, the summer when the story that’s been forming in my head for decades would finally find its way from my ruminations to my laptop. I’d even taken those first steps – I’d declared my intention, out loud, to a few friends and even some strangers. I’d moved the storage box from under my desk to my writing space, thinking that if I looked at it every day I would obviously make it happen.

June coast summer

But somehow, as usual, life got in the way. At first it was because Lily was home for only a week in June, and we needed to adventure to the coast and take long walks along the creek and go for Dutch Bros coffee even when we really didn’t need it. I told myself it was OK, I was just ‘detoxing’ from teaching and that the summer days would hover in front of me, intimidating me with their silence just as soon as she left for Oregon. I convinced myself, as I counted down the days until she left, that I would straighten out her room, lay down the letters and get to work. I bought a new journal and found my favorite writing pen, and instead of writing my words, I finished reading stories written by Barbara Hambly and Tara Conklin and dreamed of what the Civil War must have been like.

Carmel surf summer

And it was July, and the heat smacked us over the head like a battle weapon. So hot I couldn’t think or breathe and instead of settling down in front of the air conditioner to write, I bolted for the beach – I took my boy and my dog and sat in the fog and watched him board and swim and somehow even managed a little sunburn. I devoured Robin Oliveira’s book about Mary Sutter, a Civil War nurse, and cried through Lee Woodruff’s retelling of her husband’s tragic accident in Iraq.

And then John started to feel ill and life turned inwards as it often does when he can’t manage or work or talk very much. We went inside for a few weeks and spent our energy figuring out how to navigate chronic illness when it consumes your life. It felt a bit like hell. I read some more – Kim Edward’s The Lake of Dreams helped me disengage when I needed to step away.

Chelsea market summer

Still, the journal remained unopened, calling to me in a voice I couldn’t answer. I went to New York City for the first time, hopeful that surrounding myself with writers would ignite the story, would retune my ear to her whisperings and somehow, something would appear on the page. Instead, I walked Central Park in the heat, devoured gelato in Chelsea Market, went to bed early, and filled my head with thoughts about equality and kindness and my introversion kicked in big time. I escaped the city with my oldest girlfriend, watched the fireflies at dusk, hiked a mountain and ate Thai food with her sons. Oh – and I met an actor on the airplane home.

Big Sur Summer

In August, I covered my new journal with lavenders and blues and sea glass and butterflies. I read about the somewhat scandalous hidden life of Edith Wharton. I stayed in bed late, listened to NPR and when Lily came home, I relished every single ordinary moment together. August 3 came and went, and I celebrated one year of healing since Cameron broke his leg and ten days of both babies sleeping under the same roof. My girl and I escaped to Carmel and Big Sur, riding with the windows down and hiking in the sun. I spent a peaceful night alone at Tahoe and dashed off to a long weekend of hiking, family and gratitude in Yosemite.

Utah summer

And before I knew it we were loading the rental car, driving across the desert and depositing Lily back at school – this time in a house. We spent a few days shopping and unpacking and hiking and laughing and suddenly it was time to go. Those ten hours driving home across the Salt Flats were long and tedious and when I walked into the house I simply cried, not only because she was gone, but also because the summer was, too.

Then, I cleaned. Every room in the house. I cleaned her room and moved in new bookshelves and lugged the boxes of letters onto her desk. I placed the journal alongside and vacuumed the floor, straightened her duvet cover and cleaned the glass on her dresser. I walked out her sliding door into the garden and noticed the Russian sage alive with honey bees and a red-breasted hummingbird just leaving the tall crimson tube of a Canna flower.

summer Big Sur

I breathed and reminded myself of all that I did do this summer, and realized that those things, as small and ordinary as they may seem, were exactly what I needed to do. They were exactly what I wanted to do; those moments of paying attention, of walking alongside those I love, and of feeling gratitude for the gifts the Universe has presented me with. This was supposed to be the summer I wrote a book, but instead, I created the stories of my life, every single extraordinarily ordinary moment. And for that, I am truly grateful.

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 Is The Best Way To Capture Moments?

Posted on August 18, 2015 by

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn

The morning is glorious. I’m up early, alone. As the sun rises over the quiet lake. I’ve got my legs up on the pier, balancing my notebook and coffee next to me. The sun is warms my face and the breeze blows down my neck thanks to my newly cropped off hair, just cool enough to be glad I wore my sweatshirt. Wild bunnies and chipmunks scurry in the bushes next to me, undisturbed by the water skier gliding by. The waves lap gently against the shore; paddleboarders and kayakers are my only human companions, and they appear as intoxicated by their surroundings as I am.

It honestly couldn’t get much more perfect for an introverted-nature-loving-writer.

This is what summer should be like – distractions including only a jumping fish, the glitter of the rising sun on water, and the slight smoky scent of bacon wafting from down the road.

This moment is mine – simple and free for absorbing every little bit. It didn’t cost me anything, just the price of being awake, rising early to show up and experience it.

moments on Lake Tahoe dock

My writing over the last four years has evolved into an exercise in capturing moments – the intenseness, the frustration, and the beauty of loving fiercely, thinking deeply and teaching audaciously. As simple as it sounds, it truly has been anything but. Trying to capture the intenseness of the experiences of my life, endeavoring to scribble the sights and sounds and smells to share with an  unknown audience challenges me in such an acutely intriguing way. Snatching photos of moments to enhance my words has unlocked my view of what can be contained in a frame, forcing me to stop and think and consider what is around me.

It is forcing me to pay attention.

I breathe deeply, grateful to be here today.  As I approach 50 I feel a shift in my gratitude practice – it has become a slowing, a releasing of what is unnecessary, hurtful, and holding me back. Recently, a teacher friend asked me how long I thought she’d be able to keep up her energy for teaching. As I thought about it, I realized that it isn’t the energy level that changes – it’s the level of energy I want to use in different areas of life that changes. The more mindful I become to the moments around me, the more mindful I become to how I give of my time. I’m becoming selective and selfish and miserly with my time and energy, and at this point in life, I’d rather spend two hours soaking in the morning sun on this pier, writing and sipping coffee and thinking about this huge, wide Universe and this one wild life I’ve been given than just about anything else.

And I realize I’m on summer vacation now. I fully understand the gift of having a morning on a pier, the ability to not think about students and lessons and the outside life. It’s not the vacation energy I am so infatuated with. It’s an energy balanced by the peacefulness of aging, of being young enough to still settle in on the wooden dock, feeling the warm wood under my legs. To know all I have is all I need. To trust that my kids will be OK, that my husband will be well, and that my teaching will provide me with the means to fill another area of my life that’s opening up and calling for attention.

It’s an energy pushing me to pay attention, to write just for me while hopefully offering a glimmer into some part of life that needs to open up for you, too. Maybe this moment you’re suddenly paying attention to somewhere you’re stuck, or scared, or maybe you and I can find we’re kindred spirits-another soul who finds joy and happiness in thinking deeply, loving fiercely and teaching audaciously. Someone who doesn’t give a fuck about trying to impress you or do the things women are expected to do. Someone who wants her words to match her actions, and for her children to live fully and help make the world a more awesome place.

Someone who wants her life to matter.

Toni Morrison writes, “At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.” I think I know what I’m doing now.

It is enough to just be here on this dock, at this moment, with the breeze blowing the pages of my spiral notebook and the sun blazing in my eyes, casting shadows as I write. This moment is too blinding to photograph. It’s just me, here, paying attention and capturing its beauty to share with my kindred spirits.

What Is The Best Way To Capture Moments

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 Would You Do If You Were Guaranteed Success?

Posted on April 20, 2015 by

What would you do if you were guaranteed success?

Would your life be very different from the way it is now?


If I were guaranteed success….

I would create the perfect cup – or cups – of coffee, deliberately grinding the beans,

hovering over the red kettle as it rises to just before a boil,

grab it, and pour with gusto.


I’d exuberantly throw open the windows, welcoming the morning birdsong from my upstairs desk,

pull the blanket over my lap and scribble my thoughts with my cherished black pen,

and the words would fall into place…


You’d see me wearing the slightly higher heeled boots with black tights,

not worrying about being on my feet all day

or if I could gracefully ride my bike to work.


If I were guaranteed success…

I would call and text her every morning and each night

just to check in and see what life is like so far away,

and send her a few dollars for fresh fruit.


I would zip up my ski parka and snap into my bindings,

jump into the race course and fly down the hill-

my smile blinding the spectators on the sidelines…


then go home to create the perfect tiramisu for her birthday party,

not buying any ingredients  fat-free, sugarless or on sale,

and sit by her side savoring every exquisite bite.


If I were guaranteed success…

I would find a way to make a living

that doesn’t trade time and flexibility for income,

and no grouchy, uptight parents would tell me how to do it.


I’d buy a fast laptop

lock myself high up in the mountains or on a seaside cliff,

turning pictures into words, memories into stories

smiling broadly every morning….


opening the chest of love letters from long ago,

letting the words and memories pour into my heart-

dripping through my veins and onto a page

for you to read.


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?

Posted on April 13, 2015 by

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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