Category: thinking deeply

Goodbye, Dad

Posted on November 25, 2019 by

I’ve never been good at saying goodbye.

Always, I look to poetry, prose, to the words of those that came before me for such ancient experiences as this.

I search nature, beauty that I love and find solace in

the starlings drawing on the sky,

the frogs singing me to sleep,

the owl perched high in the pine, watching over me.

The wind in the pines comforts.

I search for the scent of narcissus and the feel of a soft fleece vest, zipped tightly, protecting me from the looseness of saying goodbye

shielding me from endings,

holding in what I can’t afford to exhale quite yet.

There’s comfort in poetry, in the written word, scratching black ink into my journal by candlelight.

No one else gets in there…only the current from my mind, the breath in, then out, deep and resonant.

Through the crack in the window, crows call to daybreak,

orange and gold ribbons lift the darkness, ever so slightly.

Grief and gratitude go hand in hand, I’m learning,

and goodbye comes in the smallest moments,

slinking around my spirit until I’m silent and still

and spot the starlings scattering in the sky

wondering if it’s you.

Please read my dad’s obituary here

Starlings in Winter

Chunky and noisy, but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire and instantly they are acrobats in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air they swing over buildings, dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star that opens, becomes for a moment fragmented,
then closes again, and you watch and you try
but you simply can’t imagine how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing, this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again, full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us, even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now of grief, and of getting past it;
I feel my boots trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart pumping hard. I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.
From:  Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays Copyright ©:  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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As The Nest Empties…again

Posted on August 25, 2019 by


“As the nest empties, parents can alleviate the sadness by rediscovering themselves and honoring the strides their children have made.” – Madisyn Taylor, Daily Om

I’ve been sitting on these thoughts for a year now. This post has been in draft mode since last July, as the idea of the nest emptying first began to overtake me. Well, not really. Every parent knows it’s coming, and as much as we think we dread it, or anticipate it, it happens.

That’s just the way life goes when you have children – hopefully.

As the nest empties, holding on too tightly doesn’t work. Actually, the kids themselves are the ones who pull back so forcefully and completely that I had no choice- to let go of the looser strings that were connecting me to their childhood, and trust that the tighter rope, the one of connection and love and trust, would be the one keeping us together. All the way to Boston and Utah, I’ve been trusting on the strength of that rope, woven over decades of trial and error, laughter and tears, hopes and disappointment. I’ve been counting on the ties that will tether us when there’s nothing left but an empty space.

nest empties

“Instead of feeling proud that their children have achieved so much–whether the flight from the nest refers to the first day of kindergarten or the start of college–parents feel they are losing a part of themselves.”

The journey

When I first started this blog in 2011, I knew it would be called mamawolfe. I knew it would be part of my journey, a way to remind myself of what’s important – not just as a documentation of memories from parenthood, but also a start of regaining a part of myself I lost. Or maybe a part I never allowed myself to find. As the nest empties, I’m wondering if I’m really finding myself – or if a new me is just beginning to unfurl.

Parenting hasn’t been an easy journey for me. I doubt my decisions, I search for the handbook that’s telling me which way to go. I wondered how ‘Jenny’ would survive all this change and uncertainty and lack of control. Parenting became the one thing I wanted to do right; I didn’t want to look back 18 years later and wish I had made different decisions. Oh yes, I now know that those wishes would always be there – that’s part of growing older and wiser and knowing better, and doing better. But the regret – I couldn’t live with that. Or the guilt of putting other things over this incredible challenge of giving my best to these two tiny, fascinating, challenging little humans. They became part of me because I wanted so desperately to let them know they were loved and safe and that there was a person in this world who put them first. So isn’t it natural that now that they’re gone, that I feel like I’m losing part of myself? That something is missing when I walk down the hall, unable to step into their empty bedrooms without feeling that something is gone?

nest empties

“As the nest empties, parents can alleviate the anxiety and sadness they feel by rediscovering themselves and honoring the immense strides their children have made in life.”

The hummingbird feeder

A new hummingbird feeder hangs just outside Lily and Cameron’s bedroom windows, nestled among the anemones and dahlias, just in view of my morning reading space. I’m waiting, hoping, imaging new little hummingbirds discovering the sweet nectar inside. I’m hoping that the salvia and butterfly bushes in bloom will attract them to my space, delighting me with their gentle, yet fleeting, appearance. 

After two months, it has finally happened. Not one, but two creatures discovered the feeder. They dart between the flowers and the feeder, taking what they need and then flying away. I watch them every morning, smiling as they take what they need and fly away. One day we came face to face, and I froze, eyes connected, barely breathing. The significance of their visit isn’t lost on me – I know it will be cooler soon, and they’ll find somewhere else to make their nest. The blooms will fade, leaving only the artificial red flowers to beckon them back. But it will be there if they need it; I won’t take it down. I want them to remember me, and this space, and know that they have a safe spot to land. I’ll be here, waiting, tending, growing.

“Parents who embrace their changing nest while still cherishing their offspring can look forward to developing deeper, more mature relationships with them in the future. “

The change

Change is hard. I like safe, consistent spaces. Surprises make me squirm, and routines find their way into my life every year. For teacher moms, September is the new January.

Slight changes are manageable. Flexibility is a learned skill, I’m discovering. I’m meditating daily, forcing myself to be present right here, right now, with the breath and the ground and all the beauty that is in my safe space. I know in a few days school will start again, I’ll get caught up in teaching and planning and celebrating. His bedroom door will close while I’m away at school, he’ll take his bags and his backpack and his big, huge heart and head back east. He’ll be smiling, anticipating the familiarity of a second year in college and the freedom of looking forward to new experiences. He’ll leave his bed unmade, the laundry basket half-full and shoes on the floor. He doesn’t need everything to go with him just yet. Leaving a little bit behind is OK with me. I’ll still be here waiting, tending, growing.

He’ll take a huge part of my heart with him, too. There’s no doubt that the strings will loosen as the rope tightens, that the man he’s becoming will pull back a bit – or a lot. I’m ready, I guess. I’ll plant my self, grounded in the relationships we’ve created and those yet to come. And I’ll watch for the hummingbirds – maybe they’ll leave a feather behind before winter comes, 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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taste of Twitter

A Taste of Twitter – Tweets To Think About: July 2019

Posted on July 19, 2019 by

I spend a great deal of time online – professionally more than personally. As my children grow up and away from home, it’s not my place to post photos of what’s going on in their life. The empty nest does that. It’s ok – just because I’m spending less time on the ‘social’ part of social networking doesn’t mean I’m not finding value in my interactions. I’ve created a spectacular PLN of thinkers, educators, creators, and do-ers online, specifically based on Twitter interactions.

I stay away from toxic Twitter accounts. I ‘THINK before I POST’. I try to share my joy in thinking deeply, loving fiercely and teaching audaciously and enjoy the interactions I have. I’ve tried to convince my non-Twitter educator friends and acquaintances to jump in, but many are afraid to, or reluctant to, or just haven’t seen the value of virtual collaboration – YET.

Wow – that decade went by FAST!!!

Ten years of tweets…so I decided to bring a taste of Twitter to YOU! Consider this like a sampler platter, or an appetizer. You’ll see through my lens, and hopefully, we’ll have a dialogue here (or online) and collaborate to share our loves for teaching, learning, writing, and parenting.

So let’s have some fun and share some joy – below I’m adding some of my most favorite, recent tweets to think about – I’d love to hear your voice, too!

On loving fiercely:

On teaching audaciously:

On thinking deeply:

A ‘Taste of Twitter’ Wrap up

I hope you enjoyed this quick “taste of Twitter” – please join me on Twitter @mamawolfeto2, or my second favorite social platform, Instagram @mamawolfeto2. If you’re already on Twitter, leave your handle in the comments so we can grow together. Let’s share some joy about thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously!


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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Good Reads From My Best Read Books – March/April/May 2019

Posted on June 9, 2019 by

I’ve had some good reads in March, April and May – books that have made me think, act, disappear and relax. I’ve had a few that kept me up too late at night, and some that I couldn’t wait to dive into when I got home from teaching in the afternoons.

I’m up from 13 books in my January/February post, to 28 by the beginning of June. You can check out that good reads list here. And I’ve got a HUGE pile to be read over my summer – here are a few of the good reads I loved in the last three months!

Where the Crawdads Sing

by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing
A novel about a young woman determined to make her way in the wilds of North Carolina, and the two men that will break her isolation open.” – Goodreads
Wow – this book just captured my heart. The story follows Kya, a young woman left alone to grow up on the North Carolina coast. She is wild and curious and loving and searching for herself and how she fits in…you definitely want to read this one NOW!

The Lost Girls of Paris

by Pam Jenoff

The Lost Girls of Paris
“1946, Manhattan. Grace Healey is rebuilding her life after losing her husband during the war. One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, she finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman.” – Goodreads
I’m a fan of Pam Jenoff and loved her story about how women played key roles in WW2 – combining historical stories about the 12 women who were Special Ops with a thrilling mystery, I know you’ll love this one!

The Kommandant’s Girl

by Pam Jenoff

The Kommandant's Girl (The Kommandant's Girl, #1)
“Nineteen-year-old Emma Bau has been married only three weeks when Nazi tanks thunder into her native Poland. Within days Emma’s husband, Jacob, is forced to disappear underground, leaving her imprisoned within the city’s decrepit, moldering Jewish ghetto. But then, in the dead of night, the resistance smuggles her out.” – Goodreads
Another Pam Jenoff…this time the story of a woman who hides her identity to support her husband in the Resistance movement…blending romance and historical fiction for a decent read.

The Magdalen Girls

by V. S. Alexander

The Magdalen Girls
” Dublin, 1962. Within the gated grounds of the convent of The Sisters of the Holy Redemption lies one of the city’s Magdalen Laundries. Once places of refuge, the laundries have evolved into grim workhouses. Some inmates are fallen women unwed mothers, prostitutes, or petty criminals.” -Goodreads
What I liked most about this story was learning about the Magdalen laundries – a part of history that didn’t surprise me, but certainly horrified me. I found it informative, yet a bit simplistic.

Watching You

by Lisa Jewell

Watching You
“Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you.” -Goodreads
Shifting away from historical fiction, I rated this title four stars – mainly for its plot twists and suspense. I’m a fan of Lisa Jewell, and this is one you want to read!

The Hate You Give

by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. ” -Goodreads
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t read YA fiction since you were a YA – this is a title everyone should read, immediately. Kids love it for a reason – it’s true. It’s current. It’s beautifully told from the point of view of a teen who is living the news most of us only read about. Read it.

The Leavers

by Lisa Ko

The Leavers
“One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate.” – Goodreads
I don’t give too many 5-star reviews, but this one deserved it. It’s a story of mothers and sons, growing up, unending love and the complexities of culture and immigration. It’s a must-read.

Winter Sisters

by Robin Olivera

Winter Sisters (Mary Sutter, #2)
“New York, 1879: An epic blizzard descends on Albany, devastating the city. When the snow finally settles, two newly orphaned girls are missing. Determined not to give up hope, Dr. Mary Sutter, a former Civil War surgeon, searches for the two sisters. When what happened to them is finally revealed, Dr. Sutter must fight the most powerful of Albany’s citizens, risking personal and public danger as she seeks to protect the fragile, putting at risk loves and lives in her quest to right unimaginable wrongs.” – Goodreads
I was excited to find a copy of Oliveira’s new book at the library – I enjoyed her first novel, My Name Is Mary Sutter, and was pleased with her second attempt to share Mary’s story. A blend of historical fiction, thriller, and family saga, Winter Sisters is definitely worth picking up. 

A Place for Us

by Fatima Farheen Mirza

A Place for Us
“A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding – a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years.” – Goodreads
I found this title through Sarah Jessica Parker’s new publishing company, and at first, I wasn’t sure how much I enjoyed the narrative perspectives – but the plot line just kept pulling me in. Family history, culture, parental expectations….this book offers a contemporary glimpse of what so many young adults are facing today. Check out this quick interview with the author – I swear she could be one of my students!

The Immortalists

by Chloe Benjamin

The Immortalists
“If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life? It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die.” – Goodreads
I waited a long time to get a copy of this one…and it was worth it! I’m not sure I would want to know myself but do love the idea that despite how and when we might see our last days, living life in the present is a daily exercise for me. This title made me really think about being right here, right now.

The Paris Seamstress

by Natasha Lester

The Paris Seamstress
1940. Parisian seamstress Estella Bissette is forced to flee France as the Germans advance. She is bound for Manhattan with a few francs, one suitcase, her sewing machine and a dream: to have her own atelier.
2015. Australian curator Fabienne Bissette journeys to the annual Met Gala for an exhibition of her beloved grandmother’s work – one of the world’s leading designers of ready-to-wear. ” – Goodreads
My great-grandmother was a dress designer and owned her own company – making me a target for any good reads with a similar plotline and strong independent women. I loved the parallel narrative of Estella and Fabienne and felt myself back and forth between worlds the entire time I was reading this novel.

Little Fires Everywhere

by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere
” Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down. In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.” – Goodreads
This is another title that seemed as if everyone had read it before I finally checked it out of the library…maybe the buildup was too much, but I only gave this one three stars. It was just ok for me. I finished it, I enjoyed thinking about the themes of motherhood, conformity and family, but just thought it was a bit overdone.

The Orphan’s Tale

by Pam Jenoff

The Orphan's Tale
” A powerful novel of friendship set in a traveling circus during World War II, The Orphan’s Tale introduces two extraordinary women and their harrowing stories of sacrifice and survival. Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep… When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. ” – Goodreads
My third Pam Jenoff title of this batch and it comes in third place. Maybe it was the circus theme. Maybe it was just a bit too predictable – or implausible. I didn’t fall in love with the characters, but did finish it and wonder if this truly could have happened. It was only three-stars for me.

In Farleigh Field

by Rhys Bowen

In Farleigh Field
” World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. ” – Goodreads
Maybe I should have given this one four-stars…I enjoyed the Gatsby-esque story about WW2 saga from the ‘fancy people perspective” – but couldn’t fall in love with any of the characters. It was a quick read with a good suspenseful plot line…

Matchmaking for Beginners

by Maddie Dawson

Matchmaking for Beginners
” Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancé’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would. ” – Goodreads
I’m a fan of Maddie Dawson, and LOVED this story! Such relatable, lovable characters and an enchanting plot line…reminds us that the Universe has plans for us that we might not ever imagine for ourselves. Match Making for Beginners is all about paying attention, taking chances, and listening to our intuition. A definite five-star must read!

The Woman in the Window

by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window
” Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.” -Goodreads
I wasn’t sure about this one at first…but then I couldn’t put it down. Mystery, thriller, suspense…I can see why it made it on my list after winning a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Mystery & Thriller and for Debut Author (2018). I wasn’t disappointed; in fact, I was pretty darn surprised with the ending! Four-stars – I couldn’t put it down.

So that’s it – I hope I’ve given you some good reads for the next few months! Let me know what you’re reading now, what you think I should read next, and if you liked any of these titles!

More good reads:

You can read my best books list here from 2017. If you’d like to read the best books I read in 2016 click here. For more best books recommendations click over to 2013 and 2014 favorites posts. I’ve also written a Books I Love post and would love to connect with you on Goodreads to share more about reading. Think of it as our virtual book club!

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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Mental Health: Teaching Teens They Are Strong

Posted on May 27, 2019 by


This year has been hard, and I’m end-of-the-year-teacher-tired. I’m absolutely on my last nerve – not with my students, though. Actually, they’re the brightest part of my day. I soak in their smiles, their hugs, their laughter and desire to please. It’s about teaching teens about mental health.

I teach middle school. 7th – 8th – 9th grade. And they’re struggling.

Now, they’re not without their moments – especially the 8th graders. They’re the big questioners, the ones who wonder ‘why’ and ‘how come we have to do this’ and ‘ does this really matter’.

My 9th graders are just ready to move on. The run in the classroom completely oblivious to much besides themselves, their friends, and the latest ‘T”.

But my 7th graders….aah, they’re just special. This is my first year back in 7th grade since 2001, and I’m loving it. Every moment they try something new, agree to take a risk, jump into a discussion about a book or a topic or debate about global warming or plastics in the ocean or gun control or why animals should be rescued just makes me smile.

But they’re a whole lot of energy. Like herding puppies, in a way.

The hard parts of teaching mental health

This year there have been too many ‘not-so-happy’ times, too. I’ve seen more kids breaking down over struggles – not just with academics, but with relationships. Parents. Expectations. Friends.

My AVID 9 students learned about Mental Health issues and how to overcome the stigma associated with asking for support with this Mental Health hyperdoc lesson.  I wish I knew the original creator, so I could thank them for helping me help kids with mental health. Please make a copy and use it in your classroom, or with your own kids at home. It’s powerful.

I’ve had too many 12, 13, and 14 year-olds run through my door in tears about what happens ‘outside’. I’m finding myself giving lots of hugs, wiping gallons of tears and going through bottles of lavender oil (it reduces stress, you know!). Mostly, I’ve been reminding them that despite what’s happening, they are strong. Stronger than they know…stronger than whatever force is trying to tell them that they’re not.

It’s hard for kids to trust in that, you know? The world seems like a pretty frightening place right now. I’ve got kids who are worried about deportation. Divorce. Sex. Gender confusion. Homosexuality. Learning Disorders. Substance Abuse.

Oh yeah – and remember, they are 12-14 years old. And we have 1.5 counselors on our campus. And I’m tired. And I’m searching for messages to give them that will mean something, especially over the summer when they don’t have the stability of a safe place at school.

I found this.

Have you seen Amy Morin’s TEDx Talk?



Amy says, “The only person you should compare yourself to is the person that you were yesterday.” I TRY to remind
my students of this, but it’s hard. They’re constantly checking grades and evaluating their success based on a percentage. And navigating teachers with assinine rules about ‘no test retakes’ and no ‘do-overs’ and all the things that work precisely against the type of growth mindset we know helps create strong mental health.
She reminds us that “unhealthy beliefs about the world come about because deep down, we want the world to be fair. We want to think that if we put in enough good deeds, enough good things will happen to us.” I have to remind kids that the world isn’t fair – that equality and equity aren’t the same things, and that in school, they often have little control of how their actions can make a difference because someone else is creating the rules. At 12, kids have a hard time believing this. Often, they aren’t cognitively developed enough to understand this, and even when we tell them to ‘work hard’ and ‘do your best’ it’s not always going to turn out the way they expect.
mental health

So what’s next?

Instead, I’m going to remind them of Amy’s definition of mental strength:
“Mental strength is a lot like physical strength. If you wanted to be physically strong, you’d need to go to the gym and lift weights. But if you really wanted to see results, you’d also have to give up eating junk food. Mental strength is the same. If you want to be mentally strong, you need good habits like practicing gratitude. But you also have to give up bad habits, like resenting somebody else’s success.No matter how often that happens, it will hold you back.” –

And I’m going to add her book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, to my classroom bookshelf.

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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