How I’m Learning To Step Out Of The Comfort Zone Of Creativity

“The only unique contribution we’ll make in this world will be born of creativity.” ~ Brene Brown

There’s this crazy, confusing thing  happening as I get older. As I’ve passed through the decades and find myself looking at a life ahead that is bound to be on the downhill slope, I see with clarity things that I hadn’t seen before -I see the urgency to step out of the comfort zone of creativity.

Perhaps these things were never there to begin with. Maybe they’ve been inside all the time, and it’s taken this long to realize that creativity is a need, not a want.

I’ve never been what I considered the ‘creative’ type. My sister, my aunts, my mom, my grandmother – now there are women who are creative. Canvas becomes startling images of beauty. Clay transforms into object. Fabric turns into clothing and pillows and bags.

The closest I’ve ever felt to being creative was through my garden. My approach a cultivation painted with reckless strokes, sometimes wild combinations of color and texture, but always with the hands of a woman trying to squeeze beauty into my space; of one attempting to simultaneously curb and release the loveliness of a part of what makes a home. I guess some might consider parenting an exercise in creativity; I’ve always felt that if I do it well enough, my children will be my greatest contribution to the world.

Step Out Of The Comfort Zone Of Creativity

Step Out Of The Comfort Zone Of Creativity
My garden is my creative escape.

“When did inspiration promise us that it owes us anything?” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Writing wove its way into my life five years ago; blogging transformed my private journal scribbles into a rough-hewn, unrefined platform to practice sharing my stories for the first time. As my children aged and my confidence matured, I recklessly dove into my newly released creativity. Inspired to connect with other women – mothers and teachers and writers and like-minded creative spirits who used words as their outlet, I greedily crafted a community that lifted me up, gave me courage, and reminded me that I need to write every day.

“When you get to the place where standing on the edge is more fearful than the risk of failure, I think you owe it to yourself and your world to leap.” ~Brene Brown

And here I find myself, half-way to 51, standing on the edge of what is left of my life. I see my children launching into adulthood with grace and courage. I write and publish and share and push myself to refine, to reflect. I know the nest will be empty soon, and I’ll be left with a vastness ready to fill.

I think about teaching another 15 years, and wonder if the system will support my need for change. I’m astonished I’ve made it this far – 25 years ago, I comforted myself with the notion that there were so many possibilities in the world, and when I didn’t like teaching anymore, I would jump, hoping that the net would catch me.

Turning 50 has created a strange sense of comfort and discontent; the moments when I sit in my writing space, surrounded by all that I’ve created in this life, I feel as if there is nowhere else I would rather – or I should be. I breathe deeply and slowly and write my daily gratitude for home and family and this span of moments which weave together so exquisitely. I wonder where my creativity could lead me, and what is worth doing even if I fail.

Step Out Of The Comfort Zone Of Creativity
Looking down from my writing space.

“Failure has a function. It asks you if you really want to go on making things.” ~Clive James

And then the discontent creeps in on the back of absolute acknowledgment of where I am. I know my days are finite. I see my mothering transfer into my children as they age and grow and find their own space in the world. I wonder where my creativity could lead me, and what is worth doing even if I fail.

Now is the time to step out of the comfort zone of creativity, the time to leap without knowing where the landing is. It’s the time to trust the creative journey, and to know that whatever challenge the day presents is there for a reason.

It’s time to go on making things and continue the story.

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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Honoring Our Boundaries: “No” Is A Complete Sentence

“No” is a complete sentence.”
Anne Lamott

That sentence used to drive me crazy when my kids were little. Remember those days when every request, every plea, every last ounce of your mommy-breath received a “No”? Do you remember their determined little faces, squeezed into such ferociousness, fists in the air?

And now I realize my toddlers had a point.

The last few weeks were a doozy. Nothing particularly earth-shattering or heart-breaking happened, just weeks when I said ‘yes’ more than ‘no’ and let my boundaries get far too loose. Weeks when I had to dig deep for courage, weeks when I was tired, hungry, and felt like I didn’t give myself a moment to catch my breath.

And I did it to myself. I have no one to blame. I didn’t say “No.” Not once.

That old adage about putting on our own oxygen mask first is absolutely true.

 

 no boundaries

I’m spending the weekend trying to re-center and re-capture the fleeting muse of Persistence – sometimes is the only way I  make it out of bed in the morning. Does this happen to you?  When did you agree to do one more thing, schedule one more meeting, help one more person when what you really needed to do was stop, breathe, and help yourself? What did you say “Yes” to when you really wish you had screamed “No!”

What happened?

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.”
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

I didn’t set good boundaries. I let other people put me in places that made me feel resentful and  frankly, worn out. I forgot to hold myself accountable for my own happiness. I lost my center.

Being a teacher mom is a delicate balance, especially at stressful times of the school year – like the beginning and ending. And grading periods. The anxiety and busyness families feel at the start of the school year is definitely felt at my house, too. I still have to get my family back on a routine, make sure that my kid is ready for classes and homework and studying and sports. I have to get myself out of summer mode and suddenly, after 8 weeks of being mostly at home, I’m gone all day long. And sometimes into the night, too.

Teacher moms get the double back-to-school whammy. We get the sometimes unexpected bliss of watching our own children walk out the door and into new adventures alongside sometimes expected unhappiness of watching our life go back to bells and grading and teaching routines and behaviors and meetings and meetings more meetings.

We’re trying to make everyone else’s school year start off smoothly, and oftentimes around mid-September, we crash.

How much time do we give to our jobs versus our families? It’s why I’ve never become an administrator. I cherish the eight weeks of summer, the weekends and evenings when I don’t have to technically be responsible. I get to choose.

During this school year, I’ve been choosing to work late Friday nights. It’s quiet time for me – time when I can think, breathe, spread out and center. It’s my way of setting my weekend boundaries; if I leave it school ready to go for Monday, my brain spins much less over the weekend. I give up a few more hours on Friday to allow myself to get more space to choose.

One of my ‘extra’ jobs is training new teachers; this year, I’m working with two adults who chose teaching as their second career. All three of us have families and responsibilities at home. I’m reminding myself to walk my talk – teaching them to set personal and professional boundaries is so important as they begin their careers. I want them to learn not to promise too much – it just ends up disappointing everyone.

“If your boundary training consists only of words, you are wasting your breath. But if you ‘do’ boundaries with your kids, they internalize the experiences, remember them, digest them, and make them part of how they see reality.”
Henry Cloud

jumping sunset unsplash

Ultimately, it swings back to me. How do I teach my children to live their life within their own boundaries? How do I model for them a life that balances work and home? How do I show my kids how to follow their passion and not lose the trail back home?

I think it goes back to Anne Lamott – I think I’ll teach them that “No” is a complete sentence.

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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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My Best Life, June, 2014: A Month of Emotion

June was a month of emotion, a month where I saw the end of eras. June was a month of spontaneous tears, trickles of emotion both quiet and forceful. It was a month of smiles, and hugs, and goodbyes. June was a month of mercurial emotion, a month I searched for and found gratitude over and over again.

My Best June:

Best Quotes:

Looking back on my Twitter feed (where I regularly post #quoteoftheday), I noticed my tweets fall into two categories: those for me to pay attention to, and those for my children to pay attention to. Can you tell which is which? Oh-the last one is my favorite 🙂

LOVE Brene Brown

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.” -Pearl S. Buck

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”-Eleanor Roosevelt

“Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.” -Buddha

“If you find in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.” ~Maya Angelou

“Refuse to settle where you are. There is a great plan for your life. Press forward and become everything that you were created to be.” – Joel Osteen

“I have accepted fear as part of life,specifically the fear of change.I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says turn back.” -Erica Jong

“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”-Havelock Ellis

“Mom, I don’t twerk” – Lily Wolfe

Best Compliment:

My girl can drive a bus!
My girl can drive a bus!

I wish I could remember exactly who said this to me…the one compliment that stood out the most this month – and I’m not even sure that the person meant it as a compliment – was that I’ve raised a ‘gutsy’ girl. I love that. When she was born, I was determined that she wouldn’t follow in my ‘shy girl’ footsteps….and she hasn’t. I’m proud to have raised a girl who is confident, adventurous, and trusts her ‘guts’ to try new experiences in life (like getting a Class 2 bus driving license!). You go, girl!

Best Recent Read:

These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner...LOVE.
These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner…LOVE.

I did NOT want this book to end…and was amazed that I hadn’t read it before! These Is My Words is the story of Sarah Prine, the author’s grandmother-with a  bit of historical fiction thrown in,too. Like my friend Dawn Wink’s novel, Meadowlark, These Is My Words tells a love story of Sarah Prine and her challenges as a strong woman in the Arizona Territories. I was captured in the plot, and fell in love with Jack Elliot alongside Sarah! Lucky for me – and for all other lovers of Turner’s story – this is only the beginning of a three-part series! I’m reading Sarah’s Quilt right now…I’d love to see what you’re reading, too – click here to follow me on Goodreads.

Best Way to Unwind:

My dog and my boy, evening walk (or skate)
My dog and my boy, evening walk (or skate)

When he was little, he used to love taking walks with me. We went all over town, usually with a tote bag to collect treasures. I miss those days. Deep gratitude for every single second together.

Best Photos:

Before she grew up and went away…

Best Selfie:

Me and my boy at the beach, Santa Cruz, California

Best Friends:

So much emotion this month as I watched girls who have been friends since primary grades finally graduate together. In these days of ‘mean girls’ and ‘girl drama’, I feel so grateful that my girl has such amazing young women in her life. True friendship is never to be taken for granted.

This is what friendship looks like
To be blessed with such good girlfriends…

Best Recipes:

Giada’s meatball paninis…must try!

Yes, these were as good as they look, and yes, I made the meatballs from scratch. My girl and I love watching Giada, and when we saw this recipe we knew we needed to throw a meatball party to celebrate her 18th birthday, so that’s exactly what we did! They were a HUGE hit!

Little bit of heaven right here...
Little bit of heaven right here…

Seriously, these are the BEST bites I’ve had in a very long time…chocolate honey tartlets with a graham cracker crust. Giada again-yep, we served them at her meatball party, then made them again for her graduation party, and ONE MORE TIME for a friend’s rehearsal dinner. They’re that good, and easier than you might think.

Best View:

This summer I’m staying put on the west coast, and to start off my summer adventures I traveled to Santa Rosa for a friend’s wedding. After the festivities concluded, I slipped away for an early morning walk. Our drought may leave the fields golden instead of green, but beautiful nonetheless.

A quiet morning walk in Santa Rosa, California

Best Moments:

I’ve written volumes this month about all the emotion I feel surrounding my girl’s graduation, growing up, and going away to college. This moment almost didn’t happen; the girls were struggling to find each other after the ceremony, but their determination to capture their joy and friendship conquered and while we were one of the last to leave the field, they made it happen. Deep gratitude right here.

My four ‘daughters’…

My AVID students worked over half the year to get this bench built; it began with learning about ocean gyres and recycling, then turned to stuffing plastic bottles with non-recyclable plastic, and ended with days of hard labor and sweat to get this earth  bench completed before the end of the school year. This project not only taught them about how to care for our world, but also how to work hard and be proud of their finished product. I saw some kids shine in ways I didn’t think possible…I’m not sure they know how very proud I am of them.

My favorites in front of our AVID project, an earth bench.
The finished  bench
The finished bench

A simple decoration for the graduation party, but so full of magical moments. How lucky am I to have been blessed with these wonderful children.

wall of memories
wall of memories

Dear reader, what word best describes your month of June? Wishing you great possibilities in July – and as always, thank you for supporting mamawolfe. I’d love to connect with you on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, too!

Jennifer Wolfe

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

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My Best Life, March 2014: A Month of Anticipation

March was a month of anticipation; the wrap up of one ski season, the college acceptance letters, and the countdown until Cameron returns home from the ski academy. I struggled to stay in the present moment, to breathe deeply and know that everything will work out as it should. As we move into April, I feel the breath of possibilities whispering at the back of my neck. It should be an interesting month, to be sure!

My Best March:

Best Blog Reads:

I was fascinated with the idea of ‘grittiness’ this month; how do we cultivate grit in our children seems to be a hot topic for teachers and parents right now. Fittingly, Cameron’s ski academy school motto is “Grit, Grace and Courage” – what more could we ask for our kids? I loved this post from NPR titled “Does Teaching Kids To Get Gritty Help Them Get Ahead”, as well as this one from one of my favorite websites, Daily Good. Definitely worth a read.

Best Books:

I managed to get a bit of reading done this month between the anticipation of ski races and college tours in Salt Lake City. I really enjoyed What Would You Do If You Could Not Fail by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons. These writers collected stories of courage from everyday people and put them together with quotes and ideas for the reader to really use in their lives. The theme of grit really got my interest, and made me think about why some people have the drive to persevere and others don’t.

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger was written in the form of letters, emails, and documents, telling the story of a marriage in collapse. I wasn’t sure how I’d like this format, but it turned out that the characters were well developed and the plot surprisingly easy to follow. It made me think that teaching middle school was really a dream job compared to being a divorce lawyer!

Finally, I just finished Holly Peterson’s new novel, The Idea of Him. It really made me think about how so often in life we think we know what we want or how it will all turn out, and usually, life has a way of surprising us. Holly is a Goodreads author – if you haven’t used Goodreads yet to track your books and reading, you should start! If you already do, please friend request me! I’d love to see what you’re reading, too.

Best Quiet Place:

A long time ago, when my children were small and very demanding, I decided I needed to find a quiet place close to home where I could escape when I needed to center myself. Over the years, the path running along Putah Creek in the UC Davis Arboretum has offered me great solace and joy. One of my favorite times to visit the Arboretum is when a storm is looming – I love the quietness, the animals taking cover, and the whisper of the wind blowing through the trees.

UC Davis Arboretum trees

Redwood Grove in the UC Davis Arboretum
Redwood Grove in the UC Davis Arboretum

Best Photos:

A month of endings and beginnings…nothing fancy, just the fabulous moments of anticipation and reward in March:

Lily and Bob
Lily and her beloved high school ski coach
Lily Pole Vaulting 11 feet
Lily pole vaulting 11 feet, a new personal record
Lily and Mikaela Shiffrin
Lily and friends and Mikaela Shiffrin at Squaw Valley race.
Lily at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah
Sunset at Tahoe Park Beach with my boy
Sunset at Tahoe Park Beach with my boy

Spring is coming! In the UC Davis ArboretumSpring is coming! In the UC Davis Arboretum

 

A rare race day together at Northstar
A rare race day together at Northstar

Best Quotes:

When I look back at my Twitter #quoteoftheday postings, there seems to be a strong theme of openness to possibility and anticipation of what is yet to come. -I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time, but looking back, that’s really what March taught me.

“Stay committed to your decisions; but stay flexible in your approach.” –Tony Robbins

“You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out, but you gotta suit up for them all.”-J. Askenberg

“Instead of bracing yourself for the perils of the unknown, embrace the joy that is here, in your present moment.”
― Michelle Cruz-Rosado

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”- Brene Brown

“It doesn’t matter where you are, you are nowhere compared to where you can go.” -Bob Proctor

Best Moments:

High School State Ski Championships

It was a month of my girl pushing herself to the limit; finishing second place in the high school state ski championships gave her such a sense of accomplishment. And then a few weeks later, she went and did this – caution-it gets a bit loud at the end of the video! Facebook Post by Jennifer Mason Wolfe.

Wishing you great possibilities in April – and as always, thank you for supporting mamawolfe. I’d love to connect with you on Instagram and Facebook, too!

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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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