Turning 50: My Transformation Into Wholeness

Two little girls nestled into their father in the pew in front of me, catching my eye as they jostled for position. The littlest one, no more than two years old, bounced on her daddy’s sturdy leg while her older sister, closer to five, curled her chubby fingers around his arm. The littlest one, blonde, wearing leggings and a pullover top, looked like she insisted she dress herself. Her undone back button and slightly mismatched outfit screamed, “I can do it myself”. Her sister’s sundress was a bit more pulled together, her honey-colored hair was gently braided to the side, and I watched as she fiddled with her headband during the sermon.

I wondered how long they would last, while at the same time, smiled silently in solidarity with a dad who could get two wiggly little girls not only to come to church but to sit quietly.

They honestly didn’t make a peep.

Within a few minutes of their arrival, the eldest removed her purple hairband and began running her fingers through her mid-length hair. Fascinated, I watched as she attempted to re-braid, then twist and contort her tresses into one up-sweep after another. When she tired, or when her hairband gave out, she would so tenderly stroke her sibling’s head as she laid on her father’s lap. I found myself wanting to reach out and braid their hair myself, to recall the memories of running my own fingers through my baby girl’s hair as she wiggled and struggled to get free.

Instead, I sat quietly and watched. I wondered what their story was. Where was their mother? Who helped them get where they were? How was their father, sitting so calmly, going to handle their squirminess when it got physical, as most siblings do?

It was their tenderness with each other that stunned me, really. As we sat, part of a bigger collective of people, I closed my eyes and listened; I thought about all that we humans do to each other when we get ‘tired’ of the way we are, or the way we look, or how our neighbor is acting. I thought about the lack of tenderness in our society and the blatant disregard many people have to simply stop, pause, look, and listen to others.

I thought about the common goals we all have, and how I see them in my middle school classroom every day.

The search for wholeness. For identity. For belonging. For authenticity.

When my kids were little, I remember often wondering what would be the measure of a successful day; sometimes, the simplest acts of survival were filled with such satisfaction. Getting up, getting dressed and figuring out how to balance mothering and teaching and marriage were my survival tasks. And on the days when it was good, I tried to set an intention to enjoy it.

And on the days when it wasn’t, I felt alone. I felt as if I must be missing something – that here I was, this educated, white woman living in a safe home in a peaceful state with two healthy babies, a job, and enough money to buy the food we needed, and yet still, my story wasn’t complete. I was now turning 50; this transformation into motherhood, I felt, should have been simpler.

Some people told me I was thinking too hard.

Some told me to relax, not to worry.

But I kept telling myself that someday, I would get there. That all I had was all I needed. That this transformation to the next chapter in my story would take time.

I was impatient. Like the five-year-old in front of me, I twisted and twirled and wrapped myself into all sorts of shapes, hoping that with any luck I’d find the one that stuck. I didn’t realize that what I was right in the middle of was what I needed. I was in the process of shaping wholeness; I just wasn’t seeing it.

Salt Lake City hike, half-way up.
Salt Lake City hike, half-way up.

Turning 50 has felt like a tipping point this year; mid-life, I can see the horizon in front of me with such an acute clarity. I feel firmly planted in my life. I’m learning to pay attention, to not only listen to my story but to share it, to pay it forward.

Maybe that’s why I reached out to help the little girl in front of me, clumsily attempting to part her hair and twirl it into a messy bun. My whispered offer of assistance denied, I sat back and breathed in. The hidden wholeness I wouldn’t have seen, couldn’t have seen, when my baby was five years old settled around me like a warm shawl. I felt it as the memories radiated through my being, resting so comfortably, so comfortingly, around my heart.

A daily reminder to be a possibilitarian.
A daily reminder to be a possibilitarian.

And in that moment, I set an intention to look for signs of transformation around me, to twist myself outside of my comfort zone, to make myself acknowledge the wholeness that I’ve been searching for, and that is right here in this ordinary day.

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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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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Easy Ways To Embrace A Healthy Lifestyle

At this point in life, I’m learning that things that used to be easy in my twenties, like sitting cross-legged for hours on end, just aren’t quite as simple now. Or running a 5K. Or staying up late to go to see The Cure in concert night after night.  Passing 50 last December was certainly a milestone I’m proud of. But I’m equally proud of the work I’ve done to embrace a healthy lifestyle. I’ve realized that while some things used to be easier in my twenties and thirties, many struggles I had back then have ceased to be as anxiety ridden. I’ve learned that embracing a healthy lifestyle means more than just counting calories and getting enough sleep; I’m learning that for me to feel whole and balanced and joyful requires a few key elements.

Easy Ways To Embrace A Healthy Lifestyle

Setting boundaries

Like many working moms, I struggled in my thirties with how to balance my teaching career with motherhood. I wanted both. I knew I needed to work outside the home, and I felt the opposing pull to stay as close to my babies as possible. I tried every schedule I could think of. I switched schools, changed the subject I taught, and quit then worked part-time then quit again. Finally, after six years of this yo-yo life with teaching and mothering, I landed in the right school with the right schedule. In the fourteen years since, I’ve become adept at drawing the home/work boundaries. I didn’t grade papers when the kids were awake. I took time off to drive on field trips, and volunteered in their classrooms. I was home (mostly) in the afternoons and did the things with them that I wanted to do. It wasn’t always easy, but setting boundaries then has prepared me to set boundaries for myself. I draw a line between my work life and my creative/at home life, and rarely cross it.

Contributing to my community

When my four-year-old son started karate, one line of his daily pledge was to ‘contribute to my community’. I loved that message, and because of him we took it seriously. I tried to weave age-appropriate acts of giving into our lifestyles, and to teach my children that you get what you give. I love simple acts of kindness like bringing our neighbors some fresh cookies out of the oven, or bringing the kids to visit their great-grandmother at the senior center. We evolved into more involved, planned contributions such as trash pick up around our favorite creek, or cooking and serving meals at the homeless shelter. As teens, I’ve taken my kids to help improve schools in Nicaragua and am encouraging them to study and find jobs in order to make the world a better place.

easy ways to embrace a healthy lifestyle

Getting outside every day

In my twenties I used to love to run. Now, I love to walk. And I’m ok with that. yes, I have to walk much farther to burn the same calories as running, but to me, walking is meditation and exercise. I walk the dog, walk to errands, and walk to socialize with friends. I love to walk in cities I’m visiting, or along the beach. In the mountains, there’s nothing better than walking along a trail and just paying attention to what’s around me. Sometimes I listen to podcasts, but often it’s just me and my dog, and my teens (if I’m lucky!). A daily dose of nature lifts my spirits and reminds me that I’m just one small part of a very big universe.

Enjoying the ordinary moments

When my kids were little, I was obsessed with videotaping everything. I’m old enough that smart phones didn’t exist during their early years, but I faithfully recorded life from behind the lens, then followed up with daily journal entries. Looking back, our favorite memories aren’t necessarily the ‘big’ moments of life; instead, we love seeing the ordinary ones, the moments of everyday life when smearing yogurt on their faces made them giggle, or running after them when they rode their bike down the street, or just noticing the book we were reading or the car we drove up to Tahoe one summer. Now that I’m older and more reflective, I’m embracing those daily, extraordinarily ordinary moments. With one kid in college and one still a teen, my ordinary moments are less likely to involve my children, allowing me to slow down and really pay attention to the curve of the branches of a tree outside my window, or how the clouds flirt with the sun on an April afternoon. I treasure the first blooms in my garden and the way my students’ eyes light up when they understand what I’m trying to teach. Enjoying the ordinary moments leaves me joyful and grateful even on the most difficult of days.

easy ways to embrace a healthy lifestyle!

Eating well

I love to cook. A Saturday spent shopping and baking and preparing a creative meal for my family is one of my favorite ways to show my love. I’m a rabid fan of Food Network, having grown up on Julia Child and The Galloping Gourmet. Now, my love of eating well has transfused to my son, and we get downright giddy together in the grocery store. For a sixteen-year-old, he has sophisticated taste buds and reminds me to think about the flavor profile and what we’re eating, sticking to foods as pure and unprocessed as possible. Restaurants are a special treat; we’d rather spend a Sunday watching over a slow-cooker full of authentically spiced carnitas, or rolling out our own dough for cinnamon rolls. Eating well, to me, isn’t just about keeping a calorie count – it’s about indulging in food as a simple pleasure and displaying my creativity and caring towards my family.

It’s never too late – check out these fun and easy ways to embrace a healthy lifestyle with Chobani Simply 100! I’d love to know what you love to do!

Easy Ways To Embrace A Healthy Lifestyle

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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