iamsomeonesmother

Life as a mom, wife and teacher… and the balance and creativity required to be happy.

Creativity needs a community August 28, 2016

I’ve been thinking about creativity a lot in the past few months, reading about how others cultivate it, trying a variety of methods for myself, and letting all those ideas and experiences simmer in my mind. 

This year in my Drama 12 class, when we were developing individually written One Act plays, I tried something new. I often begin each class with a community share (something I like to call Question-of-the-Day); usually queries posed in an effort to get to know one another better. This year I asked questions related to their writing and creative process. It was a game changer. It started a series of conversations that encouraged the students as writers, it created a natural forum for suggestions and feedback, and also served as a safe place to ask for help and pool ideas for developing characters, challenging scenes and next steps for plot expansion. Students began to trust one another with their ideas and they began to share their written work. This is harder than it sounds, as very rarely do students see themselves as writers, but this group began to do just that. If only, I had figured this out years ago! As a result, I had more submissions of One Act plays than ever before, which got me to thinking…

I was in need as well. I wanted what had magically appeared among my students – I wanted a group of writers with whom I could share, ask questions, get help with editing and revision. I wanted my own little writing community.
A search began. There are a few writers groups in the city, but the meeting times are during weekday mornings. Not a convenient time for me during the school year. The quest continued. I found another group, but it seemed to be a group of professional, published writers, and well, I’m not quite ready for that. So, in the end I created my own writers group!
The Meraki Writers have met three times thus far, at a local coffee shop, with iPads and notebooks and napkins. We are a small group at this point, made up of a first time novelist writing a memoir, a blogger/ playwright/ actress, via long distance a first time novelist seeking publication and myself, a blogger/poet/playwright and most recently, an erotic short story writer. Who knew? 

We followed a loosely developed agenda that I had invent prior to each session. Confession: I don’t actually know what I am doing. Like so many seasons of my life, I am making this up as I go along. We begin by talking about ourselves a bit, our writing styles, current projects, writing challenges. The conversation is thrilling, confirming, supportive, encouraging and exciting! Sometimes we read a selection from our current project, prefacing the read aloud with a question for the listening audience. Other times we play with writing prompts, vague enough to inform whatever project we are currently working on. We share our insights into the writing process and our research into ways to get published. Again, thrilling, confirming, supportive, encouraging and exciting! We generate so many ideas, and suggestions, and so much positivity for one another. I leave feeling like I have accomplished some serious brain work. Each session is followed by the intense urge to write, write, write!

We are still looking for a few more members but these meetings are confirmation for all of us. Later this month, we will be attending the Fringe Fest, where one of our members is performing her most recent one woman show. We will arrive in writers regalia, supporting the work with our presence and positivity. 

Creativity needs a community and creative types need to commune together. We should support one another, instead of compete. We should challenge one another, instead of sabotage. We need to band together, notebooks and London Fog in hand, laughter and compassion punctuating the struggle, and create a healthy community for creatives.

 

Creativity is sexy April 17, 2016

  
There is a definite link between how sexy I feel and time spent upon my personal creative endeavours. Because for me, creativity is sexy – it’s a turn on. And when I am able to balance all of the parts of my life and still have time to create… Well, I feel sexier.

I haven’t lost weight or met a new lover, not even a new haircut… The simple act of making arouses something deep inside me. I look in the mirror and value the woman I see. I am able to focus on her depth, her character, the twinkle in her eye, her positive nature, and the flaws melt away. The power to create is alluring and empowering and sexy.

Even my husband notices a difference. My mood is improved and I am warmer towards him and our children. I am more forgiving and open to ideas. And let’s just say it – more amorous as well. 

It works in reverse too. I find others more attractive. I am able to see their worth, what they offer to this classroom, this team, this collaboration. It is as if a haze is lifted and I can see others more clearly or perhaps as they want to be seen.

 
When my husband and I met, he used to write poems for me… And the sexiness of those poems lay in the fact that I inspired them. I was the muse which breathed them into existence. Words spun together in an attempt to explain an unexplainable completeness. Our life is much fuller now, and poems come only on birthdays and holidays and often to express his gratitude for the life we have built together… But his creativity still moves me, stirs something deep within, that recaptures those early days of passion and spontaneity. His creativity is sexy to me.

So build a cabinet. Reinvent a family recipe. Write a song. Do whatever you do, make whatever you make, be the creator you are. Take the time to create, then stand back and look at yourself in the mirror. Don’t let self-doubt and criticism be the image that looks back at you. See what I would see… Your creativity is sexy. 

 

Creativity takes time March 15, 2016

I grew up being creative. From “composing” my own songs and recording them, to playing the littlest witch who saved Christmas. I am crafty, creative and colorful. Every corner of my life speaks this truth. But as the mother of two young boys and a working mom, I am realizing how much time it takes to be this best version of myself.

When my first son was born, I laid it all down to dedicate myself to him. At the time, I thought that was what a working mother had to do – give up part of herself to be a good mom. I know better now. In recent years, as my second son grew out of toddlerhood, I had to face the reality that I was unhappy. Initially I blamed it on many things – we didn’t have enough money, maintaining our home required more than I had to give, my marriage needed a tune up, I didn’t want to teach any longer, and so on. Looking back now, having navigated through all of those feelings, it was none of those things.

I was miserable because I wasn’t creating. Somewhere along the path of adulthood, I had lost the essence of my joy. I was created to create. But I had stopped believing that truth.

It was wrong of me to give up that part of myself, because being a happy maker helps me be a better mom, wife and teacher. It even makes me a better sister, daughter and friend. Residual happiness carries us a long way in this life… And when times are tough I sit down to create. Or I take time to be in Creation. Or I let the blessings of this family that I have helped create wash over me. And I find my centre, my happiness, the creator inside me. I was created to create. And then I do. I steal a quiet moment to write, or read, or craft something that can only come from me.

My creative corner (also my vanity!), where all my best making happens.

 

What peace it brings! What time it takes! To still one’s mind and heart in this world where busyness is our currency. I want to be productive, not busy. I want to make, not fret. I want to hear and see and be all that Creation has to offer.

But this takes time. It takes purposefulness. It is a choice. I choose to create, because that is where my happiness lives.

 

Has classroom teaching become obsolete? January 17, 2016

It’s begun to occur to me lately that more often than not, my students can seek out almost anything they wish to know using Google or You Tube. Want examples of how to properly warm up your voice? National Theatre has an excellent You Tube channel. Want strategies to help you memorize dialogue? Google it for dozens of useful suggestions. Want to learn how to write a monologue? Easy enough to find using university websites and “how to” blogs. Has my job in the classroom become obsolete?

This thought stirs me to sadness. “What then is my purpose in my classroom?” If students can find what they need to know online, why do I continue to exist in my role as classroom teacher? What am I bringing to the table that they can’t find through a search engine?

image

Circle and stage are set for another day of magic.

I have spent the last couple weeks observing myself and my students from behind this lens and have made some interesting and, I think, valid discoveries. Teachers need to face facts: most of the curriculum content we teach could be self-taught with some initiative and access to the Internet. However, there is a whole host of other skills I am teaching to my students that cannot be found online.

I am teaching young men and women how to make eye contact. Put down your phone and engage in sharing a human exchange with myself and your peers. Take a risk, look me in the eye and tell us: What was the best moment of your holiday break? Whom do you admire most and why? What is your greatest regret? Your greatest accomplishment? Right now, in this moment, look around the circle at each of us and share who you really are.

I am teaching manners. Excuse me Mike, you are interrupting me. I am currently speaking with Lisa, so you will need to need to wait patiently until we have finished, before you can ask to go to the bathroom.

I am a teaching kindness. I am so sorry that you and Phillip broke up last night. Let me know if there is anything I can do. In the meantime, do you need a few more days to complete your final draft?

I am teaching about consequences. I know you’re not ready to perform your monologue and I’m sorry that makes you feel stressed/ worried/ anxious. I would feel that way too if I weren’t prepared for something this important, but that is the result of a series of choices that you made/ actions you didn’t take. Present today to the best of your ability or take a zero.

I am teaching self-advocacy. In the future, Melissa, you need to discuss the fact that you need a second set of worksheets with me, instead of having your mom send an email.

I am teaching apologies. You’re angry and frustrated, I see that. I’m frustrated too. I’m sorry for being curt. Let’s both take a walk and then once we’ve cooled off, let’s see if we can come to an agreement on how to move forward together.

I am teaching humility. Tyler, it can be hard to hear constructive criticism, but instead of being reactive, graciously say thank you and then decide on your own if you will use or discard what was said.

I am teaching kids to work outside their comfort zone. You feel nervous. That’s ok. That’s your body’s reaction to a perceived threat, but there is no physical threat… It’s just you and me and the classmates you have learned to trust. Breathe deep and try, just try.

These skills and experiences can’t be taught or practiced outside of the human relationships found in classroom teaching. And it seems they aren’t being taught at home in the way they used to be. So yes, most of my curriculum can be found somewhere on the World Wide Web BUT there is hidden curriculum being taught everyday in my classroom, the curriculum of what it means to be a contributing citizen, a friend, an artist, a listener, a person of patience and kindness and goodness. These things are being taught in my classroom everyday and this is why I won’t give up just yet.

 

Goals… Not Resolutions   January 1, 2016

Filed under: confessions,Creativity,family,health,reflections,writing — iamsomeonesmother @ 6:59 pm
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Happy 2016! I woke this morning with a sense of optimism bubbling in my soul. A new year, a fresh start, a time to reflect, reinvent and repurpose. I revel in these times when the slate is clean and I can ponder, dream, aspire to ways I will fill it.

Which brings me to my point. Several years ago I stopped making resolutions. I used to really think things through, make and edit a list, record my plans in a special journal, and then I would quickly forget all about them. Lose 15 pounds. That only happened one year. Organize the clutter in my house, one room at a time (while each room previously cleaned gets filled with crap again). Complete my thesis… Well eventually I did, but it was a full three years after making that resolution.

A few years back, I decided I was tired of this process. It would be June before I made it to my bedroom to, as we’ve discussed, de-clutter and locate the list that now seemed to represent failure instead of achievement.

 

Vegan? Paleo? Big Magic? I may dabble in all 3 until I decide which suits me best!

You see, the problem with resolutions is that achievement is reached only when the resolution is complete. Lose 15 pounds. Organize the clutter. Complete a thesis. But a goal, my friends, a goal is celebrated as you move towards it, the progress towards the goal is in itself an achievement. Cut back on carbs and sugar intake. Take on fewer household tasks and designate regularly. Write often enough to be happy. These are ideas to celebrate and a movement forward shows change and growth!
So set yourself a goal, for today, or this week, or the year 2016. And celebrate every step you take that brings you closer to it. Hoping this year brings you good health, happiness and blessings.

 

The Pen is Mightier than the Pill December 27, 2015

Filed under: Creativity,health,writing — iamsomeonesmother @ 2:25 am
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Uhh… Hi there. It’s been much longer than my “prescribed” 4 days. Sorry about that, but I am writing today, Boxing Day on the East Coast of Canada, with good news and renewed energy. I am amazed but it seems to be working… I am writing and reading and feeling a bit better, due in no small part to the 4 day ‘writing to heal’ challenge suggested by Dr. James Pennebaker at the University of Texas at Austin.

 

It didn’t happen like I predicted. Day 1 Hubby took the boys out for a walk and I sat down to write, careful to follow Dr. Pennebaker’s instructions: 20 minutes, quiet, no disruptions, write about your deepest emotions. It was hard, at first, to access how I felt about my health struggles, harder than I expected. I sat for a few minutes without typing anything and of course, berating myself for having nothing to write. “Come on, you’ve only got 18, no 17, no 16 minutes left to write.” It occurred to me that those thoughts were not inspirational or helpful even and so eventually I just decided to start writing. This was the opening idea:

image“Part of my struggle is that I’ve never really been sick. Oh sure, I’ve had colds, the flu, Norwalk swept through our family once when it was just the hubby and our first son, but I’ve never has any chronic illness. I’ve had a healthy back story. Until my 2nd pregnancy.”

Well, once I connected with what I was feeling, it was like a dam had broken and I couldn’t stop. Twenty minutes went by in what seemed like a deep breath and as I exhaled, I re-read what had poured out of me. I discovered a profoundly clear thought:

“But there were tears. I sat in the car, on my way home from the doctor’s office, a life-changing prescription in my hands, and cried because my body had never let me down before. Even now thinking of myself in that way causes stinging, salty tears to brim in my eyes. I feel let down… by nothing less than my own self.”

This idea summarized my whole emotional approach to being unwell. I saw it as my own fault and felt that there had to be a way that I could fix my health. In fact, in an appointment with a naturopathic Doctor I asked how did I do this to myself… My own locus of control is deeply internal and far too focused on finding my own fault in this issue… I was shocked when she responded that pregnancy and environmental toxins could cause my ‘unwellness’ just as often as poor treatment of oneself. I felt relief that it was possible that I hadn’t entirely done this to myself.

And that was only Day 1! I sat down to journal on Day 2 and found myself brimming with an idea for a short story, due in part to a dream I’d had and an inspiring podcast I had been listening to. I decided to use the 20 minutes to see where the short story would go… It’s still going. I started and can’t stop. I am stealing 5, 10, 15 minutes here and there to continue the first draft. And the biggest surprise is that I haven’t written a short story in years… Most of my writing has focused on poetry, scripts and more recently, this blog. I was again shocked! Here is a brief excerpt:

“Two babies had left her hips and stomach decorated in pale stripes the color of inner onion skins. There was a roundness in her lower belly that had not been there before and a slight sag at the sides of her hips. But Mac insisted that he didn’t care about the 13 pounds of baby weight that stubbornly remained, although she felt she would be more convinced of that if he had thrown her on the bed passionately, immediately after saying so. He complained of being so tired and she was too; working full time and raising two kids was exhausting, but still, she craved sex, longed for it, imagined illicit trysts in her head while doing the dishes or folding laundry.”

Sexy huh? That’s just the tip of the iceberg – I sincerely never knew I had it in me but something from Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast ‘Magic Lessons‘ resonated within me. She told one artist to think of her writing as a lover, to have an affair with inspiration, to steal away for secret moments, to have a sexy, dirty, nasty, wicked creative life. As a result Day 3 and 4 were taken up with more development of the short story and some poetry. I considered the blog but was swept away by the short story and how I was emancipating myself as I wrote it.

And here I am, I returned to ‘iamsomeonesmother’ and more than ever before that title suits me. I am someone’s mother but I am also a wife, a daughter, a sister, a teacher and equally important, a creator, a writer, an artist. Taking, no making time to write over the past few weeks has improved how I feel overall. Additionally, taking some supplements and making a few diet changes seems to be calming down some of the joint inflammation as well. But I realize that it was a combination of pain – the physical ache of busy hands and feet that simply don’t have time to stop and the emotional ache that comes from the burden of an unused talent (another idea from Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast – she is sharing ideas and strategies that are restructuring my creative identity!).

So, yes, the Pen IS Mightier than the Pill. I have moved past some of the blocks I was having artistically because I stopped to write about my health and happiness, both of which are intimately intertwined with my creative needs.

 

The Pen is Mightier than the Pill: Writing for Health December 1, 2015

Filed under: confessions,health,reflections,writing — iamsomeonesmother @ 1:35 pm
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It’s been over a month since my last post… I dunno… I’m feeling uninspired. 

This Fall has been exhausting. I guess I’ve been in survival mode. Without getting into too much detail, I’ve been struggling with some minor but chronic joint pain and no one seems to be able to tell me what to do to feel better. Between teaching full time, raising a family, and managing my pain and low energy… well, writing hasn’t felt like a priority.

But I’ve been reading… and reading… and reading… I joined a book club this Fall and I’ve had my nose in a book and out of my iPad. It’s been so refreshing.

And as I read, I remember why I love words! The right words in the right order at the right time have power, resonate feelings, teach and soothe and instruct. Minds, habits and health can change.

  
The research of Dr. James Pennebaker, University of Texas at Austin, shows that writing promotes not only emotional healing but also an improved immune system. He suggests a writing assignment where the subject writes for 15-20 minutes for four consecutive days about his or her deepest emotions and the event that created this emotional upheaval. He gives the following tips:

-Find a time and place you won’t be disturbed.

 -Write continuously for 20 minutes.

-Don’t worry about spelling or grammar.

-Write only for yourself.

-Write about something extremely personal and important to you.

-Deal only with events and situations you can handle right now.

So, I am back. Or at least I’m going to try. For the next four days, I will write for 20 minutes as “prescribed” by Dr. Pennebaker. As this writing is meant to be just for me, I will post in one week the results of this health experiment. 

Let’s face it – I feel better when I write, and with no clear “pain free” horizon, writing maybe the only therapy I have.

I hope you’ll stay with or join me, for the first time.