Celebrating a Mother’s Creative Soul

Had she lived, my mother would have reached a milestone birthday yesterday. She would have been 90 years old.

Shortly after Mom’s death in 2010, after repeatedly reading her admonitions to her children and grandchildren “to utilize their God-given talents,” I decided to do just that. In her honor, I put together a power point presentation on utilizing creativity in everyday life. I first presented it to a room full of young homeschooling moms.

“My mother never doubted for a moment that each of her children had talent,” I opened with. “Do you ever doubt that each of your children possesses some inherent talent?”

The women shook their heads, smiling with pride.

“Do you encourage your children’s natural gifts and spend money on lessons or training?”

They nodded in response.

I paused, before adding, “But what about you? Do you ever doubt your own inherent creativity?”

Their smiles faded. Suddenly, they couldn’t meet my eyes.

A few months later, I did the same presentation for a group of women at the other end of the spectrum, empty-nesters and retirees. When I asked if they ever doubted their own inherent talents, their replies were heartbreaking to me, ranging from “I don’t have any talent,” to “It’s too late for me now.”

There’s a book in this somewhere, I thought then. Once home, I scrawled down some notes, throwing them in a folder I labeled “Creativity.” The key word being scrawled.

creativity book first notes

These notes and that 2011 power point presentation were the beginning of what would eventually become a book on creativity. Around the same time, I also began collecting quotes in a journal, quotes that speak to me now as I work on the manuscript. 

“It came to me yesterday that our life does not fully flower until it is over. It’s final meaning can’t be known until after we are gone. Written down, this makes it sound as if the worth of a life is weighed by the number of people who remember us. But I mean something more, which is connected to the new life my mother is leading now. Her power has intensified, rather the way a saint’s efficacy is spread,”– Phyllis Theroux, in “The Journal Keeper.”

“I have this little idea that worms its way through my head, that perhaps God is redeeming my father’s writing through my pen. He’s completing my father’s genius in me, but He’s doing it through my own frailty. I’m no genius. I’m a mess half the time. But God’s great work of redemption spans the generations. When I put words to the page, I wonder if my Dad can see me. Does he smile?”– from Mary Demuth in “Thin Places”

I’ve felt my mother near as I work on this book, wonder if she is smiling from Heaven.

Those initial notes became a well-planned proposal for a book with twelve chapters.

 creativity book first proposal (2)Since signing the book contract the chapters have morphed somewhat. I won’t share the updated titles, since they can change again once the editor gets a hold of it, but the changes were a surprise to me.  

My writing knows more than I know. What a writer must do is listen to her book. It might take you where you don’t expect to go. That’s what happens when you write stories. You listen and you say ‘aha’ and you write it down. A lot of it is not planned, not conscious; it happens while you’re doing it. You know more about it after you’re done.” – Madeliene L’Engle

I’ve had some other surprises in the writing process. While I’d assumed some of my mother’s words might appear in the manuscript, and had already fit in some as epigraphs (the quotes at the beginning of a chapter), I hadn’t expected Mom’s actual handwriting to appear.

first page (2)This creativity book project has turned out to be a labor of love. I can hardly wait to see where that labor takes me.

In closing, a message from my wise mother:

mom talents on loan from God

Living A More Creative Life

In August I began a Lifelong Learner’s Creativity group at the library where I work. In November I signed a contract for a book on creativity. It has been an honor to watch the women in my group blossom and grow as we delve into each other’s interests and actively pursue a more creative life. 

My book includes optional *Ignite* activities at the end of each chapter, suggestions for exploring or jumpstarting your creative side. I’ve been testing out some of the activities on my group. Last night it was the Vision Board activity.

 “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” -Mary Oliver 

My mother left behind scrapbooks made from brown paper bag pages sewn together, with magazine pictures of things she’d like to make glued inside. A notebook labeled “Dream On” included ideas for home decorating. A collage of what I want to include in my life would have a blue butterfly smack dab in the middle, signifying the husband who encouraged me to fly. There would also be pictures of overflowing bookshelves, stacks of stationery. Beach scenes and mountains. What do you envision for your life or future? What do you want to surround yourself with? What are your hopes and dreams?
Make a vision board, alone, or with a group. Tear pictures out of magazines. Arrange them on poster board. Add inspirational quotes from our previous chapter, or words like “possibilities” or “fly” that are torn from magazines. What does your creative future look like?

vision board

Thanks to the brilliant idea from another member, I decided to utilize a black-framed bulletin board I picked up at Goodwill for mine. I’m thrilled with the results, though I know I will be adding to it. The Bible verse is one that is particularly meaningful to me since my husband’s death. Seeing a mountain is on my bucket list, and I want to add more nature into my life. The picture in the middle is one I’ve had in a file folder since shortly after my mother died, when I discovered her brown bag scrapbooks, and imagined doing something similar, collecting pictures of things that were pleasing to my eye. 

This book will be dedicated to my mother, one of the most creative women I’ve ever known.

mom woodcarver.jpg

The book will include profiles of some creative people between chapters. At least two of them are women in my Lifelong Learner’s group. From my work in progress:

The “Sparks” between each of this book’s chapters are short profile pieces of ordinary people like you and me, who have managed to practice creativity in their everyday life. It’s no coincidence that the first profile is the obituary of a woman my mother often spoke of in a reverential tone. My great-aunt Christine, or “Aunt Chrissie,” as my mother called her, is a perfect example of a life well-lived, steeped in creativity and faith.

We should all leave such a legacy, one that embodies what an Irma who wasn’t my mother said, the famous Erma Bombeck: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say ‘I used everything you gave me.’”