Childhood Calling

In Called to Be Creative, to be released by Familius Publishing September 1, 2020, I encourage readers to look back to their childhood interests to discover where their natural talents lie. (italicized sections taken from book)

“Whether it was cooking, gardening, spending time with animals, sketching, writing, empathetic listening, or music, there was something you were drawn to as a child, an activity that brought you joy, that you can reignite now, as an adult.” 

I revisited my childhood this past week as I organized letters my mother had written to my grandmother in the 60’s and 70’s.

moms letter

I skimmed through more than 200 of Mom’s letters in two days, observing at one point as I read, that it was her voice in my head. What a treasure her words are now, providing a glimpse into the heart of a mother who believed every one of her ten children was endowed with certain gifts, talents she observed and recorded in letters to her mother.

Weekly Reader

I have no copy of the poem or Weekly Reader letter, nor can I remember ever seeing the published version, though I have a vague memory of an elementary teacher reading it to the entire class.

oratory

I did know what I “liked to do” back then; writing, drawing, and public speaking, but I never imagined those endeavors making any money. Certainly none of them constituted a “career” of any sort. Instead, when I began attending classes at the University of Northern Iowa, it was with the intention of becoming a teacher. Quickly disillusioned with that idea, I ended up graduating with a B.A. in Psychology, enjoying opportunities to conduct research and write papers. I may have been one of few students who actually loved essay tests. Nine credits shy of a Masters in Family Services, I left college to serve my own growing family, taking finals in the hospital bed after giving birth to my fourth. For the next thirty years, I struggled to maintain a semblance of creative self through freelance writing. As for the public speaking, as an isolated homeschooling mother of eight, weeks could pass when the only adults I spoke to outside of my husband were the butcher at the grocery store and our mailman. I rapidly lost the ability to string two coherent sentences together, which makes it all the more remarkable that I now take great pleasure in public speaking. I never feel more alive than when I am speaking in front of a room full of people.

“It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to predict that the little girl who spent hours reading and scribbling out stories might someday become a writer herself. Nor is it difficult to imagine the high schooler who won awards at speech contests someday becoming a public speaker. Yet I didn’t return to those roots of elocution for nearly forty years.”

Forty years is a long time to abandon a talent even my father had recognized when he’d admonished me to “use your gift for good, not evil,” and yet the fact that it took forty years to return to it should encourage my readers. It is never too late.

“Imagine the possibilities; a mostly stay-at-home, isolated mother of eight who could barely string two sentences together to communicate with the butcher and mailman, now speaking in front of crowds, designing power-points, and conducting workshops. After thirty years of writing articles and essays, that same woman somehow manages to sign six book contracts in the space of six years. If this woman’s broken self, laid bare by grief, could learn to reach out to others and discover a job in midlife that fulfills all her passions, incorporating everything that her soul has been seeking, where might your search for meaning and purpose lead?” 

Isn’t it time to find out?

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.

*Ignite*
 “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.

obituary.jpg
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.’”