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?

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

More than a week has passed since I returned from the Heart of Christian American Writers Network (HACWN) conference.  I still haven’t “recovered” from the very spiritual experience I had while there, and hope I never do. How does one follow up a blog posting like my last one? For those who have experienced something similar, I don’t have to. For others, no explanation will suffice. It cannot rationally be explained, so it didn’t happen.

And yet it did.

To borrow the expression of someone else who’d attended the same conference, I hit the ground running when I returned home. I had two days to plan my youth writing class, and a week to plan a couponing workshop, which ended up being so enjoyable, I can’t believe I am being paid to have that much fun. I made an important decision regarding the future of my book. I began the arduous task of following some of the advice given to me at the conference; beginning another blog which centers on the “dark side of couponing,” (see http://crazycouponer.blogspot.com/) writing some query letters, doing some editing of my book proposal, and working on descriptions  for some workshops I may be presenting at an April retreat. What I haven’t done much of is write. And that is very unlike me. For more than a year now, I have written every single day. Every. Single. Day.  But right now I feel like I need to process everything that occurred at the writer’s conference, and I’m waiting for some quiet, contemplative, “un-busy” time to do so. And that hasn’t happened. It reminds me uncomfortably of the years I spent snatching writing moments between crying babies, changing diapers and marathon nursing sessions. I’d sit on the lid of the toilet, scribbling away in a notebook while a toddler splashed away in the bathtub, or eagerly pull over the curb when a baby fell asleep in the car-seat, only to pull a notepad out of my purse and immediately begin writing. It wasn’t easy, but something made me write, the same something that still pulls at me, even during these occasional dry times when writing takes a back burner to the pressing tasks in front of me. I used to wonder then; when will I have time to write? And now it is; when will I have time to think?

The first opportunity for that was this past Sunday. After a week of power point preparations, planning and conducting my youth writing course, schlepping my son to the dentist to have his wisdom teeth removed, strategically doing some shopping trips to include in the coupon workshop, and writing queries, I found myself sitting in a church pew with some contemplative time. In the peaceful quiet of the church, I replayed that moment at the conference when my eyes locked with a stranger’s and I recognized the unmistakable eyes of my mother. How could that be, I marveled again, and my throat filled with tears even as I felt a surge of pure joy. I knew right then that I never want to forget what that moment felt like, and I always want to remain open to it happening again.

Today it is Thanksgiving. The turkey is in the oven and seven pies are on the back porch. I have spent the better part of two days cleaning my house in preparation for company, company that includes the people I love most in this world; sons and daughters, a son-in-law I include in the son category, three grandchildren, and a girl I have yet to meet who loves my son. Later in the day, a sister and nieces will come to play card games. With temperatures hitting nearly 60-degrees in Iowa, I am hoping to imbibe in one of my favorite activities; what I call the “walking-off-the-pie” tradition I have shared with sisters other years.

And in this brief moment before the children are up and the Macy’s Day parade blares from the television, I can take the time to be thankful for my many blessings; my husband, my children and the people who love them, my grandchildren, my siblings and David’s siblings, good friends, a warm house, good food, and the bliss of the sweet sound of silence.

Thank you, Lord, for this bounty of blessings you have bestowed upon me. And thank you, too, for helping me recognize, through a mother who was my inspiration, the talents you have bestowed upon me in the form of writing and speaking. And let me remember always, as my father told me so long ago to “use them for good, and not evil.”

This photo is of the two pictures my long-time friend and companion at the writer’s conference, Mary Humston, brought with her and displayed in our hotel room. They inspire her and speak to her creative soul. She brought them with her for creative sustenance, and shared their beauty with me. I felt a little sorry for myself when I saw them. I had no framed piece that spoke to me, no portable artwork to add to this display.

It hit me this morning; I don’t need one. I carry my muse, my mother, inside.