Saturday, February 26, 2011

What Is Creativity?

Spring seems like the perfect time to ask ourselves, "What is creativity and how does it apply to me?"

Creativity is the ability to step outside what is known, take note of a particular situation or problem, and then develop or make something original that has value to the creator as well as others.  

As women, we create in ways too many to count.  Unfortunately though, through the centuries, we have forgotten how creative we are.  We have forgotten that we have the ability to make something from next to nothing.  We have forgotten that when life hands us lemons, we make lemonade or lemon meringue pie or lemon drops or even lemon chicken.

During the next four weeks, as we approach the spring equinox, we will take a look at creativity.  We will hear from some women who have found new ways to see things, imagine things, do things.

I invite you, the readers, to share stories of the creative women in your life.  Let us know how they have touched you and others.  In sharing, it is my hope that we will, during this time of rebirth, rediscover our creativity, so that the question, "What is creativity?" will be answered for all to hear...WE are!


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Thursday, February 17, 2011


Still My Momma's Baby (circa 1990's)
I have written, often, here about my childhood, about my crazy dysfunctional family and about how my passion for the written word has kept me whole.  Recently, as I responded to a comment made during an interview I gave for the blog, Writers in Business, I was flooded by memories.

Like a movie camera being clicked into action, I began seeing myself at the kitchen table with Momma reading poetry and then, curled up on the couch with her as she recited from memory, The Charge of the Light Brigade.  I could practically hear her repeating the words from Frost's Mending Wall. The last image that came to mind was opening the letter I received from the Horn Book Club for Children telling me that, while the submission I sent wasn't accepted for publication, they wanted to congratulate me being a poet and writer. Momma didn't say so, but I think she was very proud.

Me, 1960 - Writer and Poet!
It is possible that we all have poems for remembering a loved one.  I know that every time I go to the bookshelf in our hallway that is filled only with tomes of poetry, I can't help but remember my mother.  What a gift she gave me when first she sat reciting poems!  

Later in life, I learned that she recited the poems to keep herself from crying over the difficulties of raising a family in poverty, addiction and disease.  Interestingly, whenever I have felt stressed, more often than not, I reach for a book of poems to quell my fears, heal my wounded spirit and enlighten the path ahead.

Momma had many favorite poems, but one that spoke to her, exemplifying her philosophy of life, was:

My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light.


by Edna St. Vincent Millay, "A Few Figs from Thistles", 1920

Momma's light lasted a great deal longer than anyone expected, including the doctors.  Diagnosed in the early 60's with Myasthenia Gravis, a neuro-muscular disease, she was given six months to live by doctors who simply had no idea of my mother's tenacity.

Her light flickered often, but somehow, the poetry of her days kept  her light burning. Two years ago, she left this existence having wrestled with life for 80 years.   

Remembering Momma, remembering the poetry we shared, and remembering our times together is magic.  In closing, let me share another of her favorite poems about life, also by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand! 

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Roses Are Red

 Red Climbers

Roses are Red. Violets are Blue. This blog post is written, just for YOU!

What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day, but to remember the beauty of roses.

I have often said that my beloved, Roger, didn't promise me a rose garden, he created one, which he did!  He knew my passion for roses, therefore, when we were planting our gardens, he made sure that I was continually surprised to find roses here and there.

Roses have been used as symbols of love, passion, harmony and gratitude for many years.  Different colors of rose symbolize different emotions. 

My favorite color roses are the lilac roses that are florabunda, which means they bloom frequently.  They also have a wonderful scent.  Interestingly, these were the first roses Roger planted in our garden.  I was thrilled to learn, recently that they indicate that the sender has fallen in love at first sight with the recipient and is enchanted!  How wonderful!

Here are some roses from my garden to you!

Peace Rose

Joyous Dusty Rose

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Personal Demons

Winter has been difficult this year on many levels.  There's the cold, the feelings of isolation, the issues with snow removal not to mention accidents, sore muscles, snow blindness and all those personal demons that rear their ugly heads when we are not at our best...  Usually, I do well staying "up." However...

The last week we accumulated over two feet of snow in three days.  Flashbacks to my life on the Air Force base in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (UP) came flooding back.  Literally, my heart has been racing, palms sweaty, nerves on edge.  Snow reaching the first floor windowsills somehow opened the door for the demons of my past.

Enchanted Cottage after the February 2011 storms

The UP can be breathtakingly beautiful.  On the other hand, it can be heartbreaking, too.  With an average snow accumulation of 200 inches (5 meters!), the UP overwhelms the senses.  Just to get there you cross a huge suspension bridge that is nearly five miles long spanning the Straights of Mackinac.  

I crossed this bridge during a winter storm with white-out conditions.  The scars from gripping my prayer beads can still be seen in my palms! 

Mackinac Bridge in a snowstorm, during high wi...
Image via Wikipedia

Mackinac Island Bridge - Nearly 5 miles long
Living 5 1/2 winters in the UP gave me ample opportunities to develop survival skills as a young mother.  Survival skills include learning to chase or at least keep your personal demons at bay.  

When the snow fell, I became creative.  I would bundle the babies and myself up to go outside for at least 15 -20 minutes each day.  Fresh air and sunshine, when there was some, became a daily requirement like vitamins.  In addition, I socialized as much as possible with neighbors and friends.  Sometimes, my neighbor Elizabeth, an amazing artist in her own right, would come over for tea in the morning with her two girls and stay until bedtime.  Elizabeth and I would sip tea, sharing life stories as the girls played contently (most of the time) in their room.  

To say that tea and sympathy saved both of us from losing our minds during the winters in the UP might be hyperbolic to some, but it honestly did.  Our friendship has lasted over thirty years, through numerous moves and life changes.  We have stayed in touch through letters, occasional phone calls and the knowledge that we shared a special time in our lives together as women.

Another friend from those days was Fran Miller, a teacher par excellence!
Fran had two daughters who would play make believe with my girls for hours on end, while we would drink tea, solving world problems as we encouraged each others abilities to write and teach. 

In addition, Fran and I shared Irish heritage, so stories of pixies, elves and fairies were part of both our family's lives.  Like Elizabeth, Fran and I kept in touch until her death from cancer, recently.  Often, we would talk about our days in the UP, remembering the trials as well as the triumphs.

Like the women who crossed this country in covered wagons and on horseback, we gathered around each others kitchen table.  The warmth of our tea cups, conversation and friendship kept us from the cold and isolation of the unforgiving elements outside the front door.  These were good memories.

 Sun through the Trees in Western Massachusetts 2/11

Funny how something as simple as snow reaching the windowsill can trigger memories filled with emotions.  As the demons began roaming through the Enchanted Cottage looking for a snack, I quickly gathered my demon fighting tools.

First thing, I prayed.  "Dear God, help me to make it through this day." This was my mantra as a mother all those years ago in the UP.

Next, I went for a walk.  OK, so I only went down the end of the driveway and back, but it was outside in the fresh air, which I breathed in deeply.

Finally, I found things to do that were creative...cover a cushion, write a poem, re-arrange the furniture, write in my journal...anything that would spark the endorphins to work.

Heading Out on My Cross Country Skis

The good news is the demons are now sitting outside the Enchanted Cottage looking in.  They won't go back to their caves for a bit, I know, but at least they aren't in here driving me to distraction.

Fighting personal demons is a task we all face from time to time.  May you remember that you have the tools to keep them at bay.  May you be blessed with good memories of times that brought you friendship and love.  And, May you remain strong in spite of whatever comes your way.


Personal Journals: Recording the Good, the Bad and the Mundane
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