Friday, June 27, 2014

The Creativity Project

I have been taking a course on creativity.  Little did I expect that this course would inspire me back into the world of blogging.  I think that it is time.  I have missed this place... not blogger per se, I have missed the deep place in my heart that longs to write.  As Virginia Woolf once wrote, "Every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works." 

Entry #1:  Saturday, May 31, 2014

Today I attended my first class to get my gifted endorsement.  I couldn’t sleep last night as I was so excited.  What would the class be like?  Would I learn all the things swirling around in my mind before I have to teach gifted classes next year?  Who would I meet?  What assignments would we be asked to complete?  

About midway through the class we were asked to write down some ideas on a piece of paper.  What is something that we have always wanted to do but haven’t taken the time to do it?  I jotted a few things down in my notes:  learn to play the guitar, write my dissertation (YIKES!), build a piece of furniture, write a children’s story…  There are so many things that I would like to do one day when I have the time and the money!

At the conclusion of our class, the instructor told us that the class would end in a Creativity Project.  We were asked to pick a creative endeavor and then complete it over the next few weeks.  We would present our final projects on the last day of class.  We were also asked to create a journal about our process.  

So… here it is.  My journal.  My creative thoughts during a creative process.

Entry #2:  Sunday, June 1, 2014
“The Husband Discussion”

After my class yesterday, I told James over dinner that I needed to do something creative.  “I think that I want to build a bed!”  I said boldly over quesadillas.  “A BED?”  James stared at me.  It is not uncommon for me to throw out strange ideas over dinner.  Most husbands might ask how one is going to build a bed, what kind of bed, do I have the tools needed, etc.  Instead, James just said, “Can you please just do me one favor first?”  I waited.  There was no telling what he might ask me to do first.  Clean out the garage before bringing in the wood?  Make sure he liked the style of the bed before I built?  

“Can you please finish painting the office before starting a new project?”  He said gently.  Disappointment suddenly washed over me.  Finish painting the office?  That project was so summer of 2013 and not at all interesting to me anymore.  I had chosen a dark navy for my office.  I had a huge vision in my mind.  Dark navy with all the boys artwork in white frames.  It was going to be gorgeous… and I had promised James that once was office was complete, I would finally be in a good frame of mind to write my PhD dissertation.  I had painted all the walls, all the trim, and the office was in pretty good shape except for the window frames.  The inside of the windows still resonated with the odd green color chosen by the previous owners.  Oh, James!  They were just the insides of a window.  The details.  This conversation shows the normal conundrum facing our marriage.  I have dreams.  Big Dreams.  New Dreams… but I never seem to be able to finish the details of the dreams I already started.

Entry #3:  Monday, June 2, 2014

I walked into the office this afternoon hoping that inspiration would consume me to finish painting the insides of the window sills.  The only problem I had was actually reaching the windows.  I couldn't reach the windows to paint because the office was filled with books.  Books gently placed on the floor in front of all the windows.  My mom had been in town a few weeks ago.  Her minivan had been filled with books.  Special books.  My dad’s books.  

My dad died last August after a four year fight against cancer of the bone marrow.  I wish that I could write a blog right now about my feelings of grief.  But I am not quite ready.  A blog feels so unworthy of the emotions and feelings I have toward my dad.  Words seem trite - unable to fully grasp the emotion, the love, and the loss.  So, instead I will talk about his books.  My dad loved books.  Every single night while growing up, my dad would excuse himself early to his bedroom.  He would sit up on his bed and read.  He would read fiction, non-fiction, law books, religious books, current events, and anything else that intrigued him at the moment.  He would sit with a pen and a ruler.  My dad would underline.  He would underline his books.  Using a small ruler and his pen, my dad would make perfect lines under anything that he deemed important.  

I asked my mom for his books.  Besides my dad’s nose, I inherited his love for books.  I wanted his books because I want to read every single underlined note he ever took.  I want to read all the things that he thought were important enough to underline.  I want to know more about his brain.  His loves.  His thoughts.  I want to be able to talk to him again, and I have this wonderful dream that his underlines will speak to me through his books.  

As we unloaded a minivan full of books, my mom told me a story about dad’s last week of life.  Shortly before moving into the Hospice House, my dad asked my mom to walk him into his office.  He stood there quietly.  His still tall (but now cancer stricken frame) held on to my mom for support as he raised his arm.  With a raised arm, he walked around his office and let his hand run across the spines of his books.  It was as if he were saying goodbye to some of his dearest friends - his books.  

And now, as I looked around my own office (the windows sills still filled with green paint), I saw all the books piled on the floor in front of the windows.  Where should I put these treasures?  I wondered.  They need a beautiful place.  A beautiful home.  For these books are beautiful to me.  

And suddenly I knew, I would no longer be building a bed.  I would be building a bookcase.  

Entry #4:  Tuesday, June 5, 2014

I called my mom on my way home from work today.  “Mom, can you help me build a bookcase?”  

And that is how the adventure began.  A building adventure with my mom.  For as much as I love and miss my dad, I admire my mom.  While my mom feels that she is slowing down with age; I have grown up knowing that if I needed wood floors, a kitchen remodel, or the best babysitter for my kids, I just need to call my mom.  

We set a date when she could come to town, and I set about dreaming.  I had a plan, but now I needed inspiration!

Entry #5:  Friday, June 8, 2014

Inspiration… Inspiration can come from a variety of sources.  A beautiful masterpiece found in a new art exhibit.  The wings of a butterfly when it lands on a nearby leaf.  A week at the mountains in a rustic cabin.  Or if you are like me… inspiration comes from pinterest!  

Before & After: Built ins. Can make a room look much larger than it actually is!  Would look great in a Craftsman style home... how to decorate around a centered fireplace

It was my “illumination.”  I had my “aha” moment.  I needed those bookshelves.  They were almost as beautiful as my dad’s books.  

Entry #6:  Friday, June 20, 2014

Tonight my mom arrived.  I will attend class tomorrow for my gifted endorsement and we have one week to build my bookshelves.  I am optimistic!  Mom seems a little more quiet about our time line.  We walked into my office tonight.  Mom hesitated.  “Would you like to build a window seat?” She asked.  “If you want, we could buy some cheap bookcases and dress them up with molding.  I have done that several times.”  

And then I made my confession.  “My instructor said it couldn’t be a pre-made bookcase that I just put together, mom.  I told him I was going to do this from scratch… And by the way, I have an inspiration picture.”  

I pulled out my phone and found the pin.  In my excitement I held out the phone in front of her.  “We can do this mom!  You can teach me how to build!”  

She hesitated, “I have never actually built a bookcase from scratch before, Emily…” and I could tell she would be up late thinking.  I, however, went to bed full of excitement and expectation.  My mom knows how to do everything after all…

Entry #7:  Saturday, June 21, 2014

I went back to class today.  The sweet lady next to me asked what I was doing for my creativity project.  “I am building a bookcase!”  I said with my eternal optimism.  “My mom is going to teach me how!”  

When I got home, we got to work measuring walls and realized that one side of the doorway measures 49 ⅛ inches while the other side of the doorway stands at 50 ⅛ inch.  Perhaps this project is not going to be quite so simple after all.  

We made a list of all the supplies we would need… including a bigger car for hauling our wood.  A simple phone call to my husband went something like this… “Do you want to meet up at the mall after work for dinner?”  and “By the way, we need to borrow your car while you take care of the kids so we can buy wood at Home Depot…” which James may or may not have heard since I hung up after he said yes to dinner.  

This is how we ended up at Home Depot until closing on a Saturday night with a potty training three year old (I may or may not have spent more time in the bathroom than the wood aisle), my mom, my husband (who kept coming up with odd and ends he found on the clearance table) and an eight year old who would have rather been playing Minecraft.  

We did not come home with any wood.  

And I might or might not have spent the next three hours online trying to find a white pre-made bookshelf that measured 49 ⅛ inches on one side and 50 ⅛ inches on the other.  

Entry #8:  Sunday, June 22, 2014

We left the boys at home!  After comparing prices at Lowe’s, we made our way back to Home Depot for wood.  “I have a $200 budget,” I told my mom as we walked up the aisle.  “How did you get that number?” Mom asked.  I stopped in my tracks.  “I just think that’s how much this project should be worth.”  I replied, while realizing that I had absolutely no idea if my budget was practical for home made built ins.  More details.  Two hundred dollars just seemed like a nice reasonable price, and I knew we had an extra $200 in our checking this month.  

I am very pleased to say that we left Home Depot with a grand total of $213 (and since we accidentally bought an extra piece of wood, $200 was the exact price for built ins).  If you ever need budget help, please just call.  I apparently have a knack for going with my gut and pulling numbers out of thin air.

And thus began my afternoon of learning to build a bookshelf.  I spent the energy I would normally spend for writing in hauling wood, measuring, re-measuring, cutting, and nailing.  After hours of building, mom and I finally carried the bookshelves into the master bedroom and placed them against the walls (49 ⅛ and 50 ⅛ respectively).  When they fit perfectly we squealed with delight, and when we placed mom’s level up on the shelf and that little tiny bubble was exactly in the center of the level… we looked at each other and said, “How in the world did that happen?”  

We did it!  We built bookshelves from scratch.  Tomorrow we will add the moldings!

Entry #9:  Monday, June 23, 2014

Here is a trick I learned from my mom.  If you want the built in look, you can buy an inexpensive bookshelf and add moldings.  It will give your cheap bookshelf an expensive, finished look.  

Here is a trick I taught my mom this week.  If you are in a creativity class where you have to build bookshelves from scratch, you can still add moldings to give it an expensive, finished look.

Today I learned how to cut moldings.  I hammered them into the new bookshelves.  I also discovered that I am very particular about nails.  I do not like using dirty nails.  A nail should be pretty and shiny and silver.  It should not leave junk on your hands.  My mom learned that her daughter might not fully be cut out for carpentry.

Entry #10:  Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The bookshelves are done.  They are nailed into the walls, secured from hopefully ever falling down.  The trim is beautiful.  The shelves are filled with all of my favorite things.  I have pictures of my boys, a wedding picture of James and me, a framed note from my very best friend, and my dad’s books.  

I loved this process.  I loved working with my mom.  I feel closer to her today than yesterday.  I also feel closer to my dad.  He would be so proud, so happy that the books he loved are still loved by the daughter who loved him more than anything.  

James walked in our room tonight and said, “Emily, they look beautiful.  I love them.”  I am not sure if he is talking about the shelves or the books.  It doesn't really matter; I love them both.

Postlude:    Several days later, James asked me when the bookshelves would be finished.  “Finished?”  I said loudly.  “What do you mean?”  He pointed to a nail hole on the side.  “Emily, you said that after you punched in the nails you would fill them in with putty and paint them white.”  Long pause… “Oh that.” I mumbled.  “That will be done right after I paint the window sills in my office.”  


Anonymous said...

I know your mom is amazing and I am so happy I can say I am a happy I got to know your dad are an amazing girl too and am so happy your project worked you guys

Karen said...

1. Keep blogging!! I've missed it and you!!
2. What an awesome story!!
3. You and your mom can do anything!!!!
4. The shelves truly are beautiful and even more special now that I know what they hold!
Miss you, friend!!

Jenny said...

Bookshelves are gorgeous. The writing is beautiful too. Glad you and mom could share this experience.