Mama Blog Chat: Creative Spirit, Jacquelyn Phoenix Soul

Emelda De Coteau
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Emelda De Coteau

Mother, wife, sister, friend, writer / blogger / creative organizer, budding photographer... These are just a few of the many hats I juggle each day. I believe creativity is oxygen for the soul. I created Live In Color blog to celebrate the beauty in every moment, from faith to inspiration and motherhood.And it is soon becoming Pray with Our Feet blog which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism. Follow the inspiration on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/praywithourfeetblog/
Emelda De Coteau
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Jacquelyn Phoenix Soul and children  Photo credit:
Jacquelyn Phoenix Soul and her children, daughters Cherie-Amor, Dela-Eden, and son Malachi. Photo Credit: Michelle Antoinette Photography

I think Moms are the coolest people on the planet! Maybe because I am one now. Ha! Seriously though, we juggle motherhood with work, relationships, and just general life stuff. How many Moms do you know who effortlessly heal their kiddos when sick and then tackle the rest of life’s challenges.

Yet the Moms I am especially inspired by are those who I have something in common with, you know those cool Moms who manage not to abandon their creative passions.

Jacquelyn and her eldest daughter Cherie-Amor Photo credit: Jacquelyn Phoenix Soul

Enter Brooklyn native Jacquelyn Phoenix Soul, a singer / performer, visual artist, jewelry maker, and poet who calls Baltimore home; she is also a birth doula / post partum doula / designer at Buddha Bump. Geez! How does she do it all, I wondered?

Jacquelyn Phoenix Soul performs with son Malachi on her hip  Photo credit: Michelle Antoinette Photography
Jacquelyn Phoenix Soul performs with at Culture Coffee in Washington, D.C. with son Malachi on her hip                             Photo credit: Michelle Antoinette Photography

So I thought, why not include a regular series on the blog where we can hear from Moms like her, and be inspired by their tenacity and determination to live fully?

I hope you enjoy our chat as much as I did! We discussed everything from scheduling (you know how she manages to raise such beautiful and bright kids – Cherie-Amor, Dela-Eden and Malachi) to faith and the diversity of her children’s personalities and the rich lessons of motherhood.

Something she said particularly resonated with me:

No one can mother your child better than you…  That child has chosen you to come here through.

Check out the full conversation here on Sound Cloud .

Keep up with her amazing work:

Facebook

Instagram 

Hear this awesome song she wrote, “Be Free

Jacquelyn Phoenix Soul and son Malachi  Photo courtesy of Jacquelyn Phoenix Soul
Jacquelyn Phoenix Soul and son Malachi
Photo credit: Cherie-Amor Clemmons
                               Dela-Eden strikes a pose                                     Photo credit: Jacquelyn Phoenix Soul
Visual artwork by Jacquelyn Phoenix Soul  Photo courtesy of Jacquelyn Phoenix Soul
Visual artwork by Jacquelyn Phoenix Soul
Photo credit: Jacquelyn Phoenix Soul
Malachi  Photo credit:
Malachi
Photo credit: Michelle Antoinette Photography

 

We Say We Like Creativity, But We Really Don’t (Guest Blog Series)

Emelda De Coteau
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Emelda De Coteau

Mother, wife, sister, friend, writer / blogger / creative organizer, budding photographer... These are just a few of the many hats I juggle each day. I believe creativity is oxygen for the soul. I created Live In Color blog to celebrate the beauty in every moment, from faith to inspiration and motherhood.And it is soon becoming Pray with Our Feet blog which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism. Follow the inspiration on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/praywithourfeetblog/
Emelda De Coteau
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A few weeks ago, my good friend and fellow blogger Michelle Whitney wrote eloquently about creativity and how, sadly, our culture shuns it at every turn.  Her post was a response to Jessica Olien’s piece on Slate, Inside the Box.

Michelle is all about resistance and rebellion, and not blending into society’s narrow definition of who she should become.  She says without apology: “I choose to live creatively.  It is at the essence of who I am as a person in this world.”

When not writing at Surviving a Creative Life , Michelle creates everything from dazzling tiny ornate hats to yummy applesauce. We are pleased she is our first guest blogger for 2014!

creativity melting
Photo Credit: Michelle Whitney

Is your creativity melting away in this 9 to 5 world?

Jessica Olein has written an interesting article on Slate about how people say they value creativity, but they really want everyone to jump in line and dutifully follow the status quo, even if it is to the detriment to those who talked the talk about valuing creativity in the first place.  I hate to say it, but as someone who lives in the 9 to 5 world, she’s right.  I see it almost every day.

Though her company initially hired her for her problem-solving skills, she is regularly unable to fix actual problems because nobody will listen to her ideas. “I even say, ‘I’ll do the work. Just give me the go ahead and I’ll do it myself,’ ” she says. “But they won’t, and so the system stays less efficient.”

Ideas for how to manage projects, streamline workflow, and integrate technological advancements are nearly always met with metaphorical brick walls in the workplace.  If the ideas are presented from the bottom to the management then they are almost certain to fail or to be dismissed outright without even a friendly ear.  After awhile, people become apathetic and stop suggesting creative solutions to problems.  The resistance to creative change, even in the positive, is astounding!

Most people agree that what distinguishes those who become famously creative is their resilience. While creativity at times is very rewarding, it is not about happiness. Staw says a successful creative person is someone “who can survive conformity pressures and be impervious to social pressure.”

To survive a creative life we can’t let that apathy consume us.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard, “We’ve been doing it like this for XYZ, which is why we should keep doing it like this going forward.”  This is not a reason for doing something if there is a way to improve upon it–especially in our technological world of lightning-fast changes.

“Everybody hates it when something’s really great,” says essayist and art critic Dave Hickey.

I ran into this myself in a creative writing class back in 1990.  I had written a first-person short story from the point of view of a character who dies (not that my story was really great or anything, but who am I kidding, it was pretty awesome for a high-school kid).  The character continued to narrate the story from beyond the veil of death.  My creative writing teacher insisted that I couldn’t do this.

“You can’t have a narrator that’s dead.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“You just can’t.”

In 1999 the movie American Beauty was released, and guess what–that’s right, the narrator of the story was dead.  That movie won 5 Oscars and according to IMDB had 74 total award nominations and 94 wins.

Why again couldn’t I write a short story in which the narrator is dead?  It’s exactly what Olein is talking about in this article.  The story was something new at the time–it was definitely out-of-the-box. My creative writing teacher had quite a bit of jealousy rattling around inside her when it came to my burgeoning writing talent (there were many other issues that made this abundantly clear, but that’s a post for another day…).  And just because she had never seen someone write a story with a narrator who dies, she rejected it as an impossibility.

Unfortunately, the place where our first creative ideas go to die is the place that should be most open to them—school. Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what they’re told.

And even if our teachers do support us in our creative pursuits and encourage new ideas and innovation in our thinking, what is our current obsession with testing doing to the creative among us?

Even if children are lucky enough to have a teacher receptive to their ideas, standardized testing and other programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top (a program whose very designation is opposed to nonlinear creative thinking) make sure children’s minds are not on the “wrong” path, even though adults’ accomplishments are linked far more strongly to their creativity than their IQ.

I’ve had long conversations with a teacher-of-the-year friend of mine about No Child Left Behind and how it leaves no room for creativity in its curriculum demands. We also talked about direct instruction (mostly experimented with on low-income children, of course) being the same way.  We’re teaching our kids only to follow directions and stay within the lines.  Teaching a test is not teaching problem-solving, which is something that life requires of all of us.  Problem-solving often involves finding creative solutions to complex issues.  You can’t learn this by picking A, B, or C on a multiple-choice test.

To live creatively is a choice. You must make a commitment to your own mind and the possibility that you will not be accepted. You have to let go of satisfying people, often even yourself.

I choose to live creatively.  It is at the essence of who I am as a person in this world.  I’ve never really fit–I’m the proverbial square peg and I refuse to carve corners to try to wrongly wriggle into a round hole.  I choose to be myself and, accepted or not, here I am.  Now if I could just let go of satisfying myself…

As writer Anais Nin once said, “Perfection is static, and I am in full progress…”

Michelle Whitney creating art. Photo courtesy of the author.
Michelle Whitney creating art. Photo courtesy of the author.

Michelle was born a creative genius (really, I swear!). Okay, maybe not a genius, but definitely creative. She works a stressful 9-5 that is creative-adjacent, but lacks in actual creativity. In order to survive this situation while still being able to pay her bills, she seeks to find the creative in situations all around her.  It’s a survival tactic, because surviving a creative life is not always easy and often it makes you question yourself down to the very fibers of your being.

Michelle is a trained writer and photographer and an autodidact in just about anything else she can get her hands on.

 

 

I’m Not Sorry for Being an Overcomer

Emelda De Coteau
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Emelda De Coteau

Mother, wife, sister, friend, writer / blogger / creative organizer, budding photographer... These are just a few of the many hats I juggle each day. I believe creativity is oxygen for the soul. I created Live In Color blog to celebrate the beauty in every moment, from faith to inspiration and motherhood.And it is soon becoming Pray with Our Feet blog which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism. Follow the inspiration on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/praywithourfeetblog/
Emelda De Coteau
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20131211-222815.jpg
Valencia Pearl, beauty/ style editor for Live In Color blog
Photo Credit: Keston De Coteau, Keystone Productions

“We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.”― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

My morning was uneventful; the day was going as planned. My 4 youngest children were on their way to school. I was dressed, beauty kit packed and ready to go. Before I left, I logged on to Facebook. It was mostly more of the same from my friends, but I noticed a simple photograph published by eight-time GRAMMY-nominated singer Ledisi.

Singer Ledisi  Photo credit: RTY Photograpahy courtesy of Instagram
Singer Ledisi
Photo credit: RTY Photography courtesy of Instagram

Her weight loss was remarkable; she looked like a different person. Her brown and blonde streaked locs were curled and hanging beyond her shoulders, her pearly-white teeth gleamed through crimson-stained lips. The baseball shirt stated simply:”I’m not sorry.” The caption read: “I’m not sorry for evolving.” My response? “I’m not sorry either, girl” in agreement.

A friendship just ended in my life, and I was ok with it, too. We were not good for each other. I did not care about what my former friend thought; I did not care about the feelings our separation caused either. She helped me to legitimize the fact that I put my life, and future ahead of theirs, and that was perfect (it’s OK to be selfish).

I felt better emotionally, physically, and my soul was partially healed. A 10 pound weight airlifted from my heart.  Immediately I began thinking of more things I should not apologize for such as:

1. I’m not sorry for having children without a husband.

2. I’m not sorry for having gigantic dreams!

3. I’m not sorry for being happy.

4. I’m not sorry for believing in myself!

5. I’m not sorry for being opinionated.

6. I’m not sorry for being glamorous.

7. I’m not sorry for not giving a fuck.

8. I’m not sorry for not caring if you judge me for cursing above in #7.

9. I’m not sorry for being 100% real!

10. Last, but not least, I’m not sorry for being an overcomer!

Releasing the Weight!
That felt good, and trust me the list could go into the hundreds. I released myself from responsibility for things that I should not have responsibility for in the first place. Your parents, friends, family, boss, spouse, children, and the world hands you things they cannot conceptualize, then judges and scolds. If you don’t change, they may even turn their backs on you, too.

I should never have to apologize for being happy, but some people are so full of hatred, they cannot understand the source of your joy. If I could pick one thing that meant the most to me at this moment it is this: I’m not sorry for being an overcomer!

Photo Credit: Keston  De Coteau  Keystone Productions
Photo Credit: Keston
De Coteau
Keystone Productions

We all have a past life; we all make mistakes. We all have done things, or had things done to us we wish never happened. I remember growing up in Baltimore’s neighborhood of Northwood on a tree-lined street, raised by a single mother and older sister.

We rode roller skates, played with a neighborhood dog named Max, and climbed a small tree in the front yard. My childhood was uneventful, and by American standards normal. There were no Daddy issues. I didn’t witness dosmestic violence. I was not sexually molested, and my Mother nurtured and uplifted me.

Falling In Love Young & Birthing Babies
Yet for some reason I fell in love young. I became pregnant at fifteen, gave birth at sixteen, and carried another baby soon after. Twenty days before turning seventeen, I gave birth again. While I’m not releasing myself from responsibility for reckless behavior, at 34 years old, I’m not apologizing for being a teenage Mom.

I loved, nurtured, and supported them enough to become successful young adults. They are in college, working towards providing a life for themselves. No. Those babies are adults now, and how exactly did your children turn out again?

But yes, that happened, 2 children before the age of seventeen, and their father was arrested for murder 2 months into my son’s life, 1 month after we conceived my daughter. Ouch. You do the math. Pampers, wipes and bottles bombarded me.

Grown Woman Determination
Still, I was too busy for devastation. I pulled my grown woman panties all the way up, finished high school and attended college. For I am an overcomer, and not sorry for it. The story does not end here.

By the time I turned 21, I brought another child into the world, this time a baby boy. I called him Zion. My life a Pete Rock and CL Smooth song, who knew? Yup, I did that again. My mother died 13 months later after battling heart disease and complications from diabetes. Eight months passed, and I birthed twin girls. All the drama that ensued nearly cost me my mind. But remember “I’m not sorry” I became a baby-making machine. I spit out 3 babies in twenty months.

I was not a whore. I am not a whore. I did not sleep with whomever requested. Yes, loved lived within my heart in several instances. I cannot say thoughts of an abortion never entered the mind. In fact, I lay on the table when the doctor almost ended my daughter’s life. God weighed down on my conscience. I spared her life, defied my Mother and continued with the pregnancy.

Walking In Victory
I’m so glad I listened to Christ. My daughter completes me, and brings such pride and joy. She’s a high school senior at one of the most prestigious all-girl private schools in the country, awaiting her college acceptance letters from schools like Hofstra University, St. John’s University, and Spelman College. She overcame in my womb. She definitely is not sorry! My last, the final chapter, is the baby, my angel, Bentley. So, that’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 fatherless children.

Pause, go and get a drink of water. I’m not sorry for not caring what you think about me.

I have always provided a life for my children, and a very good one. My family is normal by all definitions. They travel, attend summer camp, and the best schools in Baltimore City. My oldest recently graduated from Baltimore City College high school, and is a freshman at Coppin State University. The eldest daughter graduates from The Bryn Mawr School next June.

They have turned out to be dynamic young adults. Raising my children is the greatest achievement of my life, and “I’m not Sorry” about that!

My son with his City College high school ring and diploma
My son with his City College high school ring and diploma
Photo Credit: Panache Photography


Moving Into My Destiny
I moved from raising my children to working and providing a life for them on my own. I battled depression and now inspire greatness in others. I went from hating men to having flowers delivered.

I lost love and healed this heart enough to love again. In 5 months I lost 50 pounds, and became a Zumba instructor. I gained the weight back, and have a plan to lose it again.

I abandoned a conventional job at Head Start to pursue my lifelong passion of beauty and style, and am currently in beauty school. I moved from average to overachiever.

I no longer choose what I think you want me to do. I define my own life. Recently, I took on another role, Beauty / Style Editor of Live In Color blog. Pause! Praise break!

Photo Credit:  Keston De Coteau Keystone Productions
Photo Credit:
Keston De Coteau
Keystone Productions

I am set free by his stripes. God told me yes. No one on earth can tell me no! Hold your judgment, your opinions about my past do not matter to me. I am living fearlessly and without apology! I’m not sorry!

Live In Color! – Valencia
Edited by Emelda De Coteau

Talk Back
Tell us what you are not sorry about!