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 Daring to Dream

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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Photo Credit: Keston  De Coteau, Keystone Productions  Hair / Makeup by Valencia Pearl
Photo Credit: Keston
De Coteau, Keystone Productions
Hair / Makeup by Valencia Pearl

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

Life often beats dreams out of us. Practicality takes over, and before long a mortgage and car note have us sitting in an office or cubicle typing some minutia that means nothing in the end.

Sometime in adulthood, usually around the age of thirty, our youth-obsessed American culture says if we have not become a “success, ” hang it up and accept mediocrity. Perhaps it’s the rebel and activist in me, but I refuse to surrender and live outside my destiny. I am worth the life, the dreams, I seek.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
– Albert Einstein

It’s one of the reasons I founded Live In Color blog earlier this year. I dream of reaching millions of people through the power of words, photography, and video, with messages of empowerment, inspiration and hope.

Nothing in my background says I dare dream so boldly. My family is not wealthy. There are no degrees from Harvard, Yale or Princeton University hanging on the wall, no extensive connections. Still, none of this will stop me. Why should it?

Every invention, work of art, or piece of music we enjoy exists because someone, somewhere, did not apologize for their dream and pursued it relentlessly.

So, no, I am not sorry for dreaming, climbing out of boxes, stifling stereotypes and limitations people place on women, people of color and mothers. Our dreams have no expiration date. I will dream and work until my last breath, no apologies. No regrets.

Live In Color! – Emelda


I’m Not Sorry – The Movement

Join us in the I’m Not Sorry movement. It’s about accepting ourselves, our flaws, our truths, without regret and judgement. Do it in this moment. Stop apologizing for yourself, and start living!

We’re releasing details soon about a reader contest. We want to hear from you about what you are not sorry about.

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