Creativity Breeds Creativity

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by Kersten Campbell

Creativity is an excellent character trait to cultivate in yourself. In fact, most, if not all of my fulfillment as a mother comes from inventing new and exciting ways to foil my children’s attempts to steal all of the bubble gum out of my purse. Why, without creativity, we would now be living without one of the most vital and important inventions of the twentieth century: cocktail wieners. Imagine a party without those!

The only time creativity becomes a problem is when you add “pro” in front of the word. This is because somehow, during the procreative process, all of your precious creativity leaks out of you and seeps into your little creations. You think I’m making this up, but it’s true. It’s the only way I can explain why I get more spacey and less innovative and productive after each child is born. One by one, my children inherit all of my creativity and sap my inventiveness until finally, after five children, I am left with the ingenuity of a Lima bean. This puts me at a decided disadvantage when my children use this pirated resourcefulness to sneak taco shells under each other’s pillows at night, or to trick me into paying them more allowance. And it starts to become really expensive when they invent couch cushion sleds to slide down the stairs.

The one bright spot in this dilemma is that the more creative your kids are, the better they will be able to support you in your old age. I tell my children this often, even up to eight times a day, because:

1. I am not creative enough anymore to come up with any other method, and

2. They will be motivated to start training for a career when they are young.

This is possibly why my son has already zeroed in on a lucrative and exciting career as a computer hacker. He has already started his job training by cracking every computer and television code intended to keep him away from video games and junk TV.

I complained about this to my friend, April, one afternoon at the park.

“My son is going to jail by the time he’s twelve, I just know it,” I said, morosely pushing my toddler in the swing.

Always one to cheer and comfort, April doled out words of comfort intended to help me see reason. “Don’t worry! They don’t put twelve year olds in jail, they send them to juvenile delinquent homes. You’ve got plenty of time to turn him around.”

I nodded. “Maybe you’re right. I just get discouraged when I see other children who are so obedient. Look at that woman over there,” I said, pointing at a woman pushing a stroller. “Why can’t my son be like that child? His mother tells him to sit and he sits. She tells him to eat vegetables and he eats his vegetables.”

April cleared her throat. “That’s because he’s six months old,” she said. “He eats baby food. Strained peas are pretty good compared to rice cereal that tastes like cardboard. Besides,” she whispered, “You’ve just got to use your wits. Outsmart the little devil into using his talents for non-criminal activities.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” I wailed. “You’ve only got three children. You’ve still got some of your wits left.”

April stared at me and pulled on her ear, something she does when she’s trying to figure out what the heck I’m talking about.

I gave my toddler an underdog push, and came over to where April was pushing her daughter. “What I mean is…I’ve tried everything. There is no code my son can’t crack. I’ll think up the most obscure phone numbers or letter combinations….and within hours he’s sitting in front of the television with all his siblings watching cartoons. He spends hours working out code-cracking algorithms in his bed. I’ve found notebooks filled with possible letter and word combinations. I’m telling you, he’s brilliant. How am I supposed to raise a child … when I can’t protect him from himself?”

April patted me on the back and tried to put a positive spin on things. “Look on the bright side. If he turns into a criminal, maybe they’ll make a movie about him someday…like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid. Then he’ll be famous!”

I raised an eyebrow.

You’re so lucky!” she smiled brightly, “My husband and I always wished we had a famous child. Why, when we were dating…” Suddenly she stopped. Her face lit up. “Wait a minute…that’s it. I’ve got it!”

Got what?” I asked, in Eeyore-like moping tones.

A code he’ll never be able to figure out.”

I raised my head, daring to hope. “Really? It’s got to be simple enough for me to remember…” I said.

She grinned. “You’ll never forget this one. And he’ll never figure it out.” Then she dragged me over to a park bench. “Okay listen,” she said, sitting me down. “Your mistake is that you’re using code words from the present…things that he knows about. You’ve got to go back to before he was born. We use this one on our computer. I can’t believe I never thought to tell you about it.”

She paused. My interest was piqued. “Well? Go on,” I said.

Nicknames,” she said.

Huh?” I said.

You know,” she flipped one side of her hair behind her shoulder. “Like the nicknames you and your husband called each other when you were dating. Your son wasn’t around then. He’ll never guess what you used to call each other.”

I laughed. “You called each other nicknames? Like what? Poochie Woochie?”

Ha ha,” said April. “No. We only called each other respectable things, like ‘Tiger’ and ‘Cowboy’.”

Respectable,” I nodded, swallowing my mirth. “Which one did your husband call you?”

April glared. “Very funny.” Then a soft smile stole across her lips. “He used to call me Tiger, because I growled at him a lot.”

I tapped my chin with my finger, suddenly overcome with nostalgia for my own special nickname. “You know…you just might have something there. I bet my son would never guess what my husband used to call me in our more tender moments.”

April smiled benevolently. “I love to hear these sweet stories. What did he call you?”

Fatso,” I said, staring up at the sky in fond remembrance.

April stared at me in horror. “What? He called you Fatso?”

I nodded. “He was studying Spanish, and he mistook the word, ‘gordito’, for a term of endearment. He didn’t realize what the literal translation was.” I shook my head. “I never did have the heart to tell him what it really meant.”

April was quick to agree that my son would never be able to guess my old nickname. That night I had a chance to test out our theory.

I felt like a secret service agent as I closed all the curtains, checked for spy equipment, and felt around the lampshades for wire taps before I told my husband what to type in the computer.

He’ll never guess what you used to call me,” I chuckled, whispering the word to him in Spanish, just in case.

The next morning my son called his little brother a name at breakfast. It was the Spanish word for ‘fatso’.

Aaaaargh!” I cried, slapping my forehead. “How did you guess the code? It hasn’t even been in effect for 24 hours…and you weren’t even alive at the time your dad called me that! What are you? Some sort of ESP…alien intelligence that stole my son from me at birth? Where is my son?” I said, shaking him by the shoulders. “Where has he gone, and what have you done with him?”

My son pushed me away and stared at me like I was nuts. Then he tapped his chin, like I always do when I’m thinking, clearly proving that he stole all his ingenuity from me. “Is that what the code was?” he said, finally. “No wonder I couldn’t crack it. Thanks Mom! What a coincidence. I heard someone say that word in Spanish club yesterday. I think it’s a term of endearment. I was using it on Moo. Babies like foreign languages.”

Hmmm. It looked like my son had leeched some of his dad’s intelligence as well. Oh well…back to the drawing board for more obscure nicknames. Maybe I’d better start growling, I thought, so my husband can start calling me something more respectable and harder to figure out like ‘Tiger.’

The Music Box and the Music Within

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by Linda R. O’Dell

It was the winter of 2010. I was trying to get a clear picture of who I was and where I belonged. It had been a few years since that event that made me single again. (It dose not matter what causes the event Death, Divorce, any type of separation they all cause pain.) I looked in the mirror and saw someone much different than I felt inside. What could I offer a potential mate? Inside I was happy and capable, but my body just did not reflect that. It couldn’t keep up with the image in my mind.

Weeks went by then the Christmas season came and I was looking for the perfect presents when I happened upon the music box. It was sitting in the corner of a second hand store. The storekeeper admitted he had barely noticed it though he was sure it had come in with a load of things from an estate sale. He didn’t even know if it worked. It was awkwardly shaped covered with dust and appeared to be worn down on the corners. It was not very impressive from the outside but something drew me to it. Maybe it was because I have always loved music boxes. So I bought it “as is”.

When I put it in the car it dropped on the seat and I heard a chime and wondered if I could make it work. When finally at home, I began to clean and polish it. I was quite amazed at its hidden beauty. Once it was clean, I discovered two little doors located on each end of the box. In the door on the left was a button, which allowed the music box to open up and display the delicate workmanship positioned inside of an inner glass box. Also inside the glass box were two multifaceted mirrors which, when opened to the light outside, sparkled. The door on the right had a key secured inside. At first glance it was not obvious where the key was to be used. I was now quite intrigued with this precious treasure and searched it carefully. I discovered this was not an ordinary music box.  I explored further, slid the glass box forward and saw a keyhole. With this discovery, anticipation grew.

As I wound the music box and listened to its amazing music the mirrors rotated and reflected everything surrounding me. Everything seemed to sparkle.  Now I was elated! I thought what if I had been put-off by its shabby exterior? I would have missed out on all of this beauty. Then I wondered, although it was not perfect, would I give this gift to a loved one? Is it good enough to share with someone I love?

Suddenly I remembered my concerns in the weeks before. Wow I thought, “I am a music box!” I had closed myself off, believing that no one could see past this exterior to what was inside. Now I vow to be brave, to open up, to allow others to really see what is inside and because of this experience I see others differently too. The Lord teaches us what he wants us to learn and sometimes it is quite unexpected.

Barnaby and the Zilligong

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by Steven-Gregory: O’Dell

[This story was the result of waking one morning and the first thought that came to mind was that I must write a Dr. Seuss-type of story. I thought, “I’ve never done anything remotely similar to that before, so this should be ‘interesting,’ to say the least.” But by the end of the day, even with lengthy interruptions, this was the product. I am convinced it was inspired. Now all I need is an illustrator, a literary agent and a publisher. Any takers?]

~~//~~
Barnaby Brundage set out one Fall,
sailing his Yim in a raging squall.
He had no fear, for he needed to know
the answer to questions that bothered him so.
He’d tried all he could and didn’t succeed,
but wouldn’t give up; he’d find it indeed.

The question he had that weighed on him heavy
was why there’s no peace, when all seemed so ready.
They all said they wanted to be happy with neighbors,
but it seemed now and then they resorted to sabers.
And no one had peace while such ruckus ensued,
but no one had answers on just what to do.

As no one in town could answer his query,
young Barnaby left in somewhat a hurry.
He packed only things that would get him to where
the answers must lie, to hear if he dare,
for sometimes the truth will hurt, as he knew,
but nothing but truth for Barnaby would do.

When all in his town had thought and were wrong,
they said, “No one knows but the Zilligong.”
For the Zilligong had brains that made him real smart,
but far more than that, the Zilligong had heart.
And if answers were needed, then everyone knew
the Zilligong had them, they knew that was true.

The Zilligong had, the story was told,
once lived among them, through heat and through cold.
And everyone sought him for answers to questions
that they could not answer, to learn all the lessons
that made life more happy when folks live together,
that made them smile in all kinds of weather.

At some point in the past, and no one knew why,
the Zilligong packed bags, then waved them goodbye.
He said not a word as he went on his way,
and no one knew how long or where he would stay.
But one thing was sure, they all worried now,
when questions were quested, who would answer and how?

So Barnaby Brundage, alone and determined,
set out on his mission, through whales or through vermin.
His Yim sometimes rose and his Yim sometimes fell
on waves of the sea that had fishy smell.
The fishes jumped and the fishes splashed
alongside the Yim they dithered and dashed.

And sometime about the third day, he guessed,
Barnaby’s Yim with a bump came to rest
and Barnaby woke to the sound of waves,
both crashing and bashing, but knew he was safe.
And looking up high to the mountain ahead,
he thought on the climb with some sense of dread.

But Barnaby knew, at the top of that peak
lay the answers that he had come so far to seek.
The Zilligong lived there, sure as could be
and the Zilligong, after all, was whom he must see.
With a huff and a puff, the boy pushed forth
and climbed where he could, for all he was worth.

His climbing was long and his climbing was hard,
but Barnaby knew he must push on, though tired.
More puffing and huffing and wheezing and more.
He had no idea what ahead lay in store.
But he knew if he stopped then he never would know
the answer he’d traveled so far to take home.

When Barnaby thought he could just go no further,
he gathered his wits, renewed all his fervor,
and taking a breath, gathered courage to climb
the last several feet to get there in time.
The sun was just rising, he’d climbed all the night,
and Barnaby Brundage was near out of fight.

And as the boy fell in a heap at the top,
stopping ’cause this was where he must stop,
gasping and groaning from the strain of the climb
he’d made getting here, with no thought in mind
but asking for truth he knew must be near;
he’d conquered his worries, his shyness and fear.

And as he lay there, too weak yet to move,
he felt a soft touch on his shoulder, in truth.
He lifted his gaze to behold such a face
as never he’d seen in all his young days.
A word hit his ear that calmed his concern–
“Welcome, my boy! Some answers you’ve earned.”

Barnaby knew that this must be
the Zilligong that he’d come to see.
The Zilligong gave him some water, some bread,
then patted the young boy on top of his head.
“Just rest here a moment, you’ll need it indeed,
and later we’ll talk of the answers you seek.”

“Yes, I do need to rest here awhile.”
“Then please do,” the Zilligong said with a smile.
So Barnaby sat and he drank and he ate
just as much as he could from his overstuffed plate
and when he had eaten and drunk to his fill,
he lay back and slept as exhausted boys will.

When Barnaby woke he heard music so sweet
that his ears wiggled happily as he tapped his feet.
The Zilligong played on a Tweedler and Frump,
squeezing on one while the other he pumped.
It made the boy sing at the top of his lungs
and dancing and twirling, he jumped and he spun.

When at last all the music had faded away,
Barnaby found himself having to say,
“I’ve never heard music that sounded so nice.
It made my heart leap twice as high as the sky.
Did you play such music when living in town
or learn it up here, not when you were down?”

“I did it down there, but the folks wouldn’t dance.
I did it each day and I gave them the chance,
but they didn’t hear me on Tweedler and Frump.
They went on their way, looking down in the dump.
Watching their sadness just made me sad, too,
so moving up here was the wise thing to do.”

Barnaby looked at the ground as a tear
escaped from his eye and it fell very near.
Hitting the ground and soaking in fast,
he knew in an instant that sadness can’t last,
for where it had fallen, so teary and wet,
up sprang a Borple plant, radiant and red.

Surprise covered Barnaby, from head to toe,
“A tear hits the gound and Borple plants grow?”
“Oh, yes,” said the Zilligong, dancing for glee,
“It means that your heart’s like the one that’s in me.
It means you have wisdom, your answers are sure,
for deep in your heart lies just what will cure.”

“But I’m just a boy, so how could I know
the answers they need and which way to go?”
The Zilligong gently touched Barnaby’s cheek.
“The fact that you ask shows wisdom, you see.
The others don’t ask, they just carry on,
ignoring the questions ’til wisdom is gone.”

Barnaby now scratched his head for a few,
he wrinkled his brow, thinking, ‘What shall I do?’
Then something inside him clicked nearly out loud
and Barnaby smile, then laughed and was proud.
“Because I just ask, it leads me to learn,
’cause I never let opportunity burn!”

“That’s right!” said the Zilligong, proud as can be.
“Now you have wisdom, now you can see.
The fact that you ask will cause you to find
the answers you seek, expanding your mind.
The others don’t ask, so how can they know
when they won’t go looking–they won’t; oh, no-no!”

And with that the Zilligong stood up so tall
on his toes, so high the boy thought he might fall.
He reached for the sky and he smiled at the sun
in a way that told the boy it was just fun.
And dancing in circles, then jumping in glee,
the Zilligong said, “Now you can be me.”

“What?!” cried the boy, “How can that be?
I can’t be you and you can’t be me.”
The Zilligong lifted the boy in a hug,
he turned ’round in circles, then reached for a jug.
“Let’s drink now some Gurka juice. You’ll love it, I’m sure.
It’s great with the Borple fruit and this juice is pure.”

And Barnaby said, as he turned up his snout,
“Won’t you please tell me what this is about?”
The Zilligong looked down with love in his eyes,
a look that was deep and he couldn’t disguise.
“Zilligong isn’t a name, don’t you see?
It is a title; that’s how you’ll be me.”

“I’ll be the Zilligong? That’s what you mean?”
A nod and a pat, “My boy, now you’ve seen.
I’ve been here so long and no one has come
to ask me for answers. They want to stay dumb.
And even a Zilligong needs now and then
a little vacation to make some new friends.”

Now Barnaby grinned as he thought of the honor.
It wasn’t so much as he’d thought–it’s not power.
It’s loving and learning throughout your whole life
and sharing with others, with husbands and wives,
with children who ask all the questions they can,
so they can grow up into women and men.

“I’m proud to accept your humble request.
I promise you this, that I’ll do my best.
I’ll even learn to play Tweedler and Frump,
to keep other folks from feeling down in the dump.”
The Zilligong stood and unzipped his disguise
and revealed to the boy a surprise to his eyes.

“I’m not what I seem, young Barnaby boy.
I’ve been here so long that I almost lost joy.
As you see I’m a man, which is what you will be.
I was once you and now you’ll be me.
I’ll tell you my name, write it down and don’t lose.
The Zilligong really is ol’ Doctor Seuss.”

And Barnaby said, “Well, I’ve heard of you!
You’re kind and you’re funny, you’re wonderful, too.
Your stories were read to me while I was small
and now that I’m older, I love them all.”
The Zilligong smiled, for at last he was sure
that his legacy was safe and his tales would endure.

And that is the story, although it’s quite long,
how Barnaby Brundage learned a new song,
and got a new name and made a new friend
and started a mission he knew wouldn’t end,
for if there were even one girl or one boy
who wanted to learn, then there’d always be joy.

(C) 2012 Steven-Gregory: O’Dell

Yo Ho! Mow the Man Down

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by Kersten Campbell, author of the humor book “Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother”

It was the year of the Lawnmower Man. Or at least the year I was finally going to get one…a little one, at least. I could hardly wait. My son had turned eleven, the magical age when my husband had promised to pass the sacred lawn mowing torch down to the next generation. Finally, there would be someone to keep the lawn trimmed when my husband went on his long business trips.

My son had been looking forward to this event for nearly eleven years. My husband had made sure of that. He, who had taken upon himself the devout guardianship of the 37,987 or so blades of grass surrounding our ranch-style dwelling, had been building up each child’s enthusiasm for this great responsibility since the day they were born.

“You should never mow the same way twice,” he would whisper to the newborn baby as the doctors worked on stitching me up from the birth. “You can get ruts in your lawn….and watch out for crabgrass,” he would shout, eyes wide, scaring Moo with his intensity. Then, when Moo would cry, he would feel bad for scaring the child and whisper words of comfort. “There, there. It scares me, too. But don’t worry. They’ve got pre-emergent herbicides that’ll take care of just about anything.”

And so, it was with great anticipation that my son waited for his eleventh birthday, the day he would be ready to take over the hallowed responsibility of caring for the painstakingly tended sea of emerald in our front yard, not to mention it would be his first chance to legitimately wield a power tool. (We won’t talk about previous illegitimate power tool wielding attempts).

Unfortunately, as with all highly anticipated events, we ran into a little problem.

“Honey,” said my husband over the phone when the day finally arrived. His voice sounded desperate. “I’ve got a late meeting. I won’t be able to come home in time to teach our son to mow the lawn. He was so looking forward to it.”

“No problem,” I said, flinging clean dishes from the dishwasher into the cupboard willy nilly. “You don’t have to worry. I’ll just get out old Mr. Ugly and teach him myself.” Mr. Ugly was a giant, loud, ancient, cantankerous lawn mower passed down to us from the previous owner of our house. My husband had a strange attachment to the grumpy old power tool despite its reluctance to do such things as ‘start’ and ‘move forward’. Whenever I teased him about it, his frequent reply was that we couldn’t buy a new one lest we offend the lawn and lose some of our good turf growing Karma.

“I don’t know…,” my husband hesitated. “Have you ever mowed a lawn before?”

“Tons of times! Well, I’ve cut the boys’ hair often enough with the clippers. The same principles apply, right? ” I said, throwing a plastic lid like a Frisbee into a drawer across the room.

“What do you mean, the same principles apply?” said my husband, his voice suddenly tight.

There was a thunderous crash when I missed the drawer and sent the lid flying into the glassware cupboard.
“What was that?” cried my husband.

“Oops…he-he. You silly kids,” I said to my youngest two children who came in to see what all the noise was about. They gave me a confused stare. “I’ve gotta go,” I said over the choking noise of my husband’s protestations. “The kids need me. I’ll let you know how it goes.”

Late that afternoon my son and I found ourselves staring down Mr. Ugly in the middle of the driveway. It stared back at us with its seedy chipped red paint and its gaping jaw. The curved metal in front was bent upwards in a menacing sneer from a previous argument with a giant cherry tree, and one of the cutting blades stuck out from under it like a wicked front tooth.

“Do you know how to start it?” I asked my son, whispering so as not to disturb Mr. Ugly’s peaceful slumber.
He looked at me. “You’re supposed to know how to start it. You’re the one teaching me, remember?”

“I do, I do.” I said after clearing my throat a few times. “If there’s one thing I know about, it’s how to start a silly lawn mower.” Gingerly, I tiptoed close enough to lean down and reach the pull cord. I pulled back hard, and Mr. Ugly belched a great ball of thick black smoke and tried to jerk my arm out of its socket before I could release the cord, as if he had been offended by my remarks. Then he was silent. This process was repeated twelve more times before my son finally interrupted.

“Dad pushes that red button forty-six times, turns around twice, and spits over his shoulder before he pulls the string,” he said.

“I knew that,” I said, rubbing my shoulder. “I was just testing your memory. How come it took you so long to remember?”

I made my son push the red button eighty-nine times and spit twice just for good measure, and this time, when I pulled on the cord, Mr. Ugly roared to life with a thunderous bang that sounded like gunfire, sending Harold, our neighbor who was trimming his Roses, diving behind a Forsythia bush for cover.

My son’s eyes lit up at this display of raw power. “When can I do it? Can I push it now?” he begged.
“Only after” I said, raising my index finger, “I give you some professional lawn mowing tips. “Now…the great thing is Mr. Ugly is one of the first of the self-propelled lawn mowers… you just push down on this handle and…” with a great lurch and surprising agility for an old man, Mr. Ugly took off toward the street, yanking my feet out from underneath me and dragging me behind. A startled jogger began to sprint as he saw us coming for him down the steep hill that led to the main road. Startled out of my wits, I forgot to let go, and I managed to skid behind Mr. Ugly as it chased the jogger down the hill, bounced off an R.V. tire, veered left into a raspberry patch, busted through two sheets on a clothesline, and mowed over the top of someone’s private hedge.
Then, perhaps hearing the insults yelled at him by our fussy neighbor, Harold, Mr. Ugly swung left again and mowed straight for the trembling Forsythia bush, sending flying projectiles in Harold’s direction as it deliberately gobbled up rocks, tree roots, and small toys in its path. Covering his head with his arms, Harold ran screaming into his house, but there was no need for panic, because Mr. Ugly’s progress was suddenly halted by the same gigantic cherry tree that had given him his first ugly scars.

My son loped over to me from the driveway. “Dad says you’ve got to show Mr. Ugly whose boss,” he said, peeling my remains from the foot of the tree.

“That’s just what I was doing,” I said, pulling a twig from between my front teeth, “by steering him into the cherry tree.”

Using wisdom gleaned from my vast experience of five minutes with the lawn mower, I suddenly decided that the best way to teach my son would be to coach him from the safety of the front porch. I handed over Mr. Ugly and retreated to the sidelines. I tried to think of my most sage lawn mowing wisdom.

“Don’t be boring and mow everything the same height!” I yelled at him over Mr. Ugly’s roar. “Be bold. Make some designs as you go. Stripes would be pretty, don’t you think? Or maybe a smiley face!”

Just then my husband walked up. “My lawn!” he cried, pulling on the ends of his hair. “What have you done to my beautiful lawn?”

I looked out over the expanse of mutilated tree roots and chewed up yard toys, and the great bald spot leading up to the new slashes in the trunk of the giant cherry tree, and I repeated the age old wisdom that every mother tells her child after a particularly bad haircut.

“Don’t worry. Just give it a few weeks…it’ll grow out.”