Creating from Inside Motherhood Part II: An Interview with Suzi Banks Baum

 

The title for this series, “Creating from Inside Motherhood,” comes from Writer, Maker, and Mother Suzi Banks Baum. Years ago she committed to “finding her fullest self while mothering,” and came to see, celebrate and value her own contribution to the world as a mother, even as she lamented how our culture devalues that work by mostly ignoring it. Continue reading

Creating From Inside Motherhood Part I: An Interview with Tracee Vetting Wolf

We humans are relentlessly creative, so much so that we hardly notice. In my work I invite people to intentionally focus this inherent power into a process of Creative Inquiry because it is one of the most playful and enjoyable ways to explore our version of Reality, and in the process recover our true purpose, yearnings, and gifts.

This blog post is the first of a two-part series in which I’m delighted to introduce you to two women who take creative inquiry seriously-without taking themselves seriously. Their approach is playful, even mischievous, and demonstrates the value of creative inquiry for cracking open our habits of perception and views of reality, for slowing us down so we can savor our lives, and for awakening us out of lethargy or frustration to spread compassion and even engage in activism.

Both are artists and Moms, and their art-making has its roots in the creativity inherent in Motherhood itself. So much of what I see written about Motherhood these days is mired in one set of arguments or another. But Tracee Vetting Wolf and Suzi Banks Baum use their “role” as Mom to inquire into life, self, identity, connection, love, and voice in ways that are profound and eminently practical and shareable.

The fruits of this inquiry are some of the lovelier hand-mades I’ve ever seen, and, as you will soon discover, make beautiful gifts in time for this Season of Giving.

 


 

LOVE NOTES: An Interview with Tracee Vetting Wolf

 

Tracee Vetting Wolf
Tracee Vetting Wolf

Tracee Vetting Wolf prizes the compass over the map and the adventure of figuring things out. She successfully lived the paradox of working as a creative for logic-driven IBM Research and through her art, writing, and life teaches that “design is a vehicle for knowledge.” She embodies through practice the understanding that art-making is an essential tool for inquiry into personal potential and the world around us. She has amassed an impressive list of professional achievements, but to my mind her most delightful work, and most recent gift to the world, was born out of her love for her son, Max, out of that relentless creativity inherent in each of us that can help us find our way if only we’ll let it.  

 

Sara: Tracee, you began creating love-notes when your son Max started school. You were packing lunch daily because of his allergies. And you recognized that you both had separation anxiety. How do the love-notes express your relationship with Max, and with the world?

Tracee: On his first day of kindergarten, I packed his first lunch. It was hard because he’s allergic to peanuts, milk and eggs, and he was too young at the time to open a thermos, so it meant cold foods. I was sorting all that out. I was a bit stressed about it, trying to make it something he would also enjoy. I wanted to make it special. With the food packed, I looked around for something to add a note to his lunch. At that time, I wasn’t practicing art every day, but I had been playing around with my watercolors making a bunch of hearts. Quickly, I cut one out and wrote a message on the back. I had enough for a week and at the end of the week, I thought “I can’t stop now!”

 

MAX
 MAX

The separation anxiety was hard for both of us. I couldn’t get him on the bus that first day, he was so emotional. I drove him to school and I was that parent who was peeling her screaming, crying child off of her. It was heart breaking for me and distressing for him. His teachers were thoughtful and compassionate: when he felt weepy at school, they’d ask him if he wanted to take a moment to himself and draw his family. In a way, we were both using art to ease our separation anxiety and express our love. The lunch notes expressed how very much Max and I want to be connected. I think that’s true for all of us, for any relationship.

 

from the Wondrous Animals series
      from the Wondrous Animals series

To this day, he brings them back home: he has never lost one. They live for the week on the kitchen window sill, and then we place them in a special box. Every once in awhile, Max and I will take out the boxes of lunch notes and look through them together. “Remember this one?” “Oh, I love this one!” “This was when we did all that tie-dying!” “This was when we got our cat!” “Yeah, second grade was tough.” “Remember your first swim meet?” and on and on. We slip into this quiet, reverent state where we’re taking great care as we look through them. Each is wonderful individually, but we can also see across time with them. We can see our journeys.

Sara: And now you offer love notes in four different packs of six for $6: imaginary creatures, for sweet boys, woman wisdom, wondrous animals.

Tracee: My feeling is that love notes are a sweet little way of letting the other person know that you’re interested in them and reminding them of your connection with them. I make the love notes small, I would describe them as “intimate.” You’re forced to express yourself in just a few words. This creates a paradox where something so small can be of great meaning. Personally, I think it’s lovely and touching. Telling someone you care is a very sweet habit to have in life.

Sara: And the mischief?

Tracee: Spend some time thinking about where to place that love note, to surprise someone, to consider what the other person might receive with tenderness of thought. On their dinner plate? Under their pillow? In their gym locker? Taped to the bathroom mirror? In the silverware drawer? On the lawn mower? On the doorbell? Attached to the cat’s collar?

Besides sharing our connection and love, this act sharpens our creative instinct, a path to a creative life for everyone.


 

I hope you are nourished by Tracee’s story, and I’m sure you’ll be tantalized by the beauty of her line of “hand-mades” called  little Love. Buy your love notes HERE.

Learn more about Tracee HERE.

 

Watch for Part II of this series and my interview with writer Suzi Banks Baum on Writing From Inside Motherhood coming December 16.

 

However you observe this season, may it bring healing and awakening to you and your world.

Essential Questions: Wrestling with the Imperfection that Life Is

I want to share some essential questions with you that I’ve developed from a teaching that was at once a challenge and a touchstone for me from the moment I first read it.

The following words belong to Ben Azzai, a 2nd Century Jewish Sage:

You will be called by your name,
you will be seated in your place,
you will be given what is yours.
No man touches what is meant for his fellow.
No kingdom touches its neighbor by so much as a hairsbreadth. (Yoma 38 a-b)

This teaching held out a life that was so different from my own experience that I really had to wrestle with it, and I did so with the help of healing friends and professionals who helped me to make myself the first object of study in the light of its wisdom.

What made the teaching a challenge were some of the “givens” I had lived (and daily died by):

  1. When my name was called, I knew I was in trouble.
  2. I seemed to be the only one at the Table of Life who had no place card, no seat.
  3. I was more likely to envy than celebrate even a friend’s success.
  4. I carefully guarded my own little stash, not to mention my “self” from being touched.

Over time, I developed a practice of personal inquiry out of this teaching that I will share, because self-study is an essential practice in living this imperfect human life.

The Essential Questions

Pick one.
Begin anywhere,
Just begin.

A practice for cultivating a willing, open-hearted stance in the here and now.

Showing up in your life: “You will be called by your name.”

Who or what is calling you? Are you listening? Do you recognize your name? The biblical response of our ancestors was “Hineni,” “Here I am.” You don’t need to be bible-loving to try this.

A practice for resting more and more in yourself, in all your goodness, brokenness, and complexity, and precisely where you are in life.

Being a “good enough” woman: “You will be seated in your place.”

Do you long to feel at home in this world, rooted within yourself? Can you be at ease with your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, even as you grow in character? Can you bear to enumerate and talk with them? Can you allow yourself to be a “good enough” but not complacent woman?

A practice for befriending the people and events in your life, and serving them in beneficial ways.

Befriending and serving: “You will be given what is yours.”

Do you long to understand and serve your singular purpose in life, to know your innate wisdom and see it flourish amidst your daily activities? Can you let yourself know what you know about your purpose and your wisdom?

Because no one else’s kingdom touches yours by so much as a hairsbreadth.

And as you begin to live into this, isolation melts and whole new worlds of connection, relationship, and intimacy begin to appear.

Really, this is how things work.


 

What givens have you lived by that may be challenged by this teaching? Which questions will you be wrestling with? Please share your thoughts in the comment area below.