How my mom influenced my writing journey

May 12, 2013 |  by  |  Live life fully  |  ,


Here’s a personal essay, written to honor the woman who brought me into this world. She taught me to see and hear beauty, and for that I’m profoundly grateful. Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, Chalice Carpenter. I’ll always love you.

Most mothers teach their children how to recognize colors.Chalice Carpenter

My mom created an art class for my three-year-old pals and me, with hand-designed, laminated characters: Sunshine Yellow, Tree Green, Apple Red, and Birdie Blue. (And I still have them.)

Most kids hear their mother sing along with the car radio.

My mom’s melodious voice wows audiences in plays, musical programs, and church meetings – I’ve heard her perform many, many times over the years.

Most mothers read books with their kids and teach them to sound out words.

My mom wrote and illustrated original tales, worthy of any children’s books section. I followed her lead by authoring my own paper library – with handmade library cards for her to “check them out” – while I was still in kindergarten.

It never occurred to me as a young child that in her ever-creative way, my mom was teaching me to appreciate the finest of art and music.

That’s simply a built-in perk of being her daughter.

In my younger years, I admittedly took her talents for granted. The folly of youthful conformity, I remember being embarrassed as a teenager when mom harmonized hymns in church – why couldn’t she keep her voice down, like the other moms?

A matured decade later, her musical talent was what I wanted most at my wedding luncheon.

My mom has taught music to hundreds of children as a private piano tutor and elementary music teacher. I was eager to start lessons with her when I turned six. I wasn’t the best at practicing piano, but my mom encouraged me through the classic John Thompson’s beginner and intermediary piano books.

It paid off years later when I wrote my first piano piece at age 20. I practiced for weeks in my London home, where I was studying abroad. Mom’s timely visit came on British Mum’s Day, and I had her sit next to me on the piano bench as I played her a surprise dedication.

After my nervous fingers finished playing, I turned to see tears in her eyes, touched in a tender motherly moment.

My mom’s love for music is only matched by her attraction to art.

An equal opportunity artist, she strokes piano keys with as much skill as she covers a canvas.

I’ve grown up seeing her watercolor and mixed-media projects, working on at least a few at any given time. She paints with bold colors, bright designs, and intricate details. (One of her paintings hangs in my office cube at work, where I see it everyday as I type.)

My mom made sure her three girls never wanted for art supplies growing up. Even in financially tight years, when mom would forgo buying the latest kid cereal (and we snuck more than our allotted spoonful of sugar into our Cheerios), we never lacked crayons, colored pencils, markers, and paintbrushes, or notebooks on which to create our masterpieces.

With these supplies at hand, and my mom’s encouragement, I entered a handful of children’s art contests. Looking back, I realize my artistic confidence began budding when I won a few of them, including a Mother’s Day card contest sponsored by Hallmark. I even got to be on TV a few times for some wins.

That same confidence sparked other creative projects, and ultimately led me to writing. Now I paint with words, using a palette of verbs and nouns. I owe much of my appreciation of arts to her.

And I think of my mom’s faith in me when taking an artistic risk, like sending in an article query to a magazine editor. Her unfailing belief that I can do whatever I set my mind to has instilled a quiet determination in me. Step by step, my writing dreams will come true. Someday I’ll get my first book published – the grown up fulfillment of my own little books made decades ago.

And my mom will get a special inscribed copy – no handmade library card needed.


  1. Crystalee, thank you for your beautiful words and for bringing back so many memories on this Mother’s Day in 2013. I am so very proud of you and honored to be your mother. I love you with all my heart and feel so delighted that you have a deep appreciation for the many wonders and beauties of of this world. Keep your eyes, ears and senses open . . .

    Love always,

  2. What a sweet tribute. You’re mom is one of my heros. I love you both! Auntie DeLite

  3. Michele Maxwell

    Tears are running from my eyes! Such a sweet message, Crystalee. You truly are a wonderful artist, musician, and writer.

    And as Chalice’s sister, I know everything you wrote is true. I admire her just the same. I remember trying to copy her when I was little…making dotted flower stationary with matching envelopes, trying to match her perfect handwriting (yes, I gave up on that long ago!), and of course trying to be as musically talented. Although in my teenage years my admiration turned temporarily to jealousy, luckily the years have matured me into having an appreciation for my loving sister Chalice who you are lucky to have as your adoring mama!

    I love you Crystalee and Chalice (and all our sisters!).

    • Awww…thanks, auntie Michele! Appreciate you reading and your sweet note. I love you and you’re so very talented and such a sweet mama to your boys. Hugs from here.

  4. What a beautiful mother’s day tribute. You have truly followed in your mom’s footsteps and both of you are so talented. I have always admired and been somewhat jealous of her talents. You are a lucky girl to have such a loving and encouraging mom.

    Love you – when will you get to break away and come visit?


  5. Yeah, I must admit that I was a bit moved too and had to stop reading. Thanks for this.

  6. Barbara Blinn Connolly

    Well, a year later….I find this… much talent….and love, and I know where it came from. Love Your Auntie Barbara

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