Tasty, sanitary, and a big value for the
money. You will allow your children to eat all they want of them.
So promised the marketing brochure for the ice cream sandwich machine,
a labor-saving device invented and patented by my erratically brilliant
great-grandfather, a man who luxuriated in Florida whenever his
fortunes were high and who hightailed it back to Ohio as soon as
his cash depleted and he needed to brainstorm a new idea.
Great-Grandpa MacDonald owned--and lost--much of Daytona Beach during
the Great Depression. He also created one of the earliest carbonated
fruit drinks, a brand long buried beneath the cash-weighty fizz
of Coca-Cola(R) and Pepsi(R), but refreshing and delicious, nevertheless.
My father especially recalls and appreciates his brand of root beer.
As a memento, one of Great-Grandpa MacDonald's M & B Beverage
bottles graces my shelf, a piece of clear glass resurrected when
an antique bottle collector dug it out of landfill, washed off accumulated
waste, and offered it to me for sale. I accepted his terms.
The flavor of invention. Master originator, Ohioan
Thomas Edison, once claimed that, "if you never grow up, you'll
never grow old," and this spirit of inventiveness and creativity
permeated whatever my ancestor did. One of my favorite stories centers
on his wedding, when his young and beautiful bride decided to have
the tops of her glamorously long gloves stitched to the bottoms
of her puffy prenuptial sleeves. In her excitement, she didn't realize
how effectively the gloves were attached; but when she decided to
shed them on that all-encompassing night, she discovered that the
needle had actually pierced her skin and the gloves were sewn to
her body. If she ever resented that invasion, or their irregular
Ohio-to-Florida and Florida-to-Ohio again jaunts, those complaints
don't survive in the annals of family history. My guess is that
she became, and remained, lovingly exasperated.
My great-grandfather died before I was born, a fact that I regret.
While his inventions didn't change the world in the extraordinary
fashion that fellow Ohioan--and his contemporary--Thomas Edison's,
did, my great-grandfather could have taught me much about inventiveness,
creativity, and the ability to never grow old.
Although I cannot share his verbal wisdom, I would
like to offer the following twelve suggestions, culled through my
own plodding attempts:
* First, realize that no inventor knows, ahead
of time, the extent of his or her own success or impact. I once
visited the site of the Wright Brothers' bike shop, the home base
of a duo that eventually transformed our world. During my tour of
that humble shop, the guide gleefully shouted, "Imagine this!
Imagine that they worked here *before* they knew that they were
about to become the Inventors of Flight!"
* If possible, visit the Inventure Hall of Fame, located in Akron,
Ohio, a place that honors the amazing inventors of our country.
If you can't visit in person, then check out their web site. Soak
yourself in the bubbles of their accomplishments and become inspired.
After your relaxing bath, dry off and remember: pluck, mettle, and
* Live in a funky environment. I've combined quirky
and elaborate Victorian decorations with contemporary and sleek
boomerang art, and the way that they clash with and complement each
other on my walls fascinates and energizes me.
* Drive a new and winding way to work (leave early!), wear red if
you've always chosen black (and, visa versa!), and read penetrating
science fiction if you've always grabbed the latest mystery novels.
Visit that intriguing place that you've driven by for years, without
gifting it with more than a glance, and volunteer where you can
give your all.
* Create glorious phrases for yourself. If you're blocked, remember
that it's rumination, not ruination; that you're not constipating;
rather, you're incubating. You do have talent!
* Use your five senses--or, even all six or seven.
Feel the smooth polish of wood beneath your fingertips and rub your
tongue along that tang of salt. Smell soap, rot, and fire, and if
you have an intuition, don't be ruled by it--but don't ignore it,
* Spatter your guts, in writing, to a beloved
friend. Use flowery phrases that you'd normally be embarrassed to
use, knowing that you're expanding your wings in the palms of a
trusted comrade, someone who will cherish what matters and then
drop the rest down the drain.
* Read Moondance's "10 Commandments for Creative
Women." Trust in them and in yourself.
* Discover how you can invigorate the most mundane
aspects of your own life. Refuse to believe that the swirls of your
mop cannot become floor art.
* Surround yourself with ingenious people, both
those of your ilk and those of another.
* Celebrate both the traditional and the nontraditional.
The new isn't always best.
* Don't connect creativity with just work-related
projects. Great-Grandpa and Grandma MacDonald gave birth to only
one child--my grandmother, Beatrice--an astonishing, encouraging
and literary woman. I'll never forget when, at a family get-together,
she suddenly burst into joyous laughter. Her husband looked startled
and asked her what was so funny. "Just look," she said,
waving her arms over the heads of her children and grandchildren.
"Just look," she repeated, "at all that we've created!"
Bio: Kelly Boyer Sagert has sold over 1,000 pieces
of writing to magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias (Macmillan and
Scribner), literary journals, and online venues. Her first book,
>Bout Boomerangs: America's Silent Sport, was dubbed "nearly
perfect" by the Australian National Boomerang Coach; her newest
book, Birth of Illumination, details the rise of the public
library system where Toni Morrison once worked. Sagert teaches three
online courses for Writer's
Digest, is the Song & Story editor for Moondance.org,
and works fulltime as the marketing director for the YMCAs in Lorain