Texas Grandmother Keeps Checking Off Items on Her Bucket List

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Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 8.34.28 PMWhen she was 30 years old, aspiring artist Cindy Kent was feeling frustrated that she was not more of a producing artist. She spent more time coloring on huge sheets of newsprint with her three small children than she did focusing on her lifelong dreams, goals and aspirations – things that we now commonly call “a bucket list.”

Kent recalls, “I would sit down and make lists of what I hoped I would someday accomplish. I wanted a studio of my own and to be taken seriously as a working artist. I wanted to have a one-person show. I wanted to write and illustrate a children’s book. I wanted to make a difference in the world.”

“All of these things I wrote down in a journal and for years would go back and look at that list. I whittled away at it in small ways: painted and drew frequently, started a book and illustrations based on the life of my grandfather, delivered Meals on Wheels, taught free summer art classes for kids who couldn’t afford to pay for them and just enjoyed my family.”

“Then I started teaching public high school art, enjoying the sharing of art with students who seemed so hungry for it. Along the way I became interested in sculpture and kept putting it off until I had the perfect studio…that old bucket list. I came to realize that ‘putting on hold’ was really giving in to the fear of failure. So I turned a bedroom in our house (yes, it had carpet and yes, I ruined it) into a clay studio and I was smitten.”

“In 2004 I received the Teacher of the Year Award for going the extra mile for students and felt it was time to move on. Through my sculpture I checked the one-artist exhibit off my bucket list and won national recognition when I was named one of the outstanding clay artists in the country for 2007 and published in Kennedy Publishing’s Best of Artists series for Pottery and Woodworking. By that time I had the confidence to stop teaching and devote all my time to the studio (yes, I finally had my own studio behind my house).”

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 8.34.36 PMIn the winter of 2012, inspiration and innovation struck when Kent’s daughter, Chris Phelps, was faced with the unthinkable: her then-5-year old daughter (Cindy’s granddaughter) nonchalantly tossed out a four-letter-word when talking about her kindergarten Class. Phelps came up with the Tacky Box, and the two wrote a book, Margo’s (or Max’s) Magnificent Choice with versions for girls and boys to accompany the educational tool. Kent’s colorful illustrations reflect her love of nature. Margo’s (or Max’s) Magnificent Choice tells the story of Phelps’ daughter’s experience with Tacky Box through the eyes of monkeys living in a jungle. The story explains how to use the box, making parents’ jobs easier, and encourages parents to read to their children.

Margo’s (or Max’s) Magnificent Choice was honored in spring of 2014 with a National Nautilus Book Award. The Nautilus award, considered one of the major book awards, seeks to acknowledge books that “promote spiritual growth, conscious living and positive social change – with the hope of offering life-affirming options with imagination and possibility to a world that longs for a new story.”

Kent says, “The Nautilus Award was like icing on an already sweet cake. What a dream—using my art to make the world a better place and doing it with my daughter and granddaughter!”

Christopher Peterson, Ph.D., author of A Primer in Positive Psychology, says, “Regardless of their details, bucket lists embody what psychologists have learned about goal-setting. Goals can motivate us to accomplish things, but the most motivating goals are those that are hard and specific. Every bucket list I read on the Internet contained rich details about difficult things.”

It seems like this grandmother continues to motivate and inspire through art, experience and determination: “Now there are things on my list that involve my grandchildren and what I want to share with them. The list is constantly growing and changing. All of that is to say, when we run out of bucket list items, it’s probably time to check out!”

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