Encouragement for Creators: A Mother’s Influence

Sherlock’s Mum: Wanda Ventham in the 70’s.

As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, we thought we’d once again tip our hats to mums everywhere, with a special Encouragement for Creators. One thing many writers, artists and actors often agree on: their mothers were among their biggest supporters, encouragers, fans, and inspirations! One amazingly talented creator who’s frequently stated that his mother had a tremendous influence on both his professional and personal life, is British actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

Cumberbatch, one of Britain’s biggest and fastest rising stars, currently portrays a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, in the BBC mega-hit Sherlock. He’s played both heroes and villains: as the military genius Kahn, he was more than a match for Captain Kirk, in the latest Star Trek movie; and he also created the voice of the sinister fire-breathing dragon Smaug, in the recent Hobbit  trilogy. Most recently, Cumberbatch was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. Whatever role he pursues, Cumberbatch pours himself into it. He’s been described by the critics as brilliant, he’s in great demand with movie directors, and he has legions of adoring fans; and yet, he remains surprisingly modest and unassuming! For all this creative drive and humility, the actor credits his mother.

When Cumberbatch was growing up, his mother, Wanda Ventham, was an extremely talented actress working on the British stage, as well as in TV. She had appeared in the Carry On cinematic comedies, and co-starred in the science fiction cult-favorite series UFO. Many critics believed she was destined for bigger and better parts in Hollywood movies, but as much as Ms. Ventham was dedicated to her craft, she was even more devoted to her husband, successful actor Timothy Carlton, and to their growing family. In those days, the rising actress often turned down roles that would take too much time away from her family. She also gave up more prestigious stage roles for lesser but better-paying television parts, to help finance her son’s schooling. According to Cumberbatch, because his mother frequently put the needs of others above her own, she probably missed some golden opportunities.

Sounds like a model mom, right? And, like most moms, Ms. Ventham wanted her son to pursue a career that would guarantee him a secure income — hence, she discouraged him from being an actor. But Cumberbatch was too busy following her example (as well as his father’s) to pay heed to that one piece of motherly advice! Thank goodness, we’d miss the Sherlock star! But apparently, the actor did pay attention to his mother’s warnings about the pitfalls of showbiz life: he tends to avoid the limelight and is rarely seen at celebrity parties.

Cumberbatch (as the logical detective) and his mom Wanda Ventham (as Holmes’ “mummy”) in the BBC’s SHERLOCK.

Benedict Cumberbatch recently stated he’s also inspired by his parent’s 38 years of happy marriage — a rarity among celebrity couples — acknowledging that his mother and father are as much in love today as they were 42 years ago. And much to his mother’s delight, Cumberbatch, formerly one of Britain’s most eligible bachelors, just tied the knot with actress and theater director Sophie Hunter. The Sherlock star states his mum is looking forward to grandmothering lots of little “Cumberbabies”!

Today, at age 79, Ms. Ventham is mostly retired from acting, but she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play the mother of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes in two or three episodes of her son’s popular show. And of course, she’s a natural in the part!


Angel in the Kitchen: New Seasons Ahead!


“Deep snow in winter, tall grain in summer.” (an Estonian proverb)

This grumpy groundhog woke up on the wrong side of the bed! “Prediction? I’ll give you a prediction! ‘Man who asks silly question gets pierced earlobe!'”

After a harsh winter, the arrival of Spring brought a welcome change of pace. Despite the annoyingly accurate weather predictions of a grumpy groundhog this year, Spring officially started on March 20, and we’re more than half way through the season and now looking forward to the beginning of Summer! We love the change of seasons. The weather changes and so does our wardrobe and activities. With warmer months ahead we begin to store away our sweaters and long sleeves, and move our summer outfits to the front of the closet. We marvel at the changes taking place in nature, too. With Spring, all of life seems renewed. In the woods surrounding Woodhaven, the trees thicken with vibrant green leaves, the landscape becomes speckled with the blossoms of dogwoods and mountain laurel. Our old friends the hummingbirds return, rejoining our year-round regulars: cardinals, goldfinches, chickadees, huge pileated woodpeckers, and even a red hawk.

Along with the change of seasons, come changes in what we tend to eat. All those hearty soups and stews that warmed us during the winter no longer have as much appeal. Our tastes turn away from turkeys and roasts, to grilled steaks and fresh vegetables. We start craving cool crisp salads and other, lighter fare.

Our desserts change, too. In the Winter we love warm bread pudding in brandy sauce, and hot apple pie. Now, we’re ready to serve and enjoy lots of ice cream. One of our favorite warm-weather desserts is homemade vanilla ice cream topped with fresh, sliced strawberries. We like to serve it up in a pretty margaritta glass, and add a dollop of whipped cream!

Can you think of other seasonal foods? How about pumpkin pie and eggnog? (Fall and Winter) Deviled eggs and Challah bread? (Spring) Hotdogs and watermelon? (Summer) These are a few of our favorites, but you probably can list many others.

Just as there are seasons of the year — accompanied by seasonal foods and seasonal clothes — there also are seasons of life. Seasons of sowing and reaping, of adversity and rest. King Solomon wrote, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. …A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. …Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4,11 NLT)

Many of us have gone through seasons of struggles, challenges, grief, and discouragement. Periods in life when it felt like every time we took one step forward, we took two steps back! But, like the weather and our food preferences, these seasons do change. Nothing lasts forever except God’s eternal love. So no matter what adversity your facing, “this too shall pass”!   Therefore, “…let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9 ESV)

Don’t give up. Keep believing, keep dreaming, keep on doing your best; keep on loving and helping others, and your breakthrough will come!

Are things looking bleak at the moment? Are you going through a “cold, dark season”? Look back at the other times in your life, when you were facing a difficult situation, when you felt like you were at the end of your rope. Those were dark seasons, too — but you’re still standing! You came through the tough times, and into a new season. “…The winter is past… Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come….” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12 NIV)

“You give [us] peace and quiet from times of trouble….” (Psalm 94:13 GOD’S WORD Translation)