Sunday Salon: Passion Project


“Let the young soul look back upon its life and ask itself what until now have you truly loved, what has raised up your soul, what ruled it and at the same time made it happy? Line up these objects of reverence before you, and perhaps by what they are and their sequence, they will yield you a law, the fundamental law of your true self.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche, Philosopher

My five year old grandson is passionate about playing the piano. When he was three, I bought him a tiny toy piano for his birthday and it was in his playroom when he walked in that morning. He set eyes on it, said matter-of-factly, “Oh, the piano is here,” as if he had been waiting his entire life for it to arrive. He walked directly and purposefully to it, never taking his eyes off it, sat firmly on the bench, and began to play.

The next year I bought him a full size keyboard. He started taking group lessons and quickly graduated to private lessons. His mother reports that he plays the piano before going to school, and goes back to it as soon as he comes home. He has perfect pitch and is “composing” prolifically, excited about learning chord structure and theory.

He has identified a passion. In Nietzsche’s words, he has found a thing that raises his young soul, that rules him but also makes him happy. What a lucky boy.

Passion projects are immensely important in living a fulfilling life. As artists and creative people, most of us have identified at least one such project in our own lives, at least one “object of reverence” that adds meaning and purpose to our days. To find these passions at a young age is truly a gift because they provide a safe haven from a world that is often noisy and less than gentle. It’s a world that doesn’t always encourage passion pursuits in its youth, but instead goads them toward things that are most lucrative and prestigious.

I recently read a novel called The Admissions, by Meg Mitchell Moore. One of the characters is a high school senior whose entire purpose in life is to be admitted to Harvard. When her application is rejected, she tracks down the admissions officer and asks him why. She has not only completed but excelled at every class, every activity, every sport required – she had worked extraordinarily hard her entire young life, why was it not enough?

“Unfortunately, the extraordinary has become commonplace,” the admissions officer tells her. “We get many applications from students who are broadly accomplished, but who are not deep. We are looking for the extraordinary and the deep. Students who have found their one single, driving passion.”

Finding your passion is one of life’s most important tasks, and the earlier you acknowledge it the better. But just identifying it is not enough. You must dedicate yourself to it in a meaningful way, give it time and attention, allow it to “rule you” so you can fully explore it and reap its benefits. You must go “deep” into it at every level. And sometimes that means you must make hard choices about where you place your attention.

Author Madeleine L’Engle writes of her belief that a “gift is bestowed on every infant…a gift to which that child will be responsible: a gift of healing; a gift for growing green things; a gift for painting, for cooking, for cleaning; a gift for loving. One has to listen to a talent, and whether the talent is great or small makes no difference.”

Although I can’t say for sure, I predict my grandson will continue to dedicate himself to his passion for music. But even if his passion project changes over time, he has already become acquainted with the way it feels to care deeply about something, to dedicate time and effort to it, and to reap the pleasure and benefits it brings. That knowledge alone is worth celebrating.

How about you? How did you discover your passion project? How do you “listen” to it?

About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her husband and their dog, Molly. Her new book, Life Goes On, a collection of personal and inspirational essays about women’s experiences with family life, aging, and loss, is available at Amazon in print and on Kindle, as well as on her website. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. If she’s not writing or playing music you’ll likely find her out walking or curled up on the couch reading with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) close at hand. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.


The Little Black Cloud by Jeanette McGurk

There has been a little black cloud hanging over my week.

Nothing terrible, I am not on life support, I didn’t get the unbearable news that I am highly allergic to chocolate, coffee or Moscow Mules. It was the impending doom of my youngest daughter’s ARD meeting.

If you are not acquainted with this term, it stands for Admittance, Review, and Dismissal. At the start of each year, we have an ARD meeting to discuss what services will be offered through the elementary school to my Learning Disabled daughter. It’s been three years since she was tested and the requirement is that she’ll need to be rested to see if she’s achieved her goals and can be dismissed or is she stays in the services.

There is absolutely no chance of dismissal. At 10 years years of age she barely reads on a 1st grade level.

When she was little, everyone had a helpful suggestion. “Have you tried flash cards? Sesame Street? Do you read to her? Do you have the magnetic letters? Have you tried Leap Frog?” “

“No!” I wanted to scream. “I take her outside and put tin foil on her head and hope that will get her little grey cells working.”

Of course I have done all of that, and more. My husband and I have spent thousands of dollars on every sure to get your kid reading strategy we could get our hands on. Alas, 5 years later, here we sit, $600 a month in tutoring, special programs at school, ADHD medication and still, we are only inching along.

It was easier when she was younger. The gap in her skill set wasn’t so blaring. The L’s she pronounced as w’s were cute, as was calling her back pack a pack pack. Now, I worry about her being bullied, not fitting in, and being made fun of.

We flitted through a wonderful summer of traveling and play-dates. Oblivious to all the nasty reminders of how off path we are academically. Until of course, the diagnosticians and resource room teachers start contacting me with forms I need to fill out for the ARD meeting. Drafts of 504 goals and accommodations she will be given to help her “succeed”.

I am a bit cynical when it comes to the meeting because I am CEO of my kid’s plan only on paper. The few times I have gone in asking for anything, the room has gone dark and cold. The principal and diagnostician sprout fangs from their plastic smiles. When their heads eventually stop spinning they announce with ferocity,

“She is getting all the speech allowed per student. 30 minutes twice a week.
She has been dismissed from OT, the teacher may want her to have access to the room, we say NOOOOOOooooo!
How dare you think we would test her for dyslexia, she is too low on intelligence to even test to see if she might be  dyslexic or to see if that program would work.”

That last one is really what is up my craw.

I have been fighting for 3 years to get the school to test her for Dyslexia. I would be happy to test her outside the school, but my husband has been stubborn. We pay a hefty amount in property taxes for schools each year.

So limbo. Limbo because the school thinks my daughter does not have the brain power necessary to go through the dyslexia program and my husband doesn’t want to fork out $1000 for a test the school may not accept from an outside source.

And truth be told, I was willing to accept that she was better off being taught to read by the resource teacher.

However, practically every adult who interacts with my child, including the pediatric neurologist, tutor, and teachers believe she is not low on intelligence. These folks feel her problem is a processing challenge combined with a severe case of dyslexia. Apparently, if it is really a bad case, a child can text poorly across the board.

Which is exactly what my child has done in everything except problem solving and non-calculation math. On those two things, she does rather well.

So Thursday, my dark cloud and I headed into the ARD meeting. I am expected to play nice so as not to draw out the dark forces, and by Christmas be forced to move my child into a private school.

My daughter’s pediatric neurologist told me it was my number one job as her parent, to keep her self esteem up. What I had not realized, was how gloomy, cynical, and devoid of hope I had become about the whole situation.

For a week before the meeting, my attitude was just bad. I didn’t want to do anything. I was pitifully preparing to go in and be pummeled by people who without really knowing her had already giving up on my daughter. Believing she didn’t have enough brain power to get through 1st grade reading.

People who would not fight for her the way I was supposed to. People who were not there to be her hero, the way I am supposed to.

The problem was, by Thursday, kryptonite had robbed me of any superhero powers. I went in, defeated before I had even begun.

So, it was a great surprise for me to sit down at a table where the roles had reversed.

I was the dark shadow.

From every other person, I heard stories of what a joy my daughter is. How delightful she is to teach.

Her science teacher told me she looks out for her on the playground and sees her playing with one other little girl almost every day. A few days when my little peanut was alone, she asked, “are you okay?” And peanut said, “Yes, today I am in the mood to play by myself.” The next few days she was with a big group of kids.  This wonderful teacher took it upon herself to make sure out of the eighty 4th graders running around like a kicked ant pile, that one little slip of a girl would not be alone in the mix.

The speech teacher commented how they had bonded over kid’s bop. The goals they are now working on go beyond the basic from year’s past to verb tenses and synonyms. Progress.

The new resource teacher said just that day they had leveled up. Progress.

This year she finally gets writing as well and this woman, this sweet woman, looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, we will get there. I have complete faith in your daughter.”

Now I am starting to blink back happy grateful tears. Darn brutal school florescent lighting.

Most shocking of all, the Principal had pulled in the dyslexia specialist without me asking, so they can start testing her next week. The diagnostician still thinks she is too low for it to do any good, but after basking in the glow of my daughter’s own private Justice League, I am not so sure.

They are there all day fighting for her. Lifting her up, getting her to that next step, and the next.

No one in that room had given up hope except for me. It won’t be easy, it will never be easy. But it isn’t hopeless either. In fact, much to my surprise, I left the meeting without the company of my little black cloud.

A loving breeze had blown it clear away.

About the Author: Jeanette McGurk

jeanette_mcgurkJeanette McGurk is a Graphic Designer who entered the world of writing through advertising. She discovered writing a lot of truth with a little fluff is a lot more fun than the other way round. Now that she is no longer spending time making air conditioners, tile floors, IT and Botox sound sexy, she writes about the unglamorous yet wonderful moments of life for people like herself; in other words, anyone looking for interesting ways to put off cleaning and doing laundry.

She is a curmudgeon and doesn’t Twit or Instagram. She has heard the blog is dead but since she has finally figured out how to do it, that is the museum where you can locate her writings.


Conversations Over Coffee: Sue Hallgarth

I have to confess: there’s nothing I love more than a great mystery wrapped up in the world of a favorite author. So, when I read Sue Hallogarth’s mix of Historical Fiction with Mystery in her book Death Comes, I was hooked. Once I saw it in black and white, who couldn’t imagine Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Willa Cather being a great amateur detective?

I wanted to know more about bringing a real person to life in fiction…and the woman behind it. Here’s a “sit down” with Editor in Chief Debra Smouse and author Sue Hallgarth.

We call this series Conversations Over Coffee because it’s the things I’d ask you if we were sitting across the table from each other over a casual cup of coffee….. so, let’s set the stage: where would you suggest we meet near your current home….and what is your go-to beverage and/or snack were we to meet?

Where and what would I order?

My favorite coffee shop is Satellite Coffee on Alameda Boulevard, part of a local chain near our home in Corrales, NM. My drink of choice: white chocolate mocha latte.

For those not familiar with my work, information about my Willa Cather and Edith Lewis series.

My Willa Cather and Edith Lewis series consists of entertaining mysteries that give readers a glimpse into the life and work of Willa Cather, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, and Edith Lewis, her talented life partner.

In the first one, On the Rocks, set in 1926, Willa and Edith are staying in the cottage they built as part of a women’s summer colony on Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada, where Willa is writing Shadows on the Rock. In the second, Death Comes, set in 1929, Willa and Edith are in Taos, New Mexico staying with Mabel Dodge Luhan while Willa works on Death Comes for the Archbishop.

Both mysteries are located in places where Willa and Edith actually stayed and feature people they really knew. And in both, Willa and Edith help to solve fictional murders. Since Willa and Edith did a great deal of traveling, the possibilities for additional mysteries in the series are many.

Where did the plot ideas come from for Death Comes?

Willa and Edith return for a visit to Mabel Dodge Luhan’s pink adobe in Taos, New Mexico. Luhan is well known for surrounding herself with writers and artists, and several are there at the time. Willa is working on Death Comes for the Archbishop, Edith is sketching Taos Pueblo and hoping for a visit to the nearby D.H. Lawrence ranch, which Luhan originally traded for the manuscript of Sons and Lovers.

The previous summer Edith and Willa had stumbled onto a women’s body. Now the headless bodies of two more Mexican women add to the mystery. The authorities seem only mildly interested, so Willa and Edith take it upon themselves to encourage action, which takes place in Taos and at the D.H. Lawrence ranch, twenty miles away.

When I started Death Comes, I was certain of the locations and characters based on actual people, but I had no idea of the plot or what was behind the crimes. The characters took care of that. Each day I sat down to write I would think through them—what would they say, do, see, think; who needs to be where doing what; who do I need to invent?

I just followed through and enjoyed the writing.

What piqued my interest in Willa Cather and stoked my passion about her as a human being and a writer?

I first got interested in Willa Cather in 1983 when I attended a week-long Willa Cather International Seminar in Hastings and Red Cloud, Nebraska.

That particular seminar happened when I had a small research grant to examine primary materials at archives and pioneer sites in the Plains states for a project on pioneer women in fact and fiction. It was a difficult project. No one had yet thought to catalog archival papers under the names of females, only under their husbands’ or family names.

I also read a lot of fiction about women on the frontier (very few women’s diaries had then been published), I did a lot of driving to locate archives, and I spent a great deal of time searching through archival papers to find diaries and records by women. The Cather seminar seemed like a godsend: here my research would have already been done by others and several hundred people would have collected to talk about it.

The seminar was great fun, and like a good academic, I prepared by reading all of Cather’s novels and the suggested criticism. By the time it started, I knew Cather and loved her. Seminar leaders took us to see Cather’s childhood home and showed us all the relevant sites around Red Cloud where Cather grew up and held fascinating discussions about the assigned critical and biographical material. But something was missing: the Willa Cather I “knew.”

These were the days of pre-feminism and homophobia among Cather scholars and biographers.

Cather herself had forbidden publication of her letters so those that were available could only be read (and not quoted) in research archives. Several letters were actually housed on microfilm in Red Cloud, but when I read them, I found only one letter from Cather to her partner of forty years, Edith Lewis. And that letter had lines oddly distorted and rendered undecipherable. Edith Lewis was also omitted from discussions about Cather or represented dismissively as her secretary or “companion,” never as the editor and advertising professional she actually was. The only evidence of their relationship available then was Edith Lewis’ memoir, Willa Cather Living, and that was dismissed as much less reliable than another memoir by Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, a journalist and former friend Cather had not seen in years.

So here was a mystery: who was the real Willa Cather? What was her relationship with others, especially with Edith Lewis? And how should we understand her fiction? I began to find the answers by doing research and crafting papers on Cather’s novels to present at professional meetings.

But once I was convinced of her actual relationship with Lewis, I realized I needed to do a biography of Cather before I wrote another word. That started a ten-year project, reading everything Cather wrote, including her letters located in archives across the United States. I found she was exactly the person I “knew” back in 1983.

By 1987 Sharon O’Brien had officially “revealed” that Cather was a lesbian, but for O’Brien and other biographers, Lewis was still Cather’s secretary or “companion.”  Cather, one biographer claimed, was “too dedicated to her art” to have time for any of “that.”

There was more work to do. I continued to do research and in the 1990s discovered that for twenty years Cather and Lewis had been part of a women’s summer colony on Grand Manan in New Brunswick, Canada.  But academic journals and even feminist scholars shunned my articles because I questioned (indeed challenged) O’Brien’s analysis that Cather herself was homophobic and as a result became reclusive and depressed. Their rejections led me to write my first piece of fiction, a mystery about Cather and Lewis on Grand Manan titled On the Rocks.

Then I left academia, started another line of work, moved to New Mexico, and put On the Rocks on the shelf. It stayed on the shelf for twenty years until I joined a writers’ group and found that I had an interesting manuscript in a changed world, so changed that even The New Yorker now has acknowledged Cather’s greatness as a writer and celebrated her partnership with Lewis (see most recently the wonderful article “A Walk in Willa Cather’s Prairie” by Alex Ross, October 2, 2017).

How did I decide to use Willa Cather as a character in not just historical fiction, but a mystery series?

For me the question was how to interest readers, not just academic scholars, in what I had to say about Willa Cather. I could have tried historical fiction, but I wanted a “hook.”

It so happened that I was standing front of the real Cather/Lewis Cottage at Whale Cove Cottages on the island of Grand Manan, New Brunswick, Canada, when it occurred to me that someone might easily fall off a nearby two-hundred foot cliff into the Bay of Fundy. In my mind’s eye, I saw a body plunge over the edge and plummet into the rocks below. That image determined Cather and Lewis would become my fictional sleuths.

How do I blend my fictional world with characters based on real people, and how do l stick to facts and blend my own creation in with it?

I start with facts and real people, then ask “What if?” I already know a great deal about the facts, the people, and the places, so my answers to “What if ” take care of my own creation.

There continues to be speculation and denial about Cather’s personal life and sexual orientation. What is my take on her life and why folks are still so curious about what goes on behind closed doors?

Cather was a professional writer. She and Edith Lewis were career women at a time when concepts about the “New Woman” made it possible for them to have careers but not for them to be unmarried women sharing a household if that also meant sharing a bed. They did what they could to earn their living and to be respectable, successful, and respected.

These things—earning a living and being respectable—did not always go together. But for them, they did. It was not easy, but they “closed their doors,” and while their closed doors may have invited curiosity, they revealed nothing.

Closed doors always invite curiosity.

When did I first know I was a writer?

I’ve always written off and on—poetry, academic papers, a few stabs at short stories—but I began to think I might be a writer of fiction when I wrote On the Rocks.

How do I manage the balance of real life and creative work?

Not well or I’d have written more and sooner. I have a full life and a good one. I’ve had several “careers,” which means I’m right in step with my time. These days everyone should expect to have at least three “careers,” not just jobs but actual careers. I live in Corrales, a beautiful New Mexico village near Albuquerque, where I participate as much as I can in community affairs, and I am happily married (my wife and I have been together thirty years now) and take care of our five dogs, two horses, miniature donkey, and ten chickens. When I can, I slip away into my other world and write.

A typical day in our household?

I get up and feed the dogs and barnyard animals, then I sit in my lounge chair, read the news, snooze, and sometimes think about what I will write. Then I do more chores and sometimes write. By six p.m. I’m interested in dinner and a little television—Rachel Maddow and something after that that I don’t have to think about—then bed. Not very interesting, perhaps, but then I’m retired. Sort of. The only important variation these days happens when we take off in our Roadtrek camper van. Even then I find I can write when the story is ready. Otherwise the scenery is always lovely.

What do I wish I knew at 30 that I know now?

To relax. At fifty, I realized I didn’t have to live my life by other people’s expectations. Since then I have confirmed the truth in that. Freedom is wonderful. You can do all kinds of things you didn’t know you could do, even write a novel.

What advice have I for other writers and creative souls?

For writers, always be curious and read. Read everything. Learn all you can. And write. Write as much as you can and don’t be afraid to show other writers your work. Then pay attention to what they say. Pick your readers well. Don’t do everything they tell you to do, but pay close attention. The same goes for all creative souls. Learn all you can from those doing what you want to do, then do it, do it as well as you can, and keep doing it.

About the Interviewee

Sue Hallgarth is former English professor. She has written scholarly articles on Willa Cather and Edith Lewis, and this is her second book of fiction featuring the two of them. Her first book in the series On The Rocks, set in 1929 on the island of Grand Manan in New Brunswick, Canada. She lives in Corrales, New Mexico.


Instrumental: The Shadow Side by Dona Murphy

“I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.”
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Stevenson wrote this as a children’s poem. He was definitely on to something well beyond the physical shadow he describes here. The unknown, dark side of our personality may seem at best to be a nuisance and better off repressed or ignored. At worst, it is uncharted territory filled with everything we’d rather not do or be. It is the side of our own human natures containing the dark, the shameful, the primitive. The frightening and the unacceptable.

The shadow resides in our unconscious minds. It helps us adapt to the demands of socialization. We begin learning from a very young age what is and isn’t acceptable to those around us – our families and society. We learn to repress and reject thoughts or actions that fail to meet family expectations or don’t conform to social norms. We banish them underground – into the under-conscious, abandoning them to the shadow world.

It’s that banishment and attempt at abandonment that causes a lot of trouble and grief. We reject parts of ourselves or refuse to recognize them to gain approval and acceptance. What usually happens is that these disowned feelings come out in the form of a projection. What we reject and deny in ourselves we then see in the behavior or motivation of others. We then label them bad people, our enemies.

If only we could see the gold hidden in the dark corners.

The child in Stevenson’s poem disapproves of the antics of his physical shadow much as we do with our psychic one. We judge these aspects, we want them to change. We want them to be well-behaved, predictable “good” little girls and boys.

Like most dangerous things, the shadow is a better servant than it is a master. Much of what we find there is dangerous and damaging. When we act on our most primitive, violent impulses – killing, dominating or preying on weaker beings – our lizard-brain denies us the chance to realize our highest human purpose.

Knowing and accepting that we feel these things is ok. Acting on them is not ok.

We can exercise good judgment without being judgmental. By acknowledging the full spectrum of human nature from the highest aspirations to the lowest urges we can mine the gold of self-discovery and self-knowledge. We gain deeper understanding and compassion for ourselves and our fellow human beings. We find a great source of empowerment and a wellspring of creativity.


The author who wrote the poem quoted here also wrote the novella, “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The term “Jekyll and Hyde personality” describes a person whose behavior is changeable, unpredictable and frightening. The doctor struggles with his own good and evil tendencies. He creates a potion meant to hide and control the evil within himself. Instead, he unleashes it. The potion transforms him into a mysterious, cruel and violent being. His inner demon becomes his outer being and runs loose in the world. In this Victorian gothic cautionary tale, Jekyll completely transforms into the evil and repulsive Hyde. What we resist does persist.

We can turn our mistakes and wrong actions into opportunities for change. Instead we hide them out of guilt and shame.

Failure is a learning experience, not a reason to discount or belittle ourselves. Was there any shame in being an infant and not yet knowing how to use language or do arithmetic? No – we didn’t know how to do those things, but we learned.

We all do things wrong. Sometimes it’s purely accidental. Sometimes it arises out of momentary thoughtlessness or selfishness. Either way, these can be a source of healthy remorse. There is a healing process when we honestly own our behavior and offer an apology: “I’m sorry, I didn’t intend to hurt you” or “I’m sorry, I won’t do that again”. It’s healing for us and for others. Instead of a hidden shame we have an opportunity to learn and grow in our humanity.

I’ve been on a long journey to discover and befriend my own shadow. I’ve had the privilege in my tarot reading and intuitive coaching practice to assist my clients with their own shadow work and to facilitate healing and self-love through self-knowledge. When we can clearly see our shadow, we can also see our light.

Seeing both creates not perfection but harmony and creativity. We have within each of us both the light and the dark; together they generate tremendous transformative and transformational power.

I can’t think of a better way to close than by quoting Carl G. Jung, the psychiatrist who first proposed the theory of the shadow or shadow self:

Taking it in its deepest sense, the shadow is the invisible saurian tail that man still drags behind him. Carefully amputated, it becomes the healing serpent of the mysteries. Only monkeys parade with it.”

About the Author: Dona Murphy

Dona Murphy is the owner of Destiny Tarot. She lives and works in Lake Bluff Illinois as a Tarot reader, Intuitive Counselor and Life Coach. Dona combines her metaphysical and spiritual studies, natural gifts and real-world experience to help her clients solve problems and live their best lives. As she says, “The cards don’t predict your future, they help you create it”.


The State of the World Today by Keva Bartnick

What if I told you that it will in fact get better, that it does get better. Would you believe me? What if I told you that we all have to go thru a lot of darkness to make it thru to the light. Would you believe me still?

Here’s the kicker though, it takes time, lots and lots of time. Time is the magical word that will transport us to our desired destination.

Time unfortunately is also an illusion. The past is a memory, the future isn’t here, so all we have is the present. Our present is vital to our healing. The act of being present should be our salvation. Unfortunately, how many of us actually live there?

I’ve read one way is to practice mindfulness. Mindfullness starts with taking a few minutes each day to BE in your body. Sitting in silence, alone with ourselves, with nothing to keep our minds busy is torturous to some. Not running away to check our phones, checking Facebook, or other media outlets. Sitting, breathing, being. Feeling all the feelings when they arise.

We have a duty to ourselves to heal. We believe that the fight is outside of ourselves, and sometimes it is. What if I told you the greatest fight is not outside, but inside. If we heal our own darkness bringing it into the light, the outside starts to become lighter somehow.

Working through our own issues is the hardest work we will ever perform outside of being a parent to a child. When we shine the light into the darkness it seems scary at first. Like the boogie man under your bed, you believe him to be MUCH scarier than he is. When we get the courage to climb out of bed, tip toe to turn on the light, we find that the scary monster is nothing more than a pair of crumpled up socks. Looking inside ourselves works like that too.

When we bring our darkness to the surface time and time again with mindfulness eventually less will come to the surface. Overtime we will have worked through all the issues healing ourselves. When we do that work first, I can promises you that the world will indeed look very different than it did before.

What if World Peace actually starts with being mindful of ourselves?

About the Author: Keva Bartnick

Keva Bartnick is an artist, writer, and lightworker. Happily married mother of three; she’s been inspiring people to be their most courageous selves since 2015.

She can be found at


Sunday Sensations: Feels Like Home

My great-grandma, Golda, was home.

No one in the world smelled like my great-grandma, Golda. She was a small woman, yet her hug could engulf you. To this day, I can’t tell you what exactly she smelled like, but it was a smell all her own.

To an inner city kid, the drive from Los Angeles to Missouri never entirely made sense until we got to Grandma Golda’s house. The long hours. The boredom. The tension. The countless times I had to pee, but it was awhile to the next rest stop. All those things melted away when we saw her on her front porch. Everything slowed down once we got there. Suddenly, there was time again. As if we’d traveled back in time and could reclaim some we lost.

Missouri felt different too. This was the place I learned about sulfur in the water, the evils of humidity, the joys of dressing up “to go to town” and how happy a pizza delivery could make one person.

There was a comfortable familiarity whenever we’d go to Grandma’s house. There was the ceramic deer in the lawn that every grandchild and great-grandchild had posed by. I can still hear her grandfather clock ticking away if I close my eyes. Everything sat in the same place. Even if a couple years went by, I could count on those things. They were just always there. In a world where it seemed everything changed in a whirlwind around me — Grandma Gold’s house was a constant.

Grandma was a storyteller. We’d have a meal and not leave the table for hours while she told stories and talked. She had a twinkle in her eye that I often saw reflected in my grandfather (her second child). The family’s history, our legacy, everything was contained in my Grandma’s stories.

Sometimes, when life gets too hectic or stressful, I sit out on my front porch, close my eyes and remember my Grandma Golda saying “come in, I’m so happy you’re here.”

For a minute, it feels like home again.

About the author: Tabitha Grace Challis

Tabitha Grace ChallisTabitha is a social media strategist, writer, blogger, and professional geek. Among her published works are the children’s books Jack the Kitten is Very Brave and Machu the Cat is Very Hungry, both published under the name Tabitha Grace Smith. A California girl (always and forever) she now lives in Maryland with her husband, son, and a collection of cats, dogs, and chickens. Find out more about her on her Amazon author page or follow her on Twitter: @Tabz.


Wax Lips by Anita Marie Moscoso

Milo and his wife Jingle were riding the 377 Commuter Bus into Seattle, just before nightfall last Halloween.

The 377 made a special run on Halloween Night through Chestnut and Post Street where, according to the Weekly Entertainment Guide, Wax Lipsthere were over 50 “Spooktacular” Halloween Attractions to choose from for a night of “Blood Chilling” fun.

The bus was nearly full of Witches, Pirates, Vampires, Mummies, at least three Frankenstein’s monsters, a variety of aliens, and one guy who had “Beer” written on his forehead and tinfoil wrapped around his head.

Then there was Milo and Jingle.

Jingle was sitting next to the window, and when she sighed it frosted up a bit and he watched her take her finger and draw a frowny face into it.

“Feeling a little down, Jingle?”

She shrugged.

“Come on Jin, cheer up, it’s your favorite day of the year!” Milo reached into the front pocket of his worn, soft brown leather jacket and he fished around for a bit.

“Your favorite.” He held up a set of big red wax lips. “Look it says they taste like cinnamon.”

Jingle looked at the wax lips and then she went back to drawing on the window.

After a minute or two she held out her hand. “Give.”

He handed her the bag and she tore it open with her teeth and popped the lips into her mouth and started to chew.

“So, what should we do first? The Haunted Morgue? The Haunted House on King Street? Oh. No wait. I know. The Haunted Fun Run.”

Jingle stopped mid slurp and smack. “What the hell is that? A Haunted Fun Run? What do they do –  get dresfiery pumpkin - moscososed up like Sexy Nurses and Vampires and run from Bar to Bar?”

“No. It’s this bicycle club. They get dressed up and decorate their bikes and ride around town. How’d you like to race around town for a bit? It’s a great night for it. We can hop on a couple of those Ride Free Bikes and -”

The Bus turned a dark corner and bumped down a poorly lit street and thumped along neglected train tracks.  “That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard of in my life. Who started that one?”

Milo slid away from Jingle a few inches and said, “Gracie Frost.”

Jingle spat the wax blob out of her mouth and it hit the floor with a very unappetizing splat. ” Why is that old cadaver organizing anything for Halloween?”

“Well. It’s a free country for starters.”

Jingle glared at him and didn’t stop until he looked away. “She’s trying to fit into the Halloween scene.” he almost whispered.

“I wish she’d fit herself into a body bag and leave the work to the professionals.”

“I know, Jingle. I know. But you know. Gracie Frost cramping your big night aside, I’d like to check out the Haunted Morgue. If you don’t mind.”

Jingle shrugged.

“Or. We could check out the Haunted House on King Street. I heard that this year they’re going to have a Paranormal Team show up and film everything. It won’t air till next year of course. But it would be fun to show up and try to get on camera. Don’t you think?”

“I think you are a simple creature Milo. However, you do come up with some great ideas.”

Jingle was visibly starting to cheer up. ” It’s a shame what happened to that Paranormal Team at the Haunted Morgue last year. I’ve heard they STILL haven’t found all of their, you know, parts.”

Jingle burped behind her hand and Milo shook his head. ” Don’t DO that Jingle.”

“Well. If it wasn’t a Haunted Morgue before, it sure as heck is now. I’d bet Snickers Bars to Caramel Corn Balls on that.”

There were two Princesses sitting behind Milo and Jingle and they looked at each other and then back down into their phones.

Street scene- moscosoWith a hiss and a thump against the curb the bus came to a smooth stop in front of


and everyone got up with their own special Halloween battle cries and started to file down the aisle.

Just before they got to the doors, the alien with bright silver paint on her face and “BEER” stopped Milo and Jingle.

“Love the costumes man and” Beer said to Milo and then he took a look into Jingles dark orange eyes and slightly down turned smile set in her heavy jaw and he said, “Ma’am.”

“You guys are going to win the Costume Competition for sure. Those are the BEST Werewolf costumes I’ve ever seen.” The Alien reassured them.

Jingle stood there with her mouth open, her long white teeth turning a little blue under the lights shining from above them. “Son of a bi- what is your problem E.T.”

“Happy Halloween.” Milo trilled as he shoved Jingle out the door and down the steps to the sidewalk.  ” There’s a costume shop around the corner. I can’t believe we forgot to dress up AGAIN.”

About the Author: Anita M. Moscoso

Anita Marie Moscoso Anita Marie Moscoso was nine years old when she decided to become a Writer/Pirate/Astronaut. She is now so far away from the age of nine that it’s comical, but it turns out that she did become a writer, and she’s told stories about Pirates and Astronauts. Anita has also worked in a funeral home, explored the cemeteries of New Orleans alone, and has a great dog named Hamish and had a cat named Wolfgang.

More about Anita (in parts) can be found at her blog: Enduring Bones.


I Sit at a Table for One by Bella Cirovic

I sit at a table for one. I order a drink and settle in while listening to the conversations around me. I wonder how many people have sat here before me and how many will come after.

I remember one Friday night I had a group of women gathered around my table talking about everything from weight loss and gain, to love, to lost love, to friendships and relationships gone good and gone sour, to where we all find ourselves now in our life journey. We had champagne cocktails and little bites of different cheeses, crackers, almonds, fig spread, salamis, and our staple: blue corn chips and salsa. The spread felt extravagant in a way. The oracle cards came out. We went deep.

In both scenarios, alone or in a group, I do fairly well. I believe it’s because I possess the qualities of both an introvert and an extravert. I also have a kind of confidence that has come a long way since my 20’s minus the bravado or aggressive need to let my presence be known. Silence speaks volumes. So does a smile.

Side note: I smile more often now at strangers. I make conversation with the elderly at stores and lunch spots. It makes their day (and mine) and they have the best stories to tell. This you must try at least once.

There are so many different flavors of people. We adjust our seasonings to fit how we want to feel in our daily life, in our skin, and who we want to become next. We evolve. We change. It is a blur of onward motion, a train that keeps moving. Some people stay on for the ride, some jump on or off when they need to, and some just fall away because they’re comfortable at a different pace.

I so get this now.

I used to wonder if it was just me. What was wrong with me?

Gathered around my table (and for the sake of all that is good, I have been gathered in circle around many fires but have never GOT THIS) I realized that I am not the only one who goes through these achey growing pains. We’re all moving at a pace that is right for us, going through our own evolution, experiencing what our light and shadow looks like.

My daughter is inside of her own evolution. She is going back and forth on decisions around school and life choices. She is thriving in both theater and music. She wants to couple those skills with a degree in education and see where she lands with it. She’s driving and working and living the typical teenager life.

Mine, right now, requires massive amounts of space. My home needs tending. My body needs some love. My spark has reignited and I am ready to do great things but my body wants to move slow. So I listen.

I sit at a table for one. I listen to the stories that swirl up into the ethers. I tune in, absorbing the details. I feel less alone in my own life when I’m privy to hearing what others are going through. I don’t find that creepy if I find myself alone within earshot and I am NOT an eavesdropper. Well. I may be.

I sit at a table for one and pour out my heart and soul to the person sitting across from me. I let the tears go. I wonder if anyone is listening or if my release just floats on up into the celestial bubble above me.

And still, I feel blessed. Because it doesn’t matter. I know what I need and I allow myself that so that I might level up. It opens up a big amount of space within me for more salt, more mercy, more love.

About the Author: Bella Cirovic

Bella Cirovic BioBella Cirovic is a photographer and writer who lives with her husband and daughter in the suburbs outside of NYC. She writes on the subjects of self care, body love and nourishment, crystals, essential oils, and family life. Catch up with Bella at her blog: She Told Stories


Instrumental: In Light & Shadow by Kelli May-Krenz

Being seen fully in light and knowing strength can be found in the shadows.

For me being in the light is living fully and being seen. There is a beauty in embracing all that you are with truth. I think our pasts are like shadows. Finding ways to take the hard pasts, the shadows if you will and turn them into light. Living fully and practicing putting light around dark places that no longer serve us helps us breathe new life into our days.

Practicing seeing the light out of shadow is much like a yoga practice, a new walking routine – the more we practice the more we are allowed to start feeling better.

Learning to live on the bright side of light is freeing to your soul.

One of the most incredible strengths we can give ourselves is to practice daily on letting go. Letting go of old patterns, old hurts, dark stuff gives us the permission and room to fill up with more light and goodness. Perhaps inside those shadows are the lessons that give us peace, hope and more self love.

I often admire at the end of each day, dusk. You know that moody time when light seems to quietly pass and rest. The soft shadows that remain show us a new way of seeing, searching, listening to how these moments make us feel.

What if we could write down, hold onto those feelings we have when we see the light become a shadow. I believe it is at that time we start really seeing and noticing. In the noticing we can learn so much about who we are, what makes us special.

Once we start noticing and looking at moments from different perspectives we begin growing in new ways. Light sneaks in.

I know that my daily practice of noticing has helped me live in the moment. Living in the moment is living in the light. Learning from the shadow lessons.

I find magic in these shadow lessons. Being aware of what shadows you hold inside and really taking time to explore those feeling can help us learn comfort in our own skin.

Being a light  for others is a very sacred gift to give – simply showing up to listen. So many times it is in the listening we actually fill ourselves up.

I love knowing that from shadows comes light. Without the dance of the shadow and light movement seeing life would remain the same. Taking the really hard moments and gathering light around them (by listening hard to your truths) will forever chase the shadows.


I have taken some very hard events in my life and practiced seeing light around them. Looking from above these dark shadows and seeing my light lesson, it is not easy but, I promise with practice it starts becoming a habit.

Often, I write what I am seeking until light appears to show me how to find peace. Start simply by looking, listening and writing down moments that fill you up. What about those moments have a common thread? Simple acts of slowing down and being kind to you will start you on your way.

Creating a daily journal of what you notice, how you feel in the morning versus how your feeling a night helps you to see what makes you feel most alive. Goodness is always waiting for you to see, listen and love more. Loving your shadows and light in your life will be a changing force. I wish this for all of us with great love.

About the Author: Kelli May-Krenz

Kelli May-Krenz BioKelli May-Krenz is an award-winning graphic designer and illustrator with more than 20 years’ experience. Her ability to capture, express and visually communicate the needs and visions of her clients has produced designs and promotional materials for everything from independent boutiques to Fortune 500 companies.

Her new stationery line, Pearl Button’s World, recently debuted at the National Stationery Show – where two of her designs were selected as finalist for Best in Show – and she has been featured in an array of print publications including Somerset Studio, Art Journaling, Somerset Life, Somerset Memories, Somerset Apprentice, Room to Create and Uppercase magazine.

Connect with Kelly on Facebook and Instagram.


Ode to Film Noir by Pat West

Copyright: <a href=''>nejron / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

I love a city that can keep secrets
not to mention rain-slicked alleys
cluttered with garbage
abandoned warehouses dust hanging in the air
crowded bars boozy nights chiaroscuro lighting
slicing through venetian blinds
dark offices overlooking busy streets
a hard-boiled private detective
wearing a double-breasted suit
a good guy before one bad turn
made his life hell
I love the ballsy two-timing blonde
with thin eyebrows false lashes painted red lips
high heels snapping on the pavement
a dame who knows how to use men
to get what she wants
I love how the story unravels
conspiracy corruption murder
and how the bevy of hired hoods
barely have time to toss out more red herrings
before they get plugged
sure all the double crosses and backstabbing
make it hard to follow
but when I watch the sleuth
romance the doll with the pretty face
investigate an endless list
of seedy characters
I love the tight knot in my gut
just before the broad does him in

About the Author: Pat West

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.


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