Archive | Letters

Dear Blinking Cursor by Tabitha Grace Challis

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

Dear Blinking Cursor,

Yes, I see you. I know that you sit there waiting. “Great things are to come,” you seem to telegraph as if you were an 18th century Morse code. My head spins with stories. They have since I was tadpole-like in my ability. I have scattered words from there to here and yet, you still blink.

I’m no Euripides. No one will probably be reading this tangled web of beautiful lies I spin thousands of years from now. I will not be quoted and misquoted on Facebook like Mark Twain when all that’s left of me is dust.

And yet, you blink. Eager to be fed.

Do you not know I have a kid who needs another glass of milk? A husband with lips made just for kissing? Do you not see my hands full of bags of cat food?

You relentlessly wait. Wearing at my mind. I close my eyes and yet you are there. I’m renaming you Godot. Curse you, cursor, and your all-the-time-in-the-world stare at me.

Sometimes I imagine that you’re the entrance to a black hole. If I could just unlock you, the words would come out on their own. It’d be so easy. Less effort. Less feeling like I was letting you down. Tap into the deep part of my brain, o blinking one. Release the wild things.

I’m so tired of disappointing. I picked up this perfection mantle at age 10 and have been unable to drop it. It is tattered, frayed and worn. I want to do it all, be it all, see it all, taste it all. Yet it leads to nothing.

The whispers I ignore tell me that I’m a writer. I was meant to tell those stories. But the siren’s call (the loud kind, not the irresistible one) of life’s essentials pulls me away from you, cursor. There’s piles of laundry to tackle, dishes to clean, a dog to wash, bills to pay, and floors to vacuum.

Life happened while I was busy making plans to return to you.

Don’t give up on me, please. There are tales that I need to tell you of chickens that live on the roofs of odd buildings. I long to lose myself to chasing you across the page. I ache for there to be more and more and more words that follow you like Orpheus chased Eurydice. Were that my ending were not so tragic.

I like to think I’d give up so much just to please you. I’d sacrifice time and effort and energy. Yet, I’m spent. There are days when I can barely lift my thought process beyond survival.

Could you wait? Or will this be like the pot of water that’s been left to boil on the stove too long? Empty. Charred. Will my words burn away and be of no use to anyone?  Will you keep blinking your slow, patient  S.O.S. that calls to me? I want to be like my author heroes. I want to stick to a page until the story unfolds. I want to chase you from here to the end. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is so weak. I binge watch old TV shows as you sit in a sea of white. I play games on my phone to drown out the noise of your silent requests.

Don’t lose hope, little cursor. Together we will do great things. Perhaps we will attack them like they did on D-Day. A full-scale invasion will march forth and you will not have blinked in vain.

Too much?

Then I’ll be truthful.

Please wait. I’m coming. In the snatches of time before falling asleep. In between the rush and bustle of the every day, you and I will dance. I will find the quiet times to put thoughts to words, inaction to action, and magic to paper.

And it will be beautiful.

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.

To Patience, From Your Biggest Fan

Dear Patience,

I have to be honest with you—I’ve never done anything like this before. Like, written an actual fan letter. Anytime I think about it, I immediately feel embarrassed, like I’m twelve years old and very small compared to whomever I’m contemplating writing.

I’ve come close a few times. I started a letter to Joy once, but something fun caught my eye and I never made my way back to it. I thought about reaching out to Anger, but it felt too scary (although I actually think Anger is quite misunderstood and would probably appreciate little love from time to time.) And I picked out a really pretty card that I thought would be perfect for Kindness, but then I found out a good friend of mine was having a hard week so I sent it to her instead.

There is so much I want to say to you Patience, but it really all boils down to this: I want to be just like you.

You seem so mystical, so serene. You have a way of creating calm no matter what the situation and you do such an extraordinary job of putting everyone around you at ease (or at least whoever is willing to pay attention to you.) I wish I was more like that. Too often I am so eager to finish—or start—something that I miss out on a lot of details and experiences. Anytime I get it into my head that I won’t be able to feel good or have fun or be OK until this happens or that takes place I always run into trouble. You know what I’m talking about, and you know how futile it always is. In all the times I’ve let myself get frustrated and grouchy because something isn’t happening exactly the way I think it should, never once has it made time move any faster (or encouraged slow drivers in front of me to magically change lanes so I can pass them!)

In situations that have me feeling hurried and harried, I look to you, Patience, and following your example always enables me to turn things around. I stop, take a deep breath, and ponder what you would do in that moment. After I sit with this thought for a while, I usually end up wanting to do the same thing every time—nothing!

If I feel overly anxious to speak up during an argument, you encourage me to remain silent. If I notice myself sloppily folding laundry in an effort to get it done fast, thinking of you enables me to immediately sink into the simple beauty of my soft, clean bath towels. If I’m running errands and wishing I wasn’t where I was but, instead, where I was headed, you inspire me to take a very small action that never fails to pull me out of my wholly unnecessary angst. With your nudging, I look outside my window. Once I spend a moment or two admiring the trees, the clouds, and the sky, I’m no longer concerned with being in such a mad rush.

I’ve also learned that anytime I choose to ignore your example, I’ll likely pay a price. This usually involves a stubbed toe or some other such mishap. When I become fixated on getting something done as fast as possible, I literally become oblivious to my surroundings. How many bruises and nicks and scrapes do I have because there was an imaginary ticking time bomb I believed would explode if I didn’t get something started or finished or somehow resolved as soon as humanly possible?

A lot of people say you’re all about letting time unfold organically.

While I get this, and know it’s part of your charm, I’ve come to believe your most unique and potent genius is in all the ways you teach the world how to focus its attention on what truly matters. Is it important I get my dishes cleaned quickly or that I spend the time it takes to wash them being grateful for the meal I just enjoyed? Does it serve me to feel annoyed if someone doesn’t return my call right away or might it be a better idea to allow for circumstances beyond my knowledge or control? Will the situation be elevated by my saying, “What a jerk for not calling back!” or “Maybe he or she is dealing with a person crisis; I hope everything is OK.”?

You don’t teach me to just sit back and do nothing. You instill a practice of gentle, mindful immersion into the beauty of every moment.

The world is so enamored with speed these days. Immediacy seems to be the goal, no matter what the situation. I bet you feel like your work is never done around here. I wonder if you sometimes feel tired and overwhelmed. Perhaps you doubt whether or not anyone is even interested in what you have to say anymore.

I think this is why I decided it was time to take a leap and write my first fan letter—because it is important you know how desperately so many of us want and need your example, your teachings, and your wisdom.

I know you’re busy, Patience—more busy than ever—so I don’t expect a response. The only hope I send with this letter is that you find some small solace to know what a difference you’ve made in my life. You have helped me appreciate the detours and the delays, the uncertainties and the lulls. You’ve shown me how to gently slip out of tense situations, most especially the ones that became unnecessarily wound up because of my own untamed thoughts. Thank you for all of your hard work. Thank you for all the ways you show up for me.

Happy New Year, Patience. You’re the best.

With admiration, Christine

About the Author: Christine Mason Miller

Christine Mason Miller is an author and artist who has been inspiring others to create a meaningful life since 1995. Signed copies of her memoir, Moving Water, are now available for pre-order at

Dear Tender Heart

Dear Tender Heart,

Seven was a hard age for me. I broke my right arm in two places that year,  just as we were learning cursive. Mrs. Dean, my 2nd grade teacher didn’t love me, a shock after two years in my long academic career of being the teacher’s pet. Ballet was next to impossible with a big, heavy cast. (We won’t mention the horrible yearbook photo, with the crooked pigtails and chapped lips.)

And my sister, seven years older, had outgrown the patience to play with me, as her attention turned to boys, being a twirler with the band,  and performing at the football games. Oh, how I longed for her velvet and sequined costumes.

I arrived home from school one December Day to a big surprise: my mother had put up a tiny tree in my room and it was decorated with little felt dolls: toy soldiers, little blonde girls in Christmas dresses, and, of course, Santa and Mrs. Clause.

I had begun collecting dolls earlier that year, so the sight of all those little felt dolls made me feel so special and so loved.

I set up that little tree Christmas after Christmas until I was around twelve and began to outgrow dolls and Santa and the little table the tree sat upon.

Until this year, I had forgotten about that little tree.

I had also forgotten how, in so many ways, the mother of my childhood had been loving and generous.

Years of her depression and dissatisfaction at life had replaced the moments of light. The tantrums she threw and the hateful words she directed towards me as I grew into adolescence and womanhood overwhelmed all the kind words and gestures, pushing those memories to the recesses of my mind.

Instead, the memories that typically surface are the hard ones. I remember being a nineteen year old newlywed, so proud of my new home yet feeling confused as she screamed at me, telling me I was selfish for moving into a new house without her approval. Her demands that I “return everything she had ever given me since my marriage.”  It’s far easier for me to recall removing pictures from the walls, filling boxes with decorative knickknacks, and piling sweaters on top than it is to recall blue-clad soldiers and smiling, blonde-haired, felt faces.

The memories of neither of my parents meeting my second child until after her second birthday are stronger, oh Tender Heart, than the faded memories of a hand-stitched stocking adorned with little Gingerbread Men and my name in Gold.

Those years of pain and stress and rejection, I must admit, put layers and layers of protection around you, didn’t they, oh, Tender Heart?

I have a truly wonderful life, but I have to admit, this year has been as difficult for me as the year I was seven. There is so much anger and stress and pain in the world, it’s been a challenge to see the world from a place of love.  I create best from a space of peace and calm, and the environment of the outside world sure hasn’t been any of those things lately.

I dove into spiritual activities to soothe my soul during all the unrest in the world.

During the period between All Hallow’s Eve and Thanksgiving, I set up an “Ancestors Altar” to honor the Beloved Dead during the season of All Saints and All Souls Days. I gathered symbols of the season: an owl, a raven, and tiny pumpkins.  I retrieved the photo from our living room of my grandmother and the one of my parents along with their parents at a wedding shower, the only photo I have of either of my grandfathers. I found a photo of my friend who died on 9/11.

I dug through our photo albums.

First I pulled out photos of John’s grandparents, great grandparents, father, and brother. Then, I found the photos from my sister’s first wedding shower and bridesmaid luncheon in 1981. There, I discovered a photo of my Aunt Betty, who died two weeks after my mother. Then, I found this one photo, a picture of my mother laughing with her sister, Nita, who died in the 80’s along with their mother –  my grandmother – who died in 1992.

My mother was so young and full of joy in that photo. Still raven-haired and dressed in a bright pink dress. The mother I had before the years of depression dulled her sparkle. The mother who loved a young Debra, rather than the woman who seemed to despise the woman little Debra grew into.

Every morning through the fall, dear Tender Heart, I lit candles on that altar. I prayed for the souls of all those gathered there, seeing each face as a Beloved. I walked by their smiling faces several times a day and they kept me company as I worked.

And each day, that gaping wound of not being good enough for my mother to love began to get smaller. The walls I have constructed around you, on Tender Heart, began to crumble just a little. That is the mystical power of intention, candles, and prayer at work.

When Thanksgiving drew close, I knew it was time to break down my altar. I put away the candles, raven, and owl. I discarded the softening pumpkins and lovingly gathered the photos to save for next year.

I had no plans for another altar until St. Brigid’s Day in February and realized how bare the space would feel without the smiling faces, so I decided to put up a Christmas tree. I found a little tree at Target, on sale for $15. I bought extra lights and tiny baubles. It’s a happy little tree, illuminating the Spirit of Christmas as I work.

John arrived home from a business trip and I showed him my little office tree as we prepared to decorate the rest of our home. Then I remembered my first little tree standing in a room of my own, and I shared the story, and cried.

“You know, that’s the nicest thing I’ve ever heard your mother doing for you,” he replied.

He has been my witness. By my side, celebrating each Christmas with me since my mother died. This is my sixth Christmas without her, oh, Tender Heart, and only now am I able to reach into the depths of memories and retrieve interactions with my mother that don’t involve pain or more heartache.

I chose a couple of felt gingerbread men to adorn my new little tree; not like the toy soldiers or felt Santa, but still with the nostalgic memories of Christmas as a Child and the stocking my mother created with her own two hands. The remembrance, oh Tender Heart, of creations from love instead of the unimaginable space of anger and dislike is critical to extending these tenuous feelings.

Now, each morning, I turn on the lights on my personal Christmas tree. I sit in a recliner – displaced for the Christmas Tree of John’s Christmas Past – writing in my journal or reading, and, like the smiling faces from those old photographs, the twinkling lights illuminate the dark, shining love and hope, nostalgia and remembrance of the other little tree.

Each day, oh Tender Heart, you find a way to heal a little more as I seek a way to recall the loving gestures instead of the hateful ones. I am allowing the magic of honoring ancestors and the mystical power of grace and forgiveness to help me forget the bitterness.

Though 2016 has been a challenging year, this gives me hope that 2017 has the potential for more.

May you continue to find love, oh Tender Heart. And heal.

“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present,hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.”
–Agnes M. Pahro

Happy Christmas.

Debra ♥

About the Author: Debra Smouse

Debra is a life coach and the Editor in Chief of Modern Creative Life. She is the author of three books, including the recently released Clearing Soul Clutter: Creating Your Vision.

She lives in Ohio and believes in the power of Love.

Letter to My Creativity, Anna Hodges Oginsky

Dear Creativity,

Here you are. Saving me once again. While the vitriol simmers in the air like a warlock’s brew, its spell disables me… anna_o_055double, double toil and trouble. It bubbles: the hatred, the sadness, the anger, and the grief.

We are in mourning.

The comfort we had thinking everything was okay while others suffered, us unknowing; or knowing and not caring enough to act upon that knowing; perhaps wanting to act but overwhelmed by the enormity of it all; knowing and caring and wanting to act but unsure where to start. Them pleading in desperation for mercy, aching to be seen, to be heard, to be acknowledged. The comfort is no more. We are all so uncomfortable now. The shadows, the goblins, and the monsters have all emerged from the darkness. The bitterness is all out on the table. We see it. We smell it. We feel it in our bones and in every cell in our bodies. We still don’t know what to do, but we know we must do something.

I turn to you, my Creativity, my loyal friend. My light.

You are my connection to the Source, after all. You are the thread that sews me to all that is.

Where will you guide me? Us?

I am counting on you, as always, to help me heal. To help us heal.

Will we write letters, posts, essays, and books? Expressing our sorrow. Asking for help. Begging for forgiveness from others and from our own selves? Can we even begin to forgive each other? Do we even know what to forgive?

anna-oginsky-image2Will we take to the streets with paintbrushes and as we collaborate on painting a new landscape, will we see that we are one? Will we recognize that in the beginning we were but a creation and in the end we are nothing more than what we created? What are we creating now?

How do I solve these riddles for myself, Creativity? How do I weave my voice into the solutions for the whole, for all of us, for the greater good?

Thank you for giving me ways to ask these questions. Thank you for showing me these questions exist below the surface, under the spell. Thank you for giving me words and colors and images and tools to use to help me process these questions. Thank you for the music that sings to my soul while I mix potions and emotions in search of a soothing balm for my grief.

Thank you for curiosity. For wonder. For awe. Thank you for inspiration.

Thank you for giving me space to feel. For translating my feelings into something tangible. Thank you for helping me get it out. Thank you for helping me let it go.

Thank you for giving me the confidence to know that all the answers I am seeking are already inside me. Thank you for empowering me with the discernment to know that your wisdom is also mine. I trust that as inherently creative beings, we have the power to change things. To create new things. To let old things go.

Like you, we are powerful. We are the change agents that transform groceries into meals, seeds and dirt into gardens, paper into books, bricks into buildings, and blank walls into murals. Surely, we can transform ourselves. And we can transform each other. With acknowledgment, with validation, with love, patience, and compassion we can transform. We will grow. I have faith in you, in me, in us.

I remember the relief I felt after my first entry in the journal my Baba gave me in 1983. We had been shopping. She must have known that words would be my medicine. Words have always been my way in to you, Creativity. You saved me then. I am indeed indebted to you. You showed me everything would be okay. You showed me that the only way out is through. Again and again. You sat with me for many years while I stuffed my feelings into you and again when I was learning to let them out by way of you. You have always been there for me. You transform my grief to healing to peace to joy. For then and now and everything in between, I thank you.

With you by my side, I have no fear about what is to come.

With love and gratitude,


About the Author: Anna Oginsky

annbioAnna Oginsky is the founder of Heart Connected, LLC, a small Michigan-based workshop and retreat business that creates opportunities for guests to tune in to their hearts and connect with the truth, wisdom, and power held there. Her work is inspired by connections made between spirituality, creativity, and community. Anna’s first book, My New Friend, Grief, came as a result of years of learning to tune in to her own heart after the sudden loss of her father. In addition to writing, Anna uses healing tools like yoga, meditation, and making art in her offerings and in her own personal practice. She lives in Brighton, Michigan with her husband, their three children, and Johnny, the big yellow dog. Connect with her on her website; Twitter; Facebook; or Instagram.

Learn more about her book at

Sunday Letter: October Morning

img_20160209_040533Dear Friend,

I am so grateful that we have been writing letters to each other. As I’ve mentioned many times, putting pen to paper allows (forces) me to think differently. It’s been a gift. A blessing.

As I write to you on this October morning, it is still dark. In the past, I hated losing the early morning light as summer faded into fall. Yet this year, I am feeling differently about it. I love these dark mornings, when the sun doesn’t rise until close to 8 AM. I am not required to rise early in order to have this sacred time of being up, putting pen to paper of some sort, and allowing my thoughts to flow on the page.

It’s like I’m secretly stealing a part of the day, and I can pretend that I am the only one in the neighborhood awake.

When I was a little girl, I was fascinated with the idea of autumn: crisp breezes, brilliant foliage, bonfires, and plaid woolen skirts with heavy sweaters. But of course, I never experienced any of those things as a girl in Texas. Instead, our unbearable scorching Augusts merged into a sticky September, and despite a return to school in plaid skirts and sweaters, I never experienced the autumns I read about in Trixie Belden or Anne of Green Gables.

Autumn in the Midwest is different.

My first year here in Ohio, I only flirted with autumn during my visits with John. I  spent the bulk of that fall working on selling my house, not officially leaving my beloved Texas until December. img_20160409_095700Winter was challenging that year. I remember feeling a little lonely and looking towards the spring as a savior.

When it was already late March and John was in Philadelphia for a conference, it began to snow.

I sobbed. Feeling pretty darned hopeless that despite some of my flowers blooming, that spring would never really arrive. Homesick. Aching for soft drawls, my mother’s fried okra, sweet tea, and the bloom of crepe myrtles.

By the time autumn came around, I discovered I’d succumbed to the seduction of the earth, and was connecting to the rhythm of the seasons. It took that first full year – one whole trip around the sun – living  here, to believe that this place, this Ohio, could become home.

Each year here allows me to connect differently to the natural cycle of the seasons. As I mentioned earlier, I’d always been fascinated with the idea of fall – and other seasons – and how Mother Nature’s palate continually changes. Now, at the birth of my sixth year here, I anticipate favorite moments in time based on the natural world around me.

Spring brings the daffodils and tulips, tiny green leaves on the birch tree, and the white blossoms of the Bradford Pears out back. Summer brings brilliant color: lots of blooms on the roses, vinca, and marigolds and oodles of lush green:  grass, trees, and frogs in our pond.

Autumn has become my favorite. The greens slowly begin to fade everywhere and the leaves shift to all those colors pilesofleaveswe think of as earth tones: yellows, oranges, browns. Though my grass tends to stay greenish, the ornamental grasses ripen to rusts and goldenrod.

This year, I am connecting to the season even more deeply.

There’s the beauty around me, of course. And I must confess that I am feeling cozy. As I write you this letter, I am wrapped in a soft grey robe and there’s a light knit blanket tossed over my lap. We slept with the windows open last night and the crisp air floated over us, caressing us as we slept and bringing us both soft and loving dreams.

I dreamed of a favorite uncle last night. He passed away in 2002, but when I woke with that crisp, cool air floating through the screens, I still felt the warmth of his love and the remembrance of the dream… the last thing he said before I woke was “Yes, Scooterbill, there’s fresh coffee brewing…”

But I digress.  I was talking about the connection to the season this year, even more than years past.

Maybe it’s because of the idea that autumn is the time of harvest. I have been harvesting heavily this year. Taking a hard look at the work I’ve done over the last six years. I know we’ve talked about this before, but I have to say that turning digital coaching products into real books feels like I am harvesting the seeds I planted in the spring of my own life.

I am loving all my fall rituals even more this year. I was so happy to put John’s long sleeved polos on the top rack and dig out my favorite cardigans. I’ve distributed them a bit, with the Olive Green one resting on the back of my office chair and the Alice Blue one nestled in the dining room. My sweat pants and jeans have replaced my shorts. And I’ve dug out the soft throws, with one accessible in any room on the backs of sofas and chairs.

There’s just something special about the weight of a blanket across the legs, isn’t there? We had wine on the deck last night, and I took one of my blankets out with us, to toss across my lap and enjoy the air and comfort and warmth.

Dare I confess what I’ve been thinking? As we both know, putting pen to paper and breathing life into it allows our thoughts to be out there. But, here goes:

In 19 months, I will be fifty. Is that why I am connecting to – and identifying – with autumn so deeply this year?

And while I’m in confession mode, I may as well make one more: I’m looking forward to winter this year, too.

Can you fathom that?

Six years ago, I was sobbing because of the snow and now the idea of it makes me feel almost giddy.

When I was exalting all of my favorite parts of the season before, I hadn’t gotten to the beauty of winter before I went off on my Autumn tangent.

img_20140102_071346Winter is cold, yes. And winter brings the snow. That first year, it was a shock, but now, there is such stark beauty in it. It reminds me to slow down, to stop, to savor. The cardinal couple regularly visits my neighbor’s bird-feeder and sometimes one -or both – will perch on the window sill above the front door.

I am looking forward to resting this year. To celebrate the end of harvesting – all the work I’ve been doing – and readying myself for the next phase of planting. Seeds of new ideas are always floating around me, but come next spring, it will be time to plant what’s important.

Ah, but in the winter, I can mimic my beloved bulbs. While it seems as if I’m not working, underneath I’m preparing to bloom.

I’ve been thinking about the winter in other ways, too. I long to do something with my hands because far too often it’s as if my hands are independent of my brain, and they reach for my phone and scroll and click and scroll and click. Maybe I should take up cross stitching again. Or shall I take knitting lessons? I want to make something, be productive, allow my hands to be satisfied with something tactile to replace the urge to pick up the phone.

Because, frankly, the phone isn’t restful or nourishing beyond the opportunity to check in with friends. It shouldn’t serve as a way to distract myself – or numb, should it?

And I want to make something. Something beyond my current creative expression of words.

I’ve rambled on for far too long. It’s time to get back to some writing for work, put the sheets in the dryer and the towels in the washer, and ponder something beyond this cup of coffee for breakfast.

So, tell me about you. How are you feeling about autumn this year? Are you seeing the beauty like I am? Are you finding comfort in the shorter days and unearthing secrets in the dark? Are you harvesting and looking forward to resting in the winter?

And do you think that all this connection has to do with that looming birthday ahead?

With love,

Debra ♥

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Clearing Soul Clutter: Creating Your Vision.  She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. When she’s not waiting for the mailman, you’ll find her reading or plotting when she can play her next round of golf. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Dear Autumn

Dear Autumn,

You’re coming.

I know it.

autumn-974882_1280You think you’re going to surprise me – you with your damp, misty mornings and slightly chilled evening breezes. You think I haven’t noticed those red-tipped leaves at the top of the maple tree, or those golden elm feathers that drift down occasionally along the path to the mailbox. You’re sure I’m completely unaware that I need to turn on my reading lamp at seven o’clock each evening instead of eight or even nine.

Well, you don’t fool me. I’m onto you.

Did you really think it would escape my attention that I’ve needed to pull on a sweater before I could walk the dogs? Or that I suddenly find my mouth watering at the thought of rich, spicy chili simmering on the stove?

Besides, a person would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb to miss the advertisements for pumpkin spice everything.

Autumn, I’m smarter than you think. Just because I didn’t buy school supplies or backpacks doesn’t mean I’m not perfectly cognizant of your impending arrival.

I appreciate your sensitivity to my feelings this year. Perhaps you’re worried that I’ll be saddened to watch the gardens wither and die, or to hear thousands of wings beating as flocks of birds gather to disperse for the winter.  Perhaps you’re afraid the encroaching darkness will renew my despair, that my heart will grow heavy once again with its harvest of grief and loneliness.

It’s true – you bring a poignancy to this circle of life that no other season can replicate. What was new and fresh with promise turns old and fades into dust. The world turns on its axis and long sunny days evolve into endless, darkening nights. The garden goes fallow as what was once green anred-treed verdant turns yellow and withers away

But oh, Autumn! You do it all with such glory. You explode into brilliant colors.  Marvelous gold and rich crimson etched against piercingly blue skies. My eyes don’t know where to look, they drink every amazing vista in huge gulps. You’re a feast for the senses, Autumn, you really are. I think you know it, too. You strut your gorgeous stuff all over creation.

I’ve been watching you come and go for almost 61 years and each year I revel just a bit more in your splendor. Each year you teach me to offer beauty even in the midst of loss, to relinquish life with a blazing light. This year I hope – I pray – will not be different. Because you are right, dear Autumn – this year more than ever I need to be reminded that there is everlasting beauty even in the dying of the light.

So bring it on! I’m collecting all my favorite teas, unpacking those soft fuzzy sweaters and warm socks. I’ve washed and aired the blanket throws that drape over the comfy reading chairs in every room. All the new bookstore orders are coming in and the library reserve list grows longer and longer. My pantry is stocked with fragrant ingredients for soups and stews, the freezer filled with meats and vegetables for a season’s worth of hearty meals.

You don’t have to hide, Autumn.

I’m ready for you.

I am.

So come on.



About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her husband and their two dogs. She is the author of Life in General, a book of personal and inspirational essays about the ways women navigate the passage into midlife. 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 with the dogs 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.

Letter to My Six-Year-Old Self by Melissa A. Bartell


Dear MissMeliss

Hi, this is your future self. I’m older than Mom is right now, so you might not believe me, especially since I have pink hair, and while you’re a fairly well-traveled little girl (you’re a seasoned pro at flying without an adult), I know for a fact you’ve never seen anyone with pink hair. Still, if you look closely, you can see the echoes of yourself in my face. Like the beauty mark on our cheek, or the way we both have really long eyelashes, or… well, look, just trust me on this one, okay?

So, if I’m timing this right you’re somewhere between six and seven years old. You have your windy wheat-colored hair cut into a Dorothy Hamill ‘short-n-sassy’ wedge, and you’re missing your two front teeth.

Remember that phrase – ‘short and sassy’ – the haircut will go out of style, but you will never be tall, and you will always be sassy. Or snarky. Although at some point you’re going to learn to think first and sass later.

No, really, you will.

You’ll also learn that making stuff up isn’t just something you do when you’re bored or lonely, it’s a skill you’ll turn into a livelihood someday.

But I’m not writing this to scare you with stuff from the future, because, let’s face it, you won’t listen anyway.

And who can blame you?

Instead, I have some advice for you about the now.

Your now, not my now.

Like, when you’re riding your red bike? The one you love to ride through the mud puddle in the vacant lot across the street from Mitzi’s store? Make sure you take really good care of that bike because it’s going to take you to some amazing places.

You’ve already gone beyond the mud puddles.

You ride out to Mrs. Godoy’s house some weekends with your friend Siobhan, and sometimes you spook yourself when you stay later than you’re supposed to and the shadows have descended through the trees on that one stretch of road right before the dirt transitions back to asphalt and you see the lion heads on the old hotel, and the awning of the ice cream store.

I know the shadows are scary, and we both know the Headless Horseman isn’t really following you, but it’s fun to be a little bit scared when you know it’s not real, so enjoy it.

And you and your friends made that trip out to the reservoir, even going on the highway for that one section… You had so much fun skipping stones out there, but then you realized how far you had to ride to get home, and you raced each other, making it a game so that you wouldn’t be afraid of getting caught.

You never got caught.

You take special delight in riding up and down the street outside the Maxwell House. I know you’re in love with the wrought iron trim that looks like the curlicues on a Hostess cupcake, but I also know that you can’t stop wondering if those ghost stories are true, and there’s a part of you that really wants to find out.

Face it kiddo, except when you want to feel that thrill, you’re pretty fearless.

I wish I could tell you to stay fearless, but the reality is that as we grow up and learn more about the world, fear creeps in. Not the kind of fear that involves Frankenstein’s monster hiding in your closet (I promise, Frankenstein’s monster will never be in your closet.) The kind of fear I mean, is the grown up kind about things like getting a good job and finding a nice house, and stuff like that.

Don’t worry, you’ve still got plenty of fearless years left.

Instead, I want to tell you to hold on to your sense of wonder.

Chase the fireflies when you visit Grandmom and Grandpop. Ride every wave you can, and pretend you’re flying while you do it. Watch the way the ripples freeze into the surface of the lake in the winter. When Benjamin comes to visit, climb up to the top of the hill behind the courthouse, and lie on the grass with him, and pretend you can actually feel the earth spinning.

Search for patterns in the clouds, whether they’re the kind in the sky, or the kind in the coffee Mom drinks.

As I write this, it’s pouring down rain outside my window, and I’m thinking about how much you love rain. In about three years, you’re going to spend an afternoon blissfully tap-dancing around an empty parking lot, and when the rainbow comes out after the storm, you’ll take the credit for its existence.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

And until then? Read like crazy. When that boy with the freckles asks you if you want to ‘go’ with him, say yes. He’s really sweet. And, don’t be too mad at Mom when she says you’re too young for that Shaun Cassidy album. What she’s really trying to say is that you’re her little girl, and she doesn’t want you to rush too fast into growing up. (Besides, they’ll play his stuff on the radio all the time.)

So, the good news? You will never know a time when you are not safe and loved. You will never have to worry about where you will live. You will always have enough to eat.

The bad news? There are a few things that won’t go your way, but when you get older and learn about improvisational theatre, you’ll understand that what other people call failure is often just the gift of a new direction.

Ultimately, you’re going to end up with an awesome life that is uniquely yours, and you will love living in the future.

Pink hair and all.

All my love,

Your future self.

Image Copyright: waldru / 123RF Stock Photo


About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa A. BartellMelissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Sunday Letter: Grateful for the Garden

Dear Neighbor,

When my husband and I moved into this condo community back in 2012, we received such a warm welcome from everyone we met, we immediately felt we had made the right decision to move here. And as we met and talked with people, nearly every one of them said the same thing at some point in the conversation.

“Make sure you visit The Secret Garden! It’s fabulous!”

“Secret Garden? we asked. “What garden? Where?”

You know how it is…they would explain in that vague and often confusing way people have when attempting to provide directions. “It’s just around that first bend right after you come in the entrance,” or “I’m not sure what street, but it’s kind of hidden along the back of the property,” or “You can’t see it at all from the road, you have to meander around behind that first group of homes.”

It was late September when we moved in, and what with unpacking and getting settled and then a long Michigan winter, we had forgotten about The Secret Garden.

Until spring, when another neighbor reminded us.

“I’m going to The Secret Garden,” she said one afternoon. “Let me show it to you.”

Imagine my surprise when I learned it was an easy bike ride from my house! And yes, it is most definitely tucked away along the back of the property. Truly, you can’t see it from the road, which is what makes it so charming and – well, SECRET.

But what it really is is ENCHANTED. When we walked down the path into the deep, shady bounty of the garden, I felt like a child again. Between the flowers, the sculptures, the bird houses hanging from within the trees, the wind chimes tinkling in every tone imaginable, the little stream babbling quietly, I felt as if I’d been led into a fairyland.

“Who made this beautiful place?” I asked, when I could finally find the words. My friend pointed at the condo right behind us, whose upper deck looked out over the beauty of these acres.

“The couple who live in that house right there,” she said. “I’ve never met them, but I heard they love to garden and when they bought the house started clearing the woods behind it and over the past 20 years have turned it into this. Word soon spread, and they opened it to the community for others to come in and enjoy.”

In the past three years that we’ve lived here, I have come to this Secret Garden countless times, and so Dear Neighbor, a note of thanks to you is long overdue. I am beyond grateful for the sense of  peace this spot provides, for the benches where I can sit and listen to the birds, watch the butterflies flit among the blossoms, and bask in the deep green shade of the trees. The past three months, I have been grieving for my mom who died in March – she who loved flowers and gardens and quiet outdoor spaces. Your Secret Garden has been a destination for me, a place I can come on my daily walks or bike rides, a place that offers respite from the trials of my journey.

Sometimes we go about our lives engaged in activities we love without realizing how much those things can mean to others. You obviously love to garden, and I’m sure all the planting and tending must be rewarding for you. But did you imagine that your garden could be a place that eases the troubled heart of your neighbor? A place that makes complete strangers smile and feel enriched for just a few moments before they go back to whatever life might hold in store?

That is a gift, Dear Neighbor, and one I appreciate so much, especially this summer.

Before I close, I wanted to share this poem with you. It’s from a favorite poet of mine, named Mary Oliver. She writes of the beauty and importance of the natural world and the lessons it teaches. This poem, appropriately titled “The Gardener,” is a newer one of hers.

Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough, have I
      come to any conclusion?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?
I say this, or perhaps I’m just thinking it.
       Actually, I probably think too much.
Then I step out into the garden,
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,
       is tending his children, the roses.

Being here in this garden you’ve made gives me a place to quietly reflect and consider. I leave rested and renewed, to go back to my world and be sufficiently grateful for the happiness I experience, to be graceful in enduring this new loneliness. I go back determined to plant and tend seeds of compassion, empathy, and peace.

So if you’re looking out your upstairs window some afternoon and see a short, dark-haired woman sitting on the first bench by the stream, you’ll know that’s me. Someone who is ever so grateful for the gift of your Garden.

With sincere appreciation,

Your neighbor


*Poem The Gardner, by Mary Oliver, from her collection, A Thousand Mornings

About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her husband and their two dogs. She is the author of Life in General, a book of personal and inspirational essays about the ways women navigate the passage into midlife. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. This summer she has developed a newfound love of gardens, and you’ll find her spending lots of time outdoors, either in the Secret Garden, or puttering around in her own flower beds. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on FacebookTwitter, or Goodreads.

Dear Stranger: About That Last Statement


Dear Strange Man,

We don’t know each other, yet you feel entitled to interrupt my little zone of dual nourishment time. See, one of my guilty (not guilty) pleasures is to take myself to lunch and read a good book.

I am sitting there, thoroughly engrossed in a suspense novel, so it takes me a few moments to realize that you are talking to me. I hear a voice in the almost-empty restaurant and look up to see you staring at me. My silence is somehow encouraging, and you repeat the words I thought I’d heard:

“So, you’re reading, huh?”

“Yes.” I answer. I smile slightly, but not enough to encourage a conversation. I return to my book, but I feel your continued presence as you stand there, staring at me.

When I glance back up at you, you respond with a smirk. “A good lunch date, huh?”

“Yes,” I answer, this time favoring you with a real smile. “The perfect lunch companion.”

“Yeah, because a book won’t break your heart.”

Your words are spit out with such vehemence that I become more than a little uncomfortable, and I cannot help but wonder: why interrupt my quiet when you don’t seem to like women?

Though my plan was to linger over my book, and sip the last of my water as the lunch crowd waned, I am suddenly glad that I’ve already paid my waitress.

I am Southern and exceedingly polite to strangers as I recognize that overtures from people we meet in public usually come from a space of desiring connection. I’m intuitive, too, and deep down I know that the kind of statement you made means that, in the past, you were hurt by someone you loved.

And I am so sorry for your pain. Heartbreak and betrayal is devastating to the mind and soul.

However, your tone crosses the boundaries of polite society, so I break eye contact.

I am grateful when your companion joins you, an elderly woman whom I assume is your mother.

I mark my place in my book, leave a tip, and make my way out as quickly as possible.

There were so many things wrong with our encounter that weeks later, I am still thinking about it. I’m writing you this letter because I want to pass on a little advice.

Maybe you don’t realize this, but being alone in public doesn’t make me “fair game.”  A woman alone in a restaurant is not out looking for a date, and most likely isn’t even seeking conversation. This wasn’t a smoky bar on a Saturday night; it was a family restaurant on a sunny Thursday afternoon.

You may have believed you were saving me from loneliness. I wasn’t lonely because, as you observed, I had companionship: the novel I was reading.

This was not a “missed connection” and you won’t find me seeking you out on Craigslist. Most of our encounter could be seem as misguided attempt at flirting. So let me tell you why I’m still thinking about our encounter: Your last statement to me.

I don’t like to tell folks their beliefs are right or wrong, but I can tell you that you were so wrong when you said reading_wheretheredfierngrowsthat books can’t break your heart.

The first heartbreak I can recall happened in literary form. I was eight and read the story of a boy and two red bone coonhounds. Just writing about Billy, Old Dan, and Little Ann makes me tear up forty years later.

That was my first heartbreak, and it sure wasn’t my last.

There was Little Beth and Alice and Leslie and a slew of others.

When we read, we care about the characters and they become our friends. Their lives are often as real to us – while we are reading their stories – as the people who inhabit the three-dimensional world in which we live.

The book I was reading that day was the fifteenth book in a series, so you interrupted my lunch with a longtime friend. I guess you could say Lindsay Boxer and I have a long-term relationship. Spoiler alert: Lindsay had just discovered that her husband and the father of her child had a secret life.

Her heart was breaking and mine was breaking right along with her.

Books take us to faraway places and invite us on adventure. Books ask us to come along on a journey of life, to share the ups and downs and highs and lows. The funny, the sacred, the sad. Books allow us to witness fear and bravery.

Books will break our hearts in a way that we need. Because books prepare us for life’s reality.

Through the lives of the characters we read about, we learn the different ways to navigate the kind of losses we all will face one day: the loss of a pet or a parent, a child, or best friend. Books prepare us for the betrayal of a friend or lover. Books show us how to fall in love without losing ourselves, and let us experience the inevitable joy of mothering children or animals.

Reading books is good for not just our mind, but our souls.

Books don’t just inform us about historical events or scientific theory. Books allow us to learn about other ways of stackofbooksliving, other cultures, and other worlds. Books teach us how to be happy, and how to find our way in the world when we are different.

You were wrong when you said that books can’t break your heart, because they can. And I’m going to share a secret with you because I think you can use this information:  if you have a broken heart, a book can be part of mending it.

If you find this letter, I have one more piece of advice: rather than interrupt the next woman you see reading in a restaurant, I want you to follow her lead and pick up a book.

Though I doubt our paths will cross again, if they do, I hope it will be because you’ve found this letter, taken advantage of some literary therapy, and have a smile on your face.

The Woman at the Restaurant reading 15th Affair

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Create a Life You Love: Straightforward Wisdom for Creating the Life of Your Dreams. She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. When she’s not waiting for the mailman, you’ll find her reading or plotting when she can play her next round of golf. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


Dear Diary by Krista Davis

berry scones 10Dear Diary,

Made mixed blueberry and strawberry scones for yesterday. Dough worried me because it seemed so dry. OMG. Best things in the world. So flaky. Ate one for breakfast without cream but didn’t share with dogs. They didn’t appear to notice that I gave them dog cookies instead. Except maybe for Baron who sniffed my street crew 1fingers. I fear that he’s onto me. Must eat treats in the bathroom. Who am I kidding? He follows me there, too.

Fully intended to start diet this morning. Scone is not a setback. Won’t eat lunch. It will all equal out.

Wrote two blogs this morning. Have finally come to understand why they’re so hard for me to write. They’re supposed to be about me! Ugh. Maybe I should take on an interesting persona. Aha. Am CIA spy. Why would a CIA spy live in a rural area? Aha. Have suspicious neighbors. That won’t work. What kind of CIA spy would admit to being CIA spy on blogs? Interviewed once with CIA. No one would believe that! When asked how I felt about being undercover in covert operations, I asked if they had a nice desk job. Interview terminated. Might have made persistent detective but would have been lousy spy.

Cooked lunch for dogs. Leftover hamburger, steak, and chicken fingers with rice and green beans. I ate salad without dressing. Good for me! Now hungry.

Outline due for next book in two days. Must concentrate on that. No, must finish writing blogs first. Why am I so boring? Oh look! The first review of The Diva Serves High Tea is in. Holding breath while I read it. Aww. Lisa Kelley Tea high res largesaid, “an excellent plot!” Yay! I have earned the remaining scone, with cream.

Sound of fridge opening woke Baron. Forced to share with him. Other dogs still sleeping. Back at computer, I check GoodReads for early reviews. None. That’s okay. Am riding high on Lisa’s kind words. But someone gave it one star. Oh no! Now afraid of reviews. Wait a minute!!! Book isn’t out yet. Only a few people have copies, and I’m pretty sure she’s not one of them. Bang head on desk. Ow. Mistake. Head now matches leg with bruise of unknown origin. Need another scone but have eaten all. Chocolate. There must be chocolate.

Found chocolate in pantry. Diet officially starts tomorrow. Baron looked at me with those eyes again. Gave him an Itty Bitty Buddy Biscuit. It smells like bacon. Maybe he doesn’t care that I didn’t share chocolate?

Am now obsessed with one-star rating. Complained to author friends about one star. Has happened to them, too. Sigh. Thankful for writer friends. Feel better. Why would anyone do that? Has person developed dislike of me? Don’t recognize name. First name only. Is probably undercover in covert operation.

Walked Baron to clear head. Watched tiny sparrow chase crow from nest. Even in world of birds, there’s murder. Checked veggie garden planted yesterday. Weeds have grown nicely. No veggie sprouts yet. Red pepper plants happy. Came up with fun idea for new book while walking. No ideas for blog. Potatoes and ribs cooking for dinner. Glad I postponed diet.

Looked up murder of crows. Hmm, origin of phrase appears to be lost. Maybe sparrows invented it.

Ribs and skin-on mashed potatoes big success. All dogs behaved but settled around the table in case anyone shared. Worked for two hours on outline for new book. Still blocked on blog.

PS – Hope folks like the Virtual Tea Party to celebrate the new book!

About the Author: Krista Davis

kristadavis_bioNew York Times Bestselling author Krista Davis writes the Domestic Diva Mysteries. Her 10th Domestic Diva Mystery is The Diva Serves High Tea, which releases on June 7th. Krista also writes the Paws & Claws Mysteries for animal lovers that debuted with Murder, She Barked.
Like her characters, Krista has a soft spot for cats, dogs, and sweets. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with three dogs and two cats.
Connect with Krista:  Facebook | Twitter  | Goodreads

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