Archive | Refresh & Restore (Issue #6)

Matted People by Richard King Perkins II

The indiscernible language
of plants

settles into mist and shadow
near a spread of matted people.

Grass and sadder grains
have induced

a sort of physical anarchy
for reasons

spelled out
across the sunset sky.

The complexity of flora
is intentional

suspending us in moments
just like this

offering a green nest,
the music of petals and leaves

a unity of vision
at the moment of conception.

The trees applaud in crescendo
without a hint of wind.

About the Author: Richard King Perkins II

Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications.

Sunday Brunch: Negative Space

In art, the term ‘negative space’ typically refers to the place where an image isn’t, and to the way the space around that image can produce an image of its own, an image that either enhances or serves as counterpoint to the original. Sometimes this is intentional. Sometimes it is not.

Copyright: <a href=''>eugenesergeev / 123RF Stock Photo</a>But there is another kind of negative space, the kind that has nothing to do with art, but a lot to do with stifling the creativity of the artist, the writer, the musician…

In my house, this latter kind of negative space is represented by a door.

As doors go, this one is outwardly innocuous. It’s a white, four paneled, interior door of the kind found hinged into the thresholds of many a suburban bedroom. This particular door, however, leads to my office, my studio, the room I refer to as the Word Lounge and my husband calls my Abode of Writeyness.

I love my writing haven. I’ve filled it with mermaid art and pop-culture figurines. There are decorative twinkle lights strung along the top of the picture window that looks out onto the street. I have my mother’s faded denim couch in there, and my weight machine, which because its brand logo reads “Marcy,” I refer to as Marcy Playground, after the band.

But in the past four years, I’ve crossed its threshold fewer than ten times.

I’ve told myself, and my friends, that I like to write at the kitchen table, with the door open and the dogs running in and out.

I’ve told myself I’m still recovering from a knee injury.

But if neither of those statements is entirely false, neither are entirely true.

You see, for four years, my studio, my writing lounge, has been enshrouded in a fog of negative space.

It began with an act of generosity. A good friend of ours had gone through a nasty divorce, gotten sick, lost his job, and was essentially squatting in his condo in a midwestern city with the power turned off and winter approaching.

We offered him a room, a fresh start and a plan: take a couple weeks to get healthy, get a job, get a new life.

It was never meant to be four years of him skulking in our house when he wasn’t working his overnight shift for a major delivery service.

And his depression (not officially diagnosed though it runs in his family, admitted as a likelihood, and untreated) was never meant to affect me.

It began as soon as he arrived. Thinking one tiny guest room was too small for one person, I’d moved my studio to our current guest room. It’s smaller, and my weight machine couldn’t be moved with the rest of my stuff. Nor could my couch.

For six months, our friend hung out in that room, tainting it, watching Netflix and claiming he was applying for jobs.

We talked to him. We made him demonstrate his attempts. We coached him.

And I began to resent that he was sitting on the floor in my space. I felt like I couldn’t use my weight machine. “Just send me out,” he said. But his energy had already pervaded the space.

When my parents announced an impending visit, I took the opportunity to reclaim that space for my office, and I also removed the guest furniture from the room he was using. He’d brought a futon on a frame. We moved that into his room.

But his energy continued to be a damper on my creativity. I felt like I couldn’t exist in my own space, because it might keep him, hiding in his room directly across the hall) from sleeping (his mood got blacker when he lacked sleep). I even stopped swimming – something we mermaids should never do – because his room overlooked my back yard.

I don’t think I was – or am – clinically depressed. Instead, I feel like I’ve spent four years in a sort of psycho-spiritual muzzle.

Last weekend, after weeks of will it/won’t it happen, our friend moved out of our house, and into a tiny apartment with a mutual friend, and from the first night he stopped sleeping here, even though he still has belongings to retrieve and a room to clean, I immediately felt lighter.

I’ve written before (elsewhere) about how I often face a creative slump in the first weeks of August, leading up to my birthday on the seventeenth, but this year, despite greeting the month with a nasty sinus infection, my brain is pinging with ideas in ways I haven’t experienced in years.

In art and design, negative space is meant to enhance and expand the central image. A flyer without a lot of whitespace (which, incidentally, does not have to actually be white) is too busy, and people have difficulty parsing the message.

For me, the negative space around my office door, and seeping into the rest of my house, has been more contrast and counterpoint than complement. I’ve reveled in every moment our friend was out, whether it was for work, or to socialize. I suspect some of my sleep issues were a reaction to knowing my house was mine during the overnight hours when he was at work.

I don’t wish anyone to believe it was all bad. There were moments when having a third person in the house was helpful, and even pleasant. Our friend shares my love of kitchen improv and ethnic foods, while I often joke that my husband has the palate of an eight-year-old. There were also many winter weekends that we all spent playing board games that Fuzzy and I couldn’t play with only the two of us.

But those moments were less and less restorative as the time ticked on. As I recently quipped to a friend, it took less time to successfully rehome a difficult-to-place foster pit bull than it has to rehome our friend.

I know I’m not the only one who has had to deal with such situations. Perhaps for others they are less extreme, but we all have ‘energy succubi’ in our lives – people who don’t just live under a personal black cloud, but unwittingly allow their clouds to metastasize into full-blown fog banks, or worse, thunderstorms.

Ultimately, this experience has taught me a lot about boundaries and margins. I’ve learned that while I’m not a true introvert, I do require the freedom to fill my own space as I need and want.

That I can – and do – quite happily share space with my husband says a lot about our relationship. I suspect that in his life, I’m the source of negative space, my creative personality leaving me prone to moodiness from time to time, but it’s not the same. His energy complements mine. My energy connects with his.

Two friends from completely separate circles in my life have suggested that once our friend clears all of his belongings from our house, we have the space smudged with sage, and I’m pretty sure we will be doing so.

In the meantime, the negative space in my house is slowly being filled with positive things. The sense of darkness creeping down the hallway, and preventing me from entering my studio has been pushed back and continues to retreat, to dissipate, to disappear.

Perhaps, in time, I will no longer think of negative space as the cloud of darkness that shrouded our friend’s sojourn in our home.

Perhaps, in time, I will be able to appreciate the counterpoint and the contrast once more.

For now, I’m taking a leaf from Eat, Pray, Love, wishing our friend love and light, and trying to let my resentment go.

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa 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.

Summer at Mt. Tamalpais by Pat West

The redwoods whoosh
whispering secrets
of the ancients.
The giant sequoias hoot
and grunt like the deep bass

of a tuba. Sunflowers
and dahlias, framed by my window,
topple under the weight
of giant blooms.

Yellow-striped beefstake tomatoes split
with ripeness. Green zucchini, sweet corn
and poblano peppers demand,
Pick me, pick me.
August sun scorches, the earth cracks,
there is no choice
but to endure. Life’s been this way
since dogs could talk.
And everything is thirsty.

Deer come close in the early hours
and coyotes yap at sunset.
Cobwebs shimmer between branches.
Honey bees gossip
with fairies in the garden.

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.

The Magic Inside a Text Thread by Kolleen Harrison

“Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself – and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.”
–Jim Morrison

On my phone is a beloved text thread that has been there for several years now. It is a text thread with 6 other women, that I lovingly refer to as my sacred sisters, my council. These women have become a safety net, a soft place to land, an outreach center not only for myself, also for one another.

I have watched one sister lift another up from the painstaking ache and paralyzing grief of divorce. I have watched another sister make one laugh so hard, knowing this was much needed medicine, as she was moving through one sorrow after another. I have watched prayer request after prayer request after prayer request be asked for and received, with an echoing, “Yes, I will pray. Yes, I will light candles. Yes.”

I have watched every single one of us come to the rescue of each other in the most loving of ways. I have watched life lines get thrown out over and over again. I have seen these words more times than I can count – “WE ARE RIGHT HERE. YOU ARE NOT ALONE”.

I have watched love weave in and weave out, creating a beautifully sacred web, word after word, day after day, month after month, year after year.

Looking back, I donʼt believe any one of us could have imagined what this daily text thread would become. After all, we were just 7 women, with different backgrounds, lifestyles, etc… who happened to come together through retreats, blogging, art. (I truthfully cannot recall how the seven of us even began this thread or why.) Yet, in my heart of hearts, deep within my soul, I know that God, The Universe, The One with No Name, whatever you may call It, brought us together.

What we have created over these last several years, has become, what I like to call, a “Healing Center”. It is a place each one of us can show up “as is” – in the rawest, ugliest, completely stripped down, most vulnerable way you could imagine and still be loved, accepted and asked the question, “What is it you need most, right now in this moment?” It is a place to reach out and say “I need help…” It is a place of  hard truths and secrets revealed. It is a place to ask for advice, to vent, to cuss, to weep, to “just be”. It is a place to be supported. It is a place to be challenged. It is a place to learn, and to grow. Ultimately, it is a place to heal, and always, always, always a place to restore.

About the Author: Kolleen Harrison

kolleenHarrisonbioKolleen Harrison is a creative living in the beautiful Central Coast of California. She is the Founder of LOVEwild and Founder/Maker of Mahabba Beads. Her passions lie in nurturing her relationship with God, loving on her happily dysfunctional family, flinging paint in her studio, dancing barefoot, making jewelry (that is so much more than “just jewelry”), and spreading love and kindness wherever and whenever she can. You can find her popping in and out at or

The Year to Nourish by Molly Totoro

2016 was a physically challenging year. In January, I tripped over a doggie gate, one I had successfully traversed hundreds of times before, and broke my left humerus. The next day I underwent surgery to insert a rod and two pins. Two days later the doctor discovered I had also cracked my left hip, which necessitated a second surgery to insert three screws.

I spent the next several weeks in physical therapy. By May I had regained 95% range of motion. The worst was behind me. Or so I thought.

In June, I managed to trip over the basset and break my right humerus. While I did not require surgery or additional hardware, the recovery time was longer. And my spirits were low. When did I become so frail? Was there a lesson I was supposed to learn from this?

Later that fall, I participated in a Bible study that focused on the armor of God. The author pointed out that Roman soldiers needed a strong core for strength as well as balance. This resonated with me. After two falls in five months, I knew I needed help with balance – and my weakened arm muscles definitely needed strength.

I always take time in December to consider a Word of the Year – one word to guide my daily thoughts and actions. In pondering the possibilities, I wanted one that would help me focus on such key issues as gaining strength, developing core balance and learning to slow down.

My search led me to a word association activity – a brainstorm technique that often serves me well. I started with RELEASE: this would help me let go of my constant need for productivity and my impossible pursuit of perfection.

I then pondered the word INTENTIONAL: a reminder to be mindful of actions rather than going through life on automatic pilot.

As I know all too well, negative self-talk is a hindrance to personal growth. It is hard to  love others if we do not love ourselves.

Words such as TRANSFORM or RENEWAL seemed to address these concerns. But then I discovered the word NOURISH.

The definition is spot on for this time in my life: to supply what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to strengthen, build up, and promote.

I even love the sound of the word. The long, lingering vowel reminds me to slow down and rest. The quiet “sh” at the end literally tells me to be still and listen to divine guidance.

Yes, NOURISH would be the perfect prescription to bring this broken body back to wholeness – physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Physical health:

I focus on regular exercise and a nutritional diet. No excuses, no cheating. I want the time I have left on this earth to be quality life, not mere existence.

To help me stay on track, I maintain a weekly tracker system in my bullet journal. I strive to complete arm-and-core exercises five days a week. In addition to walking the basset, I also try to include a thirty-minute cardio walk three times a week.

I’ve discovered that Nourish sometimes means doing things I don’t necessarily want to do in order to achieve desired results. For years – decades really – I’ve viewed exercise as a form of corporal punishment. It’s not so much the workout that deters me, as it is the lingering sweat afterwards. What is supposed to take half an hour inevitably stretches into two hours or more, once I schedule time for a shower, hair style, and make-up application.

However, I know if I want my latter years to be fruitful and productive, to pursue dream adventures and keep up with grandchildren, then daily exercise is a small price to pay.

I also make a conscientious effort to prepare more meals at home and eat out less. I avoid processed foods and instead spend more time shopping the perimeter of the grocery store. I love the colorful rainbow of fruits and vegetables in the cart, and I’ve learned to slow down in the kitchen and actually enjoy the daily slicing, dicing and chopping.

Spiritual and Mental Health:

I focus on accurate thought: God loves and accepts me – just as I am. Self-acceptance is the first step in sharing love with others.

To this end, I take more time to pamper myself.

When I was in my 30s and 40s, there was rarely time for such luxury. When I wasn’t working at school, I was chauffeuring children to various activities; when I wasn’t monitoring homework schedules, I was grading papers. Pampering in those days was an extra cup of coffee in the morning.

But I now have more time to indulge. Something as simple of painting my nails in the evening nourishes my well-being. I feel younger, frivolous, and more daring.

I am also more mindful of my everyday surroundings.

Since all my children have moved away, I have transformed a spare bedroom into my Paris oasis. It is decorated with all things French, including a bistro table and chairs, and a beautiful red sofa. This is often where I escape to journal, read and meditate.

But it isn’t so much the room as the ambiance that makes the difference. I have rekindled my love of music. I prefer instrumental music when working, but I also enjoy creating thematic playlists. My favorite so far is the accordion music of French Cafes.

In addition to music, I also have a fragrant candle burning nearby. I typically prefer scents that are reminiscent of the beach or a warm summer’s day. I try to stay away from the bakery scents, however, or I will find myself hungry for sweets.

I’ve learned it doesn’t take much to transform an ordinary space into something inspirational.

Emotional Health:

I make time to pursue creative endeavors simply because they bring me joy – no productivity goal allowed.

I am a life-long learner and crave knowledge. The world-wide-web is my best friend, and self-help books are my constant companions. But lately I’ve learned to embrace fiction and allow myself to escape into the story world.

While most of my creative energy is spent in crafting words on a page, I also enjoy paper crafts, like card-making and scrapbooking. I love the colorful paper, the whimsical stickers and stamps, and the thought of bringing a smile to someone’s face. My artistic skills are mediocre at best, but the process brings me joy.

I’ve focused on nourish for six months now.

While I haven’t noticed dramatic transformations, I know overall health has improved. Flabby arms are toned and the muffin-top is less pronounced. I’m not as anxious. I’m more confident. I pursue excellence without comparing my efforts to others.

Nourish isn’t a one-time event, it is a lifestyle change. It’s taking one baby step at a time toward a bright and joy-filled future.

About the Author: Molly Totoro

Molly Totoro is a Connecticut Yankee currently residing in the Midwest with her husband and trusty basset. While Molly retired from full-time teaching in 2014 to pursue her writing dreams, she continues to work with students to achieve their writing potential. Molly recently published her first book, Journaling Toward Wholeness: A 28-Day Plan to Develop a Journaling Practice with the hope of inspiring others to experience the health benefits of writing their inner thoughts.

Connect with Molly at her blog, My Cozy Book Nook  and on social media: FaceBookTwitterInstagramPinterest

Goat Milk and Love by Clay Robeson

As a teen growing up in rural California, I couldn’t wait to get out of the country, away from the farm, and off to The Big City. Too much quiet, not enough hustle. Too much peace, not enough bustle. How on Earth could I get my groove back, if there was no beat to groove to?

As an adult, after seven years in Metro Boston and having just hit the 14-year mark in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have a groove and a beat. They’re kind of relentless, and if I don’t pay proper attention, the record starts to skip and I find myself taking involuntary time-outs to recover.  It’s the moments of calm and peace that were once so reviled that help me recharge so I can keep on dancing to the incessant rhythm of the Big City.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

City Grazing, San Francisco


Thankfully, I found an oasis of calm and peace a mere 5-minute drive/10-minute bike ride/20-minute walk from my house, within the city limits.  And much to my chagrin, it somewhat resembles the farm.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

The view of San Francisco from my back porch,
with City Grazing visible in the foreground
(the white rounded structure to the lower right)

Tucked in the Southeast corner of San Francisco, just north of Candlestick Point is a small, active railyard within which hides a shipping-container-cum-hay-barn attached to a paddock that is home to about 80 goats.  They aren’t pets.  They are working goats. They are employed by City Grazing a (soon to be) non-profit landscaping company.

Photo Credit: Jeanne Park

My first visit to City Grazing in 2015, hanging out with Spock.
(Photo credit: Jeanne Park)

Every Saturday morning, sometime between 7:30 and 9:00, I make my way to the paddock. The goats recognize the sound of an incoming car, which is why I try to ride or walk there when the weather is nice, so I can spy on them lazing in the morning sun for a few moments.  Eventually though, one of them spies me and all hell bleats loose.  Relatively speaking, of course.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

Tipsy, basking in post-brunch bliss.

The mayhem of the goat yard is nothing compared to the mayhem of day-to-day life. I give hay and water to the goats, feed the yard cats, and throw feed to the chickens, isolated from the city that exists within shouting distance of where I stand. The rhythm, for a moment, silenced. The groove slowed in a peaceful, quiet manner.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

Udo, ever stoic.

The goats all have names, and while I don’t know them all, for the most part they all know and recognize me.  This affords me the opportunity to slip into the paddock and scratch some noggins and ears without causing a stampede. Usually.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

Mothers Fulla and Freya with babies Brinkman, Daniella and Queenie.

The hour or two I spend there is generally one of the best parts of my weekend.  Especially this time of year, when there are baby goats to be found.  This season, there are about a dozen newborns ranging in age from a month and a half or so, to two weeks old.  I found the youngest two, Carol and Tim, one morning rather unexpectedly a few weeks ago.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

Space Cowboy and Milkman at the Udder Bucket.

Their mother, Frigga, is a newcomer to the yard — a failed dairy goat if memory serves. We were aware she was pregnant, but we didn’t know just HOW pregnant.  And so, at 7:30 one bright Saturday morning in July, as I was preparing the Udder Bucket for the orphans who were still nursing, I heard a bleat that was far too high pitched.  Peeking into the paddock, I saw Tim standing all alone in the middle of the yard looking rather confused.  I pulled him and his sister into the nursery section of the hay container and rounded up their mother.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

Carol and Tim’s first meal.

I spent much longer at the yard than I planned to that morning, helping Carol and Tim with their first meal. Somehow, I also managed to be holding both when they decided to have their first pee.  But despite that, I found myself unable to put down these two little creatures who smell strongly of Goat Milk and Love.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

Carol and Tim, standing strong.

About the author: Clay Robeson

Clay RobesonClay is an improvisor, photographer, puppeteer and part-time goat herd living in San Francisco. He likes to make things.

To learn more about Clay, or find his social media links, go here:

You can also visit the City Grazing website.


Dear Beloved Self by Kayce Hughlett

“I don’t precisely know what you need to do to take care of yourself. But I know you can figure it out.”
–Melody Beattie

Dear Beloved Self ~

Have I told you lately how much I value and support the mission of self-care in the world? Or that I continue to believe with all my heart that living life to the fullest is perhaps the one true purpose we have in life? How refreshment and restoration are essential ingredients to getting things done and stepping into our power in the world?

I know I forget sometimes, especially when the obligations of life press in and exhaustion feels like a permanent state, but if you can begin to value and accept the premises of refreshment and restoration as being one with open-heart living, then I promise your life will continue to transform in ways you haven’t even considered.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post called “10 Lessons Learned (& Affirmed).” I re-read it today when I was pondering about sharing refreshment and restoration with you, my Beloved Self. There it was, our two passions—self-care and living life fully—merged together to create a manifesto for daily living. I’m so sorry that I sometimes forget these essential reminders and cause you to forget them along with me.

But here they are, glorious reminders to brighten any day.

  1. Follow your heart.
  2. Be open to whatever shows up.
  3. Put on your sassy and Play, Play, Play!
  4. Make essential space for connecting with friends and loved ones – the rest will follow.
  5. We are all teachers and there are lessons to be learned in everything. Pay attention.
  6. Self-care is the best way to restore, rejuvenate, and prepare to offer our gifts (and love) back out to the world.
  7. Re-entry (each day or after time away) can be challenging.
  8. “What’s next?” takes us out of the present moment and launches us into the future. All we have is now.
  9. Have an assembled toolbox of nourishing notions nearby at all times and use it! (I imagine mine is like Mary Poppins carpetbag, filled with magical delights and the perfect thing manifesting at exactly the right moment.)
  10. Sometimes it takes a full arsenal (or the whole bag) to feel relief, but with time relief will come.

I know, Beloved Self, that you sometimes are afraid your work won’t get done if you stop to refresh and restore. Trust me, the work that needs to be done will get done; it will be done better than work that emerges from tiredness of soul and spirit. Refreshed and nourished people who love and care for themselves are soul-full people.

How wonderful to know that soul-filling can begin with a simple step of showing up and following our own heart! Remember, Beloved Self, you’ve got this. Refreshment and restoration are within your reach. They’re as close as a sip or water or breath of fresh air. Stop. Pause. Indulge. Refresh. Restore. Remember.


About the Author: Kayce Stevens Hughlett

Kayce Stevens Hughlett, MA, LMHC –  author, life muse, ponderer extraordinaire, speaker, joy monger, artist of being alive. 

Kayce’s 2012 book, As I Lay Pondering: daily invitations to live a transformed life, is a lyrical and lucid treasure that invites readers to new awakenings throughout the year. Blue: a novel was released in September, 2014 to rave reviews. She is currently working on her third book, a travel memoir that follows her journey of good girl turned risk taker, fear-filled woman gone warrior, and sleepwalking accountant transformed into wide-awake SoulStroller.

Dance by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Dance? Too many images
flash before my eyes
to capture just one in any detail.
Bent over backwards in a promenade
at a Boy Scout-Girl Scout square dance.
Poodle skirts on New Year’s Eve
as our saddle shoes jitterbugged.
High school prom in tulle and corsage
with the brother of the boy I’d just necked with.
Watching the short boy’s eyes track the ascent
as I rose to my almost six feet tall.
Stepping out of a failed crinoline
at the medical school’s Winter Formal.
After a full shift at the hospital
tangoing all night with my Peruvian.
Dripping sweat and fake diamonds on silk
at a friend’s wedding-dance reception.
After surgery learning to line dance
in an effort to regain balance.
So many years, so many dances.
Why, even last week I shimmied and shook
to the music wrapping up a senior exercise class.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

Instrumental: Put Down the Cards by Melissa Cynova

I’ve been reading tarot cards since I was 14, but a few years ago, I fell out of love with it. I would book a reading, and start dreading it. I would still give the reading to my client, but I felt like I was being annoyed by the intrusion into my time. To give you an idea of how weird this was for me, I LOVE doing readings.

It’s my favorite thing. I have, in the past, read for 6-8 hours without a break and the time just flew by.

Right then, though. I was done. It didn’t make me light up anymore, and what’s more? I didn’t care.

In my personal life, I’d just gone through a pretty rough divorce and was adjusting to shared custody for the first time after having been a stay at home mom for seven years straight. I was lonely for the first time in a long time. I had large swaths of time that used to be filled with kiddos. You’d think, right, that I’d be anxious to fill the time with my favorite thing.

The problem was that my soul was bruised. It’s hard to dive into someone else’s psyche (or even your own) when you’re sad.

So, for the first time in twenty something years, I put my cards down. I told my clients I was taking the summer off, and I walked away from them.

I have to tell you, I didn’t miss them at all. I slept a lot. I cleaned my house and spent time with my friends. When I had my kids, I was wholly invested in them. I didn’t miss my cards.

Until I did.

It only took about three weeks for me to miss it, but I’d set a date and by god, I was going to stick to it. When I finally did come back to readings, I was in LOVE again. Whatever it was that went away was back, and I felt like myself again. I was looking forward to readings and to playing with my cards again, and I felt refreshed.

Even the thing you love the best can become a burden if you’re not feeling your best. Even that thing that drives you can drive you crazy. If that happens, walk away. For a few minutes, for a day, for a week. Even for a summer.

For everything, there is a season, after all.

About the Author: Melissa Cynova

Melissa Cynova is owner of Little Fox Tarot, and has been reading tarot cards and teaching classes since 1989. She can be found in the St. Louis area, and is available for personal readings, parties and beginner and advanced tarot classes. Her first book, Kitchen Table Tarot, was recently published by Llewellyn Publishing. Melissa lives in St. Louis with her kiddos, her husband, Joe, two cats, two dogs and her tortoise, Phil.

You can reach Melissa at She is on Twitter and Instagram under Little Fox Tarot. Go ahead and schedule a reading – she already knows you want one.

Typical Tuesday with Erica Goss

My day starts at 2:00 a.m., when I wake up from my first four hours of sleep. If I’m lucky, I’ll go back to sleep until 5:30 a.m. If not, I might drift in and out of what I call “snapshots” – snippets of sleep characterized by strong, visual dreams.

At 5:30, the radio turns on. I hear National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” faintly through my earplugs. After a half hour, my husband gets out of bed, where Rosie, our extremely spoiled Lancashire Heeler, greets him. A few minutes later, Rosie and our 17-year-old cat JJ are fed, and my husband starts the coffee.

I remove my earplugs, visit the bathroom, and pull on yesterday’s outfit, which I left on the floor beside the bed last night. This morning, I’m happy to re-wear my favorite corduroys and red cotton T-shirt. I greet my husband and prepare my breakfast: one soft-boiled egg and a slice of sourdough bread with butter and Marion berry jam. We sit down to read the New York Times, and interrupt each other by reading parts of the stories out loud. My husband gets the front page, while I scan the arts section and then start the crossword puzzle. My brain wakes up as I ponder clues; hmm, fifteen across: “Ancient land in Asia Minor” and eleven down: “Ljubljana resident.” My husband finishes his muesli with bananas and blueberries, kisses me goodbye, and drives to his office.

My goal is to be at the computer by 8:30. I’m a morning person, and I need to catch my ideas early. I’ll check my journal, where I jot down things as they occur to me.

These could be fragments of conversation, dreams, random thoughts, or a few sentences. Quite often, something I read in the newspaper will trigger some writing. Then I attempt to craft these bits into something cohesive, a poem or an essay or an article.

I’ve been writing short personal essays about subjects that range from grief to gardening. Recently I wrote an article for a pet magazine about color vision in dogs, and three poems about rooms. I don’t stick to a word count (i.e., 1000 words a day) but I do try to make significant progress on my writing every day.

My energy starts to flag around noon, so I shut down the computer and eat lunch. If there are no leftovers from last night’s dinner, I’ll eat my standard lunch: Tillamook cheddar melted on rice cakes. I also read the front page of the newspaper, scan social media, and check my email.

My two grown sons live at home, so they might be in the room while I’m eating lunch. The dog barks to be let in or out, depending on which side of the door she’s on. If it’s a good day, I’ll be back at my computer by 12:30. This is when I look at yesterday’s work. I’ve found that, at least for me, it’s a bad idea to start editing a draft too soon. Often my work looks weird or even alien to me right after I write the first draft. I need a day’s distance so I don’t inadvertently spoil a poem or an essay with too much editing. I always keep the first draft in a Word file or handwritten, so I can trace back to my original thoughts.

In the afternoon, I often struggle mightily against the urge to nap. I get drowsy after lunch, and it takes all of my strength to stay off of the couch. Sometimes I give in, but naps don’t often refresh me – I usually feel weird for the rest of the day after a nap. For me, sleep is never easy.

I switch from writing to video editing or to creating curricula for classes I teach. I’m developing a new class called “Five-Minute Memoirs,” where students will create short videos based on an important event in their lives. I also teach on-line poetry classes, which include phone support with my students, and I’m always looking for new writing prompts.

In between writing and thinking, I’ll stop and read from a book of poems I have at my desk. Right now I’m reading a collection of World War I Austrian poet Georg Trakl’s poems, which have exquisite and enigmatic titles: “In the Red Foliage Filled With Guitars” and “Three Glimpses Into an Opal” are tiny poems as well as titles.

I also use the afternoons to work on marketing. This is when I research places to submit my work. My poetry collection, Night Court, just came out, so I look for venues to read, write blog posts, and communicate with reviewers about the book. I’ve also created two videos from the book.

By 4:00 p.m. I’m usually done. If I don’t quit by 4:00 or 5:00, I might get a second wind and then stay up all night, which would not be a good thing. I need time to relax, read, and socialize with my family. My husband comes home from his office by 5:30 or 6:00 and makes dinner. We have a glass of wine and tell each other what happened that day. After dinner, my sons and I clean up while my husband plays the guitar or does some additional work.

I usually read until the news comes on at 9:00 p.m. I’m reading Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, the third of Elena Ferrante’s four Neapolitan Quartet novels. Reading helps quiet my mind, letting me transition to the restful place I need. I have trained my brain to understand that reading several chapters of high quality fiction is part of the ritual. I have my journal nearby to jot down any thoughts that occur to me as I read.

By 10:00 p.m., I’m usually curled up on my 100% organic cotton mattress, where I sink into my first phase of sleep. See you at 2:00 a.m.

About the Author: Erica Goss

Erica Goss is a poet and freelance writer. She served as Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA from 2013-2016. She is the author of Night Court, winner of the 2016 Lyrebird Award, Wild Place and Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets. Recent work appears in Lake Effect, Atticus Review, Contrary, Eclectica, The Red Wheelbarrow, Main Street Rag, Pearl, Rattle, Wild Violet, and Comstock Review, among others. She is co-founder of Media Poetry Studio, a poetry-and-film camp for teen girls. Please visit her at and connect with her on Facebook, Linked In, and Vimeo.

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