Archive | Selfie (Issue #9)

Eyes on the Enter-Prize by Theresa Reed

Although I hire people for various tasks, my business is a one-woman show. I manage all the main details myself. Partly because I like being in control, but also, because of the nature of my work, strict client confidentiality is a must. Which means: I cannot have someone poking around in my inbox.

I do a pretty good job at managing all the different aspects of my work but over time, I began to feel overwhelmed. It’s a lot to handle and made even harder by my tendency to be an idea machine – cranking out posts, podcasts, and new offerings in record time. When you add that aspect on top of the daily grind, you can guess how tough it is to maintain at that output level for long.

This winter, I did myself a little favor. I took a short weekend break in the middle of January to attend the CEO Retreat, hosted by Rachael Cook, a business coach that I admire. This was a big leap for me – I never travel in winter due to weather fears but also: it’s the heart of my busy season. That being said, the stars were aligned (yes, I always check what’s happening in the cosmos before making a business decision) so off I went.

It turned out to be just what my business needed.

For one, I was able to spend time with successful female entrepreneurs, something I crave. Also, that time-out from work was a much needed break in a jam-packed schedule. But the most important thing for me was getting someone else’s eyes on what I was doing in my business.

The exercises that Racheal lead us through revealed something that I needed to see: I was doing too many things and my calendar for 2018 was beyond ambitious. It was outrageously full with too many ideas that I wanted to pursue. The risk of shiny object syndrome, or in my case, shiny idea syndrome, threatened to take me down a path that would have left little time for breathing room – or work that paid. This was no good.

I ended up scrapping 90% of my ideas.

I’m not kidding. They went back into the vault, where I could check back on them perhaps at a much later date.

This simple act freed me up more than I could imagine. No more wasting my time or energy on situations, products, or services that didn’t make sense or pay well. I’m crystal clear on my right audience and perfect offerings.

Better yet? I have time to do things that I haven’t been able to do in a while. Like finish a stack of books on my shelf. Take more cooking classes with my buddy, Jackie. Talk on the phone with friends that I haven’t spoken to in a decade. This is essential stuff that I often neglect due to work.

Sometimes you need to get other eyes on your business because you can’t always see what is plain as the nose on your own face. I’m happy that I took the weekend to look under the hood of my business with the support of someone who knows how to see the forest though the entrepreneurial trees. If you’re running a business and  perhaps running yourself into the ground, you may also benefit from getting an expert opinion on your business.

Another pair of eyes sees clear.

About the Author: Theresa Reed

theresareedTheresa Reed (aka “The Tarot Lady”) is a full time professional tarot reader. She’s also the author of The Tarot Coloring Book an illustrated romp through the tarot cards, and The Astro-Biz Digest, a weekly astrology forecast subscription service for entrepreneurs.

In addition to doing private Tarot readings, teaching Tarot classes, and speaking at Tarot conferences, Theresa also runs a popular website——where she dishes out advice, inspiration and tips for Tarot lovers of all experience levels.

Follow Theresa on Twitter and Instagram for her daily “Six Second Tarot Reading”—plus photos of her extremely handsome cats, TaoZen and Monkey.

Top and bottom photos by Danielle Cohen. Middle photo by Theresa Reed

Sunday Brunch: The Play’s the Thing

I wrote a play yesterday.

Actually, I wrote plays on Thursday and Friday as well, and, with the exception of a couple of audio drama scripts for which an outline was provided, these are the first three plays I’ve ever written.

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

I don’t have any plans to become a professional playwright or screenwriter. In fact, these last three days have taught me that I vastly prefer writing straight narratives to scripts, but I’ve committed to a challenge to write twenty-eight plays in twenty-eight days, and even though I want to quit about once an hour, my husband and the friends who are following this process with me won’t allow it.

Truthfully, I won’t allow it, either.

Even more truthfully, I don’t think I’ve felt as unprepared or afraid of a creative project since the night I walked into the West End Market in downtown Dallas to audition for ComedySportz.

While I’m not an organization queen, or even a basic list-maker, I do like to be somewhat ready for these undertakings. When I’m auditioning for (or have been cast in) an acting role, even if it’s just bit part in an unpaid audio drama, I make sure I’ve read the whole script (not just my part), listened to a few episodes to get a feel for the piece, and/or done research on the setting, theme, and creators.  I won’t interview authors unless I’ve had time to read their books, and when I used to interview celebrities for All Things Girl, I made sure I knew their work, but also what sorts of questions they’d responded to favorably in other interviews.

But this project, “28 Plays Later,” which is sponsored by Theatre Delicatessen in London, isn’t something I could really prepare for. I mean, I didn’t even know about it until sometime in January, and the first prompt was issued at 4:00 PM (U.S. Central Time) last Wednesday. I’ve been in plays and musicals, and I’ve read a lot of scripts, but I’ve never really tried to write one.

When I told some of my friends what I was doing, I was asked if I could pre-write anything.


Technically, I suppose, I could. After all, there’s no requirement that you accept the daily challenge prompts, only that you submit a play every day by the deadline. (Challenges are issued every 24 hours, but you have 36 hours to complete each one, so there’s a twelve-hour overlap. So far, I have finished each challenge before the next was assigned, but today, I went down to the wire.)

The prompts, however, are useful. They give you a jumping-off point. They also foster community, because we all discuss how we’re interpreting the instructions.

Yesterday’s assignment was to use our dreams and nightmares as fodder for a surreal piece of theatre. We had an unlimited imaginary budget and were encouraged to create ‘hallucinatory images’ and disrupt order.

Despite the fact that I’ve been dabbling in writing horror for almost the last six months and consider the original A Nightmare on Elm Street to be one of the best horror movies of all time, at least conceptually, I was in tears as I tried to figure out how to approach this challenge. I’m not proud of it, but I complained about having no ideas to everyone who would even pretend to listen. I asked my husband for ideas. I whined about the fact that I don’t know how to translate things into a visual medium.

I even asked a friend who is also participating if Day Three was too early to quit.

“Yes,” he said simply.

“If I asked the same question on Day Fifteen would your answer be the same?” I demanded.

It was.

And so, even though I’m typically nocturnal, and my husband had an online game event that was going to keep him awake until well after three in the morning, I went to bed at midnight, with a frustrated brain and a discouraged heart.

Three hours later, I was awake again, dragging my laptop into bed with me, doing research on the amygdalae – the two almond-shaped clusters in the human brain where emotions and memories live. Two hours after that, I had an outline of a three-act play that included nightmares, tangos, Dracula, Winnie-the-Pooh, and a finale that took place on roller skates.

By nine yesterday morning, I was awake again, and writing like a demon, until, finally, I had twenty pages of script that involved a Dreamer giving lessons in ‘dreamology’ and a Child going through her safe sleep ritual.

Is it next year’s Tony winner?

Not even close.

But writing it forced me to stretch beyond my creative comfort zone, to try new things, and think of new ways of expressing old concepts.

Eleanor Roosevelt never actually said that you should do one thing every day that scares you, but she did say, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.”

I wrote a play yesterday that scared me, just thinking about it. I was sure I would miss the deadline and fail the challenge.

Instead, exhausted and jumpy, I wrote – and shared – something I never thought I could start, let alone finish.

And now?

Now, I’m going to brew a pot of tea and maybe open one of the boxes of Girl Scout cookies that my husband bought for me, and then I’m going to do what I did yesterday.

I’m going to write a play.

Photo Copyright: icetray / 123RF Stock Photo


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, listen to her podcast, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Distance by Lisa Zaran

My mother makes diacritical marks
over the language of my heart:
acute, grave, double grave.

Twelve years old, I do not think
about blooming into a woman.
I only wonder where she is,

what her mood is like, whether
she’ll come home that night,
if there’s light at the party.

hook, horn, rough breathing.

Like any requirement I love her,
in vertigo, in run-down weekly’s,
riding shotgun in her hatchback

as she drives us out of town at 3 a.m.
hiding yellow hair beneath
a tie-dye kerchief.

macron, dot, circumflex.

At a rest stop once in coconino
county, just shy of sheep gulch spring
she betrayed intimacy.

I was waiting for her, like always,
seated on the hood, my back
against the windshield,

her, scooting up beside me,
a cigarette between her lips.
On the inhale, short and quick

she pointed out Gemini, the twins.
On the exhale, she said: that’s us.
Which was and still is the closest

exclamation of love I’d ever received.
My heart festooned there,
white tiger, vermillion bird.

A laurel of hope, promise with the sound
of wild horses, want as white
as the moon, every bone glowing.

ring, comma, inverted breve, smooth breathing.

About the Author: Lisa Zaran

LisaZaranBioLisa Zaran is the author of eight collections of poetry including Dear Bob Dylan, If It We, The Blondes Lay Content and the sometimes girl. She is the founder and editor of Contemporary American Voices. When not writing, Zaran spends her days in Maricopa county jails assisting women with remembering their lost selves.

I Want to Remember by Michelle GD

I am keen on the little bits that make up life, and I explore them with camera in hand.  Certainly, there are the photographs of my growing children and the holidays and the vacations.  But what intrigues me most are the pieces of all that…the pile of shoes left by the back door, the crushed candy cane spilled on the table, the afternoon light streaming through the window on our second-last day of vacation.  That is what I want to capture.

And I find the search for the bits and pieces appear in my self-portrait work as well, quite literally at times.  I might take a traditional shot of my face.  But the shots I really love are the ones that capture pieces of me.  Glimpses.  Those are the shots that remind me what I was doing on a given day; those are the images that trigger memories of what I was feeling that day.

Like many of us, I am generally the person taking the photographs of everyone else.  And that suits me just fine.  Truthfully, the reason I turn the camera on myself is not so much so that I appear in an occasional family shot – although that’s nice.  The reason I turn the camera on myself is because I want to remember.  I want to remember me.  I delight in making photographs of everything that shapes my life.  But, even in the delight, there is the potential for getting lost.  I do not want to be lost.

And so I turn the lens.  It’s not every day, but I make an effort to position myself on the other side of the camera on a regular basis.  It’s a practice I’m developing and, though I’ve been doing it a couple years, I am astounded each and every time by just how healing the experience is.

My shots reflect wherever I am on a given day.  Sometimes they’re playful in nature; sometimes they’re restrained; rarely are they staged.  But when I look back at each of them, I say to myself, Ah, yes.  That.  Me.  Then.  It’s powerful.

It’s not about a good hair day or showcasing a perfect life.  Not at all.  It’s about looking, with intention, at where I am in my life.  Where am I standing in the midst of all my little bits?  What am I feeling?  What am I holding, literally or figuratively? How am I doing…for real?

Because I want to know what I’m doing and how I’m feeling, for real.  I want to understand how I fit with the other pieces of my life.  Self-portraiture allows me a process for exploring that, for celebrating that.  It allows me a means to express what otherwise might get trapped inside.  I want nothing trapped inside.  I want to see and understand, as best I can, all the pieces of my life.  I want to remember the shoes and the candy canes.  I want to remember how the afternoon light fell through the window.  And I want to remember how that light fell onto me.

Editor’s Note: *text previously published in Bella Grace, Issue 4, 2015

About the Author: Michelle GD

Michelle GD is an artist living in Virginia. Using writing and photography as forms of meditation, she explores the connections between the beautiful and messy bits of life. You can find her at

Sunday Sensations: The World Before

I ate some M&Ms yesterday and was struck by one simple fact. I knew of a time before there were blue M&Ms.

It’s rare that I think of myself as old. I haven’t even hit the age of 40, let alone a time period where anyone thinks of me as “older,” but the longer I live — the more I realize how much I know of a world that is no longer here.

Some of it I see through my son’s eyes. To him, everything is new just now. I tried to tell him two years ago that Mario was a video game from when I was a kid. There was disbelief and even confusion (until I played it with him and my reflexes kicked in and I beat the level on the first try).

I marvel at this before world. At Christmas, I marveled again at how Christmas presents have changed. My grandfather still remembered fondly the childhood where his dad found a beat up toy truck and refurbished it for him. My mom talked about receiving a beloved doll. I remember a Christmas where new bedding was my “big” gift. Now, my son, was longing for a new iPad. How far we’ve come in just four generations.

I lived in a world that knew the fear of a cold war, where Pluto was still a planet, and pay phones were still on every corner. All these things have been dead for awhile. And yet, these things don’t feel like they should be in a museum fact sheet.

I can touch those things still in my mind’s eye. I remember big plastic glasses, neon shoe laces, and when gel was the coolest thing you could put in your hair. It doesn’t feel like actors like Michael J. Fox or Robin Wright should be playing parents. Not enough time has passed for me to understand the need for a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.

Maybe some gray hairs are creeping in and maybe I feel old when I have to explain She Blinded Me With Science to my coworkers, but is this world before so far gone?

Memories are a tricky thing. They slip and slide like rocks on a beach. Over and over they grind down their sharp edges until only the smooth remains. There’s few moments that I would want to relive from this time past. I bear no illusions to it being a better or more significant time. I may be as old as Celine Dion’s career, but that doesn’t mean I want to relive it.

And yet, so many of those pieces from the time before have built me into the person I am now. Is it any wonder why a blue M&M can send someone into such reverie? I take another candy from my son’s stash and wonder what things he’ll remember as being a before. Will it be fidget spinners and that year where everyone on the planet dabbed? Or will it be YouTube and Minecraft and school lunches? I hope it’s a good thing and that he doesn’t mind losing it to the land of before. I also hope he doesn’t mind that I ate more of his M&Ms… I think I’ll leave him the blue ones.

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.

Walk a Mile by Patricia Wellingham-Jones


Today I walked that mile and more
other mothers have walked before me.
It doesn’t matter that my child
is long grown, long flown.
When the verdict came of only weeks
to live, he was still my baby.
I walked those miles, cell phone to ear,
as arrangements formed, road miles
swept past. Then I walked more miles
along hospital corridors
and around his bed in hospice.
I expect to put further mileage
on these worn-out shoes
grappling with the sorrow
of a child leaving
before his mother.

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: Kindness Includes You by Emma Gazley

To be completely honest with you, I haven’t picked up a paintbrush in months. Between two different jobs and cities, moving across the country, living near our families for the first time since we got married, and having an hour long commute one-way, I feel like I don’t have time. I know it’s not true, and I have to make the time to paint, but while I’m being completely honest, I’ll confess that part of why I haven’t painted in so long is that I’m uninspired.

I can hear those of you who want to remind me that pursuing your creative passion means having the discipline to continue in it even when you don’t have time or are uninspired. I know you’re right. Sometimes when I see myself divided between sketching out a new project or an extra hour of sleep I hate the part of me that gives in to the bliss of rest. At the same time, I’ve been practicing something kind of controversial amongst artist-types.

I’ve been practicing being kind to myself.

When you flip through an artist dictionary, it seems like an incomprehensible number of well known artists have struggled with depression, low self esteem, anxiety, and a multitude of other mental health issues. I can’t think of many people who are highly creative who don’t struggle with some kind of crisis of identity at different points of their lives. We find almost as varied  ways of coping- some more dysfunctional than others.

As I write this, the holidays are in full swing. Unfortunately with the holidays are often conflict-ridden season, rife with uncomfortable gatherings and unrealistic expectations, many of us feel our mental health issues are amplified.

Whether you struggle with a diagnosed condition, or find yourself feeling blue, lonely, or unhappy, know that there are many others who are feeling the same way.

A common misconception is that all of our negative feelings come from negative experiences. In my case I can confidently say that this is not always the case. Sometimes extreme happiness and joy can still leave me feeling tapped out and like I need a nap. Even though most of the events I’m attended are celebrations, I still feel a lot of the time like I need to find a quiet corner and regain my calm.

The first few weeks post-holiday can still feel challenging and exhausting.

Personally, I know I can put a lot of pressure on family gatherings to be sentimental affairs of domesticity. I want everyone to feel like they had a bonding moment with everyone else. When the mashed potatoes have been passed around for the final time and everyone is falling asleep, it’s just not going to happen. My expectations can put an unfair constraint on the people I care most about.

In the midst of the chaos and glitter and twinkle lights it can seem impractical to keep to our normal routines of making; but I think we have to. I can only speak for myself, but I know that  my writing projects, collaging in my art journal, the few times I’ve been able to perform music, and baking treats for my coworkers have all helped me keep my head above the water while the societal excitement escalates.

This past season – and into the New Year – I’m committed to keeping to the things that I know work; one of them that I already mentioned is being kind to myself.

Maybe to some this would look like a weak-sauce pansy way of living life, like I’m not pushing myself or working to achieve my goals the way I should. It’s possible they’re right. I just know I can’t drive myself the way I used to and maintain wellness in my mind, spirit and body. I used to be a lot more comparative and take the upcoming new year as an opportunity to fine-tune the list of all the things I had done wrong or not enough of. To see what everyone around me had accomplished and how I fell short.

From a young age, I have had a very loud, bossy critic in my head explaining in minute and sharply accurate detail everything I was failing at. This voice was a fan of cutting down my body image, and telling me exactly how inadequate I was at writing, drawing, painting, singing, or anything else I cared about. I didn’t need anyone around me to tell me what I needed to work on, because I was uncomfortably aware of my shortcomings and how I was “failing everyone”.

It’s probably not a wildly popular idea amongst many of us (for obvious reasons; appearing conceited, lowering your expectations of yourself and accomplishing less, being considered selfish, the list continues) but practicing kindness with yourself is basically second guessing your first reaction and asking if how you’re reacting to yourself is how you would react to a friend you care deeply about. Maybe I’m wrong and this is something that everyone else has been doing for a long time, but it has taken me years to get to this point and sometimes I still feel like I’m so bad at this, so bear with me because it’s worth the reminder.

Some people will hear you saying that you have plans… and when they find out later that your plans were to go back home and stay in your pajamas to watch cartoons and eat mochi, they will judge you. When you are practicing kindness to yourself, a lot of the time it looks like this:

“I should really make that painting I bought this big canvas for.”

But I got five hours of sleep last night and the only ten minutes of that I had to myself were in the shower when I cut myself shaving.

“But it’s taking up space and if you don’t paint today then you won’t paint tomorrow and your paintings will never be seen by anyone who works at MOMA and you’ll cut off your ear and eventually commit suicide but no one in the art world will know, because there won’t be any art for them to critique.”

If I sit down and start this then I’ll be here for at least an hour and it’s already 11:30.

Eventually you have to decide, and while both voices have a point, practicing kindness means taking a step back and saying, “What’s the most rational and fair thing here?” One voice is clearly pushy, not encouraging, and a drama queen. Obviously I want to paint, but rather than sacrifice more of the sweet dream-times that make me functional, why not plan a specific time to paint the next day and listen to that voice that knows what my physical needs are? Win-win! This is living in generosity to ourselves.

This is being kind to ourselves.

I think this time of year focuses on giving to others in part because we understand a general truth about humankind, which is that we get stuck on ourselves and find it hard to break out of the everyday pattern. We need something to shake us up and get us out of the funk we live in a lot of the year, where we cycle around and around thinking about how to make a little more money, be a little more successful or recognized, or even how to create that thing that we know we are meant to make next.

We need a break from all of that, and in a weird twist of fate, I think the first step of being kind to myself is, for me, finding someone near me who needs attention and help more than I do. Getting outside of the endless word-river in my brain can give me chance to shake off my troubles and see how someone else is experiencing the big weird world we live in.

There are always people in need, and it’s a sad fact that most days we’re so busy trying to make the most of our own situations that we can forget. Even if it’s as simple as chatting with a neighbor or learning the names of the people on our block, giving a larger tip to our favorite barista, or sending a gift overseas to a child in need. I know there isn’t enough time to do it all in a day, trust me. But the weird thing is that when I do these practices, putting people first and my schedule second, I always end up having the time after all. Almost always.

We push ourselves so much, further than we know we can go. It’s admirable, sometimes even noble. But I have to think that there are times when all that’s being asked of us is to sit still and be okay, to hear words of love being spoken over us, to experience something beautiful or peaceful or wonderful without guilt.

Let’s practice generosity, to ourselves as well as others, as we welcome in another year of hope and promise. Let’s be our own friend, and help ourselves and those around us to enjoy both in time of celebration, giving, and kindness. And always.

About the Author: Emma Gazley

Emma Gazley is an artist, musician, writer, adventurer and teacher. Born to two adventurous parents, Emma was destined to be an explorer of the world, and from her earliest moments displayed signs of creativity and curiosity. She has spent time in Europe, Asia, Canada, and currently resides in the U.S. She began her journey of discovering her identity as an artist in 2012, after encountering critical health problems that caused her to lose her job and the ability to do most everyday activities. Many of her projects have, as a result of this event and others, a twinge of the painful and tragic aspects of life.

Emma is interested in learning about grief and how to cope with it, as well as passionate about finding joy in the day to day.

Sunday Salon: Comfort Care

Sunday mornings come quietly here at our little house, especially in this frigid Midwestern winter. We start a fire, settle in with our coffee and a book or newspaper, munch on some toast and honey from our local bakery. As the morning progresses, we might brew another pot of coffee, put some music on the CD player. I might finish one book and pick up another; my husband might move into the den and catch the latest replays from Saturdays soccer matches.

Sundays haven’t always been this way. For many years, we were very active in our church music programs, and would hustle out of bed on Sundays just as we did on other weekdays, needing to be there prior to service time to rehearse. After worship, we often went out for brunch with friends, arriving home mid-afternoon. This was all quite lovely, of course, but it often made Sunday mornings feel frantic. So perhaps this was one reason we’ve fallen away from regular church attendance. With age has come a sense of needing to choose those activities that serve us best, that provide comfort and care, rather than the sense of one more obligation to fulfill.

Until the last few years, the idea of self-care was foreign to me. By nature and nurture I am a caring person, born with a deep sense of responsibility and need to be loved, but also trained in the Golden Rule. The top priority for most of my adult live has been caring for others – my husband, my child, my grandparents and parents, my dogs, my friends and jobs and volunteer work. While I never begrudged any of that, it kept me in a perpetual state of agitation and anxiety, trying to juggle everyone’s needs. There were many times when I felt out of sorts, or even physically sick, without really knowing why.

My Self became lost in the mix of caring for everyone and everything else.

As the years have passed, many of those obligations have disappeared quite naturally, with no intervention or intention on my part. My son grew up and moved away, all of our relatives have died, and last year we lost both of our precious dogs within five months of each other. I’ve retired from all my jobs and narrowed down my volunteer work to one or two activities. Life is simpler, and it’s easier to make those choices I mentioned before – the ones that provide comfort and care.

Of course comfort care for me is heavily weighted toward enjoying a creative life. It means books and music. It means enjoying lovely scented body creams and fresh home cooked food. It means a soft blanket to wrap around my shoulders on chilly mornings. It means looking for beautiful moments in the day – watching the sunrise from my favorite window, hearing a friend laugh, cuddling on the couch with my husband.

In actuality, most of my mornings look a lot like that idyllic Sunday morning I described in the first paragraph. Hot coffee in my favorite cup, an hour of two of reading a good book.

I came across this quotation and it spoke volumes to me: “You have permission to rest. You are not responsible for everything that is broken. You do not have to try and make everyone happy.  For now, take time for you. It’s time to replenish.”

It’s a relief to give myself this “permission” – to take care, to replenish the needs of my own body and soul for a change. It’s been a long time coming, but now it’s here.  And it’s really comforting.

How about you? What are some ways you provide your own comfort care?

About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her (newly-retired!) husband. She is the author of Life in General, and Life Goes On, collections 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 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.

Mockingbird by John Grey

Sure I know it’s a forged song
but that doesn’t stop me listening.

It’s a snatch of titmouse, a little ambulance,
some Sinatra through a window,
and the opening bars of Fur Elise.

That’s not a bird singing
from the chimney-top
but the world’s first sampler.

Like me,
it has no tune of its own,
must borrow, steal,
and hope the mishmash
is unrecognizable to its source.

Out of bed I get,
drink coffee as the commercials say,
kiss my wife on my cheek
as my father did my mother before me.
I shower for no reason
other than I always do.
I wear what my job demands.

Off I go into the world,
whistling something
I must have heard
somebody hear somewhere.

About the Author: John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Gargoyle and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.

All That is to Come by Christine Mason Miller

In three weeks time, I’ll be on the other side of the planet—traveling through India with three companions, my second visit to that part of the world. Just like the first time I went there, I don’t know what to expect and I’m excited for a new adventure. Even though we’re headed to many of the same places I visited before, four years have passed since that trip. During that time, I’ve written a book, moved across country and turned fifty. The world has changed and so have I, so I’m not heading to Delhi assuming I’ll love India the same way I did last time.

Who’s to say how well I’ll be able to handle the colorful chaos that is India this time around? Who’s to say I won’t love it more?

I traveled with my friend Barb on 2014 visit, and we went to Ranthambore National Park, a wildlife preserve in Rajasthan best known for its tiger population. As we both got situated with the guided jeep tour our first morning there, we were told not to get our hopes up with regard to seeing a tiger. None had been spotted for days, so expectations were tempered right away.

Over the next few hours, we were driven all over the park, observing sambar deer, monkeys and all kinds of birds. While we weren’t finding any tigers, it was fascinating to watch our guides try to track them. After pulling up near the edge of a dramatic vista and turning the engine off, they listened for the telltale signs of smaller animals’ sounds and movements that might signal the presence of a predator. Sure enough, there seemed to be a bit of commotion, and the guides immediately headed in a new direction. After checking in with another guide down the road, following tracks and taking a few more detours, it eventually came time to wrap up our tour with nary a tiger in sight.

On the route back to the entrance of the park, ours was the only jeep in sight that morning, and it was a small one compared to the twenty-person caravans we saw on our way in. All the other vehicles that had entered the park the same time we did at the beginning of the day were in search of tigers in other areas, so our small band of less than a dozen tourists had the road in front of us all to ourselves.

We’d passed a small body of water on our way into the park, and stopped on our return to see if we might spot a crocodile. While scanning the shoreline, something unexpected came into view, and once my brain caught up with my eyes, I realized what I was looking at: a full grown tiger, walking straight toward us, eyes locked, it seemed, on mine. My eyes went wide, my jaw dropped, and I immediately started crying. Even the guides were freaking out, exclaiming, “THIS is magic moment!” with a hand raised in the air as if in an exalted prayer. Looking at him with tearful eyes, I knew, body and soul, he was right. This was a magic moment.

I know people see wild animals all the time, all over the world. Whether on a jeep tour similar to ours, a safari in Africa or a fishing trip in Alaska, I’ve heard countless stories of encounters with creatures big and small in their native habitat. Seeing an animal in the wild isn’t terribly unique or even difficult. But for whatever reason, on that particular day, the rush of excitement upon seeing the tiger poured through me like a meteor shower—all stars and light and, yes, magic.

As the tiger walked toward us, our driver backed up and pulled up to a small hill just off the road. For a blissful ten minutes or so, we had front row seats to the tiger’s quiet meanderings. We watched him walk toward the water and sprawl out on the ground before offering us a big, gaping yawn, perhaps to let us know our presence in his home couldn’t possibly bore him more. We were guests in his domain, so we all sat quietly and watched him, the most audible sounds being the click-click-click of all the cameras. After taking a few photos myself, I set mine down, wanting to watch him with my own eyes for as long as possible rather than through a viewfinder. When I turned around to look at Barb, sitting behind me, I saw she had been crying too.

We cried quite a few times on that trip—at the sight of other animals, at the kindness of strangers, out of exhaustion and overwhelm. We laughed and sobbed and whooped and prayed, letting all the emotions flow through us day by day, moment by moment. In order to fully experience all the beauty and wonder India had to offer, we had to be open to all of its challenges too—the poverty, the crowds, the constant noise and movement. We came home filled in ways we hadn’t expected, having been pushed far out of our comfort zones and given gifts we didn’t see coming, like the tiger that emerged, seemingly out of nowhere, right in front of our jeep on that cold, misty morning in Ranthambore.

I am returning to India in a few weeks with Barb again, along with two other first-time visitors. While we aren’t visiting Ranthambore this time, there are, no doubt, many magic moments ahead of us. I don’t know what they will look or feel like and am not going to try to predict where they’ll happen, but I know they’re there—waiting for us all like unopened, beautifully wrapped presents. As I prepare for the journey ahead, I’m already saying thank you for everything that is to come.

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.

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