Archive | Stories – Nonfiction

Finding a Fertile Niche by Mary Ellen Gambutti

I am reminded that life is unpredictable and impermanent, and like change in a humble garden, our hearts and souls benefit from growth, restoration, tending, and nourishment. I have finally found my fertile niche, and hope this tale helps you in some way, as it has helped me in the telling.

Just as my parents retired to California from New Jersey in 1976, my marriage of six years fell apart. I was twenty-six, had a six-year old daughter, and felt devastated.

Fast forward to 1983 when I married my life partner, Phil. We moved to the Philadelphia area, and I returned to college for horticulture. Always a gardener, my new knowledge of perennial garden design prompted me to start a small business, restoring and designing estate gardens. The physical freedom and challenges suited me, and I was happier than ever.

On a rural acre with Victorian farmhouse, we embraced the challenges of home restoration. We tended flower and vegetable gardens, grew plants in the greenhouse. We embraced animal husbandry with a small herd of dwarf goats and a flock of fancy chickens.

From a young age, I wrote poetry, letters, and little stories. I was now writing creative proposals, and a garden newsletter.

My desire to know my origins peaked when I was 40, and I resolved to find my birth mother, against the odds. Yes, I am adopted.

Unless you’re adopted, you may not know much about adoption laws and regulations. Each state has different rules, and in South Carolina, adult adoptees still have no right to our Original Birth Certificates. My adoptive parents had saved my South Carolina “Certificate of Adoption and Birth,” all my adoption papers, and related correspondence, and I began my research.

Each day I made phone calls and typed letters to get the process started. Weeks would go by waiting for responses, often with no new information, and time often felt wasted following false leads. A genealogist located in South Carolina assisted me long distance in my sleuthing, using directories, cemetery registries, and obituaries.

My obsessive search ended when I made the first calls to my mother, maternal half-sister, and cousins, over a year later. No feeling could match this excitement of discovery, reunion, and bonding with the family of my origin. Mama could tell me nothing about my father, and it became clear, that had I stayed with her or her parents, I would have suffered neglect, as my sister had.

Still, I’m grateful for our one year together before her death, and I continue to stay connected with my maternal half-sisters.

As everyone’s story must, life goes on and is full of both joys and sorrows.

I suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke at fifty-eight. Right-sided hemiplegia, speech and cognitive deficits, meant several months of difficult therapy before I could walk or care for myself. My husband took a leave of absence to be with me. I owe my remarkable recovery to his assistance alongside the excellent work and attention afforded me in two stroke and rehab hospitals.

I am, indeed, a survivor.

My cognitive function improved in about six months, and I made the choice to take a variety of on-line writing courses, and continue to do so eight years later. Although I have little use of my affected right hand, I write and read on laptop and other devices. In 2016, I self-published “Stroke Story: My Journey There and Back.” My stories appear in literary magazines and anthologies.

Writing has been key to my recovery. It keeps my brain active and creative, gives me hope, and helps me fight depression.

Determined to learn my paternity, I pursued my interest in genealogy. My maternal half-sisters and I tested our DNA for ancestral matches. This allowed me to eliminate maternal matches and begin identifying paternal DNA matches. A joyful connection with my deceased father’s family: – three half-sisters, a half-brother, and a multitude of cousins—has been my reward for a long arduous process. We reunited this spring in South Carolina.

Stacks of photos from the loving people who raised me, tell the story of my life. Photos and stories of my natural family complete me. Through long-sought family resemblance, mannerisms and expressions, I see myself more clearly.

Phil and I retired to Gulf Coast Florida last year. Our new home offers us a second chance at a peaceful life. My on-going recovery is complemented by refresher rounds of physical therapy, our home exercise pool, my writing, warm climate, and warmer friends. It’s likely I’ll never tend an in-earth garden again, but pot culture of Orchids, Succulents and Bromeliads gives me great pleasure.

With my days shaped by the natural beauty of our location, my aim is to recover the health of my mind and body. The self-sustaining richness of family has come full circle with life and kin restored to me.

About the Author: Mary Ellen Gambutti

Mary Ellen writes about her life as an Air Force daughter, her reunion with birth family, gardening career, and survival of brain hemorrhage at mid-life. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Gravel MagazineWildflower MuseThe Remembered Arts JournalThe Vignette Review and Halcyon Days. She resides in Sarasota, FL with Phil, her husband, and their rescued Schnoodle, Finnegan.

 

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Fire in my Spirit by Bella Cirovic

It took a lot of courage for me to get on that plane. I knew on a soul level that once I boarded that flight, there would be no backing out. I had made a commitment months ago and there was nothing to keep me from going on this trip. That is one small detail I am down on my knees grateful for because a few months prior to me leaving for this restorative getaway, I was in a hospital waiting room praying for my husband’s life.

I now stood so far removed from that time. Months before I was to go on this trip, my husband had major open heart surgery. There is no preparation for what that will be like. Thankfully his surgery went well and was a success. His recovery was also smooth. I watched him gain his strength back daily and marveled at how with time, our bodies can heal. In a few short months, he was back at work and given the all clear by his doctors to resume living his life just as he had been prior to his surgery. He did so, fairly easily.

For me it was more difficult to jump right back into living.

I was constantly thinking and questioning everything that might have contributed to his need for the surgery in the first place. I also lived in a lot of fear that something would go wrong and change or undo the good works of his medical team.  I shared everything that was on my mind with good friends and a trusted doctor who assured me this were normal thoughts to be having after a major life changing event.

I would spend the months after the surgery in deep thought and contemplation.

I also thought a lot about an upcoming trip I had scheduled at a women’s retreat, one I had been to in the past that had felt like a week long healing adventure. How could I allow myself to fly across the country, for fun? I’d be much more at use here at home just in case anything should happen. I had become overly cautious. It would be awhile before I realized that I was living my life around the question of ‘what if’.

Once I realized how much fear I had been living in and how small that fear was making me, I could not un-see the ripple effect it was having in my life. I knew for certain that this was not how I wanted to be. It took many deep breaths and baby steps to get to a place where the fear of something unknown happening no longer kept me from living the outgoing, free spirited life I enjoyed before my husband’s surgery.

It is my goal to try to live by what I teach my daughter. For years I have told her to never let fear hold her back from doing the things she loves. And now I was contemplating not going on a trip to a place I loved to gather in community with women I adored. With nothing to hold me back and with the full support of my husband, I decided it would serve me well to go and get some rest from my day to day life. This trip was an essential piece to my healing.

There are moments in our lives that we get to put into action the change we want to see in ourselves. This was one such moment for me. As the plane began to rush down the runway and lift up into take off, I could feel some of my old baggage wash off of me. I let it go.  I was on my way to tend to the fire in my spirit, and I no longer felt afraid.

About the Author: Bella Cirovic

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

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Summer Sabbaticals and Starlight: An Invitation by Cathleen Delia Mulrooney

Mornings were always my best writing time. I woke early, predawn when my children were young, putting the kettle on for tea and sitting down to write before they were up, in that blueblack space between sleep and wakefulness. By the time our day began, I had already covered miles of inner terrain and created whole worlds as they dreamed.

Now, those children are teenagers and I find myself with my phone in my hand often before I even get out of bed, checking weather, then email. From there, I usually click over to Facebook to see if anything big is going on or if I have any messages, likes, or comments, and finally over to Instagram for the same, before going downstairs and scrolling while the coffee brews and the cats brush against my legs, waiting for breakfast.

Now, I try to write, get bored, and look something up. I try to write, feel stuck, and go watch an inspiring TED talk to get me motivated. I try to write and someone invites me to an event on Facebook and I reply and check to see who else is going, clicking on old friends’ and acquaintances’ profiles to see what everyone has been up to, and I am lost down the rabbit hole again.

Bingeing on social media and Internet use is very much like issues with food. There is a hunger without a name gnawing at the hollow of the belly. It isn’t a physical hunger, though. It comes from a need for pleasure, comfort, and distraction from our boredom and our often difficult modern lives. It is escapism. It seems positive or essential–I need food–I need connection to others. But, the food is largely junk, full of sugar and chemicals we can’t pronounce. Much of social media is largely junk, too, full of memes, quizzes, and links to funny cat videos.

I want to say, as clearly as I can, that I am not bashing any of these things because I laugh at the memes, take the quizzes, and watch those videos on a loop, too. I do it every single day and I enjoy some aspects of it. But, when I find myself avoiding my writing or my feelings of boredom or loneliness by clicking back and forth between the carefully curated and sponsored Instagram people’s perfect lives–or, taking a quiz to see what kind of tree I would be, yet again–I think it is something worth pausing to think about.

What, exactly, am I getting out of this but a very temporary fix that relieves the boredom, but also simultaneously hooks me into ever-increasing consumption?

Last September, my partner and I spent a long weekend in a tipi in upstate New York, in a location where there was no Internet and no cell phone service at all. After a few hours of strange technological deprivation anxiety, it slowly ebbed away. My phone went into a backpack, turned off, useless. We wandered long gravel roads, talking without pausing to so much glance at a text or even to break the moment to take a picture of the foxglove blooming wild alongside the road or the streams cutting across the jagged hills. We lit campfires, a slow meditative process of making fire. We lounged in a hammock, our feet tangled together along with our words. He napped and I wandered into a sun-drenched meadow ringed with wildflowers.

There, I spread a blanket on the ground, opened a book, and let my body sink into the earth, light spilling over me. I dozed and read until the sun set, then he joined me there and we watched the stars emerge, one by one, excitedly pointing each out as it revealed itself in the gathering darkness. He sat behind me, arms wrapped around me, and I felt like we were the only two people in the whole world, watching the celestial performance the sky put on just for us.

Would we have had the same experience if we were together in that field illuminated by the glow of our respective cell phone screens instead of starlight? Would our excitement and presence in the moment have been as powerful if we were streaming our favorite shows and checking work emails or quickly popping in to see what our friends were up to on social media? I already know that the answer to this, for me, would be no.

More recently, I attended a writer’s workshop and residency at the Millay Colony, again in upstate New York, and again minus cell phone reception. Though less isolated than the tipi weekend (some wifi was available here and there), I opted not to go online for more than twenty minutes per day. That was it. All email, social media, and news had to get done in that time frame or it didn’t happen.

I was ruthless in enforcing this. I didn’t waver or make exceptions.

What I did was take long walks and stare out my studio window. I read books. I napped. But, mostly, I wrote…and wrote…and wrote. I wrote in the workshop intensive with two different instructors. I wrote in bed. I wrote outside on a rock wall in the sun. I wrote sitting on a bench in the middle of the woods at the grave of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. I filled an entire notebook of over 120 pages in just five days and I did so because I disconnected from the Internet and connected to my fellow writers there and my own creativity.

While I was at Millay, I was already thinking about the ways my unplugging was an antidote, a remedy, a heady dose of good medicine for me. I also was feeling shame that I was unable to better manage my online consumption and addiction to these distractions. Then, other writers there confessed that they’d disabled their wifi, too, hoping to escape it. One workshop facilitator, a brilliant, award-winning writer I admire deeply, talked about her internet addiction and how she had to write her latest book in her car parked down by a river in her hometown because it was the only spot where she couldn’t get Internet on her phone or laptop. This same writer told us how she just built herself a studio at her home, one positioned where it is because she trekked around the property until she found another Internet dead-spot and said to the builder, “Here–I want it built right here.”

Listening to her talk about this, I felt a clear truth rising through me, a voice, “See, you aren’t the only one!” echoing through my consciousness.

Maybe you have a stronger will than I do. Maybe you only use social media sparingly and it doesn’t impact your time with others or your creativity or your emotions. If so, these words aren’t for you. I have deep admiration for your discipline and clarity and aspire to the same myself. But if, like many of us are, you’re more consumed by your online life than you feel is good for you, I invite you to consider a summer experiment of restoration and renewal by pulling back from the Internet and sinking more fully into your world offline.

You may not be a writer, but you might be an artist, a baker, a long-distance runner, an animal rescuer, a gardener, an activist, a volunteer, a reader, a parent, a naturalist, a lover, a friend. Or, you might be nothing more than quiet, letting the empty space of what was Internet overuse become filled, instead, with contemplation, meditation, and healing.

As for me, I am going completely off the Internet grid every third day for the rest of the summer. No social media, no email, no online activity at all. I’ll answer calls or texts, but I likely won’t keep my phone right with me, so my responses will be slower and more intentional. On the other days, I will block off four hour chunks of Internet-free time, cut with brief 20-30 minute intervals of connection.

For some of you, my goal of unplugging and seeking renewal already looks like what you do, and it may seem trivial. For others, you feel an immediate rejection of what I am doing, an insistence that you absolutely must check email daily or social media hourly or the news twice a day–and perhaps that’s even true. We all lead very different lives and I have nothing to offer but my own experiences and inquiry.

But, as a sweet summer experiment, consider what would happen if you pulled back in any way you could from online life and got reacquainted with the life you’re actually living. Maybe you simply establish phone and Internet free zones or meals or times of day. Go out and fill some notebooks with the words only you can write. Spread a blanket in the grass with a lover and watch for stars. Let this summer be a time of renewal and return, connecting the scattered parts of yourself you’d lost in the Internet glow–finally, fully complete–radiating light, your own private constellation.

Cathleen Delia Mulrooney

cathleendeliamulrooney_bioRestless. Sleepless. Book-lover. Wordsmith. Deep roots. Prodigal heart. Teacher. Guide. Wanderer. Witch. Tea, tarot, hot baths, stitchcraft. Curator of narrative relics, remnants, & curiosities.

Cat is also a freelance writer, editor, and teacher. Her poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, and reviews have appeared in a variety of online and print publications. She has been teaching writing at the college level since 2000, and has facilitated creative writing workshops in elementary schools, high schools, prisons, and private organizations, as well as workshops exclusively for women to write their body and tarot-based narratives.

Through her Queen of Cups Tarot community, she offers private, group, and online tarot readings. Find her online at http://cdeliamulrooney.com and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/queenofcupstarot/

Copper by Lisa Zaran

Two years ago I started collecting pennies. Not just any pennies: found pennies.  It began when the agency I worked for took a devastating turn.

My co-workers and I would huddle in private discourse trying to make sense of the changes happening around us. We wondered privately: what would happen and where would we go? During this upheaval, I began finding pennies in the most random places, unexpected but obvious.

So I’d pick them up.

I didn’t give it any thought at first until it manifested: I became convinced each penny held meaning.

Once when I walked through the parking lot toward my car engrossed in thought, hopeful for a positive outcome suddenly I noticed a bright penny on the ground next to the drivers side door. Instances continued to occur. Another time a penny sat Lincoln side up directly outside my closed office door perfectly centered on the floor.

It happened so often that I’d began looking for pennies. But, as soon as I became aware of looking, I never found a penny. It’s only occured when I wasn’t thinking about seeking pennies, but when I was wholly focused on something else. A worry, seeking closure, or looking for answers. Rushing towards or away from these concerns, a penny would be in my line of sight.

Like the time, at the end of a long and tumultuous day, I discovered a penny on the seat of my office chair. I had been in and out, up and down all day long,

I began saving the special pennies.

I had this sugar skull shaped piggy bank, bright yellow with flowers and hearts for eyes. It sat on a shelf simply because I liked it. I began dropping these found pennies into it. Finding change continued to happen to me.

I’d experience numerous occasions where I was talking in my head to whomever would listen: God, self, the universe of thought and ideas. About a concern of mine, seeking guidance, affirmation when a piece of change would appear in my path, sometimes a nickel or a dime but most often a penny.

The skull became fuller. A quarter. A half. Three-quarters full..

I began getting hopeful for the day it would be totally full. I thought, maybe with the money I’ll purchase a piece of local, outsider art to serve as a reminder. Maybe I’ll create a piece of outsider art! Maybe I’ll hand it all to a homeless person. I had time to decide as I still had a forehead to fill.

Not everyone in my life was aware of this penny-endeavor but some were, my children knew, a few co-workers and friends.

I came home from work on a typical Wednesday and remembered I had some found change in my purse. It’d been sitting in there for a couple months so I gathered it up (17 pennies and 1 dime). When I dropped the first piece of change in I noticed the sound first.

It took a second for it to register in my brain, the hair-breadth of added time for the first coin to stop it’s falling at the bridge of a nose and land instead where a throat might end.

The skull was empty.

Addiction acts in a person. The person then is forced to react or take the blow. It’s like standing perfectly still with a wall coming at you eighty, ninety miles an hour. It’s falling from a great height at high speed, hearing the splat of organs on impact before feeling it.

Addiction has needs. It can not be satisfied with acts of containment, measures of control. My son is an addict; he is always hungry.  There are bad days and then there are worse days.

The missing pennies could not have amounted to much in a dealers hand, one hit maybe, powder residue from a suboxone tab. My son is an expert at reacting to addiction.

I’m sure, with the pennies he found redemption, enough to take the razor-sharp edge off for an hour, maybe two.

My mind told me to be furious, to rage, to scream injustice until my throat bled. My body refused; it collapsed onto a sofa and wept, deserted by the ability to feel anger.

The coins, I thought, are better off. No longer piled and compacted in a glass head. They’re free to roam, to offer, to serve those much needier than I. I envisioned the tending each penny would do, like a silk thread stitching a wound.

Every penny that slipped from dealers palm to dealers palm, fell by the wayside, came to a stop in a gutter outside a convenience store held more value than its monetary equivalent.

I knew these pennies would be found again. Picked up by hands that had no idea this coin is suffused in hope, this one has strength. This coin freedom, that one grace.

This wasn’t me being tender or forgiving. This wasn’t letting go. This was me not reacting as a wall came at me eighty miles an hour, as I fell from a great height.

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.

Reflections of Me by Emma Gazley

While violently scrubbing the bathroom sink, a reflection in the small medicine cabinet mirror caught my eye. I made eye contact with that mysterious person, and watched for a moment, almost unsure. Unsettled. A year ago, his person I was seeing had gotten engaged  and moved to Chicago. She joyfully married her best friend a couple months later and since then had found herself out of work.

How was it possible that after so much movement, this woman seemed so stuck – so frozen in place.

The woman in the mirror was me.

I’d been applying to various jobs for months and despite multiple interviews, I hadn’t managed to secure a steady job. Not even “low-on-the-totem-pole ones.  With a limp, tepid resume and long stretches of unemployment due to a myriad of health issues, the reasons as to why I was so “un-hirable” abounded.

Staring myself down, I ran through the list, listening to all of those voices that were quick to convince me that I was not good enough.

I pulled all my cleaning supplies together, shoved them back underneath the kitchen cupboard and moved on to my next project.

My husband reassures me, saying, “Looking for a job is a full time job, without the satisfaction of being paid. I know it’s difficult but thanks for working so hard.”

After filling out applications, making some calls, and printing resumes, it was time to go shake some hands. As I hustled by the windows of bakeries, electronics stores, and corner grocers, I repeated a mantra of self-love to myself.  I entered each place with a smile, struck up a friendly conversation, handed over my resume, and upon leaving, did my best to squash down social anxiety. Then, brace myself for the next round.

After several train stops and miles of walking, I turned to go home with an empty stomach and emptying bank account.

When I arrived home later that day I turned the oven up high and roasted a chicken for dinner, seeing that same woman in the glass as I peeked in to see if the skin was beginning to crisp.

I didn’t make eye contact this time.

To let go of the emotions of shame and helplessness, I turned to painting. Painting has always empowered me, just as writing and music always have, but somehow the projects on my kitchen table felt uninspired.

The almost comic melodrama of depression was starting to play out in my kitchen as it occurred to me that even if they amounted to much, I was unlikely to have a career doing what I love. Proven, of course, since I couldn’t manage to land a job doing something I would hate.

I was able to laugh at myself a little; how could I do so much and feel so pathetic at the end of the day?

Several weeks later, Sara, my best friend from middle school, flew in from Alaska. Our friendship has soldiered on through the pains of adolescence, loss of loved ones, moves from state to state, and the breaking and mending of many relationships.

I received her text reporting she had landed as the Blue Line train doors slid open at the O’Hare stop, showing me a rippling vision of myself in the darkened windows. A version of myself in constant motion, a transient visage.

As everyone disembarked to find their airline, the frenetic energy jostled me out and onto an escalator. I didn’t have time to catch her eyes this time.

When I saw Sara, I felt instantly home again. That deep, comfortable love of being accepted and admired exactly as I am surrounded me. I floated through the next several days on a high. I tried to shower her with love and rest, knowing that her life as a Special-Ed teacher is rarely easy.

Yet, the excitement of being together in Chicago meant we found ourselves exhausted at the end of every day. We bustled from the Lincoln Park Zoo’s gorilla enclosure to the Chicago Theater. No, it wasn’t restful, but we were both buoyed by our activities and the company.

A few weeks after Sara’s visit, my brother Al came into town. He’s my only sibling, and we spent the train ride to Clark and Lake catching up on his life in Hawaii and mine in Chicago. We talked about how busy we’ve been and what shows have excited us the most.

The next day we went to Millennium Park and I showed him Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, which everyone knows as “The Bean”. Its shining surface showed us distorted versions of ourselves that swayed and morphed into new images with every step. My brother’s warped expression smiled next to mine.

We had a full day: pictures with his new camera, shopping, and visiting Navy Pier. By happy circumstance, the Ferris wheel was free that hour.

As Al and I walked across Michigan Avenue, with a hundred bodies marching purposefully towards their destinations, I caught a glimpse of our reflections as we passed a shop window. We look always younger in my mind’s eye than we did in that reflection .

“It’s weird, isn’t it? Being adults visiting each other?”

“Yeah, it’s weird.” He laughed. “You’ve got to come out to Maui, even if it’s just for a few days. There’s so much to see.”

I smirked and shook my head when I saw he’d fallen asleep on the train ride home. I’ve always envied him the ability to let everything go and fall asleep wherever he was sitting or standing. What would it be like to be that free for a few moments when exhausted or stressed?

That evening, we hosted a gathering to introduce my brother to friends and after goodbyes were said, I  curled up next to my husband, Shane. He was reading a graphic novel, and both of us were trying to ignore our chronic back pain. I looked at Shane while he read, and for a moment, I saw myself again. I saw a flash of whoever I am meant to be, whoever I was in the beginning.

The gap between waking and sleeping brought me close to a reality that we block ourselves from so much as we chase the light, or the money, or the power.

I saw a reflection of myself in Sara, truest of friends, filled with devotion and affection. In my only brother, who has known me longer than almost anyone, who knows all of my very real flaws and shortcomings, but loves me despite our differences. I saw myself in Shane, who has sacrificed, changed and created all this space and love in his life to include me in all its steps.

I decided to see myself a little kinder. To stop once in a while and rest in this knowledge: that it’s how I am seen by those who love me that matters.

Thankfully the measure of success doesn’t rely merely on my warped opinion of myself (or the opinion of society at large). The love of others, and indeed love of my true self, is what gives me sanctuary. It gives me purpose. It is what makes me sing a new song, paint a blank canvas, and write another story.

I breathed in deep and let it flood over me, and fell asleep with peace in my heart.

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.

On the River with David Raines

David Raines is a river barge captain, a killer Scrabble player, a doting father, and a recently engaged husband-to-be. He’s also a natural storyteller and has an amazing eye for photographs. When I first learned what he did for a living, I had all these images of Mark Twain in my head, but the modern reality of David’s life is that it’s one of searching for balance between work on the river, and home-life ashore. (It’s also about not falling in the river while you’re working.)

This is his story, in his own words and pictures.

Photo by David Raines

I started working out on the river when I was 18. I instantly liked the structured life, the danger, wealth of knowledge, history, and most of all – that no one could fake doing their job. It’s a world semi cut off and one that can never be fully understood unless you are actually out here for a few years . I did not have a plan to be the captain. I enjoyed working my way through the ranks. It wasn’t until I became a father that being a captain set in.

Photo by David RainesThe little Wookie is something that my girls ( worms ) got me for Father’s Day many years ago. I take pictures of it each time I leave home . It’s one of many small things that we have developed to stay close . Notice the “crusty captain” logo? The worms started calling me that, so I made shirts for us all with a logo.

I let family and friends know when I get home. I have uninterrupted time to be a dad. I fought hard to be their dad when I am home and I have always been 110% involved. I have custody of them when I am home . We do all things together. It’s all about the memories. We cosplay, bike ride, cook, and do cultural events.

Boat life is very hard on relationships. It was taken me until the age of 44 to find and feel real and unconditional love from a woman. I can go on and on about the dual lives I live, and how both have love, passion, joy, dedication, and much more.

We are our own fire department and first aid out here. Chain of command is very important. I go from being obeyed out here to doting on my girls and finding moments to live in with my girls… it’s completely different.

I can see where many captain ( leader ) skills are transferable to being a doting dad: Never letting up on standards, Being hard core, Chewing people out, Breaking down young men, Having follow-through, Being calm in a crisis, Patience.

Photo by David RainesRiver Lessons #2: Know who you are working with December 14th 1991 at 2:30 pm in Caseville, Illinois I was a green deckhand. It was a normal winter day and we were building tow (putting a block of barges together ) with the boat.

Physically I was tightening the outside fore and aft wire; mentally I was pondering my life choices.  In particular as to why a sane person would want to work in this each day, or why do we have to we woken up twice a day, or why can’t I find a sugar momma?

The other deckhand was 20ft away and just as zoned out as I was. I do not recall his name. I remember that he had a wonderful dream about starting a chain of meth labs and that breaking rocks with other rocks would have confused him. As I went to check as see how tight the wire was I kicked the outside bite of the wire and my foot connected with ice and away I went for a splash.

I was yelling for help while I was still under water and believe me, the Ohio river tasted dirty. I swam back to the barges and could barely reach the rounded edge. The life jacket held me afloat easily but I could not pull myself up . I did not feel any cold because my adrenaline was running hard. I began to yell for help.

The dePhoto by David Rainesckhand 35ft away never heard me but the mate did, and he was 400ft away. As he ran past the the deckhand he said “Dave fell in, grab a line now,” but what the deckhand heard was “take a break.”

The mate was not the best I have ever seen. Matter of fact he was very lazy and quite grouchy. None of that matters in certain moments. He grabbed the coming and stuck his hand down and pulled me out. I crawled to the coupling and as soon as I knew I was safe my adrenaline wore off and hypothermia set in.

As I walked into the boat the captain looked at me as he fired up a cigar and said, “No swimming on watch dumb—. Get warm and dry and get back out there.” Later on each detail was written down and talked about with the entire crew. I learned to not focus on getting to know the person but instead look at the work ethic. Will the person on watch be competent enough to rescue you , turn on the general alarm, notify someone in time? Suddenly spacing out was no longer am option and I could never forget it.

Watching out for one another had nothing to do with being friends or with color or rank and maybe the guys higher up the chain were sharper than I thought. Still, I should have gotten a cake or something for my troubles.

Photo by David Raines

Out here a person in fully immersed in the job. There is no going home. One truly learns the value of watching out for someone even though we may never get along. It also brings what is most important to your heart to the surface. Your hopes and fears will not leave you out here . And once you are home you can be complete and it’s like a holiday each time… even after 25 years.

Photo by David Raines

About the Author: David Raines

David RainesDavid Raines was raised in SE Missouri, and moved to Texas when he was thirty. He works on the river as captain of a barge, but home is ashore, where he devotes his time to his three daughters and fiance. For more about David check him out on Facebook.

Connections by Christine Mason Miller

The postmark on the first letter was August 14, 2000. The red rubber stamp on the left side of the envelope read “C.R.C. State Prison.” It was a letter from a woman named Nicole, who described herself as a “recovering addict serving a civil addict commitment at California Rehabilitation Center, Norco.” I was five years into my own greeting card business at the time, and she’d received one of my cards. When she found my address on the back, she wrote to ask if I would donate materials to her—cards, cardstock, envelopes, and paper. At the close of her letter she wrote, “Your trash is my treasure.”

I sent her a package the next day.

About two weeks later the next letter arrived, the same red “C.R.C. State Prison” stamp glaring on the front like neon. Packaged inside an envelope created from a brown paper bag, there was a handmade card on orange paper, a detailed illustration of a teddy bear wearing blue boots on the front. He was holding flowers and blowing on a dandelion, the little fluffy seedlings seeming to scatter off the edge of the card. There was color, shading, and depth created with glitter pens, magic marker, and pencil. It was Nicole again, saying the package I had sent her was denied. I’d included posters, which meant it exceeded the prison’s size limits on mail.

I sent her a second package, smaller this time, no posters.

One month later I received a note from Tracie, who explained that a “friend had let her have one of my cards,” and that if I sent a package it could not weigh more than three pounds. She said she was allowed to receive paper, cards, envelopes, and stamps. The prison would also accept pens, as long as they had clear, see-through barrels. She wrote her letter in ballpoint on a piece of stationery with five geese on the front, each adorned with blue and white polka dotted bows around their necks.

I sent her a package, under three pounds.

Six weeks later—another letter. It was from Stephanie, who wrote in purple ink in loose, large handwriting on the back side of the paper with the three binder holes on the right. She was succinct and direct, saying she had “seen a few of my cards around” and was wondering if I could send her a “variety pack or assorted pack” of my cards.

I sent her a package of assorted cards with envelopes.

The next two letters arrived within two weeks, a few days after Thanksgiving. One was from Gretchen, who wrote in ballpoint pen on loose-leaf paper. She detailed her love of cards, how she enjoyed sending them, and that she thought mine were “some very nice cards.” She went on to explain which card she received from another inmate, describing the image and colors in detail—it was blue with a moon and stars. I knew exactly which card she was talking about. She told me she mailed it to her husband the same day she received it.

The other letter was written in large black script from a woman named Sasha, who got right down to business: “I’m writing requesting to know if there is anyway of receiving greeting cards from this company…to send to my boys and family.”

Two packages were mailed the same afternoon.

The month of December passed with exponentially more letters in my mailbox each week —two letters the first week, seven the week after, eleven before the new year. Thirteen more letters came in January, so I contacted the C.R.C. directly with an offer to send a large inventory of cards and envelopes to be distributed to the inmates. The arrivals from the C.R.C. in my mailbox dwindled quickly after that. The last letter I received was postmarked December 26, 2001.

Most letters were requests for cards written on loose-leaf paper, but I also received thank you notes on bright blue stationery, envelopes adorned with curlicue script, and letters mailed in envelopes I’d mailed not long before. Barbara told me she had three children and explained, “They need me more than a card, but until I can be there I would like to brighten their day.” A woman named Tanya began her letter with “I’m here in prison.” There were references to children, recovery, families, and addiction. There were misspelled words and notes written on pieces of paper torn in half. All letters were courteous, appreciative, and forthright. None of the women tried to tiptoe around the fact that she was in prison.

**   **   **

A greeting card business is a funny thing. By the time I started receiving these letters, I had been running one called Swirly for almost five years. I started it when I was twenty-seven years old with a grand vision of inspiring the world. I was not interested in merely designing and selling cards, I wanted to spread messages of encouragement and light the way for others to follow their dreams. One of my very first designs was an illustration of a tree with stars all over its branches. Its caption read “Plant Your Dreams and the Miracles will Grow”, which became the Swirly tag line—the phrase attached to the back of every card, whether birthday, sympathy, or thank you. Swirly cards were whimsical and bold, filled with stars, ladybugs, and sunflowers. Vibrant and graphic, they were paired with envelopes the color of gumballs—purple, lime green, and turquoise.

Through Swirly, I aimed to spread positive messages about creating a meaningful life to people from all walks of life, so when I started receiving letters from the C.R.C., it never occurred to me to not respond. Everyone who wrote received a package that included a short note in which I tried to manage the delicate balance between being uplifting without pretending they weren’t in prison. I did not write with any expectations of hearing from them again, and did not care if the main reason for their letters was boredom or the promise of something for nothing. If anything, the vision of prison gossip channels carrying news of a greeting card company willing to send free stationery gave me a peculiar kind of delight. Word obviously got around, and I kept imagining someone walking by another inmate’s room, noticing a card with a bright, smiling sunflower and being told, “All you have to do is write her and she’ll send you free cards!”

**   **   **

The women in the C.R.C. had made mistakes, but were in a program designed to steer them toward a healthier path. In a strange way, there was hope in their letters, even in the face of a few key details. When a stranger introduces herself by name and prison ID number, any ambiguity about the state of her life is wiped away. From all of the other letters I received (as I actually received a fair amount back in the day when social media didn’t exist), it was easy to imagine any number of domestic scenes, such as one-story bungalows with lace curtains, cozy apartments with floral dish towels, and red brick townhouses with sleeping cats in the windows. With the letters from the C.R.C., it was hard to imagine much beyond a bed in a bare room with a worn out blanket. Even when trying to lean on the more purposeful aspect of their being in a center focused on rehabilitation, my imaginings were stark, crowded, and bland. Perhaps these details came to mind from watching Shawshank Redemption too many times, but I kept seeing the same details—linoleum, gray metal, and glaring fluorescent lights.

During the six years I ran my greeting card company—designing, printing, and packaging cards, filling orders, managing reps across the country, and eventually staying on top of more than twelve hundred accounts—I experienced a comically consistent flurry of reactions to the news that this was my job. I still marvel at how often people’s eyes would light up when I told them I had a greeting card business. “Oh really?,” someone would say, “My sister has always created great cards”, or “I’ve always wanted to do that!”

Everyone seemed to know someone who was eager to crack into the greeting card business, and everyone thought it was a dreamy, rainbow-hued job that allowed me to spend all day everyday lost in drawings of cupcakes and flowers. So many people were asking for advice about the world of greeting cards I turned it into a consulting business, but stopped doing it after just a few clients. Seeing the look of disappointment on one face after another upon hearing the news that my vocation actually involved hard work became quickly dispiriting. Having spent so much time and energy figuring out how to do what I did on my own without a single business course to my name, I had no patience for people who wanted easy answers. I also sometimes wondered what they would think of being contacted by strangers from unsettling walks of life, such as prisons and state-run rehab centers.

Swirly evolved into a licensed brand with a product line that included everything from journals to watches. It came to life through a vision that extended far beyond its beginnings as a line of handmade greeting cards, and I wove this story as all of the women from Norco were in the midst of trying to unravel their sins. I was creating a company about following dreams while they were confined to routines, rules, and cells. Our worlds were so far apart, our experiences so wildly different, yet somehow our paths crossed. Through a strange confluence of greeting cards, mail, pens, and paper, our stories collided, and in that collision we each wrote a line in one another’s narrative.

**   **   **

Years after those letters had arrived in mailbox, I spent an afternoon reading and re-organizing all of them, feeling a bittersweet sense of gratitude for everything the women had shared with me as I stacked them chronologically and tied ribbons around the bundles. For all their mundane simplicity—ballpoint ink on loose leaf paper—they were stark reminders of all the ways life can turn on a dime and testaments to the truth that there is always more to a story than I’ll ever know. They made me aware of all the ways I, too, am capable of making monstrous, devastating mistakes that, whether intentional or not, could send my life down a path too dark and confining to imagine. They shined a light on the possibility that somehow, some way, I could have been the one sending letters from prison to a greeting card company asking for donations. To believe such a scenario could never happen, to believe I am somehow immune from life’s larger mishaps, mistakes, and mess-ups, is to deny my very humanity. My flaws, rages, and inclinations toward self-preservation exist alongside my strengths, ambitions, and good intentions. I am human, and therefore capable of the entire spectrum of human behavior, including those of a criminal nature.

By acknowledging and embracing this truth, I recognize how indelibly connected I am not just to my family, friends, and kindreds, but to the women in the C.R.C. No matter what—no matter how far apart my story might feel from someone else’s—there is always a thread connecting us, even through prison walls.

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 at www.christinemasonmiller.com.

* Note:  All names have been changed.

The Word Wakes You by Téa Silvestre Godfrey

The word grabbed me awake in the wee hours of the morning. Was it something I dreamt? Or did it dream me?

Admirabilia.

That word flashes relentlessly on the inside of my eyelids. I turn to look at the clock. It’s 4:08.

A few minutes pass and I give into the urge to get up and pee.

What does it mean, I wonder?

Is it a real word?

Back in bed and snug under the covers, I turn it round and round in my head.

Little bits of admiration?

Intangible moments of gratitude we collect like memorabilia?

How does one collect the intangible?

I roll over onto my other side.

Isn’t admiration about big things?

Her bravery in the face of that cancer diagnosis.

His ability to create and build a thriving multinational business.

Their courage to leave Syria and cross the ocean to Greece.

At 5:30, I reluctantly give up hope of going back to sleep. Deep snores rumble at me from Ira’s side of the bed and he won’t be up for at least another hour.

I slip on on my fleece robe and climb the stairs to the kitchen in slow motion.

If being admirable means we’ve done something worthy of recognition, who decides what’s worthy?

I stand at the sink and stare out the window into the inky dark morning. I can’t see the rain, but I can hear it.

The ritual begins.

Turn on the water. Fill the pot half way. Swirl it around. Pour it into the sink. Repeat the process twice more.

And what if there’s no one around to witness the wonderful thing done?

‘To admire’ implies both an observer and an observed.

You and me, right?

The proverbial tree-falling-in-the-forest question.

Open the coffee maker lid and pull out yesterday’s filter full of grounds.

On Facebook we have a never-ending supply of potential observers. Lurkers, yes. But also ‘friends’ willing to spend a millisecond to click the thumbs-up or maybe the heart button.

If we share — if we post the thing — then technically we’re asking to be admired, right?

Look at my beautiful baby (who I created with my very own body). Isn’t she delightful?

Look at this puppy I rescued. Isn’t he adorable?

Look at this poem I wrote. This meal I cooked. These flowers that grow in my yard.

I’ve seen them, but you need to see them, too. Your admiration is the true validation of my worth.

Admirabilia :: Smallish things to be praised with affection.

Open the grinder and fill it with beans. Push the button and listen to the high-pitched whir of the blades.

The wonders of modern living. Electricity. Running water. Central heating. How often do we stop to admire these things? Or the folks who made them happen for us.

The designers, the builders, the inspectors. The ones who sourced the materials and manufactured all the tiny moving parts. The ones who boxed them up and shipped them to where they needed to go. The ones who sold them to me. And to you.

All efforts of daily work and rituals of service.

When I turn the ignition and my car starts without a hitch, do I stop to honor the many MANY humans who contributed to that particular moment?

“Everything in life has brought us to this moment.” (Something my son likes to say at random for an easy laugh.)

Do I post pictures of those little everyday miracles on Facebook?

Mmm. Not so much.

A deep breath while I empty the freshly ground beans into the brown paper filter. Tap, tap, tap. Must. Get. Every. Last bit.

Next, cold (Clean! Thank you, municipal water guys!) water goes into the machine and I push the little red ‘brew’ button.

The water begins to heat and then it’s pumped and through to the grounds. The familiar clicks and sighs of our beloved appliance signal there will soon be coffee.

The elixir of life. A truly marvelous ritual if there ever was one.

But only because I’m here to experience and witness it?

On its own (without me), it’s simply just a blob of atoms shaped like a coffee maker.

I walk to the couch, sit down, and wait for the magic to materialize.

My son’s bedroom door opens and out bounces Max, his little dog. He’s up and on my lap quicker than anything should move before 6 a.m.

It’s like he hasn’t seen me in weeks.

I stare into his chocolate eyes and tousle his big floppy ears.

This moment. Something he and I share almost every morning.

I close my eyes and catalog the feeling for my ‘collection.’ Fully awake now to a practice of meaning and presence.

About the Author: Téa Silvestre Godfrey

Téa Silvestre Godfrey is passionate about community and loves to cook (and eat) with friends. She’s the author of Attract and Feed a Hungry Crowd,” the editor of “30 Ways to Bloom Your Online Relationships,” and works as a writing coach and freelance editor. Find her at StoryBistro.com

The Goodnight Ritual by Kolleen Harrison

Ever since my two daughters were little girls we have had our “I love you” rituals at the end of each day.

As a single mom it was very important to me to tuck my girls into bed each night, snuggling them in just so, making certain they were warm and cuddly, and had whatever they may need before calling it a night. This time of days was hands down my absolute fav, as they were typically all sleepy eyed and mushy and willing to let me love and hug on them as much as I wanted to. Often times even asking me, “Please stay” or the obvious nightly question, “Mom, can we sleep with you?”

One night, when my youngest Sydnie was about 3 years old, I went in to her room per usual, sat down beside her as she lay in bed and said “I love you Syd”.She looked up at me with her beautiful big blues and said “I love you too mommy.”

I then proceeded to delay the goodnight a little longer, asking her, “Syd, how much do you love me?” She looked at me, smiled, and innocently responded, “I love you 47 mommy.” I sat there for a minute, smiling and laughing under my breath, thinking to myself, “This kid, never ceases to surprise me with some of the things that come out of her mouth!” I leaned down, gently planted a kiss on her forehead and quietly exited her room.

As I began making my way down the hallway towards my bedroom, I started to giggle even more, reflecting on her words and admiring the sweet innocence of my littlest.

The next day started out as “one of those” days. Syd didnʼt like the way I did her hair, I ran out of milk for their cereal, an argument arose because Syd wanted to wear her favorite pair of jeans AGAIN, (for God only knows how many times in a row!), and traffic was a damn nightmare!

On top of that Syd had to pay a visit to the principalʼs office at her school for continually not listening to her teacher. (Iʼm pretty sure this was Ms. Flippenʼs absolute last straw with my little bit and her “very social” ways!)

Unfortunately that evening when we arrived home, I had to do what I believe many parents dread doing, and implement a consequence for her behavior. Her punishment – “No TV, reading or coloring, and then straight to bed.”

As bedtime rolled around, the normal routine played out. I went into Sydʼs room, sat down beside her on her bed and began to get her all nestled in. I looked at her and softly said, “I love you Syd”. She hesitated and reluctantly muttered “I love you too mommy”. I could tell in her face and body language she was still somewhat mad at me, not really making eye contact and barely letting me hug on her. I asked her, “Syd, how much do you love me?” To which she replied, “I love you zero mom”.

It took all I had to not bust out laughing at her response presented in such a stoic, matter of fact, steadfast manner.

The following day came and went, without much fuss or drama. (Thank God!) Once again as bedtime descended upon us, the “I love you” exchange occurred between Sydnie and myself. Although, this particular night it was a bit out of the ordinary. Tonightʼs response not only completely and utterly melted my heart, it created a night time ritual to this day, 11 years later.

This special night when I asked Syd, “How much do you love me?” She looked at me, sat up in her bed, wrapped her precious little chubby arms around my neck and whispered “To the last number mommy.” (MELT YOUR HEART, right??!!) I squeezed her tightly, whispering back in her ear “I love you to the last number too Syd”.

Thus, The Goodnight Ritual was born.

Today, Syd is 14 years young and we still say those words to one another every night, although we have shortened it to “TLN”. (We decided to do this knowing it can be our little secret for when her friends may be around). It is a beautiful, tender night time ritual birthed from humor, love and innocence which I will gladly continue on for as long as I am able.

“I love you to the last number. Goodnight”.

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 LOVEwild.org or MahabbaBeads.com

Video Friday by Jeanette McGurk

In an odd coincidence, my daughter and I had a similar writing theme this month.  She had to write a paper about a favorite ritual.  I have been ridiculously indecisive about what ritual or routine I have wanted to write about for this issue of Modern Creative Life.

As I’ve gotten older, pondering these things takes on edges of nostalgia and love that feel overwhelming. That much emotion sometimes leads to the equivalent of writer’s freezy brain.  Unfortunately it doesn’t go away as quickly as Slurpee freezy brain.

So, in desperation I went hunting for inspiration through my 5th grader.  “Umm, so what ritual did you end up writing about for school?  Easter with your cousins?  Summer weekends at Grandma and Grandad’s?  New Year’s Day cheese grits?” I ask.

“No,” she says, “I wrote about Video Fridays.”

I try to probe more, get specifics in her words but for her it is something we do every Friday.  She and her sister love this small 30 minute activity more than almost any other treat I could offer up.  And this started kind of as a fluke.

The last days of summer we tend to spend being really, really, lazy.  I have been known to pull through the McDonald’s drive thru at 3pm in my pj’s, girls in the back in their pj’s, for dunch.  Our afternoon version of brunch.  We just combine lunch and dinner.  Then around 6pm we have ice cream and hot chocolate chip cookies; custom made 4 at a time from the tube.  On these days, when all the play, and crafts and swimming are spent, the days when the Texas August heat has beaten us down into our nice cool house cave, the girls binge on their favorite YouTube videos.

These binges are epoch.

Lauren can watch 3 hours non-stop of Cookie Crumble.  A woman whose face we never see but who has lovely, well manicured finger-nails.  One of her YouTube channel activities is opening 100’s, perhaps even thousands of mystery Shopkins.  The latest craze in Kiddom is to buy mystery toy packs.  My kids love them almost as much as Video Fridays and apparently, Lauren can watch someone with unlimited resources open one after another for hours on end.

For Helen, her favorite YouTube diet consists of people sampling different mods and playing Minecraft.  She is a connoisseur and should you ask, she would recommend Pat and Jen as the best of the lot.

Does the previous two paragraphs seem foreign to you?  It absolutely did to me.  I realized one day that listening to my children talk about this stuff was like interacting with martians.  Granted, perhaps if my husband and I were better parents, the kind who meticulously screen all the content going into their young brains, we would speak Minecraft lingo and Cookie crumble.

We are not those parents.  We were 70’s kids.

We lit matches in the street.  We climbed in houses being built during the early 80’s housing boom.  We wandered for hours unsupervised on foot and on bikes without cell phones or bicycle helmets and survived.  It is not in our DNA to super screen.  But, we do like to communicate with our kids, and our kids, who are just starting to get an inkling that we are dorks, still like to hang out with us.  In fact, I was being followed constantly through the kitchen while chopping onions or putting a roast in the oven, “Mom, mom, look at this video.  It is hilarious.”  You cannot learn YouTube martian lingo in these moments.  I realized I needed a dedicated time to be immersed, undistracted.

“Girls,” I said, “why don’t we sit down after I get this in the oven.  In fact, Fridays while dinner is cooking is a good time.  We can all share a favorite video we have watched from the week.”

In that moment, a family ritual was born.

I had no idea what an instant sensation this idea was going to be.  It has spent at least 20 weeks at the top of the charts.  Any week we miss, we double up the next week.  I cannot tell you how many times I have watched the “Puppy Monkey Baby” commercial in horror.  The girls never tire of watching me cringe.  In fact, a lot of the videos are cringe worthy but occasionally I will shout with glee over a particularly fun pumpkin carving Minecraft competition or the very cool movie theater mod someone created.  It never gets old trying to mimic Cookie Crumble’s high pitch munchkin voice.  In fact I think she uses some sort of machine to make her voice do that.

I, of course, torture the kids with inspirational TED talks and nature videos.  All 5 minutes or less.  After Helen’s first 35 minute Minecraft video we had to set time limits.  So the whole thing is usually wrapped up in 20 minutes.

Seriously, it is only 20 minutes every Friday and yet, it is the ritual the kids talk about before bedtime Thursday night.  It is what we discuss at Friday morning breakfast.  It is brought up after school.  It is what Helen chose to write about above all the other rituals we have so carefully crafted over the years.

Perhaps it is because in those few minutes every week, they know, I want to know what they find funny or interesting or intense or silly.  I want to see their world, not to snoop or make sure they are not watching something they shouldn’t.  It is a ritual set aside with no purpose other than letting my children know that their world matters to me.

Years from now, when they think back on Video Friday and they have a moment of emotional Freezy Brain, I hope that is what they remember.  Well that and I hope they suddenly get the urge to look up Puppy Monkey Baby as adults and experience the cringe!

About the Author: Jeanette McGurk

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

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

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