Archive | What’s Next? (Issue #1)

Steeping by Melissa A. Bartell

Tea by Olu Eletu

Her trench coat was spattered with new and old raindrops, and the cuffs of her jeans stained with mud when she entered the café. Looking around for a table, she noticed that even seats along the bar were full, and that someone had told the students they had to limit their use of space to accommodate the crowd. This was not unusual for a rainy day, and she was about to order her drink to go when a man in a fisherman’s sweater and corduroy pants beckoned her over.

“Join me?” he offered, rearranging the plate, cup, and silverware in front of him, and closing the notebook he’d been staring at.

She wove her away between people and chairs, unfastened her coat, and sat down. “Thanks for the rescue,” she said. “I didn’t really want to take my order to go.” She paused then, looking down at the table-top, then back up at her new companion. “I have to confess though: I know that I know you; I just can’t quite name you.”

He laughed, and she noticed that he had dimples in cheeks. “Sarah! Honestly! I’m David,” he said. “Your bike messenger.”

“Of course you are!” she gushed, embarrassed. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in clothes before.”

“Do I want to know what that meant?” the server teased by way of a greeting, arriving at their table. “Your usual macchiato today, Sar?”

Sarah laughed. “I meant real clothes. Street clothes,” she tried to explain, both to David and to the amused server. “No… it’s so wet. A pot of tea, please. That tarragon mint blend.”

“Sure thing,” the server said, “For one or…” He let the question trail off into innuendo.

“Make it for two,” David put in on cue. “And I’m done with this cup.” He gestured to the half-empty espresso cup before him. “It’s cold now, anyway.”

“Back in a jiff,” the server said, turning toward the kitchen.

“I can’t believe you lingered here long enough to let espresso go cold, as busy as it is in here today,” Sarah ventured once they were alone again.

“I was working on a poem,” David confessed.

“You’re a poet?  Are you published? Can I read your stuff?”

“I am, when I’m not wearing bike pants and delivering documents around town,” David answered, taking each of her questions in order. “I’ve published a couple pieces here and there,” he continued. “And as to reading it… the stuff I’m working on right now needs to steep a bit.”

“Poems steep?”

“Just like tea,” David said.

His smile, Sarah observed, was a gentle one, and his blue eyes danced with merriment – no – enthusiasm –  when he spoke about his art.

“So, why are you a bike messenger, then?” Sarah asked, and then immediately apologized, “Oh, wait. Was that too nosey? I’m sorry.”

He shook his head. “It’s a fair question.” He took a minute to compose his answer. “I like to be outside. I like to meet different people. I hate to exercise, but this way I get paid to do something physical… and the whole time, I’m writing poetry in the back of my head.”

“But you do put it on paper, right?”

“Eventually. When it’s ready.”

“I always wanted to write,” Sarah confessed. “I got pulled into the family brokerage before I even finished college. Now, Mom’s name is on our letterhead, but I’m running most of the day-to-day.”

“You seem successful.”

“How can you tell?”

“You’ve upgraded to larger suites in the same building twice in two years,” he began, ticking off points on his fingers. “The mood in your office is usually positive – even when there’s a problem that comes up, you and your staff are always pretty happy.”

“And that tells you we’re successful?”

“That and the fact that you’ve nearly quadrupled the volume that goes through our service.”

They laughed at that together, their voices mingling like tea and lemon – not matching but complimenting each other.

The server brought their tea at that moment. “Sorry to take so long,” he said.

“It’s not a problem,” Sarah said. “For me at least. David, do you have to be anywhere?”

“Free afternoon,” he said.  He reached for the pot, one of those round glass ones with the infuser basket, but the server stopped him.

“It needs to steep, still,” he said. He left, then returned with cups and saucers, napkins, spoons, honey, lemon, and a plate of crescent-shaped cookies. “Have some lemon moon cookies,” he said. “On the house.”

“Thank you,” David and Sarah said at the same time.

They waited in silence to be left alone again, for the tea to steep, to see who would speak next. Finally, Sarah decided the brew was ready, and she poured cups for each of them. “It’s hot,” she warned automatically.

“So are you – oh, God, was that my out-loud voice?” David laughed. Then he shrugged, “Well, you are.”

“I’m not sure what to say to that,” Sarah responded, stirring honey into her tea. “Thanks, I guess.” She watched his face for a long while, then nodded once, and asked, “Would you like to have tea again sometime… maybe on purpose?”

David squeezed lemon into his cup of tea, then dropped the spent rind on his saucer. “I was about to invite you to the pub down the street.”

“Now?” she asked.

“Saturday.  Seven-thirty. There’s a poetry slam. I’m reading.”

“I’d like that,” she said.

She sat with him for another thirty or forty minutes while they sipped their tea and ate the cookies (“Oh, God, these are heaven!!”)  By the time they left, the crowd had dispersed and the rain had stopped.

The next three days flew by, but on Saturday she met David at the pub, and he introduced her to the owner and some of the regulars. The event wasn’t truly a slam, in the pop-culture sense of the word, just a night of original poetry from local writers.

David was last. When he took the stage he looked right at Sarah and gave her a cocky wink. “This one is brand new,” he told the people in the audience. “It’s called ‘Steeping’.”

Image copyright Olu Eletu via UnSplash, used with permission.

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

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

Dear Diary by Krista Davis

berry scones 10Dear Diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author: Krista Davis

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

Polkas, PotLucks, and The Final Next by Jeanette McGurk

Mother’s Day Weekend, I went to a “Celebration of Life” ceremony for my Dad’s best friend Satish. We gathered at The Spirit of the Centennial by Raoul Jossetwhat used to be the Woman’s Museum at Fair Park in Dallas.

Fair Park is an anomaly in Dallas, where there is little love for anything with a bit of tarnish on it. Somehow though, Dallas developers have been slow to demolish this group of Art Deco buildings.

This particular building has a fascinating history, as most old buildings do. Before it was a failed Woman’s Museum, it served as an administration building. And before it was an administration building, it served the community as a coliseum for livestock auctions by day, and a music hall by night.

The front entrance has a nude female statue looking very much like the Venus De Milo, only she is rising from a cactus. Perhaps the rest of the world would find her tacky, yet both my mom and I loved her. Instantly.

It is certainly a place that feels like Satish, the man we have come to celebrate. He was definitely the Venus D’Milo blossoming from a cactus. As I think this, I feel his shimmering presence, my father’s best friend. I can see his face, crinkled in laughter.

And as we walk into the door, there he is greeting us from beyond the grave. There is a table filled with watches, watch faces, leather straps, larger clocks, all displayed in an old fashioned box with different compartments.

The little sign says, “Take One”.

I fondly remember Satish’s watch phase. He would buy ancient dead timepieces, nurse them back to life, re-swizel them and give them to friends. We show our wrist to the others around us, sharing his love with Satish Originals wrapped around our wrists.

We continue further inside and deliver offerings to the potluck room. My oldest happily denotes our hummus as vegetarian; she takes it upon herself to read the ingredients on the dip next to ours and proclaims it in need of a vegetarian sign as well.

After the all-important work of labeling, we follow the crowd into a large gathering room. Somewhere out of site is a projector flashing pictures of the family on a huge wall. It is good to see his happy face surrounded by family.

Time arrives for the formal part of the celebration and we’re ushered into a small auditorium. An eloquent man rises to speak, and with the ease of conductor, he directs us through a symphony of laughter and tears. He speaks of death as a gift of appreciation for the people we lose, a thought that strikes me as true though I’ve never considered it before.

It has been about two weeks since Satish has died and it is sinking in that I will never delight in one of his lively tales again. I mentally chastise my terrible memory, forbidding it to forget his voice, his laugh.

Before the presentation even started, a man tapped me on the shoulder and told me that as a 52 year old black man, he had been unable to find a job until Duke hired him. He proudly says this changed his life.

time

The man sitting next to him was younger and Indian. He seemed shy but in a rush, he spoke of how Satish mentored him, took him under his wing, and helped him on his life and career path.

A series of speakers take the podium…

A college friend touches on the brilliance of Satish, something I forget often because he was so wonderfully silly. All my Dad’s friends are brilliant, but Satish, he was special. He attended ITT, the MIT of India. Several of the men in the room attended ITT, but they all defer to Satish as the most brilliant: 53rd out of the 3000 accepted and he graduated 2nd in his class.

And yet, it was his humanity and love of people that stands out above the fact that he was google long before there was a google.

Another man comes to the podium, this man worked with him at Parkland hospital. He calls him Duke and shares several stories about the real difference Satish made in the lives of the people he came into contact with. Heads were nodding up agreement throughout the audience and he finishes with a quote from Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

They play Bill Withers “Lean On Me”

Most funerals share the stories of those from the best light, for Satish, it felt no one could full capture his light with mere words. I look at my father; he stares straight ahead. As tears roll down my face, I see he is holding them in. He reaches over and holds my daughter’s hand, as the young and old do, she comforts him.

The last speaker is Satish’s youngest daughter. She is amazing as she captures the warmth, humor, and wit of her father. She carries us through the journey of his life: the early days, his crazy jokes, his heart attack 12 years before…and the final hour of his life. I am in awe of her strength in this hour of loss.

We drift back to share a meal together as they play Man of the Hour by Pearl Jam.

I slip away to the bathroom and blow my nose and as I look in the mirror, I hope my fellow celebrants focus on the PotLuckfood and ignore me. All my makeup is gone and I look like a swollen turnip.

I fill my plate and sit down. It is amazing what good samosas’ and mint chutney can do for the soul.

The celebration ends with folk dancing. Satish and Carol met in a folk dancing class. Two kids from two different parts of the world embraced in their love of different cultures twirling in celebration of life. It is fitting that their goodbye would bookend their hello; and what a wonderful goodbye.

We gathered for food, dancing, remembrance, and love. I am profoundly grateful for the Satish time in my life. I slip a tiny watch face into my purse, devastated there won’t be more time with this man.

Back at the house, Mom and I plop on the couch, exhausted. We have a moment alone and we reflect on the ceremony. We talk about how good it was, but even with the cheer and happy funny memories it was hard.

Death is hard. 

Then Mom says aloud the fear in the back on my head. Satish was 69. My Mom is 69. “I guess I am at the age where friends are going to die,” she says. Then my Mom starts to cry. I join her.

It is now out there in the open, just as scary as it was in my head. The inevitable “What’s Next” in our lives. Birth. Adolescence. Adulthood. Old Age. Death. And the tick, tick, ticking of the clock towards The Next for my parents.

Time is running out and I know, one day, in the not too distant future, they will be gone. I can’t say this to my Mom. I just can’t, so instead I say, “Mom, you were so right about having kids. They fill my heart.”

Moments later, the kids and my dad emerge from their walk to the pond for stale crackers from the pantry for the hungry fish. Mom and I quickly put death back on the back shelf of our minds, mostly hidden and as far from our daily thoughts as possible.

The next morning is Mother’s Day. We feel lighter with death hidden behind thoughts of flowers and breakfast in bed. Later in the morning, Mom and Helen go sit on the porch.

Surrounded by men of science – her father, my father, Satish – Helen is quite certain that the big bang happened without the aid of a creator. “Maybe there is a creator,” Mom offers. She asks a series of questions to prod Helen’s thought process. Who created the molecules that created the bang? How did something start if there was absolutely nothing to start it?

I see her ten-year old face contorted in the way it does when she is deciding whether or not to keep her own opinion or consider a new one.

Of course this whole set of hows and whats always makes my head hurt. I always go back to who created the creator.

Still, we are here. We exist somehow until we don’t. I have no idea what comes next. Lots of people feel certain they know but I never have.

I hope we have a next that somehow involves spirits no longer separated by bodies and picture us merging together. I am comforted by the thought of merging together with my grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, children and parents into some super spirit.

milky-way-1023340_1280

Who knows? Maybe all the love and light and one place caused the big bang, exploding into a new universe of life. It seems as plausible to me as any other theory.

Until that next comes for the people I love and for me, I am going to enjoy the now.

When the final next does come, I hope people will do the polka through their tears, eat some roast beast with horseradish sauce, and compare my living years to the Venus de Milo blooming out of a cactus.

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/.

A Peek Into Our 100 Day Projects

I believe that in order to live the kind of life we desire, we must choose to create it. It’s a concept that sounds good on paper, yet making it happen can be harder. It can be especially challenging for creatives. So many choices…so little time. At least, that’s what we tell ourselves.

Sometimes, we need a project that is larger than us to encourage us to carve out the time to tend to creating. So, when the 100 Day Project rolled around, many of the staff here at Modern Creative Live committed to just that: making. For 100 Days.

Melissa introduced you to the 100 Day Project back in April…and we wanted to give you a peek into our projects of some of our staff as we venture into a (US) Holiday weekend…

If you want to follow along, be sure and click on each person’s Instagram Profile.

Kolleen Harrison – 100 Days of Watercolors

 

This is kind of delicious. #100dayproject #watercolor #wordporn

A photo posted by Kolleen Harrison (@kolleenharrison_) on

 

Melissa A. Bartell – 100 Days from Scratch

#the100dayproject #100daysfromscratch #kitchenimprov Sautéed green beans w/ sea salt & fresh ground pepper. #day1

A photo posted by Melissa A. Bartell (@melysse) on

 

 

#the100dayproject #100daysfromscratch #kitchenimprov #day16 Strawberry-rhubarb pie. (Fuzzy’s favorite.)

A photo posted by Melissa A. Bartell (@melysse) on

Becca Rowan – 100 Days of Grace
Read about Becca’s Project in this blog post.

 

 

Debra Smouse – 100 Days of Creative Living
Read more about Debra’s 100 Days Project in this Blog Post.

I confess, I’ve become one of those ladies who… no, not ladies who lunch, ladies who golf. Today was the first day of the Ladies League at my neighborhood course and despite my doubts around the solidity of my game, I signed up for the Tuesday Morning 9-Hole Ladies League. Yes, this takes time away from my availability for clients. Yes, it takes my precious morning writing time. Yes, it will force me out of my comfort zone, because I’ve never really played golf with other women, my usual golf partners are men, like John, my friend Robert and clients. And yes, it forces me out of my comfort zone of my quiet little life here in my quiet little office. It forces me to be social. I am aware that as an extrovert, I need interaction with others, but it’s scary to try and make new friends in your 40’s. Especially when the context is in doing something athletic, something I’ve never excelled in. But the truth is, I love to play golf and today was a good experience. The reminder that yes, in order to create a life I love, I need to sometimes do something a little out of routine and get out of my comfort zone. This is the art of making a life – to do something you love, even if you aren’t great at it because the experience will enhance the quality of your life and spark your creativity. #100daysofcreativeliving Day 14 of #100dayproject #love #soultending

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

Sometimes life isn’t “Instagram Perfect”. We scorch dinner, have a pile of papers that lives on our desk for days, and the piles of laundry are mountainous. Life is messy. Yet, on this ordinary Monday, this pile of freshly laundered handkerchiefs is a reminder of the sacred in the daily tasks and chores that are scattered throughout our lives. I could choose to see the task: the drudgery of folding clean laundry. Or. I can choose to see the sign that I am living the kind of life I dreamed of… When I imagined a perfect partner, I wanted the kind of man who carried a handkerchief because that simple trait spoke of chivalrous characteristics of the type of man who could win my heart and cherish my soul. This is the art of creating a life and the simple sign that we can find what we seek. Day 19 of my #100dayproject – #100daysofcreativeliving #love #soultending

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

One thing I know for sure is that sleep is crucial to the quality of my daily life…yet on rare occasions I rise long before dawn. The waking isn’t by conscious choice, but rather than curse the dark, I am choosing to seize the opportunity to tend my creative life in some way. Upon finding JB’s pillow vacant around 1:30 AM, I slipped into a robe and found him wide awake…his mind too distracted by work matters to sleep. I went back to bed, but my own worries over his inability to sleep continued to roll around in my own brain. He showered. I made coffee and his lunch. He went into work. At 4 AM, I came downstairs to my own office…lit my candles and said a little prayer. It would be so easy to click around the internet and fritter away my time. Instead, I grab a 2nd cup of #coffee and sit down to #write. This is the art of creating a life: to choose myself and my creative life when it could be so easy to just choose ways to numb. This is day 26 of #100daysofcreativeliving for the #100dayproject #love #soultending #amwriting

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

What would you do with 100 days of making?

Notes and Words: Finding the Rhythm by Robin Meloy Goldsby

My father plays the drums. He also tells stories. When I was a child, he entertained our family at dinnertime with colorful observations about playing in symphony orchestras, jazz clubs, and burlesque theaters, mesmerizing us with pitch-perfect tales about fall-down drunks, stuck-up divas, and exotic dancers with names like Irma the Body. Fantasizing about my future as a performer, I listened to the rhythm of my father’s words and dreamed that someday I’d be seasoned enough to tell a few stories of my own. But first, I had to learn a bit of piano playing, memorize hundreds of songs, and spend years negotiating the touchy social situations familiar to most musicians.

piano(new)The idea for Piano Girl: A Memoir came to me after decades of working as a solo pianist in roadside dives, plush Manhattan hotels, and European castles. Playing pleasant background music for listeners and non-listeners alike, I kept my sanity by monitoring the human comedies, tragedies, and mundane miracles drifting past the Steinway. After thirty years of scribbling notes on cocktail napkins and in journals, I began writing my book.

With a dose of cautious optimism, I sent a Piano Girl proposal to Richard Johnston, then the senior editor at Backbeat Books. Richard, who shared my musician’s sense of humor, surprised me with a contract, an advance, and a six-month deadline.

Piano Girl received a Publishers Weekly starred review, an endorsement from BookSense, and landed feature interviews for me on All Things Considered, The Leonard Lopate Show, and NPR’s Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland. Henry Steinway sponsored a Piano Girl reading and concert at Steinway Hall; attended by the esteemed William Zinsser, whose wonderful book On Writing Well had been my desktop bible while working on Piano Girl. His hopeful smile in the audience that night cast a magic spell over the evening and soothed my jangled nerves.

Backbeat Books coordinated a book-launch cocktail party at the Waldorf Astoria. NPR taped the event, which attracted friends, industry professionals, and booksellers from all over the country. I wore an over-the-top red evening gown, played “Night and Day” on Cole Porter’s piano, and signed books. Sipping champagne, I checked out the stylish crowd swirling around the piano, stunned that my childhood fantasy had evolved into a book that people seemed to like. I never thought I would be published, much less with my first submission. But sometimes in the writing business, as in the music business, just showing up for the gig—ready and willing to give 100% —reaps huge rewards. The rosy glow of the Waldorf spotlight faded quickly, but I can still feel its warmth.

What I Learned: Memoirists suffer from the curse of too much material. Constructing a solid outline eased the selection process for me. Before I started writing, I knew exactly which stories I wanted to tell.
As a lyricist, I’ve studied the craft of setting words to music. As a memoirist, I’ve learned to work from the opposite direction, by stringing words together and finding a musical flow. Good music features well-placed moments of silence. The same can be said for writing. By revising constantly, I learned to hear the subtle rhythm of my sentences as I arranged the peculiar themes of my life into beautiful or ugly melodies that made sense. Whenever I got a phrase just right, I experienced a whoosh of elation.

The media hoopla surrounding Piano Girl stoked my ego, but it couldn’t compete with the contentment I had experienced while writing—the bliss of finding the lore of a story or discovering the musical threads connecting the chapters of my life.

Advice: Writing presents the same challenges as learning a musical instrument. There aren’t any shortcuts. You need passion, patience, and long hours of practice—every single day— until you get it right. Savor the tiny victories as they’re happening, and you win the artist’s race one step at a time. Don’t wait for the book-launch party to break out the champagne. Instead, revel in the honest victory of each well-crafted sentence. Celebrate! Remember that the joy of writing reveals itself when you make your story sing. Practice as much as you can, and you’ll find the music in your words. It’s there.

About the Author: Robin Meloy Goldsby

Robin Meloy Goldsby author photoRobin Meloy Goldsby is the author of Piano Girl: A Memoir; Rhythm: A Novel; and Waltz of the Asparagus People: The Further Adventures of Piano Girl. Her newest book, Manhattan Road Trip offers a collection of short stories about musicians.

Goldsby’s career as a musician has taken her from roadside dives to posh New York City venues and exclusive resorts, and on to the European castles and concert stages where she now performs. Robin has six solo piano recordings to her name—Twilight; Somewhere in Time; Songs from the Castle; Waltz of the Asparagus People; Magnolia; December; and Piano del Sol—and has appeared in the USA on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland. Robin is a Steinway Artist. Connect with her at her website.

Rite of Farewell – by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

spray

We choose Indian Break
where the mountains
cup a stream-fed valley
to say a belated farewell.
Evocative of an ancient rite
we try to cauterize
long-seeping spirit-wounds.
We stand in waterfall spray,
let our tears rain
before walking
on separate paths.

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.

Typical Tuesday: How We Live Our Days

TypicalTuesday_RoutinesandRituals

Tuesday, seven o’clock. I wake to sunshine flooding the corners of my bedroom, laying stripes of warmth across the bed. What a relief after days of chill rain and gray skies. I’ve slept longer than usual, but I’m not unhappy about it because finally my body feels rested. I extricate myself from the bed, wiggle around two sleeping dogs and a husband just beginning to stir, and stretch my back for a moment before tackling the stairs to the first floor kitchen. While coffee brews, I empty the dishwasher; when it’s done, I carry two cups of steaming coffee upstairs on a small bamboo tray, just as I’ve done everyday for the past four years we’ve lived in this house.

typical tuesday cup and journalAn hour later – with coffee, reading, and journal writing under my belt – I’m ready for the day. During breakfast (vanilla yogurt with sliced banana and coconut granola) I check in on social media, trying to limit my time and avoid getting sucked down the many rabbit holes of posts, links, and comments.

I am only moderately successful.

Finally, tearing myself away from the interesting world of internet life, I get properly dressed and walk the dogs for about 30 minutes. I call it walking, but it’s more of an amble, with ridiculous amounts of time for stopping and sniffing. I’m resigned to this. My dogs are old, and our morning constitutional is the highlight of their day.

This is the way I start every day. It’s not only typical, it’s ritualistic, as necessary for me to complete as a pilot’s checklist in the cockpit before takeoff.me and dogs typical tuesday

But the hours between 11 and 4 (after the dog walking and before dinner prep) loom large before me. It’s laughable to think that ten years ago a typical day was jam packed with office work, rehearsals, practicing at home, blog writing, book reading and reviewing, plus all the other details involved in homemaking, with scarcely a minute left over to do more than fall into bed exhausted at the end of it all.

During the past decade my daily life has changed drastically, been whittled away by choice and circumstance. Responsibilities have slipped away one by one, almost without my notice. I resigned from the office job I held for 15 years. I have no choral groups to accompany. I don’t sing in the church choir or even attend church at all. When my mother died two months ago my years of eldercare came to an end.

I read, I write, I practice the piano and I play handbells once a week. I walk dogs. I keep house.

Lack of time was a central theme in my writing from 10 years ago. Now, time occasionally weighs heavily on my hands. Do I feel guilty about this? Sometimes.  It’s luxurious, my life – plenty of free time and the resources to do whatever I want with it. I’m certainly not bemoaning it – quite the opposite. I want to make sure I’m a good steward of this remarkable gift. So I worry and obsess a little in my morning journal writing about whether I’m doing all that I should be doing. I make mental lists for the day, lofty lists with goals and ambitions.

But most often I don’t complete them. I wander aimlessly around my house a lot. I gaze out the window.I sit on a bench under an umbrella of blossoming pear trees.

For years I was completely preoccupied with the Dailiness of Living. I’d organize my tasks, make to-do lists, formulate and prioritize in day planners and bullet journals. I’d tick off items one by one and move proudly on to the next.

trees typical tuesdayNow, in these hours between 11 and 4, I’m learning to simply BE. It’s a gift – this ability to wake up each morning and pick and choose what I’ll do with the day, like items off the menu in a Chinese restaurant. One day I’ll choose an hour of reading, lunch with a friend, writing time in the afternoon, some work in the garden. Another it might be a bike ride into town, a stop at the library, and some piano practice before dinner.

Tuesday, four o’clock. The dogs wake from their own afternoon napping. We go out, maybe amble around the block again if the weather’s nice. I come inside and put a CD in the player (yes, I still have a CD player) while pulling together the ingredients for dinner. I might sip a glass of wine while it cooks and read my book, or scroll through social media feeds again to find out what everyone’s been up to during their busy day. By 6:00 Jim is home from work. We eat, clean up the kitchen, walk the dogs (again!), and relax with a favorite TV show before I take a hot bath and go to bed with my book. Maybe I’ll get 20 minutes of reading before my eyes close in sleep.

Simple days, with easy responsibilities. When I’m tempted to chide myself for being less productive than I should be, I remember these words from a wise friend: “Be gentle with yourself. Rest. Be. Grieving is work enough.” I’m trusting that what seems like a fallow period is a time of renewal and rejuvenation for whatever comes next.

The great Annie Dillard writes this: “How we live our days is, of course, how we live our lives.” I’m trying to live these days with gratitude and grace, mindful of the nourishment to be found in quiet, everyday moments and activities.

About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her husband and their two dogs. She is the author of Life in General, a book of personal and inspirational essays about the ways women navigate the passage into midlife. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. If she’s not writing or playing music you’ll likely find her out walking with the dogs or curled up on the couch reading with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) close at hand. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Tinderbox by A.R. Hadley

suitedman1

He stood at the lectern, dressed to the nines.

Who does this guy think he is … Matthew Soren PhD?

“Fundamentally, faith in a higher power, a creator, is rooted in deceit. I will walk you through what led me to this belief. Because you see, I was not always an atheist…”

His words belie his stellar suit. More like a suit of armor. What are you protecting yourself from, Mr. Soren? 

When his speech ended twenty minutes later, the room burst into applause. I looked at the pacified crowd of college students. I watched them disperse and waited until they finished congratulating the handsome man.

Handsome?

I went right up to the knight in his armor, ready to put a chink in it. “What convinces you that you are right?”

“Excuse me?” He turned. His blue eyes traced the contours of my face.

Jesus Christ. 

I snickered. Out loud. Because after all, he didn’t believe in Jesus Christ.

“Are you a student here?”

“No.” Do I look that young? You look naïve. And you are still laughing. Like. A. School. Girl. Hush. 

“Um, excuse me.” I straightened my jacket and my face. “I said, what convinces you that you are right?”

He continued examining me with a subtle sensual scrutiny. “Did you listen to my speech, Miss…?”

“Ms. Carmichael.” I extended my hand, and as we touched, the hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention. Military attention. “And, yes, I did listen. I took notes.”

Arching an eyebrow, he smirked.

“I heard you were lecturing. I wanted to hear your speech. I teach literature, but I’m also a minister.” Ah, there’s the pity, over his face like a wet blanket. 

“If you took notes, you should know I already answered that question in—”

“—in your speech.” I finished his sentence. I can play this game. “You don’t do personal interviews then?” I peered at him, pretending he didn’t intimidate me. But he did. Unexpectedly so. It was his eyes. Blue like my favorite pair of jeans. Confident and blue. A perfect complement to his jet black hair.

I want to slide my fingers through it and… Stop it!  

“How personal do you mean?”

Argh! He didn’t miss a beat and the inflection in his voice only meant one thing. He caught me ogling. Those denim eyes studied every inch of my body with the precision of a stealth flier. “Mr. Soren…”

“It’s Matt.”

“Matthew, I would really like to ask you some questions.”

“To disprove my beliefs?”

“Your theories.”

“Beliefs, Ms. Carmichael.”

“It’s Tracey.”

“Would you like to prove me wrong over coffee, Tracey?”

Smooth, Matthew.

No wonder he convinces students to abandon any shred of spiritual curiosity. “Have you ever studied the cell, Mr. Soren?”

He smiled and cleared his throat. “Do you think there is a Christian argument I am not familiar with, Ms. Carmichael?”

“I’m not arguing.”

“Indeed. What is your motivation then?”

“The cell has…” He interrupted the start of my sermon merely by standing taller, if possible, because he already had a good six inches over me, and I wore heels, but nevertheless, he stood taller and he inched forward. His smile spread, and that obnoxious grin coupled with the yummy smell of him, probably Temptation or Obsession or some other aptly named cologne, all of him, rendered me practically speechless. I. am. Never. Speechless.

“Have coffee with me.” He brushed my bangs away from my eyes. “I’m not asking.”

Ahem. Neck hair. Prickle. Tickle. “What is your motivation?” Was that my voice? A mousy squeak?

“To kiss you.”

“To kiss me?” I fumbled. The entire length of a football field.

“Yes. Would you like me to demonstrate my motivation, here?” He looked around. “In the classroom?”

I recovered. “The brain—” Almost.

“What?” He laughed.

The brain. You have one. Speak.

“In the time it took for you to look at me like that—”

“Like what?” He managed to press closer to me. Space didn’t exist between us.

None.

“In the time it took for you to look at me, to suggest kissing me, to step forward, not to mention the blood that’s probably rushing to your lower extremities, not to mention the fact that you are continuously breathing.” He cupped the nape of my neck. “And that…” I stammered. “…all of it — a million little synapses are occurring in your brain. Right now. Instantly. Doing things you don’t even have to think about. You just do—”

His lips fell against mine.

You just do. You just do. You just do. 

I opened my mouth. His tongue slipped in, swirling, tasting and silencing me. Synapses on fire.

Brain… No. No thinking. Think. Think. Think.

I pulled away. Dizzy. Discombobulated.

Why is he having such an effect on me? An atheist. Jesus. That’s right, Tracey, only Jesus can save you from the sin of wanting to bed an…

He took my hand. “There’s a great little cafe on 8th.” He jingled the keys in his pocket. “I’ll meet you there.”

“You brought your car?”

“Yes.”

“And it was made at a factory, by hardworking men and women, as well as the parts?”

“Yes.”

“And have you met them, those people?”

“No.”

He knows I’m baiting him. He’s allowing it. Because he wants to silence me with his prowess. “Then your car, it must have come about by chance. No one created it, correct?”

The handsome devil smiled and shook his head. “Oh, we will have fun together.”

My face flushed. The last time I turned the color of a rose bush I was probably fifteen, with a crush.

This is insane.

“Fun?” I tilted my flaming red head to the side.

“You can spend all night trying to convince me.” His irises’ danced, wining and dining me. “I am very motivated.”

The suit and the promise of what was underneath of it left me out of my mind.

My brain.

I’m a goner. He put a chink in my armor. Lord help me. Save me. Forgive me of my sins. 

“All night, huh?” I grinned.

I’ll have you calling out the Lords name, Mr. Atheist Matthew Soren PhD, before the night is over. 

About the Author: A.R. Hadley

ARHadleyBioA.R. Hadley has been a creative writer since elementary school, however, she all but gave it up after her children were born, devoting herself to the lovely little creatures, forgetting the pleasure and happiness derived from being imaginative.

No more.

She rediscovered her passion in 2014, and has not stopped since — writing essays, poetry, and fiction. A.R is currently working on a set of novels as part of a romantic trilogy, and also dabbles in penning short stories.

Day or night, words float around inside her brain. She hears dialogue when awakening from sleep. She is the one who has been awakened. Writing is her oxygen.

Connect on Twitter and Facebook.

Sunday Sanctuary: The Wisdom of Little Girls

SundaySancturary_WithDebraSmouse

When I was a little girl, I pretended to be a grown up. 

I gathered my beloved books and played library, carefully taping cut pieces of notebook paper in the backs of my Nancy Drews,their yellow spines lined up in perfect order. The Trixie Beldens were on the next shelf, soft-back cream nancyDREWBookscovered tales that I knew I would suggest to any of my preteen visitors needing books to satisfy. And though I had outgrown them, the picture books were there, too.

I ran across one of my old picture books about ME and my pet giraffe a few months back as we were reorganizing our books, and yes, there was still a piece of notebook paper taped inside just waiting for library visitors to check out this.

I may have had some original books in my childhood library, too.

Riffs off of Nancy’s adventures, a horse loving heroine named Jamilyn, and a some cobbled together poetry inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses.

I believed being a librarian would be one of the most wonderful jobs in the world. Surrounding myself with books guide souls towards exciting stories and characters to fall in love with seemed rewarding.

nancydrewcookbookWhile awaiting visitors to my library, I perused my Nancy Drew Cookbook and imagined the meals I would create. I marked my favorite recipes with little slips of paper, imagining how wonderful a meal – with candles (and wine) would be!

I played house, as many young girls do. 

My blonde Baby Tender Love sat propped up in one of the chairs at my little table and the Newborn Baby Tender Love was sleeping in the cradle. And no, I wasn’t allowed to have the anatomically correct Baby Brother Tender Love, though my friend Angela did.

Yes, I was curious. Yes, I peeked. Yes, my mother freaked out when she found out.

I had tea parties, sneaking food from the kitchen into my bedroom and serving my babies elaborate pizzas,  topping Bologna crusts with bits of sliced pickle and torn pieces of Kraft Cheese Slices.

My imaginary husband was at work, and while he was away, I made crocheted ropes and made sure our babies wore pretty clothes.

My Barbies played house, too.

Yes, I had Super Star Barbie. Want to know what she did? Hung out at her house and drove to the grocery store in her old Convertible so she could make dinner for Ken. Wearing, of course, a glamorous evening gown.

Sometimes she sang on her stage, but she mostly liked trying on pretty clothes, including a full trousseau  of lingerie. And, of course, sitting on the couch (or going to bed) with Ken in their Three Story Town House with the elevator.

I turned forty-eight this past week, and when I look back at the pretend games I played forty years ago and the traces of desires around adulthood, it’s fascinating how smart she was. The desires of that uninhabited little girl centered on those books – reading them, writing them, cataloging. And she always found pleasure in the aspects of housekeeping and being a wife.

Things society was telling us that we shouldn’t settle for…

I grew up in the era of Women Being Able To Do It All. There was Helen Reddy singing I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar. And the old Enjoli  commercial seductively serenading us about the woman who can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never EVER let you forget your a man…

Our task was to go out in the world and Making Our Mark. 

gangak2000I went to college and got a degree in journalism, spending several years working in broadcast TV, including a stint at ABC News.

I had babies and juggled their care with various administrative management jobs. I was a Career Woman, wearing suits with shoulder pads and serviceable bras and pantyhose (with control tops). I struggled for balance and was never romanced the way Ken wooed Barbie.

I left behind my imaginings of being a grown up in the big world, because never did I dream of playing office politics, dealing with PTA Moms and Daycare, or commuting to work by plane.

I made plans for perfect trips to Disney World, hoping it would fill the hole of longing I felt to be creative.

“When we traded homemaking for careers, we were implicitly promised economic independence and worldly influence. But a devil of a bargain it has turned out to be in terms of daily life. We gave up the aroma of warm bread rising, the measured pace of nurturing routines, the creative task of molding our families’ tastes and zest for life; we received in exchange the minivan and the Lunchable.”
— Barbara Kingsolver (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life)

My children are now grown and creating their own lives. I am no longer wearing suits though I do wrestle with pantyhose on special occasions. Those serviceable bras are long gone, replaced with lacy renditions Barbie would be tickled pink to wear.

And instead of striving to be the Enjoli Woman, my life has become simpler, channeling the dreams of that little girl.

I surround myself with books and spend my days writing.  I have my own book, written by me, on my library shelf. I am also surrounded by the words of others, here in this space, and that makes me immensely happy and satisfies me in ways TV News never did.

Though I haven’t eaten bologna in more than a decade, I continue to experiment with food and I even love grocery shopping. I feel loved, cherished, and romanced.  Like my little girl self, many of my activities center on my role of keeper of my home, and that makes me joyful.

No, you never could have convinced that twenty-eight year old young mother that keeping house and creating a sanctuary would far out-satisfy her than those shoulder-padded suits. She thought she was so smart, but poor thing was trying too hard to find contentment in a role she never fantasized about.

DebraSmouse_July1974_mclLittle girls don’t dream about traffic jams or failed marriages or careers that aren’t quite fulfilling.

They dream of using their creativity in satisfying ways. They dream of writing books and following their passions. And, yes, they dream of keeping house.

We may not always have our answers to what will allow us to follow our intuition towards a creative life, but I believe that deep down we know.

Some of us dream of big careers or being famous. And some of us dream of books and keeping house.

Though I’ve grown wiser through age and experience, I can’t help but see that I was pretty clear what I needed to live a happy and creative life when I was a little girl.

It just took me forty years to remember how wise she was.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

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

Your New Moon Creative (Full Flower Moon)

When it came to the desire to build connection and community here at Modern Creative Life, we decided to offer prompts to inspire creativity. Our #NewMoonCreative Prompts  are shared with you as the moon cycles to “new”… this is the traditional time to launch new efforts and open ourselves to creativity.

And we circle back on the date of the Full Moon to see what was created.

The full moon will bless us tonight, which means it’s time to celebrate how our creative endeavors have come to bloom. We have a tiny offering this month in response to New Moon in Taurus and here is a taste of what was created in response to our “New Moon Creative” prompts:

New Routines….

My most sacred morning ritual has changed. After thirty years of believing that coffee can only be consumed with heavy splashes of cream, there is a new routine with my coffee: a tiny spoon of turbinado sugar and a heavy pour of freshly brewed coffee. My first sip is still a prayer, but without the disguise of creaminess, I’ve discovered that the 2nd and 5th and even final sip are more prayerful and holy as the dance of bitter, earthy, nutty, and cocoa notes glide across my tongue. I could have never predicted that one less step in my ritual would give me so much more. This is the art of creating a life. To notice the flashes of holiness in the everyday parts of living. This is for day 17 of my #100dayproject #100daysofcreativeliving and for the May 6th #NewMoonCreative Prompt from @ModernCreativeLife: “New routines”

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

Sense of Wonder….

I can’t help but stare as I notice the brilliant burnt orange of her first immersion has softened and like a woman who has come into her own, she is more beautiful as she has aged. I gaze into her depths as she unfurls sensually before me: deep bronze at her core with apricot edges to her petals…the deep purple stamen and golden pistil. I gaze in wonder finding once again the traces of sacredness in the humbleness of the origin: an egg-shaped bulb planted deep into the ground in October blossoms into this elegant and breathtaking beauty. This is the art of creating a life. To notice that our physical world is scattered with signs of #love and #faith if we just stop long enough to see them. This is for day 18 of my #100dayproject -#100daysofcreativeliving – for the May 8th #NewMoonCreative prompt from @ModernCreativeLife: “Sense of Wonder” – and for #30daysofmay

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

Wide Open Spaces…

(by Jeannie Croope): Wide Open Spaces! (Banner Elk, NC, where I’m hoping to be in about another six weeks!) #NewMoonCreative

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Daily Devotion…

My best days begin with a cup of #coffee in one hand and a pen in the other. To sit back in my chair, ponder the day ahead, and dive into my own soul and imagination. It’s so easy to get caught up in the rush of Must Do and To Do and Need to Do and skip this time with myself. And, of course, there are days that I do. Skip. And those are the days that feel more challenging. My birthday is just a week away, and maybe one of the things I need is to ensure that I become devoted to this time with myself every morning. This is the art of creating a life: to recognize when I need to turn away from that push to hurry when slowing down is what allows me to get more done. This is day 21 of #100daysofcreativeliving for the #100dayproject The @ModernCreativeLife #NewMoonCreative prompt for 05/11 is “Daily Devotion” #love #soultending

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

(from Jeannie Croope) Today’s ‪#‎NewMoonCreative‬ prompt is “Daily Devotion.” Those wake-up moments when this little creature is all mellow and purry (and hasn’t started the ritual yapping for food!) is truly a time of daily devotion!

jeanie croope NewMoonCreative(1)

Our next New Moon Creative is June 4th – the day we will be launching Issue #2: Nourishment.

We hope you’ll join us and share your creations with us.

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