Same Old Casserole by Bernie Brown

Thanksgiving Dinner

“Aunt Sissy isn’t going to bring that tired old broccoli and rice thing with Cheez Whiz, is she?” Phyllis’s daughter Marin asked her as she snuggled her cell phone between her chin and shoulder. She plunked a Keurig coffee pod into place and set the machine in action. “We’ve got free range turkey and organic vegetables and she brings freakin’ Cheez Whiz, for Pete’s sake.” Marin continued her plea.

“Well, I’m not telling her, if that’s what you think. That casserole is one of her proudest creations. She takes it everywhere. It’s Thanksgiving after all. Thankfulness is in order, not snobbery.”

“Yada. Yada. Yada. Please, Mom. You know she worships you.”

“She worships me because I let her bring her broccoli and Cheez Whiz any place she darn well pleases. And you should, too, young lady.”

Marin laughed with the confidence of a daughter who got just about everything she ever wanted. “Please, Mommy.”

“Okay, I’ll think about it, but I’m blaming you.”

“Coward.”

“Yeah, look who’s calling who a coward.”

***

Phyllis loved Sissy. They’d stuck together during their parent’s divorce, during both their husband’s deaths, during the trying years of squalling infants, stubborn toddlers, and smart-ass teenagers. Besides, Phyllis kind of liked the broccoli casserole. The dreaded free range turkey was dry as dust and didn’t have much more flavor. Give her a Butterball any day. Looked like the day of thankfulness was turning into an exercise in diplomacy even Henry Kissinger would find challenging.

She might as well stop stalling, she knew she’d do whatever Marin asked. Pressing the home button, Phyllis called forth Siri to help with her dirty work. “Call Sissy cell,” Phyllis said with resignation.

“Hi, Phyl, what’s up?” Sissy’s voice was chipper, making Phyllis’s job even tougher.

Phyllis paused, thinking how to begin, but Sissy knew her too well, the pause gave Phyllis away.

“Okay, little sister, what gives?” Sissy didn’t wait for an answer. “You won’t go with me to that Tupperware party. I know you hate that kind of stuff. ”

Phyllis jumped in. “Marin wants you to bring something instead of your casserole to Thanksgiving.” There, the cruel words were spoken. She almost heard Sissy’s feelings get hurt right over the phone. A moment’s uncomfortable silence, and Sissy said, “Thank God. I’m sick of that old thing, too.”

Had Phyllis heard right? Sissy was faking it. “Oh, come on. You can’t fool me. You feel bad and you’re just being noble. Come on, make me feel guilty. I deserve it.”

“You think I can’t be all trendy? I’ll bring something with keeeenwhaaaa in it. I bet Marin will even ask for the recipe.”

***

On the big day, the decorating at Marin’s house did Martha Stewart proud: bowlfuls of fall fruits and vegetables spilled out artistically on the sideboard and the coffee table. Pumpkins in descending size marched down the front steps in puddles of fall leaves; and place cards sat in tiny branches covered in berries.  Not a fold out Hallmark tissue paper turkey in sight.

“Mom, Aunt Sissy, Happy Thanksgiving!” Marin gave them each a sweet-smelling hug and a smile as real as her decorations. It was easy to see why people went out of their way to please her. Her husband Bill, a handsome guy whose brilliant technical mind hid inside a guy who was happiest playing touch football with the kids, relieved them of their dishes.

Sissy whispered to Phyllis, “I bought it ready-made at Whole Foods.”

After a few glasses of wine, Marin announced the turkey was served. Sissy and Phyllis sat next to each other prepared to boost each other’s courage in the face of a tough bird.  The platter circulated, and Phyllis put the smallest piece she dared on her plate. The quinoa followed, and again Phyllis served herself a dainty portion. When the mashed potatoes she had brought made their appearance, Phyllis heaped a small mountain on the bare expanse of her plate. Let Marin believe mashing potatoes with the skins on was brand new, Phyllis knew differently. Her grandmother used to do it to save time, saying, “The skins are where all the vitamins are, anyway.”

Phyllis watched as Sissy cut off a minute piece of turkey, and said, “Wish me luck. Here goes.” And she put the bite on her tongue. Her wary expression turned to surprise.  “This is delicious. How did you fix it?”

Marin said, “I thought it was kind of dry last year, so I Googled this honey mustard marinade.”

The platter passed a second time and had to be refilled half-way round.

Phyllis watched Bill take a bite of quinoa, and with a full mouth, he said, “Good work, Aunt Sissy.” Phyllis followed his lead. Not bad. Kinda nutty. The funny name had made her suspicious, but quinoa was really pretty non-threatening.

“I’ll have to get your recipe,’ Marin said.

At that, Phyllis and Sissy sputtered and elbow-nudged. Sissy nearly choked, suppressing her laughter, and reached for her water glass.

To their utter bewilderment. Marin served Pepperidge Farm heat-and-serve rolls with her   chemical, preservative, additive-free feast. Sissy and Phyllis and even Bill shared a look, the women rolled their eyes, and Bill refilled their wine glasses to the brim.

Marin and Bill’s three boys, who had shared their own table, cleared the plates under Bill’s supervision. They returned from the kitchen walking as carefully as if on a high wire bearing dessert plates holding cranberry clafouti with real whipped cream. Both Sissy and Phyllis knew that clafouti was just a French name for cobbler. They also knew it would be to-die-for, and were grateful it was not the rubbery pumpkin pie their own mother had always served.

Bill placed cups of coffee next to each place, and they all nibbled and sipped like bears preparing for hibernation. Bill shooed the boys into the family room, the women into the living room, and he insisted on tackling clean-up duty on his own.

Amid the clatter and splash of cleaning up, the women heard the announcer and crowd noises and Bill’s occasional cheers and curses while he watched Vanderbilt’s game on the mini flat screen in the kitchen. His clean-up offer had included a scheme to catch up on his alma mater’s game.

Phyllis, Sissy, and Marin collapsed on the living room’s comfy furniture. The sisters told Marin about the Caribbean cruise they planned to take after the holidays.

Marin listened carefully and then, her eyes twinkling, she smiled and said, “Well, I hope you’ll both be around in May. I’m going to need your help.”

“What are you talking about, Marin?” Phyllis asked, a little concerned in spite of Marin’s smile.

Marin pointed to her stomach, holding up four fingers, she said, “Number four.”

Phyllis and Sissy gasped, then all manner of tears and hugs and laughter broke out. “Another baby. Oh, I love babies. Of course we’ll help you, honey. We’ll be your slaves.”

Bill picked that moment to join them, and the three boys came crashing through the room with toy laser weapons, shouting, “Pitchoo, pitchoo,” The youngest fell behind and climbed on his grandmother’s lap.

Phyllis gave him a cuddle and a kiss. “Didn’t your mommy fix the best Thanksgiving dinner ever?” she asked her grandson.

“Yeah, it was really good, but where was that Cheezy Wheezy stuff? I wanted some of that.” Then he hopped down and ran off in search of his brothers.

Marin looked surprised, then caught her aunt’s eye, and blushed. Phyllis and Sissy did not hold back their laughter this time. They exploded. Bill joined in, but seated himself on the arm of his abashed wife’s chair. He put an arm around her and pulled her close.

Marin buried her red face in his shoulder, and then joined in the laughter.

Phyllis watched her much-loved son-in-law plant a kiss in her daughter’s hair, and knew she had much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

And Henry Kissinger got the night off.

About the Author: Bernie Brown

berniebrownI live in Raleigh, NC where I write, read, and watch birds. My stories have appeared in several magazines, most recently Modern Creative Life, Indiana Voice Journal, and Watching Backyard Birds.

I am a Writer in Residence at the Weymouth Center, which is the perfect spot to work on my novel-in-progress.

Enchantment and the Tough Stuff by Briana Saussy

enchantment hard stuff

A few years ago, I was exploring a social media platform, and that thing happened where they suggest that you follow/friend/connect to someone from your past. In this case, the suggestion was that I connect with a woman I knew in middle and high school years ago.

Now this individual was what we would call today a “mean girl” and also a “frenemy.”  She would be nice to your face, super nice in front of teachers and parents; and yet, when you were alone with her, you knew that not only was she totally sure that she was better than you, but she was plotting how to take you down so that you would know it too.

So there I was, staring into the abyss of my laptop screen and looking at her profile. She had placed a single sentence in the “bio” section, and it read:

“If you think you can, then you can. And if you think you can’t, then you are probably right.”

That sentence has stuck with me ever since. But it has only been recently that I’ve really begun to understand it for what it is: an excellent example of a saying that sounds true, real, and hardcore…but is actually just a big pile of BS.

Because, of course, the truth is more nuanced than that. You and I are not binary creatures. We are not a 1 or 0, on or off. When it comes to life – but especially the tough stuff, the gut wrenching, down on your knees at 4am stuff – that’s definitely not how we work.

More often it’s a case of thinking that we cannot do it, but knowing that we have to try anyway, and so we just go for it even though we are totally scared. That, by the way, is called courage.

Sometimes it’s a case of thinking that we can do it, trying our best, and falling flat on our faces.  That, my friends, is what we refer to as learning.

At times we feel numb and dumb and frozen in place – unsure of what we think or feel – knowing that something has to happen and hoping that we can summon up enough of something to take one little step. That, by the way, is what faith looks like.

And of course, on occasion, we are 100% sure that no way, no how, can this be accomplished or achieved – not by us, not today, not ever. But then…lo and behold: we do it! Imagine that.

No, that little statement couldn’t be further from the truth about who we are and what we really need to handle the tough stuff.

When we talk about enchantment and magic it is really easy to assume that we are talking about some airy-fairy, Vaseline coated camera lens way of looking at life that ignores all the sharp angles and tough punches we encounter in the “real world.” That assumption is really anemic. We’d do better to look at history and myth where those who have, since time out of mind, practiced the ways of enchantment: Priests and Priestesses, and Witches, Wizards, and Prophets — who do so in the name of better understanding and engagement with life right here and now.

To live an enchanted life is not to run away from life, but to gallop towards what is most real. Enchantment is what allows us to see that catty, clever, sentence for the BS that it really is because enchantment will always show you not only what is most possible, but what is most real.

And what is real is that sure, sometimes we do feel like we cannot do it, and sometimes we think we can’t, and as it turns out there are lots of things we think and feel that at the end of the day don’t hold water.

What is also real is that there are always choices, always options, always fresh starts and new pages to turn, and new roads to travel and – thank the heavens – many ways to travel them.

What is most real is that you have ways and means available to you that are 100% unique to who you are – they cannot be repeated or replicated by anyone – and for that reason alone no one gets to determine what you can or cannot do.

Those of us who think we can’t are not probably or otherwise right.  We just need to think a little harder, dig a little deeper, and see with a little more clarity, feel with a little more heart. That is exactly what living an enchanted life helps us do – enchantment is not afraid of the tough stuff. It is made for it.

About the Author: Briana Saussy

briana_bioHi, I’m Briana! I am a writer, teacher, and spiritual counselor, and I am part of a growing community of soulful seekers, people who are looking for wholeness, holiness and healing – for better, more rewarding lives.

The best way to work with me and begin living an enchanted life right here and now is to register for my year long course of fairy tales and magic – Spinning Gold.

Sunday Brunch: Processing the Unimaginable

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable

My adopted city, Dallas, is mourning, and hot tears leak from my eyes at random moments. My heart is still sore from the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando last month. My friends – gay, straight, cis, trans, black, brown, white, male, female, liberal, conservative, and those who fall into their own positions on a multitude of spectra – are all facing their own bouts of heartsickness, reacting either to events that hurt our communities, or other, more personal losses.

The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down

We turn to social media for information, for solace, for the sense that even if we are geographically separate from the people we most love, the digital world keeps us together.

And learn to live with the unimaginable

And we are overwhelmed.

Or at least, I am.

It’s easy enough to switch the channel away from CNN or the local news, to turn off cable entirely, and step into the reality-free bubble of endless streaming episodes of “comfort television.” (For me, that involves Gilmore Girls, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and even, though some might think it odd, The West Wing.) Lone Sad Guitarist

Much more difficult is disconnecting from the internet. I live so much of my life online that ignoring email is like ignoring a ringing phone, and taking a step back from Twitter or Facebook is tantamount to taking up residence in a cave in the wilderness.

But there are times when taking a break is the best thing, the only thing, I can do if I want to retain any semblance of sanity (and believe me, I use that term loosely).

And it’s then that I turn to music.

If my life was a movie, it would be a musical. I was singing before I could talk, and I often tell people that I think in music. More accurately, I think in songs.

My tastes are many, even eclectic, and my inner soundtrack varies often. Sometimes I blast classic rock, and other times, I find the greatest release in classical music.

Several years ago, when my nephew was dying, I listened to Melissa Etheridge’s cover of “Hallelujah,” Bette Midler’s version of “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today,” and the gospel choir rendition of the Beatles’ “Let it Be.” A couple of decades before that, I got through the days after my grandfather’s funeral with endless repeats of Barbara Streisand singing “Papa, Can You Hear Me?”

I don’t pretend to know
The challenges we’re facing
I know there’s no replacing what we’ve lost

I turn to folk music and showtunes more than any other kind of music. I like them because they have the strongest stories, because they have accessible melodies and (usually) discernible lyrics, and because when it hurts too much to be myself, they give me characters to play, even if it’s only for three minutes and fourteen seconds.

I fill my head with music. I stand in the living room and sing. I dance with my dogs (Teddy is tall enough to be a partner, but he’s not good at leading).

I remember random snippets of things that matter – like Noel Paul Stookey (the ‘Paul’ in Peter, Paul & Mary) suggesting to a concert audience that all candidates for public office should be required to sing for their constituents, because while all adults are adept at lying when we speak, it’s almost impossible to lie while singing.

I watch as celebrity after celebrity releases a tribute song.

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable

I used to mock those celebrity tribute songs.

Now, I listen to them, and if I really like them, I buy them. Why? Because celebrities are just people. They’re ordinary people with extraordinary jobs, and writing a song, or joining a chorus of other celebrity singers is really no different than what I do in my living room, except on a grander scale with the potential to also earn money for a designated charity.

Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

The tears continue to flow as I listen to the song that’s helping me most right now. “It’s Quiet Uptown,” from the soundtrack of Hamilton. While it’s technically about Alexander and Eliza reeling from the death of their son, there’s a universality in the emotions of the song, and in the concept of pushing through the worst grief, accepting that the unimaginable happens, and coming, finally to a place of forgiveness and understanding.

Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

I’m not quite ready to interact with the world yet. I haven’t sorted out all of my own feelings about the last few days, and my emotions are raw and too close to the surface.

I do know, though, that we have to – all of us – as Americans, as humans – find a way to come together and move forward and make positive change.

Maybe we’ll do that with laws and policies, but maybe, just maybe, we’ll do that with art, and writing, and music.

Peter, Paul & Mary sang that music was “… better than words. It’s the only thing that the whole world listens to.”  I believe they were right.

Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

Whether it’s angry-girl rock that helps us find our inner strength, a lullaby sung to a fretful or fearful child, or a silly pop number that helps us rediscover joy, even in the midst of sorrow, music is the language that lives in our deepest hearts.

Plug in those ear-buds or turn up that stereo. Choose vintage vinyl or stick with the modern technology that lets us hold entire catalogues of albums in the palms of our hands. Find the song that works for you, and play it on auto-repeat or pick it out on a piano or guitar. Sing in the streets or sing in the shower.

That’s what I’m doing.

At least for now.

If I’m quiet, if I don’t write strings of words about what’s going on in the world, but re-post the writings of a few other voices I resonate with, please understand that I’m still processing the unimaginable events that have hurt my community, my friends, and me.

Most likely, everyone else around me is doing the same.

Have pity
They are going through the unimaginable

 

Italicized song lyrics are from “It’s Quiet Uptown,” from Hamilton: An American Musicalmusic and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Image Copyright: joseasreyes / 123RF Stock Photo

 

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

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

Affairs by Pat West

SeaSaltmargarita

One day he just shows up,
sweet and quiet at first
with a poem.  An electric charge
builds like a coming storm
vibrating up my spine.
I gulp mouthfuls,
While you slept,
I watched you breathe
as the moon rose in the sky.

Night after night
I devour Billy Collins,
a chocolate truffle
on my tongue.

Next one holds me close.
We float down afternoons
on slow rivers of margaritas
and conversations.  I become
a descarada woman
with Jimmy Santiago Baca.
Flick my ruffled skirt, flash
the butterfly tattoo on my ankle,
challenge him to Flamenco.
Later, slurp the last bits
of Immigrants in Our Own Land
from my plate with red-chili lips.

Each time with Sherman Alexie,
a hollow sensation hovers
low in my stomach
like on a carnival ride
beside people on the Rez,
not depressed victims,
but the most joyous Indians
in the world.  I rise and fall
with his metaphors
sweet as cotton candy,
caress his long mane of hair
fanned across red satin sheets.

Lemons, artichokes, eels, love
and despair.  Another all-nighter
with Neruda.  Odes to objects,
foods I pass in life without any  (No stanza break)
attention.  Tonight the onion
and tears I don’t even know
wait inside, seep from my eyes.
Then Pablo starts in about socks.

About the Author: Pat West

PatWestBioPat Phillips West lives in Portland, Oregon. Her poems have appeared in various journals, including Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, San Pedro River Review, and Slipstream, and some have earned nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

Uncoiled Spring by A.R. Hadley

“Colt!”

He huffed and waited ’cause she was always yellin’.

Screamin.

He stood behind a tree, barely peeking around the thick trunk, a new friend cupped in his palms, watching her. Rust colored smudges soiled her petticoat. She looked older, worn, probably ’cause they were leavin’ and probably ’cause she was always yellin’ and screamin’.

“We’ll make it, Earl,” he whispered into his prayer shaped hands.

waggon-wheels-336528_1280His mother turned and faced the other direction. She spit into the eerie orange dirt. “Colt!”

He ran up behind her in an instant. Without sound. “What?” He kept the toad a secret.

“Boy, you scared me. Don’t do that again. Do you have everything ready? In the carriage?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied, eyeing the old, broken down contraption, their only means of transportation, and yet, she seemed certain they could ride out of town in it.

The toad’s skin grated like sandpaper against Colt’s damp palms. He liked it though. He could feel the creature’s throat beating, tickling.

He felt life.

Always had.

The same life scurried through the dirt underneath his bare feet, and the dirt meant home. His home, on the wide open land … as far as the eye could see.

“I don’t wanna go.”

“Colt, we’ve been over this.” She sighed and adjusted his plaid collar, straightening him out. There. “You know we halfta go.” She knelt and placed her hands over his fists, unaware of the toad and seemingly oblivious to her son’s introspection. “You are the man of the house now.”

“No I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. I’ve told you—”

“—No. Pa is. What about him?” he asked, looking at his grandfather out of the corner of his eye.

Pa McMillan busied himself at the wagon, pulling the frayed rope over the breadth of their load. Colt grimaced, aware of the friction the twisted cable created in between the weathered skin of the old man’s hands.

The wind blew his grandfather’s thin, white hair, and it carried the golden dirt across Pa’s boots and across the plains. The dirt covered everything, leaving nothing untouched, and then it would vanish without a trace.

Poof.

Like Earl, Colt’s dad — not the toad. The toad remained safe inside the nine-year-old boy’s grasp. He wouldn’t let him go. Colt had befriended many an old Oklahoma creature, and they all had been named Earl. The four letters kept his father alive, reminding him. Mother chose to forget. To leave.

“Pa is my father.” She corrected him. “He’s not the man of our house. That’s you, Colt. Now, where is your sister?” She tilted her head up and looked about the prairie as she licked her thumb, and then she turned her attention again to her son, wiping a smidgen of clay from his dimpled cheeks.

“Stop it, Mommy,” he said, wincing, turning his face.

“Emma Jean,” she cried. Always Emma Jean, never Emma. “Go find her. Go on.” She waved him off. He blinked up at her. She stood, a statue, her gown marrying itself to the dirt.

“Go on, boy.”

Colt ambled away, strutting like his father, that’s what Pa always told him anyway. “Boy, you’re slow and thinking, just like you’re papa.” He must’ve heard it a million times.

Colt pulled his thumb back slightly, revealing an opening about the size of a dime. He peered down into the cavern of rocky-mountains-593156_1280his fists, and then he stroked Earl above his eyes, consoling his pet, assuring the brown-spotted confidant they would make it. Oh, the ride would be long alright, through uncharted territory.

Over mountains.

Tall mountains.

Scary mountains.

Colt had heard stories about them parts. He knew only one safe passageway existed through those Rocky Mountains, and people had died doing it another way, the wrong way, and for all Colt knew — his father had been one of the wrongs.

“There, there, Earl, don’t cry,” he whispered, stroking the amphibian’s skin. “We’ll be safe. We’ll make it alright.”

“Who in the devil are you talkin’ to?” Emma Jean appeared next to her brother, holding a rifle. The skirt of her pale pink dress was filthy.

“Nobody.” Colt closed his fists tightly and shifted his eyes, squinting as he turned toward the sun, toward the carriage, toward his new life and away from the old. The old house, the old path and the old dirt.

“Come on, kids,” Pa called, interrupting. “Get in. Your mother’s ready.”

“Aww, Pa, I was just shootin’ at some bunnies. I was gettin’ ready to go back for more,” Emma Jean said, stepping into the carriage.

“There’ll be plenty of time for shootin’ later,” her grandfather said, taking the gun and helping to hold her weight steady with the palm of his well-weathered hand.

“I can get in by myself.” Colt nodded.

Pa McMillan winked a reply, and then he took his place up front with the horses, next to his daughter.

“Scoot over, Em, you’re hoggin’ the whole seat.” Colt shoved his weight against his sister.

Emma Jean snorted and smirked. “Oh, I wish I’d seen some hogs.” She gripped the side of the carriage and peered across the plain, licking her upper lip.

“All you ever think about is killin’.”

“No, I think about boys too.”

“That’s gross.”

“I bet there will be some boys over on the other side of those mountains. I’m gonna teach ‘em how to shoot.”

The wagon began to move, startling the siblings. Emma Jean sat back and folded her hands on her lap like a lady; the black underneath her fingernails said otherwise.

Colt leaned over the edge, watching the wheels turn. They continued to spin inside his pupils, reflecting the road he hoped to remember, reflecting his whole life.

All he ever knew.

littlefrog1He moved his thumb a sliver and spoke in a whisper: “It’s okay, Earl. Shh. It’s okay.”

“What is that?” Emma Jean’s eyes spread like the wings of an eagle. She scooted closer. “Let me see.”

“No! Get away.” Colt gave her his shoulder. He leaned farther over the edge and opened his palm, releasing Earl in an instant.

Hop. Hop. Hop. Free. Free. Free.

“Go, Earl, go, please,” he whispered. He didn’t know how it was possible, but he longed for the little toad’s company as much as he wanted to see him set free.

Colt gripped the door, extended his neck and stared at Earl, until he was merely a speck, a dot, a piece of the orange dirt, shrinking and shrinking, a mirage — the toad, his house, the prairie, the place his father could find them when he returned.

Everything. Gone. In a blink.

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.

New Moon Creative: Moon in Cancer

Here in the United States, it’s Independence Day. When Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence about Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, I have to believe that “creation” is a part of that.

Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of life, we forget that especially for our happiness, we need to create. So, what would happen if you were to commit to your own creative life just for the next seven days?

What ways could you open up to LIFE and your creative needs if you dug into these juicy and nourishing prompts? In what ways are you celebrating LIBERTY when you create? And, of course, how does nourishing your creativity bring your happiness?

While all of us at Modern Creative Life hope that each of our readers is indulging their creativity (even if it’s in small ways) fairly frequently, we are also dedicated to the idea that we get to choose our own paths to creative living each and every day of the year, by writing, painting, cooking, or even making and artful arrangement of the books on our shelves.

As well, we believe it’s important to honor the cycles of life that form currents through all our lives. As part of our ongoing celebration of those cycles and currents, we will be releasing a collection of prompts to inspire you on your creative journey.

Since the New Moon is traditionally been a time of new beginnings, so here is our 2nd Round of Prompts for our Nourishment Issue in honor of Independence Day AND the New Moon in Cancer:

New Moon Creative Prompts (Moon in Gemini)

Write a poem, essay, or short story. Take a photograph and leave us with the image alone. Arrange some flowers or cook a beautiful meal.  Create a photo essay.

Post your creation in your blog and/or share your work on Social Media, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or all of those spaces. Use the tag #NewMoonCreative so we can find you. Leave a comment here (with a link) so we can read your words and lovingly witness what and how you are creating.

On the Full Moon (July 19th), we’ll post a collection of the work that was inspired by these prompts and post them here, with links back to the full work (and you).

Sunday Salon: Let Freedom Ring

Sunday Salon with Becca Rowan

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning here in Michigan on this American holiday weekend. We’re celebrating our nation’s birthday with picnics, fireworks, pool parties, and sailing on the lake.

But I want to interrupt the festivities and get serious for a moment.

bigstock-Us-Constitution-We-The-Peopl-19624112One of the most important freedoms we celebrate today is freedom of speech, or freedom of information. We live in a time when more information is available in more forms that at any other time in the 225 year history of this country. Day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute, we are bombarded with information. Between e-mails and cell phones and texts and internet and 24-hour international news cycles, it is always available, and it never ends.

Our TV’s and computers bring us real-time images of murders, bombings, natural disasters, as they occur from every corner of the globe, all broadcast on our huge high-definition screens. We hear the cries and screams of those affected directly in our ears through digitally enhanced audio headphones. If we can’t take it anymore, we can always change the channel, but still run the risk of a popular show or movie featuring it’s own murder and mayhem.

Sometimes, like a cranky preschooler, I want to clamp my hands over my ears and scream, BE QUIET!

It’s true:  horrible things do happen in the world. It’s also true that if we are to be good citizens of the world, we need to be cognizant of them.

But I wonder.

What would happen if we tried to reframe the message? What would happen if we countered every story about violence and disaster and hate with another story about peace and compassion?  Can our creative work be about highlighting our shared stories instead of glamorizing our differences?

I wonder.

What would happen if more of the messages we released into the world on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram were messages of truth, empathy, beauty, caring? What if we used our social media feeds as a tool to incite hope, generosity, and empathy, instead of to spread anger, irritation, and sarcasm?

I wonder.

I believe words matter. I believe images matter. I believe music matters. I believe all of these things frame opinion and thought in mysterious ways we can barely explain. Because in this 21st century, the Media really does carry The Message.

The Sunday Salon is a place where I contemplate the intersection of life and art. I believe our mandate as artists in this information age is to use our creative intelligence and ability to promote good – to advocate healing and acceptance and understanding and wisdom. To reflect beauty, invite contemplation, and offer common ground.

Creative friends, we have awesome power, with untold avenues and opportunities to put a message into the world, to plant seeds of change. In the United States, we have amazing freedoms with which to do that.

Use that freedom wisely and well.

Let it ring out all over the world.

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.

Poster Children of the New Apocalypse by Julie Terrill

Through the Lens

I placed some bills into an open guitar case and sat down on the pavement of Knoxville’s Gay Street to listen to a group of street musicians.

Beautiful chaos

I enjoyed the conversation amongst fellow creatives as we shared a quart of luscious lemon gelato that I had purchased a few doors down.  I asked the name of their group, they shrugged and quickly decided upon Poster Children of the New Apocalypse.

Teresa, on the fiddle, and Rocky, playing the washboard, were the most talkative in the group and most open to my presence and my camera. While we talked I occasionally took photos and paused to show them the images.

Teresa

Soon Nomad, the guitar player, asked for a portrait. He was pleased to have a photo for his family to see and know that he is well, happy and playing his music.

Nomad

I spoke at length with Rocky, who possesses a great deal of what I refer to as “uncommon” sense. She spoke of her faith that tomorrow will be safe; she will eat and will find a place not just to lay her head but to actually sleep. Two years ago she made a conscious decision to trade a traditional lifestyle for one of creativity and exploration.

“There are a lot of us,” stated Rocky, “that don’t think normal society is what is best for us. I have played with amazingly talented musicians and seen every corner of the country. This never would have happened if I stayed where I was.”

Rocky

At home while editing the day’s images, I noted the reflections of onlookers.  Many of them kept a distance, averted their gaze, or stood watching with closed-off body language. Somehow I had not noticed them in the moment. I can only hope that those casual observers recognized the creative joy and beauty that was in their presence.

About the Author: Julie Terrill

julieterrill_bio

Julie Terrill is a photographer and writer with a passion for travel. For ten years, she’s told stories of empowerment through the lens of her camera in an array of unique landscapes, environments, and projects – from a shelter for children rescued from trafficking in Thailand to Faces of Courage, complimentary portrait sessions she offers to cancer patients in her community. She is a photographer and facilitator at Beautiful You and Soul Restoration retreats.

Connect with her at: JMTerrillImages.com

Nourishing the Soul by Kelli May-Krenz

Instrumental_Care of Creative Soul

Remember those pieces of YOU that you loved about yourself when you were little? Remember how it felt when you woke in the morning? Before real life and responsibility hit and suddenly some of those closest dearest morning loves fell by the wayside.

By nourishing ourselves we can climb over this mountain of having lost those childhood loves.

Today let’s remember a few things we would love to feel again when we wake up. Joy for the birds singing – so much Webthat we take our coffee, tea, water and sit outside for ten minutes and just listen and sip. Music- yes, music makes us feel happy and alive. Giving the spirit a pick me up and mentally escaping to a happy place.

Perhaps, we create a ten minute music morning with the soul stirring stuff that makes us feel like we can (and will) do anything.

Allow yourself to be empowered by your soulful stirrings. They matter the most. No more dusting them away with I am too busy, I simply have no time for me. Let’s be mindful and practice finding a few lost loves that helped us be our best in the past.

Practicing a daily new routine starting with ten minutes will start your mind dancing in a new direction.

Feel your soul.

Affirmations telling yourself that you deserve this are so important. So perhaps you being with telling yourself, “I deserve these ten minutes. I need these ten minutes. I will give myself this gift.”

Remembering how to love yourself and practicing is the only way to true happy. We all deserve true pure happy. Each of us has our own path but, I believe we all have the path to goodness, grace and happiness.

Lots of memories just lay under the surface waiting to be noticed again let’s find those most happy to us and reclaim them.

I know this journey of nourishing might seem new to some of you. I also know that just showing up and doing nothing will never feed your spirit. I love affirmations around my studio and home that help me remember good stuff. I have designed a page of affirmations for you to print out and trim out and scatter around your sacred space.

Affirmations with practicing them work. I believe I can, so I will.

Web

While we are working on our being kinder and more loving to ourselves bad memories or feeling might pop up. I suggest you write these down and practice on letting these go. The old patterns in your life that no longer serve you are best left in the past. Write them down and replace them with the opposite feeling.

Practicing this climb to creating more self love in your life will change your days so very much. You will notice how your approach to hard days gets better. Why? Because you are taking care of you. It is all about love. Starting with loving YOU!

I believe this is true as I live this life everyday doing these very things.

Gratefully spilling…

About the Author: Kelli May-Krenz

Kelli May-Krenz BioKelli May-Krenz is an award-winning graphic designer and illustrator with more than 20 years’ experience. Her ability to capture, express and visually communicate the needs and visions of her clients has produced designs and promotional materials for everything from independent boutiques to Fortune 500 companies.

Her new stationery line, Pearl Button’s World, recently debuted at the National Stationery Show – where two of her designs were selected as finalist for Best in Show – and she has been featured in an array of print publications including Somerset Studio, Art Journaling, Somerset Life, Somerset Memories, Somerset Apprentice, Room to Create and Uppercase magazine.

Connect with Kelly on Facebook and Instagram.

Studio Tour: Kerstin Martin

Modern Creative Life Presents Studio Tours

When I started my own business 18 months ago I decided to rent an external office space. As a web designer I can work from anywhere but I wanted a dedicated professional location, it made me feel like I had a ‘proper’ job and eased the transition from decades of corporate life to self employment. I think mostly I was just worried that I would live in my pajamas all day and never leave the house! However, one year into running a successful and growing business I realized that I was ready to move into a home office and allocate the rent money elsewhere (like our mortgage). Best decision I made! While I miss some of the interaction with my former business community, which I still visit, I adore working from home.

I converted our third bedroom, which is quite small, into a cozy office den and I love it. I grew up in a 1.5 bedroom apartment with my mom and two siblings and because of this and my tendency to compromise space for location I am used to making the most out of a small room. My studio is in many ways a perfect reflection of who I am and it is filled with many personal items from my family and my travels. I love lighting candles in here and listening to my favorite playlists on Spotify or my preferred London radio station (thank you Internet!). Having easy access to my kitchen is another perk, now I can make myself a coffee or a healthy snack at any time. In the summers you can often find me doing some al fresco working on the balcony. Another plus is being able to go for spontaneous lunches or walks with my husband on those days when he also works from home. He has is own office corner in our guest room and I treasure being able to spend more time with him.

Having never been much of a 9-5 person I love how working from home allows me to find and honor my own rhythm, which in turn has made me more efficient and happier. Oh, and I also got myself an office assistant! He still needs a bit of training though, I think 🙂

Kerstin1

How we get work done around here!

Kerstin2

My view when I work. I always keep fresh flowers on my desk. There are many reminders of my mom here, who passed away unexpectedly last November: I made the turquoise penholder at a workshop I attended with her when she visited me in Massachusetts, the horseshoe and picture on the right used to hang on her kitchen wall, we bought the colorful cup at our favorite shop in London. My dad painted the picture in the red frame and my sister made the gold frame for me which holds a couple of polaroids from the tulip fields in Skagit County, taken during one of my mom’s visits. The blue glass paperweight is a present from my husband from a romantic weekend in Venice, Italy, about ten years ago. Office assistant on the right, hard at work 🙂

Kerstin3

I love this diary with its weekly overview on the left and room for notes on the right. I try to keep my desk as clutter-free as possible.

Kerstin4

My summer studio! Another thing I love about working from home is moving my office to the balcony when the weather gets nice. Even here I am surrounded by memories of my mom because creating a little oasis on our balconies was ‘our thing.’ When she visited she always sat in the chair to the right 🙂

Kerstin5

The wall behind me when I’m working. I took the photo on the left at my favorite London market, the dandelion on the right during a walk with my mom in my hometown of Cologne in Germany. My mom gave me the cow about 15 years ago. The box in the middle is from her apartment, she bought that at the same London which we both loved visiting. The smaller box to the right is also from London, the three wooden letters on top of the box say YES and are a present from my friend Madelyn Mulvaney.

Kerstin6

When I worked in corporate offices I never liked it when my desk was pushed against the wall because I don’t like sitting with my back to the open room. I need open room in front of me, ideally next to a window. Hence this configuration of my tiny space. My studio tells many stories: wall art to the left comes from my mom’s apartment. Antique wooden dresser from Bath, England, where I was living in a tiny apartment. Wooden box and old scale in front of my desk from Columbia Road Market in London. Office chair from Amherst College where I was the academic coordinator for the German department. I found this chair from the 1970s in their storage and I love it, it’s very comfortable. Sid Dickins tile on the wall to the right, a present from a close friend in Vancouver. And, of course, my office assistant being his usual efficient self! 🙂

About the Author: Kerstin Martin

kerstinmartinbioKerstin Martin is a Blogger and Squarespace Web Designer who specializes in creating stylish and affordable websites for small businesses and solopreneurs.

Originally from Germany she now lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her American husband and fluffy grey cat. She muses about life’s inner and outer journeys on her blog at www.autumndiaries.com

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes