Spirit Guides on the Ancestral Highway by Jeanie Croope

When you travel down the ancestral highway, the things that cross your path sometimes happen in at the most unusual moments.

I’ve always had a curious relationship with the ancestors on my mother’s side, a sense of longing to know them better, physically touch them. I spent much of my childhood time with my dad’s parents, learning to bake at my grandmother’s side, picking vegetables with my grandfather on their farm.

But my mother’s mom died several months before I was born and my grandfather was a rather gruff guy who died when I was 10, taking with him many family secrets. Most of my thoughts about them were filtered through the memories told by my mother and her sisters.

I’d like to think the creative streak that runs in our family came down through Minnie. Her craft was sewing and she would do it hour after hour. All of us kids had little cats made from material that had the front of the cat on one side and the back on the other. Mom would say those cats would line the window sill, straight as soldiers in a row.

As I’ve done some genealogical research over the past year, bits of Minnie’s life have been filled in as I’ve learned a little more about her parents. (I still can’t figure out when they emigrated to America, though! There’s always more to discover. Trying to find records on people named “Wood” and “Granger” in England in the 1800s is not, I’ve learned, a piece of cake!) My fascination with her has continued to grow. Yet the only physical connection I had to this little woman, apart from countless photos, was a stuffed cat.

That is, until one serendipitous moment. Collecting vintage postcards is a passion of mine. I use some in my art, others remind me of places I’ve been or, in the case of the “up north” cards, of the area where my summer house is and where, a short walk away, my mother and her sisters spent their summers with Minnie. I always looked for photo cards that might show the resort where the cottage stood but those that had included house itself were non-existent, perhaps because it was set back further onto the land and in wide shots, the trees blocked it.

As I was going through the alphabetical city list of cards, I picked up those that included lake views and, as usual, most of the cards didn’t appeal. They were too recent. Or they were area attractions that held little personal meaning. They were not the spots on the lake I longed to find.

That is, until I saw one that had a somewhat familiar look. The writing on the front said “Wah Wah Soo,” which was the area of the cottage and it looked like — just at the very top of the card — a bit of the old cottage was visible. Although I didn’t notice it on first glance, I would later discover that an “X” was drawn at the top of the card, with a line dipping into the trees and pointing to a house set back from the shore. It looked very familiar.

I turned it over, surprised to find it had been addressed to my grandparents’ next door neighbor, the woman who served as my baby sitter until I was three. I looked at the faded handwriting in pencil, the date, “Thu., 1940.”

“Dear Grace,

X marks the spot. We have been quite comfortable up here this summer. It hasn’t been too warm here. We will be seeing you all before very long. Love, Minnie L.”

What magical thing brought me to this show — one I often skip — on this day? What led me to this very spot and what was it that brought my grandmother’s handwriting — the first time I had ever seen her handwriting — into my own hands?

Tears ran down my face and I didn’t care who saw.

I’ve long wondered how one can feel so connected to someone they never met. It’s more than a bloodline. It is more than an interest in crafty things or a love of the cottage. I find it deeper and inexplicable. And yet, it is as tangible as the photograph I can touch.

Are we guided by the spirits who have come before us? Do we hear their voices in our heads when we do something we know they’d love? Does their guidance help us form our thoughts and actions, thought we think those thoughts and actions are ours alone?

We’ll never know but I would like to think that’s so. For it seems that Minnie is one of the guides in my life. And with every bit of research — the name on the census document, the death certificate, the marriage license — she becomes more and more real.

My genealogical journey has just started. In less than a year I have found ancestors who were persecuted and died for their religion, another who died in an asylum. I have found farmers and beekeepers, confectioners and shoemakers. I have learned about women who died young leaving large families behind and children who died all too soon. I have even discovered that a dear friend with whom I’d had no sense of family connection was my fifth cousin. But that’s another story.

It has become a quest, this walk down the ancestral highway. It is a dive down the rabbit hole of family trees with deep roots. It can be dark and frustrating and often confusing with information coming from all directions, some spot on, some far off. And yet, with each computer key I tap, there is a sense of those spirit guides, urging me to tell their stories.

And so, down the rabbit hole we go.

 

About the Author: Jeanie Croope

Jeanie Croope bioAfter a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.

A Letter from the Heavens by Christine Mason Miller

I had an astrology reading done for the first time at the end of 2014, right around my birthday. As far as my knowledge of astrological meanings and intricacies before that reading, I knew I was a Scorpio, and that this meant I was fiery and passionate. My husband is a Scorpio too, and whenever we share this, the reaction is always, “Oh, wow!” (I get the impression they think we must have a) fierce clashes, b) wild sex or c) both. Maybe at the same time.) I like the persona of Scorpio—the intensity, the spiritedness—and I’ve always looked at it as something to live up to and honor.

Although the scorpion is not my totem animal—which would mean “I am a very strong person with the ability to inspire others” according to spirit-animals.com—as my zodiac sign, it has been with me for as long as I can remember, serving as a point of reference as I’ve tried to figure out who I am and who I want to be.

This week, I listened to my reading for the first time since it took place. I was struck by how clearly I remembered some parts of it and how quickly I had forgotten others. This was my natal chart, so it involved looking at what was happening at the date, time, and location of my birth, all of which tell a story about that particular time and place. Meaning, there was a very specific arrangement of things in the solar system, around planet earth, that were different from any other time and place. We all come into the world this way—with connections and relationships between the sun, the moon and the planets that are specific to the latitude and longitude of where we are born.

Astrology is something I can’t say I’ve even so much as dabbled in, but I think it’s possible I could get hooked on it without too much cajoling. The engineer in me loves the very precise diagram of where things were when I was born, with lines marking their angular relationship to each other. I love the symbols and the symbolism—the woman who gave my reading, Carol Ferris, uses the language of Greek mythology to tell the story in an astrology chart, so different characters were explained in a familiar context. Being able to visualize these characters and their stories was easy, which enabled me to understand their role in my chart.

After listening to my reading again this week, I walked away feeling affirmed. As in, the things that are going on for me right now internally are, in fact, reflected in the story of my natal chart as interpreted by Ms. Ferris. Which is not to say I got to the end of the recording and thought, “Yep, that’s exactly who I am!” but that I saw the connection between my existence and the vastness of the heavens that surround our planet. They say we’re made of the same stuff as stars, right? So perhaps the stars and the planets and the sun and the moon made their imprint on me the day I was born, which, like, fingerprints, might not necessarily determine my fate, but have been part of me from the moment I took my first breath.

In my search for meaning, understanding and awareness, I’ve read books, watched films, discussed, debated, and prayed. Getting an astrology reading was part of that process. It is helping me make sense of some of the forces at play within myself—my longing for beauty, my ambivalence about certain possibilities, the way I love being at home. I don’t see it as a guide that is telling me what to do but as a letter from the stars that says, “You’re doing just fine. Everything will be OK. Trust us.”

About the Author: Christine Mason Miller

christinemasonmillerChristine Mason Miller is an author and artist who has been inspiring others to create a meaningful life since 1995. Signed copies of her memoir, Moving Water, are now available at www.christinemasonmiller.com.

Sunday Salon: A Room of My Own

Sunday Salon with Becca Rowan

As I write these words, I’m sitting in a soft chair, upholstered in warm buttercream colored fabric, my legs tucked underneath me, my computer propped on the chair’s wide arm. There is a cup of coffee on the walnut cedar chest beside me, along with piles of books I’ve been reading lately – poetry books and memoir and Zen Buddhism philosophy. A summer breeze shushes through the open window, and it occasionally strikes a chord on the wind chimes, which hang from a strong tree branch outside.

There is a desk in this room, a wide topped writing desk, on which stand pictures of my son as a baby, another of my two dogs nestled side by side, and one more of my mother holding my grandson on her lap. A cup filled with pens, pencils, markers and reading glasses is close to hand. There are two heart shaped paperweights which I sometimes use for their original purpose (propping open the pages of a book) or occasionally as something to hold in my hands while I ponder my next move on the page. More books stand in the corner, books I refer to time and again when I need some inspiration to keep me moving – through writing and through life. I’m careful to keep nothing on this desk that doesn’t pertain to writing – no bills, no to-do lists. All those practical matters are taken care of in the kitchen at a small counter I’ve appropriated as a daily desktop.

This desk belongs to me and to my creative work. So does this room.

We just got home after spending six weeks in a rented vacation home in Florida, a lovely home with a heated pool, a water view, within a stone’s throw of  lovely restaurants, shops, and sunsets on the beach. The weather was warm, the sun shone every day, and I began to see the appeal of leaving midwestern winter winds behind for an annual sojourn in the sunny south.

You wouldn’t think there was anything missing from this scenario, would you? And I feel selfish even suggesting there was. BUT, although there was plenty of time for musing, there was no room of my own, no quiet place to retreat where I could enter into the world of my own thoughts and imaginings.

It was novelist Virginia Woolf who first introduced the idea of a woman needing such a room. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write…” she says.  Of course, she referred not only to the need for space,  but also to the need for time. For most women, writing time comes in fits and snatches – after coming home from a job, feeding children, preparing meals, helping with homework, walking the dog, collecting the laundry, watching a soccer game, paying some bills, putting gas in the car, reading bedtime stories …and on and on and on. Finally, at the end of all this, there is a few minutes to gather thoughts together and put them onto paper – that is, if there is one ounce of energy left.

My child care days are over, and my working life has winnowed down to mostly volunteer activities. I have room and time and space in my life to create.  I am so fortunate to have a sanctuary in my house, a place where I can retreat at any time of day to read, write, meditate, listen to music, or even take a nap underneath the cross-stitched quilt my great-aunt made for me when I got married over 40 years ago. The furnishings are feminine, gentle, and meaningful. The room is on the second floor, it’s bright and quiet, and I’ve set my desk in the corner between two windows so I have an expansive view of the yard and street.

It’s perfect. It’s mine.

A room of my own.

 

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.

Eye of the Forest by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

The Green Man sidles
between the trunks,
leaves no shadow
of his presence,
breathes soft mysteries
that travel on currents
sweeping through branches.
No matter how sparse the forest
or dense the woods,
when you walk among copse
or country of trees
The Green Man watches.

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.

Space by Bella Cirovic

I attended a women’s retreat in Oregon’s high desert on the summer solstice last year. It was a week of complete relaxation, soul restoration, and sleeping under the stars. It was exactly what I had been craving after helping my daughter through a long first year of high school and prior to the start of our summer vacation. “What do I want from this week?” is a question I keep asking myself. If I could describe the feeling I was after with one word it would be: space.

 

This place gave me the room to declutter my mind of everyday thoughts and worries. I woke each morning and sipped coffee with women in the meadow where our camp was set up. After a short gathering we were given free time to do as we wished. Each day I chose a new spot to sit and relax. I had a blanket, my journal, my camera, and a playlist to keep me company. The fresh (but very hot) air combined with the quiet was exactly what my soul needed. I came home a better version of myself and fully ready to jump into summer.

 

I can’t be on vacation all the time though, so I try to find ways to create space in my everyday life that mimics the breathing room I enjoyed while camping out among the juniper trees in Oregon. It has become a personal mission to create tiny pockets of peace in my day. Doing so meant that I had to reevaluate how I was spending my time and energy, also to note where I could make changes.

In the morning, after a shut off the alarm, I take a few deep breaths before getting out of bed. After being jolted from a peaceful sleep, I need a few moments to reset and focus on my breath before I get up to face my day. I take a deep breath in, hold for 5 seconds and blow a soft, long exhale out. Take notice of how what your beginning moments feel like. Mine certainly feels aggressive, but the truth is I’m a heavy sleeper who needs a loud alarm. To compensate for the harsh awakening, I give myself these few moments of pause which for me mimic space.

 

I find space in the clothes I choose to wear. The materials need to be made of a pure cotton variety with room to breathe. My clothes flow back and forth with me. I have been wearing leggings for a long stretch of time because they are so comfortable. Now, I have nothing against a good pair of jeans, I just much prefer the way I can fully stretch and not feel constricted by my clothing.

 

At some point in the middle of the day, I unroll a gorgeous pink yoga blanket on my bedroom floor, light candles, gather my journals, and sit in quiet stillness. I picture in my mind’s eye a wide, open meadow. Even on days when life is especially noisy, I still make it a point to show up to my practice with the intention of creating breathing space. After some quiet time, I spill some thoughts into my journal and revel in the quiet.
Intentionally slowing down and being mindful of how I want to feel as I move through the world keeps my soul feeling tended and cared for. I choose to spend less time scrolling through my iphone and more time in conversation with my family. I choose to close my eyes and take a breath when chaos trumps quiet. And I choose to always find my way back to the peaceful meadow.

About the Author: Bella Cirovic

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

Sunday Sanctuary: The Mystical Power of Words by Mail

SundaySancturary_WithDebraSmouse

Writing is a mystical process. You sit with pen in hand – or fingers poised over a keyboard. Words flow from your brain into your hands. Ink and paper help words become flesh. Words transform themselves into stories when they are birthed into the world.

In our 140-character social media society, we may have forgotten how this mystical process of writing is the embodiment of the ordinary magic when the words are then read.

It doesn’t matter who the reader is. Maybe it’s only you, rereading words in your journal. Maybe it’s anyone who passes by your blog or Facebook page. Perhaps you are seeking an audience that isn’t exactly countable as you send your words into the world by writing a book.

Or maybe you’ve leaned into the sacred space of love, connection, friendship, or advocacy by writing a letter intended for one, single individual.

I’ve been in love with the mystical process of turning straw into gold in the form of stories for as long as I can remember.  While the miller’s daughter may have never found joy when confronted by Rumpelstiltskin’s wheel, for me, spinning individual words into an essay, a piece of fiction, or a letter gleams as brightly as any precious metal.

I’m also in love with receiving mail. Opening the mailbox to find a card or letter is a physical reminder that somewhere out there, someone cares enough about me to go through their own ritual of turning their thoughts into snippets of their own story – just for my eyes. It’s proof that in the sea of humanity, I am valued. It’s a reminder that someone chose to connect with me by taking some of their precious time to not only write a few words in a card or pen a long letter, but also address an envelope, stick a stamp on it, and send it out into the world knowing that their precious words won’t be received for any number or days.

Yes, this can take place in a reply to a Tweet, a ‘like’ on a Facebook post, a comment on a blog entry. Emails can convey real sentiment. I will never tire of sharing real-time words via phone calls, nor will I ever undervalue the way a telephone call with a friend brightens my day.

A handwritten letter, though, holds a different kind of magic.

“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.”
― Phyllis Theroux

I know that I’ve mentioned it here before, but since August of 2015, I’ve been writing letters with a girlfriend focused mostly on our creative lives. We are both devoted to the process, honoring the fact that we each have daily lives full of responsibilities. Sometimes, there are weekly letters, our creative minds unable to stop the flow of thought. Other times, the letters lag and we eke out only enough energy to write a single letter a month.

As with all the various pieces of our creative life, letter writing ebbs and flows.

No matter which part of the cycle I’m in, I look forward to each letter. I experience a thrill upon opening my mailbox and finding a cheery envelope with my handwritten name upon it. I set each new arrival aside until I have dedicated time to sit and savor it.

I give myself time to reread and digest, and then I take up my pen once more. I begin afresh, putting more ink on paper, collecting thoughts, arranging words, filling pages or note cards either to save, or to send away. Sometimes, I tuck in a magazine article or a thin bar of good chocolate.

Whether I am writing letters or reading one, I find myself deeply connected with my own creative energy and better connected to enduring creative spirit of humankind.

  “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés

We are living in challenging times. No matter what side of the aisle you may find yourself on politically, you’ve probably felt frustrated, angry, irritated, upset, fearful, exhausted, or disheartened in the last few months. I have felt all of those things at differing points, and the number one solace I’ve returned to is words.

Well, not just the solace of words, but the magical power of stories.

I purchased a beautiful copy of Beauty and the Beast purely for the illustrations by Angela Barrett. I read biographies of strong women. I’ve read books some might consider fluff, yet know they are secretly disguised as medicine. I’m reading a passage a day from the last journal written by a Catholic priest. I purchased a Sunday Missal. I’ve reread letters.  I’ve unsubscribed from folks that harp on politics, be it on Facebook, Twitter, or their Blogs. I’ve immersed myself within my journal, and sought new blogs to read that don’t focus on politics.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across the concept of InCoWriMo. A nod to the familiar NaNoWriMo where you commit writing a novel in November, InCoWriMo is a commitment to write a piece of correspondence per day in February.

What if I were to take up the challenge of writing a letter per day next month? I’ve already learned that receiving a letter makes me feel as if I matter. I’ve experienced the way a letter that arrives just when I’m feeling most discouraged can soothe my soul.

More than that, though, I’ve discovered that putting ink to paper in letter-form has shifted my creative DNA. It forces me to slow down, invites me to think differently, and encourages me to trust the mystical power of birthing my thoughts into the flesh.

The process of sending and receiving physical correspondence has it’s own tinge of magic. For how else can I explain receiving an encouraging letter about my body of work on the exact same day I got an email rejecting my application for a writing residency?

What if someone out there just needs to open their mailbox and find an envelope with their name on it, written by hand?

I can write letters of encouragement and letters of compassion and letters of love to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers.

I can write thank-you letters to those who impact my world for the better, like authors, soldiers abroad, and the Postmaster General.

I can write a mushy love-note to John, for far to often we forget to appreciate those living under our own roof.

I can also use the power the written word can yield by taking up my pen as if it were my sword, writing letters to my Senators and Congressmen.

I ordered a fresh supply of stationary, readied my supply of postcards and greeting cards, and have stocked up on stamps. I’ve begun gathering addresses. I have committed to at least one piece of handwritten correspondence every day in February. (If you want to receive a letter in February, just leave a comment below or email me at debra (at) debrasmouse.com)

 “Our lives are made up of time, and the quality of our existence depends on our wise use of the moments we are given.”
–Alexandra Stoddard (from her book Gift of a Letter)

If writing is a mystical, magical process, then letter-writing must be one of the wisest uses of writing time. We must nurture and tend our creative life. And sometimes, we must fight to ensure that the outside world doesn’t encroach on our sacred need to create.

What might unfold in your creative life if you were to take your pen in hand for the sole sake of connecting with a single individual? How might taking up your pen as a sword be the best way to be an advocate? What magic might you open yourself to if you were to open your heart on paper? Might an age-old approach to correspondence tend the sanctuary of your own soul?

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Clearing Brain Clutter: Discovering Your Heart’s Desire and Clearing Soul Clutter: Creating Your Vision. 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.

Enchantment and Magic with The Garden Women by Jeanette McGurk

Years ago, I worked for a company that sold oils and vinegars steeped in herbs and packaged in beautiful Italian bottles.  We worked in a small space with concrete floors, a metal roof and metal sides.  There was an industrial sized rolling door where deliveries came and went.  This rolling door transformed our work-space from a drab florescent-lit room into a gateway where we could see miles into the hill country.

After a day of packing jalapenos into hot apple cider vinegar, corking, sealing, cleaning, packing 30 or 40 orders, double boxing each weighing in at 20 to 30 lbs, Margie would tell me to open the back wall, where we would sit, legs dangling off the steep concrete embankment and watch the sunset with our favorite poison d’jour.  For Rena it was usually a Bloody Mary and a joint.  Margie enjoyed Miller light with a shot of tequila timed at 30minute intervals and supplemented in between with a few Virginia Slims.  At 24 I was poor and a lightweight so I tended to mooch a beer, a couple of hits off Rena’s joint and I was good.

This was not your typical career path job out of college.  It was something better.

Two years earlier I had emerged from college ready to conquer the world.  Instead, I ran smack dab into a recession and the Gulf War.  I moved home, scoured the employment section of the newspaper and spent every Sunday night hanging out at Kinkos with my best friend.

We were renting time on desktop computers creating individualized cover letters to go with our rather green resumes.   Back in those days we were hard pressed to fill a page, even double-spaced with a 12.5 type font.  26 years later, I think I still have a ream of Neenah Classic Laid 24lb in natural white floating around in the attic somewhere.

Ah, the joy of weekly rejection, the hours  of tube tv spent watching scud missals lighting the desert night.

Somehow I stumbled into a pre-press job after a month or so.  I learned a lot, particularly about working for someone who is 25, arrogant and set up in a printing business by parents who have won the lottery.

Seriously, his parents won the lottery. 

They opted to buy him a print shop rather than send him to school.  So, I found myself with a boss three years older than me who slept with every employee he could, fired anyone who did not feed his ego and who on occasion would follow me out to my car when I was off the clock to tell me what the fuck I had done wrong.

It didn’t take much arm twisting when my college boyfriend asked if I wanted to move down to San Marcos with him.  He was working at a gas station in Wimberley while finishing his degree and told me his boss’ wife was looking for someone to design her a label.

Margie and I instantly hit it off.  She was eleven years older than I, beautiful, smart and straight forward.

She had spent a lot of money to have a bunch of men at a San Antonio ad agency design a label for a gourmet vinegar she created.  She told them exactly what she wanted and they designed something completely opposite.  They proceeded to tell her this was for her own good.   They knew her product better than she did.  She paid, left, and never contacted them again.

I listened to what she wanted and then tried to turn her vision into reality.  It is the magic moment in graphic design, the moment when your client says, “THAT!!!  THAT is exactly what I was imagining.”

In that moment you have connected and brought to life the thing that was in their head.

It is glorious.

After that Margie offered me a job.  It ended up being one of the best opportunities of my life.  The money was terrible but I learned what it was like to work with someone who values your ideas.

The company was started in Margie’s kitchen.  We did every single step of the process; making recipes, researching bottles, finding local fresh herbs and resourcing large quantities of vinegar.  We took small baskets of our product to boutique stores in Wimberley, Fredericksburg, Gruene, Austin and San Antonio.

It grew.

Together we planned out a space that was built between a candle maker and a jewelry designer.   I had a say in everything we did.  I was never talked down to or belittled as I had been in the print shop.  In this environment, I had a confidence never even experienced in college. Our products, completely designed by a 24 year old rookie, were sold in Harry & David, the Neiman Markus gift catalogue and the Texas Monthly gift catalog.

In most jobs, this would be  where the enchantment ended, but Margie hired a staff of amazing women.

Most of the work was monotonous.  It paid per bottle so we could know exactly what the cost was for every bottle produced.

What I found monotonous, retired women loved.

There were two ladies, both somewhere in their 60’s who could sit for a few hours or more talking, smoking and stuffing jalapenos into jars.  The outside of the jalapeños had to show and there was a visual way of speckling the green with red so each bottle was a mini work of art.

Some days I packed orders, some days I was on the phone and some days I would sit and stuff with Dixie and Jeanie.

She also hired the most off the grid, interesting, true hippie I have ever known.  This woman in her early 40’s could see a silver aura around me and told me once she had an orgasm during sex, she would advise her lovers to hurry and be done because she had no need for them after that.  These things were mind blowing.  You simply did not come across a lot of women talking about auras and orgasms in 1993.

Okay, let’s face it, that doesn’t happen often in Dallas in 2017.

This was much more than a place to work.  It was a place to pour out the best parts of ourselves.

For Dixie, that was her cooking.  She was from Shreveport and she could cast a spell on a pot and whatever went in, (usually something cheap and on sale), came out so delicious it would have moved Gordon Ramsey to tears.   If Dixie was working we all feasted at lunch.  If she stayed til close, she would dance a bit of zydeco around us on the loading dock, cigarette between her teeth, white hair not moving an inch.

In every way Dixie was spicy, Jeannie was not.

She had been married for 40 years to Harold, her honey.  I don’t think we ever knew how many times Dixie had been married although I think at that time, she had a well-trained fella who might have lasted.  These two were perfect work buddies.

They both loved to spin a tale, most of Jeannie’s were about her life with honey, most of Dixie’s were about dancing and raising hell.  The great thing was, as much as each of them loved to talk, they loved to listen to the other.  Probably more then the rest of us did.  Of course we were still in our 20’s, and 30’s we could not yet appreciate the complete joy of sitting next to someone and just listening.

Although we did do a lot of listening.

This job was outfitted with hours of talk radio and we had a small tv on which many an Oprah and Heat of the Night was watched.  It was even with these women that I watched the infamous OJ Simpson car chase.  We spent hours and hours together watching the trial.   We may have been the only 5 people in the country completely behind Marcia Clark.

Not a single one of us was perfect.  I think everyone but Jeannie had spent a night spread out on two office chairs when things had not gone well at home.  We had cried and laughed together, never feeling judged.  We all knew what it was like to be bullied in a man’s world.  We would have welcomed her into our fold with open arms; our mystic spot in the hill country where we were free to be ourselves.

In the years since I have probably heard it 50 or 60 times, “You know, how horrible women get when they all work together, it is awful.” 

No, I honestly don’t know. My best bosses have always been women.

Sure, I have run into female personality types that I have not meshed with, just as with men.

But the time when my silver aura was the strongest and brightest, the time when my ideas were most nurtured from a seedling into brilliance was with the ladies of Cypress Valley Garden, in a small industrial building with a really big view.

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/.

The Magic of Attraction by Krista Davis

Ahh, the first days of a new romance. The flushed face. The inability to think about anything else. The sheer excitement! It seems magical.

You probably recall some of your dating failures. I confess that I am not great at romance. I’m not putting myself down. I can bake a pretty decent cake. I can roast a turkey without taking a valium first. But finding the right guy? Oof!

There was the oh-so-memorable date with a guy who excused himself a little too long and when the waitress asked if we wanted dessert, he all but shouted no! Fine with me. We had been set up by his mother. No kidding. She loved me! He loved the waitress with the top down to there and the skirt up to you-know-where. To this day I am convinced that he went back to the restaurant to pick her up. For all I know, they have thirteen kids, are happily married, and they always laugh about how he met her during a terrible date.

In Mission Impawsible, a matchmaking event is going on. Since the town of Wagtail is all about dogs and cats, it made perfect sense that singles would bring their furry friends to help them meet the right person. There’s some logic to that. If you’re a cat person with half a dozen cats, wouldn’t you want to meet another cat person who understands and shares your devotion to felines?

But since I’m not an expert at romance (cough, cough) I needed to do some research. What exactly attracts us to one person but not to another?

Turns out it’s much more complex than I would have suspected.

Most people know if another person is a potential mate in thirty seconds to two minutes! Kind of puts a fresh spin on meeting someone in a bar, doesn’t it? Don’t be insulted the next time someone spurns your interest because there’s a lot more going on than you realize.

That quick judgment would lead one to imagine that attraction is all about appearances. Not so. It turns out that when we meet someone who might be a potential mate for us, all kinds of things are happening in our brains that we don’t even realize.

We’re smelling them.

We may not sniff each other quite as brazenly as dogs do, but apparently, women are attracted to men who smell like their fathers! That seemed a little weird to me at first but maybe it makes sense. It’s a smell that evokes comfort and security for us.

The most mind-bending thing I learned is that women are attracted to the scent of men who have a different immune system than their own. Clearly, we are not conscious of this. It’s a very primal kind of thing that results in stronger offspring because they benefit from more immunities.

So, in a way, there’s actually a kind of magic going on in the background. It has a scientific basis, but we’re not aware of all the amazing things our noses and brains are figuring out for us.

About the Author: Krista Davis

kristadavis_bioNew York Times Bestselling author Krista Davis writes the Paws and Claws Mysteries. Her 4th  Paws and Claws Mystery is Mission Impawsible, which releases on February 7th. Krista also writes the Domestic Diva Mysteries with a new book due out in June 2018.
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

PS. You can see how my research on the magical power of love and attraction plays out in my latest, Mission Impawsible, which will be in bookstores on February 7th and is available for pre-order. I’m not telling how the matchmaking turns out!

 

The Magic of Believing by Julie Terrill

I remember the moment so vividly: Mary Martin standing inside my television, looking right at me, taking a step closer to the screen between us, and imploring me to save Tink’s life by clapping my hands if I believed in fairies. Well, of course, I believed in fairies! Why wouldn’t I? Standing and clapping louder and louder, I helped Peter Pan save the life of Tinkerbell. It had been a close call. Thank goodness she could hear me!

During this time, my biggest fear was The Basement Monster. I surrendered countless toys that escaped down the basement stairs, resigned to accept they were gone forever. He had a huge collection of toys with wheels, balls, Silly Putty and Slinkys. And, if a basement monster was not scary enough, the steps down into his shadowy domain had no risers. I was certain he could grab my ankles and pull me down between the steps to join the collection of missing toys, never to be seen again. When I began to question the monster’s existence, there was a shift in power — his diminished as mine grew stronger.

Unfortunately while engaged in the business of growing up, many of us forget the power in the magic of believing. I recently encountered the essence of my younger self. She had been waiting for me in Ireland. It made perfect sense. Ireland is, after all, a land filled with the stuff of fairy tales: castles and turrets, waterfalls, rainbows, fern-filled gullies and sacred wells holding water blessed with mystical abilities. There are idyllic villages of thatched roofed cottages, a Giant’s Causeway and lush emerald woodlands that evoke visions of hobbits, trolls, dragons, pixies, nymphs, princesses and Robin Hood.

 

The enchanting fairy forests in the far southwest reaches of the island thrilled the exuberant heart of the inner four-year-old who had heroically rescued Tink from imminent death. Together, we delighted in the discovery of dozens of tiny doors, cottages, bridges and ladders tucked away throughout the woods, as well as tiny gifts left for their wee inhabitants.

Each year, over half a million seekers who rely not on what can be seen but on the certainty of the unseen, make a pilgrimage to one of Irelands holy sites. Clootie trees and holy wells are often found at these destinations. Originally, the faithful would dip a strip of cloth into the well and say a prayer for healing as they tied the strip to a branch. The cloth deteriorated and the knot fell away as the grip of the pilgrim’s ailment also released. Clooties have been tied at holy sites for over 5,000 years, but now with polyester and other non-biodegradable fabrics, this practice is discouraged. I encountered a greener version at a stone circle in County Kerry. Several hundred prayers and wishes, including my own, were written on paper left on the tree.

I could not possibly have planned the many serendipitous moments that reconnected me with the spirit of my imagination, creativity and the power of belief. In the wise words of Gus, the shuttle driver for a local pub, “Tis Ireland, lads. Expect the unexpected.”

 

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

Dear Storyteller

Dear Storyteller,

Right about now, you may be thinking that what you do isn’t very important. After all, in this uneasy, divided world, with threats abounding on so many fronts, what’s the use of telling stories? How important can it be to share our experience, to open our hearts on the page, to put words to passions and feelings and long unexpressed truths?

Let me tell you this, Storyteller. You are more important than ever. Those stories – your stories, my stories, the stories of our sisters and brothers all over the world? They could be the one very important thing that makes all the difference.

The other day I read a newspaper article which quoted a very wise man who said: “The thing that brings people together to have the courage to take action on behalf of their lives is not just that they care about the same issues, its that they have shared stories. If you can learn how to listen to people’s stories and can find what’s sacred in other people’s stories, then you’ll be able to forge a relationship that lasts.”

There is something magical about sharing stories, whether they are bound together in the pages of a book, typed out in an email, scribbled on a notecard, or lovingly penned on fine stationery. Whether fact or fiction, they allow us to enter into the hearts and minds of others and obtain a glimmer of what life is like for someone who might be very different from ourselves. Stories incite compassion and empathy. They provide knowledge and information. They astound and confound.

Most importantly, they connect. They enable us to “forge a relationship that lasts.”  My friend Andi Cumbo-Floyd (who writes wonderful stories by the way) recently said:  “We tell stories because they connect us to one another in a way that facts and culture and experience sometimes fail to do. They tie us together – barbed and gorgeous as we are – at the heart.”

What we need, my storytelling friend, is to re-connect. In these days when we so often feel at odds with our fellow man and the world seems to be drawn into boxes surrounded by thick black and white lines, what we need it the color and nuance that story provides. We need to have thoughts deeper than those incited by a 140-character Tweet. We need to enter into the world of an African American nurse who is wrongfully accused of manslaughter in the death of one of her patients. (Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult). We need to become acquainted with a young man who grew up poor in a rust belt town but graduated from Yale Law School and wrote a book about it all. (Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance). We need to revisit the the poets and philosophers who wrote of nature and contemplation and knew that mankind was only an tiny speck in the infinite lifespan of this great universe. (Wordsworth, Emerson, Thoreau)

I read another article last week (I’ve been a reading a lot these days, dear storyteller) based on an interview with President Barack Obama. In it, he spoke of the importance of reading and stories throughout his life, and how particularly important it’s been during his tenure as President of the United States. “Fiction is useful …as a way of seeing and hearing the voices, the multitudes of this country,” he said. “It’s a reminder of the truths under the surface of what we argue about.”

So, dear storyteller, don’t for one moment think that what you do isn’t valuable, isn’t necessary, isn’t important. People have been telling stories ever since they could scratch symbols into the walls of their caves.  This is definitely not the time to stop.

President Obama concluded his interview with these words: “The role of stories is to unify – as opposed to divide – to engage rather than marginalize. It is more important than ever.”

I believe it is certainly more important than ever, my storytelling friend.

Go read stories, and go write stories.

Go out and tell YOUR story – let it echo far and wide.

And make them hear you.*

With love from one storyteller to another,

Becca

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.

*Make Them Hear You, from the musical Ragtime

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes