There Was a Lot of Blood by Christine Mason Miller

glassshowerandtile

I was in a good mood the day I had an interview scheduled with Kimberly Wilson. I’d had the pleasure of being interviewed by her twice before, had hosted her in my home for an event celebrating the release of one of her books, and I knew we were going to have a great conversation. After running some errands in the morning, I came home and set things up in my studio for our early afternoon Skype session in happy anticipation of the interview.

As I flitted about the house, my brain was all abuzz. Why, I don’t remember. About what, I don’t recall. All I know is that less than an hour before our call, my mind was distracted enough that I got my middle right finger caught between a heavy glass shower door and a tiled bathroom wall at the precise moment I was swinging the door toward me to open it.

I could explain the physics of this mishap, but then I’d just be distracting from the good stuff – the part about the blood. Because the result of this seemingly small bit of inattention was one of harrowing pain and a howl that made my dog run for cover under our bed. It was so shocking and painful I wasn’t even able to cry. All I could do was walk around in circles moaning and hyperventilating. The only thing that jolted me out of my stupor was realizing I needed a paper towel. Immediately.

The cut on my finger wasn’t terribly deep, but there was a lot of blood. Despite being a little woozy, I was still fascinated at how quickly one paper towel after another was transformed from a pristine white landscape to a bright red mess within seconds. When the bleeding finally settled down, I wrapped two more paper towels around my finger, put an ice pack on top and then sat down at my computer to type a one-handed text message to Kimberly. Explaining I’d just smashed my finger with a heavy glass door and was debating a visit to the ER, I told her I might need to postpone our interview. Ever the gracious host, she responded with a, “No problem,” and encouraged me to take care of myself. So I took a deep breath, put down my phone, and sat still for a few minutes.

After watching the birds outside my window cavort in our garden for a bit, I unwrapped my finger and saw that it wasn’t terribly swollen. I could still bend it and move it back and forth, and decided I probably did not require Emergency Room attention. So I sent another text to Kimberly letting her know I was still game for the interview. Within fifteen minutes, I was upstairs in my studio and we were connected on Skype.

Kimberly had suggested this interview because she wanted to discuss Moving Water, my new memoir. The book tells the story of my journey from believing I didn’t belong in a family to the realization that breaking through and dismantling that belief was my soul’s most important work. I finished the book in early 2016, and over the summer had published and given away about a hundred advance copies. Kimberly was one of those readers, which meant the questions she prepared for our interview were related to specific passages of the book.

movingwaterbychristinemasonmiller

One of Kimberly’s first questions had to do with the parts of my family history that led to my belief that I wasn’t meant to have a family. On a “normal” day – as in, a day when I didn’t almost break a finger in half – I probably would have talked a little bit about my parent’s divorce, the breakdown of another blended family, and other family estrangements. But on that day I did almost break a finger in half, so even though I had regained enough composure to go through with the interview, my finger was all bandaged up and my insides were still a little wobbly. To put it another way – I was vulnerable, exposed, and raw.

Which is why, I think, I answered Kimberly’s question the way I did – a response that took me completely by surprise and required me to quickly articulate a thought that was being formed in my psyche in that moment. My answer – and I’m paraphrasing here because I haven’t yet heard the final interview – didn’t mention divorce or loss or broken families. Instead, I started talking about the way so many of my stories and memories had been transformed – how, through the act of writing, I’d ended up releasing the versions of them that had inspired me to write about them in the first place.

Are you with me?

I knew writing the book had healed many of my deepest emotional wounds, but it wasn’t until my conversation with Kimberly that I realized writing the book actually altered my cellular memory of them. The pain I experienced during my parent’s divorce was real, but it was pain I didn’t need to carry anymore. It was painful then, but this was now. More to the point – I believed, until I wrote Moving Water, that certain memories and experiences maintained a certain potency throughout my life only because they held my deepest sadness and most significant losses. What I discovered is that they’ve also, all along, contained the mechanism I needed to remove their charge, and to heal.

~

It was only recently that I made the connection between the bloody mess I had on my hands (literally) just a few minutes before my interview with Kimberly and the fact that this revelation hit me when it did. But now that I’ve connected those two experiences it makes perfect sense. Perhaps in my off-balance, vulnerable state, everything in me softened enough to let a door swing open (maybe even a heavy glass shower door) that would have otherwise remained closed. Maybe the decision to show up for the interview despite feeling messy and clumsy and slightly fragile made it possible for my attachments to certain versions of my own story loosen more than ever before. Maybe when I agreed to show up despite having an ice pack on my finger, I extended an invitation to something deep inside of myself that hadn’t yet found a way to be expressed. Maybe being less “on my game” enabled me to tap into something real, something exquisite, even if it wasn’t possible to formulate what was happening into a tidy soundbite while I was being recorded.

It took more than two years to write Moving Water and it is taking nearly a year to prepare it for its release into the big, wild world. Despite all the work I’ve already done for the book, and all the transformations that have taken place along this journey, its gifts and lessons are still being revealed to me. I am still learning, still healing, still figuring things out. The stories I am being called to tell as I share Moving Water with the world aren’t necessarily the ones I thought I’d be offering, but boy are they good. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

To hear Christine’s interview with Kimberly Wilson, click here.

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 for pre-order at www.christinemasonmiller.com.

Welcome to Issue #4: Mystic or Magic

mysticormagic2

We stand outdoors on a cold winter night, bathed in darkness with our very breath visible in front of us, and turn our eyes to the heavens. An infinite number of stars scatter overhead, stars that have hung in those heavens longer than modern science can determine. We are struck dumb with the mystery of all that is unexplainable. We feel the mystical power of our connection with every living being who, throughout eons, has stood upon their own ground and gazed upon those same stars.

This is Magic.

We come indoors and savor the warmth of our home, bend down to caress the soft fur of a beloved dog or cat who rubs against our cold ankles. The aroma of food we’ve cooked for dinner inspires a rumble of hunger in our stomachs, an instinctual response that ties us to every living creature of every species throughout time. We light a candle, mindful of the ease with which we can dispel darkness. We turn on some music, and let it run free in our imagination. We sit at table, admire the beauty of our plate or cup, and offer silent words of gratitude for food, shelter, water, and light.

This is Magic.

We treat our life in the world as a problem to be solved with technology and hard work, rather than as a mystery to experience with love and wonder. We look at our creative lives the same way, imposing schedules and spreadsheets and lists rather than opening our eyes to nature, simplicity, and beauty. What if we think about fostering a deep appreciation for the sacred and holy in every aspect of life: nature, work, home, even business and public affairs? What if we could shift our priorities toward developing a sense of sacredness in the particulars of ordinary living?

That would be Magic.

Welcome to Mystic or Magic, the fourth issue of Modern Creative Life. We’ll explore ways to enchant our creative lives with everyday magic, to connect to the mystical powers of the universe through art, music, words, nature, and the beauty of everyday objects.  You’ll peek into the daily lives of other creative folk in our Studio Tours and Typical Tuesday series, and meet people walking fascinating creative pathways in Conversations Over Coffee. With photos and fictionpoetry and promptsessays and enlightenment, you’ll find a myriad of ways to cast a spell over your creative living.

Gather around as we stand with open arms and hearts uplifted to survey the magic of a starlit night, letting the depth of  the heavens envelop us.  How do you connect with the magical elements in your everyday life? How do you access the deepest layers of enchantment in the universe? Where do you carve out space in this cacophonous world to revel in the mysteries and wonders of nature?

We hope you’ll share your discoveries with us. We are open to single contributions as well as new regular contributors. Email your submissions to moderncreativelife@gmail.com.

 As always our mission at Modern Creative Life is to honor the pursuit and practice of joyful creativity. We believe that the creative arts enrich our everyday living, enhance our environment, create lasting connections, and sustain our souls. Please join us as we bring a plethora of enchanted creative offerings to nourish your imaginative spirit and return you inspired and invigorated into your own Modern Creative Life.

About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan is Executive Editor here at Modern Creative Living. She honors the magic in everyday life by spending time in nature, playing with words, making music with friends, and caring for her family (which includes her dogs, one of whom is named Magic!).  She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on FacebookTwitter, or Goodreads.

New Moon Creative: Moon in Sagittarius

You sit at the table with your morning coffee and journal. As the words flow from pen to paper, you find answers you didn’t know you were looking for.

You try a new recipe for dinner and an average Wednesday dinner feels like a celebration.

You watch an old movie on Turner Classic with your husband and though you’ve been together for “forever”, the movie sparks a conversation and you learn something about him you never new.

You meet a friend for lunch and the waiter recommends the soup of the day. It’s so exquisite, it loosens both of your tongues and you have one of the most intimate conversations in your life. What was a casual friendship morphs into a new best friend.

Ordinary moments in every life. Magical moments in every life.

It’s easy to overlook how the ordinary events and activities are anything, but, well, ordinary. Yet once we become open to the idea that those ordinary moments have their own kind of mysticism, we become a witness to the magic in our own lives.

We offer a New Moon Creative Prompt to set you pondering and ask you to share with us a seemingly ordinary moment in your own life that is edged with magic so that we can be your witness.

newmooncreative_nov292016

Write a poem, essay, or short story. Take a photograph and leave us with the image alone. Create a photo essay.

Between now and 12/11/16, 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 ( December 13), 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).

Thanksgiving by Debra Smouse

holdingthanksgivingwine

((Part Three of the Colleen Series – Follows Sundays))

Colleen stared at the dancing flames of the fire, her Party at Holly’s-tipped fingers loosely cradling a half-full glass of Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau. She laughed a deep, throaty laugh when she looked down at her hand holding the glass and realized the color of her nails almost matched the wine.

Her laugh woke Ingrid, who scrambled to her feet, looked expectantly at her owner, and ambled over to see if she could cadge another bite of turkey. While she wasn’t exactly a wine connoisseur, the large dog was the consummate optimist, certain that a nibble of something tasty would soon be forthcoming. After sniffing around and smelling nothing delicious, she accepted a few moments of chin-scritching before settling down near the fire once again.

It was Thanksgiving. For the first time since she’d become a mother, Colleen had spent the day without her daughters. Every time she thought she’d adjusted to her new life as a divorcee, these “firsts” popped up and she had to navigate new territory and unfamiliar emotions.

With each first, she found a way to either make it her new norm or make a game out of it.

All the weekends without the girls had given her time to nourish herself and indulge in some sacred solitude. The previous month, she’d finally turned a corner of her office into a space to paint – something she hadn’t done since college.

This first holiday alone, she handled by making an adventure out of it. Gretchen, a girlfriend from college, had offered her parents’ cabin in the Smoky Mountains. Jumping at the opportunity, Collen had packed herself and Ingrid into the car along with her acrylics and a couple of canvases. By late Saturday evening, woman and dog were ensconced in their cozy retreat.

On Tuesday, Gretchen had also arrived at her own cabin. Another divorcee, she and several of the members of her book club were sharing the close by cabin. Much like Colleen, all the women were well educated and fun loving, and each had also found the silver lining in spending the holiday without family.

Though she couldn’t imagine life in the cabin becoming her new norm, Colleen squeezed every drop out of her adventure. Being busy kept her from missing the girls too terribly much.

Her days quickly fell into a pattern: Colleen took long walks with Ingrid. Religiously, she wrote “morning pages” over strong cups of coffee. She set up her easel and painted a little each day. She fixed elaborate brunches just for herself ingrid_fall2and created beautiful charcuterie boards in the evenings to share with her friends, both new and old.

Thanksgiving dinner was an adventure in itself. Each woman had created a favorite dish from holidays past and crowded into Colleen’s cabin to share them, along with copious amounts of wine and a beautifully roasted turkey.

Of course, all were happy to fuss over Ingrid, and the dog basked in all the attention.

It had been a good day, a highlight in a year that had seen Colleen surprising herself over and over. Looking back, she realized she’d faced each ‘first’ with some sort of grace.

She couldn’t say the same for her daughters, who had been unhappy when they realized the entire holiday would be spent without their mother. Their disappointment only grew upon learning that, instead, they’d be spending it all with her: their father’s new girlfriend.

So far today, Colleen had received three phone calls and more than a dozen texts:

“She wears the most hideous clothes.”

“Are you really in a cabin the mountains? Is there snow, yet?”

“Seriously, Ma. I think she’s closer to my age than dad’s”

“She doesn’t like dark meat, so there are no turkey legs! And she put MARSHMALLOWS on the sweet potatoes!”

“Can we go to the mountains for Christmas?”

“She BOUGHT a pie instead of making it! Who BUYS pie on Thanksgiving? I miss your pecan pie….”

“Are you sure you’re okay, mom?”

“Does Ingrid need leftovers from here? There’s a lot ‘cause her turkey breast was dry!”

“Maybe you should look into getting a boyfriend, mom!”

Colleen had responded to every ding or ring from her phone in the same cheery manner. She’d advised the girls to give their father’s new flame a chance, and cautioned them not be so judgmental. She’d also assured them that she was fine, and ignored their prodding into her own love life.

Off the phone, she firmly turned her mind to other things each time her ex-husband’s new girlfriend dared to intrude upon her thoughts. She had yet to officially meet the young woman, but she’d caught a glimpse of her by accident at the grocery store. The other woman was a classic beauty: late twenties, leggy, blonde, and with a flat belly that had never been faced with childbearing, and the resultant stretchmarks.

Her ex-husband’s choices had nothing to do with Colleen beyond how they affected the girls, so anytime she pondered a catty reply to one of the girls’ texts, she stopped herself. The best thing she could do for her daughters was find some way to connect with their father’s girlfriend, especially if their relationship continued to go in the direction of marriage.

After all, no one would gain by painting the woman as the “evil stepmother.”

For a moment, Colleen wondered if she was playing ‘chicken’ when it came to love. Though she’d dated since the divorce, she was keeping all her relationships casual. Was she making a mistake? Was her heart closed to the possibility of love?

No, she concluded. She was just enjoying rediscovering herself, and that took glorious amounts of solitude.

Solitude that, at least over Thanksgiving, Colleen could find in a cozy cabin, a cuddly dog, a crackling fire, and an excellent glass of wine.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach,and author of Clearing Soul Clutter: Creating Your Vision.  She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Sunday Brunch: On Advent

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”
~ Mary Oliver

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, but I’m not attending church. Instead, I will drink my morning coffee in the pre-dawn light of my empty kitchen, at the new-to-me library table that we just moved into the space. I’m not typically a morning person, but something about this time of year has me waking early with the urge to write, to sing, to bake, to create.

I think it’s because Advent is a time of preparation, expectation, and anticipation that my creative urges, already in a highly active state from the moment of my birthday in August, hits its annual peak. Not all that energy is directed toward the coming of Christmas (though I confess, I have an unabashed love of that holiday).

Instead, I’m diving into seasonal projects – MusicAdvent which involves posting a song a day for twenty-five days (this year’s theme involves making a chain, so that one song is somehow connected to the next) and Holidailies, which requires daily blog posts during the month of December. (Holiday themes are encouraged but not required. This year I plan to do flash fiction about contemporary magic.)

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_katarinagondova'>katarinagondova / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

I’m also looking ahead to the new year, and beyond. I’m not ready to divulge my plans beyond an incredibly small circle of friends, but over the last few years, I’ve learned that if I know what I want my year to be like, I can hit the ground running on January 1st.

At the same time, Advent is also a period of reflection.

Maybe it’s because I turned forty-six this year, but I feel like two things are happening: one is that I find myself measuring my life a lot more – not comparing it to other people’s lives, but against the dreams and goals I had as a kid – and the other is that the tape measure I’m using is no longer marked in even increments, but in a mix of wide bands and narrow, in a myriad of colors and fonts.

This past month has been full of turmoil, in the world at large and in my own head (November is always a difficult month for me) but, as I texted a friend on Friday morning, I’ve woken up for the last few days with new lightness in my heart.

I don’t mean that I’m brushing aside things that bother me, things I must speak about or act upon, only that I’m choosing to change my focus.

Advent does that for me.

It forces me to change my focus, and make new plans, and embrace preparation, expectation, and anticipation.

It requires that I activate that sense of possibility, and that openness to the unknown.

Something is coming.

I want to meet it with open arms.

 

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.

Is Vanity Fair? by AR Hadley

laundry

it was a lie
the woman trusted in nothing
or no one
almost
nothing
for herself
the reality wasn’t real
she believed in everything reflected off another
the others lit up her mirror
blinking
satisfaction in their shining
while her own accomplishments
were shrinking
inside
the corners of her mind
or they were never there to begin with
disappearing
with tonight’s dinner
the chicken in the oven
the red potatoes cut and mixed with onions
the brownies done and squared
tasting divine
oozing a chocolate fudge
the fridge full of goodness
but mind you a little disorganized
the lemon scented mop ready to hit the swept floor
breakfast and lunch already served
dishes washed
laundry folded
how much more
how much more
it’s never enough
it’s piddly
another human
could do it with ease
a superwoman
probably
one of those other-worldly neon light blinkers
and not just today
but every day
forever
washing
the dishes
the clothes
the floor
always doing homework
and chores
missing my own sparkling banner
focusing instead on something else
on other women
comparing
always comparing
to the ones on the magazines
the super shiners
their neon signs somehow blinking brighter

a headline grabs my attention
the magazine article reflecting every evil disbelief
I saw in myself
what I was afraid of
everything I thought I lacked
and then
in an instant
I wrongly assume the other woman
the magazine superhero
is more skilled
more adept
more loved
BETTER
she must be better
her species must be far advanced
making leaps and bounds past me
and in that
blink
in that instant
my thoughts suddenly become
focused
on my disappearing accomplishments
the consumed chicken
the clean clothes
the spelling
the fractions
I’m focused on my daily
fading
repertoire
I am doing something
caring for other human beings
still
no cover of Vanity Fair wants to take my picture
I would not sell a magazine
SEX sells magazines
and today it sells past lovers
both male and female
whom the superwoman touts
the forty-five-year-old face looking pristine, practically godly
tall and blonde
cheekbones to die for
and the skill of make-believe held in more esteem than the honor of a king
I like her cheekbones though
sigh…
I like my cheekbones
mine
mine
mine
sharp
like my tongue

It’s the end of the day
I’m going to sleep
my face is soft
free of touch ups
free of rouge
free
my face has lived
is living
and is alive

my daughter cuddles up next to me
touching my fabulous cheekbones
asking
“what are those bumps along your jawline?”
Ha!
I can’t sell a magazine
I don’t want to sell a flipping magazine
and in that blink
in that instant
of magazine cover sexuality, touch ups and blazing career achievements
I. Am. Me.
beautiful
sexual
alive
cleaning
cooking
teaching
writing
pimples on my cheeks
me
do you see me
of course not
I am not on the cover of Vanity Fair Magazine

About the Author: A.R. Hadley

ARHadleyBioA.R. Hadley writes imperfectly perfect sentences by the light of her iPhone.
She loves her husband.
Chocolate.
Her children.
And Cary Grant.
She annoys those darling little children by quoting lines from Back to the Future, but despite her knowledge of eighties and nineties pop culture, she was actually meant to live alongside the lost generation after the Great War and write a mediocre novel while drinking absinthe with Hemingway. Instead, find her sipping sweet tea with extra lemons on her porch as she weaves fictional tales of love and angst amid reality.

A creative writer since elementary school, A.R. all but gave it up after her children were born, devoting herself to the lovely little creatures, forgetting the pleasure and happiness she derived from being imaginative.
No more.
She rediscovered her passion in 2014 and has not stopped since — writing essays, poetry, and fiction. She is currently working on completing several novels as part of a romantic trilogy.

Day or night, words float around inside her mind. She hears dialogue when she awakens from sleep. She is the one who has been awakened. Writing is her oxygen. Cary Grant fans the flames.

Happy Thanksgiving: A Celebration of Gratitude and Creativity

thanksgivingdinner

In the United States, it’s Thanksgiving. A time to gather around the table with loved ones and celebrate our many blessings. We celebrate creative living in ever aspect of the meal: from setting a beautiful table to creating each delectable dish served upon it. We try new dishes to stretch our tastes and try to create the tastes of our childhoods with heirloom recipes handed down from grandmother to daughter.

It’s also a time to honor the harvest, gathering the fruits of seeds planted in fertile ground. And fertile minds. Because what is creativity but harvesting the fruits of the seeds we’ve planted?

In celebration of this holiday, we won’t be offering you a new poem, story, or essay, but a collection of two dozen gems of wisdom on gratitude and creativity.

“There is no better opportunity to receive more than to be thankful for what you already have. Thanksgiving opens up the windows of opportunity for ideas to flow your way.”
–Jim Rohn

“Artists are among the most generous of people. Perhaps inherent in the appreciation of creativity comes a deep, underlying love of humanity and our Earth.”
–Kelly Borsheim

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”
–Friedrich Nietzsche

“Gratefulness translates into a joy-filled understanding that informs art making – a simplicity that goes beyond preconceived ideas and moves us toward truth.”
–Dean Taylor Drewyer

“Art is the giving by each man of his evidence to the world. Those who wish to give, love to give, discover the pleasure of giving. Those who give are tremendously strong.”
–Robert Henri

“I’m very grateful for an entire lifetime spent involved in this creative process.”
–Ron Howard

“An artist gives. Gives visually, gives through courses, or with free advice, through generosity of spirit and through a need to share.”
–Veronica Roth

“Music and art both spring from a grateful heart.”
–Katie Wood McCloy

“I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating. I don’t care if it’s a book, a film, a painting, a dance, a piece of theater, a piece of music. Anybody who spends part of their day sharing their experience with us. This world would be unlivable without art. Thank you for inspiring me.”
–Steven Soderberg

“There is no one harder to live with than an artist. Therefore an artist is a real gift because he or she raises the sanctity of everyone else in the community.”
— David Steindl-Rast

“Gratitude is a many-colored quality, reaching in all directions. It goes out for small things and for large.”
–Faith Baldwin

“The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.”
–William Blake

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
–Albert Schweitzer

“Make a gift of your life and lift all mankind.”
–David R. Hawkins

“The essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure.”
–Dale Carnegie

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
–Elizabeth Gilbert

“We can live artfully through a thousand little everyday gestures, as well as a multitude of creative pastimes. I define art in the broadest sense-it is every possible medium of human expression. It is in what you say and how you say it.  It is in using the rich resources of your senses to connect with the beauty in life. The art is in the message and in the medium you use to express it. Art is simply the name for how you live your life and how you tell others what you think and feel.”
–Sandra Magsamen

“Everything is a gift. The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefullness, and gratefullness is a measure of our aliveness.”
–David Steindl-Rast

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”
–Friedrich Nietzsche

“I am filled with gratitude for the ability to live the artist’s life. In my studio. Being an artist. Everyday.”
–Mickie Acierno

“Gratitude opens the door to… the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe.”
–Deepak Chopra

“I have walked this earth for 30 years, and, out of gratitude, want to leave some souvenir.”
–Vincent van Gogh

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
–Melody Beattie

“The act of giving something to others is an art of flowering your heart.”
–Vinayak

Here’s to your personal harvest and all the ways you honor your own creative spark. We are so honored to witness the ways in which you you celebrate your creative life with a full and grateful heart.

With love from our creative table to yours.
The Staff of Modern Creative Life

Stewing by Melissa A. Bartell

Copyright: dogfella / 123RF Stock Photo

(Part III of the Tea Series, follows Simmering)

David had his laptop set up on the kitchen table, where he was transcribing his latest poems into a word processing program, when Sarah draped her arms over his shoulders, hugging him from behind. “Dinner’s about ready,” she said. “How much more time do you need?”

“Ten minutes?” He made it a question.

“Perfect.” She kissed him on the cheek. “Are you putting my poem in the book?”

An agent had approached him after his last open mic night, and suggested he publish a collection. “I am,” he confirmed. “But only if you let me have my ten more minutes.” He was only half-kidding.

Laughing, Sarah pulled away from him, and disappeared into the kitchen.

It was actually closer to twenty minutes before they finally sat down to eat, and after tasting her baked salmon, Sarah wrinkled her nose. “It’s too dry,” she complained. “It stayed in the oven too long.”

David disagreed, “Seems fine to me.”

“No, it’s much too dry. And the green beans are mushy.”

“You’re too critical,” David said. “It all tastes fine.”

“I didn’t want it to be ‘fine,'” Sarah snapped, though the look on her face made it clear that she hadn’t meant to speak quite so sharply. In a more neutral tone, she continued, “I wanted it to be good. It’s my last day of work until the holidays are over, and I wanted things to feel festive.” She gestured to the floral center piece and the lit candles. “Special.”

“Sweetie, it’s fine. It’s special just because you cooked and we’re eating together.” When Sarah remained quiet, her hands folded in her lap, David continued. “There’s something you’re not telling me, isn’t there?”

“You know my company has a cabin up at the Pine Lake Resort, right?”

David nodded. Sarah had mentioned the cabin many, many times.

“Well, every year the person who’s funded the most loans gets to use it for the holidays, and this year, that person was me. I thought we could go shopping for supplies tomorrow or Sunday and then head up on Monday morning, when traffic won’t be bad. It’s all decorated – the staff takes care of that.” She unfolded her hands, and brushed her hair out of her face, revealing bright eyes and a hopeful smile. “We could spend Christmas snowed into a romantic mountain cabin….”

David pushed his plate away. “Aww, I wish you’d told me sooner, Sar.”

“I only found out today. Is there a problem?”

“I always spend the holidays with my family. I just assumed you’d come, too.”

Even in the dim light of the candles it was clear that Sarah’s face had turned pale. “You mean, with your parents, right?”

“Yeah, with my parents. But also, my brother and sister and their kids, and my aunts and uncles and…” David finally realized that his partner wasn’t enthusiastic about his plan. “You don’t want to go.” His tone was flat when he spoke the words.

“I can’t,” she said. She rose from the table and carried her plate full of unfinished food back to the kitchen.

“Look, I’m sure you can reschedule the cabin,” David suggested, following her with his own empty plate and all the cutlery. “Or we can rent one, take a long weekend in January or February.”

“You should have asked me,” Sarah told him, flicking the faucet lever upward and to the left to start the hot water flowing. “I don’t… I’m not…” But her sentences remained incomplete, and when the dishes were done, she simply repeated, “You should have asked me,” before she fled through the bedroom to the master bath where she locked the door against him.

By the time Sarah emerged from her bath with damp hair and pink skin, David had returned to his transcription. When she tried to engage him in conversation, he ignored her.

* * *

The weekend had been spent in tense silence punctuated by too-brief conversations. By Monday morning, Sarah had re-confirmed the cabin for Valentine’s Day, and David had completed typing his poems, and sent them off to his agent for approval.

By Monday afternoon, they were packed and in the car, driving north up the peninsula, and across the Golden Gate bridge.

Neither spoke much during the drive.

Half an hour from his parents’ home in Inverness, David stopped the car next to a mobile home painted with the name, Knave of Hearts. “We’re almost there,” he said. “Are you done stewing? Can you tell me why you’re so upset about this trip?” He gestured to the trailer. “These people make the best currant scones on the entire west coast… I’m not above bribing you.” He waggled his eyebrows at her.

Sarah smiled in spite of herself. “Do they serve decent tea?”

“More than decent.”

“Fine.”

The coastal air was damp and brisk, but inside the trailer the oven kept things toasty. Sarah settled onto one of the three stools fixed before the tiny diner counter, while David ordered cups of English Breakfast tea, served in handmade ceramic mugs with no handles, and a basket of scones.

Plied with tea and baked goods, Sarah opened up. “I’m an only child,” she reminded him. “It was just me and Mom, for most of my life. I have no idea how to be part of a family. I’m too quiet. I’d rather read than watch sports. What if I say the wrong thing? What if they hate me?”

David’s eyes were warm and his smile was gentle as he assured her. “They could never hate you. You’re the woman I love. More than that, you’re my muse. They’re dying to meet you.”

“Great, no pressure,” she snarked.

“Sarah, I promise… they’re really great people.”

“But what if it’s too much?”

“If you get overwhelmed, just excuse yourself and go out to the deck or up to our room. I’ll come with you, if you need me to.”

She took a deep breath. “Okay,” she said. “Okay,” she repeated a moment later.

“So, you’re not mad at me anymore?”

Sarah smiled around another bite of scone. She made a show of chewing and swallowing, then sipping more of her tea before she responded. “I’m not mad.” She reached for his chin and tickled him beneath the goatee he’d begun wearing. “I might even let you sleep with me in your childhood bedroom.”

His laughter repaired the last of the hurt and confusion that had been lingering between them.

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.

Living Out Loud with Lawrence Davanzo

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”
–Rabindranath Tagore

When my husband retired four years ago, he heard the same chorus: “You’re going to be so bored!” I suppose I could see their point (sort of) – my husband was stepping away from a forty-year career, during which he’d built his own company, served as President of another, and was so respected in his industry that when he returned to work after a larry1three-year hiatus in 2004, he hired nearly a dozen former employees within two months. My husband’s identity is fueled first and foremost by his role as a father, but as far as making his mark on the world, it was his career that steered the ship.

So for those who knew him primarily in that universe, it shouldn’t have been terribly surprising that their reaction to the news of his retirement was an assumption that he would turn the corner away from his work life only to find a barren stretch of land where nothing more than a few lone tumbleweeds bounced by from time to time. My husband was driven, ambitious, and successful, so how on earth was he going to find fulfillment once he had all the time in the world?

Here’s the thing about my husband that might have surprised those who couldn’t imagine him living a happy life without his suit, tie, and title – work was never his number one thing. It was never all-consuming. It wasn’t even a part of him I knew much about during the first two years of our relationship because he was on a sabbatical when we met. I heard stories and saw glimpses, but it wasn’t something I experienced firsthand until he returned to work.

Even then, and over the course of the ensuing eight years before he retired for good, I never saw my husband as a workaholic. larry2Aside from travel and the occasional business dinner, when he came home at the end of the day, he was home. When we went on vacation, we were on vacation. He never brought his laptop to bed and he never spent a Saturday on a golf course with clients. So when someone proclaimed he would end up being bored without his work, we both laughed, knowing these comments were more likely a reflection of what the prospect of a life beyond work and career would mean for them rather than what was true for my husband.

Four years later, we’re still laughing – and slightly gobsmacked – to find he is not only not bored, but more active than ever. He has continued to do the things he could only do on the weekends while he was working – bike riding, playing violin, reading – and now has the time and space to dive deeper into other passions and interests that he’s had for most of his life. He isn’t merely taking more photographs – an interest that first took hold when he was given a camera as a ten-year old – he attended a photography workshop in Berlin, had a solo show in Los Angeles, and goes on photo shoots with Santi Visalli – one of the most renowned photographers of celebrities and public figures of the last four decades.

larry5

My husband is also on the phone a lot. Friends and former colleagues call him frequently for advice, guidance, and encouragement. He coaches and advises his son and son-in-law – both entrepreneurs with their own businesses – on everything from cash flow to employee relations. It also isn’t unusual to hear him perusing the pages of his favorite larry3cookbook while chatting with his best friend – a chef who helped ignite my husband’s passion for cooking.

Here’s another thing my husband (well, most of us, really) hears a lot: life is short. My husband happens to think the opposite is true. In his opinion, life is long. At first, I thought he had it backwards. Life isn’t long, I’d think, Life whizzes by faster than I can keep track of. But over time, I’ve come to appreciate his way of thinking. It might seem like the entirety of my life up to this moment has traveled along at warp speed, but when I stop and take a closer look at all the adventures I’ve had, I see how much is there. How could I have experienced as much as I have unless life were, in fact, long?

larry4

Boredom is simply not in my husband’s vocabulary, and because his approach to life is that there is plenty of time to do the things he loves, he has been able to find that elusive balance between exuberant creativity and much-needed, well-deserved downtime. In between his bike rides and photo shoots and music gatherings, he writes letters to his granddaughter and reads at least one book a week. He takes naps. He plays with our dog. He loves washing our cars. He is the same man he’s always been – curious, engaged, and eager to live out loud.

Learn more at www.lawrencedavanzo.com.

About the Author: Christine Mason Miller

christinemasonmillerChristine Mason Miller is an author and artist who just completed Moving Water, a memoir about the spiritual journey she’s taken with her family.

You can follow her adventures at www.christinemasonmiller.com.

Letter to My Creativity, Anna Hodges Oginsky

Dear Creativity,

Here you are. Saving me once again. While the vitriol simmers in the air like a warlock’s brew, its spell disables me… anna_o_055double, double toil and trouble. It bubbles: the hatred, the sadness, the anger, and the grief.

We are in mourning.

The comfort we had thinking everything was okay while others suffered, us unknowing; or knowing and not caring enough to act upon that knowing; perhaps wanting to act but overwhelmed by the enormity of it all; knowing and caring and wanting to act but unsure where to start. Them pleading in desperation for mercy, aching to be seen, to be heard, to be acknowledged. The comfort is no more. We are all so uncomfortable now. The shadows, the goblins, and the monsters have all emerged from the darkness. The bitterness is all out on the table. We see it. We smell it. We feel it in our bones and in every cell in our bodies. We still don’t know what to do, but we know we must do something.

I turn to you, my Creativity, my loyal friend. My light.

You are my connection to the Source, after all. You are the thread that sews me to all that is.

Where will you guide me? Us?

I am counting on you, as always, to help me heal. To help us heal.

Will we write letters, posts, essays, and books? Expressing our sorrow. Asking for help. Begging for forgiveness from others and from our own selves? Can we even begin to forgive each other? Do we even know what to forgive?

anna-oginsky-image2Will we take to the streets with paintbrushes and as we collaborate on painting a new landscape, will we see that we are one? Will we recognize that in the beginning we were but a creation and in the end we are nothing more than what we created? What are we creating now?

How do I solve these riddles for myself, Creativity? How do I weave my voice into the solutions for the whole, for all of us, for the greater good?

Thank you for giving me ways to ask these questions. Thank you for showing me these questions exist below the surface, under the spell. Thank you for giving me words and colors and images and tools to use to help me process these questions. Thank you for the music that sings to my soul while I mix potions and emotions in search of a soothing balm for my grief.

Thank you for curiosity. For wonder. For awe. Thank you for inspiration.

Thank you for giving me space to feel. For translating my feelings into something tangible. Thank you for helping me get it out. Thank you for helping me let it go.

Thank you for giving me the confidence to know that all the answers I am seeking are already inside me. Thank you for empowering me with the discernment to know that your wisdom is also mine. I trust that as inherently creative beings, we have the power to change things. To create new things. To let old things go.

Like you, we are powerful. We are the change agents that transform groceries into meals, seeds and dirt into gardens, paper into books, bricks into buildings, and blank walls into murals. Surely, we can transform ourselves. And we can transform each other. With acknowledgment, with validation, with love, patience, and compassion we can transform. We will grow. I have faith in you, in me, in us.

I remember the relief I felt after my first entry in the journal my Baba gave me in 1983. We had been shopping. She must have known that words would be my medicine. Words have always been my way in to you, Creativity. You saved me then. I am indeed indebted to you. You showed me everything would be okay. You showed me that the only way out is through. Again and again. You sat with me for many years while I stuffed my feelings into you and again when I was learning to let them out by way of you. You have always been there for me. You transform my grief to healing to peace to joy. For then and now and everything in between, I thank you.

With you by my side, I have no fear about what is to come.

With love and gratitude,

Anna

About the Author: Anna Oginsky

annbioAnna Oginsky is the founder of Heart Connected, LLC, a small Michigan-based workshop and retreat business that creates opportunities for guests to tune in to their hearts and connect with the truth, wisdom, and power held there. Her work is inspired by connections made between spirituality, creativity, and community. Anna’s first book, My New Friend, Grief, came as a result of years of learning to tune in to her own heart after the sudden loss of her father. In addition to writing, Anna uses healing tools like yoga, meditation, and making art in her offerings and in her own personal practice. She lives in Brighton, Michigan with her husband, their three children, and Johnny, the big yellow dog. Connect with her on her website; Twitter; Facebook; or Instagram.

Learn more about her book at www.mynewfriendgrief.com

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