Sunday Brunch: Processing the Unimaginable

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell

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

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

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

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

And learn to live with the unimaginable

And we are overwhelmed.

Or at least, I am.

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

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

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

And it’s then that I turn to music.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I watch as celebrity after celebrity releases a tribute song.

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

I used to mock those celebrity tribute songs.

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

Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

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

Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

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

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

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

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

Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

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

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

That’s what I’m doing.

At least for now.

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

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

Have pity
They are going through the unimaginable


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


About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

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

Affairs by Pat West


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

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

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

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

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

About the Author: Pat West

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

Uncoiled Spring by A.R. Hadley


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He felt life.

Always had.

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

“I don’t wanna go.”

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

“No I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. I’ve told you—”

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“Go on, boy.”

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

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

Over mountains.

Tall mountains.

Scary mountains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“All you ever think about is killin’.”

“No, I think about boys too.”

“That’s gross.”

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

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

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

All he ever knew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything. Gone. In a blink.

About the Author: A.R. Hadley

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

No more.

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

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

Connect on Twitter and Facebook.

New Moon Creative: Moon in Cancer

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Moon Creative Prompts (Moon in Gemini)

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

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

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

Sunday Salon: Let Freedom Ring

Sunday Salon with Becca Rowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I wonder.

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

I wonder.

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

I wonder.

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

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

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

Use that freedom wisely and well.

Let it ring out all over the world.

About the Author: Becca Rowan

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

Poster Children of the New Apocalypse by Julie Terrill

Through the Lens

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

Beautiful chaos

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

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


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


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

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


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

About the Author: Julie Terrill


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:

Nourishing the Soul by Kelli May-Krenz

Instrumental_Care of Creative Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feel your soul.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Gratefully spilling…

About the Author: Kelli May-Krenz

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

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

Connect with Kelly on Facebook and Instagram.

Studio Tour: Kerstin Martin

Modern Creative Life Presents Studio Tours

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

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

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


How we get work done around here!


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


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


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


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


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

About the Author: Kerstin Martin

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

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

Sunday Sanctuary: Lush Summer Dreams


For as long as I can remember, I have loved flowers and plants. Dirt runs through the veins of most of my family members – my father grew up on a farm and my mother had a gift for growing lush potted plants. My granny’s backyard was a paradise, inviting my imagination to run wild as I played. There is a deep soul desire to create WeGrowThingsverdant outdoor spaces.

Traditionally, Southern Women Grow Things, even when we no longer live in the south. And life in suburbia, especially in the land of Home Owner Associations demands careful tutelage. The goal is to own the house that stands out enough to be a showplace yet blends into the rest of the neighborhood so it isn’t an eyesore.

Yes to sumptuous beds edging your home; no to painting the house magenta. Gardening is creative endeavor and I deeply admire those whose canvas is flowers and greenery.

As I have gotten older and grown in my own confidence as a creative, I have learned that sadly, having a green thumb is not one of my gifts. Yes, I can manage choosing plants that present a pleasing visage in the beds around my home, but I can equivocally say that it’s not really my gift, no matter how much I wish. And frankly, it’s a bitter pill to swallow…just like the realization that while I understand the basics of constructing a dress, I’ll never be a good seamstress.

Yet, I live in the land of HOAs and the thread of desiring to connect to the earth and growing things remains as a part of my life.

In the fall, I plant tulips and daffodils. They fit me and my personality: the careful planning of a pleasing design with attention to color, bloom time, and height. I order my bulbs online and when they arrive, I plant them over a series of days. It gives me the opportunity to dig in the dirt and connect with that portion of my heritage without overwhelming myself. Because bulbs come back year after year, I only have to supplement the bare spots.

Best of all, there is no need to do much tending once they’re planted. They just bloom.

As the tulips fade, I am in a space of dread.

Late spring plantings with an eye towards summer demands more. I love the planning part: choosing plants that will grow with a certain amount of sun or lack thereof, flowers with pleasing leaves and colors that will be just the right breakfastonthedeck_springcompliment to the permanent pieces of landscape like trees and bushes and the curve of the walk.

But, damn, I have a lot of blank space to fill, and this is where it gets complicated for me. It requires multiple trips to Lowes to purchase not just flowers but supplements for the soil and fertilizers to help them grow.

After my third trip to Lowes, I have amassed sixty-one plants. Five wax leaf begonias, all white. Sixteen French Marigolds, five rust and eleven yellow. Forty Vinca: seventeen pale pink and eleven cranberry pink for the back; seven white and five lavender for the front.

Want to know another trait of creative people? Sometimes we let our passions lead us into the territory of overwhelmed. On that last trip home in the back in the car crammed with foliage, I was beginning to question what I had committed myself to doing.

One of the ways I nourish my creativity is mornings on the deck with my coffee and journal. The flowers feed that sacred time. Despite my lack of having a green thumb, I’ve spent my years nourished by the presence of growing things. And now, to have that, I need to dig sixty-one holes.

Sixty. One. Holes.

I may have uttered words of prayer as I thought “Oh, I wish I had some help.” More than once. As I paid for the flowers, as I loaded them into the back of the car, and during the ten minute journey home.

I turn into our neighborhood and pass that house. The one with the most beautifully tended landscaping and see that the gardener is there. Impulsively, I pull over, roll down my window, and say “Do you have a card?”

She smiles. “I never had cards printed; my business keeps expanding by word of mouth. What is it that you need? Design? I’m a Master Gardner. Or…?”

“Honestly, I just need help getting all my summer plantings in the ground.”

“So, what do you got?”

I pop open the rear door and she says, “OH, that’s not that much. We’re almost done here and could be at your place and be gone in a couple of hours.”

As I’m driving home, I feel like the luckiest gal in the world. I see it as a sign from God that though my prayers had been silent, I was heard.

They arrive at noon, the lovely Julie, the Master Gardener along with her daughter, her assistant Lucas and his friend Chris. Julie and I walk and I show her what I had envisioned. Meanwhile, her daughter begins pulling back the newspringplantings_2016mulch and the men begin breaking up the soil. Julie compliments my plant choices and with her Master Gardener’s eye, fine tunes placement. I work alongside them, trimming the remnants of tulip leaves as they dig.

An hour later, they leave.

All sixty-one flowers are lovingly nestled in the earth. All the plant debris is gone: weeds, spent leaves, and birch seeds. The backbreaking task I estimated would take me eight or nine hours, spread across two days (or more)? Completed.

Creative folks often look at any and all tasks and believe that asking for help dulls our magic or takes away from the approach we have to living. We believe in order to be successful at any endeavor – be it writing a book, constructing a dress, or planting a garden – we must do it alone.

What I’ve made peace with as I’ve gotten older is that sometimes, we just need help.

We have a vision, but need someone to talk it through with us. Or do the heavy lifting. We want to dabble in an area we aren’t good at, but there’s too much work in getting it set-up we don’t bother trying. We believe that spending money on something we could do our self is wasteful, not considering how that time is taking us away from other pursuits.

Being creative doesn’t mean that we have to excel at every creative endeavor that calls our name.

We can bemoan the lack of having a green thumb and torture ourselves over the absence of natural talent. Or we can get the help me need to overcome our natural shortcomings.

Pay to have your lawn mowed. Hire an editor to help polish your book. Let the cleaners hem those pants. Buy the painting you love instead of living with bare walls.  Listen to your gut when it tells you to pull over on the side of the road. And yes, maybe you pray for help and hope for a divine sign.

This is how we choose creative living. We swallow our pride and admit that we need help so that we can spend our time in the kind of environment our soul needs to grow. Don’t deny inviting creativity and beauty into your world just because you can’t create it all by yourself.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

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

The Language of Loss by Sue Ann Gleason

language-of-lossForget everything you were about to say.
And the days you can’t bear
to pick up the phone
because you know the news
will be the same
and you feel the weariness
of the stalwart.
And you wonder how long a body
can go without sleep in service
to the one she loves.
And you feel helpless
and hapless
despite the knowing,
the bone deep knowledge
that there are forces so much
greater than you
at work here.
And isn’t that what this one precious
life is?
She said we had to be willing
to live in the mystery.
And yet, regret slips in.
She always does.
Her cadence
the language of loss.
This morning we are awash in rain
as if to say, See? I told you today
would be dismal.
Pick up the receiver.
It will feel like a barbell.
Stop this inner lament.
It’s your turn to be brave.

About the Author: Sue Ann Gleason

Sue Ann GleasonNourishment guide, SoulCollage® Facilitator, and ‘wise business’ strategist, Sue Ann Gleason is a lover of words, a strong believer in the power of imagination, and a champion for women who want to live a more delicious, fully expressed life. She has been featured in Oprah and Runner’s World magazines and numerous online publications.

When not working with private clients or delivering online programs, Sue Ann can be found sampling exotic chocolates or building broccoli forests in her mashed potatoes.

You can connect with her in a few different places. Delicious freebies await you!
nourished living | wise business | instagram

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