Sunday Sanctuary: The Discomfort of Evolution


It’s disconcerting, sometimes, to learn about yourself. Especially when you consider we humans are ever evolving creatures.

Those of us who are drawn to be creative – to make things,  to have the need to bare our souls through our art of choice, to desire to make our mark upon the world on canvas, paper, or the stage – dig deep into what allows us to do img_20160723_092630our work. The rituals, the routines, the discipline, and the support structures  that serve us and allow us to create the work we are called to make?

We cling to them.

What works for us when we are twenty no longer works for us when we are thirty. The routines that fueled our discipline to come to the table daily when we were forty fall flat when we are forty-eight.

As we evolve, what we need to fuel us, support us, fill our well and allow us to dig into our depths… Those must mature and shift, too. The challenge to this transformation and, frankly, demand of our need to make art, comes when we cling to old ways or realize we are a beat and a half off of what works.

After two weeks away from home – some solo time in The Big Apple followed with a cruise with my partner – I find myself not just a beat off of the rhythm, but in the midst of the maelstrom.


My creative life is shifting. The call to my work spinning like a record on a 78, yet I’ve been tending my creative life as if it’s spinning at 45. My routines, my rituals, my tried-and-true tricks no longer fit me as they did, even six months ago.

It’s uncomfortable. It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating.

Yet, it simply IS. It’s a part of evolving as a human being, and evolving as a creative being. To cling to old ways doesn’t serve me, even though I wish it could.

The biggest discovery for me during the past few weeks is that I need solid pockets of silence.

Yes, me, the girl who, from second grade to seventh grade wrote the sentence “I will not talk in class” hundreds and hundreds of times needs to be quiet.

I have lived in Ohio now for six years. Where my world was once filled with drama and chaos and both physical and auditory noise, now my daily life is mostly peaceful. Though we don’t live a Spartan nor minimalist life, my environment is mostly uncluttered.  I always desire a space of beauty, but in order for my home to be my sanctuary, I have discovered I crave the elegance of solitude.

timesquareThere’s nothing like Times Square or a Cruise Ship full of 2000 souls to bring crystal clear clarity to the truth that in order to create, I need both solitude and silence. Where I once thrived on drama to fuel my creations, I now need the contrast of tiny bits of input with huge doses of calm for output.

Home from my travels, faced with the reality that in learning about myself, I am once again the space of facing the uncomfortable and disconcerting feelings of evolution. To realize that in order to tend my creative evolution, I need time to find my equilibrium.

I am in the space of searching for those new routines and rituals. To seek new paths to what works  and what doesn’t. Though it was made clear to me during my time of travel, the only way I can bring discipline into the mix, to shift the filling of my own well and, in turn, create the work I am called to make will happen here.


This kind of work is done best in a place of safety. So, as we are thrust back into the “real world” of work schedules, laundry, and making dinner, I also have work to do. Yes, here. At Home.In stretches of silence and solitude. In what has become my Sanctuary.

Because my creative life depends upon me dealing with – and working through – this discomfort.

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 Lazy Girl’s Guide to Meditation by Hilary Parry Haggerty

Instrumental_Care of Creative Soul

I fidgeted. My back was killing me. My eyes were fluttering, my thoughts racing with to-dos. I had an itch on my ankle I desperately wanted to scratch. I silently cursed and berated myself for thinking of my to-do list instead of the mantra. I wondered at how much time had elapsed… Surely it had been ten minutes already, and my timer must be broken. I dared to open my eyes and look at the clock: Only a minute? How the heck was I going to last for another nine minutes of this shit?!

Does this sound a bit like your meditation practice? Trust me, I hear you. Take it from me, the world’s laziest meditator, that meditation is not a walk in the park when you first start, and sometimes even now I still have those sessions of meditation where I’m like let’s just get this over with already!

You don’t need to be fancy. You don’t have to have special flowing robes, or a certain type of incense, or even a lot of space, to be able to meditate. That’s part of the beauty of meditation: you can do it almost anywhere. What you do need to have is a willingness to be consistent and put aside time each day to do it.


Here’s how to start and keep a meditation practice, even when you’re a lazy bones like me, and some unexpected bonuses that come along with a meditation practice.

The first and most important step when you are a lazy chick is motivating yourself to meditate. Once you are there on the mat, or cushion, or chair, or lying down, I promise, it will be much easier…. Sometimes getting there is the hardest part.

So, this first part (getting motivated) will not look the same for everyone. We all have our ways, and we all know where our laziness comes from… It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from outright procrastination, or another form of it entirely. For me, procrastinating on meditation takes the form of me telling myself that I simply don’t have enough time to meditate. To which I then say to myself, if you can’t find ten minutes somewhere in the day for it, you’ve got bigger problems! Find the time. I usually quickly realize that the time I use up playing frivolous mobile games would be better spent meditating!

How I motivate myself to meditate:

  • Touchstones or malas – a touchstone could be a simple quartz crystal or pebble that you hold while you meditate. A mala traditionally has 108 beads on it to work while meditating, especially if you are doing a malabeadsmantra meditation; each time you repeat a mantra silently in your head, you turn a bead (similar to working a rosary). You can custom order a mala to suit your esthetic sensibilities or intention (I have two, one for psychic work/intuition and the other for peace and calm). Or you can buy a simple mala made out of wooden beads, such as sandalwood. When you pick up your touchstone or your mala, that’s your physical reminder and signal to the Universe: hey, I’m sitting down to my meditation practice now!
  • Make an inviting space that appeals to all the senses – including incense, nice music, noise-canceling headphones, etc. Now I know I said before that one of the beautiful things about meditation is that you can do it almost anywhere. That’s true, but in order to build consistency, first it’s best to keep it to one place. Once you have this space, don’t dismantle it! Keep it intact, so that you don’t have to recreate it each time. Each time you sit in this space, it is like a touchstone: a signal that it’s meditation time.
  • Don’t overthink it. Know yourself, and know all the ways in which you convince yourself out of something. If you have the thought, “I should meditate” then that’s the time you should meditate. Don’t put it off.
  • Have a set time each day. I do my meditation in the morning right after I wake up. Why? Because if I wait until the end of the work day to do it, then the day tends to “get away from me” and I don’t have the time, nor the energy, to meditate.

How to meditate:

  • Find something to focus on: this can be a candle flame, your breath, a mantra, a quote, a saying, a tarot or candleflameoracle card, a rune, a mirror or bowl of water, incense smoke, or any number of things.

    A nice beginning meditation is simply inhaling for a count of 5, holding for a count of 5, and exhaling for a count of 5. When breathing, take deep breaths and focus on filling up down to your belly like you are filling a vase with your breath. When exhaling, release the air from the bottom of the belly, up.

    When starting out, look down and see the rise and fall of your belly, so you can see what it looks like when you are taking a nice big breath of air. You’d be surprised just how shallow our breathing can be because we don’t do it with intention!

  • Focus on that thing for a predetermined amount of time. Start with 5 minutes. Don’t be too ambitious when you are beginning. If 5 minutes is too much, drop down to a minute. Try a minute first (Yeah, seriously!). Then add on time. It is easier to add on time than begin with too much and get frustrated by it.
  • Keep returning to the thing you are focused on when your mind starts to wander. If you notice yourself enumerating everything you have to do after the meditation is over, or find yourself distracted by itches or pins and needles, return to the thing, such as your breath or the mantra. This is your mental touchstone within the meditation, what you grab onto when you find yourself slipping.
  • When your timer dings, allow yourself one more big inhale and exhale, and open your eyes. Make sure to get up slowly and with intention, and be gentle with yourself. And don’t forget to congratulate yourself on forming a new habit of meditation, day by day!

What are the benefits of meditation?

Besides a greater sense of peace and calm, unanticipated side effects can include increased creativity and ideas popping up during your meditation. If it’s a good idea, by all means, keep a notebook and pen beside you so that when you complete your meditation, you can get those goodies down! But I caution you: don’t interrupt your meditation FOR the idea, no matter how good you think it is. Calmly tell yourself that it is not time for that, and ask the thought to come back to you at the end of your meditation. I promise: if it’s a keeper, it WILL do as you ask and reappear… As long as you ask nicely!

These moments are not unusual occurrences: some of our best ideas can seem to pop up at the most “inopportune” times: on the crapper, in the shower, handwashing dishes… pretty much every time that a piece of paper and a pen are as far away from us as they can possibly get! It ain’t Murphy’s Law why this is so: it’s what is known as the creative pause (as Racheal Cook the Yogipreneur calls it): a time in which you are daydreaming, not focused on any one thing in particular, almost the exact opposite in mental states as zoning out, however. The ahas that happen in those spaces are BECAUSE you aren’t doing anything! So too can those aha moments appear during yoga or meditation: and because of it, it seems that we do need to let our brains rest, stop overclocking ourselves, and simply BE.


Just being can cause breakthroughs.

Basically, don’t tune out. Tune IN.

Remember that you can’t get the benefits of a meditation practice without, um… practicing. As in, doing the meditation itself. I’ll admit: I am definitely the type of learner that reads about something, and then hops onto the next chapter and the next lesson, skipping over the more practical or experiential elements. But the experiential is where the meat and potatoes of meditation is. Same thing as for yoga: most of your work is done on the mat, not in an armchair reading about it. You don’t get the benefits of a yoga pose from reading about it; you get it from doing it. Same thing for meditation!

About the Author: Hilary Parry Haggerty

hilaryparryhaggerty_bioHILARY PARRY HAGGERTY is a tarot reader, witch, mentor, writer, editor, and teacher. She has been reading tarot for over 18 years (11 years professionally). She was the winner of Theresa Reed’s (The Tarot Lady) Tarot Apprentice contest in 2011, and has taught classes on tarot and spell-work at Readers Studio and Brid’s Closet Beltane Festival. She writes a weekly blog at her website and contributes a monthly tarot blog “Through a Tarot Lens” to

Weekend at Willow Creek Ranch by Pat West


No newspapers, radio, TV newscasts
to link me to the rest of the world. No phone
service for calls from the man I screamed at
on the courthouse lawn, so loud my ears rang.

The owner greets me with a basket
and leads me to the organic garden.
I take a pinch of dirt inhale the thick
and hearty odor of green pasture,
pick my dinner row by row. Basket overflowing,
I head to a cottage that faces a meadow.
A red-tailed hawk circles lazily in the sky, no city
sirens or car alarms blaring.

I unpack like I’m moving in. Do a little dance
when I see the Viking stove in the kitchen,
explore every cabinet and drawer, plenty of pots,
pans and more gadgets than what I own.
I need this get away to absorb the fact
that after a two year battle
the rat bastard got the house and the best kitchen
that ever was, one I designed and paid for.

Alone caramelizing onions, no one to debate
the exact moment when to stir. There’s a hundred ways
to get it wrong and no one way to do it right. Yet,
because I wouldn’t turn those damn Walla Walla Sweets
when he said, everything unraveled.
It wasn’t until we were twenty years in,
I realized I couldn’t explain
a life bundled with episodes like that.

If this marriage was a mistake, it’s one I had to make.
The radio aches a little tune. I lift the glass
of chilled Pinot Grigio, tears falling down my face
onto my plate of Ridiculously Easy Sautéd Yellow Squash
and Onions. The weight of metallic bitterness
sits on the back of my tongue.

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.

True Wise Tales of a (formerly) Broken Heart by Cathleen Delia Mulrooney


The first was in junior high–we wore matching outfits to a Valentine’s Day dance one week and he broke up with me the next. I was home sick with a flu and in my fevered, delirious state the heartbreak felt like ruin. No gift. No lesson. Just I feel something for you…no, wait, I don’t. The End.

Then there was a boy who called me beautiful and talked to me for hours on the phone each night, only to pass by me in our high school hallways like a ghost by day. Another whose popular girlfriend found out he was talking to me in biology class and decided to make me regret ever speaking a word. I was just as heartbroken over her as I was him–I wanted to be her friend, too. I failed. I learned a new kind of pain brokered by the power differential between certain types of girls.

Next came the real one. The first true love. The everything. We spent hours deliriously kissing and hours wildly fighting. Two kids mimicking the broken marriages of our parents and dealing with grown up issues we were ill-equipped to handle. As deep as the love was, I learned that love isn’t always enough–a lesson it took years to fully understand.

By the time I fell for the man I’d marry, there had been other splintering heartbreaks. A New England musician who wrote me love letters long after he left and another girl’s boyfriend who scarred me in a dozen different ways. In those days, I could feel love for the infinite potential of a fragile boy strung out on drugs or a poet I barely knew who cathleen_wisdom2called my shoulders white as milk and swore he’d never kiss me or we’d both die from it.

My heart then was a fool and I learned to let it break wide open to hold everyone and everything. Limitless. Boundless. Vicious.

But, when I married, I thought I had found out what love actually was. All that it could be. My fairytale ending. The babies, the house, the growing up together year after year, our late night philosophical ramblings and our barefoot slow dances to Harvest Moon across the warped kitchen floor, our fights and our forgiveness.

One day, as we stood together in our sundrenched kitchen, his wedding band snapped and fell off of his finger. “It’s a sign,” I said ominously. “It’s not,” he said, shaking his head. We both stared at the silver band, no longer a complete circle, no longer whole.

I was right. We separated a year later.

I was given a lesson then in a whole other level of pain no one ever could’ve warned me about. Heartbreak to end all heartbreaks. I won’t say that my divorce made my heart wise. I can’t say that. If anything, it made my heart even more completely lost. If “forever” didn’t exist anyway, my heart decided to pin itself to reckless stories that would only cause more damage–the only thing I understood. A heart, once set to broken, draws in other fractured hearts with a magnetic pull.

I went out with a man who belonged to someone else, a teacher who took me to a prom but couldn’t kiss, a Buddhist I didn’t like but whose philosophies I did, a writer who didn’t want me to talk about my work, a chef who didn’t like my tattoos and asked if I’d consider lasering them off before I met his family. There was one I believed might become my next something, but my brokenheart perspective had a nasty habit of shifting into kaleidoscopic view, seeing only the smooth parts I liked, while shifting the glass to obscure the jagged-edged ones I did not. I spent so much time pressing my eye to the shattered fragments that I overlooked the blood spilling from me. I believed that wounding was all I deserved after all that had happened.

cathleen_wisdom4I was still a damn fool.

Then, my mom died of what was ultimately a broken, faulty heart and I realized that my greatest source of love had never been the dates or the crushes or even the real relationships–it had been her all along–and she was gone.

There was no choice but for me to channel all of the love I had left into myself.

I bought myself a silver ring at the same shop where I bought my ex-husband’s years before. I went to the beach and vowed to stay alive and to stay open to love in all its forms. I vowed to make better choices to stop my constant heartbreak. I wrote my vows in the sand and let the waves carry them off. I slid the ring onto my finger and the wisdom of all I’d been through surged in my blood like high tide.

My marriage to self-love was in March, and that June I did meet another someone. He had a faulty, broken heart not unlike my mother’s.

When I eventually let him close to me, I could hear the mechanical ticking of his clockwork heart, keeping time. He’s had many surgeries in his life and and I’ve had many wounds. Our hearts both know something of suffering.

But, I have been wise enough to start to let my past go and to count each moment with him.


I don’t know what the future holds and, yes, he may yet be another hard lesson learned  someday, but over the past three years, I have been learning my way around love, not loss. I have been learning to receive, to be heard, to be seen as beautiful and worthy of respect and tenderness.

My heart has been burned and my heart has been broken, but it was the wisdom I earned through self love that led me to a place where I am even able to have this kind of partnership now. This isn’t a fairytale where a hero rides in and saves our lady from her sorrow–it is one where she rescues herself and loves herself first.

The bravehearted partner is definitely a bonus, but the real love story…now and ever after…is the one within.

Cathleen Delia Mulrooney

cathleendeliamulrooney_bioRestless. Sleepless. Book-lover. Wordsmith. Deep roots. Prodigal heart. Teacher. Guide. Wanderer. Witch. Tea, tarot, hot baths, stitchcraft. Curator of narrative relics, remnants, & curiosities.

Cat is also a freelance writer, editor, and teacher. Her poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, and reviews have appeared in a variety of online and print publications. She has been teaching writing at the college level since 2000, and has facilitated creative writing workshops in elementary schools, high schools, prisons, and private organizations, as well as workshops exclusively for women to write their body and tarot-based narratives.

Through her Queen of Cups Tarot community, she offers private, group, and online tarot readings. Find her online at and Facebook:

Schwarzer Engel (Black Angel) by Æverett

Matches by Jamie Street via Unsplash

Feel it – burning in me – through me – through you.
Feel it on your skin.
Feel it in your chest, heaving – your breathing.

Take it from me.
Take me home.
Take me – make me – bleed me out.

Feel it – gnawing – clawing – killing.
Drown it – pound it – wish I’d never found it…
Take it from me.
Take me home.
Take me – make me – bleed me out.

Pale as a picture, caress you.
None of it’s real, everything’s a dream.

Pale as a picture, I feel you breathing.
Whisper, weeping, peeking —

Taste it – naked throat – your euphemism – and years apart…


I died when I left you… But you never came for my body. I’m still waiting, still longing. Still hating. I still love you.
Fuck. I still love you.


About the Author: Æverett Æverett

Æverett lives in the northern hemisphere and enjoys Rammstein and Star Trek. He writes both poetry and fiction and dabbles in gardening and soap making. She has two wonderfully old cats, and a dearly beloved dog. He also plays in linguistics, studying German, Norwegian, Russian, Arabic, a bit of Elvish, and developing Cardassian. Language is fascinating, enlightening, and inspirational. She’s happily married to her work with which she shares delusions of demon hunters, detectives, starships, androids, and a home on the outskirts of a small northern town. He’s enjoyed writing since childhood and the process can be downright therapeutic when it’s not making him pull his hair out. It’s really about the work and words and seeing without preconceptions.

Dear Autumn

Dear Autumn,

You’re coming.

I know it.

autumn-974882_1280You think you’re going to surprise me – you with your damp, misty mornings and slightly chilled evening breezes. You think I haven’t noticed those red-tipped leaves at the top of the maple tree, or those golden elm feathers that drift down occasionally along the path to the mailbox. You’re sure I’m completely unaware that I need to turn on my reading lamp at seven o’clock each evening instead of eight or even nine.

Well, you don’t fool me. I’m onto you.

Did you really think it would escape my attention that I’ve needed to pull on a sweater before I could walk the dogs? Or that I suddenly find my mouth watering at the thought of rich, spicy chili simmering on the stove?

Besides, a person would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb to miss the advertisements for pumpkin spice everything.

Autumn, I’m smarter than you think. Just because I didn’t buy school supplies or backpacks doesn’t mean I’m not perfectly cognizant of your impending arrival.

I appreciate your sensitivity to my feelings this year. Perhaps you’re worried that I’ll be saddened to watch the gardens wither and die, or to hear thousands of wings beating as flocks of birds gather to disperse for the winter.  Perhaps you’re afraid the encroaching darkness will renew my despair, that my heart will grow heavy once again with its harvest of grief and loneliness.

It’s true – you bring a poignancy to this circle of life that no other season can replicate. What was new and fresh with promise turns old and fades into dust. The world turns on its axis and long sunny days evolve into endless, darkening nights. The garden goes fallow as what was once green anred-treed verdant turns yellow and withers away

But oh, Autumn! You do it all with such glory. You explode into brilliant colors.  Marvelous gold and rich crimson etched against piercingly blue skies. My eyes don’t know where to look, they drink every amazing vista in huge gulps. You’re a feast for the senses, Autumn, you really are. I think you know it, too. You strut your gorgeous stuff all over creation.

I’ve been watching you come and go for almost 61 years and each year I revel just a bit more in your splendor. Each year you teach me to offer beauty even in the midst of loss, to relinquish life with a blazing light. This year I hope – I pray – will not be different. Because you are right, dear Autumn – this year more than ever I need to be reminded that there is everlasting beauty even in the dying of the light.

So bring it on! I’m collecting all my favorite teas, unpacking those soft fuzzy sweaters and warm socks. I’ve washed and aired the blanket throws that drape over the comfy reading chairs in every room. All the new bookstore orders are coming in and the library reserve list grows longer and longer. My pantry is stocked with fragrant ingredients for soups and stews, the freezer filled with meats and vegetables for a season’s worth of hearty meals.

You don’t have to hide, Autumn.

I’m ready for you.

I am.

So come on.



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.

The Wisdom is in the Cards by Bella Cirovic

Instrumental_Care of Creative Soul

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend about our self-care wellness practices. You know the things we do for ourselves that feed and lift our spirits? Lately, I’ve become so interested in how other people tend to themselves when life throws them a curveball. And maybe that’s because I feel like my own go to routines have become old and quite frankly, aren’t doing the trick anymore.

And this is when I had a clear “a-ha” moment about wellness practices. We have to keep changing them up so that we may continue to be inspired, filled up, and ultimately healed. How boring would life become if we were to eat the same food day after day without any changes? I once tried a diet that required eating the same three meals a day every week for a month. I lasted three days.

Now some practices we partake in daily certainly serve us well and most definitely do not get boring. When you thrive in your practice or if you’re working to get better at one, that is awesome. My daughter is a musician who sits at the piano every single day, no matter what kind of mood she’s in because in addition to feeding her soul, it is her dream that music becomes her career. I get this and I support this.

For myself, I feel like I’ve landed in some kind of empty space. I’m trying so hard to tap in and find what it is that I need because I feel a void. What’s proving difficult is that I’m listening, but I’m not hearing anything. Has that ever happened for you? It’s like my own wisdom well has dried up. And I understand that this may just be a temporary dry spell like similar to writer’s block. This dry spell sure can lend to feeling less than whole.


So I have a practice that helps me tap in and access the place that I have a hard time reaching when everything else fails me. I take out a deck of oracle cards for some guidance. Now, there are many ways to use oracle cards and every deck is different. I am attracted to one word, action based decks. I have some that I’ve bought, some that I’ve made, and some that friends have gifted me.

I do love to light candles and incense when I’m getting ready to work with my cards. Most often, I sit at my writing desk in my room. I light a bit of palo santo wood and smoke the cards to clear their energy. I then begin to shuffle with a question in mind which is usually: what message do I need to hear today?

These action based cards have given me guidance like: dance, pray, meditate, walk, share, magic, peace, spin, love, kiss, greet, create, and ease. After I pull a card, I open my journal and begin to write. I try to associate the word with a memory, and if one comes up, I write it out. And this will usually lead to an idea for a project or something to do that day. Or maybe it will lead to nothing at all, and if that’s the case, I just try to remain open and act out the word or wait for the message.


The cards can also be used as prompts when I have nothing. This doesn’t happen often. I know there is a well of wisdom that lives deep inside of me. But some days, I need a little bit of help to access all that I know, all of the answers, or my sweet spot. These are the days that I pull out the cards.

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

Typical Tuesday with Little Fox Tarot


At around 5am, my Joe kisses me on the head on his way to work. His love is real, as I’m certain I’m snoring when he does this. Generally, I wake up at 6:04am. I’ve got an alarm set with the wake up song “Get By” by Talib Kweli. If you haven’t heard this song – it starts with a sample of Nina Simone from “Sinnerman”. Soon the hook starts,

“This morning, I woke up
Feeling brand new, I jumped up
Feeling my highs and my lows
In my soul and my goals
Just to stop smoking and stop drinking
I’ve been thinking, I’ve got my reasons
Just to get by, just to get by, just to get by, just to get by….”

You can’t listen to this song and not want to do something big.


I shift into care mode. I take the dogs (Libby and Lucy) outside, and sit with them for a few minutes, just breathing in and out. I quit smoking a year ago, and this is an important part of my Not Smoking. I just breathe. I feed the cats (Daisy, Daisy Adair and Minerva Jane McGonagall Cynova). I hand feed our tortoise, Phil – that’s my meditation time. We’ve spoiled this tortoise to the point that he won’t eat his whole breakfast unless he’s hand fed. If it’s a Kid day (shared custody), I wake up my sweethearts and get them started on their day. If it’s not a Kid Day, I take a shower and putter around for a bit.

img_3111I choose my card of the day.

I’ve been reading tarot cards since 1989, and this is the first year I’ve ever done readings for myself – ever. Weird, yes. But there it is. I got this great journal from Darla Antoine – The Divina Dream Journal for Magical Babes. Its intent is to help you remember your dream, but it also has a section for Daily Divination. I started pulling a card every morning and writing about it.

It’s amazing how calming it is to take ten minutes to figure out what the day could look like. I’ve found that usually I get an important head’s up about how the day is going to unfold. I got the Three of Swords, which is about heartbreak and pain, but wrote that it didn’t feel like I was the target.  A few hours later, my son called to tell me he hurt his ankle and could I please come home? I pulled the Lovers card, and the day turned into a spontaneous, hours long date with my sweetheart.

There is a great deal of validation in seeing even the smallest predictions come true. It adds an element of control to what might otherwise feel like a completely random day.

I drop the kids off at school or head to work. I have a forty minute commute, so I listen to audio books and enjoy my alone time. I usually knock out two or three books a month and it helps me avoid the stabby-inducing road rage.  I get to work around 8am and head home at 5, listening to my book the whole way. I like my job. It’s challenging and interesting and I like my team, so it’s really a blessing to get all three things in one place.

It’s a difficult thing to balance writing and reading cards and working a full-time muggle job.


I wrote most of my first book last year during lunch breaks and when I had insomnia late at night. I’m editing it now, and I have to schedule time to make writing happen.

I get home from work to find that my partner Joe has picked up the kids from school, cooked dinner, and has taken care of the animals. He’s usually got laundry going, too. I hang out with my family until 8:30 when the kids go to sleep, and then I start doing readings or writing.

kitchen-table-tarot-coverI remind myself that writing is a privilege, not a right, and that for me? I can’t not write. I can’t not read tarot cards.

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was six years old. I told my best friend 20 years ago that my dream in life was to have a book in the Library of Congress.

In April 2017, Kitchen Table Tarot will be published and that bucket list item is checked! It took me four years to complete this book, and the only reason it’s finished is because I decided I wouldn’t push off my dream anymore.

I read or write until 10:30 or so, and then I go to sleep, and am up the next day. I’m tired a lot, and I don’t have as much time to write or work with my cards as I’d like, but I’m still getting things done.

I have a number in my head of how many years it will take me to become a full time author and tarot reader. It’s very clear, and I know that the more I work now, the more likely that goal will become a reality.

About the Author: Melissa Cynova

Melissa CynovaMelissaC_Bio is owner of Little Fox Tarot, and has been reading tarot cards and teaching classes since 1989. She can be found in the St. Louis area, and is available for personal readings, parties and beginner and advanced tarot classes. You can Look for her first book, Kitchen Table Tarot, from Llewellyn Publishing in January 2017.

Melissa lives in St. Louis with her kiddos, her partner, Joe, and two cats, two dogs and her tortoise, Phil.

She is on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Go ahead and schedule a reading – she already knows you want one.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Bernie Brown


If you plan on breaking your wrist anytime soon, don’t do it all alone in a one-hundred-year-old twenty-room mansion at 6:30 in the morning.

Just sayin’.

I tripped on the bathroom threshold at the Jim Boyd mansion at the Weymouth Center for the Arts during a much-anticipated writing residency. Falling sideways into the bathroom, I curled cozily around the toilet and broke my wrist. All on a beautiful April morning.

A dear friend to whom I will always be grateful came to my rescue, first aid book and ice pack in hand. Bless her beautiful heart. I will spare you all the details of that day and the four months, two Urgent Care visits, four splints, two surgeries, one ruptured thumb tendon, three casts, and countless doctor and therapy appointments.

What I will do is filter out what I have learned from this saga.

The Good Stuff.

Let’s start with the people in white coats, or green scrubs, more likely. They astound me.

An orthopedic hand specialist? Didn’t even know one existed. In the first surgery, he installed the usual pins and plates. A piece of cake to this guy. Second surgery offered him a bit more fun. He transferred and wove a tendon from my index finger into my thumb tendon. A few steps up from weaving potholders.

And a hand physical therapist? Imagine a large room filled with nursery school toys, peg boards, putty, beans in bowls, things to wind up and squeeze. And then put in some therapists who know how to use these toys to help patients regain the use of their hands. What a satisfying profession and what a brilliant person my therapist is. Many times she gave me emotional therapy along with physical therapy.

It is almost cliché to say one has learned to appreciate one’s family. I had to live it to learn it.

My husband brought me People magazine, and trays of food, and doses of medicine, and glasses of wine. He helped me into the car and chauffeured me to endless doctor and therapy appointments. He tried to cook, though we were both happier when he brought home fast food. We learned all the take-out menus within a five-mile radius of our house. The thing he most hated to do, but did anyway, was put lotion on my left arm after a bath. I could use my left hand to put lotion everywhere else, but not on itself. And my sweetie gets kind of creeped out by lotions. It’s just a thing he has.

Our son, who lives with us, opened jars of jam, buttered my toast, and tied my shoes. One day he caught me scooting down the stairs dragging the laundry basket, which I couldn’t pick up, down with me. He looked at me in mild disgust. “Give me that,” he said. “Look, Mom. It’s a temporary situation, all you have to do is ask.”

Blessed, that’s what I am.

When I was able to supervise some cooking, both he and my husband chopped things very nicely. We even invented a tasty dish of chicken sausage, roasted potatoes, green beans, and grape tomatoes, which we named Therapy Stew.

When our daughter completed all the end-of-year demands her teaching job required, she came home and brought our adorable two-year-old granddaughter to brighten my spirits. While I reveled in my Gigi role, our daughter cooked, shopped, and took me to the store to buy soul- satisfying things like nail polish and eye shadow. In the afternoon, while her daughter slept in her arms, we enjoyed a glass of wine, and she talked me through my experience as only a daughter can. Later that evening, she filed my fingernails and painted my toenails, other things my husband just couldn’t get the hang of.

My long distance family asked about my sleep and how was the pain and what did the doctor say, and cheered me on with phone calls, emails, text messages, cards, and bouquets of flowers.

The day I hit rock bottom, the day I cried all morning, turning my eyes stoplight red and my face puffy as a yeast roll, a dear friend came by. She came through the door of my bedroom like a guardian angel carrying an enormous bouquet of sunflowers and lilies, and an overflowing bag of chocolate truffles, mango cookies, and caramel popcorn. She listened to me lament, “Will I ever be pain free? Will I ever be able to write and sew?”

Other friends sent me emails and asked me to dinner. Ten of us had a jolly time at a Cast Away party, bringing food enough to carpet my table and wine enough that we are still enjoying it weeks later.

That’s the Good Stuff, skilled professionals, devoted family, loyal friends.

Now the Bad. Let’s talk pain.

I learned different kinds of pain. There never was the screaming kind of pain, but there was the all-encompassing, deeply penetrating ache, relentless as a heartbeat. And then came nerve pain like creepy crawlies beneath my skin. I used ice. I used heat. I had drugs, even the heavy duty ones, but pain never disappeared entirely.

Pain brought me down. It wore me out. It made me old. I walked slow, with a shuffle. I moaned and sighed like a tired old creature.

Foolishly, I thought when I had the cast removed life would be easier. Well, yes and no. I didn’t have to cart around a rock hard vice any longer, but now I learned about surface sensitivity. When skin has been traumatized by two surgeries and encased in a cast for six weeks, it becomes sensitive to  – – well almost anything, simply being exposed to the air. The top of my hand felt like the skin was burning. Although most of the ache and the nerve pain have dissipated, the burning sensation remains. I look forward to the day it is just a memory.

Fear is the Ugly.

If this could happen to me, could it happen again? Or something worse?

I now have a real fear of falling. I grab stair rails tightly, watch where my feet go with every step, and have anxiety about things I used to anticipate gladly. My dependence made me afraid to leave home. Even our first road trip to our daughter and her family, a trip that normally filled me with joy, worried me in a vague free-floating way.

Getting behind the wheel of the car again. Fixing my own hair. All these ordinary things filled my head with worst case scenarios.

In a few weeks, we have a plane trip planned. Can I still navigate an airport security line, get on a plane full of people who hurry and bump, and stow my carryon under my seat? Can I retrieve my checked luggage from the turntable?

Each fear has to be corralled and subdued. So far, I am pumping my fist at each small victory.

Were there aha moments when the good, the bad, and the ugly insights came to me? Not so much moments, more growing realizations.

Things I had always known at some level now moved to the forefront of my mind and heart. Will this knowledge stay with me? Flawed as I am, I can’t be sure. When my hand is no longer stiff and sore, will I take for granted this five-fingered wonder on the end of my arm? I know I will take my husband for granted, because that is just what married people do.

I do know this: when I walk down the street, or into a restaurant, or visit the mall and see someone in a sling, or on crutches, or in a wheelchair, I send them silent wishes for recovery and good health.Rich or poor, highly educated or barely literate, old or young, we all belong to the same club where the membership is injury and pain.

I learned empathy for people whose lives will never be pain free, refugees who spend years in squalid camps, who starve and go unwashed for lack of water, who have inner and outer wounds that will never heal. I pray for them and for all people who endure the agony of cancer, or sick children or the death of a loved one, who suffer bravely and silently day after day.

And I feel humbled and fortunate.

And for the record, I am returning to the scene of The Great Fall for another week of writing at the Weymouth Center, but this time I am going with a friend. When I get there, I am going to sit down in the hall and have a good long talk with the threshold that brought me down on that April morning four months ago, and we are going to come to an understanding.

Just watch me.

About the Author: Bernie Brown

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

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

Sunday Brunch: Hope Springs Trek-ternal

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell

Live long and prosper.

Star Trek may have first beamed onto our televisions in September, 1966, but those four words weren’t actually spoken by Mr. Spock until roughly a year later, on September 15th 1967*.

Like “Beam me up, Scotty,” and “I’m a doctor not a whatever,” it’s a phrase that has passed into the cultural vernacular of, not just the United States, but the entire world, and you don’t have to be a sci-fi geek or even a particular Star Trek fan to have heard them.

On the surface those words were just a ritual greeting used by a fictional culture, but in reality they embody the overall message of Star Trek as a whole. They are a message of hope.

It’s a message that has been part of my being almost since I was born.

LLAP-MelysseI wasn’t an OT (Original Trekkie) having being born the year after the original series ended, but my mother is the one who introduced me to it, and I was among the first generation of kids to be raised on its reruns. As the child of a single mother, I found father figures in Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and Scotty. (Especially Scotty, but I don’t know why. Maybe it was the accent.) At the same time, Lt. Uhura’s warmth and grace made her feel like a sort of auntie to me, and when she was the one who solved a problem or got to be in charge, it gave me a glimpse of what girl-power could grow up to be.

More than that, though, Star Trek showed me – showed all of us – a future where all people were equal, regardless of gender or nationality.

Star Trek: The Next Generation was my coming-of-age Star Trek, launching as I was starting my senior year of high school, and ending around the time I first met my husband.

If the messages of hope and unity had been strong in the original series, in the first of its live-action sequels it was even stronger, extending beyond social and cultural equality to include more representation of women in STEM fields.

True, most of them were still in ‘caring’ professions, and also true, I had no interest in focusing on a STEM-related career myself (though I’d later find work in computer tech support), but just the presence of so many women in leadership roles, combined with the fact that Captain Picard was even more committed than Captain Kirk to the peaceful resolution of disputes, resorting to violence only when necessary, had a real impact on me, and on the world.

The later incarnations of televised Star Trek came at times when I wasn’t able to watch them week by week, as their stories unfolded. I caught a lot of Star Trek: Voyager when it was being run two episodes at a time on Spike several years ago, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a relatively recent binge-watch (thank you, Netflix), but the enduring theme of hope is still present in both.

In DS9, that message is often sublimated by the hard truths of war and conflict, as it is so often in our real lives, but it persists even though the series represents Star Trek at its darkest. Conversely, in Voyager which is, at its core, a seven-year quest to get back home, it’s possibly at its strongest.

But it is always, always there.

In fact, DS9 cast member Armin Shimerman (Quark), in a panel at the Mission: New York Star Trek convention a couple of weeks ago, answered a question about that show’s starbase setting by stating unequivocally: “Starships do not make Star Trek. Hope makes Star Trek.

And now it’s 2016, and every social, every cultural step we’ve moved forward seems, at times, to be counter-balanced by a step back. Darkness encroaches upon our lives through politics, through economics, and through civil unrest. Our media – especially our fiction – is filled with heroes and villains who seem to be locked in never-ending battles or filled with zombies, vampires and demons.

Don’t get me wrong; I love fictional horror as much as anyone, but when the darkness, both real and fictional, gets too intense, Star Trek is my safe space (and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this). Sure, I’ve seen every episode at least twice at this point, but every time, I find some new nuance in a performance, some new detail in the script, that adds depth.

If macaroni and cheese is comfort food, Star Trek is comfort-viewing, as much because of the familiarity I have with it as because of that message of hope.

Jonathan Frakes, William Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation, has often referred to a conversation he had with franchise creator Gene Roddenberry, early in the production of the first season of TNG. “In the 24th century,” Frakes quotes Roddenberry, “there will be no hunger, and no greed, and all the children will know how to read.”

If we have the power to choose our future – and I believe that we do – how can we not want the future where no one has to be cold, hungry, tired, dirty, or lacking in toilet paper?

How can we not choose the future where education is revered, and art and science are given equal merit?

How can we not choose the future that represents hope for ourselves as individuals, and for our species as a whole?

“Live long and prosper,” Spock utters on our television and movie screens, and in so doing he is wishing us hope. Hope for long, fulfilled lives in which we achieve success in whatever way each of us chooses to define it.

“Live long and prosper,” the words say, and in my head I have two replies.

The first is the ritual response, the one any fan would likely respond with automatically: “Peace and long life.”

The other is a line from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Commander Uhura says it as she beams her crewmates – her chosen family – to their starship to undertake a mission she will only join much later in the story. I used to think of it as a throw-away goodbye, but lately, I’ve found it to be more meaningful:

All my hopes.


*The episode was Amok Time, and it aired in the second season.


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.

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