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.

Advice by Lisa Zaran


Do not give away the mutt that was hers
while away at school because the family
is moving again and cannot bear the burden
of a dog who licks too much, bends the rules
and stains the carpet. She loves him with all
she knows of love and that is a lot.

Goodbye’s are important.

When she swears to you there is a lion
walking across the perimeter of her crib
late at night, growling and snarling,
wanting to feed, believe it,
though she hasn’t accumulated language yet,
she has fists and cries and no idea
how to manipulate. It’s truth to her
and she’s afraid.

Turn the light on.

If you choose to be gone a lot,
see her round, worried face
through the window on your return,
as your headlights sweep across the glass.
Acknowledge this because she’s been there
for hours.

If you send her to bed anyway,
do it with a thousand kisses, and an I love you
to the moon and back, a tickle would delight her.
A shoulder ride would seal the deal.

When she phones you at one a.m., sorry
for waking you, to ask for help because the situation
she’s found herself in has become unmanageable,
even as she tries her best to sound fine, go get her.

Wherever she is.

About the Author: Lisa Zaran

LisaZaranBioLisa Zaran is the author of eight collections of poetry including Dear Bob Dylan, If It We, The Blondes Lay Content and the sometimes girl. She is the founder and editor of Contemporary American Voices. When not writing, Zaran spends her days in Maricopa county jails assisting women with remembering their lost selves.

Wisdom of the Sea by Christine Cassidy

“And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came.”

John F. Kennedy, 1962

My knowledge of the sea came early in life, while wisdom came much later.

When I was a child, family vacations were spent down the Jersey shore. We stayed in a room at a single story, pale-yellow apartment building arranged in a U shape. I remember the landlady had an old-fashioned phone, the kind you cranked to power up in order to connect you to the operator.

Suffering from Eczema as a girl, the salt water coupled with the heat from the sun proved to be a soothing balm to my skin. Healed by the ocean, my scars would disappear.

I learned how to swim in the ocean. I learned how to build castles and to dig deep in the sand for sea cicadas; learned how to bound up the jetty rocks without scrapping knees or elbows.

I learned how to spy and capture those shells shaped like a Victorian lady’s fan. A little older, around 10-years-old, I learned how to cut bait for crabbing traps.

It was around that time that my family moved from North Jersey to a small town in the Pine Barrens, not far from the Barnegat Bay. Now, I had to learn to navigate a new school, a new neighborhood, new friends; much like navigating the winding channels that led to the bay.

Midway was the no man’s land between Seaside Park and Island Beach State Park.  Barely 19-years-old, late nights were spent swimming under silver dollar moons. The sand was cool and powder-like. Foxes would dash in and out among the dunes. We would bury the beer in the sand to avoid detection from beach security. One night, a boy uncovered a black crystal pendant hidden in the sand.

At Midway, I learned about kissing and disappointment. I learned that youth is transitory. I learned that life could sometimes be unlucky. At Midway, I learned about high tides and falling stars and constellations.

The pale-yellow apartments were my family stayed during summer vacations are now long gone. Hurricane Sandy erased much of the shoreline of my youth. The black crystal was surrendered to a thrift shop while the giver has put many oceans between us. These things may be gone; childhood scars are gone, youth may be gone, loved ones may be gone, but what remains is wisdom, the wisdom of the sea.

About the Author: Christine Cassidy

ccassidybioChristine Cassidy is a self-taught artist who works in photography, fiber, collage and assemblage. Her photographs have appeared in F-Stop Magazine, NYC-Arts, Filtered Magazine, and twohundredby200.

Christine grew up in New Jersey among artists and makers; her father was a bricklayer who built her childhood home while her mother furnished it with the hooked rugs she hand crafted. Her older sister Kate Tevis was a graphic designer and collage artist.

Christine loves Buster Keaton, e.e. cummings, punk rock, and living in her tiny studio apartment in New York City.

Hourglass Time by Patricia Wellingham-Jones


There’s something to be said
for living on the bottom half
of the hourglass, for being the elder
of the neighborhood, the widow-woman.

The morning walk on country
roads nets animals to pet,
gardens to sublet in the mind,
air freshening body and brain.

Submission to the new status
bring neighborly coffee
in Italian cup and saucer

and a rancher checking on bulls
who pulls up to chat
then waits down the road
until trash-pickers are safely past.

A wave of thanks from designated elder,
arm through truck window in salute,
and the rich life in unwinding time
slides on.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

Sunday Salon: Reading Between the Lines

Sunday Salon with Becca Rowan

I grew up in a home with two Southern cooks. My grandmother lived with us for most of my childhood, and since she was raised on a small farm in central Kentucky, I was fortunate enough to eat authentic Kentucky Fried Chicken from the time I was old enough to chew. Not to mention angel biscuits, southern fried okra, homemade fruit and cream pies, and – the piece de resistance in my mind – her warm, yeasty bread with its crisp buttery crust. Paired with a platter of garden fresh tomatoes, warm slow-cooked green beans, and a glass of iced tea, we feasted for many a summer lunch.

I-love-cooking-free-license-CC0-980x652My mother insisted she could not cook as well as her own mother did, but most of us begged to differ. My mom’s specialties weren’t the country cooking my grandmother learned in the farm kitchen. My mom excelled at dishes with a slightly international flair -like spaghetti and lasagna, Swedish meatballs, quiche lorraine. She was the chief cake baker in the family, and her German chocolate cake with caramel frosting was the most requested dessert at every family potluck.

Last winter, when we knew my mother was dying, it occurred to us just how many of our favorite foods we’d never taste again. My husband and I would be sitting at the table, picking at our food between trips to the hospital. “Cheese cake,” I said once. “We’ll never have her cheese cake again.”

“Or beef pot pies,” he said dejectedly. “Or baked spaghetti.”

“Potato salad,” I yelped.

“Ohhhh,” he groaned.

Should this sound less than respectful toward my mother’s final days, rest assured there is little she would rather be remembered for. She considered her cooking one of her proudest accomplishments, one the world recognized and rewarded. One year her neighbors gifted her with pearl handled cake server, engraved with her name and the words “Redford’s Best Baker.” She prized that just as much as her diamond rings and full length mink coat.

One of my projects this summer has been an attempt to replicate some of my mother’s most popular recipes.  I’m really not the cook my mother was (and no one in my family would beg to differ on that assertion), so it’s been a daunting task, and one I’ve met with varying degrees of success.

There’s an old saying: If you can read, you can cook. Meaning, if you can follow the recipe, you can expect an edible finished product. I’m here to tell you, that’s not quite so. I’ve followed my mother’s spaghetti sauce recipe to the letter, and it still doesn’t taste exactly right. And while many people have attempted the caramel frosting, no one has ever made it successfully. She was often accused of sabotaging the recipe, which she always denied. “It takes time and patience to get that right,” she’d say with a little smile. “Just keep practicing.”

Often there is a secret ingredient to the best dishes, one that you don’t find listed in the lines of the recipe.  Part of it’s the kind of wisdom we gain by watching someone work, and I will always regret not spending more time in the kitchen with my mother, soaking up some of her knowledge about bringing a recipe to life.

But more than that, there is a certain creative something only a few people possess, and it’s not something you can study or read or even be taught. In my handbell ensemble we talk about this very quality – in fact, it’s our (legal!) trademark. “Ringing in Color,” we call it, and it means taking the black and white notes of music and bringing them into vivid color with various creative touches – dynamic changes, movement, the particular lift of a musical line. Thus the finished product is made up of more than just following the music notes on the staff, more than just putting the ingredients in the recipe in a bowl and stirring them up.

My mother had that special quality, and she seasoned her cooking with it as well as the rest of our home. She was the kind who could arrange a vase of flowers just so, wrap a package so beautifully no one wanted to undo it, place a picture on the perfect wall to show it off to its best advantage. She knew exactly how to put things together  – from clothes to jewelry to home furnishings – so it looked stylish and elegant. If I were to suggest that she was being “creative,” she would laugh. “That’s nothing,” she’s say. “You’re the creative one with your book writing and your music.”

I believe each one of us has a unique creative gift, an ability to bring an extra touch of beauty to life. Yours might be in painting or sculpture, writing or music, sewing or crafting, cooking or gardening. Discovering that individual gift is one of life’s great adventures, and why it’s important of offer children the opportunity to participate in all kinds of activities. We learn by doing, by putting our hand to something, by feeling our way through the black and white instructions and uncovering our inherent ability to add the “color” that makes it come alive.

I nearly wept for joy the first time I made potato salad and it tasted exactly like my mother’s. I wonder if it’s because there was no written recipe, and I had to go purely on instinct and “feel.” Sometimes we can become so caught up in those black and white instructions we forget to trust our own creative instincts. So I’ll keep working on the spaghetti sauce. Maybe I should trust my inner wisdom and stop trying to follow the recipe so exactly.

If I’m really lucky, I may discover that I’ve inherited some of that kitchen creativity after all.

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.

Seeking the Wise Woman Within by Christine Mason Miller


I’ve long considered myself a spiritual seeker, but sometimes the thought of trying to attain lasting wisdom feels, well, unattainable. I imagine what it might look and feel like to be a wise woman and I envision myself sitting in the folds of a shiny, oversized pink lotus blossom. Radiating perfect calm and serenity, I observe all of humanity’s dramas and shenanigans – most especially my own – with a detached, bemused expression that is rooted in compassion. I do not react. My ego has no power. Every once in awhile, I let my imagination run a little wild and I see a unicorn stroll by. This feels appropriate because the image I’ve constructed is a fantasy. The vision I’m conjuring is a mirage.

Simply put: I’m not Buddha. I’m a messy human – subject to mood swings, grouchy days and the occasional door-slamming freak out.

My soul’s march through early adulthood and into my early thirties was fueled mainly by ambition. I wanted to inspire the world, and believed my most important work needed to be expressed outwardly – toward an audience I aimed to build with my artwork and words. After my spiritual journey took an unexpected, sharp turn to the left the year I turned thirty-four, I realized I had it backwards. Wisdom and contentment weren’t going to come to me because I was working hard to be a good person in the wide open world, trying to inspire as many people as possible. In order to be in alignment with my (potentially) wisest self, I had to hone in on something much closer to home, closer to my very skin.

Lao Tzu says if you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. That year, I didn’t merely adjust my course from north to south. I started digging into the ground beneath my feet and kept going – building tunnels, discovering hidden caverns and swimming through underground pools of water. By the time I burst back through the ground, I was committed to a practice of mindful observation. With that established, I proceeded to move through the world in an entirely different way.


Mindful observation is simply this: stepping outside of myself to observe my own behavior, reactions, attitudes and thoughts.

Oh look, there I am freaking out because the box I shipped wasn’t delivered.

How fascinating to see I just burst into tears because the doctor appointment I thought would happen this week can’t actually happen until next week.

Take a look at this – I still haven’t returned that phone call even though it has been on my to do list eight days in a row now.

After years of honing this practice, here’s what I have to say about wisdom: it provides me with opportunities to recognize and acknowledge what a monumental bonehead I can be. I yell at my dog. I complain. I shake my fist at slow drivers ahead of me.

But on the other side, I see this: That all my human follies and foibles are actually quite precious. They are invitations to pull out my spade, do a little digging and pull out the detritus and weeds that might otherwise tangle up my spirit.

Tilda starts barking at a squirrel, startling me in a moment of quiet.
I immediately lose my s***, and I yell at her.
I observe myself yelling.
I look beyond the surface of things to explore where my reaction came from.
I recognize it’s because I have a dentist appointment tomorrow and I’m nervous.
I am on edge, and I am feeling vulnerable.
Deep exhale. Soften.
Give Tilda a hug. Make myself a cup of tea.

There is no judgment or labeling. I don’t declare that my yelling at Tilda because I’m worried about my dentist appointment makes me a bad person. There is only observation and open-hearted curiosity. And with that, understanding. It is envisioning whatever is happening in the moment as something taking place on a stage, whereby I have the ability to pull back the curtain and see what’s really going on.


I don’t always know what to do with things I observe myself doing, and I don’t always immediately change my behavior in order to shift things in a different direction. Sometimes I say, Oh look at me gossiping, and I keep gossiping, practically daring the divine to come down to earth in a bolt of lightning and write me a ticket for violating my own moral code. There are days when I observe myself acting like a complete spoiled brat, irritated by every interruption and distraction, and say There I am acting like a total jerk – what of it?

Mindful observation is not a practice that prevents me from being human. I have yet to find that giant pink lotus blossom for me to nestle into, secure in my practice of detached curiosity and kind consideration of my misdeeds. What mindful observation provides is an immediate entry to compassionate inquiry, should I dare to take that opportunity. Sometimes I’m able to do it in the moment, other times it takes days or weeks or years. The nice thing about it is that there aren’t any expiration dates, so the ability to take a closer look at anything I’ve ever done, said or thought is always at my disposal. It is always possible to see things from another perspective, and to consider the different facets of each experience without judgment.

I still do a lot of work that is expressed and shared outwardly – across miles, continents and the world wide web. It is important work, and it is meaningful to me. But my real work – my life’s work – has been an inward journey. It is the moments of mindful observation, of giving myself a break, of holding myself accountable. It is the moments when I recognize the situation in front of me as an opportunity to make a choice, and to carefully consider whether the choice I am inclined to make will support what I value most in my life or diminish it.

I’m not sure that makes me a bona fide wise woman, but it certainly makes me feel more in tune with what it means to be human, and in sync with greater flow of life.

Oh look, there’s a parking space that I trusted would be waiting for me.

What do you know – my doctor can see me this week, because she just had a cancellation.

How fascinating to see so much beauty all around me, and all I have to do to enjoy it is look up, stay still, and take it all in.

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.

Buy her book on Amazon. Go on Retreat . Join Christine at her upcoming retreat in Ojai with Wild Roots, Sacred Wings.

You can follow her adventures at

Welcome to Issue #3: Wisdom

Wisdom Profile MCL

You find a book that changes your life, giving you a perspective you didn’t have before the words on the page seeped into your soul.

You attend a friend’s gallery opening, and witness the world seeing what you’ve always known about your lovely and wise confidante.

You re-read an old journal entry or blog post you, yourself, wrote, and discover just the right words of guidance or encouragement as you embark upon a new chapter of your life.

You flip open a magazine, and catch your breath at the combination of insight, beauty, and style in a single photograph.

You need advice, so you pick up the phone and call that friend. The one who will shoot straight, but do it in a kind and loving way.

Welcome to Wisdom, our 3rd issue.

When we were choosing themes for Modern Creative Life, the fall theme of Wisdom felt like a natural progression from the never-ending question we began with: “What’s Next?” and then followed up with “Nourishment” as we considered the many ways that nourishing ourselves both creatively and in our daily lives leads us to deepen our own Wisdom.

The timing of this issue speaks to me – and hopefully to you – in other ways, as we arrive at Wisdom on September 1st, the date of both a new moon and a Solar Eclipse:

We go back to school in the fall, seeking education and learning. School makes me think of children, both mine and others, and the way the wisest words sometimes arrive out of the mouths of chubby-cheeked youngsters.

If you relate the stages of womanhood to the seasons, we arrive in the fall of our lives as we evolve beyond the Maiden and inch our way towards becoming the Crone, the wise woman who exists in each of our tribes and families.

And who hasn’t sought the knowledge of others by picking up the phone, searching for the right book, or turning to the modern trusty answer guru, Google?

But what does Wisdom mean when it comes to Creative Living? What does our own creative process teach us? How do other makers enhance the ways in which we create? How can we sit at the feet of masters who’ve come before us?

What must we say no to, so that we can say yes to what matters to us at our depths, the ways in which we bring art, poetry, and beauty alive?

You’ll get a 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 fiction, poetry and prompts, essays and enlightenment, you’ll find a deeper understanding into all the ways in which you create.

 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 to you a meeting of wise minds, both young and old. Sit beside other makers as they demonstrate how they’ve found insight into nourishing and prioritizing their creative pursuits.

As we share the stories of other makers, use their experiences to illuminate your path into your own Modern Creative Life.

What lessons might you have to share with the world? Share your stories with us, serving as the teacher for others – a karmic payback for the wise teachers you’ve learned from. We are open to single contributions as well as new regular contributors. Email us at

About the Author:  Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is an author, life coach, and Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life.

She resides in Dayton, Ohio.

New Moon Creative: Moon in Virgo

We say Goodbye to our Nourishment Issue, we say HELLO to a new theme: Wisdom.

If there is one piece of Wisdom we’ve learned here at Modern Creative Life, it is that we must create. It’s a part of our DNA.

What would happen if you were to commit to your own creative life each month? How would you feel if you listened to your own wisdom, inviting you, asking you, begging you to tend your creativity and life?

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 continue our New Moon Creative Prompts with a twist: a single question to inspire you on your creative journey.

The New Moon is traditionally been a time of new beginnings; here is our 1st Prompt in honor of our Wisdom Issue (and in honor of the New Moon in Virgo).


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

Between now and 9/15/16, 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 (September 16th), 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).