Come for Dinner by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Copyright: <a href=''>bialasiewicz / 123RF Stock Photo</a>


We see each other at the market
as we often do these days.
I’m making soup, say,
Why not come help me eat it?
She says, Oh no,
I don’t go out since Bob died.

I say, C’mon, it’ll do you good
and I’d enjoy your company.

She dithers, guards that sorrow
as if it were a storehouse of gold.
At five on the dot
she’s at my door,
wine bottle in hand.
Her kids cheer.

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 Sensations: Family isn’t Only Blood

I’m a mother, but I’ve never given birth.

Two years ago, I became the mother do an amazing boy. It was a role I had wanted for a long time. Even as a young child, I pictured myself being a mom and having a boy as my first child. Some may stress the idea that I’m a “step-” mom, but for my son, my husband and myself, I’m just “mom.”

I’ve never agreed with those who counted family only by DNA. Growing up in a strong Christian home, the idea of adoption is strongly woven into my faith. It’s also a prevalent theme in sci-fi and fantasy (the second strongest influence in my life). In books like Lord of the Rings to TV shows like Star Trek show that some bonds are stronger than blood.

In my personal life, I’ve found this to be true. Family is the people you can count on. They’re the people that show up when you need help. Family stays. Family shows up.

So, when it comes to adding to our family, my husband and I are open to all sorts of avenues to make it happen.

We both adore children. I’ve worked with kids since I was 13 years old. There’s a special warmth and love in my heart for them. Even before we were married, we both felt that we have big enough hearts to bring in kids through adoption. My husband was adopted himself and wants to give another kid a chance like he had. We know that the entire plight of orphans is overwhelming. There are so many amazing kids here in the states and overseas who need help — it’s hard to know where to start.

This summer, we’re taking a step down one of the many roads available for adoption – we’re hosting a child from Eastern Europe for six weeks. This is K.

K is 14, he lives in an orphanage and he loves breakdancing. He is easy-going and a bit shy. Although he has been available for hosting for two times, he has never been chosen. Teenaged boys are always, always left behind while younger kids and girls move forward to hosting or adoption.

100,000+ kids live without families in K’s country. A developing economy and increasing conflicts cause nutritional shortages for their underfunded institutions. Kids like K get little fresh fruit or meat, let alone access to a regular, healthy diet. Pollution from the worst nuclear power disaster in the history still causes a sharp increase in the number of children born with birth defects and their abandonment rate is high. Lack of resources, access to medical care, and training has caused a large problem that many people are trying to combat, but they need help. Programs like the one that K is in give these kids access to resources to give them a better chance at surviving and thriving.

K’s country, among others, stops providing care for orphans when they are 16. They leave the orphanage with no support system, limited skills and education, and the social stigma of being an unwanted child.

Our hearts were touched – and nearly broken – by the fate of children overseas in orphanages. There are kids suffering. We wanted to do something.

Once we have hosted a kid like K, we can be in line to either adopt him or become an advocate for him. Either way, K will be part of our family. If he stays in his country, we can help with planning his future, keep in contact and encourage him as he grows up. We will find mentors, give him presents on holidays, scour for resources and help him every way we can, just as we would our legal kid. We can give him a better advantage that he would have had before. That’s the logistics, and it doesn’t even count the benefits of just being loved and cared about.

He’ll have a family — even if we don’t share DNA.

About the author: Tabitha Grace Challis

Tabitha Grace ChallisTabitha is a social media strategist, writer, blogger, and professional geek. Among her published works are the children’s books Jack the Kitten is Very Brave and Machu the Cat is Very Hungry, both published under the name Tabitha Grace Smith. A California girl (always and forever) she now lives in Maryland with her husband, son, and a collection of cats, dogs, and chickens. Find out more about her on her Amazon author page or follow her on Twitter: @Tabz.

Melpomene at the Gates

Photo by Milan Surbatovic on Unsplash


Melpomene stood with her sisters at the Gates of Imagination, and waited for the Call.

Unlike the others, who could provide artistic or scientific inspiration on a whim, her gifts were reactionary. They had to be triggered. Terpsichore could tickle a baby’s foot and that child would grow up with the gift of dance. She’d done it so many times: Isadora Duncan was a favorite example. And Euterpe – she was always name-dropping. Everyone from Bach to Billy Joel had felt that sister’s Touch.

But Melpomene was the darker Muse. Her lot was to Whisper into the ears of those who had experienced tragedy, suffering, pain, and loss, and help them find the tiny spark of creativity that always managed to survive.

Her sisters worked alone. They were of the light, and their strength was found in sun and warmth, laughter and joy.

Mel (she thought of herself as ‘Mel’ – more approachable, right?) had a team. Trolls and imps and leather-winged nameless beings. They were her agents, ugly on the surface, with grotesque faces and twisted frames.

And yet, they were gentle beings, who only wished to help.

There! A photographer contemplating the way we look when we die is Visited by the imp who guides her camera. Use the light THIS way. Change the focus like THAT.

And there: a woman grieves for her miscarried fetus. The Troll she sends helps turn that tragedy into a brilliant career as a grief counselor.

But over there – Mel shuddered and Summoned her agents to her side. For this disaster, they would be her escorts. Maybe it’s a hurricane, and she would help the suddenly homeless replace places and things with fond memories, or inspire a nurse to volunteer as an aid worker. Maybe it’s a great fire, and her winged Helpers could Whisper to those who would help save animals, provide shelter, build firebreaks for their neighbors.

The Muse of tragedy Walked among the lost and the hurting, identified a need, and helped spark a solution.



Sometimes Mel got to act a little more like her sisters.

The boy who feared a neighbor’s dog and was almost hit by a car was urged to turn his fears into stories and novels.

The young woman who loved to read classic poetry became the adult who set them to music, and went farther, eventually composing haunting tunes about mummers and midnight train rides.

And the child who had the image of a strange man’s face, looking up at him from the street below, engraved upon his memory, turned that fear into an idea, a pitch, a script, and eventually a franchise about a monster who haunts your dreams.

Erato, Clio and the others were lauded for the way they Pushed their charges into music, poetry, dance, and drama.

Mel was often overlooked: The smallest sister. The one with murky moods and a quiet Otherness about her. She could be cryptic sometimes. She meant well, but her power came from the dark.

Still, tragedy struck randomly and far more often than most knew – or cared to – and when it did, Melpomene and her Darklings would be there, ready to help in their own way.

And until then?

Melpomene and her imps and trolls waited at the Gates of Imagination, watching as the other Muses came and went in light pursuits, as they remained, waiting, straining their ears to hear their Call.

Photo by Milan Surbatovic on Unsplash

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa 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, listen to her podcast, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Sunday Sanctuary: My Creativity Mothers Me

One of the first mothers I connected to in book form was Helen Belden – aka Moms – in the Trixie Belden mystery series. The first six books were written by Julie Campbell between 1948 and 1958 and what I loved was that picture-perfect Americana image of a housewife and mother: nurturing, loving, nourishing, and supportive while also fierce in the way she cared for her family and her children’s friends.

Helen Belden also excelled in creative ways: gardening, canning, sewing, cooking, and painting. She was in many ways the embodiment of what I envision when I think about honoring the art of creative living.

While I have loved other literary mothers in my readings over the years, my mind continues to go back to Helen Belden for this simple reason: in the way she was the perfect mother to remind me that my creativity also mothers me.

Yes, you read right: my creativity mothers me. All the ways in which I see Helen Belden as the quintessential Americana mother character, my creativity does that for me as well.

When I am in need of feeling nurtured, all I need to do is to reach for my journal and a favorite pen. Allowing my thoughts and emotions to flow on the page soothes me and reaches a part of my soul that not much else does.

When my thoughts turn to love, loving others, and loving myself, I turn to the ways in which creating a home holds me. I crawl into my favorite leather chair, pull a blanket over my legs, and read a book when I need the comfort of a loving touch. I tidy up the house, tend to John’s wardrobe, or gather food for meals when I want to be loving towards others. And when I want to love myself, my creativity saves me again: back to the page, to the garden to snip daffodils for tiny vases, or sing in the shower as warm water cascades across my body.

When my body needs nourishment, I turn to the ways in which simple ingredients can be artfully combined to create a meal. When my soul needs nourishment, I seek the words of poets and philosophers across the ages, reveling in the ways their use of their talents feed my heart. When my mind is in need of nourishment, I read yet more words and then take it back to the page to help me puzzle out what a character or piece of research makes me think about more deeply.

When I am in need of feeling supported, my creativity never fails me. I can sing and dance around the house, lifting my spirits. I can turn to other creative friends and share what I’ve made. I can simply walk through my own home, admiring the art we’ve chosen and how the placement of furniture provides a warm and welcoming space.

My creative life saves me in a myriad of ways, so as I’ve begun to see the ways in which it mothers me, it’s easier to devote myself to the pursuit of it.

I’ve also come to realize that in order for my creativity to continue to mother me, I must also mother it. Like Helen feeds and waters her garden and her children, I must also feed and water my creative life.

I need to feed my soul with the good work of other makers: writers, poets, filmmakers, actors, artists, and photographers. I must fuel my mind with inspirational home make-overs, tips for being a better writer, and learning new cooking techniques to make cooking dinner more fun.

I must support my creative life by giving it the right tools for growth. As a writer, that means pens, papers, and easy to use software. As a homemaker, that means a good vacuum cleaner, a favorite fabric softener, and sometimes the support of a cleaning lady to help me tackle things I’m not good at. Or, to simply step in for me to tackle tasks so that I can spend some time with my writing.

Yes, time. Just like mothers want to spend quality time with their children, I must also spend quality time with my creativity. I must sit at my desk and write, not surf. I must make time for good television, inspirational magazines, and music.

Like Helen’s fierceness in loving and protecting her children and their friends, I must be fierce in my protection of my creative life. I must guard it, love it, and ensure that I don’t let it fall to the wayside.

Many of us are in the space of our lives when our mothers no longer are around to tend us. To cook a favorite meal, to offer the words of comfort only a mother can. Many of us are also in the space of no longer actively mothering small children, and that ache of an empty nest is met with a sadness colored with both joy and freedom.

Yet, always within our grasp is our creativity and the way in which we can live in an artful manner. When we see that through the lens of both being mothered – and mothering – we are reminded that the unconditional love a mother has is always within reach.

I think Helen Belden would agree.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Clearing Brain Clutter: Discovering Your Heart’s Desire and Clearing Soul Clutter: Creating Your Vision. When she’s not vacuuming her couch, you’ll find her reading or plotting when she can play her next round of golf. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


Note: Top Image is a Scan from the 1965 printing of Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion. The artist is Paul Frame. Copyright belongs to Whitman Publishing.

Instrumental: Mindfulness. A Path Toward Healthier Creativity and Balance by Sweta Vikram

Creativity takes vulnerability. Creativity takes courage. Creativity takes honesty. As Brené Brown so eloquently says, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

While the process of writing and sharing, our stories can be empowering, the in-between process can turn us writers into wrecks. Writing can sometimes mean opening certain doors from your past you had sealed shut. It can feel like picking on the scabs of a wound until it starts to bleed again. Sometimes, writing can introduce us to the inhumanity and darkness in the world.

I have spoken with memoirists who explore themes of darkness from their childhoods. That often means collecting memorabilia, going through diaries and journals, talking to a few accessible family members and often, their perpetrators. Can you imagine the different ways this path can lead to if they aren’t careful?

People like to believe that distraught, broken, sleep-deprived artists truly lead the creative life. I would argue against that. If you are mindful, your creativity won’t necessarily be nestled in an unstable space all the time.

What is mindfulness? As says, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

In Louisiana Catch, Ahana (the female protagonist) is a marital rape survivor. Though she ends up organizing the largest feminist conference in New Orleans and meets a great guy eventually, she is hurt by her husband. Writing about a marital survivor with respect and authenticity meant interviewing women who had been through this heinous crime; talking to experts and psychotherapists to understand what danger at home can do to a woman; and, reading up immensely on all the information available on rape within a marriage.

I elevated my yoga and meditation practice during this period of creativity as they help lower stress and release happy hormones. Mindfulness meant being aware of what nurtured me and what hurt. For instance, I made sure I didn’t watch anything on television or a film that was triggering.

Think about the authenticity of the story. What I mean is that if you aren’t writing about yourself (If you call it fiction, you shouldn’t be writing about yourself), your character needs to have their own voice of reason and action that might not mirror yours.

I am a social issue advocate and fierce expressionist of women’s rights. I also teach yoga to female survivors of trauma and rape. Ahana in Louisiana Catch is the opposite of me.  For instance, writing about Ahana’s danger in Louisiana Catch was disturbing to me. And there were times, I would find myself talking to my character, “Girl, don’t do this.” Ha ha, spending six years with your characters will make you believe they are real people. Every time that I felt I was slipping and creating Ahana’s responses based on my personality, I would walk away. Mindfulness helped me create healthy boundaries between fiction and reality.

Truth: Researchers have found that writers face a greater risk of depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. Before we reveal our souls to the world, we need to be strong within. For writers, it is extremely important to take care of whatever and whoever helps us keep it together so every little rejection, research, review, and response doesn’t shake us to the core. Geniuses like Sylvia Plath, Hunter Thomson, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Yukio Mishima, Anne Sexton, and David Foster Wallace shared stories about the world with us, but when it came to their own lives, they couldn’t cope with reality.

Cultivating a mindfulness practice can gently remind: how much is too much, nudge you to tell truer stories, and introduce you to a healthier and happier space where creativity can reside.

About the Author: Sweta Vikram

Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a best-selling author of 11 books, a wellness columnist, and a mindfulness writing coach.  Featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” Sweta writes about women, multiculturalism, and identity. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nice countries and three continents.

Louisiana Catch (Modern History Press 2018) is her debut U.S. novel. Born in India, Sweta grew up between the Indian Himalayas, Northern Africa, and the United States collecting and sharing stories. Exposure to this vast societal spectrum inspired her to become an advocate for social issues and also to get certified as a Holistic Health Counselor. In this avatar, Sweta is the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife through which she helps people elevate their productivity and creativity using Ayurveda and yoga. A certified yoga teacher, Sweta also teaches yoga and mindfulness to female survivors of rape and domestic violence. She lives with her husband in New York City.


Typical (Tarot) Tuesday with Dona Murphy

Full disclosure: a typical Tuesday for me is pretty much like any other day of the week.  I am in happily indentured servitude to an elderly cat who has several nicknames including SWMBO (that’s Swimbo) – She Who Must Be Obeyed. No day starts without attending to her needs first. No exceptions. Although I am allowed a quick trip to the bathroom so we’re not both trying to use the litter-box at the same time.

After meeting the physical and emotional requirements of her most exalted and revered personage, my day is then pretty much my own.

Tuesday – or Tarot Tuesday – is the day my weekly Tarotcast gets published. This practice grew out of my Tarot Tuesday live radio shows/podcasts from back in the day. I draw the card of the week at random. The general meaning of each card remains consistent. The real-time astrological aspects of that week are compared to or contrasted with the energy of the card, resulting in a forecast of what we can expect for the week ahead.  The interpretation combines the influences of Tarot and Astrology. I also include power colors, metals and gemstones as well as scents and foods to use that enhance or help balance out the energies of the week. (Home alchemy!).

Spring is in the air at least in theory – the weather hasn’t quite gotten the message yet. So I meditated on the theme of this issue. What does it mean to cultivate? Though not chosen at random, the four Tarot cards that follow show me the ways we grow. Whether plants or people; whether the growth is literal, physical, emotional or spiritual.

The suit of Disks (Pentacles, Coins) in the Minor Arcana of the Tarot represents the Earth element. Perfect for the physical preparation of soil to grow crops or plants!

The Ace of Disks shows us the potential for reaping the rewards of our efforts. With careful planning and preparation, with diligence and patience, our gardens will grow. Food will nourish our bodies. Beautiful flowers and plants will nourish our souls.

The Nine of Disks shows us a lush and fruitful garden. It thrives through thoughtful and careful fostering. The gardener herself has also grown in self-confidence, independence and wisdom.

The Empress of the Major Arcana is the Mother – she is the archetype of fertility and the spring of the year. She encourages her children and loved ones with unconditional love. She furthers their growth and development. In extreme circumstances she will sacrifice herself if necessary, but she isn’t a martyr.   She can make the seed of an idea manifest in the physical world. She fiercely protects newly-born creations.

The Hermit of the Major Arcana is the Wise Teacher – he extends his hand to help others and lifts his lamp to illuminate the darkness. He shares his knowledge and wisdom. He encourages the seeker to study, practice and refine his or her own body of knowledge; then to journey within to develop his or her own wisdom. He is the fulfillment of the cycle of growth and represents the harvest. He is the autumn of the year – when the crops are successfully gathered, the earth goes dormant. From that withdrawal and rest will come rebirth.

This year Pluto will retrograde in the Earth-sign of Capricorn on April 22nd and will turn direct on September 30th. Retrograde planets all create their own unique blend of mischief and benefit. There is no retrograde planet better for getting us to complete old projects, abandon old patterns, and clear up any leftover detritus than Pluto – the planet of destruction and regeneration. Whatever the challenge or problem in our lives that appears insurmountable, irreparable or unchanging – it could turn out to be as insubstantial and fleeting as the April rain and early spring blooms. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Starting with the spring planting, we begin anew. With renewal comes both a touch of melancholy and a spark of tender hope. We are bidding farewell to the past while welcoming a still-uncertain future. In the autumn we reap what we have sown and tended. In between, I do my best to cultivate patience, even when I’m restless – especially then.

Here is Pluto retrograde’s beautiful strangeness described by T.S. Eliot in The Waste Land:

“That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
“Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
“Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?”

I hope my garden (and yours) sprouts nothing any more (or less) exotic than tulips and daffodils. But typical Tuesdays can be strange days indeed.

About the Author: Dona Murphy

Dona Murphy is the owner of Destiny Tarot. She lives and works in Lake Bluff Illinois as a Tarot reader, Intuitive Counselor and Life Coach. Dona combines her metaphysical and spiritual studies, natural gifts and real-world experience to help her clients solve problems and live their best lives. As she says, “The cards don’t predict your future, they help you create it”.

Sunday Brunch: Run for the Roses

Yesterday evening, in a steady rainstorm, twenty-three colts made a run for the roses in the 144th Kentucky Derby. (Spoiler alert: Justify won.)

I have always loved horses. When I was little I fell in love with Marguerite Henry’s books about Misty and Phantom. (To this day, I fantasize about seeing the wild ponies in their annual swim from Assateague to Chincoteague. ) When I was nine, my mother gave me a summer at riding camp. My two favorite ponies were Taffy and Blitzen, both retired from working on NBC television shows and living out their lives as school ponies in New Jersey.


These days, I get my horse “fix” by watching thoroughbred racing and the occasional cheesy-but-relevant Hallmark movie on television, but in my head, the scent of sweet hay, the soft whickering of the ponies and the feeling of a leather saddle underneath me are as vivid as if they were real.

As much as I have always loved horses, I’ve always hated roses.

Well, not all roses.

I don’t like the roses that come in commercial bouquets. The one’s with thorns that are genetically modified to be smaller and less “sticky,” with long stems, and vivid colors, but no aroma.

But I love backyard roses.

Specifically, I love my grandmother’s backyard rose bushes.luke-barnard-111493-unsplash

I don’t know if they had specific names. I don’t know if she grew them from cuttings or my grandfather bought them for her.

I just remember that they were big – big as those ‘blooming onion’ appetizers – and no two were alike. Oh, I’m pretty sure one of the bushes started out red and one started out yellow, but in my memories, they were always combinations of the two, the colors swirled together as if someone had stirred two colors of paint in a bucket and dipped the blossoms into it.

My childhood summers were filled with those roses.

Outside, on hot summer days when we weren’t at the beach or visiting someone with a swimming pool, we’d run through the sprinklers, careful not to step too close to the rose bushes. BareCopyright: <a href=''>kellyvandellen / 123RF Stock Photo</a> feet and huge thorns do not mix well.

Inside, roses were everywhere. If a blossom broke off the bush without enough stem, she’d float it in a bowl of water. Otherwise, any vase or vase-like container was pressed into service. Old juice bottles, proper crystal vases, a tall glass that no longer had any mates, even a chipped milk pitcher might be found on a side table, a window sill, a nightstand, a bathroom counter with a rose or three.

And the petals! When the flowers dried naturally my grandmother saved the petals, creating her own delicate potpourri, pots of petals in every room of the house. Somehow, though, the scent was never cloying, only a gentle, wafting presence, sweetening the air.

Less frequently, my grandmother would decide to press the flowers, and dry them that way. For years, if you pulled a thick book – the dictionary, a big red book of fairy tales (two volumes of those, actually), even the Bible – you might have a pressed flower land in your lap. After she died, I even found one in her ancient address book, at the bottom of her knitting bag, which had been unused for years!

Sometimes, on rainy Sundays, my husband and I will pass one of those street-corner tents where they sell roses for $10 or $20 a bunch, and I almost – almost – want to stop and buy some, but we never do, because hothouse roses never have any perfume. They’re like illusions of roses: all form, no substance.

And sometimes, when I’m sad or not feeling well, I’ll lie in bed in that state halfway between dreaming and waking, and I’ll feel my grandmother’s cool hand stroke my brow, and I’ll breathe in the scent of roses – the scent I’ve associated with her for as long as I can remember.

Yesterday evening, in a steady rainstorm, twenty-three colts made a run for the roses in the 144th Kentucky Derby. But me? I’ve been running away from commercial roses for as long as I can remember. I’ve also been running for the backyard roses of my childhood for half my life, and they remain elusive as ever.

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa 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, listen to her podcast, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.



Horse Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash  | Rose Photo by Luke Barnard on Unsplash  | Churchill Downs Photo By kellyvandellen / 123RF Stock Photo

My Soul to Take by Selena Taylor.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash


When I think about my childhood dreams, I never saw this coming. I wanted normal things:  grow up , find a partner, and do something I was good at.

Apparently, collecting souls is what I’m good at.

It started roughly 70 years ago, right at the end of The Second World War. I wasn’t going home. I was shot while I was giving medical attention to a fallen brother. It all happened in a blink of an eye. I was struggling to keep the man down as I worked on his leg, then there was a sharp pain in my head, and finally I was standing next to myself.

I did cuss.

Then that man was standing next to me. He cussed too.

The passing of duties to me is all blurry but it also felt like I had always been collecting souls.  So, when the clipboard appeared I spoke his number and we turned around and walked into a light.

Time passes differently then how I perceived it when I was alive.

I am also not alone. Humans die at an alarming rate. No matter how time passes, I can not be in two places at once. So, there are a lot of us. You might say, there’s a team. We all wear the same get-up –  keeps it easy and the stories clean. We don’t have to use props, but it’s encouraged.  I tried the scythe for a while but I had a knack of knocking things over with it.

It never stops and I am not sure if this is a forever-gig. At first, I worried, but after being with so many after their deaths, I want to keep going.

I listen a lot and talk only a little. Hold them. Whatever is needed.

Hi, I’m Death, and I am here to collect your soul.

About the author, Selena Taylor

Selena TaylorSelena Taylor is a wife, a mother, and a woman who strives to tell the many stories that occupy her mind. She is active in the Rhett & Link fandom and appreciates dark humor.  She and her family live in Illinois, where she takes every opportunity to lose herself under the stars and let her imagination run wild. For more from Selena, check her out on Facebook.

Color at Your Doorstep: Cultivating Container Gardens by Mary Ellen Gambutti

Marey Ellen Gambutti - 01


Whether writer, potter, musician, chef or textile artist, creative people enjoy the aesthetics of growing plants. To blend and harmonize color, experiment with texture, depth, proportion and scale, to lose oneself in the music of a garden provides a creative outlet, even to the horticulturally challenged. Container gardening, small and manageable or grand–to the limits of your time, money and scope of interest–will reward you.

I attended Horticulture school at the Temple, Ambler campus, but my gardening journey began with Nana in her burgeoning quarter-acre New Jersey flower garden. There, I pulled weeds, collected Portulaca and Four O’clock seeds, and planted annuals in her richly cultivated beds. It was a fine beginning.

Nana grew Geraniums—their formal name, Pelargoniums—in pots, although African Violets and other houseplants were her potted specialties. Standard for pot culture in the 1950’s, they remain popular in suburban and city patios and windowsills. Their full, vivid red and pink blossoms contrast with heavy, bright green leaves. In the fall, she brought the clay pots into the cellar, removed her geraniums from their dried soil, and hung them up-side-down from wall hooks for the winter. When the first warm, early spring light angled through the casements, green began to sprout from the bases of her desiccated plants, and we knew life was stirring within them. She would trim the woody stems down to the new bushy growth, repot them in fresh soil, and bring them up the steps into sunshine.

Nana didn’t combine plants in pots, except for some houseplants. Today, we might see Sweet Alyssum’s white, lacy, flowing collars at the edges of Geraniums pots. Combinations, or “combos,” we called them at the lush garden center, Meadowbrook, in Rydal. We designed and custom-planted all sizes and shapes of clay patio pots with annuals, perennial, succulents and herbs. Our Philadelphia area customers wanted their high-style containers planted, maintained, and switched out spring through fall for their terraces, small and large patios, doorsteps and decks.

Principles of garden design apply to container gardening, which provides opportunities for perfection on a small scale, since soil, pot placement and exposure can be controlled, and containers and plants are chosen to enhance each other.

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Hardiness/Tolerance: Don’t be fooled by grocery and home improvement merchants who display tender annuals and tropical plants outside in April. In Pennsylvania, our last frost is sometime in May. By Mothers’ Day, the weather has moderated, but Memorial Day can be cold and wet. Be sure to check the Almanac or Weather Channel for impending frost before putting your plants out. Consult your USDA Hardiness Zone map, if you’re new to your area.

Balance, Scale, and Proportion:  Choose plants to the size and scale of your pots, and select pots in scale to your patio or porch; that won’t dominate the space. Place a large pot in relation to a feature of your house, such as a post or a doorway. Or, an assemblage of smaller pots might be preferable to one large pot or urn. Be sure, if using a large container, that your plants stand up to one that size, or they will get lost in the pot. Scale down tall focal plants with shorter plants, or to cover bare stems. You would do the same in the garden; use plants soft in appearance as filler, and trailers at the edge of your pots.

Consider planting exotic-looking plants in simple pots, and understated plants in ornate pots. Select plants no more than twice the height of the pot. These pointers contribute to balance in your container garden.

Color: Pick colors of blossoms and leaves that work with the trim of your home, your garden furniture, your containers, your personal taste and style. Consider the size and shape of your patio in what you want to achieve visually when you choose your colors. Remember that foliage, as well as flowers, provide color.

Harmony is created by shades of one color, such as blue, lavender and purple. These particular colors tend to recede, while bold colors come forward and create drama. It just depends on what you’re trying to achieve. In a wooded setting, I’d prefer to use the blues, lavender and white, while on a hot terrace, I like bold and sunny colors. In fact, for best culture of orange and red, like Marigolds and Geraniums, put them in the sun. Blues, like Felicia Daisy and Plumbago, and the herb, Lavender, prefer sun.

Structure, Focal Point and Texture: Both pots and plants provide structure and a framework to your design. Groups of containers can create a focal point on your patio. Large, branching plants create structure; a framework. A tall plant, like a standard red Geranium, or braided pink Bougainvillea, in an oversized planter is a dramatic focal point in a large doorway. In a medium sized or small pot, a single bold plant or leaf color draws the eye. Many retail pre-made combination pots use a Dracaena or “spike” tropical plant as focal point. You might choose an ornamental grass, a Canna, or colorful banana hybrid as your focus. Place it at the center or back, and surround it with plants of varying heights for dimension.

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Vary foliage texture and density to create interesting plays of light. Wiry, fine or airy foliage, such as Asparagus or Maidenhair ferns, combine well with denser plants, such as Hosta or Tuberous Begonias, on a partially shaded terrace, and provide texture, structure and depth.

Practical Placement: If possible, position your pots prior to planting–since they can be unwieldy and heavy once potted up–in sun or shade, depending on your selections. Use small pedestals or ceramic feet, bricks or blocks, to facilitate drainage. Wheeled dollies allow safe re-positioning of large pots.

Moisture Matters – Soil and Water: Use a moisture-retentive, yet well-draining soil medium, except for cacti and succulents, which need a gritty mix. Bagged mixes with added slow-release fertilizer, and beads that hold moisture, are ideal for most patio pots. Supplement feeding with water-soluble, liquid fertilizer, or a bloom booster to maximize health and blossom.

Glazed clay pots hold moisture and work well for tropical and annual plants that require evenly moist soil. Ensure the bottom hole drains freely. Line the pot bottom with a square of landscape fabric, layers of newspaper, or place a ceramic shard or stone over the hole to prevent soil loss, yet allow the pot to drain. Most plants object to sitting in water. If you must use clay saucers under your pots, be sure to tip them soon after rain.

Planting and Care: Plant your containers as you would a garden, using enough plants to give an ample, filled-in look, and allow them to spread naturally. The Sweet Alyssum planted to trail in spring can be lost under a full Geranium later in the season, unless they are both groomed. Remove spent blossoms; deadhead, and clip dried or yellowing leaves routinely, to keep containers fresh all growing season. Now, sit back and enjoy your creations, as well as the butterflies and Hummingbirds that visit your container garden.

About the Author: Mary Ellen Gambutti

Mary Ellen writes about her life as an Air Force daughter, search and reunion with her birth family, gardening career, and survival of a stroke at mid-life. Her stories appear or are forthcoming in Gravel Magazine, Wildflower Muse, The Remembered Arts Journal, The Vignette Review, Modern Creative Life, Thousand and One Stories, Halcyon Days, Nature Writing, Post Card Shorts, Memoir Magazine, Haibun Today, Borrowed Solace, Book Ends Review, Storyland Literary Review, and SoftCartel Magazine. Her chapbook is Stroke Story, My Journey There and Back.

Instrumental: Cultivating A Peaceful Heart by Keva Bartnick

At times it seems like an impossible task these days; cultivating a peaceful heart. Everywhere you turn there are plenty of reasons to feel disheveled and depleted. It seems like a never ending task to watch what you see and what you take into your emotional sphere. Take heart, there are small manageable ways to cultivate a more peaceful heart.

Many of us don’t even realize or recognize how many images and how much information we take in on an everyday basis. If you watch the news, or scan social media we take in an absorbent amount! Every bit of information compounds upon itself over time and starts to weigh on us.

Images from all over the globe, information about a myriad of subjects puts a stranglehold on our hearts. Our minds overloaded with facts and figures; some of them true, some of them for flash and show. So how do we manage the influx of images and information in a way that is healthy on our hearts and minds?

Our hearts possess a level of intelligence that is second to none. We are just now beginning to understand how it plays a greater role in our mental, emotional, and physical health. Yet, it’s an organ that we don’t recognize as having an electronic output. Most of us don’t believe that our organs, heart or otherwise, have an electronic output. Think of it like a computer, a microwave, a phone. They all give off power, yet power is still maintained inside.

The heart generates a strong and powerful electromagnetic field. Like the brain it outputs energy that can be measured.

The hearts energy is 60 times greater than that of our brains. Our hearts electromagnetic field can be detected from several feet away. So the energy that two people share is truly not imagined as once thought before. Proven by science by an electrocardiogram(ECG). When people touch or are standing close to each other they can feel each other’s hearts. Energy is transferred.

Learning about these energies are still in their infancy in the Western world. Learning about how our heart codes incoming information is still a mystery. Yet, many of us know instinctively what makes us feel good, complete, and happy.

Cultivation starts with understanding ourselves better. What makes us feel safe, comforted, and loved?

When we are constantly surrounded by images and information that are the opposite of those feelings, our hearts will feel heavy and weighted. These energies that we take into our body causes a reaction from our center space and causes heaviness and fatigue. Discomfort ensues. Our energy then feels depleted; we get anxious and depressed.

You may ask how you can still function and still feel like you are still in the know of what is going on in the world. It comes down to adopting into your life certain lifestyle changes that will give your heart a rest. Alleviating heaviness and pressure making life bearable again. Many of these changes are simple, and can be done anywhere.

For one, we don’t need to be in the know all the time.

It might be something that you feel is important, but it isn’t needed, it’s wanted and there is a difference. Disconnecting from social media for a weekend and taking a break from the nightly news may be a great start. Small changes to our daily routine that are manageable is what we are looking to accomplish.

Nature! It’s free and it’s an antidepressant!

Most people don’t even think about it as being a thing. Let me tell you, it’s totally a thing! Go out for a walk, go sit out on your porch if you have one, watch the sunset. Leave your phone inside. Remember to breath. Take in the outdoors and breathe in deep. Remove your shoes if you want and take a walk in the yard. Grounding yourself in nature is the fastest way to align yourself with your hearts center. After 20 minutes or so three times a week you will start to feel much improvement in your mental body, physical body, and your emotional body.

Turn off your phone at least an hour before bedtime.


Our hearts get sucked into what is going on online and it detracts from our health. Phones in bed are about as handy as skiing while doing your taxes. The electromagnetic pulses from our phones are awful for our sleep habits. It’s best to leave them some place that isn’t your nightstand; outside the bedroom is best.

We’ve all heard that meditation is great for our heart centers, but not everyone is into that. A great recommendation is to take time to be in your body. Whatever that looks like. My personal favorite is standing at the window watching birds at our bird feeder, warm cup of liquid in hand. It’s my time to space out mentally and be in the moment.

Do something that stimulates your heart center in a way that pleases you.

Self care is a must when cultivating a peaceful heart. We all need to start taking better care of our mental health. When we do, our heart falls right in line. It’s a win win situation. It could be reading, or writing, working outside, planting flowers or vegetable. Something that gets you grounded and away from the Wild West of the outside world. Take the time to cultivate anything your heart desires. Watch how fast your body starts to lighten.

These suggestions are just the beginning of a great many adventures you could have in cultivating a life you are happy to live. Your heart will thank you, your body will thank you, your energy fields will thank you, and so on. When we chose to move forward in a way that is healthier. We consciously affect our futures in ways we never thought possible.

Freeing up our hearts to feel more good feelings lightens the load.

Neglecting the things that pull at our energy in a negative way we become more in tune with what our soul needs. Last time I checked, that’s what everyone seems to be searching for. Take the time for yourself, focus on your hearts center, ask what it wants and needs. Then go do those things. In no time you will be cultivating a peaceful heart and your soul will be smiling and happy.

About the Author: Keva Bartnick

Keva Bartnick is an artist, writer, and lightworker. Happily married mother of three; she’s been inspiring people to be their most courageous selves since 2015.