Happy Thanksgiving with Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are so grateful to have spent the last three years with you. And hope as you enter the waning days of 2018 and look to 2019, you continue to be open to the ways in which your creativity serves you and the world.  We are so honored to witness the ways in which you you celebrate your creative life with a full and grateful heart.

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

Seasons by Katherine Van Eddy

Blue is the color of the coat
I wore the last time
the only time.

Shimmering turquoise polyester
my husband wanted to buy it
while we wandered Macy’s in January
without a thought to time, money
or anyone else.

Notched collar, pleated in back,
it fit tight on my narrow frame
still unstretched by children.
I wore it end of February
buttoned over a small black dress,
high heels, excess of time
spent on styling hair, make-up
for our date to an Oscar viewing party
at Capitol Theater downtown.
It would be the last time I watched
the awards show all the way through

but not the last time that I hung the coat
as it’s moved with us between apartments,
houses, always hung with reverence.

For awhile beside my dresses, waiting
for another date, then over time
in other rooms, out of sight.

It’s summer now, and as we fit
our belongings into boxes yet again,
this time doesn’t feel right to bring
with us. I know the time I could still
wear it, try it on, feel beautiful,
feel that we fit each other
is past.

Gone is the time
that I would reach for it
pull it towards me
slip it around to warm me
sure beyond certainty
it was all I needed
in this moment,
the perfect piece
to complete me.

I’ve already pulled down the winter coats,
our daughter’s dresses from around it,
left the brilliant like-new blue
surrounded by empty hangers.


About the Author: Katherine Van Eddy

Katherine Van Eddy is a California-born poet living in Tacoma, Washington. She earned a BA in Creative Writing and MAT in Elementary Education from the University of Puget Sound. Her poems have appeared in Crosscurrents, Creative Colloquy Volume 4, Gold Man Review, and HoosierLit. She currently teaches 3rd/4th grade at a Catholic school while moonlighting as a writer and runner.

Sunday Sanctuary: What I Need to Be More Creative (And You May, Too)

I can’t believe this is my final Sunday Sanctuary for Modern Creative Life.  It seems like only mere moments ago, I was writing my first column sharing my love for Housekeeping and Creative Living. And where those worlds of mine collide. And, in truth, how life sometimes pulls me away from writing and having the tidy home I need to be at my best.

The timing of this column is apropos.

I have been home for a little over twenty-four hours after seventeen days of travel. The suitcases have been unpacked and though I’ve gone to the dry cleaners and have done five loads of laundry, the basket in my laundry room is overflowing. There are at least three more loads of laundry to do in order to be “caught up”.

There’s a thick layer of dust across the buffet that stands in our entry hall. Something I didn’t notice when I got home on a gloomy afternoon. But can’t help but see as the morning light shines in through the glass on the front door. I was carrying a tray laden with coffee and cream and the other accoutrements of spending a Sunday morning in our downstairs den, so I didn’t stop to remedy the situation.

But oh, did I want to! To immediately deal with the untidy situation. Despite the fact that the cleaning lady will be here in a couple of days. Despite the fact that I know cleaning one piece of furniture will lead to tackling every other piece of furniture in that house.

Though the immediate reason I didn’t stop to dust was the tray in my hands, the reason I didn’t immediately rush back upstairs is that I’m trying to create some new habits when it comes to my creative life.

When we made the decision to put Modern Creative Life in stasis, one of the core parts of that decision was the need (and desire) to tend our own creative demands. Less editing should equal more writing time for my coaching practice. Less editing should equal more story creation for Melissa. Less editing should equal more creative living for Becca.

But to be honest, I am not yet writing more for my coaching practice.

Yes, not editing here will open up a block of time for me. However, what is keeping me from writing more is my own bad habits.

Travel is a great way to get honest with yourself when it comes to life. When we are in different surroundings, we automatically shift away from the ways we live at home. Though I desperately need my routines, I have to admit that those routines are often chock-full of actions that keep me from producing good work.

The last six days of our travel were spent in Honolulu.

Each morning, I made a pot of coffee in the room. And when John headed to work, me and my first cup of coffee walked two blocks to the beach. As I sipped, I watched the sun rise. We were on the west side of the island, which meant that as the light began to bathe the earth, I was treated to varying degrees of pinks and greys and golden rays.

I took lots of photos to the north (hotels and surfers) and to the south (Diamond Head and beach walkers). I walked along the beach and watched the tide rush over my feet, leaving behind tiny shells and heart shaped pebbles. I watched people. Some surfing, some admiring the beauty around them, and others simply going about their day getting in a morning run.

Those moments of watching the light, sipping coffee, and taking photographs were far different from what I do on a regular day. However, if I am to be completely honest with you (and myself) though I cannot walk to the beach in Ohio each morning? The heart and soul of those mornings can be duplicated here at home.

Though I didn’t get much solid work writing done during our travels, I did write in my journal. Here’s some of my observations about what is really in the way of me producing more work.

I need to read less news.

I want to be an informed citizen of the world. However, my habit of reading the news is keeping me from writing. Not only do I read the headlines, I read multiple articles. I read  the comments folks leave behind. I click around to other news stories in the sidebar. I worry about the craziness of the world. And before I know it, not only have I lost an hour of time, my brain is full. Rather than spinning stories and finding creative solutions to a problem, all my brain power has been spent. And I am worn out.

I need to click around less on social media.

I love knowing what folks are up to. I love seeing morning routines of loved ones. And new babies and glimpses of travels and links to the writings of amazing folks. But all that scrolling and clicking and scrolling and clicking keeps me from writing. Especially when I “check in” first thing in the morning. Once again, I spend precious thinking power and wear myself out.

I need to unfollow more people on social media.

All that scrolling and clicking has the potential to be more uplifting and less exhausting. I know this because when I first began blogging, reading other blogs spurred me on. If I unfollow every person that complains, focuses on the negative, or spreads fear, that means my feeds should be filled with more light and grace and inspiration. I go through spells of this, but I know I need to be more protective of what I take into my brain (and heart).

I need to find better people to follow on social media.

Just like those early days of blogging, I know there are great folks out there doing amazing work. I need to seek them out. To follow them on social media and see their photos. To click on their links and fill my mind and heart with quality input. I also need to follow more great photographers on Instagram whose sole purpose is to fill my feed with beauty. I am in need of more beauty.

St. Augustine by the Sea in HonoluluI need to go to church.

There are times I forget that my soul needs a little formal nourishment. When I was in Honolulu, I went to morning mass at St. Augustine by the Sea a couple of times. It was at the end of the block from my hotel. And easy to slip into after watching the sunrise. There’s something about attending mass in the middle of the week that nourishes me in ways that going to Church on Sundays does not. And it seems to help me find my center. I could use the excuse that church isn’t “convenient” at home like it was in Honolulu. While not a block a away, it’s still within biking distance…

I need to take more walks.

In her book The Artist’s Way, Julie Cameron prescribes a series of activities to spur creativity. In addition to now famous morning pages and artist dates, she recommends regular walks. Not with the purpose of burning calories, but simple to BE. To notice. To feel the wind across your face, to hear the twittering birds, and to see scampering wild life.

I need to read more books. And magazines.

To be a better writer, reading is a must. However, when I have been reading the news, social media, and email, the last thing I want to do is crack open a book. If I begin the day with my phone in rather than a book and my journal, I never produce as much. Fiction never fails to move my brain in different directions.

And dare I mention magazines? So many magazines put all their content on line and I subscribe to few. Yet, the few I do read, always inspire me. My time is well spent flipping through glossy pages because my brain gets beautifully stimulated.

I need to eat better.

Our bodies need fuel. While we were traveling, not only did I have coffee each morning. No, after I watched the sun rise I’d head to the Starbucks on the corner and have their egg white bites. Two tiny little egg and pepper omelettes. At home, though, I start with the best intentions. Yet, often, coffee is it for hours upon hours before I eat real food. Just like my brain needs better inputs, my body needs quality fuel.

I need a tidy home.

Nothing distracts me more than dust. And piles of laundry. And stacks of papers. I’ve cut my cleaning lady back to once a month because we’ve been traveling. And, to be honest, I am distracted when she’s here.  What I used to do was head out for errands or go to Barnes and Noble to write or look at books. Getting her back onto a bi-weekly schedule helps me tend the stuff in between, too. But, again, if I were to be honest, sometimes I use the excuse of needing to clean to delay writing. (Nope, I still haven’t dusted the buffet yet. Yay for me!)

I need to procrastinate less.

This last column is late. Yes, I am still publishing it on the due date, but I should have written it earlier in the week instead of on Sunday morning. I know it’s human to wait until a deadline to finish something.  However, I need to put more thought into my writing by giving things space to breathe. My writing is always better when I draft and then revisit the next day. So, better planning and less dragging my feet is more important than I would like to admit.

I need to protect my precious attention.

The one thing all this has in common? Attention.  Focus. I protect my precious focus and attention like a lioness protecting her cub. But rather than honing that precious attention to writing and other forms or creative living, I allow myself to be distracted. Some of it may feel out of my control – the news! Facebook! the Dust! I’m too busy – but it really isn’t. Is it? I am responsible for this. I am the only one who can tend my creative life and focus and attention. So, if I want to write more, then I need to pay attention to all the ways I allow myself to love focus.

While each of these items seem small and as if they should hold no power over me, I am the first to admit that the smallest of things can be huge when it comes to moving forward. The cure for creating more good work is to create more good work. To tune out what distracts me, keep my head down, and allow the words to flow from an inspired brain, nourished soul, and tended body.

What about you? Do any of these ring true to what keeps you from being creative? What advice would you give me – and others – to protect that precious creative energy?

Post script: I am sad to be leaving you here at Modern Creative Life. I will miss sharing the corners of my creative life with you. And more than that, I will miss being inspired by editing your work. Please do stay in touch.  I am ever grateful for your love, support, and presence in my creative life.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author. 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 MediumTwitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Sunday Sanctuary: on Why

When I began writing online back in 2000, I was grateful for the small community of bloggers. We visited each other’s blogs and, because it as before the days of comments, we connected via email. I felt incredibly lifted up by the connections I made. And, honestly, the other blogs I read.

I wasn’t alone in my deeper need to create. None of the other bloggers I read or connected with ever thought I was compulsive in my need to write daily. Or, sometimes, multiple times a day.

The community of bloggers opened my eyes to the ways in which we could contribute to the creative lives of others. My first discovery of this came when I was able to download a “graphics set” to decorate my blog.  That led me down the path to the other ways in which we could share other’s creative pursuits.

Soon, I wanted to contribute to the larger conversation online. I wanted to do more than just link to blogs I liked.

I created an anonymous group blog called Hormonal Bitch. Something I’ve never confessed to before today. We wrote tongue in cheek commentaries on life. Later, I created a group blog called The Back Porch and we chose a monthly theme to write about. These were the folks that I was writing with when the planes hit the towers on 9/11. We processed how we were dealing with the tragedy as individuals and a community.

I also began to write book reviews for a magazine called All Things Girl. By 2005, I was serving as the Editor in Chief. For those of you that have been around during the run of that magazine – or are new here – know that putting the spotlight on other people’s work is of utmost importance to me.

I believe that as creators, we are richer by supporting the creative works of others.

When it comes to my personal values, it’s in my top ten.

And that’s why it’s hard to write this. To tell you why after three short years, we are putting Modern Creative Life in stasis.

I mentioned it when we launched this issue, aptly themed “Nostalgia”. And since that time, I’ve gotten multiple emails asking me a reasonable question: “Why?”

The reasons are simple, yet complicated. They are straightforward, yet layered.

And as much as I value putting the spotlight on the works of other people, the work I am most called to do right now is my own work.

I am well aware how selfish that might sound when down in black and white.

Earlier this year, I began working with a new business mentor to take my coaching practice to the next level. Actually, I am working with a team of experts. Ones that know how to dig more deeply into the things that would send me down a rabbit hole of data.

Much of this focuses on making what I write for work more “Google-Able”. And, in order to do that, my team informed me this summer that I needed to write at least two blog posts per week. Preferably three.

To make space for managing Modern Creative Life. As well as do other things that are important to me. Like actually coach clients. And tending my home and nurturing my relationship with John, I had made the decision to cut back to writing only two blog posts per month for my coaching practice.

Yep. I was unceremoniously informed that I needed to go from two blog posts a month to two or three per week. That meant that I needed to not only write a little more. I needed to quadruple the amount I was writing for my own website.

To confess that I was overwhelmed with needing to up my productivity to that degree is an understatement. In all truth and honesty, I had gotten a little lazy when it came to my writing. For work and otherwise.

This coincided with Melissa having knee surgery. Which meant that not only did I need to spend time at MCL, I had to not only do a portion of the editing here. I was doing all of it.

And the thing is, running Modern Creative Life is more time consuming than running All Things Girl was. Because of social media.

Part of shining the light on the works of others demands that we not just publish it, but share it. And each and every piece here deserved to be shared not just once, but multiple times. Despite the joy I have in sharing the work here on Twitter and Facebook. And despite that I loved digging back into the archives to remind you of brilliant pieces from the past.

I just don’t have the bandwidth to continue doing it.

I don’t have the bandwidth to quadruple my writing for work, increase the guest posts I write, and managing the social media feeds for my coaching practice. AND maintain all the work I do here for Modern Creative Life. Just the social media alone could honestly need another person to manage it. And there have been no “takers” to mange it for us beyond me.

And to be vulnerably and nakedly honest with you, I haven written a single word for the next book I want to write. And I haven’t gotten back to editing the book I had planned to publish two years ago.


And to be even more honest: I like the writing I do for my coaching practice. I appreciate the opportunity to help folks shift their lives. I love my work as a coach.

Even if quadrupling the amount I write feels overwhelming and a bit daunting, the truth is, that having more deadlines helps me build my writing muscle. And, if you didn’t know, just like exercise, the more you write, the more you find you can write.

As creative people, one of the unfortunate things we have to do is to choose what to work on. Even if we have multiple passions. And a slew of interests. Our creative gifts demand that we become devoted to a particular topic, task, or type of work.

Another one of the tasks on my list thanks to my team – and all the updates to the way websites are run on the backend – I needed a new design for my website. I rebranded my website last month. And, though I am head-over-heels in love with the design, it didn’t come without a slew of new tasks.

There was some funky piece of code lingering in almost every old post.  And, also thanks to the rebranding, most of my blog posts need new images. I have written over 300 blog posts for work. That’s a lot of photos to find and posts to edit. Even if the editing is small and picky. It still takes time.

You may ask why I would bother to edit blog posts I wrote years ago. (I started writing for my coaching practice in 2011). Well, old pieces that I wrote often bring in new readers. In fact, more than 30% of my organic search traffic comes to blog posts written ages ago.

That means that those post that are old, yet bring people I can help in some way? They need to be not just lightly restyled with a new photo. Some of them need to be re-written to be more applicable to the world today.

The other thing I have discovered is that what the industry terms as “backlinks” can matter to the reputation and authority a website has. See, Google (and other search engines) notate how many links there are “out there” to any particular website. The more quality links you have, the more reliable you are seen no matter your field.

That’s why I am committed to keeping the archives here at Modern Creative Life intact. It was something we were unable to do with All Things Girl thanks to a hacker and an inept tech support person. But now that I understand what must be done, I am committed to make it happen.

Because even if I don’t have the bandwidth to continue to manage a regular magazine, I can ensure that the works here at MCL do not lose the impact they have. That they continue to enhance the work creators do. Because the unfeeling robots known as search engines may not see the true brilliance of your work. What they do see is the number of times this website refers folks back to your online spaces.

Besides, once the dust settles, we may decide to do a special issue. Or a limited series of features on wonderful poets and photographers and storytellers. And maintaining the site will be a huge help for any spur-of-the-moment decisions.

I have had to come face to face with reality of late. There are truly only so many hours in the day. And, despite wishing I were Wonder Woman, I am me. I am a fifty-year old woman that is a finite resource.

And when we get down to the realities of living a creative life? We must always make our own work a priority.  We must listen to that inner voice within us and answer the call to use our time wisely and create more. More stories. More works of art. More expressions of how we see beauty in the world.

Sometimes, this may seem selfish to those we serve. Yet, if we have served them well, deep down, folks will understand our deeper desire to create.

If you are so called to do so, I’d still be honored to edit your poems, stories, and essays as we wind down this issue on Nostalgia.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author. 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.

Welcome to Issue Number 12: Nostalgia

As we move into the fall and holidays, I am sure I’m not the only one remembering the ghosts of holidays past.

We remember the beauty of the holidays without the drama. Forgetting the Christmas when Uncle Albert was drunk and obnoxious. Or the Thanksgiving when there were no awkward talks of politics.

If we are to focus on Nostalgia, we forget the alcoholic fueled arguments. Or those holidays when we we struck with the flu.

I also know that sometimes,in order to escape the reality of the crazy world we live in, we need to dig into the past.

“We are homesick most for the places we have never known.”
Carson McCullers

Welcome to the fourth issue of 2018 – Issue #12: Nostalgia.

When we were choosing themes for Modern Creative Life, we thought that choosing “Nostalgia” was just the right subject to dive into the final months of 2018. As we bridge the space between what is and what could be, we often look to the past.

Part of living a creative life is the understanding that we can stay firmly planted into the reality of today while allowing rose colored glasses of the past to color it.  We must refill our own wells in some way on a regular basis, otherwise, we find ourselves feeling trapped and restless. We remedy the brutal reality of today with the beauty of the past, even if we only remember the good of it.

Our souls demand that we uphold the responsibility of using our gifts. And sometimes, the best way to honor that is to color it with the bonds of the past.  This what we are exploring in this issue.

In this issue, 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 essays, as well as all kind of enlightenment, help each of us 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 look to other creatives for ways in which they nurture and tend their own creative life so that they regularly find their process – and lives – feeling nourished instead of parched.

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

On another note, Nostalgia is the perfect theme in which to put Modern Creative Life in Stasis. This is not only the last issue of 2018. This is also the last issue of Modern Creative Life for the foreseeable future.

Though we have loved being a part of the creative landscape, we must also recognize that the realities of creating and living unfortunately mean that we cannot continue on as is.

We will maintain the archives. And continue to share the archives in our social media posts. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll do a special limited edition here and there in the future.

We’d love for you to add to the (almost) final chapter of Modern Creative Life.

What stories might you have to share with the world? In what ways might looking upon our lives thorugh the lens of Nostalgia make your daily life richer and more beautiful? Don’t be afraid for a deep dive into all sides of nostalgia to give yourself – and others – a sense of permission to take time to restore their own hearts and minds.  We are open to single contributions. Email us at moderncreativelife@gmail.com.

I can’t wait to see how NOSTALGIA speaks to you in the coming weeks.

With love,
Debra Smouse
Editor in Chief

Escaping From the Norm by Keva Bartnick


Summertime for us meant that when my husband was done teaching summer school it’s time to go on vacation. Every year we shoot to go somewhere we’ve never been before. Experiencing life in new fun ways. Showing our children that playing hard is just as important as working hard. Adventure is assured.

I don’t want to have a life that I feel the need to escape from all the time, even though I have escaped in the past. I want everyday to have wonderful happenings, even if it’s only a small one here or there. Appreciating what I have in the moment. Every day having purpose in its own right. For me, traveling just adds another layer to what already is and what could be. Growing more beautiful flowers in a garden already lush with life.


I promise I don’t live in Neverland, but I know that when we look at life in a certain light we can see it for all it’s wonders. Being alive holds a certain je ne sais quoi. That there isn’t anything quite like it on earth that stacks up to its many facets.

Where else can you be so unequivocally you? Molding ourselves into the being that we want to be? Becoming and experiencing so many ways of seeing how a people can become what they are, and what they long to be. The sky’s the limit and we all have a round trip ticket.

In times of sadness or discomfort we are offered any number of escape hatches in order to take a time out. Taking a breather if you will, escaping from the norm. Traveling, reading about traveling or watching shows on traveling for me is this kind of escape when I feel I need one. Knowing that there is more to life out there than what I’ve experienced up to this point for myself.


If I could travel to far off lands, taking in the sights and sounds I would do it at least once a month. Spending a week here or a week there. Learning about different cultures and people that are outside of my comfort zone. Breathing in their way of life. Experiencing everything with my senses. Every nuance and every moment beautiful for what it offers me. Escape into another’s life, another view of this world. Seeing it thru someone else’s eyes. Experiencing all life has to offer. Expanding my horizons into the unknown. Capitalizing on what could be and what is right in front of me.

I want to pass that wonder onto our children. Realizing that the world is big and beautiful. That there are so many people to meet, so many stories to learn about and share. To experience the escape of listening to another’s story. For in many ways listening is a cornerstone of healing. When we listen to another human being and their story it takes on a healing property unlike any other. We hold space for them in that moment. Letting them express who they are to us in their own way. Showing us all of them in that space, like we’ve been told, “better out than in.”

When we hold space for someone in these moments it offers them an escape too. Escaping from the confines of who they believe they are and must be. Free to express themselves in whatever way they see fit. Telling us, sharing with us, their lives in ways only they can. Taking into ourselves the energy of their words. Transmuting it into something good, healing, and full of compassion. We become the living conduit for this energy. Listening to them, holding them in awe and reverence. Compassion is assured. We would ask the same of them if the roles were reversed.

Their stories not unlike our own. Some of pain, some of heartache, of joys unmeasured and of love. They have a certain flavor and tastes not known to us before this time. The story lines may seem similar, but the way they share them is unique.

We get to see and feel their lives in ways not seen before. For they are them and we are us. A symbiotic relationship not yet seen up unto this point. We bring too with us our stories not known to them. This goes for any human being experiencing another’s story. Our background and culture different from the other. Offering each other a peek into the other’s world. In the end changing both the issuer and the recipient in ways unseen. Changing everyone’s chemical makeup because of the energy that was exchanged. Coming away better than when they arrived. In a way feeling more whole than expected.


This is the best way I know to escape from the norm. In doing this it brings me back to center. Understanding the world around me just a little bit better. Softening my edges and continuing to show me compassion for others. Life is not always easy, and escape sometimes is a must. Whether we escape inward or outward we change ourselves regardless. We experience our lives from a higher perspective. Taking in new energy from our surroundings. Solidifying the fact that living is such a beautiful gift. Sharing our lives with others is even better.

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.

Instrumental: Ten Tips for Creating Your Own Art Camp

Yesterday I shared the story of how I escaped to Art Camp. How would you like to create your own art camp? I’m sharing some tips to help you make that happen!

Ten Tips for Creating Your Own Art Camp

  1. Choose your fellow camper(s) wisely. It may be one, it may be two or three, but be quite certain your fellow campers are complementary and harmonious, can operate independently as well as together and all have a stake in completing a project or goal. Perhaps it is a deadline, an assignment or a tutorial, but have a personal purpose in mind.
  2. Share the load. Whether it is helping out at one person’s cottage with food expenses and doing dishes or sharing expenses evenly, make sure all are vested in both work and play. (If you’re lucky a camper will go above the call of duty and help paint your window trim!)
  3. Private time is fine. If one likes to walk, another swim, another do yoga practice and another just wants to read for a bit, that’s OK. We all need downtime, private time. In fact, for some of us, it’s essential.
  4. Document your time. Whether it is in photos, a blog post, a drawing or a journal entry, keep a record of the time together. It’s fun to look back and remember how your time together has evolved.
  5. Choose your location carefully, to fit your participants. Not everyone has a cottage available and one may have to rent a spot, whether for two or ten. Look for a place where nature is at hand, daily news is at a minimum, the environment is safe and there is ample work space and individual space for all. Whether you are in the mountains, on a lake or in the woods, it is important to feel safe.
  6. Consider road trips. You may be going to do art but if your time permits, consider a road trip, whether it is to wander the nearest town or visit a somewhat more distant site. Depending on your projects and state of mind, you may find inspiration where you least expect it.
  7. If you are a visual artist who works in a variety of media, pick one (or two, max!) to work with. Rather than hopscotch from mixed media to painting to a fiber craft, you will find that you are more likely to complete or make better headway if you focus your effort on one or two types of projects. And it makes packing a heck of a lot easier.
  8. No matter where you are, check the weather before you go! And don’t always believe it! There’s nothing worse than getting caught without a jacket during the one cold spot in a warm summer or being without shorts on an unexpectedly warm day. Yes, you can probably shop “in town” but who wants to? And don’t forget things like a swim suit, sunscreen, insect repellent or other items specific to your locale.
  9. Food allergies or special needs? Cover your bases and bring what you might need. It may not be easily available in the area where your camp is.
  10. Start small, work up! Kate and I started art camp as a weekend. It worked for us, we were compatible and we gradually added more time. There’s nothing worse than starting out with someone for a full week or two and finding out that as much as you like each other at home, too much togetherness could damage your friendship. And really, when it comes right down to it, enjoying the time with a friend or two is what it is all about.

Are you ready to create your own art camp?

About the Author: Jeanie Croope

Jeanie Croope bioAfter a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.

When Someone Chooses a Final Escape by Keva Bartnick

When I heard the news of Kate Spade, and later Anthony Bourdain I wasn’t saddened. But I wasn’t shocked. Suicide has never been an easy thing to navigate. It’s always horrible. When it does hit it’s like a tsunami; knocking us into a sea of sadness. Left to drift aimlessly until we find our bearings again. Standing becomes tricky and we are never quite the same again.

I realize that many of us keep hidden so many demons. They only rise to the surface when someone else decides to take the plunge into the unknown. We all go thru some litany of grief. Yet, for many who never knew them, their life doesn’t change. Why should it? They didn’t know the deceased. Their lives become completely untouched for the most part. It becomes another headline in a long string of them.

I didn’t know Kate or Anthony, yet I can say that for each suicide I hear about my life does change. I make it change so that the life that was lived doesn’t feel like it was in vain. I take several moments to myself honoring the person that they were. Knowing that the world will always be less now because they are gone.

In Kate’s case I bought a cup she designed from Amazon, a reminder to me every time I use it that life is short; drink up. It has lemon’s on it. When life gives you lemons be sure to make lemonade. If you can’t it’s okay to ask for help. Suffering from depression and anxiety myself, it’s a stark reminder that I am not alone in my struggles.

In Anthony’s case it was a little different.

I remember flipping thru the channels and running into him on television from time to time. I wasn’t in a space to appreciate what he was putting out into the world. I’m not a foodie, choosing the route of eating to live instead of living to eat. Now older and wiser, I can now see the value he brought to everything he did. How every person who had the chance to meet him and get to know him became blessed. With Anthony, in death, he taught me how to enjoy new food and new experiences.

I’m all for adding good things into my life. It took me awhile to understand that in order to change my life I didn’t have to get rid of anything. Opting to add one good thing in at a time, changing my life for the better. Change doesn’t have to be dramatic or painful. Sometimes it can be small, seemingly insignificant at the time, but in the end making a bigger impact than we thought was possible.

After Anthony passed I decided that we were in a food rut.

Don’t get me wrong I’m all for anchors in my life with little ones and how they can be helpful. But there was something to be said for always staying in the safe end of the pool. Like Anthony, maybe it wasn’t something that should be taken away, things always staying the same. Yet, something that needed to be added.

So I decided on New Food Friday’s. An odd mix of anchors and setting sail for the horizon, destination unknown. Each Friday, we as a family, find food that we’ve never tried before. Last week it was kiwi (for the kids) and plantain (for my husband and I) and this week for the kids it was sushi and potstickers. We are starting out small with normal food you can find close to us. Later graduating out into the world to find the real interesting food stuffs.

Either way, it’s in the endings that we find new beginnings. For you can’t have one without the other.

I like to think that Kate and Anthony are looking down on me in someway with little smirks on their faces. Happy with how I chose to honor their lives, even though they weren’t always happy. Understanding the struggles and realizing that I always have a choice in how I go forward. Infusing what I knew about them into how I integrate their lives into my own. Hoping that in a way they can be honored and remembered.

In the end knowing that life is hard, but it is beautiful.

That each day is a new beginning, remembering to set sail for great things. Understanding there will be storms, but it’s how we weather them that shows our strengths and our weaknesses. Learning from those who have gone before us. Living more boldly in our own lives. Thanking people for coming and for being who they really were. No strings attached and no reservations; adding on to their legacy after they have passed.

Infusing good things into our lives as we go along, not only because of death, but because we truly know what it means to live.

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.

Sunday Sanctuary: Noticing the Details and Making a Life

I’ve come to believe that in order to live the kind of life we desire, we must choose to create it. It’s a concept that sounds good on paper, yet making it happen can be harder. We humans tend to look at things from a lens of the big picture concept side and though they say that the devil is in the details, we rush past the smallest of details. We look for big signs that we are succeeding and hope that huge leaps will result fast and life changing results.

The truth is that if we want our creative lives to be sustainable, we need to learn to subsist on tiny sips of inspiration and see the infinitesimal moments of beauty and perfection as our building blocks.

What will save us, therefore, isn’t grand gestures or sweeping changes, but the small moments. A perfect cup of coffee, a ten-day old bouquet of grocery store flowers, the way the flame on a candle flickers as it reaches the end of the wick.

Yesterday, we lost electricity for several hours. My plan for the Saturday was to write and edit. And I needed to be doing that in WordPress. Without electricity or internet, I was at a loss as to what to do now that my plan had been changed.

Rather than worry about finishing this column. Or editing a blog post for work. I moved back into the bedroom and got a change of perspective. This past summer, John’s mother sold her house and some of her furniture came back to Ohio to live with us.

A part of that furniture is a peach colored wing back chair nestled into a corner by the windows. On John’s side of the bed. I never sit their, and honestly wasn’t thrilled about the addition of that chair. And a side table. And a lamp.

It’s been growing on me, though. And for the first time since it’s been in our bedroom, the loss of electricity led me to sit there. With what little natural light was available on a rainy day, I found comfort there. Nestled in a chair that had held dozens of O’Connors over the last twenty-five years.

Rather than fret about this column. Or those blog posts I meant to finish editing today. I wrote a letter. I wrote in my journal. I sat and listened to the sound of the rain pelting against the windows.

To feed my creative life, I need to allow myself to experience these kinds of moment.

One day last week, I walked outside to place a Netflix video in the mailbox. My phone was in my pocket and a cup of coffee in my hand. I paused to watch the changing sky as the rising sun colored my view with tinges of pink and shots of gold against midnight blue sky. Then I gazed to my left to see the shimmer of raindrops shimmered against the deep green leaves of my roses. And the way the drops on a spider web made it glimmer

Such stark beauty was all around me, and if I had hurried just a little, I would have missed it.

We tend to believe that when we talk about “making”, it must be something done with from a high art perspective: writing, drawing, making music, etc.

Yet, my core truth is that we are always making. Each moment of living is a choice in creative living. We just have to notice them.

It’s watching John load the car in the mornings: first he walks to the back of his bright red car. He waves his foot under the trunk, the car beeps, and the lid begins to rise. He places his lunch box and briefcase in his trunk. And then drapes his suit jacket across his briefcase so it doesn’t wrinkle. After closing the trunk, he opens the driver’s door, leans in and puts his coffee cup in the holder.

Only then does he climb into the car, push the button to start the engine, and buckles his seat belt.

Sometimes I can hear his morning radio choices: The Beatles or Pop Rocks on SiriusFM. He hits the hazard lights, waves one more time, and backs out of the garage.

If I am going to continue to stay devoted to living a creative life. And allowing it to inform and nourish my life. Then, I must continue to notice those infinitesimal moments that add a layer of richness to my world.

Like noticing the ways raw sugar plinks as it hits the coffee in my cup.  And then watch the bloom of dairy goodness as I splash in some cream. And that first sip, how the bitterness of the coffee is tempered with the richness of the cream and the sweetness of the sprinkled in sugar.

It’s sharing a joke with the butcher as he packages up a pork loin. And then some ground chicken.. And noticing how he comes alive and smiles a little deeper. Grateful to be seen and acknowledged.

It’s the quick kiss I get as John walks in the door and the scent of him against hours old starched shirt, faded Old Spice, and the workday.

It’s gazing in the mirror and seeing my own inner light as I fasten a necklace. It’s the shift in light as the day is swallowed up by night.

No matter how busy we get, there must be moments of coming back to center. To notice our own life. To see the tiny moments that create my own existence. And the life of those I love. To honor the way creative living plays into my everyday life.

For this is what the core of making is to me: making a life.

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.

Sunday Sanctuary: on Books and Authors I Have Known

If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my life, there is nothing like a great book to escape. I learned this at an early age, that books took me to other worlds: Narnia, Sleepyside, and Victorian London.

Books saved me, too. I was a inquisitive and talkative child. By encouraging my love of books, my mother found a key to a few moments of blessed quiet: I didn’t talk (as much) when I was reading.  Besides adventures, I found answers to the ways the world worked in books. And recall one summer when I decided to read the encyclopedia. That was back in the days when the way to find answers was found in beautiful hardback books, not with the click of a mouse.

Some of my fondest memories are climbing into a tree in my grandmother’s front yard on a hot summer day. Armed with a pillow, a Dr. Pepper, and a book,for long moments I escaped the oppressive heat of a 70’s era summer. She didn’t have air conditioning, but there was shade from the oak leaves and if I was lucky, a breeze to stir the thick air.

Books have been a constant companion all these years. I’m fifty now, and though I’ve had periods of time when I didn’t read as much, I don’t recall a time when I didn’t have a book close at hand. I still find great pleasure in taking a good book and myself to lunch. I can’t imagine traveling without a book (or two) (or now a loaded Kindle in my purse. When I traveled a lot for work, the airport bookstore became my BFF.

And I am one of those rare people that can read in the car without getting sick to my stomach. So a long car trip with John at the wheel is an opportunity for diving into a great story.

In all the years of reading – and later writing – I haven’t had much opportunity to attend book signings. It seemed such an exotic opportunity, designed for the fancy folks living in New York City. Oh, how I envied the idea of those literary salons and easy access to famous authors at Barnes and Noble. I was from a small town in Texas, and authors didn’t really come to little old Mansfield. And if they came to the big cities of Fort Worth or Dallas? I don’t know how in those pre-internet days we would have found out about the events.

All those years of loving the written word and I was almost 21 before I met my first real author. Well, I felt like I knew Sandra Brown because she was a weather girl on Channel 4 when her first book came out. But that isn’t the same. No, the first author I met was Larry McMurtry.   I was a junior in college and he was to be a guest lecturer. I took a literature class composed entirely of his works.

He was quieter in person than he seemed on the page.

With All Things Girl, I began interviewing authors. Meeting them online and sending emails back and forth, often with a PR agent as our go-between. I know a lot of authors that way. Always game to help them promote their latest book. My love of books and their work makes me want to see them succeed.

That’s how I met George Pelecanos in 2008. Because we were both in DC at the time, we did a telephone interview rather than email.  And then, as luck would have it, I was in DC and got to attend a lecture and book signing of his.

George Pelecanos - August 2008 - Poetry & Prose in DC

Talk about mesmerizing! That man has charisma. The sheer power of his presence invited me into another world and I saw clearly how he was not just a successful author, but a screenwriter that invited me into another beloved escape: television.

In the last few years, I’ve met many authors online and I am grateful. I have dear friends that have written books. Somehow, knowing a writer as a friend before you read their book puts them in the friends I love, so of course I love their books.

Settled in Ohio, I have now met three authors in the last four years that I didn’t know as friends first. Can you imagine? In forty-five years of reading, I met two authors between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-six.  And now, in my middle age years, I’ve met Tess Gerritsen and Jill Santopolo. Both thanks to my local library and the Jewish League of Dayton. Each was delightful and talked about their writing process and answered questions. And though I knew Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles characters thanks to TNT, I didn’t read either of their books until after meeting them.

Then this past week, I met Fiona Davis.  Fiona is a former Broadway actress and she has such charisma!

Fiona Davis - August 2018 - Bexley, OH

I have devoured Davis’ previous books: The Dollhouse and The Address. And have recommended them to friends. So, when I found out that she was going to do a luncheon and book signing in Columbus, I reached out to a girlfriend and we attended together.

I loved hearing about how she approaches a book. She’s the most logical writer I’ve ever heard speak.

She begins first with a location. All her books are set in a specific building as the backdrop – and almost character. Her new book, The Masterpiece, is set in Grand Central Station. Since her book are historical fiction, she must do extensive research. She allows herself two months to do research. Enough time to dig in without going down the rabbit hole too deeply. Also a way to ensure she doesn’t use research as an excuse to not write.

As historical fiction, she has two timelines in each book. One in the past, one more modern. Both set in the same location, that becomes a character of its own.

She outlines. Extensively. Before she gets to the page, she knows the general trajectory of each character, the two plots, and when the timelines of the main characters will collide and merge. On some rare occasion, a character goes off the outline and demands to do something earlier than she planned.  But that has only happened once so far.

She says she doesn’t suffer from writer’s block. Sure, she said, she has better days than not. But her years as a journalist taught her that if she wanted to get paid, she had to get the work done. And knowing that she has a contract to do a book with a deadline propels her forward.

After lunch, her reading, and her answering questions, she lovingly signed books and chatted with the attendees.

Fiona Davis - with Debra Smouse & Blaze Lazarony

Her obvious love for the craft, for writing and creating stories, reminded me once again why I love books. Why their companionship has comforted me over the years. Why reading is still one of my greatest pleasures.

I waited until Friday night to begin The Masterpiece. I devoured the story of art and women and the fight for what is right. I finished it last evening. Discovering once again that between the pages of books, I could escape to another world. That the curious and inquisitive child I was at five still lives inside me. Always there waiting  to see what a turn of the page brings next.

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.