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.

Sunday Salon: Lives of the Poets

April is National Poetry Month, and although I’m not a poet myself, I have a deep appreciation for the way poets use syntax and imagery to examine their subject matter from a completely different vantage point than one would do in prose. Here in the Sunday Salon, I like to think about the intersection between life and art, and poetry seems to be one of the finest examples.

This month I returned to the poetry of Jane Kenyon and Donald Hall, two poets who happen to be married to one another and who, for me at least, really embody this intersection of life and art. I return to Hall’s memoir, The Best Day the Worst Day, his memoir about life with Kenyon and her death from leukemia at age 47. I return to Kenyon’s book of collected essays, A Hundred White Daffodils, where she often writes about life in the small New Hampshire town where she and Hall moved in the late 1970’s. I return to Bill Moyers Emmy winning documentary about the couple, A Life Together.

In short, I immerse myself in the lives of these poets. I become something of a poetry nerd, searching out poems that reflect life events both large and small.


I’m not disappointed. Early in their marriage, Kenyon writes of moving into Hall’s boyhood home.

You always belonged here.

You were theirs, certain as a rock.

I’m the one who worries if I fit in with the furniture

and the landscape. 

Hall writes so often of their daily routine it becomes sacred in it’s assuring sameness.

In the bliss of routine

-coffee, love, pond afternoons, poems –

we feel we will live

forever, until we know we feel it.

When illness strikes one and then the other, they work out their reactions and experiences in poem after poem, reminding us of the way life can upend itself, rearrange itself, and come to rest as something completely changed. One of Kenyon’s most well known poems, Otherwise, describes this uncertainty with such grace.

I got out of bed

on two strong legs.

It might have been 

otherwise. I ate

cereal, sweet 

milk, ripe, flawless

peach. It might have been otherwise.

I took the dog uphill

to the birch wood.

All morning I did

the work I love.


At noon I lay down

with my mate. It might 

have been otherwise.

We ate dinner together 

at a table with silver

candlesticks. It might 

have been otherwise.

I slept in a bed

in a room with paintings

on the walls, and

planned another day

just like this day.

But one day, I know,

it will be otherwise.

In Her Long Illness, Hall describes the days of vigil at Kenyon’s bedside, a feeling familiar to anyone who has nursed a loved one.

Daybreak until nightfall.

he sat by his wife at the hospital

while chemotherapy dripped

through the catheter into her heart.

He drank coffee and read

the Globe. He paced; he worked

on poems; he rubbed her back

and read aloud. Overcome with dread,

they wept and affirmed

their love for each other, witlessly,

over and over again.

Hall writes that “Poetry embodies the complexity of feelings at their most entangled.” It offers us company in joy and sorrow, invites us to examine emotions, nature, all of life in a unique way. Poetry parses the stuff of life and untangles the snares of emotions that trap us in grief,  loneliness, or confusion. It glorifies the particular beauty in nature and living things and reminds us of their value. In a few carefully selected and crafted phrases, a poet creates a new way of seeing, and also reaches a hand to the reader, inviting them to meet at this juncture of art and life.

Just because I don’t write poetry doesn’t mean I can’t look at life with a poet’s eye. Reading and studying the lives of the poets, observing the way they view their experiences through that unique poetic lens encourages me to do the same. Poets lift up the smallest details to a level of near holiness, something we might all benefit from doing. If, as the saying goes, life is in the details, the poet can teach us to examine the particular details of our own lives, appreciate and even exalt them in ways that can change us forever.


About the Author: Becca Rowan

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

Meaningless No More by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Photo by Makhmutova Dina on Unsplash


Two friends and I looked at our empty lives
and echoing caverns of our houses,
decided we would no longer mope
after mourning our losses.

So we drove to the animal shelter.

One came home with a senior cat
perfectly suited to her age and apartment.
Another, brave mad woman she is,
got a kitten and rambunctious puppy.

I filled my vacant space
with a tuxedo kitten and young orange cat.
The house rings with their galloping feet,
tinkle of bells, the catnip mice.

Now I tell tales of their silly antics,
friends come to visit the kits.
I scoop out the litter boxes,
laugh at them both. They cuddle with me.

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.

Instrumental: That’s What Friends Are For by Bernie Brown

You can find them online. You can find them offline. In the grocery store. Or living next door.  In a singing club, or a quilting class, or a PTA meeting.

I’m talking about friends. The places they are found are as varied as the friends themselves, who differ in size, color, and adornment like sea shells on the beach. Different as they are, they all have qualities that make you cherish them and grow a little larger in their company.

Friends make you laugh. They may be great joke tellers, chances are they aren’t, but you both see the world through the same crazy pair of glasses. You both thought feng shui was a kind of sushi. And neither of you really get The Onion. You can admit you have liked Barry Manilow all along, and though they might not share your taste, they still like uncool you.

When success comes to you in small or large ways – you lost three pounds or your story won a writing contest—a friend cheers you on. And their good fortune doesn’t diminish yours. With a friend, joy is doubled, and troubles are halved.

They’ve seen you cry and put their arms around you while you dampened the shoulder of their brand new designer sweater. They don’t try to fix whatever is bringing on the water works, they don’t even have to understand why the bad thing is so bad. They are sad because you are. They don’t tell you to “get over it,” they just hang around until you feel better.

Griping! Venting! Sounding off! A friend will let you curse your boss, the government, the traffic. They will let you say the F word and make your ugliest face. And agree, agree, agree. The jerk! The collective stupidity! Insane drivers rule the roadways. They don’t try to get you to see reason.

You can tell a friend your dreams—a year in Paris or visit to the space station— and they won’t laugh at you. You can tell them your most unreasonable fears, and they will tell you theirs.

But sadly, sometimes friendships wither away. There is no animosity,  you just grow in different directions. She wants to run for political office, you want to train to be a yoga instructor. Calls and lunches become less frequent and after awhile, yoga classes fill your days and you’ve made a host of new buds.

At sadder times, a friendship goes bad. You realize this person is trying to hold you back, to undermine your goals. They don’t have your best interests at heart. Worse still, they make you feel bad about yourself with barely concealed remarks, “Oh, you’ll probably never go back to school. It’s just a passing whim. You’d be older than all the others, anyway.” When going back for your master’s is a dream you have always had.

Or you may feel this person is manipulating you. She joins a committee at school and then somehow you find yourself going along because she “needs a friend” and you really, truly hate committee work.

Some friendships just never get off the ground because you discover early on you aren’t going to click. The person is a whiner and whining gets old fast. Or they are a hypochondriac and bring you down. Or they constantly reschedule, throwing your calendar in an uproar and you begin to know they can’t be counted on. Save yourself further pain, and don’t encourage more contact.

But more times than not when you find yourself sitting over coffee, hot chocolate, or a glass of wine, and three hours have passed laughing, confiding, and setting straight the world, and you still have more to say, you are with a friend. You may have to go home and do laundry, but the laughs keep you smiling while you fold towels, the confidences have lightened your secret burdens, and the discussion has broadened your understanding of the world and yourself.

After all, that’s what friends are for.

About the Author: Bernie Brown

I live in Raleigh, NC where I write, read, and watch birds. My stories have appeared in several magazines, most recently Better After 50, Modern Creative Life, Indiana Voice Journal, and Watching Backyard Birds. My story “The Same Old Casserole” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Modern Creative Life. I am a Writer in Residence at the Weymouth Center, which is the perfect spot to work on my novel-in-progress. .

Sunday Sensations: The Power of Relationships

Before I was born my mother and father were sitting in a church service listening to a message about my namesake — Tabitha (Acts 9 if you want to look it up). Tabitha was one of the rare people in the Bible where you meet her after she’s already died. Peter, one of the apostles, goes to a house full of mourning. It seems Tabitha was much loved because she made clothes for widows and orphans. Peter, struck by her compassion and the grief of the people, raises her back to life.

My parents were struck by her story and decided their first female child would be named Tabitha.

In some sense, I’ve always tried to live up to her legacy. This legacy of leaving behind people who love you and who you’ve helped. And, for me, it all starts with cultivating relationships.

I was, like many nerdy kids, pretty lonely growing up. I longed for friends. Thankfully, I had a younger sister who was my constant companion, but I wanted more. I dreamt of friendships like the books I was obsessed with reading. I ached for someone who’d tell me stories and secrets. I was consistently dumbfounded when other people didn’t like me.

Then, when I was 12, I discovered the internet.

You have to understand that the internet to me will always be this Narnia of a place. Here I could type in things I loved (mystery novels) and find people who liked the same things as I did. It was magical. Suddenly, the world was open for me to find people who liked me for who I was — not because they were in the same age group at church.

I met my first internet friend at age 16 (with my parents). I remember buzzing with happiness for days after that. Someone who loved what I loved wanted to spend time with me. I was overwhelmed.

Over the years, I’ve met so many people through the power of social media and the internet. Bounds have formed that have lasted over a decade. The number of close friends I have would boggle the younger version of myself. The internet gave me a tool to find my tribe. To click when I felt anything but clickable.

There’s an energy that happens when you meet someone you can connect with — I call it “soul buzz.” There’s just something secret sauce about the right temperament, mood, mutual loves and energy that connect in a way that proves that human beings are infinitely complex. When you find “the one” — your skin seems to dance with a level of awareness. Yes, yes! I am not alone in my weirdness — this is someone like me.

It’s the main reason I attend comic cons.

While my father is the start of all that is good and geeky in my life, growing up I was still vaguely aware that being bookish and geeky was not “normal.” Nothing drove the point home like the last summer before high school when a table of kids laughed at me for using a four syllable word. I burned with shame.

For most of my life I’m unabashedly geeky, but going to comic cons reminds me that I am not alone. There’s a group of people — many of them professional, amazing, talented, functional people, who love the same things I do and learn the same things I learn through our fandoms.

As I reflect on how happy I am and realize again that relationships are the backbone of life. My husband, my kid, my family, these friends — all of them contribute to my life being wonderful or terrible. As I build this tribe, people who follow and love me no matter what, I realize that was what Tabitha must have been doing — making relationships.

I hope she’d be proud.

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.

In Shadows and Sunbeams by Æverett

Photo by Dmitry Bayer on Unsplash


I used to just lay in bed for hours listening to music and just daydream.
I miss that.

No, really. That’s how much of my life pre-anxiety happened. Lying still, with all that sound, staring up at the ceiling or my own hands, and thinking.
About everything.
Sometimes, I’d think of nothing and just observe the lines on my palms or the shapes my fingers would make.
More than once, I sat listening for hours and literally watched the sun move across my floor.
And most often I spent those long hours wrapped in the escapist embrace of characters I loved. Walking them through arguments and battles and romances that would never canonically be.

Whole afternoons dedicated to watching the sun move across my floor.

I think these observational stretches made me a more empathetic person. I asked questions of the Universe. I watched Time and learned what pores look like.
It made me a better writer.
Seeing the pace of Time taught me how to stretch it with words. It taught me the impact it can have.
It taught me how to use silence — a lack of dialogue — to an advantage.

There’s profound beauty in stillness, in silence and forgoance of voice. In the sun moving at a slow constant across a wood floor. In gazing up at the ceiling and wondering at the workings of the Universe, of god, of Being.
It teaches listening.
It teaches patience.
It teaches Being.

I see, in those memories, part of myself that has become forgotten and tired and sorely neglected. I have shunned it for doing, for noise, for The Scroll. I have forgotten it’s perfect majesty and pure truth.
And I have suffered for it.
I have burned out and struggled, and I have found chaos where there should be none.

Silence cultivated my creativity into what it Became.
Stillness gave me Myself.
And watching the sun walk across the Sky gave me Time.


About the Author: Æverett

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

Instrumental: Am I Going to Die Alone? by Melissa Cynova

One of the questions that I get most often as a tarot reader is, “Am I going to die alone?” Usually they work up to it, but sometimes it’s right out there.

“Am I going to die alone?”
“Are my cats going to eat me when I die?”
“Did I miss my chance?”
“Is my Person behind me instead of in front of me?”

I used to just answer that question. It’s pretty straightforward. Yes or no? If it was no, don’t worry about it. It’ll happen when it happens. If it was yes, well… I would start asking the person why companionship was the most important thing. They would say a variation of “I just want to be happy.”

And then I would get to the heart of the matter.

“Why do you think that you need someone to be happy?”

Why, indeed.

Next year will be my 30th year playing around with these cards, and I think the most important thing that I’ve learned is to listen for the question under the question. To use the conversation around the question to cultivate (see what I did there?) the conversation and get to the true worry that they’re carrying around.

If we look at ‘Am I going to die alone?”, there a few layers to this.

  1. Am I going to die alone?
  2. Why do I think I need someone to be happy?
  3. Why aren’t I happy right now?
  4. Am I afraid?
  5. Am I going to be ok?

Nearly every reading that I do can be condensed down to that last question. Am I going to be ok?

What this means is that my job as a tarot reader is to be so gentle with my clients. The world is a scary place, sometimes. What this means for my clients is this – ask yourself why you’re asking the question.

Is that the real question, or the surface part?

And as a reminder: you can divine this for yourself by using a pen and your journal. Give it a try by asking each question of and allowing the words to flow from your heart.Allow yourself to go beyond the surface and discover your own real question.

Whatever is pushing it to the surface is your true concern, and the faster you figure out what that is, the faster you can answer it.

About the Author: Melissa Cynova

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

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

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