on Nostalgia by Keva Bartnick

As I sat here trying to go deep into the recesses of my memory banks I came up empty in the nostalgia department. When that happens all I can do is fuss about for a minute or two and try to dig even deeper. In the end, I give up and go find a trigger. Something that works to awaken the sleeping giants within.

What I found is nostalgia is delicate, but potent. In Greek, it simply means “the pains from an old wound.” Described as a twinge in your heart more powerful and potent than mere memory alone. A feeling or a place where you long to go again. That is what I was searching for; looking so desperately to find.

It’s not that I didn’t have nostalgic thoughts. Rememberings of people, places and things. It was that most of the time I didn’t want to go back there again. In the past I’d been known to spend hours upon hours, days upon days replaying situations over and over again. Sucking the marrow straight out of the bone that I clung to so tightly.

Sometimes nostalgia isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Sometimes it’s the surroundings you never want to go back to. The smells you never want to smell again. Feelings you just want to put in a box. Shoving it so far back on the shelves in your mind that no one will think to look for it there. Yet still, every so often a memory is triggered. Bringing everything back to the forefront.

I used to groan internally when this happened. As of late I’ve decided that the old ways no longer work for me. Instead, I sit with the box. I open it back up with grace, compassion and love. This time I’ve told myself, “this time will be different.”

No longer do I hide from the pains of nostalgic memory. Instead I pull the memory out of it’s dusty old box. Sitting with it on my lap I lovingly examine it from all sides. I remove the emotion attached to it using a tiny pair of tweezers I keep safe in my pocket. Then and only then do I start asking questions.

Questions that have always been there. But, now with age and wisdom have a better retention rate of success.

Asking it, “why did that happen? What was the lesson?  Who was it suppose to grow the most, me or the other person? When did I finally learn the lesson? Have I grown thru what I went thru?” I go thru any other pertinent questions that spring to mind. After I’m satisfied with the answers that I’ve received, and feel free from the memory. I ask if it’s finally time to put this one to rest?

After I’ve received my answers and I’m happy with the results. It’s time for the pop and circumstance of letting it go. Usually I have a nice chat with myself from that memory. I release all guilt, sadness, and heaviness around it all. Forgiving myself for not knowing better at the time. Understanding that becoming who we are meant to takes time. That we need to be cognizant of the lessons, and release the shame, guilt and any other form of self criticism from it.

Life happens. It’s a glorious journey. No two alike as far as I know.

Yet the past we share with others can be heavy at times. Learning to release it to the halls of space and time is where we grow the most. Letting it go to be with God is where we find the most comfort. Releasing others from the confines of that memory as well since energy never dies. Understanding and forgiving ourselves and everyone involved a must in order to move forward.

Walking forward with a lighter heart after unpacking box after box is freeing to the soul. Showing others that this is how I do it. Feel free to copy as you see fit. Always keeping what resonates and discarding the rest. Healing from painful old stories is what keeps us young, healthy and vibrant. Looking back only to release it. Making more room on the shelves for better memories to come.

Who doesn’t want that in their lives? For me, all I can say is sign a sister up!

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.

A Rose Colored Sunday Evening by Bernie Brown

Nostalgia can be as comforting as Linus’s blanket. Don’t take my word for it, science has actually proven it. Idealized memories of one’s past improve self-esteem, enhance confidence, and even increase bodily warmth. It is a powerful positive force, beneficial to your health and well being.

A wistful view of the past triggers much of my writing, a longing to recreate the life I remember as a child in Iowa. Small independent businesses were the norm, music came to us over the radio, and television programs—from domestic comedies to crime shows—shared idealized characters and world views. Part of me knows that even then, there were horrors in the world, but the rosy glow of memory leaves those out.

Writing about that world appeals to me so much more than writing about contemporary times when most activities involve shiny, silver, cold, hard technological devices. Nostalgia allows me to write about the sound of the music on the radio, the smell of summer through an open window, and the taste of popcorn popped on the stove in a saucepan. And the clothes! How I love the clothes, and that they were made from fabrics that had names like seersucker and boucle.

Just to hear Frank Sinatra crooning “Fly Me to the Moon” transports me back to a winter Sunday evening on the farm watching the Ed Sullivan show on our black and white television. I sat on the floor playing with my dolls. My parents sat in their usual spots. Dad slouched on the couch in his undershirt, expertly peeling an apple with a paring knife and sharing the slices, while Mom sat in her chair flipping through a seed catalog. I believed that the romantic and glamorous world Frank Sinatra sang about would one day be mine.

While ole blue eyes had my attention, my brother talked on the phone in the kitchen, having stretched the lengthy, slinky-style cord around the corner from the dining room. We had only one phone in the house, and we kids all had our strategies for keeping conversations private.

Periodically, my brother’s laugh floated into the living room and Dad would turn to the spot where the phone should have been and say, “Get off now. That’s long enough.” After two or three such admonitions, Dad would set aside his apple and paring knife with the shake of his head and a sigh, go address my brother directly, and then resignedly return to the couch.

One of my older sisters waited for her date to pick her up, keeping her eyes on the outside lane, watching for the headlights of a ’52 Chevy or a ’57 Mustang to crest the hill and signal the arrival of her steady. Secretly, I looked forward to my sisters’ dates as much as they did. I had crushes as big as our barn on their boyfriends. My dearest hope was that when they knocked on the door and stepped inside, maybe—just maybe—the boy would look at me and say hi. And then my night would have been made, and I would be more than the invisible kid sister.

I loved the way my sisters dressed in their straight skirts and matching sweaters with detachable lace collars arranged at the neck. They wore makeup and used hairspray and were on their way to movies. To me, the kid on the floor living in the pretend world of my dolls, my sisters’ lives seemed almost as glamorous as the ones Frank sang about.

A few years later, a colored television sat where the black and white model once had, and Petula Clark was Ed Sullivan’s guest. A-line skirts replaced straight ones. My brother had his license, a car, and a steady girl, the same one from the phone conversation. And I was waiting for my date. The handsome young man knocking on the door was for me.

Each era gives way to the next, and for somebody someday, any era—even this one with all its shiny technology—will be looked back at longingly as more ideal than the one in which they find themselves. As the scientists discovered, and as I can personally attest to, writing this nostalgic view of a typical Sunday night from my childhood has enhanced my happiness quotient, raised my body temperature, and made all things seem possible. It has given me as much comfort as a small child gets from its favorite blanket.

About the Author: Bernie Brown

Bernie Brown lives in Raleigh, NC where she writes, reads, sews, and watches birds. Her stories have appeared in Modern Creative Living, Belle Reve, Still Crazy, the Raleigh News and Observer, and several more. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, is a Writer in Residence at the Weymouth Center, and a member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association. One of her stories will appear in an upcoming anthology of short story contest winners from Grateful Steps Publishing. She is currently trying to find a publisher for her first novel. Get to know her better at bablossom.wixsite.com/bernie-brown-writer.


When Nostalgia Becomes Disruptive by Megan Gunnell

We all feel nostalgic from time to time.  Wistfully reflecting back to happier times, positive memories and sentimental feelings about our past.  But when does nostalgia become disruptive? As a psychotherapist, I consider what time zone clients think and live in.  We have various psychological time zones that we live in and some can increase feelings of being stuck, anxious or depressed.

The healthiest place where our thoughts and feelings reside is in the mindful now, but of course we vacillate between thoughts of our past or thoughts of our future and those can have both positive and negative associations.

According to psychologist Professor Philip Zimbardo*, there are 6 psychological times zones that we can live in at any given moment.  2 in the past, 2 in the future and 2 in the present. All of these have a positive and negative slant. Take the past for example.  We can feel inhibited from living in the positive now because of a negative lens on our past. People think those tragic, sad, horrible things happened and therefore we cannot move on. We’re stuck living in the pain of the past.

On the flip side, we can romanticize and over-glorify the past. We can attach to “the good ol’ days” as a way of saying we can’t be happy now because it will never be as good as it was back then. Both of these cause us problems, but the latter is where the danger lies in being overly nostalgic.

The same is true about our future.  One version suggests ‘we can’t be happy in the now, because scary things are potentially in my future’ or ‘I know I’ll be happy when this, that or the other happens in my future.’

If we spend too much time reminiscing about the past or worrying about the future, we can become stuck and frozen in the now. The question that therapists use to assess whether or not a thinking pattern or a behavior is dysfunctional is always, “is this behavior impeding functioning?”  So if you approach the holidays with a longing to hold on to traditions, but you are still able to execute those traditions without an overwhelming sense of sadness or longing for days gone by, then nostalgia elicits sweet memories and is not impeding your functioning.

But if nostalgic thoughts shut you down or you find yourself being flooded with emotions, affect, tears or heartache and pain, you may need to consider reaching out for more support to help you stay connected to the positive now.

What helps when we become overly attached to the past?  Mindfulness practices, gratitude practices, support from friends, family and a good therapist.  First, mindfulness helps us stay present to the moment now in a nonjudgmental, unattached fashion. It helps bring our senses and our awareness to what we’re in front of or engaged in and in turn enhances the richness and quality of life.

Second, gratitude practices help us move from longing for something to be different to finding joy and abundance in what is. Gratitude also helps train our brain to scan for the positive. Nostalgic memories can sometimes link to a feeling of sadness. Perhaps we infuse nostalgia with gratitude and focus on what we’re grateful for when we reflect back on the sweetness of our memories rather than on a melancholy longing to recreate them or return to them.

And finally, support. If we notice that our nostalgia is inhibiting our ability to thrive, we need to reach out for support from family, friends and potentially to a good mental health provider who might be able to help us develop better coping strategies.

Overall, the holiday season has the potential to bring back a sense of nostalgia and the sweet, sentimental memories we recall can be comforting.

But if you notice yourself spending a lot of time thinking about or longing for the past or you feel stuck in the present or uncomfortable in the now, your nostalgic thoughts and feelings might be disruptive and you may need to consider some of these strategies for support.

About the Author: Megan Gunnell

Megan Gunnell is a Psychotherapist, Speaker, Writer, International Retreat Leader with over 20 years experience. She has presented and facilitated workshops and retreats globally and nationwide most notably in Finland at Jyvaskyla University, in Costa Rica at Anamaya and Ahki Resorts, at Miraval Resort and Spa, Arizona, the Bryant University Women’s Summit, Rhode Island and at Red Mountain Resort, Utah. A leading expert in women’s health, self-care and mindfulness, her work helps clients transform, restore and reach their highest potential.

Professor Philip Zimbardo’s presentation on the secret powers of time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3oIiH7BLmg

Breathing by Melissa A. Bartell


“When I breathe in, I’ll breathe in peace.
When I breathe out, I’ll breathe out love.”
~ Sarah Dan Jones

I’ve been thinking a lot about breathing lately. Maybe it’s the images from the wildfires in California, or maybe it’s that I’ve spent a good chunk of the last week fighting, and finally succumbing to, a cold/sinus/thing that left me feeling like I couldn’t breathe.

Or maybe it’s more basic.

At the salon on November 3rd I climbed a flight of stairs for the first time since having ACL/ALL/Meniscus surgery on my left knee in July. I’ve always had this issue where I “forget” to breathe when climbing stairs or running – yes, I know it’s supposed to be an autonomic function – but for the first time – probably because I was so focused on whether FrankenKnee would function correctly – I wasn’t winded at the top. The distraction of focusing on my recovering joint meant that I wasn’t hyperaware of my breathing to the point where I stopped doing it.

The next day, I had my first private Tai Chi session. I’ve finally finished formal PT, but I have no stamina, and I’m still a bit off balance. I’m using a stationary recumbent bike and weights at home, but I need an external something to be accountable to, or I won’t continue.

The teacher I’ve chosen is a woman who is likely about fifteen years older than I am, slightly younger than my mother. She’s funny and warm, and very real. She’s also a physical therapist and is happy to modify the beginning exercises so we’re using chairs for some of my sessions.

Of course, any practice that involves energy – QiGong, Tai Chi, Yoga – involves breath work. Right now, breathing in through my nose while exercising is a conscious effort, but I know that eventually it won’t be.

As a singer, a lot of the breathing meditation that I was introduced to in that first class was reminiscent of what I learned in my first voice classes – breathing down into the diaphragm, so your belly expands with each inhalation, rather than your lungs – just like a lot of the Tai Chi moves feel similar to beginning ballet.

Movement, it seems, is pretty much movement, no matter how you dress it up.

(One of my other take-aways from my first class was that I seriously need to learn to slow down. But that’s an essay for another place, and another time.)

And breathing… breathing isn’t all the same. There’s meditative breathing, and contemplative sighing. There’s the sharp intake of breath when something surprises you (for good or ill) and the abrupt outflow of air when you express yourself with a hearty “Huh.” There’s the way we choke on breath when we experience sudden cold – that knife to the chest feeling – and the way overheated air makes us feel like there is no air to take in.

But whatever type, whatever kind, whatever alters it, for however long, it’s all breathing.

* * *

Levar Burton & Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam by Melissa A Bartell

“Reading is like breathing in.
Writing is like breathing out.”
~ Pam Allyn

On Monday night, my husband I went to see LeVar Burton on tour with his podcast LeVar Burton Reads.

As he does in every studio-recorded episode, after he introduced the story, the author, and the accompanying live musician, Burton then said, “Take a deep breath… and begin.”

Of course, because this was a live show, he then interrupted himself to ask if those of us who are regular listeners take that breath with him when we’re alone at home, as we did in his presence, in the theater. And most of us admitted that we did.

Burton then went on to explain that he perceives that breath to be a sort of portal, and I must admit I’m enchanted by that image. To me, it’s always felt like a sort of mental reset button, but I guess the outcome is the same. It’s a change of tone, an alteration of mental place, and a step from the world of the mundane into the world of Story.  As Burton also reminded us, the word to inhale is, in Latin, inspire – which, for anyone creative, means more than merely breathing.

After this brief divertissement, he repeated his ritual breath (and yes, we all did it, too) and began to read. The story, by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, was a fascinating tale of lost relatives, missing children, and the way we treat memory and loss as a culture, couched in a blend of fantasy and science fiction.

After the reading, there was a question and answer period. As a fan of the podcast, I was aware that Burton typically has conversations with the authors who appear on his show, but I hadn’t expected an audience participation moment.

Breathing suddenly became much more of a focus for me, for two reasons.

First, there was the decision that I wanted to ask a question.

While I’ve been out and about since surgery – Comic Con a few weeks ago, and the afore-mentioned trip to the salon – this was my first time doing sustained walking (three blocks from the parking garage – we parked in the wrong one, but it ended up costing only $5 instead of $10, so, bonus!) and then down the ramped aisle to our seats in the sixth row. I had my walker, of course, but once I was seated, my husband had to bring it to the back of the theater where it could sit out of the way during the show. To ask a question I had to walk further down the ramp, without a mobility device, and wait in line. Okay, I was the second in my line, and the fourth overall, but it was a major achievement for me, and I was shaky from the effort. (Remember, I’ve also been ill.)

Second, my question led to a return question.

The Pam Allyn quote above has been circling my brain for a few weeks, and the combination of illness, finishing formal physical therapy and turning to Tai Chi, and LeVar Burton’s own words at the beginning of the show had me feeling like it was relevant.

So, I asked both him and Ms. Stufflebeam to comment on it, and he, countering, asked me if I was a reader or a writer.

I answered that I was a voracious reader, a writer, and a podcaster.

“If reading is breathing out,” he asked, “and writing is breathing in, what’s podcasting?”

I am sorry to admit, I went for the easy answer, the cheap laugh. Flippantly, I responded, “Self-indulgence.” There’s nothing wrong with that answer. For someone like me, whose show isn’t slick and professionally produced, who isn’t anyone with name recognition, it’s actually pretty true. And because this was a timed Q&A and there were people behind me, it was also the most effective way to end my turn.


But as soon as I got back to my seat, I realized that there was a better answer I could have given: Respiration.

If to read is to draw in breath, and to write is to let it back out, then podcasting, which incorporates both, is the recurring act of respiration. It’s breathing.

And breathing is one of the fundamental necessities of life.

I’ve been thinking a lot about breathing lately, but it’s mostly been about the mechanics.

On Monday night, I was reminded that there’s another aspect to breathing, that we as creatives must embrace. We must take in everything that inspires us and put out into the world the fruits of that inspiration.




“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
~ Arundhati Roy


 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.






Nostalgia by Christine Mason Miller

I recently wished a friend Happy Birthday on Instagram. Beneath a grainy photo of the two of us taken almost thirteen years ago (with an actual camera!), a passage from my caption reads:

“The year 2006 started off with a magic sparkle, because in January of that year an inspiring circle of kindreds gathered in my home, including this lovely bluebird. Can I say we were trailblazers? We were bloggers, the world of social media wasn’t yet on the horizon, and we had to find our way as friends in a wild, digital world.”

Truth is, having to figure out how to nurture relationships through the advent and expansion of digital communication and social media has not always been an easy road. I have spoken up about this at different times ever since my first days as a blogger around 2004. The tone of my reflections has run the gamut, from giddy appreciation to snarky complaining.

I’ve celebrated the miracle of being able to meet and, in some cases, collaborate with women from all over the world. I’ve also had to wind my way out of landmines I walked into or created through something as innocuous as a one-paragraph blog post. With so many digital pathways and platforms for communicating, promoting, and day-to-day storytelling, I’ve had to learn how to strike a balance between being cognizant of the potential sensitivities of others and yet not taking undue responsibility for them.

And I’ve had to learn how to apply those lessons to my own feelings, a task that was mainly about managing expectations.

A few of the comments on that Instagram post reflected the complicated relationship I’ve had with social media since its inception, with one longtime kindred saying, “A more innocent time…” alongside a funny face emoji and another one lamenting, “I miss those days of simple, heartfelt self-expression and friendship.”

For those of us whose work and lives straddled the worlds of pre and post-internet, I’m called to create some kind of merit badge.

As we helped build the digital universe most everyone now takes for granted , we were also figuring out how to engage with each other in way no one in the history of the world ever had to figure out. We took the leap from analog to digital, from VCR to streaming-on-demand, from spiral notebook to iPad, all with no guides, mentors, or wise elders to teach us how to do this mindfully and gracefully.

There was no one who could warn us of the pitfalls of making snap judgments based on an initial—digital—impression and being able to immediately hit “send.” We had to muddle our way through it, at times hurting each other’s feelings. We didn’t always give each other the benefit of the doubt. We weren’t always willing to take full responsibility for our own feelings.

Yet somehow, year after year, in one situation (and social media platform) after another, we’ve learned how to do these things.

As we’ve built our brands and businesses we’ve also raised families, created homes, and nurtured deep friendships. Most of humanity up until the 21st century has simply had to figure out how to be a grown up; we’ve had to figure it out while riding a wild wave of the information age.

I love this creative community. I am grateful for all the ways the technology of this century has enabled us to encourage and support each other, to print, publish, and sell our work, and to share the daily inspirations that keep us connected to our creative selves. I’ve made my share of stumbles and I’m certain to make more. But I’ve enjoyed being along for the ride and I’m still excited for the adventures ahead, wherever they might take us.

About the Author: Christine Mason Miller

Christine Mason Miller is an author, artist, and explorer who has been inspiring others to create a meaningful life for more than twenty years. Her latest book, The Meandering River of Unfathomable Joy: Finding God and Gratitude in India, was just released. Learn more at www.christinemasonmiller.com.

Nostalgia by Nancy Richardson

I grew up in a typical midwest town in the 1950s and 1960s. By typical I mean we had free range of our middle class neighborhood. Freedom to ride our bikes, run and play with friends, and take walks in wooded areas with no fear of harm. It was a safe childhood. I am still drawn to the sound of screen doors slapping, the smell of newly cut grass, the voices of children playing.

Yes, I look back on those days with nostalgia. In my poem “Youngstown, Ohio, 1952” about that town, that nostalgia is mixed with the beginnings of a doubt that the city of my childhood might be a place to stay in the future. Perhaps I was beginning to sense that air filled with soot from steel mills and called “pay dirt” by the citizens might not be the best place to settle.


Youngstown, Ohio 1952

I climbed the hill on my green Schwinn
at dusk when the air lifted enough
for me to see the fevered orange flush
of the open hearth on the horizon.
Tomorrow, it would rain ashes
on our ’52 Chevy. Later on a field trip
to the mill I walked on a catwalk
above the mouth. The runoff turned
into the sour taste of ash on my tongue.
The men were so close their sweat
turned to powder on their faces.
The cast heat rose and billowed
my skirt into a small suspended
parachute. Later, floating in the haze
that wanting makes, I lifted off
beyond the yard, beyond the gray sun
imagining a clear trajectory.

As the time to leave for college and marriage the next year approached, I was caught up in my own future, and so missed the signs that my town was slowly at first, then more rapidly, disintegrating. The first sign may have been a visit in the early 1970s to my old neighborhood which was exhibiting signs of deterioration. Trash on lawns, a few boarded up houses, rumors of carjackings. After that, there continued the ominous warnings: “don’t drive on that street,” “people are burning their houses down for the insurance money,” and more boarded up stores. When the town became the site of two federal maximum security prisons I began to lose hope.

How does this happen in America? A middle-class town becomes a host to graft and corruption at every level and the citizens do not respond. I began to think of Youngstown as Beirut, which had been decimated by the wars of the Middle East.

My nostalgia for my hometown was now mixed with sadness and wonder at its disintegration. A friend from my high-school class told me this story: He drove to his old street and stopped to look at his former house. A man with a gun pointed it at him through the window and said, “get outta here.” Going home again had become dangerous.

In subsequent years, I learned of the host of events that resulted in Youngstown, Ohio, becoming the poorest city in America. The lack of diversification and planning for new businesses; the end of the era of steel manufacturing; the presence of the Mafia and corruption of the town’s leaders; the desertion of the city by business leaders and middle class families; the lack of state and federal leadership. A total lack of vision and leadership, combined with corruption, resulted in swaths of city streets with burned out houses, the poorest school system in the state, epidemics of drug use, and unemployment at record highs.

I still go back. Every four years, I pound the pavement with labor members and progressive citizens to work for a democratic government. My poem “Door to Door” describes one of these moments.


Door to Door
November 2008

Let these people
not be home

let the flyers
blow away quietly

stick to the
chain link fences

let me not walk up
these concrete steps,
one more time

stand on this torn
green outdoor rug

read the Persuasion Script
promise life

will get better
perhaps not now

perhaps in some
other person’s lifetime

So my nostalgia for my hometown is for what was once true and what has become true in recent years. I go back now and see the devastation, but also a certain resiliency. It is not as though the early years were untrue. It is that time changed everything and a new city has emerged. And so my yearning for my hometown is for both the old and the new. The wonderful neighborhoods where children played freely and the neighborhoods now that are struggling to become safe and free. Yearning for what has been and hope for what might be.

About the Author: Nancy Richardson

Nancy Richardson’s poems have appeared in journals anthologies. She has written two chapbooks. The first, Unwelcomed Guest (2013) by Main Street Rag Publishing Company and the second, the Fire’s Edge (2017) by Finishing Line Press concerned her formative youth in the rust-belt of Ohio and the dislocation, including the Kent State shootings that affected her young adulthood. In An Everyday Thing, she has included those poems and extended the narrative to memories of persons and events and the make a life.

She has spent a good deal of her professional life working in government and education at the local, state, and federal levels and as a policy liaison in the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Education and for the Governor of Massachusetts. She received an MFA in Writing from Vermont College in 2005 and has served on the Board of the Frost Place in Franconia, NH. Visit her website.

Poems are from An EveryDay Thing by Nancy Richardson published by Finishing Line Press in July 2018.

Escape to Art Camp by Jeanie Croope

It all started as a fun weekend for two like-minded friends to leave work and families behind, escape to a lakeside cottage and share their mutual passion for creating. For one, it was paint and linoleum block printing. For the other, it was a combination of mixed media and craft.

The weekend was such fun, they decided to do it again another year. There was more of the same and sometimes the media changed as a new skill was learned. But the message was clear.

This wasn’t just a weekend. It was art camp. And it was fun!

My friend Kate and I have been “doing” art camp for probably close to ten years now. I’ve lost count. That weekend expanded to several days, even a week, and this past month, eleven days. Eleven days of long talks, walks, swims, visits into town, wonderful dinners using all the best from the local farmer’s market, time to read, a nightly viewing of a Miss Fisher Mystery on Netflix and most of all, time to create.

We choose a time each summer when we can head to my Northern Michigan cottage, the car packed full of art supplies, swimsuits, necessities and a rather vocal black-and-white cat. We arrive two-and-a-half hours later, quickly unpack and settle in and then whip out the projects.

On occasion a lesson will be involved. Several years ago Kate showed me how to carve linoleum blocks for printing. Another year I shared a technique for making journals I learned at a workshop.

Sometimes we do the same thing. How the kitchen survived two women doing gelli printing and creating volumes of brilliantly colored deli papers I’ll never know.

But most of the time we do our own thing, sitting at opposite ends of a table on the screened-in porch. In recent years, Kate has focused her time on the bird calendar she makes and sells each December.

The images may be done in watercolor or gouache or perhaps she’ll design and carve a block to be printed later. I confess, I love to turn to my annual calendar and see one of the creations that evolved at art camp!

Several years ago I decided to channel most of my visual art energies into photography and painting and art camp is my painting intensive. Working with a more experienced painter is fun and useful too. When I get into a jam on color mixing, I know that there’s someone who can provide some sound advice and more than once that’s saved me from a big mess!

For me, and I think Kate would agree, art camp is the perfect escape.

There are no appointments to tend to, no social obligations or requirements. While we work together and dine together, we are free to operate on our own schedules. Kate will be up and walking by 7:30. I’ll sleep later and walk later — or opt for an extended swim instead. If creative overload saps one of us but not the other, we feel free to take a book-break and read or get a snack. We talk often and about every topic under the sun, but we don’t feel compelled to have conversation for conversation’s sake. There is simply no pressure.


Weather doesn’t matter. We’ve experienced a rainstorm that overtook our work area in a matter of seconds and killed the power, sending us to town to buy battery operated reading lights. One year, we went in late September — a particularly cold September. We brought the work table in from the porch and set up in the living room, keeping the fireplace glowing and space heaters on high.

It’s not easy for me to spend extended time with anyone. I’m an introvert by nature, the only child who grew up learning to occupy herself happily. By and large, I am far more content independently than with others, and when  my time “runs out” I long to escape a conversation, a place, a person or activity and just breathe. There are probably only two or three people I could do extended art camp with, without one of us grinding on the others’ nerves and making me want to escape.

But art camp is the escape. There has never been a time when I’ve wanted to run from a single moment. But there have been more than a few moments at other times, in other places, where I’ve wanted to run and run fast to art camp.

In determining which colors to use in a visual art piece, artists often work with a color wheel, which displays all the colors, showing how they blend into the next on the wheel, complement one another or are totally in opposition. The color wheel reveals tension and harmony and when used correctly can help the artist find balance in the piece at hand.

To me, art camp is the perfect physical rendition of the color wheel. The days move harmoniously, one into another, blending and evolving into something quite different, yet with the tones of the day before.

The reds of a steamy hot day into the oranges of sunset and the golden yellow glow of dawn. The greens of the woodland walks blend into the blue of the cloudless sky and sparkling lake. Those blues evolve into rich purples and violets, another sunset.

We all have our own “art camps.” It may be a spa or a yoga retreat. It might be a week at a writer’s colony or a cooking weekend. The media doesn’t matter. It’s the message. Relaxation. Joy. Peace. Restoration. Creation.

And it’s all good.

PS – Join me tomorrow and I’ll be sharing tips for creating your own artist 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.

The Longing to Escape by Christine Mason Miller

I can’t escape the things I can’t escape. After fifty years on this planet, I’m finally starting to get that. Or maybe it’s that I’ve learned how to discern between the things that appear to be inescapable and those that actually aren’t.

Example: Taxes. Non-negotiable, inescapable.

Another One: My demise. There will come a day when I leave this body, this earth, this life. No getting around that.

Beyond these two circumstances, what else is there beyond the purely physical? I can’t escape the fact that my eyesight isn’t what it was in my twenties, and that I can’t read without glasses. It isn’t possible to magically make my T12 vertebrae whole again after it was crushed in a bicycle accident nearly twenty years ago. I can’t live without water or food. Or love.

I consider most everything else totally escapable; the real question is what is it I feel the need to escape and why? And then, am I willing to do the work necessary to actually escape if that is truly warranted or, if it isn’t, to find a peaceful frequency within the situation in question?

This question of whether or not to escape has been with me for most of my life.

I decided at a fairly young age that striving to be somewhere other than I was would serve me well. Call this the result of generational family patterns, parental examples, and being an only child, which reinforced an independent streak my mom says I was born with. (In third grade, I loved nothing more than playing Billy Joel’s “My Life” at full volume on my portable record player.)

I embraced ideas of escapism as a way to cope with unsettling circumstances at home (news of my parents’ divorce was shared with me when I was eleven) and also to push myself to expand the dreams I had for myself. If something is good, I’d think, what can I do to make it great? Whatever the situation, it was usually driven by a longing to be somewhere other than where I was.

In many cases, especially as I started to make my way in the world after graduate school, this approach did serve me well. I built a business. I traveled all over the world. I wrote books and made art and even went swimming with sharks. As soon as I wrapped up one endeavor, I’d immediately set my sights on another. If I didn’t have a project with quantifiable goals in front of me I’d feel like I wasn’t really living.

In my late twenties and early thirties, when my escapist proclivities were at their peak (at the time, I’d call these tendencies pursuing ambitions and, with regard to more personal situations, setting boundaries), I appeared to be impressive, strong, and all together.

Beneath this, I had a life built on sand.

Until the day it all finally came crashing down and I had no choice but to stay exactly where I was—to not escape—and take a good, long look at all the ways my striving—to be successful, to be independent, to be “fully alive”—had, in the end, not served me well at all in the areas of my life that truly mattered.

That is the short version of a story I’ve shared at different times, in different ways, with varying levels of transparency as to the specifics of how my personal life crumbled like a sand castle. I’ve used words like leave, departure, abandon, close down, let go, and release, and they’ve all explained what I’m talking about. But there is, very often, a desperation in the idea of escape, and it is this sense of unfocused desperation that initiated my journey of discernment and kept it going all these years.

What I’ve had to learn—most especially as a wife and a member of my entire extended family—is the importance of making sure I’ve got it right when I feel the desire to escape curl around my ankles like a vine. After expending undue amounts of energy trying to escape one scenario after another for the first three decades or so of my life, I finally began to understand how devastating it can be to blindly obey the voice that says things like This is not good enough for you. You don’t need/want/deserve this. This is too hard. Get out. Go somewhere else. Run for your life.

Sometimes this voice needs to be heeded, other times not. Learning how to discern the difference has been my most important work—more than my work as an artist, a writer, a teacher, or any other professional title. Without these efforts I might still find a way to appear successful and content, but what joy is there in simply trying to maintain appearances? In learning the art of staying put, I opened myself up to more of life’s gifts than would ever had been possible if I’d continued down the path of departure.

About the Author: Christine Mason Miller

Christine Mason Miller is a writer and artist who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her husband and chocolate lab Tilda. Her forthcoming book, The Meandering River of Unfathomable Joy: Finding God and Gratitude in India, will be available later this fall.

Keep up to date at www.christinemasonmiller.com.

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.

Creating Small Opportunities for Escape is Good for the Soul! by Laura Pursley

Creating an escape for yourself doesn’t have to entail some grand plan, some grand vacation, or be a huge undertaking.

When you can’t actually get away on a vacation, doing little things to evoke the feeling of escape, peace, or calm is the next best thing. With so many responsibilities, like being a Mom of two young kids, having a full-time job, running a décor blog and all the things that come along with those, I know that I am not alone in that getting even a moment to yourself is a blessing. Whatever keeps you busy in your life, whatever your responsibilities, taking time to relax, or to be still, or to be calm should have some place in your life.

Sometimes, if I am being totally honest, even being in the bathroom by myself can seem like a blessing, but that doesn’t really count as an escape.

I recently did a self-imposed organizing challenge where I committed to organizing 5 spaces in 5 days. While it was a lot of work, the feeling of calm that it evoked for me after was so great! Because we are all so busy, we let things pile up, and sometimes don’t even realize how bad it has gotten. In my case, when it was a struggle to close the drawer in my bathroom because of all the stuff, this was a sure sign that it was time to take action.

Now, when I go into these organized spaces every day in my home (master bedroom closet, bathroom drawers and cabinets, my kids bathroom linen closet), I truly have a feeling of calm because the clutter is gone, everything is organized, and I can find what I need for my daily tasks. Now, if I could only get my kids to keep the playroom organized!

Here are a few pics of some of the spaces that I organized. I won’t bother you with the messy before pics!

A side organizing tip: If you don’t use baskets to organize the smaller things, you are missing out!

Another small, yet impactful thing that I do every day to make me feel at peace, or calm, is to make my bed. For some reason, having my bed made puts me at ease. If the bed is unmade, (kind of like living with the clutter), I feel a little disheveled.

One thing that I tell people is to find small things that you enjoy that give you peace, or the feeling of an escape, even if it’s for a short time. One thing that I like to do on a Sunday morning is to make a cup of coffee, sit on the front porch, and read a magazine. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it feels so luxurious.

I am sure that you can think of a few things that give you peace, make you calm, or create an escape in your home. It may be organization, it may be a cozy spot to curl up and read a book, or it may even be hiding in a room if that’s necessary. Finding a way to do some of these things are good for the soul, and good for your sanity!

About the Author: Laura Pursley

Laura is a home decor blogger, marketing professional, mother of 2, living in Michigan. Laura has a passion for design that she uses to transform her home into a comfortable, livable, beautiful space for her family. Her design motto is that you don’t have to be a designer to have good design in your home. She believes that everyone deserves to be in a space that they love, whatever that means to you.

Laura likes to mix a little bit of modern with a little bit of farmhouse, and she likes textures, patterns, and in some instances, is not afraid of color. It is her hope with her design blog to inspire others to transform their own spaces into something they love.

Visit her blog at www.harperhomedesigns.com to get inspired, or follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest