Letter to My Creativity, Anna Hodges Oginsky

Dear Creativity,

Here you are. Saving me once again. While the vitriol simmers in the air like a warlock’s brew, its spell disables me… anna_o_055double, double toil and trouble. It bubbles: the hatred, the sadness, the anger, and the grief.

We are in mourning.

The comfort we had thinking everything was okay while others suffered, us unknowing; or knowing and not caring enough to act upon that knowing; perhaps wanting to act but overwhelmed by the enormity of it all; knowing and caring and wanting to act but unsure where to start. Them pleading in desperation for mercy, aching to be seen, to be heard, to be acknowledged. The comfort is no more. We are all so uncomfortable now. The shadows, the goblins, and the monsters have all emerged from the darkness. The bitterness is all out on the table. We see it. We smell it. We feel it in our bones and in every cell in our bodies. We still don’t know what to do, but we know we must do something.

I turn to you, my Creativity, my loyal friend. My light.

You are my connection to the Source, after all. You are the thread that sews me to all that is.

Where will you guide me? Us?

I am counting on you, as always, to help me heal. To help us heal.

Will we write letters, posts, essays, and books? Expressing our sorrow. Asking for help. Begging for forgiveness from others and from our own selves? Can we even begin to forgive each other? Do we even know what to forgive?

anna-oginsky-image2Will we take to the streets with paintbrushes and as we collaborate on painting a new landscape, will we see that we are one? Will we recognize that in the beginning we were but a creation and in the end we are nothing more than what we created? What are we creating now?

How do I solve these riddles for myself, Creativity? How do I weave my voice into the solutions for the whole, for all of us, for the greater good?

Thank you for giving me ways to ask these questions. Thank you for showing me these questions exist below the surface, under the spell. Thank you for giving me words and colors and images and tools to use to help me process these questions. Thank you for the music that sings to my soul while I mix potions and emotions in search of a soothing balm for my grief.

Thank you for curiosity. For wonder. For awe. Thank you for inspiration.

Thank you for giving me space to feel. For translating my feelings into something tangible. Thank you for helping me get it out. Thank you for helping me let it go.

Thank you for giving me the confidence to know that all the answers I am seeking are already inside me. Thank you for empowering me with the discernment to know that your wisdom is also mine. I trust that as inherently creative beings, we have the power to change things. To create new things. To let old things go.

Like you, we are powerful. We are the change agents that transform groceries into meals, seeds and dirt into gardens, paper into books, bricks into buildings, and blank walls into murals. Surely, we can transform ourselves. And we can transform each other. With acknowledgment, with validation, with love, patience, and compassion we can transform. We will grow. I have faith in you, in me, in us.

I remember the relief I felt after my first entry in the journal my Baba gave me in 1983. We had been shopping. She must have known that words would be my medicine. Words have always been my way in to you, Creativity. You saved me then. I am indeed indebted to you. You showed me everything would be okay. You showed me that the only way out is through. Again and again. You sat with me for many years while I stuffed my feelings into you and again when I was learning to let them out by way of you. You have always been there for me. You transform my grief to healing to peace to joy. For then and now and everything in between, I thank you.

With you by my side, I have no fear about what is to come.

With love and gratitude,


About the Author: Anna Oginsky

annbioAnna Oginsky is the founder of Heart Connected, LLC, a small Michigan-based workshop and retreat business that creates opportunities for guests to tune in to their hearts and connect with the truth, wisdom, and power held there. Her work is inspired by connections made between spirituality, creativity, and community. Anna’s first book, My New Friend, Grief, came as a result of years of learning to tune in to her own heart after the sudden loss of her father. In addition to writing, Anna uses healing tools like yoga, meditation, and making art in her offerings and in her own personal practice. She lives in Brighton, Michigan with her husband, their three children, and Johnny, the big yellow dog. Connect with her on her website; Twitter; Facebook; or Instagram.

Learn more about her book at www.mynewfriendgrief.com

Sunday Letter: October Morning

img_20160209_040533Dear Friend,

I am so grateful that we have been writing letters to each other. As I’ve mentioned many times, putting pen to paper allows (forces) me to think differently. It’s been a gift. A blessing.

As I write to you on this October morning, it is still dark. In the past, I hated losing the early morning light as summer faded into fall. Yet this year, I am feeling differently about it. I love these dark mornings, when the sun doesn’t rise until close to 8 AM. I am not required to rise early in order to have this sacred time of being up, putting pen to paper of some sort, and allowing my thoughts to flow on the page.

It’s like I’m secretly stealing a part of the day, and I can pretend that I am the only one in the neighborhood awake.

When I was a little girl, I was fascinated with the idea of autumn: crisp breezes, brilliant foliage, bonfires, and plaid woolen skirts with heavy sweaters. But of course, I never experienced any of those things as a girl in Texas. Instead, our unbearable scorching Augusts merged into a sticky September, and despite a return to school in plaid skirts and sweaters, I never experienced the autumns I read about in Trixie Belden or Anne of Green Gables.

Autumn in the Midwest is different.

My first year here in Ohio, I only flirted with autumn during my visits with John. I  spent the bulk of that fall working on selling my house, not officially leaving my beloved Texas until December. img_20160409_095700Winter was challenging that year. I remember feeling a little lonely and looking towards the spring as a savior.

When it was already late March and John was in Philadelphia for a conference, it began to snow.

I sobbed. Feeling pretty darned hopeless that despite some of my flowers blooming, that spring would never really arrive. Homesick. Aching for soft drawls, my mother’s fried okra, sweet tea, and the bloom of crepe myrtles.

By the time autumn came around, I discovered I’d succumbed to the seduction of the earth, and was connecting to the rhythm of the seasons. It took that first full year – one whole trip around the sun – living  here, to believe that this place, this Ohio, could become home.

Each year here allows me to connect differently to the natural cycle of the seasons. As I mentioned earlier, I’d always been fascinated with the idea of fall – and other seasons – and how Mother Nature’s palate continually changes. Now, at the birth of my sixth year here, I anticipate favorite moments in time based on the natural world around me.

Spring brings the daffodils and tulips, tiny green leaves on the birch tree, and the white blossoms of the Bradford Pears out back. Summer brings brilliant color: lots of blooms on the roses, vinca, and marigolds and oodles of lush green:  grass, trees, and frogs in our pond.

Autumn has become my favorite. The greens slowly begin to fade everywhere and the leaves shift to all those colors pilesofleaveswe think of as earth tones: yellows, oranges, browns. Though my grass tends to stay greenish, the ornamental grasses ripen to rusts and goldenrod.

This year, I am connecting to the season even more deeply.

There’s the beauty around me, of course. And I must confess that I am feeling cozy. As I write you this letter, I am wrapped in a soft grey robe and there’s a light knit blanket tossed over my lap. We slept with the windows open last night and the crisp air floated over us, caressing us as we slept and bringing us both soft and loving dreams.

I dreamed of a favorite uncle last night. He passed away in 2002, but when I woke with that crisp, cool air floating through the screens, I still felt the warmth of his love and the remembrance of the dream… the last thing he said before I woke was “Yes, Scooterbill, there’s fresh coffee brewing…”

But I digress.  I was talking about the connection to the season this year, even more than years past.

Maybe it’s because of the idea that autumn is the time of harvest. I have been harvesting heavily this year. Taking a hard look at the work I’ve done over the last six years. I know we’ve talked about this before, but I have to say that turning digital coaching products into real books feels like I am harvesting the seeds I planted in the spring of my own life.

I am loving all my fall rituals even more this year. I was so happy to put John’s long sleeved polos on the top rack and dig out my favorite cardigans. I’ve distributed them a bit, with the Olive Green one resting on the back of my office chair and the Alice Blue one nestled in the dining room. My sweat pants and jeans have replaced my shorts. And I’ve dug out the soft throws, with one accessible in any room on the backs of sofas and chairs.

There’s just something special about the weight of a blanket across the legs, isn’t there? We had wine on the deck last night, and I took one of my blankets out with us, to toss across my lap and enjoy the air and comfort and warmth.

Dare I confess what I’ve been thinking? As we both know, putting pen to paper and breathing life into it allows our thoughts to be out there. But, here goes:

In 19 months, I will be fifty. Is that why I am connecting to – and identifying – with autumn so deeply this year?

And while I’m in confession mode, I may as well make one more: I’m looking forward to winter this year, too.

Can you fathom that?

Six years ago, I was sobbing because of the snow and now the idea of it makes me feel almost giddy.

When I was exalting all of my favorite parts of the season before, I hadn’t gotten to the beauty of winter before I went off on my Autumn tangent.

img_20140102_071346Winter is cold, yes. And winter brings the snow. That first year, it was a shock, but now, there is such stark beauty in it. It reminds me to slow down, to stop, to savor. The cardinal couple regularly visits my neighbor’s bird-feeder and sometimes one -or both – will perch on the window sill above the front door.

I am looking forward to resting this year. To celebrate the end of harvesting – all the work I’ve been doing – and readying myself for the next phase of planting. Seeds of new ideas are always floating around me, but come next spring, it will be time to plant what’s important.

Ah, but in the winter, I can mimic my beloved bulbs. While it seems as if I’m not working, underneath I’m preparing to bloom.

I’ve been thinking about the winter in other ways, too. I long to do something with my hands because far too often it’s as if my hands are independent of my brain, and they reach for my phone and scroll and click and scroll and click. Maybe I should take up cross stitching again. Or shall I take knitting lessons? I want to make something, be productive, allow my hands to be satisfied with something tactile to replace the urge to pick up the phone.

Because, frankly, the phone isn’t restful or nourishing beyond the opportunity to check in with friends. It shouldn’t serve as a way to distract myself – or numb, should it?

And I want to make something. Something beyond my current creative expression of words.

I’ve rambled on for far too long. It’s time to get back to some writing for work, put the sheets in the dryer and the towels in the washer, and ponder something beyond this cup of coffee for breakfast.

So, tell me about you. How are you feeling about autumn this year? Are you seeing the beauty like I am? Are you finding comfort in the shorter days and unearthing secrets in the dark? Are you harvesting and looking forward to resting in the winter?

And do you think that all this connection has to do with that looming birthday ahead?

With love,

Debra ♥

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Clearing Soul Clutter: Creating Your Vision.  She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. When she’s not waiting for the mailman, 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.

Dear Autumn

Dear Autumn,

You’re coming.

I know it.

autumn-974882_1280You think you’re going to surprise me – you with your damp, misty mornings and slightly chilled evening breezes. You think I haven’t noticed those red-tipped leaves at the top of the maple tree, or those golden elm feathers that drift down occasionally along the path to the mailbox. You’re sure I’m completely unaware that I need to turn on my reading lamp at seven o’clock each evening instead of eight or even nine.

Well, you don’t fool me. I’m onto you.

Did you really think it would escape my attention that I’ve needed to pull on a sweater before I could walk the dogs? Or that I suddenly find my mouth watering at the thought of rich, spicy chili simmering on the stove?

Besides, a person would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb to miss the advertisements for pumpkin spice everything.

Autumn, I’m smarter than you think. Just because I didn’t buy school supplies or backpacks doesn’t mean I’m not perfectly cognizant of your impending arrival.

I appreciate your sensitivity to my feelings this year. Perhaps you’re worried that I’ll be saddened to watch the gardens wither and die, or to hear thousands of wings beating as flocks of birds gather to disperse for the winter.  Perhaps you’re afraid the encroaching darkness will renew my despair, that my heart will grow heavy once again with its harvest of grief and loneliness.

It’s true – you bring a poignancy to this circle of life that no other season can replicate. What was new and fresh with promise turns old and fades into dust. The world turns on its axis and long sunny days evolve into endless, darkening nights. The garden goes fallow as what was once green anred-treed verdant turns yellow and withers away

But oh, Autumn! You do it all with such glory. You explode into brilliant colors.  Marvelous gold and rich crimson etched against piercingly blue skies. My eyes don’t know where to look, they drink every amazing vista in huge gulps. You’re a feast for the senses, Autumn, you really are. I think you know it, too. You strut your gorgeous stuff all over creation.

I’ve been watching you come and go for almost 61 years and each year I revel just a bit more in your splendor. Each year you teach me to offer beauty even in the midst of loss, to relinquish life with a blazing light. This year I hope – I pray – will not be different. Because you are right, dear Autumn – this year more than ever I need to be reminded that there is everlasting beauty even in the dying of the light.

So bring it on! I’m collecting all my favorite teas, unpacking those soft fuzzy sweaters and warm socks. I’ve washed and aired the blanket throws that drape over the comfy reading chairs in every room. All the new bookstore orders are coming in and the library reserve list grows longer and longer. My pantry is stocked with fragrant ingredients for soups and stews, the freezer filled with meats and vegetables for a season’s worth of hearty meals.

You don’t have to hide, Autumn.

I’m ready for you.

I am.

So come on.



About the Author: Becca Rowan

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

Letter to My Six-Year-Old Self by Melissa A. Bartell


Dear MissMeliss

Hi, this is your future self. I’m older than Mom is right now, so you might not believe me, especially since I have pink hair, and while you’re a fairly well-traveled little girl (you’re a seasoned pro at flying without an adult), I know for a fact you’ve never seen anyone with pink hair. Still, if you look closely, you can see the echoes of yourself in my face. Like the beauty mark on our cheek, or the way we both have really long eyelashes, or… well, look, just trust me on this one, okay?

So, if I’m timing this right you’re somewhere between six and seven years old. You have your windy wheat-colored hair cut into a Dorothy Hamill ‘short-n-sassy’ wedge, and you’re missing your two front teeth.

Remember that phrase – ‘short and sassy’ – the haircut will go out of style, but you will never be tall, and you will always be sassy. Or snarky. Although at some point you’re going to learn to think first and sass later.

No, really, you will.

You’ll also learn that making stuff up isn’t just something you do when you’re bored or lonely, it’s a skill you’ll turn into a livelihood someday.

But I’m not writing this to scare you with stuff from the future, because, let’s face it, you won’t listen anyway.

And who can blame you?

Instead, I have some advice for you about the now.

Your now, not my now.

Like, when you’re riding your red bike? The one you love to ride through the mud puddle in the vacant lot across the street from Mitzi’s store? Make sure you take really good care of that bike because it’s going to take you to some amazing places.

You’ve already gone beyond the mud puddles.

You ride out to Mrs. Godoy’s house some weekends with your friend Siobhan, and sometimes you spook yourself when you stay later than you’re supposed to and the shadows have descended through the trees on that one stretch of road right before the dirt transitions back to asphalt and you see the lion heads on the old hotel, and the awning of the ice cream store.

I know the shadows are scary, and we both know the Headless Horseman isn’t really following you, but it’s fun to be a little bit scared when you know it’s not real, so enjoy it.

And you and your friends made that trip out to the reservoir, even going on the highway for that one section… You had so much fun skipping stones out there, but then you realized how far you had to ride to get home, and you raced each other, making it a game so that you wouldn’t be afraid of getting caught.

You never got caught.

You take special delight in riding up and down the street outside the Maxwell House. I know you’re in love with the wrought iron trim that looks like the curlicues on a Hostess cupcake, but I also know that you can’t stop wondering if those ghost stories are true, and there’s a part of you that really wants to find out.

Face it kiddo, except when you want to feel that thrill, you’re pretty fearless.

I wish I could tell you to stay fearless, but the reality is that as we grow up and learn more about the world, fear creeps in. Not the kind of fear that involves Frankenstein’s monster hiding in your closet (I promise, Frankenstein’s monster will never be in your closet.) The kind of fear I mean, is the grown up kind about things like getting a good job and finding a nice house, and stuff like that.

Don’t worry, you’ve still got plenty of fearless years left.

Instead, I want to tell you to hold on to your sense of wonder.

Chase the fireflies when you visit Grandmom and Grandpop. Ride every wave you can, and pretend you’re flying while you do it. Watch the way the ripples freeze into the surface of the lake in the winter. When Benjamin comes to visit, climb up to the top of the hill behind the courthouse, and lie on the grass with him, and pretend you can actually feel the earth spinning.

Search for patterns in the clouds, whether they’re the kind in the sky, or the kind in the coffee Mom drinks.

As I write this, it’s pouring down rain outside my window, and I’m thinking about how much you love rain. In about three years, you’re going to spend an afternoon blissfully tap-dancing around an empty parking lot, and when the rainbow comes out after the storm, you’ll take the credit for its existence.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

And until then? Read like crazy. When that boy with the freckles asks you if you want to ‘go’ with him, say yes. He’s really sweet. And, don’t be too mad at Mom when she says you’re too young for that Shaun Cassidy album. What she’s really trying to say is that you’re her little girl, and she doesn’t want you to rush too fast into growing up. (Besides, they’ll play his stuff on the radio all the time.)

So, the good news? You will never know a time when you are not safe and loved. You will never have to worry about where you will live. You will always have enough to eat.

The bad news? There are a few things that won’t go your way, but when you get older and learn about improvisational theatre, you’ll understand that what other people call failure is often just the gift of a new direction.

Ultimately, you’re going to end up with an awesome life that is uniquely yours, and you will love living in the future.

Pink hair and all.

All my love,

Your future self.

Image Copyright: waldru / 123RF Stock Photo


About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa A. BartellMelissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Sunday Letter: Grateful for the Garden

Dear Neighbor,

When my husband and I moved into this condo community back in 2012, we received such a warm welcome from everyone we met, we immediately felt we had made the right decision to move here. And as we met and talked with people, nearly every one of them said the same thing at some point in the conversation.

“Make sure you visit The Secret Garden! It’s fabulous!”

“Secret Garden? we asked. “What garden? Where?”

You know how it is…they would explain in that vague and often confusing way people have when attempting to provide directions. “It’s just around that first bend right after you come in the entrance,” or “I’m not sure what street, but it’s kind of hidden along the back of the property,” or “You can’t see it at all from the road, you have to meander around behind that first group of homes.”

It was late September when we moved in, and what with unpacking and getting settled and then a long Michigan winter, we had forgotten about The Secret Garden.

Until spring, when another neighbor reminded us.

“I’m going to The Secret Garden,” she said one afternoon. “Let me show it to you.”

Imagine my surprise when I learned it was an easy bike ride from my house! And yes, it is most definitely tucked away along the back of the property. Truly, you can’t see it from the road, which is what makes it so charming and – well, SECRET.

But what it really is is ENCHANTED. When we walked down the path into the deep, shady bounty of the garden, I felt like a child again. Between the flowers, the sculptures, the bird houses hanging from within the trees, the wind chimes tinkling in every tone imaginable, the little stream babbling quietly, I felt as if I’d been led into a fairyland.

“Who made this beautiful place?” I asked, when I could finally find the words. My friend pointed at the condo right behind us, whose upper deck looked out over the beauty of these acres.

“The couple who live in that house right there,” she said. “I’ve never met them, but I heard they love to garden and when they bought the house started clearing the woods behind it and over the past 20 years have turned it into this. Word soon spread, and they opened it to the community for others to come in and enjoy.”

In the past three years that we’ve lived here, I have come to this Secret Garden countless times, and so Dear Neighbor, a note of thanks to you is long overdue. I am beyond grateful for the sense of  peace this spot provides, for the benches where I can sit and listen to the birds, watch the butterflies flit among the blossoms, and bask in the deep green shade of the trees. The past three months, I have been grieving for my mom who died in March – she who loved flowers and gardens and quiet outdoor spaces. Your Secret Garden has been a destination for me, a place I can come on my daily walks or bike rides, a place that offers respite from the trials of my journey.

Sometimes we go about our lives engaged in activities we love without realizing how much those things can mean to others. You obviously love to garden, and I’m sure all the planting and tending must be rewarding for you. But did you imagine that your garden could be a place that eases the troubled heart of your neighbor? A place that makes complete strangers smile and feel enriched for just a few moments before they go back to whatever life might hold in store?

That is a gift, Dear Neighbor, and one I appreciate so much, especially this summer.

Before I close, I wanted to share this poem with you. It’s from a favorite poet of mine, named Mary Oliver. She writes of the beauty and importance of the natural world and the lessons it teaches. This poem, appropriately titled “The Gardener,” is a newer one of hers.

Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough, have I
      come to any conclusion?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?
I say this, or perhaps I’m just thinking it.
       Actually, I probably think too much.
Then I step out into the garden,
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,
       is tending his children, the roses.

Being here in this garden you’ve made gives me a place to quietly reflect and consider. I leave rested and renewed, to go back to my world and be sufficiently grateful for the happiness I experience, to be graceful in enduring this new loneliness. I go back determined to plant and tend seeds of compassion, empathy, and peace.

So if you’re looking out your upstairs window some afternoon and see a short, dark-haired woman sitting on the first bench by the stream, you’ll know that’s me. Someone who is ever so grateful for the gift of your Garden.

With sincere appreciation,

Your neighbor


*Poem The Gardner, by Mary Oliver, from her collection, A Thousand Mornings

About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her husband and their two dogs. She is the author of Life in General, a book of personal and inspirational essays about the ways women navigate the passage into midlife. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. This summer she has developed a newfound love of gardens, and you’ll find her spending lots of time outdoors, either in the Secret Garden, or puttering around in her own flower beds. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on FacebookTwitter, or Goodreads.

Dear Stranger: About That Last Statement


Dear Strange Man,

We don’t know each other, yet you feel entitled to interrupt my little zone of dual nourishment time. See, one of my guilty (not guilty) pleasures is to take myself to lunch and read a good book.

I am sitting there, thoroughly engrossed in a suspense novel, so it takes me a few moments to realize that you are talking to me. I hear a voice in the almost-empty restaurant and look up to see you staring at me. My silence is somehow encouraging, and you repeat the words I thought I’d heard:

“So, you’re reading, huh?”

“Yes.” I answer. I smile slightly, but not enough to encourage a conversation. I return to my book, but I feel your continued presence as you stand there, staring at me.

When I glance back up at you, you respond with a smirk. “A good lunch date, huh?”

“Yes,” I answer, this time favoring you with a real smile. “The perfect lunch companion.”

“Yeah, because a book won’t break your heart.”

Your words are spit out with such vehemence that I become more than a little uncomfortable, and I cannot help but wonder: why interrupt my quiet when you don’t seem to like women?

Though my plan was to linger over my book, and sip the last of my water as the lunch crowd waned, I am suddenly glad that I’ve already paid my waitress.

I am Southern and exceedingly polite to strangers as I recognize that overtures from people we meet in public usually come from a space of desiring connection. I’m intuitive, too, and deep down I know that the kind of statement you made means that, in the past, you were hurt by someone you loved.

And I am so sorry for your pain. Heartbreak and betrayal is devastating to the mind and soul.

However, your tone crosses the boundaries of polite society, so I break eye contact.

I am grateful when your companion joins you, an elderly woman whom I assume is your mother.

I mark my place in my book, leave a tip, and make my way out as quickly as possible.

There were so many things wrong with our encounter that weeks later, I am still thinking about it. I’m writing you this letter because I want to pass on a little advice.

Maybe you don’t realize this, but being alone in public doesn’t make me “fair game.”  A woman alone in a restaurant is not out looking for a date, and most likely isn’t even seeking conversation. This wasn’t a smoky bar on a Saturday night; it was a family restaurant on a sunny Thursday afternoon.

You may have believed you were saving me from loneliness. I wasn’t lonely because, as you observed, I had companionship: the novel I was reading.

This was not a “missed connection” and you won’t find me seeking you out on Craigslist. Most of our encounter could be seem as misguided attempt at flirting. So let me tell you why I’m still thinking about our encounter: Your last statement to me.

I don’t like to tell folks their beliefs are right or wrong, but I can tell you that you were so wrong when you said reading_wheretheredfierngrowsthat books can’t break your heart.

The first heartbreak I can recall happened in literary form. I was eight and read the story of a boy and two red bone coonhounds. Just writing about Billy, Old Dan, and Little Ann makes me tear up forty years later.

That was my first heartbreak, and it sure wasn’t my last.

There was Little Beth and Alice and Leslie and a slew of others.

When we read, we care about the characters and they become our friends. Their lives are often as real to us – while we are reading their stories – as the people who inhabit the three-dimensional world in which we live.

The book I was reading that day was the fifteenth book in a series, so you interrupted my lunch with a longtime friend. I guess you could say Lindsay Boxer and I have a long-term relationship. Spoiler alert: Lindsay had just discovered that her husband and the father of her child had a secret life.

Her heart was breaking and mine was breaking right along with her.

Books take us to faraway places and invite us on adventure. Books ask us to come along on a journey of life, to share the ups and downs and highs and lows. The funny, the sacred, the sad. Books allow us to witness fear and bravery.

Books will break our hearts in a way that we need. Because books prepare us for life’s reality.

Through the lives of the characters we read about, we learn the different ways to navigate the kind of losses we all will face one day: the loss of a pet or a parent, a child, or best friend. Books prepare us for the betrayal of a friend or lover. Books show us how to fall in love without losing ourselves, and let us experience the inevitable joy of mothering children or animals.

Reading books is good for not just our mind, but our souls.

Books don’t just inform us about historical events or scientific theory. Books allow us to learn about other ways of stackofbooksliving, other cultures, and other worlds. Books teach us how to be happy, and how to find our way in the world when we are different.

You were wrong when you said that books can’t break your heart, because they can. And I’m going to share a secret with you because I think you can use this information:  if you have a broken heart, a book can be part of mending it.

If you find this letter, I have one more piece of advice: rather than interrupt the next woman you see reading in a restaurant, I want you to follow her lead and pick up a book.

Though I doubt our paths will cross again, if they do, I hope it will be because you’ve found this letter, taken advantage of some literary therapy, and have a smile on your face.

The Woman at the Restaurant reading 15th Affair

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Create a Life You Love: Straightforward Wisdom for Creating the Life of Your Dreams. She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. When she’s not waiting for the mailman, 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.


Dear Diary by Krista Davis

berry scones 10Dear Diary,

Made mixed blueberry and strawberry scones for MysteryLoversKitchen.com yesterday. Dough worried me because it seemed so dry. OMG. Best things in the world. So flaky. Ate one for breakfast without cream but didn’t share with dogs. They didn’t appear to notice that I gave them dog cookies instead. Except maybe for Baron who sniffed my street crew 1fingers. I fear that he’s onto me. Must eat treats in the bathroom. Who am I kidding? He follows me there, too.

Fully intended to start diet this morning. Scone is not a setback. Won’t eat lunch. It will all equal out.

Wrote two blogs this morning. Have finally come to understand why they’re so hard for me to write. They’re supposed to be about me! Ugh. Maybe I should take on an interesting persona. Aha. Am CIA spy. Why would a CIA spy live in a rural area? Aha. Have suspicious neighbors. That won’t work. What kind of CIA spy would admit to being CIA spy on blogs? Interviewed once with CIA. No one would believe that! When asked how I felt about being undercover in covert operations, I asked if they had a nice desk job. Interview terminated. Might have made persistent detective but would have been lousy spy.

Cooked lunch for dogs. Leftover hamburger, steak, and chicken fingers with rice and green beans. I ate salad without dressing. Good for me! Now hungry.

Outline due for next book in two days. Must concentrate on that. No, must finish writing blogs first. Why am I so boring? Oh look! The first review of The Diva Serves High Tea is in. Holding breath while I read it. Aww. Lisa Kelley Tea high res largesaid, “an excellent plot!” Yay! I have earned the remaining scone, with cream.

Sound of fridge opening woke Baron. Forced to share with him. Other dogs still sleeping. Back at computer, I check GoodReads for early reviews. None. That’s okay. Am riding high on Lisa’s kind words. But someone gave it one star. Oh no! Now afraid of reviews. Wait a minute!!! Book isn’t out yet. Only a few people have copies, and I’m pretty sure she’s not one of them. Bang head on desk. Ow. Mistake. Head now matches leg with bruise of unknown origin. Need another scone but have eaten all. Chocolate. There must be chocolate.

Found chocolate in pantry. Diet officially starts tomorrow. Baron looked at me with those eyes again. Gave him an Itty Bitty Buddy Biscuit. It smells like bacon. Maybe he doesn’t care that I didn’t share chocolate?

Am now obsessed with one-star rating. Complained to author friends about one star. Has happened to them, too. Sigh. Thankful for writer friends. Feel better. Why would anyone do that? Has person developed dislike of me? Don’t recognize name. First name only. Is probably undercover in covert operation.

Walked Baron to clear head. Watched tiny sparrow chase crow from nest. Even in world of birds, there’s murder. Checked veggie garden planted yesterday. Weeds have grown nicely. No veggie sprouts yet. Red pepper plants happy. Came up with fun idea for new book while walking. No ideas for blog. Potatoes and ribs cooking for dinner. Glad I postponed diet.

Looked up murder of crows. Hmm, origin of phrase appears to be lost. Maybe sparrows invented it.

Ribs and skin-on mashed potatoes big success. All dogs behaved but settled around the table in case anyone shared. Worked for two hours on outline for new book. Still blocked on blog.

PS – Hope folks like the Virtual Tea Party to celebrate the new book!

About the Author: Krista Davis

kristadavis_bioNew York Times Bestselling author Krista Davis writes the Domestic Diva Mysteries. Her 10th Domestic Diva Mystery is The Diva Serves High Tea, which releases on June 7th. Krista also writes the Paws & Claws Mysteries for animal lovers that debuted with Murder, She Barked.
Like her characters, Krista has a soft spot for cats, dogs, and sweets. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with three dogs and two cats.
Connect with Krista:  Facebook | Twitter  | Goodreads

An Invitation for You: Save the Date

Dear Friend,

desk-calendar-kaboompicsHere’s what I’m dreaming about: A month or a week or even one day completely devoted to myself, a time for reflecting, creating, simply BEING.

Do you dream of that too?

So why don’t we do it? Why don’t we make ourselves a priority for a change? Why not put ourselves on the calendar?

I can imagine what you’re thinking. “I can’t take the time off work.” “Who would take the kids to school and soccer and dance and gymnastics?” “I’m right in the middle of a major project at work.” “My partner wouldn’t support that.”

I completely understand. I can come up with a hundred compelling reasons why I shouldn’t do it either. Still, that nagging whisper persists. I find myself dreaming about it when I’m cooking dinner, sitting in a meeting, or weeding the garden. I fantasize about getting away from the noise of everyday living and finding a way to be quiet for a while, free from all the distractions that become convenient ways ignore the call of my own heart.

Have you ever read the book called A Year By the Sea?  In it, author Joan Anderson writes about taking an entire year for herself and moving to a remote cottage on Cape Cod. She was longing to be alone, to listen to the “myriad unheard longings, ideas, and plans” she had been ignoring. I feel those same longings stirring in my heart these days, but most often they get set aside for other things I make a priority.

But a entire year? That really is impossible for me. Even a week or a weekend could be a stretch.

But maybe, just maybe, I could manage ONE DAY.

What if I were to grab that calendar I’m so attached to, find one day within the next 30 days and write ME in big, bold letters right in the middle of that square? What if circled it, draw a heart and flowers around it, made it pretty and eye-catching, because that’s what this day is all about?

My goal for this special day will revolve around this question: What do I need more of in my daily living? Do I want to wander in the woods and soak up the sights and sounds of nature? Maybe my heart’s desire is as a block of quiet hours to plan a big writing project? It could be that I simply need uninterrupted time to think and relax, sit in a rocking chair and read a good book or listen to my favorite music.

Maybe I want all of the above.

Whatever I decide, I’ll need to gather my materials: good paper and pens, essential oils and candles, books, books, and more books, favorite foods and beverages, a playlist of inspiring music, my walking shoes, my camera. I want to turn off my phone (including the internet!) and limit every distraction.

When that day arrives, I’ll enter into it with a spirit of dedication and love. I’ll treat myself with all the tender loving care I bestow on others. I’ll take note of every thought and feeling during this day, of the things I accomplish and decide.

I’ll make plenty of space for my dreams to surface and shine.

Joseph Campbell wrote: “When one leaves certain social situations, moves into temporary loneliness, and then finds a few jewels, everything changes.” As much as I love my family and friends, as much as I value my daily life and routine, I feel a real need to carve out some space around them and move into some “temporary loneliness”. I know there are jewels to be found.

They just might transform my existence.

How about you, friend? Are you with me? Should we make some space for ourselves?

I can’t wait to hear what you think….




If you’ve taken some time to make space for your creative self, consider sharing your experience with Modern Creative Life in an essay or poem. We’re accepting submissions for Issue 2: Nourishment.

About the Author: Becca Rowan

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

For the Love of Letters

Late in the summer of 2015, I began a letter writing project with a friend. We chose to focus our exchange (mostly) Writing Letters in a Cafeon our creative lives and how everything else affected our ability to become more devoted to our creative needs and desires.

Eight months later, we are still exchanging handwritten letters around the subject of our creative lives and creative living on the whole.

It’s been an incredibly nourishing project and process. I’ve long preferred paper over email and cannot imagine why we didn’t begin writing sooner, yet it also forced me to take a good hard look at my need for instant gratification.

What happens in that in between times as I wait for the next chapter to arrive in my mailbox? What will she think of my letter? Was I too honestly naked?  How does waiting for an answer to a question make me feel? How does it nourish me creatively and spiritually?

I anxiously await the next letter. When it arrives, I savor it once and then again and maybe after a third (or fourth) reading, I pen a response. And then the process begins again.

Writing Letters early in the morning (with coffee)My biggest take aways from this process (so far) has  been:

  • The slower pace of letter writing is forcing me to slow down and is training my focus. In my inability to get an answer as quickly as my instant-gratification-trained brain would like, I am learning the virtues of patience in other areas of my creative life as well.
  • During the in-between times, I am anxious to not only receive the next letter, but more inspired to put my pen to paper and work on projects.
  • Writing letters has forced me to dig a little deeper, be more vulnerable, be more honest, and be a bit daring.
  • Since I began writing letters by hand (and writing in a paper journal), I more easily process my thoughts, emotions, and the world around me.

I’m not alone. Research shows that writing by hand helps us process information in a more conceptual way. While this study wasn’t about the process of letter writing, I can tell you that the process of laying open my dreams and fears on paper to a trusted soul via paper and ink has been a process that has helped me look at my creative life from a different lens.

The U.S. Postal Services has named April to be National Card and Letter-Writing Month.  The USPS’s goal is to boost written — and mailed — communications to build relationships through cards and letters:  “Touch them with a letter they can feel — and keep.”

Writing letters has been a loving way to tend my own creative life and my guess is that no matter who you are, taking a pen in hand and penning a missive to someone you trust would benefit your creative life as well.

If you aren’t sure who you would (or could) write to, might I suggest some options?

  • What if you were to write an open letter to a faceless, nameless stranger? Open letters can be good for the soul.
  • What if you took some advice from Chronicle Book and wrote one (or more) letters to the folks they suggest?
  • You know that apology you’ve wanted to make but can’t quite make yourself pick up the phone? How about you put it on paper and drop it in the mail?
  • How about writing little love notes to your significant other and tucking them into lunch boxes and underwear drawers?
  • What if you were to pen a missive to a younger version of yourself? Or a future version of yourself?
  • Write a letter to your muse or mentor (even if that mentor is long gone or fictional).
  • Write a series of love letters to yourself in your journal.
  • What if you were to write letters to various aspects of your life and yourself?

Susannah Conway is offering her “April Love” project with a month of love letters. She’s providing a prompt per day this month and in her words:  To practice love, kindness, honesty and probably a smidge of vulnerability, too. To find gratitude for what we have, where we’ve been and where we’re going.”

April Love

I’m not the only one here at Modern Creative Life that loves letters. In fact, we’ll be happy to take your letter for publication.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Create a Life You Love: Straightforward Wisdom for Creating the Life of Your Dreams. She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. When she’s not waiting for the mailman, 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.

Letter: Words Unspoken by Caroline Persson

Letter Writing

To my Love…

The first time I met you was five years ago. It wasn’t meant to be anything more than a cup of coffee between two friends; you were just passing through on your way to somewhere else on a road trip through my country.

Letter WritingThen I saw you, and my heart forgot how to beat as it recognized you from somewhere else. Another time. Another life. Or maybe from a dream.

You must have felt it, too, because that one cup of coffee lasted for a week.

One week of laughter, of time with me and my daughters. One week of seeing you sleep with my youngest girl on your chest during the afternoons, and that’s the moment that I knew that this was where we all belonged: right there, together, was where we would find home.

When the week had passed, you needed to leave and I understood. You had places to be, things to see. Three more weeks until you had to return to work.

So you left…

One week went by, then two…

And you came back. You didn’t visit all the places you’d planned to because you wanted to return to us.

I was given one more week of sleeping with my head on your chest and your arms around me. I was in heaven. We never even did anything really special – just family things. And yet it was the most amazing time for all four of us.

We both knew it couldn’t last, but we never said anything about it. Not out loud.

Time went by fast and you returned to your work and your studies across the sea. We kept contact. I made some things right and I made some things wrong but you always understood and I always tried not to show to much of what I felt. (May I add that I’m really bad at not showing my feelings?)

You always told me to not put my life on hold for you. You didn’t want a relationship, couldn’t have one. There was just no time, no possibility, no chance to make it work.

I always told you it was okay, even though somewhere inside of me I knew it wasn’t. But I accepted it: this is how things had to be.

More time passed by… You wanted me to come to you and I never even thought twice about it: I just got the ticket and left to follow my heart.

I thank the greater power every day for giving me that one more week with you.

You were working when I was there but I didn’t mind because we were together. I spent the days exploring the city, reading a book with a coffee in my hand and getting what I needed from the store to have dinner ready when you came home.

I was in my own paradise because I shared it with you, but still, the insecurity of the young woman I was lingered, always present just under the surface.

There were moments when that part got the best of me –  moments when I let silent tears fall while lying in your arms. Moments when you were sleeping and I told you I loved you, words I could never speak while you were awake.

I knew you couldn’t be with me. I knew it would break your heart to hurt me. But it made me love you even more.

I loved you for always ‘hurting’ people with the truth rather than making them happy with a lie, even when the person was me. I don’t think I have ever thanked you for that, maybe someday I will.

After I left, we stayed in touch the way people do these days: Facebook, email, the occasional phone call, but we still haven’t seen each other again.

Five years… You told me not to wait, you told me to find someone to love me because you couldn’t give me what I deserved… So I did; I found someone.

But what I did was wrong for all of us.

I entered the relationship with the thought that I would make it work just to show you I really could. I was childish in my actions, and for that I’m truly sorry.

When he asked me to marry him after just a short while I said yes, but then I wrote you an email asking you to stop me, telling you that all you needed to do was say you wanted me the way I want you and I wouldn’t go through with it.

Of course you didn’t. Instead, you wished me luck. But I could read between the lines. I could see that just as you’d hurt me, I had hurt you, too. By not stopping me, you tore my heart in two but worse still, I hurt us both because of stupidity.

I got married, and I stayed that way for a while but our contact never stopped and my love for you never faltered. In time even my own husband knew that my heart wasn’t in the relationship I had with him.

He asked me a few times about you, and I told him you were – are – my closest friend, and that I’ll never give you up.  He knew, because it was etched in my eyes and face, that I would never come to love him like I love you, and in time that knowledge is what killed our marriage.

Since then, I’ve been on my own, just me and my daughters who are growing up fast, but they remember you. They still talk about you. They always have. (My youngest one told me at one point to kick my ex-husband out and marry you instead. If only it were so easy!)

Every time they make a picture of us, you are always in the picture too. Every time they write our names, there’s always your name too. They haven’t seen you in five years, still you’re always in their hearts and minds.

Love like that is pure and hard to find.

My mother asked me a while ago why I don’t start dating again, and all I could do was to tell her the truth:  If it’s not you then I’d rather just be on my own. It’s not worth it. I’m doing really good by myself with my girls by my side. We are strong and happy. Why would I change that for someone I do not even know?
My heart and soul belong to you and you alone, and while I hold out the hope that we will, someday, be able to be together, if it should happen that you meet someone who fits better into your life, then I hope you will find the greatest possible love with them.

How strong is my love for you? I love you enough to wish you love and laughter and children of your own. I love you enough to live my life without you if it is what I have to do.

But most of all, I just love you.

Image Copyright: dedivan1923 / 123RF Stock Photo

About the Author: Caroline Persson

Caroline PerssonCaroline Persson is the founder of Perfect Balance. She lives in Osby, Sweden with her two daughters, where she enjoys reading, writing, and family silliness, all punctuated by cups of coffee. Find out more about her on her website: Perfect Balance, or on Facebook.