Simmering by Melissa A. Bartell




(A Sequel to Steeping)

David pulled off his gloves and hat, stuffing them into the pocket of his coat as he entered the café. A quick scan of the area, and he saw Sarah at the table in the window – their table. Coming up behind her, he leaned around and ducked his head to give her a brief sideways kiss. “Sorry I’m late. The traffic signal’s out on Fifth. Why is it that a five-minute snowstorm makes everyone forget how to drive?”

Her answer came with an amused, but affectionate, smile. “Because it’s California, where a five-minute snowstorm might as well be a blizzard.” She paused for a moment before adding “I ordered the special – black bean soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.”

“Sounds great.” He draped his coat on the back of the chair opposite hers before settling into it.

“It sounded warm. The heat’s out in my apartment.”

“Did you talk to your landlord?”

“Left a second message this morning.” As if on cue her cell-phone rang. She picked it up, glanced at the screen. “Speak of the devil…” Into the phone she said, “Hello? Yes, this is Sarah.” The conversation was terse, and by the time she ended the call, her expression had gone from easy to perturbed. “You know what the worst thing is about cell phones?” she asked rhetorically, “There’s no way to hang up on people.”

“I hear you,” he agreed. “There was something so satisfying about making someone eat dial tone.”

Exactly!” And just like that, her amiable self was back. “Anyway,” she continued, shaking her head as if to clear it, “the heat is out for my whole building and Mitch says it won’t be fixed until Monday.”

It was only Friday afternoon.

“So, stay with me.”

“David, that’s sweet, but…” She was interrupted by the arrival of their lunch.

“But what?” he asked, after the server had gone away again. “We’d planned to spend most of the weekend together anyway.”

She thought it over as she spooned soup into her mouth. “Alright,” she agreed when she was mostly finished with the first triangle of her sandwich. “I’ll swing by my place after work and pick up some things.”

“So, I’ll see you around seven, then?” He was dipping his sandwich into the soup, as he spoke.

“It’s a plan.”


The weather stayed cold all afternoon, and by the time Sarah arrived at David’s downtown bungalow a little after seven that night, the streets were patchy with ice and she was shivering despite the coat she wore over her sweater.

He had the door open before she could knock. “I heard your car. I had a late delivery so dinner will be a while, but I’ve got orange spice tea steeping, and if you want, I can pour a dollop of rum in to warm you up faster.” He ushered her inside, then demanded her car keys. “Sit by the fire. Get warm. I’ll bring your things in.”

Gratefully, she handed over the jingling ring. “There’s a rolling case in the trunk, but my laptop and tote bag are on the passenger seat.” She met his gaze and held it with her own for a few seconds. “And thank you.”

He responded with his trademark grin, the one that was both charming and slightly cocky. “Happy to do it, milady.”

Laughing, she stood on tip-toe, and kissed the tip of his nose; then she moved past him, heeding the call of the crackling fire.

The evening proceeded in a manner not unlike many of their quieter dates.

Sarah had accepted the dollop (how much was a dollop, anyway?) of rum in the sweet and spicy tea, and when David finally called her to the table and presented her with a plate of homemade coq au vin she was warm and comfortable and pleasantly buzzed.

“This is delicious,” she told him, using a hunk of rustic-style bread to sop up the last of the liquid on her plate. “I always thought it was difficult to make, though?”

He shook his head. “Not really. I used chicken breasts instead of an actual rooster, of course, and skipped the blood – ”

“- blood??”

“The original recipe calls for a cup of blood.” He saw the face she made and smiled sympathetically. “Yeah… not my thing either. But anyway, the secret’s in the simmering.” He said the last word softly, with a hint of innuendo.

“Simmering, huh?” She matched his tone, reaching for the glass that had long since supplanted her mug of tea, and swirled the red wine that remained in it for a moment. Red wine with chicken had been a new concept for her, but the Beaujolais David had served complimented the dish nicely. “Simmering,” she repeated thoughtfully. “Interesting word. Sometimes I feel like that’s what we’ve been doing.”


“We’ve been dating for – what? – eight months? And it takes an apartment-related emergency for me to spend more than a night here.”

“Well, actually,” he pointed out, more for the humor of it than because it was meant, “you haven’t spent more than the night… yet.”

Sarah laughed again, but it was a throatier sound than her usual expressions of amusement. “Fair point.” They were both quiet for a while, and then she reached across the table covering his hand with hers. “This was nice.”

Was?” His blue eyes glinted with affectionate good humor.

“Okay, it is nice.”

They laughed together, the soft, harmonizing laughter of lovers whose relationship was deepening without conscious effort.


The cold snap continued through the weekend, but neither Sarah nor David was much bothered by it. On Saturday, they wrapped themselves in sweaters and coats and took in a foreign movie at the local art cinema. They were the only two people in the theater and they took turns reading the subtitles out loud in silly accents.

Later they returned to his house, where they danced in the living room to ancient Motown tunes on CD and played a game of strip Scrabble that led to a playful romp in his bed.

Sunday morning found them in their bathrobes at the breakfast table. She was working the crossword puzzle, he was drafting a poem, and both were sipping coffee.

When a noise outside caused her to glance away for a moment, he set a small box on the table.

Sarah stared at the small square, and her face turned pale.

“Don’t worry; it’s not a ring,” David said, reading the panic in her expression.

With obvious trepidation, she lifted the lid to find a key, one with a tea cup for the key-head. “You can do that with keys?” she asked. “I had no idea.”

“Orchard Supply Hardware just started selling them this way.” He took a beat then asked, “You know what else you can do with keys?”

Sarah stayed quiet, letting him answer his own question.

“Unlock doors.”

She stared at the key, eventually lifting it out of the box, and rolling it in her hand. “You’re asking me to move in?”

David’s voice was slightly husky when he confirmed. “I am. Would you like to move in here?”

“This isn’t just because my apartment has no heat is it?”

He shook his head. “Nope.”

“You know I like to do yoga in the living room some mornings.”

He nodded. Of course he knew; he’d seen her doing it in her apartment more than once.

“And sometimes I leave panty hose hanging on the shower bar.”

“I can live with that,” he said. “I sometimes leave the toilet seat up.”

She gave him a wry grin. “I’m aware.”


“Well my lease is up in six weeks.”

“Sarah… is that a yes?”

She looked into his eyes, then down at the key in her hand, and then back up into his face. “We’ve been simmering, David,” she answered. “Guess it’s time to turn the heat up a little.” Her grin was radiant. “It’s a yes.”

“Fantastic!” He pushed his notebook and coffee mug aside so he could lean close to kiss her.

She held him off for a moment. “But you should know… I’m not giving up my blue reading chaise.”

He was still chuckling when their lips finally met.

Image copyright: alexraths / 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.

Preface to a New Adventure by Jeanette McGurk


Back in February my husband turned 50.  He is in great shape thanks to a gene pool that is amazingly forgiving towards a bad diet and lack of exercise.

Still, fifty is fifty.

I remember looking at the middle age crazies from the safe distance of my 20’s thinking I would be totally above that nonsense.  What I didn’t realize is that you aren’t crazy, you are in fact incredibly sane.  It is more like the middle age count down.  Suddenly the things you have been putting off, really can’t be put off any longer.   You either go jump out of an airplane or take it off the bucket list.  That happens to be one things I took off the bucket list.  I chalk that up to middle age sanity.

So, with the time clock not so gently ticking, we decided to take the plunge.

As I am writing this, the summer is just beginning. John booked us flights to California, the recreational van capital of the world (thank you surfer dudes), and upon arrival, we will be the proud owners of a Mercedes sprinter van, the world’s most expensive, rolling, air-conditioned tent. We intend to take this blank canvas and turn it into our head quarters for North American adventures.

I use the term adventures loosely.

There will be no blogs of us repelling into the Grand Canyon or up El Capitan.  No, we just want to see beautiful things with our kids.  We are looking forward to getting tired of each other after hours together in the car.  We crave life outside the classroom, boardroom and laundry room.

This is the road we are choosing to travel.

Sorry, I tried, I could not stop myself, honestly, I have about fifty corny road analogies but I decided to go with that one because life is a path.  I want to spend some of it in the slow lane, taking in the scenery and eating s’mores.

OK. I promise to stop now.

Once we return and the children are back in school, I’ll let you know how it went. See you around the next bend.

Really, that is the last one….

About the Author: Jeanette McGurk

jeanette_mcgurkJeanette McGurk is a Graphic Designer who entered the world of writing through advertising. She discovered writing a lot of truth with a little fluff is a lot more fun than the other way round. Now that she is no longer spending time making air conditioners, tile floors, IT and Botox sound sexy, she writes about the unglamorous yet wonderful moments of life for people like herself; in other words, anyone looking for interesting ways to put off cleaning and doing laundry.

She is a curmudgeon and doesn’t Twit or Instagram. She has heard the blog is dead but since she has finally figured out how to do it, that is the museum where you can locate her writings.

Sunday Sanctuary: Tending My Instrument & the Advice of Virginia Woolf


When I look at my creative history, I realize that I’ve left behind many of the ways I’ve been creative in my life: dance (except the occasional wedding), singing (except in the car or the shower), and theatre (which was my minor in college). As we age, we leave behind many of our creative pursuits for seemingly right reasons: not enough time to devote to a craft thanks to real life demands and sometimes a loss of interest. Or, sadly, the belief that grown-ups a birthday cake for Johndon’t play act or dance en pointe.

But that may be a story for another day.

A few years ago, I fell back in love with food. Oh, well, maybe I always loved food as a way to soothe the soul and commune with other souls, but this time, I fell in love with the process of taking the best raw ingredients I could find and creating something with them.

It is a way to be creative in a way which is practical. It is a way to use my creativity in a way that enhances our daily life, providing not just nourishment for the bodies of those in my care, but also a setting for which to share the stories of our days.

Creating in the kitchen fuels my creativity, nourishes my body, and yes, also nourishes my soul as cooking for others is one of the ways I show love.

And I will confess that one of the necessary tasks of creating a meal – sourcing the ingredients (aka Grocery Shopping) – is a task that I love, too. It’s like a mini-artist date with myself, pawing through local summer tomatoes for the ripest ones, sniffing the cantaloupes to choose the sweetest, and discussing the possible ways to prepare a piece of wild caught salmon with my favorite fishmonger, Paul.

“The human frame being what it is, heart, body, and brain all mixed together, and not contained in separate compartments as they will be no doubt in another million years, a good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”

― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

I’m sure you’ve seen the last line of this quote by Virginia Woolf many times. Recently, I re-read her book “A Room of One’s Own” and caught onto the deeper meaning of this: women colleges were feeding the students not-so-glorious foods while the men’s colleges, like Oxford, were feeding their students lovely, elaborate meals.

In addition to needing money and a private space to write, Woolf knew that in order to create, women must also be well fed.

Just as my house is not just a home, but my sanctuary from the world, my body is also my sanctuary. It houses my soul. It is my instrument. Yes, my mind is where the creative ideas are born, but it relies upon my body to birth the ideas into the world.

They need each other and,  like it or not,  my body is my instrument.

Earlier this year, I had moments where the act of holding a pen was excruciating. I’d be slicing strawberries and all IMG_20160527_181536the pincer action of holding a berry and a knife caused severe cramps in my hands. And sitting for hours meant stiffness in my hips that was unbearable at times.

No matter how unbreakable we believe we may be, sometimes we have to make peace with the fact that we have been hard on our bodies during our youth. Many of the creative pursuits of my youth, like dance, can be hard on a developing body. And how can I neglect to look at what all the years of typing and writing have done to my wrists and hands?

Though fifty is on the horizon, it’s not here yet, but facts being facts, I have the beginnings of arthritis.

While my doctor offered to treat my developing arthritis in a pharmaceutical way, we agreed to first try a holistic approach: an anti-inflammatory diet.

I am not a big fan of pills. Yes, I take my blood pressure medication and an aspirin for my heart. I take the supplements my doctor recommends. But the thought of relying upon medication to do the things I love to do was unimaginable.

I thought back to the wisdom of Woolf and while I believe the meals I have been creating are lovely, I had to admit that when my body – my instrument – is trying to communicate with me, I had to ask myself if I was fueling it in the best way possible.

There are a lot of foods considered anti-inflammatory: fish like salmon and halibut, good fats like olive oil and IMG_20150509_183947avocado, tomatoes, spinach, nuts, and other such delicious ingredients. Our daily diet is pretty heavy on these non-inflammatory foods.

But I also know that other foods that exacerbate inflammation: heavily processed foods, gluten, sugars, and dairy. We don’t really eat a lot of processed foods, but dear God, do I love good bread and cheese and the occasional piece of chocolate or carrot cake.

One of my all-time favorite ways to create in the kitchen is baking, that beautiful mix of science and art.

And I must be honest:  I’m not a fan of demonizing any food group. Unless you are lactose intolerant and can’t handle dairy, it’s not “bad”. And gluten is such a hot no-no these days. Most science still points to the fact that the average, healthy person will thrive on a well-balanced diet including ALL of the food groups.

Yet, when your body is telling you that things aren’t running 100%, it’s time to take a step back and say, hey, I’m not a 16-year-old girl with a daily dance practice barely weighing 100 pounds.

All the research told me that experimenting by eliminating food groups known to add to inflammation for at least thirty days to see how your body feels is a worthwhile experiment. That meant: no gluten, no dairy, and no foods with added sugar.

I couldn’t imagine coffee without cream or eggs without crusty,  sourdough toast slathered in butter. But just as my creative life deserves to be romanced with beautifully made notebooks, didn’t my creative life also deserve me fueling the instrument in a way that not only nourished, but supported?

In May, I began a (modified) Whole30 as an experiment, to see if eliminating potentially inflammatory foods helped. No gluten, no grains, no dairy, no added sugars except a tiny spoon of turbinado sugar in my coffee. Oh, and no pseudo foods, using cauliflower to make a pizza crust and such.

IMG_20160725_203751By June, I noticed that my hands didn’t ache or cramp up. My hips felt better.

Yes, I’ve experimented with a little cake here and a little cheese there, but my body has shown me that abstaining from these foods makes me function at my best.

Choosing to see food as both a creative outlet and a way to best fuel my creative instrument allows me to also fuel my ability to create.

Just as I must birth stories at a keyboard and share secrets by writing a letter to a friend, I need to create a meal from the ingredient up in a way that nourishes me spiritually and fuels my instrument to create.

We must tend all of our sanctuaries to fuel a creative life.

Even if that means taking a hard look at how we are choosing to fuel our minds, our souls, and our bodies.

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 vacuuming her couch, you’ll find her reading or plotting when she can play her next round of golf. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Through the Lens: Hope with Paula Jones

Through the Lens

I am a visionary intuitive artist.

I paint the unseen bringing in messages.   I’ve tried going back to my traditional roots…but, my muse will have nothing to do with that.

So, I listen to her….and paint what I am being asked and led to paint.

Embracing Her Darkness

We are equal parts dark and light. One could not exist without the other.  I received the message three times in the same day: it is important to embrace that which we call darkness. Be aware of it.

I traveled to Taos recently to rid myself of my darkness – to just radiate light, but, I realized that no one can lose all of the darkness, it’s a part of who each of us is. Now, I am to be aware of it. I’ve been fighting for about a month to lose an essential part of being human. To understand that it’s ok to be upset, sad, mad, angry…. jut don’t let it rule your life.

Believe it or not – there is beauty there.


Tethered to Hope.

She’s hanging on by a thread….a thread of Hope. It’s something that never fails her. Even in her darkest hours….there is still Hope.


 Caged angel….no more.

She’s starting to realize that she was a prisoner of her own mind, her own stories. Once she realized it, the cage started disintegrating.

Was she ready? Truly ready?

If she weren’t ready to face her fears, her cage would still be intact. Fly little one…you’ve had the power all along. Caged angel…no more


Lots of Hope.

She feels it. Hope…Lots of it. Even though she is working through so much darkness…she has hope….and she is clinging to it for dear life.  Lots of Hope.

About the Author: Paula Jones

paulajonesbioI started painting at the ripe old age of 45 (at the urging of a friend who was an artist) after a plaster ceiling fell on my head while I was doing what I loved at the time, which was remodeling houses.

I’m falling in love with my creative soul…my process, and my value that I bring to this beautiful world. I’ve found courage, strength, love and compassion in places I never knew it would come from. And, as a result…I have a story…I have a story of hope.

I am a visionary intuitive artist.  I paint the unseen bringing in messages.   I’ve tried going back to my traditional roots…but, my muse will have nothing to do with that. So, I listen to her….and paint what I am being asked and led to paint.

Connect with me: Website Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram

Chattanooga Redemption by Julie Terrill


I will try anything twice. An initial bad experience may have been a fluke or a food item may not have been well prepared. I am game for just about anything… except Chattanooga. I considered my initial encounter with Chattanooga to count twice – my first and last.

To be fair to Chattanoogans, this was not about your city.

This was about it being the unfortunate setting for living out my worst fear; getting lost and never being found. 03 Obviously the latter was not the case but I was quite certain that it would be.  I had taken my children to Tennessee for a grand adventure and now we would be lost and gone forever.

This was back in the day of “dumb phones” –  no Siri, no GPS, no Google Maps at my fingertips. It was dusk and I could see the lights of the highway but could not find an on ramp.  Nightfall only made matters worse.  One of my oh-so-witty teenaged children began to sing “Hotel California”.

Following a humiliating freak-out in front of my children, and with much assistance, I eventually became found and everyone lived.

For over a decade I twitched at the mere mention of Chattanooga.

My new friend, Linda, and I discovered that we are both involved in anti-trafficking efforts. She introduced me to Blazing Hope Ranch, a nonprofit organization in Tennessee that works with individuals who had been trafficked and was in the planning stages of its first summer camp experience for at-risk kids.  I was excited about the prospect of working with an organization that utilizes equine therapy. I submitted an application, provided references and underwent a background check.

Meanwhile, Linda and I began making travel plans and I assured her that I was an easy traveler. “I will try anything twice,” I said, “except Chattanooga. “

No words were necessary; the look on Linda’s face and awkward silence said it all.

Really??  You’ve got to be kidding me! During the months leading up to camp I worked hard not to ruminate about 04“Dreaded Chattanooga”.

Upon arrival I discovered that downtown Chattanooga and the Riverfront District have undergone an extensive redevelopment since my last visit.

The area is home to trendy restaurants, bistros, breweries and an arts district.  There is a bicycle share program with several hundred bikes available for rent at over 30 docking stations throughout the city.

The aquarium, art museum complex, children’s museum, a minor league baseball stadium, a renovated pedestrian bridge and the Tennessee River Walk, a thirteen mile long urban trail adjacent to the river, contribute to the welcoming atmosphere.01a

As a history nerd, this area is like one stop shopping!

The region contains numerous Civil War battlefields and memorials, historic mining sites, the setting of The Scopes Monkey Trial in nearby Dayton, and many Native American mounds, archeological areas and The Trail of Tears.

One serendipitous evening, we were offered the opportunity to see a reenactment of the Scopes Trial that was held in the very courtroom where, in 1925, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow captured the attention of the nation while arguing this historic case. Be still, my nerdy little heart!

07While the city initially captured my attention, it was the wilderness areas; the waterways, caverns, waterfalls, mountains and temperate rainforests that captured my heart.  We walked, hiked, stacked rocks, watched wildlife and spent a glorious afternoon cooling off in a swimming hole. It was probably best that we didn’t meet up with the ranger until we were leaving. The knowledge that water moccasins also enjoy the swimming hole may have lessened my bliss.

So, am I glad that I went? Absolutely! Would I go back? In a heartbeat!

Like I always say… I will do anything twice.


About the Author: Julie Terrill


Julie Terrill is a photographer and writer with a passion for travel. For ten years, she’s told stories of empowerment through the lens of her camera in an array of unique landscapes, environments, and projects – from a shelter for children rescued from trafficking in Thailand to Faces of Courage, complimentary portrait sessions she offers to cancer patients in her community. She is a photographer and facilitator at Beautiful You and Soul Restoration retreats.

Connect with her at:

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.

Sundays by Debra Smouse


((Part Two of the Colleen Series – Follows The Bookcase))

Colleen arched her back in a luxurious stretch as she waited for the espresso machine to whir and hum, and drip, drip, drip the rich brown extraction into the pristine whiteness of a porcelain cup. The cup was as new to her as the machine itself, both indulgences that her now-ex-husband would have called a waste of money.

To Colleen, though, they weren’t extravagances. Rather, they were investments into what had become her savior: Sundays.

For the past sixteen years, her Sundays were spent tip-toeing around her home, in deference to the ex. He’d always wanted to sleep in. She, on the other hand, had merely wanted to avoid provoking his temper, and protect herself from the days of The Silent Treatment that would inevitably follow if she made too much noise.

Of course, there was the other reason for her early Sunday mornings: in order to have even five minutes of peace and quiet to herself, she had to arise before her children.

Colleen had always embraced motherhood. She loved her children desperately and never regretted a single moment with them, but the problem with being a mother was that no matter what happened, there was no break from it. She had finally accepted that privacy would never again exist in any aspect of her existence, because who can even pee in peace when there are little fingers under the door? And how many times had she slipped into the tub with a book and a glass of wine after putting the kids to bed to suddenly find a child sitting on the edge of the tub?

But now the divorce was final.

During those first weeks after their separation, especially the weekends when the girls were with their father, Sundays were lonesome, and the only peace she seemed to find was during late night solo cleaning binges. At some point the sweat and toil of cleaning had turned cathartic, and after that, the act of reclaiming the house had put her almost into a Zen state.

The real turning point had come when she’d ditched The Bookcase (in her head, the phrase was always highlighted by Capital Letters). Something had clicked within her, and she was able to see the possibility in the old house becoming a home again.

What used to feel lonely now felt like glorious solitude.

The Breville sputtered to a stop, but before she grabbed her cup, Colleen patiently rinsed the porta-filter in hot water.

Lifting the cup from the drip tray she inhaled the heady aroma. The doppio cup of espresso was perfection crowned by a rich layer of crema. Smiling in anticipation, Colleen scooped up a single demitasse spoon of turbinado sugar and let the grains fall into the cup, bursting through the caramel-colored foam with a series of satisfying plunks.

A tiny sip and her mouth exploded with happiness at the rich, slightly bitter, completely heavenly nectar.

Colleen carried her cup to the table where the Sunday New York Times awaited her.

Also waiting was Ingrid, who seemed to love their Sundays as much as Colleen did. The dog had done her business ingid_down1whilst they retrieved the paper. While the coffee was brewing she’d eaten her breakfast, and taken her position underneath the kitchen table.

“I guess you can call that frog-dog spread you do settled, huh, Ingrid?” she said as she raked her toes across the dog’s big, broad back.

Ingrid grunted happily in response.

It was funny, Colleen reflected, how her now ex-husband had done a 180 when it came to spending time with the kids. During their marriage, he had always been too busy to deal with ballet lessons or soccer practice. He’d never bothered to attend even a single Meet the Teacher night.

Yet, during the negotiations with the lawyers, he suddenly declared that since Colleen had “broken their little family,” the least she could do was agree to him having the children every weekend. So, written into the divorce decree wasn’t the standard “Dad” agreement, but the mandate that he was to have the children from noon on Saturdays until Mondays after school.

That meant he had to deal with the inevitable weekend boredom of nine- and thirteen-year-old girls. He had to adjust to the fact that Sunday evenings meant coaxing them into bed at a reasonable hour. Now that summer was drawing to a close, he would be getting a crash-course in the challenge of Monday morning school runs, especially since one child’s school began at eight AM, while the other’s didn’t start until nine.

Colleen wondered how long this new arrangement would last. Despite being part of the divorce decree, she saw the custody arrangements as an experiment. But no matter what the results of the experiment turned out to be, it meant that Saturday nights and the entire twenty-four hours that made up Sundays belonged to her.

And oh, did she relish the nourishment of these Sundays.

For the first time in her memory, she was able to focus on the one area of life she’d neglected in the hustle and bustle of being a wife and mother: tending herself.

Even more, Colleen saw this as an opportunity to begin reinventing herself. She’d colored her hair and was experimenting with wearing her natural curls. She was slowly shifting her wardrobe away from “contemporary soccer mom” and toward classic lines, and a lot less black. She’d even changed up her go-to nail routines of French-tipped fingers and I’m Not Really a Waitress red toes.

Her current choice: Bogotá Blackberry.

Colleen admired the reddish plum sheen of her freshly polished nails as she skimmed the book section of The Times.

As long as she was treating this as an experiment, she didn’t panic about her life not being planned down to the minute. Listmaker that she was, though, Colleen had begun a section in her journal where she collected “All The Ways Sundays Are Saving Me”.

She could stay home, order Chinese food, and catch up on Scandal or read an entire book in one sitting. She could go to bed ridiculously early.

She could go out with a girlfriend on Saturday night, stay out late dancing until the clubs closed and not returning home until 3 am. And on those mornings, she could sleep long past her typical six AM internal alarm clock.

She could go out on a date and invite a potential lover home. And, she could send him on his way after a little necking or after a quick romp between the sheets.

Usually, Colleen would send him on his way because the idea of actually sleeping with someone made her feel more vulnerable and naked than she ever did during sex.

Her belief that no many would be interested in an almost forty-year old woman with two kids had been proven false. And even the 100-pound Ingrid had not deterred most.

She had to admit to herself, though, that one particular beau had begun to worm his way into her heart and a few weeks before she’d broken her own unwritten rule of no sleep-overs and invited him to stay the night.

It had been glorious in a way she’d never imagined or experienced. She felt like she’d had a tiny glimpse into the kinds of love affairs shown in movies and romance novels with the dual passions of hot, after-dinner, I can’t-wait-to-have-you sex combined with the sweetness and tenderness of a slow, morning, repeat performance.

Now sex was an important component of her list.

That perfect Sunday morning coupling. That languid pull. Waking naked after an evening of fucking, with an arm around her waist or fingers on her breast, and the hardness of morning wood prodding her ass, just waiting to for an invitation to make love.  Glorious morning sex – before coffee, before showers – with the sun streaming through the blinds.

Morning sex – and not just on Sundays – was new for her. Unlike most men, her ex had never been particularly physical, and after she’d become a mother all of their lovemaking had been furtive, taking place in the dark.

Colleen had read the articles. She knew she’d been pretty much living Madonna/Whore syndrome. And there was another thing for her list: being seen as neither Madonna nor Whore.

Coffee paraphernalia hadn’t been Colleen’s only new purchases.

She’d also invested in some exquisite Natori Loungewear. She loved to fold back the covers of her bed, climb out of it, and slip into a chemise or camisole and shorts and toss on a matching robe. There was something that made her feel elegant when she wore Italian jersey trimmed with Chantilly lace, so soft against her skin. And the matching robes made her feel pulled together.

Dressing up for herself – whether she woke alone or with a lover – added to the gloriousness of Sunday mornings.

That’s why she would practically float to the kitchen to start the coffee pot or turn on the espresso machine. That’s why she would often sing to herself as she and Ingrid went to collect the two – two! – Sunday papers from the driveway.

That second Sunday paper was another new indulgence, one she’d been without for too long because the ex had espresso and paper photo by Debra Smouseinsisted it was a waste of money, when all she read were the lifestyle, travel, and book sections.

(Actually, Colleen thought, she now had three newspaper subscriptions, since adding the Friday delivery of the Wall Street Journal to the local daily and her Sunday Times.)

Coffee in hand, dog at her feet, Colleen spread the paper across the kitchen table, and let the scent of ink and the feel of the newsprint on her fingertips mingle with the taste of that first cup of coffee.

Maybe later, she’d make a pancake. Maybe the neighbor would notice her paper gone from the driveway and pop in for a visit.

Or maybe not.

These Sundays may not last forever, but for now, the day was hers. And it was saving her.

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. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Your New Moon Creative (Full Sturgeon Moon)

What nourishes you? How do you fill the well so that you can continue to create? How does connection and community nourish you and your creativity?

When it came to the desire to build connection and community here at Modern Creative Life, we decided to offer prompts to inspire your creativity. Our #NewMoonCreative Prompts  are shared with you as the moon cycles to “new”… this is the traditional time to launch new efforts and open ourselves to creativity.

And we circle back on the date of the Full Moon to see what was created.

The full moon will bless us tonight, which means it’s time to celebrate how our creative endeavors have come to bloom. We have a tiny offering this month in response to New Moon in Leo and here is a taste of what was created in response to our “New Moon Creative” prompts:

Prompt: Light

And here’s yesterday’s bloomer in today’s misty morning light. #newmooncreative for @moderncreativelife

A photo posted by Becca Rowan (@becca.rowan) on

The #light of this morning’s sunrise is shrouded in fog. Today’s #NewMoonCreative prompt is: LIGHT

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

Prompt: Tribe

Earlier this year, I began handwriting some of my blog posts and articles in my journal before typing them up. In some ways, I connect to the words differently with a pen in hand than I do seated at the keyboard. It’s allowing me to both shift and strengthen my writing voice. I have three journals now: my bullet journal, my journal-journal where the drafts are getting life, and my prayer journal This month, I picked up the WIP that has been laying fallow since spring. I opened my Scrivener file for the project today and dutifully typed all the journal scribblings in and happily discovered the project is further along than I thought. . . . . So today I mention it here to my digital #tribe: I am working on my next original book – a Day Book – and the plan is to finish it by mid-October, get it to an editor short thereafter, and publish it in November. It’s yet untitlted but will dovetail with my current work around choosing to create a nourishing life, loving your daily life and soul tending In between now and then, I will likely be retiring some of my coaching courses. Some will also be taken to book format this fall – and will be published before the current WIP – the Day Book. They are in “finished” formats, just awaiting a new life. The shift between who I was when I began my coaching practice and who I am today is palatably different to me, even if it isn’t to the outside. I am not the person I was, though, of course, many of us are vastly different today from who we were six years ago…. And that, my darling, is a beautiful thing. This is the art of creating a life: to work in the ways that nourish our soul and be dedicated to birthing our work into the world with earnestness , courage, and devotion. This is day 77 of #100daysofcreativeliving for the #100dayproject. #love #soultending #amwriting Today’s #NewMoonCreative prompt is: tribe The Day 3 prompt from #augustbreak2016 is #handwriting

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

Prompt: Energy

The doorbell rings shortly before 1 PM as we are finishing our lunch. It’s my postal carrier and as I unlock the door, she has already made it down the sidewalk and is getting back into her truck. I holler my “thanks” and we both wave. There on the porch is the day’s mail: a bill, a movie, an advertisement, a party invitation, and a small box. I rush back into the house and snag a knife from the wooden block and carry it all onto the porch where John is working. I hand him the party invitation (bring a swimsuit and a towel, it says on the back of the envelope). I gently open the box and inside is a gift I knew was coming: a piece of art. I know exactly where she will go: the altar space in my office. As I dive into my commitment to finish writing this new book, I need some guardian energy. She will be that talisman of inspiration and lovingly watch over me as I do this work. . . . . . . . . . . . “It is in our own idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.” – Virginia Wolfe. The art is “Virginia” and I am so grateful for the artist @swirlygirl18 This is the art of creating a life: to allow our friends to gift us with art and allow the spirit of their creation to shine a light over us as to inspire, guard, and support us as we do the work to shine our own light in the world. . . . . . . . . . . This is day 78 of #100daysofcreativeliving for the #100dayproject. #love #soultending #amwriting Today’s #NewMoonCreative prompt is: energy The Day 5 prompt from #augustbreak2016 is #Midday

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

Prompt: Nature

Our next New Moon Creative begins September 1st – when we will be launching our 3rd Edition of Modern Creative Life with the theme: Wisdom

We hope you’ll join us and share your creations with us.


Dusk by Bella Cirovic

Instrumental_Care of Creative Soul

Dusk. This time of the day feels so intimate to me. The sun is just beginning to set as night slowly creeps in and takes over. In the summer months, I long to slow down and savor each day, each moment. Dusk to me feels like slipping into a silk robe very slowly. I keep watch at the window for the changing colors of the sky. When I see varying degrees of pinks, oranges, grays, and then blue, I grab a cool drink and head outside to watch the day fade away.

While each season’s sky brings its own form of magic, I can’t help but be mesmerized by a summer sky. It’s an even more magical treat when there is a full moon. I’m noticing more and more these days that nourishment for me at forty one is so much more than food and drink and love and all the things I would normally feel nourish my soul and spirit.

Observation is nourishment. By simply taking the time to insert myself under the changing sky, I feel a sense of fulfillment. I feel like I’ve given myself a gift. And the beauty of this is that I can do this every night if that is my wish.

This begs me to explore the ideas of self permission and action. I can only indulge in the things that nourish me through feeling by doing. Picking myself up and going to the places that I love for nourishment is vital to my well being. Other places I might take myself are: exploring new neighborhoods in the city, museums, the beach, hiking in the woods or just laying on a blanket in my backyard under the summer sun.

Giving myself permission to play, observe, and move means I believe I am worthy of nourishment. It means that I feel I deserve to fill my spirit with positive energy that will fuel all of the other parts of me. I don’t function very well when I’m not tending to each part of me that needs attention. Permission granted and action taken are just some tools I have learned that work for me.


So because I mentioned dusk being a favorite time of the day, I wanted to share some ideas with you on how you might expand on your own nightly rituals or try something new. You can easily begin by typing “what time is dusk” into the Google search bar and plan on having a half hour to an hour of free time blocked out for your own personal enjoyment. If you do this tonight, you’ll get to see what’s left of the full moon.

Prepare yourself a cool drink. I personally love fresh lemonade. There you have nourishment in a cup. Pick a place that’s comfortable for sitting. Perhaps your backyard or front steps will do? If you don’t have a spot at home, what about a bench in the park or if you live near the water, find a seat right there. Maybe you live on a rooftop? Prepare something fluffy to sit on like a folded blanket or beach towel. You might also like to play some music so bring your phone or ipod with you. And finally, it would be silly if I didn’t mention that bringing along a scented oil to anoint on the back of your neck or on the insides of your wrists could lift this whole situation up to another level.

Now, before you head out, I want to tell you that you are so worthy of this time to just sit back, relax, and watch the sky change colors. I want to tell you that your spirit needs this every once in a while for no reason at all other than the fact that you are out in nature drinking in all of her colors and her glory. I want to tell you that you deserve this. And now, you can take action and go.

About the Author: Bella Cirovic

Bella Cirovic BioBella Cirovic is a photographer and writer who lives with her husband and daughter in the suburbs outside of NYC. She writes on the subjects of self care, body love and nourishment, crystals, essential oils, and family life. Catch up with Bella at her blog: She Told Stories

What Fills Me by Pat West


Dark chocolate with black sea salt and caramel
A cold rain quiet as a mirror
Slow cooked eggs
Shanghai silk merlot
Deep yellow heirloom tomatoes
Driving over the Tehachapi Mountains,
down the Grapevine, that serpentine road
The old gray sweater,
that feels like a hug from my mom
Seattle’s lavender sky
Ferries—slow moving castles
across the Sound
People watching
at Pike Place Market
Sunlight cathedraling through
tall fir trees
Muddy Waters playing
bottleneck guitar
Cowboys—the reason they invented jeans
Nana’s sweet relish
Slow kisses
Cold pizza for breakfast
October’s marmalade moon
How in Kansas the earth flattens,
the road straightens
and there’s nothing but amber wheat
all the way to the horizon
rippling on the breeze,
that dry rustling sound

About the Author: Pat West

PatWestBioPat Phillips West lives in Portland, Oregon. Her poems have appeared in various journals, including Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, San Pedro River Review, and Slipstream, and some have earned nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.