New Moon Creative: Moon in Scorpio

As the season of harvest draws to a close, we may feel a need to draw inward and prepare for a time of rest during the dark days of winter. This month’s new moon in Scorpio offers the perfect inspiration for those times. It brings an astrology that’s dreamy and optimistic; it aligns with Mercury to focus on thinking and planning. As the leaves change to brilliant colors and fall to the ground, our emotional nature responds with changeable moods and heightened sensitivity, along with the call to plant seeds of new ideas.

What a perfect recipe to inspire wisdom and creative thinking!

We offer a New Moon Creative Prompt to set you pondering.

How do your dreams inspire your creativity?


Write a poem, essay, or short story. Take a photograph and leave us with the image alone. Create a photo essay.

Between now and 11/12/16, post your creation in your blog and/or share your work on Social Media, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or all of those spaces. Use the tag #NewMoonCreative so we can find you. Leave a comment here (with a link) so we can read your words and lovingly witness what and how you are creating.

On the Full Moon ( November 14), we’ll post a collection of the work that was inspired by these prompts and post them here, with links back to the full work (and you).

The Wisdom of Tarot…is You by Theresa Reed


So often we seek answers outside ourselves. We look to gurus, sages, teachers, and other authority figures for guidance on what we should do with our lives. Who am I?

Where should I go? What is my path?

While external sources can provide some answers, ultimately, the answers lie within ourselves. But how can we get there?

There are many ways. Meditation, yoga, prayer, spending time in nature or doing quiet pursuits. When we quiet the chatter, the answers can arise.

Tarot cards can be one more tool to help you access your own inner wisdom and intuition. These 78 cards are rich with universal symbols that depict daily and spiritual life. These symbols are gentle nudges that waken your intuition, and help you to see and understand who you are and what you need to know in order to live your best life.

Here’s how:

You think of a question and pick a card.

Now, turn over the card and gaze at the image. Scan it.

Let your eyes rest on anything that captures your attention. What do the symbols say to you? What might be the message or moral of the card? What might the characters in the cards be conveying to each other – and to you? How does the card make you feel? What story is it trying to tell you about your situation…or yourself?

Start pondering those questions and see what arises.

You might get an “aha” or perhaps just a gentle knowing. Pay attention to what you feel and any thoughts that arise. This process will lead you to the answers…or maybe further inquiry.

That’s how tarot works in a nutshell.

An example – let’s say you’re feeling somewhat confused about your relationship because he won’t commit. You shuffle the cards and pull the Nine of Wands. As you scan the card, your eyes rest on the figure’s face. He looks paranoid, scared. Is this your partner? Perhaps he’s fearful of making a commitment. Maybe he’s been hurt before and is wary of being hurt again. So he’s walled off and trying to protect himself. Or is this you – scared you are wasting your time? Bingo – you realize it’s the latter.

This gives you food for thought. And maybe a plan for action. It might be time to talk with your partner about your fears and see if you can work through this together.

Even if you’ve never read tarot before, it’s not that hard to begin. I recommend starting with the Rider Waite deck.

It’s a classic and most modern decks are based on it. Every deck will come with a little white book with interpretations. Feel free to explore those if you’d like. But better yet, put that to the side and let your own intuition guide you.

Because the answers aren’t found in that little white book. They are already there, within you, waiting.

Tarot on, wise one.

About the Author: Theresa Reed

theresareedTheresa Reed (aka “The Tarot Lady”) has been a full-time Tarot card reader for close to 30 years. She is the author of The Tarot Coloring Book (release date: Nov 1, 2016), an illustrated tour through the world of Tarot with coloring sheets for every card in the deck.

In addition to doing private Tarot readings, teaching Tarot classes, and speaking at Tarot conferences, Theresa also runs a popular website——where she dishes out advice, inspiration and tips for Tarot lovers of all experience levels.

Follow Theresa on Twitter and Instagram for her daily “Six Second Tarot Reading”—plus photos of her extremely handsome cats, TaoZen and Monkey.

Typical Tuesday with Courtney Weber


We let the cats sleep with us last night. This morning, I’m reminded of why this is a terrible idea. Before I could hit snooze on my phone’s alarm, one cat whaps it to the floor. The other one cries like she’s starved for weeks. Get up, Primate.  I herd the little monsters into the kitchen and feed them before they wake my husband. I can sleepily slog through my day and no one will get hurt. But my husband is a nurse and if he slogs, people will get hurt.

While the cats are eating and finally quiet, I sip my morning glass of water because I’m a sad person who can no longer handle caffeine and just isn’t wild about herbal teas. I close my eyes and pretend the water tastes and smells and behaves like coffee. It doesn’t. But I’ll survive.

It’s time to write.

I start with a free-write, in a journal. I’ve kept journals since I was six years old. Almost thirty years later, there are boxes of my old journals clogging the closet of our spare bedroom and my parents’ attic. The flow of cursive on the unlined (always unlined, for me) pages is comforting. There are no deadlines with a journal. No expectations of voice, style. The only audience is Future Me.

Today, I journal about stairs and cats. I live in New York City. New York City is made of stairs. Five flights down when I want to leave the building. Two flights up for the subway. Two flights down for work. Stairs get old. I wish there weren’t so many. I also wish the cats loved each other. They’re fighting in the hall as I write this.  


Even in my journal time, sometimes the “IShould” voices creep in. IShould write about my feelings. IShould write about current events. IShould document everything thing I do and how I do it. I saw a journal on display at the Ellis Island Museum. That could be me someday. If I write a better journal, maybe it will be. But chances are good that Future Me will be the sole reader of the journals. Current Me prefers Past Me’s entries about things like stairs and cats more than Past Me’s feelings and then-current events. I suspect Future Me will feel the same. Back to stairs and cats.

Two journal pages–that’s the warm-up. Then, I dig into my novel, which has been sorely neglected these past few weeks. I’m working on an official second draft. I think about the characters’ motivations, sometimes writing a smaller character’s entire subplot by hand in the notebook I keep by the laptop. Much of that will never get into the main novel, but it helps me all the same.


Maybe this novel will be SUCH a success that I can publish this side stuff as appendices! Maybe they’ll both get movie deals!!!

As dawn creeps in, I write and edit, the work punctuated by breaks to pluck my eyebrows, get more water, reorganize the cookbooks. If I’m really blocked, I’ll start baking. My writing “process” almost never involves merely sitting and hammering away at the keyboard like an old-timey secretary. The words often come when I step away and do something else. This morning, fortunately, I don’t have to bake anything to get there. I dig into my characters, shaping them and loving them.

Husband gets up and scrolls the news while he eats breakfast. We are the modern couple, both staring into our laptop screens as our morning ritual. As he leaves for work, I remind him that I won’t be home when he gets in this evening.

It’s 7:30 and it’s time to get ready for work. I am reasonably satisfied with the writing, but then I breathe through a moment in which I wonder if I’m wasting my time on the novel. Should I should be writing another metaphysical piece? Should I turn this into a three-part series which is more likely to get a book deal and a movie? I remind myself that I didn’t know if my first two books would ever see life outside of my hard drive and I kept going, anyway. I imagine Future Me telling me just to keep at it. I imagine her finally writing for a living, in a big house in the country, paid for in cash by generous royalties.

It could happen. Anything is possible.

I dress and have breakfast, with bad news on the television for company.

Just before lunch, I steal two chocolates from my co-worker’s stash. She said it was okay last time. I wonder if I should log them in my food log. My nutritionist will probably say I should have stopped at one. But they’re small, so I’ll log both as one. It’s better than logging nothing.

On a work break, I send out an email to my Tarot students, reminding them about class tonight. No one responds. I courtneyweber_tarotforonetry not to take it personally. While I work, ideas for the novel brew. I email myself notes and if I get really crazy, open a Google Doc and write a new scene. Writing seems to be a balance between diligent and work and looking the other way to give story a chance to sneak up on you.

After lunch, I steal two more chocolates but they’re also small, so I can log them as one as well.

I run into that co-worker and confess both chocolate raids. She says it’s fine. She was trying to get rid of them, anyway and suggests I take more. I hold back. Does that make me disciplined? Probably not. But I wish I got credit in the food journal for turning down chocolate.

I arrive at the yoga studio, where I will be teaching the Tarot class. Only two people attend, but that’s fine. Sometimes smaller classes are the most fulfilling. One student said she bought my Tarot book which makes me happy. I ask her if she’d be willing to write an Amazon review–if she liked the book, that is. The studio manager sets out a container of chocolate-covered cashews and I nearly faint. I love those things so much.

I privately draft an apology to the nutritionist and help myself to the delicious treat. I make a mental note to plan a better food day tomorrow.

The three of us pour over our Tarot cards. I help them dig for deeper meanings of what they see. We keep our voices low as a yoga class is going on. Inside the studio room, someone’s Ujjayi breathing sounds like Darth Vader.

I pull three cards to demonstrate a new spread. My question is, “How do I best approach my novel?” I pull three Sword cards, all upside-down. These three Sword cards typically reflect control. In Reverse, I interpret them as “Surrender.”

Surrender to the story. Let it happen on its own terms. It will eventually blossom.

When I get home, Husband is watching Star Trek. I take a peek at what I wrote this morning on the novel. It’s not too bad. It might even be good. But I really have no idea. We cuddle for a while on the couch and then I play a little guitar as I haven’t practiced much this week. We turn in early as we both have another early morning waiting for us.

Someday, writing will be my fulltime job. Until then, I’m thankful for the cranky cats, morning dilly-dallying, Tarot and chocolate. Somehow, those are the little white lines on the writing freeway.

About the Author: Courtney Weber

courtneyweber_bioCourtney Weber is a Priestess, author, Tarot advisor, and activist. She is the author of the newly released Tarot for One: The Art of Reading for Yourself and Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess (Both through Weiser Books). She produced and designed “Tarot of the Boroughs,” a contemporary photographic Tarot deck set in New York City. She blogs at Huffington Post and on her website: She lives in Manhattan with her husband and cats.

Sunday Sanctuary: Lessons in Cosmetics


“Stipple, stipple, stipple!” the lovely young woman in front of me chants as she demonstrates the proper way to put foundation on my face.

I’ve been wearing foundation for thirty-five years and am wondering how many of those years I’ve been doing it “wrong”.

Like many southern women of my age, my first exploration in the world of cosmetics was the Avon catalog and tiny white lipsticks the Avon Lady would leave with my mother. I still recall those little white tubes and mourned the day they changed their sampling to little plastic bubbles.


My first introduction on being instructed how to properly wear makeup was a Mary Kay demonstration, given by my 6th grade Sunday School teacher. She decided that as young ladies with maturing bodies, learning about etiquette and ladylike things – including the proper way to wear make-up without looking over done – was part of her Christian Duty. She wouldn’t sell us the Mary Kay, but she did give us a list of three women in our church who sold it.

My mother allowed me to try a little eye shadow, which we ordered from my cousin Susan, and a fresh package of Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers (in Dr. Pepper!) instead of the foundation I believed I needed. She promised she’d take me when I was a little older. That next summer, my mother hustled me to the local Merle Norman, where, after much deliberation, I was rewarded with the proper pancake foundation and translucent powder.

Oh, wearing cosmetics made me feel all grown up, like I had finally been inducted into the secret world of women.


Over the years, I experimented with different brands of make-up, but I never felt like I was all together without some sort of heavy foundation finished with powder. Always applied with a sponge and a little powder puff.

I would go to those cosmetic stores with one of my daughters or walk through the make-up department at a department store and cringe at the thought of spending $50 on any kind of cosmetic, except my favorite perfume.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more comfortable in all the stages of myself. I’m confident enough to run to the grocery store without my “full face” on (something my Mother never did) and my daily routine, even for dressy occasions, means getting out of the bathroom in under half an hour. Well, unless I need to deal with my hair.

Being comfortable without make-up has also translated into being comfortable with bolder make-up, too. Heavy, smoky eyes and a bold lipstick!

While killing some time waiting for a lunch date in DC this summer, I wandered into a Sephora and fell in love with a urban-decay-vice-lipstick-rock-steadylipstick, and God help me, it was from that Urban Decay brand. It was the perfect red, and though I didn’t buy it that day , that perfect blue red kept coming to mind time and again.

I made the decision that indulging in a $17 lipstick wasn’t crazy. I’m a grown up woman and besides, is there an Avon Lady around anymore?

So, here I was in the middle of Sephora and I was smack dab in the middle of my own midlife crisis: not only did I need the RED LIPS; I needed to find something to cover those spots on my face that may look like freckles, but were big enough to be called – gasp – AGE SPOTS.

I gave myself over to the sweet and beautiful blonde young woman and let her make me over.

She not only made me over, she educated me on better ways to apply make-up. And let me tell you, cosmetics have come a long way since the late 70’s!

Rather than swipe a heavy foundation over my face with a sponge, she reduced my skin back to its alabaster color with that “stipple” action, liquid foundation, and a brush. Translucent powder made its way into the routine, but instead of a little velour powder puff, she produced yet another brush.

The she introduced me to the big guns: the world of “Bobbi Brown” and something called a bronzer.

I left with a little bag of (expensive) goodies. And no, I didn’t forget the red lipstick, that beautiful perfect red: Rock Steady.

I’m thrust back in time to other make-up memories.

My first dance recital, and in addition to ballet pink tights, I am wearing lipstick from Avon and a swipe of blush, Clinique Extra Clover, my dance mate Becky’s.

I’m on the Drill Team and am applying the prescribed combination of cosmetics: blue eye shadow and a Maybelline red lipstick, combined with L’eggs Suntan Pantyhose.

I’m in the high school musical, L’il Abner, applying Ben Nye cosmetics and using a “stipple” action to age a fellow classmate.

I’m in college and applying my beloved Ben Nye foundation with lots of pink rouge as I prepare to play a maiden in the Pirates of Penance.

And you may be wondering what THIS has to do with living a creative life. And you may be wondering how I connect my theme of “keeping house” with this exploration into the modern world of cosmetics. And, honey, let me tell you, that just as I need to tend my home so that it is a sanctuary, aren’t I also supposed to tend myself?

We must be willing to invest in ourselves, be it time or money, in order to tend ourselves and our creative lives.


As creative beings, we must also be willing to evolve.

How can we continue to evolve our art, if we, as humans, aren’t willing to shift and evolve the pieces of every day living?

And evolve, I have.

I’ve used my new foundation since July, and each day I still hear the reminder to “stipple” and “layer” over swiping. And, though I confess it took extra time in the beginning, I can still be done with my make-up routine lickety-split.

Each morning as I prepare to face the world, or just feel pretty for myself over an average Tuesday dinner with John, the use of all the brushes and cosmetics reminds me that I am a creative being. Though my words are my art in most cases and I can’t draw my way out of a paper bag, I can play with brushes and colors and create the visage I present to the world.

Enhancing the vision of myself, looking back in the mirror at me. It’s a part of the way I tend myself and nourish my creative life: the permission to expand how I see and use cosmetics.

Yet it goes beyond the foundation, bronzer, and lipstick. It’s also about the approach to living: to be willing to not just evolve, but take a risk. To do my make-up differently invites me to try to new spices in the kitchen and experiment with a different kind of writing.

To create new things – to evolve creatively – means we must think differently in order to create differently. Changing things up in cosmetics gives me permission to play with words in different ways.

Ways which are unfamiliar now, yet with practice will emerge from me. Lickety-split.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Clearing Brain Clutter: Discovering Your Heart’s Desire. 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.

Where Wisdom Lies by Kolleen Harrison

Someone once told me, “What you once thought was wise, may not be wise at all”.

I was a mother to a precious little two-year-old girl and had another on the way, in a marriage that was destroying me. I was miserable and sad and struggling. I could see the last pieces of what I recognized as “me”, slowly slipping away. I was scared. I felt as if the Earth below me was collapsing along with everything else surrounding me. I felt alone – living half way across the country from any family I had. I felt completely and utterly out of control. I felt totally hopeless and helpless.

I could not see how I was going to get out of the situation I was in. How was I going to raise two little girls on my own without any family or type of support system near by?

How on Earth was I going to be a good mother? How was I going to provide for my children? How was I going to move through the fear that felt like it was paralyzing me? How was I going to be a good model as a woman to my daughters?

So I stayed. I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl and found myself responsible for the lives of two little ones. I was still miserable, still lost, still filled with fear, still feeling helpless, still hopeless, still spiraling out of control.

I went through my days as if on auto pilot. I did what any mother should be doing. I took care of my daughters, loved on them, fed them, bathed them, laughed with them, held them, read to them. I was physically present with them – they could see me, hear me, touch me, and smell me. However, I wasnʼt emotionally present with them. I was letting fear and misery take over. I was starting to surrender to the fact that this is what my life is going to be like. My thoughts were on repeat. I am going to raise these two precious souls in a loveless, abusive marriage. I am going to do what needs to be done for the sake of my children. I am going to sacrifice my happiness in place of theirs, because that is the wise thing to do. Because that is what I am supposed to do. I am not supposed to get divorced. I am not supposed to leave. I am not supposed to raise my children alone without their dad in the same household. I am not supposed to shuffle my kids back and forth from one house to another. I am not supposed to shatter the image of this perfect little family.

The wise thing is to stay. The wise thing is to keep my family together. The wise thing is to sacrifice wherever necessary. Or so I thought.

Until one night about 13 years ago – a night that forever changed the course of my life and what I “thought” was the wise thing to do.

It was a fairly typical day and night in my home. I was taking care of my daughters while their dad was at work. When 5:30 rolled around and he wasnʼt home, I called him.

No answer. I called again. No answer. I paged him. No response. I called again, and again, and again, and again.

I could feel myself becoming angrier and angrier.

I started to ask myself, How many times are you going to tolerate this? How many times are you going to let him do this to you and the girls? Then the tears came. Then the fear set in. Then the panic. Then the desperate prayers and pleading for answers, for help.


As he opened the door and walked in, I began to yell. “Where have you been?”  “Why did you lie to me?” “Why were you driving?” They were questions I had asked countless times before. As I yelled, and he yelled, I caught a glimpse of my sweet three-year-old daughter standing in the kitchen doorway. I watched as her eyes grew bigger and bigger, her head turning to look at him, then turning to look at me, and then back again to him.


Until suddenly, everything stopped. It was as if time stood still as I locked eyes with her, and heard these words spoken through them, Is this what you want your daughters to think love is? Is this what you want your daughters to think marriage is? Is this what you want your daughters to think respect looks like between two people?”  “Is this the way you want to raise your children, in a household filled with unrest, uncertainty, verbal and emotional abuse?” “Is this the type of marriage you want to see your daughters enter into?” “Is this what you want to model to them as a woman, a mother?


And just like that, I realized the biggest disservice I could ever do as a mother to my daughters, and clearly the most unwise thing I could do, was stay.


That night I learned an incredibly valuable lesson and gained wisdom that will stay with me for all my days to come. That night I learned sometimes what we once thought was the wise thing, is not the wise thing at all. That night I learned to never discount where, or within whom wisdom may lie. That night I was blessed with invaluable wisdom speaking to me through the eyes of my three-year-old daughter.

About the Author: Kolleen Harrison

kolleenHarrisonbioKolleen Harrison is a creative living in the beautiful Central Coast of California. She is the Founder of LOVEwild and Founder/Maker of Mahabba Beads. Her passions lie in nurturing her relationship with God, loving on her happily dysfunctional family, flinging paint in her studio, dancing barefoot, making jewelry (that is so much more than “just jewelry”), and spreading love and kindness wherever and whenever she can. You can find her popping in and out at or

After the Fall by Pat West


I’m not sure which saint covers luck,
but I must have pissed her off big
at some point in my seventy years.
No amount of physical therapy, massage, yoga
or acupuncture helps my hip
and my doctor only offers pain meds.

My ex-hippie friend nags me until I agree to try her shaman.
I take two buses and the streetcar
to get to his office.  First thing after hello I blurt,
How’s this supposed to work?
His ebony eyes glisten, I’m able to see things in people—
physical and spiritual things—and fix them.
This gift comes from my father and his father.

I settle on the sofa, gaze at a bowl on the table
filled with polished rocks, rattles and feathers.
He sits cross-legged on a cushion, silvery voice blends
with the drumming that plays in the background.
Scent of sage rises as he smudges the room.

He places his hands on his knees palms up,
tilts his head back, instructs me to do the same.
Fear’s serpent slithers through my midsection
but quiets when I toss my head back
and surrender to the workings
of this small mocha-skinned man.
Your right hip, he says, two years ago
you fell and still the pain runs deep.
He begins to chant and throat sing,
slow and steady.

After several minutes, thousands of pinpricks
cover my skin, ice cold then blistering hot.
My body trembles and I swear there’s a chicken bone
stuck in my throat.  I can’t swallow or cough it up.
What the hell?  I manage to choke.

The shaman places a smooth flat stone in my open hand
and folds my fingers.  Hold this, he murmurs,
let it absorb the toxins from your body.  Close your eyes,
stay still.  My hand trembles, I bite my lip and tighten my fingers
around the cool rock.  The strange sensations fade.  A shiver shakes me
as I stand and take the first pain-free step.

About the Author: Pat West


Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, Washington.  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.

Packing Lighter by Jeanie Croope

Japan. February 1999. One of my first memories of the trip Rick and I took to Japan was that of maneuvering my overpacked suitcase on the train, up the steps, down the sidewalks, everywhere. And it became harder as I went along, filling any extra air pockets in that bag with souvenirs from the trip and gifts from our Japanese friends.

Rick was not impressed. That suitcase slowed me down big time. It was horribly clunky and heavy — definitely not an easy thing to haul up steps.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t all that impressed, either. While I had no real way of knowing what to pack for two weeks away in a country half around the globe — in the winter, when wearing warm (and bulkier) clothing was more essential — I discovered early on that I had brought far too much and I was paying for it every time we hit a train platform!

That was our first big trip together, taken four years after we started being a couple. Both of us brought more than our share of baggage to the relationship.

For Rick it was negotiating a new life after a marriage he hadn’t wanted to end, seeing his kids only part time, as so many divorced dads did in that time. The 50/50 shared custody was much less common in those days.

For me, it was a history of relationships that were far from perfect and had left some battle scars on the heart along with the deaths of both parents and some dear friends. We were both far from perfect people, survivors of our pasts — but shaky.

You could have told either one of us “that was then, this is now.” We would agree — but it wouldn’t change a thing.

We all evolve in our relationships and if all systems are go, we evolve in a way that makes being together all the better, the reward for the days that didn’t go so well in the past. When we allow ourselves to move forward, to step a bit out of our comfort zones, to be a little less afraid, we open ourselves up to wonderful things. We modify our expectations, we learn from mistakes in the past and celebrate the differences.

It took me a long time to learn to pack lighter for travel. Even on my first trip to France in 2009, I was loaded down. And that was arriving. Just imagine after shopping for two weeks!

It took awhile for both of us to release our personal baggage.But after twenty years together, Rick and I have learned to adjust to most of one another’s quirks and preferences.

We both value our personal space, living two blocks apart but connecting every day. Our living styles are different and there was no reason to force them to combine. This, alone, makes us happy — and the envy of many of our friends!

We’ve learned to respect each other’s interests. I’ll never want to ride my bike across Canada to Vermont as Rick did this summer. And he will never understand all my crafty bits. But we accept them and revel in the things we love and share.

As we began to let go of the things that tied down our hearts, things that were part of the past, we could be free to have a relationship that is enviable, one I had never thought I could have.

I’ve always held onto things, both the tangible and intangible. The warm memories of my childhood and family. Friendships from long ago. I collect. One look at my mostly out-of-control house and you might guess that I have separation anxiety. Marie Kondo’s “tidying” book all but gave me hives. When it comes to art supplies, china and books I border on hoarder status. A trip to the lake doesn’t involve just me, a cat carrier with Lizzie, a small cooler with the weekend’s food, a pair of shorts or jeans, a couple of tops and clean underwear. There are contingency plans — extra books and art supplies, clothing for all weather, a computer.

But in recent years, I’ve been wising up a little bit.

I’ve started to declutter the house (well, I’m starting in the basement so no one can tell but me — but I know!). I’m trying to part with things I no longer use or care about and make newer purchases more carefully. When I went north this summer I decided to focus only on drawing and painting and took only the supplies I would need for that, leaving behind the piles of mixed media bits, yarn and other supplies that I had brought along in previous years, just in case.

There was an added benefit to this — by focusing on one medium instead of doing bits and pieces with several, I actually improved in my art work! It was a bonus.

Rick was right to be frustrated by my overpacking in Japan. And, while he still thinks I bring way too much when we travel, I’ve managed the last few (including three weeks in France in 2012) with a small suitcase that can fit in the carry on rack. And while he’s not sure why I need to pack my pillow, he appreciates that I sleep better that way — which works out nicely for him, too.

I believe with all my heart that we are built as much from memories of the past as we are with all the wonderful things we absorb every day. Those memories can be good or bad and sometimes they are, oddly enough, both. Just as I will always love and mourn my Marmelade Gypsy Rose, the sweet cat for whom my blog was named and who died four years ago, I wrap my heart around his successor, Lizzie Cosette, who is so unlike Gypsy it rattled me for several months. But she is her own Lizzie, not Gypsy 2. I believe Rick will always love his ex-wife a little bit and has come to look at part of the past with a smile, remembering the good times and grateful for the two boys they share, the two young men in whose lives we now all share.

We are packing lighter now. One day, perhaps I can travel with a backpack instead of a carry-on. But for now, I’ll stick with my small suitcase — and pillow. And a heart ready to be filled with all the exciting new experiences that await.

Postscript: Not long after that trip I wrote this poem for Rick in a poetry yearbook I create for him each Valentine’s Day. I’m no Mary Oliver when it comes to poetry — it’s a pretty simple style. But the words say it all.

Packing Light?

Everything I’d ever need

Went with me to Japan.

The bubble wrap,

Books to read.

Umbrella, gifts

And food to eat.

Clothes for warmth

And clothes for dress,

A pillow small and blue.

All was in my suitcase,

All, that is, but you.

And so I lugged it

By my side,

While ribbing I did take.

I’d do it all again, I bet

Although my back did break.

I’d really try to pack it light

So I could make you proud,

And not to have to hear you gripe

Alone or in a crowd!

I’m learning how to pack my bags

Much lighter than before.

I’m leaving fear and history

And anger at the door.

I’m trying hard to keep

My insecurities at bay,

And only pack the good things

I’ll need on any day.

Like courage, humor, spirit.

Faith and peace and joy.

Trust and laughter,


Are what I could employ.

I’m packing lighter than I did

The other times before.

Now if only I can do so

When I hit the road on tour!


About the Author: Jeanie Croope

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

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.

A New Adventure Begins by Jeanette McGurk


Summer has slipped away and I have had time to marinate on our 2500 mile adventure.  Before we left, I read a beautiful article centered on how much a family learns about one another on a road trip.  It advised parents not to tell their children what to look at out the window and allow the kids to discover their own joys on the other side of the glass.  They will eavesdrop on their parents conversations and learn how the most influential adults in their lives behave when they are almost alone, their guard down after miles of travel.

I thought the article very wise and I fully intended to follow the directions with a bit of tweaking. I intended to be a better version of myself while young impressionable ears were listening.

All of this flew out the window at around mile 5.

In my defense, I have lived my entire life in Texas; big, but not scenic.  I tell people all the time that Texans make the best travelers because we are basically in awe of everything: hills, trees, water, green grass versus brown.  So, the minute we pull onto Pacific Coast Highway the temptation was too much. John and I both were.

“Girls!  Look!!!  Look!!!  That is the Pacific Ocean.

WE are on one of the most famous roads in the world.

When the travel channel does the specials on the coolest, most scenic, most fun to drive drives, this road is on the list!

WE are on a destination road.

People from all over the planet come to California just to experience what we are experiencing!

Hey, what are you looking at?  Your iPads?!?!  Seriously, quit looking at your iPad!

Okay, just hand over the iPads and enjoy the damn scenery.”

So much for the better version of myself.

So much for letting them experience the trip their own way.


Our first night, we checked into a hotel outside Santa Barbara early enough to relax and head over to a local place called the Cliffs to view the sunset.  It was beautiful. Except the kids wanted to run around after hours of being in the car forced to look at scenery.

This is not a big deal at home as you can run around a Texas beach for hours without fear anything more than black tar will cover your legs.  The beaches are flat brown horrid things that we like to hide with drunken college students.

The beaches in California are way more attractive, but they are also more treacherous.

The kids could see the water, from the side of the cliff and didn’t seem to get the concept that things would go badly if they stopped paying attention and went over the side.  Before the sun had completely set, John said “We are leaving.  This is not relaxing.  Get away from the edge and stop trying to coat yourselves in sand.” 

The next day we all woke having transitioned into vacation mind set.

I am convinced it takes 24 hours to stop worrying about day to day life and start enjoying vacation.  There is a level of anxiety you don’t even know is there until it evaporates.

We piled into the van, ready for a 1500 mile road trip.  Our first stop:  McDonald’s of course.  Is there a more American way to start the Great American road trip?   This was a top notch 5 star McDonald’s.  There was a ping-pong table on the outside patio.   This patio was nicer than ¾ of the patios I have encountered in Dallas.

For me, the Kodak moment came while waiting long excruciating minutes for the girls to go to the bathroom.  I was standing in the middle of Mickey D’s scouring the plaques on the wall when I discovered I was standing on ground zero for the very first Egg McMuffin.  Thank God for camera phones.  I now have an image of the blue egg plaque sitting on my phone that I can whip out when talking exotic destinations.

“You have been to the Eiffel Tower?  That is great!  But have you been to THE McDonalds to first introduce the Egg McMuffin?  I thought not.” 

As you can see, the girls and I can become easily distracted.

What with peeing, Helen wanting pictures in front of the McDonald’s ping pong table, me fantasizing over interesting McMuffin conversations, it is enough to drive my poor husband insane.  If I had a dollar for every time he said “WTF took you so long!!???” well we could retire and go on more trips.

So with John’s first WTF of the trip, we said good bye to Santa Barbara and went off in search of some forest and beach.

One of the benefits of a road trip, is setting your own itinerary.  I must admit that ours was pretty aggressive: we had 8 days to get back to Texas.

The sensible thing to do would have been interstate 40 straight across desert country all the way home.  Yeah, we didn’t do that.

Maybe if we were a family of scorpions that would have been the plan, but we have watched too many Nature Valley Granola commercials, we wanted lush vistas.  So north we went.  Up PCH to Pismo Beach where we lucked into a wonderfully empty beach with a parking spot, basically right by the bench that shows up on google maps.

Enthusiastically we raced down the wooden stairs, past the surfers, past the kayak class, we were all so excited I failed to notice Lauren in her iconic, I have to pee stance. (Surely someone else has seen a statue of this stance: butt out, legs crossed, and little hand going for the privates….)

Time to divide and conquer! Helen and John to the left, Lauren and I to the right.  Fortunately a helpful surfer seagulssinformed us that beach peeing was perfectly acceptable, we just needed to find a semi private spot, which we did, beside a pooping seagull.

I guess when you are eight there is no greater find than a “bathroom” that is apparently okay for girls, boys, and birds.

Being a fairly typical eight-year-old, Lauren is that she is always too busy to inform us she has to pee.  On the up side, since we have so little notice, she has adapted to being able to go anywhere and she is done in like, 15 seconds flat. Seriously, she was faster than the seagull.

We start back down the beach towards Helen and John.  I notice through the camera lenses that Helen is running pretty far out into the ocean.   At the moment the water is a little past her knees, but then…CRASH!  The wave almost covers her.  She comes running out of the water like a sea monster is after her.

There is nothing like the shock of the Pacific Ocean.  It beckons with its beauty  and lulls you into a false sense that it is not going to be THAT cold.  Then it whacks you full force.

It leaves me breathless.  My feet even cramp.  Helen was experiencing that moment on the other end of the beach.  Apparently, being a beach novice, she had left her crocs too close to the water’s edge and a wave stole one.  She was soaked to the bone but had successfully reclaimed her shoe.

oceanwavesShe looked utterly stunned.  “I had no idea I was that far in the deep end.”

We rushed back to the van, where Helen stripped and traveled the rest of the way to Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space clad in her robe.  It is one of my favorite images from the trip.  (Preceded by John totally loosing it over having the van less than 24 hours and it forever tainted by sand.) I was trying to think why on earth we had only taken one beach vacation.  And that would be it: my husband’s extreme hatred of sand.

Perfect time to head for big trees.

I had looked into Muir woods but everything I read advised against it on a holiday weekend.  I scoured the area for other giant groves of redwoods.  I found Purisima Creek.  It looked perfect.  It was right on our path, we could go from there to Half Moon Bay and on to San Francisco, all in one day.  Done.

The only thing I had failed to realize was that we would be on a teeny tiny road, on the side of a mountain, with a giant drop off, for over an hour. That one hour took three years off of my life.   I was sore for days from leaning to the left.  Willing us not to go over the side of the mountain.

John may believe it was his driving but I am sure my leaning was just as critical to surviving such a horrible skinny steep road.

We reached the forest, Helen got dressed and off we went for a hike.  Really, there is nothing like hiking in a forest.  These were not spectacularly big redwoods but it didn’t matter.   The air smelled rich and woody.  It was pleasant without being cold or hot.


Best of all, there was a bathroom so no crouching behind the redwoods.  We had a hike that was just long enough to work out the road kinks but not so long to tire us out.  We climbed back into the van, happy, refreshed, and ready to go.  And we did go.

Directly backward and smack dab into a car parked behind us.

There is nothing that will make a man go green like wrecking a car he has recently purchased.  Especially when it happens the day after writing a very large check for said car.  Everyone was fine, in fact, I hit things in my car so often that the kids hardly flinched.

I think they even commented as much.

The good news, it was just a scrape.  We left a note for our victim, since they were off enjoying a nice hike, unaware someone had just smooshed their tail-light to smithereens.

Huge kudos to my green husband for dusting himself off and getting back behind the wheel, it is one of the great things about John, he deals with things head on and keeps going.

So, we continued on our journey, which to our amazement, seemed to become more and more beautiful the further north we went. Finally we reached San Francisco.  It was only our second night but somehow it felt like more.  Not more in a bad way.

It was two days made larger by seeing and feeling all the details.


Daily life sometimes misses that.  Vacation doesn’t.  It can reopen your eyes to all the millions of tiny moments.

You go to the ocean thinking you will remember it like a picture in a magazine but it is so much more.  It is the smell, the vastness, the laughter of family, the taste of salt.  I crawled into the slightly lumpy bed that night, snuggled up beside John and felt completely happy.

Content with the treasure already discovered, and all we would find on the rest of our journey.

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.

What Matters by Lisa Zaran


It would be foolish of me to assume that a woman incarcerated
has done no wrong, yet here she sits in her stripes
that swim around her forlorn frame like organza,
pleasant as the cashier at my favorite neighborhood deli.

It would seem dangerous of me to approach this situation
with blind faith based on the notion that justice may
or may not have been served, whatever the case may be,
she is in jail.

There must be a preponderance of evidence somewhere.

It would be careless of me to place all my eggs in one basket
in regards to her impunity. I see by her shattered appearance,
social injustice or heresy, she is in custody. Forced to make
retribution, whether amendable or not. Not my place to say.

This is what I tell her: if life has taught me anything worth
listening to it is hope. I know what it feels like to lose it
and I know what it feels like to see a glimmer resurface,
like a buoy to heart in the body’s cold ocean.

About the Author: Lisa Zaran

LisaZaranBioLisa Zaran is the author of eight collections of poetry including Dear Bob Dylan, If It We, The Blondes Lay Content and the sometimes girl. She is the founder and editor of Contemporary American Voices. When not writing, Zaran spends her days in Maricopa county jails assisting women with remembering their lost selves.