Past Home by Selena Taylor

oliver-paaske-760582-unsplashWalking as if he was always there was usually an easy task but when Death was placed in the middle of a corn field it was not as easy. His robes were snagging and pulling on every corn stalk. Sighing, Death tried to keep his pace. Reaching out trying to push the stalks out of his way was not helpful either. It resulted in a stalk crashing him in the face pushing his hood down exposing most of his white skull.


Small but brilliant flames replaced his eyes and a scythe appeared in his hand. With a mighty swing the whole corn field was set on fire. The fire did not touch Death. He welcomed the heat as it was doing him a big favor. As fast as the flames came, they were gone.  Small plumes of smoke came from the ground but nevertheless it was so much easier to walk on. Death’s clipboard warmed in his other skeleton hand. He read the message.

What? I thought you would like the dramatic entrance.

Death rolled his eyes. Something was different about this collection.

Yes, this is different.

He looked away from his clipboard and continued to the farm house in the distance. The walk was easy, and nothing got in his way, only the nagging thought that something was different yet familiar. The porch was not empty, but two rocking chairs and one was occupied. Death glided up the stairs and stood by the figure in the rocking chair.

She just kept smiling. Death checked behind himself to make sure it was him she was smiling at. Having his scythe disappear back to wherever they come from, he pointed to himself.

“Yes you.”

“Why are you so eager to see me?”

“I am not eager. I am merely happy.”

Death looked at his clipboard. It glowed with her information. He read it quickly and let his eyes cast back over to her. Just as he was about to speak, he thought he got a whiff of something. The smell only a Midwestern farm can give. He sighed but continued to speak to the woman.

“You have lived a long life. Some tragedy with your children already being gone. Overall kind and good. No big issues. The seventies were a little fun for you, I saw.” A soft chuckle came from the woman. “So why are you happy to see me?”

“Sit and rock with me, please?”

Death just looked at the old woman.

“Oh, come on. One sit?”

He was not upset about her request; most people made strange requests of him. No, what upset him was the land. It was the smells, it was the house, it was the rocking chairs.

“Why is this time different?” Death turned around and looked out to the land and the setting sun. “This is so familiar.  Yet much has changed.”

“Yes, there have been many changes.”

“The house was never this big.”

“No, it was a two-room cabin. But the porch was here. Some might think it is small today, but it is beautiful. Look at the trim work around the railings. Those are small metals pieces placed in the wood to make the flowers. It took the maker several years, but it was his goal. It has lasted all this time.” The old lady picked up her cane and rubbed a metal piece with the tip of it.

Death looked at her eyes and saw tears go down her cheeks. His emotions got the best of him and he took his skeleton hand, grabbed a piece of the metal, and gave it to her. As the piece left his hand his heart gave a strong beat and he saw something. A memory?

 The old woman asked again about the rocking chair. This time he nodded his head and sat down. This time he became flooded with memories.

“The rocking chairs belonged to him too. They belonged to you.” She reached over and grabbed his hand. A small tear left his eye. It was not how he thought things would go. How could he?

Death searched her eyes, and then turned inward, seeking knowledge on how his line had treated people and how his line was treated by others. Then he saw himself coming from Europe to the United States struggling to make a way in New York. No one dare hire a nasty foreigner. He found a love that helped him gather money and they left for the farming land in the west. They had found this land with a few trees, and they were able to call it home.

Taking some of trees he’d built this cabin. He’d created the porch and carved the lovely set of rocking chairs. The love of his life raised their two children in the tiny home, but it was the nasty Civil War that had stolen his life from him, and he from his family.

His family took the land and made it grow with help of the free people. With all their help his family grew and made a name.

Now it was just her. Him and her again. Together.

“So much has changed.”

“I think it is time for us to go on.”

“You are taking over my job?” Death looked confused.

“It looks to be that way.” His black clothing began to disappear, only to reform on his relative.

She just continued to smile.

“Every way is different I suppose.” Death was becoming himself again. A simple man who wanted to make his wife happy. He saw the country in turmoil. The country that had given a home was hurting. He’d wanted to see all people free an end to slavery. His wife had wanted the same.

“What is to become of this country?”

“I do not know.”

Slowly, a grand mansion formed, replacing the simple cabin. The One formerly known as Death rose from the rocking chair feeling gladness in his heart for the first time in… it didn’t matter how long. A warm, bright light beamed from behind the door, and he moved to face it, and the newly-appointed Death.

“I’m grateful it’s you,” he said. “Thank you.”

Death just nodded her head. A clipboard appeared in her hand and glowed, causing her to look down and chuckle. Flipping it around, she showed him the words.

You are welcome TOO!

He addressed the clipboard. “Good bye to you too, and thank you.” The object merely continued to glow its appreciation.

Death and Death-no-More walked to the door hand-in-hand, but they let go when he reached for the door to open it. The bright light was beautiful. It was overwhelming. It was something no one could truly comprehend without experiencing it, and could never explain… and yet, it was undeniably present.

He turned to the no-longer-old woman – the new Death. “If you need me…” He let the sentence trail off and become and offer rather than a question.

“Yes. Or if you need me.”

The One who Had Been Death walked through the door and into the light. Alone.

About the author, Selena Taylor

Selena TaylorSelena Taylor is a wife, a mother, and a woman who strives to tell the many stories that occupy her mind. She is active in the Rhett & Link fandom and appreciates dark humor.  She and her family live in Illinois, where she takes every opportunity to lose herself under the stars and let her imagination run wild. For more from Selena, check her out on Facebook.

The Invisible Traveling Companion by Jeanie Croope

It was early September, 1973. I had just graduated from college and several weeks later would begin graduate school.

For more years than I can remember leading up to that, I had been in love with England. I loved Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Agatha Christie in equal measure. I had a small library about the royal family and yes, a crush on Prince Charles. (Dodged that bullet.) I was studying theatre and longed to see the wonderful theatres in London, to ride the underground and scoot through city streets on the “wrong side of the road” in a black British taxi.

And so, on that early September morning, my mother and I went to London for what would be two weeks of theatre, history and fun.

I was finally a grown-up (though I’d always be her little girl!) and we could talk about things in a grown-up way. I was so comfortable with England that I could truly be the “adult” and guide her around as though I’d been born there.

I chalked up her exhaustion to the differences between a 54-year-old woman and one who had just turned 21, not knowing there were underlying causes.

My mother died several years after that trip, but it wasn’t long after we returned home when she learned she had cancer. Our trips after that were limited to the lake, to relatives within driving distance and to Mayo Clinic. So, in my heart, those two weeks, one-on-one with my mom, were two of the most important weeks in my life.

Last month, I returned to England. This time I was with my life partner, the forever guy that my mother never knew. It was his first real trip there, though one might count a 24-hour layover we enjoyed a few years before. That trip I had a temperature of 102 and it rained. (It’s England. It rains.) Did I let it stop me? Not on a bet.

I didn’t let this trip stop me, either, even though I was walking around on ruptured tendons (which I learned after I returned home). I was traveling for myself and to be with Rick, certainly. But I was also traveling for my mom.

She was a constant presence in my heart as I revisited Kensington Palace. There was so much I didn’t remember from before, but I do remember that we were enchanted with the beauty and the history. This time there was an exhibit of Diana’s dresses. Mom would have loved that.

She was in my heart when Rick and I met our friends from the other London (Ontario) to see Stephen Sondheim’s new version of “Company.” Oh, Mom would have been in her glory! She loved a good musical and this one was top notch. And she would have been so happy to know that I was in London with Suzanne — one of my oldest friends and one of a very few who actually knew my mom and remembered her.

She was in my heart when the city bus we were on stopped outside of Westminster Abbey and let us all out because a demonstration up ahead had blocked the route. (We looked and never did find the demonstration.) But I remember going to Westminster with her on a Sunday morning and being in awe of this magnificent structure.

She was in my heart when I rode the escalators from one level to another in the underground, remembering how nervous we were the first time we got on one and realized how steep they really were.

She was in my heart when Rick and I went to Harrod’s and looked at the magnificent food hall. And again when we were in Fortnum and Mason where she and I shared a delectable lunch with one of her old friends.

She was in my heart when I would see brass rubbings hanging in galleries, shops and churches as I remembered our going to a small country church and making our own.

She was in my heart as I visited the church where my great grandmother, whom I never met, was christened and where her parents, my second great-grandparents,  married.

Mom never even knew their names — that was one of my genealogy discoveries. She would have been thrilled to be at my side while Rick and I tracked down information on them in the Westminster archives.

She was in my heart at the National Gallery when we saw Leonardo’s “cartoon” of The Madonna and Saint Anne,” which we had seen together so many years before. I still think it’s my favorite of all his works.

And she was in my heart when Rick and I did things I hadn’t done with my mom, too, as we made our own memories and had experiences she would have loved.

With Rick I carved out new places for my memory bank as we explored the British Library and the Churchill War Rooms; sat under a very old oak tree and ate the sandwich we bought at a deli on the way to Hyde Park; heard magnificent music and spent time with new friends, enjoying the hospitality of a blogger as warm and wonderful in person as on screen. I will remember Rick’s patience and goodness as he pushed me on a wheelchair through museums when I could no longer walk.


We visited cities that Mom and I didn’t have time to see and we made in those places our own memories of things we’d love to see again — Blackwell’s bookstore in Oxford; Evensong at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor; the countryside near Bath where we stayed in a charming cottage and enjoyed tea after a morning walk in a pub while we waited out the rain.

But even then, I knew. Mom would have loved it. Because in a way, she was there. An invisible companion, lodged forever in my heart, watching me create new memories for another day.

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.

Breathing by Melissa A. Bartell


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

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

Or maybe it’s more basic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Levar Burton & Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam by Melissa A Bartell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second, my question led to a return question.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

And breathing is one of the fundamental necessities of life.

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

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




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


 About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

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






After the Game by Patricia Wellingham-Jones


My best friend Peri
was a little twerp,
I was a young giant.
We both played on the Woodbury

High School basketball team,
she through fervor
and sheer determination,
me solely because of my height.

In the girls bathroom
after our game of the season
with arch-rival Haddonfield
the over-heated, over-excited

losing team – ours –
leaned and towered over Peri.
Like chickens pecking
at a perceived weak one

they criticized, shouted,
blamed her for our loss. Defiant,
tears running down her cheeks,
Peri denied and pointed fingers.

A person of peace,
I couldn’t abide the row,
the unfair charges,
bruised nerve ends, raised hackles.

Astonishing all in the room,
including myself, I flung
my big frame on top
of a washbasin.

I out-yelled the yellers,
waved long arms in the air,
told them they should be ashamed,
pipe down, SHUT UP.

They did. They fumbled for shoes
and towels, left without looking at me.
Peri stood, stunned to silence.
I wondered how to get down.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

Within by Trenton Ladler


As I gaze in the mirror I wish only to flee

from the somber melancholy that swells about me.

Dark, each thought that surrounds

of lost potential, lost hopes and dreams that now confound.

On each awakening , I want to scream

and conceal my heart in indolent Morpheus’s nocturnal streams.

I try my best to mend that tattered seam.

I hold tight the golden ticket I wish to redeem.

I reach out from the haze hoping for that elusive guarantee.

To have finally found that long forgotten refugee.

To finally cast off the shackles of the ground,

Spreading wings becoming unbound.

All this will finally be when I can answer,

“Are You Happy?”

About the author, Trenton Ladler

Trenton LadlerTrenton Lamar Ladler is a 29 year old Navy veteran. Currently he is attending school to get his Bachelor’s in Education with a minor in Sociology/Psychology. He is an avid gamer and dreams of one day getting his poems and roleplaying adventures published to share them with the world. Follow Trenton on Twitter.


Sunday Sanctuary: What I Need to Be More Creative (And You May, Too)

I can’t believe this is my final Sunday Sanctuary for Modern Creative Life.  It seems like only mere moments ago, I was writing my first column sharing my love for Housekeeping and Creative Living. And where those worlds of mine collide. And, in truth, how life sometimes pulls me away from writing and having the tidy home I need to be at my best.

The timing of this column is apropos.

I have been home for a little over twenty-four hours after seventeen days of travel. The suitcases have been unpacked and though I’ve gone to the dry cleaners and have done five loads of laundry, the basket in my laundry room is overflowing. There are at least three more loads of laundry to do in order to be “caught up”.

There’s a thick layer of dust across the buffet that stands in our entry hall. Something I didn’t notice when I got home on a gloomy afternoon. But can’t help but see as the morning light shines in through the glass on the front door. I was carrying a tray laden with coffee and cream and the other accoutrements of spending a Sunday morning in our downstairs den, so I didn’t stop to remedy the situation.

But oh, did I want to! To immediately deal with the untidy situation. Despite the fact that the cleaning lady will be here in a couple of days. Despite the fact that I know cleaning one piece of furniture will lead to tackling every other piece of furniture in that house.

Though the immediate reason I didn’t stop to dust was the tray in my hands, the reason I didn’t immediately rush back upstairs is that I’m trying to create some new habits when it comes to my creative life.

When we made the decision to put Modern Creative Life in stasis, one of the core parts of that decision was the need (and desire) to tend our own creative demands. Less editing should equal more writing time for my coaching practice. Less editing should equal more story creation for Melissa. Less editing should equal more creative living for Becca.

But to be honest, I am not yet writing more for my coaching practice.

Yes, not editing here will open up a block of time for me. However, what is keeping me from writing more is my own bad habits.

Travel is a great way to get honest with yourself when it comes to life. When we are in different surroundings, we automatically shift away from the ways we live at home. Though I desperately need my routines, I have to admit that those routines are often chock-full of actions that keep me from producing good work.

The last six days of our travel were spent in Honolulu.

Each morning, I made a pot of coffee in the room. And when John headed to work, me and my first cup of coffee walked two blocks to the beach. As I sipped, I watched the sun rise. We were on the west side of the island, which meant that as the light began to bathe the earth, I was treated to varying degrees of pinks and greys and golden rays.

I took lots of photos to the north (hotels and surfers) and to the south (Diamond Head and beach walkers). I walked along the beach and watched the tide rush over my feet, leaving behind tiny shells and heart shaped pebbles. I watched people. Some surfing, some admiring the beauty around them, and others simply going about their day getting in a morning run.

Those moments of watching the light, sipping coffee, and taking photographs were far different from what I do on a regular day. However, if I am to be completely honest with you (and myself) though I cannot walk to the beach in Ohio each morning? The heart and soul of those mornings can be duplicated here at home.

Though I didn’t get much solid work writing done during our travels, I did write in my journal. Here’s some of my observations about what is really in the way of me producing more work.

I need to read less news.

I want to be an informed citizen of the world. However, my habit of reading the news is keeping me from writing. Not only do I read the headlines, I read multiple articles. I read  the comments folks leave behind. I click around to other news stories in the sidebar. I worry about the craziness of the world. And before I know it, not only have I lost an hour of time, my brain is full. Rather than spinning stories and finding creative solutions to a problem, all my brain power has been spent. And I am worn out.

I need to click around less on social media.

I love knowing what folks are up to. I love seeing morning routines of loved ones. And new babies and glimpses of travels and links to the writings of amazing folks. But all that scrolling and clicking and scrolling and clicking keeps me from writing. Especially when I “check in” first thing in the morning. Once again, I spend precious thinking power and wear myself out.

I need to unfollow more people on social media.

All that scrolling and clicking has the potential to be more uplifting and less exhausting. I know this because when I first began blogging, reading other blogs spurred me on. If I unfollow every person that complains, focuses on the negative, or spreads fear, that means my feeds should be filled with more light and grace and inspiration. I go through spells of this, but I know I need to be more protective of what I take into my brain (and heart).

I need to find better people to follow on social media.

Just like those early days of blogging, I know there are great folks out there doing amazing work. I need to seek them out. To follow them on social media and see their photos. To click on their links and fill my mind and heart with quality input. I also need to follow more great photographers on Instagram whose sole purpose is to fill my feed with beauty. I am in need of more beauty.

St. Augustine by the Sea in HonoluluI need to go to church.

There are times I forget that my soul needs a little formal nourishment. When I was in Honolulu, I went to morning mass at St. Augustine by the Sea a couple of times. It was at the end of the block from my hotel. And easy to slip into after watching the sunrise. There’s something about attending mass in the middle of the week that nourishes me in ways that going to Church on Sundays does not. And it seems to help me find my center. I could use the excuse that church isn’t “convenient” at home like it was in Honolulu. While not a block a away, it’s still within biking distance…

I need to take more walks.

In her book The Artist’s Way, Julie Cameron prescribes a series of activities to spur creativity. In addition to now famous morning pages and artist dates, she recommends regular walks. Not with the purpose of burning calories, but simple to BE. To notice. To feel the wind across your face, to hear the twittering birds, and to see scampering wild life.

I need to read more books. And magazines.

To be a better writer, reading is a must. However, when I have been reading the news, social media, and email, the last thing I want to do is crack open a book. If I begin the day with my phone in rather than a book and my journal, I never produce as much. Fiction never fails to move my brain in different directions.

And dare I mention magazines? So many magazines put all their content on line and I subscribe to few. Yet, the few I do read, always inspire me. My time is well spent flipping through glossy pages because my brain gets beautifully stimulated.

I need to eat better.

Our bodies need fuel. While we were traveling, not only did I have coffee each morning. No, after I watched the sun rise I’d head to the Starbucks on the corner and have their egg white bites. Two tiny little egg and pepper omelettes. At home, though, I start with the best intentions. Yet, often, coffee is it for hours upon hours before I eat real food. Just like my brain needs better inputs, my body needs quality fuel.

I need a tidy home.

Nothing distracts me more than dust. And piles of laundry. And stacks of papers. I’ve cut my cleaning lady back to once a month because we’ve been traveling. And, to be honest, I am distracted when she’s here.  What I used to do was head out for errands or go to Barnes and Noble to write or look at books. Getting her back onto a bi-weekly schedule helps me tend the stuff in between, too. But, again, if I were to be honest, sometimes I use the excuse of needing to clean to delay writing. (Nope, I still haven’t dusted the buffet yet. Yay for me!)

I need to procrastinate less.

This last column is late. Yes, I am still publishing it on the due date, but I should have written it earlier in the week instead of on Sunday morning. I know it’s human to wait until a deadline to finish something.  However, I need to put more thought into my writing by giving things space to breathe. My writing is always better when I draft and then revisit the next day. So, better planning and less dragging my feet is more important than I would like to admit.

I need to protect my precious attention.

The one thing all this has in common? Attention.  Focus. I protect my precious focus and attention like a lioness protecting her cub. But rather than honing that precious attention to writing and other forms or creative living, I allow myself to be distracted. Some of it may feel out of my control – the news! Facebook! the Dust! I’m too busy – but it really isn’t. Is it? I am responsible for this. I am the only one who can tend my creative life and focus and attention. So, if I want to write more, then I need to pay attention to all the ways I allow myself to love focus.

While each of these items seem small and as if they should hold no power over me, I am the first to admit that the smallest of things can be huge when it comes to moving forward. The cure for creating more good work is to create more good work. To tune out what distracts me, keep my head down, and allow the words to flow from an inspired brain, nourished soul, and tended body.

What about you? Do any of these ring true to what keeps you from being creative? What advice would you give me – and others – to protect that precious creative energy?

Post script: I am sad to be leaving you here at Modern Creative Life. I will miss sharing the corners of my creative life with you. And more than that, I will miss being inspired by editing your work. Please do stay in touch.  I am ever grateful for your love, support, and presence in my creative life.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author. 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 MediumTwitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Instrumental: Faith, Hope & Love by Keva Bartnick

I first remember hearing this saying in grade school, and I’m quite sure I heard it during one of the sermons. For any of you who never went to church let me tell you how it goes. It’s taken from first Corinthians 13:13 and says, “and now these three remain Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is Love.” Now I can get behind all that, but I’ve found one that I like better.


No disrespect to Corinthians or any other book mind you, but I’m not the bible-reading type. For full disclosure, I’ve never read the whole thing either. Only what I was forced to read while in school. I actually had to look up where this came from as not to screw up the reference. I like to cross my T’s and dot my I’s if you know what I mean.

The one I found that I like best is, “I choose Faith over Anxiety, Hope over Worry, and Love over Fear,” by Ms. Mary Davis. I feel this more encompasses my beliefs and what I have chosen to work with in my daily life. Also, it doesn’t feel so oppressive as memorizing bible verses did for me as a kid. I always forgot them and then had a hard time hunting them down later. Reminding me for the millionth time what I was supposed to be remembering in the first place. It was exhausting.

This is more my speed and something I can throw up on a vision board or whatnot. Getting what I need out of it whenever I’m not feeling up to snuff. So, I choose Faith over Anxiety.

Anxiety and I used to be besties.

diego-ph-254975-unsplashThick as thieves we were. We’ve since broken up like the Taylor Swift and Kanye West fiasco of whatever year that was. All I know is that at the end of 2015 I had had enough of Anxiety and the bullshit it had been whispering in my ear. Anxiety and it’s devious friend Depression were at an all time high. Stalking me left and right. Telling me that things were going to implode if I didn’t follow the direction they had planned out for my life. If I didn’t listen to everything they were telling me was true, I’d be screwed. That my life, as I’d built it from that moment would cease to exist. In the end I would be found wanting and lonely, dragging my loved ones down with me. “Follow us,” they whispered, “we know the way,” they’d hiss. I remember sitting on the couch thinking, “how can this get any worse?”

At that moment, remembering that I had a ‘Phone a Friend’ card in my back pocket. They sat next to me and hissed even louder as I reached for my phone. Sticking my tongue out at them and glaring back I sent a text to my dear friend Melissa. We chatted over text message back and forth for a bit; she showing me a door I could walk thru. I took it for the escape for which I was looking. Vowing that this was the last time I’d take Anxiety and Depressions shit lying down. I’d lived with these two buggars for far to long without a backbone. In that moment I started taking my life back, and in all honesty I petrified.

Faith over the next couple months was my companion. Walking next to me I’d look back over my shoulder and see Anxiety and Depression glaring back at me. Kicking cans, sticks and rocks out of their way as they walked, sometimes flipping me the bird as they went along. Ticked that I’d chosen another one to walk with over them.

Faith wasn’t an easy companion either. There were times I wanted to go back and walk with Anxiety and Depression. Sometimes I’d slow down a bit so that they could catch up. I didn’t want them to feel left out. I’d grown so accustomed to them over the years, they felt like family. Part of me actually missed them because they were easier to have around, like a sick security blanket. A mentality to fall back on when I didn’t want to do the hard stuff. Feeling that if I slipped back into my old self I’d feel better. Growing a backbone is hard work when you become your own stopgap. Growing thru what I was going thru was the understatement of the year.

Don’t get me wrong, Anxiety and Depression are very real, they are a disease just like any other as far as I’m concerned. Many a time after that they’ve tried to hold my hand. Faith always sees, stepping in to separate us like that chaperone at a dance when they get to close. Letting me know that she’s always there and has my back when the creepers start creeping in.

Faith lifts my chin to look out into the world. Pointing at it all she says, “look for the helpers, look for the good, what you look for you create.” She then signals Hope to come along with us. “Hope,” she tells me, “is like me, and be careful of worry. You always have two options, but Hope is the best.”

Hope floats up, taking my hand. She tells me that she and Faith are just like peas and carrots. She tells me that she doesn’t try to pretend that troubles don’t exist, it’s just in her that troubles won’t last forever. That the things that hurt will heal, and the difficulties will be overcome. Hope shines light into the darkness and let’s you see that it may be scary now, but this too shall pass. With her by my side we walk into the light. Telling me as we go not to be afraid, that it all works out the way it should in the end. She tells me not to worry, for she is always there when I need her.

Worry stands over in the corner shaking her head, cigarette in hand, smoke wafs around the top of her head. She watches Hope and I pass by her. She likes to be worshipped. When she is, it keeps the problem alive and well. She’s all about that. The more we feed Worry the stronger she gets. When we do, believing that God or the Universe won’t get it right, this is her wheelhouse. She loves it there. What she doesn’t want you to see when you look close enough is that those thoughts are notoriously inaccurate.

Much like the shadows and boogeymen that hang in our closet, they hide what is truly there. Partners in crime with Anxiety and Depression she too likes to run the show. She’s always waiting though, patiently, for you to slip back into the corner with her. She likes companionship and won’t take, “it’ll be just fine,” for an answer.

steve-halama-558233-unsplashAs I walk with Faith and Hope, Love appears on the horizon. “We kept the best for last,” they say in unison. I look over at them smiling, almost giggling for Love is amazing! She prances over to where we are giving me the biggest hug I’ve ever received. Holding me at arms length she looks me up and down and nods her head approvingly. “You look GOOD! I knew you’d make it!” I look her in the eye and confess, “I wasn’t so sure there for awhile, but hey, I guess it was a thing.” She laughs at me knowing all too well that it definitely was a thing. We split off from the others as we walk to the top a hill. The grass seems greener here, the air fresher. She wants to show me something, and I fall in beside her.

“See out there, the dark parts?” I look out to where her finger points, squinting. “Yeah, what is that?” She looks at me and says, “That’s the place you came from, the place you escaped from. That’s what you were totally immersed in.” I look over at her with my mouth hanging open like some goofball in disbelief. “I’m glad you figured out finally that Fear is an illusion, it’s a darkness of the most horrid sort. It’s like the Nothing from the Neverending Story. It sucks up all the light and all the goodness in the world and turns it into utter darkness. Yet, when we move to put a light on it, it squeals, backing away as quickly as it came. It doesn’t like the light because in the light it can’t hide. Fear grows from false information, false witness, false beliefs. Yet, people feed it so it grows. They haven’t figured out that Fear really means False Evidence Appearing Real.”

I stand there quiet for a moment, soaking it all in.

“So many people believe that it’s real though, they believe that the fear is real.” Looking back towards the horizon again, “Danger is real, fear is the illusion.” She says, “There are people out there that don’t know there is a difference, but there is. That’s why you are here. You’ll help be that light for some, the ones you are destined to meet. You’ll do what you were always meant to do; shine.” I looked over at her, loving her even more than before, “I love you! Thank you for showing this to me, thank you for sharing, but most of all thank you for being. You are so amazing and I hope that everyone gets the chance to know you someday. You my friend are incredible.” Turning back towards me she takes my hands in hers, “Ditto,” she replies.

Walking back towards Faith and Hope I feel complete and whole with Love by my side. Knowing full well that no matter what happens in life I’ve got this. My favorite companions not far from me, available at a moments notice, whenever I need them. The other darknesses so far removed and untouchable from where I stand now. I feel lighter than I’ve ever felt before. The sky’s the limit and I’m finally living my best life with Faith, Hope & Love.

About the Author: Keva Bartnick

Keva Bartnick is an artist, writer, and lightworker. Happily married mother of three; she’s been inspiring people to be their most courageous selves since 2015.

The Cure by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

chris-lawton-378086-unsplashIn despair at her daughter’s
hunched over, crab-like stance
Mother hauled me out of my seventh
grade class straight to the doctor.

Doc Weems, who delivered me
and my sister and was a family friend,
glared at the gawky giant
before his eyes. His voice
a thunderclap of doom
threatened me with a back brace
if I didn’t stand straight,
keep those shoulders back.

“You don’t want to look like Marcia,
do you?” he roared.

I pictured the girl my height,
shoulders pinched together,
head thrust like a turtle,
her shuffling gait, drooping everything
and drab ugly clothes.

“Yes, you’re tall,” Doc toned down
his voice one notch below the roar.
“And you’re pretty and well-formed,
and you’ll always see at parades.
Now straighten up, young lady,
and be the beautiful woman
you will become.”

So I did. And am, men tell me,
and I really love parades.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

Sunday Brunch: Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?


One of the wonderful things about social media is that a random conversation with a friend can send you down a path of memories, a veritable rabbit hole full of fragmented images and bits of conversations. Recently, someone I know mentioned something about buttons (I’ve lost the link to the original thread) and it triggered a visceral memory of my mother’s button box.


My mother is a self-described “sewist,” and has been for as long as I can remember. For much of my early childhood, my clothes were handmade originals, often, when I was very young, produced from scraps of the outfits she made for herself. As a teen, I was spoiled by her ability to see something I liked in a magazine and reproduce it for me, often in the space of a busy weekend.

Sewing is, to my mother, like writing and music are to me.

I do not share her affinity for fiber arts. I resented every moment of standing in line at JoAnn’s or Hancock’s because there was a fabric sale and I was a warm body who could use a second coupon and increase her stash. When she visits, I dread the day she designates for fabric shopping, because the lights and the colors and the sizing on the fabrics literally make me sick. As it has been since I was a kid, my job, on these days, is to push the cart, and hunt down the patterns she wants in the great big drawers.

ButtonBox-02But there is one thing about my mother’s sewing habit that has always intrigued me: buttons.

My mother’s sewing desk, when I was young, was a lovely wooden piece, with a central opening that hid her black, metal, Singer sewing machine from view when not in use. It was often in a window, sun-warmed, it’s French-inspired claw feet darkened from age, but still beautiful. When the sewing machine was stowed, it was a writing desk, but somehow the wood had absorbed the special scent of pins (really machine oil, I’m told). Being near it was like breathing in the essence of my mother’s soul.

My mother was most interested in what lived inside the desk – her machine. I, on the other hand, was completely captivated by the old, red, tea-tin that resided atop it: my mother’s button box.

The tin has been ancient for at least as long as I’ve been alive. Bleecker and Simmons, it said on the front, those names seeming somehow mystical to me. Or at least mythical. And within its brass-colored depths? Oh, the treasures that I found!

It wasn’t all buttons of course.

And it wasn’t buttons that would be used in every-day projects.

For making blouses or pants or jackets or… whatever… my mother would buy new buttons. A sailor-themed outfit might have plastic anchors as fasteners. A jungle print shirt would have tiny lion heads holding it closed. ButtonBox-03

The buttons (and other tiny trinkets) inside the box, were one-offs. An extra button from a new dress, a lost button from a favorite jacket. A metal button that was leftover after a project. An ancient clip-on earring that might one day be turned into an ornament for a hat or lapel. A jingle bell that had probably been part of one of my ballet or Halloween costumes at one point.

That tiny red tin seemed to hold endless wonders, each with its own history, its own future, its own magic.

My mother’s button box lives in my house now. I keep it on the dresser in the guest room, so she can see it when she comes to visit. It didn’t make the cut when she was packing to move to Mexico nearly twenty years ago, but neither of us could bear to just toss it away.

Sometimes, I think about discarding the buttons that are in it now and starting my own collection of tiny objects. But mostly, I just like that it’s there. It’s a lesson in object permanence – we may not have pictures of many of those garments, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist – but it’s also a glimpse into my mother’s soul, and a reminder that while our creative outlets are different, the need to create connects us both.

Postscript: As this is my final “Sunday Brunch” piece, I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who have read my stuff both here, and in All Things Girl over the years. Your support has meant so much. And for my fellow editors and contributors, I look forwarding to reading your work in other places, and enjoying it as much as I’ve enjoyed all the words and images you’ve shared here.

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

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

Nostalgia by Christine Mason Miller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author: Christine Mason Miller

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