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Whiskey, War and a Truce

Mandy Steward

“Stop apologizing for who you are,” she said, so I asked myself honestly and reflectively, “Is that, after all this time and work and surrender and allowing, what I am doing? Am I saying I am sorry I am me?”

But no, I’m not. I know for certain I am not. 

I don’t want to take the time to say to her, “I am not,” because I fear it will feel like the classic childhood argument of am not, are too, am not, are too and those sorts of arguments rile me and rob me of strength and dignity.

But I do want to look at what the difference is between what I am doing (being Me) and what I used to do (apologize and try to stop being me). I do want to allow myself, and by extension, allow others, the antithesis of a calm, cool and collected experience all the time.

Sometimes being myself does actually look all raw nerves and sound all racing heart thumps and feel all sweaty palms and pits. Sometimes being myself is caring, caring, caring for people and the world they live in and the rules that world requires of them. Sometimes being myself is meeting them there, even if I am saying, as Buddy Wakefield says, “Though it is good to be here with you tonight I'm still running."

I am in no one place for long.

I fumbled around with self-edits last night. I chased them down with a me-size glass of whisky on the rocks, two chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and a fearsome card game of War with my daughter that ended in a truce of climbing into bed together. But I honored my need to sit with the possible self-edits. Don’t you see? We can’t be all badass and put together all the time. Well maybe you can, but I can’t and I’m the one who is not lying. I am vulnerable, and this is how I like me even if I hate the helluva lot of pain that comes with it. 

Who told you you could love without hurting?

There are a lot of liars who don’t realize they are lying. They walk around and pat each other’s backs because it feels good.

Being me doesn’t always feel good, like last night when I pondered if my me had gotten too rough around the edges to waltz into and out of other people’s worlds. I don’t want to cut you just to see if you bleed, but if you invite me in, should I warn you, you might get cut? Even Edward Scissorhands watched where he pointed the blades, but it didn’t mean he was apologizing for being him.

I think there needs to be space for holding the ache that being me entails. I am not a robot. I need to catch my breath. There have to be comfort moments of whiskey, cookies and war and retiring to bed early in a truce because two worlds are colliding that just don’t fit well together. To gloss over the tension of that and call it “being damn sure of who I am” is great and all, but at the end of the day, I would really feel like I missed the opportunity to root in deeper to the truth of what it takes to be me. I’m not sorry for my Mad self showing up, but I am aware when it makes things awkward. And being aware hurts sometimes. And feeling that hurt is okay. It’s not self-harm to acknowledge and allow all the feelings to move through. I am strengthening mySelf to be able to continue showing up. 

"Tell me I won't lie the next time I see myself."

-Buddy Wakefield


Janae Maslowski

I've come so close to my body, to the waters of me, only to find myself peacefully far. The close-knit is detached, the detached is so very embodied. Paradox. Paradox is a holy She. She is a word that begins with P. With all the force of pop, she bursts into your life and laughs and smears and disregards and astounds and amuses and muses all the way to the X, to the ks ks ks, to the rattle-y, shattering, hissing ks that she exits on, only to pop back, laughing at me, at Herself, at you and you and you...

Someone said,

the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

I say,

change-same. same-change. change-change. same-same.

flight of illusion.JPG


I'm coming to terms with silence. It has been {silently} banging at my door for some time now. Not the silence that is all zen and chill out man, but the silence that begs/demands a pause when the world is screaming, when you are screaming, when the merry-go-round of your life


and still silence looks on and asks that you go there.

David Whyte cuts to the deep-sorrow of me with these words,

No one told me

it would lead to this.

It's true, they didn't tell me and they don't, can't, won't tell me, because they don't know. Denial. Its self-denial they live in first, which creates all other denial; which makes for a lot of people who just push around their lives as though they are detached objects to clean and admire, like dogs or cars. Denial. So much talktalktalktalktalk, everyone is saying so many words, but never the words needed: the scorching-words, the whisper-words, the bleeding-words, the needed-words.

Back to silence.









I'll say it, I'll take it from David's throat and from my broken-heart and tell you,

It will lead to this.

It will be a motherfuckin' mess. You will burn and die and shake your head as you watch your head explode and not explode all at the same time as the world continues to spin and people ask stupid questions and you slowly realize they don't see the gore of you, the exploding/not exploding life of you. They ask and smile dumbly and you think you've gone crazy. And you have and they've finally numbed themselves enough to be able to be innocent in their stupid pleansantries. Either way, anyway that it happens to you, Yes.

It will lead to this.

blur clear.JPG


… but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. :: Her


Not what it seems

Teresa Robinson

Photo Credit: Randy Yang

Photo Credit: Randy Yang

Like when you know you have something in your eye, but nothing is visible. Like when you are sure you wrote something down or saved something as a memento, but cannot find it. Like when you are convinced she meant harm by what she did, but you only retaliated instead of talking to her about it. 

To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.
— Søren Kierkegaard

Life is a series of unfortunate circumstances. How we decide to move through the majority of those "varyingly-devastating" events determines our {living} — whether or not we love the life we live. Loving it without conditions and learning to find light in the darkness, to lead when we dance without waiting for music or a partner.

Otherwise we become wrapped tighter and tighter in knee-jerk cynicism and exemplify the face of The Joker in our denial and constraints of “positive-thinking” and “forgiveness-pretentiousness” — rendered embittered and incapacitated with insecurity and a chronic sense of rejection.

Living free from "doing the right thing" {what people expect us to do} is not without its emotional flare-ups, meltdowns and agonizing isolation. But living free can become rather addictive once we begin to befriend the dragons of blame and rejection sent to destroy us.

The dragons name names and offer their own lessons in how to be strengthened by the false judgments of our {living} — of being single-minded and intentional about being true to our-self but also being wise about contact with chronic victims and abusers.

Tenacity and a defined sense of self are outcomes of each proverbial turned cheek and deluded hope for different outcomes. Situations in which we are falsely charged, convicted and politely ostracized instead of given the opportunity to openly discuss the issues.

Everything that kills me makes me feel alive
— OneRepublic

I have learned the futility of attempting to reason with people who look like The Joker, who dismiss invitations to discuss what happened as accusations of blame or personal ambushes. The last time I dared to hope for reconciliation via such a discussion remains a vivid memory with its own heartache and random flashbacks.

It was not what it seemed; like when you assume love is enough, but it isn’t.

Perhaps love is enough, except it simply has to be more about self-love than hoping your love will restore shattered pieces to a whole.

Love being a shield when you dare to lose your footing momentarily to extend your-self one more time. Love being a tall fence when you know boundaries prevent unpredictable, vicious attacks by those with smiling Joker faces.

Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.
— John O’Donohue

It is not what it seems; like when you assume smiling faces and invitations mean you belong, but you don’t.

You never belonged. But decades of {living} facilitated moving through and discovering where you did belong ... finding love that was true and without conditions.

When you learn nothing is what is seems. And therein lies the serendipitous opportunity of living free — to choose love and possibility instead of blame and fitting in.

For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them. — Thích Nhat Hạnh // I have been taking selfies without smiles; abandoning views and loving; declaring independence and being dependent. It is messy, Braveheart. So.very.messy. But nothing is what it seems and I also get by with a little help from my friends. ♥

sometimes the want has left me

Alicia Thiede

Sometimes the want has left me.

The fragmented desires are scattered into glittery shards and there simply is no want left.

It is in this state the raw real me emerges. The mermaid turned phoenix. The girl standing in her torn slip with face turned up, heart full of surges.

It is in this state that the shifts occurs. That the string of the blinds is yanked and the light finally pours forth. Like wine at a wedding. Like love just blooming. Like cataracts removed.

It’s hard to remember. The phoenix, the lights, the shimmers. When it has all grown so very dark and even taking a breath causes such deep pause.

I wish that I could take a post it and write in the blackest coal sharpie, the reminders. The words of truth and sacred bedfellows. Lined up. Just for me. A kohl eyeliner turned sharpie to etch these words into my memory.

This state, it needs no introduction. It needs no My Name Is… because it is it’s very own thing and without it, I am invisible. Nothing. Hollowed out.

Sometimes the want has left me and for that I am relieved. Because in that want-ing comes such heaviness and duty. Obligations and RSVP’s. Straightened skirts and coiffed hair.

Dear Want, you may come and go as you please. There will be nights that I too will seek you out and sleep with you til dawn. There will be afternoons where I close the door and turn you away. Left alone with myself. Alone.

You think you may come and go as you please, but I will be the one opening and closing the door. Don't you see this want, it is what frees me from this place on the floor. 


Alicia is a mermaid child who slumbers and dreams best after a day in the sea. a soul priestess who has embarked into the great unknown and is content to never return. a question asker who grows restless in small talk conversations. a fire seeker who likes to sit closest to the blue flame. a moon lover who dances to Johnny Cash under the fiercest moonlight. but first of all she is a gypsy making her way around this country with her tribe and a few of her favorite trinkets. She spills her words at and offers up her love as a guide when you need someone to walk with you for a bit.

Where do you go to change and be changed?

alisha sommer

The summer before my senior year of high school my best friend invited me to spend a week with her and her family at their lake house. We drove her mother’s car from Saint Louis down and around the kind of hills you forget exist in the the Midwest and made our way south to the Missouri/Arkansas border. It was a small 3-bedroom cabin with one bathroom nestled in the woods with several other small cabins near by. The carpet was old and there was no television but it did have a clear view of the water. I woke at 5:30 every morning and drank hot Folgers from  cheap mugs on the front porch as the sun rose, the water glistening in the distance, noticing how the high hills slowly turned from black to green as light began to wash over them. The late mornings and afternoons were spent on the boat. I sat back and listened to music on a disc-man as I watched her father drink beer and steer us around the lake.

It was a quiet lake. And blue. So blue. Not the muddy green-brown I always associated with lakes. “Lakes are for people who have never seen an ocean,” I used to say to myself. “For if only they had seen an ocean, even the dirty Atlantic, they’d know there’s no comparison.” But here I was on this lake, soaking in its deep blues and emerald greens, riding solo on its glassy waters before the rest of the lake was awake. You can learn a lot about yourself alone on the water.


Every time I go to New Orleans I shed a skin or two. 

It's the thick air and how it coats your throat. It's the smell and the taste and the sound of old things that feel new again. It's the heat and how it makes you sweat through every piece of clothing. You don't fight the swelter, you melt into it. 

And I am looking for more places where this kind of magical transformation occurs. The kind of transformation that doesn't require you to do anything but just be. 


Where are these places for you?

Where do you go to change and be changed?


on beginning the next

Prudence Landis

Today is Day One.

For that I'm grateful.  I'm grateful that yesterday was also Day One, as tomorrow will be.

Life feels like a constant stream of Day One's lately; and sometimes I need more than one, because sometimes when what you wanted so much is handed to you, the gift scares you.  It takes your breath.  It makes you say fuck, when your husband tells you his job is being terminated.

Not because you are the verge of breaking down, but because within one breath, one phone call your life begins going the direction you wanted for so long.

You've left your comfort zone, and are now in uncharted territories, going places you've never been.  But if my history has taught me anything, it's that even the charted territories are not without fear.

And so we take a step - laden with a little courage and probably a lot more fear.  We say , "Yes, we can do this.  It's all going to be alright.  We're going to be alright."

We take a deep breath and let it go and take another.

We strap on our sword and give a roar.

now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. - C.S. Lewis

Cold Brew

Mandy Steward

I came on a little too strong

that early morning on the last morning

of an exhausting weekend.


You’d think after all these years

I would learn to temper my cold brew coffee

with a little cream, so they could swallow me.


But if anything 

my steeping time has only lengthened.

My flavor has only intensified. 


If you want cream

you’re going to have to add it



They are the scalding water circling the pour over

and if I can’t stay awake

I will go right down with them.


I am the filter.

I am the grounds.

I am the cold brew.


too strong

too strong

too strong.


It’s everywhere.

The monotony. The doom. The cynicism.

The plea to not be that which you are.


Too dark. 

Too light. 

Too strong.


Bottle her up.

Finish the job. 

Don’t leave a drop.


Next thing you know

she’s leaking out of

a faulty trash bag.


She is weighty,

that one,

and prone to overflow.


But if you sip her slowly 

she is 

savor-able magic.

#secretmessage art available HERE.

#secretmessage art available HERE.

Sipping from your cup
Till it runneth over.
Holy Grail.
- Jay-Z
"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering."
- Jesus



write fire.

Elora Nicole Ramirez

"I need you to write fire," she said. 

I looked up from boxing inked squares around found poetry in my art journal and let a slow smile cross my face.

"Write fire, huh?" 

She nodded and passed the paper to my friend sitting next to me. It was literal, not the metaphoric speak I'm used to relying on, but I couldn't get the phrase out of my mind. 

Write fire. 


I finished the first draft of my second novel a few weeks ago. I almost quit. When I wrote that last word in the last chapter and looked up to see my friend sitting in the chair resting in the corner of my office, I couldn't help but smile. 

Writing is hard. It takes more out of you then you ever anticipate and often excavates things you weren't ready to face. 

But if you do it well—which means if you do it your way—the words will always burn.

Write fire. 

People will try and tell you what to write. They'll offer advice every which way and twice on Sundays. 

But in order to write fire, you must first focus on the words already lit within you.


Close your eyes. 

Breathe in and out—in and out—until you can hear those words bouncing around inside.

Don't you think it's time to write what you really want to write? 

This week, we're priming our middle fingers and setting fire to the page in front of us. Want to join the rebellion? Class starts Monday. 

This week, we're priming our middle fingers and setting fire to the page in front of us. Want to join the rebellion? Class starts Monday. 

independent but dependent

Teresa Robinson

Independence is not that absence of dependence. She and I realize this each time we say, “I really need you. But I don’t need you.”

Why is it we {most often} consider independence something to celebrate and “dependence” a personal weakness? More to the point — why do I consider it a weakness? That is the question I journaled about yesterday. Because I have been in a lifelong wrestling match with depending {trusting to ask and rely} on anyone.

Is it because I depended on the wrong people?

Is it because I am able to do so many things for myself?

Is it wholly a matter of trust?

“You did what was in your heart. That is always the right choice.”

If I believe these words enough to share them in encouragement — why am I resistant to believe it regarding my own actions? Why am I resistant to see the beauty of all outcomes — regardless of how said outcomes feel or cause someone else to judge me?

Perhaps because when my decisions result in “newsworthy” outcomes, I hyper-focus on the “bad” — and I take “good” outcomes for granted. As if I can accept some sort of credit for happy endings; as if I am the master orchestrator of all situations.

Meghan, News Anchor: What does a post-modern romantic writer do all day?
Gordon, Writer & Barman: Find beauty and praise it.
Meghan, New Anchor: That's like the opposite of what I do.
-scene from "Walk of Shame"

Meghan’s misadventures began when she decided to stop being a “good girl” and drown her sorrows by partying with her friends. From there she endures a series of false assumptions wrapped in stereotypes, sexism and racism. Her cries for aid go unanswered because of the way she is dressed and the people she is with at the time.

For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.
— Thích Nhat Hạnh

In the United States, today is the day an anniversary of independence is celebrated. For a variety of serendipitous reasons, there are several anniversaries of my own {living} flashing in my memory. Situations in which I was misjudged for my actions and forced to deal with the consequences imposed by false assumptions.

Over the years, I allowed the false assumptions of other people to cause shame for me because of some twisted sense of dependence upon their acceptance.

So … Independence Day 2014 will be celebrated as the year I searched for the photos of one July 4th in particular. Photos stuffed away because I celebrated in a way “some people” would label inappropriate — judgmental-polite-speak for “like a bad girl.” Heck, I would have been fired from at least one job if Facebook existed then, and in an act of intoxicated zeal, I posted such photos to my wall!

Today will be celebrated as the day I boldly proclaim I am both independent and dependent! And I am needy. But not needy. Like in 1990 when I celebrated with friends, Coors Light and Swisher Sweets from the best seat in town — atop a high rise office building — as the sky flashed with fireworks! I needed to be with those friends that night, and do what we did — and it still makes me grin to remember that night!  

While I am sure there are some examples of when I behaved appropriately based upon someone’s expectations — it is certainly not something I am known for. And I am certain it was only a momentary acceptance since it was completely unintentional!

I have never been one to figure out what the rules are.

Frankly in my youth, I never even knew there were so many fucking rules! I liked what I liked, I invested my time and my money in what I believed in and I hung out with people I loved and admired. Yet, I have never been enough of any one personal or professional trait to fit into any sort of group for very long.


Because people I love and admire don’t congregate for very long.

We are loners and misfits; we are labeled rebels because we don’t want to fit it or act in accordance to any sort of standard. Most of the time, we don’t even notice all the rules and labeling — because we are focused on Next and wondering-wanderings, excavating and exploring.  

But we have started finding one another …

We need each other. But we don’t need each other.

Because we love without conditions and we accept one another wholeheartedly.

As in the story of "The Ugly Duckling," finding my flock gave me a deeper sense of self-acceptance and freedom. Most of my life I felt like the ugly duckling, never knowing it wasn't my fault. I knew I was loved and because I loved, I tried to fit in. Because it was in my heart to maintain certain relationships, if only on some base level.

I made choices because of love. It was the right choice for me. No regrets.

My capacity to love combined with a quirky willingness to offer repeated “second chances” has caused much suffering. But that suffering was deeply clarifying, and led to healing — as well as recognizing my need for relationship.

Needing, but not needy.

I continue to accept the unacceptable, because that is what is in my heart.

I have learned love has rules for some people, and I won’t fault them for it.

Because love as I know it led to declarations of independence liberating me from false hopes of being seen as I am — instead of through the filter of someone else’s beliefs. My love wrapped the barbed wire of outcomes and taught me those beliefs have more to do with them than me.

Fear is avoidance; intuition is a guiding truth.

I am not longer afraid of their rejection; but I have learned the difference between fear and intuition.  

Yep. Rejection still feels brutal. But it also reminds me I am true to me — true to act upon what is in my heart to do.

Independent but dependent.

Art by Mandy Steward, Messy Canvas Studio

Art by Mandy Steward, Messy Canvas Studio

All your life / You were only waiting for this moment to be free.
— The Beatles, Blackbird

Teresa Robinson, aka stargardener, is a self-taught art-planner who documents her life with Instagrams and moon phases, collages and doodles. She blissfully celebrates her independence {most every day} and is married to the love of her life, her rocket man. Her canvases include:  Right Brain Planner as well as The Art Journaler and The Art Journaler Community.

lips stained with wanting

Cynthia Lee

"I need a woman wearing jeans!", she called across the parking lot as she ran toward me. Apparently there was a scavenger hunt of sorts and she asked me to sign my name and email address as proof that she had found a woman wearing jeans. I am no fool. I know this is a marketing game but for anyone dedicated enough to take on the Southern heat and chase people across parking lots, I will give my information. What was her business? Avon. She handed me a book and bag of samples as I signed the paper on the clipboard.

My gut reaction was to toss the free stuff. I haven't worn make up in years. First, I was the too busy mom chasing children and rushing out the door then I was the dreadlocked, no shaving, natural hippie mama. But I didn't toss it instead tucking the bag inside my purse. Maybe it was the fond memories that rushed through my mind with the word AVON. When I was young the Avon lady came to our house. My very first make up was bought from Avon and we bought all sorts of powders, cologne, and jewelry as well. But maybe it was something else. Later on, I felt compelled to try out that lipstick ... a purplish color that I would never choose for myself.

lipstick?! I wore lipstick? Well, not really. I put it on and tried it out but I felt like a fraud, like a child playing in her mother's make up kit so I washed it off before walking out the door. I may have felt like a fraud in that moment but something has happened. The lipstick has stained me with wanting. A wanting that was already making its way to me. A wanting grounded in full acceptance. 

Fifty has found me more comfortable in my skin than ever before. I love my body and its curves. I am not interested in trimming down to an acceptable size. In fact, as I am pursuing a healthy lifestyle, I am most concerned with losing my curves. I love my curves. They make me feel sexy and sensual. I love my still dreadlocking  hair. I love my beginning to wrinkle skin. I genuinely feel beautiful.

 With all of this self acceptance, I am losing the desire to rebel against the superficial. As I have brought the pieces of myself together into this one whole glorious incarnation, I am not interested in finding things to rebel against. I am merely interested in living deeply grounded in the truth of me which may be the greatest act of rebellion of all.

But I am still wanting.

I am wanting lipstick and funky glasses and layers of necklaces. 

I am wanting tipped back bottles of beer and dancing in the streets. 

I am wanting to celebrate my body. No more clothes worn to hide the body. Instead, how about playing dress up? Oh yeah! 

May I never stop wanting. 

bio photo..jpg

“Once you want something, everything changes.Now I want everything. I feel it so much that I am water, a river of want, pooled in the shape of a girl.”  Allie Condie, Matched

Cynthia Lee is exploring being fifty, wild and free, calling forth the other spirited ones who are looking for their intuitive inner wisdom at

choose your own adventure.


i am not an atheist. but i don't believe in god.

i ran away with my love this past weekend. i spent a whole day meditating in saunas of 140 degrees, letting go of much as sweat climbed out of my skin. healing happened here. spiritual healing.

with wine in hand, i  voiced my questions out loud. not to my love. or even looking for answers from him. simply. to hear them aloud. i pondered the many directions my answers might be leading me.

i do not claim christianity. i do not claim buddhism. i do not claim -- anything. i tried on atheist for the first time. it didn't seem to fit.

i was disappointed for no right or wrong directions. no flash of light saying, "this is THE way." My questions felt/feel like a "choose your own adventure" storybook that untangles and reveals my life purpose. at the last chapter.

i am not an atheist. but i don't believe in god.

i am not ready to give up on magic. i want there to be magic. i need there to be magic. animal guides. angels. goddesses. miracles. spirituality is never clean and simple. it lay messy. confusing. full of dark corners and blinding spotlights. cobwebs and trails that appear too steep to climb. exhaustion. tears. scars. torn maps. and other wandering, question laid travelers.

i am walking. wandering. climbing. on my own. because that is the only way. spirituality is personal. like lines from a diary. my scribbles different from his. and hers. my path is not the same as the travelers i've passed. 

i find little caves to rest a while within. the resting is where i find my answers scrawled like secret messages into the sides of the walls.

it is okay. to erase god from your language. and keep magic.

so when i say, nature is my church. the animals are my guides. and yes! i believe in magic. that is good enough for me. labels don't fit around my spiritual beliefs. god doesn't fit here. atheist doesn't fit here. here. is. simply. my resting place.



Beth Morey

i am made to bleed, you see,

to ache and sweat and sing.  sinews

stretch sacred in the dawning,

spirit and skin becoming



can you feel it?  you are

clammy-palmed holy.  insecurity

is an anointing.  you don't have

to be perfect to be good, to be



fifty shads of doubts and we are

hauling soul over grit and glass

on shredding knees.  but

we know we are coming home

at last.


permission to choose you

Guest Post

Dear Braveheart,

I see you. I know you are really trying to do the right thing. That thing you believe will be best for everyone. ALL the many things you are certain will be best for everyone.

But here is the deal. It is not best for you. That is why you can’t sleep at night and yell at your kids and your husband and the cat and the car in front of you on the highway. That is why you ate all those cookies and then buried the package in the trash so no one who know.

So, I am giving you permission to choose you.

Of course, you don’t actually need permission, but that crazy, uptight good girl inside of you demands permission before stepping aside and allow you to be, you. You — and not someone who never dares to say “no” because it might hurt someone’s feelings; never eats the last piece of pizza or drinks the last bit of ice cream, because someone else may want it — not the one who is compelled to be there for everyone … except yourself.

Back to the permission. To choose you.

You have done enough.

You are enough.


It is someone else’s turn.

Today is your day.

It’s your turn to choose you.

I love you.

Letters to Bravehearts are letters to self: past, present, future; of love and affirmation; reminders of insights and lessons learned.

She Won't Take No For an Answer

Mandy Steward

“Hi! Do you guys love coming to the pool?”

The woman was about two chaise lounges down from us, and I think she was talking to my kids. I had seen her walk in with her daughter. She had a black bathing suit on with an attached skirt to hide her thighs, although I figured her thighs were probably just fine under there.

Her daughter had a rainbow leopard print bathing suit on, the same bathing suit as my daughter. Upon arrival they waded into the shallow end of the pool together. The woman had a tiny change purse in one hand. I speculated what was in it. Smokes? Car keys? A phone? Money? I wondered if it was waterproof. All of this wondering happened somewhere a few layers back in my brain while I was busy thoroughly enjoying a book of Bukowski poetry. 

It was a safety break, and my kids had gone to the snack stand and were now sitting around me quietly munching. I was still thoroughly enjoying my book of Bukowski poetry. You see, I had gotten up at 4:15 that morning, groaned my way through a 15 minute ab workout in which I did more resting than crunching, and then rode my bike to work for the morning shift. Upon returning home, I cleaned up the kitchen from dinner the night before, made a lunch of pancakes, and took a 15-minute-cat nap in which I was awoken by the UPS man ringing my doorbell. I felt full of energy to talk to him, but I knew the pillow lines on my face were betraying me. He left and I walked back in the house and announced I was giving in to my children’s wishes. “Let’s go to the pool!” All I could think about was collapsing in a chaise lounge, letting the sun unravel me and the Bukowski poetry reintroduce me to my edge. 

And I was doing just that until the black-suited woman started talking. 

“Is that your mom over there? Did she bring you here? Get your mom for me.”

Two of my kids were sitting on a chair closer to the woman than me. I was glad for the buffer, but she wasn’t letting up.

“Did you know you have the same bathing suit as my daughter?” She said to my daughter, Charis. “Hers has a blue skirt. Why aren’t you wearing your blue skirt Where is your blue skirt? Don’t you have one?”

My daughter kept trying to figure out how to answer the woman in between her run-on sentences. Then she started looking around for her skirt to show the woman.

“It’s okay Charis,” I said. “You don’t have to find the skirt for her.” Charis relaxed back into the chair, her back to the woman. 

Earlier at the pool, before the woman had arrived, Charis and I had a conversation about a girl who was following her around at the pool demanding she be her friend and do silly things like wipe the water out of the girl's eyes every time she came out of the water. I had told Charis, "You are allowed to tell people no."

“But I don’t want to say to someone, ‘No, you can’t be my friend!’ I don’t want to be mean.”

“Was she annoying you?”


“Did you want her to stop?”


“Then you have to say no. You’ve got to learn how to say no. It’s a valuable word. You can say yes and you can say no. Feel free to practice.”

She smiled at me shyly, a bit untrusting of my thoughts on the matter.. 

Now, here we were having a real life, in the flesh example of me showing Charis how to say no. Could I practice what I had so eloquently preached?

“Oh hi over there!" The woman hollered at me. "I was talking to you this whole time, but you didn’t hear me. Our daughters have the same bathing suit.”

I turned to look at the woman, putting my book down, “HI,” I said curtly. In my head I thought, You want me? Now you have me!

“I was just trying to be friendly. Sheesh!” The woman said.

I looked at her. A part of me was willing my mouth to talk, to say something nice and kind to fill the silence, but I had nothing. I was the embodiment of a blank stare. Empty air. Nada.

She looked away.

I went back to my book, thinking about this poem I had just read, and also thinking about a conversation I had with my Love Interest just a few days ago when we were out for dinner and a movie on our 14th Anniversary.

He was mentioning the few choice words he wanted to give the kiosk managers in the mall should they decide to invade his personal space by trying to sell him something. 

And I was saying, “See, this is why we will have to spend less and less time together as we get older.”

“Because I get grumpier?” He asked.

“No, because I want to talk to strangers and you don’t. I want to hear their stories and interact and you want to push them away. How can I spy if you are always degrading the suspects? I want people to trust me."

“I don’t like to deal with needy people who make demands on my time.”

“Actually, I do understand what you are saying. And I definitely have my moments when I feel this too, but I guess I want to just tell them 'no thank you.'" 

Back to the present, all I could think was how ironic this moment in time was, knowing full well that I was eating each and every one of my words in that conversation on date night AND my earlier conversation with Charis. Choice and colorful words or saying a flat out "NO!" seemed like the only feasible options if I was to make a clean break, but even in my I-Want-To-Be-Left-Alone moments, I am the sort that ends interactions with other human beings with residual threads like sticky cobwebs hanging off my skin. I want my non-verbals to be clear, so I don't have to use my words. "Good gawd woman, can't you take a hint?" I wiggle out from under conflict, hoping I don't have to be clear. Being clear seems so final. I know what I want, and sometimes what I want is downright mean.*

“You know,” she said, starting back up, “I wasn’t trying to disturb you or anything, it’s just we just moved here, and I don’t know anyone. I don’t have any friends.”

She paused. I put my book down on my chest and turned to stare at her. 

A voice inside me said, Smile. A voice inside me said, Tell her that’s hard. A voice inside me said, Ask her where she moved here from.

Another voice inside me said, Remember that woman last year at the pool? You had one good conversation with her and pretty soon she was giving you her cell number and asking you and your kids to Chuck E. Cheese, her treat. Don’t you dare give into this woman or she will suffocate you. That same voice inside me said, You aren’t in the market for a friend, and you can’t solve her loneliness. That same voice inside me said, You don’t have to be “on” every minute of every day. You are allowed to mind your own business. That same voice inside me said, You trust your intuition and your intuition is screaming, THIS CONVERSATION IS A NO-GO."

Despite all the conversations going on inside my head, my body remained resolute. I simply stared, my mint colored sunglasses feeling heavy on my nose, the sun making me feel disoriented and far removed from the woman. It unnerved me, like I was my own mother, watching my failed manners and shaking my head in shame.

She started talking again. “I’m trying to put myself out there and make friends. That’s why I talked to you. I keep talking to people here, but I keep finding no one is willing to open up to me.”

I nodded and smiled weakly - the kind of icky smile that says, “That’s too bad, but I don’t give a damn.” Then I did the unthinkable. I picked Bukowski up off my chest, faced forward and started reading again. Letting my tensed up neck relax. Letting all the shoulds and have to’s and mandatories drip like the sweat off my entitled forehead and drain away. 

All I know, Woman, is I can’t be what you need me to be today, and I’m not sure what to think about that. 

I heard her say to her daughter, “Let’s go make a friend. I’ll show you how to do it. We’ve just got to go talk to people.”

They walked off hand-in-hand and I felt like the big bad bully and they looked like the underdogs, giving it another brave go. I blessed the spaces they were about to enter into and the people they were about to interact with. May it go well with you, I said. Another voice in my head said, Good luck. She won’t take no for an answer.

I suppose it’s polite

to remember names and faces

I just can’t do it

I don’t want to carry all those

Bobs and Ellas and Jacks and Marions

and Darlenes around in my mind.
— Charles Bukowski

*If you want to explore that shadowed side of you who feels a little downright "mean" sometimes, I know a place where you are welcome, and as a wild tribe we will descend into the shadowlands of the soul on July 6!



I've been doing a lot of self searching, lately
seeking self learning self discovering self motivating self
lasting, trying to catch my breath.


apparently this is the way it goes:

move around a bit, stretch fingers and toes and smell the wind,
autumnal tingling on my tongue, the ends of my hair
learning new pathways again, again.

til the next again, when the ground gets ripped out and the roots I've set under
the branches I've thrown to the sky
turn to masts and planks and rudders
turn to bricks and mortar
turn to stardust
turn to sunshine
turn to night, oh night divine.

this little pearl of mine, she's grown in size now, is brightly burnished
but not quite that cream-and-money shine
not the way the heiresses and the actresses and the brides want
but the kind that is beloved of a bandit, perhaps?
the kind that is treasured by the salt-worn scar-limbed sun-bitten
the kind that is set in sterling and cast as an oddity, tossed
into the heaping hopping den of
name: girl, name: woman, name: mother, name: poet
the shiny shimmering splendor of birthrights stolen and inheritances sought
lesson: try harder, lesson: be softer, lesson: speak louder, lesson: silence

cave jewels are only as good as the light they see.

cave jewels are only as good as the light they see.

cave jewels are only as good as the light they see.

if it's true (and it is, I would know), then it's probably also true
that the self searching self loathing self healing self making
isn't just for me.


well, if you'll wait a moment, let me shake off some of these rubies
these sapphires that sit in my chest
the topaz on my eyes
the garnets in my hands
and azure on my feet
and let me shake my scales a bit, so they click back into place
and I'll keep pushing borders, testing borders, seeking
the alleyways and rivers and portals of untraditional grace
and open my cave
to you
who may be wondering,
what does a ruby look like, anyway?

most of the time i speak in riddles. i'm a creature of habit. i'm also obsessed with dictionary words. it helps, sometimes, like a rainy afternoon, to soothe the growth and death that is coupled in this creature called "human". i have sought ways out of my flesh. i am seeking ways back in. most of the time, riddles are my best guess. chalk it up to chaos theory.

most of the time i speak in riddles. i'm a creature of habit. i'm also obsessed with dictionary words.
it helps, sometimes, like a rainy afternoon, to soothe the growth and death
that is coupled in this creature called "human".
i have sought ways out of my flesh.
i am seeking ways back in.
most of the time, riddles are my best guess. chalk it up to chaos theory.

Loving the What Is

Janae Maslowski

There are days, stretches of moments, when I love my life, exactly as it is. The love comes fierce and clean and exact, I see my life for what it is in the purest sense and I am fully glad for it. I see the pain and the doubt, the exhaustion and the joyfulness, I. see. it. And I know it is fully mine, it is {in a very real sense} me.

I am my life. I am made up of sweeping the floor multiple times a day, I am washing tiny hands again and again, I am watching them run and totter along, I am pulling weeds and drinking coffee and petting our cat.

I am this breath . . . this breath . . . this slowly inhaled breath.

I am this hate and this frustration, no matter that most people say my feelings aren't me,

Feelings are just like passing clouds. Watch them float away, don't attach and don't let them define you.

I say,

I am my feelings. I claim them as my own, as myself. Sure, I don't always enjoy them, sure, I'd rather they clean-up and treat me nice all the time, but I still want them and I most definitely accept them and allow them to define me as best they can in their limited way.

I'm done trying to purify my life and my self so that others are comfortable with me, hell, so that I'm perfectly comfortable with me.

I am not always comfortable with myself and I don't always understand why I do this or that, or understand what I say or how I see. But, I've come to accept that not understanding myself hasn't deterred me from staying put and living my life and feeling my feelings and loving what I am.

I am.

You are.

Here. we. are.

Let us love the lives we are already living, regardless of anything or anyone else.

Here we are. The three that make my What Is intense and sublime. 

My youngest is looking deep, what do you need him to see in you, today? What do you wish somebody could see in your down-deep?

Last year, I admired wines.

This, I'm wandering inside the red world.

:: Rumi


purging and a new season

Teresa Robinson

Summer arrives officially tomorrow — but I am already dancing in the sun with the simplicity of summer, of possibilities unfolding with the shift of a new season ... 

I am also at a place where I realize I need to re-evaluate my priorities again {relational and professional} because I repeatedly find myself in a dead zone — and I am surrounded by questions regarding what is light enough to carry with me.

Additionally, I knew what I thought I wanted to say about this before a restless night followed hours of crashing thunder and a power outage ...

Awakening and realizing the electricity was "on" again, I suddenly dreaded getting out of bed and doing what was necessary to check boxes on my To Do list. It all felt flat and obligatory because I continue to have unrealistic expectations of my ability to "self-renew" and "just do it" ...

In short, some of my online investments of time and energy are falling short. What once was energizing and reciprocal now feels obligatory and intangible.

More than ever before, I know I need face-time — one-on-one, face-to-face conversations and times of quiet abiding. Time with the people I love, and the women I trust and collaborate with — because such collaborations are mutually life-giving.

This will mean change. {And stating it here feels prickly and vulnerable.} I wonder how my words will be interpreted, more to the point — misinterpreted. But I will honor what is in my heart because as I do, I am true to my-self. Honoring my promise to my-self to live free and unfettered from obligations {shoulds and other people's standards}. 

This always has a cost, such as someone I care about taking my decision personally {as if I am rejecting them personally}. Such pain is difficult for me but this is my time to name and consider what is causing me pain — and what I need — instead of everyone else's feelings and needs.

I have willingly lived a half- and quarter-life for most of five decades; I made decisions for love, and sometimes the necessity of the moment. And I am still making a decision out of love. For me. To choose me; to love me — as I am. 

Actually this decision was declared one-year ago to {my} Magic Mandy when I detailed my order for this secret message, which she art-fully created for me and I added to:

The execution of this decision has taken twelve months; the details of defining what is no longer mine to carry needed to ripen within me ... I had to build up courage for vulnerable confessions and resignations. 

And yet I was still somewhat surprised and, in some cases, saddened to realize I "lost" some "friends" because of my recent choices to let go of casual conversations {read: Facebook groups} and to "delete-without-responding" group text messages sent to numerous "friends" so we could "keep in touch." As if claiming connection would make it so ...

I was challenged to let go of my urge to explain, to state a defense after to being told I was "selfish" or charged with having "trust issues" and "abandoning relationships" because of my choices. Those charges required some journaling-through and more than a few cleansing cries, big 'ol, hot, tears of emotion washing away the pain before it morphed into bitterness.

It continues to be hurtful and confusing. But, the pain continues to be part of the clarifying process of Becoming ... and the exit of acquaintances and their expectations from my {living}.

There are things that are not mine to carry; pain that is not mine to own.

The past few months have been about relationships. I have had the energy to travel and enjoyed visits with my children and grandchildren, and to the Oregon coast for an art retreat. This past week I had the pleasure of visits from my soldier-son and family, and my friends, Katie and Trenten. My granddaughter is still visiting — and waiting {mostly} patiently for me to finish this!  

Braveheart, I still battle with wanting to “fit in” certain situations — to be included or at least updated regarding what I am "missing" ... because, yes, I do wonder what I am "missing" ...

But I get by with a little help from my friends {!} and my freakish-succulency.

a sacred rage

Alicia Thiede

“Sometimes you gotta rage in order to move on”  Orange is the New Black

I have a child who rages.* I'm not talking about temper tantrums. I'm talking about full on deep seated anger and all that comes forth from it.

This child of mine has a load of pain from her broken and scattered beginnings. People let her down and left her there. She is greatly pissed and has every right to be.

The last week she was in a mourning phase. A place where she just needed to grieve and rage. The sounds are that of a beautiful creature with so very much wounding.

When she’s cycling well she rages, spill it all out, with all that she has and then she gets an amnesia of sorts. She moves on. Goes forward. The rest of the day she is present and calm. She has unloaded it all and is ready to leave it there.

I’ve decided I need a little of that in my life. I need to rage. To find a space and get it all the f*ck out. To go to the depth of my soft belly and ask what’s inside that needs to be grieved and raged.

It’s all there, I can feel it, in the stiffness and the rigidity, it needs to come forth, begs of it. This all-the-time-nice-girl thing just isn’t working, it’s causing more things to get buried and they all need a release. To be cut loose. So I can move forward.

I won’t say that there isn't apprehension. What if I lay it all out and what’s inside is more than I can bear? What if is get started and can’t stop? All I know is that I need the raging more than I need the peace of mind.

This time there will be no dance parties, no shaking it out. Just a wild rage. Some holy fire. Throwing my head back and caterwauling as loud as I can. Finding something to throw. Something to lunge at and then straightening my skirt and leaving it all behind.

*I don't talk about this shadow parenting in most circles. It leaves me feeling vulnerable, raw and misunderstood. And really Instsgram is not the place for a 30 second clip of screaming. This place feels safe. Thank you for that.

Alicia is a mermaid child who slumbers and dreams best after a day in the sea. a soul priestess who has embarked into the great unknown and is content to never return. a question asker who grows restless in small talk conversations. a fire seeker who likes to sit closest to the blue flame. a moon lover who dances to Johnny Cash under the fiercest moonlight. but first of all she is a gypsy making her way around this country with her tribe and a few of her favorite trinkets. She spills her words at and offers up her love as a guide when you need someone to walk with you for a bit.


Let them fall

alisha sommer

You should see me out there in late October, when the leaves have littered the lawn, and there is the first threat of snow, and I am in a mad rush to gather all of them onto the curb before the city trucks come to suck them away. Our lot is on the corner, with 6 or 7 mature trees that drop a hundred pounds of leaves and branches. The raking is usually work I do alone, albeit begrudgingly, so when I am out there, it's just me, autumn air blowing against my neck, my mind reliving and retelling me stories buried deep within. It's out there where I have to wipe away tears with the back of my hand. These tears are the hot, angry ones. The ones we keep in a pot, simmering until they come to a boil and begin to leap over the edge. And when they come, boy do they come down fast and hard.


I'm good at sweeping things away. The underside of my skin is lined with envelopes in which I've tucked away emotions and words and hurts that felt too scary to release. Or maybe at the time I didn't have the proper language with which to express them. Or maybe at that time there was no language to express only an action to take. But I didn't know that then. However, I know it now. It's as if as each one falls, they whisper, "I'm sorry and I forgive you and today you get to start anew." During these last three autumns I've realized that these hot, angry, hard, and fast tears are some sort of baptismal experience. 


This year, summer feels different. My heart is viewing the world around me with a kind of clarity that only comes after a thorough cleansing. The leaves blow in slow motion. Petals are unfurling one by one. The grass is pea-soup and emerald. And me: I am leaning into the kind of loving redemption that only I can give to myself. I am leaning into the newness that each day brings. To the truth that I am no longer bound by or to my past. That I am free to let it fall wherever it may fall.

Alisha Sommer is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and three children. She loves fresh-baked bread, laying in the sun, and the smell of the sea. When she's not knee-deep in laundry and lunch-making, she edits and publishes BLACKBERRY: a magazine, a literary magazine featuring black women writers and artists. She is the co-creator of liberated lines, an Instagram-based poetry course. You can find her at her favorite playgrounds, Instagram and Pinterest.

Yeah, Yeah, I Forgive You

Mandy Steward

I was out on my front porch putting the finishing touches on this piece on being an Indie Spiritualist. Once I hit publish I went indoors to get ready for the day. I had to go grocery shopping with four kids in tow.

A half an hour passed, and I returned to the front porch, remembering I had left some things out there, including my phone. 

Upon opening the door I saw that the mailman had been there and left me two packages: Art supplies and a juicy book for Blushing Wild inspiration. I grabbed them and also collected my breakfast dishes and my water bottle, but I couldn’t seem to find my phone. 

That’s odd, I thought. I was sure I left it out here.

I returned indoors and began searching. Losing my phone is pretty routine for me, but I had a sinking feeling that it was not going to turn up. 

As I moved pillows off the couch, stood on my tiptoes to check the top of the bookshelf and refrigerator, and ran upstairs to check my bedroom and bathroom, my inner-monologue started scrambling:

Do you suppose my neighbors took it? Oh, no, I can’t blame my neighbors. I love my neighbors. But what if they did? Or maybe it was the postman? He left the packages and grabbed my phone? Certainly a postman would not commit petty theft. But who then? I hate this. Everyone must be innocent until proven guilty, but here I am ready and willing to blame. Who’s to blame? I do so want to believe in the goodness of humanity and how we watch out for each other. Why wasn’t it just last weekend that some of my girlfriends were on my porch eating pie and marveling over my neighbors and the way our little dead end street feels so warm and inviting?

“Can you call my phone?” I asked my Love Interest, who is used to calling my phone when it goes missing. 

“That’s weird,” he said. “It immediately went to voicemail.”

“I was afraid of that. It shouldn’t be dead because it was fully charged. I think someone took it off our porch!”

“Like our neighbors?!”

“I don’t know. I don’t want to blame anyone.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“But I am 95% sure I left it out there, and now it’s gone. Maybe the postman?”

“I don’t think a postman would steal a phone.”

“I know, but…” I said, my voice trailing off, feeling sick and sicker. “I really wish I just misplaced it.”

I wanted to go back to bed. I wanted to pull the blankets over my head. I didn’t want to blame and I sure as hell didn’t want to forgive. I didn’t want to forgive myself for having a fuzzy head and being unable to retrace my steps. I didn’t want to forgive my neighbors or my mailman. All I kept thinking was, “I didn’t wake up this morning to forgive.”

I paced the downstairs aimlessly, weighing my options and searching in stupid places like inside the kitchen cabinets and in the dryer and in the dishwasher. My kids were asking me questions, and my Love Interest was answering them for me, “She can’t help you right now. She’s busy. Take care of yourself” 

Your mother is losing her mind, I thought to myself. That’s what I am doing. 

I stopped in the kitchen and grabbed the counter. I looked up at the chalkboard where I had written a message a month or so ago, “You are safe here,” it said. I took a deep breath. I took another. 

I can’t change this, I told myself. Laying in bed with the covers over my head, trying to make the day reset, won’t change this. Hating my neighbors and the postman and passive aggressively sending them evil stares and hateful thoughts won’t change this. Telling myself I am getting old and senile won’t change this.

This happened. Already happened. Past tense. And the groceries still need bought, and a friend still wants to know if you’re meeting her and her daughter to go swimming today and life is already going on, so you might as well go on with it and not take any of this as something you could have prevented if you had only been more aware. When will you see, you can’t ever be aware enough? Something is always going to slip through the cracks. 

But dammit if someone didn’t steal phones out of our car last year! And dammit if the police report and the investigation didn't come up empty! And dammit if something isn’t always smashing your “Paradise Falls Money Jar” and dammit if you don’t have that hissing voice in your head of that one person that told you “I hope you get yours” and dammit if this doesn’t seem like she sicked karma on your ass. And dammit if it doesn’t make you cringe to think of her laughing. 

Hey Mandy? You trust people. You always have. The karma sicking people and the phone stealing people and the neighbors and the postmen. You trust them to be human, thru and thru. You have an affinity to them. All of them. Even though they’ve burned you, they are still your people. 

Also? You give yourself over to glorious obsessions. You throw yourself completely into your writing and tune out everything else going on around you, even phones, left unaccompanied on front porches. These are qualities you love about being you. You ARE a mad woman, and your life is damn exciting - rubbing shoulders will all the thrashing humans. 

There is always a wrench in the plans and today’s just happened to be offering up unexpected forgiveness for anyone and everyone that might be involved in a stupid phone debacle. A blanket forgiveness for whoever came within 2 feet of your porch on Monday, June 9 at shortly after 11 AM .

"Yeah, yeah, I forgive you, because, see here, I’ve got a life to live, and I’d just soon not spend it teaching you a lesson.”

I wonder when forgiveness started having so very little to do with others and so very much to do with mySelf?

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 10.30.40 PM.png
People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
— Mother Teresa