Secret Message Society Zine - Issue Thirteen

Last month was the first time I sold out of Zines! I don't have any back issues of Issue 12 to add to my Etsy shop this time. Thank you so much for supporting my work and the work of the centerfold artists. It is very exciting to get to gather and share secret messages in a self-published piece. 

The Zine is all printed out. Just like last month, I stuffed the envelopes while catching up on the last few Grey's Anatomy episodes.

We are down one traveling gnome due to an unfortunate accident in the Oklahoma wind this past week, but I added a new gnome friend to our home, and I'm prepping him about just where these zines need to be delivered. Don't forget, members, you can tiptoe into the Underground Lair and download your digital copy.

This is the luckiest issue of all - ISSUE 13! It features Janae Maslowski as the centerfold artist. She even allowed me to share a piece of her icon art on the cover! 

It also has #secretmessage contributions by members Bethany PagetDeb Taylor, Paige Nichols, Sara Mock and Angela Byers.

I would really love to send you my gypsy journalism in the mail. Become a member HERE, or read more about the zine HERE.

Back issues are available in my Etsy store. $10 for the previous issue. $5 for all remaining available back issues. Once they sell out they're gone. 

Here is your sneak-peek at Issue 13. 

12 Months of Zines

The Secret Message Society Zine turned 1 year old! Thank you, thank you, thank you to all my subscribers!

Currently I am printing Issue 13, which I will share with you more a little later this week. For now, I wanted to do a little celebrating by showing you a glimpse of what has transpired in one year's time. 

I invited the Secret Message Society Members (thank you all!) to join me in a scavenger hunt last month to take photographs of the numbers 1-12, corresponding with the first twelve issues of the #smszine. In this post, I am going to feature twelve of their photographs along with one snippet from one of each of the twelve zines. I was all emotional looking back through these zines to photograph them. A lot of secrets and thrashing and growth has transpired. 

You can find out more or become a part of the Secret Message Society HERE or if you simply want to sample a single Zine, you can purchase back issues HERE in my Etsy.

Number 1 

Photo by Emily West


Number 2

Photo by Beth Morey


In Issue 2 I wrote a piece about my missing red, wooden handled spatula. Several months later I found the spatula tucked inside a box of kids play dough. I am sure my Zine subscribers will be relieved. 

In Issue 2 I wrote a piece about my missing red, wooden handled spatula. Several months later I found the spatula tucked inside a box of kids play dough. I am sure my Zine subscribers will be relieved. 

Number 3

Photo by Sara Mock

Number 4

Photo by Jamie Bonilla 

Number 5

Photo by Julie McCrary

Number 6

Photo by Deb Taylor

Number 7

Photo by Teresa Robinson


Number 8

Photo by Gina Kimmel

Number 9

Photo by Jessica Russell

Number 10

Photo by Brittany Gooding


Number 11

Photo by Erin Plaster

Number 12

Photo by Angela Byers

Secret Message Society - April Centerfold

The April Secret Message Society Centerfold is Janae Maslowski. The Secret Message Society began as a membership to a private blog. At that time I held monthly online video chats with members and Janae came to them regularly. There were times where the chats ended up being just the two of us. I can still picture beautiful her, sitting in front of a huge abstract painting, sharing with me the first bits and pieces of who I would come to know her as. 

Janae introduced me to Ayn Rand and the worlds of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. She introduced me to Katy Perry and that has opened a portal I could have never expected. She introduced me to my MADness. She engaged with me in heretical texting, where we both crossed all sorts of blurred lines. I shared a hot and holy evening with her last summer, drinking wine and blurting soul-freeing atrocities into the phone, facing things that had to die, so that I could go on living. I visited her home last Fall, shortly after my book launch, and threw my empty and disenchanted self into the respite of a land that smelled like Christmas. I wept at rainbows and illusions, stared listlessly out windows and allowed myself to disappear because she was a welcome environment to do so. I laughed to life in a little Oregon bakery (it will always be OUR bakery) shyly licking egg yolk and avocado off my fingers when it leaked out the edges of my croissant. I felt like a little kid just waking up, and I AM just waking up. I flipped through her art journal and walked through her forests and asked her why, and how, and when and where. I feel sure she has felt everything there is to feel in this life, and you can be safe with a person like that. 

I am still coming to know her. All the days of my lifetime would not be enough to explore her depths. She is a constant source of secret messages. I like it when she gets to talking and I can listen. She is an oracle. I feel when I am with her that she has lived forever and she will live forever. I get but a blip with her, and I am thoroughly enjoying my blip. Glad I get to share a blip of her with you today. 








Secret mutant power: 

Hiding in plain sight.

Current art medium/creative endeavor I am exploring:

Weed pulling, flower planting, shrub pruning, gnome finding and enhancing my backyard wild.

A Secret Message I found in the last week:

Don't be afraid of the deep pruning that makes things bare and ugly for a time, because there is time and growth happens.

A stranger I interacted with recently:

An elderly gentleman at the Thrift Store, he was pleasantly surprised to have my 2-year-old take his hand {Rocco thought it was his dad's hand}.

A word that means a lot to me right now:

Felt. As in, seeking out that which is felt vs. that which is thought.

I've been exploring and focusing on embodying my feelings. It is terrifying and tangible. Commiting to the felt in myself is forever changing me. *See THIS POST for more on FELT.

When I don’t feel like my art matters I tell myself:

Don't force it and trust that I have many years to make my matter.

I knew I was an artist when:

I always stood at my desk during elementary art projects. My body told me the truth, creating energized me out of my seat in a way nothing else did. 

A rule I like to break:

I've never been much of a rule breaker.

I was annoyingly aligned with right-doing and right-choosing, mostly because I was terrified of God's lightening and man's disapproval. That being said, I've come to find that I am more of a social norm breaker. I've always felt the subtle and not-so-subtle messages of what is right and best. For instance, I really enjoy eating treats {favorites include: apple pie, donuts, scones} on a regularly basis. It always felt like I was entering the land of weak will and emotional eating because I didn't deny myself sugar. {poor sugar and butter, you've gotten such a bad rap}. And, yes, I let my kids eat sugary treats, too. 

This is what the Secret Message Society means to me:

It is an expansive space to believe, to seek, to find and to build on my own terms.

Here is something I created that I want to share with you:

A teepee, which I made for the kiddos and I thoroughly enjoy looking at.

If we meet on the street we’ll know each other as undercover artists by:

The slightly rumpled day-old clothes and red lipstick.

Each month I am featuring one Secret Message Society Member, both in the Zine and on my blog. I want you to see some of the creative ways these artists think, explore, live. When you open the Zine to the middle you will see an enticing double page spread designed by the centerfold artist. There will be a companion post here on my blog where I ask them a Lucky 13 questions. Want to join our grassroots movement of artists who are actively collecting, creating and inviting Secret Messages into their life?! You can subscribe here and/or get more details. 

Thrashing - At 6 Months Old

#thatthrashingbook is 6 months old!

I am contemplating why my book, Thrashing About With God, may be a difficult and unnecessary read for some (*read also - humbly contemplating why Thrashing About With God hasn't sold as successfully as I thought it might or why the people I thought might endorse/promote it, won't):

The listener is made uncomfortable. The bearer of the secret may be unburdened, but the hearer is now burdened.
— Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey

And if you don't desperately resonate with the burden it's not worth being uncomfortable over. Really, it's not. Because the burden I speak of cannot be fixed or cleaned up, nor can you run away from it and cast blame. The book either asks you to surrender to the great Mystery AND own your great life or to be miserable, and I understand now why people who don't claim to have darkness anymore because they've been saved from it have no desire to take on my burden and make it their own. Who would willingly sign up for that? I get it now! I get it! I get why it just makes them sad for me!

So the book is for the desperate and the mad, which makes sense since it was written in desperation and madness. If you are the desperate and mad sort, would you please pass my book along to others as opportunities to do so arise?! It seems there are more of us than I thought. But we tend to be a quiet bunch, struggling alone. (Maybe because we've been told we are too desperate or too mad.) I love US.

I will be doing a book signing at my favorite local Oklahoma City bookstore, Full Circle, on Saturday, June 21 at 3 PM. Come. We'll talk. 

Untraditional Ways of Sitting Shiva

Death is a tender subject and most folks want grief to be over quickly. But grief works at its own pace. I am a firm believer in allowing the creativity to flow as a method to processing the memories and the feelings.
— Valerie Randall

Marnie Adams created two stunning tribute books in honor of our friend Valerie. One book showcases Valerie's photography and one showcases her digital scrapbooking. It is a heart-warming thing indeed that I got to create an art piece to be included in the latter of the two books. 

This post shares that art piece and a small glimpse at how I've been grieving in my own untraditional way. 

I love you, Valerie.


The Laugh Track

Curated vignettes on laughter:

Laughter through nausea is my favorite emotion, and after that, things got easier.
— Julie and Julia

* * *

"Okay my dear,                                                                                       

You have stumbled enough in the earth’s sweet dance,              

You have paid your dues                                                                         

Many times.

Now let’s get down to the real reason                                           

Why we sit together and breathe

And begin the laughing, the divine laughing,                              

Like great heroic women                                                                          

And magnificent                                                                                          

Strong men.

- Hafiz, Who Wrote All The Music

Things my friends have said in the past few weeks:

"I've been writing rather dark and heavy lately. But it's the kind of dark that makes you laugh...hopefully."

"My therapist is probably going to tell me, 'I hear you laughing when you should be crying, and if you're laughing it means you haven't dealt with it yet.'"

"Well, we're laughing now, and I always know that when we're laughing it means we've finished hashing something out. We are done when we get to the Divine Laugher."

* * *

I remember the first feedback I got on Thrashing About With God from my agent, after he had agreed to be my agent. 

"I think we need some humor. Perhaps some self-deprecation."

"Like Anne Lamott?" I asked.

"Yes, Lamott does this pretty well, only maybe less swearing. Could you add some funny stories? This book is really heavy, and if we're going to be able to go there with you, we need you to make us laugh at what you're going through."

To this day I think it was brilliant advice, but it still doesn't change the fact that at the time I thought, "But this isn't funny."

* * * 

"Comedy is the hardest thing to write," my husband said as we were discussing BJ Novak recently. The art of perfectly timed wit delivered with just the right mixture of humility and confidence is no small task. 

Maybe comedy is the hardest thing to write because it is the hardest thing to live. Dear Harold Crick, answer me this, "Am I in a tragedy or a comedy?"

* * *

Rick Warren, my pastor for two years of this wild life, used to say "We take ourselves too seriously and don't take God seriously enough." 

But I think all of it's serious and all of it isn't. 

* * *

In terms of lights and darks, laughter is both. There is light-hearted laughter that comes from creativity and life and maniacal laughter that comes from surrender and death. Some days neither will suffice and this too is okay.

Yesterday in a phone call someone told me, "He's in a place of euphoria, and everyone wants me to be too. But I don't want to smile. I don't feel like it right now."

* * *

In the beginning of the moments, years ago, when that first happens, we make a federal case out of it. Our stuff is up, what does this mean? We analyze the thought—you know, what perception is being cleansed out? Where is this from? Is this from childhood stuff? Is this false belief? We analyze it, and then as years go on, we don’t make a federal case out of it as much. We just know that we’re going through it.
— Michael Bernard Beckwith

Lately I've been noticing a quicker turn around time. What I mean by this is the stretches of straight-faced, "that's not funny" processing are significantly shrinking. Initially when this happened I needed a friend to help me understand it. I felt as though my lightness was betraying my darkness. Something would occur in my day that normally would have been debilitating, sending me into a tailspin of writing and brooding and groping and thrashing for long periods of time. But now, there seems to be a catch and release. A 30-minute-window (give or take some minutes) of checking in with myself, and I'm back on my feet ready to go. I found myself saying, "Are you really okay, Mandy? Is this really all the time you need? Is this really not going to ruin your whole month? Are you sure you don't need to journal about it?" I was so timid in believing my dark side when it said, "Yep. I'm good. Let's continue."

The path to Cosmic Laughter is shorter now, and the laughter is deeper, more solid and significant and grounded. A thick belly laugh. A Kali induced mad howl. I know what I'm going through and I know I'm going to make it. 

I look forward to the laughter. Love to see it return. Love the feeling when it comes rushing in, and I know I get to expand, unforced and unhurried, to make room for it. I feel ready.

I have spent a lot of my life thus far doing serious responsible work, and I have let myself do it, because I needed to honor that serious necessity. It feels good to have developed some fantastically strong belly muscles to let loose all the laugher that I've had to hold in for ages. 

I now embody laughter and aching at the very same time. Maybe this is the magical elixir that has aged in my deep, dark cellar over the past four years. I'm Ray Bradbury finally uncorking a bottle of Dandelion Wine or The Little Red Tarot pouring out flutes of Elderflower Champagne in the belly of my boat.

* * *

More things my friends have said in the past few weeks:

"Truthfully what I want to do when I get a chance to do something for me is not more work. I want to drink whisky, watch a TV show or read a good book and fall into bed. The excitement is making it from the couch to the bed. I hope this doesn't make me sound like a drunk."

"Now that I finally know I could write a memoir, and it would be damn good story, I'm not sure I want to. I'd much rather watch Gossip Girl and drink wine and eat coffee cake."

"I don't want to talk about work or what I do all day. I have this one friend who will make me laugh. She is silly with me. We can talk about nonsense for hours. I need a release from the normal."

* * *

When my baby brother died I was in kindergarten, and I remember telling my mom that I laughed when I heard the news because I wasn't sad. Over the past couple weeks, there have been moments in the grieving process of my dear friend Valerie that the most ridiculous of smiles has spread across my face, and I can't for the life of me wipe it off. I don't think she'd want me to. She makes me that happy no matter in death or in life. She makes me that happy. 

* * *

Three times this week I have wiped sad tears away while joyfully laughing. Magic comes in threes.

On my body


Wearing notes:

Bless the Mess Locket from Secret Message Society member, Jodi Bond.

Tattoo art from Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

Black feather, leather earrings from Secret Message Society member, Deb Taylor. They are made out of bicycle tires! *Deb, do we know the artist? I'd love to link to it here.

The striped leg warmers were ordered online from Amazon and make me feel all sorts of Tim Burton-ish. 

It seems that part of this style exploration, also includes how I hold my body. My posture, my poses, the way I carry my Self. So sometimes I have to try new things, that I might learn from this blessed contact sheet of self-portraits, only some of which go public. 

Wearing notes:

My outfit is thrifted. Even the shoes. Those were a good find. Oh, the grey leggings are from Old Navy. I remember buying them the same day I bought moccasin slippers and I felt so much like an Indian princess I went out in the December air and climbed  a tree. 

I have ink on my fingers and a hair rubber-band as a bracelet. 

My jewelry is thrifted as well, save for my Roots and Feathers Leo necklace which is a talisman to help me embrace my light. 

Yellow nails. Still. 


Wearing notes:

Again with the stripes. Tim Burton gets me.

Beware of God t-shirt that I had made for myself to wear to my book signings. If you've read Thrashing About With God, you will know why this shirt means so much to me. 

Velvet purple skirt. A gift that only a Gypsy Mystic could give. 

My scarf was thrifted. 

Mary Poppins boots. Which reminds me, have you seen Saving Mr. Banks? Oh. My. This also reminds me, when asked at family dinner last night what fictional character I would like to meet in real life, I answered "Mary Poppins and the MadHatter." Who would you choose?

Mismatched earrings. The idea never occurred to me until I met StarGardener. Now I'll never go back. Five holes in my ears means lots of fun. Teresa, I'm still counting on raiding your earring stash. 

Speaking of Teresa, I wore this outfit on the Full Moon when we got together for pizza and dark chocolate, hazelnut gelato. It was my I Am Dark outfit, but I still wore my Golden Leo necklace and yellow nail polish, because apparently my light is here to stay. 

Secret Rebel Club - Bottomless Light

I shared words with her. Words I had written, just like I always write, in a moment where I felt trapped in a box without any light, a caged animal clawing for a key, or flesh, or a glimpse of moonlight. 

The words were unedited, unfiltered, and all sorts of other “uns.” But they were most certainly not UNnecessary. They were the sort of words that can be burned only after they, like a map, have delivered me graciously to my next foothold. They go up in smoke leaving the dew of possibility on my flesh. 

This is an excerpt. Story in full at [Secret Rebel Club.]

I'm Finding Secret Messages

1. The stream of consciousness chatter only interrupted by the occasional distraction of needing to capture her own face in the moment, much like the dogs in Up being distracted by a squirrel, is entirely familiar to me. My chatter usually stays in my head, but nonetheless...chatter. Chatter and selfies. This is modern day survival. 

2. This lego BFF heart necklace was discovered because my daughter was looking for something to give to a close friend who is a boy. She didn't want it to be girly, and she didn't want it to be lovey-dovey. We both thought this was the perfect solution. 

3. This stunning post by Secret Message Society Member, Hayley Sarah.

It takes a certain brand of creative crazy to hunger for confession. It’s not that I believe in wrong-doing, it’s that I know that there are parts of me that are convinced that I must be ashamed of myself. I must bring these shames into the light of expression in order to take me under my own wing...I must put myself into the spotlight of my own attention
— Hayley Sarah

How much are we required to squelch the fires within
Before we can be deemed safe?
— Alissa

Don Quixote by Picasso

Don Quixote by Picasso

5. This artwork and MAD quote shared by Secret Message Society Member, Julie McCrary.

Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.
— Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

6. This piece of art from someone I follow on Instagram. I loved what she wrote as the caption as well:

First time with a paintbrush in so long. It feels safe here, so i want to open my creative outlets more. Planets explode from my fingers. This time, no time to hold back anything. Fragile scared scarred heart to fling on paper.
— Luna Lomasi

I’m not...I’m not mad, you know?
— A Dangerous Method

7. A Dangerous Method movie, as shared with me by my good friend Rebekah who I get to see this week! This was a tough one to watch. One of those movies that can't be processed consciously, but I think must simmer in the subconscious until time and space and exhaustion and desperation and healing and loss sweat it out of you. I think Jung would like that description. 

There was only me, the poem, the internal weeping,
— Seth Haines

8. Why Seth reads poetry (and writes it.)

9. This video shared by my friend Chanda. 

I feel big
— Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

10. Finding out that my across the street neighbor, who also has four kids, and moved across town a couple years ago has now written her own book and has a plan for several more. I am so inspired after catching up with her via text messages.

Why I (still) Believe in Thrashing

My book, Thrashing About With God, has set me free in ways I never could have fathomed. I cannot believe all the dying that has transpired through this book writing/publishing process. The things I have watched wither, so I can stand where I do today. Death after death after death of my projections. Of how it should be. Of how it ought to be. Of how it must be. And then at last, simply how it already is.

I wrote myself home, with blood, sweat and tears, and with it comes the reality that no one can take that away from me. An artist's work on their own behalf, there is nothing like it. I will continue to write myself home daily, to my Neverland, my Wonderland, my Wild lands. I will flaunt this freedom with the innocence of a child, the magic of a tantric enchantress, the madness of a scientist, the brittleness of a human, the incisors of a shadow-dwelling troll and the goldenness of sunshine right before sunset on a crisp, Autumn day.

This is my reward for going the lonely route - I have a Self to speak of, to live from, to share.

Today I am clinking glasses with those of you who I know are going the lonely route too. It is worth it. Oh my, is it worth it. 

Read it. Read the book. See if you don't see a woman who is giving everything to carve out space for herself in this world where everyone wants to tell you just where you ought to fit.

Because here's what I've learned. You aren't going to fit. Best to throw a few elbows and shimmy those hips. And make room. Make room. Make room.