Secret Message Society Zine - Issue 19


Members can tiptoe into the Secret Lair for a digital download right NOW!

Issue 19 features Brittany as the centerfold artist! And let me just tell you, she showed up brave.

I can't wait for you to see the contributions by members Deb TaylorGina Kimmel, Robyn Ann Bogart, and Angie Byers.

I would really love to send you my gypsy journalism in the mail. There are digital and snail mail options available. AND, there are additional perks to belonging to the Secret Message Society. 

Read about them HERE, or read more about the zine HERE.

Back issues are available in my Etsy store. Once they sell out they're gone. 

Here's your peek at Issue 19:

Secret Rebel Club - You Came Here For It

I picked the Neverland mug again for coffee this morning. I have noticed my gravitation to it as of late. My hand hovering over the Wild Strawberry mug, the Evoke mug, the tribal mug, trying to give any of the others a fighting chance, but knowing full well that all I really want is my mug from Valerie with her East Coast photo of the schooner’s sails. The mug that reminds me of Captain Hook’s flying boat, hi-jacked by Peter Pan and his band of Lost Boys with the help of the sprinkling of a certain fairy’s dust.

I am sitting here in the gawdy, olive, floral-patterned chair, drinking my pixie dust infused Neverland coffee and getting reacquainted with Alanis Morissette while reading snippets from a new obscure book I purchased called Finite and Infinite Games. 

There is this section:

“No one can play who is forced to play. It is an invariable principle of all play, finite and infitinite, that whoever plays, plays freely. Whoever must play, cannot play.”

{Continue reading at Secret Rebel Club.}

Your Turn, My Turn

Artwork from The Secret Message Society's Weekly Magic Mail. 

Artwork from The Secret Message Society's Weekly Magic Mail. 

At Cafe Evoke I walk a lot of laps. The kitchen is in the back of the shop, and when the food is prepared I walk it out front to the people in the main seating/serving area. I also walk out to stock the pastry case and to refill the mini fridge with things like fresh sandwiches, hummus, salsa, and yogurt parfaits. 

This main area is usually very lively, and I get to catch snippets of conversations. 

"OK. Let's go ahead and get started. We've got a lot to get through," said a man leading a business meeting. 

"Have you ever lead a small group before?" A pastor asked a couple. 

"I think I need to order some waffles. Those look so good," said the girl to her friends at the table overflowing with laptops. 

"We are actually reading his book right now," said one guy to another. 


And then I'm back in the kitchen, continuing with the food instead of getting to hear the next sentence.

This week I walked out to get some milk from the front refrigerator, and I took in the bustling space. Young and old. Laptops and knitting needles. Stacks of books and journals. Conversations: some with tears, some with laughter, some with serious weighing in from both parties. And my heart leapt up into my throat. 

We are so creative. We gather. We rile up. We get ideas. We think. We discuss. We debate. We dream. We learn. We believe. We doubt. We get up and try again one more time. And standing there, I wanted to just applaud us. I was thrilled in that moment to get to be the one serving up sustenance, so they could all keep at it. "Hey guys, I got this leg of the journey. You all just keep pressing into whatever it is that has you sitting in a magical coffee shop mid-week. You carved out this moment. Bask in it."

I really do enjoy elements of being in a "service-industry" and I do think, despite all of my thrashing and awakening, I very much still have a servant's heart. BUT, and that's a BIG BUT, I want to serve in shifts. I want to show up and work my 9 hours with the heart of someone who knows what it feels like to be on the other side of the coffee table. I want to make sure you've got precisely what you need, so you can have the most comfort doing what you came to do, because when it's my turn I want the same. 

I have spent so many hours in coffee shops plugging away at my hardest questions, rearranging my Rubik's Cube, walking myself through dark places, believing, dreaming, doubting, burning, that when I stood there during my milk-trip to the front, I saw the whole breadth of how we give and take. 

When my co-workers are done working, I make them food. When I'm not working they make me food or drinks. It's a trade-off that allows the energy to keep flowing. It's how the giant heartbeat of humanity gets to beat every single moment. 

Whenever my kids used to vie over whose turn it was to do something, instead of saying, "Let's take turns," they used to say, "Your turn, my turn. Your turn, my turn." This is what working in a coffee shop has given me a sense of. A willingness to not be the one out front all the time. Somedays, if you need me, I'll be in the back.

Just after riding my bike home from work yesterday, I saw my neighbor coming home from high school on his skateboard. He rolled past my driveway to his and waved at me. I had the sense that he had just completed a shift as well.

"How was school?" I asked.

"Oh you know, not bad. I finished another round of testing to get ready for college."

"That's gotta feel good."

"Today's victory is tomorrow's build up," he said, smiling wide. 

I smiled back thinking there is no way this kid is in high school. He always speaks like he has years to him.

I walked into my garage and then I heard him holler, "Oh, and how was your day?"

"It was good! It was really good. Thank you for asking."

We go away. We do work. We reconvene and check in on each other. We say: "What you are doing is hard. Thanks for taking a shift," because we know it doesn't matter what kind of work it is, somehow the energy and passion all leads up to one big source and we all have the option to gain from it.

Today when I pedaled home from work my legs were tired. It was hot outside. To get up my street is a bit of a hill, and I was standing and grinding it out in my yellow tights and black boots. And then I saw my neighbor, rolling back down the hill on his skateboard. He'd already checked in from his shift and was heading to the next appointment. He had both his fists raised in the air and he was cheering me on. 

I tossed my head back and let the breeze hit my face, glorying in the moment. "Thank you!" I yelled, because we did it. One more time, we did it!

Your turn, my turn.

Secret Message Society - October Centerfold







Braveheart, The Artist with the Pretty Mug

Secret mutant power: 

Unlocking the chains surrounding my heart and soul to find the door underneath and feeling the world through colors.

Current art medium/creative endeavor I am exploring:

India ink and red diary-ing

A Secret Message I found in the last week:

“Yes, it’s very much like how when you are trying to look at the stars.  Sometimes you see them more clearly when you unfocus or relax your eyes.  When you look at them directly, you can’t see them as well.  I don’t know if that makes any sense but you are learning to look for stars.”  A dear sent this to me when we were blushing and talking about learning the anatomy of our bodies and how to love them.  

A stranger I interacted with recently:

I generally bring my own coffee cup with me and the baristas have taken to calling me “the artist with the pretty mug.”  This morning, the barista told me that her favorite part of mornings is seeing my coffee mug and me because it reminds her that there are still people who feel color.

A word that means a lot to me right now:

Permission.  I’m currently taking the Blushing Wild ecourse and it’s all about giving myself permission to explore and find the things I have been too afraid to look for.  

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

I read Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese because it brings me back to my core as an artist.  Someone who is free to let the soft animal of my body love what it loves.

“You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep tress,

the mountain and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are headed home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.”

I knew I was an artist when:

I noticed that I breathe easier when I am covered in ink drops and paint smears.  I found the noise that had always been so loud in my head became quieter the more I immersed myself in art and color.  

A rule I like to break:

I like to color outside of the lines.  Even color outside of the paper.  Colors running together and getting on skin and coffee cups soothes me.  

This is what the Secret Message Society means to me:

This is my tribe.  This is the place where I am accepted just as I am.  Questions, doubts, fears- all of me is accepted. 

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

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

ink splattered clothing and a faraway stare.

Brittany snorts when she laughs and she tends to listen to the same song constantly for a week before starting on a new one. She has one blue and one green eye that turn grey when it rains. She believes grey should always be spelled with an “e” never an “a.” She drives a blue pt cruiser named styx after the river in greek mythology not the band. She adores the look of lower case letters and the sibilant sound of subtle alliteration. She has many scars and she wants you to ask where they come from and she wants to know about yours. She believes we are called to be rescuers, to hold our palms over the gaping wounds of broken people. She believes eyes speak and hearts are made to be broken, but they learn to love again. She believes love should be bigger than intolerance and she trusts in the wonder of being barefoot. She believes children always talk to angels and adults have simply forgotten how, but she knows a child’s laugh can heal a broken heart. You can find her on Instagram.

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. 

Anti-Hurry Allotment

I have started to think of the hours of my days as appointments. I have an appointment with my running shoes and the road. I have an appointment with my yoga mat and Bryan Kest. I have an appointment with the bathtub and Dr. Bronner's peppermint shampoo. I have an appointment serving waffles and sandwiches in the kitchen of Cafe Evoke. And I am trying (emphasis on the TRYing) to give ample minutes tacked onto both the beginning and the end of each appointment. It's my buffer space, my anti-hurry allotment. It's breathing room.

This means shutting down a project sometimes before I'd like to. I can think of one day in particular where my dining room table was littered with the overflow of coffee and paint splattered watercolor paper. The glorious beginning of a batch of #secretmessage art. I had managed to get two of the four colors I wanted to include on the paper, but my appointment was coming quickly to a close. I might have had time to add another color, but then it would make me feel in a rush to go to my next appointment, and I certainly wouldn't have time to let it all dry before dinner (and we needed the dinner table.)

So I packed it up, and found myself sweet talking my artist's heart. "Don't worry. There will be another day, and you can start fresh with new energy. Don't worry. You will get it done. You will. I know you would like to sit here until it is completed, but you are needed somewhere else right now. Look at all you did accomplish! Why this project is well on its way."

When I read those words now they sound so trite and condescending, but they worked in the moment. They were calming, helping me feel trustworthy to myself.

I made it in plenty of time to pick up my kids from school. I was able to ease into this next appointment. I read a few pages in a good book while sitting at the park next to their school. I added a few loose ends to my to-do list. I felt as though it was the equivalent to a business woman running to the bathroom and prettying up before her next client. I was ready to look them in the eye and shift to the stories of their day.

It isn't flawless, but it is helpful. When it works out it is a joy. 

Yesterday I finished working on my Zine in time to take a bath. Then I put the chicken in the oven and set the timer for when the oven needed to turn off and collected the items I needed for errands. I picked up my kids from school and returned the overdue Stargirl book to the library (a fine that was well worth paying, so I could finish reading the book). I made a quick stop to ask a friend a question and then ran into the grocery store for tomato sauce. As I got into line, I noticed some french bread and decided it would be the perfect addition to our chicken and halloween pasta dinner.  I jumped out of line to grab the bread, and then returned to the line. 

The bread was still warm! And, oh my, the smell!

I had to tell someone. Because the day had been one appointment after another and this was like a little reprieve. I looked at the woman in front of me in line. Business attire. Slim fitting clothes. Earth toned color palette. Bouncy curly hair. She had fish and berries and greens in her basket. 

When she turned sideways I caught her eye, "The bread," I said, holding it up for her, "is still warm!" 

She smiled, the fake smile. 

I continued, "And it smells sooooo good."

She nodded and turned away.

I stood there, feeling the vulnerability storm brewing around me, knowing full well I didn't need her to care, but wishing just the same there was someone equally celebratory of my good fortune. I felt every ounce of my chipped nail polish, my snagged tights, my scraggly hair well past a good washing. I thought the pink of my skirt was too bright. My voice too exuberant and childish. My rain boots too boisterous. I felt my mess and held my ground for it right next to the aura of this put together woman who, fair enough, didn't have the energy to expend on behalf of a warm loaf of bread. 

She paid for her fish and her berries and her greens, and then I approached the cashier. As he scanned my bread he said, "Oh! It's still warm. That's the best!"

"I KNOW!" I exclaimed, overjoyed. 

Then he added, "And it smells so good!"

"I KNOW!" I exclaimed again, smiling big. I was at a total loss of words. His response was a gift, one I had thought I was going to need to live without. It scooped up my messy edges and called them all yes. I felt a rejuvenation for the next round of appointments. 

Dinner. School musical performance. Ice cream to celebrate. Laundry to put away. Math homework. And a return to those #secretmessages I started weeks ago and finally got to put the finishing touches on. 

30 minutes here. 15 minutes there. 1 hour here. 5 minutes there. And, if at all possible, extra minutes tacked on to the beginning and the end for bread-smelling room.

Secret Rebel Club - Staying Put

I told myself this day would be a day for staying put. There aren’t many staying put days.

I made a batch of blueberry muffins. I didn’t know if anyone would eat them, but I knew I would. The muffins came together quickly, but everyone else ate fast and furiously and was done before the muffins had come out of the oven. I was determined to move slow, even though I felt the quick current of family pace wanting to take me with it.

When the kitchen had been cleaned and the dishwasher was swirling I made myself a tray of “staying put.”

{Continue reading at Secret Rebel Club.}

Out There

Burn list prompts from The Right Brain Planner.

Burn list prompts from The Right Brain Planner.

(I originally started this as an email to a friend. I will still send it to him, but decided it needed to be shared "Out There" as well. So here you go...)

Dear Wildly Talented Friend, Who Keeps Putting Himself Out There,

I sat up in bed on my 36 birthday this year and said, "I don’t think I want to be famous anymore." I said it later on that day to one of my sons too, and he said, “I didn’t know you ever did.” But I did. I think I did. Last year at this time I wanted to release a book and garner attention and go on to write books for a living because people couldn’t wait for my next one. They would gather at book signings. Long to have meaningful conversation. We would all be moved towards freedom. 

I’m going to a Katy Perry concert next week by myself and sometimes I wonder what it takes to be noticed like this. What suddenly puts you around people who no one else is allowed to come in close proximity with because they are too famous to be available to everyone. Is it luck or destiny or right place, right time, or hard work, or conquering fear, or all of it or none of it? Someone told me to take my book to give to Katy Perry. “Just in case,” she said. I’m so sick of “just in cases." This year has been the year of hard knocks, and I have lost hope in anything being changed for me by the tap of a magic wand in the hand of Providence. 

I feel distanced from doing art for me because last year was the big push to make money, and it didn’t happen. I am working in the kitchen of a coffee shop. It is a lovely job, but a discouraging turn of events when a year ago you had your hopes up for writing and painting (but mostly writing) all. the. time. Now the hours are fewer and further between to give to the creative expression that I need, and when I do sit down to “make” the high items on the to do list are the money making options, not the raw-er heart spilling ones. I do put myself into everything I create, even if I am creating for others, but my unwritten words are swirling in my brain and haunting me in my dreams.

Striving is such a loathsome word to me. I am far more reckless and temperamental and stubborn than that word seems to allow, and far too tired and annoyed and awake to wear myself out spinning my wheels on some American dream of wishing on a star coupled with pulling myself up by my bootstraps. 

I must find a way to do what I need now, though it feels so contrary to everything I’ve been taught about how-to make it as a writer.* I only have so many hours in my week to give in this season of my life.  (*Note to self: I think your definition of “make it as a writer” has changed.) 

I sat down at my laptop this morning, after a busy work weekend, and I opened it to my blog and started to cry because I miss being there, the purest, most consistent and most honest place of outpouring I have ever had publicly. 

I read a story that there were dancers on Taylor Swift’s tour that switched to Katy Perry’s tour. One of the reasons they gave was that Katy has established herself and so she has the freedom to do what she wants, how she wants it. This, understandably, makes for a more pleasant and fun environment to work  in. Establishment feels like a golden ticket in the hands of Charlie Bucket. How much chocolate does one have to eat?

When I hear Tony throw out the word “amateur” vs. “pro” in cycling terms, I realize I will always be an amateur writer. I have no desire to pursue any more formal education or be whittled down by some ESTABLISHMENT in workshops and internships and curriculum. I don’t make the time to schmooze in public or social media venues (though I have been told ad nauseam how much it would benefit me) because what little time I have I want to use creating. 

I am disgusted with the time I have wasted taking advice from professionals. Taking advice from anyone. Everyone. It has robbed me of a childlike fascination with the written word and weaving stories out of the scattered pieces of my days.

I am simplifying. I can feel it. Things, new things, surprising things, burning away. It hurts so much because I was promised following the rules would get me to my dreams, and they haven’t. They haven’t. They haven’t. They continuously let me down. The system is faulty. 

I am having to start from the inside and work out. Who do I want to be as a person? What do I define as success? What do I want for my life?

I’m finding it isn’t fame. I suppose fame can be a result. But it isn’t the desire. 

I want to be okay with myself. When I am alone with myself I want to be okay with who I am, with what I’m doing, with how I’m loving, with the way I touch my life and the lives of those around me. 

Over the last few years my expectations of faith and friendship and family fell apart in the dark place, and this year my expectations of career are following suit. My life is like a road through the mountains with “Falling Rock” signs posted at every curve. It is the inevitable crumbling, while I just continue to drive. 

And the dangerous part of all this is, I AM continuing to drive. I AM driving right on through the great, wild, falling rock of "Out There" and I don't have a clue anymore where I am headed.


The Mad One

For All The Adventures You Will Have Together

In September I worked on a commission project for my sister who is due with a baby boy in November. She gave me a collection of adventure quotes and gave me free reign to create them in my own messy style. After dousing them in several layers of paint and coffee, I was sure they were going to turn out perfectly horrid, but things turned the corner when I decided to frame the pieces in bold brushes of color. Adding the inked words and oil pastel as the finishing touches is ALWAYS my favorite part. I'm thrilled they made it to her safely across the miles. Now we anxiously wait on the baby to arrive. <3 

Secret Message Society Zine - Issue 18

Cover art by Luther Steward. Age 5 and a half. (The half is VERY important.)

Cover art by Luther Steward. Age 5 and a half. (The half is VERY important.)

With Eric on vacation this week, my friendly team at Office Depot had some trouble printing the Secret Message Society Zine, but they pushed through and figured it out. This weekend I'll be stuffing envelopes and slapping on postage stamps and scribbling oil pastel hearts. Coming soon to a mailbox near you! 

Members can tiptoe into the Secret Lair for a digital download right NOW!

Issue 18 features Beth Morey as the centerfold artist! Let me tell you, she packed A LOT of rich #secretmessages into her offering for us!

I can't wait for you to see the contributions by members Deb TaylorHelen Harrop, Gina Kimmel, Cassandra Aswani, Bethany Paget, and Hillary Rain.

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. Once they sell out they're gone. 

Here's your peek at Issue 18:

Inspired by The Art Journaler's color theme for this month.

Inspired by The Art Journaler's color theme for this month.

Secret Rebel Club - To Rest Is To Surrender

“If you want, we can put on a movie.”

“Yes. Yes that is exactly what I want. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to move. I need to just sit still and let my insides stop racing.”

We were sitting outside in our outdoor living room. We are in experimentation mode when it comes to our backyard. We have gone through Gyspy Fort 1.0 and 2.0 which are basically glorified sheet forts like I made as a kid. Currently the Gypsy Fort has been put on hold while we play around with the Gypsy Palace, a tent like structure given to us by that kind Goodwill donation man. He has been known to periodically offer up the best treasures to his storefront neighbors, which just happens to be my Love Interest’s bicycle shop.

On this particular night we had an air mattress with soft sheets set up for a tent floor.

* excerpt from the post I'm sharing at Secret Rebel Club Today.