Archive | Hope & Wonder (Issue #8)

Sunday Sanctuary: Magic, Hope, and Wonder

As I write you this note, we have just returned home from 2900 miles of travel. We stayed in six hotels over the course of eighteen days. I should be wrung out, exhausted, and devoid of any creative juice. Yes, I am tired after being in the car for more than ten hours just today. But the synapses in my brain are firing away with ideas, and  I’m filled with a sense of creative hopefulness I didn’t posses a month ago.

I won’t bore you with every detail of our time away, but I will tell you that I owe this feeling of renewal to a mouse. The Mouse.

Sandwiched between eight days with John’s family and John teaching a course in Orlando, we spent four magical days at Walt Disney World. Considering I booked us a room at Disney World with less than 45 days notice, I felt pretty darned lucky to walk into my room and realize that from my bed, I could see Cinderella’s Castle in all its glory.

And that also meant we could see the Happily Ever After Fireworks from the comfort of our balcony.

In a moment, I was seven years old again and sitting in my room playing an LP on my record player, listening to songs from Cinderella, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, and Winnie the Pooh. Long before the days of Cable TV, VHS, and The Internet, I watched black and white re-runs of Annette Funicello and the rest of the Mouseketeers. I danced around my room and sung along with every song, wishing for the moment I could be a Mouseketeer, too.

Color me envious:  when the new Mickey Mouse Club arrived with Julie and Lisa and all their friends, I wanted to join in their fun!

I would love to tell you that John and I did EVERYTHING at Disney World. To be honest, we took a laid-back approach, a vacation from the tightly-planned trips I orchestrated when I was primarily a mother, and my number-one goal was to ensure that each of my girls saw the characters they most loved. Instead, we lingered over meals and ambled from one attraction to the next.

Rather than being the one confirming that every box was checked, I got to step back and be what fuels my creative spirit: a curious observer. For a Type-A Planner, this was also a little terrifying. To wander into the vast world of Disney with only a couple of dinner reservations and a few Fast Passes was akin to organizing a major project without a day-planner and cell phone.

On our first night, we slept with the blinds open so that anytime I awoke, I could see the turrets and spires.

To be honest, giving my inner people-pleaser and planner time off is damned difficult. No matter where we went, I worried that John was having a good time.  I wanted to ensure he was fed, watered, and getting to ride what he wanted. No concerns about Character autographs, but still, the incessant worry was there.

In our explorations, I was reminded about an article I read many years before. It revealed Walt Disney’s biggest regret about Disneyland: folks could see the city. He wanted it to be a place where anyone visiting could escape the real world and enter a world of dreams and imagination. So, when they began building Disney World in Florida, Walt was determined that anyone arriving in the Magic Kingdom, would have journeyed into a space and time where the outside world was completely unseen.

He accomplished this dream  by creating a large parking lot with access to the entrance to The Magic Kingdom possible only via ferry or monorail.  How magical is that?

We are, in some ways, trained to allow folks into our sacred space of creating. To show them how we make our magic happen. People want a blueprint. They constantly seek a Magic Formula. Are we allowing too much of a peek inside the curtain? A question I will be asking myself in the coming weeks.

 After visiting The Studios, Magic Kingdom, and Epcot… and after three nights, we had a final breakfast at the crown of the Disney Resorts: The Grand Floridian. Best. Pancakes. Ever. Then we trundled off to the other side of Orlando so John could teach his class.  (This is us in the UK at Epcot)

But the thing was, I still had 2 days left on my fancy MagicBand. Waking up early one morning, without the magical castle view, I decide to take up John’s suggestion: drive back to the parks and spend the day.

I arrived around 7:30 in the morning. I parked, boarded the monorail, and entered The Magic Kingdom almost an hour before official opening time. I strolled down Main Street, still humming a song from a video my oldest  daughter used to watch on a loop:

I’m walking right down the middle of Main Street U.S.A……..

I strolled. I lingered. I popped into the Main Street Bakery (a Starbucks) for coffee. I wound my way around families and skirted the Castle that was a constant reminder that while my chronological age is nearly fifty, inside me, my seven-year-old self still exists.

I chose to see this solo day in The Magic Kingdom as an Artist Date. I enjoyed the rides, I wandered in and out of shops, and I ate a good  meal at an extravagant price. An elderly worker at the Peter Pan Ride whispered to me as she ensured I was safely seated “I prefer to fly solo” as I soar off to Neverland. At my own pace, I experienced the world Walt imagined in a different dimension.

More than a visit to a theme park, this day was an exploration into my own curiosity, and rather than worry about the experiences of others, I filled my thirsty well for the year to come.

And now, back home, I am that seven-year-old once again. Seeing things in a new light. Allowing my creative spirit to be fed by magic. Embracing the world around me as a place of hope and a space of open, delicious wonder.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Clearing Brain Clutter: Discovering Your Heart’s Desire and Clearing Soul Clutter: Creating Your Vision. When she’s not vacuuming her couch, you’ll find her reading or plotting when she can play her next round of golf. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Dark Hope by Selena Taylor

Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

I was made from evil, to do evil for good. It might seem complicated, but really it isn’t.

I walked from the darkness into the light. The only one of my kind.

I am the one who tricks the humans who steal innocence.  I am never kind to those humans. My duty is to make their worst nightmares come true. I  love to spice it up and make the nightmares more extravagant.

I was made shortly after the Fall. There was not much law to the land those days, so I had my work cut out for me. Still, it was nothing like today. When I look back now, I think maybe humanity is never going to get better.

I do not have a link to these humans, so it is always by word of mouth, or by what I see during my wanderings, that my targets are chosen.

Or at least, it was.

Technology has changed things.

Before, I had to stalk the humans I was targeting.

Now-a-days, I only have to go online and find where they live.  With over 7 billion people on this single world, I tend to pick off the big guys the most. It’s the trickle-down effect really. Take out the ones who set up the human trafficking rings, the men who make their living as destroyers of hope and murderers of innocence.

Those do take the most time.  They make me long for more powers, something I’ve rarely done during my long existence.

What powers do I mean? Well, I really possess only three:

  1. Ability to change how I look
  2. Stronger then any human.
  3. Knowing if they are innocent or guilty

It would be nice if I could just think them all dead, or… it would be a lot easier, anyway.

Oh well.

Guess hard jobs must be done the hard way.

I do not hide in the shadows like those nasty humans do. I confront them directly, and make them pay.  I have had small children cling to me – yes,  me the thing of evil! –  as if I was their last hope. Sad, really, that a demon is their hope at all, first, last, or otherwise. I tell them they are worth it, and to stand strong in the light. I promise them that true justice has come to set them free.

In between my targeted hits on the pedophiles and human traffickers of this world, in between the hours spent planning and learning – following their habits and mapping their routines – I take care of the small-time creeps, too. The casual sex offenders, the ones who have to be on lockdown when kids are out to play.

Those are easy pickings, thanks to the general helpfulness of the Internet. I  wake up in the morning, make my coffee, sit at my desk and go to the website they have to register on, and by the afternoon they have paid their dues.

See, it is not that complicated.


But the list is long.

And I do ask for patience, since there is only me.

The hour grows late. Perhaps it’s time for a light dinner, before I venture out once more?

About the author, Selena Taylor

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

For the Love of Bread by Joy Plummer

I first made bread in 1994. I bought a bread machine from a friend for $75. I made one loaf, and it came out perfectly. I made a second loaf, and it was about half right, half edible. The third loaf was completely wrong and inedible. I had no idea why.

[interior crumb of sourdough]

At the same time, my mother gave me an old hippie cookbook called Laurel’s Kitchen, a vegetarian cookbook published out of Berkeley in the mid-1970s. The vegetarian recipes were awful – way too bland for today’s palate. But the bread recipes were wholesome and excellent. While I was failing with my bread machine, I started attempting bread by hand. It was awesome! I made whole wheat bread, rye bread, and I don’t even remember what else, but it was all so good. I sold my bread machine for $75.

sliced multi-grain with cranberries

When my oldest daughter was born, I found freedom by carrying her everywhere in a Baby Bjorn. I remember the first time I decided to make challah. I put Sophie in her carrier, and mixed my dough. I remember kneading the dough on the counter, and noticing that the gentle rocking, back and forth from my heels to my toes, had put Sophie to sleep. It was, indeed, entirely soothing to me, too.

sesame challah

And then, I discovered a bread revolution happening around me. Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread method started sweeping through the DIY foodie community, so of course, being somewhat undaunted by the bread process, I tried it. CRUSTY BREAD!! And it was so easy and OUTSTANDINGLY delicious! I joined a bread group on Facebook, and someone recommended Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Yeast Salt. Now this was serious. I read every page and followed the instructions exactly as written. And I was becoming more advanced with every boule I made.

4 boules of sourdoughThe next big step was attempting sourdough. I’ve failed many attempts at growing things. I used to say that I could grow anything, as long as I could nurse it. But again, I followed Forkish’s instructions, and I made sourdough! I was making bread rise with a precious mix of flour and water!

3 seeded boules

I noticed that every time I put my hands in dough that any tension, stress, or frustration I had, dissipated. I was calm, focused, content. Making bread requires presence. All the mathematical calculations (it’s a ratio, yo), the weighing, the testing, and then working the dough to where it feels right, feeling how it changes over time…. You breathe into the process. It’s a meditation.

twisted chocolate challah

Now, I’m a member of a global community of people who nerd out on milling grains into flour, trying different kinds of breads from all around the world, and who strive to perfect our craft. But bread people are also generous and kind. Someone posts a picture of a crusty boule that pancaked when they put it into the oven. “Does it taste good?” That’s all that matters. Everyone makes a loaf that doesn’t perform the way you expected sometimes. It doesn’t matter. Try again.


I started selling bread to friends less than a year ago. My first week, I took 25 orders. The week before Christmas, I took 73 orders. Every week since I began, I have gotten one to two new customers. People are hungry for fresh bread. People are so happy when they get bread from me. Bread is goodness. Bread is for feeding your body and your spirit. Bread is for feeding your family. Bread is for sharing. Bread is love.

English muffins

About the Author, Joy Plummer

Joy PlummerJoy Plummer has been working in the food industry for seven years as a baker, caterer, and personal chef. A desire to set boundaries on food intake led her to a brief 2-year stint as a vegan, but she decided that she loved food adventures and her zaftig body more. She continues to serve personal chef clients, but bread is her true love. She plans to open a bread-centered restaurant in 2018. Joy lives in the San Francisco metropolitan area with her husband and three kids. Learn more about her on Facebook.

Sunday Brunch: On Silence

Silence. Most of us either love it or hate it, sometimes both depending on the circumstances.

From our earliest ages we’re taught that certain places are meant for silence. We are shushed in church, and reminded to be quiet when we visit libraries. We write poems about silence, repeat proverbs about it, and even sing songs lauding it, or, in the case of lullabies, we sing songs to coax it from others.

But those early types of silence, the enforced silences, are radically different from the kinds of quiet, of silence, that we embrace as adults. We might take our morning coffee out to the deck or patio to enjoy the quiet of an early morning. We make time in the middle of a busy day to meditate or pray. We seclude ourselves in the bathroom and soak in a scented bath in the evening.

And in all those moments, we think we’re experiencing silence, but really, we’re not. What we’re truly hearing is the lack of intentional sound. We may have turned off the radio, set our phones to do not disturb, or locked the bathroom door against chattery interlopers, but that isn’t really silence.


Last Wednesday evening, my husband and I sat in our darkened living room and listened to the crackle of the fireplace. We’d just finished eating tacos by candlelight. It wasn’t the meal I’d planned for us – I try to limit our ‘wrapper food’ to the occasional lunch – but the power had gone out late that afternoon, and our house has an all-electric kitchen.

It was late enough in the day that neither of us had fully-charged phones or laptops. We’d received an initial text that power would be restored at five pm, then seven, and finally midnight. It was supposed to dip below freezing that night – not as cold as the conditions our friends and family in the Midwest and Midlantic states were experiencing, but cold for Texas, where houses are built to shed heat, not retain it.

So we stoked the fire, and we lit all the candles and we brought blankets out to the living room and cuddled on the couch. We played games on our phones while we could, but eventually, we lapsed into quiet.

Into silence.

It’s a strange thing about modern life. We so rarely experience true silence. Even when snow blankets the world with its special, magical hush, we are still surrounded by electrical hum.

But when the power is out… when the fridge ceases cycling and the clocks stop blinking in digital blue or green… when light pollution is suddenly dimmed… that’s when silence truly falls.

As a rule, I’m not a fan of silence. I can’t sleep without white noise distracting me from the external house sounds that come with life in outer suburbia and muting the often too-loud thoughts inside my own head.

Last Wednesday, silence was an annoyance. I complained loudly to my husband. I even texted one of my friends that it was too quiet, that instead of being soothing, the silence felt oppressive and creepy.

But eventually, I relaxed into the softness, the cool darkness, and the almost perfect soundlessness. I went to the bedroom to curl up with my dogs and let the steady sound of their breathing – the only discernable noise – lull me into sleep.

My husband guarded the fire until it had burned low enough that it was safe to leave it, and then joined me in the bed. We lay together in the darkness, not speaking. Not really touching. Just breathing in the silence.

Shortly after midnight, the power returned, jarring us out of our quietude and into wakefulness. I wish I could say that we looked at each other, laughed, and turned the lights back off, but we’re tech addicts and habitual night owls.

We went back to bed around two in the morning, our usual hour, but something of our evening of enforced silence lingered. We were gentler with each other that night and the next day, more mindful.

I’m still not fond of silence.

But I like quiet.

And I love the peacefulness of snuggling on the couch with my husband, not talking, not watching television, just being together.

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

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

In Theory by Æverett

Open Book

I have faith in impossible things.
in angels and airwaves and mystic tarot.
angels with black wings and blacker eyes.

A metric ton of sound bursts overhead, ringing and vibrating and thrumming. Alive. Real. It digs in, it melts, it Becomes. It grows at an exponential rate and tears the flesh before its rampage to shreds. It reverberates and the onslaught repeats. It hums. It swells. It smashes all the windows.
Glass on the floor cuts my naked feet.


I believe in heartfelt androids—
he smiles so sweetly, you know.
I believe in Tongues—
it just takes learning.
Saints are just dead men. Don’t worship them.

that’s blasphemy.       It is.

I have faith in impossible things.
in the end of everything and the kindness of others.
a touch on the shoulder…

a gentle kiss—       I miss that.

I pray for impossible things. I always will.
go on, fight me! *thumps on chest*

The book sits there, untouched, and weeping. He bleeds for her. And she doesn’t even care. The ache is raw— and the cacophony is shredding his every. damn. page. Flesh thrown asunder in all directions, splattering on the walls, the ceiling. And the voice laughs. And she echoes it. It’s a friend of hers, and she loves that sound; it always makes her joy. She is, in fact, in love with him. And he is so very jealous. So very, very fucking jealous.


He lets it go, lets himself die— And cries with regret when she begins picking up his disparate pieces, still crying with laughter in echo. Crying with laughter in echo.

I love you.
damn do I love you.
Seeing your name on the caller ID makes me so happy.
Thank you for being.

Thank you for being.
On an empty street, I hear a familiar voice. I guess the street isn’t so empty. I follow it, and for the first time, see the face. It echoes in my memory with so many accompanying images. But not this one. Never this one.

Fear. Thrill.

I have never felt unsafe in a dark parking lot. I have always felt the Predator. I am a Predator now. But I will not hunt this. I back away. I watch. And I etch it in my memory— the sound of your laughing and the sight of it leaving your lips. I turn from you, completely unseen, unknown, undisclosed, and I walk away from you.

The sound of laughter chases me.

I will remain undisclosed.
You will never know.
It is my sick little secret.
sick little secret.

Little do I know, you saw me there, watching. And you knew.

You too are the Predator.
Kindred. Trouble.

I have faith in impossible things.
Theoretically, every reality is possible. So this isn’t even irrational.
String theory, man. String theory.
Shut the sound off.
and put the angel to bed—      kiss him to sleep.
And the laughter will never end.
Und das Lachen wird niemals enden.

Niemals enden.
In theory, anyway.


Photo by Cathy Mü on Unsplash

About the Author: Æverett

ÆverettÆverett lives in the northern hemisphere and enjoys Rammstein and Star Trek. He writes both poetry and fiction and dabbles in gardening and soap making. She has two wonderfully old cats, and a dearly beloved dog. He also plays in linguistics, studying German, Norwegian, Russian, Arabic, a bit of Elvish, and developing Cardassian. Language is fascinating, enlightening, and inspirational. She’s happily married to her work with which she shares delusions of demon hunters, detectives, starships, androids, and a home on the outskirts of a small northern town. He’s enjoyed writing since childhood and the process can be downright therapeutic when it’s not making him pull his hair out. It’s really about the work and words and seeing without preconceptions.


Male Voices by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

That I don’t understand a word
adds to the soaring sound.

I have no need of the richness
of gilded wood and sacred icons.

The male voices exalt
in Russian Orthodox chants and hymns.

Tenors coil crystal chimes,
baritones thread intricate melody,

and the basso profondos
hold the whole firmament aloft.

Their earth-deep, cave-dark rumbles
lodge in shuddering bone,

quivering heart, and deliver me
past the elements.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

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

Hope is Never Lost by Dona Murphy

I had a client who was very anxious about the development of a relationship say to me, “I know you’re always honest with me. I just don’t want to have false hope.” That set me back a little – to me, hope is never “false” at least not as I define hope. Hope is dynamic and evolving.

Hope is not an attachment to a specific outcome to the exclusion of all other possibilities.

I watched a beloved relative of mine battle cancer for several years. His hopes and ours – our desires – changed form and expression as circumstances changed. Life happened. First we hoped for his disease to go into full remission. Then we hoped for a good quality of life for as long as possible, and finally we hoped for a peaceful death with dignity.

None of those hopes were false.

The false belief that only one person, situation or outcome is the best and most desirable leads us to give up hope. The belief that only one specific thing will make us happy can render a situation hopeless.  We mistake our preferences which are temporary and mutable as the absolute best thing for us.

We forget that our conscious, ego-minds operate from a limited perspective. We lack objectivity. Our conscious minds see through a narrow filter. We have the power to create and influence our circumstances. We define our own experiences.  But we forget that we are neither all-knowing nor all-powerful. Our ego-minds need and want control. We forget that we are co-creators. The divine spark of creative power within us doesn’t guarantee lives free of pain and loss. Pain and pleasure, gain and loss, happiness and sadness are the birthright of every life.

The Universe (the All-Mind) contains and resolves our experiences through unity, oneness, wholeness.

Another way we fall into error is that sometimes we don’t realize all the possibilities that are open to us. If anything most of us make the mistake of dreaming too small; we don’t ask for or expect too much, but too little. We cheat ourselves by fixating on something that might represent a fraction of all that could be ours. What we long for may not serve our highest good. It might disappoint us rather than bringing us the joy and fulfillment we desire. Having hope allows us to receive in ways that can far exceed our expectations.

It’s not hope that is false, it’s the limits we impose either on ourselves or on the Universe. There are limits not to what we can desire or hope for but to what we can control. The Universe is limitless. All we need is to gratefully and graciously receive. Falsehoods eliminated.

I know these things: “What is yours will not pass you by” (anonymous) and “What you’re seeking is seeking you” (Wayne Dyer).

You will hope. If you claim your desire knowing that its own fulfillment is contained within it, you will not hope in vain. Hope is asking for what you desire and then opening yourself to receive what the Universe gives you. If you will hope, you will find your desires fulfilled. Hope is an invitation to believe and trust. Believe that you are part of a limitless, loving Universe. Trust that the Universe always provides exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

If you will, hope.

About the Author: Dona Murphy

Dona Murphy is the owner of Destiny Tarot. She lives and works in Lake Bluff Illinois as a Tarot reader, Intuitive Counselor and Life Coach. Dona combines her metaphysical and spiritual studies, natural gifts and real-world experience to help her clients solve problems and live their best lives. As she says, “The cards don’t predict your future, they help you create it”.

Happy New Year from Modern Creative Life

Happy New Year from all of us at Modern Creative Life.

A new year is like a blank page or a fresh canvas. It’s our opportunity to declare our intentions for the future (because resolutions never work) and to bid a fond goodbye to the things of the past that no longer serve us. It’s not just a fresh calendar page, but a whole, new calendar.

To open the new year, we’re sharing some of our favorite quotations about hope, wonder, and possibility.

Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
~Alfred Tennyson

“Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous by believing. Believe in yourself. And believe that there is a loving Source – a Sower of Dreams – just waiting to be asked to help you make your dreams come true.”
~Sarah Ban Breathnach

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Hope and faith flower from the cheerful seeds of the old year to the sprouting garden of the new year’s dawn.”
–Terri Guillemets

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”
~Neil Gaiman

“A Happy New Year! There is a glow of cheer and optimism in the very words “New Year.” The old year, with its anxieties and worries, is over. It too brought happy days and sunshine, and in memory we must cherish the bright places.”
~May Louise Crane

May the hope and wonder of the holiday season carry you through the New Year and beyond.

The Staff of Modern Creative Life

Image: Edd Sowden for Flickr Creative Commons

Dear Hope in the Year to Come

I have to confess, Dear Hope, that there were times this last year that my faith in you slipped. When we began 2017 together, I held out such desire that it would be a healthy and peaceful year for everyone I loved, yet I witnessed such suffering, loss, and unhappiness, that at times I wondered if you were anywhere to be found.

Especially when I lost my dear daddy and spent much of the last year lost in the valley of grief.

When I take a step back, though, and look at the tiny moments of grace and love through every challenge. I just needed to be reminded, my dear Hope, that you were always there on the edge of things, rooting for me.

Like take my father, for instance. I never wanted to lose him, yet I couldn’t stand to see him suffering. His once active life had shrunk to the four walls of his home, more of an existence rather than thriving. And that, my dearest, is no way to live now, is it?

I was reminded, too, dearest hope, that when my belief in you wavered, others reminded me of you. Dear friends held me in love across the miles and through a million acts of kindness. I guess that’s what did it for me, Hope, to be reminded that in every smile, tough, and the smallest kind gestures, that you are never lost.

“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”
― Laini Taylor

When it comes to moving into a new year, I thought it would be helpful to spell out some of my desires so that during the times my faith is shaken in your constant state of being, dear Hope, I can find you in the most infinitesimal of moments. Because when I trust that you’re there, you always shine through.

First of all, Dear, Hope, I’d love to go the whole year without losing anyone else I love. No, I don’t want to witness the suffering of others, so maybe while we’re on the subject, I guess the deepest part of that desire, dear Hope, is that everyone thrives in the best ways possible.

So, no more loss for those I love. Or, honestly, I don’t want anyone I love to have to travel through the valley of grief.

Health, dear Hope, is high on the list. Please give me the discipline, dear Hope, to  do the work I need to do to ensure I stay healthy. Please give those I know and love the wherewithal to ensure they thrive in their lives by staying healthy, both physically and mentally.

We should probably talk about spiritual health while we’re having this conversation, dear Hope. The surest path to spiritual enlightenment, dear Hope, is through art making. So, please, dear Hope, while we’re talking about allowing you to show us the magic that exists in the world, can you let the Muses dance on the edges of everyone I know and love and should know? We are all blessed no matter if we are the ones making art or partaking of art.

There are so many other desires on the edges of my brain, dear Hope, yet I also know that when it comes to keeping faith in you, holding these core desires at the center of my being will allow me to see you in every face I come upon, whether it’s in real time or across the digital ether.

When my faith in you lags, darling Hope, may you always remind me that you are always waiting to work your magic.

With all my love and gratitude,


About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Clearing Brain Clutter: Discovering Your Heart’s Desire and Clearing Soul Clutter: Creating Your Vision. When she’s not vacuuming her couch, you’ll find her reading or plotting when she can play her next round of golf. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

A Cinderella Story by Ruth Coe Chambers

I’ve always felt my childhood was marred because we didn’t have a library in our town. We had beaches with sand as white as sugar, water from the Gulf of Mexico that touched places we might never see. But no books. I longed for a well-stocked library, but all I had was hope that a family would move to our small town and bring books with them. My family didn’t seem to find a lack of books something to worry about. Mama had her crocheting and soap operas on the radio, Daddy had hunting and fishing when he wasn’t busy protecting us as he sported his deputy sheriff badge, and my dentist uncle brought home pulp fiction detective magazines that Mama had forbidden me to touch.

Me? Nothing filled that void for me but hope. Still, I started school without books and discovered something more wonderful than the colored chalk our teacher used to draw a calendar of September. She had a book! I would eventually learn that all the teachers had books, but just starting school, I believed pretty Mrs. Howell was the only one who owned one and not just any book, but one called Cinderella. I’d never heard a name so beautiful. On the cover was a young woman as beautiful as her name, dressed in a long, yellow bouffant dress cascading with ruffles and bows and all things wonderful.

Each day Mrs. Howell read a  little of Cinderella to us, and I suppose she knew we were hungry for books because every Friday one person from a list she kept in her desk would be allowed to take Cinderella home for the weekend. I thought my Friday would never arrive. How the time dragged until the day I ran to her desk after school and told her it was my turn to take Cinderella home. She looked at me and said quite simply, “Oh, Ruth, it’s lost. I don’t have it any more.” Her eyes weren’t red from weeping, she didn’t pound the floor with her fists. An important part of her world had obviously been stolen, and she appeared unconcerned about it. I hoped I never took anything of beauty for granted. I realized in that moment, even though I was only six years old, that I still had hope, and no one could ever steal it or the wonder it brought me.

I continued going to people who moved into town to see if they brought any books with them. That was how I came to read my first novel, A Girl of the Limberlost, by Gene Stratton-Porter. I identified with the girl though I didn’t possess the courage she did in collecting specimens from a swamp. I could, however, feel her shame in having to carry her lunch to school in a syrup bucket.

I was growing older, and when my parents realized I could read, they knew they would have to be more careful and keep their secrets hidden. One they kept hidden in plain sight. I had found a need for hope beyond books. I prayed that God would not let Mama turn out to be my stepmother.

It was my reading that had uncovered their secret. When I was very young, they let me see snapshots with writing on the backs. The woman had my name, and she stood with Daddy. I knew then why a room grew quiet when I entered it. Things fell into place and I knew who she was, even her name. Hope dimmed and my fate was sealed when a girl at school said one day, “She isn’t your real mother, is she?” I didn’t want a stepmother and ran, ran until my side hurt, but I couldn’t escape my stepmother.

I realized my parents didn’t want me to know who Mama really was so I began the long years of protecting them from my awakening. It was a heavy burden for a child to carry. Hope had been stolen after all, and I was left with guilt. Should I love the woman with my name, the woman who carried me under her heart, or the woman who cared for me through the measles and chicken pox and all the childhood illnesses? It was a heavy burden, even for a teenager, and the whispers of stepmother never left me.

I was an adult when I came to realize that I still had hope after all. Where would I have been without my escape through writing, my hope for making a contribution? I had to make my time on earth count. I had to repay a debt to a woman with my name. I was a Cinderella child. I had a stepmother who was sometimes wicked, but I saw that both Cinderella and I not only had stepmothers, but also hope in a glass slipper or a published book. Thinking of all I had written, of the stories, essays, plays and novels, I wondered if they would have been written had I not used them as a way of running until my side didn’t ache any more. Oh, the wonder of it all. Both my mothers, they were the wonder all along, never once calling me a stepchild.

About the Author: Ruth Coe Chambers

Ruth Coe Chambers takes pride in her Florida panhandle roots and her hometown of Port St. Joe has inspired much of her writing.

She is indebted to the creative writing classes at the University of South Florida where she found her “voice” and began writing literary fiction. Listed in the Who’s Who of American Women. She has recently republished one novel, and published it’s sequel, and has written two award-winning plays. She is currently working on the third novel in her Bay Harbor Trilogy. She has two daughters and lives with her husband and one very spoiled Cairn terrier in Neptune Beach, Florida.

Her two earlier novels include The Chinaberry Album and Heat Lightening.


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