Archive | Stories – Nonfiction

Leaving a Legacy by Keva Bartnick

My sister sent me an article about not going viral, but leaving a legacy thru small contributions. My “legacy” is raising children who aren’t afraid of being. In doing this I’m helping heal seven generations forward and seven generations back. When you heal something in yourself, that one act of healing heals more than you realize. You start to reverse the damage done in the past and what would have been possible in the future.

Other than that I have no idea what my legacy will look like. This year in fact I’m only worried about doing two thing…living in the moment, and taking care of myself. I’m not worried about what is happening out of Facebook, or the interwebs. I’m taking my moments one at a time. I’m spending time working on refining my inner lover of Hygge. I’m taking the time to figure out who I really am, and what I really think, how I really feel about life in general. Self-care is paramount this year.

I’m also branching out to experience things outside of my comfort zone. It’s been said that if you don’t do one thing a day that doesn’t scare you then you aren’t truly living. Now, that’s a huge stretch for me. I’m a homebody, seriously, an introvert that loves to introvert. I need my space, but with that said, once a week doing something out of my comfort zone wouldn’t kill me right?

I’ve decided that this year I’m branching out and taking an interest in cooking. Let me be clear, I can cook. I also bake, but I’m a better baker than a chef. I figure that while I’m teaching myself new things I can spend this time sharing these new experiences with my girls.

They can see that I’m trying, that I too can expand, taking pleasure in life. I want that to trickle down to them so they know life isn’t always so serious. That there is a time and place for that, but right now I’m choosing to live my best life.

It’s not outside the possibility to Hygge the crap out of this whole cooking thing. When your perspective on a situation changes, the situation itself changes. I’m embracing and exploring what food and nourishment means to my soul.

I’ve always looked at eating as something I had to do to survive. Not something that could be enjoyed, should be enjoyed, or take in pleasurably. Look at the Italians, the French…they love food. They are passionate about food, they take it to the next level of enjoyment and pleasure. I want that. I want to experience that. I’m the one that is the last to sit down at the table and the first one finished, plate cleaned. It’s gotten worse since I’ve become a mother. I want to change that this year.

Leaving a legacy starts with the smallest step forward. A constant step forward into your best self every single day. For me, my constant stepping forward begins with morning gratitude for all things; ending the day in the same way.

I hope that my legacy looks effortless from the outside when it’s my time to transition to the other side. I want people to know that I didn’t struggle to leave a good legacy. That my constant everyday act of becoming better than I was the day before be the mark I leave on the world.

That I leave my daughters in a better sense of self then they were when they arrived into this world. That I teach them that it is possible to leave people and places better than you found them. The act of becoming is our legacy, for better and hopefully not for worse. That becoming is our birthright that we give to ourselves everyday. For me, I will make mine a great one just by becoming me.

About the Author: Keva Bartnick

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


A Journey of Self Discovery Through Family History by Jeanie Croope

I like to say it’s all Dr. Henry Louis Gates’ fault.

For many years I’ve enjoyed his PBS shows on tracing genealogy and I had plenty of questions about my own. Last year I decided to dig into my past in earnest.

Anyone who has engaged in family history research knows that there are a million rabbit holes into which one can fall. Start googling or using one of the several more common genealogy web services out there and you begin to find names you never heard of and stories you never knew. I knew that the results would be interesting. What I didn’t realize was the effect those revelations would have on my sense of self and family.

My mother’s family was a bit of a mystery to my cousins and me. We had a few stories on my grandmother’s side, but Grandpa’s family was a complete unknown, never discussed. Mysteries evoke speculation (there was plenty of that!) and I was determined to learn what happened to my great grandparents, Henry and Angeline (whose names I never knew until I started this journey).

It took awhile but I discovered things I never would have imagined, some sad, some inspiring, some just interesting. As this information was revealed, bit by bit, like layers of an onion gently falling off to reveal its core, I realized that I, too, am part of this story. These men and women and the struggles and challenges they faced, were all part of my DNA, my true self.

Call me ignorant, uninformed or too far beyond the American history I learned in school, but I had long forgotten that not all American settlers in the 1700s came from England and for a variety of reasons. I had no idea that the first immigrants of my great grandmother on my grandfather’s side came as a result of religious persecution that began in Switzerland during the 1500s.

Switzerland? Really?

They were Mennonites and part of a group that came to Pennsylvania in the 1700s from Germany known as “Pennsylvania Dutch,” a group that also included the Amish. My Swiss ancestors, those of our great grandmother, Angeline, after fearing torture and even death for their beliefs, fled to Germany and from there to America. They would later move north, to Canada.

My grandfather’s paternal side also came to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, but their initial motivation was to find a better life during a period of financial challenges in Germany that lingered after the Thirty Years War. Many sons in this family also joined the Mennonite movement and my ancestors were among them.

These brave families were indeed pioneers. Pennsylvania had just been established as a commonwealth by William Penn and promised religious freedom and the hope of prosperity. My ancestors, as did many of yours, came thousands of miles on a ship that took months to arrive and on a journey that for many resulted in death at sea. Quite literally, they had nothing but the clothing on their backs and what they could pack. They built the towns, the stores, the schools and farmed land never before cleared.

Think about what it would be like to move into a new community with no ready communication sources, no schools, no stores, no doctor or dentist unless one came along with you. It puts things in perspective.

As the generations moved on, Henry’s ancestors moved west, first to Ohio. In fact, his father walked to Ohio alone, purchased land, established a farm, and then returned to Pennsylvania to bring back his parents and wife in a covered wagon. It was in Ohio where Henry was born and raised. As an adult, he came to Michigan to settle about an hour from where I now live and started his family, my grandfather being one of the youngest of his six children.

I unraveled all sorts of stories about relatives on both sides but the mystery of Henry continued until we learned that he had been committed to a mental institution and in a stroke of great luck, found his commitment papers, which tell a sad story of mania and perhaps schizophrenia.

His counterpart, my grandmother’s father, William (presumably born “at sea” but I’m still looking for documentation), emigrated as an infant to Buffalo, NY and set out on a long career as a confectioner during the booming years of candy making in New York. It was a life of relative prosperity and comfort, much unlike the life of a farmer in the 1800s. Their stories simply couldn’t be more different.

As I’ve studied these stories and others in the family line, I have more than once pondered how I feel about this history and how I fit into this narrative.

And the short answer is proud. And sad. And impressed, in a way.

I have lived in the same city since the day I was born. Sure, I travel, I get around. But I’m not what one would call adventurous. I’m not a risky person. And so to consider that my people lived in such conditions where leaving their homeland was the only reasonable solution to their life situation evokes such a feeling of respect and awe. There are many who would simply deny their faith, fit in with the norms of the time and live in relative safety. But my family took a different path. To make that very long, often dangerous trans-Atlantic crossing required commitment and courage, a courage I’m not sure I have.

I am filled with admiration for their dedication to a faith that provided so many obstacles. While this is not the faith I practice, I admire the Mennonite’s basic tenets of belief, particularly the strong emphasis on peace and not bearing arms, and my ancestors’ willingness to die for it, to hide in caves and to worship in secret. It takes strength of character to defy the rules for one’s beliefs. I like to think I have some of that — but I’m not sure I am that strong.

As I’ve learned about farming in the American Victorian period, I’ve realized how difficult it was when technology had not brought tractors and other farming implements to make the work easier. We all know this, rationally. But it wasn’t until I both read more and then actually saw the property that was my great grandparent’s — 100 acres of farmland in western Michigan — that I realized the challenge of it all. Farming was a family job. The children worked alongside their parents and that work was done manually. Michigan winters are tough and west Michigan tends to have some pretty rugged weather due to the lake effect snow. My people had to work hard, very hard, relying as farmers today do for weather conditions throughout the growing season to provide the best crops.

I have trouble growing tomatoes. In pots.

I am so soft.

I’ve learned I am much like my grandmother — a creative soul who loves to laugh. I had heard stories from my mother, her sisters and my mother’s best friend about my grandmother and her wonderful sense of humor, her creative streak and her good nature. What I didn’t know was that her parents had come to America in the 1800s from England to settle in a new city. Why they left remains a mystery. But somehow, through the chance happening of two people working in the same confectionery business, Minnie’s parents met.

Try as I may, my candy making ventures will never be store-worthy. (Witness the peanut butter fudge epic fail at Christmas.) Yet to know my great grandfather William was a candy maker — and indeed, I have his handwritten recipe book — gives me the confidence to try again.
My ancestors were not academically educated. I believe my mother’s generation was the first in her family to attend college. But they had a toughness and determination to build a good life, a new life, in a new land and to thrive.

I look at today’s news, stories of refugees fleeing oppression and seeking a freedom — religious or otherwise — they do not have. They are no different than the families of Angeline and Henry, William and Bessie. I find myself nurturing a desire to help those who come to my community settle into a new life. I haven’t quite figured out how to do this yet, but if there is one legacy I hold dear from the stories of my past, it is that in challenge we can triumph, over generations we can soar. These new immigrants deserve the same chance as my people did.

Perhaps one day, their descendants, too, will look back with awe, admiration and respect at their courage and strength and feel a little bit changed. I know I do.

About the Author: Jeanie Croope

Jeanie Croope bioAfter a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.

I am the Seeker by Keva Bartnick

I’ve always wondered exactly “what” I was, you know when you are little you feel better if you belong to a group, a clan, a tribe. I’ve heard several arguments for and against putting yourself in a box; defining yourself as a person. If I wanted to define myself I could use several hundred boxes in which to put myself.

If I wanted to describe myself by astrological standards I could say I’m a Gemini. This is true unless you go by the 13th symbol, then I’d be a Taurus. I could also say that I’m an INTJ; some days I am more E than I. It doesn’t change where I get my energy from that’s for sure. I’m also less J than I’ve ever been so the scale keeps sliding.

I keep expanding, I keep changing. I have always loved the saying, “the only person you should try and be better than is the person you were yesterday.’’

My dear friend Melissa Cynova, she wrote ‘Kitchen Table Tarot.’ Her cards have her name on them and one word; Reader. She was asked what that was all about. Her answer was brilliant as always. She said something to the effect that she didn’t want to be called a fortune teller, or anything like that, she was a reader.

She reads cards, she reads energy, she reads people. She’s freaking great at it too! She IS a reader. So I texted her the other day, and it went something like this:

Me: “I have a question for you. Since you call yourself a reader, which I believe is the most accurate description of you in the whole entire history of eva. What would I call myself? If I had to define myself or what I do in one word I wouldn’t even know where to start. Do you have any suggestions since you are the only wordsmith guru that I know.”

Lis: “Seeker”

Me: “I love it!!” *heart eyed emoji*

Lis: “;)”

Then I started the list, and I kept listing and listing……and listing. Would you like to see what Melissa knew about me? Pull up a chair, and grab something to drink, this might take a couple of minutes. So let’s begin, and in no particular order, this is me…”the seeker.”

I AM a Seeker of insight, of direction, of knowledge, of information, of wisdom, of the ways of truth.

I am a seeker of great books, and of beautiful stories. I am a seeker of alchemy, of adventure, of life, of Northstars and compasses, and also of the mysteries.

Sometimes I’m a seeker of approval and praise, because who doesn’t like a little of that sometimes? I don’t need it to thrive though. I’m a seeker and seer of signs, of spirit, of the Universe and of God, the Holy Spirit, of ghosts and energetic signatures. I am a seeker of validation every once in awhile, but not all the time. I am a seeker of healing modalities and of shamanic journeys, of ancestral roots, of tools for healing toolboxes, and wonder.

I am a seeker of good coffee and good food, of great whiskey, of red wine and dark chocolate.

I am a seeker of inspiration, of the ancients, of guides (spirit and otherwise), of rocks and minerals, and of projects to complete. I am most definitely a seeker of recipes to try, of ideas, of art, of weather phenomena, and of great clouds.

I am seeker of wonder and feathers. A seeker of gift ideas for my loved ones, of places to go, of things to do, of people to see.

I am a seeker of patterns in the universe, of scientific discoveries, and of scientific theories.

I am a seeker of animal totems, of soul selves, of energy in general.

I am a seeker of great music that speaks to my soul, of kick ass dance offs, and of meanings to life.

I’m also a seeker of angelic touch points or symbols and signs. I am a seeker of heroes, of pay it forward moments, of finding kindness in the world. I’m also a huge seeker of small gestures with loving intent. Those moments that might not mean a whole lot to you, but that could change the destiny or the direction of the recipient.

I’m a seeker of the small magical moments, of deep belly laughs and giggles of children. I am a seeker of living IN the moment, of precious smiles, and of cups running over.

I am NOT a seeker of revenge, or anything hurtful or hateful. I will leave that to others, because it’s not me.

I have to admit a couple of things though; I am a finder too. I am a finder of happiness, of paths, of love in my life, sometimes great parking spaces, and tables in bars. I’m also blessed to also find part, even if it’s a small part, of my purpose. Finding after seeking, and being content with what you do find is one of those heaven on earth moments. I can be content with what I find. It totally is a thing, but that doesn’t stop me from seeking; sometimes it just deepens the quest.

I’m also a builder of foundations, but foundations take time, effort, and a “wanna”. That wanna makes you dig real deep down in your soul for change. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are we. We take time, because we are worth it. I’m a builder of esteem, mostly of my own, but a girl has to start somewhere. I’m a builder of life paths. If you are interested in finding your own, I could help with that. With the right questions, and some elbow grease you too could stumble on part of your own.

Life is about the journey to unfold the purpose of why we are here. I’m on my journey, and will be till I die; constantly seeking, finding, building my dream that I’m living everyday. My life is never a dull moment, and neither is my journey. Honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way; live well, dream big, seek often.

Seeking is a lifetime obsession of mine, actually it’s been the one thing that’s been a constant throughout. There are things that may change, but being a seeker I hope isn’t one of them. If I’m not seeking something then I don’t believe that I’m learning, if there is one thing that I do it’s learn. Learning is genetically encoded in my biology, in my DNA. I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t seeking to glean copious amounts of information.

The thing about me is that I never ask or expect anyone to do anything that I’ve not already done, and experienced myself. If I don’t want to do it why should I ask anyone else do to it either. To me that just makes sense, ya know? Being a seeker you have to be okay with, and up for just about anything. Seeking takes a certain lifestyle, to which I am completely committed.

My motto: Learn, Experience, Practice, Share (Repeat)

About the Author: Keva Bartnick

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

She can be found at

Portrait in Pen and Ink by Melissa A. Bartell

Paper and Ink

She didn’t collect selfies on her phone, and rarely allowed photos to be taken at all. When asked why she would joke that she was the most unphotogenic (which isn’t a word, but should be) person in the world.

But it wasn’t true.

The truth was that when she was five, her mother’s first husband (NOT her biological father – that’s a different story) said that when she smiled she looked like she’d swallowed lemons.


She lived a lifetime of avoiding photos because no matter what she did the image on the film or the screen was always sullen, or silly, or stupid, and she was none of those things.


She never kept a journal.

Why write things that no one will ever read? she asked, not really rhetorically.

But no one ever gave her a satisfying answer.


So she filled spiral notebooks with stories, stacks upon stacks of green-lined paper filled with glossy black or peacock blue. Wet ink. Roller balls. Micro-fine points. And when writing online became accessible to the masses, she did that, too, coding her first website in Lynx, creating her first blog in OpenDiary because LiveJournal hadn’t yet been invented.

(But you don’t keep diaries, she was reminded.)

(No, she said, I don’t write words that no one will read; people read this.)


The archives on her current blog, which is too infrequently updated these days, go back sixteen years. For a long time, she posted content daily, until she realized she didn’t want to write who she was.


She wanted to write who she wasn’t.

She wanted to take reality and give it a twist – just there – and a tweak – and in so doing, she revealed far more of herself than people realized.


She doesn’t keep journals. She doesn’t save photos of herself or others.

She doesn’t need external sources to help her retain the things that are printed indelibly on her memory: her mother’s singing (off-key, but enthusiastic), her husband’s eyes (twinkling blue, like the ocean she loves, and full of adoration), her grandmother’s gnarled hands and crooked fingers, her grandfather’s slightly bow-legged walk, the way her dog comes to visit her when she’s in the bath – biting at the bubbles and then shaking his head in confusion.


If you want to see me, she doesn’t say out loud, but expects people to understand, read my words.


That ink is my blood.

That paper is my body.


Handwritten scenes stuck to the fridge on brightly colored post-its.

Scrawled phrases in purse-sized Moleskine notebooks.

Digital files full of stories, some that are ready and some that are still perking.


She thinks in music, because music was her first language. (Foghorns and sea birds and boat horns and her mother’s singing. )

But she lives in lines of text.

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.

I Want to Remember by Michelle GD

I am keen on the little bits that make up life, and I explore them with camera in hand.  Certainly, there are the photographs of my growing children and the holidays and the vacations.  But what intrigues me most are the pieces of all that…the pile of shoes left by the back door, the crushed candy cane spilled on the table, the afternoon light streaming through the window on our second-last day of vacation.  That is what I want to capture.

And I find the search for the bits and pieces appear in my self-portrait work as well, quite literally at times.  I might take a traditional shot of my face.  But the shots I really love are the ones that capture pieces of me.  Glimpses.  Those are the shots that remind me what I was doing on a given day; those are the images that trigger memories of what I was feeling that day.

Like many of us, I am generally the person taking the photographs of everyone else.  And that suits me just fine.  Truthfully, the reason I turn the camera on myself is not so much so that I appear in an occasional family shot – although that’s nice.  The reason I turn the camera on myself is because I want to remember.  I want to remember me.  I delight in making photographs of everything that shapes my life.  But, even in the delight, there is the potential for getting lost.  I do not want to be lost.

And so I turn the lens.  It’s not every day, but I make an effort to position myself on the other side of the camera on a regular basis.  It’s a practice I’m developing and, though I’ve been doing it a couple years, I am astounded each and every time by just how healing the experience is.

My shots reflect wherever I am on a given day.  Sometimes they’re playful in nature; sometimes they’re restrained; rarely are they staged.  But when I look back at each of them, I say to myself, Ah, yes.  That.  Me.  Then.  It’s powerful.

It’s not about a good hair day or showcasing a perfect life.  Not at all.  It’s about looking, with intention, at where I am in my life.  Where am I standing in the midst of all my little bits?  What am I feeling?  What am I holding, literally or figuratively? How am I doing…for real?

Because I want to know what I’m doing and how I’m feeling, for real.  I want to understand how I fit with the other pieces of my life.  Self-portraiture allows me a process for exploring that, for celebrating that.  It allows me a means to express what otherwise might get trapped inside.  I want nothing trapped inside.  I want to see and understand, as best I can, all the pieces of my life.  I want to remember the shoes and the candy canes.  I want to remember how the afternoon light fell through the window.  And I want to remember how that light fell onto me.

Editor’s Note: *text previously published in Bella Grace, Issue 4, 2015

About the Author: Michelle GD

Michelle GD is an artist living in Virginia. Using writing and photography as forms of meditation, she explores the connections between the beautiful and messy bits of life. You can find her at

All That is to Come by Christine Mason Miller

In three weeks time, I’ll be on the other side of the planet—traveling through India with three companions, my second visit to that part of the world. Just like the first time I went there, I don’t know what to expect and I’m excited for a new adventure. Even though we’re headed to many of the same places I visited before, four years have passed since that trip. During that time, I’ve written a book, moved across country and turned fifty. The world has changed and so have I, so I’m not heading to Delhi assuming I’ll love India the same way I did last time.

Who’s to say how well I’ll be able to handle the colorful chaos that is India this time around? Who’s to say I won’t love it more?

I traveled with my friend Barb on 2014 visit, and we went to Ranthambore National Park, a wildlife preserve in Rajasthan best known for its tiger population. As we both got situated with the guided jeep tour our first morning there, we were told not to get our hopes up with regard to seeing a tiger. None had been spotted for days, so expectations were tempered right away.

Over the next few hours, we were driven all over the park, observing sambar deer, monkeys and all kinds of birds. While we weren’t finding any tigers, it was fascinating to watch our guides try to track them. After pulling up near the edge of a dramatic vista and turning the engine off, they listened for the telltale signs of smaller animals’ sounds and movements that might signal the presence of a predator. Sure enough, there seemed to be a bit of commotion, and the guides immediately headed in a new direction. After checking in with another guide down the road, following tracks and taking a few more detours, it eventually came time to wrap up our tour with nary a tiger in sight.

On the route back to the entrance of the park, ours was the only jeep in sight that morning, and it was a small one compared to the twenty-person caravans we saw on our way in. All the other vehicles that had entered the park the same time we did at the beginning of the day were in search of tigers in other areas, so our small band of less than a dozen tourists had the road in front of us all to ourselves.

We’d passed a small body of water on our way into the park, and stopped on our return to see if we might spot a crocodile. While scanning the shoreline, something unexpected came into view, and once my brain caught up with my eyes, I realized what I was looking at: a full grown tiger, walking straight toward us, eyes locked, it seemed, on mine. My eyes went wide, my jaw dropped, and I immediately started crying. Even the guides were freaking out, exclaiming, “THIS is magic moment!” with a hand raised in the air as if in an exalted prayer. Looking at him with tearful eyes, I knew, body and soul, he was right. This was a magic moment.

I know people see wild animals all the time, all over the world. Whether on a jeep tour similar to ours, a safari in Africa or a fishing trip in Alaska, I’ve heard countless stories of encounters with creatures big and small in their native habitat. Seeing an animal in the wild isn’t terribly unique or even difficult. But for whatever reason, on that particular day, the rush of excitement upon seeing the tiger poured through me like a meteor shower—all stars and light and, yes, magic.

As the tiger walked toward us, our driver backed up and pulled up to a small hill just off the road. For a blissful ten minutes or so, we had front row seats to the tiger’s quiet meanderings. We watched him walk toward the water and sprawl out on the ground before offering us a big, gaping yawn, perhaps to let us know our presence in his home couldn’t possibly bore him more. We were guests in his domain, so we all sat quietly and watched him, the most audible sounds being the click-click-click of all the cameras. After taking a few photos myself, I set mine down, wanting to watch him with my own eyes for as long as possible rather than through a viewfinder. When I turned around to look at Barb, sitting behind me, I saw she had been crying too.

We cried quite a few times on that trip—at the sight of other animals, at the kindness of strangers, out of exhaustion and overwhelm. We laughed and sobbed and whooped and prayed, letting all the emotions flow through us day by day, moment by moment. In order to fully experience all the beauty and wonder India had to offer, we had to be open to all of its challenges too—the poverty, the crowds, the constant noise and movement. We came home filled in ways we hadn’t expected, having been pushed far out of our comfort zones and given gifts we didn’t see coming, like the tiger that emerged, seemingly out of nowhere, right in front of our jeep on that cold, misty morning in Ranthambore.

I am returning to India in a few weeks with Barb again, along with two other first-time visitors. While we aren’t visiting Ranthambore this time, there are, no doubt, many magic moments ahead of us. I don’t know what they will look or feel like and am not going to try to predict where they’ll happen, but I know they’re there—waiting for us all like unopened, beautifully wrapped presents. As I prepare for the journey ahead, I’m already saying thank you for everything that is to come.

About the Author: Christine Mason Miller

Christine Mason Miller is an author and artist who has been inspiring others to create a meaningful life since 1995.

Follow her adventures at

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.


A Quiet Thrill by Michelle GD

I am like a child again when the meteorologists call for snow.   Looking out the window frequently, watching the sky, holding my breath just the tiniest bit.  Did it start yet?  Is it coming?  I remember being thrilled by snow as a child.  I am still thrilled (perhaps more?) as an adult.

With snow come challenges of slippery roads and cancellations.  As I child, I cared only of the latter; as an adult, I must consider both.  Still, I eagerly await the first flakes.  Sometimes the birches blow in the wind; sometimes they stand like statues.  Sometimes the sky seems an even wash of grey; sometimes, if I look closely enough, I see darker greys and lighter greys and greys in between.  Always, I feel like the world at my feet is in the midst of some pause.  Or maybe it’s just me.

As I wait for the snow, I am surely in the pause.  I am present and attentive.  I feel alive.  I watch excitedly for changes in the sky and on the ground.  I am in awe once those changes arrive.  The blanket of white laid upon the ground, the hush accompanying the laying of that blanket.

I remember that hush as a child.  For a few years, we lived in upstate New York, just south of the Canadian border.  We got a lot of snow there; I had many opportunities to step into that hush.  Now, my family of four lives in Virginia, and we don’t experience the frequency or amount of snow I enjoyed in those childhood years.  But we do get snow; I do step into the hush.  And every time I step into the hush, my shoulders drop a little lower, and my eyes widen in wonder.

The beauty is not a surprise to me.  And yet, every time it snows…it surprises me.  It delights me, softens me.  Every time it snows, I step into the pause.  I am present and attentive and alive.  And isn’t this what I continually practice, no matter the season?  The presence, the attention, the alive-ness?

This time of year is busy for many of us.  We are celebrating and decorating and making merry.  Likely, we are also reflecting on a calendar year about to close, and preparing to open another.  It’s a time of year full with work outside ourselves (all that merry-making); it’s also full with work inside ourselves (all that reflecting).  It’s a time of year filled with so much.

Just the other day, it snowed.  I was grateful for Nature’s invitation; she called me in, and I responded.  I stepped into her pause, I felt her hush.  She beautified my world that was already beautiful, and I like that she didn’t out-do herself…she was humble and just-right.  I left the busyness and merry-making of the house, and walked through the falling snow with my kids.  We laughed, and we were silent.  I felt snowflakes on my eyelashes, and watched flakes rest but a moment on the lashes of my kids…each snowflake a gift.  Each one an invitation to pause, to notice, to be a little bit amazed.

There’s something in that pause, that being a little bit amazed.  There is a certain release I feel, as if I lie back and the world catches me and holds me.  Though I must do my part:  I must, on occasion, allow my shoulders to drop; I must allow my eyes to widen in wonder. I must anticipate, and I must receive.  I must allow myself to lie back and be held by the beauty of this world.

Now do you understand why a forecast of snow thrills me to my core?

About the Author: Michelle GD

Michelle GD is an artist living in Virginia.  Using writing and photography as forms of meditation, she explores the connections between the beautiful and messy bits of life.  You can find her at

Snow Day by Molly Totoro

Let me set the scene.

It is a dark, cold Wednesday morning. The alarm rings for the second time. I dare not press the snooze option again for fear I will oversleep. I brace myself before turning back the warm flannel sheets – allowing the cold air to hit my legs as I swing them over the side of the bed. I’m partially awake now.

I grope for my glasses resting on the nightstand. I put them on and check my phone: 5:30am. Time to start the day.

I shuffle my way through the hall and down the steps. The pot of coffee I set to a timer the night before is ready. I pour myself a cup and head to my special seat in the family room. The Basset barely moves to make room, but I’m appreciative of his efforts to warm my spot. I find the remote and turn on the morning news.

… you will find a listing of school closings scrolling at the bottom of the screen.

I’m now fully awake. I watch the names of schools make their way across the television. Blue Valley… Bonner Springs… It will be a while before they reach the Os.

I try to keep my excitement under control. After all, these are the last weeks before the end of the semester. There is so much more work to do before finals. But…

Edgerton… Excelsior Springs…

I am prepared for class. All grading is complete. Lesson plans are in order. Photocopies made. The students are working on long-term writing projects. If we don’t have school, they will know what to do at home.

Kearny … Lee’s Summit…

 So many school districts are closed. There’s about three inches of snow on the ground now, making rush hour traffic slow and treacherous. News anchors are advising all to stay inside if possible. The forecast is for another six inches before nightfall.

Peculiar… Olathe…

 I let out an audible squeal. The basset gives me a look of disdain and returns to his slumber. A snow day!!

I’m not sure why I’m so fond of these special occasions. I am usually mature and reserved, but snow days bring out my inner child.

Perhaps it’s because I grew up in Texas. I never experienced snow until we moved to Connecticut when I was twelve. And that first snow was magical. Rather than hard, pelting raindrops, soft silent flakes floated around me. The drab gray ground transformed into an unblemished swirl of white. Rain told me to stay safe indoors while the snow beckoned me to come outside and experience winter joy.

Of course, I understand the scientific cause: cold temperatures and moisture in the clouds create ice crystals that stick together and form snow before falling to the ground. The valid explanation, however, does not diminish the magic.

While I no longer choose to spend my snow days outside building snowmen or engaging in friendly snowball fights, I do relish the joy of an unexpected day off.

I light a fire in the fireplace and enjoy sipping an extra cup of hot coffee. Because my school work is complete, the day belongs to me – to do as I see fit. I refuse to sully the hours with mundane chores like laundry or housekeeping. This day is reserved for spontaneous creativity.

A portion of the morning hours will be spent reading that novel I bought months ago but never found the time to open. Today is the day to escape to that literary world.

Around noon I will inspect the refrigerator to see what I can make for dinner. I find enough leftovers and vegetables for a nice pot of soup and some melted cheese biscuits.

The afternoon hours may be spent on a craft project, like catching up on family scrapbooks or creating greeting cards for the upcoming year. If I’m in a particular culinary mood, I may scour the cookbooks for a new dessert recipe to try.

The leisurely day is bound to pass quickly. Before I know it, the dinner dishes will be washed and put away, and I will begin thinking about school tomorrow.

The magic of a snow day, however, is not limited to one 24-hour time period. The spontaneous day off is simply the catalyst to re-awakening our creativity. Once we open that novel, take out those craft supplies, or delve deeper into a personal project, we look for ways to continue.

We discover a ten-minute pocket of time between cleaning the kitchen and starting the nighttime routine. We set the alarm thirty minutes earlier to give us some quiet uninterrupted space. We turn off the comedy re-runs in favor of me-time.

I’m not sure who enjoys a snow day more: students, teachers, or the basset.

About the Author: Molly Totoro

Molly Totoro is a Connecticut Yankee currently residing in the Midwest with her husband and trusty basset. While Molly retired from full-time teaching in 2014 to pursue her writing dreams, she continues to work with students to achieve their writing potential. Molly recently published her first book, Journaling Toward Wholeness: A 28-Day Plan to Develop a Journaling Practice with the hope of inspiring others to experience the health benefits of writing their inner thoughts.

Connect with Molly at her blog, My Cozy Book Nook and on social media: FaceBookTwitterInstagramPinterest

A Palatable Passion Rediscovered by Emma Gazley

As the air turns a little cooler and loved ones gather I’m finding myself returning to a creative task I have long enjoyed; baking.  The joy of mixing together ingredients and seeing them transform into something beautiful, delicious and warm is something I can remember from as far back as seven years of age. My mother had been sharing some of her recipes with me, showing me how our creations developed in the oven, and she told me that just this once I could “make up” my own recipe. I didn’t understand the science behind it at all, but I knew I needed an egg or two and some flour and something sweet and as I told her what I wanted in my recipe my mother mixed and helped me and I made my first very own… cake-bread. It was kind of a cake, round and small, but the consistency was terrible. I think I can still imagine the flavor of it; bad, but intensely satisfying to me.

I offered a slice of my cake-bread to everyone who dropped by our house for the next two days, and they politely accepted while it hardened throughout and became completely inedible.

A few years later I was gifted an Easy-bake oven for Christmas, and this was satisfying in an all new way, as I was old enough to play with it without supervision, and my creations came to life far quicker than conventional baking. My affair with the Easy-bake was short lived, however. Somehow it never felt exactly like the real thing.

I wouldn’t say I baked constantly, or even consistently in high-school. I would get the itch, or a craving, and I’d wake up one day determined to make x—. Pumpkin bread with chocolate chunks. Sugar cookies that didn’t taste like they had come from a box. Fresh bread. There are many, many books written on the topic of bread alone, and for good reason as far as I’m concerned . What could be more satisfying than that tap of your loaf, the crunch of crust and the steam rising from the crumb while you spread a little butter and take a bite?

I was never very good at bread. I made some decent small loaves, and my mother and I would enjoy them with a homemade foamy caramel macchiato in the mornings on foggy days when we could barely see the valley across the hills from the back porch. My mother was always more gifted than I, though she told me repeatedly that I only needed practice.

After I had graduated, when I️ first started encountering health problems that my doctor thought would be helped by changing my nutrition, I stopped eating sugar, gluten and carbohydrates in general. Having no reason to eat what I might bake, and not being disciplined enough to see the value of  the practice of baking for the sake of other’s enjoyment, I quit.

And I’m sad to say, I barely realized that something I had enjoyed so much was gone from my life. Preoccupied with other creative pursuits (painting, music, writing) and focused on healing my body, baking was an absurd luxury that would effectively poison me if it contained the ingredients I had used for years.

Several years have gone by, and just as this season is unfolding, I feel a new season approaching for myself. Though it’s hardly cold in Los Angeles, it has cooled somewhat and the air has a new flavor to it. Outside in the mornings before work, the people taking their dogs for a walk have all got sweaters and hoodies on. I’ve been craving something hot during my commute instead of my normal iced rooibos honey tea. Thanksgiving and Christmas plans are flying back and forth between relatives, and the excitement on friend’s faces as they discuss how they plan to spend the holidays is contagious.

I’ve been finding myself reminiscing lately. Nostalgia will pour over me from the smells of the Korean-Parisian bakery around the corner. I’ve caught myself in a reverie of Christmas and Thanksgiving; pecan pie and yams with crispy brown sugar crumble on top.


Meanwhile, for the past few weeks, I have become practically obsessed with watching cake decorating videos. Frosting cupcakes, fondant and decoration on a three-tier cake, special frosting tips, food color without corn syrup- these are all things in my recent search history. I’ve found certain artists (there’s just no other word for these master cake decorators) who I especially love to watch as they explain something extremely complicated and make it look very easy.

Aside from a few mild attempts at recipes that were gluten-free, paleo, sugar-free, etc, I haven’t truly rediscovered this passion for baking until now.

As I write this I have the ingredients for a cheesecake in my kitchen, ready to be mixed for my coworker’s birthday. I made carrot cake cupcakes with a cream cheese coconut sugar frosting last week, as well as white chocolate chip cookies and banana cupcakes with buttercream. Due to my health constraints I am trying to learn or create alternative solutions to some of the trickier ingredients. But I am also quite happy to make these treats for my loved ones and see their faces light up.

I am, by no means, a talented person in the kitchen. My husband has so frequently had to explain to me how not to burn toast that it’s become a household joke. Aside from quiche, chicken soup, french toast, and sweet potato fries, my repertoire is sorrowfully lean. He can throw some shrimp in a pan with some green onions and end up somehow with a delicious curry over brown rice, while I have learned the art of the sausage. In truth, I wouldn’t say I’m anything special in the baking department either.

Yet I have been finding lately that one doesn’t need to be established as good at something before trying to be better at it, and as long as my enjoyment is equal to my effort, I find immense satisfaction in leaning down over a hot oven and feeling the makeup on my face melt as I check if the muffins need any more time.

If you’ve been considering tackling a new recipe, or trying to bake something from scratch for the first time, I encourage you to give it a shot. There have been times in the past week and a half when I can safely say that using a hand mixer has saved my sanity. Coming home exhausted and still getting excited to spend some time in the kitchen is a thrill I thought I’d left behind, but coming up on the cookie season of the year my recipe list is starting to grow long.

It’s transformative to the mood. Maybe it’s the analogy of seeing ourselves churned up inside until something beautiful is created through our chaos. Or maybe it’s just because nothing is as comforting at the end of the day as a cool glass of milk and a cookie stuffed with chocolate chips.

About the Author: Emma Gazley

Emma Gazley is an artist, musician, writer, adventurer and teacher. Born to two adventurous parents, Emma was destined to be an explorer of the world, and from her earliest moments displayed signs of creativity and curiosity. She has spent time in Europe, Asia, Canada, and currently resides in the U.S. She began her journey of discovering her identity as an artist in 2012, after encountering critical health problems that caused her to lose her job and the ability to do most everyday activities. Many of her projects have, as a result of this event and others, a twinge of the painful and tragic aspects of life.

Emma is interested in learning about grief and how to cope with it, as well as passionate about finding joy in the day to day.

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