The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Bernie Brown


If you plan on breaking your wrist anytime soon, don’t do it all alone in a one-hundred-year-old twenty-room mansion at 6:30 in the morning.

Just sayin’.

I tripped on the bathroom threshold at the Jim Boyd mansion at the Weymouth Center for the Arts during a much-anticipated writing residency. Falling sideways into the bathroom, I curled cozily around the toilet and broke my wrist. All on a beautiful April morning.

A dear friend to whom I will always be grateful came to my rescue, first aid book and ice pack in hand. Bless her beautiful heart. I will spare you all the details of that day and the four months, two Urgent Care visits, four splints, two surgeries, one ruptured thumb tendon, three casts, and countless doctor and therapy appointments.

What I will do is filter out what I have learned from this saga.

The Good Stuff.

Let’s start with the people in white coats, or green scrubs, more likely. They astound me.

An orthopedic hand specialist? Didn’t even know one existed. In the first surgery, he installed the usual pins and plates. A piece of cake to this guy. Second surgery offered him a bit more fun. He transferred and wove a tendon from my index finger into my thumb tendon. A few steps up from weaving potholders.

And a hand physical therapist? Imagine a large room filled with nursery school toys, peg boards, putty, beans in bowls, things to wind up and squeeze. And then put in some therapists who know how to use these toys to help patients regain the use of their hands. What a satisfying profession and what a brilliant person my therapist is. Many times she gave me emotional therapy along with physical therapy.

It is almost cliché to say one has learned to appreciate one’s family. I had to live it to learn it.

My husband brought me People magazine, and trays of food, and doses of medicine, and glasses of wine. He helped me into the car and chauffeured me to endless doctor and therapy appointments. He tried to cook, though we were both happier when he brought home fast food. We learned all the take-out menus within a five-mile radius of our house. The thing he most hated to do, but did anyway, was put lotion on my left arm after a bath. I could use my left hand to put lotion everywhere else, but not on itself. And my sweetie gets kind of creeped out by lotions. It’s just a thing he has.

Our son, who lives with us, opened jars of jam, buttered my toast, and tied my shoes. One day he caught me scooting down the stairs dragging the laundry basket, which I couldn’t pick up, down with me. He looked at me in mild disgust. “Give me that,” he said. “Look, Mom. It’s a temporary situation, all you have to do is ask.”

Blessed, that’s what I am.

When I was able to supervise some cooking, both he and my husband chopped things very nicely. We even invented a tasty dish of chicken sausage, roasted potatoes, green beans, and grape tomatoes, which we named Therapy Stew.

When our daughter completed all the end-of-year demands her teaching job required, she came home and brought our adorable two-year-old granddaughter to brighten my spirits. While I reveled in my Gigi role, our daughter cooked, shopped, and took me to the store to buy soul- satisfying things like nail polish and eye shadow. In the afternoon, while her daughter slept in her arms, we enjoyed a glass of wine, and she talked me through my experience as only a daughter can. Later that evening, she filed my fingernails and painted my toenails, other things my husband just couldn’t get the hang of.

My long distance family asked about my sleep and how was the pain and what did the doctor say, and cheered me on with phone calls, emails, text messages, cards, and bouquets of flowers.

The day I hit rock bottom, the day I cried all morning, turning my eyes stoplight red and my face puffy as a yeast roll, a dear friend came by. She came through the door of my bedroom like a guardian angel carrying an enormous bouquet of sunflowers and lilies, and an overflowing bag of chocolate truffles, mango cookies, and caramel popcorn. She listened to me lament, “Will I ever be pain free? Will I ever be able to write and sew?”

Other friends sent me emails and asked me to dinner. Ten of us had a jolly time at a Cast Away party, bringing food enough to carpet my table and wine enough that we are still enjoying it weeks later.

That’s the Good Stuff, skilled professionals, devoted family, loyal friends.

Now the Bad. Let’s talk pain.

I learned different kinds of pain. There never was the screaming kind of pain, but there was the all-encompassing, deeply penetrating ache, relentless as a heartbeat. And then came nerve pain like creepy crawlies beneath my skin. I used ice. I used heat. I had drugs, even the heavy duty ones, but pain never disappeared entirely.

Pain brought me down. It wore me out. It made me old. I walked slow, with a shuffle. I moaned and sighed like a tired old creature.

Foolishly, I thought when I had the cast removed life would be easier. Well, yes and no. I didn’t have to cart around a rock hard vice any longer, but now I learned about surface sensitivity. When skin has been traumatized by two surgeries and encased in a cast for six weeks, it becomes sensitive to  – – well almost anything, simply being exposed to the air. The top of my hand felt like the skin was burning. Although most of the ache and the nerve pain have dissipated, the burning sensation remains. I look forward to the day it is just a memory.

Fear is the Ugly.

If this could happen to me, could it happen again? Or something worse?

I now have a real fear of falling. I grab stair rails tightly, watch where my feet go with every step, and have anxiety about things I used to anticipate gladly. My dependence made me afraid to leave home. Even our first road trip to our daughter and her family, a trip that normally filled me with joy, worried me in a vague free-floating way.

Getting behind the wheel of the car again. Fixing my own hair. All these ordinary things filled my head with worst case scenarios.

In a few weeks, we have a plane trip planned. Can I still navigate an airport security line, get on a plane full of people who hurry and bump, and stow my carryon under my seat? Can I retrieve my checked luggage from the turntable?

Each fear has to be corralled and subdued. So far, I am pumping my fist at each small victory.

Were there aha moments when the good, the bad, and the ugly insights came to me? Not so much moments, more growing realizations.

Things I had always known at some level now moved to the forefront of my mind and heart. Will this knowledge stay with me? Flawed as I am, I can’t be sure. When my hand is no longer stiff and sore, will I take for granted this five-fingered wonder on the end of my arm? I know I will take my husband for granted, because that is just what married people do.

I do know this: when I walk down the street, or into a restaurant, or visit the mall and see someone in a sling, or on crutches, or in a wheelchair, I send them silent wishes for recovery and good health.Rich or poor, highly educated or barely literate, old or young, we all belong to the same club where the membership is injury and pain.

I learned empathy for people whose lives will never be pain free, refugees who spend years in squalid camps, who starve and go unwashed for lack of water, who have inner and outer wounds that will never heal. I pray for them and for all people who endure the agony of cancer, or sick children or the death of a loved one, who suffer bravely and silently day after day.

And I feel humbled and fortunate.

And for the record, I am returning to the scene of The Great Fall for another week of writing at the Weymouth Center, but this time I am going with a friend. When I get there, I am going to sit down in the hall and have a good long talk with the threshold that brought me down on that April morning four months ago, and we are going to come to an understanding.

Just watch me.

About the Author: Bernie Brown

berniebrownI live in Raleigh, NC where I write, read, and watch birds. My stories have appeared in several magazines, most recently Modern Creative Life, Indiana Voice Journal, and Watching Backyard Birds.

I am a Writer in Residence at the Weymouth Center, which is the perfect spot to work on my novel-in-progress.

Wisdom of the Sea by Christine Cassidy

“And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came.”

John F. Kennedy, 1962

My knowledge of the sea came early in life, while wisdom came much later.

When I was a child, family vacations were spent down the Jersey shore. We stayed in a room at a single story, pale-yellow apartment building arranged in a U shape. I remember the landlady had an old-fashioned phone, the kind you cranked to power up in order to connect you to the operator.

Suffering from Eczema as a girl, the salt water coupled with the heat from the sun proved to be a soothing balm to my skin. Healed by the ocean, my scars would disappear.

I learned how to swim in the ocean. I learned how to build castles and to dig deep in the sand for sea cicadas; learned how to bound up the jetty rocks without scrapping knees or elbows.

I learned how to spy and capture those shells shaped like a Victorian lady’s fan. A little older, around 10-years-old, I learned how to cut bait for crabbing traps.

It was around that time that my family moved from North Jersey to a small town in the Pine Barrens, not far from the Barnegat Bay. Now, I had to learn to navigate a new school, a new neighborhood, new friends; much like navigating the winding channels that led to the bay.

Midway was the no man’s land between Seaside Park and Island Beach State Park.  Barely 19-years-old, late nights were spent swimming under silver dollar moons. The sand was cool and powder-like. Foxes would dash in and out among the dunes. We would bury the beer in the sand to avoid detection from beach security. One night, a boy uncovered a black crystal pendant hidden in the sand.

At Midway, I learned about kissing and disappointment. I learned that youth is transitory. I learned that life could sometimes be unlucky. At Midway, I learned about high tides and falling stars and constellations.

The pale-yellow apartments were my family stayed during summer vacations are now long gone. Hurricane Sandy erased much of the shoreline of my youth. The black crystal was surrendered to a thrift shop while the giver has put many oceans between us. These things may be gone; childhood scars are gone, youth may be gone, loved ones may be gone, but what remains is wisdom, the wisdom of the sea.

About the Author: Christine Cassidy

ccassidybioChristine Cassidy is a self-taught artist who works in photography, fiber, collage and assemblage. Her photographs have appeared in F-Stop Magazine, NYC-Arts, Filtered Magazine, and twohundredby200.

Christine grew up in New Jersey among artists and makers; her father was a bricklayer who built her childhood home while her mother furnished it with the hooked rugs she hand crafted. Her older sister Kate Tevis was a graphic designer and collage artist.

Christine loves Buster Keaton, e.e. cummings, punk rock, and living in her tiny studio apartment in New York City.

Seeking the Wise Woman Within by Christine Mason Miller


I’ve long considered myself a spiritual seeker, but sometimes the thought of trying to attain lasting wisdom feels, well, unattainable. I imagine what it might look and feel like to be a wise woman and I envision myself sitting in the folds of a shiny, oversized pink lotus blossom. Radiating perfect calm and serenity, I observe all of humanity’s dramas and shenanigans – most especially my own – with a detached, bemused expression that is rooted in compassion. I do not react. My ego has no power. Every once in awhile, I let my imagination run a little wild and I see a unicorn stroll by. This feels appropriate because the image I’ve constructed is a fantasy. The vision I’m conjuring is a mirage.

Simply put: I’m not Buddha. I’m a messy human – subject to mood swings, grouchy days and the occasional door-slamming freak out.

My soul’s march through early adulthood and into my early thirties was fueled mainly by ambition. I wanted to inspire the world, and believed my most important work needed to be expressed outwardly – toward an audience I aimed to build with my artwork and words. After my spiritual journey took an unexpected, sharp turn to the left the year I turned thirty-four, I realized I had it backwards. Wisdom and contentment weren’t going to come to me because I was working hard to be a good person in the wide open world, trying to inspire as many people as possible. In order to be in alignment with my (potentially) wisest self, I had to hone in on something much closer to home, closer to my very skin.

Lao Tzu says if you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. That year, I didn’t merely adjust my course from north to south. I started digging into the ground beneath my feet and kept going – building tunnels, discovering hidden caverns and swimming through underground pools of water. By the time I burst back through the ground, I was committed to a practice of mindful observation. With that established, I proceeded to move through the world in an entirely different way.


Mindful observation is simply this: stepping outside of myself to observe my own behavior, reactions, attitudes and thoughts.

Oh look, there I am freaking out because the box I shipped wasn’t delivered.

How fascinating to see I just burst into tears because the doctor appointment I thought would happen this week can’t actually happen until next week.

Take a look at this – I still haven’t returned that phone call even though it has been on my to do list eight days in a row now.

After years of honing this practice, here’s what I have to say about wisdom: it provides me with opportunities to recognize and acknowledge what a monumental bonehead I can be. I yell at my dog. I complain. I shake my fist at slow drivers ahead of me.

But on the other side, I see this: That all my human follies and foibles are actually quite precious. They are invitations to pull out my spade, do a little digging and pull out the detritus and weeds that might otherwise tangle up my spirit.

Tilda starts barking at a squirrel, startling me in a moment of quiet.
I immediately lose my s***, and I yell at her.
I observe myself yelling.
I look beyond the surface of things to explore where my reaction came from.
I recognize it’s because I have a dentist appointment tomorrow and I’m nervous.
I am on edge, and I am feeling vulnerable.
Deep exhale. Soften.
Give Tilda a hug. Make myself a cup of tea.

There is no judgment or labeling. I don’t declare that my yelling at Tilda because I’m worried about my dentist appointment makes me a bad person. There is only observation and open-hearted curiosity. And with that, understanding. It is envisioning whatever is happening in the moment as something taking place on a stage, whereby I have the ability to pull back the curtain and see what’s really going on.


I don’t always know what to do with things I observe myself doing, and I don’t always immediately change my behavior in order to shift things in a different direction. Sometimes I say, Oh look at me gossiping, and I keep gossiping, practically daring the divine to come down to earth in a bolt of lightning and write me a ticket for violating my own moral code. There are days when I observe myself acting like a complete spoiled brat, irritated by every interruption and distraction, and say There I am acting like a total jerk – what of it?

Mindful observation is not a practice that prevents me from being human. I have yet to find that giant pink lotus blossom for me to nestle into, secure in my practice of detached curiosity and kind consideration of my misdeeds. What mindful observation provides is an immediate entry to compassionate inquiry, should I dare to take that opportunity. Sometimes I’m able to do it in the moment, other times it takes days or weeks or years. The nice thing about it is that there aren’t any expiration dates, so the ability to take a closer look at anything I’ve ever done, said or thought is always at my disposal. It is always possible to see things from another perspective, and to consider the different facets of each experience without judgment.

I still do a lot of work that is expressed and shared outwardly – across miles, continents and the world wide web. It is important work, and it is meaningful to me. But my real work – my life’s work – has been an inward journey. It is the moments of mindful observation, of giving myself a break, of holding myself accountable. It is the moments when I recognize the situation in front of me as an opportunity to make a choice, and to carefully consider whether the choice I am inclined to make will support what I value most in my life or diminish it.

I’m not sure that makes me a bona fide wise woman, but it certainly makes me feel more in tune with what it means to be human, and in sync with greater flow of life.

Oh look, there’s a parking space that I trusted would be waiting for me.

What do you know – my doctor can see me this week, because she just had a cancellation.

How fascinating to see so much beauty all around me, and all I have to do to enjoy it is look up, stay still, and take it all in.

About the Author: Christine Mason Miller

christinemasonmillerChristine Mason Miller is an author and artist who just completed Moving Water, a memoir about the spiritual journey she’s taken with her family.

Buy her book on Amazon. Go on Retreat . Join Christine at her upcoming retreat in Ojai with Wild Roots, Sacred Wings.

You can follow her adventures at

The Calming Nourishment of Same by Jeanie Croope

lake sunset (Jeannie) I’m writing this at my summer house in Northern Michigan, tapping on my laptop in a document because I don’t have an internet connection.

Outside it is dark and the only sounds I hear are soft waves, gently lapping on the shore, the occasional fishing boat and soft music coming from my neighbor’s porch. Lizzie the Cat is perched on the back of the chair in which I sit. The table beside me holds the book I finished and the one I started a few hours ago while sitting on the beach enjoying the last bit of a gentle sunset and the dusk that follows. On the table across the room you’d find my art journal, my watercolor brushes and palette and a few more books.

In other words, it’s pretty much the same as always.

I’ve come to this lake since I was a baby and my mother and her family came here for decades before that. When I was 13 they bought this cottage, a short walk from the old family place where my cousins now vacation. They bought it furnished — even much of the art was on the walls.

mantel at the lake (Jeanie)

Over the years, some of the furniture has been replaced — more often than not from castoffs at home — crewel-work still lifes and oversized posters were swapped for new finds from art fairs, special gifts or my own photography. The newer stove and refrigerators were sorely needed birthday gifts from Rick. The bathroom was remodeled — not necessarily for the better, in retrospect — and the old steel sink in the kitchen removed and replaced with nice stainless one surrounded by a second hand cabinet. A porch added on when I was 14 has been rebuilt with a newer model and last year’s project was replacing the screens.

But you’d still find the same braided rugs, the evocative photo of the Au Sable River over the fireplace mantle, the maple buffet hutch and dining cabinet and even a couple of the original end tables. You’d see two old prints of Dogs Playing Poker because it just seems wrong to have an old cottage and not have these iconic images. The bookcases are filled with VHS tapes that moved north when the DVD player was added at home and packed with the books of my childhood, along with mysteries and novels left by — well, I’m not sure.

When I leave the city for weekends or an extended period at the lake, I don’t seek the new, the stylish, the avant garde. I seek the safety and nourishment of “the same.”

Although I have always lived within the same city, I’ve lived in a variety of spots — my parents’ house, the dormitory, college and post-college apartments, a duplex and finally a house I love. With each move there have been the changes one would expect — packing and discarding, accumulating new furniture or art, learning about new neighbors or where things are most conveniently located.

lizzie at the lake

But when I head north, it’s rarely change I seek, except for a change of locale. I walk into the cottage and I know where I am. I know its quirks — tricky windows, for one — and the sounds it makes. (I’ll never forget the time I was reading The Shining alone on a windy night and the tops of bushes scraping against the screen gave me a shiver!) I can count on being awakened by noisy gulls (or grackels?) and going to sleep listening to the sound of the water.

The pressure is off. I’ll make the bed, be sure the dishes are done and on occasion will sweep sand from the rugs. But more likely than not, I’ll settle into a comfy chair or chaise lounge with a book or perch myself at the end of the table on the porch that serves as a temporary art table — at least until dinner.

I’ll walk around the circle road, woods on one side, lake on the other. Lake people wave if they pass you in a car or greet you with pleasantries if you pass on the road. I might stop to visit friends or family in cottages along the way or just do the circle. And my mind is free — free to welcome a new blog post, writing project or art idea.

In the years since my parents have died, I have made few changes to the cottage. Old treasures of my mother’s sit on the shelves, though I’ve added pieces that catch my eye. The dishes in the cupboard are the same, but new placemats or a tablecloth will cover the table. The mishmash of cooking bowls and pans have been accumulated over years, everywhere from my parents’ wedding pans to yard sales.
lake tree heart (Jeannie)

I don’t come north to have the life I have at home with a dishwasher and garbage disposal, cable and yard work. I come north to simply “be.” I grow here. I think, I slow down my mind and listen and in doing so, take in ever so much more. Changes are made gradually and I live with the comfort of welcoming each day with a degree of familiarity, one that can be modified to be sure, but at my whim.

A moth is dancing around the light beside me. Lizzie has seen it and soon will be on its trail and if she doesn’t capture it, I most certainly will before the light is turned off for the night. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice again. I’ll pull some weeds on the beach, take a dip (or two or three) in the lake, work on another painting and run into town for cat food.

Yes, some things always stay the same.

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.

Motherhood, Magic, and How to Meet the World with Hope by Briana Saussy

Let’s give children credit. Childhood is not all sweetness and light, butterflies and rainbows. Real childhood – as opposed to our fantasy about childhood – is full of very intense, even traumatic, experiences. Every step of the way, candycandycandythe child’s larger-than-life desire is subverted by mysterious obstacles, by a mysterious “No.”

Who knows why they can’t have that whole bag of candy, and stay up all night watching TV: they just can’t and Mommy said so, and that’s that. It’s a mystery.

You have to be a hero and a wizard to be a kid. True it is, from our perspective, those chiddlers (as the BFG calls them) might seem to be little drama queens. But put yourself in their shoes for a moment, and you’ll see at once that their emotions are as real and serious as the things we take seriously.

We are watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy with our little one right now. He is five, and some of the scenes are intense, so we take time to talk through them. He’s a little chatterbox once you get him started, but he gets it, as children so often do. Giving him space to talk to us about what is happening is so crucial for his growing experience. Intense experiences are not unfamiliar to our little one nor to other children.

Yet so often, from a place of good intentions, we like to shield our little ones, under the rosy, romantic belief that childhood is, or should be, pure and completely free of all the scary stuff. And we don’t allow them to confront things that are “above their heads” – afraid perhaps that they might feel frustrated. The truth is that they won’t feel rosinessofchildhoodfrustrated if we engage with them.

What goes with the rosy picture of childhood is a desire to check out and to disengage with the hard work of being involved with our children. But here is the point to see: even the most protected childhood is full of its own intensities – we can’t escape it, because it comes from our own natures and the nature of our desires and the nature of reality.

For our desire, as life itself, is always and ever “above our heads.”

Certainly there is much to shield our kiddos from, and children do need to feel safe. But while we try to protect them, on the other hand, maybe we can ease off on making ridiculous demands on them – for example, wanting them to be “socialized” without ever talking experiencing what “society” actually could/would/should mean.

As those of you who have seen the films and read the books of the Tolkein’s magnificent trilogy know, one of the core tensions of the story is around the issue of hope. The most important characters are the secondary characters – Aarwen the Elvish princess in love with the mortal Aragorn, Sam Gamgee, the devoted hobbit who will follow his best friend Frodo literally into hell, as well as Merry and Pippin, two other trickster hobbits who seem at the outset of the story to be more trouble than anything else. They are the ones throughout the story who have hope.

Hope is the through-line of the narrative and the teaching, as I understand it, is that hope is not Pollyanna-ish and easy, but rather is a struggle. Hope is challenge, hope is dangerous, and hope is absolutely necessary.

Hope does not shield us through the ugly, the difficult, the painful and the scarring, but it gives us the courage to hope1look at these things dead on, to descend into them, to learn from them what we will, be changed in the ways we are, and then come back to bright and the beautiful, back to land, back to air and sky – different and yet whole, hurt in some ways, and yet healed too, scarred by what we have seen and heard and felt and made holy by those scars.

This is the power of hope and this is why it is not a thing you have the way you have the knowledge of what two times two is, but rather a virtue that lives, wrangles, and tangles with every day.

I sent out a new moon note with a prayer poem about the armor that we wear. The writing came on the heels of tragedy upon tragedy – Orlando. Istanbul. Dhaka. We can now add Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas to the list. One of my miracles (this is what I call all of the members of my community) wrote this to me:

I always love your optimistic approach. You don’t deny that it should be better, but gracefully you encourage us to believe and to embrace our path with dignity and joy.

This individual attributed something to me, neglecting the fact that HE was the one who pulled it from my words. In essence, he was describing his own beautiful self and he is right.

We cannot deny that it should be better, that some things should never have to be seen, heard, participated in, and inflicted upon others. Absolutely not. And yet they are. You have experienced it, as have I, as have we all. And there are voices, many and loud, that tell us that our experience of the bad and the ugly is the sum total of who we are and what we are capable of. But we know better.

It is easy to rest in cynicism, easy to stay in the underworld mired in our own waste, easy to just sit down, stay still, and wait for the end to come, easy to rake ourselves over the coals of shame with what we didn’t/could have/should have done or said. Much harder to engage in the struggle of hope. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the soulful seeker does not do easy when easy comes at the cost of true.

I’m sure you have read the statistic that is gleefully quoted in mainstream media that for the first time in ever, parents today in the United States are not sure that their children will have the same or better quality of life that they have right now. That’s a form of easy cynicism and fear mongering.

It is also untrue according to my grandmother and the elders I know, whenever there are young ones there is always worry and fear riding along side joy and love. The proper response has been the proper response since time out of mind: we pay attention, we do what can be done to help and to aid, to support and to cherish, we do not hide from the hard but we meet it, full on, with something incandescent and ultimately indestructible.


We meet it with hope.

About the Author: Briana Saussy

briana_bioHi, I’m Briana! I am a writer, teacher, and spiritual counselor, and I am part of a growing community of soulful seekers, people who are looking for wholeness, holiness and healing – for better, more rewarding lives.

The best way to work with me and begin living an enchanted life right here and now is to register for my year long course of fairy tales and magic – Spinning Gold.

Nourishment by Daryl Wood Gerber

What do we need as people for nourishment? Food.

What do we need as authors for nourishment? Inspiration.

What do we need as fans for nourishment? Good stories.

Life is great; reading makes it better!

These are the three reasons I like writing the Cookbook Nook Mysteries.

The first: they’re about food, so I find myself writing about food, thinking about food, coveting food, and taste-testing recipes.

The latter happens to be the most fun. If my recipes don’t work for me, I won’t share them with my readers. As I pick a theme for my next book and pour over cookbooks searching for ideas for recipes, I find myself nourished at a whole other level.

The second: whenever I do research for my Cookbook Nook mysteries, I find so much inspiration.

Why? Because I gave Jenna’s father, Cary, a fun quirk. He loves memorizing quotes so he can turn to words of inspiration when in need.  He shares this love with Jenna and her pals. As I look for pithy quotes, I find I’m inspired. I’ve printed out many and have posted some around my workspace.

“The primary sign of a well-ordered mind is a man’s ability to remain in one place and linger in his own company.”

[This sign hangs in Cary’s hardware shop.]

“Courage is not the absence of despair; it is, rather, the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair.”
Rollo May

[Shared when Jenna had to move forward with her life.]

“Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.”
–George Bernard Shaw

[This one made me laugh!]

The third: Like you, I’m a reader, too. I love a good story. Because of that, I try my best as an author to give you, my fan, a good story!

This means that whenever I’m writing, I try to think like a fan. What would I like to read? Yes, I write about murder because I love a puzzle. But I also write about family. I think that’s why my readers like my books. I delve into these complex relationships. Family matters to my protagonists. Also I explore the depths of friendship because my protagonists have so many “extended” family members.

“People need dreams; there’s as much nourishment in them as food. ”
–Dorothy Gilman

“The nourishment of our souls comes from the smiles of others. ”
Steve Maraboli

“Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love. ”
–Giada De Laurentiis

Nourishment. We need it. We crave it. We love it.

My dear readers, may reading good books fill your souls. May reading about food inspire you to cook and/or fill your tummies with tasty treats. Savor the mystery!

So…what nourishes you?

About the Author: Daryl Wood Gerber

DarylWoodGerberbioAgatha Award-winning and bestselling author DARYL WOOD GERBER ventures into the world of suspense with her debut novel, GIRL ON THE RUN.

Daryl also writes the Cookbook Nook Mysteries, and as Avery Aames, she pens the Cheese Shop Mysteries. Her latest Cookbook Nook Mystery: Grilling the Subject publishes August 2, 2016.

Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote”. She has also jumped out of a perfectly good airplane and hitchhiked around Ireland by herself. She loves to read and has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky. Visit Daryl at

Be the Light, Everywhere You Go by Christine Mason Miller


“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
-Edith Wharton

It is hard to know what to do sometimes isn’t it? Especially on days like the one we recently had – oh wait, it wasn’t just one. It has been one after another after another. I’m talking about days when we’re jolted by the lightning flash of a news bulletin relaying the death toll from the world’s most recent terror attack. We hear the news, absorb the CMM_Light2first shocking numbers and then despair as they rise over the next few hours like floodwaters in a basement.

It is easy to feel helpless. How to make a difference in the face of such hatred? How to soften the blow of these particular strains of violence? We aren’t watching news reports from warring nations; we are seeing innocent people attacked while celebrating a holiday, walking to work, shopping at a market, marching for their beliefs and dancing with their friends. What can we, as individuals, possibly do to heal our collective wounds?

I think it comes down to very small things – very tiny acts of compassion, kindness and sincerity. It comes down to the way we move through the world, day in and day out. It is about how we treat our partners, our families and everyone we come into contact with as we go about our days. It is about those details.

At the Brave Girl Symposium last week, one of the many lovely souls I was meeting for the first time  commented on the way I made eye contact with her. She appreciated it in the moment we first met and continued to comment on it over the next couple of days. It is not the first time someone has acknowledged this, and I doubt it will be the last. The intensity of my eye contact is something that has, quite frankly, kind of freaked people out (in a really sweet way) in a variety of situations.

I don’t exactly wake up every morning saying, “I’m going to stare intently into the eyes of everyone I encounter today,” but making eye contact is an intentional practice. I do it with my friends, I do it at retreats I facilitate and I do it in line at the bank. And I find the most consistent reaction I receive in return incredibly fascinating: it startles CMM_Light4people, as if being seen is something they weren’t expecting and aren’t accustomed to. I get double-takes, I get sheepish smiles, I see an immediate softening, I see tears well up.

With so much of our attention gobbled up by mental to do lists, the frightening state of the world and all of our devices, it is easy to walk right by one another without any real acknowledgment that there is a living, breathing human being in our midst. I feel this most acutely in places like drug stores and grocery stores, where I see too many people hand over their debit card and pay for their items without ever looking up at the person who is assisting them. I know we’re all busy and have a lot on our minds, but this is what I mean about small details. We are all busy and have a lot on our minds, so let’s all take a wee moment, even if it is just the space of a single breath, to look one another in the eye and create a real connection.

I talk a lot about ripples of inspiration – about how a single act of kindness or a single step taken toward realizing a dream travels farther than we ever realize. Every single action taken in love, kindness, respect and joy matters. When one person has the ability to wreak havoc on a hundred lives in a single instance, it is the one thousand tiny expressions of light we can shine throughout our days and weeks that will help combat these dark forces.


Imagine this: Someone you don’t know and might never know has woken up this morning in despair over his or her life and the world. Perhaps this person looked up to the sky and said, “Please give me a sign all hope is not lost.” Later that day, you end up looking this person in the eye, and there is kindness in your face. You might even say hello.

That could be enough. That could be the sign this person was seeking, assurance that not all of humanity has lost the ability to, well, be human. You might think this is an unlikely extreme, but I’m not so sure. We are all looking for signs. We are all searching for comfort. We are all desperate for evidence that the world is still OK. And we all have the ability to provide such assurances for one another.

What to do in the face of unfathomable horrors? Imagine you are standing in a dark room with no windows. You can’t even see your own hand in front of your face. Now light a match. See how that one small flame lights up the space? Be that light, everywhere you go.

Be that light, and heal the world.

About the Author: Christine Mason Miller

christinemasonmillerChristine Mason Miller is an author, artist and guide who lives in Santa Barbara, California.

Buy her book on Amazon. Go on Retreat .  Join Christine at her upcoming retreat in Ojai with Wild Roots, Sacred Wings.

You can follow her adventures at

A Journey for the Senses by Julie Terrill

Whether traveling domestically or internationally, I go to farmer’s markets to feel the pulse of the region. There I can begin to understand the local people, indigenous crops, handcrafts, economy, and pace of daily life.
hong kong market

Hong Kong markets were a cacophony of unfamiliar sounds, smells and products, which whirred with crowds that carried me along.  The large street markets that stretched on for blocks in Chiang Mai, Thailand were an amazing experience. One can purchase everything from live frogs to tiny peppers packed with heat or dried fish by the barrelful. There is even an entire market devoted entirely to bananas.  However, I discovered I much preferred the small markets in the northern rural areas of Thailand where I communicated with farmers, fishermen and artisans in a pantomime exchange, as they offered me food to taste or used gestures to convey information about their wares. I tasted everything that was offered.

Almost everything…

When an English-speaking man strongly urged me not to eat the chunk of greenish gray gelatinous stuff handed to me by the fish lady, I thanked her graciously, pretended to take the tiniest of “no-thank-you-bites” and heeded his advice.  I once even witnessed a flash mob dance through a market in Frankfurt.


There is no need to leave your hometown to take a veritable field trip for your senses. Local farmers markets are one of my favorite simple pleasures and I try to go weekly. Fruits and vegetables remain in the field until ripe. Colors are more vibrant. Grapes taste grapier. Freshly harvested herbs and spices have a sensual, earthy quality that is traded for the convenience of dried grocery store herbs.

I buy handmade pasta, breads, cheeses and juices as well as local seasonal produce, flowers and honey. I like to be  proactive and know where my food comes from, that it is sustainably farmed and is organic.

Spice Market

Farmer’s markets broaden my culinary horizons as well. In Maine I bought fiddleheads at a small market  from the woman who picked them. She happily taught me how to prepare them in her favorite manner.

Ojai California’s market has an amazing fromagère who produces the best lemon quark I have ever tasted… Okay, it is the only lemon quark I have ever tasted but it is, in fact, stupendous!

When I asked about watermelon radishes at a market two miles from my home, the farmer was only too happy to cut one in half, revealing a lovely pink sunburst inside, and shared several recipes as we munched the crisp treat. His son said that his favorite way to eat them is roasted, which I discovered is also my family’s favorite as well. The caramelization on the outside is a wonderful contrast to the savory fuchsia middle.

If you too strive to be a traveler, not a tourist, and want to eat like locals, don’t only dine in restaurants. Visit the local markets as well.

smoky market

About the Author: Julie Terrill


Julie Terrill is a photographer and writer with a passion for travel. For ten years, she’s told stories of empowerment through the lens of her camera in an array of unique landscapes, environments, and projects – from a shelter for children rescued from trafficking in Thailand to Faces of Courage, complimentary portrait sessions she offers to cancer patients in her community. She is a photographer and facilitator at Beautiful You and Soul Restoration retreats.

Connect with her at:


Enchantment and the Tough Stuff by Briana Saussy

enchantment hard stuff

A few years ago, I was exploring a social media platform, and that thing happened where they suggest that you follow/friend/connect to someone from your past. In this case, the suggestion was that I connect with a woman I knew in middle and high school years ago.

Now this individual was what we would call today a “mean girl” and also a “frenemy.”  She would be nice to your face, super nice in front of teachers and parents; and yet, when you were alone with her, you knew that not only was she totally sure that she was better than you, but she was plotting how to take you down so that you would know it too.

So there I was, staring into the abyss of my laptop screen and looking at her profile. She had placed a single sentence in the “bio” section, and it read:

“If you think you can, then you can. And if you think you can’t, then you are probably right.”

That sentence has stuck with me ever since. But it has only been recently that I’ve really begun to understand it for what it is: an excellent example of a saying that sounds true, real, and hardcore…but is actually just a big pile of BS.

Because, of course, the truth is more nuanced than that. You and I are not binary creatures. We are not a 1 or 0, on or off. When it comes to life – but especially the tough stuff, the gut wrenching, down on your knees at 4am stuff – that’s definitely not how we work.

More often it’s a case of thinking that we cannot do it, but knowing that we have to try anyway, and so we just go for it even though we are totally scared. That, by the way, is called courage.

Sometimes it’s a case of thinking that we can do it, trying our best, and falling flat on our faces.  That, my friends, is what we refer to as learning.

At times we feel numb and dumb and frozen in place – unsure of what we think or feel – knowing that something has to happen and hoping that we can summon up enough of something to take one little step. That, by the way, is what faith looks like.

And of course, on occasion, we are 100% sure that no way, no how, can this be accomplished or achieved – not by us, not today, not ever. But then…lo and behold: we do it! Imagine that.

No, that little statement couldn’t be further from the truth about who we are and what we really need to handle the tough stuff.

When we talk about enchantment and magic it is really easy to assume that we are talking about some airy-fairy, Vaseline coated camera lens way of looking at life that ignores all the sharp angles and tough punches we encounter in the “real world.” That assumption is really anemic. We’d do better to look at history and myth where those who have, since time out of mind, practiced the ways of enchantment: Priests and Priestesses, and Witches, Wizards, and Prophets — who do so in the name of better understanding and engagement with life right here and now.

To live an enchanted life is not to run away from life, but to gallop towards what is most real. Enchantment is what allows us to see that catty, clever, sentence for the BS that it really is because enchantment will always show you not only what is most possible, but what is most real.

And what is real is that sure, sometimes we do feel like we cannot do it, and sometimes we think we can’t, and as it turns out there are lots of things we think and feel that at the end of the day don’t hold water.

What is also real is that there are always choices, always options, always fresh starts and new pages to turn, and new roads to travel and – thank the heavens – many ways to travel them.

What is most real is that you have ways and means available to you that are 100% unique to who you are – they cannot be repeated or replicated by anyone – and for that reason alone no one gets to determine what you can or cannot do.

Those of us who think we can’t are not probably or otherwise right.  We just need to think a little harder, dig a little deeper, and see with a little more clarity, feel with a little more heart. That is exactly what living an enchanted life helps us do – enchantment is not afraid of the tough stuff. It is made for it.

About the Author: Briana Saussy

briana_bioHi, I’m Briana! I am a writer, teacher, and spiritual counselor, and I am part of a growing community of soulful seekers, people who are looking for wholeness, holiness and healing – for better, more rewarding lives.

The best way to work with me and begin living an enchanted life right here and now is to register for my year long course of fairy tales and magic – Spinning Gold.

The Door to Somewhere Leads to Me by A.R. Hadley

GOD pic

I made choices, lots of choices, but it was the dream that was random. I’m talking about a real, actual, sleeping-in-my-bed-goodnight-world, dream. Many things led me to here, right now, point A to point B, but the dream was the beginning, the turning point; and what followed, caused me to splinter into several pieces.

Splinter. Crack. Splice.

As I gathered up the shavings, starting that fateful summer, several doors began to open, doors I thought I had sealed off with cement long ago. Wrong. They opened, unravelling me. The most disconcerting and significant door, the one with the words — WRITER — emblazed across it, opened wide and shined a hard-to-miss spotlight on the path leading me back to me.

Sometimes I wonder, if I hadn’t had that particular dream, would I still have decided to write again? Would I have found me? God, I hope so, but it would not have been the same. It could not have been the same.

The unreasonableness of it all became the reason.

In 2014, a man I never met became my muse. I began writing my novel with the familiar stranger as my muse, and he was a man I did not choose — not consciously. I woke up one morning, knowing the man had been a part of my early morning dream. That dream. The random, unraveling, splintering dream. I recognized the man even though he was a hazy outline, as people often are in slumber-land.

Not clear, but clear. Him. An actor.

I only knew of him as an actor anyway, but that was all about to change. Everything about my life was about to change. The dream was a dream I cannot even recall today, but he was a part of it, and I built on whatever wild emotions I felt that morning, imagining an amazing story inside my head. I told the story to myself over and over without even realizing it was a story, without even realizing I had the makings of a book, and I continued to embellish upon that story inside my head for months, utilizing the outward appearance of the familiar man. He helped my character to come alive, and in the process, I came alive.

The beginning of the splintering, the day everything really changed, was the day the story burst from my heart and bled onto the page. A digital page. I opened the notepad on my iPhone and wrote. Finger-typed. I couldn’t stop writing, and I wondered why I had ever stopped.

I knew why.

I had always written, but I wasn’t a writer. Who me? Not me. Published clips, yes. Poetry, check. Essays, yes. A writer? No, no, no. And so, one day, a long time ago, I stopped. Fifteen some odd years ago:

I. Stopped. Writing.

I had two kids. I stopped. I wrote about the kids in a journal, but I stopped pursuing writing with a passion — my passion. I gave up, and deep down I knew the reason.


It’s ugly little head held me back. Fear ruled.

It became the easy route.

The familiar.

I was raised with fear, told as a child I had to worry, over-worry, unhealthy worry, about someone wanting to kidnap me and take me away from my family, taught to fear the end of the world was near, always on the brink, led by example to fear people were judging me, and it turns out some people were judging me and are judging me. And ultimately, when I began my novel(s), I feared my good girl Christian conscience wouldn’t allow me to write. It wouldn’t allow me to take time away from my family, to do something selfishly.

Just. For. Me.

I initially held back because the story had to be told completely, in every way the characters dictated to me that I write, (awful little buggers.) I had to use language and actions I may not personally choose to do or speak, things others may find offensive. I had to speak the truth of those imaginary beings, and in the process, I spoke my own truth.

I discovered the me I had forgotten.

Fear gradually began to fall away. Scales dropped from my eyes. I began to write the scenes and people I saw in my mind, including the image of the man from my dream.


I spent the summer of 2014 writing and crying and heaving and sighing. I struggled. It wasn’t easy. It was difficult because I feared judgment, not just the normal judgment that comes with the territory of being a writer, but I was afraid because the very words I had to write, the story I had to tell, would entertain ideas and actions I had been taught to shame. I wrote about love and heartache and sex. Gasp! I wrote about sex. My body literally trembled as I typed on many occasions. I cried and cried. I sobbed. I released. I set the girl free who was imprisoned inside of me.

I became me.

And that man, my muse, he is real and alive. He is his own man, with his own life, and unbeknownst to him, he is part of my journey. He is a part of the splintering and the healing. I Googled him that summer, curious to see what he was up to, where he had been. I hadn’t seen him in a movie since I couldn’t remember when. I secretly hoped he would disappoint me, but instead he intrigued me. I learned he is a writer and an artist and a unique human being. He wasn’t at all what I expected. Nevertheless, my subconscious believed something about him I had seen on the movie screen, after all it chose him for a dream. Silly. Crazy. Nuts. Maybe. But still, he was solidified in there, in my mind, waiting. Ha, ha. Poor guy.

Well, in discovering parts of that man he chooses to share, parts perhaps hidden from his characters on the big screen, I continued to discover me. I was inspired. I am inspired by his faith. The man is a Christian, sticking to his beliefs even when it’s unpopular to do so, when it’s frowned upon, and even when he is teased or ridiculed. I am inspired by the art he creates and shares with his fans. The art touched my heart.

The man, his faith and his art reminded me we are all connected.

I believe we are all connected on this planet, and the comfort his art provided came into my life at just the right time. I connected to the vibes and the colors and the emotion with which he painted. I connected to the courage I felt he must possess, sharing his creativity with strangers. It inspired me to stop being afraid to share my own creativity.

Hey there lady, yeah you, YOU have value too. Me.

I do have value. I do, and still, it took me months to get to that place. Months of writing. Months of crying. Months of my husband holding my hand and telling me I wasn’t crazy, telling me everything happens for a reason.

A reason.

I need to write.

I need to share.

The random beginning was because of a dream, but the writing was finally a choice, a decision.

It could no longer be hidden beneath my forgotten.

I’m excited. I finally, at the time of writing this essay, ordered my very own piece of art the mysterious writer, actor, father, artist created, and I’m waiting for it to come in the mail. I’m excited! Each day, my first set of novels, a romantic trilogy, are on their way to being finished. I’m writing essays again, sharing my crazy, blasted feelings.

I’m writing.

That is what is amazing. That is the life … altering … decision. I am writing. If you had asked me years ago if I was a writer, I would have said no, even though I was always a writer. I know, I said it before, but it bears repeating:

I would have said no.

Today, I continue to work on owning the title — WRITER. I work on owning myself. Who I am, what I have to say, who I have to be. I work on it every day. And when I finally receive that piece of art, yay! (I have it now) in the mail, I will own it. I will take a picture of myself and my two children (we did!) surrounding it. Our faces will peek out beside the word GOD, beside the turquoise speckles, and I will send that photo (Lordy, I did) to Val Kilmer with a smile. He may never know all that it means, but I hope he smiles too. That is connection. That is our planets endless, circling energy — vibrating and healing and inspiring.

Life changing? Yeah! I’ll never be the same, but I am the same, only different.




I rediscovered me.

About the Author: A.R. Hadley

ARHadleyBioA.R. Hadley has been a creative writer since elementary school, however, she all but gave it up after her children were born, devoting herself to the lovely little creatures, forgetting the pleasure and happiness derived from being imaginative.

No more.

She rediscovered her passion in 2014, and has not stopped since — writing essays, poetry, and fiction. A.R is currently working on a set of novels as part of a romantic trilogy, and also dabbles in penning short stories.

Day or night, words float around inside her brain. She hears dialogue when awakening from sleep. She is the one who has been awakened. Writing is her oxygen.

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