The Quiet Witch by Hilary Parry Haggerty

People think of me as a tarot reader first and a witch second, it pisses me off, but also? I’m the reason for it.

My reasoning to play up my tarot reading and downplay my religion (Wicca) was professional at first: I serve people of all faiths with my tarot readings, and I didn’t want people to think that I didn’t if I was all prominently witched out.

Now I see these amazing articles with my contemporaries being interviewed about witchcraft and magick, and I get mad. Why not me? My inner voice quietly mocks, “Because you faced forward with tarot reading, you dolt, that’s why.” Don’t take personal what you wanted in the first place!

My magick is more subtle than that. I’m not being interviewed about magick, or spells, or candles, or honey jars on the Hoodwitch or the Numinous because I guess I’m just not that flash about my magick. There is a phrase in Wicca: To know, to dare, to will, to be silent. To keep silent has always been a tenant that I’ve taken very seriously. It’s one I take seriously in tarot, too… because the information ain’t for me, it’s for you (the client). In spell-work, it’s a matter of energy, of “too many cooks in the kitchen spoiling the broth.” Okay, energetic broth. The quickest way to water down your magick is to tell someone about it. Keep it private, keep it potent, keep it safe. A good general rule I follow is sharing a spell when it’s not manifest yet is to invite doubt into the process… and doubt? It’s a magick killer.

The more I know about magick, the simpler and more practical my spell-casting gets. Fancy may be fun and look pretty, but my core question is this: does it work? Is it serving my intention? To me, intention is everything. When my intention is muddled or bogged down with 50 different things, the Universe doesn’t know what to do with that. Often, I will get a response or sign from the Universe that boils down to “What do you WANT, woman?” The intention has to be clear, and so does the channel. Which means in order for me to get what I want, I have to get clear myself… which means getting out of my OWN WAY.

What do I mean by getting out of my own way? I mean that I have to tell my ego to take a backseat, or take a hike altogether.

Stripping down my magick has made it cleaner, stronger, less ego-driven. As a result, my magick has become that much more powerful for it. I don’t need to be “out there”, unusual, or brazen about my magick or my spell-work. My spells are special secrets that are more potent for their secretiveness.

And for that, I proudly say that I am The Quiet Witch… and that doesn’t make me any less of a witch.

About the Author: Hilary Parry Haggerty

HILARY PARRY HAGGERTY is a tarot reader, witch, mentor, writer, editor, and teacher. She has been reading tarot for over 18 years (11 years professionally). She was the winner of Theresa Reed’s (The Tarot Lady) Tarot Apprentice contest in 2011, and has taught classes on tarot and spell-work at Readers Studio and Brid’s Closet Beltane Festival. She writes a weekly blog at her website and contributes a monthly tarot blog “Through a Tarot Lens” to

Birthing at Hitchcock House by Bernie Brown

Ezra turned and reached for Orelia, who was doubled over in pain. “Come on, baby, I’m here. House is just up there. See the lights in the windows.” They scrambled up the bank, and the small boat paddled away, making its way through the icing creek. “Mrs. Hitchcock she ready for us. We in Iowa now. They’s a free state.”

“How do you know, Ezra? Ohhhh . . .” Orelia doubled over again.

He didn’t answer her. Ezra knew he had to get her through the snow, up to the house, and down in the cellar. All as quiet as mice. And her having pains so early.

Orelia slid down again as another pain hit her. “Ohhhhh,” she moaned.

“Honey, can you be quiet now? We don’t want to get anyone hearing us.” He pulled her to the top of the bank where they sat in the snow waiting for her pain to subside.

Ezra wadded up a faded blue kerchief. “Here now, next time a pain hits, you bite this.” He tried to stuff it into her mouth while she sucked in air.

She spit it out.

“No, baby. You gotta do it. You listen to Ezra now. There can’t be no hearing us or this whole trip for nothin’. We’ll never reach the promised land.” He stuffed it back in and barely pulled his fingers out in time not to get bit.

Orelia struggled and ran in a painful lop-sided way, holding her belly, the holes in her homespun shawl lit up by moonlight. A distant owl hooted. A quiet growl came from the brush.

A lump of hurt choked Ezra as he watched his wife, at least that was how he thought of her. They’d get married proper when they got to Canada.  He couldn’t stand seeing her run that way.  She stumbled and he put one arm behind her knees, another on her back and tipped her up. He grunted. She was usually so small, but the baby made her off balance and clumsy to hold. She buried her face in his shoulder.

Up ahead he saw the flicker of three lanterns in the windows. That meant they was expecting three runaways. Old Simon had fell out the boat into the icy black river. He didn’t bob up, not even once. So there was just him and Orelia and the baby.

The sight bucked him up. He staggered faster. Orelia screeched into the cloth, into his shoulder. Her teeth sunk into his flesh, and he winced. At last he reached the open cellar door, ready to receive them.

The steep, uneven steps tripped him up, and he bumped Orelia’s head against the frozen dirt wall. Orelia’s pain made her punch him hard on the arm in return.

At last they were in the cellar. He had to put Orelia down on the dirt floor. “Just for a minute, baby.” Around them, jugs of preserved foods lined crude shelves. Dusty bottles of wine lay on their sides in a rack. Above, he could hear a piano playing a lively Christmas tune. “It must be Christmas Eve,” Ezra said.

Thumps on the floor be dancing. “That party noise keep ‘em from hearing us.” Even so, he moved the shelves ever so carefully to reveal the safe room. He didn’t want to leave no marks in the dirt floor. Then he returned to Orelia, panting now, and helped her to a straw pallet. He found matches and lit the candle before lifting the shelves back in place.

“Baby’s comin’,” Orelia spluttered between pains. Then she pushed so hard her whole body shuddered as she groaned a mighty, low groan.

Ezra had to open her legs to see. He hated doin’ that, but they was beyond being shy now. It was a necessary thing. He’d seen his mammy birthing babies back on the plantation.

A bloody bony head appeared, almost purple. Joy wiped away the struggle, the fear, the constant fear. “Baby’s head,” he whispered.

Orelia thrashed, grunting and shuddering and clawing into his shoulder.

He grasped the slippery roundness and pulled best he could, slow, steady.

Out it slipped, a wiggly bloody little one.

It were the baby. It were born. “Orelia, honey, it be here. It’s a little girl.”

He took Orelia’s shawl and wrapped the baby in it.

Above, the music had changed tempo. He recognized “Silent Night.”

The baby gave out a newborn mewing cry, and they exchanged their scared look. Could such a little sound be heard upstairs? They might be in a free state, but it was still illegal to hide runaways.

“Let’s call her Christmas,” Ezra whispered.

Orelia smiled down on the bundle and whispered, “Christmas. Our very own Christmas.”

The shelves moved. Had somebody heard them? Come to arrest them? Take them back South? Both Ezra and Orelia sucked in breath.

A lady stood in the flickering candlelight. “I’m Mrs. Hitchcock.” She came to the straw pallet. “Oh, dear God, it’s a baby. A baby on Christmas Eve. Oh, she’s lovely.”

Orelia said, “She cried once. We was afraid y’all heard.”

“We did hear. The mayor was here, but he said the night was so magical he had heard the newborn Jesus cry.”

“Praise be to God,” said Ezra.

Mrs. Hitchcock left to bring water to wash the baby, and food and blankets to keep them warm.

“Orelia, honey, our baby, she born free.”

“Free,” Orelia repeated what Ezra had said. A fierce, proud light shone in her eyes as she looked down on the tiny child.

It were a holy night. Oh, holy night.

About the Author: Bernie Brown

I live in Raleigh, NC where I write, read, and watch birds. My stories have appeared in several magazines, most recently Better After 50, 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. My short story, Same Old Casserole, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

The Magic of Three by Cathleen Delia Mulrooney

Once a month, we meet up for coffee. Usually, the cup of coffee extends to several and then often pushes over into lunch. Words spill. The rise and fall of voices. Steady flow of conversation. One of us throws out a sentence into the currents and the others slip into the stream of thought. We tread back and forth around politics, personal life, art, culture, gender, racism, and the focus point for all of it is our shared creative life. We are writers. Women writers. There is a strange magic that begins to run its course when you find your allies—in our case, creative allies. There is a spark. Incantations in cafes. Enchantment over paper cups.

This starts to sound like the plot of a silly modern fairy-tale. It isn’t. I can say this honestly and plainly. I don’t know where I would be without these two women. But, I know that I wouldn’t be writing.

One of them is twenty years my senior. Elegant. A cancer survivor. Married. Mother of two grown children. Beautifully transparent with her feelings and her life. She writes a little bit of everything, but mostly we’ve been working with her novel—a historical/contemporary fiction piece about women searching for their own strength and agency. The other is five years my junior. Stunning. A survivor of a lifetime of struggle. Married. Childless. Guarded until you know her. Her writing also spans genre, but her masterwork is a novel that defies definition with a character who defies the entire world she finds herself in. Me. Tattooed. Divorced. Single mom of three teenagers. Guarded in most ways forever, but open in occasional moments that pass through like weather. My writing right now is mainly focused on a novel about women and voice, violence and the body, sanity and silence.

We have different ages, ethnicities, statuses, tax brackets, zip codes, experiences, bodies, and daily routines.

And yet.

When I am with them, I am able to sink into that part of myself that few people ever get to know. The dark thickets of my creativity. For every way we are not alike, there remains the common denominator that we are all females and creatives—identities that require more than just a little bit of magic to maintain.

We aren’t raised in a culture that values female friendships. Too often, women are pitted against one another in terms of their beauty, their sexuality, their success, their ability to appear “perfect” and desirable to the male gaze. Women’s primary role is seen as one in service to husbands, children, partners—so, therefore, friendships with other women become secondary at best. Then, as writers, there should be competitiveness and envy between us. I should secretly rally for their failure and my own success, jockeying in place to surpass their skills and publications. But, both of my writing friends had a book come out this past year—I didn’t. I was happy for them in a genuine way, knowing how hard they have worked, knowing that creative fortune favors the determined and they absolutely outdid me in their tenacity and resolve.

The paradigms about what women are like and what writers are like are completely fragmented by my relationship to these two people.

Magic is defined as “the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces…wonderful; exciting…to create, transform, move, etc., by or as if by magic.” The word is one I wouldn’t use lightly. The word is one I would use for what we do when the three of us get together. We create a safe container to allow inspiration in. There is a known, friendly, supportive audience awaiting the words I manage to scrape free from my self-doubt and the insecure edges of my consciousness. My words move and transform and take shape on the page because I can trust that two talented women will receive them for me.

Somewhere in the ritual of coffee cup and notebooks splayed open wide and pens rattling around the tabletop, I know we are influencing our own course of events. Writing is a solitary art. It lacks the swagger of music, the ability to take up tangible space like visual art, and the approachable presence of the stage. Writers are often wildly introverted, so the idea of sharing writing in process—half born and half formed—(and then having to speak about it) can seem like a nightmare. With them it is, instead, a gift.

When I completed my MFA in Creative Writing, words left me. I found myself completely silenced by the intensity of the experience I’d just had and the requirements to work under such restrictive time constraints. My muse rebelled–decided to ditch me and my outlines and run off to Hawaii to drink rum and weave red blossoms into its hair while befriending tropical birds. I couldn’t blame my creative voice for skipping out, but it was painful. I could still occasionally chisel an essay or a poem from the stone block I was living with, but fiction, my wild-eyed sidekick, my first love, had left me.

My notebooks filled with heavy black lines, crossing out whole universes. Voices rose in me then fell quiet like awkward guests at a party, drifting by the punch bowl with nothing to say and a thirst that could not be named. I doubted everything. Especially myself. I was certain that any skill or talent I may have had was spent on a thesis novel that sat like a stone on the page, unyielding. A dead thing. A dead end.

And, that may have been the end of the story right there. The MFA curse come true. Student loan debt. A powerfully transformative experience and then it was over. No promise of success. No clear path forward. But, then, two years into my creative exile, the three of us started meeting up in cafes and emailing our work to one another. Each of them had a longstanding novel in the works for us to begin with. I was untethered from my thesis and wanting to start something new. After a few false starts, I did.

Slowly, with the support and encouragement of these women, a new novel stitched itself together. While it did, my muse started to hear our conversations as she skinny-dipped beneath a bone-white moon. She noticed that I was recommitted to the work again once I agonized over and then scrapped almost two-thirds of the novel, but didn’t give up. I told my writing group members of my plans and they didn’t recoil in horror that I was going to cut so much–they agreed, offered support, and told me to keep going. I am, I told them. I will.

Those words magically brought my muse back to me. She came home not wanting to talk about her time of sea and sky, but watching patiently to see if I kept showing up for the work, even when it felt impossible. I did. I am. But, without our monthly meetings and the emails, texts, and calls, I can tell you in no uncertain terms, I wouldn’t be.

The cups of coffee cool on the table at the cafe. We have spent the morning discussing one another’s work and our next steps. I walk into our meetings with that low-level anxiety creative women know all too well–how dare I say that, how dare I share that, how dare I put that on the page or paint it or photograph it or sculpt it or sing it or let it out into the light? Who am I to take up so much space?

You’re one of us, my writing women tell me. That’s who.

Audience. Friendship. Support. Creative sisterhood.

Read us what you’ve got. We’ve been waiting to hear your work.

Words more magic than these may never be spoken.

Cathleen Delia Mulrooney

cathleendeliamulrooney_bioRestless. Sleepless. Book-lover. Wordsmith. Deep roots. Prodigal heart. Teacher. Guide. Wanderer. Witch. Tea, tarot, hot baths, stitchcraft. Curator of narrative relics, remnants, & curiosities.

Cat is also a freelance writer, editor, and teacher. Her poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, and reviews have appeared in a variety of online and print publications. She has been teaching writing at the college level since 2000, and has facilitated creative writing workshops in elementary schools, high schools, prisons, and private organizations, as well as workshops exclusively for women to write their body and tarot-based narratives.

Through her Queen of Cups Tarot community, she offers private, group, and online tarot readings. Find her online at and Facebook:

Medicine Lodge by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

I approach my place of healing
Branches of cedar and pine lace into wall and roof
I enter through a deerskin draped over the opening
Round stones form a fire ring in the center
I sink onto a pile of soft wool
Flames flicker my wounded spirit skyward

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

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

Sunday Brunch: Senses of Snow

Photo by E.P. Klindienst

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell

Yesterday morning, I sat in my sunny kitchen and read an email from my aunt, sent from her 19th-centry farmhouse in Connecticut. She had included pictures of her land, blanketed in the first snow of the season, and her cozy living room with her real pine Christmas tree (ours is plastic) with the snowy outdoors in the background.

Instantly, I was nostalgic for snow.

If you asked, I would tell you that I don’t do winter, that I’ve ‘done my time’ with snow. It’s true, I never want to live in a place with Serious Winter again, but there are times – usually around the winter solstice – that I find myself longing for a snowed-in weekend.

Photo by E.P. Klindienst

Partly, it’s because of that special snow hush, that preternatural silence. It’s the opposite of rain which is so much static. I mean, I love rain, but the sound of it can be overwhelming.

(Did you know that the reason dogs dislike rain is that it confuses their ability to track the direction of sound? On the other hand, even my dainty Chihuahua who will ‘hold it’ all day, refusing to go outside if the ground is wet, loves to whuffle in fresh snow.)

But snow… snow fills the space between words and music. It quiets the incessant electrical hum that is such a part of contemporary life. It stuffs itself into our unnoticed negative spaces, leaving only a clean, white background.

We don’t often get snow in the part of Texas where I live, so I have to rely on memory when I want to capture the experience of a snow day.

– I’m six and we live in Golden, CO, and my friends and I risk certain death careening down the snow-packed hill that forms the street we live on. Thankfully we never make it to the busy thoroughfare that is the first cross-street.

– I’m a seven-year-old in Colorado, coming home from walking my dog. Her poodle-paws are matted with ice and we’re both shivering, but my mother greets us with a warm towel for her, and a bowl of tuna with hard-boiled egg mixed into it for me.

– I’m seven or eight and I’m standing on the back porch, looking at the snow falling across the beam from the amber porch-light. Years later, I’ll be watching an episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation, and the image of the star field will cause me to utter, “That’s what falling snow looks like.”

– I am ten years old, and even though it was sixty degrees earlier in the day, a soft, slow snow has started outside. My mother and I are curled up on the couch, watching the Winter Olympics from Lake Placid. It’s a perfect weekend.

– I am twenty-four, and Fuzzy (my husband) and I are driving my belongings from California to South Dakota, where we’re about to start our life together. We get iced in, as well as snowed in, in Kearney, NE. My mother covers an extra night at the Best Western, and we spend the day watching cheesy movies, cuddling, reading, and just talking.

– I’m thirty-four, and it’s our first Christmas in Texas. My parents are visiting from Mexico, and we decide to hold an open house and meet the neighbors. A few days before the party, a light snowfall coats the neighborhood in frozen glitter, and Fuzzy and I walk through our snow-dusted neighborhood delivering invitations.

Photo by E.P. Klindienst

– It’s the year I will turn forty, and February brings a “snowpocalypse.” We have eighteen inches of snow, black ice, rolling blackouts, and a frozen pipe (miraculously, it thaws without bursting). We are also (apparently) the only people on our block who own a snow shovel (a remnant of that time in South Dakota).

It is that last snowfall in my list, the one in 2010, that stands out in my mind, because that’s the year I learned that snow has a sound I never expected.

For the first time, I heard the soft hiss that occurs when snowflakes meet the water in my (unheated, but still running) swimming pool. That sound, always reminds me of the way granulated sugar also hisses as it falls into a mug of steaming-hot black tea, but with an element of cold.

We’ve had some snow since then, of course, but most years it’s ‘technical snow’ – a few flurries whip around for an hour or two and then they harden into freezing rain or fade into a brittle gray sky. I’ve learned to appreciate those days for themselves, though. I put a log (DuraFlame, not real wood) on the fire, and enjoy the flickering heat for a few hours.

Some years, I re-read childhood books that have winter scenes, so that at least the landscape in my head looks like winter. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with its opening scenes that take place in Deep Winter is a perennial favorite (always winter and never Christmas is a concept that lingers), but the book I always go back to is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter. It’s in that book that we see Ma create a ‘button lamp,’ and Pa come up with the idea of twisting hay into sticks to use as fuel in the wood stove. It involves some of the bleakest moments of all the Little House books, but it also includes some of the warmest and happiest.

Yesterday morning, I sat in my kitchen looking at the pictures of my auntie’s snow-covered environment.

Yesterday afternoon, as Fuzzy and I crossed a parking lot to enter a restaurant for lunch, it was a sunny, if blustery, day, with a temperature of roughly seventy-three degrees. When we left an hour later, the temperature had dropped to fifty and the sky had thickened. By midnight the thermometer read twenty-two.

We won’t get snow – the sky may be gray and heavy, but there really isn’t enough moisture, but the cold has its own magic. Snow hushes sounds, but wind sings mournful songs in the trees and whispers stories into the chimney. Gray weather lends itself to lamplight and endless mugs of hot tea whether it comes with powder or pouring.

I fell for snow when I was a child, and I fall for it over and over again when I see pictures or read books, but despite the special memories, I’m glad I no longer have to deal with slush footprints, soggy feet, or being so cold my chin-muscles go numb.

Well… mostly.


Photos by E. P. Klindienst. Used with permission.


About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa A. BartellMelissa 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, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Making Magic When the Heart is Heavy by Jeanie Croope

I know I’m not the only one who has ever tried to be merry when it felt the world was crashing down around me.

My dad died in mid-December many years ago, but I remember that time as though it was yesterday.

To put this in context, it would be useful to think of me as The Christmas Kid, Mrs. Claus in Training or The One Who Can’t Seem to Quit. I love the holidays and while I refuse to put up one decoration before Thanksgiving, the day after, all bets are off! I have a rather small house and by the time I put Christmas everywhere, I’m often quite sure it is far too over the top and I should have quit long before. And I’m always glad I didn’t!

But then Dad died. It wasn’t unexpected. I just didn’t think it would happen before Christmas. Phone calls. Funeral arrangements. Just trying to get my brain around what it would be like to have no parents at all.

I had already scheduled a Christmas party for several days after the funeral. I toyed with cancelling. Everyone would understand.

But I needed those people. I needed to be busy making snacks and cleaning the house. I needed the energy of those who loved me surrounding me with good cheer. And smiles. Because smiles were pretty tough to come by that Christmas. I could — and would — cry later.

I am grateful to have a strong friendship network. Several of those friends knew Dad too, visiting him in the hospital or nursing home, giving me a badly needed night off. All, at one time or another, had joined Dad and me for Christmas dinner.

Christmas dinner. My favorite meal of the year. The Spode dishes, mom’s silver, lots of lights. How could I do dinner without dad?

And I didn’t. One of that friendship trio, Bonnie, invited us all to her home for dinner. It was warm and friendly and a safe place to simply “be” and a gesture I will never forget.

Facing down the holidays during sad times can be a challenge for any of us. That “sadness” may not just be the death of a beloved family member. It can be a divorce or separation that sends a family into divided loyalties and deep grief. It can be the loss of a job or a tragedy, like a house fire. Perhaps a dear family member is in the hospital or has recently faced a catastrophic diagnosis. It may even be despair about the state of the world. We all have our triggers, our life occurrences.

Every one of these situations — and many others — can send that happy holiday heart into the dumps.

If there was a set combination of solutions that would work for everyone, I would patent it and be a wealthy woman. The fact is the glorious differences that make us unique mean that no one set of rules can ever make us, if not happy, at least at peace with the situation and be able to recognize and engage in celebration.

Here are some ideas that have helped me and others I know during these times. Perhaps they’ll resonate with you. If you have other suggestions, feel free to enter them in the comment section.

  1. Try to surround yourself with people who are aware of your fragile state and will let you be you. That means that if you want help with the heavy lifting they’ll be there with that casserole or help with the dishes. But they will also recognize that sometimes it might help you to be busy and “have a job.” (Those of you with grieving friends, take note!)  They will also recognize that if you aren’t your usual life of the party, it’s OK. They won’t try to jolly you out of a quiet moment.
  2. Try something new. That Christmas dinner at Bonnie’s helped save my holiday, putting me with good friends in a spot that wasn’t quite so raw with memories. The support, the new surroundings that year, all made it an easier holiday.
  3. Do unto others. Maybe this is the year you find a cause, volunteer at a soup kitchen or take cookies to a senior center. Wrap presents for needy children or volunteer at the food bank. Practice random acts of kindness. It’s amazing how giving back can help fill a hole in the heart.
  4. Try to remember the good things. Light a candle each evening in memory or revisit memories in photo albums. Honor that experience by remembering the best of times. If your house is burning or your love is in ICU, that’s not easy and maybe not possible. But we often have the opportunity to reframe how we think of an experience.
  5. Try a little “creative therapy.” If you write, scribble your thoughts, coming any way they like. Let your heart purge its pain. If you draw or paint, try to put your feelings on paper using a visual medium. Grab your camera and photograph something that offers a reflection of your feelings or your hopes for the future.
  6. Live in hope. It’s can be difficult to see the light of hope at the end of a dark tunnel, but have faith that it is there. Recognize that these intense moments are the “now” and not the “always.” Find a talisman to carry in your pocket — a stone or bead, piece of jewelry or cat toy — something you can touch reminds you that person is with you and that peace and healing will come. You simply have to open your heart and let it find its way in.

There is a Native American saying, “The soul would have no rainbow if they eyes had no tears.” It’s hard to remember that at the holidays — but hold fast to the hope that the rainbow will appear. It may not be in the bright, shiny lights on the tree or the dangling baubles. And it may take awhile. But the rainbow will return, bringing that spectrum of life from black and white back into color.

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.

Typical Tuesday with Theresa Reed


I never sleep in. I’m up and at ‘em before my husband even begins to stir.  The quiet time in the morning is essential for me. I use this time to get my brain – and day – in order.

I rarely need an alarm because I’ve trained myself to wake up around 6AM.  Once my eyes are open, the day is started.

My day begins with brushing my teeth. I am a compulsive tooth brusher and like to brush ‘em throughout the day. I like the minty-fresh breath thing.  Next up, a big glass of water. Water is important because we become dehydrated in the night.  A fresh glass gets everything in my system refreshed.

Now it’s time for meditation and movement.  I need to move my body in order to get the blood pumping. That might be with weights, yoga, or with energy work.  Whatever I can get in.  A little meditation stills  my mind, which preps me for starting my work.

Every morning, I post a tarot “Card for the Day” post on social media.  Once that’s done, I check my emails and put out any fires there.  Then, I sneak in a little writing. It might be my blog post for the day or the new book I’m working on.  Or maybe something else.  Morning is my favorite time to write because I know I won’t be disturbed.

After a bit, it’s time to get to these cats.  They are bugging me by now.  I feed them and then grab a bite to eat.  I’m not a big breakfast person so it’s usually a bowl of organic oatmeal, Greek yogurt with berries, or a bagel.  Copious amounts of green tea follow.  I’m not a coffee person at all. The only way I can do coffee is in a Frappacino – which, as my son so sagely noted, isn’t really coffee – it’s dessert!

I take my breakfast at my desk and then write some more. If it’s a blogging day, I’ll post that morning and put links on social media. Otherwise, it may be some other project I’m jamming away on.

Then, it’s time to hit the showers!  I love a blistering hot shower.  Like, mega-steaming to the point where my skin is red when I’m done. I know it’s probably bad for my skin but it makes me feel purged and alive!

Once I’m outta there, I love to slather my skin with body lotions and potions before getting dressed and getting my face on for the day. It takes me about five minutes to put on my makeup most days. I always say: if it takes you more than ten minutes to put on your face, you’re wearing too much.  Most days, it’s just a little tinted moisturizer, a swipe of eyeshadow and my signature black eyeliner with a little gloss. I don’t even bother with blush or mascara.  I don’t have time to bother.

I will do a check in with social media and emails – then it’s time to run errands with my husband, who is by now awake but bleary-eyed.  He’s a night person so I have to nag him awake.

Our mornings together are my favorite. We get in a walk and discuss whatever needs discussing.  It might be talking about our day, the latest news, or some project we’re working on.  We’re both workaholics so you can guess that most of our conversations center around that.  Post office, banking, Starbucks, and groceries are next – usually in that order.  I buy fresh groceries almost every day because I cook every night.  It’s my way of winding down plus fresh food is important to me.

Once we’re back home, it’s time to begin client work.

That starts off with email readings.  I used to do a lot of them but they are extremely time consuming so I’ve been limiting myself to a few a day – and no weekends.  I spend about two hours doing these – no more.  Remember, I’ve already been writing for most of the morning.  A few hours of email readings on top of all that and my arthritis is kicking in!  Gotta save those paws so they must be used very mindfully.

Next up, it’s time for readings.  Meaning, phone sessions with clients.  I make sure to have time between each reading to grab tea and get off my chair.  I NEED to move as much as  possible because this is sedentary work and I’m a believer that the chair is the devil.  LOL I find excuses to keep on moving as much as I can. In fact, the tea maker is on the third floor which means I have to take the stairs to refill my mug.  Believe me, I get in plenty of stairs every day.

My office closes promptly at 7PM on Tuesdays but then I’m hitting the computer for #TarotRap, my weekly Twitter chat about tarot.  I’ve only been doing this a few months but it’s a great way to connect with fellow tarot fanatics and talk about all things tarot!  I’ve been having so much fun – and the best part: I’ve even been learning a few new things.  You CAN teach an old tarot dog new tricks!  We’ve got some amazing people showing up every week – both newbies and old pros.  I am not sure how long I will be doing this but for now, it’s been great fun.

Once #TarotRap is finished, it is time to cook a meal, grab a glass of wine and relax with my husband and the cats.  We’ve been watching InkMaster on Tuesdays but often, it’s more likely just quiet time and reading books, side by side, with one of the cats jammed in between us.

I am usually in bed no later than 11PM.  As you can probably guess, when my head hits the pillow, I’m out like a light.

My days are long and challenging but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my work and my life.  It’s engineered to suit my workaholic nature and introvert tendencies.



About the Author: Theresa Reed

theresareedTheresa Reed (aka “The Tarot Lady”) has been a full-time Tarot card reader for close to 30 years. She is the author of The Tarot Coloring Book (release date: Nov 1, 2016), an illustrated tour through the world of Tarot with coloring sheets for every card in the deck.

In addition to doing private Tarot readings, teaching Tarot classes, and speaking at Tarot conferences, Theresa also runs a popular website——where she dishes out advice, inspiration and tips for Tarot lovers of all experience levels.

Follow Theresa on Twitter and Instagram for her daily “Six Second Tarot Reading”—plus photos of her extremely handsome cats, TaoZen and Monkey.

Ghosts as Truth-Tellers by Andi Cumbo-Floyd

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach! ― Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol

I can’t tell you what I really believe about ghosts.  Are they real in the sense that they occupy time and space and energy with the living? Are they the spirits of dead people or the energy echoes of those who lived before us? Are they figments of our guilty, grieving, hopeful imaginations?  I have no idea. . . like I said, I don’t even know if they exist.

But I do know this – they are powerful in our American culture and in many cultures around the world. They occupy a liminal space between the real and the magical, a space that allows them both the authority and the transcendence to speak truth with a power that a mere mortal cannot.

Some of the first stories I remember being moved by as a child were ghost stories from the Appalachian Mountains where I was raised.  There, the ghosts of American Indians walked the woods with lanterns, and the spirit of a teenage girl who died young gets a lift home from a man on a foggy night.  Those stories scared me, yes, but they also taught me something really important about human nature – that we cling to our histories, our heritages in every way we can and that this clinging can create beauty and power that stretches beyond a lifetime.

I see this in my own work as I write about the history and legacy of enslavement in Virginia, in the way I feel the presences of the people who have gone before, in how the ancestors speak to me in tingles and in the research finds that propel me forward.  Do I think it’s the spirits of the actual people who were enslaved that help me in these ways? I’m not sure. But I know that when I am open to their experiences, when I am seeking their stories, when I am letting the tingles of intuition and the tidbits of information resonate through me, I find history and story that I would never discover on my own.

It’s for this reason that I chose to use ghosts as the great teachers and guides in my Steele Secrets books.  I take my cue from Dickens here, who knew that a ghost might speak a truth that could ring like a bell when it was free from the living entanglements of prejudice and self-interest.  A voice free from the chains of society and the worries of a life cuts through the clutter of our dailyness and widens the cracks where the light gets in. (Perhaps Leonard Cohen will haunt us with his blessing forevermore.)

People are wary of ghosts because we are afraid, I expect. We sometimes claim religious reasons or science as a reason for our fear or disbelief, but I wonder if sometimes we are also afraid of being the Scrooge in the story. Are we concerned that we need to be taught a lesson and will be whisked off to our fondest and darkest moments? If so, maybe we need to take our cue from Scrooge again and give in to the journey so that we can come out the other side with softer hearts and a way of being that gives Tiny Tim the space to share his words that bless us all.

About the Author: Andi Cumbo-Floyd

andibio1Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and farmer, who lives on 15 blissful acres at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, 6 goats, 4 dogs, 4 cats, and 22 chickens. Her books include Steele Secrets, The Slaves Have Names, and Writing Day In and Day Out. The next book in her Steele Secrets Series, Charlotte and the Twelve, is now available.

You can connect with Andi at her website,, or via Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday Sanctuary: Crisis of Faith


I sent a one line email to one of my most trusted friends:

“I almost applied for a secretarial job today.”

It was a distilled synopsis hiding behind the deeper truth: I was smack-dab in the middle of a crisis of faith.

Weeks earlier, I had completed the process of turning two of my digital coaching courses into hold-in-your-hand books. It should have been a pinnacle moment for the year, but once I got beyond the first giddy experience of seeing five years of my work become flesh, I felt like the gardener who’d made the mistake of planting too many zucchini plants in her garden and was secretly leaving baskets of veggies on her neighbor’s porch in the dead of night.

In my office was an unopened box from Amazon containing the book of a friend. I left the box untouched for days, lost in feeling both aggravated and downtrodden. I had been a strong supporter of every book written by friends and happily touted – and often purchased – the many digital courses created by friends and colleagues. Yet, in the midst of that week, I was feeling that no one was willing to step up and support me.

I knew for a fact that none of my friends or colleagues had purchased either of my books because I had zero sales. Everyone was “zucchini-ed” out and I couldn’t even give the damn books away!

Being a maker of any sort is often a solo act and can easily lead to the feelings of aloneness and isolation. My partner, John, is a huge supporter of my work, but he doesn’t quite get what my work is, let alone what it feels like.

So, the morning an email from a head hunter arrived in my inbox touting the “perfect” job for me, instead of the immediate “no thank you” I had penned dozens of times over the last six years, I clicked on the link and read the job description:

“Executive Assistant to CEO of COMPANYNAME. Need project management skills (preferably with PMP Certification), top-notch communication skills, both verbal and written, flexible attitude, be a great problem solver, and posses a deep understanding of the demands and stresses of an executive of a multi-million dollar business. Pet lovers only. Great benefits, including health, dental, and 401k. Bonus: bring your dog to work.”

I began to imagine going to an office and being around people. Every Day. I envisioned the need for sheath dresses, skirts, pantsuits, and high heels. All clothing I have loved wearing in my past life when I was a full-time consultant. I fantasized about an office Christmas Party! And though we are currently pet-less due to our frequent travel, daily affection – given and received – from well-behaved dogs whenever I wanted!

Not only was the fantasy I was imagining fulfilling, the job fit another requirement of mine: close to home. So close to home, in fact, that I could easily bike to work if I wanted.

I went as far as sending a quick response to the head hunter that I would give the job a strong consideration. I also dug out my resume, which hadn’t been updated since my last Government Contract seven years earlier.

I will be frank with you: it wasn’t about the money. I am in the position that every writer I know desires to be in: no need for a day job to ensure the mortgage gets paid.

It was about the potential to escape the desolate isolation and deeper loneliness of being an extrovert living the life of an introverted creator.

I walked away from my desk. Showered, dressed, and left the house to do one of my go to activities for lonely days: errands. I got a coffee at Starbucks and had a nourishing exchange with my favorite barista, Chase. I strolled through Pier 1 Imports and complimented the manager on the remodeled store. I picked up light-bulbs and giant bags of salt for our water softener (the most awkward bags ever). And then it was off to the Dry Cleaners to drop off John’s suit pants, pick-up of previous left pants and dress shirts left, and to hear the update on the owner’s wife’s cancer treatment and his daughter’s soccer tournament.

Though these errands can seem unimportant or mindless, the last several years of working exclusively at home have taught me to channel my extroverted need to interact with people by seeing the management of household needs as a form of ministry. I have learned to cultivate a connection with strangers that I meet through this tending of our life. I know the names and a few personal details of my favorite grocery store folks. I know that Chase, my favorite Barista, collects Starbucks Cards from faraway places and have brought him cards from DC and Hawaii for his collection. I know by sight, if not my name, the cashiers at my favorite stores. The ladies at the post office all know me and are genuinely happy to see me when I walk in laden with packages or just to buy some stamps.

Yes, I plan the occasional lunch date with girlfriends, but everyone’s lives are busy and few have the time for spur-of-the-moment lunches. Most of them work day jobs.

I forced myself to step back from my surface emotions and examine the deeper, more vulnerable thoughts and feelings.

Did what I do even matter? What was the purpose of what I did each day? Was there a point to continuing toiling away over words that few might ever read? In the sea of the thousands of life coaches these days, did my voice matter? Where was I keeping myself from being happy? How was I squashing my own joy? Was considering a day job just an escape? Was it an excuse steeped in fear of my writing and work?

The Kismet of timing, my phone rings. My girlfriend had finished a work call, gotten my email, and called to confess that she, too, has applied for a job here or there over her decade of being an entrepreneur.

She gives me the permission I need: go for that day job if that’s what my heart is needing. She talks me through the options and reminds me that I am not alone. Despite the fact that I felt so isolated just hours before, I am reminded that every single maker of any sort has moments of fear, doubt, isolation, and a loss of faith in their purpose and work.

I step away from the very lip of the ledge and to a safer distance from diving over. But I keep the edge in sight.

Everyone who chooses to live a creative life will have their own crisis of faith. Though money isn’t everything, having my work seen holds value to me, so where is that balance I need?

Who am I to add my voice to the world? Don’t more important people have something better to say than I? Who am I? Do I matter? Does my work even matter?

My logical side encourages me to get out a pen and paper and review the list of pros and cons of A Day Job VS This Creative –Out of the Box – Life I have worked so hard to create.

My choices over the last seven years have not been in any way unconscious.

Each decision has been calculated carefully with my big goals in mind and the clear understanding of what sacrifices I make, measured side-by-side the trade-offs and advantages of each one. Most of the decisions I have made have come down to the core question: how will this affect the quality of our daily life?

Last year about this time I decided to cut the time I spend on my coaching practice in half. There were two reasons: to have the space to write differently and to have more time to keep house.

Yes, you read that right: I wanted more time to keep house.

No, I didn’t get swept up in a time warp back to the 50’s. You won’t find me vacuuming the couch attired in a dress with stockings, heels, and pearls. However, one of the biggest contributing factors in the quality of our daily life is the way I manage our home. I take pride in the creation of beautiful meals that appear on our table. I love that in the evenings, we can cuddle up by the fire with a glass of wine and talk about the day instead of scrambling to pick up the dry cleaning or groceries. Because I manage all the tasks it takes to care for our home, we sleep in, make love, and leisurely enjoy coffee on a Saturday morning instead of me waking with my brain cluttered with a big to-do list.

I know myself well, and I know that if I were to take a day job, my home life would suffer.

One of the biggest shifts in my ability to create has occurred over the last seven years because, for the first time in my life, I am safe. Safe to be myself. Safe to be vulnerable. Safe to write whatever bounces around in my brain. As a child, my mother criticized and even destroyed years and years of my journal writings. Both my ex-husband and my children pried into any written journal – physical or digital. John never peeks and would never pry.

When Virginia Woolf writes about a woman needing a room of her own, this is the core meaning of that: in order to create, a woman must have privacy. The work needs to be safe from prying eyes until we are ready to share it. That’s one of the paradoxes for me in this creative life: I want my work to be seen, yes. But I need the safety of not having it seen until I make it ready for the world.

There is another side of this crisis of faith that I know to the depths of my soul: a crisis of faith is a sign that you are on the edges of an important evolution. Our brains sense that our souls are trying to change, and because our brains try to keep us “safe” from change, it convinces us, through fear, that what we are about to embark upon is dangerous.

My desire to escape the isolation is sign. And a test.

Do I really desire to live a creative life? Am I really brave enough to take that next step? Am I willing to try new ways of creating? Am I willing to fail? Am I willing to deal with the painful emotions associated with creating so that I can access that deeper sense of joy and happiness?

I may not have all the answers to these questions, but I do know that the almost-fifty-year-old version of Debra has more patience and a deeper sense of hope in the value of a creative life than thirty-year-old Debra ever imagined. The thirty-year-old me – heck, even the forty-year-old me –  would have taken the day job. After a few days of sitting with the decision, I tell the head hunter that I am honored. And will not be interviewing for the position.

I have weathered this crisis of faith and recognize three distinct truths. One: I am still in the shadow phase of my crisis and will need to diligently tend my bruised heart and tender soul. Two: this isn’t my last crisis in faith. The flip side of this wildly invigorating and profoundly rewarding decision to choose my own creative soul is that with each stage of evolution, there will be seeds of doubt sown side by side with each seed of faith I plant.

And the third truth is one I hope you take with you as well: a crisis of faith means that life is about to get interesting.  Very interesting.  Because it’s a sign that my creative soul is ready to grow beyond my wildest dreams.

No matter where you may be in your creative journey, know that however you are feeling, you are not alone.

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself.
Do not lose courage… ”
–St. Francis de Sales

About the Author: Debra Smouse

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

Finding My Creative Soul During the Holidays by Jeanie Croope

Most months of the year, finding time for me to be creative isn’t all that difficult. This is, in part, because I don’t have a day-job. Though I have obligations, as you do, I can generally build a good deal of creativity into my daily life.

And then December arrives.

I love Christmas. I love the parties, the presents, the wrapping, decorating, get-togethers with friends, baking, lights, candles, music, the memories, the magic. It is my holiday and my holiday runs from the day after Thanksgiving until the day the trees come down. (And that may be well into January!)


But with all the making merry, grabbing time to be creative can be a challenge. I’ve had to rethink my definition of creativity and how it applies to me. As I’ve been muddling this for a few weeks, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve come to realize.

First, there is more than one way to be creative. One of my pet peeves is when someone says to me, “You’re so creative. I’m just not. Not at all.”

I don’t believe that for a minute about anyone. The person who might say that to me could be a marvelous cook or a mathematician whose daily work would tie my mind in knots. And while one might say there are rules to both of those, I would say that any discipline has its so-called “rules” but the creative part is when you bend them to the situation. Modifying a recipe. Thinking outside the box on a scientific research experiment. Violating the principles of the color wheel. Would Einstein have discovered the theory of relativity if he didn’t think outside the box?

So my first thought is to think of all you do as a potential venue for your creativity to explode. The way you decorate the tree or hang your garland. The craft you might reluctantly be drawn into could find you reveling in the joy of creating something lovely. Those Christmas cookies — why not try fun-with-frosting instead of just the sugar sprinkles? Or a new recipe you’ve never before prepared?

Second, think of every holiday experience as a potential jumpstart for your creativity. When you attend your community’s tree lighting or drive through the neighborhood looking at lights, don’t leave it at that. Go home and write down five or ten thoughts about the experience. What did it look like or feel like and what does it mean to you. Chances are, you have just written a poem — or something that could be a poem.

jeanie-december-postAnd the best part about this one is that you can do it with anything — the family gathering, your best friend’s party, the experience of baking cookies with the kids.

Take those thoughts a step further. Write them on bright paper, cut them out and hang them on a tree, put them in a scrapbook or make a “what’s this?” game from them. (Put the phrases into a pretty box. Players draw a phrase and have to figure out the experience.) Make your own rules! Does anyone really know all the official Scrabble rules?

Seek out a creative play date during the holiday, a time when you give yourself a few hours to engage in a creative activity. It might be an afternoon workshop where you paint Christmas cards or a gathering to make a wreath or holiday ornament. Maybe it’s the cookie exchange, but instead of putting your cookies in plastic bags for others to take home, wrap them up in style!

Each December, I attend a workshop that begins with a a lovely dinner followed by a project like this year’s “ice berry wreath” and “bucket o’ greens.” The group engages in a relatively simple activity that ends up looking great — and is useful. Many garden centers or craft stores host classes where you will leave with decorative holiday project. Look for card-making workshops or Christmas cookie-baking classes.

It’s a double win. Creativity without guilt. Not only do you carve creative time into your holiday, you also do something productive, something to be proud of. When you hear compliments on your wreath or baking you’ll have an extra smile because you had the experience of creating to go along with it.

I think of my friend Susan’s wrapping party. She served up cider and soup, tape and scissors and some paper and ribbons. Everyone brought their gifts and their own packaging and when the evening was over, much of their wrapping work was behind them.

Then there was my family’s Christmas wrapping contest. One gift would be wrapped “creatively” — that was the only “rule.” A poster took on new life as a trumpet. Rolls of old movie film turned into a bow. The year my mother was on a felt gingerbread-man stitching blitz inspired my dad to make a giant gingerman that looked like her small ones, and, leaving a small opening on the side, stuffed it with the earrings he gave her. That gingerbread man tops my kitchen trees forty years later.

Don’t forget the Internet. Thanks to blogs, Pinterest and Instagram you’ll find plenty of inspiring ideas for easy and fast projects, many done with a minimum of expense or time. Some of these projects can be done in the company of others — maybe your grandchild or your best friend. From simple ornament ideas to easy-to-make tags, you’ll find plenty of instructions to get you started. Chances are you even have most of the supplies you’ll need right at home!

Creativity and thoughtfulness can go hand in hand. Consider wrapping something you might give the person standing in the snow on the corner something in a pretty package — and include a thick Sharpie so they can actually make a readable sign.

Our creative souls don’t disappear during the busy season. Sometimes they go into hiding, just waiting to be coaxed out. And when you give yourself permission to let it go, you’ll not only have fun but you may discover new traditions in the process.

Now, I wonder what pile the watercolors are under?

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.