rules in which to live by

do good

give serenity

make calm

-michelle stephens | 2017


In the beginning…

In the beginning there was me.

Wandering through life.

Alone in my dreams.




Then you. You found me.

I found you.

You and I became we.



Together we became the beginning of something new.

Then her. Our first her.

She was born.

She grounded and soothed us.




She was the beginning of so much good.

Then her. Our littlest her.

She arrived after a storm of uncertainty and heartache.

She healed us.



a family.

You and me and the two of them.

My life began when yours first started.

I loved you before we met.

In the beginning there was me.

Wandering through life.

Alone in my dreams.



Then you.






One, two…..

I focused on my breathing. Slowly in, slowly out. If I could control that, hopefully my mind would follow.

Three, four….

Counting sometimes calmed me. The rhythmic sound of the numbers. Up to ten and back to one. Divert my attention away from my racing pulse.

Five, six….

I wouldn’t always feel this way. It would pass, leaving my body as quickly as it began. This is temporary, this is harmless.

Seven, eight….

Another wave hit me. Washing over me and making it hard to take a breath.

Nine, ten….

Breathe. I should breathe. In slowly, hold, release. If I could control that hopefully my heart would follow.

Ten, nine….

I didn’t know how much more I could take. Fear was starting to take a stronger hold than I could fight off.

Eight, seven….

I closed my eyes and silently begged. I begged for strength, serenity. I begged for this to pass, to feel normal again.

Six, five….

How much longer could my body sustain this state? I was exhausted and shaky.

Four, three….

I opened my eyes and took a deep breath. I diverted my attention away from my head and into my feet. Slowly feeling every ounce of my body starting to relax.

Two, one….

I focused on my breathing. Slowly in, slowly out. If I could control that, hopefully my mind would follow.



Originally posted on


There are things I can’t control
Things that just happen
Things I have to
Learn to live with
Or things that just consume
Things beyond the scope of my ability
To change

Or are there?
Am I actually
In control
Allowing these things
To consume
Choosing to learn to live with them
Instead of stopping them before they start

Things that well up inside
Direct results of festering feelings
Allowing things to rise to a toxic level
Slowly start to seep out
Into everyday life

I will no longer allow
Such things to affect
I will no longer allow
Such people to affect
I will no longer allow
Their actions to create
Feelings inside
That fester and rise
To a toxic level

A realization
That if I do not let it matter
If I do not let these things
Become things
I will not have to learn to live with them
This thinking
This thinking
Is magic.

Why I Read

*Written for the Brattleboro Literary Festival


I read to escape.

To visit far away lands

That I have not been to.


I read to relax.

To have the adventures my body

Is too tired to have.


I read to think.

To expand my mind,

As well as my world.


I read to connect.

With writers, authors

And past generations.


I read to be a voyeur

Into someone else’s world

And mind.


I read to energize

My spirit and

My soul.


I read to soothe my daughter.

To fill her mind with stories

As she drifts off to sleep.


I read to remember,

Places I have been,

Times that have passed.


I read to write.

To be inspired,

To never give up.


And sometimes,

Just sometimes,

I read.

Just because.


the rain softly falls

against the panes of glass

separating my warm sleeping


from the cold wind

it’s the first night rain of Spring

it smells like mud

and new beginings

if I listen closely

I can hear promises

in the wind

of warm days and short nights

trees with tiny new buds

lazily sway

and soak up the water

drops tap on the panes of glass

that separate my warm sleeping


slowly everything awakens

birds sing the sun up over the mountains

light fills our room

my family stirs

adventures await

on this new spring day


~This piece was originally posted on Literary Traces on April 9, 2013.~


I grabbed his hand as though his weight alone would anchor me to the ground we stood on. “It is beautiful” he said, eyes fixed on the millions of stars that illuminated the sky above us.

It was, indeed, beautiful. All those tiny pinpoints twinkling against an endless velvety dark blue void. My pulse quickened. My head felt weightless. I held onto his hand tighter. Between feeling so incredibly small, falling in love, and my extreme fear of all things huge and unknown, I wasn’t sure if I was going to lose consciousness or vomit. Maybe both.
When I was a little girl I would proudly announce that I was going to be a ballerina and an astronaut when I grew up. I wanted to dance on the moon. I absorbed every book I could find about the solar system. I would recite the planets (in order from the sun, of course), to anyone willing to listen. The idea of something so big that we hadn’t found the end yet, fascinated me.
My curiosity-filled innocence slowly faded and in its place stood anxiety, fear, and panic. They, at times, consumed me. I no longer looked at the sky in awe and amazement. I avoided looking up at all out of fear of what may be, of what I didn’t know. I would glance at a harvest moon and momentarily forget that I was fearful. Then a wave of panic would awaken me from my daydream and anxiety would settle in once again.
Then I met him. We spent our first summer under dark and moody skies. Thunderstorm after thunderstorm would roll through. We would watch from my truck as the sky changed from clear blue to steely grey to black. Together we would watch lightning rip through the clouds. Claps of thunder echoed in my ears along with the pounding of my completely smitten heart.
Warm nights were filled with star gazing and storytelling. I started to forget my fears. As long as he was beside me, I could do anything. The unknown was a beautiful place to be.
Four and a half years later, we married on a beautiful October day. The sun warmed my bare shoulders and made his blue eyes sparkle brighter than the sky. Later that night, we surrounded ourselves with friends and celebrated our union. I found myself looking up at the stars. The infinite unknown didn’t seem so scary. It seemed hopeful, promising. Maybe not knowing was better after all.
It has been nearly 11 years since our first summer. We have a daughter now. She asks about the stars and the moon. Together we look at the night sky. I hold them both, to keep me firmly on the ground. I still feel those rushes but I know that I have them to hold me. I have him.
He looks over at me, his eyes still sparkling like that clear October sky, “It is beautiful”, he says.
Yes, my love, it is beautiful.


~This piece was originally posted on Literary Traces on April, 2, 2013.~

Watching my belly undulate under my shirt I couldn’t wait to hold this tiny person for the first time. Only a few more weeks, I would tell myself.

My arms ached to hold her.
I was expecting our first child and had been put on bedrest due to uncontrollable contractions. I wasn’t in labor, the doctor would assure me, but they didn’t want to take any chances. Either did we. My husband and I had tried and tried for this little person. I had fallen so deeply in love with her at the first sight of that positive test, taken the morning of my 30th birthday.
Now, here I was in bed during a beautiful Vermont summer watching my belly move and wiggle with the life that it contained. I couldn’t help but worry. Would the currently painless and harmless contractions get worse? Would they throw me into irreversible pre-term labor? Would she be ok?
My arms ached to hold her.
The first of a string of worries that comes with parenthood. A near constant worry for the safety/well being/happiness of someone you love more than you’d ever imagine. It also felt like the start of my relationship with my daughter.
Before being assigned to my bed I lead a normal, active and sometimes busy life. Preparing for our daughter’s arrival and working full time kept me busy. There would be days that I would only have a few moments to really give my pregnancy, and the baby within my, full attention.
But now, now I was focusing on her 100% of the time. Undivided attention was given to her flutters and kicks. I learned that she loved for me to gently push back when she pushed out with her feet. I also came to know that she loved having her back rubbed. Something that nearly 3 years later still holds true. If she became restless all it would take is a rub of my belly and her daddy’s voice. With every one of her movements I could feel my worries melt away little by little. I was getting to know my daughter weeks before meeting her.
The aching in my arms grew stronger.
After nearly 6 weeks of bed rest I was allowed to resume normal activity. It was safe to go into labor. I was ready when she was. Two weeks later she arrived. Labor was hard and I was scared. My worry peaked with every centimeter that I didn’t dilate. Every contraction brought me closer to finally holding her and with it more worries. 10.5 hours later our daughter entered the world.
She was perfect. Beyond perfect. We were in love. We were a family.
I wrapped my arms around my daughter for the first time, feeling the warmth and weight of her just born body. “There you are.” I said to her. Her cries quieted. My heart swelled. I was finally touching my baby.
My arms no longer ached.
I started to cry as I looked at this perfect little being. The product of my husband and I. Through squinty newborn eyes she looked up at me and reached up with her minutes old hand and touched my face.
32 months later and she will still reach up and put her hand on my face. If I am upset, she will tell me everything is ok and rub my face. If she is tired she lays in my arms and reaches up for a light touch. It is her way of connecting with me and, for a moment, it is just her and I. All my worries melt away.

I focus, once again, on my daughters touch.