Self-growth work. And BBQ Beans.
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“When you really love someone,
you shine the light of your soul
on the beloved.
We know from nature
that sunlight brings
everything to growth.
If you look at flowers early
on a spring morning,
they are all closed.
When the light of the sun
catches them,
they trustingly open out
and give themselves
to the new light.”

--John O'Donohue

Good morning, my darling <<Name>>. It's been a challenging  year and an incredibly challenging week.

This love note is going out later than usual and for that I apologize. My goal is to arrive in your in-box like sunlight along the pathclockwork every other Saturday morning. This week, though, my words needed more time for my thoughts to come together.

And I also needed an opportunity to share the draft of this week's blog post with a couple of friends whose wisdom and experience on social justice issues are much deeper than mine alone.

I want you to know that I am not changing lanes of my expertise. As I share in the blog post, my role is to help YOU love your life, not share my opinions or tell you how to think.

So, rather than ramble on and on this week, just know I am sending you my love and always coming from flowersa space of hope for a brighter future.

Please continue to take care of yourself.  Please be safe.

And if you need anything, reach out to me. I am just an email away.

As always, I am sending you love.

PS - Summer Love Notes  launched this week. Enjoy the creative fruits of labor from beautiful voices and find glimmers of light, beauty, and hope. If you are looking for a place to share a story, a poem, create a photo essay, your art,  and such. We'd LOVE to have you.

From the blog:  Eight Things to Consider When it Comes to Self-Development Work

As a life coach, my job is to help people on their journey through self-development. This looks different for each individual person. And my mission is to help each person I work with clear what’s in the way of loving themselves and their life. At times, this may look like giving you suggestions to try, tools to use, or asking questions to help you unfold your own story.

One of my core beliefs is that my role as a life coach is not to tell you what to do, what to believe, or what to think. Rather, my role is to help you discover the answers for yourself.

It’s one of the reasons you’ll never see a post about politics from me. I believe it’s not in your best interest to be swayed by my opinion. Instead, I want you to form your own opinions based on your life experiences and education. Otherwise, I will have failed you as a coach because people have been telling you what you must do and think for years. And only when you can go off of your own knowledge and intuition can you grow in your self-development.

Yet, we live in challenging times. And everywhere I turn, I am being told I should share my opinions and take a stand. People who agree with me will applaud me. And people who might grow in their beliefs will click away because rather then kindly own their minds will feel they are being preached to. As a coach, I am not here to get anyone’s approval or applause. Nor am I here to preach to you.

Instead, my job means that I am here to help you become a better version of yourself.

growth work


And help you rise to the challenges you are grappling with so that you can grow as a human being. Sometimes these challenges are deeply personal and individual to you and your self-development. At other times, the challenges are due to what’s happening in society.

I believe that every human should be treated with kindness, dignity, and respect no matter their religion, sexual orientation, or the color of their skin. At this exact moment in time, we are being asked to consider the challenge of being Black in America. I can’t speak to that experience as I am not an African American.

So, rather than trying to convince you that you must think like me, my role is to help open your eyes and your mind. Because when you learn how to use discernment as a tool, you are learning how to not only think for yourself. You’re given the opportunity to go deeper into the understanding of the human condition.

My job is to help you find the stepping stones to learn to think in different ways. To provide you a spark of awareness and take that to the next level when it comes to disparities and serve to witness you as you grow in your self-development.

Now this is something I CAN speak to with experience. Because thought work and the tools for self-development – doing the work of growth – is something I am intimate with.

And before you click away from this, please know that this is something I am writing to each of you. Including those of you who are further along in your own work when it comes to racial and other social justice issue. Because if you can hear me from a place of compassion and grace, it allows you to find a loving path to help someone else grow. And more opportunities of opening the eyes and education others who aren’t quite as far along as you are.

When it comes to self-development in any area of your life, including social justice issues, it’s important to remember these eight things.

One – You don’t know what you don’t know.

Do you remember the first time you realized that blue and red were different colors? What about memorizing your address? Or learning five times five equals twenty-five? While these are simplistic examples of learning something new, remember that every day you are exposed to new ways of thought and living.

For many people, they are just beginning to see different ways of living.

This is why if we are to create change, the acknowledgement and understanding of this is crucial. Because it provides a richer environment for self-development when we recognize that not everyone has had the opportunity to be exposed to what you know yet. And flagellating yourself – or others – for not knowing something until now can halt and stunt growth rather than urge it forward. T

his is an awakening. Awareness is always the first step to any change.

Two – Look at self-growth like you would progression through school.

One of the hardest concepts to grasp is that just because someone has reached a particular age, then they “should” know more. Yet, remember that not everyone began any kind of growth work at the same time. This is why I like to look at self-development in a way that compares it to going to school.

Someone that began working on themselves in their twenties will be further along in school than someone whose first foray into growth work started when they were fifty. So, some fifty-year-old folks are working on their Masters when it comes to their personal growth. While others are still in the elementary years of growth.

Imagine that you just learned about subtraction and addition. But suddenly, it’s as if you need to understand calculus. For anyone who is just beginning to understand what “privilege” means, it’s as if they are kindergarten students.

I firmly believe that wisdom and the quest for learning and growing has no age limit. And while I know that we can learn some lessons from our elders or our peers? This is a time when sometimes, we need to be open to learning from the younger generations.

Three – You can only begin where you are.

While some of us can progress quickly down the path of self-development, no one can jump ahead too far. I know this is frustrating. It’s frustrating for someone just beginning to understand this work. And it can be doubly irritating to someone who already grasps the concepts.

Like our math analogy, you begin with grasping how addition and subtraction works. Then you advance along to multiplication and division. Without an understanding of the addition, though, you’ll not truly understand the next phase.

Darling, you can’t skip ahead. I know we all want immediate gratification – most humans do. But real, lasting growth doesn’t work that way.

Four – You can't drink from a fire hose.

Wow! There is so much information out there. And I applaud all the resources people are providing. However, it’s impossible to quench your thirst for knowledge if it’s coming at you faster than your brain can absorb.

I once had a client that asked if we could do half-hour calls. He was in a space of grasping entire new concepts of his approach to living a good life. Yet, he could only take so much in one sitting. And needed a break so that he could ponder what he was learning. And slip into processing, going into the next phase of deep thinking, and being able to take action.

With all the information, you will probably need to take this new knowledge in small doses. To give your brain – and soul – time to process and make this new knowledge a part of your being. Otherwise, you’ll still be thirsty for absorbing knowledge but unable to quench that thirst. (But wet!)  And that means you probably won’t be able to create lasting change.

This is an important thing to consider for anyone longing to educate others. The human brain can only take so much new information. Don’t push too much information at one time, allow people you love to process, and then be there when they are ready for more. Otherwise, both the brain – and the heart – will shut.

Five – You must come approach this from a place of kindness and compassion.

Would you scream at a first grader for being unable to do algebra? Or spank a third grader for an inability to understand the themes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet?

Self-development is more successful when it’s done in a way that encourages even more growth. While some folks learn to be resilient after adversity, the real growth happens when they can be open to learning thanks to compassion. This is important for those on the journey through their own self-development. As well as people hoping to educate others.

If you want lasting changes, then you must lead with and be open to loving at each stage of development. Because demands and criticism sends most people into shutdown mode. Which often leads to the work feeling too hard and is abandoned. Or the rebel inside each of us says “Nope! I am done.”

I promise you that choosing to be kind – to yourself and others – will foster the ability to grow. Especially if you are asking someone to change long-held beliefs and thoughts.

Six – When you have education and compassion, it allows you to grow in empathy.

It’s can be hard to comprehend how challenging life is for others if you haven’t had those same experiences. However, I’ve learned that if you combine knowledge with compassion, it allows you to be more empathetic. So, even if you don’t have the experiences you’re learning about, you can more likely understand on the soul level why the system needs to change.

Because without empathy, everyone will backslide into old beliefs and actions.

Seven – Stop and breath before you speak.

Remember getting a gold star on a perfect spelling test? We all like to know we’re doing a good job at learning. And when you are growing as a human being, it’s tempting to tell everyone about your growth. The ego wants a pat on the back for learning new things.

One of the ways to stunt your own self-development work, though, is to share too much. Especially if you’re going to share with someone who isn’t “safe” to share with. Such as people who will try to ensure you that you’re wrong. Or that you’re wasting your time with too much “naval gazing”.

This is where having a coach to talk things through with is helpful. Or having a trusted friend that can help you unravel your thoughts and find your truth.

And when it comes to posting on the internet – be it a Facebook post, a comment, or a Tweet? Darling, not only may you need to take a breath before you hit enter. Sometimes you simply need to step away from the keyboard. Before you post anything online ask yourself: is this helpful or kind? Am I being compassionate and leading with love? Don’t be a troll and don’t share too much. And don’t write anything you can’t take back.

Self-development work is often fostered when writing. But when it comes to social justice issues, it’s often more helpful to go first to your journal so that you can figure out what you think. Rather than trying to figure it out in public.

Eight – Last but not least, don’t make assumptions about others.

Remember how you’ve been reminded not to compare your imperfect life with those Instagram perfect lives on the internet? This is especially something to remember when it comes to self-development work. You can’t see what someone is doing internally based on what they do – or do not – post.

Just because someone isn’t making posts on social media doesn’t mean they aren’t doing their work to grow. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t out there attending protests or writing letters to governors and senators. Changing beliefs and thought patterns often require hours and hours of internal work. Or work with a therapist before it shows on the outside.

And unfortunately, the reverse is also true. Just because someone is posting a lot on social media about Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean they’ve actually done the inner work. It could be that the posts come from a place of being a part of the popular crowd rather than what a person truly believes.

So remember: someone’s life on the internet is rarely the whole picture.

Growth work means nothing will ever be the same. And that’s a good thing.

Because self-development is about expanding who you, what you believe, and how you will act. That means the discomfort of the challenges, the uncertainty, and the wish that things felt like they used to be means that life will feel tough. At first. Yet, self-development work done from a place of love rather than fear opens your mind and heart further to even more growth.

This is perfectly normal. And whether you’re learning about privilege, shifting your views on social justice, or wanting to understand how to make lasting change, the time to begin is now.

Please don’t allow the fact that you may be a kindergartner stop you from progressing. And for those of you who already have a doctorate? If you help inform and educate from a place of kindness and compassion, there will be more people with open minds and broader beliefs.

PS - Being witnessed and heard during times of crisis can be important to maintaining our sense of self. So, I've extended discounts to all my clients - and am offering half-price sessions for anyone that just needs a little chat. I've added more availability, too.

In my last love note, I shared a favorite recipe for homemade BBQ Sauce. Earlier this week, I experimented with a new recipe using that sauce as the perfect compliment to crock pot baked beans.

I am super glad I made a big batch because it was even better the next day with my lunch!

First, spray a small crock pot with non-stick spray and set aside. Also, bring out a large pot - I used my bbq beansDutch Oven so I had ample space to mix everything together before pouring it into the crock pot.

Next, begin with a package of bacon - I really love the Applegate Uncured No Sugar Added Bacon. But choose the best bacon you can find. Slice the bacon in strips that are 1/2 to 1 inch wide. Begin cooking the bacon stirring frequently so that it cooks evenly. When the fat begins to render off the bacon, add 1/2 cup of diced onion (Yellow or white - this is about 1/2 of an onion). And cook until onions become translucent.

Note: if your bacon isn't very fatty, you may need to add a splash of olive oil to the pan to have enough oil to soften the onions.

Bring it off the heat and then add two cans of WELL RINSED dark red kidney beans. You could also use pinto beans or even black beans..  Then add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of BBQ sauce. Just enough sauce that all the beans are coated but not drowning.

Because my sauce was spicy,  I also added 3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar. This gave me a fully balanced dish that was smoky, a little spicy, and just sweet enough.

Pour everything into your crock pot and cook on low for at least four hours. This will give you the baked bean taste without heating up the house!  

We had these beans with meatloaf and coleslaw. And they'd be the perfect side dish to burgers, hot dogs, or BBQ sandwiches.

  • As to the sauce: you can use the homemade sauce, sauce from a BBQ joint, or bottled sauce.
  • If you choose black beans, I'd also add a tablespoon of cumin. Or you could even combine two different kinds of beans.

Volume 10 
Issue 12

June 06, 2020

Love Notes Published Every-Other-Saturday
Thank you, darling for the precious in-box space! 

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Hello from Debra

About Debra

Debra Smouse is a writer, life coach, and Tarnished Southern Belle who is on a mission to help people create a daily life that is loving and nourishing.

A native Texan, she resides in Ohio with the Man of her Dreams. Connect with her on social media:
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In times like these, you may simply need to talk to someone that doesn't live with you, doesn't work with you, or isn't in your current list of friends. That's because we need the voices (and ears) of people who have no horse in the race of our own lives.

From now until our need for social distancing ends, I am offering single sessions at half-price.. These sessions can be done via phone or video.

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In a day and age where relationships are flat and a true connection to each other is a rare gem to be found, Debra’s genuine enthusiasm for life fuels your coaching experience. An ever-faithful ally and pillar of evolving ideas,

Debra approaches her clients with an intuitive ear, a foundation of love and sincerity, sprinkled with a touch of humor.

Elizabeth Rago
Modern Domestic Woman

Also in the Blog

This year I turned 52 and I have to say this was a birthday like no other. Because I can promise you that I had surely not planned to spend my birthday under Stay at Home Orders. 

Yet, despite this, my birthday was good. And it sure gave me an opportunity to uncover new insights into what is necessary for me to love my daily life. And reaffirm things I just know in my bones to be true.

Read ==>  5 Insights Gained Thanks to Celebrating My 52nd Birthday in Quarantine


“No matter what age or stage we are, sometimes life just isn’t everything we want it to be. This course offers amazing insight into some of the many reasons why.

Deb Smouse has prepared an intensive program to help decipher the ways we can derail our own happiness, and, most importantly, lots of concrete tips and tricks for getting back on course to Finally Love Your Life.”

Becca Rowan, Author

Summer Love Notes

I believe in the human spirit. And know that when we can be present in a single moment, it opens us up to see the magic and beauty in the most simple and ordinary things. So when I sought out evidence of this, I was able to find it.

Due to my own desire to find more beauty and lightness in the world, I decided to resurrect an old project as a way to provide a place for others like me to be nourished by the creative work of others AND promote the good work people are doing.

Enter: Summer Love Notes: Fun & Fancy Free.

Thanks to my good friends who were a part of Modern Creative Life and All Things Girl, we'll be celebrating a summer of love.

Summer Love Notes will publish between June 1st and September 6th 

Explore Summer Love notes. And learn more about submitting your writing or photography ==> Call for Submissions

Spot On

Your advice has always been spot on…….from helping me see how important it is to be thankful for my blessings to helping me remove physical and emotional clutter from my life. I am actually the most grateful for the times when you have spoken the truth in love and been honest with me when I wanted to continue to delude myself. Without those wise words, I would have continued to lie to myself and not had the breakthroughs I have experienced.

I’m not all I want to be yet but I would have ever found my path had I not met and worked with you. Thank you for your efforts in helping me find my life. I am forever in your debt.

~Basil Human

Use this Time for Self-Discovery

I believe that if you were to really get to know all the sides of someone, you couldn’t help but fall in love with them.

What if YOU were that person?

Become Besotted. With Yourself. With Your Life.

Become Besotted will assist you in writing your story, a month at a time. An opportunity to get to know all sides of yourself and fall in love.

Become Besotted will also help you explore your dreams and desires. It will serve you in monitoring your victories and shedding what isn’t serving you.

You receive an in-depth questionnaire and 12 months to unfold your story and fall in love...

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Purchase here.


Gotten More Courageous 

Finally Love Your Life is an authentic and deep yet practical and fun program all wrapped up into one.  Debra’s extensive knowledge coupled with her emotive writing and ginormous heart provide the tools, support and space to explore and discover, evaluate and play. 

As a result of class, I was able to dig in and shift some major challenges that were keeping me stuck in annoying and frustrating patterns.

I also realized how little time I was devoting to having FUN and making time for simple pleasures.  With these insights and some easy changes, I have grown, gotten more courageous and have way more delight and joy in my life.

Michelle Reinhardt

Now is the Time for Self Love

Practicing self-love is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Self-love can come in many different forms, from speaking affirmations about yourself in the mirror, to eating a healthy diet and exercising, or even giving yourself a “spa night” of sorts every so often.

Here's three easy acts of self-love that you can do daily==>.


Praise for Finally Love Your Life

I thought this was an extremely beneficial and well thought out class. The information was delivered in such a manner that there was no way I could “cheat” myself out of delving into the subject matter.

 Some days I was in the mood to listen to the audio, others, I enjoyed reading and rereading. The worksheets were key as they helped me transition what I was reading into personalized knowledge of myself and an action plan.

I appreciated the real guidance and suggestions that were given. For example, Debra didn’t just say it is important to rest, she gave real examples of what rest looked like to her, and in turn, helped me think of ways I could put it into practice. It is a very interactive class and in each module I experienced at least one aha moment.

We are all in different phases of life, so certain modules will appeal more or less depending upon where you are at.

I would highly recommend this course.

Years ago someone told me, “You would never drive a car without putting in gas, getting the oil changed, replacing the fluids, why on earth would you go through life without mental and physical checkups.”

This class is a great way to get the mental oil changed. I feel ready to go another 50,000 miles.

Jeanette McGurk, Writer & Artist
a year of support

Do You Need a Little Extra Support?

My most popular coaching package as it allows us to spend 12 months together. We build trust and get to know each other intimately.

This allows you go go as wide - or deep - as your stage of life demands.

You choose the number of sessions that fit your lifestyle (and budget) and we’ll create an amazing year together for a life you love.

Learn More  or

why decluttering is good for your well being

In the Blog

It’s important to understand the impact that being stuck at home can have on your physical, mental, and psychological state and in knowing that, make efforts to keep yourself busy and occupied while at home.

A great way to do this is by using your time to clean and declutter. Not only will this help your house to be clean, but it will also have a large impact on your well-being as a whole.

Read==>Why Decluttering and Organizing is So Important for Your Well-Being
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