Grace. Artful Living. And Fresh Tomatoes.
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“Stay focused on your commitment
to make the best of
every precious moment
you are awake, aware,and
letting your conscience be your guide.” 

--Alexandra Stoddard

Good morning, my darling <<Name>>. How have you been? How has this week been for you? Are you the benchfinding your own stride with the ongoing need to stay home more? Or has the shift in demands made you feel rebellious?

Though I've written about it in the blog post this week, more and more people are reporting a sense of hopelessness and even the most positive folks I know are caving a bit to stress due to uncertainty, especially around kiddos and school. 

I wish I had a magic wand that I could wave and fix EVERYTHING for EVERYONE. Unfortunately, I can't. And while in the past I always knew that - short of Cinderella - any transformation in life that seemed instant and magical was really due to hard work over time.

But right now is different and rather than continue to be frustrated by that, I am committing myself to focusing on what I CAN shift and what I CAN control. Because when I focus on being present and aware of what is happening right this moment, I don't get mired up in the worry and the stress.

Now don't get me wrong. I sometimes have to remind myself of this multiple times a day. And sometimes, the ducks at the parkto do this I have to hop on my bike or go for a long walk to get my body to lead rather than my mind.

When August rolls around, I typically begin planning for the coming year. It's that flip of a calendar that reminds me it's time to buckle down and recommit to goals I set for the year. And begin to dream about what I want to accomplish in the coming year. And at first, I told myself that was impossible to do this year, but then I got really honest with myself.

I CAN still focus on some of the goals I set this year. It may mean readjusting them slightly, but that doesn't mean I can't find a way to feel accomplished and proud of myself. Though I've been super quiet about my goals for this year, I am finally ready to share one of them that I will accomplish: a new book before Labor Day. I'll be sharing more about it in the next love note.

I throw that out to you as well: what did you want to accomplish this year? What can you shift so that you can usher a desire into your reality? What if you really committed to yourself? 

Though I can't plan a trip, I can plan what we're going to have for dinner. While this sounds like a poor making dinnertrade-off - a Caribbean Cruise this Fall VS Chicken on the Grill tonight - what I choose to cook is 100% within my control. Because I sure can't control other people, the airlines, or the cruise company, can I?

So, rather than wallow, I am putting my planning skills and curiosity to work. In the last two weeks, almost every main course I've cooked wasn't a repeat. Instead of doing my standard Margarita Chicken, I am challenging myself to try something different. 

In fact, I've made a game of it - a way to challenge my brain in a good way - and try to make something different every day of the week. This is especially satisfying when I use bits of things languishing in the fridge - half a container of buttermilk, a forgotten container of pesto, a bottle of Jack Daniels that has been here for years - and do something with them.

That's another challenge for you, my dear: eat something different. Go through some old recipe books, Google a list of ingredients, or find a Food Blog and try a week of their recipes. On your next trip to the grocery store, ask the butcher his favorite way to prepare a cut of meat...

And though I can't plan for what we're going to DO next spring, I can daydream about spring flowers. Most of the tulips I've planted over the years have succumbed to the squirrels, so I can look through the flower tulips from a couple of years ago before the squirrels at them allwebsites - White Flower Farm is my favorite for bulbs - and plan for a beautiful spring.

As I shared in the last love note, my motto for the rest of this year is to seek grace and beauty every day. In order to do that, I have to give myself good reminders to be present. And I have to give myself permission to DREAM about the future in a way I can.

What can you dream about for the future in a way that is within your control? Where can you give yourself some hope?  Who might you turn to for a lift and a laugh?

If you need some help finding something good to think about, ask a friend to help you find it. Tell your spouse you need a laugh.  Find a therapist if you need to. Go for a nice long walk and let nature sooth and inspire you.

And if you’ve been thinking about how a coach or mentor might be helpful, reach out to me. Though I haven’t made any final decisions, I am leaning toward not taking new clients when 2021 rolls around (though I'll still be available for existing clients).

Please continue to take care of yourself.  Please be safe. As always, I am sending you love.


From the blog: How to Play the Delight Game and Discover a Path to Feeling Happier.  If there’s one thing that I’ve noticed coming up time and again since the prolonged stay-at-home orders is that even the most optimistic of people can feel a little hopeless. Yet, there’s something you can do about it. Yes, even if things feel completely out of your control. The trick is to do some positive day dreaming by playing what I can The Delight Game.

See, one of the most surprising tricks I’ve learned along the path of creating a life I love is that if I want to learn a new skill, create a new good habit, or simply sink into what is loving and nourishing, seeking delight in the ordinary is the answer. Purposely seeking those small pleasures lights my path.


What it took me awhile to really grasp is that I can learn some of my best lessons through delight. Yes, even the smallest moment of pleasure began to show me a gentler way to shift my actions, my thoughts, and my deeper beliefs.

Don’t get me wrong. Like anyone, I have had my share of painful lessons. Heartbreak, betrayal, and the results of bad decisions always teach me lessons. No one can deny we learn from those painful experiences. Yet, what I’ve learned – both as a coach and another person journeying through this world – is that tapping into even the tiniest delight can illuminate what direction I need to turn.

Especially when life feels overwhelming or downright painful, delight saves me.

It can be incredibly simple to pepper my life with things that delight me: to buy a bouquet of flowers from the grocery store when I’m picking up spinach and chicken. Or to ask for a real cup at Starbucks as I sip a latte and watch the people instead of taking my treat to go. It can be as easy as the choice to wear my favorite dress on a day I never leave the house because it makes me feel pretty.

Lingering over a pot of tea while I read Southern Living can feel frivolous. It can also feel incredibly challenging and downright selfish when I witness so much pain in the world. Who am I to experience pleasure when others are suffering? How can I prioritize five minutes of delight when my to do list is so long?

One of the things I know is this: there is power in collective energy. When I practice acts of kindness and delight for myself, loved ones, and even strangers, that positive and loving energy radiates out into the world.

I discovered that when my needs feel met because I have at least a moment or two of pleasure on a daily basis, love and kindness flows from me more easily. By choosing to regularly seek pleasure and delight, I am able to act from a place of love rather than fear.

And darling, here’s something else I know for sure: Extending my suffering because someone else is suffering doesn’t heal the world.

Many of us grew up with the puritanical beliefs that we must suffer. That because we were born with “original sin” we could only learn lessons through pain. And we also learned that no matter how much pain we were experiencing, someone else was suffering more. So we should be grateful and shouldn’t complain.  And, no, complaining doesn’t fix anything.

But please let’s be clear hear: everyone’s pain is valid.

Yes, those so-called first world problems create real distress in real people. No one’s humanity is less just because they have food on the table or a roof over their head.

The choice to curate your life with delight and simple pleasures empowers you to create the type of life you desire to lead. And this, my darling, can feel like work. Adding more to your to do list when you’re already feeling overwhelmed and wishing for more hours in the day might sound like an unrealistic expectation.

You might be asking how to begin moving towards pleasure.Especially when it feels selfish to find delight when the world is such a mess. Please trust me when I tell you that it isn’t selfish.

I’m going to introduce you to a little game to play with yourself to manage the (uncomfortable task) of peppering your life with delight. No shaming , name calling, or guilt allowed.

Here’s how to play the delight game:

  • Supply wise, you need some note cards (or paper), a pen, and a dozen envelopes.
  • Brainstorm a list of activities, items, people, and places that delight you.Here are a few examples to get your started:
    • Setting an entire afternoon - or day -  aside to linger on the porch to read a book cover to cover.
    • Visiting a fancy hotel, even if its just to sit in their lobby. (Granted, this will probably need to take place in the future)
    • Creating your own film festival: choose a genre or actress and watch as many of their movies as you can back to back.
    • A whole weekend in your PJ’s.
    • Fresh flowers in your house. Buy them at the grocery store or heck, order them from the florist to be delivered to yourself!
    • Cooking an especially delightful meal.
    • Going to lunch with your mom, sister, or a special friend.
  • On each note card, write about each individual delight. Allow your inner child to roam free and decorate the cards with curlicues and sketches of balloons and flowers.
  • Now, place each of the cards into an envelope and seal.
  • Shuffle them around and write a month on each envelope.
  • Place the envelopes in the top drawer of your dresser, nightstand, or desk.
  • On the first Saturday of each month, go into your drawer and pull the envelope for the month.  If you need to do so, set a recurring task on your calendar!
  • Now for the magic: commit to taking action before the 15th of the month.

Guaranteed delight each month will allow you to find your own lessons from treating yourself with kindness.

The end of the month for most of us feels stressful thanks to deadlines, bills, and such. Just knowing you have pleasure ahead helps you keep going, even when life is tough. Looking forward to the future with positive feelings can magically shift your life little by little.

Delight can help you create a daily life that you love. Pleasure will illuminate the path to your own brand of happiness.

This is my favorite part of the summer: both the Amish Tomatoes and the corn from Brentlinger’s farm are both in season. I know that thanks to modern imports and farming, we can have these any time, but there is nothing to compare to having these quintessential summer veggies at the peak of their season.

We’re eating tomatoes in salads and with cucumbers and tossing them in the skillet with chicken…and corn is finding it’s way to our plates in various ways as well.

But combining them together has become one of my favorite dishes to serve when the local farmers are harvesting both.  Serve as a side dish, take to a party, or eat as an afternoon snack, this is my favorite Summer Tomato and Corn Salad.

Take three ears of corn and pull the kernels off of the cobs. In a large skillet, add a tablespoon of olive oil and gently toss for five minutes. (Alternatively, if you have the grill going, wrap three ears of corn – with husks on – in aluminum foil for 30 minutes. Then, cut the kernels off.)

Get out a large bowl and add corn kernels. Then, roughly chop 2 large beefsteak tomatoes  – or two cups of your favorite local tomatoes (even cherry). Dice 1/3 of a red onion and toss it into the corn and tomatoes.

Next, take a dozen fresh basil leaves and tear them into rough pieces and add them to the mixture.

Heavily season with: one tablespoon of kosher salt, one tablespoon of celery seeds, and a dozen grinds from your pepper mill.

Finish with a tablespoon of red wine vinegar and 3 pours of extra-virgin olive oil around the bowl.

Toss together…you can serve right away or store this perfection of summer for snacking!

Volume 10 
Issue 16

August 1, 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.

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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.”

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awareness is worth it

Also in the Blog

The reason I’m often asked why awareness is worth it is because there is a shadow side to self-awareness.

This shadow side can make us angry or sad at our past choices, and can send us spiraling down the rabbit hole of the so-called “bad” emotions. And how can I forget the Inner Critic’s ability to become oh so judgmental when we play with being more aware of ourselves as our ally.

Read ==> Eighteen Reasons Why Awareness is Worth the Trouble (If You Want to Love Your Life)

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What if YOU were that person?

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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.

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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



I believe everyone could benefit from a good life coach. Yes, everyone. Even (and especially) other coaches! Debra is a coach who models what she encourages in her clients—deep soul searching, practical living skills, and solid business sense. Whether you’re new to exploring personal growth or someone who assists others along their own paths, Debra offers a style that meets you where you are.

Personally, I’ve done a ton of my own transformational work and continue to explore new pathways every day. While I wish I could say that I have ‘arrived,’ there really is no such destination for a lifelong learner like me or probably you. Debra is a friend and mentor who helps keep me on task, shed light on my blind spots, and untangle the stuck places that I can’t quite tackle on my own.

Throughout the time we’ve worked together, she’s nudged me forward with just the right amount of force and given me space to grieve my losses and celebrate my victories. She’s more than a coach. She’s a muse and cheerleader, and I am immensely grateful to have her on my team.

Kayce S. Hughlett – Life Coach & Author

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I would just like to state for the record that Debra Smouse is a genius and an awesome listener, to boot.

In one phone conversation with her, I was able to verbalize, and thus realize, something that had been on the tip of my brain for weeks.  Her simple way of listening and asking led to a proverbial light bulb moment that has stayed with me for days and has helped open up new, clearer avenues of thought and feeling.

~Brandi Lee

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