Author Archive | Debra Smouse

Sunday Sanctuary: Connection, Nourishment, and Intuition

I am passionate about food. It isn’t that I just love to eat. I derive immense pleasure from all the stages of bringing a meal to the table: shopping for the ingredients, chopping and preparing fruits and vegetables, and transforming raw ingredients into something that will nourish our bodies. I find a seductive beauty in many of the ingredients I choose – from the rich orange yolk of pastured eggs, to deep red strawberries grown by a farmer I know, to the way simmering chicken bones (and feet) with onions, carrots, and herbs creates a deeply layered stock.

Approaching food through the lens of passion has catapulted that passion in other areas of my world: my work, my writing, my home. It allows me to see how important the exquisite details of life are to me, no matter what their form.

I am giddy when a new idea for a meal results in something delightful. I doubly appreciate it when scientific research on nutrients or how our bodies process foods allow me to create something that takes nourishment to a whole new level. Food is comforting and sensual and life-affirming. Food is one of the ways I lavish affection on those I care about and show folks I honor and appreciate their presence.

In my “day job” as a life coach, I write a bi-weekly (used to be weekly) newsletter. To date, I’ve written 300 newsletters, a level of consistency I wondered if I had within me. In addition to sharing a recent blog post and a personal note about what’s happening in my world, early on I began ending each newsletter with a recipe. Then, I went to a retreat designed to help me take my business to the next level.

Out of more than three hundred participants, I was chosen to get up on stage and be advised on some ways to level up. When the Biz Guru reviewed my newsletter with me, she told me to ditch the recipes (as well as any book recommendations) because it didn’t promote my coaching practice or any of the programs I was selling.

I’d paid a lot of money to travel to this conference and, after all, she was the expert. So, without tuning into my own intuition, I blindly listened and stopped sharing the recipes.

After a few weeks, I realized that I was diluting the connection and love I wanted to convey to people who gifted me with their time and attention was missing something – like the way spices and herbs turn a blah ingredient into something special.

So, I added the recipes back in and ignored any other guru who told me to ditch ‘em.

How can I say I am devoted to curating a life that’s loving and nourishing – the theme of my coaching practice – if I don’t listen to my gut? I know that usually our intuition is wiser than any expert. A reminder for my business life. Yet more important when it comes to our creative life and the ways in which we make things. Because being a maker is a path to curating a life that is fulfilling.

Yet, because we are human, we often dismiss what our gut is telling us. We listen to the experts, following a paint by number for success instead of coloring outside the lines.

To get clear, I had to dig into what my true purpose of writing and then sending a newsletter to subscribers. Of course I want folks to buy a book or course from me sometimes; it is a business. At heart, though, I am a maker who hopes that the work I create matters to anyone that experiences what I write.

My goal for every single newsletter I create is that I nourish the subscriber in some way.

Maybe my words make someone feel less alone. Maybe a paragraph serves as a wake-up call. Maybe a single sentence I write is just what that person needs to read so that she make that decision she’s been putting off. Maybe a photo I share makes him smile. If I’m lucky, maybe my words allow you to connect more deeply with your own soul or someone you love.

And if nothing I write nourishes the mind or spirit, then at least that recipe at the end is a way of sharing a way you can nourish your body.

“Food… is something holy. It’s not about nutrients and calories. It’s about sharing. It’s about honesty.It’s about identity.”
–Louise Fresco

The ways in which we create things matter not to just us as makers, but in the ways in which we can connect and nourish others. The stories of others save us, a lesson many of you have learned. Creating something – a knitted blanket, a photograph, a poem, a painting – saves the maker, too, doesn’t it?

When the words refuse to flow to the page or every note I sing comes out as flat, I can soothe myself by heading to the kitchen. Whether I chop some vegetables, try a new recipe, or bake a cake, the act of making something from just a bunch of raw ingredients nourishes a part of my soul, and then it nourishes my body – and the bodies of anyone else I share the meal with.

I am also reminded that I am connected to a long lineage of beloved mothers and grandmothers and great-uncles,  creating with flour, eggs, and bounty from the earth. Food is a necessity to live, yet it’s also a factor in the creation of who we become. Our mother’s spaghetti, something we’ve never been able to duplicate. The way in which our grandmother deviled eggs were presented on the good china at Easter bonds us to ourselves and others. The stories and laughter shared over cakes and pies and coffee.

I am by no means an expert or a guru, yet I can tell you these two truths about living a creative life.

When you find yourself in doubt, it’s okay to listen to advice of the experts, but let your intuition overrule that expert at every turn if it doesn’t feel right. And when all else around you seems to be floundering, heading to the kitchen to create may be just what you need to pull you out of the deepest creative – and life ruts.

Or at least nourish your tummy with a delicious treat. Bon Appétit!

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.

Conversations Over Coffee: Daryl Wood Gerber

When it comes to Cozy Mysteries, I have to admit that author Daryl Wood Gerber writes some of my favorite series: The Cheese Shop Mysteries, The French Bistro Series, and the Cookbook Nook Series. (She’s also a great suspense writer, too, with two standalone suspense books!) In her latest foray into the mystery world, Daryl is returning to her Cookbook Nook Series with heroine Jenna Hart. The series is set in a bookstore after my own heart: dedicated to cookbooks, food, and foodie type tomes.

Her sixth book in the series, Pressing the Issue, revolves around a Renaissance Faire, and all the businesses, Ren Faire vendors, and friends new and old are gathered together to make it an enjoyable experience for guests – and a positive business experience for the shops. Just as things seem to be looking great for the wedding of her Best Friend, Bailey’s wedding – a local winery has been chosen as the venue! – Jenna and Bailey discover the owner of the vineyard – and official King of the Faire – has been murdered.

Scattered with twists, red herrings, and delightful recipes, Pressing the Issue leans into relationships, shared experiences, and Jenna’s insatiable desire for the truth. Can Jenna solve the murder without becoming a victim herself?

Daryl took a few moments to catch up with us here at Modern Creative Life to talk about books, writing, and more!

We call this series Conversations Over Coffee because it’s the things I’d ask you if we were sitting across the table from each other over a casual cup of coffee….. so, let’s set the stage: where would you suggest we meet near your current home….and what is your go-to beverage and/or snack were we to meet?

There’s a really nice café called, kid you not, The Nook. Yes, it’s almost the same name as featured in my series (Nook Café). It’s not far from me. I love their omelets, and they make really good lattes. What would you have?

Your next book, Pressing the Issue, is a return to your Cookbook Nook Series after almost two years. How do you re-immerse yourself into the world of Jenna and her friends after taking a break from working with that series?

It was only 19 months, but who’s counting? I was sad that my previous publisher let the series slide, but I made peace with it. Then my fans started clamoring for another book, so I decided to shop this particular story around and landed with Beyond the Page publishing.

As to your question…it’s amazing how getting into the world of a previous cast of characters comes naturally to me.

I liken it to visiting high school friends. You have lots to talk about and you remember everything about them. I have a cheat sheet so I can remember names, family members, and such. Plus I have an outline of the previous book so I read that to refresh my mind about where with I “left off.” Since I was hoping that my initial publisher would pick up this book, the storyline had been roaming through my head for quite a while, and I’d already done a lot of research about the Renaissance Festival.

You write some suspense as well as several cozy and culinary mystery series. How do you decide “what’s next” and which idea deserves your attention?

Good question. Lately I’ve been a bit flummoxed trying to decide. I’ve got a lot of ideas in my head! Will I choose the right one to pursue?

Writing a book takes six months to a year of my life when I include the preparation, outlining, research, writing, and editing (not to mention selling, PR, etc.). I hope I don’t make the wrong decision.

Here’s the dilemma: should I write the next French Bistro Mystery? No. Seeing as I don’t know whether my publisher for the French Bistro Mysteries will pick up the series yet, I’ll table that idea until they alert me.

I have a completed suspense that is being shopped. I’m waiting to hear answers in that regard. If that gets picked up, I’m sure I’ll have to do rewrites at the request of the publisher. In the meantime, I want to write a new suspense. I’ve written a two-page outline and I like it a lot. I wrote a chapter and like the voice.

But how can I start that when my publisher for the Cookbook Nook Mysteries asked if I could write a Christmas-themed book (#7) that will come out this December? I said yes, so—wham—just like that, I have made my decision.  Until June, that’s what I’m focusing on. Then I’ll go back to being flummoxed.

Many of your books – like your Cookbook Nook and French Bistro series – feature lots of delicious food. Why do you think folks love reading about what the characters are cooking and eating? And how do you honor that in both the writing (and the inclusion of recipes in each book)?

Readers have an appetite for good stories, but they also have an appetite to feel the mood and the setting, the angst and the joy. Describing how food looks and tastes as well as describing the preparation of some foods helps readers immerse themselves in the moment. I think the same is true for a reader who enjoys a book that involves knitting or sailing or climbing Mount Everest. If the author has done her homework, the reader will savor the story.

As for the recipes I include in each of my books, I take time to prepare them, taste-test them, and photograph them. Now, mind you, I’m not a professional chef—I worked as a caterer and behind the scenes in a couple of restaurants—so I don’t expect chef-like quality in all that I do, but I strive to do the best I can.

For Pressing the Issue, I attended a Renaissance Fair and took note of all the foods being offered. Then I researched those foods and tried my hand at making a number them, including Cornish pasties and shepherd’s pie. One of my favorites turned out to be Hawker’s Mush, a pancake-style goodie made with spinach, onions, and wild rice and served with a hollandaise sauce. Yum!

What do you know now that you wish you knew at 40 in regard to writing?

Oh, man, am I over 40? Ha! Yes! I wish I’d known how hard it would be to do all the PR required to sell a book.

I wish I’d known that outlining would help me. I only started that about seven years ago when I secured my first series.

I wish I’d known about networking and how important it was to have friends in the business. Luckily, I have a bunch of writing friends now who keep me on track, but to have encouraging writing friends way back when would have helped me over a number of “not good enough” crises.

What I did know and still know is that finding success requires hard work and perseverance. I won an award in high school for “most persevering.” I’m not sure I knew then that I would have to earn that award over and over in my lifetime.

What I also know is that having a furry companion to console me through the rough times is vital. Thank you, Sparky

About the Author: Daryl Wood Gerber

Agatha Award-winning Daryl Wood Gerber writes the brand new French Bistro Mysteries as well as the nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries. As Avery Aames, she pens the popular Cheese Shop Mysteries.

Pressing the Issue, the sixth Cookbook Nook Mystery, comes out on February 20th.

A Soufflé of Suspicion the second French Bistro Mystery, comes out in July 2018.

Daryl also writes stand-alone suspense: Day of Secrets and Girl on the Run. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote.” She loves to cook, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line!

Connect with Daryl (and her alter ego Avery): Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Daryl on Twitter | Avery on Twitter

Sunday Sanctuary: Scent-Sational Journey

I popped into Walgreen’s the other day to pick up a prescription and stopped dead center in the beauty department due to a perfume display that took me straight back to 1977, bell bottoms, and my burgeoning ideas of what being a glamorous and independent woman might be.

Forty years after the enticing commercials captivated me, there was Charlie. “The gorgeous sexy-young fragrance for women.”

I was nine in 1977, but my sister was sixteen. She was grown up to me, and oh so charismatic. Of course, I wanted to be like her, yet more sophisticated. That Charlie commercial invited me into that possibility. I wasn’t allowed to actually wear perfume quite yet, but it wasn’t long before Mother let me wear a little eye shadow, and after that,  I couldn’t wait to choose a signature scent. Would it be Charlie? Or Windsong, which stayed on his mind? Would I bring home the bacon and never let him forget he’s a man with Enjoli?

Try as I could, I just didn’t love the tarragon and musky scent of Charlie. I expected something sophisticated and alluring, but it just smelled of alcohol.

Two years later, while staying with my grandmother for a few weeks in the summer, we went shopping at Marchman’s, a local department store. She bought me something I hadn’t considered: White Shoulders. It smelled of roses and jasmine and sandalwood.

I wore it religiously until I was fourteen. And thought of her every time I put it on.

*  *  *

My first date was with a boy who smelled of Polo. Or should I say, he drenched himself in Polo like most of the cool boys did in 1981. We only dated for a couple of months, but I loved borrowing his jacket at school and getting that whiff pine, patchouli, and musk.

The White Shoulders I had once loved felt so old and artless now that I was in high school and dating an older man (he was a senior)! I begged my mother to take me to Sanger Harris to buy something a little more mature, and since everything Polo and Ralph Lauren was so chic, I assumed one of the Lauren perfumes for women would make me, well, cooler. I fell madly in love with Tuxedo, it’s square black bottle with a thin red highlight. It smelled of bergamot, rose, gardenia and vetiver.

It was also a bit androgynous with those hints of clove and musk. An invitation for years to come, to tinker with the occasional sample of a men’s cologne when I make an order at Sephora and choose my free samples.

*  *  *

It was the winter of 1996 and I bundled the girls into the car and we head to the mall. It was a routine designed around the entertainment of window shopping combined with an attempt to get back into my pre-pregnancy jeans with all the walking. Mall walking was becoming popular in the late 90’s.

With my infant in a stroller and my impatient toddler, anxious to get to The Disney Store, I paused at the perfume counter in Dillard’s.

I felt frumpy and unattractive, and wondered if I’d ever feel pretty again. You know, like a woman, not just ‘pretty for a mom.’ Oh, how I longed to feel a little sexy. I had been coaxing a few drops out of my last bottle of Tuxedo and was devastated to discover it had been discontinued the previous year.

How could I ever feel sexy again without my favorite perfume? Destiny was with me that day, thanks to the kind sales lady and a patient little girl.

I left with a bottle of Romance by Ralph Lauren, a perfume I still consider my signature scent. A hint of patchouli, violet, and an element that tied my favorites together over the years: rose. My oldest was rewarded with a Pocahontas Barbie.

*  *  *

It was 2006 before I would understand that saving my perfume was as silly as waiting for a perfect day. I began to understand the real truth of life: that each and every day deserved to be embraced with your whole being. Scent included.

It was late 2010, and I discovered that the sexy and comforting scent I associated with my growing love for John didn’t come in any kind of glass bottle. He doesn’t wear cologne, but he does use distinctively scented toiletries: Coast soap and Old Spice Deodorant. Classic, not the froufrou scents for the new millennium with the “your man could smell like me” commercials starring Isaiah Mustafa.

To this day, I give him a lingering hug most mornings as he leaves for work, just so I can get that comforting scent of him to start my day.  The mix of his soap, deodorant, and a freshly starched shirt? All kinds of captivating.

And I have to confess, I like the after-work scent of John, too. That enticing scent of citrus and clove mixed with living life.

*  *  *

My mother’s signature scent was Youth Dew. I remember making special trips to Neiman Marcus to buy it. (Back in the 70s, the only places in Dallas that sold Estée Lauder were Neiman Marcus and Lord and Taylor.) I can still see that hourglass-shaped bottle on her bathroom counter alongside the occasional blue box of matching scented powder and the powder puff.  I can also see the dust gathered on both from not being touched often.

I stopped by the Estée Lauder counter last October. Attracted by some sale for a youth serum, I lingered over the perfumes and had to get a whiff of Youth Dew. I sprayed it on one of those white cards and struck up a conversation with the man behind the counter. I had assumed only women over eighty were still buying Youth Dew, but was told that it’s still a top seller. Did you know they now make Youth Dew deodorant?

The scent was nostalgic, yet its spicy scent brought with it a feeling of melancholy.  I had to wonder: if my mother had followed Mrs. Lauder’s advice to use your favorite scent daily, not just for special occasions, would the olfactory spark of joy could have pulled her from her bouts of depression?

I wear perfume every day now. A spritz or two when I get dressed. Sometimes, a spritz before bed. I’ve learned, over the years, that saving anything for a special occasion is a waste of a good day.

I have a confession, though: as much as I love Romance, I’ve been itching for a new fragrance. I’m not looking for a replacement,  I simply want to give myself some variety.  I want the scent I choose on a given day to support the way I desire to feel and be.

In my search, I’ve spritzed the white cards at every department store. I ‘ve added every available sample to my Sephora orders. I’ve even purchased a few small bottles here and there, but nothing stuck.


On a recent visit to the Jo Malone counter at Nordstrom, a patient saleswoman helped me explore some options. Citrus. Florals. Fruity. Spicy. She tells me that new scents can be made by layering.

I left with Peony and Blush Suede, elegantly adorned with a black grosgrain ribbon. The peony with hints of jasmine, musk, rose, and red apple. A fascinating combination as I edge towards fifty. I wonder if it will help me become who I desire to be? Who? I am destined to be

“What we talk about less often, because it is harder to explain, is the way a perfume can give breath and body to the phantom selves that waft about us as we go through our days — not just the showgirl, the femme fatale, and the ingenue, but all the memories and dreams of the taller, meaner, sharper, sweeter, softer people we have been or long to be.”
— Alyssa Harad

When we talk about being a maker of things – a creator and curator – of art, we often dismiss how our life, our ordinary daily life, is a part of that creation. That throughout our days, the tiniest of details we’ve chosen will guide us from one phase of life to the next. That each project we set out to create – a meal, a home, a book, a painting – will be forged from the core of who we are, our experiences, and what we wore. Our olfactory memories will forever tie us to the scents around us as a part of the experience of any creation.

What about you? What perfumes have accompanied you through the journey? What specific auras remind you of people, creations, and your experiences in this glorious life? Do you have a signature scent?

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.

Welcome to Issue #9: Selfie

Is our culture’s obsession with The Selfie causing a generation of narcissists? Or is it simply the modern-day sign that we humans have always desired looking ourselves in the eye?

If you look at photographs from beginning of photography, you’ll see taking photos of oneself has often been a subject of choice. And what about the self-portraits of artists through the ages? What about the writers who publish their journals ala May Sarton? Is The Memoir a Selfie? Why are we called to explore our own story in a variety of ways and mediums?

How does self-portraiture open our eyes to our beauty and our flaws? Is all the “navel-gazing” of self-help and self-discovery and good old therapy pure silliness or a truly valuable way to grow as a human? How does it heal us?

How does exploring who we are at heart open us to creating from a space of realness and vulnerability? How does the brave task of self-refection and self-evaluation allow us to grow as creative beings as well as human beings? Does diving into self-exploration make us better makers, partners, parents, and lovers?

Is self-care selfish? Is self-care critical to being healthy mentally, physically, and emotionally? How does caring for ourselves – or letting self-care fall to the wayside – impact us as makers?

What happens when we completely re-invent ourselves? What is the path to destroy old versions of ourselves and emerge from the fire like a Phoenix? What does that do for us as artists, writers, and makers?

Is the desire to understand who we are and how we tick at the heart of everything we create?

“I believe I know the only cure, which is to make one’s center of life inside of one’s self, not selfishly or excludingly, but with a kind of unassailable serenity—to decorate one’s inner house so richly that one is content there, glad to welcome anyone who wants to come and stay, but happy all the same when one is inevitably alone.”
― Edith Wharton

Welcome to the first issue of 2018 – Issue #9: Selfie.

When we were choosing themes for Modern Creative Life, I thought that choosing “Selfie” was just the right subject to dive into as we enter 2018 and kick off our third year. In what ways can all sides of the “self-ie” allows us to connect with our art, meet our deepest needs for creation, and honor our love of beauty?

What does it mean to examine one’s self? Can self-portraits – and all versions of that such as memoir, personal essays, and such – heal us and help us grow as creatives? How do we make the space for blank canvases and blank pages if we ignore our need to create? Can we expect to fill those pages and canvases with our creations if we dive deeper into who we are?

Part of living a creative life is the understanding that we must refill our own wells in some way on a regular basis, otherwise, we find ourselves resentful of our own lives. Without the time or space to pursue our creative ways, we will burn out. Our souls demand that we uphold the responsibility of using our gifts. So how does looking at ourselves help us or hurt us?

This what we are exploring in this issue.

In this issue, you’ll get a peek into the daily lives of other creative folk in our Studio Tours and Typical Tuesday series, and meet people walking fascinating creative pathways in Conversations Over Coffee. With photos and fiction, poetry and essays, as well as all kind of enlightenment, help each of us find a deeper understanding into all the ways in which you create.

As always our mission at Modern Creative Life is to honor the pursuit and practice of joyful creativity. We believe that the creative arts enrich our everyday living, enhance our environment, create lasting connections, and sustain our souls. Please join us as we look to other creatives for ways in which they nurture and tend their own creative life so that they regularly find their process – and lives – feeling nourished instead of parched.

As we share the stories of other makers, use their experiences to illuminate your path into your own Modern Creative Life.

What stories might you have to share with the world? Share your self-e tales with us! Don’t be afraid for a deep dive into all sides of self as a way to not just share your story, but serve as an example or others to learn from and get a sense of permission to take time to restore their own hearts and minds.  We are open to single contributions as well as new regular contributors. Email us at

Sunday Sanctuary: Magic, Hope, and Wonder

As I write you this note, we have just returned home from 2900 miles of travel. We stayed in six hotels over the course of eighteen days. I should be wrung out, exhausted, and devoid of any creative juice. Yes, I am tired after being in the car for more than ten hours just today. But the synapses in my brain are firing away with ideas, and  I’m filled with a sense of creative hopefulness I didn’t posses a month ago.

I won’t bore you with every detail of our time away, but I will tell you that I owe this feeling of renewal to a mouse. The Mouse.

Sandwiched between eight days with John’s family and John teaching a course in Orlando, we spent four magical days at Walt Disney World. Considering I booked us a room at Disney World with less than 45 days notice, I felt pretty darned lucky to walk into my room and realize that from my bed, I could see Cinderella’s Castle in all its glory.

And that also meant we could see the Happily Ever After Fireworks from the comfort of our balcony.

In a moment, I was seven years old again and sitting in my room playing an LP on my record player, listening to songs from Cinderella, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, and Winnie the Pooh. Long before the days of Cable TV, VHS, and The Internet, I watched black and white re-runs of Annette Funicello and the rest of the Mouseketeers. I danced around my room and sung along with every song, wishing for the moment I could be a Mouseketeer, too.

Color me envious:  when the new Mickey Mouse Club arrived with Julie and Lisa and all their friends, I wanted to join in their fun!

I would love to tell you that John and I did EVERYTHING at Disney World. To be honest, we took a laid-back approach, a vacation from the tightly-planned trips I orchestrated when I was primarily a mother, and my number-one goal was to ensure that each of my girls saw the characters they most loved. Instead, we lingered over meals and ambled from one attraction to the next.

Rather than being the one confirming that every box was checked, I got to step back and be what fuels my creative spirit: a curious observer. For a Type-A Planner, this was also a little terrifying. To wander into the vast world of Disney with only a couple of dinner reservations and a few Fast Passes was akin to organizing a major project without a day-planner and cell phone.

On our first night, we slept with the blinds open so that anytime I awoke, I could see the turrets and spires.

To be honest, giving my inner people-pleaser and planner time off is damned difficult. No matter where we went, I worried that John was having a good time.  I wanted to ensure he was fed, watered, and getting to ride what he wanted. No concerns about Character autographs, but still, the incessant worry was there.

In our explorations, I was reminded about an article I read many years before. It revealed Walt Disney’s biggest regret about Disneyland: folks could see the city. He wanted it to be a place where anyone visiting could escape the real world and enter a world of dreams and imagination. So, when they began building Disney World in Florida, Walt was determined that anyone arriving in the Magic Kingdom, would have journeyed into a space and time where the outside world was completely unseen.

He accomplished this dream  by creating a large parking lot with access to the entrance to The Magic Kingdom possible only via ferry or monorail.  How magical is that?

We are, in some ways, trained to allow folks into our sacred space of creating. To show them how we make our magic happen. People want a blueprint. They constantly seek a Magic Formula. Are we allowing too much of a peek inside the curtain? A question I will be asking myself in the coming weeks.

 After visiting The Studios, Magic Kingdom, and Epcot… and after three nights, we had a final breakfast at the crown of the Disney Resorts: The Grand Floridian. Best. Pancakes. Ever. Then we trundled off to the other side of Orlando so John could teach his class.  (This is us in the UK at Epcot)

But the thing was, I still had 2 days left on my fancy MagicBand. Waking up early one morning, without the magical castle view, I decide to take up John’s suggestion: drive back to the parks and spend the day.

I arrived around 7:30 in the morning. I parked, boarded the monorail, and entered The Magic Kingdom almost an hour before official opening time. I strolled down Main Street, still humming a song from a video my oldest  daughter used to watch on a loop:

I’m walking right down the middle of Main Street U.S.A……..

I strolled. I lingered. I popped into the Main Street Bakery (a Starbucks) for coffee. I wound my way around families and skirted the Castle that was a constant reminder that while my chronological age is nearly fifty, inside me, my seven-year-old self still exists.

I chose to see this solo day in The Magic Kingdom as an Artist Date. I enjoyed the rides, I wandered in and out of shops, and I ate a good  meal at an extravagant price. An elderly worker at the Peter Pan Ride whispered to me as she ensured I was safely seated “I prefer to fly solo” as I soar off to Neverland. At my own pace, I experienced the world Walt imagined in a different dimension.

More than a visit to a theme park, this day was an exploration into my own curiosity, and rather than worry about the experiences of others, I filled my thirsty well for the year to come.

And now, back home, I am that seven-year-old once again. Seeing things in a new light. Allowing my creative spirit to be fed by magic. Embracing the world around me as a place of hope and a space of open, delicious wonder.

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.

Dear Hope in the Year to Come

I have to confess, Dear Hope, that there were times this last year that my faith in you slipped. When we began 2017 together, I held out such desire that it would be a healthy and peaceful year for everyone I loved, yet I witnessed such suffering, loss, and unhappiness, that at times I wondered if you were anywhere to be found.

Especially when I lost my dear daddy and spent much of the last year lost in the valley of grief.

When I take a step back, though, and look at the tiny moments of grace and love through every challenge. I just needed to be reminded, my dear Hope, that you were always there on the edge of things, rooting for me.

Like take my father, for instance. I never wanted to lose him, yet I couldn’t stand to see him suffering. His once active life had shrunk to the four walls of his home, more of an existence rather than thriving. And that, my dearest, is no way to live now, is it?

I was reminded, too, dearest hope, that when my belief in you wavered, others reminded me of you. Dear friends held me in love across the miles and through a million acts of kindness. I guess that’s what did it for me, Hope, to be reminded that in every smile, tough, and the smallest kind gestures, that you are never lost.

“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”
― Laini Taylor

When it comes to moving into a new year, I thought it would be helpful to spell out some of my desires so that during the times my faith is shaken in your constant state of being, dear Hope, I can find you in the most infinitesimal of moments. Because when I trust that you’re there, you always shine through.

First of all, Dear, Hope, I’d love to go the whole year without losing anyone else I love. No, I don’t want to witness the suffering of others, so maybe while we’re on the subject, I guess the deepest part of that desire, dear Hope, is that everyone thrives in the best ways possible.

So, no more loss for those I love. Or, honestly, I don’t want anyone I love to have to travel through the valley of grief.

Health, dear Hope, is high on the list. Please give me the discipline, dear Hope, to  do the work I need to do to ensure I stay healthy. Please give those I know and love the wherewithal to ensure they thrive in their lives by staying healthy, both physically and mentally.

We should probably talk about spiritual health while we’re having this conversation, dear Hope. The surest path to spiritual enlightenment, dear Hope, is through art making. So, please, dear Hope, while we’re talking about allowing you to show us the magic that exists in the world, can you let the Muses dance on the edges of everyone I know and love and should know? We are all blessed no matter if we are the ones making art or partaking of art.

There are so many other desires on the edges of my brain, dear Hope, yet I also know that when it comes to keeping faith in you, holding these core desires at the center of my being will allow me to see you in every face I come upon, whether it’s in real time or across the digital ether.

When my faith in you lags, darling Hope, may you always remind me that you are always waiting to work your magic.

With all my love and gratitude,


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.

A Cinderella Story by Ruth Coe Chambers

I’ve always felt my childhood was marred because we didn’t have a library in our town. We had beaches with sand as white as sugar, water from the Gulf of Mexico that touched places we might never see. But no books. I longed for a well-stocked library, but all I had was hope that a family would move to our small town and bring books with them. My family didn’t seem to find a lack of books something to worry about. Mama had her crocheting and soap operas on the radio, Daddy had hunting and fishing when he wasn’t busy protecting us as he sported his deputy sheriff badge, and my dentist uncle brought home pulp fiction detective magazines that Mama had forbidden me to touch.

Me? Nothing filled that void for me but hope. Still, I started school without books and discovered something more wonderful than the colored chalk our teacher used to draw a calendar of September. She had a book! I would eventually learn that all the teachers had books, but just starting school, I believed pretty Mrs. Howell was the only one who owned one and not just any book, but one called Cinderella. I’d never heard a name so beautiful. On the cover was a young woman as beautiful as her name, dressed in a long, yellow bouffant dress cascading with ruffles and bows and all things wonderful.

Each day Mrs. Howell read a  little of Cinderella to us, and I suppose she knew we were hungry for books because every Friday one person from a list she kept in her desk would be allowed to take Cinderella home for the weekend. I thought my Friday would never arrive. How the time dragged until the day I ran to her desk after school and told her it was my turn to take Cinderella home. She looked at me and said quite simply, “Oh, Ruth, it’s lost. I don’t have it any more.” Her eyes weren’t red from weeping, she didn’t pound the floor with her fists. An important part of her world had obviously been stolen, and she appeared unconcerned about it. I hoped I never took anything of beauty for granted. I realized in that moment, even though I was only six years old, that I still had hope, and no one could ever steal it or the wonder it brought me.

I continued going to people who moved into town to see if they brought any books with them. That was how I came to read my first novel, A Girl of the Limberlost, by Gene Stratton-Porter. I identified with the girl though I didn’t possess the courage she did in collecting specimens from a swamp. I could, however, feel her shame in having to carry her lunch to school in a syrup bucket.

I was growing older, and when my parents realized I could read, they knew they would have to be more careful and keep their secrets hidden. One they kept hidden in plain sight. I had found a need for hope beyond books. I prayed that God would not let Mama turn out to be my stepmother.

It was my reading that had uncovered their secret. When I was very young, they let me see snapshots with writing on the backs. The woman had my name, and she stood with Daddy. I knew then why a room grew quiet when I entered it. Things fell into place and I knew who she was, even her name. Hope dimmed and my fate was sealed when a girl at school said one day, “She isn’t your real mother, is she?” I didn’t want a stepmother and ran, ran until my side hurt, but I couldn’t escape my stepmother.

I realized my parents didn’t want me to know who Mama really was so I began the long years of protecting them from my awakening. It was a heavy burden for a child to carry. Hope had been stolen after all, and I was left with guilt. Should I love the woman with my name, the woman who carried me under her heart, or the woman who cared for me through the measles and chicken pox and all the childhood illnesses? It was a heavy burden, even for a teenager, and the whispers of stepmother never left me.

I was an adult when I came to realize that I still had hope after all. Where would I have been without my escape through writing, my hope for making a contribution? I had to make my time on earth count. I had to repay a debt to a woman with my name. I was a Cinderella child. I had a stepmother who was sometimes wicked, but I saw that both Cinderella and I not only had stepmothers, but also hope in a glass slipper or a published book. Thinking of all I had written, of the stories, essays, plays and novels, I wondered if they would have been written had I not used them as a way of running until my side didn’t ache any more. Oh, the wonder of it all. Both my mothers, they were the wonder all along, never once calling me a stepchild.

About the Author: Ruth Coe Chambers

Ruth Coe Chambers takes pride in her Florida panhandle roots and her hometown of Port St. Joe has inspired much of her writing.

She is indebted to the creative writing classes at the University of South Florida where she found her “voice” and began writing literary fiction. Listed in the Who’s Who of American Women. She has recently republished one novel, and published it’s sequel, and has written two award-winning plays. She is currently working on the third novel in her Bay Harbor Trilogy. She has two daughters and lives with her husband and one very spoiled Cairn terrier in Neptune Beach, Florida.

Her two earlier novels include The Chinaberry Album and Heat Lightening.


Merry Christmas, Darling

You can’t help know that Christmas is nigh as you if  you have an email address or dare venture into any stores. Outside the commercial side of the season – and the religious ones – we dive into all the ways we can use our innate creativity to add an extra edge of wonder to the season – from decking our halls to baking cookies and creating beautiful meals. From watching holiday movies to humming along with the sounds of the season.

Today, my dear, is finally the day that Christmas has arrived and hopefully you can take a deep breath and honor the beauty of the season. How the edges of wonder invite us into our own lives, how the call for hope reminds us that we are always within reach of it.

No matter how you celebrate – or even if you ignore it all  – know that at the core of the day, it’s a call to dig into all the ways in which we can create the kind of life we desire to lead.  In celebration of this holiday, we won’t be offering you a new poem, story, or essay, but a collection of a dozen gems of wisdom Christmas and Holy Days – of the tenderness of sacred wonder in the air.

 “Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
–Charles Dickens

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
― Calvin Coolidge

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”
― Bob Hope

“The smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood.”
― Richard Paul Evans

“A Christmas candle is a lovely thing; It makes no noise at all, But softly gives itself away; While quite unselfish, it grows small.”
― Eva K. Logue

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
― Norman Vincent Peale

“Remember, if Christmas isn’t found in your heart, you won’t find it under a tree.”
― Charlotte Carpenter

“Christmas is the day that holds all time together.”
–Alexander Smith

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
― Hamilton Wright Mabie

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.”
― Bob Hope

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

We hope find a reason to hope, a moment of wonder, and always return to the heart of your sacred creativity. We are so honored to witness the ways in which you you honor your beautiful heart, follow your desires, and celebrate your creative life.

With love from our creative table to yours.
The Staff of Modern Creative Life

A Quiet Thrill by Michelle GD

I am like a child again when the meteorologists call for snow.   Looking out the window frequently, watching the sky, holding my breath just the tiniest bit.  Did it start yet?  Is it coming?  I remember being thrilled by snow as a child.  I am still thrilled (perhaps more?) as an adult.

With snow come challenges of slippery roads and cancellations.  As I child, I cared only of the latter; as an adult, I must consider both.  Still, I eagerly await the first flakes.  Sometimes the birches blow in the wind; sometimes they stand like statues.  Sometimes the sky seems an even wash of grey; sometimes, if I look closely enough, I see darker greys and lighter greys and greys in between.  Always, I feel like the world at my feet is in the midst of some pause.  Or maybe it’s just me.

As I wait for the snow, I am surely in the pause.  I am present and attentive.  I feel alive.  I watch excitedly for changes in the sky and on the ground.  I am in awe once those changes arrive.  The blanket of white laid upon the ground, the hush accompanying the laying of that blanket.

I remember that hush as a child.  For a few years, we lived in upstate New York, just south of the Canadian border.  We got a lot of snow there; I had many opportunities to step into that hush.  Now, my family of four lives in Virginia, and we don’t experience the frequency or amount of snow I enjoyed in those childhood years.  But we do get snow; I do step into the hush.  And every time I step into the hush, my shoulders drop a little lower, and my eyes widen in wonder.

The beauty is not a surprise to me.  And yet, every time it snows…it surprises me.  It delights me, softens me.  Every time it snows, I step into the pause.  I am present and attentive and alive.  And isn’t this what I continually practice, no matter the season?  The presence, the attention, the alive-ness?

This time of year is busy for many of us.  We are celebrating and decorating and making merry.  Likely, we are also reflecting on a calendar year about to close, and preparing to open another.  It’s a time of year full with work outside ourselves (all that merry-making); it’s also full with work inside ourselves (all that reflecting).  It’s a time of year filled with so much.

Just the other day, it snowed.  I was grateful for Nature’s invitation; she called me in, and I responded.  I stepped into her pause, I felt her hush.  She beautified my world that was already beautiful, and I like that she didn’t out-do herself…she was humble and just-right.  I left the busyness and merry-making of the house, and walked through the falling snow with my kids.  We laughed, and we were silent.  I felt snowflakes on my eyelashes, and watched flakes rest but a moment on the lashes of my kids…each snowflake a gift.  Each one an invitation to pause, to notice, to be a little bit amazed.

There’s something in that pause, that being a little bit amazed.  There is a certain release I feel, as if I lie back and the world catches me and holds me.  Though I must do my part:  I must, on occasion, allow my shoulders to drop; I must allow my eyes to widen in wonder. I must anticipate, and I must receive.  I must allow myself to lie back and be held by the beauty of this world.

Now do you understand why a forecast of snow thrills me to my core?

About the Author: Michelle GD

Michelle GD is an artist living in Virginia.  Using writing and photography as forms of meditation, she explores the connections between the beautiful and messy bits of life.  You can find her at

Him by Kolleen Harrison

I watch him as he talks to himself, laughs, and talks some more.

I watch him as he attempts to line up his glass just perfectly in the
cupboard – over and over and over again.

I watch him as he stares out the window with a big smile plastered upon
his face, wondering what it is that is making him smile so wide.

I watch him in his nervousness and anxiety as someone he doesn’t know
says “hello” to him.

I watch him with love.
I watch him with admiration.
I watch him with curiosity.
I watch him and wonder if he knows just how amazing he really is.
I watch him grateful he is mine.

About the Author: Kolleen Harrison

kolleenHarrisonbioKolleen Harrison is a creative living in the beautiful Central Coast of California. She is the Founder of LOVEwild and Founder/Maker of Mahabba Beads. Her passions lie in nurturing her relationship with God, loving on her happily dysfunctional family, flinging paint in her studio, dancing barefoot, making jewelry (that is so much more than “just jewelry”), and spreading love and kindness wherever and whenever she can. You can find her popping in and out at or

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