Welcome to Issue #11: Escape

What is about summer days that invite us to escape the everyday? To step out of the familiarity of our comfortable spaces and explore what’s on the other side of the world. Or just on the other side of our town.

When I look back on my childhood, it’s almost like I can remember every summer vacation from school. I always loved going to school and learning about the world, yet I could easily immerse myself in another world on those hot summer days: the world of my mind. I escaped the boredom with books and found myself in places like Oz, France, and Sleepyside, New York. I escaped the heat of the day creating world for my Barbies.

There was also the world outside to explore, especially the woods, where I could be an explorer or a pioneer or a fairy princess escaping from the wicked witch.

As an adult now, I know that my creative life is an escape, too. Though I no longer have that long stretch of summer with no responsibilities, immersing myself in my creative life mimics what I learned as a child. A good book still invites me into my own imagination and the world the author created. The simple act of making a salad allows me to indulge my senses and my artist’s eye as I pleasingly arrange tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, and chicken atop greens.

I also know that sometimes, I just need to escape from myself. The adult responsibilities and worries can plague us and I like to think that no matter how challenging the world may feel, I can find an “out” by leaning into creation of some way.

I think about the symbiotic relationship between the beauty of real life and the desire for more is at the heart of why we create. The esoteric concept of escape is the vehicle that allows us to do that.

“I believe that stories are incredibly important, possibly in ways we don’t understand, in allowing us to make sense of our lives, in allowing us to escape our lives, in giving us empathy and in creating the world that we live in.”
–Neil Gaiman

Welcome to the third issue of 2018 – Issue #11: Escape.

When we were choosing themes for Modern Creative Life, we thought that choosing “Escape” was just the right subject to dive into as we enter the summer months and work our way towards fall. In what ways can all aspects of “escape” allows us to connect with our art, challenge our minds, and honor the joy of creation?

What can a fantasy world allow us to connect to in the real world? How does a world of imagination invite us to see ourselves more clearly? How might travel open us to new ways of living and creating?

Part of living a creative life is the understanding that we can stay firmly planted into our everyday life while allowing the desire to escape it, even for a moment, propel us to loving our lives even more deeply. We must refill our own wells in some way on a regular basis, otherwise, we find ourselves feeling trapped and restless. We remedy that by escaping in some way. A story of our own creation or the story of others. By allowing planes, trains, and automobiles to ferry us to another place, different from our own. Yet, still threads of the same.

Our souls demand that we uphold the responsibility of using our gifts. So how can we explore escape as a way to make that happen? 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? How does escaping into a world of your imagination make your daily life richer and more beautiful? Don’t be afraid for a deep dive into all sides of escape to give yourself – and others – 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 moderncreativelife@gmail.com.

I can’t wait to see how ESCAPE speaks to you in the coming weeks.

With love,
Debra Smouse
Editor in Chief

Sunday Sanctuary: Summer Night Air

I sat out on the lower porch for an hour last night.  My companions: a glass of wine and a spy novel. It was a clear evening and I watched as the sky went from brilliant blue to purple and finally inky.

The trickles of the pond, the softness of the breeze, and the sighting of an occasional firefly invited me to employ all my senses as I sipped the cold, crisp glass of rose.

It was just the heart medicine I needed.

I am taking a break from myself and my focus on writing for my coaching practice. I am sorely in need of this break and cannot recall the last time I simply sat in my beloved space breathing in the night air. We’ve had heatwaves, reconfigured our pond, and have traveled.

There’s a special quality to the night air of summer.

“I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal.”
–May Sarton

Earlier, John had sat alongside me.

We alternatively read and chatted. He’s reading David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers and shared tidbits with me. Despite being together 24-7 for the last week, there is always more to talk about: how the plants are faring after the heatwave, the return of frogs to our pond, and a strange interaction with a neighbor.

We also sat for long moments doing neither. Not talking or reading, simply sharing the nourishment of side-by-side companionship. At times I take advantage of the soft motion of rocking. Every piece of outdoor furniture rocks in some way.

When he went back inside to play his Xbox, I stayed. Another type of comfortable companionship: home together yet allowing each other some necessary solitude.

“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.”
–May Sarton

My mind drifted to summer nights when I was a child. My parents would drag out their lawn chairs and sit near the front porch. My mother rocking, both sipping iced tea. Sometimes talking, sometimes not.

I could never quite understand the point of just sitting!

I was always needing to move. To run, to jump, to dance. Though I wasn’t one to go long without talking, the only advantage I saw to the summer evenings sitting outside was the way the sounds of the night came alive. The cicadas and frogs singing in harmony.

I would sit in my own chair or sometimes my mother would get out the big blue quilt and let me throw it on the grass so I could gaze at the stars. One of the rare times I could be (mostly) still and (almost) quiet.

Now, at fifty, sitting on my own porch on a summer night, I finally get the point of just sitting outside and allowing the night air to soothe and comfort me.

I also finally understand why my mother loved a lawn chair that could rock. I desperately wished for that blue quilt with the tiny red splashes.

Once more
I summon you
Out of the past
With poignant love,
You who nourished the poet
And the lover.
–May Sarton (from her poem “For My Mother”)

Mother and Daddy at their Wedding Shower

I am taking the weekend off from work. Though it seems to be something I should do, I rarely do it. At my core, I am a workaholic.

I also like to check things off my list, mark them done. Right now, I am in a perpetual cycle of tasks for work that will take weeks, if not months, to complete. These undone tasks hang over me, and true to my ENTJ nature, I obsess.

When I am not writing, I am planning to write. When I am not planning to write, I am creating a plan of attack to manage the updating and rewriting of old pieces I have written. My archives are a valuable commodity; however, they must be modernized to fit new rules of search engine algorithms and the ways in which we consume content.

I have spreadsheets.

When I make progress on the plan of attack, I take action and begin editing and re-writing old blog posts. Often, I am cringing at things I wrote back in 2011 or 2012. Adding to the sense of urgency to get them all reworked.

And when I am not writing, planning, editing, or re-writing, I am pouring over stock art websites. In April, I began a soft rebrand. Rather than using line art for blog posts, I switched to photos. It fits me better now, the person I am at fifty rather than the person I was at forty-three when I began my coaching practice.

Because the aesthetics matter to me, while I am doing all that revising and editing, I am also changing out the art. I’ll admit that I have an inner perfectionist, too.

“A day when one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room.”
–May Sarton


Though I am needing to take a break from this obsession with writing (and rewriting) for work…and though I have committed to take this weekend off, I admit that I miss it. It takes every ounce of self-discipline I possess not to at least open one of my spreadsheets with my various plans….

The challenge excites me. The need to push myself fuels my creativity and mind in ways that nothing else does. In many ways, I had allowed myself to become complacent, my work to become stale.

As creative beings, we must regularly feed and water our creativity. Infuse it with challenge to amp up the joy. To cultivate new work, we must cultivate pieces of our heart and soul.

“…I feel more alive when I’m writing than I do at any other time–except when I’m making love. Two things when you forget time, when nothing exists except the moment–the moment of writing, the moment of love. That perfect concentration is bliss.”
–May Sarton

After dinner tonight, I plan to return once again to the porch.

I only came inside last night when I did because a skunk made an appearance nearby,adding an unnecessary element to the perfection of the summer night air.

My hope is that he finds another space to play.

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.

Sunday Sanctuary: on Cultivating Friendships, Social Media, and Death

Though I had a home computer and dot matrix printer when I was in college, the first computer to have a modem and thus an internet connection was a Windows98 computer that came with a free month of AOL. I still remember the exciting dial tone, beeps, and then SCREECH of that 56.K Modem connecting to the world beyond my walls. And, of course, the exciting announcements from AOL of “Welcome” and if you were lucky, “You’ve Got Mail”.

The thing about the “you’ve got mail” part was that until you found others to connect to, that mail box was pretty empty. Can you remember the days when getting an email was fresh, new, and rare?

After quickly boring of chat rooms and IMs from complete strangers, I wondered about what I could find online. You probably aren’t surprised that one of the first things I searched for was “Trixie Belden books”, wondering if I could find replacements for the ones my mother sold in a garage sale.

Then I discovered Zap’s Trixie Belden Message Board. It wasn’t long before I began to do something I hadn’t imagined possible with the internet: cultivate real friendships.

Back in the olden days of the internet, it took effort to get to know someone. You had to comment on message board threads, send direct messages, and exchange email addresses. There were no Facebook posts to like or Instagram selfies to see who you were connecting with.

It began with words. Because, back in those days, getting a photo online wasn’t an easy task. You had to send emails. Exchange phone numbers. Send real mail. And comment on each other’s writings. (Yes, I confess to both writing and reading an inordinate amount of Trixie Belden Fan Fic way back when.)

All of this comes up for me right now because one of my first good internet friends passed away on May 25th.

We met on that Trixie Belden Message Board in 1998. We began emailing and eventually exchanged phone numbers, talking at least once a week. Although she lived in Pennsylvania and I lived in Texas, eventually we put together a sleepover at my house. We invited several other Trixie friends to join us, the first of three or four ladies’ weekends.

When I began blogging, I encouraged all my internet friends to blog, too. We exchanged emails and phone calls and learned about each other’s lives in that way, but those early blogs allowed us to connect in a deeper way.

We became creative kindreds.

Though I moved on from Fan Fic and began writing for All Things Girl in 2002, she and I still stayed connected. We continued talking on the phone, exchanging emails, reading each other’s blogs, and never missed a birthday or Christmas. I still use the Pampered Chef garlic press she gave me one year.

When I took my oldest daughter to the ER because of her suicidal thoughts, she stayed on the phone with me on the drive there. She was a high school guidance counselor and understood the ways of the teen mind.

When I divorced, she came for a visit and took me shopping. She wanted me to have a “happy divorce” gift, and the pair of lamps we chose were a reminder of her love and light.

We knew each other before she married. Shared intimate details about our lives, including our sex lives. We talked about our dreams and desires for the future. We explored our views of God and creation and faith and hope.

Over the years, my focus became ensuring that the bills got paid, a task harder to do after divorcing. I stopped blogging as much and drifted away from most of my friends. Compartmentalization was the way I survived, and I missed the connections. Yet, I didn’t have the bandwidth nor did I wish to burden her (or others) during those years I traveled 200+ days a year.

The thing was, though, I had a secret anonymous blog. She found it, figured out it was me, and loyally kept my secrets.  After moving to Ohio, and settling down into a semblance of ordinary life, I sent her a long letter, apologizing for drifting away, and making confessions.

She accepted my apologies and told me she knew about my secrets and didn’t judge me for them. We began letters and cards and the occasional calls. But, less frequently.

It seems as if I am on the phone less often these days outside of talking with clients.

All the things we do in real life to deepen a friendship seemed actually easier in the days before social media. We had to make an effort. We had to write more than 140 characters. We had to send individual emails, not blasts. We had to pick up the phone and talk rather than sending a text.

Yes, all those things now seem like so much effort, but cultivating real friendships take effort. Yes, social media is easier. But let’s be honest: it’s less personal. And now thanks to the advent of anything we post being kinda “forever”, we are far less likely to share what’s really going on in our lives.

Real vulnerability, something that’s needed for folks to connect, doesn’t happen when you’re sharing with the world. That requires intimacy. Social media is not intimate. Though I try to be authentic, I know that vulnerability is something that only trusted people get to witness.

I found out about her death on Facebook.

I had vaguely known she was back in the hospital due to her battle with a rare liver disease. The last posts I had seen made by her, she seemed hopeful and upbeat about being on the transplant list. I am ashamed that I have begun relying upon social media to know what’s happening in so many of my friend’s lives.

Is social media, the way to connect with hundreds of friends, actually making us less social and more shallow?

And the thought that plagues me this many weeks later is: what if I hadn’t see the post her mother made on her daughter’s Facebook page announcing her death?

I used to write in my blog daily. I sent multiple personal emails a day. I never missed getting a birthday card in the mail to a friend. It feels as if all the ways social media makes it oh, so easy to connect actually is eroding the ways to truly connect. And, I have to be honest: all the ways I create seem harder now that social media is there to distract me.

I write thousands and thousands of words less per month than I used to write. That’s because all that clicking and checking on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and my favorite news sites are addictive. And an easy way to numb. And an easy to distract myself when writing feels tough.

I have been making a hard effort to be on all those social media platforms less.

But what if I hadn’t seen that one post? What if in my need to curb my addiction to clicking and scrolling, I didn’t know she had died?

How do we cultivate friendships now in the age of social media? I mean, real friendships. The people you can call when you have a challenge with your teenager? The friend you can tell you’re having marital issues and know they’ll be a voice of wisdom (and keep it private)? The folks that you can spend hours on the phone with, laughing over the craziness of life and getting older?

Deep in my heart of hearts, I know that cultivating real friendships thanks to the world wide web is possible. Yet, how do we go beyond the surface? How to we stay attentive to what needs to be tended, like our business pages on Facebook, while carving out the time for deeper connections?

How can we keep building these true, deeper connections? Connections, which frankly, we all desperately are needing?

Are we destined to learn about births and deaths – marriages and divorces – on social media?

All I know is that this death of one of my first creative kindreds has sobered me. And inspired me to connect in ways outside of social media. After writing a sympathy card to her husband and mailing a check in her memory to her school, I sent another half-dozen cards and notes out to friends. A thank you note here, a birthday card there, and a few hey-I-was-thinking-of-you letters.

I need my creative kindreds far and wide. And I am grateful to first meet them thanks to a blog they write or a photo of their favorite cup on Instagram. I also know I need more.

And some way, I need to cultivate the time and space to make that happen.

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.

Sunday Sanctuary: My Creativity Mothers Me

One of the first mothers I connected to in book form was Helen Belden – aka Moms – in the Trixie Belden mystery series. The first six books were written by Julie Campbell between 1948 and 1958 and what I loved was that picture-perfect Americana image of a housewife and mother: nurturing, loving, nourishing, and supportive while also fierce in the way she cared for her family and her children’s friends.

Helen Belden also excelled in creative ways: gardening, canning, sewing, cooking, and painting. She was in many ways the embodiment of what I envision when I think about honoring the art of creative living.

While I have loved other literary mothers in my readings over the years, my mind continues to go back to Helen Belden for this simple reason: in the way she was the perfect mother to remind me that my creativity also mothers me.

Yes, you read right: my creativity mothers me. All the ways in which I see Helen Belden as the quintessential Americana mother character, my creativity does that for me as well.

When I am in need of feeling nurtured, all I need to do is to reach for my journal and a favorite pen. Allowing my thoughts and emotions to flow on the page soothes me and reaches a part of my soul that not much else does.

When my thoughts turn to love, loving others, and loving myself, I turn to the ways in which creating a home holds me. I crawl into my favorite leather chair, pull a blanket over my legs, and read a book when I need the comfort of a loving touch. I tidy up the house, tend to John’s wardrobe, or gather food for meals when I want to be loving towards others. And when I want to love myself, my creativity saves me again: back to the page, to the garden to snip daffodils for tiny vases, or sing in the shower as warm water cascades across my body.

When my body needs nourishment, I turn to the ways in which simple ingredients can be artfully combined to create a meal. When my soul needs nourishment, I seek the words of poets and philosophers across the ages, reveling in the ways their use of their talents feed my heart. When my mind is in need of nourishment, I read yet more words and then take it back to the page to help me puzzle out what a character or piece of research makes me think about more deeply.

When I am in need of feeling supported, my creativity never fails me. I can sing and dance around the house, lifting my spirits. I can turn to other creative friends and share what I’ve made. I can simply walk through my own home, admiring the art we’ve chosen and how the placement of furniture provides a warm and welcoming space.

My creative life saves me in a myriad of ways, so as I’ve begun to see the ways in which it mothers me, it’s easier to devote myself to the pursuit of it.

I’ve also come to realize that in order for my creativity to continue to mother me, I must also mother it. Like Helen feeds and waters her garden and her children, I must also feed and water my creative life.

I need to feed my soul with the good work of other makers: writers, poets, filmmakers, actors, artists, and photographers. I must fuel my mind with inspirational home make-overs, tips for being a better writer, and learning new cooking techniques to make cooking dinner more fun.

I must support my creative life by giving it the right tools for growth. As a writer, that means pens, papers, and easy to use software. As a homemaker, that means a good vacuum cleaner, a favorite fabric softener, and sometimes the support of a cleaning lady to help me tackle things I’m not good at. Or, to simply step in for me to tackle tasks so that I can spend some time with my writing.

Yes, time. Just like mothers want to spend quality time with their children, I must also spend quality time with my creativity. I must sit at my desk and write, not surf. I must make time for good television, inspirational magazines, and music.

Like Helen’s fierceness in loving and protecting her children and their friends, I must be fierce in my protection of my creative life. I must guard it, love it, and ensure that I don’t let it fall to the wayside.

Many of us are in the space of our lives when our mothers no longer are around to tend us. To cook a favorite meal, to offer the words of comfort only a mother can. Many of us are also in the space of no longer actively mothering small children, and that ache of an empty nest is met with a sadness colored with both joy and freedom.

Yet, always within our grasp is our creativity and the way in which we can live in an artful manner. When we see that through the lens of both being mothered – and mothering – we are reminded that the unconditional love a mother has is always within reach.

I think Helen Belden would agree.

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.


Note: Top Image is a Scan from the 1965 printing of Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion. The artist is Paul Frame. Copyright belongs to Whitman Publishing.

Sunday Sanctuary: Nature VS Nurture

When our father passed away, my sister discovered three little dresses in our mother’s cedar chest. Fashion wise, she determined they had been mine, worn sometime between 1968 and 1970. I happily brought them home, and when I took them to the dry cleaners to prepare them for storage, I noticed the one that was my first little Easter Dress came from Neiman Marcus.

A couple of notes here: no, we didn’t buy all of our clothes at Neiman Marcus, however, it was a place my mother loved shopping for special occasions. My first memory of a dress from Neiman’s was a pink and white gingham dress to wear for my cousin Judy’s wedding when I was four.

Also, can you imagine how labor intensive bringing in new merchandise was for Neiman Marcus back then? To sew tiny Neiman Marcus labels in every item of clothing it sold?

But I digress. Sort of.

See, my mother’s love language was gifts. She love getting gifts, but moreover she loved to buy gifts. Though I never recall her loving grocery shopping the way I do, one of her favorite excursions was to go to go shopping for clothes. It didn’t matter if the clothes were for her, my sister, my father, or I. And some of my fondest memories are of going to one of the big malls in Dallas and making a day of it. Not just shopping but having lunch out at a fancy tea room or creperie.

To this day, I cannot eat a popover with Strawberry butter, sip a cup of chicken broth, or dine on chicken salad served atop a salad without thinking of good times with my mother.

Though these forays to Dallas didn’t happen more than once a year or so….and though my play clothes came from Sears or JC Penny’s…my mother ensured that I was always well clothed. We shopped for clothes three or four times a year: for back to school, for Christmas, for Easter, and for Summer.

We also ate well. Though I never really liked some of the basics when money was tight like red beans or wieners and sauerkraut, I don’t recall ever going to bed hungry or worrying where my next meal came from. When times were good, we ate out at least once a week. I vaguely  recall a year when we ate out almost every meal, my mother having tired of cooking.

I owe my love of shopping, love of food, and love of reading to my mother. All things that carry me through this life with a sense of joy and love. All areas that fuel my creative life. These are imprinted on me, a part of the very make up of who I am.

On the question of Nature VS Nurture, I can tell you that Nurture matters.

A popover with Strawberry Butter at Neiman Marcus

Back in December, I shared with you the story of finding my birth mother. I wrote that piece mere days before I got on a plane and spent four days in Southern California. After several months of regular emails, I knew it was time for us to sit down across the table from each other.

To look into each other’s eyes and be willing to bear witness to the lives that began together with flesh and bone and traveled different paths for the last forty-nine plus years.

We had agreed to meet in the lobby of my hotel. I had risen that morning at 3 AM Eastern and it was 5 PM pacific when I walked downstairs. I was tired and wired.

And I knew her immediately.

It was like looking into a mirror in the future in so many ways.

We had a glass of wine thanks to my hotel’s Wine Hour and chatted as we people watched. She wanted to know all about the girls, the extension of this connection of blood and bone.

Though we had emailed for months and shared DNA, we were still strangers. Well, familiar acquaintances. The way in which you may feel about me: someone familiar, someone whose story you know a piece of, someone who feels like a friend. Yet, if we were to sit down over a glass of wine or cup of coffee, we would discover that neither of us had tapped the surface into each other’s real stories.

She’d told me in a phone conversation that when she came home from the maternity home, no one talked about her experience. The theory those days was that a young woman that “made a mistake” should simply go back home, get on with their life, and pretend that nothing had happened.

Yes. Pretend as if the previous nine months of your life hadn’t existed. That you hadn’t given birth to a baby.

After sitting out a year of high school, most folks, including her mother and father, were surprised that she wanted to go back and get her diploma. She did. She graduated high school and went to work. When she learned to read in elementary school, she realized her mother didn’t k now how to read well. Of course she couldn’t understand her desire to learn.

When she moved out to California, she wanted more for her life, so she began going to college in her thirties, getting a degree in accounting.

Life had never been one of ease or privilege for her, so she learned to figure things out. Once she faced any kind of crisis, she figured out how to not repeat the same mistake.

My love of learning, my need to research until I find answers, my understanding of how scientific research can be translated into actions I could take in my every day life.

On the question of Nature VS Nurture, I can tell you that Nature matters, too.

As humans, I believe one of the most important responsibilities we have is to bear witness to the lives of others. Unfortunately, there are so many people out there who have not had anyone, or at least many folks, willing to witness her life.

Not speaking about me for almost fifty years meant that the stories of her life came tumbling forward. My responsibility: to be the witness to these untold stories.

My life was never perfect, and often challenging. However, it retained an essence of sweetness and naivete.

It was nothing like hers. At least for her first forty years.

It’s something most of the people I know share, threads of connection with the lives of their parents that repeat generation after generation. A love of cooking or reading or a flair for design. Yet, despite the connection of nature, our lives had been vastly different.

My love of food was due to pleasurable memories of Christmas dinners and the results of good old southern cooking. Her first memory of food is meeting her stepfather when she and her brother were dumpster diving behind his bakery because they were hungry. He fed the kids and gave their mother a job.

She moved ten times before she was ten. She thought that throwing whatever you could in a trash bag and gong to a new place was how everyone did it. Too many homes she can remember had wheels. She didn’t live in a house with a real foundation until her late thirties or early forties. She’s lived in more than five states.

I have lived at only five addresses my entire life. I never left Texas for the first forty-two years. Hell, I never left Tarrant County Texas those first forty-two years. Every home I’ve known has had a solid foundation, sturdy walls, reliable heating and cooling, and more of what that stood for: stability.

Home, oh my love of creating a sanctuary within my home, is something deeper within me. A love for making home, something I think all humans crave, is more easily translated when you’ve experienced stability.

She got new clothes when school started, but the idea of updating her wardrobe to account for changing weather or various seasons was foreign. When she went to court on the day her stepfather adopted her and became her father, she wore a dress that was so short it showed her underwear. No one had noticed she’d had a growth spurt.

Not only were their no special occasion dresses bought at Neiman Marcus, the idea of shopping as a delightful day out was never a part of her fond childhood memories. Childhood memories of clothes are more akin to reminders of shame, neglect, and poverty.

Nature VS Nurture? Nurture wins hands down when it comes to the experiences.

Over my four days in California, we shared a meal to accompany her stories. I visited her home twice. An opportunity to witness how far her life is now compared to the life of her childhood. She has a sturdy home now. She also has reliable transportation, a bike she enjoys riding, and cats. Her husband is loving and not abusive, though he does have some Vietnam War related illnesses that are challenging.

Her life is solid. Not without challenge, but everyone has challenges.

We are back in our rhythm of regular emails and the occasional card via snail mail. I know that the decision she made fifty years ago to allow me to share her body and then release me into a different life was one of the best decisions a young woman of seventeen could have made. Most of us women are wired, by nature, to want our children to have a better existence than we’ve known. Her life was hard, and would have been harder trying to care for a child.

My life was far different from the kind of life I could have known. My life was rich with beautiful things, books, and love. I carry with me the privilege of being tended, nurtured in the ways in which all children should be, with all of my needs met.

Going to California was one of the most important things I’ve done the last few years. I left awash in both gratitude and guilt. For nature and nurture.

“Perhaps we are born knowing the tales of our grandmothers and all their ancestral kin continually run in our blood repeating them endlessly, and the shock they give us when we first bear them is not of surprise but of recognition.”
― P.L. Travers

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.

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 moderncreativelife@gmail.com.

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.