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Connection Requires Showing Up Without Masks

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Now I understand that in order
to feel a true sense of belonging,
I need to bring the real me to the table
and that I can only do that
if I’m practicing self-love.
For years
I thought it was the other way around:
I’ll do whatever it takes to fit in,
I’ll feel accepted,
and that will make me like myself better.

--Brene Brown

Did you have a nice week, Blue? Are you having glorious weather?

We went to Chicago for the weekend to celebrate JB's nephew's 6th Birthday.  Because the drive is 4 1/2 hours, we no longer go up one day and back the next day, instead we aim to stay at least two nights.

Which means that one of my favorite periods of time on our visits happens: one-on-one time with JB's mom over our first cup of coffee.

We talk about the little details of life and books. I hear stories about the grand kids or extended family members. Most importantly, it gives us a little bonding time and that shared companionship.

This time alone with her over the last five years at first felt intimidating.  JB is one of 5 children and being thrust into a big family while also being "the new girl" was more than a little scary.

Though JB moved away at 18 when he headed off to the Naval Academy, the three girls all live within miles of their mom and regularly get together.... not just for holidays and birthdays, but to have lunch on a random Tuesday or do a little shopping together.

No matter how welcoming folks desire to be, you don't suddenly "drop into" any kind of tight knit group, especially family. It brings up all the issues of trying to fit in and belong when we're unsure middle school kids even in the most self-aware of us.

So, how has this quiet morning time become one of the most sacred parts of our time in Chicago?

I had to stop all my urges to morph into whoever I thought I "should" be and just show up as myself. And I had to let go of the goal of "being liked".

Though it sounds simple, so many of us are used to wearing masks so that we can try to fit in or hide our imperfections, but in order to feel as if we belong or fit in requires that we must be just who we are. It's the only way to build connection.

And when we go into any situation with a desired outcome, especially one involving how others may feel. We just have to be our shining selves and let the chips fall where they may. Which means that some folks will like us and some....just won't be able to connect to us.

When things do work out - and we connect and feel accepted - and we are ourselves, it allows us to strengthen our connections, not to just others, but ourselves as well.

And last, but not least, we can't expect connection to form instantly.  Yes, there will be folks we connect to right away, but others may take some time. We must be patient and just keep showing up.

And when it does finally come to that sweet spot of true connection, it's worth all the time and vulnerability you put into it.

So, tell me, darling: what about you?  Are you wearing masks in uncomfortable situations? Are you trying to morph into who you think you should be? How can you just be yourself? And not only be yourself, but be all in no matter what the situation?

What kinds of connections are you longing to birth this fall?  How can you show up and not get tied up by the potential outcomes? What do you need in order to order to be more patient?

And how might all this vulnerability, patience, and letting go of the outcome bring to you?

With so much love,


This week in the blog you'll find Tips from Kondo (& Me) on Dealing with Clutter.  It’s no secret that I believe clutter is one of the barriers between your life as it is and the kind of life you desire to create. That’s because clutter of any sort – be it calendar, physical, mental, or spiritual – will distract you from not just actively pursuing the kind of life you deeply desire, but your ability to find pleasure in even the tiniest moments of any ordinary day.

I say this because I know from experience that all of that my clutter helped keep me stuck and prevented me from being fully engaged. The physical clutter, specifically, meant that walking into my house was rarely a joyful experience. Although I would love to tell you that all the clutter was because of my partner or the kids, that not all of it was mine, that would be a lie.

I was the cause of a good portion of that clutter. It was formed from my piles of paper and my stacks of books. My clothes were the ones crammed into the closet, and my shoes were scattered on the floor. I was the purchaser of the toys and the clothes the girls wore.

I was the one who, from the time I was a small child, shoved stuff under the bed to get it out of the way, and never could seem to manage keeping things straight enough to avoid the inevitable moment when my mother would come into my room and clean it to her level of organization.

I have never been one of those “born organized” people. I never will be. Despite this, I can’t stand the piles and the disorganization. However, since being tidy doesn’t come naturally to me, having a clean desk and clutter-free living room is a victory. I function at my best when my surroundings are neat, clean and organized.

My darling, each and every day can be a challenge to keep even a modicum of order around here. And during those most challenging times, when the piles once again get out of control, I feel frustrated at myself and shamed for others, even JB, to see how “messy” I am.

So, over the years, I’ve developed a variety of tricks and systems to manage my stuff.

If you’ve read anything on managing clutter lately, you’ve probably come across “The Kondo Method” based on Marie Kondo’s runaway bestseller, The Magic Art of Tidying Up. It has some great tips for an orderly home, like only keeping items that “spark joy” and a crazy fantastic way to fold clothes.

In many ways, though, the Kondo Method works best for those who are more naturally organized and are challenged by too many belongings or have an emotional attachments to heirlooms and their children’s things. For someone who doesn’t possess that ‘organization gene,’ to completely declutter an entire house without stopping can feel overwhelming.

But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some jewels in that book that I loved and connected with:

  • Be Methodical. Choose one type of thing to declutter or one room to whip into shape. If you feel overwhelmed on “organizing it all,” choosing a small focus can help.
  • You Can’t Organize Clutter. If your closet and drawers are crammed, you have to ditch some of the clothes in there. Same goes for linens, dishes, books, and more.
  • Keep Only Things That Spark Joy. When I moved from Texas to Ohio, my mantra as I packed was: do I love this enough to (a) pay to move it or (b) pay to put it in storage? Not much passed that inquiry.
  • Every Item Needs a Place. Without having a place for everything, you will always fight staying organized.

And now, for some tips that aren’t part of the Kondo Method:

  • Set a Goal Date with Associated Reward. Without deadlines, many of us can’t get things finished. So, set a goal date of clearing one area or type of clutter – say like your closet – and an associated reward. Write it down in positive terms. For example: “When I declutter and clean my closet before Thanksgiving, I am going to reward myself with meeting my girlfriend Sally for a pedicure.”
  • Be Kind to Yourself. If you let guilt play a part in the de-cluttering process, you’ll feel stressed and overwhelmed. Sure, you bought things you didn’t need or love. Yes, you kept things you should have ditched ages ago.
  • Set A Non-Negotiable Standard for De-cluttering. Like we need standards for our life, you may need it to get your clutter under control. Maybe you set a standard to remove one item from your home you don’t love a day or clean one drawer each week.
  • Apply Compassionate Discipline. De-cluttering brings up all kinds of crappy feelings. Yes, I already mentioned kindness and stress and guilt. And those feelings are enough to halt many of us mid-step. So, yes, apply compassion to yourself but be disciplined about your goals.
  • Make It a Game. I dislike unloading the dishwasher, so I race the brewing of the coffee pot each morning. Sometimes, I set a timer and clear out a drawer or closet before it goes off.
  • Create a Drop Zone & Launch Pad. It’s easy to walk into the house at the end of the day and dump your purse, briefcase, jacket, and travel mug on any available flat surface. To remedy this, have a drop zone for incoming items, like mail and only drop the mail in that spot. Same goes with needing a drop zone for each family member,  where each person drops their things as they come in the house. This spot doubles as a launch pad for quick morning getaways, meaning no more searching for keys.

Let’s face it, being organized isn’t a natural state for everyone, and unlike that Ultimate Organizer, Mary Poppins, most of us don’t count a magic carpetbag among our tools. But like Mary’s spoonful of sugar, and Kondo’s suggestions are the ‘spoonful of sugar’ that makes the ‘medicine’ of de-cluttering go down a bit easier.

I know that if I can do it, so can you. Because after years of under-the-bed boxes, there’s nothing under any of the beds in my house now. That’s a statement I never could have made even five years ago.

We’ve all seen the meme which reads, “a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind,” but, darling, let’s get some perspective. The reality is this: A clean desk (or house or whatever) is the sign of a productive, stress-free mind.

And let’s face it: less stress = happier living. And happier living allows you to pursue your dreams.


I’d love for you to join me clearing clutter and getting spaces in order. My 30 Days to Clarity: Clutter Busting course begins Sunday, October 25th.  Each day you are assigned simple task that takes less than 30 minutes to move towards less clutter and less stress.

You can sign up here.
The Alaskan fishing season will be coming to a close, soon, which means we'll be turning to more chicken - or less favorite fish - in our home dinners. So, I'm taking advantage of wild salmon as much as possible. That also means, though, that my go-to way to cook it will soon become boring. So, I've been playing with a few new recipes to mix it up.

One of the favorites has been Salmon with a Miso Glaze over Pseudo Fried Rice (or Brown Jasmine Rice).

Begin making whatever rice you prefer and  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Combine 2 tablespoons of red miso paste*, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 2 teaspoons tamari (or low-sodium soy sauce) and 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar until you have a smooth paste.

Take a piece of wild salmon and place it, skin side down, into a pan that has been heavily sprayed with Pam (or favorite non-stick spray).  Then, gently put paste over salmon and let sit for about ten minutes and then place the pan in the oven and let it bake for fifteen minutes.

Gently separate the flesh of the salmon from the skin and serve it warm alongside the rice. Top with chopped chives or green onions. I usually serve some sauteed spinach with it as well.

*Miso paste can usually be found in the dairy section. If you can't find red miso paste, you can use white or yellow, but it won't have the same depth of flavor.

Volume 5 - Issue 43

October 24, 2015

Published Every Saturday
Thank you, darling for the precious in-box space! 
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About Debra

Debra Smouse is a writer, life coach, and Tarnished Southern Belle who is on a mission to help people fall in love with their lives.

An expert de-tangler, she believes in busting clutter as a path to greater clarity and that within every woman is vibrant, passionate, and sexy being just itching to make their inner sex kitten roar.

Alphabet soup wise, Debra holds a BS in Communications as well as a PMP. She's an ENTJ according to MBTI, according to Ennegram, and a 7-3-8-2 according to Kolbe.

A native Texan, she resides in Ohio with the Man of her Dreams. Get social with Debra on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

I Feel Better About Myself

Working with Debra is a joy.

She inspires me, she supports me, and she gives me direction so I can identify my needs and my wants. But she doesn’t stop there. Not only does she assist me in laying the foundation, but she gives me the tools to actually achieve the life I desire. This is an ongoing process, not a quick fix. And it takes practice.

If I veer off my intended path, Debra has given me the structure, along with the tools to get back on track. Since working with Debra, my life flows more smoothly, I know where I’m heading and I know how to get there.

I feel better about myself and my life. I look forward to each day as an adventure!

Your Spaces

There's one last round of Clutter Busting in 2015. It begins TOMORROW, Sunday October 25th and will help you get your home in order before the holidays.

Register here


Working with Deb for just a few months has made an unbelievable difference in my life.

With her encouragement, I made major progress on clearing the clutter in my physical life as well as in my emotional life, which paved the way toward creating a new vision for the life I want to live now.

Deb has an easy conversational style, rational down-to earth wisdom, and a warm sense of humor.

She got right to the heart of the things holding me back from living my best life, and has given me sound principles and practices I can carry forward into the future.

For the first time in a long time I feel excited about my life, and I have Deb to thank for that!

-Becca Rowan, Author


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