A Leap of Faith for Love

The sun was setting on a scorching-hot July day as we sipped cocktails on a balcony overlooking The White House. cocktailsDespite the heat, a shiver ran down my spine when he touched my hand. He leaned in to kiss me and whispered in my ear: “Let’s go find somewhere more intimate – and quieter – for dinner.

It was 2010, and I was done with relationships. At least, that’s what I had been telling myself all year.

I was in my prime – professionally and sexually. I was forty-two, divorced for five years, and almost an empty-nester. I traveled often for business, loved great food and wines, and frankly, loved sex and adventure.

Still, I was exhausted with the dating game – the dating sites, the first awkward date, and the shallow conversations. If the dates were promising, eventually they would lead to intimacy, which was often just disappointing.  And the drama! These well-educated, mature men seemed to have more drama than the average middle-school girl!

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t that I was a man-hater. In fact, I love everything about men.

I declared that 2010 would be the year that I simply enjoyed the company of intelligent and charming men without too many strings.

I decided that if anyone even mentioned L-O-V-E, it would be time to cut and run to avoid the ensuing complication and drama.

Yet, here I was spending a romantic weekend with JB. I had flown in on a Saturday and didn’t have my first business meeting until Monday afternoon. We had plans to spend Sunday at Mount Vernon and had (hard-to-get) sunset reservations at the Point of View Lounge in the W Hotel.

I’d met JB the old fashioned way: we’d been introduced by a mutual friend.

He was everything I loved about men. He was tall, strong, and handsome. He was also witty, fun-loving, and intelligent. We both loved history and enjoyed great restaurants. Even better, he was a true gentleman – the first time he invited me to stay at his place at the beginning of one of my business trips, I slept in his guest room.

Best of all: he made me feel. For the first time in a long time, I felt passionate, alive, and excited.

At the same time, though, I was also scared.

Sure, I had declared that I was done with relationships, but it wasn’t just because of the drama and disappointing sex.  My mother had been diagnosed with cancer that March and died in June.

I just didn’t think my heart could handle any more heartbreak.

Choosing to see dating as recreational only would protect and cushion my already tender heart.

I can still very clearly recall sitting on the bed in that guest room in June texting a girlfriend about how angry I was with myself: “How dare my heart betray me! I don’t want to have feelings for ANYONE!”

She encouraged me to TALK to him and tell him how I felt, but my fears of being hurt or rejected had me avoiding any conversation about anything but fun. And here we were in July after a full day together.

holdinghands_dinnerIn truth, it would be our last night together in DC. He had accepted a new job in Ohio. The casual nature of our relationship – getting together when I was in town – was about to end. I had no clients in Ohio!

Our quiet dinner included laughter, and sharing our favorite parts about the city. We touched often across the table, and as we dug into another deliciously shared meal, he turned serious.

“I wanted to let you know that I have real feelings for you,” he said. “Not just the ‘you are fun to hang out with and exciting to be around’ feelings. I’m talking about the deeper and more passionate feelings. And I want to know if it’s just me – and one sided – or if you feel the same.”

I held tears back as he spoke. I had been too afraid to talk about anything serious, yet here he was, standing in bravery and sharing his heart.

“It’s not just you….” I replied just as the waitress popped up and asked if we needed anything. We said no and waited for her to leave.

“Then I want to be all-in. I don’t want to see anyone else but you. I know my move may make things more challenging, but let’s just take a leap of faith. I think we deserve to see what develops.

Hawaii Merry Christmas Dec 2014That small statement spoke volumes to me.

You see, each year I choose a word or three to serve as my guiding principles for the year. My word for 2010 was “Faith,” and I had written in a blog post:

“Most of all, I need to re-learn to have Faith in myself. I need to listen when my gut is telling me something isn’t quite right – that if I’m steadfast to all areas of my Faith, that my soul will always lead me to my heart’s desires rather than astray.”

It was no accident that the fates had helped guide his words so that I could not only hear them with my ears, but with my heart and soul.

So, we took a leap of faith.

The older we become, the easier it is to let past heartaches keep us from love in the present.

We look for signs that a new love interest will disappoint us or hurt us, but if we lean into the joy and exhilaration of finding someone we connect with and can build something with instead, we have the opportunity to find real happiness.

We can discover that there is comfort and passion to be found simply breathing the same air they breathe.

Five years later, we are sharing a daily life together in Ohio.

That leap of faith we took to bridge the divide between us led to creating a shared life filled with tenderness, adventure, passion, and the comfortable companionship that only true love brings.

About the Author – Debra Smouse

debrasmouse200x300 I’m Debra Smouse, a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle. I can help you detangle all your clutter, fall in love with yourself and your life, and unleash your inner sex kitten.

My truth? In order to live life the way you were meant to, you must fall in love with the day-to-day activity of living.

I spend my days writing and working with people who want to change the world, beginning with themselves.

Want to bring your dreams into your reality? Snag my FREE EBook You Can Achieve Your Dreams: There’s Still Time in 2015

A life coach and writer, me and my Gypsy Soul have stopped their constant roaming and have settled down in Dayton, OH where I share life’s adventures with the Man of My Dreams.

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In Every Dream – by Bill Hughlett

Summer Love Bill H 2

“There is a waterfall in every dream. Cool and crystal clear, it falls gently on the sleeper, cleansing the mind and soothing the soul.”
― Virginia Alison

About the Artist – Bill Hughlett

bill_hughlett_bioBill Hughlett is a CFO by profession and photographer by passion.

His award-winning work has been featured in Alaska Airlines Magazine, shown in Washington galleries, and graces many homes and offices around the country.

Together, Bill and his wife, Kayce Stevens Hughlett, create unique workshops that incorporate photography and writing with deep listening and personal awareness.

Their dream is to travel the world offering their gifts to others.

Witness more of Bill’s Work at www.h3images.com.

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Love Poems to Summer by Blaze Lazarony

Ah Summertime, where everything around me turns into beautiful inspiration: basking in the sunshine, riding my bicycle, holding hands, s’mores roasted over a campfire, chasing lightning bugs, reading chic-lit, frolicking in the warm waves, getting my nails dirty in damp earth, wearing sandals, eating fresh fruits, singing songs, long sloppy kisses, and watching fireworks.

I can’t go an hour without scratching a few phrases into my journal, words that give me pause, remind me of my youth and easier living, or help me embrace my life…all over again.

It is my honor to share with you two such “scratches” that turned into poems of intimate love, joyous celebration, and a brilliant life well lived. Enjoy!

In a Blue Dress

by Blaze Lazarony

Oh, sea, kind sea, upon your likeness I gaze.

rough colored ocean wave falling down at sunset timeAre you aware of your unexplainable beauty?
Turning heads and receiving admiration just for being,
Allowing many creatures to make their home in your layers of crinoline skirts,
Some with teeth larger than mine, and others just small celled organisms, not even in possession of a heart,
And you, spinning and twirling effortlessly,
In an endless rhythm, and yet a uniqueness to your every movement.

You are perfectly attired for every occasion; your wish to reflect your partner seems paramount,
But it is you, through no desire of your own, who take center stage.

All become enraptured—a momentary sigh.

Your frock not any blue dress,
But woven of aquamarine,
and maybe a Crayola color or two.

That invoke a feeling of:
Vastness without weight;
Stature without airs,
Emotion without tears.

slice watermelon with a hole in the shape of heart on a wooden tableYank the curly-queue pigs’ tail free
Smash green waves across your hip
Gaze down at the watery pink fruit

Bite letting the air escape
Swallow the sugar dripping down your throat
Wonder upon the mystery of its creation

Spit black seeds into the ground
Mixing your salvia with its hope
Sowing a new life



About the Author – Blaze Lazarony

blazelazaronybioBlaze Lazarony is a Transformational Business Strategist, Founder of Blaze A Brilliant Path, Best-Selling Author & Speaker. For 20 years, Blaze held high-level positions in Fortune 500 companies, including Macy’s, Inc. She thought she was her job title until she was diagnosed with cancer, she chose to leave that world behind.
Today her passion is leading the charge for conscious women entrepreneurs to stand in their brilliant value by helping them design custom-fit businesses and live soul-based lives that light them up!

She is also a sought after speaker, and a co-author of four books, including 25 Brilliant Business Mentors and Their Top Tips to Catapult You to Success.

To learn more about Blaze & her work in the world, visit her website: BlazeABrilliantPath.com – and connect with Blaze on Social Media (links below)

Are you a conscious women entrepreneur who is ready to transform your challenges into golden light, tap into a heat source that empowers you (not scares you), and take inspired action to stand in your value, then you’re ready for… Lightning: A Stroke of Brilliance, a new offering for Summer 2015.

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Summer Love Notes Challenge #4

I have to be honest. By the time August rolled around, I couldn’t wait for school to begin again. Not only did I love school, but in my child’s mind, all the good parts of summer were over.

Classic SandwichThe visit to my grandmother and vacation were both complete by the time August rolled around. I had long ago finished the Library’s summer reading program.

And I was bored.


I had watched every episode of Gilligan’s Island. I was played out with my Barbies. I was even tiring of Nancy, Cherry and Trixie and was looking forward to a Social Studies text book.

Of course, it seems as if I got in trouble more those pesky weeks. I was restless and my mom was ready for school to begin so that she could have nice bouts of solitude.

And all I did each day had become a drag. I had a bowl of cereal for breakfast and then would be ushered outside to play until it got too hot (which was 10 AM in Texas!) I’d eat a bologna and cheese sandwich (with Miracle Whip) on Mrs. Baird’s white bread with a handful of Frito’s for lunch. Entertain myself with my books or dolls (and not bug my mom) and  waited for my Dad to come home. Then, we’d continue in the same BORING routines: dinner, a little TV (re-runs – yawn) and bed.

Being bored and restless was the signal that it was time to go Back to School Shopping.

We’d head to Cox’s, Striplings, and Sanger Harris (all department stores which no longer exist these days) and though my mom loved shopping in her later years, her goal of Back to School shopping was to get as much done in one trip as possible. Then, it was time to go to crayola_rainbowEckerd’s to stock up on notebook paper, folders, and fresh boxes of crayons.

I still love the smell of a fresh box of crayons.

Getting ready for school quelled the boredom of those last few weeks.

Though I didn’t get it then, now I get the twofold reason getting my ducks in a row shifted brain from BORED to ENGAGED.

  • One – I was preparing myself for the future. Knowing that school was around the corner is different from actually preparing for it. Buying new clothes for school as well as paper and crayons was a concrete way to move into the next phase of my life.
  • Two – I changed my routine. I got out of the rut of being home and equating it with being bored. After shifting from the ordinary day-to-day, I was happy to reengage in days spent doing the same thing. Even that cereal and the bologna and cheese on Mrs. Bairds.

Because you can enjoy every moment of your life just like you enjoy every drop of summer, but sometimes, you need to shake things up.


And that’s my final Summer Love Notes Challenge to you: shake up your routine.

Take a new route home. Try a new restaurant. Go to a different grocery store. Play hooky. Do something out of the norm. Try a new Starbucks on your way to work.

Instead of having coffee in the morning, have tea. Or, instead of having black coffee, have a latte.

Trade cars with your spouse. Get up early and watch the sun rise. Go for an evening walk.

Do something out of your norm.

Shaking up your routine will allow you to savor all the moments of your life – even the ones you thought were BORING.

While you’re shaking things up, snap a photo and share a glimpse of your shift it in your Social Media Streams (Facebook, Instagram) and tag it: #SummerLoveNotes – That way, we can all share in your personal quest for adventure.

Note: This Summer Love Notes Challenge #4 runs until August 15th.

About the Author – Debra Smouse

debrasmouse200x300 I’m Debra Smouse, a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle. I can help you detangle all your clutter, fall in love with yourself and your life, and unleash your inner sex kitten.

My truth? In order to live life the way you were meant to, you must fall in love with the day-to-day activity of living.

I spend my days writing and working with people who want to change the world, beginning with themselves.

Want to bring your dreams into your reality? Snag my FREE EBook You Can Achieve Your Dreams: There’s Still Time in 2015

A life coach and writer, me and my Gypsy Soul have stopped their constant roaming and have settled down in Dayton, OH where I share life’s adventures with the Man of My Dreams.

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Because Tomatoes and Corn Say “Summer”

“I have a love affair with tomatoes and corn. I remember them from my childhood. I only had them in the summer. They were extraordinary.”
–Alice Waters

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

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

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

Take three ears of corn and pull the kernels off of the cobs. In a large skillet, add a tablespoon of olive oil and gently toss for five minutes.

Alternatively, if you have the grill going, wrap three ears of corn – with husks on – in aluminum foil for 30 minutes. Then, cut the kernels off.

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author – Debra Smouse

debrasmouse200x300 I’m Debra Smouse, a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle. I can help you detangle all your clutter, fall in love with yourself and your life, and unleash your inner sex kitten.

My truth? In order to live life the way you were meant to, you must fall in love with the day-to-day activity of living.

I spend my days writing and working with people who want to change the world, beginning with themselves.

Want to bring your dreams into your reality? Snag my FREE EBook You Can Achieve Your Dreams: There’s Still Time in 2015

A life coach and writer, me and my Gypsy Soul have stopped their constant roaming and have settled down in Dayton, OH where I share life’s adventures with the Man of My Dreams.

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For the Love of Gardening by Reese Ryan

Summer has never really been my season.

Sure, as a kid I played jump rope and hop scotch. Blazed a trail down the street on my Big Wheel. Had a fling with a playground swing or two. Rarely were such outdoor summer adventures my idea. Either a well-meaning adult sent me outside or a neighbor kid asked me to come out and play.

I preferred to stay inside to engage in the activity I loved most–reading. In my experience, reading and the great outdoors didn’t mix very well. A conclusion I arrived at after getting bonked on top of the head by a stray kickball while sitting on the sidelines with my face buried in a Judy Blume book.

Of course my kickball disaster wasn’t my only hang-up with spending summer days outdoors. There was the dirt that made its way into every crevice; the “fresh” smell I reeked with after venturing outdoors; the blood-sucking insects that considered me something akin to prime rib; and the unwanted, long-lasting tan.

Needless to say, my idea of a perfect summer day was a day spent at my local library checking out the maximum books allowed.

Had I married a fellow book nerd, by now I’d probably require a portable IV drip of Vitamin D and melt like the Wicked Witch of the West when forced to encounter the sun. Fortunately, I married someone who loves summer and the great outdoors. For the past twenty-six years he’s been coaxing me out to play in the summer sun.

Slowly I’ve learned to enjoy the outdoors.

Hiking, biking, swimming and kayaking have all become favorite activities. Still, l prefer to do most of those things in spring or fall. My true appreciation for summer didn’t come until this year, when I ventured into gardening.

I love farmers markets and the taste of fresh-picked fruit and vegetables during the summer. I expressed my wish to grow my own veggies to a gardening enthusiast friend. She encouraged me to give gardening a try. After all, she reminded me, we’re in the age of YouTube, where you can learn just about anything you need to know.

So, I went for it.

I watched videos on creating a raised bed garden, and my husband was kind enough to build me one. Then I went about purchasing plants. Lots of them. More than I should have planted in the space. Creeping plants that, unchecked, will happily take over your garden.

In a few short weeks my tiny plants grew considerably. After several weeks the tomato and cucumber plants produced flowers. The basil and thyme grew like crazy. I had plenty of parsley, thyme and rosemary.

Before long, several of my plants began to produce fruit. A fact that amazed this indoor-loving, city slicker. Soon I was sipping mint tea and munching on organic cherry tomatoes grown in my own backyard. I was the summer-lovin’ queen of my own little world. I even considered getting a tiara and sipping my peppermint tea in tiny teacups with my pinkies raised.

Then the bottom dropped out.

Or rather it rotted out. My lovely beefsteak tomatoes grew big, but then the bottoms suddenly rotted. I took to the all-knowing interwebs and discovered that it was a physiological disorder called blossom end rot, caused by a calcium imbalance in the plant. The emergency treatment was a cup of milk around the base of the afflicted plant. A later addition of crushed eggshells gave the plant needed calcium, rectifying the problem.

I encountered a few other problems along the way: splitting and cracking tomatoes, leaf spot and plants growing so wild I felt like Indiana Jones hacking my way through the jungle. Each problem was quickly identified and resolved via a few mouse clicks and the generosity of experienced gardeners who happily share their knowledge and wisdom with fledgling gardeners like me.

Despite doing just about everything wrong, I’ve managed to reap a steady harvest of fresh fruit and veggies. Several nights a week I cook something that features tomato, basil, rosemary, cucumbers, peppers or some of our other garden fare.

Cooking and eating food that I’ve grown makes me giddy with delight. I presented my first cucumber (the odd-shaped, creepy-looking, but delicious one pictured) to my husband with the same pride I displayed when I made a misshapen ashtray of clay in grade school.

Maybe it didn’t look so pretty, but it got the job done.

Through the experience of gardening I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for the earth, nature, the myriad of bugs that still find me utterly delicious. And for summer. The lovely season that made my garden possible.

For me, gardening is no longer a hobby. It’s an essential part of my daily life. Like cooking or going grocery shopping. It’s a part I just happen to enjoy very much.

Okay, maybe summer is my season, after all.


About the Author – Reese Ryan

ReeseRyanBioReese Ryan is an author of multicultural romance novels and women’s fiction. She serves as the current president of her local Romance Writers of America chapter.

Reese writes sexy, contemporary fiction filled with colorful characters and sinfully-sweet romance. She secretly enjoys torturing her heroines with family and career drama, reformed bad boys, revealed secrets, and the occasional identity crisis, but always rewards them with a happily ever after.

When she isn’t writing or working in her garden, Reese designs handmade jewelry and creates handmade and hand-embellished journals for her shop, Sinfully Sweet Handmade.


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Forever Changed

From the moment I learned that words created sentences which led to paragraphs which led to stories, I was hooked reading_little_womenon books. Thanks to my mother’s love of books as well, new books always made their way into my hands.

The tales of Dick and Jane soon led to Little Golden Books and it wasn’t long before I graduated from I Can Read to the mysteries of Nancy Drew and the adventures of Cherry Ames.

My reading world shifted when my thirst for more propelled me back in time to four young ladies coming of age during the Civil War. For the first time, a book made me shed tears upon the typewritten pages.

Yes, I’m talking about the unfolding of the lives of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March and Louisa May Alcott’s classic story Little Women.

Before I explored the world of the March sisters, books told me stories. Little Women transported me to another place and time. I wanted to be friends with Laurie and find a way to make Beth healthy. I understood Meg’s desires to be seen as a real lady. Though I knew I should have disliked Amy, I really wanted to sit beside her and comfort her when other girls made fun of her.

louisamayalcottAnd, of course, I wanted to create like Jo March.

Little Women opened my eyes to bigger stories and complex characters that longed for – and created – different ways of existence. Upon reading Little Women, I learned the books didn’t just entertain me; they moved me emotionally and allowed me to see the world through the eyes of the characters.

From that point forward, when I opened a book I wasn’t a little girl in her room in Mansfield, Texas; I was transported to other places and times. I wasn’t limited to being an unsophisticated girl in a small Southern town, I could be anything…anywhere.

I had forgotten about the world of the March sisters until I began researching places to visit in and around Boston.

As I looked at the details for visiting Minute Man National Park and seeing the place where the Revolutionary War began, I discovered that I could visit the place where Louisa May Alcott wrote the book that shifted how I saw the written word.

Visiting Orchard House became my top priority for exploration for my solo explorations.

Standing in the bedroom of Louisa May Alcott and looking out the window next to her desk, again I am forever changed.

orchardhouse_arrivalI fall in love with May Alcott for her desire to bring beauty to her family and believe that Amy is a mere shadow of her namesake.

And I understand Louisa in a way I never could as a girl. Her love of words and the desire to bring her family out of poverty by using her innate talent is incredibly admirable. Could it allow me to see the work I did during my gypsy years to keep my family afloat in a different way?

I am reminded that the words we read have impact upon us now, thirty years from now and a hundred years from now. And that the pursuit of our desires is beyond what the moment gives us; it clings to us for all the days of our life.

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”
–Louisa May Alcott

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A Single Summer Day from Cami Flake

We begin the day…


We share a smile…(and a Coke)


We share a little laughter and a lot of fun…


We fall in love…and marry our best friend…



“Like we could be a thousand miles apart and I’d still know you were there.”
–Pete Hautman

About the Artist – Cami Flake

Cami_Flake_BioI’m Cami Lenox Flake: open-minded, openhearted lover of beauty in all forms and proud mama to my sweet little boy who fills me up every day with his curiosity, his humor, and his unbridled enthusiasm.

I am a freelance videographer, a lifestyle photographer, and a visual storyteller. My work is about movement, light, color… and heart felt connections.  I believe photography is about letting go of the rules and being open to the beauty in front of you.

You can find me online at www.camiflakephotography.com and in Mill Valley November 7th-8th, 2015, co-hosting Eat, Play, Sleep, a delicious weekend of pampering and play, with the lovely Sue Ann Gleason of Chocolate for Breakfast and Conscious Bites Nutrition.

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