In a World Where You Can Be Anything...Be Kind.

“What are you going to be when you grow up?” Most of us remember being asked that question as a kid. Talk about pressure! But the fact is that in this day and age we are presented with more options for exhilarating careers than ever before. The choices we make in fulfilling that early inquiry begin to define who we are. That simple question is expanded when we are older with the adult version, “So, what do you do?”
But the answer to this perpetual question doesn’t magically tell the inquirer everything they need to know about us. Although a career may well define our passions or interests,it doesn’t reveal much about who we really are. What if, the next time someone asked “What do you do?” instead of answering by way of a profession or title, we simply said,“I try to be kind to everyone I meet.”
My sweet mother was the very definition of kindness. She embraced kindness as a career choice! (Those of you who knew my mom are nodding your heads right now!) It seemed to everyone that her goal in life was to make everyone around her feel loved, to feel important and special. Whenever she spoke with someone, from friends at church to the cashier at the grocery store, from bank tellers to my dad’s business associates, she would remember details about what people had told her and conversations they’d had. When she’d see them again, she would bring up things they had discussed on the previous visit. She’d ask about their kids by name, mention their ailing parents’ illness or whatever big event was about to happen in their life.  One time I asked her how she did it. Her answer was simple. She said, “It’s a choice I make to love them and to care about them.”
What kind of world would we have if everyone acted this way? If we listened with our hearts and came to really understand one another there would be less differences and more commonality. We’d come to a level of acceptance that would end fights and instead thoughtfulness, empathy and compassion would envelop us.
In a world where we really can be anything our hearts desire, why don’t we strive to put virtues on the top of our list? Qualities like integrity, charity, love, honor, and simple kindness have the power to change lives on a scale never before achieved. Like a trail of glitter that leaves its path clearly marked, such virtues carve a lasting impression into the human experience. They not only uplift those we encounter but are, in fact, stepping stones on the path that lead us towards truly living a life worth loving.
Bottom line, just remember what my Mama always told me: "You’ll never regret being too kind."

You’re Always One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life... Choose Wisely

I love that my work gives me the opportunity to talk and interact with so many women. Because talking to women is just about my favorite thing in the history of forever! I love hearing their stories. Whether that story is about where they are now, where they’ve been or where they are going, it always fascinates me. Of course, the best stories are those that are upbeat and positive. That doesn’t mean those people have lived a charmed life. More often than not, it’s exactly the opposite. They are the stories of how women turned ordeals into adventures and turned trials in triumphs. They took setbacks and turned them into set ups for bigger and better things. Those people are my heroes. They are my inspirations and they empower me beyond description.

The saddest stories I hear, interestingly enough, are not the ones that share horrific, devastating details of illness, death or life shattering events. But rather it is those from people who, unbeknownst to even themselves, have chosen to live a mediocre life. They get themselves into a rut, anchor down and refuse to see past the dirt walls that entomb them. And the really interesting thing is that they don’t realize that they chose to live that life.

I decided to step back and try to understand the difference from these two groups of people I so often encounter. It became very apparent that economics had very little to do with it. Just as many of what I’d call “well off” people struggled with the same things as those who were challenged financially. And I found just as many energized happy people who lived paycheck to paycheck as I found people living in the lap of luxury who described their life as boring, miserable and unfulfilled.

Bottom line, here is what I learned. Mediocrity doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of decisions we make over a period of time. We are what we settle for. And, let’s face it, even though past choices we made probably seemed like the right thing to do at the time, things change. And at any given moment, we’re always one decision away from a totally different life. But we must be willing to change and see the cup as half full and not half empty.

It’s easy for us to come up with excuses around why we don’t or can’t change. Time and money are good ones. But don’t we define what is important by what we dedicate our time and resources to? Could we work harder, get up earlier, or stay up later? Could we shun our mobile devices or turn off the TV? Could we, gasp, cut back on retail therapy or fancy lattes???

The challenge is deciding what is really important and then go for it. Keep your eyes on the goal of what you want your life to look like and feel like. Once you understand that happiness is s state of mind and not a place or destination, you’ll realize the journey is a lot easier than you thought. And once you muster the passion to take charge and broaden your horizons to encompass those things, nothing will stand in our way. You’ll live a life that is not only worth living but one worth loving as well.

You’ll find that the process will affect others too. When you are bubbling with the excitement of life it’s hard for anyone to be a “Debbie Downer” around you. Becoming who we were always meant to be and living a life of fulfillment empowers those around us. More often than not, our evolution inspires others to reach for their own happiness, lean on others less, and blossom wildly in the process. By raising the bar on our own life, we raise that bar in the lives of others too. As they watch our success, they reach for their own potential as well. Our decision to go for it very well may be exactly the change our circle of influence needs to make life better not only for ourselves… but everyone around us.

Go ahead. Take the chance. The possibly of an incredibly wonderful life awaits you.

My Life is Forever a Work in Progress

It’s back to school season, and my mind can’t help but wander off to the years I readied my own kids to start the new school year. As old as I am, it’s not hard for me to remember walking into a new classroom the first day of school, checking out the kids, teacher, and classroom and wondering what the new year would hold.
I was blessed to be raised by parents who stressed education… but not always in a formal sense. Although I went to college, I was encouraged from a young age to expand my learning not only vertically but horizontally as well by progressing scholastically through many diverse classes. My mom also encouraged me to sign up for as many after school programs as I reasonably could handle. free. (My mom was big on all the amazing free opportunities our community offered and I still do too!) My summers were way fuller than the school year when it came to experiencing new things. Hula, ballet, art, pottery, weaving, sewing, theatre, swimming, surfing, book club, language classes, piano, ukulele and guitar are just a few of the fun opportunities offered where I grew up -- and I did them all.  Some of those introductions stuck, and I still do them over 50 years later. Others did not. But regardless, they opened my eyes to the wonders of education and the fun of learning.
During the summer she’d sign me up at our local Community Recreation Center and local library for anything
Today, I still sign up for every workshop and lecture offered. It doesn’t even matter the subject. I’m just addicted to learning. A few years ago, after doing an art show next to a stained-glass artist, I became fascinated with her work. I had a great show and decided I wanted to own a piece for myself and carefully picked one out. She explained in detail what went into creating it. Well, I was hooked. After hanging the piece up in my home, I straightaway looked up a night class offered at the local college which offered a course and promptly signed up. For 14 weeks I learned to design, cut, solder and complete a lovely piece of stained glass. I loved every single minute of the class. I met new friends and learned way more than I expected as I completed a beautiful work of art. At the end of the class I came to the conclusion that despite the fact that I had an absolute wonderful time, I never ever wanted to make another piece of stained glass again! Did I regret taking the class and “wasting my time?” Heavens, no. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. And every time I look at the magnificent piece of art I had purchased, I now have such an overwhelming appreciation for what was involved and the artistry she had executed. I also learned that even though I had fun and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, it’s just not my thing. But absolutely no regrets.
My husband, Al, has a Ph.D. in Speech Pathology and was a college professor for ten years.  He was one year away from being a full, tenured professor when he decided it was just not his thing either. Without hesitation or regret, he quit to go into business for himself.  Simply put, he changed his mind and followed his heart... towards me!  His life has been a wild roller coaster ride ever since.  I'd like to think I'm one of the high points.  And now "Dr. Toronto" is selling Wonderful Wacky Women paintings on the street corner with me and loves every minute of it. He is also the brains behind the marketing that launched my business into an international brand and handles all the licensing, trademarks and left brained business stuff I don’t want to deal with. I may be Suzy Toronto but it was Al who created the Suzy Toronto brand.
Does Al regret the eight years of school to get a doctorate degree he doesn't use?  Not for a second.  He values his education and time teaching as some of the best and formative years of his life. Because he believes that education is not simply the learning and memorizing of facts, but true education is that of teaching the mind to think.  It made him who he is and is a vital part of his success in life.  And it is part of why I married him.  He was obviously very smart, and highly driven.
The point is, education is a springboard to the rest of your life, no matter where it takes you. It gives you the skills and discipline to launch your dreams and follow your heart. It ignites the fire within you and fuels your passions.
I hope I will always be a work in progress and never, ever stop learning.

get organized

Yes, it's true. I have a dirty little secret... a serious personality flaw that those closest to me are forever chiding me about. And since I have always felt that the best way to keep people from throwing all my own dirt back in my face, I decided to toss it all out there, here and now for all the world to see. So here goes...

I am the most unorganized, totally forgetful, lose everything, walking tornado you will ever know. And I am not exaggerating. My studio is always in a whirlwind, my purse, if I can find it, is either busting at the seams with all the crap I'm hauling around since 1978, or completely empty with me having no clue where all that stuff that was just in it has suddenly disappeared to.  And... heaven forbid, if you give me a piece of paper with information on it that is critical for the salvation of all living things on the face on the earth I will promptly lose it... along with my iPhone and wallet just for good measure.

My husband said he really believes it's not a personality flaw but rather a "lifestyle choice" and that if I really wanted to, I could change.   We'll, I am tired of it. So in my effort to be teachable, I am going to change this year. (I had the  word try inserted before the word change but decided that I needed to be very affirmative and took it out!  I'm not going to just try...I'm going to do it!)

So my new years resolution is to get organized. And not only am I going to clean out and dig out the cobwebs of my life, but I am going to make a conscience effort to put things back where they belong immediately after I use them. I am going to start writing down appointments and deadlines so they don't fly by me, giving me both whiplash and a salon blow dry in the process.

Now don't get me wrong... I'm not going to do this so I can cram even more stuff into my day. I'm going to do this to stop me from running around like a chicken with its head cut off, confusing my own chaotic busyness with the idea that it's producing a forward motion. Because it rarely does! Usually it starts a circular motion that forms the above mentioned tornado!)  So everyone who knows me, be warned...a new Suzy is emerging.    

Just Three Things

My husband, The Left Brained Wild Thing, says everything important in the world can be broken down to three things. I got to thinking about that and although I don't think this is what he meant... here is my interpretation.

Three things I love... (not people..things!):
  1. Chocolate, the dark expensive kind (hate cheap chocolate)
  2. The Beach. Any beach. I just love the ocean.
  3. Dancing the Hula. It is my life. I eat, love, sleep and breathe it. It's hard to explain unless you too hula. For me, at least at this stage of my life, hula is my life.
Three things I seriously do not like:
  1. Paintings hung too high
  2. Windshield Wipers that don't work.
  3. Bananas. Seriously the very thought makes me want to gag. I could be stranded on a deserted island with no food or water and only bananas to eat and I'd starve to death before eating it.   I could ever be on one of those reality game shows where they dare you to eat a caterpillar or some gross live bug, honey, pick me! I'd do it in a heart beat as long as it doesn't look, smell or taste like banana.
Three things I'd want if in fact I was stranded on that on a deserted island:
  1. My iPod filled with my hula music with inexhaustible batteries.
  2. Endless supply of bubbly sparkling water and that ice that is in little round snowy balls
  3. A library of good books. Not digital ones. I want real one. I love a real "Page Turner" and the older the books are, the more I love them. They just smell good to me.
Three things I miss most of all:
  1. My mama's look when she was proud of me. Does anyone ever get over the loss of their Mama? Although I totally get it that life moves on, I miss having my own personal cheer leader always there to encourage me on like only a mother can. No one in this world ever "got me" quite like she did. The cool think is that I look just like her and the older I get the more I look like her.
  2. The sound of my dog, Lucy, snoring. (Lucy crossed the rainbow bridge in 2018 and I miss hearing her snore every single night. for me, she was my white noise that made me feel that all was right in the world when the lights were off.)
  3. The smell of a newborn baby. Seriously, why has no one figured out how to make a scent like that??? Whether it's just the smell or the pheromones  or the combo of the two, it's  something as a 60-something year old woman that I still miss.