My Last Lecture

Soaking up life in Pāʻia Town, Maui

I want to tell you about an incredible experience I had in college.  The university I attended offered a weekly program called “The Last Lecture Series.”  Students would bring a brown-bag lunch, plop down on the ballroom floor of the student union center, and listen to one of the professors speak.  But these men and women weren’t lecturing on Shakespeare or the Russian Revolution.  Nor were they there to simply share some warm and fuzzies.  Their assignment was to present what could possibly be the last lecture they would ever give – basically the sum total of a life well-lived. Talk about a legacy!  The series was fascinating, and I was immediately addicted.  As I sat on the floor munching on my peanut butter sandwich, I hung on every word.  I was sorry when, at the end of the year, the series was over.  In fact, I was heartbroken.  These lectures had pushed me to see past my own little world and helped me realize what I wanted out of life.  Today, over 40 years later, I look back with fondness at those days when many of the ideas, insights, and philosophies I still live by were forged on that ballroom floor. 

If I have learned anything since then it is that life is uncertain. We never know what moment might be our last. I’ve thought a lot about this and what I wanted to share with my own children as my “last lecture” (I can almost see them rolling their eyes…”Yay, another lecture form Mom!”). If you could bear with me, I’d like to share it with you here too.  So... what bit of wisdom might a wild wacky woman (who sped past the half-century mark so fast it almost gave her whiplash) have to say?  Here it is – short and sweet.

Stop.  Listen.  Learn.

  1. 1. Stop.  Stop churning through those endless, pointless cycles that blind you from appreciating that the world around you is so much bigger than your immediate crisis.  Stop focusing inward, and look beyond yourself.  Stop ignoring the rich opportunities for growth that you’ve passed up, simply because you call them tragedies.  Stop hauling around your unnecessary baggage, whether it’s emotional or physical.  Unburden yourself from the constant repetition of reliving each mistake or wrong done to you.  None of it serves to inspire, uplift, or empower another human being... least of all you!  In short, it’s self-destructive.  Many women I know find themselves in a black hole just like this.  But you don’t have to go there... or stay there.  If this sounds preachy, it is.  The only reason I can get away with it is that I’ve done it, too.  And I found that when I stopped focusing on myself, I had a multitude of time, energy, and resources to focus on making a difference in other people’s lives.  In the end, it changed my own and made all the difference to me.  So please – just stop it.  I did, and it made my life not only worth living but, more importantly, worth loving as well.
  2. Listen.  Listen to your breathing, to your heartbeat, to the sigh of your lover, to the giggle of your grandchild.  Listen to the sound of the ocean, the rustle of leaves in the wind, and the silence of softly falling snow.  Stop talking... and really take the time to just listen – particularly to other women.  Countless women all around you have accomplished astonishing feats.  Seek them out, and listen to what they have to say.  Absorb all that is good in them, and let the rest drift away.  Drink in the wisdom they offer.  Such wisdom is everywhere, if you will just open your heart and listen.  
  3. Learn.  Learn from your parents.  Learn from your children.  Learn from those who love you – and, even more, from those who don’t.  Admit that you are not always right and that you don’t have all the answers.  Try to look at every situation from another perspective.  Learn to take a chance and make a change.  Accept obstacles and challenges as opportunities to grow and become a better person.  These are among our greatest gifts, but we must have the grace to accept them.
Here’s the real irony of life:  In order for growth to be all about you, you have to stop thinking about yourself, listen to the wisdom of those around you, and learn from it all.
See?  It’s easy.  Just stop, listen, and learn.

May you always feel the tingle in all that life has to offer.
Aloha, Suzy

Share the Love…

...and Make Your Heart Tingle

My Mother & I -- 2015

This month is known for its most famous holiday, Valentine’s Day. Generally, we think it’s all about recognizing our sweet heart, buying the token chocolates and giving them a big smoochie kiss. But in my heart of hearts, I wish the holiday was more about relationships in general and a reminder to acknowledge those relationship not just on one token holiday but every day. Because bottom line, we don’t know if we may get another chance.

A few years ago, my mother passed away. Although I have always been a very verbal person in sharing my feelings, especially with her, I knew her time was drawing nigh. I made sure that absolutely nothing was left unsaid. The next day she slipped into a non-responsive state and died four days later. I will forever be grateful for our last day and that time I had with her. I was lucky. I knew time was short and I made it count.

But life is uncertain. That experience made me realize that I can’t wait for those moments to say what I feel and I decided to open up my heart even more to my family and friends. And I make sure that I don’t just leave it as an “I love you” but rather tell them specifically why I love them and what they mean to me.

Well, you know me. I can’t leave well enough alone. I took my idea and put it on steroids. I decided to not only share my feelings with family and friends but started including total strangers as well. Before long everyone from the stoic woman taking my order at Taco Bell to the grumpy pharmacist at our grocery store became the recipient of my verbal expressions. And guess what happened. The lady at Taco Bell now greets me by name and even remembers my “regular order.” The pharmacist is no longer grumpy but now asks about my kids, grandkids and even my business when he sees me. Not only did it change their outlook but it made own heart tingle with joy.

 At first it wasn’t easy. I tend to go overboard, gush a bit too much and make people a bit, well, uncomfortable. I had to learn to dial it back. But I understand that some people are just the opposite and not comfortable verbalizing their thoughts. Sometimes they get stuck before they even get started. So here are a few ideas:
  1. Leave notes. Writing a quick love note can be just as impactful and can make someone’s day. Start off with something as simple as “Thank you for being so…” My husband’s desk is filled with little sticky type notes I’ve written with just such sentiments. I find it amusing that he never seems to throw them away. 
  2. Brag on someone in front of others. I love calling attention to something someone has done. Even though they may shrug it off, usually inside they glow with pride. This works especially well in places of business when you tell the boss or owner how great their employee is. 
  3. Give compliments. To everyone and anyone. It’s actually really fun to do once you get started. Tell the waitress at your favorite restaurant that you like her pretty smile. Compliment the bagger at your grocery store for always taking such care in bagging your groceries. Look for simple things to compliment and I promise, it will simply make their day. 

Give it a try. Speak from your heart. Share the love. You’ll make a difference in their world and in the process, you’ll change your own.


The Difference Between An Ordeal & An Adventure...
Suzy sitting on her swing
...or How I Drink 
Green Sludge Everyday
& Be Happy About It. 

I believe with all my heart that if I want to have an incredible day, it’s my responsibility to make it happen. But getting started each day used to be tough for me. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am NOT a morning person. So I did a major attitude adjustment. You may find it surprising that now, I actually get up every morning 5:30 AM…sometimes even earlier. You see, I created a morning ritual that I so love that it’s worth getting out of bed for. Here’s my plan: I get up and I do nothing…sorta. For me it starts by fixing my plant based, green sludgy smoothie that even after 2 years it’s still quite difficult to gag down. (It’s truly gross!) But I have learned a couple of things that make it easier. One is that it’s best if I drink it as cold as possible. The second is to pair it with something that I love. So, I pour it into one of my double walled premium tumblers that keeps my drink super-duper cold and then I sit on my porch swing and watch while everyone else goes for their morning walk on the beach. (The thought of exercising and drinking the sludge is just too much so I just watch the morning walkers on the beach!) I absolutely love watching people and combined with the swinging that is soooo calming and meditative for me, I’m practically in heaven. The time on my swing allows me to slowly think through and get ready for my day.  As soon as I get the sludge down, then and only then, do I get to eat my favorite thing…a big bowl of fresh mangoes! Getting up early allows me to move as slow as I want and the routine changed my whole perspective about it.  For me it works. The important thing is that I have a ritual that is healthy, both heart and soul. It turns what was once ordeal into a wonderful moment of calm reflection. And even on the worst of days, it encourages me to play in the puddles rather than complain about the rain. It sets me up to make the day ridiculously amazing. The small act of allowing myself this time is truly one of my favorite things.

Bottom line, if you are not getting out of bed each morning looking forward to making it a great day, try doing what I did:

  1. Change your routine. Go to bed an hour earlier and get up an hour earlier. (Ben Franklin really was onto something when he said “Early to bed, early to rise…)
  2. Create a ritual that brings you joy in that extra hour you've gleaned.
  3. Decide to change your attitude. Because if you change nothing, nothing will change.

So tell me, what are you doing that helps you to make each day ridiculously amazing?