Greetings from Susan
Books have always been my friends. Like a single rose that can be my friend and a garden all by itself with fragrance indescribable, a single book can be my companion and security blanket at any time. My mom, June, and my grandmother, Fritize, instilled in me the love of books and reading at a very young age. In my childhood bedroom, I devoted a special corner to my own personal library with beautiful books in full color that occupied my days and nights and always kept me company. I put some of my favorite passages from books on beautiful paper, decorating these pages with lots of colors and pizzazz, and then taped them to the ceiling of my bedroom so when I went to sleep, I could look up at the enchanting words.
I never felt alone growing up because reading gave me such joy and comfort and an imagination with no limits. Reading all kinds of books always inspired, enthralled, captivated, motivated and empowered me. I remember telling my mom more than once that we needed to transform our entire home in a suburb of Los Angeles (yes, I am an LA native) into a beautiful library that everyone could visit often and borrow books. In all of June’s love and willingness to keep my dreams and imagination alive, she would often respond with something like this: “Isn’t that a great idea Susie? I like how your mind thinks. Whatever you dream, you can create. And until we can fulfill your dream, let’s go to our local library and different bookstores and get you some more books for your own personal library in your bedroom.” That response always made me smile for hours.
Through reading all kinds of books from the classics, to non-fiction and fiction, to travel guides and poetry, I could triumphantly journey in my mind to any place in the world — far and wide — without the slightest bit of limitation or hesitation. Copious reading expanded my imagination and I learned to visualize the books’ characters and put myself into the role of the heroines. Often in parts of fiction books I would read, I’d think about ways I could write it better or change the plot to a more fantastical or exhilarating storyline that worked better for my mindset. This practice came in very handy for me during my countless hours of babysitting, as you’ll see below, when I made up stories to recite to the children.
When my friends would be outdoors playing and running around, I was often in my bedroom reading, and when I would join them outside, I’d usually be carrying one or more books with me. Instead of my parents and grandparents reading to me as a young girl, I would almost always insist on reading the books to them. Sometimes during these readings, I would stop and explain to them what the words meant to me. I know my family enjoyed lots of chuckles with my penchant for reading and books. Over and over I read my favorites, often memorizing the beautiful words and sentences and reciting them to other people. Words, and pages with words that had meaning, resonated in my heart as a young girl, and still do to this day. The fact that letters made into words, and words made into sentences and sentences made into paragraphs that can create all kinds of emotions and deeply touch the heart, and literally help to transform lives and make the world a better place to live, is astonishing and so powerful to me. Through reading, we can feel happy, sad, positive, hopeful, joyous, upset, anxious, energized, invigorated, stimulated, vitalized, elated and so much more.
If I were President of the United States, as you’d probably guess, I would make sure every school in America and every community had a commodious library, and I would find ways to give free books away to all children, and to make it mandatory in all schools at all levels to incorporate in periods of reading time during the day and week.
Even at that young age, I developed a system of letting my friends borrow my books, one at a time, and they had to sign an agreement to return it in perfect condition within one week. I never lost any book and all my friends got on the bandwagon of book reading, too.
When my friends were sick and couldn’t play, or their younger siblings were unwell, I would often call them up and read them books over the telephone to help cheer them up or make up stories to tell them. Ever losing interest in reading was an impossibility for me in my life.
At my elementary school when I was in 5thand 6thgrades, I was selected as the one person in the entire school who would visit the classrooms of the lower grades and read books to them. With enthusiasm and alacrity, I always relished these times of sharing my love of books and reading with other students. Not surprisingly, my friends gave me the nickname of “the book girl” since I was rarely without a book in my hand to read. And until the age of 14 when my aspirations changed, if anyone asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, my most frequent answer was… “I want to be the best librarian in the world.”
When I was a pre-teen and teenager, my mom would frequently volunteer at the local hospital. Of her many jobs, one was rolling around the book cart to each room to pass out books for patients to read. Early on, when I joined her, together we’d roll in the cart containing all kinds of books and it was the highlight of my day. After awhile, I started giving a synopsis of the different books to help the patients select the best one for them, and those that had tired or weak eyes, I would gladly read to them. Before too long, I took over the book cart by myself, without my mom’s help, and it was a joy indescribable to see the patients’ faces beaming with delight when I read to them.
Even as a teenager, I was reading all of Jane Austen’s magnificent books and loved each of them, especially Pride and Prejudice, first published in 1813. After multiple readings through the decades, the protagonist in that book, Elizabeth Bennet, still to this day, remains my favorite person in literature. With each of Austen’s books, I would put myself into the role of the main female character and lived out the scenes in my mind and imagined that I was that strong, courageous, charming and admired protagonist. What an absolute delight it was for me.
As an adolescent, I worked frequently as a babysitter with children of all ages, from the very young to early teens. Part and parcel of my babysitting accessories was my basket of books that I always carried with me so I could read to the children. If any one of them ever said to me that they wanted a new book or different and new story time, and I didn’t have any extra books with me, I would make up all kinds of stories to tell the children. Each time I would lavishly regale the kids with imaginative, and always positive, stories about young people who were making their dreams come true. Sometimes my stories were about becoming a doctor, or scientist or renowned athlete. Other times my narratives were about being a ballerina or dancer, or an actor, or a princess or prince, or a veterinarian or even a chef, since I loved to cook with my mom and grandmother. Needless to say, I was the most popular and prosperous babysitter in my neighborhood and loved being around children of all ages, as I still do to this day.
Kids these days don’t read like we did decades ago. That’s an unfortunate fact, as I can’t imagine not having books and reading when I was young. How grateful I still am to this day that my mom and grandmother engendered in me the love of reading. Most children I know these days are more into technology — computers, smart phones and video games — than enjoying a book and turning the pages with glee as I always did. James Patterson said this and I agree with him: “The fact is that our kids aren’t reading books — or frankly, much of anything lately. Schools are underfunded, some schools even closing their libraries. Parents have to realize that it’s their job, and not the school’s job, to get kids into the habit of reading for fun.”
As I’ve gotten older, my love of reading has stayed with me for decades—which seem to have passed in the blink of an eye. I am still a voracious reader, amassing quite an impressive library in my home; I usually have around four to six books I’m reading at any given time all displayed on the table next to my bed. And I still read all kinds and genres of books. If I were asked which book I read the most, it would be the Bible, for sure. Several different editions beautifully occupy and shine brightly on an entire shelf of my library and my favorite Bible, given to me when I was a teenager by Fritzie, is always next to my bed.
Being outdoors in nature is one of my favorite activities, especially hiking in my local Santa Monica Mountains and other locations around the world, and also riding horses in wide open natural spaces and environments in the countryside, mountains or along the beach. It’s not uncommon for me to bring along a small book when I am hiking, riding or simply sitting at the beach listening to the waves. To have a book while I’m basking in nature and experiencing the glory of perusing a book — an unbeatable combination to me — is sheer bliss.
And since I’m never without a book, I frequently read when I am in line at the grocery store, bank, DMV, post office, filling my car of gasoline or often at a restaurant when I am eating alone at a table. Having a book with me makes my solo dining experience most enjoyable. Many people get so frustrated and anxious when they need to wait in line. I enjoy waiting because it gives me another opportunity to fill my mind with inspiration that I derive from a book. In fact, there have been countless times when I would suggest that people behind me in line move in front of me so I can keep reading an enthralling section of the book or a page of poetry and see it through before I close the book up and put it away.
So, as you can see, it may not be so surprising to you that I now write books — over 30 of them to date (with more percolating in my mind) and many are printed in foreign languages. While I might not be able to read my books in different languages, it’s still a tremendous sense of joy and accomplishment to see my writings perused around the world. Additionally, I have written thousands of magazine articles that have been read by millions of people worldwide.
As long as I can remember, besides reading books, I have enjoyed writing as well. Through writing, I have come to understand my life with more clarity and to appreciate the lessons that have been sent my way. Over the years, my life and my experience of being in this world have changed, just as I’m sure yours have. Expressing my thoughts and feelings on paper have frequently given me clues to how I might take care of unfinished business or unresolved conflict, and how I might identify the nugatory and troubling beliefs that keep me from being all I was created to be.
Writing articles and books has also brought me memorable consultations, speaking invitations and more around the world with celebrities, business people and regular folks and families like you and me who are seeking to create a healthier, happier and more balanced life. In fact, that’s exactly how I met David Craddock. I was invited to give a few motivational, holistic health presentations in London, England at a conference because the event coordinator read one of my articles in a magazine on simple ways to create a life of high-level wellness and he said it really inspired him. He reached out to me and extended an invitation to be one of the five conference speakers over the four-day event. How blessed I was that David also attended the conference, and you can read the rest of the story on how this serendipitous meeting with David changed our lives for the better in his Greeting to you.
One of the most memorable events in my life from someone reading my articles and books resulted in an invitation to speak about High-Level Wellness at a symposium in Aspen, Colorado hosted by none other than John Denver. What I found out is that he had been reading and enjoying my magazine articles and books for years and extended an invitation to me to give two presentations at his first Choices for the Future Symposium in the mid-80s. I had always been a huge fan of his music, so I was chuffed when I got the invitation. Over one thousand people from around the world attended this four-day event. Before the symposium started, all of the speakers were invited to John’s home for an afternoon and evening of conversation and gaiety.
I arrived at John’s home and he greeted me kindly like we were old friends (it felt like we were), told me how much he enjoyed my writings and encouraged me to keep writing more and more. He gave me a tour of his home and then, a cappella, sang me a song he had just written that no one in the public had ever heard titled “Falling Leaves.” John also asked for some personal guidance on his diet and exercise program, which I gladly proffered. It was a wonderful time for me, and it all happened because he enjoyed my writings and wanted to meet me and welcome me as a speaker at his event.
Needless to say, my writings, whether in the form of books or magazine articles, have created a rewarding career and enriching life for me far surpassing my wildest expectations. Writing fills me with ineffable joy (even though it can sometimes be painful when the words are not flowing easily from my mind, heart and soul) and I know I was born to be a writer, motivational speaker and lover of nature.
Usually when I write, if I am not listening to the sounds of nature, I will have music on in the background that uplifts and inspires me and, yes, still to this day, it’s often the music of John Denver along with others. If you are young and don’t know who he is, I encourage you to check out his music. He was a wonderful songwriter and musician.
There’s something else I think you should know about me that will probably not surprise you after what I’ve just shared with you above. I’ve always had a partiality for words, so much so that I have a dictionary in every room of my home. If I were stranded on a tropical island and could only take one additional book besides the Bible, without a doubt, it would be my dictionary. In fact, whenever I read a book—and I strive to read two to three books weekly—it only makes it to my list of favorites if it teaches me at least twelve new words.
Throughout the reading process, I keep a dictionary nearby to consult, and I often write the meaning of a new word, complete with its usage, derivation and so on, right in the margin of the book. That way, if I’m ever rereading the book and forget the meaning of the word, the definition is right there on the page.
As you’ll discover as you read my books, I’ve found special places to use some of my favorite, choice, yet often underused words. I hope you’re willing to be stretched a little, too. Maybe you too will find yourself reading with a dictionary by your side and develop a fondness for looking up words that are new to you and becoming a wordsmith.
In all my books, I also aspire to communicate the love I have for life. In each one, I hope to share on a very personal level the lessons that have been most important to me. I see this as a voyage we’ll take together, an adventure of hope, renewal, rejoicing and making choices. Your active participation is important, because it’s not what we read that makes the difference in our lives but rather how we apply the ideas to ourselves. I love what Henry David Thoreau said about the books he preferred to read:
Books, not which afford us a cowering enjoyment, but in which each thought is of unusual daring; such as an idle person cannot read, and a timid one would not be entertained by, which even make us dangerous to existing institutions — such I call good books.
I wanted to share with you one last story that may stimulate you to organize your home life and surroundings and upgrade your level of health. It was around 15 years ago and one of my clients, Bob, who lived in Brentwood (Los Angeles), had a magnificent collection of books and a huge home. Before I came into his life, he was totally out of shape—about 100 pounds overweight; didn’t know how to create healthy meals and usually ate take-out foods morning, noon and night; had never exercised more than stepping on the gas pedal in one of his many automobiles and had a grand home and gardens that were in total disarray. A few years prior, his parents and two sisters and only brother all passed away in the same year and he spiraled into a deep depression and could hardly get out of bed most days. One of his closest friends suggested to Bob to call me up for a consultation to see what I could do to help lift him up and rejuvenate his home, body, life, heart and soul again. So I arrived at his home the first week of January, walked through each room with him and assessed the situation of how I could best support Bob to achieve his goals of getting fit, organized and happy and hopeful again instead of being depressed and hopeless day in, day out.
In our first meeting after my home tour, we talked for about three hours about what he wanted to achieve and his time schedule to get everything done. His wish was that in one year, by Christmastime, he hoped to get to his goal weight with strength and muscle definition, have a home worthy of entertaining in and having friends over and he also wanted a home gym and a special place for his collection of books. We met every day those first three weeks to go over my plans and to get things started and built. Fortunately, money was no object for Bob, however he just needed someone to deeply care about him and to take his goals and wishes to heart and bring his dreams to fruition. I told Bob that if he made the commitment and followed through on my training program, healthy new diet and nutrition program and worked closely with me on his home reorganization and refurbishment, he would be living his highest dreams for himself within one year. I even asked Bob to sign a commitment contract with me that he would keep his word on everything he said he would do and always follow through. I’m a stickler for people keeping their word and doing what they say they will do without making up all kinds of excuses.
Since he had a huge backyard with extra space to spare, we immediately started building on an addition of a large home gym and also a library to house his thousands of books. We brought in an architect, a contractor and construction crew with whom I had worked before who I knew always kept their words and always got jobs done on time or ahead of schedule – very rare in the world of construction.
While these additions were being built and ready to go, we started on his new exercise program that included weight training, aerobics, Pilates and other flexibility work. I also showed him how to do aerobic and strengthening exercises in his swimming pool as well as lap work, and taught him how to do floor work which included planks, push-ups, crunches and stretching.
For the first three months, I taught him all aspects of cooking and preparing healthy foods. He purchased his first juicer and blender, and an Ionizer Plus Alkaline Water device for his kitchen and a Thermal Life Infrared Sauna— both from High Tech Health in Boulder, Colorado and described in detail in my books Choose to THRIVE, Wired to Rejuvenate, Meditate & Prosper and Body Temple Vitality.
Since one of my many hobbies is gardening and doing landscape garden design, I created for him beautiful gardens for his front and backyards with water features. As the new home gym and library were both being built in Phase 1 of my projects, I also tackled each room to refurbish and redecorate so he could have a home he was proud of and to warmly welcome guests that could stay over for a few days.
At the end of one month, he had already lost 22 pounds and was able to create a delicious meal for a few of his friends and me all by himself. Bob also requested getting a new wardrobe of clothes that fit him better. I recommended that we purchase only the bare essential clothing since he would still be losing another 80 pounds or so before the end of the year and would need better-fitting clothes for the entire year we worked together.
Yes, he achieved all of his goals in that year, and then some, and was feeling fully alive and thriving again. But here is another part to the story that’s germane to the theme of this Greeting and was so thrilling and breathtaking for me. Like me, Bob was also a collector of books but many of his books were rare treasures — first edition and autographed books that were worth a fortune and many of them were a couple hundred years old and more. One of his goals in life was to have an impressive home library and he asked me if I could bring his vision into manifestation. I told him of my love for books, too, and that his collection was the most magnificent reservoir of books I had ever seen. So I designed a spectacular library for him (the one that’s been in my mind for years to build in my dream home one day) with the help of our architect and contractor that was made out of beautiful mahogany wood (that’s a hard reddish-brown timber from a tropical tree that’s used for high-quality furniture) and large enough to be a splendid home to his world-class book collection.
This project of the library was part of his Phase 2 “Rejuvenate Body & Life Program,” and after it was completed in five weeks, it then took me about eight months to totally organize the library in different categories and themes with many beveled glass cabinets to house some of the oldest editions and, of course, a huge, hidden wall safe to provide cozy and luxurious accommodations for his most valuable, priceless books that only very special people ever got to see. Can you imagine how exhilarated I was to have this opportunity to look at each of these thousands of books, smell the pages, gently turn the old pages of his antique books (always wearing gloves, of course) and reading words written long ago. It was one of my most amazing dreams come true to revel in his sensational accumulation of books and organize them all to my liking in a library that would be easy for Bob and his guests to navigate. In this library, I also designed and had built a beautiful, custom desk where he could work and read, and also a comfy couch and a couple reclining chairs. The final six weeks before I finished the library with all of the organization complete, Bob was out of the country so he didn’t get to see the grand finale until he returned. When we walked into his completed library and saw the end result, he actually cried with happiness because his new library surpassed his highest vision for himself. I certainly got a hero’s welcome that day!
But that’s not quite the end of the story. The following year, Bob built another home on the east coast in Florida that included a gym and another library about half the size of his library in Brentwood. He wanted to bring the overload of his books to be housed in his Florida home. Many of them could be shipped but, understandably, he was not willing to ship some of his most valuable books and chance that they could be lost or stolen, so he was going to drive from Los Angeles to Florida with many of his most valuable books. When his Florida home construction was finished, Bob asked if I would come and see the home in person, finalize all of the interior design work which, of course, included organizing his home’s library and kitchen, and orchestrating his healthy living products and daily practices. I could never pass up an opportunity to create another stunning library for him, this time made out of white oak, at my request.
Of course, Bob was willing to fly me first-class to Florida after he arrived, but his first preference was for me to join him on the entire cross-country drive and keep him fit with daily exercise and help him with making healthy food choices during the trip. When he could tell that I wasn’t so keen on taking the long drive with him, he sweetened the pot with doubling my daily salary and offering to put me in a beautiful suite in 5-star hotels each night with luxury spas and this included any spa treatments of my choice at the end of each day’s long traveling. Now he had my total attention, for sure! That plan sounded quite doable for me. Bob also arranged for us to see the Grand Canyon and many other natural sights. It was actually a wonderful way to see many parts of America up close that I had never visited before. We trained every morning, enjoyed health foods along the way, met countless lovely people, had spa treatments at night and arrived in Florida healthier and more refreshed than when we left.
But here’s one of the highlights of that cross-country trip for me and it had to do with words. A few of my goals on this trip were to keep my mind strong, to return home at the end smarter than when I left and to make positive use of our time in the car with a few thousand miles of traveling. Bob had to agree to this idea I had for me to consent to share this trip-time with him and, happily for me, he wholeheartedly agreed for the reason that he was also a wordsmith. Since I was aware of the upcoming trip four months in advance of the departure date, I created about 600 cards (3 x 5) to learn new words and to better use words in general. On one side of the card, I put a word and its different derivations, and on the other side of the card, I put the definition and an example of using it in a sentence. Okay, I know what you’re thinking — who in their right mind would travel across America and study vocabulary? It just happens to bring me great joy and, fortunately, Bob also enjoyed this, too. We had a fierce competition going to see which one of us excelled the most in our word games.
For example, I created 100 cards (words) that every word lover should know and ways to use the words’ different derivations in sentences (like sesquipedalian). I created another 100 cards that almost everyone confuses and misuses (like lie and lay). I created another 200 cards with each one highlighting words that make a difference and on the opposite side, how to use them in a masterly way (like peripatetic). The next group of 100 words/cards I devoted to rare words and ways to master their meanings (like quixotic). And in the final group of 100 cards, I featured words that are usually used in an incorrect way (like displace and misplace). None of this was onerous preparation work for me because I thoroughly enjoyed creating each card, which, as you probably already guessed, gave me a leg up on our vocabulary competitions while driving.
It goes without saying that both Bob and I had a better grasp of the English language and how to use words more accurately and masterly when our 3,200-mile trip from Los Angeles to the east coast of Florida was over. The only down side to this competition was that during the nights, I would often dream about words and could hardly turn off my brain from constantly analyzing all of my sentences and word usages when talking. Fortunately, Bob took great pleasure in our vocabulary contests and appreciated all of the long hours of work it took to get these vocabulary cards ready for our trip.
In addition to our vocabulary competitions, he also read to me from many of his rare, old books during the times I was driving. It was blissful to have these books and passages read to me. Reading in the car is not something I can do at length without feeling nauseous so Bob did all of the book and map reading.
By the end of our trip, each of us needed to come up with 36 our favorite words – words that were a bit out of the mainstream and yet still have some utility in daily conversation or writing. Life is too short to use balderdash words. Here were the words from my list. I’ll leave it up to you to look them up in your dictionary if you don’t know their meaning.
- Logophile (the perfect word for yours truly)
- Quid pro quo
If you would like to see a page on my other website entitled 260 Positive Words to Enrich the Quality of Your Life, please click HERE.
So as you can see from all of the above information, I was probably born to be a lover of words, reading and writing. I am wired to write and to appreciate good books and beautiful words. It’s who I am deep at my core. These passions of mine have helped to make my life a magnificent, splendiferous adventure.
My greatest hope is that reading my books will help you turn your life into a magnificent adventure, too. You do make a difference. There is no one like you in this entire world, no one with your talents, your eyes, your heart, your fingerprints or your dreams. You are inimitable and have been given the puissance and potential to make your life, and this world, any way you want it to be. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done in the past, how many mistakes you’ve made or how old you are. Right now, right this moment, you can begin to make different choices. You can choose to be all that you were created to be — vibrantly healthy, happy, God-centered and balanced, successful and peaceful. You can feel totally alive, filled with enthusiasm for life, the way you felt when you were a small child — the way I felt as a young girl when I read books. Aliveness! Fully alive and thriving! It’s a choice and it’s your divine right.
As we spend some time together through the pages of my books, you will discover some of the ways I have chosen to live healthfully and what I think living a life of faith, confidence, joy, vitality, balance and God-centeredness is all about. You will find out that it’s more than just feeling fine physically. It’s a joy and radiance for living such that each day and each and every moment can be a celebration.
So this website, Books to UPLIFT, hosts and features many of my most beautiful books all in one place, a publishing company co-founded by David Craddock and yours truly. He shares my love of books and reading and has a spectacular home library in England much bigger and grand than mine in Los Angeles. How blessed and chuffed am I that he cherishes my books, reads (and rereads) them all often and is now experiencing high-level wellness because with alacrity, he puts into practice the recommendations in my books.
~ Susan Smith Jones
CEO & Co-Founder
Books to UPLIFT: Rejuvenating Your Health & Enriching Your Life
PS: All of my books featured here on Books to UPLIFT are splendidly designed by Gary Rosenberg, part of The Book Couple with his editor wife, Carol, who both love books and reading as much as I do. They are superb at creating beautiful books. You can find them at TheBookCouple.com.