Emily: What is your full name?
Sue: Susan Lynn Peoples.
E: What is the first thing we should know about you? Besides the fact that you have big, crazy, curly hair!
Sue and I are both proud members of the curly-headed society. She laughs with me and thinks for a moment.
S: I smile a lot. And I love people. I do. I love people. I love learning why they are who they are. I like watching movies that go into detail about what makes a person the way they are before you've met them. Sometimes they're lovable, sometimes not so much, but it still makes them real.
Her passion is palpable as she describes her deep-rooted love of people.
E: Why do you care?
S: You know, that's a good question. I think it's because I just love people. It's exciting to me to meet new people. I like having conversations about things I don't know about, learning new things through their eyes. Does that make sense?
E: Yes, it does!
She laughs and seems to think about what she said.
E: Could you trace anything back in your life that may have influenced you to love people?
S: Wow... I'm speechless.
She pauses, looks around.
S: I can't really...I can't think of one specific instance. I do know that a lot of the people I've come in contact with had a not-so-great childhood. I had a great childhood! Two loving parents, friends, lived in a subdivision where you could stay out until 9 or 10 at night, and there was no fear. I really can't think of why I love people other than that's what God wanted me to do.
E: How do you care for and love people?
S: You know that's funny because I was driving over here today, thanking God and thinking, "Thank you for allowing me to bless another family, for allowing me to just do something that isn't expected!
As she describes the way she loves others her whole demeanor changes and her excitement grows. She describes this morning, when she arrived and filled our fridge with groceries, completely unexpected, and completely welcomed.
S: Or, writing a card to an old friend of my mom's because she's in a nursing home and she doesn't have any family. Gosh, I'm leaking! I never have to think about things like that.
Her bright, blue eyes let down a few sincere, unexpected tears.
S: Umm, does that answer the question?
E: Yes! So, it's just in your day-to-day?
S: I just look for day-to-day opportunities to bless people and to, you know, just do God's work, just to do nice things for people, and to do it for people who need nice things done for them. It's easy to do things for people whom you love. It's harder to do nice things for people who flip you the bird when you drive by them! Or for people who are annoyed at you for something you do. You know, it's easy to love lovable people.
E: Who are the most important people in your life and why?
S: Well, let me see. God, but that's not a "people." That is God. God is first. That is because of His greatness and all-knowing, and His overall presence in my life. And, my husband who keeps me laughing, who irritates me, and provides the challenge of being irritated and still loving him. My son, Luke.
She speaks of her husband and son with tender sincerity, not hiding the struggle of a life endeavoring to love well, but not speaking poorly of either one of them. It's the tremor in her voice that tells, not just of pain and loss, but of the gain in holding on.
S: I never expected to have a son because my first marriage ended and I didn't have any children. I was older than is expected, so he is a blessing to me. Family in general. And friends! I just have a lot of friends who I stay in contact with. I know what they're doing and even though I may not see them physically I try to keep up with them somehow, even if that's just sending a smiley face on Facebook when you have a bad day. My friends and family love me for who I am. They present opportunities for me to practice being a Christian without fear of rejection.
Her words are powerful. I know what she means. To be a Christian is to live with Christ, enjoying and praising forever; not to be perfect, but to accept the gift of perfect love. People often believe the opposite and hold a Christian to impossible standards.
To have a community that accepts and loves you is a gift to be treasured.
E: What does that mean to you, being a Christian?
S: Loving people as God loved them. Trying to put that into practice. Like I've said, it's a lot easier to love someone who loves you right back than to love that neighbor who called the cops when your dog was barking. I try to look for opportunities to practice like Jesus preached. I try to look at those hard times as opportunities. For instance, after my husband worked nineteen years at a company he became disabled and they just let him go. They never gave him any severance package. So, rather than looking at that like, "You guys, that was just really rude," we've tried to look at it as an opportunity to get out of that organization and career because it was making him crazy. You can find the good in anything if you just look a little bit.
E: What are your heart's desires? What are your great joys and deepest loves in life?
S: Deepest loves. Gardening, gardening is big, and growing things.
E: Why is that?
S: It's just creative. It's helping, being God's hands in something, enjoying the thrill of watching something grow into a plant. I was going to try to grow Stevia to do teas with. And I had bought a Stevia plant once and it was fairly large, but I got the seeds for it and they were as small as the head of a pin. It was just the tiniest seed I had ever seen, so I put it in the dirt and I thought, "God is just an amazing being to be able to spring life that grows so large out of that." That's why I love gardening. I get to see God work. I love music. Although, music has taken a back seat to a lot of things since my husband, Mitch, became disabled. We don't do a lot of music together anymore. But that's still a love of mine and I will always have it. I've been singing since I was two. That's who I am.
E: Singing in bands, in choirs?
S: Anything. My brother is fifteen years older than me and when I was a little tot he had a rock band, in high school. He used to lift me up to the microphone and let me sing Rolling Stones when I was three and four.
She laughs and her eyes light up bright with memories.
I smile as she laughs and thinks back.
S: So, that's been in my blood for a long time. And it will be! I identify with music. And again, that's another creative aspect. Making jewelry, doing crafts, even cooking, and those are the things that just give me a lot of joy!
She smiles wide, giving her words a happy tone.
S: Sharing those things with friends and family, but especially sharing that with my husband, even sharing my excitement, or exuberance about something is wonderful because he is also happy end exuberant about it. That is just a wonderful, wonderful thing. Even if he does not enjoy that particular activity, he is exuberant because of how it makes me feel.
E: You delight in your passions because of his delight in you?
S: Yeah, I guess! I never really thought of that, but you're right. Wow. It's very exciting to see! Mitch has always been my number one fan. Before we ever dated we were good friends and had music in common. It was just really awesome to be able to talk with someone and see them so excited about things that you were excited about. Even jewelry! He's so supportive about it. I just love that.
E: What an incredible marriage!
S: Yes, I love that about our marriage. Although, there were other aspects that weren't awesome about our marriage.
She shares some of the hard times and struggle with me, but ultimately comes back to what she finds so comforting about Mitch.
S: He loves me as I am and you can't find any purer love than that. It's pretty special. God taught me to rely on Him to change my marriage. Some people try to change another person in their marriage. I'd tried that route and that just blows up in your face. So, it gave me an opportunity to be praying.
E: What is a day in the life of Sue Peoples?
She repeats it, "A day in the life o' Sue!" almost sing-song, like the beginning of a Dr. Seuss poem.
S: We get up, and when I say "we," I mean the three of us: me, Luke, and Mitch. We liken ourselves to a three-legged table. If one of us isn't able to do something the other two have to do a lot of balancing to keep it up. We let the dogs out, feed the dogs, feed the cat, make the coffee. I sit and drink two cups of coffee and read emails. I go through Facebook and look at news that catches my eye. Then we go downstairs to where our classroom is and we teach Luke whatever he's got on the agenda for the day.
E: You and Mitch both teach?
S: Me and Mitch and Luke, too! By noon we're done with homework and during that time Mitch is doing modeling, he does miniature cars. They're amazing. They look like they could run, with all the little wires. They're very detailed. I'll do some crafting of some sort, or plant something, just go out to the garden. I have tea in the afternoon and make dinner, then watch a movie or a documentary, read, or do more yard work depending on what needs to be done.
E: That sounds like you have a truly wonderful life!
S: I do! I do! I mean, all things considered. We had to make adjustments to our income when Mitch became disabled.
E: I think it's really neat how you liken yourselves to a three-legged table.
S: It wasn't always like that because Luke was small and he couldn't take a lot of responsibility, but now that Luke is a teenager he is an incredibly integral part of that family dynamic. Recently he's been waking up and making coffee for us and feeding the dogs.
E: What are the highlights of your day?
S: My coffee! Having my coffee when I walk I to the living room, that is a highlight. Not having to wait.
We share a smile, having just laughed over our similarities in coffee obsession.
S: Another highlight is, my dogs announce me every morning as if I am a queen. They're wagging their tails. Hugs from my family. It's the same way when I've been gone and I come home. In the morning and when I come home they are there to welcome me. When I am away I miss that.
E: What are your dreams, big and small?
S: I would like to be able to live year to year, month to month without the anxiety of running out of money. That's big. I would love to have that. Long term dream, I would love to move to Chincoteague, or something comparable. A Seaside, resort-y kind of town. Our dream is to open up a coffee shop/music store/eclectic weird thing! The last time I was in Chincoteague there was no place to get a cup of coffee, other than McDonald's. Mitch loves Chincoteague, and Luke loves Chincoteague. And I said to Mitch, "The only thing I think that is stopping us right now is the fear of failing, because we aren't younger. We do have a hard time recovering from a failure, financially." Because both of us are at an age in our lives where people are starting to think about retirement, but we are not!
E: You don't strike me as the type of person who would retire!
S: Retirement is a relative term, I guess. I would love to do something like that, to have my own business and to have it be in a place that I love. I don't like a lot of hustle and bustle. I love the ocean, but I also love the mountains. I could go either way. I just keep praying that God will be absolutely direct with me when it's time!
She laughs and thinks of the possibilities.
S: I love it! It's like Berryville at the beach! My goodness, wake up every morning, go out on the beach, smell the salt air, watch the little crabs, see the horses. What could be better than that!? Although I love people, I don't do crowds. I'm very uncomfortable with crowds, but I can stand up in front of a crowd and give a speech, or sing, or just talk. But, anyway, one day. Oh! There's another place in Georgia called, Jekyll Island where they have a sea turtle refuge. They save sea turtles there, on this little island, and I don't even think they have a gas station. We went there on the way back from Florida a couple years ago and Mitch and I thought, "Retirement, this would be awesome." You know, just have a little seashell shop, or something, just bummin' around.
She seems almost whisked away as she describes this dream, so much that you might catch her wiggling her toes like she's walking in the sand. I wonder what it feels like to live and dream her way, so hopeful, so adventurous, so infused with joy.
E: What is the inspiration behind the styled portion of your photo shoot?
S: That God is all around, surrounding you with His love. Even though you go through trials in life that can ravage you and wear you down, God is there surrounding you, covering you. He just engulfs you with His love. And I like Renaissance!
E: What about that aesthetic appeals to you?
S: The fabrics! I've always been a fabrics person. I can sew, and I've done a lot of costuming, but the fabrics! I'll go into a fabrics store and I just like to touch all the fabrics because they're all so different, almost like a person.
Her voice grows soft and calm as she describes the fabrics. These have a tender place in her. As she speaks I imagine her heart like a patchwork quilt, displaying her favorite textures, colors, and combinations of pattern.
S: Fabric is like that. You talk to a person and you find out their likes and dislikes, then you talk to another person and find out that they are completely different. I think I like the Renaissance because of the satins, the laces, and all the velvet all being used together. But, I also think it's because when I was a kid I used to watch Dark Shadows. That was a series on TV, almost like a soap opera and it involved a man named Barnabas Collins and he was a vampire. There was all this mystery involving this estate. I used to watch that at six years old. It was one of my favorites, and I wanted to grow up and marry Barnabas Collins because of his cool cape and all the cool costumes that he wore! Just over the last few years I revisited the series and realized that's where I must have got my love for all this flourishing costuming! Because that's what they wore! Even as a young child I used to make costumes with my mom's clothes, and augment them to become fashion. I don't know!
She laughs harder than before and shakes her head.
E: That's so neat that instead of growing out of it, it grew up with you!
S: It did! It grew up with me and that's why every time I get an opportunity to do costuming for plays, or for Vacation Bible School, I'm like, "Yes, yes! I can play again!" Because that's what it's like! It's like being a little girl again designing costumes! It's a lot of fun! I'll never grow up.
E: Good! Is there anything people should know about you that they don't? Something that is obvious to you that may not be obvious to someone else?
S: Not really! I don't have many dark secrets. If you know me, you know me.
E: What have you learned in your life about beauty? And what do you agree, or disagree with regarding the culture's ideas about beauty?
S: I'm going to take the second question first. It's sad that beauty is defined by svelte models who are just not realistic in the bigger picture. I feel like if I had a daughter I would be really angered by the toys that are provided for girls. Barbie, for instance, I love Barbie. I used to collect vintage Barbies, again, because of the costumes! But, she's so unrealistic because of her measurements. Like you say, there's beauty in all sizes if you look, if you take the time and look. I look back at The Renaissance and women were more voluptuous, round. They were not minuscule, or augmented with silicone. So, I am not happy with the way that women are portrayed in the media today. Which is a big reason why I am so supportive of what you and your team do! Because they reveal that beauty in anyone. It doesn't have to be a model! The older and more mature I get the more I am learning beauty is not just physical. When I was in my 20s I was 110 pounds, wearing a size 6, beautiful blonde hair like Farrah, And the picture of what society told me I needed to be. As I got older, and after I had my baby, I got heavy. And I went through a lot of turmoil about that. I am just now learning that it is not all that important to be this gorgeous, blonde, fluffy, willow-y thing, because that's not what my husband wants. He married me for who I am, and not someone I look at in pictures from when I was twenty thinking, "Gosh, I wish I looked like that again." He loves me for me. And it has been difficult because I was one of those girls who was looked at, not that I wanted that, but I had the blue eyes, blonde hair, this skinny little thing, and guys used to hit on me all the time, then they stopped. And you think, "Oh, what's wrong with me?" So, it took me a while to really work through that. Now I realize that I bought into what society was telling me, that, "You should be desirable because you're blonde, and this and that, and you're not desirable now because you're not the way you used to be." Unfortunately, that depresses a lot of women. It can be very detrimental to your overall self-worth. But, I am okay with it now, as long as I am healthy, as long as my family loves me. And I know that God loves me whether I am a size 3, or a size 30. God loves me.
E: You are so vibrant and lovely. You smile often, your eyes are this bright blue, and your big, curly hair!
S: And I'm leaking again!
As she cries she laughs and wipes away tears. Who knew that two cups of coffee could produce such a beautiful knitting of the hearts. I've loved Sue since I met her and love her even more now. This beautiful, infectiously joyous, curly-haired wonder of a woman emanates sunshiny happiness and joy.
Introducing the joyous, Sue Lynn Peoples.