Live a Life Worth Loving

My $10.63 Miracle Dress

This is the dress my Mama bought me that day!

This is the very dress my Mama bought me that day! I still wear it when I wanna feel like a million bucks!

I sure do miss my mama. She died a little over two years ago but she is with me every day of my life. I feel so incredibly blessed that she passed on to me so many talents and skills and was such a great example to me. A skilled artist herself, her gift flows through my hands each time I pic of my paintbrush. But if you asked her what her greatest talent was, she’d say, “Making something out of nothing and finding bargains.” She was not only great at shopping sales but did wonders on thrift store find and re-purposing things.

Luckily, she’s not one of those out-of-control souls who spends her life savings and hoards tons of stuff. She’s actually quite picky — very selective about what she’s willing to dedicate both money and space in her home or closet to. And for her it was never about acquiring a lot of things — rather she is into the whole shopping experience. For her, it’s all about “the Hunt.”

Shopping with her was an event not to be missed — I never gave up the chance to tag along.  However, preparation for a day with her did take some training.  Building up enough stamina to keep up with Mama took some effort. The day would start off with Mama walking into the first store, and in ten minutes, she’d have the whole place cased-out — top to bottom. She could tell you in great detail if there was anything of value or just plain cute in the store.  Not only that, but in that same ten minutes, she’d know the names and personal life story of three saleswomen and the medical history of at least two more. Nothing gets past her.  At this point, if Mama decided the store was worthy of a second look, the fun began. She’d systematically start to look through racks of clothes, shelves of shoes and mountains of gee-gaws, sorting and sifting to find the treasure buried deep in the bottom of the pile. Once unearthed, she’d ceremoniously presents the items to me and shove me into a dressing room.

I hate this part. With my mother having been the perfect size 4 and my sister having size-2 jeans look baggie on her, walking into a dressing room with armfuls of size 14 clothes is a cruel reminder that I did not get the skinny gene in the family.  Instead, I got a love for all things Chocolate. Nevertheless, with a big party, a gallery debut, or a personal appearance looming in the future, I forge ahead into the dreaded dressing room with 360 degree mirrors.

Now if you had ever needed an honest critic or a loyal cheer leader to support you in your journey to the dreaded dressing room, my mama would’ve been the girl for you. Before I can even get myself shimmied into an outfit, Mama has already put the nix on it and it taking the next item off the hanger. Trusting her eye is always the right thing to do. Once in a while I’d think I knew better and buy something without her nod of approval. Later when I saw a photo of myself wearing the item, I’d be mortified that I even thought I looked cute in the contraption.  Mama surely missed her calling as a personal stylist! Well, this one particular day I had settled on a darling outfit that Mama guaranteed me that I looked three sizes smaller and 10 years younger. This, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing. The dress just happens to be on sale. Originally $136 and is marked down to $89 — a price I was more than willing to pay for such a miracle!

Finally, with the decision made, and having previously spent a substantial amount of my retirement fund buying a bunch of Under Armour and Spanx to hold everything in so nothing giggled, I headed to the cash registers.

At this point I had several things in my favor. The only reason we were in this specific store on this particular day, was that Mama had already scoped out the newspapers and saw the 25%-off-everything-storewide ad. Also, it’s senior citizen day, so that’s another 10% off. Then she’d start to dig in her purse. Out comes her customer-appreciation coupon for 20% off and the store credit she had been carrying around for 4 months. When the sales-clerk announces the balanced owed is only $10.63 my mother stifled the grin that was ready to burst across her face.  As she pays the woman, she leans over to me and says, “Happy Birthday Baby Girl”. We head to the car, victorious with our treasure — “the hunt” a complete success.

As I got mama settled into the car for the drive home, the look of contentment on her face was second-to-none. She has turned two hours at Stein Mart into a peak life experience and is quite proud of herself.  Mission Accomplished.

Now, I have always professed that “things’ are not important, and that we are not the accumulation of all our stuff. I’ve always tried to remind myself that it’s what’s on the inside that matters the most. However, when I am getting ready to go some place special, and I’m feeling frumpy, I know I can always put on my little $10.63 dress that Mama bought and be assured that I look like a million bucks. And as every woman knows, that feeling is priceless.

Thanks Mama… for all the wisdom you gave me… for the life-skills you taught me… and for the unconditional love you continually pour out to me.  But most of all, thanks for passing on the light-hearted, fun loving, joyful wacky gene…truly, my greatest asset. ( I sure do miss you, Mama.)


  1. Shirley Mills on April 9, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    Beautiful tribute…I’m that type of shopper. My grandchildren know we have to have a coupon when we go to lunch and shop!!

    • Suzy Toronto on April 10, 2019 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks Shirley. And what a wonderful way to teach kids the value of a dollar saved is worth three earned.

  2. Debbie Coggin on April 9, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    I love this blog about your Mom! I look forward to your weekly blogs!!❤️

    • Suzy Toronto on April 10, 2019 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks Deb, I’m having a ton o’fun with the resurrection of my blog. There are some post dating back to Feb that reflect this new direction of it, if you’re interested.

  3. Nancy Francis on April 9, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    Such a sweet story. Some of the best times I had with my mother was cloths shopping. She had wonderful taste and a flare for fashion which she passed on to me. She passed away 19yrs ago and I miss her. However your story warms my heart. Thank you.
    Blessings, Nancy Francis

    • Suzy Toronto on April 10, 2019 at 3:07 pm

      Thanks Nancy. Isnt it wonderful to hold such memories not in sadness but with such joy. And Im sure for you it wasn’t really about the shopping but spending time together. Priceless.

  4. Carol Watson on April 9, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    I love this!

    • Suzy Toronto on April 10, 2019 at 3:06 pm

      Thanks Carol. Missing you. Love to Manny.

  5. Annie Gillespie on April 9, 2019 at 9:58 pm

    Awesome sauce … love it … lite yet full of love and great memories !!

    • Suzy Toronto on April 10, 2019 at 3:05 pm

      Thanks Annie, Im having fun with my blog. There are some post dating back to Feb that reflect this new resurrection of my blog, if you’re interested.

  6. Jimmie Sue Walters on April 9, 2019 at 11:22 pm

    Such a joy to read. You are a great storyteller!
    Your Mother is a gem as well
    As you. Funny how much we in up actingvand looking like our Mother’s.
    Love you lots

    • Suzy Toronto on April 10, 2019 at 3:04 pm

      I know. JS… But I cant thing of anyone we’d be better off resembling than our Mama’s! We have the best. Enjoy every minute you have still with yours. I miss mine so but not with sadness but with such sweet, sweet memories. I feel so blessed to have had a mom like her. I miss you too. I have a search for flights to Pensacola permanently marked on my computer and I’m just waiting for the thing to ding with a sale.

  7. susan zimnawoda on April 10, 2019 at 1:58 am

    love your post, i can relate to this myself, love to shop for the hunt, not just anything, but, that special set of dishes, linens, you name it. thanks for sharing this story of $10.63 dress!

    • Suzy Toronto on April 10, 2019 at 3:01 pm

      Susan, I too am a hunter rather than shopper. I get in my head that I want say, a pedestal platter to serve bake goods. For me its not just about the price although I love thrift store shopping best, but finding exactly what I want… Exactly even it fit takes months to find just the right one that screams “Suzy” (Must be a Susan/Suzy things!)

  8. Ann Marie Atkinson on April 10, 2019 at 3:59 am

    Wow! I wish I could have known your mom. We would have been shopping buddies. I even refer to intense shopping days as “the hunt”. I am an art historian so it is really fun to know we have something more in common that art.
    Designer clothes at bargain basement prices are the best. So are nice consignment shops. This was a fun read. Thanks.

    • Suzy Toronto on April 10, 2019 at 2:58 pm

      She was a hoot! I never had so much fun or was so exhausted when it was over as I was shopping with my Mama.

  9. Andrea Lassaux on April 10, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Love your blogs, Suzy. Can’t wait for you to get back to the Fort Myers area next year. A big group of us will be there smiling from ear to ear!

  10. Charlene Leamons on April 11, 2019 at 3:16 am

    I love that you have restarted a blog and feel that this will be a fun, introspective way to connect with us gals. Sharing your story of your mom is inspiring and heartwarming and I will look forward to your stories of love and joy and life.

  11. Betty Burkey on April 11, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    Suzie….I love your $10.63 dress and your mom was right… look slimmer and younger! However I must say you look like you’ve lost lots of weight….looking mighty fine!

  12. Deb Thompson on April 13, 2019 at 12:10 am

    Absolutely beautiful! My favorite blogpost yet! Thanks for sharing such a lovely memory with us. 💗

  13. Rose Laffey on April 13, 2019 at 11:52 am

    Ah yes, it’s all about the thrill of “ the hunt”! Love shopping this way and am always proud to share the tales of how each piece of clothing or furniture was acquired during the hunt. Loved this blog, beautiful tribute to your Mom- my kind of shopper! Thanks for sharing❤️

  14. cynette houston on April 13, 2019 at 8:14 pm

    An enjoyable read of sweet memories with your mama.

  15. Paula Johnston on April 16, 2019 at 9:53 pm

    This coming April 19th marks 18 years that my mom has been gone and the tears still flow. I loved reading your blog but the tears are flowing. I hope to start a blog and pour my heart out the way that you do in order to touch people and cheer them on. Thanks and Carpe Diem , Paula

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