Sunday, February 28, 2010

Every once in a while I check to make sure “Talk to me” isn’t written on my forehead. I’m just trying to be kind when I ask, “How are you?” Some of the answers I get are stunning. I learned about a runaway wife at a Mc Donalds drive-thru window, an eviction notice in the grocery check-out, and ten years of hurt at the video rental store.

Once I asked the server at a coffee kiosk how her day had been. She relived her dreadful sounding day for five minutes before she took my order. I just listened nodding my head occasionally saying, “Oh, wow.” As she handed me coffee she sighed and said, “Sorry, but thanks so much for listening. I think I’ll go home and take a hot bath.”

I felt a bit like Lucy and her 5 cent Psychiatric help.

A lot of people are walking around up to their necks in hurt, deep, gut-wrenching hurt. Loss of a job, illness, a fractured family and on the list goes. Others confuse hurt feelings with serious hurt. With tears rolling down her cheeks, a woman told me how devastated she was because a good friend was having a party and she didn’t get an invitation. “I’m so hurt and disappointed. This is one of the most painful things ever,” she said as if she were a disaster survivor.

For real? If that’s at the top of her painful things list, she must not be married or have kids. I felt so sorry for her ... sort of. I thought about taking my shoe off and hitting her, but came back to reality before I said or did something stupid.

I’m not saying things like not getting an invitation don’t sting, because they do. But in the big picture, it’s hardly worth ruining your make-up over. People are people and they are going to disappoint and hurt. You will be waiting a long time if you’re depending on the people around you to make you happy. It’s just not going to happen. Besides your happiness is really not their responsibility.

Remember this; most of the time people step on your feelings without even realizing what they are doing. Get over yourself and don’t waste time wallowing in self-pity while the rest of the world is out having fun. I’m sure that’s what Lucy would say too.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

“The only reason for time is so everything doesn’t happen at once.”
-Albert Einstein

Albert was a smart guy, but he was admittedly a little strange so we can’t believe everything he said. Either he was wrong or I defy all odds. There are stretches of time it seems like everything does happen at once. I’m sure a survey would show I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Some days I dash out of bed like someone set a timer to see how fast I can move. I’m sure it’s a sight to behold because I feel like a person wandering in the dark even though the lights are on. I operate on auto pilot for the first hour I’m awake. That started when the kids were little as a survival behavior.

I know for sure no one gets extra time in their day; we all get the same 24 hours. Why can some people accomplish so much more? Either they have hired help, they aren’t creative so their minds don’t wander, or maybe they’re on strong medication. It’s so frustrating to watch them handle everything with ease while I go from one thing straight to another trying to remember what’s next. Wouldn’t it be fun to hide their planners?

I’ve tried all the suggestions the leadership courses offer. You know, the big rocks first, then fill in with the pebbles and everything fits. Great theory, but some days everything is a big rock. So often I feel like one of those Jedi warriors zipping through the forest praying I don’t smack a tree.

I think I’ve finally come to this conclusion. Every day is a gift not to be taken casually. Be kind, extend a lot of grace, and if everything seems to happens at once, focus on one thing and tell the rest of it to take a number and have a seat.

“...And what does the Lord require of you? Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

Friday, February 26, 2010

When Jim and I were planning our wedding and the near future, I hoped kids would be in our middle future, but I didn’t think once about grandkids in the distant future. Now here we are in the distant future and grandkids keep coming! I just recently realized the odds are, the more kids you have, the more grandkids you’ll likely have. That never crossed my mind in the middle future.

We all wonder who has more fun, Jim or the grandkids. I shouldn’t be surprised. Years ago neighborhood kids would knock on our door and ask if the boys could come out. That meant Jason, Travis and Jim. He was the requested pitcher for all the ball games in our front yard because he kept it fair and as exciting as a whiffle ball state championship.

Right after Jill and David got married Jason and Alison announced we were going to be grandparents and then four months later Kari and Travis did the same. That was just the beginning. Jim was thrilled. He never said anything, but I think secretly it concerned him a little he’d be waking up with a grandmother in bed with him the rest of his life. I’m telling you those are things you just don’t consider in your 20s.

The other day I saw a grandparents name book like a baby name book. People really need to understand the first grandchild has the naming privilege. Some of my friends are Grammy, Gramps, Go Go, Bodie, Mammy, Ray Ray, Champ, and Pops. My friend Gary was Crapaw for a while. That was fun at the mall.

Our kids thought Jim should be Big Daddy. Our neighbors had a Grandmasue, pronounced as one word, kind of like tiramisu. Try to get a baby to say that. Jackson and Jameson shortened Jim’s name to Big and mine to Sue Sue. Those are so much better than Crapaw.

Being a grandparent keeps me somewhere between staying current with what’s new in the world and totally confused. I am quite honored to have Wii players named Sue Sue even though the six-year-olds have to show me each time how it works. Jameson even explained something on the DVD player I never knew existed. I just had to get over being embarrassed about how little I know.

We have a whole set of rules at our house that don’t look anything like the parents’ rules. That’s the best part about being Big and Sue Sue. Flips off the love seat onto the bed, tossing water balloons off the back porch, body rolling down the hill and throwing rocks in the lake head up the activities list. The old Tom and Jerry cartoon is the top DVD. And ... we’re almost certain white powder sugar doughnuts are somewhere in one of the five food groups. Hey, they drink milk with them. That has to count for something.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Every Wednesday the mail box is crammed with flyers; all those colorful ads announcing specials at the grocery and big box stores for the coming week. I think bargain hunting and snagging the steal is part of my genetic makeup. My mom had a nose for a sweet deal and so does Jill. It’s an ongoing personal challenge to not pay full price for anything.

My friend Roxie, (the one I told you about last month who can eat a full meal without disturbing her lipstick) is always looking for a good buy too. She asked her husband, Jack, to pick up a chicken on his way home from work one day. He bought some kind of special organic chicken on sale at the local grocery. I’m not real sure what organic chicken means or if it’s any different from free range. I think they must eat pesticide-free bugs and do yoga.

Roxie said it was the best chicken she had ever eaten. When she called the store phone number on the receipt, the butcher explained the sale ran two more days and assured her there were plenty.

The next day her last stop on the list of errands was to pick up several chickens. She looked everywhere in the poultry department, but there were no plump organic chickens, just skinny, sad looking ones. She rang the buzzer for the butcher. When he came through the swinging metal door Roxie started in on him. “You told me when I called yesterday there were plenty of organic chickens. I don’t see a single one. The chickens out here are pitiful and you assured me you had dozens but nope ... zero chickens.”

The butcher looked a little puzzled and apologized over and over offering a rain check. She took the voucher and sulked out of the store feeling a little silly for getting in such a tizzy over raw poultry.

That night she replayed her frustration when she told Jack about the empty chicken display. “That happened at the Country Mart down at the interchange”, he asked surprised.

“Yeah, and that’s not like them, is it?” she answered.

“Roxie, I got the chicken over at the Country Mart on Highway 248,” he grinned.

Oh, I wish I could say I’ve never done anything like that, but it would be a lie. We all do it; make assumptions on one small piece of information. Then we make felony-like accusations over misplaced items and misunderstood conversations. Tempers flare, feelings are hurt, relationships are damaged.

Emotions fluctuate faster and more often than airfares. It seems both are running high these days. Saying exactly what you’re thinking is like eating too many Oreos dunked in milk; it feels good until you realize what you’ve done.

Next time an overreaction is coming on, stop, take a deep breath, and think about a flock of organic chickens.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I don't remember life without a dog, until now. Our 15-year-old Lab died a few years ago and we haven't tried to replace her. I heard once you aren't a real empty nester until all the kids are gone and the dog dies. I guess I’m now official.

The first dog I remember was Emma, a Rat Terrier mixed breed named after my grandmother. One summer she found herself in an unplanned pregnancy and we were blessed with four puppies. We learned a lot about life and responsibility from Emma and her babies.

One Sunday afternoon when the pups were still tiny, we went to see my grandmother Emma who lived about an hour away. Coming home we ran into a torrential rainstorm. For good reason Mom was instantly concerned about the puppies. To escape the August heat, Emma had dug a little cave under the concrete air conditioner base to give birth. Mom knew they were in danger of drowning if Emma couldn't get them out.

When we finally pulled into the garage we ran to the back yard hoping for the best, but dreading what we might find. I'll never forget Mom in the pouring rain down on her knees in the mud with a flashlight. What we saw was something I will always remember.

Water was quickly filling up Emma's birthing room. However, we were fascinated to see the rearranging she had done. This loving momma had taken her babies and lined them up in a row facing her. She would start at one end of the row and with her nose lift each of the tiny noses up out of the water 1, 2, 3, 4 ... then start over 1, 2, 3, 4. This little white dog instinctively knew if she took one pup to safety, while she was gone the others would drown.

We could almost feel Emma's relief when she saw Mom peeking in behind the flashlight. If dogs talked she surely said, "Wow, am I glad to see you. Can you please help me and take over here? I am worn out!" Mom pulled all the helpless babies to safety and Emma was one grateful dog.

In my adult life I have felt like Emma so many times. If I don't keep my responsibilities above water, something is going to drown. My kids, my husband, my house, my friends, my work, my extended family ... one, two, three, four. Is everyone happy? Is everything taken care of? Have I forgotten anything? If I don't keep moving something disastrous will happen.

When I finally step back and realize I can only do so much, I relax believing I’m doing the best I can. No one is going to drown and, one more time, I resign from the position of master controller of the universe.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

You can learn a lot on National Public Radio and yesterday I picked up some fascinating information. Flittering, flirting over Twitter, is the newest way to possibly meet “the one”. Honestly? At a flitter party each person attending is assigned a number. If someone is interested, a tweet is sent. So now dumb pick up lines are electronic?

Not long ago people met for coffee or lunch to see if they really wanted to commit to a date. Now do you flitter to see if you might even want to have a face to face conversation? I think it’s little weird. I guess it would be like a sneak peek to a blind date.

Scary blind date stories will stop even the bravest from going out with someone’s friend or third cousin. It took some fast talking for me to agree to go on one in college, but I did? I was so nervous you would have thought I had committed to bungee jump off the Royal Gorge bridge. I jumped all right. I married him 18 months later. He’s still my favorite person to hang out with.

Besides the big obvious things like common goals and faith, there are little things that have worked like glue in our marriage. Just like everything else in life we tend to get so deep, complicated and theological we forget the simple elements. This, of course, is my opinion not university research done by those with several letters behind their names.

Jim and I understood from the beginning, regardless how angry and frustrated we might get, we wouldn’t abandon each other. We’re on the same team and if a team doesn’t work together it loses. It’s hard to fight when we’re laughing so we laugh a lot. And, he travels and I travel so we get short breaks from each other. I’m being honest here.

Recently I was gone for 12 days. I’m good without him for five days but that’s it. I start feeling a little lost after that. About day eight of my trip I got an email: “Sorry, I broke the handle to the Swiffer Sweeper.” Now how do you get upset with a guy who is swiffering?

The next day another email came: “I forgot to tell you ... I broke the lamp when I was swiffering.” Wow! I was wondering if it was a secret plot to get me to ban him from cleaning.

The day before I came home he sent a text similar to a flitter declaring how desperately he needed me: “This morning I accidentally bleached one of your new green towels. You’d better get home before I burn the place down!”

Obviously he doesn’t do well without me after five days either.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Late last summer the three Brawner brothers and wives went on a dream trip, a cruise to Alaska. It was the first time ever all three couples traveled together. Jim’s older brother Joe was just regaining his strength from a heavy round of chemo. His wife Karen was exhausted and each of the rest of us were dealing with wearing life issues. The timing for a break couldn’t have been orchestrated any better.

For me, half the fun of a trip is the planning. Jim’s younger brother, Jerry, and I were turned loose to make all the decisions and arrangements. I felt like a day trader finding specials, piecing together flights, and transferring and buying frequent flyer miles. It was a three week hobby of sorts.

The ship was fabulous, the company was unbeatable, and there was enough food to feed a small country. All that, with the peaceful massiveness of the landscape, was almost too much to process at once. If you are ever in doubt God exists, visit Alaska. You will fully understand the Be still and know that I am God scripture.

I stayed lost most of the time. That’s not too surprising since I can get turned around in Walmart. My true north for the week was the Lido deck where the pool and endless food stations were located. That’s where we spent hours relaxing and laughing with all the life clutter left in the Seattle bay.

As we pulled back in to port, there sat the real world on the dock waiting for us. I deeply wished we could stay on the ship, turn around and head back out to sea. However, if we didn’t go ashore how could we fully appreciate the Lido deck?

In that week I became more aware of the value of family, the vulnerability of life, and the importance of stepping away for a break, regaining strength to push on. Most of the time I feel I don’t have the time to stop, but now I’m positive it’s essential for survival.

Recently the Jerry Brawner branch of the family tree has been thrown some hard, fast, curve balls. It’s times like this I’m temped to ask that question about bad things happening to good people. It just doesn’t seem fair. But life doesn’t always act the way I want it to. This is where the trust part of faith fits in, I suppose.

A couple of weeks ago I sent Jerry’s wife, Rayanna, a text of emotional support. I didn’t hear from her until the next day. When I did this is what the text said: “Sorry I took so long to respond. I was on the Lido deck."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Every February when the sunscreen display shows up in the center aisle at Walmart, I grin. The smell of Coppertone takes me on a memory chase of long days at the pool, then by the Blue Moon popsicles, past hamburgers on the grill, and ends up with my Dad mowing the lawn. How can an $8.00 bottle of lotion cause an instant replay of childhood summers?

Memories are powerful and stir up strong emotions that have settled like sediment in the bottom of the lake. Some memories are best left undisturbed because they’re like snakes under a rock. Others are so wonderful they’re medicine for the soul. Your memory bank may have deposits of wonderful or less than stellar experiences. If the not-so-good out number the good, think of the hundreds of new memories waiting to be made.

We all know those who live reminiscing the accomplishments of the past. But who really cares about the game winning free throw 20 years ago? Marinating in good times is so comfortable people seem to get stuck. I always want to ask, “That’s awesome, but what have you done lately?” I’ve never actually had the courage to do that, yet.

What is it you’ve always wanted to do? Big things like starting your own business, learning to paint, going back to school or simpler things like challenging yourself to read good books, memorize scripture, or simply to share random acts of kindness every day? While we’re off slaying the dragons of daily life we forget about our dreams.

God has gifted each of us with strengths and abilities we’ve never tapped in to or, for whatever reason, we’ve shoved into a corner. There they sit patiently waiting to be uncovered. I read once “All of us are gifted. It just takes some longer than others to unwrap their gifts.” Sadly I’ve heard so many people say, “I really feel like I should fill in the blank with a dream, but … fill in the blank with an excuse.”

If instead of wasting energy making excuses we took action, we would amaze ourselves. Years ago my friend Bob Luke said, “Sometimes you just have to stand at the back of the high dive, take a deep breath, run and jump off and don’t look back.”

So many times we climb the ladder, walk to the end of the board, hold our noses and talk ourselves out of jumping. What if I fail? I’m not smart enough. What will everyone think? I’m too scared.

What’s holding you at the back of the diving board by the ladder? Erma Bombeck once said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I hope that I will not have a single bit of talent left and can say, ‘I used everything You gave me’.”

Don’t let your memories be bigger than your dreams.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

It’s hard to find a more diverse place than junior high. All shapes and sizes and levels of social awkwardness shuffle through the halls trying to be cool. Because they’re all in such a season of change the scenery can be different every week. The transformation between September and May rivals Ripley’s Believe Or Not. It’s like watching a gaggle of moths wriggling out of their cocoons.

The two big challenges junior highers face aren’t Science and English. Nothing makes a 7th grader’s heart race like the P.E. locker room and the cafeteria, the most odorous places on the campus.

An invitation to sit with the popular kids at noon is almost as important as air. And if you do land a seat nothing could ruin it faster than your mom packing something dumb in your lunch like a meatloaf sandwich. It’s advisable to open the brown bag slowly to see if anything is tradable before unloading it all on the table.

When I was in junior high it was tempting to hold on to the empty lunch sack in case I started to hyperventilate in the P.E. locker room. Trying to cover up in the shower with a towel the size of a Kleenex was almost acrobatic. Everyone could plainly see what you were and what you weren’t. But no one ever considered what you might become.

Another metamorphosis takes place after birthing babies. And by the time your babies have babies self confidence in the locker room has run full circle and is back to where it was in 7th grade. So when I went to a spa not long ago I almost drown in the flood of uneasy memories as the attendant ushered me to the locker room. However, the towels were huge and plush, big robes were provided, and the showers were private. Obviously, the spa owners didn’t like the junior high locker room either.

Long after junior high we fear people seeing who we are and who we aren’t, never considering who we are becoming. It’s best to just get over it. At any age we are in a transition of some sort. Where we are right now is getting us ready for what is coming next.

Relax and enjoy the ride. Scenery changes all the time. The windshield is much bigger than the rear view mirror. I will admit, though, I smile because junior high is in my rear view mirror.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The dusty, late afternoon heat wasn’t a deterrent for us taking the kids to their first rural county fair. None of us really knew what to expect. The electric co-op had a booth demonstrating how to lower bills, banks handed out coin purses and balloons, three water filtration companies were busy trying to convince people their well water was not good enough and candidates running for every office in the county, city, and state were shaking hands and grinning. And the competition! Ribbons could be won for everything from top heifer to best pickles. It was like discovering a whole new culture I had no idea existed.

Our kids ran from the displays to the livestock, to the tractor pull, to the midway full of rides, taking it all in. One thing Travis insisted on trying was the greased pig chase. Piglets covered in Crisco were turned loose in a dirt arena to be run down and captured by age groups of kids. If you caught one you took home a $10.00 bill, but more coveted, the bragging rights for capturing one of the slippery little things. How hard could it be?

I’ve never heard a noise quite like that before or since. Piglets squealing, kids screaming and crying, parents cheering. At first I wondered if PETA was aware of this event, but soon realized the pigs were not hurt, just loud. This was serious competition, only a little more intense than the pickle canning.

The first pig Travis caught slid right through his arms. The expression on his face was like someone who had eaten raw oysters for the first time. The slickness is a bit startling. Each pig he grabbed squirted right out of his grip. Red faced and dripping, after eight or so tackles all he finished with was a mouth full of dirt. The city boy didn’t have the technique...yet.

He was disappointed, but determined. He all but interviewed the kids who did catch a pig to find out how it was done. He learned all he could about how to handle a pig. When August rolled around the next year he was the first to claim a $10.00 bill. It was like his own personal conquest. Giving up was never an option.

Everything has become so microwaveable and tweetish. If we have to wait on something or get frustrated with it we tend to toss it. Where is the commitment, perseverance, tenacity and resolve? Have those become outdated words? Don’t give up on yourself and don’t give up on others. Don’t let the pigs get you down!

The motto of the French Foreign Legion is good to remember when you're temped to throw in the towel. “If I falter push me on. If I stumble, pick me up. If I retreat, shoot me.”

“...Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
1 Corinthians 9:24

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A few years ago we visited a restaurant in Los Angeles where not much has changed since it opened in April 1947. Of course the orchards and farmland surrounding the white, one story, house-like building have been replaced by a mall, huge office complexes and buzzing LA streets, but that’s about it. The guys wearing little white paper server hats taking orders have worked there at least 40 years. Even if you are too young to be nostalgic, you just might feel like you once owned a ’57 Chevy when you’re at The Apple Pan.

Just inside the double screen doors is a U shaped bar lined with red swivel stools. The waiting area is a lean on the wall where you will likely join students as well as high powered entertainment moguls. It’s probably one of the few places in the country seating is run strictly on the honor system and no one dares to sit down out of turn.

Burgers that would tempt the most devout vegetarian, egg salad sandwiches, fries and pies words can’t even describe are the bulk of the uncomplicated menu. We left smelling like the grill whining we would never eat agin. The food was a culinary delight, the company was fascinating, and the restaurant itself was like visiting a living museum.

When I see success I always wonder what’s at the bottom of it. While I was leaning in the waiting area at The Apple Pan I noticed a sign on the wall past the massive hamburger grill that explains theirs. It read, “Doing simple things exceedingly well.” There you have it. The Apple Pan family has done simple things with excellence for 60 years in the same building while countless businesses have started and failed all around them.

I think success lies in the pursuit of excellence. Some days my excellence is less than other days if I’m tired or sick or just having an off day. That’s when that mean voice in my head questions if I can do anything even halfway. But then I have to remember this: if I’m doing the best I can, with what I have, at the time, I’m doing simple things exceedingly well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I read a story about a tree in Long’s Peak Colorado naturalists believe stood 400 years. It lived through 14 lightning strikes, numerous avalanches, and the storms of four centuries. It survived everything with strength and dignity. One day the tree suddenly fell. After investigation it was discovered an army of beetles had attacked from the inside and had eaten all the way through to the bark weakening the massive tree to the point of collapse.

Honestly, that’s what happens to a lot of us. Women have their hair and nails done and lipstick on their smiles. They handle car pools, jobs, crying babies, and unrealistic expectations from relatives, serving church and civic committees feeling they’ll never be quite good enough. Men carry themselves with an air of strength and control, fulfill dutiful obligations at work, in the community, and at church. They cram in social obligations watching football and playing golf with colleagues even if they don’t like football or golf. Meanwhile their confidence is that of a scared sixteen-year-old. Like the Long’s Peak tree, we look good on the outside and we weather the pressures, but we’re being eaten away from the inside out.

Does anyone really tell us we need to be all and do all? Who imposed this unspoken rule? I’d like to meet the people who started the rumor we need to be perfect or appear so anyway. I’d kick them in the shins and run.

If you really want to know the truth, we bring pressure on ourselves. Raise your hand if you have ever compared yourself to a friend, neighbor, or coworker. If you didn’t raise your hand, I’ll remind you of that commandment about lying. We all do it! Don’t stare at the page like you don’t know what I’m talking about.

If we put the pressure on ourselves then we should be able to take it off before we suddenly crash. Give up trying to be someone you aren’t to impress people you really don’t know or even like. As complicated as life is, don’t you want to enjoy all of it you can? Don’t let the beetles eat all the way through to the bark.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I went to a church last Sunday where those who normally don’t attend aren’t asked to wear a visitor name tag or stand up to be welcomed during a special segment of the service. That makes me comfortable. I do understand the purpose of the name tags and such, but I like to look like I know what I’m doing even when I don’t. That probably stems from something I’ve totally blocked out of my consciousness from grade school or it could be some control issues. I’m pretty sure it’s the control thing.

At this church the regular attenders simply introduce themselves, offer a cup of coffee and visit with you. It’s easy. Some of our friends visited a large church one time and not only did they have to wear a name tag and stand up and be recognized, the whole congregation sang a welcome song to them. My hands sweat just thinking about that.

Chris, the pastor of the church I visited, is teaching a 20 week series titled Epic. He talked about how epic is a word used and over used like its predecessors cool and awesome. Epic means huge, impressive or heroic. He had us consider the greatest-of-something; like the greatest baseball player, the greatest movie, or the greatest album. They were all epic. The message was so relevant and thought provoking I wanted to be there for the whole series. I was staying with Jill and David and I’m quite certain they didn’t intend me to be there 20 weeks. I’ll get the podcast.

In the series Chris is covering the greatest sermon ever given, The Sermon on the Mount. It was most certainly epic. I’ve read that section in Matthew countless times but it struck me differently on Sunday. It’s like discovering something new in a movie you’ve seen more times than you want to admit. It's hard to believe you missed it.

In verse 14 of Chapter five Jesus says to his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” Simple, but loaded. Light is attractive and we are supposed to be light everywhere, not just where people think like we do. Charlie Brown asked Lucy once what she would do if people didn’t want to believe like she did. She calmly said, “I’ll just hit them over the head with my lunch box.”

We probably spend way too much time slinging our lunch boxes around instead of just being light in a dark world. How would it be if we lived our lives in such a way people noticed there was something different and wanted to know what it was? Now that would be epic.

Monday, February 15, 2010

When I was growing up the local theater ran a New Year’s Day kids movie marathon. The doors opened at noon and back to back shows ran until the last college football bowl game was over. Three dollars was good for hours of uninterrupted entertainment and license to more popcorn, soda and candy than was legal any other day. It was an escape to another world. The parents may have enjoyed the bowl game parties, but I’m sure they reconsidered when the kids came home wound up like toy cars racing in circles.

Even now, going to the movie theater is like leaving reality for a while. I can’t decide if it’s the movie or the butter soaked popcorn. I walk in to the story and become best friends with a character or two. Most of the time Jim has the whole plot figured out. I almost have to put my fingers in my ears and hum so he won’t tell me. I think he should write movies or be a weatherman. He always predicts what’s going to happen.

I’ve watched You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan a dozen or so times. There’s just so much truth woven all through it. At one point Tom Hanks’ character and his girlfriend are on an elevator stuck between two floors. Like a drug addict in need of a fix, the girlfriend screams at the maintenance supervisor over the elevator phone-in-a-box as all the passengers slowly sit down on the floor to wait for help. One by one, as if they are going to be stranded for years, each person shares what they’re going to do when they get off the elevator. Everyone listens intently to declarations of love and promises to live kinder. It was evident Tom Hanks’ character was deep in thought about what’s really important when randomly the girlfriend whines, “Uhh, I can’t find my TicTacs!”

Finally, what everyone else sees just a few minutes in to the movie comes clearly into focus for him. I’m relieved every time. She’s a shallow, spoiled, not good for him kind of a girl and he needs to break it off and fall deeply in love with the Meg Ryan character. He does.

The TicTacs girlfriend is not someone I would choose for one of my temporary best friends, but she is someone to learn from. She’s self absorbed and more concerned about her breath than other people. Just like her, we whine about inconveniences as if they are life altering. Just think about all the good things we miss while focused on ourselves. You never know what you might discover looking out. Whining is a waste of energy anyway. I know once I start to gripe it can become like a shark feeding frenzy. It’s ugly. But all Jim has to do to rescue me is say, “Have you lost your TicTacs?”

Sunday, February 14, 2010

There were very few things more important than a Valentine box when I was in the fourth grade. It was an unwritten rule; if it looked good, so did you. I spent hours crunching through my cardboard shoebox with safety scissors creating what looked like a crepe paper and glitter explosion. It was perfect!

However, there was an even more daunting task ahead … making sure the right card was sent to the right person in the classroom. The rest of the school year could end up in ruins if a girl goofed and sent a boy one of the cards that had the LOVE word on it. The thought of Ricky Ashmore or Bobby Webb getting one of the LOVE cards with my signature on it still makes my mouth go dry!

One simple word can alter the landscape on any relationship, especially if you are in the fourth grade. Even for grown ups, the word love can be misunderstood and confusing. What does it really mean to love someone? Does our behavior match our loosely spoken words? Do we say, “I love you” but fail to show respect or keep our promises? Do we get testy and selfish about silly details? Do we explode on someone who innocently says something to kick us up from steaming mad to boiling over?

First Corinthians Chapter 13 doesn’t hem-haw or stutter when it tells us what love is and what love isn’t. But have you ever read past verse seven? Verse 11 says, “When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me.” The translation straight from the Greek is, “Get your thumb out of your mouth and grow up.” What is the mile-marker-age we put childish ways behind us? I’m not sure, but clearly we’re old enough to put on our big kid pants, get over ourselves, and move on.

All of us fumble around attempting to do the best we can in our relationships and we still mess up more than we would like to admit. Humbling ourselves, acknowledging when we’re wrong, asking for forgiveness and trying again is how love works. By the way, if we’re honestly putting childish ways behind us, the pouting and grudge holding aren’t a part of the equation.

Love is so much more than a fabulous Valentine box or a "I love my Doberman" bumper sticker or a I heart ... fill-in-the-blank tee shirt. It’s complicated, mysterious, and like anything, the learning curve can be exhausting. But it’s worth it. The one thing I do know is this: the farther behind us we put the childish things, the easier it gets.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The first year Jim and I were married I worked at a day care. We were both in college eeking our way through on a tiny wad of money so when the job opened up for afternoons, I took it for three reasons: all my classes that semester were in the morning, Jim was playing football so most days I never saw him until 8pm, and we needed the extra cash.

Spending my afternoons with three year olds was a lot of things but boring was not one of them. Kids that age haven’t learned to run things through a political correctness grid so they say exactly what they’re thinking.

One day after my last class I ate a couple of tacos in the car on the way to work. When I was hanging up my coat a beautiful dark haired little girl with huge brown cow eyes hugged my leg. I picked her up and smiled and asked how her day was going. She winced her nose and said, “Miss Suzette, you stink.”

How can something that precious be so brutally honest and literal? I lasted just under three months with the kids. After getting pink eye in both eyes, two colds, the flu and pin worms I realized I was paying to work there because the medical bills were more than my pay checks. I resigned.

My grandson Owen is in three-year-old preschool two mornings a week. I was the parent helper recently. I shuddered a little as I walked in remembering my previous experience in a three year old classroom. I relaxed when I remembered I’d had all my shots and Purell was in my purse.

Mrs. Bolger is a master. Ten three year olds have the potential of resembling fascinated squirrels set loose, but what ever Mrs. Bolger said, the kids did. It was intriguing to watch her work.

The theme for the day was Humpty Dumpty. We made Humpty Dumpty cut outs, we read the nursery rhyme and looked at the pictures. Then Mrs. Bolger brought out the eggs; one hard boiled and one raw. She was even working in a science lesson. Finally she asked the big question. “Boys and girls, what do you think is inside this raw egg?”

With all the conviction of a game show contestant one little boy raised his hand as he jumped out of his chair yelling, ‘Humpty Dumpty!”

Without saying a word, Owen flashed me with one of those “are you kidding me?” looks. I’m guessing he was thinking without saying, “That’s so silly. Egg is inside of egg. Besides Humpty Dumpty was kind of clumsy and he’s no where near as cool as Batman, Robin or Spiderman.”

I love a masked crusader who’s already learning the art of tactfulness.

Friday, February 12, 2010

One Christmas season the Rockettes came to town. Actually a full holiday production complete with Rudolf, Santa, and Frosty came with them. One of Santa’s helpers was Bruce who must have been on hiatus from the Wizard of Oz. He was a fun munchkin kind of a guy who made everyone laugh even at things that weren’t really funny.

When we got a red mini SUV it picked up the name Bruce. Why it’s called a mini SVU, I don’t know. That seems so contradictory. It was a munchkin kind of a car so Bruce seemed so fitting. We still have the Bruce.

Before all the luggage restrictions and limitations Jason and Alison had a suitcase so large the Rockettes show Bruce would have fit in it. Once when they were in a San Antonio restaurant they met Ricky, one of the Mariachi band members. He was a really large almost out of place in a Mariachi band type person. On their trip home the suitcase was officially named Big Ricky. He traveled so much with the two of them he was monogramed with his nickname, Big Rick.

At 95 it was time for Flossy McAnally to moved out of her home and in with her son. We bought Miss Flossy’s house for Jason and Travis to live in while they were in college. It was built in 1950 and came with all the furniture she must have bought the same year. It had a pink and black bathroom and there wasn’t a single closet big enough to hold Big Rick. For obvious reasons this house with so much character became the Flossy House. The term Flossy morphed in to a descriptive term for gaudy, classy, cool, or outrageous depending on what’s being described or just a fill-in for a lack of an adjective.

People have nicknames too. William is Bill, Robert becomes Bob, and Elizabeth can be Liz, Beth or Betsy. I knew a towering tall guy named Shorty and a very heavy man called Slim. No wonder English is considered the most challenging language to learn.

Nicknames meant to be funny many times are mean and hurtful. Just ask anyone who picked one up as a kid. The saying, “Sticks and stones ...” falls just short of being totally true and the effects can linger past grade school. Choose nicknames wisely, especially for kids. Some are best reserved for houses, cars and suitcases.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Remember learning to navigate the social world as a kid? Your parents pushed you to say thank you and please and excuse me at the appropriate times. You probably thought it was just part of what parents got to tell kids because they were the adults. Really they may have thought that too because that’s what their parents did. However, it was an introduction to public relations regardless of how accidental it might have been.

Leave It To Beaver’s brother Wally had a friend who acted like he knew what he was doing with public relations. “Good Evening, Mr. Cleaver. My but aren’t you looking lovely Mrs. Cleaver.” And on and on he would gush. When the guys went to hang out upstairs the charm ran out like hot water in the middle of a shower. Eddie Haskall made me nervous. The right thing done for the wrong reason doesn’t really count.

My friend Spike was like a walking one man PR department. He had developed a way of making anyone he talked with feel important, smart, talented and beautiful. His sincerity was never a question because Spike did the right thing for the right reason. That counts.

How much effort would it take to thank someone who in reality was just doing their job? When you meet someone can you try to remember their name? How much trouble would it be to smile and speak to people who aren’t in your inner circle? Is it possible to listen to someone like nothing else matters?

We get so inwardly focused inching along in our own lives we forget to consider how we could brighten the day for someone else. It takes 21 days to develop the habit of looking for an opportunity and 21 days to get out of our selfish ruts. It doesn’t take much to make someone feel like a rock star. Besides, your momma would be so proud of you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In the spring of 1939 it seemed inevitable Great Britain would be attacked by Nazi Germany. In an attempt to calm civilians, England’s Ministry of Information department designed a poster with an icon of the King’s crown and the slogan; Keep Calm and Carry On.

Throughout the war, the Royal Family handled themselves with typical British composure and everyone could sense their Keep Calm and Carry On attitude. King George VI and Queen Mary maintained official residence at Buckingham Palace during the war as a show of solidarity with Londoners. Winning would take a united effort and they were committed to lead by example.

Last year Jill and David lived in London and for my birthday they gave me a copy of the royal poster. I had it framed and it is over the fireplace where it’s hard to miss. Keep Calm and Carry On. Bottom line: if you want your world to be under control, you first have to be in control of yourself.

When facing trials, how do you usually respond? If you drop a plate on the floor loading the dishwasher what do you do? If milk is spilled at the dinner table, do all eyes turn on you to see how you’ll react? Does a friend or coworker delay telling you unpleasant news for fear of your response?

Most of us live as if we are on High Alert. No wonder we’re so stressed and worn out. The other day I watched a woman fling her arms and yell like her hair was on fire as she stormed out of the convenience store because her favorite tea was out of stock. It was amazing! Spilled milk, a shattered plate, losing a contract to a competitor, or tea out of stock are all exasperating, but no where close to a German invasion.

We all face challenging circumstances that are out of our control every day. What we do have control of is how we respond to them. Who runs your life … you or your emotions? For the general welfare of their country the King and Queen chose to hold their composure and remain calm in the face of war. For the benefit of family, friends and colleagues can’t we do the same?

Whatever you face today remember you have the opportunity to choose an unperturbed, cool-headed response or a Level Orange reaction. Save your energy and enjoy the day. Keep Calm and Carry On.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Do you ever wonder where all your grade school classmates are? With all the social networking at our fingertips hunting them down is barely a challenge. Reconnecting with the past is a combination of interesting and sometimes disturbing.

One of my first friends was Anne. She was a girl who had it all together, even in first grade. Her papers were always perfect, she made A’s in everything, she had the best handwriting in the class and she had a Pollyanna personality. The only thing I managed to do better than her was read more books. The prize for the most books read by the end of the year was a fabulous beige Dachshund autograph hound with a red collar and black pen. Everyone in the class signed it and Anne wrote, “To my friend” in her perfect handwriting. I couldn’t have been more proud.

Like everyone on the first day that year, I wore my new school shoes. They were red and I felt so pretty and smart in them. As all the kids were lining up in the hall to find their classroom the third grade teacher, who all the kids were afraid of, stopped right beside me and said as if she was making an announcement, “What is that horrible smell?”

Everyone turned around in unison just as I looked down to discover I had dog poop all over the bottom of my new red shoe. As if on cue, “eeewww” echoed down the hall. The mean teacher took me by the hand to the office. I felt like a leper of Biblical times as the kids backed up against the wall to make sure I didn’t touch them.

The principal looked at me with understanding eyes and took over when we reached the office. My shoe looked like it had just come out of the box when she took me back to the classroom. When I sat down at my desk next to Anne, she whispered, “It’s OK. I do stuff like that all the time.”

As hard as that was to believe, I wanted to. She never messed up, but because she was my friend she wanted me to understand people step in dog poop all the time. It was her way of saying we all mess up, maybe just not in front of a school full of people.

I’m amazed at how often I make a mess of things. I sometimes think if there was but one dog poop pile on a football field I was walking across I would somehow find a way to step in it. I’m guessing a lot of us feel that way. I want to be more like Anne and encourage my friends and let them know, “It’s OK. Everyone does stuff like that all the time.”

“But encourage one another daily...” Hebrews 3:13

Monday, February 8, 2010

When I was a kid we authorized do-overs when we played jacks. A do-over allowed a miss to be erased as if it never happened and a second chance was given. Before we started, a vote would decide if it was a three or two do-over day. Every once in a while, someone would say, “I dare you” for a no do-over day. Game on!

It was very important to strategically use a do-over. When a new friend would join our game we could tell how experienced of a jacks player she was by her do-overs usage action plan. We also allowed trading do-overs for turns so some days the negotiations on the front porch rivaled the floor of the stock exchange.

All of us are granted do-overs in everyday things. It’s like life practice. The more we do something the fewer times we are likely to need a do-over. The hard part is facing something we’ve messed up and then trying it again. Where it gets a little tricky is with our words.

My daughter-in-law, Alison, is a family counselor. In an interesting way she explains how powerful words are and how carefully we should use them. A client is given a new tube of toothpaste and told to squeeze it all out on to the table. Then Alison asks for it to be put back in to the tube. Clearly that can’t be done. “That’s the way it is with what we say. Once the words are out of our mouths, it’s impossible to put them back,” she then explains.

We can ask for forgiveness but too often the hurt has already been felt. Watching what we say, when we say it and how we say it should be something we are extremely conscious of. There aren’t really true do-overs with words because of the wounds that can be inflicted. Wounds heal, but often a scar is left behind.

I know I have said things and instantly wished I could inhale the words back in. If you’re honest, you have too. Since words can bless and encourage or sting and tear down, mentally filtering what we are about to say and how to say it is crucial.

I dare you ... it’s a no do-over day.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Some days are so strange I feel as if the grandkids of Candid Camera’s Alan Funt and Ashton Kutcher have combined forces. They are hiding ready to jump out at any moment, shove release forms in my face, admit they’ve been following me with hidden cameras claiming they are sure this is going to make for great footage. It’s like living out choreographed mishaps.

Honestly, I think there are times life does it’s very best to try my patience just to see how I’ll react. It may take a couple of frustrating circumstances before I finally hit myself on the forehead and recognize I’m being tested. Then the challenge is on. Who is going to come out on top; me or the exasperating debris real life throws?

Patience is a revered, coveted virtue. I don’t mean covet like 10th Commandment covet, just an extreme want. How lovely it would be to always smile and stay in control. Every morning I have the fullest intention of doing just that. But I have to get out of bed and face the world and that’s when things change. The problem with patience is you have to go through crazy aggravations to develop it. If everything was always smooth you would never know if you had any.

We were almost to the airport yesterday when we noticed a man right on our bumper. Jim was going the speed limit so when he honked we thought something might be wrong with our car. Suddenly the guy sped around us frantically waving his middle finger as if to say I REALLY MEAN THIS! Jim and I just looked at each other and laughed. I was glad to see he didn’t have a Jesus Is My Co-Pilot bumper sticker.

Ironically, he was in line behind me at the ticket counter and security check point where he had to wait again. Clearly his anger and impatience had nothing to do with Jim’s driving because he was short with everyone. I was tempted to tell him I was writing an article on impatience and ask him if he would be willing to let me interview him. I wondered if he was a disgruntled postal worker, so I decided to drop the idea of the pretend article.

So if your day gets a little dicey and you find yourself on the edge of a meltdown, remember patience has to be developed, face your trials head on with as much grace as you can, and there’s always the possibility that Ashton Kutcher or the Candid Camera crew could be hiding around the next corner.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

You know how you do things without really thinking past the surface? For instance, when the server at Applebee’s brings your salad do you really think about where the produce came from, how clean the kitchen is and if the cook has a cold. If we really considered all of that we’d never eat out. Until restaurants do something to make us think otherwise, we trust them.

The other day I was on a plane and I let my mind wander as I stared out the window. I found myself thinking about things that don’t normally cross my mind. How in the world does this thing fly. It makes no sense to me. We are 30,000 feet in the air. What if the pilot has a heart attack? What if both pilots have heart attacks at the same time and we are over shark infested waters? Did the flight attendant say the seat was a flotation device? Why don’t I listen to those announcements! Oh wait, I’m flying to Virginia not the Virgin Islands so the likelihood of crashing in shark infested waters is slim. Who is the pilot? Is he a nice guy? We tell our kids to not get in cars with strangers so why is it OK to let a person I’ve never even seen take me 30,000 feet in the air?

So I got a little carried away. But at some point I snapped out of it and realized I have to trust the airline and the pilots. In reality, we all do that on some level all the time. What if I lose my job? What happens if our savings runs out? What about my health insurance? What if I lose it and get cancer? What if my kids do something embarrassing? What will people think? Maybe I’m just a bad parent. Just like cockroaches, fear silently creeps in.

There are countless extra large question marks in our lives. I think they are there to keep us humble. Just think how cocky we all would be if we knew why things happen the way they do or what was coming next. Faith is hopeful trust. There are just some things we don’t know now and may never have the answers to.

If I can trust a pilot who doesn’t even know my name to take me safely where I need to go then why shouldn’t I be able to trust God who knows me intimately to take me safely where I’m going. Faith and fear won’t fit in your heart at the same time. They’re both too big. Faith gives you peace, fear gives you heart palpitations and a headache.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
-Hebrews 11:1

Friday, February 5, 2010

In high school I thought it was easier to hang out with the guys than the girls. Maybe because they were just more even keeled and emotionally the very same every day. With girls it was like living in an ongoing episode of Days Of Our Lives. It wore me out.

My kids think it’s funny I was a cheerleader. I remember wishing I could play football because it was so much less dramatic. I finally got my chance when the cheerleaders and drill team had a flag football game to raise money for charity. Guess what? The drama left the sidelines and simply moved onto the field. After the game the varsity football coach told me he’d give anything if I was a boy. I suppose that was meant to be a compliment.

I think because women are plugged in to so many things at once and process in multiple arenas at the same time we get to the point of circuit overload. There’s where the drama starts. Men are very compartmentalized. When they are at work they are at work. When they are at home they are at home. When they are playing golf, they are playing golf.

I like that. It’s easy to follow but unrealistic for me. Face it, that's not how a woman's brain operates. My friend Fran laughs about the first business proposal she made to an all male board of directors. As she was presenting she said these thoughts fluttered across her mind: How’s my son doing on his spelling test? Did my daughter make up with her friend on the playground? Did I pack the right sandwich in the right lunch box and why on earth did I wear a white suit this time of the month? The men were at work so they were at work thinking about work.

My thoughts slosh around like a goldfish in a take home baggie. Much of the time I don’t know which direction they’re going next. More than likely in high school I thought if I would hang out with the guys I would learn how they compartmentalize like they do. I didn’t.

What I have figured out is this; neither way of thinking is better, just different. We are meant to balance each other. If we will slow down long enough, we can gain a different perspective. Women can learn from men; life really is simpler taking one compartment at a time. Men can learn from women; a little drama keeps it interesting.

“...let us encourage one another...” -Hebrews 10:25

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Over the years I spent a chunk of time with kids in stadiums and gyms, on fields, and at pools, most of the time, just sitting. Jason was a swimmer. Parents of swimmers who are sprinters follow their kids all over the country to sit for two days or more to watch at race that’s over in 20 seconds. Something is just not right about that.

One year Jason had an after school schedule conflict so four mornings a week he worked out with the older kids before school. He wasn’t driving yet so I joined several other parents in the bleachers who spent the hour and a half drinking coffee, reading newspapers, or sleeping.

The coach decided to offer a senior competitive program and opened up one workout lane for interested parents. Senior didn’t mean you had to be senior citizen discount age to participate, you just had to be out of school. I was tired of sitting, so I signed up. I’ve never worked so hard in my life.

With my family’s encouragement I entered my first swim meet at 34. I had been to countless swim meets, but I’d never competed in one. I climbed on the blocks and while waiting for the start I thought I was going to hyperventilate and pass out. I don’t remember much about the race except my arms feeling like lead. I won my heat and you would have thought I had won an Olympic trial. What a sense of accomplishment!

I learned an interesting lesson competing in the senior swim program. Watching a swim meet and swimming in a swim meet are two entirely different things. Even though it may look easy, until you are in the water you have no idea what it’s like.

We are so quick to make judgements about people and circumstances. Most of the time we have no clue what it’s like to be in the middle of things we analyze from the sidelines. Just like armchair quarterbacks go on and on about the way things should have been done in a ball game we scrutinize people and situations.

So next time we’re tempted, instead of making a hasty assumption, let’s jump in and swim a while first.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The average person spends 30% of their life sleeping. Many times I feel like I spend the rest of my life waiting ... on something. When I Googled I found the average person waits between 45 and 62 minutes a day. This is one area where I’m absolutely sure I’m above average. We wait at traffic lights, the doctor’s office, the Department of Motor Vehicles, in the pick up lane at school, in the lines at the bank and the post office, in airports, in the check out line and to be seated at restaurants.

My friend Darnell told me years ago she kept a book in her purse for waiting time. Now we can text or check email or balance bank accounts while we wait. Some days get so busy, waiting almost becomes a welcomed break. A break or not, the majority of us are not good waiters.

We’re impatient and admit or not, we don’t want to wait on anything. Because our lives have become so drive-through and microwave-instant when we do have to wait it’s almost shocking to our systems.

There are some things that take more than the average 45 to 62 minute bite out of our days. We have to wait on babies to be born, bodies to heal, broken hearts to mend, love to grow and children to grow up.

Our biggest test is not wishing the time away during the wait. This is especially challenging while raising kids. We’re so tempted to say, “I can’t wait until she is potty trained. I can’t wait until he can drive. I can’t wait until they graduate.” But, you can and you do. Then they’re gone.

One thing we can never have again is today. Enjoy it, take advantage of it, make the most of it. When you have to wait, and you will because of the law of averages, don’t wish away your time. Text someone you love them, make a Walmart list or clean out your purse.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It seems we Americans observe a lot of holidays and in our town we celebrate with parades. The whole community comes out to cheer, wave and catch up with people they haven’t seen since last year’s parade. The Christmas parade is famous for drawing thousands of people from surrounding states the first Sunday of December every year. Streets are blocked off and diehards begin saving their spots with blankets and lawn chairs on Saturday night. Everyone lines up along the route in freezing temperatures laughing and visiting as if they were on the lake in the middle of July. There’s something about tradition that brings the crazy out in people. Proof is in the Polar Bear plunge. I think that’s midwinter boredom out of control.

We celebrate Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Boss’ Day, Secretary’s Day, President’s Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and the list goes on and on. Our kids even thought pay day was somewhere on that list.

Today is Ground Hog’s Day. We smile in Missouri, but in Pennsylvania it’s serious business. In Punxsutawney, on Gobbler’s Nob, Phil, the official ground hog is disturbed from hibernation to determine if winter is over or if we’ll have to endure six more weeks. If he doesn’t see his shadow warmer weather is on the away. If he does see his shadow we’re sunk. That’s a huge responsibility for a rodent.

There are ceremonies, banquets, parties, dances and even pre and post Ground Hog Day festivities in observance of a tradition that began in the late 1800s. In 1993 the movie Ground Hog Day opened staring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Bill Murray’s character, Phil, an arrogant weather reporter was assigned to cover the Ground Hog Day activities on Gobblers Nob. Because a snow storm hit the area and closed the roads the TV crew had to stay in the local bed and breakfast an extra night.

The next morning Phil woke up to Ground Hog Day again. He magically got stuck in February 2nd and it was relived and relived and relived. It was as if he was given chance after change to do it right. At first he fought it, but realized the best thing was to go with it and learn from it. By the end of the movie Phil had transformed into a wonderful kind of a guy.

We really are given the same kind of opportunity every day. Obviously not reliving the exact day, but we are given endless chances to get it right. Chuck Swindoll tells the story of his grandfather teaching him to drive: When he asked me to pull the car into the garage I misjudged the distance and smashed into the doorway. My granddad just smiled and said, “Back it up and try again”.

What a great lessons we can learn from Phil and Chuck's granddad. When we smash things up, don't fight it, go with it and learn from it, and when necessary back it up and try again.

Happy Ground Hog Day!

Monday, February 1, 2010

If ever there comes a time in my life when I get bored, I will certainly go to the grocery store. It’s one of the most entertaining places because it’s full of people, all kinds of people. For me the most interesting place to grocery shop is the Walmart Super Center. I used to feel so guilty shopping for groceries there. Our friend who owned the local grocery sold to a large chain so now I don’t feel like I’m cheating on our friendship if I go to the Super Center.

At any grocery store people are usually either in a hurry to pick up a few things or working on a long list. I have learned not to dare think it’s possible to dash in and not see anyone you know. It just won’t happen so I always try to at least brush my hair before I go in.

When I was about two weeks from giving birth to Jill, I took three year old Travis for a dash-in trip to K Mart for a loaf of bread. He was standing right beside me but when I looked down he was gone. At the same time panic grabbed my throat, a voice came over the speaker system, “Will Suzette please come to the customer service desk. Travis says you are lost.”

When I got to the service counter, which was only 20 feet away from the bread display, the clerk bragged how well Travis had given his information. “After seeing you, I now understand why he said, ‘Just like a clown,’ when we asked him what you looked like,” she laughed.

Obviously tact was not a section of the employee training handbook. Relieved to have Travis propped on my very large belly and trying to let the comment slide, I headed to the door with my bread trying to figure out how so many people I knew could be in K Mart at the same time. Naturally, they all had come to the service desk to make sure I had found the child I’d lost. I’m certain they were silently questioning my ability to take care of a third one.

Oh the experiences you have pushing a shopping cart. You learn more than you can in a library full of books. I once met a girl who became a lifelong friend by the asparagus in the produce department. I received some of the wisest counsel ever in the pasta aisle between the rigatoni and spaghetti. I learned an extremely valuable life lesson from the dairy case. And on the heels of experiencing a split second of panic, I learned my son thought I looked like Bozo on the Wonder Bread package ... even with brushed hair.