Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I was sitting at a red light when I felt vibrations in the middle of my chest. Maybe it was the Mexican food I had for lunch. Then I remembered I had eaten at Subway.

When an older, punked out, silver sports car rolled up next to me I was relieved to know it wasn’t food or stress. Someone was sharing music with the base cranked as far as it would go. I honestly think this generation will be a boost to the hearing aid industry when they hit retirement.

The guy behind the wheel, who had probably been driving just a couple of a years, had a full-on pig snout ring in his nose. A pink headband was holding a shampoo-commercial-worthy head of curly hair down in his eyes. There were about 27 bracelets on his left arm and he had on a T-shirt that obviously had been rescued from a paper shredder. He must have sensed I was watching him because he looked right at me and smiled. The snout ring kind of puckered out. I grinned back knowing he was aware I had been staring. When the light turned green, he waved as he pulled off and upped the volume one more notch.

I wondered what his story was. Everyone has one and I bet his is interesting. Obviously charming, he’s headed somewhere in life. My shredded T-shirt friend might very well be on his way to be the founder and CEO of the next Google-type company. You never know.

We all should be on our way to something, always learning, continually improving. If not, we stagnate like scum covered cattle ponds. When my dad retired from his 40 year dental practice he took an H&R Block class so he could help others with their taxes. Jason convinced him at 78 he needed to entered the high tech world with a computer. He did. At 85 he took a water aerobics class. I think mostly to check out the ladies.

What are you doing? You have so much to offer. Don’t let it be wasted. What are you learning? Try something new and challenging. Where are you headed? No matter what season of life you are in, take off and go. Even if it’s in an old sports car ... maybe without the snout ring.

“Today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” -Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I had a rude awakening last week. I think I’ve been in denial for most of my life, but I have finally come to grips with the fact I am a hopeless daydreamer. They say (whoever “they” would be), admitting you have a problem is half the battle. I suppose there are worse things to admit to.

I’ve learned daydreaming, even though it has the power to sidetrack and slow things down, is where most creativity floats to the surface and becomes an idea. I’m fairly certain Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Sam Walton, and Bill Gates were daydreamers. Albert was so smart and creative I’m thinking he might also have had some late-night help from a few of the drugs he tested on rats. Just a thought.

I sat down at the computer to write and my mind wandered a rabbit trail more confusing than Alice in her wonderland. I had my coffee, my music, and was ready to roll ... I thought. “Wonder if it’s going to be warmer today? I’ll check the weather. I bet the book I ordered was shipped yesterday. I can’t wait to read it. Who am I kidding? I have four going right now. I really only read cover to cover on vacation. Jim Brawner and I really need a vacation. I bet there are some good travel deals in the fall. I’ll look.”

Then I noticed a jogger outside. “I really need to walk today. I’ll check the temp again to see if it’ll be warm enough by 2:00. I’m getting flat spots on my rear from sitting at this computer so much. I need to move more.” I got up and did 20 squats and sat down again.

“There are so many wrinkle creams advertised online. They must be selling if the companies keep buying online ad space. Maybe I should check into a little makeover work. Maybe I should call a friend who’s had a little tune up and see if she thinks it was worth it. Wonder if the flat spots can be fixed? No, if I’m even considering that amount of money, I’d much rather go on vacation”

Arrrr! That’s when I looked at the page and realized all I had written in 20 minutes was, “The other day I.” Then I began to worry I had an illness that prevented me from focusing. A feeling of failure started to creep in when suddenly three thoughts hit me so fast I had to grab a pencil.

That’s when I considered planned creative time, but that’s like an oxymoron. Can you really do that? So I’ll just go with it and know I might just be someone who takes the long, scenic route to a good idea.

Thoughts are powerful and obviously can wander off faster than a two-year-old. A perfectly good day can end up a train wreck just by what we think. Since I am a newly admitted daydreamer, my goal now is to keep my thinking away from the negative and run with the positive.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I’ve never really been one to want autographs or a chance to shake hands with someone famous. If the highly unlikely does happen and you get to meet that type person, then what? I guess you have the bragging rights that you met them, but that’s where the relationship ends. They won’t be calling you later to meet at Starbucks to catch up over a cappuccino.

It’s fascinating how we put those in the spotlight on a stand like a piece of fine artwork, almost like they really aren’t in the same category of humanness as the rest of us. Some of them take it in stride and live as normally as possible. The other half aren’t so nice. Pressure affects people differently.

Jim worked his way though college playing football at the University of Arkansas. We once figured out the value of his college education broken down into hourly wage. It was equal to sweat shop pay in a third world country. Dollar wise his time would have been spent better flipping burgers and his achy body parts would have probably aged slower. But, he wouldn’t have been a Hog.

In Arkansas, Razorback football players are celebrity-like. Kids, especially, swarm the team after practices and games. They might not even know the player’s name, but because he wears a jersey with a hog on it, the coolness factor is upped.

One afternoon after a long, hot practice Jim was leaving the field when a man in jeans and a tee shirt stopped him to ask some questions about the team and what it was like to play Razorback football. Jim assumed he was an off duty reporter. While they were talking, trucks, dollies and lifts were moving all kinds of sound equipment and cars were already filling up the stadium parking lot.

After about five minutes of football conversation, over the noise Jim said, “ All this is because there’s a Neil Diamond concert in the arena tonight. I think his people were not happy they had to wait until the football team finished workout before they could finalize their set up. Man, the traffic is going to be a mess with the crowds and the parking lot construction and it’s supposed to start raining. I wouldn’t pay a plug nickel to fight all that to see the concert,” Jim said honestly.

The man in the tee shirt nodded his head in agreement and smiled. Another man approached them who Jim thought probably had football questions too. Apologizing for interrupting he turned to the assumed off duty reporter and asked, “Mr. Diamond, where would you like...”

Jim didn’t even hear the rest of the question. To turn and run to the locker room would have been too obvious, so he dropped his head, smiled, and said, “I need to reword my last sentence. I wouldn’t pay a plug nickel to fight all that to see ANY concert.”

He quickly scribbled a mental memo ... careful, you never know who might be striking up a conversation with you. Mr. Diamond grinned, shook Jim’s hand, saying he knew what he had meant and sure had enjoyed the visit. And, no, he didn’t call later to see if Jim was free for coffee.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I drove through a slice of rural southwest Missouri, the whole state of Arkansas and down through a hunk of Texas yesterday, by myself. As I rolled through travel-magazine-like countryside in northwest Arkansas to the center of the state to see my Dad, I remembered why I’m so comfortable in small towns. There is no traffic, there are no crowds and between Harrison and Clinton there isn’t even a Walmart. No Walmart is a little scary.

But it’s quiet and slower paced and business real estate is multifunctional. The tax accountant shares office space with the feed store and the gas stations all have a pass through door to a restaurant and a clothing store of sorts. Everyone knows everyone. I almost feel like an intruder every time I go inside to pay for gas or buy a Dr. Pepper on that stretch of highway.

I saw a Nona’s Beauty shop at the side entrance of a home. It was next door to Big Belly Bar-B-Q. I think Nona and the cook at Big Belly’s must be married. It all seems so simple and easy to live right where you work. No commute time. No gas consumption. Less pollution. However, I don’t think Nona and the big guy worry about their carbon footprint.

I left Conway after visiting with Dad and took off toward Little Rock hoping the Saturday afternoon traffic would be thin. It was. Everything flattened out south of Benton. It’s as if I veered right and just keep driving on Interstate 30, forever. I stopped in Texarkana because my legs were going numb, the gas tank was almost empty, I was hungry and needed a bathroom. That’s one-stop multitasking at it’s best.

I had to pick Jim up at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport. Lamaze breathing came in handy the closer I got to the metroplex. I don’t do five lanes of traffic at 70mph with grace. I had map quested the trip and really there were only two stay-to-the- lefts, but I still had a death grip on the steering wheel as if it would help me drive better. Other drivers would surely see my out of state license and cut me some slack ... not so much. At that point I wished I had programmed Droid to GPS me there. At least someone would have been in the car for encouragement.

Of course I took the wrong arrival gate exit at an airport the size of a small country, but I ended up in the vicinity of Jim. I finally found him. Well, he actually found me. With my road trip buddy taking over the driving, I brought my shoulders down from my ears, and went back to normal breathing.

I don’t know... If I had to choose between Dallas and small town Arkansas, maybe living without a Walmart is doable.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Yesterday morning I woke up with a migraine. Unless you’ve experienced one you might say something like, “Take a couple of Tylenol and get over it.” Trust me, this is something the Go-To-Lowe’s-And-Build-A-Bridge thing won’t work on. (Check March 1st post.)

If you don’t know much about migraine headaches, Google it. Maybe I’ll get a, “Oh, man, that stinks.” The scary thing is they sneak attack and tend to run in families. All three of my kids get slammed by them too.

Jim was out of town so, keeping-it-together with the nausea, I got out of bed, took some medicine, found an icepack, and finalized the blog. Then I went back to bed and, like a drunk, slept it off.

Three hours later the phone woke me up. It was my friend Debbie. I haven’t talked to her in a couple of days and she was calling just to see how things were going. I smiled. She always calls at the right time. I updated her on my three very sick family members and all the other incidentals, including my headache. We just laughed. It’s the best thing to do.

We talked about our elevated stress levels and how things were supposed to slow down and wondered when on earth that's going to happen. She said, “Suz, may I share something with you?”


“When I woke up the other day and I was just being quiet thinking, I had a mental image of a beach, you know, that part right by the water. I was thinking about sandcastles and how they’re built. We construct them with moats and turrets and may even put a little flag on top of one of the towers. Then, when the tide comes in, it only takes a couple of good waves to wash the whole castle away,” she explained in detail.

“Oh yeah.” I was following her.

“Well, here's what I think: We build sandcastles out of stress, but God’s grace will wash it away if we stand close enough to the shore line. Don’t ask me where that came from because I don’t even like the ocean. Big things swim there,” she said seriously.

I thought that was fabulous! We laughed some more and I hung up the phone promising I’d stick a little closer to the shore line.

I got up, pushing back the migraine hangover; the worst part is over, but there’s still a fog. Since stress is a major influencer of migraines, I finally admitted to myself I had let it get the best of me. Vowing to become more aware, I turned on a hot shower. When I got in with my glasses on, I realized I might need to inch even closer to that shore line than I originally thought.

“Cast all you anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Friday, March 26, 2010

General George Patton once gave some wise advice concerning war; “Never go in to battle unless you have something to gain from winning.” I would imagine he had seen some extremely ugly fighting and came to realize insignificant battles are pointless. If you’re going toe-to-toe it better be for good reason. The General’s philosophy works without guns too.

I got a question from a home where constant battling is evidently a problem: “We are always at odd with our kids. They think we are too strict. We are pretty firm and say no to a lot because there is so much they can get in trouble with. How do you decide what to say no to?”

My best answer would be the George Patton quote. If you know what is worth standing up for before things heat up, you can stay focused and calm. Kids have a magical way of talking circles around parents. It starts at two-years-old and if left unchecked parents will be wandering in a confused state of edginess by the time the kids hit puberty. The Army has a plan, so should parents.

Jim and I had a grid of sorts we ran issues through before battle lines were drawn. If something was illegal, immoral, or dangerous, it was worth potential conflict. If something fell outside those guidelines, we let it slide. Kids are told no so much and for good reason most of the time. Think about why no is the answer before you give it.

Let the kids help establish the boundaries, obviously not in the heat of the moment, but maybe at a family meeting over dinner. They might be more conservative than you in some situations. I think many parents hold such tight reigns because they eeeked through high school just barely staying out of jail, or not.

If your son has on unlaced tennis shoes and his hair looks like it got caught in the ceiling fan and your daughter is wearing three different patterns and a multi-colored hair band when you get in the car to go out for a family meeting dinner, just breathe. Is it really worth the battle? Simply smile and say “Hi” if people stare at the Cracker Barrel. Who’s more important anyway ... your kids or people you don’t know and more than likely will never see again. The General would definitely say the kids.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Unlike today, when pregnancy is confirmed about 15 minutes after conception and the boy or girl mystery is revealed halfway through the journey, I found out if I had a new son or daughter when each of my kids made their debut.

We had Jason and Travis and then were surprised by a third pregnancy. I just assumed I would have another boy. I was comfortable with boys. I had all the boy clothes and toys, so in my mind I was having a boy. Jim Brawner just knew we were having a girl and never once wavered on his conviction. When Jill was born he smiled that I-told-you-so smile. I lovingly smiled back thinking, “Buddy you have no idea what you’re in for.”

One of the things he had to learn was how to shop. For Jill shopping is a sport. Jim understands competition so they shop well together. For me, one of the benefits of a daughter is not only having a shopping partner, but she tries to keep me from wading off in to the deep end of the fashion pool. “No Mom, that won’t work. Here, try this. You look pale, add more blush. Not those shoes,” and on and on it goes. I listen carefully knowing she's just trying to keep me somewhere between Short Shorts and Muu Muus.

This all started when she was about eight. We were swimsuit shopping. Every woman who has given birth multiple times would rather have a root canal than swimsuit shop, unless you're Kate Gosselin or Angelina Jolie. I picked up a two piece suit to see what Jill would say. I came out of my little cubby and asked, “What do you think?” praying no one else would walk in the dressing room. Trying to be as gentle and politically correct as possible, she answered, “Mom, I don’t think that's for your age.” My fashion sense has concerned her ever since.

Jill lives over 1,000 miles away now, so I am on my own. I think it makes her fidget when I tell her I’m going shopping. I bought some new jeans not long ago, Not Your Daughter’s Jeans. I know she’ll be proud of me because they were 75% off the retail price. That’s a score for sure. When one of the tags read, “NYDJ cannot be held responsible for any positive consequences that may arise due to your fabulous appearance when wearing these jeans,” I knew I had to try them.

I wore the jeans for the first time yesterday. I think a second sentence should be added to the disclaimer: “Results may very customer to customer.” However, just knowing I was wearing something age appropriate, I picked out by myself, did boost my confidence. The brand name alone should calm Jill down.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I knew it was coming the minute I heard, “Suz, I have to get a new phone. Mine has reached retirement age.” Jim stays about 12 months ahead of me in phone years. It took me until recently to finally realize phones have a lifespan of a butterfly.

In reality his phone situation shouldn’t affect me, but it always does. It seems the phone companies double the price and offer a buy-one-get-one so you feel like you’re getting a sizzling deal. How can you pass it up? Last year I paid a penny for my phone when Jim’s old one went berserk and started chanting and spinning.

I was just getting comfortable with Blackberry. Granted, I had only learned a fraction of what he was capable of, but I could navigate what I needed. When the Verizon guy transferred all my stored information to the new phone, it was kind of like breaking up with someone I’d dated for a while. Now I have to get to know Droid. He’s really complex and challenging. I guess it’s like any relationship, it takes time and work.

In the middle of the basic instructions, which to me sounded like the blueprint for a jet engine, I said, “Oh I’m sure I can find what I need to know in the instruction book if I don’t catch it all now.”

All I got was a consoling grin and, “Well, Ma’am, it’s more of a pamphlet since most things are really basic knowledge.” Of course they are.

I have now figured out how to call, text and take pictures which is all I really wanted. It was very concerning when I clicked on the maps application and a red dot showed up like the “You Are Here” direction kiosk at the mall. I felt like the Verizon guy’s network of people might really be following me, ducking in behind trees and signs when I turned around.

The other day it surprised me when Droid started talking to me in the car. I was so impressed the GPS system was activating all by itself. But when I turned down the radio to listen to the commands, he started screaming Mom, Mom, MOM! I finally realized it wasn’t the GPS lady giving me directions, it was Jill. Who knows how that happened or how long she had been listening to me sing in the car.

Eventually I’ll understand Droid, more than likely, about the time Jim needs a new phone. Meanwhile, I’m bumbling along trying to figure out what I’m doing. Who am I trying to fool? I do that without a phone.

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance-”
Proverbs 1:5

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I learned more at sleepovers than I ever did sitting in class in junior high. That was obvious when the first grade cards came out. I had gone to a private grade school so 7th grade was my first exposure to the real, unprotected world. I thought it was fabulous.

One Friday night in the middle of the fall I was invited to a bunking party. A dozen giggling girls prank called the cute boys we would never have the courage talk to at school while downing enough food to supply the Wild Bill Cody’s snack shop. We talked hours about what seemed important, trying to figure out who we were. None of us really know who we are at 13. We may think we do, but then the next day or the next hour or whenever hormones drop or surge, it changes.

About midnight someone pulled out a package of cigarettes she had taken from her mother’s purse. I thought she was so daring and cool and stupid. What was she thinking? One by one my friends lit up. Obviously this was not their first smoke.

What harm was there in having just one? Coughing and gagging I crushed out the cigarette just in time to make it to the pink toilet. A first cigarette after too much junk food was a disastrous combo. I was so not daring and cool.

That’s all it took. My smoking days were over. I learned a lot that night about trust, honesty, prank calls and cigarettes, but mostly cigarettes. My mom started smoking out of boredom at 27 when dad was in dental school studying most nights. My brother tried smoking in junior high too, but he kept on smoking. I think my dad took up cigarettes just after he started walking.

Mom died with emphysema 10 years ago. My brother died from a sudden heart attack two years ago. Even though he gave up cigarettes 35 years ago, last week Dad was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Smoking is taking out my childhood family one by one.

Sometimes a little embarrassment teaches a powerful lesson and for that I’m grateful. Maybe some of the most important things aren’t learned in the classroom after all.

Monday, March 22, 2010

One Monday night in October several years ago I spoke for a women’s church banquet in a small community. It was a traditional annual outreach event that crossed all denominational lines. The steering committee plans a year in advance so no detail was left unattended. The decorated fellowship hall in the basement of the older church was warm and welcoming decorated with fall leaves, acorns, and candles. Every once in a while I caught a whiff of Frito Pie, most likely served at youth group the night before.

Two men were rolling up the basketball goals and the finishing touches were being added to the tables when I got there. The women’s ministry director showed me to a seat at one of the round tables by the stage. She made sure I had everything I needed before excusing herself to greet and fill out name tags.

The theme for the evening was “Skeletons In The Closet”. The committee asked if I would address leaving the junk of the past behind and moving on. Putting that together had been challenging. As I sat down to go over the notes my stomach felt like a snow globe turned upside down. This was baffling. I love what I do and don’t normally battle nerves. I haven’t been that nervous since a high school debate tournament.

As I sorted things out I realized why the near panic attack. So many people have kicked drug addictions, lived through multiple divorces, survived abuse and overcome the guilt of abortions. Who am I to tell 200 women how to leave the past behind? I don’t have a dramatic come-to-Jesus story and I have wonderful memories of the past. The only thing I have survived is everyday life. Besides my comfort zone is to encourage people and make them laugh. There’s nothing funny about closet skeletons.

As I walked to the podium, still praying it would all come together, I noticed a large woman in a suite and a lot of jewelry sitting about 10 feet from the stage. She flashed the most comforting grin when I made eye contact with her. “OK, I can do this,” I firmly said to myself. Evidently she thinks I can.

For the next 45 minutes the lady in the suite and jewelry laughed loudly sprinkling in “that’s right” and “amen”. She not only encouraged me, she energized the entire room. After I left the stage I went to the table to thank my cheerleader, but she was gone. I asked several women if they knew her. No one did. When I asked the women’s ministry director she said, “I wondered who that woman was, too. I have been here for 25 years and I know just about everyone in this community. But, I’ve never seen her before and she didn’t have a name tag. She was a joy and obviously had a wonderful time.”

I never found out who the woman was or where she came from but for 45 minutes she was my angel of encouragement. You’d have a hard time convincing me otherwise. In the fellowship hall of a church in a remote community I was once again reminded ... you never know when all someone may need is a smile and a kind word.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Considering birth order, varying ages, the melting pot of personalities, and male and female differences, it’s a small miracle there’s ever a calm moment in any home. It mostly happens when everyone’s asleep.

I got a question the other day about keeping the peace. I wish I had a standard-issue answer. But, like anything concerning family and kids, each situation is different and there are numerous factors that are in play. I can offer suggestions and tell you what worked and didn’t work for us. We made it through in one piece and are still standing so I suppose that counts for some level of success.

I would like to tell you our house was pleasant and lovely and our children didn’t fuss and argue. The truth is, it got so crazy sometimes I felt it might be best to go to my room, lock the door, and call the National Guard. But then, Jim Brawner would come home. He’s kind of like the National Guard.

About halfway through every family vacation I seriously questioned my ability to make rational decisions about traveling with three children. The brochures seemed to perpetually trick me into trying again.

One spring break we flew in to Seattle to drive over to Canada for a four days of skiing. I must be a slow learner or my memory blocked out the pain of skiing with kids. It’s like giving birth. I forgot how painful it was so I did it again and then again.

When we finally recovered all of our luggage, we trekked over to the rental car area. Did we ever consider it was NCAA basketball tournament week in Seattle when we planned the trip? We just booked a standard size car thinking we would upgrade at the counter. It didn’t happen.

After 20 or so minutes of Jim trying to fit everything for the five of us in a midsize car the natives’ restlessness began to get out of hand; “She won’t stop talking. Get away from me! He’s breathing on me. I need my three feet of personal space. Owww.”

Suddenly Jim raised up out of the car and in a loud, very firm voice said, “All right. All three of you come here and stand by the car.” The parking garage was very crowded and several people turned around. I instantly got a knot in my stomach. You know people can call the authorities. Jim started on a monologue of how disappointed he was they couldn’t get along and how fortunate they were to be on this trip and then added a bit about the starving children in the world for emphasis.

By this time people had put down their suitcases to watch what was unfolding. Then he said, “Now, I want the three of you to hug until I get this car loaded.”

“Daaad, Nooo!”

“Don’t argue! HUG,” he said and went back to packing. So they did. Within 15 seconds the group huggers were laughing so hard they could barely breathe. So was everyone watching the saga. I finally quit holding my breath.

It’s universal; siblings are going to stir it up. But, at the end of the day, they would take a bullet for each other. Many times minor skirmishes are best left to the kids to work out themselves. When you do have to step in, be consistent, it helps to be creative, and occasionally run trick plays

Saturday, March 20, 2010

When I was a little girl, watching Superman with my brother topped the list of my favorite things. He was so cool and sly when he changed from Clark Kent into the super hero. I seriously worried someone might walk in the bathroom or broom closet when he was taking off his reporter suit. What even concerned me more was the bad guys would know his one weakness ... kryptonite. Why did I count the days to watch something that made me so nervous?

The one thing that scared Superman was kryptonite. It would cause him to loose all his super powers. The criminals seemed to always come up with a big kryptonite chunk in the middle of a daring rescue and Superman was rendered helpless. Somehow Lois Lane or the intern Jimmy managed to show up and get rid of the kryptonite. I always thought they secretly knew he was really Clark Kent but didn’t want to spoil it for everyone else; kind of like older siblings not spilling the beans about Santa Claus.

The bottom line; even Superman is afraid of something. We all have fears, doubts and worries. The challenge is how to handle them. I listened to a conference call, town meeting held by Congressman Roy Blundt a few years ago. He was answering citizens’ questions. One woman called in and asked, “Mr. Blundt, I want to know if we should be more afraid of the Bird Flu or the terrorists?” At first I thought she was kidding, but she was serious.

He gave a very calming, politically correct answer about our diligent Centers for Disease Control and the heightened national security which seemed to satisfy her. I was so tempted to call in and suggest she be scared on Monday, Wednesday and Friday about Bird Flu and on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday worry about the terrorists. Take a break on Sunday. I chickened out.

My nine-month-old grandson, Smith, had to undergo surgery the other day on one of his “man-parts”. All decked out in the holding area outside the operating room he looked like he was dressed up to be a super hero. He was very brave. He didn’t look too particularly afraid or worried. He left that up to his Mom and Dad.

Did you know that less than six percent of what we are afraid of and worry about ever happens? That is a 94% chance of it not happening. Clark Kent never got caught and I bet the woman on the phone never got Bird Flu. We would be better off if we considered the odds. Besides fear and worry use up a lot of valuable energy.

So take note from Smith: be brave, enjoy the day, and leave the worry to someone else.

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you...” Psalm 55:22

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mistakes. We all make them. No one’s immune and it’s not possible to outgrow them. I looked up the definition and here’s what I found: error, fault, blunder, miscalculation, faux pas, oversight. No where did I find the term “on purpose.” However, when someone makes a mistake, big or small, we can be guilty of accusing them as if it had been a planned thing. Mistake falls into the same category as accident. It’s not intentional.

A man and his uncle headed west during the gold-rush hoping to fulfill their dreams. They staked a claim and went to work with a pick and shovel. After several weeks of sweat and digging they hit gold. Hiding the discovery, they traveled back to the East coast to raise money for machinery.

The first load of gold proved to be some of the best in Colorado. However, their hopes for fortune evaporated as the vein of gold seemed to just disappear. They drilled and drilled with no luck.

Finally giving up, they sold their equipment to a junk man for pennies on the dollar and went back home. The junk man hired the services of a mining engineer who discovered the reason the dig failed was the young man and his uncle weren’t familiar with fault lines. They had literally stopped drilling three feet from a vein of gold the junk man eventually made millions of dollars from. Big mistake!

Years ago my mom told me the first time you make a mistake it counts as an honest mistake. You just goofed. If you make the very same mistake again, you can call it a dumb mistake. The purpose for mistakes is so we can learn. If you make the same mistake twice, obviously you didn’t use the first time for instruction. She said also to be alert to learn from other’s mistakes. It’ll save you some trouble and pain.

The young man who stopped drilling too soon took the valuable, though harsh, lesson he learned in the mining industry to go on to become one of the most successful insurance salesmen in the country. He learned from his blunder. I wonder if he would have moved on to greatness if he hadn’t make the mistake digging for gold.

The next time you miscalculate and end up in a mess; don’t kick yourself too much. Get up, learn from your mistake. Don’t stop three feet from the gold again.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Watching life unfold is like sitting in a movie theater wondering what quirky turn the script will take next. My first glimpse of how life rolls from one unexpected thing to the next was in college. A longtime boyfriend and I broke up on Monday and I met the love of my life on a blind date on Saturday. There’s no one I’d rather navigate with, through the unpredictable, than Jim Brawner. He makes me laugh even in the middle of stuff that bogs me down.

Life’s twists and turns can be exciting, disappointing, happy, sad, scary, or stunning. We never know what the next “and suddenly” will bring. I’ve learned the best bet is to strap in, hang on, and push forward with the faith God doesn’t make mistakes. Besides it would be so very boring to know what was going to happen next. That’s the reason, most of the time, it’s not fun watching a movie with anyone who has already seen it. They tend to blurt things out and spoil the enjoyment of the plot coming together.

I was listening to a CD the other day when I was driving back home from a couple of days with my sick Dad. The speaker was one of those crazy, obsessive ultra marathon runners. He had done a couple of 100 mile runs. He said his first goal was to finish in under 24 hours. Unbelievable! My goal would be to not die.

While he was training he interviewed several people who had done this type of run. “One simple piece of advice got me to the finish line,” he explained. “All along the 100 mile route there are aid stations set up for the runners to get replenished with food and water and even medical help if they need it. There are also plenty of people to cheer the runners on. I was told to ask, as I was leaving the aid station, how far it was to the next station. The answer was usually five miles. I would say to myself, ‘I can go five miles,’ and then take off. I made the entire 100 miles in five mile increments because my target was the next aid station.”

What great advice. Really that’s a powerful mindset to keep anytime the unexpected takes us through some grueling stretches. The whole route may be overwhelming, but broken down in to small segments, it’s doable. Stop, refuel, be encouraged, take a deep breath and go only five miles to the next aid station.

“We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Have you ever stopped to think about why you do some of the things you do? A husband asked his wife why she always cut off the perfectly good ends of the roast before she put it in the oven. “I don’t know. It’s the way Mom cooks a roast. I’ll ask her,” she said, wondering if it had something to do with the moisture content of the meat.

She called her mom and asked why she cut the ends off of the roast. Her mom said, “I don’t know. My mom always cooks roast that way. It’s so good, I just cook it the same way. I’ll ask her.”

When the mom called her mother and asked if cutting the ends off the roast had something to do with the flavor, she laughed and said, “Heavens no! I just don’t have a pan big enough to hold the roast so I just take off the ends so it’ll fit.”

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. Like cutting off the ends of a roast, have you ever wondered why all the hoopla? I figured Patrick had done something stellar to have a whole day named after him. Not really. At 16 he was captured and served as a slave in Ireland for six years before he escaped and returned to his family in Britain. He later returned to Ireland to become a bishop and several centuries after he died became revered as a patron saint. I did find out he used a 3 leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity and that’s why it’s connected with the day. He was a good guy and a missionary, but I’m sure he would be shocked at his influence for people to celebrate.

Actually, March 17 is the day he died and I guess Irish officials thought it would be a good day for a religious celebration. March 17 falls during Lent and it used to serve as a break day. People would go to church in the morning and at noon, eat, drink and party until midnight. The next day I guess they asked for a large amount of forgiveness and then it was back to Lent.

Over the years it morphed into an official day of feasting and now it has become a secular celebration of Irish culture. And all this time I thought it was just an excuse to have parades, color large bodies of water green and eat corned beef, green cupcakes, and shamrock shaped cookies.

It’s sometimes surprising to learn the why behind the things we do. You might want to get to the bottom of some of it. But then, maybe not.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

If Facebook would have been here when my mom was living she wouldn’t have had friends, she would have had fans. She knew people from all arenas of life and could chat with a stranger like a longtime best friend. After a conversation with a new person, Mom knew three interesting facts about her just found friend. She thought everyone and their stories were fascinating. I’m quite sure she did her share of fascinating others too.

Nancy was one of my favorites in my mom’s inner circle of friends. She was 5 foot nothing and I’m sure didn’t weigh 100 pounds soaking wet. What she lacked in size she made up for in spunk.

One day Nancy, in her early 70’s, was stopped at a very busy intersection. She was first in a long line of traffic at a red light. The instant the light turned green the man in the car behind her hit the horn like a game show contestant. She glanced in her rear view mirror and saw how angry he looked. She put her car in park, got out in her high heels and walked back to his car. She motioned for him to roll down his window. In exasperation he did and she very politely asked, “Did you need me for something?”

“No lady, the light turned green,” he said rolling his eyes. “Ohhhh,” she said in her southern drawl. “I thought you needed something so I thought I’d better check. OK, if you don’t need anything, I’ll go back to my car. Have a good day,” she waved as she slowly walked back to her car.

By the time she closed her door, the light was red again.

Nancy made her point without raising her voice or stomping her feet. And many times we (especially women) can say something loudly without opening our mouths. So much of communication is tone of voice, facial expression and body language anyway. Instead of yelling, screaming and fit throwing, why don’t we get creative and tap in to our inventory of communication skills? It’s a lot more effective, so much more fun, and there’s really no need to yell unless the house is on fire.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
-Proverbs 15:1

Monday, March 15, 2010

I’ve always carried a purse that holds not only my stuff, but whatever anyone hands me. It’s shocking what I find in there sometimes. Once I discovered a half eaten Happy Meal hamburger when I was digging for a pen.

I ended up in the doctor's office with neck pain. The diagnosis? Stop lugging around ten pounds of junk over your shoulder and the pain should stop. I spent $50 and two hours to be told I needed to carry a smaller, ladylike purse.

For years my friend, Mary, carried one of those tiny eight-inch by six-inch organizer purses with a skinny little strap that has a slot and zippered pouch for everything you really need. It's one of those doctor-recommended ladylike purses. She didn’t know what to do when her kids gave her a beautiful, soft leather, expensive purse almost the size of an airline-approved carry on bag. She loves her ladylike purse, but she didn't want to offend her kids so she carries the new purse with her little purse in it. There's nothing else in there, just her little purse.

Years ago, I was listening to a group of women share. Just before we broke for lunch a beautiful woman opened her heart. She reminded me of one of those popular girls in high school everyone was secretly jealous of. Her life looked perfect.

"There's a big age gap between my older siblings and me,” she started. “One Christmas I was showered with gifts from my parents. My teen-aged siblings each got one beautifully wrapped package. Inside was a letter from our mother. It read: “This Christmas you aren't receiving any gifts. Instead you are getting this letter. It's in exchange for every time you disobeyed me, every time you didn't finish what you started and every time you disappointed me.”

There was an uncomfortable silence around the table. I suddenly realized why there was severe pain in my chest. I wasn't breathing. I finally blinked and took a breath. I felt like this beautiful had-it-all-together woman was acting out a script from a B grade horror movie.

Amazingly she continued. "You know what the saddest part of it all is?" There's more and it gets sadder? Impossible!! "My sister has carried that letter around in her purse all these years," she finished as tears spilled.

Unbelievable! That was too much pain for me to process. She was hurting for her sister, her siblings, her mother and for herself.

I thought about that precious woman for several days. I realized we all carry things around with us. We hang on to hurt feelings, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness, hiding them in the little zippered compartments of our ladylike purses or dragging them around in oversized bags that send us to the doctor.

It might just be time to dump out things we’ve been hauling around in our purses and in our hearts. It feels really good to get rid of things we really don’t need anyway.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I am such a techie preschooler. My goal is to at least graduate into kindergarten or maybe even first grade by the middle of the year. I’m really trying but I can’t figure out how to post a response to comments on the blog. I’ll get it soon, I hope. I’ve received all kinds of regular email from people trying to become a follower, but get stuck in the process, so I don’t feel so alone here in preschool.

So I thought I would just send thank you’s from here. Thanks for the comments, email and Facebook notes. It’s like fuel and just what I need when I sit down with my laptop. I’ve committed to writing every day this year. Several people think I’ve lost my mind. Not to worry, I lost it years ago.

I received a comment on the Don’t Talk Back post where I used the question about kids and disrespect. Chasidy, I’m sorry it was “lost in translation” at the conference. I’ll write about respectable (not respectful) kids later this month. Thanks so much for your encouragement. And, Dawn, you are doing an awesome job with your three boys. Don’t be so tough on yourself. As Kari Brawner says, “They’ll be over it by their wedding day.” They will.

I have several requests to write about different topics and I’m trying to cover them. I thought it would also be interesting to ask you to email questions to If you don’t want your name used just sign your initials or “stage name”.

I think we all have a built in need for community. Doing life with friends is like having a little back-up and safety net when you start creeping close to the edge. I appreciate you walking through real life with me. And thanks for being patient with my preschool tech savvy.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Have you noticed most people ask the obligatory polite question, “How are you doing?” The answer almost sounds like a recording. Try, just for one day, to really listen when you ask how someone is and keep a mental tally. I guarantee the word busy will be somewhere in the response. By 6pm you’ll be asking strangers how they are doing just to see if they will say, “Busy.”

Busy is not always productive. Sometimes it’s even destructive but we, in some way, feel we’re valuable if we say we’re busy. It’s like a self validation of importance. I’ve always wanted to answer when someone asks how I’m doing with, “I’m really bored. Not much going on for me,” just to see the reaction I’d get.

The epidemic of Busy is much larger than the Swine Flu. We all have more to do than we have time for. Someone asked me a very uncomfortable question a couple of years ago. “Who sets and keeps your schedule?” I wished I had a personal assistant to blame the over crowded calendar on, but I don’t. It was a cold realization I have no one to blame but myself.

That year had been not only a jammed year, but one of change and loss. My brother’s funeral was in Florida on a Sunday. I flew home on Monday, met Jill in Texas on Wednesday to speak at an event on Thursday. I flew back home on Friday in time for kids and grandkids in for Labor Day. After winding up the weekend at a local restaurant, I wanted to make one quick stop at the outlet mall before going home.

It was shirt-soaking humid so Jim sat in the running car to keep it cool. I stopped in the bathroom first. As I was washing my hands I started feeling like I was having an out of body experience. I got outside and called Jim telling him I felt weird. I remember thinking I surely was having a heart attack, like my brother, and I was going to be with him and Jesus.

I came to with a man inches from my face asking who the president was. My first thought was, “I am really surprised Jesus wears glasses.” Then I heard Jim and saw a dozen other people crowded around me. They weren’t the disciples. I realized I was still in Branson.

Jim had called 911 and only in a small town would the EMT be someone I’d known since he was 12. Mark said, “Suzette, your vitals are fine. Jim told me about your last couple of weeks. I think you have all but run yourself into the ground.”

How embarrassing! After promising I’d go to bed, I was free to go home.

Why did it have to take that to get my attention? It worked. Yes, there are things to do, people to see and places to go. There always will be and we’ll always be busy. However, if you need to slow down and refuse to, God might use some interesting, sometimes humiliating, ways to do it for you.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A mother asked me recently, “How did you handle disrespect with your kids.” I smiled silently thanking God for getting me through raising kids at the same time mentally scrambling to think of a wise-sounding response. I wanted to tell her to go ask one of my kids. They’d tell her if they had dared disrespect Mom, according to Jim Brawner, it would have landed them on America’s Most Wanted.

The only thing I could think of was Zero Tolerance. The earlier it starts the better. As challenging as it seems dealing with an obstinate preschooler, I assured her, a mouthy thirteen year old was worse. When I asked how old her daughter was, she said 13. I should have asked that question first.

Our family friend, Tom, grew up with two older brothers, James and Chip. Rowdy probably doesn’t adequately describe what it was like at their house. But, their Dad made one thing quite clear; their momma, Gail, was the queen. Anyone causing the queen trouble better be afraid, very afraid.

Tom, unfortunately, found out in high school what happens when you make trouble for the queen. “I think I was a junior and pushing boundaries a little,” he began. “Mom asked me to do something and I sassed her with a surly attitude. Dad appeared out of no where like a vulture on road kill. He backed me up against the wall and in a voice that still makes my skin crawl said, ‘Don’t you ever even think of speaking to MY WIFE like that again if you enjoy living. Am I clear?’, he said with his nose almost touching mine. Then he turned around and walked away”

“A little ‘shock and awe’ cured me. The fact he referred to her as his wife and not my mother left a lasting impression. I never crossed the line again.”

Parenting can be a tricky balancing act, but drawing tight boundaries with how kids treat people, in my opinion, isn’t something that needs to be researched, studied, and debated. Once a woman told me she believed in freedom of speech with her kids because she didn’t want to squelch their creativity. In my experience mouthy, disrespectful kids are more likely to end up to be jerks instead of artistically frustrated adults.

Life has now come full circle for Tom. He has three boys of his own. He’s learning all about what his parents endured and is probably using their example as a reference. I am guessing there is a Zero Tolerance policy in his home too.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The number of summer hours I spent at the pool with my kids is countless. “Mom, Mom, Mom,” continued not only until I looked in their direction, but had an interested, anticipating look on my face.

“Watch this. Watch me. You won’t believe it when you see what I can do,” continued until my eyes were locked in on them. After every jump, flip or splat into the pool, I cheered. Yeah! Unbelievable! Awesome! Possibly the best (fill in the trick) ever done! This could go on for hours.

Kids need a cheerleader. Actually, we never get to an age where we don’t need one. I’m reading a little book, Even Eagles Need A Push, about the importance of encouragement for everyone no matter their station in life. Whether someone makes the sale, closes the deal, fixes a five-star-worthy dinner, or brings home flowers, it’s a “Tah-Dah!” moment praise should be slathered on. It’s what pushes us on to try harder and repeat our efforts. It takes care of our built in desire for affirmation. Admit or not, we all need it.

Cheering for kids is easy. Maybe like me, it gets tricky for you in the grown-up world. Sincere excitement is easy for someone’s new home or car or job promotion. Good for them! Way to go! But when someone gets something I’ve been wanting and waiting on, my clap-o-meter all but quits. It’s through a forced smile I say, “How exciting!” “I know you are thrilled!” And the hardest one, “I’m so happy for you!”

I usually walk away mumbling about how it’s not fair. Each time I have to remind myself; right now they need a “Tah-Dah!” moment more than I do. Hope tells me my turn is coming.

If I really want to be a cheerleader, I need to get over myself, pull out the pom pons and start the handsprings ... regardless. Just like everything else, I’m sure it get’s easier with practice. While I’m waiting on easy, I guess it’s just best to consider everyone a kid needing a “that-a-girl” or a “way-to-go”.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”
-Proverbs 14:30

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When my dad was 80 he noticed a piece of peeling wallpaper in the bathroom right by the ceiling. Being the independent kind of a guy he is, he headed to the kitchen for a chair. Why bother the handy man when you can do something yourself. With Elmer’s glue in hand, he climbed on the chair so he could step up on the vanity. The nine foot ceiling is a stretch for someone 5’8” even from the counter top.

Yep, he did. He toppled off the vanity hitting the chair and the door frame then the tile floor. Eighty years old and living alone he did what anyone would do. He grabbed a hand towel, put pressure on the giant gap in his head, and drove to my uncle’s house. Dad had promised to take him to the hospital to have tests run that morning. No need to change plans. He needed to visit the ER anyway. My aunt decided she’d better go along. But Dad insisted on driving holding the blood soaked towel on his head. And they let him!

A couple of hours and 40 stitches later he was ready to go home. He drove. He emailed and told me what he had done. He said if he had hit anything but his head he would have really hurt himself. I think he might be right.

As a baby, the first phrase Travis strung together was, “All My Byself!” He was determined and independent right out of the chute. Just like my dad, he thrives on challenge. But somewhere along the way bullheaded morphed into focused and purposeful.

I think the strong-willed gene skips one generation. Jim would most likely disagree. I’m gradually figuring out asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. Sometimes it’s just easier for me to do something than explain what I need done. I’m sure when it’s all taken apart, lurking at the bottom is a fear it won’t be done like I think it should be done. There’s probably a disorder name for that.

Meanwhile, I’m tackling the challenge of learning the art of delegation. I’ve promised Jim if I can’t do it I’ll ask for help. Otherwise, I’ll get it done ... "All My Byself."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Do you ever come to the end of the day feeling like you were an unsuspecting victim of a hostile takeover? The day just sneaks up, kicks you around then runs. Yesterday came and left with so much confusion it felt like I had just stayed in one spot spinning in circles. It’s real hard to walk or think straight after you do that. It’s best to just sit down.

At 7:00am I discovered someone had hacked into my email and sent a link to my address book friends. It really bothered me for about an hour. But then I realized surely those in my address book are savvy enough to know I’m not promoting sexual dysfunction drugs for a company in Canada.

Seven phone calls concerning my sick Dad and three more calls from friends in need drained several mega watts of energy right out of me. I did get part of the house cleaned and some errands checked off the list before I went to a meeting that ran much longer than I realized it would. At 9pm I had dinner ... a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats.

I can handle days like that from time to time, but several in a row might leave me sitting in a chair staring into space. Today I’m in regroup mode. Things just aren’t running on all cylinders. The cold I was almost over evidently decided it wasn’t finished with me yet.

It’s times like this I miss my mom. I used to call her and whine about out-of-control days and she would say, “Put on some lipstick. You’ll feel better.” Lipstick was her solution for numerous things. I think it was simply a kind way of saying suck it up and get over it.

I broke my foot once playing racquet ball. When I called my mother-in-law to tell her about it she asked several questions then said, “Take a laxative. You’ll feel better.”

“How will a laxative help a broken foot,” I asked. “I’m not real sure, but you’ll feel better,” she insisted. I think I’ll stick with my mom’s theory.

Yesterday ended at midnight and I’ve determined today will be running smoother. Who is in control anyway, me or the day. If it gets a little hectic I’ll put on some lipstick and push on. Even if things don’t smooth out, I’ll feel better anyway.

Monday, March 8, 2010

After doing the show for 29 years, last night was Barbara Walters’ final Academy Awards Special. It was an hour of remembering with clips and pictures and a few interviews with this year’s nominees mixed in. She has had a career in broadcasting matched by very few. I wonder when she first started if the magnitude of what she has accomplished was even imaginable for her. Probably not.

Her last guest on the show was Sandra Bullcok who was nominated for her role in The Blind Side. A clip was shown of Barbara interviewing her 10 years ago. When asked where she saw herself in 10 years Sandra gave a typical answer; to have the privilege to continue what she was doing. Now, ten years later, Barbara asked her the same question. Where do your see yourself 10 years from now? It was interesting to hear the difference in her answer.

After a short pause she said, “I hope all the people who are in the house now are still there and I want to be healthy.” It’s fascinating to see how perspective changes. Here’s a woman who has appeared in over forty movies, owns homes in several states, has had success in multiple arenas in the entertainment industry and she simply wants relationships and her health. Smart answer. I would imagine her life, so far, has exceeded her dreams, too.

When I was about 12 my dad randomly told me, “If you have your health, you have everything.” I smiled politely wondering what that was all about. He was evidently starting to feel some of the aches and pains that show up out of nowhere in your early 40’s. But at 12 everyone is bullet proof so his words made little sense to me. I sure wouldn’t have put health on a successful things list.

Over the last year I have come to understand the depth of what Dad said. A person can have all the money and all the time and not be healthy enough to enjoy either one. So then what do you have? I’ve watched friends and family members struggle and wrangle with mean illnesses that steal their time, their finances and their health. Healthy people really do have everything.

Jim and I have laughed and used Steve Martin’s line from the movie The Jerk over the years. He said, when he was losing all his material possessions, “All I really need is my lamp and my thermos,” then went on to add things to the list. All we really need is our health. Period. If you don’t agree, one good round of the stomach flu will make a believer out of you.

These bodies we have are fragile. Good health seems so simple. I’ve almost expected it as a given, but as this year has taught me, it’s not. So, if you have your heath, trust me, you do have everything. Be grateful. Sandra agrees. And, by the way, she took home the Oscar.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My long-time friend Shelley called yesterday. We live in different parts of the state so we don’t run in to each other at Walmart. We have to catch up by phone. We can be in the middle of a conversation when one of us has to hang up, promising to call back. It could be in two days or two weeks or two months, but we always call back. Once Shelley started the call back with, “..And so then...”, just like the conversation had been put on pause and she had hit the play button.

Yesterday she was driving cookies-on-a-stick to her daughter's house for her granddaughter’s first birthday party. So the fragile cookies would get there in one piece, Shelley was driving way below the speed limit on the curvy highway near her house. She had pulled over to let the long line of cars go around when she called.

“Driving these cookies reminded me of the story a pastor friend told me,” she started. “As a business his wife bakes gorgeous wedding cakes and the pastor is in charge of delivering them. He said it takes razor-sharp focus and nerves of steel every time he loads one in the van. ‘I have to remember each cake is for a wedding that's been planned for months and dreamed about for years. And, my wife has put in hours of tedious work. I take care of each cake like a mother bear with her cubs’, he said.”

“He told me people get really frustrated because he drives so slowly protecting the cake. ‘Over time I've seen plenty of angry faces and middle fingers. I’m just a pastor trying to deliver a beautiful cake for a special celebration. I’ve learned plenty hauling cakes’, he said. ‘It’s helped me understand people do a lot of things for good reasons we’re unaware of.’

“Now I know how he feels,” Shelley said.

Everyone has a story ... not all of them so fairy-tale-like. People are struggling. Why are we so quick to judge and snarl when someone may just be trying to do the right thing? I honestly have to believe people are much too busy to sit and dream up ways to irritate us. Since extending grace and being patient, for most of us, is not an automatic, natural response, it has to be intentional. Not making hasty judgements is a decision.

Be careful when you push by people. You never know who may be driving wedding cakes.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

It was one of those days I knew no matter how early I got up, I’d still be sliding in to home plate just in time to turn around to be somewhere at 6:00pm. I was leaving town the next day, so I really needed to conquer the list. I got in the car and took a deep breath. Game on!

I literally had mapped out a route so the first half of the day ran like a well oiled machine. At 3:00 I decided I had time to squeeze in a much needed pedicure. Five pounds from winter hibernation and pasty white skin are a depressing combo. A pedicure is always a good fix for an ugly day.

There were some flip flops in the car I put on when I left the salon. It was cold, but worth it to not smudge the polish. The question to myself was, “Can I wear winter clothes and flip flops to Walmart?” It was the last stop on my list.

I had only four items in my basket and had already seen three women wearing flannel pajama bottoms when I rounded the corner to the garbage bag aisle. There stood an elderly woman with a polyester-material wedgie so bad, it was shocking. Goodness, her husband was with her. Surely he noticed it. Well, maybe not.

So, I felt pretty good in my flip flops. As I headed to the checkout line, I saw another pair of flip flops. As I looked up there were also shorts and a sleeveless muscle shirt and a 40ish year old man. He grinned and winked at me as he walked by. It must have been my “I’m Not Really A Waitress” red toenail polish.

The sun was going down and the temperature was dropping when I dashed out to the car. I was so proud of myself for marking everything off the list with a pedicure thrown in. When I got to the car my spirits sank like a three-day-old helium balloon. The keys had evidently fallen out of my purse. There they were on the driver’s seat in the locked car. So much for working the plan.

I called Jim to bring the extra key. There I waited in my flip flops and winter coat in the 40 degree parking lot. My prayer was that the guy who liked my red toenail polish was not parked nearby.

Jim was trying to make a deadline too. He drove in to town, down the row where I was parked, pushed the open button from his car, smiled and kept driving. I know what he probably wanted to say, but graciously didn’t. We were only 20 minutes late for our 6 o’clock dinner.

It’s best not to get too proud of your accomplishments. God has a huge sense of humor. And, yes, it’s OK to wear flip flops and winter clothes to Walmart.

“ ... God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6

Friday, March 5, 2010

If you ask me what I was doing last year on this day, I could tell you. The year before that or five years ago ... I have that too. I wouldn’t know off the top of my head like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, but give me a few minutes in my archives of notebooks and I’d have the answer.

A woman I worked with taught me the two most valuable tools anyone could have were a notebook and a month-at-a-glance calendar. That was 20 plus years ago. When all the Covey organizers came out a group of people wooed me over to try the new and better way to keep life in order. That lasted about six months before I was back to the wide ruled spiral notebook and separate calendar. The same thing happened when Palm Pilots hit stores. That time I refused to go to the dark side.

I have a Blackberry but my notebook and month-at-a-glance calendar are still with me. Writing things down with a pen or pencil may be old fashioned, but it feels good and kind of organic, like I should be wearing Birkenstocks. Soon we'll be telling remember when stories about #2 pencils.

I worry about most of my family. A few of us like a plan and like to work the plan. I question if the rest of them even know there is a plan. They would say there is, but I think they make it up as they go. I'm sure they think I need to let go of the plan a little bit and be more spontaneous. I probably do. I’m trying.

The pretend organizers are big fans of sticky notes. I love them too and wish I would have invented them. The problem is they don’t get stuck in a central location and show up in the sleeve of a coat or on the back of a magazine. I found a sticky note on Jim’s desk from five years ago the other day. I’m guessing he missed that appointment.

My kids are on to me to get the newest iPhone. Why do I need to confuse myself even more? I think I’ll stick with my Blackberry. Anyway, I’d probably look silly at Starbucks with the latest in electronics writing in my notebook and calendar with a mechanical pencil.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” -Unknown

Do you know people who are so abnormally happy all the time you wonder about their mental stability? Everything is wonderful and constantly getting better for them. If you really want to know, they almost make me want to put my fingers in my ears and hum loudly. It’s tempting to tell them to please calm down and be quiet. OK, I really want to say shut up. But I decided if I could be the one to just calm down and be quiet I might learn something.

Keith is a longtime friend who’s known for the phrase, “It’s all good!” I thought the further he traveled into the grown-up world his attitude would change, but it’s still all good. He’s just one of those enthusiastic, excited-about-life people who is gifted with an extra dose of energy. When he was younger he decided if he said it was all good, it was all good. He’s tramped through some stuff over the years, but his attitude never changed.

Several years ago we saved hotel points and frequent flyer miles and took the kids to an upscale ski resort for spring break. All five of us stayed in one room with so much ski paraphernalia it looked like a sporting goods store clearance department. Most of it was always wet and strung across the furniture. It seemed all I did was look for dry socks, hand out snacks, and hold stuff for everyone. And every muscle in my body ached from trying to keep up with the kids on the slopes. That was the trip I finally realized the term family vacation for the mother just meant change of venue.

The second night I thought about running away or at least disappearing to one of the local bars for tequila shots. I’ve never done either of those before, but it seems to solve things in the movies. Instead I ate two chocolate bars and went to bed to pray and regroup hoping the rest of the needy people in the room would forget I was there ... at least for a few minutes. After a while, when it was finally quiet and everyone was asleep, I realized it really was all good.

So here’s what I’ve learned from watching the always-happy-people. You can as easily set yourself up to have an exciting day as you can talk yourself in to a bad mood, whining doesn’t change anything, and if you stay positive you have the power to make people want to put their fingers in their ears and hum, loudly.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Living in a small town, it’s hard not to see someone you know when you go out. I had the best catch-up conversation yesterday with my friend Kathy in the toothpaste aisle at the Super Center. For 30 minutes we covered everything from birthing babies to breast cancer.

When I was coming out of the bookstore I waved to another friend and asked how he was doing. The closer I got to him I realized it wasn’t who I thought it was. In fact, I’d never seen this person before in my life. I had two choices; admit I had made a mistake or fake it. I faked it.

“It’s so good to see you,” I said enthusiastically. Be sure to tell your wife I said hi.” I gambled assuming he was married. Evidently he was.

“Oh, I will,” he said. Good to see you too. Have a great afternoon.” He looked at me squinting like it would rattle his memory. I grinned as I walked away thinking about him trying to figure out who I was and how I knew his wife. Before speaking I suppose I should wait until I know for sure if the person is someone I know. My mouth just gets ahead of me sometimes.

Like it or not I think that’s a problem so many of us deal with. Our mouths talk faster than our brains can think. Studies show we can process 200-300 words per minute. Women can have gusts up to 400. I have one Italian friend who talks so fast and is so dramatic with her hands, I don’t stand too close. The risk of getting an eye poked out is too great.

Consider your words and their impact. Maybe if we’d slow down just a bit and weigh what we’re about to say, a lot of hurt feelings, confusion, or misunderstandings could be avoided.

I will say though, acting like you know someone you don’t is much more fun than admitting you’re wrong.

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” -Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

For years on March 1st, when sane people are still sleeping, my friend Mike put on all the appropriate gear and headed to Bennett Spring for the opening day of trout fishing. Two thousand men and women line up shoulder to shoulder ready to land their first catch of the season.

Evidently there’s a long list of unwritten etiquette for the day such as don’t wade in front of others, be quiet, and don’t shuffle your boots. I’d never be able to coordinate flinging the hook and remembering all the rules. I wouldn’t have to walk out with a stringer full of fish to have a good day. Not going too deep and drowning myself in the boots and not snagging one of the 2000 in the lip would be enough of a challenge for me.

I heard a story about a group of Alaskan fishermen who didn’t hunt for the big ones for bragging rights but for a living. They were trying to figure out how to keep their cod catch fresh in route to mainland United States. If they shipped the catch in live tanks the fish got mushy and some even died. Freezing would preserve the fish, but that just wasn’t fresh enough.

Then the fishermen learned catfish, a natural predator for cod, was the secret to the catch arriving alive and fresh. If a catfish was put in the live tank it chased the cod keeping them moving the entire trip. I’d move, too, if something that ugly was chasing me.

Actually, I feel like ugly stuff chases me a lot. I bet you do too. I just keep moving. I wonder what I’d do if life was less challenging. Maybe I’d get lazy and mushy like the cod. Maybe I’d waste time and be less productive. Maybe I’d sit down and give up. So just maybe catfish in my life is a good thing.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The first year Jim and I were married was a bit shocking for me. In all fairness, I guess it probably was for him too. I’m still trying to figure out why, after walking down the aisle, we think we will magically be able to change the new spouse. Those little annoying things once overlooked now almost give us a nervous tic. You know ... not putting the toilet seat down, leaving empty glasses everywhere and socks on the floor.

After we’d been married about 10 years Jim randomly brought me a gift. It was a plaque on a little block of wood that read “70 X 7.” He explained, “It’s to remind you how many times you’re supposed to forgive me when I do dumb things. I didn’t make it up. Jesus said it so you really should do it.” He had me on that one.

It still sits on the kitchen counter, because I still need the reminder. I’ve learned over the years it’s best to live by the little plaque. Forgive and get over it quickly. We all know people who tally up how many times they have been wronged. They keep ledgers and have recall like the Amazing Kreskin. Ledger-keeper-people make me nervous because I’m always tripping over my tongue or forgetting things. I’m sure my name on their ledger has a long list under it. They aren’t fun to be around.

Lately I’ve chosen not to spend time with people like that because when I do, I tend to hold my breath. Everything I read says breath holding is not good for you. There’s enough pressure navigating life as it is. Why add more?

The next time you are wronged, pout for a bit if it makes you feel better. Even throw a little fit if you need to. But then, as Jill says, go to Lowe’s, buy some lumber, build a bridge and get on over it.

“ keeps no record of wrongs.”
-1 Corinthians 13:4