Saturday, July 31, 2010

I’ve often wondered if there is a central clearing house where people sit in little cubicles collecting email addresses for junk mail to be sent to. The amount I delete when I log on every morning is stunning. Are there really folks who read the subject line and open the email thinking, “You know, I was needing something that would give me bionic hearing.”

Honestly, how often do you need your credit report checked and how many times a year do you buy air filters. So I delete all the junk and then read the mail from people who actually know me and would say, “Hi” if we ran into each other at TJ Maxx.

I sift through notes and reminders, but one thing is missing. After Dad got his first computer several years ago, I sent him an email every night before I went to bed and he sent me one in return every morning when he got up. Now that he’s gone, so are his “Good Morning” emails.

However, for the past ten years Dad sent me notes detailing what to do when he moved on to live with Jesus. To be truthful, I didn’t read them, but printed them off and put them in my DAD file.

A few weeks ago I was digging though the file tying-up loose ends after the funeral. I found an email from Dad dated December 14, 2001:
“Dear Suzette,
Gail at the monument company said don’t ask the cemetery to do the engraving because they will charge you and arm and a leg. She said to call Dave. He will give you a better price. Love, Dad

So I Googled the monument company and gave them a call. Sure enough Gail answered the phone. I read her Dad’s email written 9 years ago. She laughed and gave me Dave’s phone number. I called Dave and he handled it from there without charging me an arm and a leg.

It made me smile because I felt like I had be sent an email from heaven.

Friday, July 30, 2010

All three of my kids could swim before they could walk. I suppose that happened because of my neurotic mommy fear that Jason would fall in the pool at the summer camp where we were working and wouldn’t be able to get out. I think that anxiety started when I was a lifeguard in high school, long before I had babies. A cat fell into the pool during the night and couldn’t get out. It was a bit disturbing the next morning when I unlocked the gate.

My mom never learned how to swim, so her motivation for me to swim was different than mine was for my kids. When I was five she signed me up for lessons at the Y. That was way before baby swim classes were invented so I was one of the youngest in my class. I was terrified. I’m sure it was painful for Mom to watch from the parents area because she was just as afraid as I was. It took several months for me to conquer my fear, but I finally did. Years later when I taught kids and adults to swim, I understood.

Swimming is one thing I don’t think can be introduced too early. It’s amazing what babies can do in water. They look like little tadpoles wiggling along with alligator eyes that don’t close when they come up out of the water. If they get in early enough, it’s almost like they’re going back to the comfortable environment they were in for their first nine months.

Baby Vivian and Jill are taking Mommy and Me classes at Morgan Swim School established 30 years ago in Virginia. Viv is the youngest in her class and the only one not afraid. In fact she gets mad when she has to get out of the pool. Maybe at 8 months she’s too young to be afraid or maybe Jill’s the only mommy who’s not afraid because she’s been in the water since she was six months old.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My mom was the oldest of five girls and, by default, was a mother’s helper for her mother. Wrinkle free fabrics hadn’t been invented yet and LG and Samsung weren’t around with the steam dryer. Everything had to be ironed, so according to Mom, she spent enough time beside an ironing board to last two lifetimes.

She evidently vowed one day in the middle of an ironing session, if she could afford it when she was a mom, she would hire someone to do the ironing at her house. And she did. Irene was a mother’s helper for Mom.

Irene was at our house every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday the whole time I was growing up. She did a whole lot more than iron. For the longest time I thought she was a relative, so she sat with the family when I got married. She had a comforting smile and an infectious laugh and her fried chicken made The Colonel jealous. Irene loved Jesus, hummed when she worked and watched her soap operas when she ironed on Fridays.

On Wednesdays right before she went home, Irene sprinkled down the clothes to be ironed Friday. She took a bottle that looked a lot like an oil and vinegar salad dressing bottle and dashed water on each piece. Everything was rolled up tightly and bundled in a sheet. The to be ironed package waited in the downstairs refrigerator until Friday afternoon.

I don’t know if it was the sprinkling method, the heat of the iron or Irene’s technique, but by four o’clock every Friday afternoon perfectly pressed clothes hung all around the family room. Mom would smile because she had nothing to do with it.

Not long ago David bought a Roomba. It was a new techie gadget for him, but for Jill it’s like a mother’s helper. It cleans the floor every day and Jill smiles because she has nothing to do with it. The new iRobot was given the honored name I-Rene.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I wonder how many times Travis kicked a football, how far Jason swam, and how many volleyballs Jill smashed over a 20 year period. I wonder how many miles we traveled following them all over the country. If I had a dollar for every mile, I would probably be retired, reading on the beach in the Caribbean. If I added in the miles all of us collectively added to vehicles driving to and from practice I would own a Caribbean condo.

Watching from the stands or in front of the TV, we forget how many hours athletes put into practice. We pay good money to watch the results of what goes on before the flood lights are flipped on.

Like athletes, theater actors practice their lines ... over and over and over. When the curtain goes up, the lines flow like second nature. We sit in awe because we don’t see all the flubs and miscues during practice all the way up through dress rehearsal.

I heard once life is not a dress rehearsal, this is it. We practice and learn as we go and some of us are better students than others. Some of us are just slow learners. The unfortunate thing is, while we are learning the rest of the world watches us practice.

We all mess up, make mistakes, and do things we regret. All we need is the courage to get up and try again. If we keep on trying, refining our skills, learning from our mistakes, someday we might get it right. It takes a lot of practice.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I read once that cooperation is doing with a smile what you have to do anyway. Why is it cooperation with what we really don’t want to do a struggle well into adulthood? I suppose it morphs from fit throwing into sulking or sighing deeply the older we get. Sometimes I wish I could get away with just lying down in the middle of the floor and kicking and screaming. Once when I was put out with something, a friend offered me $100.00 to throw a kicking, screaming fit in the detergent aisle at Walmart. One hundred dollars was tempting, but I chickened out.

Cooperation is one of the first things taught In preschool and kindergarten in attempt to hold chaos to a minimum. Lining up to go to the playground, waiting your turn, and not shoving are some of the first things we learn. We may whine, but we learn it’s just part of the deal when you go to school.

So standing in line at the post office, waiting our turn at the DMV and not cutting people off in traffic are just the adult versions of cooperation in things we learned at four and five. Many of us respond like three year olds who haven’t been to preschool yet to learn the cooperation rules.

Our reactions should be based on our convictions not our circumstances. We should have it down by the time we hit midlife, but maybe we just need a little more practice.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I ran into my friend Jeanie at Home Depot the other day. She has a daughter and a son and a brand new granddaughter. I welcomed her into the grandmother world and we gushed over our babies. I used to laugh at people like me.

Just before we said good-bye she looked at me seriously and said, “OK, Suzette, now what?” “What do you mean,” I asked a little confused?

“The kids are grown and gone. All the preparation for the grandbaby coming is over. Everyone lives hours away. I suppose I’m trying to figure out what to do now,” she said looking a little concerned. “Why don’t you write about that?”

I had to think about her question for a while and here’s what I figured out ... you are finally to a point in your life you actually get to choose. A mom spends 25 or so years, depending on the spacing of her kids, doing what needs to be done for everyone else. If she’s been a stay at home mom she can choose to volunteer, get a job, go back to school or do whatever it is she has put off doing to take care of her family. If she’s a career mom she can take up tennis or golf or join a book club or investment club or help with a charity she has a passion for. Her time away from the office now can be hers.

It is an odd spot to be in because for so many years everyone depends on you and now they’re off living their own lives. It really is a search for a new normal. I do know one thing for sure. We can put down the mommy guilt of not being at home enough if we were working outside the home or the mommy guilt of not having a job because we were stay at home moms. What a relief!

Because I was such an involved mom staying at home, working part time, working full time in different phases, I dreaded the thought of everyone being gone. It was like a deprogramming period for a while and the house was really quiet. But then I realized I get to make choices I hadn’t been able to make for years ... like not going to McDonalds unless I want to.

It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn't. ~Barbara Kingsolver

Sunday, July 25, 2010

“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
-Proverbs 29:11

I remember the first time I heard someone yell “FIGHT” not long after my first day in junior high. Everyone was rushing down the outdoor corridor, so I followed thinking some dogs must have gotten into a fight out by the school sign. Outside I was stunned to see two boys beating the stuffing out of each other while half of the school was circled around. I had just come out of a small private grade school, so I’d never seen anything quite like this before.

A few seconds after I got there, the fight abruptly ended when one boy’s glass eye popped out of the socket and landed in the dirt. That scene was so disturbing I ignored all future “FIGHT” battle cries.

There weren’t as many rumbles in high school, that I remember. Either hormones started leveling out or the fights were taken elsewhere. Or maybe a lot of the tension and aggression was taken out on the football field.

I don’t like to see people fight, even in movies. It probably goes back to my junior high experience. Or, it’s my inner hippie: “Why can’t we all get along.”

This week people have been testy. I saw a man yell at his wife in Marshall’s in front of his kids and a store full of people. I felt so sorry for the wife and kids. A couple was sitting in a truck outside the grocery store yelling at each other as loud as they could. I was embarrassed for them. Maybe when it’s not so hot people will calm down.

The other night Jim and I were in our favorite sushi restaurant in a little strip mall. I looked out the window to see a nicely dressed woman up in the face of another nicely dressed woman screaming at the top of her lungs. I instantly had a “FIGHT” flashback. They moved over in front of the Domino’s next door and evidently went after it. Domino’s employees broke it up. One of the women walked back in front of the sushi window putting her wig back on. All Jim and I could do was laugh.

As we were leaving, I asked one of the girls in a blue Domino’s shirt what the fight was all about. “One woman ordered a pizza the other one didn’t like. Important stuff, “ she grinned.

Maybe like the guys in junior high, their hormones were out of sorts. Or it might just be the heat. Cooler weather is on the way.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Once upon a time, long, long ago, when I was very young, I married my Prince Charming. And, we lived happily ever after ... after the first year. It was a doozy. I don’t care how young or old, if most couples were honest, they’d admit the first year or ten is not necessarily wedded bliss.

Jim Brawner and I met in college on a blind date set up by our friend, Jill. See, not all blind dates are disastrous. We’ve been together ever since. He made me laugh then and he still does. I really hate to use the sappy Tom Cruise line from Jerry Maguire, but he really does “complete me”. We’re so different proving once again opposites do attract. We so appreciated Jill introducing us, eleven years later we named our baby girl after her.

In our time together, we’ve moved eight times, gone through three pregnancies, raised three kids, watched them get married and leave, survived job changes, buried our parents and siblings, and added seven grandkids. There’s no one I would have rather experienced all the good and the not so good with.

They say people start to look alike after they have been together so long. I’ve always wondered who these “they” people are. They must be really smart because they’re quoted a lot. I think they’re a little off about couples looking alike. I don’t think we look alike at all. I think what happens is, after so many years, we look like we belong together.

So today for our anniversary we’ll celebrate with a group of 4 and 7 year olds at Jameson’s and Owen’s Star Wars birthday party at the skating rink. Then we’ll probably go to dinner and laugh.

Friday, July 23, 2010

There’s just something special about being a little sister. Kaylin, our youngest grandchild, is a little sister to two big brothers. Third born kids tend to be easy going, not because of genetics or anything scientific, but just because of the law of numbers. They learn early on the mini van will be their second home and that waiting is just part of the little brother/sister life.

Kaylin has been to T ball games, school programs, church events, birthday parties and already has a passport. She’s portable and comfortable wherever her brothers are. Jameson and Owen are like built in entertainment for her and, at this stage, she’s like the family mascot for them.

As Kaylin gets older the dynamics will shift a little as she starts to crawl and discovers her brothers superhero collections and other prized possessions. She’ll be a source of aggravation for the boys, but she’ll learn with time to charm her way out of every corner she paints herself into.

Jill grew up as the little sister. She was fiercely protected but never allowed to pull the “but I’m a girl” card. Once when Jason was in high school a friend said to him, “Man I feel sorry for anyone who tries to mess with Jill because of her two big brothers.” Jason smiled and said, “I don’t feel sorry for someone who tires to mess with Jill because of me or Travis. I feel sorry for the fool who tires to mess with Jill because of Jill.”

Kari has two older brothers too and she doesn’t run or hit like a girl either. I’m sure she’ll school Kaylin on dealing with big brothers as she grows up.

Being a little sister grabs benefits from both worlds. You’re loved, cherished and protected while your being taught to stand strong on your own two feet.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

I really think that’s truer for women than men, especially when it comes to garage sales. Not that men don’t enjoy hunting for a treasure, but for some reason the word SALE is highly motivating for women, no matter what the product is.

Garage sales, according to some sources, crept onto the scene in the ‘50s with increased affluence after the decade of depression and war. When people realized they had accumulated too much stuff, the garage sale was born.

Garage sales are also referred to as yard sales. I think that’s for people who either don’t have a garage, who are selling so much stuff it spills over into the yard, or whose garage is full of junk they aren’t ready to part with so they have to use the yard.

In the ‘70s garage sales flooded the want ads of local papers. A dozen or so could always be found in most neighborhoods every weekend. Treasure hunters would line up before daybreak to be the first to scour the goods. When my mom and dad decided to downsized in the mid ‘80s they set up a moving sale/garage sale.

Of course Dad thought it was a good idea to have it on a Friday while he was at work. When he went out the front door to go to the office, he was blocked in his own driveway. Because women sometimes get a little crazy bargain hunting, Jim acted as bouncer for Mom. He had to break up a couple of arguments and he finally declared one item no longer for sale when a tugging match broke out.

When the kids were little Jim found a ping pong table for $20.00 at a garage sale. We used it for years, for a lot of ping pong and for displaying merchandise for our own sales. We sold it 14 years later for $25.00. And I though ping pong tables depreciated. If only all returns on investment were that good.

You can still occasionally find a great garage sale. I think Ebay and Craig’s List have crowded the Saturday morning scavenger hunts a bit. I will admit, though, it’s fun to search for treasures at home in my pajamas.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It’s gotten to the point you can leave home, run all your errands and pull back into the garage without ever getting out of the car. The other day I drove through Starbucks, the bank, the cleaners, the pharmacy, dropped mail in the big blue box, picked up a salad at Wendy’s and headed for home. I was at an oriental buffet recently and noticed they even had a drive thru. I couldn’t quite figure out how that would work.

Now there are even drive thru liquor stores, wedding chapels, and confessionals. I suppose if a person drinks too much and gets married he could ask for forgiveness from the convenience of his car. That’s a little disturbing. The one that bothers me most is the drive thru funeral home with the large viewing window. Honestly have people gotten that busy?

As convenient as the drive thru is, patience is required, especially at fast food restaurants. Even with the screen that shows the order, when you pull up to the second window you can end up with a cheeseburger, onion rings and a Sprite even though you ordered a chicken sandwich, fries and a Dr. Pepper. I used to pull over to a parking space to check my order. Now I stay at the window.

It seems I get behind a car full of people who have no idea what they want every time I decide to drive through Wendy’s or McDonald’s. It’s as if none of them have ever been there before. The driver usually ends up yelling at his passengers flailing his arms and talking with his hands to the little box as if the person taking the order will understand better.

I do enjoy driving through especially when it’s raining buckets, 100 degrees, or below freezing. Sometimes, though, walking in to a place of business and seeing people is part of the shopping experience. But, we Americans love convenience. When I Googled the drive thru, I found out it was pioneered in 1930 in the United States. Of course it was. We’ve always been on the cutting edge of finding ways to avoid getting out of our seats.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Friends can be found in the most interesting places. I was talking to a girl recently who met one of her closest friends through another friend who had taken a flyer for a jewelry party off the bulletin board at the front door of the grocery store. And I thought you could only buy firewood and find free puppies on those bulletin boards.

We all have different kinds of friends in the different arenas and seasons of our lives. It’s fun to meet up with people you’ve known your whole life because they’re familiar with the history of you. Then again that might not be such a good thing.

The friends made in college are unique mostly because everyone is attempting to establish independence without acting scared. They’re trying to figure out the future while pretending they know what they’re doing. Actually, no one has a clue. Lifelong friendships are born when everyone finally admits they don’t.

Friends at work sometimes don’t turn out to be the kind of people you really want to hang out with after work. Sadly it can be that way with church friends too. That’s a handy thing to learn shortly after you meet.

Some friends give me energy and some leave me exhausted. I suppose some are just require more maintenance than others. Good friendships aren’t a 50/50 deal though. Sometimes they are 70/30 and sometimes they are 20/80. It’s like a sliding scale depending on life’s circumstances. I have friendships I feel like are stuck at 20/80 and I’m finally beginning to understand why they leave me worn out.

My friend Peg is coming to town this week. I’ve known her for most of my adult life. She lives in another part of the country and comes to town once a year. We usually have lunch and talk for hours. We have a whole year to catch up on. She’s a friend who gives me encouragement and energy. Hopefully I do the same for her. Our lives are so different, but our friendship is deep and sturdy. Everyone needs a friend like that.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I wonder who determines the most popular names. I know they come and go in waves, but where does it all start and how does the shift happen to a new set of names? According to the website Parent Dish, the top three fastest rising boy names are Castiel, Bentley, Eoin. For girls it’s Tenley, Harper, and Everleigh. There’s also a secret favorite list you can check out for suggestions if you think there will be too many Tenleys in first grade with your daughter. Just hope not too many other parents-to-be check out the secret list too.

The year Jim Brawner and I were born Debbie and Jim were the most popular names. Jim still turns around when he hears someone yell, Jim. Mom and Dad made sure I wouldn’t get lost in a crowd. I’m always the only Suzette. In fact, I’ve only met a dozen or so Suzettes my whole life. I think I’ve met more Suzette French poodles than people. In eighth grade Mrs. Hen called me Bridgette all year because she couldn’t remember Suzette. I gave up trying to correct her so I answered to my pseudo name.

Sitting at Jackson’s baseball game reading the backs of the jerseys, I realized a lot of boys first names are also last names. My grandsons are Jackson, Jameson, Owen, and Smith, all last names. Our friends Steve and Alana Smith named their first son, Brawner. So now there is a Brawner Smith and a Smith Brawner.

The spelling of names is more complicated now. There was a time the biggest question was if Ann was Ann or Anne. Now it can be Ayn. I suppose it’s an attempt for uniqueness. Naming a person is a huge responsibility and just like everything else these days there are so many choices. Since everything runs in cycles, just wait a few years, Jim and Debbie will be back.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches...”
Proverbs 22:1

Sunday, July 18, 2010

If you’ve never floated a creek or river in an old black inner tube, you should put it on your to-do list. All you need is a tire tube, a sunny day, flowing water and people younger than you to convince you that somehow you still have what it takes.

Jim and I went to Purdy, Missouri to visit Camp Barnabas, a summer camp for special needs kids, where Jason is the director. Yesterday, Jason, Jackson and Mollie Jane, Jim, a.k.a Big, and I floated Shoals Creek that runs along the edge of camp property. I used to float rivers and creeks every summer, but that was way before I had seven grandkids.

We parked a vehicle at the take out and Mr. Roger from camp took us to the put in. Mollie Jane was a little nervous when we dropped the tubes in the water even though she had floated the creek before. I’m sure the ripples seemed like roaring rapids to an almost 4 year old. So she and Big walked down to put their tubes in the smooth water.

After we drifted past a family at the put in, we didn’t see anyone until the end of the float. It was so quiet and beautiful until we hit the next set of rapids. “Stay to the left Sue Sue, stay to the left,” Jackson yelled. I tired, but went right and found out why I needed to stay left. I hit a rock, but didn’t flip. I was laughing so hard I forgot to lift up my bottom for the next set. I got stuck. Big and Mollie Jane made it just fine.

It was like an expedition in the middle of no where as we navigated the rapids, saw the entrance to a cave, moved a fallen tree, and rescued a a lost pink shoe. I had no idea my biggest challenge would be climbing out of the creek onto the dock. My proudest moment was when I made it out without help.

Big and Mollie Jane were about five minute behind us. She couldn’t wait to tell us they had seen a river otter on the bank and a banded water snake swimming by. I was grateful Mollie Jane was with Big instead of me. I might have ruined future family creek trips.

Today I’m sore and have some booty bruises, but I guess the kids were right. Much to my surprise, I can still float a creek.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I think I run on autopilot the first hour I’m awake in the morning. It’s similar to a reentry into the world like an astronaut or deep sea diver. I suppose it’s a decompression of sorts. Jim Brawner is a hit the ground and attack the day kind of a guy. I thought something was wrong with him right after we got married. Sometimes I still do. I’m sure he still wonders about me too.

I get out of bed slowly and head to the bathroom. Once I fell back to sleep in there. Then I go straight to the Keurig cup-at-a-time. I hope the inventor received a big Christmas bonus the year he or she came up with that idea. The beautiful thing is the no waiting on a whole pot to brew. And it totally takes the risk out of burning your hand while trying to steal a cup before the finished light comes on.

I heard a good habit to establish is drinking 8-16 ounces of water before you put anything in your mouth in the morning. It’s supposed to help wash out the toxins and get your body revved up for the day. I’m really trying to make that a habit, but for now I’m relying on the coffee.

I shuffle over and have a seat in my thinking chair and try to get my brain to catch up with my body while I stare out the window and consider everything I’m grateful for. It seems to set my attitude especially when I’m facing a challenging day.

As much as I’d like to speed up, every time I try, it actually slows things down. So, I’ll stick with my morning routine. My brain must be wired to preheat like an oven. Things just don’t cook right if the process is rushed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

“I just don’t see it that way,” I finally said. I was in a conversation with a friend who was just appalled I didn’t agree with him. “We’re looking at this from different perspectives, different backgrounds and different motivations. There really isn’t a right or wrong, just different. So let’s just leave it at that,” I smiled and said good-bye. Sometimes that’s the best way to avoid a full-blown, pointless argument.

It’s sad to watch friends, families, businesses partnerships and churches break apart over something as unimportant as color of carpet. But it happens. When I was a kid I remember reading the story of the six blind Chinese men who went to see an elephant. The first one felt the elephant’s side and concluded the elephant was like a wall. The second one stood at the elephants face, touched the tusk and claimed an elephant was very much like a spear. The other four felt the elephant’s knee, trunk, ear and tail. Obviously each man had a different opinion of what an elephant was. No one was wrong and no one was right.

I have an elderly friend who sometimes wears me out. She become obsessive about the silliest and pointless things ... in my opinion. It frustrates me because I think she should see a bigger picture. Then I have to remember she sees the world through a one inch picture frame while I’m looking through a frame the size of the IMAX movie screen. She looks at one tiny part of one thing at a time. I see hundreds of things at once. Neither of us is wrong or right, we just see and process things differently.

When I take the time to listen and try to understand someone else’s perspective I always learn something. If we all saw things the same way there would be no need for the paint industry to come up with so many colors.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I think I’ve finally conquered my dread of walking past temporary card table kiosks. They’re usually set up at the entrance of grocery stores, big box stores, and in strip malls selling keychains or baked goods to raise money. Or people are just asking for donations. I sometimes wonder if the management is too busy inside to know what’s going on outside their front doors.

It’s one thing for groups to go door to door because people have the opportunity to fake they aren’t at home, but setting up shop outside is almost an intimidation factor. The Salvation Army folks have it figured out. They simply ring their bells and open the door and say, “Merry Christmas”. They’re such a Christmastime icon and there’s no pressure to give. It’s motivation to drop something in their kettles. And the Girl Scouts and their thin mint cookies are part of the American culture. But now days money is being raised for everything from junior high band camp to mission trips to Cambodia.

I’ve used several techniques get past the poster board and magic marker signs. I’ve waited until someone else is stopped at the table, walked past with a crowd, and once I even said I gave at the office. Acting like I didn’t speak English was my latest attempt to graciously get by without buying or donating.

I think I feel guilty for walking past because I have been on the asking end so many times helping my kids sell everything from candy bars to magazines. Years ago Jason spend a week in August trying to sell chocolate bars to the neighbors to raise money for new warm ups for his swim team. It was so hot he could only be out for a few minutes before they would start to melt. He’d run home and put them in the freezer for a bit them head out again. I finally bought the whole case.

I decided the other day after walking past a card table kiosk raising money for yet another cause, I’m through feeling guilty. Where I donate is my choice and it most likely won’t be a street vendor unless it’s a cute kid’s lemonade stand. If the guilt twinge starts to creep in, I’ll just think about the case of melted chocolate bars I once bought.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I pulled into the SuperCenter on one of those 98 degree days with the heat index at 109. The parking lot fairies must have been smiling because the pole position right by the front door was open. I usually get the spot a quarter of a mile away. My friend Gail always parks in that far away spot to avoid car door dings and get in a chunk of her 10,000 recommended daily steps. That’s creative multitasking, but just not when it’s gasping hot.

That sweet spot in the parking lot doesn’t come without risk. First of all there are usually at least three cars circling like foxes. Those drivers amaze me probably because I don’t have the time or patience. And if you dare pull in the spot they have been watching from three rows away, watch out. Hell hath no fury like a driver who feels like they’ve been robbed of a spot.

Sometimes cars parked close to the store front are all right on the line or a few inches over it. Most likely the spot was eyed coming from the wrong direction and the driver has whipped a parking lot U turn. That’s legal as far as I know, but for heaven's sake back up and straighten it up from the first attempt.

I try to avoid those tight spots especially if it’s next to a white car or truck. My little black car picks up a new white scuff every time I go against my best judgement. Soccer mom vans are usually safe to park next to because they have sliding doors. However, you never know when an eight year old will fling open the front door while the mom is loading groceries or strapping a baby in a car seat.

As I was slowly rolling toward the much sought after parking place considering all of these things, I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a car that looked like it didn’t have a driver. On second glance I saw a little old man, most likely in his 80’s, barely peering over the steering wheel. I knew he was hoping I would keep on driving past the coveted sweet spot. I did. I decided I didn’t need anymore door dings, knew I could always use the exercise, and hoped when I’m in my 80’s someone will pass along a spot to me.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Have you ever heard, “Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing?” I really have to think about that. How could too much sitting on the porch with sweet tea be a bad thing? How could watching too much HGTV be a bad thing? How could hanging out with Jim Brawner too much be a bad thing?

Well, too much HGTV causes me to want to remodel the whole house, drinking too much tea makes me a little buzzed and crazy and honestly I’m sure that leaves Jim Brawner needing a break from me. I’ve really considered good things in the too much category and it’s hard to think of anything in excess that doesn’t roll over to the dark side. Well, maybe one ... my mom used to say there is no such thing as a diamond too big.

I had a mother of two high school kids say to me once, “I just don’t think there is any way I can be available too much for my kids. What do you think?”

She asked, so I told her what I thought and I’m not sure she liked what I said ... “Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. There’s a point where helping becomes enabling. By the time they’re in high school, in my opinion, you’re there to guide and encourage so they can be sent out into the real world as reasonably sane and responsible adults. Be there for them, but require and allow them to take responsibility for themselves.”

She looked at me like this was a new and revolutionary concept. Just like too much water can drown a plant, we can do the same with kids. We can only protect and help so much. After that, it rolls over into the bad category.

Linda Ellis wrote, “I’ve learned though we try to shield our children from life’s hardships and life’s pain ... there will always be occasions in life when a kid needs to walk in the rain.”

Mom was right again. Except for diamonds, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Monday, July 12, 2010

It fascinates me that everything these days has a name and cause. I read an article recently that asked a thought provoking question: “Is overwhelmed becoming a condition?” If it is, I wondered if there is now a medication for the new aliment. If so, I think I could use some.

I like to consider myself organized, but then it might be I just want to be organized. Just when I think I have the lid on life, about three days worth of stuff hits me at once. It’s not life threatening or the emergency type, but things that just need to be done. That’s when the overwhelmed condition seems to attack.

Instead of putting it in high gear and striking back, I go into neutral. Or, I act like a June bug stuck on its back working really hard to straighten things out, but end up going no where, just wearing myself out. That’s when I realize I have a full blown case of overwhelmed and start singing One Day At A Time, Sweet Jesus. So I sit down to regroup with a Dr. Pepper.

I’m reading the book How Successful People Think by John Maxwell. He’s a mover and shaker and knows how to get things done so I thought I could glean some wisdom. My favorite line so far is, “Hope is not a strategy.”

None of us can live without hope. It’s like oxygen. But, how many times have you heard someone or yourself say, “I sure hope it works out.” That’s probably why overwhelmed is now becoming a condition, because it doesn’t always “just work out.” My new question to myself is now going to be, “Am I doing my part?” My friend Spike White used to stay, “Pray like it all depends on God and work like it all depends on you.”

So I’ll continue to make my plan, but from now on, I’ll be a little more strategic in the planning. That way maybe I can avoid coming down with overwhelmed.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Years ago I promised myself, after my kids were grown, I would never say to a young mother, “Enjoy them now because they will be gone before you know it.” It seems older mothers are quick to offer such comforting advice when two or more of your kids are having a major meltdown in a very crowded checkout line on the hottest day of the summer. I once came really close to asking a woman if she wanted to take all three of mine home with her to enjoy them for a while.

However, now that I’m an older mother I will admit I have said those very words. I try not to, in any way, offer comfort or advice to a woman with screaming children. I clearly remember how close I came to saying ugly things in return. I have decided, though, it’s an OK thing to say if everyone is calm, dry and acting precious.

Kids grow up like water evaporating. You know it’s happening, but don’t really know how it works. The newborn and infant stages seem to last so long they should be counted in dog years. When Travis was about three weeks old he started screaming with colic. I called my sister-in-law Rayanna. She didn’t have kids yet but she was a nurse and I thought surely she would have some helpful hints. She said, “It’s OK Suz, it only lasts about three months.”

Are you kidding me? In dog years time that’s like two plus years. After Rayanna had her girls she understood the dog years theory. We still laugh about her scholarly advice.

However when kids start grade school the years get shorter. Junior high for some reverts to dog years, but then high school is like a downhill slide out the door. It’s true, before you know it they are grown, married and have kids of their own.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

You never quite know what conversations might be overheard in a public restroom. It’s best to be cautious about who and what you talk about with your friend in a nearby stall. The person you make a comment about may be putting on lipstick or washing her hands. You might be careful at the sink too. Who knows who is in the stalls. They’re called public restrooms for a reason.

I went into the powder room to adjust the wireless mic when I was speaking at an event a couple of years ago and overheard two women in the stalls talking about the speaker. It made me a little nervous and it almost felt like I was eavesdropping. Fortunately, everything said was positive except one of them thought my red jacket was a bit distracting and that a black jacket would have been better. I was trying to get everything situated and out of there before I heard the toilets flush, but it didn’t happen. Out they came and there I stood in my red jacket. I just smiled and said “Hi” like I hadn’t heard a thing. One of them fumbled around saying how much she was enjoying the conference. It was like she fell down, got up and acted as if nothing had happened which was clearly the smartest thing to do.

Last week Jill came out of the ladies locker room at the pool grinning like she knew something no one else did. “You’ll love this! A mother and her little girl were in the bathroom stall changing clothes and the daughter said, ‘Mommy this is fun, but do we have to stay here the whole ‘darn it’ time? She sounded so proper.”

Obviously her mom had corrected her when she had used a different four letter word. I think it was another mommy reminder for Jill that kids repeat what they hear whether rude words or information a parent really doesn’t wants announced in public. Hey, at least the little girl didn’t say she thought someone’s swim suit was distracting.

Friday, July 9, 2010

“Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passerby who meddles in a quarrel not his own.” Proverbs 26:17

Years ago I ran into a friend and, after we exchanged the obligatory pleasantries, her evil twin came out. Her smile turned into a scowl and she started ranting about a mutual friend, “She did this and she did that. Can you believe it? Don’t you think I should cut off our friendship? I think you should too!”

“Wait a minute,” I said a little surprised at her tirade. This has absolutely nothing to do with me. I refuse to get involved. It’s between the two of you.”

Well, it’s just not fair. We’ve been friends for years and she treated me that way,” she started again totally ignoring what I had said.

“I’m so sorry. You’re obviously upset. However, what’s not fair is she’s not here to defend herself. This is clearly something you two need to settle,” I said as I turned and walked away. “Talk to you later.”

All of us can find ourselves in the same situation and learning the hard way, I’ve realized it’s best to stay out of other people’s business. Why do we get involved? I suppose we think we can swoop in like a superhero and save the day. Rarely does that happen. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Powers, called it meddling not helping. Even with kids, unless they’re beating the tar out of each other, it’s best to let them settle things on their own.

My mom’s version of King Solomon’s wise words was: “If you’re not part of the problem or part of the solution, keep out of it.” I’ve stayed out of the way of a lot of angry dogs by heeding her advice.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Webster definition for dread is, “to anticipate with great fear and apprehension.” I’ll add to it “something you’re going to have to do anyway.” There’s nothing I dread more than going to the dentist and that’s where I’m headed to day. It’s only for a check up and cleaning but honestly, I’d rather go to the gynecologist.

The sad thing is I’m the daughter of a dentist and my dentist is a friend. It obviously has nothing to do with the person behind the mask. The dread is I could possibly have a cavity, I know I’ll have one of those jack-your-jaw-open headaches about the middle of the afternoon, my gums will be sore, and the hygienist will tell me I need to do a better job of flossing. I always tell her I floss twice a day and that my gums bleed every time. She just smiles. I feel like a little kid in trouble

I probably would be a good candidate for the happy gas. I’ve never used it. When I do have to have work done, my dentist, at my request, uses so much Novocain it would paralyze a small animal. I absolutely feel no pain, but I can’t eat for hours without unknowingly chewing a hole in my cheek. I can forget about drinking anything until the feeling comes back.

You’d think after giving birth three times, a trip to the dentist wouldn't even come up at all on my radar of dread, but it does. I do enjoy having teeth, so I’ll go. I’ll whine, but I’ll go.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

When I was in the Philadelphia airport not long ago, I watched something very interesting unfold. My flight was delayed so I settled into the gate waiting area with a breve latte and the latest issue of People. It’s my airport version of wise use of time. A college aged girl sat down on the same row of seats not far from me. She very meticulously opened her back pack, pulled off her shoes, shook open her blanket and stretched out on the seats and covered up. I almost asked if she wanted me to tuck her in.

Within five minutes a guy about the age as the sleeping girl sat down on the row across from me and went through the same getting ready for bed routine. I began to wonder if I was sitting in a designated sleep area. Obviously both of the early 20-something sleepers didn’t care what anyone thought.

About twenty minutes later a couple of 70ish women, apparently headed to a beach location, walked by. One had on hot pink Bermuda shorts and an orange, patterned, v neck knit top, two sizes too small. She had on the matching sweater, also two sizes too small. Her friend had on white short shorts and high heeled tennis shoes with a Mary Jane type strap. She had evidently tried to use a spray on tanner to get a head start on her vacation. To finish off her outfit she had on a white tank top and a white floppy brimmed hat. I guess she was trying to show off her new tan. The girls were obviously not concerned with what anyone thought.

Then it dawned on me: both the sleepers and the candidates for What Not To Wear were not bothered one bit with what others thought. They were happy. Here’s my theory: in your late teens and early twenties you’re young enough to get away with it. When you’re in your seventies you act however you want because you can.

Even though I don’t fall into either category, I can learn something from their unbothered attitudes. However, if I wore white short shorts with high heeled tennis shoes and went through a bedtime ritual at the airport, my family might just put me away.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

About this time in the summer between 5th and 6th grade I listened every day for the clunk of the mail box lid on our front porch. Mom had sent in an application to Junior Cotillion and I was waiting for a reply. I wasn’t even really sure what cotillion was, I just knew I really wanted to go. Several of my friends had already received a letter and I was sure my chances were growing slimmer by the day.

Finally it came: “We are pleased to inform you Suzette has been accepted to attend Junior Cotillion ...” I was thrilled, but still didn’t really know why. Junior Cotillion was for kids in grades 6 through 9 to learn not only basic dance skills, but social graces as well. Awkward is the only word I can think of that explains how the first few 6th grade dances were.

Getting dressed up down to the white gloves was the fun part. Actually going to the hotel ballroom had it’s drawbacks. In sixth grade I was taller than all the boys and had a mouth full of braces. I felt like I had a “Gawky” flashing neon sign around my neck trying to be inconspicuous in a sea of cool people.

As we arrived every other Saturday night, part of the routine was to greet the director and her staff. The objective was to teach us how to handle a receiving line. The director was always dressed in a beautiful low cut flowing gown with sequins, kind of like a beauty pageant contestant. Her hair and makeup were perfect. I got a little nervous when I shook her hand. All the boys thoroughly enjoyed that part of the evening because they were short and she had to bend forward to greet them.

Learning how to drink a Coke through a straw wearing white gloves was my least favorite part. I will say that’s a skill I haven’t had to use in my entire adult life.

I checked online and Junior Cotillion, which was founded in 1948, still carries on today. By the end of my four year stint I appreciated everything I had learned. The best part about the last dance in the 9th grade was my confidence had grown, not because I had mastered all the dances and social skills, but because all the boys were finally taller than me.

Monday, July 5, 2010

There are just some places you leave hoping you get the chance to return someday. I’m leaving one today, The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia. David, Jill, Vivian, Jim and I spent the weekend here. It feels like I’ve been living in a page torn out of an American history book for four days.

The Homestead was established in 1766 before we were even a country. Obviously there have been additions and renovations over the last 200 years, but the essence of the place remains. Hidden in the middle of nowhere in the Allegheny Mountains, it’s steeped in southern hospitality and tradition.

Countless celebrities and dignitaries have been to The Homestead. It was a strange feeling standing in the President’s Lounge looking at the portraits of the 22 American presidents who have visited and vacationed here. George Washington was hanging on a wall across the room facing Bill Clinton. I wondered if the two would have been friends if they had lived at the same time.

We could choose to fill the days with activities or sit in one of the big white rockers and just be still. We did a little of both. There are indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, three golf courses, a world class spa, a bowling alley, fly fishing, horseback riding and miles of trails. I almost backed out of our hike when I read the sign with instructions on what to do if you encounter a bear. I didn’t quite understand the remain calm but make a lot of noise part. How do you do that?

Last night was the 4th of July cookout followed by a Beatles tribute band concert. There’s nothing quite like 1700 people singing along to Yellow Submarine. The night was finished off with one of the best fireworks displays I’ve ever seen.

So today it’s back to the real world. The weekend was over the top. I wonder if the Washingtons and Jeffersons had as much fun at The Homestead as the Brawners and Joneses did.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I wonder if Thomas Jefferson had any idea the impact he would make on social calendars when he wrote the Declaration of Independence 230 plus years ago. We Americans celebrate intensely anyway, but the 4th of July tops the list. We have 4th of July sales and pre 4th of July sales on everything from cars to swim suits, barbecues, bonfires, parades and enormous fireworks displays. Everyone running for any political office this year will be out shaking hands and holding babies. In some states it’s legal to play with fire and blow things up yourself.

People get a little crazy on the 4th. Hospital emergency rooms all over the country are proof. That’s where we ended the evening on the Bicentennial 4th of July, with all the crazy people. In 1976 Skaggs was just a little community hospital not really equipped to handle the influx of summer tourists like it does today. The ER waiting room was full so we sat in folding chairs lining the hallway with 18 month old Jason who was running a 105 temp. There were broken bones, cuts, raw sun burns, and an extreme case of poison ivy sitting with us. Unless you were having a heart attack or a baby you had to wait your turn. I was pregnant and after two hours of waiting with a sick baby, I was tempted.

An angry man sat down across the hall from us. When I saw what was wrong with him, I knew I would be angry too. He had been fishing and all his brother-in-law caught was this guy’s upper lip. So there he sat on the 4th of July missing out on hot dogs and blowing things up because he had a fish hook sticking out of his mouth. He said it didn’t really hurt unless he laughed.

Have fun celebrating our country’s independence with family and friends today. Be safe and watch out for the other guy if you go fishing.

Happy Birthday America!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I learned a real important lesson several years ago. Don’t let a hairdresser cut your hair when he or she is upset. I sat down in the chair for a regularly scheduled appointment and simply asked, “How are things going?” I spent the next hour and a half listening to everything that had gone wrong. Her husband admitted to an affair, her son had gotten in trouble at school and the electricity was shut off at her house because the bill wasn’t paid. She found the envelope she thought she had mailed between the seats of her car that morning.

I should have know better, but I sat there. She talked, I listened and she cut and snipped and cut. I wasn’t facing the mirror so I had no idea what was going on. When she finally finished and turned me around my hair looked like something between a Sharon Stone spike cut and Demi Moore bald. I was stunned. She said, “Oh I guess I was so into talking I cut a little more than I intended. The good news is hair grows really fast. See you next time.”

I have never gotten my hair cut facing anything but the mirror since then. The only good thing about that trip to the salon was for about eight weeks, my hair only took three minutes to dry. I felt almost naked for the first week and then decided to act like I had it cut that way on purpose because unlike some things, it couldn’t be fixed by anything but time.

Women historically fuss and whine about their hair. If it’s curly we want straight. If it’s short we want it long. If it’s long we try to gather the courage to get it cut. And we’re never satisfied with the color.

Here’s what I’ve decided ... no one is obsessed with your own hair like you are. So do the best you can with it, smile, and enjoy the day. Your hair looks better than you think it does.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Today I opened one of the world’s first compostable chips bags. Evidently Sun Chips has laid claim to being the first chips company to create such a bag. Can you imagine how many chips bags are thrown in the trash in this country. I know landfills are full of dirty diapers, but honestly we humans only use those for two or three years. We eat chips our entire lives.

Sun Chips launched the new bags in the spring this year. I read several reviews and would you believe there are people complaining the bag is too noisy. Come on. It can totally break down in 14 weeks in a compost pile and people are fussing because they think the bag makes to much noise. Maybe because it makes sneaking chips a little trickier. Granted the bag feels similar to those foil-like thermal blankets that are handed out at the end of a marathon to hold in body heat, but if the sound is too irritating the chips can always be dumped into a bowl or basket. Noise for 14 week disintegration isn’t a bad trade off.

I’ll have to admit, I’m an almost recycler. I sort of do it in fits and starts and stops. In our small community a person has to be really green and devoted because there isn’t a big green truck that comes every other week for a pick up like in large metroplexes. If you recycle you have to bag it up and take it to the recycle center. I heard recently they’ve stopped accepting glass. I thought that was one of the recycle basics. Does that make them an almost recycle center?

I do take magazines to dental and doctor offices and I try to use newspapers for packing and shipping things. Surely that counts for something. At least I don’t complain about the noise level of a compostable chips bag.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

There’s a place in Richmond, Virginia that claims to be the second best barbecue restaurant in the country. When asked where the best one is, the owner will tell you with a grin, “In the town where you grew up.” The childhood places where we spent time and the food we ate can instantly be pulled from our mental filing cabinets with simple sentences like that.

There was a diner in downtown Little Rock that’s famous in my memory. I can’t even remember the name of it, but I think it was something like Sam and Dave’s. Before we could drive, some friends and I would catch the bus at Heights Variety Store to go have lunch and maybe see a matinee at the Capitol Theater. Major business deals were settled over blue plate specials and barbecue sandwiches so it was best to get there before noon to snag a table among the suits.

By today’s health standards the place would probably be condemned. Paint, most likely lead based, was peeling from the walls, the vinyl seats on some of the metal chairs were torn, and the floor was slick with grease from the deep fryers. But the memory of the squeaky, rusty screen door, the smoky haze, clanging of cooking utensils and the first bite of the barbecue sandwich and fries have me agreeing with the Richmond restaurant owner. Not only the country’s, but the world’s best barbecue is in the town you grew up in.