Thursday, September 30, 2010

Her mother’s words of instruction still echo in my head, “Girls, go wash you hands!” That’s the first thing we always heard as the front door closed behind us at Phyllis’ house. Not “Hi, how are you, where have you been, or what have you been doing,” but “Wash your hands!” All these years later, it was obvious she was decades ahead. Signs are now posted everywhere, Wash Your Hands. I always wonder about the ones in restaurant bathrooms: Employees must wash their hands before returning to work. Is that a reminder to the employees or is it supposed to serve as comfort to the patrons?

Lately I’ve begun to realize there really was something to, “Gross, he has cooties!” He really did. We all do. It’s just some of us handle our cooties better than others. And washing hands is the best way.

Germs come in four major forms; bacteria, virus, fungi and protozoa. There are ways to live in harmony with the microscopic critters. I think the best way is to stay out of the pediatrician’s office, or if a trip is necessary, take a large jug of Purell and a can of Lysol. How many times have kids been in for a well child check up and two days later wake up with a fever? It’s even more frightening to think about what lurks in hospitals.

I’ve always thought public restrooms had to be the germiest, but I recently read a corporate office desk is creepier than a toilet. And, even though men are messier, women’s restrooms were found to have more germs. The reason; women spend more time in there and they bring the germ magnet children with them.

I have to block germ knowledge and the 20/20 reports out of my mind when I check into a hotel. That’s all I’ll say about that.

So unless we wear Michael Jackson masks and gloves, we’re exposed to the germ gremlins. As Phyllis’ mom said, “Wash your hands.” However, the nagging question still remains; why are the snotty nosed kids with filthy hands the ones who never get sick?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The look in her eyes said more clearly than words, “I’ve had it.” Many times it’s easier to understand body language than what a person says. Even though I had just met her, she was easy to read. She was ready to rip someone apart, but the polite person in her was holding it in check. I could tell one tiny wrong move in the conversation might send her into orbit, so I tip toed very carefully.

Every conversation starter question I asked seemed to irritate her. “So, what does your husband do,” I finally asked thinking I was safe. I knew he was very successful, so how could I go wrong? “Oh, he has several companies and is starting a new one,” she said and went on to explain what he did.

“Wow that sounds exciting,” I said truly interested. “Whoop-de-do for,” him she answered, obviously jealous of her own husband’s success. All I do is take care of three children.” I finally decided my best bet was to enjoy lunch and let the other women at the table carry the conversation, because this was going no where.

Later that day one of the women from lunch shared her concern for her friend. “She seems to be sliding down a slope and won’t grab anyone’s hand. Everyone has tried to help, but things just keep getting darker for her. She used to be so happy.”

“She’s like trout in a fish net,” I offered. “Excuse me?” the woman looked at me.

“Have you ever watched a fisherman scoop up a trout he’s caught? When it’s lifted out of the water, the fish wiggles and squirms and fights the net. Even when the net is lowered back into the water for the fish to be released it still fights. Until it finally relaxes it stays tangled up wearing it’s self out. When it finally calms down it easily swims out.”

“No matter how much help everyone offers her, until your friend looks at her life and understands for herself how blessed she is, she’ll stay tangled up. Until then it’s like talking to a fish,” I added. She nodded and smiled.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body...”
~Proverbs 14:30

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A friend of mine asked me not long ago, “What are you happy about?’ I don’t now why such a simple question stumped me for a minute. I just stared at him smiling. I wish I could say, “Oh that’s just me, happy all the time.” But lying always catches up with you, so why bother. On the other hand, Jim Brawner is happy all the time. OK, 95% of the time. To be honest it can be somewhat irritating living with someone like that.

I am the first to admit I hate conflict, but you know how sometimes it just feels good to vent and rant and rave? When I come to that point Jim generally laughs and then I end up laughing too. It always works. However one time it didn’t.

During that “blissful” first year, a couple usually dances around trying to figure out how this marriage thing works. It’s a wonder we made it through ours. But Jim kept me laughing. When we were setting up house he unboxed a Miller Light cube calendar with a peel off stick on back. His uncle owned a pool hall and one of the sales reps had so graciously given him an extra so he gave it to Jim. How handy to be able to flip the cubes around and always know the date!

I walked out of the room and when I came back he had stuck the calendar on the kitchen wall. At first I thought it was a joke and reached up to move it, but it wouldn’t budge. Seriously? That was probably my first ranting and raving episode in our marriage and it wasn’t pretty. I even accused him of brain cell loss from being hit so many times playing football.

So in attempt to fix the situation, he pulled the source of conflict off the wall taking a hunk of sheetrock with it. We both stared blankly at each other, then he walked out the front door.

Hours later life was back to normal. We left the wall torn up until we moved three years later to remember, it’s not worth it. Most of what we waste time having fits about isn’t. Secretly I still think an ugly calendar stuck on my kitchen wall was fit worthy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It is what it is ... or is it? Seeing things as they appear to be is typically what we do without even thinking. A massive bank of puffy white clouds may look like a massive bank of puffy white clouds until you stretch out in the grass. Magically a whole zoo full of animals appears in the sky. I lived in a house for a year and never saw the perfectly shaped owl on the end of the custom oak breakfast island until I sat down on the stairway one day. Before I discovered the owl, it had simply been a breakfast island. The carpenter died before I had the chance to ask him if it was intentional or accidental artwork.

Recently I watched an interview with Anne Beiler, the founder of Auntie Anne’s pretzels. It’s impossible for me to walk within 25 yards of an Auntie Anne’s in the mall or an airport and not give in. I always justify it telling myself I haven’t had one since the last time I was in a mall or airport like I rarely get to either of those places.

I envisioned Auntie Anne a stay at home mom who stumbled on to a way to bring in extra income for her family. She and her husband, Jonas, started the company in 1988 and sold it in 2005 with 850 locations. Today there are over 1000 Auntie Anne’s located worldwide. At first look, I saw a lucky woman who is worth millions. As the interview unfolded I stared amazed and admittedly a bit ashamed because I had thought she was just another inventor of a money making machine.

She is one of three sisters who grew up in a tight knit Amish community in Pennsylvania. For several years she slogged through deep agonizing pain beginning with the death of her toddler daughter. Anne’s sister backed over her when the child ran behind the tractor she was driving. Then she went on to explain a chain of events involving her pastor, her betrayal of Jonas and alienation from her sisters. It was heartbreaking.

She did finish the interview talking about her journey though redemption, love, grace and forgiveness. I discovered the person behind the mega millions pretzel was so much more than a smiling woman in an apron.

That interview made me consider the times I’ve written someone off or prejudged a circumstance. Things aren’t always what they seem. There’s more than likely a back story to be uncovered. I want to become someone who takes the time to look beyond the obvious.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I’ve always been fairly confident that if accosted, unless there was a gun or knife involved, I could hold my ground. My plan of action was to jam an elbow or knee where necessary to take the guy to the ground, then run and scream like crazy. Everything sounds like it will work when listening to plans in your mind.

Late in the summer just after our first anniversary, Jim and I moved into a duplex not far from the university campus where he was in the middle of two a day football practices. The tiny space had wasn’t air conditioned, so all the windows were propped open with box fans set on high. I think the fans just stirred the heat.

Early one morning after Jim left, I heard someone calling his dog through my open bedroom window, but ignored it and went back to sleep. The next morning right after Jim left, I heard the guy calling his dog again, “Blondie, Blondie. Come on over and see me.”

I sat straight up in bed when I realized this guy wasn’t calling his dog. I jumped up, closed and locked all the doors and windows, grabbed my 15 pound Dachshund for protection and sat down in the hall like I was in a tornado drill. At that time no one but Dick Tracey had a cell phone and Jim wouldn’t be home until noon. It was 7am.

All my imagined courage evaporated when I was actually faced with a situation. After an hour in the hall drenched in sweat I suddenly realized my plan of action only worked in my head and I got mad; mad at myself for being such a baby and mad at a person I had never seen for harassing me. The next day the almost perpetrator was evicted. As it turned out he was known in the neighborhood and was harmless, but in my mind he was a potential ax murderer.

Bravery is tested only when you come face to face with your fears. Each of us is courageous, just in different areas of our lives.

Erma Bombeck once said, “All of us have moments in our lives that test our courage. Taking children into a house with white carpet is one of them.” I don’t know if that’s a test of courage or a lack of sane judgement.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

She folded her arms, rolled her eyes and said, “You don’t know anything. You are just stupid!” The ten year old girl’s mother looked at me and sheepishly said, with her daughter glaring at her, “Oh she just in that transitional age. Not much can be done.”

I could taste blood and realized I was literally biting my tongue. Not much can be done? Really? I wanted so badly to tell this woman she had just openly admitted she wasn’t smarter than the fifth grader staring her down.

In reality a whole lot can be done and I felt sorry for the mother in advance. If her 10 year old was treating her with such disrespect now, the thought of the girl at 16 was a bit scary.

I was in the cereal aisle at Walmart when I heard the grade school aged boy standing next to me say, “Come on Mommm. This is ridiculous. Make a decision and let’s go!” His mother very calmly turned around to face him and said, “You watch your mouth. I brought you into this world and I can also take you out!”

I don’t necessarily recommend that tactic, but, hey, she made her point. The boy dropped his head and said softly, “Sorry, Mom.”

Jim Brawner didn’t insist on a lot of regulations when our kids were growing up, but disrespecting your mother was close to a federal offense. I’m not naive enough to believe my kids didn’t discuss my random spells of ignorance among themselves, but they never said it to my face. Jim had drawn line in the sand.

According to Webster, honor is to hold in high respect, extend courteous regard or show special distinction. When God was giving Moses the 10 commandments, in #5 “Honor your father and your mother” he added “that it may go well with you.” Even though our parents get smarter when we get to be about 24 or when our first child is born, we sometimes feel like stupid creeps up on them every once in a while. God didn’t say honor them when you think they are smart, He just said honor them.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A waiting room is a great place to read interesting articles. Of course, some of the magazines are five years old and when you turn to page 134 to finish the article, someone may have torn the coupon out on page 135 leaving you wondering what the 5th point was.

I read an intriguing article while waiting recently; Things To Never Say In A Job Interview. The author discussed the importance of not going on and on about how much of a people person you are and that bad grammar makes you look dumb even though you may have a Masters degree. She also emphasized can’t and impossible shouldn’t be in your vocabulary. What fascinated me most was her reasoning why a job applicant should never use the word crisis.

Evidently touting the ability to respond calmly and intelligently is commonplace during an interview. The problem arises when applicants use the word crisis to describe what, in reality, is just a challenge. It can make the interviewer wonder if they are alarmists. The best terms to use are problem or challenge.

When I thought about it, problems have solutions and challenges can be overcome, but a crisis is just bad. Most people run around like their hair is on fire during a crisis and to be able to respond calmly is admirable. But in an office, I suppose it’s important to know what a possible employee considers a crisis.

A fax machine jamming when important papers are being sent, not hitting a quarterly projection, and missing the 4 o’clock mail deadline, though important, are not crises. A hostage standoff, floodwaters rising, and an AIDS epidemic are each a crisis.

The majority of what we face every day is not critical even though we react like it’s life threatening. In 1970 when a small explosion happened on Apollo 13, one of the astronauts radioed, “Houston, we have a problem.” If he responded calmly to that, why can’t I when pancake syrup boils over on the stove. It’s not even a problem, it’s just a mess.

So unless my life is flashing in front of my eyes, I want to remember; it’s just a problem and problems have solutions.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The mother of five said to me, “This weekend is going to be special.” I assumed it was one of her kids’ birthdays or an anniversary of some kind. “I’m going to have “the talk” with my youngest child, the last one. You know she turns 13 in a few weeks.” I stared at her for a few seconds, then realized I needed to close my mouth hoping I hadn’t actually gasped out loud.

“Really? She’s almost 13 and you honestly think she’s clueless about where babies come from,” I asked, thinking surely she going to tell me she was teasing. But she was dead serious, “Oh, her little group of friends is really good,” she said. “None of them know about sex yet and besides they all go to a Christian school.”

“How do you know those other girls don’t know about sex,” I asked wondering how she figured going to a Christian school immunizes kids from talking about sex.

“The other mothers said so. We talked and we all agree none of our girls understand anything, so we’re all going to have the talk this weekend so they will all know at the same time,” she smiled.

I wanted to yell, “Are you kidding me? There’s more than one of you in denial?” I changed the subject because nothing I said was going convince her otherwise. And, I was getting more frustrated by the minute because I learned a long time ago, it’s never too early to start talking.

One afternoon, when he was in the first grade, Travis explained to Jason and me in biological detail how babies were made. Travis had evidently gotten his information at school from his friend Sloan who had overheard a discussion his parents were having with his fifth grade sister. That was the first time I realized you only have so much control over what your kids are exposed to.

Horrified, Jason, the wiser third grader, told Travis to never say anything like that again. Then Travis, looking for backup said, “Mom, isn’t that right?”

Totally unprepared and wondering when Jim was going to get home to rescue me I just said, “Wellll ...” Jason paused for a minute and said, “Nooooo! Really?”

All I could think to say was, “Wellll...”

Then Jason asked the question I knew was next, “That’s not how you got us though, right?” “Wellll...”

“Nooooo!” Jason said. “If that’s what it takes, I’m only going to have one baby.”

“You might change your mind later on,” I smiled.

“I don’t think so,” he said determined

“Well, think of it this way. It’s kind of like broccoli. You really have to be an adult to appreciate it.”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The article was titled New York City Barbecue. What is that? Fort Worth, Kansas City, Memphis maybe, but New York City, I’m not so sure. I’d recommend sushi in New York City, but not barbecue. New York City barbecue is kind of like Montana sushi, it just doesn’t sound right.

I had sushi for the first time with my friend Robyn several years ago. I was the one who always asked for a fork at the chopsticks kind of restaurants, so this was a big step for me. She explained the raw and cooked and suggested what would be good for a sushi rookie. I discovered I really like avocado rolls, California rolls and crunchy shrimp rolls and that using chopsticks on sushi works better than chicken fried rice.

It doesn’t matter how much of a seasoned sushi eater I become, I just don’t think I can handle the raw. I’m sure I look like I’m riding a tricycle among Harleys, but I have my standards, so I’ll eat the veggie and cooked and act like I know what I’m doing. There’s just something about any kind of raw meat that’s just not quite right.

I don’t eat much red meat, but when I do it needs to be almost crisp without even a hint of pink. I was having dinner at a nice restaurant once and explained to the server the crisp factor. When my food was served it looked great until I turned it over. It was crisp on one side and raw on the other. It reminded me why I eat a lot of fish and chicken.

I heard a preacher recently talk about people who are cooked on one side and raw on the other. Everything looks good and done on Sunday, but the rest of the week is pretty raw. It’s easy to act lovely when there are people around you want to impress, but what about when they aren’t there?

Cooked sushi, well done meat, and real people have a lot in common. It’s best to be authentic and consistent all the way through because eventually something will flip you over and, if you have a raw side, it’ll be exposed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I thought it was almost mean. Jim could put a pancake on our dog Sally’s nose and she wouldn’t eat it until he said, “OK”. Then he took it one step further by putting it in her mouth and telling her to wait. And she would. Sometimes drool would drip, but she wouldn’t move until she was told to. No wonder law enforcement departments use dogs.

Their discipline shames us. Why then, if a dog has that much self control, do I struggle to just cut back to one cup of coffee in the morning. Probably because no one claps and cheers when I perform such an amazing feat. I’m so proud when I don’t pour a second cup, but the next day it’s almost tougher to resist.

Douglas McKenna, former director of Microsoft’s Leadership Development is quoted saying, “Here’s a secret about self-control: It works like a muscle. With each use, that muscle temporarily loses some strength, leaving you with reduced capacity to handle yourself if the next self-control challenge pops up too soon.”

It’s like running into an angry dog when you’re out on a jog. Your muscles and tired from working so hard, but you have to find the energy to throw rocks or climb a tree. I think that just means we are more susceptible to be tempted when we’re worn down.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say we Americans don’t have a handle on self-control. Gallup’s latest findings show 63% of Americans are overweight, consumer debit is at an all time high, and violence on the streets and even in the home is disturbing. Granted other factors play in to these complicated scenarios, but when it’s unwrapped discipline and self control are in the center.

Why is it self control seems to be no problem for some and a real struggle for others? Studies have shown those with high levels of self control are actually using two parts of their brain instead of just one. Certainly temperament plays into the equation too. I feel at times I have a total brain malfunction when I know better, but give in anyway.

We all operate on such impulse. I have decided if I slow down just a bit and think before I say what I really want to say, grab the fast food, or buy the amazing bargain I really don’t need, it would help. I also know now if I make it past the first temptation, that my discipline muscle will be tired and I’ll have to grit my teeth and throw rocks the next go around. Clapping and cheering might help too.

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled ...”
~1 Peter 1:13

Monday, September 20, 2010

It’s not really part of the exit instructions when you leave the hospital with a new baby. There actually should be a warning: Don’t Blink. If you do, he will be grown. It happens so quickly, it’s like watching a time lapsed video.

Yesterday it was as if I hit rewind, in an odd kind of way. Branson hosted a K-Swiss Ironman 70.3 or a half Ironman triathlon. There were 1400 athletes from 43 states and 10 countries competing on the course which is a 1.2 mile lake swim, 56 mile bike ride and 13.2 mile run. I question the sanity of that.

Jason and Travis competed as part of a 3 man relay team on different teams. One of Travis’ teammates told me yesterday in the spring when he asked him to compete, that Travis said, “Aren’t you asking the wrong Brawner brother.” Jason was an All American college swimmer. Travis was an All American college football player and had to think about it for a couple of weeks, but then decided to take it on.

I think Jason, who has done triathlons and marathons, got in the lake 4 or 5 times to get ready for yesterday, because he could. Travis on the other hand, who runs and has done a marathon, worked out in the lake with his friend Matt at 6 am four or five days a week. Endurance in the water is totally different from endurance on land.

So Jim and I were on the shores of Moonshine Beach at 6am with 1400 athletes and hundreds of spectators. My stomach forgot my boys grew up. I felt they were 5 and 7 years old getting in the water.

Jason, the director of a summer camp for special needs kids and an Army National Guard chaplain, was in his camo jammers. Travis, an ear, nose and throat surgeon, was appropriate in conservative black. Two boys, twenty-four months apart in age raised in the same home with the same parents are so different.

Jason was out of the water 10 minutes before Travis; both were smiling with a huge sense of accomplishment or maybe it was the endorphin rush. As my stomach calmed down I realized how odd it is to look into the faces of those two men and still see my little boys.

Warning: Don’t Blink.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A few Sundays ago our pastor said something I’ve never considered before. “I really hope you’ll think about this,” he said. By the seriousness in his tone I assumed it was important so I was ready to take a note. I was little surprised when he said, “America is one of the few, if not the only country in the world that has an overabundance of personal storage units.” Not one of the deeper spiritual truths, but then again, maybe it was.

We are such a country of wealth and abundance and keepers of stuff. But why? I think there’s a false sense of security in squirreling away things we’re sure we might need later? For me later never seems to come and I have stuff I’ll never use. I’ve started giving a lot away. My friend DK has a self imposed rule: for every new article of clothing she buys she donates an old one. Maybe I could purge the closet then implement that rule myself.

I read an interesting interview with Kathy Lee Curtis. She evidently is not only an accomplished actor, she is an organize expert. She didn’t push her methods, but offered some suggestions for getting life in order. She keeps most everything in the kitchen in plastic containers with labels and she wears mostly black, white and navy and organizes her closet by color. She only has one pair of jeans. I bet she never digs for measuring spoons and getting dressed must be so uncomplicated.

There’s a mutant gene that seems to have crept into Americans that pushes us to gather more and more. The law of diminishing returns is in full swing whispering enough is not really enough. When we get what we think we need, then there is the bigger and the newer one out in 6 months. So, we collect more. No wonder we think we need bigger houses. We need to keep our stuff.

What if everyone gave away things they don’t use or really even need? Life might be a little simpler and a whole lot less stressful. Besides the more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to take care of.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Several years ago a young mother I’d known for a long time cornered me in the frozen food department at the grocery store with two of her three children in tow. She had a glazed look in her eyes that hinted she might be considering running away from home. “I’ve just about had it,” she all but whined. I’m ready to give up.”

“Oh, look! The Rocky Road ice cream is on sale this week. That seems to help sometimes,” I said as I handed her a carton. “No seriously, I am worn to a frazzle,” she sighed. “These kids are about to kill me. They won’t mind, they don’t listen, and it seems they try to do the exact opposite of what I say. I just don’t know how to handle them.”

I stepped between her and the children with my back to the little people and whispered, “They’re not deaf, they’re just short.” She looked at me like I should be the one buying the Rocky Road. “I’m serious,” I pressed on. “They’re taking in every word you’re saying. They know how to handle you.”

Why do adults talk about the children who are standing at their feet and think the kids are oblivious? Can you imagine saying to someone across the table, “Sally has put on so much weight,” with Sally sitting next to you at a dinner party? You would never do that because she obviously would hear every word. So why do we think it’s an OK thing to do with children. Research shows babies pick up on the verbal and social cues from their parents very early. If that’s true for babies, just think how much more aware this woman’s three and five year olds were.

Besides if all these kids hear is how disruptive and bad they are, they will come to believe that is what’s expected of them. Kids generally perform to expectations. Years ago I stood in awe as Mrs. Henry’s four year old preschoolers automatically sat on the rug with their hands in their laps at story time. “How do you do it,” I asked? She smiled and very matter-of-factly said, “They know what I expect.”

Obviously it’s not always that easy, but positive expectations automatically trump the negative. Walking in to swim class with Jill and Vivian the other day another mom said, “I know she’ll scream and protest when we get in today. She just doesn’t like the water.” Her two year old had yelled and cried the entire class the week before.

“Oh I bet she’ll do a great job today,” I said smiling at the little girl. She stared at me like I was crazy. “I can’t wait. This is going to be so much fun!”

And it was. Expect the best from kids. If that doesn’t work there’s always the Rocky Road.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I don’t like to pay full sticker price for anything. It’s just not necessary. Any more there are discounts and coupons for anything you might need or want. It does take some awareness effort and research, but the savings can be substantial.

I used to be quite the couponer. I worked the rebates too. I actually had my trash filed alphabetically in boxes on shelves in the garage. I had several trash trading buddies. Two cake mix box UPC codes were always good for one razor package. I guess I was a bag lady of sorts. Maybe I was just accidentally into recycling long before it was mainstream hip.

My friend Debbie and I were once invited to be on a radio show to share our money saving system. As we left the studio I looked at Deb and said, “Do you realize we just shared with thousands of people that we swap cereal boxes and dig coupons out of trash cans? What’s wrong with us? Is this what happens when you’re at home with little kids all day? Maybe we should get out more often.”

One time we drove to another town to take advantage of a triple coupon day. Most of our trash trading friends were there as well. We had a hard time loading everything in the car. I think I bought enough toilet paper for a year for only pennies on the roll. It’s a total score when you have a coupon that is tripled on the Charmin the store is running a weekly special on.

I recently read a surprising coupon statistic. Coupons are used more often by those whose annual income is $100,000.00 or more. Saving money is obviously a popular idea no matter how much you have or don’t have.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I so agree with what Gilda Radner once said, “I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn't itch.” I was the little kid who wanted all the tags cut out of clothes because they aggravated the life out of me. I used to say I was picky, but now I prefer to say I’m discriminating.

Cotton is my favorite fabric and thank you Mr. Levi Strauss for jeans. I don’t buy clothes if they’re so-so, they have to be great and must be comfortable. I don’t own anything wool unless it’s to be worn with something underneath it and I really don’t wear dresses. Back before I was so discriminating I owned wool dresses.

I research shoes before I buy. In high school I’d suffer for a month breaking in new Bass Weegins. I would resole and replace the heels several times before I’d go through the pain of new ones. I refuse to break in anything else.

My mom loved shoes and had a legal excuse for buying good ones. Most women wear B or medium width, but Mom wore AAAA and they were hard to find in anything but designer. When she got tired of shoes she gave them to Irene. They both wore the same size except Irene wore W for wide. She said that wasn’t a problem because she could stand wearing the narrow designer shoes just long enough for church. I guess she prayed the pastor wouldn’t preach too long.

I tried on some tall boots the other day. They met my criteria, comfortable and designer at a discount. But, when I checked them out in the full length mirror I resembled a tall jockey. I put on another pair with heels and looked like an aging lady of the streets. So I gave up and bought a pair of athletic shoes on sale.

They say you can tell a lot about someone by what she wears. So what do my flip-flops say?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

There’s just something about a trip to the zoo that makes me want to spend a year in the rainforest or desert studying animals on the verge of extinction. But, then I consider I might miss my memory foam mattress and Keurig coffee maker and decide I should leave animal studies to the experts.

I will say after a zoo visit I realize how environmentally unaware I am. So many things are endangered and teetering on vanishing and the protected list grows longer every year. And walking among the animals makes me feel so small, like a tiny speck in a huge world.

I’ve never been on an African safari, but I’m quite sure zoo animals are different from those in the wild. The monkeys appear to enjoy performing, the lions don’t have to hunt for their food so they seem lazy, and the bison and rhinos look bored. When I was a kid there was a polar bear in the Little Rock zoo who even waved to the visitors. I wonder if, like in the animated movies, they long to return to the wide open spaces or if they enjoy the life of leisure.

Nothing is better than wandering through all the exhibits with a grape snow cone. I stood in awe and respect yesterday staring at the alligators when a mother stopped beside me and lifted her three year old daughter to sit on top of the railing. My knees went weak and I held my breath when one gator slithered over right below us and hissed.

What are people thinking? Maybe they just don’t. It was as if the mother came to her senses when she said, “Mommy better take you down from here. That alligator would make a chicken nugget out of you.”

A zoo trip makes for interesting observation of the creatures on both sides of the fences. After watching wild animal mommas take care of their young I wonder who is smarter, us or them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When I was in high school there were two types of guys who really aggravated me ... cocky, braggers and bullies. Looking back I realize they both were dealing with the same issue, insecurity. The guys who were out to prove they were smart, stud athletes, or just cool made me want to take my brown bag elsewhere in the cafeteria. But bullies just flat out made me mad.

The first time I had to deal with a bully first hand was when Travis was in junior high. I suppose that’s really second hand, but I was about to make it first hand. A kid much bigger than him shoved him or socked him in the arm every day at the lockers. His locker was right by Travis’ so the just-stay-away-from-him tactic was no good. I encouraged Travis it was much easier to talk your way out of a tight spot than fight your way out, but that didn’t seem to be working either. This went on for weeks.

I finally had had it and decided to call the bully’s mom but changed my mind at the last minute because I realized it would most likely make things worse instead of better. I had come to my last resort. “Son, sometimes you just have to draw a line and don’t let the bad guy step over it without consequences,” I explained.

He looked at me like I had given permission to declare war. “Are you telling me to hit back?”

“Shock therapy is sometimes what it takes,” I said, wondering what would happen.

The next day I dropped by the principal’s office. I explained the situation and that I had suggested to Travis a little “shock and awe” might be the last resort. “Honestly sir, I don’t advocate hitting, but at some point a line needs to be drawn and I feel like the bully might pay attention more closely if Travis was the one to draw it. So if he ends up in your office for fighting, it’s because of me. He smiled and I still wonder what that meant.

A couple of days later Travis announced he didn’t think the bully would be bothering him any more. “How do you know that,” I asked? “At the lockers today he shoved me again so I socked him in the face, slammed my locker and walked away.”

“What did he say? What did he do,” I asked wondering what I had started?

“Nothing, but a couple of other kids clapped. I just headed down the hall praying he wasn’t coming after me. I think he was too surprised to do anything.”

I honestly thought Travis would give the guy warning by saying something like, “You shove me again and you won’t know what hit you.” Is a sucker punch really fair? I don’t suppose a bully thinks about what’s fair. It must have worked, because the guy never bothered Travis again.

I just hoped at 12 Travis didn’t think he could now “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.

Monday, September 13, 2010

When my son-in-law said he was buying bee hives I thought he had absorbed too much glow from computers and medical science was going to make an example of him. “Are you kidding me, David? Where are you going to put them,” I asked, wondering what bees do when the owners go on vacation?

“In the back yard, of course,” he answered as if bees in the back yard was as normal as a dog. So he ordered the hives and once they were set up, the bees. Can you imagine being the UPS driver for that delivery?

I’ve learned bees are fascinating creatures with a very strict codes in the hive. Each bee’s duty is specific. All worker bees are female and can live 4 to 9 months in the winter but only 6 weeks in the busy summer. They literally work themselves to death. The drones are male bees kept on standby for the sole purpose of mating with a virgin queen. Because they have no use in the winter they are actually kicked out of the hive. Hmmm, interesting similarities to some species of mammals.

Bees collect pollen within a five mile radius and are responsible for 80% of all insect pollination. No wonder there’s concern over the decreasing number of honey bees. When David was setting up the hives the neighbors were impressed he was so environmentally aware. Actually, he was interested in the hobby and Jill really likes honey.

The exciting part of beekeeping is robbing the hive of the honey. I was David’s assistant in a recent robbery. My sole assignment was to puff the smoke over the bees to make them drowsy. After I saw how may bees we were dealing with, my second responsibility was to remain calm. The more bees I saw the faster I puffed.

Standing in the yard in my protective garb watching David remove the combs loaded with honey I was in awe and humbled. If God has such an intricate design for the honey bee how, much more has he considered his plans for me?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

When a group of farmers decided to meet in a dirt lot in the Los Angeles area in the 1930s with their loaded down trucks they probably had no idea what they were starting. A creative way to move produce, dairy and flowers has become an American institution, the local farmers market. I visited one in Richmond yesterday.

We passed Cecil playing his guitar and singing twangy blues as we walked into the sea of tents and colors. I wondered where else he plays for tips during the week. Jill and David go to the market in Forest Hill Park every Saturday to buy eggs, bread and veggies. All the produce is so fresh and natural. Just being there made me feel like I was somehow reducing my carbon footprint.

There were local artists showcasing their paintings, jewelry, and pottery. Like an emergency vehicle, Crossroads Coffee House was there in their mobile coffee unit with just-out-of-the-oven scones and rolls and all the favorite speciality coffees. There were booths set up selling soaps, candles, wood, clothing and fresh rabbit livers. Really, rabbit livers? Is that something that can be sold legally?

And the dogs. Everyone had brought their dogs along. I suppose it’s a social opportunity for them as well.

You could tell the majority of the folks milling through the booths were repeat customers by the way they talked and hugged each other’s kids. The market was similar to a business social hour. Business is done, networking accomplished, goods are moved and everyone goes home happy.

Something so simple is fundamental in the make up of American free enterprise. What started with a group of farmers with a good idea now seems to be the environmentally responsible thing to do on a Saturday morning.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

After the first cool snap last year I heard a young mom say, “Well, cold weather is on the way. I’d better brace myself because the kids will be sick all winter. They always are.”

And you know what ... they were. One of them would just get over an ear infection and another one would bring home the stomach flu. It was an endless cycle. She was right. I hope she’s bracing herself this year if she is predicting a negative winter again.

We really don’t understand the power of our words. I don’t know, maybe her kids would have been sick even if she hadn’t been so negative, but after surviving last winter at her house I’d be willing to try a different approach ... positive words and more hand sanitizer.

When I was growing up my mom wouldn’t let me say, “I can’t” no matter how big the challenge. All she wanted to hear was, “I’ll try”. She would tell me, “If you say you can’t you’re right, you can’t. At least give it a try. You never know, you might surprise yourself.” It’s amazing what you can do when you say you can, because you start to believe it.

In recent years we’ve become more sensitive to kids and how our words affect their self image and their confidence. But, have you ever stopped to think about what you say about yourself? “Oh, I’m always late. I’m not good at social functions. I’ll never loose this weight. I’m not a patient person. I’ll never be successful.” We sabotage ourselves without even realizing what we are doing.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Clearly we need to pay more attention to what we say. I casually mentioned in conversation with my friend Alana recently, “Wow, I hope such and such doesn’t happen.” She smiled and said, “Oh we aren’t even going to speak that in to existence.

I challenge you to listen to yourself today. Our words have the power to affect our feelings, thoughts and emotions which determine our actions. Use them carefully.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A day that starts out working like clockwork can suddenly come to a screeching halt for some of the strangest reasons. I got on a plane yesterday, put everything away, and settled in reading my new magazines. The article about new celebrity romances was interrupted by the pilot. “Ladies and gentlemen, something is broken on the plane. I’m very sorry for the inconvenience. Maintenance is on the way. The dinger is broken. It’s not loud enough. Listen.” Then he pushed the button that summons the flight attendants. It sounded just fine to me and everyone else on the flight. That’s the first time I’ve ever had a pilot test something to verify it’s brokeness to the passengers.

After a 30 minute wait the guys came onboard to investigate the sound system malfunction. I decided to make a trip to the bathroom since we were evidently in a holding pattern on the ground. Apparently to check out the intercom, power for the whole plane had to be shut down. I was in the bathroom when they hit the off switch. That was interesting. It’s really dark in an airplane bathroom. Those doors are hard enough to figure out when the lights are on.

Thirty minutes later the pilot announced a part had to be ordered so we had to deplane. Jim taught me years ago to go straight to the service desk and not waste time in the boarding podium line when things like this happen. He was right. There were only four people ahead of me there instead of 50. The service representative was trying to politely to help one man reroute on a different airline. When they finally got it figured out he stormed away saying, “I will never, never, never fly your airline again,” as his young son watched him. And we discipline kids for throwing fits.

One young woman next to me was beside herself with frustration. “All my plans are ruined for the day. Please just give me a ticket.” Then she looked at me and said through gritted teeth, “This is rIdiculous.” I so badly wanted to tell her it’s a big inconvenience, not cancer and to calm down. But I decided she might be a disgruntled postal worker on a day off, so I just knowingly smiled.

When Kyle the ticket guy gave me my new ticket and I realized I was going to be delayed 5 hours because of a broken dinger that sounded perfectly fine, I started to feel that grip of frustration in my throat too. But then I remembered it really was just a big inconvenience, not cancer. Some days just roll that way. It’s just better to roll with it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

We all have personal moments that are huge and memorable ... a first kiss, the officer congratulating you on passing the driving test, landing a job you really wanted, a positive pregnancy test. More than likely you remember every detail. A lot of women can even remember what they were wearing.

Then there are events so enormous and startling you will forever remember where you were when they happened. I was having coffee with my next door neighbor, Marsha, when the space shuttle Challenger exploded and I sat motionless most of the day in my living room in front of the TV on 9/11. Those of us old enough call tell you exactly where we were standing when we learned of the assassination of JFK. Tragedies are difficult to delete from your memory.

There is one fabulous memory for me and everyone I grew up with. If asked the “where were you when...” question, we can instantly answer. “Where were you the night the Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan Show?”

I was at St. Paul Methodist Church for Sunday night youth group. We had just finished Frito pie and broom hockey when the youth director slowly rolled out the TV on a big cart. More than likely most churches in America followed the same plan knowing their fellowship halls would be empty that Sunday if they didn’t.

That night who knew John, Paul, George and Ringo from Liverpool would have such an impact on music. Their songs have run from simple; I Want To Hold Your Hand to the complex and analyzed; I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends. After a lifetime of almost fifty years, their music is still heard every day.

Historic events are like watermarks in time for us. However, I’m slowly realizing every day has it’s own defining moments. I want to learn to treat every one of them like a Beatles on Ed Sullivan kind of day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Something so simple can be so foundational and important. It’s like the bumpers put in the gutters when kids are learning how to bowl ... it keeps things on course. For all three of our kids, a group of peers meet once a week to discuss life and the challenges of high school. Over donuts they would work though a small group study, a Bible study, or have a problem solving session. They kept each other accountable.

Years later Jason’s group periodically gets together, one of Travis’ best friends is from his group and a girl from Jill’s group spent a weekend with her recently. Lifelong bonds are formed when you spend time in the trenches together.

Jim and I are in two small groups. They’re just the adult version of the high school groups. As scheduling worked out, both met yesterday. At lunch our marriage group had the first meeting of our 11th year. Together the three couples have trekked through triumphs, disappointments, births, funerals, health issues, weddings, job changes, cancer, and a heart attack. When life is lived together, deep friendships are forged.

Over the years we have had deep, serious discussions about children, grandchildren, aging parents, and personal challenges. We may not solve things, or come to life changing conclusions, but we have the chance to air our feeling in safety. We’ve learned there’s just no fixing the differences in men and women and have realized we are, after 10 years, still trying to figure out the backseat driving issue.

Last night after an intense discussion about the book of Hebrews and current political issues, our other group broke for cake and more coffee. After sitting for an hour and a half with a large glass of tea, Roxie headed to the powder room only to find it already occupied. So she was directed to another bathroom. She was in such rush she had already unzipped her pants as she walked in the master bath only to find the master himself using the facilities.

Mortified, she ran into the living room laughing so hard she was on the verge of an accident. Luckily the powder room was now vacant. My phone rang in the middle of all of the ruckus. It was Jason. “How are you son? Where are you,” I asked.

“Umm, Mom, the more important question is where are you? What’s going on,” he laughed?

“Oh we’re at Bible study,” I answered.

“Mom, I’m an Army chaplain and I know a Bible study when I hear it and that doesn’t sound like any Bible study.”

I could hear him grinning. He knows small group dynamics.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Asking for help is not something I like to do. I’m just stubborn enough to think I can handle most things. I don’t know, maybe I feel like it’s a sign of weakness to admit I can’t hold up the world alone, or it might just be pride I’m trying to disguise as strength.

I’m sure part of it falls back to tendencies of a strong first born female temperament. We’re bossy and in charge, or at least we like to think we’re in charge. Then I saw myself in my second born son shortly after his arrival and learned it’s not exclusive to first born females.

Not long ago I realized that Ben Franklin said, “God helps those who help themselves,” not Jesus. I understand Ben was encouraging people to not be lazy, but for those of us who are independent by nature, it can be taken way out of context, like a decree of sorts. To ask for help is not unholy, it’s healthy.

No wonder it feels so much better to give help than accept it. When giving, it appears you are the strong one, seemingly in control and it looks so generous and kind. We tend to feel sorry for someone who needs help. I suppose the last thing I want is someone to feel sorry for me.

I’m slowly learning if I humble myself and ask for help, people are more than glad to give it. So I need to get over myself and when someone says, “Let me do that for you,” and let them.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Don’t you sometimes wonder who declares rules of fashion? Is there a group of men and women, similar to a city counsel, who gets together every year and determines what’s acceptable and what’s off limits? If so, who deems them experts?

I understand changing of skirt lengths and color palates, but the one big fashion faux pas I’ve always accepted, but never understood, is no white shoes after Labor Day. So I decided to do a little research.

One source said the only explanation they could come up with is white reflects heat and for the sake of warmth during cold weather white shoes shouldn’t be worn. It sounds like that group was really struggling for a reason. What about those who live in south Florida? Shouldn’t they be exempt?

Others suggest it all started with the influx of people entering the middle class in the late 19th century. These “new money” folks evidently didn’t understand the social expectations of high society and they were offered some guidelines so they would fit in. Believable, I suppose.

But, the explanation I buy in to thinks it all started with G.R.I.T.S ... girls raise in the South. That makes total sense. Since I am one of those girls, I can talk about those girls. It’s similar to the unspoken rule, “I can talk about my Momma, but you’d better not.”

Our mothers told us what was acceptable in polite social circles and we never much questioned why. If we did, we were told it was because that’s what our grandmothers had taught our mothers. So every Easter I got a new pair of white shoes to be worn until Labor Day. Granted things have relaxed somewhat, but a guarantee you still won’t see white shoes at a southern social gathering in October unless, of course, they are winter white which is totally acceptable. It makes no sense.

I know fashion rules are not as stringent as they used to be, but coming from a long line of G.R.I.T.S, I still think it’s tacky to wear pajama bottoms to Walmart, especially with white shoes after Labor Day.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

I fight attachment to traditions because life is so full of change. However, we did something so much fun, when Jason suggested we do it again next year, I jumped on it. Maybe we’ll call it an annual affair instead of a tradition. It sounds a bit more flexible and if things change it won’t be as dramatic as breaking tradition.

K-Life, a local student ministry all three of our kids were a part of in junior and high school, held their 5th annual Labor Day walk/ run. Jim and some of the adult kids have participated before, but 12 Brawners were out in force this year. Maybe next year Jill, David and Vivian can join us.

To cut down on the confusion, Jim and I got to The Branson Landing early to pick up all the packets, t shirts and numbers. I felt so official with a computer chip twist tied to my shoes lace and it was the first thing I’ve ever done where I had to pin a number on my shirt.

Kari, Travis, Jason and Alison ran the 5K. Alison pushed baby Smith in a jogger stroller. That left Jim and me with 5 kids in the mile. We were way outnumbered from the start. Jim had the Big Daddy double jogger and I had a single jogger stroller. The plan was for Jackson and Jameson, the 7 year olds, to walk along side us while we pushed four-year-olds, Owen and Mollie Jane, and baby Kaylin.

Most everyone was there for fun and to support an organization that benefits the entire tri-lakes community but there were some serious runners too. They were the ones with sponsors’ business names on their shirts and 2% body fat. None of them were pushing jogger strollers.

The 5K runners took off, then those of us doing the mile lined up. I had Mollie Jane and Jim had Kaylin. Jackson, Jameson and Owen were beside us, but the minute the starter yelled “GO” the boys took off and they were gone. I immediately started thinking of ways to explain to the kids that we had lost their children.

At one point Jim said he was certain the boys had taken a wrong turn sending them on the 5K course and wouldn’t their parents be shocked if they found them. I was certain we would never be trusted with 5 kids again.

Kari’s mom, Karen, had come to watch and she was waiting at the finish line. The boys had run the whole mile course and were at the finish with Karen and bottles of water when we got there. Grandparents have to stick together.

Mollie Jane got out of the stroller and we ran the last 100 yards holding hands through the finish chute with spectators cheering us on. I’m sure it’s what runners in the New York City marathon feel like as they run under the finish clock. For a four-year-old and her grandmother it was big stuff. This simply must become an annual affair.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I don’t know why I thought I could get away with it. I knew better, but did it anyway. No one thinking clearly goes to the Super Center at 4:30 on the Friday afternoon of Labor Day weekend. I assumed because the economy is in a squeeze, folks might be cutting back and not celebrating the long, official last weekend of summer in mass this year. I was wrong.

The parking lot cleared up any doubt Walmart might be experiencing a slump. It appears more folks have chosen “drive to” vacations and were stocking up for the weekend after they arrived in town. It would have made my trip easier if they would have supported their home town stores before coming to the lakes.

I was trying to decide between vine ripened tomatoes at $2.98 a pound and Roma tomatoes at .99 a pound when a woman yelled, “Will you please leave me alone?” By her desperate tone, I thought she was being accosted by a stranger, but it was her son who appeared to be about 10. I thought she would realize how loud she was being and quieten down, but she only got louder and started walking toward me. I sure didn’t want to get in her way so I grabbed the Romas and headed toward the meat department.

I guess people are becoming more health conscious, because the ground turkey I wanted was sold out as were several things I was looking for. At first I was put out with the empty bin, then realized everything else we’ll eat over the weekend will cancel out the healthier turkey anyway. After finding reasonable substitutes I wrangled my shopping cart to the checkout. I haven’t bought that many groceries since Christmas.

When It was finally my turn, I simply asked the check out girl how she was doing. I learned she was very excited to go shoot clay pigeons with her husband over the weekend, she doesn’t come back to work until sometime next week and that her replacement was fifteen minutes late. The more she talked the more she was irritated because she was still running groceries over the scanner and not on her way home.

So $130.00 later I leaned my weight into the cart pushed it to the car. Outside I heard a guy say, “Hey, TR how’s it going?” TR called his wife an ugly name and said he was waiting on her. I think people don’t realize when they say mean things about their spouses, it makes them look stupid for marrying them.

I hope all the upset people can relax and enjoy their weekend. I’m tempted to ask the Walmart manager if, right before the next holiday weekend, I could stand with the guy in the blue coat at the front door who says, “Welcome to Walmart” and hand out Be Nice To People bumper stickers.

“If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”
~ Galatians 5-15

Friday, September 3, 2010

There’s one space at my house I wouldn’t trade for anything, my back porch. When it’s not hotter than blazes or below freezing I sit out there for a while every day. It gives me a chance to reevaluate and on some days, just calm down.

One morning I heard a pitiful whine and wondered if the neighbor’s cat had slipped out and climbed the old oak tree near by. Then I thought a crow and a mocking bird were fussing at the cat. What sounded like a whole community in the tree turned out to be one bird, a cat bird. It has the ability to mimic sounds of other birds and evidently a cat.

I wonder if cat bird is short for copycat bird because that’s exactly what is does. I don’t think I would recognize it’s normal song, because it’s so busy trying to sound like everything around it.

Copying is something we start when we’re babies. It’s how we learn. A friend of mine overheard her three-year-old standing at the refrigerator, “_ _ _ _ it, there’s no yogurt!” It was a humbling reminder kids are like catbirds.

But as we grow up, trying to figure out who we are, girls especially imitate whoever and whatever is popular and just like the catbird they may not even know what their own song is.

Each of us has DNA that’s like no other person on earth. That alone makes each of us special. If we spent more time discovering our own talents, likes and dislikes and dreams instead of trying to be a carbon copy we would all probably be a whole lot less frustrated.

“You were born an original, don’t die a copy.”
~ John Mason

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sitting in the sand under one of those thatched roof umbrellas with a good book, a glass of tea staring at the waves is almost like a sedative for me. It’s so addictive, I once considered moving to Mexico to braid hair and live on the beach in tee shirts, shorts and flip flops year around. Then my daydream was rudely interrupted by one of those guys walking down the shoreline selling silver necklaces hanging off his arm. Maybe that would be more profitable than braiding hair at the resort because there’s no middle man.

Then I remembered how much I enjoy the first day in the fall when you need a sweater and the first day in the spring when you really don’t need one. I suddenly realized I would miss the seasons if let my inner hippie come out and move me to the beach.

Just like there are seasons of weather, there are seasons in life. Seasons in life change regardless of the climate you live in. You can’t move to the beach to escape the bitter winter or to the mountains for relief from the scorching summer heat, you just have to live through the uncomfortable stretches life brings.

When I was a kid, at the end of every summer there was a family fun night for the professional businessmen’s association my dad belonged to. After the bar-b-que picnic the parents played bingo and the children were turned loose in the amusement park that was closed to the general public. It was a kids dream.

For several summers I rode everything except the scary ride. Then one summer my friend talked me into going with her. She was scared too, but figured we could handle it if we went together.

The two doors flung open and the car took us under the laughing clown into the darkness as the doors closed behind. Lights flashed, characters dropped from the ceiling, and things jumped out from the walls. I still can’t figure out how that’s fun. After what seemed like forever, I could see the doors open and the light came shining in. We were at the end and we had made it!

Occasionally life takes us on the scary ride, but because there are seasons, if we just hang on, the doors will eventually open into a different one. It makes the trip a little easier if we can remember there’s light at the end and it’s easier to go through if a friend is holding your hand.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity
under heaven ...”

~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The sign said, “Genuine Auto Parts.” I had to think about that for a minute. Did someone at one time try to substitute fake or maybe Tinker Toy auto parts for real auto parts making it necessary to validate these were real?

I suppose we do live in an era of knockoffs, substitutes and fakes, so verifying something is real becomes almost mandatory. And, it’s everywhere; artificial sweeteners, fake IDs, man made diamonds, knock off designer purses, enhanced body parts, and in Branson a flock of Elvis impersonators.

Sometimes the substitute is so clever and deceiving no one would ever know the difference, except when it comes to the Elvis guys. Things like generic ink cartridges work for me because the results are the same at half the cost. Besides you’ll never hear anyone gasp and say, “Did you know she uses compatible ink cartridges?”

I don’t mind most knock offs and substitutes but for me, fake people are as irritating as generic toilet paper. I so appreciate people who have the guts to be real, honest and authentic. And, they don’t need a label or sign explaining their certification of real, it’s obvious.

So many go through life with a mask or veneer, too afraid their weaknesses and flaws will be exposed if they’re honest and real about who they are and how they feel. They may look slick, but when things get tough and the wheels fall off, reality is exposed anyway.

We’re all fractured in one way or another and none of us is perfect no matter how hard we may try to make the rest of the world believe it. Carrying on that charade can be exhausting. Real people automatically cause others to relax and put down pretenses. No wonder we are drawn to them. In the end, authentic always trumps counterfeit ... especially when it comes to people.