Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Among the twinkling Christmas lights and chocolate I stood staring at the display of canes in the durable medical equipment section of Walgreens acting like I knew what I was doing. Jim Brawner had an old knee, worn out from years of running 10ks and marathons, replaced with a shiny, new titanium one. So there I was, choosing a cane so he could transition off a walker.

Like everything else, there are so many cane choices; 4 prong or single, fashion color, animal print, plain black or Moses-like. Since he had tolerated my decorating his walker with garland and flashing LED mini lights, I figured he most likely would rather have the plain black one.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw an older gentleman watching me sort and think. I looked at him and smiled hoping he could offer some advice. Startled that I had caught him staring, he quickly said with a sheepish grin, “There’s nothing like a good cane. I have several.”

I squinted trying to understand. “Really?”, I asked.

“Nothing like a good cane. That’s kind of like saying there’s nothing like a good bra; it’s necessary,” I thought, but didn’t say out loud.

After a 5 minute story about every cane he had, I chose the plain black one and thanked him for his help. And on the way home I thought about the wisdom of the cane man.

Without even knowing it he reminded me, in all the madness and chaos this time of year, not to forget about the simple ‘there’s nothing like a good ________ fill in the blank. There’s nothing like a good cup of coffee. There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep. There’s nothing like a good friend.

So as you dash around today, in the competition of finding a parking spot and the wrestling for the last Wii game, take a deep breath and think about all your nothing is as good as things. It might adjust your perspective.

Jim Brawner most likely will never say, “There’s nothing like a good cane.” He can’t wait to get rid of it. But, you might hear him say, “There’s nothing like a good knee.”

Friday, November 4, 2011

In school, along with English 101 and American History, How To Wait Well should be required. I’m not sure the title is proper or correct, but if it was called How To Be A Good Waiter, things could get real confusing.

I’ll admit, I stink when it comes to being gracious when waiting is involved. Recently, though, Droid kept me calm and helped me endure 15 minutes in the express lane at the Super Center. Since there was obviously nothing express about it, I was able to check and reply to all my email and as a bonus catch up on reading the magazines in the check out line.

I’ve made an unsettling discovery about myself while waiting; I want everything to happen my way, on my schedule, which means sooner than later. Obviously, I don’t wait well. A few days ago I wanted so desperately to throw in the towel and just go sit down. I’m tired of waiting. Quitting is so tempting, not just in Walmart, but in several areas of my life.

The next day I found myself waiting again, this time at Jiffy Lube. I’d already checked email and there wasn’t a rack of magazines to distract me to, so I flipped through an app on Droid that I’d stumbled across. It offered important facts like, “The 7-Eleven Extreme Gulp is 50% bigger than the human stomach!” and “Punctuation was not invented until the 1500’s.” But I stopped and reread the next one three times: “Elvis Presley made a ‘C’ in 8th grade music.” Really?

Elvis making a ‘C’ in music falls into the category of Michael Jordan being cut from the high school freshman basketball team ... absurd! As weird as it sounds, reading that was comforting in a strange way. Everyone has to wait.

Timing is involved in most things in life, whether it’s shooting a 3 pointer, holding a note or potty training. If they’re rushed, it’s usually disastrous. Maybe we have to wait because it’s just not quite the right time or we need more practice. Maybe there’s a specific reason we’re unaware of for the wait.

The plastic molded chair at the Jiffy Lube is a perfect place to think. I wondered how many others had sat right where I was, teetering on giving up on one thing or another. I smiled and determined myself to press on. I also considered how the 8th grade music teacher felt in 1954 when she heard Elvis on the radio for the first time.

If you think about it, quitting requires no special talent. History repeatedly confirms that those who succeed in life are the ones who refuse to sit down and quit. Last week I realized I’m not making a ‘C’ in waiting, I’m flunking. What’s interesting is, in order to wait better, I’ll have to experience more waiting to learn how. So if you see me in the express lane with Droid in hand you’ll know I’m doing my homework.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I’ve never worked in customer service, but I’ve been a customer ... thousands of places. That has to count for something. I have a great idea, but it seems the old fashioned suggestion box, like to face to face communication, is no longer the norm.

I read an article the other day that recommended if you want to communicate with a 20-30 year, old don’t email or call, text. Calling is so last decade and email is so five years ago. If I had the contact info for the customer service representative of every fast food restaurant in the country, I would text this message: “For better service and less customer frustration implement a “beverages only” line.”

I do consider the fact I live in a tourist town and in the summer it’s just easier to drive to another town for anything, but drive-through and walk-up counter service everywhere would work so much better if there was a separate line for those only wanting something to drink.

The other day I was going to drive-through McDonalds and the line was so long I parked and went in. Big mistake. Longer lines were inside probably because is was a toasty 103 degrees outside. I was actually running 20 minutes ahead of schedule so I took a deep breath and got in line.

After a few minutes the woman ahead of me turned around smiling and said, “Wow this is crazy, where are you from?”

“Right here in town,” I smiled back.

“Really? You live here. I’ve never met anyone who lives here,” she looked surprised.

I hear that a lot and wonder how people think the town operates if everyone is a visitor.

She told me about all the shows she and her friends had seen, every restaurant they had eaten in and that they would be headed back to Iowa later that afternoon. We both agreed the heat made most folks irritable, especially if they had screaming, hungry kids.

I ran my “beverages only” line idea by her and she thought it was fabulous. “It could be like the returns line at TJ Maxx,” I explained. “When no one is returning anything the clerk jumps over to the purchase register and rings customers up. So if no one wants a beverage only the server could move to the regular register to take orders. There are always at least two idle registers at every fast food restaurant I’ve ever been in anyway.”

“You are so right!” she said as she finally placed her order. “You should make that suggestion somewhere.”

I felt so validated.

After my 15 second exchange at the counter of my $1.09 and the large Styrofoam cup I knew my suggestion would be a good one because it had been 15 minutes since I had left my car in the parking lot.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m put into situations to strengthen my underdeveloped spiritual gifts. Instead of working on patience, I usually dream up ways other people can do things better. I don’t like that about myself and it stings a bit when I realize I need to refocus.

I still think my “beverages only” line is a good idea.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Have you ever thought something sounded like a good idea, but then it played out differently than you imagined? I found myself right there recently. While flipping through the Sunday paper I saw a coupon for the Shrine Circus; one free kid’s ticket with one full paid adult ticket. I could take two of the grandkids for the price of one. I’m a sucker for coupons and I hadn’t been to the circus in over 20 years, so I carefully tore along the dotted lines.

The following Friday, Jackson, Mollie Jane and I were off to the 4:30 matinee at the Shrine Mosque, Abeem-Aboom-Something-or-Other. I’ve decided the Shriners make up names to challenge us civilians. The circus raises thousands of dollars for the Shriners’ Hospitals to help kids secure needed medical help they might not otherwise be able to have. Once outside Mazzio’s Pizza, ten-year-old Travis was walking funny because he had spilled Coke in his lap during lunch when he was goofing around with his friend Ross. A man approached Jim Brawner and said, “I’m a Shriner. I can help your son. Here’s my card if you want to give me a call later.”

Jim smiled, thanked him and bit his lip to keep from saying, “You want to give it a try?”

The fellas in the maroon tasseled hats guided us in the ticket buying process and through the maze up to the front door. The minute I stepped in, the smell of cotton candy, popcorn, and elephant, transported me back in time.

Two sodas, one bag of popcorn, a snow cone, and cotton candy in hand we headed for the seats. But wait, there were really cool lazar swords and butterflies we couldn’t pass up. Juggling our goods we finally settled in. Wow, three rings, clowns, elephant and pony rides had all three of us staring with our mouths open.

“Sue Sue, can we get our faces painted too?” Jackson asked, bringing me back.

“Let me see,” I said as I dug through my wallet.

“Oh Buddy, I don’t have enough money left and these guys won’t take my debit card. They want cash,” I said in disbelief realizing I only had a five dollar bill left from the $80.00 I had punched out at the ATM.

“That’s OK. We can do that next year,” he smiled as he bit into the cotton candy.

While I was silently trying to figure out how I had just spent $75.00, the lights lowered and the crowd cheered. The Ringmaster stepped into the spotlight in the traditional too-tight pants and tailed jacket, “Laaadiees and geeentelllmen, boooys and girrrls ....” Are you kidding me? It’s as if those words hit a button in my memory and here came the tears. I instantly needed my Dad.

Suddenly I realized Mollie Jane was watching me. Come on Suzette, get it together! “What’s wrong Sue Sue,” she asked?

“Oh, I think I got popcorn salt in my eye. It’s OK now. Wow, would you look at that!”

Two hours later we slowly walked out with the crowd discussing if the lions were really mad or just pretending, how scary it was to watch the guy on the high-flying wheel and the reason our feet were sticking to the floor.

When I tore the coupon out of that Sunday paper I never planned on what I was really going to experience.

Two admission tickets, one coupon $28.00

Popcorn, cotton candy, sodas and a snow cone $17.00

A lazar sword and a lazar butterfly $30.00

Memories ..... old and new Priceless!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Each year in grade school we had election of officers. Of course there were the glamorous positions of president, vice president, secretary and treasure. They all had the normal responsibilities someone in that office would be expected to fulfill. But, the office with the most important responsibility was fire Marshall. He or she got to go to a meeting in the principal’s office at the first of each month to decide when the fire drill would be for that month. That person also got to boss everyone, including the teacher, when the fire drill siren when off. I thought it would have been really cool to be the classroom fire Marshall. It was the bossing part I wanted to do, I’m quite sure.

Now the warning systems set in place in schools and in communities are a bit more sophisticated. This time of year tornado warnings are frequent. When we were in Mexico in the fall, the minute the hurricane warning was issued everyone jumped into action to prepare. Fortunately it by-passed us. We have flood warnings and fire warning we evacuate for. But, the one thing that hits without warning is an earthquake.

The only time I even got a hint of what an earthquake felt like was from a slight tremor when I was visiting California. Honestly I thought I had just had too much morning coffee, but the suddenness of it made me realize there is no warning. For one who has borderline control issues, that is an uneasy feeling.

The horrific destruction from the earthquake that hit Japan is mind boggling. They had no warning. Then the tsunami hit with short warning. The devastation and loss of life are more than I can wrap my brain around.

Watching the new reports and reading the different accounts are a bit overwhelming. My friend Jack asked the other day if I had noticed a thread running through all the reports. He went on to point out how calm the Japanese people seemed waiting for water and supplies in single file lines. When questioned some had been waiting for 2 days but answered they were sure they would have water in a little while. There was no looting, no shouting, no swearing at the government for not moving fast enough. There was no sense of entitlement, but of gratitude for help when it did arrive.

I’ve always heard if you want to see the true character of a person watch what spills out when he gets bumped. The Japanese people have not been bumped, but slammed and to watch what spills out of them is convicting to say the least.

Warning ... maybe we need to learn a thing or two.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

When I was a kid, the day ended with my dad whistling for my brother and me to come home. We could go anywhere in the neighborhood if we were in earshot of his whistle. If we went inside a friend’s house, we called home as soon as we did to let Mom know where we were. There was always a jumprope spinning, bikes to be ridden, or a kickball game to join. We were always moving

I told my boys once that I never remember sitting in front of a TV during daylight hours. Travis was shocked we had TV back then. Of course there were only 3 channels and the test pattern showed up at midnight right after the national anthem, but we had TV. It just wasn’t the focal point of life.

Things are really different for this generation of grade schoolers. Where we had to get our kids to slow down, now parents are trying to figure out how to get them to move. Childhood obesity is rising at an alarming rate. The amount of food consumed and the number of calories burned is no where near in balance.

I realized how serious the problem is when I saw a public service announcement the other day featuring a boy about 10-years-old who simply said, “Don’t Super Size Me” and folded his arms as he looked sternly into the camera.

I recently received information from Emily Patterson about a fun contest promoting family health and wellness, The Family Dance Off. I’ve included the contest information below. Get your video rolling and bust out some of your best dance moves with your kids or grandkids. There are some really great prizes to be won and you will be helping the Children’s Miracle Network too. Enjoy!

Get Up and Dance with Primrose Child Care!

Dance can be a fun, easy way to introduce physical activity into your family's daily routine. As a provider of educational child care, Primrose Schools has recognized and is actively fighting against the childhood obesity epidemic.

The Family Dance-off supports Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, a non-profit organization that raises funds for more than 170 children's hospitals, which collectively treat 17 million children annually for every illness and injury imaginable.

Families are encouraged to record and submit a 30 second video of their family dancing having fun and at the same time promoting fitness.

Participating in the Family Dance-off is easy:

1. Record a 30-second video of your family's best dance moves. Don't be afraid to let loose and be silly!

2. Visit The Family Dance-off site and upload your best take by March 19.

3. Share your video with your friends via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

4. View and vote daily (you can place five votes per day) for your favorite family dance video!

Now for the prizes:

Not only does your family win, but the whole community wins, with $65,000 in donations to local Children's Miracle Network Hospitals:

· Grand Prize: $5,000 and Primrose will make a $30,000 donation to a local Children's Miracle Network Hospital

· 2nd Prize: $3,000 and Primrose will make a $20,000 donation to a local Children's Miracle Network Hospital

· 3rd Prize: $1,500 and Primrose will make a $15,000 donation to a local Children's Miracle Network Hospital

· All 14 Finalists will also receive a FLIP camcorder

Visit the competition site for more details on how to take part in the fight against childhood obesity, participate in the competition, and view past competitors!

Submitted by Emily Patterson on behalf of Primrose Preschools