Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Trap

There’s just something about glue and glitter that brings creative out in even the most linear thinkers.  In first grade one of my proudest moments was presenting Mom the Christmas tree I’d designed at school.  It was the second draft.  I thought the first one was signature worthy until I looked around the table.  At six I learned about the danger of comparison.  Just catching a glance of Anne and Wesley’s trees sent the first draft under my desk.

Then I grew up, sort of.  I caught myself comparing all kinds of Christmas everything the other day.  And I wonder why I clench my teeth.  It’s such a trap.  Comparing my shoes or my hair is like stepping on a mouse trap, maybe even bare footed if it’s really good hair on one of my bad hair days.  But Christmas traps .... those are like the ones in old Tarzan movies where holes are covered with tree branches hiding the trap for an unsuspecting bad guy or tiger. You’re minding your own business and BOOM you’re at the bottom of the pit declaring your cookies with never be good enough.

How can we get so off course?  I suppose it’s because there’s so much to compare this time of year.  I’d imagine it makes Jesus sad watching all the silliness.  Take a minute today to remember why we decorate and bake anyway.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The 30 Day Challenge

In the last few years there have been plenty of 30 day challenges, things like losing weight, random acts of kindness, and P90X killer workouts.  I usually don’t jump in because I’m prone to not make the 30 days because of what I think are valid excuses. And nothing beats me up more than starting something and not finishing.

The craziest challenge I took on and completed was 365 days posting on the blog in 2010.  I thought that one up all by myself and two years I’m still wondering why. OK, that was a little overboard, but now I fully understand the meaning of burn out.  Certainly that’s why my posts have been sketchy at best.  I’m finally ready to write again.

It’s the last official day for the 30 day November grateful journey. I, of course, didn’t take the challenge. However this morning when I heard Jim Brawner get out of bed, I was overwhelmed with gratefulness: grateful he’s the father of my three kids and Big to my gaggle of grandkids, grateful he is such a man of integrity and loyalty, and grateful he loves me in spite of me.

I suppose when I married him while we were both still in college, I did take on a challenge of sorts, kind of a lifetime challenge. Anyone who says marriage isn’t challenging is lying or taking too much Valium.  But, I suppose all of our trials and highs and lows have only made us stronger.  Mistakes yes, regrets none, because trial and error have made us who we are.

Grateful I took that challenge a long time ago ... you bet.  There’s no one I’d rather do life with than Jim Brawner. 

Monday, November 26, 2012


One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is leftovers. For some reason everything tastes even better the next day.  Maybe 24 hours gives the sage in the dressing and all spice in the pumpkin pie time to really do its work.  When I was a kid Mom would bone the turkey into bite-sized pieces and hide them in the freezer.  Every brown sack school lunch the next week would have white bread, mayonnaise, and almost-thawed-turkey sandwich. Fabulous!

By now most of the leftover turkey has been finished off or frozen, we’ve tackled Black Friday with Excel spread sheets and the relatives have gone back home. Peace on earth has returned, maybe.

Thanksgiving can set the stage for wonderful memories or a nightmarish 4 week dread of Christmas.  And it’s all based on leftovers ... not the food kind.

There’s a gloom that can creep in and stick like tree sap if we let it.  The sheer adrenaline crash after the long weekend is enough to exhaust most of us.  And dealing with a cracky, rude uncle, or a mother whose expectations will never be met, or entitled kids home from college will wear down the strongest. Those people may all be gone, but the snide, sarcastic comments and lack of consideration have left many just wanting to sleep until January 2.

My pastor friend Jim Fryer posted today, “There are over seven billion people on this earth. Are you going to let one person ruin your day?”  I think that’s one way of asking if you’re going to let Aunt Martha’s comment about your tough pie crust or your dad’s joking about your lack of football skills hang around like spoiled leftovers.  

So, toss all that in the trash and take it out.  According to the music piped in at the mall “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”.  The exciting thing is we get to choose; recount our blessings and enjoy the holidays or nibble on emotional leftovers for the next month.  What will you do?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Have You Ever Noticed?

Recently I discovered my two year old granddaughter intently watching masses of ladybugs crawling on a tree trunk outside a restaurant.  When I asked what she was doing she said, “Sue Sue, look at this!  I found millions of ladybugs! Millions! They’re crawling everywhere!”  

She was wowed. 

What struck me was likely scores of people had walked by the same tree and I wondered how many had noticed the ladybugs.  If any, I guarantee they were under the age of five. That’s when I began to understand why life speeds up, out of control.  We become so unaware. We just don’t know. We miss so much.

I want to slow down and become a noticer!  How about you?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Roundabout

Traffic tops the list of things I really don’t like. That green plastic Easter grass now available in assorted pastels, roaches, mice, and losing Jim Brawner in Walmart finish out the top five.  Cell phones have lowered the losing Jim Brawner in Walmart to #5.  The only reason it’s still on the list is he sometimes doesn’t answer, which makes it even more frustrating. 
Close to creeping onto The List is roundabouts.  We now have three in our town.  Maybe it’s not the roundabout itself that irritates me, but the out-of-towners who have never driven on one. I will admit when the first round intersection opened a few years ago I was concerned I might get stuck in the middle lane circling like Chevy Chase in European Vacation.  It took a few times to figure it out
There are a couple of roundabout rules that obviously need to be followed. The entering traffic must yield to the traffic already in the circle and the flow runs counter clockwise. If you live in a country that drives on the right side of the road, the flow runs clockwise. To avoid disaster, you have to play by the rules.
Last week I approached the largest roundabout in town with my guard down to lost tourists since it was late at night. To my amazement a woman rolled up to the intersection on my right, looked both ways and turned left driving right past me to the next exit point.  Really?  Well, maybe she was from London.  Probably not.
I thought about the lost woman as I drove home and realized we had something in common.  The past month or so has been a bit off kilter and out of sync. Everything normally easy has been challenging, routine has not been routine, and change has sprung up everywhere. I feel like I’ve been driving the wrong way on a roundabout. 
Like wearing a wool sweater without an undershirt, it’s been aggravating.  But after considering everything, I realized I can’t change or control anything but my attitude.  That bit. 
I suppose we all get off track every now and again and again and again, like turning left on the roundabout.  It’s good to remember to get back in the flow of traffic it only takes few minor adjustments that normally begin with attitude.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

If you slow down long enough to consider why you do what you do, you’ll probably be amazed and disturbed at the same time. I’m reading a book that’s jerking me around like that, The Power of Habit. It’s delivering the one-two punch of amazement and disturbance. I was listening to an interview, recently, on one of those network morning talk segments that stirred my curiosity so much, I went straight to Amazon and ordered. I have a love/hate relationship with my new book.

What I’m learning is this; habit is established based on the craving for the end result more than the end result itself. This is fascinating and confusing at the same time. I’m fascinated because studies show the reason people habitually exercise is they crave the endorphins and other neurochemicals they get from the work out and the sense of accomplishment that comes when they’re cooling down. I’m confused because after I exercise, all I want to do is lie down and drink a big glass of sweet tea, which most likely cancels out all the calories I just burned. Forget the endorphin rush.

Exercise for me is driven more out of a burning sense of guilt than desire. I go in seasons of really committed or really full of excuses, one extreme or the other. A friend posted on Facebook the other day she started out her birthday with an eight mile run. My son Travis just shaved 13 minutes off his best half marathon time. Those two things alone raised my guilt level higher than the excuses.

I hadn’t laced up my walking shoes in a few weeks, ok, a few months, so I got them out. No sense of craving hit, but it was a beautiful day and I was looking forward to simply being outside. Where I live there’s barely 25 yards of flat ground which, in my sense of reasoning, is a logical excuse for not walking. However, for every uphill there is a downhill where I can regroup and stop gasping.

I was in a downhill-stop-panting phase when I noticed something unusual. I stopped. Growing out of the crack between the asphalt road and the concrete curb were two wild daisies. The strangest thing was there were no other daisies anywhere around. They were oddly out of place.

I took a picture, smiled and kept walking. I wondered how those flowers ever got there and how they managed to grow. More than likely bird poop deposited the seeds for them to get started and, even though they look delicate, they have enough gumption and grit to keep going.

This is what dawned on me while on my guilt induced walk: it doesn’t matter how you got there, or what you have to work with, do the best you can, with what you have, right where you are.

A habit established by an endorphin rush or not, I should keep on walking. There’s a lot to learn out there.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sitting at a grade school talent show, inspired by a rousing piano rendition of Ode To Joy, skits written by fourth graders, and a boy bouncing on a pogo stick the whole four minutes and three seconds of Van Halen's song Jump, I had a flashback. Not like a Van Halen type flashback, but a nostalgic one. As the emcee announced the ensemble of two, third grade girls on the violin and saxophone and Jackson Brawner on the trumpet, the same butterflies started flapping that always surfaced when Jason Brawner’s name was ever announced.

For Jackson, this was serious business and he didn’t miss a note of Bugler’s Dream, better known as the Olympics song. I was amazed and instantly felt that sting behind my nose signaling tears are next. Honestly, keeping it together at an elementary school program should not be a struggle. Why is it things connected to childhood stir emotions in even the most stoic adult? Something about the setting took me on a memory trip to high school. Where did all this come from?

That I was stronger than some of the guys on the real football team and could even out-run a few of them wasn’t glamorous, but it did get me the fullback position on the powderpuff team. My friend Ginny who, on the other hand, was petite, beautiful and defined femininity, shocked everyone with her throwing arm so she was named quarterback. What impressed me more than her arm was she cut off her perfectly manicured nails to get a better grip on the football. For Ginny, like Jackson, this was serious business.

Because the big game was a fundraiser, parents, teachers and the student body came out to see how much the cheerleaders actually knew about football. Trailing by a few points with just a few seconds left on the clock, Ginny called one of the secret plays we had only run in practice. Surely this was the magic. Ginny would hand me the ball as I went opposite of the flow of players and hopefully they would be fooled.

Then it happened, our semi reverse worked! I took off like never before. Now it had become serious business for me.

When I was about five feet from the goal line, the referee’s whistle blew. Confused, I stopped because no one had my flag. No one was near me so why was the whistle blown? Then a girl from the other team flew past me like The Roadrunner snatching the flag off my belt. The sidelines roared and I was still confused.

As I headed to the sidelines, John, the coach who was one of the real football players, pointed to his watch. The whistle I heard was to only signal time had expired off the clock. I stared at him in disbelief as tears leaked. I had stopped 5 feet short of victory for my team. How could the girls ever forgive me? How could I ever forgive myself?

My friend John, in all of his 17-year-old wisdom, hugged me and said what I have always remembered, “It’s OK Suzette. Just remember this: Next time don’t stop until you get to where you’re going, even if you hear a whistle.”

How many times do we stop five feet short of the goal because we are worn out, or distracted, or confused? We give up on projects, we give up on dreams, and we give up on people. What’s really sad is, if we give up, we’ll never know how good it feels to do the victory dance in the end zone, even if it’s only in our minds.

The applause, cheering and whistling brought my attention back to the school auditorium. Jackson had the victory dance going on in his smile; satisfaction of a job well done. Oh, the things you can be reminded of watching a grade school talent show.

Don’t stop until you get to where you're going.