Monthly Archives: January 2010

Sisters are either best friends, arch rivals or bitter enemies. Actually, because they’re girls, they can be all of those things inside of one day. I don’t have a sister so it fascinates me to watch how the sister relationship works. I suppose so much of what happens within twenty-four hours is in direct proportion to the estrogen level in the house. My mom was the oldest of five sisters. I was the first grandchild. When my brother was born, my grandaddy was so thrilled to have a boy in the family he passed out cigars at a high school basketball game.

My freshman year of college I roomed with an identical twin. The girls said they had roomed together for 18 years and they were ready for a change. I’ll have to say that was one of the most fun years ever. Identical twins are almost spooky; like one brain in two bodies. Every night Linda and I would make the all important decision about what we were wearing the next day. At least a couple of times a week Wanda would come to our dorm room during the night and borrow something to wear the next day. Between the two of them they had enough clothes to stock a boutique, but it never failed … what Wanda randomly chose out of the closet was what Linda had planned to wear. The fireworks began about 8:30 but they were best friends again by noon. I waffle whether I would love it or not dealing with all the emotions that come with the sister package.

When I suddenly lost my brother to a heart attack a couple of years ago, I got a call from Rayanna. She’s married to Jim’s brother, Jerry. If there was a legal limit for laughter the two of us would be in jail for excessiveness. She declared over the phone she was becoming my unofficial biological sister because she didn’t think it would be good for me to be an only child. Besides we are both Brawners and that should count for something. She promised to always be there for me and she has been.

Relatives or not shouldn’t we all do that for each other; be there. Most of the time that’s more meaningful than anything else and it gets even better if you can laugh while you’re just being there. Is there an unofficial sister you can do that for today? And since you’re unofficial the sharing clothes requirement is null and void.


I was driving my regular route home when a giant cardboard sign made from a refrigerator box snatched my attention. Moving Sale was written in fat black magic marker. Dressers, lamps and random pieces of furniture stood lined up in a row. I wondered if somebody had divorced or maybe died.

A colonial style, harvest gold couch stuck out like an awkward freshman desperately trying to fit in. I thought of my high school best friend whose mom had the large floral print version of that very couch. I have grandkids … you do the math.

Secrets of multiple owners over several decades were likely hidden in the tattered cushions of that couch. I could almost smell the combination of cigarette smoke, popcorn, spilled soda, and cat throw-up as I drove by thinking of the years it had seen. Sometimes we keep old familiar things long after they’ve worn out because in some mysterious way they serve as comfort.

If moving on and starting fresh feels so good, why do we cling to so many things longer than we should? On the backside of our good judgment we know we’d be better off without them, but we hoard and hang on anyway. The only explanation I’ve come up with is this; familiar is comfortable, however good or awful it might be.

Oddly enough, some things the most difficult to let go of are dreadful experiences of our past. A painful childhood, an abusive first marriage, betrayal by a business partner, or shamefully poor choices and disappointments are relived every time we let our thoughts wander.

My aunt and uncle are moving out of their home of 40 years and there’s plenty of sorting and tossing out to do. Maybe all of us should take on the same thing with the emotional junk stored in the attic keeping us from moving on and starting fresh. Dig through to see what’s been stashed away, bag it up and dump it.

I’m grateful I drove past the Moving Sale sign in the parking lot of the strip mall. It caused me to take inventory of harvest gold couches I might be hanging on to that really should be put out on the curb.

Charcoal lighter fluid, chlorine, fresh cut grass. What do you automatically think of? Well, maybe it does sound like the beginnings of a drug lab, but the answer I was looking for was summer. Pencil shavings, floor polish, cafeteria. This one is easier … school. I smell the Jr. high PE locker room and popcorn at basketball games just thinking about school.

Our five sense connect us with the world. Some people are gifted with perfect eyesight. I’m sure chefs have a highly refined sense of taste whether gifted or developed. I feel like my keen sense of smell sometimes gets me in trouble. My memory automatically links events, people and places to the way they smell. Consequently I can catch a whiff of something and memories roll in like the tide.

Jill and I were shopping in the mall and she stopped at a Merle Norman cosmetics store to pick up a lipliner. While she was deciding on color, I wandered over to the tester jars and picked up the cold cream. I unscrewed the lid, stuck my nose in the jar and took a deep breath. Unbelievable! I could almost feel my mom and instantly tears streamed down my face. I could see myself sitting on her bed watching her put on makeup. Precious, tucked-away memories. I was jarred back to the present when I heard Jill stop the sales clerk who had excused herself to check on the woman in the corner who seemed distraught. Jill rolled her eyes, grinning and said, “Oh that’s just my mom. She’s fine. She does this all the time.”

Jill thanked the clerk for her help as we left the store and I apologized for causing concern. I felt like someone out on a day pass.

Memories can be stirred by our senses in a heartbeat. Just like someone leaves a vapor trail wearing too much cologne we leave an impression on people every day with our words and attitudes. Are you whiff of joy, integrity, and compassion or do you stink things up with anger, jealousy and greed? What memories are you building and how will they smell ten years from now?

One of the unanswered mysteries of the universe is this; why do kids play the same videos and CDs over and over and over just short of wearing them slick? When Jill was six Santa brought her a Cricket doll. Cricket came with a cassette tape that plugged into her back and she talked and she talked and she talked. Jill adored Cricket and took her everywhere.

Late Christmas Day we left on our very first family ski trip we had saved and planned for all year. About two hours down the road, we realized we had made a bad decision letting Cricket come along on the 17 hour drive to Colorado. The constant jabbering drove Travis so crazy about 13 hours in to the trip he held Cricket hostage, rolled down the window, and threatened to throw her off into a deep ravine if Jill didn’t promise to give the doll a rest. I came across Cricket digging through some boxes not long ago. She still scares me.

The video the kids almost wore out was Disney’s Pop and Rock; a tape of cartoon clips set to popular music. One of my favorites was a segment of Goofy set to a Stevie Wonder song. Easy going Goofy danced out of his house in a suit headed to work. Smiling and waving he got in to his car and the minute he shut the door a strange transformation began. A wicked smile crept on his face and his eyes became evil slants. He gunned the engine and took off down the driveway hitting garbage cans. Then he raced down the street cutting people off in traffic and snarled all the way to the office. When he got out of the car, the evil Goofy faded and lovable Goofy instantly returned. He could turn his game face on and off with the click of the door lock.

We laughed every time we saw it because honestly there’s a little bit of Goofy in all of us. Some just hold it in check better than others. What is it about driving that brings the absolute worst out in people? Recently I sat amazed watching the driver of the car in front of me flash an unkind hand sign at another driver he obviously felt was moving too slowly. He must have had a temporary memory loss about the Jesus is My Co-pilot bumper sticker on the back of his car. It made me sad and I wondered; if he’s mean with Jesus in the car with him, what he’s like all by himself?

As your mom probably told you every time you left the house, be nice. When you get in your car today try to remember to keep your inner Goofy under control. If you just can’t help yourself, at least cover up your bumper sticker.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another …” Ephesians 4:32

Yesterday afternoon I stretched out on the floor in front of the French doors by my desk to take advantage of the sun. It was 36 degrees outside, but I felt like I was on a Caribbean cruise ship deck. It was fabulous! I think I have an extra chromosome that operates on a photosynthesis type system. Just like plants begin to die without sunlight, I start to wither about this time of year.

My doctor son would probably insist I needed sunscreen for my fictional cruise. He gripes if I walk to the mail box without it. I do understand his concern since he sees people in his office who sizzled in the 60’s and are paying for it now. I’m not sure SPF was even invented then.

When tanning beds first came out in the early 80’s my friend Toni would tease me because I was paying to try to get brown skin like hers. Actually I was just sunshine starved.

I get cold the end of September and don’t really warm up until the 4th of July. Days like yesterday remind me spring and summer are on the way. It gives me hope and wills me to get up and keep going. It assures me gloomy, cold days in the dead of winter aren’t forever.

I listened to a man tell about a time he was moving out of an apartment. He had packed everything he owned in his car and was about to get in when a woman stopped him.

“Are you moving in?” she asked.

“Nope, out,” I answered fighting back tears. She could tell I had been walking though the pits. She reached over, gently squeezed my arm and pointed as if she knew exactly where and said, “Brother, God is waiting for you on down the street just around the corner.” And He was.

Simple hope. We all need the hope something better is on the way. Cold, gloomy days are not forever. Just like God is waiting on down the street around the corner, so is summer.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

I’m sure you have one occasionally … a heavy day. Yesterday was a heavy day for me. Lots to sort through and think about. Sad things, complicated situations, problems that solutions for don’t even seem to be on the radar. That’s the kind of inevitable life stuff that makes for a heavy day.

At noon I said, “Are, you kidding me,” and by 1:30 I was afraid to answer the phone. Around two I made the comment, “What else can happen today,” then quickly recanted remembering my mom said never say that because something else can happen and usually does. Mom’s been gone for almost 10 years and she’s still right.

I decided to stop at the Super Center and almost chalked that experience up to part of the heavy day then remembered that it’s just frustrating, not a real qualifier. See, what happens on a heavy day is after about three things punch you in the stomach, everything starts to look suspect.

So, I vacuumed. Vacuuming is like therapy for me because it’s mindless, but something is getting accomplished and I can talk to myself. And yesterday, I needed a real good talking to. I typically start out naming everything that’s wrong and how unfair it is, but by the time I’m working my way back up the stairs with the Rug Rat attachment I’m remembering life’s not always fair and God didn’t bring me this far to drop me off.

Travis’ senior year of high school the football team had an undefeated regular season. They lost in the first round of playoffs. I’ll never forget over hearing a friend console Travis as he walked off the field toward the dressing room. Eric, who had graduated two years earlier said, “Good game Trav! I’m sorry you guys lost but sometimes life just hauls off and kicks you in the rear. But, I guarantee this; tomorrow the sun will come up and the world will go on. Travis grinned.

So, I made it through the heavy day and Eric’s right, the sun did come up this morning. I’m not quite to the “consider it all joy” part of James 1:2 but I’m hanging on to the “in all things God works for the good” part of Romans 8:28. Today is going to be a lighter day and if it gets heavy again, I’ll just have really clean floors.

If you decide to get a dog, you definitely should consider obedience training. Either find a good school or read a book and tackle it yourself. Dogs, especially the large guys, are so much more fun if they mind.

Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer of National Geographic TV fame and author of several best selling books, is an expert on dog behavior. He’s like SuperNanny for dogs. He says the disobedient dog is not the problem. The dog owner is the problem. It seems we humans tend to let the dogs rule us. We invite dogs into our homes so they join an already existing system. Over time, though, to avoid conflict we tend to let the dog set the rules and it becomes a privilege to live in our own home.

Now that I think about it, that’s the same thing SuperNanny tells parents on her program. Maybe Cesar and SuperNanny have coffee and talk about their shows.

Cesar advocates calm assertiveness with a dog. Yelling, screaming, and stomping aren’t necessary if the owner calmly asserts authority. It’s fascinating to watch dogs make an about face when owners implement his advice.

When I was watching this transformation during one of the training sessions it suddenly occurred to me; if this calm assertiveness thing is good with dogs and kids why wouldn’t it be for life?

Some days drag me around like a big dog I’m trying to take on a walk. I get distracted and jerked here, agree to extra commitments and trip over there, procrastinate and turn around to go in the opposite direction and by six p.m. end up stewing in frustration.

I think I’m going to try a little calm assertiveness, take charge, and not let the day boss me around. If SuperNanny makes it work with someone else’s three year old and Cesar helps a dog understand it, surely I can do this with my day. Yelling, screaming and stomping aren’t necessary and don’t do any good anyway.