Monthly Archives: February 2010

Every once in a while I check to make sure “Talk to me” isn’t written on my forehead. I’m just trying to be kind when I ask, “How are you?” Some of the answers I get are stunning. I learned about a runaway wife at a Mc Donalds drive-thru window, an eviction notice in the grocery check-out, and ten years of hurt at the video rental store.

Once I asked the server at a coffee kiosk how her day had been. She relived her dreadful sounding day for five minutes before she took my order. I just listened nodding my head occasionally saying, “Oh, wow.” As she handed me coffee she sighed and said, “Sorry, but thanks so much for listening. I think I’ll go home and take a hot bath.”

I felt a bit like Lucy and her 5 cent Psychiatric help.

A lot of people are walking around up to their necks in hurt, deep, gut-wrenching hurt. Loss of a job, illness, a fractured family and on the list goes. Others confuse hurt feelings with serious hurt. With tears rolling down her cheeks, a woman told me how devastated she was because a good friend was having a party and she didn’t get an invitation. “I’m so hurt and disappointed. This is one of the most painful things ever,” she said as if she were a disaster survivor.

For real? If that’s at the top of her painful things list, she must not be married or have kids. I felt so sorry for her … sort of. I thought about taking my shoe off and hitting her, but came back to reality before I said or did something stupid.

I’m not saying things like not getting an invitation don’t sting, because they do. But in the big picture, it’s hardly worth ruining your make-up over. People are people and they are going to disappoint and hurt. You will be waiting a long time if you’re depending on the people around you to make you happy. It’s just not going to happen. Besides your happiness is really not their responsibility.

Remember this; most of the time people step on your feelings without even realizing what they are doing. Get over yourself and don’t waste time wallowing in self-pity while the rest of the world is out having fun. I’m sure that’s what Lucy would say too.


“The only reason for time is so everything doesn’t happen at once.”
-Albert Einstein

Albert was a smart guy, but he was admittedly a little strange so we can’t believe everything he said. Either he was wrong or I defy all odds. There are stretches of time it seems like everything does happen at once. I’m sure a survey would show I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Some days I dash out of bed like someone set a timer to see how fast I can move. I’m sure it’s a sight to behold because I feel like a person wandering in the dark even though the lights are on. I operate on auto pilot for the first hour I’m awake. That started when the kids were little as a survival behavior.

I know for sure no one gets extra time in their day; we all get the same 24 hours. Why can some people accomplish so much more? Either they have hired help, they aren’t creative so their minds don’t wander, or maybe they’re on strong medication. It’s so frustrating to watch them handle everything with ease while I go from one thing straight to another trying to remember what’s next. Wouldn’t it be fun to hide their planners?

I’ve tried all the suggestions the leadership courses offer. You know, the big rocks first, then fill in with the pebbles and everything fits. Great theory, but some days everything is a big rock. So often I feel like one of those Jedi warriors zipping through the forest praying I don’t smack a tree.

I think I’ve finally come to this conclusion. Every day is a gift not to be taken casually. Be kind, extend a lot of grace, and if everything seems to happens at once, focus on one thing and tell the rest of it to take a number and have a seat.

“…And what does the Lord require of you? Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

When Jim and I were planning our wedding and the near future, I hoped kids would be in our middle future, but I didn’t think once about grandkids in the distant future. Now here we are in the distant future and grandkids keep coming! I just recently realized the odds are, the more kids you have, the more grandkids you’ll likely have. That never crossed my mind in the middle future.

We all wonder who has more fun, Jim or the grandkids. I shouldn’t be surprised. Years ago neighborhood kids would knock on our door and ask if the boys could come out. That meant Jason, Travis and Jim. He was the requested pitcher for all the ball games in our front yard because he kept it fair and as exciting as a whiffle ball state championship.

Right after Jill and David got married Jason and Alison announced we were going to be grandparents and then four months later Kari and Travis did the same. That was just the beginning. Jim was thrilled. He never said anything, but I think secretly it concerned him a little he’d be waking up with a grandmother in bed with him the rest of his life. I’m telling you those are things you just don’t consider in your 20s.

The other day I saw a grandparents name book like a baby name book. People really need to understand the first grandchild has the naming privilege. Some of my friends are Grammy, Gramps, Go Go, Bodie, Mammy, Ray Ray, Champ, and Pops. My friend Gary was Crapaw for a while. That was fun at the mall.

Our kids thought Jim should be Big Daddy. Our neighbors had a Grandmasue, pronounced as one word, kind of like tiramisu. Try to get a baby to say that. Jackson and Jameson shortened Jim’s name to Big and mine to Sue Sue. Those are so much better than Crapaw.

Being a grandparent keeps me somewhere between staying current with what’s new in the world and totally confused. I am quite honored to have Wii players named Sue Sue even though the six-year-olds have to show me each time how it works. Jameson even explained something on the DVD player I never knew existed. I just had to get over being embarrassed about how little I know.

We have a whole set of rules at our house that don’t look anything like the parents’ rules. That’s the best part about being Big and Sue Sue. Flips off the love seat onto the bed, tossing water balloons off the back porch, body rolling down the hill and throwing rocks in the lake head up the activities list. The old Tom and Jerry cartoon is the top DVD. And … we’re almost certain white powder sugar doughnuts are somewhere in one of the five food groups. Hey, they drink milk with them. That has to count for something.

Every Wednesday the mail box is crammed with flyers; all those colorful ads announcing specials at the grocery and big box stores for the coming week. I think bargain hunting and snagging the steal is part of my genetic makeup. My mom had a nose for a sweet deal and so does Jill. It’s an ongoing personal challenge to not pay full price for anything.

My friend Roxie, (the one I told you about last month who can eat a full meal without disturbing her lipstick) is always looking for a good buy too. She asked her husband, Jack, to pick up a chicken on his way home from work one day. He bought some kind of special organic chicken on sale at the local grocery. I’m not real sure what organic chicken means or if it’s any different from free range. I think they must eat pesticide-free bugs and do yoga.

Roxie said it was the best chicken she had ever eaten. When she called the store phone number on the receipt, the butcher explained the sale ran two more days and assured her there were plenty.

The next day her last stop on the list of errands was to pick up several chickens. She looked everywhere in the poultry department, but there were no plump organic chickens, just skinny, sad looking ones. She rang the buzzer for the butcher. When he came through the swinging metal door Roxie started in on him. “You told me when I called yesterday there were plenty of organic chickens. I don’t see a single one. The chickens out here are pitiful and you assured me you had dozens but nope … zero chickens.”

The butcher looked a little puzzled and apologized over and over offering a rain check. She took the voucher and sulked out of the store feeling a little silly for getting in such a tizzy over raw poultry.

That night she replayed her frustration when she told Jack about the empty chicken display. “That happened at the Country Mart down at the interchange”, he asked surprised.

“Yeah, and that’s not like them, is it?” she answered.

“Roxie, I got the chicken over at the Country Mart on Highway 248,” he grinned.

Oh, I wish I could say I’ve never done anything like that, but it would be a lie. We all do it; make assumptions on one small piece of information. Then we make felony-like accusations over misplaced items and misunderstood conversations. Tempers flare, feelings are hurt, relationships are damaged.

Emotions fluctuate faster and more often than airfares. It seems both are running high these days. Saying exactly what you’re thinking is like eating too many Oreos dunked in milk; it feels good until you realize what you’ve done.

Next time an overreaction is coming on, stop, take a deep breath, and think about a flock of organic chickens.

I don’t remember life without a dog, until now. Our 15-year-old Lab died a few years ago and we haven’t tried to replace her. I heard once you aren’t a real empty nester until all the kids are gone and the dog dies. I guess I’m now official.

The first dog I remember was Emma, a Rat Terrier mixed breed named after my grandmother. One summer she found herself in an unplanned pregnancy and we were blessed with four puppies. We learned a lot about life and responsibility from Emma and her babies.

One Sunday afternoon when the pups were still tiny, we went to see my grandmother Emma who lived about an hour away. Coming home we ran into a torrential rainstorm. For good reason Mom was instantly concerned about the puppies. To escape the August heat, Emma had dug a little cave under the concrete air conditioner base to give birth. Mom knew they were in danger of drowning if Emma couldn’t get them out.

When we finally pulled into the garage we ran to the back yard hoping for the best, but dreading what we might find. I’ll never forget Mom in the pouring rain down on her knees in the mud with a flashlight. What we saw was something I will always remember.

Water was quickly filling up Emma’s birthing room. However, we were fascinated to see the rearranging she had done. This loving momma had taken her babies and lined them up in a row facing her. She would start at one end of the row and with her nose lift each of the tiny noses up out of the water 1, 2, 3, 4 … then start over 1, 2, 3, 4. This little white dog instinctively knew if she took one pup to safety, while she was gone the others would drown.

We could almost feel Emma’s relief when she saw Mom peeking in behind the flashlight. If dogs talked she surely said, “Wow, am I glad to see you. Can you please help me and take over here? I am worn out!” Mom pulled all the helpless babies to safety and Emma was one grateful dog.

In my adult life I have felt like Emma so many times. If I don’t keep my responsibilities above water, something is going to drown. My kids, my husband, my house, my friends, my work, my extended family … one, two, three, four. Is everyone happy? Is everything taken care of? Have I forgotten anything? If I don’t keep moving something disastrous will happen.

When I finally step back and realize I can only do so much, I relax believing I’m doing the best I can. No one is going to drown and, one more time, I resign from the position of master controller of the universe.

You can learn a lot on National Public Radio and yesterday I picked up some fascinating information. Flittering, flirting over Twitter, is the newest way to possibly meet “the one”. Honestly? At a flitter party each person attending is assigned a number. If someone is interested, a tweet is sent. So now dumb pick up lines are electronic?

Not long ago people met for coffee or lunch to see if they really wanted to commit to a date. Now do you flitter to see if you might even want to have a face to face conversation? I think it’s little weird. I guess it would be like a sneak peek to a blind date.

Scary blind date stories will stop even the bravest from going out with someone’s friend or third cousin. It took some fast talking for me to agree to go on one in college, but I did? I was so nervous you would have thought I had committed to bungee jump off the Royal Gorge bridge. I jumped all right. I married him 18 months later. He’s still my favorite person to hang out with.

Besides the big obvious things like common goals and faith, there are little things that have worked like glue in our marriage. Just like everything else in life we tend to get so deep, complicated and theological we forget the simple elements. This, of course, is my opinion not university research done by those with several letters behind their names.

Jim and I understood from the beginning, regardless how angry and frustrated we might get, we wouldn’t abandon each other. We’re on the same team and if a team doesn’t work together it loses. It’s hard to fight when we’re laughing so we laugh a lot. And, he travels and I travel so we get short breaks from each other. I’m being honest here.

Recently I was gone for 12 days. I’m good without him for five days but that’s it. I start feeling a little lost after that. About day eight of my trip I got an email: “Sorry, I broke the handle to the Swiffer Sweeper.” Now how do you get upset with a guy who is swiffering?

The next day another email came: “I forgot to tell you … I broke the lamp when I was swiffering.” Wow! I was wondering if it was a secret plot to get me to ban him from cleaning.

The day before I came home he sent a text similar to a flitter declaring how desperately he needed me: “This morning I accidentally bleached one of your new green towels. You’d better get home before I burn the place down!”

Obviously he doesn’t do well without me after five days either.

Late last summer the three Brawner brothers and wives went on a dream trip, a cruise to Alaska. It was the first time ever all three couples traveled together. Jim’s older brother Joe was just regaining his strength from a heavy round of chemo. His wife Karen was exhausted and each of the rest of us were dealing with wearing life issues. The timing for a break couldn’t have been orchestrated any better.

For me, half the fun of a trip is the planning. Jim’s younger brother, Jerry, and I were turned loose to make all the decisions and arrangements. I felt like a day trader finding specials, piecing together flights, and transferring and buying frequent flyer miles. It was a three week hobby of sorts.

The ship was fabulous, the company was unbeatable, and there was enough food to feed a small country. All that, with the peaceful massiveness of the landscape, was almost too much to process at once. If you are ever in doubt God exists, visit Alaska. You will fully understand the Be still and know that I am God scripture.

I stayed lost most of the time. That’s not too surprising since I can get turned around in Walmart. My true north for the week was the Lido deck where the pool and endless food stations were located. That’s where we spent hours relaxing and laughing with all the life clutter left in the Seattle bay.

As we pulled back in to port, there sat the real world on the dock waiting for us. I deeply wished we could stay on the ship, turn around and head back out to sea. However, if we didn’t go ashore how could we fully appreciate the Lido deck?

In that week I became more aware of the value of family, the vulnerability of life, and the importance of stepping away for a break, regaining strength to push on. Most of the time I feel I don’t have the time to stop, but now I’m positive it’s essential for survival.

Recently the Jerry Brawner branch of the family tree has been thrown some hard, fast, curve balls. It’s times like this I’m temped to ask that question about bad things happening to good people. It just doesn’t seem fair. But life doesn’t always act the way I want it to. This is where the trust part of faith fits in, I suppose.

A couple of weeks ago I sent Jerry’s wife, Rayanna, a text of emotional support. I didn’t hear from her until the next day. When I did this is what the text said: “Sorry I took so long to respond. I was on the Lido deck.”