Monthly Archives: March 2010

I was sitting at a red light when I felt vibrations in the middle of my chest. Maybe it was the Mexican food I had for lunch. Then I remembered I had eaten at Subway.

When an older, punked out, silver sports car rolled up next to me I was relieved to know it wasn’t food or stress. Someone was sharing music with the base cranked as far as it would go. I honestly think this generation will be a boost to the hearing aid industry when they hit retirement.

The guy behind the wheel, who had probably been driving just a couple of a years, had a full-on pig snout ring in his nose. A pink headband was holding a shampoo-commercial-worthy head of curly hair down in his eyes. There were about 27 bracelets on his left arm and he had on a T-shirt that obviously had been rescued from a paper shredder. He must have sensed I was watching him because he looked right at me and smiled. The snout ring kind of puckered out. I grinned back knowing he was aware I had been staring. When the light turned green, he waved as he pulled off and upped the volume one more notch.

I wondered what his story was. Everyone has one and I bet his is interesting. Obviously charming, he’s headed somewhere in life. My shredded T-shirt friend might very well be on his way to be the founder and CEO of the next Google-type company. You never know.

We all should be on our way to something, always learning, continually improving. If not, we stagnate like scum covered cattle ponds. When my dad retired from his 40 year dental practice he took an H&R Block class so he could help others with their taxes. Jason convinced him at 78 he needed to entered the high tech world with a computer. He did. At 85 he took a water aerobics class. I think mostly to check out the ladies.

What are you doing? You have so much to offer. Don’t let it be wasted. What are you learning? Try something new and challenging. Where are you headed? No matter what season of life you are in, take off and go. Even if it’s in an old sports car … maybe without the snout ring.

“Today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” -Dr. Seuss


I had a rude awakening last week. I think I’ve been in denial for most of my life, but I have finally come to grips with the fact I am a hopeless daydreamer. They say (whoever “they” would be), admitting you have a problem is half the battle. I suppose there are worse things to admit to.

I’ve learned daydreaming, even though it has the power to sidetrack and slow things down, is where most creativity floats to the surface and becomes an idea. I’m fairly certain Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Sam Walton, and Bill Gates were daydreamers. Albert was so smart and creative I’m thinking he might also have had some late-night help from a few of the drugs he tested on rats. Just a thought.

I sat down at the computer to write and my mind wandered a rabbit trail more confusing than Alice in her wonderland. I had my coffee, my music, and was ready to roll … I thought. “Wonder if it’s going to be warmer today? I’ll check the weather. I bet the book I ordered was shipped yesterday. I can’t wait to read it. Who am I kidding? I have four going right now. I really only read cover to cover on vacation. Jim Brawner and I really need a vacation. I bet there are some good travel deals in the fall. I’ll look.”

Then I noticed a jogger outside. “I really need to walk today. I’ll check the temp again to see if it’ll be warm enough by 2:00. I’m getting flat spots on my rear from sitting at this computer so much. I need to move more.” I got up and did 20 squats and sat down again.

“There are so many wrinkle creams advertised online. They must be selling if the companies keep buying online ad space. Maybe I should check into a little makeover work. Maybe I should call a friend who’s had a little tune up and see if she thinks it was worth it. Wonder if the flat spots can be fixed? No, if I’m even considering that amount of money, I’d much rather go on vacation”

Arrrr! That’s when I looked at the page and realized all I had written in 20 minutes was, “The other day I.” Then I began to worry I had an illness that prevented me from focusing. A feeling of failure started to creep in when suddenly three thoughts hit me so fast I had to grab a pencil.

That’s when I considered planned creative time, but that’s like an oxymoron. Can you really do that? So I’ll just go with it and know I might just be someone who takes the long, scenic route to a good idea.

Thoughts are powerful and obviously can wander off faster than a two-year-old. A perfectly good day can end up a train wreck just by what we think. Since I am a newly admitted daydreamer, my goal now is to keep my thinking away from the negative and run with the positive.

I’ve never really been one to want autographs or a chance to shake hands with someone famous. If the highly unlikely does happen and you get to meet that type person, then what? I guess you have the bragging rights that you met them, but that’s where the relationship ends. They won’t be calling you later to meet at Starbucks to catch up over a cappuccino.

It’s fascinating how we put those in the spotlight on a stand like a piece of fine artwork, almost like they really aren’t in the same category of humanness as the rest of us. Some of them take it in stride and live as normally as possible. The other half aren’t so nice. Pressure affects people differently.

Jim worked his way though college playing football at the University of Arkansas. We once figured out the value of his college education broken down into hourly wage. It was equal to sweat shop pay in a third world country. Dollar wise his time would have been spent better flipping burgers and his achy body parts would have probably aged slower. But, he wouldn’t have been a Hog.

In Arkansas, Razorback football players are celebrity-like. Kids, especially, swarm the team after practices and games. They might not even know the player’s name, but because he wears a jersey with a hog on it, the coolness factor is upped.

One afternoon after a long, hot practice Jim was leaving the field when a man in jeans and a tee shirt stopped him to ask some questions about the team and what it was like to play Razorback football. Jim assumed he was an off duty reporter. While they were talking, trucks, dollies and lifts were moving all kinds of sound equipment and cars were already filling up the stadium parking lot.

After about five minutes of football conversation, over the noise Jim said, “ All this is because there’s a Neil Diamond concert in the arena tonight. I think his people were not happy they had to wait until the football team finished workout before they could finalize their set up. Man, the traffic is going to be a mess with the crowds and the parking lot construction and it’s supposed to start raining. I wouldn’t pay a plug nickel to fight all that to see the concert,” Jim said honestly.

The man in the tee shirt nodded his head in agreement and smiled. Another man approached them who Jim thought probably had football questions too. Apologizing for interrupting he turned to the assumed off duty reporter and asked, “Mr. Diamond, where would you like…”

Jim didn’t even hear the rest of the question. To turn and run to the locker room would have been too obvious, so he dropped his head, smiled, and said, “I need to reword my last sentence. I wouldn’t pay a plug nickel to fight all that to see ANY concert.”

He quickly scribbled a mental memo … careful, you never know who might be striking up a conversation with you. Mr. Diamond grinned, shook Jim’s hand, saying he knew what he had meant and sure had enjoyed the visit. And, no, he didn’t call later to see if Jim was free for coffee.

I drove through a slice of rural southwest Missouri, the whole state of Arkansas and down through a hunk of Texas yesterday, by myself. As I rolled through travel-magazine-like countryside in northwest Arkansas to the center of the state to see my Dad, I remembered why I’m so comfortable in small towns. There is no traffic, there are no crowds and between Harrison and Clinton there isn’t even a Walmart. No Walmart is a little scary.

But it’s quiet and slower paced and business real estate is multifunctional. The tax accountant shares office space with the feed store and the gas stations all have a pass through door to a restaurant and a clothing store of sorts. Everyone knows everyone. I almost feel like an intruder every time I go inside to pay for gas or buy a Dr. Pepper on that stretch of highway.

I saw a Nona’s Beauty shop at the side entrance of a home. It was next door to Big Belly Bar-B-Q. I think Nona and the cook at Big Belly’s must be married. It all seems so simple and easy to live right where you work. No commute time. No gas consumption. Less pollution. However, I don’t think Nona and the big guy worry about their carbon footprint.

I left Conway after visiting with Dad and took off toward Little Rock hoping the Saturday afternoon traffic would be thin. It was. Everything flattened out south of Benton. It’s as if I veered right and just keep driving on Interstate 30, forever. I stopped in Texarkana because my legs were going numb, the gas tank was almost empty, I was hungry and needed a bathroom. That’s one-stop multitasking at it’s best.

I had to pick Jim up at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport. Lamaze breathing came in handy the closer I got to the metroplex. I don’t do five lanes of traffic at 70mph with grace. I had map quested the trip and really there were only two stay-to-the- lefts, but I still had a death grip on the steering wheel as if it would help me drive better. Other drivers would surely see my out of state license and cut me some slack … not so much. At that point I wished I had programmed Droid to GPS me there. At least someone would have been in the car for encouragement.

Of course I took the wrong arrival gate exit at an airport the size of a small country, but I ended up in the vicinity of Jim. I finally found him. Well, he actually found me. With my road trip buddy taking over the driving, I brought my shoulders down from my ears, and went back to normal breathing.

I don’t know… If I had to choose between Dallas and small town Arkansas, maybe living without a Walmart is doable.

Yesterday morning I woke up with a migraine. Unless you’ve experienced one you might say something like, “Take a couple of Tylenol and get over it.” Trust me, this is something the Go-To-Lowe’s-And-Build-A-Bridge thing won’t work on. (Check March 1st post.)

If you don’t know much about migraine headaches, Google it. Maybe I’ll get a, “Oh, man, that stinks.” The scary thing is they sneak attack and tend to run in families. All three of my kids get slammed by them too.

Jim was out of town so, keeping-it-together with the nausea, I got out of bed, took some medicine, found an icepack, and finalized the blog. Then I went back to bed and, like a drunk, slept it off.

Three hours later the phone woke me up. It was my friend Debbie. I haven’t talked to her in a couple of days and she was calling just to see how things were going. I smiled. She always calls at the right time. I updated her on my three very sick family members and all the other incidentals, including my headache. We just laughed. It’s the best thing to do.

We talked about our elevated stress levels and how things were supposed to slow down and wondered when on earth that’s going to happen. She said, “Suz, may I share something with you?”


“When I woke up the other day and I was just being quiet thinking, I had a mental image of a beach, you know, that part right by the water. I was thinking about sandcastles and how they’re built. We construct them with moats and turrets and may even put a little flag on top of one of the towers. Then, when the tide comes in, it only takes a couple of good waves to wash the whole castle away,” she explained in detail.

“Oh yeah.” I was following her.

“Well, here’s what I think: We build sandcastles out of stress, but God’s grace will wash it away if we stand close enough to the shore line. Don’t ask me where that came from because I don’t even like the ocean. Big things swim there,” she said seriously.

I thought that was fabulous! We laughed some more and I hung up the phone promising I’d stick a little closer to the shore line.

I got up, pushing back the migraine hangover; the worst part is over, but there’s still a fog. Since stress is a major influencer of migraines, I finally admitted to myself I had let it get the best of me. Vowing to become more aware, I turned on a hot shower. When I got in with my glasses on, I realized I might need to inch even closer to that shore line than I originally thought.

“Cast all you anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

General George Patton once gave some wise advice concerning war; “Never go in to battle unless you have something to gain from winning.” I would imagine he had seen some extremely ugly fighting and came to realize insignificant battles are pointless. If you’re going toe-to-toe it better be for good reason. The General’s philosophy works without guns too.

I got a question from a home where constant battling is evidently a problem: “We are always at odd with our kids. They think we are too strict. We are pretty firm and say no to a lot because there is so much they can get in trouble with. How do you decide what to say no to?”

My best answer would be the George Patton quote. If you know what is worth standing up for before things heat up, you can stay focused and calm. Kids have a magical way of talking circles around parents. It starts at two-years-old and if left unchecked parents will be wandering in a confused state of edginess by the time the kids hit puberty. The Army has a plan, so should parents.

Jim and I had a grid of sorts we ran issues through before battle lines were drawn. If something was illegal, immoral, or dangerous, it was worth potential conflict. If something fell outside those guidelines, we let it slide. Kids are told no so much and for good reason most of the time. Think about why no is the answer before you give it.

Let the kids help establish the boundaries, obviously not in the heat of the moment, but maybe at a family meeting over dinner. They might be more conservative than you in some situations. I think many parents hold such tight reigns because they eeeked through high school just barely staying out of jail, or not.

If your son has on unlaced tennis shoes and his hair looks like it got caught in the ceiling fan and your daughter is wearing three different patterns and a multi-colored hair band when you get in the car to go out for a family meeting dinner, just breathe. Is it really worth the battle? Simply smile and say “Hi” if people stare at the Cracker Barrel. Who’s more important anyway … your kids or people you don’t know and more than likely will never see again. The General would definitely say the kids.

Unlike today, when pregnancy is confirmed about 15 minutes after conception and the boy or girl mystery is revealed halfway through the journey, I found out if I had a new son or daughter when each of my kids made their debut.

We had Jason and Travis and then were surprised by a third pregnancy. I just assumed I would have another boy. I was comfortable with boys. I had all the boy clothes and toys, so in my mind I was having a boy. Jim Brawner just knew we were having a girl and never once wavered on his conviction. When Jill was born he smiled that I-told-you-so smile. I lovingly smiled back thinking, “Buddy you have no idea what you’re in for.”

One of the things he had to learn was how to shop. For Jill shopping is a sport. Jim understands competition so they shop well together. For me, one of the benefits of a daughter is not only having a shopping partner, but she tries to keep me from wading off in to the deep end of the fashion pool. “No Mom, that won’t work. Here, try this. You look pale, add more blush. Not those shoes,” and on and on it goes. I listen carefully knowing she’s just trying to keep me somewhere between Short Shorts and Muu Muus.

This all started when she was about eight. We were swimsuit shopping. Every woman who has given birth multiple times would rather have a root canal than swimsuit shop, unless you’re Kate Gosselin or Angelina Jolie. I picked up a two piece suit to see what Jill would say. I came out of my little cubby and asked, “What do you think?” praying no one else would walk in the dressing room. Trying to be as gentle and politically correct as possible, she answered, “Mom, I don’t think that’s for your age.” My fashion sense has concerned her ever since.

Jill lives over 1,000 miles away now, so I am on my own. I think it makes her fidget when I tell her I’m going shopping. I bought some new jeans not long ago, Not Your Daughter’s Jeans. I know she’ll be proud of me because they were 75% off the retail price. That’s a score for sure. When one of the tags read, “NYDJ cannot be held responsible for any positive consequences that may arise due to your fabulous appearance when wearing these jeans,” I knew I had to try them.

I wore the jeans for the first time yesterday. I think a second sentence should be added to the disclaimer: “Results may very customer to customer.” However, just knowing I was wearing something age appropriate, I picked out by myself, did boost my confidence. The brand name alone should calm Jill down.