Monthly Archives: May 2010

When Jackson was a little guy, he thought the minute the candles were blown out on the birthday cake, it was official, you were one year older. This applied even if your birthday was a few days before or after the party.

Just like the candles on Jackson’s birthday cake, over the years, Memorial Day has become the official beginning of summer even though, according to the calendar, summer doesn’t really begin until June 21st.

Over the long weekend we celebrate at cookouts with friends and family, go on mini-vacations and enjoy trips to the lake. Until we are reminded by radio and TV ads, we tend to forget the real meaning of Memorial Day. It began as Decoration Day in the 1800s to honor and celebrate those who have given their lives for the rest of us to enjoy the freedoms we casually assume we’re entitled to.

Unless you have a friend or family member who is or has been in the military, the significance of Memorial Day might not even cause you to pause. My Dad served in the Navy during World War II. His ship’s assignment was change just before it left port. The ship that was sent instead, never returned. My father-in-law was in the second wave of soldiers to storm Omaha Beach. That all was before Jim and I were born. But because our fathers lives were spared, Jim and I and our kids and grandkids are here today.

Last year Jason joined the National Guard. He’s an Army chaplain. Everyone in the family knew before I did. I think it was like the commercials on TV, he was concerned how I’d react. I won’t lie, it did knock me off center a little, but honestly I felt nothing but pride. He’s gently explained to me it’s not whether he will be deployed, but when. It took me a while to digest that one.

So today when you’re having your burger at the lake or relaxing in your lounge chair at the pool, consider for a moment why you’re able to enjoy the privileges, choices and freedoms you have. “Thank you” to the men and women past, present, and future who serve our country.


Jim hung up the phone. “Suz, that was Kari. She and Dakota were out jogging and Dakota was attacked by a cow. She can’t find Travis and she needs help. She said she would call back.”

This was right before Kari and Travis were married. Calling for back-up was something she would have to learn to do over the next several years while Travis was in med school and residency.

“What! Was she out on one of those farm-to-market roads? How on earth did the cow get to Dakota? Is Kari okay? How badly hurt is Dakota? Oh good grief, this is terrible. Where are they now?” I asked, just as the pone rang. It was Kari.

“Where are you? Are you all right? How’s Dakota?” I suddenly realized I wasn’t giving her time to answer. “I’m fine. Dakota is in with the vet right now,” she sighed.

“Kari what on earth were you doing so far out in the country? How did the cow get to Dakota? Did Dakota run under the fence in to the pasture? Can dogs get mad cow disease from a cow bite,” I kept on with my rapid-fire questions.

“What are you talking about,” she asked confused

“I’m talking about the cow. The cow that attacked Dakota. Jim said a cow attacked Datoka?”

“The cow? I said Chow, not cow. Dakota and I were jogging in the neighborhood and one of the neighbor’s Chows ran out and went after Dakota. I think the Chow thought we were invading his territory,” she said laughing.

I was so relieved to know there weren’t hostile cows living outside Springfield, Missouri. This was when cell phones were relatively new and the reception was sometimes sketchy at best.

But isn’t that what we tend to do when we don’t know all the facts, go into a semi-panic. I’ve learned over the years to slow down and ask a lot of questions in what looks like to be a crisis. Nine times out of ten it’s not. It keeps my blood pressure normal and I don’t get weak knees from an adrenalin rush to spring into action when it’s not necessary. Honestly, what action would I have taken in a cow attack situation anyway?

“Not only do I not know what’s going on, I wouldn’t know what to do about it if I did.”
-George Carlin

When you know better and do it anyway, I think it’s called asking-for-it. The Friday of Memorial Day weekend is not the time to travel and it’s not the time to even pull in the parking lot of the Super Center. I knew better and I did both anyway.

People get a little crazy and careless on holiday weekends. Just the sheer volume of traffic makes a simple road trip life risking. Television is the only place I have seen a worse accident than I saw yesterday. Two vehicles, a truck pulling a goose neck trailer carrying a backhoe, and a horse trailer were all scattered and smashed so badly it was hard to tell what happened. It added an hour to my trip, but caused me to slow down and remember how fragile life is.

Once I got home I decided to make a quick trip to town. It would keep me from having to venture into the sea of vacationers today. I waited until about 7 to go to Walmart. So did everyone else. The aisles were jammed, products were out of stock, and they were calling for all checkers to report to their registers. I stood for 10 minutes in the express line.

To pass time I read the magazine covers and learned Oprah and her friend Gayle had a screaming match in public, John Travolta and his wife are having twins and three ways to loose weight while eating everything you want.

All of a sudden someone yelled, “WELCOME TO WALMART!” I looked up from my third magazine to see the greeter in his blue vest yell it again. Then someone walked past him to leave and he shouted and pointed to her, “HAVE A GREAT DAY!” He startled a lot people, but made everyone smile. I did.

I finally made it to the cashier. “That guy is sure enjoying his job,” I said. “Oh, he’s new. I don’t know him very well. He does have one thing figured out though. If you have to work you might as well have fun doing it,” she smiled.

Brilliant idea. We all have to work in one way or another, paid or not. There are some things that just have to be done, so you might as well have fun while you do them. Who knows, like the Walmart greeter, you might make someone smile.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…”
-Colossians 3:23

“If men liked shopping, they’d call it research.”

Jim Brawner is all about Consumer Reports. Before buying, he studies cars, TV’s, phones, and computers like an investigator. He even knows the highest rating for things we don’t need and never will buy, so shopping is research for him.

Honestly I’m more concerned about cup holder placement than miles per gallon and if a laptop fits in my briefcase is much more important than megas or gigas or whatever it is that impresses people who understand technology.

However, it’s a different story when it comes to shopping for clothes. My friend Gary says men hunt for clothes. They go to the mall, shoot it, bag it, and bring it home.

It’s a mission for Jim to buy a pair of black slacks. He hits the mall and goes in the first store that looks like it might sell black slacks, finds his size and he might try them on. If he does, I guarantee he won’t twirl and wonder if the slacks make his rear look big. For men, if they zip up, they fit. He pays for the slacks and leaves the mall. Not much research goes on with that.

Recently I went shopping for a black pair of slacks and got totally distracted. I found little girl clothes 75% off, a new kitchen gadget and note cards for Aunt Jo. Within 30 minutes I forgot the original reason for going to the mall. Then I needed a time out so I sat down for coffee and tried to remember what it was I was really looking for.

Jill called with some cooking questions and Jim called wanting to know what time I was getting home. Then I was way off track. I started out for the parking lot and couldn’t pass up a couple of stores with SALE signs in the window. After I picked up an Auntie Anne’s pretzel I left the mall knowing I had had a great shopping experience. No research necessary.

When I was about to fall asleep that night I remembered … black slacks. I need to always shop with a list.

One of the best things about May is strawberries. My friend Roxie says she’s just certain right when you walk through the gates of heaven it smells like fresh strawberries.

Strawberries are close to the top of my list of favorite things ever. Like Bubba fixed shrimp in the movie Forrest Gump, we fix strawberries; strawberry shortcake, chocolate dipped strawberries, strawberries over ice cream, strawberry smoothies, spinach and strawberry salad. I grew up in Arkansas and it’s hard to find better berries anywhere. In Arkansas it smells like heaven in May.

My dad would take my kids to Round Mountain in the spring to one of those you-pick-’em farms. I think he let them pick until they got tired. Over the years I’m sure he spent hundreds of dollars on strawberries. One year I think four year old Jill’s bucket weighed more than she did at the weigh-in.

I drove down in Arkansas to see my dad yesterday. He just finished up the batch of berries I bought off the back of a truck last week so I made it a point to look for a berry truck or stand on the highway. I slowed down by the unofficial car sales lot where I bought berries last week. The K-Mart parking lot is the best place to sell a car at home. This community didn’t have a K-Mart so that spot must be the place to sell everything. Last week strawberries, this week no strawberries, Yorkie puppies.

About 50 miles further south past Aunt Gertie’s Flea Market is a fruit and vegetable stand. We stopped in there a couple of weeks ago. The farmer was sold out but we did meet couple from a small town in Arkansas who were also looking for berries. We actually knew some of the same people. If we had talked long enough we might have found out we were related or at least may have know some of each other’s relatives.

Yesterday the farmer had about a dozen quarts of berries and they were the puniest looking strawberries I had ever seen. “Are these all the berries?” I asked. “Yep,” he answered and flashed me a toothless grin.

“Oh, wow, I was looking for some larger ones,” I said, disappointed.

He was quick to say, “It’s the end of the season, but these are the best berries we’ve had.”

“I think I’ll pass. Thank you though. It just doesn’t smell like heaven,” I said as I turned to walk out. “Well, Okay,” he said with a puzzled look as he scratched his head and spit tobacco juice in a paper cup.

I’ll got to Kroger this morning.

If I had a dollar for every hour I’ve spent in bleachers, on fields, in gyms, at pools and on courts over the last thirty years I could probably buy a car or take a really long trip. Just when I thought I was going to store the bleacher cushions, umbrellas and folding chairs the grandkids are putting on uniforms.

Jim went on a Cub Scout camp out last weekend. The boys were making the big crossing from Tiger Cub to Wolf and had to complete tests in knot tying and compass and maps. Big was the only Grandad there and in typical Jim Brawner style, I’m sure he had more fun than anyone.

Last night we went to Jameson’s T ball game at the Rec Plex. He plays on the blue team, The Royals. Everyone should have as much fun as these kids do. Each base has a coach to tell them when to run and which way to run because it gets confusing with so many things to remember when you’re five and six years old.

One player got so excited he went straight from second base to home. I guess the home plate coach was cheering louder. There were several head on collisions and there was a rugby style scramble for the ball in the infield until the kids realized they were on the same team. Then they laughed and were overly polite, “You take it. No, you take it.” Meanwhile the runners were rounding the bases.

The batter before Jameson was left handed so when Jameson got up to bat he gave it a try from that side of the plate too. Jameson’s right handed. When the Royals were out in the field he ran the ball to the first baseman and handed it to him instead of throwing it. I guess he thought the ball would get there faster. The runner was out! Whatever it takes.

The best part was watching big grins on the little faces while they were superhero baseball players. So here we go again. Round two. Another thirty years.

When a string of challenging days come in a row, I start to feel like I am sinking. No matter how strong and steady you claim to be, if you’re honest, you’ll admit life can wear you out too. I feel like I’ve had not just back to back days, but weeks that have poked holes in my boat and it’s taking on water. It bullies around my confidence to be able to handle life.

Lack of confidence and fear creep into our lives as we grow up. Kids are fearless until adults teach them boundaries for their own safety. Obviously that’s necessary, but if pushed too far a paralyzing fear takes hold. My mom grew up on a farm with a stock pond. She never learned to swim and had to work hard at overcoming her fear of water because she was told over and over, “Don’t go near the pond because you could drown.”

In the same way we learn to be afraid and lose our confidence, we can build it back … piece by piece. I was out walking a few days ago and I had to give myself a good talking to. Do you ever do that? I was to the point I could either sink to the bottom in the stock pond of fear and worry or start swimming, real fast. It’s not that I don’t know how to swim to pull myself up out of that sinking feeling, I didn’t think I had the energy.

So I talked out loud to myself. It’s more convincing that way. It concerns the neighbors I’m sure. “I am strong. I am confident. I can handle anything tossed my way. I have energy and I’m not tired. I will not sit down give up. God made me and loves me and won’t give me more than I can handle. I like myself. I am loved. I can do it!”

Did I instantly feel those things? Nope. Sometimes it’s best to fake it until your feelings catch up. They eventually will.

Here’s a video clip of three-year-old Jessica doing her affirmation dance. I’m telling you it’s like learning to snow ski; it’s much easier at three than forty-three. It’s amazing what we can learn from the kids. Enjoy your day and keep on swimming.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” -2 Timothy 1:7