Monthly Archives: August 2010

Life can be so distracting for me, if I want to get something done, I have to be very intentional and deliberate. If I don’t, I look up and two years have gone by. That’s why I have to write things down to stay halfway focused. And, it’s as if I mean business if I write it down, even if it’s on the back of a napkin in pencil.

Not long ago a young mom asked me, “If you could only offer one helpful parenting hint what would it be?” Questions like that make me nervous. If someone tries something I suggest and it backfires, I usually pick up the blame.

I had to think for a minute. By the look on her face when I finally answered, I think she was expecting something like “have the kids in bed by 7:30 at night” or “be in church every Sunday.” Here’s what I told her, “Parent with a plan.” She looked at me like I was explaining some algebraic equation.

“What do you mean? Can I buy it at the bookstore,” she asked seriously?

“I’m saying you have to be strategic,” I smiled. “When our kids were little, I started a list of things I wanted them to know and understand before they left home. As they got older the list got longer. I ended up with 15 character qualities and responsibilities I felt were important. I kept the list in the drawer of my bedside table and I’d pull it out every now and then and review it to see how things were going and where I might need to be more intentional. It was also a good time for me to take inventory of my own life”

“Humm,” she said, as she pulled out a pieces of paper and pen. “What’s on the list?”

“Your list needs to be a list of what you would like to see in your kids lives as they launch out into the world. Mine wasn’t instant and comprehensive, over time it developed and grew,” I explained. “It’s not really a list you can check off each item when completed because all through life we go forwards and backwards and sometimes sideways. What’s important is your awareness to be intentional with parenting.”

“Oh, she said,” as if I had given her a truck load to think about.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
~ Proverbs 22:6


David stared at me in shock and amazement, then laughed, “Did you really just do that?”

“I sure did and I’ll do it again if I have to,” I grinned. “I’d do it to my own sons. You are marrying into this family so I took liberty to treat you like a son.”

David and Jill’s wedding was only a couple of months away so he was patiently meeting all the extended family. Jill, David, Jim and I had just finished a nice lunch. Walking up the sidewalk to my uncle and aunt’s lovely home, I noticed a toothpick sticking out of the corner of David’s mouth. I had walked right past him, grabbed the toothpick, threw it into the grass and rang the doorbell without missing a beat. I’m sure it was a bit surprising.

“How would it be for you to meet someone for the first time with a toothpick hanging out of your mouth like an unlit cigarette? You do realize you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” I added.

“I suppose I hadn’t given that much thought to a toothpick, but I guess I will now,” he said smiling.

“You know, buddy, if you rearrange all the letters in the word Mother-in-Law it spells woman Hitler. You’d better get ready,” I shot back trying to act serious and stern.

Now when David affectionately introduces me as his Woman Hitler, people stare in disbelief. What they don’t understand is we have an understanding. If he didn’t love and respect me, that would never fly. But he does, so it works. It works so well I sign my email WH.

The Mother-in-Law/Son-in-Law relationship can be a painful awkward one. It takes some shifting and establishing boundaries for everyone. In my case, I’m blessed. Right after she was born, I started praying for the man Jill would someday marry. God listened.

Here’s what I understand so far; it all teeters on mutual respect. David gets to call me Woman Hitler and I have the freedom to jerk a toothpick out of his mouth.

Sometimes I wish everyone had the opportunity to live in a small town, even for just a while. There may not be the major metroplex amenities, but the sense of community makes up for what we lack in art museums, commerce and professional sports teams. We don’t have a 70,000 seat sports complex, but we do have Pirate football.

Even though there is no need for a sweater yet, for me, fall officially started the other night with the first football game. Every Friday from the end of August until the first part of November half the people we know are at the game. I can learn more at one ball game than reading the local paper for a week.

It’s a good thing I enjoy football and know the difference between a false start and pass interference and a double reverse. Jim was playing college ball when I met him and he went on to coach for a dozen or so years. Travis played junior high, high school, college and arena football. After that Jim officiated. I suppose that’s why I have bleacher indentations on my back side.

Pirate fans are wild and loud. The crazy twin emerges in some adults. For the students it’s an excuse to dress and do things they wouldn’t outside the stadium. Jason’s senior year he borrowed the huge Jolly Roger pirate flag and during half time ran the length of the football field in his black Chuck Taylor high tops and a red and black Speedo. Since he was a swimmer, I guess he thought that was an appropriate way to show support for Travis. Lucky for him, school officials did too.

We spent years in the Booster Club, traveling to games, decorating locker rooms, making scrapbooks, hosting Thursday night meals, and developing a network of friends who cared deeply about our kids. The other night in the middle of all the cow bells, train horn blasts, and excitement I thought about how grateful I was my kids had the opportunity to grow up understanding community. There’s so much more to hometown football than the game on Friday night.

Yesterday reminded me why even the slightest bit of change can sometimes give me a headache. It all started with the television. Ours died a slow and painful death a couple of years ago. Our friend Gregg had just bought a new one, so he let us borrow his old TV. We enjoyed it, but it was time for us to get our own.

Jim Brawner is the research analysis and Consumer Reports guru. After two weeks of intense study, he made his decision. I suppose he was tracking down the best TV like he was on a big game hunt. I would have gone to the store, picked the one with the prettiest picture and bought it.

When the Geek Squad guy came to set everything up, he and Jim got into a discussion about cable service. Jim chose to bundle to get the better deal so our Internet and phone service had to be moved. No problem until the phone bill came from the old phone company. After two 45 minute stints on hold for the phone company account specialist, a woman finally answered, questioning why we were changing and asking if we knew about their company’s bundle packages.

I blamed the decision on Jim just so I could get off the phone. After I hung up, as I was walking past the security system key pad, I noticed the SERVICE yellow light was shining. The security company sent someone to check it out. “We’ve had trouble with the media company you’ve switched to not finishing up so their system will link with ours, but we can fix it,” he explained.

The service guys couldn’t find the phone jack in the downstairs techno central room. After two calls to Jim, we realized a heavy shelving unit holding books, plaques, and general stuff had to be moved. It took all three of us. As the guys slowly moved out the book case, I stood still in horror. It’s similar to moving the refrigerator that’s sat in one spot for five years. Notes, papers, things that had been lost for months and dead bugs were everywhere.

I wanted to say, “You know, contrary to popular belief, ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ is only a saying. It’s not really in Scripture.” Instead I said, “Hold on a minute while I get the vacuum cleaner.” I guess they felt sorry for me because they moved the other shelves so I could clean behind them too.

It all started with a new TV. Now understand why change threatens me. It’s like falling down stairs … you don’t stop after one.

Watching airline ticket prices is like watching the stock market. What looks good can change in ten minutes and if it does look good, act on it now. Just like shopping at TJ Maxx, if you find a smoking deal, be sure to put it in your cart, push it around for a while, then decide. If you don’t, it will for sure be gone when you go back to pick it up off the rack.

I’m beginning to understand why this part of the United States is called fly over country. Depending on the day, I can fly to London and back cheaper than I can fly to Dallas because so many airlines prefer to fly over instead of stop.

Twenty-five percent of my email every day is concerning travel. I’ve signed up for every alert from every airline so I can snatch a decent price when it rolls over on the leader board. Just when I think I have it figured out, a new deal comes out.

Then I start comparing the add-ons for seat selection, checked bags, and which airport has the cheapest parking fees. You need a degree in travel management to figure it all out.

There are so many “discount” travel sites now. The first time I booked through Cheap-O Tickets I could hear Mom telling me when I was 10 years old, “Remember, Suzette, you usually get what you pay for.” That’s a little unsettling when flying is involved.

When layover times and arriving at the airport at least an hour early are factored in, driving can be faster. If you do drive you are at least assured your luggage will arrive with you and there’s no virtual strip search involved.

I suppose I’m going to have face booking airline tickets like I do balancing the check book … coffee, neck stretches, prayer, and a calculator.

Math has never been one of my personal strengths. I eeked through “baby math” in college celebrating I would never have to take another math test for the rest of my life. What I didn’t realize was balancing my bank account every month would be more challenging than any exam in a classroom.

I mark off an hour, get a hot cup of coffee, and do some neck stretches and pray before I sit down with the bank statement. My check register is similar to a diary or personal journal and would make absolutely no sense to anyone but me. I void checks and add back, deduct forgotten debits, draw red arrows to put a draft under a deposit, and subtract the monthly fees I’ve never remembered. Really my only concern is I don’t take out more than is in the bank.

It was so much easier before debit cards. Jim and I have a system now and it works … most of the time. He tries to remember to put his debit receipts on my desk every day and I have a special spot in my wallet for mine. There are only a few surprises now.

I have only balanced to the penny twice in my life. If I’m $50.00 close to what the bank says, I count that as balanced as long as their balance is better than mine. If it’s less, I write, “banking error” and subtract. I have one friend who would close accounts and start fresh just so he could get a balance straight. I’ve considered it.

Our kids don’t even know what a paper bank statement is. They keep up with everything on their iPhones. I’m sure Droid would do that for me, but how would I keep up with what’s pending? I was so proud of myself when I started paying bills online. I might really have a mess trying to learn another new system. In reality, lurking at the bottom of it, I’m sure, is my fear of change.

So until I take the big leap into the green, paperless, smart phone bank account keeping system, I’ll continue with a wing and a prayer and my calculator.

I’ve always gone with the assumption, no matter where you are, it’s safe to stop in a local restaurant if the parking lot is full. Chain restaurants are extremely predictable, so I like to choose non-chain if given a choice, especially when I travel. Granted it can be a bit of a gamble, but some of the best food ever can be found in a small town cafe or a local truck stop on the interstate.

Years ago, before Branson even had a stop light, home grown eating establishments were all we had to choose from. The Shack, Branson Cafe and The Farmhouse are sill landmarks in our community and waiting for a table is not uncommon. I suppose I’m spoiled and assume other small town eateries to be of the same caliber.

When driving through a little town last week, I chose the Crystal Cafe strictly on the number of cars parked outside. When we went through the front door I wondered if they had hired parking lot filler cars to make it look like they were busy and popular.

It took a minute for my eyes to adjust to the dimly lit room. I think it was intended ambiance, but evidently people had fallen because the were several “Watch Your Step” cardboard signs posted. The decor was interesting. It was as if, instead of updating every few years, they simply added to it. It was an Italian/ Mexican/ steak house restaurant and was decorated accordingly.

There was a two foot tall Wizard of Oz tin man made from cans hanging next to a large lamp with the Budweiser Clydesdale horses pulling a beer wagon. I was so tempted to ask if the lamp could be turned on so I could see the menu. There were several plastic floral arrangements mixed with pictures of the map of Italy, the Mexican flag and a crucifix. When I noticed an interesting photo of a family who resembled the Italian mob, I decided I would keep any complaints to myself.

As I was finishing my taco salad, I looked up to see a Christmas ornament hanging from the ceiling that someone had obviously missed when the decorations were taken down in January. Then again it might have been there on purpose.

I suppose you really can’t judge a book by it’s cover … or maybe you can.