Monthly Archives: October 2010

Wisdom arrives when you realize the importance of the little things.  If we’re not careful we spend the majority of our lives waiting on and looking for the milestones and newsworthy, breezing past what seems to be ordinary.  One of my favorite ordinary things comes every week … Sunday morning. 
When I was growing up my mom cooked breakfast every day, except Sunday.  Sunday was cereal day and that was enough to make it special.  It was like we were breaking rules or something by eating cereal.   I couldn’t wait to dig through the five pounds of new paper and mull over the comics and I don’t remember not going to church unless we were on vacation.  After church we went to Riverdale for the lunch buffet.  It was the same every week and even then, I knew it was special.
When my kids were growing up, Sunday mornings were important because Jim Brawner made pancakes.  Mickey Mouse pancakes were his specialty.  Jim cooked and I wrestled with kids to get everyone out the door to church.  Once I remember thinking, “So this is why I got to have cereal on Sunday mornings growing up.”  After church we went out for pizza. My kids grew up thinking pancakes, church and pizza is what everyone did on Sunday.

Most Sunday mornings are quieter now.  I still look forward to them.  What could be better than a big mug of coffee and time in my thinking chair thanking God for the week I just had and looking forward to the one coming up?  Jim Brawner and I go to church and then to lunch because that’s just what you do on Sunday mornings.

When I was in college in the 60’s everyone had a cause.  I think if you didn’t, the fear was others might consider you stupid and purposeless, so everyone marched or handed out flyers for something.  
We were smack in the middle of the Viet Nam war and emotions ran hot.  Sometimes opposing sides ended up in a clash in front of the University union or library.  Most of the time, just before campus police arrived, a third group would start singing Give Peace A Chance or someone would streak by naked and everyone would forget what the original ruckus was over.
Talking to some of the folks with placards, I found out most of them had a personal interest in what they were marching for. The majority of the war protesters had someone in Viet Nam or they had lost someone serving there.  Their purpose was steeped with passion.  That’s when I realized people with a cause more than likely have a deep personal connection and it’s what drives them.
My friend Kory is training to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise awareness and support for a cause.  We buy bottled water because our tap water is just not good enough while women and children in Africa spend two hours a day fetching water that we wouldn’t touch.  Obviously he’s passionate about clean water for children.  I can’t say I’ve ever been a part of a cause to the point of climbing or marching or stuffing envelopes.  Oh, I did serve on a phone bank once and I do give, but I’ve really never gone much further than letter writing, petition signing, and fit throwing. 
Actually I suppose I’ve been on my own crusade of sorts for years and my family will tell you I can get beyond passionate to near nasty when it comes to seat belts and cigarettes. Just like the war protesters, at the very core of my mini crusade, is personal connection.  
Cigarettes took out my mom with emphysema, my brother with a heart attack and my dad with lung cancer. You can understand why I get a little crazy when someone standing next to me lights up or if a seating hostess asks, “Smoking or non-smoking?” Honestly, is smoking really still allowed inside public places?
When he was two Travis flew through the windshield of a Volkswagen bus so for clear reason, I am the seat belt Nazi.  Jill was mortified once when I asked a young mom in a grocery store parking lot if she didn’t think she should buckle her kids in.

I suppose we all, on some level, have a belief or conviction we’re passionate about.  We may just not picket, march or chant. One thing I did learn in college was to never say, “Don’t take this personally, but isn’t that a little over the top?”  The reason they are marching is because it is personal. 

“Now if I could just find someone who would make me happy,” she said like she was checking things off her to do list.  The frustrated woman pulled me aside at the conference where I was speaking. She looked to be in her mid 40s, so I was shocked when she said, “Today I turn 35.”
“Happy Birthday,” I said wondering what I was going to hear next.
“Thanks so much.  I really appreciate everything you had to say about relationships but I have a couple of questions if you have a minute,” she asked?
“Sure,” I said, hoping she would be brief putting my hand over my stomach to muffle the growling.
“Today I’m 35 years old.  I have the house, I have the car, I have the job, and I have two kids.  It seems I have everything.  My third divorce was final 2 weeks ago.  I am worn out and dragged down.  I’m so glad to be free again.  Now I know what I want in a husband.  Do you have any suggestions where I can look,” she asked seriously.
I find myself in situations sometime when it would be totally inappropriate to roll my eyes and say, “Are you kidding me?”  This one of them.  Did she think my night job was a radio host on a call-in show?
“Wow,” I said slowly realizing she must have been texting or may have been in the bathroom during most of the session.  “Do you want me to be real honest with you,” I asked?
“Of course,” she answered curtly.
“Assigning someone else to be in charge of your happiness is not fair to you or the other person.  People are people and it’s guaranteed they will disappoint and let you down.  So if you’re counting on someone else to make you happy, I’m sorry, it will never happen.  Your contentment and happiness is your personal responsibility.  If you’re not happy or content, you really can’t blame anyone else but yourself.  People, places, and things are not the source of your happiness.”
“Oh,” she said obviously not hearing what she wanted to hear.  “Well, thank you.”  She turned and walked away.  I wondered how long it would be until her fourth divorce would be final.
“… I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” 
~Philippians 4:11

When I was a camp counselor one of the first lessons I learned from Spike White was concerning the pace of children. When he said they move at the speed of light I thought he was exaggerating. He wasn’t.

Once babies start crawling, the world becomes their research laboratory. When they start walking, it’s all over but the shouting. First time parents quickly learn to respect the dreaded two minutes of silence. Oh so much can happen in two minutes … huge crayon wall murals completed, 25 pound sacks of dog food emptied, a roll of toilet paper unloaded down to the last square, sometimes into the toilet, and entire cabinets cleaned out. How do they do it?

We tried to “child proof” our house when we started having babies. I think that term is strictly for the emotional comfort of parents. No one knows how to operate child proof lids and locks but children.

Kaylin decided to do a bit of research and rearranging yesterday. Actually, it looks as if she was on a very specific mission, hair care. The child proof latch didn’t seem to slow her down. When a baby has two older brothers, she learns extra fast. It’s like having in home tutors.

What amazing is Travis and Kari most likely have never sat her down and said, “Now Kaylin, let’s not empty out cabinets” giving her any ideas. She came up with that all on her own. All my grandkids are brilliant! By the look on her face, she may have been second guessing the decision to go shopping in her mommy’s stuff.

Spike was right … kids are second only to Superman when it comes to speed.

“Oh the places you will go!” Dr. Seuss nailed that one. What a creative guy with thought provoking nuggets of wisdom for kids and adults who read to the kids. Who knows where we’ll go? We make our plans and God laughs. I’m sure I’ve kept Him in stitches.

Retracing their steps, everyone has a story of unexpected turns in their journey; a job loss, a sudden death, a divorce. If we were scripting our lives, no one would ever write those things in. But there are also some good, strange turns we might not choose on our own that end up in wonderful places for specific reasons.

When our friend Kyle told Jim he wanted to buy our house we were a little confused, especially since it wasn’t for sale. As we were packing boxes, I had no idea why we were uprooting. Jill, my last baby, was weeks away from graduating from high school so we were facing major change without moving from the house she grew up in. There was a little comfort in knowing friends would be living there. It was kind of like giving the family dog away to people you know.

Our friends Gary and Norma offered us their guest log cabin while we were deciding what to do next. I’m not one to go without knowing, so this change was not only confusing, it was scary.

Moving wasn’t only a change, it was just the start of a challenging 18 months. Jim and I both had surgery. His mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his dad with dementia and they had to be moved to a nursing home. And, one of my best friends, my mom, died. In the middle of all that, where I lived was the least of my worries, but I still couldn’t figure out why we moved when we did.

One afternoon I came home from a trip to town to find the cabin wrapped in snow. No where on my list of things to do during my life was to live in a log cabin overlooking a lake, but there I was. It was one of those moments when blurred vision suddenly clears up. The peace, solitude, comfort and retreat the cabin had given me during that time wasn’t anything I could have chosen and planned for myself. Ah ha! It was then I knew why Kyle asked to buy our house.

“Oh, the places you will go!”

Let the parties begin! After the kids are settled back into school and financial recovery has begun from the back to school list, here come the parties. With that brings the mommy peer pressure. It’s unspoken and subtle, but, oh boy, is it there.

The season starts with Halloween parties or Fall Festivals or whatever you want to call them. I’ve determined some competitive mom back in the 16th century thought her All Saints Day dinner after church should be the classiest and the one-upping began. As hard as I tired I couldn’t convince my kids they would collect just as much candy in a store bought costume as one I stayed up until 2AM finishing. I’ll admit, I secretly thought the store bought costumes back then were cheezy and the competitive mom in me emerged.

Now there are entire websites just for costumes and decorating. No longer is a carved pumpkin with a candle on the front porch adequate. Entire sections of inflatables and Halloween accessories show up in the big box stores right after the red, white and blue. And the candy. It’s all about the candy. I wonder if M&M/Mars sees a jump in the stock market every fall.

Trick-or-Treating is not just for the little kids anymore. Whole families dress in theme. One year Jackson was a toothbrush and Mollie Jane was a tube of toothpaste. Last year Jameson and Owen had dog costumes and Trooper the dog shorts and a tee shirt. Two teenage boys showed up at Jill and David’s last Halloween dressed in regular clothes. David asked them what they were dressed as and when they said, “Hip-hoppers,” he had them dance for the candy.

So here we go! Party on, but take off the game face and enjoy this year. As soon as last of the candy, that was probably packaged this time last year, is gone, we’ll be digging out the Thanksgiving recipes. No wonder the average American gains 10 pounds during the last 8 weeks of every year.

My proper Southern mother has been proven right a lot lately … “It’s best to not discuss religion or politics in polite social circles. It just keeps things so much more pleasant.”
Obviously we can’t live in a vacuum, but I’m reminded of what Miss Helen worked so hard to teach me in kindergarten, be nice.

Yesterday our pastor gave one of the most relevant and timely messages ever. I wanted to hop up and shout AMEN several times. I might have really shocked Jim Brawner. In second Timothy 22 Paul said, “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace.” He went on to say, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone …”

The pastor was quick to explain in this context Paul was referring to the foolish youthful desire to always climb a hill to die on, to always be right, to always win an argument. Honestly I’ve often wondered if anyone ever “wins” an argument. If you win, the person you are fighting with is usually hurt and angry so you lose. You might even lose a friend. And if you lose you lose. So who wins?

Yes, we all have opinions and it’s challenging to find someone who thinks exactly like you. Yesterday it was suggested if you find yourself in a discussion that could heat up quickly, remember no matter how passionate you are, you need to be informed and above all, respectful. That’s where I almost jumped up to start a standing ovation.

I once watched two men “discuss” an issue to the point I thought a duel was going to be suggested. Ironically it was in a church parking lot. No wonder there is a high blood pressure epidemic in this country.

I want to choose my dying hills carefully. After thinking about it for a while I realized a wonderful thing. If I start to climb a hill and suddenly realize it’s not one really worth dying on, I can always turn around before I get to the top and start shooting.