Monthly Archives: December 2010

“Hope smiles on the threshold of the year to come.”

~Lord Alfred Tennyson

New year resolutions are a tricky sort of thing. The last few days of December I like to consider the past 12 months and make decisions, not necessarily resolutions, because the word resolution sounds a bit daunting and semi-impossible to me.

Last year I made a decision and issued myself the challenge of writing every day for the coming year. Today marks 365. I’d be lying if I said it was a joy and pleasure every day to sit and stare at the computer praying ideas worth writing about would skitter across my mind. Many times I woke up at night to scribble down something so I wouldn’t lose the thought. I often caught myself daydreaming how I would write things out. I felt like Cameron Diaz’ character in The Holiday when her mind played her life’s events out like copy for ads and she couldn’t get the voices to be quiet. That’s when I understood why many playwrights and classical authors drank too much or went a little crazy.

As I think about it, a year long writing project has not only been a discipline I never thought I could handle, it’s been like free therapy. I lost my brother-in-law and a life long friend to cancer. I’m still in disbelief from a car accident that took a young friend much too early. And I finished out the promise I made to Mom just before she died, “Don’t worry about Dad, I’ll take care of him.” The first half of the year I walked with him on his journey to join her.

I’ve had the honor and privilege of traveling with friends and family this year, writing from new and wonderful places. I’ve been reminded time and time again nothing is more important than relationships. That’s really all we own.

When I look back at the year I think of decisions I’d like to make for the next one, things I’d really like to do. I’d like to be kinder and more appreciative. I’d like to be in less of a hurry and I want to pursue a deeper awareness of God’s grace and love. I hope to remember everyone I meet is fighting a battle of sorts and that a smile and a hug is all most people want or need.

So here’s to an exciting new year full of anticipation and promise. Thanks for your encouragement to press on. You’ve helped me live out a decision I was just stubborn enough to not give up on.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

~Jeremiah 29-11


Everything is a discovery to one-year-olds because everything they encounter is new. It’s refreshing to watch Kaylin and Vivian’s surprise with simple things we take for granted like falling leaves or the dog eating food that’s thrown on the floor. Sadly in the growing up process we lose our amazement and wonder. But if you think about it, the amazement factor might not be lost, maybe we just get so busy we simply become unaware.

When I checked the dictionary, discover is defined as uncovering or finding something unexpectedly. I’ve often thought what it might be like to make a Christopher Columbus type discovery, something so big it changes the course of history. I think that falls in the uncovering category because he set out to find the new world. Things like discovering you have mice would be the finding unexpectedly part of the definition.

Researchers are on the hunt for discoveries every day. Knowing great things are out there just waiting, like the ultimate cure for cancer or yet another application for Driod, is what gives them purpose and drive.

Because we fail to notice, we pass up amazing discoveries every day. They may not be things that would make it to the cover of People magazine, but common stuff that makes us smile if we pause long enough.

Jill’s husband, David, is one of the most analytical thinkers I know, yet he takes the time to enjoy simple amazing discoveries. In fact, he is the one who reminded me to take note. Not long ago he opened the dishwasher and I heard him say, mostly to himself, “Wow, don’t you love it when you open the dishwasher and the dishes are still dirty?”

“What did you say,” I asked, thinking he had spent way to much time on the computer that day?

“You know, if the dishes are still dirty you don’t have to unload everything yet,” he said, as if I had missed the whole point. I had.

I suppose it’s the same as waking up at 3AM realizing you don’t have to get up for three more hours or getting a check in the mail because you overpaid a bill. It’s amazing and surprising. If you think about it, a great parking spot, a short drive through line, and a “No waiting on register number 10” announcement are all amazing discoveries.

In our lifetime most of us will never find a new vaccine or the real location of Sasquatch, but we have the opportunity to recognize and smile at amazing discoveries every day.

“Oh, no!” Mortified is the only word I can think of to describe the look on my sister-in-law’s face. We were standing at a hotel lobby check-in counter with five sandy, sweaty kids in wet swim suits when Rayanna noticed I had forgotten to make the necessary cover-ups after nursing baby Jill had fallen asleep. No wonder the desk clerk kept looking at the ceiling. A faux pas at it’s finest.

Faux pas is a fancy sounding French word meaning violation of acceptable social norms. The definition evens sounds uppity. It just feels better to say than mess up. I know social norms change, but how could my major faux pas twenty years later be Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction? Surely she was embarrassed.

I’ve laughed until I can’t breathe listening to others recount embarrassing moments. Maybe it makes me feel better to know I’m not alone with my faux pas. I’ve stopped more than one woman leaving a public restroom with a six foot strip of toilet paper trailing on a shoe or from underneath her skirt. I’ve signaled to people I really don’t know at dinner parties that broccoli is stuck between front teeth or dressing has dripped on a tie or a chin. I hope others would do the same for me.

Falls, spills, and miscalculations aside, I think what can be the most embarrassing is the things we say. Sometimes people don’t know they should be embarrassed for saying what they do and it makes the situation even funnier.

When I was eight months pregnant, three year old Travis asked a friend of ours if he was going to have a baby too. I guess it was better than, “Your belly is so big you look like you’re eight months pregnant.” Kids are forgiven so easily because they don’t have much of an editing filter yet. They can get away with saying what the rest of us are thinking.

A verbal faux pas may be funny, but so many times it’s hurtful. I never want my slip-ups to step on others’ feelings. My constant challenge is to not let my mouth run faster than my brain. I should be the only one embarrassed by my faux pas.

“Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep a watch over the door of my lips.”

~Psalm 141:3

It starts when we’re kids, the need to hang on to a doll or blanket or stuffed animal for security at bedtime or when we were scared, hurt, or need a little soothing. I remember taking 15 minutes to get my bed organized and settled before climbing in. I’m not sure if it was because I was that orderly as a child or if it was a bedtime stall technique. Probably stall technique.

My kids had security blankets but gave them up fairly early. Jason was forced to because his all but disintegrated. Some of the grandkids have blankets, some stuffed animals. Mollie Jane sleeps with her dolls and books and leaves only a small space for herself in bed. Vivian has become so attached to the pink and white puppy our friends Debbie and MItch gave her, back up reinforcement puppies had to be hunted down on Ebay.

The need for comfortable and secure evolves and transfers from blankets and teddy bears as we grow up. Ask anyone and they can name an old sweatshirt, pair of shoes or nightgown they refuse to part with. Normally these things aren’t worn in public. However, I dashed to the store once when I ran out of milk and looked down when I dropped some change in the checkout line to discover I had on my furry house shoes. This was years before people wore pajama bottoms to Walmart.

There is something to familiar, and broken-in that calms even the most frazzled. Instead of reaching for a blankie at the end of the day, as adults we put on our old, soft, ugly sweatpants and socks and curl up on a favorite chair. Just like Vivian’s pink puppy, that makes everything better.

More goes on behind the scenes than we ever think about. On a cold morning in February do we consider the process it takes for us to enjoy a steaming hot shower; the water purification system, the miles of pipes, the route through the hot water heater, and of course, the water pressure? I hadn’t until right now.

I suppose the majority of us are surface thinkers. It’s like arriving at a wedding reception, enjoying the food, the entertainment, and the decor, but never once thinking about the planning, work, and support system it took for it all to happen. That’s until you plan, organize and pay for a wedding yourself.

I was standing in line at Lowe’s the other day. I’m not very good at waiting, so I’ve learned to either check email on Droid or think though things. It keeps the frustration level minimal because I feel like I’m accomplishing something instead of wasting time.

A beautiful little girl with shoulder length brown hair and chocolate eyes was circling the shopping cart behind me. She stopped next to me and stared. Holding up two fingers, she grinned when I asked her how old she was then circled the cart again.

The woman I assumed was her mother I learned was her aunt, but the woman I was sure had to be her grandmother was. In a three minute conversation I found out the little girl’s dad was in Iraq and would be home sometime between February and June. He’d been gone for a year. Her mother had just been deployed to Afghanistan and wouldn’t be home until next Christmas. Her grandmother is taking care of her while they are over seas.

Then it hit me. I looked at the sweet grandmother and said, “I always try to thank service men and women when I see them in uniform but something has just occurred to me. I’ve never really thought about the support system it must take in order for them to leave home to serve. Thank you for what you are doing.”

The grandmother and aunt both thanked me and wished me a Happy New Year. From now on I hope I can remember to look a little further behind the scenes. Oh, the lessons that can be learned standing next to a Black and Decker display.

“Wrinkles should indicate where the smiles have been.”

~Mark Twain

Mollie Jane crawled up in my lap for a little snuggle after dinner. Six inches from my nose she smiled and gently stroked my face. Heaven couldn’t be much sweeter. I could almost hear music. “Sue Sue,” she said softly as she drew circles around my mouth with her index finger.

“Yes, baby,” I said, thinking she was going to tell me she loved me to the moon and back.

“Sue Sue, you’re old,” she said smiling. The music screeched to a halt. “What were you before you were old?”

“Well, sweet girl, I was young,” I said, thinking that was the most logical answer.

“Probably so,” she answered. “But Sue Sue, …. now you’re old.” With that she hugged me tightly and went off to play.

“Maybe I need some lipstick,” I though. “Maybe I purse my lips too much.” But then, to comfort myself, I remembered twenty is old to a four year old.

I’m trying to embrace wrinkles. Surely they indicate one should be a little wiser than those with dewy, smooth skin. Jane Fonda once said, “Women are not forgiven for aging. Robert Redford’s lines of distinction are my old age wrinkles.” I saw her recently on a talk show. At 72 she looks to be about 50. A little Botox and nip and tuck have offered her years of forgiveness.

It’s so frustrating when things come to mind later you wished you’d have said in a moment you’re caught off guard. Generally it’s best it doesn’t surface until later, because typically it’s something you’d be sorry for having said.

This time was different. I wished I would have thought to tell Mollie Jane I was glad to be the age I am because if I wasn’t, she wouldn’t be in my life. She is so worth having wrinkles. Come to think of it, most of them are caused by smiles anyway.

Christmas is such a time of anticipation of tradition. My Dad used to smoke a turkey on Christmas Eve and Mom served it with wild rice instead of stuffing. We went to my grandmother’s house on Christmas Day for turkey again. That’s most likely why Jim Brawner and I had corned beef and cabbage for our traditional Christmas dinner.

But as our kids left one by one, work schedules interfered, and in-law families had to be considered, things began to shift again. One year we went to Oklahoma because Travis was on call over Christmas. A man got drunk, climbed a tree and fell out. Travis missed Christmas dinner because he was at the hospital trying to put the guy back together. One year we didn’t exchange gifts, but chose a family to help. And when babies began to arrive, adjustments had to be made one more time.

The Brawner party of 15 had our Christmas on the 23rd again this year at Kari and Travis’ house. It seems to work. We had baked spaghetti and more fun than we deserved. I’ve learned to hold on to tradition lightly because things change, but the one thing I really push for is a picture with the grandkids. I think I realized a tad too late in the evening we hadn’t taken one yet.

The older four kids have learned to pose, sometimes with plastic grins. Jameson, Owen and Jackson endured. Mollie Jane stood up just as the picture was taken so the top of her head was cropped. Smith just wanted down to play with the new monster trucks. Vivian looks like she was thinking, “Are you kidding me” and Kaylin had just had enough of it. But, I got my picture.

I woke up this Christmas morning extremely blessed and grateful. However, it’s my first Christmas without my dad and I miss him intensely. I’ll spend the day living one of the most important things he ever taught me … enjoy it. That’s one tradition I’ll never let go of.

Merry Christmas!