Jump Into Change Or Stay Medicated

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

high-diver-1388551I stuck an I LOVE YOU note on Jim Brawner’s wallet as I left for Hot Yoga the other day. When I stumbled back in the front door I walked to my desk to see if the world had totally fallen apart in the last hour and a half and there was a pink note for me. THANK YOU. That’s Brawner code for I love you too. Grinning, I got into a steaming shower and there on the shower wall was another note. I LOVE YOU.

The most romantic thing wasn’t the notes themselves, but that he knows me so well he put them in order of my routine. Honestly, that’s a bit scary. I suppose I’d be an easy target for the bad guys on TV.

OK, in full disclosure, I detest change. It’s extremely uncomfortable and the same is just so easy. I look at people who face change head on without blinking as brave and courageous, and maybe secretly a bit stupid. I love a plan and I love to work the plan and it messes with me when the plan is interrupted and has to be redrawn. I could never be a military leader. It was challenging enough herding three kids.

That worn out term “Embrace the Change” makes me crazy. For me it’s more of grit your teeth and jump into it. Is it that I don’t like change because I’m lazy or am I afraid of losing control? I hate to admit it, but it’s the fear and control thing. Add to the fear, impatience. If it has to happen, I want change to be complete in three business days or less. So much change takes time. A lot of time.

No matter how intensely I resist, change happens. I want my ducks in a row, but as soon as I get them lined up, one poops and wanders off. I’m still learning to step back take a deep breath and adjust.

Jill’s acting coach, Bob Luke, once explained to me the best way to overcome the fear of change. “Sometimes you just have to climb to the top of the high dive, run, close your eyes and jump.” That helped some. So now I try to push past the what if’s that nag me on the climb up and pray there’s water in the pool when I close my eyes and jump.



Suzette BrawnerGeneral

angry-lil-girl-1058710Why can’t I remember going to the grocery store at 5 o’clock on Friday afternoon is not the wisest of choices? Every time I go in with my list to conquer, I either leave frustrated or laughing. I’ve decided laughing is much more fun.

One Friday I had a lapse of memory and walked through those automatic doors for three things: toilet paper, apples, and mozzarella cheese. I snagged the first two without anyone blocking the aisle or having to dodge a shopper on her phone.

When I rounded the corner of the dairy case, I sensed this would be a laugh as I leave Friday. There stood a young mother in a standoff with her looked to be five-year old. “I know it’s yogurt, but it has candy in it and too much sugar is bad for you,” the worn out mom said.

The little girl suddenly stopped crying and yelled, “Well, I’m going to hold my breath until you say yes!” She took a huge gulp of air and glared at her mother. When she started to turn red, the frantic mother turned around and said, ”Do something, please!”

I looked behind me to see who she was talking to but no one was there. She frantically continued, “She does this all the time and I have to say yes. What should I do?”

“Honestly?” I asked. “Yes!!” she said. The girl’s face was really red now.

With my back to the girl I whispered, “Walk away. She will exhale. If she’s really stubborn she’ll pass out and automatically start breathing again. I promise it’ll work.”

The brave mom turned her basket around and headed for the butter. The little girl gulped for air and shouted at me, “You are crazy! You almost made me die!”

“Well, that’s what happens to little girls who disrespect their moms,” I calmly said, picked up the mozzarella and walked away.

Walking to the checkout, my smug smile faded as I realized I’m just a grown up version of an obstinate little girl. I hold my breath too, waiting. Waiting for trouble to pass, people to change, and opportunities to unfold. I need to remember breath holding doesn’t make things happen faster; it just gives me a headache

Uncle Roy

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

deer-1513660After a delayed-three-times flight finally landed at the Northwest Arkansas airport, we still faced the hour and a half drive through the back roads to home. We grabbed our bags and two large coffees and 20 minutes later located the car we had parked three days earlier. That trip is why I now take a picture of those letters and numbers in parking lots.

Forty-five minutes down the road I wished I hadn’t ordered the large coffee. I kept driving because we were in the middle of nowhere. “Mom,” Jill sighed, “I wish we hadn’t gotten coffee.” I had one of those potty training flashbacks when your child insists they have to go now. “Mom! Are you asleep?’

“No, I’m trying to figure out what to do. There’s nothing but woods for miles!”

“Oh wait look, there is a gas station … of sorts,” she said. There was our beacon of hope; a sign with two of the three bulbs burned out: Uncle Roy’s. Open Late.

“Umm, I don’t know, Jill.”

“It’s either Uncle Roy’s or the woods. You choose,” she insisted. I pulled in the gravel driveway against all better judgment at 11:30 p.m.

We smiled at the man sitting behind the counter as we searched for the bathroom. He signaled with his head which way to go. The only difference in Uncle Roy’s bathroom and the woods was running water.

We met back at the counter with candy bars. I don’t know why I feel it’s necessary to buy something when I use gas station facilities. The man, who I suppose was Uncle Roy, looked up from his newspaper and grinned through a swirl of cigarette smoke, “You girls ain’t from around here are you?”

I simultaneously felt proud Uncle Roy thought I was a girl and scared because this was like a scene from a bad movie.

“We’re actually pretty close to home. Our husbands are expecting us any time,” Jill said with her New York City street smarts.

Uncle Roy continued, “I have one thing to warn you about.” At this point I started to sweat. “Y’all watch out for them deer. Them’s kamikaze deer. A lot of folks have ruined their rigs ‘cause of them deer.”

We told him how much we appreciated the warning as we walked out the door. I tried not to run. Sure enough, five minutes later we laughed as I swerved to miss a kamikaze deer.

I thought about that late night trip recently when I had a day with all kinds of kamikaze stuff flying out in front of me. The difference in kamikaze deer and kamikaze stuff is that deer will ruin you car and stuff with ruin your mood and attitude. At least with stuff you have a minute to take a deep breath before you react, with deer not so much. Thank you, Uncle Roy.

I Can Fix It

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

craftsman-2-1245612The parking lot was empty and it was late. Walking to my car, mentally rehearsing whether I should run or fight if confronted, someone said my name. Because my best moves are more like Kung Fu Panda than Bruce Lee, I figured I’d better establish my confidence with a loud, “What?” as I turned around.

There stood a beautiful, petite girl I had met earlier that evening. “Can you help me? I borrowed a friend’s car for tonight and it won’t start,” she smiled.

“Of course,” I said, feeling the leftovers of the false alarm adrenaline rush. We successfully attached the jumper cables without blowing anything up and got it started. I drove home with the satisfaction that we had fixed it, without help, all by ourselves.

Last night I woke myself up getting out of bed to go find a flat head screwdriver. Jim Brawner and I were fixing the washing machine. A lot of women dream of being rescued by a knight on a white horse. I dream of fixing things with my knight. I’m sure a therapist would love to analyze that one.

I do like to problem solve and fix. Some things are easy with duct tape and Windex and others aren’t. A young friend called me several years ago wanting me to help fix her marriage. We met every couple of weeks for six months or so. I answered a lot of questions and challenged her to make some changes. Each time we met I asked if she had tried any of the suggestions. Every time there were countless excuses why she hadn’t. A year later she ended up in the middle of a messy divorce.

It bothered me for a long time because I couldn’t fix what was broken with my friend’s relationship. But I’ve finally come to understand, unlike washing machines and cars, people have to be willing make changes for things to be fixed in their lives. And that’s not anything any of us can do for anyone else.





Life Is Too Short For Bad Coffee

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

Life's too short for bad coffeeAfter carefully compiling airline miles on two different carriers, adding up hotel rewards points, and digging out the best rental car coupon, we had made it to Seattle for vacation. According to the dictionary vacation means a period of time devoted to pleasure, rest, and relaxation. According to every mom of young, very active kids a family vacation simply means change of venue.

When everybody had calmed down after a tiny altercation about the size of the rental car and who was taking up all the oxygen in the car, we did what all tired American families do on vacation. We headed straight to Denny’s. There are 1,593 of them in the U.S., the carb-loaded food is what tired parents need to make it until bedtime, and the kids get coloring books. And most importantly, the coffee is pretty good.

Enjoying that first hot cup while the kids were drawing mustaches and faces on the sightseeing brochures instead of the coloring books, Jim Brawner winked at me as to say, “We made it. It was worth it!”

I smiled back as to say, ”Yes we did make it. What were we thinking? The worth it part might take me a while. Maybe after I get some food.”

Suddenly the woman at the next table jumped up knocking her chair over backwards to the floor and screamed, ”You idiot!”

Ten-year-old Travis, with his hands in that stick-um-up pose, yelled, “I didn’t do anything!” Jason started laughing. Jill started crying.

A little boy at their table had knocked over his orange juice. The woman had disturbed the whole restaurant and made a fool of herself. The sad part was it didn’t seem to bother her at all.

I thought about the orange juice lady the other day when someone said something I could have easily taken offense to. I reminded myself that life is way too short to let something so trivial hurt my feelings or upset me. Life’s too short to panic and worry mostly about things that never happen. Life’s too short to hold on to a grudge and carry around unforgiveness. And, for goodness sake, life is too short for bad coffee.

The Debate Team and A Water Heater

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

phone-girl-1466347 (1)My argument composed perfectly, I dialed the Whirlpool customer service number. Joni Thalheimer and I were teammates in the mostly male high school debate tournament world and we could take out the best of them. So I was confident I could handle any push back from a guy who didn’t want to cover my six-month-old faulty water heater.

After hitting four extension numbers and saying rep-pre-sen-ta-tive three times, my strategy had to change. A woman answered the phone.

Mrs. Metcalf, our debate coach, told us to be ready for anything, can your plans if necessary, and take a different approach. I had to do just that because, for me, it’s easier to debate with men. Jim Brawner will tell you so.

I started off with the necessary pleasantries then explained my problem. “The plumber said the thermostat was not working and Lowe’s said to call you. I need a new one,” I explained.

“I will give you an authorization number to take to Ferguson’s to pick up a new thermostat. You can get it right now,” she said.

I told her I had never heard of Ferguson’s and there wasn’t one our small town. “Oh yes there is! I live in a small town and we have one. Yours is at 500 West Main Street. Take this number and they will give you one,” she said firmly.

“I promise there’s not a Ferguson’s here.” I said laughing.

“Look,” she said, “I know plumbing and you have to go to your Fergusons.” I told that she may know plumbing but I know Branson and there’s not a Ferguson’s in Branson, Missouri.

Joni and I debated whether or not to establish a military draft during the Viet Nam War and we had to represent both sides at tournaments. Surely I could convince this lady in a small town somewhere that we positively don’t have that store. So, I quickly Googled.

The Whirlpool lady then said, “I can see you are upset. I would be too if I didn’t have hot water. Please take this authorization number and go to your Ferguson’s store to get the thermostat.” Clearly she was reading from a script at this point.

What she was hearing was my debate voice, not my upset voice. She really didn’t want to hear that. No one does.

“Ma’am,” I said in my best debate voice, “I Googled Ferguson’s in Branson, Missouri and, yes, you are right, there is one at 500 West Main Street.” I could just picture her smiling. “However, it is not a plumbing supply warehouse, it is an immigration law firm.”

I received a thermostat via UPS the next morning. Who says you don’t use what you learn in high school in the real world?


Time And Hair

Suzette BrawnerGeneral


The salon was beautiful and highly recommended. The rates confirmed it should be the best in New York City. I sat down, took a deep breath, and relaxed. I had been away from home for several weeks so I rationalized what I was about to spend. I even felt a little bit important as the hairdresser flipped the cape and draped it over me. Then I simply asked, “How are things going?”

I spent the next hour and a half listening to everything that had gone terribly wrong. Her husband admitted to an affair, her son had gotten in trouble at school and the electricity was shut off in her apartment. She found the bill she thought she had mailed two weeks earlier between the seats of her car that morning.

I should have known better, but I sat there. She talked, I listened, and she cut and snipped and cut. I wasn’t facing the mirror so I had no idea what was going on. When she finally finished and turned me around my hair looked like something between a Rod Stewart spike and Demi Moore bald. I was stunned. She said, “Oh I guess I was so into talking I cut a little more than I intended. The good news is hair grows really fast.”

I have never gotten my hair cut facing anything but the mirror since then. The only good thing about that trip to the salon was for about eight weeks my hair only took three minutes to dry. I felt almost naked the first week and then decided to act like I had it cut that way on purpose because unlike some things, it couldn’t be fixed by anything but time.

Time moves so slowly when we want things to happen quickly. Whether it’s the last few weeks of pregnancy, potty training, healing from an illness, recovering from a loss, or growing hair, the days seem to creep by. And we wonder why. I read once we live life forward and understand it backwards. Looking back on things that seemed to take forever make a little more sense now.

Here’s what I’ve decided … we’ll never figure some things out this side of heaven and no one is obsessed with your own hair like you are. So do the best you can with it, smile, and enjoy the day. Your hair looks better than you think it does.

Taking It For Granted At The DMV

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

barber-shop-customer-1543319Sometimes I think “Talk To Me” is written across my forehead. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I make eye contact and ask the obligatory “How are you?” not really expecting a history of the last five years. Who am I kidding? I’ve poured my heart out to the cashier at the Super Center.

Waiting in a long line at the license bureau, I was catching up on email when an older man in faded overalls turned around and said, “I see you’re making wise use of your time. Because of all this newfangled technology people take it for granite everything is fast. But not in here.”

I looked up and said, “Excuse me?”

He said it again. “People take fast for granite.”

I smiled, “You’re right”, as I frantically Googled what I thought was the term, granted. Had I been saying it wrong all this time? I exhaled when I read granted, as in your wish has been granted or extended to you. Taking it for granted is assuming it will be given to you.

I did read some British terminology includes “taking it for granite’ meaning mistaking something false for something real. However, judging from his accent, I think my new friend at the DMV was originally from Arkansas, not London.

We all take so much for granted; family, home, freedom, jobs, friends, our health. I don’t think we intentionally do it; we just get busy and forget to look up.

I was at the hair salon day before yesterday texting with my friend whose husband is in the hospital and my friend whose husband just moved in with Jesus when I my eyes started leaking. I pulled it together before it got too messy. On top of hurting for my friends, I think I was sad because suddenly realized I take my health and Jim Brawner for granted.

My Daddy used to say, “If you have your health you have everything.” I get it now. The other day my friend Bill said, “You know we all take a lot for granted, especially our health. I suppose we take things for granted until they are no longer granted.” That needs to be on a t-shirt.

I really want to be more aware, purposeful, and intentional with each day. I think we all do. Seasons come and go, things come and go, and people come and go. I guess we shouldn’t take anything for granted or granite. We’re fooled either way.

Sally Dog and Tic-Tacs

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

choc. LabA few weeks ago I drove two hours to have a three-hour lunch with my friend Sharon. We see each other every five or ten years or so. We discussed kids and work and the college guys we married and are still hanging on to. There was a whole lot of laughing and a little bit of eating. We promised, once again, to not wait so long to get together. But we do that every time. Life just gets in the way.

I looked up the definition of friend in the dictionary and this is what I got: a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. Really? That’s so weak. I think a friend is someone you love and who loves you, you trust and who trusts you, who doesn’t have to talk to communicate with you, who doesn’t care if you look ugly, who tries to help you even when they don’t know how, and who tells you if you’re being stupid, but doesn’t make you feel stupid. Actually, that sounds like my old Sally Dog.

If you think about it, there are friends and then there are friends. They aren’t all the same. There are acquaintances, polite friends, and your posse.

Your acquaintances are with you because of a common cause. Maybe they’re in the school booster-club; you serve on the neighborhood watch program together or partner on a church committee. These friends come into your life and go out of your life. Many times they jump to another cause and don’t ask you to go with them. When the cause changes or someone else can help them more than you, they are gone. Everyone who comes into your life doesn’t always stay.

Your polite friends are fewer and closer. You might have coffee or lunch with them. They may be your neighbors or colleagues or relatives. You’re like comrades. You lock arms in the fight. They will bail you out when you need help, but sometimes only if it is convenient for them. Polite friends also come and go, but usually because of a move or a different stage of life you transition in to.

And then there is your posse, your smallest group of friends. If you have a handful of these people in your lifetime you are blessed. Your posse may be made up of a longtime childhood friend, a sister by birth, a mentor, someone you see daily, or someone you see now and then. If you only touch base occasionally, you pick right up where you left off. My friend Shelley and I will call each other after not talking for a year and say, “and so then…”

They are with you because of you, not because of a common cause. These are your buddies, your confidants, your amigos. They are with you forever, no matter what. One of your posse friends can say, “Oh my, it smells like you’ve been licking the bottom of a trash can. Chew gum or something!” and you are grateful.

I tried to be discreet once and offered a polite friend a Tic-Tac because her breath was making my nose burn. She said, “Oh no, I don’t want the extra calories.” Honestly! A Tic-Tac has maybe three calories. She argued with me and finally I said, “Put the darn Tic-Tac in your mouth.” I haven’t seen her lately.

A nurses health study from Harvard Medical School concluded not having good friends is as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight. So here’s to good health! May your life be full of fun acquaintances, plenty of polite friends, a posse who loves you regardless, and a good Sally dog.

Trash, Treasures, and the KonMari Method

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

street-garbage-container-full-1446913-1279x1074I know it’s a scientific fact opposites attract. Jim Brawner and I agree on a lot but could not be more opposite when it comes to keeping things. I don’t like clutter so I stand at the trashcan to open mail. He stacks it on the kitchen counter for later. Later never comes. He keeps extra things just in case. I’ve tried to tell him just in case never comes either. Four years ago I found a five-year-old airline boarding pass of his. I couldn’t figure out what the just in case factor with it was so I secretly put it in the trash. He still hasn’t missed it.

Last week I read an article concerning the stuff in our lives and if we would truly be happier with less of it. In 2014 a lady named Marie Kondo wrote a best selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Evidently after reading her plan to reduce life to only things that bring joy, millions have been able to let go of clothes, books, furniture, and husbands.

Not only has Marie Kondo written 4 books, with the most recent one translated into 5 languages, she is the inventor the KonMari Method of organizing. She says most of us get frustrated trying to get rid of stuff because we only hunt for what we want to toss. Marie says we have it backwards. We need to start with finding what we want to keep. She suggests gathering up all we own one category at a time and only keeping things that make us happy.

She makes it sound so easy and matter of fact. But she lives in Japan where space is a limited and when she was writing her books she didn’t have kids. Last July she had a baby. I wonder how the KonMari Method is working for her now.

With kids comes stuff and junk. Lots of stuff and junk. When she was little, Jill had so many stuffed animals the top of her bed was barley visible. I knew she would never willingly let go of any of them since she is her father’s daughter, so every six months I would bag up several and hide them in the attic. If she didn’t mention them during that time, they were given away. I called it the SuzBrawn Method.

My friend Gary told me years ago, “The more you have the more you have to take care of.” Over the last couple of years we have gotten rid of a lot and it does feel good to only have what we need. So my answer to the old question “If you were stranded on a desert island what would you really need is fairly simple: good books and extra glasses just in case, Chapstick, and Jim Brawner. Definitely Jim Brawner.