Shut Up And Have Some Pie

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

The other night I found Jim Brawner glued to a documentary. I have to be careful about what I see in the evening. After watching The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden, I took out bad guys slinging huge machine guns with a tiny pink can of mace all night long. I woke up exhausted.

He assured me this one was good, so I sat down. Assuming it was very scholastic, I was surprised when I realized it was about Auburn and Alabama football. Historic, yes, academic, not so much.

Evidently back in 2010 a University of Alabama fan drove the 150 miles from Tuscaloosa to poison the gigantic old oak trees at Toomer’s Corner in the center of Auburn. The historic trees slowly died. The saddest part of the whole story was that the fan was an angry 60-something-year-old man not a college student who had had one keg too many.

Listening to those interviewed, I began to understand how passionate and maybe a tad bit crazy some people are about their loyalties. My Mom used to remind me at dinner parties, in polite company, it’s best to steer clear of discussions about politics and religion. Maybe we should add football rivals to the list.

We were hosting a dinner party once when the discussion spilled over onto the no-no list. It was an election year and one guest was starting to break out in hives discussing foreign policy and the economy. I knew I had to reroute the table talk, so I stood up and asked, ”Who wants pie and coffee?”

It worked. Who doesn’t calm down while having chocolate fudge pie? With everything that’s going on in our lives, maybe we all need to take a deep breath, step back, and have some pie. Coconut cream works too. Oh, and by the way … Woo Pig Sooie!



Competition and Hair Maintenance

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

I’m not much of a game player. I think it all started in college when the definition of Date Night was spending three intense hours playing cards or a board game with other newlyweds. When you put three or four university football players around the table with their wives for a friendly game of Spoons or Coup Fourré the competition is no less than Saturday afternoon on the field. It’s serious. Women in tears is not my definition of fun.

Don’t get me wrong; I have a very competitive side. At a resort in Barbados I was chosen for a limbo contest. Every one cheered as the woman 15 years older than everybody else made my way to the floor. I’m sure the activities director thought it would make for a lot of laughs. Go pick on someone else. I won.

A few years ago I found myself in the middle of a newly wed type game. Jim Brawner and I have been married forever so I thought we were taking everyone else DOWN! It was all going as planned until I was asked this question: What flower would your husband compare you to in the morning: Sunflower, Snapdragon or Bird of Paradise?

No question, Snapdragon. It takes me an hour on autopilot to wake up. I was stunned when his answer was Bird of Paradise. Thinking he meant I was regal and beautiful in the morning, I smiled and thanked him. How sweet! Then in typical Jim Brawner style he clarified, “Your hair stands straight up and looks just like a Bird of Paradise plant when you wake up.” Poof! Romantic moment vaporized.

In reality my hair is pretty scary at dawn. Hair maintenance for me takes some time. Jill sent me a quote yesterday: “Always remember, it’s better to arrive late than to arrive ugly.” I’m also a bit concerned about frightening small children.

When I was walking through the lobby of a hotel recently the door man said, “Well aren’t we having a good hair day today!” What is that supposed to mean?

Some days are good hair days and some not so much. When I think about all my friends who have lost their hair, and some of them their lives, in hand-to-hand combat with cancer a little Bird of Paradise in the morning is a privilege.



Adrenaline and a Happy Meal

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

It’s gotten to the point we can leave home, run all our errands, and pull back into the garage without ever getting out of the car. Recently I drove through Starbucks, the bank, the cleaners, the pharmacy, dropped mail in the big blue box, picked up a salad at Wendy’s, and headed for home. I was at an oriental buffet last week and noticed they even had a drive-thru. I couldn’t quite figure out how that would work. Do you just keep circling or what?

Now there are even drive-thru liquor stores, wedding chapels, and confessionals. I suppose if a person drinks too much and gets married he could then ask for forgiveness from the convenience of his car. The one that bothers me most is the drive-thru funeral home with the large viewing window. That’s a little disturbing. Honestly, have we gotten that busy?

The real question is this … What are we so busy doing? What is so urgent and important? Who made up the rule we have to serve on 3 boards, volunteer to bring baked goods for every event at the school, coach 2 Little League teams and accept every invitation for all parties and fundraisers? And we wonder why we’re so stressed. Do you know the word stress was originally an engineering term used to describe how much pressure a structure could handle before it collapsed?

Our bodies are intricately programmed for fight or flight when facing a life-threatening situation. The problem is we see everything as a charging tiger. It’s as if we’re hooked up to an adrenaline drip.

Why is there such urgency for everything, even at a drive-thru? It seems every time I get in a fast food line I’m behind a car full of people who have no idea what they want. It’s like they have never been there before. The driver usually ends up yelling at his passengers, flailing his arms, and talking with his hands to the little box as if the person taking the order will better understand. And all of this chaos for what? A Happy Meal?

Maybe we all need to evaluate what we fill our days with. Like cleaning out the closet, we should sort through and toss some stuff out. We may not have control of a lot of things, but our calendar and schedule we do. Change is made with decision and intention. If we take a deep breath, slow down and look real hard we might be able to see where we can give ourselves a break and cut some margin in our lives. Besides, all the good stuff usually happens in the margin.







Good Friends, Perfect People and Dog Poop

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

One of my first friends in school was Anne. She had it all together, even in first grade. Her papers were perfect, she made A’s in everything, she had the best handwriting in the class, and she always smiled. My first feelings of being inadequate showed up when I was six years old.

In mid September I got a new pair of red shoes. I felt so pretty and smart in them, kind of like Dorothy … they were magical. One day in the hall after recess the third grade teacher, who was as scary as the wicked witch of the West, stopped right beside me and said, as if making an announcement, “What is that horrible smell?”


Everyone turned around in unison as I looked down to discover I had dog poop all over my new red shoe. As if on cue, “eeewww” echoed down the hall. The mean teacher took me by the hand to the office. I felt like a leper of Biblical times as the kids backed up against the wall to make sure I didn’t touch them.


When the principal took me back to the classroom my new red shoe looked like it had just come out of the box. I sat down at my desk next to Anne and she whispered, “It’s OK. I do stuff like that all the time.”

As hard as that was to believe, I wanted to. She never messed up, but because she was my friend she wanted me to understand people step in dog poop all the time. It was her way of saying we all mess up, maybe just not in front of a school full of people.


I’m amazed how often I manage to make a mess of things. I sometimes think if there was but one dog poop pile on a football field I was walking across, I would somehow find a way to step in it. I’m guessing a lot of us feel that way. I want to be more like Anne. I want to make it a point to encourage my friends and let them know, “It’s OK. Everyone does stuff like that all the time.” We all step in dog poop … even the perfect people

Whiners, Complainers, and a Little Black Dress

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

It was probably one of the nicest events I had ever been to. The location was one where I’d never go unless invited. Opulent, is the only word I can think of. It was one of those occasions that requires digging around in the back of the closet to find something appropriate to wear.

As we made our way through the stunning ballroom full of beautiful people, insecurity reared its ugly head. We were seated at a table where we knew no one. That always makes me a bit edgy. But for Jim Brawner, strangers are potential new best friends.

As I carefully chose which fork to use for the fancy salad, the lady across from me blurted out, “What is this dressing? If it has anything but virgin olive oil in it I can’t eat it. Do you know,” she asked the server.

“No Ma’am I don’t, but I’ll find out,” he said and hurried away. Her tone almost made me want to hurry.

He hadn’t been gone two minutes when the fussy lady said, “Where is that young man? You just can’t find good help these days.” I knew then we were in for an interesting evening.

By the time the main course was served, she had complained the room was too hot, the soup was too cold, and the chairs were uncomfortable. Then she asked who we were and why were we there. I wondered the same thing. Five minutes later she said sharply, “People just don’t know how to dress for nice occasions.”

By then I was sweating. I wondered if she was referring to me. Maybe I should have looked further back in my closet.

Suddenly I realized she should be the one sweating because she was making a you-know-whatsy of herself. The sad thing was she didn’t know it or she just flat out didn’t care. I so badly wanted to say, “Could you just please be nice or leave.” I didn’t.

On the way home it hit me. That woman evidently hadn’t been raised in the south where Moms say things like, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything, and always be a gracious guest.” So I then felt sorry for her. I really felt sorry for her husband.

Why are we such complainers? We instantly go to the negative and bad. I want to make a point to look for the good and positive. Let’s make a change and stay away from whining because once it starts it only gets worse. It will suck you under.

Finding good things to say is challenging at times. But when I start to go to the dark side, remembering that cranky woman pulls me back from the edge.



Tonsils, Umbrellas, and Self-Checkout

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

Some things will always be a mystery and it only uses up valuable energy and brain space straining to figure them out. No matter how hard I try, I will never understand things like why we have an appendix and tonsils, why it rains when the umbrella is in the car, and why Wal-Mart calls two of their checkout areas express and self.

The other day I was once again in the self-checkout line with six items. I always challenge myself to see if I can complete the process without having the blue vest lady smirky smile at me as she scans her card to straighten out what I mess up.

As I started the process, someone behind me tried to get my attention. When I turned around to see what she needed, I realized it was the scanner talking to me in Spanish. Dang it! I hit the wrong button. Now the challenge was really on to conquer this without the blue vest lady. My Spanish is limited. I only know important things like “Good Morning”, “Good Bye”, and “Where is the bathroom?” and none of that would help me now. I was on my own.

I took my time, squinted hard, and did it! When the receipt spit out I must have said “Whoo Hoo!” a bit louder than I thought. The two ladies at the next scanner were doubled over laughing. Glad I could entertain the tourists from Iowa.

As I ran to the car in the rain, I laughed too knowing my umbrella was in the back seat and thought about that Chuck Swindoll quote, “Ten percent of life is what happens to us. Ninety percent is how we react to it.” I want to spend my 90% laughing more instead of frustrated trying to find answers that will never come. How about you?


Cracker Jacks and Hot Yoga

Suzette BrawnerGeneral


Cracker Jacks and Hot Yoga


crackerI was honored to be the junior bridesmaid for my aunt when I was nine. Part of my responsibilities was to help with my five-year-old cousin, Gary, the ring bearer, and my six-year-old brother, Russ, the ribbon cutter. I still question why they gave him scissors.

After walking the aisle and cutting the ribbons for the families, Russ sat down in the front row. Gary, however, had to stand with the wedding party for the whole ceremony. About midway through the “Do you takes”, Gary, fidgeting and pulling at his itchy bow tie, started throwing the ring pillow in the air. The look on his face screamed, “I can’t do this any longer!!” At least he didn’t have scissors.


Sensing Gary’s pain, in one of those loud whispers heard everywhere, Russ leaned forward and said, “Hang on Gary! After this we’re going to get Cracker Jacks. I had failed as a junior bridesmaid.


Yesterday 45 minutes into an hour hot yoga class, I started fidgeting. Every muscle in my body was questioning my sanity and my mind started up with, “I can’t do this any longer!” Then I remembered in 15 minutes there would be a hot shower and dinner … kind of like Cracker Jacks. I made it through!


We all need something to look forward to when we’re in uncomfortable and trying places in our lives. It gives us hope for better times. Find your Cracker Jacks and press on.


The Power Of A Hug

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

The Power Of A Hug

Statistics prove the importance of physical touch for newborns. It can be life giving. But think about it … do we ever really outgrow the need for a pat on the back or, more importantly, a hug? Hugs are powerful. Did you know a hug can actually lower blood pressure and reduce heart rate?

There are so many different kinds of hugs. The full, tight hugs I get from my grandkids are medicine for my soul. The hugs from my adult kids say, “I love you Mom”, without a word being uttered. The side hug from my friend Debbie-Jo whispers, “I’ve missed you friend.” The squeeze Jim Brawner gives me as he leaves in the morning assures me he’ll be back that night. Comfort, encouragement, assurance, “way to go”, and “I love you” all are communicated with a simple nonverbal hug.

Once, in the Seattle airport parking garage, while we were cramming luggage for 5 into a midsize rental car, a hug saved a potential vacation spoiler. Our grade school kids were hungry and had hit the limit of enjoying each other’s company. Jill and Travis were about to tear into it when Jim said in a volume that had strangers turning to see if he was talking to them, ”OK you two, right here on the curb!”

They shuffled over and stared in disbelief as their dad said,  “OK, now hug until we get everything packed into this car.”

That hug was like the magic dust. Everyone, including all the weary travelers who sat down suitcases to watch, started laughing. (Taming The Family Zoo, Chapter 4).

Today is National Hug Day. Share the magic and lower some blood pressure. Celebrate with big hugs.

Right Or Left?

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

Hey ____________, so good to see you again! Those little peel and stick nametags have helped me save face more times than I can remember … unless they’re curled up on a lapel or have fallen off. Once I wore John Bailey’s nametag on the seat of my pants for an afternoon. I don’t even know a John Bailey.

Now when I see nametags stuck on random body parts, I’m quick to let the wearer know. I think it should be the same common courtesy as the toilet paper-stuck-on-the-foot notification. A few years ago I told a woman at a booksellers convention her nametag had slipped way down on her chest. She was quick to correct me, “No, I put it there on purpose.” So much for being helpful.

The biggest question concerning nametags is which side, right or left? The right side wins and for a good reason. When you shake hands with someone it’s easier for them to see your nametag, right hand to right shoulder. The right is right. Now you know.


The Power Of A Little Bit

Suzette BrawnerGeneral

Have you ever found yourself looking at a mess so tangled it seems there’s no way to straighten it out … wet sheets twisted in the washer, Christmas lights jammed into a box last January, or a life so messed up and confused peace is only a dream? The thought of lining things out is so overwhelming walking away seems to be the only smart option.

As a kid, jumbling through my ballerina jewelry box, I found a gold necklace crumpled and knotted. I was sure it was ruined until my Dad took over. As he talked and worked I slowly began to understand the power of a little bit.

Laying the chain on the kitchen table, he gently tapped each knot until it loosed then he could pull it apart. Within a few minutes, like magic, a straight chain appeared. It took some time, but with patience, taking on one knot at a time, it worked.

Why do we give up so easily? If it doesn’t work, we back off, throw it away or get a new one. The problem is we’re so programmed for instant gratification our patience evaporates if anything is more than a Google away.

Consider this:

  • If the average book is 240 pages and you read only 10 pages five days a week you will have read 11 books in one year.
  • If in January you start saving just $10.00 a week, by Christmas time you will have almost $500.00 to shop with.
  • If you gave up drinking one soda a day, in a year that cuts out 51,100 calories. If 3,500 calories equals a pound then 14 pounds would melt away.

How many big changes could be made if we understood the compounding effect of a little bit? So starting today step back, take a good look at the giant staring you in the face, and start taking it apart one knot at a time.