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Sycamore Trees

July 28, 2011

My best friend is a lady named Jeanne. Jeanne doesn’t look or act her age – she’s a spry 91 years. We were neighbors for a long time, but my career eventually took me away. But, even though there’s a considerable distance between us today, Jeanne and I visit by phone each Tuesday and Saturday. It’s hard to predict the topic of our conversation. Last Saturday it was trees.

I have three towering Sycamore trees that are planted equidistance across my front yard. I was sitting on my front porch enjoying my morning coffee while talking with Jeanne. And, Jeanne was trying to picture my trees. The problem with the trees is what helped Jeanne picture them in her mind.

Sycamore trees tend to shed their bark, like an old man with a serious case of psoriasis. That affliction has been compounded this year by the extremely dry conditions. My yard is littered with chunks of tree skin. The Sycamore also has little round, soft-seed balls. The balls are green until late fall when they turn brown and drop from the tree.

The Sycamore conversation moved to my upcoming weekend plans. I told her that I planned on spending the weekend helping my youngest son re-roof his house. Two monstrous oak trees in his back yard have deteriorated the backside of his roof. I pointed out to Jeanne that these trees have nuts that drop like little miniature hand grenades.

Later in the day, I got to thinking about my conversation with Jeanne. It occurred to me how we humans have a tendency to zero in on flaws – like a sharp-shooter’s laser beam. The practice becomes a habit that we fine tune over the years. Eventually, through this habit, we become experts – “Flaw Identifying Experts”.

Some say that breaking a bad habit is a twenty-one step process and others say it’s as simple as three steps. I like three.

The first step in the 3-step program is “Conscious Recognition.” Check – two steps left. I like this program. The next step is “Put it in Writing”. “I am a flaw identifier” – check – two-thirds of the way there. The third step is “Bait and Switch” – recognize when you do the habit and follow it with something different, or a punishing reminder. Hmmm – what to do?

I could lash myself with a Sycamore branch. And, if that doesn’t work, I could have my wife hit me in the head with acorns. But, then it occurred to me. How about if I say three positive things – about whatever it was that I said negative? Here goes.

“My Sycamore trees shade my entire front yard, including my porch. My Sycamore trees attract hundreds of beautiful birds. My Sycamore tree has a large branch where I sit my grandson.”

I sure like Sycamore trees.

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