Since 1997, I've focused on assisting professional practices (doctors, dentists, veterinarians, chiropractors, et al.) financially organize their practices to make better business decisions and protect their revenue as a Certified Fraud Examiner.

I’ve written 36 books (Getting The Most Out of QuickBooks In Your Practice series), spoken nationally, consulted & investigated privately. From the beginning, I recognized the value in communicating with the masses.

Now, I have a new book, Matters Of The Heart: A Journey In Caring For Aging Loved Ones. It's based on my 16 year caregiving journey with my parents and step-grandmom.

This blog will be a culmination of other writings - some related to professional practice business, some related to caregiving and some just related to life. Check back often so you don’t miss what may be relevant to your own life!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

'Tis The Season of Bell Ringing

The Salvation Army was very active during my years at Asbury College.  I came to appreciate them first there and have been provided many more opportunities to gain my upmost respect and support.  One college Christmas break (33 years ago), I rang a bell for the Salvation Army kettle in North Dallas.  It still seems like yesterday.

Unfortunately, the weather those weeks were “typical Texas” – 80 one day, 20 the next.   One of those bell ringing days was a bitter snowy cold day with a blustery north wind but my mitten wrapped hands kept ringing that bell, as my smile greeted all the shoppers rushing past the kettle.

It was both heart-breaking and frustrating to watch well clothed shoppers scurry by me at the front door and do everything they could to avoid the red kettle.  Occasionally, a few would dig into their pockets and bring out a few coins but the kettle was light that day.  Pretty much no one said a thing to me.  After all, it was cold – their goal was to get in the store, get their shopping done and get home to a nice warm room. 

I had lots of time to think, as they scurried by.  It was a heart changing event.  I found myself more amazed, as the time wore on, at the shopper’s determination to avoid me.  I didn’t stand in the same place but walked around, trying to engage them.  But, quite frankly, after time, I felt judged.  It was if they had determined I was a destitute person, looking for a handout they were more determined not to give. 

Eventually, I found myself praying for their hearts to be softened, to see the need around them and to realize the opportunity they have to make a little go a long way for someone else.

It was a life-lesson kind of day(s)/week(s).                 

Later that cold afternoon, a bundled up young boy, about 7 years old, came up to the red kettle with an older graying woman, his grandma, and a bulging plastic bag full of coins.  His small hands barely cupped around the bulging bag and he was only a couple of inches taller than the kettle.

He stopped, looked at me, and then stared at his coins as he stood by the kettle. 

Sensing the seriousness of the moment, I knelt down to talk to him.  Head down, he spoke slowly. "Last year, the only present I got for Christmas was a teddy bear from the Salvation Army.  I live with my grandmom and she didn’t have any money to get me anything.”

Head still down, he smiled.  “It was my only present.”  [pause]  “I love my Teddy,” he quietly said.

He took another breath, head still down.  “So, this year, I saved my money to help somebody else be as happy as I was last year." 

“It’s not much but I think it will help someone else have a present for Christmas.  Maybe a teddy bear.”  He slowly lifted his head and we looked into each other's eyes, both brimming with tears. 

He stood on his tip toes to see over the top of the kettle and carefully put each coin in.  I can still hear the sound of each of those coins echoing as they hit the inside of the nearly empty kettle.

Quietly, I found the words "thank you" and got a teddy bear sized hug.  We talked for a while and his grandma was beaming from ear to ear as she told me how he truly saved all year.  He talked incessantly about what other kids might get because he was helping.  AND, he talked more about going to the red kettle than going to Santa Claus.  I felt honored.

We were standing in the freezing weather but all I felt was a warm heart.

That was the best gift I got that year.  I thank him still.  It amazes me to think he would be about 40years old now and I pray that his heart is still thinking of others, giving what he can give.  He may not even remember how he changed my life that cold day but I’ll never ever forget his eyes, nor his heart.

Every year before Thanksgiving now, I make a run to the bank to get my “kettle money.”  I made a commitment that cold day to never pass a kettle without putting something in, not coins but paper.   It is an intentional act and I always talk to the kettle ringer, thanking them for enduring our ever changing weather conditions to bring happiness to someone else.  It’s returned because most of the time when I leave the store, they seek me out, meet my eyes and thank me with a smile.

I am thankful and grateful.  I have so much and I could never give enough.   See, that day, a young man taught me to give from the abundance of my heart, to give all I can, to not hold back. 

So, let me ring a bell again, to help this season of giving.  I would like to challenge you. 

Give another teddy bear to young arms.  Be prepared.  Go get your “kettle money.”  The next Salvation Army kettle bell ringer you see, stop, look at them, talk to them, thank them for making a difference and put something in.   Be the difference this season of giving.

Often it is not the one being given to that is blessed the most but the giver themselves.  Let me hear how you choose to be the difference this holiday season!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Giving Thanks

The time of year that we gather together to celebrate the "crops" that have been "harvested."
To be thankful for all that has been accomplished.
To be thankful for our families and loved ones.
To be thankful for our lives and the country that we live in.
To have hearts of gratefulness.
Frank A. Clark said, “If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.”
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the criticism of our society.  Negativity is a poison, a contagion that can spread quickly through a word spoken out loud or written in the social media.   
It is difficult to have a heart that houses both criticism and gratefulness.   A critical heart and a grateful heart are in opposition to each other.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  A day we choose to celebrate being grateful for all we have been given.  The key is to not focus on what we do not have or what we have lost this year but what we have or have gained.  It is the time to gear our hearts towards gratefulness and to show gratitude.
Some think of Thanksgiving as just a day off work.  Some think of it as the time they begin decorating for Christmas.  For some, it is a day to shop.  For others, a day of feasting.  For some here in Arlington, it’s Dallas Cowboys football day.  Not that any of that is wrong, especially the Dallas Cowboys, but Thanksgiving is our day to give thanks.
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”  Albert Schweitzer
So, here’s your call to action.  Make an intentional effort this Thanksgiving holiday weekend to express your gratitude toward one another.  Pay it forward, give to the Salvation Army kettle, volunteer at a mission.  Give hugs freely.  Play with all the kids.  Be a breath of fresh air and show a heart of gratefulness.
Don’t get me wrong.  Life is not perfect.  There has been much heartache this year but there have been many more blessings.  We are to wear a heart of gratefulness all the yearlong.  But this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for so very much!  I am truly blessed beyond measure.  
Have a heart of gratefulness.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Small World Indeed

I’ve been smiling since last night.

We may never know the worldwide effect of something that we do.  At least, I’ve never considered what I’ve done to be global in nature.

Sure, I’ve sold the Getting The Most Out Of QuickBooks™ ForYour Practice books to Canada, Mexico, Italy, Costa Rica and other parts of the world.  But this is different.

Matters Of The Heart was the book I wrote from my heart about a very difficult time caregiving my parents and step-grandmom, all the while building my business.  The book was a grueling process to write, conjuring up all the emotions that I felt in the midst of caregiving.   I relived all the stories and, at times, had to walk away from the writing before moving on because the emotion was so overwhelming.

There are plenty of books on the how-to of caregiving.  I wanted this one to be different.  Caregiving involves the heart of the caregiver and the caregiver’s family.  I wanted this one to be candid and honest about the true hardship of caregiving.  I can’t tell you the number of near panic attacks I would have in the wee hours of the morning as I was making myself so completely vulnerable in the process.  

I wrote the book I wish someone would have written for me before I took care of my parents for sixteen years.  Standing naked in front of an audience is what I felt when it published.  Why the heck did I seriously need to write a book like this? 

Numerous anxiety attacks.  I even severely regretted writing it the Wednesday before the launch on September 25th.  

Then, a friend tagged me yesterday in an ongoing Facebook post with a friend of hers.  

The conversation went like this:
C’s Friend:  Hey – I was playing catch up on Facebook as I’ve been so busy the last few weeks and I came across a ‘Like’ notification in my notifications list from one of your friends named Susan Gunn.  I’m currently reading a book by Susan E Gunn called “Matters of the Heart”.  Is this the same person, million to one????

C:  Yes – she is one of my closest friends!!!!

C’s Friend:  Susan Gunn – look at this – my friend IN AUSTRALIA is reading your book!!!  She didn’t even know you were my friend until she saw a “like” from you on a post she had done for me!

C’s Mom:  Yes, I believe that is the book.  Are you enjoying it?

C’s Friend:  I’m enjoying it very much.  Considering what I’m going through with my mother at the moment it’s been helpful.  And reassuring.  But what a co-incidence?

C:  See Susan Gunn she is enjoying it very much!!

C’s Friend:  Millions of people on the planet, millions of books published.  This amazes me.  Small world.

Small world indeed.   Thanks for the blessing.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Three Things I Learned from Pecan Trees

November at the Texas homestead means pecan time!  I grew up crawling around the ground, picking up the pecans and throwing them into paint buckets my dad had saved from one of his home remodels.  As kids, we would build leaf forts and stash our pecans in cubby holes to use as ammunition.  Sort of a The Alamo meets Southwood Pecan Wars.

We had 28 trees on the almost acre when Dad built the homestead on one of Arlington’s most beautiful streets over 60 years ago.  The trees were very small.  I’ve climbed all these trees, albeit not lately.  I grew up with these tree friends, enjoyed their sheltering branches, leaned against them when frustrated, and laid on the grass near them watching puffy clouds in the sky.  We now have twenty pecan trees, down eight and I am losing two more in the next few weeks.  Whenever I lose a tree, I grieve the loss of a dear friend.

Storms these past few years have been brutal to my tree family.  Two of the trees were severely damaged in a wind storm two years ago, hung on but could not pull it off.  And, something I cannot control, takes the lives of two more trees.  At this point, though, in order to not cause damage to the house, they have to come down.

Pecan trees produce best when getting the nourishment they need:  A balance of water.  (Too much water affects the trees AND the pecans.)   Great sun. (No problem here for sun.)  Good food (We feed our trees every February.)

Surprisingly, this is the third year in a row most of my trees have produced.  Not all trees produced, which I am still analyzing, but the trees that did are dropping thousands of pecans in the yard.

It is therapeutic for me to pick up pecans.  I have all the right tools - a very well used orange pecan picker-upper and well used paint buckets.  One year I bought a rolling pecan picker which works great when there are no leaves or branches on the ground to also be picked up.  Somehow, none of the advertising pictures showed half the basket full of hulls, leaves and sticks.  I have gone back to the old reliable orange pecan picker-upper.

As I was getting my therapy in pecan-ing the other day, I was thinking about business correlations with pecan trees.
  • Pecans come in all sizes and types of shells.
  • I always have to look at the ground from different perspectives.  Pecans sometimes hide just beneath the grass.
  •  I never take the trees for granted.  Giving them what they need to be healthy, I do realize that there are outside forces that take their toll on them.

All shapes, sizes and types of shells.  We have a variety of pecan trees in our yard.  Before this land was subdivided into almost acre lots, it was a working pecan orchard.  I thought an orchard would plant all the same kind of trees but then it makes complete sense that it doesn’t.  

Some varieties are hardier against drought.  Some are hardier against too much rain.  Some are hardier against bugs or disease.

Some have a shell that is so thin, when it hits the driveway pavement, it cracks.  Some shells are so thick, I’m glad I have them cracked by a machine.  Some are small.  Some shells look so bad on the outside that you would think the pecan meat itself was bad.  Some are so light in weight you would think there was no meat at all.

Some trees start bearing in the fall sooner than others.  Some trees take their time, as if they are reluctant to let go.  Most produce every other year.  Some reluctantly produce every three or four years.  Some of my trees are on their third year in a row producing.

The one thing they all have in common is the meat inside.  Barring any disease or major drought (as we did for a few years), the meat may be different sizes but it tastes the same.

Every year, this city girl feels like a farmer, as I go amongst the crop, picking up two pecans.  First, I hold them in my hand to feel the weight.  Next, I look at the outside of the nut itself.  Some look darker than others.  Honestly, I have absolutely no idea what I’m looking at but I’ve done it so many years, I think I would know if something was off, think being the imperative word.

The next thing I do is crack the pecan with another pecan.  I examine the meat.  Is it full?  Does it show any signs of mildew?  But, most importantly, how does it taste?

Look from a different perspective.  During pecan season, every day I am in town, I spend a little quiet time outside harvesting.  

When the leaves start dropping, you can’t see the pecans but you can still feel them under your feet if you are wearing flip flops.  Even if it turns cold, I’m wearing flip flops in the yard because I want to feel them.  My mom used to yell at me – something about catching a cold, not wearing socks, nor a jacket....

I can pick up the pecans walking one direction, scanning all around while I’m picking them up.  Yet, if I walk across that same area from a different direction, it looks as if I had not picked up any pecans because there are so many in front of me that I missed.  When they fall from the trees, they bounce under the grass, hidden from view.  I go over the yard in the same area many times because I hate to miss even one pecan.

I think a lot about perspective while picking up pecans in the peace of an afternoon.  Sometimes picking up pecans helps with my own perspective as I am reminded about the need for looking at the ground from a different angle.  

Never take the trees for granted.  When the drought in 2013 took two of my trees from the front yard, I grieved as if I had lost two dear friends.  They had been a member of the landscape for over 80 years but they just couldn’t fight it any longer.

My biggest heartache came after the windstorm in October 2014.  My trees were severely stressed with the loss of massive limbs.  After major trimming of at least half my trees, I babied them with food and provision, hoping I could save them all.  I did everything I could but I will lose two more this month.  

Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do.  Sometimes things are out of your control.  Sometimes you have to admit that you’ve done what you could do and it’s time to take appropriate action.  In this case, it is call the tree guy.

Summary.   There are people worth nurturing in our lives.  Our family.  Our businesses.  Our colleagues.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  Some of them look very vastly different on the outside but the inside is valuable meat.  Some have a little bit to give.  Some give a lot in a small package.  

Some of the more timid ones hide and need a little coaxing.  Some take more effort and time but, in the long run, the output is worth it.  Some have a hard exterior – harder to crack and understand.  Some exteriors are too thin, cracking under very little pressure.

Some need to be looked at differently, given space to be all they can grow to be.  Some people in our lives have been pigeonholed to a life.  What if they looked at things a little differently?

Why in the world do I spend so much time picking up pecans?  I love pecans.  Over 61 years of having a homestead on this property, there is an accumulation of pecan recipes.  And, also a tradition of my family, we love to give pecans away.  Many friends have enjoyed picking up pecans with me. 

Maybe the bigger take away not to be missed personally is how being in the presence of my trees brings such the sheer joy.  Life can be so overwhelming.  Just as the seasons affect the trees, so can what happens to us in life.

This past year has been very overwhelming.  Focusing on the writing of Matters Of The Heart:  A Journey In Caring For An Aging Loved One consumed most of my time and energy this past year.  With the publication now available on Amazon, I can get back to my regular job.   

In the midst of trying to figure out life, try not to panic.  Breathe deeply.  Go enjoy the fruit of the company that you enjoy.  Do what brings you sheer joy!