The best compliment I ever got…

 

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I went to college and graduated many, many years ago. Choosing my life focus and “major” area of education was not a decision made lightly or without due process. I wanted to go into something that I would enjoy, since we spend an awful amount of time working in this life, and something that would give me an “adequate” income. In other words, I DO like to eat, and I particularly enjoy a roof over my head. For me, that choice was pretty simple. I got the first part of my goal right – “doing something that I loved.” The second part, however, “making an adequate income,” should have been looked at a little more closely – just sayin’…For you see, I chose the field of social work as my life profession. It was important for me to choose a profession in which I felt I could positively impact other people’s lives. I wanted to change the world!!! I wanted to find my “purpose” for being here!

It was my intent to work with juvenile delinquents; however, I could not find a job opening anywhere! A friend of mine heard that I was back in town from college, and that I had a degree in Social Work. She asked if I would consider interviewing for a job at the nursing home where she worked. I am pragmatic, if nothing else, and knew that I needed experience in my field to further my career, as well as pay for my living expenses. I interviewed, they liked me, and we argued that I should get a dime per hour over minimum wage since I had a college degree. I got that dime, and started at $2.35 an hour.

As they say, “the rest is history!” I absolutely had found my calling! I fell head over heels in love with those elders. That’s the background, here’s the story…

My love for old people began at an early age – with my grandparents. My grandmother and I had such a special bond. I don’t know that I could have loved anyone better or deeper. She taught me so much! And loved me beyond reason! My Dad also pastored little country churches, and if you know anything about country churches, you KNOW they are filled with old people. I just loved them all! We had such a connection that came so naturally! When I began at the nursing home, that love was evident to all in my care. And yes, I DID have favorites – no one ever knew, because I treated each one the same, but oh, there were some that just made my heart overflow.

One of those individuals was a tiny lady by the name of “Miss Mary.” She was 98 years old, and we simply “fed” off of each other. The day was not complete without a visit to her room, where I always got a hug, kiss, and a ready smile. There were times when she could sense that I was struggling, either with work or life, and she would always give me a little “extra” attention. I hope that I gave as much to her as she gave to me. My day was not complete until I saw this precious woman.

On one occasion, we had a particularly wonderful visit as I was about to leave the building for the day. She said, “I think I will walk with you to the front door.” We continued to talk and walked very slowly, her holding onto my arm for support, but also for that physical, caring contact. As I got ready to walk out the door, she gave me one more hug, told me she loved me, and then she put her sweet, soft hand on my cheek. She looked into my eyes rather intently and said, “If you were a pin, I would wear you every day!” My eyes flooded with tears as I hugged her again, and thanked her for the compliment. To imagine that someone would want you around so much that they would WEAR you!!! To this day, I have never received a compliment that was more meaningful than that one. It was so heartfelt and genuine. Sadly, later that year, she passed away, and left yet another hole in my heart. But that compliment? And Miss Mary? I will remember both till the day I die.

Do we give compliments anymore? Did you know that your body produces endorphins when you compliment someone else? So, not only do you make them feel good, you also make yourself feel good! Compliments don’t cost money, and don’t take anything from you – they are totally free. But what a true, sincere compliment does for the other person is like the commercial…PRICELESS! Why not try giving out compliments this week? Make a difference in someone else’s life, and in the process, make yourself feel better! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

“I hear the train a comin’…”

Recently, I was the Keynote Speaker for a conference in Columbus, GA. (And just for the record, I would go back again in a heartbeat to spend time with those wonderful people!) It was the first time I had ever been to that city, and the conference site was a renovated historical hotel in downtown Columbus. I arrived to find that the hotel was just beautiful! Large, shady trees…old brick…. and ambience that people attempt to duplicate in more modern hotels, but never get quite right. It was “southern” through and through. I checked into my room and began unwinding from the trip. Since I had arrived near dinner time, and it was already dark, I went ahead and ordered room service for the evening. After eating, I reviewed my presentation to make certain there was nothing missing, and that I was fully prepared for the next morning’s event. I then stretched out on the bed for a little relaxation and reading.

As time passed, I changed into my pjs and began the nightly ritual of “trying” to go to sleep. I’m not the best sleeper to begin with, and staying in hotels as often as I do, can cause absolute havoc with my sleep patterns. I am a very light sleeper, so any little noise or light, will bring me fully awake. It was about 10:00 p.m., and as I lay there, I heard a train in the distance – blowing that mournful horn that you hear in the night, as it began its initial approach into the city. As the train got closer to our location, the horn got louder and louder. In fact, the horn never stopped! The engineer apparently starting blowing the horn at the outskirts of the city, and was determined (or required) to blow the horn the entire length of the city! As the train made its way closer to my location, I kept thinking, “My, it sure does sound pretty close!” Within moments the room began vibrating. The horn was so loud I had to cover my ears, and it felt as if the train was going to come through the walls. I looked out my window, and sure enough, there was the train passing by – just across the street from my room!!

Within moments the phone in my room began to ring. Since I very rarely ever get calls from a land line, I picked up the receiver and cautiously said, “hello.” The person on the other end, introduced herself, explaining that she worked the front desk of the hotel. She said, “I’m so sorry to bother you, but are you playing a guitar?” I laughed and responded, “Although I do play a guitar, I did not bring one with me this trip…” I then asked if there was a problem. She indicated that there had been a few calls complaining of someone playing a guitar near (or in) my room. Now, I have to tell you, I was laughing so hard and trying not to insult the young lady, but I was thinking to myself…Guitar??? Did you not just hear that train coming through???? We had a good laugh and she apologized for bothering me. And by the way, that train made another “appearance” at 4:30 a.m. the next morning…

So many times in life people get extremely upset over minor events, while ignoring HUGE occurrences that should be addressed. I’m sure that whoever complained about the guitar playing was very upset about that “inconvenience.” Certainly, they were bothered enough to call the front desk and complain. I just wonder if they mentioned the train while complaining… Personally, I could have tolerated the guitar, but that train! Had I known about it beforehand, this one issue could have been a “deal breaker” for my stay at that particular hotel…ambience or not. But apparently, for that other person, the complainer, the playing of a guitar was the issue. We get so occupied with the “little things,” that we miss the huge, life-changing events that need to be dealt with on a daily basis. I think I will try to NOT sweat the small stuff, and attempt to get a handle on all those “trains” in my life. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

The last words you will ever hear…

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As you know, for the last few weeks, I have been attempting to post positive, uplifting, or humorous stories because I felt that we could all use that in today’s current climate. I was on a good run, and then the rug was pulled out from under me once again. My father unexpectedly passed away! Yes, he was 91. Yes, he had lived a long, wonderful life. Yes, he was ready to go. But I had just talked with him on the phone, and he was feeling great…

I got the call late Tuesday evening from my brother and sister, telling me that Daddy had passed out, was unresponsive, and they were taking him to the emergency room. Once he got to the hospital, he was in a lot of pain, and having great difficulty breathing. After a few tests, they “thought” he might have had a mild heart attack, was in the beginning stages of pneumonia, and had a horrible UTI. The decision was made to transfer him from our little local hometown hospital to a larger hospital in a nearby town. Once there, he was stabilized, and my brother reported that he was resting better.

Since I live in another state, I was trying to get to the hospital as quickly as I could. I did not make it in time!! I did not get to see him or tell him good-bye!! I was devastated that I did not get to tell him how much he meant to me, or that I loved him beyond reason. But then, I thought about our last conversation on the phone the week before. The last words he ever heard from me were, “I love you Daddy!” And the last words I ever heard from him were, “I love you baby!” He knew that I loved him, with every fiber of my being, and I knew that he loved me. We had spent a lifetime sharing and showing that love to each other.

I have always lived with the knowledge and the belief, that when you leave someone, it may well be the very last time you see them. None of us are really guaranteed one more moment of life than we have. As a result of that knowledge, I have always made certain that my last words to anyone are of full of love and caring. I have shocked some people by ending phone conversations, email messages, and direct dialogue with “love you,” or “you matter to me.” It seems to take them off guard. Some don’t know how to respond. Others respond immediately with similar affection. My message is clear: I ALWAYS want those in my heart to know how important they are to me, and to know that they are loved – fully and completely.

This whole experience made me start thinking about the words we use with others, and what will be remembered when we are gone. Are you careful in what you say to others? Think about your last words to those you love…Were they spoken in anger? Hurtful? Cruel? Lies? Or were the words spoken in love, supportive, meant to inspire, lift up, or motivate? You never know when any of the words that come out of your mouth will actually be the very last words that someone will hear.

When they explained to my Daddy that there was nothing they could do for him, that there were no options, his response was, “Praise God! Thank you Jesus!” Those were his last words before he simply stopped breathing in his sleep. I think that says everything you need to know about the kind of man he was. What will your last words be? And will people remember them? Will they be happy or terribly sad with that memory? Maybe we need to give a little more attention to what we say…and who is listening. I think I will try to be even more like my Daddy…Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

I heard from my Mama today…

Most of you knowimg_3031 that I began this blog as a result of the sadness I felt from my Mother’s journey into the world of Alzheimer’s Disease. She has been gone from us for over four years now. Some days it feels like a lifetime ago, and on others it feels like it just happened yesterday. The hole in my heart is just as large, and the loss is still unfathomable. If you have read many of my posts, you probably also know that I struggled because I no longer felt her near me. In my head, I had thought that because of our closeness, she would find a way to let me know she was still around, close to me, after she died. That did not happen, and I was distraught. That changed a while back, and here is the story…

Here is the background…my Mama was a seriously happy and positive woman! She would get up every morning singing. The songs were either gospel or, because she and Daddy loved the musical, “Oklahoma,” she would sing, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” In fact, she loved that song so much that we had it playing at her wake as one of the background songs to her “Memories Video.” We loved to hear her sing that song!

Now to the present…I speak at a lot of different conferences across the United States. Usually at those conferences, they will have an evening banquet/awards dinner, or an awards luncheon.  And almost always, there is some kind of entertainment at those events. I don’t always get to stay for the festivities, but sometimes, due to flight schedules, I can at least eat a bite before I take off for another location.

On this particular trip, I had been the keynote speaker for a large conference in New Jersey. I love going to this particular conference because over the years, I have met and made some lifetime friends in this state. They bring smiles to both my face and heart. I had finished with my speaking commitments, and had to leave for the airport. Fortunately, for me, I had a later flight and was able to stay for the Awards Luncheon (and get something to eat). I was sitting with two of those very dear friends, who knew of my loss, and knew that I was still desolate.

As we were eating, they had a DJ playing my very favorite kind of music – 70’s disco! All of us were singing along with the songs, and “chair-dancing” between bites of food. He played song, after song, after song – and we knew ALL the words to every song! We relived where we were, who we were with, and what we were doing when the songs were popular. We were having a great time when, all of a sudden, he played a song that was NOT disco, NOT 70’s, NOT anything relative to his theme. Right smack dab in the middle of his playlist was……you guessed it, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!” Everyone looked up as if to say, “What in the world??? That’s not disco!” I was already crying because I knew the song was from my Mama. Everyone at my table knew too, and they were crying also. They kept hugging me and saying, “It’s a message from your Mom.”

Now, you may say, that just doesn’t make sense…that I am trying to put meaning and “message” to a “happenstance” occurrence to meet an emotional and psychological need for myself. You may have a point, but….you should ask yourself these questions: just how many times have you heard a song from the musical, “Oklahoma,” played in the middle of a DJ’s 70’s disco playlist? And what are the odds of it being the very same song that my Mama sang most mornings? I choose to believe that somehow my Mama got a message to me – to let me know that everything was going to be OK, and that she was still close by. The thought comforts me, and I can almost hear her saying, “It will be alright, baby.” I continue to be amazed at the wonder and mystery of our universe, and always believe that the impossible is possible! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

 

That baby sure does have a lot of hair…

Hey guys! As has been evident by the lack of posts, I have taken some time off from the blog. It’s not that I ran out of stories, because we all know I can get into more trouble in one day, than most people encounter in a year…I just needed some time away from everything that seems to be going on in the world. My heart has been saddened by how people are treating each other. We seem to have turned on each other, instead of lifting each other up in this world. So, I guess I needed a little time to have a “good talking to myself,” and recapture that sense of joy that has always been present in my life. I have decided that for the next few months, I will post either funny or joyful articles – nothing serious. I think we all need a little break from the news here in the U.S. and around the world. So get ready to chuckle along with me…

I was raised on a farm most of my childhood life. We really did not have pets, because we were very aware a special “pet” might just become a meal at some point in time. So, no real pets were in my life until I became an adult.

In my mid-twenties, I decided that I would love to have a little puppy. My choices were extremely limited in that I am highly allergic to almost everything. I had to consider dog breeds that did not shed hair. After much research, the poodle was determined to be a very good choice for me. I did not want to have a big dog, so I again did the necessary research, and decided to get a little toy poodle.

He was jet black, a little ball of fur, and his name was Muffin’s High Prancer, because when he walked, he pranced like a Tennessee Walking Horse. Now, I know that “Muffin” is considered a female name, but that was the name I wanted, and that is what I went with. He didn’t know the difference, and I didn’t care what anyone else thought. So Muffin became a huge part of my life – for 17 years! I never knew you could love a little animal so much. He traveled with me everywhere.

Unlike now, years ago, almost NO hotel would allow an animal on the premises, unless they were a service animal. Therein was the problem when I traveled with Muffin. He was, indeed, said animal…He was not a “barker,” so I was able to sneak him in numerous hotels without anyone knowing. I had gotten very adept at masquerading/camouflaging him to get past the front desk.

On this particular trip, we were making our way home from a seminar. We were tired, had been driving a long time, and decided to stop in Memphis, TN for the night. We chose to stop at one of my favorite hotels, The Hyatt Regency. Now remember, they did NOT allow pets at that time. The front desk was long, against a front wall, and was positioned directly across from the only elevators by which we could get to our room. The hotel was a “high-rise,” so there was no way we could sneak into a window on the ground floor (which we had done on occasion…lol!) So, we were in a quandary as to how we were going to get past the desk employees without them seeing Muffin. We finally decided that I would wrap Muffin in a down-filled, sleeveless vest, where he was not visible, and hold the vest as if I were holding a jacket in my arms.

It was a really good plan. I wrapped Muffin up “just so,” and we began that loooonnnggg walk to the elevators. With each step, I just knew that an employee was going to shout out, “Freeze, baby!! You’ve got a dog!! You’re out of here! Security!!” We made it all the way to the elevators, eased on, and pressed the floor number where our room was located. No one had discovered us and our secret!!

The elevator was walled with mirrors, and as I was standing there looking at the images, I saw movement. I looked closer and discovered that Muffin had found an opening in the sleeveless vest, and had poked his little head through the arm hole. As we both began laughing, we realized that he had been visible to anyone and everyone at the front desk. We had walked right in front of them, with Muffin’s little head up and out, looking at everyone! We could not figure out how on earth they had not seen him. The only conclusion that we could come to, was they thought he was a really hairy baby…

How many times have you tried to “get away” with something in your life? Have you ever done something “not exactly right,” because no one would find out? We convince ourselves that we are “getting away” with something; or “pulling something over” on someone; that what we are doing will not harm someone else. So…what does it matter, if no one gets hurt? Some rules are meant to be challenged; right? Although I meant no harm to the hotel, or other guests, there were rules, and I was intentionally breaking them.

I am highly allergic to animals, especially CATS! So, if I were to happen to stay in a hotel room, where someone else had brought in a cat, without the hotel’s knowledge, and they did not know to “pet clean” the room, I would probably end up in the hospital emergency room. If someone else chose to bypass the “rule,” that decision could certainly harm another person – namely ME! And other than the potential for harm, there should be a certain amount of respect and courtesy for the place of business that you are frequenting, and vice versa…respect and courtesy for the customer. Taking Muffin into the hotel was not done with “malicious intent;” however, negative outcomes could have certainly occurred. And I am sure many of you are thinking…really? You’re concerned over a hotel’s rules? And you just snuck a little puppy dog in? Big deal! But you see, it goes beyond that…it involves character, respect, honesty, and your “philosophy” regarding life decisions.

What have you tried to “get away with?” Was it worth it? Did you get caught? And WHY did you do it? I try to be honest and upright in all that I do, and taking Muffin into the hotel was dishonest – a very small act, but still dishonest. If I had to do it over again, I would not have taken Muffin in. I try to do much better now with my life decisions, and will continue to strive for that elusive “perfection.” Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

“Red and yellow, black and white…they are precious in His sight…”

It was late one night and I got the above message from two good friends…just a photograph that said “It’s a boy! It’s a girl!” I knew that there had been no pregnancy, so I was clueless as to what this meant. I wrote back, “WHAT???” My sweet friend and her husband had desperately wanted to have a child together, but it was not possible. They turned to adoption here in the U.S. and learned that they were “too old.” I just busted out laughing when they told me that! I could NOT believe that was valid criteria for THEIR adoption, but learned very quickly that it was. So, like many individuals in the United States, who want very much to share their love and lives with a child who desperately needs a loving family, they turned to the adoption of a foreign child.

After a very long process, they qualified to adopt a child from Ethiopia. Turns out, though, there were TWO children up for adoption – a little girl and her younger brother that the agency did not want to separate. So my friends became “instant” parents to two beautiful babies. I have watched their growth and “blossoming” in the love of their parents and family. I have laughed at their antics and “discoveries” in this new life. I have watched as they grow into their “personalities.” They have had a wonderful life…up until the past few months. At school, other children are now telling them that they are going to be sent back to Ethiopia, that they will have to leave their parents. They’ve endured others yelling at them, “Go back to Africa!” My heart can almost not take this! I can only imagine what their parents are feeling in the depths of their souls. I imagine my own little niece and nephew…how scared and confused they would be if someone told them they would be taken away from their parents…that they would be sent to a foreign place that they did not know or recognize. I wonder how could you console those babies? How would you assure their fears were baseless? I cannot come up with any solution that would “fix” that particular situation. I don’t know how I would deal with attempting to comfort a child’s very real fear regarding these actions. I mean, really, what could you possibly say? And how would you deal with the anger over someone else doing this to your child? I don’t think I would be able to contain that anger, because I am angry right now about how these two precious children are being treated, and they are not even MINE!!

I have another very dear, close, lifetime friend who married an African American – she was, and is, a very white caucasian. Unfortunately, the marriage was not successful, but they had two precious, absolutely drop dead gorgeous, biracial daughters who I have had the privilege and honor to watch, and share their lives, as they grew to be wonderful, loving adults and mothers themselves. They are simply family to me, and I love them with a full heart, unconditionally. I have nieces and nephews who have dated, and do date individuals different from their own ethnicity and culture. I have Hispanic friends who fill my heart with joy. They work hard, are not on welfare, and have values that are very similar to mine. Although I am from the “South,” and “southern” through and through, I WAS NOT TAUGHT PREJUDICE!

Children are so wonderfully cute and adorable when they are babies. The thing about children though, is that they grow up into adults. And what was “tolerated” as a child, is not always tolerated and accepted once they become adults. Like being Ethiopian…or African American…or Hispanic…cute as babies, but not so much as adults…But here’s the deal, remember the song we learned as children in Sunday School? “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they’re all precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” I have to believe that! I have to act on that! If God made us in His image, then doesn’t that mean that every race and ethnic group is in HIS image??

The God I was taught to love and serve dictates my actions…to feed someone who is hungry; to give them clothes when they have none; to provide monetary support if that is necessary; to treat them as equal, human beings with dignity and respect; to LOVE THEM AS I WOULD LOVE MYSELF!!

Most of you know that I lost my Mama to Alzheimer’s, and I have shared some of those stories from our journey. During one Doctor visit, they were giving her yet another Mini Mental Status Questionnaire. One part of the test asked her to write a sentence. (And with each test, her sentences got shorter and shorter, until there were no sentences at all.) On this particular test, she wrote “I love all people.” I knew this to be true, for that is how she lived, and that is how she taught me. “I love all people.” How profound! And wouldn’t the world be such a better place if everyone practiced this? For you see, they ARE precious in His sight, and as a result, they MUST be precious in my sight also! Maybe we could all be a little bit more loving and accepting during our journey on this earth. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

“There’s a WOMAN driving that rig…”

I will start out this post with a disclaimer: This week’s post is NOT a political statement; nor is it a promotion of my own political beliefs/position. As with all of my posts, this is simply a few stories of my life experiences, and “happenings” along the way. I will admit that the current political dialogue has brought up some very real life memories and stories that have everything to do with being a woman! So here are the stories…

Many years ago, my business partner (and best friend) and I purchased a 33-foot motor home to use as we conducted educational seminars across the United States. We saw a lot of the beauty of our country as we drove through almost every state in the nation. Along the way, we were amused (and somewhat dismayed at times) at the various reactions and comments that were received as we drove that “mamma-jamma” RV.

In some campgrounds, as I was on my hands and knees attaching the sewer hose to the campsite sewer line, numerous male observers would make the very same comment: “Your husband is letting you do that???” The entire demeanor was…”are you sure you know HOW to do that correctly?” Now mind you, we were talking about attaching a SEWER hose to a connecting valve. “Letting” would NOT have been a word I would have used in regard to that responsibility. Lol! I would always smile and say, “No husband, and I’ve got this!” Then I would go inside shaking my head…Since when can a woman not attach a hose to a connecting valve?

One night, we pulled into a campground around 1:00 a.m. and checked in at the registration office. The male employee explained that the only campsites left were “back-ins.” There were no “pull-throughs.” These terms are pretty much self-explanatory. A “back-in” was a parking/camping space that required backing the RV into a narrow slot. A “pull-through” simply meant that you could drive straight into the spot, and pull out on the other side when you left. And, as you have probably surmised, a “back-in” maneuver was much more difficult than a “pull-through,” especially when you had more than 30 feet behind you, and it was “pitch black” at night. I was behind the wheel (as it was “my turn”). The guy came out, shined his flashlight up to my face, and said, “I will give you but one chance to back this rig in, and then I will take over if you can’t do it.” I leaned down out my window, and whispered softly, “I will only need one chance.” I then backed up those 33 feet, dead center, into the middle of the parking spot. He came back up to my window, and said “D!@m, you DO know how to park this rig!” I just smiled and said “Yep!” Since when can a woman not park a vehicle correctly?

At yet another campground, we pulled up to the registration office. It was my friend’s turn at the wheel, so she remained there while I went in to get our campsite. There was a group of men standing out on the porch as I walked into the office. As I came out the door,  I overheard these comments…”There’s a WOMAN driving that rig!! There’s a WOMAN driving that rig!!” I began looking around to see where this super powerful woman was, driving a semi, and trying to figure out what made her so significant and special to this group of men. Much to my surprise, they were all staring and pointing at our RV, and they were talking about my sweet friend. I was laughing so hard as I entered the RV. When I explained that we, and especially she, had caused such a stir, she simply got up, faced the men, and bowed graciously!! Since when can a woman not drive a RV??

I worked much of my early career in the corporate world. Initially, I was one of only two women who worked at the corporate level. Early on, I learned that if I wanted an idea or project to be accepted, I needed to convince one of my male counterparts to basically present it as his idea. I also had to work it so that he did not realize what I was doing. I got quite a lot done for my employees and our residents by becoming very “artful” with this technique. I watched year after year as various men were hired, given a Vice President title (a title I never got), and $10,000 more a year than I received. At one point, for one new hire, I was to train him, and was told that if he “screwed up,” it would be my head on the chopping block. It was at this point I realized that I was never going to win within that culture. So…I did what many women in the world have done today. I resigned and started my own business! Since when should a woman not receive the same amount of pay for the same job??

Now, please understand, I am not on a soapbox. I am simply pointing out some truths – my personal truths. Let’s just be honest, the world is different for a woman. I KNOW that there are good men out there – a number of them are in my family. My younger uncle and brother lived with me for quite a few years. I always taught them to respect women, and that when they married, to view their wives as a true partner. I taught them that a man could also wash dishes, do laundry, cook, clean house, change diapers, feed babies, etc., as well as a woman. And, especially, if they helped to create those homes and babies, they were to step up to their responsibilities. They grew up knowing, and understanding, that a woman is fully capable of doing almost anything! I taught my nephews that “throwing like a girl,” should never be uttered as an insult, but as a compliment! (I always pointed out to them the ball speeds of those women softball fast pitches…) So, this election year, I am elated and disheartened by what I am hearing and seeing. The one thing I do know is this: I can now tell my nieces, “Why one day, you could even become President of the United States!” Times have changed…And, no matter who you are supporting, can’t we just celebrate this ONE, HUGE accomplishment? Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

Is that your duck…or just a quacker?

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As many of you know, I live on a beautiful lake in east Tennessee. Words like “breathtaking” or “beautiful” are so inadequate to describe the beauty and nature that I am fortunate enough to see each day. It would be like saying that a hurricane is a “little wind.” Words are just useless…but, hopefully, you catch my drift. Each morning, I look forward to what the day may reveal in the way of natural beauty and nature. We have had a wonderful Spring – not too hot, not too cool. Just right! And, oh my, the flowers, smells, sunrises, sunsets and new little “nature babies” are everywhere. So this week’s post is about some of those little babies…

We don’t know what happened to her, only that she was hurt. At first, we couldn’t figure out whether she had been hit by a car, been in a fight with a predator, or had gotten her foot stuck in a crevice or between rocks. The bottom line, however, was that she could only hop around on one foot. There was no way we could catch her, to take her to the vet. We simply had to watch her struggles, and each morning we were greeted with apprehension as to whether she had made it through another night, or had succumbed to the injury and died. Despite all the odds, she seemed to get stronger each day, and although her foot did not completely heal the way it was supposed to, she could still fly, and she now walked with a limp – a little “hop” actually. So one of our neighbors (the animal-loving ones…) named her “Hoppy.”

For the past three years, we have looked forward to Hoppy returning to our lake (and homes) each spring. This year, she had a little surprise for us…she was pregnant, and ended up having 11 (count ’em – ELEVEN) little ducklings. They have been adorable and we have had so much fun watching their “antics,” and watching them grow each day. As a result of my doing this, I have made some huge discoveries regarding motherhood.

Each day, this little mother has been responsible for feeding all of the ducklings, teaching them the “ways of the wild,” and keeping them safe every moment of their lives. (By the way, she really is a single Mom, with no help from anyone else, with the exception of a few neighbors who put out food for her and the babies.) We usually try not to count how many babies there are, because when you see that one is missing, you know that something bad happened. But I can’t seem to help myself, I count. So far (and they are almost totally grown now) she has only lost ONE baby. That is remarkable for this lake area, as we have eagles and hawks!

I have spent hours watching them, and what I see amazes me!! On one occasion, she apparently sensed some “danger” nearby, emitted a little sound that I could just barely hear, and every one of those ten babies swam to her side as if she were a magnet, and then they swam as “one unit” away from the danger, with her wings spread over them. You could hardly tell where a duckling started or ended. They looked like one bundle of feathers going down the lake.

I have watched as she finds a food source, and makes certain that each duckling is eating – all while she fervently scans about for danger. She is at attention and on guard every moment. Once they have all eaten, she will eat a little herself, and then off they go. It has been so much fun watching those babies learning how to eat. Some times they get too tired and will simply lay down in front of the food and eat. Other times, they will peck around the area quickly, getting as much food as possible. On another occasion, we had just put a little cracked corn out for them, knowing that they would be showing up within minutes to eat. In fact, they were in the next lot, watching us, waiting for the food. Mama took her time, but as she was watching the area closely, three HUGE crows zoomed into the tree just above the pile of corn. “In a New York second,” Mom gave another signal (I never heard it…), and ALL TEN of those babies raced over to the food before the crows could even get out of the tree! One crow made the mistake of trying to peck a little one, and Mama gave him a pretty good bite. He did not make a second attempt, and the babies got the food that was intended for them.

After eating, Mom took them back down to the water, and showed them how to “clean up.” She ducked her head under the water, came back up, spread her wings and flapped, all the while cleaning herself. Once she had done that a couple of times, she then gave another “silent” signal and all the babies began doing the same thing! Some got it right; some had to work at it a little harder. They were so adorable, doing everything that Mom did in perfect synchronization.

Those babies are smart! When Mom gives them direction, they respond immediately! They don’t lag behind, they don’t question “why,” they just act upon her instruction. Somehow they know that their livelihood and success depends solely on the teachings of their parent. And, of course, watching them got me to thinking about human parents and what lessons they are teaching their children. Do they let their children “slide,” and not follow directions or advice? Do they teach them lessons for failure or success? Do they love the children enough to be disciplined and to discipline? And most importantly, do they teach them by example? Those baby ducks get it! They KNOW that if they don’t do exactly what Mom is doing, they will not live to see another day. What are your children, grandbabies, nieces, nephews, etc., seeing when they watch you or observe your daily life actions? Is it something that will help them face the battles in life? Will they learn love and respect by watching what you do? Will they learn how to treat others with kindness and compassion? Will they learn how to work together? Will they realize the wonder and joy of what it means to be part of a family? Are you teaching them skills that can be used to succeed in life? Just WHAT are you saying to others as you live your life each day? Animals seem to get this…wouldn’t it be wonderful if humans got it too? Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

 

It’s just what I do…

One of the great blessings in my life is that I have wonderful friends who live all over the world! We can go weeks, months, or even years without seeing each other, and still slip into that easy comfort of closeness and friendship when we do actually get together. What makes things even more fun is when we meet for a fun-filled vacation at various “spots” that appeal to our sense of adventure and relaxation. This week’s story is about one such “adventure….”

Anyone who knows me, knows what I have done in my career, and why… I have worked all of my life working with, advocating for, protecting, providing care, and LOVING “old” people. The correct word to describe them is “elders,” but I wanted all of you to understand who I am talking about. I know that my love for this special group started as a child, loving my grandparents. And, oh my, did I LOVE them!! That love continued to grow as I fell hard and fast for each and every old person who attended all of my Daddy’s little country churches over the years. So, when I say I LOVE old people, it is not said lightly. It means they FILL my heart, that my emotions swell with joy, love, compassion, and that I just want to take care of them and make certain they have a wonderful quality of life.

Now, getting back to the story…As much as I love elders, there are times when I don’t want to feel the responsibility of caring for them; times when I simply want to turn off all the feelings, just relax and take care of me for a little while. I call these times vacations! And to be honest, I really have to work at turning off those “nurturing” feelings during this all too short timeframe. I don’t want to see an old person, think about an old person, take care of an old person…

So, some of my friends and I decided to go the “islands” for a vacation, and we were all going to meet in Atlanta at the airport and then fly to our final destination. All of our flights actually arrived on time in Atlanta (which was EXTREMELY UNUSUAL – lol!), and we had a “decent” layover before the next connecting flight. As we were sitting at our gate, waiting, we began to smell freshly popped popcorn. Our noses went on alert, searching for the source. I finally said, “I’ll go find the popcorn and get us some!” I began making my way down the terminal, just like an old coon dog, sniffing out where the popcorn was. I finally saw a little kiosk…the source of that wonderful smell. Standing behind the kiosk was an employee who obviously thought that this was her very last day on earth, and she had to come to work!! Really, what an attitude!! Grumpy and rude would not even begin to describe this woman accurately.

Standing in front of the kiosk was a short, very old woman, who would have fit Hollywood’s usual portrayal of a Russian itinerant worker. Her face was tracked with hundreds of lines reflecting a very long life of hardship, poverty, and possible sorrow. Shoulders stooped, the woman wore a dark olive shawl, draped over her head, and a long, thick skirt in the same color and material. Workman boots completed the outfit, and there was not one tooth in her mouth that I could see. And, she was OLD! From my observations, I determined that she could not speak the English language, and she did not have any money; however, she wanted some popcorn. She was trying to convey to the horrible employee that she just wanted a little taste of the popcorn, but did not have any money. I was standing in line behind the Russian woman, and there was this monster-sized cowboy standing behind me. He had to have been from Texas! He wore a huge 10-gallon hat, had cowboy boots the size of watermelons, and I’m certain he had to turn sideways to get those shoulders through a door!

As I was standing there, I began to feel my heart starting up…FEELING…wanting to put my arms around her…wanting to protect her…wanting to simply love her…My brain kicked in to counteract those feelings…stop it…you are on vacation…not your job…not your responsibility…you NEED this break…I emotionally took a step back to see how the situation might develop. The little Russian woman continued to try to convey what she wanted, and the employee continued to get uglier and uglier in her actions. The employee then “shushed” and waved the woman away, like she was a fly or insect. That was all it took for me. I swept into action, vacation or no vacation, it did not matter at that point. I leaned in to the employee, and in a voice that you hope you don’t EVER hear from me, said these words, “Give her the largest bag of popcorn that you have. Put a smile on your face as you are giving the popcorn to her, and THANK HER for her business! I will pay for it!! Do it NOW!” The employee hurriedly did exactly what I asked. As she was doing this, the cowboy leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Ma’am, if you had not done that, I was fixin’ to!” (Yes, cowboys ARE wonderful!!) The Russian woman realized what I had done, and followed me all the way to my gate, blowing kisses to me, with a big ole’ smile on her face. That is what my friends saw as I came back to my seat with their popcorn. I gave them all of their popcorn, and nobody said anything until we had “settled in.” They then all looked at me, and said, “What did you do this time?” My response? “Oh, you know me…It’s what I do…”

How can you NOT do a kindness for someone when it is well within your power to do so? Whether a person is old, young, middle-aged, poor, rich, in-between, what does it matter? The compassion and power to help others is something that lies within all of us. Some of us just act more readily when prompted. Amy Grant’s grandfather, A. M. Burton, made a statement years ago that went something like this: “Life is made up of golden chances, opportunities to do good. One lost is lost forever. If we miss doing a kindness to a friend, we can never do that kindness again. If we might speak a pleasant word, or offer a bit of worthwhile counsel or advice and fail to do so, we can never have just that opportunity again. Giving is a way of life.” How about joining me in giving as much as we can, whenever we can? It’s what we do! Just for this week…

How do you know all of that???

I live in a very small town in east Tennessee, and absolutely love living there; however, there ARE a few drawbacks. The one that I have the biggest adjustment problem with, is the lack of restaurants. We only had two…that is, until recently.  The sweetest couple from New York (by way of Florida) opened up a little pizzeria/Italian place, and the food is simply wonderful. That, along with the fact that they treat me like a queen when I walk in, assures that I will be a life-long customer! I eat there about once a week, and eating so much Italian food got me to thinking about another Italian restaurant in Georgia…

My best friend’s cousin was getting married, and the entire family was invited, not only to the wedding, but to the rehearsal dinner as well. It was going to be a fun, family time (with lots of talking and laughter) at a wonderful restaurant named Maggiano’s. The tables were reserved for us, and decorated beautifully. They had placed all of the cousins at one large table, so we knew it was going to be fun. The menu was simply unbelievable!! They had decided to give us a sample of almost everything on the menu for our meal! Scrumptious!!

My friend’s first cousin was sitting next to me, and we were visiting, talking, and eating. Each time they would serve a new sample, he would look at me and ask,” What is that?” I replied, “Spinach and Artichoke al Forno.” He commented how good it was! They served the next item. Once again, he looked at me and asked, “What is this?” I said, “Tomato Caprese.” It went on like this all night…he would ask, and I would reply, “Shrimp Fra  Diavolo,” or “Four-cheese Ravioli,” or “Lobster Carbonara.” You get the idea. Finally, he looked at me, and said, “I am some kinda impressed! You know ALL the names of the food dishes. Just HOW do you know all of that?” I smiled sweetly, and said, “Well…it’s all printed up for us on this little menu sitting in front of your plate.” We all just busted out laughing!!! He had never seen the printed menu laying there in front of him! He was a good sport and joined in with all the laughter.

There are times in life that we simply do not know the answers to any of the questions. We immediately begin asking others for advice and information; however, sometimes the very answers we need are right in front of our eyes. All of us possess innate skills and abilities, but far too often we are convinced that we are inadequate, or even inferior, to the knowledge, education and experience of others. We sell ourselves short! And I have found that when you continually compare yourself to others, you can ALWAYS find someone who has more expertise or knowledge than you do. On the other hand, there are also many that do not have the knowledge or experience in areas in which you excel. So why are you comparing? Look deep inside yourself first, do the research, really look at what is around you before you begin asking others for those very necessary “answers.” Sometimes the “menu” is right before your very eyes! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…