Toto, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore…

As most of you know, due to my line of work, I have traveled a great deal in my life. Flying to several locations within a week is “normal” for me. I really don’t think about being up in the air, or the danger that could occur…it’s just a mode of transportation for me. However, I am always aware that we could go down in a fireball at a moment’s notice. I can’t live my life focusing on, or fearing that moment…I would be worried all of the time, and not be able to work at all. Throughout the years, I have had some “close” calls, and this week’s story involves one such time.

Years ago, when I first started my career, I consulted numerous nursing facilities in south Louisiana. There was only one airline that flew to the smaller cities in the state, and its name was Royale Airlines. The plane could seat approximately 12 people, and you could NOT stand up…the ceiling was too low. 

On this particular trip, the plane was full, and the forecast was for “bumpy weather.” Now, let’s remember that this was a little prop plane, not a jet. The weather was so terrible that we actually flew into a tornado. We were too far out to turn back to the airport, so the only hope was for us to fly directly through the tornado. The plane jerked, bumped, lost altitude, turned sideways…you name it, we did it! I was past the prayer of “Please, dear God, don’t let us crash.” I knew we were! I began praying, “Dear Lord, please let me have a heart attack before we crash!” Seriously!! My faith has always been one of the strongest aspects of my daily life, and during all of the mayhem, I began very quietly singing to myself, “Why should I feel discouraged? Why should shadows fall? Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home? When Jesus is my portion, my constant friend is He. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me…” I felt the most immediate calmness take over, and I was no longer afraid. We did manage to land, and we all kissed the pilot when our feet touched solid ground. And, of course, I was very thankful to God for having “watched over me.”

Fast forward 35 years later…it was my turn to stay with Mother at the nursing home as she lay dying. The facility received notice of a tornado warning, which meant they had to move every bed out of every room into the hallway. The staff performed like a well-oiled machine; they knew exactly what to do. So I was sitting by my Mother, on her bed, and she, along with several other residents beside us in the hallway, were a little restless and “fretful.” I was sitting there thinking what could I do to make things better, and then, it came to me…that memory from long ago. I began singing to my Mother “His Eye is on the Sparrow…” She calmed down immediately, as did the other residents around her. We came through the tornado warning safe and sound, just like 35 years ago.

When people ask me if I ever get scared flying, I always say, “No!” I visualize God’s hands under every plane that I fly on, carrying me safely to my destination. I truly believe those words, “…and I KNOW He watches me.” This week I am going to focus strongly on those words, have faith, and believe that He IS taking care of me, and is always there for me. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

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Come on Down!!!

Well…I’m sure most of you have worked really hard this week trying to remove and forget the searing image of my “being naked” from last week’s post…but I bet you laughed! In fact, I have heard from quite a few of you saying that you were “on the floor” and laughing out loud. How wonderful is that???

Monday will be my sisters’ birthday. That’s right, I said “sisters’ birthday.” There are two, and they share the same birthday because they are twins. Gay is ten minutes older than Beth. They are both older than me, but we won’t say too much about that…

There are not too many people, other than your parents, that you can say that you’ve known ALL of your life. I can say that about my sisters. They have “been there,” present in my life, from the moment that I took my first breath.

We were raised on a little farm in Sandy Hook, MS. The farm was named “Double Trouble,” and we had all kinds of farm animals, including a very large bull. We were told so many times, “stay away from the bull,” “don’t agitate the bull,” “leave the bull alone.” So you already know that we could NOT possibly leave that bull alone. We would have our little red jeans on, go out in the barn, dance and giggle until the bull was all worked up and ready to charge. We knew right down to the second when he would do this. At the very last moment, we would scream, run over to the ladder that went to the loft, climb up, and then look down at the bull…We would then break into hysterical laughter! When I look back at that now, I wonder, “what would have happened if just one of us had slipped….” It is a wonder that we are all still alive, but we had a wonderful childhood!!

I have so many good memories of these sisters…and us together…Gay dancing ALL the time. If there was music…she was moving! Beth (who did NOT ever take medicine) took a antihistamine for a cold. It made her so “loopy” that she took out the back corner of the house with her boyfriend’s car when she came home from work. (He later became her husband, so I guess he forgave her for the car being messed up…) While playing hide and seek one day, I remember distinctly how we discovered all of our “Santa” gifts in the quilt box…how crushed we were to learn that there was no Santa…and how we made a pact to hide the fact that we knew on Christmas morning.

As I grew up, they were the “go to” people for all of my questions. They taught me how to shave my legs…how to shampoo and “fix” my hair…what to do when “the curse” arrived…I could ask them anything.

My sisters grew up to be smart, sassy, “steel magnolias.” I am so proud of them! Gay moved back home to live with my parents a number of years ago, and assisted them in the daily operations of their personal care home for the mentally challenged. After her children were grown, Beth went back to college and received her degree. As my Mother’s illness (Alzheimer’s Disease) progressed, Beth became the Administrator of the personal care home, and she and Gay worked together to make certain that Mama and Daddy continued to have an income. Their religious faith and strength just continues to grow. They are prayer WARRIORS!!!

So you are probably wondering by now, where is all this headed? Where’s the story? Here we go…

During the summer, Mama and Daddy would take us to a little creek, and let us swim and play with other kids and families doing the same thing. It was such a sweet, simple, and uncomplicated time. The bridge that went over the creek would certainly not pass any of today’s criteria for being safe. It did not have any rails on either side, and pretty much looked like an open train trestle. The distance from the bridge, down to the water, was probably about 30 feet, give or take a little.

On this particular day, we arrived at the creek, and Daddy parked the car to the side of the road. We could not wait to get down to the water and play. As we were walking over the bridge, one of Gay’s friends hollered up to her and said, “Come on down!!” Gay did not hesitate…she jumped straight from the bridge down to the water. Now this would not have been a big deal, except for these two very important facts….1. It was about a 30 foot drop for her, and…2. She did NOT know how to swim! My father and mother were scrambling down the banks to get to her as quickly as they could. As soon as her head popped out of the water, gasping for air, my daddy had her in his arms. She was not hurt in any way…she simply wanted to get to her friends, and did not even think about the possible consequences of that jump.

Everyday I hear people say,”One day, I would like to….” (finish the sentence any way you like…), or “I would be too afraid to do…(finish the sentence any way you like…). What would you do if you were not afraid to try? What would you change in your life? What would you do differently? This week I am going to do things that are outside of my “comfort zone.” I am going to be daring, adventurous, and try something that I’ve never done before. I am going to “jump off the bridge…” Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

Hon, you goin’ have to take that off…

Hope everyone has had a good week, and that you were successful in letting those “family” members know how much you love and need them in your lives. I feel that we are in need of a little levity this week, and that usually involves “something” that I’ve done, so here is the story…

Years ago, Hot Springs, Arkansas was the “resort area” of the South. It was all you heard about…the vacation spot! The commercials made the area sound SO luxurious!  As a young professional, just starting out in my career, I had always thought how neat it would be to go there one day…and personally enjoy those hot mineral springs that people kept talking about. I never really made any plans to go…it was just one of those places that was “on my list.” It was years before the opportunity to go presented itself.

I worked with a dietitian who was going to be making a presentation at a large convention, held at a beautiful resort…Where, you might ask? The convention just happened to be located right, smack dab in the middle of Hot Springs! As it turned out, my friend’s husband did not want to go with her, and she did not want to go by herself, so lucky me got the invitation! I accepted as soon as she finished uttering the offer. Oh, the plans I had in my head!

As soon as we arrived and checked into the hotel, I called down to guest services and scheduled a hot mineral bath and massage for the next morning. (Now you need to know that this was in the late 70’s and I really had no idea what a mineral bath or massage was at the time…) So, at 10:00 the next morning, I made my appearance at the spa. The female attendant gave me a real “southern” welcome, provided me with a sheet, and directed me to a small room where I was instructed to remove all of my clothes. WELL…I’m not sure what I had been thinking when I fantasized about Hot Springs and a hot mineral bath, but I can assure you that removing any of my clothing at ANY time had NOT been a part of the fantasy. All too quickly, I realized that in order to be given a bath, one HAD to remove their clothes!

So…I’m in the little changing room by myself, looking at the sheet, looking at my clothes (still on my body, mind you), and I decide, well, I can pretty much cover everything up with this sheet. I proceeded to remove my clothes and wrap the sheet around me. When I came out, I looked like a mummy from one of those old time movies. The sheet was wrapped from my neck down to my ankles. The attendant smiled and instructed me to follow her. I “tippy-toed” all the way back to the bath area, praying that I would not lose my balance and fall. As I walked, I prayed, “Please, dear God, let mineral water be colored.” Just for your own edification, mineral water is NOT colored…it is VERY clear…just like regular drinking water.

As we arrived at the “bath area,” the attendant turned me over to another staff person. This lady looked at how I was wrapped up in the sheet, put her hand on her hip, and said, “Hon, you goin’ have to take that off.” It was decision time for me…either go through with the appointment or leave quickly before anyone could catch me. I prided myself in being educated, “with it,” and fairly “cool.” I thought well, “it will be obvious that they’ve seen better…hopefully, they’ve seen worse.” And I dropped my sheet.

Did you know that there is absolutely NO WHERE to put your hands when you are naked and you are “conversing” with someone who happens to be clothed??? I tried crossing my arms, placing my hands on my hips, moving them around through the air….anything to hide the fact that I did not have any clothes on my body…and believe me…NOTHING WORKED!!! I was still naked, and she was still dressed!!

She finally assisted me into the tub, placed a nice warm towel behind my neck, left for a few moments, and then brought me a small glass of hot mineral water. She told me to enjoy myself, and left. After a few minutes, soaking in that warmth, drinking “that” mineral water, I began to unwind and relax a little. Then I started to get a little “cocky.” I was thinking “ain’t you something…up here in Hot Springs, AR, getting you a hot mineral bath…you are some kinda uptown!” I was doing just great until a new person (fully clothed like the others…) came into my bath room. She gave me a big smile and said, “Good Morning! How are you this beautiful day?” Now what I said was, “Fine, thank you, and you?” However, inside my head I was screaming, “How do you think I am??? I’M NAKED!!!” She proceeded to put a glove on her hand that resembled steel wool, so it definitely got my attention. She poured a little lubricant onto the glove and then reached into MY tub, lifted one of MY legs, and began giving me a bath! (I can promise you that I was watching very closely just where she went with that glove…) The whole time I was thinking…you PAID for this humiliation!!

I did live through that experience, and have come to love, and strongly believe in the therapeutic value of massage; however, the jury is still out on the baths…

There are times when all of us have “jumped” into a situation, or made decisions, without having all of the facts, and without realizing the end result. You would think that after all these years, I would have learned that valuable lesson, but unfortunately, I can still get myself into some “awkward” situations. So this week, I am going to concentrate on fully analyzing, obtaining facts, and just plain ole researching before I commit myself to any activity – whether for business or pleasure. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

He doesn’t HAVE to love you…

Many of you know that I lost my Mama last month, so “family” has been a lot on my mind. Of course, during that difficult time, our immediate family was together for several weeks. It had been a long time since we had spent an extended length of time together. And while it was a sad time, we truly enjoyed being with each other. Most of my “stories” have come from lessons that I was taught by both of my parents; however, this week’s article is another life lesson that my Mama taught me when I became a teenager.

My mother’s parents (my Mamaw & Papaw) were given a gift late in their life and marriage – a baby boy!! When he was born, he was already an uncle to quite a few nieces and nephews…me being one of them. Although he was just a few years younger than me, we grew up as brother and sister. I cannot remember a time, that I did not have my arm around him, loving on him, and ALWAYS taking care of him. We were constantly together and definitely “two peas in a pod.” I adored him…and the feeling was very mutual – he adored me also. We grew up together, playing and enjoying childhood as it was meant to be enjoyed! However, as I grew older, I matured a little faster than him…and began wanting to do more “adult” activity than childish activity. He would continue to come over to our house every day, but I began ignoring him…never having any time for him.

My Mama had been observing the changing dynamics of our relationship, and finally, one afternoon after I had finally gotten him to go home and leave me alone, she sat me down and talked to me very lovingly. She explained that just because he was family, did NOT mean that he had to, or would always, love me and want to be around me. Just hearing her say those words struck fear in my little heart. I could not imagine a world with him not loving me. She explained that she understood that I was “growing up,” and changing, but that he would also eventually go through that transition. She explained that how I treated him NOW, would certainly impact how I would be treated later on. She also told me that I was hurting him.

I GOT the message! I began treating him much better, making time for him, and letting him know that I loved him, and maybe even more importantly, I wanted him to keep loving me. I realized, from this young age, that all relationships need tender caring love…nurturing…cultivation…consideration…respect…EVEN if they are your blood relatives!!! See, they don’t HAVE to love you…you STILL have to earn that love and respect. Why is it that we sometimes give perfect strangers more respect, more attention, more consideration, than we give a family member? So, this week I am going to concentrate on letting my family members know just how much I love them, how much I need them, how much I LIKE them, how much I enjoy them…and that I want them in my life! Won’t you join me? Just for this week… 

What do you want me to do with that????

Well…we are beginning the third month of my year-long commitment to writing a blog…hard to believe…I don’t know if the articles are prompting others (that would be you) to do random acts of kindness each week or not. However, I can say that writing them has helped me cope a little better with the losses and changes occurring in my life. It has helped to learn of your interest and support, and to hear your own, personal stories and comments. I need your assistance though. I want to increase the number of people who read the blog. If you like the stories, and the weekly “challenges,” why not forward the link or site to other members of your family and friends? If you get a “chuckle” or a positive “lift” from the articles, maybe others would also…”Hearing from people” leads me to our article and challenge for this coming week…

For years I have tried to figure out why people, even perfect strangers, will come up to me and start very personal conversations. At times I feel like I have an invisible sign on my forehead that reads, “Talk to me. I will listen to ANYTHING!!” I can get on an elevator with an individual on the sixth floor of a hotel, and by the time we have reached the first floor, I know their name…how long their stay will be…their marital status (and if they are happily/unhappily married)…number of children they have…what they do for a living…what they do for “fun”….and I don’t ask any questions!! They just open up and begin talking to me. It seems that people are so desperate to have someone listen to whatever is going on in their lives, that they will tell you almost anything. I have actually had, on two separate occasions, at two separate conferences, an individual to come up after my presentation, introduce themselves, and then say, “I’m having sexual difficulties with my husband.” I smiled, tried NOT to look shocked, but my brain was screaming, “Just WHAT do you want me to do with that??” People are so desperate to talk that they will get on public TV and divulge the most intimate details of their lives. I heard one lady on a program state, “I slept with my brother.” And of course, I was thinking, well even if that were true, why, for goodness sakes, would you get on TV and tell everyone about it???

Just recently I flew back into Knoxville, TN from a road trip. It was very late at night, almost midnight, and there were about 100 of us waiting at the baggage carousel for our luggage. I admit, I was tired, and all I wanted to do was get my suitcase and get home as quickly as possible…to my bed. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman begin moving from the total opposite side of the carousel. I was careful not to make eye contact, or show interest of any type. I thought, surely, she is just coming over this way to get a better location to wait for her luggage. As she began to get closer, I could “feel” purpose in her movement…her focus was directed…She ended up standing about one foot from me. As she assumed her position, she began talking…she had just returned from a visit with her daughter…she had a new grandchild…would I like to see pictures…she began showing me the pictures…telling me names…reliving the weekend…Inside my head, I was thinking, “out of ALL of these people waiting for their luggage, how on earth did you pick me to talk to?” I was just standing there, minding my on business, and she walked all the way from the other side of the room to get to me! I wanted to just say, “lady, I have been with people ALL week…I’m tired…I don’t won’t to talk to anybody!” But, you already know what I did; don’t you? I smiled really big, bragged on how beautiful the new grand baby was, and asked questions and made the appropriate comments. Did I have to “fake it?” No, even though I was bone-tired, I was genuinely interested in her as a person. 

So, this week, I am going to try extra hard to give people my full attention and focus in conversation. I am going to understand that people do need to know that what they are saying, or what is happening in their lives, is important to someone else…that they, themselves are important, and should be given attention. I will let them know that they “matter.” Won’t you join me? Just for this week…