My Mother, the mad scientist….

Wow! It has been quite a busy few weeks for me. It’s “fall conference” time, and luckily for me, that means a lot of speaking engagements…and a lot of travel. I have been from Kentucky to North Dakota to West Virginia, and will be leaving this week for Minnesota. I usually just “hang on” and ride the schedule through…It’s hard, but immeasurably satisfying! When traveling, one usually spends a great deal of time either running through the airports at a breakneck speed, OR sitting hour after hour waiting for: 1) the next plane to arrive; 2) plane repairs from mechanical issues; 3) the flight crew to “show up,” 4) lightning strikes, and 5) re-routing and rebooking the original flights due to items 1-4. There is quite a bit of time for one to “ponder.” This week I remembered a humorous incident that involved my Mother…

My Mother and I got to share a number of experiences as mother/daughter. A very unexpected, and pleasurable, experience came about when my Mother started to work as an Activity Director in a nursing home. I ended up being her Activity Consultant for a period of time.  This meant that I actually trained and taught her how to do the job correctly. It was so much fun, and she was a WONDERFUL Activity Director. One never has to go far to figure out where I got the creativity, enthusiasm, and commitment for my work. The apple definitely did not fall far from the tree…She was one of the most innovative, creative, and unique persons that I have ever known.

One evening I got a phone call from her, and she was just beside herself with excitement. Easter was just around the corner, and she shared that she had done something that was going to surprise all of her residents. Earlier I had shared a neat activity idea with her – getting a small incubator from the local co-op to hatch some eggs. The residents would be so excited to nurture, turn the eggs, and be responsible for the successful “hatching” of little Easter biddies. Of course, Mama being Mama, she just could not bring herself to “do it straight.” She started the conversation by saying that her residents were going to be especially surprised when the eggs hatched, because the biddies were going to be all different colors…not just yellow! She proceeded to tell me “the rest of the story…” She had coerced a local dentist into letting her borrow a drill. She had drilled a tiny hole into each egg, and had added a drop of food coloring into each one. As she was describing the details, all I could think of was that she was going to end up with little “mutant” biddies…and the residents would just be horrified! I could just picture a  “circus act”….two-headed chicken…one-winged marvel…little biddies running into the walls continuously…or running in circles…or psychedelic freaks…You get the picture! None of the images in my head were success stories. I tried to dissuade her…to get her to replace the ones she had drilled with “normal” eggs. She laughed and said that I worried too much, that it would all be good!! The residents took their jobs very seriously, turned the eggs at the specified times, and looked forward to the “births” with great anticipation!

I happened to be visiting my folks at home when she got the call from the residents. “The babies are hatching! The babies are hatching! And they are ALL different colors!” We all jumped into the car and rushed down to the facility. Sure enough, the biddies had all hatched right on schedule…AND, they were all different, and vibrant colors! There were a couple who were “marginal,” with psychedelic colors, but for the most part, they had turned out exactly how Mother intended. And, oh my, the residents were thrilled beyond words! They would not have been prouder, had the biddies been real, live children.

I think of this story often, and it always brings a chuckle, along with the satisfaction of a mutually shared experience with my Mama. She is the one who taught me to ask, “Why not?” – one of my most favorite questions in life! Too often we miss chances (and opportunities for success) by going with the average or norm. Why not try something different? Why not be different yourself? Why not be brave and courageous and carve your own path in life?  Simply…WHY NOT??? That’s what I am going to do! Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

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Arghh!!!! I Have Monkey Lips!!!

Today is the first day of Autumn! This particular season used to affect my mood in a negative way…I got all melancholy, nostalgic, and a little depressed when I saw the summer’s end. Now, however, Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year. I love feeling the brisk “nip” to the air and seeing all of the beautiful leaves turn into such vivid colors that no photo can ever do them justice. This time of year also holds such fun and sweet memories of the State Fair…

Years ago, my uncle and I worked with the youth in our church. We were always getting the kids together for fun events and wonderful, Christian fellowship. I think the kids loved us a little extra because we did not act like “adults.” I would like to think that we made a positive impression on their young lives; and actually prevented some from choosing a life of hardships and mistakes. 

Each year, when the State Fair came to town, we would plan a night to take all the kids for fun, food, and rides. As was the usual routine, we entered the fairgrounds and began to walk around to determine the night’s schedule – what we wanted to ride, side attractions we wanted to see, and of course strategically planning out all of the food stops. As we were walking, we came across an organ grinder who had the cutest little monkey, dressed in a red coat and a little red hat. The little monkey would dance around, and then “work the crowd” for handouts and tips. He would come up to you, remove his hat, and hold it out for the money. If you gave a dollar, the monkey would shake your hand. For $5, you could actually hold the little fella. Well….animal lover that I am, and the monkey being as cute as he was, I certainly wanted to hold him!! The church kids were egging me on to do so. I pulled the $5 out of my pocket, and waited for the organ grinder to see me. I was SO EXCITED!! That monkey was one of the cutest little animals I had ever seen.

His handler took my money, showed me how to hold the monkey, and then handed him over to me. I had no sooner gotten him in my arms, when that monkey wrapped his arms around my neck and gave me the biggest ole’ kiss right on my lips. I’m thinking, Arghh! I have monkey lips!!! I was so surprised, and the monkey was looking around at everyone grinning from ear to ear.  (Don’t ask me how I knew he was grinning…you would have had to see him…but he WAS grinning!) Everyone found my situation very humorous, and our church youth were beyond reason with laughter! Well, apparently, this was not standard behavior for the monkey. The handler was frantic and came over immediately to get the monkey. That’s when we ran into problems. When the monkey saw the handler coming over, he gripped my neck with both arms, and would NOT let go! By this time, a huge crowd had gathered to watch the antics. I’m not sure whether they thought I was part of the act or not, but they sure got a free show that night! The harder the man attempted to remove the monkey, the stronger and tighter those little hairy arms got. The monkey’s cute face was right next to mine, and he was hanging on for dear life. I suddenly began to notice a few things that I had not paid attention to earlier…his teeth did not seem so small when they were about an inch from my face. In fact, it seemed his teeth were growing longer and longer by the minute. I was standing there thinking, this little monkey really likes you! And I was not certain that I should be pleased with this knowledge, or a little concerned that a wild animal had taken a liking to me…Finally the handler was able to pry the monkey’s fingers and arms from around my neck, and was able to get him back under control. I bowed graciously for the audience (who was hooping, cheering and applauding) and made my way back to our group, who could not contain themselves!

I find, that in life, people make choices without giving much forethought to the end result of their decisions. I don’t think people truly “think things through.” They make decisions, even huge, life decisions without considering all the possible outcomes, both positive and negative. You see, I made a decision to hold a monkey for $5. It never crossed my mind to consider what might happen, once I had the monkey in my arms. I had just looked at the first immediate outcome, and that’s all I saw. But, my actions precipitated a series of events that could have caused me or others harm. The story is certainly good for a laugh, but I think the moral of the story is better. When decisions or choices need to be made, I am more careful now. I ask the “what ifs?” I try to determine if there are more than one possible outcome. I try to look at every possible scenario…and I follow the decision all the way through BEFORE I act. It doesn’t make me any less adventuresome, but I would hope that it makes me a little wiser. And so far, I have only been kissed by one monkey….I’m going to continue to THINK before I ACT! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

You’ve got WHAT in your pants??!!

WOW!! It’s the middle of September! Autumn is about to descend upon us…and then winter will be here before you know it! Every year, around this time, a national “tradition” begins…FOOTBALL! So…I thought it would be more than appropriate to share a football story…

Most of you know that I have lived much of my life in Mississippi. You probably also know that we do not have a professional football team in the state. Years ago, someone made arrangements to bring in two professional teams for an exhibition game…the Buffalo Bills and another team, whose name escapes me at the moment. (You can tell how important this was to me…it is “telling” that I can’t recall the name of the other team…) Anyway, I, and a couple of good friends, decided that we wanted to go to the game. Just as an aside, you should know that our standard modus operandi for football or baseball games was to “eat our way” through all available snacks/refreshments, and then leave!

As this was a “pro” game, we felt that it was absolutely necessary to stay for all of it! A huge event for our state, the game was booked solid, with thousands attending. As we were sitting there in the stadium, enjoying the game, I could not get comfortable. It was “body to body,” and I kept thinking that “something” was crawling on my legs. My friends kept “humoring” me, giving assurance that they could not see anything crawling around my feet or legs.

When the game was over, we all stood up to leave. As soon as I took one step, I knew something was wrong…I felt a sharp stab on my thigh. I stopped and jiggled my leg around, found nothing, so we continued walking down the bleachers. Then I felt the sharp stab again, and again. I saw a little bump under my jeans and realized that a bee or wasp had crawled up my leg, and was now stinging the fire out of my thigh! I didn’t know what to do. As long as I stayed still, I did not get stung; but the minute I moved, the little rascal would sting me. My friends had been walking just a little ahead of me and had no idea of my dilemma. I cupped my hand and placed it over the bee (who was having a great time under my jean leg….), in an effort to keep it contained, and made my way up to my friends. One look at my face and they knew something was wrong. I shouted, “There’s a bee in my pants!” They both burst out laughing! I told them that I was going to have to get it out, but that I could not let go of it, or it would sting me even more. So they asked, “how are you going to get it?”  I replied, “I’ve got to take my pants off!”  Of course, their response was that I could not possibly do that, out in the middle of the stadium bleachers, with literally thousands of people milling about. I convinced them that if they got on either side of me, and held their jackets “just so,” I could do it. It took a little coaxing on my part, but I eventually convinced them that taking off my pants was the only solution. So there, in the middle of thousands of people, I cautiously pulled my pants down and got the little bugger  off my leg. Not one person noticed! AND I did not get arrested for indecent exposure…

Some times, when people are in trouble, and need our help, we don’t always respond as quickly as we should because we can’t see their plight. Maybe we simply need to trust their words, and provide immediate assistance or support to prevent additional harm. I am going to start listening closer, and responding faster to those who might need “to take their pants off.” Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Are YOU talking to ME????

Throughout my career, I have had the pleasure of going to every state within the United States, with the exception of Alaska (on the bucket list…). Within each state I have found wonderful, caring people, who have been supportive and loving throughout the years. I have NEVER met anyone, from any part of the country, that “fit” a TV stereotype. I think that most people are inherently good and honest, and will treat you, and respond to you, in a like manner if you extend your own warmth and hospitality. However, I do have some stories…

We were traveling around the country on business in our motor home. We were in one of the states that won’t allow you to fill your own gas tank. You must wait in line, the attendant will motion when they are ready for you, you pull up, and they will fill your tank. We had been driving for quite a while, and as we were motioned up to our “spot,” I got out to stretch my legs and talk with the female attendant. As we were talking, a couple in a convertible BMW whipped out of line, went ahead of several other cars, and pulled into the spot right in front of our motor home. As they did this, the attendant said something under her breath very derogatory about the persons in the car, and their actions. The female passenger in the car heard the comments, and thought I had said them. She almost did not wait for the car to stop…she hopped out with a look of pure hatred and anger on her face…and strode right up in front of me. She did not even give me a chance to say hello or any other type of greeting. She began “cussing” me up one side and down the other. As I stood there listening to her ranting and raving, I began to get angry myself, and thought, “just who does she think she is?” and “I did not do or say anything…” So as she was ranting and raving, I realized I had a choice. I could get caught up in her anger and negativity, and let it ruin the rest of the trip for me, OR I could have a little fun with the situation. 

When she got through with her tirade, I looked at her kinda perplexed and went into my “dumb Southerner routine….” (You already know I have a southern drawl, but did you know I can ACCENTUATE that particular “asset” when necessary?) I looked at her for a moment and said, “Ma’am, Ah am soooo sorry, but Ah dint quite ketch whut you sed. Cud you tell me agin so I can get it?” She was so startled that she began repeating everything again!! She was so upset, spittle was spewing forth from her mouth! When she got through with the second tirade, I scratched my head, a little like Forrest Gump, and said, “Ma’am, Ah don’t mean to be stoopid, but Ah still dint get everthin you sed. If youns would tell me one more time, I promise to concentrate really hard and try to get what your sayin.” She threw up her hands and walked off! As she walked off, under my breath, I said, “Got cha’!” It has been a good story and a lot of laughs throughout the years.

Every day we make choices about how we will act or respond to others. Some times they get the best of us, and drag us down to their level. Other times we take the higher road and choose not to let the other person impact our day negatively. Understand this, you are ALWAYS in control of your reactions and responses. You are the only person making the choice. I don’t know about you, but I will NOT be driven to make choices that are not my own. My actions will NOT be determined by another person…that will ALWAYS be up to me! I think I will continue to take the “high road.” I will sleep better each night, and I will always have something to laugh about. Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

The Third Floor Georgia Hall Gang…

Last year at this time I was in Nashville, TN, getting together with my “old gang” from college. There were eight of us who lived in one dorm, Georgia Hall, at Trevecca Nazarene University. We were known as the “Third Floor Georgia Hall Gang.” We have kept in touch all of these years, getting together every now and then to “catch up,” and maintain our lifelong friendships. Since most of us were the same age, we had decided that when we all turned 60, we would meet and celebrate together. Although one of the gang could not make it, the rest cleared their schedules and met in Nashville a year ago this weekend. We realized that it had been 15 years since all of us had gotten together as a group!

This group of ladies is so close that when we get together, it is as if we have never been separated. The conversation flows, and of course, the laughter is absolutely unstoppable. These are the friends that I grew up with. These are the friends who shared the same faith, values, and beliefs as mine. The weekend together was wonderful! We learned of accomplishments, births, deaths, tragedies and hardships. We looked at photos, past and recent. We shared stories of wonder and heartache, and some that were even a little “bizarre!” It was a wonderful weekend, and we did not want to leave. We’ve done a little better this year with keeping in touch. These ladies will never know the depth of my love and feelings for their friendships.

Friends that we made years ago cannot be replaced or matched. They are precious treasures and hold a place in our hearts that no one else can fill. As you get older, it seems more difficult to make friends. New friends, although wonderful, don’t share your history; they don’t know you “from when.” How long has it been since you talked with an old friend? Do they know how you feel about them? Have you simply lost touch? Could it be that they might really need to hear from you, just at this very moment? Could it be that they might need encouragement, and it would be more meaningful, coming from you? And maybe, just maybe, could it be that they might need “just to hear your voice…?” I think I am going to call a different “old” friend each day, just to say hello and see how they’re doing. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…