“They don’t care about us either…”

This could be considered a continuation of last week’s post, in that this story happened on the same trip…

If you will remember, last week I shared a story of a trip that took me 20 hours to get from Jackson, MS, to Kearney, NE. While waiting for delayed flight, after delayed flight (16 hours’ worth), all flights to Denver (my connecting flight city) were finally cancelled. Well over 100 passengers were in the same situation as I found myself…needing to rebook a new flight. As was usual for this particular airline (United), they provided only one working phone for passenger use, and only one agent to rebook everyone. If you are familiar with air travel, you understand that every second counts when attempting to secure a new reservation once flights are cancelled. The prevailing rule of thumb is that seats are awarded on a “first come, first serve” basis. This means that the first ones in line usually receive the available seats on other flights. The people toward the end of the line are simply out of luck.

So once the announcement had been made that all flights to Denver were cancelled, there was a wild dash to get to the front of the line (or as close to it as possible). I have become very adept with this process, so I ended up the tenth person in a crowd of over 100. All of us were tired, and maybe just a little punchy. The poor agent was harried, tired herself, and having to put up with all sorts of  abuse from passengers, who held her personally responsible for the snow blizzard.

As we were standing in line, there was a man, about seven people behind me, that just could not contain his impatience and frustration. He was constantly huffing and puffing, drawing more and more attention to himself…At regular intervals, he would step out of line, walk up to the agent, glare at her intently, harrumph with an exaggerated sigh, and then turn and walk back to his place in line. His entire demeanor conveyed that he was very obviously inconvenienced (the ONLY one in our group, apparently…), a very important person (as all the rest of us were not…), and that he should be serviced immediately. He kept getting out of line and approaching the agent, just to glare at her. Finally, after several trips to the counter, he finally interrupted the agent and shouted, “United Airlines does not care about their customers!” The agent never looked up, never stopped working on the current passenger’s rebooking. While typing, she said, “You are absolutely right, sir!” “They don’t care about their employees either!” She left the man speechless, and gave us all a little chuckle at her “moxie.”

This entire “drama” brought home some “truths” for me. First, I feel strongly that if you work for someone, and are accepting a paycheck from them, they deserve your loyalty. If you don’t like the company you work for, or don’t like the way they do business, then find someone else to work for. Life is too short to work at a job that you do not like! Secondly, I was taught that I was not better than anyone else, and that no one was better than me. I don’t understand individuals who think they deserve preferential treatment; that they should be “served” before others. We are all in this life together, and wouldn’t it be so much better if we treated each other with respect, consideration, and courtesy? That’s what I try to do. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

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Don’t You Fret None…I WILL be there!!

By now, you all know that I travel a great deal in my work. In that travel, I can face quite a few challenges in “getting to” the location where I am to speak…lightning strikes, thunderstorms, floods, ice, snow blizzards, mechanical problems with the plane…you just never know what you might face once you get to the airport. In 35 years of traveling around the United States, I have only been late to one conference, only missing my morning presentation. It can be a little daunting when trying to figure out how to get to a conference location; however, I am pretty much known in our industry as a “sure thing.” Education Directors and Meeting Planners know that I will make every effort possible to honor my commitment to their conference. So here is the story for this week…

I was scheduled to be the keynote speaker for an annual conference in Kearney, NE. In addition to being the keynote, I was to provide a full day of additional presentations. I never make reservations on the very last flight into a city, “just in case…” You always want there to be “another” flight, “just in case…”

On this particular morning, I had an extremely early flight, so I was at the airport bright-eyed and bushy-tailed! We all got on the plane (the first leg of my trip), and as soon as they closed the door, the inside of the plane filled with smoke. We all thought it was a pretty good idea to get back OFF the plane, so that’s what we did very quickly. The airline did not have another plane for us to use, so we had to wait for them to send in another plane from another airport – a 2 hour delay to the beginning of my trip. As is my habit, I contacted the Meeting Planner/Education Director and explained that I had run into difficulties, but I thought that I would be able to rebook other flights to make the trip. I explained that I would be late, but I would be there in time for the opening session.

The second plane came…we all got on it…they closed the door…and no smoke…so we were good to go. We made it to Houston, where I was to make a connection to Denver, CO. While waiting for the plane to Denver, the agent got on the PA and announced that the flight to Denver was cancelled. They then booked me on another flight to Denver. In doing this, I was going to miss all connecting flights to Kearney, NE, and not be able to make it for my presentation. After much discussion with the airline agents, they suggested that I could rent a car in Denver, and drive over to Kearney…about a 4-5 hour drive in the best of circumstances. I asked them how they thought I might be able to drive in a snow blizzard, when all flights were being delayed or cancelled. They did not have very good answers to my concerns. So, I asked them, “What is is the closest city to Kearney that you can fly me into?” They said they could fly me into Lincoln, and I could then rent a car to make the 3-hour drive to Kearney. The flight would arrive into Lincoln at 1:00 a.m. in the morning, and after I had rented a car, and driven the 3 hours, I would hopefully arrive in Kearney at between 4:00 a.m. – 5:00 a.m. the next morning. This was the only way that I was going to get there, so I agreed. I had been in airports for approximately 17 hours when my flight boarded for Lincoln. Most everyone I know would have just called it a loss, and told the Meeting Planner that they could not make it…that they were just going to try and return home. But, me being me, I just could not do it that way. A commitment is a commitment.

I called the Education Director, a very dear friend of mine, and brought her up to speed on the latest developments. She said that the she was sending a driver from the hotel to pick me up in Lincoln, so that I would not have to drive those last three hours. She also said that she had placed a blanket and a pillow in the back seat so that I could sleep on the way. The poor driver was a young man who had worked a double shift at the hotel, and now was driving three hours in sleet and snow to pick me up. We then drove the three hours back to the hotel in the same sleet and snow. There was NO WAY that I was going to get in the back seat, and try to sleep, while this poor young man was exhausted. So we talked the entire way to the hotel – almost four solid hours! He was such a sweet person, and going through quite a few problems in his own life. He opened up to me and I tried to give him some good, caring, sound advice. I’m told he still asks about me whenever they have a conference at that same hotel, so I am hoping that the words of advice that I gave helped him in some small way.

We arrived safely at the hotel around 5:30 a.m. I checked in, got to my room, and fell onto the bed for a 1-hour nap. At 7:30 a.m., I arrived at the ballroom to set up for my keynote address. The Education Director almost body-slammed me with a hug of gratitude and thankfulness that I had made it safely! (Or that I had made it at all!) At 8:00 a.m. I began my presentation. NO ONE knew that I had spent 17 hours on planes, and in airports, and an additional four hours riding in a car in sleet and snow to be there with them for that morning session. The title of my keynote, you ask? “Motivation vs. Burnout!”

Sometimes you have to keep going, even when you are so bone-tired that you can’t see straight. It’s all about honoring commitments that have been made. Do people know they can count on you? That you are dependable? What do your actions say to others? Do you exceed their expectations? I always want to be someone who can be counted on…that people will know I will try everything in my power to be there for them. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Not on my watch….

I have to preface this story, so that all of you will have a complete understanding and appreciation for what I am about to tell you. First and foremost, I am an animal lover! I melt when I see little animal babies. I continue to be amazed at an animal’s power of reasoning, their sense of family, and their ability to show unconditional love, affection, commitment and fierce loyalty. I am that lady who will take stray, hurt animals to the vet for care. Animals seem to know this about me, as they will come directly to me, a complete stranger, when they enter a room full of people.

The second thing you need to know is that I am a highly allergic person…to almost anything and everything. So whenever I complete any type of cleaning, I have to use all natural cleansers, or I have to “uniform up”….coveralls/paint suit, mask, gloves, and goggles…Quite a sight to behold! Now, to this week’s story….

I live on a lake in East TN. The Smoky Mountains are my back yard. It is such a beautiful place, and I feel so blessed to be here at this time in my life. I live in an area that is surrounded by nature. On a daily basis I get to see deer, foxes, otters, bald eagles, ospreys, ducks, geese, woodchucks, and yes, even skunks, possums and raccoons. I am absolutely in heaven; course, I could do without those skunks…  

On this  particular day, last summer, it was time to pressure wash and clean the pier and dock. I had all the necessary equipment and supplies. Because of the cleansers that I would be using, I was, of course, “decked out.” I had my white coverall suit on, galoshes, gloves, mask and goggles. I looked like an official ghost buster! I’m sure the neighbors take pictures when I am not looking to send to their relatives back home…with captions like, “see, we TOLD you…”  

I had just finished cleaning one section of the dock, and had turned the pressure washer off so that I could refuel. As I was standing there, taking a breather, I heard a very agitated, desperate duck quacking at the top of its lungs, as if there was cause for great concern. I kept turning around, searching for the source of all this commotion. I looked across the way and saw a mother duck, swimming along with her four, very tiny, babies. All of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the source of distress. A magnificent, bald eagle was soaring in the sky, just above the family of ducks. Much to my horror, I saw the eagle circle, and then drop to make the approach, with talons open, to snatch up those babies for a meal. I ran to the end of the dock, screaming, “Nooooooooo!! Stop!!” I was stomping my feet, clapping my hands, and screaming like a wild banshee!!! I looked as if someone or something had taken over my body….like I had just had a “come to Jesus meeting,” and was so filled with the Spirit, that I had lost all control of my bodily functions. Nothing worked! That eagle kept diving. With each attack, the Mama duck would raise up out of the water, spread her wings over the baby ducks, and quack hysterically loud in fear and protest. I knew that she could not last much longer, and that I had to do something.  

I ran very quickly to the front yard and got my best friend. By this time, I was a little hysterical myself. I told her, “Come quick! You HAVE to help me! We have to save them!!” As we were running to the dock, I explained the situation. I told her, “you have to get in your kayak and row over to protect those babies.” It was the fastest kayak launch I have ever seen! She could have medaled in the Summer Olympics! She was a wonder to see! Fast, strong strokes brought her and the kayak close to the little family of ducks. She positioned herself just behind them and began waving her oar around to ward off the eagle attacks. At first, the eagle did not want to give up, but finally, he or she saw that baby duck lunch was NOT going to happen this particular day…not on my watch! My friend had to follow the little family quite a distance before Mama duck found a safe location from the eagle. Whew! Disaster averted…and even more surprisingly, I had not drawn the usual crowd of curious onlookers…  

We are presented with situations each day in which we must make decisions regarding appropriate actions that should be taken (or not taken) on our part. We have to decide if we want to become involved, impact a result, or let “nature take its course.” So many people just stand aside and let injustice or unfairness take place, even when it is within their power to affect the outcome. I don’t want to EVER be that person who just stands on the sidelines and lets the vulnerable be attacked, harmed or abused, whether it is a woman, man, child, elder or animal. I will defend, protect, advocate, help and love, as long as there is breath in my body. NOT. ON. MY. WATCH. Not going to happen! Not even to baby ducks… Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

“I love all people….”

Happy New Year!! I hope that everyone has a year filled with hope, excitement, love, success, etc., etc., etc… (You catch my drift, right?) I hope that each of you attain your heart’s desire! And…it looks as if I am going to keep blogging past my one year’s commitment. We will just see how it goes…So, for now, keep checking in each week to learn of my latest adventures and/or misadventures…

Working in aging services, I have always questioned the credibility of certain tests and evaluations utilized to assess an individual in specific areas, especially those used for the assessment of cognition and mood state. I think the “scores” of said tests can label and stereotype an individual. The person becomes defined by how well, or how poorly, they did on the test. They  become a “score,” as opposed to maintaining their autonomy and individual  uniqueness. Because of professional standards of practice, and mandated requirements, I have given the Mini Mental Status Questionnaire more times than I can remember. I know all of the questions by heart. So when it came time for my own Mother to experience this test, I was anxious! I knew how the score would be used.

It was our very first visit to the neurologist, and I knew that they would need a “base scoreline” to determine the progression of her disease, as well as utilize the data to determine appropriate medications and treatment. She wanted me to stay in the room with her, so I got to listen as she responded to each query. If sheer will could have affected the outcome of the test, she would have scored 100% accuracy, simply on my nervous energy alone!! With each question, I would sit there, willing her to state the correct answer. In my head, I found myself trying to come up with suitable answers that would be convincing enough to assure someone that I had all of my faculties about me. Under duress, and immeasurable anxiety, it was a lot harder than you can imagine. I found that I was not really sure of the actual date, or the day of the week. I did know the year!

The last item of this test states, “Write a complete sentence.” Now, I’m sitting there, thinking and thinking…”what would be a good, intelligent sentence to write?” I pondered and pondered; however, my Mother wrote down a sentence almost immediately! That first test, she did rather well! On the drive back home, I asked Mother, “what sentence did you write down?” “I couldn’t think of anything!!” She laughed and said, “I just wrote, I sure hope I pass this test!” I was laughing so hard that I almost had to pull to the side of the road. How incredible a response!!!

As her disease progressed, the tests increased, and the scores began to worsen. She began to dread going to see the neurologist. She would ask, “Are they going to give me that test?” She knew that she was having more and more difficulty coming up with the correct answers. And we both knew what that meant…With each test, I was always interested in that very last directive – “write a complete sentence.” She never used the same answer twice, but with each test, her sentences became shorter and more simplistic. On this particular day, we did not know it, but it would be her last visit and her last test. As before, on the drive home, I asked what sentence she wrote. On this occasion, she smiled sweetly and said, “I love all people.” And there, in that one sentence, was the defining truth for my Mother, for she, in fact, DID love all people.

I wonder how many of us can remain true to who we are in the midst of physical and mental decline. That even when we are debilitated, and see the losses that are occurring, can we be certain that the “pure self” – who we really are on the inside – will be evident to us and  others? I want to live such a life, that even when, or if, I cannot direct my thoughts or actions, that my sweet spirit, and “true self” will come through naturally. For you see, just like my Mother, “I love all people.” Won’t you join me? Just for this week…