Which “Cat” are you listening to?

I can almost believe that Spring is just around the corner…beautiful weather…birds are chirping…and, at least for today, it is warmer than it has been. For the first time in months, I am not dressed in double layers of clothing. Spring cannot get here fast enough for me…Usually Spring begins my “conference” speaking schedule, and I can end up in numerous locations from east coast to west coast in just a short matter of time. You never know what might happen at any of these conferences and that will lay the groundwork for this week’s story…

I have spoken at numerous conferences, and as a speaker, you have to be prepared for any “unplanned happenings” during a presentation. The bottom line is that I only have a specified amount of time to speak. Because educational credit is provided for my sessions, I am required to speak the entire length of time for which I am scheduled. I was speaking at one conference when a huge thunderstorm came through and knocked out all of the electricity. We were in a room with no windows, so I, along with several hundred conference attendees were literally in pitch black darkness. Knowing that I could not afford to wait the storm out, and because I am such a “visual” speaker, I continued with my presentation, alluding to my facial expressions, and hand motions. In the middle of my doing this, a board member had gone to her car and gotten a flashlight. Of course, being a kid at heart, when they gave me the flashlight, the first thing I did was place it under my chin and began making “monster faces.” The audience was on the floor laughing (although I could not see them…). I then continued my presentation in the dark, with the help of the flashlight. The executive board was more than pleased that I had not let the situation sidetrack my presentation.

On another occasion, I was in Florida making a presentation in a room that had windows and two doors that led directly outside. During my presentation we began hearing a cat (apparently in heat) “meowing” really loud right outside one of the doors. I would say a few words, and then the cat would “say a few words.” Everyone began trying very hard not to laugh, including me! The dialogue kept going back and forth to the point that I could no longer tell which “Cat” the audience was listening to. I knew that this was a “battle” that I was not going to win, so I just stopped, and asked someone near the door to please let the cat come in! Once the cat got inside, he immediately stopped his caterwauling and I was able to finish my presentation.

In life, no matter how well you have things planned, the “unexpected” always happens. How well you deal with those unexpected “life events” depends on your attitude, graciousness and confidence. You can let those events defeat you, destroy the moment, and take away your success, OR…you can embrace the experience and rise to the challenge. The choice is always up to you! And believe me, someone is always watching to see exactly how you deal with those unplanned “moments.” What are your actions saying about you? I hope that I always show grace, patience, and innovative responses to those unexpected life events. Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

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My Grandpa Was A REAL Cowboy!!

WOW!! We have had some kind of cold weather here in the South!! And NO, we are NOT used to it!! One inch of snow can totally shut down an entire city, so you can imagine how we have dealt with 6+ inches!! Lots of fun, but I am so ready for Spring. Hope all of you are staying warm!

Whenever I remember my Grandpa Selman, an immediate image comes into view…a tall, fit man in a cowboy hat and cowboy boots…and usually on a horse. We lived on the property with my grandparents for much of my early young life. You can imagine how this “man’s man” handled having three little girls under his feet all of the time. I’m sure he was glad to have our little rascal brother come along later on… Although he could come across a little gruff at times, he was just a big ole’ teddy bear that was so tender, gentle, patient, and loving with us. We loved him!!

He was bigger than life to me. I can remember him pulling up a rifle from the hip and taking the head off of a snake that was wound around a fence we were about to approach. He was so good a marksman, he didn’t even have to bring the rifle up to his shoulder and aim…he just shot from the hip. The Rifleman had nothing on him!! I would follow him around everywhere and he taught me quite a lot. He taught us how to care for animals, how to respect nature, how to build, how to lay brick, how to be obedient and respectful…the list goes on and on. On this one particular day he taught me how to stand up for myself.

Some of my cousins lived across the road from our house, and, of course, they would either come over to our house everyday, or we would go to theirs. As children will do, we usually ended up arguing and getting in a fight. I would usually back down and get the “worse for wear” when those “encounters” took place. In other words, my cousin would always win the “fight.” I had no idea that my grandpa had been observing a number of these altercations. On this occasion, after my cousin had gone home, my grandpa sat me on his lap, brushing my tears away. After I had stopped crying, he sat me up where I could look him straight in the eye. He explained to me that I should not back down each time, and let my cousin “run over” me. He went on to say that the next time my cousin came over, and I let him get the best of me, that he was going to give me a spanking if I did not stand up for myself. Now, I know some of you are already in an uproar that anyone would spank a child, but you have to know that my grandfather never, ever lifted a hand to me in his lifetime. I think it would have broken his heart if he had. He would have been the one who ended up crying. Course, being a child, I did not know that he would not follow through on that promise.

So the day began, and my cousin came over to play. And sure as the world, we got into a disagreement, and the shoving began. I was about to let him win, when I happened to see my grandpa standing behind a tree observing the entire incident. That’s all I needed!! I went after my cousin with everything that was in me, and I won that day! I looked over at Grandpa, and he grinned and winked at me. A funny thing happened after that incident…my cousin never picked a fight with me again. There seemed to be a mutual respect between us from that point on.

Now, this is a childhood story, and I certainly am not advocating that people should reconcile their differences by fighting each other. However, I learned a valuable lesson that day. If you allow someone to “run over” you once, they will continue to do so. Who will stand in your defense if you do not know how to do that for yourself? Respect yourself enough to defend who you are and what you believe in. Do it in a mature, communicative, non-violent manner. There’s nothing wrong with standing up for yourself…be strong! That’s what I try to do. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Who to call??

It was a year ago this week that I lost my Mother. They say that time will ease the pain, and I am so hoping that is the truth. However, I pretty much know that the hole in my heart will be felt for the remainder of my life. I am coping much better, but there have been so many “adjustments” that have had to be made in my day to day life. There’s one that has been harder to accept than others, and that was the daily phone call that I made to my Mama. No matter which part of the country I was in, I always made it a point to “check in.”

Even in the later stages of her disease, when thought process and memory became even more of an issue, she seemed to remember that I would be calling. We would talk about everything and anything…and laugh a lot. At the end of each call, when it came time to say good-bye, Mother would thank me for calling. She would always comment that not all children would call their parents on a daily basis, and she appreciated it.  I would always tell her that I did not call for her and Daddy, but rather, I called for me…that I needed to hear their voices.

I had a dear friend that lost her Mom a number of years ago. During one of our conversations, as she was describing her loss, she said, “there’s no one to call now.” I asked, “What do you mean?” She shared that whenever she went on a trip, she would call to say goodbye, and then upon returning, she would call to say she had made it back home safely. This was just one example of the calls that she made to her mother on a regular basis. I empathized with her, but did not truly understand the depth of that particular loss, until I experienced that same loss myself. Now, I still call my father, but it is not the same. My Mama was the “talker.”

Those of you who have parents who are still living, if you can’t visit them, please give them the gift of hearing your voice on the phone. How much time would it take? Five minutes? And what a difference those five minutes would make in their lives! Believe me, there will come a time when you would give everything to just pick up the phone, and hear their voice. What I would not give for just one more phone call…Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

There’s an elephant in the room…

I’m hoping that everyone stayed warm this past week. I don’t know about you, but I am so ready for Spring! I was disheartened to hear that the “official” groundhog saw his shadow, meaning six more weeks of cold weather…Oh well, that will make us just that more thankful when warm weather does finally arrive! Now, to this week’s story…

Whenever I travel to a conference, even for one presentation, I always take two outfits to wear. You never know what might happen, and I like to have a “spare,” just in case… On this particular occasion, I was headed down to Orlando, FL, for a huge conference. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I had just picked up a brushed silk suit from the dry cleaners, so I threw it in my garment bag, and headed for the airport. I cannot explain why I did not take two suits for that trip.

I arrived at the hotel and settled in for the evening. The next morning, I got up as usual, took my shower, and began getting dressed. I pulled my suit out and stepped into the skirt. Once I had the skirt on, I looked down and realized that there was a HUGE crease going from my right hip down to my left knee. In other words, the entire front of the skirt was creased. It looked awful! I quickly got out of the skirt and fired up the steam iron. I pressed and pressed that skirt to no avail. Nothing I did removed the crease!

(At this point in the story, I need to give you a little background about me. As a professional speaker, I am very particular about how I dress. The hair has to be “just right,” which most days can prove to be a challenge in that I have naturally curly hair. I get a surprise each morning because I never know which way it is going to go…I use just enough makeup to hide nature’s damages, but not enough to make me look like a hussy. The suits must be stylish, clean, fit well, have no creases or lines, and NO “rumples” anywhere. Shoes must be polished and have no noticeable scrapes. If  even one of these areas are not as they should be, it will definitely impact my presentation and delivery.)

So here I was in Orlando with only one suit, and it had that big ole’ crease across the front. What to do? I knew that once I got onstage, and started my keynote address, that people would be noticing the crease, and for some, it would become so distracting, that they would not hear my message. As I stood to the side, waiting for my introduction and cue to come onstage, I was perplexed as to how I could reconcile that blasted crease. The moment came, the introduction was given, and I made my way to the center of the stage. I walked to the very edge of the stage, as close to the audience as possible, and said, “I would like to draw everyone’s attention to my skirt, and the crease on the front. I do not normally wear wrinkled clothing. I know that it is there, and I tried to get rid of it, but here’s a little life secret that just might help you out in the future. If the dry cleaners put the crease in, they are the ONLY ones who can remove it! So take a good look at it, satisfy your curiosity, and I will begin.” The audience broke out into hysterical laughter and applause! In fact, I had to wait quite a few moments for them to settle down. I then gave the keynote that they were expecting, and it ended better than I had anticipated.

Why is it, that when there is something so obviously wrong (like the elephant in the middle of the room), that we act like it doesn’t exist; knowing that all anyone can see or think about IS the elephant in the room? I have found that when you go ahead and bring the problem out into the open for dialogue and communication, you take away it’s ability to cripple and limit you. I try very hard to maintain that control, keep the lines of communication open, and talk about that elephant. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…