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….

No, HERE’S What We Are Going To Do, “Mister” Policeman…

I will need to make a disclaimer for this week’s story. I have good friends who are policemen/women, and they are good, honest, caring, and the kind of honorable professionals who would truly give their lives to protect you. This story is NOT about them and should not be considered as my opinion of this particular profession.

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I DID NOT WANT HIM!! I was doing just fine being the baby girl, and then, suddenly, one day, they brought him home. They tell me that I went out to the carport, sat on the steps, placed my head on my arms, and sobbed my little heart out. At least that’s what I did until Grandma came out, scooped me up in her lap and arms, and whispered the words that I so badly needed to hear…”You can be my baby…” And that was that! My world was fixed for the moment. Of course, I was still going to have to deal with him…

As you can tell by the expression on my face in the photo, my feelings for the little fella changed…I grew to adore him. He ended up being “my baby,” and I have loved him all of his life. I am his fierce protector and friend…ALWAYS looking out for him and taking care of him….no matter how old he gets…and tomorrow is his birthday. He is four years younger than me, and do we have stories…

As most of you know, my Father was a minister, which made us four children “preacher’s kids.” Out of the four of us, my brother was the only one that rebelled against everything that he was taught. From the period of high school to early adulthood, he was into everything…especially alcohol and drugs. My parents tried everything within their power to help, guide, and attempt to get him to realize that he had a huge problem. After one too many incidents and car accidents, my Mother told him, “No more! If you are involved in any other type of altercation or accident, do NOT call me of your father. We won’t be coming to help you!” We knew they meant it! I tried to help him with everything that was in me, but it fell on deaf ears. I tried to get him to understand that there would be no “next time” with Mother and Daddy. I could not, for the life of me, understand how this precious child/young man, who I loved more than life itself, had gotten so messed up.

I happened to be home visiting with my folks on this particular weekend. My brother left for a night of partying with his friends. At 1:00a.m. Mother got the call from the hospital…my brother had just wrapped his car around a telephone pole, right at the entrance of our little town’s hospital. In fact, the hospital was using emergency generators, as his wreck had knocked out their electrical power. I found out later that the emergency room staff had been listening to the police chase on their radios before the accident occurred. Mother came to my room and woke me up with the news. She said, “I’m not going to the hospital. I told him that if he did not straighten up, I would not come the next time.” She was crying as she spoke the words. I was shocked, even though I knew it was the right decision, and she and Daddy had to stand firm. So I got dressed as quickly as I could, and dashed out to the hospital.

I got to the hospital and they let me in to see him as soon as I arrived. Fortunately, he only had a few cuts and bruises. God had spared his life one more time. He was crying for Mother, and I explained that she would not be coming. He cried harder, repentant and asking forgiveness…with both of us knowing that he would not change…At that moment, one of the policemen, who had been chasing him (quite a few times…not just this particular night) asked to see me outside. We stepped out into the darkness at the entrance of the emergency room. He brought out a little white bag of cocaine and said, “We found this in your brother’s car. I’m going to have to arrest him.” In that moment, I remembered that little baby boy being brought home, all of our loving times together, and now this policeman was telling me that he was going to prison. I then did something unexpected. I looked at that cop, and said, “NO! You are NOT going to arrest my brother! You are going to let me take him, away from this town, and you will never see him again!” He said, “You know I cannot do that. I have to take him in!” And I said, “If you arrest my brother, I will tell your wife (a friend of mine) about the affair you are having with…(and I spoke the name of the young lady with whom he was involved).” He knew I was speaking the truth, and that I would not hesitate to follow through. My heart was beating a mile a minute as I waited for his answer. He slowly put the bag of cocaine back in this jacket, and said, “Get him out of here!” I did!!

And as they say….the rest is history…I did take him away from that little small town, and he did live with me for a number of years afterwards. There were “slip-ups”…I would find the occasional bag of marijuana…he had my car impounded while I was away on a business trip…but the end result was what I was hoping and praying for. He ended up getting his life together. I got to introduce him to the lady who became his wife. Together, they have been ministers for most of their lives. A happy ending after all…He will never know the number of prayers that were whispered for him by literally hundreds of people…CONSTANTLY! He was given that “second chance,” and has worked hard to “make it count.”

Don’t ever say “never.” If you had asked me beforehand, if I would ever blackmail a policeman, I would have thought that you were out of your mind…preposterous! However, in that moment, realizing the ramifications of my brother’s choices, and how those choices were going to impact his future, I acted in the only way that I could…The only way that my heart and love would allow. (And just for the record, I found out about 10 years ago that my brother did NOT have any cocaine in his car, or on his person, that night. He had every other kind of drug, but not cocaine. It was a setup!) My message for this week is this: keep having hope and believing in miracles. Don’t ever give up! Remember, someone, somewhere is whispering your name in prayer…Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

You’re not smart enough to do that….

Not too long ago, I gave the opening keynote at a large state association annual conference. The title of my session was: “The Power at Hand.” Basically, I explain to people how much power they have within themselves (most don’t realize this…), and I encourage them to discover that power, and use it for good in their own lives…and subsequently, impact the world in which they live. As is the norm in these type of situations (and a part of my work that I love…), attendees will come up after the session, introduce themselves and we “visit” for a little while. The same routine was occurring at the end of this particular presentation.

As I was talking with some of the people, I noticed a lady over to the side, by herself, waiting to talk with me. She was crying. She very patiently waited for all the other people to leave, and she slowly made her way to me. As she walked towards me, she went from silently crying to almost convulsive sobs. When she got within reaching distance, I stretched out my arms to this perfect stranger, and clutched her to my chest, just like a mother trying to comfort a child. I let her sob for quite a few minutes. 

As the sobs began to subside, she began to tell me her story. The first words out of her mouth were, “I ALWAYS wanted to be a nurse.” I looked at her and asked the obvious question, “Why did you not become one?” She looked at me so pitifully and said that when she was in high school, the career counselor told her she was not smart enough to be a nurse. My first reaction to this revelation was one of total and complete sorrow. The second reaction was one of righteous ANGER!! I wanted vengeance for this woman…I wanted to correct the situation…I wanted that “career” counselor to grovel, prostrate, in front of this broken women, and beg for her forgiveness. But, being the professional that I am, I did not indicate any of that. I realized that the words I spoke to this sweet, sweet woman, were going to be just as important as the words of that high school counselor. 

With my arms still around her, I asked, “What is your current position?” She said, “I am Supervisor of the Activity Department at a nursing facility.” I then asked a question that I already knew the answer to, “Do you have annual state and federal surveys (inspections)?” She indicated that she did. I asked, “Have you ever received a deficiency, or citation for noncompliance?” She said, “No, never!” And then I said, “Then you must be pretty smart! I know the regulations, as well as the survey process, and I am quite aware that an unintelligent person would not be able to pass those surveys.” She looked at me as if she had never thought of that, and said, “You’re RIGHT!!” We talked for quite a while longer, and then I told her that she could still become a nurse if she wanted to…that she had time to do so. I also encouraged her to stop giving that old high school counselor the “power” over her life and how she perceived herself. We parted ways at the end of our conversation…her, a much happier, determined woman…me, a little sadder that she had lost so many years, believing the words of a “professional in authority,” yet, I was also a little happier in that I do believe the words I used actually helped her realize the possibilities and potential of her life.

What words of encouragement to others have you used today? I hear parents telling children how dumb they are, how they are “driving them crazy,” how “bothersome” they are…and my heart breaks for that child. I hear couples continually finding fault with each other, using words and “negatives” to describe actions, intelligence and decisions…and my heart breaks for those couples. I see friends use sweeter words with perfect strangers, just in passing, than they use with the friends of their heart…and my heart breaks for those individuals. A physical blow will at some point heal; that does not diminish its severity. However, words pierce the very souls of children, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, friends, elders, parents, and even though time heals most incidents, “words” are almost always remembered. What do your words say about you? Do your words encourage and comfort those in your life, or do they continually berate and harm? You see in my story that “words” caused a young person to lose belief in a dream, and impacted how she viewed herself the rest of her life. I want my words to be remembered because they were kind, supportive, encouraging, and most of all…LOVING! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

It Will Never Be The Same Again…

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As many of you know, my Mother passed away in February – that means that this weekend holds a holiday that I have never experienced without my Mother. So, here’s the story for this week…

Two weeks ago I had to go grocery shopping. We were just about to head to the checkout, when I remembered that I needed just one more item. I rushed back to the area where I thought the item could be found, and turned down an aisle to get there a little faster. As soon as I started walking a few feet into the aisle, I realized that I had made a mistake. I had unknowingly turned down the greeting card aisle, and plastered everywhere were Mother’s Day cards. In an instant my eyes were filling with tears as I realized that this year I would not be buying a Mother’s Day card, nor would I be making the trip to spend the weekend with her in celebration. I left the aisle as quickly as I possibly could, and tried not to think about what I had just seen, and what it meant for me.

I will be honest…I have struggled with this loss, just as I struggled with her disease process. I have the skills, expertise and ability to train healthcare professionals in these areas, but I have been rather inept in helping myself. I have a very dear friend, who has watched this struggle of mine. She finally asked me, “Cat, just what are you thinking and feeling? What are you hoping for? What are you looking for?” And I tried to verbalize…I said, “I don’t feel Mother’s presence. In my mind, I just assumed, because we were so close, that when she died…I would feel her presence ‘with me’ constantly. That has not happened, and I don’t know what to do.” As soon as I expressed those thoughts, she said, “Cat, she is with you every day…she is in your heart…she is in your mind…she is living inside you.” And now comes the best part…she said, “All you have to do to ‘feel her’ is continue being the person that she wanted you to be.” And just like that, I felt a peace that I had not felt since Mama’s death. You see, I realized that this is something I could do! I can be the person she raised and was proud of…I can emulate the character, integrity and Christ-like traits that she taught by living example. You see, I simply do NOT know how else to be, but who I am…who she made…and who she loved.  I AM my Mother’s child!

For those of you whose mothers are still living…MAKE the time and effort to visit with them, make memories with them, enjoy them, just “be” with them…for one day, they absolutely will be gone from your life…and it will never be the same again. For those of you whose mothers are no longer living, do what I am doing…let’s live the lives that our Mamas taught us to live…strong in faith, compassion, loyalty and love…and ALWAYS doing for others. BE the person that “Mama” would have you be. Won’t you join me? Just for this week….