It’s just what I do…

One of the great blessings in my life is that I have wonderful friends who live all over the world! We can go weeks, months, or even years without seeing each other, and still slip into that easy comfort of closeness and friendship when we do actually get together. What makes things even more fun is when we meet for a fun-filled vacation at various “spots” that appeal to our sense of adventure and relaxation. This week’s story is about one such “adventure….”

Anyone who knows me, knows what I have done in my career, and why… I have worked all of my life working with, advocating for, protecting, providing care, and LOVING “old” people. The correct word to describe them is “elders,” but I wanted all of you to understand who I am talking about. I know that my love for this special group started as a child, loving my grandparents. And, oh my, did I LOVE them!! That love continued to grow as I fell hard and fast for each and every old person who attended all of my Daddy’s little country churches over the years. So, when I say I LOVE old people, it is not said lightly. It means they FILL my heart, that my emotions swell with joy, love, compassion, and that I just want to take care of them and make certain they have a wonderful quality of life.

Now, getting back to the story…As much as I love elders, there are times when I don’t want to feel the responsibility of caring for them; times when I simply want to turn off all the feelings, just relax and take care of me for a little while. I call these times vacations! And to be honest, I really have to work at turning off those “nurturing” feelings during this all too short timeframe. I don’t want to see an old person, think about an old person, take care of an old person…

So, some of my friends and I decided to go the “islands” for a vacation, and we were all going to meet in Atlanta at the airport and then fly to our final destination. All of our flights actually arrived on time in Atlanta (which was EXTREMELY UNUSUAL – lol!), and we had a “decent” layover before the next connecting flight. As we were sitting at our gate, waiting, we began to smell freshly popped popcorn. Our noses went on alert, searching for the source. I finally said, “I’ll go find the popcorn and get us some!” I began making my way down the terminal, just like an old coon dog, sniffing out where the popcorn was. I finally saw a little kiosk…the source of that wonderful smell. Standing behind the kiosk was an employee who obviously thought that this was her very last day on earth, and she had to come to work!! Really, what an attitude!! Grumpy and rude would not even begin to describe this woman accurately.

Standing in front of the kiosk was a short, very old woman, who would have fit Hollywood’s usual portrayal of a Russian itinerant worker. Her face was tracked with hundreds of lines reflecting a very long life of hardship, poverty, and possible sorrow. Shoulders stooped, the woman wore a dark olive shawl, draped over her head, and a long, thick skirt in the same color and material. Workman boots completed the outfit, and there was not one tooth in her mouth that I could see. And, she was OLD! From my observations, I determined that she could not speak the English language, and she did not have any money; however, she wanted some popcorn. She was trying to convey to the horrible employee that she just wanted a little taste of the popcorn, but did not have any money. I was standing in line behind the Russian woman, and there was this monster-sized cowboy standing behind me. He had to have been from Texas! He wore a huge 10-gallon hat, had cowboy boots the size of watermelons, and I’m certain he had to turn sideways to get those shoulders through a door!

As I was standing there, I began to feel my heart starting up…FEELING…wanting to put my arms around her…wanting to protect her…wanting to simply love her…My brain kicked in to counteract those feelings…stop it…you are on vacation…not your job…not your responsibility…you NEED this break…I emotionally took a step back to see how the situation might develop. The little Russian woman continued to try to convey what she wanted, and the employee continued to get uglier and uglier in her actions. The employee then “shushed” and waved the woman away, like she was a fly or insect. That was all it took for me. I swept into action, vacation or no vacation, it did not matter at that point. I leaned in to the employee, and in a voice that you hope you don’t EVER hear from me, said these words, “Give her the largest bag of popcorn that you have. Put a smile on your face as you are giving the popcorn to her, and THANK HER for her business! I will pay for it!! Do it NOW!” The employee hurriedly did exactly what I asked. As she was doing this, the cowboy leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Ma’am, if you had not done that, I was fixin’ to!” (Yes, cowboys ARE wonderful!!) The Russian woman realized what I had done, and followed me all the way to my gate, blowing kisses to me, with a big ole’ smile on her face. That is what my friends saw as I came back to my seat with their popcorn. I gave them all of their popcorn, and nobody said anything until we had “settled in.” They then all looked at me, and said, “What did you do this time?” My response? “Oh, you know me…It’s what I do…”

How can you NOT do a kindness for someone when it is well within your power to do so? Whether a person is old, young, middle-aged, poor, rich, in-between, what does it matter? The compassion and power to help others is something that lies within all of us. Some of us just act more readily when prompted. Amy Grant’s grandfather, A. M. Burton, made a statement years ago that went something like this: “Life is made up of golden chances, opportunities to do good. One lost is lost forever. If we miss doing a kindness to a friend, we can never do that kindness again. If we might speak a pleasant word, or offer a bit of worthwhile counsel or advice and fail to do so, we can never have just that opportunity again. Giving is a way of life.” How about joining me in giving as much as we can, whenever we can? It’s what we do! Just for this week…

How do you know all of that???

I live in a very small town in east Tennessee, and absolutely love living there; however, there ARE a few drawbacks. The one that I have the biggest adjustment problem with, is the lack of restaurants. We only had two…that is, until recently.  The sweetest couple from New York (by way of Florida) opened up a little pizzeria/Italian place, and the food is simply wonderful. That, along with the fact that they treat me like a queen when I walk in, assures that I will be a life-long customer! I eat there about once a week, and eating so much Italian food got me to thinking about another Italian restaurant in Georgia…

My best friend’s cousin was getting married, and the entire family was invited, not only to the wedding, but to the rehearsal dinner as well. It was going to be a fun, family time (with lots of talking and laughter) at a wonderful restaurant named Maggiano’s. The tables were reserved for us, and decorated beautifully. They had placed all of the cousins at one large table, so we knew it was going to be fun. The menu was simply unbelievable!! They had decided to give us a sample of almost everything on the menu for our meal! Scrumptious!!

My friend’s first cousin was sitting next to me, and we were visiting, talking, and eating. Each time they would serve a new sample, he would look at me and ask,” What is that?” I replied, “Spinach and Artichoke al Forno.” He commented how good it was! They served the next item. Once again, he looked at me and asked, “What is this?” I said, “Tomato Caprese.” It went on like this all night…he would ask, and I would reply, “Shrimp Fra  Diavolo,” or “Four-cheese Ravioli,” or “Lobster Carbonara.” You get the idea. Finally, he looked at me, and said, “I am some kinda impressed! You know ALL the names of the food dishes. Just HOW do you know all of that?” I smiled sweetly, and said, “Well…it’s all printed up for us on this little menu sitting in front of your plate.” We all just busted out laughing!!! He had never seen the printed menu laying there in front of him! He was a good sport and joined in with all the laughter.

There are times in life that we simply do not know the answers to any of the questions. We immediately begin asking others for advice and information; however, sometimes the very answers we need are right in front of our eyes. All of us possess innate skills and abilities, but far too often we are convinced that we are inadequate, or even inferior, to the knowledge, education and experience of others. We sell ourselves short! And I have found that when you continually compare yourself to others, you can ALWAYS find someone who has more expertise or knowledge than you do. On the other hand, there are also many that do not have the knowledge or experience in areas in which you excel. So why are you comparing? Look deep inside yourself first, do the research, really look at what is around you before you begin asking others for those very necessary “answers.” Sometimes the “menu” is right before your very eyes! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

 

 

 

The sweetest lady took care of me last night…

Those of you who have followed this blog have noticed that I have been “quiet” for a while. Every now and then you simply need a little time to “refresh” yourself, and I guess that is what I have been doing. “They” tell us that most individuals conduct a “self-analysis” of their lives every 10-12 years – to determine if we are on the “right path;” or if our accomplishments have been what we strove to attain; or simply if we are “happy.” This self-examination often coincides with those birthdays that end in a “zero.” I have always been off schedule in that my self evaluations never coincide with the BIG birthdays…So I guess that is what I have been doing for the last 9 months or so. I keep thinking that maybe people are tired of my stories and that I should stop, but then I get an annual report that indicates I have thousands of followers in 77 countries. Those numbers simply take my breath away! I am humbled, and think, that maybe, just maybe, people need to hear some of my truths…and some of my craziness. So……I am back for a while. Hope you enjoy, and if you do, please become a follower, and leave me a comment now and then. I love hearing from you guys!

Most of you know that my Mama is the main reason for this blog, that she had Alzheimer’s Disease, and that some of the stories involve our journey through that living hell. Today is such a story. We tried to keep Mother at home, as long as possible, taking care of her ourselves. My Father was the main caregiver, with help from each of the children. Each month, I would go down and stay with them for a week or two at a time.

On this particular visit, Mama certainly recognized me, and during the days, we would visit, laugh, and love on each other. Each night, I would sleep in a bed right next to hers so that I would be able to hear if she needed something, or attempted to get up by herself. On this night, she woke up around midnight, needing to go to the bathroom. We kept a potty chair at her bedside during the night to make everything easier and more comfortable for her. I got up and helped her get out of bed, and assisted her with both verbal direction and physical assistance. When your brain is atrophying, and signals are being neither sent nor received, something so simple as going to the bathroom can become a huge challenge for both the caregiver and the person needing care. It took us a while, but with patience, compassion, and simple communication, we were able to accomplish what she needed.

The next morning, Mama woke up early, all bright and cheerful. I jumped up, went over to her, gave her a kiss and said, “Good morning!” As I was helping her up for that first cup of coffee, she looked at me and said, “The sweetest lady helped me all night long! She was so nice!” I looked at her and said, “Mama, that is wonderful! I am so glad that someone sweet was there to help you.”

Now, as we know, I WAS THAT SWEET LADY! In the night, she never knew, or recognized, that it was her own daughter providing care and assistance. And for me, it just did not matter! I did not care WHO got the credit for providing the care. I was just glad that she saw me as someone who was caring, sweet, and willing to help.

This event made me wonder how we view ourselves when helping another person(s), and why we choose to help someone else. I am not referring to just health care, or physical assistance. I’m talking about ANY time we provide help, whether it is giving someone directions who is lost, holding a door open for someone out of courtesy, slipping someone a little cash to cover an unmet need, lending physical assistance when friends are moving into a new house, or just listening when someone needs to talk. It could be ANYTHING!! Do we provide help because we want recognition or credit that we “did a good deed,” or because it makes us look good to others? Is it a selfless act, wanting nothing in return? Or do we want “credit where credit is due?” I often wonder if we would be as generous in our giving, if we knew no one would ever know… A.M. Burton, grandfather to Amy Grant (a well-known gospel singer), stated the following: “Life is made up of golden chances, opportunities to do good. One lost is lost forever. If we miss doing a kindness to a friend, we can never do that kindness again. If we might speak a pleasant word, or offer a bit of worthwhile counsel or advice and fail to do so, we can never have just that opportunity again. Giving is a way of life.” I want my giving and helping to be selfless. I don’t need the recognition or credit. I want it to be given out of caring and love. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

 

“We beat it 2 death. Lol! Hahaha!”

I have had to wait to write this post as I have been so heartbroken and outraged over what happened to this little dog. If you are wondering what I am referring to…Two weeks ago a family in south FL could not find their little Pomeranian. The next morning they found the sweet pup laying at their front door, dead, with a note attached saying…”We beat it 2 death. Lol! Hahaha!” WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE????? Most of you who know me, know that I have such a tender heart and that I cannot, and DO NOT, accept or tolerate the abuse of any living being, especially children, women, elders, and animals.

When did our society become so barbaric and uncaring that someone could do this to a little innocent dog, and so far, get away with it?? Are people so enraged within themselves that they have to take those emotions and feelings out on some innocent? Why is it that others suffer when an individual or individuals cannot deal with their own failings as a human being? Do we not care as a society? Is it a case of “out of sight, out of mind?” Do these things just not matter anymore? I keep asking myself those questions, and keep trying to figure out how to correct what is SO WRONG with our world…

I want the world to be different. I want it to be a better place. I want people NOT to hurt or harm any other living being – EVER!!! So how does this happen? Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” So, let me tell you, I am going to start that change with me. I cannot “fix,” or be accountable, for everyone else, but I can certainly be accountable for me. Some things I intend to do so that this event is not forgotten and does not happen ever again…

I am publicizing this event on every piece of social media available so that maybe, just maybe, some neighbor in FL will know something, or have heard something, that will lead to the arrest and punishment of the individuals who beat that little dog. I intend to push my legislators (and support those organizations who lead this action) for stronger laws governing this type of crime. I will financially support those organizations (who I have researched and properly vetted) that rescue those precious animals who have no one to love them. I WILL REPORT any abuse and mistreatment that I see or become aware of to the appropriate agencies within my city and state. I will help support our local humane shelters. I WILL get involved!! And I will continue to show love and compassion to all of God’s wonderful creations. Me, you, ALL of us, “can be the change.” Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

My Mama and the FBI…

I don’t really know whether this is just a “Southern” thing, or not, but whenever I mention this particular “event,” most people from the South, if they were raised in a small town, readily identify with what I am about to say. It was not uncommon in the summer (or Sunday) afternoons, for my Mamaw Barber to swing by and pick up my Mama and us kids to take us riding “around town.” The ride ALWAYS ended with a drive-by, or swing-through, the local cemetery. All us kids were jammed together in the backseat (usually laughing and/or fighting – but ALWAYS having a good time…), but we would get really quiet as we rode solemnly through the grave yard. We would hear Mamaw and Mama commenting on the different people, whose names appeared on the various headstones. Comments such as, “You know his wife has remarried, don’t you?” Or, “She used to make the best apple pie around!” Or, “Do you know whatever happened to….?” It was as if they were visiting old friends. For my part; however, I was always thinking…”WE’RE IN A CEMETERY!!!”

(Now, as an aside, I have to tell you that our neighbors ran a little hamburger stand just down the street from where we lived, and my Mama, at one time, worked there. She pretty much knew everyone in town, so when someone came by that she did not know, it got her curiosity up. So, it happened one day, that a stranger, a man no one in town knew, began coming by the hamburger stand and, of course, would order a meal of some type. This began a daily event for him and my Mother.)

On this particular evening, Mamaw picked all of us up for the traditional ride around town. As we were riding around some of the neighborhoods, Mama got all excited when she recognized “the stranger” sitting out on the front porch of one of the houses we had passed by. She began sharing how this man had just started showing up everyday at the hamburger stand, and how “mysterious” it was that no one seemed to know where he came from…or what he did…We all listened with delight, but did not think too much of the situation. However, we teased Mother unmercifully about being a detective and made fun references to her “unpaid” role as an FBI agent.

After a month or so, a black sedan pulled up to the hamburger stand, and two men, in black suits and sunglasses, got out of the car. They approached the window of the hamburger stand, where my Mama was waiting, with a smile, to take their order. Her “detective” radar and energies were on high alert. One man approached the window as the other one stood to the side. He identified himself as an agent with the FBI, and wanted to ask Mother a few questions. He was asking about a specific man…a man who turned out to be Mama’s daily visitor at the hamburger stand. The FBI agent pulled out a photograph, and asked Mama if she had ever seen this man. She immediately told him that she did recognize the man in the photograph, and, even better, she could show them where he lived!! The FBI was more than gratified, took the information, and left. We never saw the mysterious stranger again, never knew what had happened to him, or why he was being hunted by the FBI.

That story has given our family more laughs than you can imagine! We lived in such a little town, and everyone just knew everyone else (and all of their business, it seemed). Whenever a new person moved into our area, we got to know them, and it usually did not take more than a day, to determine their life history. We were a “community” in every sense of the word. Neighbors knew all of the kids that should be present, and went on alert when the “normal crew” did not show up. Parents did not worry about their children being outside, or down the street, because they knew some sweet, caring neighbor was watching. It really was a “village” helping to raise the children, and protecting them.

That “neighborly” philosophy has followed me all of my life. No matter where I live, I have always gotten to know my neighbors – not in a nosey, “in their business,” sort of way, but with genuine and sincere interest. I chose my current neighborhood with purpose. I wanted that “old-fashioned” feel of community. I wanted to pass neighbors and friends each morning on my daily walks, to stop and chat and “catch up,” to watch their homes when they were out of town, to have them watch my home when I was out of town, and to just drop by for impromptu visits. I can’t begin to imagine living next door to someone I don’t know…or even attempt to know…or speak to when I pass them on the street.

It seems we have become millions of little islands to ourselves…only interacting with whoever we live with, or whoever we work with. When did this happen, and is it a good thing? I don’t think so. I think the more we invest in relationships, and genuine caring, we begin creating those wonderful neighborhoods and communities, where we love, argue, support, defend, protect and share…all for the common good. I think I will make more of an effort to love my neighbors, and leave the “investigating” to the FBI… Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

“I don’t want to be a burden…”

Most of you know that I began this blog as a way to deal with my own grief…while watching my Mother slowly die, literally and figuratively, of Alzheimer’s Disease. Those who loved her beyond reason, had to stand by and watch her descend into that living hell. She remained home, with family, until we could no longer give her the care that she so desperately needed. One of our strategies, to keep her home as long as possible, was to “share” the responsibility of her care among the four children and my Father. Part of my responsibility (and honor) was to stay with her and Daddy, one week out of every month (more often, as I could)…

Mother had gotten to a point where she could not bathe herself, go to the bathroom by herself, or feed herself. So, on this particular day, it was time for her shower. I found it easier (and safer) to just get in the shower with her, and gently bathe her as we talked, laughed, and reminisced. Some times this was a difficult task for her, in that she could not follow or understand anything that I was saying. Other times, bathing was easy, and she would assist me with her own care.

We were both in the shower, drenched from head to toe, and she placed her hand on my arm and made me stop. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I never wanted you children to have to do this. I never wanted to be a burden.” Those words broke my heart and I struggled to find just the right thing to say, to convince her that she was never a burden to us. With a smile on my face, I said, “Mama, didn’t you tell me that when I was a baby, while nursing, the only way you could get me to go to sleep was to let me pinch the skin under your arm, and roll it back and forth between my fingers?” She smiled so sweetly with the memory, and said, “Yes, that’s right.” I asked her, “Didn’t it hurt?” She said, “Yes, but that motion somehow soothed you, and you would go to sleep every time.” I then said, “Didn’t you spend countless, sleepless nights, sitting by my bed, or laying beside me, or just holding me, because I was so sick that you would not leave me alone?” Again, she said, “Yes, I did!” I continued to tell her that there were too many examples to count, too many memories of selfless sacrifices that she had made not only in my behalf, but for all of her children. I asked her if she considered being our Mother a burden. She looked at me in shock, and said, “No! I loved all of you, and I wanted to take care of you!” I then explained that we were doing the same thing for her now; that we wanted to take care of her, out of our love for her. She smiled through tears, and said “OK, then! That’s settled.”

Some times the greatest gift we can give someone is to simply accept their help and caring. Those who are being cared for DO feel like a “burden” to their family. You have a choice as to how you are going to make that person feel…You have a choice as to HOW you are going to give that care – either out of guilt or out of love…and your actions will indicate which choice you made. Have you let your parents, or loved ones, know that they are NOT a burden? Or do you let them know how inconvenienced you are? I tell families and caregivers all the time, “It’s not that you just gave the care, and got it accomplished, but rather, HOW you gave the care.” Do you make them feel guilty? Let those individuals, the ones you are caring for, know that providing care and assistance is an act of love… I don’t ever want someone I love to feel as if they are a burden to me. Caring should be given freely, from the heart. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Is that punch SPIKED???

photo

Sunday was Father’s Day!  I am so thankful that I still have a wonderful “Daddy” to honor and celebrate. He will be 90 in the fall of this year, and is doing well. We are going to have a HUGE party to celebrate this monumental occasion. He is already excited, telling everyone within listening distance that he is going to be 90!!! “90,” he says with wonder…he cannot believe it!  Most of you know that he was a Minister (preacher) for all of my life, which does make me a preacher’s kid…and I don’t want to hear any grief about that…lol! He pastored small country churches. I am certain that much of my love, respect, and passion for elders was developed in those little churches, because small country churches are FILLED with older adults (who sing really, really loud…). This week’s story is about an event that happened in one of those churches…

Just like in larger, metropolitan churches, babies are born, couples get married/divorced, and people die. As a result of those life events, my Father conducted numerous ceremonies for his church members. As the pastor’s family, we were not expected to attend the funerals; however, if it was a “joyous” occasion, like a wedding, we put on our “Sunday go to meeting” clothes, and got to attend. My Mama always made sure that we behaved and conducted ourselves in a manner befitting a “preacher’s family.” Although we had to put on those socks (with lace), patent leather shoes (that always hurt your toes) and wear the scratchy, “stand-out” petticoats (to look like a little lady), we always looked forward to going because of ALL THAT FOOD!!!

On this particular occasion, we had made it through the ceremony and had gotten to the reception without any incidents. Mama got us each a plate, filled with wedding cake and ice cream, a few peanuts, and a few of those wonderful “wedding mints.” She got us all together in one place, told us to stay put, and she went off to get our punch. Daddy, of course, was across the room talking and visiting with his members and the bride/groom’s family. Mama finally returned with the punch, sat down, and took a sip of the punch. She looked at me with horror on her face, and said, “The punch is spiked!” She then said, “Get over to your Daddy and tell him NOT to drink the punch!!” I ran over to get him, but he had already had THREE cups of punch, saying how good it was! Once we explained the situation, he immediately stopped drinking the punch and sought a way to remove himself (and us) from the vicinity. We could hardly stop laughing, trying to get to the car. (Daddy did NOT drive home that day!!) My Daddy had never tasted ANY alcohol, so he really was an innocent.

In today’s world, there’s not many grown children who can say that their Father never smoked, drank, cursed, or abused them in some way, whether physical or emotional…but I can! My Father set a true example for his children to follow. He never said, “Do as I say, not as I do.” He continually said, “Do as I do!” By living that sweet, pure life before us, he gave us the most wonderful example to follow. My Father took this responsibility to heart. He and Mother wanted (and planned for) all four children. He taught us wrong from right. He lived his life the way he wanted us to live ours…and we heard (and saw) that message loud and clear. We live fuller, more complete lives because of the lessons he taught us. I can’t think of any other person who truly emulates the word, “Christlike.” And no matter how old I get, he will ALWAYS be my “Daddy.” Let’s celebrate those Fathers every day – not on just one day out of the year. And stay away from that punch…Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

“I just want to sharpen my pencil…”

pencil-sharpener

I’m wondering how many of you remember the item in the picture? Did you use this kind of pencil sharpener at school when you were little? Some will readily recognize the item, while others will simply not have a clue. But what you need to know is this little object had a lot to do with shaping me as a person. Here’s this week’s story…

As a child, I was very, very small; not “bigger than a minute.” In fact, I pretty much stayed that way until I reached young adulthood. In college, I would eat a Whopper hamburger each night and wash it down with a pint of half and half, just to break 100 pounds! I could hold the weight for only a few days, and then I would drop back down to under 100. And oh my, would it not be nice to have that “problem” now…

Each year, on the first day of school, the maintenance man would choose the shortest, smallest child and take a measurement as to where the pencil sharpeners for each room should be mounted. Each year, up until the fourth grade, I was that child! I would go up to that pencil sharpener, in front of the entire class, hold my little arms up as if I were sharpening a pencil, and they would take the measurement. After the first time, I caught on and realized that I was being singled out as the smallest child, and it would make me so upset. You see, to me, my height, or small frame, did not matter. I always thought that I was as big an anyone else, and that I could do anything that they could do. So it came as quite a shock that anyone considered me “little,” or “small.” In my head, it meant that I was “less” than the other children, that “less” was expected of me, or worse, that I “could not do” things as well.  I DID NOT LIKE THAT!! And you see, I had been taught, loved and supported by my family for those first five years of my life to believe that I could do anything….that I was no better or worse than anyone else, and no one was better or worse than me. I kept thinking, I will just show them…I worked hard to excel in everything!! No one was ever going to “out do” me! I even tried to eat more so that I could be bigger each year (not that it worked…). And so it began…all A’s…fastest runner on the playground…biggest, fastest talker (I’m sure all of you who know me are getting a real chuckle out of that one!)…best singer in the music shows…best actress in the school play…”must” win at games…most “popular” in school…it went on and on…Most of my school life was spent accepting “challenges,” and proving people wrong…all because of that dad-blasted pencil sharpener…

My senior Chemistry class was taught by the football coach, and my particular class was filled with the entire football team. There were only three of us ladies in the class. If we won the game on Friday night, we had a party in class on Monday. If we lost the game, we had a pop quiz. Early on, the coach began “picking on” me. For the first time ever, I failed a test…and received a big, old fat “F!” In front of the class, he held the test just out of my reach, giggled with delight, and told me that I was going to fail his class. I was humiliated!! I went home and all of those old “pencil sharpener” feelings bubbled up. It had been years since I had experienced anything like that! It made me angry, and the anger prompted action. I decided that I would never give the coach the satisfaction of failing me for chemistry! I decided that he would eat his words, and that I would prove him wrong. It was a very long year, with him pushing me and making fun of me in front of the class. I aced the class, and was exempt from even taking the final exam. I had come through once again, all because of that goofy pencil sharpener…

In today’s world, the coach would have been called a bully, and certainly, rightfully so! However, because of my experience as a child, with that pencil sharpener, I was equipped to face the challenges that were thrown at me. I know it probably sounds so silly, but most of us are “shaped” by “defining moments” in life, and our response to them. I could have let the “measuring” experience defeat me, but I just could not accept an image in my head, being smaller and “less” than anyone. It just would not compute!!

I don’t think that I could have ever been a parent. Actions, words, habits…you never know which “one little thing” is going to impact a child’s world negatively (or positively), and shape their future. The experience with the pencil sharpener could have defeated me, but my parents had already laid the foundation. They had already made me strong, no matter what my physical size might have been. I don’t think adults think hard enough about the effect they have on children’s lives. A spirit can be broken, or nurtured/cultivated, so easily. We need to think! How we face current challenges, disappointments, and failures is usually determined by how we were taught to face them when we were little. I’m going to continue to “prove them wrong” every time, and I intend to always be aware of my teaching “opportunities” with children and young adults. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

After all, she IS “the” Mary Higgins Clark!!!

I will be honest…”Hollywood” and lifestyles of the “rich and famous” have never been a huge attraction for me. Oh yes, I have favorite singers, actors, authors, etc., but that is all they are to me… “favorites” – individuals whose art, skills, or craft give me immense pleasure. I don’t get “giddy” with excitement when I hear of them in the news, or dream about meeting them in person. However, this past week, I will admit…I have been totally, unabashedly, STARSTRUCK!!! Here’s the story…

I am an avid reader! I love that a book or story can take you places that you might never visit, place you in situations that you might never experience, and prompt emotions that you might otherwise never feel. I like all types of books…espionage, biography, romance, legal, and mystery thrillers. For many, many years, I have read the books of Mary Higgins Clark. She is the only author who can make me actually look over my shoulder with unease while reading her thrillers. She makes me want to leave all the lights on in the house at night. So, yes, she is very much a “favorite” of mine!

About two weeks ago I was privileged to be the Opening Keynote Speaker at a conference in New Jersey. They had asked me to give a presentation on this blog, Just for this week… In that particular presentation, I share quite a few of the stories that I have shared with all of you. As you know, some stories are really, really funny, and some will bring tears to your eyes. After the presentation, a very nice woman came up to talk with me. She was extremely complimentary of the presentation (something I just hate hearing…lol) and remarked how much of an inspiration I was (something I also hate hearing…lol). As we were talking, she mentioned that her stepmother was Mary Higgins Clark. I about swallowed my tongue, and said something like, “No way!” I don’t think she said, “Yes, way!” – but she did confirm that I had heard correctly. I immediately began telling her that Mary Higgins Clark was my all time favorite mystery thriller author, and I’m pretty sure I shared the “looking over the shoulder while reading syndrome” with her. I asked her to please share with Ms. Clark the amount of pleasure (and unease…) she had given me through her books. 

IMG_1530A week later, after returning from the conference, I went to the post office to pick up my mail.   In the bundle of mail there was a big manila envelope from a person and address in New Jersey that I did not recognize. I opened the envelope and found a signed copy (with a most special inscription) of Mary Higgins Clark’s latest book, along with a letter from Michelle, Ms. Clark’s stepdaughter ( the nice lady that I had met at the conference). The envelope also included a photo of Ms. Clark signing my book. That would have been enough for me, but the enclosed letter was even better! In the letter, Michelle shared that after the conference, she had attended a family gathering where she felt inclined to tell them about me, and she told one of my stories, “I Can’t Feel My Toes…” She said that her stepmother had been delighted with the story, laughed at my humor, and wanted to send me her latest book. Oh yeah, STARSTRUCK!!!

When I read the letter, I did not know whether to be thrilled or mortified that I had been the topic of conversation in a group that included THE Mary Higgins Clark!! Of course, I chose to be thrilled that she got a “great kick out of” my story… And then I read these words from her stepdaughter’s letter: “The roles have reversed: Now she is a fan of yours!” Be still my heart…

You hear so many terrible things in the media about famous people and celebrities. It almost seems that one has to exhibit degrading and horrible behavior to be “famous!” HOWEVER, it does not have to be that way. I did not go to Ms. Clark and ask for anything. I simply passed along a compliment. She heard someone talking about me as a speaker, and then listened to one of my goofy, “here we go again,” stories, and found it all amusing. So much so, that she sent a signed book to me along with some very special comments. She sent encouragement. She sent validation. She took time out of her busy schedule to have a picture sent of the actual signing. She will never know what that says to me about Mary Higgins Clark as a person. She has fans all over the entire world, and yet, she made time…That’s a celebrity…that’s a real “star!”

All of us have the capacity to be a “star.” We can listen when people are sharing personal stories. We can give friends, family, coworkers encouragement in what they do. We can help celebrate their accomplishments and success. We can be an “example,” knowing that others are watching. We can be more complimentary. We can exhibit graciousness and dignity. And we can stop supporting all of these “celebrities” who exhibit and practice horrific behavior. I don’t know about you, but I think I’m going to try and be a little more like Mary Higgins Clark. Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

“I didn’t raise a dummy…”

So…you have not heard from me in quite a while…There are reasons, and maybe some day I will write about them, but for now, I am going to attempt to continue the posts on a more regular basis. With that being said, let’s begin with a new story…

I am at a time in my life where I find I want to “downsize.” For the last few months, I have been going through boxes that have been “stored,” and not been opened in over 10 years. You just have to wonder…WHY did I save that “stuff,” if I was going to keep it in a box for that length of time? And if I had not used it, or missed it, in over ten years, I surely don’t think I needed it NOW!! It had just gotten ridiculous!!

While going through some of the “memorabilia,” I discovered a little red New Testament Bible that my Grandmother had given me when I was just a small girl. I had forgotten that she gave me the little Bible, and also that I had saved it. The minute I touched the cover, all the memories came rushing back…when she gave it to me, and what she whispered to me as she held me in her lap. It is certainly one of the items that I will be keeping for the rest of my life. However, as I was looking through the old and worn pages, a note fell out. The note was from my sweet Mama, and here is what it said…

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When I first started speaking to various groups/companies/associations across the country, Mother always said, “I would love to hear you speak.” I was usually in some part of the United States, far away from where she lived.  But on one occasion, I was going to be nearby, so I asked if she would like to attend the conference to hear me “do my thing.” She was so excited! The day arrived and she rode with me to the conference. I got her a good seat so she could see her daughter “in action.” Conference representatives made the necessary announcements, introduced me as the speaker, and I began my presentation. Every time I looked at her face, she was grinning from ear to ear, and watching the people around her, listening to me. She wrote this note during the presentation, and gave it to me before she left to go home…a note that I will also keep for the rest of my life… Later in life, as Alzheimer’s devoured her mind and body, she would continue to ask me about my presentations, and if “they” liked me. And, as always, upon my affirmative answer, she would say with such pride…”that’s MY baby…”

I know children (both young and adult) who have never known that their Mom or Dad were proud of them. I cannot even begin to imagine what that must feel like, for all I have ever known is that unconditional love and support. I KNEW that my parents believed in me and thought I could do anything! And that belief became reality! I really DO believe I can do anything…even now, after all of these years! Parents, do you constantly berate a child (whether young or adult), and bring failures (whether real or imagined) to their attention? Do you make them feel as if they are NEVER “good enough?” Have you told your children how proud you are of them? Have you shared with them the joy they bring to your lives? Have you told them how much you love them, and believe in them? If not, why not take the time to do so today? It would be so wonderful for them to know they are valued and loved…Won’t you join me? Just for this week….