That’s Excellent….!!!

I had a friend who lost her Father unexpectedly this past week. Tuesday evening I attended his “celebration” service. There were two prevailing themes that were evident as family and friends remembered her father. One was his faith in, and love for, God. The other was that he had lived a life of “excellence.” Since I have been talking about our individual “powers” in my last few blogs, and I’ve already covered the power of “faith,” we will continue this week with the power of EXCELLENCE!

As a speaker, one of my goals is to consistently score the highest possible mark on conference evaluations. In other words, I want to score “excellent” on each one. I will be honest, I would still receive payment for my services, even if I got “good,” “fair,” or “poor.” I probably would not be asked to come back for a repeat performance, but I would get paid for the job that I had done. And that would be enough for me, if I were only in it for the money. However, we all know, I don’t do what I do for the money. It sure helps though, because I like to eat just as well as the next person…Fortunately, because I work HARD to accomplish this, I DO receive those excellent scores. In 35 years, I can only remember one bad evaluation, and it was REALLY bad…. The individual wrote (anonymously, of course) that I was “harsh, rude, and mean.” It just took my breath away! I went back over every second of my presentation, trying to figure out what I had said or done to cause this person to think those horrible things. After much self-analysis, I came to the conclusion that this person simply had to have been on drugs that day! There was no other reasonable explanation! 

So how do we get to a point of excellence, to where that pursuit becomes second nature to us? I think that it is a skill that can be learned. Being the best that you can be is a concept that we can teach children (and ourselves). My parents and grandparents convinced me at an early age that I could do anything that I set my mind to, and that I could accomplish anything in life, if I worked hard to attain the goals that I had established for myself. I believed them, took the message to heart, and never looked back! So you need the confidence in yourself and your abilities, and the motivation and enthusiasm to establish goals and work to accomplish them. You also need to obtain as much “book” and experiential knowledge as you can get!

When my business partner and I began our company (providing continuing education to healthcare professionals), we were not known in some states. So, we had to “cultivate” a following in those new states. We went to one state for the first time, and ONE person showed up for our training. Most companies would have cancelled that training, but we felt that you had to start somewhere! (And now we get to that “pursuit of excellence” skill…) I walked in, looked at the one person, smiled brightly, and said, “You are about to receive the best, one to one training that you will ever get in your life! You will have my undivided attention, can ask any question you want, we will go at your own personal pace, and we can even go off-topic if you like. It is all up to you. I am at your service!” I went above and beyond what she had been expecting, had there been a room full of participants. The next time we conducted a seminar in that state, we had a FULL meeting room!

It does not matter what task is at hand. Do it with excellence! In work, in play, in relationships, in beliefs, in living, in love…do it all, with excellence! Don’t be mediocre!! Don’t be ordinary, even when doing ordinary things. Be the best! Excel at what you do! I hope that whenever I have a “celebration of life” service, people will also say of me, she lived a life of excellence! Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

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….

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…

“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…

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…

Are you hungry?

In just a few days we will welcome in another brand new year! 2014. Can you believe it? It seems that it was just a “short while” ago that I was introducing you to my project for the year…this blog. I cannot believe the year has gone so fast, and that this week’s post will be my 52nd article. As you know, I began this blog in an effort to focus my mind on some “positives,” week by week, to help me through a difficult period of pain and loss. It has helped me more than I can say, and if the comments, support and encouragement received are indicators of your enjoyment, the effort was more than successful! So, I would like to say thank you to everyone who has followed me in my journey for the entire year. With the passing of one year into the next, what better opportunity to write a story about time?

Have you noticed that all of us complain about not having enough time to get everything done? It seems that the faster I go, the “behinder” I get. Not long ago, I asked a close friend whether she thought I was getting slower, or did I just have more “demands” for my time coming across my desk. Ever the diplomat, she said, “Well, we’re all getting a little slower, but you DO have a lot coming across your desk.” Hmmm…I can remember when I first started my career. I was part of a corporate team responsible for 101 nursing homes in seven states. I was wired!! I could do 3-4 tasks at a time, and not bat an eye. I was in a different city or state every other day. I moved…and I moved fast…I got the job done! I lived and breathed by a watch, clock, and calendar! If I sat down at home to “relax,” I was doing several things at one time while sitting. I could not just sit still, doing nothing for even ten minutes. I was always checking that watch, to make certain I would meet a deadline, or to determine when and where I needed to be next.

When I finally resigned from the company that I had worked with most of my adult life, and started a business with a friend of mine, I was determined that I would truly stop rushing all of the time and learn how to relax. It was one of the hardest things I have ever attempted to do in my life. I really could NOT sit still for ten minutes. So, I was determined…I began timing myself…it was MISERABLE! I tried and tried to relax and have more time for doing the things I enjoyed, but I was not being very successful.

One day I was with a friend, and I had forgotten to wear a watch. I kept asking her what time it was. She asked me why I needed to know the time. I told her that I needed to know if it was time to eat lunch. She looked at me with a perplexed expression, and asked, “Are you hungry?” And at that very moment, with that very statement, everything slipped right into perspective for me! I realized that I was letting a little electrical mechanism control every second of my life! Did I really need a small attachment to my wrist to tell me when I should eat, or go to bed, or do anything? So, the watch came off! And it has stayed off! I only use it now to make certain I begin and end my speaking engagements on time. The change in my life was wonderful! I can now actually sit for long periods of time relaxing. I now make choices on how I truly want to spend my time, and with whom I want to be with. I make my time count…for me. 

Time is so precious, and is gone before we realize it. All of us have the very same amount of time each day…24 hours. What makes the difference in what can be accomplished in that time is YOU and your CHOICES! You can choose to take on so much responsibility that you will never get it all done. You will always come up short, because simply put, you have too many irons in the fire! Or, you can decide what is truly important and worthy of your precious time, and use it wisely to pursue those efforts. In other words, make your time “count.” One of my favorite sayings comes from the prophet, Kahlil Gibran, who said, “For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live.” “Hours to live…not to kill…” What a wonderful statement and premise. This year I’m not making any resolutions. (I never have done that, to be honest.) I am simply going to spend my time with “hours to live,” and I am going to keep the watch off of my arm, and eat when I am hungry. Won’t you join me? Just for this week….