I just could NOT kill her….

Today is Mother’s Day, and most of you know that means I am experiencing the loss of my Mother on this special day for the second time. The hole in my heart is still the same, and there is not one day that passes when her memory is not present. She lives inside my head and heart and will be forever thought of and missed. So…you know today’s post will be about Mothers, but I’m certain I have your curiosity piqued with the title. Let’s begin…

Living on the lake has a lot of positives; however, in the Spring, there can be a “few” negatives…the return of wasps, bumble bees, mosquitoes, and…snakes!! Our first year up here, as Spring came into full bloom, we noticed a huge snake around our stones (riprap) by the bank, close to the entrance of the dock. Each morning, going out to the dock to drink our coffee, we would see that big snake in the water. Being unfamiliar with TN snakes, we came to the conclusion that the snake was a water moccasin. It had the same markings, and as best I could tell, the head appeared to be diamond-shaped. I knew that I was going to have to kill the snake, because I did not want to take the chance of it making its way up into the yard, and biting either us, or our little pup. (Just an aside here…being such a nature and animal lover, this was a difficult decision for me. I do not kill animals…even snakes.) So, how do you kill a snake in the water, when you don’t have a gun?

I shared our plight with a neighbor who offered his air rifle. He brought it over, and talk about an air rifle! Wow! He had made some “modifications,” including a scope. It looked like an AK-47! He commented that he might need to show me how to use it, and I very patiently and attentively listened to his instructions. (He was having such a good time “educating” me, that I did not have the heart to tell him that I was taught ALL about guns at a very early age. I was raised on a farm, and we were all taught how to shoot a gun, as well as ALL safety rules. I’m a pretty good shot, even if I say so myself…) So, after the “lesson,” he said, “Let’s load it, and you take a few practice shots.” I loaded the gun, gave it a couple of pumps, and asked him what would he like me to shoot (to show him that I could “handle” the gun…). While I was thinking he might want me to aim at a specific target, he just said, “Try to hit that little tree over there.” I put the rifle to my shoulder, took careful aim, and hit the little tree dead center. He just stared at me and said, “I think you have it!” I chuckled to myself and he went on his way.

For the next few mornings, I would get up, get the rifle, and go out to the dock. Holding the gun downward, with my finger near the trigger, I would walk back and forth on the dock looking for that snake. You may be assured that the fisherman in nearby boats gave me wide berth…In fact, it seemed everyone in the neighborhood knew of my intended mission. Neighbors everywhere were asking me if I had killed the snake yet. Finally, one morning, I saw the snake close to the bank, with it’s head up out of the water, just “sunning.” Very carefully, I raised the rifle up to my shoulder and got the snake’s head dead center in the crosshairs. I took a deep, calming breath and was about to make the shot. Just as I touched the trigger, I saw a very tiny snake swim up to the big snake. The big snake turned its head and nuzzled the little snake. In that moment, I realized this was a Mother snake, and the little snake was her baby. As hard as I tried, I COULD NOT pull the trigger!!

Now, I know you are probably saying, “Cat, it was a SNAKE!! And snakes don’t have emotions or feelings.” But you did not see what I saw. I am telling you, that Mama Snake kissed her baby!! There was no way in the world that I was going to kill that mother. I knew, in time, that they would go somewhere else, and that when we got in the water, we would make so much noise and movement, that the snakes would go far away from us. I later found out that the snake was not a water moccasin, but simply a non-poisonous TN water snake. My decision to not kill was a GOOD decision!

So here is my point for this week. I think that there are a lot of humans out there who need to take lessons from some of the animal kingdom. Whether you call it love, or instinct, the bottom line is that most of them take care of their babies. They feed and protect their babies, and yes, they also nurture and give them affection. We always use the phrase, “just like an animal,” when describing certain negative human behavior. I would contend that it is indeed a compliment when someone uses that phrase. I hope that someone will say about me, “She is just like an animal…” I think I would like that description. Let’s think before we kill and destroy! Let’s remember that even animals have mothers…Oh, and Happy Mother’s Day! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

The Word is “Compassion”…

Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know I missed another week. However, in my defense, I told all of you at the beginning of the year that I would “try” to continue with the weekly blog. Most weeks I am able to make it, but some weeks don’t have one spare moment in them. I’m sure you know what I mean…Never the less, I’m back this week!! We’ve been talking about the “powers” that lie within each of us, and this week’s blog will continue with that theme…The “power” this week is compassion.

Most of you know that my parents turned the house that we grew up in as children, into a personal care home for older adults with mental challenges. Back in the day, these individuals were called “retarded.” They KNEW that word, and no matter how many times they heard themselves being called that awful name, it still hurt each time. You could see it on their faces.

For almost thirty years my parents became a second “Mom and Dad” to a number of precious, older women. Their ages ranged from 40-65. Most had the comprehension (and actions) of an eight-year old child. My parents could not have loved them any more than if they had been their “own” children. For most of those women, living with Mother and Daddy was truly the first caring “home” they had ever experienced. Mother became “Mama Jo,” and my father was simply “Daddy” to all of them. One of their favorite pastimes was getting Mother to recount how she “picked” them from the State School to come and live with her and Daddy. My Mother would always get a big smile on her face, and really begin to tell the story of each one – what had been so special about them…why she wanted them to come and live with her. Watching their faces as she told each individual story always brought tears to my eyes…their faces holding such looks of love, amazement, and wonder…and disbelief that someone would want them enough to choose them for a family…these “retards.” Oh, how it hurt my Mother to the core when she would hear someone call them that name, or dismiss them derisively. She would always turn to me in tears and say, “They are human beings just like you and me. They just need a little more help.” I watched her on numerous occasions come to their defense, with all the outrage and anger that only a good southern “Steel Magnolia” can get away with.

One day she asked me to create a sign that she wanted to hang in the house. This is what the sign said: The word is COMPASSION. She could never understand why other people could not FEEL for these women who she loved so deeply. This “compassion” was passed on to each of us children. There’s not a one of us who can turn our heads away from someone in need. We DO feel…and our hearts are tender and sensitive to the plights of others. We HAVE to take action! We HAVE to help! We HAVE to care! You see, we don’t know any other way…

When did we get so hard on the inside? When did others not matter to us? When did we begin to close our windows and doors, and our hearts, and not get involved? Everyone has a story…you may never know all the details. You may never know the horror and sorrow they may endure every moment of their lives. What would it hurt if just a few of us actually cared, and took action? I have that power! You have that power! What don’t we use it more often? Why don’t we show more compassion? That’s what I am going to try and do! Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

“Sticks and stones…”

As kids, we all learned those old “comebacks” to win an argument: “Oh yeah? Well, your Mama…” “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!” “I know you are, what am I?” And of course, the best one, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me!” As we grew older, we learned very quickly that words could indeed harm us. In his book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” Robert Fulghum gave us a new quote regarding “sticks and stones.” He writes, “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts.” I would like to add to that statement. Words will also break our spirit. I am sure you have guessed by now that the “power” for this week is WORDS.

At conferences, I am often asked to present a session entitled, “They’re ONLY Words…” In that presentation I tell of a little girl in the second grade. She was very tiny for her age, and had a “clubfoot.” (Also called congenital talipes equinovarus (CTEV), a congenital deformity involving one foot or both. The affected foot appears to have been rotated internally at the ankle. Without treatment, people with club feet often appear to walk on their ankles or on the sides of their feet.) In addition to this deformity, she had a “cauliflower ear” and could not hear very well with that ear. (Cauliflower ear is a condition that occurs when the external portion of the ear suffers a blow, blood clot or other collection of fluid under the perichondrium. As a result, the outer ear becomes permanently swollen and deformed, resembling a cauliflower.) I have told you the exact definition and descriptions of those two deformities because I want you to get a good visual image of this small child. This was quite a few years ago, before we had all of the latest technology to test someone’s hearing. The way they tested a child’s hearing in school went something like this: the teacher would call up one child at a time, whisper a phrase into their ear, and ask them to repeat the phrase they heard…all conducted in front of the entire class. The little girl remembered last year when this was done…how she was embarrassed and humiliated to have to go before the class, dragging her little foot, and hoping against hope that she could hear the phrase well enough to repeat it. I can just picture her…her heart pounding so loudly in that little chest that you would think it might explode…trying to remember to walk as straight as possible, not limp or drag her foot…and praying so hard that she might actually hear what the teacher would whisper in her ear. (I can never tell this story without tears springing to my eyes. I am such a visual person, and I can see this little girl in minute detail every time I recount this event. Even now, I am writing this with tears in my eyes.) So, it was time for her to walk up to the teacher. She took a little longer getting there than the rest of the children. As she was walking to the front of the class, she heard the comments: “retard,” “gimp,” “not right in the head…” Oh yes, she heard all of that!! She finally reached the teacher, turned her “good” ear to her, and tried to hide the tears already forming in her eyes. The teacher leaned down, scooped the child as closely in her arms as possible, and whispered tenderly to her, “I wish you were MY child!”  And right there, in that moment, those words made all the difference in the world to that child. Just from those few words, she discovered that she had worth and value; that someone wanted her…defects and all. Those words gave her hope!

I hear what people say to their children. I hear what people say to the people they supposedly love. I hear what people say to, and about, the people they work with. I hear what neighbors say about other neighbors. I hear what husbands and wives say to each other. I hear what children say to their parents. And my heart breaks over and over again. When did we become so cruel? When did we become so uncaring? Once a word is spoken, you can never take it back. There are no “do-overs.” You can never really correct it. Oh, you can apologize, but the memory, and that you said it in the first place, will ALWAYS be remembered. Words can absolutely destroy a person. Words can lift and encourage one’s  heart and spirit.

I always think that if this was the last time I saw a person, what words would I have left them with? Would the words be fault-finding, cruel, disrespectful, harmful, and destructive; or would the words be loving, comforting, encouraging? I want my words to be tender to the heart and soul…loving in every way. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

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….

Man! She has an attitude!!

As mentioned in last week’s post, I indicated that I wanted to share the “powers” that each of us have within our grasp, but that many fail to see them. It usually takes a life-changing event to show a person what they are made of! So this is a continuation on that topic… I would like to show people that they don’t have to wait for a life-changing event to realize their strength. These “powers” are something that we can utilize and engage every day of our lives. Last week’s power was FAITH. This week’s power is ATTITUDE!

You get up one morning, and you’re feeling great; “on top of the world,” in fact. You KNOW that this is going to be a good day! You get dressed for work, get in your car, and merge into traffic. Everything is going really well, until someone begins riding your bumper, trying to make you go faster than you want. You can tell just by their demeanor, they have watched too much NASCAR racing, and they have convinced themselves they are, indeed, an accomplished race driver. When you think they cannot possibly get any closer to your back bumper, they finally whiz around you, and cut back in front of you so close, that you have to slam on brakes to avoid rear-ending THEM! The coffee you were drinking spills over on your clothes, and your fingers have now been burnt and are sticky. At this point, that wonderful feeling you had before leaving the house is gone! For many, this one moment will define the day for them. No matter how good their intentions were when leaving the house, everything has now been ruined. You end up with a lousy attitude for the rest of the day…

Basically, you gave that perfect stranger the control to impact your day. You’ve allowed this person to take away the positive feelings that you had when you started out that morning. You’ve allowed one simple, random act of ignorance to influence your attitude, and destroy your day.

I come across a lot of people who would love nothing better than to cause me to be as miserable as they are. But you know what? I don’t allow it, because I can control and direct my attitude. Believe me, I have found that the negative, ne’er sayer doesn’t get as much accomplished in life, and they seem to be miserable all the time. You’ve seen those people…seemingly with a dark, black cloud over their heads all the time. Gloom and doom seems to follow them around.

I like being positive. I believe very strongly that “positive” begets “positive.” I believe that you can change the direction of your life, and your success, by simply having a positive attitude. I was at a conference not too long ago…one that was three days long, and I was speaking at some point each day. After the second day, I had a conference attendee come up to me and say, “I’ve been watching you during this conference, and you’re different.” (Now, I seem to be told this quite often, and at the beginning, I can never figure out if being different is a good thing, or a bad thing…) I looked at the individual and responded, “How so?” She said, “When you enter a room, you seem to own it!” I guess I must had indicated by facial expression that the statement might not be a compliment. She immediately spoke again, and said,”I can see that I did not convey my thoughts accurately, because I certainly did not mean anything negative. What I meant to say is that when you enter a room, you EXPECT acceptance!” I looked at her bewildered, and said, “Of course! I DO expect acceptance! Why would I enter a room thinking that I would not be accepted?” I cannot imagine anyone getting up each morning, looking in a mirror, and saying to themselves…”Let’s go be a failure today!” I think you get what you expect! It is all about attitude! It is like the little train who thought he could…”I think I can…I think I can…” You know the ending…HE DID!!

Because I fly a lot, I am a member of numerous airline frequent flyer programs. As a result, the more miles you have, the more “perks” you receive. I used to fly Northwest Airlines quite a bit before Delta bought them out. Northwest called their frequent flyers “Elite.” It had been one of those trips where flight after flight had been either delayed or cancelled. All I needed was one more flight to get home, and it was not looking optimistic…We had been waiting in the gate area for hours upon hours. Everyone was so tired, including the young female agent who was very patiently enduring quite a bit of abuse from weary travelers. It got to be midnight, and the moment finally arrived when we were all going to be able to board the plane and get in the air. I stood in line, waiting for the agent to take my ticket and let me board. As I gave her the ticket, she paused a moment, and said, ” Ms. Selman, are you Elite?” I looked at her, smiled (although I was as exhausted as anyone else that night), gave her a little wink, and said, “As if I would be ANYTHING else…” She cracked up laughing, and said, “Go on and get your seat then.” Unfortunately, due to all of the rebooking of flights, my seat was at the very rear of the plane. I placed my briefcase underneath the seat, placed my coat in the overhead bin, and settled in. Just as I had finished doing all of that, I heard an attendant state, “Would passenger Selman please press your call light?” My first thought was, “Oh no! They are going to bump me from this flight!! I’m never going to get home tonight!” So, I reached up and pressed the call light. The agent from the gate came down to my seat and said, “Ms. Selman, please get your things and come with me.” I stood up, got my coat, got my briefcase and followed her, all the time asking, “Where are we going?” She said, “You’ll see!” She then proceeded to take me to the first class cabin and gave me a seat there for my trip home! Now, I know there were a lot of people on that flight, who were at higher “Elite” status than me; however, I got the first class seat because of my positive attitude. And to be honest, that happens a lot for me!

I refuse to let people bring me down with their negativity. I enjoy life! I enjoy being positive! And yes, I DO expect acceptance. I always see the glass as being half full…Life can be so much fuller, satisfying and wonderful if you go through each day with a positive outlook…even when things don’t always go your way. That’s what I do! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

The POWER within each of us…

It continually amazes me when people don’t see their own worth and value. I believe so strongly that every person was created for a purpose. God gave us brains and the ability to make free choices. It is up to us to figure out exactly what we were created for, and to “search” for our purpose in life. So many fail at that mission simply because they never recognize their own worth. So, if you will bear with me over the next few weeks, I want to “explore” the various “powers” that lie within each of us. I think the secret to life is to discover your “powers,” and use them to make the world a much better place.

I think we would have to begin with the power of faith. No matter what your religion, most of us believe in a higher being. People often use phrases like, “It’s God’s will.” “Trust in God.” “I believe in miracles!” Or, if you are part of the FaceBook world, you see daily requests asking for prayers, and the subsequent comments as to whether prayers were answered. Even the Bible states that if we have the faith of a mustard seed, we could move mountains. Now, that is real power…and it lies within each of us. 

The question I have is this: “Do we really have faith, and do we exercise it daily?” For example, we pray to God with a specific request, and are amazed and quite surprised when the prayer is actually answered…as if we did not really expect positive results. So where was the faith? By definition, faith is “a strong belief or trust in someone or something. : belief in the existence of God : strong religious feelings or beliefs. : a system of religious beliefs. plural faiths: belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” As you see, all of these definitions include one basic word: “belief.” So, if we go with that definition, “faith” should be something that we “believe,” whether founded or unfounded. What do you “believe” to be true in your personal life? And do those beliefs enrich your life, make your day to day existence better or worse?

I have faith in what I can do. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can stand on a stage in front of hundreds of people, and that I can hold their attention, be entertaining, and send them home with at least one bit of education or information that they can use for the betterment of their own lives, or in the lives of someone else. I know I can do that! It is a belief in myself. Shouldn’t our faith in God be just that strong, if not stronger? Shouldn’t we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are in His care, that He designed us and wanted a good life for us, that we have value and worth? Shouldn’t we believe that fact, and act on it everyday? I meet people from all over the country, and you would be surprised by the number of individuals who cannot explain their beliefs or faith to me, or why they live a certain way. I will be honest, it perplexes me. My faith comes from a lifetime of teaching and examples…my parents, my family, friends, educators, real leaders. It comes from experience, and I cannot imagine living a life without faith! I think they should add another word to the definition of “faith,” and that would be “action.” If you do not put your faith into action, it is not really faith.

I have faith that the world can be a better place. I have faith that I can always be a better person. I have faith that I was created in a perfect image, and I am worthy and valued. I have faith that my prayers will be answered, but not always with the answer I want. I have faith that I matter in this world! I have faith that one day I will be judged for the life that I have lived, and I want to hear those words, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.” Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

 

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….