“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…

IMG_0839

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….

Ummm….are my clothes in there???

Many years ago when I first started working in health care, I worked with a large firm whose corporate headquarters were located in Shreveport, LA. I was a Corporate Management Consultant and shared the responsibilities for part of the operations of 101 nursing homes, in 7 states. Since I had to travel ANYWAY to go to work each week (somewhere in the 7 states), the company did not require me to move to Louisiana. They allowed me to work from my home in Mississippi. My “official” office was in Shreveport, as was my secretary. This meant that I had to fly into Shreveport on a regular basis, and when I was working on a “big project,” or if we were having management meetings, I could be found in the city for weeks at a time. Our company happened to own one the largest hotels in the area, located within a block of our corporate office. It was at this hotel that I became a regular, and familiar, guest to all the hotel staff. It was “home away from home…”

Since the hotel was so close to our offices, I never rented a car while being in Shreveport. Usually, either my secretary, or someone else within the office, would pick me up on their way to work each morning, and then drop me back off at the hotel in the evening. The hotel back at that time was one where your room opened out to the parking lot. Today, it would have been called a “motel.”

 A little aside (as usual)…let’s remember, I had only been out of college for a little over a year….had been raised very conservatively….had attended a small church college…was single…and was pretty much known as being an “innocent” with everyone who knew me at work. (And they were correct in that assessment for the “most” part…lol) So, on this particular day, my boss’ secretary was the “chosen” one to drop me off at the hotel. She pulled up in front of the room, I got out, put my key in the lock, turned to wave goodbye, and opened the hotel door to enter. I was stopped by the chain on the door! Someone was in my room…and had locked me out!!! I quickly checked the room number…it was the same number that appeared on my key. It was the very same room that I had left that morning!! I noticed that the secretary was watching me with much interest at this point. I began knocking on the door. As I was knocking, a nice looking man opened the door with nothing on but a towel draped around his waist!! (By this time the secretary had turned her car off, and was watching the show….) I did not know what to do, and could not figure out what had happened. How did this man end up in my room??? Finally, I looked past him, eyes searching around the room, looking anywhere but at him IN THE TOWEL, and asked, “Are my clothes in there??” He looked at me as if I had lost my mind, but gave me the cutest grin, and said, “No, ma’am, they’re not. Do you want to come in and look?” I put my best “game” face on, and said, “No, thank you! That’s really sweet of you to offer, though. I will take your word for it!” I went back to the car, to my friend, who could hardly wait to hear my explanation. I just asked her to take me to the front desk, all the time sputtering that I did NOT know that man, I did NOT know how he came to be in my room, AND I did NOT know the location of my clothes! She just smiled sweetly, and said, “Uh huh….”

Upon arriving at the front desk, I learned that during the day (while I was at the office) the room I had been occupying needed some maintenance work. Because of my “familiarity” with the staff, and not wanting to “inconvenience” me, they had taken it upon themselves to move all of my belongings to a new room. They swore up and down they had called and left a message, but I am here to tell you…I DID NOT get that message!! I explained everything to my friend from the office, and she dropped me off at my new room. Mind you, she had a look on her face that indicated she was going to have a really good story to tell at the office the next morning. I went into my new room, and the staff had been meticulous in moving my possessions…They had even placed all the items in the same position, just as they were in the OTHER room..even down to the exact location of my hair dryer and tooth brush! I’m telling you, I thought I was in a parallel universe…Now….here comes the “moral to the story….”

Anyone in passing could have seen me go to my room (the original one…), and would have observed the “towel man” answering and opening the door to welcome me in. Oh my, can’t you just hear all the gossipers…Anyone watching the episode play out would have certainly come to the wrong conclusion!! How many times have lives been totally destroyed due to “someone’s” innuendos, careless remarks, or the “passing on” of wrong information?? I try very hard to never listen to a “gossip.” I try even harder to not be one myself. When you start to speak of someone, especially if it is of a defamatory nature, ask yourself: Do I know this to be absolutely true, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Will my words harm another person, or make things worse? Will my words help or encourage? And do I really need to share what I know? I tell you, it’s pretty hard to fight a negative…all you can say is, “I didn’t…” Maybe we should work a little harder on giving someone the benefit of the doubt, instead of rushing to an incorrect conclusion. That’s what I try to do! Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

But…that’s NOT us!!!

Ferris-Wheel

Still summer…so I am still in vacation “mode….”

Some of my best childhood memories are the family vacations that we took. Our family was not rich financially, but Mother and Daddy were able to save enough to take us on a few wonderful vacations. As I look back on the experience now, I am not certain how they were able to afford them. We would load up everyone; immediate family, cousins, uncle, and take off! We would have a carload full (no station wagon, just a regular sedan), and we were squeezed in. It did not matter though, we would laugh from the time that we got into the car, until we returned home, several days later.

One of the more exciting vacations took place when we went to AstroWorld in Houston, TX. Oh, as kids, we just could not contain our excitement over being able to go to this new amusement park. All of us were “riders,” and we had viewed brochures detailing the rides and attractions at AstroWorld. It was our plan to ride everything!! Mama would go with us on some of the “calmer” rides, but Daddy rode every ride with us.

They had a huge ferris wheel from which you could see a view of the entire park, as well as much of Houston. Since I worked part-time through high-school, I had a little “extra” money, and had bought a small, inexpensive camera prior to the vacation. It was my goal to record every wonderful moment of that vacation. When we got to the ferris wheel, I gave the camera to Mama, showed her how to use it, and asked her to take a photo of us as we came around. I told her that we would be waving our arms and hollering so that she would know it was US! We went up, got to the top, and began to come down on the other side. I told everybody to start hollering and waving arms to pose for the picture that Mama would take. When we came around to where she could get the shot, we all noticed that she did not have the camera up, aimed in our direction. She was smiling so big, and giving us the “thumbs up” sign. I knew right then that she did not get our photo, but had taken a picture of another family. We kept trying…each time we came around, we would whoop and holler, trying to get her attention, and hoping that she would take another picture. Each time, she would just smile and wave. 

When we finally got home and had the pictures developed, it was confirmed…we had a great picture of someone else’s family. Mama felt so badly, but I assured her that it was the best picture of the entire vacation, and something that we would all remember. We had a good laugh then, and continue to have a good laugh whenever that photo is mentioned.

We spend so much time attempting to make situations in life “picture perfect.” And…if the usual happens, life situations are NEVER absolutely “perfect!” Do we miss the wonder of those imperfections by focusing on what was “not right?” Does striving to be “picture perfect” make one less satisfied with the reality of their life, even when that reality contains much good in it? And are things truly, really that bad? We took so many pictures during that Astroworld vacation, all “picture perfect!” However, you know the only one that I remember in vivid detail?? The one that my Mama took of the other family…I can still recall the way that “other” family looked on the ride. I remember how we were whooping and hollering trying to get Mama’s attention so that she would know which “ferris car” to capture. I remember laughing so hard when we realized that she had captured someone else’s family. I remember her laughing along with us at her mistake. Such good times…and the memory of that one photograph will be in my head for always. Why do we waste so much time worrying when something doesn’t happen exactly as we planned it? Why lose those moments of your life with that stress? I try to always go with the attitude: “One day we’re going to laugh about this….” And you know what, we usually do! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Just. Let. Go.

the-end

OK, OK, I KNOW!!! I took off an entire month from the blog. All I can say in my defense is that I apparently needed a little “breather.” So, if you will all forgive me, I am back, and I am going to try my best to continue to post on a weekly basis. Being right in the middle of summer, and seeing and hearing about family and friends’ vacations, I was reminded of some of my own that were more memorable than others. So, this week’s story is about one of those vacations…

One of the most wonderful benefits of having friends all across the nation, is the knowledge that at some point in time, you can arrange to get together for visiting and fun times. A number of years ago, there was a group of us that would go on vacation together each summer. It never really mattered where we went…we always knew there would be good food, lots of laughs, AND adventures!!!

This particular summer we decided to meet up in Lake Tahoe. Each of us had rented a little “Theme” cabin at a resort, close by the Truckee River. Of course, it was our plan to raft down the river during our stay. Although the river was listed as “white water rapids,” the part we were going to be on did not look like anything more than “mild swirls…” (Now, a little aside…I am not known for my expert swimming abilities and/or water skills. Make no mistake, I LOVE the water…as long as I am wearing two items…a life vest…and nose plugs. I can’t help it! I just suck up water through my nose when underwater…I’m like a human vacuum cleaner…Nothing I have tried has helped or made it better. So, you can imagine what I look like…go ahead….picture it…) All of my friends know about this particular “attribute,” and they watch out for me. They know that it would not take much for me to panic and lose even the small skill of swimming that I do possess. So, whenever I am in the water, someone is in with me…within reach…Go ahead and laugh, but know this. This “respect” for water does NOT inhibit my actions. I will try almost anything. I just take “necessary” precautions…

The day arrived for our rafting adventure. There were eight of us. Since the rapids were very mild, and the attendants told us it was very rare for a raft to be overturned, and…not wanting to really look like a nerd, I chose not to wear my nose plugs. So there we were, two at the front of the raft, two at the center, and my best friend and I sitting on the back. We set off and were having such a wonderful time, laughing, enjoying being together, and just being outside in all that glorious beauty. One of my friends at the front kept wanting to make the ride a little more adventuresome, so instead of just allowing us to “drift” down the river, she would try to direct the raft toward the more “active” rapids. She was “admonished” the entire time, and asked not to do this, as all of us just wanted to make the ride last as long as possible, and not have to “work” at it. She just could not help herself, though, and she kept trying to redirect our path. I was enjoying the trip so much, that, eventually, I zoned out and did not pay her anymore attention. Everything was fine until she had somehow gotten us over to one side of the river. The last words I heard from everyone was, “Cat, watch out for that tree…..!!!” I looked up just in time to see the branch swiftly approaching my chest. There was no where to go! The branch caught me in the chest and flipped me over backwards into the water. Knowing my fear and my ability to panic in a heartbeat, my best friend grabbed the waist of my swimming shorts as I flipped over, to keep me from being tossed from the raft. However, she (and I) now had a new quandary…she was holding my bottom up on the raft, but my chest and head were underwater. She knew that if she kept holding me in the raft, that I would surely drown, so she just let go. She and some other friends jumped in immediately to help. Here’s the funny part…when she let go, I simply flipped over and then stood up in about two feet of water. I was safe!! Even without the nose plugs!!!  Since the rapids had taken our raft on down the river, we were stranded, until a raft came by with a bunch of guys on a bachelor’s party/trip, drunker than a skunk! They pulled us into their rafts and we made it to the end of our river journey safely.

If my friend had held on, trying to save me, I really would have drowned in two feet of water. By letting go, she allowed me to take my own action…and she placed herself in a position to offer assistance. Some times, in life situations, we hold on, when letting go would have the better result. We hold on to children, scared that we will no longer be able to protect them from the world’s harms, or that they might grow distant from our love…we hold on to old beliefs and biases that limit our growth – personally, professionally, and spiritually…we hold on to relationships and friendships, trying to make them work when they will not…we hold on to grudges that hurt only the ones holding the grudge…we hold on to an old way of life, when a change in direction would be so much better…we hold on to a job, when there is no joy in the work…we hold on to “worries,” when no amount of worrying has ever changed an outcome…we hold on to fears, and “cultivate” them, instead of facing them and educating ourselves…All of us usually have good intentions, but maybe right now is the time to JUST. LET. GO. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

“You’re getting a little too pure….”

Among many other valuable lessons in life, my Father taught me how to drive a car…and a truck…He was so very patient (and BRAVE!!) We started when I was about five years old, and he would let me sit in his lap and “help” him drive to church. Yes, I KNOW, it is a wonder I am alive today!!! LOL! Just to send you into a real “tizzy,” I also used to lay up over the back seat of the car, right next to the back windshield, and gaze at the stars at night…So, yes, I am a one-woman-wonder…I survived!! So…getting back to learning how to drive…As I got older, I got to sit behind the steering wheel myself, with Daddy in the passenger seat. He never hollered at me, or shouted out in fear, he never reprimanded me. He simply, gently, taught me. Whenever I would get to going a little too fast, he would always comment, “You’re getting a little too pure…” I knew what that meant, and I would slow down a little. To his and my credit, I have had only one wreck in my life, and it was the fault of the other driver. I’m thinking his teaching methods were pretty successful!

Driving was not the only lesson and skill he taught me. My father is one of the most gentle, humble, soft-spoken spirits you will ever meet. He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he is not around, words cannot describe the sense of bereftness that is felt. He worked hard all of his life to provide for his family. He was both a carpenter and a preacher. (A pretty good combination, even if I do say so myself.) As a carpenter, he taught me how to paint and build. My brother has always laughed and said, “It’s a crying shame when your sister has more tools than you do!” And I always say, “And I know how to use them…” There is no greater pride when I build something, and when I get through with the project, my first thought is…”just like Daddy.”

But the greatest lesson he taught me was how to live “Christ-like.” I have watched my Father all of my life, and I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he LIVES his beliefs and faith. There were times when I wanted him to get angry at a situation, to lash out at individuals who were hurting him or our family, but he never would. He ALWAYS turned the other cheek…”70 times 70…” His faith, along with my Mother’s, has been the driving force in my life. It is the one thing that I am sure of in this life!

About halfway through my life, I realized that he and I never really verbalized our love for each other. I always told Mother I loved her, but I could not remember doing that very much with Daddy. Once I made that realization, I set about to correct it. He now hears the words “I love you” each time we talk and each time we are together. He KNOWS it!! He will turn 89 this year, and I am so thankful that I have him! He will never know how his lessons direct my path and my actions, even when I tell him. So, on this past Father’s Day, as well as all the other days, I love and appreciate him even more. What a blessing that God gave me to him and Mother!

So men, it takes more than “making a baby” to be a real Father…it’s always being there, always supporting, always providing, always teaching and guiding, always loving…and ALWAYS living an example before them…the RIGHT example. So pay attention, little ones look up to you, and want to be just like you. And no matter how old a child grows, you will always be their Daddy. Make it count! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

And then I heard this low, sexy voice…

Most of us can share similar stories about the lessons our parents have taught us. No matter where you live in the world, it seems that most parents caution their children in the same way…”Don’t cross your eyes; they will get stuck that way!” “Don’t go outside with a wet head; you will catch a cold!” “Always leave home wearing clean underwear. You might be in an accident.” (As if you are going to end up with clean underwear should said accident occur…) As I was growing up,  my Mother imparted numerous “words of wisdom” on how to be safe. This week’s story involves some of those lessons…

Being a “career woman” most of my adult life, travel has been a necessary requirement in the pursuit of my business. Flying on planes, obtaining rental cars, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, connecting with limousine services, etc., etc., etc. has been a part of my daily and weekly routine. Since I am female, my Mother was especially careful in teaching my sisters and me how to be safe, and to be ever vigilant of our surroundings. She would tell us before getting into a vehicle…never go up to a car without looking around and under the car (someone could be under the car with a razor blade, with the goal of slicing your achilles tendon, rendering you defenseless). I have never figured out how someone could get under the car to begin with, and then how they could get to me before I stomped them into senseless oblivion. But ask me if I still, to this day, look under a car before getting in it, and the answer would be “yes.” She told us to always check the back seat, to make certain that someone was not hiding there. (Yes, with the intent, again, to do us harm.) When we had completed all of these necessary tasks, we could then safely get into a car. We had completed “the checklist.”

I would not be able to tell you whether I have been conscious of these “lessons”  or not, but I can tell you that very obviously I complete all the tasks when I travel. It has all become very “second-nature” to me…I don’t even think about it…I just do it.

So…I end up getting into Houston, TX, late one night. (Yes, all my flights had been delayed, yet again, for SOME reason…) In most airports you can obtain your rental car in the actual airport, and walk right out to the parking lot to pick up the reserved car. In Houston, however, the rental car companies are not on the airport property. You complete all of the rental agreement papers in the airport, and then a shuttle takes you to your car. And on this particular night, the shuttle took us to a very dark, deserted parking lot. I was on the shuttle with about eight business men. The shuttle driver, being a good Southern gentleman, elected to drop me off first, since I was the only woman. He also felt the need to wait until I actually got into the car safely before he pulled away. (A very nice, considerate young man!) 

I got off the shuttle and realized that I could not approach the car, and certainly NOT enter it until I had completed Mama’s safety checks. I placed my briefcase, suitcase, and garment bag on the ground near the shuttle bus door. I leaned down and looked under the car (to make certain that the person with the razor blade was NOT there). Then I went around and checked in front of the car, as well as the other side to make certain no one was hiding in the shadows. By this time, everyone on the shuttle was anxiously waiting to see what my next move would be. (I could hear a chuckle or two from a few of the men on the bus.) I proceeded with great caution and looked in the back seat to make certain it was indeed empty. After I had completed all of these tasks, I determined that the car was safe for me to enter. I loaded up all my paraphernalia in the trunk and proceeded to the driver’s door. Just as I opened the car door, I heard this low, sexy voice saying, “Your key is in the ignition.” I whipped around with both fists up in the air, ready for the battle of my life. That voice scared me so badly that I almost wet my pants!! This was the first year that the auto industry had added the option of a voice reminder for “keys in the ignition,”  and I had never heard one before. Once I realized that there was no sex predator in the car, about to attack me, I noticed the guys on the shuttle bus were killing themselves with laughter. I turned around, gave an enormous bow and curtsy, and bid them on their way. We all had a good laugh with my antics, but you know what? I was SAFE! And I have continued to be safe all of these years.

As children, we think some of our parent’s “cautions” are silly and ridiculous. Some of you have probably even said, “I will never catch myself saying those things to my children.” But you end up telling your kids the same things. Why? Because usually what our parents teach us, are lessons that DO keep us safe; that DO help us make the right decisions; that DO give us “direction” in our lives. I don’t consciously think of each lesson that I have been taught, but they stuck! I hear their words in my head, and I follow their guidance without even thinking about it. Because of my Mother’s “safety guidance,” I have always been aware and safe as a result. Her lessons were a success! What have you taught your children? Are the lessons worth remembering? And do you deliver the lessons with love, patience and consideration? I think I will keep following my Mama’s advice…and parents, I would keep giving those lessons…Won’t you join me? Just for this week….