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….

 

Her knows her numbers…

I have had the love and support of wonderful family and friends throughout my entire life. They have given me complete and unconditional love. While most family members are connected by birth and genetics, some are connected by choice. This week’s post centers around one of those “choice” family members.

My best friend has been one of those forever friends…46 years and counting…Her family has been my second, adopted, family – by choice. And my family has become her second family; again, by choice. In fact, when we would meet someone new, my Mother always introduced my friend as a daughter, saying that she had been her “easiest” birth. We always laughed each time she said that. 

You share quite a few spectacular moments in that many years of friendship! One of the privileges and honor that has fallen my way, is that I get to be an Aunt to her nieces and nephews. Today’s post is about “our” niece, Sarah Adison. From the moment that she was born, we knew she was going to be exceptional. She was so adorable…an “easy” baby; good-natured; always smiling; and never demanding. She was such a little conversationalist as a child. She was so smart that we all thought we might need to take some educational refresher courses just to keep up…

She and her Mom would occasionally stop by our offices to visit. We always kept a CD of Dr. Seuss and Winnie the Pooh stories for her enjoyment. On one particular visit, when she was 3 years old, we were about to watch “Green Eggs and Ham” on my computer. Sitting in my lap, as the computer was booting up, she turned to us and said, “The computer is reading the CD so that we can watch it.” Over her head, my friend looks at me in astonishment, and mouths, “Is that right?” Of course, I responded with a shake of my head…YES, that’s right!! And only 3 years old…

We knew when she started school, that she was going to absorb every morsel of knowledge available…and then some!  She was taught in Pre-K by her own Mother, and a little boy from their church was in the same class. He was mesmerized by Adison. He came home from school one day, and talking about Adison to his mother, said in awe, “Her knows her numbers!” We got such a laugh out of this sweet little guy’s words.

We have watched these past 12 years as she grew and matured into a dynamic, well-balanced, young lady. She had apparently established educational goals for herself (since the 7th grade), and certainly, she exceeded them. We attended Class Day last week, and WOW!!! The number of accomplishments and honors that she received were simply overwhelming. As a family, we learned of her perfect scores in national and state tests…maintaining a scholastic score of 95 or better since the 7th grade!! We teared up when she was announced Valedictorian…and welled up again when it was publicly noted that on campus, she is simply known as “Friend.” That’s her nickname!! So you see, she seems to have it all…the smarts and the heart!

She will graduate this coming week and I wanted to honor her publicly. She will never know the depth of our joy, pride and love.

So yes, her DOES know her numbers…and her A, B, Cs…and her Calculus, and her Physics, and her Latin, and her Greek, and pretty much anything else in the world!! This lovely young woman was told from the very beginning that she could do anything, be anything…as long as she was willing to work for it. And, oh my, did she work for it! And why not excel? She was given love, support, guidance, prayers, and faith by her family. Now she is ready to begin the next “phase” of her life – college. What an adventure!! Won’t you join me in celebrating her accomplishments and the beginning of this next chapter in her life? Just for this week…Sarah Adison, you ROCK!

“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….

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…

The gift that wouldn’t fit into a box…

Due to the recent storms here at home, I had no Internet for the last few days…That is why I am late with this post. For those of you who have been following my blog,  you probably realize that I have only two more posts to make, and my one year’s commitment will end. Because of the many comments and requests that I have received, I have a proposal for you. I have created a FaceBook page entitled, “Just for this week…” If you would enjoy my continuing the blog for another year, please go and “LIKE” the blog on that page. If I get enough “likes,” I will continue… I’m not going to set a goal for the number of “likes” I want to receive, but of course, the more “numbers” I get, the more motivation I will have to continue. Sooooooo…what will it be? Please go to:  www.facebook.com/justforthisweek and “LIKE” us!! Thank you!

I hope all of you are going into this week with a sense of peace, wonder, celebration and love, and that all of your shopping is finished! I hope you are NOT frazzled and frustrated, wanting to just “get through” the next few days. We get so caught up in finding the “perfect gift,” that some times we miss the real “value” of what we are giving, or the value of what we could give. So, this week I will share a story about the “perfect” gift…

I am part owner of a company. Owning a business certainly has perks, but it can also be very demanding, and at times, not very profitable. A number of years ago, we found ourselves in dire straights…no income for a really long stretch of time! (Actually, about two years, but then, who’s counting??!!) During that time, Christmas came around, and I realized that I would not be able to purchase ANY gifts. (And you have probably already figured out that I can be a Wild Woman at Christmas time…) I LOVE giving gifts that individuals want, but would never buy for themselves; something that a person voiced interest in during the past year, thinking that no one was listening… So, to not have money at this special time of year was horrible for me. I tried and tried to figure out how I could get gifts for all of those whom I love. There was no answer or solution.

I was really depressed over the situation, especially not being able to have gifts for my parents. However, all of a sudden, I came up with an idea…what if I wrote them a letter from my heart? What if I told them how much they meant to me, and how thankful I was for the life lessons they had taught me through gentle guidance and example? In this letter, I listed specific, wonderful memories… I detailed actions that I had observed; actions that helped shape my character, integrity, honesty. I explained that through their lives they had taught me to love God, and in turn, to love others. I thanked them for the wonderful childhood they had given me. I told them that each day I made certain that my thoughts and actions met their standards and expectations…that I lived by their instructions…and that I was proud to do so…that the lessons they had taught me allowed me to live a full, vibrant, satisfying life. They had empowered me to do so! I told them that whenever I did anything, or completed a task, I would step back, look at the accomplishment and think…”just like Mama…” or “just like Daddy…”

I watched as they opened the envelopes and read the individual letters in their entirety. I knew Mother would cry, because she was always so expressive with her emotions. However, I wasn’t sure how  Daddy would respond to this gift. I watched and when he finished reading, he gazed out into space for a moment, and then he broke down into sobs…great heaving sounds that took my breath away. He was crying so hard that it was hard to make out his words: “This is the best gift I have ever received!” I can count the times that I have seen my Father cry on one hand. That this letter moved him and touched his heart so deeply, spoke volumes to me. And in that moment, I was so glad that I did not have any money to buy Christmas gifts…

So, you see…it is never about the monetary value of a gift. It is the meaning and love behind the gift. We don’t have to give presents each Christmas that cost a lot of money. Whatever you offer sincerely from your heart is simply enough! Give of yourself this season. Let people know what they mean to you…how wonderful they are…how you cannot imagine a life without them in it…That’s what I try to do. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Even As You Do Unto Them, You Do Unto Me….

Thanksgiving! What a wonderful time of the year! However, this year will be just a little sad, as this is the very first Thanksgiving that I will experience without my Mother. Thanksgiving was OUR time! Thanksgiving is the holiday that ALL of our family members come home to celebrate. Mother would prepare each child and grandchild’s favorite dessert for this occasion (so we had quite a lot of desserts). She would begin a week ahead of time, cooking. I would arrive a couple of days before the holiday, and she and I would cook and cook, laughing and enjoying our time together in the kitchen. The night before Thanksgiving, I would tell her to get some rest, that I would get up throughout the night and check the turkeys and hams in the oven. One of my favorite, funny memories is of our entire family playing charades the night before. It was Mama’s turn and she had to act out the movie, “The Exorcist.” She turned her back to us at first to prepare herself, and when she turned around, she had contorted her face and body to where she DID look possessed!! All of us were just on the floor, killing ourselves laughing. She had nailed it!! And she had never even seen the movie! Of course, NONE of us guessed the correct answer…

We never knew how many people would show up for dinner, as Mother would invite ANYONE in the community who would be by themselves, or they had no family. We have had over FIFTY people present at various times for Thanksgiving dinner! Mother taught us that it was always better to give and share, especially when you had the means to do so. Her favorite saying was, “the word is compassion.” She lived by that Bible verse…”Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” She instilled that belief in all of us. So, here is the story for this week…

A couple of years ago, I was visiting my folks in MS. Although Mother had Alzheimer’s, she was still able to live at home. Whenever I visited them, the visits were always filled with my making repairs around the house. Mother and Daddy had always relied on me to do these things, and would have a “to do list” for each of my visits. Mother understood that this was one of the ways that I expressed my love for them, and that I enjoyed doing these jobs for them.

I was outside the house, completing some work on their carport. As I was working, a man walked up the driveway, and introduced himself as one of our new neighbors. He told me his name and we visited for a few minutes, as I welcomed him into the neighborhood. Then he got down to the reason for his visit…he explained to me that his family had just moved in, and he was starting a new job on Monday. However, he had a problem…the alternator in his car had gone out, and he was going around the neighborhood, attempting to find some “handyman jobs” in order to get enough money to pay for the alternator. He explained that he had just completed some work for one of our neighbors, and was wondering if he could do anything for us. He indicated that he was about $35 short of the amount he needed. Now, I will admit, I was not born yesterday, nor did I fall off of a turnip truck, so my first instinct was that this was a scam. The only problem was this…what if he was telling the truth, and what if I could help him, and I did not. Then there was that Bible verse that kept repeating itself in my head….”Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” I was in a quandary as to what to do. Adding to the “drama” unfolding before me, was the knowledge that I had exactly $40 in cash in my wallet, and I NEVER, EVER have, or travel with, any cash on my person. As I examined all of the information, I realized that I had only one course of action…I excused myself for a moment, went inside the house, and got the $40. I simply gave it to the man. I told him he did not have to earn it. His eyes filled with tears, and he starting crying as he began thanking me. I went over, placed my arms around him, and we cried together…perfect strangers. I told him that all of us find ourselves in situations at times where we need a little help from others…that I had been in his situation numerous times myself. I explained that I did not want him to do any work for me, but that at some time in the future, maybe he could help someone else in need. He promised that he would. He left, thanking me again for my kindness.

Was I taken in by a very good con artist? Did I give good money to someone who would abuse it? Who really knows? Maybe so, but I think not. And anyway, I could not have done it any differently…you see, there’s this Bible verse…Life lessons, those taught to me by my parents, still drive my actions today. I do feel that I made the right decision that day. I am thankful, and will continue to be so, for those wonderful lessons that have shaped my character, integrity, and have molded me into the person that I am at present. Each day I will continue to try and do the “right thing!” Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

Please…don’t EVER lose that look…

My brother has two children – one girl and one boy. As you know, from earlier posts, our little girl (now a Mommy with two children of her own) was adopted. And as you also know, we, as a family, have never known the difference…She is truly, completely ours, just as the little boy. He came afterwards, and was quite a surprise to my brother and sister-in-law, as they had been told that it would be impossible for them to “create” a child. Enter, the little blonde-headed, brown-eyed rascal boy. He was named after both my father and my brother, which made him a “3rd.” He opted to be called Jay. So he is my “Jay-Man,” and this post is about him…

You probably have figured out by now that I am known as the “Cool Aunt.” I don’t have grandchildren, so my nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews receive the benefit of that situation. I can spoil and love as much as I want, and we do, indeed, do that. Most of them realized early on that I was not truly an adult…that I was really a kid, who would take time with them, and PLAY with them. I was the one that got the “Christmas Lists.” They knew that if it was in my power, I would make certain they received whatever they “requested.” I have told each of them that there is nothing they could ever do that would disappoint me, or keep me from loving them. And…that if they were ever in trouble, they could call me from anywhere, at any time, and I would be there! And, yes….I have received some of “those” calls…

Jay was so tenderhearted from an early age. He was, and is, such a daredevil that he takes my breath away (like attempting to ride his skate board off the roof of a house…), but you will not find a sweeter, more gentle young man. When he was little, he would get so excited to see me, that his body would almost vibrate, and the minute I left to go home, he would say, “I already miss her…” But the thing that always got to me, and touched my heart, was the way he would look at me. Those big brown eyes would just latch on, and follow me the entire time we were together. And, oh my, the expression in those eyes…If you have ever heard the phrase, “eyes full of love,” his would be the definition. Even as he got older, the “look” remained the same. I often tell him, “Promise me this…as you get older, don’t ever stop looking at me that way.” And each time he responds, “I promise!” He is now a Sophomore in college, and yes, he still looks at me that same way…and for that, I am very thankful!

I had always wanted to take him to Disney World when he got to be the “right age,” just like I had his sister, but my financial situation could not afford the trip. He will never know the disappointment and sadness that I have felt over that. I wanted to do something, and it just so happened that I was going down to the beach for a 4-day weekend. I called his parents and said, “Pack his clothes…he’s going to the beach with me.” He was 8, and just a ball of energy and excitement. He had never been on vacation with Aunt Cat. The first thing we told him was…”there are no rules on vacation…” We play the entire time, get up when we want, go to sleep when we want, and eat whatever we want…(I’m sure you get the idea…) Oh, he had the best time…making memories that will hold me for a lifetime. We were in a huge pool, playing with other family members, and he swam over to me. He wrapped his arms around my neck, hugged me so tight, looked at me with “those” eyes, and said, “Aunt Cat, this is the best vacation I have ever had!!” I hugged him back tightly, willing him to not grow up!!

I learned a valuable lesson that day. I was so disappointed that I was unable to take him to Disney World, that I had almost decided to do nothing. I realized that it is not necessarily WHAT you do, but that you DO something…anything, as long as you are spending time with a child that loves you.  We had the best time together, and I am hoping that the memories will remain fresh in his mind for all of his life. I don’t want to ever take for granted those wonderful gifts in life. In this case, those beautiful brown eyes, full of love, looking at me…Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

My Mother, the mad scientist….

Wow! It has been quite a busy few weeks for me. It’s “fall conference” time, and luckily for me, that means a lot of speaking engagements…and a lot of travel. I have been from Kentucky to North Dakota to West Virginia, and will be leaving this week for Minnesota. I usually just “hang on” and ride the schedule through…It’s hard, but immeasurably satisfying! When traveling, one usually spends a great deal of time either running through the airports at a breakneck speed, OR sitting hour after hour waiting for: 1) the next plane to arrive; 2) plane repairs from mechanical issues; 3) the flight crew to “show up,” 4) lightning strikes, and 5) re-routing and rebooking the original flights due to items 1-4. There is quite a bit of time for one to “ponder.” This week I remembered a humorous incident that involved my Mother…

My Mother and I got to share a number of experiences as mother/daughter. A very unexpected, and pleasurable, experience came about when my Mother started to work as an Activity Director in a nursing home. I ended up being her Activity Consultant for a period of time.  This meant that I actually trained and taught her how to do the job correctly. It was so much fun, and she was a WONDERFUL Activity Director. One never has to go far to figure out where I got the creativity, enthusiasm, and commitment for my work. The apple definitely did not fall far from the tree…She was one of the most innovative, creative, and unique persons that I have ever known.

One evening I got a phone call from her, and she was just beside herself with excitement. Easter was just around the corner, and she shared that she had done something that was going to surprise all of her residents. Earlier I had shared a neat activity idea with her – getting a small incubator from the local co-op to hatch some eggs. The residents would be so excited to nurture, turn the eggs, and be responsible for the successful “hatching” of little Easter biddies. Of course, Mama being Mama, she just could not bring herself to “do it straight.” She started the conversation by saying that her residents were going to be especially surprised when the eggs hatched, because the biddies were going to be all different colors…not just yellow! She proceeded to tell me “the rest of the story…” She had coerced a local dentist into letting her borrow a drill. She had drilled a tiny hole into each egg, and had added a drop of food coloring into each one. As she was describing the details, all I could think of was that she was going to end up with little “mutant” biddies…and the residents would just be horrified! I could just picture a  “circus act”….two-headed chicken…one-winged marvel…little biddies running into the walls continuously…or running in circles…or psychedelic freaks…You get the picture! None of the images in my head were success stories. I tried to dissuade her…to get her to replace the ones she had drilled with “normal” eggs. She laughed and said that I worried too much, that it would all be good!! The residents took their jobs very seriously, turned the eggs at the specified times, and looked forward to the “births” with great anticipation!

I happened to be visiting my folks at home when she got the call from the residents. “The babies are hatching! The babies are hatching! And they are ALL different colors!” We all jumped into the car and rushed down to the facility. Sure enough, the biddies had all hatched right on schedule…AND, they were all different, and vibrant colors! There were a couple who were “marginal,” with psychedelic colors, but for the most part, they had turned out exactly how Mother intended. And, oh my, the residents were thrilled beyond words! They would not have been prouder, had the biddies been real, live children.

I think of this story often, and it always brings a chuckle, along with the satisfaction of a mutually shared experience with my Mama. She is the one who taught me to ask, “Why not?” – one of my most favorite questions in life! Too often we miss chances (and opportunities for success) by going with the average or norm. Why not try something different? Why not be different yourself? Why not be brave and courageous and carve your own path in life?  Simply…WHY NOT??? That’s what I am going to do! Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

Arghh!!!! I Have Monkey Lips!!!

Today is the first day of Autumn! This particular season used to affect my mood in a negative way…I got all melancholy, nostalgic, and a little depressed when I saw the summer’s end. Now, however, Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year. I love feeling the brisk “nip” to the air and seeing all of the beautiful leaves turn into such vivid colors that no photo can ever do them justice. This time of year also holds such fun and sweet memories of the State Fair…

Years ago, my uncle and I worked with the youth in our church. We were always getting the kids together for fun events and wonderful, Christian fellowship. I think the kids loved us a little extra because we did not act like “adults.” I would like to think that we made a positive impression on their young lives; and actually prevented some from choosing a life of hardships and mistakes. 

Each year, when the State Fair came to town, we would plan a night to take all the kids for fun, food, and rides. As was the usual routine, we entered the fairgrounds and began to walk around to determine the night’s schedule – what we wanted to ride, side attractions we wanted to see, and of course strategically planning out all of the food stops. As we were walking, we came across an organ grinder who had the cutest little monkey, dressed in a red coat and a little red hat. The little monkey would dance around, and then “work the crowd” for handouts and tips. He would come up to you, remove his hat, and hold it out for the money. If you gave a dollar, the monkey would shake your hand. For $5, you could actually hold the little fella. Well….animal lover that I am, and the monkey being as cute as he was, I certainly wanted to hold him!! The church kids were egging me on to do so. I pulled the $5 out of my pocket, and waited for the organ grinder to see me. I was SO EXCITED!! That monkey was one of the cutest little animals I had ever seen.

His handler took my money, showed me how to hold the monkey, and then handed him over to me. I had no sooner gotten him in my arms, when that monkey wrapped his arms around my neck and gave me the biggest ole’ kiss right on my lips. I’m thinking, Arghh! I have monkey lips!!! I was so surprised, and the monkey was looking around at everyone grinning from ear to ear.  (Don’t ask me how I knew he was grinning…you would have had to see him…but he WAS grinning!) Everyone found my situation very humorous, and our church youth were beyond reason with laughter! Well, apparently, this was not standard behavior for the monkey. The handler was frantic and came over immediately to get the monkey. That’s when we ran into problems. When the monkey saw the handler coming over, he gripped my neck with both arms, and would NOT let go! By this time, a huge crowd had gathered to watch the antics. I’m not sure whether they thought I was part of the act or not, but they sure got a free show that night! The harder the man attempted to remove the monkey, the stronger and tighter those little hairy arms got. The monkey’s cute face was right next to mine, and he was hanging on for dear life. I suddenly began to notice a few things that I had not paid attention to earlier…his teeth did not seem so small when they were about an inch from my face. In fact, it seemed his teeth were growing longer and longer by the minute. I was standing there thinking, this little monkey really likes you! And I was not certain that I should be pleased with this knowledge, or a little concerned that a wild animal had taken a liking to me…Finally the handler was able to pry the monkey’s fingers and arms from around my neck, and was able to get him back under control. I bowed graciously for the audience (who was hooping, cheering and applauding) and made my way back to our group, who could not contain themselves!

I find, that in life, people make choices without giving much forethought to the end result of their decisions. I don’t think people truly “think things through.” They make decisions, even huge, life decisions without considering all the possible outcomes, both positive and negative. You see, I made a decision to hold a monkey for $5. It never crossed my mind to consider what might happen, once I had the monkey in my arms. I had just looked at the first immediate outcome, and that’s all I saw. But, my actions precipitated a series of events that could have caused me or others harm. The story is certainly good for a laugh, but I think the moral of the story is better. When decisions or choices need to be made, I am more careful now. I ask the “what ifs?” I try to determine if there are more than one possible outcome. I try to look at every possible scenario…and I follow the decision all the way through BEFORE I act. It doesn’t make me any less adventuresome, but I would hope that it makes me a little wiser. And so far, I have only been kissed by one monkey….I’m going to continue to THINK before I ACT! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…