“I love all people….”

Happy New Year!! I hope that everyone has a year filled with hope, excitement, love, success, etc., etc., etc… (You catch my drift, right?) I hope that each of you attain your heart’s desire! And…it looks as if I am going to keep blogging past my one year’s commitment. We will just see how it goes…So, for now, keep checking in each week to learn of my latest adventures and/or misadventures…

Working in aging services, I have always questioned the credibility of certain tests and evaluations utilized to assess an individual in specific areas, especially those used for the assessment of cognition and mood state. I think the “scores” of said tests can label and stereotype an individual. The person becomes defined by how well, or how poorly, they did on the test. They  become a “score,” as opposed to maintaining their autonomy and individual  uniqueness. Because of professional standards of practice, and mandated requirements, I have given the Mini Mental Status Questionnaire more times than I can remember. I know all of the questions by heart. So when it came time for my own Mother to experience this test, I was anxious! I knew how the score would be used.

It was our very first visit to the neurologist, and I knew that they would need a “base scoreline” to determine the progression of her disease, as well as utilize the data to determine appropriate medications and treatment. She wanted me to stay in the room with her, so I got to listen as she responded to each query. If sheer will could have affected the outcome of the test, she would have scored 100% accuracy, simply on my nervous energy alone!! With each question, I would sit there, willing her to state the correct answer. In my head, I found myself trying to come up with suitable answers that would be convincing enough to assure someone that I had all of my faculties about me. Under duress, and immeasurable anxiety, it was a lot harder than you can imagine. I found that I was not really sure of the actual date, or the day of the week. I did know the year!

The last item of this test states, “Write a complete sentence.” Now, I’m sitting there, thinking and thinking…”what would be a good, intelligent sentence to write?” I pondered and pondered; however, my Mother wrote down a sentence almost immediately! That first test, she did rather well! On the drive back home, I asked Mother, “what sentence did you write down?” “I couldn’t think of anything!!” She laughed and said, “I just wrote, I sure hope I pass this test!” I was laughing so hard that I almost had to pull to the side of the road. How incredible a response!!!

As her disease progressed, the tests increased, and the scores began to worsen. She began to dread going to see the neurologist. She would ask, “Are they going to give me that test?” She knew that she was having more and more difficulty coming up with the correct answers. And we both knew what that meant…With each test, I was always interested in that very last directive – “write a complete sentence.” She never used the same answer twice, but with each test, her sentences became shorter and more simplistic. On this particular day, we did not know it, but it would be her last visit and her last test. As before, on the drive home, I asked what sentence she wrote. On this occasion, she smiled sweetly and said, “I love all people.” And there, in that one sentence, was the defining truth for my Mother, for she, in fact, DID love all people.

I wonder how many of us can remain true to who we are in the midst of physical and mental decline. That even when we are debilitated, and see the losses that are occurring, can we be certain that the “pure self” – who we really are on the inside – will be evident to us and  others? I want to live such a life, that even when, or if, I cannot direct my thoughts or actions, that my sweet spirit, and “true self” will come through naturally. For you see, just like my Mother, “I love all people.” Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Are you hungry?

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

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

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

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

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

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…

For me, it IS “Merry Christmas!”

This week’s post will not include a “story.” I’ve thought a lot about this topic, and have debated whether to voice my thoughts, but most of you who know me, know that I have never been one NOT to voice my thoughts. So…here are my “meanderings” for this week, and by the way, I do not mean to offend anyone with these musings…

Christmas, for me, is a time for celebration! It is the birthday of Jesus, an event that is integral to the foundation of my faith. I have watched over the years as religion and politics, along with “moral” outrage, have taken the forefront in whether we use an “X” in Christmas, or whether it is politically correct to say “Merry  Christmas!” I have always found it helpful to become more informed and educated about things that I do not know. I, myself, had issue with the “X” in “Christmas,” so I did some research a number of years ago. The following statement gives explanation the most succinctly: “It is said that when the Emperor Constantine had his great vision that caused him to convert to Christianity, he saw the Greek letters Chi and Rho intertwined. Chi is written as an ‘X’ and Rho is written as a ‘P’, but they are the first two letters of the Greek word Christ ‘savior’. ‘XP’ is sometimes used to stand for Christ. Sometimes X is used alone. This is the case in the Chi (X) abbreviation for Christ in Xmas.” Personally, I don’t think most commercial businesses realize that they are using the Greek letter for “Christ.” I think for them, it is simply being able to fit a message on a store window…However, it made me feel some better in having that knowledge.

Now, for the “Merry Christmas!” part… I understand that not everyone in the world is of the Protestant faith. I even “get” that when all of us end up at where we think we are going at the end of our earthly lives, there are going to be a LOT of different religions represented, and quite a few surprises….as in, “I didn’t think YOU would be here…” lol But when I say, “Merry Christmas,” I am sharing an important event in MY life with YOU! I mean no disrespect. I am not asking you to believe the same way that I do. I am simply sharing part of me with you. If someone were to say to me, “Happy Hanukkah,” I would respond, “and Happy Hanukkah to you!”…although I am not Jewish. It would not insult or offend me! I would think that this individual thought enough of me to share their faith with me. And on some small level, I would get to share their joy and celebration of that religious event. So, why am I not afforded the same respect and sensitivity? Why should I have to change my celebratory exclamation to “Happy Holidays!” You see, we live in America, where we are afforded the freedom to worship any way we desire! However, lately, I don’t seem to feel that freedom. Why is that? Here’s the way I look at it, if my saying “Merry Christmas!” is offensive,  it draws into question your religion and faith.

My faith teaches love of all people, acceptance, compassion, sensitivity, forgiveness, grace and understanding. What does it say of your religion if you get upset over my sharing a part of my faith and traditions with you? Why can’t we all be a little more tolerant of each other and our individual beliefs? Why can’t we see the similarities and positives in our lives, as opposed to the differences and negatives? Why can’t we be supportive and celebrate those important events in each others’ lives…yes, even those religious events? It takes nothing away from me or my faith to do so!

I wish for each of you the freedom and comfort to celebrate this time of year as you desire! For me, I will be celebrating a very special birthday…Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

I Don’t Need Thanksgiving To Be Thankful…

Well, I’m sure by this time everyone has had enough turkey, dressing (or stuffing), cranberry sauce, desserts, etc., etc., etc., that we’ve all had to unbutton that top button on our pants, and loosen that belt just a “little…” I hope that all of you had quality time with friends and family, and that you made a lot of new memories to fill your heart and mind. I have watched, with great interest, all of the FaceBook postings each day in November, regarding what others were thankful for. It got me to wondering if those who know me, know what I am thankful for, without my having to post it in a public venue.

I try to live my life fully, each day, never taking for granted the blessings that have been given to me. You see, while I absolutely LOVE the holidays, and gatherings with friends and family, they come too few in number, too far “in between,” and don’t last nearly as long as I would like them to. And if I wait till just those times to give thanks, or be reminded that I am truly blessed, then I think I am falling short of what is expected of me…by God, and by others who look at me as an example. I find it comforting to acknowledge and be thankful for those “everyday” blessings…well, every day! Why should I wait for a particular month, or holiday, to list those blessings, and to be thankful for them? (And don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is ANYTHING wrong with doing that during the month of November. I think it is wonderful that a lot of people gave much thought to posting 30 things that they were thankful for during November. I enjoyed reading each of them!) However, I think that for many, we get caught up in “life happenings” to such a degree, that we tend to overlook those “everyday” people, events, and “things” that add meaning and purpose to our lives. And I am not too sure that we give proper thanks on a regular basis.

Many of you know that I travel quite a bit. One of my main “connecting” airport terminals is located in Memphis,TN – the home of St. Jude’s Childrens’ Hospital. I cannot tell you the number of times that I have been waiting for my next plane, and I see the children…extremely pale, dark circles around their eyes, no hair, sometimes attached to a piece of equipment, and parents trying to stoically act as if everything is normal. I say a quick prayer for them and their parents, and then I thank God that all of my nieces and nephews are healthy and vibrant. It could have been different… On another plane, I saw a married couple in front of me getting ready to deplane. He stood up, placed crutches under both arms, reached up to strap a carry on bag over his chest, and then he leaned in to assist his wife in getting out of her seat. I said yet another prayer for that couple, and then I thanked God for my health…that I had two good legs to carry me. It could have been different… Whenever I board any plane, I say a quick prayer for the crew and pilot, and our safety. When we land, I thank God for that same crew and another safe flight. It could have been different… Each morning that I wake up and am able to get out of bed, I thank God. It could have been different…Whenever I open my refrigerator and find various foods in there for the “choosing,” I thank God. It could have been different…When someone contacts me for a speaking engagement, I thank God that I can work, and for the opportunity. It could have been different… Whenever I open a book, and am able to see to read the words on each page, I thank God…It could have been different… When I look out of the back windows of my house, over a beautiful lake, and see the mountains, I thank God. It could have been different…I thank God that I was “given” to parents who loved me, and taught me the “right” way to live life. It could have been different…There are so many other things that I could list, but I would run out of space…sisters, brother, family, friends. Thankfully, I don’t have to keep a list, because I give thanks EVERYDAY!!

So you see, I have been blessed in a countless number of ways. We all have those “little” miracles in our lives every day, many times over within a given day! I don’t want to be found guilty of not expressing that appreciation and gratitude for what has been given to me. I am thankful everyday, and will continue to be so. I count my blessings every day of my life. 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….

I Need To Look Beyond Myself….

As you can see, I am really late in my post this week. It has been about 10 days of various hotels, numerous states, and either poor Internet connections or no cell service at all. I finally have enough of a signal tonight to try and get this posted. So sorry for being late….

A while back, when all of the fires were burning so terribly in Colorado Springs, I flew up to New England to speak at a conference. I had gotten off the plane and was in line with a number of people, waiting to obtain my reserved rental car. As is usual in this type of situation, a lady standing next to me began a conversation. She commented that she hoped she could get a car…that she did not have a reservation. Before I could really offer a comment, she explained that she was from Colorado Springs, and had just lost her home to the fires. She had flown clear across the country to stay with a friend, and attempt to rebuild her life. Although she had lost everything, she showed me a picture of her and two friends, holding posters, thanking the firemen for trying to save their homes. I was so impressed and humbled by this woman’s spirit! We talked a while longer, hugged each other, and went our separate ways…her hoping for a new life, amid much sadness…and me, hoping and praying that she could rebuild a life from the losses she had experienced.

Sometimes when we experience a loss, even as severe and complete as hers was, that’s all we see. Maybe we should stop for a moment, in the middle of everything, look around, and really see the people who have invested themselves in us, and are either trying to help us, or save us. Those are the ones who believe in us, and know that we can overcome anything…with the right kind of help. They are the unsung heroes in our everyday lives. I am going to look beyond myself and see the individuals who have invested a good portion of their lives in me. I love and thank each one. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

The Flight Leaves WHEN??

Most of you know that traveling is basically a “way of life” for me. When people hear that you get to travel a lot, their eyes light up, a smile comes on their face, and they say some of the following….”Gosh, you are so lucky!” “Oh, that sounds wonderful!” “Oh, I wish I could travel!” I know they mean well, and I am sure in their minds, they are thinking of “vacation” travel to exotic, luxurious places. However, “that” vacation spot is usually not where I am headed….

I started traveling as part of my work in 1975. For the first part of my career, I think I probably drove every main and back road in the states of Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee…MORE than one time….in fact, so many times that I could have almost done it blindfolded! And then my territory got larger and I had to begin flying almost every week. I usually flew out on a Monday, and returned home either late Thursday evening, or Friday. By most Tuesdays, I had already been to at least 3 different states. And yes, travel used to be fun! However, nowadays, I look at flying as simply the quickest way to get from point “A” to point “B.”

Currently, I usually have to get up at the crack of dawn, drive to the airport, strip for security, get redressed, and run to the gate, only to learn that my flight has either been delayed or cancelled…all of which is going to significantly impact the rest of my day’s flights. In the past, those type of issues would stress me beyond belief, and truly affected my health and attitude.

Whether I have finally aged gracefully, with infinite wisdom, or have just finally realized what’s important or not, I don’t know. I DO know, however, that it takes more than a delayed or cancelled flight to ruin my day! I have learned to simply “enjoy the life you are given,” and make the most of it. For example, I am fortunate to do a good amount of work for an association in North Dakota. One problem though…..the flight from Bismarck LEAVES at 5:00a.m. in the morning. Have you figured out yet, what time that means I have to be at the airport??? That’s right….at the very latest….4a.m. So, now….what time do you think I get up?!?! But here is what I have been so fortunate to see by being up that early….I’ve gotten to see snow actually coming out of the clouds as I was passing through them…I’ve seen the most amazing sunrises…so beautiful and wondrous that they simply leave you breathless! I’ve seen natures’s firework show in a distant thunderhead that would have rivaled any Disney production. I would have missed all of this, and much, much more, if I stressed about the time and the flying.

I think we each have a choice as to how we allow “uncontrollable” variables to affect our daily lives. See, if I had grumped and complained about that early flight, I am certain that I would have missed those beautiful opportunities to see God’s wonder and creation. I think I will continue to relax, stop complaining, and make certain I don’t miss any of those simple, day to day pleasures. 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…

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….