Is that your duck…or just a quacker?

lessons-from-ducks

As many of you know, I live on a beautiful lake in east Tennessee. Words like “breathtaking” or “beautiful” are so inadequate to describe the beauty and nature that I am fortunate enough to see each day. It would be like saying that a hurricane is a “little wind.” Words are just useless…but, hopefully, you catch my drift. Each morning, I look forward to what the day may reveal in the way of natural beauty and nature. We have had a wonderful Spring – not too hot, not too cool. Just right! And, oh my, the flowers, smells, sunrises, sunsets and new little “nature babies” are everywhere. So this week’s post is about some of those little babies…

We don’t know what happened to her, only that she was hurt. At first, we couldn’t figure out whether she had been hit by a car, been in a fight with a predator, or had gotten her foot stuck in a crevice or between rocks. The bottom line, however, was that she could only hop around on one foot. There was no way we could catch her, to take her to the vet. We simply had to watch her struggles, and each morning we were greeted with apprehension as to whether she had made it through another night, or had succumbed to the injury and died. Despite all the odds, she seemed to get stronger each day, and although her foot did not completely heal the way it was supposed to, she could still fly, and she now walked with a limp – a little “hop” actually. So one of our neighbors (the animal-loving ones…) named her “Hoppy.”

For the past three years, we have looked forward to Hoppy returning to our lake (and homes) each spring. This year, she had a little surprise for us…she was pregnant, and ended up having 11 (count ’em – ELEVEN) little ducklings. They have been adorable and we have had so much fun watching their “antics,” and watching them grow each day. As a result of my doing this, I have made some huge discoveries regarding motherhood.

Each day, this little mother has been responsible for feeding all of the ducklings, teaching them the “ways of the wild,” and keeping them safe every moment of their lives. (By the way, she really is a single Mom, with no help from anyone else, with the exception of a few neighbors who put out food for her and the babies.) We usually try not to count how many babies there are, because when you see that one is missing, you know that something bad happened. But I can’t seem to help myself, I count. So far (and they are almost totally grown now) she has only lost ONE baby. That is remarkable for this lake area, as we have eagles and hawks!

I have spent hours watching them, and what I see amazes me!! On one occasion, she apparently sensed some “danger” nearby, emitted a little sound that I could just barely hear, and every one of those ten babies swam to her side as if she were a magnet, and then they swam as “one unit” away from the danger, with her wings spread over them. You could hardly tell where a duckling started or ended. They looked like one bundle of feathers going down the lake.

I have watched as she finds a food source, and makes certain that each duckling is eating – all while she fervently scans about for danger. She is at attention and on guard every moment. Once they have all eaten, she will eat a little herself, and then off they go. It has been so much fun watching those babies learning how to eat. Some times they get too tired and will simply lay down in front of the food and eat. Other times, they will peck around the area quickly, getting as much food as possible. On another occasion, we had just put a little cracked corn out for them, knowing that they would be showing up within minutes to eat. In fact, they were in the next lot, watching us, waiting for the food. Mama took her time, but as she was watching the area closely, three HUGE crows zoomed into the tree just above the pile of corn. “In a New York second,” Mom gave another signal (I never heard it…), and ALL TEN of those babies raced over to the food before the crows could even get out of the tree! One crow made the mistake of trying to peck a little one, and Mama gave him a pretty good bite. He did not make a second attempt, and the babies got the food that was intended for them.

After eating, Mom took them back down to the water, and showed them how to “clean up.” She ducked her head under the water, came back up, spread her wings and flapped, all the while cleaning herself. Once she had done that a couple of times, she then gave another “silent” signal and all the babies began doing the same thing! Some got it right; some had to work at it a little harder. They were so adorable, doing everything that Mom did in perfect synchronization.

Those babies are smart! When Mom gives them direction, they respond immediately! They don’t lag behind, they don’t question “why,” they just act upon her instruction. Somehow they know that their livelihood and success depends solely on the teachings of their parent. And, of course, watching them got me to thinking about human parents and what lessons they are teaching their children. Do they let their children “slide,” and not follow directions or advice? Do they teach them lessons for failure or success? Do they love the children enough to be disciplined and to discipline? And most importantly, do they teach them by example? Those baby ducks get it! They KNOW that if they don’t do exactly what Mom is doing, they will not live to see another day. What are your children, grandbabies, nieces, nephews, etc., seeing when they watch you or observe your daily life actions? Is it something that will help them face the battles in life? Will they learn love and respect by watching what you do? Will they learn how to treat others with kindness and compassion? Will they learn how to work together? Will they realize the wonder and joy of what it means to be part of a family? Are you teaching them skills that can be used to succeed in life? Just WHAT are you saying to others as you live your life each day? Animals seem to get this…wouldn’t it be wonderful if humans got it too? Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

 

It’s just what I do…

One of the great blessings in my life is that I have wonderful friends who live all over the world! We can go weeks, months, or even years without seeing each other, and still slip into that easy comfort of closeness and friendship when we do actually get together. What makes things even more fun is when we meet for a fun-filled vacation at various “spots” that appeal to our sense of adventure and relaxation. This week’s story is about one such “adventure….”

Anyone who knows me, knows what I have done in my career, and why… I have worked all of my life working with, advocating for, protecting, providing care, and LOVING “old” people. The correct word to describe them is “elders,” but I wanted all of you to understand who I am talking about. I know that my love for this special group started as a child, loving my grandparents. And, oh my, did I LOVE them!! That love continued to grow as I fell hard and fast for each and every old person who attended all of my Daddy’s little country churches over the years. So, when I say I LOVE old people, it is not said lightly. It means they FILL my heart, that my emotions swell with joy, love, compassion, and that I just want to take care of them and make certain they have a wonderful quality of life.

Now, getting back to the story…As much as I love elders, there are times when I don’t want to feel the responsibility of caring for them; times when I simply want to turn off all the feelings, just relax and take care of me for a little while. I call these times vacations! And to be honest, I really have to work at turning off those “nurturing” feelings during this all too short timeframe. I don’t want to see an old person, think about an old person, take care of an old person…

So, some of my friends and I decided to go the “islands” for a vacation, and we were all going to meet in Atlanta at the airport and then fly to our final destination. All of our flights actually arrived on time in Atlanta (which was EXTREMELY UNUSUAL – lol!), and we had a “decent” layover before the next connecting flight. As we were sitting at our gate, waiting, we began to smell freshly popped popcorn. Our noses went on alert, searching for the source. I finally said, “I’ll go find the popcorn and get us some!” I began making my way down the terminal, just like an old coon dog, sniffing out where the popcorn was. I finally saw a little kiosk…the source of that wonderful smell. Standing behind the kiosk was an employee who obviously thought that this was her very last day on earth, and she had to come to work!! Really, what an attitude!! Grumpy and rude would not even begin to describe this woman accurately.

Standing in front of the kiosk was a short, very old woman, who would have fit Hollywood’s usual portrayal of a Russian itinerant worker. Her face was tracked with hundreds of lines reflecting a very long life of hardship, poverty, and possible sorrow. Shoulders stooped, the woman wore a dark olive shawl, draped over her head, and a long, thick skirt in the same color and material. Workman boots completed the outfit, and there was not one tooth in her mouth that I could see. And, she was OLD! From my observations, I determined that she could not speak the English language, and she did not have any money; however, she wanted some popcorn. She was trying to convey to the horrible employee that she just wanted a little taste of the popcorn, but did not have any money. I was standing in line behind the Russian woman, and there was this monster-sized cowboy standing behind me. He had to have been from Texas! He wore a huge 10-gallon hat, had cowboy boots the size of watermelons, and I’m certain he had to turn sideways to get those shoulders through a door!

As I was standing there, I began to feel my heart starting up…FEELING…wanting to put my arms around her…wanting to protect her…wanting to simply love her…My brain kicked in to counteract those feelings…stop it…you are on vacation…not your job…not your responsibility…you NEED this break…I emotionally took a step back to see how the situation might develop. The little Russian woman continued to try to convey what she wanted, and the employee continued to get uglier and uglier in her actions. The employee then “shushed” and waved the woman away, like she was a fly or insect. That was all it took for me. I swept into action, vacation or no vacation, it did not matter at that point. I leaned in to the employee, and in a voice that you hope you don’t EVER hear from me, said these words, “Give her the largest bag of popcorn that you have. Put a smile on your face as you are giving the popcorn to her, and THANK HER for her business! I will pay for it!! Do it NOW!” The employee hurriedly did exactly what I asked. As she was doing this, the cowboy leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Ma’am, if you had not done that, I was fixin’ to!” (Yes, cowboys ARE wonderful!!) The Russian woman realized what I had done, and followed me all the way to my gate, blowing kisses to me, with a big ole’ smile on her face. That is what my friends saw as I came back to my seat with their popcorn. I gave them all of their popcorn, and nobody said anything until we had “settled in.” They then all looked at me, and said, “What did you do this time?” My response? “Oh, you know me…It’s what I do…”

How can you NOT do a kindness for someone when it is well within your power to do so? Whether a person is old, young, middle-aged, poor, rich, in-between, what does it matter? The compassion and power to help others is something that lies within all of us. Some of us just act more readily when prompted. Amy Grant’s grandfather, A. M. Burton, made a statement years ago that went something like this: “Life is made up of golden chances, opportunities to do good. One lost is lost forever. If we miss doing a kindness to a friend, we can never do that kindness again. If we might speak a pleasant word, or offer a bit of worthwhile counsel or advice and fail to do so, we can never have just that opportunity again. Giving is a way of life.” How about joining me in giving as much as we can, whenever we can? It’s what we do! 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….

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…

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….

The POWER within each of us…

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

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

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

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

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

 

I just mooned a trucker!!

Well….I missed last week’s post…It was one of “those” weeks, and I apologize for not getting something up here. You will simply have to work with me on this… Here is another story “from the road,” (literally and figuratively!).

My business partner and I had been on business in Natchez, MS. It had been a “driving” day trip as opposed to a “flying” trip, and we were living in Jackson, MS at the time. The trip from Natchez to Jackson takes approximately one hour and forty-five minutes to drive. It is a two-lane country road for the most part, and there are NO restrooms along the way. Let me repeat, there are NO restrooms along the way. I know this to be a true fact. I have known this particular piece of “truth” for well over thirty years.

Whether it is healthy or not, I usually do not “make use” of restrooms while I am working during the day. I will normally go the entire day without having to “use” such “facilities.” My business partner knows this is a terrible habit I have developed, and she will tell me often how this practice is not good for my body. 

So on this day, we had finished our work and were about to get into the car for the trip home. Wanting to hurry and get there as quickly as possible, I determined that I could make the trip without going to the bathroom before I got into the car. (Remember, this was after not having “gone” the entire day.) After all, what was an hour and forty-five minutes more??

She was driving, and fifteen minutes into the trip, I realized that I had made a huge error in judgment. I needed to go to the bathroom…in a desperate kind of way…Not wanting to bring this issue to the attention of my friend, because I knew I would get the “bathroom lecture,” I reclined my seat back just a little, and loosened the seatbelt some. Relief! For fifteen more minutes…that is when the sharp pains began shooting from one hip to the other. I began squirming and fidgeting, quietly, trying not to draw attention to my dilemma. I finally realized that “something” was about to give, so very softly, I said, “Pull the car over.”  At first, I could tell that she had not heard me, so I repeated, in a somewhat louder voice, “Pull the car over.” She immediately said, “What?”  For the third time, and in an even louder voice, I said, “Pull the car over!”  She began looking for a convenient spot to pull off the road, all the time asking, “What’s wrong?” “Are you sick?” I responded, “Well, I guess you could kinda say that…I have to go to the bathroom really bad.” She looked at me incredulously and stated the obvious: “There are NO bathrooms on this road! You KNOW that! WHY didn’t you go before we left?” I said, “I know! I should have. PULL THE CAR OVER!!” Then the “bathroom lecture” started….”I wish you would take better care of yourself! I don’t know why you don’t go to the restroom during the day. It’s just not good for your body. It’s not healthy.” I said, “You are absolutely right! PULL. THE. CAR. OVER!!!!” It now hits her what I am about to do, and she begins a plea, “Oh, Cat, please don’t tell me you are about to use the bathroom on the side of the road. Can’t you wait a few more minutes???” I am screaming hysterically by now for her to pull over! Not another word was spoken, and she pulled over instantly. 

I jumped out immediately, leaving my car door open, and I began opening the back car door so that I could have some privacy. As I was doing this, I very quickly asked my friend to get out on her side of the car and be my “lookout.” (Just an aside here…please don’t sit there reading this as if you have never done something like this yourself!!) She got out, not a very happy camper at that point in time. Just as I began to relieve myself, I heard her say hysterically, “Cat, stop what you are doing!! A big truck is coming! Get back in the car!” Now, I ask those of you who have ever had a full bladder, and you finally got to a point of release, could you STOP on command??? I knew there was no hope, so I shouted back to her….”Save yourself! I can’t stop!” I had no sooner gotten the words out of my mouth, when she hopped into the floor of the back seat, pulling a jacket over her head! Now, I think by now all of you know that I have a warped, healthy sense of humor. Watching her hiding herself in the back seat floor just plain out got my tickle box turned over. I started laughing and could not stop. (And we DO know what laughter does to a full bladder….) In the middle of my laughter, I realized that the trucker was swiftly bearing down on us and that I would be exposed to his full view. I looked back into the car, at my friend all covered up and thought..that’s a pretty good idea! I quickly leaned over as far as I could, got my jacket, and covered my head too. Just in time! The trucker came by slowly, and went on his way. I am certain from his whistles and horn blowing that he got an eyeful! There was no help for it…it just happened…

We got back into the car and continued on the trip. It was very quiet in the car, and I stood it as long as I could before opening my mouth. “Well,” I said, “there’s one good thing about what just happened.” My friend asked, “And just what would that be?” I responded, “He will never know who we are unless I put a jacket over my head, and drop my drawers…” She somehow did not find the humor in that as much as I did….

Why do we continue to throw caution to the wind and not make the necessary preparations for events, projects, life events, and day-to-day happenings? We will take a chance on things “turning out right,” when, in reality, the odds are against it. I knew I had not gone to the bathroom all day long. I knew I was getting in the car for a lengthy drive. I knew I had a full bladder. Yet….I took the chance that it would work out fine. And guess what? It didn’t! Often we are given little reminders, or notices, in life that indicate that we need to “be prepared.” People constantly tell me about events that happen in their lives. They will say, “I saw the handwriting on the wall,” but they did not pay attention and were caught off guard. I always ask, “If you saw the “handwriting,” why didn’t you read it?? Why didn’t you do something about it?? I think we put things off, and hope for the best. I now take the necessary precautions when I plan a trip. I try very hard to be prepared for any event in life, although I know that is an impossibility within itself. However, I continue to “anticipate” and plan. I don’t want to leave things to chance, if I can help it! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Don’t You Fret None…I WILL be there!!

By now, you all know that I travel a great deal in my work. In that travel, I can face quite a few challenges in “getting to” the location where I am to speak…lightning strikes, thunderstorms, floods, ice, snow blizzards, mechanical problems with the plane…you just never know what you might face once you get to the airport. In 35 years of traveling around the United States, I have only been late to one conference, only missing my morning presentation. It can be a little daunting when trying to figure out how to get to a conference location; however, I am pretty much known in our industry as a “sure thing.” Education Directors and Meeting Planners know that I will make every effort possible to honor my commitment to their conference. So here is the story for this week…

I was scheduled to be the keynote speaker for an annual conference in Kearney, NE. In addition to being the keynote, I was to provide a full day of additional presentations. I never make reservations on the very last flight into a city, “just in case…” You always want there to be “another” flight, “just in case…”

On this particular morning, I had an extremely early flight, so I was at the airport bright-eyed and bushy-tailed! We all got on the plane (the first leg of my trip), and as soon as they closed the door, the inside of the plane filled with smoke. We all thought it was a pretty good idea to get back OFF the plane, so that’s what we did very quickly. The airline did not have another plane for us to use, so we had to wait for them to send in another plane from another airport – a 2 hour delay to the beginning of my trip. As is my habit, I contacted the Meeting Planner/Education Director and explained that I had run into difficulties, but I thought that I would be able to rebook other flights to make the trip. I explained that I would be late, but I would be there in time for the opening session.

The second plane came…we all got on it…they closed the door…and no smoke…so we were good to go. We made it to Houston, where I was to make a connection to Denver, CO. While waiting for the plane to Denver, the agent got on the PA and announced that the flight to Denver was cancelled. They then booked me on another flight to Denver. In doing this, I was going to miss all connecting flights to Kearney, NE, and not be able to make it for my presentation. After much discussion with the airline agents, they suggested that I could rent a car in Denver, and drive over to Kearney…about a 4-5 hour drive in the best of circumstances. I asked them how they thought I might be able to drive in a snow blizzard, when all flights were being delayed or cancelled. They did not have very good answers to my concerns. So, I asked them, “What is is the closest city to Kearney that you can fly me into?” They said they could fly me into Lincoln, and I could then rent a car to make the 3-hour drive to Kearney. The flight would arrive into Lincoln at 1:00 a.m. in the morning, and after I had rented a car, and driven the 3 hours, I would hopefully arrive in Kearney at between 4:00 a.m. – 5:00 a.m. the next morning. This was the only way that I was going to get there, so I agreed. I had been in airports for approximately 17 hours when my flight boarded for Lincoln. Most everyone I know would have just called it a loss, and told the Meeting Planner that they could not make it…that they were just going to try and return home. But, me being me, I just could not do it that way. A commitment is a commitment.

I called the Education Director, a very dear friend of mine, and brought her up to speed on the latest developments. She said that the she was sending a driver from the hotel to pick me up in Lincoln, so that I would not have to drive those last three hours. She also said that she had placed a blanket and a pillow in the back seat so that I could sleep on the way. The poor driver was a young man who had worked a double shift at the hotel, and now was driving three hours in sleet and snow to pick me up. We then drove the three hours back to the hotel in the same sleet and snow. There was NO WAY that I was going to get in the back seat, and try to sleep, while this poor young man was exhausted. So we talked the entire way to the hotel – almost four solid hours! He was such a sweet person, and going through quite a few problems in his own life. He opened up to me and I tried to give him some good, caring, sound advice. I’m told he still asks about me whenever they have a conference at that same hotel, so I am hoping that the words of advice that I gave helped him in some small way.

We arrived safely at the hotel around 5:30 a.m. I checked in, got to my room, and fell onto the bed for a 1-hour nap. At 7:30 a.m., I arrived at the ballroom to set up for my keynote address. The Education Director almost body-slammed me with a hug of gratitude and thankfulness that I had made it safely! (Or that I had made it at all!) At 8:00 a.m. I began my presentation. NO ONE knew that I had spent 17 hours on planes, and in airports, and an additional four hours riding in a car in sleet and snow to be there with them for that morning session. The title of my keynote, you ask? “Motivation vs. Burnout!”

Sometimes you have to keep going, even when you are so bone-tired that you can’t see straight. It’s all about honoring commitments that have been made. Do people know they can count on you? That you are dependable? What do your actions say to others? Do you exceed their expectations? I always want to be someone who can be counted on…that people will know I will try everything in my power to be there for them. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…