I just could NOT kill her….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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…

Which “Cat” are you listening to?

I can almost believe that Spring is just around the corner…beautiful weather…birds are chirping…and, at least for today, it is warmer than it has been. For the first time in months, I am not dressed in double layers of clothing. Spring cannot get here fast enough for me…Usually Spring begins my “conference” speaking schedule, and I can end up in numerous locations from east coast to west coast in just a short matter of time. You never know what might happen at any of these conferences and that will lay the groundwork for this week’s story…

I have spoken at numerous conferences, and as a speaker, you have to be prepared for any “unplanned happenings” during a presentation. The bottom line is that I only have a specified amount of time to speak. Because educational credit is provided for my sessions, I am required to speak the entire length of time for which I am scheduled. I was speaking at one conference when a huge thunderstorm came through and knocked out all of the electricity. We were in a room with no windows, so I, along with several hundred conference attendees were literally in pitch black darkness. Knowing that I could not afford to wait the storm out, and because I am such a “visual” speaker, I continued with my presentation, alluding to my facial expressions, and hand motions. In the middle of my doing this, a board member had gone to her car and gotten a flashlight. Of course, being a kid at heart, when they gave me the flashlight, the first thing I did was place it under my chin and began making “monster faces.” The audience was on the floor laughing (although I could not see them…). I then continued my presentation in the dark, with the help of the flashlight. The executive board was more than pleased that I had not let the situation sidetrack my presentation.

On another occasion, I was in Florida making a presentation in a room that had windows and two doors that led directly outside. During my presentation we began hearing a cat (apparently in heat) “meowing” really loud right outside one of the doors. I would say a few words, and then the cat would “say a few words.” Everyone began trying very hard not to laugh, including me! The dialogue kept going back and forth to the point that I could no longer tell which “Cat” the audience was listening to. I knew that this was a “battle” that I was not going to win, so I just stopped, and asked someone near the door to please let the cat come in! Once the cat got inside, he immediately stopped his caterwauling and I was able to finish my presentation.

In life, no matter how well you have things planned, the “unexpected” always happens. How well you deal with those unexpected “life events” depends on your attitude, graciousness and confidence. You can let those events defeat you, destroy the moment, and take away your success, OR…you can embrace the experience and rise to the challenge. The choice is always up to you! And believe me, someone is always watching to see exactly how you deal with those unplanned “moments.” What are your actions saying about you? I hope that I always show grace, patience, and innovative responses to those unexpected life events. Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

There’s an elephant in the room…

I’m hoping that everyone stayed warm this past week. I don’t know about you, but I am so ready for Spring! I was disheartened to hear that the “official” groundhog saw his shadow, meaning six more weeks of cold weather…Oh well, that will make us just that more thankful when warm weather does finally arrive! Now, to this week’s story…

Whenever I travel to a conference, even for one presentation, I always take two outfits to wear. You never know what might happen, and I like to have a “spare,” just in case… On this particular occasion, I was headed down to Orlando, FL, for a huge conference. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I had just picked up a brushed silk suit from the dry cleaners, so I threw it in my garment bag, and headed for the airport. I cannot explain why I did not take two suits for that trip.

I arrived at the hotel and settled in for the evening. The next morning, I got up as usual, took my shower, and began getting dressed. I pulled my suit out and stepped into the skirt. Once I had the skirt on, I looked down and realized that there was a HUGE crease going from my right hip down to my left knee. In other words, the entire front of the skirt was creased. It looked awful! I quickly got out of the skirt and fired up the steam iron. I pressed and pressed that skirt to no avail. Nothing I did removed the crease!

(At this point in the story, I need to give you a little background about me. As a professional speaker, I am very particular about how I dress. The hair has to be “just right,” which most days can prove to be a challenge in that I have naturally curly hair. I get a surprise each morning because I never know which way it is going to go…I use just enough makeup to hide nature’s damages, but not enough to make me look like a hussy. The suits must be stylish, clean, fit well, have no creases or lines, and NO “rumples” anywhere. Shoes must be polished and have no noticeable scrapes. If  even one of these areas are not as they should be, it will definitely impact my presentation and delivery.)

So here I was in Orlando with only one suit, and it had that big ole’ crease across the front. What to do? I knew that once I got onstage, and started my keynote address, that people would be noticing the crease, and for some, it would become so distracting, that they would not hear my message. As I stood to the side, waiting for my introduction and cue to come onstage, I was perplexed as to how I could reconcile that blasted crease. The moment came, the introduction was given, and I made my way to the center of the stage. I walked to the very edge of the stage, as close to the audience as possible, and said, “I would like to draw everyone’s attention to my skirt, and the crease on the front. I do not normally wear wrinkled clothing. I know that it is there, and I tried to get rid of it, but here’s a little life secret that just might help you out in the future. If the dry cleaners put the crease in, they are the ONLY ones who can remove it! So take a good look at it, satisfy your curiosity, and I will begin.” The audience broke out into hysterical laughter and applause! In fact, I had to wait quite a few moments for them to settle down. I then gave the keynote that they were expecting, and it ended better than I had anticipated.

Why is it, that when there is something so obviously wrong (like the elephant in the middle of the room), that we act like it doesn’t exist; knowing that all anyone can see or think about IS the elephant in the room? I have found that when you go ahead and bring the problem out into the open for dialogue and communication, you take away it’s ability to cripple and limit you. I try very hard to maintain that control, keep the lines of communication open, and talk about that elephant. 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…

Not on my watch….

I have to preface this story, so that all of you will have a complete understanding and appreciation for what I am about to tell you. First and foremost, I am an animal lover! I melt when I see little animal babies. I continue to be amazed at an animal’s power of reasoning, their sense of family, and their ability to show unconditional love, affection, commitment and fierce loyalty. I am that lady who will take stray, hurt animals to the vet for care. Animals seem to know this about me, as they will come directly to me, a complete stranger, when they enter a room full of people.

The second thing you need to know is that I am a highly allergic person…to almost anything and everything. So whenever I complete any type of cleaning, I have to use all natural cleansers, or I have to “uniform up”….coveralls/paint suit, mask, gloves, and goggles…Quite a sight to behold! Now, to this week’s story….

I live on a lake in East TN. The Smoky Mountains are my back yard. It is such a beautiful place, and I feel so blessed to be here at this time in my life. I live in an area that is surrounded by nature. On a daily basis I get to see deer, foxes, otters, bald eagles, ospreys, ducks, geese, woodchucks, and yes, even skunks, possums and raccoons. I am absolutely in heaven; course, I could do without those skunks…  

On this  particular day, last summer, it was time to pressure wash and clean the pier and dock. I had all the necessary equipment and supplies. Because of the cleansers that I would be using, I was, of course, “decked out.” I had my white coverall suit on, galoshes, gloves, mask and goggles. I looked like an official ghost buster! I’m sure the neighbors take pictures when I am not looking to send to their relatives back home…with captions like, “see, we TOLD you…”  

I had just finished cleaning one section of the dock, and had turned the pressure washer off so that I could refuel. As I was standing there, taking a breather, I heard a very agitated, desperate duck quacking at the top of its lungs, as if there was cause for great concern. I kept turning around, searching for the source of all this commotion. I looked across the way and saw a mother duck, swimming along with her four, very tiny, babies. All of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the source of distress. A magnificent, bald eagle was soaring in the sky, just above the family of ducks. Much to my horror, I saw the eagle circle, and then drop to make the approach, with talons open, to snatch up those babies for a meal. I ran to the end of the dock, screaming, “Nooooooooo!! Stop!!” I was stomping my feet, clapping my hands, and screaming like a wild banshee!!! I looked as if someone or something had taken over my body….like I had just had a “come to Jesus meeting,” and was so filled with the Spirit, that I had lost all control of my bodily functions. Nothing worked! That eagle kept diving. With each attack, the Mama duck would raise up out of the water, spread her wings over the baby ducks, and quack hysterically loud in fear and protest. I knew that she could not last much longer, and that I had to do something.  

I ran very quickly to the front yard and got my best friend. By this time, I was a little hysterical myself. I told her, “Come quick! You HAVE to help me! We have to save them!!” As we were running to the dock, I explained the situation. I told her, “you have to get in your kayak and row over to protect those babies.” It was the fastest kayak launch I have ever seen! She could have medaled in the Summer Olympics! She was a wonder to see! Fast, strong strokes brought her and the kayak close to the little family of ducks. She positioned herself just behind them and began waving her oar around to ward off the eagle attacks. At first, the eagle did not want to give up, but finally, he or she saw that baby duck lunch was NOT going to happen this particular day…not on my watch! My friend had to follow the little family quite a distance before Mama duck found a safe location from the eagle. Whew! Disaster averted…and even more surprisingly, I had not drawn the usual crowd of curious onlookers…  

We are presented with situations each day in which we must make decisions regarding appropriate actions that should be taken (or not taken) on our part. We have to decide if we want to become involved, impact a result, or let “nature take its course.” So many people just stand aside and let injustice or unfairness take place, even when it is within their power to affect the outcome. I don’t want to EVER be that person who just stands on the sidelines and lets the vulnerable be attacked, harmed or abused, whether it is a woman, man, child, elder or animal. I will defend, protect, advocate, help and love, as long as there is breath in my body. NOT. ON. MY. WATCH. Not going to happen! Not even to baby ducks… Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

“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….

Uh oh! Christmas decorations….

To say that my Mother loved Christmas would be an understatement. Oh, how she loved the season, the family gatherings, the cooking and food, and oh my, THE DECORATIONS!! She delighted in coming up with a very creative, unique “design” for our house decorations each year. She would visualize the concept and bring the idea to my father and me to figure out how to “make it happen.” I will admit that there were quite a number of years that she almost had us stumped as to how we would accomplish what she wanted. But each time, we eventually figured it out…The result was usually magnificent, meaningful, and beautiful. Our house was the one in town that everyone drove by to see. I am not talking about those really tacky light displays you see in some neighborhoods or on TV shows. Each year we created a different winter wonderland of lights and design. We usually won a city award, although that was not the intent. Mother just loved the beauty of it all, and what the season meant. Now for this week’s story…

My family was never rich by monetary standards. Actually, looking back, we were poor; however, we, as children, never knew that. I tell people that I had a storybook childhood, and I did! I can remember when we finally got our first television set. I was probably around seven years old. We were so excited! It was a small black and white TV. There was no way that we could have ever afforded a color television set. However, I had always determined in my mind, that when I grew up, and was making money on my own, that I would buy my parents a color TV set. It was one of those dreams that you definitely want to make come true…

Our family was full of traditions that were followed at Christmas time. The entire extended family would gather at my grandparent’s home on Christmas Eve. We would have refreshments and open gifts. All I ever remember of these times are much love, wonder, and laughter. Each family would then go to their own homes, all of us children (the cousins) almost vibrating with the excitement and anticipation of Santa’s visit. The next morning, after we had all celebrated our individual Christmases, we would return to my grandparent’s home for Christmas dinner. What a feast that was! And all the kids got to play with their new gifts. Wonderful, wonderful memories!

On this particular Christmas, I had returned from college, and had begun working at a local nursing home – the very first position of my career. I was living with my folks at the time. They still had an old black and white television set, and I knew what was in store for them this special Christmas. I was about to make good on that childhood dream of giving them a color TV. However, being my Mother’s daughter, I did not want it to be just a box that they unwrapped…I wanted a little surprise and “creativity.”

One of my old high school classmates just happened to own an appliance store. When purchasing the new television, I had convinced him to deliver and set up the TV at my parents’ home while we were over at my grandparent’s home celebrating Christmas Eve. (Now that is what small town living is like…I even left the front door open so that he could get inside the house!) Upon returning from my grandparent’s home, I was beside myself with anticipation. My plan was to go in first so that I could see their reaction when they entered the living room. I was not going to say anything…I was just going to “be casual” and see how long it would take for them to discover the new “addition.” I walked in like normal and saw that the TV had indeed been delivered by “Santa.” And then I waited….Everyone was bringing in their gifts, taking off their coats, and of course, my little brother noticed the TV first. He just hollered out, “What is that?” My Mother and Father turned around, saw the TV, and then she looked straight at me and started to cry. Of course, by this time, I was crying also. She grabbed and hugged me, whispering, “I could just whip you!” (For those of you who are not Southerners, that means that I had done something I should not have…lol) She never wanted to be the recipient of our monetary success. This is one of my most favorite memories, and I bring it to mind to enjoy during each Christmas season.

For me, Christmas is not only a religious event that I celebrate, but it is a time when I get to show the people whom I love just how special they are to me (although I try to do that every day of my life). It reaffirms for me that dreams can come true, and that there is still some wonder left in this world. I hope you take the time this year to enjoy the “wonder.” That’s what I will be doing! 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…