Recently, I was the Keynote Speaker for a conference in Columbus, GA. (And just for the record, I would go back again in a heartbeat to spend time with those wonderful people!) It was the first time I had ever been to that city, and the conference site was a renovated historical hotel in downtown Columbus. I arrived to find that the hotel was just beautiful! Large, shady trees…old brick…. and ambience that people attempt to duplicate in more modern hotels, but never get quite right. It was “southern” through and through. I checked into my room and began unwinding from the trip. Since I had arrived near dinner time, and it was already dark, I went ahead and ordered room service for the evening. After eating, I reviewed my presentation to make certain there was nothing missing, and that I was fully prepared for the next morning’s event. I then stretched out on the bed for a little relaxation and reading.
As time passed, I changed into my pjs and began the nightly ritual of “trying” to go to sleep. I’m not the best sleeper to begin with, and staying in hotels as often as I do, can cause absolute havoc with my sleep patterns. I am a very light sleeper, so any little noise or light, will bring me fully awake. It was about 10:00 p.m., and as I lay there, I heard a train in the distance – blowing that mournful horn that you hear in the night, as it began its initial approach into the city. As the train got closer to our location, the horn got louder and louder. In fact, the horn never stopped! The engineer apparently starting blowing the horn at the outskirts of the city, and was determined (or required) to blow the horn the entire length of the city! As the train made its way closer to my location, I kept thinking, “My, it sure does sound pretty close!” Within moments the room began vibrating. The horn was so loud I had to cover my ears, and it felt as if the train was going to come through the walls. I looked out my window, and sure enough, there was the train passing by – just across the street from my room!!
Within moments the phone in my room began to ring. Since I very rarely ever get calls from a land line, I picked up the receiver and cautiously said, “hello.” The person on the other end, introduced herself, explaining that she worked the front desk of the hotel. She said, “I’m so sorry to bother you, but are you playing a guitar?” I laughed and responded, “Although I do play a guitar, I did not bring one with me this trip…” I then asked if there was a problem. She indicated that there had been a few calls complaining of someone playing a guitar near (or in) my room. Now, I have to tell you, I was laughing so hard and trying not to insult the young lady, but I was thinking to myself…Guitar??? Did you not just hear that train coming through???? We had a good laugh and she apologized for bothering me. And by the way, that train made another “appearance” at 4:30 a.m. the next morning…
So many times in life people get extremely upset over minor events, while ignoring HUGE occurrences that should be addressed. I’m sure that whoever complained about the guitar playing was very upset about that “inconvenience.” Certainly, they were bothered enough to call the front desk and complain. I just wonder if they mentioned the train while complaining… Personally, I could have tolerated the guitar, but that train! Had I known about it beforehand, this one issue could have been a “deal breaker” for my stay at that particular hotel…ambience or not. But apparently, for that other person, the complainer, the playing of a guitar was the issue. We get so occupied with the “little things,” that we miss the huge, life-changing events that need to be dealt with on a daily basis. I think I will try to NOT sweat the small stuff, and attempt to get a handle on all those “trains” in my life. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…
Hey guys! As has been evident by the lack of posts, I have taken some time off from the blog. It’s not that I ran out of stories, because we all know I can get into more trouble in one day, than most people encounter in a year…I just needed some time away from everything that seems to be going on in the world. My heart has been saddened by how people are treating each other. We seem to have turned on each other, instead of lifting each other up in this world. So, I guess I needed a little time to have a “good talking to myself,” and recapture that sense of joy that has always been present in my life. I have decided that for the next few months, I will post either funny or joyful articles – nothing serious. I think we all need a little break from the news here in the U.S. and around the world. So get ready to chuckle along with me…
I was raised on a farm most of my childhood life. We really did not have pets, because we were very aware a special “pet” might just become a meal at some point in time. So, no real pets were in my life until I became an adult.
In my mid-twenties, I decided that I would love to have a little puppy. My choices were extremely limited in that I am highly allergic to almost everything. I had to consider dog breeds that did not shed hair. After much research, the poodle was determined to be a very good choice for me. I did not want to have a big dog, so I again did the necessary research, and decided to get a little toy poodle.
He was jet black, a little ball of fur, and his name was Muffin’s High Prancer, because when he walked, he pranced like a Tennessee Walking Horse. Now, I know that “Muffin” is considered a female name, but that was the name I wanted, and that is what I went with. He didn’t know the difference, and I didn’t care what anyone else thought. So Muffin became a huge part of my life – for 17 years! I never knew you could love a little animal so much. He traveled with me everywhere.
Unlike now, years ago, almost NO hotel would allow an animal on the premises, unless they were a service animal. Therein was the problem when I traveled with Muffin. He was, indeed, said animal…He was not a “barker,” so I was able to sneak him in numerous hotels without anyone knowing. I had gotten very adept at masquerading/camouflaging him to get past the front desk.
On this particular trip, we were making our way home from a seminar. We were tired, had been driving a long time, and decided to stop in Memphis, TN for the night. We chose to stop at one of my favorite hotels, The Hyatt Regency. Now remember, they did NOT allow pets at that time. The front desk was long, against a front wall, and was positioned directly across from the only elevators by which we could get to our room. The hotel was a “high-rise,” so there was no way we could sneak into a window on the ground floor (which we had done on occasion…lol!) So, we were in a quandary as to how we were going to get past the desk employees without them seeing Muffin. We finally decided that I would wrap Muffin in a down-filled, sleeveless vest, where he was not visible, and hold the vest as if I were holding a jacket in my arms.
It was a really good plan. I wrapped Muffin up “just so,” and we began that loooonnnggg walk to the elevators. With each step, I just knew that an employee was going to shout out, “Freeze, baby!! You’ve got a dog!! You’re out of here! Security!!” We made it all the way to the elevators, eased on, and pressed the floor number where our room was located. No one had discovered us and our secret!!
The elevator was walled with mirrors, and as I was standing there looking at the images, I saw movement. I looked closer and discovered that Muffin had found an opening in the sleeveless vest, and had poked his little head through the arm hole. As we both began laughing, we realized that he had been visible to anyone and everyone at the front desk. We had walked right in front of them, with Muffin’s little head up and out, looking at everyone! We could not figure out how on earth they had not seen him. The only conclusion that we could come to, was they thought he was a really hairy baby…
How many times have you tried to “get away” with something in your life? Have you ever done something “not exactly right,” because no one would find out? We convince ourselves that we are “getting away” with something; or “pulling something over” on someone; that what we are doing will not harm someone else. So…what does it matter, if no one gets hurt? Some rules are meant to be challenged; right? Although I meant no harm to the hotel, or other guests, there were rules, and I was intentionally breaking them.
I am highly allergic to animals, especially CATS! So, if I were to happen to stay in a hotel room, where someone else had brought in a cat, without the hotel’s knowledge, and they did not know to “pet clean” the room, I would probably end up in the hospital emergency room. If someone else chose to bypass the “rule,” that decision could certainly harm another person – namely ME! And other than the potential for harm, there should be a certain amount of respect and courtesy for the place of business that you are frequenting, and vice versa…respect and courtesy for the customer. Taking Muffin into the hotel was not done with “malicious intent;” however, negative outcomes could have certainly occurred. And I am sure many of you are thinking…really? You’re concerned over a hotel’s rules? And you just snuck a little puppy dog in? Big deal! But you see, it goes beyond that…it involves character, respect, honesty, and your “philosophy” regarding life decisions.
What have you tried to “get away with?” Was it worth it? Did you get caught? And WHY did you do it? I try to be honest and upright in all that I do, and taking Muffin into the hotel was dishonest – a very small act, but still dishonest. If I had to do it over again, I would not have taken Muffin in. I try to do much better now with my life decisions, and will continue to strive for that elusive “perfection.” Won’t you join me? Just for this week…
I will start out this post with a disclaimer: This week’s post is NOT a political statement; nor is it a promotion of my own political beliefs/position. As with all of my posts, this is simply a few stories of my life experiences, and “happenings” along the way. I will admit that the current political dialogue has brought up some very real life memories and stories that have everything to do with being a woman! So here are the stories…
Many years ago, my business partner (and best friend) and I purchased a 33-foot motor home to use as we conducted educational seminars across the United States. We saw a lot of the beauty of our country as we drove through almost every state in the nation. Along the way, we were amused (and somewhat dismayed at times) at the various reactions and comments that were received as we drove that “mamma-jamma” RV.
In some campgrounds, as I was on my hands and knees attaching the sewer hose to the campsite sewer line, numerous male observers would make the very same comment: “Your husband is letting you do that???” The entire demeanor was…”are you sure you know HOW to do that correctly?” Now mind you, we were talking about attaching a SEWER hose to a connecting valve. “Letting” would NOT have been a word I would have used in regard to that responsibility. Lol! I would always smile and say, “No husband, and I’ve got this!” Then I would go inside shaking my head…Since when can a woman not attach a hose to a connecting valve?
One night, we pulled into a campground around 1:00 a.m. and checked in at the registration office. The male employee explained that the only campsites left were “back-ins.” There were no “pull-throughs.” These terms are pretty much self-explanatory. A “back-in” was a parking/camping space that required backing the RV into a narrow slot. A “pull-through” simply meant that you could drive straight into the spot, and pull out on the other side when you left. And, as you have probably surmised, a “back-in” maneuver was much more difficult than a “pull-through,” especially when you had more than 30 feet behind you, and it was “pitch black” at night. I was behind the wheel (as it was “my turn”). The guy came out, shined his flashlight up to my face, and said, “I will give you but one chance to back this rig in, and then I will take over if you can’t do it.” I leaned down out my window, and whispered softly, “I will only need one chance.” I then backed up those 33 feet, dead center, into the middle of the parking spot. He came back up to my window, and said “D!@m, you DO know how to park this rig!” I just smiled and said “Yep!” Since when can a woman not park a vehicle correctly?
At yet another campground, we pulled up to the registration office. It was my friend’s turn at the wheel, so she remained there while I went in to get our campsite. There was a group of men standing out on the porch as I walked into the office. As I came out the door, I overheard these comments…”There’s a WOMAN driving that rig!! There’s a WOMAN driving that rig!!” I began looking around to see where this super powerful woman was, driving a semi, and trying to figure out what made her so significant and special to this group of men. Much to my surprise, they were all staring and pointing at our RV, and they were talking about my sweet friend. I was laughing so hard as I entered the RV. When I explained that we, and especially she, had caused such a stir, she simply got up, faced the men, and bowed graciously!! Since when can a woman not drive a RV??
I worked much of my early career in the corporate world. Initially, I was one of only two women who worked at the corporate level. Early on, I learned that if I wanted an idea or project to be accepted, I needed to convince one of my male counterparts to basically present it as his idea. I also had to work it so that he did not realize what I was doing. I got quite a lot done for my employees and our residents by becoming very “artful” with this technique. I watched year after year as various men were hired, given a Vice President title (a title I never got), and $10,000 more a year than I received. At one point, for one new hire, I was to train him, and was told that if he “screwed up,” it would be my head on the chopping block. It was at this point I realized that I was never going to win within that culture. So…I did what many women in the world have done today. I resigned and started my own business! Since when should a woman not receive the same amount of pay for the same job??
Now, please understand, I am not on a soapbox. I am simply pointing out some truths – my personal truths. Let’s just be honest, the world is different for a woman. I KNOW that there are good men out there – a number of them are in my family. My younger uncle and brother lived with me for quite a few years. I always taught them to respect women, and that when they married, to view their wives as a true partner. I taught them that a man could also wash dishes, do laundry, cook, clean house, change diapers, feed babies, etc., as well as a woman. And, especially, if they helped to create those homes and babies, they were to step up to their responsibilities. They grew up knowing, and understanding, that a woman is fully capable of doing almost anything! I taught my nephews that “throwing like a girl,” should never be uttered as an insult, but as a compliment! (I always pointed out to them the ball speeds of those women softball fast pitches…) So, this election year, I am elated and disheartened by what I am hearing and seeing. The one thing I do know is this: I can now tell my nieces, “Why one day, you could even become President of the United States!” Times have changed…And, no matter who you are supporting, can’t we just celebrate this ONE, HUGE accomplishment? Won’t you join me? Just for this week….
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…
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…
I don’t really know whether this is just a “Southern” thing, or not, but whenever I mention this particular “event,” most people from the South, if they were raised in a small town, readily identify with what I am about to say. It was not uncommon in the summer (or Sunday) afternoons, for my Mamaw Barber to swing by and pick up my Mama and us kids to take us riding “around town.” The ride ALWAYS ended with a drive-by, or swing-through, the local cemetery. All us kids were jammed together in the backseat (usually laughing and/or fighting – but ALWAYS having a good time…), but we would get really quiet as we rode solemnly through the grave yard. We would hear Mamaw and Mama commenting on the different people, whose names appeared on the various headstones. Comments such as, “You know his wife has remarried, don’t you?” Or, “She used to make the best apple pie around!” Or, “Do you know whatever happened to….?” It was as if they were visiting old friends. For my part; however, I was always thinking…”WE’RE IN A CEMETERY!!!”
(Now, as an aside, I have to tell you that our neighbors ran a little hamburger stand just down the street from where we lived, and my Mama, at one time, worked there. She pretty much knew everyone in town, so when someone came by that she did not know, it got her curiosity up. So, it happened one day, that a stranger, a man no one in town knew, began coming by the hamburger stand and, of course, would order a meal of some type. This began a daily event for him and my Mother.)
On this particular evening, Mamaw picked all of us up for the traditional ride around town. As we were riding around some of the neighborhoods, Mama got all excited when she recognized “the stranger” sitting out on the front porch of one of the houses we had passed by. She began sharing how this man had just started showing up everyday at the hamburger stand, and how “mysterious” it was that no one seemed to know where he came from…or what he did…We all listened with delight, but did not think too much of the situation. However, we teased Mother unmercifully about being a detective and made fun references to her “unpaid” role as an FBI agent.
After a month or so, a black sedan pulled up to the hamburger stand, and two men, in black suits and sunglasses, got out of the car. They approached the window of the hamburger stand, where my Mama was waiting, with a smile, to take their order. Her “detective” radar and energies were on high alert. One man approached the window as the other one stood to the side. He identified himself as an agent with the FBI, and wanted to ask Mother a few questions. He was asking about a specific man…a man who turned out to be Mama’s daily visitor at the hamburger stand. The FBI agent pulled out a photograph, and asked Mama if she had ever seen this man. She immediately told him that she did recognize the man in the photograph, and, even better, she could show them where he lived!! The FBI was more than gratified, took the information, and left. We never saw the mysterious stranger again, never knew what had happened to him, or why he was being hunted by the FBI.
That story has given our family more laughs than you can imagine! We lived in such a little town, and everyone just knew everyone else (and all of their business, it seemed). Whenever a new person moved into our area, we got to know them, and it usually did not take more than a day, to determine their life history. We were a “community” in every sense of the word. Neighbors knew all of the kids that should be present, and went on alert when the “normal crew” did not show up. Parents did not worry about their children being outside, or down the street, because they knew some sweet, caring neighbor was watching. It really was a “village” helping to raise the children, and protecting them.
That “neighborly” philosophy has followed me all of my life. No matter where I live, I have always gotten to know my neighbors – not in a nosey, “in their business,” sort of way, but with genuine and sincere interest. I chose my current neighborhood with purpose. I wanted that “old-fashioned” feel of community. I wanted to pass neighbors and friends each morning on my daily walks, to stop and chat and “catch up,” to watch their homes when they were out of town, to have them watch my home when I was out of town, and to just drop by for impromptu visits. I can’t begin to imagine living next door to someone I don’t know…or even attempt to know…or speak to when I pass them on the street.
It seems we have become millions of little islands to ourselves…only interacting with whoever we live with, or whoever we work with. When did this happen, and is it a good thing? I don’t think so. I think the more we invest in relationships, and genuine caring, we begin creating those wonderful neighborhoods and communities, where we love, argue, support, defend, protect and share…all for the common good. I think I will make more of an effort to love my neighbors, and leave the “investigating” to the FBI… Won’t you join me? Just for this week…
Most of you know that I began this blog as a way to deal with my own grief…while watching my Mother slowly die, literally and figuratively, of Alzheimer’s Disease. Those who loved her beyond reason, had to stand by and watch her descend into that living hell. She remained home, with family, until we could no longer give her the care that she so desperately needed. One of our strategies, to keep her home as long as possible, was to “share” the responsibility of her care among the four children and my Father. Part of my responsibility (and honor) was to stay with her and Daddy, one week out of every month (more often, as I could)…
Mother had gotten to a point where she could not bathe herself, go to the bathroom by herself, or feed herself. So, on this particular day, it was time for her shower. I found it easier (and safer) to just get in the shower with her, and gently bathe her as we talked, laughed, and reminisced. Some times this was a difficult task for her, in that she could not follow or understand anything that I was saying. Other times, bathing was easy, and she would assist me with her own care.
We were both in the shower, drenched from head to toe, and she placed her hand on my arm and made me stop. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I never wanted you children to have to do this. I never wanted to be a burden.” Those words broke my heart and I struggled to find just the right thing to say, to convince her that she was never a burden to us. With a smile on my face, I said, “Mama, didn’t you tell me that when I was a baby, while nursing, the only way you could get me to go to sleep was to let me pinch the skin under your arm, and roll it back and forth between my fingers?” She smiled so sweetly with the memory, and said, “Yes, that’s right.” I asked her, “Didn’t it hurt?” She said, “Yes, but that motion somehow soothed you, and you would go to sleep every time.” I then said, “Didn’t you spend countless, sleepless nights, sitting by my bed, or laying beside me, or just holding me, because I was so sick that you would not leave me alone?” Again, she said, “Yes, I did!” I continued to tell her that there were too many examples to count, too many memories of selfless sacrifices that she had made not only in my behalf, but for all of her children. I asked her if she considered being our Mother a burden. She looked at me in shock, and said, “No! I loved all of you, and I wanted to take care of you!” I then explained that we were doing the same thing for her now; that we wanted to take care of her, out of our love for her. She smiled through tears, and said “OK, then! That’s settled.”
Some times the greatest gift we can give someone is to simply accept their help and caring. Those who are being cared for DO feel like a “burden” to their family. You have a choice as to how you are going to make that person feel…You have a choice as to HOW you are going to give that care – either out of guilt or out of love…and your actions will indicate which choice you made. Have you let your parents, or loved ones, know that they are NOT a burden? Or do you let them know how inconvenienced you are? I tell families and caregivers all the time, “It’s not that you just gave the care, and got it accomplished, but rather, HOW you gave the care.” Do you make them feel guilty? Let those individuals, the ones you are caring for, know that providing care and assistance is an act of love… I don’t ever want someone I love to feel as if they are a burden to me. Caring should be given freely, from the heart. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…
Sunday was Father’s Day! I am so thankful that I still have a wonderful “Daddy” to honor and celebrate. He will be 90 in the fall of this year, and is doing well. We are going to have a HUGE party to celebrate this monumental occasion. He is already excited, telling everyone within listening distance that he is going to be 90!!! “90,” he says with wonder…he cannot believe it! Most of you know that he was a Minister (preacher) for all of my life, which does make me a preacher’s kid…and I don’t want to hear any grief about that…lol! He pastored small country churches. I am certain that much of my love, respect, and passion for elders was developed in those little churches, because small country churches are FILLED with older adults (who sing really, really loud…). This week’s story is about an event that happened in one of those churches…
Just like in larger, metropolitan churches, babies are born, couples get married/divorced, and people die. As a result of those life events, my Father conducted numerous ceremonies for his church members. As the pastor’s family, we were not expected to attend the funerals; however, if it was a “joyous” occasion, like a wedding, we put on our “Sunday go to meeting” clothes, and got to attend. My Mama always made sure that we behaved and conducted ourselves in a manner befitting a “preacher’s family.” Although we had to put on those socks (with lace), patent leather shoes (that always hurt your toes) and wear the scratchy, “stand-out” petticoats (to look like a little lady), we always looked forward to going because of ALL THAT FOOD!!!
On this particular occasion, we had made it through the ceremony and had gotten to the reception without any incidents. Mama got us each a plate, filled with wedding cake and ice cream, a few peanuts, and a few of those wonderful “wedding mints.” She got us all together in one place, told us to stay put, and she went off to get our punch. Daddy, of course, was across the room talking and visiting with his members and the bride/groom’s family. Mama finally returned with the punch, sat down, and took a sip of the punch. She looked at me with horror on her face, and said, “The punch is spiked!” She then said, “Get over to your Daddy and tell him NOT to drink the punch!!” I ran over to get him, but he had already had THREE cups of punch, saying how good it was! Once we explained the situation, he immediately stopped drinking the punch and sought a way to remove himself (and us) from the vicinity. We could hardly stop laughing, trying to get to the car. (Daddy did NOT drive home that day!!) My Daddy had never tasted ANY alcohol, so he really was an innocent.
In today’s world, there’s not many grown children who can say that their Father never smoked, drank, cursed, or abused them in some way, whether physical or emotional…but I can! My Father set a true example for his children to follow. He never said, “Do as I say, not as I do.” He continually said, “Do as I do!” By living that sweet, pure life before us, he gave us the most wonderful example to follow. My Father took this responsibility to heart. He and Mother wanted (and planned for) all four children. He taught us wrong from right. He lived his life the way he wanted us to live ours…and we heard (and saw) that message loud and clear. We live fuller, more complete lives because of the lessons he taught us. I can’t think of any other person who truly emulates the word, “Christlike.” And no matter how old I get, he will ALWAYS be my “Daddy.” Let’s celebrate those Fathers every day – not on just one day out of the year. And stay away from that punch…Won’t you join me? Just for this week…