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…

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….

Are you hungry?

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

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

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

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

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

The gift that wouldn’t fit into a box…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is she OK?

It has been a wonderful week! A brisk, “nip” to the air…hearing from old and new friends…celebrating life and renewal with those I love…What more could you ask for??? Hope your week was wonderful also!!

Because I travel a great deal, and because I find human beings to be so wonderfully odd, interesting, bizarre, motivating, frustrating….I do a lot of “people watching.” I try to figure out their “stories,” as I am observing from my “viewing seat.” I have been offended, reassured, surprised, disgusted, delighted, and my heart has been touched at times by the actions of other people…”casual strangers,” if you will…

Until recently (when a new grocery store opened closer to my home), I did most of my grocery shopping in town at a large franchise grocer. I will admit, on occasion, I did like to get one of their deli lunches and eat “on site,” before hitting the aisles for groceries. This particular store had an outside covered dining area that was very pleasant. A friend of mine had come with me on this trip, and we had decided to get us a bite to eat before shopping. As we were eating, we noticed a much older Asian woman sitting about two tables from us with her buggy and purse. She was not so much actually sitting at the table, as she was sleeping at the table. She would occasionally rouse up, look around and go back to sleep. Of course, with my background and field of work, she was like a “red flag” waving in front  of me, calling for my attention. Not wanting to assume that there was something wrong with her, or that she was lost and did not know where she was, I had observed her for a while to determine what my action should be. Before I could get up to check on her, a young lady came from inside the deli, and asked if she could sit down with the older woman. The woman said, “Yes.” I was interested in where the conversation and interaction was going, so I did indeed eavesdrop. 

The young lady, with kindness, respect, and empathy, began talking with the older woman. During their conversation, she found out all of the necessary information to determine if the elder woman was lost, in distress, or needed help or assistance of any kind. She spent a good amount of time with her, just “visiting.” She never exhibited any condescension, impatience, or lack of respect as she interacted with the older woman. Finally, after apparently being satisfied that nothing was amiss, the young lady took her leave, thanking the older woman for giving her time and conversation.  After a few minutes, the older woman rose from the table, got her buggy and purse, and approached the entry door back into the grocery store. We stood up to help open the door, and the woman started a conversation with us. She said with a chuckle, “You know, I think that young lady thought there was something wrong with me. I had come to shop for groceries, but it looked so nice out here, I thought I would just stop and rest for a moment. She was so sweet to check on me, but everything is fine.” I chuckled along with her and commented that wasn’t it nice someone cared enough “just to check on you.” You could tell that she was pleased at both the concern and the interaction that she had experienced.

The young lady could have handled this situation so much differently…she could have “fussed” at the older woman for napping at one of their tables…she could have assumed that the lady was lost, and could have insulted her…she could have assumed that because she was older, that she was not capable of making “sound” decisions…Any of these scenarios would have ended up badly, because there really wasn’t anything wrong with the woman. It made me wonder how others might have handled the situation. Do we automatically assume the worst, when we see that an older person is involved? Do we automatically assume that an older person needs our guidance, that they don’t know what to do and can’t make decisions? Do we automatically speak to them in that child-like, sing-song voice, as if they have no sense at all??? Oh my, I think many of our elders just chuckle to themselves, and humor us… As I teach in my sessions, don’t label a person by age, race, ethnicity, gender, geographic region, religion or medical diagnosis – just to name a few…Get to know the person individually, and give them the opportunity to show you “who they are,” and what their capabilities, strengths, and needs might be. Look at the person as an individual…a real, live human being, who should be treated with all the respect and dignity that you can provide. That’s what I do! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Act my age????

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This week is my birthday week…so I have been reminded by many that it IS my birthday and, oh my, have we been celebrating!! Lots of good meals, getting together with friends, biking, hiking, and LOTS of LAUGHTER…I have never been one to be concerned with my age. After all, it is just a number. In fact, for two separate years, I actually was placing on documents and forms the wrong age…a year older…until a friend saw me do it, and reminded me of my current age. So…here are some “ponderings” on aging…

I have been asked many times, “When are you going to grow up, and act your age?” Oh, you mean like Nola Ochs, who at the age of 95, graduated from Ft. Hays State University in Kansas with a degree in History? Or like, Frances Woofenden of West Palm Beach, FL, who at age 81 was still competing (and winning in her age group) water skiing? That’s right…water skiing…Or like the woman, age 75, who was in line in front of me at Busch Gardens, with her daughter and granddaughter, waiting to board her last roller coaster of the day? (She had already ridden four, one of which was rated the #2 best roller coaster in the world!) Well…if that’s what you mean by acting my age, then yes! I will agree to do just that!! 

What is the deal with aging, in that once you reach a certain age, or “look” a certain age, everyone begins treating you a little differently? Like you have morphed into a totally different person! The only thing that has changed is that you have been around for one year longer! Most of us are very thankful for that! We do not need to be treated any differently. We have not just “all of a sudden” become “cute,” “adorable,” “sweet,” or “little” anything!!! Don’t be condescending! Most of us could leave a number of you “younguns” in the dust!! Don’t assume that all the cells in our brains are not firing properly! 

A friend of mine came to visit this past summer (she is two years younger than me). We had both been wanting to zip line, and I had found a wonderful one in the Smokies. Supposedly, the series of seven lines included one of the highest and longest in the United States. We could not wait!! We got there, and of course, we were the oldest ones in our group. Each time it was our turn to get “hooked up” on the line, the guide would say, “Come on up, young lady!” After about the third time, I had had enough! I very nicely turned around to our group and said, “See, another benefit of getting older…people say you are young all the time…” The guide never said those words to us again, and began treating us like the rest of the group members. And just as an aside, there were about fifteen people in our group, and we had to hike from one zip line to the next…straight up the mountain…My friend and I were always the first two to reach the next zip line, and we never broke a sweat or was labored in our breathing…unlike the rest of the “young” group!!

I get to teach this aging “concept” at a lot of conferences. I always tell people that if I was Cat Selman at ages 25, 35, 45, and 55…that I bet I will still be Cat Selman when I reach age 65 and 75!! I was at a recent conference where I had made that very statement. At break time I went into the restroom, and as I was washing my hands, I noticed that a woman kept staring at me pretty intently. She was staring to the point that I became uncomfortable and was wondering if I had toilet tissue hanging out of the back of my pants, or had lettuce stuck in my teeth, or ANYTHING!!! She finally came over to me and said, “You look marvelous! I cannot believe you are 75!!!” I looked at her with disbelief, and said, “that’s because I’M NOT 75!!!” But thanks for the compliment….

When I first started working in nursing homes, those precious elders would tell me, “I don’t feel old. I feel like I am still young.” I would always look at them and wonder, how can they not see that they have aged…that they really are old? I “get” what they are saying now. You DO feel the same, because you are the same…your body has just gotten a little more “worn for the wear.”

Let’s start treating older people just as we always have, because they are still the same individuals that we knew when they were younger. They are very unique, wonderful people who share a zest for life, with the experience of that lifetime, and always looking forward to the next adventure and challenge. So….I think I will act my age! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

The Flight Leaves WHEN??

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

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

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

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

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

My Mother, the mad scientist….

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

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

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

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

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