I did what you said….

It seems that it is back to school time…everyone is rushing around trying to enjoy the last few days of “summer freedom,” and parents are attempting to clothe and “supply” their children in order to be ready for that first day… No matter how old I get, I still think that I should be getting ready to go back to school when it nears September. Just to let you know how bad I am about this, and how strong that “pull” is for me, I will share a little secret. At this time of year, when I go into a store, I find myself invariably drawn to the school supplies aisle. I will pick up those “composition books,” new pencils, etc. and hold them to by nose and just breathe in that wonderful smell of “school.” I’m sure I have been flagged in numerous stores as “that woman who sniffs the school supplies.” She’s baaaccckkkk…. So, of course, this week’s post is about school….

My Mother told me that when I was five years old, she was cooking dinner, and I walked up to her at the stove and said, “When I grow up, I am going to college.” Now, I don’t know how on earth I even knew what a college was. We were poor, lived on a farm, and had no TV. However, she said that she never doubted for a moment that I would go, and that I would attain that goal. Twelve years later, I was off to college. I got grants, scholarships, and worked constantly to pay my way through. I did attain that goal. Upon graduation, I was determined to work in my field of education and make a career for myself. I attained that goal. I said that I would have my dream car, a midnight blue corvette, five years after graduation. I attained that goal also. You see the pattern here; right? It started very early for me…

My grandmother had a sister, whose name was Mabel. However, EVERYONE called her “Spunk.” So, to me, she was Aunt Spunk. When I entered the first grade, she told me that if I made all A’s the entire year, that she would give me a dollar. Now, it may not sound like much money to you, but to a five-year old back then, a dollar was a lot of money!! So I worked hard all year, and sure enough…I made all A’s. The first thing that I did when I got the report card was write a letter to my Aunt. My mother did not know anything about the letter – I just “took care of business” on my own. So the letter went something like this….”Dear Aunt Spuck, I made all As. Send me that doller.” I addressed the envelope to “Ms. Spuck,” with no street address, but I did write the town (it was a different one from where I lived) and state with no zip. She got it!! In the return mail, I got her congratulatory letter AND the dollar!! I was so pleased with myself. Fast forward sixteen years later and I was graduating from college. My Aunt Spunk gave me a wonderful graduation gift, and secretly hidden within the gift was the envelope and letter that I had sent her sixteen years earlier, asking for that “doller.” She had kept it throughout the years to give to me, and I still have it today. It serves as a reminder that if you set goals, and work hard, you can attain pretty much whatever you want…

I don’t understand how people get anything accomplished if they never establish goals. Every few years I will ask myself…is this what you wanted?…do you want to change anything or do anything differently?…is there something else you want to accomplish? It is a bit of hope, faith, dreams, belief in one’s self, and a LOT of hard work! As “cliche” as it sounds, today really is the first day of the rest of your life. What are you doing with it? OR what do you WANT to do with it? I want to make the most of my life…and I work at it every day…Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

What? You want to pay for that???

A number of years ago, my nephew was getting married, and he and his fiancé had registered at a number of stores for their wedding gifts. As this was a second marriage for both, they did not need “newlywed” items, and were very “specific” as to what they wanted. One of the items they wanted was a microwave. I thought this would be a perfect gift from Aunt Cat…

I made the trip to the local Walmart and found the perfect microwave. Of course, as anyone knows, you cannot go into Walmart and purchase just one item, so I ended up with a buggy full of merchandise. As is my usual habit, when it came to check out, I chose a cashier that “liked to visit” as she rang the items up for sale. (I, myself, like to chat a little as I am spending money…) So, she and I were running our mouths, a mile a minute, as she scanned each item of merchandise. I paid the amount indicated, and then made my way to the exit. Before I could get out the door, my items and receipt were checked by the “greeter” as I left the store. Of course, I was busy talking with her also….

As I was walking to my car, I had a nagging thought that the amount that I had paid just did not seem “right.” It bothered me to the point, that I stopped right in the middle of the parking lot, and pulled out my receipt to “double-check” the total. As I was reviewing the charges, I determined that although the cashier had scanned the microwave, it did not register on the receipt. To my alarm and dismay, I realized that I had unknowingly walked out of Walmart without paying for that microwave. I was beside myself!! Now, there a number of people who would have said, “Wow, their mistake…I just got a free microwave!” However, I could not do that! 

I turned around to go back into the store. I ran into problems with the official Walmart greeter. The conversation went something like this…Greeter: “Honey, did you forget something?” Me: “No, I just need to go back in to pay for this microwave.” Greeter: “What??” Me: “I checked out, but the scanner did not pick up the microwave. I did not discover this till I got outside and I need to go back and pay for it.” Greeter: “You left the store without paying for a microwave??” Me: “Yes, Ma’am. The cashier scanned it, but apparently the scanner did not pick it up. I thought I had paid for it. I just need to go back in to pay for it.” Greeter: “You got to the parking lot without paying for a microwave?” Me: “That’s right! Can I just go back in now?” Greeter, hugging me: “You sure can, honey, and bless your heart!”

The next hurdle was the customer service rep. The conversation went like this…Rep: “Can I help you?” Me: “Yes, Ma’am. I need to pay for this microwave.” Rep: “You want to return the microwave?” Me: “No, Ma’am. I need to pay for it.” Rep: “What do you mean you want to pay for it? Let me see your receipt.” Me: “The receipt will show that the microwave was not paid for.” Rep: “I don’t understand.” Me: “I purchased the microwave, or thought I did, but the scanner obviously did not pick it up. I got out of the store thinking that I had paid for it, but realized that the total amount was wrong once I reached the parking lot. I came back in immediately to pay the correct amount.” Rep: “You got out of the store without paying for the microwave?” Me: “That’s right! I’m not sure how it happened, but there it is!” She looked back and forth from me to the microwave to the receipt, and finally said, “Just go over to the cashier that checked you out, and she will take care of you…and bless your heart!”

I finally arrived at the cashier who had checked me out. She recognized me and our conversation went like this…Cashier: “Is something wrong?” Me: “When you checked me out, the scanner did not pick up the microwave. I did not realize this until I got outside.” Cashier: “What??” Me: “I got out of the store without paying for this microwave. I just need to pay for it.” Cashier: “The door checker did not catch it?” Me: “No, Ma’am. I did not discover it until I got to the parking lot.” Cashier: “And you came back inside to pay for it?” Me: “Yes, Ma’am! Can we please do this now?” Cashier: “We sure can! Thank you so much for coming back in! Not everyone would do that.” Me: “I could do it no other way!” Cashier, shaking her head, with a smile and a hug, “BLESS YOUR HEART!!”

I found the entire incident hilarious, but also sobering. Is honesty so hard to be found nowadays? Is it so hard to believe that someone would “do the right thing?” The staff could not get over the fact that I actually had “gotten away” with unpaid merchandise, and came back into the store to pay for it. I was taught that you pay for what you take…no ifs, ands or buts. I would not have been able to lay down and sleep that night, or look myself in the mirror had I done anything differently. I am far from perfect, but I DO know right from wrong. People think that dishonesty only applies to large items or events…that the “little things” just don’t matter that  much. My Mama used to say “in for a penny, in for a pound.” I got that message and lesson…I won’t be “in for a penny…” Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

Please, don’t let me die alone…

When I first started working in nursing homes, my background and education was in social work. Oh, the plans I had in my head regarding this profession and career. I was going to blaze new paths for the field of social work…I was going to “save the world”…I was going to solve people’s problems and make all of their lives so much better. Initially, I found this “mission” to be a little harder than I had anticipated. Each day I learned that there was quite a bit of knowledge that I needed, that could not be found in any textbook. Much of what I did in the beginning was “trial by fire.”

Just as an aside, you need to know…People who work with elders, especially those precious ones who live in nursing homes, find that it is possible to have a few “favorite” people who are in their care…those individuals who you automatically “connect” with…they need and give just a little extra loving and affection. They may have no family at all. They may have been abused. They may simply be wanting to be loved. For whatever reason, you find that you form a strong bond with these wonderful, old people. The professionalism comes into play in that the “favoritism” is never shown, especially in front of other residents. They are all cared for, loved, and attended to the very same. At least in my buildings they were!!

There was a very tiny African American lady that became a “favorite” of mine. She had no family that I could find, and absolutely no one ever came to visit her. We became fast friends, and would spend time each day singing old Spirituals and visiting. Oh, how she loved to sing! When she saw me coming around the corner of the hallway, her eyes would light up, and she would grin from ear to ear. One day I arrived at work to discover that she had a massive stroke the night before and was in the hospital. She was dying, and they returned her to the only home and family that she knew at that time…us! She had a tube in her nose, made horrible gurgling sounds, body-jerked a lot from fear, and her eyes would dart around…just practically scared to death! I would hold her hand, stroke her hair, and try to give comfort as best I could. However, I knew that I was NOT meeting her needs. It kept me awake for a number of nights. One night, I sat straight up in my bed, with a good plan of action for the next day… and it did NOT come from a textbook. It just felt like the right thing to do.

I walked into her room, took my shoes off, climbed up into the bed with her, put my arm under her, placed her head on my shoulder, and held her just like a mother would a child. I began singing to her very gently. She stopped jerking, her eyes stopped darting around, and for the first time since she had returned from the hospital, her breathing came easy and she slept. I began doing this several times a day, as often as my schedule would allow. She ended up dying in my arms one morning. She finally found the peace that she so needed, and I felt that I had been able to give her a gift in dying, just as she had given me a gift in living.

We mostly overlook those people who have lived long, full lives, and have now outlived everyone they know. For them, there is no one to say to, “remember when we…” There are no shared memories. They are truly and forever alone. I cannot begin to fathom the depth of loneliness that they must feel and face each day. Each one of you reading this post has the ability to give just a little back to these precious elders. How about spending a little time with an old person? Visit with them, take the time to get to know them, and learn from them. You may find a love and friendship that just might mean more to you than you could possibly imagine. And what it means to them is indescribable. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

You’re not smart enough to do that….

Not too long ago, I gave the opening keynote at a large state association annual conference. The title of my session was: “The Power at Hand.” Basically, I explain to people how much power they have within themselves (most don’t realize this…), and I encourage them to discover that power, and use it for good in their own lives…and subsequently, impact the world in which they live. As is the norm in these type of situations (and a part of my work that I love…), attendees will come up after the session, introduce themselves and we “visit” for a little while. The same routine was occurring at the end of this particular presentation.

As I was talking with some of the people, I noticed a lady over to the side, by herself, waiting to talk with me. She was crying. She very patiently waited for all the other people to leave, and she slowly made her way to me. As she walked towards me, she went from silently crying to almost convulsive sobs. When she got within reaching distance, I stretched out my arms to this perfect stranger, and clutched her to my chest, just like a mother trying to comfort a child. I let her sob for quite a few minutes. 

As the sobs began to subside, she began to tell me her story. The first words out of her mouth were, “I ALWAYS wanted to be a nurse.” I looked at her and asked the obvious question, “Why did you not become one?” She looked at me so pitifully and said that when she was in high school, the career counselor told her she was not smart enough to be a nurse. My first reaction to this revelation was one of total and complete sorrow. The second reaction was one of righteous ANGER!! I wanted vengeance for this woman…I wanted to correct the situation…I wanted that “career” counselor to grovel, prostrate, in front of this broken women, and beg for her forgiveness. But, being the professional that I am, I did not indicate any of that. I realized that the words I spoke to this sweet, sweet woman, were going to be just as important as the words of that high school counselor. 

With my arms still around her, I asked, “What is your current position?” She said, “I am Supervisor of the Activity Department at a nursing facility.” I then asked a question that I already knew the answer to, “Do you have annual state and federal surveys (inspections)?” She indicated that she did. I asked, “Have you ever received a deficiency, or citation for noncompliance?” She said, “No, never!” And then I said, “Then you must be pretty smart! I know the regulations, as well as the survey process, and I am quite aware that an unintelligent person would not be able to pass those surveys.” She looked at me as if she had never thought of that, and said, “You’re RIGHT!!” We talked for quite a while longer, and then I told her that she could still become a nurse if she wanted to…that she had time to do so. I also encouraged her to stop giving that old high school counselor the “power” over her life and how she perceived herself. We parted ways at the end of our conversation…her, a much happier, determined woman…me, a little sadder that she had lost so many years, believing the words of a “professional in authority,” yet, I was also a little happier in that I do believe the words I used actually helped her realize the possibilities and potential of her life.

What words of encouragement to others have you used today? I hear parents telling children how dumb they are, how they are “driving them crazy,” how “bothersome” they are…and my heart breaks for that child. I hear couples continually finding fault with each other, using words and “negatives” to describe actions, intelligence and decisions…and my heart breaks for those couples. I see friends use sweeter words with perfect strangers, just in passing, than they use with the friends of their heart…and my heart breaks for those individuals. A physical blow will at some point heal; that does not diminish its severity. However, words pierce the very souls of children, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, friends, elders, parents, and even though time heals most incidents, “words” are almost always remembered. What do your words say about you? Do your words encourage and comfort those in your life, or do they continually berate and harm? You see in my story that “words” caused a young person to lose belief in a dream, and impacted how she viewed herself the rest of her life. I want my words to be remembered because they were kind, supportive, encouraging, and most of all…LOVING! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Yummm…..This is delicious!!

As you can see I am late in my post this week. A long week of repair work at my Dad’s house, followed by a very long road trip back late last night…torrential rain…four long traffic jams due to wrecks…so, the article did not get written. I apologize. I realized that last week was the half-way mark of my year’s commitment to this blog. I can’t believe that I have actually written 26 articles! I hope that you still enjoy reading them as much as I do writing them. So, here is this week’s story…

My Mother was one of the greatest cooks ever!! Period!! No argument!! If I could only be half the cook she was, I would be considered a “wonder in the kitchen.” It was one summer many years ago, and fresh peaches had just come into harvest. As anyone knows from the South, there is nothing quite like that first bite of a fresh, home-grown peach. Mama had gone down to the little farmer’s market in town, by the courthouse, and had purchased some fresh peaches. She was planning on making us an “out of this world” peach cobbler. She had a new recipe, and she could not wait to try it out on us.

All afternoon we were forced to smell the delicious aromas coming out of the kitchen. Our mouths were drooling just with the expectation of what was to come! The time finally arrived for her to pull the cobbler out of the oven and share her “masterpiece” with the family. We were all oohing and ahhhing over her creation…it looked like a cobbler straight out of the pages of Southern Living Magazine…and smelled something wonderful!

Mother got us each a bowl and we stood in line to get a scoop of that peach cobbler. She stuck a  spoon into the cobbler to dip the first serving out…only there was a  problem…the spoon could not break the surface of the cobbler. She dug in with a little more force, attempting to scoop up a bite full. Still no luck! We all began looking at each other, wondering what was going on. She finally got a knife and attempted to cut us a piece of cobbler. The knife would not even make a dent in the cobbler. By this time Mother was so distressed, and we were famished for the taste of what we had smelled all afternoon. Finally my Father picked up the cobbler as one piece and tried to tear it apart. By this time, all of us were on the floor laughing hysterically, for you see, Mama NEVER messed up with cooking! And it was so funny seeing Daddy trying to tear the cobbler apart with his bare hands, so we could all get a little taste. He was finally successful in getting each of us a little piece to “gnaw on.” The taste was out of this world…you just couldn’t eat it!! We got to calling it the “peach pot pie.” And for years afterward, all anyone would have to say is “peach pot pie” and it would send us all into shrieks, and we would relive the event once again. My Mother never did figure out what happened to make it turn out so disastrously, but it sure turned into one of our favorite family “moments.”

So many times we make very specific plans and arrangements as to how “things should go” in our lives…family gatherings, meals, events, celebrations, holidays… And most times, things never go according to plans. And oh, the stress we place on ourselves trying to achieve that “perfection.” Maybe we should relax a little, and try not to make everything so “perfect,” for out of imperfection may come one of the most cherished moments of your life. I’m not going to worry so much about perfection. I will strive for excellence, but even in failure, there may just be some success…Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Hang in there, baby!!

We are definitely feeling summer! Hot days, afternoon thunderstorms, sitting on the back porch swing watching fireflies in the evening, visits and sweet conversations with friends on the lake. Seems it took a long time to get here, so you won’t hear me complaining about the heat. Life truly is good! This all brings to mind a good “summer” story…

Most of my friends and family know that as much as I love the water, I have a healthy respect for it, and would not really be considered a “strong” swimmer. It is well known that I cannot properly hold my breath under water without the use of “nose clips.” I don’t know what the problem is, but ever since I had my adenoids removed, water just pours up my nose when I swim underwater. I will do almost anything though, if I have those trusty nose clips…

As I have gotten older, my selection of appropriate swimwear has become a major production each summer…no more bikinis, no two-pieces, and I have developed a fondness for those “body-enhancing” swimsuits. They claim to take 10 pounds off of you, and even have the ability to transform or camouflage “problematic” body parts. A true, modern day miracle!

On this particular occasion, we had just gotten a new tube to pull behind the boat…a “Hydra-Maniac.” We were out in the middle of the lake, and it was my turn to experience the “maniac.” I stepped toward the back of the boat, slung my legs over the side, and was about to get into the tube. Now, someone with half a brain would have known to slowly lower their body into the tube…But, me, in my infinite wisdom, determined that the best way to get in, was to simply step into the middle of the tube. Of course, as I did this, the middle of the tube collapsed with my weight, and I began pitching forward, arms flailing wildly about, as I tried to correct my fall. The last words I heard my friends screaming, just before I stepped off the boat were, “Cat! Nooooooo!!” So as I am wildly sliding upside down into the water, the bottom of my one-piece swimsuit caught on one of the boat cleats. This stopped my fall, however, now I was hanging upside down, on the side of the boat…laughing hysterically at my stupidity and predicament. Hanging there, by the bottom of my swimsuit, I was thinking…”Wow! This fabric really IS phenomenal!” Everyone was trying to figure out how to help me. They really could not get to me, to pull me back into the boat, and the prevailing thought was that eventually the swimsuit fabric would tear….no such luck! I’m telling you, this was some kind of space age, supersonic material!! The decision was finally made to try and ease the fabric off the cleat, and simply let me drop into the water. Of course, by this time (and you should already be picking up on this lifetime pattern of mine…) a crowd of observers had gathered…I plopped into the water with as much dignity as I could muster, and came up sputtering like a drowned rat. Everything turned out OK, but it did give new meaning to the words, “Hang in there!”

Have you noticed that people say those words a lot when you are going through “tough” times? “Hang in there!” What does that actually mean? And how does it help? I have figured out that the words are meaningless. What they really mean to me is, “I’m not going to take any of my own time to offer you true assistance, support, comfort, or help. However, I have done my part by offering those consoling words, hang in there.”

I no longer use that phrase! If my path runs across someone who is going through a difficult time, I offer whatever I can do to help…whatever they will accept, whatever they need that I can provide. People need more than words…they need action! Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

Dear Lord, save me from Facebook and politics!!

Friday was the first day of summer! If you are like us, we have had to wait quite a while for the warm weather. I don’t think I can ever remember wearing a jacket at the end of June.  There is something just not right with that picture…Anyway, I am so glad that the days are warmer and we can actually begin doing some of those wonderful summer activities. Hope you are enjoying this time of the year…

This past week, I had a friend post on Facebook, “I will no longer ever post any thing political…” Apparently, she had posted something very innocent on her page, and someone disagreed with her statement, and took her to task for it. Numerous supporters shared stories of how they had been “unfriended” by “friends” during the elections, because (very obviously) they were not voting for the “right” person. Still others told stories of being “viciously attacked” through words, simply because there was a difference of opinion. It is amazing to me that the ones who are so quick to pounce on someone for their views, will be the first to decry that their own rights are being violated if someone happens to disagree with them. Wow! The way I see it is that if you have the right (and feel compelled to do so) to voice your opinions in whatever way you want (interpret rant and rave) via Facebook, and I am forced to see it, look at it, think about it, be bothered by it, etc., etc., etc., then you should certainly give me the respect to hear my views and opinions. It should go both ways. 

I am so thankful that not everyone sees things the way I do. How boring life would be, and how limited my growth as a person would be. I love it when individuals in my conference sessions will raise their hand, and say, “I’m sorry, Ms. Selman, but I disagree with what you just said.” I always smile and say,”Wonderful! Tell me why you disagree!” For some, they cannot tell me WHY they disagree, just that they disagree. I toss those comments in the “do not be concerned about” file. However, for those who can share with me their opinions, thoughts, and views in an articulate, heartfelt, passionate manner, I LISTEN!! And beyond that, I learn from it. Some times those remarks actually give me new insight and I will change my opinion or perspective. Speaking of perspective, I discovered something interesting in the bathroom the other day. (No, don’t be alarmed, we are not discussing any body parts here…) It just so happens that I have a free-standing toilet tissue holder in my bathroom. I am one of those people who turns my toilet tissue so that it rolls “over” the top. As I was looking at it, I realized that someone had turned the toilet tissue to roll “under” – not the way I like it. As I was pondering that, I saw that no one had actually turned the toilet tissue ANY way. The stand had simply gotten turned around. So, if someone were looking at the stand from the left, the toilet tissue would be going over the top. If someone were looking at the stand from the right, the toilet tissue would be going under the bottom. I thought to myself, if you asked someone to tell you which way the toilet tissue was turned, you would get two different answers (depending on where the respondents were standing), and both answers would be absolutely correct!!

I have friends from almost every realm of the human species. Some are so conservative, with narrow thinking, and view the world one way, and one way only. Then we go across the spectrum, all the way to the other side, and I have friends that are so liberal, free-spirited, and free-thinking that it can almost take your breath away. And you know what? I would not trade any of them for any amount of money in the world. I love all of them, especially for their uniqueness and individuality. Each person that I come in contact with, who becomes a part of my world, I learn from. They either reaffirm what I know to be true and right within my own beliefs, or they open my mind to consider other perspectives, and it broadens my knowledge and my “personhood.” But I would only discover that if I am open-minded, willing to listen and share.

So, to my friend, I would say this: Do not give the control of what you say, write, or think to someone else, simply because they disagree with you. After all, we DO live in America, where you are supposed to be able to say exactly what you think…In fact, it is actually written into the Bill of Rights, and guaranteed by our Constitution! I, as well as countless others, are extremely interested in what you have to say, think, and do. And even if we disagree on some issues, I will show you the respect of listening, as this is a way that I can also grow and learn as a person. We should listen with an open mind to others’ thoughts, opinions, beliefs, and YES, even politics. It is called dialogue; it is called respect; it is called friendship. Those friends who “unfriend” you because you do not share their views, are probably not the people you want as friends to begin with, and how sophomoric is that? I intend to be the kind of friend that people are comfortable and safe with sharing their innermost thoughts and beliefs. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Did that little bird peck you??!!

It is FINALLY Spring! Flowers are blooming everywhere, the scents are intoxicating, and little baby birds are hatching all over. Reminds me of a story…
Years ago I lived in Shreveport, LA. The house that I lived in had a nice, fenced-in backyard, with beautiful landscaping, flowerbeds and trees. At the time, two little toy poodles were very much a part of our family. It was Spring, and new “birth” and growth was evident everywhere! As was part of our daily routine each morning, we let the pups out to take care of “business.” Just as they stepped off the back patio onto the yard, a mama bluejay dove down from a nearby tree, and dive-bombed both of them, scaring them half to death, and startling us! We gathered both pups up and rushed back into the house. We went back out, leaving the pups inside, to investigate the situation. (Of course, we dared not step off of the patio, for fear that Mama Bluejay would dive-bomb us also!) We discovered that there were FOUR baby bluejays in various locations throughout the yard, attempting to learn to fly, and Mom and Dad were protecting them.
By now, the pups were desperate to get out in the yard, and we were trying to figure out what to do. We had plans for the day in the backyard, and knew that we needed to move the babies to a safer location. I got the bright idea that if we held an umbrella over our heads for protection, we could safely relocate each baby (using gloves, of course). Very quickly we put gloves on, got the umbrella, and went into enemy territory! As soon as we stepped off the patio, those bluejays came after us, pecking holes in the umbrella, and actually flying under the umbrella to get to us. We raced back into the house for safety, with images from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds, flashing through our heads.
Safely back inside the house, we realized that this situation was more than what we wanted to deal with, and determined that we might need to solicit some outside help…but, who? Humane Societies were not common back then, so that was not an option. Calling the police for rescue also seemed a bit of a reach…
At this point my brain began kicking in…I thought, well if fire departments can send firemen out to climb trees to save little kitties, surely, it would fall under their responsibilities to relocate baby bluejays…So…I made the call and explained our situation. I also explained that they would not need a firetruck for this mission… Ten minutes later a huge firetruck, with sirens screaming, pulled up in front of our house, and four huge, burly fireman rushed up to our door. (So much for requesting discretion…) We all went out to the patio where I explained the morning’s “activity. ” I gave full disclosure by warning the fireman that the bluejay parents were highly agitated and would aggressively defend their babies. Being good ole’ southern boys, those firemen sorta smirked at us, a little condescendingly to my mind, and swaggered out into the yard, as we retreated into the house to watch. They had not gone two steps before Mama Bluejay chose her target well, initiated the approach, and made contact with the first fireman’s forehead. He screamed as blood rushed down his face, stating the obvious, “That bird pecked me!” The second fireman was running for his life, arms flailing about, trying to get away from Papa Bluejay. The other two fireman had played it safe and remained on the patio, trying to hide their laughter. All the while, we were standing inside the house, behind the curtains, killing ourselves laughing! And I am thinking to myself, “We DID warn you…hey, big guy, not as easy as you thought, huh?”
We got out the first aid kit, and gave the injured fireman a bandaid, while they determined their strategy. They came to the conclusion that a little more “appropriate” gear might be called for. So, they went back out to the truck (where a curious crowd of neighbors had gathered), and donned jackets and fire hats. They went back out into the backyard, and very gently and safely relocated the babies outside of the fence. Success!! We thanked them for their “heroic” actions, and expressed our sorrow that one of them had been injured during the process. Then we went out and gave explanation to the neighbors. Everyone had a good laugh!
How many times do we ignore the advice of individuals? How often do we think that we know what is best, that our way is the ONLY way? And that the other person could not possibly be right? I am going to listen, and heed, the advice that knowledgeable and experienced people give me. After all, they just might know what they’re talking about! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

We’re Just Going To Have To Jump Over Her!!

Last week’s post got me to thinking of other travel “experiences,” so here’s another story that you might find amusing…

A number of years ago, I worked with a national nursing home company. I was a part of the corporate team, and when we traveled, we usually traveled with the Vice President over a particular region of the country. On this particular trip, I was traveling with two Vice Presidents (they were male…which will be important to know later on in the story). We were working at a facility in Chattanooga, TN, and were staying each night at a high-rise hotel in the downtown area. My room was on the 14th floor of the hotel. As is the case many times for me in hotels, I was having a little difficulty sleeping. There happened to be a huge thunderstorm going on, and I had my curtains open, enjoying the natural “light show.” It was actually very beautiful. It was about 1:00 a.m. in the morning, and I was laying on my bed, just enjoying the show.

All of a sudden, a strobe light near the ceiling of my room, starting going off and on, sirens and alarms began to sound, and an automated voice came over the intercom in my room saying, “Proceed to the nearest stairs and exit the building.” The voice kept saying this statement continuously, and seemed to get louder with each proclamation. Now, as a traveler, I have always prided myself in being safe. When I am assigned a hotel room, I always check to see where the nearest stairs are, and note which direction I should go if there were an emergency. In my mind, I have also gone over and over how I would make such an exit. I would get dressed comfortably (and quickly)…I would get my wallet…I would put comfortable shoes on my feet…I would check the door to make certain that it was not hot…and then I would exit to those stairs. I had rehearsed this time and time again in my head. So…the alarm was going off…and I panicked. I tried to call the desk to see if it was a false alarm, and there was no answer. I looked out my window, fourteen stories down to the street, and I saw fire engines pulling up to the hotel, and I heard peoples’ footsteps rapidly going down those stairs, and I saw people racing out of the hotel. I realized that this was real, that there was a fire, and that I. WAS. ON. THE. FOURTEENTH. FLOOR!!!

I used to sleep in a tee-shirt, so in my panic, I did not think to put anything else on…at least the most of me was covered…but I did need shoes…I could not find any “comfortable” shoes, but my high heels were laying there on the floor, so I thought, “well, that will be better than nothing.” I forgot the wallet…I checked my door to make certain that it was not hot (it wasn’t), and I opened it. Just as I opened my door, a man from across the hall opened his door. He was as prepared as I was…He had on a tee-shirt, boxer shorts, a suit coat, black socks and wingtip shoes. I was in my tee-shirt and high heels. We made quite the couple…I looked at him…he looked at me…and I said, “Let’s go!!” We joined arms and headed for the stairs. (And let’s remember that I had never laid eyes on this man ever before…) As we opened the stairwell door, we joined hundreds of people going down the stairs, trying to get out of the building before we were all burnt to a crisp! We happened to get behind a lady who was wearing a baby blue, chiffon negligee with matching slippers (with little pom-pom puffs on top of them), AND she had remembered her purse. She looked like a big ole’ ball of cotton candy floating down those stairs. We were so close behind her that her chiffon kept getting caught in our faces, and we kept having to bat it away. The other problem was that she was going too slow!! As we rounded another turn in the stairwell, I happened to look at the number on the door that we were passing. I looked at Mr. Boxer Shorts, and said, “We’re ONLY on the 7th floor!” He said, “I know! What should we do?” I looked at him with great determination, and said, “We’re just going to have to jump over her!!” She must have heard what I said, because, at that very moment, she got faster!!

We finally made it down to the bottom floor, and was about to exit, when I realized that it was pouring down raining outside, and all I had on was that little tee-shirt. The fear of actually burning motivated me to move on out into the rain no matter what!! I should not have worried, because everyone standing out in the rain was in the same situation as me…either little clothing at all, or all in disarray. We were just lucky to get out alive! I hugged Mr. Boxer Shorts, thanked him for accompanying me, and I went to find my two Vice Presidents. I was so glad to see them, and find that they made it out safely too, that I hardly minded that they continued to try and “read” my tee-shirt…We looked up, and saw hundreds of people up in their rooms looking down at us. Now, I have to ask you, what kind of person would be up on the higher floors of a hotel, look out their window, and see fire trucks, people in various stages of dress (and undress)…all standing out in the rain…and not move heaven and earth to get out of that hotel??? I found out later that when a fire is “discovered” in a hotel, the alarms only sound on the floor of discovery, the floor above, and the floor below. So, those people did not know why we were all outside!

They were able to contain the fire and we were allowed to return to our rooms for what was left of the night. The next morning I called my secretary and explained to her that we needed to make a change in my travel profile…to NEVER book me in a hotel room higher than the second floor. She said, “Oh, did something happen???”

Throughout our lives, people are placed in our paths. Some can help, support, motivate, love and make your life better. Others can slow you down, make you wait, keep you from attaining the goals that you have established for yourself. Still, there are others that can hurt and destroy you…suck the very life from you, and make you miserable. There is one key factor in this equation, and that would be you. You have the choice to allow those people to harm you, slow you down, help you, or love you…it is all within your power. I am going to either lead, follow, or simply get out of the way, but I do not intend to slow anyone down…or let them slow me down…I am going to love, support, inspire and motivate! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

So When Do You Leave….?

I LOVE elephants!! Do you know why? Well, the first reason is that my best friend has collected elephants (not the real ones, of course…) all of her life, and I have grown to love them and have learned an awful lot about them as a result. Elephants are such a loving family unit…and “the Aunts” are heavily involved in helping and assisting with the development, growth, and care of all the new babies that are born into their family unit. You see, I REALLY like that part, because I AM an “Aunt” – many times over! In fact, I am a GREAT Aunt (literally and figuratively….)! All of my nieces and nephews have never thought of me as an adult…most of them view me as a “toy” to play with…and I would have it no other way! There is something in my heart that just jumps and explodes when I see the delight in their eyes when they finally land on me. It is truly intoxicating!

Whether you like Hillary Clinton, or you don’t, is NOT important to me; however, I strongly believe one of her philosophies…that it DOES take a village to raise a child. It takes the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, church leaders/Sunday School teachers, school teachers, neighbors, friends, and community – that IS a village, by the way. At least, that’s the way it was when I was growing up. We felt “safe” because “someone” was always watching out for us, and teaching us life lessons. As an Aunt, I have taken the responsibilities of that “job” very seriously. I have tried to “broaden my nieces’ and nephews’ horizons” – to let them know there was more in the world than they saw in their own, small town…to let them know that, especially in people, “different” did not mean “wrong,” but just different…that there was nobody better than who they were, or who they could be…that they could be and do anything they wanted in life if they worked for it…that faith in God was what you believed, trusted, lived and relied upon…and that life should be worth living – doing what you enjoyed. Most importantly, each one knows that there is never anything they could do in life that would affect the tremendous love I have for them. It is truly unconditional! They know they could tell me anything, do anything, and my love would never waver…that I am ALWAYS only a phone call away. So now that you have all of the background, let’s get to this week’s story…

My baby brother and his wife tried for many years to have a child. My sister-in-law (and I use that word so you know who I am talking about, but in our family, she is indeed my sister, period) had a battle with cancer early in their marriage. She had to have heavy doses of radiation and chemotherapy. As a result, she was told that the treatments had left her sterile. So, the journey began to adopt a little one into the family. This journey went on for many, many years…Resulting in heartbreak, after heartbreak! Each new opportunity for adoption failed. All of our hearts were sad. Then one day, they got a message from a personal friend (they were all officers in the Salvation Army at this time). He reported that a church family’s young daughter had become pregnant, out of wedlock, and they were placing the baby up for adoption. There was only one catch…the family wanted each couple, who wanted that precious baby, to write a letter explaining why they wanted a child, and how they would raise the child. Out of all the families submitting letters, my brother and his wife were chosen!! We were thrilled!!! The time came for the young lady to give birth, and she had a little girl, my Elizabeth! We got her when she was two days old, and from that moment, I was mesmerized. I cannot understand people who say that could not love a child as much, who is not of “their blood.” We know NO difference!! She is ours!!! In fact, both my brother and I will forget and say, well…you got your allergies from us…her nose is an exact replica of my brother’s…but it would NOT make any difference if it weren’t . (And, by the way, it ended up that the Drs. were wrong…a little boy was born a few years after Elizabeth arrived…., and yes, we love him to death also…even though he is not adopted…He will also have a post about him later on…)

She and I have had a special relationship from day one. When she was really little, she could not say my name, so I became “Aunt Tat.” There was no greater pleasure for me than when she would crawl up in my lap, place those little chubby arms around my neck, and say, “I wuv you, Aunt Tat!” On this particular day, I was down visiting with my folks, and we were all sitting out in the sunroom. Of course, Elizabeth was sitting in my lap, and I was loving every minute of it. As we were sitting there, she snuggled in a little closer to me, and very quietly said, “I know where you are taking me this summer.” Surprised, I said, “Well, tell me, where am I taking you?” She looked at me with those beautiful, blue eyes, smiling from ear to ear, and said, “Disneyworld!” I quickly looked over her head to my Mother, who was shaking with laughter, and she mouthed, “When are you leaving?” I chuckled, and said, “As soon as I can clear my schedule…” And yes, we did go to Disneyworld (which will be a later blog article) that summer, and had a wonderful time…just us girls…She has now become a Mom herself, and has given me two more opportunities to be an aunt. Her birthday is this coming week, and I could not be prouder of her, or love her any more than I do today.

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Those of you who ARE those special Aunts…remember the impact that you can have on a child’s life…and will continue to have as they grow. Help those mothers who are finding it a little difficult to do it all by themselves. Be an elephant!!! That’s what I will be doing…Won’t you join me? Just for this week….