“I hear the train a comin’…”

Recently, I was the Keynote Speaker for a conference in Columbus, GA. (And just for the record, I would go back again in a heartbeat to spend time with those wonderful people!) It was the first time I had ever been to that city, and the conference site was a renovated historical hotel in downtown Columbus. I arrived to find that the hotel was just beautiful! Large, shady trees…old brick…. and ambience that people attempt to duplicate in more modern hotels, but never get quite right. It was “southern” through and through. I checked into my room and began unwinding from the trip. Since I had arrived near dinner time, and it was already dark, I went ahead and ordered room service for the evening. After eating, I reviewed my presentation to make certain there was nothing missing, and that I was fully prepared for the next morning’s event. I then stretched out on the bed for a little relaxation and reading.

As time passed, I changed into my pjs and began the nightly ritual of “trying” to go to sleep. I’m not the best sleeper to begin with, and staying in hotels as often as I do, can cause absolute havoc with my sleep patterns. I am a very light sleeper, so any little noise or light, will bring me fully awake. It was about 10:00 p.m., and as I lay there, I heard a train in the distance – blowing that mournful horn that you hear in the night, as it began its initial approach into the city. As the train got closer to our location, the horn got louder and louder. In fact, the horn never stopped! The engineer apparently starting blowing the horn at the outskirts of the city, and was determined (or required) to blow the horn the entire length of the city! As the train made its way closer to my location, I kept thinking, “My, it sure does sound pretty close!” Within moments the room began vibrating. The horn was so loud I had to cover my ears, and it felt as if the train was going to come through the walls. I looked out my window, and sure enough, there was the train passing by – just across the street from my room!!

Within moments the phone in my room began to ring. Since I very rarely ever get calls from a land line, I picked up the receiver and cautiously said, “hello.” The person on the other end, introduced herself, explaining that she worked the front desk of the hotel. She said, “I’m so sorry to bother you, but are you playing a guitar?” I laughed and responded, “Although I do play a guitar, I did not bring one with me this trip…” I then asked if there was a problem. She indicated that there had been a few calls complaining of someone playing a guitar near (or in) my room. Now, I have to tell you, I was laughing so hard and trying not to insult the young lady, but I was thinking to myself…Guitar??? Did you not just hear that train coming through???? We had a good laugh and she apologized for bothering me. And by the way, that train made another “appearance” at 4:30 a.m. the next morning…

So many times in life people get extremely upset over minor events, while ignoring HUGE occurrences that should be addressed. I’m sure that whoever complained about the guitar playing was very upset about that “inconvenience.” Certainly, they were bothered enough to call the front desk and complain. I just wonder if they mentioned the train while complaining… Personally, I could have tolerated the guitar, but that train! Had I known about it beforehand, this one issue could have been a “deal breaker” for my stay at that particular hotel…ambience or not. But apparently, for that other person, the complainer, the playing of a guitar was the issue. We get so occupied with the “little things,” that we miss the huge, life-changing events that need to be dealt with on a daily basis. I think I will try to NOT sweat the small stuff, and attempt to get a handle on all those “trains” in my life. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

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That baby sure does have a lot of hair…

Hey guys! As has been evident by the lack of posts, I have taken some time off from the blog. It’s not that I ran out of stories, because we all know I can get into more trouble in one day, than most people encounter in a year…I just needed some time away from everything that seems to be going on in the world. My heart has been saddened by how people are treating each other. We seem to have turned on each other, instead of lifting each other up in this world. So, I guess I needed a little time to have a “good talking to myself,” and recapture that sense of joy that has always been present in my life. I have decided that for the next few months, I will post either funny or joyful articles – nothing serious. I think we all need a little break from the news here in the U.S. and around the world. So get ready to chuckle along with me…

I was raised on a farm most of my childhood life. We really did not have pets, because we were very aware a special “pet” might just become a meal at some point in time. So, no real pets were in my life until I became an adult.

In my mid-twenties, I decided that I would love to have a little puppy. My choices were extremely limited in that I am highly allergic to almost everything. I had to consider dog breeds that did not shed hair. After much research, the poodle was determined to be a very good choice for me. I did not want to have a big dog, so I again did the necessary research, and decided to get a little toy poodle.

He was jet black, a little ball of fur, and his name was Muffin’s High Prancer, because when he walked, he pranced like a Tennessee Walking Horse. Now, I know that “Muffin” is considered a female name, but that was the name I wanted, and that is what I went with. He didn’t know the difference, and I didn’t care what anyone else thought. So Muffin became a huge part of my life – for 17 years! I never knew you could love a little animal so much. He traveled with me everywhere.

Unlike now, years ago, almost NO hotel would allow an animal on the premises, unless they were a service animal. Therein was the problem when I traveled with Muffin. He was, indeed, said animal…He was not a “barker,” so I was able to sneak him in numerous hotels without anyone knowing. I had gotten very adept at masquerading/camouflaging him to get past the front desk.

On this particular trip, we were making our way home from a seminar. We were tired, had been driving a long time, and decided to stop in Memphis, TN for the night. We chose to stop at one of my favorite hotels, The Hyatt Regency. Now remember, they did NOT allow pets at that time. The front desk was long, against a front wall, and was positioned directly across from the only elevators by which we could get to our room. The hotel was a “high-rise,” so there was no way we could sneak into a window on the ground floor (which we had done on occasion…lol!) So, we were in a quandary as to how we were going to get past the desk employees without them seeing Muffin. We finally decided that I would wrap Muffin in a down-filled, sleeveless vest, where he was not visible, and hold the vest as if I were holding a jacket in my arms.

It was a really good plan. I wrapped Muffin up “just so,” and we began that loooonnnggg walk to the elevators. With each step, I just knew that an employee was going to shout out, “Freeze, baby!! You’ve got a dog!! You’re out of here! Security!!” We made it all the way to the elevators, eased on, and pressed the floor number where our room was located. No one had discovered us and our secret!!

The elevator was walled with mirrors, and as I was standing there looking at the images, I saw movement. I looked closer and discovered that Muffin had found an opening in the sleeveless vest, and had poked his little head through the arm hole. As we both began laughing, we realized that he had been visible to anyone and everyone at the front desk. We had walked right in front of them, with Muffin’s little head up and out, looking at everyone! We could not figure out how on earth they had not seen him. The only conclusion that we could come to, was they thought he was a really hairy baby…

How many times have you tried to “get away” with something in your life? Have you ever done something “not exactly right,” because no one would find out? We convince ourselves that we are “getting away” with something; or “pulling something over” on someone; that what we are doing will not harm someone else. So…what does it matter, if no one gets hurt? Some rules are meant to be challenged; right? Although I meant no harm to the hotel, or other guests, there were rules, and I was intentionally breaking them.

I am highly allergic to animals, especially CATS! So, if I were to happen to stay in a hotel room, where someone else had brought in a cat, without the hotel’s knowledge, and they did not know to “pet clean” the room, I would probably end up in the hospital emergency room. If someone else chose to bypass the “rule,” that decision could certainly harm another person – namely ME! And other than the potential for harm, there should be a certain amount of respect and courtesy for the place of business that you are frequenting, and vice versa…respect and courtesy for the customer. Taking Muffin into the hotel was not done with “malicious intent;” however, negative outcomes could have certainly occurred. And I am sure many of you are thinking…really? You’re concerned over a hotel’s rules? And you just snuck a little puppy dog in? Big deal! But you see, it goes beyond that…it involves character, respect, honesty, and your “philosophy” regarding life decisions.

What have you tried to “get away with?” Was it worth it? Did you get caught? And WHY did you do it? I try to be honest and upright in all that I do, and taking Muffin into the hotel was dishonest – a very small act, but still dishonest. If I had to do it over again, I would not have taken Muffin in. I try to do much better now with my life decisions, and will continue to strive for that elusive “perfection.” Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

So you say you want fried chicken…

It is a well known fact…if you are from the South, you LOVE fried chicken! For most of my young life, my father pastored small country churches. Almost every Sunday, some family in the church would invite our family into their home for Sunday dinner…and almost always, it was fried chicken…HEAVENLY!!! Imagine my dismay, as I got older, and realized that a continual diet of “fried” anything, was bad for your health. Nowadays, I “splurge” maybe once a month and eat something fried…usually either fried chicken or catfish. Yum! So it may be a little surprising that this week’s article does involve fried chicken…

I can remember when Kentucky Fried Chicken first came to our town. Oh my, that “original recipe…” finger-lickin’ good…I have gotten a chuckle out of the chain’s more recent marketing techniques, in that they no longer use “Kentucky FRIED Chicken” in their advertising. They simply refer to themselves as “KFC,” as if we will not KNOW what the “F” stands for…

Since I was Choir  Director at our church, my Sundays were always the busiest day of the week. I usually cooked a nice meal for friends and family, but there were other times when we either went out to eat after church, or picked something up to take back home. On this particular Sunday, I was simply going to pick up some chicken (yes, fried), and fix a few “sides” myself for the meal. Now, let’s remember, it was on a SUNDAY, and it was around 12:05 p.m. – “prime” chicken time…

I walked into the KFC just like I walk into any place of business, with a smile on my face, and a cheery greeting to the employee. That was the first problem. The woman looked as if it were her very last day on earth, and she had to come to work! She looked at me with an expression that said, “you’re going to want something, aren’t you?” She said, “Can I help you?”…not really meaning it… I smiled brightly and gave her my order. She made a heavy sigh and turned around to walk over to the counter where the chicken was, which was about three feet away. It took her almost five minutes to make the walk. I could have just laid on the floor and gotten there quicker than she did! I could have gone out back, chased a chicken down in the yard, caught and plucked it by time she made her journey! Once she got there, she looked into the bin, turned around, came back to where I was standing (another five minutes), and said, “We don’t have any.” I looked at her incredulously, with disbelief, and said, “You don’t HAVE any fried chicken, on a Sunday, at noon?” She said, “No, Ma’am.” (What I wanted to say was, “This IS a Kentucky Fried Chicken in the South, for goodness sakes!! What is wrong with you people? You KNOW people want their fried chicken after church! Why didn’t you have some made, prepared for all of us? We want fried chicken on Sunday!!”) However, I am a nice person, who believes that you should treat people better than you would like to be treated, so I paused for a moment, and asked, “Could you make some?” She looked at me, almost giddy with relief, and said, “Well, yes, but it will take 10 minutes…” It was obvious that she thought I would not wait for her to cook the chicken, and she would not have to exert any more energy working. I surprised her, and said, “That would be great! I will be happy to wait.”  She turned around and ever so slowly went to the back to cook some chicken. TWENTY minutes later I had my chicken and was on my way home…with a promise to myself that I would never go back to that particular KFC, especially on a Sunday. But the incident got me to thinking…

Most of you know that I am a huge Pat Summit fan (former UT basketball coach for the Lady Volunteers). In one of her motivational speeches, she said, “You can control how hard you work.” I truly believe that! Some people just “show up” for work. You’ve seen them, and maybe you work with some of them. Who knows, maybe you ARE one of them…they basically say through their actions, “I’m here – what else could you possibly want?” I was taught that if you were hired to do a job, you did the job to the best of your ability. This means, that if someone hired you for an 8-hour day, you gave them your best for the full 8 hours.

Most of us spend so much of our lives working. I cannot understand individuals who continue to work at something that they don’t enjoy. I do understand that we don’t always have opportunity or means to get the position of our dreams; however, it takes us right back to that earlier thought…if someone gives you a job, and pays you for that job, whether you like it or not, you promised to do the job to the best of your ability. This KFC employee made a choice that Sunday as to how hard she was going to work…and she obviously decided “not to.” She was just going to “get by” with doing as little as she could.

I’ve been fortunate, and very blessed, to be in a field, and a job, that I enjoy…every day! But you know what, I’ve also had those jobs that I did not like as well, but I wanted to eat and be able to pay bills, so I worked. Those employers got the same level of energy, enthusiasm, and hard work that I give when I am doing something I love. Life is short…find a job doing something you enjoy. Just as Pat says, I control how hard I work, so you know what my choice is…Won’t you join me? Just for this week…