A blog about finding God's way on the journey with our children, our family, our jobs and our community.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Keep Your Good Deals - I'm Not Leaving The House on Black Friday

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, I will not be one of those crazed 4:30 a.m. too-much-Starbucks-gotta-get-out-there-first kinda girls.  I shall sleep until at least 7:30 a.m., have my usual cup of Joe, put on my fuzzy house shoes and spend some time thanking God that I was not among those fighting for a parking spot at the Mall.  Later that afternoon the whole family will be gearing up for Game Day, where Scrabble, Loaded Questions and Trivial Pursuit will be the only battles we fight into the wee hours of the night.  I would rather have my toenails pulled off by a pair of pliers than leave my home on the day after Thanksgiving only to get run over at the corner of Lovell Road and Turkey Creek.  But alas, apparently I am like a lone salmon swimming up steam in my little world.

Something alarming is happening to our holiday season.  I read an article just last week about how Black Friday is creeping backward into Thanksgiving Day.  Rumor has it that by next year, Americans will be leaving their afternoon turkey meal on Thursday in order to get to the 'best deals of the season.'  Really?  I say, stop the insanity!  Christmas shopping is supposed to be an enjoyable time to pick out thoughtful gifts for the people I love most in my life. Shopping on Black Friday seems to be about saving more money than everyone around you and beating everyone to the most-wanted presents.  When did Christmas shopping become a competition anyway? 

Does anyone out there remember the fights over Cabbage Patch Dolls or the horrible story of people getting mauled at WalMart?  Somehow, that just doesn't sound enjoyable to me.  So when girlfriends call or a friend at work asks if I want to join them on their shopping spree on Black Friday, the dark recesses of my mind begin to swell with visions of a crazed woman beating me to a pulp in the shoe department at Belk with a stiletto over the last pair of size 7 1/2 shoes.  In response, I simply take a deep breath, and say "no thanks."   I have never been a Black Friday shopper and I don’t encourage my daughters to do it either.  Where is the spirit of Christmas in all of us? What are we teaching our children about the meaning of the holidays or the appropriateness of what a Southern girl will risk her life for?

News flash American Women:  shopping is not a contact sport nor should it be hazardous to your health.  Christmas shopping is supposed to be fun, enjoyable, somehow magical.  Christmas shopping should not have winners and losers. And focusing on saving more than everyone else makes people lose sight of the reasons we exchange gifts in the first place. Instead of worrying about how much money I’m saving or if I am going to be trampled to death by over-caffeinated shoppers assembled in a mosh pit, I would rather think about the look on my granddaughter’s face as she rips open a package on Christmas morning or envision my husband turning our great room into his putting green while trying out that new golf club he just received.  These are the things that I want to occupy my mind as I am spending my hard-earned dough.
Black Friday has very little to do with the holidays and a lot more to do with greed if you ask me.  I would rather stay home and enjoy the family - maybe even put up the tree - than risk my life in a sea of aggressive shoppers who are hungry for 'beating me' to the good deals.  I’ll happily pay a little extra to keep the holiday spirit in my Christmas gift-giving and keep my sanity for as long as I possibly can.  Lord knows there are plenty of other battles for me to fight in this life than beating someone to the last $300 flat screen TV in Knoxville.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Seven Leadership Lessons for Life

Working outside the home as a leader in a non-profit organization that does many great things for the homeless and under-served in the Knoxville community can make for exciting days.  Most days are 10 hours or more, and can lead you down the road of exhaustion at the end of the day.  As the time quickly approaches for school to start back, I find myself becoming anxious thinking about how I will once again juggle the hectic lifestyle of a busy professional with the daunting task of getting several children off to school and educated in the public school system.  For the last week or so I have spent some time thinking about my priorities as a leader.  And when I think about it, being a parent is the ultimate test of one's leadership skills. You have the awesome and sacred responsibility of guiding and shepherding young people through all the trials and tribulations of life into becoming positive and productive human beings - and contributing members of the human race.

Although my mother worked outside the home when I was in high school, she was home most of my early school days.  And why?  Because its' hard to work outside the home AND run a successful household!  Whether our parents were ideal or less than ideal examples as leaders, our first leadership lessons are most often learned in the home. Through our own parents' leadership example, we learn both what to do - and what not to do.

Reflecting back, I have been fortunate to have role models in my life who taught me lifelong lessons on leadership that still guide me and our organization's work today.

Here are 7 of the best leadership lessons I have learned to apply as a leader - most I have honed being a Mom - and they apply to my professional life as well. 

1. Leadership demands action.

Leaders have an obligation and duty to step up and stand for something. Yes, it's much easier to complain, whine, and pout about the state of affairs... But what really does it accomplish?

Being involved in school, homework, budgeting decisions, social sacrifices, and settling arguments amongst the many female personalities in my home, I have learned that action speaks louder than words. Leaders get in the trenches to understand the challenges so that they can be a part of the solutions to overcome them.

Leaders do something, and in so doing, combat the forces of entropy and evil that can so quickly and easily take over, like weeds overcoming an untended garden. Leaders can't sit idly by and do nothing.  Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

2. Leaders pour their hearts and souls into their people and their purpose.

Leaders are all about their people and their purpose. They invest themselves fully into their people and purpose - knowing that in the long run, all the time and energy will be worth it.  Leaders willingly subvert their own ego for their cause. They understand that their success is not measured in how well they do individually - but ultimately in how well their team does - how well their family does. 
3. Leaders plant seeds of success.

Leaders invest the time to plant seeds of success in their followers. They create a positive vision of what people can become and continually encourage and nudge them along that path.  I was told often by my father, "You are a child of destiny. You are destined for great things." While he was clueless in how to support me in my longings and skills, he provided me with fertile soil to 'go for it.'  I tried new things - took risks - tried new things, and believe it was that encouragement that helped me find my passion and purpose in life.

4. Leaders hold people to a higher standard.

While great parents, coaches, and leaders are very loving, they also know that a big part of their responsibility is to hold people accountable. They are willing to take the tough, yet often unpopular stances for the good of their people.  Hopefully, I have encouraged my girls to take the unpopular stance and do what is right.  Higher standards are the stepping stones to blessings and make for much better sleep at night.

Honesty and accountability are the hallmarks of great families, sports teams, businesses, and organizations. Without honesty and accountability, trust can never occur. And without trust, you cannot sustain long-term success.

5. Leaders provide strength and hope during the depths of despair.

My mom has faced tragedy often throughout her life. She lost her husband when she was just 24 and had two small children in diapers.  She survived graduating from nursing school, re-married my dad, had two more children and endured much heartache and tragedy for the next 20 years.  Despite these tragedies and challenges, she reminds us that the human spirit can survive anything. When trivial troubles are getting me down, she reminds me that we have survived much worse. 

Strength and hope also come through my walk with Christ.  He has provided shelter in many storms in my life - storms too devastating to talk about still.  His encouraging words - often spoken through words from friends, encouraging cards received in the mail, or emails from Sisters in Christ, are often the building blocks of hope from which I am lifted and strengthened.  I share encouragement in every way I can with my girls.  It works.  It works well.

6. Leaders remember and appreciate the little things.

Leaders are tuned into the little things that make a BIG difference. They realize that it's the little kindnesses you do on a regular basis that forge the strongest ties.  The spoken word can be more powerful than almost anything else.  A smile.  A hug.  A kind word of thanks.  This seemingly simple act of kindness is one that is greatly appreciated by those who receive them. We know someone cares when they take time to notice the good things - the right things - and thank us for them.  Your children love to hear that you are proud of them or that they do something right.  Take the time to praise them - you will be glad you did.

7. Leaders keep it all in perspective.

Finally, leaders are able to keep everything in perspective. They invest themselves fully but also are able to keep their priorities in order. As author Stephen Covey suggests, they spend their time on the important, not the urgent.  In one of the many blogs I have written, I mentioned that the meaning of family grows more and more important as I age.  Facing the untimely death of my father served as a reminder to me how precious a family can be.  Successful parents, and leaders keep it all in perspective because they are able to separate the important from the urgent, and devote their time accordingly.

And as school starts back in less than two weeks, I will desperately try and reconfigure my days and my nights to practice what I am preaching above.  It's not easy.  Nope.  Never.  But it's worth it. 

What leadership lessons have you learned that you can share with your organization, friends or family?


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Casey Anthony Trial. Just my viewpoint - like it or not.

Today I caught my very first full-length look and listen on the case in a long while.  I must admit that closing arguments today were painfully long (at least for me) but somehow I got through it all.  And it was like I missed nothing of importance for the past two years because I was certainly caught up with full details today for sure.

You might be interested to know that I may well have been the only person in the good old USA today that wasn't tainted by all the rhetoric over the past couple of years.  I really don't follow things like this at all.  But today, I wanted to hear the closing arguments for myself.  Mainly because everyone that I know thinks Casey Anthony is guilty and they are ready to put her in the electric chair and pull the switch themselves.  Things like that just always make me a bit curious.  So today, I decided to watch closting arguments all day long.

You might also be interested to know that I am not a fan of Casey Anthony.  But I came up with some rather fascinating thoughts and conclusions in my seven hour experience of people-watching and close listening skills today.  During commercials of the live broadcast, I googled things - people, places and ideas that I needed to know about to satisfy my curiosity.  Most of all, you might find it strange that I am not convinced that Casey Anthony killed her little girl.  I didn't hear any facts that led me to conclude she is guilty.  At least not of murder.

Here is what I did see, hear and then investigate further.  Her family is very - well - disgruntled and unsettling.  The father.  The mother.  Very odd body language.  Even leaving the courtroom today.  Did you see them 'holding hands!'  Very odd behavior.  The father, George Anthony, he gives me the creeps.  He is an obvious liar, cheater, and general creepy person.  He cheated on his job, he cheated on his wife, and I dare say that something is very rotten with that fake suicide attempt.  Among other things.

The mother, Cindy, is obviously very, very angry.  At what?  Not exactly sure but she is a cold fish for sure.  Very interesting body language, especially around her husband, George.  And that tongue?  Who uses that much profanity around little children anyway?

Casey does display some behaviors of a person who has been sexually molested.  At least in my opinion that is the case.  Something just doesn't add up.  Imaginary friends.  Promiscuous lifestyle.  And why would the attorneys have both the father and the brother, Lee, tested for paternity of the little girl?  Don't you just find that strange in itself?

Sticking to the facts, here is what I did not hear today.  No evidence of murder.  No evidence of anything other than a very promiscuous lifestyle.  Another sign of sexual molestation.  WOW.  Very sad case for sure.

This whole case is very eerie and strange - One thing for sure.  We still don't know the whole truth.  We will see what happens tomorrow.  But for now, what are you thoughts?

I would love to hear your views.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Thinking About You Tonight, Daddy

I remember the day well.  It was a Tuesday afternoon.  My Dad had just called me an hour or so before.  "What are you doing, Little Red Hen?" he asked in his jovial way.  (You see, my Dad never called you by your real name.  If he liked you, he gave you a nickname, and it stuck.  Your whole life you were 'that name' to him.  I was "little red hen."  I suspect it had something to do with the fact that it rhymed with Tracy Lynn.  But no matter - it was special.  Special because he was the only person in the entire universe who called me that name.)  He and I had chatted a while.  He asked me if I would go with him the following day to pick out a paint color for his office we were redecorating.  He also wanted to buy a new leather sofa and wanted to go look at those as well.  He was going to pick me up the next morning at 9:00 a.m.  But things changed in an instant when the phone rang.  .

Back to that phone call.  Words you never want to hear.  "You better get to the hospital right away," she said.  "Your Dad is real bad - they took him by ambulance."  That's all I remember hearing.  My husband had just walked in the door from work.  I grabbed my keys, grabbed my husband, and we were off to the hospital for what seemed to be the longest ride of my life.  The next hour is such a blur to me, painfully hard to write about, much less think about.  Let it suffice to say that my Dad never regained consciousness and they pronounced him dead in less than an hour.

I remember the doctor coming into the waiting room twice.  Both times I asked him - begged him - to let me see my Dad.  Both times that request was denied.  The third time he came back to us he gave us the news.  I was still in shock when he told me my Dad was gone.  It was surreal.  This time the doctor told me I could go see my Dad for "just a moment" and I remember the long walk down the hall, my husband by my side, holding tight to my hand.

When I got to the room, I remember looking in and seeing my Daddy laying on that table, quiet and still.  Very strange because my Dad was one of the most full-of-life, busy people I knew.  And when he was asleep he was snoring - very loudly I might add.  So to see no signs of life was very eery, very strange for me.  I removed my shoes at the door (something told me I was on Holy ground) and I walked inside.  I just stood there, touching his hair and talking to him.  I just touched his face and his hair for about a minute or two until I saw the tears on his face.  They weren't his tears, they were mine.  But they had dropped like tiny raindrops from my eyes onto his face and were running down his cheek.  That's when it hit me.  My Daddy is gone.

Something strange happened at that moment I realized I would never hear 'little red hen' again.  I heard a faint whimpering or moaning sound.  It was coming from me!  I was so numb and so traumatized that I was moaning every time I took a breath.  My husband tells me that it occurred off and on over the next week or so - during the the funeral - at the rotunda - at the veteran's cemetery.  I don't remember much of that. 

What I do remember is the receiving of friends.  My Daddy looked so handsome.  Peaceful.  Almost asleep.  He would have been very pleased with the photos we had around.  Photos of the most important things in the world to him - his kids and his grandkids.  He would have loved what all his friends and family said to console me and my family.  He would have loved the stories they told about crazy things he had done or fun they had throughout the years.  He would have loved the American flag embroidered on his casket.  But more than anything else, he would have gotten a big kick out of the 'nickname bouquet' that proudly stood at attention at his feet.  You see, to pay tribute to my Dad, I had a large bouquet made that had a banner for each of his children and grandchildren with their nickname on it.  Beautifully done in white satin and gold leaf, it was adorned with large streamers, each one representing the nickname that he had given us and called us until the day he went home:

Little Red Hen
Hard Rock
Lisa Bo
Grannie Annie
Snow Bird
Handsome Harry
Austie Bostie
Pixie Pie

Now many years gone, I still long to hear those words again.  "Tracy Lynn, little red hen" he would say.  And my children all cherish those banners so very much.  Each of them has their respective banner - some hanging on their wall, some have them put up for safe keeping.  But each is precious just the same.  A badge of honor.  A reminder of the man so full of life that loved them with every ounce of life he had in him.  Their granddaddy.

Life wasn't always easy with my Dad.  But he was surely the life of the party.  And he is still missed by this old hen more than you will ever know.  I look forward to seeing him again someday.  And I know that when I get to heaven, I will hear those precious words again.  There are many things I anticipate seeing and doing when I get to heaven.  But one of them is hearing "Little Red Hen" from my Dad.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy.  I miss you so very, very much.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

"There You Go" is NOT Good Customer Service

While a generation ago you would have heard sentiments like "Thank you for shopping with us" or "Have a great day, ma'am" while checking out at your neighborhood grocery store, has anyone noticed the 'new' catch phrase in customer service is "There you go?" Really?

Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking. Prissy little middle-aged lady just being a primadonna. But truly, our country has buried the lost-art of practicing real customer service along with reading a hardback book or having conversation around the dinner table.

Let's be honest. We are raising a generation of people who just don't get it. They don't know how important that job is to their future. They don't understand that in 10 years, if things keep in this downward spiral of accepting poor customer service, we won't have any expectations left at all.

You would think in this time of a slowing economy that retail outlets and service providers would be on high alert for excellence in service. Why? Because every dime that people spend today must be measured in importance. People have an array of choices of where they can spend that precious, calculated money. And, if people do not get excellent customer service, they will go somewhere until they find it. Oh, I wish!

And while I'm up here (on my soapbox, that is) allow me to pontificate about how no one under the age of 20 can count change back without that computerized register telling them how much to give back to the customer. Test this theory; give a $20 to any young person, "buy" something for $12.71 and ask them to count the change back to you. It's nearly impossible to find one who can actually do it correctly without having to start over numerous times if at all.

Retailers of America, wake up and smell the coffee. Let's stop the insanity that is going around today. Making Kroger bigger with more self check-out lanes is NOT good customer service. Start small and less expensive. Just teach an orientation class on practicing the art of good customer service. Start with "Thank you for your business" and "Please come back." My guess is that little step will reap the rewards in customer loyalty much more than shiny new computers and more self-check out registers.

After all, we already have to buy them, unload them at the register, roll them to our car and then put them up when we get home. THANK US properly when we are there spending our hard-earned dollars and it just might make us leave feeling a little better about the 28% hike in the cost of
groceries in the last year alone.