Friday, December 9, 2011

Ho, Ho, Help!!

Every December, my family, fortified with hot chocolate and cookies, bundles into my husband’s truck, and heads to the tree farm to cut our Christmas tree. Every December, I have this vision of a Norman Rockwell experience.

Every December, I get “Mad Magazine!” 

I kid you not. This hilarious attempt at creating the perfect Christmas memory has been going on for so many years it’s become one of our weirder family traditions! Usually, the holiday fantasy begins to go awry when we hit a country-road pothole and hot chocolate goes flying! We recover, pick the mini marshmallows off of our sweaters and out of our hair, and forge onward! We head into the maze of trees in search of the ‘perfect’ Virginia Pine for our home. Four family members--- four ideas of ‘perfect.’
Last year, we took home three trees.
We’ve had a tree fly out of the truck bed and land in a busy intersection; we’ve had a dog become lost in the labyrinth of pines; we’ve picked out the ‘practically perfect’ tree from a distance, only to have another family beat us to the excellent evergreen, and claim it for their own!  Sigh.
The tree-cutting tradition has taught me a lot about holiday expectations. It seems to me that we set the bar so high in our quest for seasonal perfection that we lose sight of what is truly important- the love and warmth of spending this special time with our family and friends.  And, just what is ‘perfection’ anyway? Is it the exquisitely shaped, perfectly balanced tree that *you* select? Or is it the ‘Charlie Brown” tree that makes your child’s eyes sparkle, and is small enough for them to help set up and decorate? Is it the ‘perfect dinner’ that you won’t allow anyone to help you prepare, for fear someone won’t ‘get it right?’ Or is it a dinner prepared by many hands, filled with love--- and a few lumps in the mashed potatoes?  Is it control over traditions, or compromise over new possibilities?
What is it about the whimsy of a fat man in a red suit juxtaposed with the reverence of a Savior’s birth that causes us to fret and stress, to spend and overextend--- all in the quest of the ‘perfect holiday?’ Is it possible to stop the holiday-gone-wild and to survive the season with style and a smile? Yes, if only we can learn to master what I call the ‘ups and downs’ of the season!
First, CLIMB DOWN off that perch of perfection! Life is not a Norman Rockwell painting or a Southern Living magazine cover. Don’t’ get me wrong. You will have those Norman Rockwell moments. Cherish them. Document them through photos, videos and journals. Because, you will also have those moments straight out of Mad Magazine, as well! Your seventy pound German shepherd may turn over your Christmas tree, drag it into the middle of the living room floor, strip it of every ornament and eat most of them! (True story.) Your child may sprain his ankle the week before Santa Claus is set to deliver a brand new pair of roller blades.  The grocery store may run out of cranberry sauce and you may put salt instead of sugar in the chocolate pie! So what? It’s not Christmas at my mom’s house unless someone burns the rolls!  When you veer from Christmas “wonder” to Christmas “blunder” laugh it off, take a goofy picture for the scrapbook and move on!
SET UP your priorities. If you try to please everyone by saying ‘yes’ to every invitation, celebration or obligation, you’ll be so tired and crabby no one will want to spend the holidays with you!  You will also lose sight of the magic of the season. Christmas will become just another chore. You end up emotionally drained and perhaps even physically ill. Don’t turn down every request or invitation (they’re part of what makes the season fun!) Just be selective!
WRITE IT DOWN! Make a daily, weekly, even monthly list of tasks you must complete. It will help you stay on schedule and when we are running on time, our stress level drops. A bonus: you’ll get great satisfaction every time you mark an item off of your ‘to do’ list!
LOOSEN UP your grip. Ask for help! Accept it when it’s offered! It doesn’t mean you are weak, or that you can’t ‘do it all.’ You probably can. But why? Let the kids decorate the tree. Who cares if it’s lopsided? Think of the memories they’ll be making while you take care of another task, like wrapping gifts, cooking or just sitting in front of a roaring fire, taking in their joy! 
LIE DOWN. You hit the floor running at dawn and don’t stop until far into the night. There’s too much to do, and not enough time to do it in. Parties to attend, gifts to buy and wrap, holiday treats to buy or bake! Who has time to sleep? You must make the time! Rest is one of the best gifts you can give yourself this holiday season. Why? Research shows the body, and brain, go into ‘repair mode’ during sleep! A good night’s sleep can make you feel better and look better. It can make you healthier, smarter, and nicer! Perhaps if the Grinch had gotten more sleep he wouldn’t have been such a sourpuss!
LIGHTEN UP. Smile! Studies show smiling can increase your pain tolerance, strengthen your immune system, improve your mood, and on top of all that, it’s contagious! Spread the cheer! Wouldn’t you rather interact with happy people than a bunch of grumps? Smile! It lifts your face and makes you look younger! Smile when the cat climbs the Christmas tree! Smile when you look at the mountain of gifts to wrap! Smile when you pull the hopelessly tangled lights out of the box in which they’ve been packed away. And no, gritting your teeth doesn’t count.
Nothing will take away all of the stress of the holiday season. It’s life and sometimes we just have to get over it. But, if we practice these ‘ups and downs,’ we are more likely to have holidays to cherish and remember, instead of holidays we would rather forget!
*This article was orginally published in Baldwin County Living Magazine, Winter 2009 Edition. It is adapted from my holiday speech entitled: Ho, Ho, Help! Surviving the Holidays with Style and a Smile

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Many of you know that I returned to school a few months ago. Most of you also know that MATH gives me fits. But, finally, a math assignment I could sink my teeth into---because it involved WRITING! The assignment: to put together a creative, fun piece on a person who made a major contribution to the field of mathematics. We could go back as far as we wanted. I went back all the way to 287 B.C..... and here is the result. With tongue in cheek and hat tipped to a mathematical genius...

Ode to Archimedes

Archimedes was born in 287 B.C.. His dad had a thing for the stars.
Archimedes was more interested in things of the earth. Forget Jupiter and Mars.
He used mathematics to invent and to solve. His weapons of war brought him fame.
Those weapons helped hold off the enemies who attacked his homeland with war games.

But, Archimedes was killed in 212 B.C as Romans attacked Syracuse.
The exact manner of death is a mystery, but the irony you just can’t refuse.
His weapons of war may have won many battles. In the end, they did not save his life.
But his contributions to mathematics live on, and indeed, they continue to thrive!

When it came to integral calculus, Archimedes was ahead of the curve.
2000 years before Newton and Liebniz, the rate of change Archimedes observed.
Volumes, areas and solutions were all running around in his head.
He worked out his formulas, solutions and theorems which eventually became so widespread.

His most famous theorem, Archimedes’ principle, gives the weight of a body submerged.
His contributions to the area of geometry also gave mathematics a surge.
Angles and planes and shapes and degrees-- understanding them is not always easy.
Archimedes got it, though, but was his knowledge a gift? Did he really find math to be breezy?

Plutarch said his genius might be a gift---Or perhaps the result of hard work
If that that is the case, it gives us all hope that we’ll get it without going berserk!
Today, we use his work in all areas of life, from construction, to manufacturing… to counting!
And, though I’m a writer, and not into big cipherin’, my knowledge of math is mounting.

"Eureka, I have found it!"- Archimedes once said, as he searched for a ‘royal’ solution.
It’s a cry we can all utter when we study and try and eventually gain mathematical ‘absolution.’
So, thank you, Archimedes for all of your work and for helping increase my brain power.
While I still prefer words over numbers and shapes, from mathematics I no longer do cower.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

One Person

     An online devotional I read this week was written by a father who was recently diagnosed with cancer. After his initial shock, confusion and anxiety, the man decided to take a loved one’s advice and view cancer as an unexpected “speed bump on the highway of life.” Please understand, as a woman of faith and a woman who spends much of her time teaching the value of a positive attitude, I respect, appreciate and admire the writer’s faith and optimistic outlook.  I find his attitude an inspiration beyond measure. However, events of the past several days have led me to understand that while cancer may, indeed, be a speed bump in many life journeys; in others… it is a stop sign.
     An ugly, red, unwelcome intruder that emerges out of nowhere and sends life to a screeching, shocking halt.
     Two dear friends buried their young, vibrant, athletic 21 year old son this week. He died less than a week after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. His family and friends barely had time to wrap our minds around the diagnosis, before the young man’s body went into crisis mode. Despite valiant medical efforts and countless prayers that went up around the globe, there was no getting around this stop sign.
     Cancer is an ugly word. It is an ugly disease. A recent Facebook post making the rounds reads “I hate cancer.”  Don’t we all?
     But the death of this young man and the suffering that cancer has inflicted on so many of my family members and my friends has caused me to do some serious thinking about my approach to this threat on the journey called Life.  Rather than just get angry about the damage cancer is inflicting, I want to do something. I want to fight back. But, what can one person do? Well, I’ve begun researching possibilities. I’ve started the process of joining the national bone marrow registry.  One person-- who is the right match-- can make all the difference. There are a number of fundraisers for cancer research that could use my help. Volunteers are always needed for programs that provide care and comfort to those fighting this disease, and to those who are grieving a loss. What can one person do?  I’m finding that the possibilities are countless.
     21 year old John Paxton Dean was one person who was always looking for a way to help others...a way to make a difference... a way to make the world a better place.  Perhaps you would like to follow his lead and seek to make a dfference as well. If you know someone whose highway of life has been hit with the speed bump--or the stop sign-- called “cancer” perhaps you will join me in searching for a way to channel the anger, sadness and helplessness we feel into positive and proactive steps to fight this disease. One person can make a difference.
Rest in Peace, John Paxton Dean

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Love Drops

Today would have been my grandmother’s birthday. She’s been in Heaven many years now,  but I think of her often, and always on this day.

Her name was Ethel, but we grandkids called her ‘Mama.’  She is the grandmother I wrote about in the blog post “The Pine Straw Playhouse” (April 14, 2011 post.) I spent a lot of time with her when I was a little girl, and every day spent with her was an adventure.

Mama was the wife of a preacher. But, she also had a ministry of her own. It was a ministry to children, and it went beyond Sunday morning children’s church and summertime Vacation Bible School. She was often invited to various churches to hold week-long children's ministry events.. and they were events! She would have the children singing, making crafts, and marching around the sanctuary. She would have them spellbound as she used vivid illustrations to tell the children well-known Bible stories that demonstrate God’s love. 

I used to travel with her. I’d play the piano for her, help her make her crafts, and help her decorate the sanctuary. Her main theme was “Love Drops” and she would use a prop like the one in the photo to drive home the point of that night’s message.  As the service ended, she would give each child their very own bookmark-sized Love Drop to take home as a reminder of the message, and of God’s love and care.
My grandfather even penned a song called “Love Drops.” The lyrics depict God’s love as cleansing and restoring raindrops from Heaven.

Today, on my grandmother’s birthday, I pulled out the Love Drops prop. It's been around a long time and is showing its age. But, as I looked at it, I began to think about God’s ageless ‘love drops.’ They may take many forms. They may come in the form of the water of baptism. They may come in the form of an afternoon rain shower that cools us down on a hot summer’s day.  Then, again, God’s love drops may not come in the form of water at all, but in the form of a loving word, a kind act, a promise kept, a hand held, a need met, a relationship restored, and a heart forever changed.

God’s love was ultimately shown on a hill, on a cross… on a day when the skies opened wide and  LOVE came down… and in dying, was reborn into a love that will live forever.

I've lost track of which birthday this would have been for my grandmother. It doesn’t really matter. The most important thing to remember is that no matter how many birthdays we’ve had…God's 'love drops' still fall on us. He loves us through the people who come into our lives, through the unexpected blessings that may come our way….and even through the occasional storms of life.

Birthday or not- that’s a gift to cherish.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Do It Anyway

I found reason to pause today, when I read this quote on a Facebook friend's profile page:

"If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never about them anyway."

The quote is a variation of a composition originally written by Kent Keith, and of another one often attributed to Mother Teresa. It is also echoed in the song, "Do It Anyway" by Martina McBride. In fact, during my Google search, I discovered many variations of the sentiment that we should  'do good, and be good, and live good.... anyway.'

It then dawned on me that I'd read something very much like this a long, long time ago... in a book that was written an even longer time ago. Perhaps you've heard of the author. He was a guy named Paul.

"Let us not grow weary in doing good.... As we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people." Galatians 6:9-10

There's a lot of 'ugly' in the world these days. We are bombarded with it on internet news sites, evening newscasts, and reality TV shows. We hear it on the radio, in the workplace and at the ballpark. But, we don't have to succumb to it.

We can be proactive and "do good... be good.. live good..." We can shake off the 'ugly', focus on what's good... and do it, anyway.

I'm game.

Are you?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ode to Velma, the Cow-Bride

August 18 is National Bad Poetry Day. In the spirit of fun, I invited my Facebook friends to  get their rhyme on-- and participate in a free-flowing group-poem! I fed them the first three lines. They took it from there. One prolific poet would pick up where another left off. The end result is NOTHING like I'd imagined (thank you Scott, for 'steering' it in a hysterical direction) and is more hilarious than I'd ever anticipated. Is it the Really Rotten Rhyme I called for? Heck, no! It's actually pretty good! And a very entertaining read. Thanks to all my Facebook buddies for playing along-- you are credited below. Here is the end result (with slight editing, but with original intent in place.)  

Ode to Velma-- The Cow Bride

I woke up this morning, the sun was all yellow.
I went for a walk. I was feeling quite mellow.
But, when I rounded the corner, what I saw caused me fear.
A red cow named Velma was drinking a beer.
Her eyes were all blotchy, her hair was a mess.
She was wearing the top of an old wedding dress.
She looked up when she saw me and called me by name.
After that, my life was never the same. She said, “Scott, don't worry, I'm actually tame.
Come sit for awhile and let’s chew the cud.
Have a refreshment, and I'll call you my bud.”

Alas and alack, my day was not done.
As I backed away and started to run
I stepped in some droppings.
The cow’s.
And, not number one.
So I squished out of there, one step at a time
Thinking, "Steak for my supper. That cow, she is mine!"

Cleaning my shoes, my heart went to mush.
I thought to myself, “That cow's in no rush.
It seems to me that she’s pretty smart,
Let’s see if she can pick this algebra equation apart!"

Here's an equation, let's see how you do.
 (x+9=18-2x) can you solve for x in a minute or 2?
“Solve for x?” said the cow with a grin,
“If I can't, I'll seek help from a friend.
My friend named Drexel took Algebra in school.
 She's smart, attractive and REALLY cool.”

Then, that cow started solving math like a pro
I wondered aloud, “How far can this go?”
When, alas, that cow did step on my toe.
Did I step on hers, too…causing milk to free-flow?

Oh, Velma, my dear, what a mess we have made!
For your wedding gift, your tail I will braid!
You’ll be the best looking cow bride there can ever be.
The bull you are marrying will drop to one knee.

I suddenly realized how far I had veered
From my walk 'round the block.  I was lost, it was clear!
I bid my adieu to this bizarre bovine scene.
It was time to return to the real world, it seemed.

Alas, this adventure into poetry-gone-wrong
Has come to an end, so let's not prolong
The end of the Really Rotten Rhyme's brief stay.
I'll see you again, next Bad Poetry Day! 
**Thanks so much to Scott C., Jeff K., Kathy D., Lisa K., Lisa R., Susan F., Leslie S., Jan Mc., and Terri K.!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Road Trip!

I’ve been researching the publishing industry as is relates to children’s literature. I’ve written a children’s book and have begun the journey to find the best way to get it onto the shelves of a bookstore near you. It is a route that is filled with winding roads, hairpin turns, frustrating detours and plenty of dips and bumps.

Along the road, I ran across this quote from the book Rotten Rejections:

“After sixteen rejections, Irving Stone’s Lust for Life was finally accepted and published in 1934. It has now sold about twenty five million copies.”

I haven't been rejected--- yet--- but I know it's coming. It's inevitable. I see the lesson in this quote summed up as this: Never give up.

What’s your dream? Do you want to write, sing, build, paint, entertain, teach, learn, date, marry, lead, preach, speak, parent, design, create, compose, sew, dance, buy, sell… Or, do you have another dream? Do you have more than one dream? ( I hope you do!)

As a woman who is motivated and dedicated to encouraging you to pursue your dreams, goals, and ambitions, I say to you today—DON’T GIVE UP!

Don’t give up because someone tells you that you ‘can’t’, or doesn’t buy into your dream right away. If you have honestly assessed your dream… your vision... and if you absolutely know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that’s it’s real and worth pursuing… then trust your heart and keep on keepin’ on!

Work hard. Do your research. Map out your route. Take your vitamins. And, reach out to those who might be able to move your dream a few miles down the road.

On that note: Do any of you know of a publisher and/or agent who would like to discover the next bestseller in children’s books? Tell them to look for me at the corner of Patience Road and Perseverance Blvd. J

Friday, August 12, 2011

Who Says There Are No More Heroes?

A few weeks ago, I posted The Feature. It is the story of a courageous little boy who refused to let blindness stop him from pursuing his dream of playing Tee-Ball. It’s time now for an inspring update! If you haven’t read the The Feature, (posted July 11) please take a moment to do so before finishing this post. You’ll be glad you did.
Now… the update.
The pint-sized tee-ball player named Jacob, who stole my heart when he was just seven, is now a teenager. His accomplishments surpass those of many sighted children, teenagers, and yes.. even adults. This remarkable 14 year old young man approaches life every single day as if it was a gift to be enthusiastically unwrapped, passionately enjoyed and gratefully remembered.
A few years ago, Jacob decided he was ready to attend a residential, out-of-town school for children who are deaf and blind. It was a big step.  This would take him away from daily interaction with his wonderfully supportive family. Mom would now be several hours away, instead of just down the hall. But, Jacob is not one to let fear stand in his way.
Jacob is thriving at school and in life. He has not only conquered the baseball field. He also swims, rides horses, and has participated on the wrestling team and in track and field events. Just this week, Jacob learned he has made the basketball team at his school! On top of all that, he has brains to match that brawn. Jacob earned a ‘100’ on his first math test of the new school year. This teenager is hero-material.
Heroes sometimes need help.
If you were to ask Jacob to name his biggest helper, he would no doubt name his mom, Jessica. She has supported him every step of the way giving him a solid foundation to build on. That foundation includes a strong religious faith, a belief in himself and his abilities, and the determination to make the best out of whatever curve balls life throws at him.
This summer, Jacob’s mom drove him to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where he was treated following his retinoblastoma diagnosis. It was time for his annual checkup.  The doctors gave him a great report. He remains cancer free.
How in the world does a family give thanks for the gift of life?
If you are Jacob and Jessica… you give back. They are tireless in their efforts to support cancer research, prevention and treatment. This fall, they are participating in the St. Jude Give Thanks Walk. It will be held in 80 communities across the country on November 19.  Jessica is a local chairperson. It’s a big responsibility. But it’s something you would expect from her…and from her remarkable son. Because, although their lives were turned upside down by the loss of sight, they demonstrate to the rest of us the importance of seeing with our hearts… as well as our eyes.
                                           Jacob and Jessica… you are my heroes.
If you would like to help support Team Jacob in the Give Thanks Walk, you can find the Team Jacob page here:
If you would like to show your support by ordering a Team Jacob t-shirt, please email me and I will put you in touch with Jessica. Email:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Triple A Image: Be Aware, Be Authentic, Be Appropriate (Part 3)

This is the final post in a series that I hope has been able to help you consider how your image might be impacting your success, and your fulfillment on the job and in life. The posts are condensed excerpts from a presentation I delivered for a group of business professionals. Many wrote or phoned me afterward to say they had heeded my advice, and were seeing a positive difference in the way they conducted themselves and were perceived by others. If you'd like to catch up, this series began with the post "He Said WHAT?" and was followed by "Triple A Image: Be Aware, Be Authentic, Be Appropriate" Steps 1 and 2. Today's Topic and
Step 3: 
Be Appropriate. Apply this to all aspects of your professional life. And, frankly, to your personal life. Let's start at my favorite place... your ABC's. And, pay close attention to the social networking advice near the end of the post!

Appearance:  Dress appropriately for the situation. If you believe there’s a chance that ‘situation’ may change during the day, keep an extra set of clothes in the car. Took me one time to learn that lesson. I was a news anchor on duty in Pensacola. There was an emergency call and I went straight from the anchor desk, INTO the waters of Pensacola Beach, where I recorded for posterity (and WKRG News Center 5) the efforts of about 50 swimmers and surfers  to help free a beached whale shark. 

Pantyhose and an a-line dress.  Great in the studio. In the surf.. not so much.

From that point on, I always carried a second set of ‘less stuffy’ clothing with me. If you have a profession where the situation, and location, might quickly change (realtor, sales) you mght consider doing the same. Don't wear your after-5- or weekend- clothes to work. It sends out signals that you are to be  taken less seriously on the job. Who wants that? In addition, know when it’s appropriate to dress down or dress up. And with business casual- remember, the emphasis on 'business', not on 'casual.'

Keep it on the up and up. There's a longer list, but for this post's purposes: political rants, sour puss attitudes, flirting, salty language, and dirty jokes have no place in the workplace and in most social settings, for that matter. What (or who) you laugh at says volumes about your character. So do the words you choose to say. An acquaintance recently recounted how her supervisor (on my friend's first day on the job) dropped about a dozen expletives in the morning staff meeting. She immediately lost respect for him and that colored their professional relationship from that point. Watch your manners. Others are watching them.

When you are having a face to face conversation, be polite. Look the person in the eye. That says that you value this interaction with them.Talk TO them, not AT them, or worse yet-- down to them. On the phone, keep a pleasant tone in your voice. Don't open the mail, eat a sandwich, or even read this blog while you are on the phone. Your indifference will show in your voice and you risk offending the person on the other end of the line.  Email: Watch your tone. DO NOT TYPE IN ALL CAPS. IT SEEMS AS IF YOU ARE SHOUTING! Do not write emails when you are angry, upset or distracted. Once you hit "send", it's impossible to retrieve words you wish had never been written. And finally, I cannot address the area of “appropriateness” without touching on social networking.  Be very careful what you post on your Facebook and Twitter pages, and on your blogs. Remember, this is not just an intimate little gathering of friends reading about your latest escapade, bad date, or bad mood. Your post might be read by someone who, before your little revelation, was considering hiring you-- or promoting you. Weigh every word. Put into your mind your boss, your most important client.. or the person you would most like to have as your boss or client. Picture your mother.. or your pastor.. reading it. Then decide-- is this really appropriate?
Here are some actual FB posts I’ve been collecting for about a year. No names. But check out their professions. Would YOU want to work with, or hire. them?

"People just try to mess everything up. People are crazy." ~ A county commssioner
"Supplements make me gag." ~ A nutritionist
"So-and-so defendant (I've purposely withheld the name) is a disgrace to the human race." ~ A journalist in the middle of covering this person's trial. How's that for non-biased reporting?
"My feelings are so hurt. Oh, well. I guess I just have to deal. Why is life so hard?" ~You ready for this one? A MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER. Really?

As I wrote in the first article on this topic, "He Said WHAT?", learning to project a confident, polished, trustworthy image by matching what's on the inside with what we project on the outside is a process. I look for ways to improve every day. But, if you use these short tips--Be Aware, Be Authentic and Be Appropriate--and if you concentrate on your ABC's--you will be well on your way to helping the world see the very best that is inside of you. Remember---
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” ~George Eliot

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Triple A Image: Be Aware, Be Authentic, Be Appropriate (Step 2)

The past few days I've been sharing with you the importance of matching what we project on the outside with who we really are on the inside. This thing called 'image' not only speaks to our level of professionalism, but also to our character. To catch up, read the "He Said WHAT?" post from a few days ago, then yesterday's post Triple A Image-Step 1- Be Aware. 
Today’s tip:

Be Authentic.

The dictionary definition of authentic is: "Genuine, real, not false or copied." When it comes to your image, you have to decide who you are. Are you the friendly, approachable person?  Are you the no-nonsense, let’s-get-it-taken-care-of specialist? Are you  laid-back.. or aggresive? (Are you a little of both?) Are you an early bird who gets the worm.. or the tiger who kicks it into high gear later in the day?

When you are defining your image, don’t try to be anyone other than who you are. You can fake it for awhile, but you cannot sustain it and that’s when you veer into the area of image without substance. It's a dangerous venue that will ultmately lead to failure, because it will cause others to lose confidence in who you say you are.. and what you do. 
Once you determine who you are--what's really inside your heart and your mind--decide how best you can demonstrate that through your image-- your ABC's. (See previous post.)  Be consistent so that you.. and your image.. are reliable. If you do need to make adjustments so that the outer You matches the inner You... don't fake it. Work on it. Keep it real! Be authentic in your efforts.

Next Time: Be Appropriate.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Triple A Image: Be Aware, Be Authentic, Be Appropriate (Step 1)

You are in a doctor’s waiting room. It’s quiet. You're reading a magazine. The door opens and someone walks in. What do you do? You stop reading, you look up, and your eyes follow this newcomer from the door...across the waiting room... all the way to the receptionist's window. You immediately begin making assessments and assumptions. Based on attire, grooming and communication (verbal and non-verbal) you decide within seconds if this newcomer is another patient (who better not try to get in ahead of you,) a delivery person, a staff member, or a pharmaceutical rep (who definitely better not try to get in ahead of you.) Based solely on the way they are dressed you make assumptions about their social standing, level of education, financial status, even if they are likable, unpleasant or a downright pain in the neck. Yes, you do. Even if you don't realize it.

And, guess what?

People are doing the same to you… in the doctor’s office, your business office, the grocery store, the post office, the movie theater, etc. Your appearance is the first message you give out about your image--about who you are. What does your image say about you?

Image Enrichment™ is a process. It takes time and thought. But, I'd like to help you get a jumpstart, by sharing three quick tips gleaned from a recent presentation I gave to a group of business professionals. Today’s tip:

Be Aware.

Be aware of what you want your image to say.  When you walk into a room, what are the first words you want to come into others' minds? Take the time to put it in writing. Make a list of the qualities and attributes you have on the inside, and that you wish to project on the outside. Then, make another list-- a brutally honest list that critiques your current image. Compare the lists and determine where you want to make improvements. Concentrate on your ABC’s: your appearance, behavior and communication skills.

How’s your appearance? Do you need to update your wardrobe with clothes that are complimentary to your body type, skin tone and hair color? Do you need to add clothing that says 'professional, successful and confident'? Do you need a more contemporary hairstyle, makeup, or even eyeglasses? Do you need to shape up? Healthy, fit people are perceived to be more confident, likable and successful. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just sayin’ it IS.

How’s your behavior? Do you need an attitude adjustment? Something as simple as a smile goes a long way toward projecting an approachable, professional, confident image. How do you behave in business-social situations?  Do you tell, or laugh at, dirty jokes, or do you keep the humor clean? Do you gossip, or do you keep the conversation on the high road? Are you kind and patient with others, or are you snappy and bossy? 

How are your communication skills? Do you need to improve your vocabulary with interesting, engaging words? Easy suggestion: Sign up for Word of the Day. It’s one of the best tools around for learning interesting words. Watch your volume. People shy away from folks who shout, or who speak so softly you have to strain to hear them. Be aware of your body language, and cultivate a firm, confident handshake.

I recently worked with a client who is retired military. He says that in a gathering of military personnel, he can tell a person’s rank simply by the way he or she enters a room and the way they carry themselves—whether in uniform or not. They never even have to speak. Their posture and facial expression, the way they walk and shake hands tell the story. It’s the same with all of us. Be aware of the signals you are sending, and determine whether they are true to the person you are, and to the person you wish others to see.

Next Time:
Triple A Image Step Two: Be Authentic


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

For Goodness Sake

The first Triple-A Image post is coming tomorrow. In the meantime, I couldn't resist posting this wonderful quote from the wonderful John Wesley.

“Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.”

Now... that's good.

Monday, July 18, 2011

He said WHAT?

It was a hot summer day many years ago. I'd had a grueling week at the television station where I served as both morning news anchor and managing editor. So, I snagged a comp day, threw on a swimsuit and headed for the beautiful beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama. After relaxing in the sand for a few moments, I realized that in my haste, I had forgotten to carry something to drink. So, I walked up to the concession area and asked the young man behind the counter for a bottle of water. As I handed him my dollar bill, and reached for the water, he put a tight grip on both, refusing to let go. I looked up at him and he said, "You're not... mmmm.. you're not... nah... you can't be. You're not that lady on TV are you? That.... Drexel Gilbert?" I straightened my shoulders, flashed my biggest TV camera smile and said, "Why, yes. As a matter of fact, I am." To which he replied... "Oh. I guess you must wear a lot of makeup on TV."

Yes. He. Did.
I stomped back to my spot in the sand, fussing and carrying on the entire way. "Seriously?  A lot of makeup? Dude. I've had a hard week. Give me a break..." and on and on. Then I took stock of myself.   For my 'cover-up' I was wearing one of my husband's raggedy fishing t-shirts;  I had on a dirty baseball cap that was probably older than that young man; and my shoes had more flop than flip to them. I realized I'd let that young man down.

He was used to seeing me with my hair styled, my makeup on, speaking to him in a professional manner. I'd blown his image of me. The next time I went to the beach, I wore pantyhose and pumps.

But, I did purchase a new coverup, a nice straw hat....and HUGE sunglasses. No more embarassing 'gotcha's' for me! And, that is when I began to study the importance of image on our professional-- and our personal-- lives. People do make assumptions and judgments about us based on how we dress, speak, and behave. I'm not telling you that it's right. I'm just telling you that.... it IS.
Over the course of the next few days, I'm going to offer some advice on ways to enrich your image. Don't get me wrong. Image isn't everything. There has to be substance behind it. We see the danger of 'empty image' everyday on the television screen and tabloid covers, with celebrities and politicians who look the part---and that's all. Image should be the outward reflection of who you are inside. Image Enrichment™, as I like to call it, starts with the heart.
I hope you enjoy the advice that is to come. I'm basing the next few posts on a speech I gave to a group of business professionals. It's entitled "Triple A Image: Be Aware, Be Authentic, Be Appropriate." Perhaps you will find tips to help you reach whatever goal you may have set for yourself and to become more successful and fulfilled in your professional and personal endeavors.
P.S. I think I might go to the beach tomorrow. Where DID I put those sunglasses?