A Priceless Gift!

Little did I know that the scholarship meeting at my church would produce a gift that I would come to love and ultimately find priceless. At this meeting, I met a young woman, Karla Denyce Smith. She had recently moved to the DC area and we were attending the same church but different services. This meeting brought us together.

KarlameDCAfter talking for a while to each other, we realized a mutual friend had told both of us to contact the other. But until this meeting, neither of us had- each busy settling into new jobs. After our meeting concluded, we decided to go to brunch and continue getting acquainted. And that became our Sunday routine for years- church and then brunch. We had so much in common- only children whose fathers were deceased; close relationship with our mothers whom we cherished; active members of the A.M.E. church since children; earned doctoral degrees (Ph.D. and J.D.); committed to serving; loved to eat out, shop and travel; both single and never married.

 I became the “big sister” and we did life together-  professional growth, faith building, matters of the heart, social activities, holidays, and community service. We each stood by the other at our weddings.

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Then one day we started down an unchartered path together. Karla was diagnosed with cancer. There was surgery and chemo. There was good news… remission. Then there was recurrence … radiation … more chemo. Through it all, Karla continued to ‘smile’ and maintain her positive attitude. During our last visit together, she said, “Just because you are sick, you don’t have to look sick.” And she didn’t. No one would know just by looking at Karla that she was fighting for her life.

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This weekend was one of my most difficult. I had to say “see you later” to my dearest friend of 35 years. When I think of Karla, I think of a friend whose spirit was kind, caring, generous, and loving. When I close my eyes, the image I have of Karla is one of beauty, grace, professionalism, and excellence. When I reflect on what I know about Karla, I know that God was the head of her life and in Him she trusted. I know she had found her soul mate, Byron Fuller, and loved doing life with him. I know family was important and always at the Center of her life. I know she gave unselfishly to all that she committed to… her church, sorority, professional associations,  the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Links, Incorporated. I know that she never failed to reach back and lift others up or reach out, cheer, and encourage others forward. I know she ran her race well, never gave up and faced her challenges with a positive outlook. Karla lived life to the fullest. Through my tears, I was able to smile, know that all is well, and one day Karla and I will get to spend more time together in our heavenly home with our Father.

Karla’s friendship became a priceless gift!

My First Love….

Love is action and a life time commitment. My Godmother made sure I understood that passion,  patience, willingness to go the extra mile, and perseverance were necessary to demonstrate love.  Being a part of my life since birth, she was confident that when she made her introduction I would  fall in love.

bucsIn the 10th grade, the introduction was made. Immediately, I did fall in love. I fell in love with the opportunity of helping make life better for others, regardless of their age, and being able to make a difference in a variety of places. You see my Godmother introduced me to the speech-language pathology profession. It was one that I had never heard of before but it seemed just right for me. I loved to speak and jumped at the opportunity whenever it presented itself! The idea of helping those who could not speak really resonated with me.

Most of us take our ability to communicate for granted, and do not realize how extremely difficult it is to live a productive life when communication is impaired.  Other than the absolute essentials of air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, and shelter from the elements. nothing is more vital to humans than the ability to communicate.  In my quest to learn as much as I could about this profession, I wrote off to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The packet of information I received helped me to understand all the opportunities that awaited me as I worked to help others. drscreenOff to Hampton Institute (University) I went to learn all that I needed to get started. There I met my first Mentor, Dr. Robert M. Screen. He was all about excellence and his core value became mine. He had earned his doctorate at Michigan State University and supported me in receiving a scholarship there to earn my master’s degree. The more I learned about this profession the more I fell in love.

Once armed with my degree and credentials, I began to pursue my love with others. patchildMy love intensified as I saw the smile of a child who could now be understood by a parent, teacher, or friend.

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The tears of a person who was now able to return to work after recovering from a stroke.  A kiss between a husband and wife because love could verbally be expressed again in that simple phrase, “I love you.”

My love grew as I taught students about my love and watched them light up when they learned a new concept, made a new discovery from their research, and celebrate with family and friends when they obtained their doctoral degree.

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My love reached new heights when I was able to meet with other professionals around the country and facilitate the development of policies, best practices, and new systems.

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You see I learned from my first love that what brought me joy was not just evaluating, providing interventions, teaching, conducting research; but rather it was the results or outcomes of those activities. My love for speech-language pathology led me to my true love, a love for outcomes.

As I pursue my love for outcomes, I can never forget my first love!

If you know a student who you think might benefit from my first love, check out my very first book, which is in its third edition, Opportunities in Speech-Language Pathology Careers (McGraw Hill).  May is “Better Hearing & Speech Month.”communication

 

Environment Matters

Fortunately for me, my mother, Herlean, knew how important environment was to becoming your best. As an only child, living with older parents in a neighborhood with very few children my age, my mother recognized that without the right environment, I could become spoiled, self-centered, and dependent upon others to do for me things that I should do for myself. Those were not the outcomes she wanted for me; in fact, she wanted just the opposite. To that end, she and my dad decided to enroll me at 2 years of age in Southside Kindergarten. My hours were 9:00 am – 2:00 pm, Monday – Friday.  Would you believe the cost was $1.55 per day?

When it came time for my first day at Kindergarten, it was my Dad who took me to school. kclass He loved taking pictures, so before leaving, my Dad would always take a picture of my classmates. It’s hard to find me on the picture because I am near the back, “crying”.  For the first three days, I cried when he left. Magically, on the fourth day, when my Dad had decided if I cried he was going to take me back home, I didn’t cry. Instead, I waved good bye like a big girl. You see I had a caring, and nurturing teacher, Mrs. Susie Curinton. She knew just what to do to make me feel that I was in a safe, welcoming, and fun place. It didn’t take long for me to start mixing and mingling with my classmates and begin developing friendships, many of which I still maintain today.

Mrs. Curinton kept us busy with lots of activities. We played outside, learned to sing, and dance. Then she would invite our parents and community to witness our performance.kprogram (2) Because our school was too small for such an event, the auditorium of our local college, Bethune Cookman, became the venue. So at four, I made my first visit to a college campus and sang a duet. I don’t know how that went since today I can barely carry a tune.

It wasn’t all fun. There were educational activities too.  I started imitating my classmates- coloring, counting, and copying letters.  It was the beginning of my learning to enjoy the basics- reading, writing, and math. One day, my mom was writing a letter to my dad who was away. I told her I wanted to write him too. She pulled out some of paper and pencil and I began writing. For the words I didn’t know how to spell, I would ask her for help. You can see my writing wasn’t the neatest but you can make out most words. Not bad for 4!

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I could hardly believe that it was time for me to leave a place and teacher that had become dear to me. kgraduationBut the time had come and at five years of age, I was the Valedictorian of my class. Sitting next to me on the stage was the speaker, Mrs. Turie T. Small, the Principal of my soon to be elementary school. While sad to be leaving, I was excited to be going to the “bigger school” and couldn’t wait to get to know the Principal.

The people and your physical surroundings influence what you think and do. They bring out your best.

Environment matters! 

Do you have dreams and goals that you want to achieve?  Learn more about how important your environment is in my book, “Be Your B.E.S.T.”

Outside or Inside?

Do you let outside circumstances, situations, labels, people’s perceptions define your destiny? OR  Do you look inside and choose to rely on the power within to guide you to your destiny?

NOAA few years ago, I attended the National Optometric  Association’s Awards Banquet with my husband and thought it was going to be a typical banquet experience. The featured speaker was Tom Sullivan. I had not heard of him but was intrigued by the description provided in the program- “Being blind has never kept Tom Sullivan from competing in a world where he realized that to be equal, for him, meant that he must be better. He has proven that one need not be limited by a handicap.”

Tom was escorted on to the stage, introduced, and immediately he kicked off the presentation displaying his melodious voice.tomsullivan Not surprising that he had been invited to render The Star Spangled Banner at the 1976 Super Bowl Game Bicentennial Celebration and that his regular appearances on the Tonight Show had garnered him a national reputation. Then Tom began sharing his personal stories, chocked full of humor to motivate us to recognize that “ordinary people can indeed do the extraordinary.” As a young boy he found himself fenced in his backyard, but refused to be fenced in by his blindness. Together, he and his father, created “Sullivan Rules” so that he could play baseball with the neighborhood boys without the benefit of seeing the ball. One of the Sullivan’s first rules is that any negative can be turned into a positive.

Time and time again, Tom’s capacity to look inside and rely on the power within resulted in him defying what the outside world would say was impossible. I was in awe… Tom graduated first in his class at Harvard University. His best-selling book, “If You Could See What I Hear” became a motion picture in 1982. Tom composed and performed much of the music for the film. Tom became a regular morning fixture in the homes of millions of Americans as a special correspondent for ABC’s Good Morning America. He was nominated for two Emmy Awards and has acted on TV series, such as Designing Women, Highway to Heaven, Fame. Tom fell in love, married Patty and they have two children.

Tom challenged us to take PRIDE- our personal responsibility for individual daily effort, connect it with our purpose and passion to achieve extraordinary results.

As Tom exited to a standing ovation, he had demonstrated in just 30 minutes the power of our internal spirit. He had chosen not to let labels, boundaries, naysayers prevent him from his destiny. He had chosen to experience love, travel, serve and teach others.  That night I was inspired by an ordinary man who chose to be extraordinary. Whenever, I find myself permitting the outer world to tell me “no,” “not you,” “it can’t be done,” I  remember Tom and reach down within and choose to be extraordinary.

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Don’t Ignore Who’s Next to You!

It was early in the morning, and I was traveling on a business trip. I had been up late the night before and was hoping that the plane would not be full. All I wanted to do was find my seat and go to sleep so that I would be energized when the plane landed. As I boarded the plane, the side of the plane where my seat was located was comprised of only 2 seats. 2seatsI sighed to myself and hoped that the seat next to me would be vacant. Looking around, it was apparent that the plane wasn’t going to be full. So I thought to myself, if someone is next to me, I would just move to an empty row. With a plan in mind, it now didn’t matter if there was someone next to me.

Approaching my row, right next to the window was someone already seated next to my assigned seat. I thought, “just my luck.” I put my things down, spoke politely knowing it would only be minutes before I would be able to move. I closed my eyes in preparation for hearing the magic words that we had reached the altitude that would “free” me to move. But instead, I heard the pilot say “Please, keep your seat belts buckled, the weather is going to be turbulent for a while. We need for everyone to stay in their seats.” Now I opened my eyes to assess the situation. The man next to me, seeing my eyes open, comments. I think “oh no, he’s talking to me and I really don’t want to engage.”  Hesitantly, I respond. Then he asks me if I am traveling for pleasure or business. I then explain that it is a business trip and that I am the owner of my consulting company, the Outcomes Management Group.NewLogoWCopy  Now, it’s hard for me to resist talking about my company. So now I explain what I do and my passion for outcomes. Then I ask him about his trip.

Now I learn that he has just relocated to Columbus for business and was also headed out for a business trip. I share with him that I had relocated to Columbus too and that my husband was the “Buckeye.”  osusweatshirtThen I tell him about my Ohio State Sweatshirt welcoming gift, describe how the City transforms itself on game days, suggest he gets prepared to become a part of Buckeye Nation, and remember that it is “The” Ohio State. He thanks me for the tips because this would be his first experience living in a community that was so engaged in college football. I remind him this isn’t just college football, it’s the “Big 10.” We share a laugh and then hear the pilot say “we are almost approaching our destination.”  “Well, so much for sleeping.” Since, we’re about to land, I decide to continue engaging. “So what will you be doing in Columbus?” I ask. To which he replies, that he has joined McGraw Hill and would be overseeing research associated with their products. mcgraw“I’m interested in outcomes too,” he replied and smiled. Now we can hear the pilot asking us to prepare for landing. He then gives me his business card and asks for mine. “It was great meeting you and thanks for welcoming me to Columbus. Look to hear from my office when I return. I would love to invite you to McGraw Hill and share information about an outcomes project that I am planning to undertake. Perhaps, it will be something of interest to you.” To which I respond, “ I look forward to hearing from your office and would welcome the opportunity to learn more about your project.”

mcgraw columbusTwo weeks later, I get a call from his office assistant who schedules a meeting at their corporate office. One month later as I signed the contract with McGraw Hill, I was grateful that I had chosen to “speak to my seat mate” versus keep my eyes closed and “sleep.” Staying focused on “me” would had resulted in missing the blessing that had been placed intentionally beside me.

DON'TFORGET

 Stay alert, focused on others- your blessing may be where you least expect it!

Don’t Let Age Stop You!

Have you heard these quotes about AGE?  ali

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When these quotes have been shared, a response that I often hear is: “You need to face the fact that there are some things that are going to change because you age.  You just wait and see.”  While that is true, as I age I may move slower, my visual and auditory acuity may change, my memory may not be as sharp, boundariesBUT what I never want to allow is my age to become a boundary that prohibits me from achieving my goals and dreams.  

Recently, I was reminded that age has no boundaries when I saw a picture of a fellow Hamptonian, William (Bill) Goldborough. Bill graduated in the 1949 class at Hampton University (Institute). This class fondly called themselves the “49ers.”  Bill and I met at a meeting of the National Hampton Alumni Association and later served together on its Board. Bill was the Technology Committee Chair in 1998. My initial impression of him was a man of innovation and a trail blazer. He was fearless, perhaps in part, because he bravely fought as a World War II Veteran.  I often admired that Bill was unafraid to speak what was needed to be said and likewise was unafraid of change. No wonder Bill was recognized by the President of our National Hampton Alumni Association as a “trailblazer.” I wasn’t surprised when I saw this recent picture. Bill, at 91, made history becoming the oldest initiate of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.  See the details in this article.

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When I reached out to say congratulations, Bill responded:

“I live my life like “A CANDLE IN THE WIND” and look back only to direct my path FORWARD. God is my constant CO-PILOT and continues to guide me.”

Bill’s message reminded me to look back as a reference point to continue moving forward and not forget that I need my co-pilot, God, to guide me.

My message to you. When you think you’re too “old” to accomplish a dream that was placed on your heart, remember the dream is a “calling” AND if you stay in tune with your co-pilot,  God, your dream will become a reality.

Achieving your dream is not about AGE; rather, it is about YOU!

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Find the Truth: Examine Your Behavior

behaviorneverliesI was wrapping up a training session with leaders of an organization that focused on the importance of their behaviors in shaping the organization’s culture. One of my favorite “go to” resources about results is Gary Ryan Blair. I just love his quote “Behavior Never Lies.”

During the session, to emphasize the point, I shared a personal story that I love to use about my husband and me. You see my husband is my “B.E.S.T. Buddy,” which means he is my accountability partner. He is great at observing my behavior and quickly identifying when it doesn’t align with my words. So in the session, I shared the story about my eating chocolate ice cream at 9:30 pm, having told my husband earlier that I was focused on losing weight. chocolateicecreamWell you know what happened. He called me on it. While I didn’t want to hear it, I had to face the fact my behavior was telling the truth. I really wasn’t focused on losing weight. Enjoying my favorite dessert, was more important. Now, if I really wanted to lose weight, it was on me to adjust my behavior to accomplish my goal. That I did and I am proud to say that I lost 20 lbs!!!  I then challenged the leaders to examine their behaviors with regard to the core values and expectations we had identified. Our next session was going to focus on their discoveries. How committed were they to the core values?

Just as we were scheduling the next training session, I saw there was a phone message from my husband.

MESSAGE:  Are you there yet? You were supposed to call me.

I then shared  the message with the group.

ME: I have a message from my B.E.S.T. Buddy.

Of course they knew from my previous story who it was from. This training that I was conducting was 2 hours from Columbus. I had left early in the morning. Prior to departing, I had told my husband that I would text him so that he would know that I had arrived safely.  

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Tell him that I started talking to you as soon as you arrived.

While that was true, if it was important to me to make sure my husband knew I had arrived safely, I would have text him before I got out of the car. This made me pause and recognize that my behavior once again had told the truth.truth

What became more important upon my arrival was getting started with the training. Now, I had to face the reality. Did I want notifying my husband to be the priority?  As I reflected, it became apparent to me that I did.  I realized that I didn’t want my husband to take for granted when I travel alone that I have arrived safely, because there might come a time when something happens and his concern could play a vital role in my well-being. So I made a note to self- “make sure that when I arrive anywhere, first action- text husband.”

accountabilitypartnerIf you haven’t obtained your desired results, I repeat my message: “the truth is in your behavior.” Behavior Never Lies. My B.E.S.T. recommendation– make sure you identify a B.E.S.T. Buddy. Having an accountability partner is essential because so often we don’t recognize when our behaviors are out of alignment.   Behavior drives Results!