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.


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.


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!

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!


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.”

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.


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

Life is Time

reunionThis past May, I had the opportunity to return to my “Home by the Sea” and celebrate my 45th college reunion.  Life has a way of happening and I almost didn’t make it but my friend Kathy said, “we are going no matter what!” Together we hit the road- driving.  She left from Detroit and I left from Columbus, both meeting up in Cleveland; then we drove to Hampton, VA. We didn’t have to worry about a place to stay because our friend, Roz, had that covered.

As soon as we arrived, it was all about reconnecting… classmates, line sisters, friends from other classes, mentors, teachers, administrators, alumni leaders, etc.  classmates


Those connections, all apart of “us” and all “invaluable.” During our class meeting, we discussed that the next reunion would be extra special because it would be our “Golden Anniversary.” Now, my class was really extra special, in fact we call ourselves, “that class”–simply because we feel that “we are the best!”


Given we did not get to officially march upon our graduation, the next reunion would afford us an opportunity to officially march as a class, albeit for the last time.

Just last week, on our class facebook page, we learned that one of our dear classmates had passed unexpectedly. It was a shock to us all.  One of our former class leaders, joined by several classmates, made sure we were represented at his celebration of life service. Afterwards, she sent me an email that said the minister focused on the “dash” in his life from 1949 – (dash) to 2017.  Everyone was reminded of what is important in a person’s life. It is not the amount of time that we are here on earth but what we choose to do with that time. After reading her message, it reminded me of a post I had just recently made of a similar quote- “Life is time.” So often we take time for granted. We assume we will get more. But it is losses like this one that reminds us that there is no guarantee that we will get more time. We each don’t know how much time we have. In the end, our lives will be measured by ‘how’ we used our time.

paulIn honor of my classmate, Dr. Paul Douglas McLean, my challenge for you today, is to choose wisely how you spend your time. Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today. Make sure the people you care about know it. Give your B.E.S.T. each day.

That’s what Paul did!


The BEST Christmas Gift!

Just prior to heading home for Christmas, I encountered one of life’s twists and turns. My first thought was “my holiday is not off to a good start.” But I was headed home and certain things would brighten. Somehow, being home always lifted my spirit.  Upon arrival, just as the plane pulled up to the gate, I could feel the warmth from the outside ooze into the plane and I smiled.  Looking out the window, all that could be seen was light.


The sun was shining brightly. I walked briskly to baggage claim and gave my cousin a call. We grew up like sisters and even though I am the oldest, she has always been supportive of me.  No waiting, dependable as always, my sister was right there ready to pick me up even though my plane was late. As soon as I got settled in the car, we began chatting and laughing so much that we missed our exit. Neither of us was anxious. She just turned around and we continued catching up. Within minutes, we were at one of our favorite breakfast destinations and the conversation continued.  Next stop was my nephew’s condo. Since I was last home, he had gotten a promotion and moved. Opening the door, he greeted me with a big hug, smile, and said, “welcome home, Aunt Pat.” And of course that warmed my heart. I loved his place and was so proud of his accomplishments.

My sister knows me well and knew shopping would not be my first priority. So as we exited the car, she handed over the keys to her “Treasure”(the name of her other car) and said “I know where you want to go.” treasureMy eyes lit up like a Christmas tree as I smiled back and said “yes, absolutely!” Without another word spoken, we went our separate ways. She went to take a friend shopping and I headed home. After unpacking, I was in the car enroute to my favorite place- “the beach.” beach2 I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough. The roaring of the ocean was beckoning and without hesitation I began walking along the shoreline observing an array of birds, feeling the gentle breeze, and soaking in the warmth of the sun. Reluctantly, I pulled myself off the beach so I could head home for dinner.  On my way, I reached out to a dear family friend. I always tell her she is the “Martha Stewart” of Daytona because she loves to cook and decorate.  She invited me to stop by on my way home. When I pulled up to her house, it was like arriving in winter wonderland. Everything was decorated beautifully- the bay window trimmed with blue and silver lights, angels and other decorative figurines lit up the window, poinsettias lined the walkway, and as soon as she opened the door, Christmas music could be heard throughout the house. Her tree was lit, table all set, and the aroma of home cooked food immediately aroused my senses.marian“Welcome, home! I’m sure you are ready to eat. I have all of your favorites.“  My eyes twinkled and my stomach grumbled. Yes, I was ready! Just prior to partaking of the food, she thanked God for our friendship and His blessings. I affirmed with a hearty “Amen.”  My holiday was off to a happy start after all because I had received the BEST Christmas gift- LOVE!

As you celebrate Christmas, remember to give your family and friends the BEST gift, LOVE! It’s more valuable than anything you can buy in the store and it lasts forever. That’s why I enjoy being home at Christmas, even though my parents are deceased, I still feel the love we shared over the years and their love lifts my spirit. Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas too!


Achieved My Goal in Record Time!

Five years from the time when I was a graduate student, I arrived in Memphis, TN memphis with 1 goal- “obtain my doctor of philosophy degree in 3 years.” After having served for three years as the Head Speech-Language Pathologist for an Easter Seals Speech and Hearing Center, and two years teaching at an undergraduate college, I had decided that for the long-term, it was necessary for me to leave the working world. In fact, excelling at an academic institution of higher learning in the future was contingent upon my earning this degree. The way I saw it, there was no option. I had to commit to earning my doctoral degree and doing whatever was necessary within the next three years. Most people around me said that my goal was unrealistic. They pointed out that completion of doctoral programs typically took four-five years, sometimes even as many as seven years.  In fact, I was reminded that many  people didn’t earn the degree, among them were people referred to as ABD… abdwhich I learned meant all but dissertation.“But that wasn’t going to be me!”


For the third time, my mother, god brother Tom, and a family friend were on the road again, helping me to relocate. After getting me settled into my apartment, we were off to dinner at the home of a relative of our family friend.  I connected right away with the relative. My mother was relieved and thankful that there would be at least one person I could call upon if I needed something, given I knew no one in Memphis except the Dept. Chair. The next day, we ventured over to the facility that housed the University’s School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, the place where my program was located.   uofmIt was a short walk from my apartment. Dr. B., the Chair, was eager to greet me and my family. He quickly took us on a tour and assured my mother that I had made a wise decision to come to the University of Memphis and pursue my doctorate. Dr. B then looked directly into my eyes as he reminded me that the program was rigorous and said, “Given the fact that you have  been awarded a doctoral fellowship, the expectation is commitment full-time to the program, with minimal time for anything else.”  I assured him I was up committed and looked forward to completing the program within 3 years. He smiled and said “we’ll see.”

It didn’t take long after my family left for me to realize that living off of the stipend wasn’t comparable to my previous salary. That meant I was going to have to give up some things I had become accustomed to doing and having. Since the Department was nearby, I gave up my car. While I loved my Ford Thunderbird, it had to go. That eliminated car payments, gas, and maintenance. I took on washing and setting my hair rather than going to the beauty salon. Shopping became a thing of the past. Also, I learned a new word, “no.” I decided not to join any organizations that would distract me from my goal at hand. However, I did join a local church and made sure that every Sunday I attended the early service.

My first class sent me into a tail spin. The teacher’s style was different. He challenged me to understand the meaning of concepts, apply my learning in my practicum experiences,  and look for new ways of doing things.  There were reading assignments, research, clinical work- all expected to be completed within a short period of time. Consequently, I had to develop new study habits, learn to work at a faster pace, and spend many hours in the library and clinic. It became apparent that team work was essential to succeeding.  So attending group study sessions wasn’t an option. Additionally, all of the advanced doctoral students were on top of their game- conducting research, publishing, and presenting at conferences. These were the expectations for all doctoral students.  Whenever, the going got tough, I remembered my “why,” and pushed forward. 20161130_201225And for three years, I stayed focused and worked diligently. Then on August 17th, three years after my arrival,  I walked across the stage and was the first African American to receive a doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Memphis graduating from the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

I did it in record time because I purged what was necessary, embraced a new mindset, stayed focused on what mattered, and moved forward with determination.

Celebrating with me were my mother, aunt, Tom, and  friends!


SAVE THE DATE and join me on December 8, 7-8 pm, for my B.E.S.T. Chat. I will share my 5 BEST Tips- “how to” jump start 2017 so that you too can achieve your goals in record time.



Grateful for Love!

As I reflect on all that I have to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, I am most grateful to have been loved unconditionally by my parents, Glover and Herlean Larkins. momandmeMy parents thought that their dream of having a child wasn’t going to come true. Then after twenty-five years, I arrived and they were overjoyed. Through their actions here is what I have learned about love.

Love is patient.

My mother never learned to drive. It was my dad who drove her wherever she needed to go. Shopping was one of her favorite excursions and my dad always waited patiently no matter the length of time. Sometimes I would get tired of waiting and wanted to go home. My dad would remind me that my mother was always doing nice things for us and that we could show her our appreciation by giving her time to do something she liked. And so together we waited.

Love is dependable.

I knew that I could always count on my mother. She was always present. In the morning, making sure I got off to school. Welcoming me when I returned home from school. Reading to me before I went to bed. Comforting me when I fell. Advocating for me to have access to educational opportunities that others sought to deny me. Helping me relocate everything I moved. Always answering my call no matter what time I called.

Love is thoughtful, gives freely, and delights in your joy.

dadIf my dad knew what you liked, you could count on him surprising you with his thoughtfulness. Every weekend, he would bring a bouquet of flowers home for my mother because he knew how much she loved flowers. Periodically, on our way grocery shopping, he and I would stop by my grandmother’s house to check and see if she needed anything from the store. When my Aunt Hellon came to visit, she could count on my dad having prepared her favorite dessert. There wasn’t a holiday that my dad didn’t surprise me with a treat. There was always a chocolate cake for my birthday. Conversation hearts and red hot candy for Valentine’s. Colored eggs for Easter. Sparkles for the 4th of July. My dad loved seeing others smile and he especially liked seeing me light up like a Christmas tree!

Love tells you the truth.


At the end of my first semester in college, I arrived home with excess weight. In fact, I was now wearing two sizes larger than when I left. Everyone in town noticed and remarked. Even my Sunday School teacher called me a “butter ball.” One day, my mother found me crying and inquired what was wrong. When I told her what had happened, she looked at me and lovingly said, “Patricia, you are fat. Now if you don’t want to be the size that you are now, crying won’t change things. Rather, you will have to change what you are eating and engage in more physical activity.”  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. But once I calmed down and thought about it, my mother was only telling me the truth.

Love believes, trusts, and expects the best   love

I came home excited about the opportunity to travel with some of my classmates to the nation’s capital. My mother was hesitant about letting me go. My dad reminded her that I could be counted on to follow the rules. He was confident that I could take care of myself and would make them proud. After his vote of confidence, my mother said yes.  I wanted nothing more than to show my dad that he was right and I would not let him down.

Love doesn’t demand, rather lets you go in pursuit of your dreams mom-2

Shortly after I had enrolled in my graduate program at Michigan State, my dad passed. After returning home for the homegoing, I asked my mom if she wanted me to return home. I knew how dependent she was on my dad and that it would be a difficult transition with me so far away from home. “Absolutely, not” she replied. You have an opportunity to pursue your dream and that’s what I want you to do.” And there were many additional times that she let me go- to Georgia, Minnesota, Tennessee, DC, Pennsylvania, and ultimately Ohio.

I am grateful that through my parent’s actions, I discovered that the greatest gift is LOVE. This Thanksgiving Day, take time and share your love!