When did you first realize you wanted to write a book?
After I’d been in the workplace for several years and held several leadership positions, I got tired of people asking me about the same things or wanting me to tell them again about a particular leadership principle. I decided to write them down so that I wouldn’t have to keep answering the questions!

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I write when I’m in the mood or have a thought that I want to get on paper. Unlike other authors, I don’t have a specific schedule because I’m also still working as a consultant. Typically, I schedule time on my calendar as a “writing” period or day. Then, I put on some Mozart music for background noise, close all other applications so that I don’t get distracted by email or text messages and write as I either think, or recreate from handwritten notes I’ve made.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Probably the music and closing other applications. I also jump back and forth between chapters or sections as I think of things I want to say or an example I want to give. I also like to snack while I write – fruit, chips, nuts – anything that’s crunchy and flavorful!

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Because my books are about leadership, almost everything comes from things I’ve done, experienced, or seen. They also come from positive and negative examples of leaders I’ve known.

How do you handle writer’s block?
Stop writing until it goes away!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
How long the production time is after I’ve finished writing and all that’s involved with bringing the final book to life. Working with David Paladino, our graphic designer to come up with a good representative cover; working with Emily Hedrick, our Communicator to develop a marketing and promotional campaign; getting the ISBN number and bar code for the cover; asking people to be advance readers and waiting for their feedback; and more. All of which sometimes takes longer than the actual writing hours seemed to have taken. There is a lot of behind the scenes work that readers aren’t aware of being necessary in order for them to read the finished book.

How do you come up with the titles to your books?
From the “story” they tell or the “theme” they have. The first book, Why Are They Following Me? is primarily about the people who choose to follow a leader and what characteristics in a leader that makes them want to follow. The second book, What Am I Supposed to Say? is about the leader and knowing how to encourage, commiserate with, and motivate the followers during times of set-back, stress, or change. It’s primarily about the leader and having the wisdom to know how to and what to encourage those who are following. So, the titles reflect the content as well as the purpose of each book.

Do you have any suggestions to help others become better writers? If so, what are they?
Write what you know best. Whether that’s fiction or nonfiction, tell the stories that you’ve lived or seen. That way, your “voice” will be authentic for the reader and for you. Also, read … a lot! Read fiction, biographies, and nonfiction to better understand the music of the written word and the things that other writers do that resonate with you. Do they tell “stories” or do they relate “facts”? Is their writing “lyrical” or is it “presentation”? Figure out what you like to read and what you find yourself putting down after reading for a while. Which authors are the ones you keep going back to; waiting anxiously for their next book? Take all of the input you gain and use it when you’re writing. Most of all, remember that you’re writing for the reader, not for yourself, so don’t gloss over information that you already know, thinking that the reader will know it as well.

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you?
I have Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts that I’m regularly on or post on. Other sites that I browse, though.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share?
I’m pulling notes and thoughts together for the last book in the Leadership Trilogy – not sure what it will be called yet. The focus on this one will be taking what you’ve learned about your followers and knowing what to say to effectively lead them so that you can create an organization that influences the lives of the employees, customers, users, suppliers, and others who interact with or within. The focus will be on building an organizational climate and culture where people want to work and thrive at work. Those organizations are able to build lasting client and supplier bases that sustain them.

Check out What Am I Supposed to Say? Using the words of authors, movie and television characters and others who inspire us to be our best selves, What Am I Supposed to Say? by Dr. joyce gillie gossom looks at these words through the lens of transformative leadership and creates an opportunity to have a conversation with those who come to us for guidance and wisdom.


Like most people, I’ve watched the movie Wizard of Oz since I was a very young girl. Like many, I’ve also read all of the L. Frank Baum books. More recently, as an adult I’ve read all of The Wicked Years book series by Gregory Maguire and have seen the Broadway play adaptation of Wicked twice. That either makes me a huge fan or slightly obsessed (laughing)! Eh, a little of both, actually. I always cried near the end of Wizard of Oz, long before Dorothy ever made it back to Kansas. When I was about 8, Mommy asked me why; some people still do.

I learned a lot about leadership and people from the characters in the film, books (both sets) and musical play. Recently, I discovered a great article by Sharon Kruse and Sandra Spickard Prettyman that also deals with leadership. Here’s what I learned from the collective “Ozian” tales.

The Wizard was the kind of leader who pretends to be more than they are, while using others to do the things they are afraid and incapable of doing themselves... having Dorothy kill the Witch of the West. They change appearance and behaviors to compensate for their fear and have no real ability, just trinkets they use to keep others distracted or complacent. Remember, in the film the Wizard was also the gatekeeper, carriage driver and guard. He proclaimed himself to be “the great and powerful,” (Kruse & Prettyman, p. 459) but did nothing about providing solutions for the social and cultural injustice present in the Wicked books and play. In fact, this type of leader will turn popular opinion against those who point out their shortcomings in an effort to destroy credibility... Wicked. Just like the Wizard’s balloon, this kind of leader is full of hot air with no substance.

Glinda is the kind of leader who uses appearance and charm to gain “position and power,” (Kruse & Prettyman, p. 457). They use popularity (Wicked) as a way to establish and maintain their status, while never really doing more than building a “power base” through charming others to do their bidding. In the film, Glinda didn’t go take the shoes for herself, she charmed Dorothy into doing it for her. Then, because she wanted the Witch of the West gone to solidify her position as the only Witch in Oz, she “neglected” to tell Dorothy that the shoes could immediately take her home. Again, Glinda used her appearance, “little girl voice,” and popularity with the Munchkins to convince Dorothy to travel to Oz for help when she could have helped her right then. This kind of leader is always, always about maintaining popularity and appearance... doesn’t matter that nothing is accomplished and people sometimes get hurt.

That brings me to Dorothy. Ugh! She led by using others to get what she wanted. The Scarecrow was needed for all of the planning that had to be done. Getting from Munchkinland to Oz, getting to the Witch’s castle, figuring out that Glinda could help Dorothy after the Wizard took off. The Tin Man was willing to sacrifice himself to keep her safe. Putting out the fire, rusting in the poppy field, fighting off the Winkie soldiers. And the lion, of course, was useful because of his size and strength. Sometimes I think this kind of leader is most dangerous because they get people committed to the goal, then leave behind the very ones who got them “there” once the goal is reached.

Last, but not least to me, is the Witch of the West/Elphaba. She represents the kind of leader who doesn’t seek attention or fame, doesn’t really “fit in” with the other leadership types, and refuses to remain silent about the injustice or oppression of others. They are “outsiders,” (Kruse & Prettyman, p. 459) and, eventually, they like it that way. The trouble with this type of leader is that they are usually vilified by those who are in power and loved by those who are also oppressed. Frequently, they are on the receiving end of plans to “bring her down,” (Kruse & Prettyman, p. 459). These people step into leadership roles, not because they seek power and popularity, or have their own agenda/goal but to meet a present and persistent need of others. All too often, they achieve the end of the injustice or oppression only to be brought down for their efforts.

Do I read/watch too much into the books, movie and play? Maybe. Then again, there are lessons everywhere if we pay attention (smile). Think about the leaders you know, I’ll bet you could categorize each into one or more of these four types if you are honest.

So, when did I cry during the movie, books, and play? I cried when the Witch of the West/Elphaba was “liquified,” of course! Buy why the Witch? Well, if someone killed your sibling, stole your inheritance, then acted like you were the wicked one... you’d be angry and go after them too!

We’re getting ready to go on a vacation this summer. I’m ready, Thom’s ready... we both need the time away and off from the day-to-day of work and life. Thankfully, we have a fantastic Travel Agent, Tammy McDaniel, who plans and executes amazing adventures for us. Whether we need a trip to see, go, and do; or like this year we need a trip to see no one, go nowhere, and do little or nothing... Tammy’s Journeys is like no other agency I’ve ever used. This year is no exception.

Thom will start asking me questions about the location, flight, pickup, resort, food, you name it; about 5 days out. Then, he’ll ask me again about 3 days before we leave. Yet again the night before. Aaaannnnddd one more time sitting in the airport (laughing). Now, he has the same links, email messages, and information that I do... he just wants to hear it from me, The Best Gurl.

Once we get to the destination airport, he’ll start grumbling because he won’t see whomever is supposed to pick us up. There will only be about 40 or so drivers standing in luggage claim with signs, but he expects me to spot ours instantly (like I already know who it will be or something, SMH)! Once I find the driver and we get our luggage, off we go.

Please don’t let us get to the place we’re staying before it’s ready for us! That’s another long grumble (laughing)! When we finally get to our spot we split up. He goes to inspect everything and I start unpacking and organizing my things. Then, we swap!

Sitting on our balcony (Tammy always, always gives us a room, apartment, suite or home with one), and taking in a deep breath, we finally relax and chat about the flight, ride, driver, location, whatever floats into our mind. We’ll talk about what we want to do for the evening, or rather Thom will ask me about what there is to do and about the restaurants, food, entertainment and options (laughing) and I’ll go get the brochure, open the App or we’ll go on a walk-about to answer him.

Inevitably, at some point during the journey there, on the way back home or as we tool about wherever in the world we happen to be, someone will look... and look again. They will hesitantly or sometimes rudely, walk over and ask, “Are you...” Never Fails. Every Trip. Every Time. I wait while he patiently answers questions, signs his name and poses for photos. “No, I don’t want to be in the picture, thank you. I’ll be glad to take it for you.”

It’s fun traveling with Thom, in spite of him expecting me to know everything about anything and the interruptions of people who want photos or autographs (laughing). It’s fun because we know each other and know how to give each other enough space and quiet to relax. Sometimes together and sometimes in separate rooms or locations. That way, it really truly is a vacation for both of us and we come home relaxed and ready to get back to work.

At least, until about 2 days before it’s time for us to leave, when the questions start again!!

Since 1997, the National Association of Branch Campus Administrators (NABCA) Annual Conference has been held in April. I’ve known about it and went to it as a Member since 2008 and I’ve planned for and coordinated it as Staff since 2012. So why do I look forward to and long for the month of May... every year?!?

NABCA is one of our Best Gurl, inc clients, I serve as Executive Director, and we provide support services for the Association Members. NABCA helps administrators, staff and faculty in higher education advocate for and accelerate the growth of their locations. The Association provides this through published research, professional development, a peer reviewed journal, and committee participation opportunities for the unique needs of higher ed professionals at off-site locations, and of course, the Annual Conference!

Most people only about the traditional college or university campus, or what is known as the “parent campus.” It typically has 18-19-year-old freshmen, graduate programs, and multiple colleges of academic study. It’s where most people go for higher education. Then, you have “off-site” locations; it may be called a “branch campus,” a “center,” a “satellite,” or a “regional campus, center or satellite.” No two are exactly the same or have the same name. Some higher ed institutions only have one... others have multiple, sometimes in other states or countries. There are some things they have in common; however.

They are established and located where there is a community need for higher education by people who cannot go to or live on the parent campus as 18-year old freshmen. Most likely, students are 24-older, work full-time, have families, are retired or are still in the military, and/or are reentering the workforce after an extended absence, and they most often pay their own way.

Some locations offer one or two academic programs only; others may offer more than that... very few offer all academic programs that the parent campus offers.

The administrator does... everything! If students want to start an organization, they call the Administrator’s office. If the community wants to establish a new program or scholarship, they call the Administrator’s office. If the toilets are backed up... right, the Administrator’s office (laughing). He or she handles everything that individual Vice Presidents, Deans, Department Chairs, Recruiters, etc. handle at the parent campus.

It’s a different life with different needs. Are you starting to get a picture?

NABCA is the only professional association with an Annual Conference that meets the unique needs of all personnel at off-site locations. It’s the biggest event they hold all year. And that brings me back to the Annual Conference... and my love of May!

Throughout the process; before, during and after the Conference, we’re asking and waiting for decisions from the Executive Committee. Decisions about the Annual Conference, an upcoming Webinar, the new Member recognition, or the next issue of the Access Journal. Lots of times, there are differing opinions... which makes our jobs LOTS of fun (laughing)!

Working behind the scenes of the Branch Campus Leadership Institute Graduation Session

As of now, Emily (Hedrick, the Best Gurl, inc “Communicator") and I have a Conference Action Item List with 120+ items on it that we work on! Everything from planning and conducting the September Site Visit to select the hotel and Conference Dinner location for the Conference that is 2-years out, to arranging hotel rooms and airport transportation for the Executive Committee Members at the upcoming Conference! It wouldn’t be so bad if the Annual Conference was the only thing we did for NABCA.

The “Great Questions Forum” discussion board/list serve goes down. The Access Journal editors want a special email blast to go out. Searching for a place once we get to the Conference site to find fresh flowers and candy for the Expo tables. Working with the company that’s building our new Member Management System and Website. The Research Committee wants to do a survey... and so does the Membership Committee. Setting up for the next Executive Committee Meeting. Making last minute arrangements for the new participants in the Branch Campus Leadership Institute (BCLI) Orientation and for the current BCLI participant presentation and graduation. A potential new member calls to say she can’t pay by credit card online and wants to mail a check, would I give her the mailing address? It’s right there on the website... beside the phone number (laughing). An applicant for the Innovation Award wants more information about the program.

From the beginning of June until the end of April. Every year... that’s why I love May. The newly elected Executive Committee doesn’t come on board until July. The Site selection geniuses we work with, EMC Meetings & Events (Sherry and Jody) are doing their magic and sending out RFPs for the 2-year away Conference. We don’t have to do anything for next year’s Conference because the website is updated and the call for proposals, partnerships application, and registration are updated. The June-April buildup and execution are over. We don’t have to start planning Orientation for the new Executive Committee until next month... and, in May, we can just... breathe.

Of course, it would be far simpler and less frantic if NABCA was the only client we had. In the midst of everything we do for NABCA, we’re also running all over the country to speak, do organizational assessments, facilitate strategic planning, formulate communication plans, and provide executive coaching for our other academic, corporate and non-profit clients; and of course, we’re writing our next books, plays and films! Have computer and smartphone will travel!

So, I’m happy to see May finally arrive! I have time to sit in the backyard and watch the sun rise. Go out to dinner with a friend and not glance at my watch every few minutes to make sure I can get home to bed and get up before the birds in the morning to start work. Watch something on TV with Thom... or me watch TV and the TV watch Thom (laughing)! Talk on the phone with my best friends. Knit. Read. And most of all, I love May because I can finally... SLEEP!! At least, until June, when we start gearing up again to take care of one of our favorite clients, the National Association of Branch Campus Administrators!

We do things for the benefit of our families.
We do things for our followers and those who support us.
We do things for the benefit of our friends and loved ones.
We do LOTS of things for the benefit of our children, godchildren, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren.
We do things for our neighbors and community.
We do things for our pets and plants.

And sometimes we just don’t want to “do” another thing!

Here’s why that… isn’t always a bad thing…

You can’t give what you don’t have and when you’re running on fumes, overdrawn, tired, and anxious, guess what you’re giving? You can have it all… just not all at the same time!

I read and listen to a lot of well-meaning people talking about the nobility of sacrifice, as though not being the one who always sacrifices is a bad thing to be avoided.

Likewise, I read and listen to others who encourage us to give (to every organization, person, and thing) that needs our help, money, time… as though not giving to everything/everyone means you are selfish (see above).

Where do these well-meaning folks get their concepts from and why are they trying to impose them on me?

Hear me out. After that, it’s your turn (laughing)!

If I was a car, how long could I drive before I ran out of gasoline, burned up my engine for lack of oil, could not clean my windshield because I had no fluid…? Does anyone call their car selfish or a slacker? Not that I’ve ever heard.

If I was a checking account, how long could I remain open before running up debits if no one ever made deposits of new cash into me… or how long would I stay out of jail for writing bad checks? Does anyone think of their checking account as selfish or slacking?

How pretty would the trees and flowers be if they never shed their old leaves and hibernated to grow new ones?

And last, why does no one ever call Christ a slacker or selfish for all of those times he, “Would often slip away to the wilderness and pray”?

My point?

Sometimes, you just need to say, “I don’t want to,” to all of the demands, needs, wants, projects, events, opportunities, and pleas of others and refill your tank, make a deposit, hibernate and rejuvenate, and if it’s your thing-pray. You’ll be better off for it and so will everyone else in your life. So, pace yourself and take a page from the car, checking account, nature, and Christ. Be just as good to yourself as you are to others, otherwise you won’t have anything for them, much less for yourself.

It will be difficult at first, especially if you’re used to always saying, “Yes, of course!”

Some people will get angry with you… okay.

Some people will ask, “But why?” And the answer is, “Because I just don’t want to.”

The first time you say, “No” or “because I don’t want to...” you may feel that hot, flushed feeling (okay, the first 20 times)… guess what? You’ll get over it.

What’s more, the more you do, the easier it will become.

How do you know if it’s a need versus you being selfish?

First, is it something you passionately want to do because it brings fulfillment while doing good?

Second, does it align with your purpose, goals, dreams and plans?

Third, will it require you to take something away from someone or something else (including yourself)?

Yes, Yes, No… consider.
No, No, Yes… decline.

Notice I didn’t say, “accept” because you still need to factor in how much “gas, cash, hibernation, and prayer” you’ve had before making a final decision.

The people who know me well know that I will reflect and consider all requests. Some I can almost immediately grant, others take me a while, and still more I decline. I know my limits better than anyone else does. I know exactly what I want and don’t want, like and don’t like, need and don’t need… even if I don’t let anyone else know. Those same people in my life have learned that if I say “No” that I have reflected and considered their request and that my answer is not frivolous or flippant. Those who don’t know me well try to guilt or talk me into it. That’s always humorous for those who do know me to watch (at least that’s what they tell me).

I don’t argue or fight (ask my husband). I don’t make excuses or make up fictitious reasons why I can’t. I just say, “No, I’m not going to be able do that,” or something along those lines. When they ask again I just say, “No, I’m not going to be able do that,” and that’s about all I say. I know my limits and I love me enough to not knowingly exceed them.

Are there exceptions? Of course! 3:00am screaming baby and I’m the only one who can feed him… 1:00am phone rings to tell me that a family member has had an unexpected event… you get the picture. But those aren’t the “norm.” They are exceptions. After which, I take extra time to hibernate, refill the tank, pray, and make deposits. I also do something small just for me, every day… have done so since I was a girl (thanks, Mommy).

If you’re no good to you, you’re no good to anybody else. That’s when, sometimes, the answer has to be, “…because, I just don’t want to.”

Most mothers have to wait months and sometimes years, after a son or daughter marry, to get grandchildren. I’ve always been one to make my own rules and forge my own path. Getting to become “Gram” was no different!

When our son married my amazing new daughter (notice I did not say, “daughter-in-law”), we automatically got grandchildren (laughing). I’ve heard people say it and never really understood, how you can love your grandchildren with every fiber in your being… now I get it. Don’t think there is anything I wouldn’t do within my power for Jenna, Channing, Parker, LuLu, and Collin. Anything! They are amazing, well adjusted, appreciative, and accomplished young people, ranging from age 26 to 9. Another time, I’ll fill you in on all the details. Right now, I want to talk about my first Christmas with (some of) my grandchildren (laughing)!

When Dixson and Sissy told us they could come for Christmas, I cried… then I started making a list! Favorite foods I already knew from Parker and Lu coming last summer. Gift ideas and little surprises. Decorations. House and Carpet cleaning. Things to do on that Sunday after they arrived and Monday for Christmas Eve. I had a full page of things to check off. Excited doesn’t even come close. Oh, for sure I was glad to spend Christmas with my son and daughter… But!!!

On the Sunday before Christmas, I woke up before 6am, too excited to sleep any longer! Dixson, Sissy, Parker, and Lu were leaving Savannah after Dixson got off work at the restaurant where he cooks. They would arrive around 9am and I wanted to make sure everything was ready. Decorations inside and out… Check. The weeks and weeks of food cooking, cookies, cakes, and pies in the fridge for warming… Check. Pot of soup ready for dinner… Check. Waffle batter, bacon, sausage, and fruit for breakfast when they arrived… Check. Gifts wrapped under the tree and stockings hung… Check. Bedrooms fresh and decorated… Check. Pop (aka Thom) ready… Check. FINALLY the text that they were 25 minutes away came!!!

Hugs. Kisses. Tears of happiness. The moment they walked into the door, I couldn’t stop smiling. They were here!!

Breakfast Sunday morning, then Parker, LuLu, and I just “had” to go to Target to get “stuff”… without parents, of course (laughing). We had a ball! There was a new game just calling our name (they like playing board games as much as we do). Some slime had Lu’s name on it and some gummy worms had Parker’s. So did a few other things. We escaped Target with minimal damage done. Back home, Pop decided to take Parker and LuLu to Wild Willy’s Adventure Park to play laser tag (something he had never played), ride go carts, and play games in the Arcade. The three remaining adults crashed and took naps (lol)! Parker won laser tag, Pop won air hockey, and Lu won in the Arcade. We played our new game, Oregon Trail after they got back, then had homemade beef vegetable soup with cheese and crackers for dinner and watched a Christmas favorite It Happened on Fifth Avenue… highly recommend it. Off to bed for everyone.

Christmas Eve, we had breakfast, showered and dressed, then went to the Okaloosa Island Pier to look at the marine life down in the water below. Lu touched a mostly domesticated pelican that hangs around the pier waiting for the fishermen and women to toss him (or her) fish. Heading back, we just had to stop at the Splurge Trampoline Park! Dixson, Parker, Lu, and… Gram jumped! Pop and Sissy watched and cheered us on. LuLu bested me on the one where you have to jump over a spinning boom arm (laughing), after falling down on both of my tries, I gave up. But I won on the obstacle course!! We jumped on everything there while Parker organized a group of boys into a “HORSE” basketball game on another trampoline… he won! Tired, and hungry, we headed home to warm and cook the rest of Christmas dinner. We ate until no one could eat any more, then cleaned up and bundled into the car to go look at Christmas lights. Because they had to leave on Christmas morning, we opened gifts that night. Pop and LuLu took turns playing “Santa,” handing out packages and stockings. Paper and ribbon piled up. Lots of excited squeals. Plenty of thank you hugs and kisses. Everything I could possibly have wanted and more.

Christmas morning. Breakfast. Loading up a cooler full of food for them to take home. More hugs, kisses, and tears. Then, they were gone.

Grandchildren at Christmas are the BEST EVER. Maybe next year, all of them can be with us!

Christmas food, beverages, gifts, decorations, and stockings $$$... Gram’s First Christmas with Grandchildren, PRICELESS!!!

I like to play with words and their definitions. It’s fun to tear something apart to see how it works, then put it back together in a different way so that it’s exactly what I need rather than what someone wants me to have. If you want to be technical, it’s called analysis and synthesis. Or, just making it fit. I do it with words . . . machines. . . relationships . . . crafts . . . you name it.

So, of course I played with the words in the title of my leadership book Why Are They Following Me? to see why they fit . . .

Why Are They Following Me? Because you take time to know them. Because they know you will protect them and make sure they feel included.

Why Are They Following Me? Because they want to go where you are going. Because they believe in your vision and that you’ll get there.

Why Are They Following Me? Because they believe in you. You aren’t perfect, but you are consistent . . . even when you don’t know or mess up, you say so, and you talk about why you messed up.

In the same way, I played with the words in the Section Headings of the book: Inclusion & Diversity; Vision & Translation; and Character & Reputation.

“Inclusion and Diversity” are used to talk about who is following you. Knowing and understanding the people in the organization. Learning more than just strengths and areas of need… knowing what motivates or encourages. Knowing what disappoints or engages. Knowing when to push and nudge and when to leave alone for reflection and thought. That takes intention and time. It also requires filling the organization with (or appreciating) people who are not “like” you. Making sure that there is opportunity for different perspectives, opinions, practices, schools of thought… whether you choose and select the followers or you “inherited” them… and making sure they know that they are included in all aspects of the journey toward the goal… not just “tolerated” with eye rolls and snarky humor when they contribute. Knowing Who is following you and including them is the foundation for what I think of as effective leadership.

“Vision and Translation” are the words used to describe the concept of why people follow. For me, they go hand in hand… the leader needs to know clearly where the organization, family, or team is headed. What is the goal? Yet, it’s not enough for her to know it… she must, must, must be able to translate that destination to every single person she wants to follow. No one can be unclear or unsure. No one can “not know” where they are going. She may not know exactly what she’ll find when she gets there or what it will look like… but she must know where and Why they’re headed in that direction and so must her followers.

Finally, the point of the spear is you… “Character and Reputation.” Understanding why people follow you, or don’t, is critical when thinking about what kind of leader you are. There is a Scottish proverb that my Cuban/Scott grandfather would say, “O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us!” I repeat it to myself frequently because it is so powerful… it doesn’t matter one whit how I see myself as a leader (person), it matters how others see me because they are the ones who will chose to follow… or not! So ask for feedback. Pay attention to the way followers interact with you. Watch how relaxed (or anxious) they are when you’re in the room or in their space. Do they share struggles with you or tell you that everything is “fine” even when it is obviously not? Can they depend on you to keep your word or do they have to guess and second-guess whether or not you’ll come through? These and so many other things either make You a leader worth following or one who is not.

That’s why I like to play with words! They connect and lead to additional thoughts or insights for me… even when my connections don’t make sense to other people.

People ask me why I wrote the book in the format that I did. That’s an easy answer, it’s the way I explain, give talks and speeches, and think! I like to know how things connect to information I already have and to information I don’t yet have or don’t even know that I need. Knowing who is following and then understanding and defining where you want to lead them just naturally connects with whether you are worth following… at least in my mind (laughing).

It really doesn’t matter if you’re leading a large multinational organization or a small local one… a family or an educational institution… someone is leading and if it’s not you, then does he really know who you are and where he is going? If he doesn’t and he’s not someone you want to follow, shame on him. If you’re the one people are supposed to be following but you don’t know who they are as individuals, don’t know where you’re going (and neither do they), and you aren’t worth following, shame on you!

Christmas is a special time for many children in the world. Those who celebrate the holiday suddenly remember around Thanksgiving, that they need to be “good” in order for Santa to come on Christmas Eve. The world is filled with suddenly helpful, obedient, and non-fussing-with-sibling, children (laughing)! It’s a wonder that parents don’t arrange for “Christmas”to arrive every month, just to keep children in line!

There are many Christmases that stand out for me. Christmas of 1964 is near the top of the list.

I remember being so extra good that November and December.At seven, I did my chores without being reminded… a first; I brushed my teeth for real instead of just swishing with water; I went outside and ice skated in the park with my friends instead of staying in my room reading as I usually did… I was the model poster child. It didn’t last beyond Christmas when I reverted to my usual “Oh Joyce!” persona (laughing). But that year, I had an extra special Christmas list.

Christmas morning arrived and I leapt out of bed and ran to my parent’s room. “Mommy, Daddy! We have to see if Santa came!” I yelled excitedly. My mommy, who was about ready to deliver my brother at any moment, smiled up at me. “Go look and see, but don’t touch anything until we get there,” she said. I ghosted!

In our living room, I looked across the vast distance,zeroing in on the Christmas tree. Something caught my eye and I turned to the right. “I got it! I got it!” I screamed, jumping up and down. “Santa brought my piano!!!” There it sat, a brand new Lyon & Healy upright piano. I plopped down on the bench and lifted the lid, already envisioning the beautiful sounds I would make, just like the woman at the symphony I’d seen in January. I would be just as famous as she was in no time! Placing my hands on the keys, I positioned my fingers just as hers had been and plunked out the most awful sound in the world (laughing). Stunned, I resettled my fingers and tried again…same mess.

“You’ll have to take lessons, Joyce,” Mommy spoke from the doorway. “Practice and practice and you will play beautifully some day.”

“But I want to play Christmas music for everyone today,” I wailed. “I should be able to play, I watched everything she did.”

“Who did?” Mommy asked, confused.

“The lady with the symphony in January,” I exclaimed. “I want to play like her.” By now, I was crying.

“Joyce, stop. You will be able to play just as beautifully as the soloist at the symphony someday, if you practice hard and do everything Mr. Wooten tells you to do.”

“But I have been!” I explained through my tears. “I thought I just needed my own piano to be able to play better. It should have worked.”

“Oh Joyce,” Mommy sighed, brushing my cheek, “It just doesn’t work that way. You have to focus and practice.”

I slammed the keyboard lid down and got off the bench without a word. Marching across the living room in search of more cooperative gifts!

On my way, I spotted the bike… no, The Bike… the 3-speed English Racer bike that was just like my cousin David’s, only for a girl. Euphoria filled me again, the piano fiasco long forgotten… and I never did playlike the symphony soloist, by the way!

“Can I go outside and ride it? Please Mommy?” I begged, hopping up and down.

“May I, not can I. No Joyce, there is snow everywhere. You may ride when the snow clears.”

“Can I ride it in the basement then?”

“May I… Yes, but not today,” Came her automatic response.

Further frustrated, my eyes landed next on the brand new ice skates with their gleaming white boots and silver sharp blades. Promptly sitting on the floor, I threw off my slippers and shoved my feet into the skates. Already picturing myself gliding across the ice just like the Olympic Skaters we watched every winter. I could hear the roar of the crowd and see myself standing on the 1st Place box with my Gold Medal around my neck. Standing on my brand new ice skates, so much better than the babyishstrap-on ones I currently had. This will make all the difference, I thought. “Can I… May I go across the street to skate on the rink?” I added a big smile, certain that it would make the difference.

“No, Joyce. It’s Christmas morning.”

“Right, so I should get to play with my presents then,” I pointed out. “It’s not fair to get presents I can’t do anything with!”

“Joyce,” she sighed, “Just open the rest of your gifts.”

Turning back to the bounty under and around the ceiling tall tree, I spotted a large box, beautifully wrapped, and grabbed for it. “My Easy Bake Oven!!!” I yelled. “Uncle Cal got it! He got it for me! I’m going to cook wonderful dinners in it!” I looked up at Mommy with a big grin. “I can cook Christmas dinner for you, so you can rest with the baby.”

“Thank you Joyce, why don’t you practice on simple dishes first though?”

“Okay,” I yelled. “I’ll cook something now.” Then I paused.Was this to be yet another gift I had to wait until I could use it… or would this one get me a “pass”?

“Ladies don’t yell Joyce. That’s fine, just don’t make a mess,” Mommy said as she turned toward the kitchen.

“Oh wait! I have to open the rest of my stuff and you and Daddy have to open yours.” She turned back and walked over to one of the chairs to sit.

Mommy watched me open the pile of presents and toys that could have been distributed to an army of children with an indulgent smile. I ripped and tossed paper and bows all over the living room. Daddy came out and sat to watch.

Finally, finished and exhausted, we had all unwrapped the Christmas bounty and exclaimed over every item. Ready to start baking, I turned back to the Easy Bake Oven box, prepared to open it and read the instructions.“Make your list so you can write your thank-you notes tomorrow,” Mommy said over her shoulder on the way to the kitchen to start Christmas dinner. Sigh, always the thank-you notes, Ithought. Bet other children don’t have to do this… just us! I left the living room, headed to my room for paper and pencil to make the dreaded list. It was the same for every birthday and Christmas. Make a list of the gift and who gave it to me. Use my stationary to write a thank-you note to every person… even relatives… get the addresses and stamps from Mommy… put them in the mailbox for the postman to pick up. Sheesh, I already thanked them yesterday when we were out delivering our gifts and I’ll see everybody else when they get here today for dinner. So why do I always have to write and mail the notes?I grumbled inwardly. If I have children,I’m not going to make them write thank-you notes! was my final thought of defiance as I finally returned and started my task.

Later that morning, Nana arrived with hugs and kisses, then Uncle Cal and my cousins, Gigi, Auntie, Grandpa Ed, and a host of other relatives filled our house with laughter and love. Mommy came up to me and hugged me. “I’m going to the hospital to get your little brother or sister now,” she whispered in my ear. “Why is he there? Is he sick?” I asked, having already decided this summer that I would have a brother, not a sister.

“No Joyce, that’s where Mommy’s go so the doctor can take the baby out of their tummy’s.”

“Oh. Okay then. Come back with him soon so I can play with him,” I replied, engrossed in the cake recipe for my oven. She kissed me and left.

The rest of the day was filled with people, phone calls from relatives in other states, and playing games. I plunked out a one-fingered version of Jingle Bells on my new piano, to my disgust and everyone else’s delight. I made recordings of everyone on my new tape recorder from Uncle Cal.

At about 8:30 that evening, Nana came into my room to wake me up. “Mommy wants to talk to you,” she said. “Put your robe and slippers on and come to the phone.” Sleepily, I complied. Walking into the kitchen, I took the phone from Nana. “Hi Mommy,” I sleepily mumbled. “Joyce,” Mommy said, “You hav ea little brother.” “I know. I already told you that I was having a brother.” I replied, hung up the phone, and went back to bed (laughing).

When The Communicator told me… yes, that’s her title… anyway, when Emily told me that it was time for me to write another Blog, I didn’t jump and down for joy (laughing)!

“I just wrote one,” I whined.

“That was in April,” she laughed.

Sigh…Groan… “But I don’t know what to say,” I tried again.

Still laughing, she replied, “No, that’s the name of your Blog, not the subject of your next post!”

Fine!” I huffed, “I’ll try to think of something.”

Always on her game, The Communicator said, “It’s July, Independence Day. Write about that!”

Eventually, after much procrastination, my brain finally started spinning. What do we really know about the US Independence Day, The US Flag, and the US National Anthem? Sure, we’ve all heard the stories about Betsy Ross sewing a flag for General Washington, or Francis Scott Keys writing the Star Spangled Banner, or even that the Declaration of Independence was written on July 2, 1776. But do we really know how it all happened? I was a woman on a mission… I had a puzzle to put together!

Let’s start at the beginning, with Independence Day!

Did you Know That…

So, if you want to be an Independent Sprit and confuse a whole lot of people, you could always celebrate on July or August 2nd and technically, you’d be right. Of course, you might get some strange looks if you had a parade!

Once the fledgling Nation had it’s independence, it was time to consider a flag. Not just any flag, it had to signify that a new Nation had been established… in addition to the 567 Nations that already existed among the 6 million indigenous peoples who greeted them when they arrived… but that’s another Blog!

Did You Know That…

Next time someone tells you that the US flag was designed and made by Betsy Ross, you can tell them that it was actually Francis Hopkinson and that he asked for wine as a payment! Bet that will get you some strange looks also, especially if you are marching in a parade on August 2nd!

Finally, the US established a National Anthem 155 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia. Before that, many songs were used as “anthems” for the US, including Hail ColumbiaMy Country ‘Tis of Thee, and America the Beautiful. Even today’s Star-Spangled Banner has had an interesting and varied history since it’s creation in 1814!

Did You Know That…

Whether you sing Defence of Fort M’Henry or The Star-Spangled Banner you’re singing the same song. Also, because Congress has never passed a law to enforce the code of behavior during the performance, everyone usually does whatever he or she was taught in elementary school during the National Anthem, and that’s okay by me.

So there you have it, all the information you didn’t know that you didn’t know about the establishment of US as we know it today, the flag of the Nation, and the National Anthem! I had fun doing the research and learned things I never knew about the traditions most US citizens celebrate on July 4th.

When I gave it to The Communicator, she smiled and said, “Your next one is due in December.”

Sheesh, some people are never satisfied!!!

Most of us have several names, other than the ones we are given at birth. Throughout our lives, people give us names of affection, nicknames or abbreviations, diminutives and more. What do all of our multiple names mean? What messages do they convey to others and to us? I think they tell a lifetime of stories!

When I was born, my parents gave me the name “Joyce Karen Gillie.” I’ve been called many things during the years between birth and today. Each of my names has a story… I’d like to share a few with you and hear the stories of your many “names.”

At birth, my Uncle Cal called me “Princess” and treated me as one also. Mommy said that when she brought me home from the hospital, he came into my room, lifted the mattress with me on it, into his arms, and stood there for hours, just looking at me with tears in his eyes. She said that he looked at her and whispered, “She is my little princess,” as he held me. Princess is what he always called me.

From about 18 months until I was 6 years old, my name was, “Oh Joyce!!!” Courtesy of Mommy (smile). She uttered it at least 100 times daily, usually in some variation of, “Oh Joyce! How could you…? Oh Joyce why did you…? Oh Joyce what am I going to do with you…? Well, you get the picture (laughing). Problem was, I really did think that was my name, which turned out to be a problem when I got to kindergarten and the teacher asked us to stand and say our names on the first day of school. You guessed it… I proudly announced to the class that my name was, “Oh Joyce!” My teacher, Mrs. Wilson, said gently in that very special kindergarten teacher voice, “No sweetheart, what is your name? What does your mommy call you?” Wait for it… “Oh Joyce!” I forcefully replied (lol). “Okay dear, it’’s all right, you just have a seat,” she replied as she moved on to the next student. That evening, Mrs. Wilson called the house and Mommy called me from my room. “Joyce, why wouldn’t you tell Mrs. Wilson your name?” She asked. “I did, Mommy,” I told her, very confused. “Well,” Mommy said, holding out the phone, “Tell Mrs. Wilson your name again for me.” Completely confused, I spoke into the phone, “Hi Mrs. Wilson, my name is Oh Joyce!” Snatching the phone away from me and not missing a beat, my mother said, “Oh Joyce! How could you…?” I remember clearly just looking at her and she evidently realized what she had said, because she sent me to my room (as usual). And that was the end of “Oh Joyce!”

I became, “Joyce Karen” from about age 6 until about age 15. I think that was for two reasons, the first was so that I wouldn’t grow up thinking that my name was “Oh Joyce” and the second was the birth of a cousin. She was the third Joyce in the family, Aunt Joyce, my godmother being the first; I, Joyce Karen being the second; and now Baby Joyce was the third. I think the other reason I became Joyce Karen is that it was paired with “Gillie” about 100 times a day… as in, “Joyce Karen Gillie, how could you…? Joyce Karen Gillie, get in here this instant…! Joyce Karen Gillie, what on earth have you done…?” Not much had changed from being Oh Joyce! in that regard (laughing).

During the next few years, I added several more names. I became “Godmother” to Max when I was 15 and later to Ramelle; and had my name legally changed to “joyce karen gillie” when I was 16. People still have difficulty wrapping their heads around that one. My favorite of my two favorite names was given to me when I was 23. “Mommy.” My son, Dixson made me a mother and I cried when he called me Mommy for the first time when he was a little boy (still do, but don’t tell him that). Then at 30, I became “Auntie joyce” thanks to goddaughter Kat and nieces and nephew Jaz, Corey, and later Myko. Along the way I added more godchildren, Jordan, Justin, and Alex and more adopted nieces and nephews, Joanna, Tessie, Crystal, and so many others. I love being Auntie joyce. If you remember the movie and play, Auntie Mame, that’s me! I’m the one who gave the noisy gifts, forbidden candy and treats, planned super fun summer vacation visits, and basically drove their parents NUTS! Great fun! They’re all older now, so I’m just waiting until their children come along to continue the tradition (laughing)!

At 40, I became “The Best Gurl,” and eventually had a business named after me when I crossed paths with Thom Gossom Jr, who has plenty of his own name stories to tell! He introduced me to Alfre Woodard that way at the premiere of the film, Miss Ever’s Boys in Los Angeles. After they embraced and shared warm greetings, he reached for my hand. “Alfre,” he said as he drew me forward, “I want you to meet ‘The Best Gurl in the Whole World.’” I was basically speechless… first because I didn’t know he felt that way, since we had only been dating a short time, and second because it was Alfre Woodard and she is as stunning and commanding in person as she is on screen. That February evening, I became Thom’s Best Gurl and it is my second favorite name, right up there with Mommy! 

As adults, Mommy didn’t always call me “joyce karen gillie” or “joyce gillie gossom,” at least not very often (laughter). After our first adult road trip, she started calling me “Louise” and I called her “Thelma”…and she was!! You’d never believe how silly and outrageous she could be away from her school and her staff. 

A few months ago, I added my final name so far. Thanks to Dixson and his fiancée Sissy, I am now a “Grams” and have four grandchildren to love and spoil rotten (laughing)! We’re already planning trips to see them and summer vacations with us… parents optional and not necessarily preferred! 

What’s in a name? Hundreds of relationships and stories. Many, many facets of a life. What’s in my name? An entire lifetime of love! 

What’s in your names? Drop me a line and tell me about them!