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Monday, April 30, 2012

Mothers, Herding Cats, and Laughter

'Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.'  William James

 Mothers--Chief Cat Herders

My mother used to say she raised 'all Chiefs and no Indians', when referring to her tribe of six independent children. I'd say she was the family's Chief Cat Herder.

This very proper, self-described 'fifth generation Washingtonian' from the District of Columbia raised six California wild cats while keeping a clean house--and most importantly--her sense of humor. My son related to my mother's good humor by saying 'I'm from your side of the family---the enjoying side of the family'.

Thanks to my mother, I learned to deal with life and strife with a sense of humor.

Laughter IS the Best Medicine

My mother--or Moo--as we called her--would often say 'laughter is the best medicine', and she'd demonstrate the truth of that belief daily as she sought to find the humor in situations and respond to trying life situations with good hearted laughter. I am so grateful to have learned the importance of keeping my sense of humor no matter what the situation from her.

I still remember the night my father was out of town on business one beautiful summer evening when my siblings and I stayed out late playing kick-the-can in the neighborhood. Our mother called and called us to come home but not one of us answered.

When we finally dragged our tails home she was hopping mad and promised a spanking for us all. As she herded us into the back bedroom to carry out the punishment, children wandered this way and that into other bedrooms and bathrooms on their way to their predictable single swat on the rear end.

Finally herding us into one room she lined us up by age to spank us in order from oldest to youngest. My oldest sister, Jean, got the first swat on the behind, followed by my brother, John. My mother burst out laughing as soon as her hand connecting with his rear made a metallic pinging noise . On his way to his swat-on-the-behind my brother had stopped at the sewing machine to grab the metal lid off the sewing tin so he could stuff it in his pants to thwart the whack. My mother's surprised laughter relieved the tension of the moment--and the rest of us got off scott-free.

Cat Herders Must have a Sense of Humor

Moo taught us the keys to herding cats:

  • Don't try to control them--find ways to catch their attention instead.
  • Love and support their independence and individuality. 
  • Enjoy and respect them.
  • Keep your sense of humor.
So many times as an adult I have viewed my experience of working to bring together a group of independent people all going their separate ways as herding cats. This always makes the task easier. No matter how frustrated I am by the current herding experience, the minute I picture myself herding cats it puts a smile on my face and lets me relax into the experience. I know that to accomplish the impossible task of cat herding the key is to accept and respect the individuals for who they are and to find a way to enjoy the challenge of engaging their attention.

Someone sent me this YouTube video Cowboys Herding Cats and the first time I watched it I split a gut laughing. It really gives you a visual for the metaphor of herding cats.

If you, too,  find yourself playing the role of Chief Cat Herder--attempting to corral a group of people all going their separate ways at work or at home--give yourself something to laugh about. View this 1 minute video now and save it  to view later to relieve your frustration. As my mother always said, laughter and keeping your sense of humor is the best medicine!

'Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.' Unknown

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Anonymous said...

You have some very unique ideals about how to live a healthy and connected life. Be the best we can be is your motto.

I love your blog and look forward to each. I have a folder in which I save all your blog messages. Therefore, I can always go back and review. I shared your blog messages with other people and they have enjoyed them and see the benefits.


Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

Thanks, Cynthia! You're right--the motto IS Be the Best WE can be!

I love to see what you see in the messages!



Jean | said...

Sue, just the title of this post made my heart smile. We lived "in the country" until I was 9 and had lots of cats. How well I remember my attempts at herding them! I would try putting them in the wheel barrow to take them for a ride. Those who didn't jump out immediately, did so the moment we got underway. And I have had to "herd cats" in my work life (not any more, thank you very much). Your mother sounds like a very wise woman and one I would have gotten on well with.

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

Jean--what a great story! Hope you wouldn't mind if I found a use for it in a future post. BTW--I have just accepted a position as Chief Cat Herder (Manager of Volunteers) for the local Friends of the Animal Shelter.

I'm sure you would have gotten along with my mother--and I'd bet you share a Myers-Briggs ESFJ with her.