Posted in #Confessions, Contemplations

Home on The Range or My Life As A Rolling Stone

Boo and I have lived in our home for almost nineteen years.  This is the longest I have ever lived in the same house.  I mean ever.  We have seen our aging neighbor through the death of his wife.  We’ve seen the young couples on our street have babies and now I see those babies waiting for the school bus in front of our house.  We share our over-the-top holiday decorations with the thousands of twinkling lights, and life-size blowups of Olaf, dancing penguins, Santa, and his reindeer. We invite young mothers with fussy toddlers in strollers to pet our black cat, Emmy.  It feels like home.  I don’t think God will ever ask me if I lived in a good neighborhood, but He might ask me if I was a good neighbor, and I hope to answer a resounding yes!   I feel a part of life, here.  I feel safe.

When I was born, my parents, brother, and I lived on Crockett Street in Amarillo, Texas.  It was a small, stucco starter home, with a detached garage that my dad and grandpa built.   My brother had a gang of boys to play with and luckily there was a little girl next door for me.  However, when I was four, as my mother’s illness progressed, it became necessary to sell our home to help with medical bills. Thus, we moved to a rent house across from Amarillo Junior College.  My mother died shortly after that, and we moved again because my father could not bear to live where my mother had died.  Luckily, a Methodist preacher and his family were moving to Chicago, so we rented their modest home right down the street and there we stayed for about five years.

When I was ten we moved across town to an upgraded neighborhood, and I started sixth grade as the ‘new girl.’  We did live there for nine years and after that, I went to college.  Even at Baylor, I bounced around to two different dorms my freshman year.  My sophomore and Junior years were stable, and then I got married and moved to an apartment in Waco, and the next year we moved to  Killeen, Texas to start a new life and teaching career.

I will not bore you with the gory details of each one of my moves, but within that marriage we did move twice.  Then there was a devastating divorce and that’s really when my moves escalated.  As a single mom on a schoolteacher’s salary, I had exactly $525 to spend on housing.  No more.  I was constantly on the lookout for a newer, bigger rent house for the same amount of money in the same school zone.  There were two moves before I remarried, then a huge uprooting to North Carolina.  To simplify matters, let’s just say within the next ten years there were four moves, another unsightly divorce, and a plan to move to Austin.

Obviously, one could argue that I am unstable, a rolling stone, or an excitement junkie.  But I plead irreconcilable circumstances and bouts of insanity.  I became the queen of creativity. I could unpack boxes, set up beds and hang all the pictures in two days flat. I would use my rent deposit refund to pay my next rent deposit, and I always left each house a little better than I found it.  I was resourceful, frugal, and as Blanche DuBois said in A Streetcar Named Desire, “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Now, all this to say there have been downsides to my gypsy ways.  My family has never written my address in anything but pencil.  My youngest daughter blames me for her trust issues, the U.S. Postal Service still sends me change of address cards each summer, and it is hard for me to pass up a “good moving box.”

Perhaps I have been a wanderer.  It wasn’t my objective; I just fell into it.  Each move, each house meant something special to me, and I pinky swear that I never meant to harm my children or anyone else by moving.  I know I did the best I could.

With every new house, my intentions were pure.  I made it a home because by my definition, home is where the heart is and as long as I was there, my children would be safe and could be happy.  My modest meals like baked chicken in Italian salad dressing with a plain iceberg salad and lots of Ranch were the alternative to fish sticks and mac n’ cheese.  I wouldn’t say boring, but I might say dependable.  There was nothing fancy about our lifestyle, yet the girls were afforded new curtains and bedspreads to spruce up even the dreariest of shag carpets.  We survived and more.  We’re strong women, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and make a home from the barest of frames.

But now… Now that I have this home with Boo, and we have made it ours, I have roots.  Settled in ways I never knew I needed.  Anchored with a firm foundation of faith and family.  Grounded with grandchildren that each consider our guest room as ‘their room,’ and brick by brick we have built beautiful memories with years of love and laughter.  I feel so lucky.

When my time here on earth has ended, I fully believe God will not ask the square footage of my home or the brand of hardwood floors or granite counters, but He may ask how many people I welcomed in with open arms.  He may ask me if I offered those without some of what I had, and He will probably ask if I loved others well.  I hope my answers will be satisfactory, as that has always been my aim. 

For you know what I say is true, a house is not a home unless it’s full of the good stuff, like love, laughter, and respect, and that is all anyone could ever want.

Posted in Aging, Family, Grandmother, Gratitude


by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Besides reading to and dancing with my four-month old grandson, I adore showing  him the baby in the mirror. I take him to our bathroom mirror, the full length mirror in the office, and the mirror on my antique dresser and say, “Who’s that baby in the mirror?” 

Winslow’s bobble head goes from looking downwards to straight ahead where he sees his own fat-faced image. There’s a second of surprise when he first notices the baby in the mirror before he gives himself an open-mouthed smile. I embellish the moment with, “Who’s that baby in the mirror? He looks a lot like you!” My high pitched tones make my grandson’s head shake as he gives his reflection a bigger smile and he moves his chubby arms. 

“Hey there, Baby in the Mirror!” I add. “That’s a cute Baby in the Mirror!” Winslow’s eyes widen and the mirror baby keeps smiling. “Why don’t you tell that Baby in the Mirror hello?” Then Winslow wobbles his head as he furrows his brow and starts “talking.” His ohhs, ahhs, and squeals grab the attention of his reflected self.

I urge both babies on with, “Look at that Baby in the Mirror talk! Isn’t he the best?” Winslow raises the octave and duration of his long A vowel screams, so I hold him tighter because his talking requires involuntary kicks and arm movements. I lean in closer to the mirror and mimic an impressed sports announcer, “Listen to that smart Baby in the Mirror! He is amazing!”

Last week I heard about a superstition that showing a baby his mirrored reflection will make teething worse! Winslow has been drooling and sucking his fingers for a couple of weeks now. Should I apologize to him and his parents for increased teething misery? 

From the “evil eye” to “don’t let a cat near the crib; it will suck out the baby’s breath,” there are so many old wives tales about babies. (

The “don’t tickle the bottom of your baby’s feet – it will make him stutter” might make sense, but the “baby in the mirror” warnings don’t bother me.

Scientific studies recommend quality baby mirror time.  They’ve also tested when a baby actually recognizes himself in the mirror.  (Probably not until he’s almost two years old). Put a dot of ketchup on a baby’s nose, and show him a mirror. When he touches his own nose instead of his reflection, he realizes he’s looking at himself.

We babysit two days a week. Gary helps heat up bottles and distract Winslow with a cross between yodeling, humming, and what sounds like someone herding animals while I take a shower. 

Since we don’t have a backyard or an abundance of baby toys, I’ll continue hanging out with that Baby in the Mirror. Winslow’s beyond the soul-sucking period, and teething is already a problem we’re tackling with cold soft plastic toys filled with purified water and our thumb knuckles while our grandson drools and shoves both fists into his mouth. Our biggest worry now is Winslow gagging himself.

We’re so lucky that Casey and Catherine do not scold us for our rusty baby skills or blame us for a tiny scratch on Winslow’s perfect nose or his dimpled wrist. They’re amazing parents – full of gratitude and patience and love! 

And Winslow, well, he’s a joyful miracle. He doesn’t mind our grey hair or stained clothes. He is oblivious to a dusty bookshelf or dirty dishes in the sink. He greets us with open-mouthed smiles and kicks his chunky legs when Casey hands him off. He also widens his eyes and gives the Baby in the Mirror the same welcome multiple times a day. Winslow makes me forget my crooked left side, my flabby wrinkled body, and my cluttered apartment. Even my complaining old cat loses her ability to annoy me when Winslow is around. My grandson’s  ability to ignore his aching gums or a wet diaper when he sees his double-chinned best buddy – that Baby in the Mirror – reminds me of the Zen masters. Live in the now and embrace the happiness right in front of you!

Posted in #Confessions, Boo, technology

The High Cost of Low-Tech Living

            About ten years ago we accidentally let it slip that we were paying for AOL service.

It just came out in conversation when one of our daughters asked, “Why don’t you have a Gmail account?”

            “I do.”

            “Why don’t you use it?”

            “We’re happy with AOL.  We pay them every month, so why change?”

            “WHAT?  MOM!!  You can get AOL for free, Mom.  You didn’t know that?  How long have you been paying?

            “Since dial-up?”  I sheepishly answered.

            “M O T H E R!!!”

            “Are you sure it’s free?”  Boo asked.  “Cause I don’t think so.” 

            That was just the beginning of our walk of shame through life. 

            “What else are you paying for that’s free?”

            “How should we know?”  I said.

            When we have guests or our grandkids come over, there is always the dreaded question:

“Nannie, what’s your Wi-Fi password?  Is it still in the..”

“It’s in the drawer of the little…”

“We know.”

“Bring it here and I’ll read it to you.  Ready?  X?2php54%7*79Ux3Pr8!2xG.”

“Nannie, why don’t you change this so you can remember it?”

“I don’t know how, and besides, this way no one can steal the password.”

“Who wants to?” they asked.

I admit, I don’t know who would want to steal our Wi-Fi password, but you never know.

Boo and I are intelligent people.  We have master’s degrees and we both worked at large high schools, so we like to think that we still have a certain amount of street cred.  Or at least we used to.  But it’s one thing to know gang signs and another to deposit a check from your phone.  It’s one thing to catch kids smoking in the bathrooms, and another to connect a phone to your car.  We have slipped into the uncool category.

Not long ago we had a business transaction with one of our daughters.

“I’ll VENMO you the money, Dad.”

“I don’t VEN-MAIL.” Boo answered.

“VENMO.  OK, how about ZELLE?”


“Never mind, I’ll VENMO Mom and she can write you a check.”

“That’s better,” he said.

Is it even bragging if I say I am more high-tech than Boo just because I have a VENMO account?  It sort of feels lowish on the tech scale.  For heaven’s sake, I just now ordered my groceries online.  I know I’m late to the party, but I love it.  However, I have no idea what Instacart is or how it works, but if TARGET can come to my house, then it might be worth exploring.

When I told one of our other daughters how much I had to pay for my XM Radio, she said, “I never pay full price.”

“What do you mean?  I get an annual renewal fee,” I said.

“I just call and tell them I can’t pay that amount and I want to cancel.  Then we haggle back and forth for a minute, and they end up telling me I qualify for a special deal.  It usually saves me $100.  I do it every year.”

How do our kids know all of these ins and outs?  And when did EVERYTHING become technical?  Our doctors are on ‘my chart,’ which means we can make appointments and see our test results online, at least some of us.  Boo still does not know how to access his chart.  He always ends up somewhere on the site he doesn’t want to be or with an appointment in some obscure clinic across town.  I usually schedule his doctor’s appointments, but when he asks me to send them a message or question, I take the liberty to ask what I want to and then sign his name.

By the way, is it considered low-tech if you still print out driving instructions from map-quest?  I’m asking for a friend.

I recently bought a new car.   I thought I was all Bluetoothed and ready to go.

“I can’t hear you,” my callers say.

I have disconnected, reconnected, sync’d, read the manual, googled, and asked a friend.  I cannot for the life of me get my phone properly connected through my car.  I can hear callers, but they can’t hear me, and to make matters worse, I now have an obnoxious buzzer ringtone that plays when someone calls, and I cannot change it.

My blood pressure is going up just mentioning our technical difficulties.  I wish I could brag about some other things we are really great at in spite of our low-tech ways, but nothing is coming to mind.  We do have a Keurig coffeemaker, does that count?

Even saying that makes me cringe.  Perhaps we’re ‘cutting edge’ in ways the world does not promote.  We could use words like digital, cyber, and state-of-the-art, but being flashy is just not our style.  We prefer to fly under the radar and keep our techie-ness to ourselves.

Let’s face it, Boo and I will never be truly high-tech.  The best we can hope for is somewhere in the middle and not paying for internet mail services.  It’s the high cost of our low-tech living. 

Posted in Family, Fears and Worries, Mothers

TOO NICE by Ginger Keller Gannaway

When someone tells me, “You’re so nice,” I suppress the urge to scream in his/her face or step on my cat’s tail. I see “nice” as a smear of margarine on a slice of stale white bread posing as a breakfast sandwich. “Nice” is a word that hangs out with “weak” and “bland.”

Necklace created by Mark Garcie

Yesterday my youngest son told me, “Mom, you’re too nice.” I stared at at the floor and counted to ten while my cat sensed danger and ran under my bed. Evan was referring to how I don’t know how to say “no” when he or his brothers ask for help.

People confuse my awkward attempts to fix my loved ones’ problems as kindness. But I’m really thinking more about myself than them. Seeing my grown children wrestle with hardships fills my head with zombies craving human flesh and my stomach with rotting raw oysters. I want to get a lobotomy and puke my guts out! So when a son’s troubles make me sick, I try solving their problems so that my own head calms down and my stomach stops churning. Like the momma pelican on the Louisiana state flag who feeds her babies with her own flesh, I give parts of myself to those who were once part of me. It’s not “niceness”; it’s self-preservation.

Back in the 1980s and 90s my number one job was to feed, love, and protect my kids. For twenty years I enjoyed the unconditional love and respect of at least one of my sons at a time. Baking  poppyseed bundt birthday cakes or taking them to see the latest Pokemon movie made me a momma bear they could count on, and in return my head and tummy relaxed. Back then all I needed was a quick hug from a sweaty five-year-old to make me believe I deserved all the gold foil stars life could give me. 

Casey, Shane, & Evan -1996

Crystal, my mom-guide/ consultant/ therapist, told me, “Living and caring so much about our kids is the yen and yang of our lives.” Preach! My own momma taught me to feed my kids rich, spicy foods, to make them laugh, to sing them songs as soon as I first made eye contact with their infant eyes, and to crave their company as much as their approval.

These days I pray to Mother Mary, “Please evict these hornets from my brain and settle the marching soldiers in my stomach – or at least make them trade their combat boots for Dearfoam slippers.” Is “Let go and let God” even possible?  When a grown son sobs or has no appetite for his favorite food, I’m pulled into an underworld ruled by a satanic kind of Worry.  I obsess and ask, “How can I help him smile again?” 

I’ll drive the streets to help Evan put up fliers about his lost dog. I’ll make Casey a turkey sandwich and drop it off at his work when he’s too busy to take a lunch break. I’ll drive Shane to an urgent care clinic when he’s on crutches and worried about a swollen foot, and I’ll try not to take offense when he criticizes my clinic choice.

Last week Evan told me,”You worry too much, Mom.”  He didn’t know that as soon as each son took his first breath of life I became his caregiver, protector, cook, teacher, nurse, dictator, confidante, and judge. And then Worry (a huge belching, farting, frowning dictator) plopped down in my head – forcing Common Sense (a tidy secretary) and Optimism (a grandma who crochets as beautifully as she cooks) into the back room of my brain. Worry claimed a throne right next to Love (a wise, patient librarian) where they both have ruled my life from that day forward. 

When I told Evan I was writing about my tendency to be “too nice,” he gave me a side hug and said, “You’re not really too nice, Momma.” 

I nodded at him and winked at my cat. “Right!”

Then my boy with the dark beard that hides his half-smiles and the keen brown eyes that reveal his artist’s soul turned up one corner of his mouth and said, “Everybody else is just not nice enough.” 

Posted in Aging, Death and Dying


When people ask me, “What are you doing with yourself these days?” They never expect me to say that I volunteer for hospice.  The response is predictable:  “Oh, I could never do that.” Truthfully, I wasn’t sure I could either, but I wanted to, and in the last twelve years I have not looked back. 

            Ever since my father passed away thirteen years ago, I have been drawn to hospice care.  My dad did not want to go on hospice, thinking that it would be like giving in.  Giving in to death.  But, as time went on, he prayed to die and yet, according to him, that didn’t work either. “Why won’t God let me die and get out of this mess?”  The praying for death went on for months, but it was not until he gave in and decided to go on hospice care that a change occurred. He gave in to the inevitable, yet as we all know, our timing is not necessarily God’s timing.  I happen to believe that we all have a beginning and ending date that we are not privy to knowing ahead of time.

            What brought my dad to the praying for death was his inability to accept reality.  The nursing home and all that it entails was not what he had in mind for his end of life.  He wanted to be at home, his home, and not among the forgotten.  My stepmother was unable to care for him, and daddy did not want to pay for nursing care around the clock at home.  He did not want to live with my brother or me, he wanted to live and die at home without any hassle or extra expense.  He had a plan, but it simply could not be executed.  He was too sick and a little too stubborn.


            “They’ll park me in the hallway with the rest of the wheelchair people and forget about me.  I’ll just be lost with all the others, drooling in our bibs.”  His attitude and gloomy description of how it would be did not help him acclimate to his elder-care facility.  And so, for a long while he refused to leave his private room, preferring his own company to anyone else’s.  He would prop up in bed and pretend to read the newspaper for hours.  He would religiously watch Wheel of Fortune and reluctantly participate in physical therapy.  When my brother or I visited we would bring him a Blizzard from Dairy Queen, as per his request.  “Nothing tastes good except ice cream,” he would say, but after a few bites, he would tell me to put it in the freezer in the nurse’s station for later.  “Be sure to put my name on it so no one will eat it,” he’d say.  And I would walk down the hall to the freezer knowing that when I opened it, there would be at least five uneaten Blizzards with his name on them, waiting in line to be thrown away.

            When I have had hospice patients in the nursing home, my visits become routine.  My last patient, Eunice, I visited every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.  After her breakfast, which she liked to sleep through, I would arrive and we would ‘get to doing,’ as she would say.  I painted her nails, we talked about her husband and daughters, and when she was feeling feisty, we would join the group for bingo in the recreation room.  Sometimes we would sit on the patio and just feel the breeze on our faces and hear the faint sounds of traffic or children playing down the street.  And sometimes, when she was feeling brave, I would record her inner thoughts about life and love in a spiral notebook her girls would read one day after she was gone.

            But Daddy had a point about being forgotten.  Even though I was there for Eunice, and my brother and I were there for my dad, there are a number of people who have no visitors.  There are forgotten mothers, fathers, aunts, and uncles.  The forgotten who are parked in a wheelchair by the big screen T.V. playing old black and white movies all day long or lined up in the hallway waiting for lunch.  The forgotten who slowly morph into the invisible.


            When I would visit Eunice every Tuesday, there were other residents that looked forward to my smile and cheerful banter.   I could feel the stares and see the usual neighbors wheeling by us, just to say hello.  “Is this your daughter, Eunice?”  They would ask every week.  They watched me, hoping I would come over to where they were, and oftentimes, Eunice would tell them to go away because we were trying to visit.  She was jealous of our time and wanted it all to herself.  I could see the rejection in their faces and the deep longing to be remembered.

            Being invisible doesn’t happen overnight, it is a slow process of being over-looked, being put on a shelf, or being sat down, both metaphorically and physically.  There are mirrors over the sink in nursing homes, but if you’re in a wheelchair you might not be able to fully see yourself.  Sometimes our invisible ones have not looked into their own eyes in a very long time.  To see yourself as you once were and as you are now, is a reminder that you are still here.  Still the same on the inside, even though the outer shell is changing.

  We are who we are, until the end. 

There are still mean girls and want-to-be jocks in the nursing home.  Another of my former hospice patients, Marilyn, was scorned at the ‘popular girls’ lunch table.  “We already have four sitting here.  This is our table,” they said, so Marilyn was going to wheel herself back to her room for lunch alone.  On the way to the door, she passed a table of three men who stopped her and said, “Don’t let those old biddies get to you, sit with us!  We’re much more fun and twice as nice.”  And so, she did.  Marilyn became the darling of the men’s table and gave ‘the old biddies’ something to talk about.

There are still women with daddy issues and men who are suffering from PTSD. There are still grateful and happy people and there are plenty of people preferring to be bitter and resentful, angry at life.  Even the invisible have issues like my dad did, but if you’re lucky, one day it will change.

            I guess we may never know what the true catalyst of change was for Daddy, and truthfully it doesn’t matter.  One morning he told my stepmother and brother that he would sign up for hospice, that he wanted to look into getting a motorized wheelchair, and that he put his name on the list to play Bridge.  “I guess if I’m not going to die, I better get busy living,” he said. And we all celebrated the victory with a big sigh of relief. 

            Twenty-four hours later, my daddy died.

            Daddy was never forgotten, but it was something he feared.  He had been an officer in the Navy, and an electrical engineer by trade, strong and capable all of his life.  He did not want to be invisible. No one does.

Why do I volunteer for hospice?  If you had met my little friend Eunice, or Ms. Marilyn, you would need no further explanation.  You would have raised your hand high and said, “Pick me!  Pick me!”  As much as I know my visits brightened their days, those visits taught me to ‘get to doing,’ be grateful, and love life until the end.                                           

  It truly is a blessing to walk beside someone whose end of life is near.  It is an honor to share the sacred space of spirit and to be able to provide comfort and companionship.  It is a privilege to help grieving families or simply to listen.

Not everyone who is on hospice care is elderly, but everyone who has lived long enough will face a certain truth, death.  The road traveled will be different for all, yet with the same outcome.  We all have to go sometime, but how we live out our years depends on attitudes, beliefs, family, circumstances, and how we are treated as well as how we treat others. 

Keep your eyes open this week and look for someone who needs to be seen, who needs a hug or even a smile.  Watch out for those mean girls and invite someone to sit at your table, and above all else, ‘get to doing!’

Posted in #Confessions, Aging

On Becoming Seventy or How I Thought I Would Be Grown-up By Now

            I cried the year I turned twenty-nine.  I boohooed and made such a big deal out of the last year of my twenties.  “I’ll have to be grown up now and learn about mortgages.  I’ll have to stop wearing short shorts and start acting more mature.  Should I cut my hair?”  These are the thoughts that swam through my mind as a young mother of two and looking back now, I wonder why I wasted the last year of my twenties on such foolishness.  Turning thirty did not end my short shorts days.

Daughter Lee in middle, little Amy K. daughter of a sweet friend, and me in short shorts…Rockport, Texas

            Ten years later, remembering my silly response, I stated that thirty-nine would definitely, absolutely be the year I became a real adult. I had one year to prepare myself for the forties, which everyone knows is the hallmark of maturity, the pinnacle of wisdom and sophistication.  My forties were filled with my children growing up, me finishing graduate school, and having a mortgage.  I felt mature beyond my years, but my shorts were getting a little longer, and I started buying readers at Walgreens.

            Thankfully, there was no angst the year I turned forty-nine: only a peaceful resignation that time marches on if you’re lucky.  Silently I marched into my fiftieth birthday with wonder and awe, and in true Boo fashion, my husband surprised me with a special gift. 

We celebrated quietly at home with a home-cooked meal and a delicious strawberry cake made lovingly by Boo. We were sitting at the table having just finished cake when a phone started to ring.  It wasn’t my landline phone, the ring was coming from one of my yet-to-be-opened birthday gifts. 
“Where is that coming from?  Why is my gift ringing?” I questioned.  “Boo!  What did you do?”

            And with that, I ripped the paper off of my gift, which was a beautiful UT Texas orange, flip phone.  My first, very own cell phone. “Hello?”  I said.

            “Surprise!” my daughter yelled. “You got a cell phone!  Happy Fiftieth!”

            Not only did turning fifty bring me a cell phone and other wonderful gifts, but it also brought me a huge red zit on the side of my cheek.  The location made it unable for me to disguise, plus it hurt like heck.

Welcome to your fifties, it said!  You thought you were over teenage acne, but alas, you’re not grown up yet!

Not long after my birthday zit, I had to have a hysterectomy and began hormone replacement therapy.  What is happening?  I’m not old enough to be over zits but too old to have children.  Fifty-one brought me a nice reprieve.

            Turning fifty-five or The Double Nickel, as Boo calls it, was like getting a bonus.  At fifty-five you are considered a Senior, at least AARP says you are.  IHOP, Chili’s, and McDonald’s want to give you freebies or discounted menus and even car rentals want to give you 10% off.  There’s quite a list of establishments that want to help you save money.  So, I ended my fifties on a high note by retiring and starting what some might refer to as living my best life. (in capris, not short shorts)

            When I heard that sixty was the new forty, I held onto that as I slid perilously into the big six zero.  But sixty-five brought with it all kinds of stuff that was hard to ignore.  For one thing, those dang Medicare phone calls started, and the commercials.  “Call this number NOW!”  All of a sudden my mailbox was flooded with advertisements for walk-in bathtubs, electric stair chairs, and even more discounts for seniors.  Was I now a true senior?  A senior-senior?  As the fliers for Medical Alert Systems and adult diapers kept flooding in, I realized that I’d made it.  I was NOW a mature adult.  Grown-up to the max.  The day I signed up for Medicare I felt as if I were in a barrel about to go over Niagara Falls.  No turning back.

                        And so it is as I approach my seventieth year of life.

            My mother was only thirty-three when she died.  I am immensely aware of my good fortune and blessings to have lived such a life as I have.  Her early death is not lost on me as I reflect on all she missed and the fact that she did not have the opportunity to grow old. It is a privilege denied to many.

            I know the true meaning of when you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything.  I used to lament about my hands, saying, “I’ve got my grandma’s hands!  Arthritic, wrinkled, and veiny.”  But, these hands have held my children and grandchildren and they’ve reached for Boo to steady me in life.  They’ve made meals, graded papers, planted flowers, and held the hands of loved ones who have passed from this earth.  I’m proud of them and all the ways they’ve shown up for me.  My hands tell the story of a life well lived.

My grandma was crowned Valentine Queen of her nursing home. (1980’s)

            So, on May 1, 2023, I will quietly arrive at my seventieth year of life, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.   Gladly, I have not squandered this year worrying or plotting.  I’m neither afraid nor embarrassed. I am simply humbled and very grateful. 

And as for the short shorts, well I had a good run.  It doesn’t seem to matter so much anymore, and if seventy doesn’t say “mature” I don’t know what will because eighty is the new sixty and twice as fun as forty.

Posted in #Confessions, writing

Author’s Stepping Stone by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Nancy and I are gathering and polishing our favorite posts for a publishable book of essays. Research tells us we need to create an author’s platform before we reach out to literary agents. Most editors advise boosting our social media presence. Some say using WordPress sites (like are worthless unless you have at least 20,000 followers. Our blog has 269 subscribers, and it takes longer for me to “publish” an essay than it takes me to write and revise it. 

On comic Hasan Minhaj’s The King’s Jester special, he asked an audience member, “What are the most likes you ever got on a photo?” When the guy hesitantly answered, “86,” Minhaj exclaimed, “If I only got 86 likes on a photo, I’d kill myself!”
Should I start stockpiling sleeping pills because I’ve never had more than 32 likes on a photo?

Yosemite’s Half Dome in January (by Gary McClain Gannaway)

For Nancy and me, building a decent author’s platform is as scary as scaling Yosemite’s Half Dome at midnight in winter without a harness, safety cables, or climbing rope. I have no interest in Pinterest; I’ve never been on Instagram on purpose; I don’t know how to get on TikTok, and I joined Twitter ten years ago because a tweet was limited to 140 characters and I could read actual quotes from my idols Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler. Also, I didn’t join Facebook until all the cool kids got off of it.

Create a platform?! I’ll never create more than an author’s stepping stone in a Texas creek during the August drought with nothing but snakes and grackles as my audience. Or considering my Cajun side, I’ll try balancing on a cypress stump in Bayou Fou-Fou where mosquitos attack so fast I can only remain on that wooden platform for three minutes before I’m weak from blood loss.

I yearn to, like Walt Whitman,’“sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world,” yet I cannot get used to not being heard. Our Sittin’ Ugly Sistahs  posts may get twelve likes and seven comments on our blog. Facebook may get over fifty likes and twenty comments. I treasure our regular readers, and I keep on writing because I love to write. However, we lack the skill to boost our numbers.

Last week Nancy and I got advice from a social media expert – someone under thirty-five who knows his way around technology. We weren’t sure what plug-ins were and didn’t know how to delete info. on our blog that was just taking up space. For a large cup of coffee, our guru convinced us to expand our outreach with Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. When I suggested trying TikTok, both he and Nancy gave me “you got to be kidding” stares. 

Therefore, I’ll balance on my stepping stone in the rushing, murky waters of social media and post more content, and I’ll hope for new followers and settle for not embarrassing myself worse than the time I asked my high school students to explain hash tags. “But why smash all the words together? What do hashtags accomplish and why include a list of them?” The freshmen had tried giving me examples, modeling how to create them, and even retaught me how to use them on a blog post. In a teacher-becomes-the student moment, I blinked at their excellent teaching methods but lied when I said, “Thanks. Now I understand.”

Today I will boldly step onto my next social media stepping stone. I may not ever get across the bayou because I’ll likely splash into the murky water; however, I will not drown. I’ll float on my back and let the Instagram pictures and YouTube videos carry me to new places. Maybe I’ll pick up friends and followers along the way. And against all odds, Nancy and I may write something that gets a three digit number of likes! #ItsWorthAShot #WeBelieveInMiracles 

Posted in #Confessions, #Teaching

Rock Paper Scissors

          “Repite, por favor.”



            I heard my professor tap into the headset asking me to repeat the phrase that was just spoken on the tape we were listening to.

            “Senorita, verme despues de clase.”

            See me after class.

            For some unknown reason, I advanced placed out of two Spanish classes from high school and landed in a second year Novella class in which I did not belong. Because I had sailed through high school with little studying, I was ill-prepared to keep up with this high-level Spanish class at Baylor University.

            I slithered into the Professor’s office after class, and he wasted no time:

            “Senorita?  I will let you withdraw passing if you will just get out of my class.  You simply cannot continue.”

            His chair-side manner would never win a compassion award.  He offered no remediation or helpful guidance, as I was evidently slowing him down.

            “But my major. What about my major?  I wanted to be a Spanish interpreter and travel the world.”

            “Oh, Dios mio!  No Miss.  You must not continue.”

            “Ok.”  I said, “But, what do I need to do now?”

            “Just go.  I’ll take care of the withdrawal.”

And so, I went back to my dorm room to pour over the curriculum courses trying to find a new major.  Becoming a Spanish interpreter and traveling the world was no longer an option.  How do you say, ‘end of the line,’ in Spanish?

            Because I had learned to sew with my grandma growing up, I thought I could be a fashion designer, which sounded as exotic as a Spanish interpreter.  I did love fashion and as far as I knew I would not have to take any foreign language, so it seemed the perfect fit.  I called my daddy that next weekend to tell him my news and shockingly it did not go the way I predicted.  I explained the Spanish class situation and that I withdrew with a passing and not a failure.  Then I told him my grand plan to become a fashion designer and see the world.

            “No, you will absolutely not become a fashion designer,”  he said.

            “But Daddy…” I interrupted.

            “No buts.  The only acceptable majors are teaching, or nursing.  That way, if your husband dies later in life, you will have a career to fall back on.”

            “But, Daddy, a fashion designer is a career.”

“Nancy Lynn, you need to become a teacher or a nurse, marry a nice, educated man when you graduate, be a stay-at-home mom and live happily ever after.  That’s what you need to do unless you want to start paying your own tuition and then you can waste your own money on fashion designing.  Comprende’?”

            “Yes, Daddy.”

            “O.K. honey, get this taken care of as soon as possible.  Love you.”

            “Love you, too, Daddy.”

            My exciting idea about fashion designing morphed into a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics.  My certificate would allow me to teach grades 8-12 Home Economics and Science: and also, Kindergarten.  And although I had never ever, even once thought about being a teacher, it seemed that was my best option. 

            In my junior year at Baylor I met and fell in love with a law school student who was also a widower, ten years my senior and had a six-year-old daughter. We fell for each other in lightning speed and got married six months after our first date. “We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout!” as Johnny Cash would have said.

            His mother had been a teacher, so he was as happy about my teaching certificate as Daddy was.  We got married before my senior year, and Daddy even agreed to finish paying my tuition as long as I graduated at the end of the year, and that is exactly what I did.

             After my graduation, my ‘then’ husband still had two more semesters of law school, so we decided that our daughter, Lee, and I would move back to his hometown of Killeen, Texas and I would apply for teaching jobs.  My interview with the Killeen Independent School District happened to be the same day we drove from Waco pulling a U-Haul trailer.  Sixty-one miles of pulling a trailer and entertaining a six-year-old left me a little less than fresh as I pulled up to the Human Resources building,(trailer and all) and after a short introduction, I was told to head straight over to the junior high school.

            “Go on over to the junior high and I’ll call the Principal to expect you.  This could be your lucky day,” the Human Resource Director said.

            When we arrived at the junior high, Lee and I went into the front office, and I introduced myself to the secretary.

            “Mr. Lawson is expecting you.  Your daughter can wait out here with me if you like,” she said.

            The school was old and definitely across the railroad tracks.  I just didn’t know if it was on the right or wrong side of those tracks.  And since Killeen, Texas was near Fort Hood army base, I knew there would be a large population of military children attending the school.

            Before I knew it, Mr. Lawson came out and introduced himself to me and Lee. 

            “Be good, sweetie, and I will be back soon,” I said to Lee and sat her in a chair by the counter in the front office.

            Mr. Lawson and I had polite chit chat and he asked questions about my teaching philosophy.  I had no philosophy about teaching or anything else, really.  I was barely twenty-two years old and well, quite frankly, I thought this teaching gig would be a breeze.

Five minutes into our interview we heard ‘click click, likity tickity, click, click.’  We continued talking but when the clicking sound kept on he said, “Maybe we better check on your little one.”  Opening his office door we saw Lee, singing softly to herself and tap dancing on the freshly waxed office floor.  The secretary clapped and cheered, “Bravo!” and Mr. Lawson turned to me saying, “Well, I have to offer you the job now after a performance like that!  School starts in two weeks, what do you say?”

            “Yes,” I said hugging Lee.  And just like that I moved to a new city, with a new family and a new career.

            I became a teacher, something I never aspired to be or dreamed of being.  It was by default from a Spanish Professor who wanted me out of his class as much as I wanted to be out.  It was a life decision I fell into by sheer chance and because my daddy had a vision of what a woman should and should not do. Was it luck?  Would you call it fate?  Both sound too romantic for what it really was, happenstance.

            I became a teacher, averaging way more than the “forty hours a week and summers off,” that a few foolish people believe is true.  My heart was captivated by the sometimes hopeful, sometimes hopeless faces I would meet each year.   Come August, I planned to do better than the year before and create an atmosphere of learning and respect, and each May I looked forward to time away from the constant responsibility and work, which is teaching.  It was a rhythm I would repeat for thirty-six years.

            In 1990-91 I taught Kindergarten at Clear Creek Elementary School on Fort Hood army base in Killeen, Texas.  The Gulf War had just started when we began school that year and what I remember most are the children and mothers crying each morning as they separated for the day.  In my classroom, our main windows faced the highway, and right next to the highway were the railroad tracks.  The trains ran all day and all-night loading and unloading equipment, tanks, and personnel and often my twenty-five little charges would be gathered three deep looking out the window hoping to see their mothers or daddies.

            “Come away from the window now,” I would say.  “Let’s read a book.”

            “But I think I see my daddy,” one child would say, and the rest would press close, hoping for a glimpse.

            Our school was on high alert and the MP’s (Military Police) were positioned by the doors while nearly every day a young mother would come to check out her children in hopes of moving back home where they could be near family.  It was a chaotic year, yet one I felt most honored to be a part of.  I felt my calling to not only teach these children but also to love and nurture them, providing a safe, calm oasis during their otherwise stressful days.

            As time went on, I became the kind of teacher I could be proud of.  I became a teacher with a heart.  A heart for students from all walks of life, backgrounds, and nationalities.  A heart for loving the hard to love and a heart to bring discipline to a troubled spirit.  I enjoyed each grade level, each school, and each role I played from Kindergarten teacher to Assistant Principal of a large high school.  The job requirements might change but the essence of a teacher stays the same.  Connection.

This connection changed my life in a million different ways, all better than I could have ever imagined.  My heart learned when to be tough and when to be tender.  My patience grew by leaps and bounds as eventually, I became exactly what I was always meant to be.

 A teacher.

Posted in #Confessions, Aging

Smooth Sailing

Recently, because I’m of a certain age, it was time for that dreaded medical test, the colonoscopy.  Everyone fifty and older has a reaction when the word is even spoken, and everyone has their own story surrounding the event and process.  It’s a rite of passage.

“It’s the prep that’s the worst part!”

“Hope you have smooth sailing and that everything comes out ok!”

Oh, the jokes can go on and on and while potty humor does help during this most humbling time, we all know the importance of making sure we are up to date on our tests.  We know it is necessary.

Importance notwithstanding, it is one of the most dreaded, talked about, and joked about medical procedures we older folks have.

Ten years ago, I had the joy of prepping for an upcoming colonoscopy.  I had Boo arrange to get off work so he could take me and bring me home.  I drank all the liquid concoctions, took the pills, and showed up at 7:30 a.m. clean as a whistle, and ready to go. (pardon my pun)

“Good morning!” the cheery desk clerk sang.

“Nancy Malcolm.  I’m here for my colonoscopy.”

“Hi, Ms. Malcolm.  Let me get you checked in.”

Pages began to shuffle and ruffle.  She glanced back up at me, “Did you say, Malcolm?”

“Yes,”  M  A  L  C  O  L  M

The calendar came out.  More shuffling of papers.

Then she grabbed the calendar and said, “I’ll be right back.”  And she was.

“Uh, Ms. Malcolm?  Your appointment is tomorrow.  We have you down tomorrow, the 7th with a 6:30 a.m. check-in.”

I’m pretty sure my heart stopped as I asked, “Are you certain? Oh, my goodness, are you sure?  I had it down for the 6th at 7:30 a.m.”

“No, I’m sure. See?”  And she turned the calendar to show me. “You’re the doctor’s first patient tomorrow.  The 7th with a 6:30 a.m. check-in.”

I felt a flip and gurgle in my stomach, and I thought I would either pass out or take off running to the bathroom, instead, tears welled up and my face got hot.  My lip began to quiver and as it did, a salty tear ran down from the corner of my eye.

“I don’t think I can do this again or go without eating for another day.”  I turned to look at Boo who was all comfy in his chair with a fresh coffee and reading the news on his phone.

“Why don’t you take a seat, and I’ll talk with the nurse.”

“Ok,” I slobbered and dejectedly turned toward the row of chairs near Boo.

I sat down and before he even glanced up from his news, he said, “Ready for action?”

“It’s tomorrow,”  I whispered through my tears.  “I’m on the wrong day.”

His face didn’t move, but his eyes peered up at me in shock, “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m sure!!” I said a little too loud and as I looked around, I saw people staring at me sideways with pity and horror.  My saga had played out as their worst nightmare, and they were checking their own paperwork and sighing with relief. 

Silently, I sat while Boo debated on whether to question me further or just sit quietly in solidarity.  He patted my knee.

“I’m waiting for the nurse to tell me what to do,” I offered, and he patted me again.

“I’m so hungry,” I said to no one in particular.  “And water.  I need a drink of water.”

I went to the restroom.  Walked around the waiting room.  Tried to read the news over Boo’s shoulder and then just sat and stared into space. Finally, I walked up to the window again.

“Did you find the nurse?” I asked the desk clerk.

“Yes, she’s in the OR.  She’ll come out when she can. We have to wait.”

“Ok,”  I whispered.

 Twenty minutes later, a nurse came out and called me over to the side of the room. As I walked over to the door where she stood, I felt all eyes on me.  The collective waiting room leaned one ear toward us, trying to be nonchalant.

“Ms. Malcolm?”


“The doctor said he will fit you in this morning, but you’ll have to wait an hour and a half.”

“Yes, yes, Ok.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.” I said.

She wasn’t smiling, although I wanted to hug her anyway.  “Don’t go anywhere,” she said. “And don’t eat or drink anything.  Not even water.”

“Of course.  I won’t.”  And she turned to leave.

Sure enough, an hour later, she came back to get me.  Most of the gawkers from the waiting room had already been called to their appointments, so I kissed Boo’s cheek and said, “See you soon.” 

“Good luck, Babe,” he said, and I began my walk of shame to the room where I put on my gown and waited for my IV.

“Did they tell you what happened?” I asked the nurse as she finished sticking me with the needle.

“I heard,” she said.  “You got lucky this time.”

“I know,” I said, and they wheeled me off to the OR.

“When do I get the happy juice?” I kept asking, and finally, the doctor said, “We might be able to find you a little bit, even though you’re here on the wrong day,” and then he laughed.  That’s all I remember till later that day.

I was still groggy on the drive home, but that evening as I was more awake, I went to the pantry for a snack.

“Cheetos!  Boo!  How did these Cheetos get here?”

He came into the kitchen and just stared at me.  “Are you serious right now?”

“You know I can’t control myself with Cheetos and now I’m going to have to eat some.  But I’m throwing them out after that.  You shouldn’t tempt me.  You know I forbid Cheetos in the house,”  I said.

“Boo,” he said.  “You threw a fit driving home after your procedure and made me stop at 7-11 for a big bag of Cheetos.  I tried to suggest something else, but you said you deserved them after all you’ve been through today.  You insisted.”


“Super really.”

“Sorry, babe,” I said as I crammed a handful of Cheetos into my mouth.

That was definitely one colonoscopy for the books.  So, this past week when I was scheduled again, ten years later, for my colonoscopy, I had already checked and rechecked my dates and times.

When I met with the doctor three weeks ago, he said, “If all goes well, and you do the prep perfectly so that I get a clear picture, and everything looks good, this could be your last colonoscopy.  You’re almost seventy, so in ten years you’d be eighty.  If this doesn’t kill you it will most likely be something else.  Consider it a perk of getting older.”

And then he went on; “Make sure you follow the prep instructions perfectly.  This morning I had to tell a lady she has to come back next week.  I saw corn.”


“Corn.  She said she didn’t eat anything and followed the instructions, but I didn’t get a clear look.  I know corn when I see it.  No food and no corn.”

“No corn,”  I promised.  “You can count on me.”

Friends, getting older is not for the faint-hearted.  Literally.  I followed the prep instructions, starved myself for two days, and showed up on the right day at the right time and sure enough, everything went according to plan.  There was absolutely no way I was going to have to come back next week.  No corn for me.   It was all smooth sailing.