Posted in Friendship

Pinball Classes by Ginger Gannaway

pinball 1

I tell my high school kids that I stopped teaching middle school because I was tired of students falling out of their desks for no apparent reason.  No shoves or outside forces were involved.  I could look up from taking roll and a typical 7th grade boy would suddenly be seized by an unexplainable spasm and be half on the floor, half in his seat as he struggled to hold on to his pencil.

I suppose between the sudden hormonal changes and the powerful mood swings these 11-13-year-olds lost control of their own bodies and their minds as well.

While teaching for 15 years in Texas middle schools, every day was like spending time in a Lake Charles, Louisiana casino.  Full of annoying sounds and ever-changing emotions!  Each class was a crap shoot or a sudden spin of a roulette wheel.  You never knew what you were gonna get, and at the end of the day you either felt like a lucky winner or a huge loser.

Maybe managing a middle school felt more like being  a steel ball in a pinball machine.  As the school bell rang, I’d spin out onto the play field where I’d bump from one desk to another while a variety of issues and voices would light up the board.  From the front of the class to the middle row and then to the back left corner, the class’s demands and emotions would pop and sling me from one ding to the next ping.  Questions like flippers would hurl me around the room as personalities clashed and kids played slap/ tickle.  At the end of the period, I’d be swept down the machine’s drain, only to have the spring-loaded rod pull back and send me spinning onto the next class’s playing field of slingshots and ramps and bumpers and kickers.

So, so many different kids were part of the pinball machine; however one student I’ll always remember was Victoria.  What a bold, loud, and commanding presence she was!  Whether trying to get a friend’s attention by throwing a pencil at her head or trying to finish writing a personal narrative by demanding, “Miss!  Make those ‘fruit bowls’ behind me shut up!” everyone was forever aware of Victoria.

One afternoon another student, Sonya, particularly pissed-off Victoria, and the two girls started yelling at each other from across the room of my rickety portable building.  My feeble efforts to calm the girls down completely failed when Sonya lunged at Victoria after Sonya’s friend Amos urged her to “Get the bitch!”  The noise quickly drew my next door teacher neighbor ( and former Army sergeant) Mr. Samuels into my room.  Mr. Samuels grabbed Sonya while I ushered Victoria to the back corner of the room.  As Sonya proudly displayed  a tangled yard of braided hair in the air the same way Beowulf victoriously held up Grendel’s bloody arm, Victoria grabbed the last word and exclaimed, “Give me my weave back, Bitch!  I paid good money for that hair!”

Sad to say, I remember another fight that broke out one day when Mr. Samuels had taken his class on a field trip.

This time two boys had decided to take their mutual dislike of one another to the “who’s the alpha dog here?” level.  In a typical 7th grade class two simple words may be all it takes to set off a “throw down.”  On this day during Sustained Silent Reading time, Randy had motioned to Sarah to look over at Josh (the football team’s star tackle) who was moving his lips as he read his Goosebumps novel.  Sarah noticed what Randy wanted her to see, and the mean-spirited boy loudly whispered, “Jumbo Dumbo!” loud enough for several kids AND Josh to hear.  In an instant, Josh was out of his seat and had overturned Randy’s desk. The class erupted into a welcomed frenzy that ended their SRR.  Soon others were moving desks around to create a fighting ring, as my loud demands to “Come on! Cut it out!” were drowned out by,”FIGHT! FIGHT!  FIGHT!”

Now slimy Randy was no fighter , so he actually picked up his desk and held it in front of himself like a shield.  Josh just smiled and swatted the desk out of Randy’s shaking hands.

As much as I wished Randy would get the comeuppance he deserved (He was a habitual liar, cheater, slacker, instigator, and all-around jerk), I knew his blood would ultimately be on my hands, so I frantically used the class landline to call for help.

Even though Randy started to try some ridiculous Tai Kwon Do moves, Josh had a smirk on his lips and hate in his eyes as he moved in for the pummeling.

Then out of nowhere Victoria jumped off the ground and onto Josh’s back! (Did I mention she was a big-boned girl?) She actually had Josh in a headlock.  “Ms. G, don’t worry! I got him!” she exclaimed.  “I got em!”  I think the unexpectedness of my rescuer’s actions caught most of the room by surprise.  Two of Josh’s teammates lost their mob mentality and helped Victoria subdue Josh.  I quickly got Sarah to take Randy outside on the portable’s porch, and within minutes the school’s SRO arrived to help contain the situation.

Now, Victoria may not have been an A-student or an eager writer or a lover of literature, but that day she proved a strong asset in my chaotic pinball class.  The moment of that chokehold told me Victoria was ultimately on my side and she became one of my most trusted and respected middle school allies in education !

Posted in Friendship

Sue-isms by Nancy Malcolm

005photograph by Nancy Malcolm


Words are so powerful. String them together and you have phrases, sentences and old fashioned ‘sayings’. Some people are more prone to descriptive verbage than others…

My little Auntie Sue lived in Oklahoma City all of her life. If you’ve ever been there, you know it can be blistering hot or freezing cold and always windy. Auntie Sue weighed 100 pounds soaking wet, so she was a good judge of the elements, if you will. One day, I called her and asked, “Are you having any weather up there?”, which in Oklahoma,  is a perfectly acceptable way to ask about the temperature. She replied, “Honey, its so windy, it would blow the hair off a dog!”. Now, that’s what I call a perfect description.

Auntie Sue was married to Uncle Benny for 50 plus years. Once, when visiting them, we were eating breakfast, and all at once Uncle Benny excused himself from the table. He was gone for quite awhile, so I finally asked, “Is Uncle Benny ok?”. She replied, “Oh, Honey, he got the call of the wild and when you get the call…you better answer quick! You know…his coffee kicked in.” We finished our breakfast in silence. Now, that’s what I call a perfect description.

One last thing to know about Auntie Sue…she was very hard of hearing. She had always suffered with ear problems and hearing loss, but continued to try new hearing aids and was an expert at reading lips. One day, she was reporting what the audiologist had told her at the last visit. “Honey,” she said, “he told me my ears are not going to get better…infact one day I’ll wake up and not be able to hear myself fart!” Now, that’s what I call a perfect description.

Oh, how I miss my Auntie Sue!

Posted in Family, Relationships

Mirror Images by Ginger Keller Gannaway


Pride filled me with warmth on a cold early morn when I viewed the selfie that my 22-year-old “baby” sent me before he left for his student teaching gig in 2016. My laid back lad who wore faded t-shirts and tattered sneakers was not hung up on details like good clothes. In the selfie, however, he wore new brown slacks with a matching belt and a wrinkle-free, cream-colored button down shirt. His girlfriend had given him a slick haircut, and only she and I knew his glasses were held together with Super Glue. He also had the echo of a smile, and my usually laid-back, monk-like Art Major child appeared eager and excited to go to school.

And so the teacher tradition in our family lived on. I retired after 36 years in public school classrooms.  On that chilly morning I looked at Evan’s handsome, hopeful face and remembered owning the latter adjective long ago and far away…

In 1962 I got a blond-haired Susie Smart Doll from Santa.  She stood two feet tall, wore a plaid skirt with suspenders, and a white collared shirt.  She came with a desk and a small chalk board.  At 6 a.m. when I sleepily walked into the big living room and saw this dream-come-true doll under the Christmas tree, I was dumbstruck!  After I found my voice and ran down the long hall to my parents’ bedroom, I jumped on their bed and in breathless spurts let them in on on the massive surprise:  “Momma!  Daddy!  Santa. Brought. Me. Susie Smart!  Can you believe it?!”

So began my fascination with teaching. That year I taught Susie so many things: how to write her ABC’s, simple addition, and the importance of paying close attention to your teacher.  My two younger sisters sometimes joined our class as did the occasional stuffed bear. Susie was the model student who always sat quietly and listened attentively.

Oh, how far from reality was my Susie!  Real life students rarely sit quietly at attention. I remember a day at Pearce Middle School when a seventh grader literally fell out of his desk without warning.  Maybe he was reaching for a pencil on the floor or just rearranging papers on his desk. But with his arms flailing and his legs dancing in the air, he fell to the floor while his adolescent voice squawked, “Whaaa!”

  Fifteen years later I told my high school students that middle school was too much for me because “Students can fall out of their desks for no apparent reason!”

The thousands I’ve taught through the years seem to meld together in my memory with a few highs and lows sticking out: 

Andy, the 16-year-old seventh grader who was taller than I was and glared at me with pure hate when I took him in the hall outside my classroom to use the paddle that every new teacher was given at a school literally located on the wrong side of the tracks.

Victoria, the feisty 7th grader who helped me break-up a fight in my portable classroom by putting the boy who had hurled a desk at another student in a choke-hold and yelling, “It’s ok, Ms. G., I got him!”

Sid, the senior who pulled out his pecker when I went to his desk to answer a question about his college essay after school one day during a tutoring session.

Nicole, the award-winning actor, comedienne, and journalist who awed me with her literary insight and wrote me a thank you card I treasure more than jewelry.

Tyrone, the anchor for our Eye of the Cougar morning announcements who also painted the backdrop mural in our studio and visited me years later and gave me a flyer for the rap band he started and performed with around town.

Dare and Kyle, the crazy campus duo who once hauled a shopping cart full of “shit we found in our garage” as part of their visualization of hell assignment after we read “Paradise Lost.”

In 2016 I wished Evan all the stamina and flexibility he needed to be a teacher. He already had more creativity and compassion than most people can even dream of possessing. He went from being a substitute art teacher to being the audio/visual production instructor (and assistant tennis coach) at the Austin high school he once attended.

Now in the fall 2021 Evan decorates his classroom, sets up his video technology, and rearranges the lessons, videos, and syllabi he has created for the school year that will follow the pandemic year of chaos and Zoom lessons. His beard is longer and his smile less eager. But he has the bravery to match his creativity. More important, he knows how to connect with his students by using respect and a solid sense of humor. He’s ready for all that the educational powers-that-be will demand of him. Teaching is in his DNA!


Posted in Friendship

Amarillo Sky by Nancy Malcolm

007photograph by Nancy Malcolm


It’s raining. I can hear it on the windows and hear the gentle tap, tap, tap on the deck out back. Its soothing, rhythmic, almost hypnotic and ‘gentle on my mind’.

I grew up in Amarillo, Texas. It seldom rains there, maybe because it’s so dern windy, the drops blow away before they can hit the ground. But on occasion, God will send a rainstorm that is so spectacular, it will take your breath away. The lightening puts on such a show, you would think it was the Fourth of July. Long, silver streaks light up the Panhandle sky and they seem to last for minutes, illuminating the whole city. It’s quite a production, quite a symphony of lightening, thunder, light, dark, loud and eerily quiet. Its frightening yet you cannot take your eyes away, it’s nature at its finest. In all my 62 years, I’ve never experienced a rainstorm that can rival my Amarillo sky.

These days rainy weather makes me think of my Grandson, Sam. A few years ago, when he was almost four, he was visiting us for the day. It started to rain and my husband, AKA PaPa, asked Sam if he had ever built a dam. “What’s a dam PaPa?”…and so it began. We three donned our goulashes, umbrellas and smiles and headed outside. As luck would have it, rain water was rushing down the crevice by the curb, streaming down the street…going nowhere fast. PaPa began his explanation of dams and we began gathering rocks, sticks and shoveling dirt onto our dam site by the driveway.

Sam took a businesslike approach to this work and we three labored happily side by side. Of course, being the girl, I did have to take orders. “Nannie, hold my umbrella!”, “Nannie, please help me find more rocks?” It was one of the sweetest hours of my life. Two miracles from my Creator: the rain and my Sam.

PaPa has since made a trip to Home Depot (like he needed an excuse), to purchase more bags of sand that we can use for future dams. As Sam gets older, our bridges are becoming a little more sophisticated. Hopefully we can have a few more glorious rainy days with that precious boy, giving orders, moving rocks and smiling ear to ear. No rainstorm in this Nannie’s heart, only sunshine and a love as big as the Amarillo sky.

Posted in Friendship

Sittin’ Ugly by Nancy Malcolm



In the early morning hours, before anyone else is up, while the cat is still stretching languidly in her chair, I begin my day. In this quiet early hour I can hear the thud of the newspaper being thrown on the sidewalks, the coffeemaker finishing the last few drops and I hear the tick of our clock on the mantle. This is my selfish hour. This is my cherished solitude. I must have it!! This is my time to drink my coffee and absolutely, unequivocally “sit ugly”.
Sittin’ Ugly is a family tradition passed on by my 88 year old Auntie Sue. Her mother did it, she does it and now I do it. I’m sure lots of other people on earth are doing it, but to do it correctly is an art. The art of sittin’ ugly is learned and perfected through years of practice. There are rules of course, and above all, one must respect another’s’ right to sit ugly. There should be no judgment about sittin’ ugly. The fact is, one just simply does…..sit ugly. No judgment, no shame.
Everyone has their own way to sit ugly. But there are guidelines that I find very comforting and helpful to follow. Anyone that is new to the art will surely want to comply. The rules are as follows:
1. There must be coffee. Preferably freshly brewed with everything extra that you need, (cream, sugar etc.) and of course the favorite mug. I’ve never known a tea drinker to sit ugly, but I suppose it could be done.
2. No talking!! No one speaks to you-you speak to no one. Sometimes it may be necessary to point or grunt especially if you have small children and they absolutely must encroach on your time. But, the only talking truly allowed is to yourself.
3. You must sit. My favorite spot is an oversized chair by the window. Above all else, you must pick a comfortable, familiar place to sit. It is always good to be able to put up your feet and have a little table nearby. Your sittin’ area should be away from anyone else who might be awake.
4. You may be asking yourself, now what? I have the coffee. I’m sitting quietly. Now what? The “what” to do part is really up to you. Sometimes I just sit and stare while sipping my coffee. Staring is perfectly allowable and even encouraged. I also read my daily devotionals and have long conversations with God. I contemplate my day and my life. I think. I don’t think and then I may stare some more, all the while continuing to drink my coffee. This part may go on for a long as necessary. One hour is perfect for me.
5. Lastly, about this “ugly” part. Sittin ugly simply means that you come as you are, straight from bed. No primping allowed! One must be ones’ self. Tattered nighty? That’s ok! Acne medicine dotted on your face? Beautiful! Scruffy old favorite robe and slippers? The older the better! Sittin’ ugly is actually a super-natural phenomenon that makes you more good looking. The longer time you have to sit, the better you will look and feel. Try it and see!

Sittin’ ugly is my personal time. It is my favorite time of the day. Sometimes I can hardly wait to get up in the morning just to sit ugly. I am always at my best while sittin’ ugly, mainly because no one is speaking to me or me to them. What a joyous, peaceful time! What a perfect way to start your day, infact for me, it is a necessity.

Some mornings my little Auntie will call me and ask, “Honey, are you sittin’ ugly or can you talk?” It is always good manners to ask first encase one is not fit for conversation.

So here’s to “Sittin’ Ugly”, to having this special time each and every day and to the millions of us who find it necessary for the sustainment of sanity. Here’s to my precious Auntie Sue and all the beautiful ones who “sit ugly”.

Posted in Friendship

Food for Thought


Food for Thought

I don’t trust people who do not absolutely LOVE food. A person’s attitude toward food says a lot about that person. Just look at our cultural connections to food. Texans love their bar-be-que and Tex-Mex dishes as much as Cajuns take pride in their gumbo or etoufee. Also, folks have particular preferences about their favorite foods. Some like fast food fare like burgers and pizza while others yearn for “faun-faun” meals that feature foie gras or pork belly linguine. But no matter what one prefers, just have a preference. Someone with food apathy is not to be trusted. Make sure the eggs are scrambled hard or the steak is bloody rare, if that’s what you crave.
My close friends tell me I have lots of “food rules”; I suppose that’s because I grew up in south Louisiana where we discuss Monday’s supper while we’re eating Sunday’s brunch. One Cajun dish I have a long list of rules for is gumbo. Gumbo is a very important staple that we cook once the football season begins, the temperature dips below 50 degrees, and people declare, “It’s gumbo weather.” (One disclaimer to all of my rules is that most Cajuns prefer gumbo the way their momma liked her gumbo, and there are as many different gumbo recipes as there are mosquitoes on the porch in summer!)
Ginger’s Gumbo Rules (as learned from Geraldine Latour of Ville Platte)
Make your own roux. (none of the store-bought stuff)
Chicken & sausage gumbo should not be combined with seafood gumbo (shrimp, crab, oysters). Make a choice.
No okra in my gumbo (Gerry’s preference).
Start with the Cajun Holy Trinity: onions, celery, and bell pepper. (no carrots or potatoes)
Cook the gumbo with bone-in chicken pieces, and you can debone chicken after it’s cooked.
Add boiled eggs to seafood gumbo.
Skim a chicken gumbo as meat cooks.
Use true Louisiana sausage, like Lejuene’s Garlic Pork sausage, whenever possible.
Add green onions and parsley at the end.
Serve gumbo over white, not brown, rice.
The cooking and sharing of gumbo makes my heart and soul get all warm and fuzzy. Gumbo is my favorite thing to cook – partly because it connects to a social event (a big football game, a birthday, a graduation, an anniversary, or a Mardi Gras gathering). We don’t make a gumbo for just two! Also, my gumbo-making ritual usually includes beer drinking and music blaring, even at 7 a.m.
Even though I have “gumbo rules,” I’m not a gumbo snob. To each his own, right. I respect ALL gumbo recipes because we learn to make gumbo from our momma or our poppa or our Tante Sue or our parrain (godfather) or our close couzine. It’s a family thang base on love of food and love of each other. And “it’s all good, cha!”