Posted in Caring for others, Children, Friendship, Introspection, Parents

Soul Sister (a.k.a. Cousin Gina) by Ginger Keller Gannaway

“Soul” Sister (a.k.a. Cousin Gina)

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Gina and I in Panama City, 1960

 

     We were walking along a Pensacola beach around 8 a.m., after coffee and before the rest of the folks got up. We aimed to walk to the distant pier and talked nonstop the whole way.  Like evenly-matched tennis players, we served and volleyed kid woes back and forth. “He sneaks out the house so often, we have to hide our car keys now.”  “Her grades have dropped ‘cause she skips all the time.” “His room reeks of pot.”  “I hear ya’!” 

     Somehow letting go of our tales of angst gives us a kind of inner release.  We offer the worry and fear up to the sun, the waves, the breeze, and we become free to laugh out loud. Gina and I totally “get” each other, and for two hours we feel better.  On the walk back to our beach-front rental, we even rush into the surf for a quick swim and more laughter as we jump and dive into the waves. Like a couple of kids!

     Gina is my first cousin and my “soul” sister.  Even though she lived an hour away from my hometown, we saw each other often growing-up.  We shared every Keller family reunion or big holiday party at Grandma’s house for sure.  Also, we had full weeks at a time during the summer when we visited each other’s homes or went to our Indian Village camp with Grandma and Stella.

     During the 1980’s we got married and raised our kids in different states.  We didn’t spend long visits together, yet later we grabbed summer getaways when we both became public school teachers. In 1998 and 2010 we even took trips to NYC to visit my sister Gayle and sightsee and reconnect.  Gina and I snap back together easily, no matter how long we have been apart.  We share our Cajun culture, our Keller connection, and our childhood memories, and our family tragedies. Gina is  a close cousin, a trusted friend, a wise woman, a spiritual guide, and my soul sister.  She has a wit like a whip, yet it’s made of purple yarn or silly string. Her sarcasm is swift, yet stingless.  And we share a deep, honest love of movies that began in 1968 when we were both enchanted by Funny Girl.  Walking from Grandma’s to the Saturday matinees at the Liberty and then returning to sneak cigarettes while Grandma napped were big teenage moments for me.  We also worked in the theater’s concession stand and played tennis, went swimming, and obsessed over cute boys to fill the lazy summer days with good times.

     Throughout the sad, sad times and the glory days, humor has helped hold us together.  Two years ago we shared a weekend in Galveston at her sister Dana’s beach house, and while attempting to take a selfie, Gina and I laughed so hard tears ran down our cheeks as we fought to keep the other bodily liquid from running down our legs!

     Now she and I even have similar living situations. My 89-year-old dad lives with me, and Gina lives with her 87-year-old mom (my dad’s sister). So Gina and I chat and commiserate and explain and laugh over phone calls.  We still “get” each other, and as we face family challenges, we share sorrows and successes and above all we laugh.  Gina is a devoted daughter, a mighty mother, and a strong Grandma GiGi.  Time with Gina is always honest and often hysterical. It can be gut-wrenching and still stay golden.  We connect easily, strongly, and soulfully.

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Gina, Gayle, me, Andrew, Yvette in Pensecola (2009)
Posted in Friendship

The Top Ten Types of Friends

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The Top Ten Types of Friends:  

Friends are the flowers in the garden of life.  Our true Master Gardener plants a variety of seeds and from those grow the people in our world.  Some folks are perennials; others are flowering or ornamental, while still others are sturdy trees and some are just plain weeds.

Most of us have a diverse group of friends.  Companions for different times in our lives and different situations.  You know, like the best friend at ‘work’, the favorite ‘cousin’ friend or the ‘cruise ship’ friend which is like the long ago ‘summer camp’ bestie.  Some of these people come and go and some are divine connections that stand the test of time.

In keeping with the Sittin Ugly Sistahs Top Ten Tuesday, here are the Top Ten Types of Friends!

  1. Little Miss Smarty Pants:  This friend is fun, sweet, dependable and smart.  Almost too ‘smart’ if you know what I mean.  This person knows just enough about everything to expound on each topic and be an expert.  Just Ask Them!!!  “ A wise man never knows all, only fools know everything.”

        2. I Love You More:  This friend is sugar and spice and all things nice!  Typical                           responses from I Love You More:  “I love your outfit.”  “Oh, this?  Thanks, but                       LOOK at you!  You always look fabulous!”

“That was a great dinner.”  “Not as good as the one you cooked.”

       “That was fun!”  “That was super fantastic!”

       ” I love you.”  “I love you to the moon and back and then infinity!”

  1.  The Close Talker:  This person, unknowingly steps closer to you while talking.  They’re space invaders, and while their breath is perfectly minty fresh, it is still unsettling to be inches away from the person you are talking to.  Inch by inch….step by step….nose to nose!

 

  1.  I’m Too Busy!:  This buddy is a good guy.  Kind, smart and just an all-around nice person, but….they take themselves way too seriously.  I’m too busy is:  Always sighing.  Always tired.  Always stressed.  Always overwhelmed, overworked, or overwrought.  Occasionally the I’m Too Busy will forget that they are, and actually laugh and have fun.  They need us to help them lighten up.

 

      5,  The Reverse Barometer:  Simply put… if this amigo likes a certain movie,                              restaurant or artist, you probably won’t.  Their taste is opposite of yours…totally.  And,        that’s ok.  

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  1.  The Pollyanna:  Everything has a silver lining!  Each meal is delicious!  Nothing is ever ‘that bad’.  Turn that frown upside down!  Don’t worry..be happy!  “Every little thing gonna be alright…”  Let’s play the Glad game!

 

  1. I’ll Never Be Happy and I Don’t Want You To Be Either:  Nothing good ever happens to this person.  They sum up life by saying,  “Only three things are certain in life.  You live, die and pay taxes.”  This person may not do it on purpose, but if you are around them too much you may get a back ache; the sky may turn cloudy; or the air will be let out of your balloon.

 

  1. The Philosopher:  This confidant always knows a story or tale to tell about any situation.  They can expound on “what you should do” or quote someone famous who has been through what you are going through.  They reason, predict, ponder and think about life and living. They are on a higher plain, sometimes just a little above reality!

 

  1.  The Party: This happy person is always up for an adventure and wherever they go, there’s a party!  Being around this sidekick insures laughter, shenanigans, memorable moments and a great story to tell later.

 

  1.  The Complete Botanical Package:  Often our dearest and most cherished friends have one or more of the above listed traits.  We are drawn to our BFF’s because of the things we have in common and the amazing way our differences round us out.  If friends are the flowers in our gardens, then we must take the time to water, feed and cultivate these precious peeps.

      After all, weeds are flowers too once you get to know them.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Sittin’ Ugly by Nancy Malcolm

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Here’s To Auntie Sue!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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 Changes

My Journey from K-town to A-town Nancy Malcolm

austin-247_1280My Journey From K-town to A-town

Before 1998, I had never thought much about ATX, The Capital City!  My brother had graduated from The University (of Texas), but I never saw myself living there until…circumstances and a job opportunity came my way.  Quickly and magically I went from living in Killeen, Texas, home of Fort Hood Army Base to living in Austin, “The live music capital of the world!”

To say going from K-town to A-town was a stretch, is a tremendous understatement.  The only thing I knew about traffic involved the ‘backup’ when the train lumbered through downtown Killeen.  Why that train could add an extra 5 minutes to your commute.  In fact, I don’t think I had ever used the term ‘commute’ in reference to going to work or school.  That all changed the minute I moved to Austin.

The apartment locator service I used, failed to truly explain to me the terms:  Austin traffic, commute, rush hour and drive-times.  When they drove me to my workplace from the apartment, it was on a Saturday and traffic wasn’t that bad.  So…I signed the lease, luckily for only a six-month term, because come Monday, that commute might as well have been to Corpus Christi.

I’m pretty sure I cried every day for the first month, as I left my apartment by 6:30 a.m. to arrive at school by 7:30-7:45.  To add insult to injury, the commute coming home was even worse.  Slowly, I learned about merging, street closures, three different names for the same street and road rage!  Gratefully, I did find a home much closer to my school, although the six months of fear was over, the traffic was not.

There are, of course, other aspects of Austin that are more endearing and yet also confusing.  O.K. straight up.. I am a Texas girl who grew up in Amarillo, went to school in Waco and lived 23 years in Killeen.  I did not understand what Keep Austin Weird was all about.  Nor, did I ever recall seeing so many weird people in my whole life prior to living in Austin.

Men with long pink hair biking down the street in flesh colored g-strings; watching a million bats take flight from under the Congress bridge; Alamo Drafthouse; The Cathedral of Junk; Lady Bird Lake and of course, Hippie Hollow Park.  I must say, neither Amarillo nor Killeen had any swimming holes that were clothing optional. (that I am aware of)

I can’t believe I have now lived in Austin for 19 years.  I no longer cry on MoPac, at least not every day.  I love all of the unique and cultural experiences our city has to offer, and even though I am a Baylor Grad, I root for the Horns and appreciate The University for what it is.

Austin has the most inventive, creative, rockin’, educated and physically fit citizens in the United States.  Almost everyone bikes, hikes, runs or kayaks and everyone who has a dog, takes their dog everywhere.

I’m still in awe everytime I drive across the river and glance up to see the Capitol building and downtown silhouette against the sky.  It’s breathtaking and I can’t believe that little old me gets to live here.  I am such a lucky girl!

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Posted in Friendship

10 Things I Love about Austin & 1o Things I Hate about Austin by Ginger Keller Gannaway

austin-1402097__34010 Things I Love about Austin and 10 Things I Hate about Austin by Ginger Keller Gannaway

1. Green Getaways   North and South Austin meet at Ladybird Lake as the sun gleams on mid-day joggers, dog-walkers, and strollers. Don’t Austinites ever work?? Parks & greenbelt areas stay crowded every day, all-day.
2. Live Music  Venues from the Erwin Center to the Saxon Pub showcase artists like the Roots and the Resentments for music magic any night of the week. Where do we park for all these shows?? spiderhouse
3. Food Possibilities Barbeque and Tex-Mex lead the pack as the fancy and the casual share the limelight for endless tasty options. How do we decide where to get a burger, taco, or bowl of noodles?
4. Shopping Options ThriftTown thrives as do the downtown boutiques and the main malls. Why do we also need the endless cookie-cutter strip malls that litter the highways?
5. Our People  Hippies and hipsters coexist to keep Austin weirdly wonderful). Do we need so many hippies and hipsters?docs sign
6. State Capitol   Political leaders and their constituents meet, march, and make decisions in our “Call to Action” city. How do we avoid I-35 and Mopac and stay part of the action?
7. Movies   Alamo Drafthouses and the Violet Crown rule for mixing film, food, and drinks while Westgate gives us roomy recliners for cinematic comfort. Why couldn’t Austin keep the Varsity and Dobie theaters open?
8. Festivals   SXSW celebrates technology, education, film, and music, plus we have endless ways to celebrate everything from hot sauce& kites to wiener dogs & Eeyore. How do we getaway from the countless crowds?
9. Education Choices   With Montessori daycares, public and private schools, and top colleges, Austin caters to readers, thinkers, writers, creators, and entertainers. Why do the educated masses have to move to Buda to afford rent?
10.Furry Friends   Austinites love their dogs and cats as much as their kids and grandkids. What do we do with all the poop?HEB

Posted in Friendship

Crawfish Tales (repeat) by Ginger Keller Gannaway

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Stretch Keller with crawfish in Austin!

I have been living in Texas for over 30 years now, and besides my family and friends, what I miss most about Louisiana is the food, and the food I miss most is the crawfish!
One of my favorite childhood memories is our annual Good Friday crawfish boil / family reunion in Indian Village at my Grandma Keller’s camp on the Calcasieu River. Long tables were set up and mountains of crawfish were boiled for over a hundred mothers, fathers, kids, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. As Catholic Cajuns we were not allowed to eat meat the Friday before Easter, so even though that’s supposed to be some sort of sacrifice, I saw it as a wonderful time to get my fill of my favorite food that day! Just like Cajuns to turn their penance into a party!

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Mardi Gras crawfish with Crystal Fox and Julie Welch!

During the crawfish boil, no one sat to tackle peeling those spicy mud bugs as fast as they could. I remember as a kid squeezing my way in and standing between beer-drinking adults. The crawfish were poured steaming hot in the center of the newspaper-covered tables with boiled potatoes mixed in. I never bothered with the vegetables. Getting to the succulent tail meat was my mission, and I became fast at peeling them. I wasn’t as quick as cousin Jaimie who could simply suck the tails out whole, but I held my own. Also, besides the 10 oz. cans of Schiltz beer, we had little bowls of spiced-up vinegar set out. Dipping the delectable tails in vinegar is still the best way for me to savor the precious crawfish.

Nothing makes me feel at home, nothing makes my mouth water and my heart sing like eating hot boiled crawfish with a cold can of beer nearby and fellow crawfish-lovin’ folks crawfish-1at my elbows. And we eat and laugh and tell stories and share jokes and savor the spicy sweetness of fresh crawfish, and we wrap ourselves in the easy times with good friends and family who are connected by food and culture and the best crawfish tails/ tales around, cha!