Posted in Friendship

Junior League and The Junk Yard Dogs

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Junior League and The Junk Yard Dogs:

It’s almost time again for the Austin Junior League Christmas Affair.  What a grand tradition; full of beautiful decorations, artisan gifts to purchase, throngs of women dressed in their holiday finest and delicious food and wine.  It’s a sight to behold. In Sittin Ugly Sistah fashion, we make the trek to our Jr. League Mecca, along with a few friends, every year.  It gets us in the holiday spirit!

We loaded into my car, giddy with anticipation, wondering how best to see it all, shop as much as possible and of course decide where to eat afterward.  We made our way cross town and arrived at the venue.  Crowded streets and a FULL sign at the parking garage, made us circle around again until we saw a half-empty parking lot……….at Hooters!

How ironic or serendipitous that Hooters is caddy corner to the Junior League Christmas Affair.  “Perfect!” we squealed.  “Let’s park here!”  I do have a little ‘safety Sue’ in me, as I questioned, “Are you’all sure we should park here?”  The answers came back fast and furious:  “Sure!  Everyone does!”

“Why not?”

“We could go into Hooters and have a drink first if you feel guilty about parking here,”

Bottom line?  We parked and excited about our close proximity, almost skipped across the street to the “Affair.”

More than three hours later, laden with packages, relaxed from a little wine and starving for Mexican food, we walked back across the street to Hooters.   The parking lot was now full with the late lunch crowd, but as we sauntered to our spot, something was missing…..my car!  Somehow, we had missed that little sign that said: “All cars will be towed unless you are a Hooters patron.”                               

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Refusing to believe it, we walked the parking lot two more times, until we were finally convinced the car had been towed.  Ever the optimists, we found the phone number in tiny print on the sign and called.  I naively thought we would call and maybe they would bring us the car or maybe it was parked at a nearby lot.

My face went ashen, my wine glow slowly disappearing…as I listened to the unhappy voice on the other end of the phone.  Sure enough, miles away, in some obscure impound lot was my new Honda Accord.  Gulp!  Not wanting to call Boo, (for obvious reasons), one of the girls said, “Let’s call my daughter, Audra.  She won’t mind, I’m sure.”  We all watched and listened as my friend made the call.  “Hi, honey!  You’ll never guess what!”

Waiting in the Hooters lot, our holiday finest was beginning to droop and we were beginning to lose our appetites.  In fact, under the stress, one of us (who shall remain anonymous) bummed a cigarette off of a Hooters kitchen worker on his break.

When Audra pulled up, we cheered and then we realized she was driving a Honda Fit. We crammed our packages into the trunk and folded ourselves into the back seat.  We kinda had that ‘clown car’ feeling!  Audra was laughing but probably more than a little concerned about the Hooters Hooligans or Geriatric Gangstas as she called us!  Inching our way, during 4:30 traffic, we finally made it to the lot.

Barbed wire fences, growling junkyard dogs and no door in sight, I left everyone in the car and said, “Call the Police, if I don’t come out.”  I don’t know what I was thinking, but I can tell you it wasn’t $260.  I cautiously walked through the gate, bypassed the fenced-in dogs and found a small building with a dirty window.  I stepped up and a twenty-something girl asked which car was mine.  I told her, and then tried to make polite conversation, but she really wasn’t interested.  Finally, she said, “Lady, are you by yourself?”  “Oh, heavens no,” I said, “I’m with friends!”

She solemnly told me the amount, $260.  I solemnly slid my credit card through the dirty slit in the bulletproof window.  She smirked at me and pointed to the sign…..CASH ONLY.  “Oooops!” I said.  “ I’ll be right back.”

Silently I was praying, “Dear God, please let my car still have its tires.”

The girls and I emptied our purses, regretting that last purchase and round of drinks, but we managed the $260 between us.  I paid and we all rejoiced as I was led to my car and started it up.  Yippee!  No dents and all the tires were there.  

We hugged Audra, said our thank you’s and gathered our purchases to transfer into my car.  “Goodbye you Hooters Hooligans!” she laughed and off we went to get that much needed Mexican food.

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Posted in Gratitude, Letting Go, Motherless daughters, Saying Goodbye

How to Say Goodbye

How to Say Goodbye

 

How to Say Goodbye  by Nancy Malcolm:

I am unsure of how to tell you goodbye.  I’m holding your hand as if you were holding mine back and my breathing has slowed to match yours.  I sit as close to you as possible, but I don’t know how to say goodbye.  My mind is searching for the right words, but my heart is whispering “don’t go”, “don’t leave me”.  I’m at a loss as to how to say goodbye.

Because my mother died when I was so young, I am both familiar with loss and petrified of it.  For years, I tried to avoid all funerals except when it was a family member or I sensed that I was expected to attend.  Even then, the fear and discomfort I suffered was overwhelming.  It brought a flashback of emotions from long ago as if it were a fresh cut.  I just didn’t know how to say goodbye or let go of a loved one.  It is too much to ask of anyone, really.

How ironic that now I am a hospice volunteer.  Ironic? Or is it divine providence?

When I retired, I wanted to volunteer in some way.  No matter what I researched or thought about, I always came back to hospice.  Even though the thought of it scared me, it also tugged at my heart and settled in.  There were trainings and workshops and the many other volunteers who bade me welcome, saying: “You’re embarking on a sacred journey, friend, a chance to walk with another soul toward peace.  It will change your life forever.”  And they were right.

In my 6 ½ years, I have grown and changed and calmed.  At first, my nerves restricted me.  I felt that old familiar uneasiness and gut-wrenching clinch when I would begin my shift, but by the end of my visit, I would be at peace.  As time went on, I felt my whole insides becoming rewired.

One of my favorite patients still lived at home, when I met him.  He was a widower and had round the clock care. The three of us;  my patient, his caretaker and I shared many a Tuesday afternoon; peacefully sitting on his patio.  If he was feeling good and weather permitted, he and I would stroll around the yard as he pointed out each plant by name. He loved to tell stories about him and his wife gardening together.  As time went on, we just sat on the patio, hand in hand and passed the time in silence, only interrupted by the buzzing of a bee.  Sometimes, he would look over at me and smile, and on more than one occasion, I heard him say, “I’m going to miss my garden.”  “I know”, I said. “I know.”

My hospice patients have become like family, as was the case with a very special woman who I had the pleasure of knowing for three years.  Once a week we would get together to visit.  She would always be sitting in her chair, knitting or crocheting an intricate project.  Over the years she taught me to knit as she also shared stories of her faith and family.  Her eyes would light up when I walked into her room and my heart would always be full when I left.  We had an unconditional love and respect for one another that comforts me still to this day.

I have been so blessed and fortunate to have spent time, space and breath with these beautiful souls.  I’ve learned a lot about life and a lot about dying with dignity and grace.

           -I’ve learned that how you live is most likely how you will die.

           -No matter who you are; soft, human touch comforts.  It tells you, without the need              for words, that you are not alone.

I have had spiritual awakenings and unexplainable happenings.  I have laughed, cried, loved and felt someone else’s fear.  For, after all, we are still ‘ourselves’, even ravaged by disease or weakened with age.  We live until we die, in fact, dying is the last act of living.

The beautiful souls I have known through hospice have healed my heart, even as it breaks for them.  I no longer am afraid.  I no longer resist saying goodbye, when it is time.  Because I know, that just as I am saying goodbye and they are gone from my sight;  there are other souls rejoicing, as they are welcomed home on the other side.

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Posted in Friendship

Why I Write by Ginger Keller Gannaway

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Yesterday at the Texas Teen Book Festival I heard the powerful writer, poet, rapper Jason Reynolds speak. He talked about a teenaged student he once taught who regularly cussed him out in class, and later Reynolds realized the boy was illiterate. However, this student was also extremely clever, creative, and very resourceful. Not being able to read or write caused him to act out in school because of frustration and anger.  James Reynold and me

Reading and writing can give us powerful ways to connect with our world. Literacy gives us voices. And just like the frustrated toddler who cannot make his mother understand that he does not want apple juice; he wants grape juice because apple juice reminds him of the time his cousin force-fed him a jar of apple sauce, we need to communicate our desires as specifically as possible to those around us. Also, this need to communicate grows larger as we grow older. Our world becomes flooded with information from so many sources, and we receive info all day long so that we often feel the need to respond with our own opinions, thoughts, and dreams. We take in so, so much that we naturally want to give out or give back to the universe that is always trying to get our attention.

Some people respond to the world with physical actions (athletes, dancers, builders, designers); others make music or paint or act or create comedy; others do research, conduct experiments, invent things, or study formulas; others pray, advise, teach, protect, or help others. Some connect to their world through writing. They share ideas that inform and entertain others. They examine past worlds, evaluate our present world, or create new worlds. No matter the method or aim, they write these “words, words, words” to help themselves make sense or even cope with their own lives.

Even though I have written all my life, I did not consider myself a “writer” until about three years ago. Now I remember way back in the third grade when I had gotten on a silly poetry kick where I wrote terrible riddles and rhymes for my classmates. I produced notebooks full of pitiful poems for an audience that admired unoriginal and ridiculous rhymes. (Remember they were 8 years old!)

3rd grade class
Mrs. Sally’s 3rd Grade Class, 1964

“We might cry
and wonder why
Our world’s a mess
with nothing but tests.
But don’t give up.
Don’t hit your pup.
Don’t go in a trance
or poop your pants.
We will soon have nothing to fear
Cause in just 10 days summer is here!”

As a timid, bespectacled girl who walked with a limp, I basked in my peers’ brief attention like a happy turtle on a sunny stone in a small pond. My little head poked out and I was smiling at the bright warmth of their third grade praise. But in less than a week the world returned to its normal ways and I went back to my shell of shyness.

Fast forward 50 years and now I write for family and friends on a blog with a fellow writing friend. The experience actually reminds me a lot of third grade. I feel comfortable and uneasy at the same time. I enjoy the little blue-colored likes and the comment here and there about what I write, yet I also worry that I will either bore or annoy my not-8-year-old audience. However, my writing uneasiness is nowhere as strong as the joy I get when I write. Writing makes me feel worthwhile, and all my physical and emotional shortcomings are revealed only when I decide to uncover them.

Is that not powerful? I control what is thrown up on the computer screen or down on the page. Freedom of expression can be like wiping the sweat from your forehead or pulling a splinter from your thumb or letting out a laugh that I fought to hold in and then I laugh until it almost hurts and I take a deep breath that turns into a soft sigh and ahhhhhh.  All seems right with my world for a short time.

Nowadays even folks who claim to “hate writing” have power of expression with their tweets and their FB posts. And the Instagrammers and the Snapchatters use pictures and videos to express themselves.

BUT the power of words for me is the most special. Words are not full of color and sound and flash and movement. They are mostly basic black and are carefully arranged like sticks and stones in row after row. They could be scrawled on a filthy bathroom wall or printed unevenly on a homemade Valentine or etched into granite or scripted with swirls and dots on a suicide note, but all the words were written to connect with someone, somewhere. These stick figures of anger, pain, love, hope, despair and wit have the ability to cause us to think and to feel deeply.

These days I do not feel powerful about anything in my life except writing. Most of life feels way beyond my control. I scribble my way through heartaches and confusion as well as through successes and celebrations. I fill journals, yellow tablets, cards, and letters with sorrow and regret and joy and gratitude. And whether the words I write make sentences that have honest strength or sentences that have awkward confusion, the sentences are mine. I may throw the words away or rewrite them in different ways or hide them in the back of a junk drawer. But I have power over my words and every time I write I feel less alone and less powerless.

Famous writers tell unknown writers that they should continue writing whether or not their writing ever finds an audience because writers write because they feel they must. It does not matter if anyone ever reads what they have written.

Such advice looks good on paper and sounds good in a pep talk; however, in reality writers usually write for others, not only for themselves. Writers may feel powerful as they write, write, write. However, if their words are never read by others, that power fades over time as their sentences get cozy with a small kind of silence.

So thank you, thank you to those who read my words.

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Posted in Auntie Sue, Gratitude, Introspection, Sittin Ugly

The Nose Knows by Nancy Malcolm

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The Nose Knows:  

One of my favorite smells is coffee in the morning.  I love, love, love my coffee and I’ve been trying to slow down enough to actually breathe in that fresh, nutty scent before I take that first sip.  I do believe that long, fragrant sniff makes it taste even better.

At a time when many folks are choosing “scent-free”, and “free of perfumes” laundry detergent and dryer sheets, I am going the opposite direction.    “Island Fresh”?…Aloha!    “Febreze with Odor Defense”?…yes please!     “Apple Mango Tango”? … Count me in!  I’m just one of those people who enjoys doing laundry and I especially love for my clothes to smell good.  Yes, I sniff my clothes….is that peculiar?   Whenever a grandchild spends time with us, I always send them home with clean clothes.  My daughter sometimes says as she hugs her son,  “Your clothes smell like Nannie!”  Is it a bad thing to have your clothes smell like Nannie’s house?  I think not!  Oh sure, I understand allergies and I do have the ‘clean and clear’ which I gladly use for one of our little ones.  But, for me…..it’s “Tropical Sunrise” and “Moonlight Breeze” all the way!

My brother still makes fun of my nose and refers to it as the family schnoz!  But, this nose has smelt some pretty incredible aromas in this lifetime.  Just last week I had the blessing to breathe in that ‘new baby’ smell.  It was a combination of fresh, musky sweetness and warmth, with a hint of vanilla.  If preciousness has a scent…that was it!DSC_0332

And, what about the smell of chalk dust, floor wax and yeast rolls on the first day of school?

garden-339236_640A fragrant rose or lily

Sweaty little boys who’ve been playing outside (this one is questionable)

A deep breath of air from a crisp New England day       DSC_0250

Remember Claire Burke original potpourri?

Cinnabons fresh out of the oven…

A new book?

Rain

The list is endless really if I choose to just slow down and breathe in this life I’ve been given.  Many of my fondest memories and joyous occasions are marked by a scent that even now when I get a whiff of it, transports me in time.  And what I wouldn’t give to hug Auntie Sue’s neck right now and smell that SCAN0046Clinique Aromatics Elixir or Estee Lauder perfume.  It has been said, that of the five senses, smell is the one with the best memory.  I believe that to be absolutely true.  

 

Nothing in the world smells as good as the person you love. We all know that for sure.   It seems our hearts are directly connected to our sense of smell.  The nose always knows….a scent can paint a more detailed picture than an artist with oils.

 

So, let us daily, breathe in deeply and be mindful to acknowledge this free gift.  ‘Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.’ Helen Keller       Amen.

 

Posted in Falling down, Introspection

I Fall Down Sometimes

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I Fall Down Sometimes:   by Nancy Malcolm
My freshman year of college I went on a trip to Boston with my Dad.  He was attending the Naval War College in Rhode Island, but we met in Boston to do some sightseeing.  After our week of fun, we were literally racing to make my flight home.  As we bounded down two flights of stairs in the parking garage, I tripped on my bell bottom pants and flew end over end to the ground.  Crying, bruised and with a bloody knee, I hobbled onto the plane and found my seat just minutes before take off.  To ease my pain, though, as the plane rose in the sky, I rummaged through my purse to find an old Tarryton 100 cigarette and lit up!  Ahhhh, the good old days, when there was a “smoking section” on airplanes!

I fall down sometimes, but I always get up.

Once, in Ruidoso, New Mexico, I sprang out of the car, after a 30-minute monologue about the beauty of the snow, mountains, clean air and how I couldn’t wait to become “one with nature”.  I took exactly five steps before my feet went out from under me.  It was all in slow motion as my feet casually rose skyward and my bum harshly went downward onto the icy, snow/mud sludge.  With hurt pride and a wet bottom, I hobbled back to the car for dry pants.  

I do fall down sometimes, but I always get back up.

Even now, without much effort, I can recall three other falls on ice.  I always landed on the frozen tundra and embarrassed and/or hurt myself.  You would think an Amarillo girl would be more sure-footed, but not so.

I do fall down sometimes, but I always get back up.  

I could go on and on about my tripping over my feet, stumbling and losing my balance.  I’ve had a lifetime of near misses and bullseyes.  I’ve hurt myself; hurt my pride and bruised more than my ego.  But, in falling, as in life, it’s the getting back up that counts.

Whether you fall down, fall over or fall off, it’s always worth the effort to get back up.  As my friend Minion says, “I don’t trip.  I do random gravity checks.”

Posted in Aging process, Exercise, Introspection, Old Age

I Fall Down A lot by Ginger Keller Gannaway

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At 61, I am out-of-shape and off-balance (both physically and mentally).
It makes perfect sense that I’m prone to falls. In the last year or so, I’ve had 3 falls. Each time I felt like it was a slo-mo fall. In those 3 or 4 seconds I told myself, “Get a grip and straighten up! You don’t have to fall.” Of course, I fell faster than I could utter the previous words.

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Two of the falls happened as I was walking my 60 pound dog, Millie. Millie did not yank me down outright, but on both occasions she tugged at her leash enough to throw me off balance. Both times I was not properly monitoring Millie’s unpredictable behavior. For Millie, another dog seven blocks away seems like special canine crack.. Her ears wiggle, her head faces the distraction and her eyes look for what her nose smells. At such times, I wrap her leash tighter in my hand and I search for what has excited her senses. When I discover the approaching dog, I say, “Leave it, Millie” and I follow with “Good girl!” if she fights her urge to bark like a fire alarm and try to run toward the other animal. However, before Fall #1 I was chatting with my brother as we walked and I fell in the damp grass when Millie made an extra-quick turn around. And for Fall #2 I thought Millie and I had safely walked past a strange dog with no barking, and then she split up my “Good” and “Girl” with a sudden halt to smell a branch near a gutter. And both of my knees slapped the pavement in a flash. For both falls I inwardly cursed Millie even though I knew my crappy balance and old lady reflexes were to blame.
Lately, I feel like my skin, my bones, and my internal organs are conspiring to murder me. They are sick and tired of my clumsy stumbles and my spastic trips & falls. “Just die already” they mutter to each other. “All you do is bumble, fumble, and tumble your way thru a day.”
Although my two aforementioned falls were superficial and handled with a few 4X4 band-aids and some Neosporin, my 3rd fall was a bit messier. It happened in the summer when I was in my hometown with my siblings and a very loyal friend cleaning out my grandma’s attic.
Our first mistake was deciding to clean out an attic in a 152 year old house in south Louisiana in August! We would get up early to face the attic’s heat and dirt and chaos, and then get the hell out of Dante’s Inferno before noon. Then we’d walk to Ruby’s for our plate lunch reward. cracked sidewalkThat Monday as we were walking back to our attic work, I tripped on an uneven piece of sidewalk and made an ungraceful dive into the concrete. The fall included an elbow scrape and a quick head-bounce as a finale. I did not pop up after this fall. I thought I heard muffled snickers, so I pitifully said, “I’m really hurt here.” Loyal Mark immediately tried to help me up, but I told him to hold up as I needed to carefully figure out how I was gonna pull my overweight, off-center self up from the ground.
I managed an unladylike, slow, painful rise from the broken sidewalk as I brushed twigs, grass, and leaves from my palms, forearm, and knees. I straightened my cockeyed glasses and discovered the plastic frame was cracked to the left of the nose bridge. Now I was humiliated, scraped-up, and potentially blind.
“Falling” sounds so much like “failing” and I feel like a falling failure a lot lately.

My mirror states the obvious- “You old…Bitch!” Yet my mind and my heart argue with the obvious truth of my aging. I still understand a novel’s subtle themes or a movie’s complex visual metaphors. My insides still flutter when I hear a powerful song, and I still yearn to enjoy cool going-ons around town. However, when I do go out, the risk of embarrassment has gone way up. My physically crooked, lazy, off-balance, inflexible, unsightly self will most likely show itself to be the 61-year-old specimen it is.
I will continue to fall down a lot. And that’s just a chance I gotta take.