Posted in Country Life, East Texas, East Texas Livin', Family, Gratitude, Piney Woods

East Texas Livin’

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I’m forever turned around when we travel to East Texas.  Every twist and zigzag, every highway or county road seems to melt into another.  I never really know where I am, until we round a corner leading to the lake, Lake Tyler.

Being an Amarillo girl, I still marvel at the number of trees lining these roads and properties.  The tall east Texas pines are standing proud, guarding the secret beauty of the land.DSC_0347 (1)

 

As we make our way to my brother-in-law’s home, we see glimpses of the lake around each bend.  In between the beautiful homes is a peek at the water, with a promise of more. Everyone has a boat it seems.  Lake life is The Life!  DSC_0327

 

Ahhhhh, finally I begin to know where we are and as we swing into the long straight driveway, tranquility takes hold.  Everything slows down. The family dog and the neighbors’ dog race out to greet us. No leash law here, only welcoming barks and wagging tails.  “Pet me first!” they say.DSC_0342 (1)

The family home is facing the road but as you enter the house you see the true focal point with windows all along the back, showcasing a lush backyard leading to the water.  Gorgeous, large trees make a statement as even the woodland creatures check out the new arrivals. The covered back porch is probably my favorite spot, as it is the length of the house with large fans and comfy rocking chairs.  The porch is your morning coffee shop and your afternoon happy hour, encouraging you to sit, sip and stare…no other requirements needed

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I admit I was once skeptical of the East Texas lifestyle.  But, I’m a believer now, as I breathe in these Piney Woods and hear the friendly clerk at the gas station say, “Thank Y’all, come again and have a blessed day!”

The complete genuineness and country easiness lure me in and ask nothing of me but to appreciate the beauty of the land and the people.  I can’t believe I was once so chichi that I eeked at the bugs and was fearful of gophers and anything else too woodsy. I thought my city ways were safer and much preferred.  I was wrong.

This East Texas life has grown on me and each time I visit, I feel more at home and peaceful.  I see more beauty and gain more respect for the honest family values and sincere friendliness. I am truly grateful for my tie to these Piney Woods.  And to borrow a phrase from the Stop and Go,

“Thank Y’all for reading, come again and have a blessed day.”

 

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Photographs by Nancy Malcolm

 

Posted in Children, Clueless, Eunice, Louisiana, Grandmother, Growing up

Stuck by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Stuck

When I was 5, I pushed my fat face through the stair railings at Grandma’s house. I was sitting on the 7th or 8th step that led up to the spooky attic door where grown-ups had told us “Egor lived.” My first cousin Gina was in the hallway below me (maybe I had hoped to scare or surprise her with my silly stunt).  Unfortunately, I only succeeded in getting my head stuck between the wooden slats and crying like a clueless puppy who nudged a snapping turtle. 

ANDREW on stairs
My nephew Andrew who is too wise to stick his whole head through Grandma’s stair railings!

I do not remember who rescued me from my trap, but I do recall the embarrassment more than I remember the pain of pulling my big head free from the railings. Gina’s giggles mixed with my brother Emile’s taunt, “Ha!Look what Ginger did!” And my younger sister Gayle pulled her thumb from her mouth and asked me the obvious, “Why you do that?”

Years later Gina would tease me with, “Remember when you stuck your big head thru Grandma’s stair rails?” as we both laughed and clinked our Miller Pony bottles.  Gina was right.  I was a chubby-cheeked, Charlie Brown-headed kid who rushed into silly situations.

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My “Village of the Damned” stare, and why does a 4-year-old need a watch?

I still have memories of a few unfortunate messes I found myself stuck in:

Age 8: Deciding to help a wounded opossum take care of her newborn babies as she hissed at me.

Age 15: Talking my 2 younger sisters (ages 13 &11) into hanging out at the motel swimming pool to flirt with some young army recruits stationed at Fort Polk. The guys tried talking us into meeting them later at their motel rooms. My wiser, younger sisters convinced me sneaking out to visit them later that night was a bad idea.

Age 19: Mixing cocktails in my roommate’s Volkswagen as we drove across the river on a Sunday afternoon to a bar where we danced with guys in their 30’s who later that week called us to see if we were available as “dates” for their friends.

Age 35: Driving 6 young boys to Barton Springs for a summer swim and being told, “We don’t allow day cares to swim with only one chaperone.”

My curiosity or my ill-guided bravery often led me to make a few bumpy, rocky decisions.  However, my stupid choices did not usually keep me stuck for too long. Back when I was stuck on Grandma’s stairs my mom or Aunt Toni likely rescued me. I even later served as a “cautionary tale” for future young cousins.

“Remember: Don’t be like Ginger and get your head stuck in those stair railings. Egor might come from the attic to get you!”

Posted in Introspection, Kindness, Words spoken

For Out of The Abundance of the heart, The Mouth Speaks

 

For Out of The Abundance of The Heart, The Mouth Speaks
Photograph by Nancy Malcolm

 

Words can heal us or hurt us.  The spoken word is undeniably powerful.

Perhaps we should all have to obtain a  license to speak; for some people have no filter, no compassion and according to the scripture…no heart.  We could all share stories of words that have wounded our souls.  No one escapes this life without an insult or offense, and sadly we ourselves are sometimes the perpetrator.

 

Today we are witnessing calloused words thrown back and forth on television and in the news.  Angry, slandering terms so effortlessly spoken. Is there no alarm that goes off inside, warning the offenders to stop and think before they speak?  Are these insidious words actually a reflection of the speakers’ heart? Maybe there is venom flowing through the veins, not blood; otherwise, how could so much hurt be inflicted?

 

I’ve been cursed by more than a few high schoolers.  As an educator for many years, I have also observed the hateful, hurtful flying words between teenagers who are in pain and wishing to inflict pain or get even.

I’ve been sliced by an unthinking acquaintance, I’ve been bullied by someone claiming to love me.  And, sometimes, even more hurtful has been a silence, the unspoken word of a darkened heart. I have almost seen the painful word as it lept from its cave. Certainly, I have felt it.

 

How is it that we fellow humans send these fiery darts?  Have we forgotten the old admonishments of “Think before you speak”?  Are we so intent upon hurting other travelers that we purposefully strike fast and deep so as to stop them in their tracks?

 

My dad used to admonish me with “Aren’t you going to fight back?” or “Don’t let them get away with saying that!”  But, I have always been taken aback when someone was rude or hateful to me. I continue to be surprised when someone acts unkind and I am slow to respond with equal vengeance.   Perhaps I am naive or Pollyanna-ish, but I firmly believe that ‘hurting people… hurt people’.  

 

“O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”

 

I do believe that there are vipers whose intentions are not good, but I am convinced that there are other ways besides cutting words to take up for myself and feel safe.

 

If only there were x rays able to see into the hearts of others. Whether it would help us or hurt us, I do not know.  For each of us is responsible for our own words and what we do with them.  Someday we will all be held accountable for what we spoke and the hurt or help that our words intended.
If we could remember to THINK before speaking:  Is it Thoughtful? Honest? Intelligent? Necessary? Kind?  Perhaps then,  we could reflect more goodness from our hearts and not hatred.

Posted in Caring for others, Children, Growing up, Introspection, Love, Mothers, Parenting

Fragile by Ginger Keller Gannaway

I remember the nervousness of holding my baby Shane 30 years ago. He was a couple of days old and hooked up to monitors and tubes in an ICU unit in San Antonio.  Born with transposition of the greater vessels, Shane had undergone an emergency heart procedure about six hours after he was born.  Dr. Bloom, a pediatric cardiologist, reopened the flap between the chambers of my first child’s heart with a balloon catheter that changed Shane from being a “blue baby” to a greyish-tinted baby. Shane would not be a healthy-looking pink Caucasian baby until he was big and strong enough to survive open-heart surgery to get his ticker to pump the proper amount of oxygen to his lungs.

Baby shane and mama
My mom (MaMa Gerry) and Shane Thomas

The morning I first held my baby in the ICU my mind held a confusing mix of excitement and fear. The nurse had to unhook Shane from a few monitors to place him in my arms as I bottle-fed him my pumped breast milk.

A week later a different nurse gave me lessons in swaddling and bathing my son. Also, I was handed a list of the signs of heart failure. She reminded me that Shane was still sick, and he would need extra care until he weighed 20 pounds and could undergo a 5-hour surgery.  Her directions, “Don’t let him cry too much” haunted me and Gary for the next 7 months.

Shane seemed beyond fragile. Bathing him involved getting the bathroom sauna-room warm before we washed his squiggling, crying, slippery self.  Breast feeding was the one thing my newborn and I seemed to get right. Shane was satisfied with his meal, and I felt like my boy was perfectly safe for those round-the-clock connections we shared.

As Shane grew and learned to sit up and crawl, we developed a small amount of parental confidence (until he had his first earache, busted lip, bumped head, or gagging incident).  Later Shane survived his open-heart surgery ordeal, and we worried less when he soon walked and talked his way into toddlerhood. Then in 1990  Casey was born followed by Evan in 1993. I let go of many parental fears since I saw my 3 boys as rough and tumble puppies who were more unbreakable than fragile.  (Like in Truffaut’s “Small Change” when a toddler falls out an apt. window and bounces his way to safety on the lawn).

However, when my boys became teenagers my fears about their fragility returned, and I felt sure about nothing. From the first broken-heart moment to the first traffic violation or the middle-of-the night call for help, I realized that a teen’s belief in his own infallibility only makes him more likely to get in trouble or hurt.

Now my boys are ages 30, 27, 24 and to me they are still fragile. Years before Shane was born, my dad told me that a parent never stops worrying about their children. I hate to admit that Dad was right-on with that observation. These days I aim for balance between fear and confidence when I think about my three sons. I know all of them have strong, loving hearts and minds that will serve them well when Life hurls danger at their fragile parts.

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Evan, Casey, Shane in 2006
Posted in Aging process, Boo, Changes, Husbands, Love, Making Whoopie, Marriage

Whoopie Pie

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I woke up this morning still feeling the effects of our night of romance.  Love and passion mixed with snap, crackle, and pop!  Jackie Collins would be disappointed.

 

Nothing is as easy as it used to be.  I’m really not that old but I catch myself grunting when I get up and sighing when I sit down.  I sound like my Grandma!  While everything works well in my body, except for the knees, I am still experiencing the need for some adjustments with …..you know…”time with my husband”!  Let’s just call it making ‘Whoopie Pie.’

 

During our last encounter, you might have thought we were building something or wrestling wild animals.  “Oh, watch it!  That hurts my knees!”  

“My shoulder just won’t move that way…”

“Could we stand up?  My back hurts.”

“Oh!  My neck!”

“Ouch!  I’ve got a cramp in my leg.”

 

Oh my!  While it sounds as if there might have been a trapeze involved, I assure you there was not.  We did have a good laugh over it (or was it a cry?) and then we thought about writing a book.  A sort of ‘how to’ book for the older crowd.  I know it would be a bestseller, in fact, I can just see us touring the nation or even on QVC selling our Whoopie Pie Package.  gluten-free-vegan-whoopie-pies-e1486862496859

 

We could have chapters with pictures (modest of course) demonstrating safer ways to ignite a spark…without injury.  Maybe chapters by ailment:

Hip Replacement Hijinks

Birds, Bees, and Knees

Arthritis Acrobatics  

Maybe even a chapter for incorporating props like a bolster pillow or aerodynamic swings.  Sort of a Kama Sutra for the geriatric go-getters.  Basically, how to make ‘Whoopie Pie’ without injury or loss of limb.

 

I can even envision a chapter on ‘spiffing’ up your gear, such as embellishing your knee brace with feathers or lace.  Even adding lavender or rose hips to your topical liniment so the medicinal aroma is masked.  The list is endless.

 

Stay tuned, lovebirds,  as the book is definitely in the planning stage.  For now, though, when it’s time to make ‘Whoopie Pie,’ we’re going to spend a few minutes stretching and warming up first.  Maybe that should be Chapter One.

 

Posted in fathers and daughters, Growing up, Memories, movies, picture show

Movie Memory: Cat Ballou by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Cat BallouSince my grandmother owned the movie theaters in my hometown,  I saw almost every movie that came to Eunice, Louisiana from 1960 to 1975.  Movies were surrogate parents that gave my young head magical stories full of adventure, comedy, and music.

Cat Ballou remains one of my fondest movie memories.  Jane Fonda’s big-eyed bright blue innocence mixed with Lee Marvin’s slapstick drunkenness to create a revenge story full of heart and humor. I had a 9-year-old-girl crush on Michael Callan when he surprised and made advances on the naive school teacher, Catherine Ballou.  Then the teacher teamed up with outlaws, both inexperienced and over-the hill, to find the villain who murdered her dad. And tying the whole comic western together were Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye as the banjo-playing Greek chorus. (I still love the rhythmic sounds of “Wolf City, Wyoming…Wolf City, Wyoming.”)

I saw Cat Ballou 4 times in one week, and as I chomped on a full-sized Tootsie Roll, I thought Lee Marvin’s “Happy Birthday to You” mistake at Cat’s father’s funeral was the funniest thing in cinema in 1965.

Later my eyes got misty when Nat King Cole’s velvet voice crooned “They Can’t Make Her Cry” as Cat and her gang of guys slowly rode their horses toward their train robbery revenge plan.

At the end came the (Spoiler Alert) rousing rescue scene when Cat stands on the gallows in her virginal white dress and gives the sheriff “Let’s get on with it” as her final words. Next her merry band jumps into action with Kid Shelleen  simultaneously threatening to fall off his saddle and shoot an escape path for the group.

That year Cat Ballou was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and Lee Marvin beat out Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, Rod Steiger, and Oskar Werner for the Best Actor award! At 9, I was clueless about the status of the Oscars; however, I was aware that a movie could take me back to 1894 when a dedicated daughter could become a train robber and gun down the owner of Wolf City Development who ordered her father’s death.  And a drunken, has-been gunfighter could sober up, clean up, and dress up in time to shoot his evil brother. Finally, the daughter, her young beau, and the other outlaws would still ride into the sunset to the jangly tune of “The Legend of Cat Ballou.”

Happy Oscars Day!! 

What are your favorite childhood movie memories?