Posted in Boo, Clueless, Husbands, Marriage

Ptomaine-Schmomaine

dishwasher-449158_1280Ptomaine-Schmomaine!!!!

 

“That’s too much,”  he said. “You’re overloading.”  

“But, I think I can get one more in,”  I challenged.

Just then, with a sigh, he wiped his hands on the dish towel and walked off mumbling, “I won’t be responsible for such irresponsibility!”

The man who never sees a sink full of dirty dishes and can leave a used tea glass parked by his chair for three days has strict guidelines for loading the dishwasher.  Each glass, plate, and utensil is rinsed thoroughly and placed in its own ergodynamic location.

 

This guy who leaves his coffee mug in the garage until the remnants are glued stiff to the cup bottom is a stickler for perfection in the dishwasher.  Overlapping dishes is a sin!

 

“Aren’t you afraid the dishes won’t get clean and we’ll get ptomaine from a piece of baked-on egg in-between a fork tine?  “Aren’t you the least concerned that the dishes are unorderly and just willy-nilly?”

 

“NO, I barked, “ as I closed the dishwasher door and pushed start.  “I’m more concerned with missing the last episode of “Sister Wives”!  I’ve heard it’s a cliffhanger!”

I admit I did for one moment consider he was right, but as I reached for a paper towel to put my cookie on….and clicked the remote, I knew there was no going back.

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 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 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 Finding my voice, Introspection

My Voice In The Lost and Found

 

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Photograph by Nancy Malcolm

I lost my voice….literally.  It left me and in its wake, my confidence fell into a pit.

 

All during my years in education, I would occasionally get a raspy, scratchy voice.  Too much talking and strain on my vocal cords.  But, three years ago, that scratchiness returned with a slight tenderness, and I could not clear the gravel sitting in my throat.

 

With one visit to my ENT Doctor, an MRI and a laryngoscopy, it was determined that I had cysts on my vocal cords and they needed to be removed.  “An easy day surgery with one minor detail,” my doctor explained.  “You must have two weeks of complete voice rest.  No talking and no whispering.” (as evidently whispering is worse for your voice.)  “No sound for two weeks.  Nada.”

 

Before the surgery, I envisioned the two weeks as total “me” time.  Reading, writing and silent reflection, yet when my two weeks started I felt differently.  I suddenly felt very vulnerable.  One dear friend brought me a notepad with a little explanation taped on each page.  “I just had throat surgery and am unable to talk.  Please be patient while I write.”  Someone else gave me a dry erase board to use at home so I felt prepared for communicating.  I was NOT prepared for the frustration at getting people to understand what I needed or wanted.  I was not prepared for the silence.

One day at Walgreens, I was checking out and while touching my throat, I mouthed to the clerk I was unable to talk.  I started to write on my notepad, and she nodded that she understood.  She then proceeded to use a rustic form of sign language to ask me if I wanted a bag and to point to cash or credit.  I wanted to (scream) mouth, “I can hear you, I just can’t talk!” But, I thanked her in sign language and went on.

 

Slowly, I felt so withdrawn and yes, overlooked. My family stopped talking to me just so I wouldn’t have to answer, but I felt ignored.   I felt what many others must feel every single day of their lives, yet, I knew mine would be temporary, or so I hoped. What if my voice never returns?   More and more I retreated into my hushed, speechless world.  

 

Finally, the end of my 14 days arrived.  When I first tried to speak, I was unnerved at the sound of my voice.  Complete gravel…..worse than before.  I was told to give it time, be patient and try to relax my throat muscles, but I realized immediately that I did not know how to do that.  Too many years of strain and stress.  

 

I became embarrassed to speak in public, answer the phone or even go out.  No one could understand me and I choked easily because I could not clear my throat.  My doctor suggested a few things:  another week of quiet, try a voice coach and if necessary, go see a specialist in San Antonio. Another week crept by with minimal speaking and it was determined that scar tissue had formed on my vocal cord.  The specialist could give me shots of Botox to improve my voice and so I made the appointment.

 

Even though the specialist explained how the Botox would help and what I could expect afterward, I was ill-prepared for the exact details of how it would happen.  The first thing they did was record me as I repeated chords and words so that there could be a baseline.  Then I was ushered into an examination room that had low lighting,  Feng Shui water fountain,  calming lavender diffuser and a large screen TV.  There was one large exam chair and lots of instruments….fear started to sink in.  

 

The doctor sprayed my nose and throat with a numbing solution.  A camera was put in my nose and down my throat and a light was put in my mouth down to my vocal cords. Then with a long, curved needle, he injected my vocal cord with Botox.  The whole thing was projected onto the big screen TV and recorded.  I would do this procedure three more times.

 

I admit, I was shy and self- conscious the first time I met my voice coach.   It was unsettling and disheartening to hear myself try to repeat the scales and words she gave me.  I could hear the pitch and sounds, but I could not make my voice mimic them.  She recorded me as well.  My confidence was in the toilet as I heard that first playback.

 

Sometimes life does send you angels and unexpected gifts, and Dara (my voice coach) was that for me.  This sweet, beautiful and talented girl helped me find my voice.  She encouraged me.  She laughed with me not at me and she befriended me at a very tender time in my life.

 

Probably one full year after my first diagnosis, I came to believe that my voice might be as good as it was going to get.  And now, three years later, I know it has gotten even stronger.  Patience and time worked after all.

 

What is lost cannot always be found or restored, but sometimes a new thing takes its place.  I gained a lot of strength from following through with the procedures and voice lessons, and with compassion and hard work, I found my voice.  My new, hard-earned voice that sounds more like me than ever before.

Posted in Children, Gratitude, Mothers, Parenting, Parents

Love Never Fails

 

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Photograph by Nancy Malcolm

Love Never Fails:    
It’s hard to be a mother.  It’s gut-wrenching and heart-warming all at the same time.  Most of us begin motherhood with rose-colored glasses and sheer determination to be the best parent we can be.  We weave in and out of relationship advice, popularity contests, homework, and allowance.  But, sometimes our idealistic dream is shattered when our child has a life-altering accident, unwanted pregnancy or time in rehab.

In 2001 as the Twin Towers were burning, my heart was aflame with fear and uncertainty.  My youngest child had just gone to rehab for substance abuse.  I was so afraid for her future, and I was overcome with grief.  I never envisioned that the child I loved so much would one day become unrecognizable, foreign even to herself.  I did not wish for this compulsion or plan for it as I would a college fund.  Still, it was our reality….tough and raw.

I’ve always been skeptical of those parents who say their children are perfect. Or that ‘everything’s great! She’s my best friend.’  I felt guilty and ashamed that I had failed my job as a mother.  How could this happen to my child?  At times I cried myself to sleep at night because I loved her so deeply.

While my friends were sending out college graduation announcements for their children, I was celebrating the fact that my daughter had found a job on the bus route. While other kids her age were out partying, she was struggling not to and making a meeting every day. I was proud of her in ways other parents might never understand.

This beautiful child of mine turned 23 years old in rehab.  None of us could have predicted how her life would be today…..16 years clean and sober, teaching school and being a wonderful mother to my grandson. Our lives are full of gratitude.

There are a few of us who have walked the path of booby traps and detours, not wanting to look down, trying always to look up.  We carry our children over the land mines if we can, but if they must face the struggle themselves, we carry them in our hearts.  This too shall pass, we silently repeat, wanting to believe it with all of our beings.  We work hard to remember that ‘love’ will see them through.  Love is determined not to give up on even the hardest case.

Love never fails.

 

Posted in cooking with love, Food, Grandchildren, Husbands, Pot Roast, Soul Food

Love Meat

dazzle

 

Back in the day, I was a high school Home Economics teacher.  (Way back!)  One would assume that I have perfect manners; that I can run and maintain a beautifully appointed home and that I am an excellent cook.

One might assume that, but those closest to me know the truth.  They’re well aware of my shortcomings in an area or two and have graciously decided not to say any more about it.

Let me just get it out there…..it’s my cooking.  I may not make fancy dishes or perfect cream gravy, but I can teach YOU how to do it.  No one will starve at my house, but your taste buds might not dance delightfully on your palate.  That is unless my husband cooks.  He cooks with love, just like his Granny taught him.

Oh sure, I have a few go-to menus and recipes that are tried and true, but I’m just as apt to bake a piece of chicken and open a can of green beans, low sodium at that.

My beautiful friend, Fran, shared a roast recipe with me years ago that is foolproof!  We have guarded the recipe all these years, only sharing with our daughters and trusted friends.  Let it suffice to say, that to this day when my daughter makes this roast, her son calls it “Love Meat!”  Could it get any better than that?

Sometimes Boo and I will say, “Let’s not cook tonight.  We’ll just eat cheese and crackers for dinner.”  For me, that is true.  I’ll get crackers, a wedge of cheese, a cutie and feel happy.   Five minutes later, I hear pans rattling in the kitchen and Boo is toasting a ham and cheese sandwich and baking homemade potato wedges in the oven.  See the difference?  L O V E

Not every night is meant to be “Love Meat” night.  Not every meal can be cooked with complete love, but it does give me pause.  Perhaps, I could strive to cook with a little less apathy.  I could try to channel Granny and see if her spirit will guide my meatloaf.  I could think a little bit more about those I’m preparing for than myself.  It’s a start.

I’ll probably never get rid of my bag o’ chicken tenders from HEB and a Costco 12 pack of canned green beans, but I can try a little more love.

Really I can.  All hail the Love Meat and all those who cook with love.

Love Meat

Roast

1 packet of brown gravy mix

1 bottle Catalina salad dressing (16 oz)

1 cup water to mix w gravy packet

Salt and pepper

Put in potatoes and carrots (Mushrooms optional)

Cook in crockpot on low for 8-10 hours

Posted in Aging process, Changes, Gratitude, Retirement

Overscheduled

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Photographed by Nancy Malcolm

Overscheduled:  
I’ve overscheduled myself.   I am irritable and a skosh unreasonable and I didn’t even know it….until now.  This retirement gig is really working out for me except I’m busy from morning until night.  There are so many things I want to do and so little time, that I often set my alarm for 5:30 a.m.  Truthfully, I probably only have 20 more good years left (if I’m lucky) so I’ve literally been cramming my days with things I want to do.

 

There are lots of books I want to read and yet, I hear myself saying that I don’t have time to read them.  Now, that is insanity!!   Going for walks, going to the gym, photography, volunteering, crafting, writing, traveling, Grandchildren, lunch with friends, movies with friends, Words With Friends….Then there are still the household things to do like grocery shopping and laundry;  my days are going by too fast.

 

I’ve even said to my husband that I’m kinda “done” with cooking and cleaning.  It’s highly overrated and I seem to have lost my zing for new recipes and creative organizing. I know in my heart that I could do those things if I wanted to, but there you have it….I’d rather take my grandchildren to the park or snap pictures of butterflies.  I think Joan Rivers said it best, “I hate housework. You make the beds, you wash the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.”

 

I want to be outside some every day, and spend time with people I love every day, free from the computer or phone.  I want to write and be creative in some way, every day.  I want to exercise every day and do something for someone else every day.  And, I want to LAUGH every day.

 

I thought in retirement I would slow down, but I have amped up in a big way, making up for all those working years when I rarely asked myself, “What do you want to do today?”  Possibly, I could try scheduling a ‘day off’ every week, where I don’t have any plans or pressing engagements, but that seems a little extreme.  I feel so blessed to be retired and to be healthy and to be able to live my life as I truly want.  I want to do as much as I can for as long as I can.

 

It occurs to me that this “overscheduled” feeling is a hangover from the working days when often I felt overwhelmed and overworked. My context for overscheduled needs to be revamped. Being retired just means it is now time for a new adventure and that’s exactly what I’m doing.  I need to replace “overscheduled” with “jam-packed with opportunity!”

 

I hear that still, small voice say, “Remember, Lucky Girl, each day is an opportunity for growth, excitement, and fulfillment.  Spend each day wisely, in gratitude and you will not regret it.”  Amen.

 

Posted in First Car, Friendship, Growing up

A Fine Ride

Impala

 

I haven’t always been a rule follower…in fact when I was 14 years old, I started to drive. This urge to drive took over my common sense like a speeding dart heading for the bullseye!  Not having a driver’s license did not seem to bother me and I was even able to convince my best friend that I could teach her to drive, as well.

 

At the time, my Dad drove a white, ‘63 Chevy Impala, so logically that was my car, too.  It was perfect!  I could get three people in the front and four or five in the back.  What could be better than taking your friends for a spin?

 

On this one particular day, my Dad had taken his ‘company car’ to work, leaving the Impala parked carefully in the garage.  As soon as he left, I found the keys to the Imala and began making my plans.  I’m not proud of this now, you understand, but for some reason, at that time I had no remorse.

 

My friend, Nitia,  walked over to my house and we took the ole Chevy out for the day.  Long, LONG ago, 50 cents would buy a lot of gas, so we came prepared to fill it back up if necessary.    I can’t remember where we went, but I’m sure it involved ‘seeing and being seen.’  There was probably a boy or two and maybe a trip to the mall incorporated into our plan.

 

After our joy ride, I was making the turn leading back to my house.  Unfortunately, it also went right by Nitia’s house.  This would have been ok except her dad was outside watering the yard.  When we noticed him, it was too late to turn around, and I instinctively yelled, “Duck!”  For some reason, I thought that was a good idea, and I ducked too.  It must have been a subliminal message or sheer ignorance, but surprisingly we crept safely by her house, ducked down in the front seat.  When we made it to my house, we parked back into the garage and congratulated ourselves on having a great day and dodging her dad.

 

Later that night at dinner, Nitia’s dad turned to her and said, “The weirdest thing happened today.  I saw Nancy’s Dad’s car drive by and no one was in it.”  Of course, she acted like she didn’t know what he was talking about and miraculously, her parents never called mine, but that was a very close call.

 

All during my 9th and 10th-grade years, I sporadically took that grand ‘63 Chevy Impala out for a drive.  I learned to drive in that car and finally got my driver’s license in that car.  It was my signature ride until I went to college and had to leave it behind.

 

If that ole Chevy could talk, it would keep us entertained for days with stories of friends, secrets, near misses and more fun than should be allowed.  I eventually told my Dad about some of my car adventures.  He was shocked, to say the least, but managed to chuckle since it obviously was past the statute of limitations for being grounded.  

 

There might be another story or two about that ole Chevy, but for now, just revel in its sleek, thoroughbred beauty, and imagine yourself at the wheel!  It was a fine ride, yes indeed!

 

Posted in Auntie Sue, Gratitude, I love you, Sittin Ugly

Happy Birthday, Sue!

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Dear Auntie Sue,

I miss you something fierce!  Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of you or see something that reminds me of you.  I think of you every time I go to Walgreens and remember how you loved to get out and just look around.  How you always bought a new Farmer’s Almanac and a Revlon lipstick, Wine With Everything, even though you had two in your purse.  “Just in case, “ you would say.

 

I think of you every time I go into my closet and see the Rhinestone pins and necklaces you gave me from your overflowing jewelry box

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I hear your voice when the weatherman flashes Oklahoma City on the map.  You would call and ask, “Are you having any weather down in Austin?” And then proceed to say, “It’s so windy here it would blow the hair off a dog!”

 

I think of you every time I don’t want to go for a walk, because you braved the elements every day, even using your walker.  You had a path inside and out at your retirement home, where you would walk one mile in the morning and one in the afternoon.  “I’ve got to walk or die,” you’d say.

 

I miss the way we would laugh, especially at ourselves and tell the same stories over and over again, each of us acting as if it were the first time!

 

I miss you telling me how much I look like my mother; how much you love me and can’t wait to see me again.

 

I tried to come for a visit every few months or so.  At the end of our time together, you would ask me when I was coming back.  You didn’t like to say goodbye and didn’t want any long farewells, tears or fuss.  As I would make my way to my car, I would turn around and look for your face in the window and you were always there waving back.  We would stand there and look at each other for those few seconds and my heart would ache, already longing to return.

 

I like to think that maybe on your walks upon the streets of gold, you might pause in front of a big picture window looking down on us all.  I like to think you are smiling and waving, your hand pressed to the pane and you hear me say, “I miss you something fierce.”

 

My dear Auntie Sue was the Original Sittin Ugly Sistah!  She was funny, sweet, loving and true to herself.  She loved God, her family, eating a good steak and Bob Wills!

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