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

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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

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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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Posted in Boo, Food, Husbands, Marriage, Sharing

Split or Share?

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Split or Share:  

 

My Boo is a Saint!  When we go out to eat, I will usually order the veggie plate with grilled chicken and he will order the chicken fried anything with cream gravy, fried okra, and mashed potatoes.  He knows full well, that I will want a bite (or two) of his and he’s okay with that.  “I’m a sharer, Boo.”  he’ll say, “But, not a splitter.”

 

Sometimes I want to split.  “Let’s order the filet and split it,”  I’ll suggest.  “I want my own filet.”  he’ll say.  “You get what you want.”  We have friends who split.  I don’t know why, but it seems sweet and romantic; not to mention economical and lower in calories.  It’s a sign that they ‘agree’ on everything and even their taste buds are in love.  You think I’m probably reading too much into it????

 

Sometimes I try to dance around it by saying, “Why don’t you get the filet and I’ll get the salmon and we can share?”  He is not fooled by my tactics and will readily say he doesn’t want salmon but I am welcome to a bite of his steak.

 

I have to admit that it’s one of the things that first attracted me to him.  He shares his food.  He doesn’t mind if I stick my fork onto his plate to taste just a bite.  He never says a word when I use my fingers to pluck a piece of fried okra from his bowl at Luby’s.  He always gives me the 1st bite of his dessert and he’ll even give me the best bite of his hamburger.  And, when I foolishly say I don’t want any popcorn at the movie, he’s already planning to set it between us.  He’s a saint, really.

 

To all of you splitters out there….I applaud you, but I’m sticking with my sharer.  He knows I will most likely order the healthy option and yet want a few bites of his delicious unhealthy choice.  By the way, I always ask if he wants a bite of mine, too, but usually, he declines.  That Boo….he really is a Saint!

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Posted in Gifts, Gratitude, Introspection

The Unexpected Gift

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The Unexpected Gift

A Gift is defined as something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation…to bless, favor, bestow or endow.

 

Most of the time, gifts are given and even anticipated on our special occasions and celebrations.  We look forward to beautiful wrappings and a loving sentiment, maybe something chocolate or favorite flowers.  However, occasionally we receive an unexpected gift.  Suddenly, with no warning, no fanfare..a gift arrives unannounced.

 

This unforeseen bestowal is usually not wrapped, at least with outward paper and bows.  It almost never has a gift tag announcing the recipient,  because these unexpected gifts come in unassuming packages tied with love and ensconced in undeserved grace.  Sometimes they lie within the outer trappings of a thing called ‘duty’ or ‘guilt.”  They hide in unattractive paper, a grimy hand or eyes crinkled with age.

 

In August 2014, my oldest daughter waited to receive results from her recent medical tests.  I remember we sat in a small examination room as the doctor blurted out all manner of medical jargon and then abruptly announced, without flinching, the diagnosis of ‘cancer.’  We sat there for a long time after he left the room, our fear and sadness hung in the air like a dense veil, covering even the light.  For six months, I watched her face frightening challenges.  I sat beside her as ‘healing poisons’ traveled through her veins, and she never gave up.  We cried together and talked together and reassured each other, even though we could vividly taste our horror and panic. But, as time went on, the gift arrived.  

 

The gift surprised us with unexpected laughter at the most inappropriate times.  It came wrapped in knowing glances and hands held tight; it bloomed within us as we grew closer and more accepting of each other.  Our unexpected gift grew out of the fire and ashes, and we knew that no matter what, this gift of love and acceptance was meant for us.  

 

Let there be no mistake….an unexpected gift is real and genuine and meant exactly for the one who is brave enough to open it.  I have heard before that there is a ‘gift’ inside every hardship, every problem.  There are unexpected gifts hidden in lessons to be learned and attitudes to be adjusted.  There are gifts in forgiveness.  Look closely, lest you overlook the unassuming blessing.  Look closely among the thorns, for your rose may be just about to bloom.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Holidays, Motherless daughters

Christmas Corsage by Nancy Malcolm

corsage

We love Christmas time.  Our house is decorated inside and out.  There are so many ornaments on our Christmas tree that have special meaning.  Wherever we go, we purchase an ornament from that location.  A red lobster from Maine, bear paw from Yosemite, cable car from San Fransisco…you get the picture.  But, there is one decoration on the tree that is above the rest, a Christmas corsage.

 

For as long as I can remember, my Daddy always loved to decorate for Christmas.  When I became older he showed me a silk, red poinsettia corsage that lay on one of the Christmas tree branches.  He told me that my mother was in the hospital her last Christmas and one of the nurses had brought her the corsage and laid it on her pillow, as a token of the season.  She died that January and from that time on, my Dad would place that corsage on the tree in her memory.

 

As time passed, my brother and I divided Daddy’s ornaments between us, and  I received the corsage.  Every year as I place it on our tree, I whisper my mother’s’ name, inviting her to enjoy our tree and know that she is not forgotten.
A simple red corsage laid among the baubles and bells.  A simple act of kindness that carried a mother’s love all these years later.

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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