Posted in Boo, Confessions

There’s Nothing Wrong With That

            “Try these,” my husband said.  “Try on the Brooks or Saucony shoes; they’re really good brands.”

            “I  like ASICS,” I said.  “They feel great on my feet, and I don’t have to think about trying on something else.  They always fit.”

“Try something new, for Pete’s sake!  It’s good for you,”  Boo preached.

“Mother, you always get Cajun Shrimp on your toes, every time we get pedicures.  There are hundreds of other colors, and you pick the same one,” my daughters chide me.

            “I like Cajun Shrimp,” I said.  “There are too many choices and besides I know I already like it.  It’s my signature color!”

            When I go to the grocery store, I try to park in the same aisle, in approximately the same place so I’ll always remember where my car is.  I’m a creature of habit and maybe a little OCD, but there’s nothing wrong with that.  I don’t want to be that person searching the parking lot, looking for my black Honda Accord among all the others.

            Once, on a trip home from seeing the grandkids, we stopped at Buc-ee’s for a snack and some gasoline.  We’ve stopped there many times before, so I utilized the pristine restroom and then perused the many aisles of snacks, chips, nuts, candy, sandwiches, and jerky.  Boo waltzed by and called, “I’ll meet you at the car.”

            When I finally paid, walked out to the car, and plopped down in the front seat, I heard him say, “Ah ha!  I knew it!  I knew you would get Chex Mix.”

            I felt a little sheepish, but before I could defend myself, Boo started in, “Every time we stop for a snack, it doesn’t matter where we are, you take forever to look around and then you buy a water and Chex Mix.  I don’t understand you.  Why don’t you just go straight to the Chex Mix?”

            “I might miss something good if I don’t look around.”  

            “If you ask me, you did miss something good, EVERYTHING except Chex Mix.”

            “I didn’t ask you,” I lamely injected.  “But not that it’s any of your business, I did shake it up this time.  I got the Bold flavor.”

            “Oh Boo,” he said with a tsk tsk.

            “Oh, Boo yourself,” I snapped.

            I admit only to you and myself that I am set in my ways.  Life is full of so many decisions, do I really need to add more?  I like what I like.  Does that make me mistaken or worse, boring?  Maybe, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

           In my mind, I am spontaneous and adventurous.  I try new things and live on the edge, but the truth is I appear to be stuck in my ways. Don’t get Boo started on asking me where I want to eat out.  For some reason, I always say I don’t care, but if he mentions a place, I usually don’t like it.  Ugh.    I have my favorites for just every day, and I am pretty set on what I eat at certain places.  Chick-fil-A: Market Salad. Panera: Chicken noodle soup or Strawberry Poppyseed salad. and Luby’s: Roasted chicken or fried fish, broccoli, and cornbread.  Just saying this makes me cringe.

Am I just an old, retired schoolteacher too addled to try something new?  Have I become boring and comfortable like melba toast and an old brown sweater?  I prefer to think of it as ‘Don’t fix what ain’t broke,’ but seeing the truth about myself is a hard pill to swallow.

            Not too long ago, we went out to eat at Cheddar’s after church. “What looks good to you, babe?”  I asked. 

 “Oh, I don’t know what I’m hungry for.  What about you?” he asked.

            “You tell me first,” I said.

            “Nope, I want to see if you try something new.”

            “Oh, don’t worry about me, I will!”  I defied him.

I scoured the menu pretending to think about what I might want, but I already knew what I would get.  I ordered a predictable standby: Miso salmon, broccoli, and green beans, while Boo ordered something new.   He made his choice from a separate menu insert labeled “Three NEW Shrimp Feasts.”  And they used words like ‘Ultimate’ and ‘New twist on old favorites.’  His choice was a delicious looking shrimp pasta dish that was absolutely beautiful.

When our lunch came, I was already jealous.  

He looked at my salmon and broccoli and I drooled over his shrimp dish.  

“Can I have a bite?”  I asked.  “I can’t help it.”  

“Oh, Boo,” he tsked.

As of late I have really been trying to shake things up.  I now wear Brooks tennis shoes exclusively and even admitted to Boo that he was right.  I do like them better than ASICS.  I branched out at Panera and got one of their new ‘bowl’ lunches with chicken and quinoa. I’m also thinking about getting something different at Buc-ee’s next time we stop, and I painted my toe nails a Caribbean Blue, even though I felt conspicuous.

 Change is very hard for some of us and although I like the idea of being ‘out there’ to some extent, I am mostly a brown sweater with melba toast kind of girl.  I don’t mind being predictable and safe.  It’s just who I am.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Posted in Contemplations, Dreams

A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes

            I was talking to Diana, one of my teaching friends, when the bell rang.  “I’ve got to get to the hallway,” I said, and my feet lifted off of the ground.  The next thing I knew, Diana and I were floating above the students, our arms down by our sides, watching the throng of noisy teenagers below us.  Flying felt effortless and while I seemed to be going so fast, I knew subconsciously, I was right on time.  I didn’t say it, but I was thinking how great it was to be able to fly through the hallways.  It seemed so natural.

            When I woke up that morning I was elated!  Finally, I had had a flying dream.  I’ve always heard people say that they flew in their dreams, and now I was one too.  Through the years I have had several life-changing dreams.  Dreams that taught me a lesson, enlightened a dark place, and even a recurring dream that I had for several years.

            Sleep studies show that our brainwaves are most active during the REM sleep cycle.  Dreams occur when there is stimulation to the brain that brings thoughts to our awareness.  But in just the same way I could fly instead of walk, I have had dreams that I was digging my own grave, but the shovel kept breaking.  On the surface, dreams may seem obscure, even outlandish.  But look a little deeper, and there might be a lesson to learn, or an answer to a question.  Sometimes vivid dreams are a result of eating spicy food or binging on too much TV.  Sometimes they are a direct result of stress or anxiety.

            When my mother died in January of 1958, I was four years old.  One of the only memories I have is of her funeral.  My daddy had picked me up to look at her in her casket and then he leaned over and wanted me to kiss her goodbye.  I distinctly remember kicking and crying, trying not to get that close.  I clung to him like a second suit jacket, turning my head away from hers. 

            I am not here to judge my father, for right or wrong, he was doing the best he knew how.  But the trauma of that incident caused me to have a dream that returned often to me over the course of several years. In fact, I still recall it perfectly.

            It was night-time and I stood perfectly still inside my small, drafty, stucco house on Crockett Street.  I could hear the howling winds and the icicles breaking off of the eaves from the roof.  As a little girl of four, I knew I shouldn’t have been alone, but I was.

In the living room, the big picture window began to rattle, and I heard a scratching, clawing sound of something trying to get in.  The scratching and rattling dared me to peek outside, and when I did, a gust of arctic air blew toward the window and froze everything with a sheet of snowy ice.  I couldn’t tell where the ice came from, but it didn’t matter because soon the knocking and scratching was at another window.  Again, and again, at each window I would peer out to find it frozen shut until that last window when I looked out into the face of a stern, frozen Jack Frost.  His face was contorted and iced over, and he appeared angry and grimacing.  His eyes looked right into mine and challenged me to look away first.

I was petrified and barely able to breathe, when suddenly there came a loud knock at the door.  I stood completely still, heart pulsing in my ears, and my feet glued to the floor.  This time someone or something was pounding on the front door.   As if another force was pushing me toward the door, I felt my hand on the knob turning, turning until it opened and standing there was a coffin …open…empty and icy.  It was standing upright, open all the way and although I didn’t see anyone, I knew Jack Frost was near, and I knew who had been in that coffin.

This was the recurring dream that I had over many years after my mother’s death.  The same sequence of events, and the very same dream, year after year.  I’m sure a psychologist would tell me the icy Jack Frost symbolizes the chill of death.  It doesn’t take much to make that correlation, but what I’ve never understood, is why the dream returned to me year after year.  At some point between the end of grade school and puberty, the dream stopped, as suddenly as it began.  Perhaps it took that long for my mind to make sense of my harsh reality.

I have often dreamed of hosting a party at my home and the party gets out of control.  More and more people start arriving, and the music gets too loud.  I usually run out of food, and everyone is asking me questions all at once.  I’m frantic and trying to make things turn out okay, and then a tall, dark, and handsome stranger appears.

Once, after a particularly stressful day at work, I dreamed that a giant Olive Oyl head was talking to me.  (Olive Oyl, the girlfriend from the Popeye cartoons.)  Her huge head was filling up my dream space and she was yelling at me.  “Get a backbone!  Speak up for yourself!  Don’t let them get away with it!”  When I woke up the next morning, I knew exactly what I needed to do in order to solve a problem with a co-worker.

I count myself blessed and lucky to be able to dream.  I usually try to write them down as soon as I wake up.  I love being able to look back at some of my dreams at certain times of my life.  The more I remember and record my dreams, the more dreams I have.  Silly, scary, frustrating, or fulfilling, my dreams are a window into my mind and soul.  They are an extension of me.

After my father’s death, twelve years ago, I had three very distinct dreams of him.  They were so real that I call them visitations.  In my dreams we would sit very close together and hold hands.  He looked so happy and healthy, a huge difference from his worn and fragile body before he died.  On the first visit/dream, he told me not to worry about him.  “I like it here,” he said.  “I’m doing good.”  That one dream has been a wonderful source of comfort to me. 

I feel such gratitude for the messages, and insights I have received from my dreams, and I wish the same for you.  As Cinderella encouraged her woodland friends, I encourage you to follow your dreams, listen to your dreams and thank yourself for the wisdom that comes from your heart.

A dream is a wish your heart makes, when you’re fast asleep.” — Song written and composed by Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston for the Walt Disney film Cinderella (1950).

Posted in Daughters, Relationships

I’m Not Assistant Manager of the Universe

            In much the same way Aretha Franklin sings R E S P E C T, find out what it means to me, I often belt out my favorite tune, C O N T R O L.(what to do… I know quite well)   I want everyone to do what I think is best for them, and I want things to go according to my plan.

            I do know what the right thing to do is in most situations.  I can predict positive outcomes and steer clear of pitfalls, and as a former Girl Scout, I always hold true to the motto, “Be Prepared.”

            Those that love me say, “You have too many rules!”  which is the polite way to say, lighten up!  But I can help you be all you can be, achieve your potential and excel at anything    your heart desires.  I know my way will be the right way to make your life smooth and successful.  I know what’s best, why won’t you listen to me?

            My grown daughters have been the recipients of much of my unsolicited advice, even when I try to sneak it in the backdoor.  In the past, I have offered to make out budgets, suggested career paths and long-term goals that could ‘help’ them be successful, and although my intention was to help, I know it felt intrusive.   As of late, I am doing much better until recently while riding with my daughter in her car:  “Oops, it looks like you’re almost out of gas.”

            “You’re right.  I’ll get some in the morning.  I still have 56 miles.”

            “I’d hate for you to run out while you’re on MoPac.”

            “Me, too.”

            “I always like to be safe and have a full tank.”

            Silence.

            “If you find a filling station, I’d be glad to pay for your gas.”

            “Thanks, Mom, I’ll take care of it.”

            I knew I should have stopped myself, but still I kept on.  I know that a grown woman with a college degree, full-time job, and living on her own can handle filling up the gas tank of a car she owns!  But still….what if?

New calf from Savannah Ranch

Whenever I start to say, “Have you thought about…?” or suggest a plan of action, I am met with “Yes, Mom. I know.”  Which is code for: mind your own business.  It has occurred to me lately that I might not know what everyone else should do.  Maybe they do know what is best for themselves.  Maybe I’m not Assistant Manager of the Universe.

            When I am so fixed on what everyone else is doing, I often neglect my own life.  When I’m stressing out over someone else’s choices, I wake up at 3:00 a.m. and lay there worrying.  What good does it really do?  Nada.  Nothing.  Zilch.  Everyone else happily goes about their  way and I am tired and worn out from useless fretting.  There’s a certain amount of insanity in doing the same thing over and over again, hoping to get a different result.   I can worry all I want to, but it will not change anything.

            Is my worrying and trying to control things giving the wrong message?   Am I telling those I love that I don’t think they are capable of taking care of themselves or worse, am I telling God that I know best?

            In my old age, I am finally learning to just let life happen.  There have been times when I have been fearful and uncomfortable about letting those I love make choices I don’t think are wise.  This anxiety and finagling the situation to follow my plan has sometimes worked out for the worse, and often when I spend too much time catastrophizing about a possible problem in the future, it never happens.   I’m Not Assistant Manager of the Universe, nor am I psychic.

            Once, one of our girls told Boo and me about a trip she was planning to Mexico.  Before she even finished, Boo said, “Are you going to use your sick days for this?  You really should save your sick days.  You might need them.”  Of course, to follow up I asked, “Do you have a passport?  You know you have to have a passport to go to Mexico.”  Friends, this was a forty- something-year-old daughter who works a full-time job with benefits, pays her bills on time, owns her own car and has children.  I’m pretty sure she knows how to navigate her sick days and understands that you have to have a passport to leave the country.  But still…what if?

            I’m Not Assistant Manager of the Universe.

Trying to be in control of my life and everybody else’s is a huge job, and while I might try to do it, this attitude damages relationships and ruins my health.  When I let go of the illusion that I have power over what other people think, do, feel, and say, I live in a more peaceful place.  When I step back and allow others to be in charge of their own lives, I am showing them love and respect, the kind Aretha sang about.

            As hard as it is to let go, I must.  I must do it for myself and for the ones I love the most.  I don’t want my tombstone to read, “She’s Finally Minding Her Own Business.”  I want it to have a sentiment that portrays the love I gave and received.  I want my family to genuinely be sad to see me go, not glad.

            And so, I get up every day, striving to follow the Golden Rule.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  I start fresh to let go and allow others to take care of themselves, giving them the R E S P E C T, they deserve.

            I don’t think God has a “Help Needed” sign hanging on the pearly gates, and if I am truthful, I will admit it is hard enough to control my own life, much less someone else’s.  After all, the birds sing and flowers grow without any help from me.  The world turns and the sun shines without my suggestions and my grown daughters are capable, caring, and wise.  Just for today, I will let go and trust that God is totally in control, and gratefully, I Am Not Assistant Manager of the Universe.

Photographs are my own. Flower pictures are from Wildseed Farm near Fredericksburg, Texas.

Posted in #Confessions

My Adventures with Heidi’s Bier Haus OR How I Won Big with Britney Spears!

Some say I drive too slow and always follow the rules.  I cannot tell a lie and prefer to not jay walk.  I take my vitamins every day, save money every month and recycle.  I got my COVID vaccine and brush my teeth twice a day, but I love to gamble! 

I love the lights, bells, whistles, and smells.  I get invigorated when I hear cards shuffle or someone yells, “Seven-eleven, baby needs shoes!”  And although I do not smoke, I love the casino’s smokey smell and faint mix of cheap liquor and cheaper cologne.

Years ago, when my children were young, I despised gambling and the toll it took on my marriage, at the time.  I prayed for all those people gambling away their grocery money or milk for their babies.  I detested seeing little old ladies being pushed up to a slot machine, cup of nickels in hand, and an oxygen tank attached to their wheelchair.  The whole environment made me feel unsettled and out of control.

But, twenty years ago, when I took a gamble on Boo, everything changed.  I never feared he might bet the deed on our house or sell my wedding ring to pay off a debt.  Boo was disciplined in how much he allowed himself to gamble and when our money was gone, it was time to go home.  Not to the ATM.

We’ve gambled on cruise ships in the Caribbean, in Louisiana, Colorado, Vegas and once in an obscure casino in Montana.  Two years ago, when we went to Niagara Falls, we stayed at the Seneca Casino and Resort which was just blocks from the beautiful falls.

Once, and only once, we stayed at the Isle of Capri in Bossier City, Louisiana, way before their remodel.   Boo was more excited about the buffet than gambling, but “I got us a great room,” he said.  We checked in and when we opened the door to our musty smelling room with bright green carpet, there was a huge hot tub right next to the bed.

“What in the world?” I gasped!

“I thought you’d like it!”

Three years ago, we stayed at the Paris Hotel, in Vegas. Our ‘gambling’ trips to Vegas are really more about people watching, seeing shows and walking the Strip, but one night I stumbled upon a Britney Spears penny slot that was life changing.  For the next two days, I was all Britney, all day!  Every time I hit big, she sang “Baby One More Time” and as I tumbled into extra spins she belted out, “Oops! I Did It Again.”  Even as we ate lunch or walked down the strip, I could hear Britney in my ears,  singing away, coaxing me to come back.  It was “Toxic!”  In two days, Boo and I won $900 and bought a Britney CD.

Just two weeks ago we went to Coushatta, in Kinder, Louisiana, surprisingly, the home of Britney Spears.  We were only staying one night and by 9:30 p.m. I turned to Boo and whined, “I hate this place.  I’ve lost all of my money!  I wanted to play the Heidi’s Bier Haus penny slot, but it’s too crowded and no one will leave.  I’m going to bed.”

Boo leaned over and handed me a twenty spot.  “Here, go see if Heidi’s got an empty seat.”

As luck would have it, I found an empty chair at Heidi’s.  I put my $20 in and I knew, betting sixty cents a pop, I could at least play for fifteen minutes.  The second time I hit PLAY, music started blaring and Heidi popped up, pouring beer, and spinning reels.  Even the guy next to me said, “Oh, you’re going to win big.”

I said, “Thanks, but it’s only $7.50.”

He looked at me, pointed to the screen, and said, “Lady, that’s $750.00!”

I looked around for Boo, needing his validation that this was real, when I suddenly hit on forty extra spins.  End of story, I won $1000.00 with Heidi, betting sixty cents with Boo’s twenty- dollar bill.  There was a small crowd around me and an old man singing the German beer songs right along with Heidi.  Boo videoed the whole thing.

I gave Boo back $30 as interest on his $20.

“I thought we would split the whole winnings, Love Bug.”  He said.

“No way!  I’m saving it for Vegas and your birthday trip to the Venetian.”

I safely hid my thousand dollars in my sock drawer as soon as we got home.

Being such a high roller has not changed me.  I’ll still continue on my Safety Sue lifestyle of driving slowly and flossing my teeth.  I’ll always try to tell the truth and tithe to the church.  But, as long as we’re able, I hope Boo will take me gambling, at least to the Winstar, every year until I’m one hundred years old.  Heck, if I make it to a hundred, maybe I should double down and go twice a year to improve my odds.  Why not?

Seven-eleven…baby needs shoes!

Posted in Aging

Alexa, Remind Me to Remember

I wish I had a dollar for every time I said, “Help me remember that.” or “Let me write that down.”  Other times I get cocky and just know I will remember that we need milk, olive oil and toilet paper.  Usually, obscure bits of information like security codes or an old phone number from our landline remain intact inside my mental steel trap.

The other 99% of the time, Boo will find a scrap of paper I’ve written on and confront my faculties.                                   

“Babe, do you really need to remind yourself to eat lunch?  That worries me.”

“It’s more like a plan for the day, so I can maximize my time,”  I counter.

Lots of people write packing lists before they go on a trip and strangely enough, I do not.  However, I do start packing a week in advance and as I remember things I want to take, I put them in the suitcase.  Very efficient, I think, versus Boo who packs the night before or morning of.  He has left for a week’s vacation with only shorts and no shirts.

My problem is that I frequently write more than one note for the same thing, and because of that, I now make my grocery list on Alexa. 

Boo will sometimes holler from the kitchen, “We need more mayo!” 

“Don’t tell me, tell Alexa,” I say. 

Boo will then holler at Alexa, from the other room, “Alexa, add mayo and cookies to the grocery list.”

“Mycookplease added to grocery.”

“No, Alexa.  Add mayo and chocolate chip cookies to grocery list.” Boo corrects.

I’m sorry.  I didn’t get that.”

“Alexa, add mayo and chocolate chip cookies to grocery.”

“Admochip cookies added to grocery.”

“Oh, good grief!”  I hear from the kitchen.

But Alexa has my lists for the grocery store, Costco, Walgreens and Target and she is amazing as long as I remember to take my phone when I leave the house

As much as Boo makes fun of my post-it notes lists, or scraps of paper reminders, he has at least three spiral notebooks going at all times.  One for things to do, another for the number of miles he walks a week and then one for writing down his checks, like a giant check register. 

YES.   I know what you are thinking.  Y E S  he does.  

“You know you could check your balance online,”  I say.

“I want to subtract it myself,” he says.  “That way there’s no mistake.”

Hmmmmm.

I’m really good at remembering birthdays, anniversaries, and doctor appointments, but my to-do list of lunch, walking and Target sometimes slip my mind.

I can remember vacations we’ve taken, dreams I’ve had, and Bible verses learned in first grade, but song lyrics and directions to Tyler, Texas sometimes throw me for a loop.

My memory is selective, some would say, but I prefer to think I have so many intelligent and important bits of information in my brain, that it is prudent to remind myself of the mundane.

Once, after a weekend with the grandkids, eating cookies, fish sticks, and McDonalds, I wrote a post-it note that said, “EAT HEALTHY.”  It was just my reminder to get back on track and stop sneaking  M&M’s, but Boo saw it stuck on my bathroom mirror and laughed, “I don’t have to remind myself to poop every day!  You’re a hoot!” 

I think he missed the point.

I’ve always had this need to jot things down, or record information, like blood pressure or books I’ve read.  I love making a list of things I want to accomplish for the day and then marking them off one by one.  I’m crazy for note pads, post-it notes, or journals and I have stacks of them to prove it.  I don’t know if there’s a name for that or not, but I’ll just take organized, efficient or conscientious. 

Don’t listen to Boo, I’m not losing it, I’m maximizing it!

Posted in Fathers

Just A Closer Walk With Thee

            As much as my father was a stern, ex-Navy, electrical engineer, rule follower; he had a light, gentle side that was creative and musical.  This lighter side occasionally escaped to participate in artistic activities, but they were short-lived and methodically planned.  Happiness came when he was outdoors, building things with his hands, fishing or traveling.  The rest of his encouragement came from music, specifically jazz.

            When Daddy played his Pete Fountain 33 LP and Just a Closer Walk with Thee came alive, there was a shift in his demeaner.  His feet moved and his face smiled.  He was transported from our little three-bedroom rental, away from the duties of work and caring for two small children without a mother.  He was at peace. 

I am weak, but Thou art strong.  Jesus, keep me from all wrong.

I’ll be satisfied as long, as I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

            He would sing and dance around the house while those smooth clarinet sounds came through the speaker.  We only had a turntable that played one album at a time, but we knew Daddy’s albums were sacred.  He wiped them off before and after each use with a special soft, black cloth and when finished, gently slid them into the correct cover jacket.  “There’s only one way to take care of your records and that’s ‘the right way.’”

Just a closer walk with Thee.  Grant it, Jesus, is my plea.

Daily walking close to Thee.  Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

When my feeble life is o’er, time for me will be no more.

Guide me gently, safely o’er, to Thy kingdom’s shore, to Thy shore.

            When Daddy passed away in 2009, we opened the white, 3-ring binder that would guide us through his service, burial, insurance, obituary, and anything else we needed to know or do.  We would have expected no less from his take-charge personality, as organization was one of his greatest skills.  He planned for everything from vacations to tornados, so it was only natural that he planned for his death.

            Although most of us considered him tight with his money, he loved to save it, make spread sheets about it, and keep track of every penny.  Thus, his funeral was pre-paid, meticulously planned and organized in that 3-ring binder with homemade dividers.  The dividers were yet another example of his creativity and frugalness.  Why buy something when you could make it yourself?

            Years before his death, he tried to show me his binder every time I came for a visit.

“Everything you need to know will be in here,” he’d say.

            “I know, Daddy.  I just hate to think of you being gone.”

            Still, I would sit beside him and let him go page to page explaining every detail. 

            When Daddy passed, Just A Closer Walk with Thee was played, as he requested, piped in over the mourners.  It was not Pete Fountain, but the good old Methodist hymn played by an organ.  In the end, my father stuck by his rigid, conventional rules for a proper send off.  But I have often wondered if Pete Fountain might have led him with a smile as he reached those kingdom shores.

            I wish Daddy could have stepped out of his fixed way of thinking and had a little piece of himself that might have surprised a few.  Not everyone knew he had a softer side and maybe he liked it that way.  The old hymns were his comfort zone and whether heard from an organ or a smooth clarinet, his funeral was just as he wanted.

            In this fast-paced, all-about-me, live for today world, I fear the pre-planning folks may be few and far between.  Daddy’s propensity to control and prepare gives me pause, as I realize how thoughtful it was in the end, like a gift from beyond.  He saved us from worry, and more stress.  He kept us from having to make decisions on what we ‘thought’ he might want, and mostly he had everything just the way he wanted.

            As for me, I hope to be prepared and pre-paid.  I want an old-fashioned sing-along with hymns and songs that express my sentiment.  I want my girls to know that I’m ok and happily crossing to that kingdom shore, and if Pete Fountain happens to make his way onto the play-list, well, you’ll know I’m dancing on streets of gold.  “This one’s for you, Daddy!”

Just a closer walk with Thee.  Grant it Jesus, is my plea.

Daily walking close to Thee.  Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Posted in Photography

Every Picture Tells a Story

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.  When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.

Ansel Adams

            When I am behind my camera, I see things that others miss.  I feel new and young and inquisitive.  My world is more interesting, with colors so vivid it is almost too much to bear, and I am able to focus on what really matters, the fine details of the bigger picture.

            When I retired, I upgraded my little Nikon Coolpix to this bad boy, Nikon D3500.  The 3500 came with one lens that was adequate and allowed me to snap pics from 17-55 feet, but as I got used to taking photos and our travels expanded, I soon “needed” a larger lens.  (18-400)

            On a trip to Mount Vernon, Virginia, the historic home of George and Martha Washington, I found myself enthralled with the immaculate grounds, gardens, and the Potomac River.  You can actually sit in rocking chairs on the back porch and just stare at the beautiful trees, river, and horizon.  There are probably 40 plus rocking chairs set up just for visitors.

            By now, Boo knows nothing means more to me on vacation than taking photos.  He lets me wander and stop to snap as much as I want.  Sometimes he will call out worthy subjects and point to interesting sights, as he did at Mount Vernon.

            “Babe, look at the cool bird sitting on top of that huge magnolia tree.”

            I love photographing trees and as I was snapping away, I felt something behind me as two rather ‘weathered’ ladies tiptoed up, whispering, “We saw it too. You’ve got quite an eye.”

            I turned smiling, “Thank you.  It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?”

            “Have you seen one before?”  they asked, still whispering.

            “Oh sure, lots of times.  We have them in Texas.”  I whispered back.

            “Ohhhhhh my, that’s rare.  They are usually only seen in this region.  Do you use a journal or keep track online?”  One lady asked.

            And that is when I realized that they thought I was a Birder.  Before I had to admit I was talking about the tree, the bird flew off and two more with it that had been hiding in the tree.

Impressively, I snapped photo after photo of the birds in flight and was able to follow the birds across the sky, all the while not having a clue as to what kind of birds they were. 

            The ladies stopped and burst into an applause. Then waved fondly as they moved on down the path.

            “Good luck!”  they called.

There is something about a large camera that makes people think you must be taking important photos and you must know what you are doing.  On my first ever trip to Mardi Gras, I went with my Sittn’ Ugly Sistah, Ginger, to her parents’ home in Eunice, Louisiana.  Our friends, Mary and Cynthia went too and the three of them really schooled me as to Mardi Gras etiquette.  Once we got to downtown Eunice, I was behind my camera soaking up the colors, sights, and action.

 

People would stop and ask, “Will you take our picture?”  They never seemed to worry about seeing the picture or wondering where it would go, they just wanted to be photographed.  Couples would dance by on the street and pose, waiting for me to snap.  I gladly obliged.  I could almost hear the band and smell the gumbo through my lens.

I love photographing pets, and I could make a large coffee table book just on the pictures I have of our cat.  She’s very photogenic, if I do say so myself, and she is a subject that never gets old.

On a beach trip to Galveston, Boo broke speed limits and raced against time to get me to  ‘the best place in Galveston to capture a sunset.’  He googled the location and even carried my tripod, while helping me out onto the pier.   In Maine, he carried my camera backpack all the way on our three-mile hike around the pond. 

In Glacier National Park, he sprinted through the rain with my camera under his shirt just to make sure the camera stayed dry.  At family gatherings, he’s constantly asking, “Did you get that?”  He’s happy to see me happy taking pictures.  Even Uncle B, Boo’s brother, is supportive.  He gave me his tripod and is always sending me photos he knows I would appreciate.

When your heart jumps every time your camera locks focus- You’ve become a photographer.

Mark Denman

My heart jumps when I photograph my grandkids.  In fact, my favorite subjects are the people I love.  My second favorite is nature.  Any raindrop, insect, flower, tree, or animal; all gardens, mountains, oceans, and clouds.  My mind actually sees things within a frame.  It’s as if my vision is a camera lens.

Most of my photography is what the professionals call a “happy accident.”  I accidently get a beautiful shot and I’m not sure how it happened.  I’ve taken classes, yet sometimes I feel intimidated by people with seemingly more knowledge, bigger vocabularies, and fancier equipment.  But, as with writing, there are a lot of people who talk about it, think about it and plan to do it, and there are those of us who do.  I’m taking a chance, embracing imperfection and enjoying my photography more than I could ever explain.  It simply fills my soul, and that’s all I need to know.

Posted in Relationships

Walker – Stalker

            The first time it happened, I was not prepared.  The sun was shining, and I had a spring in my step as I headed outside for my walk.  Two blocks down I heard, “Oh, howdy neighbor,” as I ran smack dab into John.

            On our first meeting I learned John was a retired college professor, married to a woman whose mother was ill, the mother lived in Poland, and he knew three languages.

            He was going home after his walk but decided to walk with me for a while, just to chat.

            “Won’t you be going the wrong way?” I smiled.

            “Oh, I don’t mind, I’ll walk with you at least to the next street.  What did you say your name was?”

            “Nancy,” I said.  “I live on the corner, there.”

            “I know,” he said, and we walked together to the next street.

            John, bless his heart, is in his late seventies.  He uses a cane to support his stooped frame but is surprisingly agile as he sprints across the street to see me.  Most days he has on a faded baseball cap, PBS t-shirt, and plaid pajama pants with tennis shoes.  He sports a dashing mustache and has twinkling blue eyes that light up when he smiles, and he’s always smiling.

            Because John often needs to stop and catch his breath, I slow down and just wait while he rests and entertains me with his steady stream of stories from the past.

            Lest you think I am sweet for listening, I have been known to look out my front door and scan the streets before starting to walk.  I selfishly want to be alone with my thoughts or Spotify favorites, and walk at a faster pace.  But, on many occasions when I thought the coast was clear, he will come out of nowhere and POOF, I’ll hear him calling my name.

            Once I left the house, calling to Boo, “I’m going to get the mail.  Be right back.”

It takes me fifteen minutes to walk up the street and back to our community mailboxes.  Forty-five minutes later when I returned; Boo was standing in the kitchen,

“John?”

            “John.”

            “He’s a walker stalker!” Boo laughed.

            John will start talking fifty feet before he gets to me, and ever the gentleman he says, “I see you’re going for your walk.  Do you mind if I join you?”

            Another time I lied, “Sorry, John, I’m trying to get a short walk in before I have to go to a doctor’s appointment.”   

But he said, “Me too, which doctor are you going to?  I’ll just walk with you to the next street.”

            John asks me questions about myself, too.  He now knows my husband’s name, how long I worked in education, how many children we have and how long we’ve lived in our house.

            Boo was mowing the front yard one day, when I suddenly heard the mower stop.  I figured he was emptying the clippings, but when the mower never started back up, I opened the door to check.  One foot out the door and I saw John, leaning on his cane, chatting up a storm with Boo.  I quickly and quietly shut the door and hid.  Some time later the mower sputtered back up and soon Boo came in calling, “John says hello.  Did you know he was a college professor?”

            Last year with the Pandemic and all, John would always stay a respectable distance while we walked, asking if I was comfortable about the six-foot rule.  But now I know John is vaccinated, his wife is visiting her mother, he married late in life at fifty-three, he has sciatica and he had lunch with two friends yesterday.  Things are getting back to normal.

When I’m walking with John, he smiles and greets everyone on our path.  He knows most of them by name and can tell me something interesting about each one.  He’s amazing.  His seventy-plus-year-old mind is as sharp as ever.  When I stop to think about it, John has been the highlight of my shelter in place, stay at home days.  He’s upbeat, never feels sorry for himself, and although he has to stop now and again to rest, he’s out there doing his thing. 

As much as I selfishly want to walk faster some days, I know there will come a time when I miss seeing John and hearing about his life.  Perhaps divine providence brought me John to slow me down and refine my patience.  He certainly has brought me company along my walks and a smile on those lonely COVID days.  It’s hard to believe that someday I may be out walking the neighborhood, looking for friendship and a listening ear.  I hope you’ll slow down and walk with me, at least to the next street.

Posted in #Confessions

True Confession #1

1971

A Fork in The Road

            My junior year in high school I was invited to the senior prom by my crush, Clay Thornton.  It was exciting to be included with his senior friends and to dance the night away, pretending to be way more worldly than I was.  Before we left my house, Daddy announced, “Be home by 11:30, Nan.  Nothing good happens after midnight!”  Even though I was about to be seventeen, my curfew never changed, no matter what.

            Clay was tall, handsome, polite, smart, and played on the football team.  I had also been wearing his letter jacket for quite some time, proving to the world our mutual admiration.  We dated on and off my whole junior year and until he went away to college.

            I started my senior year fresh, unattached, and looking forward to graduation.  In the ‘70’s, at Tascosa High School, in Amarillo, Texas, you were assigned to a home room alphabetically.   I had been with the same “C” students for three years.  Once we got alphabetized in the tenth grade, that was it, until we graduated.  Mr. Thompson was our homeroom teacher and also taught government and economics.  He had been in the Naval Reserve with my dad, which was awkward, and he chewed on cigars that he carried in his front shirt pocket.  He was gruff, crusty, and personally I don’t think he gave a hoot about what we did as long as we were quiet.

            There was one student in our homeroom who was not in our usual classes, Tim C.  He was super tall, exceptionally thin and had an odd way about him.  We knew he went to special classes, but no one was out right rude, just dismissive.  Tim was quiet around our rowdy “C” students, so sometimes I went out of my way to say hello to him or smile when passing in the hall, to which he would raise his hand in a half wave and speed off.  I tried to be kind, while also tolerating a few snickers at Tim’s expense.  Wanting to do what’s right and wanting to be popular is a hellish place to be.

            I had plenty of dates my senior year, almost every weekend.  When I wasn’t working at Montgomery Wards in the stereo and record department, I enjoyed going to parties, attending games and definitely looked forward to my senior prom, graduation and going off to Baylor University in the fall.  My grades were more average than Daddy would have liked, but I thought of myself as ‘well-rounded’ and didn’t worry too much about it.

            I was home one evening in February, when my dad came to my room. “There’s a boy named Tim on the phone who wants to talk to you.”

            I couldn’t think of anyone I knew named Tim until I picked up the receiver.

            “Hello?”

            “H-hii N-n-ncy, this is  Ti-im Coley from h-h-home room.”

            “Hi Tim,” I said calmly, feeling awkward.

            “H-how are y-y-you?”  he asked.

            “I’m fine.”  I could feel my eyes widening and my heart started to pound. I kept thinking ‘ohmygosh,ohmygosh,ohmygosh.’

            “W-w-well, I have s-s-something to ask you.  It’s very i-i-i-important.”

            “Yes?” My mind racing, I thought oh no, he’s going to ask me on a date.

            And plain as day he said, “Will you please go to Prom with me?  M-m-y mother w-w-will take us and bring us h-h-home.”

            Sitting on the floor of my living room, right beside the bookcase clutching the phone so tightly I thought I might faint, my mind went blank.  I was unprepared and nervous and suddenly I burst through the silence with, “Uh, Tim, it’s awfully early to be asking, isn’t it?”

            “I-I kkknnnow, I’ve been wanting t-t-to ask since last y-y-year.  But my mother said I had to wait.”

            “Thank you, Tim.  I need some time to ask my dad.  Can I let you know soon?”

            “OK. S-s-s-ee you tomorrow.”

And with that, we hung up.

            It was all my foolish mind could think to say as I stalled, not wanting to hurt his feelings.  Instead of just saying no, I prolonged my torture by being dishonest.  I thought if I could just wait a few more weeks, someone else would ask me and I would be off the hook.  All I knew was I could not go to the prom with Tim C.  What would my friends say?

            Almost three weeks went by and my agony was palatable.  Every day at school was a game where I tried to hide so I wouldn’t run into Tim.  I finally, in my angst, wrote Tim C. a note.

Dear Tim,

Thank you for inviting me to prom, but I forgot someone had already.

 asked me a long time ago, so I have to go with them.

                              Thank you, Nancy

            The next day after the bell rang, I dropped the folded note onto his desk as I hurriedly left homeroom.  In my blinded teenage fog, I thought I had done a good thing and was happy the ordeal was finally over.  One side of me was happy and felt free but the other side of me kept saying, “I think you hurt his feelings.”

            You cannot possibly say anything to me I haven’t said to myself in the last fifty years since then.  Tim C. never spoke to me again.  He would look down when I walked by and he avoided eye contact even more than before my sorry excuse.  I disappointed him and myself.

            February turned into March into April, and there was not one prom invitation extended to me by anyone else.  As much as I dated and had friends, the closer it got to prom, the quieter my social life got.  Couples paired off making special plans.

            In 1971 girls did not go to dances in groups, it just wasn’t done.  It was a date’s only situation, and that was a situation I was not in.  The night of my senior prom, I was at home. 

            I was in my room when my dad knocked on the door and came in. “Honey,” he said, “you’re just too pretty.  The boys were afraid to ask you and they probably thought you already had a date.”  He hugged me, and in that moment, I broke into sobs of hot salty tears.  I wanted to tell my daddy what I had done and how I lied to Tim and hurt his feelings.  I wanted to confess this awful secret and get it out of me.  I was so disappointed in myself and my cruel actions, but I knew my father’s disappointment would be worse to bare.  I didn’t deserve his kind words and sympathy.  I deserved to be dateless the rest of my life.  And worse, I let my shame keep me silent about my actions for many more years to come.

            The night of my senior prom I learned a huge lesson about honesty and decency.  The laughs and embarrassment I thought I would have gotten for being Tim C.’s date might have instead, been a lesson in love and kindness for all of us.  There is always a fork in the road, where we make a choice that brings us up higher or takes us down lower, and the choice I made was not the best.    

Perhaps Tim C. doesn’t even remember me now, but if I could, I would tell him how sorry I am for my behavior.  And if I could do it all over again, I would choose differently.

I learned something inside all my disappointment, and shame.  I learned how I wanted to treat people and that being a kind human being was more important than potential popularity or perceived coolness.  I learned honesty really is the best policy, and that morals are private, but decency is public.

Posted in #Confessions

Progress Not Perfection

            I admit I have visions of grandeur.  I see my home and the belongings therein, as neat, tidy, and organized.  I know how Martha Stewart folds her towels so she can have the perfect linen closet and I have watched Marie Kondo on Netflix enough to know if I am over-burdened with unnecessary things.  I envision my possessions in their uncrowded, beautiful spaces, but my follow through is lacking.

            Besides my usual ‘junk’ drawer in the kitchen, there is ‘the pile.’  I confess that I am a stacker.  Beside my refrigerator is a stack that started with two pieces of mail I intended to do something with.  I should have opened the mail and immediately taken what action was necessary:  pay the bill, return information requested or discard the paper.  I postponed the action, which lead to this.

            Two pieces of mail turned into three cookbooks I haven’t used, a bulk pick-up reminder, one cat toy, a sequined seashell from my granddaughter, a white board and a flyer with coupons for pizza, which is now expired.

            Remember when Covid first started, people were posting on social media about using their time wisely to do home repairs or clean out closets?  Boo and I spent hours playing dominos and spades.  We walked and napped equally, and never cleaned one thing.

             Organizing my closet in an ongoing project that never gets completed.  I have sorted by what I wear and what should be given away.  I have refolded, rehung, and repurposed.  I tried to keep only what I love and brings me joy, but I kept hearing my dad’s voice, “You might need that to paint in someday.”  Another problem was when I asked myself if I loved an article of clothing, I would often answer, “I used to love that. I might wear it again.”

The ten prom dresses I wore when I was a high school administrator and had to chaperone Prom, a long black crocheted vest I might use for a 70’s costume someday, a navy- blue suit I wore two sizes ago that was my all-time favorite, a couple of wedding dresses (that’s probably too much information), and an old chambray ‘work shirt’ with candy cane’s embroidered on the pocket and collar are all examples of ‘my problem.’

            A few years ago, my dear friend Linda came over to help me organize my closet.  We took everything out and laid it on my bed, dresser, and floor.  She was overly polite as she pulled out twenty-two belts and ten formal, cocktail purses.  “Wow,” she said, “maybe you can decide on just a few you like the best.”  (I told you she was polite.)  The next few hours flew by as she challenged me to give away things I hadn’t worn or didn’t even like.  But, somewhere along the way, she pointed to a stack of hangers on the bed and asked, “Don’t you think you have enough?” 

“I have a problem with hangers,” I confessed.  “I like good hangers, remember Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest?”  Linda gently guided me to throw some away and donate the others, but secretly, I wanted to order more from QVC so I could hang everything on the same color hanger. When a salesclerk asks me if I want to keep the hanger, I always say yes.  I even have a few wire hangers that have crocheted coverings that Auntie Sue gave me years ago.  I know I have a problem, but I just can’t get rid of those.

            At one point, I thought I would just call and schedule a visit with Marie Kondo, here in my home.  If I had her here, in person, I thought I could change.  But sadly, her website says I will never get her, only one of her consultants at $100 an hour and paid travel expenses.  So, I took the $100 and bought cute baskets and containers to store more stuff in.

            Once, my daughter and her friend took everything out of my pantry and organized just like it was a grocery store.  “Mom, that expiration date was three years ago!” she began, and it went downhill from there.

 “Mom, why do you have three devilled egg plates?”

 “Doesn’t everyone?” I countered.  “Besides one day all of this will be yours and your sisters.”

 “Mom, do you ever use any of these cookbooks?”

 “I used to,” I lamely answered.  “Before you were born.  Besides, I love cookbooks.  They’re so pretty and colorful and I always find things I want to cook.”

Eye roll from daughter.

Lastly, “Mom, what’s the fascination with so many cans of black beans?”

“Once, I thought about going vegan.”

Disgusted eye roll.

My meek and sometimes weak answers did not deter them as they made me throw away out of date items, and tiny bits of saved crackers or chips that wouldn’t even feed a bird.  Don’t even get me started on the stack of grocery bags and bottles of wine.  “I don’t want to run out,” I whispered under my breath.

            Almost everything I own is either potentially useful or sentimental and that is why I have such a hard time letting things go.   I seem to lack inspiration and dedication, but, at the same time I can’t give up the dream of one day being color coordinated, pared down and organically organized.  I just hope you won’t think less of me as I straighten my piles and keep the three pairs of shoes, I haven’t worn in two years.  I might need them to paint in someday.