Posted in Aging process, Changes, Friendship, I love you, Love, Marriage, Support

“Little Murders” by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Little Murders*  by Ginger Keller Gannaway

*A play by Jules Feiffer written in 1967

Marriage ain’t always easy.  Three kids and 35 years together have made Gary and me balance understanding and comfort with annoyance and anger. Once when I yelled at Gary for leaving his used dental pics on the coffee table, he answered, “Sorry. I guess these ‘Little Murders’ really chip away at us, huh?” Then I thought how I let small annoyances turn into large complaints.

love.jpg
Love circa 1984

One Thanksgiving in an effort to stop me from obsessing about whether my husband would have enough leftover turkey gumbo when he returned from visiting his brother, Momma said to me, “Don’t you worry about Gary.  Gary always takes care of Gary.”   These days I sometimes extend that thought to“Gary only has eyes for Gary.”  He, however,  justifies his self-obsessiveness with, “I’m not a noticer.” ( Noticer –  1. The act of noting or observing; perception or attention:That detail escaped my notice. thefreedictionary.com)

So what if he ignores the whole world when he does his daily Sudoku or he can’t find ANYTHING in the fridge or he did not notice that he ate the last chocolate raspberry Haagen-Dazs bar from a box he “bought for me”?  He also gives my 90 year-old dad countless rides to and from doctor appointments, always has a buck for the down-and-out guy at the stoplight, and cleans a stack of dirty dishes with no complaints.

His tendency to stop up a toilet, watch CNN constantly, dirty 23 dishes for one meal, leave his bike in the back of the car, and grab his mandatory 9 hours of sleep a night could be viewed differently. 

  1. He’s developed expert bathroom plumbing skills.
  2. He stays well-informed on current events.
  3. He cooks with creativity and zeal.
  4. He stays fit and well-rested. 

My mom’s dear friend once told me she used to fuss at her husband for leaving the kitchen cabinets wide open (one of Gary’s favorite hobbies). Then years after he had passed away, she looked at me with watery eyes and said, “What I wouldn’t give to walk in the kitchen and see every single cabinet door open!”

I used to believe all those Little Murders slowly smothered the love I had for Gary.  Now I see they make pin pricks in my heart that make our love tough and real so we have enough strength to deal with the many “slings and arrows” of this life.  Gary makes me smile at life’s idiosyncrasies and laugh at the love’s challenges. 

IMG_1917
Love, 2016 (Tesuque, New Mexico)
Posted in Aging process, Changes, Gratitude, Retirement

Overscheduled

DSC_0103
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 Aging process, Caring for others, Children, Food, Introspection, Leftovers, Sharing

Leftovers by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Leftovers by Ginger Keller GannawayLeftovers

A few days ago my middle son gave me a late Christmas gift: a coupon for 2 free dinners at the restaurant where he works. “Cool! Thanks,” I told him with a hug. Closer reading of the coupon revealed my son’s name & “Merry Christmas” written on it.  A re-gift, but still a free meal.

That same evening my youngest son stopped by to give us a gallon zip-lock bag full of hush puppies from the assisted living place where he works. Then he also handed me a to-go container with seafood sweet & sour soup from a nearby restaurant. I said, “I bet your dad will like this.”  “It’s good and spicy,” he told me and then added, “but I did pick out all of the seafood in it.”

Stale hush puppies and seafood-less soup.  Thanks??

How do I feel about these leftover offerings from my sons? Have Gary and I simply taught them to be generous and frugal?  I know neither of us looks like we miss any meals, and we are not ready for what my dad calls, “Wheels on Meals” yet.  Should we feel offended?

Back when our boys were little, friends gave us their unwanted used furniture: a book shelf here, a side table there.  Once a house cleaner brought us a framed picture to brighten up our bedroom. WTF!? Was our home such a decor disaster that virtual strangers saw the need to spruce up the place?

We did put everything given to us to good use (except for the picture which we gave to Goodwill after we fired the house cleaner when he helped himself to a bottle of white wine out of fridge one day).

Do we look like folks who need others’ leftovers? Should we take offense?

Pie safeI have bought desks, a dresser, a bed frame, small tables, book shelves, and clothes from thrift stores. Even our dining room table first belonged to a teacher friend’s family.  And my wooden pie safe that first belonged to Momma’s grandmother is something I treasure.  I truly appreciate old, used things. 

But old, used food??  Of course, we often enjoy leftovers.  Dishes like spaghetti, chili, and gumbo taste better as leftovers; the flavors become richer.

The word “leftovers” may sound tired and sad, yet leftovers can be delicious and comforting.  We just need to make sure the casserole or dessert shoved to the back of the fridge passes the sniff test before microwaving it for Papa.

No shame in leftover food, furniture, or clothes.  So I hugged my two sons and I will look forward to the free dinners as Gary adds brown rice to rich seafood broth for his supper. Merci beaucoup, ya’ll.

Posted in Aging process, Dancing, Introspection, Mosquitoes, Worries

Mosquito by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Mosquito

by Ginger Keller Gannaway

mosquito
By RA Keller from Clovis Crawfish & his Friends

How long do mosquitoes live?  This persistent skeeter has been stalking me for days. He starts his shaky flying routine ‘round my head and over my morning coffee. His uneven circles tease my eyes. Midday he’s at my desk with a whine that wants to be a buzzing, and his sad circles resemble a drunken stumble.  At 10:33 p.m. he reappears in the worst way: like a ghost insect skittering around my face one moment and disappearing after I swat the air with my book. I practice patience and wait for Mr. Invisible to land on my hand and bite me so I can better aim and destroy him. However, this sly bug outsmarts me and won’t reappear until I give up, turn off the lights, and settle down for sleep.

His finale is the whine of insanity around my ears with his half-second landing and leaving over and over. My batting the air and even throwing off my covers only increases his craftiness. He disappears long enough for me to believe I have squashed him before the irrrrrrrrrr…irritating whirr returns, and I cover my head with the comforter because it’s better to suffocate than slowly go insane!

This mosquito madness is a metaphor for the worry that consumes me. The dark side of the street is my mind’s preferred hangout.

What if my oldest son never signs up for Obamacare and needs a heart transplant?

What if my dad lives to be 104 and Gary and I never get to live abroad?

What if our home with a cracked slab splits in two, and the morning sun shining in my eyes is NOT from a bedroom window but from a monster crack in my roof that reveals an unwanted piece of sky?

Realistic fears square dance with cray-cray ones, and the fiddler speeds up until all I know are swirling images of catastrophe.  The foot-tapping of the caller and the clapping of the demented dancers become a David Lynch scene of horror:  “Forward and Back” &“Do Sa Do” with hillbilly dancers who sport massive mosquito heads!

So I swat the sick scene from my brain’s “Oklahoma”-meets-“The Fly” dance number, and I scrub the toilet or dust a bookshelf. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I even Google “life span of a mosquito” and I now believe this demon skeeter will die before I do. Yet is there a mosquito nest in my bathroom cabinet? Do houses on cracked slabs harbor an alternative universe of zombie mosquitoes that never die?! (No more Stranger Things for me).mosquito swarm

I must get out of my head and my house, so I head to the farmer’s market. Wait a sec! Are those fruit flies around the blackberries? Or is that soft buzzing really a whinnnne!!??mpsquito1

Posted in Aging process, Exercise, Introspection, Old Age

I Fall Down A lot by Ginger Keller Gannaway

boo-boo

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

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

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

 

Posted in Aging process, Cajuns, Caring for others, Changes, Children, Friendship, Grandchildren, Grandmother, I love you, Mothers, Outdoors, Parents

Mama Joe’s Mimosa Tree by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Mama Joe’s Mimosa Treemimosa tree

A momma’s love shines through her children, and Mama Joe’s eleven children wonderfully displayed their love for her.  Lizo Vidrine married when she was 15 and she and Joe Latour raised their 11 kids in Ville Platte, Louisiana.  As a kid, I remember going to Mama and PapaJoe’s every week, mostly on Sunday afternoons.  When Dad drove the family from Eunice to Ville Platte my siblings and I played a very lame car game called “Counting Horses” ( that’s a “whole ‘nother Oprah” as one of my good friends would say). We traveled a distance of 17 miles, but to 4 restless kids, it seemed like 77 at least! 

Back then we mostly kissed Mama & Papa hello and then headed to the backyard to mama's familychase Papa’s chickens and eat his scuppernong grapes until he came out yelling at us to leave his chickens alone.  Then we fidgeted inside for 8 or so minutes until Dad gave us each a dime to walk to Mr. Theophile’s tiny store on the corner where we each bought 10 penny candies that were placed in small paper bags.  To get to the store we had to pass Mama’s next door neighbor’s house that would later remind me of Boo Radley’s place.  My sisters and I usually ran when we passed neighbor Gazelle’s because she and her “not-quite-right” daughters lived there with at least 100 cats, and Gazelle yelled at us if she was sitting on the front porch with a gun beneath her chair.  (another Oprah-type tale).

However, many years later, Papa Joe has died and Mama Joe is bedridden and somewhat senile.  Now her seven children who live closest to her have each claimed a day of the week to come take care of her (or pay for a sitter if they cannot come that week).   Usually my momma drives my two sisters and me to visit Mama Joe.  Now the house is quiet and after Gayle, Kelly and I kiss Mama Joe hello in her bed full of pillows, we move to the small living room to read or watch a little t.v.  Momma stays in Mama’s bedroom and time ticks slowly be with the soft sounds of Momma talking to Mama. Later, the sitter arrives and talks with Momma in Cajun French.  Sometimes my sisters and I go outside and pick these hard pears or sour plums from Mama’s trees. Papa Joe had been a gifted gardener, and years earlier he had grown vegetables and fruits galore in his extensive garden.  Gayle remembers when he pulled a carrot from the ground once and handed her the best carrot she has ever tasted!

Mama Joe’s yard also had this mimosa tree I really loved.  Its beautiful softness, the feathery green leaves, with the flowers that looked like pink dandelions remind me now of my grandmother’s soft, strong beauty. Mimosa trees produce fragile, sweet blossoms in the late spring that attract butterflies and birds and that also contrast with the tree’s tough nature.   According to some gardening websites, mimosas do well in droughts and heat, which explains their abundance along southern highways.  Also, they produce these elongated seedpods that drop and spread their “offspring” far and wide.  The Japanese call mimosas the “sleeping tree” because their leaves gently fold for the night.  Like the mimosa tree, Mama Joe had a strong, calm beauty that mixed the Cajun Vidrine in her with the Native American blood my momma always claimed she had. (“Your mama’s great-great grandmother was an Indian princess, for real!”)  Also, her eleven seedpods heeded the Catholic directive  to “go forth and multiply” well. Mama and Papa Joe had 48 grandchildren and over 60 great-grandchildren and I don’t know how many great-grandchildren since the Latours are still healthily multiplying. 

Overall, Mama Joe was a sweet, smiling & laughing Cajun who married at age 15 and raised a family of 11, who only spoke Cajun French until her son P.J. married Polly (an amazing woman from California),  and so she learned to speak English to welcome a new member of her family, who cooked rice and gravy like a top chef, who loved life and good times almost as much as she loved all of her many children and their children, and their children’s children, and so on.  All Mama Joe gave forth was love and joy which she taught my own mother, Geraldine, to do for her 4 children, who then did her best to teach me to do for my 3 boys.  Like the mimosa tree, may all mothers continue to spread strong, soft feathery blossoms of love for their own seedpods.

mama joe1
PaPa and Mama Joe

Thank you to Uncle Jack (Mama’s baby) and Aunt Faye for helping me with some Mama Joe details!

Posted in Aging process, Exercise, Introspection, Old Age, Pets

Walking my Butt by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Walking my Buttmillies butt

Let me be clear.  I do not enjoy exercise!  I fear weights, treadmills, and machines with names like elliptical.  I avoid any sort of exercise class because the idea of staying in step or keeping time with a roomful of moving bodies makes me sweat more than actually exercising ever could.

However, I will go for a walk.  Mostly I walk my dog. Mostly to give her a sense of freedom and the chance to smell the roses, my neighbors’ lawns, a random piece of trash, another’s dog’s butt, or a dried-up pile of poop.  My walks are mostly for Millie, but they are also a bit for me…specifically for my oversized booty!

Walking my Butt

I’m walking my butt,
Walking my butt,
Walking my big fat butt.

Birds gossip and squeak;owl
Squirrels scamper and peek.
Is nature judging me?
Do they even see
My big fat butt?

No, no, no, no way.
‘Cause my dog just sniffs and squats.
Another short squirt on another lil sprout.
She stops, she pulls, she pauses
To give my butt a kind of rest.

millie and me
So nature really doesn’t care
about my feet, my butt, my hair.
It’s my own so critical eye
that makes me wanna cry, so…

I’m walking my butt,
Walking my butt,
Walking my big fat butt.

Posted in Aging process, Retirement

How I Put The ‘Me’ in RetireMEnt!

 

071

 

After 36 years in education, I decided to retire.  That was six years ago and I have not looked back!  Not once.  Nada.  Zilch.  Never.  Really.

 

I remember how I labored over the decision to retire.  Will we be able to live on retirement funds?  What will I do to entertain myself?  How will I fill my days?  I remember thinking that I was too young to retire…too young to embrace my golden years…too young to be a ‘Golden Girl’.

 

As a high school administrator, I sometimes dealt with some pretty challenging students.  But, one day a student I was sending home for fighting yelled at me, calling me “a skinny white ass bitch.”  This wouldn’t be so bad except it was the 2nd time that week a student had referred to me in an unflattering light.  All of a sudden… I snapped!  I mean ‘it clicked’.  I’m ready to retire!  I’m outta here!

 

It’s amazing how free I felt once I made the decision and scheduled my appointment at TRS.  I was taking my skinny white ass to retirement!  

 

At first, I tried to make a plan for what to do in my golden years.  I signed up for training to be a substitute principal.  I took training to be a volunteer.  I said ‘yes’ to friends’ invitations for book clubs, at home parties, babysitting grandkids…I had my day scheduled from 8-5.  A few months into my ‘golden years’, I broke down in tears.  “I’m overwhelmed”,  I whined.  “I’m tired!!  This isn’t at all like I thought it would be!”  My husband, (comfy in his recliner) nonchalantly said, “Your problem is, you just don’t know how to relax.”  And he was right!

 

Well, I did some changing.  I started saying no to things that I really didn’t want to do and yes to my new and improved life.  Yes to cruises, ski trips, vacations to the Florida Keys, yes to volunteering, yes to writing workshops, yes to exercising every day!  I’ve made a vow to never go to HEB on weekends or in the evening.  I’ve decided that playing with my grandchildren will keep me young forever.  I’ve concluded that it’s OK to drink wine and eat chocolate on a school night.

 
Yes, I’ve taken to retirement like a duck to water or should I say, a cruise ship to the ocean?  I’ve decided “me” time is anytime.  I’ve made a commitment to enjoy every day I have left on this earth and so far… I think I’m doing a bang up job!

184

Posted in Aging process, Old Age

5 Reasons Why “Getting Old is Not For Sissies”

quote-getting-old-isn-t-for-sissies-bette-davis-139-98-36

It seems like every year something happens…something unexpected, unalluring and unwanted.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m very aware of the alternative to getting older and I am grateful for the opportunity to be alive, but, can I just say…..WOW!  This getting older is not for the faint-hearted (literally) and here are 5 reasons why.

 

#5.  Huh?  What did you say?  Say again?  These ears that once could hear a baby sigh in another room or hear a bag of chips open in the other end of the house, now evidently cannot hear my husband and vise versa.  We carry on a conversation and 89% of it involves saying, “What did you say?”

How can this be?  Soon our children and grandchildren will be raising their voices and mouthing their words while standing right in front of us.  H i  M o t h e r, h o w a r e y o u?

 

#4.  The “eyes” have it!  Cataracts, floaters, flashes, glasses and the always popular, “I’m not comfortable driving at night anymore.”  These brown eyes once could spot a misbehaving student while my back was to the class.  I could ask, “Are your hands clean?” and know the answer instantly from 30 feet.  I even remember so long ago, when I could actually read without adjusting the length of my arm or the lighting.  Sigh…..

 

#3.  Snap! Crackle! Pop! Creak!….you guessed it, the knees.  Oh, I know, some of you still have good knees, even cute knees, but for the rest of us, it’s just not pretty.  You know it’s REAL when you train your 3 year old grandchild to help you up off the floor.  Goodbye mini skirts….farewell long jogs on the beach!  Hello Aspercreme, knees braces and Motrin.

 

#2.  I hate to even get started on teeth, but I must.  Perhaps you are one of the few who still have all of your own pearly whites.  Maybe you are the lucky one who doesn’t know what a crown is or a root canal.  But, for some, our dental bills look like a monthly mortgage payment.  For many, the reason our teeth look so good is because we paid for them!  The good news is, no one really has to know if they’re the originals or not, as long you keep smiling and don’t tell!  (Be careful with the popcorn!)

 

#1.  Last but not least is food.  I remember when Nacho Doritos were not synonymous with heartburn….when Mexican food or Italian dishes could be eaten any time of day with favorable results.  Now, it seems that almost anything we eat demands a Tums, Gas-X, Pepto Bismol or Prilosec.  It seems that some of the things we used to eat and enjoy, now, are not our friends and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s something we think about and plan for.  Goodbye, eating late at night!  Farewell, spicy foods!  Hello, low-carb, high-fiber and probiotics!

 

Yes, it does seem that every year something happens; there is something that changes, disappears or pops up.  I truly believe getting older is not for sissies. In fact, as we get older we get smarter, wiser and enjoy life more fully; it just takes a little planning.  Motrin?  Glasses?  Gas-X?  Dental floss?

All ready!  Let’s go!

Posted in Aging process, Auntie Sue

Happy Birthday Auntie Sue!

 

Nancy 125

My Auntie Sue was the original Sittin Ugly Sistah!  In fact, she not only coined the phrase, she lived it and oh, how I miss her every day.

Auntie Sue was the heart and soul of our family.  She understood the importance of being together to love and laugh.  She inspired us all to be better people and at the same time, not take ourselves too seriously.

She could be tough as nails when she had to be.  At 4’11” and 100 pounds soaking wet, she was a force to be reckoned with and a heart full of compassion all at the same time.

She faced aging with grace and humor.  She lived modestly yet gave generously.  She had a kind word for everyone and lived each day with integrity and faith.

I hope you know how much I miss you, Auntie Sue.  I’m pretty sure you’ve got things all organized in Heaven with weekly Skip Bo tournaments and shopping trips.  I like to think you’re sittin ugly with me every morning,  enjoying your quiet time and encouraging us all to seize the day!

Happy Birthday Auntie Sue!

 

SCAN0046