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 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 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 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 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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Posted in Auntie Sue, Gratitude, Introspection, Sittin Ugly

The Nose Knows by Nancy Malcolm

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The Nose Knows:  

One of my favorite smells is coffee in the morning.  I love, love, love my coffee and I’ve been trying to slow down enough to actually breathe in that fresh, nutty scent before I take that first sip.  I do believe that long, fragrant sniff makes it taste even better.

At a time when many folks are choosing “scent-free”, and “free of perfumes” laundry detergent and dryer sheets, I am going the opposite direction.    “Island Fresh”?…Aloha!    “Febreze with Odor Defense”?…yes please!     “Apple Mango Tango”? … Count me in!  I’m just one of those people who enjoys doing laundry and I especially love for my clothes to smell good.  Yes, I sniff my clothes….is that peculiar?   Whenever a grandchild spends time with us, I always send them home with clean clothes.  My daughter sometimes says as she hugs her son,  “Your clothes smell like Nannie!”  Is it a bad thing to have your clothes smell like Nannie’s house?  I think not!  Oh sure, I understand allergies and I do have the ‘clean and clear’ which I gladly use for one of our little ones.  But, for me…..it’s “Tropical Sunrise” and “Moonlight Breeze” all the way!

My brother still makes fun of my nose and refers to it as the family schnoz!  But, this nose has smelt some pretty incredible aromas in this lifetime.  Just last week I had the blessing to breathe in that ‘new baby’ smell.  It was a combination of fresh, musky sweetness and warmth, with a hint of vanilla.  If preciousness has a scent…that was it!DSC_0332

And, what about the smell of chalk dust, floor wax and yeast rolls on the first day of school?

garden-339236_640A fragrant rose or lily

Sweaty little boys who’ve been playing outside (this one is questionable)

A deep breath of air from a crisp New England day       DSC_0250

Remember Claire Burke original potpourri?

Cinnabons fresh out of the oven…

A new book?

Rain

The list is endless really if I choose to just slow down and breathe in this life I’ve been given.  Many of my fondest memories and joyous occasions are marked by a scent that even now when I get a whiff of it, transports me in time.  And what I wouldn’t give to hug Auntie Sue’s neck right now and smell that SCAN0046Clinique Aromatics Elixir or Estee Lauder perfume.  It has been said, that of the five senses, smell is the one with the best memory.  I believe that to be absolutely true.  

 

Nothing in the world smells as good as the person you love. We all know that for sure.   It seems our hearts are directly connected to our sense of smell.  The nose always knows….a scent can paint a more detailed picture than an artist with oils.

 

So, let us daily, breathe in deeply and be mindful to acknowledge this free gift.  ‘Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.’ Helen Keller       Amen.

 

Posted in Caring for others, Children, Dancing, fathers and daughters, Gratitude

Dancing with Daddy by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Dancing with Daddydancing with daddy1

That cliched image of a small girl’s feet atop her daddy’s dress shoes as he dances with her captures my relationship with my dad.

I am the oldest of 3 daughters of a demanding father. He has that “you don’t ask ‘why’ when he tells you to jump; you say ‘how high?’” attitude toward parenting. My sisters and older brother and I grew up with a protective mom who gave us warnings like, “You better be quiet; Daddy’s napping” or “You don’t want me to tell your daddy about this!”

However, his stern demeanor was often overpowered by his protective love and boundless generosity, especially for me, a kid who was different.

I have cerebral palsy, and my left side is smaller and weaker. I walk with a limp and have very limited use of my crooked left arm. Still, Daddy always told me I could do whatever my brother and sisters did. So I took swimming lessons, rode our Shetland pony, played kickball, softball, and a bit of basketball. And since we were a tennis-obsessed family, Dad even taught me an under-handed (but still legal) serve so I could play in tournaments.

His insistence for me to not let my disability constrain me gave me a cock-eyed view of reality. I believed I could do anything and thus I tried everything my siblings did. Not until high school did real life pull off that Dad-created self-assurance when a strict nun yanked me out of typing class because she realized I was typing with only my right hand. So like an episode of Malcolm in the Middle when the mom Lois watches a video of herself and sadly realizes she can’t dance gracefully like she thought she could, I began to see I was bumbling my way through most physical endeavors.

dear daddy

 

With the awkwardness and self-doubt of adolescence, I became more hesitant and shy although I did continue to play on the school’s tennis team and to excel in French which I took instead of typing. So however skewed my self-image had been, Daddy still instilled enough confidence in me so that I believed him when he said, “Go ahead and dive into the deep end of that pool”; “Get on that pony and ride bare-back”; “Climb that tree and grab the rope swing”; “Keep your knees bent and hold tight to that water-ski rope”; “Serve to her backhand and you’ll win that tennis match.”

So thank you, Daddy, for guiding me down life’s bumpy gravel roads and through the dark halls of loss and pain. Your unwavering belief in me and your support when I clung to your belt loop as you glided me across Grandma’s big living room floor have been enough for me to believe in what I can do more than what I can’t.

Love,

Ginger

Posted in Auntie Sue, Coffee, Gratitude, Introspection, Sittin Ugly

Sittin’ Ugly by Nancy Malcolm

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Here’s To Auntie Sue!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In the early morning hours, before anyone else is up, while the cat is still stretching languidly in her chair, I begin my day. In this quiet early hour I can hear the thud of the newspaper being thrown on the sidewalks, the coffeemaker finishing the last few drops and I hear the tick of our clock on the mantle. This is my selfish hour. This is my cherished solitude. I must have it!! This is my time to drink my coffee and absolutely, unequivocally “sit ugly”.

Sittin’ Ugly is a family tradition passed on by my 88 year old Auntie Sue. Her mother did it, she does it and now I do it. I’m sure lots of other people on earth are doing it, but to do it correctly is an art. The art of sittin’ ugly is learned and perfected through years of practice. There are rules of course, and above all, one must respect another’s’ right to sit ugly. There should be no judgment about sittin’ ugly. The fact is, one just simply does…..sit ugly. No judgment, no shame.

Everyone has their own way to sit ugly. But there are guidelines that I find very comforting and helpful to follow. Anyone that is new to the art will surely want to comply. The rules are as follows:

1. There must be coffee. Preferably freshly brewed with everything extra that you need, (cream, sugar etc.) and of course the favorite mug. I’ve never known a tea drinker to sit ugly, but I suppose it could be done.

2. No talking!! No one speaks to you-you speak to no one. Sometimes it may be necessary to point or grunt especially if you have small children and they absolutely must encroach on your time. But, the only talking truly allowed is to yourself.

3. You must sit. My favorite spot is an oversized chair by the window. Above all else, you must pick a comfortable, familiar place to sit. It is always good to be able to put up your feet and have a little table nearby. Your sittin’ area should be away from anyone else who might be awake.

4. You may be asking yourself, now what? I have the coffee. I’m sitting quietly. Now what? The “what” to do part is really up to you. Sometimes I just sit and stare while sipping my coffee. Staring is perfectly allowable and even encouraged. I also read my daily devotionals and have long conversations with God. I contemplate my day and my life. I think. I don’t think and then I may stare some more, all the while continuing to drink my coffee. This part may go on for a long as necessary. One hour is perfect for me.

5. Lastly, about this “ugly” part. Sittin ugly simply means that you come as you are, straight from bed. No primping allowed! One must be ones’ self. Tattered nighty? That’s ok! Acne medicine dotted on your face? Beautiful! Scruffy old favorite robe and slippers? The older the better! Sittin’ ugly is actually a super-natural phenomenon that makes you more good looking. The longer time you have to sit, the better you will look and feel. Try it and see!

Sittin’ ugly is my personal time. It is my favorite time of the day. Sometimes I can hardly wait to get up in the morning just to sit ugly. I am always at my best while sittin’ ugly, mainly because no one is speaking to me or me to them. What a joyous, peaceful time! What a perfect way to start your day, infact for me, it is a necessity.

Some mornings my little Auntie will call me and ask, “Honey, are you sittin’ ugly or can you talk?” It is always good manners to ask first encase one is not fit for conversation.

So here’s to “Sittin’ Ugly”, to having this special time each and every day and to the millions of us who find it necessary for the sustainment of sanity. Here’s to my precious Auntie Sue and all the beautiful ones who “sit ugly”.

Posted in Caring for others, Children, Dancing, fathers and daughters, Gratitude

Dancing with Daddy by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Dancing with Daddydancing with daddy1

That cliched image of a small girl’s feet atop her daddy’s dress shoes as he dances with her captures my relationship with my dad.
I am the oldest of 3 daughters of a demanding father. He has that “you don’t ask ‘why’ when he tells you to jump; you say ‘how high?’” attitude toward parenting. My sisters and older brother and I grew up with a protective mom who gave us warnings like, “You better be quiet; Daddy’s napping” or “You don’t want me to tell your daddy about this!”
However, his stern demeanor was often overpowered by his protective love and boundless generosity, especially for me, a kid who was different.
I have cerebral palsy, and my left side is smaller and weaker. I walk with a limp and have very limited use of my crooked left arm. Still, Daddy always told me I could do whatever my brother and sisters did. So I took swimming lessons, rode our Shetland pony, played kickball, softball, and a bit of basketball. And since we were a tennis-obsessed family, Dad even taught me an under-handed (but still legal) serve so I could play in tournaments.

His insistence for me to not let my disability constrain me gave me a cock-eyed view of reality. I believed I could do anything and thus I tried everything my siblings did. Not until high school did real life pull off that Dad-created self-assurance when a strict nun yanked me out of typing class because she realized I was typing with only my right hand. So like an episode of Malcolm in the Middle when the mom Lois watches a video of herself and sadly realizes she can’t dance gracefully like she thought she could, I began to see I was bumbling my way through most physical endeavors.

dear daddy
My dad, Reginald Keller, and me, 1961

 

With the awkwardness and self-doubt of adolescence, I became more hesitant and shy although I did continue to play on the school’s tennis team and to excel in French which I took instead of typing. So however skewed my self-image had been, Daddy still instilled enough confidence in me so that I believed him when he said, “Go ahead and dive into the deep end of that pool”; “Get on that pony and ride bare-back”; “Climb that tree and grab the rope swing”; “Keep your knees bent and hold tight to that water-ski rope”; “Serve to her backhand and you’ll win that tennis match.”
So thank you, Daddy, for guiding me down life’s bumpy gravel roads and through the dark halls of loss and pain. Your unwavering belief in me and your support when I clung to your belt loop as you glided me across Grandma’s big living room floor have been enough for me to believe in what I can do more than what I can’t.

Love,
Ginger