Posted in Caring for others, Children, Friendship, Introspection, Parents

Soul Sister (a.k.a. Cousin Gina) by Ginger Keller Gannaway

“Soul” Sister (a.k.a. Cousin Gina)

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Gina and I in Panama City, 1960

 

     We were walking along a Pensacola beach around 8 a.m., after coffee and before the rest of the folks got up. We aimed to walk to the distant pier and talked nonstop the whole way.  Like evenly-matched tennis players, we served and volleyed kid woes back and forth. “He sneaks out the house so often, we have to hide our car keys now.”  “Her grades have dropped ‘cause she skips all the time.” “His room reeks of pot.”  “I hear ya’!” 

     Somehow letting go of our tales of angst gives us a kind of inner release.  We offer the worry and fear up to the sun, the waves, the breeze, and we become free to laugh out loud. Gina and I totally “get” each other, and for two hours we feel better.  On the walk back to our beach-front rental, we even rush into the surf for a quick swim and more laughter as we jump and dive into the waves. Like a couple of kids!

     Gina is my first cousin and my “soul” sister.  Even though she lived an hour away from my hometown, we saw each other often growing-up.  We shared every Keller family reunion or big holiday party at Grandma’s house for sure.  Also, we had full weeks at a time during the summer when we visited each other’s homes or went to our Indian Village camp with Grandma and Stella.

     During the 1980’s we got married and raised our kids in different states.  We didn’t spend long visits together, yet later we grabbed summer getaways when we both became public school teachers. In 1998 and 2010 we even took trips to NYC to visit my sister Gayle and sightsee and reconnect.  Gina and I snap back together easily, no matter how long we have been apart.  We share our Cajun culture, our Keller connection, and our childhood memories, and our family tragedies. Gina is  a close cousin, a trusted friend, a wise woman, a spiritual guide, and my soul sister.  She has a wit like a whip, yet it’s made of purple yarn or silly string. Her sarcasm is swift, yet stingless.  And we share a deep, honest love of movies that began in 1968 when we were both enchanted by Funny Girl.  Walking from Grandma’s to the Saturday matinees at the Liberty and then returning to sneak cigarettes while Grandma napped were big teenage moments for me.  We also worked in the theater’s concession stand and played tennis, went swimming, and obsessed over cute boys to fill the lazy summer days with good times.

     Throughout the sad, sad times and the glory days, humor has helped hold us together.  Two years ago we shared a weekend in Galveston at her sister Dana’s beach house, and while attempting to take a selfie, Gina and I laughed so hard tears ran down our cheeks as we fought to keep the other bodily liquid from running down our legs!

     Now she and I even have similar living situations. My 89-year-old dad lives with me, and Gina lives with her 87-year-old mom (my dad’s sister). So Gina and I chat and commiserate and explain and laugh over phone calls.  We still “get” each other, and as we face family challenges, we share sorrows and successes and above all we laugh.  Gina is a devoted daughter, a mighty mother, and a strong Grandma GiGi.  Time with Gina is always honest and often hysterical. It can be gut-wrenching and still stay golden.  We connect easily, strongly, and soulfully.

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Gina, Gayle, me, Andrew, Yvette in Pensecola (2009)
Posted in Introspection

Picture This

movie-ticket

 

When I grow up I’m going to go to the movies all by myself, and maybe out to eat.  I know it sounds silly and terribly unsophisticated but, I’m unrealistically weirded out by the thought of going places by myself.

Out to eat?  Never!  Drive thru’s don’t count, do they?   Movies solo?  I’ve only attempted it once.  I was going to see How Stella Got Her Groove Back, but I was so nervous that I arrived late and left early, so I never found out if she did or not.

What’s the problem, you may ask?  What am I afraid of?  There are many people who absolutely love an afternoon flick all by their lonesome.  They relish the intimacy between themselves and the big screen.  They don’t have to share the popcorn or Junior Mints as they cozy down in their reclining stadium seats.

Others take themselves out to eat after a morning of errands or shopping.  They happily say ‘table for one’ and genuinely seem to enjoy the solitude and the meal.  Sometimes even reading a book while they nibble or lunch.

What’s my problem?  Why am I so adverse to this sylloque of solitude?  Once, my husband came home after running errands and a Dr.’s appointment and I said, “I bet you’re starved, want me to fix you a sandwich?”

“Oh no”, he said, “I stopped at Red Lobster for lunch.”

“By yourself?” I gulped.

“It was fabulous”, he said, “All you can eat shrimp!”

I was so verklempt that I had to sit down.  

“I wish I could do that”, I whispered.

He did suggest that I practice.  Of course, now he kids me whenever we go to the movies.  “Why don’t you buy your own ticket and practice walking in by yourself?  You can even sit by yourself and I’ll act like I don’t know you.”

I know it sounds so absurd.  Maybe I need hypnosis?  Biofeedback therapy?  Is there a self-help book for ‘chickens’?
Well, perhaps in the spirit of being kind to myself…..I might be rushing things, trying to go too far… too fast.  After all, I’m only 63.   Baby steps, right??   My senior discount will still be good next year!

Posted in Entertainment, Introspection

Top 10 Movie Moments in my Life by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Top 10 Movie Moments of my Life

My grandma owned the movie theaters in the small town I grew up in. Since I (along with many cousins)“got in the show free,” the Liberty Theater and Queen Cinema were my babysitters, my entertainers, and my employers during my formative years. Is that why cinema means much more to me than just moving pictures and why I connect with movies on a very visceral level?

funny-girl1. Funny Girl (1968) Barbra Streisand’s mix of comedy, music, and tragic romance awakened the film fanatic in my 12-year-old soul. I saw it 11 times over a two-week period and Barbra is still “The Greatest Star” for me.
2.  Psycho (1960) I saw this groundbreaking example of mother/son obsession in 1970 for a 10th anniversary showing, and my 8th grade buddies and I literally jumped from our seats during the shocker scenes. Hitchcock became the first director I adored. (seen it 10 times: thanks TCM)
3. Cool Hand Luke (1967) Even though I did not fully appreciate all the symbolism and complex themes when I first saw this, I did fully recognize Paul Newman as the “natural born world-shaker” he was and continues to be. (Especially in 1972 when my friends and I met him during the filming of The Drowning Pool in Lafayette, LA).

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Paul Newman with Cheryl Manuel,Kelly Keller, and Colleen (I’m taking the picture).

4. The Way We Were (1973) Both Streisand and Redford cemented my passion for the tragic side of love. (I saw it over 20 times in my junior year!) I still swoon and cry over those movie moments that remind me that love does NOT conquer all.
5. Annie Hall (1977) Woody Allen so skillfully balanced neurotic humor and awkward silliness to stimulate my college brain and to reveal the laughable side of love’s impermanence. (Only twice in theaters. I don’t”get in free” outside of Eunice).
6. Casablanca (1942) In 1980 I asked my husband-of-now-33-years, Gary, to meet me at the Varsity Theater to see this ultra-cool classic whose sharp dialogue and superstar performances added moral fortitude to the lost-love theme.(8 or 9 times)
7. Brave Little Toaster (1987) So fast-forward to my life with 3 little boys who tangled me up in the wonder of talking appliances, silly songs, and travel adventures. (I lost count of times we watched it; thank you, VCR).
8. Schindler’s List (1993) The teacher part of me mixed my love of historic heroes, masterful moviemaking, and powerful education when I guided tenth graders to examine Spielberg’s genius after they read Elie Wiesel’s unforgettable Night. (Over 16 close-viewing times & the students and I always noticed new brilliant moments).
9.Boyhood (2014) – Linklater’s brave masterpiece about raising kids in Texas in the ’80’s and ’90’s mirrored my own “small moments make a life” experience with my Shane, Casey, and Evan. (Saw it twice in theaters and 6 times on DVD).boyhood
10. LaLa Land (2016) – I fell completely in love with every frame of its musical magic. Oh those gorgeous yearning looks of lost love at the end! Here’s to ALL  the“Fools Who Dream.” (Paid to see it 4 times in two weeks)

So, what are some of YOUR movie moments?  (The 2017 Oscars air  Sunday night, February 26, at 7 p.m.!!)academy_award_trophy

Posted in Friendship, Introspection, Retirement

Top Ten Tuesday : Retirement

TOP TEN TUESDAYStop-ten

Introduction:
Nancy and I have decided to add a bit of structure to our blog. On Tuesdays we will post a Top Ten List, accompanied by an essay that connects to that week’s Top 10.
And since Sittin’ Ugly Sistahs don’t always follow rules, I have adjusted today’s Top Ten List to include only 7 items. (Please let us know what you think about our attempt to get more organized).
DISCLAIMER: I retired from 35 years of teaching in public schools in 2014. I am truly grateful for the TIME I now have for myself and for my growing love of writing. However, retirement has also given TIME to my “lesser angels” who have been working out 5 hours a day to gain strength and power to develop:

My Seven Deadly Sins of Retirement

by Ginger Keller Gannaway

1.SLOTH – Even though I arise at 6 a.m.,robe I stay in my robe until 2 p.m., watch Netflix until 4 p.m., decide to clean out my hall closet next week (or maybe next month), and leave a sink full of dirty dishes for my spouse to wash later because I need to find out how Stranger Things ends.

thin-mints2. GLUTTONY – I start with a single Thin Mint cookie to accompany my morning coffee, two more for a mid-morning snack, 4 cookies for dessert after my lunch, a few more to help me fix supper, and I help my hubby finish off the whole box later that evening.

3. ENVY – Since I have too much free time to skim Facebook, I start to believe every one of my friends’ kids are more independent, better-adjusted, more successful, better-looking, funnier, healthier, and happier than my own. Plus, those same wonderful children both respect and adore their parents!facebook

4. Avarice- With my new-found time, I decide it’s a good idea to go shopping everyday. I alternate a day with Amazon Prime bargains with a day full of the deals at Home Goods, Academy, or Ross-Dress-For-Less. Then at the end of each month, I get to better know all the thrift stores in town.

cabinets5. WRATH – Sharing my abundance of home time with my spouse makes me realize how sloppy, lazy, insensitive, and self-centered he has suddenly become. I never noticed how my loved-one did not know how to close a single drawer or cabinet in our kitchen, so around 10:47 p.m. one night I opened and loudly closed each and every drawer and cabinet and accidentally pulled the spice door back too far before I slammed it properly and broke its hinge.

6. LUST – While watching all six seasons of Justified, I become justifiedobsessed with the way Timothy Olyphant as Marshall Raylan Givens cocks his handsome head and wears that well-worn cowboy hat and struts so confidently into a bar or a backwoods danger zone, yet he still has a gentle look in his brown eyes when he holds his baby girl. So I ask my hubby to keep all the lights off the next time we make love and I have country music playing softly in the background. I also suggest total silence during sex so I can replay scenes of Raylan outsmarting Boyd Crowder in my head.

7. PRIDE – I now feel pity for my friends who still have to work, and from my lofty throne of Retired Greatness, I judge those who struggle to make it through a few more years of work. Poor, sad, tired Daily Grinders! I even forget that folks who do the 9 to 5 gig may not want to see a late night live music show on a Wednesday or to check out the midnight feature on a Sunday. Although I sorta strut through my days of freedom and semi-gloat about finishing Anna Karenina in 4 days, I really only want more of my favorite friends to be free from work so that they can “come out and play” with me.top-tentop-tenthrone-retired

Posted in Aging process, Christmas, Grandmother, Holidays, Introspection

Letting Go by Ginger Keller Gannaway

 

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Geraldine Latour Keller

As Dad shuffled out of his 122-year-old home, he went back to his bedroom to take down the large wooden-framed portrait of his daughter, Kelly Ann. Kelly died on September 25, 2004, and he sobbed while he unsteadily carried the picture towards the front door. I met him there and took the picture, wrapped it in a Christmas angel blanket and stacked it atop the miscellaneous mess crammed into Dad’s Pontiac Vibe. After he painfully plopped himself in the passenger seat he remembered Momma. “I forgot Gerry,” he said as he started to struggle to get up out of the car. I stopped him with, “I got it. I got it. The big photo on the hall table, right?” He nodded sadly as I hurried back into the lonely house to retrieve the black and white photo we had blown-up to display at Momma’s memorial in 2014. These were Dad’s farewell actions before I pulled shut the heavy front door of Grandma’s house. (Even though my parents had lived there since 1972, 420 S. 2nd St. would always be “Grandma’s house.”)
In Annie Hall Woody Allen says, “A relationship is like a shark. It has to keep moving or it dies.” Does the simile work for life in general? We keep moving on or we die, either literally or figuratively. And a big part of moving on is learning to let go: of places, of things, of people. The week before Christmas my sister Gayle, our close friend Mark, and I started cleaning up and clearing our Grandma’s house. We organized items in piles: Trash; Goodwill; KEEP; Leave for the house. (My cousin Chiquita had bought the house and she let us leave all the stuff we did not want to take! Merci beaucoup, Chickie!) Gayle kept quoting the book about decluttering: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up , “Does it give you joy? No? So throw it.” Mark would sometimes argue over the value of an item. “This old kitchen clock is wonderful! It would remind your dad of his home. Take it.”
Since we had limited space in Dad’s car, I had to make tough decisions. I wanted Momma’s china and Mama Joe’s pie safe. Period. But then a portable hair dryer from the 1960’s and a stack of old 45’s would remind me of the freedom and freshness of being 12 years old. I caught myself putting a tube of lipstick from my momma’s winter coat in my own pocket and setting aside the dented aluminum bun warmer Momma used a lot. I opened stiff books and touched the handwritten dedication from a dead relative to a dead friend.img_3494
Later my brother Emile arrived and he made piles of old things for his three children and five grandchildren. Then someone thought of gift-wrapping unique or sentimental items to put under the Christmas tree: a tarnished tennis trophy, a pair of iron wolf book ends, a biography of Carl Sandburg. The gift tags read “from Grandma’s house” or “from Eunice” or “from Mr. Snowball.”
From December 17 to the last day of 2016, we were slowly saying good-bye to Grandma’s house, to Momma and Kelly’s memories, and to our own childhoods. We let go of stacks and even rooms of furniture, clothes, knick-knacks, and even some treasures. However, each of us took the items we needed to hold on tightly to ( two audio cassettes of an interview with Grandma, a Latour coffee cup Uncle P.J. gave Momma, Kelly’s copy of Walden.)
I let go of almost 60 years of objects from that home even as I squirreled away an LP here or a cast iron skillet there. I know that the things I took are just things, but they hold powerful memories of parties and suppers and stories and games and bad times and good times. Dad and I did not finally drive off in the Vibe until I ran back in for my final treasure from Grandma’s house: the extra-large Bulova kitchen clock from the 1940’s. Time to let go and move on down the road.img_3492

Posted in Food, Holidays, Introspection

I Dread Christmas by Ginger Keller Gannaway

I Dread Christmas

by Ginger Keller Gannawayimg_1589

     Like the cliched tangle of several strands of colored lights, I am a mess of knotted stress and on-and-off joy. For me, the Christmas smiles and laughs of surprise get swept away by the demands and deadlines of consumerism. First of all, why do we put so much money, effort, and worry into a holiday season? We spend hours spending dollars we cannot easily spare on presents most folks do not truly need or want. We drag out dusty decorations and spend more hours making our homes “merry and bright” for a few weeks of over-hyped, commercialized holiness. Why?
Perhaps when I was a kid or when my 20-something sons were kids, I enjoyed the getting and the giving. Back then we had Santa’s magic and loads of brand new playthings. Now I mainly see just the aftermath of the Christmas explosion: cookie crumbs, dirty napkins, discarded toys, and dead pine needles. And after the overdone turkey, off-key caroling, and cranky kids, all the cleaning and organizing and putting away looms large. Why?
I know. I know. “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But how do days and days of shopping and decorating and shopping and planning and shopping and cleaning and shopping and cooking and shopping and traveling and shopping and visiting and shopping add up to celebrating the birth of a savior who praised love over possessions?
Call me Scrooge or the Grinch or just a grumpy old lady. This is my truth. Christmas comes too soon and demands too much from our bank accounts and our time sheets. I enjoy holiday time with my family . I savor our delicious holiday meal. I enjoy the thrill of opening presents (and watching others do the same). I still get misty-eyed when singing Christmas carols. But I need to turn the whole thing down several notches. Today is December 14 and I have not bought my sons a single present. May I stick with my “single gift for each person” plan. My home has not a single decoration. May we simply trim the tree on December 24 and call it Christmas.
A picture of a Finnish proverb is taped above my desk:
“Happiness is a place between too little and too much.”img_3375
May this thought rule my life and especially my Christmas this year. A shorter and simpler holiday leaves me more time for true joy and peace.