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 Falling down, Introspection

I Fall Down Sometimes

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I Fall Down Sometimes:   by Nancy Malcolm
My freshman year of college I went on a trip to Boston with my Dad.  He was attending the Naval War College in Rhode Island, but we met in Boston to do some sightseeing.  After our week of fun, we were literally racing to make my flight home.  As we bounded down two flights of stairs in the parking garage, I tripped on my bell bottom pants and flew end over end to the ground.  Crying, bruised and with a bloody knee, I hobbled onto the plane and found my seat just minutes before take off.  To ease my pain, though, as the plane rose in the sky, I rummaged through my purse to find an old Tarryton 100 cigarette and lit up!  Ahhhh, the good old days, when there was a “smoking section” on airplanes!

I fall down sometimes, but I always get up.

Once, in Ruidoso, New Mexico, I sprang out of the car, after a 30-minute monologue about the beauty of the snow, mountains, clean air and how I couldn’t wait to become “one with nature”.  I took exactly five steps before my feet went out from under me.  It was all in slow motion as my feet casually rose skyward and my bum harshly went downward onto the icy, snow/mud sludge.  With hurt pride and a wet bottom, I hobbled back to the car for dry pants.  

I do fall down sometimes, but I always get back up.

Even now, without much effort, I can recall three other falls on ice.  I always landed on the frozen tundra and embarrassed and/or hurt myself.  You would think an Amarillo girl would be more sure-footed, but not so.

I do fall down sometimes, but I always get back up.  

I could go on and on about my tripping over my feet, stumbling and losing my balance.  I’ve had a lifetime of near misses and bullseyes.  I’ve hurt myself; hurt my pride and bruised more than my ego.  But, in falling, as in life, it’s the getting back up that counts.

Whether you fall down, fall over or fall off, it’s always worth the effort to get back up.  As my friend Minion says, “I don’t trip.  I do random gravity checks.”

Posted in Aging process, Exercise, Introspection, Old Age

I Fall Down A lot by Ginger Keller Gannaway

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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.

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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 Fathers, fathers and daughters, Introspection, Parents

My Daddy’s Eyes

 

Beauty is a light in the heart.
“Good morning!” the desk clerk said cheerily.

 It was 6:00 a.m. as I padded into the Hampton Inn lobby sitting area.  Everything was softly lit and I was the only patron wandering the hallway….just the ambiance I needed to sit quietly and wake up.  I had my books and writing pad as I headed straight to the coffee: two pumps of hazelnut creamer, half robust, and half decaf.  I sat down and got situated with my coffee and book when I felt a presence or some kind of energy nearby. Suddenly chilled,  I took a long breath in, savoring the blend of hazelnut and coffee aroma.  Finally, taking a sip, my eyes glanced over the top of my coffee cup and I saw him.  Across the room, directly opposite me, was an older gentleman.  He seemed relaxed as he sat with perfect posture,  looking straight at me.

 He had my Daddy’s eyes.

It felt so strange and yet comforting.  He was dressed in worn khaki pants, a plaid shirt, and a tattered baseball cap.  He smiled at me and I smiled back, but his eyes went right through me.

For a split second, I wanted to cry “Daddy!” and go to him for a hug and a whiff of his Old Spice aftershave.  I wanted to take up where we left off and say, “How are you?”  “Where have you been?”  But, I knew the answers.  So I diverted my eyes back to my book.

I didn’t want to stare.  I just wanted one more peek into my Daddy’s eyes, and when I finally dared to look up….he was gone.  There was a voice inside me that begged to follow him,  yet I sat completely still, totally rattled and at the same time….humbled.

As if on cue, the lobby breakfast area began to come alive with sleepy guests wanting a waffle and hot coffee.  I glanced around, wondering if anyone saw what had just happened…did they too, see the gentleman in the baseball cap and plaid shirt?

I’m not at all sure what to think or how to feel about my encounter this morning.  I feel a strange peace and warmth as I remember it.  Was my Daddy wanting to see me too, just one more time?  

I don’t believe I need to figure it out.  I will just accept it as an embrace from above and carry with me the familiar smile and crinkled eyes as my secret reminder.  Maybe it really is true that the eyes are the window to the soul.

Posted in Introspection, owl omens, Owls, Sittin Ugly

And Then There Were Three

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I’ve always been an early riser; I simply must.  It is my time to “sit ugly” and spiritually and mentally prepare for the day.  As I sip coffee, I often stare out the window, enjoying the rising of the sun and watching the birds fly in for a snack.

In our backyard is a bird bath that serves as a way-station for the many birdies that frequent our neighborhood.  They nibble at our bird feeder, get a little drink and take a little bath…then fly off again to decorate the trees and sky with their beautiful colors.  Our bird feeder is guaranteed to be squirrel proof, but still…you know how crafty those squirrels can be.

A few weeks ago I glanced out the back door, checking on my plants, the bird feeder (aka squirrel feeder) and saw two small owls sitting in the bird bath!  They were sitting side by side, turning their heads, acknowledging the blue jays and pigeons who wanted their turn to bathe.  The owls would drink, splash and then sit perfectly still while their heads turned side to side.  I ran to get my camera and tried taking pictures through the glass, but that didn’t work.  So, I gently opened the back door and snapped away.  I thought this was just a fluke, but so far, every day at 6:30 a.m. my owl friends drop by for a bite, a bath, or a drink.  Maybe owls like to ‘sit ugly’, too.

After the first few times I saw them, I thought perhaps it was an omen.  Maybe it was a sign I should pay attention to, so I googled “owl visits” and “what does it mean if you see an owl?”  Lots of things popped up, as you might imagine.  Much of it was about finding your Spirit Animal and Native American folklore.  Was an owl on my totem pole?  I really didn’t know.

However, as I read, it boiled down to two main messages:  consistently seeing owls was either a sign of really good luck, wisdom and magic OR a really bad sign, like imminent death!  YIKES!

After reading for awhile, I came to my own conclusion.  Perhaps our backyard was famous in Audubon circles, and these owls wanted to check us out.  Maybe God simply wanted to bless me, a faithful early riser, with a beautiful surprise.  What if the message was, “take time to be present, notice the glorious world in your own backyard”?  

 

A few days ago, I stood waiting at the backdoor, taking my first sip of coffee and wondering if my friends were on their way, when all of a sudden...there were three.  One little owl would bathe then fly up into the tree and the other two would come down to splash.  They all three took turns and rotated branches and birdbath; then they flew away to do whatever they do during the day.  Perhaps sleep.
I’ve haven’t seen the 3rd owl since that day.  Some mornings only one will show up and some days two.  I suppose one day, my owl friends will move on and find another a.m. stop-over.  Meanwhile, I’ll continue my morning ritual and maybe keep the camera nearby just in case my owls fly in…..that sounds like a wise thing to do, don’t you think?

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Posted in Children, Introspection, jobs, School, Teaching

What Teaching Kindergarten Taught Me

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What Teaching Kindergarten Taught Me:

My teaching career spanned seventeen years.  Ten years teaching high school and seven years teaching kindergarten.  The chasm is not as deep or wide between the two as you might think because a 5-year-old and a 15-year-old have similar behaviors and thought processes.

Some of my most fun and also frightening teaching memories came from my precious kinder kiddos.  The first year I made the switch from high school to kindergarten, I was constantly wondering why.  Why do these kids not stay seated when I ask them to?  Why can’t they line up in a straight line?  The answer was easy….those were two skills I needed to teach them.  Who knew?  As I quickly learned, the first month of kindergarten is solely dedicated to learning processes, systems, and procedures.  How to line up, how to make it to the bathroom on time, and how to work together safely and without a meltdown.

Boogers:     Sniffles, picking and blowing are all things done with the nose or let’s just call it like it is…boogers.  Problems occur when you are not prepared for Booger mania!  For example,  the sneeze felt round the room; or when known nose picker runs up and hugs your legs passing who knows what onto your skirt; or how about when above said nose picker is chosen line leader for the day and gets to hold the teacher’s hand?  I’ve been known to hold the wrist instead, feigning a sore finger.  One must always be vigilant to pickers and be prepared for the unplanned grasp of the hand.  Although it’s not PC, it would be so cool if you could wear disposable gloves while teaching.  Is there any wonder why Kleenex is number one on the school supply list?
Potty talk, potty time and potty problems:    For some reason, pee, poop, and fart are the 3 funniest words any five year old knows.  Just say the word ‘fart’ and you will cause a group of kindergarteners to collapse into giggles, jokes or stories.  For example:  Once during an appraisal by my principal, a whole classroom dissolved with one fart.

On this day at story time, I had my 25 five-year-olds sitting perfectly still on the carpet in front of me.  We were reading a story which I was incorporating into a fabulous English Language Arts lesson on Sequencing:  What comes next in the story.  I was sitting smugly in my chair, 25 sets of eyes were all on me, my Principal was sitting at the back of the room taking notes when all of a sudden, in the quiet pause of the story….a precious little girl farted.  I tried to bite my lip, keep on reading and act like nothing happened, but one moment later a little one from the back of the group asked, “Did you hear that air biscuit?  One after another the group popped up with other statements:  “I did!”  “Who did it?”  “What’s an air biscuit?”  “That wasn’t a biscuit, it was a fart and it smells!”

Picture me calmly (I was really starting to sweat) asking the class to put all eyes back on me and putting my finger to my lips, tried the silent shhhhhh.

Chaos ensued when another child pointed out the culprit…I didn’t want to, but I glanced at the back of the room and saw my principal hysterically laughing and trying to hide his face while his shoulders were uncontrollably shaking.  He politely excused himself and said, “Perhaps I can come back later.”

I never really got it back together after that, so we went outside to run and play and return after a bathroom break, and try it again.  Sequencing lesson:  What happens after a child has a loud air biscuit?  Mayhem.

On most days, my classroom was calm and uneventful.  You know, those days when you wish Norman Rockwell was capturing the essence of your teaching career?  Those seven years in kindergarten were sweet, funny and oh so endearing.  I learned a lot about life.  I learned boogers and farts are funny at any age.  I learned to be more inquisitive, laugh more, see the joy in everyday events and love with all my heart!

Hey, sometimes “poop” happens… but it’s how you deal with it that matters.

 

 

Posted in Changes, Introspection, Work ethic

Beginnings and Endings

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Beginnings and Endings:

Where you begin is not always where you end.  I had a job on weekends and in the summer from the time I turned sixteen until I landed my first teaching gig.

One of my first high school jobs was at Meyers Family Fried Chicken in Amarillo, Texas.  I was the hostess with the mostess on weekends!  “How many?”  “High chair or booster?”  “Booth or table?”  “  Follow me please.”

Meyers Family Fried Chicken was, as you guessed, geared toward family.  It had a train track mounted at the top of the walls by the ceiling and a locomotive with a long train that ran continuously everyday, from open to close.  

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My time there was pretty non-descript, except when a customer would request a certain waitress or to sit by the window.  When that happened, it would cause tip inequality and sometimes overwork or not enough work for the waitresses.   This, in turn, would cause huffing and puffing and sideways glances at the Hostess.   Although the policy was to make the customer happy, I was less popular than usual when a demanding patron put us out of rotation.  I think Meyers and I parted ways after one year.

My most favorite job in high school was at Montgomery Ward in the Western Plaza.  I breezed through training with flying colors and high scores because I could run the register and count back change with speed and accuracy.  All this awarded me the prestigious title of “Floater,” meaning every time I clocked into work, I had to stop by HR to see what department needed help.

I managed to land a coveted temporary position in the Electronics Department when a full-time/part-time person went on maternity leave.  The Electronics Dept. sold T.V.’s, record players, radios and records.  You know, LP’s and 45’s.  I was in heaven, mainly because cute boys would occasionally wander in looking at records and I could approach with a big smile and ask, “May I help you?”SCAN0006 (2)

 

My other department stents were not as glamorous nor as successful.  Once, while helping out in shoes, I sent customers home with two different shoes in the same box.  (not a matched pair)  And there was one fateful Saturday in the Candy Dept….I’m not sure why, but I never got the hang of scooping, measuring correctly, and bagging.  On Saturday’s it would be flush with harried parents, crying kids, and ‘hangry’ (hungry and angry) customers.  I never “floated” back after that one time.

My employment background boasts of teaching swimming lessons and lifeguarding at the YMCA;  one summer at Glorieta Baptist Church Camp, working in the Chuck Wagon, making donuts; and two summers in college, as a secretary at an insurance company.

Isn’t it fascinating to look back and see that where you began is not always where you end?  How was I to know at sixteen that the skills and customer interactions then would serve me well later as an educator?  How could I possibly have known that weekends and summers wouldn’t hold a candle to Monday through Friday for 36 years?

Certainly, where I began was not where I ended.  But, it shaped me and molded me and taught me about life and the virtues of an honest day’s work.  So, to that I must say:  “Thank you, Meyer’s Family Fried Chicken!”,  “Gracias! Montgomery Ward!”, and “Much obliged! Chuck Wagon!”

You taught me well!

Posted in Introspection, Photography

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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There’s something about taking pictures.  It connects you with the human race…  It gives you a mind’s eye view of the world… Shows the window to the soul…Tells a story…Frees the imagination…Captures the truth.

It is a universal language.  Everyone loves to see themselves in photographs and to see photos of people and things that they love.  When I am behind my camera, I see the greater good, the brightest color, the person behind the eyes, and the wonder of all God’s creatures.  There is nothing that rivals that feeling.

Wherever I go, when I take my camera, I am transported to another dimension!  Strangers are drawn to me and want me to take their picture, or ask me to use their camera to take their picture.  Once on a trip to Mardi Gras’, I began taking pictures during a street dance.  Soon, couples I didn’t know and would never see again,  danced by and posed, wanting me to capture their revelry.  I must have taken 300 pictures in a two-hour span.   Photography breaks down barriers and builds relationships.

When I was 10 years old, my dad let me take a camera to Girl Scout camp.  It was a Brownie.  Brownie Cameras were boxed shaped and you looked down through the top to find your subject.  The film had to be threaded through the inside maze until it clicked into place.  I thought it was fabulous.kodak-860732__340

 Through the years I have had the Brownie, Polaroid, Instamatic, Digital and of course disposable!  After I retired, I purchased a Nikon 3100 and began my true love affair with photography.  I have, of course, chronicled our family’s growth, events, and trips,  but I have also been fortunate enough to capture some glorious sights.. and here are just a few.

197Outside of Denver at Buffalo Bill’s Grave!017Kerrville, Texas

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My beloved Maine!086Peek-a-boo Kitty

071San Antonio Zoo

029Cuerro, Texas

Sunset was taken courtesy of God and Galveston!

 

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

Walking my Butt by Ginger Keller Gannaway

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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.

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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 Introspection, Travel

Come Home to Maine

Come Home to Maine

 

Come Home to Maine:    

My fascination with Maine began some twenty years ago.  The beauty, grandeur, and peace among the rustic, sometimes unsettling landscape, intrigues me and draws me there like a long, lost love.  It beckons me to breathe its scent and feel its sturdy ground beneath my feet.  Maine lures me in with the promise of filling my soul and never disappoints….never.

Even as I write, we are traveling toward Maine.  We’ve driven from Virginia through Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.  The snow is still piled along the highway and dots the countryside in patches.  It’s cold and dank, as some would say.

We finally arrive in Prospect Harbor Maine.  The tiny village has a filling station/grocery where we make one last stop before our new home for a few days.  There are houses along this long road, some boarded up from their long winter’s nap and others have a light on and smoke curling from the chimney.

Our home for the next five days is the Prospect Harbor Lighthouse.  It is located on a naval base and we are met at the razor wire gate by a guard, who after checking ID’s, waves us in.   We are staying in the old lightkeeper’s house just a few feet away from the lighthouse itself.  The house is more than we could have hoped for; quaint, well appointed, warm and inviting.  Thanks to the naval base, it has been well maintained through the years and treated with love and respect.

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The light from the lighthouse cycles on every 10 seconds or so.  Last night, standing out in the frigid wind, we watched as the light cast its spell onto the water and into the dark unknown ocean.  The light both welcomes you and warns you of the rocky shore.  The Maine coastline is littered with dark rocks and seaweed.  The waves crash into the rocky shore like a rhythmic beat orchestrated by the pull of the moon.  The gulls and herring are searching for food and fly low dipping in for fish or excavating clams for a delicious bite.  They appear always hungry and needy and searching….constantly searching for that next meal.

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It is snowing again and the flakes are large and pillowy, floating down and dancing criss-cross through the sky.  The air smells fresh and as we step outside, we are in nature’s own walk-in freezer.  Each branch, rock, roof top and road is sprinkled with a layer of crystals and ice.DSC_0135

 

Every time I go for a walk down a silent trail or stop to admire the occasional sea village, I am in awe of the simplistic beauty.  The lobster boats and the people working the traps, both mirror a weathered look.  Their outer shells creased and colored by the sun and sea.  Their strong, classic lines forever changed by the wind.  It is a harsh life they have chosen.  At nature’s mercy, they strive each day to complete their tasks and feed their tables.

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What more can I say about my Maine?  It is my heart-home.  My descriptions only begin to touch the surface, but it’s what my soul feels when I am here, that tells the true story.  Every glorious creation is here.  Everything clean, fresh, mild, harsh, bright and dark….so lovely, yet so lonely….restless yet tranquil.
Perhaps you will see for yourself.  That is my solemn wish for you….take a chance, pack a bag and come home to Maine.

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