Posted in Contemplations, Nature, Pets, Relationships

Mary Sunshine by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Before we downsized to life in a condo, we lived a half block from a Catholic university. The campus was the perfect size for my early morning dog walks with Millie. We got up and out before classes began and made a big loop around the school, enjoying sun rise and the shady green areas. We didn’t see many people, mostly the groundkeepers and a few eager freshmen, with a rare professor spotting.

I noticed that other neighborhood walkers would often return my head nod, smile, or wave after they had seen me a few times. Some were natural greeters and said hi the first time our paths crossed, but most needed to get used to Millie and me first.

As for the students, the return greetings for my outreach attempts were about fifty percent. Often the young people wore ear buds and looked sleep deprived as they passed us. I’d catch whiffs of soap, body spray, or pot as they ignored my half wave or “Morning.” 

One September morning a gangly girl with jet black hair and rumpled shirt and jeans gave us an earnest, “Hey there.” I gave her a large smile and Millie wagged her tail.

“What a great dog! Can I pet her?”

Millie Biscuit

“Sure! Her name’s Millie.”

The girl got down on one knee and gave my energetic dog two-handed pets and ear rubs with praise like “You a sweetie! Good girl, Millie!”

We chatted and she told me she was a freshman and terribly missed her dog back home. She did not mind that an excited Millie pushed her dark-rimmed glasses off her nose. The girl left us with a huge smile as she repositioned her backpack and headed to a campus coffee shop.

I never ran into this sweet souled girl again even though Millie and I both wished we had.

We got regular waves from almost every person driving a cart loaded with gardening tools, but never ever from a blonde woman who seemed to be a groundskeeper supervisor. She drove her cart with a no-nonsense demeanor and wore a crisp, clean khaki uniform. Her short, curly hair hid under a university cap, and her snug shirt stayed tucked in her pants with her plain black no-name sneakers completing her all work/no play look. Once she caught me letting Millie off leash to run through a small overgrown field on the edge of campus. 

“Dogs on leash!” she snapped.

“Sorry,” I said as I used a dog treat to get Millie to head back to me. After that I let Millie off leash only on holidays and weekends when I wouldn’t run into Ms. Mary Sunshine.

In the early evenings we took Millie for another university stroll and came to know other dog owners.  We shared stories about the campus, and none of us had ever seen the blonde groundskeeper smile. She was known for her frowns and dog fussing. So it wasn’t just me and Millie.

For awhile I tried to get more than a scowl from Mary Sunshine, but I soon gave up and avoided her as much as I could. Who wants to encounter someone who glares at your smiles, looks right through your waves, and acts deaf to your, “Good Mornings”? I told myself she was the campus curmudgeon who hated her job and other living individuals as well.

On a random weekday morning Millie and I were finishing our university loop when I noticed Mary Sunshine near a small gas pump encircled by a chainlink fence that the university cart-drivers used. She knelt and shook dry cat food into a small bowl. I could make out a sweet voice calling the cats to breakfast. I couldn’t hear her exact words, but the tone was high-pitched and welcoming. I slowed Millie’s walk and gave Mary Sunshine alone time with her three cats who curled in and around her feet as she kept up the tender sounds.

Photo by umit ozbek on Pexels.com

I had noticed cats there before when Millie pulled on her leash as we walked past the gas pump, but I would never have guessed who was filling those water and food bowls.

I did not try greeting the blonde woman even after I learned she had a tender side. But I did think of her differently. She reminded me to be less quick-to-judge others, even people with permanent frowns and angry eyes. To stop jumping to conclusions about those who dress, speak, walk, or look at the world a certain way. A Mary Sunshine will not necessarily deserve my sarcastic name-calling. Maybe we all have a hidden softness that’s reserved for secret times with a selected few.

Posted in Daughters, Relationships

I’m Not Assistant Manager of the Universe

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Me, too.”

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

            Silence.

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

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

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

New calf from Savannah Ranch

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

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

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

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

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

            I’m Not Assistant Manager of the Universe.

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Relationships

Walker – Stalker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“John?”

            “John.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Boo, Relationships

Boo’s Staycation

          I returned home Sunday, from a three-day girl’s weekend.  The four of us have been friends for many years and really treasure our time together to talk, laugh, eat good food and maybe drink a little wine.  As is my custom I usually call or text Boo when I am on my way home.  “Time to kick out the dancing girls and stack up the beer cans!” I joke. 

But, when I walked into the house on Sunday, I was immediately hit with the smell of Fabuloso (think Pine Sol with a big dose of lavender) and charred red meat.

          “Wow Babe, did you clean while I was gone?”  I asked.

          “Oh, you know…I like to have everything looking good for my baby when she gets home.”

          Lest you think I am an ingrate; I know his little secrets.  Fifteen minutes before I walk in the door, he will Swiffer the entry hall, swish Fabuloso in the hall bathroom commode, open the blinds, fold the accent blanket on the couch and for a bonus effect he will start the dishwasher or a load of towels.  This is his “cleaning” routine for his ‘baby’.  It smells Fabuloso, but don’t look too closo.

          “Did you girls have a good time?”

          “Always!  We talked and laughed the whole time and made a charcuterie board with fresh shrimp on the side.

          “What kind of board?” 

          “Cheese, crackers, olives..just snacky stuff,” I said.

          “Hmmmm.”

          “Enough about me, what did you eat while I was gone?  Something meaty?”

          “Just the usual.  Meat Lovers Pizza Friday night then Saturday, I cooked Baby back ribs on the grill, sausage links, and a New York Strip.  I made salad and a fresh blueberry pie.”

          “Oh, and I opened a can of green beans.” (opened is the operative word.)

Boo’s idea of salad is either iceberg lettuce with croutons and lots of dressing or it is Suddenly Salad, which is not really salad.  Suddenly Salad is a macaroni, mayonnaise and secret packet concoction that has preservatives listed as the number one ingredient.

          “Wow!” I said.

          “I know,” he said with pride.    

          While I’m gone, I know he eats pretzels and M&M’s in bed and sleeps all night with the T.V. on, which is the opposite of the dark, quiet room I like.

          I know he lets the cat sleep with him, in fact she acts indignant when I get home.  She tries to get in on my side of the bed before I can and puts her little head on my pillow.

          I know that days before I go out of town, he is making a secret grocery list with all the essentials:  meat, meat, and more meat.

          I know he made a pie, but I also know there’s a new package of Twizzlers, Caramel de Lites Girl Scout cookies, and Tootsie Rolls open in the pantry.

          He watches the news and sports and an action movie on Netflix all at the same time, clicking back and forth.  Denzel Washington is probably killing someone or blowing something up in between Wolf Blitzer or Sean Hannity and all the while corn is popping in the microwave, with real melted butter. 

          Boo goes all out for his staycations.  I don’t begrudge him any of his fun and relaxation because he always lets me go and do whatever I want.  He encourages me to see my friends and he genuinely wants me to be happy, and if he happens to have a weekend to himself then it’s a win-win.  I applaud his self-sufficiency and creativity. 

Boo is a self-actualized man who knows how to take care of himself.  I would never have to leave him casseroles in the freezer for fear he would starve, and while we don’t always see eye-to-eye on nutrition or cleanliness, he’s capable and likes to think out of the box.  He’s the yin to my yang, the Snoop Dogg to my Martha Stewart.

I know Boo really likes his time alone at home, just to chill and do his thing and I’m glad it’s not with the dancing girls and cold beer!  So, if a few ribs, a little candy and 24/7 TV makes him happy who am I to spoil his fun?

          That Boo is fabuloso!

Posted in Contemplations, Relationships

Deep Thoughts by Ginger Keller Gannaway

   

My husband Gary wakes up with a head full of Gary. Like a toddler or teenager, he has perfected the art of self-absorption.

Gary

In the 1990s when our three sons were young and Gary and I both taught full-time, I woke up early to make little lunches and plot the day’s obligations:  get the boys to two different schools before getting to my own school and teaching five sections of seventh grade language arts;  remind Shane he had jazz band practice after school, Casey he had computer class at Boys and Girls Club, and Evan to do homework at his elementary’s Extend-a-Care program; stop by HEB for supper ingredients and swing by Terra Toys for a birthday party gift on Saturday before I picked up my sons. 

All day the kid details fought for control of my brain with lesson plans about teaching the difference between “your and you’re” or nuances of dramatic irony in Roald Dahl”s short story “Lamb to the Slaughter.”

Gary’s brain lived a different existence. It woke up an hour and a half later than mine, and after his mandatory two cups of coffee, it was awake enough to carefully fry three neat strips of bacon for his own breakfast. He did help with the dropping off and picking up of children if I wrote him detailed notes and reminded him during his lunch break and ten minutes after his school’s final bell.

As our boys grew up and needed more rides to more places, Gary became a trusted driver as long as my directions were specific and did not impose on his weekend jogs and his Thursday “pint night” at the Dog and Duck Pub.

Casey, Evan, Shane

Now our boys are men and living their own lives. Gary and I have been navigating the pandemic and aging as best we can. We walk our dog each morning as a team – he’s on lookout duty for other dogs on leashes and for free-range cats. He also scans the sidewalks and grassy areas for discarded scraps of food or other potential dog distractions. Millie pulls on her leash as I follow, and Gary calls out helpful warnings like “Big brown dog at twelve o’clock” or “Broken beer bottle on my right.” Sometimes, however, his head fills up with his own thoughts, and he misses telling me about a stray fried chicken bone or a big turd dropped in the middle of the sidewalk.  We have brief spats and he may say, “Don’t you have two good eyes as well?” 

Millie walking Me

Gary has admitted to not being a noticer. And he’s not talkative when he gets in his “me zone.” Also, now that he’s lost hearing in his right ear, I take no offense when he sometimes does not respond to my insightful comments during our dog walks. Did I remember to direct my voice to his left side? Or is his mind too preoccupied with more important things like his latest film script or the current Amazon rental sales of the horror/comedy movie he wrote and self-produced in 2013: Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains

Gary is a natural at self-promotion. He raised thousands of dollars on Indiegogo to realize his dream of being a film producer! He will tell our condo neighbors or grocery cashiers or anyone who comments on his Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains t-shirt, “I wrote and produced this movie! Available on Amazon! Very meta; not a porno!” I envy his confidence and bravery.

Am I any less self-obsessed with writing blog essays and linking them to my FB and Twitter accounts? What is the line between “Look at me!” and “Give me your money”? 

Most mornings my head fills up with thoughts of my family and friends.  I worry about their health, their happiness, and what I can do to help them with either one. 

Momma, aka MaMa Gerry, making biscuits

I blame my momma. She took care of my dad, my brother, my sisters, and me like the strong Cajun force she was. She cooked and cleaned nonstop and insisted we spend all our time with her because she did not want to miss a bouree card game, a trip to the drive-through Daiquiri Shack, or hanging out on the front porch. At the end of our holiday visits, she hated telling us good-bye. 

“Oh, oh, I don’t want y’all to go,” she’d say and give me the biggest hugs her 5’2” ninety-nine pound frame could produce. She’d lock her arms around my waist and give me three short but intense hugs. “Humph! Humph! Humph!” My body would tense waiting for those squeezes of love. She cared and worried about those she loved. However, she also realized that not everyone needed looking after.

Movie Producer and Screenwriter Gary

Every Christmas holiday, Gary spent a night in Baton Rouge with his best friend Richard. One time I was concerned about saving enough turkey gumbo for my husband when he returned to Eunice. Momma focused her bright blue eyes at me and said, “Don’t you worry about Gary. Gary will always take care of Gary.”

My momma knew some big truths! 

My husband may think about himself a lot. He may need a little guidance with remembering others’ needs sometimes. But self-reliance is a very positive attribute. Emerson said, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” As I follow Gary on our dog walks, and he clasps his hands loosely behind his back and strolls a half block ahead and he tilts his head to look at tree branches dancing in the wind, I will recognize a man comfortable with himself and at peace with his own thoughts.

Posted in Boo, Relationships

Vegetables, Granny Style

Scott eating

Most Sundays after Church, before the Pandemic, we would go to Luby’s, a Texas traditional cafeteria.  And almost every Sunday I would marvel at the colors and textures on Boo’s plate.

Strangely, chicken fried steak, cream gravy, fried okra, mashed potatoes, and a roll are all in the same color family…beige.  Of course, okra is green, but the outside is fried and therefore a brownish beige color, too. There is no pop of color, nothing with a stalk and no variety unless macaroni and cheese or corn is swapped for the usuals.  But, the colors are the same: beige, brown and blah.

I used to lament about his choices, calling him out for choosing nothing green.  I’ve lectured on the health benefits of vegetables and I have prepared every root, tuber, flower, bulb, seed, leaf and stem known to man.  “You need your greens!” I preach.

Granny used to cut up my vegetables so fine she could hide them in my mashed potatoes and gravy,”  he said.

“Really?”

Laughing, Boo said, “No, not really!  Granny never made me eat vegetables. She loved me.”

Some culinary experiments go over better than others.  Cauliflower rice, broccoli slaw, and butternut squash was a big thumbs down.  Creamed spinach, creamed corn or green bean casserole was a thumbs up. If I ask which vegetable he wants with dinner, it’s always the same answer, “Just open a can of green beans.”  At dinner, he will proudly count out 4-6 green beans and smile, “See? I like green vegetables.”

“Remember last time we went to Costco, and I insisted we get the twelve can box of green beans?  I’m practically veterinarian,” he said.

“Boo, it’s vegetarian, and no you’re not,”  I countered. 

“Don’t be snippy,” he said and added, “I like broccoli rice casserole. It’s chocked full of broccoli and healthy stuff.” 

 Of course he does.  BRC is chocked full of cream of mushroom soup and cheese, and not even real cheese at that… Cheese Whiz!   Boo’s list of vegetables all includes words like creamed, au gratin or cheese sauce. He tries to say fried zucchini and french fries are true vegetables.  He insists guacamole is a superfood and when he gets black olives on his meat-lovers pizza he is boastful for days.

“A man your age should eat vegetables without having to hide them in his mashed potatoes,” I say.

I felt him roll his eyes.   

“You’re trying to kill me,” he said.  “Remember the time you brought home grapefruit and tried to make me eat it at breakfast?  You know it doesn’t mix with my meds.”

“That was an accident.  I didn’t mean to. I just want you to eat more fruits and vegetables so you can live a long and healthy life.  I love you, Boo.”

“Promise me you’ll try to eat more greens?”  I asked. “You know, greens without a fried outer covering or smothered in cheese sauce?”

  “OK, but you’re asking a lot,”  and as he walked away I heard,

“I wish Granny was here.”

Granny
Posted in Grandmother, Relationships

Martha Margaretha

Valentine Queen

Growing up, everything I knew about beauty I learned from Grandma.  She was my source of information on becoming a woman, wife and mother.  Because my mother was deceased, I had no one to teach me the basics except Grandma and sometimes my dad, which as you might expect, was not always on point.

Grandma was raised on a dirt farm in Kansas.  They were so poor that her parents sent the last two siblings to live with another family because they could not feed them all.  She was only able to complete the 3rd grade because everyone was needed on the farm.  Grandma told me once that she did not remember laughing as a child.  “There was nothing to laugh about,” she said.  “We worked from sunup to sun down.”  And so my grandma, Martha Margaretha, was a serious, no nonsense kind of gal most of the time, but there was a little girl inside who longed to have fun and feel carefree.

Grandma was a wonderfully accomplished seamstress and made all of her clothes, even slips, bathrobes and nightgowns.  She also made all of my clothes until I was old enough to sew for myself.  She made my Barbies the most fabulous ensembles!  I distinctly remember Barbie having a dress out of the same fabric as Grandmas, and even a fully lined coat, complete with bound buttonholes.  Barbie never lacked for functional yet stylish outfits and neither did I.  Grandma had an eye for pattern, texture, design and she could easily visualize how our dresses would turn out, while working tirelessly to make it come together.

Martha had two main rules on beauty:  Always wear lipstick and always wear earbobs or ear screws, as she called them.  In Grandma’s bedroom, on her dresser, was a tray that held her cherished personal items.  There was a comb, brush and mirror set that I always remember her using.  She wore Lady Esther loose face powder, and kept the box front and center.  If I close my eyes I can smell the sweet fragrance and remember the way Grandma’s face felt so soft when I hugged and kissed her.  She always smelled of this face powder and I think to this day I would know it, if I were lucky enough to breathe in that precious scent.  The fluffy, round puff sat on top of this all important powder and next to it was her lipstick.

The dresser top was balanced with a simple jewelry box.  The kind that opened up and the top folded back revealing a bottom section.  Grandma had a large collection of earbobs, necklaces and brooches, most of which came from us, for Christmas or birthdays.  She also had a small little cameo that she pinned on for special occasions.  I would always ask to look through her jewelry box and try on these simple, yet glamorous pieces.  Grandma truly believed in accessories, and although coming from humble beginnings, she wanted to look her best.  It was very important to her.

With her beautiful silver gray hair, smart clothing, ear screws and lipstick, Martha always looked ‘put together’.  No matter how poor you are, you can be clean and neat...a Martha mantra for sure.  Everywhere she went, she would be complimented on her neat appearance, even winning Valentine Queen at her nursing home.  Grandma lived well into her 101st year on this earth.  I remember once, while visiting her in ‘the home’,  one of the caregivers gave her a compliment, which made her proud, yet shy.  After the worker left, Grandma turned to me and said, “It’s almost a curse to be so beautiful”, then she laughed and patted my hand.

 My dad made sure she was always taken care of and able to live comfortably, and so the former Valentine Queen was content and loved.  I know even now, as she sits playing Canasta in heaven, she’s looking all done up…lipstick, ear screws and that wonderful face powder.  We would expect nothing less from Martha Margaretha.

As CoCo Chanel once said, “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”

I think Grandma knew that too.

Grandma’s 100th Birthday
Posted in Friendship, Relationships

When Sidewalks Talk

When Sidewalks Talk by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Even while we isolate and avoid close contact, some people send messages in nontraditional ways. Whether it’s scratched on wet cement or drawn with colored chalk, people express themselves.

During my neighborhood walks, I started noticing the sidewalks. First, I saw the writing in the scratched initials or names that said, “I was here.”

Sometimes the message was angry.

I loved one section of a child’s footprints. Was this accidental or intentional? I imagined a mischievous kid being told by a harried mother, “Get up in your car seat.” The three-year-old makes a wild dash down the wet cement while his mom deals with her fussy eight-month-old. The kid gets in a two yard run before, “I said ‘Get in!’” pulls him back to the car.

We are allowed to change our minds, even on cement.

During the spring of the pandemic, chalk artists shared their whimsical renditions of Disney characters, and they did not mind that a short rain would wash it all away. 

Now more than ever we need to look for life’s artistic touches in unexpected places. It’s proof of the creativity and goodness among us. Sidewalk messages feel like hope to me. They communicate feelings and ideas even during a pandemic. I search for these symbols etched in concrete. I feel connected to others, even if I never see who sent the message.

Posted in Boo, Relationships

Talking Up A Storm

“Hi Babe, how was the fishing?”

“Good.”  (1)

“Did you catch anything?”

“Three bass and a catfish.” (5)

“Did y’all have fun?  What else did you do?”

“Yep.  Just fished.” (3)

Wait time……

“Got a burger coming home.” (5)

Or here’s another scenario:

Me:  “What did the doctor say?

Boo:  “Not much.  I’m good.”  (4)

And another…

“What all did your brother have to say?”  I asked Boo this after a twenty minute animated conversation on his phone.

“They’re good.” (2)

Wait time….

“It rained.”  (2)

I get that in some cases it is my fault for asking questions that could be answered with a yes or no.  Sometimes, I try adding  “what else?”  or “tell me more.”

Me.  “The kids want to know what you want for your birthday.”

Boo.  “Underwear or socks.”  (3)

Me.  “They can’t all get you underwear and socks.  Isn’t there anything else you need or just want?”

Boo. “Gift card?” (2)

Me.  “To where?”

Boo.  “Anywhere is fine.” (3)

Me.  “Really?”

Boo.  “No.” (1)

Wait time….

Boo.  “Home Depot or Academy.” (4)

*(I could have answered that question myself, but I was hoping maybe he would branch out on ideas, although sometimes he does say Red Lobster.)

It’s not always like this.  Sometimes I can ask a simple question and he will go on and on with elaboration, facial expressions and hand jesters.  It just depends on the topic, time of day or whether CNN is on.

Boo is the strong, silent type until he’s ready to share.  He’s really a deep thinker, but he rarely expresses his thoughts unless the spirit moves him, and when it does, I see a whole different side of Boo.  He’ll talk up a storm, and I’ll get a glimpse into that steel-trap mind and heart of gold.   Any newsworthy topic, discussion of grandchildren or sports will have him chatting for minutes at a time.  He’s practically loquacious.

  But until then…we’ll share our peaceful silence.

That’s just Boo. (3)

Posted in Boo, Family, Relationships

Boo’s 20/20

Boo’s 20/20 by: Nancy Malcolm

“Your driving scares me!”  I said.  “Did you see that car?”  And I threw my arm across his chest in a move I used when the kids were little.

“My eyes are perfect,”  Boo declared.  “It’s you I worry about.”

“Maybe you need your eyes checked.  When was the last time you had an eye exam?”

“5th grade, by the school nurse.  I aced it!”  Holding one hand over his left eye. 

“I’m sure your school nurse was a lovely person and took her job seriously, but you have not had your eyes checked since elementary school?”

“I don’t need to.  I can see perfectly.”

Needless to say, I did not trust Boo’s last eye ‘exam’ as the current state of his eyesight.  As with most of Boo’s health care, I felt the need to lecture (that’s a harsh word) on the value of healthy eyes as we age.  You know, cataracts, glaucoma, and basic vision.  An eye exam can also warn of diabetes, high cholesterol, or other problems.

“Don’t worry about me, my eyes are x-ray vision!” he said. “Like Superman.”

“Well, if you don’t believe me, ask your doctor at next week’s annual exam.  See what he says.”  I was feeling smug that his doctor would agree with me and send him right away for an eye exam but sometimes I don’t trust Boo to ask his doctor the right questions.

When it came time for Boo to go, I handed him a slip of paper with three concerns to ask his doctor, just to ease my mind.

Do I need a flu shot and a pneumonia shot?

Check the mole behind ear that looks funny

Eye exam

According to Boo, his doctor, too, was a little surprised he had never had a real eye exam.

“So what did the doctor say?”  I asked.

“He asked me if I was having any problems.” 

 “What did you say?” I prodded.

“I said no. Then he asked me if  anything was blurry far away or close up?”

“And?”

“I said no.  Then he asked me why I wanted my eyes checked, and I said my wife thinks I need to.”

“What did he say then?”  I asked.

“Oh.  Ok.”

The next week, Boo got his eyes examined, dilated and checked by a trained ophthalmologist, not a school nurse, and he came out with flying colors.

“You seem disappointed that I am truly perfect in every way.”

Maybe I was, just a little.  With Boo, I do worry about his health.  I’m glad to know he is now up to date on his flu shot, eye exam, colonoscopy and dental cleanings.  I’m still working on his nutrition, though.  His stash of candy and treats rival the grocery store check-out line, and his addiction to licorice is worthy of a 12-step program.

But, one thing at a time.  I’m proud of him for all he’s done and for now I will stay quiet and stop being Nurse Nancy.  

First the eyes….next the Twizzlers.