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 cooking with love, Food, Grandchildren, Husbands, Pot Roast, Soul Food

Love Meat

dazzle

 

Back in the day, I was a high school Home Economics teacher.  (Way back!)  One would assume that I have perfect manners; that I can run and maintain a beautifully appointed home and that I am an excellent cook.

One might assume that, but those closest to me know the truth.  They’re well aware of my shortcomings in an area or two and have graciously decided not to say any more about it.

Let me just get it out there…..it’s my cooking.  I may not make fancy dishes or perfect cream gravy, but I can teach YOU how to do it.  No one will starve at my house, but your taste buds might not dance delightfully on your palate.  That is unless my husband cooks.  He cooks with love, just like his Granny taught him.

Oh sure, I have a few go-to menus and recipes that are tried and true, but I’m just as apt to bake a piece of chicken and open a can of green beans, low sodium at that.

My beautiful friend, Fran, shared a roast recipe with me years ago that is foolproof!  We have guarded the recipe all these years, only sharing with our daughters and trusted friends.  Let it suffice to say, that to this day when my daughter makes this roast, her son calls it “Love Meat!”  Could it get any better than that?

Sometimes Boo and I will say, “Let’s not cook tonight.  We’ll just eat cheese and crackers for dinner.”  For me, that is true.  I’ll get crackers, a wedge of cheese, a cutie and feel happy.   Five minutes later, I hear pans rattling in the kitchen and Boo is toasting a ham and cheese sandwich and baking homemade potato wedges in the oven.  See the difference?  L O V E

Not every night is meant to be “Love Meat” night.  Not every meal can be cooked with complete love, but it does give me pause.  Perhaps, I could strive to cook with a little less apathy.  I could try to channel Granny and see if her spirit will guide my meatloaf.  I could think a little bit more about those I’m preparing for than myself.  It’s a start.

I’ll probably never get rid of my bag o’ chicken tenders from HEB and a Costco 12 pack of canned green beans, but I can try a little more love.

Really I can.  All hail the Love Meat and all those who cook with love.

Love Meat

Roast

1 packet of brown gravy mix

1 bottle Catalina salad dressing (16 oz)

1 cup water to mix w gravy packet

Salt and pepper

Put in potatoes and carrots (Mushrooms optional)

Cook in crockpot on low for 8-10 hours

Posted in Children, Fathers, fathers and daughters, Friendship, Growing up, Memories, Outdoors

Bangberry Ride by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Bangberry* Ride (*Banbury Cross)

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Dad/ Papa with Grandson Ryan on the Bangberry Tree

There was an oak tree with a long, low limb. A 6’4” dad would put a girl on his shoulders and let her scramble into the crook of the tree’s limb where she could hold on to small branches and settle into the oak’s saddle. The tall dad would then grab the limb’s end and pull it down, down to the ground. Anticipation made the girl’s grip tighten. The dad would go down and up, down and up to the tune of an old nursery rhyme:

“Here we go down to Banbury Cross

To see a fine lady ride on a white horse.

With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes

She will have music where ever she goes.”

Then the dad added an “Ole!” as he released the limb to make the girl spring up high as the tree was free to boing, boing, boing back into place.

Evan in tree
Evan in Bangberry Tree, 2005

Head and hair surrounded by branches and leaves, the girl felt equal to the free-flying birds.That 4-second thrill was a perfect balance of joy and fear.  She looked down on her siblings from her queenly perch  as they did the “Me next!” dance and she gave the mere mortals a slight smile before she accepted the dad’s huge hand that helped her dismount her tree throne.

Besides the wooden roller coaster at the beach, the “Bangberry Ride” was the girl’s favorite ride. With a rhyming song, a heavenly seat, a touch of danger, a parent’s attention, her sisters’ envy, and her stomach’s tickle, the ride was a moment of childhood perfection.

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Oak trees around my childhood home
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 Christmas, Entertainment, Grandchildren, Grandmother, Growing up, movie theater, movies, picture show

Big Jim by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Big Jim

Liberty 1927
Liberty Theater, 1927

My siblings and I in a way grew up in a movie theater.   Grandma Keller owned our hometown’s two movie theaters, and she let her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren get in free.  My brother and sisters and I saw every movie that came to town. That lasted until 1968 when the ratings system began (G, M, R, and X). My parents viewed the Liberty Theater and Queen Cinema as free “babysitters.” We sometimes were dropped off at the show with paper bags holding hamburgers from Ruby’s Cafe if Momma and Dad’s night out began early. I remember strolling past a line of movie customers and waving at Miss Pearl (the ticket seller) as we made our way inside. A new ticket taker would get, “Our grandma is Mrs. Keller,” if he tried to stop our jaunty picture show entrance. Continue reading “Big Jim by Ginger Keller Gannaway”

Posted in First Car, Friendship, Growing up

A Fine Ride

Impala

 

I haven’t always been a rule follower…in fact when I was 14 years old, I started to drive. This urge to drive took over my common sense like a speeding dart heading for the bullseye!  Not having a driver’s license did not seem to bother me and I was even able to convince my best friend that I could teach her to drive, as well.

 

At the time, my Dad drove a white, ‘63 Chevy Impala, so logically that was my car, too.  It was perfect!  I could get three people in the front and four or five in the back.  What could be better than taking your friends for a spin?

 

On this one particular day, my Dad had taken his ‘company car’ to work, leaving the Impala parked carefully in the garage.  As soon as he left, I found the keys to the Imala and began making my plans.  I’m not proud of this now, you understand, but for some reason, at that time I had no remorse.

 

My friend, Nitia,  walked over to my house and we took the ole Chevy out for the day.  Long, LONG ago, 50 cents would buy a lot of gas, so we came prepared to fill it back up if necessary.    I can’t remember where we went, but I’m sure it involved ‘seeing and being seen.’  There was probably a boy or two and maybe a trip to the mall incorporated into our plan.

 

After our joy ride, I was making the turn leading back to my house.  Unfortunately, it also went right by Nitia’s house.  This would have been ok except her dad was outside watering the yard.  When we noticed him, it was too late to turn around, and I instinctively yelled, “Duck!”  For some reason, I thought that was a good idea, and I ducked too.  It must have been a subliminal message or sheer ignorance, but surprisingly we crept safely by her house, ducked down in the front seat.  When we made it to my house, we parked back into the garage and congratulated ourselves on having a great day and dodging her dad.

 

Later that night at dinner, Nitia’s dad turned to her and said, “The weirdest thing happened today.  I saw Nancy’s Dad’s car drive by and no one was in it.”  Of course, she acted like she didn’t know what he was talking about and miraculously, her parents never called mine, but that was a very close call.

 

All during my 9th and 10th-grade years, I sporadically took that grand ‘63 Chevy Impala out for a drive.  I learned to drive in that car and finally got my driver’s license in that car.  It was my signature ride until I went to college and had to leave it behind.

 

If that ole Chevy could talk, it would keep us entertained for days with stories of friends, secrets, near misses and more fun than should be allowed.  I eventually told my Dad about some of my car adventures.  He was shocked, to say the least, but managed to chuckle since it obviously was past the statute of limitations for being grounded.  

 

There might be another story or two about that ole Chevy, but for now, just revel in its sleek, thoroughbred beauty, and imagine yourself at the wheel!  It was a fine ride, yes indeed!

 

Posted in Aging process, Caring for others, Children, Food, Introspection, Leftovers, Sharing

Leftovers by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Leftovers by Ginger Keller GannawayLeftovers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 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

.DSC_0119                                  IMG_1854

 

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 Aging process, Dancing, Introspection, Mosquitoes, Worries

Mosquito by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Mosquito

by Ginger Keller Gannaway

mosquito
By RA Keller from Clovis Crawfish & his Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Boo, Food, Husbands, Marriage, Sharing

Split or Share?

childrensharing

 

Split or Share:  

 

My Boo is a Saint!  When we go out to eat, I will usually order the veggie plate with grilled chicken and he will order the chicken fried anything with cream gravy, fried okra, and mashed potatoes.  He knows full well, that I will want a bite (or two) of his and he’s okay with that.  “I’m a sharer, Boo.”  he’ll say, “But, not a splitter.”

 

Sometimes I want to split.  “Let’s order the filet and split it,”  I’ll suggest.  “I want my own filet.”  he’ll say.  “You get what you want.”  We have friends who split.  I don’t know why, but it seems sweet and romantic; not to mention economical and lower in calories.  It’s a sign that they ‘agree’ on everything and even their taste buds are in love.  You think I’m probably reading too much into it????

 

Sometimes I try to dance around it by saying, “Why don’t you get the filet and I’ll get the salmon and we can share?”  He is not fooled by my tactics and will readily say he doesn’t want salmon but I am welcome to a bite of his steak.

 

I have to admit that it’s one of the things that first attracted me to him.  He shares his food.  He doesn’t mind if I stick my fork onto his plate to taste just a bite.  He never says a word when I use my fingers to pluck a piece of fried okra from his bowl at Luby’s.  He always gives me the 1st bite of his dessert and he’ll even give me the best bite of his hamburger.  And, when I foolishly say I don’t want any popcorn at the movie, he’s already planning to set it between us.  He’s a saint, really.

 

To all of you splitters out there….I applaud you, but I’m sticking with my sharer.  He knows I will most likely order the healthy option and yet want a few bites of his delicious unhealthy choice.  By the way, I always ask if he wants a bite of mine, too, but usually, he declines.  That Boo….he really is a Saint!

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