Posted in #Confessions, Contemplations

Home on The Range or My Life As A Rolling Stone

Boo and I have lived in our home for almost nineteen years.  This is the longest I have ever lived in the same house.  I mean ever.  We have seen our aging neighbor through the death of his wife.  We’ve seen the young couples on our street have babies and now I see those babies waiting for the school bus in front of our house.  We share our over-the-top holiday decorations with the thousands of twinkling lights, and life-size blowups of Olaf, dancing penguins, Santa, and his reindeer. We invite young mothers with fussy toddlers in strollers to pet our black cat, Emmy.  It feels like home.  I don’t think God will ever ask me if I lived in a good neighborhood, but He might ask me if I was a good neighbor, and I hope to answer a resounding yes!   I feel a part of life, here.  I feel safe.

When I was born, my parents, brother, and I lived on Crockett Street in Amarillo, Texas.  It was a small, stucco starter home, with a detached garage that my dad and grandpa built.   My brother had a gang of boys to play with and luckily there was a little girl next door for me.  However, when I was four, as my mother’s illness progressed, it became necessary to sell our home to help with medical bills. Thus, we moved to a rent house across from Amarillo Junior College.  My mother died shortly after that, and we moved again because my father could not bear to live where my mother had died.  Luckily, a Methodist preacher and his family were moving to Chicago, so we rented their modest home right down the street and there we stayed for about five years.

When I was ten we moved across town to an upgraded neighborhood, and I started sixth grade as the ‘new girl.’  We did live there for nine years and after that, I went to college.  Even at Baylor, I bounced around to two different dorms my freshman year.  My sophomore and Junior years were stable, and then I got married and moved to an apartment in Waco, and the next year we moved to  Killeen, Texas to start a new life and teaching career.

I will not bore you with the gory details of each one of my moves, but within that marriage we did move twice.  Then there was a devastating divorce and that’s really when my moves escalated.  As a single mom on a schoolteacher’s salary, I had exactly $525 to spend on housing.  No more.  I was constantly on the lookout for a newer, bigger rent house for the same amount of money in the same school zone.  There were two moves before I remarried, then a huge uprooting to North Carolina.  To simplify matters, let’s just say within the next ten years there were four moves, another unsightly divorce, and a plan to move to Austin.

Obviously, one could argue that I am unstable, a rolling stone, or an excitement junkie.  But I plead irreconcilable circumstances and bouts of insanity.  I became the queen of creativity. I could unpack boxes, set up beds and hang all the pictures in two days flat. I would use my rent deposit refund to pay my next rent deposit, and I always left each house a little better than I found it.  I was resourceful, frugal, and as Blanche DuBois said in A Streetcar Named Desire, “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Now, all this to say there have been downsides to my gypsy ways.  My family has never written my address in anything but pencil.  My youngest daughter blames me for her trust issues, the U.S. Postal Service still sends me change of address cards each summer, and it is hard for me to pass up a “good moving box.”

Perhaps I have been a wanderer.  It wasn’t my objective; I just fell into it.  Each move, each house meant something special to me, and I pinky swear that I never meant to harm my children or anyone else by moving.  I know I did the best I could.

With every new house, my intentions were pure.  I made it a home because by my definition, home is where the heart is and as long as I was there, my children would be safe and could be happy.  My modest meals like baked chicken in Italian salad dressing with a plain iceberg salad and lots of Ranch were the alternative to fish sticks and mac n’ cheese.  I wouldn’t say boring, but I might say dependable.  There was nothing fancy about our lifestyle, yet the girls were afforded new curtains and bedspreads to spruce up even the dreariest of shag carpets.  We survived and more.  We’re strong women, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and make a home from the barest of frames.

But now… Now that I have this home with Boo, and we have made it ours, I have roots.  Settled in ways I never knew I needed.  Anchored with a firm foundation of faith and family.  Grounded with grandchildren that each consider our guest room as ‘their room,’ and brick by brick we have built beautiful memories with years of love and laughter.  I feel so lucky.

When my time here on earth has ended, I fully believe God will not ask the square footage of my home or the brand of hardwood floors or granite counters, but He may ask how many people I welcomed in with open arms.  He may ask me if I offered those without some of what I had, and He will probably ask if I loved others well.  I hope my answers will be satisfactory, as that has always been my aim. 

For you know what I say is true, a house is not a home unless it’s full of the good stuff, like love, laughter, and respect, and that is all anyone could ever want.

Posted in #Confessions, Boo, technology

The High Cost of Low-Tech Living

            About ten years ago we accidentally let it slip that we were paying for AOL service.

It just came out in conversation when one of our daughters asked, “Why don’t you have a Gmail account?”

            “I do.”

            “Why don’t you use it?”

            “We’re happy with AOL.  We pay them every month, so why change?”

            “WHAT?  MOM!!  You can get AOL for free, Mom.  You didn’t know that?  How long have you been paying?

            “Since dial-up?”  I sheepishly answered.

            “M O T H E R!!!”

            “Are you sure it’s free?”  Boo asked.  “Cause I don’t think so.” 

            That was just the beginning of our walk of shame through life. 

            “What else are you paying for that’s free?”

            “How should we know?”  I said.

            When we have guests or our grandkids come over, there is always the dreaded question:

“Nannie, what’s your Wi-Fi password?  Is it still in the..”

“It’s in the drawer of the little…”

“We know.”

“Bring it here and I’ll read it to you.  Ready?  X?2php54%7*79Ux3Pr8!2xG.”

“Nannie, why don’t you change this so you can remember it?”

“I don’t know how, and besides, this way no one can steal the password.”

“Who wants to?” they asked.

I admit, I don’t know who would want to steal our Wi-Fi password, but you never know.

Boo and I are intelligent people.  We have master’s degrees and we both worked at large high schools, so we like to think that we still have a certain amount of street cred.  Or at least we used to.  But it’s one thing to know gang signs and another to deposit a check from your phone.  It’s one thing to catch kids smoking in the bathrooms, and another to connect a phone to your car.  We have slipped into the uncool category.

Not long ago we had a business transaction with one of our daughters.

“I’ll VENMO you the money, Dad.”

“I don’t VEN-MAIL.” Boo answered.

“VENMO.  OK, how about ZELLE?”


“Never mind, I’ll VENMO Mom and she can write you a check.”

“That’s better,” he said.

Is it even bragging if I say I am more high-tech than Boo just because I have a VENMO account?  It sort of feels lowish on the tech scale.  For heaven’s sake, I just now ordered my groceries online.  I know I’m late to the party, but I love it.  However, I have no idea what Instacart is or how it works, but if TARGET can come to my house, then it might be worth exploring.

When I told one of our other daughters how much I had to pay for my XM Radio, she said, “I never pay full price.”

“What do you mean?  I get an annual renewal fee,” I said.

“I just call and tell them I can’t pay that amount and I want to cancel.  Then we haggle back and forth for a minute, and they end up telling me I qualify for a special deal.  It usually saves me $100.  I do it every year.”

How do our kids know all of these ins and outs?  And when did EVERYTHING become technical?  Our doctors are on ‘my chart,’ which means we can make appointments and see our test results online, at least some of us.  Boo still does not know how to access his chart.  He always ends up somewhere on the site he doesn’t want to be or with an appointment in some obscure clinic across town.  I usually schedule his doctor’s appointments, but when he asks me to send them a message or question, I take the liberty to ask what I want to and then sign his name.

By the way, is it considered low-tech if you still print out driving instructions from map-quest?  I’m asking for a friend.

I recently bought a new car.   I thought I was all Bluetoothed and ready to go.

“I can’t hear you,” my callers say.

I have disconnected, reconnected, sync’d, read the manual, googled, and asked a friend.  I cannot for the life of me get my phone properly connected through my car.  I can hear callers, but they can’t hear me, and to make matters worse, I now have an obnoxious buzzer ringtone that plays when someone calls, and I cannot change it.

My blood pressure is going up just mentioning our technical difficulties.  I wish I could brag about some other things we are really great at in spite of our low-tech ways, but nothing is coming to mind.  We do have a Keurig coffeemaker, does that count?

Even saying that makes me cringe.  Perhaps we’re ‘cutting edge’ in ways the world does not promote.  We could use words like digital, cyber, and state-of-the-art, but being flashy is just not our style.  We prefer to fly under the radar and keep our techie-ness to ourselves.

Let’s face it, Boo and I will never be truly high-tech.  The best we can hope for is somewhere in the middle and not paying for internet mail services.  It’s the high cost of our low-tech living. 

Posted in #Confessions, Aging

On Becoming Seventy or How I Thought I Would Be Grown-up By Now

            I cried the year I turned twenty-nine.  I boohooed and made such a big deal out of the last year of my twenties.  “I’ll have to be grown up now and learn about mortgages.  I’ll have to stop wearing short shorts and start acting more mature.  Should I cut my hair?”  These are the thoughts that swam through my mind as a young mother of two and looking back now, I wonder why I wasted the last year of my twenties on such foolishness.  Turning thirty did not end my short shorts days.

Daughter Lee in middle, little Amy K. daughter of a sweet friend, and me in short shorts…Rockport, Texas

            Ten years later, remembering my silly response, I stated that thirty-nine would definitely, absolutely be the year I became a real adult. I had one year to prepare myself for the forties, which everyone knows is the hallmark of maturity, the pinnacle of wisdom and sophistication.  My forties were filled with my children growing up, me finishing graduate school, and having a mortgage.  I felt mature beyond my years, but my shorts were getting a little longer, and I started buying readers at Walgreens.

            Thankfully, there was no angst the year I turned forty-nine: only a peaceful resignation that time marches on if you’re lucky.  Silently I marched into my fiftieth birthday with wonder and awe, and in true Boo fashion, my husband surprised me with a special gift. 

We celebrated quietly at home with a home-cooked meal and a delicious strawberry cake made lovingly by Boo. We were sitting at the table having just finished cake when a phone started to ring.  It wasn’t my landline phone, the ring was coming from one of my yet-to-be-opened birthday gifts. 
“Where is that coming from?  Why is my gift ringing?” I questioned.  “Boo!  What did you do?”

            And with that, I ripped the paper off of my gift, which was a beautiful UT Texas orange, flip phone.  My first, very own cell phone. “Hello?”  I said.

            “Surprise!” my daughter yelled. “You got a cell phone!  Happy Fiftieth!”

            Not only did turning fifty bring me a cell phone and other wonderful gifts, but it also brought me a huge red zit on the side of my cheek.  The location made it unable for me to disguise, plus it hurt like heck.

Welcome to your fifties, it said!  You thought you were over teenage acne, but alas, you’re not grown up yet!

Not long after my birthday zit, I had to have a hysterectomy and began hormone replacement therapy.  What is happening?  I’m not old enough to be over zits but too old to have children.  Fifty-one brought me a nice reprieve.

            Turning fifty-five or The Double Nickel, as Boo calls it, was like getting a bonus.  At fifty-five you are considered a Senior, at least AARP says you are.  IHOP, Chili’s, and McDonald’s want to give you freebies or discounted menus and even car rentals want to give you 10% off.  There’s quite a list of establishments that want to help you save money.  So, I ended my fifties on a high note by retiring and starting what some might refer to as living my best life. (in capris, not short shorts)

            When I heard that sixty was the new forty, I held onto that as I slid perilously into the big six zero.  But sixty-five brought with it all kinds of stuff that was hard to ignore.  For one thing, those dang Medicare phone calls started, and the commercials.  “Call this number NOW!”  All of a sudden my mailbox was flooded with advertisements for walk-in bathtubs, electric stair chairs, and even more discounts for seniors.  Was I now a true senior?  A senior-senior?  As the fliers for Medical Alert Systems and adult diapers kept flooding in, I realized that I’d made it.  I was NOW a mature adult.  Grown-up to the max.  The day I signed up for Medicare I felt as if I were in a barrel about to go over Niagara Falls.  No turning back.

                        And so it is as I approach my seventieth year of life.

            My mother was only thirty-three when she died.  I am immensely aware of my good fortune and blessings to have lived such a life as I have.  Her early death is not lost on me as I reflect on all she missed and the fact that she did not have the opportunity to grow old. It is a privilege denied to many.

            I know the true meaning of when you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything.  I used to lament about my hands, saying, “I’ve got my grandma’s hands!  Arthritic, wrinkled, and veiny.”  But, these hands have held my children and grandchildren and they’ve reached for Boo to steady me in life.  They’ve made meals, graded papers, planted flowers, and held the hands of loved ones who have passed from this earth.  I’m proud of them and all the ways they’ve shown up for me.  My hands tell the story of a life well lived.

My grandma was crowned Valentine Queen of her nursing home. (1980’s)

            So, on May 1, 2023, I will quietly arrive at my seventieth year of life, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.   Gladly, I have not squandered this year worrying or plotting.  I’m neither afraid nor embarrassed. I am simply humbled and very grateful. 

And as for the short shorts, well I had a good run.  It doesn’t seem to matter so much anymore, and if seventy doesn’t say “mature” I don’t know what will because eighty is the new sixty and twice as fun as forty.

Posted in #Confessions, Aging

Smooth Sailing

Recently, because I’m of a certain age, it was time for that dreaded medical test, the colonoscopy.  Everyone fifty and older has a reaction when the word is even spoken, and everyone has their own story surrounding the event and process.  It’s a rite of passage.

“It’s the prep that’s the worst part!”

“Hope you have smooth sailing and that everything comes out ok!”

Oh, the jokes can go on and on and while potty humor does help during this most humbling time, we all know the importance of making sure we are up to date on our tests.  We know it is necessary.

Importance notwithstanding, it is one of the most dreaded, talked about, and joked about medical procedures we older folks have.

Ten years ago, I had the joy of prepping for an upcoming colonoscopy.  I had Boo arrange to get off work so he could take me and bring me home.  I drank all the liquid concoctions, took the pills, and showed up at 7:30 a.m. clean as a whistle, and ready to go. (pardon my pun)

“Good morning!” the cheery desk clerk sang.

“Nancy Malcolm.  I’m here for my colonoscopy.”

“Hi, Ms. Malcolm.  Let me get you checked in.”

Pages began to shuffle and ruffle.  She glanced back up at me, “Did you say, Malcolm?”

“Yes,”  M  A  L  C  O  L  M

The calendar came out.  More shuffling of papers.

Then she grabbed the calendar and said, “I’ll be right back.”  And she was.

“Uh, Ms. Malcolm?  Your appointment is tomorrow.  We have you down tomorrow, the 7th with a 6:30 a.m. check-in.”

I’m pretty sure my heart stopped as I asked, “Are you certain? Oh, my goodness, are you sure?  I had it down for the 6th at 7:30 a.m.”

“No, I’m sure. See?”  And she turned the calendar to show me. “You’re the doctor’s first patient tomorrow.  The 7th with a 6:30 a.m. check-in.”

I felt a flip and gurgle in my stomach, and I thought I would either pass out or take off running to the bathroom, instead, tears welled up and my face got hot.  My lip began to quiver and as it did, a salty tear ran down from the corner of my eye.

“I don’t think I can do this again or go without eating for another day.”  I turned to look at Boo who was all comfy in his chair with a fresh coffee and reading the news on his phone.

“Why don’t you take a seat, and I’ll talk with the nurse.”

“Ok,” I slobbered and dejectedly turned toward the row of chairs near Boo.

I sat down and before he even glanced up from his news, he said, “Ready for action?”

“It’s tomorrow,”  I whispered through my tears.  “I’m on the wrong day.”

His face didn’t move, but his eyes peered up at me in shock, “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m sure!!” I said a little too loud and as I looked around, I saw people staring at me sideways with pity and horror.  My saga had played out as their worst nightmare, and they were checking their own paperwork and sighing with relief. 

Silently, I sat while Boo debated on whether to question me further or just sit quietly in solidarity.  He patted my knee.

“I’m waiting for the nurse to tell me what to do,” I offered, and he patted me again.

“I’m so hungry,” I said to no one in particular.  “And water.  I need a drink of water.”

I went to the restroom.  Walked around the waiting room.  Tried to read the news over Boo’s shoulder and then just sat and stared into space. Finally, I walked up to the window again.

“Did you find the nurse?” I asked the desk clerk.

“Yes, she’s in the OR.  She’ll come out when she can. We have to wait.”

“Ok,”  I whispered.

 Twenty minutes later, a nurse came out and called me over to the side of the room. As I walked over to the door where she stood, I felt all eyes on me.  The collective waiting room leaned one ear toward us, trying to be nonchalant.

“Ms. Malcolm?”


“The doctor said he will fit you in this morning, but you’ll have to wait an hour and a half.”

“Yes, yes, Ok.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.” I said.

She wasn’t smiling, although I wanted to hug her anyway.  “Don’t go anywhere,” she said. “And don’t eat or drink anything.  Not even water.”

“Of course.  I won’t.”  And she turned to leave.

Sure enough, an hour later, she came back to get me.  Most of the gawkers from the waiting room had already been called to their appointments, so I kissed Boo’s cheek and said, “See you soon.” 

“Good luck, Babe,” he said, and I began my walk of shame to the room where I put on my gown and waited for my IV.

“Did they tell you what happened?” I asked the nurse as she finished sticking me with the needle.

“I heard,” she said.  “You got lucky this time.”

“I know,” I said, and they wheeled me off to the OR.

“When do I get the happy juice?” I kept asking, and finally, the doctor said, “We might be able to find you a little bit, even though you’re here on the wrong day,” and then he laughed.  That’s all I remember till later that day.

I was still groggy on the drive home, but that evening as I was more awake, I went to the pantry for a snack.

“Cheetos!  Boo!  How did these Cheetos get here?”

He came into the kitchen and just stared at me.  “Are you serious right now?”

“You know I can’t control myself with Cheetos and now I’m going to have to eat some.  But I’m throwing them out after that.  You shouldn’t tempt me.  You know I forbid Cheetos in the house,”  I said.

“Boo,” he said.  “You threw a fit driving home after your procedure and made me stop at 7-11 for a big bag of Cheetos.  I tried to suggest something else, but you said you deserved them after all you’ve been through today.  You insisted.”


“Super really.”

“Sorry, babe,” I said as I crammed a handful of Cheetos into my mouth.

That was definitely one colonoscopy for the books.  So, this past week when I was scheduled again, ten years later, for my colonoscopy, I had already checked and rechecked my dates and times.

When I met with the doctor three weeks ago, he said, “If all goes well, and you do the prep perfectly so that I get a clear picture, and everything looks good, this could be your last colonoscopy.  You’re almost seventy, so in ten years you’d be eighty.  If this doesn’t kill you it will most likely be something else.  Consider it a perk of getting older.”

And then he went on; “Make sure you follow the prep instructions perfectly.  This morning I had to tell a lady she has to come back next week.  I saw corn.”


“Corn.  She said she didn’t eat anything and followed the instructions, but I didn’t get a clear look.  I know corn when I see it.  No food and no corn.”

“No corn,”  I promised.  “You can count on me.”

Friends, getting older is not for the faint-hearted.  Literally.  I followed the prep instructions, starved myself for two days, and showed up on the right day at the right time and sure enough, everything went according to plan.  There was absolutely no way I was going to have to come back next week.  No corn for me.   It was all smooth sailing.

Posted in Boo, Contemplations

Boo #27

            We were standing in the kitchen, deciding which chips to have with lunch, when I noticed Boo was looking in his pill organizer.  You know, the Monday through Sunday plastic medicine container that has A.M. and P.M.?

            “Dang, I took my day pills at night again,” he said.

            “You’re kidding, right?”

            “No, I’ve done it before.”

            “I don’t know how it could get any clearer, Boo.  Monday A.M.”

            “I wondered why I couldn’t get to sleep last night, and besides, I’m worried about the car battery. I think it’s on the blitz.”

            Sometimes when it rains, it pours.  Sometimes the car battery lasts four-and-one-half years and other times, twelve months.  Sometimes the air conditioner unit goes out, and sometimes the day pills get taken at night.  No matter what happens in life, there is always something out there to steal your peace.

            Exactly two months ago I was recuperating from knee surgery, going to physical therapy, and trying to stay positive.  Day after day, by mid-afternoon, our house would be a balmy 78- 85 degrees and then it would partially cool off at night.  Until it didn’t. 

            “Babe, I think something is wrong with the air-conditioner.” ( spoken in a stage whisper, because to say it aloud would make it true.)

            “Can’t be.  It’s not that old,” he said.

            “Let’s just call anyway.  Maybe it’s something easy.”

At first, it had taken Boo a few days of constant cussing and fuming, sweating, and pacing until he gave in and accepted the fact that we had to get a new AC unit. But, one week and ten thousand dollars later we were shocked at how quietly the air-conditioner purred, as the positively artic air filled the house.   We also got a new thermostat to replace the old one Boo had just recently learned to adjust.  Sometimes I wonder how Boo was able to graduate college and receive a master’s degree, but maybe that’s the way it is with the highly intelligent.

            A few days ago, I woke up and the house was 85 degrees again.  I went in to start the coffee and there was a note from Boo: “This house is sooo hot.  Something is wrong with new AC;  I pushed a bunch of buttons, but nothing helped.”

            I padded into the hallway and moved the thermostat to 74 degrees.  Then pushed the hold button.  ‘Permanent hold’ not ‘temporary hold.’  The house was all cooled down by the time he got up.

            “Why do you insist on pushing buttons willy-nilly and then complain something doesn’t work?”  I said.

            “There’s a 50% chance it might help.”

            “Speaking of 50%, what makes you think your car battery is going out?”

            As we all know, car batteries have a life expectancy.  The likelihood of having to replace the car battery is extremely high during the time you’re in possession of a car.

            The battery issue will sometimes begin subtly with a slow, gurgly engine start.  Or perhaps the little battery sign lights up with the sputtery start, but generally, there is a small window of warning before your battery just conks out. 

             “It took a while to start, but the battery light didn’t come on.  It’s been happening for a few days now,  but the battery light should come on,” said Boo.

            “Battery light or not, I think you should take it in any way and ask someone about it.”

            “Maybe tomorrow.”

            Tomorrow came.  The car would not start, and Boo had to jump off his car using the cables on our old truck.  Boo made it to an auto parts store that advertised free installation and was home by 1:00 with his lunch, Jersey Mike’s #2, Mike’s Way.

            “How did it go?”  I asked.

            “Ok, I guess.”

            “I’m glad.  How much was the battery?”

            “I got the best battery they had, that’s what Darryl said.  It was $212, not like the old days when you could get a new battery for $50.  The world is really changing.  That’s what Darryl always says.”

            “Who’s Darryl?”

            “Darryl works at the auto parts store.  He worked for twenty-five years at the local newspaper and then when he retired he went to the auto parts store.  He’s worked there for three years now. He lives close to us in a four-bedroom house off Brodie Lane, but I think he’s divorced.  He never mentioned a wife.  Darryl loves to cook and grills out three nights a week.  He’s quite a guy.”

            If I know Boo, and I do, he loves to ask people about their lives.  He can ask twenty-one questions in ten minutes flat, and people love to tell him their stories.  Boo should have stopped asking questions much sooner than he did because he proceeded to tell me more about Darryl.

            “Get this.. Darryl is Mexican American, but he said he might not stay at the auto store because they’re hiring too many Mexicans.  And they even hired two lesbians.  Darryl said he was just a regular guy and that he’d never met a lesbian before.”

            “Babe, what did you say?” 

            “I didn’t know what to say.  I mean part of me wanted to say, ‘I like lesbians, Darryl.’

But I wasn’t sure how that would sound either.  What could I say?  I couldn’t leave until he finished the battery.”

            “So?” I asked.

            “So, I just mumbled uh huh, and hmmmm.”

            “Oh my.”

            “Why do people tell me these things?”

            “Maybe you ask too many questions?”

“Maybe, but you have to admit, Darryl is a complex individual.”

“Darryl is some kind of guy, that’s for sure.”

In life, and especially with Boo, there are always people, places, and things that disrupt the steady, peaceful flow of living.  We try to stay Zen, yet there is a car battery, air-conditioner, or pill box just waiting to take us out.  There are many people in this world who have differing opinions and values and as long as Boo is on the planet, he’ll continue to ask questions and love hearing the answers.