Posted in Reality, Truth

It’s Not Always the Way It Looks

            She sat slumped over on the red-flowered couch in my office.  Her hair, a dingy blonde with dark roots, was greasy and her face was stained with old make-up and fresh tears. 

            The police officer stood between us, his rough hands resting on his thick belt which held handcuffs, a radio, and the ever-present tazer.

            “I found her behind the school, near the apartments.  She had an illegal knife on her,” he said and laid it on my desk.  “We can press charges.”

            “I wasn’t doing anything wrong.  I missed the bus,” she said.

            As an Assistant Principal in a large high school, I could tell by looking that the knife was over the five- and one-half inch legal limit.  The knife was an older-looking switchblade with dirt and a little rust on the handle.  It had obviously been used before and needed a good sharpening.

            “What’s your name?” I asked and turned my chair to face her.

            “Pepper.”

            “Pepper, is that your real name?”

            “No. My friends call me Pepper; everyone else calls me Charlene Davis,” she said and sucked in a jagged breath before tears started to fall.  “Please.  Please.  I had it in my purse.  I wasn’t going to hurt anyone unless they tried to hurt me.”

            “Thanks, Officer,” I said.  “Let Charlene and I talk for a few minutes.”

            “I’ll be right outside your door if you need me,”  he said.

            I brought up her student information on my computer and turned toward her,  “So, Charlene, tell me your story.  I see you don’t live at home.”

            Charlene took another deep breath and straightened her tank top, which didn’t quite cover her voluptuous body.  I asked her if she had a coat since it was cold outside.  She shook her head no. Handing her the sweater draped behind my chair I said, “Start from the beginning.”

            Forty minutes later I knew a lot about Charlene and a little about the knife.  I have spent thirty-six years of my life in education, and I’ve heard stories from students that made me cry.  Stories that haunted me and shook me to my core.  But Charlene’s story broke my heart.

 Charlene did not know her daddy, but her mother had known a lot of men who wanted to be called that.  It seems her mom had run off three years ago and left her and her three siblings alone.  CPS stepped in and separated the four sending the younger ones to one foster home, the brother to another, and Charlene to another.  Charlene had run away from four foster homes since then and was now living in a state-owned, group home for teenage girls in Austin, several hours away from her brother and sisters.  Not ideal by any means.

 “It’s ok,” she said.  “I’m leaving as soon as I graduate, and I’ll get my brother and sisters back.  I’ll take care of them myself.”

“No more running away though, or the next stop will be juvie.”

“I know. This is my last chance,” she said.

            “Graduation will be your ticket for a better life, Charlene.  I’m proud of you for staying on track with your grades in spite of everything that has happened,” I said.

            “I’ll be the first one in my family to graduate, Miss.  I’m really smart, and I have a job at Mcdonald’s on the weekends.  That’s where I met my boyfriend.”

            “Do you mind if I call you Pepper?”  I asked.  And she smiled for the first time.

            “Tell me about this boyfriend, Pepper.”

            “His name is Ryder and I love him.  He lives in those apartments by the McDonalds,  and after work, I go over to see him.  He gave me the knife.”

            “No flowers or candy?  But he gave you a knife?  And what do you do when you go over to see him so late at night?”

            “We do stuff.  You know, we love each other.”

            Before I could stop myself, I said, “Charlene, you know what causes babies, don’t you?  I hope you’re using some form of protection.”

            “Yea, mostly.  We try, Miss.  Anyway, usually, the bus is not running when I see him after work, so I have to walk home. He gave me the knife so I would be safe walking home from his apartment.  He’s sweet that way.  That’s why I need the knife back.  He gave it to me.”

            “Pepper, let me get this straight.  You work the night shift at McDonalds, then you walk over to his apartment.  You stay there for a few hours and then you walk yourself back to the home?  Why doesn’t he take you home or walk with you?”

            “He doesn’t have a car, Miss.  That’s why he gave me the knife, so I can be safe walking home.  He’ll be mad if I don’t have it.”

            “Oh Pepper, you are worthy of being safe and being walked home by your boyfriend.  This knife may cause you more trouble than you’re ready for.  Like today.  You know I have to take the knife.”

            “I know, Miss.  But I need it and I promise to hide it better when I come to school. It’s only four more months till graduation.  Please?  It’s scary walking home late at night.”

            We talked a few more minutes and then I sent her to class, while I kept the knife.

            Charlene flew way under the radar for the remainder of the semester.  I would see her walking through the halls occasionally, and she would give me a half-smile or a shy wave, not wanting anyone to know we knew each other.  But I wanted to hug her.  Feed her a healthy meal.  Keep her safe.  Ask about that damn boyfriend.

            Instead, one week before graduation, I called her into my office.  I knew she only had one more final exam to take, and I would never see her again.

            “Hi Miss,” she said as she knocked softly on my door.

            “Pepper, you look gorgeous today!” I said as I noticed her fresh hair and new outfit.  She was wearing a short, blue, flouncy skirt made out of layers of thin material.  Her top was buttoned up the front and covered the waistband of the skirt, with room to spare. Then I saw what I thought was a slight bump beneath her blouse.

            “The house mother gave me some money to buy a few new things before I graduate and have to move.  I’m having a baby, Miss.  See?”  And she cupped her small round belly to show me.

“Ryder wants a boy.”

“Wow,”  I said.

 “I have something for you.”  And I handed her a pink gift bag with ribbons and a small ‘Congratulations’ balloon.  She smiled the biggest smile I’d ever seen and asked, “Can I open it?”

            “You sure can!!”  I said.

            She sat on my red-flowered couch and put the bag on her knees.  She took the fluffed tissue paper out of the bag one by one and pressed them flat.

“I’m going to save this paper.  It’s just like new.”  She said.

I had individually wrapped each gift: a set of lip glosses, JLO body wash and spray, a new hairbrush, and a precious stuffed teddy bear with I Love You embroidered on the stomach. And at the very bottom of the bag was one last gift.  “Don’t open that one until you get home, ok?  I think you’ll remember it.”  I said.

“Thank you, Miss.  This is my only graduation gift.  I love all of it and the baby will love the teddy bear!”  She hugged me and I hugged her right back, neither one of us wanting to let go.

“I’m so proud of you, Charlene Davis.  I knew you could do it.”  I said, as she blushed and smiled a soft, beautiful smile.  Wide-eyed, and a little teary she responded quietly, “That means a lot, Miss.”

We had a quick hug the night of graduation and I have not heard anything from her since. 

As with Charlene and the knife, it’s not always the way it looks.  Everyone has a story to tell if we will only take time to listen.  It is an honor to hear someone’s truth and hold space for their thoughts and feelings, whether we agree or not.  Our stories matter, we matter.  And for Charlene, I wanted her to know she matters in this world. 

Charlene ‘Pepper’ Davis matters.

Posted in #Confessions, Aging

The Bee’s Knees: Continued

The first Monday meeting with Mitchell, my young, handsome physical therapist, started off with a bang.  “Have you been to the restroom yet?  You know, pooped?”  he asked.

“Not yet,” I said quietly.

“It’s really important, so let’s keep taking what you’re taking and drink lots of water.  The more you walk the better it will be.” 

Ya’ll, I have a friend who swears her mother used to ask her, “Have you do-do’d today?” Every time she feigned she was too sick to go to school, her mother would point her finger right at her face and ask the dreaded question, “When is the last time you do-do’d?”

Mitchell and I walked a loop through my house, with me on my walker and Mitchell right behind me, holding a white, thick belt tied to my waist so he could keep me from falling.  He evaluated my uneven gait and chanted, “Heel-toe, heel-toe.”  We then went through a ‘lofty’ set of exercises, to be done three times a day.  Next, he checked my incision and reminded me, “When the pain ball runs out, probably Friday, you’ll feel a slight surge in pain levels.  Just want you to keep that in mind.”

I was starting to get really scared.  Scared about the pain ball (how much will it hurt to take it out?) and what will happen to me if I don’t, you know?  Pain and poo, two very big topics that dominated my thoughts day and night.   But, because I am a doctor on Google, I read everything I could about both topics and I must say I found out it could go either way…good or bad. Good, like an easy-peasy potty time and absolutely no pain in removing the wire inside my leg.  Or bad, like missing the toilet and landing on my butt and twisting my new knee, causing me to have corrective surgery.

Friday morning Mitchell arrived with a smile. “Let’s check your pain ball.”

“No need,” I said.  “It’s empty.”

“Ok then.  Let’s take it out.”

“Should I take a shot of whiskey? Or bite a bullet?” I joked.

He laughed and said, “I know, right?”

I laid on the edge of my bed, closed my eyes, and he peeled the surgical tape off my thigh to reveal the wire, which had been threaded down the front nerve of my leg.  I was trying to mentally prepare for the pain, when he said, “It’s over.”  And just like that I was freed from the pain ball and looking forward to a new surge of discomfort.

“Remember,” Mitchell said, “Stay ahead of the pain and go to the restroom.  See you Monday.”

After Mitchell left, I drank one more glass of Metamucil on top of all the other laxatives, just for good measure.  Sadly, I realized too late, that it had not been necessary.  At five o’clock, my stomach started to rumble, tumble, roll, and grumble.  For some reason, I felt the need to tell Boo, “Something’s happening.”

“Let the games begin!!” he laughed.

Five o’clock also marked the onset of the dreaded ‘surge of pain.’  I will spare you the gory details, but when I felt I’d better head toward the restroom, I immediately knew my speed on the walker, was not as it should be.  Never in my life could I have planned that the pain and the poo would happen on the same day and same time and stay all weekend long.  Boo, hollered from the den, “Do you need some help?”

Banging my walker into the door frame, I screamed back, “Leave Me Alone!”

Truthfully, I have only screamed once during this whole ordeal, and this was it. 

“No problem,” he answered.

The infamous ‘surge in pain’ was like my knee was waking up a week later from the surgery.  Shooting pain, dull aching pain, and stabbing pain settled in on my incision and the very back behind my knee.  I took every pain pill allowed me and still prayed to fall asleep.  The pain came in waves, like a rolling storm off the coast, battering and ramming my body until I thought I would break.  The only rest from the pain was from the sudden urge to run to the restroom because I needed a level head to maneuver my way through the bathroom door with the awkward walker.  I was a very hot mess!

 Things could only get better after this extremely low point because, after all, this was just the first week of my recovery.

Monday morning, Mitchell said I looked a little pale, but applauded my efforts and we set up a new pain med plan.

“Let’s get rid of the walker and go to a cane,” he said.

“How about tomorrow?  I need a few more hours,” I said.

“Deal.”

That night I went to my closet and found the cane my grandpa actually carved for himself.  It was the same cane my grandma used as well, and now I was the proud recipient. Who would have guessed it?  The cane was a perfect simple shape and sanded smooth as silk.  Grandpa had painted it a dark brown and shellacked it to a beautiful sheen.  The grip was worn in places and as I stood to try it out, tears rolled down my face, imagining my grandparents’ touching this very same cane.  I felt their spirit with me. This cane fit me just right and I felt safe and secure knowing my grandparents had in some way, been sent to take care of me.

I practiced that night and the next day it was trial by fire as I learned to walk with the cane.  Does anyone remember Festus from Gunsmoke? 

At the end of week two, I saw the physician’s assistant and she took off my bandage.  I was predicting a Frankenstein scar, but it wasn’t quite that bad.  Turns out my surgeon was a brilliant seamstress.  One surprising thing about my knee now is that it feels hot at times from the swelling and has a slight pinkish color.  They promised it will go away.  But, part of my knee is numb, and that will not go away.  As I was leaving, the P. A. said I could begin practicing driving.  It was music to my ears, and I felt the breeze of freedom floating in my near future. Although it was another two weeks away, I had hope that I could recover and finally go somewhere by myself.  No offense, Boo.

Soon Mitchell and I began to go for walks outside.  On my 2nd walk, we ran straight into my neighborhood friend, which you may remember as my Walker Stalker.  John wanted to know what had happened to me, where had I been, and “Who’s this?”

“This is Mitchell,” I said. “My physical therapist.”

 But John never really registered what I said, until finally, he asked, “Now, who is this? Is this your grandson?” 

We just smiled and said, “Well, I’ve gotta keep walking, John.  See you soon.”

As time went on, I begged Boo to ride with me a half-mile down the road to our community mailboxes.  “I don’t need to practice anymore,” I said, as I slightly hobbled to the car.  But once to the car, I had to pick up my leg to actually get in.  Bending my knee was torturous, in the beginning.  I really didn’t realize how strenuous getting in and out of a car and driving one mile could be.

“I don’t think you’re quite ready,”  Boo said as I came to a stop.

I knew he was right, but I also knew I was very close to my independence.  “I’m on my way back, baby!  Just wait and see!”

I finally graduated from Mitchell to outpatient physical therapy.  My weeks of exercising, icing, resting, and walking have now turned into two months.  My out-patient physical therapist is a seemingly sweet-looking, young woman named, Thea.   Don’t let her smiling, girl-next-door exterior fool you, she’s no-nonsense and hell-on-wheels.  But, thanks to her and Mitchell, I’m making great progress.  At my 8-week check-up, my doctor was very pleased.  “You’re one-third of the way healed.  Keep up the good work.”  He also told me it will take one full year to feel normal and strong, and I’m starting to believe him.

Everyday, there is a little less pain and stiffness, and everyday there is hope for better sleep. I’m walking, driving, sitting, standing.  I’m off my addiction to Cheetos.  I’ve gone on a trip, grocery shopped, and been to Costco twice.  I’m still telling Boo, I may not be able to cook for another month or so, but he’s fine with that because it means fewer vegetables.

I’m grateful to have insurance and Medicare.  I’m grateful to all my friends who loaned me the walker, icing machines, and tall potty chair.  The friends who brought me food and visited when I was still in my wrinkled pajama pants and greasy hair, and I’m grateful to Boo who never left my side, even when he wanted to!  Who has put up with my groaning and moaning and talking about myself until we are both sick of it. 

Sometimes Boo is a saint.

Originally, I planned to have my other knee done in March, but as time goes on, I think it best to wait until July. We have a trip planned for the end of March and one in June. Feeling stronger and having a little fun will put me in the right frame of mind to do this all again. (I hope).  And Boo will have a chance to rest up before his next nursing duty.

People continue to ask me, “Aren’t you so glad you had the surgery?” 

“Not yet,” I answer, “But, I know I will be.”  And that really is the truth.  I know I will be, especially after the next surgery.  As my grandma used to say, “If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.”  I will be so, so glad I’ve had the opportunity to get my new pair of knees!”

My girls, my grandma, and my cane.
Ready for an outing with Grandma and her walker!

Posted in #Confessions, Aging

The Bees Knees

The Bees Knees: Part I

I come from sturdy stock. I’ve survived a lot from my childhood and growing up years.  My threshold for pain is high, like natural childbirth high, but the last thirty-eight days have brought me to my knees.

Grandma

My arthritic knees, a gift from my grandma, have been a source of pain and embarrassment since my thirties.  I have repeatedly rubbed Aspercream, Voltaren cream, and Icy Hot on these bony knees  I’ve had cortisone shots, rooster cone shots, and rotated ice with heat.  I would slowly rise from chairs and avoid all stairs in favor of an elevator.  Worrying about my knees has consumed a lot of my life for thirty-plus years.

On a vacation to Washington D.C. a few years ago, I clung to Boo’s arm as we made our way up the eighty-seven steps from the Reflection Pool to the Lincoln Memorial.  Rubbing my knees and reverently limping around while snapping photos, I told Boo, “There’s got to be an elevator somewhere.  I don’t think I can make it back down.” 

I looked all around and found a small sign that said Elevator.  It was in the back, back corner of the monument.  One lone person in a wheelchair was parked right in front of the elevator doors. “I’ve been waiting for the elevator to come back up for quite a while,” she said.

            “I’m going to get my husband and grandson; will you hold the door?”  I asked.  And she gave me the thumbs up.

            Rushing to find Boo and Sam, I called, “Come on guys, I located the elevator!”

            Turning the corner, I saw the back of the lady in the wheelchair rolling into the elevator.  With her was an assortment of people on crutches, walkers, and canes.  I grabbed Boo and my grandson Sam, urging them to get in.  All of a sudden Boo says, “Uhh, we’ll meet you at the bottom,” and they walked away. “Chicken!!!”  I called after them.

 I squeezed myself into the tiny steel trap, making the other riders move closer together.  It took a good 5 minutes for the trembling, creaky doors to finally close and I pushed the dirty-looking number ‘one’ on the wall of the elevator.  Casually, I glanced to see if there was a number to call if we were to get stuck, but it was too faded to read.

  Another long minute later, the elevator jolted and then shuddered as it began to move.   S l o w l y, the airless box moved downward, while the wafting July body heat and odor settled heavy on my skin. The smell of old, tarnished metal and flattened carpet that may never have been vacuumed, made me feel claustrophobic.  My fellow riders exuded smells from Bengay cream, onions from lunch, and cigarette smoke.  I felt a little throw-up in my mouth but managed to hold my breath for the remainder of the ride.

 It felt like an eternity as we bumped and gyrated to a stop, waiting another eternity for the doors to open.  Luckily I was the first one-off, cursing under my breath at Boo for leaving me and my knees for causing me this stress.

“What took you so long, Nannie?” my grandson asked when I jumped out.

“I’ll tell you later,” I said and took a gasp of fresh air.

            So, when my doctor told me this October, “You can take shots and rub creams until you are one hundred years old, but nothing will ever heal your knees.  You need knee replacement surgery if you want your life back.” 

I cheerfully said, “Let’s do it!”  I felt certain this would be my answer as I halfway listened to his explanation about the surgery.  I must have blocked out the warnings about throbbing discomfort afterward and tortuous rehab exercises.  I zeroed in on the statements, “You’ll be so glad you had the surgery.  You’ll be better than brand new.”

On November 8th I arrived at the hospital at 4:45 a.m. and went directly into Pre-Op, where things started to move way too fast. When the anesthesiologist came in to do a nerve block, I started asking, “When do I get the happy juice?”  

Wire threaded down the front of my leg.

The nerve block is started at thigh level and a wire is threaded down a major nerve on the front of the leg. Then pain medicine is released through a ball of meds that completely blocks pain in the leg for one week. The nurses and doctors were so kind and thorough and when they told me to sit up in the operating room to get my spinal block, I remember asking, “I hope my doctor had a good breakfast.”  That was the last I remember.

Two- and one-half hours later, I was in the recovery room asking when I could eat. I felt drowsy but happy. I told my surgeon, “This was a breeze. Thank you. I’m going to be your best patient ever! You’ll see.”

He smiled and patted my foot, “Keep the good attitude!  You’ll need it.”

When I got to my room, I noticed something was attached to me.  “What’s this?”  I asked the nurse.

‘It’s your nerve block pain medicine.  It’s stopping all of the pain right now.  You’ll have it for one week and then it comes out.  You’ll be so glad you have it.  By the way, you have to take a stool softener and a laxative starting today.  Pain medicine stops you up.”  Still on my ‘happy juice’ high, I didn’t really soak in the reality of what she had just said.

Approximately ninety minutes later, the physical therapist came in and suggested we go for a walk.  “Sure,”  I said.

As I sat up the nurse helped me with my IV and the nerve block pain ball that I had to wear around my neck because it was attached to my leg. The pain ball was in its own little black bag, like a purse.  I tried to move myself to the edge of the bed and discovered I had to use my hands to lift up my own leg to place it in position.  The therapist put that stylish white cotton belt around my waist so I wouldn’t fall, and off we went down the hall for a 10-foot walk.

The whole twenty-four hours I spent in the hospital was full of walks and threats.  “Be sure to drink your Miralax and take your stool softener.”  “If you don’t pee, you’ll get a catheter.”  “You have to eat.”  There were pages of information given to me and more “Be sure to..” reminders and then poof, I was discharged and going home.  Still a little loopy from pain medicine, I asked Boo, “Please stop and buy a bag of Cheetos.  I need them.”

Boo gave me a sideways glance, knowing I forbid Cheetos in the house due to my addiction to those orange, crunchy sticks of deliciousness. 

“Right now?” he asked.

“YES.”

The next day, the at-home physical therapist came by to begin my three times a week sessions.  I wanted to make a good impression, but sadly my greasy hair, old sweatshirt, and baggy pajama bottoms were all I could muster.  Oh, and did I say I was wearing a thigh-high pair of white compression hose?  When I answered the door using the walker a friend had loaned me, I saw a handsome, thirty-something, young man with a beautiful smile. 

“ Hi, I’m your physical therapist, Mitchell.  Ready to get started?

To be continued….

Posted in Friendship

For Out of The Abundance of the heart, The Mouth Speaks

 

For Out of The Abundance of The Heart, The Mouth Speaks
Photograph by Nancy Malcolm

 

Words can heal us or hurt us.  The spoken word is undeniably powerful.

Perhaps we should all have to obtain a  license to speak; for some people have no filter, no compassion and according to the scripture…no heart.  We could all share stories of words that have wounded our souls.  No one escapes this life without an insult or offense, and sadly we ourselves are sometimes the perpetrator.

 

Today we are witnessing calloused words thrown back and forth on television and in the news.  Angry, slandering terms so effortlessly spoken. Is there no alarm that goes off inside, warning the offenders to stop and think before they speak?  Are these insidious words actually a reflection of the speakers’ heart? Maybe there is venom flowing through the veins, not blood; otherwise, how could so much hurt be inflicted?

 

I’ve been cursed by more than a few high schoolers.  As an educator for many years, I have also observed the hateful, hurtful flying words between teenagers who are in pain and wishing to inflict pain or get even.

I’ve been sliced by an unthinking acquaintance, I’ve been bullied by someone claiming to love me.  And, sometimes, even more hurtful has been a silence, the unspoken word of a darkened heart. I have almost seen the painful word as it lept from its cave. Certainly, I have felt it.

 

How is it that we fellow humans send these fiery darts?  Have we forgotten the old admonishments of “Think before you speak”?  Are we so intent upon hurting other travelers that we purposefully strike fast and deep so as to stop them in their tracks?

 

My dad used to admonish me with “Aren’t you going to fight back?” or “Don’t let them get away with saying that!”  But, I have always been taken aback when someone was rude or hateful to me. I continue to be surprised when someone acts unkind and I am slow to respond with equal vengeance.   Perhaps I am naive or Pollyanna-ish, but I firmly believe that ‘hurting people… hurt people’.  

 

“O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”

 

I do believe that there are vipers whose intentions are not good, but I am convinced that there are other ways besides cutting words to take up for myself and feel safe.

 

If only there were x rays able to see into the hearts of others. Whether it would help us or hurt us, I do not know.  For each of us is responsible for our own words and what we do with them.  Someday we will all be held accountable for what we spoke and the hurt or help that our words intended.
If we could remember to THINK before speaking:  Is it Thoughtful? Honest? Intelligent? Necessary? Kind?  Perhaps then,  we could reflect more goodness from our hearts and not hatred.

Posted in Friendship

My Voice In The Lost and Found

 

DSC_0567
Photograph by Nancy Malcolm

I lost my voice….literally.  It left me and in its wake, my confidence fell into a pit.

 

All during my years in education, I would occasionally get a raspy, scratchy voice.  Too much talking and strain on my vocal cords.  But, three years ago, that scratchiness returned with a slight tenderness, and I could not clear the gravel sitting in my throat.

 

With one visit to my ENT Doctor, an MRI and a laryngoscopy, it was determined that I had cysts on my vocal cords and they needed to be removed.  “An easy day surgery with one minor detail,” my doctor explained.  “You must have two weeks of complete voice rest.  No talking and no whispering.” (as evidently whispering is worse for your voice.)  “No sound for two weeks.  Nada.”

 

Before the surgery, I envisioned the two weeks as total “me” time.  Reading, writing and silent reflection, yet when my two weeks started I felt differently.  I suddenly felt very vulnerable.  One dear friend brought me a notepad with a little explanation taped on each page.  “I just had throat surgery and am unable to talk.  Please be patient while I write.”  Someone else gave me a dry erase board to use at home so I felt prepared for communicating.  I was NOT prepared for the frustration at getting people to understand what I needed or wanted.  I was not prepared for the silence.

One day at Walgreens, I was checking out and while touching my throat, I mouthed to the clerk I was unable to talk.  I started to write on my notepad, and she nodded that she understood.  She then proceeded to use a rustic form of sign language to ask me if I wanted a bag and to point to cash or credit.  I wanted to (scream) mouth, “I can hear you, I just can’t talk!” But, I thanked her in sign language and went on.

 

Slowly, I felt so withdrawn and yes, overlooked. My family stopped talking to me just so I wouldn’t have to answer, but I felt ignored.   I felt what many others must feel every single day of their lives, yet, I knew mine would be temporary, or so I hoped. What if my voice never returns?   More and more I retreated into my hushed, speechless world.  

 

Finally, the end of my 14 days arrived.  When I first tried to speak, I was unnerved at the sound of my voice.  Complete gravel…..worse than before.  I was told to give it time, be patient and try to relax my throat muscles, but I realized immediately that I did not know how to do that.  Too many years of strain and stress.  

 

I became embarrassed to speak in public, answer the phone or even go out.  No one could understand me and I choked easily because I could not clear my throat.  My doctor suggested a few things:  another week of quiet, try a voice coach and if necessary, go see a specialist in San Antonio. Another week crept by with minimal speaking and it was determined that scar tissue had formed on my vocal cord.  The specialist could give me shots of Botox to improve my voice and so I made the appointment.

 

Even though the specialist explained how the Botox would help and what I could expect afterward, I was ill-prepared for the exact details of how it would happen.  The first thing they did was record me as I repeated chords and words so that there could be a baseline.  Then I was ushered into an examination room that had low lighting,  Feng Shui water fountain,  calming lavender diffuser and a large screen TV.  There was one large exam chair and lots of instruments….fear started to sink in.  

 

The doctor sprayed my nose and throat with a numbing solution.  A camera was put in my nose and down my throat and a light was put in my mouth down to my vocal cords. Then with a long, curved needle, he injected my vocal cord with Botox.  The whole thing was projected onto the big screen TV and recorded.  I would do this procedure three more times.

 

I admit, I was shy and self- conscious the first time I met my voice coach.   It was unsettling and disheartening to hear myself try to repeat the scales and words she gave me.  I could hear the pitch and sounds, but I could not make my voice mimic them.  She recorded me as well.  My confidence was in the toilet as I heard that first playback.

 

Sometimes life does send you angels and unexpected gifts, and Dara (my voice coach) was that for me.  This sweet, beautiful and talented girl helped me find my voice.  She encouraged me.  She laughed with me not at me and she befriended me at a very tender time in my life.

 

Probably one full year after my first diagnosis, I came to believe that my voice might be as good as it was going to get.  And now, three years later, I know it has gotten even stronger.  Patience and time worked after all.

 

What is lost cannot always be found or restored, but sometimes a new thing takes its place.  I gained a lot of strength from following through with the procedures and voice lessons, and with compassion and hard work, I found my voice.  My new, hard-earned voice that sounds more like me than ever before.

Posted in Friendship

The Dichotomy of Motherhood

Happy Mother's Day

 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”―     Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

For some reason, this quote from Charles Dickens reminds me of motherhood, at least my pilgrimage to and through motherhood.   Being a mother is the most fulfilling, heartwarming, satisfying, inspiring, God-given gift in the world. Sometimes though, it can break your heart.  Being a mother means you are vulnerable and open and approachable, which in turn means that you can be hurt. Only a mother could cry through a long night only to see the dawn with a joyful, hopeful expectation, ready to love again.

Mothers have their own special cheering section in Heaven.  Mothers know things dads will never know.  Mothers are capable of experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  A mother is eternal.

Please accept these thoughts on motherhood; these words of description; these parallels of dichotomy; this attempt at explanation of the wonders of motherhood.

Watching….Waiting

Smiling….Crying

Heartwarming….Heartbreaking

Fun-filled….Fearful

Laughing….Leaping

Holding….Hating

Bearing….Bothering

Loving….Languishing

Exhilarated….Exhausted

Wonder….Wander

Capturing….Catapulting

Peaceful….Perplexing

Enveloping….Enabling

Helping….Hindering

Love…….Plain and simple

 

Happy Mother’s Day everyone, no matter what path led you to motherhood.  

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who has loved a child with all of your heart.

Happy Mother’s Day to those who have loved and lost and those who lost their mother along the way.  We are all the same….we who love…we understand each other…

Our blood flows coarsely through our veins and our hearts beat as one.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Posted in Friendship

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 Friendship

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 Friendship

Poems to Ponder by Ginger Keller Gannaway

For April, National Poetry Month, I offer you a few Poems to Ponder:lake house

  1. “I Spy Babies” by Shane Gannaway (my son)

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    Shane Gannaway
  2. “Spring and Fall”  by Gerard Manly Hopkins (probably my favorite poem)
  3. “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes (strong advice read by Viola Davis & the poet!)
  4. “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost (in memory of poet philosopher Ric Fox)nothing Gold can stay
  5. Hearts Under a Microscope by Gary Gannaway“Tis true. Science says it’s so.
    Each heart muscle cell
    Beats to its own rhythm.
    Under a microscope
    It looks like a tiny heart,
    And it sounds likeYour heart Your heartpoem love
    Your heart Your heart.Put another heart muscle cell
    Onto the same slide.
    And it will beat to its own
    Independent rhythm,
    And it sounds like

    Heart my Heart my
    Heart my Heart my.

    Once the cells touch,
    A miracle occurs.
    The two cells begin to beat as one,
    And they sound like

    Your heart My heart
    Your heart My heart
    Our heart Our heart
    Our heart Our heart.

    ‘Tis true. Science says it’s so.(Valentine’s Day, 2010)

    “Shoulders”  (cool class video)by Naomi Shihab Nye ( what the world needs now)

  6. Shoulders
    A man crosses the street in rain,
    stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
    because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

    No car must splash him.
    No car drive too near to his shadow.

    This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
    but he’s not marked.
    Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
    HANDLE WITH CARE.

    His ear fills up with breathing.
    He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
    deep inside him.

    We’re not going to be able
    to live in this world
    if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
    with one another.

    The road will only be wide.
    The rain will never stop falling.

    poem1

Posted in Food, Holidays

I Dread Christmas by Ginger Keller Gannaway

I Dread Christmas

by Ginger Keller Gannawayimg_1589

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