Thursday, December 18, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #337
Nancy White Kelly

It is almost Christmas. There aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. It is this way every year. I start early by buying gifts in July and tucking them away in the bedroom closet. One summer I found a stash of missed Christmas presents that transformed themselves into birthday or “no occasion” gifts instead.

Today Buddy and I attended the first Christmas performance that included Charlie and Tori’s sons. Grandson Micah is going on four. Noah is not yet two.

Micah sang Jingle Bells and vigorously rang the batch of silver bells attached to his wrist. He was unaware or didn’t care that he was supposed to keep time with the music. Nobody else seemed to care either as video cameras and digital flashes recorded the rehearsed, yet spontaneous antics for future amusement.

Little Noah, dressed in a Santa suit, was pulled around the church auditorium in a red wagon caravan. Our grandboys were adorable, but what would you expect a proud grandmother to write?

Micah was born prematurely and his parents insist he has slight developmental problems. I don’t notice anything amiss. Being a former professional educator, you’d think I would spot anything significantly troublesome. Charlie says I don’t notice Micah’s language lag because I don’t see him daily. All I see is a quiet, deep thinking little boy who puts together complicated puzzles better than I could. No, Micah isn’t a big talker, but he communicates effectively when he wants to do so.

I was never a big talker either. My mother often told me that, as a baby, I would sit in the floor and entertain myself for hours. I can still do that. Not sit in the floor, mind you, but I can certainly entertain myself without human assistance. There are just not enough hours in the day or sustained energy to accomplish everything on my want to do list after my have to do chores are completed.

Buddy is a morning person and insists I come to bed at night earlier than I would like. It isn’t that he is so concerned about my lack of slumber. He just needs a warm body so he can sleep himself. If he weren’t so persistent about lights out, I would be a perpetual nibbling, nocturnal, computer-using, book-reading junkie.

But, back to our youngest grandson, Noah. I promise he is developing his grandfather’s sense of humor. This was the toddler’s conversation with his mother just yesterday.

TORI: Noah!
NOAH: What?
TORI: Don’t say “what.” Say “Mam.”
Gotta love him!


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #336

Nancy White Kelly

November has never been my favorite month. It seems that major negative events have always occurred during the eleventh month of the year. Both my parents died in November in Memphis in the same hospital room only a few years apart.

Last month I probably came as close to dying as ever in my life. I am called the Living Lady for good reason. My life has been filled with many close calls including a stint in hospice. It is with thanksgiving that I am happy to report that I am well on the road to recovery again. Our now three- year- old grandson, Micah, says it best: “Granny better now.”

December is always a pleasant month, partly because we don’t play up the materialistic aspect. We do have gifts and a tree, but it is family time and we enjoy just being together laughing and reminiscing.

Having been born on a snowy Christmas Eve during World War II, my birthday always barges into Christmas affairs. Nobody complains about it. After all, only God determines who is born and when.
This year I am a bit nostalgic. In sixty-four years society in America has changed dramatically. Being a member of the era of the greatest generation, I fondly remember peculiar things like S & H green stamps and the struggle with rubber girdles. I felt pride in fictional heroes like the Lone Ranger and high-achievers like Helen Keller. In my pre-teen years I felt vulnerable to potential lurking villains while listening intently to radio dramas. “The Shadow Knows,” with its musical crescendos, was one of my favorites.
Our family couldn’t wait to get one of those new black and white televisions. We thought nothing of waiting five minutes or more for it to warm up. I was by mesmerized by Howdy Doody and Clarabelle. We kids were Mama and Daddy’s remote control, changing channels at night for their favorite shows like “I Love Lucy” or “Dragnet.”

If the old Brownie snapshots were in color then, they would have shown my rosy cheeks and purple lips. That was because my favorite snack was Kool-Aid with sugar. The neighborhood girls played hopscotch on sidewalks and boys raced in the streets with metal skates that had cleats attached to shoe soles.

After supper, we played cork ball until dark. On rainy days, my oldest brother and I jumped the rafters in the garage while playing wood tag. For my younger brothers, those weren’t the days of wine and roses, but swinging vines and bloody noses.

I loved the fifties. Elvis. Poodle skirts. Black and white Oxford shoes. The sixties were college years, especially memorable because of the racial turbulence. The seventies brought the Beatles, the escalating drug culture, and a stream of foster children into our home. Two of those are deceased now, one from severe diabetic complications and the other from a drug over-dose. The eighties were happy years. Our son Charlie was born after fifteen years of marriage and we adopted Bobby, the last one of our foster children. The nineties were good years. We moved to the mountains and started new friendships that still thrive.

Here we are almost a decade into the 21st century. Last week a friend I had not seen for twenty years dropped by for a surprise visit. We took up where we left off, hardly missing a beat. That is the way it is with good friends. Even though time gaps occur in a relationship, we are joined by shared experiences and good memories.
I can name many friends, most whom I taught somewhere at some place, who finished their earthly course this decade: Gary, Ed, Ted, Guy, Dick, Ramie, Hadyn, Jim, Al, Tom, and Bob to name a few. Life is short. The Bible says it plainly in James 4:14: “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

Sixty-four years. How many more times will God call off the death angels in response to the prayer of friends and relatives? Only He knows. I am glad I don’t know my expiration date, but believe that it is a good idea to live as though it could be today.
For some it will be.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #335

Nancy White Kelly

Emails tell me you want an up-date on the story of Murphy’s Law and the Living Lady. To briefly recap: I voted early on October 2nd. My foot caught some bad carpet that sent me to the Emergency Room.
Fast forward: orthopedic referral, MRI, total knee replacement on November 4th. The night after surgery came a scary life and death episode. Several drugs were administered in an effort to stop my adrenaline-pumped limbs from flailing for nearly an hour. After several days in ICU, I came home to nursing care and physical therapy.

Today was my first day out of the house following this recent hospital stay. My cardiologist compared his old cardiograms with the new ones. The evidence seems to say that I went to the very brink of a massive heart attack only to back away to a lesser one. If you prayed for me during that time, thank you.

Most likely I will be having a heart catheterization in the near future to better pinpoint the damage. I am hesitant to agree to that procedure. A couple of years ago I experienced total kidney failure following one. Maybe it was the contrast dye from the cath and/or a bone-building drug taken along chemotherapy for my metastatic breast cancer that caused the need for dialysis. All I know is that I don’t want a repeat. Being obligated to blood cleansing three times a week for the rest of my life is not my idea of quality living. My hat is off to those of you who must do it.
My condition reversed and I felt like I had a new lease on life. For those of you who prayed for me during that tenuous time also, thank you again.

I am now recuperating from the knee surgery. It wasn’t and isn’t fun, but I think the corner has been turned. I am looking forward to getting back to a normal life and teaching my new Sunday school class once again. I have a renewed interest in sharing preparation for life hereafter. All of us are just one heart-beat away from eternity.

My recent journey brought me in contact with interesting people. While in ICU, I became well acquainted with the nurses. All of the staff was unusually caring and personable. One particular nurse whom I shall call Iona spent several shifts with me. When I was awake, we talked endlessly about a multitude of subjects. The one thing that bothered me was Iona’s smell. Her clothes were rank with cigarette smoke. I would know that smell anywhere because both my parents were chain-smokers in an era when it was glamorous. They are both deceased now and I am convinced tobacco use was partly responsible.

One restless night Iona’s smock caught my attention. The broadcloth top had a multitude of colorful cats printed on it. Being a cat owner myself, I asked if she had one also.

Iona proudly proclaimed that cats were the love of her life. She bred and showed them and had rooms full of prize ribbons. Iona shared that cats were also the passion of her now deceased mother. Iona tearfully related that her cats were all that kept her going through that dark time following her mama’s death.

All this was inspiring until she revealed that she had 22 cats and that ALL of them shared the same bed at night…with Iona. My eyes popped wide open in the semi-darkness of the hospital room.
Here I was in ICU with a contamination poster on the door. That meant everybody coming into the room had to wear special yellow gowns. This was to prevent the possibility of spreading MRSA which is a staph infection that I once contracted from a previous hospital stay.

Yet, here was in Intensive Care with a primary nurse who admittedly slept with a herd of cats who was taking care of every inch of my body inside and out. I would have laughed at the irony of the situation, and may have reported it, except that I really liked her. What was done was done. Who knows? My heart goes out to her cats. Maybe I gave them staph.

While waiting for the cardiologist today, I read through my hospital records. The jargon used by the medical profession is amusing. An introductory paragraph said that I was a “pleasant” lady. Buddy, my daily and life-time care-giver since 1965, might disagree. He knows what most people don’t. I can be grouchy at times.

While continuing the reading of my medical records, I noted one place that said I had “denied” use of alcohol and tobacco. It sounded as if I really did indulge in those vices, but wasn’t being truthful. Jack Daniels and I have never even met, much less been on a first-name basis. I rode a camel once but never smoked one.
Another pithy sentence described me as “mildly obese.” Hmmm. I guess “fat” is too factual and terse. One line made me laugh out loud. One of the attending physicians wrote that “Mrs. Kelly has a sharp mind, times 3.” Okay, so maybe I am not a goofus.

Thanks for the emails, cards and other expressions of kindness. Warm hearts have given Buddy and me full stomachs and much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season. God bless you all.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #334

Nancy White Kelly

The Living Lady is currently a resident of the Intensive Care Unit of a near-by hospital. This is my fourth day tubally attached to oxygen, pouches of blood, various antibiotics, and an ugly yellow bag. What began as routine replacement surgery for a badly damaged knee turned into a medical nightmare.

The orthopedic surgery went great. I awakened about three hours later in a regular room surrounded by family and friends. A routine pain pump was attached to my arm to administer pain medication at steady intervals. I had some pain, but nothing unbearable. Buddy went on home later after a long day that had started at 4:00 a.m.

A few hours later, I began to violently vomit. My limbs railed and thrashed. I had no control whatsoever of my muscles or bodily functions. Even with the new knee attached to a heavy, therapeutic, rowing machine, I kicked it around as easily as a piece of foam.

My muddled mind was still functioning, but only short phrases could be uttered, mostly “Help me, help me, please.”

The room gradually filled with staff. They cautiously backed up to the wall watching wide-eyed, and each asking the other if they have ever seen anything such as this. No one had. The on-duty doctor was phoned for instructions. In the meanwhile, an anesthesiologist who was attending a lady-in-waiting was unexpectedly called down for a code. It was three a.m.

In the midst of my unending thrashing, the number of spectators grew. The anesthesiologist asked me rapid-fire questions. I could only muster syllabic answers in a raucous voice. This was not me.

My body thrust forward as if doing unending sit-ups. My trembling hands rattled the bed railings. The crook of my inside elbows helplessly looped the trapeze bar above the bed only to jerk away again and again.

I knew what was going on, but was powerless to stop the frenzy. The doctors administered one drug after another to no avail. I felt like I was on the brink of dying.

In time, my exhausted body gave out. I awakened in ICU. The doctors informed me that I had apparently suffered a heart attack from the strenuous physical battle.
The current medical consensus is that I had a drug reaction from the medication in the pain pump that reacted to yet another drug. Several drugs had been administered before, during and following the surgery that day. You can be sure almost all those drugs are on my forever “no-no” list.

In the meanwhile, my new knee has patiently awaited physical therapy which was delayed. It is difficult now to lift my stapled leg even one inch off the bed without intense pain. The therapist assures me this is not a big problem and that we will make good progress in the days ahead.

Again, the Living Lady lives to write another day. Someday you will read my obituary, but not this time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #333

Nancy White Kelly

My last column was a cliff-hanger. The final chapter is yet to be written.

The second attempt to get images of my damaged knee in an open MRI unit was successful. Actually the experience was anti-climatic.
The technician understood of my claustrophobia. Buddy gave me one of his nerve pills and gained permission to sit beside me as I entered the spacious, circular tube that looked like a giant, white donut. Buddy held my hand and I drifted off to sleep. In less than an hour I was breathing outside air again and on my way home. If only that could be the end of this saga.

The Living Lady is not a conspiracy theorist. Far from it. I am keenly aware that there are terrorists and sinister organizations. I just don’t agree that there is harm behind every tree. If I were of a paranoiac mind-set, I could argue that three weeks ago two communistic rocks and some tattered socialistic carpet conspired to deny me the privilege of voting.

In reality, the rocks were apparently placed by a well-meaning individual. It was a vain attempt to anchor loose, rag-tag carpet in front of the election site. Unfortunately, foot traffic from the steady stream of early voters caused the carpet to gradually dislodge. The loopy rug captured my ankle and sent me sprawling to the ground and my new glasses flying into the air.

For sure, it wasn’t a pretty sight. I lay perfectly still in the mangled carpet for several minutes. Eventually I gained composure and enough courage to attempt standing.

A passing car inched by. Seeing that I was vertical, the driver gave a friendly wave and proceeded on his way. I staggered into the election office. The kind officials were sympathetic and offered to call an ambulance. I declined knowing that Buddy would take me to the emergency room if needed.

The stories from voters and election officers were forth-coming. I was told that that the “powers that be” were aware that the worn carpet was an accident waiting to happen. Yes, a bid for replacement carpet was already in the works, but unfortunately the red-tape had not been unrolled.

Nothing stops the mail or the Living Lady, not rain, snow, or even the hypothetical conspiracy of rocks and stealthy carpet-baggers. Not to be dissuaded, I cast my ballot for President. For more reasons than one, my candidate had better win.If you notice the freshly laid carpet in front of the old jail, feel free to send me a thank you note.

Thanks to my brother’s attempt to educate, I have seen the gruesome “You-Tube” internet video. Ironically, I will be on an operating table having my leg nearly sawed in half on Election Day, November 4th.

Buddy, honey, hold my hand tightly. Oh, one more thing. I need another nerve pill.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #332

Nancy White Kelly

Like most married couples, Buddy and I have little private jokes between us. One is the “It’s your fault,” banter that we teasingly fling at each other when something goes wrong.

Buddy and I have been together for forty-three years. We do most everything together. That includes voting. The one time we made an exception, it caused me considerable agony.

I was busy with the Ye Old Coin Shop. Buddy had some errands to run and mentioned that he might stop by the voting office and cast his ballot early. No problem. I would do the same later.

The day that I decided to do just that, vote early, I tripped over some dislodged carpet that sent me sprawling. Where was my Buddy when I needed him to pick me up, brush me off, and give me one of his semi-sarcastic scoldings that only a loving husband can give...and live afterwards? Hurt or not, I was determined to exercise my right and privilege to vote which I did.

I was still in pain two hours later. Buddy insisted on droving me to the emergency room. After x-rays and the typical, “See your doctor in the morning,” orders, we returned home with crutches and prescriptions.

Buddy propped up my swollen leg and bandaged my scrapes. The following Monday I saw my regular doctor who suggested drawing fluid off the knee to give some relief. He related that this procedure was one of his favorite things to do. In my mind I figured he must be hard pressed for entertainment.

After numbing the skin, the doctor slowly inserted a long needle into the center of my right knee. It was no fun and I gritted my teeth. His first try was not successful and his nurse assured me that was unusual. Without further comment, the frowning doctor proceeded to numb the skin and insert another long needle at a different point of the knee. The needed could not find its targeted joint. The repeated probing was testing my usually high threshold for pain. The doc said that my knee appeared to be abnormal. Abnormal is the story of my life, but surely not my knee.

The determined doctor asked for one more chance to get the needle into my knee joint. I was temporarily buoyed by his confidence. Trying to be brave and compliant, I agreed. The third time was not the charm and there would be no fourth hole. The doctor didn’t need to ask. I had had enough. He suggested that I see an orthopedic doctor as soon as possible.

Surprisingly an appointment was available the next day. When Buddy and I arrived, we were disappointed to find forty patients, one P.A., and standing room only in a small waiting area full of hurting people. Each of us had a story to tell. We became well-acquainted while waiting our turn to enter three examining rooms only to find ourselves waiting another hour or so.

Four magazines later, the P.A. entered with his laptop. He displayed the hospital x-ray of my abnormal knee. Yep! There was a problem there. I needed an MRI.

It wasn’t until I was properly registered at the hospital the next day that I was made aware that this machine was a “closed” MRI.
Oh, no. Not that tube! The one that looks like a coffin for a basketball player. Unfortunately, it was.

Being extremely claustrophobic, I told the technician that I’d try, but was skeptical that I could stay long enough to get his needed pictures. I became more convinced that this would be a futile attempt as he immobilized me with straps that reminded me of an execution. Within minutes the sliding tray holding my reluctant body slowly inched inside the chamber. It didn’t stop until my chin was under the edge of the tunnel. Good grief! This was only an MRI of my knee.

Adrenaline surged from my toes to my skull. My insides felt like there was an emerging Hulk about to break through my skin.
I broke out in loud song in an effort to break this over-whelming siege of panic. This slide into terror was only an initial test. The technician brought me out only to tell me he was about to begin the real deal. He should have kept me there while he had the chance. There was no amount of money that could have kept me in that chamber of horrors for thirty more minutes.

The technician informed me I was the first person that day to disengage. He emphasized “that day.” There were consequences to my refusal. My previously scheduled follow-up visit with the orthopedic doctor had to be re-scheduled, assuming I could arrange a time slot with an “open” MRI machine. I got the last appointment of a traveling unit that would be in town on its once-weekly schedule.

Now I am awaiting the opportunity to test my ability to stay put. According to the orthopedic P.A.’s “crystal ball,” most likely there is knee surgery ahead. I can handle surgery. Just don’t trap me where I can’t get up or out.

It is Buddy’s fault. The next time there is an election, Buddy and I are going together.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady#331
Nancy White Kelly

Some families have reunions the old-fashioned way. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins come together at a particular place at a certain date and time. My family did this a few years ago when an organization called Making Memories granted a personal wish of having the extended White family come together before my funeral instead of after it.

This was when my cancer prognosis was grim and most everyone thought I was in my last few weeks. That reunion, held at Brasstown Bald, was wonderful. I saw relatives I had not seen in years and may never see again…at least not in this world. Two attendees, a young sister-in-law and an aunt have since both died with cancer. At the time of my family reunion, neither of them even knew they had the disease.

Buddy has a cousin who originally had an idea for a family reunion four years ago. Sandra even bought new mattresses and a day-bed in anticipation of a full-blown gathering. Circumstances prevented the reunion. Sandra’s mother and dad became seriously ill. Her mother died. Sandra consequently became care-taker of her very sick father in addition to her husband who was also very ill.

Sandra is not one to give up on an idea. Instead of a big family gathering, she began what we now call a mail reunion. Almost weekly we get photographs and sometimes hilarious stories from childhood adventures.

Sandra’s husband and father passed away recently. The funerals were within weeks of each other. In spite of the sadness, she has continued the reunion. Buddy and I received an up-date from Sandra this past week demonstrating a remarkable sense of humor.

She wrote, “I am not in intensive care. I am not in the psychiatric ward. I am not in jail. Nothing has been repossessed all day. No bounty hunter is looking for me and no one has shot at me for two weeks.” (She lives in rural Alabama where hunters are sometimes careless.)

This cousin concluded with her observation of seasons. “At the present time it is hurricane season and football season. And, as if that were not enough, hunting season is on the way. If we can just make it to the 31st day of January, we will be out of all these pesky seasons.”

Sandra failed to mention the election season with all its grandiose promises. If America can survive until November 4th, we will have elected a new president as well as many other state and national politicians. Then perhaps those seemingly endless mail and television advertisements, as well as unsolicited campaign phone calls, will cease for a season. Perhaps we can get back to normal life.

Oops, I forgot. The holiday season is coming so we best get ready to stuff the turkey, string the Christmas lights and fill another calendar with yet another round of seasons.

Wise King Solomon nailed it right: “To everything there is a season…a time to live and a time to die…a time to laugh and a time to cry.”

I am dying to live for another season, but am desirous of adding life to my earthly years, not years to my life.
If Shakespeare were still with us, he would probably write, “Away with this gloom and doom. Away, away I say.”

The Living Lady says, “Let’s hear it for a smiling season.” It is the second best thing to do with your lips.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #330

Nancy White Kelly

This is my seventh plus year of writing this column. It was never intended to be an open-ended journal of my personal life. Somehow it has evolved into that. I have never been much of a chit-chatter. Even as a young mother, the subject of a dozen ways to fold a diaper didn’t appeal to me. Therefore, I avoided the Tupperware and Mary Kay parties.

There are still many details about my life that only God and I share. I like it that way. God is a good listener and doesn’t gossip. Frankly, it even amazes me that I write my thoughts so freely in this column. You readers are the reason. You egg me on.

As a result of my unexpected notoriety this past decade as a newspaper columnist and spasmodic national news personality, hardly a day goes by that I don’t get email. Some are new friends who need encouragement in their battle with cancer. Others are just curious. They inquire about the status of the movie or wonder how about my own progress is in the cancer war. Recent emails included inquiries about the coin shop, the Kelly menagerie of animals and, of course, dear Buddy. Everybody loves Buddy.

Rather than string readers along until a column touches a particular topic of interest, I will respond today to all of the above.

The movie! Oh, yes. You remember. Back earlier in the year a prominent and successful California producer contacted me about making a movie of my life. I was paid for the rights to the Journal of a Living Lady. From that point on, I have had no say so in what happens. That is the way the system works.

The wheels turn slowly in Hollywood as Mr. Couturié has reminded me. I have tried to not to be a pest. The last email from him explained that those who are interested in fronting the money feel that it should be a documentary instead of a movie. The conclusion was that it should be balanced with at least one other who has survived unfathomable odds and who demonstrated wit and faith in adversity. The kicker was that the group thought that this person needed to be an African-American. Mr. Couturié is looking for such an individual and that is where our last conversation ended. Let me know when you see a limousine on the way to Young Harris.

As for my cancer battle, we are in a wait and see stage. I am stable and extremely grateful for that label. As most of you are aware, I have been through two major cancer bouts, one in 1985 and another in 1998. The prognosis was poor and I spent months in hospice. Two years ago my kidneys shut down and I was on dialysis. Thankfully, that episode of my life is past history and, for now, my life is reasonably normal.

My tenure as temporary administrator of the MACA has happily concluded. The school is in good hands. Buddy and I are now able to concentrate more on our fledgling Ye Old Coin Shop which is within spittin’ distance of our home. Buddy installed a video camera which allows me to go back and forth without losing sight of him or arriving customers.

The best news is that I am back in the saddle again with the one passion that has been constant for most of my life. I started teaching Bible when I was twelve years old; except for a couple of respites, this has been a continuous activity for close to fifty years. Because of other responsibilities, I have been a student myself in the last several months. My batteries were re-charged with the good, old-timey teaching of Allan Driskell.

Early one morning a few weeks ago, I told Buddy that I would like to teach again and that I would like to teach in the unused, old church sanctuary. My style of teaching involves lots of visual aids and is more lecture style than small-group oriented.

That same day the Associate Minister of our church called and asked if he could come to our home and talk with Buddy and me. Following the customary small talk, his question to me was, “Would you consider teaching Bible in the old sanctuary?” Buddy and I look locked eyes and knowingly smiled. Neither of us believes in luck, so the answer was easy. With Buddy eagerly agreeing to co-partner, I accepted the assignment to teach from Genesis to Revelation.

Last week the new Sanctuary Class began with Don and Lynda Gardner assisting as facilitators. We had no idea who, if anybody, would show up. Former classes had been successful, but they were short-term and taught on a week night. Twenty-seven people showed up for the first class and, by the time you read this, another session will have concluded. The group is unusually eclectic. We have a young man in his teens and a great-grandmother who reads this column. There are singles and couples, new-comers to the community as well as old-timers.

The first lessons focused on the inspiration and origin of the Bible. I love teaching those who know little about the Bible and those who think they have heard it all. The truth of the matter is that the mysteries of the Bible are inexhaustible and there is always something more to learn. The class is open, so feel free to join us at 9:00 on Sunday mornings at McConnell Memorial Church in Hiawassee.

And, finally, about the animals. Currently we have a six-month-old, soon to be spayed, Chihuahua named Zero. Buddy’s shadow is a cat named Sam that we got from the Humane Society. Buddy helped me convert our gazebo into an outdoor aviary and I claim the twelve beautiful cockatiels. This aviary has become my personal sanctuary. There is just something about birds that give me a lift in spirit and I spend time with them daily while I study and meditate.

So now you have caught up with what I refer to as the Journal of the Living Lady non- metropolitan soap opera. It ain’t over until the … lady sings.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #329
Nancy White Kelly

Some kids are late bloomers. Bobby is one of them. He came to our home as the last foster child of the twelve we helped raise. Bobby was six months younger than Charlie, the miracle son who was born fifteen years after we married.

At that tender age of five, Bobby was way behind Charlie and all other boys his age. He could not count to five or speak plainly. Sadly, he had never been to a zoo or attended a single day of preschool. The academic difference between Bobby and Charlie was obvious. Charlie’s early precociousness and Bobby’s developmental delays created a chasm that was a constant challenge to bridge.

Having a different last name caused Bobby embarrassment at school. He desperately wanted to be a Kelly. When he was ten we officially adopted him. Bobby Ray Whitaker became Robert Lee Kelly.

Buddy retired. We moved to the mountains just as the boys were beginning high school. Interestingly, Bobby decided he wanted to be called Robert by his peers.

Charlie excelled in school; Bobby had no use for it. Then puberty came calling. Our sweet Bobby turned into a troubled and troubling teen-ager. His hair and clothing were outward signs of rebellion. School attendance was as spasmodic as he could arrange. Tobacco, weed, traffic tickets, and egging a neighbor’s house kept us on a first name basis with the sheriff’s department. Though he dropped out of high school, I stayed on his case until he earned a diploma through correspondence. Charlie went on to succeed in high school, college and beyond.

James Dobson once wrote that when a boy hits the teen years, parents should put him in a barrel. When he is 16, they should nail the cover shut. Jest or not, we can relate. It seems that the happiest day of our lives was when Bobby turned 18. He wanted to be on his own and we were more than glad to give him that opportunity. At least we would no longer be legally liable for his actions.

Because of his out-going personality and mechanical ability, Bobby seemed to get a job easily, but he never kept one for long. The excuses were endless. Buddy and I vacillated between enabling him and tough love. He lived at home again a couple of times, but it was difficult. We had our rules and he had his strong will.

Though nowhere near ready for responsible parenting, Bobby and his very young teen-age wife had a baby to support…stereotypical kids having kids.
The years have dwindled by now with many ups and downs. Though disappointed, we never lost hope that someday Bobby would grow up and be a productive member of society. We also prayed that he would return to his church up-bringing.

Last year maturity finally tapped him on the shoulder. Bobby set positive goals including financial stability and training in law enforcement. With his wife serving in Iraq and practically single-handedly parenting two children, his life has not been easy. But this time he persisted. Week after week he called home with a report of his written test scores, all passing. He ran the mile in good time and passed the physical agility tests. He excelled on the gun range. It all looked promising. Buddy and I held our breath.

As I write this, I am happy to report that Buddy and I have just returned from Bobby’s graduation in Forsyth. He looked nice in his freshly-ironed uniform and his badge, awarded the next day, shines as brightly as his countenance. He now as a new goal: a degree in criminal justice.
As I said, some children are late bloomers. Buddy and I are glad to have lived long enough to see this flower-child blossom into the responsible young man that he has become. And, the best news is that last week Bobby and his children were in church.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #328

Nancy White Kelly

The blur lasted twenty-four hours. On Tuesday I was visiting a new surgeon to discuss an old problem. The next morning I was on the operating table.

Back in the eighties, I supposedly had a single hernia. Those were the days prior to routine MRI’s and CAT scans. Yet, under the bright lights, the surgeon found three. Those hernias were repaired with a mesh screen similar to the one on our porch door. Through all these years that screen has kept my intestines inside and the flies out. After two weeks in the hospital and a month of recuperation time, that episode of my life saga became a slight blip in my medical records.

However, over the last several months, it became increasingly obvious I was either expecting a baby or had swallowed an ever-expanding soccer ball. My mind searched for reasonable answers. The lost and found section of the paper listed several lost doggies but no errant balls.

My obstetrician wouldn’t even take my call. I couldn’t get through to his answering service either. In his defense, he had a satisfactory alibi. He died twenty years ago.

Obviously, my current oncologist preferred that I choose my surgeon from his affiliated group. I considered it. All my cancer records were in Gainesville. Yet, setting up surgery would require at least one preliminary appointment with an unknown surgeon. Then there would be pre-op trips over the mountain for lab work followed by another journey on the day of surgery. There would be at least one other trip for the post-op follow-up. I am not a mathematician, but even I could figure that the cost of gas was rivaling the cost of the operation. Economics was my incentive to check out other options.

I met Dr. W. Moody once in an informal setting when he was settling his family into the local area. I made a mental note of his politeness and professionalism. Faced with my immediate need of a surgeon, I checked his credentials and spoke with a friend who had been Dr. Moody’s patient a few weeks before. Everything I heard was positive.

My appointment with the Blairsville surgeon went well. What put him at the top of my short list was that he was a humble man of faith. I go the other direction when I meet a physician with a narcissistic “God-complex.” I desire a doctor with excellent skills acquired by hard work. But I also want a doctor who consults with the Great Physician.

Dr. Moody met all my qualifications. He earned an opportunity to either slam dunk that bulging ball or deliver an infamous infant.

Surprise! There was no soccer ball, no baby, nor even three hernias. Instead, Dr. Moody found FIVE hernias. They are now securely contained within a prison made of medical mesh with no hope of a curtain call.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #327

Nancy White Kelly

School has started. This time last year I was burning the candle at both ends as a last minute fill-in school administrator. I hadn’t been in that role for fourteen years. Now that a permanent administrator is in place, I am refocusing my time and energy. Funny how some of our younger friends think that retirement means sitting in rocking chairs and drinking sweet tea while life passes by. I have so many interests that it is often difficult to fit everything in.

Someone asked the other day how I got interested in numismatics. That is the proper term for the hobby of coin-collecting. I don’t remember a specific date or place. My desire to learn about old coins evolved from listening to an aunt tell interesting stories at family gatherings as she showed her books of shiny coins. Many dated back to the 1800’s. As I grew older, I began to understand how this study of money correlated with almost every academic subject I encountered in high school and college. Few people relate money, the basic commodity of all time, to history, language, economics, art, metallurgy, mathematics and even religion.

Beginning with a couple of treasured silver dollars given to me by my grandmother’s twin sister, I started my journey into the hobby of numismatics. In the back of my mind I envisioned having a little coin shop someday. That someday is now.

A few years ago I decided to formally expand my numismatic education and took courses from the American Numismatic Association. Hanging on my wall is a certificate that says I am a “Numismatic Scholar.” I humbly decline that designation. The specialized field is too vast.

Like a good spouse, Buddy has always supported my endeavors which have been many and varied. I learned several years ago that that his knowledge of coins was limited. I mentioned one day in casual conversation that I sure would like to have an 1877 Indian head penny. He asked how much it cost and I held up four fingers.

A couple of months later Buddy admitted that he had gone to the near-by coin store to obtain the Indian cent to put with a present for an up-coming anniversary. The proprietor carefully boxed up the well-circulated 1877 penny and placed it in a bag. Buddy promptly laid down four one dollar bills on the counter. To his chagrin, the dealer informed him that he was a little short. The Indian penny cost four hundred dollars. I can only imagine the conversation that ensued with the coin dealer and my sweet, but plain-spoken Mississippi-born husband.

Consequently, Buddy has left the financial management of the coin business to me. He does everything else: plumbing, carpentry, painting, and in spite of my frowning countenance, entertains customers, young and old, with his never-ending repertoire of airplane stories.

Sadly, seldom a week goes by that someone doesn’t appear with a wedding band or some old halves in hopes that they are worth enough to buy a tank of gas. The truth of the matter is that I occasionally buy what I don’t need or want. Donald Trump would not approve, but I march to a different drummer.

Recently an elderly couple dropped by the shop. The old man toted in several heavy jars of pre-1965 silver change that he had accumulated during his working years. He wanted to take his wife on one last trip together while they were still mobile. He had no extra money for such an extravagance in sour economic times. Then he remembered those olds jars of change. It took me several hours to sort through all of it, but there was enough for them to take a short, but memorable vacation.

Numismatics will probably always be an important facet of my life, but the living lady has many other interests to pursue. Right now a dozen chirping cockatiels in the outdoor aviary are trying to get my attention. I must have a customer.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #326

Nancy White Kelly

It is summer time. For some of us, the living is easy. Buddy is busy tending to the garden which is coming in big time. We put up cucumbers and squash yesterday. The green beans will be ready for canning later this week.
I am discovering that being retired can be defined as being tired and tired again. Other than the over-due ironing, the house chores are once again getting accomplished in spite of necessary senior siestas.

Our grandsons, Micah and Noah, ages 3 and 1, came with Charlie and Tori for a visit this week. It is interesting to watch your off-spring assume the parenting role. Charlie received several of Buddy’s good qualities. Thankfully he has my seldom flappable personality. Buddy worries about everything. I worry about little.

Charlie doesn’t over-react to normal preschool-age behavior. When the boys occasionally push Tori’s buttons, Charlie gives welcome relief and restores calm. He’s a good daddy. Tori is a good mother. They are the typical American family of four.

Bobby, the son we adopted out of the foster system at the age of ten, is atypical. His wife Ginger is an MP serving in Iraq. Though he was formerly in the National Guard, an unexpected fluke kept him from joining the army at the same time Ginger signed. Bobby has assumed the role of Mr. Mom.
They have two children, Mackenzie, age 8, and Alex, age 5.

Being essentially a single parent is tough. Bobby is in officer’s training at Reidsville prison, one of the toughest penitentiaries in Georgia. Bobby relates stories regarding life inside prison that are chilling. Already he has broken a prisoner’s ribs in self-defense. For no apparent reason, the inmate attacked him while serving a meal tray through a small opening.

Bobby loves the new job, but struggles trying to juggle child care in the military town of Hinesville. He faces an hour drive each way and must make arrangements to get the children to childcare and race back to get them before late penalties apply. School starts soon. Bobby may be required to attend four weeks of training in a town that is too far to commute. Unfortunately his good neighbors are moving away, leaving him without back-up support.

Bobby may be faced with giving up the best job he’s ever had and revert to being solely Mr. Mom. We hope not. But he is not alone. There are millions of single parents fighting similar struggles daily with no extended family living close by.

Summer time and the reality is that living is not easy for many. We must simply face each new day with renewed energy and optimism. That is especially true for us in the greatest generation. I have biblical reasons to be hopeful, but secular sources also confirm the benefit of optimism.

An article in the November issue of General Psychiatry stated: "A predisposition toward optimism seems to provide a survival benefit in elderly subjects with relatively short life expectancies otherwise.”

I would rather be the optimist who sees the light of the candle where there is none than the pessimist who runs to blow it out. The Living Lady chooses to believe that hope springs eternal no matter what season of the year or season of life.”

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #325

Nancy White Kelly

It took a year to get my school office to my liking with coordinated drapery, pictures, and knick-knacks. MACA was in brand new facilities and I wanted the administrator’s office to reflect both warmth and professionalism.

Almost everything in that office came either from our home or from boxes stored away in the attic since the early 90’s. That was when I first retired as principal. I am officially retired again and find myself with a porch full of boxes and nowhere to put it all.

One of life’s lessons is that no matter how empty a space is, in time it will become full and running over with even more stuff. The walls and shelves at home are all covered with replacements and the office decorations have nowhere to return. Some of it has gone to the shelters. Most likely the rest will end up in the attic for an eventual yard sale.

Though I have no thoughts of employment in the future, who knows what is down the road. My being asked to head the Mountain Area Christian Academy at a tenuous time last summer came the very same week we had our grand opening of Ye Old Coin Shop. Even with school responsibilities, Buddy and I have limped through keeping the shop open for business, mostly on Saturday and by appointment. Collectors are beginning to realize that we are open most of the time now as originally planned.

Conveniently, the coin shop is only twenty feet from our back door. With the assistance of security cameras, it is easy to keep an eye on the shop and attend to household duties in-between customers wanting to buy or sell gold and silver coins. In case you missed us during the transition, our phone number is 706-379-1488. We are located exactly one mile from Young Harris College at the corner of Byers Creek and Southern Rd.

While seeking to find room for the excess, I have come across interesting and forgotten memorabilia. The item that especially stands out is a well-worn autograph book belonging to my Aunt Georgia Rose. She was my mother’s only sister. Aunt Georgia passed away in the 70’s from a stroke.
The thin autograph book is dated June 6, 1918, and is filled with comments written in her 9th grade year at Humes High School in Memphis. Most were written neatly in stylish Elizabethan script.

These are some of my favorites:

“Yours till Niagara Falls.” Marion.

“When you get married and your husband get’s cross, pick up the broom and show him whose boss. Yours till Doom’s Day.” Mary.

“Georgia, Remember when you were a wee wee tot and your mother made you sit on a cold pot whether you had to pee or not.” Jane

“Love many, trust few. And always paddle your own canoe.” Margaret

“Life is like deck of cards: when you are in love, it’s hearts. When you are engaged, it diamonds. When you’re married it is clubs. When you are dead, it is spades.” Jennie

Aunt Georgia was a zany character who had no children. Her hair and make-up was always perfect. She wore classy clothes. Her house was spotless. It had a pleasant, but distinct fragrance which I could never identify. Thinking back, maybe it was the odor of very clean. In contrast, our humble home had five noisy children and the typical smells of family living.

The school autographs were eerily fore-telling. Aunt Georgia married my Uncle Diamond. She was boss. She paddled her own canoe. And she died.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #324
Nancy White Kelly

In our 43 years of marriage, Buddy has changed from a shy Mississippi country boy to a non-stop comedian. It was his dry wit that drew me initially. Now his wit is not so subtle. Sometimes I approve. Often I don’t, but I’ve learned to expect the unexpected.

Like on Mother’s Day. Just before the morning service, the pastor was politely greeting little ole ladies while standing on the floor in front of the platform. Suddenly Buddy snatched my fancy hat and put it on his own head. Up he jumped from the pew and headed down the center aisle. In front of God and everybody, he bear-hugged the surprised preacher.

Buddy has never been a respecter of persons. Family lineage or community status doesn’t impress him a bit. He is what he is and assumes everybody else was born on flat land too. I have always admired that quality in him.

There is a twelve year difference in our ages. Buddy graduated from high school when I was in first grade. When he asked me to marry him, I insisted that he pay the obligatory visit to my parents to ask for my hand. Poor fellow. My mother put him through the third degree and was highly skeptical that he had been married before. He hadn’t. It just took a long time to find me.

There are advantages and disadvantages to marrying an older man. He was mature, had his education behind him, and was employed with a secure company or so we thought. Eastern Airlines later bit the dust. Still Buddy had accumulated wisdom and life experience that is atypical of newlyweds.

Buddy grew up in a three-room house. Utility, not beauty, was priority. He never out-grew that idea. About half-way through our marriage, I gave in. Having a house decorated like those in the glossy magazines wasn’t going to happen with my man around.

Yes, he is forgetful. He feigns senility at times just to aggravate me. No, he doesn’t hear well. How could he? Three sets of hearing aids sit in the top drawer of the bureau. He ought to own stock in Metamucil.

At last count Buddy had nine pairs of pants and fourteen shirts. Yet he wears the same outfit day in and day out. That is, if he gets by me in the morning. Sunday is an exception. No matter how early we rise, Buddy waits until the last possible minute to decide which of two suits to wear and can never remember which tie matches.

I remind him occasionally that he won’t find another woman who would put up with nails in the bedroom furniture so he can hang his keys, but it is a small price to pay for a good man. How many young men get up first, make the coffee, get the morning paper and then gently awakens his wife? Now that I am retired again, he has resumed that daily habit and I hope he never stops.

It never dawns on him to open a door or pull out a chair for his wife, but Buddy would search the world for me if I disappeared. His grammar lacks polish, but he never fails to unashamedly say he loves me or show it in hundreds of little ways.

Our wedding picture looks nothing like either of us now. We are held together by an accumulation of spare parts: nuts, bolts, wire, cat gut, mercury fillings, titanium and plastic. We have shared memories that nobody else has and neither of us is complete without the other.

When I look around and see my friends who are now widows, Buddy’s imperfections fade into oblivion. The calendar is moving swiftly and the clock is ticking. I treasure every day with him. It is a selfish wish for certain, but I secretly hope I go first. That may not be. He has my permission to re-marry, but he won’t. Neither will I.

Age aside, love like ours is a once-in-a-lifetime affair.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #323
Nancy White Kelly

When spring arrives somebody ought to do Buddy a favor by locking me up until winter comes again. I go crazy just as soon as the flowers start budding and the birds start singing.

Usually it starts with Easter chicks and ducks. Some years I spontaneously buy colorful birds that catch my fancy in the pet shop or at a flea market. Usually there is a puppy in the Kelly mix and maybe a kitten too.

We have two cockatiels now, Tick and newly acquired Tock. In case you missed that story, go to We also have Siamese cat named Sam we got from the Humane Society. His owner was killed in a motorcycle accident.

In my rush to shed the winter blahs, I always plant spring flowers too early. Frost usually renders the first attempt null and void. Spring-themed banners and whimsical yard ornaments follow the gardening splurge.

Ye Old Coin Shop, which is located next to our house, was painted a bright canary yellow last spring. Charlie hates that color, but I remind him that he no longer lives with us. (Due to the economy, we had to let him go.)

Now that spring has sprung again, I have been in my usual spring craziness mode. This time I started on the puppy jag having lost our two Chihuahuas in the past year or so. Oppie died of kidney failure at the old age of 14. In our grief, we quickly acquired a darling puppy we named Midget who loved to play outside.

We forgot to close off the doggie door one afternoon when we went for a quick bite at a local restaurant. When we returned there was a message on our answering machine. She had been hit by a car. That was a sad day. I haven’t wanted another dog until recently.

While casually browsing on the Internet, I came across Craig’s list which runs classified ads. Sure enough there was a picture of a darling white Chihuahua with black spots and alert pointed ears.
The woman, whom I came to know as Amanda, shared that she worked for the Ameri-Peace Corp in Cameroon and was gone long hours. She really hated parting with little Tess, but her schedule and the grueling heat in Africa was taking its toll on the puppy.

Amanda said Tess weighed 2 pounds, was 4 months old, and never met a stranger. She had all her shots and was even AKC registered. Tess was leash-trained and fully housebroken. Had she spoken seven languages, she would have been perfect. Of course, I could have found a Chihuahua locally, but that picture of Tess just melted my heart. I had to have her. No other puppy would do.

Amanda and I corresponded back and forth by email several times before she selected me as the best choice of caretaker for little Tess. The really good news was that Amanda was giving me the puppy. Buddy, oblivious to this all, would have nothing to complain about. She was free. All I had to pay was the airfare which was a reasonable expectation. There was to be a nine-hour flight out of Cameroon to Atlanta that next evening.

Amanda sent me a couple of emails warning me to put up any toxic chemicals around the house and to hide any cords that Tess might chew. She also wanted assurance that my vet would check her out after arrival in the states.

PayPal wasn’t an option for her, so we agreed on Western Union. She came up with a test question and answer that only she and I would know. That way only she could claim the wired money.

I carefully filled out the Western Union paperwork at a local grocery desk. While in a happy and generous mood, I added a little extra to cover her gas. After all, she was a humanitarian worker. It was the right thing to do.

That was on Friday afternoon. All evening and late into the night I anxiously checked my computer for confirmation of the arrival time in Atlanta.

On Saturday morning I got an email from Amanda saying that the airport agent required insurance. She had just paid her rent and only had enough to make it through the month. Amanda’s email brought an urgent appeal. Could I cover the unexpected cost? Tess was now sitting in a cage at the hot airport and time was of the essence.

Before I could reply, I got a call from Cameroon. In broken English, a rude man informed me that I had to send $850 now so the puppy could go out on that last flight. That money would ensure that the dog was properly fed and cared for. Any money left over would be returned when I picked her up. What? Every possible emotion coursed through my body as I realized I was being scammed.

I was angry at Amanda, at the man, and most of all at myself. I learned a valuable lesson and a costly one. Never ever send money by Western Union to somebody you don’t know no matter how convincing they sound.

I have since learned that this is a common scam and many gullible others have also been victims. There is no recourse. I console myself that a bad experience is sometimes the price of a practical education.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I will never be scammed again… unless it is spring.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #322

Granted, Tick is an unusual name for a cockatiel bird. But that is what I named the little chirper who caught my ear when I entered the local pet store a few months ago.

Years ago I bought over 100 of these small birds from a traveling vagabond on the way to Florida. I had the bright idea of raising them for fun and profit. That was back when ours boys, one by birth, one adopted, were around 12-years-of age.

Bobby had little interest, so Charlie became the budding entrepreneur. Looking back, it was probably was not a good idea. My intent was teaching responsibility and giving an opportunity to earn extra pocket money. Charlie was keen at first, willingly giving up the abandoned tree house for an aviary.

The experiment lasted about as long as the worm farm, but though his interest waned, my love of birds continued. Eventually I earned a certificate in ornithology from Cornell University just because. Dabbling in new experiences has been the story of my life, but back to Tick.

Tick went home with me the day I discovered him in the pet shop. I was on a mad dash to get back to school after a quick lunch. I constantly glanced at my watch, thinking tick, tock, tick, tock. The friendly clerk seemed oblivious to time whereas I am a perpetual clock watcher. Tick seemed an appropriate name for my new little friend and it stuck. I was duly warned at the pet shop that Tick was an escape artist.

I have never been one for single animals. About a week later, I added Tock, a yellow female cockatiel. Tick was elated with his new girlfriend and sang to her daily. He even learned the first few bars of the Andy Griffin theme song. Our Siamese cat, Sam, lay contently on the floor listening to Tick chirp or sing. He never seemed even remotely interested in harming either of the birds.

When the weather started turning warmer, we moved Tick and Tock to the screened front porch. I even added a home-made nesting box in hopes of future Tockettes.

My afternoon routine included playing with Tick and Tock, changing the cage papers, and adding new food. One recent day Tick was not in the cage. The safety clip was still in place on the front door. I knocked on the nesting box, but no response.

I called for Tick, but no familiar chirp returned. I started searching the porch and, alas, found a pile of white feathers and a hole in the screen where Sam apparently had made his entry.

To this day, I don’t know how Tick got out of the cage unless he managed to pull the seed slide door. It is so small that he would have had to struggle to get through it.

It has been less than a week since the loss. Tock is lonely and I check on her often. Today she left me a gift...a tiny white egg. She must have a mate. So off to the pet store I go in search of a new Tick.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #321

Nancy White Kelly

The month of May is one of the busiest for the Living Lady. Being a school administrator means being involved in lots of activities. I have been to the community playgrounds, eaten hot dogs, taken trips, given awards and still have much ahead: baccalaureate services, athletic banquets, dress-up dinners, and then, of course, there is graduation.

Behind the scenes there are board meetings, parent interviews, phone calls, teacher interviews, curriculum reviews and numerous end-of-the-year class parties. Believe me, these are just the highlights.

For someone with cancer, it seems miraculous that I have functioned well enough to lead in the educational arena again, but my passion is still to write, teach and speak. This unexpected thrust into the working world again has been rewarding, but hopefully I will be able to focus again on being a wife, mother and grandmother soon.

Sunday was Mother’s Day. Buddy wanted to buy me something special. While I appreciated the thought, I gently reminded him that he wasn’t my mother. My boys did remember and that was nice. The cards and calls brought back memories of my own mother who was our family’s version of Lucille Ball. She loved her five children with all her heart.

On the day of her funeral, my youngest brother stopped for gas at a convenience store. After pumping the gas, he waited patiently in front of the cash register while another young man, probably in his twenties, fumed. The fellow complained that his mother had him leave the football game he was watching on television to go buy some milk. He threw the money on the counter in a childish display of anger.

My brother tapped him on the shoulder. “Be glad you have a mother still. I just buried mine.” The young man dropped his head and meekly left without a word.

As busy as we are, we should never be too busy to remember those who are so special to us, but not just on special days. Several years ago, before the world was the crazy place it is now, a man stopped at a florist to order some flowers to be wired to his mother who lived 200 miles away. As he got out of his car, he noticed a young teen-age girl sitting on the curb sobbing.

He asked her what was wrong and she replied, "I wanted to buy a red rose for my mother. But I only have 75 cents and a rose cost 2 dollars."

The kind man smiled and said "Come with me. I'll buy you a rose." He bought the girl her rose and ordered his own mother's flowers.

As they were leaving, he offered the girl a ride home. She hesitated but said, "Yes, please! Take me to my mother."

She directed him to a cemetery several blocks away. As they approached a freshly dug grave, she jumped from the car and ran. With tears streaming from her face, she placed the rose on the heap of dirt.

The man returned to the flower shop, cancelled the wire order, picked up a bouquet and drove the 200 miles to his mother's house.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #320
Nancy White Kelly

It there is ever an emergency or urgency in our household, you can be sure it will occur on the week-end. Busy sorting old coins, I picked up the ringing phone.

“Ye Old Coin Shop.”

The man on the other end sounded cheerful enough.

“Is this Dr. Kelly?”

“It is. How can I help you?”

He introduced himself as “Ted” with Clearcheck Collection Agency. Now that is not a company I was familiar with.

“And how can I help you?” I asked again, genuinely puzzled.

“You made a purchase at So-and-So drugstore in Blairsville, Georgia, on March 31st for $69.00.”
I vaguely remembered. “And?”

“Your check was returned. Are aware there is a $30 returned check fee.”

I interrupted him. “Excuse me. My check should not have bounced.”

“But it did. You need to send us $69.00 plus the $30 returned check fee today.”

My blood pressure was rising.

“That is impossible” I said. “We have an adequate amount of money in our bank account to cover that check.” I knew it was so because I had just checked the balance the day before.

“Mam, you need to send us $99. We are a COLLECTION AGENCY.”
My mind swirled as I tried to remember the many scams I have read about recently in emails and in consumer magazines.

“You are mistaken, sir. We haven’t bounced a check.”

He proceeded to give me a check number which certainly sounded like one of the series we were using. Ted said I could check it out on-line at I assured him that I would and that somebody would owe me an apology. He proceeded to tell me that they would take a credit card on-line. Hmm.

Our bank in Young Harris is not open on Saturday and there was nobody for me to call or vent to. I probably needed a doctor as my blood pressure had risen enough to launch a space shuttle.
Sure enough, on line I was able to see a picture of the check I had written. I carefully read all the information and it seemed correct. That was my signature. This was puzzling. Surely our bank would have notified us if we had a check that bounced. It hadn’t.

I called the chain drugstore in Blairsville and asked to speak to the manager. She was not there, but the assistant was.

“Does your drugstore use a company called Clearcheck?” Without hesitation the manager replied that it was. I told her how I was called by a collection agency. The manager explained that the drugstore doesn’t even know when a check bounces and gave me an 800 number to call.
Being the week-end, of course, I couldn’t reach anybody but a foreigner who informed me in imprecise English to call back during normal business hours.

There was nothing to be done until Monday. My school schedule doesn’t permit me time to take care of such things, so Buddy became the main man. I presented him with the information that I had scribbled down. I braced for his reaction which, if a video, would be named, “Dial M for Mutter.” He fumed all that day and the next.

Even though Buddy had to be in Ashville for a medical appointment, he was up at sunrise on Monday. He was standing at the bank window as they opened the blinds. The pleasant teller spotted the problem immediately. The check had been routed to the wrong bank.

Back at home, Buddy called the 800 number he was given. As expected, he got the robotic “If you want a certain party, dial 1.” Dial 1 directed him to another 800 number. After 5 demands to punch in any number from 1-5, he was finally given to a human being.

I would not have wanted to be the lady he finally reached. He went through the entire spiel again. The lady said she would take care of it. No apology was forth-coming.

Buddy wasn’t ugly, but he was emphatic, “It will be a cold day in you know where before ya’ll get my $30.”

The next day Buddy got a call from the drugstore. “You need to send Clearcheck another check for the $69 since they are the ones who still have it.” We haven’t and probably never will.

My question is, “What happens if Clearcheck deposits the first as well as the second check?” Call me anything, but “S-T-U-P-I-D” is not how you spell it.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #319
Nancy White Kelly

You will never hear me complain about birthdays. Living through two major bouts of metastatic cancer makes me appreciate every one of them. Yet, getting older brings limitations. Cutting my own toenails is beyond me now.

I can barely reach my toes which are not entirely due to age. While putting on hosiery is a struggle, it is still doable. Trimming my own toenails is impossible.

For the last couple of years I have joined the rank of the privileged. Frugal me has paid someone else to do that chore, heretofore unthinkable.

Working five days a week as a school marm, plus Saturdays at the Ye Old Coin Shop, make time a precious commodity. I took advantage of having a few extra hours during spring break and stopped by a leased nail salon inside Wally World. No appointment was needed.

A pleasant Asian-looking woman settled me into a vibrating chair that provided a pulsating back massage. What a welcomed retreat.I shut my eyes to the world. Without conversation, the girl guided each foot in and out of the swirling water with jus the poke of a finger.

Unexpectedly, the pedicurist had an aggressive style. She scrubbed my soles and toes with a short brush. Each sweep of the bristles began with a jab. The rough brushing became increasingly uncomfortable. I said nothing, believing that the procedure was a taught one which would soon stop.

My golden silence became red blood when the girl brushed the exterior of my big toe one last time. Unfazed, the young woman dabbed my raw toe with wet cotton before painting my toenails. No acknowledgement or apology was forthcoming. Nonchalantly she moved to next customer.

I waited in quiet shock as the toe paint dried. After several minutes I gathered my purse and glasses. The girl informed me that I needed to wait another 30 minutes before wearing my shoes. Noticing my frown, she offered some thin yellow flip-flops. I paid the male cashier as if nothing unusual had happened and even gave the girl a tip. At home I applied a topical ointment hoping that all would be well eventually.

All during the night my toe throbbed. When I told Buddy I was going to skip Sunday school, he knew something was wrong. He over-reacted just as I feared he might. It was good that the salon was closed and the girl unidentified. If you know my Buddy, it is a bad thing to mess with his wife.

Buddy hurriedly changed his church clothes. Mumbling something about staph, he pretended to order me into the car. That began a brief spat.

“Not going,” I argued. “Emergency rooms are for life-threatening emergencies.”

“This could cost you your toe, your foot and even your life,” he replied. “Get into the car.”I finally gave in to the benign badgering and offered a compromise.

Buddy drove to the walk-in clinic much too fast. Ironically we ended up waiting nearly three hours amidst coughing and barfing.

The diagnosis was as expected: “Punctured toe, infected abrasion...” Antibiotics were prescribed.
It has been three days now. Small red lines are sprouting north of my toe knuckle. (There is such a thing, isn’t there?)

I’ll watch and wait. My purse is $24 dollars lighter for the pedicure. Needless to say the pedicurist didn’t cure my ped. A check for the prescriptions will hit the bank tomorrow. I can hardly wait for the doctor bill.

The only up-side to this story is that I have ten pretty toenails.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #318
Nancy White Kelly

Spring is springing, but don’t be fooled. Blackberry winter is a reality in these parts. Buddy and I moved from South L.A. in 1994. (That is lower Atlanta for those of you who moved here from somewhere yonder.) New to the mountains, we quickly learned not to put our cold-weather clothes away too soon. In late spring, Buddy stores our winter things in the attic above the garage. It is a steep climb up that wooden ladder Buddy built 14years ago. He isn’t as agile as he used to be. I have never been agile and seldom do ladders, even the three-foot kind. Buddy shouldn’t do ladders either at his age. He fell off one recently.

My Buddy is a great guy, but a poor patient. He whined about soreness for days. I was grateful he didn’t break a hip, but rolled my eyes after the umpteenth time of hearing about it. Granted, I wasn’t born to be a nurse.

Several days ago I called to check on a neighbor who was recovering from minor surgery. For thirty minutes she gave me a blow by blow description of every quiver of her bowels for the last ten days. I patiently listened. It was all so moving, but be assured she won’t be hearing from me anytime in the near future. Some things you don’t discuss ad infinitum and constipation is one of them…at least not with me.

But, if you want to whine about taxes, I’ll join you. As I get out my receipts, calculator, IRS forms, and another cup of coffee, I will share with you one of my favorite stories:
While eating at a local buffet, a man suddenly called out, "My son's choking! He swallowed a quarter! Help! Please, anyone! Help!"

A man from a nearby table stood up and announced that he was quite experienced at this sort of thing. He stepped over with almost no look of concern at all, wrapped his arms around the boy's abdomen, and squeezed. Out popped the quarter. The man then went back to his table as though nothing had happened.

"Thank you! Thank you!" the father cried. "Are you a paramedic?"

"No," replied the man. "I work for the IRS."

The Living Lady is happy that winter will soon be over, that Buddy is not in a full-body cast, and that my friend’s digestive track is functioning properly. I will be even happier when our tax return is in the mail.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #317

Nancy White Kelly

The most memorable event of my life occurred on March 28, 1980. The lengthy scar from a C-section frequently reminds me of the pangs of pain I experienced that wonderful Friday night.

Charlie was playing the piano by ear by the time he was two. When he was five, he was entertaining friends and family with Chariots of Fire while stretching his scrawny little legs to reach the then distant pedals.

Fast forward over a quarter of a century. Charlie was recently helping a friend who is the youth minister at his church. While the group of adolescents was wolfing pizza in the Fellowship Hall, Charlie quietly slipped away. He headed to the church sanctuary across the street for a secret rendezvous.

It wasn’t the first time he had done so. His private pleasure was to play the church’s grand piano with all the passion of a pianist at Carnegie Hall. That was his maternal grandmother’s fantasy dream…to see him play there someday. She will have to settle for his music in heaven, but not too soon I hope.

That worship center of the church was not being used. He opened the heavy doors to the sanctuary and was amazed at the total pitch darkness. He had seen dark in there before, but never so dark as that night. He pulled out his cell-phone to use as a light. He carefully walked down the far right aisle. The dim beam of the little phone barely caught the outside edges of the pews.

Charlie inched toward the front of the sanctuary. He climbed the side steps and felt his way to the magnificent piano. His searching fingers found the sheet-music light which he switched on. He was amazed at how powerful that little light bulb seemed in such utter blackness.
As he stood thumbing through the hymnal, he heard a sound. It wasn’t much, but enough to perk his ears. Charlie peered out into the total darkness. After a brief moment of futile gazing, a deep voice interrupted.

“I am here to pray.”

Charlie heart skipped to this throat.

“That’s fine,” he replied. “Will piano music disturb you?”

The yet unseen man replied that it wouldn’t. After a few minutes of soft playing, Charlie turned toward the distant man.

“I suppose we should introduce ourselves.”

A shadowy figure emerged from the darkness. As he came closer, Charlie observed that he was a muscular, middle-aged man. His face was life-worn and his head was shaved.

“I heard that the sanctuary was always open,” the man said. “My wife’s grandmother attends here.”

“Yes,” Charlie replied. “We are always open though we don’t advertise that to the public. Is there anything you would like to talk about?”

The stranger replied that he could go on all night about his problems. Charlie responded that sometimes people need others to talk to and that perhaps God brought them together.

The man was full of troubles, mostly related to his marriage and finances. He and his wife used to be church-goers, but had back-slid to the point of seldom going now.

Charlie, being considerably younger, awkwardly stumbled for the right words for the distraught visitor. Charlie prayed for wisdom as he shared Bible verses and common-sense advice. The man unloaded his sordid past and Charlie listened and responded compassionately. When it was time to part, the man agreed to follow up with a counselor that Charlie recommended.

The man came to a dark church to pray and to seek a response from God. Little did Charlie know that he would be the Almighty’s channel for blessing.

Little did Buddy and I know what God had planned for him that night, twenty-eight years ago, when this miracle son was welcomed to the world. Happy birthday, Charlie.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Nancy White Kelly

Coming to a theater near you…maybe, maybe not.

If you received an email from someone telling you that they were an Oscar-winning filmmaker who wanted to do a documentary on your life, you would likely laugh. Yea, right. Perhaps you would play along to see how far this wacky spammer would go.

The fact is I did receive such an email two months ago. The stranger gave his name and a list of his movie credits. He was on first-name basis with many movie stars with familiar names. He had read my book and reprints of newspaper columns on the internet.

He said all the right things. His father had died of cancer. Several friends of his dear wife had battled breast cancer. They had told him the value of humor in the dark tunnel of uncertainty. He too was a man of faith. The mystery man was Bill Couturié. He said my story was inspirational. He wanted to buy the rights to Journal of a Living Lady so he could produce a movie.

I was dubious, but checked him out. Yes, he had won seven Emmys and an Oscar. He had directed movie greats such as Morgan Freeman and Jody Foster. He lived in the same town as Anthony Hopkins.

Bottom line. I signed a contract and endorsed a modest check this week. It is so surreal. How could a chummy regional writer end up on the big screen?

Bill warned that the film probably would not do as well as Pirates of the Caribbean. His motive is more altruistic that commercial. He is willing to invest a minimum of two million dollar. There was a hint in the initial contract of ten times that much. The journey from book to screen is quite lengthy. Probably Bill should have included a caveat in his contract: “the undersigned agrees to remain living until the project is completed.”

Mr. Couturié and I have emailed several times now. I had to laugh at his last correspondence. He confidently referred to his up-coming task of selling this unusual proposal to high-roller film investors. His selling pitch to them would be: a “big Christian lady” who went on to live a victorious life after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

This was an ambiguous choice of words. Granted, I am plus-size. I profess to be a Christian. I try to epitomize a true, Southern lady. But, Buddy, honey, please don’t write “big Christian lady” on my tombstone.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #315

Nancy White Kelly

Our little Micah is turning three this week. He is the oldest boy of our own miracle son, Charlie. We were married 15 years before God gave us the desire of our heart, a flesh-of-our flesh son. If you haven’t read the story, you might want to get the book, Journal of a Living Lady available from, the Sentinel newspaper offices, or directly from this author. Send $15 to The Living Lady, 6156 Southern Rd., Young Harris, GA. 30582 and I’ll put a book in the mail.

It is a bit challenging to bring you “ readers-come-lately” up to date in a few paragraphs. I’ll try.
When Charlie was five, I was diagnosed with serious breast cancer. I prayed and asked the Lord to let me live to see our son graduate from high school. Twelve years later, just weeks before his graduation from Towns County High, the cancer recurred. I wasn’t bitter. My prayer had been answered.

This time the cancer spread to my lungs, lymph system, and bones. I have been through surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy several times. I lost my hair twice, but never my faith. God delivered healing. I checked myself out of hospice. In spite of dire predictions from the doctors, I have seen Charlie graduate from college, get married, and now is the father of our two grandsons, Micah and Noah.

All Nanas, Papas, Mee-Mees, and Paw-Paws have grandparent tales. I am Granny. This is my story and I am sticking to it.

Micah, like his father, is a procrastinator. Especially at bedtime. His requests can be endless. Another story. His froggy blanket. His truck. Mickey Mouse too.

Recently, after tucking him in for the night, Micah started his familiar, manipulative cry. Charlie ignored him for a while. When the fake crying escalated, Charlie purposefully tromped heavily down the hallway to Micah’s bedroom. In the sternest voice he could muster, Charlie demanded to know what the problem was. There was a long pause.

“Daddy, I need to go to church.”


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #314

Nancy White Kelly

Faux pas. That is French for big goof. Mistakes? I have made a few. This last week I faux pas-goofied again.

On August 5th, I was asked by a desperate school board to serve as administrator for Mountain Area Christian Academy. That was the same week Buddy and I opened the Ye Old Coin Shop.

Making my life-long numismatic hobby a business was our attempt to survive in retirement.
Like many folks these days, we were experiencing a green economic shift with our financial out-go threatening to exceed our in-flow.

The timing of these two major life events collided. Any entrepreneur knows the myriad details involved in opening a business. Any school principal can understand the daunting task of walking into the initial staff orientation meeting and facing 40 employees.

Ready or not, school was beginning in a week. MACA was entering a new, state-of-the art building. Workers were everywhere pulling electrical wire, rolling asphalt in the parking lot, painting walls and landscaping. Most didn’t speak French …or English. It was challenging to explain in universal sign language that the inside toilets weren’t working yet.

Back at the coin shop, our own toilet decided to misbehave. “El escusado se derramo de agua." Just days before the Grand Opening we had to replace an entire floor.

Thankfully the school is operating smoothly now. The coin shop is surviving, but not thriving. We are only open Saturdays and evenings by appointment.

I am proud of MACA and its dedicated staff. We have 232 students from pre-school through grade 12. MACA kids respect authority. Biblical principles are emphasized. The flag is pledged. The students dress in sharp-looking uniforms. That is, unless it is Spirit Week.

Though still under reasonable control, for five days we let our students break the norm. They can dress according to a daily theme, be a little noisy and enthusiastically encourage teachers to kiss a pig to help raise funds for the senior trip.

Atypically, our students and staff looked and acted like monkeys in Hootersville. To my chagrin, an old friend who is a distinguished lawyer, decided to drop by for a first-time visit. He was amused by my mortification.

Monday was “Blast from the Past Day.” No problem. Wednesday was “Tacky Day.” Staff could opt out, but few did. I smeared my lipstick, mismatched my shoes, and dressed in both plaid and stripes.

Then came my faux pas. Our office manager arrived in a swirly brown corduroy skirt. I raved about how tacky she looked. I meant it as a compliment. Unfortunately, she wasn’t participating in Tacky Day.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #313
Nancy White Kelly

Many flips of the calendar page have transpired since I last burned myself. A couple of years ago, in a busy kitchen, I hastily grabbed the handle of a hot cast iron skillet and dropped it even faster.

At this stage of life, I should remember that fire and resulting heat has the capacity to cook human flesh. I wasn’t thinking that day about life lessons.

It was a cool, but soggy Saturday morning. The clock said ten o’clock and I was hustling to get across the driveway to the coin shop that adjoins our home. My arms were fully loaded with a laptop, keys, briefcase, dangling cords and a piping hot cup of apple cider.

Buddy would have held the door open if he were around. My mind asked rhetorically, “Where is that husband of mine when I need him?”

Frustrated, I kicked the bottom of the screen door and moved forward full-force. The door didn’t budge. The wooden screen door frame was swollen from the moisture in the air. It didn’t budge. As the steaming cider spilled onto my hand, I briefly recalled the words of Newton, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

My normal reaction to extreme heat would be to turn loose of everything I am holding. But, having dropped an almost new lap top a year earlier, my financial instinct prevailed. I held onto the expensive computer and allowed the blistering cider to saturate my left hand. The middle three fingers were essentially boiled.

Once inside the coin shop, I repeatedly headed to the restroom and doused my fingers under the cold faucet water. The pain temporarily abated while the water ran over my hand, but returned when I walked away. It was an odd experience to hope no buyers or sellers of coins would come that day. It would be hard to concentrate on calculating the price of even the smallest cache of silver change. What if a customer wanted to inspect some of the items in the showcase? It is hard to be civil, much less pleasant at such times. Pain has an unrelenting way of commanding attention.

In desperation, I tried a few drops of the morphine I occasionally take for the bone cancer. Even it failed to bring relief. For three tough hours I could think of little else other than those three swelling fingers.

Fifteen out-of-town relatives were coming for the holidays. There were presents still to be wrapped and onions to be chopped. I didn’t need this torment.

The pain eventually subsided and I had a new appreciation of life without intense pain. My burn was so minor compared to those sustained by folks in the burn unit of Grady Hospital or our American soldiers recuperating from roadside bombs blasts. I felt like such a wimp.

Often life lessons need to be repeated. I hope I can remember these three: Fire burns. Life hurts sometimes. The sun always shines…even after the longest day and darkest night.

PS: The Journal of the Living Lady has appeared spasmodically recently due to newspaper transitions.