Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #362

Nancy White Kelly

The year of 2009 may go down as one of Tiger’s worst years, but it will certainly be remembered as one of my best ones. With metastatic cancer, any full year past diagnosis can be considered a good year. In spite of the big C, I look back and think of all that transpired these last twelve months and I am truly grateful. Nobody in my family died. Granted, Buddy and I lost a couple of good friends, but only temporarily. My Christian faith keeps me up-beat, knowing that this life is not the end, just a new beginning in foreverland.

We now enter the second decade of the new millennium. Remember Y2K and all the up-roar ten years ago? Most people were hoarding beans and rice. My unsuspecting spouse never knew that I had cases of diet cola in the attic, my one addiction that he has never liked. My response to his nagging is “Choose your poison.”

At least my obsession is fizzy caffeine in a can and not some gritty-orange fiber drink that you must mix. The last sound I hear every night, and certainly not a romantic one, is that of a rattling metal spoon in a glass of water. Gulp. Gulp.

A decade ago the Y2K bug was considered a clicking time bomb for all major computer programs. When the minute hand ticked Jan 1, 2000, no great catastrophe occurred. Almost every bank worked fine, no major power outages were reported, airplanes still flew and the whole world went on with its normal life. The sky didn’t fall after all.

Now I hear buzz about the year 2012. True, the Mayan calendar ends on 12/21/2012. The dooms-day speculation is surging. While I do believe in an up-coming apocalypse, we must part ways when discussing dates. My Bible says that not even the angels know when this event will occur.
Until then, I live day by day, appreciating the good that occurred in the past year. There were several notable markers. My cancer scans were stable. No new tumors were found.

I wrote a short essay and won a trip to London and to the Holy Land, accompanied by son Charlie. The Ye Ole Coin Shop had its best year thus far. A fresh coat of paint improved the look of our aging house. We made several new friends. The list could go on and on.

I dare not gloat. We have several family members and acquaintances who have lost jobs. Some may lose their homes. It is our Christian duty to help the truly needy. I had much rather be the giver than the givee any day.

In my six and a half decades of living, I have come to believe that some of the most generous people are among the poorest. A true judge of character is how a person treats the down-and-outer and the least among them. To whom do we readily speak? Where do we sit when there is a choice of seats?

Recently a customer bought a widow’s mite from our coin shop for a friend. It was a tiny piece of embossed metal, a genuine, but crudely stamped Roman coin from the historical era of Jesus. The mite was all the poor lady had to give and she gave it cheerfully. Compare that to the ostentatious announcements of generosity by our contemporaries. Giving to worthy causes is good, of course, but must celebrities promote their philanthropy so publically?

Two of the best gifts I received this year were semi-anonymous, no recognition wanted. One was a check for $500 that helped a young man fulfill a dream. The other was a donation to use for heat which brought grateful tears from the sick recipient. You can’t out-give God.

Happy New Year, readers. In 2010, dare to share.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #361

Nancy White Kelly

Thanksgiving has passed. I secretly vowed to transfer the joy of preparing Thanksgiving dinner to my two daughter-in-laws since it is written in stone that everybody comes to Granny’s for Christmas.

For genuinely good reasons, the daughter-in-laws escaped the intimidating task of cooking the big meal. I was again the main chef. Buddy did his part to make sure that it was a memorable day. Late Thanksgiving Eve, he gave Rocky, our German Shepherd, the huge bucket of sage-covered cornbread, minus the cooked celery and onions that remained in the fridge.

It was an honest mistake. I use that same pink plastic pan everyday to hold our meal left-overs which Buddy adds to Rocky’s dry food in the evening. That pink bucket was a take-home gift from my last stay in the hospital.

A trip to the grocery store for corn meal and some hasty cooking at high temperature brought a new batch of cornbread in time to make the dressing. In spite of the tenuous beginning, Thanksgiving turned out to be a good day full of good food and laughs.

For two weeks Buddy has dutifully finished every version of turkey casserole imaginable without complaining only to see me bring in another big bird for its turn in the oven next week. Tori and Ginger may get their chance to cook in 2010. Perhaps I could lighten up the occasion by doing what a lady friend did one year.

Susan was asked by daughter Lisa to help prepare her first ever Thanksgiving turkey. On the big day, Lisa found she had no cranberries in the cupboard. She rushed to the store to get some.

As if on cue, Susan mischievously took action. She removed a Rock Cornish hen from her big purse. She hastily removed the raw stuffing from the turkey and placed the little Cornish pullet inside. She packed the open hole with some of the displaced dressing.

When Lisa returned from the store, she placed the turkey in the oven. Mother and daughter merrily chatted while the men watched football. Soon Lisa’s sister arrived with her husband and two children. The magic hour arrived.

Susan placed the green beans and assorted dishes on the table. Facing the counter, Lisa began to scoop out the cooked stuffing from the turkey breast into a fancy bowl. Her spoon wouldn’t go further. She couldn't figure out what was stopping it. Susan gleefully offered assistance. She put her hand in the turkey and pulled out the Rock Cornish hen. Lisa screamed and jumped back.

“What have I done?" Lisa wailed as tears welled.

”I just cooked a pregnant turkey.”

As the laughter roared Lisa’s husband explained that turkeys lay eggs. Besides, Tom Turkey was a male!

Every Thanksgiving there ought to be a dog house handy for the likes of Buddy and Susan.

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #360

Nancy White Kelly

I don’t remember the title, but I recall the line: “When he was good, he was really good. But when he was bad, he was really bad.”

Charlie’s boys are still very young, just two and four. Like most grandmothers, I dote on them and Bobby’s two as well. I have never had a serious confrontation with any of them. Just fun, games and secret Granny snacks. M & M’s are a special treat. All four grandchildren know about my long, blue surprise box kept in the den. It holds a variety of boy toys and glitzy baubles that a ten-year-old girl couldn’t resist. Unusually good behavior or exceptional manners can earn a trip to Granny’s box. Sometimes it doesn’t take a reason at all.

Last week Tori needed to take Micah to a doctor in Atlanta for a follow-up visit. Buddy and I were enlisted to keep two-year-old Noah in Cornelia. We had a delightful time making snakes out of clay, threading large beads and just romping around the house.

Later that afternoon, Micah and Tori returned from their tiresome day. While listening to Tori tell about the recommendation of the neurologist, Micah took advantage of our inattention. He slipped out the back door into the carport and mounted his Daddy’s parked motorcycle. Amidst adamant protest, Tori removed the pint-sized Evel Knievel from the bike. I explained how sad I would be if that heavy motorcycle fell on him. Nothing that I said registered positively with Micah. My usually complacent grandson kicked me. It wasn’t a premeditated kick, just poor impulse control.

Tori scolded Micah and sent him to his room. A few minutes later I asked Tori’s permission to talk with him privately thinking that he had settled down by now and could be reasoned with. That turned out to be wishful thinking.

Micah wasn’t in a peace-making mode. He attempted to kick me again, this time intentionally. Instinctively, I swatted his bottom a couple of times with my hand. Though he looked shocked at my first-ever spanking of a grandchild, he gave no evidence of remorse. If he had been my son, I would have carried it a step further. But I know my role as grandmother isn’t chief disciplinarian and backed off. I told Micah I was disappointed in his behavior and left him to sit in his room.

Though Charlie would be home very soon from his moon-lighting job after teaching middle school, Buddy and I decided to postpone visiting with him this day. We wanted to get over the mountains before darkness settled.
We told Noah good-bye and asked our frustrated daughter-
in-law to tell Micah that we loved him and hoped our next visit would go better.

Hardly two hours had passed when our phone rang at home. It was Charlie. He said Micah wanted to tell me something. I sensed what was coming. After a brief silence, the words came.

“I am sorry, Granny.”

I am not sure what it took to get Micah to this point and never asked. He sounded so sweet and sincere. I took the opportunity to remind Micah that it was never okay to kick, especially his grandmother. I thanked Micah for apologizing and emphasized that I still loved him and would always love him no matter how badly he acted. However, good behavior pleased me more.

It was over now. Lesson learned. Clean slate.

For some reason I don’t think Micah will kick me again. When he is good, he is very good.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #359

Nancy White Kelly

Seems as if I just finished carving the pumpkin. Next on the agenda is Thanksgiving. Then, of course, comes Christmas. I do wish the holidays were spaced further apart. If I were appointed Czar of Holidays, the dates for Thanksgiving and Christmas would be at least six months apart. I would eliminate the witchy motif of Halloween.

Thanksgiving is my favorite annual holiday. No presents needed, just the presence of loved ones. What a special time to re-focus and reflect on life’s blessings. Indeed I am grateful. Once you lose your health and regain it, each day becomes a special addition.

Spending time outside the United States this year reminded me of how fortunate I am to be an American. Any of us could have been born in a remote tribal village on the other side of the world. Buddy and I feel privileged to live in the mountains half-way to heaven. What else is there to desire?

Sure. Who wouldn’t want a million dollars in small bills? But our needs are met and we are content.

What adult with a child doesn’t love Christmas? Being born on Christmas Eve destined me to love that season. If only there was a wand to zap the commercialism. Finding scarecrows and reindeer competing for shelf space in the summer time does not jive with my reminiscence of Christmases past.

If Christ was truly born in December, I might relish the spiritual aspect even more. Biblical scholars insist that Jesus was born in the spring. Well, we can always pretend and we do, from the fantasy of Santa Claus to the exact December 25th birth date of baby Jesus.

There are some things that are certain. We can depend on the I.R.S. to bring us back to earth in January with those dreaded tax forms. Seems like we just did those darn things a month ago. Buddy and I have receipts for 2009 jammed into an over-flowing cardboard box with no semblance of order. The good intentions of being more prepared for the next tax season are turning out to be just that…intentions.

But, like dear Scarlett, I’ll think about that tomorrow. I’m off to find a dead turkey before the family comes. My wish for you:

May your dressing be tasty
May your Tom turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #358

Nancy White Kelly

This concludes the travel log of the fantastic trip Charlie and I received as a result of my winning an essay contest sponsored by British Airways. After a greatly anticipated journey from Atlanta to New York to London, we were finally in historic Jerusalem.

The first day was a bust. The narrow streets that were originally intended for donkey travel have not improved much in 2000 years. After returning the rental car to the airport terminal in Tel Aviv, we walked or took taxis driven mostly by Middle Eastern mad men. Communication with drivers was in Southern Anguish. Jerusalem is not laid out in orderly fashion. We paid mucho shekels for each ride and no doubt were exploited for our directional ignorance.

One exception was a Messianic Jewish man named Adam. He observed red-faced Charlie huffing while climbing the Mount of Olives. He offered our out-of-shape son a free ride to the top which he readily accepted. If either of us had known how much walking this tour of Israel would require, we would have prepared by running the Boston Marathon.

Adam was quite knowledgeable of biblical geography and rattled off fascinating facts. Charlie jotted notes. An hour later he rushed into our motel room demanding that I come immediately. Even though I had taken the day off to recoup, I was reasonably dressed. As we hustled down the forty-four stairs, Charlie explained that Adam was going to take us on a personal tour of Bethlehem and connect us with two of his friends. I quietly sat in the back seat trying to decipher Charlie’s earlier cryptic notes. Even though I am a retired educator, it was difficult deciding if his writing was ancient Arabic or the scribbling of a dyslexic second-grader. As we traveled to Bethlehem, the two young men talked enthusiastically and non-stop about the geography, people and events described in the Bible.

A heavily armed guard at the entrance to Bethlehem recognized Adam and waved him through security. Because of the known political and religious unrest in this region, this casualness briefly raised my antennae, but I remained quiet. As the taxi maneuvered narrow streets, the poverty in this quaint historical town was noticeable. Beggars sat on street corners and scraggly children explored the trash piles.

Adam stopped the cab in front of a tiny storefront that looked more like a cave. He honked his horn and out came the proprietor, a small Jewish man who welcomed us like old friends. His aunt offered us cold drinks. I admired the jewelry and the knick-knacks made of intricately carved olive wood. Several times I asked prices, but the aunt was evasive. Instead she offered an obviously well-practiced spiel regarding the artistic skill required to make the souvenirs. This was frustrating because I had no idea of a price range. Was the silver necklace with purple stones five dollars or five thousand?

Adam waved the man and his aunt away and said we would shop later. He wanted to take us to meet other friends. One was the over-seer of the stable site where Jesus Christ was believed to have been born. Many years of renovation had turned the building into an ornate, church-like sanctuary. Long lines of people awaited an opportunity to see the spot where the manger once was. To our surprise, Adam spoke to another friend who shooed all the other visitors back. He motioned for Charlie and me to touch the large, ruby-colored star that marked the historical spot of Christ’s birth. The aggressive manager then grabbed our cameras and photographed each of us. I was puzzled and embarrassed by the preferential treatment. There were many old and lame who obviously had stood in the line for hours for their turn to view the stable site.

Adam must have much influence in Bethlehem. My guess is that he routinely brings in supposedly rich customers from America. Unfortunately, this time he picked a young school teacher and his retired mother who couldn’t give the $3000 requested later that day for “the cause.” When Charlie finally convinced Adam, the stable manager, and the shop owner that we brought little money with us, they offered to take a credit card.

While the needs of the poor in Bethlehem are legitimate, Charlie and I felt like gullible puppets who just had our strings rudely jerked. We rode back to our hotel in Jerusalem in noticeable silence. Charlie paid Adam and we never saw him again.
By the week’s end, we were able to visit most of the sites that are significant to Christians. The one site that impressed us both was the burial tomb of Christ which was provided by Joseph of Arimathea at the time of his death.
During a small span of time between tour groups, Charlie slipped into the stone tomb alone. He remained in solemn solitude for several minutes reflecting on the awesomeness of the moment.

In describing that experience to me later, Charlie beamed as he reported, “Jesus was not there.”

Mother and son smiled in agreement.

“I know,” I responded with a nod. “He is risen.”

Being a newspaper column limits me from giving all the details about our trip. I could fill a book about our inspiring journey to the Holy Land. However, it is time to move on to other adventures of this Living Lady.

Shalom, ya’ll.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #357

Nancy White Kelly

After an adventuresome beginning in New York City and London, Charlie and I finally arrived in Tel Aviv at 5:00 in the morning. While the plane ticket was the prize of the essay contest, all other expenses in Israel were mine. Of top of that, the IRS gets to tax the total value of the prize package which is estimated at $5000.

Charlie seamlessly transitioned to the lead role on this trip. Now that he is grown, the dynamics of our relationship has changed. While still Mother-Son, we presently function on an adult-adult level. Knowing that Israel is a predominantly male-oriented culture, I gave him the credit card and cash to handle. Charlie didn’t take advantage of his parent’s money, but I did sense a bit of unfettered joy as he slid the card for one transaction after another

To rent a car or not rent a car…that was the question. The pro was that we could travel at our own pace when we wanted. The negative was that we weren’t sure of the geography. That turned out to be the least of our transportation problems.

We went with plan A which was to rent a car in Tel Aviv and return it in one week. My first inclination that this might be a mistake was when the car rental representative noted the many dings on the sedan that we were renting. This was to ensure that we would not be charged for previous damage when the car was returned. So many dings on a virtually new vehicle raised my internal antenna.

I signed the papers and handed Charlie the car key. Driving in modern Tel Aviv wasn’t bad, but when we arrived in Jerusalem, navigating the roads became a nightmare. Road signs were very poor and neither of us read Hebrew. Lanes were practically non-existent. Cars, only inches apart, moved ahead sporadically. Honking horns jangled my nerves. This was normal “get moving” communication for Israeli and Arabic drivers but still seemed rude to this southern lady. Motor scooters zigzagged through the tangled traffic.

After a few close encounters, Charlie made the decision to take the rental car back to the terminal and start over. I concurred. Afterwards, we rode a public bus thirty miles to Jerusalem. Charlie handed the bus driver a map. He motioned for us to exit the bus a few stops later. We had no clue which direction to walk. We stopped several pedestrians, but none spoke English well enough to understand our request for directions. In exasperation, Charlie hailed a taxi that cost us $20 for six blocks. We learned quickly that we would need shekels as the American dollar was not a popular item.

Score a minus for Day one in Jerusalem. All we accomplished was to find our modest bed and breakfast inn which was recommended by a friend. The cost was $130 a night in American dollars which is reasonable here in the states, but on the low end in Old Jerusalem. Our accommodation was a simple room with two single beds and a tiny bathroom. The surprise was that there was 44 steps to our second floor abode. We found that elevators were considered a silly, unnecessary luxury.

Walking and climbing stairs became our mandatory daily exercise. Pounding hearts and sweaty bodies hid behind two-day-old clothes. We had elected to travel light due to the $20 per bag surcharge by the airlines which adds up when you change planes eight times round-trip from Atlanta to New York to London to Tel Aviv.

Tourism is the main source of income in Old Jerusalem. Whether they like each other or not, the Arabs and Jews cooperate enough to keep the area calm enough that people continue to visit. We encountered busses full of tourists from many other countries including Australia.

We learned a lot from our taxi drivers. There are certain cities that most Jews will not go. For example, Bethlehem. There were also some sites that Jews were not permitted to visit like the contentious Temple Dome. Years ago Buddy and I were able to enter the sanctuary of the Dome of the Rock. Presently it is controlled by Muslims.

Charlie and I staked out our itinerary for the next day. It would start at the sacred sites in the Old City. Finding our way there was a challenge. What the colorful inn brochures described as a ten minute walk would actually be three miles.
The next morning I was awakened by the distant morning prayers of Muslims droning the chilly air. Breakfast at the inn was a bit unusual for us southerners. No eggs, bacon or biscuits. Certainly no grits. On the buffet were olives, onions, various non-descript greenery, a vinegary dressing, boiled eggs in the shell, and always bread. I was thankful for the toaster. I could at least have toast and jelly with my stout coffee.

One morning the toaster was noticeable absent. When I inquired about it, the Jewish owner shook his head vehemently saying, “Shabbat! Shabbat!” Apparently no electrical appliances are allowed on the Jewish Sabbath. Charlie and I had much more to learn.

Shalom, Ya'll - Part III (to be continued.)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #356
Nancy White Kelly

Shalom, ya’ll – Part I

The Living Lady is back in America! In spite of internal squabbles, the USA is still the best country in the world. Kiss the ground and thank a soldier.

Charlie and I flew over 13,000 miles, changed planes 8 times, and walked at least 25 miles. That would be quite a feat even if my medical records didn’t include metastatic cancer, kidney failure, two heart attacks and a pair of artificial knees.

Let me briefly up-date you on the reason for this adventure. As a Bible teacher for some fifty-plus years, I have become somewhat familiar with the geography of the ancient Middle East. Twice Buddy and I have made the journey to the Holy Land, first in 1972 and then again in 2003. It is impossible for a tourist to absorb such rich history in two visits. I have longed to return one more time.

There is a spiritual connection to this cradle of civilization that is difficult to explain. The Holy Land is both a physical and vicarious crossroad of the heart and mind that bridges humanity’s past and future.

Through a casual entry in a business-related essay contest provided by British Airways, I won the Grand prize trip to London as well as a ticket to the destination of my choice. That other location was an easy decision– Israel.

In addition, I could take a traveling companion. That choice was easy too. Buddy and I agreed that this should be our older son, Charlie, who has often expressed a desire to visit those biblical sites that he also has taught about.

The awarded trip started in New York City, so Charlie and I had to get there on our own time and dime. Wouldn’t you know that the first flight we were planning to take out of Atlanta was over-booked? The one other plane leaving at night was a hopper through Indianapolis and would land at an alternate New York airport. It was a no-brainer. If we were to make the gifted trip that started at 7:00 a.m. the next morning, we had would fly to LaGuardia and then take a taxi to J.F.K. We arrived with no sleep and yet six hours to kill.

Charlie and I wearily walked around the JFK airport, baggage in hand, looking for a quiet place to park our bodies. We came upon an empty, ecumenical chapel and made ourselves comfortable on the floor. I am sure God didn’t mind that we caught a few winks in that dark and quiet refuge. It has been my observation that people sleep in church quite often.

We arrived in London on the chartered flight and were chauffeured to a five-star hotel. Business and political dignitaries addressed the group of winners. They enthusiastically encouraged us to consider expanding our businesses to London and other world cities. This courting was amusing to Charlie and me as the Ye Old Coin Shop isn’t exactly a Fortune 500 business. Far from it. Buddy and I operate a small coin shop located in a tiny mountain town of north Georgia. On a really good day we may have five customers.

By noon Charlie and I completed our contest obligations and were free to tour London before our late evening flight to Tel Aviv. We navigated the bus system through odd-sounding streets such as Castle & Elephant.

Charlie has long been an admirer of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great London preacher of the 1800’s who is still known as the “Prince of Preachers.” It is estimated that Spurgeon preached to around 10,000,000 people in his lifetime, often up to 10 times a week. Charlie wanted to see the Metropolitan Tabernacle that Spurgeon pastored for 38 years as well as his grave site. Mission accomplished.
With that site crossed off our short London list, it was my turn to pick. I chose Buckingham Palace. The queen was not available for tea, but we did enjoy observing the red-coated guards as we ambled the 350 acres of Hyde Park.

Charlie and I both desired to see Big Ben, but there was no time to spare. We hurried to the hotel, gathered our luggage and headed to Heathrow Airport for the last portion of our trek. We arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel, at 5:00 a.m.

Next destination: Jerusalem.

To be continued…


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #355

Nancy White Kelly

Why is it that we pray for something and then act surprised when those prayers are answered? Maybe because we believe the blessings of God aren’t deserved.

In spite of short-comings, I have been blessed immeasurably during my lifetime, especially during the last half of it. Hospice didn’t get the opportunity to ease me into eternity. My metastatic cancer wasn’t as imminently terminal as predicted.

A couple of years ago a new problem occurred. It is rare that a person in total kidney failure gets to kiss dialysis good-bye. Having a date with a machine three times a week was more discouraging to me than the cancer. My kidneys defied the odds as God adjusted my earthly graduation date. It has been my goal ever since to make use of this extended time.

On Sunday mornings I teach an adult Bible study class. Several times I have mentioned that I was praying for one more opportunity to go to Jerusalem. While God was fully aware of my desire, I did not truly expect the fulfillment of such a lavish request. After all, Buddy and I have been to the Holy Land twice. The last trip was a surprise gift from a reader who assumed he was granting the last request of a dying lady.

Several weeks ago I read a newspaper ad announcing an essay contest that a major airline was offering. Small business owners were invited to write an essay explaining the benefits of face-to-face interaction with customers.
Buddy and I own Ye Old Coin Shop, so I dashed off an essay of less than 500 words promoting the benefit of doing business with hand-shakes rather than using impersonal technology.

It was a hurried entry. Apparently I didn’t have much confidence in my writing ability or my chance of winning an international writing contest. In my haste, I failed to save the essay to the hard drive. If I printed a hard copy, only God knows where it is now.

Yes, I won. There were more than 10,000 entries. The Grand Prize was a trip for two to England, consultation with top business leaders, and then a ticket to any other destination of choice. That was an instantaneous decision: Jerusalem, here I come.

Since Buddy has seen the Holy Land, he offered his seat to our son who is a serious Bible student and sometimes writer. Charlie has expressed his desire to go to Israel many times. Being a school teacher with two small sons, the likelihood of that was slim unless he won the lottery which he doesn’t play. Since neither Tori nor Buddy can accompany us on the magic carpet, this trip will be a one-to-one, mother-son experience that most moms of adult children can only imagine.

This will be my last column for September. Charlie and I leave soon for the first leg of our journey from Atlanta to New York City to London. He wants to see the church where Charles Spurgeon preached. I want to have tea with the queen. Then, shalom, we are off to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

No doubt Buddy will be lonesome while we are away. If you are in our phone directory, expect a call. While he is talking, Charlie and I will be walking on hallowed ground.

Be sure of what you pray for. God moves in mysterious ways.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Journal of Living Lady #354b

Nancy White Kelly

Huh? What did you say?

The dog needs braces? The dog is a racist? The dog likes to race.


Ever had a similar dialog with your spouse?

Buddy’s hearing loss over the last few years has gotten progressively worse. It passed the funny stage long ago. Spousal frustration is more like it, especially when my lovable, but stubborn husband won’t wear his hearing aids.

Sometimes Buddy nods when I am speaking to him, pretending to hear but knowing better than to ask what I said the third time. My patience wears thin with Buddy when he doesn’t cooperate by wearing those hearing devices that he just had to have.

Three years ago Buddy went on a tangent about wanting hearing aids. I didn’t doubt that he needed them. But I know my man. We’d buy those expensive ear plugs and in no time the volume-enhancing gadgets would end up in the bureau drawer.

Buddy promised that he would wear them faithfully. Though it was a lot of money for us retirees, I gave in. It might save our other-wise stable and happy marriage.

Buddy got the hearing aids. He hated them from the start. He said that they didn’t fit right and he had difficulty adjusting the tiny knobs. One Sunday, in the midst of the pastor’s sermon, the annoying aids repeatedly screamed worse than a high-pitched little girl.

Sure enough. Just as I predicted, the hearing aids stayed in Buddy’s underwear drawer most of the time. Thereafter, Buddy insisted that I mumbled. I complained that he wasn’t listening. Our daily communication suffered.

Finally I consented to his getting a better set of hearing aids. It took a few weeks, but they finally arrived. He liked them. I liked them.

Then I suddenly noticed the incessant “huhs” again. He meekly admitted that he had lost the new pair. To add insult to grief, he had also misplaced his cell phone.

The hunt began. We checked anywhere he might have stuck the little black pouch that housed the hearing aids and for the little blue case that housed his cell phone. No success.

This usually jovial husband of mine became depressed. No cell phone. No hearing aids. For a non-stop, talkative man like my Buddy, life was intolerable.

Last week the hearing specialist fitted Buddy with hearing aids, pair 3. They are exactly like the second pair. For now, Buddy is a happy camper. I am a happy spouse who again enjoys hearing humor.

During a January revival an evangelist asked the people in line what they needed. One man's request was for his hearing. The evangelist put his hand on the man’s ear, prayed for him and then asked him, "How's your hearing?"

The man replied, "I don't know. It's not until next Tuesday.”

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #354

Nancy White Kelly

The saddest part of living in a retirement area is seeing your older friends grow even older. Fifteen years ago we moved from the southern suburbs of Atlanta to the north Georgia mountains. Except for a work acquaintance, we knew nobody.

In the ensuing years, new acquaintances evolved into dear friends. We have shared meals, laughed, cried, traveled, and worshipped with our substitute family.

Lately, we have noticed that our inventory of cherished friends is dwindling. If mortuaries offered frequent funeral miles, we would have enough for a trip somewhere far away.

Old age and death fascinate me. I suppose that is because I have managed to postpone the dying part thanks to or in spite of doctors. Wish I had a remedy for taxes. Unfortunately one must die to escape them. That is a lose-win situation.

Recently an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in Nebraska. It was believed that he had nothing left of any value. Later, when the nurses were going through his meager possessions, they found a poem he had penned. It spoke volumes to me and deserves to be shared.


What do you see nurses? What do you see?
What are you thinking when you're looking at me?
A crabby old man, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice, “I do wish you'd try!”
Who seems not to notice the things that you do
And forever is losing a sock or a shoe?

Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding the long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse .You're not looking at me.

I'll tell you who I am as I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of ten with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters who love one another.

A young boy of sixteen with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at twenty, my heart gives a leap.
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.

At twenty-five now, I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide and secure a happy home.
A man of thirty, my young now grown fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.

At forty, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my woman's beside me to see I don't mourn.
At fifty, once more, babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children, my loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me. My wife is now dead.
I look at the future and shudder with dread..
For my young are all rearing kids of their own.
And I think of the years and the love that I've known.

I'm now an old man and nature is cruel.
Tis jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles. Grace and vigor depart.
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass a young guy still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys. I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living life o’er again.

I think of the years, all too few, gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people. Open and see.
Not a crabby old man. Look closer. See ME!!

Readers, I am off to the nursing home. Will you come too?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #352

Nancy White Kelly

Breaking news from Bill Couterie, legendary movie producer: Economic hard times have hit Hollywood.

Bill bought the rights to my book, Journal of a Living Lady, a couple of years ago with plans for making a movie or documentary of my roller-coaster life. Cancer had hit his family big time and he wanted to spotlight the battle and the warrior.
Several months ago Bill wrote that he was shopping around for financial backers, but the timing isn’t right. Bankers are holding tight to purse strings. A story about a cancer survivor, whose faith helped her beat tremendous odds, not once, but twice, can be inspiring, but not enough for backers to ante up several million dollars in a struggling economy. The money people Bill had hoped would make the project happen have backed down, at least for now.

“Making a living” has become top priority,” Bill says. “But I haven’t forgotten you.”

It was no big surprise that the documentary is on hold. I have always believed the most appropriate time to name a street or make a movie about a person’s life is post mortem. That way, the facts are all in and nothing embarrassing will happen down the road to cause regrets.

It was fun thinking about it being on the big screen. Yet, being a movie star has never been an ambition of mine. Well, maybe once. While taking tap dance lessons during my elementary school years, I pretended to audition as the new Shirley Temple. Unfortunately my hair was too straight to make the cut.

I have been on television a few times. The receiving of the George Washington Medal of Honor for journalism from the Freedom Foundation in Valley Forge was televised. WSB asked me to do a commentary once. Local affiliates of NBC and ABC did a brief news item about my notorious appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show. The telling of that humorous experience is in my book and on the original blog: www.angelfire.com/bc/nancykelly

I don’t think any of this has gone to my head. I am just a southern lady who happened upon notoriety of sorts. I still speak to everybody and give spontaneous hugs. Buddy and I joke about the paparazzi lurking everywhere.

I may not make the movies, at least not in my lifetime. It will be a fun story to tell the grandchildren when they get older.

“Once upon a time your Granny was known as the Living Lady.”

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #351

Nancy White Kelly

I haven’t screamed so loudly since I was a ten-year-old running away from a charging bull in a Mississippi pasture. My voice is still squeaky. It all happened so suddenly.

I was sitting at my computer catching up on email when Chipper, our vocal Cockatiel, starting shrieking new bird talk from his front porch perch. Sam, the cat, was purring on my lap so I knew those two were not engaged in claw and beak warfare.

Our small harem of pet hens and the sole rooster roam freely in the yard during the day. From the frantic commotion, it was obvious that something bad was happening or about to. I pushed Sam from my lap and ran out the back door.

Rocky, our sixteen-month-old German shepherd, was having the best chase game of his young life. He had the upper paw. Henny Penny was hemmed up against the fence with no place to go.
I hurried to the creek edge, yelling and running at the same time. It was time for an instant battlefield decision. Charge through the muddy creek water to pull Rocky away from the defenseless hen or hope he would obey the new “come” command we had been practicing.

“Come.” Rocky glanced toward me, obviously annoyed.

“Rocky, come,” I screamed again.

He cocked his head again. What nerve I had to ask him to stop playing and return to his mistress. After the third vocal command in an octave I didn’t know I had, Rocky obeyed. He released the chicken and jumped across the creek. Feathers flowed from his smiling mouth as he sat before me.

I know I was supposed to congratulate him and get all mushy about his canine obedience, but I wasn’t in the mood. Do you give a lollipop to a two-year old who returns to you rather than run into the street in front of a coming car?

I was glad Rocky came, but mad at the same time. My heart was still pounding as I drug him by his collar to his night pen behind the Coin Shop. He was confused at my lack of affirmation and affection, but his psychological well-being wasn’t too concerning to me right now. Henny Penny needed my attention.

I rushed back but was unable to get to her without wading the creek. The little red hen was alive, but sat motionless in obvious shock. Other than a vacant patch of naked skin on her back, there didn’t seem to be any serious damage done.

I decided Henny Penny could wait there until Buddy returned from town. I headed for our cool bedroom to recuperate. What an unexpected, adventurous morning.

I remembered the last time I had such a rush of adrenaline. Buddy and I were ruthless tennis players at the height of the tennis craze in the 70’s. We enjoyed week-end amateur tournaments. The most memorable one was when we dueled with an 80-year-old tennis player and her friend. It was a random draw. Buddy and I smugly grinned, assured that the first round of doubles would be a rout.

The hunched-back little lady and her senior friend could have passed for escapees from the Old Folks Home. No problem. They beat us handily. We meekly left the court in disgrace with a life lesson well-learned. Never underestimate an opponent.

Rocky is fine. The trainer comes tomorrow to help us teach him that chicken-chasing is a “no-no.” As for Henny Penny, we haven’t found her yet.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #350
Nancy White Kelly

You probably know the old saw that everything happens in threes. I’m not superstitious, but I if I were, I would be concerned about entering my third week of threes.
A couple of weeks ago, in rapid succession, Buddy had a crick in his neck that was so bad he saw a chiropractor twice and a medical doctor once. The doctor gave him a shot in his neck that hurt but helped. $$$

Rocky, the German shepherd dog that our son Bobby gave us at Christmas is now sixteen months old. He is as smart and adventuresome as they come. He began limping badly and our conclusion was that he tried to dig under the pasture fence and got pricked by a piece of subterranean barb wire. I gave him penicillin shot in hopes it would cure any infection he might have with high hopes of avoiding a vet visit.$$$
Then it was my turn. I developed that nasty ole stomach virus that kept me hugging the toilet every fifteen minutes for nearly twelve hours. I would have had to die to get better. Week one.

A few days ago Buddy’s neck pain returned with a vengeance. It is the week-end, of course, so I will have to endure his torment until he can see his family doctor on Monday. He walks around like Frankenstein, turning his whole body at his shoulders. Poor baby.
Rocky healed from his sore foot, but a few days later had pain in his right leg that was so bad that he yelped with each step he took. We had to discontinue his basic obedience training. It was just too difficult for him to heel, sit and get down.
Buddy and I examined Rocky’s paw and could see no puncture, no infection, no anything that looked unusual. We aggressively felt his foot and ankle area and he didn’t holler. This was a puzzler. Monday we gave in and took him to the vet as he was limping as badly as ever. The vet believes he has a sprained shoulder. My guess is that he managed to get atop our metal-roofed barn from the mountain-side rear and slid off the metal siding which is a good ten foot drop. The vet postponed x-rays to see if medication would help first. Rocky is on anti-inflammatory drugs and glucosamine. $$$

Yesterday I woke up with a sore throat, the coughing crud, and a probable cold, something I rarely have, especially in the summer time. It is terrible timing as this up-coming week I have a Sunday school class to teach, a luncheon engagement with a struggling cancer survivor and a doctor’s appointment with a friend who is to hear the prognosis of her serious cancer. I also agreed to a speaking request on short notice, and, finally, there is a book signing on Saturday for both U.S. Senator Zell Miller and me at the Inspirations Book Store in Hiawassee at 10:00.

I can hardly wait until week three. Hopefully my Buddy won’t need a new cadaveric disc in his antique neck, Rocky won’t need x-rays and a trip to Athens, and I won’t develop pneumonia requiring a stay in the hospital. I’ll pass on that delicious hospital chow.
If I believed in silly fallacies of threes as my mother did, I would try to reverse my luck by turning counter-clockwise three times. Or, I would search for a cluster of three butterflies which supposedly brings good luck.

Being a pragmatist, I accept life as it comes. It could be worse, a lot worse. If I threw my problems in a pile and then saw yours, I would probably grab mine back.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #349

Nancy White Kelly

Last week Buddy and I made the thirty mile trip to the closest big box store. As usual, we stopped for breakfast on the way, this time at the place with golden arches.

As we made our way to the counter, I noticed a scruffy-looking, older gentleman eating pancakes with beautiful strawberries piled on top. It amazed me that this franchised hamburger establishment would serve such luscious fruit.
Buddy ordered a sausage and biscuit. I asked the clerk for pancakes with strawberries on top. Her jaw dropped and she glared silently in disbelief. I caught on and reacted with calm aplomb.

“Cancel those strawberries,” I said. “Just plain pancakes will be fine.”

With our trays in hand, Buddy and I passed by the strange, but eloquent diner who apparently brought his own fruit. Buddy wasn’t as interested in the man as I was.
The next peculiar thing that I noticed was that his food was on a lovely straw placemat. Instead of the foam plates Buddy and I were given, this man had a real dish. Its gilded border matched the edge of his china cup which was decorated with pink cherubs.

Buddy and I took a near-by booth. I hoped the man wouldn’t notice my staring. He didn’t. He was in another world fully occupied with his morning meal.
A white, cloth napkin lay upon his lap in vivid contrast to his wrinkled and soiled shirt. As best I could tell from the distance, the napkin appeared to be ironed.
Had the man been in a tuxedo and cleanly shaven, he could have been a stand-in for the butler in those “pass the all-fruit” commercials.

I removed my plastic fork from the sealed package and then pried the tiny piece of yellow, imitation oil from the small container. My eyes kept returning to the odd man. Probably he had real butter.

His eating utensils were not the same as mine. The fork was a silvery-colored metal, probably sterling.

Twice the old man got up from his booth seat, picked up a white paper cup, and approached the counter. Without a word, the clerk refilled the man’s cup with coffee. He returned to his seat and methodically poured the piping-hot contents into his personal cup.

Buddy and I finished eating and discarded our trash. On the way out the door, I took one last look at the old man who was still leisurely enjoying his breakfast. He was lost in oblivion.

Was he a vagrant or an eccentric millionaire? I laughed as my mind supplied a silly answer:” Only the Shadow knows.”

Buddy and I headed for our car in the parking lot. I carefully perused the area looking for that candid camera. This experience was so surreal that there had to be someone lurking in the shrubbery.

Nobody came forth. I smiled anyway.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #348

Nancy White Kelly

Now that summer has officially arrived, Buddy and I are spending much more time outside. We have six hens and a rooster that provides us with plenty of eggs. A benevolent neighbor gave us four rows of his garden to plant as our own. We have the usual variety of vegetables: corn, peas, okra, squash, potatoes, and several varieties of tomatoes. If we can keep neighboring cows and hungry deer from sneaking in, we should have a bountiful harvest again this year.

Buddy does the planting. My work begins when he proudly delivers the vegetables to the kitchen counter. Last year I shelled, canned and froze food like no tomorrow. Considering I was raised in the city, preserving food continues to be more of a novelty than an absolute necessity. Cost-wise, I think we would come out even buying vegetables at peak time, but that isn’t the point, is it?

My mother was a wonderful cook. Unfortunately, as a young girl who played too much Hide-n-Seek, I learned many of life’s lessons from the kitchen the hard way. Experience. Buddy has been wonderfully patient during these forty-four years of marriage.

As an older lady now with infinite acquired wisdom, I feel compelled to pass along these helpful insights to all you home-makers of the current generation. Even if you don’t eat better, at least your house will smell better.

Let’s begin with…

EGGS - When something starts pecking its way out of the shell, the egg is probably past its prime.

POTATOES - Fresh potatoes do not have roots.

SPICES: Most spices do not die. They just fade away. However, spices will do fine on your shelf forever. Just don’t forget to put them in your will.
MEAT - If opening the refrigerator door causes stray animals from a three-mile radius to congregate outside your house, toss the meat.
CANNED GOODS - Any canned goods that have become the size or shape of a cantaloupe should be disposed of ... very carefully.

UNMARKED ITEMS IN THE FRIDGE: You know left-overs are well beyond prime when you're tempted to discard the container along with the food.

AND FINALLY… Most food cannot be kept longer than the average life span of a hamster. I would suggest keeping a hamster in your refrigerator to gauge this. And speaking of creatures, a new study shows that LICKING THE SWEAT OFF A FROG can cure depression. The down side is, the minute you stop licking, the frog gets depressed again.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #347

Nancy White Kelly

Poor Buddy. He doesn’t get a lot of sympathy from me most times because he has a new ailment every day. I tell him he is like the boy who cried wolf. One day he is really going to be sick and I’m not going to know it. Over the years I have grown rather indifferent to his complaints. Recently I kept count of how many consecutive days that he told me he was tired. The tally was 32.

Buddy gets at least one if not two annual physicals. All his blood work is fine. Buddy isn’t sick. He is just getting older.

Yesterday he woke up complaining about a sore shoulder. Again I humored him. Poor baby. He then said his neck was aching too and sort of stiff. Again, poor baby. When Buddy asked if we could go out for breakfast, I reluctantly agreed even though I had a pile of “to do’s” on my list. At least it would get his mind off his shoulder and neck.

Buddy pitched the car keys to me with today’s good arm. I stopped at a restaurant about halfway to town hoping to get back in time for the usual eleven a.m. time of the Ye Old Coin Shop.
The busy waitress finally took our order. Buddy, in obvious discomfort, grew crankier as the minutes ticked by. I perked up our conversation in an attempt to keep his mind off his pain and the poor service. The chit-chat evolved into a warm discussion. He was unhappy that I wasn’t taking his hurting seriously enough.

Buddy is a hard person to read when it came to illness. I do care greatly about this husband of mine, but sometimes giving excessive sympathy makes the situation worse. Our personalities are totally opposite. I prefer to suffer in silence. In contrast, he likes to at least vocalize, if not dramatize, his every pain. I kid you not. Ask him about the toe he hurt in the Navy.

This day I questioned Buddy about radiating pain, headache, shortness of breath, and any other possible symptoms that could be the precursor of something serious. My conclusion was that he slept in a poor position resulting in a neck crick. I suggested a hot shower and offered a massage. If that didn’t help, I would call the doctor for an appointment. That seemed to appease him.

Finally home, Buddy opted for a heating pad. I gave him a pain pill. He slept for a couple of hours and by mid-afternoon he was moving around the house slowly. By nightfall, he was eating popcorn and watching television. There was no further mention of his shoulder and neck.

Apparently Buddy didn’t have spinal meningitis or some insidious, paralyzing disease. This morning he is outside cutting grass and dealing with moles and ant hills. I expect my tired husband to come into the house any moment now wanting breakfast. Life is back to normal.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #346
Nancy White Kelly

In the Baptist faith, we call our spiritual leaders pastors. In other denominations, an equivalent would be priest or rector. In the Jewish community, the chief leader is the rabbi, and in the Moslem world that would be the Imam.

I have great respect for those who choose or are chosen to give spiritual direction to a congregation of believers. Come June I will have had twelve pastors in my lifetime. An even dozen.

I worked on staff with some of my pastors. While none of them was perfect, all were sincere and each one has had a significant impact on my life. I have loved all my spiritual shepherds and believe that this devotion is mutual.

One pastor indulged my request to be baptized again. He did so with water from the Jordan River that was brought back in a small jar by a friend who had recently visited the Holy Land. Later, thanks to a reader who follows this column, Buddy and I had the opportunity to be fully immersed in the Jordan River near Jerusalem which is where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

A third of my former pastors have passed on to their deserved reward. I still hear from a few. Occasionally one will ask me to consider working with them again. But, unless God writes it on the wall, I am not leaving the mountains until I make my own trip to Glory.

As a teen-age girl, I purposed to follow Christ and his teachings for the rest of my natural life and have never regretted that decision. My pastors played an important role. Each man was memorable. They embraced myriad personalities and styles, ranging from high-strung, hell, fire, and brimstone types to low-key, brotherly or fatherly surrogates who quietly delivered compelling messages of unconditional love.

I often wonder where I would be today without the impact of these pastors. I think I could be a criminal. Without the moral compass of the Bible, I would have no reason to constrain my thoughts or actions. And who could be more responsible for indelibly imprinting biblical principles than my former pastors?

Saying “good-byes” are hard, but a routine part of life. My current pastor is retiring soon after a long ministry and I will miss him. A new senior pastor, whom I knew in what seems like a life-time ago, will join the long line of those who came before. I knew this pastor-to-be mostly through his wife and daughters. Sharon taught music and I was Shannon and Melody’s school principal. We felt a great loss when the Pickerills moved away.

So often we pass through life without giving proper thanks to those who have touched us so. To Brother Rudy Patton and to all my other pastors, I thank you from the depths of my soul for helping me to be a better person than I might have been.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #345

Nancy White Kelly

I wiped tears from a fallen warrior and stood in the gap, protecting the wounded one from further injury. To my surprise, recovery was immediate. The two who were engaged in brotherly combat were soon sharing their cookies with each other and their favorite stuffed animals, Lambie and Bear.

Yes, Buddy and I have been baby-sitting. Charlie and Tori took advantage of the Spring Break and headed to Minneapolis, leaving each set of grandparents to take turns filling their shoes. We performed admirably considering the oldest, Micah, age four, had strep throat. He was unusually quiet and preferred my lap to his toys. Two-year old Noah, a vocal live-wire, was a non-stop dynamo.

In spite of the fact Buddy and I have raised a dozen children, birth, adopted, and foster, we felt a little inept. We quickly learned that in those ensuing years since parenting youngsters ourselves, a slow leak has occurred in our energy supply.

That first day of our baby-sitting stint we had a couple of hours of welcomed sunshine. The boys and I took a trek into the near-by woods. They walked the fallen logs and I watched for snakes.
Then the weather turned horrendously windy and cold. From then on, we were housebound. The television went on the blink leaving the boys with no cartoons or news for Buddy and me.

Thankfully an ancient repertoire of kiddie songs, poems and stories returned to my sluggish memory. Micah, Noah and I played hide-and-seek, built domino towers, fished cards with a little suction cup on a pole and blew hundreds of soapy bubbles into the bathroom sink. Buddy was good for short spurts of entertainment, but primarily worked on the Charlie’s lawn-mower. He is far more comfortable with mechanics than little children.

It became quite clear why Charlie and Tori consider seven o’clock p.m. their favorite time on the clock. It is the beginning of the boys’ bedtime ritual. Baths. Stories. Songs and finally prayers, theirs’ and then mine: “Dear God, now I lay these children down to sleep. Please keep them in bed without a peep. Amen.”

I was overly optimistic when I packed for this baby-sitting gig. I brought along my laptop computer and some books to study in preparation for teaching Sunday school. What was I thinking? By the time the magic hour arrived in the early evening, I was more tired than the children. Who could concentrate when every adult-level brain cell had shut down from inactivity? I foolishly procrastinated with a silent promise. Tomorrow I’ll study, but a tomorrow, with time to spare, never came.

We survived our days with the grandchildren without any major incident. Unfortunately Buddy and I are now sick ourselves. Our grown kids got a needed break and we will recover. It's hard to not want to be part of this stage of our grandsons' lives. Before we blink they will be teenagers.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #344

Nancy White Kelly

Our son Charlie thinks his parents are ancient. He never really says so, but I can tell by little statements he makes now and then. He just turned 29. We did have him late in life, but decrepit we are not.

Funny how your prospective changes as you edge closer to the other end of life’s spectrum. Elderly is always ten years away. While Buddy is a dozen year older, I hardly consider myself a senior citizen. Yet, I must admit that the signs all point to the advent of my golden years.

It was with amusement that I discovered an official name for my presenting condition. The acronym is A.AA.D.D. which stands for: Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder. My symptoms usually start in the morning and are most prevalent if Buddy is away for some early event which is usually breakfast with his buddies.

I go to the kitchen to put the coffee kettle on and notice that my pot of petunias needs watering. While heading toward them with the water left in the kettle from the day before, I see that the cat bowl is empty. I put the kettle on the dining table to fill the cat bowl. It is then that I notice the unopened mail from yesterday. I stop to flip through the bills, tossing the excess envelopes and junk papers into the trash can which is full. I pull out the plastic liner, tie it up and start to the corner of the kitchen where the box of new trash bags resides. The phone rings and I place the garbage bag in the center of the kitchen floor.

After a brief conversation, I try to remember what I was doing. Oh, yes, the tea kettle. I find it on the dining table wondering why it was there instead of on the stove top. On the way to fill the kettle with fresh water, I see that the petunias are still wilted. On the way to attend to the flowers, I observe the still empty cat bowl. I place the kettle on the dining table and rattle the bag of cat feed. The cat races into the kitchen and lays at my feet in a position that says, “Scratch me, please.”

I put the bag down and rub his belly. When I return to an up-right position, I ask myself what I was doing. Oh, yes. The coffee kettle. There it is again in the center of the dining table. On the way to the sink to fill the kettle, I kick the bag of trash in the kitchen floor. That is no place for the trash, so I place the kettle on the table and take the bag outside to the dumpster. On the way, I notice that the yard flowers need watering. I connect the nozzle and drag the coiling green hose closer.

Good grief! I am still in my pajamas. My Mama taught me better.
I lay the hose amongst the flowers to continue that task as I head inside to find some clothes for the day. Passing through the kitchen I see the kettle on the table. I stop to retrieve it and observe that there is still no trash bag in the garbage can. Heading to the kitchen corner to get a new one, my eyes catch sight of the empty cat bowl again. This time I determine to stay on task.
After dressing, I fill the kettle with fresh water and put it on the gas stove eye. In the meanwhile, I head to the computer to check my email. A half hour later I catch a whiff of the melting plastic handle of the then dry kettle.

In spite of my slow start, I make my coffee and take my usual place in the den recliner and pick up the newspaper. Now, where are my reading glasses? Not a single pair is in sight, much less in reaching distance. I sit for a moment to reflect on the effort it would take to arise from the recliner and perform a search.

Inertia sets in. My eyelids get heavy and a brief morning nap ensues. When I awaken, I make my way to the kitchen sink to wash my coffee cup.

Oops. No water comes from the spout. How could that be? Of course. The well is empty from the water hose which I left unattended.
Bottom line: At the end of the day, there is still no food in the cat bowl, no liner in the trash can and the paper is still folded.
Maybe Charlie’s silent assessment of my senioritis is right. It does seem I am spending a lot of time these days thinking about the hereafter. What am I here after?

Don’t be too smug. Senility is sneaky and reveals itself in other subtle ways. Try this. Say "silk" five times. Now spell "silk." What do cows drink? If you said “milk,” then join the senile crowd.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #342

Nancy White Kelly

Buddy and I recently took a week-end trip to the Chattanooga area to attend a Coin Show. Sometimes we go as vendors and rent a table on the bourse. Other times we go to buy additional stock for our coin shop.

One restaurant that we frequent is well- known for its down-home food and atmosphere. On this trip Buddy and the waitress struck up an immediate rapport. Though her first name wasn’t really Sue, Buddy, in his usual comedic style, addressed her by this made-up moniker.

Sue had lightness in her voice like a young girl, but the creases around her eyes and the stars on her apron indicated she had been a worker in this restaurant chain for a good while. In-between stories of years long gone, Buddy forgot that he was supposed to be ordering breakfast. Finally the entertained waitress pretended to write Old Timers Special on the ticket and disappeared with a grin.
When Sue returned with a huge order quite to the liking of Buddy, she mentioned that she was a registered nurse prior to becoming a waitress. Her explanation was that she changed jobs because of “short-term memory problems.” I found the occupational transition a bit odd, but Buddy nodded enthusiastically, acknowledging that that fully related to her difficulty in remembering. Sue’s problem, however, was far more serious than advancing old-age.

Sue’s unwinding story, told between trips to our table with condiments and coffee refills, was moving. She related that a couple of years ago, while driving to the home of her sister, she noticed that her left foot felt “asleep.” Sue shook the foot vigorously and continued driving thinking that she must have positioned it at an odd angle on the floorboard. Moments later, Sue felt a tingling sensation creep up her leg. Minutes later her hip felt numb.

Sue steered the car into the parking area of a combination service station and convenience store. Being a nurse, she knew something was badly wrong. By the time she reached the counter, her speech was slurring.

The store workers were rude and told her to move along. “We don’t want drunks on our premises,” the cashier said.

Sue tried to explain, but the cashier motioned her away. In disbelief, Sue struggled back to her car and drove to the sister’s house.

Sue managed to open the car door one more time, but this time fell to the ground. She was having a stroke.

After several days in the hospital’s intensive care unit and a lengthy rehabilitation period, Sue regained use of her body. Her mind, she says, “is pretty slow now.”

Sue’s sister didn’t forget the terrible treatment of her sibling at the convenience store. She confronted the cashier and manager and asked if they remembered the stammering lady who asked for help. They smirked and the manager referred to Sue as the “drunk lady.” Sue’s sister explained that this so-called drunk lady wasn’t intoxicated, but was having a stroke. She calmly informed the store manager that everybody would know about their lack of compassion and assistance.

The newspaper was told the story. Afterwards, television and radio stations relayed the incident. Local customers were enraged and called for a boycott of the establishment. Eventually gas and store traffic became a trickle. The owners were forced out of business.

Maybe this wasn’t a happy ending, but a deserved one. The media is powerful and, in this case, championed the telling of Sue’s story.
Buddy finished his breakfast and slipped a sizeable tip into her smock pocket.

The Ye Old Coin Shop probably took a loss on this trip, but I am proud of my compassionate husband. He may have a short-term memory, but he has a long-term heart.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #341

Nancy White Kelly

If you see a fly on the wall, please don't reach for the swatter. It just might be me and I don't have that many lives left.

When folks allow me the privilege, I do enjoy taking a back seat and quietly watching and listening. One conclusion I have drawn is that everybody has an opinion. Here is mine.

It seems that the hobby of coin collecting is predominantly a man's world. You won't find many lady numismatists. The majority of the clients of Ye Old Coin Shop are senior-age men. I suppose the reason is because at the height of the coin collecting era, men tightly controlled the household finances while the wives raised the children and secretly stashed left-over grocery money in the sugar bowl.

Female pilots are still a novelty too though that is rapidly changing. Getting a pilot’s license isn’t rocket science. Know your clouds, read a few maps, study the FAA manual and practice for a while with a teacher. Graduating from Boy’s High seems to add points. Have you ever noticed what the front part of an airliner is called? The cockpit.

Collecting old coins for pleasure or profit isn’t football or rugby. Still it is considered a predominantly male hobby. It amuses me when customers assume that Buddy is the coin man and that I just bring his coffee.

My Buddy is a significant representative of the male gender, especially to me. If it were not for his physical labor and manly support, there would not be a coin shop. He, too, is a pilot and a much better one than I am. Just don't ask him the key date for the Walking Liberty half dollar or the closing price of gold today. Don't ask me either to wire your house or fix your dripping pipe. Common cents is more than copper Lincolns.

Just this week a friend whimsically remarked that things might have been different had there been three wise women instead of three wise men. For starters, they would have stopped and asked directions. They would have been on time. The wise women would probably have helped deliver the baby and, most certainly, would have brought more practical gifts.

The Living Lady is not a feminist. Far from it. Yet, I enjoy being a girl in a man’s world. Remember that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards… and in high heels.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #340

Nancy White Kelly

Buddy came close to being in the dog house recently. He lost my new trime. I had it all of about thirty minutes. Admittedly it was tiny, about the size of my little finger nail. But I’ve never had a trime before and was looking forward to putting it in my collection.
Let me explain what a trime is for those of you who aren’t into numismatics, the fancy term for coin collecting. “Tri” implies three, of course. And the “ime,” that is shortened from dime.

A trime is a rare American coin with a distinctive large C and the Roman numeral III displayed on the reverse side. It was minted between 1851 and 1873 and played a major role in determining the kind of money carried in purses today.

In 1851, the cost of postage for a letter was 5 cents if delivered within 500 miles. That seems like a bargain to me, but a nickel wasn’t easy to come by in those days. For economic stimulus reasons, the US lowered the postage stamp to 3 cents. This caused a problem.

The common money in use at this time of steam-driven transportation was gold. Granted, there were copper cents and half cents circulating, but that was primarily in the major eastern cities. Coppers were immensely unpopular.

In the mid-1800’s, the average worker’s daily wage was paid with a $1 gold piece. According to experts, that compares to wages of a tad more than $100 today. Sounds good, but imagine trying to buy a loaf of bread if the smallest coin you had was worth $100 and it was nearly impossible to make change for the difference.

A serious monetary crisis developed during that era of history related to the gold standard. The need for silver coinage was established and laws enacted. Then came the introduction of the silver trime, the smallest American legal tender ever made. When 1853 ended, there were plenty of these shiny trimes to satisfy demand for change. That satisfaction didn’t last long. A diversity of coinage was on the horizon.

While the trime’s monetary value today isn’t as great as its abbreviated history, I was delighted to have one as a conversation piece.

The trime may have ended the one of many monetary crises of the
1800’s, but for a moment in 2009, it started a silent flame of angry thoughts. How could Buddy be so irresponsible as to lose a coin between the shop and the house? After all, it is less than fifty feet from the coin shop’s door to our den.

This incident began last week when a young customer came into the coin shop with the trime in hand. He also had three other small coins of foreign origin. As with most customers, the man wanted to know if he had anything of great value.

It wasn’t too difficult to identify what he had. All four of the coins could have fit inside a single, large thimble. Considering that the coins were not in good condition, I offered him a fair price which he eagerly accepted.

After he left, Buddy came into the shop to see the new acquisitions as he had been viewing the transaction on the security camera. Because of the accumulation of grime, he could not read much of the writing and kindly offered to clean them up some.

I agreed though this is generally a numismatic “no-no.” Cleaning collectible, old coins devalues them greatly and can be easily discerned by a knowledgeable collector or dealer. In this case, however, a gentle washing would do no harm. They had obviously traveled many miles and were dirty from the journey.

It was near closing time for the Ye Old Coin Shop. I quickly placed the four tiny coins in a small folder and handed them to Buddy. Off he went to start the cleaning project. A few minutes later I could smell the familiar vinegary fumes.

“How many coins did you give me?” he asked.

“Four,” I replied, wondering why he asked.

Buddy moaned at my answer. All he had in the pan was three. Sure enough, the one coin that was missing was the trime. Apparently he had dropped it somewhere amidst grass and rocks. He combed the drive-way and the grass until it was too dark to continue. The next morning he was up at day-break with the metal detector. Alas, the trime could not be found.

My angry thoughts never became hurtful words, but I half-teasingly threatened to banish Buddy to the dog house. Rocky, our German shepherd, is not into sharing his food and probably would not cotton to having his master share his sleeping quarters.

Maybe the trime will show up again. Maybe not. But I quickly concluded that it wasn’t worth hassling my main, best man.

Back in the 1970’s, I lost my gold, solitaire engagement ring while washing dishes. Buddy took the drain apart, but we never recovered it.

That loss registers much higher on the Richter scale of marriage than the lost trime. Though disappointed, Buddy never chastised me for my carelessness. I have always appreciated his forgiveness because he worked long and hard for the money to buy that ring. I only had that trime for a few minutes.

A silver trime is only a trime. A husband who puts up with me for nearly forty-four years is a diamond.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #339
Nancy White Kelly

Martin Luther King’s birthday is my benchmark that January is half over. My friend Pat was born on MLK’s birthday. I never forget the date of her birthday though she has absolutely no genetic relationship to his family. Pat, who taught kindergarten when I was principal, wasn’t a racist at all. She loved all children, red, yellow, black or white. She never marched in Selma, Atlanta, or anywhere else on King’s behalf. That was not her style. Her only connection to Martin Luther King was that she was born the same day that he was in the old South. Because of that, Pat gets the day off work as a bonus. There is even a parade downtown.

Though Pat and I have seldom seen each other since our family moved to the mountains in the early 90’s, I think of her often. We became good friends. However, she never took the liberty of calling me Nancy. It was always Dr. Kelly, which is what the school staff called me.

Pat’s sense of humor is notorious. She knew how to short-sheet a bed at retreats. Once I paid her back by putting clear plastic wrap under the toilet seat lid. Probably Pat is still up to her pranks which included moving a large, black plastic rat to unusual places. If the event was formal or sacred, the better.

Pat could take a joke too. One April I gave her an urgent note to phone Ellie Font immediately. The number, of course, was to the Atlanta zoo.

Pat took a special interest in Bobby, the foster child we adopted at the age of ten. Charlie, our biological son, got plenty of attention as he was bright, played the piano extremely well for a child, and had an adult-sized vocabulary long before starting school. Bobby, who is the same age as Charlie, came to us at the age of five unable to count to five.

To Pat, he was the “under-child” and she made it her goal to make him feel special. One year she planned a surprise birthday party just for him even though she had a son of her own who was one year older.

Pat also found ways to make me feel special too. Just recently I discarded the pink and white, hand-crocheted afghan that she made me. I loved that afghan and toted it everywhere when I traveled. But, like a worn, beloved baby blanket, it had seen its best days and needed to be relegated to the past.

Time has passed swiftly. Pat is now a great-grandmother. Bobby, now grown, has two children of his own. Both have generous, tender hearts.

Bobby gave us a six-month -old German shepherd puppy for Christmas. Rocky is a nice dog. We have been busy making the house and yard safe, not only for Rocky, but for our twenty cockatiels as well as for Sam the cat.

Buddy bought a huge dog house that previously belonged to a pet goat. I found a large chain-linked pen to use temporally while we wait for warmer weather to fence the backyard. The Kelly den now has a huge crate which is Rocky’s sleeping quarters at night. One plus is that Rocky, comes from a long line of genuine police dogs. He will provide additional security for the Ye Old Coin Shop next door to our home.

I gave Rocky his final set of distemper shots, but he still had some veterinarian needs. I called the vet we have previously used, but his office charge, plus the heart-worm test and rabies shot was too high for our budget these days.

A church friend told us that there was a new lady vet in a Blairsville. She couldn’t remember the name. It just happened that I found a business card in a restaurant that week with a lady doctor’s name on it: Melissa G., D.M.D.


The next morning I called the phone number on the plain little card. A receptionist answered.

“This is Nancy Kelly. I was wondering what you would charge to check our young German shepherd for heart worms and give him a rabies shot.”

There was a long pause before she replied rather whimsically.

“Maybe we could check his teeth for you.”

I responded in puzzlement. “His teeth?” Dollars signs flashed in my head.

“Yes,” she replied. “Dr. Geesling isn’t a veterinarian. She is a dentist.”

It was one of those spontaneous laughs that lingers on and on. We both finally caught our breaths. Tears ran down my cheeks. A good belly-laugh can be a great eye wash.

Happy Birthday, Pat. Wish you could have been here.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #338

Nancy White Kelly

The year of 2008 was a Leap Year. Buddy and I would like to have leaped past it as it didn’t turn out to be such a good one. Not that we aren’t grateful for obvious blessings.

We are thankful that both our sons have decent, steady jobs. Our daughter-in-law made it home from a tour in Iraq with all her limbs attached. Our four grandchildren are healthy and happy.

Economically, it was a hard year. Like many others, we became thriftier by necessity. The hike in Social Security would have been nicer if our health insurance premiums didn’t jump larger than the increase. That twenty percent rise in electrical rates was astronomical and hard to absorb. Then we all know about last year’s $4 a gallon gas prices.

Almost daily, near-desperate customers drop by our Ye Old Coin shop at Byers Creek and Southern in Young Harris. Both young and old spread out gold and silver coins, tokens and old paper money on the glass counter. Sometimes they bring bigger items too, but we explain that we are a coin shop, not a pawn shop. We recommend Southland Pawn in Hiawassee for shotguns and jewelry. The owner, Jerry Franks, has a great reputation for being fair and honest.

More than once we have provided food to our customers instead of the meager cash some collections would bring. Old doesn’t always mean valuable. Dealers must also consider rarity and condition.
Deal or no deal, Buddy and I are happy to be givers rather than the givees. Recently some friends who have a small herd of cattle unexpectedly gave us half of a cow. It wasn’t barley and fishes, but that beef has fed several families in at least three states.

The year 2008 went out with a whimper…literally. The Living Lady wasn’t about to let the New Year ring in without a crowning adventure. With a cancer port removal, a triple hernia repair, knee replacement surgery, and a heart attack all in the last quarter of 2008, you would think that I had sufficiently paid my medical dues for at least the eighth year of the new millennium.

But, alas, fluky accidents lurk when you least expect them. While several friends were anxiously anticipating a possum dropping from the sky, Buddy and I smugly lay in bed, quietly reading and relishing the fact we wouldn’t be encountering any revelers on the highways.

As I carefully cut out a couple of articles from an old hardback to share with my up-coming Sunday school class. Buddy flipped channels with the remote. That is his unspoken signal that he is ready to sleep. Tired from a long day too, I placed the straight-edge razor blade inside the book to hold my place for another session.
I sat up on my side of the bed looking for an uncluttered spot to place the book. Unbeknownst to me, that stealthy razor blade slid from inside the book into the bedroom carpet, lodging itself in a blade-up position. I sunk my foot and full weight into the vertical edge of the sharp steel. Dark blood saturated the rug.

Buddy darted toward me, instinctively grabbing two white socks from his dresser drawer to apply pressure. My crutches, which were used while recuperating from the knee surgery, leaned against the wall.
In one swell sweep, Buddy grabbed those crutches, my purse, our coats, and the house and car keys. Almost as an after-thought, he laid it all down briefly to replace his pajama pants.

Once inside the car, my attentive husband assumed a different personality. I assured Buddy that I was not having a baby and it was not necessary to drive 80 miles an hour with the flashers blinking. He pretended to not hear me.

For now, he was Walter Mitty, the ambulance driver, on a life and death mission. Two hours and a few stitches later, Buddy and I were back home in our supposedly safe bed.

Froggie may have went a’courtin’, but the Living Lady went a’ limping into 2009. To paraphrase Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Year, “I shan't think about Leap Year today. I'll think about it tomorrow…in 2012.”