Friday, December 30, 2011

Nancy White Kelly

Christmas, 2011, check. New Year’s Eve, 2011, check. New Year, 2012, in progress.

Buddy and I know we are getting old by the way we welcome each new year. When we first married and were very much younger, New Year’s Eve was a time to count the hours down. Most times we did it in church by eating and fellowshipping until near mid-night and then moved to the auditorium to pray in the next year. We don’t do that anymore and miss it. That might be the only event that would draw us from our comfortable beds. I know the often expressed reasons from our generation. “We don’t drive at night. “or “Too many drunks on the road.” For sure, we don’t have to be in church to pray, but it was nice to be together with friends of one accord.

 I keep reading and hearing that 2012 is to be a cataclysmic year. With the 2012 phenomenon spreading across the globe, each day brings a steady stream of emails, postings, books and movies, all containing at least an hint of negativity.

I am not a pessimist. Maybe the world will end as we know it. If so, there is another world and, if prepared, a much better one. That’s not a terrible scenario. If I am hinting at religious faith, I don’t mean too. Let me shout it. There is life after death. All that is within me clings to that belief.

Beetles fans will remember that George Harrison sung a song from his album, ‘All things Must Pass” entitled “What is Life?” As a single, it hit the top 10 immediately. The back side of that record was, “My Sweet Lord.” Surprised?

What will 2012 bring? Life? Yes, at least for us. Buddy and I are expecting our next grandchild in late spring. Death? Maybe. We have many friends and relatives who are aged or seriously ill.

No doubt there will be happenings this new year that are awe-inspiring, miraculous, tragic and sublime. Humans through-out history have lived and died through similar highs and lows. The year 2012 could be no less or no more than other year. When 2013 arrives, we will have travelled a road that was the start or dead-end for many.

James 4:14 asks and then answers, "For what is your life? It is even as a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanishes away"

So how do we manage today? Live in the moment, grateful for any opportunity to do good before our “poof.”

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Nancy White Kelly
It would have been a good week if Buddy didn’t have a cold and we didn’t have this peculiar smell in our house. Buddy is like many husbands in that when he is sick he behaves worse than a toddler. He is just plain grumpy and whiney. I have to put up with him for seven days while he blows and blows, coughs and coughs, and clears his throat with the most annoying volume.
Admittedly, I would not make a good nurse as I am unsympathetic to complainers. Good grief! It is only a cold. It’s not terminal. Get a life.
I don’t care for a lot of doting when I am sick so what kind of man did I marry? The most sympathetic husband in the world who can’t do enough for me no matter how minor the illness. If I have a rash, he dabs it with medicine three times a day. If my temperature is even a smidgen above 98.6, he brings me wet, cold rags, fixes canned chicken soup for breakfast and insists I see a doctor. Not a general practitioner. It needs to be a pulmonary specialist.
Buddy and I are living testimony to the fact that opposites attract. He is a Mississippi country boy and I am a highly educated Jill of all trades. He brags about being the only boy in fifth grade who had a driver’s license. At last count, I held six licenses of some type.
Thankfully we share a sense of humor though I am Abbott and he is Costello. You younger readers would better understand the analogy with living people like Jim Carey and Betty White.
Back to the Buddy and that smell. For once I found one thing about his cold for which to be grateful. He didn’t seem to notice that obnoxious smell.
This strange odor permeated our house for days. I burned candles, opened doors, dug into cabinets and drawers, and examined all closets trying to locate the source of that odd smell.
When I stubbed my big toe my eyes caught something peculiar in the floor vent. How on earth did a piece of old onion get in the bedroom vent? I threw it in the garbage and glanced at the vent in the kitchen. Then in the den. Then in the bathroom. Every one of those metal vents had a piece of raw onion forced into it.
I immediately knew the real culprit: Buddy the Gullible.
A few weeks ago he read me an Internet article about the therapeutic value of onions. One variance of the theory says that if you cut off both ends of an onion and put it in a jar next to a sick person, the onion would turn black by drawing bacteria and viruses from the air.
It is true that in 1919, 40 million people died from a flu epidemic. Supposedly a doctor came upon a farmer whose household was entirely healthy. The difference was that the wife had placed a peeled onion in a dish in every room. The doctor placed the onion under a microscope and found the flu virus in the onion which allegedly absorbed the bacteria.
A more recent story told about an Arizona hairdresser who, in the midst of a flu epidemic, hung raw onion around her shop. None of her staff got sick.
Buddy knew I would never let raw onion sit around the house. What would the neighbors think? I checked it out on Snopes, the Internet verifier of such tales that go viral. You can read the lengthy response too if you want to know even more.
The Snopes article ends with this pontifical statement: “If you choose to place a few onions around your home, the downside would be that your nearest and dearest will regard you as somewhat eccentric.”
Need I say more?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #410
Nancy White Kelly

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Our dinner was wonderful. Last year I cooked. This year Charlie’s in-laws did.

Tori’s parents retired last year and moved close-by. We have become good friends so our holidays have evolved into clan gatherings.

Charlie’s wife, Tori, is expecting again, a secret I promised to keep until confirmed. They have now heard that miraculous tick-tock and are hoping for a girl this time. They have two boys, Micah, 6, and Noah, 4.

Tori has had significant morning sickness, more like 24/7, and is porting an I.V. of anti-nausea medication to combat the serious up-chucking. She has already spent two stays in the hospital. Hopefully all will clear up soon and the middle trimester of the pregnancy will be much better for her than the first.

Tori did make it for Thanksgiving dinner which was a fun affair for us all. Well, not exactly for me. I woke up with excruciating pain in my back and right hip. As long as I laid flat, I was fine. The effort of getting on my feet was torturous. What could I have done in my sleep on a rainy night? Nothing I could think of.

Stubbornly, I insisted on being a part of Thanksgiving dinner, one of the highlights of our year. I paid a price. Getting in and out of the car was torment.

The Living Lady tried not to spoil the teasing and bantering that accompanies such family gatherings, but nobody could ignore the two elephants in the room: Tori with her I.V. bag and my piercing groan and grimace when I stood.

Buddy and I returned home late in the afternoon. I headed straight for the bed. Minutes later Buddy appeared in the bedroom doorway. He was pale, sweaty and in obvious pain, quite contrary to his comedic, hypochondriac personality.

He explained that after moving the car under the carport, a feisty neighbor dog charged at him. Buddy picked up a small rock and slung it toward the dog in an attempt to send him home. Pain raced through his right shoulder. He said he almost passed out.

Just when Buddy needed me, I could be of no help. My back pain was screaming for attention too. Two married senior citizens, painfully incapacitated on the same day is no small matter. Growing old is not for sissies.

Being a holiday week-end, our regular physicians were enjoying their families. We doctored ourselves with pills from the medicine cabinet. We both moaned through the night, occasionally laughing at the irony.

Today we still hurt, but maybe a tad less than on Thanksgiving Day. Life goes on. No matter what, we still have much to give thanks for which reminds me of the time I was teaching kindergarten many years ago.

I asked the five-year-olds to draw a picture of what they were thankful for. I walked around the tables, praising each of the pictures. Luke’s drawing was different. His turkey had a huge black X heavily scribbled on the turkey’s beautifully colored wings.

My curiosity took hold. “Tell me about your picture, Luke. What are you thankful for?”

The boy looked at me in disbelief. How could his teacher be so ignorant of its meaning?

“Mrs. Kelly, I am thankful that I am NOT a turkey.”

Me, too, Luke.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #409

Nancy White Kelly

There is a Ginny Winder in our front yard. Buddy built it recently for our grandkids. Unless you were born in the yon, pre-computer days, you probably haven’t a clue as to what a Ginny is.

Buddy and I have been amazed at the number of people who have pull into our driveway and inquired about our Ginny, modified slightly with a plastic chairs on each end. The original had sticks for grip handles.

This outdoor toy was a common yard adornment in our day, just like a hanging tire or rope swing. My dad frequently made us toys that took knee, arm, or leg power to propel. No batteries were needed. That was a good thing since we could not have afforded them anyway.

All it takes to make a Ginny is a sturdy tree stump and a long piece of lumber. Similar to a see-saw, children sit on opposite ends of the board. A third person controls its horizontal swirl with a repeating shoves. When he tires of pushing, one of the riders dismounts and trades places. We burned a lot of energy and calories while having fun.

I remember other childhood activities like marbles, hop-scotch, and Red Rover. However, not all my time was spent playing. I had chores.

As the only girl, I got clothesline duty which, according to my mother and grandmother, had to be done a certain way. The rules for our three clothes lines were unwritten, but indisputable.

Clothes were to be hung in a certain order. All the white were hung first. Shirts were hung by the tails. In order to hide our undies from the busybodies and peeping Toms, the towels and sheets were put on the outside lines.

Sub-zero winter didn’t matter. Clothes still had to be hung outside where they would quickly freeze dry. Many a wintery day I brought in clothes that were as stiff as the proverbial board.

For efficiency, the clothes were strung along so that items did not need two pins. The second pin shared the edge of the next item on the line.

An email friend sent a poem last week that stirred my nostalgia for clothes lines. Enjoy.

A clothesline was a news forecast
To neighbors passing by,
There were no secrets you could keep
When clothes were hung to dry.
It also was a friendly link
For neighbors always knew,
If company had stopped on by
To spend a night or two.
For then you'd see the "fancy sheets"
And towels upon the line;
You'd see the "company table cloths"
With intricate designs.
The line announced a baby's birth
From folks who lived inside -
As brand new infant clothes were hung,
So carefully with pride!
The ages of the children could
So readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed,
You'd know how much they'd grown!
It also told when illness struck,
As extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too,
Haphazardly were strung.
It also said, "Gone on vacation now"
When lines hung limp and bare.
It told, "We're back!" when full lines sagged,
with not an inch to spare!
New folks in town were scorned upon
If wash was dingy and gray,
As neighbors carefully raised their brows,
And looked the other way.
But clotheslines now are of the past,
For dryers make work much less.
Now what goes on inside a home
Is anybody's guess!

Not only are the clothes lines gone from our lives. Many of our neighbors have passed too. They went to their graves without ever knowing about Facebook, blogs and fancy phones.

Some would argue that these are the best of days with all our electronic gizmos. Not me. I would like to go back to the days of clotheslines and Ginny Winders.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #408

Nancy White Kelly

Buddy and I have recently returned from visiting our siblings. All live in the Memphis area. I have three brothers, one older, two younger, and a sister who was born the spring I graduated from high school. Buddy has an older brother and a sister. Two of my brothers are widowers and among the jobless. Three of our brothers are not in good health.

During the long drive, Buddy and I talked about bucket lists, those things you would like to accomplish before you “kick the bucket.”

The term “bucket list” was popularized by a 2008 movie with that name. It was a comedic drama about two terminally ill men who go on a world-wide trip with a wish list of things they wanted to do before they died.

I can identify. Probably you can also. If I were to die today, I have no regrets…a few wishes maybe, but nothing more. I have lived longer and better than I deserve.
There are some things I’d like to do for the first time and a few experiences I’d like to do again.

On this trip home, Charles Lester and I took a leisurely horse ride on his farm, just the two of us. We are four years apart in age and share memories of an impoverished, yet rich childhood.

I am glad there wasn’t a movie camera around when Charles struggled to heave me onto the saddle. My old knees don’t bend like they used to. We rode off into the sunset, laughing and talking about old times. The saddle slid sideways and I spent some of the time riding at a 45 degree angle.

Charles Lester and I are the oldest of the five siblings. I am labeled as the smartest. He is correctly labeled as the craziest.

Our parents never knew about the time he took me on a midnight ride when we were teenagers, not on horses, but on a high-powered motorcycle that belonged to his friend. I hung on for dear life as he sped the rainy streets. Helmets? No. I didn’t even have on shoes.

It took a while for me to forgive him for waking me up one night with a realistic, wiggly rubber snake the size of a python. He chased me throughout the house and out the back door. Fourteen-year-olds don’t usually have heart attacks, but I think I had one then.

I probably had another one the moon-lit night Charles drug me along on a frog gigging adventure through dark Mississippi swamps full of wiggly things that don’t croak.

None of the above is on my bucket list. Instead, they are on my unforgettable “never to do again” list.

Most folks, who have bucket lists either mentally or literally, would divide their unfinished dreams into categories. I would have one for travel. It would be nice to return to Bermuda where Buddy and I own property.

When we honeymooned there in 1965, we buried a long-necked coke bottle in the shifting sand. We have often wondered if it stayed on the island or drifted to Neverland. If you find such a bottle with a note pledging ever-lasting love, please return it to the senders.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #407
Nancy White Kelly

Go to any town, big or small, and it appears that every business is either buying gold or giving flu shots. I got a phone call from my neighborhood grocery store reminding me that flu shots are available on aisle number one.

An appointment with my cancer doctor was only two days away so I decided to wait for him to give that shot to me. After battling serious cancer off and on since the mid-80’s, I still must regularly check-in for claustrophobic CAT exams, vampirish blood work, and radiating bone scans.

You would think I’d be used to all those tests by now. If anything, I dread these supposedly routine visits more than ever. You just never know when cancer, with a renewed vengeance, will again rear its ugly head ready to race to the finish line. I don’t fear death; I just dread the journey.

Thankfully I have been stable for many months. Bad memories linger. On a treatment day about three years ago, my doctor came into the chemotherapy room, gave me a darting glance, and hurriedly held an impromptu meeting with all the available nurses. Little did I suspect they were talking about me. Within an hour I was in a hospital bed and near death’s door with total kidney failure. Miraculously I recovered and was released from the chains of dialysis in less than six months.
Every time my oncologist sees me now, he seems puzzled. How could somebody with Stage 4 cancer survive two major bouts with the big C which included a stint with hospice? He quizzes me about health food I might be taking.

“Zip, zero, nada.”

Without fail, my smiling doctor points a finger toward heaven. In the early days I tried every herb and radical diet imaginable. During the intervening years I have taken every type chemo for my type cancer available. I have had so much radiation to my spine that I glow at night like a Halloween skeleton.

More than a Living Lady, I am a thriving lady. My oncologist sees so much illness and death that he is quick to tell me that I am a rare bright spot in his practice. He sees few long-term metastatic breast cancer survivors, especially after the disease has coursed its way through bones and lungs. It is as if my cancer has stopped in its tracks. The title of this column should be Journal of a Living Miracle.

The word “stable” is a wonderful word when you are in this battle. I don’t know why God chooses to prolong one life and not another. I am not more special or deserving than others who have fought or are fighting this tough opponent.

Today my doctor wanted me to have a flu shot. No problem.

A teen-age nursing assistant, obviously in training, appeared with a syringe. I don’t know who was more intimidated, the shot giver or the shot “givee.” My hope was that I wasn’t her first patient ever.

The young girl dabbed some alcohol on my upper arm and pieced the skin with the needle, not with a quick jab, but with a slow methodical push. It made me wish I had taken my grocer up with his offer on aisle number one.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #406

Nancy White Kelly

I never met him personally, but a man named Peter once said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee.” After making this statement, a lame man was healed and walked again.

While this quote is from the Bible and not the mantra of our Ye Old Coin Shop, we can relate. Buying and selling gold and silver as well as numismatic coins and supplies is how Buddy and I supplement our retirement income. What we sell as merchants is simply store stock to us.

In the course of a month, especially in the winter, we meet people in dire circumstances who need kindness in word and deed. Like Peter, we try to be aware of those who are sick or hungry and respond accordingly.

There has been quite frenzy in the precious metals market lately and not much confidence in the paper dollar. The United States can legally print as much money as it likes whenever it wants; if we citizens did that, we’d be serving time in a federal prison.

I believe there is a huge difference between profit and greed. Profit is not a profane word. Greed, however, on my morality scale is worse than profanity. I have met my share of greedy numismatists. The worst ones are those who prey on the desperately poor or widows.

Recently I had occasion to witness a transaction between an elderly lady and a despicable dealer at a coin show. I am not a “goody two-shoes.” I am wearing white sandals today and it is after Labor Day. However, I can be quite good with a verbal boot.

Visiting a coin show in a nearby city, I observed an older lady struggling to carry a heavy bag. She stood at the entrance to the large amphitheater-like center and seemed over-whelmed by the enormous crowd and scores of coin dealers lined up a dozen rows. She was obviously unaccustomed to a bourse area and stood still for several minutes, trying to determine where to start.

Finally the frail lady mounted the courage to engage conversation with a dealer near the front. Within moments she spilled out the contents of her sack onto his table. I quickly recognized some old gold coins and hundreds of silver coins referred to in the trade as junk silver. These are coins minted before 1965 which contain 90% silver.

I edged closer as if the next in line. The calculator in my head easily valued the cache as worth at least $3000. I listened as the man ran his hands through the coins as if they were truly junk. He commented about their circulated condition and low value, not “worthy of serious collecting.”

True, the silver coins weren’t in fine or newly minted condition, but with silver at near $40 an ounce, this wasn’t chunk change. The old gold coins did have numismatic value, but he down-played their significance as well.

“Nobody is collecting Gaudens anymore,” he said. My jaw dropped in disbelief.

The little woman asked what he thought they would be worth. He shrugged his shoulder and said unenthusiastically, “I’ll give you a four hundred for the whole lot.”

She mulled the offer. I was caught in a dilemma. In the coin trading world, it is considered unethical for a dealer to disrupt another dealer while in a transaction with a customer. In fact, it is an infraction of the ethical code of conduct. Yet, my personal world doesn’t stand for robbing the vulnerable.

I interrupted before she responded to the dealer. “That sure is a fine collection of coins you have there, Mam. You must have been collecting for years.”

The dealer frown turned into a scowl. The soft-spoken lady shook her head and said that her recently deceased husband had been the collector.

“I don’t know nothing about coins,” she continued, “but figured they might be worth enough to pay a past-due utility bill.”

The squinty-eyed dealer stood silent.

“Mam,” I said with a wink. “I do know something about coins and think you should check around with several dealers before accepting your first offer.”

“Sure,” the dealer said politely while casting a sinister eye in my direction.
The lady thanked me for the advice and turned back to the dealer.

“I think I will ask some others first,” she said as she gathered her coins from the dealer’s table. She thanked me and I turned away only to hear the dealer offer her an additional fifty dollars.

What the outcome was I can’t say. I breached professional etiquette and could have been booted from the show had I been there as a dealer.

Like Peter, “Silver and gold” had I none that day, but what advice I had, I gave. Hopefully she walked away.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #405

Nancy White Kelly

Never say never. Three years ago Buddy and I had an enormous yard sale. It was a daunting task gathering all of that stuff, pricing it, and dealing with obnoxious customers who weren’t happy unless the item was a quarter. I publically proclaimed that we would never again have a yard sale, garage sale, porch sale, tag sale or anything similar for the rest of our lives. I broke my word. We had a yard sale last Friday and Saturday.

The singing fish was the first item designated for disposal before procrastination set in. Buddy and I consistently postponed the sale for the slightest of reasons. Neither of us was eager to hassle and haggle.

For six months we moved more and more stuff to the porch. When the singing fish suddenly changed his song from “Take me to the River” to “Fish or cut bait,” we decided it was time for the sale.

Buddy and I waited until nearly dark to put out the yard sale signs on Thursday evening. There was a car in our driveway before we made it home. I hadn’t even had my first cup of coffee the next morning before there was a banging on the door. I looked at the clock. Good grief, Charlie Brown. It wasn’t even seven o’clock.

The early bird shopper asked Buddy if we had any cast iron for sale. It was good for her that we didn’t. She might have been crowned with a skillet for starting our day so abruptly.

Somehow this family of two has accumulated more junk in thirty-six months than we did before the last sale. For weeks we shifted unwanted items to our narrow, yet long front porch. Ironically, many of the sale items waiting to be bought had been purchased at somebody else’s yard sale.

For all our effort we collected a total of $150. It took three pick-up truck loads to deliver the remainders to local thrift stores. In his haste, Buddy accidentally took our new $80 dog crate along with the left-overs. It was on the porch, under a table, and clearly labeled “Not for sale.” What happened to the sign, I don’t know. What happened to Buddy? I plead the fifth.

When I returned to the store to reclaim the new dog cage, it was already sold. So, bottom line, we made $70 for the six months and two days if you don’t count the truck gas and the celebration meal we had over our successful yard sale.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #404

Nancy White Kelly

Buddy doesn’t talk to me until after ten in the morning. He tells folks that until then I am a few French fries short of a Happy Meal. It’s true. I need a strong cup of coffee and a couple of hours before being mentally sharper than a basketball.

My guess is that this ole body of mine is getting revenge. For years I had to be first at the school to unlock the big steel doors for the teachers. It didn’t matter if it were cold, hot, rainy, snowy or that I was foggy.

Thankfully God doesn’t depend on my morning speed. He knows that in spite of my slow start, I try to get all my daily tasks done before midnight. In fact, God knows all about me. You, too. Read about it in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee.”

When you were a child, did you ever lie on the ground, stare at the clouds and ponder life’s big questions? Recently a friend emailed me a science commentary that stirred my fuzzy brain and strengthened my faith as well.

Mathematics was never my strong suite, but the study made me wonder. If calculable, what would God’s Hypothetically, maybe something like 777 to the 7 millionth power into infinity.

We will never know. Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD “

Have you ever seen a potato bug? They hatch in 7 days. Buddy and I used to raise cockatiels, parakeets and even canaries. Canary eggs hatch in 14 days. We now have hens. Those eggs hatch in 21 days.

Notice the pattern. Ducks hatch in 28 days. Parrot eggs hatch in 42 days. We have raised them all. What do these eggs and others have in common? They all are divisible by seven, the number of days in a week.

I was never was a whiz at physics or geometry, but do remember what a fulcrum is. The horse rises from the ground on its two front legs first. A cow rises from the ground with its two hind legs first. In the wisdom of God, he gave the quadrupled elephant four legs (fulcrums) that all bend forward. This massive animal couldn’t rise from the ground on just two.

Walk in the garden and notice more of God’s perfect handiwork. Observe a watermelon and its stripes. Each watermelon has an even number of stripes on the rind. Open an orange and there is an even number of segments.

Yesterday I shucked a couple of ears of my generous neighbor’s corn. Each ear of corn had an even number of rows. After a short pass through boiling water, Buddy and I enjoyed every kernel. Thank you, God, for perfect summer corn.
Though we don’t grow wheat in the mountains, observe a stalk when traveling west. Again, you will notice an even number of grains.

Okay, so maybe you don’t travel by wagon train any longer. Surely you go to the grocery store. Look at a bunch of those yellow bananas on the produce aisle. Starting on the lowest row of the banana bunch, you will count an even number. Each row decreases by one. There is the pattern. One row has an even number and the next an odd.

The storms on the East coast have garnered our attention lately. Did you know that those waves of the sea roll on shore at a count of 26 to the minute no matter what the weather?

Some dear friends live on Chatuge Lake, host fabulous fish fries, and maintain a beautiful yard even in their late sunset years. A famous botanist named Linnaeus said that if he had a conservatory containing the right type of soil, moisture and temperature, he could tell the time of day or night by the blossoms that were open and those that were closed. Our friends don’t need a clock.

I may not have the brains or wit of a tit-mouse in the early morning hours, but I don’t worry. My omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God neither sleeps nor slumbers.
That insurance is guaranteed non-cancellable! I am in good hands with the Almighty.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #403

The serious column I wrote last brought more response from Sentinel readers than any other I have written in the last twelve years. Even today while breakfasting with Buddy at McDonald’s, I was approached by a man who commented on its bold truthfulness. If missed, you can read it at, column 402.

It has been a struggle these last few days to decide whether to continue writing now as a serious pundit or return to a sometimes humorous style of reporting daily living. My feeling is that if a survey were taken, most would feel that there is already an abundance of pundits in the media and few who try to bring a smile. Regardless of opinion, I must today write about water- boarding and murder.

Besides our rude rooster who announces morning, Buddy and I have three female chickens. Their names are Henney, Penney, and a pet hen I used to call “Not Inney.”
Not Inney finally got a name change when she too began giving us an egg a day. We looked forward to baby chicks during the early summer, but none of the hens cared a cluck about sitting. In desperation, I dug out our ancient incubator. The instructions were lost long ago, so I had to guess at the temperature and humidity settings.

Son Charlie and I both have new IPads with cameras, so grandson Micah was able to watch the hatching of Spunky#1 in real time. He was excited because the first chick born was promised to him.

Unfortunately, out of the dozen eggs, only two chicks hatched. Spunky was first. The other one died within an hour of hatching. From my former hobby of raising cockatiels, I learned how to hand-feed birds with a syringe or dropper. I did this quite successfully with over a hundred cockatiel chicks and no fatalities. With hand-raised, exotic birds, you can push food or water down the side of their throats, filling their crops, until they are able to eat on their own. It seemed logical to me that what was good for the cockatiels would be equally good for a Rhode Island Red baby chicken.

At first I placed a drop of water on baby Spunky’s beak, allowing the water to drop into her gaping beak. This was obviously an unwanted hydration attempt. She vigorously shook each drop off the edge of her beak. Yet, her annoyingly chirps continued non-stop.

Figuring she had to be hungry and thirsty, I took the syringe full of water and tried again. Spunky still wanted no part of it. I pushed the resistant plunger with a tad more pressure. All at once the water gushed down.

Surprisingly Spunky relaxed. She rested perfectly still in my hand. My elation lasted just seconds when it became obvious that the water had not gone into Spunky’s belly but into her windpipe. Spunky was dead. I had accidentally water-boarded her.

Spunky was guilty of nothing. I was guilty of second-degree murder. The least I could do was to attempt artificial respiration. My thumb pressed rhythmically and gently on her breast. It was to no avail. Within minutes she was cold and stiff. I was sweaty and nauseous.

Determined to get it right, I gathered another dozen eggs and have waited patiently for 21 days. Yesterday, Spunky #2 hatched. After her fuzzy exterior dried in the incubator, I placed her in a make-shift brooder and sprinkled tiny grains of mash on the floor along with a jar lid of water. Minutes ago, a sibling hatched and will soon join Spunky.

If all goes well, maybe I have been redeemed.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #402

Nancy White Kelly

The Journal of a Living Lady started out as commentary of my journey with serious metastatic cancer. Though currently stable, it is a battle I am still fighting. My body has had all the recommended radiation and chemotherapy that exists. The only reason I am still alive is that God still has purpose for my life.

Many years ago, during the Vietnam War, I wrote a weekly column for another paper. It wasn’t at all like this column. It was a personal analysis of American problems and especially the war.

I was and am no authority on warfare, economics or injustices, but the column gained a following. One of the essays won a top journalism award from the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge. I appeared on television to receive a very nice medallion which is stored away somewhere.

Why do I tell you this? To garner a little credibility for what I am about to write.
In the last three decades I have purposely avoided writing negatively about the state of our nation. As a diversion to the depressing headlines and national pundits, I try to use light humor to depict everyday life of an almost ordinary family

But, today, I want to take this newspaper pulpit once and point out that which is happening before our eyes. What the government says and what I see are entirely different.

No doubt you have noticed the escalating prices of groceries and gas. Our waffles, pop tarts, cereal, and pasta have lost weight? So have baby food, potato chips and candy.

My brand of coffee has risen 22% just this year. Beans, eggs, onions and milk have risen 18%. The jar of peanut butter I normally buy has shrunk 9%. Fresh fruits and vegetables have gone up 18% as well as meat.

Yet, our government denies inflation or minimalizes it at 2-3%. In reality, it is more like 9.6%. At that rate, if you had $100,000 today, lucky you, in ten years you would have $39,985 remaining.

The Consumer Price Index, which is the U.S. measure of inflation, began disguising the deceitful statistics by no longer including food and energy in its calculations. How can you dismiss gas and food in the cost of living? Stay home and eat nothing?
With a little fluctuation, gas has risen $1.19 in seven months. If this escalation remains the norm, we can expect to see $7 a gallon in the not so distant future.
In the numismatic business, gold has reached its all-time high. Why? Because nobody has confidence in the paper dollar any longer.

When I was in Israel last year, one vendor didn’t want my American dollars. The day is coming when our paper money will no longer be the premier currency of the world. That is one reason people are flocking to precious metals for investment. Gold and silver will always be accepted anywhere in the world.

Did you know that our government has long been able to print paper money anytime it wants? What a double standard. If we individual taxpayers printed money anytime we needed it, we’d be in jail. Our government can do it at will and does. We are no longer on a gold standard. There is nothing to back up our currency but faith in the U.S.

Uncle Sam needs to know that when it comes to faith, my faith is exclusively in God in heaven and not the czars with their cigars blowing smoke in Washington.
If you study the economic history of the Philippines, Turkey, Taiwan, Austria, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Hungary, Argentina, Germany and Greece and you will see that they all succumbed to the economic travesty America is parading.

I don’t like to present problems without solutions. Space does not allow me to write the sensible ideas that I believe would get us on the right track, but number one would be a religious and consequently a moral reversal from the Capitol to Main Street. That wouldn’t solve our current financial dilemma, but it sure would be start to the revival of the America I used to know.

Economically, I say take care of America first. Except for legitimate humanitarian needs, bring our resources back home. Who in debt gives away money it doesn’t have, especially to those that despise us?

Give this Granny a gun and I’ll gladly engage anyone who dares to attack our land of the free and home of the brave. I’d rather die in battle than linger on in stupidity.
There is no humor in this column. Just the facts. Just the cold, hard facts.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #401

Nancy White Kelly

It’s that time again. The crops are coming in.

Buddy and I learned many years ago that we need to lock our car at church. Once a well-meaning friend loaded up our back floor board with vine ripe tomatoes and forgot to tell us. It took nearly a year before the family car quit smelling like home-made vegetable soup. As for fresh tomatoes I just don’t like them. Never have and never will. When the slimy innards of tomatoes enter my eye-gate, my esophogate reacts.

The only way I’ll eat summer tomatoes is if they are fried. No matter what, squirrel or squash, if you flour it, add a little salt, fry it in hot oil, the whatever inside morphs into a southern delicacy that tastes so GOOD.

For the record, I don’t eat citrus fruit either. I am allergic to it and break out in hives. I never liked citrus anyway. Maybe it is the texture or the smell.
Buddy used to make fun of my food finickiness. After he saw that documentary about human fluids and contaminating germs on lemon rinds, he too requests his tea or water without that yellow wedge.

The family car was jokingly sabotaged one other time with cantaloupe. Nothing in my personal repertoire of food smells worse. Cantaloupe is in a category by itself. Occasionally Buddy buys one for himself, but keeps it in the shop. I know because I see the rinds in the chicken yard. Is that love or what?

Buddy will eat about anything. He likes liver and onions. I don’t. He has two friends who like it too. Their wives don’t care to cook it at home either so they occasionally go out for a man’s lunch out.

One delight Buddy and I do share is banana pudding. That is my secret weapon when I want to buy something expensive or have really messed up.

We both have valid private pilot licenses obtained years ago. Imagine calling your husband and telling him you just ran the airplane into a telephone pole? I admit to not being good at parking.

Buddy was an aircraft mechanic by trade and it was just a tiny dent in the wing. Nevertheless, I made so much banana pudding for a pardon that I called him Chiquita and bought him a monkey. Really.

Journal of a Living Lady #400

Nancy White Kelly

Finally, after filing for an extension, our taxes are done and in the mail. Keeping records for a coin business is tedious. Uncle Sam wants to know how you acquired each numismatic item, when it was bought, what you paid for it and, if sold, how much it brought. Try cataloging thousands of coins, some as small as a penny, and others as large as a British crown.

Quite often I don’t know how I acquired a certain coin as it is common in the antique and numismatic business to purchase a large number of items in a bulk sale. More often than not, these coins were formerly owned by somebody’s deceased relative and the seller doesn’t have any idea how it came into their dear departed’s possession.

Identifying a single coin, especially an obscure world coin, takes hours of research. It is discouraging to find that the piece of metal is worth less than a U.S. dollar. Then try to find somebody who would like to buy a schilling or a Grecian drachma.

Time is a commodity and there is never enough of it. I am always attending to the tyranny of the urgent. In the meanwhile, store receipts for buying and selling pile higher and higher.

The fear of fines or worse, prison, eventually forces me to sit down and sort it all out. Poor Buddy has learned to tread lightly around me during this stressful time. Every year I promise myself I will stay current with my bookkeeping and each year I fail. I am sorry to disillusion you. The Living Lady is not an entity of perfection.
Back in the 70’s it was required that I take a vocational aptitude test for my new job as a state Head Start Administrator. This was during the early days of Affirmative Action. For the first time, my superior was a nice, but inexperienced young black man also new to his position. He had to take the test too.
After the scores were returned, he suggested we compare our results. He probably regretted it, but even he laughed at what the test said about his aptitudes. Among other quasi-titles, he showed high ability for manual labor and would excel as a “trash collector.” I chuckled too at my chart. It stated that I would be a strong candidate for the astronaut program.

Apparently the test had a smidgen of validity. My report also stated that I was particularly suited for educational administration which turned out to be true. I was a school principal/administrator for a large portion of my professional life. I enjoyed the classroom tremendously, but was continually solicited for chief honcho positions. One of my evaluations said that my strength is being able to see the big picture, break the job down to manageable tasks and assign them to responsible people. How hard can it be to delegate? Anybody in a suit can do it.
Ask me about management styles and I can talk hours about what I have learned. My leadership style changed significantly over the years. At first my Type A personality destined me to be an authoritarian driver with high expectations of those around me. And, yes, it is lonely at the top.

With each school change, I mellowed. At the end of my administrative career, I think I could better be described as a team builder and cheer leader. I surely hope so.
While both leadership styles got the job done, I wish I had exhibited more confidence in those around me early-on. They were most capable, but I was weak on trust. Now, many years older and hopefully much wiser, I know that an enthusiastic team, with admirable goals, can accomplish so much more than one who leads alone.
So why was I adept at running schools, but am now woefully lacking in self-discipline? Keeping business records organized and reports filed in a timely manner isn’t that difficult. The answer is simple. I have nobody to delegate the task to.
It’s just me now, accountable to and motivated by the Infernal Revenue Service. Thankfully I have a husband and a dog who still love me during and after tax season. Now that the taxes are done, Buddy is ready to hang a sign: Beware: Wife is experiencing taxing PMS…Post Mortem Syndrome. Properly interpreted, that means I am taking a long, over-due nap.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #399

Nancy White Kelly

Buddy and I always welcome the sight of our home when we return from a vacation. As usual, our house was still standing. Fire didn’t burn it down. Tornadoes didn’t blow it away. Thieves didn’t break in and steal. We continue to have a bed to sleep in plus all our worldly goods. Thank you, Lord.

Unfortunately, the grass took advantage and grew excessively in our absence. Buddy immediately brought in the luggage, donned his yard clothes, and headed for the lawn mower. I could hear the drone of the engine in the background while listening to the back-log of voice mail. I always hope there is no bad news to hear. This day there was. Advanced forward:

This morning I attended the graveside service of a little lady I met almost four years ago. She and her husband, a retired colonel, dropped by the coin shop one cold afternoon. He was 93. She was 87. They drove an old van with slick tires. For whatever reason, it was obvious they needed money.

The old couple won my heart immediately. He clutched a small brown paper sack hoping to sell its meager contents. Their naivety and lack of numismatic knowledge would have made them a prime target for an unscrupulous coin dealer. Buddy can confirm that I have many faults, but preying on the elderly isn’t one of them.

The wife patted her husband’s cold hand while I went through the paper sacks. Unfortunately their cache didn’t have much value. It contained several foreign coins as well as modern replicas of U.S. coinage. Most of these copies are highly advertised, thinly plated, seriously over-priced, pretty pieces of junk.

The couple was of more interest to me than their two sacks of nearly worthless coins. They lived alone, far from relatives, on top of a near-by mountain. Their main source of heat was firewood which they usually cut themselves. A single space heater warmed the bedroom. I wondered how they managed. He was on a walker and she on a cane. Neither could walk appreciably well. The wife had just begun driving again after recuperating from a broken hip.

While the three of us were inside the shop talking, Buddy was outside washing their van windows making sure the old tires had enough air. We both could see the situation for what it was: two old people trying to survive in an awful economy. I made them an overly generous offer for the contents of their two sacks which they quickly accepted.

Afterwards, the wife lovingly assisted her husband into the van. I held my breath, fearful that they might fall. They had their routine down pat. The wife shoved the man’s uncooperative right leg inside the van. Then, with all the heave she could muster, she slammed the heavy door shut. The wife reclaimed her cane, gave me a grateful smile, and asked for a hug. I gave her the biggest one I had.

She called me a time or two, just wanting to chat. She finally agreed that her husband needed to be in a 24/7 care home. After the transition, I called her often.
Once, after several unsuccessful attempts to reach her by phone, I contacted the nursing home seeking information. It was then that I learned the husband had passed and that the Mrs. was now a patient there.

With no family anywhere near and the state in charge of her care, I unofficially adopted her and introduced her to the Sunday School class I was teaching. Last October we threw her a big 91st birthday party at a local restaurant. The picture I took of her smiling broadly was displayed at the burial today.

Her mind was exceptionally sharp. Her hearing too. She enjoyed talking about current events as well as old times. On my last visit, just before Buddy and I left for vacation, we talked at length about heaven. This was a continuation of our on-going conversation about life and death. She was ready for the journey that we all must take someday. Death takes no holiday, but holds no prisoners.

Good-bye for now, sweet Alma. I am as diminished by your passing as I was enriched by your presence

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #398

Nancy White Kelly

As you read this, Buddy and I are preparing to go to Panama City for a few days. The beach beacons us and we are vicariously waving back.

Tori’s parents have graciously invited us to spend time with them during their condo week. They assure us there is plenty of room for the extended family. Two of their grandkids are also our grandkids so it is a win-win for us all.

There is always much to do before vacationing. In our case, we must secure the coin shop and remove valuables to an off-site location. Officers from the Sheriff’s department will be routinely checking the property. Our wonderful neighbors will watch our home. Arrangements must still be made for the care of our pets, mail and newspapers.

Another task is finding summer clothes suitable for the stifling Florida heat. I open the closet with trepidation, hoping that it hasn’t been besieged by calories.
Yes, calories: those little monsters that get into your wardrobe at night and sew your clothes tighter. Several times during adulthood, my closet has been infested with those conniving, clothing critters.

Today I am fortunate. My bathing suit not only fits, but is a bit baggy. Score two hits for the Living Lady, one for the Big C known as cancer and the other for those menacing, little closet c’s.

When I was in the worst phase of cancer treatment, just before entering hospice, I had this unexplainable, yet persistent draw to the ocean. My Buddy cheerfully made the journey with me three times.

What is it about the ocean that calms the soul? For me, it is the rhythmic waves thumping the sandy shore. It is a sense of vast colossal wetness. It is a mysterious, unfathomable global entity filled with secrets of kings and merchants.

I hear those mighty waves calling my name. Sayonara, my world-wide, reader friends. Au revoir. وداعا,. Wiedersehenl. Adios.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #397

Nancy White Kelly

It’s Mother’s Day as I write this. My grown boys have expressed their love in a variety of ways and the grand kids too. I wish my mother was still alive so I could tell her one more time how much she meant to me.

Married at sixteen, Mama never worked a day for pay. She was a full-time homemaker, known for her spunk and unintended humor.

She was an excellent seamstress and a wonderful cook. She could equally dish out a tongue-lashing, especially to anybody who dared to slight any of her five biddies. That earned her the affectionate nickname, “Henzilla” and sibling security that she was always in our corner.

Mama died of congestive heart failure. During my last conversation with her, she strained to say something important. In a weakened voice, almost a whisper, she apologized for not having anything to leave us children as an inheritance.
I am not an easy crier, but I sobbed when she said that. I assured her that no amount of money, property or “stuff” could replace the gift she gave to her children: unconditional love. In a sense, she gave her life for her husband and off-spring. She was a mother worthy to be praised.

I never truly appreciated all my Mama did until I became a wife and mother myself. Over several decades, I became a foster mom to twelve children, an adoptive mother to one boy, and finally a birth mom to a late-in-life miracle son. Buddy’s mother set a good example. Today I am also a “mother-in-law,” blessed with a good relationship with both wives.

As another Mother’s Day is closing, I think of all the wisdom my mother passed to me. These words were probably were heard by you too:
Money does not grow on trees.

Play with fire and you’ll get burned.

Always change your underwear; you never know when you may be in a wreck.

When you have your own house, then you can make the rules!

Don't cross your eyes or they will freeze in that position.

If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?

Friends of a feather flock together.

And finally, close that door! Were you born in a barn?

A late Happy Mother’s Day to all you ladies who mothered or mentored a child. You did a good thing.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #396
Nancy White Kelly

If I hadn’t heard it myself, I would have thought Buddy was growing deafer by the day. I had just settled into the den recliner for my morning cup of coffee when suddenly there was extremely loud commentary coming from the bedroom or kitchen. I waited, expecting Buddy to quickly turn down the sound on the television. We are having a hard time getting used to the confusing buttons on the remote of our new set. Shortly the indistinguishable racket stopped and Buddy popped into the den with a grin.

“What kind of joke was that?” he asked.

Puzzled, I scrunched my forehead.

“What are you talking about?”

“What did you put into the drawer?”

“Nothing,” I replied, wondering if he was losing his mind as well as his hearing.
“That talking gadget,” he explained.

Still confused, I pressed for intelligent clarification.

“You weren’t playing a joke?” he asked.

“No. What were you doing with the T.V.?”

“Nothing, “he replied. “I opened the knife drawer and all this talking started. Loud talking.”

“I know. I heard it too?”

Buddy went on to explain that when he opened the silverware drawer, the talking started. He slammed it shut and the talking stopped. Curious, he opened the drawer again and the fast-talking began blaring again like an excited game announcer.
I shook my head. Yes, I had heard it myself. Our only guess is that the knives and strainer in the drawer picked up some random radio signal from somewhere in the world. We laughed and it was the talk of the day.

I wouldn’t have believed it if I had not heard it myself.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #395
Nancy White Kelly

April Fool’s Day passed without much notice this year. In former times, I have been both the victim and perpetrator of April Fool jokes.

Looking back, the most memorable prank could have landed me in jail for mail tampering or in prison for impersonating an officer. The back-firing joke could also have made me a young widow. I am certain that Buddy’s tachycardia began that day. Eventually I was forgiven, but the hoax has never been forgotten.

To avoid the draft, seventeen-year-old Buddy joined the Navy during the Korean War. He figured his odds of surviving were better on water than on land. He spent four years on a navy Destroyer. Withstanding horrendous temperatures, Buddy’s job was to convert sea water to potable H2O.

When the time finally arrived for his discharge, Buddy’s superior officer tried unsuccessfully to get him to extend his tour. All my home-sick, Mississippi sailor wanted was to go home.

Buddy had sent money home monthly for his parents to save for his education. He dreamed of being a pilot. Unfortunately Buddy’s father spent all that money. Times were tough in Mississippi. A few weeks later, with a few dollars and a revived spirit, Buddy enrolled in the aircraft mechanics program at Emory Riddle School of Aviation in Miami. He put himself through by washing dishes.

After graduation and a brief stint with Pan American, Eastern Airlines transferred Buddy to Memphis. He met me in church and the rest is history.
Buddy’s mother had a great sense of humor and taught Sunday school most of her life. We connected. One April Fool’s Day I called home while she was visiting. Usually calm, Mama Kelly skipped the small talk.

“Nancy, did you by any chance send Buddy a notice from the United States Navy?” I laughed and admitted my guilt. Obviously my meticulously prepared mail had arrived right on April Fool’s Day.

Mother Kelly said Buddy tore open the official-looking letter, complete with his DD2-14 number, and read the notice:”We regret to inform you that an audit of your personnel file indicates that you have six months remaining to serve. Please report…”

Buddy bit. Oh, how he bit. While I was explaining my prank to his mother, Buddy was on a neighbor’s phone calling the Pentagon. Mother Kelly dropped the phone and rushed over to stop Buddy from saying or doing no telling what.

One thing I am certain of: While genuinely patriotic, Buddy would never return to the Navy, come hell, high water or a brigade of four-star generals.
April Fool’s Day has quietly come and gone again. It’s a good thing…a very good thing.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #394
Nancy White Kelly

It’s not fair. Buddy wakes up looking as good in the morning as when he went to bed. Not me. I deteriorate during the night. For the first two hours of the day I could be mistaken for the walking dead. With the help of Buddy-made coffee, I gradually morph from a silent, lethargic carcass to a reasonably pleasant human being.

During the olden days I was the one to open up the school at 7:00, dragging along sleepy-head youngsters who wished their mother wasn’t the principal. One of them is now a teacher himself. What goes around comes around. Tick tock. Tick tock. Before long, his two young boys will also begrudge having to be at school long before their classmates.

Being all grown up, and then some, I have so many unanswered questions, especially related to time. Like, why is the third hand on a watch called the second hand?
Who was the jerk who made us change our clocks twice a year? Why not leave time and seasons just like God planned it? That begs another question: Why do we say that it is “after dark” when it is really “after light”? And, do we really need a Time magazine?

Speaking of the written word, I detest the slang that invades our modern vocabulary. One example of this verbal butchery is the work “suck.” As a child, if I didn’t cry when I got a shot at the doctor’s office, I got a sucker. It was good until the very last suck. Now, if something sucks, that means it is bad. So why is it good that the vacuum cleaner sucks? Esfusication, pure and simple.

They say that love is blind. If so, why is Victoria’s Secret store so popular?

Men keep their last name for life. My surname changed April 24, 1965. Nancy Lee White became Nancy White Kelly. But at my age I am not complaining. It is spring, 2011, and Buddy loves me just as much in the morning as he does at night.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #393

Nancy White Kelly

I write this column while being ordered to three days of bed rest. Weird things happen to my body, probably related to my battle with cancer. For those who are new to this column, I am a cancer survivor. The first brush with breast cancer occurred in the mid eighties. Following surgery and chemotherapy, I passed the much bally-hoed five year milestone.

Twelve years later, just as our son graduated from high school, the cancer metastasized to lungs and bone, including the spine. I have now consumed all the standard chemotherapies, plus the beams of radiation three times. I spent a while in hospice, but never gave in or up.

This column began in the late nineties as the Journal of a Dying Lady. At the insistence of my friends, the title changed to Journal of a Living Lady which is now a book. A brief stint on Oprah brought me notoriety beyond the local community.
Dealing with this disease has been a roller coaster ride, but I am grateful to have been stable for a couple of years. Stable is a very good word in the cancer world.
Cancer changed my life. My faith sustained me and still does. What once began as a sincere request to the Almighty to allow me live to see Charlie, then in kindergarten, graduate from high school brought me far more than I prayed for. A life verse I chose as a teenager bore true: “CALL UPON ME AND I WILL ANSWER THEE AND SHOW THEE GREAT AND MIGHTY THING WHICH THOU KNOWEST NOT.” Jeremiah 33:3.

Charlie, now a school teacher, graduated from college, married a wonderful girl, and has given us two adorable grandsons: Micah, age 6, and Noah, soon to be 4.

So why am I confined to bed? One word. Pain. While I am generally pain tolerant, this has been a 12 on a scale of 10. I woke up yesterday from a normal night’s rest to find myself in excruciating pain when I took my first step. I had not injured myself in anyway the day before. Now my right foot felt like an elephant had stomped on it. There was just no explanation.

Buddy, the most compassionate nurse a wife could hope for, tried to help. He brought hot water to soak the foot. He dashed to the drugstore for an elastic bandage which he lovingly wrapped. Still, as the day wore on, so did the pain which progressed to other parts of the same foot. Amidst declining protest, Buddy brought crutches from the garage and assisted me to the car. Something wasn’t right. Could it be a blood clot? Spontaneous fracture? Gout? Or tumors pressing nerves?

An unexpected push on the foot by the ER doctor elicited a loud scream. I apologized. How childish, but it hurt. The doctor ordered x-rays and blood tests. He returned almost an hour later shaking his head. This pain was as baffling to him as to me.

A similar incident happened a couple of months ago with alternating shoulders. The oncologist chalked it up to a new (and expensive) anti-cancer pill that I was taking. I discovered that severe joint pain was the top side effect. After stopping that pill, the pain eventually abated. However, this time a pill couldn’t be blamed. So what is causing such pain?

My oncologist doesn’t know. My general M.D. doesn’t know. The ER doctor doesn’t know. Where do I go from here? After a shot of Decadron, the physician gave the typical advice. I had already taken my aspirin for the day. His advice: “Go to bed and call if it isn’t better by Monday.”

Can’t wait to see the bill.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #392

Nancy White Kelly

My life has been an adventure. Easily bored and ready for new challenges, I amaze myself at the places I land and why. Recently I received a request from the Chamber of Commerce to be the resident numismatic scholar for a week-end antique road shop in Greenville. Someone from our local coin club had recommended me.

I was delighted to be invited. Meals, lodging and even a paycheck made this gig appear more like an all-expense paid mini-vacation for Buddy and me.

Buddy’s mockingly gruff pretense, often repeated to our friends, is that he must accompany me on these trips to protect me from robbers, dirty old men, and myself.

Reality is that he is gets anxious about being alone. Buddy is a people person who is not very good company to himself. Whatever the real reason, I need his help and it is a win-win situation for us both. I get a body-guard who loves me. For three days straight. He gets uninterrupted companionship with his wedded wife.

Silly me just assumed the antique show was in Greenville, South Carolina, which is only a half-day drive from our home. How surprised I was to see TN in the address of the brochure. Even though I am a native Tennessean, I had never heard of the town.
Greenville, TN was difficult to find on our old map which was relegated to our library shelf long ago. With GPS, it is seldom used. With internet research I discovered there were 30 towns in the United States named Greenville.

To my rescue came Buddy, once a private pilot, who still knows how to read hieroglyphics on maps. He found the tiny speck called G’ville. (Okay, I’m a private pilot too, but I like for my man to feel needed and superior.)

Greenville seemed an unlikely location for what was expected to be a major event, especially since last year’s antique road show drew 5,000 attendees. The show was located in the two-level, high school gymnasium. The bottom floor was lined with at least a hundred tables laden with every type of antique and craft imaginable.
The appraisal floor was up-stairs where people lined up in the early a.m. to purchase five-dollar tickets for an appraisal. They were directed to the appropriate appraiser. The funniest sight was a little lady in a power wheel chair pulling a piece of furniture on a rope.

From eight in the morning until near dark, scores of people waited their turn at the appraisal tables. In brief spells between customers, I made my way through the crowd to see what others had brought. Just as expected, there were items of obvious value; others could have easily come from the local dump. Among the items were pottery, guns, jewelry, a plow and a few rusty bird cages.

Many left the show disappointed. Some elated. Others just enjoyed the camaraderie and had the philosophy, “Nothing ventured. Nothing gained.”

The most interesting thing that came through my line was an authentic CSA buckle that the owner, a middle-aged man, had personally unearthed in his backyard while digging a garden. Since the buckle was not related to coins, I referred him to another appraiser I had met. The owner left smiling. I would have too. It was well worth $1000 for its provenance and condition.

We are home now. Buddy is happy. I am happy. Now, you readers be happy and slap all the bad news you hear today.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #391

Nancy White Kelly

Charlie, Tori, Micah and Noah are on an early spring break at Disneyworld. By default, and because nobody else volunteered, Buddy and I are the caretakers of their two dogs: Patch and Snickers. It is a full house considering we also have our cat, Sam, Patch, our rowdy dachshund, Red, the roster and his harem, as well as a leopard gecko named Lizzie. To be truthful, Buddy requires more attention that all the animals together. He requires three feedings a day and refuses to eat dog chow or meal worms. That complicates matters.

The gecko was meant to be a surprise gift for Micah, our five-year-old grandson, Micah is high-functioning autistic. This neurological disorder is characterized by many symptoms including obsessiveness. When Micah was a toddler, he was fascinated with little cars. We thought nothing of it until he became highly frustrated if the Hot Wheels were not in perfect alignment. He kept his wheeled treasures grouped by color and size. At first we thought this was cute, a hint of organization skills that we hoped would continue into adulthood.

Micah’s enthrallment with little cars changed to inhabitants of nature. His first interest was dinosaurs which he could name by species and identify as carnivorous or herbivore. Then lizards became his focus.

I bought Micah a picture book of lizards. One wasn’t enough. Eventually he acquired a dozen or more books and reptile magazines. He became an amusing, walking encyclopedia of lizard facts and trivia.

For his birthday, Charlie and Tori bought ecstatic Micah a young bearded dragon that ate tiny crickets. Little Spike grew and grew and grew. It seemed that overnight Spike was longer than Micah’s arm.

One lizard wasn’t enough. Micah did extra chores to earn the money to buy a couple of smaller, less exciting lizards. They ate and pooped, but not much else. When Micah complained to me that the new lizards, actually newts, were quiet and boring, I made a secret trip to the pet store and bought Lizzie. She was a thin and tiny, no longer than my pinkie finger. My plan was to keep her until she was large enough to withstand handling by Micah and younger brother, Noah.

Lizzie first need was a glass cage with a screened top and a special heat lamp. Since she was fragile and would not eat on her own, I hand-fed her. With no role model, it took Lizzie several weeks to figure out that her tongue was an instrument to capture surprised crickets that no longer stayed around to be her playmates.
By winter it was time for Granny to surprise Micah with a friendly, healthy Lizzie. Unfortunately, I had failed to tell Charlie and Tori about my good intentions. Neither was thrilled. Tori had grown quite tired of being Spike’s daily custodian and Charlie was weary of the never-ending need for crickets by the dozen. Spike was now longer than Charlie’s arm.

To my chagrin, Lizzie was rejected. Thus, she is a semi-permanent addition to the Kelly Sr. household, at least until we can find another child who is fascinated with leopard geckos. Who knows? Maybe she could take acting lessons and hawk cheap car insurance?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #390

Nancy White Kelly

Bobby, our adopted son, recently called to tell us the good news. His wife, Ginger, was home from Iraq. It was a joyous surprise. Bobby immediately jumped into his bright red truck and headed to the military base in South Georgia.

Ginger will tell you it is tough been separated from your spouse and children, living half-way around the world in a dangerous war-zone full of fanatics. Bobby will tell you it is hard being “Mr. Mom.”

As the new up-risings in the Middle East hit the headlines, I am especially grateful for our soldiers who protect the freedoms we enjoy and so often take for granted. I am proud to be related to a long line of men who served our country admirably: my grandfather in WWI, my father in WWII, my husband in Korea, and now a young nephew also headed for Korea.

Recently someone send me a story that reminded me of the sacrifices made on our behalf. I must share it. Settle back and take the time to let it soak in. And, yes, better grab some tissues.

“They told me the big black Lab's name was Reggie, as I looked at him lying in his pen. The shelter was clean, no-kill, and the people really friendly. I'd only been in the area for six months, but everywhere I went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open. Everyone waves when you pass them on the street.

But something was still missing as I attempted to settle in to my new life here, and I thought a dog couldn't hurt. Give me someone to talk to. And I had just seen Reggie's advertisement on the local news. The shelter said they had received numerous calls right after, but they said the people who had come down to see him just didn't look like "Lab people," whatever that meant. They must've thought I did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis balls, his dishes, and a sealed letter from his previous owner.
Reggie and I didn't really hit it off when we got home. We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home). Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust too. Maybe we were too much alike.

For some reason, his stuff (except for the tennis balls --- he wouldn't go anywhere without two stuffed in his mouth) got tossed in with all of my other unpacked boxes. I guess I didn't really think he'd need all his old stuff, that I'd get him new things once he settled in. But it became clear pretty soon that he wasn't going to.

I tried the normal commands the shelter told me he knew, ones like "sit" and "stay" and "come" and "heel," and he'd follow them - when he felt like it. He never really seemed to listen when I called his name --- sure, he'd look in my direction after the fourth or fifth time I said it, but then he'd just go back to doing whatever. When I'd ask again, you could almost see him sigh and then grudgingly obey.

This just wasn't going to work. He chewed a couple shoes and some unpacked boxes.
I was a little too stern with him and he resented it, I could tell. The friction got so bad that I couldn't wait for the two weeks to be up, and when it was, I was in full-on search mode for my cell phone amid all of my unpacked stuff. I remembered leaving it on the stack of boxes in the guestroom. I mumbled, rather cynically, that the "damn dog probably hid it on me.

Finally I found the phone, but before I could punch up the shelter's number, I also found his pad and other toys from the shelter. I tossed the pad in Reggie's direction and he snuffed it and wagged, some of the most enthusiasm I'd seen since bringing him home. But then I called, "Hey, Reggie, you like that? Come here and I'll give you a treat." Instead, he sort of glanced in my direction, maybe "glared" is more accurate, and then gave a discontented sigh and flopped down with his back to me.

I punched the shelter phone number, but hung up quickly when I saw the sealed envelope. I had completely forgotten about that.

"Okay, Reggie," I said out loud, "let's see if your previous owner has any advice."

--- To Whoever Gets My Dog:
Well, I can't say that I'm happy you're reading this, a letter I told the shelter could only be opened by Reggie's new owner. I'm not even happy writing it. If you're reading this, it means I just got back from my last car ride with my Lab after dropping him off at the shelter. He knew something was different. I have packed up his pad and toys before and set them by the back door before a trip, but this time. it’s like he knew something was wrong. And something is wrong which is why I have to try to make it right.

So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it will help you bond with him and he with you. First, he loves tennis balls. The more the merrier. Sometimes I think he's part squirrel, the way he hordes them. He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there. Hasn't done it yet. Doesn't matter where you throw them, he'll bound after it, so be careful - really don't do it by any roads. I made that mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly.

Next, commands. Maybe the shelter staff already told you, but I'll go over them again: Reggie knows the obvious ones ---"sit," "stay," "come," "heel." He knows hand signals:"back" to turn around and go back when you put your hand straight up; and "over" if you put your hand out right or left. "Shake" for shaking water off, and "paw" for a high-five. He does "down" when he feels like lying down --- I bet you could work on that with him some more. He knows "ball" and "food" and "bone" and "treat" like nobody's business. I trained Reggie with small food treats. Nothing opens his ears like little pieces of hot dog.

Feeding schedule: twice a day, once about seven in the morning, and again at six in
the evening. Regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand.

He's up on his shots. Call the clinic on 9th Street and update his info with yours; they'll make sure to send you reminders for when he's due. Be forewarned: Reggie hates the vet. Good luck getting him in the car. I don't know how he knows when it's time to go to the vet, but he knows.

Finally, give him some time. I've never been married, so it's only been Reggie and me for his whole life. He's gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can. He sits well in the backseat, and he doesn't bark or complain. He just loves to be around people and me most especially.

Which means that this transition is going to be hard, his going to live with someone new. And that's why I need to share one more bit of info with you: his name's not Reggie.

I don't know what made me do it, but when I dropped him off at the shelter, I told them his name was Reggie. He's a smart dog, he'll get used to it and will respond to it, of that I have no doubt. But I just couldn't bear to give them his real name. For me to do that, it seemed so final, that handing him over to the shelter was as good as me admitting that I'd never see him again. And if I end up coming back, getting him, and tearing up this letter, it means everything's fine. But if someone else is reading it, well ... well it means that his new owner should know his real name. It'll help you bond with him. Who knows, maybe you'll even notice a change in his demeanor if he's been giving you problems.

His real name is "Tank" because that is what I drive.

Again, if you're reading this and you're from the area, maybe my name has been on the
news. I told the shelter that they couldn't make "Reggie" available for adoption until they received word from my company commander. See, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could've left Tank with ... and it was my only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq , that they make one phone call to the shelter ... in the "event" ... to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption. Luckily, my colonel is a dog guy, too, and he knew where my platoon was headed. He said he'd do it personally. And if you're reading this, then
he made good on his word.

Well, this letter is getting downright depressing, even though, frankly, I'm just
writing it for my dog. I couldn't imagine if I was writing it for a wife and kids and family ... but still, Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family.

And now I hope and pray that you make him part of your family and that he will adjust andcome to love you the same way he loved me. That unconditional love from a dogis what I take with me to Iraq as an inspiration to do something selfless, to protect innocent people from those who would do terrible things ... and to keep those terrible people from coming over here. If I have to give up Tank in order to do it, I am glad to have done so. He is my example of service and of love. I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades.

All right, that's enough. I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at
the shelter. I don't think I'll say another good-bye to Tank, though. I cried too much the first time. Maybe I'll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.

Good luck with Tank. Give him a good home and give him an extra kiss goodnight - every night - from me.”

Thank you,
Paul M.

I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope. Sure I had heard of Paul, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me. Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies. Flags had been at half-mast all summer.

I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog.

"Hey, Tank," I said quietly.

The dog's head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright.

"C'mere boy."

He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor. He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name he hadn't heard in months.

"Tank," I whispered. His tail swished.

I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him. I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.

"It's me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me."

Tank reached up and licked my cheek. "So whatdaya say we play some ball?"
His ears perked again.

"Yeah. Ball? You like that? Ball?" Tank tore from my hands and disappeared in the next room. And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #388
Nancy White Kelly

My bucket list has one more item with a line drawn through: buying a small RV and traveling at leisure. We have just returned from our first trip in our RV. We didn’t camp exactly. Our goal was to attend a coin show in Tampa and try out the RV on the road. We ended up returning a couple of days earlier than planned due to the anticipated snow and arrived home just seven hours before it started. It was just as well. Nothing went as planned.

A couple of days before we left, Buddy told me to drive around locally and get a feel for the RV. No problem. After all I have a CDL license. I jumped into the camper and proceeded out the drive only to notice a long black line following me. Little did I know that the camper was still connected and powered to the electrical socket in the garage. I meekly backed-up, put the vehicle in park, jumped out and wadded up the electrical line and stuffed it into its compartment. Also unbeknown to me, Buddy had connected our cable TV line to the RV which now was missing the end plug.

Buddy still doesn’t know about the electrical cord. I dared not tell him. But, I had to let him in on the fiasco that happened the next hour.

We have become friends with an elderly widow in a near-by nursing home. I wanted to take her a treat before leaving and pulled into the drive-through of the pizza parlor to place an order. Then came the crunch. Oops!

An awning extended above the drive-through window which punctured the top of the RV. Thankfully, it was repairable with some fiberglass and paint and did no permanent harm. Obviously the awning had been hit before, but that brought little relief to my diminishing driving confidence. Buddy wasn’t happy to have yet another job to do before leaving, but he did manage to laugh.

After a long first day on the road we parked at an all-night service station off the freeway. We were so tired, all we wanted was to bed down. The next day we realized the consequences of not planning for a definite place to stay. The convention center was packed with visitors and there was no parking anywhere, even for cars. We spent a two hours roaming around the one-way streets of downtown Tampa and finally settled on the parking lot of a church. It was then we discovered that we had no electricity, therefore no lights, heat or television. It should not have been a problem since we had an on-board generator. Buddy had tested it at home, but this night it wouldn’t start. Probably had something to do with the high altitude setting or perhaps a bad spark plug.

The next night we stayed at another downtown church which had an electrical outlet. We would gladly leave a donation for the electricity used.

Early in the morning we were surprised by a homeless, middle-aged lady standing outside the door. Buddy invited her inside the RV for coffee. Surprisingly she was clean, sober, intelligent and even witty. While I attended to business at the coin show, Buddy took the lady to lunch and probably made her day with conversation. He has never met a stranger.

It wasn’t a difficult decision to head home early. The RV is parked in the drive surrounded by ice which is where it is likely to stay. We had our fling and the conclusion is that there is no place like home.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #387

Nancy White Kelly

As I write this column, Buddy and I are awaiting the dropping of the ball in Times Square in New York City. At midnight, the date will change to 1/1/11. It is the start of a new year full of people hoping the next twelve months will be better than the last.

As you read this column, Buddy and I will beginning a new adventure that started with the movie, “The Bucket List.” It is about two men, actors Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, who discover they have terminal cancer with little time left to live. That movie starting me thinking about things I’d like to do before I pass on and I began penning my own bucket list. It was appropriate in that in September I was warned that I may be entering my third battle with metastatic cancer. Though I have been stable the last couple of years, the CAT scan was suspicious of new growth. The pain in my joints was excruciating which led my doctors to believe the original breast cancer had spread to more bones and was beginning a drive to deprive me of quality living.

Thankfully the repeat test in December showed significant improvement and the pain was attributed to a new cancer drug which had an adverse effect of “severe joint pain.” At one point I was ready to find a chain saw to cut off my own shoulder. On a scale of 1-10, the pain was a 12. My routine morphine didn’t faze the unrelenting pain.

Now that we are past that scare, which I attribute to answered prayer, the Living Lady decided to follow through on one of the items on my bucket list. It certainly wasn’t at the top of the list, but something I had wanted for a long while…a small RV that would allow us to travel at our own pace. Justification of the cost was easy. With the coin shop, I needed to attend regional coin shows occasionally, so this purchase would be more than just a vacation vehicle.

Recently while returning from town, I passed just the type of recreational vehicle that desired. The 2002 RV was the right size and reasonably priced. We could easily re-sell it if needed. Bottom line: Buddy liked the RV too and we bought it that day.
My idea was to fill it up with gas and take off to our first destination, a coin show in Tampa. However, Buddy a retired airline mechanic, is trained to look for mechanical problems which he promptly did. He has spent many hours in the freezing weather checking every bolt. It seemed that each day brought a need for more money.
First, there was no spare tire. Buddy convinced me we couldn’t even think of taking a trip without a spare tire. The problem wasn’t so much the acquiring of a tire; it also had to have a rim. Little did I know that RV rims are of an unusual size and aren’t easy to find, especially a used one. That spare cost us $300. The oil filter and new oil was $65. RV insurance was another $200 plus and then there other costs like title change fees. Buddy’s needs list included a back-up camera, yet to be installed and a heavy-duty jack in case he had to actually use that spare time. Then there was a propane tank full of gas, a special water hose, and a host of other small items that added up to about $500. I held my tongue but my mind mentally complained, “We haven’t even pulled out of the drive-way yet.”

We should be on the road now after delivering Patch to Charlie for doggy-care, arranging for extra security for the coin shop, as well as recruiting a neighbor to feed our chickens and Sam, the cat.

Already I am remembering the TV movie starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez, titled the “Long, Long Trailer.” At Lucy’s insistence, the newly-weds bought a 40-foot drivable trailer home that cost $5300 in the 50’s. The idea was to save money for an eventual house. The added benefit was that the couple could travel around the USA allowing Nicky, played by Desi, to manage civil engineering projects.
Desi and Lucy end up having to buy a more powerful car to tow the trailer. The money spent starts to mount up. Their honeymoon trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains quickly becomes a believable cascade of challenges and disasters.

For Buddy and me, this bucket list adventure is supposed to be fun. Thus far, it has been less than what I had hoped.

RVing may be a temporary fling for us and this may be a one and only trip. Stay tuned.