Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cousin Nancy’s Bucket List

by Phil Houseal as published in the Kerrville TX Community Journal & Boerne TX Hill Country Weekly - 11/17/10

PHOTO: Cousin Nancy uses Club Ed to whittle down her personal “bucket list.”

What’s on your bucket list?

You know about the bucket list - that term made popular by the movie of the same name. It’s a list of things you want to do in life before you “kick the bucket.”

Cousin Nancy has one. And Club Ed is helping her cross off many items. At the top of her list? Playing drums.

“I was always fascinated by drumming,” she admitted. “It was on my bucket list. I just turned 59, so I said, ‘I’m going to do it!’”

Not that she didn’t have second thoughts.

“When I got ready to take the class, I thought if it’s all 15-year-old boys I’m walking out,” she said. “Fortunately, there were folks my age and the class was a blast.”

Of course she did drumming - like she does everything in life - in her own style. She brought her own drum pad, which she had painted lavender with pink bows, and her own drumsticks, which she had “Nancy-ized” by painting bright pink and adding glitter and feathers. (Visit her blog to see a photo:

“I looked like an absolute idiot when I walked into class with my little outfit,” she said. “It was great. I told everybody, look, it’s a bucket list deal.” She laughed.

Cousin Nancy laughs a lot.

Cousin Nancy’s real name and role is Nancy Parker-Simons, Executive Director of Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch. She, husband Tony Simons, and the uncategorizable Kinky Friedman started the organization to “rescue every animal we can.”

They primarily save dogs on death row. They spay, neuter and give them shots, then keep them at the Rescue Ranch until they find a home. The facility averages 50 dogs in residence. (“Ask everyone to come to the Rescue Ranch and adopt a dog... we have fabulous dogs.”)

Back to that bucket list. It doesn’t take long being around Cousin Nancy to figure out she has a heck of a huge bucket. In addition to working as a business owner and executive director, the Texas native plays spoons, sandblocks, and guitar, was in drumming circle, and played in a jug band. She has rubbed ribs with celebrities from Dwight Yoakum to Willie Nelson to Martha Stewart. She blogs and has written two books - The Road to Utopia: How Kinky, Tony & I Saved More Animals Than Noah, and Meanwhile, Back At The Rescue Ranch: The Dog Days of Cousin Nancy. Yet she is that elusive combination of down to earth and upbeat.

Her affinity for Club Ed goes back a few years. The first course she ever took was our popular Instant Piano for Hopelessly Busy People.

“I really enjoyed that class. I always liked learning how to do stuff. I think I am a jack-of-all-trades but not that ‘skilled.’”

Not that that holds her back. Recently someone gave her a book that featured watercolor. Cousin Nancy couldn’t stop staring at it, so she decided to go to the craft store, buy painting supplies, and create her own art.

“My first painting sold for $57.77 on eBay,” she said. “So I decided I’ve got to go see how they do portraits.” So she signed up for the class. “It said ‘no skills required,’ so that was a selling point.” She laughed again.

“I wish I could come to a bunch of your classes,” she said. “I’d like to learn how to weld, and would take any of your art courses. I am a major fan. I love Club Ed.”

And Club Ed loves Cousin Nancy.


Visit Cousin Nancy’s blog at For information on Club Ed, click, or call 830-895-4386.

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