About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rover's Excess

I see in the "famous/infamous people" headlines today that Leona Helmsley left her Maltese "Trouble" a cool $12 million in her will to ensure that the pampered pooch continues to lead the life of excess to which she's accustomed. Poor little rich dog. Helmsley's brother was named Trouble's caretaker and recipient of his own millions (wonder if he got at least $12M?). Trouble is to join Leona and her late husband Harry in the Helmsley mausoleum when she dies. A couple of sick, but funny, comments on this story dealt with Trouble's shortened life expectancy with the stakes this high!

There's a lot that's wrong about this story. Those of us who have pets, or just love animals in general, think about what will happen to our four-legged friends when we die. I'm sure some of my friends have made provisions in their wills for the care of their pets. In my circle, there's a running joke about who will get Willie the Pit Bull or his sister Hallie who's owned and loved by my good friends. We joke, but it's understood that we will do all we can to see that each others pets will be taken care of and placed in loving homes if we sign out first.

It makes me sad to think about the good that could be accomplished for so many animals for just a small portion of $12 million. I think about the daily pleas for help that we all receive for animals that are sick and abandoned. And, just last week I saw the "Nature" documentary on PBS about the heroic efforts of agencies like the Humane Society and private citizens who searched the filthy, storm-ravaged streets and homes of New Orleans after Katrina rescuing people's much loved pets. Over 1,500 pets were saved and re-united with their people or re-homed. Think about it. How much more could have been done if people responded with a spirit of generosity instead of meanness?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fridge Stories

Last week I met long-time friends Shirl and Steph in Lexington for a leisurely lunch and chat at the Jean Farris Winery and Bistro on the outskirts of the city. Crisp Chardonnay, crab cakes and a warm brownie with raspberry sabayon sauce--yum! Whether it's bourbon or wine, Kentucky has a handle on serving spirits and great food.

Lunch conversation turned to blogs. Shirl, who's a roaring 72 years young, enjoys reading "Summit Musings" because she shares my liberal political and social views with the exception of allowing casino gambling in the state (an issue that's getting too much attention in the governor's race, in my view). However, as do many of my readers, she warned me not to expect her to comment on any blog entries. The reason? She has her own blog to maintain--her Fridge Blog.

I've known--and lived with intermittently--Shirl's family for almost 40 years. And it's true, their fridge has always been a massive collage of family activities, achievements, community events, and daily reminders. No visit to their home would be complete without checking in on Shirl's Fridge Blog.

So, today I'm thinking about this form of family communication that most of us have used for years and are still not willing to give up in favor of technology. Here's what I currently have on my fridge because it makes me happy to see these things:

  1. a photo of Willie sitting on his end of the sofa guarding his morning milkbone;
  2. a "thank you" note from my neighbors for a Parent Magazine subscription--they just had a first baby;
  3. postcards from Alaska with Jane and Robert's accounts of helping with the '07 Iditarod Dog Sledding Race and enjoying the wildlife;
  4. Enjoying the Journey watercolor exhibit notice at the Water Tower, which I saw with Janice earlier this summer;
  5. August calendar of lawn mowing--it's blank because of the heat and drought;
  6. Dog Wisdom magnet--"The trouble with resisting temptation is that you may not get another chance" Edwin Chapin;
  7. postcards from the Lunch Bunch's visit to New York;
  8. photos of Chicago's architecture and night skyline from a lake boat tour on a recent trip;
  9. school and baby pictures of my friend and mentor Cory's children--glad they're back in KY;
  10. a "thanks" from my current Hospice respite family member for just listening, at this point that's all they want or need. . .

When I look over this list, the essentials are there: friends, family, dogs, travel, art and the pleasures of home. What's on your Fridge Blog?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Barney's Office

Late breaking news today comes from the Western Dog House in Crawford, Texas. The President has directed the First Dog Barney to immediately start working with White House decorators to set up an office adjacent to the Oval Office. Barney is so-oo-o excited! At this writing he's going with natural silk draperies stenciled with milk bones and fire hydrants, finished off with leash tiebacks. His first official directive is for staff to keep that pesky Mrs. Beasley out of the power wing and in the kitchen where she belongs.

You all may remember that when Bush was meeting the heaviest resistance to his Iraq policies, he vowed that he would not change course, even if it got to the place where his only remaining friends were Laura and Barney the Bushes' black Scottish terrier. With today's resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, it looks like that day has arrived.

First, there was that touching scene on the White House lawn a couple of weeks ago when the First Amigo parted with his turd blossom Karl Rove before heading off to Crawford on an ATV for his August break. The dust of his departure had not even settled before Tony Snow started hinting to the press that he's about finished with trying to communicate Bush's message and may be leaving soon as well. Then, on Friday John Warner, Virginia's senior Senator and key supporter of the administration's Iraq war policies, returned from Baghdad and started pushing for troop withdrawals--soon.

The final blow showed up in this morning's paper. Apparently, Laura has decided not to accompany the President on a state visit to Australia. The official excuse is that she's suffering from a pinched nerve, but I think staff slipped up and told her exactly how long the flight to Australia with hubby will be. So, you can appreciate Barney's sense of urgency. He has until mid-September to get an office up and running to be able to support Bush when he has to tell the American people that our troops are in a quagmire in Iraq. . .

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Blog "I Dos"

Readers, I'm back-k-k-k! And, very aware that there have been no posts on "Summit Musings" since June 24. Thanks to all of you who have kept checking only to find the same old stuff. After the initial challenge and excitement of getting my blog up and circulating, I started having some "What's It All About, Alfie?" moments. What kind of writing should I do--essays on the issues of the day, humor, pop culture commentary, or daily chronicles of my exciting life? Am I going to be a daily or weekly blogger? How do I expand readership beyond a patient circle of friends? How do I get readers to comment? When will I get over the fear of not having the technical skill to fix--or prevent--blogging problems that will come up? And the list goes on. . .

For the past two months I've been answering these questions. I've checked out hundreds of blogs, going back to the ones that I really enjoy and admire--mostly it's the writing that gets me. I also signed on to several "how to" blogging sites--FYI, stay-at-home moms rule in this area! I even bought and am reading Blogging for Dummies just to understand the lingo and technical side of the blogosphere. Topic aside: are any of you, like me, mildly offended by these books? I may not know how to blog, but I'm NOT a dummy!

So, to the title of this post. Blog "I dos", or promises, to both readers and myself are to:

  1. post regularly--not daily maybe--but at least 4-5 times weekly;
  2. post shorter pieces, paragraphs, and sentences if I can do it--unfortunately, more is more in my view, but I'll try to remember that reading this blog MAY not be all people have to do;
  3. write about big deals and nothings, attempting to always keep a balance;
  4. never whine or rant--opine certainly--but not take these easy ways out to communicate;
  5. respect and appreciate my readers--I'll never slam your views and opinions--maybe give you a little "goose-pinch" but never 'dis you.

Well, these guidelines pretty much set the stage for the "Summit Musings" fall surge. I hope you all like reading this stuff as much as I enjoy writing it. And, if there's more "I dos" that need to be considered, just send them on.

Labor Day Chores

Finally! Say good-bye to the long hot summer days when 90 degree temperatures like today are cause for celebration. I don't do summer very well, but having previously promised not to blog whine, I'll resist going down that path. However, Labor Day week-end I plan to give summer a premature boot by getting after a punch list of chores that will usher in fall glorious fall on Summit Court. High on that list are the following:
  1. put away those white sandals--Tim Gunn on Bravo's Guide to Style may have relaxed his rules about wearing white after Labor Day, but I'm not there yet;
  2. call a young handyman god to clean out the gutters--I was willing to do this chore myself, but Paula Bunyan here took a high tumble off a ladder nearly breaking an elbow trying to trim trees (thanks American Journal of Sports Medicine for your un-timely post-accident recommendation that old people need to do regular balancing exercises);
  3. clear the TV viewing calendar for the fall reality shows--in case you're not up to date, the season openers are Tim Gunn's Guide to Style 9/6, The Dog Whisperer 9/7, Biggest Loser 9/11, America's Next Top Model 9/19, Survivor China 9/20, Dancing with the Tarts and The Bachelor 9/24;
  4. shop for an all-purpose culsha outfit--after the summer's entertainment drought, the new season begins in September with the KY Opera's performance of Puccini's Turandot and Actor's Theater Fire on the Mountain about the plight of mountain coal miners. . .how timely;
  5. rig up my master mixed media campaign monitoring system for the state governor's and then '08 presidential races--first proof of authenticity gets my vote!

How lucky we are to have two opportunities for new beginnings--both January and September. Happy Half Year to you all.

Campaign Kerfuffle D-1

Now Readers, don't call me out on taking liberties with the English language in what's going to be an on-going post throughout the election season. I know that a "kerfuffle" is a flap, to-do, ruckus, foofaraw, or disturbance. However, for campaign monitoring purposes, I'm using "kerfuffle" to describe an incident or comment made by, or on behalf of, a candidate that's wrong, amazingly stupid and/or humorous. As in "What the kerfuffle was he/she thinking?" or "Why didn't someone stop him/her before he/she stepped in it?"

I intend to be non-partisan in handing out Kerfuffle Awards. Unfortunately, both Democrats and Republicans are regularly in the running for these prizes. So, the first award(that's D-1) goes to Barack Obama on the campaign trail in Iowa.

Scenario: Obama is meeting with a group of Iowa farmers (after an intense session on state fair bumper cars to toughen up for last week-end's ABC Iowa debate). The farmers, as they will, start complaining about the lousy prices they are receiving for the products they raise. So, in a heroic effort to demonstrate that he feels their pain, Obama responds: "I understand your concerns. Has anyone gone into Whole Foods Store lately and seen what they're charging for arugula?"

Come on Barack! Arugula prices??? Me thinks Iowa farmers don't give a rip about the price of exotic salad greens and you should have known that as well. Better if you'd said, "At least I know you're faring better with dairy prices because Michelle really gets hacked at me in the mornings when I forget to put the butter back in the fridge and it melts!"

Global Smartypants

I love Newsweek Magazine and look forward to Tuesday's mail to get my weekly fix on the world. What's not to love? It's probably written on about a 7th grade level so, unlike The New York Times (enjoyed daily on-line), I understand most of the vocabulary. The Newsweek articles are a nicely balanced mix of the shallow (my most comfortable depth) to the very big deal. Many of the writers are virtual friends as they often appear on my fav talk news shows and never fail to help me sort out the daily political noise. And, let's not forget Jon Meacham, Newsweek's editor and resident cutie pie, who always has a sane and insightful view of the week's issues.

But, I digress. The summer double issue arrived in early July and I knew right away from the cover that it was going to be good. There was this world globe graphic with snapshots of everything from the human brain to Christ to presidential candidates to Sanjaya. So, I start reading Cutie Pie Meacham's column and get even more excited. Here's why. Instead of letting its readers go into a summer mind slump, Newsweek proposed that we challenge ourselves with its Global Literacy learning project. So, I'm now in my second month of the project and am becoming quite the Global Smartypants!

The idea behind Global Literacy is that there are things that we all need to know about our world to help us make sense of it and navigate our daily challenges, and just enjoy life in general. And--this is important--as citizens in a democracy, we can't allow others to make decisions for us just because they're in authority positions. We must make it our business to be informed and not just be the lazy rubber stamps for politicians and other leadership figures.

Newsweek identified 13 broad categories for which we all should have at least a basic knowledge:
1. international 2. politics 3. environment 4. faith
5. technology 6. business 7. health 8. science
9. sports 10. music 11. art 12. literature 13. film

According to Newsweek, the importance of these categories could be debated, but most would agree that they encompass areas of knowledge that would be useful for all of us on a daily basis.

Now, to be a global literacy student I had to start with a pretty humbling quiz--130 questions on the above 13 areas. You can take it too by going to:


Click on "Global Literacy Quiz" and you're in business. FYI, it took me about a half hour to complete the quiz. There are 10 questions for each area, beginning with international and ending with film. Throughout the quiz you'll get a running percentage of your Global IQ. Talk about pressure! I kept thinking "Faye, you know you have three--almost four--advanced degrees. . ." Imagine my relief when I finally hit 50% global IQ!

Here's what my smartpants results looked like: out of almost 7,000 people who'd taken the quiz, I was in the 20th percentile with a Global IQ of 60. According to Newsweek's ranking that put me in the category of "We'd take you to most dinner parties". I guess that means I could hold up my end of the conversation! Thankfully, I didn't score 20 IQ because the rating was an insulting "How about a community college course?"

So, here's what I'm doing to improve my Global IQ. I have a stack of cards for the 13 categories and every day I learn something new for one of the categories. A sampling of what I've learned:

1. International-- since July 4, 141 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq and 19 in Afghanistan.

2. Politics -- on 7/2 Bush commuted the sentence of Scooter Libby.

3. Faith --is one of the greatest influences on politics at home and abroad.

4. Technology--U.S. ranks 15th of 30 dev. countries in percentage of homes connected to www.

5. Film--the Academy Awards Oscar statuette was named for a secretary's Uncle Oscar.

Postscript: last week I re-took the Global Literacy IQ Quiz again and scored a whopping 70! My rating is now "We'd take you to dinner with really fancy people. . ." If any of you take the quiz, let me know how you do. Who knows? We may get invited to the same fancy dinners!