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.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Willie is In

She leaned on her cane by the mail-box, patiently waiting for Willie and me to walk up the street to her. I asked Willie to pick up the pace and not make as many stops as he would like, leaving pee-mails and getting messages from dogs who'd already been out this morning.

When we reached the elderly woman she said, "I wanted to pet your dog because he seems so nice. On Wednesday I had to put my dog to sleep and now I miss her so much. I'm 92 years old and I don't have anyone to take care of, to get up for in the morning." Oddly enough, I was thinking about her and her dog just yesterday, since I hadn't seen them in our daily passings. Often the two of them would be in the yard, tending her flowers or talking with neighbors. Her dog, a black and while border collie-cocker mix, would gimp out to the edge of the yard barking madly, but never offering to come across the street to straighten Willie out. Like her owner, she was a dignified, elderly lady.

As he had been taught, Willie sat patiently so she could pet him. Dogs seem to know when they're what the doctor ordered. He was on the job.

We spoke of the pleasures of sharing our homes with dogs and the empty places they leave when we no longer have them. Her dog was 15 years old. I asked if she'd thought about adopting an old, more sedate dog and she said, "No, not at my age. I wondered about calling the local animal care society to see if I could come there and just talk to the dogs and pet them, but I don't drive much anymore."

After some time passes, maybe she would allow me to drive her to the animal care place. I would be honored to do this. In the meantime, Willie and I will stop by for a periodic "Hello" while out on our rambles so she can again enjoy touching and looking into the eyes of a dog, man's best companion at any time of our life.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Welcome Home

Welcome Home Michael. This was the big sign spray painted on a bed sheet and hanging from the gutter of a house in my neighborhood when Willie and I passed by on our forced march Friday morning. A Kentucky flag was stuck in the yard in front of the sign. From that, I'm assuming that Michael is perhaps a guardsman or reservist who, thankfully, returned safely from Iraq or Afghanistan. Every morning we've walked past this house, never imagining that the family living there was worried about a son, husband, or father in harm's way.

Certainly there were no naive, boasting "Support Our Troops and Our President" signs in the yard--no easy shows of patriotism. Often, the grass needed mowing, landscaping tended, and maintenance done on the home's exterior. I rarely saw any comings and goings of the residents.

And now, I understand. These people, like thousands of families across the U.S., were just waiting for Michael to come home so they can get on with their lives. Mr. President, how long must they wait?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

September 2001

As with much of the country, I spent yesterday's sixth anniversary thinking about the events of 9/11. And, as we all do with these life-changing historical events, I was relating what happened then to my own life experiences. That's what we do. We remember where we were and what we felt when John Kennedy was assassinated, when the Challenger burst into flames and fell back to earth, when our schools were integrated for the first time, or when man took those first steps on the moon. So, yesterday here's what I was remembering about September 2001.

I was in New York during the week leading up to 9/11 for a very special reunion with friends from Peace Corps days spent on the island of St. Kitts, West Indies in the early '70s. We were a happy, mismatched group of eight who'd come from Baltimore, England, St. Kitts and Kentucky to renew old friendships, meet new family members, and enjoy all that New York has to offer. Our English friends wanted to do the typical sight seeing. So, we took the ferry around the New York harbor to the Statue of Liberty, climbing to the top of the Lady in order to enjoy the New York skyline. From there, it was easy to identify the distinctive Twin Towers in the distance. . .

Our next stop was Ellis Island. I still remember the exhibits of belongings and mementos that the immigrants coming to the United States carried with them, including baby clothes, fine lacework, jewelry, shoes, and special dishes. On the top level of the museum there were hauntingly beautiful backlit photos of immigrants from all over the world. I remember their eyes especially, and trying to imagine their stories by looking into those eyes. Six years later, I'm saddened that we are now afraid to welcome immigrants to our country. . .

By mid-week, I said good-bye to my friends and joined up with a horticultural tour of Sag Harbor and the Hamptons. We spent several days enjoying the fabulous gardens and homes--it was another world for me. On Sunday, September 9, I flew home from New York for what I thought was going to be a busy three days tying up work assignments and getting ready for another trip. On September 12, I was flying to France for a watercolor workshop/barge trip in the Alsace region.

On Tuesday, the 11th, I went to work with a heavy heart and not much excitement over leaving for France the next day. When I returned from New York I found that my middle dog, 12 year old Frank, was very ill. For weeks I had been taking him to the vet, battling failing kidneys and cancer. At each visit I was asking the vet to help me understand when it was time to be merciful and put him down. The day before, on yet another vet's visit, we decided that the time had come. So, I was to take my much loved Old Boy to the vet that afternoon after work to have him euthanized.

By 9:00 a.m. on September 11, two planes flew into the World Trade Center, starting a chain reaction of tragedies, anger and heroism. For the remainder of September 2001 all I remember is days of almost round the clock following news of rescue efforts, drawing closer to people I love, and trying to figure out what to do locally to help out. I remember life that fall being drilled down to the core. Living at the core--perhaps that's the greatest remembrance we can observe for September 11, 2001.