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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Last week I, like many others, was saddened to learn about the untimely death at 28 years of Heath Ledger, the brilliant and versatile Australian actor. Heath's death in his Manhattan apartment was a shock to all because he, unlike many other young celebrities, lived quietly under the publicity radar, concentrating on his acting and being a good father for his young daughter.

His death also got me thinking about the influence that a big film can have on movie goers. When I call a film "big" I'm not neccesarily talking about box office appeal and distribution. I'm remembering more precisely those films that stick with me. I care about the film's characters and their relationships with each other. I remember the script, the soundtrack, the setting. And, if I'm lucky, I change my mind about an issue or step out in a new direction as a result of seeing the film. Heath's portrayal of Ennis Del Mar, the introverted, maybe even numb, young cowboy in Brokeback Mountain was big for me--and many other people around the world.

It was in the winter of 2005 that I saw Brokeback Mountain for the first time. It was deeply affecting, a love story of two young cowboys--Ennis, the reserved and conflicted one who believed that in life whatever you were dealt you just had to "stand it" and Jack (played by Jake Gyllenhaal)the optimist who refused to be beaten down by reality. I could sense that others in the theater audience were moved, as I was, by the love story of two gay cowboys who came together at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

My long time friend, another middle-aged straight woman, saw the movie also. We then saw it three or four more times together. As the movie attracted more and more critical acclaim and fans, my friend became interested in a blog site that she found where people began by discussing the movie. That blog quickly evolved into a vehicle for the sharing of personal experiences--either by gay men and women or family members/friends who were dealing with the complexities of living with people they loved--or sometimes hated--who were gay.

The Brokeback Forum was created to serve as the sounding board for countless people who needed to tell their stories after seeing this movie. My friend, who has a background in educational technology, suggested to the forum founder, Dave Cullen, that these stories deserved to be published and she agreed to serve as the managing editor of the book project team. BEYOND BROKEBACK, The Impact of Film by Members of The Ultimate Brokeback Forum was published in spring 2007.

The moving thing about this book is the many ways that a film gave people the courage to make changes that would help them escape a marginalized existence and participate in all the normal pleasures of life--loving relationships with the right partner, friends, family , and work associates. Each chapter is a personal story of, as the title says, the impact of the film on that person's life. In some stories there is resolution, in others not. All are honest and true. I am glad to hear their stories. If you are interested in reading the book, it can be ordered on Amazon.com.

"Danic" is a 58 year old painter who lives with her husband in New York City. She writes about the scene in the movie where Ennis and Jack are goofing off with a lasso: "The metaphor of the lasso moves me because not only does it signify how Ennis became tangled up in Jack and that Jack roped him for life, but also because it means that, as a human beings and souls, we are all tangled up in each other, and The Maker will one day question why we did not love more." Heath as Ennis helped us to do just that.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bedside Table Tales

(Aoj, host of this week's Fun Monday, over at Aoj and the Lurchers maintains that she, like her friend's mother, is not nosy, just interested in people. Huhm-m-m. . .very interested I'd say because she wants to see our bedside table--what's on it, under it, and even what's in the drawers!)

This tale is not a satisfying one because what I have is not what I want. My bedside table is a throwback to 30 years ago when the home decorating style was to purchase a "set" (that's mountain lingo for "suite" for the uninitiated) of matchy-matchy furniture for each room--bedroom, living, kitchen. What you ended up with was a boring, unwelcoming space. That's what I have.

I leave this room in the morning and rarely return until bedtime. Therefore, my bedside table inventory for Aoj is not very inspiring, nor very revealing of who I am. On the table top there's a not very good reading lamp, a box to set the lamp on to give some reading height, an ugly clock radio. But wait, when I opened the drawers I did find a journal in case I woke up in the night wanting to write; a sketchbook for a quick little line drawing; glasses that, judging from the lens size, must be at least 15 years old; and a booklight since you never know when the electricity might go. And, that V-shaped pillow on my bed is perfect for reading.

What I Want--if it were practical to start all over with creating a home, I'd love to go back to my youthful free-living days when home was a one room living space. When I graduated from college, life was very simple and straightforward. My goal was to always be able to pack up my possessions and move wherever my dreams and interests took me. So, I loaded up my anti-establishmint Ford Maverick ( no joking, that was the actual green color name for my car, it was the late 60s after all!) and headed to Florida to teach. I lived in a couple of one-room efficiency apartments there. With each subsequent move in post-college days, I wanted that cozy, pared down living space that you see in this photo. In a couple of places I almost succeeded. What a pleasure to have everything that you love in sight and accessible. Simple living at its best.

By now I suspect you're growing bored with my bedside table tale. So, head on over to Aoj and the Lurchers to see what the other Fun Monday participants are willing to show you.

Friday, January 25, 2008

All About Me

Linda over at Straight Up and Slightly Dirty tagged me for the "Six Random Things " meme. It's not often that I get an invitation to natter on about myself, so thanks Linda! First the rules:
  1. link to the person that tagged you,

  2. post the rules on your blog,

  3. share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself,

  4. tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to this blog, and

  5. let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.

Now here's six random things about me that some out in the blogosphere may find mildly interesting:

  1. I shared a shower stall with Steve Hamilton, relief pitcher for the New York Yankees for many years--well not literally. Throughout my college years I lived with the Hamiltons as a nanny/mother's helper/starving student who wouldn't leave a good thing once she found it. Steve was athletic director and baseball coach at my college in the off season. At the end of the school year Steve's wife Shirl and I loaded the kids in the station wagon and joined him in the New York City 'burbs close to Yankee Stadium for the summer. About the shower stall: we lived in a very small house with six people and one bathroom so Steve and I had to use the basement shower by the sump drain.

  2. I've watched every Republican and Democratic presidential debate this year. I even rate the candidates' performances. For example: at last night's Republican debate in Boca Raton, FL I gave Romney a "competent", McCain "stiff/angry", Giuliani "shallow", Paul "frustrated", and Huckabee "not serious". I also keep a U.S. map of winners for state primaries and caucuses. In case there's a question about my obsession, I also have a running list of the number of delegates each candidate has won.

  3. I once slept out on the street all night in a ticket line to buy tickets for a Neil Diamond concert--are you figuring out just how old I am?

  4. I once dated a socially awkward accountant who won a Publisher's Clearinghouse promptness (he was an accountant!) prize of $2,700. Accepted his invitation to travel with him to New York for the Publisher's Clearinghouse publicity tour and prize ceremony. Somehow I never felt the same about SAA after he came down in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel with tie in hand and asked one of the other men to help him with his tie. PC is the real deal though, so don't throw away those entrance forms. But don't count on them for your retirement funds either.

  5. I never met a reality show that I didn't love--Amazing Race, Dancing with the Stars, Survivor, Project Runway, Top Chef to name a few. I keep weekly stats on who's winning and losing. Okay, I'll even admit to watching The Bachelor. Yes, I should get help.

  6. I read most magazines from back to front because I love the "last words" in most of them. I also read the editor's column in every magazine. Like to see what they promise to deliver that month.

With apologies to Linda, I won't be able to complete the last two tasks in the meme. I've only been blogging since last May and haven't built enough readership to feel comfortable with tagging six other bloggers. Hey, I'm from the south, but still don't hit on strangers! However, if this little exercise in self-revelation appeals, we'd love to have you share your "Six Randoms." Just link to this post and we'll come looking for you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Meet My Reading List

Laurie over at three dog blog started something with the January 23rd post on her family's '07 book reading competition. How interesting. First of all, that there's enough reading interest in one family to even have a competition is unusual. Secondly, to get a chance to see a monthly list of what a non-famous person is reading (I can always look in Oprah to see what Ben Affleck enjoys reading. . .) is very revealing.

What we read says a lot about who we are. If I don't know a person very well, I'll always ask what they're reading. If I haven't seen a friend in awhile, I'd much rather they ask "What are you reading now?" than "What have you been up to?" The first question gets to my soul and opens up a meaningful conversation. The second just passes the time.

So, here's my reading list for 2007. I thought it was longer, but I guess reality TV, magazines, and politics got in the way. What do you think? Would this list make you want to hang out with me?


None (what happened?)
At 70-Journal of May Sarton by May Sarton
Fireflies in Winter by Jack McCall
Dog Years-A Memoir by Mark Doty
A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Lying Together-My Russian Affair by Jennifer Beth Cohen
Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy
A School Teacher in Old Alaska by Jane Jacobs
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
A Mighty Heart by Mariane Pearl
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Loved Dog by Tamar Gellar
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Relin
Beyond Brokeback-Impact of a Film by Brokeback Forum

Dog Days-Dispatches from Bedlam Farm by Jon Katz
Merle's Door-Lessons of a Freethinking Dog by Ted Kerasote

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
Be the Pack Leader by Cesar Millan with Melissa Jo Peltier
The Inner Voice-Making of a Singer by Renee Fleming
Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky
Her Way-The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Jeff Gerth and Don van Natta
Life's a Campaign by Chris Matthews
Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell
Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
The Lemon Tree-An Arab, A Jew, and Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan

Well, if I didn't know this person except by this reading list, here's what I might think. One, she's absolutely crazy about dogs and wants to know more and more about human/dog relationships and how to live well with them. Second, she's deeply worried about the Middle East and tries to understand the people living there, their culture and conflicts. Third, she is a wanna be artist, interested in living creatively. Fourth, she respects and admires people who show what they're made of by helping others in times of great national and international conflict such as WW II and its aftermath. Finally, she enjoys getting into a good Irish tale, a bit of murder and mayhem, and presidential politics occasionally.

What does your '07 reading list have to say about you?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Blizzard Dogs

(Vicki over at catching light is host for this week's Fun Monday. She asked us to post a photo of the view from our front door. Since mine is rather dismal, I'll take a bit of leeway and show you the view one morning in January 1994 when things were much more dramatic.)

Who hasn't gone to bed on Sunday night in the depths of winter dreading the thought of Monday morning and the start of a hectic work week? That was my situation on January 16, 1994. I had been away from home on business the week before. Here it was, Sunday evening. The laundry wasn't done, the house a mess, the dogs were wild and unwalked, and the work week ahead was a grind of too many assignments and not enough time. Plus, that evening freezing rain had fallen for several hours complicating the Monday morning commute.

Early Monday morning I was awakened by thunder. That was unusual enough for me to get out of bed and peer out the window. The snow was falling like crazy from still dark skies. I later learned that this phenomenon is called "thunder snow." By morning we had 16 inches of snow, a dramatic change from the freezing rain at bedtime Sunday night. This was the view out my front door on Monday morning.
By Monday afternoon we had a 24 inch snowfall and temperatures had dropped at a dizzying rate. Monday morning temps were low 30s and then dropped to 10 degrees by evening and lower as the night went on. On Tuesday the temperature continued to drop to an amazing -22 below zero in Louisville and down to -36 degrees out of the city. Bur-rr--rr! This was an all time record cold for normally moderate Kentucky. For two days we were immobilized. All state,federal,and interstate roads were closed. The governor declared a state of emergency for all of Kentucky.
However, Southern Dogs Love a Blizzard -- If this weather was a novelty for me, it was thrilling for the dogs as you can see. Their first run out that morning brought out their "inner husky"! They plowed through the snow drifts trying to find a spot to squat that wouldn't tickle their butts. When they succeeded in that, it was time for a three dog celebration pile up. They were a joy to watch.

For almost a week we were delightfully marooned on Summit Court. Thankfully the electricity and cable stayed on so we were warm and connected with the outer world. The dogs had plenty food and treats. Our only minor crisis was that Dan the Golden got a hacking cough that wouldn't stop and we couldn't get to the vet. So, I gave him a home remedy: lemon cough drops crushed with honey and a bit of whiskey, warmed slightly. He lapped it up and the cough disappeared! Unlike Zack the Border Collie, I thought he was balanced enough not to become an alcoholic from that brief walk on the wild side. . .

There have been many Januarys since 1994 when I wished for another blizzard. Thanks a lot Al Gore,and your Inconvenient Truth, for bursting that bubble!

(Want to count snowflakes? Click on photos to enlarge.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ukraine Assignment

Last night I was reading 1,000 Places To See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz. To be precise I was also marking the places that I'd already seen in over 30 years of travel both in the U.S. and abroad. Just looking through this book brought back memories of wonderful people, places, and adventures that have greatly enriched my life over all these years. And, set me dreaming about the next trip. . . I'm thinking a train across Europe with a detour on the Orient Express.

Since it's cold and snowy tonight, I thought it would be a good time to tell you about a great travel adventure I had in December 2001 to Ukraine. At that time I was still working for a large farm organization as an adult trainer for leadership development, strategic planning and other potentially boring areas of organizational development. Flipcharts, magic markers, and small group discussions were my friends.

In the fall of '01 I was contacted by the Citizen's Network for Foreign Affairs (CNFA)in Washington D.C. to see if I would be willing to travel to western Ukraine to work with several fledgling women's councils in the Zakarpattia Region, which includes the CarpathianMountains. These women farmers were struggling to support their families on privately owned and operated lands. After all, most of them--and their parents--had been workers on state owned collective farms since the World War II occupation of Ukraine by the USSR. In 1991 Ukraine finally gained its freedom from the USSR and farmers in 2001 were still scrambling to learn about private land ownership. They needed help in setting up farm cooperatives to produce and sell their crops and livestock and how to work with a bloated, disorganized government to support farmers. CNFA is the agency of the U.S. government that provides this partnership aid for under-developed countries through on-site training and technical assistance. That was my assignment.

So, I was supposed to spend much of October '01 in Ukraine and then came the attacks of 9/11. I studied the map of the region, tracked embassy alerts, and stayed in contact with the Ukraine office in Kiev. Finally, in December I decided it was stable enough in the region to complete the assignment. I put on my trainer's hat and started collecting all the supplies needed to hold workshops--and even more challenging figure out how to get them on the plane with me. I knew that much of my work would be in remote villages and was pretty sure there wouldn't be PowerPoint capabilities! I cut personal luggage to bare bones and loaded up flipcharts, markers, notebooks, name badges and other goodies that I knew would be symbolically important to my Ukrainian students.

Early in December I was finally ready to go. I put my dogs in the kennel and promised that I would be back in time to rescue them by Christmas. I then boarded the first of several flights to get into Kiev, Ukraine. All the time I was thinking, "Please let my workshop supplies arrive with me and don't hassle me getting them through security."
After almost two days of flying, I finally arrived in Kiev around 4:00p.m. It was already getting dark, snowing and bitter cold. All was well however. My luggage got there with me. I didn't have to surrender any of my workshop supplies(they were in this huge whipcord bag)to security. And thankfully, when I got out in the reception area I was met by Inna, the young woman who would be my interpreter and all around fixer for the next three weeks. We hit it off right away and were chatting non-stop on the drive from the airport to the CNFA office in Kiev. We met the U.S. and Ukrainian staff for CNFA, completed all the obligatory paperwork,worked on the schedule for my visit,and clarified my assignment.

Inna and the CNFA driver then took me to the apartment where I would stay for the two days in Kiev before we traveled on to western Ukraine to meet the women's councils. I had learned from Inna that they would soon be celebrating the Ukrainian Orthodox Christmas in early January. You could tell from the hustle and bustle on the streets that holidays were approaching. Kiev is a beautiful, sparkling city, especially at night. Much better than in daylight. The apartment was very spare, but comfortable with heat and hot water. How I grew to appreciate it over the next three weeks!This was the view out of my apartment window. Notice the snow fences on the roof.
Over the next two days Inna and I explored the city. This elegant building is the MacDonald's! We met Inna's son Demma and his schoolmates there. I grew to admire Inna because she was an ambitious young woman--going to school,divorced, but trying to work with her former husband to care for their son. At the same time she was planning to marry again and was dealing with all the red tape of re-modeling an apartment for the new family.

Here's another example of Kiev's beautiful architecture. This was the entrance to a technology college. I loved the way people dressed. Truly felt that I was in eastern Europe.
Since it was so near Christmas, we were able to go through a street arts and crafts fair setup alongside St. Andrews Church. This church was stunning--a huge wedding cake of a building capped with the traditional Orthodox onion domes. I
bought my sister a set of authentic stacking dolls, called "matroshkas" for their maternal symbolism.

After two days in Kiev, Inna and I were dropped off at the train station in the late afternoon. There we boarded an overnight train for the long ride across the Carpathian Mountains to the western city of Uzhgorod which was our base for the rest of the assignment. Inna had reserved us a sleeper car for the long trip, not quite as cheery as this one but comfortable enough. We bought yogurt, cheese and bread--and Milka chocolate--for supper and hot tea from the train attendant. I remember that Inna and I stayed awake lying in our berths talking into the night about things "girls" enjoy--love, future plans, past mistakes. It was a real slumber party. As the train rumbled through the night I could hear people moving about in the corridor and could look out the window at the snowy, moonlit mountains.

I felt homesick, but excited, and looked forward to meeting and working with the women of the Zakarpattia.

To be continued. . .
(Want a closer look? Click on images to enlarge.)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blogging 101

(For this week's Fun Monday, Ann over at for the long run wants to hear about a web site that's changed your life. A web site you can't live without. A web site whose inventor you'd like to see win a McArthur Genius Award. I'll share the three that launched me into the blogosphere.)

You know how some pretty wonderful things in your life begin with just an off-hand observation or question? For example: "I'd like to meet that guy. When do you want to go? Can we afford it?" Well, life as a blogger began for me in just this casual a way and the rewards have been both unexpected and great. One Saturday afternoon last May while we were out on one of our regular cultural rambles, I commented to longtime friend Kittyhawk that I was interested in starting a blog. The conversation then went off in another direction.

Later that same night I got an e-mail from Kittyhawk with this web site and her suggestion that I play around with it to see what this blogging phenomenon was all about. (Disclaimer time: I'm not at all tech savvy, but I do write regularly, including some pretty amusing e-mails to my working stiff friends from the Summit Court retirement digs.)

I immediately opened the web site blogger and before I knew it was the proud Momma of my very own blog,Summit Musings. Okay, I'll admit that my blog name is not the most clever--in fact, it's borderline pretentious! However, I was already at Step 2 Name Your Blog and didn't know how to turn back!

Before my blog and I went to bed that first night I had set up an account, named it, chosen a somewhat boring, but satisfying to me, brown template. I also figured out how to make that first post introducing my baby to the world. The next morning I had a chance to try commenting for the first time on someone else's blog. In the Sunday papers there was a story about Samantha Larson, the 18 year old from California who on Thursday, May 17, had successfully summited Mt. Everest, becoming the youngest person to climb the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. Samantha posted reports of her Everest trek on a blog. It was a great thrill to join thousands of other bloggers in sending instant congratulations to Samantha on the mountain in Nepal!

I introduced Summit Musings to the world through a mass e-mail to all my friends. I told them that I started the blog as a way of staying tuned in with them--and the world--in retirement. I also had things on my mind and interests that I was never willing to discuss as much as I wanted to in conversations with friends and acquaintances. This blog was to be my platform and I hoped they would join in the discussions. The initial response was very gratifying. Periodically, I would send out "shameless blog promotions" alerting them that there was good stuff out on Summit Musings for their reading pleasure!

There came a time, however, when I felt that I was stalking my friends. They were working, busy living their own lives. My blog wasn't, nor did it need to be, the center of their universe--damn! I began searching for new reader communities and ways to improve my blog so people would want to visit me.

Those of you who use Blogger are quite familiar with Blogs of Note, their rotating lists of blogs that are well done and interesting. I began checking them out regularly and studying them for pointers on how to improve my blog. My first lucky find was caffeinated librarian . This is a very smart,well-written blog that is just chockful of observations and information on pop culture, books, music and current events--just what you'd expect from a mid-30s librarian. My favorite feature is CL's Thursday Tour de Blog. The Tour routes you to many other personal and public blogs and has been a source of other bloggers that are now regular reads for me.

I found Dave2 on CL's Tour de Blog and study it all the time. Dave2 has a great community of regular readers of all ages, it seems. He travels a great deal with work and makes an effort to meet fellow bloggers at blogging conferences that he sets up to coincide with his business travel. He is a great observer of human nature and doesn't suffer fools lightly. At first, I really had to screw up a lot of courage to comment on his blog--fearing getting flamed. But,so far, so good. Finally, Dave2 and his sidekick Bad Monkey are excellent sources of all things computer technology. I may never lust after the latest phone, game, or computer program, but I can read about it first at Blogography.

So, my education as a blogger is just beginning, but the more I study the better I hope my blog will be. I'm looking forward to checking out the web sites that other Fun Monday participants love. And, oh yes, can't sign off without sending Laurie at three dog blog a big thanks for her lesson on clickable links to a URL. Laurie, it worked!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Rally On!

I'm very happy tonight--for myself and our country. After last week's presidential caucus in Iowa, the pundits and predictors pretty much declared that the race, especially on the Democratic side, was over. Gentle readers, I don't know about you, but I say hold your horses. Apparently the primary voters in New Hampshire felt the same and demonstrated, by the decisions they made in the voting booths today, that they weren't going to be shut out either.

Last Thursday Iowa voters started the primary process with some bold, unexpected choices. They also gave a couple of the front runners a much needed reality check about inevitability. Now tonight, New Hampshire shuffled the cards again--big time. They gave first prize to the Old Veteran McCain and changed the lineup for Republican runners up. On the Democratic side, they gave Clinton a chance to get over herself and show that she's a human. With Obama, New Hampshire voters calmed his "wave" a bit and let him know that he needs to prove that he has substance and stamina in addition to charisma and hope.

I personally love politics--as a spectator sport. I've tried to watch all the presidential debates, Sunday morning talk shows like NBC's Meet the Press, and cable news. I'm studying all the candidates to see who most consistently speaks truth to me and in May I'll vote for that person.

With all this scrutiny of the candidates I'm collecting a list of comments or scenarios that either amuse or concern me. Here's a sampling:

1. Chris Matthews, moderator of MSNBC's Hardball, had this lead in to the first Democratic debate: "Let's see who can beat the pants suit off Hillary Clinton!"

2. Obama told a NH rally: "You're the wave and I'm riding it." Uh Barack, remember what happens to surfers when the waves get high and rough. . .

3. Question: Who's the gorgeous blond standing on-stage beside Chuck Norris at Mike Huckabee rallies? His Hucka Hucka Girl?

4. McCain: "You can't hike the Grand Canyon and not believe that God had a hand in creating our world." His response to a debate question about candidates' beliefs in evolution.

5. Ann Lewis, senior advisor for Clinton: "It's gonna be real." Her response to Dan Abrams of MSNBC about whether the Clinton campaign was going negative after the New Hampshire primary.

Now the candidates go on to the other states to make their case for being their party's nominee. That's how it should be. We all deserve a chance to study the candidates and then make our decision about which one more closely reflects our individual beliefs and priorities when our state primaries roll around. In the meantime, I'm very content to still be straddlesore.

(Photo credit: Tom Chambers, File Magazine)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Whispered Willie

(Lisa over at http://lisaschaos.blog-city.com is the host for this week's Fun Monday. She wants us to introduce our pets of any variety, furry or otherwise. I liked this--she also said that if we didn't have a pet, feel free to participate, but, gosh darn it we'd like to know why you don't have one!)
Meet Willie--once a fighter but now a lover! Willie is an 11 year old pit bull mix with an endearing patch over one eye. My friend Sally and I rescued him and his sister Hallie as small pups. They were put out by a Ben Franklin Variety Store dumpster on Halloween. I brought this little handfull of attitude home and set him up in a rabbit cage condo in the living room. At first he was a great curiosity for my other three adult dogs: Zack, a wild undisciplined border collie; Frank, a dominant chow mix; and Dan, a golden lump of sugar. Then as Willie grew he also grew into his "pit bullness". Think of him peering out of his cage like a toughened criminal in lock-up, just waiting for a break. . .
As Willie grew, he battled the older dogs for top position in the household stepping over them one by one to gain the top ranking position in the household. There were horrendous fights and I was clueless as to how to keep the peace. If any of you watch the TV reality show Supernanny, that was the situation in our home. The children are out of control and this parent had no idea how to balance her much loved dog children and keep the peace. I was accustomed to dealing with three soft dogs and then brought this little aggression machine into our home. He became the boss of us all.

For five years we lived uneasily. I tried to anticipate a situation that would cause a fight and diffuse it--not always successfully. With Dan the golden's passing in 2002, Willie became an only dog which suited him well. More importantly, I became acquainted with the rehabilitation work of Cesar Millan of Dog Whisperer fame on the National Geographic Channel.
Cesar believes that owners must be their dog's pack leader and that dogs are balanced and fulfilled only when they receive exercise, discipline and affection--in that order. His methods are benevolent but no nonsense which is exactly what a strong breed such as Willie needs.

Now that I'm retired and don't travel so much for work I have the time to provide Cesar's balancing formula of exercise, discipline and affection for Willie. Every day starts with a long, focused walk. I lead and he happily follows. He is regularly complimented for his good behavior and happy disposition in public which makes me very proud. I want him to be a good will ambassador for pit bulls, a much maligned breed. I reward him with lavish attention and affection. He is a great retirement partner.

Some people speak of a Forever Dog--the one they love above all others. For me all of my dogs are Forever Dogs, each in his own way has taught me to be a better person, I hope.

Friday, January 4, 2008


Last night I stayed up until the wee hours watching the results come in from the Iowa presidential caucus. This morning I'm still sorting out what happened and how I feel about the results.

On the Republican side (of which I'm not. . .), I was disturbed that Iowa voters gave first prize to Mr. Aw Shucks Huckabee, the good ole boy from the south. Please tell me we won't have to deal with four more years of a leader who prides himself on not being intellectually curious, not reading the papers,and getting his directions from on high. Even more dangerous,was his recent lack of understanding of the complexities of the Middle East, especially Pakistan, in the aftermath of Bhutto's assassination.

At least John McCain made a decent showing. For all his crustiness, I admire his principles and service to our country--and his backbone. His age doesn't bother me either. After all, he's the one who was able to scale the Grand Canyon at 70 years old--that trumps Huckabee's losing 100 pounds in my book.

And then there's the Democrats. With these candidates, the party has a chance to make history. Are we willing to nominate the first woman? The son of a Kenyan father and Kansas mother who may have more of a world view because of his upbringing? The son of a southern mill worker who is passionate about lifting up the middle class?

Last night Obama triumphed, as did the people of Iowa for giving him a chance to fight on. Hillary Clinton was gracious, but strategic, in her concession speech. She recognized the strength of the Democratic candidates and predicted they would prevail in the '08 election. And, to her credit, she cleared the way for her move on to the other states.

So, this morning I find myself somewhat straddlesore. The only cure will be to watch the candidates as they battle on. I'll support the one who is able to fight hard, but fair, while not losing his or her authenticity. I hope the American voters will still be able to recognize authenticity when they see it. . .

(Photo credit: Tom Chambers, File Magazine)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Road Ahead

Any time you see a title like "The Road Ahead" be prepared for some lofty ponderings on the future, right? And, if the writing is done on January 1 that pretty much seals the deal. In this case, however, I just liked the photo and thought it set the stage for my take on the whole New Year's resolutions exercise.

The thing is, I don't make New Year's resolutions. For me, the word "resolution" carries a lot of negative energy. I think angry, gritting your teeth determination to fix some aspect of your life that you feel is lacking or wrong. Or, resolutions can be a list of half-baked "shoulds" that we think will make us happy--but don't because they're not linked to our life priorities.

So, here's what I like to do in the last weeks of the old year: reconnect with my personal priorities. The practice of reconnecting with whatever helps you live a balanced, happy, and meaningful life is more powerful than thrashing out a whole list of hit and miss resolutions.

Here's the five personal priorities that I've had since 2003. They get taped in every new calendar and serve as the framework for my weekly goals and activities. (Forgive me, I know this all reads very whoo-whoo-oo, but it's just the old leadership trainer refusing to go lie down!) In 2008 I plan on:

1. being healthy, physically and mentally active;
2. connecting, caring, relating to others, having/being a good friend;
3. learning new things, being creative;
4. maintaining a simple, organized home; and,
5. having fun!

Which seems more doable--and enjoyable--to you? Punching out a bunch of resolutions for a few days or weeks before you give up? Or, reconnecting with your priorities and taking small baby steps every day to guarantee that you'll be in a better physical, mental and spiritual place in January '09? My Road Ahead will be the second option.